Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: 20 questions

GCSB head Ian Fletcher. Photo / Supplied
GCSB head Ian Fletcher. Photo / Supplied

A busy week in politics has produced more questions than answers. Many of these queries are about the continuing GCSB scandal - but there are also some big questions about government privacy leaks, the Maori Party leadership, and the Pike River disaster. Some of the questions of the week are listed and discussed below.

Should there be a full independent inquiry into our spy agencies? Two leading newspaper political columnists argue strongly in favour - see Vernon Small's Inquiry into future of GCSB warranted and John Armstrong's GCSB trickery and deception revealed. But yesterday's Herald editorial disagrees - see: GCSB law demands clarification.

How well have the cartoonists been covering the GCSB scandal? Judge for yourself - I've collected the cartoons all in one blogpost - see: Images of the GCSB scandal. For another satirical take on the subject, see Toby Manhire's The GCSB - A comedy-thriller in six parts.

What did MPs originally say about the spy legislation when it was debated back in 2003? Was there really any intent to give the GSBC the power to spy on New Zealanders in certain circumstances? No Right Turn has gone back and read the Parliamentary debates, and finds that 'will of Parliament' cannot be interpreted in the way that the Prime Minister and GCSB have been suggesting - see: No excuse for GCSB spying.

Will the Government really be able to extend the powers of the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders? Tim Watkin has been looking at the MPs that National will need to convince, and it seems far from certain - see: Does National have the numbers to extend GCSB's powers?.

And Scott Yorke satirically speculates on how John Key might announce the new legislation entitled 'The Government Security (Doing As They Please) Bill' - see: A statement from the Prime Minister.

Just how bad is the situation in the GCSB, really? Chris Trotter delves into the report and declares how serious it is - see: Worse Than We Thought: Rebecca Kitteridge and the New "Community" of Spooks.

Should the police investigate the illegal practices of the GCSB? The Greens think so - see Andrea Vance and Hamish Rutherford's Police urged to widen spy probe.

So, who are the New Zealanders that the GCSB has been spying on? An angry John Minto wants to know, and argues that the GCSB should be closed down - see: The GCSB has become a threat to our civil liberties not its guardian. No Right Turn argues that the details of who was spied upon is A vital question.

How do we find out if we've been spied upon by the GCSB? Simple, apparently: Ask for your GCSB file: Shroff.

Should political commentators - myself included - stop using the analogy of a honeymoon about John Key's popularity? It seems so. Toby Manhire has put together a list of the many 'false endings' announced about the Prime Minister's enduring high status - see: John Key's honeymoon is over, and over again.

Speaking of out-of-control political metaphors, should politicians stop trying to reduce complex stories down to everyday stories? Judith Collins has tried to liken the latest privacy leak at the Ministry of Justice to 'a thief getting in through the front gate of a property but finding the door of the house locked'. However, the hackers involved say, 'we found the front door unlocked, but rather than going in to steal anything, we've called our neighbour to let them know' - see Sanele Chadwick's Whistleblowers reject Collins' 'hacker' label.

How can EQC claimants best access information about their claims? Mai Chen says, Homeowners can use OIA to get EQC info, but according to Adam Bennett and Morgan Tait, all the information is now available on an overseas blogsite - see: Blogger defies court order on EQC.

Could the next government privacy leak be the details of how we all voted in the last election? No - the Chief Electoral officer Robert Peden explained to a select committee yesterday that 'there was virtually no risk of privacy breaches relating to people's voting information because it was not stored electronically in any form', although we will see a move towards more use of electronic mechanisms in the future - see Claire Trevett's Digital votes 'less secure than paper'.

Should poor Maori be rewarded rather than punished for growing illegal drugs? Green co-leader Metiria Turia says so - see Patrice Dougan's MP slammed for claiming Maori develop 'real skills' growing cannabis. The story originates from a Maori TV's Native Affairs - see: Illegal Tender.

Who is to blame for the 29 deaths in the Pike River mining tragedy? The independent report has said no one person can be held accountable. Today's Dominion Post points a very critical finger at the department responsible and the ideology it operated under - see: Deregulation lit disaster's fuse.

Are rich New Zealanders rorting the system when they avoid tax? Deborah Russell, a lecturer in taxation at Massey University, thinks so - see her column, Tax avoidance by well-off a rort.

Who will eventually win in the ongoing 'passive-aggressive' battle for the Maori Party leadership between Pita Sharples and Te Ururoa Flavell? Claire Trevett has a very good analysis of the competing arguments, and picks Flavell as the winner, partly because he's backed by Tariana Turia - see: Infighting puts Maori Party neck on the line.

Is our justice system 'institutionally racist'? New Zealand Police records suggest that young Maori are much more likely to be prosecuted than their Pakeha equivalents for the same crimes - see Isaac Davison's Please explain' on prosecution rates. Blogger Morgan Godfery is investigating the issue further and suggests that there might be a strong class element to the discrimation, but that racism certainly plays a part - see: The Police: culture change edition.

How scary is Social Development Minister Paula Bennett? Claire Trevett has profiled her, with the main conclusion/warning being that she eats her own pets - see: Hardline minister gets a big job done.

Should taxpayers subsidise the commercial activities of 'registered charities' running companies such as Sanitarium, Mission Estate, and tourist attractions? Michael Gousmett has written his PhD on this question, and draws together the main issues in his excellent article, Tax-payer subsidised charities and their business activities - time for change. Muriel Newman has additional information and analysis in Charities under review.

Finally, what are the political stories that interest New Zealanders? Apparently the most interesting ones over the last ten years have been about anti-smacking, debate about race relations, targeting of teenage drinking, and the last two general elections. That's the outcome of UMR's survey research into what people find interesting in the media - see Stephen Mills' article, It's all about the weather. But perhaps of more importance, Mills says 'There is only modest interest in political stories', with the public more interested in weather and other natural disasters.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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