Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Organisation is a great asset

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The ability to organise a petition is a good sign. Photo / Thinkstock
The ability to organise a petition is a good sign. Photo / Thinkstock

Shakespeare, it seems, didn't have much time for petitioners:

"O vain petitioner! beg a greater matter;
Thou now request'st but moonshine in the water."
- Love's Labour's Lost

He might have considered an attempt to stop the sale of public assets no more important than "moonshine in the water". But he knew a lot about leadership and getting things done.

Were he to take as his theme the suitability of Labour and the Greens to hold office it is doubtful he would have found in it the stuff of tragedy - a subplot in a comedy, perhaps.

The collapse of the petition organised by those parties to oppose state asset sales was as comical as anything the lunkheads on the other side of the house have managed in this, the Year of the Great Ineptitude.

In every field of human endeavour there is an aspect, easily overlooked by those not involved, that is crucial to its success or failure. In media, for instance, it is distribution. You can produce the world's greatest magazine or movie, but if people can't find it in their newsagent or cinema, you've wasted your time and money.

On the successful 1953 Everest expedition, several oxygen systems were taken and used. Although Hillary and Tenzing were the second pair of capable climbers from the group to attempt the summit, they succeeded because their oxygen system was more efficient.

In politics, while your policies and personnel are important, it is the ability to organise people that makes the difference between winning and losing. That is why, well into her tenure as Prime Minister, Helen Clark could still be found turning out at the Otara market, signing people up to the electoral roll.

The conditions of the Citizen Initiated Referenda Act 1993 aren't that challenging. Be eligible to vote. Full name and address. Date of birth optional. Don't sign twice. "Donald Duck" - not funny.

Getting 308,753 signatures on a petition takes some organising. Nevertheless, several people have gathered the numbers necessary to trigger citizens-initiated referenda.

Margaret Robertson, of Karori, drove a petition seeking to reduce the number of MPs; Norm Withers was behind one that sought to change the way violent crime was dealt with. The Firefighters Union wanted to prevent the number of firefighters being reduced. Sheryl Savil sought to retain the right of parents to hit children.

Margaret Robertson, Norm Withers, the Firefighters Union and Sheryl Savil were never going to ask us to help them win the Treasury benches. But if they could get a petition sorted, then it's not unreasonable to expect that people who do have that goal should be able to manage it. Labour and the Greens together may have the heart, the vision, the ideas and the talent to make this country great. But if they can't even organise a petition they don't deserve our confidence, let alone votes. Perhaps they should set their sights on organising something less ambitious, such as a piss-up in a brewery.


Scientists have announced a "cure" for grey hair. Did grey hair need curing? Is it an illness or a disability or a ham? It may be undesirable, cause for rueful meditation in the early morning mirror, but it also indicates the bearer has stayed alive long enough for their hair to turn grey.

Few things look more peculiar than a person over 60 whose hair is not grey. More worryingly, if scientists take it upon themselves to "cure" this natural condition will they turn next to other socially "undesirable" shades. I suggest the gingers start organising now, before the scientists come for them.

- Herald on Sunday

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