Whose ‘coalition of chaos’ would that be?


    This year’s election has been leaving me nauseous. We’ve been divided for conquer. Fed polls until they are coming out of our ears and wait in vain for empirical evidence of the viability of pivotal policies.

    On television, there has been a glaring absence of fact-checking amid the populism, soundbites and useless debates.

    How do you rid yourself of the unfortunate spectacle of a grown man posturing with a rapier and wearing the blue satin fancy dress fashionable in the Courts of Europe 300 years ago? 

    Perhaps it felt especially egregious since it is only four years since we had an internationally acclaimed prime minister who was received by the monarch in a traditional korowai and welcomed into high councils around the world.

    After a year of hate speech and copycat death threats that bring Washington’s Capitol violence to mind, she retired seven months ago with considerable grace, perhaps hoping – in vain as it turned out – that the vitriol would stop.

    It didn’t, and the campaign trail has told us far too much about the current party leaders’ eating habits and little else, though a cheery offer from Nicola Willis to resign as finance minister if her party’s policy of selling off high-end property with a 15 percent tax attached to overseas buyers to fund tax cuts has even the most conservative economists ‘anxious’. 

    The vitality of the minor parties may turn out to be the best test of democratic health from the whole exercise. In this issue candidates in our own electorates answer our questions (page 20), with local Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick reminding us that the last National government disproportionately incentivised residential and commercial property speculation at the expense of investment in the productive economy.

    Remember how it felt?

    “Familiarity breeds consent. If you repeat the line ‘six years of economic mis-management’ about 10,000 times, it sounds like the received wisdom, whatever the evidence to the contrary,” Scoop columnist Gordon Campbell pointed out during the week, challenging National’s revived ‘Myths About The Desolated State Of The Economy’.

    “Yes, the global pandemic and the global surge in inflation that came in its wake occurred here [in New Zealand] as well – but if National had been running the country for the past five years, it’s arguable that the outcomes would have been worse, given National’s greater willingness to open the borders before vaccines were available, and given its aversion to state subsidies of any kind.

    “Employers rejoicing at the prospect of a National election victory should keep in mind that National would have probably let their firms go to the wall.”

    Lost behind this “epic of economic gaslighting” from the centre right was the historic mandate Labour won in 2020 that should have, but wasn’t, a springboard for thorough reform of our social and economic structures on a scale comparable to the first Labour government, he said.

    As it is, Treasury, the Fitch international rating agency and Standard and Poors (both of which again rate New Zealand AA+) have also been confident and complimentary. Far from government mis-management, the steadiness of our current economic metrics indicate a feasible platform for better times ahead, Campbell said.

    Before the acrimonious year of pre-election rabble-rousing, it had felt like that too. We had much to be thankful for.

    Minimum and median wages have gone up for the first time since the 1980s. Local businesses survived against the Covid odds. Work has finished on reports on tax and supermarket profits, housing is stabilising and banking is closer to much-needed reforms than in decades with a public campaign to stop ‘bankflation’ and action on their 80 percent increases on profits in the last decade that is prolonging the cost of living crisis.

    The present government has delivered more than 13,000 public homes, the most of any government since the 1950s. It’s also added over 4000 transitional homes and is on track to deliver 21,000 public and transitional homes by 2025. In contrast, National’s nine years in government left 1500 fewer public homes than it started with.

    Meanwhile Christopher Luxon has brisk plans to have all the social gains gone by Christmas, including Labour’s legislation to ban overseas property purchases.

    In its place, a strident bar-room version of ‘lawnorder’ skips over any responsibility for the social deprivations experienced by many of the current young offenders who are growing up in homes weighed down with state-impoverishment, insecure housing, addictions, overstretched parents, poor wages, poor food and no health safety nets. Too-ready assumptions of criminality has consequences.

    Our young are not stupid. But they are locked out from the plain-sight world where, during his years at the head of Air New Zealand, Christopher Luxon’s salary rose past $4 million and he became the 18th biggest shareholder in the airline with more than $12 million worth of shares.

    In politics, the simple lie trumps the complicated truth, at least for a while. This time around minor parties are providing a healthier range of choice and hope for more inclusive government. • Liz Waters

    Subscribe and read Gulf News and Waiheke Weekender Online