Ensure the right people are brought together to affect a coordinated, transparent approach that will enhance clear decision-making and planning.
(CanCERN strategic plan Feb 2012)

Wise words from a great speech writer and the utter stupidity that occurs when the writer is absent

On 22 August 2007 and at that time the Opposition Leader, John Key gave a speech to the National Press Club (here). It was a speech that would have had many New Zealanders nodding their heads and feeling inspired.

This week the leader of the country, Prime Minister John Key opened his mouth and stupidly blurted out his now infamous comment, “Thanks very much, it’s been a lot of fun,” in relation to red zoning decisions. This comment has had many in Canterbury shaking their heads in utter frustration and hurt. John Key, with one throw away comment has confirmed what many in Canterbury already suspected – he does not listen to our reality, he does not understand how difficult and exhausting life is for so many and it also appears that he does not care to be illuminated.

As Opposition Leader, obviously John Key had a much better speech writer than he does now and he or she wrote words which could be speaking directly to those in our community who have had enough of having no power to make decisions about our life and our recovery. So try to forget about who actually delivered the speech in 2007 because as Dame Anne Salmond wrote in a recent article, “Who could have imagined that in 2013, this same political leader would be presiding over an assault upon the democratic rights of New Zealanders” (full article here). But do read the speech and don’t dismiss the challenge that is being thrown to us because democracy is not what we have in Canterbury.

Excerpts from the speech – Full speech published here

“One of the key planks of democracy is that all citizens are free to express themselves on all political issues. They are free to criticise the government. They are free to criticise the opposition. They are free to promote policies they like and protest against policies they abhor. They march, they make placards, they deliver leaflets. They produce brochures, they send emails, they build websites. They take out advertisements in the paper, they call public meetings, they circulate petitions.”

“A quiet, obedient, and docile population; a culture of passivity and apathy; a meek acceptance of what politicians say and do – these things are not consistent with democracy. A healthy democracy requires the active participation of citizens in public life and in public debates. Without this participation, democracy begins to wither and becomes the preserve of a small, select political elite.

Freedom of political expression has a price, however. The price is that we have to hear opinions that we don’t like, and that we don’t want to hear, from people we can’t stand. For us politicians, the price is an endless stream of criticism. Well, that’s tough. Politics is a contest of ideas, and ideas should be publicly discussed. Ideas should be tested and ideas should be criticised.”

… I believe what Thomas Jefferson said – that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We cannot and we must not take democratic freedoms for granted. Because, in reality, it is not a Bill of Rights that protects our rights. It is not up to a solicitor in the Crown Law Office or an official in the Ministry of Justice. In the end, it is not up to the government at all.

The protection of rights lies with us, the citizens of New Zealand. There are times when we have to stand up for our rights, and the rights of our neighbours and friends, and indeed the rights of people we totally disagree with, or else these rights will begin to erode away.

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