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Maryan Street's Merry Christmas Message

Sat 23 Dec 2006 In: Features View at NDHA

The compliments of the season to everyone! Thanks for your support during the year. This is a kind of Christmas column but I thought I would do some of the expected and a bit of the less expected. There are holiday messages which bear repeating, especially at holiday time, but it's also a good time to look forward with some anticipation to what 2007 might hold. I have been hanging out for a holiday because it's been a busy year in Government. But the holiday is nearly here and I'm about to pack my books (and some papers) and my sunblock (I'm on the Health Select Committee after all!) and head for the beach with my favourite people. So I'll get the three safety messages over and done with quickly: Keep safe on the roads - don't drink and drive; allow plenty of time to get anywhere; don't monster slow drivers and get everyone's blood pressure up; take breaks; drink coffee - you know the drill. Keep safe in social situations - watch your friends; watch your drinks; see each other home safely; don't go out on your own. Keep doing the safe sex thing - use condoms if you are MSM; don't take risks. Those messages are good all year round, but they come into their own at holiday time. Reflecting on the year gone is a pastime shared by many at this time of year. My colleagues Tim Barnett and Charles Chauvel have written in recent columns about gains the Labour-led Government has made this year. They have talked about human rights for the GLBT communities, including civil unions and the equal treatment of same sex couples before the law. They have also talked about the things yet to do and the care we must take to preserve our fragile new status - a status which needs vigilant protection. There will always be those who wish to take that away from us. We must ensure that they never have enough political power to do that. In the year coming, there are other things to do as well though. I want to have my next Member's Bill, called the Ethical Investments Bill, drawn from the ballot of all other backbench MPs' proposed Members' Bills. My Bill would require the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, the Government Superannuation Fund and the Accident Compensation Corporation to take ethical criteria into account when investing their substantial funds. I have called it the Ethical Investments Bill. While Government can not, and should not, control where Crown Financial Institutions (CFIs) invest their funds, it is reasonable to require that certain criteria be taken into consideration, and reported against when they do so. These criteria are: they must be governed by ethics which promote socially responsible and environmentally sustainable economic investment; they must take internationally agreed norms and conventions into account; and, they must do nothing prejudicial to New Zealand's reputation as a responsible member of the world community. All three CFIs are already required to comply with the last criterion not to do anything prejudicial to New Zealand's reputation internationally, but the active consideration of socially and environmentally responsible issues, and the need to take into account international conventions to which New Zealand is already a party, would be new extensions. Reporting against these criteria annually would also be new. Socially responsible investment is gaining support internationally, with good returns. It makes good sense that Government funds, held on trust for the people of New Zealand, should not be invested in companies whose operations run counter to other areas of Government activity. For example, we can't be promoting healthy and active lifestyles across a raft of portfolios such as health, sport and education, and be investing funds in tobacco companies. That is why I welcomed ACC's voluntary withdrawal of investment from tobacco a year ago. Similarly, we can't be working hard to address climate change and on the other hand be investing in companies which are key contributors to the problem, unless we are actively seeking to change their activities through engagement. There is evidence that one out of every eight US investment dollars is being put into socially responsible investment, with good returns. Companies are recognising the commercial appeal of contributing to charities and organisations which are making a social difference. Consumers and investors are looking for companies and investment opportunities which are consistent with their own ethics and values. This bill would see Government leading by example, by requiring its own financial institutions to take these issues into account. So there's a message for when we are having fun and something to think about for when you are ready for a more serious conversation around the barbie. I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season with people you love. MARYAN STREET MP Maryan Street MP - 23rd December 2006    

Credit: Maryan Street MP

First published: Saturday, 23rd December 2006 - 12:00pm

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