Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Why do you always start with "PainterGate"?

OK - first I'll quickly vent that I despise the term and all the "Gates" anyway. Please can we find another way of referring to *all* those events except the actual WaterGate Scandal?

But more to the point why do all the right wing blog commentators always start their chronological lists of convention and law breaking by this Government and its officials with PainterGate? First issue I have with this is that no-one actually remembers that "scandal" for what it should be anyway. Ask anyone left / right / central / libertarian / indifferent what PainterGate was about and they will pretty much all tell you it was about HC signing her name to someone else's painting.
Which of course is the trivial and stupid thing it should have been about had HC not pressured the Attorney General about the open case using official parliamentary stationary, had HC not lied to police with regards to both the paintings whereabouts, knowledge of events, had HC not had a Secretary destroy the painting (which at that point was evidence) etc. If these were the issues brought to mind by the phrase PainterGate, then sure use it. Otherwise refer to the specific events which actually had some measure of real wrong about them. Who really cares about the "fraud" of signing her name to the painting - very few at a very academic level.

Second issue I have is when you are compiling these lists it is far better to start it from 1999 when Labour first took power - rather than waiting until 2002? This gives the impression that Labour actually waited until its 2nd term before its predilection for weighing self-interest over law and convention came to the surface.

In actual fact this surfaced in the first *months* of their first term, where they cancelled the contracts with both Timberlands and the U.S.A. F-16 purchase contracts. What raised my heckles at that time was the comments that they did so "as they could without penalty". This event while quite crucial in viewing the subsequent events in a particular light is one that very few New Zealanders attach *any* significance to. The significance is one that I do not like discussing - mainly because it is one that the stability of the free market actually depends on very few people exploiting. Which is that *anyone* can terminate virtually *any* contract *without penalty*.

You see penalty clauses in contracts are unenforceable. By law. And the maximum that can be "recovered" by anyone for breach of contract by another party is their actual economic loss. No more. Because it is a civil not criminal breach.
This is why when you look at the contracts used in the construction industry these work on the basis of large bonuses for timely delivery, and not penalties for late delivery. Because unless actual economic loss could be shown (which would frequently be difficult) then the penalty would be unenforceable.

So the explicit statement made by the Labour party at the very start of their first term was that they would look at any law or convention, and weigh up the penalty of breaching it against their personal benefit.

Sound familiar to anything recent?
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backin15 said...

What horseshit frankly. Equating a decision to cancel a contract for planes, their election policy by the way, with a broader statement about breaking the law - you may or may not be legally trained but you sure as hell don't know the limits of simple syllogism.

iiq374 said...

The point about "election policy" is a red herring as you know. It is part of the election policy of Hamas to destroy Israel but that doesn't make any actions on the back of that policy any more tolerable.

Also don't forget that it wasn't just the F-16's but both the F-16's *AND* the Timberlands logging contracts that they terminated.

In the latter case even your red herring about election policy is also mixed due to the conflicting statements of Damien O'Connor vs HC in the pre-election run-up.
Also the election policy was to cancel *future* logging, not to cancel in place contracts.

Also the foreshadowing provided by these events was actually in the comments made by HC and MC about the specific consideration of the penalties that such a course would incur. It was the specific weighing of penalty vs action (while at this point somewhat more innocent) that has escalated throughout the term(s).

backin15 said...

IIQ, I'm disinclined to get into another lengthy debate with you on these issues so will simply say that I think you're conflating matters in a way so as to distort them entirely. Labour went to the polls on the airforce and selective logging of native timber on the West Coast. They won and then proceeded to implement their policies. To describe them otherwise is misleading however (selectively) detailed and complex your argument might be. I think, frankly, you lose sight of an issue because you try to construct arguments that are quite fanciful. Again, comparing the NZ situation with Hammas is absurd; argument by false analogy.

I'm begining to think you're trolling.

iiq374 said...

A shame - I quite enjoyed our previous debate despite the occasional feelings that you were unintentionally debating a different point to me.

Hamas may have been extreme to provoke a response - Meia Culpa. However Bush and Iraq may be just as appropriate as an analogy - he could equally claim polling and mandate, but it doesn't make the implementation any less distasteful.

That they were willing to pose a policy that required them to be in breach of contract is equivalent to a later decision to be in breach. I'm sorry if I find the distinction to be moot. It is equal to a new board of a company cancelling contracts on induction.

backin15 said...

How else can the electorate express their disagreement with a policy other than to support an alternative?

I was directly affected by an incoming government's decision to cancel funding for a program; I was pissed off however that doesn't make the decision undemocratic which is a far greater sin than to breach a contract.

iiq374 said...

Backin15 - I never suggested that their action in that case was undemocratic.

I think we may have different intrinsic weights on the moral impact of breach of contract - that's OK we'll just have to agree to disagree there I think.

But in supporting a party you are not necessarily indicating total support for all policies - an underlying deficiency in our implementation of democracy I guess.

backin15 said...

Don't get me wrong, I don't think abitrarily cancelling a contract is tolerable for governments, aspiring or otherwise; however Labour have long opposed native logging and have a defence policy that emphasises the army over fly-boys, sorry the air force, this was/is well known and understood and any company operating with governments, in all industry, sectors accepts that changes in government will change aspects of any market.

I don't think morality comes into particularly. This is simply the vissicitudes of politics and modern economies. Businesses rely on governments to create and manage markets; they have to accept that in some markets government, as regulator, buyer or seller, will change its mind as to all other players.

iiq374 said...

they have to accept that in some markets government, as regulator, buyer or seller, will change its mind as to all other players.
I think this just highlights our difference in philosophy as to the roles of Government. For me the Government (and its servants) should play with the same rules that it creates for its citizens. IE it should treat contracts in the same manner it would expect of the citizens and businesses it governs.

backin15 said...

IIQ; government does. The rule of law is pretty evenly applied in NZ, surely you're not suggesting otherwise. Companies can and do cancel out of contracts, most contracts consider this possibility - you've noted this yourself. I think you making too much of this, Labour did nothing wrong, illegal or immoral in cancelling the contracts for the toy planes nor on the West Coast. This government, in fact all governments in NZ, are well regarded internationally for their favourable business environment and regulation - a point made by many international studies and commentators.