Young New Zealand First right to promote drug testing at festivals


Back in the 1960’s major music festivals such as Glastonbury, Woodstock – among others – were as much known for the drug scene that happened around the music as they were for the bands and the music that they played. One does not have to look hard on Youtube to find videos of such scenes – opium, mushrooms, cannabis, cocaine were just a few of the drugs used to get high.

50 years later delegates at the New Zealand First Convention in the weekend just ended were in a heated debate about the suitability of drug testing at music festivals. Some Members of Parliament including Darroch Ball, Mark Patterson and Clayton Mitchell stated their opposition to the idea, which was floated by Young New Zealand FirstĀ  – the party youth wing – as a policy remit.

Messrs Patterson, Ball and Mitchell said that they were concerned that this essentially amounted to condoning the use of drugs. They were concerned about the messages that would be sent by supporting such a measure.

I support it totally. It is not that I support drug use by any means, but at music festivals, just as at Woodstock and Glastonbury, it is inevitable that drugs get slipped in. There is an equally high probability that strangers in pursuit of that hit that will make them high seek it from people who are otherwise no more than strangers. And further to the point it is far better those that are using them are given the opportunity to ascertain what exactly they are using, lest it be something with a potentially lethal active ingredient. Y.N.Z.F. member Robert Gore, who was quoted suggesting that young people on it should be allowed to repent, suggested lives could be saved and harm from the usage of drugs could be reduced by permitting this policy.

So, I welcome this move by Young New Zealand First to address this issue so that we can all remember the lazy days in the sun singing along to cool tunes for all the right reasons. I hope that the Caucus have another look at how they proceed with this and understand this is about saving lives as Mr Gore said, and not about condoning illicit use of drugs.

National climbing in polls; Jacinda still preferred Prime Minister


The latest poll out could potentially see a National A.C.T. coalition form. This is how Parliament would look if an election were held today using the numbers of Colmar Brunton:

  • NATIONAL: 60 seats
  • LABOUR: 51 seats
  • GREENS: 8 seats
  • A.C.T.: 1 seat
  • N.Z. FIRST: 0 seats

Because New Zealand First has no electorate seats it would be out of Parliament and their vote would be meaningless. This would boost all of the other parties. National would increase to 49.5%, which would give them 60 seats in the house. With A.C.T. that would enable them to form a Government and not need any other support.

The reality I think is a bit different. Whilst Labour is suffering in the polls I do not believe its popularity has slumped that far as polls typically survey 800-1,000 people. Across all electorates that might be about 14 people per electorate.

  • NATIONAL: 58 seats
  • LABOUR: 50 seats
  • A.C.T.: 3 seats
  • GREENS: 9 seats

David Seymour is the politician I most despise in Parliament and if his A.C.T. Party disappeared most Kiwi’s would be pretty happy, but just this once I think that the man from Epsom has done something right. His work around euthanasia and cannabis reform is going to pay dividends that – credit where it is due – he deserves.

I do not see a future for New Zealand First. Too many people key to the party’s success have been driven from it. Too much time has been squandered with internal politics instead of figuring out how to make it a more efficient election campaigning machine. It is no closer to reforming its campaign machinery than it was when I rejoined in 2010 after a four year hiatus. And then there is the Winston question: how long will Winston Peters stay on as leader?

National leader Simon Bridges is trailing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the preferred Prime Minister stakes for numerous good reasons. She has a commanding lead of 38% as opposed to Mr Bridges who has 9% support and is now comfortably ahead of his National Party colleague Judith “Crusher” Collins on 5%.

  1. His support of Donald Trump policies shows a lack of acknowledgement of the harm that the former is causing America and the world
  2. National spent 9 years denying there was a housing crisis – whilst Phil Twyford should be out of cabinet and some of that surplus should be getting spent on it, Labour have at least tried to ease some of the restrictions in place
  3. Labour have started work on the monumental task of readying the economy for a post-oil New Zealand – keeping a promise
  4. Her compassionate style, whilst fluffy to many is in contrast to the attitude of many in National to things like refugees, mental health and beneficiaries

One thing is for certain, whether Ms Ardern or Mr Bridges like it or not, 2020 is shaping up to be a very lively affair.

 

New Zealand First’s 2019 reality check


Yesterday New Zealand First Party President Lester Gray quit. His departure reminded me of the many others who have departed, having been stone walled or frozen out over the years.


In the 6 New Zealand First Conventions I went to, I saw much teeth gnashing over whether to support particular ideas and policies. Delegates would put ideas forward, and many would be accepte. But they would almost immediately be forgotten, almost as if the Board were just going through the motions.

Between the 2014 Election and my departure in May 2017 I saw enough of the internal politics of New Zealand First to wonder how the party had managed to last as long as it had without a full scale meltdown. The conclusion was that only due to the sheer diligence of the membership and one or two people on the New Zealand First Party Board of Directors was this scenario avoided.

After each election a debrief was had. During the intervening three years, Conventions came and went, at which policy remits would be passed and the party would pat itself on the back for surviving another year. However it continued to be dogged – and continues to be dogged – by a lack of basic accountability at Board level. During that time a constant state of paralysis managed to cripple many good ideas that had been put forward, which would go on to be forgotten about, stalled or dropped completely. Just a few of them are listed here:

  1. A New Zealand First Youth wing – a lack of focus on youth was one of the reasons for the party failing to pick up 5% of the vote in 2008, and a Youth wing was only formalized in 2015
  2. Presence on social media and associated management policy has not been finalised six years after being introduced
  3. Developing an election campaigning blue print that can be rapidly rolled out each election which everyone understands
  4. Letting Shane Jones join the party, leap frogging many members who had much bigger claims to being on the party list
  5. Fundraising, which despite the party being resurgent, is not something we are good at

The membership, despite largely being elderly, and often constrained by a board that seemed to be terrified of forward progress managed to get 8 list candidates into Parliament in 2011 and 11 in 2014. A 12th Member of Parliament joined after New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters won the Northland by-election in 2015.

The departure of Mr Gray on what he considered ethical grounds suggests to me that New Zealand First has an ethics issue. The party really needs to have a swift and decisive examination of how it came to this. With a Convention in Christchurch in 2 weeks time and an election in 2020 it will be interesting to see how this plays out for New Zealand First.

 

 

 

National’s tricky road to victory in 2020


Simon Bridges has a job to do. Take back the Government benches in 2020. He is the Leader of the Opposition in the New Zealand Parliament, Leader of the National Party. His job is in two parts:

  1. Is to destroy the policies of the 6th Labour Government.
  2. Come up with a credible alternative policy platform that New Zealanders like enough to walk away from Labour

Unfortunately for National, when environmental and economic pragmatism is needed, Mr Bridges is a conservative who believes the core philosophies of the National Party and the policy making traditional to these philosophies is just fine. Yet Mr Bridges must in the next twelve months destroy the policy making of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and make her utopian vision look bad enough that New Zealanders are convinced to vote blue instead of red.

But if Mr Bridges is willing to be pragmatic about environmental law and environmental issues there are things that he could do which would help the environment and the economy at the same time. These two alone will not be enough. and he will have to have sound social policy and the right people to push it. To make it happen though, he would need to replace a few lieutenants – Amy Adams who was one of the more pragmatic voices on judicial and women’s affairs is leaving Parliament. Chris Finlayson who was Attorney General in the Government of Prime Minister John Key and Bill English has also departed.

Mr Bridges faces another problem. I highly doubt that New Zealand First will work with National again whilst Winston Peters is leader. I can understand National’s disgust with New Zealand First after electing to support a smaller party instead of handing National an historic 4th term – which I think would lead to a decisive Labour victory in 2020 with well over 50 red seats if Mr English had been returned to power. National would have to swallow what I imagine would be a massive rat whole.

And then there is A.C.T. Its Leader David Seymour would doubtlessly be expecting a Ministerial Warrant in any negotiations as part of a future National-led Government. Mr Seymour has no time for climate changeĀ  Also, would Mr Seymour be prepared to work with one of A.C.T.’s biggest enemies, New Zealand First and could Mr Bridges keep the two happy in the improbable situation where they agreed to?

But perhaps the biggest problem facing Simon Bridges is the same thing that toppled successive Labour leaders between 2008-2017: preferred Prime Minister ratings. Ms Ardern might be down on the historic high she hit after the Christchurch mosques were attacked, but she is well ahead of Mr Bridges who is being challenged by fellow National M.P. Judith Collins, whose preferred Prime Minister rating is the same as his.

National has a long road ahead of it if the party wants to return to the Government benches in 2020. It has some big decisions to make around refreshing the Members of Parliament so that they do not become deadwood, policy and building a rapport with New Zealanders. There are deep crevasses in the form of environmental and social policy on one side and the deregulated, minimalistic governance that A.C.T. favours on the other side. Mr Peters and Mr Seymour represent potential obstacles or opportunities depending on their own parties fortune.

It could be a very interesting 12 months.

National swings to the right


Was it Donald Trump? Was it Simon Bridges or was it Boris Johnson?

At least one of these leaders today featured significantly in the economic policy outlined by National leader Simon Bridges. United States President Donald Trump can take the credit for an idea adopted by Mr Bridges as he seeks to swing National towards the 2020 election and the prospect of a one-term Labour led Government.

It is classic blue ribbon politics from National, seeking to woo businesses that might feel like they have been short changed by the Labour-led Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Mr Bridges clearly not being of the same centrist cloth that saw Prime Minister John Key survive nearly three terms, has issued what to the conservative wing of New Zealand must seem like a call to arms.

In his outline Mr Bridges has made a number of pledges that point to an embracing of “free market” economics. Commentators have noted a swing towards Trumpian deregulation – an attack on “red tape” simply because they are regulations, and not necessarily because those regulations are bad. Mr Bridges has made a promise identical to one Mr Trump made after taking office whereby he would repeal two laws for every law introduced with the result being a 40% drop in new laws being made.

This willy approach raises as many questions as it does answer. National will claim that they are red tape, but if the past is the key to the future, it will most probably be attacks on occupational safety and health regulations, the Resource Management Act, banking and social laws designed to help the marginalized.

In a more ominous move that is likely to mobilise the Labour and Green Party base membership, Mr Bridges has also announced moves that will be seen as a clear and deliberate attack on the unions. By announcing a plan to stop unions getting Government preference in negotiations, Mr Bridges has attempted to undermine one of the key reasons for joining one in the first place.

National has gone one step further. At the risk of galvanizing the divided New Zealand First membership, they have chosen to raise the age of superannuation eligibility to 67. As a result in the next few days I expect to hear sermons from Winston Peters about the folly of doing so, and in the weeks and months to come as we start to look forward to the 2020 general election there will be clips of Mr Peters addressing his Grey Power constituents.

Instead of growing the economic pie as I have suggested by investing in research/science/technology and diversifying the export sector, they have decided to take an old, used and thus far not very successful knife out of the drawer. They have made it shiny and attempted to sharpen it in the hope that once again New Zealanders might be dazzled by the imagined allure of market economics.

Make what one will of these announcements, but I think we can be sure that the Government reaction will be substantial. It might not elicit new policy, but I expect to see a doubling down on existing policy and warnings to potential voters of what they might be playing with by voting for National. Maybe Mr Bridges is hoping that Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First will have forgotten by 2020 that these policies were announced. Maybe he is hoping to gain better traction and get the party moving again as a cohesive unit.

The 2020 election campaign might not officially start for several months, but the unofficial one is already revving its engine.