Monday, October 20, 2008

Gratuitous blog-links

Three recent posts have caught my eye. Two, by Chis Trotter and NRT, deal with the prospect of an over-hang and the third is about special education.

Chris wrote this very critical piece concerning the prospect of a Maori-National coalition. Like Chris, I can't see it being sustainable because it appears to be inconsistent with Maori views (at least as they've been expressed in this survey). However, I don't agree with Chris that the prospect of a Maori-National coalition proves the fault of the Maori seats. I agree that Maori seats are somewhat incongruous in our MMP system but I don'think that means they ought not exist.

Though it's often be criticised as being naive, which it is not, the historical development of Maori seats and the link to the Treaty remains a sufficient justification for their existence IMO. The fact that our arrangements don't entirely cohere to an idealised standard doesn't mean they're defunct - certainly not while they work and there's no evidence to suggest they don't. That said, I tend to agree they may not be needed if we continue to see a genuine plurality in Parliament (plus there's a greater consensus around resolution of outstanding Treaty claims) but I'm not sure where there yet.

I'm intrigued by NRT's suggestion of list only MPs as a way of avoiding the distortionary effects of an overhang. My concern would be that there'd be something significant lost by discontinuing electorate MPs. Anyone who's worked in a public sector role will know just how effective and important electorate MPs can be; good electorate MPs earn their wage daily by helping navigate often hopelessly complex bureaucracy.

Finally to Grant Robertson's piece on Special Education. I share Robertson's focus on Special Education. If New Zealand is anything like Australia, then it's almost certain the demand for more and better support for kids with disabilities will increase (plus it's still not adequately funded).

I worked in Parliament in the early days of the National-NZFirst coalition which largely implemented Labour policy on funding for special education. The mix of funding for schools and for pupils seemed the right way to go to provide both mainstream and specialist facilities for an increasingly diverse range of kids. I was aghast to discover that an entirely arbitrary decision was taken to reduce funding available for individual kids - it was never explained and it quickly meant a log-jam of applications and a slowing of funding.

It was obvious to me that the then Associate Minister, the late Brian Donnelly, was being frustrated by his senior colleague, Wyatt Creech, who was simply to bloody mean to properly fund the otherwise good scheme. Forunately Chris Carter's investing the necessaries at last.


Anonymous said...

"It was obvious to me that the then Associate Minister, the late Brian Donnelly, was being frustrated by his senior colleague, Wyatt Creech, who was simply to bloody mean to properly fund the otherwise good scheme."

Ahem. You do remember the Asian financial crisis, don't you?

backin15 said...

I do, I do. You think kids with disabilities should be the one's who should miss out in times of fiscal constraint?

Anonymous said...

Groan. No, I am saying that when the economy tanks, Ministers have to make difficult calls. Suggesting that Creech was just mean is frankly a bit childish. I'm sure he didn't enjoy that decision.

backin15 said...

Indeed they do. But their ought to be some assessment of merit and need applied to those calls.

My dealings with Creech suggest that "mean" isn't unfair. Moreover, having read the advice provided to Ministers at the time, and having talked with Donnelly I think my characterisation is pretty fair.

Anonymous said...

Well, that wasn't my experience with Creech, but I accept that he may not have been pleasant with all, especially those who work for the opposition.

backin15 said...

I'll be frank, I thought Creech and Bradford were both appalling Ministers entirely devoid of real ideas.

I had major differences with Lockwood but he was a better Minister than his successors. I though Creech's handling of the Special Ed implementation and interference with the production of the White Paper undermined some of positive developments Lockwood had led.

My dealings weren't just with him in Opposition mind you - I dealt with him and Bradford in other capacities and that served only to confirm that they weren't particularly good Ministers (Bradford was the weakest).

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't disagree about Bradford - the man was a reptilian zealot. But I think you've mischaracterised Creech. He struck me as someone who cared deeply about equity and had this at the front of his mind when he made key decisions (including around the White Paper).