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Upton On Line - A lesson from history

22 November 1999

Last night's Crossfire on TVNZ with the Prime Minister delivered us yet again the familiar image of Mrs Shipley fighting valiantly under the constant attention of two Bren guns rat, tat, tatting away. In upton-on-line's humble estimation, Mike Hosking and Linda Clark have taken the name of their show too literally. They merely reeled off questionable opinions as statements of fact and gave the Prime Minister an average of 2.3 seconds to respond before delivering their next pearl of wisdom.

Amongst the most outrageous (tossed in, and given a 3.7 second response time) was the statement that New Zealand was in the top five of the OECD countries and is now 20 out of 29. Therefore, presumably, this government has failed and deserves to lose the election.

Upton-on-line will research these figures during the day and report tomorrow, but the top five ranking goes back at least 30 years. We are constantly told that we were the third richest country in the world in the 1950s (well, at least for a year or two of the decade). Somehow, we have failed miserably as since then we've fallen off our perch.

New Zealanders, it seems, are not very good at history. The only reason we were third in the world for a few years in the 1950s (up there with the USA and Canada) was that everyone else was lying thick under rubble after World War II and we were feeding them. It was a unique situation that was never going to last. Now they're rich they try to keep our food out -another reason, perhaps, we may not have fared so well.

It's about as sensible as blaming the current government for the fact we're not as wealthy as Norway (they just happen to be drowning in North Sea oil).

The key point is that during this last decade under National (with the exception of the last couple of years because of a severe drought and Asia's turmoil) New Zealand has more than held its own in a realistic and sustainable manner for the first time in living memory.

Looking to the future, what are the options? Labour taxes success, National rewards it.

Right at the end of the Crossfire interview, Mrs Shipley was able to state her case free from sniper fire. She remains determined. She is proud of her achievements and wants the chance to build on them.

In the Waikato:

Upton-on-line has always had an old-fashioned approach to politics. No political debate with close friends or family, no politics on holiday and no politics on Sunday. Six days shalt thou grind out press statements and on the seventh the world at large should be left in peace.

So this column comes to readers unsullied by the turgid offerings of the Sunday papers. But upton-on-the-end-of-the-mower (for such was his Sunday) found his mind more than a little sullied by an article in Saturday's Waikato Times. If it was an even half accurate reflection on the level of public understanding about MMP, God help us.

In common with many folksy attempts to engage readers with the election, the Times asked some carefully selected "neighbours" who they were voting for. Ruth and Alan Grey had decided to vote ACT. Their reason? "Mrs Grey says they have chosen to support the minor parties to ensure there is a 'moderating effect' in Parliament" reported the analysis-free Waikato Times.

What planet are we living on? Since when have the minor parties – the Alliance or ACT – ever had anything to do with being moderating influences? Who is kidding who?

Just in case any upton-on-line readers suffer from Ruth and Alan Grey's delusion, let's spell out the recent history of our electoral reform for the umpteenth time.

Prior to MMP it was a two horse race. The big parties were in-house coalitions in which compromises were forged behind closed doors. National and Labour scrapped over the middle ground.

Under MMP, parties are much more polarised. Coalitions are formed in full public view between parties whose views may be sharply contrasted. While National and Labour still scrap over the middle ground, the other parties seek to pull them in different directions as the price of doing a coalition deal.

Labour would be pulled towards the extreme Left by the Alliance. National to the extreme Right by ACT. There is nothing 'moderating' about the minor parties. If voters want much higher taxes or large cuts in government spending, they should vote Alliance or ACT. If they want to reduce the power of the ideological extremes, they should vote for National or Labour.

Upton-on-line wants to know how people like Ruth and Alan Gray can have it so wrong after all this time. Does it mean the media has done a brilliant job of turning everyone off?


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