Entries in politics (128)


the heart of the wise inclines to the right

interestingly Ecclesiastes 10:2 says

The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.
(for humourous purposes only, not a theological stance!)


Constitutional Transition Process

Dean Knight (no relation), law lecturer at Wellington's renowned Victoria University law school, has posted another helpful - albeit nerdy! - post on the constitutional transition process NZ will now go through as we transfer power from Helen Clark to John Key over the next week or two.


surely this is the end of 'Christian' parties?

Looking at the preliminary results for yesterday's New Zealand election it is my sincere hope that we have seen the end of what I have previously called "the ridiculous idea of 'the' christian vote" (that link is to my post last week which generated a vigorous debate from some who support the idea of 'the' christian vote).

Of the three 'christian' parties only the Kiwi Party gathered more than 10,000 votes which only equates to approximately 0.5% - very far from the 5% required under MMP to actually get into parliament.

Collectively the three 'christian' parties only gathered 1.22%.

Both the Legalise Cannabis and the Bill & Ben parties gathered more votes than the other two 'christian' parties.

Legalising cannabis is hardly mainstream thought in New Zealand, yet they gathered more votes than parties who tried to monopolise the 'christian' label. Quite obviously against the wishes of the 10%-50% of New Zealanders who identify as christian (10% = rule of thumb figure for Sunday church attendance each Sunday, and more than 50% of kiwis continue to self-identify as christian in our five yearly census despite the secularisation of NZ).

I welcome discussion on this post, but ask that the discussion focus on the reality of how christians actually do vote and engage in politics in New Zealand - not some theoretical, and in my opinion marginal, construct of how christians should vote, or of the conscience vote issues which seem to motivate those who form and support 'christian' parties. Also, please first read last week's post and its comments before commenting on this post so that we can advance the debate rather than simply repeat it.


Reflections on the NZ Election

Yesterday John Key was elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, and today starts the process of formalising his coalition and support arrangements so as to govern our country for the next three years.

My congratulations to John and the National team, and also to ACT and UnitedFuture with whom he will govern.

It is my sincere hope he can include the Maori Party in some form of support arrangement. The future of Maori is too closely aligned to the success of our nation for their main political voice - the Maori Party - to be sidelined.

Likewise, I hope he can form sort of agreement on environment policy with the Green Party. Human impact on the environment is too high, and is producing unsustainable outcomes. National has a well formed view of how this can be addressed but it would be refreshing to bring the Green Party into making this happen. It would also demonstrate that the left wing do not have a monopoly on the environment.

Winston Peters was remarkably gracious in conceding defeat last night. His career promised so much, but he couldn't handle the discipline of playing in a team and had to go off and create his own petty dynasty, known as NZ First. It is NZ's loss that he never rose to the heights he could have, but rather leaves politics with the stench of corruption and hypocrisy swirling around him. We saw sniffs of his potential in his performance as Foreign Minister these past three years, which only served to illustrate what could have been.

Helen Clark has strode like a colossus across our political landscape for a long time now. I never doubted her ability, and always respected her leadership in bringing together and holding together the fractious left for so long. But like Peters she too is standing aside without having fulfilled her destiny. If she had stayed true to her social democrat ideals I would have respected her much more even though I disagreed with many of her policies. But her legacy is that of stealing the 2005 election with our money, legislating to make that theft legal, to legitimise it for this election, and to shut down her opposition. It is to her eternal shame she formed a partnership with Winston Peters, and then stuck by him when it was clear he was at least a hypocrite, and quite probably NZ's first truly corrupt politician.

Of National's first 100 days plan the thing I look forward to most is the repeal of the Electoral Finance Act which was Labour's blight on our democracy. To see it go will be a great day for New Zealand - the ideals of democracy as embedded in our constitution are too important to have been the play thing of the governing party. Yesterday stands testament to the power of democracy in that the people of New Zealand were able to side step its 'chilling effect' on our democracy and throw out its authors anyway.

My prayer is that National keeps its eyes on the vulnerable when dealing with the chaos that Labour has left behind, that has only been made worse by the international economic crisis. While I agree with most of the policy changes made by the 1984-1990 Labour government, and with the continuation of that policy direction under National in the early 1990s, it was all done with too much haste, and with too little regard for the vulnerable who ended up paying too much of the price paid to enjoy the fruit since enjoyed.

I will now focus the political stream of this blog to holding John Key true to his promise last night to 'represent all New Zealanders' as our Prime Minister.


my election day, as recorded on Twitter

my election day, as recorded on Twitter:

  • good speech john key, we will hold you to it about 13 hours ago
  • goodbye helen, you too offered so much, delivered some of it, but you too sacrificed your principles for power and have paid the price about 14 hours ago
  • 10:56pm another 17 polling booths reported (6216/6304) = still nat 59 + act 5 + uf 1 = 65 out 122 = still a clear majority about 15 hours ago
  • the Greens are a big disappointment, they should be polling much higher about 15 hours ago
  • 10:35pm still nat 59 + act 5 + uf 1 = 65 out 122 = still a clear majority about 15 hours ago
  • winston peters walking out on a career that promised so much but ended up smelling of corruption and hypocrisy about 15 hours ago
  • spot the lemon suckers in tauranga about 15 hours ago
  • wow an almost gracious concession to simon bridges from winston peters about 15 hours ago
  • impressed with tv3 coverage on main tv, with tv1 on little tv in corner muted about 16 hours ago
  • @che_tibby stuff ok for me about 16 hours ago
  • www.electionresults.govt.nz back about 16 hours ago
  • grrr looks like www electionresults govt nz is down! www.electionresults.govt.nz about 16 hours ago
  • 76% of polling booths have returned results but that only representats approx 50% of the vote as larger booths are yet to come in = = still early days
  • simplest summary of results can be found at http://tinyurl.com/5qmf7o about 16 hours ago
  • 940pm nat 59 + act 5 + uf 1 = 65 out 122 = clear majority ... the next couple hours will be very very interesting about 16 hours ago
  • @slowblink yr always were a dreamer about 16 hours ago
  • how do you lead worship at church the morning after an election, particularly a landmark one! about 16 hours ago
  • at least nz first is under 5% and dropping about 17 hours ago
  • this time last election i thought national had it, but labour ended up winning ... however surely nat/act/uf's lead is too great this time about 17 hours ago
  • @che_tibby agree about 18 hours ago
  • settling in to watch election coverage about 19 hours ago
  • sometimes the simplest acts are the most meaningful, like voting about 23 hours ago from mobile web


The NZ election and government formation

Dean Knight (no relation), law lecturer at Wellington's renowned Victoria University law school, spoke on Radio NZ the other morning about how a Government and Prime Minister are selected in New Zealand after an election, and has now written up his notes on his blog.

A bit nerdy, but answers almost every constitutional question you might have on this! A useful resource if tomorrow's election does not give a clear cut result given the vagaries of MMP.


Obama's Victory Speech

Obama's victory speech as summarised by Wordle


Democracy, Liberty, Opportunity, Unyielding Hope

As I said on Twitter soon after the result was called:

wow. a once in a lifetime day. the audacity of hope. let's pray all americans honour obama as their president.
I have since seen McCain's concession speech, and Obama's acceptance speech (which I had listened to on the radio driving home from work). Both are powerful pieces of political oratory. If only such poise and grace had been the flavour of the election contest itself. If only on the campaign trail the faith of the two contestants had been used to unite rather than to divide.

Make no mistake. Yesterday is an important day for our world. The world needs a strong America - strength in the sense Obama articulated last night:

Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.
It is my prayer that Obama's presidency brings healing to their nation. Healing for their racist past, and healing from the divisiveness of the Bush years. And that this healing will flow into the international arena.

I don't know enough about Obama's policies to have a clear position on them. If I were an American voter I might focus more on that dimension to yesterday's election.

But for me the most important role of an American President is to inspire their country to a higher ideal - to better serve others, to better serve their community, and to better serve the wider world. The old idea 'noblesse oblige' - privilege must be balanced by duty towards those who lack such privilege or who cannot perform such duty.

It is my hope and prayer that Obama's leadership and oratory like we saw last night brings this inspiration, and that America's moral authority as the remaining sole super-power is restored.

This Saturday we in New Zealand also get to vote. We face a similar choice between continuing a divisive regime, or passing the baton of leadership to a new generation. My prayer is that we do the latter. Our country also needs a fresh start in the face of challenging times.


updated About

I have updated the About GavinKnight.com page to reflect my recent move to self-employment through Jireh Consulting Services and Top Performers


Wild Sex in the Sanctuary

The DomPost reports on wild sex in the sanctuary (great headline!):

"the first tuatara eggs have been laid in the wild on mainland New Zealand in more than 200 years."
I am sure God is pleased that we are finally doing something to restore the ecological damage human settlement has inflicted on New Zealand's wildlife, and taking seriously our responsibility to care for what he has made.

The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary "has an extraordinary 500-year vision: to restore a corner of mainland New Zealand as closely as possible to the way it was ‘the day before humans arrived’."

My family are members of the sanctuary and visit regularly, particularly Joel and I - as I am very keen to instil in my kids a love for our natural environment and for them to personally play their part in caring for it.

One of Joel's favourite things to do is look for Tuatara out sunning themselves close to the main path through the centre of the valley. We are also noticing an increasing population of native birds year on year. When we first started going there were few birds and you really had to look for them. Now there are birds flying around everywhere - particularly Kaka and Tui.

Let us also not forget that Labour initially used petty bureaucratic thinking to refuse funding for the visitor and education centre currently being built at the sanctuary. They only approved funding (a year later) after intense lobbying by many including myself, and after the threat of resignation by their local MP Marian Hobbs.


NZ political policy quiz

NZ Pundit has a political policy quiz that is simple but effective at rating your opinions against NZ's political parties.

I rate:

  • 78% ACT
  • 71% National
  • 59% United Future
Hat Tip Kiwi Blog.

Update, following comments conversation:

A flaw in this questionnaire is it measures your opinion of individual policies.

I could accept most ACT policies as individual policies, but not them all being implemented in quick succession.

Such a pace of change would be too much for most people, particularly the vulnerable.

Too many ACT people seem to naively believe it can all be implemented quickly at no cost to social cohesion.

People matter too much to me to simply burn some off in getting to a policy mix I would actually support if it weren't for that transitional cost.


the Ridiculous Idea of the "Christian" Vote

Dave at Big News has critiqued Andy Moore's New Zealand Christian Vote blog - primarily his opening assertion that:

"The parties listed on the right are the five parties which the majority of Christians will consider as we approach Election day. The other parties are really not worth considering due to their anti-family or anti-Christian policies."
Andy includes in his list the Kiwi Party, the Family Party, ACT, National and United Future. Andy's analysis seems to be based on the assertion that christian faith and political conservatism are equivalent. It's most extreme commonly recognised form is the religious right in America, which is closely aligned with the Republican Party, particularly in recent years under George W Bush's leadership. My experience of christianity and politics tells me that this is a ridiculous assertion.

In my observation christians on the 'left' are aligning themselves more closely with the biblical theme of us being responsible for each other - the poor and vulnerable in particular. While christians on the 'right' are aligning themselves more closely with the biblical theme of personal responsibility for action - in both senses of 'responsibility'; reward and accountability.

My faith became personal in my late teens in the mid 1980s, under the tutelage of two contrasting pastors.

The first, my pastor during 1984, was Campbell Roberts who now leads the Salvation Army's social services programme in New Zealand and is also Director of the Salvation Army’s NZ Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit. It is no secret that Campbell's view of the world is more left leaning. From Campbell I learned more about my responsiblity for others.

The second, my pastor during 1985-88, was David Major (since 1990 also my father-in-law!). David was a National Party candidate in 1996, and later Executive Director of the National party. So it is no secret he is more right leaning. From David I learned more about my personal responsibility for my own actions. David is now CEO of the Prison Chaplain Service.

I think you can reconcile and hold both christian views. As christians we are responsible for others, particularly the poor and the vulnerable. But where I part company with most on the left is their apparent assumption that the primary vehicle for this is collective action through the state. To me, the more commonly appropriate vehicle is that emphasised by those on the right - personal responsibility. It is why I am an active member of my local church, why I participate in ministries which minister to the poor and the vulnerable, and why I use my role as a leader within my church to influence us down paths that make our community a better place.

As I state in my 'About' page - "my interest in politics grows out of my interest in current affairs and the wider world, and is heavily influenced by my christian faith. I score centre (-0.12) and mildly libertarian (-2.05) on the Political Compass. I generally feel more right than left, so was a little surprised by that - but I probably came out more towards the centre due to my christianity induced feeling of responsibility for others, particularly the vulnerable. I am not currently a member of a political party."


#6 in Top 10 NZ Christian news/political bloggers

I am #6 on the list of Top 10 NZ Christian news/political bloggers produced by Madeleine at MandM based on Tumeke's NZ political and news blog rankings:

  1. NZ Conservative (24)
  2. The Briefing Room (30)
  3. Something Should Go Here, Maybe Later (36)
  4. MandM (77)
  5. Samuel Dennis (80)
  6. Gavin Knight (91)
  7. Contra Celsum (94)
  8. Put up Thy Sword (115)
  9. Say Hello to my Little Friend (a.k.a Beretta Blog) (128)
  10. Section 59 Blog (147)
Numbers in brackets are the Tumeke! rankings from the list of all NZ news/political blogs.

Madeleine, I encourage you to repeat this analysis each month.

If you are a Christian news/political blogger but not on Madeleine's list I suggest you leave a comment on her post so she can add you in. You'll also need to get yourself ranked by Tumeke! if you're not already on their list (leave your blog's link and details in the comments section of the latest ranking post). Update: Madeleine has asked in the comments that to get into her analysis you get yourself on the Tumeke list and identify yourself there as a christian blogger rather than swamping her with direct contact!

David Jenkins makes an interesting observation in a comment on Madeleine's post:

Interestingly enough, the majority of the top 10 Christian blogs are straight talking, soundly reasoned, conservatives who don't water down their faith and who robustly defend it. The fact that such blogs figure in the top 150 most read blogs in New Zealand is admirable especially when you consider that most of them enjoy respect from non-Christian blogs. Even anti-Christian blogs link to most of the top 10.


Tumeke! ranking decreases to #91

My NZ political and news blog ranking has reduced further to #91 in September - which is unsurprising given how little I have been writing.

Thanks to Tim Selwyn of Tumeke! for all the hard work he puts in collating and analysing the data behind these rankings.


how party leaders have voted on family policy laws

Family First have posted a useful "Value Your Vote" website where they have collated how party leaders have voted on laws directly affecting families (their definition).

For example, my own local MP Peter Dunne (also leader of United Future) rates 69% family friendly which is not surprising given where he stands on issues in comparison with Family First's stances.

You will need to be careful in using this as a voting guide though - according to Family First Winston Peters is 77% family friendly. I doubt this will attract him any votes - certainly not mine! Of course, what it is actually indicating is that he is deeply conservative and strongly against change of any sort, particularly social change. The comparison with Helen Clark (8%) only serves to highlight how bizzare their political 'marriage' is.

By contrast, the similarity in family friendly ratings for John Key (54%), Pita Sharples (57%) and Tariana Turia (54%) is possibly an indicator of how very possible a post-election agreement is between National and the Maori party.

Even if you don't agree with Family First's interpretation of whether a particular law is family friendly or not, it is a useful collation which you can easily adjust to your own interpretation.

I am surprised they've included the Electoral Finance Act as a 'family' policy as it doesn't fit the theme.

I encourage you to use this resource when deciding where to cast both your electorate vote and your party vote in our upcoming election.


Review: The Faith of Barack Obama

As an observer of US politics from afar, I have been as interested as anyone in the Obama phenomenon. As I said back in February: "I don't know enough about Barack Obama or his policies to know whether I support him or not, but as a NZer who can't vote in the USA that's pretty irrelevant anyway. But I do know inspirational public speaking when I see/hear it! And surely inspiring his/her country to do better is one of the key roles of a president? Few people can remember Jack Kennedy's specific policy successes, but all remember how inspirational he was."

So, when Michael Hyatt wrote that Thomas Nelson (of which he is CEO) had published the book "The Faith of Barack Obama", and he called for blogger reviews, I leapt at the chance of receiving a review copy because it would bring together many of the interests that I myself write about - christianity, politics, leadership, social justice, public speaking, etc.

Michael's introduction promised that the book would:

  1. explain Obama’s drive and vision for America;
  2. counter many of the myths about Obama’s faith;
  3. explore the difficult aspects of Obama’s faith;
  4. provide a window into contemporary (US) Christian culture;
  5. provide a new model for public discourse.
In my opinion the book has met those lofty goals. It provides a fascinating insight into Obama's personal faith, it's beginnings, the context in which he came to a personal faith after a lifetime of exploring, and most critically - given he could be US President soon - how his faith drives his politics.

But, for me as an overseas observer, neither of the two sections of the book that stand out the most are about just Obama himself.

The first is the section providing historical context and depth around Obama's former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Based on media reports you would think Wright was on the lunatic fringe, but the book makes it clear that while his speaking is provocative it comes with a lot of depth, understanding and prophetic deliberateness. His language and imagery are of the pulpit, not of the public square - if you are not familiar with the style of the pulpit you will most likely misinterpet what he is trying to communicate. This section is worthy reading for anyone interested in how the church could (should?) respond to oppression of its own people, and to social justice issues in general.

The second is the "Four Faces of Faith" chapter comparing the personal faith of Obama with the personal faiths of Hillary Clinton, John McCain and George W Bush - all of whom are active christians who attend their local church when possible (which is not easy for a national politician), and whose faith informs their politics. This chapter is a vital contribution to the need for an understanding of how christian faith can take different forms, which themselves spawn quite different approaches to politics - and yet still be a genuine faith.

This chapter contrasts a faith rooted in an understanding of the oppression of a people and hope that it can end. It compares a faith that is "progressive ... social justice ... and the most liberal face of all" (Obama), with a faith that "cling(s) to traditional religion but long(s) for a politically liberal America" (Clinton), with a faith that is "not comfortable speaking publicly about a personal matter like faith ... measur(es) faith by good deeds ... distrust(s) excessive religious talk but value(s) religion confirmed by good works and character ... silent character ... unpreachy character ... character that would never vaunt religion for political gain" (McCain), with a faith of the "evanglical ... the awakened moral majority ... those eager to connect the nation to her moorings in holy passion and to her call to be a 'city upon a hill'" (Bush).

I commend this book to you. It is a good read, and an aid to understanding faith and politics.

Cross-posted to Just Comment.
If you buy
"The Faith of Barack Obama" here I will receive a referral commission.
Update: Mon-15-Sep: added the sentence about the language and imagery of the pulpit.


one of our most sacred democratic rights

In 57 days we will choose who will govern NZ for the next 3 years, because the Prime Minister today announced that the 2008 election will occur on Saturday 8 November.

As I wrote back in 2004, voting is one of our most sacred democratic rights, so I strongly encourage you to evaluate proposed policies against the values and standards you wish to see our country run on, to assess the integrity of the politicians and parties trying to secure your vote against those same standards and values ... and then - to actually vote in line with your judgement!

I support the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services' (which includes my church the Salvation Army) recent call for ...

... policies to eliminate poverty, support families and protect children, provide for the elderly and enable access to affordable housing.

"NZCCSS is concerned that political parties have not done enough to spell out policies that could lead to better ways to utilise our nation's prosperity to reduce poverty," it said.

"At minimum we seek ... a basic assurance that the impact of all policy-making decisions be measured in terms of the quality of life of those who are the most vulnerable and who are most affected by poverty in our society."

Note, this doesn't necessarily mean I support the types of policies it could be interpreted that NZCCSS statement is seeking, but I definitely support the call for how policies impact our most vulnerable to be clearly spelled out and debated as part of the election campaign.

cross-posted to Just Comment


chilling effect

The head of the Electoral Commission has described the new electoral finance law as having had a "chilling effect" on people's willingness to speak out over election issues. Note, she was not only talking about political action by politicians and political activists - but also by ordinary NZers.

We (I) told you so.

Remember this when you vote later this year. We are not experiencing a "free and fair" election - which is the standard we impose on other countries when we observe their elections under the auspices of the United Nations and other similar international agencies. But somehow we have allowed NZ to be run by people who think they have the divine right to define allowed political activity. They have legislated for a restricted - ie not 'free' - and therefore not fair election.

This is the essence of democracy - the right to participate in the political and electoral process. It is more than just to vote.

But your vote counts. Use it wisely.


Tumeke! ranking decreases to #79

My NZ political and news blog ranking as rated by Tim Selwyn of Tumeke! has decreased from #76 in June to #79 in July.

Thanks to Tim for all the hard work he puts in collating and analysing the data behind these rankings.


Tumeke! ranking decreases to #76

My NZ political and news blog ranking as rated by Tim Selwyn of Tumeke! has decreased from #65 in May to #76 in June March/April.

Thanks to Tim for all the hard work he puts in collating and analysing the data behind these rankings.