A government of change, but still some worries
By Mandy Hager
After the ambiguous election results and then the wait for coalition talks, I thought I would be over the moon when Winston Peters finally made his call to support a government of change.
And, don’t get me wrong, I am.
Nine long years of watching our democracy, social supports, human rights and futures undermined by a cynical, self-interested National-led government is quite enough.
But the mess and pain they have left behind for others to clean up, while still (unbelievably) lauding themselves as having improved our lot, leaves me nervous.
Why? I still have nagging concerns in a number of areas.
Here are a few of the things that work to temper my hope:
Just as National proved, whilst in power, that they had no fidelity to the truth, I feel tired in advance at the prospect of their bullshit claims and active attempts to undermine our new government. We’ve seen it already, with ex-PM Bill English proudly crowing: it’s not our job to make this place run …
- Indeed, it would seem (as the petty point scoring over the election of the Speaker of Parliament shows) that, rather than putting their egos aside for the sake of the country, they will go out of their way to be disruptive at every turn. These are not the acts of people who care about the overall state of our democracy or the welfare of Aotearoa’s people (more of whom voted for a change of government rather than the status quo.) These are the tactics of an elite who have such an embedded sense of privilege that they would risk the stability of the country rather than be seen to lose.
The spin goes on and on . . . Already proved time and time again to play fast and dirty with the truth, and to employ dog-whistle tactics to spread mis-information, I do not trust National to stop playing these games. The use of such Crosby-Textor-style tactics appears to be so entrenched in their collective DNA I fear the media, hungry for sensational sound bites, will (continue to) chose to amplify such tongue-twisting trouble-making rather than pick it to pieces and call it out.
- As Winston Peters stated so clearly in his coalition announcement, there is a good chance the economy will tank at some stage soon, once National’s devious tampering of the books via excessive borrowing and immigration comes home to roost. This won’t be the Labour-led government’s fault, but the mud and bullshit that will be flung at them if this does happen could well undermine the gains in other areas. They’ve been handed a time-bomb and National will do everything it can to see it blow in the Coalition’s faces.
I worry that Labour’s fear of offending/angering the farming and business sector will see them back-track on the bold (and very necessary) promises they made. The current renegotiation of the old TPP is a case in point. I have no doubt they know full well the issues that concern Kiwis about such clauses as the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), yet it would seem they are not prepared to walk away if they cannot secure water-tight exemptions. All I can do is hope that they at least allow the public to voice their thoughts in a meaningful consultation before they finally sign. Same with vital long-term measures such as the Water Tax, which they traded away during coalition negotiations. I want a government prepared to say ‘Look, this might be hard, but in the interests of all Kiwis, especially future generations, we need to take the necessary steps to address these difficult issues, full stop.’
I want to believe that they will really take the big-picture steps needed to address our climate change and environmental commitments — I’m just not allowing myself to get too excited, in case inaction and side-stepping (and the inevitable strain between coalition partners) leaves me overwhelmed by disappointment.
- Finally, I worry the new government’s voting base will have such high expectations after nine years in the desert, that we’ll jump on them at every slight deviation and devour them from within.
In for the people of the country
Of course, I do get the irony of this final point: yes, I’m one of those stumbling in from the desert, too, loaded up with unpragmatic expectations.
I think that’s why it’s easier not to get carried away with too much idealistic hope or hype.
The one thing that does cheer me when I mull all these potential pitfalls over, however, is that (for the most part) I do believe the people who are now holding the reins of power are in it for the people of Aotearoa and not their own gain . . . and, by crickey, that’s a really good feeling and the most hopeful thing of all.