Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Politics of Absence

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  • Russell Brown,

    Wow -- and just like that, an email from my local MP turns up in the inbox:

    As Auckland grows and the pressure for increased development also rises. More and more communities find themselves squeezed. This week David Shearer speaks to residents of the Pt Chevalier community who has been fighting back to preserve what they value in their neighbourhood.

    Shona Grundy talks about the actions her community has taken to keep the local kindergarten open as the number of children in the area grows. The Ministry of Education announced recently it would close the kindergarten for a car park. Meanwhile, Matt Fordham has rallied his community against the local McDonalds extending its hours to become a 24 hours, seven days a week operation threatening to upset their quiet neighbourhood.

    Their fight is becoming more typical across Auckland but both have been smart in rallying support.

    Listen to the David Shearer Show every Thursday 9.05am 104.6 Planet FM

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Hannah, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    I've heard Nikki Kaye speak at an architects' meeting, and she seemed to be making sense with regards to her urbanisation and mass transportation knowledge/experience. The problem I see with her is that she is a minor player in the National party. What she says seems to be discounted by John Key and those in the power, and she has to tow the party line. Even when it is against what she wants to say. Like funding for rail networks.

    That is probably true for most politicians, but perhaps it is more noticeable in Auckland Central, when we used to have Judith Tizard, who seemed to have the ear of the prime minister.

    For me, the fact that Nikki is National has got to weigh against the work she has done for Auckland Central, and so I won't be voting for her. Now if she was Independent, or another party ....

    Auckland • Since Feb 2009 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Well, executive power rests with Cabinet, for a start.

    Yes, I just realized that. I should have said legislative power. My local MP has no share of executive power at all.

    And while local representation is a legacy, it's not a legacy that should be easily discarded -- if only because the electorate simply won't let you do that.

    You're mixing up justification and explanation there. I'm sure that it's hard to break from an electorate model, but that in itself does not justify it, any more than the fact that it was hard to break free from Gaddafi's power justified that power.

    The idea of all representation being divorced from place is slightly scary.

    Yes, I'm not convinced myself. But I'm not suggesting that either. There's all kinds of representation that has nothing to do with Parliament all around me. Local body politicians are by definition tied to the place, and they actually have briefs that give you some indication what kind of problems you could go to them for. What I don't get is why I'm voting locally for people who wield national power.

    I'm not sure if you understand how much good local MPs actually do.

    No, I really don't. There are anecdotes of people who have got help from them. I can't independently evaluate if any of these people actually deserved the help they got. There are also people who didn't get any help, and again, I can't judge whether they deserved it. There are no rules about it, no standards. I can't judge the scale of the help. It could be about as much as the local greengrocer, or more than local police chief. I can't be sure if the public money spent on these people might not have just been better served by having free lawyers available.

    Even the touchy-feely stuff is important -- turning up to local community groups and the like.

    It's certainly important to the politicians, but is it really important to the local community groups that they got to press the flesh with someone who will then go back and vote in Parliament for 90 day fire-at-will law? I met Roger Douglas once and shook his hand too. It didn't do any good, though, however good it might have made me feel at the time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8541 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Hannah,

    What she says seems to be discounted by John Key and those in the power, and she has to tow the party line. Even when it is against what she wants to say. Like funding for rail networks.

    To be fair, and if I recall correctly, she has actually voted against her own party once or twice on Auckland issues. Someone else will have to provide detail, though.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2396 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    The Ministry of Education announced recently it would close the kindergarten for a car park

    That is 100% incorrect and David Shearer was at the meeting where the Ministry representative said exactly the opposite in fact.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hannah,

    I've heard Nikki Kaye speak at an architects' meeting, and she seemed to be making sense with regards to her urbanisation and mass transportation knowledge/experience.

    You might be interested in Joshua Arbury's take on Ms Kaye's trams for Ponsonby notion.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16680 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    I met Roger Douglas once and shook his hand too. It didn’t do any good, though, however good it might have made me feel at the time.

    The only time I ever met Richard Prebble was when my poor, faithful friend was walking him around the hood doing meet-and-greets in the week of the 1996 election and I happened to be outside my house. He strode over, shook my hand and said “Hey, bro!”

    After he was beaten by Sandra Lee, Prebble and his chums basically cleaned out the electorate office and scorched the earth around it. I think that summed up that particular MP’s attitude to his local voters.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to BenWilson,

    No, I really don't. There are anecdotes of people who have got help from them. I can't independently evaluate if any of these people actually deserved the help they got. There are also people who didn't get any help, and again, I can't judge whether they deserved it. There are no rules about it, no standards. I can't judge the scale of the help.

    There are no standards that I'm aware of but there's clear custom and practice that anyone who has ever worked in an agency, parliament or ministerial office could explain.

    MPs vary in their effort and the issues vary according to the electorate but whether it's domestic violence, state housing, local schools or hospitals, you can go to an electorate clinic and speak directly to your MP, you can wonder into their office, you can call them or email them and most, in my experience, will do everything they should to ensure your issues are fully and adequately addressed.

    If you've not experience of this, why so cynical?

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2233 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW, in reply to Rich Lock,

    What she says seems to be discounted by John Key and those in the power, and she has to tow the party line. Even when it is against what she wants to say. Like funding for rail networks.

    To be fair, and if I recall correctly, she has actually voted against her own party once or twice on Auckland issues. Someone else will have to provide detail, though.

    Ah, that would be because she was *towing* the the party line - ie out in front of the line trying to drag it with her. Rather than *toeing* the line, standing behind it intimidated into conformity by a sneering sergeant-major.

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 833 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hannah,

    I’ve heard Nikki Kaye speak at an architects’ meeting, and she seemed to be making sense with regards to her urbanisation and mass transportation knowledge/experience.

    I've heard her speak on topics I know a bit about -- at NetHui -- and was also reasonably impressed. As I noted above, the Labour, Green and National candidates in Auckland Central are all pretty smart.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18893 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Patrick,

    Waimakariri electorate billboards:

    LOTS of Clayton Cosgrove signs up in Belfast and Rangiora, only his photo, includes "Party Vote Labour" tag.

    Not as many National signs as I'd expected (given National won the party vote quite handily last election) - all signs include Smilin' John along with Kate Wilkinson, and have "Party Vote National". One sign vandalised - Key's head has been neatly excised.

    Couple of Rahui Katene billboards in Belfast.

    No Greens, ACT, Mana, New Zealand First or anything else.

    Rangiora, Te Wai Pounamu • Since Nov 2006 • 237 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R, in reply to DeepRed,

    Blue Dogs, much?

    If you're implying that Labour appear to be trying to be like National (only just slightly more compassionate to the poor), then I'd agree with that to some extent, but looking at the income distribution numbers, I really do think that a lot of poorer people were better off under Labour than they were under the previous National government, and I suspect than they are now.

    Rich Lock wrote:

    Well, for me it’s more that National propose (and vote for) laws I disagree with, and don’t lose any sleep about it, whereas Labour wring their hands and look all anguished, and then vote for it anyway. Which makes them a pretty useless opposition, in a lot of respects.

    I agree with this a lot.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 166 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Paul Williams,

    There are no standards that I’m aware of but there’s clear custom and practice that anyone who has ever worked in an agency, parliament or ministerial office could explain.

    Perhaps it's because most MPs abide by a sort of common decency "clear custom and practice" that there hasn't been a need for some kind of rule book. I do know of one who habitually put out information in press releases about constituents his office had helped. Even though his valedictory speech has now been delivered, personal information about his constituents' medical and financial circumstances is still out there, to the glory of the great man, without his having bothered to seek their consent.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3510 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Is anyone else confused about how few National hoardings there are? In Mt Roskill, I’ve seen one (at my dog park, how rude). In Mangere, there appears to be none.

    There are shitloads out Pakuranga way. I suspect in Mt Roskill and Mangere, National might have fewer willing sign-putter-uppers :-)

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Maybe the Greens need to engage more with stupid people, or risk their support being limited by the 20% of reasonably smart individuals in the country.

    Perhaps they could try reserving every fourth list spot for a demonstrably ignorant person - talk radio presenters maybe?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4459 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Is this Hawkins? Not one of my mob I've got much time for frankly.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2233 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Paul Williams,

    If you've not experience of this, why so cynical?

    I'm not cynical. I'm sure they mean well, but it strikes me as a totally ineffective way to handle social justice, that people have to petition an extremely scarce resource, with undefined powers and responsibilities, and a political agenda to boot. Aren't these people almost always simply going to be put in contact with whoever it is that actually deals with their problem, with the added weight of "because <name MP> says so"? I'm presuming Craig didn't go around and sort the abusive ex out himself. That's a matter for the police, courts, lawyers, and various other agencies.

    I expect what they do in these offices is mostly righteous. What I'm confused about is why these people have to have so much political power. On the one hand they're kissing babies and saying "Hey, bro" to Russell, and putting abuse victims in contact with help, and saving schools. On the other, they're passing fire-at-will laws, selling off our railways, passing surveillance laws, privatizing education, cutting social welfare funding etc. I think that's a high price to pay just for a very small chance of getting their help personally, or a casual handshake, and then solely on the grounds of where you happen to live, and whether they happen to have sympathy for your cause.

    All of those good purposes of their offices could exist, without them having this incredible power to transform society to their will. Indeed, a great many alternatives exist and these are the first places people try - for a reason. I've lived in electorates where the only interaction I'd want to have with the MP there is to cross to the other side of the road if I saw them coming, in case I accidentally blurted out that I thought they were a fuckwit as they passed me.

    I'm happy to stop discussing the very existence of local MPs - it's academic anyway - none of the alternative electoral systems proposed dispense with them. They seem like an archaic throwback, but actually, most of our political system seems that way to me. We still have a monarch, and to get rid of that is beyond any party to even dare to suggest putting to a vote.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8541 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Paul Williams,

    Is this Hawkins? Not one of my mob I've got much time for frankly.

    Not who I'm thinking of. Because the info's easily Googled I've sent you a private message. Although some of it's years old it does bother a few folks. A rather high price to pay for your MP's help.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3510 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    I'm not cynical. I'm sure they mean well, but it strikes me as a totally ineffective way to handle social justice, that people have to petition an extremely scarce resource, with undefined powers and responsibilities, and a political agenda to boot.

    It's not the entire way we handle social justice Ben, it's a part, I just think you've undervalued their specific role. For the most part, social services are provided universally and in accordance with specific standards. However, as is inevitable, there'll be occassions of failure or ineptitude (or of abuse) and this gives rise to the need for an advocate.

    Aren't these people almost always simply going to be put in contact with whoever it is that actually deals with their problem, with the added weight of "because <name MP> says so"?

    That's part of it yes, and sometimes the mere act of elevating the concern is sufficient remedy but you need authority to do so and they have this; positional authority. It's not always inappropriate which is what it seems you think.

    I expect what they do in these offices is mostly righteous. What I'm confused about is why these people have to have so much political power.

    In my experience, they don't. They have the advantage of office, resources and detailed knowledge. That's about it.

    On the other, they're passing fire-at-will laws, selling off our railways, passing surveillance laws, privatizing education, cutting social welfare funding etc.

    You're conflating the role of an MP with the absurd power of Executive Government in the NZ parliament.

    I'm happy to stop discussing the very existence of local MPs - it's academic anyway - none of the alternative electoral systems proposed dispense with them. They seem like an archaic throwback, but actually, most of our political system seems that way to me.

    There's a quote from Churchill that applies here. I'll merely say, by comparison with Australia, the NZ system seems to work well, and consistently well, at a much lower cost.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2233 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    Here in Dunedin, there are already several David Clarke hoardings around Dunedin North and a few Green ones, too.

    None of the other parties' are up yet and I suspect there'll be a few National ones and sod-all from the others.

    Yesterday a friend told me he'd helped put up a few of Clarke's hoardings.He commented that in Dunedin North Labour has several volunteers doing this sort of grunt-work, but that Michael Woodhouse has to help put his own up as National in Dn North, as he has far fewer volunteers.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 606 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Cheers, Joe I'll follow this up.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2233 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW,

    As well as the urban and suburban NZs, there are provincial towns and even rural areas out there, where electorate MPs with a sense of place may be useful*.
    Consider the Napier-Gisborne railway - photo attached (with a little bit of luck**) - threatened from above and below, left and right - and which way is KiwiRail heading?

    *Alas ones like Anne Tolley, MP for East Coast, not so much.

    **Alas luck lacking - any clues??

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 833 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    In Palmerston North there are a lot of signs up for Leonie Hapeta (all of which feature John Key), and fewer and smaller ones for Iain Lees-Galloway. Labour only has big signs at the entrances - Massey, Pioneer Highway - whereas Hapeta has them everywhere.

    Shannon is a Peter Foster (Labour) zone, with a lot of huge signs up.

    The road to Levin is a National zone.

    First Green sign is in a field north of Otaki.

    Mana is covered in Labour hoardings.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1642 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    In my experience, they don't. They have the advantage of office, resources and detailed knowledge. That's about it.

    In my experience, living in Mt Albert, my local MP held supreme executive power.

    But you're misunderstanding me. What about providing this service of being a free advocate (if they feel like it) gives them the right to be in the clique of the most powerful people in this country? What's the connection? In voting for Richard Prebble, my Mum helped put someone in power who did a lot to wreck this country. She didn't have the choice to vote for someone else from Labour, unless she moved her residence. I don't really think that's justified just by virtue of the fact that he had an office and she could have approached him for help if she ever needed it. Some tiny contribution to social justice (in the big scheme of the provision of this right, which is mostly done by legions of civil servants) does not seem to justify the colossal impact on the way the country is run that these people have. Yes, with MMP, you don't have to vote for the candidate any more. But you do have to vote for one of the candidates and the winner will be in parliament, and they will have enormous influence, way, way out of proportion to the social good they provide locally.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8541 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to BenWilson,

    In my experience, living in Mt Albert, my local MP held supreme executive power.

    No she didn't, not as local MP, and that's an important distinction.

    But you're misunderstanding me. What about providing this service of being a free advocate (if they feel like it) gives them the right to be in the clique of the most powerful people in this country? What's the connection? In voting for Richard Prebble, my Mum helped put someone in power who did a lot to wreck this country.

    I don't think I am misunderstanding you at all. I'm saying their role as a local MP is a key to their job, whether they are in government or not, and that it is distinct from their role(s) within their parties.

    Your example of Prebble, presumably as part of the 4th Labour Government, is an example of the power of the Executive in any government and I agree. However, that was under FPP, before the Select Committee reforms of Palmer and Caygill and before any number of other reforms including the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

    I think you're criticising the role of local MPs based on the historical actions of a government that operated in very very different times.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2233 posts Report Reply

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