Friday, November 25, 2005



Treason it ain't

In his column in the Dominion-Post this morning (offline), political commentator Chris Trotter calls for heads to roll in Treasury over their ideological burp. But he goes further than that: the column is titled "Treason in the Treasury", and according to Trotter

Briefing papers to the incoming Government constitute a full-scale assault on Labour's economic programme. A prima facie case therefore exists for charging the Treasury with initiating and/or colluding in a campaign to destabilise the democratically elected Government of New Zealand

But while this is indeed a clear case of public servants overstepping the mark and engaging in outright political agitation (contrary to the Public Service Code of Conduct and constitutional convention), treason it ain't. As pointed out earlier in the week (when Winston made similar allegations against the media for daring to criticise him), treason as defined in s73 of the Crimes Act 1961, requires waging, inciting, assisting or conspiring to invade or overthrow the government of New Zealand with armed force. Unless Treasury has been buying guns and recruiting mercenaries for a coup to overthrow the elected government and replace it with one that will impose their desired programme, they're not treasonous. They're not even seditious, except in the Diceyean sense that any opposition to the government could be regarded as such.

Treasury deserves criticism for overstepping the mark, and I would expect its chief executive to be given a verbal reminder to ensure that his department remember its place in the constitutional order. But hysterical allegations of "treason" are both false, and help obscure what Treasury is really doing: attempting once again to usurp the role of elected politicians. Trotter has some interesting things to say about their tactics here, but unfortunately, they just get lost in the noise.

4 comments:

Trotter appears, to me, to be engaging in a deliberate attempt to devalue the shock of the word 'Treason'. His usage shows that one can use that word in the Winstonian sense to describe any opposition to the govt and its ministers. But if so then Treason, like deja vu, ain't what it used to be.

White Knight: My words mean what I want them to mean, neither more nor less.

Alice: I don't think it works that way.

White Knight: It's merely a question of who is master.

Posted by Icehawk : 11/25/2005 04:16:00 PM

Umm...I think you mean Humpty Dumpty not the White Knight.

Posted by Make Tea Not War : 11/26/2005 02:08:00 PM

Heh.

You're correct.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." ~Through the Looking Glass, 214 (1936). Lewis Carroll

But I've never finished Throught the Looking Glass: I found it a mass of jokes that I'm sure were very funny if you were a upper-class school-boy at a public school in England 100 years ago, but these days they're damn obscure. Reading footnotes that explain the joke just isn't the same.

Posted by Icehawk : 11/28/2005 11:27:00 AM

Ah well... I, as a big fan of Victoriana in general, adore the obscure historical jokes and references in Carroll's work. Bring on the footnotes!

Posted by Make Tea Not War : 11/28/2005 03:13:00 PM