No Real Political Alternative in New Zealand?
No Real Political Alternative in New Zealand?
By Vincent Andersen 15.04.2008
Like most western democracies around the world New Zealand has two major political parties. Every three years voters go to the polls and always it is either Labour or National who are the majority coalition partner. The fact that people get to vote gives the semblance of a working Democracy but on closer inspection it seems that there is little or no real alternative. Labour and National are inherently the same with cosmetic differences.
With the election 2008 approaching voters are starting to turn to National, not because of the policy that National has announced but because of fatigue with the current Labour government. It is a cycle that repeats itself and is about to do so again. When Labour won the election 1999 it was mainly because National had alienated many voters. Now we see Labour doing the same thing. National has not released any policy that signals a change in direction. The status quo is obviously not working, but National feels no need to release any new policies that may contribute to a change in direction in New Zealand. This is mainly because they do not need to. They are already looking like they will be the next government, not because of any good they have done but by the poor job Labour has done.
Similarly, both Parties never release a long term goal for the future direction they wish to take this country. Neither party has offered its goal for the long term development of New Zealand, announced the policies required to reach that goal and campaigned on those policies to reach that goal. Instead, they have three types of policies, those that offer a band-aid solution for the issue in the public arena at the time, those that cater to their own interests, and those that bribe the largest voter base coming up to an election.
Take the last election when Labour was not looking like getting back into government, they then produced the Student Loan bribe and those not wanting to languish in the interest of a student loan the rest of their lives lapped it up. This time round National has offered the tax cuts bribe. Labour, who have repeatedly refused to give a tax cut through years of budget surpluses, have now decided, not to be outdone, that they too will offer a tax cut. Labour tries to justify this by saying we can afford a tax cut now, but how do they know this if they don’t know whether they have a surplus or a deficit? The hypocrisy beggars belief. Labour and National both bribe the general population with their own tax money rather than win their vote by offering visionary forward thinking policy to build a better country.
So both parties have got their strategy for getting into government sorted, wait for the other to screw up and bribe everyone who may be sitting on the fence, but what about the governing when they are in power? You may have heard the saying “If it’s not broken why fix it??” our government says “If it’s not in the media and at the attention of the public why fix it???” When an issue is in the public arena the government will look like it’s doing something to deal with it by passing some new legislation and throwing more money at the problem. Take for instance the issue of Child Abuse and family violence that has been at the forefront of public debate in recent months. Rather than investigate the root causes of these problems and aim the solution at those, the government brought out the band-aid solution that is the anti-smacking law and aimed its solution at innocent parents. The Anti-smacking law turns parents into criminals who may find it necessary to use a light smack to discipline their child; those who are abusing their children are not going to think twice about it because the government has brought out a new law. The law effectively solves nothing, and to justify it the issue has turned away from child abuse to children’s rights. Another justification is that section 59 has been used as a defence in a case where the child was obviously abused. Is this the law or the judiciary that is at fault here???
Other examples of these band-aid policies can be seen in Helen Clarks 12.03.2008 statement to parliament where she details the steps that Labour will be taking in the coming year to respond to various issues. In order to deal with the issues of family violence and youth offending Helen announced a funding windfall to be directed at NGOs who are involved in the community sector. “The new sustainable funding path will begin with an extra $37.5million in 2008/09 and build to an annual increase of $192.8million in 2011/12 and out years - that's a total of $446 million over the next four years.”
In effect what is happening here is Labour is throwing millions more taxpayer dollars at a system that has so far proven ineffective and is geared up to address the symptoms of the problem rather than the cause. Similarly, in order to deal with youth crime Helen announced that Labour will extend to six months the time which can be required to be spent in residential facilities by youth offenders. This is another stop gap measure which will do nothing to address the root causes. Those who are committing the crimes will not stop because they might have to spend an extra 6 months in a youth facility.
Labour is not alone in its band-aid solution policies. In John Keys 29.01.2008 “A Fresh Start for New Zealand” speech, he detailed how National is going to deal with youth crime. Key said that “ First we’re going to extend the jurisdiction of the youth court so it has the power to deal with 12 and 13 year olds accused of serious offences. Secondly, we’re going to give the Youth Court new powers for following up on proven young offenders once they walk out the courtroom doors. Thirdly, we’re going to create a tough new range of sentencing options for dealing with the hardcore group of young criminals.” This is another example of policy that addresses the symptoms and not the cause. New Zealand is never going to be able to solve its fundamental societal problems unless government addresses their root causes and National and Labour are both unwilling to do so.
As well as similar approaches to gaining power and governance, National and Labour also have very similar policies. When it comes to Foreign affairs, Trade and Defense there is no difference in both parties’ policies. Both parties are looking to further integrate our economy through FTAs aiming towards a single economic market with Australia and continue to strengthen traditional relationships with Australia, the EU, The US and Canada. When it comes to social policies, there is no difference again. National have stated they will retain all benefits but try and be more stringent with who is eligible for them.
To cope with youth crime National and Labour are both going to beef up the powers of the youth court and extend the time required to stay in education to 18. For law and order both parties are going to get tough on crime and also institute early intervention policies to “deal with anti-social behavior at a young age.” As far as immigration is concerned both parties are going to allow skilled migrants and those with money into New Zealand and “ensure that New Zealand continues to meet its obligations as a good international citizen.” Both parties have also both signaled they will be giving long awaited tax cuts. Both parties have signaled they will honour the Kyoto treaty and will seek to fulfill New Zealand’s obligations towards that treaty. Both parties’ health policies consist of funding millions in various areas. All policy can be found on both the parties websites see for yourself that what I’m saying is the case.
They would have you believe that they are in opposition to each other but their policies are the same, and they have been known to join together to pass unpopular legislation in the face of public opinion. Remember the anti-smacking bill?? Polls at the time showed 70% of New Zealanders opposed the bill but National and Labour combined their vote to get the bill passed. This shows that the parties will work together when it suits their interests even when it goes against public opinion. This is blatantly undemocratic and goes against all that it is to be a democracy. But it was not the first time that the government has shown a disdain for democracy. In 2006 there was a call for a commission of inquiry into 2005 election spending; the government then passed retrospective legislation to legalize its activities. In 2003 against widespread opposition, the government closed over 300 schools, now in 2008 we have overcrowded schools. In 1999 there was a Citizens Initiated Referendum on Law and Order. The question asked was “Should there be a reform of the justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences?"
92% of the population answered yes. The government response was to ignore the results saying that the question was contradictory, confusing, subjective, presumptive and arrogant. In 2003 the Supreme Court bill was passed, 80% polled wanted a referendum but there never was one.
2008 in New Zealand is like living in the twilight zone, both major political parties are one and the same. It doesn’t matter if red or blue get in because both parties have the same policies and the same methods of governance. National give the impression that they’re a changed party with their new fresh faced leader. Never mind that the policies Key gave in his recent fresh start speech quoted earlier are the same policies as in 2005 when Brash was the leader. If National win the next election there will not be a change of direction. The price of everyday living will continue to rise in all facets of our lives; living will continue to get harder. The middle class will continue to shrink as it feels the strain and crime will increase as the hardest hit lower class suffers even more.
Home ownership will continue to stay out of reach of most young New Zealanders. The globalist policies will continue. Our human rights rhetoric will continue to ring hollow. In short the status quo will remain as we the people continue to sleep walk into our future. We are deluded into thinking we have a say by one vote every three years that makes no difference. People need to start looking for a new political alternative if they want to vote for a real change in direction and not a phony change of colour.