The New Zealand political right is fighting a relentless battle to rewrite the history of New Zealand’s pandemic success, Metro columnist and senior lecturer at the University of Otago Morgan Godfery said in April.
We know, but it’s not good for us. Relentless, acrid Oppositional spoutings have been given a wildly disproportionate amount of prime time screening and long since extinguished the few moments early on in the pandemic when Jacinda Ardern had then National leader Simon Bridges on the Covid response team. Co-operation sounded aspirational in the face of the crisis.
Instead we’ve been assaulted by relentless acrimony from a rapid succession of would-be National leaders. By April, it was an insistence that nearly everything to do with New Zealand’s exemplary Covid response had been ruled ‘illegal’ by the courts.
Long-time Ardern critic Matthew Hooton said the prime minister had been found by the courts to have abused her powers by illegally preventing New Zealand citizens from leaving and returning home.”
Another well-known conservative commentator wrote: “So the courts have found the lockdown was illegal, the vaccine mandate was illegal and MIQ was illegal, so can anyone name a major aspect of the response that hasn’t been found to be illegal?
Neither is what the High Court found, but accurate reporting is an early casualty when executing the classic Crosby Textor deflection manoeuvre of throwing a dead cat on the table to take the populace’s attention off embarrassments.
There has been another barefaced beat-up in the last week.
The government will be regretting its little adventure into Kiwisaver taxes for a long time to come, TV1’s political anchor gravely informed prime time news viewers. Another dreadful, familiar lack of background knowledge, history and attention to detail was being served up to prove to citizens that New Zealand made a dire mistake in decisively voting in a Labour government.
The parliamentary opposition was given its feeding frenzy (and the Uffindell revelations rested easier).
Labour Minister David Parker’s explanation that no Kiwisaver contributions were involved in the GST proposal, and its brief life had been aimed at ‘management fees’ charged by the big Australian banks which operate here. All that was lost in translation.
No-one mentioned that in 2011, what would be a three-term National government summarily cut the annual government contribution for KiwiSaver after the GFC and, in the May 2015 budget, also removed the government’s $1000 tax-free “kick start” for new KiwiSaver accounts. (The Labour government has since restored the $521.43 annual contribution).
The public alarm was unsurprising, not least because very few of us have more than a hazy idea of how Kiwisaver works anyway, and that sort of insecurity in a personal matter of great future importance isn’t helped by scathing denunciation.
In the meantime, there is a pivotal local body election in train and I find I resent the waste of air time when there is so much that needs doing, in central government and locally. It’s where real solutions to climate change, poverty, housing shortages and education weaknesses can be addressed with some hope of trial-and-error resolutions that can be actioned and shared.
Giant operations like Auckland’s supercity cannot and won’t do that – they’ve barely started on the climate crisis. Activists have danced in frustration.
Small, committed groups acting in everyone’s best interests are probably the powerhouse of the immediate future.
Mayoral candidate (and a current city councillor) Efeso Collins was quoted by Herald commentator Simon Wilson on the blatant unfairness in the quantity and quality of children’s playground equipment across the city.
“The funding is based on what’s there now,” he said. “If you’ve got more playgrounds, you’ll get more money to maintain and develop them.”
These macro funding formulas, applied over decades, have been at the source of many difficulties in developing capital infrastructure for Waiheke too (though not necessarily on playgrounds).
Theoretically, local government elections are not fought on party political lines, but of course they are, especially now when 30 years of inequality and real poverty has hollowed out our traditional ease and fairness with each other and public discourse has become so acrimonious.
Sometimes it seems as if we talk two different languages, or at least that even plain words have the power to mean different things on either side of a divide between haves and have nots.
The two-year overdose of reckless oppositional politics and media making it into news has gone on long enough. It’s making us into an angry lot, putting real democracy at risk with its reckless insistence and it’s time we take some steps to get our common sense back.
Most of us will do the right thing if it’s made feasible, preferably by the municipality we pay handsomely to do the job. • Liz Waters