A once in a generation election?

Slightly less than weeks out from the election of 2020, assuming the current One News Colmar-Brunton poll continues to hold, New Zealand could be looking at a once in a generation electoral landslide. For the first time since Mixed Member Proportional was introduced, New Zealand might be about elect a majority party Government where a single party has enough seats to govern alone.

Whilst it is true New Zealand has come close in the in past, getting near the 61 seat majority mark is one thing. Crossing it is quite another.

National nearly achieved this in 2011 and 2014. In the 2011 General Election it won 59 seats; up one from the 2008 General Election result; Labour slumped from 42 seats down to 34, which were picked up by a resurgent New Zealand First and the Green Party. In 2014 National reached 60 seats, but lost one to the Greens in a recount. Labour were reduced further to 32 seats. Even in 2017, despite not being chosen by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as their coalition partner, National still managed 56 seats.

If Labour did somehow secure 61 or more seats in the House of Representatives, it would be the first time since 1994 that a major political party has achieved a majority. It would raise significant public expectations about what policies might be achieved because Prime Minister Jacinda  Ardern has much mana with New Zealanders across the spectrum and is widely respected by non-New Zealanders as well. Significant areas that voters would want to see movement on are reforming/replacing the District Health Boards; improving the supply of housing for ordinary New Zealanders; reducing poverty and addressing how our energy sector will look in the era of climate change. Given that at the 2023 election one should expect National to have found a person who can challenge Ms Ardern by then, and have some more realistic policies than their current shambles, I expect much of the ground that Labour will probably gain at this election will be clawed back.

This may be a once in a generation election for other reasons too. The number of new political parties that have formed in the last 12 months to take on the larger parties is quite impressive. Whilst none are polling close to the 5% threshold for entry into Parliament, or are likely to win an electorate seat, they are likely – between them – to chip away enough votes that New Zealand First will probably not get into Parliament; that New Conservative will be the largest party outside Parliament.

Advance New Zealand/New Zealand Public Party will be the one New Zealanders watch most warily, not least because of the incandescent bile being jetted by some of their supporters. There has been at least one case of people suggesting that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should be assassinated, which not surprisingly got the Police involved. There have also been Advance/N.Z.P.P. gatherings that have caused community leaders who have a social media profile to be concerned for their well being, because of their support for the Government response to COVID19.

Even if no new parties in New Zealand get into Parliament, it is certainly going to make for a lively two remaining working weeks before we find out what New Zealanders really think.

My thoughts on election policy in 2020: Part 3

Yesterday I published Part 2 of my thoughts on election policy . This is Part 3. In the continued absence of Labour announcing substantial policy to kick the election into gear, and National apparently unable – and/or unwilling! – to control their caucus, I believe it is important for New Zealand to get on with discussing the issues and the policies that are going to make this country tick.

Each election I see go past without bold ideas as to how New Zealand might rejuvenate its Economy, is one where I wonder how much impact the toxic neoliberal influence is having on the country. I have already opined about some of those ideas in earlier posts, so this one instead will look labour and crime issues, and why continuing dilly dallying is costing New Zealand.

  • Increasing the effectiveness of the regulatory process that the establishment of New Zealand companies must go through
  • Increasing penalties for organized crime – including heavier jail sentences, loss of passports and confiscation of ill gotten property
  • If they have not already been done so, the rest of John Shewan’s recommendations should be examined with a view to implementing them
  • All new companies should be guided by a mentor until they develop and give effect to protocols around staff management; reporting of profits

Our natural Environment is unique, and we are lucky here that heavy attempts to exploit it, the beautiful natural environment that brings tourist dollars into this country and makes it such a special place to live is still in comparatively good condition. But it will not last if we continue to allow unsustainable development of our resources and fail to respect the mana whenua of the tangata whenua of New Zealand. Priorities include fresh water management; waste reduction; carbon emissions and our rapacious appetite for raw minerals. I propose:

  • Full implementation of the National Policy Statement on Fresh Water Management, 2020 (took effect at 0000 hours this morning).
  • Reducing the average age of our vehicle fleet to 10 years by stopping imports on any that were made 10 or more years ago;
  • Substantially increasing investment in railways to get trucks off the road
  • A comprehensive mineral recovery scheme from e-waste
  • Complete the R.M.A. review

For too many years, I believe New Zealanders have watched their rights slowly get eroded by a combination of Government policy, a deteriorating international situation and a lack of safeguards built into the ad hoc framework of laws that is the New Zealand Constitution. These issues few seem to recognize because they are gradual, rather like the afternoon shadows. Whilst recognizing a constitutional framework is only as good as each Government, I believe there is room for improvement. I propose:

  • A referendum on whether to adopt a formal constitution
  • An overhaul of the Constitution Act to prevent key acts such as the Human Rights Act, Bill of Rights Act being usurped by radicals
  • Introduce civics in schools – although I have heard from former United Future M.P. Peter Dunne that this is indeed happening, he has not given me a timetable

I hope that this article and the two over the two previous days have given you an idea of what I support.

My thoughts on election policy in 2020: Part 2

This is Part 2 of my thoughts on election policy for 2020. In Part 1 I listed health, justice and green technology as areas of concern for me. I described briefly what made these policy areas important.

My Education policy has not changed vastly in the last three years. Whilst the 1989 blueprint called Tomorrow’s Schools had a vision then, the 30 years of neoliberal reform that have followed have left an ugly patchwork of holes where students with learning difficulties have been left behind and have fallen through the cracks. Maori and Pasifika students are finding that despite attempts by the system to be more inclusive, the school leavers rate is too high. The curriculum and how we teach it needs to be revisited and Parent Teacher Associations need to get realistic about how much social work we expect teachers to do. Therefore:

  • I advocate for the introduction of a new assessment regime simply called “Year __ Certificate” with course assessment regimes being 50/50 internal/external for Year 11-13;
  • revisit what we teach at schools and how – in Year 11 everyone sits the compulsory English course and have four choices, to which I would add Civics in Year 12;
  • an expanded refurbishment programme for lower decile schools to make them safe/healthy

As we recover from COVID19 and head towards the next election, no closer to knowing what will replace oil and gas than when the Government made the announcement, Energy has not surprisingly become a significant issue for me. Whilst agreeing that oil and gas are sunset industries, it is more like mid afternoon and New Zealand needs to do significant reinforcing of infrastructure, research into the diversification of renewable sources and where new comers like Waste-to-Energy might fit in. I propose:

  • Exploring W.t.E. plants for the West Coast and potentially Auckland and Wellington
  • Research the viability of pumped storage hydro for Clutha, Waitaki and Waikato rivers
  • A nation wide retrofit of all state houses not upgraded in the last few years with pink bats and/or double glazing
  • No more asset sales
  • Incentives for corporates that look to reduce power bills

As COVID19 bites, one of the unfortunate experiences a lot of New Zealanders will be experiencing is applying for Social Welfare. Since Labour came to office in 2017, I have been hoping for a massive overhaul of the Ministry of Social Development and its umbrella agencies Work and Income New Zealand, Child Youth and Families Service as well as Studylink. The Minister in charge, Carmel Sepuloni has however been noting more than hot air and no action, and as a consequence there are now credible fears of another Work and Income style attack where a gunman walked into a branch and shot dead two workers. In order to prevent that, but also to address concerns about the abject lack of humanity sometimes found in the offices of M.S.D.’s umbrella agencies, I propose:

  • Overhauling the  Social Welfare Act, which governs M.S.D. and its operations;
  • Append benefits to inflation, top up benefits for disabled, long term illness;
  • Overhaul the working culture of M.S.D. agencies


Parliament returns for an unexpected encore

Just when you thought the 52nd Parliament had risen from its national stage, the 120 members of the cast that have been providing our national level politics for the last three years are back with an encore. Settle back into your seats for one last – brief – encore where everyone can look forward to seeing/hearing more about how National is simply not fit to govern; why Labour whilst appearing assured of a second term should not be resting on their laurels; the impact of the little parties like New Conservative, A.C.T., the Greens and New Zealand First could have on the election.

One might have seen this coming. After Auckland went into lock down to try to flush out the current COVID19, the suitability of having an election when different parts of the country would have got differing levels of electioneering simply did not fit the needs of New Zealanders or the desire of political parties. The only thing to do was to move the date of the election back, which the Government did on Monday. An extra month also ensures that the 5,000 or New Zealanders who would have been too young to vote in the first one, but who turn 18 shortly after would be able to vote in this important event.

So, how did it go yesterday? Did the children of the House behave or did people get kicked out? Not surprisingly, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, Judith Collins clashed over some of the newer allegations. Then there was New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters asking for heads to roll over the failure of the Government to institute mandatory testing of quarantine and isolation staff. Mr Peters was vague when pressed on who should resign and appeared to suggest that the Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Minister of Health Chris Hipkins might be preferences without actually saying so.

So let us see how the encore goes. It is a very rare event in New Zealand to have the election postponed. It remains to be seen what will be on the Parliamentary agenda given that it rises in proper in a months time and that the Government tried to finish what it could of its legislative agenda prior to initially rising.

Delay the election

On Tuesday 11 August Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the increase in COVID19 levels from 1 across New Zealand to LEVEL 2 everywhere except Auckland and LEVEL 3 for the unlucky city between the Bombay Hills and Warkworth. It was an unwelcome announcement for everyone including all of the political parties around New Zealand. As 19 September 2020 slowly draws closer, the Government is running out of time to announce whether the General Election will be delayed.

With Parliament now facing a compulsory decision making day on Monday, New Zealand is facing a rare moment in history when some of the leading lights of the west are floundering.In their bids to contain COVID19, countries without it under control are starting to visit the legalities of pushing elections scheduled for them out a few months. In New Zealand my understanding is that the Government can delay the election until some point in November without Parliament having to vote on it. This is a very good thing, because not least:

  • Parliament makes an allowance scheduling the timing of elections that  are affected by extraordinarily adverse events
  • If a Parliamentary vote is needed then there needs to be 75% of M.P.’s or 90 Member Parliament present when it is held

Ms Ardern has a few choices she can choose from, but these are constrained by Parliamentary convention. The first is that she needs to make a decision on Monday 17 August. Parliament could keep running until it naturally expires on 12 October, which means if Parliament were to naturally expire, a four week campaign period starting on 12 September, which leaves a calendar month for campaigning, would be possible. Giving Parliament that little bit of extra time in which to prepare.

I have no problems with delaying the election for a number of reasons. As indeed I had thought about the possibility of delaying up the elections.  First and foremost, the current arrangements are based in part on an assumption everything goes flawlessly in the current lock down.

However my reasons are rather different from the ones that the Opposition would like to see it be delayed for. Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins does not strike me as someone who would be hugely bothered by the idea of delaying it to give National a chance to rally its supporters, and indeed her display’s show. a lack of regard to the implementation of those laws. Ms Collins is quite happy to scorch the political landscape around her in order to make the Government see the folly of its decisions. As Martyn Bradbury (Citizen Bomber) writes. Such combative tactics do not bod well for New Zealand society and threaten to increase the already high levels of distrust between Parliamentary parties. As Bomber argues, these are not normal times. Maybe just this once we should delay the election.