TOP4 - Frequently asked Questions

TOP4 - Frequently asked Questions

Navigating this democracy policy can be complicated stuff here is a bunch of FAQ's. If you can't find an answer here we encourage you to ask a question

Ask a question here - but have a read below first please

1. Should we not be making mandarin or computer coding compulsory? It will be more useful?

Answer

First point is the the very young find it incredibly easy to be multi-lingual. I have a 3 year old granddaughter who is already fluent in English and Mandarin. I met another parent this weekend whose 8 year old has 3 languages. Second point is that language is a lot more than a financial meal ticket and the more your bi-lingualism is just a natural aspect of your home environment the more adept you are at expressing all the values and cultural mores that your languages have terms for. New Zealand has a bicultural heritage, strong identification with that is part of being a New Zealander. For some their appreciation of and pride in our unique culture starts and stops at the haka. But that is not enough if both tangatawhenua and tau iwi are to honour the treaty and have a duty of care to each other’s culture. As Mandela said - “talk to a man in a language he understands and it goes to his head, talk in his language and it goes to his heart”. We are one citizenry, we have two cultures that we are proud to nurture and see flourish. Language is the key to that door.

2. How would people be elected to an upper house?

Answer

As we said in the policy description  document that is beyond the scope of the discussion at this time. But think of the role of the Upper House - it is to provide an independent check on and balance to parliament’s legislative proposals - especially to highlight where the constitution is being breached. It’s like a group of wise elders just ensuring that parliament doesn’t rush through hasty and ill-conceived legislation. A mix of elected and appointed members may well be appropriate, and a number of them that enables the numbers of parliament to be reduced equally even. The formula is to be decided. Perhaps Maori use their own approach to appoint/elect their members and the governments uses a different approach to appoint/elect theirs

3. How can we expect the members of an upper house to act smarter/ with more integrity than existing politicians who are already meant to be acting in our interest

Answer

Because the composition of the Upper House does not reflect the political balance in the Lower House. It’s elected/appointed for a different term and its composition is not in the same proportions as the political balance of parliament. It could even have independent members appointed as well.

4. Won't a constitution and bill of rights or constitution just lead us down a path like America? Look how messed up the 2nd amendment is in a modern world.

Answer

All democracies except Britain, New Zealand and Israel have written constitutions. Your sample of one is insignificant.

5. Why should nature have the same rights as people?

Answer

Because once ecosystems are destroyed they cannot be re-established and biodiversity is the key to resilience - of the planet and of the human race. Monocultures increase the risk dramatically of species being wiped out by ‘natural’ disasters. New Zealand has unique ecosystems that are not only necessary to sustain life but provide an important point of difference that can be used to generate income.

6. Won't selling TVNZ make the media worse?

Answer

The TVNZ channels themselves have deteriorated markedly over recent years as they have come under competition from better quality products available from online and subscriber channels. The choices now are so diverse, with an enormous amount of content free from online competitors, that the business case for a State subsidised commercial channel has collapsed. What matters for taxpayer funding is New Zealand public-good broadcasting content. NZ on Air does this already and its role should be expanded to include hews and journalism that does not have a corporate agenda. The channels for connecting with the audience are numerous.

8. How does selling TVNZ free up money, won't we lose the dividends?

Answer

Free to air broadcasting has been under increasing pressure in an increasingly crowded field and requires enormous economies of scale to compete with online streaming. That is most unlikely with the Government as owner.  As we've seen with the recent asset sales those companies have performed better out of Government hands. We'd expect the same from TVNZ, freeing up capital to invest in delivering public good content to new Zealanders.

9. Is RNZ for sale?

Answer

RNZ would not be for sale as (a) isn’t funded on a commercial basis (advertising) and does not have a commercial bias and (b) radio stations are cheap, cheap, cheap to run to no issue. RNZ should be subject to the same ruler as any State funded public good broadcasting (& for that matter all govt depts) - independent with the highest standards of public interest to the fore.

10. Is there a risk when turning a media organisations funding entirely over to Govt funding rather than the market that the Govt of the day can abuse it?

Answer

We’re not advocating formation of a government media organization. We are selling TVNZ which is a government owned media organization funded by commercial revenues. There is little to no reason for government to own such an organization. On the other hand there is a role for a public good that promotes NZ content – that is NZ On Air – which can be distributed down any number of commercial channels, and also including free online. There is also a public good in the form of independent news and current affairs that is not tainted by agendas of its owners. Fox, Al Jazerra, RT, CNN are all examples of corporate media news gathering and packaging entities – as are Radio Network and Media Works in New Zealand.

All commercial entities compete to maximize “eyeballs” as this is the commercial imperative. Whether maximizing viewership of listenership is more successful if news is integrated with staff opinions is a commercial decision and a legitimate business strategy. But it is pollution or tainting, and the “news” then becomes less factual and less of a public good. Journalistic ethics would hold that a balanced presentation of truth is the ideal. In no way is that the agenda of audience-maximising commercial media.

Hence the need for the public good in this space. Radio NZ does a good job (of course it shouldn’t be above scrutiny either and at times presenter opinions do taint a balanced presentation here as well as the viewership imperative drives management). But when it’s taxpayer money involved the integrity of news and current affairs is paramount, no commercial tainting is acceptable.

11. Where is the evidence that having an upper house produces better law/is better for democracy?

Answer

The evidence is that NZ is almost unique getting rid of the necessary check and balance that an Upper House provides, and the protection it affords the sovereignty of parliament. Other democracies commonly have 2 house at both federal and state level. That is an enormous difference to the unbridled power our governments cabinet wields. In essence parliament is now a waste of time – Government MPs are purely there to provide the voting numbers. Opposition MPs have next to no role to play. There is a litany of legislation that would never have got through under a two House system because it breaches constitutional rights. The most dramatic was in 1975 with Muldoon bringing in NZ Super – a massive intergenerational transfer. I suggest you listen to the evidence I reference from Professor Jeremy Waldron as just one source.

12. What's the position on term limits, it seems that unlimited terms for elected officials can cause them to become self interested

Answer

No they would definitely be limited. Remember the role of this House or Tribunal is simply a check on and protection of parliaments sovereignty. Also I would expect the size of parliament could be reduced and its lengthened by restoring the conventional, two house approach. I would guess a mix of elected and independent expert appointments would be best. Tightening up on the ability of MPs to force by-elections we suggest is also desirable, and maximum terms for all MPs as well. I would expect cost of political government to reduce (fewer elections).

13. What about splitting TVNZ (sell off some of their assets) and make a public service channel based on a rebranded TV 1?

Answer

Traditional TV channels are too expensive to run – leave it to the commercial sector to sort out. Instead have taxpayer funds applied only to producing independent, ethical content free of the propaganda elements nowadays common from all commercial outlets. That content can be tendered out down the various channels – but free down the cheaper ones (radio and online).

14. Will the introduction of an upper house slow law making down to the point of gridlock?

Answer

Working more slowly is deliberate as the policy description outlines. Unbridled power to Cabinet has resulted in rushed legislation that has violated peoples rights. If there’s gridlock then the public will be well aware of it – it knows its rights and the Upper House would be highlighting the problem. We are of the view it would make Cabinet far less willing to ride roughshod over rights – which we suggest is a good thing.

15. Re: the public service - How can we grant the technocrats greater independence while still ensuring they're implementing the policies the public wants.

Answer

The issue with an independent civil service is to remove the political interference that is reducing transparency and removing ethical checks on policy. The argument that efficiency might be lost has to be adjudged against these objectives and efficiency loss dealt with as a separate issue – if indeed it does result.

16. Do you think the changing ethnic mix in the countries you've mentioned is contributing to millenials devaluing democracy?

Answer

Multicultural societies of course are a result of globalization, that has been occurring for many decades. Whether they lead to a reduction in democratic participation we have no idea, but of course the reality is that multiculturalism is our reality, it is impossible to remove so the question to that extent is a hypothetical. The focus needs to be on better democratic processes so that a multicultural society can include all citizens.

17. Do we really need to teach Maori to all children? Wouldn't it be better to make it compulsory for all schools to offer it, but allow opt-outs?

Answer

This is New Zealand, we are unique. We have a treaty that in essence says that the two signatories (Maori and Tau Iwi or non-Maori) have a duty of care to each other – so two societies that share this land, flourish and each is able to fulfill its aspirations. The key to societies understanding each other is language and respect. Language is the key to understanding cultural differences. There are two languages here – why would you even think of excluding one for the other? It just feels like chauvinism (apart from the reality that is protected under Article 2). Interestingly very young children can learn two (or more) languages seamlessly if given the opportunity – it is just natural. That is the ideal – the issue is the pathway. To suggest the 3Rs in your language are more important is to create a trade-off that doesn’t even exist.