A brittle world, not too unlike 1918

Colin James on the international scene at armistice day 1918 Otago Daily Times, 6 November 2018

Sunday is the centenary of Armistice Day — the end of fighting in the “war to end all wars”, which turned out to be only an instalment.

By the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 16 million had died in the war and 20 million were physically and mentally maimed, many seriously. read more

A first anniversary. Will there be a fourth?

The first Jacinda-Winston-James anniversary is almost here. Will there be a fourth anniversary?

Jacinda Ardern is 38, James Shaw 45, Grant Robertson 46. They have much to look ahead to. Winston Peters is 73. He has much to look back on and an respectable retirement to look out for.

Shaw’s Greens are to Ardern’s left. Peters’ New Zealand First is to her (populist) right. Each has heft — Labour is much the biggest but it needs the votes of both to outgun National. read more

The wisdom of crowds vs the madness of crowds v2

Colin James to Australasian Study of Parliament Group seminar, Wellington
[Adapted from paper for ASPG conference, Brisbane, 17-18 July 2018.]
Wellington 12 September 2018
“Trust in Parliament in a post-truth world” was the title for Australasian Study of Parliament Group’s annual conference in Brisbane in July. It is a pertinent question at a time when populism has been rising in liberal democracies and may rise more…
ASPG NZ version 18Sep12 read more

It’s “wellbeing” week – except for business

Colin James occasional article on wellbeing economics for the Otago Daily Times 4 September 2018

The economy is about to crash, “business” is telling us. The Institute of Economic Research, by contrast, forecasts just-under-3% growth through the next five years.

Business wants National back in charge in 2020. That is a tribal reality. Simon Bridges would make business growth No 1 priority. read more

Some ways to change the constitution or not

The Greens will vote for New Zealand First’s waka-jumping bill. That’s coalition government, co-leader Marama Davidson said: swallow a dead rat to get the organic carrot-cake the Greens signed up for.

Winston Peters wants to stop defections. Defectors from his party kept Jenny Shipley’s government afloat in 1998 after she fired him. An Alliance MP also defected, prompting a short-lived waka-jumping law in 2001. In the 2011-14 Parliament New Zealand First kicked MP Brendan Horan out of the party but he stayed on as an independent. read more

The wisdom of crowds vs the madness of crowds

Colin James to Australasian Study of Parliament Group conference on
Trust in Parliament in a post-truth world
Brisbane 19 July 2018

This talks of three tensions. One is between the impact on citizens of rapidly developing digital technology and citizens reactions to that impact, including through Parliaments. The second is between liberal democracy and autocracy which a growing body of commentary worries democracy is losing. The third lies under those two tensions: between the wisdom of crowds and the madness of crowds. read more

A trade deal for some or for all

Negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) formally kick off on Thursday when EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström drops in. Who benefits?

Talks are expected to take up to two years. They come after a long wait near bottom of the EU’s list while it did a range of other deals — a low rank shared with Australia, which is simultaneously, but not jointly, negotiating with the EU. read more

A new public service act. So a better public service?

Public service failures in the recent news have raised serious questions of competence and oversight.

A muddle involving Housing New Zealand (HNZ), the Ministry of Health and Standards NZ needlessly caused mayhem and cost to a large number of tenants and landlords and taxpayers through evictions and cleanups. Prime ministerial chief science adviser Peter Gluckman’s report was trenchant. read more

Holiday, Her Majesty, honours and how to progress

A random thought, 1 June 2018

Queen’s Birthday weekend: holiday; genuflection; showers of honours on the deserving and undeserving.

The holiday marks winter for us but not for the monarchy, warm-glowed by The Wedding of Harry and a divorcee from Canada.

It also marks a corner of the constitution in which the sixth Labour administration shows no inclination yet to be a “government of transformation”. Republican Jacinda Ardern kneels to the monarchy, her republican party alongside. read more

“Licence to govern”. And a path ahead

Occasional article on the budget for the Otago Daily Times 17 May 2018

A government’s first budget sets its tone and path. The title is “Foundations for the Future” and Jacinda Ardern has billed it as “transformative”. Grand words. Does the budget live up to them?

Union and Labour party critics, some highly placed, say it is “too orthodox” to generate the “transformation of our society and economy” Grant Robertson trumpeted to the media in the pre-release budget lockup. read more