September 22, 2005 | Jeff Wall

A good news story about public office

At a time when Mark Latham is trashing public office thanks to his pathetic diary “revelations”, it is time for a good news story about good people still being prepared to offer themselves for public office.
But, sadly, it’s a New Zealand story not an Australian one…and one has to fear it is the kind of good news story that will all to seldom be emulated here in the future.
During my 18 years as Consultant to Sir Rabbie Namaliu as Prime Minister, Speaker and Senior Minister in the Government of PNG (currently Foreign Minister) easily the most impressive diplomat I have come across was John Hayes, the New Zealand High Commission to PNG from around 1990 to 1994. (And the second most impressive was our own Alan Taylor who went on to become Ambassador to Indonesia and Director of the ONA).
John was a gregarious, highly effective and much respected representative who not only effectively represented New Zealand, but went on to playing a key role in securing the peace process on Bougainville after he had left PNG.
He was always interested in politics, and we used to discuss political events and issues with great frequency. I always thought he was a conservative, even though he had been Principal Private Secretary to Mike Moore when he was Minister for Overseas Trade in the Lange Labour Government.
After leaving PNG he held other senior diplomatic and foreign office postings in successive NZ Governments before leaving the diplomatic service a few years ago. The New Zealand Government of Helen Clark made him an Officer of the Order of Merit.
Last year the National Party selected him as candidate for the seat of Wairarapa, near Wellington. It was a relatively safe Labour seat…well it was until last Saturday?s NZ elections.
John Hayes campaigned full time for 11 months, and was rewarded with a very comfortable victory over the incumbent Labour MP.
No matter whether he is in Government or Opposition, John Hayes will enhance public office by his intellect, his extraordinary knowledge of and experience in international and regional relations and trade, and perhaps above all else his enormous commonsense.
I suspect John is in his late 50’s…but that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that a distinguished diplomat, rather that enjoying a business career and semi retirement, put himself forward for a seat he was no good thing to win, and, on securing victory his first undertaking was to be an effective local representative.
He will become a significant player on the national political stage…but the good people of Wairarapa are fortunate to have as their representative a distinguished and highly effective diplomat who has entered politics when its standing has never been lower.
So my faith in our political process was even partly restored when my good friend John Hayes entered politics as an MP…at the very time Mark Latham has been hell bent on trashing the process, and just about everyone who participates in it.
Australian politics – federal and state – desperately needs more good men and women who bring to public office lief experiences that will enhance the political process and good government…and rebuild public confidence in politics and those who practice it.
We should not underestimate the damage Latham is inflicting on public office, and not just on his former colleagues. A worryingly high level of the citizenry are no doubt saying to their friends and work colleagues “see, I told you they are all no good”.
That he is doing so on a generous taxpayer funded pension is hypocrisy at its worst!
But politicians like John Hayes offer hope for the future of public office and public service. It’s just a pity he is doing it in the Parliament of New Zealand and not that of Australia.

Posted by Jeff Wall at 4:47 pm | Comments (1) |

1 Comment

  1. The problem with the Australian political system is that people genuinely interested in trying to do the right thing for the general community really have “hope in hell” so to say to get into parliament unless they are willing to sell their sole, so to say, to some political party. This, because the way political parties have dominated politics (remarkably opposing extensively unions to do the same in workplaces) has robbed the average person to stand as a candidate.
    While the Delegates of the Constitution Convention Debates made clear that even a “poor” person should be able to stand as a candidate, as being poor does not mean a person lacks intelligence, the system is all prostituted for political parties candidates to succeed.
    We have the deposit, and then we have the 50 signatures required for an INDEPENDENT candidate, this, even so the Delegates made clear that any person entitled to be an elector was entitled to be a candidate.
    When a person residing in a small town or township desires to be an INDEPENDENT candidate, then trying to get 50 signatures for nominations can be a mini election campaign.
    In the remote outback it becomes basically a sheer impossibility to do so without spending a fortune to travel about.
    What is the use to elect some millionaire to represent people who would have no basic concept what life is really about when being poor?
    When the Federation was contemplated, it was recognized that the extensive traveling by horseback to get to Canberra would mean a lot of loss of income of the elected person from his normal daily income, hence, they held that there ought to be an allowance to compensate for the loss of income. Regretfully, it has ballooned out to this unconstitutional superannuation scheme, where no longer it is a compensation for income loss, but we find that a person like Mark Latham, now retired from politics doesn’t need to work for the rest of his life because of the absurd superannuation payout.
    All the perks provided to him after he left the Parliament should be stopped! I view, it is unconstitutional. Likewise so the deals with former Governor-Generals and former Ministers of the Crown of whom none ever were employed by the Commonwealth of Australia but in fact were in employment by the British Crown. Hence, they have no entitlement from the Commonwealth of Australia directly.
    New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Grey upon having been Governor-General for the British Crown in Africa later became Prime Minister of New Zealand. Who on earth dreamed up this unconstitutional system to pay Governor-General’s and former Ministers of the Crown from the Consolidated Revenue obviously never understood that constitutionally they have no entitlement to be paid directly from Consolidated Revenue.
    For me to try to enter parliament is like having hope on hell as an INDEPENDENT without wanting to spend huge fortunes on advertising, etc. The payment per vote of about $1.95 should be forthwith abolished as it contradicts the spirit of what the delegates were on about that even the “poor” ought top be able to stand as candidates, where they have no chance not getting this fast amount of moneys to use.
    ALSO, THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS TOO GULLIBLE IN THE OVERALL. THEY ARE VOTING FOR SOMEONE OFFERING $6.00 A WEEK TAX BREAK, this ignoring that the $6.00 will be taken from them likely ten fold during the same period of time.
    Would it not be nice to outlaw “unions” in the Parliament so that finally we get true representation in the Parliament? After all, unions are copping it from the very Members of Parliament who try to keep the Parliament a closed union entity.
    We should also abolish payments for State Members of Parliament and for local councils and their usage of postal cost to advertise at our expense. We should return to a system where a person represents the electorate for wanting to do the right thing to a fellow citizen, without fee or reward!
    I for one would still stand as a candidate, because the reasons I like to serve in a Parliament always has been disregarding the financial issue.

    Comment by Mr G. H. Schorel-Hlavka — September 23, 2005 @ 10:47 am

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