Saturday, April 30, 2016

HOW many Submissions?

Image result for Parliament nz

I hear that the Select Committee on Health may have no other topics of business for some time.  We are told that the staff have been sorting no less than 15,000 submissions received by 1st February. They are reported to be somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of work involved. The issue of "voluntary euthanasia" for some terminal elderly is alive and well and our people have been having their say.

It will be really unfortunate if the sheer amount of paperwork gets in the way of a good discussion. And it will be fascinating to see the analysis of the submissions. Given that quite a few people will have just written statements such as "I am against any form of doctor assisted death" (surely that is not so much a submission as a vote, of course) there must still be a large number of citizens who have given serious thought to the issue.

But how many points are there to make on this matter? Isn't it probable that we've heard there is to hear on both sides of the issue, that we have heard all the arguments, that we have access to all the necessary facts? If my request to be heard in a personal submission is accepted, I can't imagine anything I can say that won't have been said by dozens if not hundreds of others. In a way, I won't be upset to be declined an appearance.

What the country needs now is for Parliament to make some kind of decision that reflects - to an appropriate extent - the declared views of the majority of the population. The Committee can help this process by a thorough analysis of the submissions and the issues and, perhaps, a reasonably prompt and decisive report to Parliament.

Monday, April 4, 2016

"Professional" Simon O'Connor?

Image result for simon o'connor mp

I see that MPs are firmly supporting Simon O'Connor's suitability to chair the inquiry into dying in New Zealand. They argue that he will be thoroughly "professional" in handling the matter dispassionately regardless of his personal beliefs.

"Professionalism" seems to be a good standard to judge the situation. I agree, it is also the crunch issue. But for professional people caught up in any kind of conflict of interest the problem is not the conflict itself but the way in which one handles one's personal beliefs in the context of the wider issue. I think O'Connor has let himself down on this point.

Further, in politics, as in many spheres of life, the issue that matters is not one's personal opinions nor behaviours but the public's perception of these. Now that the question has been raised, many people may sense that the Kiwi deal of fair play has somehow been over-ridden. No amount of political spin from the Beehive will completely erase a vague sense that the Inquiry and its outcome have been tarnished in some degree.

If O'Connor lacks what we used to call the "statesmanship" to step aside as Chair, the only outcome that can possibly exonerate his attitude is that the Committee is bold enough to overcome his strongly held views and come up with a report that will be in line with the great bulk of public opinion.

Ironically, it will probably come to be called "The O'Connor Report".

My earlier posts on this issue:  30 March and 31 Jan 2016