I’ve been relatively quiet recently in terms of the domestic political situation in New Zealand. It’s because I’ve been too busy studying international relations that I haven’t had much of an opportunity to comment on the failings of New Zealand’s current government. I was slightly heartened by the news that a recent poll showed that the government’s popularity is starting to wane a bit. But considering what they have done recently, I’m surprised they are still out in front by such a considerable margin. But perhaps this will change once the public start to see just what a dreadful job they are doing at managing the country. But then again, this is the ill-informed, often blind sided public. So unless someone experiences first hand in a tangible manner the government’s long arm of reckless management, it may not even so much as raise an eyebrow.
Rest assured though, your trusty self appointed political commentator has been raising more than his eyebrows at the government recently.
The governments major mis-step first came earlier in the year when they announced proposed cuts to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) by attempting to save $25million a year through restructuring. Yes Mr Key, Mr McCully and everyone else in National, we know that we are in a recession and we have to save money. But you err’d terribly when you railroaded changes to a ministry that does phenomenal work for our country’s image and reputation.
Although most people in New Zealand still think that we are an important player on the world stage, the truth of the matter is, we’re a small group of islands, too far away from the ‘real world’ to make a splash or influence others besides those in the same ocean as us, with smaller islands. If the key to our influence is through networking, why in the world are we trying to sever the funding to the ministry that is opening up these pathways and opportunities for our country’s exporters? As a little nobody in the south sea, do you think it is easy to get countries like China, Japan and even our big American ‘allies’ to stand up and take notice? It is a far from easy task, and these people know their jobs better than Mr Key does. All he knows is money.
Additionally, key diplomats all over the world have voiced their concerns at the proposed cuts. They believe that their ability to do their jobs are going to be severely damaged by the proposed reforms. In fact high ranking officials in MFAT have been aware of the budget constraints facing the country and had planned on restructuring themselves and saving far more money than what Nationals proposed cuts are meant to do; and at the same time not severely compromise our foreign affairs people’s ability to do their jobs.
It always happens like this though. Successive governments always feel like they know what’s best, even better than those who were trained specifically in an area to do a job. It’s as if the word ‘government’ gives you a mandate to be smarter than the rest of the population and makes you more intuitive to a job than experts in that field. It’s the height of arrogance, and this government is certainly very guilty of this.
*Strange Aside* >> I wonder if there was a bomb placed at the beehive,(there is no bomb at the beehive, just in case anyone gets the wrong idea, this is an analogy only!) whether the government would try to tell the bomb disposal unit which wire to cut. They would probably justify intervening because they are the mouthpiece of the New Zealand public who fund their squad. The unit would probably reply with a big fat ‘Mouth Piece These’ Nonsensical situation I know, but the same principle applies here as in the situation of MFAT.
Let me give you a quick lesson on how governing foreign affairs policy goes. It works like this National, you tell the staff at MFAT what type of foreign policy agenda item you want pushed, and they have the know how to do it. You tell them to save money, and they will find a way to do it. You don’t tell them to do this job, and then say it’s too expensive, followed by a ‘i’m taking your money away but you have to do it anyway, because I’m the government’. Not only is it illogical; it’s just plain mean!
And essentially, that is what National governments have always been like in my experience, meanies! They did it again this week when they announced that they would be pulling the plug on extending paid parental leave to 6months. They said it is too expensive. They think it is better to push Mothers back in to work as soon as they possibly can. And not just Mothers, paid parental leave means that stay at home Dads can’t stay at home for as long as they may have wanted. (we are a progressive society after all)
You know, like they say, you tell a lie long enough and repeat it enough and people will end up believing you. (Just ask Hitler, he knows all about that) Yes we accept that the government doesn’t have a lot of money. Yes we know treasury announced that the overall tax take is lower than expected, yes we know that unemployment is at some of its highest levels since the employment disaster of the late 1980’s. But this does not mean we can’t afford 6months paid parental leave. I will repeat it, so hopefully more people will believe it. This does not mean we can’t afford 6months paid parental leave.
Any good accountant will tell you, you can find money anywhere in a large organisation. In terms of accounting, I think managing the finances of a small developed nation is pretty close to being categorised as one of those. You just need to be prepared to prioritise areas, shift some money out of one area and into another.
The real issue is the government’s priority isn’t families, working class people or those in lower income brackets. Their priority is wealth creation. I am not telling a lie. This government has repeatedly said that their goal is wealth creation, not job creation and therein is the big difference. People have not been listening carefully to what John Key and National have been saying. They as well as other neo-liberal economists still believe in the trickle down effect. They believe that by creating an environment where big business can come to New Zealand and bring in capital, the jobs will flow in, unemployment will drop, and overall the population will be better off.
Neo-liberal economics only favours those in the know how, and those in control of the resources. In a recent article in the NZ herald, columnist Brian Gaynor quoted a study carried out by MIT professors (no I don’t mean the Manukau Institute of Technology, the other MIT) on the reason why states fail. And their conclusion was like reading a history of New Zealand State Sector Reform. Institutions and the kind of institutions a country has is the main reason for a country’s failure. To quote from the article: “New Zealand’s original privatisation programme, in which a few individuals became extraordinarily wealthy, and our failure to regulate the 1980s sharemarket boom and recent finance company debacles are examples of political and institutional failures, particularly by the defunct Securities Commission. These failures have enabled a few to become extremely wealthy at the expense of the many.’ Asset sales round 2 anybody?
But has anyone counted the social effects and what that’s going to cost the country in the long run? We already see increased numbers of teen delinquency, the disintegration of the family unit, and the overall lowering of socially acceptable behaviour. You can’t blame that all on MTV and the internet Mr Key. It has to do with the fact that there are no parents in the home. There are no street games of cricket using empty crates of Lion Red as wickets going on anymore, because there is no one supervising the kids. No one is able to prepare nutritious meals anymore, because Mum and Dad are at work. Very few people sit down to a family meal at the same time anymore, so a lot of parents don’t even know what’s going on in their children’s live’s.
It’s funny because I’m not the only one who thinks this. In fact the majority of the politicians agree with me. But it was the very fact that the opposition looked to have the numbers to pass the proposal that the government killed the passage of the bill in the house by pulling rank. For those of you not familiar with our governmental arrangements, the ruling party needs over 50% of the votes in the house to pass a law. Since New Zealand switched to proportional representation in 1996, no party has ever secured an outright majority of the vote so we have always had coalition governments. The current government secured a huge chunk of the vote at the last election, but not enough to govern alone. So they rely on the support of other minor parties to pass their proposed pieces of legislation.
This piece of legislation was proposed by an opposition MP, and once National caught wind that it looked like this bill might have the support of the majority of the house, they called on their coalition agreements to kill the bill’s passage.
And once again democracy has failed.
But even more disturbing was the announcement that came this week that the government has formed a deal with Sky City that it would allow them to increase the amount of poker machines (Pokies) they had at the casino in exchange for Sky City building for free a national convention centre to attract international conferences and visitors to Auckland city. Talk about selling your soul to make a quick penny.
A national convention centre in the middle of Auckland City sounds fabulous I know, but there’s a couple of things that I don’t like about this. First of all, it does nothing to help the Pacific Island community. Pacific Island problem gamblers spend on average $13,000 a year on gambling as opposed to the general population’s problem gamblers who spend about $1500. Pacific Islanders are also in the lowest socio-economic bracket in the country, The impact gambling has on our community is far more profound than on the rest of New Zealand’s population.
Our social problems are getting worse, and John Key stood on T.V. and said that he doesn’t believe that this is going to encourage problem gamblers to get worse. Once again the arrogance of this government rears its ugly head. All the research shows that this is not going to be a good thing for problem gamblers. Stop lying John, and stop turning a blind eye to the suffering of ordinary kiwis. I know it must be difficult for you to see our point of view from your holiday home in Hawaii, but at least try.
And what about the Greenlane convention centre at the Auckland Showgrounds? Might as well just turn it into a development plot for all of the government’s multi-national company friends to come and build headquarters at. The truth is, Greenlane is a much better option for a national convention centre, it has space, it is close to both the motorway corridors and it wouldn’t add to the already heavily congested CBD’s traffic woes. But what would I know, I, like the rest of Auckland, only grew up there their entire lives. John’s not from our area guys.
So there you have it. That’s my political wrap-up and rant for this week. Join me again next week when I take on prejudice discrimination and freedom of speech. I hope you enjoyed reading, if you made it to this point of my blog post without navigating to another website, I commend you!
Happy Spring Korea, and Happy Autumn New Zealand!