Conservative capitalism, befitting our country’s constituency


Mile’s Law says where you stand, depends on where you sit. And Buddhist teachings tell us that unhappiness comes from the difference between the way the world is, and how you want it to be. So the outcome of the election, the referenda (pending special votes) and the Green Party co-operation agreement with the Labour Party, will either sit well, seen as successful, mature and balanced, moderately conservative incrementalism; or sit like a disappointment at lost opportunities, depending on where you stand. Roughly half the population will be pessimistic, defeatist, and maybe half optimistic and happy about the nation’s path after the weekend in politics.

Despite the new co-operation agreement between Labour and the Greens, those who wanted to see Labour decisively govern alone, shouldn’t be too upset. There is not so much concession to the Green Party that any radicalism is likely to enter mainstream Cabinet decisions. The new Ministerial positions give the Greens magnanimous recognition of electoral status but put them in their subservient place.

At the same time, there are sufficient concessions to core Green Party middle class concerns that the agreement with Labour is acceptable to supporters. They can have their cake with Ministerial roles, and by being able to disagree and retain a distinct voice and position to critique the Government they’re part of -without much power to do anything about areas of concern outside their ambit-, they can eat their cake too. In reality, the Green Party didn’t have much choice. Their current relationship with Jacinda Ardern is conciliatory and civil. There’s a preference on both sides for co-operation, and consensus. Refusing to negotiate and agree would have seemed unprofessional, immature and churlish. The outcome that sees the Green Party co-leaders with Ministerial roles outside Cabinet delivers a win-win. But it also co-opts and subsumes the Party to a moderate Labour agenda, so it’s a disappointing trade-off of independence for token baubles of office, depending on where you sit.

The new Green roles, and other Cabinet arrangements show that this government aims to ameliorate and mitigate the negative effects of capitalism, rather than to address their fundamental causes. The ‘wins’ that are new Green Ministerial positions outside Cabinet have sidelined climate change and biodiversity management while creating impressions of genuine conciliation and power sharing. Rather than being integrated to the decisions regarding activities that fundamentally drive greenhouse gas emissions up, and biodiversity down –agriculture and transport, the Green Party will help shore up the nation’s business settings without threatening them.

Similarly, the position of Minister (outside Cabinet) for family and sexual violence, and Associate Minister for Housing, given to Marama Davidson, are just an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Where violence and homelessness are the creation of poverty, hardship and colonisation, unless the settings that cause that deprivation change, the violence and homelessness are unlikely to. Cultural settings that celebrate violence – on tv and other media, and in international affairs, make judicial punishments ineffective. High imprisonment rates are a form of institutionalised violence that create and support networks of violence, intergenerational violence and incarceration. Without capital gains or wealth taxes or other disincentives to house price escalation, an Associate Minister role for housing / homelessness amounts to little.

Similarly, Phil Twyford’s demotion to Minister for Disarmament outside Cabinet, is a token position for a token role when the world still has enough nuclear weapons for mutually assured destruction. That position would have been more meaningful if it was coupled with the Foreign Affairs role, after all, we still need to sustain a ‘nuclear-free moment’, but that would have been way too Corbanesque. We saw with Corban over the weekend what happens to leaders who stray too far from the ‘radical centre’.

The agreement between Labour and the Green Party should also be viewed in terms of who holds the structural power within the new Government. Animal-based industries have been positioned as economic heroes generating much needed foreign exchange earnings after Covid-19. Extinctions of species like Maui and Hector’s dolphins, and albatrosses, and international consumer perceptions of low animal welfare standards are threats to trade. So appointing steady pragmatist David Parker to Oceans and Fishing, and farmer-friendly Damien O’Connor, to Agriculture and Trade, make it clear that economic risks from ocean depletion and poor animal welfare, and post-Brexit / EU trade negotiations will be managed in the best interests of the industry and trade rather than because of the intrinsic value of the environment and animals themselves.

Conservationists might be pleased there’s now a Ministerial position that covers oceans concerns. But the whole oceans responsibility is on equal footing with fishing under the new Minister for both, – so we can expect little of the urgent reform of the latter to support the former, but rather ocean ‘stewardship’ to support the interests of fishing, under David Parker. Equally, the significant and frustrated animal justice movement will be pleased that the role of Associate Minister for Agriculture with responsibility for Animal Welfare, previously occupied by Meka Whaitiri, but vacant for the past two years, is revived. However, the potential of the role is diminished somewhat when compared to the maintenance of a Minister dedicated to Racing.

The Government has declared its priorities – dealing with the Covid-19 health and economic recovery. The emphasis on root and branch reform of the country’s planning strictures, getting rid of the Resource Management Act, and fast-tracking shovel-based infrastructure, means it’s more about building back, and less about the better. Even the tentative Lake Onslow dry weather hydro storage scheme is from the build side of the solution rather than the demand-management side of the energy equation and while argued as renewable, fails to address the climate change and biodiversity crises.

The outcome of the cannabis referendum is frustrating, heartening and ridiculous at the same time for supporters. To get so close to passing the 50% threshold trigger required for Parliament to consider the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill was the successful result of decades of advocacy and campaigning. But to be just short of that threshold is disappointing – and makes New Zealand less progressive than many other nations, and even states of America. And it will do nothing to reduce the prevalence or any problems with weed in our society. Some perceive a failure of leadership especially from Jacinda Ardern – who maintained an inconsistent and illogical position in declaring her vote before the election on euthanasia, but not on cannabis. Others commend her for voting in support even though she didn’t have the public ‘courage of her convictions’. Some critics blame the cannabis lobby for what is a failure of society and state. That more New Zealanders voted to be able to kill themselves than to be able to consume cannabis in moderate strength in the privacy of their own homes is confused and inexplicable. But obviously more than half the people of the country will be happy with that result.

Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson are lining themselves up as the Clark and Cullen of the current Parliamentary generation. Smart, technocratic, competent, convincing and reassuring, they’ll not rock the boat, but will keep it afloat on stormy global waters. Under Ardern and Robertson’s leadership, the horizon for transformation is a long way distant. They have set their speed and direction of travel to the glacial- incremental reformist model of their most recent Labour forebears and mentors, and according to the modest, conservative, aspirations and ambitions of the country. In a world of uncertainty, in New Zealand, investors, house owners, consumers and voters for Labour will all mostly be happy. For most people, that’s a successful democracy. But above all, it’s a capitalist democracy after all.


  1. “But above all, it’s a capitalist democracy after all.”
    Is that a bad thing? What should it be instead? A communist democracy?

    • @ HSR
      “What should it be instead? A communist democracy?”
      No. A socialist democracy.
      Not the fascist democracy we’ve endured for more than 36 years nor a capitalist democracy which is really a fascist democracy in drag nor the communism you mention which is really a fascist, capitalist democracy mutation but without the charade of going to the trouble of voting.
      Think having the choice of several parties pretending to be different when really they’re all the same and their primary objective is to bleed out a weakened primary industry of its export earned revenue to line the pocketsssesss of their ruling lobbyist elite who dwell rent free in the dank crypts of our parliament.
      A functioning socialist democracy would fuck that all up because everybody would be involved in their politics, as they should be. Indeed, as they MUST be. Not to expect some shiny arse to do it for them and hope to Lotto it all works out somehow an’ that aye?
      The best thing a politician can hope for once in power is that everyone stops wondering about what they get up to.
      You’re beloved ‘capitalism’ @ HSR is like gravitational force. It only exists in theory.
      ‘Why Gravity is NOT a Force’

  2. “for most people, that’s a successful democracy”.

    No its not. Continually alienating almost half the electorate over the use of a plant is not what I’d envision to be the picture of success. Why do that to appease the other half who are mostly elder generations who have no real stake in our future?

    • Who says we have not stake in the future.? We built and are still building what will be your future.
      Also, with everything in life, you have to earn the right to own something. Win the referendum and there will be no arguments. We accept that Chloe won AKL with only 30 percent of the vote. So accept the referendum results!

    • Agree with you Control denied and would like to add it wasn’t just many of our old people that selfishly voted against cannabis and managed to get their own way again on both euthanasia and the cannabis referendum but also our hypocritical Christians who vehemently hate cannabis but didn’t get their way on euthanasia.

    • To put salt on our wounds, these oldies are probably the same ex Natzo voters that will be the next Jacinda handbrake excuse. They hold the young people in contempt, are greedy, insecure and ignorant. To my mind they had no right to vote on the cannabis law, it doesn’t effect them. Interfering handbrakes.

      • I find your generalisations about ‘oldies’ offensive. i have never been a Nat voter. As a long time Labour voter, vegie gardener and arthritis sufferer i am saying you need to pull your head in.

        • You need to stop the denial bullshit. If you can’t see the oldies as the handbrake on this issue and (many others), that’s not my problem. Your yes vote hasn’t got this over the line because the majority are nopers.

    • The only reason younger generations exist at all to snivel & moan about how hard
      done by they are is because the older generations put a stake in their future.

      “Youth is wasted on the young”

      • If I didn’t have youth at some point, and survived then I wouldn’t have grown old, voted “yes” for decriminalisation and warned others about where things are heading longer term.
        The young have a right to an opinion and to be listed to. They also have a right to learn and develop critical thinking.
        Their minds need to be in good shape.

  3. You should read “The Good Earth ” again Christine. The way to deal with a problematic underclass is to supply them with dope in unrestricted quantities.
    I just watched Jacinda announce that 40 something billion reserve bank created money is going to be used to build state infrastructure. That is transformative government in real fundamental terms. It is exactly where transformation has to start. It can do heaps to train and employ people. It is anything but neoliberal business as usual.
    D J S

    • Agree David, a vocal number of the blog commentariat just want revolutionary political decisions made and implemented in similar speed to a McDonald’s burger. Sadly there is a fundamental lack of knowledge on how govt works and mistake transformation for revolution. The PM has stated on a number of occasions she wants change that sticks, hopefully that “40 something billion” involves a modern 21st century ministry of works.

  4. NZ still being run for capitalism and slave labour,

    The ‘slave’ fishers workers bought in from Russia have infected their first community case.

    “The new case is a staff member working in the Christchurch managed isolation facility, understood to be the Sudima Hotel, where a group of international mariners have been staying.

    The positive worker had developed symptoms for Covid-19 on Saturday and sought a further test on Sunday.”

    There is no benefit to NZ, the community, the environment or a well run fishing industry industry, when NZ supports importing in workers because wages and conditions are so appalling in an industry they fail to be able to attract local workers or be bothered training anyone.

    NZ investigators expose slavery and human trafficking at sea

    Slave fishing in NZ waters exposed

    Link to the Talley’s shocking workplace accident.

      • Apparently “Sealord, Independent Fisheries and Maruha Nichiro are covering the flights, managed isolation and other costs.”

        Betcha that Sealord, Independent Fisheries and Maruha Nichiro do not have to cover the hospital and medical care if things go wrong for the workers, or the lost wages, health care and business disruption of others who catch the virus such as the managed isolation worker…

        It is opening a can of worms…and we all know NZ is going to pay for Covid both with lives and economy, as it gets out into the community…

  5. Another three years of globalist neo liberalism from National 2.0. No real policy and lots prevarication with plenty of marketing fluff of the kind we have seen over the last three years, RIP NZ democracy.

  6. The ignorance of too many NZers who voted is abysmal! Writing as a very experienced/knowledgeable NZRN, the health-giving properties of cannabis are many (but unknown to the ignorant – who DON’T WANT TO KNOW!) It saddens me that the best research (IMO) has been done in Israel & Israelis benefit but many others do not.

  7. Make Tally’s pay for any extra quarantine caused by their ‘slave labor’ policies.
    WE NZ should NOT pay for them cutting corners !!!!

  8. Christine I love you and your passion. You were once a Labour list and electorate candidate and not that long ago. And in fact you worked for me. I supported you. I still do. I am appalled by the import of Russian Fishers and as you know, have been a strong fighter against Talleys; which isn’t only about Fishing. You go hard. I won’t criticise you, but I hope we can find common ground. Because in my world, organising is the only way to win and is the strongest tool of the working class. xx

    • Give us some clues on how to support the cause because this so-called Labour government sure as hell won’t. And the Greens?

  9. If you think we have a sketchy politic…
    Oh My God. The Americans and most of the rest of the world by extension might just be in the deepest shite imaginable.
    Watch this if you dare.
    TED Talk.
    Van Jones explains what to do if Trump refuses to concede
    Mark Frauenfelder of explains
    “Highly recommended video about how the election process plays out if a losing candidate doesn’t concede. The election results are thrown out and the House of Representatives will vote for a president. But instead of each representative getting a vote, each state gets a vote, and since there are more red states than blue states, it’s possible Trump will win. If this happens, it’s a “legal coup,” says Van Jones, but Americans don’t have to accept it. They can take to the streets and peacefully insist that Trump (or whoever gets the fewer votes) concedes. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does.”
    Meet Van Jones.

Comments are closed.