Getting water to flow quietly under the bridge

The issue in the Supreme Court’s suppression of evidence in the David Bain trial is not whether there were words on the tape or not. It is that the court found that the law does not trust a jury to make a wise decision.

The logic of that distrust is to abolish juries. After all, they are a medieval hangover. Judgment by one’s peers is not just a legal fiction but an actual fiction. Juries are unrepresentative. read more

Managing politics: Key needs a J2

Helen Clark had H2. John Key has charm and quick uptake. That was not enough to handle Richard Worth.

Heather Simpson, with whom a segment of the international community is now becoming acquainted, was Clark’s chief of staff, go-between, message carrier and enforcer. She was H2.

She could speak for Clark as if she was Clark. She negotiated with small parties. She fixed those who got out of line or favour. She fixed leaks, imagined and real. read more

An impatient PM and the constitution

The budget is at the core of our constitution. The power to tax is assigned to elected representatives. Bill English needed ACT’s or the Maori party’s votes for the authority to tax and spend last Thursday.

This principle reaches centuries back into British constitutional history. Two centuries ago the United States’ independence was founded on it. Three decades ago here an autocratic Prime Minister’s push to change tax rates by regulation triggered a decisive revolt in his party caucus. read more

The speed of the slowest quintile

Every so often there is a shock-horror probe into bear farming in China. And every so often there is a shock-horror probe into New Zealand pig farmers emulating the Chinese bear farmers.

Both are obeying the biblical injunction to humans to exert “dominion” over all the earth and all living things. Some interpret “dominion” as stewardship, which implies respect. Others read it as totalitarian domination: bears in cages in pain and pigs de-pigged in crates. read more

The political value of 'do' versus 'don't'

The Greens, about to change co-leader at Queen’s Birthday weekend, have a choice. Do they stay a “don’t” party or do they become a “do” party? The time is ripe.

Greens are a mixture of joy and gloom: joy in their own lives, lived according to principle; gloom about the rest of us, slurping up the planet’s goodies. read more

A muddy future for white gold

Dairy farming is great for us right now, delivering cash to the economy in the world recession. Plasma TV and car makers aren’t doing well. Food makers are doing OK.

So we might say thank goodness David Lange’s “sunset industry” description of farming turned out wrong, thanks to dairy farmers’ productivity leap and a global upturn for food products. This decade dairy exports have been the mainstay. read more

Big brother goes missile cruising

Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, intends to equip its navy with long-range cruise missiles. Associate Defence Minister Heather Roy wants to sell off armoured vehicles. The Tasman is a deep gulf.

The National party fire-eaters who used to meet on the Sunday morning at annual conferences and demand fighters and more frigates have faded. There is no talk from Defence Minister Wayne Mapp of increasing defence spending as a share of GDP (half Australia’s). We are a small Pacific island, distant from tyranny, with no pretensions to power. read more

National and Maori: rights go only so far

National and the Maori party have portrayed the Auckland supercity Maori seats as a spat. It is a fundamental difference. v Hone Harawira will lead a hikoi. Pita Sharples will grump that it is a matter of mana.

Then, logically, there might be a select committee manoeuvre to make it look as if the National had to give in to other parties. There will not be bad blood between Sharples and John Key. read more

Must health be a political illness?

Health is a political illness. Fixing up people’s ill-health bugs, and sometimes kills, governments, even those with buckets of money.

Making health politically healthy is Tony Ryall’s challenge. That makes his job one of the government’s biggest — alongside his 1990s ministerial “brat pack” mates, onetime Health Minister Bill English and Nick Smith. read more

The old guard goes. Now for new ideas

Helen Clark is shipping out to work for Ban Ki-moon. Michael Cullen is shipping out to work for Simon Power. Labour is in transition.

In her valedictory speech on Wednesday, Clark highlighted this generational shift. She went to university at a time when “the baby-boomer generation came of age”. The Vietnam war, the nuclear debate and apartheid were “faultlines” running through our politics, “some ideological and some generational”. read more