Some ways to change the constitution or not

The Greens will vote for New Zealand First’s waka-jumping bill. That’s coalition government, co-leader Marama Davidson said: swallow a dead rat to get the organic carrot-cake the Greens signed up for.

Winston Peters wants to stop defections. Defectors from his party kept Jenny Shipley’s government afloat in 1998 after she fired him. An Alliance MP also defected, prompting a short-lived waka-jumping law in 2001. In the 2011-14 Parliament New Zealand First kicked MP Brendan Horan out of the party but he stayed on as an independent. read more

The wisdom of crowds vs the madness of crowds

Colin James to Australasian Study of Parliament Group conference on
Trust in Parliament in a post-truth world
Brisbane 19 July 2018

This talks of three tensions. One is between the impact on citizens of rapidly developing digital technology and citizens reactions to that impact, including through Parliaments. The second is between liberal democracy and autocracy which a growing body of commentary worries democracy is losing. The third lies under those two tensions: between the wisdom of crowds and the madness of crowds. read more

A trade deal for some or for all

Negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) formally kick off on Thursday when EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström drops in. Who benefits?

Talks are expected to take up to two years. They come after a long wait near bottom of the EU’s list while it did a range of other deals — a low rank shared with Australia, which is simultaneously, but not jointly, negotiating with the EU. read more

A new public service act. So a better public service?

Public service failures in the recent news have raised serious questions of competence and oversight.

A muddle involving Housing New Zealand (HNZ), the Ministry of Health and Standards NZ needlessly caused mayhem and cost to a large number of tenants and landlords and taxpayers through evictions and cleanups. Prime ministerial chief science adviser Peter Gluckman’s report was trenchant. read more

Holiday, Her Majesty, honours and how to progress

A random thought, 1 June 2018

Queen’s Birthday weekend: holiday; genuflection; showers of honours on the deserving and undeserving.

The holiday marks winter for us but not for the monarchy, warm-glowed by The Wedding of Harry and a divorcee from Canada.

It also marks a corner of the constitution in which the sixth Labour administration shows no inclination yet to be a “government of transformation”. Republican Jacinda Ardern kneels to the monarchy, her republican party alongside. read more

“Licence to govern”. And a path ahead

Occasional article on the budget for the Otago Daily Times 17 May 2018

A government’s first budget sets its tone and path. The title is “Foundations for the Future” and Jacinda Ardern has billed it as “transformative”. Grand words. Does the budget live up to them?

Union and Labour party critics, some highly placed, say it is “too orthodox” to generate the “transformation of our society and economy” Grant Robertson trumpeted to the media in the pre-release budget lockup. read more

What’s in an Age? Opportunity

Colin James to Age Concern conference, 16 April 2018
The word “concern” in your name is a concern for this conference. Many people read “concern” as a “worry”. If so, there is going to be a lot more worry because there are going to be many more people “of an age” and they will be a larger proportion of the population with a smaller proportion of people of “working age” to provide for them.
But I read your “concern” as an expression of “care” or “value” in the “wellbeing” of this expanding cohort of ageing people, generating “opportunity”, not just for those people but for the whole of society.
Where will Aotearoan/New Zealanders choose to fix our focus through the 2020s? Fixing a problem? Or realising opportunity? …… read more

How well off are we really? The Treasury wants to know

The Treasury will today [Tuesday 20 March] take another step down its “wellbeing economics” track. On that road Grant Robertson is signposting a “wellbeing budget” in 2019.

The event is the Treasury’s four-yearly investment statement. Up to now it has essentially been a balance sheet of the government’s financial and physical assets and liabilities. Today’s will flag an extension. read more