Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Corruption and the abuse of (media) power

It seems that corruption and abuse of and by the media is on the rise. No doubt, with Trump as a role model, politicians are fighting back ensuring that the public are not deceived by fake news and appalling journalism.

No continent seems to be free of this scourge, and that includes the continent of Zealandia. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we have seen two appalling examples of the disclosure of unsavoury information about leading politicians and yet those involved have not fought back with fake news arguments or any criticism of the media at all! This is totally unacceptable and as electors we should expect those we put into office to use whatever means they have available to them to fight any “news” or source that might be harmful to their position.

First, there was Clare Curran who was stood down from her Open Government and Government Digital Services portfolios for failing to disclose a meeting with entrepreneur Derek Handley back in February. Unlike Trump’s staff who learn of happenings via twitter, Curran’s staff were kept totally in the dark. If she had tweeted, then at least her staff would have not been completely ignorant of the late night rendezvous. But no, she didn’t mention the meeting at all. In fact she failed to enter it into her official diary.

This is nothing short of incompetence. If the meeting was supposed to be secret, why disclose the event in answer to a parliamentary question many months later? Her excuse of “I forgot” is totally unacceptable, and as this is the second time that it’s been revealled that she has attended an unrecorded meeting, it’s clear that she is incapable of running her office.

If she had a private meeting, then she should make sure not to mention the event months later. And if she did simply forget, as she claims, she should have laid the blame squarely on the media for reporting the discrepancy, with accusations of fake news and dishonest reporting. At least that way she would not have had to admit responsibility. That’s where she she failed and why she was fired: for accepting responsibility. Can you imagine Trump doing that?

Now on to the second event. The Minister of Customs Meka Whaitiri has been stood down over a “staffing matter”. Once again, incompetence. Why hasn’t the Minister come out and publicly criticised the ministerial staff member involved. Surely her position allows her to find or create information that would discredit anything this staffer might say, but it seems she has made no attempt to do so. Nor has she attempted to silence the staff member or colleagues by buying the silence of those involved. Surely the status of a Minister takes priority over the reputation of a staff member?

And now there’s rumours that the “staffing matter” involves an assault by Whaitiri on the staff member. Trump has claimed that he could actually kill someone in broad daylight and get away with it. And here we have a New Zealand Minister who is facing potential police involvement in what amounts to little more than a minor scuffle between two individuals. That fact that the Minister is likely to be considered the offender and not the victim speaks volumes about how ineffective she is, and inappropriate she is for the role. Can you ever imagine Trump being in that position?

I blame Prime Mister,Jacinda Ardern. The problem is she has taken a principled stand whereas truly capable leaders such as Trump would take a pragmatic stand to protect their power base. After all, politics isn’t about doing what is right, but about about what can be done.

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“Trump might do some good for democracy”

Now before you conclude that I have lost my marbles, read on.

Throughout the world, voter turnout at national elections have been declining, mainly due to apathy of younger voters. This is also true in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our most recent General Elections were held in 2014 and the voter turnout was at an all time low of 77%. Voter turnout for those under 30 years of age was 62%, while 88% of people my age voted.

The main reason put forward for poor voter participation by younger people is that they feel that they can make very little difference to the results. While there is some degree of truth in that, especially in electoral systems where “winner takes all” such as with FFP (First Past the Post), the same can’t be said of systems with proportional representation such that used here in Parliamentary elections. If a party gains 5% of the votes, it gets 5% of the seats in the Parliament. in other words, every vote counts.

We next go to the polls on Saturday the 23rd of September 2017 to elect our 52nd Parliament. The head of the Electoral Commission (the body that oversees national and local elections in NZ) believes we may see a reversal in the decline in voter participation this year. She gave two reasons: Brexit and Trump.

The results of both Brexit and the US presidential elections were due largely to voter apathy. In both cases, younger voters were strongly against the final result, and had younger voters participated in numbers approaching the national average, the results would have been different. It seems that finally there is evidence that NOT taking part in the democratic process can have serious consequences.

The good news here is that the younger generations are talking about how and why results such as Brexit and Trump as president could possibly occur. Both results seem contrary to common sense. I do hope that the head of the Electoral Commission is correct and that such discussion will lead to greater voter participation, especially among the young.

So thank you Donald, you are the reason the next generation of Kiwis are beginning to take a greater interest in the democratic process. They don’t want to see our leaders behaving as you do.


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Equality on the decline?

In 20o5 Aotearoa New Zealand became the first nation in the world where all top positions were held by women: the Monarch, the Governor General, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament, and the Chief Justice.

There have been other firsts that at first glance give the appearance that women are more equal here than elsewhere, including being the first country to grant women the vote. The 1976 relationship act and its amendments grant equal rights to both members of a relationship irrespective of marital status or gender is another.

Just as America prides itself on its liberty and freedom, NZ has always prided itself on its egalitarianism – both between the sexes and the population as a whole. In fact, back in the 1940s a visiting academic suggested we should build a statue proclaiming our egalitarianism in the much the same manner as the Statue of Liberty proclaims freedom in America.

The myth persists in both countries. Sadly America has slid well down the freedom and liberty ladder, even though over half the population believe it is the most free nation on earth. Our claim to egalitarianism has take a huge tumble since the mid 1980s. Fewer Kiwis believe in our own myth. Approximately 75% of the population no longer believe that everyone in NZ receives a “fair go”. But that leaves a quarter of the population still believing that we are a nation of equals.

Why the sudden change in equality since the 1980s? In what was a sort of political revolution, the leftist Labour party adopted radical economic reforms much like “Thatchernomics” in the UK and “Reaganomics” in the US, only more extreme. Known here as “Rogernomics” (named after the Minister of Finance, Roger Douglas) it saw the halving of the top tax rate, the slashing of social welfare, the privatisation of much of the public sector (sold mostly to foreign investors) and a reduction in the bargaining power of workers. Tariffs and other trade protections were eliminated resulting in a massive transfer of unskilled jobs overseas.

The initial result was high levels of unemployment and the social conditions that typically accompany it. Today unemployment is more “acceptable” but we now have a class of “working poor” that struggle and frequently fail at keeping their family out of poverty. Today, about one in five children live in households where the income is below the poverty line. I believe this is totally unacceptable.

New Zealand has the unenviable reputation of now being the nation with the fastest growing disparity between rich and poor in the OECD. While we are far from reaching the level of disparity seen in the USA and some developing nations, we approaching the likes of the UK. While it’s true that displays of wealth are still frowned upon, there is a growing acceptance that poverty is a “natural” part of the social fabric. I don’t.

One outcome of the economic reforms has been an increase in the disparity of income between men and women. Prior to the reforms, and into the first few years afterwards, the difference in income between men and women had been declining and was well on the way to being eliminated. There were dreams of Aotearoa New Zealand being the first country to achieve true pay equality. This has been shattered over the last two decades as the gender pay gap has increased markedly to around 12% (based on hourly income, more so if based on actual income).

One of the measures of freedom I take seriously is socio-economic mobility. This is the ability for someone to move out of the socio-economic group of their parents. In America, the “Land of Opportunity” around half or slightly less move to a different group. By contrast, in NZ it was around 75%. This has declined and is now hovering around the 70% mark.

It has barely been a generation since the economic reforms, and as they become a permanent feature of of our society, I suspect that socio-economic mobility will decline further. That, along with the growing disparity between rich and poor is a recipe for social disharmony – perhaps on the levels we see in Britain, the USA, and elsewhere. The mind shudders.

Equally unnerving is that it brings the prospect of us growing our own Trump –  someone gaining enormous wealth through a largely unregulated economy, and at the cost of a low skilled workforce, and then gaining political influence by telling those worse affected by those very practices that he will make things right for them. Yeah, right.


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Dear America

I make no bones of the fact that I believe Trump represents the worst of American values and “The American Way”. The fact that someone such as he could be freely elected to office at a time when the world requires inclusivism and pluralism, not exclusivism and exceptionalism (and I mean in a humanist and secular sense as well as in a religious sense), makes me wonder whether collectively America has lost its marbles.

Do values such as “love and warmth and sympathy” as expressed in my father’s last poem, and so important in my whanau (wider family) count for anything any more? Trump certainly fails on all counts from what I can see.

Professor Clements is the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, and Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association. I believe his post I have linked to below speaks for most Kiwis.

Dear America and Americans There are only 9 days before Donald J Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the USA. This is a prospect that appalls most New Zealanders as it does millions of others all around the world. We had no say and no vote in the election so can only watch […]

via Dear America — Kevin’s Peace Musings


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Treaty of Waitangi 101

This post is primarily for Kiwis who haven’t bothered to understand the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We Pakeha were guilty of ignoring the Treaty for more than a hundred years, and it is only in recent decades that an attempt has been made to redress some of the wrongs committed by the crown over many generations. We still have a long way to go, and it’s often a case of two steps forward and one step back.

Too many Pakeha have made no attempt to understand what the treaty means to Māori and to us as a nation, and in essence, want Māori to “integrate” by abandoning all that is sacred and unique about their culture and become “brown Pakeha”. They don’t want Te Reo (the Māori language) taught in schools, nor the preservation of customary rights, and especially not the partial restoration of land and and the payment of compensation for all that was confiscated from Māori after the Land Wars in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Understanding the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi is not really too difficult – it consists of three articles. Most of us understand understand Articles I and III, but for many Pakeha and for successive governments we have failed to honour Article II. It’s time this was redressed. The video clip below explains the basic principles of the three articles.

Now that wasn’t too difficult was it?