In her Waitangi Day speech, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged us to keep our government accountable.

Fair enough. It's still early days but some things are emerging that need questioning.
What's unquestionable are the personable skills with which Ms Ardern has tackled her job as our top elected official, representing the country before the world. That presentation is all important in gaining the trust of our own citizens and establishing confidence of other nations to enhance their willingness to trade with us and to engage with our business and political interests.

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There's a lot of work to be done to recover from National's last nine years and its problems — Auckland's bloat with consequent housing crisis leaching even to the once-neglected regions; poverty and homelessness; education's defective testing scheme, neglecting critical thinking skills; mental health needing a complete overhaul and — yes — the effects of global warming and environmental impact of our farming and other industry on polluting our rivers.


The list is not the Augean stables, but close ... so we need to modify our expectations for speed. The good news is this government is willing to look at the issues. We should hold them to it, and several policy decisions of this new government deserve our scrutiny.

All three parties in the coalition campaigned against the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, Winston Peters, in particular, citing the issue of sovereignty potentially at risk through the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause.

Labour and the Greens took issue during the campaign with clauses regarding intellectual property — extensions of patent life of medicines puts our generics-based system at risk of severe increased costs.

Despite these acknowledged shortcomings of the TPP, the government has indicated its intention to sign on with a "new" and "revised" version TPPA, with Donald Trump having pulled the United States out of the deal.

The terms of the old TPPA were finally published by the last government after the deal was signed, contrary to its promises. If there are significant revisions, they should be made public now. Secrecy was one of the shortcomings of the last government's approach.

The original agreement was designed to benefit multinational corporations, most of them headquartered in the US. But those same corporations can swiftly move their quarters, as the recent tax haven scandals and the incipient concomitants of Brexit demonstrate.

Further, once the TPPA is signed, Donald Trump can jump back in. On February 27 in Davos he said exactly that — that he plans to join TPP and take whatever advantage US Big Pharma and the Disney Corporation choose at our expense.

Signing up is not good for New Zealand. Related question: Why is Tim Groser, National's TPP architect, continuing as our ambassador to the US?


Credit Ms Ardern for establishing an inquiry into the mental health system — it's long overdue. Jonathan Coleman established his credentials for entry to the club of the famous three unwise monkeys that hear nothing, see nothing, do nothing, by refusing to entertain any inquiry.

You can't begin to solve a problem if you're not willing to acknowledge it's there.

Unfortunately, the signal sent by the appointment of Ron Paterson to head the inquiry is one of timidity. Mr Paterson may be okay as an administrator, but he saw his role as Health and Disability Commissioner as simply one of calming troubled waters.

A mental health inquiry needs someone like Mike King to ask the hard questions and to entertain the possibility that we need to restart from scratch as the present system doesn't work for anyone — neither patients nor mental health personnel.

Those are at least two areas that we need to keep questioning as part of the civic duty to which we're called by the PM. There will be others.

Consent of the governed, the cornerstone of democracy, needs to be continuing and enthusiastic. It should be conditioned always on performance.

Jay Kuten
Jay Kuten

Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.