Hard News by Russell Brown


Pomp and Circumstance

Even as you read National's respective support agreements with the Maori Party and the Act Party, can I suggest you listen to each to each too? I suspect the quality of voice in each will have much to say about the way our new government functions over the next three years.

The former, over five pages, moves on from election night in respectful and businesslike fashion, kicking for touch where necessary. The latter is, at times, like being hectored by a drunk.

It is querulous and it is pretentious: an opening "Preamble" is written in language more befitting a constitutional document than a political deal between a small party and a large one.

It is followed by a section headed "PHILOSOPHY" which begins "ACT notes and endorses the National Party’s long-held respect for individual freedom, personal responsibility, and sanctity of property rights …" Well, thank goodness that the senior party meets Act's lofty standards, eh?

Act also wins itself the flattering bauble of a presence on a Leadership Council, with Full Initial Capitals.

In terms of detail, there's this:

National and ACT have joint aspirations for greater prosperity for New Zealanders, and see Australia as a benchmark. They have agreed on the concrete goal of closing the income gap with Australia by 2025. This will require a sustained lift in New Zealand’s productivity growth rate to 3% a year or more.

Leaving aside the essentially hopeful nature of setting a "concrete goal" four Parliamentary terms hence, as Steve Pierson has already pointed out,"What ‘income gap’ are they talking about? GDP per capita or wages or what?" It's not a goal, it's a pamphlet.

As No Right Turn notes, there's a certain irony in that fact that even as the document fulminates about the quality of public spending, it creates a new kind of pork: funding of a political party:

To enable ACT to make a substantive contribution to the government's programme, it will have adequate access to funding, in a bulk form or for specific projects, to enable it to commission contract research or other consultancy assistance. The terms of such funding will be a matter for the Leadership Council to decide.

My guess? Your taxes will bankroll "research" and "consultancy assistance" from sundry climate change denialists in pursuit of this first point of the appended terms of reference covering the creation of a special Climate Change Select Committee:

The Committee shall: hear competing views on the scientific aspects of climate change from internationally respected sources and assess the quality and impartiality of official advice.

So the terms of reference for the committee begin by implying that our expert scientific organisations are delivering poor-quality and dishonest advice? John Key has swiftly assured the Herald that the terms as published were written by Act and would by altered once National had input.

Public Address reader Stephen Hill observed thus on the same Herald story:

The incoming National government will completely review the emissions trading scheme (ETS) - possibly including the science that says humans are to blame for climate change.

I hope that there'll also be a review of the whole 'Earth is not flat' malarky. I'm tired of having science rammed down my throat when it is patently obvious to anyone with functioning eyes that the planet isn't even a bit curvy. Seriously, this is simply scary and a 'review' will be a colossal waste of time and money. The scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change is overwhelming. I'm all in favour of inclusive government but you gotta draw a line somewhere - letting people with wilfully ignorant ideas about stuff like this dictate policy is just stupid.

He makes a good point: will the review, and Act's accompanying research pork be subject to the Cabinet Expenditure Control Committee's "elimination" of "programmes that do not deliver value for money"?

Lest, I quibble too much, I think it is obvious that John Key and his advisors have shown great skill and purpose in sealing these agreements to govern in just over a week. In including the Maori Party, they have demonstrated not only tactical nous but a sense of vision. But I can't help but think it's not the Maori Party agreement that we're all going to be talking about.


Meanwhile, it's easy to miss when you read the Herald on Sunday story that the bizarre behaviour of new Act list MP David Garrett took place in June, before Act did its deal with the Sensible Sentencing Trust to put him on its list. He was not even a party member at the time.

But he is now, and it can only be hoped that this incident was out of character. He turned up for a recording of Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson so drunk that the producer was called to decide whether the programme should go ahead as planned. It did, and you can watch it here. Garrett slurs his words at times and draws an analogy between homosexuality and paedophilia that does not impress his fellow panelists. His off-camera behaviour was reportedly abusive and obnoxious.

Garrett was somewhat contrite about his behaviour when the HoS called. But the question persists: what kind of moron turns up steaming drunk to participate in a TV discussion on paedophilia?

It's going to be a long three years with this guy, isn't it?

The same HoS story ropes in comments from Jonathan Young, national's new MP in New Plymouth, originally made to the Taranaki Daily News last month and highlighted by GayNZ.

The New Plymouth MP and long-time church minister told the paper about an associate who was an "ex-lesbian" and who had experienced many things in her childhood which caused her to become homosexual.

"One of the things I do strongly object to in terms of the people who have made this choice is the presentation of it as a normal alternative," Young was quoted as saying.

The sad thing is that Young is the son of the late Venn Young, who holds an important place in the gay rights history of New Zealand by dint of introducing the first, unsuccessful, Crimes Amendment Bill to the New Zealand Parliament to decriminalise homosexual intercourse in 1974. The wisdom of the father clearly did not pass to the son.

PS: Media7 this week looks at the reporting we're not getting about Afghanistan. And it's more of a story for us than you might think. On Pundit, David Beatson has written some very interesting stuff based on his OIA requests about New Zealand troops handing over captives to US forces in possible breach of the Geneva Conventions, and on the lack of any end in sight to the longest foreign deployment -- seven years -- in our history. He's on the panel, along with Tim Watkin and Damian Christie (who, you may recall, got to Afghanistan under his own steam last year).

If you'd like to join us for the recording at The Classic tomorrow evening, hit reply and let me know asap.

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