Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Helen Clark, the UN, and politicians' priorities

Yesterday the Maori Party announced that they opposed former Prime Minister Helen Clark's bid to become United Nationas Secretary General due to the foreshore and seabed, the Tuhoe raids, and her opposition to the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The reaction of the establishment parties was instantaneous: Labour said it was "political hysteria", while Winston Peters called it "treachery". Really? Given what they stand for, the Maori Party's position is perfectly reasonable and well-founded. Helen Clark hurt Maori in many ways, and she still hasn't apologised for it. And its perfectly fine to be upset by that. In a mature democracy, we don't all have to get along, and there should certainly be no expectation that we should all support the same things (the mere existence of a democratic system of government and politics is proof that we don't).

Meanwhile, you really have to wonder about the priority establishment politicians assign to one of their own getting a prestigious post-political career. Sure, Helen Clark becoming UN Secretary General or Tim Groser become Director of the WTO is good for them. But why should we care about it? National pride is puerile, and an expectation that they will somehow use the office to benefit New Zealand is corrupt. Sure, she'd be good at the job, but thinking that she'd be better than all the other candidates is just parochial (and probably makes some assumptions about what the UN wants which might not be true). The size of her expense account doesn't matter to us. Basicly, there's no good reason for any of us to give a shit about it (or more of a shit beyond a vague positive "good for her").

And yet, establishment politicians do care and are seemingly highly invested in these personal employment campaigns. Why? Is it because they all hope for a (well-paid) international career after Parliament and club together to support one of their own? Or is it because one of them in one of those jobs creates opportunities for patronage and more jobs for the boys (both Charles Chauvel and Chris Carter landed at UNDP). Either way, its got nothing to do with us, and to the extent that they're investing public resources promoting the private interests of former politicians, is an abuse of office.