Lack of trust of ‘punters in punterland’ (as Don Brash put it so elegantly) is a common trait in a certain breed of politician.
So it’s no great surprise to see democratic institutions undermined by this current lot. And it’s not just Educanz, the shortcomings of which readers of this blog will be familiar with. ECan (what’s with those letters?) saw elected representatives dumped in 2010, (seemingly, because they weren’t doling out water rights to dairy farmers efficiently enough). And now they’re replacing it with a partly elected and partly appointed body. Nick Smith, the Minister in charge’s line is that a fully democratic body is too risky.
But hold the phone – even ECan gets a majority of members who are elected (seven to six), unlike Educanz.
Minister Parata’s response to the critics seems to be to simply wag her finger and sigh, with the superiority of someone who’s in their office thanks to elections but doesn’t really trust the people who put her there.
We don’t need elections, she says, because the ‘skill set’ that the people on the new Educanz council will have must be ‘transparent, and she will appoint people who meet the skill set (around the 14.40 mark, here ). Right oh then. She decides what is valued in that ‘skill set’ and then gets to decide who meets it. It’s a technocrat’s wet dream – no messy elections and contest of ideas, just the ‘best people for the job’.
Of course, low voter turn-out for the Teachers Council elections hasn’t helped our case. But the same argument could apply elected reps on a whole bunch of institutions from school boards of trustees to local authorities (and university councils, which are getting the Educanz treatment right now). No doubt there are people around the cabinet table with Parata who’d be dead keen to do that.
What’s really ‘too risky’ is allowing this gradual erosion of democracy and public accountability. Even corporate boards of publicly listed companies are elected by shareholders. And if teachers aren’t ‘shareholders’ in the regulation and status of the profession, I don’t know who is.
(The image is of Singapore - appropriate because it's a technocrat's paradise, where democratic institutions are so weak that newspapers regularly print Minister's announcements verbatim without any critique.)