Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Contempt for the public

One of the problems with our democracy is that people don't involve themselves enough in it. There are many reasons for this - lack of interest and lack of time being two obvious ones - but one thing is certain: abusing people who bother to submit to select committees, as Tau Henare did the other day, is not going to help:

James Sleep, 18, convener of the the [sic] Council of Trade Unions youth sector, gave evidence to the transport and industrial relations committee on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill last month.

He said the list MP used "bullyboy tactics" by interrupting his submission and accusing him of lying about his evidence in "a bit of a tirade".

"I was telling the story about how a worker had been sacked under the 90-day trial ... We have several cases ... and in my written submission I had talked about another story and he just went off his head really.

"He interrupted and said: 'You are just a liar, you are bullshitting.' I went on and he stopped [me] again: 'You're just lying, you are misleading us."'

And then MPs wonder why no-one submits, why only a small fraction want to give evidence in person, and why the public generally treats them with contempt. Here's a hint: because you treat us that way. And every time one of you abuses one of us, you earn that reputation just a little bit more.

If MPs don't want their collective reputation tarnished by Henare's bullying, then they have a simple solution: publicly condemn him, either individually or by a formal motion of censure. If you don't speak out against it, your silence will be taken by the public (however unfairly) as complicity. Your reputation is in your hands. How do you want to be seen?