Rodney Hide: New Zealand deserves to know why Ross is on leave

Opinion 06/10/2018

By Rodney Hide, former ACT Party leader.

OPINION: You and I couldn’t tell the boss we’re taking a few months off for “personal health reasons” but to keep the pay check coming. The boss’s generosity would no doubt demand fuller explanation.

Likewise, we couldn’t tell our customers we are off for a few months because: "There are times in life where you have to put your own health and family first. As a husband and a father I need to do that at this time.” Oh, and keep paying like I’m still delivering.

Life for all of us doesn’t work like that. People pay us for what we do. Not irrespective of what we do or whether or not we turn up.

People react well to being trusted.  They react badly to being kept in the dark.

And that’s why MP Jami-Lee Ross and the National Party under whose banner he stands owe the public a fuller explanation for why Ross is no longer working as MP.

The need to know is not for prurient reason. It’s for the simple reason that National and Ross have asked us at every election for our support, asked us to trust them, and in return have promised us they would work hard to support us.

Ross’ own web page promises us he’s “a strong local voice for Botany”. He needs to explain why for some months he is not what he promised.

I suspect he would be very surprised by our response.

We are a very understanding people. We respond well to the truth. We are good at respecting people’s privacy. We can be trusted.

What we are not good at is being treated as fools. The idea that being an MP is important, that this MP for you is special, but suddenly you can do without them for months without consequence is treating us as fools.

The job of being MP can’t just matter when it suits the MP.  It must matter or it must not. It’s not something that can be switched on and off at the MP’s convenience.

We don’t like being treated like we can’t handle the truth. Those in power can handle the truth.  But those of us who just vote, who work, who pay our taxes, who are expected to follow the rules, can’t handle the truth because actually, what is the reason?  We haven’t even been told why we can’t be told.

I understand the reasons for Ross’ absence can be both personal and private. But his absence has social and public consequences. The voters of Botany are without their MP, for starters.

It comes with public life that when the personal impacts on the public role – the personal needs explanation. People react well to being trusted. They react badly to being kept in the dark.

At the next election, National and their candidate will be asking Botany voters to trust them.  They will be promising the voters they have the best candidate. They will be saying they will work hard and will put the people’s interests first.

But can you trust them? The experience of Jami-Lee Ross suggests not.

They won’t trust us. Why should we trust them?

It’s not that Botany is without an MP for some months that is the problem. It’s that no proper explanation has been given for the absence. That’s the problem.

Rodney Hide speaks all things politics every Saturday on RadioLIVE’s Weekend Life.