Friday, December 8, 2023

The only certainty is nothing will change

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Alan Emerson looks beyond the result of the General Election.
Based on current polling, National may return to holding at least two-thirds of provincial electorate seats.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

As this has been written before election night, I’m blissfully unaware of any election result. I’d be surprised if there are any agreed coalition deals by the time you read this and that state of affairs could go on for weeks.

It will be interesting to see if the pre-election rhetoric even remotely resembles the post-election reality.

I’ve always found with politicians that at all times power overcomes principle, so anything could happen. Nothing would surprise me.

I certainly detected the mood for a change, which seemed unstoppable. Labour could have fronted up with both Richie McCaw and Dame Noeline Taurua and I don’t believe it would have made much difference. 

The harsh reality is, however, that little will change no matter what happens with all the comings and goings of coalition politics.

Take the cost of living as an example.

It is a global phenomenon and not just an issue for us. No matter who forms the next government, the problem will continue.

I have great respect for economist Shamubeel Eaqub. He tells it as he sees it and unlike those economists working for the big Aussie banks, he’s unencumbered.

His position on the cost-of-living crisis was simple. “The Reserve Bank should get on with its job and politicians should protect the most vulnerable and take a non-partisan long-term approach to make our economy more competitive and productive.”

It’s hard to argue with that position but our politicians aren’t going to take a “nonpartisan, long-term approach” to anything.

It’s been tried before with the late Jim Anderton setting up the NZ Fast Forward Fund when he was minister of agriculture.

It was established to position New Zealand’s primary industries for the challenges of the future. To enable us to compete more actively in the global marketplace. The only problem was when National became the government the then minister of agriculture, David Carter, took the $700 million Anderton had given agriculture and put it back into the consolidated fund.

So much for a “non-partisan, long-term approach”. Tribalism rules.

The other issue is that what a politician wants to do and what they can are two different issues. For example, on the campaign trail Christopher Luxon told the country at length how he was going to index benefits to inflation not wages, effectively cutting benefits. Will Winston Peters agree to that?

Another example was National’s promise to restore speed limits to 100km per hour compared with the 80km/h the authorities foisted on us.

I would certainly support getting the speed limits back to 100km/h.

The problem is that Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA)  is an independent entity, free of political interference. Will National change the law to enable its promises to be fulfilled? That will take some years. 

Will it bully behind the scenes? That would totally destroy the credibility of NZTA as when asked to do that by Labour it refused.

For the life of me I can’t see the population being any better or worse off no matter who is in power.

I don’t accept that National is a party of business. Its front bench contains an honours graduate in English, an ex-lobbyist for the tobacco industry and an historian. The exception is Dr Shane Reti, who I rate highly.

Its financial meanderings on the election trail left me unimpressed, especially with the foreign buyer tax take, which Eaqub described as “bullshit”. The additional tax promises from National also fitted that description.

Further, they will have to deal with coalition partners, whoever they may be.

We’ve also been told by National it’ll repeal Three Waters in the first 100 days. What will it replace it with? There’s no money in its pre-election budget statement and sewerage, stormwater and freshwater are at crisis point.

We’ve been told there is also a crisis with the population explosion of feral goats, pigs and deer. The answer is simple: reverse the ridiculous gun laws that Labour, National and the Greens foisted on us.

On the positive side the primary industry policies of the opposition parties are solid. The ACT and New Zealand First policies are well thought-out. The Greens are in fairyland with their reliance on Regenerative Agriculture.

Also on the positive side are the people involved in the primary industries portfolios.

I rate Damien O’Connor. He worked tirelessly on trade and understands the industry. What he achieved within a Labour cabinet was, I thought, considerable.

Mark Cameron has done a great job with ACT and I believe its policy is sound. He will have Andrew Hoggard as well, which is extremely positive.

I rate NZ First’s Mark Patterson as well. He certainly understands farming.

Finally the line-up of farmers entering Parliament is really positive.

So in the short term my only advice would be to buckle your seatbelts. We’re in for a rough ride.

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