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David Round

We get the government we deserve

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As well as the better-known physical earthquakes, Canterbury received another sort of shake-up in 2010, when Parliament made the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010. (‘Environment Canterbury’ is the name under which the Canterbury Regional Council publicly operates. How I loathe these public relations names! The very name ‘Canterbury Regional Council’ gives us a fair idea of its status and scope. But ‘Environment Canterbury’ could be anything ~ a drain-cleaning company, or one for sewage collection or plantation forestry or selling heat pumps or…anything. The National Roads Board ~ we all knew at once what that did. But ‘Transit New Zealand’ might easily be a private trucking or bus or haulage or rail company. ‘New Zealand On Air’….But I digress.) It was under this 2010 Act, anyway, that the government dismissed the elected councillors of the Canterbury Regional Council and replaced them with temporary commissioners. The government has just announced an extension to the term of office of those appointed commissioners; elections will not be held for Regional Councillors until 2016 at the earliest.

A good case can be made out that the real reason the elected councillors were dismissed was not that the Council was ‘dysfunctional’, as alleged, but that its approach to water issues, in particular, was not pleasing to the government and some of its influential supporters. Certainly the Act does a great deal more than just allow for the dismissal of councillors ~ indeed, councillors could be dismissed under other legislation, it was not necessary to make a new Act just to do that. A great deal of the Act deals with water and makes specific rules for Canterbury which are different from those prevailing everywhere else in the country. I will concede that the new more co-operative approach to water allocation does seem to be something of an improvement, and I certainly understand that Environment Canterbury staff find their relationships with the commissioners generally better than past relationships with elected councillors. But at the same time water conservation orders, for example ~ and their revocation! ~ are to be dealt with under rules much less sympathetic to conservation than is the ordinary law.

Now we must admit that for most of us, living in cities and not involved in irrigation or various other outdoor activities, regional councils do not usually impinge all that much upon our day to day lives. In Christchurch’s case, also, the earthquakes have tended to demand most of our attention, and cause all other matters to be put to one side. All the same, regional councils can affect our lives in many ways, and it has to be a matter of concern when a government decrees that for some years henceforth ~ and who knows how long it will end up being? ~ democracy in any part of our structure of government is no longer in operation, and government nominees will run a public body with extensive public powers. There has been some comment in the Press on the just-announced further postponement of elections, but not a great deal; and that is worrying. How much do we value democracy? I am sorry to say that I sometimes wonder if many of our countrymen value it much at all. They might well consider that a warm bed and food on the table are much more pressing concerns; although in the long run, and even in the short-term, decisions made by governments can have very far-reaching effects on our own domestic lives.

Sometimes institutions are overthrown by force. At other times, though, they just fade away because no-one, or not enough people anyway, seem to care. Democratic rights can go that way. It has often been observed that at various times in history the popular right to attend assemblies has been regarded not as a precious right to be carefully guarded, but as a burdensome duty which men would very often avoid if they could. Every New Zealand election, now, a significant and increasing number of voters cannot be bothered, just once every three years, getting off their lazy backsides to travel (in most cases) five minutes at the most, in order to exercise a right which our ancestors dreamt of and struggled for for centuries. I despair, sometimes, of the apathy of our countrymen. Part of the reason may be the loss of our sense of community, as we become much more isolated individuals, all in our own homes being fed the same diet of thought-suppressing television entertainment, sitting in front of computers; driving to work in our own motorcars; part of the  reason also is that, as we say of a child who refuses to eat the good food put in front of it, we are ‘too well fed’; our lives are still so comfortable (and discontents are so easily numbed by the mindless distractions of television, the pathetic religion of professional sport, and the rest) that we are just too comfortable to care. But whatever the reason, our apathy is worrying. People, it is said, get the governments they deserve. The appalling dictatorships of less fortunate countries are not just accidents; they inevitably have their foundations in the character of those societies ~ in their bitter divisions, selfishness and shortsightedness and lack of self-control, and in traditions of absolute rule. In Russia or Nazi Germany, Mali or the Middle East, the appalling governments we behold are, in a very rough and ready way, the natural expression of the peoples they rule. Well, the rule is true of us also; and as we ourselves change, so our system of government changes also. As we soften, so we will be more put upon.

The liberal democratic regime which we take for granted is a plant of very slow growth. It is also a plant that, like all others, must be tended, and which without tending may wither and die. This, perhaps, is another reason for our apathy; we assume that, having attained a pretty high standard of good government, we can leave it to carry on without further attention. But no ~ the rule applies to us as much as to anyone else that ‘the price of liberty is eternal vigilance’. Just as much as does the United States of America, we believe in our own ‘exceptionalism’. We assume that we are somehow exempt from the laws of  history; that nothing can ever go wrong here; that our own ‘innocence’ (and that too is  a myth; we are human beings like everyone else ~ even Maori ~ and not exempt from the usual human flaws) will always protect us. So we venture carelessly on, following any casual impulse or fad. We justify our attitude by saying that we are ‘the social laboratory of the world’. We forget that not all laboratory experiments succeed. The failures and disasters, of course, are equally instructive.

We get the governments we deserve. Our political class is unimpressive. On Treaty matters they are all either spineless appeasers (National, Labour, United Future, Greens) insincere opportunists (New Zealand First) or greedy bullies (Maori, Mana). As for John Banks…well, dear me. But on no other matters are they any or much better. Our prosperity and our economic  prospects have been going down the gurgler since the 1970s, and no party has any idea what to do about it. National, Labour, Greens ~ do you ~ do they themselves ~ seriously believe for a second that they have any answer? They are unimpressive; and yet, they do no more than represent an increasingly unimpressive and hopeless people.

Do I have the answer? Well, it would be a strange thing if I did where no-one else has any idea, but I suggest that the answer has to arise out of our own character and attitudes as a nation. Our crisis is one of character. We are in the situation we are in because of the sort of  people we are. Any solution must spring out of our own energy and faith in ourselves, out of a shared understanding of the world and of our hopes for the future, and out of a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood which impels us to care for each other but which also impels those who are cared for to desire that they pull their weight in striving for the common good. ‘Without vision the people perish.’ Most of all, we must have faith in ourselves. We must not believe that the world owes us a living, and that a saviour lurks somewhere ready to help us, be that saviour an over-mighty state, an ideology of capitalism or communism, or rescue from overseas, be it by overseas ‘investment  and asset sales  or just continued immigration. We must rely on ourselves, and we must stop snarling at each other, and get up and do something. This is more easily said than done, of course. I remember an observation that ‘the trouble with saying ‘you’ve just got to snap out of it’ is that the sort of people you say it to are the sort of people who can’t’! But there is no other way.

The Treaty and race debates which have been tearing this  country apart for  a generation, which have been promoted by the dimwits in the bureaucracy and intelligentsia, and the hapless mainstream churches desperate to prove their own relevance, and which politicians have been too stupid or unprincipled to resist ~ these debates have not only promoted immensely harmful divisions but have been among the greatest of diversions from this great  task. Indeed, the official philosophy, not just of racial agitators but of the bureaucratic class itself, seems to involve the assumption that accepting radical Maori claims will not only automatically be for the benefit of the country but that it will actually solve our problems, and set us on a sure path to brotherhood and prosperity. Really, they should review their medication.

As you will know by now, a Nga Puhi sub-tribe is now making a Waitangi Tribunal claim for Maori to earn a dividend for the use of wind for commercial electricity generation.’ The reasoning behind this, according to the news reports, is merely that the wind, like water, is a ‘resource’ and therefore Maori must have a ‘dividend’; there is, so far, not even lip-service paid to the sham of Treaty ‘principles’, although doubtless the claim will be officially adorned in that dress when officially presented to the Tribunal. Bear in mind, of course, that all windfarms are erected with the full consent of landowners ~ the situation is not one where landowners have windfarms imposed on them without compensation, but one where windfarms have been built on private land with the full consent of those private  landowners, to whom rent is paid.  A Maori columnist in the Christchurch Press suggests that the wind claim may not actually be serious, and that it is unlikely that it will be taken seriously by the Tribunal. Possibly so; and in fairness we must certainly agree that the Tribunal has only received the claim, not heard it and found in its favour. But I would not stake my entire fortune on the Tribunal’s rejection of the claim. The Tribunal, after all, based its ‘finding’ that Maori were entitled to radio waves, part of the electromagnetic spectrum, on the fact that Maori navigated by the light of the  stars, which were also part of the spectrum! You navigate by the light of the stars, therefore you are entitled to radio waves. I do not see that it is any more absurd to argue that you sailed by the power of the wind, therefore you are entitled to a share in windfarms.

In any case, there is a certain appropriateness about the claim for the wind. The claim is just for a commercial use of wind, but if it should be the case that Maori do have some right to the air then that right would not, in principle, be just to commercial use of the air, but to all uses. And we all use the air, to stay alive. Maori now are claiming then, that they have a right to the very air which we breathe and which sustains life itself.  That being so, we would be under an obligation to pay them a rental just for the right to remain alive. Put like that, the claim sounds absurd; but it is really no more than the logical continuation of the pathetic arse-licking by which our craven political class ~ Labour, National, the whole pack of useless cowardly swine, our smiling members of parliament, lovely people every last one of them, always ready with a smile and a kind word ~ has sold us down the river for a generation. Down with them all.

Yes, they may be nice people, most of them, superficially at any rate. You have to be to succeed as a politician. But we do not put them there to be nice, we put them there to fulfil their promises and act on our wishes.  And do they do that? No. And why would they change their ways unless we make it quite clear that we have had enough of their lies and treachery? Until just a little while ago, water ownership was not an issue in New Zealand; and the law was clear (as it still is) that water is owned by the Crown. But the lovely people in the National Party have with singular ineptitude managed to engineer another enormous division, a completely new source of bitterness in our increasingly divided society. It is deeply ironic that John Key is now being praised for standing up to Maori, because it was John Key who created this whole fiasco in the first place. National’s stupidity has ended up by uniting Maori ~ a rare thing indeed, and a dangerous one ~ and by convincing Maori that they own water. That is what the Maori king has just said at his recent national hui ~ and so from now on attempts to assert public ownership of water for the common good will be interpreted by increasing numbers of Maori as the theft of something that is already theirs. Who is to blame for this? Every single National Party M.P. These are the same MPs who, believe it or not, campaigned at the last election on a promise to end racial separatism. Well, either they are liars or they are fools, because it is not happening.

You may think these words excessively harsh. I’m sorry, but they are not. If you think they are excessively harsh ~ and if you do not tell your MPs, of all parties, in fact ~ what you think of their stupidity, dishonesty and racism, then you ~ yes, you, my friend ~ are part of the problem.  We get the government we deserve. I could practically guarantee that if every one of you, reading this column, and agreeing with me, were to phone your MP regularly, and tell him or her precisely what you thought, we would make a difference. We read these columns, we moan to each other, but we don’t moan to the people who matter. It is very nice of you to e-mail me, or telephone me, as some of you do ~ and I do appreciate it! ~ but do not do it any more. Telephone your Members of Parliament. Make appointments to see them. (Don’t bother joining their parties and ‘radicalising from within’; ordinary rank and file members of all political parties are just unpaid fundraisers and cheerleaders, whose views receive very little respect.)  Tell them exactly what you think of them and their policies. Don’t just do this once. Make their lives a misery. That is what they are doing to ours, after all. They are running our country into the ground. And, after all, Maori are making their lives a misery. That is actually why Maori are succeeding, because they are actually out there complaining, while we just sit at home and get angry in private. So ~ get up, and do something. Don’t be daunted; don’t put up with you M.P.’s condescension and racism. STOP BEING NICE.  We are at war. At present ~ long may it continue ~ words are our weapons. For heaven’s sake, use them. Muriel & I and the handful of other people who write and do things cannot do it all by ourselves. If you ~ yes, you ~ do not act, then you have only yourself to blame for the consequences.

*The NZCPR has launched a DECLARATION OF EQUALITY: There shall be one law for all New Zealanders with no special treatment based on race… To read about it and sign the petition please visit www.ConstitutionalReview.org