Editorials 13 May 2010

The Herald is on the new state sector rules:

One of the important principles of any liberal democracy is the political neutrality of the state service. For our system to function smoothly it is necessary for the public and political parties of all persuasions to have rock-solid confidence that the state service will behave professionally and impartially, no matter who happens to be the government of the day.

This is so basic that it almost goes without saying, and yet the State Services Commission has felt it necessary to take steps to clarify just what public servants’ obligations are under their code of conduct. Much of its 33 pages of guidelines for interpreting the code is good, common sense, but in one respect it seems to have broken new ground.

It now seems public servants need to be careful not just about their own political and pecuniary interests but also those of close family members as well. Not surprisingly, this has caused some raised eyebrows because, in political terms at least, it seems fundamentally unfair to judge a person by someone else’s allegiances.

I agree you should not be judged by a family member’s activities.

To apply such a standard generally would lead to endless and pointless complications, especially in a small country. What, for instance, would it make of a pair of brothers one of whom was the most senior public servant in the land and the other a leader of a political party?

In most cases a public servant will take a common sense approach and tell their boss that they have a family member politically engaged if it is relevant to their job. Not because there is anything wrong with it, but to protect themselves. However there is no need to codify it.

The Press looks at Tuhoe:

Speaking at a National Party conference on Sunday, Prime Minister John Key presented an optimistic scenario of improved race relations and he praised the contribution to his Government of the Maori Party.

Yet within one day Key had outraged the Maori Party and Tuhoe by scuppering a deal to give Te Urewera National Park back to that iwi, as part of its Treaty settlement. The real mystery here is why Key suddenly lost his nerve and intervened at the very last minute after months of negotiations.

This agreement was understood to have been due to go before Cabinet on Monday. It is believed it would have vested ownership of the park in Tuhoe’s ancestors to prevent its sale. …

The Tuhoe settlement would have come after New Zealand signed up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted the Whanau Ora policy of the Maori Party and agreed to replace the foreshore and seabed law.

And in my minds, that is probably what led to the Tuhoe deal having a limit placed on it publicly. It would have been too far too many “wins” within a very tight timeframe.

The question for Tuhoe now is whether they still try to make a settlement with this Government, or whether they hold off and hope they can get a better deal from a future Labour Government.

The Dom Post focuses on alcohol:

Neither an increase in the tax nor lifting the drinking age would have saved James. The vodka bottle from which he was seen drinking as if its contents were water had come from his grandmother’s drinks cabinet.

However, making alcohol more expensive and reducing its availability to teenagers might just prevent another youngster from making the same mistake.

Denying those old enough to vote, to marry and to go to war the right to buy a cold beer at the end of a hot summer’s day would be a draconian measure. So would putting up the price of everyone’s favourite tipple to make alcopops less attractive. But something has to be done. The evidence is incontrovertible that New Zealand’s unhealthy attitude to alcohol is spreading downwards to those least equipped to deal with it.

Again, I think a drinking age is the best option. It would be a clear message to both adults and youth that you should not be drinking when you are at an age (and brain development) unable to handle it.

Sixteen-year-olds are in no position to assess the dangers of binge-drinking. Fifteen, 14 and 13-year-olds even less so. If the industry cannot find a way to keep alcohol out of the hands of children, society must.

The industry did not supply the bottle of vodka. But I agree alcohol should be kept out of the hands of children. Make it an offence for a young person to possess or consume alcohol except in the company of their parents. And make it an offence for anyone but a parent to supply alcohol to young persons.

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