liberal nz?

March 10th, 2008

And via No Right Turn (a blog name I approve of wholeheartedly), I hear news of the founding of the Liberal Party of New Zealand. The rhetoric in that Scoop article sounds very fine indeed, for example:

“We also believe when New Zealanders voted for MMP, we voted for more accountable government.” Mr Lee added. “A decade later, we’ve got much less accountability. This Government has enacted laws under urgency to stifle free speech and misappropriate public money for party political purposes. And there’s nothing but token resistance from the Opposition because it knows laws like the Electoral Finance Act benefit the incumbent parliamentary parties.

But this style of managerial politics is causing rifts even within those parties.” “Of great concern to us has been the undermining of the independence of our Public Service by this Government with or without the tacit or explicit acquiescence of the most senior Public Servant.” Mr Lee said. “And while our democratic institutions are being damaged, the Auditor General and the Ombudsman have proven impotent, incapable or unwilling to rise to the defence of our democracy, largely because they have no fundamental duty to do so.”

“It’s the time for the people of New Zealand to stand up and be counted. A codified constitution delimits the power of the Prime Minister, their control of the Cabinet, the Cabinet’s control of Caucus, and Caucus’s control of the House of Representatives.” Mr Lee said. “Under the guise of

‘The Sovereignty of Parliament’, our existing parties have created a Leviathan in the premiership more powerful than the President of the United States—and we must put an end to it. Codified constitutions are only ‘inflexible’ because the politicians have to put the changes they want through the people.”

“The forthcoming election will be the last chance—if the opportunity has not already eluded us— to have a codified constitution.” Mr Lee warned. “After this, no new party will be able to summon enough funds to take on Labour and National, both of which prefer to contest for unlimited patronage than be subject to proper constitutional government.”

and:

“There is no mention of HM The Queen; the President, who has no power but some influence, is quite deliberately described as the Head of the Government, not of the State. Queen Elizabeth is greatly admired by many people in New Zealand—with just cause. The Irish retained the King, as King of Ireland, from the inauguration of the Free State in 1922 until 1937, following the death of King George V, when they passed a short Public Act adopting the President as Head of State.”

Well, personally, I’d just plain prefer a republic, but this is perhaps a little more realistic given the nature of New Zealand society.

But No Right Turn’s Idiot/Savant is rather more sceptical:

 That historic link to the (right-wing) SDP ought to be a warning sign. The original liberals were progressive and pragmatic socialists. But despite praising their historic links to the Fabians, this new incarnation is not. Yes, they believe in a mixed economy, with government provision of health and education. But at the same time, they also want to limit government spending (or revenue, or taxation – they seem to make no distinction) to 40% of GDP. Given their vagueness, this could either mean the status quo, or it could require significant spending cuts (total crown revenue is ~44% of GDP, and expenses ~42%, with core crown figures ~10% lower; see the 2007 Budget Economic and Fiscal Update). Either way, its not in line with the traditional liberal pragmatism.

Well, I consider myself warned, and it is a fair warning, too. These are, after all, politicians we’re dealing with. Still, I will be interested to see just how far this new Liberal Party gets and what shape it eventually takes (if any). I doubt, though, that it’ll take a shape that I feel represents my politics.

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