Government doing okay considering differences


Yesterday I blasted the state of politics in New Zealand and how I find myself along with others feeling abandoned by the party we supported over the Trans Pacific Partnership. Whilst all true and I stand by it, this is just one dimension to a multi-dimensioned state of New Zealand politics, which this article will discuss.

New Zealand, despite its nearly 25 years of experience with coalition Governments, nonetheless has a somewhat chequered history with them in a Mixed Member Proportional environment. M.M.P had its first election in 1996, which resulted in a hung Parliament – neither the incumbent National Party or the Oppposition Labour Party were large enough as a result of that election to form a Government on their own and needed New Zealand First, which had gathered 17 seats and held the balance of power.

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters chose National. That lasted 20 months and about a year after it formed, the then Prime Minister Jim Bolger was ousted by his deputy Jenny Shipley. After a tumultuous eight month in which Mrs Shipley floated the sale of Wellington Airport, privatizing the energy sector and pushing through reforms that led to significant increases in university fees (and equally significant student revolts in campuses across the country in 1999), the coalition Government collapsed in acrimonious circumstances.

Contrast that with the coalition Government of today, and contrary to the assertions of National Party Leader Simon Bridges that it is in disarray, the Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is doing alright. Do they agree on everything? Absolutely not and there are plenty of good opportunities coming up for the two to have major disagreements. Mr Peters, whilst claiming to reject the neoliberal stance of both National and Labour, undermined that when his party chose to support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, something myself and others had staunchly hoped he would reject.

They are co-operating on other matters. Mr Peters got a N.Z.$1 billion injection of spending into foreign aid shortly after he became Minister for Foreign Affairs (for a second time). New Zealand First is able to announce significant projects for rural development, something that National lagged behind on during its time in office.

New Zealand First is likely to clash significantly with the Greens. On issues such as defence, justice, criminal law and so forth, New Zealand First will always be more conservative than the Greens. It is not to say that the stance is necessarily correct as there is a great need to legalize medical marijuana as a matter of urgency and review how we treat drug addiction, which is distorting crime statistics significantly with arrests and punishments for relatively minor offences.

Whilst the Greens have made some progressive since Metiria Turei’s departure, it is still struggling with the fallout from Mrs Turei’s admission of having lied to Work and Income New Zealand. This gives New Zealand First a chance to make inroads in pushing the great body of policy that makes up the party manifesto. Whether N.Z.F. realizes this and seizes the opportunity is another story altogether.

The party will also probably clash with Labour at some point. Labour, despite its swing to the left in the last election is still tarred – and might be forever – by its experiment in the 1980’s with market economics. It’s failure to buy back the electricity grid in full has disappointed many. It’s reluctance to announce significant increases in investment in science, diversifying the economy

I am expecting to see significant further announcements across the remainder of this Parliamentary term in a range of areas – from the Defence Force announcing what will replace the C-130 Hercules transports, to the $300 million promised for Christchurch transport to the education review and how the concerns over oil and gas bans will be tackled.

But that does not change the fact that if an election were held in the very new future your guess would be as good as mine about how I would vote. Right now, I honestly don’t know.

Low tide in politics


I feel as if it is low tide. It is not moving in any particular direction – I do not feel an attraction to a particular political party at the moment. So much so that were an election held today, as to who I would vote for, your guess would be as good as mine – I honestly could not tell you.

To have members such as Fletcher Tabuteau consistently attack the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement inside and outside of Parliament and drum up support for ending it, only to then see them vote enthusiastically for it, infuriates many.

New Zealand First made a promise that it would see out the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. It has consistently attacked using its Members of Parliament and the Leader Winston Peters. Its Members of Parliament all told me at one point or another that they did not want a bar of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

The problem is who do I vote for?

I am too conservative to be a Green – I do not agree with them on most things including foreign policy, defence and justice, but also the feasibility of ending coal and gas in New Zealand. Their opposition to having a dysfunctional defence force, along with a general distrust of the military establishment raises questions about what they would do were a war where the U.N. requests N.Z assistance breaks out.

In some respects I might also be on the conservative wing of Labour were I to vote for them. Labour was my first vote – a misguided one at that – in 1999, when New Zealand voted to be rid of a three term National-led Government that had had nine yeas to change from being the neoliberal party that enabled massive market reforms, but at great cost to New Zealanders.

So, you say I should vote for New Zealand First?

No. New Zealand First and I have had a fractuous relationship. I enjoy getting to know people when I joined and the culture was quite nice. I have always been inspired by the Party’s : 15 Fundamental Principles, which supported pretty much most if not all of the basic themes that the party wants to take home: equality for all; retirement at 65%., a sustainable environment, better protection of our assets and resolving the Treaty of Waitangi claims.

Others might ask whether I would be interested in Social Credit. I honestly have no idea. Social Credit would – I suspect find themselves constantly standing on the toes just to draw level with the eyes of New Zealand First and the Greens would not look that natural and one could ask “how long, really?”. It is not that I am trying to put them down, and some of their policies – I have not read anywhere near all of them, and am not sure when I would get around to it – do look fine on paper.

Those are my feelings about this 1 year after Labour took office. On the whole Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is probably quite happy with how things have gone and will be more than pleased to see that National, like Labour before them, are capable of having bad days.

Learning from an appalling week in New Zealand politics


To say that the week just gone in New Zealand politics was an appalling sight for both Kiwi’s and non-Kiwi’s alike to be watching and/or participating in, is an understatement. It was a week which in the beginning looked like being colourful, if not a little dirty – I thought that Mr Ross would be reined in by National Party leader Simon Bridges and given a right dressing down. I thought that it would be quickly shut down and the public told “Nothing to see here: Move along”.

How wrong I was. Perhaps as a result of being away for four weeks and paying as little attention as possible to New Zealand domestic affairs in that time, I lost track of what was brewing. Perhaps I held – and I think now that this is the case – a too high an estimate of the National Party’s ability in the post-John Key era to shut down rogue M.P.’s.

Whatever the case, the results have been truly disgusting. From Mr Bridges and Mr Ross slinging poo across the expanse of the internet and via the media at each other, to his admittance of affairs, of potentially very dodgy handling of political donations, to Mr Ross’s admittance into a mental health facility, it was a desperate, dirty and underhand week.

So, what are the lessons that we can learn from this? There are a few:

I think one of the bigger ones is the age old lesson about not throwing stones in glass houses. In this case some rather large stones got thrown and they seem to have broken a lot of glass. National, Mr Bridges, Mr Ross have all come away with damaged glass houses.

The discussion around the state of Mr Ross’s mental health has varied hugely. From those trying to show a degree of understanding and rightfully calling for decorum to those throwing more fuel on the fire, such as Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater, we have seen a voting public fascinated and repelled at the same time. Perhaps the lesson out of this is to learn to show a degree of dignity and class when discussing mental health – if you cannot say anything constructive, don’t say anything at all.

The third one, which at this moment probably applies most to Mr Bridges, is damage control. His was not the best and it might in part explain his dismal poll rating in the latest 1 News Colmar Brunton poll. It showed that an election today would give Labour and the Greens a comfortable majority and with New Zealand First 68 seats in Parliament or 56% of the seats. National would have 51 seats and the A.C.T. Party the remaining one seat. On preferred Prime Minister, Mr Bridges is well down, having slumped to 7% whilst Labour leader Jacinda Ardern rises to an all time high of 42%.

As the second week of this saga progresses, with more announcements surely to come about any other leaks – damaging or not – the National Party will be in full on damage control. A.C.T. will be watching on disgruntled and hopefully disgusted with what they have seen in their ally, whilst the governing benches will be getting on with the task of running New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern mustering the troops ahead of Winston Peters arrival


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has a busy few days ahead of her. With a misfiring Cabinet, an absentee (both in mind and presence)Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and a baby on the way, Ms Ardern knows time is not on her side.

Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis has been largely invisible. Some say he was deliberately made to go into hiding and press the flesh with the Iwi as a way of shoring up the Maori vote that enabled Labour to sweep the Maori Party from office. Some say he has been shielded because his performance in the House of Representatives when answering questions from the Opposition has its own questions to be answered. Whatever the case, Mr Davis does not seem to be handling some of the more basic duties expected of a Deputy Leader all that well.

Add a misfiring Cabinet, rattling off gaffes that no doubt give National leader Simon Bridges cause for hope, the complexity of the problems facing Ms Ardern in the next 7 days just got quite a bit worse. Transport Minister Phil Twyford was stripped of the responsibility for the Civil Aviation Authority after being caught using his cellphone on a flight.

Ms Ardern has her own problems too. And that is not a reference to her impending date with maternity ward, so much as it is a nod to the fact that one of her flag ship policies, ending oil exploration has not gone down the way it was intended. Whilst it now takes a bit of a breather as climate change policy is before the public whilst they are granted the opportunity to make a submission on it, no mistake should be made about the fact that National is going to assemble a formidable case against banning oil exploration. Whilst the result would probably have still been the same, it should have at least been put to Cabinet first.

With all of these problems, little wonder Ms Ardern is only intending to be on leave for six weeks. Her partner, Clarke Gayford, First Man in New Zealand and First Dad will have a significant role to play at home, not just looking after their baby, whenever and however it may come. So who will fill the void for six weeks?

Cue Winston Peters, the survivor of a dozen terms in Parliament, with experience as Cabinet Minister in three Governments. Captain of the Nation for six weeks.

New Zealand politics might be in a piece of uncharted water here. With just a couple of weeks to go before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gives birth to her first child, the New Zealand First-Labour-Green Coalition is readying itself for a six week period with an acting-Prime Minister.

Winston Peters however is not new to this situation. He has been Acting Prime Minister in the past, when New Zealand First supported the National led Government of formers Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley. As the longest serving member of Parliament – having spent most of the last 40 years in and around the Beehive and Parliament Buildings – Mr Peters knows the Standing Orders better than anyone including probably the Speaker of the House.

Mr Peters also has significant ministerial experience as well. He was Treasurer in the National-led Government of Mr Bolger/Mrs Shipley for 20 months before being fired by Mrs Shipley in August 1998. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs under former Prime Minister Helen Clark in the 2005-2008 Government. During that time he met a number of high ranking politicians from overseas including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Mr Peters has a knack for reading the minds of the voters. It is not possible to get as far as Mr Peters has without being able to read the electorate. Combine this with his witty, charismatic nature, ability to dish out one liners or complex answers as they are needed and you have the makings of a leader. But to get as far as Mr Peters has, one needs to have a genuine passion for the role, a hunger to succeed and

Simon Bridges drops in popularity; Crusher enters preferred P.M. stakes


National leader Simon Bridges is not the most popular politician in New Zealand at the moment. Whilst he might have the support of his National Party, and not really having been tested in the short time that he has been in office, his popularity is right where Andrew Little’s was this time last year before Jacinda-mania took hold.

Mr Bridges is experiencing the same very low levels of popularity that assailed successive Labour leaders during the three terms that party was out of office. For the time being this is not cause for alarm as Mr Bridges still has at least two years to wait before the next election, meaning there is plenty of time for Labour to make a significant mistake that National can capitalize on.

However if Mr Bridges still finds himself in this position cometh the 2020 Fiscal Budget he might find himself being challenged for the job. For that to happen though, there would need to be a significant change in polling fortunes. Right now A.C.T. and National can muster 59 seats in a Parliament of 122.

Perhaps the party that should be the most concerned is New Zealand First. Since their announcement that they will support the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership, the support for the party has plunged with many people who until then had been staunch supporters walking away from the party of Winston Peters. Prior to that announcement, the Party had been widely viewed by the voting public as the only party other than the Greens that was stridently opposed to the C.P.T.P.P. and its predecessor the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (T.P.P.A.). If an election were had today and the poll result was accurate, there would be no New Zealand First in the new Parliament.

The Green Party are still struggling with the post-Metiria Turei era. Mrs Turei’s departure from Parliament as a result of being made to resign following admissions that she misled Department of Work and Income over her income whilst she was a solo mother, was bad enough. But that was damage that could have been (probably would have been)fixed had she announced at the same time that she had paid it all back, leaving the Opposition with minimal ammunition and probably not causing the revolt in the ranks of the Green Party. Although they have now elected Marama Davidson to the co-leadership position, Mrs Davidson has yet to be distinctly heard, which is something that the Greens will be hoping changes in the near future. Because of that, the Greens slipped slightly in the poll.

A.C.T. continues to languish in the poll, supported only by leader David Seymour’s hold on the Epsom electorate. Granted Mr Seymour has been showing off his dance moves on Dancing With The Stars, and his End of Life Choice Bill has cross party support in dealing with euthanasia, there is little else maintaining peoples interest in him or his party.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sails positively on. A few weeks away from going on maternity leave and handing Mr Peters temporary control of the country, Ms Ardern sits on 40.2% support in the preferred Prime Minister stakes. Since much Labour policy is still to come and her handling of the problems that have so far come her way, has been largely competent, like Mr Bridges, although for quite contrasting reasons, she has little cause for alarm.