New Zealanders had two votes at the last election, one for the political party whose policies they most liked, and the other for the electoral candidate of their choice.
As it turns out, our party vote counts for absolutely nothing, zilch, nada and it is all because of the cobbling together of deals between NZ First and Labour, and Labour and the Greens, resulting in the coalition government.
Socialist Cindy.Photoshopped image credit: Luke
The important deal between Labour and NZ First was done behind the scenes, out of the public eye and without transparency. We all remember the agonising weeks where Winnie drew out the decision due to the supposed dialogue between the parties.
Why does it matter? Because voters want to know the compromises made to party policies in the formation of the coalition government.
It is only after decisions have been made that we see the areas of compromise and uncertainty, so how do ministers figure out their position when party policy is contradictory?
They go with Winnie of course, as happens when Cindy backs down. Cindy is pushing to double the refugee quota but Winnie wants to keep the status quo. Little wants to abolish the three strikes, Winnie says no. Kelvin Davis said he would resign if the two Northland charter schools were closed but despite his threat, all charter schools were given an ultimatum to comply with mainstream education or be closed down.
There is an awful lot missing from the seven page coalition document making bedlam for the ministers as they lurch from one crisis to the next. No wonder we are hearing very little of substance from any of them.
Initially, Peters promised we would see the highly guarded 33-page coalition document, but we never did. Cindy decided it was not in Labour’s political interests to disclose it.
It is under wraps and will not see the light of day after the Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier declared it did not have to be disclosed because it did not form part of the final coalition agreement. Quote.
Mr Boshier also asked the Prime Minister’s Office whether the document had been in use since the formation of the new government, and its contents shared with any Ministers, government departments, or anyone else subject to the OIA.
He was advised that was not the case.
“After carefully considering those comments and the nature and purpose of the document, I accept that the document is still held solely in Ms Ardern’s capacity as Labour Party Leader.” End of quote.
Boshier makes his call based on Cindy’s word. But is this good enough given she been caught out being economical with the truth about Claire Curran’s position in government? There will be very good political reasons why Cindy doesn’t want us to see the full document, but openness and transparency are not among them.
Openness and transparency give the voting public confidence. Hiding issues away results in the current situation, the very thing Cindy expected to avoid by not making the discussions public, the economy is tanking and business confidence is low.
We were given the seven-page document signed on 24 October 2017. A link to the disclosed document is here and the preamble is below. Quote.
“Together, we will work to provide New Zealand with a transformational government, committed to resolving the greatest long-term challenges for the country, including sustainable economic development increased exports and decent jobs paying higher wages, a healthy environment, a fair society and good government.
We will reduce inequality and poverty and improve the well-being of all New Zealanders and the environment we live in.” End of quote.
Transformational – not for the better.
Sustainable development – yet to see it.
Address long term challenges. – what are they?
Increased exports – exports were temporarily weak in 2017 and early 2018 according to the OECD
Decent jobs paying higher wages – where and when?
A healthy environment – where and when?
A fair society – fair to who?
A good government – yet to see it.
Reduce inequality and poverty – how and when?
Improve the well-being of all New Zealanders and our environment – how and when?
These are idealistic, meaningless words, seemingly written by a public relations consultant because there is no substance to them. No methodology or strategy to explain how these goals will be met, or even exactly what they are. In hindsight, the writing on the wall for the modus operandi of this government.
But we now know this government’s strategy is to outsource to working groups the research and decision making, over 150 of them to date. Great. The government does not have the confidence to do its own spade work.
But even more to the point, how many of these lofty goals have been achieved in the last ten months? Exactly none.
What are the long term challenges? Move people off welfare into employment? Shift people from sleeping on the streets into accommodation? Move people out of poverty? How do they expect to do this? More taxes, of course, more money for the government will solve every problem.
There isn’t much this government is doing to address the specific items listed in the document which include re-entering the Pike River mine and supporting NZ First’s racing policy. Both are important to some voters but are hardly worth a mention in the big scheme of things except to note the amount of money being thrown at the Pike River mine re-opening for dubious political reasons that could have been better spent.
There is nothing on major policy in the signed coalition document except that the coalition government supports Labour and NZ First policies. But what happens when they contradict each other? Public debate, you say?
Where was the debate on closing down oil and gas exploration? Where in the coalition document does it forewarn us that the government intended to close it down?
There is nothing in the document about adding or removing land currently included under Schedule Four of Crown Minerals Act. 40% of New Zealand falls into this category and some land with no conservation value could and should be removed from Schedule Four and made available for mining. Instead, the Greens are quietly muttering about revisiting Schedule Four, not to remove land that shouldn’t be there, but to add in more land. Little wonder they want to increase Department of Conservation funding.
Which brings us to the Confidence and Supply Agreement between Labour and the Greens, link to the agreement here. Unsurprisingly, their list is long and predictable with no mention of funding for their expensive schemes because they too think chucking someone else’s hard earned money at a problem will fix it. Their list includes the following gems:
- Aim for a net zero emissions economy by 2050
- All new legislation to be evaluated for climate impact
- Government subsidy for low-income earners using public transport
- 100% renewable electricity by 2035
- Government-backed Green Investment Fund of $100 million
- Reduce congestion by chucking more money at walking and cycling options (the mind boggles over this one)
- Enforce the Resource Management Act (which should be scrapped and rewritten)
- More money for Department of Conservation
- More money for endangered plants and animals
- More money to university students
- More money to low-income earners
- Money to reunite refugee families
- More money for alcohol and drug addiction
More money, more money, more money…spend, spend, spend. Where are the new developments to fund it?
How can one of our most valuable and undeveloped industries, mining, have any confidence in this government? Now that a death blow has been dealt to oil and gas exploration, is the government considering closing down exploration for coal and mineral resources too?
We will only find out the answers when this non-transparent government is good and ready to do stuff many of us object to.
The undisclosed notes and lack of transparency leading up the final coalition document is just another nail in the coffin of MMP.
A Whaleoil post by Cam Slater quotes Tracey Watkins who is critical of Cindy’s defensiveness about her weak coalition government saying: Quote.
As [Cindy] reminded reporters on the way into Parliamentary Question time on Wednesday, hers is the first “pure” coalition government since the introduction of MMP more than 20 years ago. That might as well be code for “hospital pass”. End of quote.
This is arguably the worst coalition government we have seen. MMP has been put to the test with the current coalition government and been found wanting, wanting transparency.