A STRANGE malady has seemingly permeated foreign United States embassies and afflicted American diplomats, first in Havana and then Beijing.

Symptoms include gastro-intestinal incompetence and general lassitude and weakness. No cause has been found. Of course, as these are adversarial postings, suspicions and conspiracy theories abound.

New Zealand is an ally of the US and no such symptoms are noted here — at least among foreign officials.

Instead, our own representatives have, for some time, been affected adversely upon their inhabiting the Beehive. A number of them show symptoms of inability to take a stand on important matters, a wavering balance of position and direction to the point of loss of skeletal support, a virtual spinelessness.

Advertisement

The symptoms cross party lines, although some National Party parliamentarians are over-represented.

The recent silence of acting Prime Minister Winston Peters in response to US President Donald Trump's separation of refugee children from parents is a case in point.

Particularly when other leaders — including the Pope, Britain's Teresa May and Canada's Justin Trudeau — have been unflinching in their condemnation, a part of the pressure that caused Trump to backtrack, at least partially.

Now he's planning to detain whole families — illegal under existing law — and doing little to reunite those separated children with their families.

Winston Peters is a man known for his sharp elbows and sharper tongue. A one-time acolyte of Robert Muldoon, he has never shrunk back from attacking those too weak to hit back.

I've written in the past of my admiration of his biting humour simultaneous with my disdain for his politics. His best days are when he's out of office.

I've been re-reading lately some of his columns published in this paper during the period when the voters of Tauranga turned their backs on him.

One representative column, entitled "Time to start crying over milk prices", takes on the banks, the retail food businesses, the telecommunications industry and the petroleum companies.

Advertisement

Prices of food, gasoline and telecommunications are not only too high, according to out-of-office Winston, but because of their political clout these industries subvert market factors.

The industries and the respective prices should be regulated, says out-of-office Winston. Back in office in the Beehive, not a word from him on those issues.

Our former MP, Chester Borrows, has also given signs of Beehive syndrome.
During his 12 years in office, he toed the conservative party line. In his valedictory address to Parliament he called himself an old Labrador in consideration of his unswerving allegiance to the National Party.

Only as he prepared to leave Parliament did this former Minister of Courts write of the bias in the justice system against Maori, and the likely different outcomes for the same offence for pakeha and Maori.

Recently, Borrows has written of how Maori have been mistreated, their peaceful protest at Parihaka subjected to violent police action. This acknowledgement is laudable enough, as is his belated acceptance of the right of gays to marriage equality, having voted against it.

Troubling is his acknowledged regret that, in 12 years of office, he never spoke out on policies of the National government that he opposed. Is it Beehive syndrome or is it that we grow old too soon and smart too late?

Although in office for but a few months, our MP Harete Hipango is already showing signs of Beehive syndrome. She voted down the Greens' bill to free cannabis from its constraints in criminal law to become medicinal, prescribed by doctors to patients suffering a variety of ailments.

Jay Kuten PHOTO/FILE
Jay Kuten PHOTO/FILE

My pointing out that Maori are disproportionately subject to criminal sanctions surrounding cannabis received a figurative shrug of response.

On the matter of the End of Life Choice Bill, Hipango is all over the place. She was for it before she was against it. Your correspondent can't get a clear answer from her as to her current position.

Fortunately there is a cure or a release for these representatives from their Beehive syndrome. It's called a ballot box.

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.