MMP Delivers A Fine Balance

Changing political fortunes

By Roger Childs

Jacinda Ardern represents a new, younger and better NZ

Election night was a depressing one for Labour and Green supporters. National came in comfortably as the largest party and the combination of the lefties was well short. But the Tories had lost the Maori Party and only had the ACT puppy dog as an ally.

Special votes delivered a seat each to the parties on the Left, and, with New Zealand First (NZF) holding the balance, a change of government looked like a strong possibility.

Bill English and co had foolishly alienated Winston by gunning him down in the Northland electorate, so it was no big surprise that he threw in his lot with a Labour-led coalition.

So an Ardern government is a very welcome reality: it’s got to be good for the country. MMP has delivered a well balanced coalition which represents the majority of the nation’s voters.

National has left an economic and environmental mess

A finance minister who looked after vested interests

Nine years of John Key, and latterly Bill English, kept big business, the banks, farmers, the share market and the well-to-do happy, as the economy grew at a steady rate.

However, the national debt increased dramatically, and the growth was largely based on asset inflation, record immigration, the Christchurch rebuild, more wages being paid, increased tourism and some whopping pay increases for the top earners. It had little to do with increased production.

At the bottom of the heap, wages remained depressed, family poverty increased alarmingly and income disparities continued to widen.

Shouldn’t be allowed in dry climates

The environment is not a pretty sight, despite the tourist advertising. Clean Green New Zealand is a bad joke, as our rivers remain un-swimmable, and farmers, timber companies and local bodies continue to pollute the waterways.

Furthermore, the government had encouraged the expansion of dairying into dry areas which do not suit intensive pastoralism. Consequently there has been a huge draw off from rivers and aquifers for irrigation, and as the water has come out, the nitrates have flowed in.

No wonder the farming community howled at the suggestion of a tax on water use!

Massive social problems

This will be a government for all New Zealanders. Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern

The new government also inherits a sorry social legacy from three terms of National rule.

Poverty and the low minimum wage will need to be addressed urgently, as will the under-funded health sector. A housing shortage is another major problem and Labour made in clear in the election campaign that this would be a crucial priority for the new government.

Education is another area where there has been neglect, especially the under-funding of the crucial early childhood sector. Recent research has confirmed what we all know, that the early years of a child’s life are vital to its intellectual development.

Children who don’t get the early education they deserve, inevitably struggle to catch up.

Hitting the ground running

The torch has been passed to a new generation … President Kennedy January 1961

Not Winston of course, but it is certainly true of the prime minister and many of her cabinet.

As promised the new government has moved quickly to start the process of change.

Sworn in only yesterday, the Ardern government moved quickly into gear and a number of new policies were announced or confirmed at the afternoon cabinet meeting.

  • A major allocation of money has been set aside for regional development.
  • The proposed National tax cuts have been wiped.
  • Tertiary students will get their first year of tuition free next year.
  • A fuel tax will fund a much needed light rail system in Auckland.
  • The unpopular primary national standards will go.
  • Foreign interests won’t be able to buy property.

The first 100 days are bound to be exciting ones as the ministers warm to their task. The largely right wing mainstream media still can’t believe what’s happened and the sniping has already begun.

A three party government is a strength

This is what MMP is all about. Bringing together the ideas of three political groups has to be beneficial for the development of the country. Of course Labour, NZF and the Greens will not agree on all issues and policies.

Some areas of possible contention include

  • A divisive issue

    The amount of immigration: NZF wants much less than Labour.

  • The fate of the Maori seats: NZF wants them gone unlike Labour and the Greens.
  • 1080 poison: NZF wants it banned like most of the rest of the world, not so the Greens.
  • Treaty issues: NZF wants to see some scaling back of the separatist approach.

A  range of viewpoints will be heard around the cabinet table and that has to be healthy in a true democracy.

However, compromise and ultimately consensus will hopefully ensure that sensible and workable policies are introduced to benefit all New Zealanders and all parts of the country.