Anne Salmond - Hero of the Week | The Jackal

27 Aug 2014

Anne Salmond - Hero of the Week

New Zealander's in general may not be aware that we have some of the best writers in the world here in Gods own country. In terms of literature, us Kiwis certainly punch well above our small populations weight. One such author who in my opinion always raises the bar and perhaps doesn't get the recognition she deserves is Anne Salmond.

Not only is Salmond meticulous about the veracity of what she's writing, her scholarly articles often get right to the heart of the topic and provide well-timed advice for the government and voters alike. That's exactly what her latest article set out to achieve...provide solutions to a particularly serious issue that the government cannot continue to ignore, Dirty Politics.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald reported:

Royal commission needed to clean up dirty politics

The Dirty Politics saga cuts to the heart of political life in New Zealand. Over the past 10 years there has been an insidious shift in the way that government works, with increasingly autocratic, arrogant ministers taking away the levers of power from citizens and civil servants.

The independence of the civil service has been eroded, with ministers routinely interfering in operational decisions. Last year, the Law Society felt impelled to report to the United Nations that Parliament had been used to pass a succession of acts that strip away rights, freedoms and protections from citizens, in breach of the Bill of Rights. Ministerial accountability has become a farce.

Anne Salmond isn't the only one to have noticed our government’s steady decline into a strange form of neoliberal totalitarianism. Cameron Slater and Simon Lusk’s fascist agenda has clearly caused the foundations of our democracy to erode.

It is this steady erosion of democratic checks and balances in New Zealand that makes politicians feel above the law and contemptuous of those they represent. As the old adage goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

If many Kiwis feel disgusted with politics and politicians, and powerless at present, they have good reason.

If the Prime Minister's office has indeed worked with the SIS to attack the Leader of the Opposition, or colluded with a muck-raking blogger to vilify people who disagree with the ruling party, this is reprehensible, and a constitutional disgrace. It is the kind of governance that makes Kiwis feel terrible about their own country. It's not okay.

Through their attack bloggers, the National party has been sowing the seeds of distrust throughout the land. They have perpetuated an agenda of hate that has in many cases destroyed lives. That's not the type of country we should accept now or leave for our children to clean up.

In terms of a solution, the distinguished University professor's words speak for themselves:

Unless executive power can be reined in, however, we can expect a succession and perhaps an acceleration of such abuses, no matter who is in power.

What's needed is a truly independent and high-level inquiry (perhaps a royal commission) to investigate the internal workings of government in New Zealand, and recommend a form of governance that has integrity, is truly democratic, and fit for the 21st century.

An election is one time when politicians are forced to listen to ordinary people. Kiwis from across the political spectrum have the chance to demand a much higher standard of conduct and decision-making from their elected representatives.

We have the right to live in a democracy where our leaders do not lie to us, or abuse their powers, or strip away our freedoms. They need to represent what's best, not what's worst about New Zealand. We are entitled to feel proud and confident about the way we're governed, not embarrassed and ashamed.

There are decent people in all political parties. They must take urgent steps to clean up politics in New Zealand, and to restore democratic checks and balances to the political process. It must adversely affect the lives of politicians, and make them wonder what happened to their own ideals, and how they became complicit in such a dirty game.

This article by Anne Salmond is another fine feather to her literary cap, which is why she wins this week's Hero award. Keep up the good work.