Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Miss Piggy in Pink

Hot on the heels of Labour’s back-down on the Therapeutic Medicines Amendment Bill, there is no good news that Labour’s fortunes will improve in the next six months. Instead Labour is setting itself up for further electoral humiliation by treating taxpayers and democracy alike with contempt.

Mark Burton is a bumbling failure, and waste of political space. October’s local body elections are fast approaching, yet the Local Government Minister presides over a portfolio that has done nothing to radically reduce the unconscionable waste that Auckland’s civic leaders are engaging in. Instead of fixing Auckland’s not inconsiderable problems, Burton responds in the House today with this stunning piece of bureaucratese:

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Local Government) on behalf of the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues: The Government is working in collaboration with Auckland councils on governance arrangements, because it is committed to promoting Auckland’s future as a world-class, internationally competitive city region. Key elements of this work include a stronger regional governance structure, an overarching regional strategic plan—that is, a “one plan”—and the regional sustainable development forum to develop such a plan.

He says nothing about capping rates, eliminating tracts of public servants who populate the seven local authorities in Auckland, or anything remotely concerning local electors in Auckland: good water systems, good roads, and a transparent and understandable, unified resource management and building structure.

The problem isn’t that Mark Burton is lazy. Instead, Burton is distracted. He has set his sights on silencing opposition to the Labour Party’s more extreme activities, and the moves to squash anybody who disagrees with the Labour Party take much higher priority than reforming the mindless garbage that is local government in New Zealand generally, and local government in Auckland in particular.

Next week, we will see Burton introducing the Electoral (Small Party Bribery and Labour Party Enemy Gagging) Amendment Bill into the House. The Bill will have two parts.

The first part will reallocate the taxpayer-funded slush account that determines how much of your money that political parties can blow during an election campaign on television advertising. The broadcasting allocation model that the Government proposes is a classic example of pork-barrel MMP politicking. In exchange for the support of the Greens, United Future, New Zealand First, and Progressive, Labour will give them a larger share of a bigger pool of broadcasting money to campaign at the next election.

This move is nothing short of corruption. The Labour Party clearly hasn’t listened to voter outrage at how they stole public money at the last election to pay for their campaign: they are extending the model again to give more money to their friends.

The broadcasting allocation model doesn’t need reform. It needs to be scrapped entirely. The model is an anachronism of two-party first-past-the-post electioneering. The only acceptable reform is to remove the funding source entirely, and raise the thresholds of party campaign spending, to allow each of the political parties to spend their own money on television advertising.

The second part of the Bill is even more insidious: it places draconian limits on how much third parties can spend advertising their positions. The Government calls this the “Exclusive Brethren clause”. That is bullshit. In reality, it limits the amount any third party can spend on any measure.

Let’s take the recent example of the well-organised opposition to the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill. My own view is that the legislation was a no-brainer. I find it staggering that such a trifling little move as applying the same regulations to voodoo remedies as pharmaceutical remedies stirred so much public debate. In the end, Health Minister Annette King blundered, and allowed voodoo science to mount much better arguments against the legislation than she could.

Yet that is political debate in action. Annette King’s performance was a political experiment rivalling Dr Bunsen Honeydew in incompetence.

To appropriately extend the Muppet analogy even further, Mark Burton has turned himself into Sam the Eagle of New Zealand politics. Having failed to win the argument on supplementary medicines, the Government now wants to ensure that there is no further opposition from interested parties on future legislation. Burton will try and ram this act of political censorship through under urgency.

And there’s a good reason why it wants to do it.

Labour’s problem is that it has left its legislative agenda too late to hold honest, open discussions and bed policies down before the election. As Idiot Savant notes, In November, on the eve of election year, the Government will introduce its policies on climate change.

A big chunk of the policy will involve hammering the forestry industry by placing impenetrable penalties on cutting down trees. Not only do forest owners miss out on the carbon credits that the Government confiscates from them: they will be thrashed for not creating the carbon credits in the first place.

Understandably, foresters are pissed off. So too are the thousands of mum and dad investors who ferreted away a proportion of the money that the government hasn't yet extorted from them as a savings vehicle, only to have it compromised after the fact by a Government that concerns itself more with punishing productive business than creating wealth for New Zealand.

On their behalf, forest owners will launch a major campaign expressing their position. The Labour Party does not want voters to hear the forestry industry’s arguments on the cusp of an election year, because they know they simply no longer has the political capital to win the small arguments, let alone the big ones.

This has nothing to do with "evening the playing field" of democracy. No single lobby group has anything like the power and authority of central government. Cabinet Ministers individually have whole swarms of press secretaries and policy analysts to mount the best arguments. If the combined resources of the $60 billion state cannot beat a $1 million advocacy campaign by a lobby group, then that speaks wonders about the paucity of the state's ideas. There is no place in a civil society for eliminating the competition for ideas in debate.

The last thing the Labour Party needs going into an election year is to lose the major debate about its major platform of its third term: sustainability. Its only means of winning the debate is by using the coercive power of the government to silence other views.

It’s time to play the music, and bring down the curtain on this muppet show of a regime.


9 comments:

Roger Nome said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Insolent Prick said...

Roger/Phillip John:

Kindly make an attempt at least to discuss the post in question, rather than trying to hijack the thread.

Shout Above The Noise said...

When one sees such blatant evidence of liberal social conditioning in state education as evidenced by PJ, things are much worse than I thought.

He was once a bright student - I'm sure - who thought he could further advance his academic endeavours by parroting the leftist pieties of his teachers. Pathetic. Sad, but pathetic all the same.

ted3001 said...

I'm looking, but I can't see much wrong with your thread IP.

As someone who has done a lot of work in local Govt in Auckland it is certainly my view we are being shafted. I was part of a confidential study that was done to determine how much money could be saved if a super council was introduced and all the disparate computer systems, forms and processes were put into one. The result was an astonishing cost saving.

The issue though is that the the Government is scared stiff of a super council, in case they became right leaning. We can see how paranoid they are for John Banks to get in. A right leaning super council would have them jumping off the 9th floor.

Regarding the funding, I agree that we are talking about a government trying to change democracy as we know it in their favour. It's disgraceful and they will richly deserve the castigation that ensues.

Anonymous said...

You are right. The foresters say this on Monday - http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/488120/1235253
On Wednesday, the Government tries to make it illegal.

dad4justice said...

A single pine tree would have more brain matter than the entire labour party lickspittle fools .

Roger Nome said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Insolent Prick said...

Roger/Phillip John Crooks:

The first warning was obviously too subtle for you. Don't come vandalising my blog with stupid spam you've cut and pasted from other blogs that have nothing to do with the post.

Do it again and you'll cop the same kind of bans you've had from DPF.

Roger Nome said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.