Wednesday, 12 November 2008

onwards and upwards

i still remember the day i first met hon phil goff. it was 27 october 2001, and i was at an all day symposium organised at the university of waikato. the symposium had been organised as a result of 9/11 bombings, and in response to a very left-wing forum that had been held a few weeks previously.

the whole day had been one of muslim-bashing, with one speaker after another criticising muslim states and presenting a wholly one sided view of the muslim world. this was the day i first heard (or indeed heard of) mr paul buchanan. i can assure you that he wasn't the reasoned person that he is today. on that day, he told us that the only reason america had been bombed was because they were too nice. the soviet union used extreme torture techniques, and no-one would have dared to bomb them. but the americans were weighted down by all these human rights concerns internally, which stopped them being as brutal as they should have been. had the CIA been as brutal, america would have been spared. i kid you not, he carried on in that vein for a good 40 minutes.

we also had to hear from hon max bradford (the ex-national minister that left us with the mess the electricity industry is in now) and the first secretary from the american embassy. there were various other speakers, and all in a similar vein. i won't go into more of the nastiness, there isn't much point. let's just say that it was a thoroughly depressing and difficult day.

then, around 2.30pm in the afternoon, our newly appointed foreign minister entered the room, and he was like an oasis in the desert. there was so much common sense and balance, such a lack of hatred and bigotry. when someone questioned him about the palestinian situation, he got up and said there would be no hope for peace in that region until the building of illegal settlements stopped completely.

i was already a fan of mr goff before that day, mainly because he had had the courage to personally visit yasser arafat, as our foreign minister, even though he was put under severe pressure by ariel sharon. it showed he was a man of courage and conviction, someone who was able to see both sides of an issue and who had a strong sense of fairness and social justice.

nothing i've seen him do since that day has changed my opinion of him. in fact, another memory i cherish is a half-hour i spent talking to him one morning, about 2 years ago. it was such an interesting conversation, and no, i won't be telling you about anything that was said. but the impression i got was of someone with strong principles, who was very confident and focused.

i'm thrilled that he's become the leader of the labour party. if he's a little to the right, so be it. his "right" is very much to the left of the national party, and that's good enough for me.

hon annette king i only met this year. but i've been a fan of hers too, for a long time. i most admire her work as the minister of health, taking on the medical establishment in order to implement the primary health care strategy. making doctors visits and prescriptions affordable for all nz'ers is one of the 5th labour government's best and most effective policies. as minister of police and minister of justice, she has been doing a great job, particularly when it comes to issues of concern for women. and watching her in the house, as i have for the past couple of years, no-one can doubt her strength and abilities. i've yet to see anyone get the better of her.

this is supposedly labour's "tired" and "uninspiring" team. well, all i have to say to that is bollocks. if you're not inspired by these two, it's because you don't know much about them and what they have achieved for this country. in every portfolio either of them have held, there have been significant and lasting gains. i'm looking forward to helping them back into government in 2011.


Craig Ranapia said...

Well, Anjum, I've certainly been inspired by Goff's display of paternalistic pomposity towards the Maori Party, at a time when he really needs to open his ears rather than his mouth.

stargazer said...

i think I/S has the perfect reply here:

to quote:

When National attacks workers' rights, Labour will ask "how is this good for Maori"? When National removes iwi consultation from the RMA, they will ask "where is the benefit to Maori"? And when they enact even harsher sentencing regimes which will see more Maori locked away from their families for longer, they will ask - two-facedly, because Goff is a law and order freak himself - "how is this good for Maori"? Unless they have been able to veto all of those policies in their coalition agreement (and I will be mightily impressed if they do), they'd better start working on the answers to those questions now.

Craig Ranapia said...

Nah... I think Idiot/Savant missed the point. Just quietly, I think the Maori Party can run a risk/benefit analysis on their own decisions without Phil's help. They will make their call, and be held accountable for it by the electors in three years like everyone else.

And as John Armstrong pointed out in The Herald this morning:
Phil Goff fashioned his attack on the National-Maori Party deal along those lines, saying he hoped the Maori Party realised what it was doing. The latter remark was widely seen as a particularly clumsy and patronising intervention by Labour's new leader.

Labour cannot afford to let National's putative confidence and supply arrangement with Maori Party become a permanent fixture. But Labour has to be more sophisticated in how it destabilises the arrangement.


Goff argued that the Maori Party had committed itself to National without knowing the likely impact of National's policies. Yet, Goff would not have known exactly what is in the Maori Party's agreement with National.

He stressed how Labour had helped Maori on bread and butter issues like unemployment, income assistance, the minimum wage, state housing and so forth. He claimed the Maori Party was ignoring National's track record in Government on those issues. The more he talked, the more condescending it all sounded.

He noted the Maori Party had committed itself to supporting National despite Labour winning the party vote in every Maori seat. But Labour did not win enough of the party vote elsewhere to get the numbers to govern. So why should Labour's failure sentence the Maori Party to spending another three years in Opposition?

Goff may be right about job losses. But there is comparatively little that National, the Maori Party or Labour could do about that in the short-term.

Anyway, Goff missed the point. What the Maori Party is seeking is access to resources that can boost Maori education and job training and so make Maori less vulnerable to economic downturn.

Goff should have stayed silent instead of displaying a "we know best" mentality that suggested Labour still thinks it is running things. His warnings only succeeded in getting the Maori Party MPs' backs up.

Perhaps, Anjum, Goff could take the hint and stop treating the Maori Party like they're a pack of rather stupid children.

weta said...

Sorry to say but your recollection of that symposium/conference differs considerably from mine. There were a number of moderate views expressed other than Goffs (including by Muslim speakers). Your recollection of Paul Buchanan's talk is a serious distortion of what was a far more nuanced and even-handed presentation of the difficulties involved in fighting terrorist organisations while maintaining some level of civility. In fact, much of his warnings about the temptation to excess eventually came to pass in Guantanamo etc.
If there is a transcript of the event you could compare notes with me. I do agree that Goff is an excellent choice for opposition leader, his comments about the Maori Party-National deal notwithstanding

stargazer said...

i don't have any transcripts, so can't compare notes, sorry. i'm going on my memory, and this particular day had a huge impact on me in terms of its negativity. it was the one event that was the seed of my political activism. the speakers were definitely not balanced - there was one muslim speaker at the beginning of the day who was extremely negative and one-sided. the other muslim speaker, who was the only one to provide an alternative to the views presented that day, was organised by me pushing the organisers. she was put in as the last speaker at the end of a very long day, day at around 4pm. but i give credit to the audience, who all stayed to listen to her.

as for mr buchanan, i know i'm not wrong. those remarks were definitely made by him; i certainly didn't make them up. i guess we'll just have to agree to differ on this.

an while i'm here, i'm afraid craig, that i long stopped taking the herald as a source of opinion that i valued (except the always excellent tapu misa and the usually very competent colin james). in fact, i thought that you were cancelling your subscription? i totally disagree with mr armstrong that mr goff should have remained silent: the maori party's decisions are as open to critique and criticism as any other party. mr goff raised valid concerns about the MP's position. it doesn't matter that he hadn't seen the agreement between them and national, he had seen the stated policy positions of both parties, and the previous actions of national in government. this is a cause for concern. on justice policy alone there is such a wide difference that if the MP go along with national's plans, they are betraying their own principles, forget about the impact on the maori community. to point that out is hardly paternalistic.

Craig Ranapia said...

i thought that you were cancelling your subscription?

To be a wee bit pedantic, I've said the Better Half and I have decided to just let the subscription lapse when it comes up for renewal just before Christmas. You don't get the melodramatic frisson of telling some call centre drone to get stuffed, but it keeps you off another unwelcome call list.

And, anjum, we're just going to have to agree or disagree on this but I still think Goff would be better occupied figuring out why Maori are disconnecting from his part at a rate of knots, rather than waggling his finger at those uppity haters and wreckers. You might be surprised how many Maori aren't that impressed with Labour's policies or track record either.