An Upper House in NZ - TOP

TOP’s policy #4 ‘Democracy Reset’ proposes, among other things, the return of an Upper House. This is a response to the concentration of political power in Cabinet and its ability to wield that power without due recourse to Parliament, let alone to the New Zealand public.

There’s a lot of jargon around the function of an Upper House, but the crux of it is simple – it creates time for an issue to be discussed, and it highlights potentially dubious decisions to the public before they occur. It means that if government tries to ram something through that raises ethical or constitutional conflicts, there is a body with authority to wade in and say “whoa now, just a minute, let’s have a korero on this”. It facilitates openness and transparency as well as lively and constructive debate.

Overall, we end up with a public that is better informed and more aware. An Upper House would also act as a bulwark against political expediency – which is basically where you make the wrong decision for New Zealand but the right one for your career or your party. Sound familiar?

As luck would have it, we don’t have to search far for an example. The Prime Minister’s post-cabinet press conference on Monday on the allegations raised by Hager and Stephenson is a stark reminder that this kind of reform is critical and long overdue. Mr. English is content to claim that an inquiry into the SAS raid is not justified because the Defense Force – the very institution implicated in the allegations – has told him it’s not. He’s provided little in the way of detail as to how he reached that conclusion. The clear message was that he had ‘faith’ in the Defense Force and that, as far as he is concerned, the matter is closed.

Except it’s not closed, and it won’t be any time soon. Such wounds fester on. Anyone with a few neurons to rub together can see that there is something awry. For the Prime Minister to accept assurances of no misconduct from the very same body being investigated for misconduct strains credulity and good humour. How stupid does he think Kiwis are?

If we care about our institutions and their integrity, then a full and independent inquiry is the only rational response to these allegations. Unfortunately, due to political expediency and other reasons yet unknown, it appears we cannot expect that rationality from the government of the day. Journalists, human rights lawyers and average, concerned citizens will continue to advocate for an inquiry and will be hopeful their voices make a difference. There is a real risk they will not.

But if there were an advocate on ‘the inside’, enshrined in law and compelled to ring the alarm bells on this issue, it would be a different story altogether. This “fiasco” – the words of former Defense Minister at the time of the raid Wayne Mapp - and the lack of political courage in dealing with it makes an Upper House, lacking in sovereignty but charged with the moral and ethical duty to act in our nation’s best interest, all the more vital. An Upper House would raise the obvious point that an independent inquiry must be truly independent - not just an assurance from the military that everything was done ‘by the book’. We owe a fair inquiry to the victims, their families, our soldiers and to every taxpayer in this country. We all deserve the truth.

Showing 6 reactions

  • catherine OSullivan
    commented 2017-04-07 22:38:47 +1200
    Sorry moments ago I mentioned Zimmerman Telegraph?? Meant to be telegram. Its late:)
  • catherine OSullivan
    commented 2017-04-07 22:37:13 +1200
    Colin Lynch perhaps lets be clear courtesy of George Carlin if I could borrow an expression to describe the last 70 years of war including WW1&2 is: rich men seeing who can piss the longest. Research 3 things. Check out the Zimmerman Telegraph and the Balfour Document 1924 (but I think written 1917). Then have some curiosity about that fab photo of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin and wonder what that handsome couple is doing standing over them at the back?? Who are they? How many agents did they have sitting around the table at Versailles?
    When Seymour Hersh went racing about some 8 States over 9 months in 1969 interviewing individuals about the My Lai massacre of 347 in Vietnam it was staggering how confronting this became – how people wanted to just bury it. Wikipedia shows a photo of an elderly woman trying to button herself after her recent rape to be moments latter mowed down with the rest of the infants and women in the frame with bullets. So I guess Seymour did a little of what you suggest by getting first hand information. Those rewarded are ones that sweep this under the carpet like Colin Powell who wrote, “In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between America Division soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.” As a 31 old at the time….Things only got better for him. Solders are not protecting you or your nation. Just cannon fodder protecting a rich mans tricky back room deal shuffled around in secret. Voltaire mentions: To know who rules over you simply find out who you are not allow to criticise. We are not allowed to ask or question war….go back to the 50 channels of Gladiators…this is what we are trained to be interested in..Don’t ask the hard questions or distasteful ones…just go back to sleep….nothing here to see..move along.
    I have written a letter to the Emperor of CHCH himself: Minister of Defense about this sorry tale two days after the book came out. Havent heard back from the Gerry.. as expected.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    followed this page 2017-04-06 17:42:44 +1200
  • Peter Jamieson
    followed this page 2017-04-05 22:46:51 +1200
  • Steve Cox
    followed this page 2017-04-05 14:23:58 +1200
  • Colin Lynch
    commented 2017-04-05 14:07:11 +1200
    The last sentence is the only one of any value in this article, This talks ‘all around’ the topic. Democracy (a political structure) is not necessarily a recognized condition in full, during all-out warfare – how can it be – I’m surprised that pending politicians and investigative journalists are not aware of that. The main reason is (I believe) they have not faced the gun! Neither have I and that is why I talk this way. So – the ‘new’ policy makers and news people need to spend a couple of weeks in the front lines to ‘acclimatize’ (to engaging in actual warfare) – before – then after – write their articles. Interview the personnel of ‘uniformed’ armies on both sides – then those unfortunates that fall ‘in-between’. Tell us their stories! Then collate!