As the Government of Prime Minister John Key starts its third term in earnest, his National Party could hardly be in better shape. Although there is no doubt that they wanted to govern by an absolute majority, which would alienate the need for a coalition Mr Key has every reason to be pleased with National’s performance. So, how is 2015 looking for the Government?
Whilst National is in very good shape, it’s allies are not. The almost non-existential party vote for A.C.T. and United would be the demise of any other party in Parliament, with a combined total of less than 2%. Only deals with National not to stand candidates in the electorates of United Future leader Peter Dunne and the A.C.T. Party candidate David Seymour prevented these two parties from being obliterated. Their contribution to this National-led Government is simply to ensure that National has the numbers to pass legislation through the House of Representatives.
The honeymoon is not likely to last long. Although the opposition parties are in a bad state, they are rallying quickly. Mr Key however has more immediate problems. Some of them are not of his making such as the worsening international security situation caused by a decade of failure by the international community to address the causes of terrorism or the collapsing petro-dollar. To some extent the slowing economy is not his fault either because the stubbornly bad economic situation in Europe with persistently high unemployment is means less of a market for N.Z. products and less people visiting New Zealand. Having said that, the failure of the social welfare reforms passed under the watch of Paula Bennett and now Anne Tolley mean our social inequality is amongst the worst in the developed world. The insistence on attacking the Resource Management Act as a housing impediment instead of addressing the foreign buy up of New Zealand and the minimal rise in wages since 2008 are entirely the fault of National.
To cap things off, National’s ministers – as increasingly becomes the case with governments as they age – are more and more out of touch with the people of New Zealand. For example concerns about the impact of current social welfare reforms on disabled and vulnerable people are perceived as irrelevant to the Minister. All the Minister appears to be interested in is cutting the number of people on the unemployment benefit. Another one is Judith Collins whose remorse for her role in the Oravida affair is as shallow as the water in a dried up river. Even Chris Finlayson, one I had had quiet respect for with his non fussy way of approaching the Treaty of Waitangi grievance settlements, has disappointed with his insistence that the terrorism laws rushed through just before Christmas were really necessary – other countries debating such laws have taken months and still have no certainty that they will actually pass.
National should enjoy its honeymoon whilst it lasts, because history is against them winning a fourth term. And the number and scale of the problems starting to emerge is frankly formidable.