Jacinda Ardern becomes the youngest ever New Zealand Prime Minister

It’s official. Shortly before 1900 hours last night, New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters – after 26 days of waiting, and nearly two weeks of negotiations – has announced that his party will support a Labour-led Government.

The next Prime Minister of New Zealand – the 40th – will be Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern. Youngest Prime Minister of New Zealand in 160 years.

This is a truly historic moment. Not only has Ms Ardern become Prime Minister, but it is important to remember that not even three months ago, Labour were staring down the gun barrel of a four term National-led Government. It was dead in the water. Nothing was going right – no policy releases, personnel changes or attempts at positivity were working. National had every right to think it was going to win. Both it and its leader Bill English were kilometres ahead of Labour and its leader Andrew Little on 31 July. Despite having suffered a bit of a hit over the Todd Barclay saga, ongoing issues with housing and immigration, National did not seem to have suffered any lasting damage.

But few could have possibly predicted the effect of Ms Ardern being made Leader of Labour on 01 August. From dead in the proverbial water, Ms Ardern was off to a flying start. Over night nearly $250,000 was donated to Labour in 24 hours.

The first poll taken showed a huge spike in Labour support. Young and charismatic, seen as a breath of fresh air Ms Ardern might have lacked the skills and experience in the eyes of many. But she had enthusiasm, was quick to stamp her mark and able to land hits that her predecessors in the post Helen Clark era have only been able to dream about. After the first poll National were probably not unduly worried. It could all be a flash in the pan and her support might go back down.

But it did not. Still not yet time to panic. Mr English, whilst being less popular than his predecessor former Prime Minister John Key, had spades of experience to draw upon. He presented himself as a steady pair of hands and adept at managing crises.

Still – and Ms Ardern knows this – she has those predecessors to thank for buying her and Labour time. It would have been difficult to imagine any of them landing the hits or making the policy announcements that she has. They lacked the charisma and were too scared to make announcements of significant new policy.

Ms Ardern will learn from the longest serving Member of Parliament, the Rt. Honourable Winston Peters. Mr Peters, with the exception of the 2008-2011 term, has served in the New Zealand Parliament continuously since 1981. I was a tot who still had yet to learn to walk when he made his maiden statement that year. Mr Peters, is in a unique position because he will know the pit falls of coalition agreements, Ms Arderns rapid rise to the top from being an M.P. with the Social Development spokesperson role means in some respects she is inexperienced at crisis management.

Over the next few days Labour will announce how it has split the Ministerial Portfolios’. New Zealand First and the Greens are both going to receive a couple. For Mr Peters and his caucus it will be a reminder of the last time it was able to have such an influencing role in a New Zealand General Election.

Economic direction of New Zealand MUST change

For a combined six terms of Government, the two major parties have talked about an economic overhaul for New Zealand.

Under the previous Labour Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark with Dr Michael Cullen as Treasurer, we heard about a “knowledge economy”. In that time – admittedly a stable one with no major natural disasters and only the 11 September terrorist attacks on the world stage, until the Global Financial Crisis – the surplus grew to $10 billion. Two major entities – Kiwi Saver and Kiwi Bank – were implemented by Labour. Despite this though, there were no huge improvements in wage growth or social indicators.

Under National, we have had a vast growth in dairy farming, with Fonterra now contributing about $13 billion to the G.D.P. per annum. There has been a major increase in road infrastructure being built, and trade deals have been negotiated with numerous countries. Despite their promise of “a brighter future” truancy and youth crime are up, suicide and mental health issues are prevalent and 80,000 young people are not in training or education.

Six terms later and not much has changed. And there is much that does need to change. Business as usual is simply not good enough any more.

Since we have seen what the major parties are (not)prepared to do, below I mention what I advocate. But before we look at my suggestions it is important to know about the challenges that the New Zealand economy faces. Major challenges to the economy include:

  1. A failure to get more young New Zealanders into education or training
  2. Housing prices that are so high that many New Zealanders are simply priced out of the market; and whose rates are so high that people spend their wages just paying the rent
  3. A fear of science – fear of research and development and a distrust of the people who carry this out is stopping New Zealand from becoming a technological leader
  4. The neoliberal attack of the last 30-35 years has undermined New Zealand – market economics have only had modest success at best

But these are the things that need to happen in order to make the New Zealand economy more resilient:

  1. We limit our exports too severely – New Zealand needs to diversify and more niche export industries need to develop
  2. We have a dangerous over reliance on dairy farming – we might be a farming nation, but it is an unequal spread with too much emphasis on dairy and not enough on other forms
  3. The war on science needs to stop and Government investment needs to increase substantially; the process for research grants needs to be simplified
  4. The emphasis on road transport is outmoded, hugely biased and significant investment in railways and the merchant marine needs to happen
  5. Restrict property ownership to New Zealand Permanent Residents and Citizens
  6. Apply a levy – maybe $100 at the border on each tourist, which goes straight into a fund for building appropriate infrastructure in districts too small to be able to afford it themselves (Grey, Buller, Westland, etc)

Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong on the whole with the Resource Management Act. The complaints about it from both the right and the left of the political spectrum suggest that it is working. There are improvements that can be made, but on the whole it works.

We have plentiful untapped energy potential in solar and tidal energy. The price for solar panels has diminished substantially and if the energy companies would permit people to sell back excess power that their panels generate, individual households could create significant savings. This could generate flow on effects into other parts of the economy, such as a greater demand for electricians and other trades people.

So, when New Zealand First leader Winston Peters decides who he is going with, given that many of my suggestions above mirror N.Z.F. policy, I hope to see in the next three years some of these implemented.

A Government today?

By the end of today there could be a new Government. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is expected to announce whether he will go with National or Labour/Greens.

This – unlike 1996 – has not taken 9 weeks. Nor has it involved a coalition document so hefty that I was told a wheel barrow – which might be slight exaggeration – was needed to get it into Parliament on the day that that Government was announced. The size of the coalition document was allegedly a testament to the number of concessions that Mr Peters extracted from National before going with them.

Being a former National M.P. himself, I suspect that he will form a Government with Mr English. Contrary to popular belief I do not expect him to be granted the Prime Minister’s job. Nor do I expect him to be Deputy Prime Minister. This is a National Government that will be wanting to leave a legacy and that will most certainly mean a fourth consecutive term with a National Prime Minister.

In return for that, I expect some hefty policy concessions will be made. Substantial support for railways will probably be one; significant reductions in the number of immigrants able to come here and a change in housing ownership rules to either permit only permanent residents and citizens or possibly just citizens to own property. National will also have make significant concessions on rural investment and agricultural policy as well, given the inroads New Zealand First made in the rural areas.

I do not know how serious Prime Minister Bill English is about pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement forward. This might prove to be a sticking point and one of the places where Mr Peters might find the Labour/Greens camp to be more promising.

Labour and the Greens have a tougher job of negotiating with Mr Peters, although on health, social welfare and education they are much more closely aligned. Like National, if Mr Peters goes with Labour and the Greens, I doubt very much Labour leader Jacinda Ardern will surrender the Prime Minister role, though she might say yes to him having the Deputy role. If not, then Labour would have to make quite substantial concessions across the board.

Labour will want investment in mental health – something I think Mr Peters will be more than happy to do. There may be other areas where they see eye to eye, such as environmental policy.

The best bets for my priorities are definitely with a New Zealand First/Labour/Green coalition. Like everyone else I will have to grit my teeth and wonder how much more gnashing they will take if Mr Peters goes with National. But if he does that, my support for New Zealand First will dry up completely.

Final New Zealand General Election Results 2017

The results we have all been waiting for are out. The New Zealand General Election 2017 final results are as follows:

LABOUR: 46 M.P.’s
A.C.T.: 1 M.P.

The losers are National, who lose Maureen Pugh and Nicola Willis.

The winners are Labour who welcome Angie Warren Clark, who works for Womens Refuge in Hawkes Bay becomes their 46th Member of Parliament. The other winner is the Greens who welcome former Iranian refugee and notable human rights lawyer Golriz Ghahraman to their respective caucuses.

The real winner though is New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. As leader of the party that will have to do a coalition deal with one or the other, Mr Peters occupies what would be reasonably called pole position in the context of coalition negotiations.

This simplifies the potential equations significantly. There are now two clear cut coalition options for Mr Peters to consider. One is Labour+Greens+New Zealand First and the other Is National+New Zealand First. Due to acrimony between New Zealand First and A.C.T there is no prospect of A.C.T joining a coalition.

I believe some seriously heavy bargaining will now take place. People have not forgotten the nine week wake of 1996 when an election held in October of that year resulted in a hung Parliament and

Either way Mr Peters is going to pilloried for his decision. There will be conservative members of the Party who will wish he goes with National and there will be left leaning members (and former members such as myself)who will wish he goes with Labour and the Greens.

Either way there are some great things likely to happen now, such as a significant increase in emphasis on railway transport; the housing crisis will have to be addressed in some form and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement may be finally killed off.

So, let the coalition negotiations start, and hopefully in the near future I will be able to report the signing of a deal between New Zealand First and National or Labour/Greens.

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.