Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Thinktank: liberal issues

Now that I have comments, I thought I'd try something new: the No Right Turn Thinktank, where I solicit readers' opinions for a small political project. I am planning on doing this with some select committee submissions, but I thought to kick things off I'd start with something broader: what do you think will be the important liberal and human rights issues of the next Parliamentary term? And what do you think we can or should try to push our representatives into acting on?

I can think of a few. There's unfinished business over gay equality, particularly with regards to adoption, and the Civil Union Bill needs to be leveraged into full gay marriage at some stage. And I expect vouluntary euthanasia will be back again; someone will have a private member's bill on the topic. Are there any other obvious causes? And which can we prioritise and how?

From this I am hoping to develop a short candidate quiz to send out before the election, with an eye to publicising the answers (or at least the interesting ones). The goal will be to reccommend the most liberal candidate in each electoral contest, regardless of party.


I think pushing for a universal guaranteed income is a liberal issue- it is fundamentally concerned with maximizing individual choice, dignity and freedom, afterall.

Other issues which I'm not sure are strictly liberal but which interest ME, so what the hell, and they are broadly concerned with choice and freedom are mostly concerned with work-life balance type things- I'd like to see more talk about New Zealand reducing to a four day working week; there needs to be some serious consideration of how we structure the school year and school day- its all still based around an outmoded assumption that one parent is working and one parent is out of the paid workforce and always available to supervise kids during school holidays etc when in fact that is not so in the majority of families; maybe also NZ should look at something like recent UK law that there is a right for new parents to request flexible hours.

Posted by Amanda : 1/18/2005 09:08:00 AM

To me one of the main items of business is on top of your blog - the ability of an NZ government to detain someone without trial for two years.

One thing we need that would restrain this kind of thing is a written constitution with an entrenched and overriding bill of rights.

If we can't have that, then we should at least reform the immigration laws to remove the ability to detain suspected "security risks" indefinitely - if we must have such a provision then I'd have thought 3 months adequate, after which the person should be charged or released.

Posted by Rich : 1/18/2005 09:24:00 AM

Drug law reform?

Posted by Anonymous : 1/18/2005 09:41:00 AM

Drug laws...not so much because I want to eventually (once we've addressed our binge drinking culture and other issues a bit more) see legalisation of some drugs, but because I don't want to see us get this issue as badly wrong as America has (read Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness and you'll see what I mean.)

The other issue (which isn't really a liberal one) is republicanism and the whole issue of a written constitution.

Posted by Michael : 1/18/2005 10:28:00 AM

Constitutional issues are good, especially in light of the Parliamentary "stocktake". Though it's not so much the full constitution we need justicible as the Bill Of Rights Act. That is where the pressure and problems are, and where we don't want the government to be able to change the law on a whim.

MTNW: I agree that some sort of UBI is a good goal to aim for (because as you say, it's all about maximizing individual choice, dignity and freedom), but I think that's a longer-term goal. For the moment I'm content to push for an expansion of the welfare state. And oTOH, it would be good to see election candidates making noise about it. Do you know if its part of anyone's platform yet?

WRT drug laws, what concrete proposals should we aim for? Decriminalising cannabis? It's a nice, easy one to put in a questionnaire...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/18/2005 01:01:00 PM

I don't think the UBI is part of anyone platform yet. I'd say the Green Partly are the only ones likely to even consider it as an option. Various European Green Parties and movements advocate it. Also, though admittedly not recently, I've heard it talked about in the context of beneficiary activism in New Zealand i.e. Sue Bradford territory so she might well be open to the idea.

And agreed its not going to happen soon but sowing the meme can't really hurt

Posted by Amanda : 1/18/2005 02:15:00 PM

We need a written constitution ratified by whoever ratifies these things, placing the legislature? in place and protecting the Supreme Court, enshrining things Treaty, protecting the Fourth Estate, bye bye Queenie, STOP swearing allegiance to the Queen at year startup and start swearing to (not at) us etc, etc...

Pretty basic really, when do we start?

Posted by Unknown : 1/18/2005 03:15:00 PM

Would that be the English version of the Treaty or the Te Reo one? It isn't that simple....

Posted by Rich : 1/18/2005 04:33:00 PM

Sorry Rich, I was being a little sardonic. It ain't going to happen anytime soon because the powers that be don't want it to happen. Obviously a Treaty made with the Crown, then, needs only it's principles enshrined within the Constitution, and as far as I can tell, those principles are clear. That's pretty much how it plays out in Palmer's non-legislated Bill O' Rights, isn't it? (That Govt. has enshrined in it's "Way we do business under the principles of the Treaty", stance).

As for the Treaty, well, it will never be easy, because...it's the only one I know of. That's why it's amazing, it's an original.

Like NZ.

I know there are 2 versions, let's be bold and plumb for the Te reo one. Hell, what do we have to lose?

Posted by Unknown : 1/18/2005 04:58:00 PM

I think drug law reform is much more important than other issues that dominate headlines. NZ should be following the lead of countries that have had success in decriminalising marijuana and perhaps reclassifying other drugs too. This could be done in steps - for example, initially removing criminal penalties for possession and cultivating plants for personal use, etc...
And maybe implementing some sort of harm-reduction policies as seen in the UK (police testing pills etc)for ecstasy, too. I guess just reform drug laws so there
is some sort of consistency between a drug's danger to society and the individual and its legal status.

It'd be nice to see some sort of debate (and eventually solution) about the student debt crisis, instead of the current head-in-the-sand approach. I find it wrong that (most) students are the only group in society that has to borrow to eat.

Some sort of UBI is a good long-term policy target, too. Even some right-wingers would agree with that one.

And reducing our addiction to petroleum via promoting alternative fuels too.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/18/2005 05:39:00 PM

Merc: Palmer's original Bill of Rights included the Treaty (both versions), but rather than making it supreme law, it had a clause requiring the government and courts to act so as to give meaning to its spirit and intent (or some such). Which is both terrifyingly vague, but probably the only way the full meaning of the Treaty can be captured constitutionally.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/18/2005 06:01:00 PM

I think that's the point. We need to be able to apply thinking, reasoning and discussion, then leadership to implement what's agreed upon. It's not pie in the sky, it's democracy.

There have been great minds both Maori and Pakeha who have provided enough knowledge on the Treaty for us to enter it's intent into a Constitution. Hell, it's not about the money or the land, it's about Mana. Let's give some to get some.

See, Parliament won't go there, they keep it vague (like the TVNZ Charter), they are afraid, afraid to garner knowledge and ideas from outside, afraid to implement them. Holding to power deluded in thinking that is all. It's the people and the future of the people that matters, and we need unity, not apartheid.

Afraid to plan, unify, decide, engage, and enshrine in law for future generations. Don't call what they do in Parliament nowadays anything other than childish self interest! Shame on them. Running up surplus, running up debt, running on trivial agenda while the foundation of our nation is whored. I want to feel I belong here, this is my debate.

It is time we started to trust, respect and discuss with each other more (this blog is excellent BTW), or we will contnually be told what they want us to do.

Posted by Unknown : 1/18/2005 06:51:00 PM

My own list of issues:

(1) trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws and
LG-inclusive adoption law reform;
(2) a committee of inquiry into the operation of
security risk certificates in the wake of the
Ahmed Zaoui affair;
(3) a committee of inquiry into the real consequences
of welfare privatisation overseas;
(4) more proactive and collaborative foreign policy
objectives against the Mugabe regime and junta in
Zimbabwe and Myanmar/Burma;
(5) complete decriminalisation of abortion access;
(6) decriminalisation of voluntary euthanasia and/or
physician assisted suicide;
(7) decriminalisation of medical marijuana;
(8) an evidence-based drug policy that would result in
partial decriminalisation of recreational marijuana
use and reclassification of ecstacy, with strong
emphasis on diversionary effects for those who
might experience adverse reactions to the above;
(9) that the CIR Act be either repealed, or that it be
made subordinate to the Human Rights Act 1993 or
any consequent antidiscrimination legislation;
(10) constitutional reform- a Canadian-style Charter of Rights and Freedoms for New Zealand, with an explicit equality rights clause and inclusion of the Treaty of Waitangi as cornerstone document.


Posted by Anonymous : 1/22/2005 10:01:00 AM

> I find it wrong that (most) students are the only group in society that has to borrow to eat.

our current policy in education seems to be able to combine unfair and inefficient at the same time.. amazing.

> Some sort of UBI is a good long-term policy target, too.

I have not hear all that much in the way of oposition for a UBI (in theory). so what is it that is stopping it? inertia? or just the fact that it is not been precisely drawn up?

> legalising marijuana

why dont they just legalize the drug behind marajuana (THC) in pill form (or similar) - that would make it easy to control and avoid the bad side effects of smoking.

Posted by Genius : 1/23/2005 02:00:00 PM

Craig: that's quite a list, and certainly a good starting point.

Genius: the primary impediment to a UBI is the transition costs. It would result in massive economic change - wage-levels would shift to better reflect people's valuation of their time, and I suspect that some occupations would simply disappear as far fewer people would be willing to (say) pick fruit in the hot sun all day without the fear of starvation to drive them. Which is another reason to do it, of course...

As for legalising THC, the wowsers don't object to the risk of cancer (otherwise they'd ban tobacco); they object to people getting high.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/26/2005 06:18:00 PM

If you have not noticed - we are in the process of banning tobacco, it just happens one baby step at a time.

Posted by Genius : 4/11/2005 04:34:00 PM