Monday, February 26, 2024

And then a step to the right for National

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Alan Emerson welcomes the way the coalition negotiations have brought voters’ choices into sharper focus.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters addresses an election rally at Laurie Hall Park, Whangarei, New Zealand, Wednesday November 16, 2011. Credit:SNPA / Malcolm Pullman
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It seems we now have a government and I’m thankful for that. Whether it’s the strong stable government National leader Christopher Luxon keeps talking about, time will tell.

People either love or hate proportional representation, but it does let the country know what people are thinking. 

For example, it is safe to assume that anyone voting for ACT won’t support co-governance. Anyone voting for the Greens will want to save the planet. New Zealand First will keep the retirement age and the positions of National and Labour are similar on many issues.

Negotiating any deal or agreement means compromise. If you don’t like a deal in a business negotiation you can just walk away. It’s not that simple in politics.

In the negotiations Luxon didn’t have much wriggle room. He effectively had two choices. The first was to get an agreement, however long it took and however many compromises were required. The second was to go back to the voters, which would be super risky in my opinion as six out of 10 voters didn’t vote National.

A third option was working with the Greens.

NZ First and ACT had a little more flexibility. They could get a deal and be part of government with all the baubles of office. The other option was to be on the cross benches with confidence and supply or, as David Seymour suggested, just confidence, not supply.

I believe that for the future credibility of either party the latter option was by far the best. Sadly, it seems, the baubles of office reigned supreme.

That Winston Peters is the master of negotiations quickly became obvious, as did Luxon appearing out of his depth. Why tell everyone there was going to be a three-way meeting in Wellington without first ensuring all three were going to be there? The NZ First leader remained in Auckland so both Luxon and Seymour took a panic trip there. That saga showed Peters’ negotiating experience and ability.

I support the thrust of the coalition agreement but my concern is that it is more of an electioneering document than one to get New Zealand back on track. It is light or non-existent on cost of living, interest rates, health, education and child poverty.

National’s foreign buyers’ tax is out of the door as is ACT’s Treaty referendum.

The plan to stop Three Waters, Auckland Light Rail, Let’s Get Wellington Moving and Lake Onslow are to happen immediately. That might be easier said than done, especially as regards Three Waters.

Rewriting and reforming the shambles that is the firearms laws is to be welcomed. Nicole McKee will be running the reform process, which is great.

Changing the smoking laws because of the tax revenue had me a little surprised. Encouraging people to drink more alcohol would also ensure more tax dollars as would legalising marijuana and taxing it.

I’m happy there will be an enquiry into banking.

On the cabinet front I remain unconvinced of the financial competence of Nicola Willis and I would have preferred someone other than Todd McClay as minister of agriculture.

I’m encouraged we have Nicola Grigg, Andrew Hoggard and Mark Patterson as associate agriculture ministers. That Andrew is also minister for biosecurity and associate environment is positive.

Tama Potaka as minister of conservation is untested and I’m reassured Judith Collins is science, innovation and technology minister. Roll on GE. Penny Simmonds looks good for environment. It’s interesting that ministers of both climate change and environment are out of the cabinet.

The major positive for the rural sector, as I’ve previously mentioned, is the number of farmers and growers elected to parliament. The fact that they are over all political parties is a bonus. Any politician will tell you that the real work in Parliament is in the select committees and not the debate in the House. 

With the number of farmers and growers in parliament, it is logical to assume that our sector will have strong representation at select committee level. Hopefully that will not just be with primary production but also with environment, transport and health.

Federated Farmers represented the sector well over the elections and subsequent negotiations. I agree with its five key wins: the ousting of the appallingly bureaucratic freshwater rules, reviewing the methane reduction targets, canning the unworkable Resource Management Act “reforms”, overhauling immigration and employment rules and abolishing the ute tax.

The end result, in my opinion, was that both ACT and NZ First have moved National to the right of the political spectrum. It does, however, leave a clear position for Labour to fill in the next election, which, if handled properly, will make the party more electable.

It is good that going forward the NZ voters have the distinct choice of left and right rather than parties fighting over the centre.

Finally, the question I’m asking is, will the coalition government last three years? I’m not convinced it will.

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