Tit-for-Tat politics do no favours


It is something all politicians are probably guilty of at some point in their career. In their attempt to either score political points or establish their name as a productive elected official, one might propose an amendment to legislation before the House of Representatives. The amendment is rejected possibly simply because it came from the Opposition, possibly because it came out after due process had been followed.

The proponent of the amendment is bitter, grumpy and perhaps feeling short changed. In retaliation for their attempt at a constructive amendment being shot down, they change their vote in an attempt to kill the legislation entirely. In doing so, they shoot down an opportunity to show that they are a good sport and try to understand why it was rejected and do better the next time such an opportunity arises.

The sad fact of the matter is that tit-for-tat politics are really just petulant stupidity. No one wins from politicians throwing hissy fits in Parliament – whether it is in a speech, at a Select Committee or in terms of how they vote.

Thus, National’s decision to yank its support for the Green Party’s medicinal cannabis bill, only to then come up with a near identical version is particularly galling. It essentially says that there was nothing wrong with the Green Party version other than to say that it was the GREEN PARTY that came up with it in the first place. Furthering the petulance, National have rejected the warnings from the Ministry of Health that their Bill will not significantly improve the availability of medicinal cannabis products.

Another example can be found in the National Party attacks on the Government for their fiscal policy. Afraid that their own fiscal management, which saw significant debt accrued – admittedly through testing times including the back end of the Global Financial Crisis, and two hugely costly earthquakes – was under attack, National have seized every opportunity to try to present the Labour-Green fiscal rules agreement as a failure and a joke, despite the spending falling within the limits agreed to and monetary inflow continuing to exceed spending. As Stuff reporter Tracy Watkins notes there is a fine line before highlighting failing policies and deliberately talking down the economy.

It is not just the Opposition parties that do it. Sometimes the Government parties can be equally dismissive. But right now that is not happening. It is the Opposition, struggling as it is to get used to the fact that petulant behaviour instead of quietly dropping an unwinnable argument does not get one very far.

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