Domestic violence law review will change little

Another discussion paper, another waste of time. If the Minister of Justice is as concerned about family violence as she claims, she should face the inconvenient truth – our casualised relationship culture is not working. Then she should sit down with her cabinet colleagues and work out an action plan to affirm marriage.

The social science evidence showing the root cause of this problem is very clear. Domestic violence is experienced in households with casual partners at a rate 10 times higher than married households. You would have thought such evidence would command the attention of our political leaders.

Unfortunately not. The same overwhelming evidence exists on the type of households where child abuse flourishes. The Hon Paula Bennett completely ignored it with her vulnerable children action plan. The Hon Amy Adams is following true to form with her domestic violence law review. Its all the usual stuff – more information sharing with government agencies, better co-ordination of agency response, new laws. In short do anything but get to the heart of the matter.

TVNZ tonight hit the nail on the head. They reported that part of the review is whether women should have access to domestic violence history when they take on new partners. New partners is the problem. We now have a relationship culture of multiple and not always serial partnerships. Relationship “churn” is an accepted and normal part of the social landscape, especially for younger New Zealanders.

But men and women are not created for this. We have an inherent calling to faithful commitment. Ignoring it is not recipe for freedom and fulfillment. It is a recipe for insecurity, anger, and violence. The evidence confirms it. Why do we keep ignoring it ?

Ewen McQueen
August 2015

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Honour a long way from home

We pulled into the supermarket in a coastal village in southern Greece just as it was closing for the evening. The grandfather of the family business inquired where we were from. New Zealand we said. He immediately informed the rest of the family they must re-open for us. There was gratitude for courageous services provided by our fellow countrymen many years before.

A few days later in a mountain village in the Mani we had coffee. This time our young Greek waiter told of us of the many New Zealand soldiers who had been in the area in the 1940s. He knew more than we did about the deeds of our soldiers.

Thermopylae

Thermopylae, Greece

Some days later again we stopped at perhaps the most famous battle site in Greece – Thermopylae. Located on a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the coast north of Athens this was where in 480BC a tiny band of 300 Greek Spartan warriors held out against hundreds of thousands of invading Persian soldiers. Eventually they were all killed but their heroic efforts against all odds are upheld in Greece as the pinnacle of Greek courage and fighting spirit.

We were surprised to find that there was a second Battle of Thermopylae. This one was in 1941 at exactly the same location. Once again a courageous band of outnumbered soldiers stood their ground against an overwhelming force sweeping into Greece from the north. This time it was the New Zealand 5th brigade. They were tasked with holding the pass at Thermopylae against the Germans long enough for the Allies to make a strategic retreat and evacuation from Athens and other locations further south.

The New Zealanders held out bravely and the evacuation was successful. In doing so they earned immense respect from the Greeks who had already been forced to surrender. Some later confessed a sense of shame that in those crucial days at that iconic Greek location they didn’t stand with Kiwis. But we had stood for them. And they have not forgotten.

Indeed all over Europe peoples have not forgotten the contribution of New Zealanders who have fought to bring liberty to their lands and villages. It is why when we travel we sometimes find unexpected honour a long way from home. It comes from a debt of gratitude for people of conviction and courage who would come so far to help another people in their time of need.

These days the brave spirit of our land is eroded by constant voices telling us to keep our heads down and let others deal with the injustices of the world. But this is not who we are, and never has been.

Ewen McQueen
July 2015

Posted in Cultural Renewal, Protecting Children, Respect for Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eight steps to stabilising the Auckland housing market

Blenheim Home May 1960The Reserve Bank has started ringing serious alarm bells about skyrocketing house prices in Auckland. They recently noted a real risk of a crash causing major economic instability. The Prime Minister’s response was to shrug his shoulders and say the “ball is in their court”. Last week the Finance Minister Bill English said the Government had “left nothing undone” that could happen fast enough to make a difference. He is wrong.

By solely focusing on housing supply the Government has abdicated its responsibility to provide some sensible and pragmatic economic management of a situation that is getting out of control. Yes Auckland has a supply constraint pushing on house prices. However the situation has moved well beyond economic fundamentals to one of psychology – it is not so much lack of supply as it is inflationary expectations that are propelling the market upward. Prices are rising because of speculative demand from investors and fear from first home buyers terrified of being left behind.

Given the serious implications for both economic stability and social equity, a responsible government would take action not just to increase housing supply in the long term, but also to moderate the psychology driving the market right now. Here seven things they could do immediately:

1) Ring-fence losses on rental properties so that investors cannot off-set these against  their other income.

2) Significantly ramp up IRD enforcement efforts on existing requirements to pay tax on properties purchased with the intention of resale.

3) Run a high profile publicity campaign to ensure awareness of the existing law and the ramped up enforcement regime.

4) Make it clear that the Government will consider a capital gains tax if the existing framework fails to address the problem.

5) Restrict purchasing of residential property to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

6) Reduce external migration into the Auckland region until housing supply increases.

7) Publicly support the Reserve Bank taking steps to tighten lending criteria on residential property investment in Auckland.

8) Announce all of these measures as part of a a highly publicised package address housing demand in Auckland. This will ensure maximum impact on inflationary expectations.

All of these steps are something the Government could do now. I have often heard the Hon Bill English say New Zealand as a nation is not going to grow wealthy by us all selling houses to each other. I couldn’t agree more, especially when we are borrowing foreign money to do it. Its time he took action to address that delusion.

Ewen McQueen
April 2015

Posted in Economic Transformation | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

An underground spiritual phenomenon

Whilst largely ignored by mainstream media, Easter remains New Zealand’s most celebrated spiritual event. Church attendance statistics tell us that this week well over half a million people across this nation will gather to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Any other cultural or spiritual celebration inspiring this magnitude of involvement would be big news. There would be plenty of preview feature articles and programmes followed by live-stream reporting from smiling and earnest reporters on the scene. Councils in towns and cities around the country would also chip in ratepayers funds and fireworks displays to ensure the diversity of the community was highlighted and celebrated.

However Christianity is not fashionable among the media and other cultural gate-keepers who monopolise the narrative about what is important in our land. Hence Easter in New Zealand is now almost an underground phenomenon.

Yet it remains a remarkable phenomenon. Not only in the sheer numbers of New Zealanders involved, but in the way it builds unity and kotahitanga across all the peoples of this land. The Church is now the most diverse institution in this nation.

Every Sunday kiwis young and old gather together to celebrate an enduring faith that has crossed the centuries and the oceans to uttermost ends of the earth. Singing together are people who vote all over the political spectrum. Sharing the cup are not only Maori and Pakeha, but now individuals and families from all over the globe – Indian, African, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, and of course our Pacific cousins. Having coffee together are professionals and tradespeople, business people and teachers, single parents and couples married for 40 years.

The Church in New Zealand brings together peoples who in the ordinary course of life would often have little or no interaction. It is vibrant, diverse and rich. It is a living miracle that imparts unity and life that sustains our nation in ways unseen.

This week it will gather again around the One on whom it is founded – and the miracle He established as the centre-piece of history.

Ewen McQueen
March 2015

Posted in Cultural Renewal, Spiritual Renewal | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

PM’s wrath well deserved

Prime Minister KeyJohn Key’s anger in Parliament yesterday seems to have taken the Opposition by surprise. Perhaps they mistook his long consideration of the Iraq deployment as an indication that he didn’t really have his heart in it. How wrong they were. Key had conviction in bucket-loads and it was utterly refreshing to see it.

Every other party leader in Parliament (including his own coalition partners) trotted out lame reasons as to why New Zealand should avoid playing its part as a responsible member of the international community. Their limp political posturing was worthy of Prime Ministerial wrath.

Feeding off and encouraging New Zealanders inherent apathy is something the Opposition should be ashamed of. They know too well that as a nation we are difficult to rouse about any political issue – especially those beyond our borders. Sometimes that part of our national personality can be a strength. However in the face of the barbarity and global security threat posed by ISIS it is something we need to get over. Having some of our politicians massage it along for their own political purposes is pathetic.

And this is really what led to Key’s anger. He could not stomach that Parliaments all over the world had united across party lines to stand against ISIS – and yet in New Zealand he couldn’t even rouse his own coalition partners to do the right thing.

The Prime Minster’s anger was well deserved. It was a redeeming feature on a day that our Parliament would otherwise have sullied our international reputation. It also helped remind New Zealanders that there are some things other than sport which are worth getting passionate about.

Ewen McQueen
February 2015

Posted in Cultural Renewal, Protecting Children, Respect for Life | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

ISIS must be defeated

If we won’t fight ISIS we won’t fight anyone. The Prime Minister is correct – doing nothing is not an option. Some commentators have said the barbarity of ISIS is nothing new in the history of human conflict. They are of course right. But their assertion that this means we should do nothing is wrong.

History is of course littered with violent, brutal and cruel conflict. However there are two types of conflict. Most involve parties who with some help from the international community may be able to work out a compromise. Negotiation can find a path through. The current conflict in Ukraine is perhaps a prime example.

Other conflicts however involve parties whose worldview and ideology allows no compromise. The Nazi ideology of the Third Reich was one. The Islamic State ideology is another. Like the Nazis, ISIS cherishes a deluded dream of world domination and a distorted sense of destiny. As far as they are concerned their vision will be achieved even if it means unspeakable barbarity and the suffering and death of thousands. Such movements leave no alternative. They must be engaged and defeated. Negotiation and “addressing the root causes of extremism” (whatever that cliché means) will no more work with ISIS than it did with Hitler.

ISIS and the Nazis are of the same spirit. However what the Third Reich did in secret behind the gates of concentration camps, ISIS does in full public view. They glory in the cruelty and death they inflict. In doing so they leave us in no doubt – if they ever got their hands on chemical, biological or nuclear weapons they would not hesitate to use them.

Peter Dunne thinks that New Zealand should not get involved because we are thousands of kilometers away. He has his head firmly in the sand. A single terrorist detonated nuclear device in a major western city would see a global economic and financial meltdown that would crash over us like everyone else.

ISIS needs to be engaged not because it is particularly brutal – but because its twisted ideology presents a real and present danger to world security. It will not be appeased. It must be defeated.

Ewen McQueen
February 2015

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A “level of self-governance” is not sovereignty

Labour leader Andrew Little’s comments at Waitangi today will simply add to the confusion about the foundational constitutional reality established by the Treaty – the sovereignty of the Crown in New Zealand.

Little is correct in suggesting that the Treaty incorporates an “historical commitment to some level of self-governance” for Maori. The Article 2 guarantee of rangatiratanga (Chieftainship) is just that. However he then muddies the waters with his comments that we need to investigate what sovereignty might mean for Maori.

Let’s be clear – a level of self governance is absolutely not the same thing as sovereignty. To mix them up in the same sound-bite is ill-considered and unhelpful in framing the constitutional conversation that lies ahead. Yes the Treaty guarantees Chieftainship. However it also makes it abundantly clear that this Chieftainship was to be expressed within the context of the overarching sovereignty of the Crown.

It is entirely consistent with what was actually agreed at Waitangi 175 years ago that we investigate new ways in which Chieftainship or rangatiratanga might be expressed in a modern context. This may well include a level of devolvement of central government resources (eg Whanau Ora) or a delegation of Crown authorities in particular spheres. It may also involve arrangements for Maori representation such as the Maori seats.

However any such measures must be clearly understood to fall within the auspices of Crown sovereignty. They must not be seen as some form of co-governance or dual sovereignty based on the revisionist modern partnership paradigm. And they must certainly not be expressions of a limp Crown retreat from its rightful Treaty responsibilities on the flawed grounds that Maori “never ceded sovereignty”.

Ewen McQueen
February 2015

Posted in Cultural Renewal, Treaty of Waitangi | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments