On Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 5 September, NZ First leader Winston Peters, told Guyon Espiner that his party would be a force for major economic change. NZ First, he insisted, would spell an end to neo-liberalism;
“It’s no use having what we’ve had, perhaps you can call it tweedledum and tweedledummer, who have persisted with the neo-liberal experiment. Who have gone along with allowing the foreign banks to dominate New Zealand market for example. Allowed the overseas ownership of our share martket which went from 19% when this experiment started to beyond 70% now.
New Zealand First is not going to swap one side for the other side because they think it’s their turn so that they can carry on the same economic direction they’re going.
You’ve got a group on the Right, with a whole lot of cling-ons. You’ve got an unholy wedding or pre-nuptials on the Left, and we don’t want to be part of either of those things. We’re out for economic change and we intend to be successful.
We believe, if we’ve succeeded in getting our message away then economic and social direction change is a certainty.
And we’re not going to go around starting negotiating pre-election, with parties who have proven since the last 32 years, one started this economic disaster and the other one has continued it.”
Peters’ repudiation of the neo-liberal economic model had been made two months earlier on TVNZ’s Q+A, when he told Corin Dann;
Corin Dann: Do you think globalisation has failed?
Winston Peters: Of course it has. Because, see, it’s not so much about free trade, so to speak; it should be about fair trade, and there’s a world of difference.
Corin Dann: What is the alternative to globalisation if you believe that it’s failed? Is it a return to protectionism, nationalism?
Winston Peters: No, no, it’s not. It’s being like Norway; it’s being like Switzerland; it’s being like Taiwan. It’s being as smart about protecting the interests of the economy you’re trying to build rather than just going along with being told internationally what you must accept. There’s a world of difference, and right around the Western world, there is a coming now rejection of the neoliberal experiment after 30, 35 years. It is under serious challenge now.
Corin Dann: Mr Peters, globalisation has lifted millions and millions of people out of poverty. It’s brought New Zealand great diversity; it’s brought us all of the mod cons that we take for granted – our phones – everything like that. Hasn’t globalisation been great?
Winston Peters: You’re just confusing sound trade arrangements with globalisation. Globalisation in the UK consequence meant they were being told, out of the European Commission – unelected, in the UK Parliament – they were being told how their laws would be. 55% of the laws in the UK were being dominated out of Brussels. Now, no self-respecting country’s going to take that.
Peters’ comments roundly rejected globalisation, free trade, neo-liberalism. He inferred protectionism when he told Dann, “It’s being as smart about protecting the interests of the economy you’re trying to build rather than just going along with being told internationally what you must accept“.
However, in a speech made in 1997, when Peters was Treasurer in the National-NZ First Coalition Government, he told the NBR Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Government to Business Forum that he would be pursuing conservative fiscal management; supporting an “open, internationally competitive economy”; lower taxes; and a de-regulated market.
Peter’s speech is in the form of a hard-copy in this blogger’s possession. It is headed “Office of the Deputy Prime Minister & Treasurer” and is dated 11 February 1997. It was embargoed till 8.35am for that day, when Peters made his speech at Wellington’s up-market Park Royal Hotel.
Peters began by saying that there were “four core economic principles at the heart of the government’s strategy;
- “sound, stable government
- ensuring an economic climate conducive to sustainable development and growth, more employment opportunities, high quality education and social services, a strong commitment to low inflation, prudent and conservative fiscal management and over time, lower taxes and reduced public debt
- an open, internationally competitive economy, a strong export sector, and policies to stimulate private sector and individual performance
- planning for the country’s future, emphasising intergenerational fairness and increasing the nation’s saving”
Later in the speech, Peters reiterated the Coalition’s fiscal policy;
“That is why we are committed to low inflation, prudent and conservative fiscal management, lowering taxes and reducing public debt.”
Peters made clear that those were the core principles of the National-NZ First Coalition. They also happen to be core ideological tenets of neo-liberal doctrine.
Peters’ “core principles” are mirrored by the so-called “NZ Initiative” (formerly the Business Roundtable), a right-wing, neo-liberal think-tank;
We [NZ Initiative] are committed to developing policies that work for all New Zealanders, and we believe that promoting such policies will benefit all of our members as a matter of fact. But we are certainly an Initiative that usually prefers Adam Smith’s invisible hand to government’s visible fist.
Most of all, though, we believe that our goals and values are similar – if not identical – to what most New Zealanders want to see achieved:
- A good education system.
- Affordable housing.
- An open economy.
- A free and democratic society.
- The protection of our natural resources and heritage.
- Sound public finances.
- A stable currency.
The NZ Initiative/Business Roundtable also promotes lower taxes; a competitive, open economy; and prudent and conservative fiscal management – in short all the core principles expressed by Peters in February 1997.
In case his audience did not understand Peters’ commitment to “an open, internationally competitive economy” he repeated himself again, in his speech;
“The key to maintaining an open internationally competitive economy will be:
stable macroeconomic policies;
de-regulated, competitive and open market;
quality public services provided as efficiently as possible;
and the lowest possible taxes”
He went on;
“Another reform… removing restrictions on air services to and from New Zealand is important for reducing barriers to trade and tourism. To this end, the government remains committed to reciprocal liberalisation where possible…
To make the most of the opportunities a global economy provides…”
Not content to cement in an adherence to a neo-liberal agenda, Peters then attacked the social welfare system in this country – another prime target of the New Right;
“What distinguishes this government is the prominence given to the value of self-reliance… moving people away from State dependence to independence.”
Bear in mind that Peters was giving his speech only six years after Ruth Richardson’s notorious “Mother of All Budgets” in 1991. By the time Peters addressed the Government to Business Forum in 1997, 19% of households were already living below the poverty line and unemployment was at 6.8%. By June the following year it had ballooned to 7.9%.
Peters’ response was to attack and demean the welfare system that kept many of these people alive as the scourge of neo-liberalism ravaged the country.
Peters’ speech continued, parroting many of neo-liberal cliches that we are now so familiar with;
“We want to create an environment which encourages New Zealanders to move away from welfare dependency to employment. And for those who still need welfare support, we want a move away from a welfare mentality to a positive attitude and greater acceptance of social obligations.
It is also about people taking greater responsibility for their futures rather than simply relying on the state.”
Peters was promoting the Cult of Individualism and cutting back state support – another basic tenet of neo-liberalism.
Next, he took a swipe at families and their “reliance” on welfare;
“A prime area needing attention is the family… this government will create an environment which instils greater levels of parental responsibility.
Our destiny is ultimately in the hands of individual New Zealanders. Breaking the cycle of dependency means taking primary responsibility for our own welfare and the welfare of our families.
This government expects each and every New Zealander to… live up to their responsibilities…”
This speech and it’s conservative message sounds ominously as if the ACT Party might have given it;
“To alleviate poverty, reduce dependency and shift able-bodied people from welfare to work.”
“To put personal responsibility, self-reliance and work above welfare dependency.”
“Welfare must not put children at risk by undermining the two-parent family.”
“True compassion demands welfare that provides a hand up to work, independence and a better future.”
In a later speech by Peters, on 28 February 1997, to the American Chamber of Commerce in Auckland, Peters reiterated his commitment to a free market regime;
“…Maintaining an open, internationally competitive economy, supporting a strong export sector, particularly by managing cost structures downwards and continuing deregulation and policies to stimulate private sector and individual performance.
The government’s approach to fiscal management is orthodox and consistent…
Maintaining an open and competitive enterprise economy is essential because an open and competitive economy drives New Zealand firms to lift their game, and provide a more profitable investment base for our savings.
Let me be clear, this government is not opposed to foreign investment. When it is in the national interest we welcome all investment that boosts employment, productivity and growth.”
Peters was reassuring his capitalist audience; this man was not for ‘turning’.
There is little clear evidence that Peters is hostile to neo-liberalism, whether of the brutal Ruthenasia variety or the more insidious neo-liberalism-with-a-relaxed-face.
Instead, the evidence from his 1997 speeches is there for all to see. Peters may profess to have distanced himself from the neo-liberal experiment, but his own words betray him.
There is not one monolithic conservative/centre-right party in New Zealand, but two, distinct parties on the conservative spectrum. Just as Australia has the Liberal Party and it’s own rural-based National Party, we have National and NZ First. Like left-wing voters who have a choice between Labour or the Green Party, conservative voters in this country have a choice between National and NZ First.
As long as everyone is crystal-clear on this; NZ First’s leader remains committed to neo-liberalism.
The following are scanned images of Winston Peters’ 1997 speech to the Government to Business Forum;
The following are scanned images of Winston Peters speech, on 28 February 1997, to the American Chamber of Commerce in Auckland;
All media enquiries can be made to the author at email@example.com.
NZ Initiative: About Us
NZ Initiative: The Case for Lower Taxes
Business Roundtable (NZ Initiative): Submission to the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the 1997 Budget Policy Statement (March 1997)
Te Ara Encyclopedia: Mother of All Budgets
Ministry of Social Development: Assessing The Progress On Poverty Reduction
Statistics NZ: When times are tough, wage growth slows
ACT Party: Welfare and The Family
The Standard: Can We Trust Winston Peters?
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 September 2016.
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1. Credit where it’s due!
TV3’s The Nation on 2 July was probably the most incisive investigative journalism this blogger has seen for a long time. The only “fault” is that The Nation is ‘buried’ at the ghetto time-slot of early Saturday (and repeated early Sunday morning). Mediaworks is wasting a tremendous opportunity to use their current affairs journalistic team as a critical lynch-pin of their broadcasting line-up.
(Especially after the fiasco surrounding the cancellation of Campbell Live. But let’s not go there and rain on The Nation’s well-deserved parade.
In this episode;
- Patrick Gower interviewed John Key and elicited some eyebrow-raising responses from him
- An investigation by Phil Vine and Heather du Plessis-Allan into the Saudi sheep deal yielded disturbing revelations
2. Evidently, we’re “better off”?
Following on from Bill English’s tragi-comical assertion in Parliament on 29 June that “there is no evidence that inequality in New Zealand is increasing“, our esteemed Dear Leader repeated the mantra three days later in response to a question from Gower;
Patrick Gower: “Good morning, Prime Minister, and thank you very much for joining us. Now, I want to take you back to your first big speech as leader of the National Party – that speech about McGehan Close. You talked in that speech about streets in our country where helplessness has become ingrained and said we have to do better. Now, on McGehan Close, when you went there, people were living in homes. Now we are looking at people living in cars. Is that really better? Is that better?”
John Key: “I think there’s no question New Zealand’s better…”
As reported in a previous story (see: Foot in mouth award – Bill English, for his recent “Flat Earth” comment in Parliament) practically every metric used presents an unflattering picture of New Zealand in the early 21st century.
From the Children’s Commissioner;
Child poverty is now significantly worse than the 1980s. In 1985 the percentage of children in families experiencing income poverty was 15%, compared to 29% now
Put another way;
“305,000 New Zealand children now live in poverty – 45,000 more than a year ago”.
Statistics NZ’s reported;
“Between 1988 and 2014, income inequality between households with high incomes and those with low incomes widened“
And the OECD was also damning, stating;
“rising inequality is estimated to have knocked more than 10 percentage points off [economic] growth in Mexico and New Zealand.”
Perhaps the most credible indictment of Key’s misguided view that “there’s no question New Zealand’s better” is from Key himself, from 2011;
He said he had visited a number of budgeting services and food banks “and I think it’s fair to say they’ve seen an increase in people accessing their services. So that situation is there.”
The difficulty with Key’s statement that “there’s no question New Zealand’s better” is that no one believes it.
3. Unemployment is down?
When Gower pressed Key that things had not improved much since Key’s visit to Aroha Ireland in McGehan Close in 2007, Dear Leader responded;
“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically.”
Well of course “unemployment in New Zealand is now falling“. Unemployment has “dropped” from 5.7% to 5.2%.
But not because National’s policies have created twelve thousand new jobs.
But because Statistics NZ had conveniently revised its method of calculating the number of unemployed men and women by arbitrarily excluding those who were jobseeking using the internet;
Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible… Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.
The utter cheek of Statistics NZ to claim that “therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate” by excluding on-line job-hunting is matched only by Dear Leader Key who wasted no time in taking credit for “unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically“.
We are being lied to – and it is officially sanctioned.
4. Cosying up to Winston?
Gower then touched upon Key’s attitude toward NZ First leader Winston Peters, and asked;
Patrick Gower: “But what about deputy prime minister? Do you rule out Winston Peters being deputy prime minister in one of your governments?”
At this point, my mind immediately Quantum-Leaped back to 2008 and 2011 when Key categorically, absolutely, 100%, resolutely, ruled out any possibility of having Winston Peters in his government;
“Mr Peters will be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by me unless he can provide a credible explanation [on the Owen Glenn donations scandal].” – John Key, 27 August 2008
“I don’t see a place for a Winston Peters-led New Zealand First in a government that I lead. Historically, he has always been sacked by prime ministers. It’s a very different style to mine and it’s rearward-looking. I’m about tomorrow. I’m not about yesterday. If Winston Peters holds the balance of power it will be a Phil Goff-led Labour government. ” – John Key, 2 February 2011
Seems fairly straight forward; Key was holding up his own “No” card, a-la Winston;
Except, in the next breath, Key over-ruled himself and his previous pronouncements;
John Key: “Well, I’m not going to rule those sorts of things out.”
Perhaps Key mis-heard Patrick Gower’s question. Perhaps Key had mistakenly thought that Gower had asked him; “But what about deputy prime minister? Do you rule out Moonbeam being deputy prime minister in one of your governments?”
So, being the fair-minded journo that Gower is, he repeated the question;
Patrick Gower: “Yeah, but do you rule out Winston Peters as John Key’s deputy prime minister?”
John Key: “No, because in the end, in 2017, we’re going to have an election, and when we have that election, what we’ll have to do is I’ll ultimately put together a government. I can’t determine that. The people of New Zealand determine that. What I have a responsibility to do is to put together a government — if I’m in the position to lead the largest party and to lead those negotiations — then to try and make that work. But I’m not going to say who’s a minister and who’s not or what role they have and what they don’t.”
So there you have it. John Key – a Man of his Word. And principled. And flexible. Flexible with his Principles.
Or else, the John Key of 2008 and 2011 is not the same man who calls himself “John Key” in 2016? An imposter?
The only reason that people like John Key can get away with back-peddling; mis-information; and bendy-truths is that the voting-public are more cynical than ever. (Hence the rise of anti-establishment figure, Donald Trump; the in-your-face “Brexit” vote, and the success of Independent candidates in the Australian elections.) Voters expect politicians to be dishonest, manipulative, and abandon all principles in pursuit of power.
In this respect, Key has not disappointed.
5. Matthew Hooton
Well known right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton, has been scathing in his condemnation of Murray McCully’s “Saudi Sheep Deal”, and has conducted his own investigations into the scandal. His findings have been published on the National Business Review’s website.
Whilst Matthew and I hold wildly differing political views, and whilst his involvement in ‘Dirty Politics’ is questionable, his insightful analysis and commentary on McCully’s dealings with Hmood Al-Khalaf has to be respected.
Matthew was a valuable contributor in analysing the “Saudi Sheep Deal” on The Nation, proving a credible counter-foil to Michelle Boag’s slavish and occasionally near-hysterical defense of Murray McCully’s dubious actions.
The panelists lamented the fact that the Auditor-General’s report into the Saudi Sheep Deal was “not imminent”. I do not share those feelings.
Next year will be Election Year, and the closer the report’s release is to Election Day, the better it will be for the Opposition. If the Auditor-General’s findings are as scathing as many believe it will be, McCully will be sacked from his Ministerial position. The inglorious demise of his career will add to public perception that National plays “loose” with laws if there is a “buck” to be made.
The release of the Auditor-General’s report next year would be a strategic coup for Labour, Greens, and NZ First.
7. Final Word
Final word from that outstanding episode of The Nation has to go to Victoria University political scientist, Dr Jon Johansson;
“ People are utterly fed up with their Establishment, their elites, never accepting accountability for anything.”
Nailed it, Doc.
TV3: The Nation
Parliament Today: Questions & Answers – June 29
NZ Children: Child Poverty Monitor – Technical Report
Radio NZ: A third of NZ children live in poverty
Statistics NZ: Income inequality
NZ Herald: Key admits underclass still growing
NZ Herald: A day out with friends in high places
Scoop media: Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government
NZ Herald: PM rules out any NZ First deal
Fairfax media: John Key’s Cat Moonbeam
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 July 2016.
= fs =
May 31st was the day that many in the Labour and Green parties had so earnestly wanted to see – a formal declaration between the leadership of their respective parties for greater co-operation to remove National from power. For most (if not nearly all) of the rank-and-file membership, it was a no-brainer that the two parties – both similar in so many ways – would seek a more formal partnership.
The wonder is that it has taken so long to achieve.
When Labour undermined Hone Harawira’s chances of holding on to his Te Tai Tokerau electorate, I wrote this prescient piece on 11 June 2014;
That is why the Left will lose on 20 September .
Unless Labour radically changes tack and demonstrates to the public that they are more interested in working together with potential partners – than wrecking their chances at winning votes – voters will be put off. Telling the public that Labour “can work with other parties after the election” is not good enough. Labour must show it can do it.
Otherwise, as one quasi-fascist right-wing blogger put it, the public will perceive that “things are falling apart for the Labour Party“. He may have a valid point.
Again, as Gordon Campbell stated,
“Labour may just be mule-headed enough – and tribally fixated on the FPP-era of politicking – to try and get rid of Harawira at all costs, and thereby torpedo one of its main chances of forming the next government.”
At which Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish added;
“How not to win an election…
…Pretend that we still have a First Past the Post electoral system.”
It is supremely ironic that National – the champion of the Cult of Individualism – can work collectively and collegially with other political parties. But Labour – a party of the left, which espouses collective action for the greater good – is desperately and greedily scrabbling for votes for itself and attacking potential allies.
That was written four and a half months out from the 2014 election.
After Labour’s disastrous drubbing at the 2014 election, I penned this post-mortem on 26 September 2014;
“The forces on the right are very united”, said Josie Pagani, on TV3’s political panel. And she would be 100% correct.
This is one of the lessons that Labour should be taking from the 2014 elections; unity is strength.
National did not seek to destroy potential allies. With the exception of the Conservative Party, it actively supported them. Either with direct deal-making (Epsom and Ohariu), or with “nods-and-winks” (Maori Party).
Even with the Conservatives – though Key refused any actual deal-making, he did not go out of his way to under-mine Colin Craig’s party. Just in case they reached the 5% thresh-hold and thus became potentially useful to the Nats.
By contrast, Labour campaigned to destroy the Mana-Internet Party, and the Greens undermined Labour with it’s comment that Labour’s policies would have to be “independently audited” – a phrase picked up by Key and used to attack Cunliffe.
Key projected stability and co-operation on the Right.
The Left projected intense rivalry and a hatred of each other that was volcanic in intensity.
Who did Labour and the Greens think the public would vote for?
Ten things Labour and the Greens should consider in the coming days, weeks, months, and next three years.
A couple of weeks later, on 10 October 2014, I repeated my views;
Perhaps Labour’s worst mistake of all the above was constantly deriding the Mana-Internet alliance. The constant attacks on Hone Harawira and his Party signalled to the public that Labour was weak; full of self-doubt and lacking in self-confidence. Labour’s desperation for votes was so dire that they were willing to attack and destroy a potential coalition ally, to cannibalise their electoral support.
That showed weakness.
And the public took note.
Contrast Labour’s treatment of Hone Harawira and Mana-Internet, with how John Key related to ACT, United Future, and the Maori Party: with confidence; courtesy; and collegiality.
When Key refused to make a deal with Colin Craig’s Conservative Party, he did so with professional courtesy. There was never any rancor involved, and despite refusing any Epsom-like deal, Key still left National’s options wide open to work with the Conservatives.
Key even flip-flopped on his previous hand-on-heart promise never to entertain any coalition deal-making with Winston Peters;
“I don’t see a place for a Winston Peters-led New Zealand First in a government that I lead.” – John Key, 2 February 2011
When the public looked at Key, they saw a politician who said categorically he would be prepared to work with anyone.
The public liked that. The public want politicians to work together for the good of the country. Key not only said as much – he demonstrated it by working with parties as disparate as ACT, the Maori Party, United Future, and the Greens (though the latter not in any formal coalition agreement).
When the public looked at Labour, they saw a left wing party willing to consume another left wing party, to further their own selfish agenda.
Key showed collegiality and co-operation.
Labour exuded desperation.
Whoever leads the Labour Party after 18 November – take note.
It appears that Labour, belatedly, has finally taken note. Specifically, they have taken note of 21st Century Realpolitik in New Zealand;
- We are no longer operating under First Past the Post
- John Key is very adept at fostering good relationships with potential coalition allies
- Labour either ignored potential coalition allies, or – in Mana-Internet’s case – actively destroyed it
- Post FPP, National is still a monolithic party of the Right simply because it has successfully become a political vehicle for religious conservatives, urban neo-liberals, rural conservatives, and other assorted right-wingers
- Post FPP, the Left is fractured because ideologies are wider ranging, and because many perceive Labour as still carrying baggage from it’s Rogernomics days and do not trust the Labour Party (whereas the Green Party has a pristine, untarnished reputation, free of dirty baggage from past betrayals of the electorate)
Adding to Labour’s woeful performance is it’s constant habit of replacing their leader almost like we change the oil in our motorcars. As I wrote on 10 October, 2014, after Cunliffe was dumped as party leader;
Changing the leader, post-election. Does that mean Labour never had confidence in Cunliffe in the first place, and this his appointment was a mistake? Does that mean Cunliffe’s replacement may also be a mistake? Does it mean Labour has 100% confidence in their new Leader – until they don’t? So… why should the public have confidence in Labour’s new choice of a new Leader, when s/he may be temporary?
The only other parliamentary party that goes through it’s leaders like I go through a pack of toilet-paper is ACT – and we don’t really want to be like ACT, do we?
Support for the formal MoU was positive from Labour-leaning blogs such as The Standard, and grass-roots members generally seem to welcome what was an obvious strategic move by both parties.
Those who were ascerbic tended to be the Right Wing (for obvious reasons), and some cynical media for whom deep political analysis has long eluded them.
Peoples’ Exhibit #1
This asinine “tweet” from Heather du Plessis-Allan had all the constructive insights of a rural long-drop made from decaying, moss-covered weatherboards;
It “hurt her eyes”! Oh, how jolly witty!
It received eleven “likes”. Out of 4.5 million New Zealanders.
Is this the new nadir of 21st century journalism in New Zealand? All I can say is; thank-the-gods-for-Radio-NZ.
Some other media punditry was only marginally better. Either New Zealand’s political journalists have become too cynical; too jaded; too dismissive to offer constructive reporting and analysis of new events – or, perhaps, such new events are beyond their ken to fully understand.
Peoples’ Exhibit #2
This column from former ACT-leader Rodney Hide, published in the Herald on 5 June;
– spoke more of the author, than the political event he was commentating on.
Hide’s piece is little more than some bitchy, snide derision dressed up as political commentary. However, the more one reads, the more one becomes acutely aware that – carrying the “marriage of convenience” metaphor a step further – Rodney Hide is positively purple with apoplectic jealousy.
Hide is the bachelorette who missed out on getting a rose, and he’s miffed!
Whatever Hide might say about the Greens, there are certain truths he cannot easily dismiss;
- The Green Party won 10.7% of the Party Vote in 2014. ACT won 0.69%.
- The Green Party won it’s votes through it’s own efforts. ACT’s sole MP won Epsom through a deal between National and John Banks in 2011, and later, David Seymour.
- The Green Party leadership has been stable since 2008. ACT has changed leaders five times since 2008. (The next change will see them officially run out of members, and they will have to start from Roger Douglas again.
- In the 1999 General Election, ACT won 9 seats and the Green won seven. A decade and a half later, in the 2014 General Election, ACT had one MP (elected solely at the whim of the National Party) and the Greens have doubled their parliamentary representation with fourteen MPs.
So for Hide to sneer at the Labour-Green MoU is a bit rich, considering his own party is on terminal life-support, and survives purely at the pleasure of the National Party. When ACT’s usefulness to National has finished – the electoral plug will be pulled from the political respirator that keeps ACT’s brain-dead corpse “alive”.
ACT’s passing will be the point in our history when we mark the decline and demise of neo-liberalism in New Zealand. Future generations will view it as a mirror-image of the 1960s/70s youth counter-culture movement; cruel, self-centered, and full of hatred for those impoverished for whom the “free” market failed.
In the meantime, the Green Party will do what green things tend to do: grow.
And the jealous bitterness of Rodney Hide will consume him to his final days.
Peoples’ Exhibit #3
Winston Peters dismissed the Labour-Green MoU. He repeated his usual mantra;
“We do not like jack-ups or rigged arrangements behind the people’s back. We’ll go into this election, just ourselves and our policies seeking to change how this country is governed.”
And five days later on TVNZ’s Q+A;
“But the idea that you would go out there with a pre-arrangement on a deck of cards you’ve never read, we simply can’t see how that works.”
Which is deeply ironic, considering that;
(a) Prior to an election, Peters never discloses to the voting public whether he would coalesce with National or Labour,
(b) Once the election is over, Peters then negotiates in strict secrecy with both National and Labour – in effect, “behind the people’s back“.
In effect, a Party Vote for NZ First is akin to giving that political party a blank cheque; the voter has no way of knowing where that “cheque will be spent”. Will we get a National-led coalition? Or a Labour-led coalition?
At least with parties like ACT and the Greens, the voter has a good idea where a vote for either party will end up on the political spectrum.
With a vote for NZ First, you are effectively handing over to Peters your voting ballot-paper, un-ticked, and he alone will decide whether to cast it for a National-led coalition or Labour-led coalition.
Peters’ derision of the MoU was therefore wholly predictable.
Peters understands that a resurgent Labour-Green team poses a dire threat to NZ First’s chances of being “king maker”, post-2017 election. If closer co-operation between Labour and the Greens results in electoral success and the birth of a new red-green coalition government, NZ First’s role as “king maker” would be scuttled.
In such a case a vote for NZ First becomes a “wasted” vote. He would be left isolated on the cross-benches, sniping impotently at Prime Minister Andrew Little, and his Deputy PM, Metiria Turei.
Another jilted political suitor who missed out on a rose.
Evidence for the Defence
There is nothing preposterous about a closer Labour-Green relationship. It is no more absurd than the Liberal–National Coalition which has existed in Australia since early last century;
The Coalition, also known as the Liberal–National Coalition, is a political alliance of centre-right parties, which has existed in Australian politics in various forms since 1923.
The Coalition is composed of the Liberal Party of Australia (formerly the United Australia Party, the Nationalist Party of Australia and the Commonwealth Liberal Party) and the National Party of Australia (formerly named the Country Party and the National Country Party), as well as the Liberal National Party (LNP) in Queensland and the Country Liberal Party (CLP) in the Northern Territory.
And coalitions in Europe are the norm.
So what was the fuss about the “living arrangement” between Labour and the Greens?
Summing up for the Jury
At the moment, the public sees the National-Maori Party-Dunne-ACT coalition, and understand it. But one thing that voters want to know is; what would an alternative to a National-led government look like?
Far from negotiating this Memorandum from a position of weakness, as some have suggested, it is instead a well-executed strategy. As Andrew Little said with simple clarity;
“Voters want to know that there are opposition parties who are capable of working together, can work strongly together and can offer stability and certainty. And that’s what this agreement is about, that’s what we will demonstrate.
Up-coming polls will show whether the voters like what they see.
And on election day next year, the verdict will be delivered.
Green Party: Memorandum of Understanding
Gordon Campbell: Gordon Campbell on the rise of Laila Harré
Imperator Fish: How to win an election
Fairfax media: Greens eye bigger supluses
Fairfax media: Possible coalition line-ups after election
NZ Herald: PM rules out any NZ First deal
Twitter: Heather du Plessis-Allan
NZ Herald: Rodney Hide: Marriage of convenience
Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2014
NZ Herald: Political cups of tea shared
Wikipedia: ACT Party Leadership
Wikipedia: 1999 General Election
Wikipedia: 2014 General Election
TVNZ: Q+A – Winston Peters interview (video)
Twitter: Steven Joyce
Wikipedia: Coalition (Australia)
Boots Theory: On the M.O.U.
The Standard: Why is it that?
The Standard: Labour Green MOU well received in poll
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 June 2016.
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When John Key referred to a referendum as “… a complete and utter waste of money because it’s just about sending a message”, he was not referring to his much-beloved pet-project, the $29 million flag referendum.
He was, in fact, deriding the $9 million asset sale referendum held two years ago, and which resulted in a decisive 67.2% of 1.3 million New Zealanders voting against the government’s asset sales programme. Key was bluntly dismissive of the asset sales referendum;
“Overall what it basically shows, it was pretty much a political stunt.”
Key’s $29 million dollar white-elephant project receives his personal blessing and whole-hearted endorsement;
“In the end you have to say, what price do you put on democracy where people can genuinely have their say on a matter that is actually important? … This is a cost essentially of one of the values that New Zealanders would want to test.
Yes, it’s a one-off cost, but my view would be that if the flag doesn’t change as a result of this referendum process, then it won’t be changing for a good 50 to 100 years, so this is a cost we have to bear.”
– whereas a preceding referenda on a critical economic/political policy was dismissed as irrelevent in the Prime Minister’s grand scheme of things.
Nothing better illustrates the deep contempt which John Key holds the public and democracy than his inconsistent attitudes on these two referenda.
If New Zealanders want to send our esteemed Dear Leader a definitive message, they might recall the decisive message they sent to the National-NZ First Coalition government in 1997, where 92% rejected Winston Peters’ superannuation scheme.
I offer the following strategy for those voters who are opposed to this referendum;
The referendum will be carried out in two parts. The first part will be a referendum held in November-December this year to determine which alternative people might prefer;
This is the ballot paper to spoil by writing over it your opposition to this referendum. In a written piece entitled “Winston Flags Referendum For Protest“, fellow blogger Curwen Rolinson suggests writing “I support the current flag” on your ballot paper. Or you can create your own appropriate message.
The second part of the referendum will be held in March next year. This will be the run-off between our current ‘Stars’n’Jack‘, and an alternative selected from Step 1.
This step must not be spoiled. A clear message can still be sent to our esteemed Dear Leader by voting for the status quo, to keep the current flag.
If the alternative is defeated, and the incumbent flag is maintained as the preferred choice, John Key will have been shown to have engaged in a vanity project, and wasting $29 million dollars of taxpayers money in the process.
By this simple strategy, we, the people, can show the same scorn to Key’s pet-project as he did to the asset sales referendum in 2013.
Alternative Option 2: If Richard Aslett’s “eNZign” design (see top of page) is selected as the alternative for the March 2016 referendum (highly, highly unlikely) – vote for it. What better “legacy” for Key’s prime ministership than something that looks like the product of an LSD-induced trip?
So not only will $29 million have been wasted, but a “trippy” flag will have been chosen that takes New Zealand back to the psychedelic 1960s.
What better way to give Key the one-fingered salute?
Meanwhile, John Oliver shared his brilliant insights into the flag debate;
Otago Daily Times: Asset sales referendum ‘waste of money’
Fairfax media: Asset sales programme to continue – Key
NZ Herald: John Key defends cost of flag referendums
Youtube: John Oliver – New Zealand’s New Flag
Acknowledgement: Toby Morris, ‘The Wireless‘
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 July 2015.
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With Winston Peters winning the Northland by-election, National’s grip on power has loosened, with one less seat in Parliament.
Before 28 March, National held 60 seats in the House, and with it’s neutered poodles, ACT/David Seymour, and Peter Dunne/United Future, had an overall majority of 62 out of 121.
With Peters’ victory, National’s majority now rests on Peter Dunne, who, on occassion has exhibited an ‘annoying’ streak of quasi-independence from the National Party Politburo.
What has not been examined by the MSM is that should National face another by-election, even Dunne’s support will not be sufficient for National to pass legislation, and reliance on the more independent minded Maori Party would put Key’s administration into an untenable situation.
For example, on TVNZ’s ‘Q+A‘ on 29 March – the day after the by-election – the Maori Party’s co-leader Marama Fox outlined her party’s position on social welfare;
Fox: “We now have the opportunity to leverage of this platform; to negotiate every piece of legislation…
… One of the things that we need to ensure is that we can put money in the hands of the people who most need it. If you look at the poverty statistics in this country, the people who are most affected by poverty are families on benefits. And benefits have not risen with the rates of the cost of living in the last thiry years, really, in realistic terms and those people need some relief.”
When Corin Dann asked Ms Fox if she would demand more money from the Finance Minister to increase welfare payments, she replied;
This is not something Bill English would want to hear. With National’s Budget surplus this year balanced on a knife’s edge, English has already squashed John Key’s suggestion of a $130 million tax-payer funded bail-out of SkyCity’s convention centre;
“There’s no contingency for that. If the less preferred option ended up being the option then that money would be part of the Budget process.”
It beggars belief that English would welcome an increased welfare bill costing many hundreds of times greater than the subsidy proposed for a multi-national casino – though god knows it would go a long way toward alleviating increasing child poverty in this country.
Yet, that is precisely the situation that National now finds itself in. One more by-election loss, and National’s majority in the House would vanish, and Key’s administration would be at the pleasure of the Maori Party.
National’s choice? To abandon right-wing “reforms” and appease the Maori Party’s demands for increase social spending – or call an early election.
As the General Election in 1984 showed, voters do not appreciate early elections and the governing Party is punished at the ballot box.
So where is National vulnerable to losing by-elections?
The following five National-held electorates have majorities of five thousand or less, and in a major swing away from the government, could potentially fall into the hands of an Opposition Party;
|Auckland Central||Nikki Kaye||600|
|Christchurch Central||Nicky Wagner||2,420|
In addition, there are ten electorate National/ACT MPs with majorities between 5,000 and 9,000 – the latter figure being Mike Sabin’s 2014 electoral majority;
|East Coast||Anne Tolley||7,934|
|Hamilton West||Tim Macindoe||5,784|
National’s other coalition partner, Peter Dunne, has a slim majority of only 710.
At this point, the National Party politburo and their charismatic, blokey Dear Leader must be praying to every god in the heavens for the health and safety of those sixteen members of Parliament.
Key, English, Joyce, et al, must also wondering if any of their colleagues have any skeletons rattling noisily in their closet? And if so – does Labour or NZ First know about it?
* Unreliable majority because of deal-making between ACT and National.
TVNZ Q+A: Maori Party Emboldened?
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 March 2015.
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Message to Winston Peters: don’t stuff this one up.
If you get too close to John Key’s government, voters will perceive you as another “satellite” party to National in the same vein as ACT, Peter Dunne, and the Maori Party. None of the three have done particularly well in elections;
- ACT won Epsom only at the pleasure of John Key
- Peter Dunne remains a one-man band – essentially a National-lite clone
- The Maori Party lost another MP last year, as voters deserted it in droves
Be wary of supporting National’s legislative programme (even with “major” changes).
Be wary of being perceived as being too close to National.
Be extremely wary about throwing National a Parliamentary “life-line” – voters will remember that in 2017 (if not earlier).
How many times can you repeat the same mistake?
Message to John Key: a reminder of your warning on 21 September, 2014, about the perils of third-term arrogance creeping into government;
“I won’t be wanting to see any hint of arrogance creeping in.
In a way, having an absolute majority could exacerbate that situation, so I don’t intend to take the party veering off to the right.
One of the big messages I’ll be wanting to give incoming ministers and the caucus is that it is incredibly important that National stays connected with our supporters and connected with the New Zealand public.”
The arrogance from National was demonstrated when they kept secret the Police investigation of Mike Sabin – prior to last year’s election. It was only four months later that some (but not all) revelations regarding a police investigation became public knowledge and Sabin was forced to resign.
Voters in Northland had good reason to consider they had been deceived – by their own Party-in-power!
National’s further arrogance was again demonstrated when Key flippantly dismissed Peters’ presence in the by-election with his “absolutely zero” chance remark. It is not for government MPs, Ministers, or the Prime Minister to tell voters who has or has no chance of winning an election. That privilege is reserved solely for voters, who make that decision on the ballot paper.
More arrogance when a brace of Ministers suddenly appeared throughout Northland, in taxpayer-funded Ministerial limousines, to prop up their lame-duck candidate. Not exactly a good look for a region racked with poverty, one would have thought?
As Green Party co-leader, Russel Norman, said,
“It’s pretty extraordinary that National is not only pork barrelling the electorate, but accessing the pork themselves to get themselves around the electorate.”
More important still – why wasn’t this kind of attention bestowed on Northland over the last few decades whenever National was in power? Did they really think citizens would not notice? Really?!?!
The arrogance of National was even more jaw-droppingly breath-taking with it’s blatant electoral bribes of up-grading ten Northland bridges to two lanes; speeding up broadband introduction to the region, etc. Is that how National really perceives voters – that they think we are too thick to recognise the stench of electoral bribes when shoved under our collective noses?
Then again, the tax cut bribes did work for Key in 2008. (Which, nearly seven years later, we are still paying for.)
And threatening to withdraw one of the bribes, if voters decided not to choose the National candidate – as Key clumsily announced on 13 March – was arrogance cloaked in paternalism. Paternalism is best left to parents with rebellious teenage children. It rarely works on voters.
Five days later there was more arrogance yet, when a National backbencher thought that threatening New Zealand citizens, was a really, really clever idea. It was not, as Shane Reti discovered to his cost. Real Stalinist-stuff. Doesn’t go down well with Kiwis.
Finally – John Key’s most brazen act of arrogance illustrates how deeply “concerned” he felt about Northland’s dire economic and social circumstances, and how “greatly” he supported his own Party’s candidate to win the by-election;
I’m sure Northlanders are equally delighted to have a new Member of Parliament to represent them.
Message to the Regions: if New Zealanders living in parts of the country that have missed out on the country’s “rock star economy” feel sufficiently aggrieved, they should do something about it.
As always, the power is in their hands. They have the vote.
Northlanders did, and they have just sent National a clear message they will not forget in a very long time.
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
Fairfax media: Government’s wall of silence over Mike Sabin
TV3 News: National MP Mike Sabin resigns
Fairfax media: Nats – Roads in doubt if Winston wins
Radio NZ: Dusty road group claim bullying
Scoop media: PM to attend the Cricket World Cup Final
Previous related blogpost
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 March 2015.
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On the road today, this news story caught my attention;
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
This is a deliberate attempt by NZ First and elements within the Labour Party to undermine and destroy the Mana-Internet Alliance.
Which is utterly crazy, and beggars belief.
At current polling, if Hone wins his electorate, he could bring in one or two extra MPs on his “coat-tails”. (The rules as set by this National Government.)
If Labour loses to a National-led coalition by that slim margin – two or three seats – and we face another three years of this damnable regime, because of their unmitigated, self-serving, colossal stupidity, I will be mightily f****d off.
I will hold the Labour leadership responsible.
And, by the gods, I will give them such grief that Slater and Farrar will be the least of their worries.
This little dirty deal between Labour and NZ First has sealed my Party Vote. I encourage everyone to vote, and I offer my personal endorsement for the Mana-Internet Alliance.
And Winston Peters, Kelvin Davis, Stuart Nash, et al, can go kiss my well-padded, hairy [Anatomical description deleted on good taste grounds – Chief Censor, GCSB]!
Radio NZ: Peters backs Davis in Te Tai Tokerau
Previous related blogpost
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes
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