Thursday, December 13, 2007

Doing the decent thing...

This lady deserves a New Year's honour. She has done more for making New Zealand a decent society than all the politicians and all the public servants in this country put together. Persuading her own son to turn himself in to Police is an example that could be emulated by more in society.

It seems that some laws are more rigorously enforced than others. Harbouring a criminal is not an offense that comes up in the court pages very often, but I suspect that there are numerous people living everyday, knowing the offender in a particular crime, and not coming forward.

Another point that readers may have missed is that the son in this case was 18. When I talk with people about parental responsibility I get the impression that the majority of people think their parenting stops as soon as their child turns 16 and is old enough to leave school. (Some people give up even sooner.) My kids know that they live by my rules while they live in my house, so if they are here till they turn 20 then they will not get away with anti-social, larakin behaviour.

I've expressed my view on the debate about raising the driving age. Nothing needs to change in law, but parents need to step up and be responsible. This article just proves that. All the socialist thinking in New Zealand causes people to bleat on about the Government needing to change the laws. Utter rubbish! They should enforce the law. And then, in the case of learner drivers, parents should "man up" and take responsibility for their own children's actions (whether it is driving, firing bb guns out car windows or drinking at parties).

Somehow New Zealand has to reverse the damage done by the last 2 or 3 generations who have been raised in a socialist environment. It is patently obvious that Governments are powerless to make change at an individual level. And the more ink they waste on legislation and then waste money on the bureaucracy to administer the unworkable regulations, only to have to draft some more unnecessary legislation to patch up the first, the worse it gets.

Being a decent society comes down to individuals doing the decent thing. They don't need a pile of laws to tell them what to do. But it is the cumulative actions of every individual and not the collective 'relative inaction' of Governments and their supporting bureaucracy that make New Zealand a decent society.

This anonymous woman deserves recognition for the huge contribution she has made to making New Zealand a more decent society, and the example she is to all parents.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Some lessons are so obvious...

This article made me realise that there are some people who just don't get it. They don't understand cause and effect.

We have people leaving school without any effective education and what do the politicians propose? Raising the leaving age.

How about making it compulsory to pass an exam before leaving school? As a taxpayer I consider that some of my hard earned money has gone towards education therefore I want value for money. I want a "return on my investment".

Abolish school leaving age. It is utterly meaningless, and instead introduce an exam. My guess is that this would motivate teachers to get rid of troublemakers, and the troublemakers would be motivated to try to pass the exam so they can get out of the school system.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A new Reality TV Show - Parliamentary Island

Wow! It has been a month since my last entry. Time flies. But I have been busy working so I can help keep the Government coffers overflowing. In reality, like the majority of New Zealanders, I have a mortgage on the house so I can keep paying tax, so the Government can run a surplus. Seems a bit topsy turvy to me, but that's another blog.

An idea that has been in the back of my mind for some time is to operate Parliament like one of those annoying Reality TV Shows. This occurred to me back when there was debate about televising Parliament, and the politicians wanted all kind of rules that would prevent the viewing public from seeing the 'reality' of a Parliamentary debate.

If we have to have 120+ MPs and the Westminster Parliamentary System, then let that be so. But let's make it do something productive. Let's make television out of it. 'Parliamentary Island' hopefuls should have to audition for their place. Put the MPs in the debating chamber and point television cameras at them. Just like the tv shows, viewers get to vote off one participant a week, based on their performance. (If there is a tie, then all those who are tied in the voting have to go.) Participants can be granted 'immunity' by undertaking tasks set by the smarmy presenter. The first week's task is "Draft a piece of legislation that could not be covered by 'It is illegal to be stupid'". The Parliamentary session is ended when all the participants are voted off.

Simple. Even those of the meanest intelligence can understand that (they are the ones who watch Reality TV Shows) and even the poorest in society can afford to vote by texting from their prepay cellphone.

Okay. This is ludicrous. Maybe not so.

Why do we not have electronic voting in New Zealand? It was suggested as a means to increase the turn out for the recent Local Government elections. Maybe texting would be a bit of a stretch, but Internet voting is a definite possibility. Similarly, setting up a network of voting kiosks, similar to banking ATMs, is technically feasible. Civil libertarians wouldn't want us to go down this track, because we would all need an identity card. However, they would be "cutting off their nose to spite their face", since the reality of electronic voting would bring about the possibility of more frequent referenda.

What was that? Instead of voters just voting once every three years in a "winner takes all" General Election we could have more frequent referenda. In the 1984 Election the eventual "winner" did not actually propose any policies. It was a snap election, and I think it caught even the Politicians off guard. The New Zealand Party campaigned vigorously to oust the incumbent National Party, but I do not remember the Labour Party espousing any concrete policies. Because of the 'wage/price freeze' that Muldoon had imposed, I suspect that winning the election was a bit of a 'hospital pass'. But we had the new Prime Minister going round saying "we have a mandate from the people...." Judging by the subsequent reaction of the electorate and even members of the Labour Party to the reforms under "Rogernomics" and then Lange's eventual "pause for a cup of tea" the "mandate" did not extend to everything in their Manifesto.

Here's my point. Just because the majority of the electorate vote for a political party, does not mean that they agree with everything in the party manifesto. The supposed "mandate" needs to be tested on a more frequent basis than once every 3 years. Because political parties put together policies on a wide range of issues, from economics to law and order, education, etc it is extremely unlikely to find any voter who will agree with every letter of the manifesto of the party for which they eventually vote.

So we should have more frequent referenda on all manner of issues. The recent experience with Prostitution Law Reform, Civil Unions and the Anti-Smacking debates have shown how "out of touch" the politicians are with the voters. Petitions to Parliament are as effective as a "chocolate teapot". Having a cobbled together majority of like minded MPs has enabled a government to push through legislation against the wishes of the people.

I think the only reason that electronic voting is not on the agenda is that the politicians realise that it would undermine their power base and would prevent politicians being able to operate an agenda of social re-engineering. People would get to have an effective voice on all manner of legislation. The number of MPs would decline as well.

Think about it. Banks are the most risk averse and electronic security conscious institutions in the world. They transact millions of dollars electronically on a daily basis and even transact via the Internet. There is no security reason for not having an electronic voting system for General Elections and referenda. The reason we don't have it today is political. And that reason is 'undemocratic'.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I can't hold back on this one...

I see in today's Herald that debate has begun about raising the age for obtaining a driver's license.

I do no believe the age for obtaining a driver's license should be changed.

Our eldest son is currently on his Restricted License for a car and motorbike. We live rurally, and the benefit of having him driving is immense. He has a couple of part-time jobs, one of which involves him being on the job at 5:30 am. There is no public transport here, and even if there was the odds of it operating at 5:00am to our gate are not good. I hold down a full-time job myself, and I would be strongly averse to getting up at 5:00 am to drive him to work, and then come home for a bit more sleep and then go back to pick him up. That's before I take account of the extra cost of fuel (hopefully those of a Green persuasion will look at this and realise the environmental impact of raising the driving age).

My viewpoint is that the problem with young drivers is not the youngsters themselves, but their parents. If my son proves to be an idiot behind the wheel, there is no way I am going to let him advance to his full license. That's my responsibility as a parent. We have already stipulated that he will not own his own car while he lives at home and is at school. His choice of vehicles, therefore, is restricted to practical family vehicles of modest power. When he comes to make a choice of his own vehicle, then I hope that I will have a hand in this too. When I chose my first car my parents were involved in that decision, and were fully aware of the choice of vehicle I was making, despite me being over 21 at the time.

We have been so indoctrinated with the socialist mentality in this country that every time there is a problem it is supposed that "society will fix it". People are too eager and quick to throw away their volition and expect the Government to step in. I see this, not only in this matter but in other areas of topicality. Take the national response to anthropogenic climate change. Everyday I see examples of people who are convinced that climate change or global warming or whatever has been caused by mankind. Yet, even though they are utterly convinced that man is responsible, they do NOTHING to moderate their own behaviour. The most zealous believers in anthropogenic climate change seem to be the ones who do least to moderate their own behaviour, but instead agitate for "society to address the issue".

My point is not to get into the climate change debate, but to illustrate how Kiwis have become infected with a socialist mentality. Look at the variety of responses to problems of domestic child battery. The Children's Commissioner wants to commission another study into the issue. Politicians are skirting the obvious demographic, socio-economic and ethnic statistics and claiming it is a universal societal problem.

BUNKUM. It is a problem of a lack of personal responsibility and accountability. It is a history of poor parenting generating poor parenting.

Back to the driving age issue.

Leave the driving age at 15. There are many practical reasons for it.

Secondly, parents should start teaching their children to drive from as young an age as possible. Get the "mechanics" of driving taught as soon as the kid can see over the steering wheel. Take them out into a paddock and get them driving around and developing the skills so that when they have their learner's license and are on the road they are able to concentrate their efforts on negotiating traffic and other obstacles.

Thirdly, when your teenager gets their license, teach them in as many situations as possible. Don't just teach them to drive in town. Get them out onto the highway and unmarked country roads. Have them drive at night, in the rain and in heavy traffic. Don't let them take on these unfamiliar circumstances on their own when they get to their restricted license stage. [I am not one for too many regulations, but in taking my son through his Learner's License I thought it would be a good idea if Learners had to keep a diary of their driving experience, including such things as the daylight, weather and traffic conditions under which they had trained. The examiner could look at the diary and determine whether the candidate has had enough varied experience.]

Fourthly, as parents we must take responsibility for our children, and parent them. We must be parents, and should not hand that responsibility over to the State. Set sensible and logical boundaries that are appropriate to the age, experience and temperament of your child. You know them - an anonymous "pencil neck" at the Ministry of Transport or a Minister of Transport cannot make a sensible decision about the age at which your child is qualified to become a driver. Some 15 year olds are very good drivers. There are some 40 year olds who should be disqualified and kept off the road for good. Age is such an arbitrary measure. If your child is too immature to drive, then do not allow them to sit a license. If they are an idiot behind the wheel of a car then don't let them drive a Mitsubishi Evo - and if you do and they kill themselves or someone else, then don't blame the Government or "Society".

Kiwis, I appeal to you, don't concede on this one. Despite their reassurances, the Government does not know best.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ask a stupid question....

There's been a lot of debate in the media on the current Electoral Finance Bill. I even found someone other than a politician who supports it. I think Mr Carter needs to re-read what he wrote, and think things through. The last election was 'bought' using tax payer's money, and I am not referring to the $700,000 over expenditure by the Labour Party. If I need to spell it out, the purchase price was Student Loan Interest, 20 Hours Free Early Childhood, and increases to the Working for Families entitlement.

Anyhow, as you probably guessed, I think the whole concept of the Electoral Finance Bill is a debate about the wrong issue. First we need to look at our entire Parliamentary system, before we decide how we get people in there.

I refer to the Westminster Parliamentary System as being "auto-combative". We have political parties arrayed as Government and Opposition. Quite frankly, this is wrong. Would any corporation, sports club or Women's Institute arrange their governing body in this manner? They would not, as the logical outcome would be a total utter shambles. Yet we let politicians in New Zealand arrange themselves on this inefficient manner.

Parliament should be New Zealand's top-level boardroom. It should be comprised of a group of people who are working together for the benefit of all the shareholders of New Zealand Limited.

Okay, before all you who can't see the foregoing as metaphorical, I do not mean that the country should run as a "business", but that there are parallels. (Perhaps I should have stuck with something more benevolent like the "Women's Institute").

So we have to do away with the Westminster Parliamentary System. It is a sacred cow that does not seem to be questioned, and yet it is so obviously problematic in delivering good governance.

For all their faults, businesses do a very good job of governing themselves. Many, many sporting bodies and volunteer organisations do well too.

So, stop the debate about how people are funded into Parliament, and debate how we can better organise Parliament.

Just to tantalise readers, here are my suggestions:
1. abolition of political parties
2. a 5 year political term for an MP
3. 20% of electorates are put up for election each year (rather than a General Election once every 5 years)
4. a more cohesive local and national government...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Do MPs have a conscience with which to vote?

In recent years there has been a number of bills passed through Parliament (Prostitution Law Reform, Civil Union, Anti-smacking) on the basis of MPs 'voting with their conscience'. I believe it is adopted when a controversial moral issue is debated in Parliament.

Here's the problem. In the cases cited the conscience of the electorate was not represented among the MPs in Parliament. An overwhelming majority of ordinary Kiwis were opposed to the legislation.

Allowing MPs to exercise a conscience vote is undemocratic. MPs are elected to represent their constituency in Parliament (well, that's my understanding of the process). If they vote against the will of the people then they are being undemocratic.

A further problem is that under MMP there are certain MPs who are not accountable to a constituency. They get into Parliament on the party list. They do the bidding of the party and try to keep their position on the party list for the next election.

Party politics in itself is unrepresentative. The number of New Zealanders who are members of a political party is a small minority of the population. That, in itself, make party politics unrepresentative and undemocratic. There is a certain type of person who prepared to join a political party. The vast majority of the population is not prepared to participate in politics at this level. [I am not and never have been a member of a political party. If I did join a political party I would submit a remit to outlaw Political Parties and to revoke MMP.]

So whether an MP votes along party lines or votes with their conscience they are unrepresentative of those they supposedly represent. There is a serious flaw in politics in New Zealand. We do not have a democracy in the Platonic sense. Plato defined democracy as "government of the people, by the people, for the people". The propensity for politicians to array themselves in parties means we have government of the party, by the party, for the party.

Conscience voting is anathema to democracy. Political parties are anathema to democracy.

Monday, August 27, 2007

MMP - wrong, wrong, wrong

If you wanted the worst form of government possible, you would not choose MMP (Mixed Member Proportion) as your electoral system. You would opt for anarchy. MMP only delivers the second worst form of government.

The New Zealand electors were conned in the selection of MMP. Back in the '80s when we voted in a referendum, and the overwhelming majority selected MMP I doubt that 2% of the population understood what they were letting the country in for.

MMP may deliver a proportionate representation of the views of the populace (notice that I said "may") in terms of the number of MPs in Parliament. However, in combination with the "auto-combative" Westminster Parliamentary system operated in New Zealand it is an utter failure at delivering good government.

Here's what MMP does.

Firstly, a proportionate number of MPs representing all the views of the populace is elected to Parliament. There should be proportionately the same number of fringe looneys in Parliament as there are in society, and the same proportion of "politically correct" (as in, "I'm right, you're wrong") as there is in the general population.

Secondly, under the Westminster Parliamentary system, in order to form a government a political leader (let's call them a Prime Minister) needs to have the support of 50% or more of the members of Parliament. Negotiations take place between the various parties (here that means Political Parties) and a compromise is reached. Policies are traded off in order to reach a position where these 50% of MPs can share the power of being in government.

Smart readers will have spotted the problem already. Prior to the election political candidates can (within reason) promise anything they like. If elected, and they get invited to the negotiating table, they can simply trade off their "principles" and go back to the voting public with an excuse. They claim that in the overall picture it was better for them to be on the Treasury benches rather than in Opposition and holding out over a principle.

In order to maintain "Confidence and Supply" support, the major coalition partner needs to support legislation put forward by minor partners. In this current Parliamentary session the coalition has supported legislation put forward by an informal member i.e. the Greens have offered to support Labour, United Future and New Zealand First on confidence and supply while not being formal members of the coalition. Without the former, the latter 3 would lose the Treasury benches.

The result is that while there is supposedly a proportionate number of moderates, liberals, conservatives and loonies in Parliament, there is actually disproportionate representation in the development of policy. The minor views actually hold a disproportionate amount of influence on the Treasury benches.

How hard is it for voters to see this?

Maybe I haven't quite been hard enough of MMP as I should. However, I am prepared to cut it a bit of slack that with the right Parliamentary system it might have merit. However, in combination with the Westminster system it is an abject failure.

I haven't at this point gone into the problems of Political Parties, especially how they have been disproportionately empowered by MMP. In a later post I will fill you in.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another sacred cow up for homekill...

You could easily say that I am just being negative. However, I am really trying to be provocative - trying to add some creative thinking into New Zealand politics. (some would argue that any thinking would be a start).

Having questioned the the sacred cow of universal suffrage, I will now move on to my next slow moving target - Compulsory Education.

New Zealand used to offer all its citizens access to Primary and Secondary education for free. University education came with a price tag that was borne directly by the student, though very heavily subsidised. In reality, it was not "free education", as it had to be funded, and that funding came from taxation.

I am definitely a beneficiary of this education system. I used my entire allocation of primary, secondary and tertiary education. I have a Masters degree and a postgraduate diploma on top of that. So, I have done pretty well out of the system. My parents fared even better, as they had all 5 of their children educated through to tertiary level. I am now in the position where I am putting my children through school. On top of the exorbitant rate of taxation I am paying, I am constantly being tapped for more funds for their compulsory education.

In stage one economics I first heard the maxim "Without abstinence there is no investment.". I observed that this was true. Those contemporaries of mine who went through university on a full bursary were "by and large" less studious than those of us who were paying our own way.

Similarly, compulsion does not encourage scholastic achievement. I think a lot of people would agree that schools seem to have become baby sitting centres. Kids must attend until the age of 15, regardless of whether they achieve anything academically.

Now, I think I gave the tax payer pretty good value for money. I spent a long time in the education system, but I passed everything, every year (except for a couple of papers in my first year at University). Since leaving University I have been in paid employment within New Zealand, working for tax paying companies.

What I see now is that while there is compulsion for children to attend school, there is no compulsion for them to actually learn. As taxpayers this should outrage us. We should demand value for money. Our employers appraise us to ensure we represent value for money. Show me the cost:benefit ratio of the state education system in New Zealand. Show me the cost:benefit ratio of each tax payer funded pupil in the school system.

Some day I will give readers the benefit of my insights in to the National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA).

Friday, August 24, 2007

Exercising our democratic right...

Almost every New Zealand over the age of 18 has the right to vote. You have to have met certain residency criteria and are not in prison or mentally unfit (although there seems to be a lot of latitude in that one).

Is this really the best way of establishing a Government?

Surely the idea of having a central government is to have a body to act in the best interests of the country. Giving every citizen the right to vote may not achieve this. Why? Because too many in society do not understand what they are supposed to be doing when they apply their mark to the ballot paper.

Self interest plays too big a part in the decision making process of too many who have the right to vote. And the politicians know this.

This was epitomised in a comment by someone televised after the latest budget. "There was nothing in it for me.". Most people's interest in politics is "What is in it for me?". There is no thought of the overall good of the country. And the politicians know this.

This makes it very easy for a political party (I'll get to the morality of political parties one day), especially one that is already in power to "buy an election". And they buy it with tax payer money. The winner of elections under universal suffrage is the one who appears to benefit the greatest majority of the populace - not necessarily the one who has the best policies for the governance of the country.

Okay. That's a lot of rhetoric. What is the alternative? I am not going to present my alternative just yet (I have one to offer though). I am just going to challenge the status quo and hopefully readers will see that what I am saying is right.

So what am I about?

What are you going to learn from me? Hopefully quite a lot.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing politics, especially of the Kiwi variety. I have some ideas that will rattle some cages. My views on politics include such things as eligibility of voters, the type or electoral system, the number of MPs, the value of MPs... The list goes on.

I hope to be even handed and not expose political bias. I have never been a member of a political party. My interest does not lie in entering into politics myself. I have many other important things to do.

Hopefully, these posts will not be "mud slinging" from the sidelines, but a spur to people thinking differently (and since these are my views, correctly) about politics.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Don't Get Me Started...

Well I suppose I just have. I have read blogs over the last little while and thought I could do just as good a job as most posters. At least I have something valuable to contribute (but then the "lamers" think the same about themselves). I have quite strong political opinions, and thought that Politically Correct would be an appropriate name for my blog, but someone has already taken that, so Political Sidelines is the next best thing. I am so late getting into blogging that I suppose it will be "so last week" tomorrow that no one will read this.

What really got me riled up and pushed me over the edge to start this blog was a comment by Prime Minister Helen Clark (I am a Kiwi). There has been a political storm in a teacup over an Australian MP (Kevin Rudd) visiting a strip club while in New York on UN business. Helen Clark is reported as being disapproving of his actions. A number of other Kiwi MPs have come out and admitted visiting strip clubs at various stages during their usually pre-politics life.

My outrage is that Helen Clark fails to see the inconsistency of a government that legalises prostitution but then "tut tuts" and disapproves of a people visiting strip clubs.

Both are immoral. There I said it. Making something legal doesn't make it moral.