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Unfranked #43 : What Next?

  • September 23rd, 2005

Before any more of you have to ask “what comes next for you” I’ll tell you. This column is all about me. More dust must settle before I’ll venture any prescription for ACT, after our voters went to National.

I’ve been dumped from the most challenging and worthwhile work I’ve ever done. Being sacked is hard but my sulk formally ends today. Fortunately I cannot afford to wallow in it. My first new legal brief is under action. I’d forgotten the satisfaction of working knowing that the result must be good enough for someone to want to pay for it.

So I’m cranking up my dormant legal practice. I have yet to decide whether it will be alone or in a firm. Naturally I’ve been keeping an eye on changes in securities law, but I’m welcoming more interesting offers

All week big green wheelie bins have been trundling out of ACT Parliamentary offices. I’m up to bin number six, with perhaps four to go by the end of the day. This evening, for dumped members, the Parliamentary computer identity closes down, with no forwarding service. Secretaries go (Dan McCaffrey moves to work for Bob the Builder from Tauranga) and our Parliamentary phone and mail services cease today. Our replacements swarm in on Monday.

If only employment law applied.

I could demand reinstatement and personal grievance damages from you as my employers. Did you give me formal warning of dissatisfaction? Shouldn’t you have a duty to guide and retrain me? You knew I didn’t have a safe working environment, in which I’ve been subject to harassment and personal insults. You’ve showed no interest in protecting me from stress.

Judge Coral Shaw might order damages because I got no consoling poroporoaki (farewell). Instead the sacking occurred on national television.

All that is as it should be. The ability to sack rulers is the defining strength of our democracy. It would never work if rulers could entrench themselves like dud employees behind tricky process rules, or the need to prove that dismissal is fair.

Nevertheless rejection hurts and the silver lining is only aluminium foil. Contrary to folklore, for MPs elected after 1996 there is no continuing travel entitlement, and no pension unless you can draw from your voluntary defined contribution super scheme.

Rejection pales beside the melancholia of long days tossing out files. There are so many projects I had underway. They are in hundreds of folders, the concentrated essence of six years of cases and causes, questions and tip-offs, challenges and endorsements. Carefully composed summaries and speech notes and pleas and arguments – and my responses – nearly all must go. I am avoiding newspapers, radio and TV to wean myself off the urge to comment, or to put down a parliamentary question.

Who now cares that I am appalled at complacency over the plane that missed the Sky Tower? Could New Zealand ever again host something like APEC when we would be helpless against an airborne nutter hunting an Auckland venue, even if we suspected his intentions all the way from Invercargill? I think we’ve lost the law that would let us shoot him down even if we could.

‘Write a letter to the paper’ I tell myself on hearing about kids treating Police pursuit as extreme sport. What else could be expected from instructions that call off chases if they become dangerous? What a silly message is sent by obsessively searching for someone to blame for failing to stop idiots from killing themselves. The sanctimonious twits who impose the “safety first” religion never ask whether they save as many lives as the deaths they cause by signalling that fleeing can work, thus increasing the number of pursuits.

‘Surely’, I fume, ‘some Maori Affairs spokesman must hound Mallard for the indefensible racism in forcing Te Wananga a Aotearoa to apply a 20% pakeha quota. Is that needs based?’

But ‘let it go’ is the mantra for the day.

The mantra will fail. I will not be able to suppress my interest in public affairs. I’ll upgrade my website – – and maintain commentary on legal issues.

The website will list the pet legislative projects fermenting in my files.

For example, I’d like to help someone in this Parliament carry on the project to roll back the kind of law that threatens volunteers with liability if things go wrong on the school camping trip. The law should not drive cops into prosecuting the father of a four year old killed on a quad bike. What penalty can the state add to his misery?

I’d love to help with a bill to restore some legal meaning to marriage promises for those who want to opt in to such a regime.

In the meantime, thank you for all the encouragement, suggestions and criticisms. I’ve appreciated having an audience. Sitting down to write for you has often clarified my thoughts, and indeed aborted some werewolf ideas.

This column is not a disguised Arnie-style “I’ll be back”. Whether another election lies in my future will be decided in the future. Until then, I’m looking for interesting work.

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