“Representation” is the primary function of the House of Representatives in my opinion.
There's another wrinkle to throw into this, and that's to do with the physical size of electorates. People living in Taumarunui have as much representation per capita as do people living in Auckland Central, but people living in Taumarunui get to have their elected representative within reasonable physical distance of them (ie. making it possible for them to actually see their elected representative) about once a month. That's because Taumarunui is about 3 hours drive from the major population areas in the Rangitikei electorate. (I know whatof I speak: I spent an awful lot of time on the road during the election campaign last year.) The effect of distance on representation is even more pronounced in some of the South Island seats, and in a majority of the Maori seats.
One advantage of having a somewhat larger house might be reduced physical size of some electorates.
FTR, I'd like to see the threshold reduced, to maybe 3%? Enough to get you two and a bit seats under our current system.
I find myself terribly conflicted in these discussions in some ways, because my ethical position is absolutely clear (per various posts above) but I was born and bred in the Catholic church and that's a hard heritage to shake off, and for many years we battled infertility. So even though intellectually I was fully on board with the thought that women get to choose, emotionally I found it very hard to accept that some people had the chance of having a baby but because of reasons (and perfectly good reasons) chose not to go ahead with a pregnancy.
So I get from the inside the agony of the idea that a baby that I might have loved and cared for and reared as best I could would not be able to reach term. And here I was very much thinking of fetuses that would reasonably be viable if they were born.
But even so, that would be an absolutely extraordinary case, and one that I've only ever heard of as a philosophical hypothetical, not an actual reality. The philosophical hypothetical certainly tests our arguments, but it is just a hypothetical case. One of the things about law is that it seems to deal with practical realities (the grubby version of ethical and political philosophy, perhaps?). And the reality is that late term abortions seem to come about because of conditions just such as Danielle and Bart have discussed.
I think our law can be framed to deal with these cases, and I really do think that women can be trusted with these decisions. And if the hypothetical becomes a reality, then we might need to think about reframing the law.
a patronising way
Not at all! Or at least I didn't read your comment that way at all. Or something. Greatest respect for the way you approach conversations here...
advocate for incremental change
Yes. The weird thing is, in general there's fairly widespread support for abortion in NZ, and it really is only a minority who oppose women being able to make that choice. It would be good to be able to persuade anti-abortion people to change their minds, but in the meantime, it would be good to progress some law changes as well. Both the Greens and the Labour party have policy positions supporting this. The Greens have a more explicit position that insists on the law being changed to something like the Victorian model (as in the state of Victoria in Australia), and Labour has a more pragmatic approach of kicking the question of abortion law reform to the Law Commission, in the hopes that this would depoliticise the process of changing the law.
(Actually, given what I've been saying in this thread, I'm more in tune with the Greens' policy here, and George, given what you've been saying, I think you might be more in tune with the Labour policy, and that's just doing my head in so I'm going back to writing an assignment for my tax students.)
One ghastly aspect of the current CSA Act is that it doesn’t include a clause about rape as a qualifying ground.
Yes. That's because many men in the House thought that women would lie and say they had been raped in order to get an abortion. 87 seats in the House at the time, only four held by women. All four women, from both parties, argued against this horrid idea, but too many men there just didn't believe them. So rape is a circumstance that a doctor may take into account, but it is not in itself grounds for abortion.
This is one of the reasons why we need to be concerned about the number of women in the House. Sigh.
At a certain point, the product of fertilised egg can be considered a human – somewhere between conception and birth. The law (rightly) does not try to define this. But in this absence the law essentially treats all medically procedures to induce the abortion of that fetus as criminal, and exempts them under certain conditions.
Without having a debate about where that moral line is, it’s very difficult to move forward.
Normally, I pretty much agree with things you say, George, but I think you're missing part of the story here. NB: I'm think that we probably end up in the same pro-choice position, but think there's another aspect to the story.
Yes, it's a vexed moral issue, and there is no clear dividing line between human person / not human person. We're fairly clear that a baby is a human person (Peter Singer <i>et al</i> not withstanding), and we're fairly clear that a newly fertilised egg is not (various religious types not withstanding). So we leave it to individuals to decide.
So when people say that women shouldn't have the right to choose for themselves whether or not they carry a pregnancy or terminate it, we are treating them as moral infants. We say that they are incapable of making that moral choice for themselves.
So why the level of surveillance? It's because we don't trust women to make decisions for themselves. Abortion has been treated as a matter of morality, but instead of allowing the people concerned to make moral decisions, we have insisted that they get opinions from other people first.
Bizarrely, we have decided that if a person needs to get a moral signoff for a decision, then the people who are capable of giving it are medical doctors.
That might have been appropriate in the 1970s when doctors were often the most highly educated people in a community. But our levels of education have increased dramatically, and more people have the training to think through difficult decisions for themselves, and to help other people make decisions.
Make no mistake about it - abortion is a big moral issue.
People are asked to think about who and what counts, about where life begins, about the significance of lives already being lived, and lives that may or may not be lived, and about who bears the costs of prohibition.
When we deny women the right to make decisions about abortion for themselves, then we deny women's autonomy. We say that women are not capable of making moral judgments, and that they are not autonomous adults.
That's why we need to rewrite our abortion laws. But it seems that no political party has the courage to do so.
So I don't think we need to have the moral debate at all, about the dividing line between a fertilised egg (not-human-person) and a baby (human-person). I think we can treat women as autonomous moral adults, and allow them to make that decision for themselves.
I can’t help but think the moment Labour starts talking about Labour it could be talking about something else.
Indeed. Of late Labour has been talking about housing and the future of work, and the major response to the formation of "Progress" has been to say, "Oh, that's interesting. Labour is a broad church." And then party leadership has carried on talking about things like, well, housing and the future of work and the like.
Great post, Russell. Especially the last paragraph. I loathe the pointscoring that goes on around some discussions of privilege (and other topics), and I think it's destructive. But trying to remember to be mindful of one's privilege is a good approach. No need to feel guilty about something that you didn't make happen, but do be aware that it helps you in all sorts of unexpected and often invisible ways.
I quite like John Scalzi's analogy too: Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is. The analogy of course breaks down, because analogies usually do, but it's another useful way of grasping the concept.
Having four men hold around 50 meetings to talk about ideas and vision has connected them with their membership, and tested their stamina.
Which is very much what happened during the last Labour leadership process too. These are good processes, and highly democratic ones. I recommend them.
The Future of Work thing
is that a thing? sounds interesting.
It is indeed a thing, and a large one at that. It's the Party's major focus at present, with a whole lot of work going on within caucus, and outside of caucus, with MPs getting out and consulting and talking and putting together discussion papers which will turn into focused policy.
Here's the speech launching it: The Future of Work
An extract from that speech:
A major theme of my work as Leader will be developing a long-term economic plan that’s about making the most of the changing nature of work, that’s about increasing productive investment, and building an education system that’s fit for the challenges of the 21st century.
To do this, Labour will establish a Future of Work Commission to work with New Zealanders over the next two years to develop policies for creating more jobs, creating better jobs, and getting New Zealand ready for the economic challenges of the next twenty years.
The purpose of the Commission will be to look at how we adapt to the rapidly approaching changes ahead; how we make sure ours is a society and an economy that generates work and incomes for a stable and prosperous community, and how we prepare for the likelihood of multiple changes in jobs over a working life, including having periods of no paid work.
Here's a recent article from the Sunday Star Times about it: Labour rolls up its sleeves to tackle the future of work
Here's Grant Robertson on the main themes of the project: Five themes for Labour Party's Future of Work Commission
So it's very much a thing, and very much focused on getting something done. I've seen some of the early work that's coming out of this project, and it's looking good.
I have no belief that Little has any motivation other than power and hence would shift policies on a whim
Andrew has a long and consistent history of working on behalf of workers, and looking for practical ways to achieve gains for workers, without at the same time demonising businesses.