The racers are marshalling: New Zealand readies for Election 2020


2020 is not event two weeks old, and our Parliamentary representatives are either still on holiday or in the office planning the year ahead, but already some political certainties are playing out across the country. The most notable and most obvious one plays out every three years and is commonly known as the General Election.

The date has not been set yet, but possibly the first election debate this year will be over whether Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will set a date early in the proceedings as her predecessors former Prime Ministers John Key and Bill English did. Both set dates fairly early in the third year of the terms they were Prime Minister in.

The smaller parties are not waiting for a date to be set. In the last year a bracket of new parties have sprung up around former candidates, such as the Sustainable Party, which is led by Vernon Tava. In the case of the Prosperity Party obscure individuals who might have what it takes to be a genuine candidate. They have released policy platforms that are surprisingly in depth, almost like they expect to sail straight into government.

In the last few election cycles I would have been able to tell you months in advance who I would be voting for. But in 2020 I am now coming into my second year of not having a clue who I support any more. Whilst the minor parties look interesting, a number of questions arise including, but not limited to:

  1. How realistic are they about their election prospects
  2. What work have they done on establishing their own functions, party constitution and compliance with the Electoral Finance Act and other relevant legislation
  3. Can they identify their values

I also have questions of the parties in Parliament, which I will mention briefly shortly. Before that I want to run a quick ruler over the five Parliament parties, in terms of challenges facing them:

National: The largest party in Parliament has been doing better in the polls of late. However its leader Simon Bridges has been very quiet on the subject of the bush fires, and it is well known that National wants to amend the zero carbon legislation. National are also not saying much about the change in public mood over harsher criminal sentencing. It has a potentially damaging liability in failing to ascertain the truthfulness of M.P. Jian Yang about his links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Labour: Has done well off Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s image as warm and compassionate. It has not done so well off the delivery of policy, particularly in housing, social welfare and justice. Certain Ministers have become a liability and several others are at risk of joining them. It has the potential to pick up more seats, particularly if National do not lift their game on climate change and the environment.

Greens: After almost single handedly blowing themselves to bits in 2017 with Metiria Turei’s admission of misusing benefits, the Greens have rebuilt themselves remarkably well. The elevation of Marama Davidson to the co-leadership does not seem to have harmed them as much as I thought it would. Their primary challenges will be accepting that climate change is going to have to be balanced with the economy; accepting that a whole new infrastructure genre in terms of public works is going to be necessary and understanding that there will always be a place for a Defence Force in New Zealand.

New Zealand First: Not having been a party member for the last 2 1/2 years, I cannot so easily comment on internal happenings any more. I will just say that if they are the same as they were when I left, then the party still has an existential crisis that is still excessively reliant on leader Winston Peters pulling another trick out of the bag. It’s policy platform is still the best in Parliament by some distance, but its betrayal over the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is a huge stinking dead rat.

A.C.T.: By far and away my least favourite party in Parliament, but also the one that proportionate to its size has probably had the biggest impact this year. David Seymour – love him or hate him – has had a big year. His insistence on freedom of speech when criticizing Green M.P. Golriz Ghahraman following the terrorist attacks deservedly drew a lot of criticism from people. That said, it may have done a back handed favour to everyone by shining a light into a not well understood area regarding when free speech becomes hate speech. Substantially more to his credit, he also successfully got through Parliament the controversial End of Life Choices Bill regarding euthanasia.

So, the questions I have for the big parties as you take your places along side the smaller parties in the election race of 2020 are:

  1. Would you be willing to recognize market economics are not working in New Zealand? If not why not?
  2. The constitutional framework of New Zealand has been more overtly challenged in the last few years. What are your thoughts on possibly having to adopt a formal constitution?
  3. What steps are you taking to ensure all donations are properly accounted for under the Electoral Finance Act?

Sustainable New Zealand: A green party to challenge… the Greens?


On Sunday 10 November 2019 a new party launched in New Zealand. The Sustainable New Zealand Party, headed by former National candidate Vernon Tava, is a centrist green party that has been established to take on the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

As Mr Tava is a former National Party candidate, one might suspect that, although nothing has been said so far, National Leader Simon Bridges is looking for a way to claw back credibility with the environmental wing of politics. Were this to be the case, then its more business friendly approach might see it trying to lure away the blue component of the “Blue Greens” who were meant to be the environmentally friendly wing of the National Party.

The National Party claims that the Greens, like the Labour Party they support are anti-economy. To them the Green Party does not want people earning decent incomes, a skilled work force developing economic sectors to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century is wrong, if you believe the National Party estimate of the Greens.

It is true that the Green Party is suspicious of research, science and technological development. The party has already via Minister for Conservation, Eugenie Sage, stated its dislike of waste to energy plants that generate electricity from burning waste, Whilst the blurb on the Sustainable New Zealand website talks about the Green hostility to biotechnology, it makes no mention of S.N.Z. support for research into biofuel or hydrogen as an alternative to petrol and diesel.

I assume that Sustainable New Zealand wants to eventually get into Parliament. If that is the case then even though it appears to be positioning itself as a full time environmental party to take on the Greens, some sort of social policy platform is going to be needed. And this is where the “centrist” in “centrist green” could well come in. One can only guess at this time though what sort of policies Mr Tava would consider for his platform.

So, watch this space. In the coming days and weeks S.N.Z. will no doubt have more to say about their vision for New Zealand and what kind of social policy platform they will adopt. Likewise the Green Party will make moves to give them a more distinct edge over S.N.Z..

Mr Tava has a big hill to climb though. It is a lofty goal for any party outside of Parliament to find a way past the 5% threshhold or to win an electoral seat. Only New Zealand First has exited Parliament and made it back in. No party has started from birth outside of Parliament in the Mixed Member Proportional environment and made it in yet. How well Mr Tava manages this climb will be contingent in terms of who runs the party and how.

The Minor Parties Tour: the biggest NON Parliamentary Parties


They range across the spectrum. Libertarian, separatist, Christian and progressive are just a few of the labels being appropriated by these new parties.

Some of them face basic problems.

I looked for websites on Google for the parties and found several did not have one. A check of both 1 New Zealand and One New Zealand, which both have Facebook pages showed both have no functional website. The domain name for at least one of the two appears to have lapsed. The two separate Facebook pages for these parties which I think are meant to be one and the same (eventually!), have 1,300 and 1,400 likes respectively.

Another problem from experience on Facebook is that the moderators of various fledgling parties are inconsistent. That signals to me that their social media policy is still in development, but that the trigger levels for censoring content are not in place – after a couple of posts on the old Conservative Party Facebook page, including one asking what their policy on the R.M.A. was, I was blocked, when they could have for example just said “we don’t have one”.

Meet the New Conservative Party of New Zealand, born to replace the disgraced Colin Craig formed-and-destroyed Conservative Party. Unlike many of the other parties not in Parliament it has a website. Not surprisingly it has no time for abortion, euthanasia or same sex marriages; tighter criminal sentencing, no to the decriminalization of cannabis. Its environmental policy avoids mention of the Resource Management Act, but promotes withdrawing from all treatises. Notably it has an Israel policy which basically condones the destruction of Palestine.

Another party outside of Parliament is the Maori Party. It formed in 2004 when Tariana Turia walked away from the Labour Party over the foreshore and seabed legislation that was being pushed through Parliament. Mrs Turia and Dr Pita Sharples sought to bring the disparate voices of Maoridom together through one Party. Ultimately it failed to address the many social issues afflicting Maori, such as crime, education, health, social welfare and employment. Although  some believe the party will revive it has to win a electorate seat or get 5% of the party vote to enter Parliament.

A South Island Independence Movement for those in the South Island who are turned off by the politics of the parties who have made it to Parliament is another one that has grown on Facebook. It espouses forming a separate nation, viewed as the Switzerland of the South Pacific in terms of neutrality. No more “globalist” trade agreements, memberships of global bodies is its foreign policy and citizen only ownership of property¬† At 12,175 members it is one of the larger Facebook sites for non-Parliament based parties. However with no website for those who are not on Facebook, it is likely to be constrained in terms of social media.

A wad of other parties have been listed on Wikipedia, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Better New Zealand, run by Daniel McCaffrey which promotes legalization of cannabis and lower tax
  • Climate Party, run by a Peter Whitmore, which focuses on climate issues
  • National Front – the far right, ultranationalist and ultra-white wing of the global “National Front”
  • New New Zealand Party, run by one time United Future M.P. and former New Zealand First member Marc Alexander

Realistically, if the Maori Party could find a charismatic leader, it might have a chance of getting a Maori seat which would prove to be a springboard for getting into Parliament. It could also gain from the ending of its conflict with former member and leader of Mana, Hone Harawira. The pooling of their combined resources may prove to be the difference between a seat in Parliament or being consigned to the history books.

 

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.