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September 25, 2006 | by  | in Opinion |
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The Week In Politics

The state of New Zealand’s Parliament and Parliamentarians was demonstrated by two political events this week. One received very little media coverage (and deserved much more) and the other led the news for days (yet deserved no coverage).

The first of these was the Justice and Electoral Select Committee’s decision that Barbara Stuart’s (NZ First, List) private member’s bill reducing the number of MPs from 120 to 99 should not go any further. The Dominion Post led with a headline proclaiming that MPs had just voted to keep their jobs, but as with almost everything that is printed in The Dom, the underlying reasons for the decision were much more complicated. The common argument for reducing the number of MPs is cost saving; fewer MPs mean less taxpayer’s money spent on not only salaries, but flights, staff, offices and all the other perks that our elected officials enjoy, not to mention getting rid of those no-name MPs who generally do nothing (ironically, a group that many people would claim Ms Stuart would fit into). Conversely, fewer MPs mean smaller parties will lose significant chunks of their caucus – Rodney Hide (ACT, Epsom) and Peter Dunne (United Future, Oheriu-Belmont) would essentially become lone operators, while NZ First and the Greens would be a shadow of their former selves. Also, then less people doing what is already an over burdened job – most MPs work long hours, often traveling to and from Wellington several times a week. This not only places pressure on the Members, but also on their families.

This segues quite nicely into the next important event; Je Lan Brash, Peter Davis, and mud – from both sides. The first shot was fired by Trevor Mallard (Labour, Hutt South) during question time, when he inferred that Don Brash (National, List) was having an affair with Business Roundtable deputy chair Elaine Foreman. Several days later, the Sunday Star Times led with an article claiming that Helen Clark’s (Labour, Mt Albert) husband, Peter Davis was gay because he was filmed being kissed by a male friend of the family (pun intended) at Clark’s election night party over a year ago. Both stories did the unthinkable – momentarily removing Taito Philip Field (Labour, Mangere) and the Exclusive Brethren from the headlines. However, the exchange did nothing else but lower the political environment, dragging two innocent by-standers (in the form of Mrs Brash and Professor Davis) down with it, and put the Young Nats conference on the news. And – inevitably – fueled further speculation about Brash’s departure as leader of the Nats, and according to the Dom Post, soon to be replaced by Finance spokesperson, John Key (National, Helensville (respect!)), with Gerry Brownlee (National, Ilam) as deputy. Ironically, this comes only weeks after speculation about Clark’s next post – none other than Secretary General of the United Nations.

In other developments, the High Court has come out and given Chris Carter (Labour, Te Atatu) a clip around the ear, recommending a reappraisal of his decision earlier this year to veto the development of the Whangamata Marina. While it is a victory for the pro-marina lobby, this is not over yet. The judicial review requests the Minister to look at the evidence presented to him (or her) and make a justifiable decision, which is to say that if he still says no, he had better dazzle us all with a good reason the second time round.

However, bets are on that the honourable member for Mangere will be featuring heavily in this column next week…

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About the Author ()

JEREMY GREENBROOK-Held (BA, BSc) is prematurely middleaged. He is married (sort of), dresses like a Country Road catalogue threw-up on him, and lives in the fashionable Wellington suburb of Oriental Bay. He used to have a huge amount of respect for Wellington taxi drivers for knowing where his out-of-the-way dead-end street was, until he found out that the house two doors up from his was a brothel. He is a postgraduate student, whose masters thesis is a delightfully erotic mix of geography and statistics. On cold winters nights, he longs for the simpler days of yesteryear, when the VUWSA President and Salient Editor were on talking terms. His pet-hate is commerce students – in his opinion, the best thing for them would be a good long stint in Vietnam.

Comments (1)

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  1. Cunt is just a word says:

    Good article. Never saw the connection

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