Major changes needed, but timidity may rule
By Prue Hyman
Well, here we are again, waiting on Winston (though he is quoted as saying he is in a ‘no win’ situation – do we feel sympathy for him?!) I wonder how many of us could give the names of many of his 9 MPs – at least until looking at his list in the last few days.
Yes we know of new MP Shane Jones – who will attract a range of reactions. For me, part of his background is good and he surely has links to a different section of Maori voters than his leader. But he has a very patchy record – for example on his attitudes to women – and being caught charging the taxpayer with viewing pornography appalls me on many levels.
Then we know of Ron Mark and his police background, although we heard very little of him the last three years.
The one NZ First MP I do welcome warmly is Tracey Martin, who is a good feminist. I know nothing of the other five and even less do I sense a coherent vision for NZ or policy directions. Some of his policies appeal – but not having a referendum on Maori seats or the strength of his intention to decrease immigration.
Both alternatives viable
I left writing this until we knew the impact of the special votes: as with 2014, this brought in an extra Greens MP but also an extra Labour MP. Combined, this has the impact of yielding a 63/57 majority to a Labour/NZ First/Greens possible government, much more secure than the 61/59 at election night. Sure, a National/NZ First government would have a majority of 65/55 (or 66/54 with ACT supporting National) but both alternatives are viable.
And Bill English is talking rubbish when he claims moral legitimacy for a National led government from their being the largest party. It is getting majority support
in the House which is all that counts under our system.
This week feels odd with the press trying fruitlessly to get some idea about how Winston Peters’ negotiations (it feels like that, rather than his whole Party!) with each of National and Labour are going. But we will learn the outcome before too long, hopefully.
I am of course somewhat desolate with the decrease of Green MPs from 14 to 8, although it appeared almost inevitable despite the hopes and work of the faithful.
The advent of Jacinda Ardern which revitalized Labour and the (sanctimonious?) reactions of many people, whipped up by the right wing press, to the events
around Metiria Turei’s speech and subsequent resignation cost the Greens dearly. But at least the eight include two new young women with great political and personal promise: Chloe Swarbrick and Golriz Ghahraman will be a breath of fresh air in Parliament.
Highest ever representation of women
So too will some of the new Labour women MPs. It’s great that thanks to these two parties, the proportion of women is the highest ever in Parliament, at 38% 4 points above the previous highest in 2008.
No less than six of the eight Greens MPs are women, together with 21 of 46 Labour MPs (though only three of the top ten on their list, with Megan Woods and Carmel Sepuloni joining Jacinda Ardern). Lamentably only 17 of 56 National MPs are women and only 2 of 9 NZ First – not that the record of the National women MPs fills me with much enthusiasm for increasing their number.
Maori and Asian representation up too
The proportions of Maori and Asian MPs in Parliament are also record highs, with MMP and partly leaderships on the order within the lists largely achieving its promise on diversity and representativeness.
However, the large Maori representation on the Labour benches may well become frustrated if a left coalition does not emerge this week – and the Labour leadership will have to do much better on anti-poverty measures and specific Maori initiatives if disillusion is not to set in.
Ironically many like myself who have not and would not party vote Maori, despite agreeing with them on many policies, have some regrets about their demise. Marama Fox was an excellent MP and was veering away from supporting National. But her co-leader’s performance was lack lustre and the party failed to show what value they had produced for flaxroot Maori over recent years.
As with my September before-the-election column, I looked to see what I said three years ago after the results were known. Then I celebrated the green-ness of Paekakariki (Greens 36.8% well ahead of both Labour 25.7% and National 26.5%) and to a lesser extent Mana generally.
One unfortunate side effect of more advance voting is that booth by booth analysis means less than it used to – the early votes are not included in this. Still, the 644 votes this year in Paekakariki maintained and even increased its usual Labour/Greens emphasis, with 38.7% Labour and 30.3% Greens as against 19.7% National – but as was the case nation wide, Labour were well ahead of Greens, a reversal from the result in 2014.
In Mana overall, the party vote was 44.0% for Labour, 37.9% for National and 7.7% for the Greens, while Kris Faafoi was reelected for Labour with an increased majority.
My own major worry about the outcome of this week’s negotiations is that even if we do get a Labour led government, it will be far too timid in all the important areas that need change, environmental, social, and economic.
Jacinda’s desire not to scare the horses, however understandable, given the power of big business, may make such a government only pretend to change the neo-liberal direction of macro economic policies.
The major shake ups that are needed in monetary, fiscal, trade and investment policies are only understood and espoused by those outside the major political parties.
Everyone, including the Greens, still espouses growth, even if it is sustainable or green growth.
No party is yet looking sufficiently at the impacts of ever more technological advances. Exciting yes, but scary in terms both of the future of the planet, and the future of paid work, with robots replacing ever more types of job.
The social impacts will be enormous and need major study – remedies could include genuine and substantial income redistribution, a universal basic income, and better sharing of all the paid and unpaid work.
None of this is new but it could become urgent. Without major changes, inequality will worsen further and social unrest could be major. Will we have a government that can deal with the challenges?