Russell Marshall’s Column

Russell Marshall

Reforms needed urgently at the UN — and closer to home

By Russell Marshall

Former PM Helen Clerk, now head of the UN Development Programme, spoke at Victoria University this week about the challenge of making overdue reforms to the United Nations and its agencies — and to other multilateral bodies.

As I heard an Indian academic once observed, ‘the status quo represents the congealed violence of the past.’

The United Nations, and in particular, the way in which the Security Council is chosen and operates, is a very good example.

The permanent member countries represent the victors from the Second World War. Two of them, France and the UK, would not make any top five today. There is also the vexed question of the veto, against which New Zealand made the loudest protests of any country when the United Nations was established.

Helen Clark gave detailed comments on various agencies and the overall picture seemed to be that there is some progress in a few places, though not much in New York.

The need for serious reform is by no means confined to the United Nations and the various international agencies.

Huge bank profits

In the last few weeks the largely Australian owned banks which dominate our banking landscape in this country have been reporting their full-year results.

The ANZ made ‘another record-breaking profit’ this time of $1.27 billion, an increase of 17% in the year to September. The ASB’s $685 million profit represented an increase of 21%.

Those Australian shareholders must be very pleased. When the chips are down banks are driven more than ever today by the need to benefit those who own them. These and other such stories make me feel uncomfortable, especially at a time of growing unemployment.

Bank customers here and elsewhere are beginning to talk about the power which banks have and how that power is exercised.

I am reminded of the wise advice Saint Paul gave to Timothy to the effect that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Huge bank profits notwithstanding, the widening income gap here and elsewhere, and the inevitable corollary of growing poverty and unemployment, is a major evil.

Why not sell TVNZ

Post Script: There may be a state asset which the government could safely sell to cheers rather than protests.

Successive governments have made it impossible for Television New Zealand to fulfill properly its responsibilities to New Zealand citizens.

Is there any reason whey they should not sell it? We could then work on all political parties to develop real state TV broadcasting policies, without fetters such as paying dividends.