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Dr Muriel Newman

The Tail is Wagging the Dog

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Posted on

6 May 2007

The Tail is Wagging the Dog

The ramming through Parliament of the deeply unpopular anti-smacking bill is the clearest sign yet that under MMP the ‘tail is wagging the dog’. As Iain Gillies wrote in an editorial in the Gisborne Herald last month: “Widespread antipathy to Sue Bradford’s bill on parental smacking could unwittingly provoke renewed calls for a review of the MMP voting system. The motion does not figure much – yet – in either public discussion or the parliamentary debate, but may well get traction when voters consider to whom their MPs are beholden; their party hierarchy or the electorate. (To read the article click here).

MMP was sold to New Zealanders as a system that would improve representative democracy in this country so that the views of the voters would hold more weight. Surely, no-one could have envisioned the situation we now find ourselves in whereby, in spite of overwhelming public opposition, a list-only minority party is being allowed to foist onto New Zealanders the sort of anti-family legislation that would make Karl Marx proud.

The anti-smacking bill is the brainchild of Green Party MP Sue Bradford. In a 2005 article entitled Vote Labour Now to Smash Capitalism Later, the Communist Workers’ Group states: “A Labour government may need the backing of the Greens. Commentator Chris Trotter said that the New Zealand Greens are probably the most left-wing Green party in the world that has made it into political office. On the face of it there seems to be some truth in this with people like ex-Socialist Action League member Keith Locke and ex-Workers Communist League member Sue Bradford”. (See Aotearoa Independent Media Centre )

So unbelievably, because of the support of the Prime Minister, a former Workers Communist League member is now set to impose her ideology onto New Zealand. British journalist Lynette Burrows in an article How to control adults by means of ‘children’s rights’ explains what’s behind the ideology in this way:

“The question was always, why are the children’s rights people so concerned to make the parental right to smack their children illegal? Most of their organisations have been more or less devoted to the subject despite the fact that 90% of good and caring parents say that it is necessary at times. Now the answer is clear.

“It is a device which places most parents in the power of social workers. They are by training and tradition, Marxist, feminist and anti-religious. They don’t much care for the family and lend their weight on every possible occasion to arguments and devices that show it in a bad light… The traditional family is still the safest place for any child to be – but you wouldn’t know it from official literature on the subject.

“Thus, anybody who wanted to further a Marxist, feminist agenda could not do better than to have most families in thrall to social workers. It is not about the elevation of children’s rights at all. It is all about the crushing of adult ones”. (To read the article click here )

Complicit in this attack on parents is Helen Clark who, badly needing Green Party support after the abdication of Philip Field, has done everything in her power to get this anti-smacking law passed. She has prevented her MPs from exercising a conscience vote, she attempted to get the bill passed under urgency, she tried to adopt it as a government bill, and now, in what must be one of the greatest political coups in New Zealand’s history, she has duped the National Party, United and New Zealand First into supporting a Claytons amendment.

The new amendment provided by the Law Commission – under instruction from the Prime Minister – and tabled in Parliament by the Leader of the United Party, changes nothing. As the law now stands if a complaint is laid about a parent smacking a child, the police are required to investigate and to notify the Department of Child Youth and Family. As a result of such an investigation the Police already have the discretion over whether or not to prosecute: if the matter is minor and of no public interest then there will be no prosecution. The much-heralded new clause – which astonishingly gained the support of even those MPs who were vehemently opposed to Bradford’s bill – simply re-states the law as it stands.

What this whole exercise has shown, is that under MMP calculated cunning is the name of the game. As long as the ruling party can cobble together sufficient support in the House – using whatever trickery it can dream up – any sort of radical new law can now be imposed in New Zealand without public mandate. Nothing is sacred, not even our right to run our own families as we see fit.

Democracy is meant to be government for the people, by the people and of the people. It is meant to respect the rights and freedoms of each and every citizen. What we have under MMP is government by political unions – the political parties – which collude to seek electoral advantage so they can push their ideology into law in order to satisfy the special interest groups that provide their support. All that matters is whether they have the numbers: the question of whether a proposed public policy change will serve the common interest and the public good has now been subsumed by the desire to be seen to be winning a victory in Parliament.

Most of the time they get away with it, but this time, with public opinion polls showing that the views of over 80% of New Zealanders are being ignored by our MMP parliamentarians – who look set to pass the anti-smacking bill into law – then surely it is time to question the electoral system itself.

Peter Shirtcliffe has always held serious doubts about the suitability of MMP for New Zealand. He is the NZ Centre for Political Research guest commentator this week. In an article entitled The Nonsense of the List MP he explains:

“One of the most heavily-promoted arguments in favour of MMP was that its introduction would transform for the better the way in which Parliament worked. We were promised… greater sensitivity to the wishes of the Electorate”.

Peter goes on to say: “The signs of politically-driven control agendas are starting to show and objective common-sense solutions will not readily emerge from arrogant, unelected MPs who are at the same time seeking ways to use more taxpayers’ (your) money to fund their own organisations”.

Peter is not alone in believing that a further referendum on MMP is now warranted – although he does note that it is extremely unlikely that such an initiative would be generated by this Parliament. I suspect that a good many of the 1,032,919 voters who supported MMP in the 1993 referendum did so believing that if it didn’t work out, they were going to be given another chance to change it in a later referendum.

With the vexed question of how to best to safeguard ourselves from hasty, unwise or ill-considered legislation uppermost in our mind, maybe the time is now right for that long-awaited binding referendum on whether MMP has delivered to New Zealand a system of government that ensures that not only do our elected representatives reflect the will of the people, but they also protect their rights and their liberties.

The poll this week asks: The poll this week asks would you support New Zealand holding a binding referendum on MMP? Take part in poll

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