Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On the Simon Power resignation

March 4th, 2011

simon power
2009 image: werewolf » Doing the Transtasman tango

Reportedly, the decision by Justice Minister Simon Power to quit politics at the next election has stunned his party, and “flabbergasted” the Prime Minister. The event it most closely resembles is the decision by his friend and former colleague Katherine Rich to quit politics at the last election. Rich would have been in Cabinet. Power could well have become Prime Minister when John Key finally tires of the job. What is wrong with these people?

The answer? Not much. In fact, Power’s departure is further proof that Parliament is such a toxic environment that any sane person would (or should) be constantly weighing the possible rewards, against the day to day costs. Quite rightly, a lot of media coverage of Parliament focuses on the perks of office. Cabinet Ministers and backbenchers get paid a lot, directly and indirectly. For the laziest and stupidest MPs, Parliament is a goldmine. It sure beats working on a farm, or in a classroom.

That’s the irony. The downsides of being in and around Parliament weigh most heavily on its more able and hardworking members. The long hours of being penned up with people who detest each other, the poisonous atmosphere of conflict, the dog eat dog competition… and that’s merely in your own caucus, let alone across the floor of the House. For most of the able MPs, the compromise achievements possible from being in Parliament are relatively minor, when weighed against the time and energy such victories commonly entail. Former Green MP Sue Bradford for instance, finally got an acceptable version of her plans for reducing violence against children through the House, plus the scrapping of youth rates. Genuine gains, but worth ten years of her life? Eventually, she decided to get out, and get some fresh air for a while.

At least Power and Rich have had options. They could return to private life with some expectation of carving out reasonably challenging, reasonably well-rewarded careers. Unfortunately, their departures have removed from the National caucus two individuals with exceptional ability in their areas of expertise. (Rich’s successor in education, remember, has been Anne Tolley.) They were also among the very few individuals in Parliament who seemed like reasonably well rounded human beings, with a life beyond politics. (A fact confirmed by their resignations.) National will really struggle to replace them. More and more, it will be the party of Murray McCully, Nick Smith and Gerry Brownlee, of Judith Collins, Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley. Yikes.

Lets not get too misty-eyed though. I’m not meaning to suggest that what Power has done in his justice and commerce portfolios should be endorsed. Far from it. This column has been consistently critical of Power’s extension of state power in the criminal justice arena, entirely at the expense of the rights of the accused. His search and surveillance legislation is an appalling piece of Big Brother – let alone Nanny State – legislation. And one will be left wishing in vain that the Commerce Commission had been given fresh powers to go after price fixing and cartel behaviour by corporates. Quite the contrary, alas. On Power’s watch, the Commerce Commission has lost the head of steam it had built up under Paula Rebstock.

More than anything, Power’s departure underlines just how transient political careers now tend to be, for the best and the brightest. Surely John Key could have been surprised for only a millisecond about Power’s resignation. After all, Key himself has said he will retire from politics if he loses the next election. For him too, Parliament is merely one stage in his career – a rich man’s hobby on which he will expend a certain amount of time and energy, but no more. Obviously, there are drawbacks about taking such an approach to political life. Politics may be the art of the possible but one likes to think that political life also entails some commitment to enduring values, beyond a rational cost/benefit analysis of personal gain. Yet for better or worse, there is a growing tendency to treat politics like a general’s tour of duty in Iraq – get in, get stuff done, and then get out again with as much of your life intact as you can, before the inevitable costs begin to outweigh the rewards.

Certainly, the perks system hasn’t caught up with this trend towards transience, and the cut and run nature of political careerism. By and large, the perks system is still based on compensating MPs for the allegedly life long sacrifices they make in entering public life. Around Parliament, that may be true only for its deadweight.

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    1. 6 Responses to “On the Simon Power resignation”

    2. By Samuel on Mar 4, 2011 | Reply

      Arrest that man

    3. By martin on Mar 4, 2011 | Reply

      I think the long service aspect is something that Labour and Goff should empahsise.

    4. By Hoeroa Robert Marumaru on Mar 4, 2011 | Reply

      Attempting to plumb the political intrigue of politicians musical chairs in Aotearoa, I suggest is tantamount to crystal ball gazing.

      The burning issues relevant to the ‘final frontier’ western exploitation of mineral resource wealth, to ‘cash in’ as desperate attempt to take on economic ballast, before arrival of the final dawn of inevitable rectitude enforced by requirement of response to climate change, is breathtaking of such desperation observed.

      After all, of comparative perspective of current Aotearoa Govt policy, neighbour Oz with whom Aotearoa share their colonial history, is currently observed the leading OECD economic performer on the back of the windfall of its mining wealth. Coincident subversion of the lawful rights of its indigenous peoples to get at it, in contravention of its international human rights obligations, is observed of that Govt, mere childs play.

      No wonder the Justice Minister is resigning, what self respecting individual would want their name associated with the current Govt policy agenda of his Govt [although Powers' identification with National may observe a conundrum].

      As an expatriot from across the Tasman, whom demonstrates a constantly reliable and accurate finger on the global macroeconomic pulse, as recognised, I may advise Hone Harawira is the only Aotearoa Govt representative that demonstrates a consistent comprehensive perspective of global macroeconomic issues directly impacting upon future prospect for Aotearoa.

      Current Aotearoa Govt policy therefore may only be observed taking the nation deeper into the depths of economic purgatory. The clamour of anxiety consistently demonstrated by successive Govts in Aotearoa, of myopic ‘headlight blindness,’ relevant to its perception, or more accurately, coveting, of world attention, appears increasingly irrational.

    5. By Christopher Wingate on Mar 5, 2011 | Reply

      I have heard from a birdy some major infighting has been going on in the National machine. Maybe something to do with lawyers, cashflow monopolies and justice. Let me just take a stab at that subject by addressing a major problem- crown and judicial immunity.

      Our politicians and judges are fiduciary in job capacity yet they have immunity to cover failures- why?

      No other fiduciary has that get out of jail card- all are liable-except politicians and judges.

      When I have asked MP’s what mistakes their political parties have made they refuse to answer. In fact they refuse to answer any of the hard questions. Judges, well they just ignore everyone.

      Yet I remain convinced we can only move forward when we understand where we went wrong.

      Our politicians and judges are like a sports team who never turn up for training and lose game after game and just don’t care.

      Our politician’s attitude ignores their fiduciary obligations and they act with an attitude mostly focused on gaining votes and climbing the political ladder.

      Yet a fiduciary is meant to be a professional who is intelligent, diligent, operating their job with a duty of care and selfless in the service to those entrusting them, their care. We confer that power to them when we vote.

      Our country is now crippled in soul destroying red tape is not only harming business and new enterprise, but hospitals, schools and all social services.

      As a nation we are at the mercy of cunning lawyers and blissfully ignorant politicians. The most successful business growth I can point to in the last 25 years has been the legal industry who have latched onto virtually everything that moves through legislation passed by puppet politicians who fail to realise the harm.

      So now we suffer with a major problem of accessing common sense and justice because of the remorseless mercantilisation of legal practice and the law industry monopoly on regulatory control and fiduciary failing politicians.

      I have for many years tried to understand nation management by politicians. Government which after all is a trust structure owned by the people and politicians are the managers we select from the few we are offered. I have found only one key root problem – crown immunity.

      Although politician’s job is fiduciary, they operate under old rules of immunity that mean; “The King can do no wrong in the service of the people” But Kings and leaders do fail. The immunity laws must go because with it in place we are attracting the wrong type of people to the task of managing our nation.

      Our nation is sick, almost terminal and I just want it to get better. I don’t care what team of politicians runs NZ- as long as they manage it without the immunity that has been used to hide mistakes. Then and only then do we have a good chance of saving our nation.

    6. By Joe Blow on Mar 10, 2011 | Reply

      I’d guess that Power has really pissed off some of his colleagues in the legal profession and judiciary with most of the policies he’s pushed through for National and its little brother ACT. Conscience may have got the better of him.

      I’m just speculating however…

    7. By peasantpete on Mar 14, 2011 | Reply

      Now that he has left politics he may
      luxuriate in the ability to actually have a conscience.

      Especially escaping from that rural National party tribal cabal.

      He is now a free person.

      That is worth a bit.

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