Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bill English cares deeply about his books

Prime Minister Bill English majored in English Literature and this background has taught him the importance of caring for books. Under his stewardship as Treasurer, and now Prime Minister, the Government's books having never been in better shape. Bill has instructed and guided all Ministers about the proper care of their books and much effort and staffing has been put into dusting and polishing their books and making sure they are neatly arranged.

While there has been much demand on the Government and its Ministers to open their books and be a little more generous in their use, strong discipline has been needed to ensure that the books remain firmly on the shelves. Open books and dog-eared pages are an anathema to Bill and when his footsteps are heard around the beehive corridors there is a flurry of activity as books are hurriedly closed and shelved.

This focus on book-keeping has meant necessary sacrifices have had to be made:
Bill English celebrated his success at keeping the books in good shape and achieving an incredible $1.8 billion budget surplus by eating a pie, it would be out of character to spend anything more to recognise this achievement. 

I guess all of us should feel a level of pride in contributing to what may be the best looking government books in the world. By sleeping in a car, waiting a few years for a hip replacement or eye surgery and suffering the occasional flood or home invasion we have collectively supported Bill's dream. He will go down in history as one of New Zealand's best bookkeepers. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Green List provides diversity and credible experience

The Green Party's list ranking is an ordeal for both candidates and members, having to rank such a talented group (especially when many are friends), isn't easy. For a party that promotes cooperation and consensus decision making, the process is one of the few within the party that has to be competitive and one where secret ballots are used for voting.

There are also some guidelines applied to ensure that the list reflects the diversity in our society to provide the broadest representation and have connections to a variety of cultures and demographics: For every ten candidates at least one should be Maori and at least one should be under 35 years; for every five candidates at least two should be male and at least two should be female, at least one should be from the South Island and at least two from the North Island.

The initial list (created by the delegates and candidates who attended the Greens' Candidate Conference in February) has just been released and the final list will involve voting from all members.

I am very comfortable with the initial list, a high level of diversity has been achieved and we have enormous talent throughout. If we applied a very conservative outcome for the election and look at the top 15 as likely MPs (due to resignations our 17th ranked candidate from 2014 is now an MP) it is quite revealing. Nine (almost 2/3) are female and four are Maori. Youth is well represented, with two in their early twenties, and we have two over sixty (the average is 44.5 years). There is also a good mix of experience: eleven are current MPs and four have served more than two terms. Metiria Turei has been a party leader longer than Bill English or Andrew Little.

Those on the right of the political spectrum rate business and economic management as the most important skills in government and those on the left value those with a passion for social justice and the environment. Understanding legislative complexities and legal constraints are also an important requirements for parties wishing to sit on the government benches. When New Zealand is reliant on primary production for a good deal of its income, an appreciation of the farming and forestry sectors would also be valuable. All of these are covered in this interim list.

To be effective in government it is important to be able to understand complex information and appreciate the contextual complexities. While communicating coherently and effectively with the wider public and the media is important, the work behind the scenes in select committees ensures that any legislation gets the scrutiny it needs. An MP is a waste of space if it takes them three years to understand the job and ignorance is not a virtue. To be able to safely and effectively change laws or economic systems MPs have to understand how existing legislation and systems work.

The media has made much of the need for renewal and some commentators have questioned the support of candidates in their early 20s. I find it unhelpful when assessments are made just based on age or length of time an MP has been in parliament, surely the most important criteria would be their ability to do the job. I can think of many young MPs who have had amazing wisdom and many well into their sixties (or even seventies) who have great energy and are highly effective.

It is also far easier to have credibility and gain the confidence of different communities (business, cultural and socio-economic) when MPs have some direct experiences and qualifications, and can speak the same language. The Greens' top 20 should surprise those who still hold on to the myth of the Green Party being led by unqualified idealogues:
  1. Metiria Turei, LLB; Corporate Lawyer for Simpson and Grierson
  2. James Shaw, MSc, Bath University School of Management; business consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and HSBC Bank
  3. Julie Anne Genter, Master of Planning Practice (1st class); transport and urban planning consultant in Australia and NZ
  4. Marama Davidson, BA; Human Rights Commission and member of Owen Glenn Inquiry on child abuse and domestic violence
  5. Eugenie Sage, LLB, BA, Diploma of Journalism; Field Officer and Spokesperson Forest & Bird, Environment Canterbury Councillor. 
  6. Jan Logie, BA, CELTA; Women's Refuge, Youth Health, YWCA, NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities
  7. Gareth Hughes, BA Religious Studies & History, Grad Diploma Politics; Greenpeace campaign coordinator
  8. Mojo Mathers, Honours degree in mathematics, Masters with distinction in Conservation Forestry; Joint owner of business providing forestry management services, senior policy advisor 
  9. Jack McDonald, Undergraduate Political Science and Maori Studies; Maori Political & Media Advisor (Parliament), former chair of a community board, third time candidate at 23 years old
  10. Barry Coates, Masters in Management; CEO Oxfam NZ, developed a sustainability programme at the University of Auckland and Sustainable Business Network award winner
  11. Kennedy Graham, BCom, MA in International Relations, PhD, Fulbright Scholar; NZ diplomat, Senior consultant in the UN Dept of Political Affairs, Visiting Prof (Bruges, Belgium), Senior Lecturer Victoria University...
  12. John Hart, BSc Psycology & Statistics (incomplete); sheep & beef farmer, IT services,  inventor
  13. Chloe Swarbuck, BA, LLB; Community project leader, journalist, small business owner, Auckland Mayoral Candidate
  14. Denise Roche, Diploma Labour Studies, Graduate Diploma in Not-For-profit Management; Union worker, Partner Orapiu Grove Farm, waste management, Auckland City Councillor, 2016 Quote of the Year Winner
  15. Golriz Ghahraman, Masters in International Human Rights Law; Human rights and criminal lawyer, Prosecutor United Nations tribunals
  16. David Clendon, BA Politics & Education, MSc; Business management (including own bulk foods business), Unitec lecturer in sustainable management, sustainable business advisor
  17. Teanau Tuiono, BA, LLB; Publisher in education sector, climate change and human rights advocacy (nationally and internationally) 
  18. Leilani Tamu, Master of Arts (1st class), Fulbright Scholar; Published author, New Zealand Diplomat, Advisor for the Auckland city Council 
  19. Teall Crossan, Bachelor's Degree in Resource Studies, Master's in International Environmental Law (Calgary); Legal Advisor and Climate Change Negotiator for Pasific Small Island Developing States, Senior Solicitor for DoC
  20. Chris Perley, Dip Grad Philosophy, Fellow NZ Institute of Forestry; Senior Policy Analyst Ministry of Forestry, Editor of a professional Journal, land management, forestry consultant, blogger
The next 10-20 names have equally impressive resumes: a constitutional lawyer, youth advocate, chartered accountant, public sector consultant, community development and urban regeneration leadership, TV presenter, army officer and emergency management planner, screen production...