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The Language Of Politics

The language of politics

By Paulo Politico

New Zealand’s ‘New National’ faces a dilemma. Its leader Bill English is trying to portray his party as moderate and ordinary, for moderate and ordinary New Zealanders. English wants young people, Maori and Pacific people, to vote for his ‘New National’. Yet his policies don’t sit comfortably with the rhetoric.

How can ‘New National’ claim to be interested in Maori and Pacific people when it demands equity funding in education be abolished? If that occurred money would be taken away from schools where high proportions of Maori and Pacific students attend.

How can ‘New National’ claim to be ambitious about New Zealand and its people when it has nothing positive to say? It’s own media statements are but a magnificent example of negativity.

Four National Party media statements are posted on the Scoop website, by 2:53pm on Wednesday 27 March 2002.

The topic of National’s comments were (a) an attack on New Zealand’s current account profile, (b) an attack on a $2.5 million Auckland police initiative package, (c) a statement supporting attempts to stonewall the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol designed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and (d) an expression of no confidence in the Race Relations Conciliator.

At the same time on the same day the same website had nine government media statements posted.

The topic of the government’s statements were (a) a new ambassador to Germany, (b) the establishment of a new Office of Disability Issues, (c) a new police package for Auckland including more funding and more police staff, (d) an explanation of the current account profile, (e) a new bilateral aviation agreement, (f) an announcement that tariff cuts will cut the duties paid on New Zealand exports by $525 million, (g) agreement in principle to establish a taiapure-local fishery for Akaroa Harbour, (h) an increase in government funding for the Fulbright programme, and (i) a eulogy to slain New Zealand diplomat Bridget Nichols.

Which do you prefer, the active and progressive government or the negative’s idol, National opposition?

The Prime Minister Helen Clark travelled to Washington DC. Her trip included meetings with the President of the United States George Bush, Secretary of state Colin Powell and other senior US officials.

While in Washington the Prime Minister signed a Bilateral Aviation Security Agreement (BASA) with US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. The agreement enhances cooperation between the two countries in maintaining equivalent levels of aviation safety.

At the same time back in New Zealand, National leader Bill English sits in his Wellington office and chides the meeting as a “carefully choreographed affair”. He completely dismisses the importance of the meeting, including the bilateral aviation agreement, and instead reflects on Peter Fraser’s meeting with President Roosevelt over half a century ago.

Which do you prefer, the Prime Minister who travel to Washington and engaged the government of the United States, or the National opposition leader that criticised the meeting?

Several weeks ago Education Minister Trevor Mallard announced that the government would invest an additional $8 million, equity funding for eligible early childhood education services. The package will mean that over a thousand early childhood services will receive more money to provide an excellent foundation for a child’s educational development.

The government’s package is targeted at services; in lower socio-economic communities; in isolated parts of the country; which are based on a language and culture other than English; and which have a significant number of children with special education needs. This package won plaudits for being targeted where the need is greatest so as to ensure access to a high quality early childhood education for more children.

Incredibly National MP Anne Tolley attacked the package claiming it has “again limited choice and diversity for parents”. Yet earlier this year Bill English reportedly signalled that equity funding for schools would be under threat. Claiming that schools in lower socio-economic communities were “awash with cash”, English caused alarm by floating a plan that would take money out of the classrooms of poorer schools under a National-led government.

Which education policy do you prefer?

On the National Party’s website homepage Bill English whimsically states that the “Principles of freedom, enterprise and contribution to the community are timeless” and that “New National’s job is to reinterpret them for New Zealand in the 21st century”. Yet the party is failing to live up to it’s own expectations.

How ironic it is that the New Zealand National Party could reinvent itself as ‘New National’. The National Party in South Africa, the party that created apartheid and then entrenched the system of racial discrimination in that country’s statute books, first used that title.

The New National Party of South Africa was ultimately voted out of existence, as we know it. The name changed but the values remained. And the people were not fooled by the spin and rhetoric about renewal and new ideas for a new future.

New Zealand’s ‘New National’ faces a similar dilemma. It’s own media statements are but a magnificent example of negativity. It judges extra funding for early childhood education as bad and cuts to operational funding for schools as good. It mocks the friendly and constructive relationship between the Prime Minister and the president of the United States. It condemns extra funding for police operations in Auckland. It even supports the stonewalling of attempts to ratify Kyoto.

The language of politics can often be brutal and unforgiving. Yet beyond the negativity and carping there is an expectation that a party will be constructive and innovative. ‘New National’ is neither of these things.

The latest Herald-Digipoll showed Labour polling 51.4 percent compared to 33.4 percent for National. A recent One News-Colmar Brunton poll showed Labour at 49 percent while National languished on 35 percent.

Just as the New National Party of South Africa faced electoral defeat and ultimately folded altogether, the New Zealand ‘New National’ Party faces a similar fate if it continues to bag policies and initiatives that are designed to help precisely the same group of people that it coverts – middle New Zealand. Are you surprised?

The language of Labour or the language of National, which do you prefer?

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