Daily Archives: January 23, 2015

Chris Trotter on National’s “developers’ charter” #RMA reforms

John Key PM + Nick Smith at Hobsonville housing development 24.8.14 [Hannah Peters - Getty Images AsiaPac]

The Never-Ending Suburban Dream: Dr Nick Smith’s purported determination to make housing more affordable by “reforming” the Resource Management Act has been widely derided as little more than a National Party recommitment to the urban development model of the 1950s and 60s. In short, to quote Peter Dunne, “a developers’ charter”.

Chris Trotter [radiolive.co.nz]### bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz
Friday, 23 January 2015 at 08:53
New Zealand Doesn’t Need A “Developers’ Charter”
By Chris Trotter
THE LAWYERS and the environmental lobbyists are already gnawing at Dr Nick Smith’s proposed changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA). Forewarned by the National-led Government’s first, abortive, foray into environmental law reform back in 2013, a forearmed Opposition has this week re-joined the battle with renewed energy.
The United Future leader, Peter Dunne, has warned against turning the RMA into a “Developers’ Charter” – a potent political riff upon which his parliamentary colleagues have been only-too-happy to extemporise.
Has the Prime Minister, rubbing shoulders with 1 percent of 1 percent of the 1 Percent at Davos, given equal heed to the venerable Member for Ohariu? Given that few politicians’ appreciation of middle-class New Zealanders’ tics and tells is stronger than Mr Dunne’s, if John Key isn’t paying attention to him, then he should – and soon.
Not that, in the brutal numbers game that determines whether a piece of legislation succeeds or fails, Mr Key needs the endorsement of Mr Dunne. The parliamentary arithmetic of environmental law reform requires no complicated figuring. The Act Party’s grace-and-favour MP for Epsom, David Seymour, has already signalled (well in advance of any actual shouts of “Division called for!”) that he will be supplying Dr Smith with the single vote necessary (in addition to National’s 60 votes) to ensure the passage of the Government’s environmental reforms.
Which is, when you think about it, extraordinary. With sixty MPs, National’s current parliamentary caucus is, by historical standards, a large one. It is also slavishly obedient.
[…] It has been a very long time indeed since a National Party politician “crossed the floor” in any kind of procedurally meaningful context. For many years now absolute caucus discipline has not only been assumed – it has prevailed.
Such robotic compliance is not good for the health of National’s caucus; the wider National Party organisation; nor, ultimately, for that of parliamentary democracy itself. Voters need to believe that there are at least some MPs whose definitive allegiance is to values and principles more enduring than the arguments of their Party Whip. On matters crucial to both the social and the natural environments, the practice of representative democracy should rise above the crude calculations of purely partisan arithmetic. It should be about reason and science; about being persuaded by the evidence and securing the greatest good for the greatest number.
Replacing New Zealand’s much admired RMA with a “Developers’ Charter” would be about none of those things.
Read more

█ This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 23 January 2015.

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Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

*Images: (top) Hannah Peters/Getty Images AsiaPac – John Key PM and Nick Smith at Hobsonville housing development (August 2014); radiolive.co.nz – Chris Trotter tweaked by whatifdunedin

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Filed under Architecture, Business, Construction, Democracy, Design, Economics, Geography, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Politics, Project management, Property, Site, Town planning, Urban design

RNZ Sunday Morning —The Decline of Reason #mediapoliticsculture

Updated post Sunday, 25 Jan 2015 at 3:16 p.m.

Radio New Zealand National – Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman
11:40 Helen Razer – The Decline of Reason

Cover, A short history of StupidHelen Razer and Bernard Keane were going mad over the deteriorating quality of public debate and the dwindling of common sense in media, politics and culture.
So they wrote a book about it: A Short History of Stupid – The decline of reason and why public debate makes us want to scream.
Helen joins Wallace to talk about why so much has gotten so dumb.

Audio | Download: OggMP3 (13′ 47″) Link

BOOK REVIEWS

A Short History of Stupid – The decline of reason and why public debate makes us want to scream
By Bernard Keane & Helen Razer
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760110543

I
Reviewer: Gordon Findlay
Posted on December 15, 2014

It would be great to make this compulsory reading for every journalist, blogger and aspiring politician, but I can’t imagine them persevering with it. It would ruin their life’s work.

I think that the deterioration of public debate, and the absence of common sense and moderation in both media and politics, are pretty much givens now. But why? And where did this come from? These are the questions that this apparently light-hearted, yet fundamentally serious, book seeks to answer.
For these authors, stupid comes in many forms, and damages us in many ways. And yes, ‘stupid’ is a noun for these 329 pages. Many different types of stupid are identified, and an attempt is made to find their origins. Far too many ‘species’ of stupidly are identified to list them all here. But the rise of individualism over social responsibility, vaccination denialism, excessive partisanship in politics, the conflict between sentimentalism and reason, postmodernism, fallacious opinion polling and reality TV might be a representative sample. For me the most important forms of stupidity identified were three: the inability to understand numbers, the preference for emotion over facts, and the ignorance of historical contexts.
A real attempt is made to pin down the development of stupidity in its many forms. This takes us into an elementary, and often light-hearted, discussion of the development of some core ideas in western thought. The authors also make a determined effort to be seen to be in touch with popular culture, invoking as many memes from popular culture as can be squeezed in, from Dallas to the Bond movies. The authors are Australian commentators, and quite a lot of the stupidity is taken from Australian sources.
[…] A broad-gauge rant, which is based on gently concealed erudition. But a rant nonetheless. And that becomes the book’s weakness. The writing is always turned up to eleven. In places the F-bomb becomes a carpet bomb. This continuous bombast makes reading more than a little tiring. But it’s a great source of one-liners.
Cont./ Booksellers NZ blog

II
Reviewer: Frank O’Shea
Posted on December 12, 2014

The problem with a book like this is that it encourages the reader to become more alert to Stupid.

This book sets out to show how much of public discourse is guided, not by reason, but by Stupidity. It is the work of two writers for the online magazine Crikey, and even those not sympathetic towards that journal’s independent take on the news, will find much in the book to stimulate and delight.
[…] There are phrases that pull you up with glee: “… the cheap meth of personal development seminars”, “the Oprahfication of wisdom”, “the well of homeopathic opinion”, “a prostatariat of old white male journalists”, “holistic healing … rip-off bollocks with a whale-call soundtrack”. And you feel like cheering aloud when you read psychiatry described as an “iffy branch of medicine … a pseudo-science … an impotent practice”.
The level of Stupidity in public debate in Australia is probably no higher than in other Western countries. It is unlikely that politicians, for whom the luminous vest photo op is more important than any discussion of complex issues, will be changed by what they read here. But then again, their success is based on the well-founded belief that the rest of us are Stupid.
Cont./ Sydney Morning Herald

III
Reviewer: Martin Hirst
Posted [2014], undated

The writers have very different tones and registers in their prose; but the bigger issue is that the book doesn’t seem to really know whom its enemy is.

I am a big fan of both Crikey political editor Bernard Keane and freelance writer Helen Razer. They are intellectually sharp, write with good humour and come across as eminently rational in their thinking. […] Keane and Razer are friends and obviously share a dislike for stupidity in all its forms (and they are many); but they are not cut from the same cloth. Keane comes across as a socially-concerned individualist, verging on the libertarian, while Razer is more than willing to own up to her own proto-Marxist and critical feminist intellectual development. Razer is also a bit of a potty mouth, so if you are offended by the occasional use of c—t, f—k and s—t in your reading material, perhaps you should only read the chapters by the more (ahem) refined Mr Keane.
But I’m not fazed by Ms Razer’s crudities because I love her razor wit and sharp insights. Her chapter on reason and unreason is one of the best in the book and one paragraph in particular sums up her (and my) take on the psychological pressures of modern working life: “When we fail at life as it is so broadly and meticulously prescribed, we call it mental illness. We have failed life. We are not permitted to think it is the conventions of life that have failed us.” (p. 164)
[…] both authors, but particularly Bernard Keane, have a blind spot to the ultimate form of Stupid: the problem of the system itself. Razer calls it “liberal democracy” and Keane calls it “liberal capitalism” and they ultimately concede it is all we’ve got. However, this is an ahistorical approach that denies the evidence of the past that it is the economic system that breeds inequality and that ultimately needs a certain level of ideological Stupid among the general population in order to prevent mass (and organised) public opposition that would be capable of overthrowing it. Previously Stupid systems of political economy such as slavery and feudal aristocracy have been defeated and replaced, so why not stupid Capitalism? If Stupid is in the way, then it is serving some purpose of the ruling class. After all, as Marx once wrote in his critique of Hegel: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Insert “Stupid” into that sentence instead of “Religion” and read it again—it makes perfect sense!
Cont./ Academia.edu

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

9 Comments

Filed under Hot air, Media, Name, People, Politics