Wednesday, April 24, 2024

This could prove a hard ACT to swallow

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Alan Emerson lists the many ways National and its likely coalition partner are at odds.
National’s Miles Anderson is a highly effective and massively experienced farming face in Parliament, Alan Emerson says.
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The good news from election night is that we now have 18 MPs with a farming or horticultural background and they are spread over different parties. 

We have Miles Anderson (National), Andrew Hoggard (ACT) and Mark Patterson (New Zealand First), who are highly effective, massively experienced and have worked together at Federated Farmers. That’s great news for our sector.

Overall, however, my view is that little of significance will change post-election, certainly as far as the cost of living crisis and interest rates are concerned.

Further, I don’t believe there’s much difference between National and Labour. Compare the Key approach to that of Helen Clark’s government. Both parties like to stick around the centre.

ACT is unashamedly of the right. NZ First is deeply conservative. That makes a coalition of National, ACT and NZ First interesting.

Currently National and ACT have 61 seats in Parliament, with special votes still to be counted. Historically those votes will go to the left. That will mean NZ First will have to be part of the government.

In addition there is the “overhang” rule, which on current voting will increase the size of Parliament to 121 seats and there’s the additional complication of the by-election at Port Waikato. 

The difference in policies between National and ACT are considerable. 

For example, National has categorically ruled out scrapping the zero-carbon legislation that it voted for.

ACT has promised to repeal the legislation and disband the Climate Change Commission. It is also committed to “scrapping unrealistic [emissions] targets”.

ACT has also promised to repeal the controversial gun register legislation. National has said it will keep it.

ACT has promised to tax charities. National has said it will exempt churches, for whatever reason.

ACT has promised to have one law for all and stop race-based policies. National has been a little coy but I believe the race card was a large reason for the change in government.

It is interesting as, while Labour committed to Māori, the Māori electorate largely rejected Labour.

Both National and ACT have pledged to cut the public service but National has come up with two new ministries, ACT with one. There will be a new minister and ministries of both hunting and fishing and space, for whatever reason, plus a minister and ministry of regulation.

If we’re going to have three new ministries, the already established ministries are going to need major surgery. What will they cut? What services will be affected?

Then add NZ First to the mix. National has said it will effectively cut all benefits by a change in indexing. Will NZ First agree to cuts in the pension, let alone change the age of entitlement?

National is going to tax foreign house buyers on properties over $2 million. NZ First has already fired a salvo at National over continuing “to hock off the country to wealthy foreigners”.

NZ First has considerable experience in coalition governments and will be well aware that compromise means electoral obscurity. For example I thought NZ First was a welcome and effective partner in the 2017-2020 Labour-led government. The electorate didn’t and voted it out.

Now it is back and I can’t see NZ First making that mistake twice.

That will also be a salutary lesson for ACT. Agree and acquiesce and you are history. I believe if ACT sticks to its guns it will double its vote next election. If it doesn’t, it’s toast.

The cabinet negotiation process will also be interesting. ACT has David Seymour and Brooke van Velden who would both do well in the cabinet. Add in Nicolle McKee, Andrew Hoggard and Mark Cameron, who would make excellent ministers.

I can’t see NZ First not insisting on Winston Peters and Shane Jones in ministerial roles and Patterson is certainly ministerial material.

That leaves National with some hard choices, not the least of which is for it to remain with the status quo or bring in new talent. Will it persist with the old guard of Gerry Brownlee, Paul Goldsmith, Mark Mitchell and Judith Collins or bring in new blood in the form of Nicola Grigg, Erica Stanford and Simeon Brown? 

The election also provided some interesting outcomes. Nania Mahuta has done much for Māori but was rejected by them. Michael Wood as well as being a bad minister was also ineffective at getting re-elected to a strong Labour seat.

My old electorate of West Coast Tasman certainly threw an odd ball. Incumbent and accomplished politician Damien O’Connor lost his seat to National by just 915 votes. Independent candidate Patrick Phelps took 5246. Fortunately O’Connor is back on the list.

Finally, we’ve had MMP for 30 years and our politicians haven’t learnt much in that time. My view is National not giving the Ilam seat to The Opportunities Party was incredibly stupid. If it had it wouldn’t have needed NZ First.

As I said last week, buckle your seat belts.

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