Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: Nuk Korako's lost luggage bill an Olympic torch of aspiration

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Airport amendment offers so much to so many — and seeing Gerry riled is a bonus
Airport amendment offers so much to so many - and seeing Gerry Brownlee riled is a bonus, writes Toby Manhire.
Airport amendment offers so much to so many - and seeing Gerry Brownlee riled is a bonus, writes Toby Manhire.

A whole lot of learnings this week.

For starters:

• 1. Numerous mainstream KiwiSaver schemes invest in cluster bombs and tobacco manufacturing.

• 2. The most powerful argument against immigration is the impact it might have on our placing in the per-capita Olympic Medal Table.

• 3. There is an Act of Parliament that prevents airport authorities from introducing new bylaws relating to the auctioning of lost property that don't include publicising any such sale in a local newspaper.

All of these are important, but time is short so let's focus on the last one. One man is seeking to overturn the bylaw provision.

His name is Nuk Korako, and according to reports he is a National Party list member of Parliament - another learning - who has been lucky enough to see his personal passion, in the form of the Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill, plucked from the private members' bill ballot, like a champion athlete from obscurity.

I use the word passion advisedly; Mr Korako is on the record describing his "passionate" enthusiasm for the matter. He also mentioned pounamu, so show some bloody respect.

It is baffling - nay, unconscionable - that some have chosen to scorn this statutory fledgling. The bill is a thing of laconic beauty, fitting entirely on one page. The substantial part is an exemplar of brevity, at 37 words. You would be forgiven for thinking you were reading a haiku.

The critics charge that it is a piece of political padding, soaking up hundreds of hours and thousands of public dollars solely to obviate the chances of opposition members' bills making it through. But if it is indeed that, it's really just part of the democratic fabric, like a government patsy in question time, you know the sort of thing: Has the Minister of Finance read any reports confirming a positive growth outlook for the economy, and would it be fair to say his hair has never looked better? Essentially, bills such as Mr Korako's are the parliamentary equivalent of inserting a few blanks in the private members' ballot barrel - and, really, what kind of a monster wants to shoot real bullets at our cradle of democracy?

Who, in any case, can honestly say they're uplifted by subjects such as euthanasia and parental leave and child poverty? Here is a cause, at this time of Olympic solidarity, we can all unite behind. Sharper minds than mine have lobbied already for a cross-party accord. A #noluggageleftbehind online viral social network campaign. A Ministry for Vulnerable Luggage.

We should pause at this moment, before we fall foul of the post-truth scourge, to note that this is not really about lost luggage. This is no crackdown on airlines' habit of leaving your bag languishing forever on a conveyer belt in some terrifying hermit kingdom such as Australia.

This is about lost property - the spectacles you left after waking from a nap, the nail-scissors accidentally, upon remembering you had them on the approach to security, or your youngest child, forgotten in the panic at the bulky items check-in. (Note to sub-editors: please check this law covers abandoned children.)

But the "lost luggage bill" shorthand is not altogether a bad thing: it offers a conversational prompt, for hardworking Kiwis up and down the country to recall the minor inconvenience they faced that time their bags didn't arrive. You won't believe, for example, what happened to me one time in Ottawa - (the remainder of this paragraph has been cut owing to space restrictions).

The bill offers other virtues. Short, sharp and controversial, it is a terrific teaching aide for legal and political studies. The legal nerds, especially, are excited. Around law faculty water coolers across New Zealand, the poorly dressed wretches speak of nothing but the Airport Authorities (Publicising Lost Property Sales) Amendment Bill.

There is a subtext in this legislation, too, relating to what I call the media landscape. Just as the Prime Minister doesn't want to change the manifestly outdated and unpopular marijuana laws because he wants to send someone a message about something, Mr Korako wants to send the media a message, too. For should this become law, some airports may be less likely to advertise auctions of lost property, if they hold any such auctions, in local newspapers. Here is a parable for our time: a siren call for embattled community rags.

What this member of Parliament is saying to newspapers hanging by a thread, waiting by the phone for an Airport Authority to call and book an advertisement for an upcoming lost property auction, is: the paradigm has changed, and you must embrace the digital revolution. If it doesn't work out for Mr Korako at the election next year, he can instead travel the world delivering anecdote-heavy addresses at future-of-journalism conferences.

And while some nit-pickers say that it would have been a straightforward exercise to include this 37-word banger in a compendium Statutes Amendment Bill, they misunderstand the inspiration it may offer to other potential legislation, such as, by way of example, statutorily obliging Sky Sport to have an actual human being anchoring their Olympic coverage rather than leaving you to go delirious with fury while scrolling bleary eyed through several hundred "pop-up channels".

Hardly more need be said in defence of this bill; the argument is won. It is worth noting, however, one happy byproduct: the (utterly wrong-headed) criticisms of the legislation have enraged Gerry Brownlee, and that's always fun to watch.

The leader of the house and 1980s throwback National Party hardman took exception to remarks by the well-known carper, moaner and constitutional expert Andrew Geddis.

"Professor Geddis is demonstrating a degree of arrogance that can only come from academics," said Mr Brownlee, who is a politician.

Many have remarked that this important affair reeks of a filibuster, and there may be something in that, but we can be cheerfully certain, at the very least, that it is Gerrymaddening.

- NZ Herald

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Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire is a Wellington bred, Auckland based journalist. He writes a weekly column for the NZ Herald, the NZ Listener's Internaut column, blogs for listener.co.nz, and contributes to the Guardian. From 2000 to 2010 he worked at the Guardian in London, and edited the 2012 book The Arab Spring: Rebellion, Revolution and a New World Order.

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