Constitutional change by Labour

No Minister has an excellent post about Labour’s trustworthiness or lack thereof. Labour has made major constitutional changes (such as removing the right of appeal to the Privy Council and removing knighthoods) without campaigning on this policy at any election or seeking public input. Currently Labour has no policy released at all for this election. What might they be intending to do should they get another term?

We currently live in a monarchy, with the Queen’s representative (the Governor General) being the head of state. Most democracies have three branches of government – the judiciary, the legislative branch (parliament, which makes laws) and the executive branch (a President or Monarch, who provides a double-check on those laws through the right of veto and gives clear leadership to the country). We are no exception, having a judiciary, Parliament and a Governor General. The Governor General must give the Royal Assent to law before it is passed. Our connections to England have allowed excellent services such as the Privy Council, a final court of appeal in London that could judge important cases without being influenced by the New Zealand government (who influences judicial appointments here) or the NZ media. In theory this should work fine, and in the past it did.

The problem we have is that the powers of the executive have been reduced, and the influence of the legislative branch has been increased, so that now pretty well everything is controlled by Parliament with no backup in case Parliament does anything against the interest of the country.

This has occurred in a number of ways:

  • By convention, the Governor General gives the Royal Assent to any Act that is passed by a majority of Parliament. They act on advice from the Prime Minister primarily, rather than the Queen. So ultimately the final power rests with the Prime Minister.
  • Although the Queen appoints the Governor General, she does so from a list of nominees chosen by the Prime Minister. So ultimately the Governor General is selected by the PM, who can make sure that everyone on her list would be happy to sign off on whatever the Government wants them too – cementing power with the PM.

Now this shouldn’t be that bad, Parliament is elected democratically after all, so theoretically they should be passing laws that are in the best interests of the population. But in recent years Labour has been making large changes, including major constitutional amendments, without either a public mandate by way of a referendum or necessarily the mandate of the Queen (as every Act gets the Royal Assent anyway we have no idea whether or not the Queen approves). Examples of this (all of which were secret agendas not declared in party policy) include:

  • The Broadcasting Act 1989 (under Labour) established partial state funding of political party advertising and limits on advertising that make it harder for minor parties to challenge the ruling party (see how it is currently restricting The Family Party here). This is minor however compared to what the current administration has got up to:
  • The abolition of the right of appeal to the Privy Council, the final court of appeal in England. This has been very important for high profile cases such as the David Baine case. Now the final court of appeal is in NZ, where Parliament can influence the appointment of judges. This places Parliament in ultimate control of the judiciary. So with no public debate and without announcing this policy before an election, Labour placed themselves in ultimate control of all three branches of government. This was a major secret agenda.
  • The abolition of Knighthoods. We still have equivalent honours, but the recipients can no longer be called “Sir” or “Dame”. This seems a pointless piece of legislation initially. On closer inspection it can be seen to be part of the general socialist strategy of dragging down high achievers (high earners are taxed heavily for example) to enforce some sort of artificial equality and retain Parliament as the ultimate authority and great provider. It is also another cut to further isolate us from the Monarchy, the executive branch of government, again leaving Parliament in ultimate power.
  • The abolition of smacking. This was not a constitutional change as such. But it was government intruding into our very homes and telling families how to raise their children. Labour seems to see our children as theirs, and parents and teachers the tools through which the state raises children, rather than teachers tools through which the parents raise children. This was a major change which around 80% of the population seemed opposed to. Yet it was passed without a referendum, and the Royal Assent was granted despite this public opposition.
  • The Electoral Finance Act. This Act is a major restriction on free speech, and severely damages our ability to have democratic elections. It was opposed by the public and eminent bodies like the Human Rights Commission. Yet it was passed, and we are dealing with the disastrous effects now.

I am sure you can think of others. These are all very different policies, and individually they may seem minor.

But taken together they all seem to have the same general effect – they institute the state, and specifically Parliament, as the ultimate authority above the other branches of government. They do this by severing ties with the Monarch (the Executive), placing Parliament in control of the judiciary, and making it harder for anyone to oppose Parliament or change its makeup. Parliament has at the same time seized greater control over our lives and families.

We need the three branches of government to be reasonably independent and able to have a stabilising effect on each other. We must remember that Hitler was democratically elected, and the further we allow Parliament, and specifically Labour, to whittle away at these safeguards the more risk we have of a repressive regime being established.

They have not really been pushing us towards being a republic, as a republic would have an effective head of state (executive), while they have been whittling away the authority of the head of state. They have been pushing us towards ultimate control of everything being in the hands of the ruling Party, which is more similar to a communist system than a republic as such. I am not accusing them of communism, that is too strong, but that does seem to be the general direction they are heading.

The Family Party is taking the first steps to counter this. We will look into the possibility of reinstating the Privy Council as the court of final appeal. We cannot promise it of course as it may require the approval of the British parliament too, but we will be looking into whether we can reinstate it. This would remove control of the final section of the Judiciary from the NZ Parliament.

We would reinstate the old s59 of the Crimes Act (allowing smacking again), returning to parents the authority to decide what disciplinary measures are appropriate rather than having government dictate how we are to raise our families. We will trust parents to raise their own children. We would also repeal the Electoral Finance Act, to restore the right to free speech in our democratic process.

I would welcome your thoughts on this very important issue.

Who decides the election

Homepaddock has an excellent illustration of the problem every political party faces:

I’ve just picked up today’s papers from a dairy and commented as I passed them over to the young bloke serving me that these are interesting times politically.

He replied, “What’s happening?” …  “Are there elections this year?”

Read the whole post. It is voters like this young man who will decide the election this year, and every year. People who aren’t really interested in politics and will make their decision based on a small amount of information. They may always vote for one party, or pick between Labour and National depending on the mood of the times. Or they may pick one issue they like the sound of and just vote on that (“I like the environment so I’ll vote Green”, “Maori have it rough so I’ll vote for the Maori Party”, hopefully “I care about my family so I’ll vote for the Family Party”), or sometimes “That poor guy Winston Peters is being hassled by the media again, I’ll vote for him”.

I am not criticising these voters at all. These voters are busy working in the real world, and don’t care about politics. In focussing on day-to-day life they are being more practical than those of us who do spend time on politics in many ways. But ultimately politics will affect their lives somehow, and they will vote one way or another.

You can’t reach these people through political blogs – they aren’t interested in politics so won’t be reading them. You may be able to reach them through the newspapers, but some of them may not read the political articles if they aren’t interested in them. You may reach them through TV and radio, but broadcast advertising is strictly regulated. The most effective way of reaching them through TV is by getting onto the news and current affairs programmes – which Mr Key has been doing a great job of throughout the recent Peters controversy. Leaflets and billboards may work too, although leaflets can be just thrown in the bin.

How do you reach people who aren’t interested in politics?

Suggestions welcome!

Kiwiblog login

I sometimes have difficulty logging in to Kiwiblog, and this lasts for a day or so usually whenever it occurs. This is frustrating when people are asking questions about your comments but you cannot reply. Does anyone else have this problem?

Sorry to anyone waiting for an answer from me, if you want a question answered when I don’t seem to be active on Kiwiblog post it here.

GST off food supported by Maori party

The Maori Party is supporting our policy of removing GST from basic foods to encourage healthy eating among Maori. It is nice to see some support for our policy, and although the Maori party do not propose removing GST from rates, household electricity and the excise duty from fuel as we do it is nice to see some support for part of our policy.

Lack of healthy food is not specifically a Maori problem, and the beauty of removing GST from this food is that it helps all people to afford such food, regardless of race. The Family Party advocates taking a whanau approach to health issues, recognising that prevention of illness is best and healthy practices begin in the home. We then need to follow this up with efficient and timely healthcare when illness does occur. More details on our health policy are here.

Hat tip: Crusader Rabbit

Tauranga poll Bay of Plenty Times

David Farrar has posted the results of a Tauranga poll published in the Bay of Plenty Times. They only asked 100 people in a reasonably unscientific manner (who they saw on the streets) but the results are very telling:

  1. Simon Bridges (Nat) 53%
  2. Undecided 18%
  3. Anne Pankhurst (Lab) 16%
  4. Winston Peters (NZF) 12%
  5. Larry Baldock (Kiwi) 1%

The Kiwi Party is relying on this seat to get into parliament. As I have said previously, this will be a battle between Simon Bridges (National) and Winston Peters (NZFirst), as Mr Peters will be relying on this seat to bring his party back into parliament. There will be heavy media coverage of these two candidates.

In this situation it will be impossible for Mr Baldock, however good a candidate he is, to make any inroads. The Winston Peters scandal is just too well favoured by the media, and if voters wish him out they will most likely vote for Simon Bridges to ensure this.

This unfortunately means that the Kiwi Party has virtually no chance of gaining any seats in parliament this election. The Kiwi Party is very well intentioned, and stand for some good things – they are probably the most similar party to the Family Party after all, being formed after the leaders left the Family Party negotiations table. However if they have no chance of getting a seat, any vote to them will be wasted.

These votes could have been used effectively by the Family Party, which has a good chance of taking the Mangere electorate (and has quality candidates in a number of other electorates too). Failing that, they could at least have been used by Act or National. But if these votes are wasted they will increase the proportion of Labour and Green representation in parliament, exactly the opposite of what the Kiwi Party (and the Family Party) would like to achieve.

If you want to vote for a conservative party and have your vote count, vote for the Family Party.

ETS legislation being rushed

The government really is panicking. The Emissions Trading Scheme has been jumped forward to no.1 on the order paper today. Helen Clark really wants this one done while she has Mr Peters’ support.

I predict that she is going to sack Mr Peters or at least express a lack of confidence in him next week, or even tomorrow, as soon as she has this scheme passed. It turns out now that he has lied to her personally about the money, so I expect she can’t wait to get rid of him before association with him damages her party too much.

Let’s see if I’m right…

Maori party oppose ETS

The Greens, our self-proclaimed environmental party, has agreed to the ETS, a scheme that won’t help the environment but sounds like it has something to do with it so could get them a few votes.

On the other hand, the Maori Party recognise that the ETS won’t do any good so will probably oppose it, and will hold out for something that actually does some good for the environment.

To quote Mrs Turia:

“We are told the Green Party and NZ First have signed up to it. I predict that the concessions won by them will seem like a mere thirty pieces of silver, once the full impacts of climate change start to be felt,”

Change that to “once the full impacts of the ETS on our economy start to be felt” and I would expect she is correct.

Good on the Maori Party. Of course, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the solution the Maori Party are looking for, it could damage our economy for no reason as we don’t yet know whether climate change is a problem at all. But it really shows up the Greens as a bunch of hypocrites, possibly just using the environment to pursue their hidden agenda.

Hat tip: The Hive

Police get tasers

The police will be issued tasers. This is a controversial move but is a good one overall.

We live in an increasingly violent society. Despite what you might think from the movies, New Zealand’s overall violent crime rate is over twice that of the USA, and Auckland’s violent crime rate is comparable to that of American cities such as Washington DC.*

Police are confronted with violent offenders on our streets. They need to be able to protect themselves and everyone else.

At present they can use a baton, pepper spray, or a gun. In an extremely violent situation, they will be forced to shoot an offender. Police are reluctant to shoot anyone in NZ because the media generally comes down like a ton of bricks on that however well justified, and whatever harm the police may have prevented by shooting an offender will be ignored in the hysteria over the fact that a policeman actually shot someone.

With tasers they have a non-lethal option they can resort to, where pepper spray is not effective enough but a gun is unnecessary. This should reduce the number of people who are shot by police.

Many people have serious concerns about tasers. Some people have reportedly died after being tasered. This is unfortunate, and needs to be considered when they are used. However you have a much higher chance of surviving being tasered than you have of surviving being shot. Despite their flaws they do have their place in law enforcement.

Other people are concerned they will be overused by police. It is difficult to define overuse, as for some people even being used once would be considered overuse, but this is a valid concern too. They will be used more often than pistols are used, because as they are (generally) non-lethal police will be less hesitant to use them than they currently are to use a firearm, for the reasons outlined above. This may act as a deterrant to criminals and reduce overall crime rates, so will not necessarily be a bad thing. However often they are used, someone will be able to use the figures to say this is overuse and someone else will be able to say they are not using them enough. “Overuse” is a matter of perception.

If we are concerned the police may not use weapons appropriately, we cannot approach this by not giving them weapons just in case they use them. We must instead ensure they are trained appropriately in their use, and if there are problems with police misconduct we must confront these directly, rather than endangering the lives of all police officers and the public because of the alleged misconduct of a few individuals.

It is also important that the taser is not issued instead of firearms, but in addition to them. Police will confront armed offenders sometimes (we have a high rate of gun ownership and it is easy for criminals to obtain weapons), and need the tools to deal with this. Tasers are short-range weapons. If a policeman is encountered by a criminal with a shotgun he needs something more effective at his disposal than a taser. The taser can complement firearms, but not replace them.

Tasers, pepperspray and firearms are all last resort tools to stop criminals in the act of committing crimes. In order to actually reduce crime rates we must do much more than just issue tasers. We need to look at the root causes of crime – which often comes back to the family. Children from broken families, especially when the father is absent, are much more likely to get into crime than children raised by both parents. We need to strengthen families, and stop crimes from occurring in the first place, as well as providing police with the tools to deal with crime as it is occuring.

Unfortunately recent laws around discipline (the s59 amendment makes both smacking and physical restraint for punishment, such as a “naughty mat”, illegal) are likely to decrease discipline in the home, increasing crime rates in the future. We must support families, rather than undermining them, if we wish to change our escalating crime rates.

Our Law and Order and Family policies would do just this, confronting both the causes of crime and the crime itself.

And if you are still worried about tasers – don’t break the law!

* “Gun Shy” – Investigate Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 77, June 2007, p42-49

Violent crime rates 2005:

  • USA: 469.2 offences per 100,000 population
  • New Zealand: 1,180 offences per 100,000 population.
  • Washington DC: 1,459 / 100,000
  • Auckland: 1,236 / 100,000
  • Counties Manukau police district: 1,621 / 100,000

Greens support greenwash

Just as we all expected, the Greens will support the ETS. They have shown once again that they don’t care about actually helping the environment, they just want to support policies that sound “eco-friendly” to grab the votes of those voters who don’t know the science but think they like the environment.

There goes any last drops of credibility they had.

If you like the environment, support the Family Party this election – the only party who promises to base environmental policy on science.

Broadcasting allocations

The Family Party and the Alliance are currently contesting the broadcasting allocations for the election. There has been some discussion of this on Kiwiblog, where David Farrar has rightly pointed out that minor parties already receive a higher allocation per voter than the major parties, according to current polls.

The problem is not that the Family Party wants more free money, as some have suggested. The problem is that you cannot spend more money on broadcasting than your broadcasting allocation, to quote the Elections website:

Registered parties may only use funds allocated by the Electoral Commission to advertise for the party vote, together with any free time allocated for party opening addresses and closing addresses.

This means that the Family Party allocation of $10,000 is also the limit as to what we can spend on broadcast advertising, which is a major impediment in campaigning. By comparison:

  • Act, Progressive and United Future can spend $100,000 each
  • Green, Maori and NZ First can spend $250,000 each
  • National and Labour can spend $1,000,000 each

All of which is paid for by the taxpayer. As you can see this places the Family Party at a major disadvantage to, for example, Progressive, even though we are polling higher than them. And National and Labour’s massive allocations will ensure they have a much better chance of doing well this election than anyone else, regardless of whether their policies are any good. Each of these two parties has a similar allocation to that of EVERY minor party put together.

In a completely fair system no party would receive state funding, and there would be no limit on spending. This would put all parties on a level playing field, rather than subsidising the incumbents. However we must work within the system we have, and so we must seek a higher allocation if we wish to spend more on broadcasting.

Hopefully the judge can see the logic in this position and will favourably consider our application for more funding, comparable to those parties we are currently polling at a similar level to (Progressive, Act and United Future).

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