Cultural shift needed for reform to work

Thursday April 23, 2015 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor: 

Corruption, corrupt, corruptible.

I’ve been hearing those words a lot lately.

But I'm not sure all the people speaking those words actually know what they mean.

When you become a Member of Parliament, you have a short period of opportunity in your first days: you see the system with an outsider's eyes. 

Most of the new MPs experience a little bit of shock at the behaviour of some of those who have come before us. Manoeuvring for position, seeking personal advantage, holding power at all costs - those are primary activities within our governing body. They aren't confined to any particular party. It's just the way the system runs.

But careful budgeting, seeking to improve society, planning ahead and wise forethought? These are not so conspicuous, not always highly-visible activities. You only have to look at our national media coverage to see the evidence.

I know that sounds harsh. Parliament is filled with good men and women, friends and relatives, people I admire. But the culture within government gradually draws these same good people into behavioural patterns that are most certainly not in the best interests of the nation. It's almost irresistible. And, long-term it is not in the best interests of that individual. Eventually the truth gets out and individual credibility is lost forever. There are many unfortunate examples we can point to. 

We obviously need reform, that’s a given that very few people disagree with. The system is the real problem. But more than that, we need a cultural shift.

We can begin by helping our elected officials remember a few fundamental things. You are not a leader: you are a servant, the employee of the people. The people lead. You follow. If you disagree, if you think you lead, then you disagree with democracy.

Your material fortunes should not change substantially as a result of public office. Your revenue comes from your salary, and there should be nothing more. You should refuse all tips, special loans, personal grants, and gifts. In particular, your expense account should be used to defray actual costs, not to give you a ‘bonus’.

The other political party and its members are not the enemy. They are the conscience of the nation, charged with oversight and with helping to regulate government.

When you are elected, you are charged with helping all the people of your constituency, not just your relatives, friends, and members of your party.

When you are elected, you are charged with helping all the people of the nation, not just your constituency.

Get your head straight about our place in the world. Grants and free machinery to the nation arehelpful, but they mask economic weakness. Well-managed you would not need to count charity as ‘productivity’, as part of our Gross Domestic Product.

You must think further out. Right now, the world is a scary place, and long-term planning is very important. 

I have some hope and many others share the same hope that the very odd balance of political power we see right now might give us an opportunity - indeed, might force us, to work together and initiate reforms. 

While those reforms might create a structure to restrict the quest for personal power and opportunistic or poor policy-making, we need to change the entire culture of governance.

Without transparency, integrity, and humility, getting that first step towards working together for the greater good might not occur.

Corruption is contagious, But so is integrity... if you are brave enough to make it so.

James Beer.

MP Murienua.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Keith Koekoe Thursday, 23 April 2015 12:13 posted by Keith Koekoe

    It's been a while since I've read this type of mindset. Thank you Mr Beer. There is much to do and mindsets to change.
    Wealth in a "democracy" can never be distributed equally or to rephrase it, "commonwealth" is never common in a democracy. That's a word borrowed from a Kingdom government. The Cooks "self governing" system is unique only to the Cooks, Niue and Tokelau. They must or rather "we" must embrace the system and knowledge INHERENT in a Kingdom system. Your life and how you ought to live your life was NEVER meant to be debated in parliament by people who are LIKE US and that we chose to lead us. NEVER. Look carefully in the Kingdom system and you will see it. It will tell you that the best type of government is "self government" via a Kingdom knowledge based. It cannot be a democracy knowledge based. That's a Greek system.
    Mr Beer echoes a Kingdom mindset, culture, finance, etc. a democracy system teaches you to use your eyes by sight where as a Kingdom system tells us that "sight" is dangerous. We need brave men and women who posses Kingdom mindsets. Poverty is inherent in a democracy and its visible evidence is the "haves and have nots". There is no poverty in a Kingdom.

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