Mil­i­tary back­ground dif­fers to pol­i­tics

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION / NEWS -

Rou­tinely, the far north pro­duces larger-than-life po­lit­i­cal per­son­al­i­ties, and North­land’s new Na­tional MP, Mike Sabin, seems no ex­cep­tion.

At 43, he’s al­ready en­joyed ca­reers in the armed ser­vices, po­lice and with his own metham­phetamine abuse preven­tion firm, Meth­con.

That ex­pe­ri­ence how­ever, has all been within strongly hi­er­ar­chi­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions. Does Sabin think his past ca­reers have pre­pared him for the horse­trad­ing and com­pro­mise that’s ba­sic to MMP pol­i­tics?

Fair com­ment, Sabin replies. The way he sees it though, his driv­ing pas­sion has been all about ser­vice.

‘‘That’s what be­ing in the mil­i­tary and in the Po­lice, and even Meth­con, was all about. Those can be con­sid­ered un­com­pro­mis­ing en­vi­ron­ments. But that doesn’t de­scribe my per­son­al­ity traits, if you like.’’

So what does – did he, for in­stance, vote for MMP in last year’s ref­er­en­dum? No, he cer­tainly did not.

In his view, pol­i­tics isn’t some utopian en­vi­ron­ment where dif­fer­ent sorts sit around and dis- cuss things fash­ion.

‘‘Pol­i­tics is very hi­er­ar­chi­cal and ad­ver­sar­ial. Not that I’m sug­gest­ing that’s a good thing. But while the art of com­pro­mise is im­por­tant, you can also get the tyranny of the mi­nor­ity, by way of MMP.

‘‘ We’ve seen many, many ex­am­ples of how peo­ple who have a min­i­mal man­date can ac­tu­ally have quite an ex­treme de­gree of power.’’

Sabin got his first taste of the heat in the po­lit­i­cal kitchen while chair­ing a re­cent public meet­ing in Kaitaia about chil­dren at risk.

It tran­spired that a lo­cal Maori trust board had been rapped over the knuck­les for us­ing some of its funds to feed hun­gry chil­dren at five schools in Kaitaia.

Sabin warned the meet­ing that if schools pro­vided lunches, then moth­ers and fa­thers would never have to do it.

When it was pointed out that some par­ents were spend­ing their money on pok­ies in­stead, Sabin re­port­edly replied: ‘‘ We have to in­ves­ti­gate that, other-

in a

col­le­gial wise we’ll have 50,000 more par­ents who are not feed­ing their chil­dren.’’

Re­ally? It seems hard to imag­ine the prospect of a free lunch would trig­ger a na­tion­wide ab­di­ca­tion of parental care.

Surely, I asked, you feed the hun­gry child first, and then ad­dress the cause?

Sabin sticks to his guns. This sit­u­a­tion isn’t a com­mu­nity or gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­bil­ity, he be­lieves, but a parental one.

And when some par­ents aren’t meet­ing it? No prob­lem, he claims. ‘‘If you go down to Winz, you get these food parcels. There’s any man­ner of ways in which you can get emer­gency food to as­sist a child.’’

Who­ever is in au­thor­ity then has to get on to those par­ents.

As a par­ent, Sabin has not been in­su­lated from per­sonal tragedy. In 2010, his teenage son Dar­ryl suf­fered brain dam­age from a rugby field en­counter.

Ini­tially, Dar­ryl’s prog­no­sis was dim, but to­day? ‘‘Aside from some weak­ness in his right leg and right arm, he’s the same kid that he was be­fore his ac­ci­dent.’’

The in­ci­dent has led Sabin to ad­vo­cate for a data­base of sports head in­juries, one man­aged by the ref­er­ees or by some­one else in­de­pen­dent of the coaches and play­ers – mainly, to counter the dan­ger­ous bravado of treat­ing a head knock and get­ting up again as be­ing just a rite of man­hood.

‘‘We’ve got to think about bet­ter ways to man­age risk,’’ Sabin says.

In rugby, and in so­ci­ety at large.

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