As those who are in positions of power decide how the Government is going to look like over the next three years, all those of us miles away from power can do is sit and ponder about what we think should be at the front of their lobes.
I thought I would start with a quote from Norm Kirk which Jacinda Ardern refers to frequently.
- Somewhere to live: It needs to be the norm that everyone has healthy housing.
- Someone to love: It needs to be the norm that all whānau enjoy wellbeing.
- Something to do: It needs to be the norm that everyone has good work.
- Something to hope for: There needs to be justice. Everyone has to have a fair go.
It seems that New Zealanders went for stability in the election. They trusted Jacinda Ardern to lead us in a world which has been turned on its ear by Covid 19. This has led to the Labour team having masses of public goodwill to take us into new places as a society. It was refreshing to hear Peeni Henare advocating to become the Minister of Health, and for Andrew Little expressing a desire to continue as Minister of Treaty Negotiations. They were out of their boxes early and they were standing up saying what they wanted to achieve. I like this sort of drive. Politics is too often cloak and dagger stuff behind closed doors and hearing people standing up and speaking from the heart was encouraging.
I’m sure the Prime Minister and her internal cabinet don’t see it that way.
At times like this it is important to sit back and reflect on what were the steps which led Jacinda Ardern to where she is right now. Firstly, Helen Clark took her on as a staff member. Then she was encouraged to stand for Parliament. There she performed well and rose through the ranks. Then Andrew Little made the most courageous move I have seen in politics. He stood aside and said, in an incredible display of humility rarely displayed by politicians, he wasn’t the man to lead the Labour Party in the elections. Jacinda more than stepped up to the mark, mentored by her friend, the wonderful Annette King. Then, after the last election, Winston Peters decided to go with Labour instead of National, and the rest is history.
Jacinda Ardern has grown hugely in the role as our leader. She now has a chance to grow some more to lead a team which is bursting at the seams with new, ambitious, people. She needs to broaden the number of advisors around her. She must trust more people to play key roles, some of which she didn’t need to think about last time. Like how to ensure that every person in the caucus gets a chance to meet with her every year. I hear that she only meets MP’s down the pecking order every 3 years. That’s not good enough. People management is something she needs to perfect. She needs to find a way for the Maori caucus to be in key slots and to run their own thing. The same with the Pacific Island caucus. These communities have been very loyal to Labour and need to be rewarded with key positions; and to trust these MP’s to link closely with their communities and to meet the desires which have been entrusted to them.
The environment must be front of all decision making. The Greens need to be seen as the thinktank for the Government. Leaving the Greens in a holding pen would be the first mistake the Government makes. They need to be also in key places. They performed well in the last Parliament and must be there to do even more, as it is so urgent, in the next three years.
I read analysis of the election until it was coming out my ears. Eventually I got bored but I thought I would share some commentors I found interesting. Here’s what they wrote:
1. Abbas Nazari:
The first I read was from Abbas Nazari, who Tuesday Club attendees will remember as having spoken a couple of times about Muslim issues. Abbas, who arrived here as a 6-year-old refugee from the boat the Tampa, is currently on a Fulbright Scholarship in Washington. Here are his observations:
Meanwhile during the lockdown, on virtual hangouts with my family and friends back in New Zealand, we all talked eagerly about the different policies heading into the election, and the fortunes and misfortunes of the different parties. We all had different leanings, but we could discuss the issues without fearing someone would throw their wine glass at the screen. Watching the New Zealand election campaign, filled with substance, humour, and conducted in good faith, it made me realise how precious that is. Although the US is presently an example of how not to conduct politics, we have seen that in many countries, developed and developing, how election cycles can stoke the fires of tribalism, dividing the electorate into economic and ethnic divisions. In that maelstrom, much of the substantive policy is lost. This weekend, New Zealand has set an example for the world, showing that politics does not have to be so divisive, where – in the words of the Prime Minister – we don’t tear one another apart. Living far away from home, the contrast between New Zealand and the rest of the world is remarkable. I am one of the few people in the US right now that if told to “go back to your own country” my response would be “gladly!”
But that is not to say that New Zealand is immune to the same elements of conspiracy, division, and dog-whistles. More than 55,000 voters cast ballots in favour of Advance New Zealand and the New Conservatives (almost equal to New Zealand First). As we move on from this election, it is important to keep those voters and their views in mind, because if cast adrift, those sentiments can easily metastasise into what ails America, and much of the world.
So regardless of who you voted for in this election, and how your party did overall, the key takeaway is that we have it damned good in New Zealand, and it’s on us to keep it that way.
2. Colin James:
I always respect Colin James’ comments, as for decades he was NZ’s foremost political journalist. In the article below he wrote about the Labour Government being underwhelming to date and what their challenges will be this term.
Jacinda Ardern claimed a “mandate” on election night to “accelerate our response [to Covid] and our recovery”. Does that portend the “government of transformation” she proclaimed three years ago?
She and her crew do have a ball at their feet which could potentially rephrase the political language and move it on to centre-left turf.
So far, they have at most dribbled that ball. But on Monday on TVNZ, Grant Robertson talked as if he is lining up to kick the ball down towards that bigger political change goal.
He finishes with:
Is cautious Ardern up to building that mandate? The evidence so far points to no. But the ball is at her government’s feet and Robertson has said he wants to kick it.
3. Max Rashbrooke:
In the Spinoff Max Rashbrooke wrote 7 points of advice for Jacinda Ardern and her Government. Here they are:
1) Democratic renewal
I put this first because if you improve the way you make laws, you will likely make all those laws better as well. Get this right and the rest follows. So, work with Māori to find ways for them to govern themselves with greater autonomy. Spike the guns of Billy TK and his followers with a suite of open government measures including a fully reformed Official Information Act. Create citizens’ assemblies, and sites for people to propose and discuss their own bills, and online forums for deep democratic discussion. Make your public decision-making genuinely ground-up and community-led. Complete the promised Electoral Act review, and properly regulate political donations. Open things up, let the sunlight in, restore trust.
2) The circular economy
Climate change is, famously, Ardern’s “nuclear-free moment”. Emissions must start falling sharply and, more broadly, we need to learn to live in greater harmony with the planet. Many of the required policies, though, can seem abstract or even scary. So why not go hard on the circular economy, the idea that materials should be repaired, reused and recycled in a continuous loop, rather than dug up and thrown away. Part of the post-pandemic rebuild surely involves shifting the economy – and in particular manufacturers – towards producing more sustainable goods and services. Such moves could help bring real positivity to the climate change fight.
3) Good neighbourhoods
Labour MPs know that their chances of winning again in 2023 lie with housing, so they don’t need me to tell them to focus on that. But one missing piece of the puzzle concerns government’s confidence in its ability to shape place. Sure, we can and should set the market free to build more houses. But how do we know they will be high quality? How will we get good neighbourhoods with the facilities to encourage strong communities – parks, community centres, libraries? How can we be sure that transport and housing policies connect, so that we are siting new homes along rail corridors? A strong government hand in all these matters has to be a focus in the next few years.
4) Tax avoidance
Ardern has, unwisely in my view, ruled out both a capital gains tax and a wealth tax in her political lifetime. Nonetheless, a problem remains: as IRD research makes clear, many wealthy people are very adept at paying very little tax. Half the New Zealanders worth more than $50m declare less than $70,000 of taxable income. Setting up trusts, creating paper losses, disguising income as capital gains: all kinds of tricks are employed. This needs to be tackled in its own right, but also to ensure other people maintain their faith in the system and keep paying their taxes willingly. It could also generate some revenue to help with the other priorities.
5) Mass redeployment
Coronavirus will render tens of thousands of people unemployed. Automation will add a little fuel to that fire. There will also be tens of thousands of jobs created, at least in the long run. But the newly jobless may not have the skills they need for the new jobs. So, invest as heavily as constrained finances will allow in retraining. Find out what skills those people have, what skills they need, and what courses will bridge between the two. Oh, and while they are going through this process, let’s ensure their benefits are high enough for a dignified life, as the Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommended.
6) Violence against women
It’s the country’s “worst and most shameful problem”, according to former Women’s Rights Commissioner (and National MP) Jackie Blue. New Zealand women experience some of the world’s highest rates of abuse, domestic violence and death at the hands of partners. Steps were taken to address this in Ardern’s first term, but recent reporting on those initiatives has been scathing to say the least. So, give this issue the political attention it deserves, and start delivering results.
7) Public investment
New Zealand’s public debt is set to peak at around 50% of GDP, a relatively modest amount. Many developed countries had higher debts even before coronavirus, let alone after it; many have also had higher debts in the past and paid them off gradually, sensibly and calmly. Rather than panicking or slashing services, we should do the same. The government can borrow at extraordinarily low interest rates right now, and we should be taking advantage of that to make the prudent investments – reducing child poverty, warding off climate change – that will pay dividends in the long run. Yes, as a small economy, we want to be protected against large financial shocks, but debt at 40% of GDP doesn’t meaningfully buy you more shock protection than debt at 50% does. Keep calm, and carry on spending on the right things.
Here’s the article:
4. Rod Oram’s comments on the challenges for the PM:
Rod comments that political capital invested well is a renewable, growing resource capable of delivering transformative progress.
He considers the following must be on the list for the Government to pay attention:
- build new or upgrade existing homes so they are warmer, better and more affordable, which will in turn will improve the lives of people and their communities;
- develop our urban and rural businesses so they are more sophisticated, contribute more to the local and global economy, and thus better reward staff and owners;
- reform our environmental laws in ways that help us use our urban, rural and wild natural resources and built environments more productively and sustainably, while restoring the ecosystems of all of them;
- improve our education, health, community services and political systems so we strengthen our cultures and society.
Those massively complex goals are linked in many ways. If we get to the heart of those links, we will find ways to work effectively together on them. We will achieve true sustainability in all senses of the word – human, social, economic and ecological.
While those are goals for us as a nation, each of us is personally responsible for being as honest, helpful and encouraging to each other as we can as we work together.
Here’s the article: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/pro/rod-oram-brave-politics-for-a-better-future
5. Finally, here are two articles which warmed me towards our fellow kiwis:
I love it when things are this decent:
Around election time those of us political hacks tend to get a bit tribal. We debate issues at 110 decibels; and talk past each other. But at the end of the day we all have to live together. I loved reading about the New Plymouth campaign. Labour took the seat off National and when Jonathan Young, the former National MP arrived at Labour Party H/Q on the night he was given a standing ovation. That’s neat. That’s what it should be like. Here’s the article about the event:
Here’s a wonderful cartoon series about generations meeting through an election:
Sit down and open the link below. It’s a brilliant cartoon series about a young man discussing the election with his grandmother:
Now, we sit back and wait for the final results. We will need to organise better so that we can ensure that the Government knows what issues are important on the ground. The three key issues in politics are to organise, organise, organise.