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Assessing political parties

Thursday, 29 July 2004

Towards a new way of assessing political parties

We are approximately a year and a bit away from the next general election and the voters’ minds will be turning towards assessing the various political parties and their suitability, or otherwise, as potential partners in Government for either of the two major parties.

Recall that at the 2002 election, Labour went into the campaign expecting to win so handsomely that it could govern by itself. The voters dealt to that illusion in a decisive way.

So who Labour or National choose to align themselves with after the next election becomes a vital question in the MMP environment.

Traditionally, we have made choices along the old political divides of left v right, conservatives v liberals, Tories v socialists and so on.

But with the arrival of MMP and the greater diversity of representation in Parliament, these labels no longer serve any useful purpose.

It’s time for a new way of looking at the parties and assessing them in a way that makes sense in the modern environment.

I’d like to suggest that the recent New Zealand Institute report on the wealth of New Zealanders offers a new perspective on the relevance of our political parties’ priorities.

That report shows in sharp detail that the vast majority of New Zealand households are either in debt or have assets at one-third the level of our Australian neighbours.

That’s an appalling fact in a country that deludes itself it has First World wealth and services.

Yet is that the central debate in New Zealand today? It is not! People seem more concerned with the depth of the All Black backline or whether the Attorney-General should call the Chief Justice a shop steward.

Let’s get real.

Unless New Zealand households can accumulate enough assets and wealth to look after their families today and themselves in their retirement, New Zealand will rapidly become a nation of the impoverished elderly, making a living from exporting potential All Blacks to richer nations like Australia.

This gives us a tool for rating the worth of our political parties.

The new division should be forward-looking v backward-looking, so how do the parties stack up?

The Greens: definitely backward-looking. They obsess about the right to smoke cannabis; they oppose foreign investment and trade, they commit every resource to tracking down the last GM molecule in the environment; they oppose any development of New Zealand’s natural resources; they are offended by the very concepts of profit or wealth creation.

ACT: won’t be in the next Parliament, so their views are irrelevant.

New Zealand First: backward-looking. They oppose immigration and foreign investment; their views on superannuation (a form of wealth creation) were massively rejected by Kiwi voters 92% - 8% in a national referendum; their leader is more obsessed with his political past rather than New Zealand’s future.

The Maori Party: backward-looking. The sole reason the party was formed was to assert Maori ownership of the foreshore and seabed with the intention of holding it in trust for future generations. The party has no economic policies, preferring the victimhood model of entitlements under which they enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour.

National: generally forward-looking. It promotes foreign trade and investment; believes in assisting business; is not averse to developing the nation’s natural resources and has workable tax policies, although it is somewhat timid about pushing these forward.

Labour: generally forward-looking, although it has the potential to be crippled by its more wayout elements, who are motivated by envy of entrepreneurs and business successes and still yearn to distribute the wealth created by others.

Progressives: half and half. Hampered by its political history, this party has some policies that contribute to wealth creation, but veers off occasionally into quixotic campaigns that do little to promote the prosperity of New Zealand.

United Future: forward-looking. Seeks to promote the prosperity of New Zealand households by income-splitting for taxation purposes; tax rebates for charitable work; lowering corporate tax; promoting the sensible development of New Zealand’s resources; lowering the rates burden on households and business; promoting a fundamental review of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements so that we achieve a greater sense of New Zealand’s identity and place in the world.

Based on this analysis, I believe the next government, if we are to accelerate our wealth creation, must be some combination of Labour, National, United Future and the Progressives.

If the Government is contaminated by any of the other parties, I fear we will continue our path of fiery debate over irrelevant trivia and ignore the very real possibility of New Zealand sinking into a Third World slough of despond.


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