Highway killers

Now I know why people get killed on Centennial Highway along the coast between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay north of Wellington, despite the facts that there is a 70km limit its entire length, that much of it is divided by a wire barrier and that the rest has double yellow lines separating two single carriageways. On my drive up to Taupo today (Saturday 27 October 2007) I was passed twice, first the way north and later on the way south, by cars going in the same direction as I was. The cars had to cross the double yellow lines to do that. I was doing around 70km on each occasion. read more

A responsible(?) minister

Colin James, Random thought, 23 July 2007

A person in a minister’s office speaks for the minister. The minister is responsible for what that person says or does as a member of the minister’s office whether or not it is as at the minister’s specific bidding or with the minister’s knowledge. read more

The criminal tort against victims

Colin James 22 July 2007

Quick thinking by National’s Simon Power forced a defeat of the government on 19 July on an ACT amendment to preserve victims’ right to attend and speak at parole hearings of their attackers. Losing this right would have compounded a serious constitutional error which we are only slowly addressing.
Originally an attack by one person on another causing harm, injury or death was treated as a tort — a wrong — between two people, much as a trespass would today. The wronged person could seek or enforce redress for the wrong. read more

Opening the government — the Official Information Act in New Zealand

Colin James for The Australian on the Official Information Act, 4 October 2006

When the media find out that the New Zealand Treasury disagrees with the government, it is not front-page news any more. That’s one product of the New Zealand’s 24-year-old Official Information Act.
The act has made the government much more open which keeps it more on its toes. Moreover, “free and frank advice” from officials to ministers seems still largely to be alive and well even though some frank disagreement now reaches the media thanks to the act. read more

Ten Prime Ministers

Colin James’s chapter for Political Science edition on leadership, December 2004

Prime Ministers make a difference. Much of the success or failure of a prime ministership is determined by factors outside the Prime Minster’s control: movements in the economy, social change, external shocks, the condition of the party or government they inherited, the makeup of Parliament. But the personality, psyche and preferences each brings to the role determines whether he or she makes the best or not of those factors. read more

Four ways of looking at the Iraq adventure

Thoughts delivered at a Retreat, 6 April 2003

Iraq is a complicated issue. You can view it from many dimensions. I am going to pick four.

The first is strategic. This has three divergent parts.

One is an extension of the Huntington thesis posited a decade ago that the world is headed for a clash of civilisations: between the post-christian west and militant islam. This pits the ideal of liberal-democratic capitalism against fundamentalist islam. It is a false contest, in that few muslims are fundamentalist (just as few christians are) and few islamic fundamentalists are terrorists. Nevertheless some who back the American presence in Iraq do argue that at least part of its mission is to bring liberal democracy to Iraq and perhaps the whole Middle East — to civilise islam. This is a chimera in that it would take generations to achieve such a conversion — if indeed it proved possible. (Our own brush with indigenous rights and the reassertion of the validity of animist spirituality, as Whaimutu Dewes touched on yesterday, is surely enough to cause thinking New Zealanders to pause). Nevertheless, it is an arguable reason for the invasion of Iraq, if the combatants and those who follow and help in the reconstruction are prepared to apply money, patience and effort. read more

Fixing up globalisation

Colin James’s unpublished article on Singer”s “One World”

Globalisation is here to stay, so it is time we set it in some ethical standards. So says Peter Singer in a new book to get your synapses in working order for your return to the office.

Singer is an Australian philosopher with a high-prestige “bioethics” university post at Princeton in the United States. His easy-to-read new book, One World: the ethics of globalisation*, is a challenging adjunct to Philippe Legrain’s brilliant Open World: The Truth about Globalisation, reviewed here on November 6. read more

Warrior Queen or Good Queen Helen?

Colin James on Helen Clark for the Independent for 4 December 2002

Helen Clark kicked off the election campaign this year snarling at the Greens on the steps of Parliament. Later she did a sumptuous official opening in the Aotea Centre to an adoring throng. But the earlier unrehearsed version became the campaign’s abiding image and theme. And it cost votes. read more

The Treasury gets the intervention message

Unpublished NZ Herald article by Colin James

Get used to it: the 1990s have gone. That is Treasury Secretary Alan Bollard’s parting shot as he heads for the Reserve Bank. Now the Treasury backs “proactive” government intervention in the economy.

Being “open for business”, relying on market signals and a level playing field, is no longer enough, the Treasury said in its traditional post-election briefing to the re-elected government. read more

A new "Wintringham doctrine"?

Extract from comments to seminar by the Centre for Public Law, 6 August

At noon on 11 July an extraordinary event took place in Room G005 in Parliament. There, at the request of the head of the public service, Michael Wintringham, senior officers of the Ministries for the Environment and of Agriculture and Forestry briefed news media on a matter of great importance to the outcome of the election due 16 days later. When later I asked Mr Wintringham if he had established a new doctrine with this initiative, his answer was perfect public service opacity: that was for people like me to debate. read more