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The Saturday Rant-13 September 2008


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Saturday 13 November 2008 the day after Helen Clark announced the date for the NZ General Election. Bizarrely Ms Clark has chosen to campaign on the issue of trust.

Turning away from the elections, it is Rant day. Time for Adam to write about some of the things that annoy him. The major, the minor, the pettifogging, the mundane, the inane and the myriad irritating matters that he sees, hears, reads about or experiences in the daily round.

This week has served to remind Adam that he really is turning into a grumpy old man, but in some respects it is an amusing occupation.

So to the matter of trust, which seems to have presented itself for consideration today along with related words such as integrity and governance.

Let us consider for a moment the word trust. Essentially when we trust a person or organisation we are placing our confidence in their ability to do that which they said they would do.

Then ‘integrity’ a word which conveys a sense of morality, a soundness of moral principle – ethical standards if you will, indeed a person or organisation with integrity is one which people trust because they are not tainted with corruption, they are upright, honest and sincere in words, actions and deeds.

Finally today we have governance a concept which addresses the way in which activities are governed – that is performed and regulated, and one which impacts each and every one of us. Governance is not merely process, but is impacted by the integrity which which the process is established and the trust which can be reposed in those who exercise governance in our society, for example politicians, police, businessmen etc.

So let us consider some instances

First this week

The police – traffic ticket quots

The Herald reports on an email from a senior officer concerning targets for tickets to be issued in respect of traffic offences. As usual the police deny there is a quota. Nobody believes this.

So what happens as a result? People start to have a lower level of trust in the police. This means in addition that the view of police integrity is impacted, at least of senior officers, because the average citizen sees the targets as quotas and does not see how issuing tickets reduces road deaths. Further, confidence in the governance aspect of police work is eroded because of the obfuscation around the ‘target’ issue.

It is quite likely that the populace would be more accepting of ticketing quotas if the police stopped denying their existence and did a better job of relating the traffic policing aspect of their work to the reduction of road accidents.


The New Zealand Defence Force

Just what is going on in our defence forces. We read in the papers of an alleged rort of expenses by officers seconded to the UN. Men and women in whom the nation reposes trust and who are expected to perform their work with integrity. So just what has gone on in the NZDF?

How has a proud culture become degraded?

Has governance failed because of a failure of leadership and the lack of application of ethical standards?

Is this symptomatic of other problems? For example we read this week of problems with the HMNZS Canterbury and questions over fitness for purpose. Previously the Auditor-General has reported on issues with procurement processes.

All of this smacks not so much of poor procees, but a failure to imbue the organisation with a set of core values, exemplified by the leadership both military and civilian in which all can have trust.

There is that little 5 letter word again.


Centralisation of power

Trust, Integrity and Governance – three critical elements to our society which underpin acceptance or not of authority. In this regard we need to ensure that over centralisation of power does not take place. New Zealand is a small country. Power is exercised in many ways, both formal and informal.

One development which almost passed Adam by, until he read a post at Tumeke was the fact that the House had passed legislation which places the Police Service firmly under the control of the Prime Minister, although that may only have formalised the de factor state of affairs.

This step places far too many levers of power in the hands of the Prime Minister.

This law should be amended. Adam is of the view that the appointment of the Police Commissioner should be by an Independent Commission, and that the Commissioner should like the Auditor- General report to the House of Representatives and not to the Prime Minister of the day. In addition, the Commissioner should eb able to serve only one fixed term as Commissioner of no more than 5 years.


Looking back at what Adam has written today, it is more of a philosophical piece than normal.

Sorry if that disappoints those expecting more of a tirade today, but somehow the piece fits more with Adam’s mood today.

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