Parliamentary reform required

This week we have had the embarrassment of our third ranked government minister Gerry Brownlee making derogatory and inaccurate statements about Finland and then laughing it off, claiming it was meant in a humorous or satirical way.

As Radio NZ reported:

"In the general debate last Wednesday, the Cabinet minister began by attacking the Labour Party's admiration for Finland, but his monologue ended with him attacking Finland itself."

Mr Brownlee, who holds several posts including Leader of the House, said Finland had higher unemployment, lower growth and worse crime than New Zealand. He added that Finland can hardly feed its people and has little respect for women.

The comments have been reported heavily in the Finnish media and a page on the social networking site Facebook has been set up calling for him to travel to Finland to learn some facts." It also reached the Egyptian media.

After the issue reaching media in Finland as outrage grew, a Finnish university lecturer started a Facebook group and the Finnish embassy called for a "please explain" from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

John Key has apologised Brownlee's comments when meeting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in South-Korea!

However let's look at the context. I caught the last of this interchange in Parliament last week when the Government and Opposition were in full attack mode over the issue of the Finland economy. On Facebook one man pointed out that this was one of those inevitable results of an outdated and archaic parliamentary system of opposition.

On Facebook one man pointed out that this was one of those inevitable results of an outdated and archaic parliamentary system of opposition.  Yes, our adversarial parliamentary system sets the scene for this to take place.  I hope someone in Parliament will now take the initiative on Parliamentary reform. Joking and jibing across the chamber increases and leads to this gaffe. No amount of talking will pass it off as satire or a joke now I am afraid. When the two major parties face each other and yell abuse at each other it is embarrassing to be in the gallery.

I have just watched a bit of a debate on a social welfare bill. Grant Robertson of Labour responded to the Minister's speech, then a government MP read his prepared speech, making absolutely no mention of the critical issues Grant Robertson had raised. This is like kindergarten children talking to each other in parallel conversations, hardly good enough for our prestigious parliamentary representatives to dignify with the term 'debate'.

So much of our taxpayers money is wasted. Electoral reform changed parliament, with the exception that Government and the chief Opposition still sit opposite each other and throw insults to those "on the other side". Not good enough for the 21st century.

Petroleum imports now $7.7 billion a year

The NZ Herald on Thursday Oct 27, 2011 reported that our imports of petroleum (read crude oil) climbed 22% to $7.7 billion in the year.

Not an election issue of course. After all the National government, and presumable Labour if they miraculously were elected, thinks it is business as usual. Import oil and one day maybe the price will go down?? What are they really thinking and what do they really know about the global oil situation?

I had some difficulty finding an annual figure for crude oil imports because a search revealed monthly imports and sudden rises like 53% rise in Aug 11 was explained away by saying we have large, irregular shipments of crude oil arriving at Marsden Point and some months the imports are low. However I finally found a figure for the whole year, authoritative and three days old only.

$7.7 billion is more than twice what we spend each year on law and order, it is nearly half the health budget. If the cost of importing oil goes on increasing at the same rate the price would equal the health budget in three years' time.

In fact if it keeps rising by 22% a year, by 2016 the cost of crude oil imports will be $20.81billion which will be approaching what we spend on social security and welfare.

I guess the theory is that if we assume all is going to be business as usual, then we will all benefit from more transport. Somehow all this expensive oil will bring jobs and prosperity.... dreams are free I guess.