National faces massive hurdles (of its own making)to attain a legacy

On Saturday 07 October 2017 the results of the special votes will become clear. Will National be able to form a Government on their own or with New Zealand First, or will they have to accept that just because they are the largest party in Parliament, does not necessarily mean they can govern?

But lets assume for a moment the truly amazing feat of getting a fourth term in office is achieved. National some how manage to form a government. What will their priorities be?

Let me be clear: if National secure a fourth term, only one thing will be on their minds and that is achieving a legacy. They will want to enact policies that create a legacy. There are however – largely of their own making I might add – some significant hurdles to this.

I will grant that the 8 years of Prime Minister John Key had to overcome some huge economic obstacles. They included two damaging earthquakes and the fall out from a global financial crisis. There is no doubt that even if National had set a higher tax regime than they have, additional borrowing would have been unavoidable. When a single seismic events wipes 12% off the economy in a single day you know the disaster befalling you is major.

Mr Key wanted a flag referendum. It might surprise people to know that on the whole the idea of having a referendum is not something I am opposed to. What made me vote for the existing flag was that there was something very suspect about the way the Government and Mr Key went about it. There was a symbolism, perhaps with more meaning than most realized behind the proposed change. The alternative flag called red peak did not look like a flag to the majority of New Zealanders and indeed to some it looked more like a corporate logo. Was Mr Key trying to put a corporate aspect, into the flag design?

Unfortunately like the flag referendum, the large emphasis on dairy farming at the expense of our fresh water resource has over time become increasingly divisive. I have always been of the opinion it would be a good thing if New Zealand was made to diversify away from the narrow export base we currently have – dairy farming, forestry and to a lesser extent mining. I do acknowledge that many farmers have made credible inroads into their contribution to the water quality problem that the industry at large is accused. They should be commended, but there are articles that have been published recently showing dairy farmers lag a long way behind in financial contributions to water quality projects.

We are a nation with a poor attitude to occupational safety and health, critical infrastructure and treatment of our workers. The “she’ll be right” attitude may have partially contributed to the Auckland pipeline issue by taking a lax approach to requiring the layout of the pipe network to be mapped and associated hazards identified Our treatment of workers from overseas at times borders on exploitation – employers hire them because they are prepared to work for lower rates, but they do not know their rights and usually a middle man is involved who threatens to withhold their passports or pay (or both). The Government knows about such conduct but has contributed to it lax control of immigration procedures and who should be allowed to process visa/residency/citizenship applications.

And as nation that prides itself on being a responsible citizen of the international community, there is much to be ashamed of under this Government. Whilst it can be commended for allowing New Zealand’s signature on the International Convention of Indigenous Rights, and for allowing New Zealand to become the 13th nation to grant same sex couples the right to marry, progress in many other areas has been minimal. In fact, our involvement in suspect firefights involving the New Zealand S.A.S. in Afghanistan, highlights why we should not be involved in a so called “war on terror” that increasingly looks like it is being waged just for the sake of being waged. Our failure to speak out on the Australian Governments appalling treatment of refugees and our refusal to substantially lift our refugee quota show an abrogation of our responsibilities to our fellow humans.

If National wants a legacy other than that of mediocrity, it is going to have to pull something quite extraordinary out of the proverbial rabbits hat. But I think the Labour party nickname for Prime Minister Bill English, “Boring Bill” may have more more clout than National want to admit.


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