Little chance of system change, but change in government is a good place to start

By   /   September 16, 2017  /   18 Comments

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For those of us who also want a more fundamental change than just rearranging the parliamentary seating order, and minor changes by degrees, in some ways, hope competes with despair. I’d like to take a vote on neo-liberalism itself but it’s not even on the agenda.

The election race is incredibly close. The ability to form a government is in Labour’s grasp. So it’s easy to forget that not six weeks ago it looked like Labour were a spent force. The fact that Labour and National are now neck and neck shows that in many ways, Jacinda, as much as the Labour Party, has already won. She’s breathed fresh life into the Labour body and soul. She’s reached new audiences. She’s charmed the media (Jacindamedia). She’s led the release of Labour Party policy so it has publicly claimed, in moderate fashion, ground previously staked out by the Greens. She’s celebrated an empathetic and positive style of campaigning with her relentless smile. But she’s been ruthless in her pursuit of every vote, she cut Meteria Turei loose, has been resistant to strategic deals. She’s running a ‘First Past the Post’ campaign, seeking victory for Labour, not for the broader Left. She’s been audacious. It’s been phenomenal to see how a new, confident, sassy woman leader has been able to reignite the Labour Party and the left-leaning voting public.

You could say Jacinda Ardern is evidence of what one woman can do to a political party’s fortunes. And on the other hand, so is Metiria Turei. Their voting rankings have been inverse. There are dramatic graphs that show the plummeting of Green votes in clear opposite direction to the ascent of Labour. Though in both cases, neither woman stands alone, and both their parties, the public and the press have also shaped the current state of play.

What a fascinating chain of events it has been that saw Green support growing while Labour declined, then Andrew Little’s resignation and Jacinda’s election to leader, to the Green’s near collapse, through to Labour and National being nearly equal contenders now. And United Future have no future, and Winston is struggling for air. We’ve had election hyperdrive.

The changing role of the media, the ‘celebrity’ angle of much of the coverage (even of Bill English!) and social media platforms allowing instantaneous access to information, speeches, events and engagements, may have added to voter volatility. Voters can consider and compare policies and performances in real time, across a range of media, and review voting preferences accordingly. Even now there’s evidence of more voter swings, with a bounce back to the Greens, perhaps lest they be lost from Parliament altogether, and in response to a warming to James Shaw? And even Winston has not been immune to the wild political winds; despite an initial artful dodge from the scrutiny he deserved over his pension overpayment, his party has still been damaged, and in light of his response to Guyon Espiner’s fair, paced and reasonable interview this week, he should be damaged more.

What looked like it was going to be a sleep walk for voters and for National, has become an even contest where Labour are once again serious contenders to government, and for the first time maybe even with the Greens as a coalition partner. Imagine a future where Winston Peters is not the kingmaker, but the Greens are! Queenmakers! For those of us who want a change of government, there is indeed hope.

But for those of us who also want a more fundamental change than just rearranging the parliamentary seating order, and minor changes by degrees, in some ways, hope competes with despair. I’d like to take a vote on neo-liberalism itself but it’s not even on the agenda.

I despair because, based on current polls, around 40% of voters support the National Party. I know these people, some of them are ‘good’ people, but they really believe that things are ok, because they’re ok. I despair because maybe more than half New Zealanders conflate self-interest with the public interest. Around 40%, and maybe a majority, of New Zealanders are happy to accept the increase in inequality, poverty and misery that the current government, and past neo-liberal governments, have inflicted upon society creating a growing workers’ precariat, inequality and an ‘under’ class. An underclass, for whom “it’s their fault”, “they’re no-hopers”, they should “save more”, “work harder”, “not have children…”. I despair that anyone thinks it’s ok to be paid the minimum wage, to have insecure hours, when it’s not even enough to live on. I despair because some voters are so scared of having their holiday home or investment properties taxed they’re prepared to just step over the homeless, poor, or socially dysfunctional. They’re prepared to sacrifice good public health services for lower taxes. I despair because around 40% of New Zealanders think that polluted rivers and dead oceans are fair costs of doing business, and all of this is the result of good economic management.
And although it’s now politically acceptable for both former and aspiring Prime Ministers, such as Jim Bolger and Jacinda Ardern, to acknowledge the failure of neo-liberalism, it’s still not politically acceptable to do anything much about it. There are differences in the methods of ameliorating capitalism’s injustices, but beyond the oppositional rhetorical positioning, most of the parties are on the same side.

There’s nothing unreasonable in wanting a good society where people have dignity and are paid well for working in safe conditions. It’s not radical to want to protect the natural values of our beautiful country, species, our planet. It’s not radical to want fairer distribution of wealth and power. But the fear of taxes, the constraints of Reserve Bank settings, and Fiscal Responsibility rules, and existing international trade agreements, the demands of the market, all limit the scope of the possible.

The paradigm that sets the parameters for debate ensures the parties’ policies just differ by degrees, and Labour are closer to National than they are apart. National are still very much the party of privatisation, but after all, there’s not that much left to sell (hence state-owned farms are now on the block). Support for the TPP remains a main-party consensus. And despite the fear-mongering from National, Labour’s policy to prevent overseas ownership of NZ houses which might require amendment to free trade deals, is unlikely to unravel the free trade world order. Sure, in contrast with National, Labour offers a more humane, interventionist-state model. In the club of Trudeau and Macron, it’s a new popular version of third way capitalism (‘fourth way’?), neo-liberalism in lipstick.

In some ways, National’s last year in office could be defined as one of inhumanity. Their refusal to hold an inquiry into the treatment of children in state care, their resistance to Cave Creek justice, and their untenable defence of hospital underfunding, have all been National own-goals.
But no matter who is elected they’ll continue to serve the interests of capital – parties of different colours, playing and managing responses to broader macroeconomic conditions, sometimes through deregulation, sometimes through intervention, but ultimately serving the market. If they didn’t offer that they’d have no chance of getting elected at all. And you’d never get elected to govern if you threatened the comfortable middle-class status quo too much either. But can you address poverty and homelessness if you can’t even change tax settings? Can you affect the radical change needed to ‘fix’ New Zealand, and discard neo-liberalism, through incrementalism?

Martin Van Beyen says in a Stuff article ‘A Changing of the Guard is Underway’, that as part of the ‘generational change’ represented by Jacinda Ardern, we’re moving more towards a Scandinavian model of capitalism, away from the American/Australian style (?). I’m not sure, but that would be a step in the right direction, and you sure won’t get elected if you’re too radical anyway.

Just as acknowledging neo-liberalism as a failure logically requires a change to the model, you can’t note that climate change is the nuclear issue of our generation, but still condone new oil and extraction in NZ. But then Michael Cullen used that line too, and greenhouse gas emissions are worse now than they were even then. So never mind a climate revolution, despite admitting to the problem, we haven’t even started on transition yet. A Labour-Green coalition might improve the chances of Labour’s good words becoming reality. (Especially compared with the ‘direction of travel’ of a New Zealand First – Labour coalition instead).

I really hope we get a change in government and I believe Jacinda Ardern will make a very good Prime Minister, one we can be proud of as a nation. A strong Green Party in coalition, would add a sound environmental conscience. Structural problems like indebtedness, homelessness, biodiversity loss, a growth model based on finite resources, will be harder, and take longer to resolve.

And though I despair that the prospects of system change are low, and of climate change, are high, a change in government, is a good place to start.

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18 Comments

  1. CLEANGREEN says:

    I woke up to realise now that this NZ MP Jian Yang may be family of Yang Enterprises in USA who are snarled up in a voting fraud hacking case and is he trying this here now?

    See these clips and the testomony abour ‘Yang Enterprises.
    Fishy stuff may be connected?
    Eugene Curtis – Yang Enterprises election fraud.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7R1_ixtlyc

    NZ MP Jian Yang – is he related to this family Yang Enterprises computer intelligence company carrying out voting fraud in USA?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7R1_ixtlyc

    http://www.americanfreepress.net/html/florida_election_stolen.html

    (2017/05/15 17:15) The Newest Breaking News … for global hacking waveWashington PostPutin Blames … of the young developer Jian-Yang’s octopus …

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      HORIZON POLL – LAST POLL BEFORE NZ ELECTION IN SEVEN DAYS

      Subject: Among those who are registered, have made up their minds and will definitely vote, National has 38.5% support.Labour has 38.2%.New Zealand First has 9.8%, the Green Party 7.7%.

      https://www.horizonpoll.co.nz/page/477/main-partie

      HORIZON POLL
      INCORPORATING SHAPENZ

      YOU ARE HERE
      Home : Research Results : Main parties in dead heat
      Research Results
      Main parties in dead heat
      16 Sep 17
      Credit: Radio NZ

      Nothing between the main parties with 8 days to go …
      National and Labour are almost dead even in the latest Horizon party vote poll.

      Among those who are registered, have made up their minds and will definitely vote, National has 38.5%support.

      Labour has 38.2%.

      New Zealand First has 9.8%, the Green Party 7.7%.

      If this level of support is achieved by NZ First then it will be able to decide which main party governs.

      ACT has 1.4% which could also be significant in deciding which main party governs. If ACT’s leader wins the Epsom electorate, on these results ACT would have two MPs and enable a National-New Zealand First-ACT coalition.

      Alternatively, on these results a Labour-Green-NZ First coalition could govern.

      The poll of 846 registered voters was taken between September 9 and 14.

      It is weighted by age, gender and region to ensure it represents the New Zealand adult population at the last census. At a 95% confidence level, the maximum margin of error for the decided voter sample is +/- 3.4%.

      The result mirrors poll of polls results showing the main parties in a close race in the last week of the election campaign.

      Expected and preferred coalition leader

      Overall, 59% of decided voters are expecting Labour to lead a coalition government if one is needed. 41% expect National would lead it.

      Asked who they would prefer to lead a coalition, 53% say Labour, 47% National.

      Voting by gender and age

      Women are a significant driver of Labour’s support in this poll and since the change to Jacinda Ardern as leader.
      42% of women voters support Labour, 33% National.

      National is stronger among men: 44% to 34% for Labour.

      By age, Labour’s strongest support is coming from those aged 18-34.

      52% of definite voters aged 18-24 support, Labour, 25% National.

      47% of those aged 25-34 support Labour, 32% National.

      The parties each have 32% of those aged 35-44 years.

      National has more support among those aged 45+.

      Among those 65+ National has 52%, Labour 29%.

      Seats

      Assuming the Maori Party and ACT each win one electorate seat, these results would give parties this number of seats in Parliament:

      ACT 2
      Green Party 10
      Labour 47
      Maori Party 1
      National 48
      NZ First 12

      The survey complies with Research Association New Zealand’s political polling code.

      A Roy Morgan poll published on September 15 also finds the parties neck and neck.
      The National Business Review covers the Horizon poll and radio interview here.

      Your comments are welcome at Horizon’s Facebook page.

      For further information, please contact Grant McInman, Manager, Horizon Research, e-mail gmcinman@horizonresearch.co.nz, telephone +64 21 0762040

      https://thestandard.org.nz/roy-morgan-shows-the-nats-have-been-targeting-the-wrong-place/

      DSpare12
      16 September 2017 at 9:07 am
      There is also this Horizon poll out today:
      Among those who are registered, have made up their minds and will definitely vote, National has 38.5% support.Labour has 38.2%.New Zealand First has 9.8%, the Green Party 7.7%.
      https://www.horizonpoll.co.nz/page/477/main-partie
      They are also claiming that because ACT is on 1.4% it; “would have two MPs and enable a National-New Zealand First-ACT coalition”. Which seems unlikely even though mathmatically possible. I have no idea what the margin or error is down there, but it wouldn’t take many tenths of a percent drop to push ACT below the two MP threshold (plus Seymour isn’t guaranteed to win Epsom).
      The main conclusion I’ve reached from political polling this election is; the only reliable result is that each polling company’s different methods will produce different results. Only a week to go till we can assess them against reality.

  2. G.A.P says:

    1000% Christine.

  3. Christine says:

    Well said,Christine, thank you. The seeming lack of social conscience of the National Party is a disgrace, as well as foolish.

    Bill English’s response to the NZDF Operation Burnham as documented in ‘Hit & Run’ is also reprehensible, it stunned me.

  4. David Stone says:

    The change away from the neoliberal settlement might have to be global.
    The trade implications of transgressing the agreements made over the past 30 years in the mode of neolib/globalisation are a massive impediment to a single little trading nation making a comprehensive change. But the public enthusiasm for the system has passed everywhere not just in New Zealand. Some linking up with similarly motivated people and organisations in other countries so cooperative changes can be made might be necessary.
    D J S

    • Andrea says:

      Someone has to be first to start moving the twigs to get to the log jam…

      And how come ACT and Maori Part get mentioned while TOP isn’t shown? One poll I sketched past looked to have TOP passing 2%. Or don’t we want to have any bikies in parliament?

      More ‘fair show’ and less ‘pick and choose’?

      And a media silence come Wednesday would be welcome, too.

      PS There’s a fair swag of seniors who don’t vote National. The ones with long memories… according to my mum.

      • janine says:

        “There’s a fair swag of seniors who don’t vote National. The ones with long memories… according to my mum.”

        Those of us with long memories don’t vote Labour either

  5. Peter Mechen says:

    Great stuff – somebody who thinks and expresses their thoughts without any negative or personal put-downs, or a “one size-fits-all attitude” to people who think differently, and who leaves room for thoughtfulness instead of mindless knee-jerk “them and us-ness” – I can relate to this without feeling “tainted ” by an sort of inverse prejudice or negativity
    Thank you!

  6. WILD KATIPO says:

    Great post , Christine Rose,… so many very good points spelt out in plain English.

    … ” It’s been phenomenal to see how a new, confident, sassy woman leader has been able to reignite the Labour Party and the left-leaning voting public ” …

    Indeed, and I would venture to say that this is also what the people need, a warm positive leader to set the tone ,… the dour austerity of constant belt tightening and hypocrisy of a steady stream of bland , grey neo liberal leaders discourages the people. There was an old saying in Russia about the Tzar being a ‘thousand miles away’… in other words, irrelevant to daily life barring the hardship of the peasants the Tzar’s policy’s caused.

    … ” There’s nothing unreasonable in wanting a good society where people have dignity and are paid well for working in safe conditions. It’s not radical to want to protect the natural values of our beautiful country, species, our planet. It’s not radical to want fairer distribution of wealth and power. But the fear of taxes, the constraints of Reserve Bank settings, and Fiscal Responsibility rules, and existing international trade agreements, the demands of the market, all limit the scope of the possible ” …

    And the reality is , as Chris Trotter pointed out recently , – if we the people want these good things , – then taxation is part of that. It really is that plain and simple. There is no avoiding the fact , – and if we were truly as Martin Van Beyen suggests in a Stuff article ‘A Changing of the Guard is Underway’, that as part of the ‘generational change’ represented by Jacinda Ardern, we’re moving more towards a Scandinavian model of capitalism,… then an overhaul of the taxation system is needed.


    … ” A Labour-Green coalition might improve the chances of Labour’s good words becoming reality. A strong Green Party in coalition, would add a sound environmental conscience. Structural problems like indebtedness, homelessness, biodiversity loss, a growth model based on finite resources, will be harder, and take longer to resolve ” …

    I threw my party vote towards the Greens as did my 21 year old son, … it was going to be Labour , when Labour was flagging , but now I have every confidence of a Labour victory ,… so the priority switched to shoring up the Green vote.

    And that was to ensure three things : for many of the reasons you write about , – but also to ensure Labour has a coalition partner. And thirdly , – and probably for me the most importantly ,… because I believe the only way to dismantle neo liberalism in this country is if we accept we are all playing a part in the long game,… that is , … the ultimate eradication of neo liberalism from our political / economic system.

    • Blake says:

      I wish I had more confidence in the political system. I guess I disagree with you a bit on this one. I feel that most are unaware that governments, for the most part, are already controlled and that no matter who wins, it will be business as usual. The very current and important link below from a reputable whistleblower ( in the U.S. ) confirms that the Shadow Govt. controls not only the Deep State but most all that goes on in politics. At the top of the shadow govt., in the U.S. ( and we copy them a lot ) is the N.S.A. and the C.I.A. There and here these two entities as well as the Military Industrial Complex are in charge. Makes not much difference whether Bill or Jacinda win and I see very clearly why the youth and many informed citizens stay home on election day. I get tired of hearing the same ole statement that if one does not vote than they can not complain. If the system is so broken, then we need a complete change and not voting is also a right and a statement and we have every right to complain and throwout better ideas and plans.

      Christine, I agree that a much bigger and more fundamental change is needed other that just changing seats in parliament.

      This link below is something everyone needs to be aware of. It exposes who is behind our governments and it is from a reputable source.

      https://nexusnewsfeed.com/article/human-rights/high-ranking-cia-agent-blows-whistle-on-the-deep-state-and-shadow-government/

      • WILD KATIPO says:

        Yep ,… you are right to a point , but ,…. it actually goes far beyond the CIA and NSA ,… and on into Europe , the UK ,… and far , far back into history.

        And ultimately ,… has a lot more to do with ‘snakes’ and ‘religion’ than ideology’s , economics or mere transient politics.

        But there’s one thing we can do , … and that is at least tend to our little corner of the world , and , more importantly , … to those who are feeling the brunt.

        Global reptiles will be global reptiles so to speak , but we can alleviate suffering here in NZ for those that really need it,… and while we will never rid this world of the ‘snakes’ as they have their own agenda,… but we can reshape this country more to be people friendly again.

        More like we used to have before our own share of snakes corrupted this country post 1984.

  7. XRAY says:

    My reading of New Zealand’s voting landscape is one of ignorance and one of a voting electorate raised on a solid diet of this current economic model. The snow job has been long and very thorough backed by vested interests, celebrities and media alike.

    Labour are walking on egg shells at the moment with that and some well practiced liars that is the National Party scaring the horses. The near demise of the Green Party is proof of that. I am under the impression that Adhern especially would like to be far more raidical but is opting for baby steps.

    Unfortunately small steps are all that will be tolerated for now by the looks of things.

  8. Siobhan says:

    https://teara.govt.nz/en/graph/30207/rates-of-home-ownership

    http://www.inequality.org.nz/understand/top1percent/

    Home ownership and inequality…for arguments sake, lets call Helen Clark the lesser of two evils….look at those graphs and understand, the lesser of two evils is an important ingredient in our current state of the Nation.

    Job security and underemployment are no doubt similar, just a little harder to find reliable stats on.

    The lesser of two evils, or even just settling for something a bit nicer, is pretty much the reason voter turnout and engagement is so dire.
    Even Jacinda, who is being painted as a ‘new generation’, yet youth enrollment is still going down.

    I’m voting for the Greens, but its a bitter disappointment that I still can’t vote for Labour…and I’ve been waiting my whole voting life.

  9. Roy says:

    Hold off on that despair… at least till after election night.

    I know of two people, tribal, familial, religiously Nat voters that could never, would never abandon Nat. Until now.

    One is going LP, one is going GP! The latter is from big inground Tory family. Blue as blue as blue.

    The mask has slipped. Despite the ancient bonds and oaths, they can’t support the current system any longer. There must be others.

    We’ve got this.

  10. Marc says:

    I think there is more excitement within Labour and its support base, than may be justified. New Zealand does like many countries face huge challenges, some are though greater here than in some other places.

    To actually win an election is easier than to successfully and effectively govern, that is if you are a so called ‘progressive’ party, which Labour may still be, despite of still clinging to neoliberalism, to a degree at least.

    To actually build a hundred thousand homes in ten years, on top of what ‘the market’ may build, is no easy task, and it is even harder to build truly affordable homes.

    We face massive capacity challenges to build the homes that are needed, this is not only limited to availability to land, to build on, we do not have the tradespeople that are needed to keep up with demand. Training apprentices takes time, and finance is not as easily available to build more homes, as the banks have already tightened access to credit, putting constraints on what can be built now.

    Here are reports on some challenges for construction:
    http://www.interest.co.nz/property/84532/rbnz-concerned-range-challenges-facing-construction-industry-will-limit-high-density
    https://www.nbr.co.nz/article/capacity-constraints-construction-sector-driving-massive-price-escalation-b-200942
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/property/92714692/concrete-shortage-another-hurdle-for-constrained-construction-industry
    https://www.odt.co.nz/business/capacity-constraints-drag-nz-economic-growth

    And a greater challenge than that is to get Kiwis out of their petrol and diesel powered cars, as electric cars, although praised and promoted as future alternative, do not come without challenges also. Some seem to ignore the increased demand for electricity, and do not tell us where extra generation may come from. Wind and solar and geothermal are all options, but to build the infrastructure requires much work and investment also.

    The glorified view of electric vehicles of the Ministry of Transport:
    http://www.transport.govt.nz/ourwork/climatechange/electric-vehicles/

    Media reports:
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/08/electric-car-revolution-calculating-the-cost-of-green-motoring
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/news/95152310/the-challenges-and-consequences-of-moving-to-electric-cars
    https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/26/reuters-america-factbox-the-challenges-and-consequences-of-moving-to-electric-cars.html

    Consultancy report:
    https://www.bcg.com/documents/file36615.pdf

    People and as that voters may vote for progress, but when it comes to making the necessary sacrifices and adjustments, many will lament the increase of parking fees, taxes on petrol or road levy usage charges and so forth, that may discourage use of individual cars. Turkeys do not vote for an early Christmas, as we know, and drivers will not vote for increased costs of driving combustion engine cars or costly alternatives.

    Few will commit to regular bus and train use, and in Auckland public transport use may only have increased due to population growth and the traffic congestion that exists already, also due to limited parking in the CBD.

    So how will Labour perform in getting these challenges dealt with? The Nats have left the country backward and in constraints, and any new government faces the hard work, and if voters are disappointed, a Labour led government may only be a one term one after all.

  11. Hamed says:

    change in government will change the entire state system. it can be a solution to various problems.