Winners losers, losers winners?

Karl du Fresne is right – this is all arse-about-face:

. . . In any half-rational political system, it would be the parties which between them won more than 81 percent of the vote, not Peters with his measly share, that determined the course of negotiations. A minor player such as New Zealand First, if it had genuine respect for democracy, would accept that its negotiating strength should be proportionate with its level of popular support. But again, this is Peters we’re talking about. And sadly he’s encouraged in his delusions by both the media, which can’t resist stroking his ego (for example, by calling him the kingmaker), and by the major parties, whose attempts to appease Peters come perilously close to grovelling.

Pardon the expression, but this is all arse-about-face. It’s demeaning to democracy. We’ve heard a lot over the years about the tail-wagging-the-dog scenario under MMP. Well, here it is writ large, and unfolding before our very eyes.

It’s a situation rich in irony. We voted for the introduction of MMP primarily to punish our politicians and bring them to heal. We were fed up with their broken promises. We wanted to make them more accountable.

Only now are New Zealanders realising that we achieved the exact reverse. Voters have no control whatsoever over whatever’s going on right now behind closed doors at Parliament. In effect, we have placed still more power in the hands of the political elites. This is the antithesis of what the promoters of MMP promised (and perhaps naively believed themselves). . . 

The situation is made even worse because whatever decision Peters and his negotiating team make has to be approved by serious consensus from the party board – the members of which have not been made public.

Frustrating as the protracted negotiations  and the secrecy over the board membership are, my fear is that the government that eventuates might be even worse.

It is possible Winston Peters and New Zealand First have learned from previous failures and will be determined to ensure strong and stable government in the best long term interests of  New Zealand.

But it is at least as likely that they haven’t and that both they and any coalition partners will be damaged by whatever permutation of government is foisted on us.

I dearly want Bill English to continue as Prime Minister but not at any price.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association warns that the country will come to a grinding halt if there are drastic changes to immigration; NZ First’s anti-trade and foreign investment rhetoric contradicts its assertion it wants what’s best for the regions and mining the misery of the Pike River families is simply despicable.

Like David Farrar, I think it will be better for the country to have National leading the government, but it might be better for the party to be a formidable opposition – what Emma Espiner calls the opposition from hell – instead.

I have a lot of confidence in the ability of Bill English and his team. Nine years leading the country through financial and natural disasters has proved they are more than capable. But they will need all their skill and experience, and more than a little luck to govern in coalition with, or the support of, Peters and his party.

Even then, there is a risk that whoever wins in the short  term might become the losers and the losers might turn out to be the winners in the medium to longer term.

P.S. Apropos of foreign investment – Eric Crampton gives some context:

 New Zealand is the most restrictive country in the entire OECD. It is the seventh most restrictive country of the 62 countries they surveyed.

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5 Responses to Winners losers, losers winners?

  1. Owen says:

    As one who fought strongly against MMP but would have reluctantly settled for proportionality over half the seats in Parliament all I can say is that the country got what it deserved. A bunch of starry-eyed, mostly leftwing voters carried the day by an unacceptably low margin.

    The most sense spoken on the issue of negotiations has come from Richard Prebble who suggested a much more formal process requiring timeframes, transparency and Treasury evaluation. He would have had the two largest parties agree on some rules before the talks got underway. It would certainly help.

  2. Will says:

    Really? The country will ‘grind to a halt’ if we don’t retain our insane rates of immigration?
    How can anyone take those people seriously?

  3. invercargillgreen says:

    Remember the Greens have continually pushed for greater transparency in government and wanted an element of Treasury to cost all parties’ main policies. This wasn’t supported by National.

    I would love to see the cost/benefit analysis on the $10 billion worth of new roads that National promised. When the country is crying out for improved public transport systems and sustainable funding for hospitals and housing, the big investment policy for the election was largely unnecessary motorways.

    I’m not sure why people would support more of Bill English when the last 9 years have meant hugely increased private and public debt and dropping productivity (per person). Hardly a sustainable economy.

  4. Will says:

    Come up to the Waikato and drive around a bit. Massive traffic jams everywhere the new roads meet the yet uncompleted bits. We’re frantically trying to catch up. And don’t bang on about public transport. No use in a spread out region like this. I would prefer it had not happened like this, but it has.

  5. invercargillgreen says:

    Will, I agree that the regions have also suffered because of this passion for northern motorways. The Southland region produces 12% of the country’s export income with less than 3% of our population. However, our roads are funded on a population based funding system so that our logging and dairy trucks have to negotiate roads that can’t be maintained appropriately. Hence the need for a proper cost benefit analysis, few of the RoNS have passed basic economic assessments.

    This isn’t my own view, it is the view of a considerable number of experts:
    http://www.tvhe.co.nz/2013/09/10/costs-and-or-lack-of-benefits-of-transport-projects/
    …and when past Transport Minister, Gerry Brownlee, was questioned about the evidence for his roads it was decided, with help from the Speaker at the time, that the roads were being built because HE thought they were a good idea.

    There are also many regions that are having their economic development constrained because of a refusal to invest in rail.

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