IMAGE IS EVERYTHING
A couple of weeks ago Free Press said “All of [Jacinda Ardern’s] experience tells her good communications are more important than good policy.” And so it is the Prime Minister hires an ad agency to take photos of her in Manhattan. She has every right to use her leaders’ budget however she likes (the alternative is parliamentary bureaucrats get to decide and in any case Simon Bridges is using his to find the leaker) but this choice tells us something about her priorities.
CHAOS IN WELLINGTON
We bear no personal animosity against Jacinda, she is genuinely one of the nicest MPs. However the greatest respect we can pay her is to hold her accountable for the outcomes of the Government she leads. Parliament just ended a four-week sitting block in chaos as the Government rammed through bills to stop waka jumping and ban oil and gas exploration using a combination of urgency and the threat of it.
NOT TO MENTION…
Much has been written about the Meka Whaitiri dismissal after allegations of assaulting a staff member (who refused to get Whaitiri into a photo with the PM, image is everything) and the bungling of Derek Handley’s Chief Technology Officer role. Suffice to say it’s a mess, but the good news is we’re down to 29 Ministers and under-secretaries (from 31 a month ago). At this rate, ACT’s Smaller Government Bill won’t be needed because we’ll be down to a cabinet of 20 anyway.
It is difficult to fully capture what is happening. The Labour and the Greens are voting for a bill they hate so that one man can keep together a party that always falls apart. As David Farrar has pointed out at Kiwiblog, Winston has fallen out with over half of the people he has handpicked to be NZ First MPs. It is difficult to understand why the Greens are putting up with this. It is even harder to understand why Labour’s Maori Caucus, who hold seven electorate seats, are prepared to trade away their most powerful bargaining chip in caucus.
AN EXTREME COMPARISON
Normally it is bad taste to compare political opponents with the Nazis but the best criticism of the bill is from the New Zealand Initiative’s (German) director, Oliver Hartwich. Hartwich compares the Waka Jumping bill to the Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich, which Hitler really did use to suppress parliamentary opposition to his agenda. We don’t think New Zealand is about to descend into fascism but the principle of the bill really is that bad. Maverick MPs who stand on a point of principle can now be bullied out of parliament.
A FOUR WEEK SELECT COMMITTEE
Also last week the Government voted to pass a bill that will ban oil and gas extraction. In the most watched speech of the debate, David Seymour pointed out why the bill is not only economic but also environmental folly. What is arguably far worse is the Government’s decision that the bill will be heard in select committee for only four weeks instead of the usual six months. Here is David again pointing out that the similarly destructive, and complex, ban on foreign investment in residential land took six months in select committee with significant changes being made in response to submissions.The erosion of New Zealand’s reputation as a principled lawmaker is difficult to estimate.
In New York, New Zealand has a Prime Minister who purports to show the world a kinder more compassionate way of living. In Wellington the Government she is responsible for is passing politically opportunistic laws readily compared with the Nazi regime and crushing industries without due process. We wonder how long this contrast can sustain.
In its haste to make all this bad law, the Government appears to have gone quiet on the bill to end the charter school policy. That bill is languishing down the order paper. It may just be that the Government is rightly terrified of advancing complex education legislation while Tracey Martin is the Acting Minister of Education (yes, you read that right), or it may be that the Maori caucus has found some gumption to stick up for charter schools.