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Why a Four Year Parliamentary Term is not a Good Idea – Part Rua

29 March 2013 19 comments

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On 7 February, Key called for the Parliamentary term to be increased from three to four years.

This issue was canvassed in two previous referenda in 1968 and 1990. More than two-thirds of voters wisely voted to keep it at three years.

According to polling, the public response is narrower this time. Perhaps in part to the same polling method that seems to show National with 50%-plus support amongst the public.

This blogger thoroughly rejects any notion  to increase the Parliamentary term.

As I wrote previously in The Daily Blog, there are compelling reasons to deny politicians an additional year in office;

1. Attacks on Critics

Governments become arrogant over time, and National’s (mis)-treatment over it critics should give us great cause for concern.

The following is a  list of just  some of the people who have criticised this government and been abused or derided in return;

July, 2009

Natasha Fuller &  Jennifer Johnston, solo-mothers

Personal WINZ details released to the media by Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, to discredit both women after they criticised National for canning the Training Incentive Allowance (which Bennett herself used to pay her way through University).

May, 2011

Jon Stephenson, journalist
John Key derides Stephenson’s research into NZ activities in Afghanistan: “I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

September, 2011

Nicky Hager, writer, researcher
John Key dismisses Hager’s book, on CIA involvement in NZ military activities in Afghanistan:  “I don’t have time to read fiction,” quipped the Prime Minister, adding that the book contained “no smoking gun”, just supposition, which, “makes it business as normal for Nicky Hager”. (Despite the book having 1300 footnotes to referencing documentation.)

October, 2011

Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, broadcaster, blogger
Criticised John Key on Radio NZ. Subsequently banned/ “uninvited”  from returning to Radio NZ as a panellist for the Afternoons with Jim Mora segment.

November, 2011

Robyn Malcolm, actor
Criticises the John Key led National government for it’s failures at a Green Party campaign launch, and is, in turn, vilified by the ‘NZ Herald’, and by one-time National Party aspiring-candidate, Cameron Brewer.

November, 2011

Bradley Ambrose, journalist/photographer
Investigated by police after complaint laid by the Prime Minister, over the “Teapot Tape” affair. Ambrose investigated and interviewed by Police. Media office raided. Property seized. Eventually, no charges laid. Government considered seeking costs of $13,669.45 from Ambrose – but eventually decided not to.

March, 2013

Annette Sykes, lawyer, activist, President of Mana Party

When Annette Sykes criticised the appointment of sportswoman Susan Devoy to the role of Race Relations Commissioner, Minister Judith Collins responded with “Annette Sykes is a stupid person”. That’s how National views critics.

There is a degree of  vindictiveness to how National ministers deal with their criticism – and it ain’t pretty, Billy-Bob.

In addition, John Key’s response to  anti-asset sales opposition has revealed glimpses of his arrogance and dismissal of public concerns.

2. Public Opposition

As I wrote in The Daily Daily, on 4 May 2012,  over five thousand people took part in a peaceful,  anti-asset sales Hikoi to Parliament,

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Aotearoa is not for sale hikoi - anti asset sales march   - wellington - 4 May 2012

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Key’s response was instructive,

“How many people did they have? John Key asked reporters. “Where was it? Nope wasn’t aware of it.”

Key says the National Party has a clear mandate to proceed with privatising some state assets.

“Well over a million New Zealanders voted for National in the full knowledge we were going to undertake the mixed ownership model,” he said.

“So look, a few thousand people walking down the streets of Wellington isn’t going to change my mind.”

Source: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament

Nearly a year later, on 12 March, a 392,000-plus signature petition was presented to Parliament. The petition  was  signed by ordinary New Zealanders who wanted nothing more or less than a say in their future.

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12-march-2013-presentation-of-anti-asset-sales-petition-parliament-referendum

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Key’s response?

Key said of the opposition petition you could be as “sure as little green apples [that] huge numbers of them are not bona fide names on the list” and would have to be struck off.

“They’ve probably taken over a year to get maybe 300,000 names, we’ve had 285,000 pre-registrations in a matter of days”.

Source: Government to ignore asset sales referendum

And according to Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman, Key further disparaged New Zealanders who signed  the petition by saying,

“…that the Prime Minister has said the people who signed this are children and tourists….”

Source: IBID

Charming.

We should be under no illusion that National ministers view any form of criticism or opposition with disdain. Key himself is contemptuous of  anyone who dares cross him.

Who in their right minds would want to give politicians an extra year to look down on us, as if we were grubby peasants, not worthy of their time and attention?

3. Unbridled Power?

Never forget that we are governed by an “elected dictatorship”,

  • There is no Upper House to scrutinise legislation from governments.
  • There is no written constitution to safeguard our interests.
  • Referenda have all the ‘bite’ of a toothless octagenarian (not that I support binding referenda – especially without Constitutional safeguards to protect the rights of minorities).
  • There are no mid-term elections; right-of-recall; Presidential Veto; or any other controls over elected representatives.

Once elected, unless a Member of Parliament is found guilty of a lewd act with a sheep, we have zero control over them.

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In conclusion

One of the main arguments in support of a Four Year Term is that three years is not sufficient time  for a government…

To which I respond with this;

That statement is never completed. It gives government more time to achieve – what? What incredibly complex, radical reforms are there that require an extra year (or more) for a government to have more time? What does Key have in mind that demands a four year term?

Remember that Select Committees work in unison, not one at a time, and Legislation can be passed in as little as 48 hours – as “The Hobbit Law” showed us (see: Helen Kelly – The Hobbit Dispute) – not that I’m advocating legislative changes conducted at warp speed.

Perhaps governments might have “more time to achieve things” if time wasn’t wasted with petty point-scoring in the Debating Chamber?  (see: Making Bold With The Speaker’s Chair)

As National-aligned blogger, David Farrar,  said in the NZ Herald on 25 March,

“People do feel three years is not long enough to judge. With a four-year term, more Governments might get chucked out after one term because people would say, ‘It’s been four years, we should have seen some impact.”‘

Really, Mr Farrar?

Funny thing…

National has now been in power for over four years.

What have they achieved in that time?

  • growing child poverty?
  • rising unemployment?
  • large numbers continuing to migrate to Australia?
  • wage cuts for 16-19 year olds?
  • taxpayer funded subsidies for Big Business?
  • taxcuts for the rich?
  • increased GST and other government charges for the poor?
  • lowing environbment standards and more pollution?
  • continuing attacks on the unemployed, solo-mums, etc?
  • no job creation policies?
  • continuing attacks on worker’s rights?
  • no comprehensive training for 85,000+ unemployed youth?
  • importing foreign workers instead of training our own unemployed?
  • state asset sales despite over-whelming opposition?
  • high dollar damanging our export sector?
  • more dodgy deals like pokie-machines for Skycity?
  • increasing foreign debt?
  • closing schools?
  • planned mining in Conservation lands?
  • etc, etc, etc…

As pro-National blogger David Farrar stated,

“It’s been four years, we should have seen some impact.”‘

Damn right, Mr  Farrar, damn right.

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When you stop voting

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Previous related blogpost

Why a Four Year Parliamentary Term is not a Good Idea  (15 March 2013)

References

Wikipedia: Election Day (United States)

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

NZ Herald: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims (3 May 2011)

NZ Herald: Charities’ food handouts at record after Govt cuts (18 Oct 2011)

TVNZ: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament (4 May 2012)

Fairfax media: PM John Key Wants Four-Year Term For Parliament (7 Feb 2013)

Fairfax media: Government to ignore asset sales referendum (12 March 2013)

NZ Herald:  Voters divided on four-year term  (25 March 2013)

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