Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Vote For NZF Is A Vote For NZF - For Nationalists, not National

I'm loving this "Duelling Banjos" thing me and Bomber have got going on at the moment - he writes a piece castigating NZF for imminent existential failure due to Cons, I write a refutation setting out why we'll be back. He writes a subsequent piece claiming that now due to no Cons, a vote for NZF is effectively a vote for National ... well, you'd better believe I'm writing back :P

Alright, so let's look at what's gone on here. Last week, Bomber claimed that the imminent rise of the Conservative Party would do irreparable harm to NZF's vote (on grounds that we're allegedly similar enough to be directly trading votes), but only provided Murray McCully was prepared to stand aside in East Coast Bays and ensure that no Con votes were wasted.

More recently, however, the Conservatives decided to do something breathtakingly principled/stupid and announce that Binding Referendums were their one and only bottom line for post-election negotiations. Apart from causing me to wonder whether Labour was desperate enough for a go in office to announce a sudden manifesto commitment in this area, the main impact of this announcement has been to cause National to drop Craig faster than they did Claudette Hauiti. As I argued last week, there's very little point in seizing and agglomerating all the political power in one's own slimy, money-encrusted fingers, if you're then going to parcel it back out into the hands of the ordinary voting public by way of empowered referendums.

So there go the Conservatives. (and Bomber's line about Cons realizing all they can do is damage our vote is ominous - no doubt more than a few pale blue religious weirdos will be eagerly looking forward to doing exactly that)

None of this, however, means that a vote for NZF is a vote for anyone other than NZF.

New Zealand First have set out a list of bottom lines which must be met by any party seeking to work with us in a post-election arrangement.

We are committed to beginning the process of #Renationalizing those assets stolen by the Nats.
We are dedicated to protecting and maintaining the age of state superannuation at 65.
We believe resolutely in a unitary nationalism that does not discriminate on the basis of race in government programs.
And we will establish a sovereign wealth tool called KiwiFund to invest in our own nation and help ensure the affordability of super at 65.

As was said last week, Labour's already theoretically open to three out of these four bottom lines; and given how wildly unpopular with its own working class theoretical stalwarts it's going to be, I can easily see them subtly deciding to ditch their idea of raising the retirement age to 67. National, by contrast, has been pouring cold water on our bottom lines. Sure, they're down with keeping the age of retirement where it is; but can you really believe they'd *actually* be prepared to help us renationalize those assets they've spent the last three years hoicking off? If you do, then I've got some shares in Solid Energy to sell you :P

So let's cut to the chase. On September 20th, a vote for some parties is indeed a vote for some other parties. In the rotten boroughs of Epsom and Ohariu-Belmont, ticking the Yellow or Purple political dignity eater will definitely be a vote for National. If you're in East Coast Bays, a vote for Pale Blue is effectively a vote for Darker Blue, albiet one the Deep Blue C's (as in, C with a few asterixes after it, not C for Conservative); and depending upon whom you listen to, a party vote Green is either a vote for a more principled adjunct to the Labour Party, or a more principled band of independents prepared to spurn their entanglement with Labour to protect the environment. Oh, and a vote for MANA is a vote for the Internet Party, and vice versa - neither of which is ever, under any circumstances, a vote for John Key. And I'm pretty sure we're all very well aware of what you get if you vote for the Maori Party.

But when it comes to the Black and Silver ... I remember Winston once telling me that NZF was akin to Sinn Fein - which, apart from being a nationalist political party, translates as "Ourselves Alone". In concert with the people of New Zealand, that's pretty much how we operate. We will support good policy, oppose bad policy, and keep the bastards honest ... no matter which side of the aisle they happen to be occupying.

So when you head into the booth on polling day in late September intent on ticking New Zealand First, you can be confident of a few things:

That NZ First is committed to seeing through policies that are good for the country, regardless (or possibly because) of how much this annoys the National Party.

That a vote for NZ First is just that - a vote for NZ First - and, because we're not stitched up into a pre-election deal with either side, you can be confident that you are not voting by proxy for either National or Labour. Our highly successful record operating on the cross-benches from 2011-2014 helps to substantiate this; and if the Greens are still capable of being perceived as an "independent" force in Kiwi politics despite their 3-year enhanced "memorandum of understanding" with the National Party ... there's no reason why NZF, after three years of conspicuously *not* having such an understanding with National, can't be perceived as "independent", too.

You can also be confident that a vote for NZ First is a vote for those four key bottom lines - #Renationalization, #KeepIt65, #OneLaw and #KiwiFund.

Because with all this excitement and political flower arranging going on, it's easy to forget that the most important coalition in our politics is the coalition our political parties and politicians *must* make with the People of New Zealand. And that requires adequate signalling to the electorate - not just of whom one intends to work with, but what one intends to accomplish.

At least New Zealand First has been patently transparent about what we are absolutely going to seek from other parties, and perfectly open about our intention to brow-beat the entire House with a stick on issues like #Renationalization or keeping the pension age 65.

We can hardly be accused of a lack of transparency about that, even as some commentators persist in willfully misunderstanding our stance as indicating a preference of one "side" over the other. The only "side" we prefer is the people of New Zealand, and we're getting mighty tired of various people suggesting otherwise.

Particularly when these people are apparently Matthew Hooton, given that Hooton is assumedly *just* clever enough to work out that he can attempt to kill off NZF for good by convincing the electorate we'd sleepwalk straight into the arms of National post-election.

So let's be clear. Your vote for New Zealand First puts *you* and *your* interests *first*.

Not the National Party's, the Labour Party's, the Green Party's, or Kim DotCom's.

Ours, and Ours Alone. Like the Sinn Fein guys said.

Friday, July 25, 2014

New Zealand First - We'll Be Back

Earlier this week, Bomber penned a missive which set out in some detail why he thought my people, New Zealand First, wouldn't be making it back into Parliament later this year.

Being a pugnacious, vindictive sort who'd never let such an aspersion go unchallenged; and noting that Bomber *did* invite me to "helpfully correct" some of his analysis ... I thought I'd write a response.

I first encountered Bomber when I was a young lad of about 10 developing political views and a semblance of music taste as the direct and attributable result of keeping my radio firmly locked to Channel Z. The Sunday night political shows were great; and while at that age I had no idea what a "stoner" was, ten year old me also thought it was way cool to stay up much past midnight listening to the man's eclectic taste in psychedelic stimulation as part of something called "The Stoner Hour", which ran from 2-3 a.m. I think that might be where I first heard Bohemian Rhapsody.

My next proper encounter with Bomber, by contrast, was a little less salubrious. I was a slightly less young man of 23, and as a fanatically loyal and zealous member of New Zealand First, I sort of saw it as my personal duty to sally forth in defence, castigation, refutation and vituperation on every facebook status and Daily Blog piece he issued which I felt unfairly criticized NZ First.

So pretty much all of them.

Things have changed since last year, however; and it gives me no small hint of pleasure to be able to point out exactly why Bomber is wrong in his latest prediction for NZ First ... but not from the comments section on either his page or his blog; but instead in a full-length contribution on the man himself's organ, The Daily Blog.

I must be moving up in the world.

Anyway. This was going to be an in-depth detailed look at the excellent NZ First taxation policy we announced on Sunday (because seriously, GST off food is an awesome way of reducing the burden of a regressive neoliberal tax upon the lower tax brackets; and cracking down on seven billion dollars of tax evasion and avoidance would bring vitally needed revenue back into the state's coffers from the *upper* tax brackets, so there's something for everybody) ... but then I decided that watching two of the more *ahem* bombastic personalities (sorry) going head to head over the issue of NZ First's political destiny (and therefore the political destiny of the nation) come September 20th *might* just be more interesting for our readers than me playing funny games with numbers and social justice.

We'll start by getting the easy stuff out of the way: that which I agree with. (it's not actually that short of a list).

Bomber is absolutely correct to to state that you can't count Winston out. I know I'm horrendously biased; but during my first ever paper at Uni, NZ Politics as lectured by Patrick Hine, I can quite clearly remember the esteemed academic at the front of the lecture-hall intoning "The first rule of New Zealand Politics is that you cannot count Winston out." So there you go. It's apparently a serious academic belief, too. (this rule was somewhat wildly misinterpreted in 2011 by members of the Young Nats, possibly after a few too many #TeamHotbox meetups watching Fight Club, as "The first rule of New Zealand Politics is that you don't talk about Winston"; leading to a hilarious series of memes in which they dubbed my Chief "He Who Must Not Be Named Because It Just Gives Him Exposure". And then the Young Conservatives got involved. )

I'll also agree with Bomber that Winston's impact on our politics "has been profound at at times brilliant"; that Phil Goff's performance was less "wooden" than "termite infested, lost amidst trees, and more prone than a wind-swept Kauri being allowed to gently repose as part of the Green Party's beloved nutrient cycle"; and that I'm somewhat "learnerd", which is both a high compliment and an awesome portmanteau.

And that brings me to the end of the list of things I agree with in Bomber's latest analysis of NZ First's electoral prospects.

Now where I start to disagree with Bomber is, predictably, when he gets into his substantive points. As already stated, he's correct that a weak appearing Labour in 2011 was very good for NZ First. We've always had a strong corps of disaffected labourites kicking around the place (including, of all people, Ron Mark), and it stands to reason that when the largest party of the left is haemorrhaging members, voters and support to each of the left, right and center, that other economically left-wing parties will stand to gain as a result. The only question is whether this is a short term influxion of swingers and protest-voters who'll only back their new party for a matter of days or weeks; or whether it's the start of a more enduring, lifelong journey.

The interesting trend that I've been observing personally within NZF is slightly less of the former (probably down to the Internet Party making a determined play for every protest vote in the land), and since election night 2011, rather more of the latter. What appears to have happened is increasing numbers of coalface labourites have taken a look at our respective policy-sets/ethoi and decided that on the whole, they much prefer being able to retire at 65 rather than 67 and for those assets stolen by the Nats to be #Renationalized rather than left on a list of assets that Labour does not believe should be run in the New Zealand interest. They've even committed the cardinal political sin when trying to win over the propertied middle classes of simultaneously advocating for a capital gains tax while also trying to seize a term in government.

Bomber's contention that the mystical silver tongue of David Cunliffe may be able to sway undecided voters back toward Labour with grandiloquent talk of social justice and that other S-word, "socialism" is not without merit; but when you actually talk with activists and organizers from the Labour Party about how they feel their campaign's going less than nine weeks out from the Election, they're rather more concerned with the message and the policies Cunliffe will be putting forward with those dulcet tones, rather than the mere fact he has his father's talent for pulpit-projection. (Seriously - you've got to watch those sons of clergymen who get into politics - the other two that spring instantly to mind are myself and Don Brash)

And unless you're campaigning in somewhere like well-healed Greenwoods Corner up here in the Epsom electorate, policies of getting the government's books into surplus really, really fast; banning trucks from the fast-lane of motorways; or raising the retirement age to sixty seven because (in concert with the surplus thing) Labour wants to go for the "fiscally conservative ooh-look-at-me-how-sensible-and-prudent-I-am-cutting-essential-state-services-for-the-elderly" vote ... is, to put it charitably, not the sort of policy platform one would assume the average (returning) Labour voter would be mad keen to endorse, still less feel inspired by. (although the smaller class sizes policy is absolutely excellent, and ought to be supported by every party, politician and politico with a conscience or children)

This forms an obvious contrast with the 2014 NZ First, which is rampantly running around the place reminding New Zealanders that we raised the minimum wage at an unprecedented rate of a dollar a year the last time we were proximate to government; are apparently dedicated to restoring a large swathe of the New Zealand economy to Kiwi state ownership; and will ensure protection of the right of Kiwi workers to retire at the age of 65 and draw a state-pension.

Now if you were a left-wing voter without a party allegiance and purely on the strength of each party's headline electoral policy platforms (i.e. looking at each with the serial numbers filed off and sans dog-tags for easy corpus identification) ... which way would you go?

[Hint: it's *not* for the party whose finance spokesperson apparently believes that "competitive markets don't need regulation".]

This appears to have been borne out somewhat in the polls - while I share my Chieftain's disdain for the accuracy of any poll not conducted on election day, a cursory analysis of poll results for both Labour and the Labour leader's preferred Prime Ministership ratings doesn't exactly seem to support Bomber's implication that Cunliffe is instantly - or inordinately - capable of bringing home the masses. Fairfax Media preferred Prime Minister polling for Goff, for instance, hovered about the 10% mark and managed the dizzying heights of 12.5% immediately before the last election; while David Cunliffe's own showing in the same poll is 14.5% (he was 12.8% in the last one - so not exactly a huge jump from where Goff was). Meanwhile, in terms of party vote, polling taken roughly sixty days out from E-Day back in 2011 had Labour on, variously, 30.5% [Roy Morgan], 28% [Fairfax], 29% [Colmar Brunton], and 26.6% [Reid Research]. Polling at a similar point in the electoral cycle for 2014 (i.e. this week) has Labour on 23.5% [Roy Morgan], 24.9% [Fairfax], 26.7% [Reid Research], and 26.5% [Herald DigiPoll].

So I guess we can say that David Cunliffe's ability to reach out to former Labour voters is at least 2% better than Phil Goff's, but that we're unsure whether this reaching out is directly or indirectly responsible for Labour polling lower now than it did at this point in the electoral cycle last time around. I wonder where all those disheartened Labour voters are going to go ... :P

Now as applies Bomber's second point, about the impact of the Internet Party and a "Cup of Tea" moment for this campaign ... I actually think he's gotten Labour and Laila Harre around exactly the wrong way. The Internet Party is far more easily placed to capitalize upon the sort of disgruntled and disenfranchised voter that NZ First would ideally be reaching than Labour is; and with their strong emphasis upon national sovereignty, the role of the state in fostering economic performance, and participatory democracy, they even manage to edge in quite closely on some parts of our political territory here in NZF.

As applies the Tea Tape incident, however ... there are few things in the metanarrative of the 2011 election that personally annoy me more than the tired old canard that NZ First only got back into Parliament on November 26th only because two right-wing poltroons were so breathtakingly arrogant in their misconception as to what a "cone of silence" is that they thought they could insidiously insult NZF's voters and conspiratorially lay out the future of the ACT Party right in front of an assembled media press pack with nobody batting an eyelid.

Why do I find the suggestion that we're back because of the Tea Tapes insulting? Because I have personally witnessed NZ First in full campaign flight and seen with my own eyes how we won the 6.59% we scored on election night 2011 - and it was through the hard work, grit and determination of thousands of honest, ordinary, and most importantly pissed off Kiwis who'd been done over by neoliberalism. To suggest that we only cracked 5% with tens of thousands of votes worth of wiggle-room to spare because those very same far right economic despoilers responsible for the ruinous state of the nation slipped up once too often where the media could see them - while a pleasing irony - denigrates, marginalizes, disrespects and discounts that huge effort at defying political gravity which every senior, teenager, and twenty-something political maverick manning the mighty waka of New Zealand First put in in that campaign.

More importantly, it's wrong. The Cup of Tea took place on Friday the 11th of November. That very morning, a Roy Morgan poll result had come out which had NZ First on 4.5%, while Horizon polling throughout 2011 had had NZ First easily above 5% and climbing.

So when Bomber talks of the lack of an Epsom Tea Party incident to "energize" Winston and ensure we here in NZ First crack the 5% mark here in 2014, remember two things. First, that we didn't need the Tea Tapes back in 2011 anyway (although there really is nothing quite like telling our voters they're dying out to galvanize them to march en-masse to the polls to prove the Nats utterly wrong); and second, and more importantly, that the NZ First of 2011 was a party on the outer. We had no Parliamentary Services resources, our idea of a "generous donor" was somebody buying two cakes rather than a single pot of jam at a bake-sale, and you have absolutely no idea how hard it is to get media organizations or anybody else to take you seriously when you have no MPs and the dominant meta-narrative is that your party is an irrelevant forlorn hope about to be consigned to the ash heap of history (slash every media personality seems to be engaged in a race to try and hammer the lid of the NZF Party coffin well and truly shut).

What I'm trying to say is that Bomber (and many, many other pundits and personalities) appears to believe that NZ First at the absolute literal weakest we have /ever/ been in our 21 year history required a bit of a boost to get over the 5% threshold. I don't believe we did, and am prepared to cite the poll evidence to countermand the utility of the Tea Tapes. In either case, as it's fairly plainly apparent that NZ First is in an exponentially stronger, more recognized and better resourced position now than we were in 2011, it would also seem logical to conclude that NZ First is far less in need of a "boost" now than we were three years ago. And, as has been established, we didn't exactly need one then either; so if a Tea Tapes style event happens this year to provide a boost in our electoral stakes, we'll be absolutely unstoppable.

On point three ... all I'll say is this. I've known and worked with Winston for coming up five years now, and when I saw him on Sunday at our Party Convention just before he gave his big speech, he looked more energized, hale and hearty - even sprightly - than he had been even a year ago. As campaign season fires up, whatever mystical smoke-powered turbine-dynamo it is which powers him cranks up a notch, and he finds himself setting a pace on campaign with whistle-stop tours of the literal whole country that younger party leaders and MPs would struggle to match. As far as the fact Judith Collins is still a Minister of the Crown goes ... I think we all remember Winston collecting the scalps from Nick Smith and Peter Dunne elsewhere during this same parliamentary term :)

Now when it comes to the future leadership prospects point ... I don't think this is really relevant for the 2014 General Election. Winston is going to lead NZ First to victory on September 20th, just as he has lead us for the half a dozen elections before that. There might be some voters out there who decide that because they're not *quite* sure if Winston intends to die in office at some point three decades hence, this somehow materially affects their vote here and now in 2014; but I doubt there's that many of them. People will still vote for Winston for the 2014-2017 Parliamentary term regardless of whether they feel he can or should stand for re-election in 2017. (Winston is also wont to point out that Konrad Adenauer was Chancellor of Germany until the ripe old age of 87)

Having said that, while I agree with Bomber that Tracey is pretty awesome; I do also feel that his characterizing her as "the only [non-Winston] MP worth keeping" is more than a little unfair to the rest of our Caucus. From a left-wing perspective, Denis O'Rourke's trenchant activism on the issue of state housing definitely deserves recognition (seriously - the man believes housing is a human right, wants it recognized as such, and picked up an awesome NZ First Youth policy remit calling for the creation of a billion-dollar state construction and housing company to make it all happen); while Andrew Williams has pulled off something seriously awesome in committing NZ First to doing something about climate change.

In any case, with regard to the implication that Bomber is here making ... Winston's own sentiment about whether there is life for NZF after Winston is that it's a predictably "stupid question". "Of course there is life after Winston Peters. The party will grow into a tower of strength and will help you and your children to live the New Zealand dream." I also seem to remember Deputy Leader Tracey Martin (then just a regular newly-anointed MP) telling me a story about how Winston had a vision for his own future of being able to sit down in front of the telly in a comfortable armchair, tumbler in hand, switch on the six o'clock news, and watch his successor as Leader of New Zealand First giving a speech.

I find that a pretty compelling vision; and I'm sure there's more than a few Kiwis out there who'd be intrigued to see somebody like Tracey take over the admiralty of the fleet at some point in the future. Looking further afield, the return of Ron Mark is also something the people playing Fantasy Caucus occasionally talk about.

Oh, and I also see Bomber's cited a "smart young" guy called Curwen Rolinson as a prospective "future arrangement" for the Leadership of NZ First. I think I'll just blush profusely over here in the corner.

If none of that's compelling, then I suppose there's always my preferred solution of installing Winston on a Golden Throne. (Gold Card Throne?)

Now as applies number five ... if there's one political cliche that absolutely /infuriates/ me more than even the suggestion we're only back in Parliament coz John Banks screwed up ... it's the proposition that there is somehow a close coterminity between my beloved New Zealand First, and the twisted, pale-blue religious extremists of the Conservative Party - and therefore that the Conservatives will have a much easier time doing National's dirty work for them by splitting our vote, relegating us to a sub-5% result, and taking us out of the race.

The evidence for this cited by Bomber in his article is that Colin Craig has spent mega-money employing some as-yet unnamed "top level political strategists" to try and replicate the success of New Zealand First.

Well, I suppose it's a high compliment indeed that Craig has to ship in the best help money can buy to match the tactical genius which NZ First has on-tap from our own august Leader ... but merely buying some advisers and telling them to pick a disgruntled, marginalized group in society (in this case, rampant homophobes, and the tax-allergic) does not make for similar policy, ethos or vibe. I mean, just take a moment to compare our respective policy priorities and bottom lines.

Let's start with taxation. NZ First is committed to taking GST off food and cracking down on tax evasion and avoidance. These are pretty uncontroversial left-wing policies. GST is a regressive tax that hits the poor the hardest; and taxes on necessity items like food are, due to the greater income inelasticity of demand for same, even more regressive still. NZ First is therefore seeking to directly help those most in need by reducing the cost of household staples and reducing the regressive nature of one of the more objectionable holdovers from the Neoliberal Revolution; while also seeking to ensure the wealthy /actually/ pay their fair share.

The Conservative Party, by contrast, is pushing for some sort of probably uncosted flat tax rate with a $20,000 tax-free income threshold. Flat taxes are intrinsically regressive, and the Conservative Party's taxation policy does far more to bring smiles to well-healed millionaire property managers and developers like Craig than it does those who would be smiling about NZF's GST off food policy. And this is before we even begin to consider what essential services would be cut to fund the Cons' policy.

So straightaway on the fundamental bread-and-butter issues of economic policy and management, it starts to look like NZ First and the Conservatives are almost diametrically opposed in terms of what we want to do and whom we want to help. I'd also suggest that this goes some ways to indicating the manifest differences between our parties' respective support bases and therefore electoral viability. This becomes particularly apparent when we consider something like NZ First's longstanding support amongst Maori - I somehow doubt Colin Craig's going to be carving much into that!

Meanwhile, when it comes to law and order the Cons are repeating tired old "tough on crime/no judicial discretion" lines; while NZ First advocates for "shorter sharper sentences" (and, I will concede, hard labour for white collar criminals such as those who fleeced a generation's savings back during the Great Financial Crisis). On Treaty and nationhood issues, too - the Cons have taken the rhetoric ("One Law for All" initially being an NZF rallying-cry) ... but completely lost (or possibly overindulged in) the substance. Where our application of unitary nationalism meant we saw the value in securing funding for the Maori Wardens and protecting the Customary Rights of Maori when it came to the Foreshore & Seabed ... the Conservative Party's take on this was to propose a policy replacing traditional Powhiri for visiting dignitaries with "a handshake and a cup of tea".

Poor Colin. Considering his party's electoral viability hinges entirely around the provision of a hot beverage at a cafe somewhere in East Coast Bays, it's perhaps not surprising he's got "cups of tea" on the brain as an entente and/or icebreaker.

Now it's that coalition arrangement with the Cons (and the aforementioned bottom lines) that I believe form the single biggest issue with Bomber's analysis. (Apart from his contention that NZF won't be back. I think we're probably going to have to establish a Staff Pool here at The Daily Blog about that suggestion...)

NZ First has staked out four bottom lines for this election. We are committed to i) beginning the process of #Renationalization for assets stolen by the Nats; ii) protecting, preserving and maintaining the age of national superannuation at 65 rather than 67; opposing race-based policy without need; and establishing a #Kiwifund to invest in our economy and ensure the sustainability of our provision for our elderly.

I invite you to draw your own conclusions as to which of National, Labour, or A Plague On Both Your Houses will actually accede to these; but Labour's already said it's open to discussion on three of these and it would be most interesting were the National Party to agree to #Renationalization.

The Conservatives, by contrast, have set down one and only one bottom line. They want referendums to be binding, and they are apparently going to point blank refuse to work with the National Party in either a formal coalition or a less formal Confidence & Supply arrangement unless the Nats agree to it.

This is, needless to say, a stand of absolutely breathtaking principle (and thus breathtaking political stupidity - in politics, we call this "being courageous") from the boys in pastel blue.

National, the party of "Who cares, it's Friday!" when it came to respecting the results of the Asset Sales referendum is, to my mind, even less likely to agree to the Conservative Party's bottom line of binding referendums than they are to agree to NZ First's bottom line of asset #Renationalization.

Gerry Brownlee might fly (or at least explain his way through an airport) before the Nats decide that binding referendums are something they're comfortable with. What's the point of getting all that unbridled power by sweeping back into government with a bevvy of pliant and supine support partners if you're only going to hand over an ultimate check, balance and sanction on that political power to the very populace and public whom you're hell-bent on spending the next three years keeping as far away from the levers of political power as inhumanly possible?

This is why I don't believe that National will offer Colin Craig a deal in East Coast Bays. The political price-tag that Craig has set for his support is just so absolutely sky-high beyond what the Nats will bear (particularly with opinion polling showing them pretty much able to govern alone); and the potential tarnishment-by-association of going into government with Mr Moonlandings is also assumedly pretty great. National's political bookies will have run the numbers on these potential stratagems, and it seems a reasonable induction that the lack of an announced deal just yet in ECB is down to National not being desperate enough by any stretch of the imagination to consider countenancing a coalition with Craig.

In any case, the New Zealand First perspective on Colin Craig is quite simply this: Aquilae Non Capiunt Muscas. (Or, for those of you without the benefit of the vagaries and dregs of a classical education or the patience to use Google Translate, "Eagles don't bother with flies") As proven by events circa 2008, we have an absolutely rock-solid core of support that's somewhere about 4% of the popular vote who will turn out for the Black and Silver even amidst the greatest smear campaign in New Zealand political history. And we have only grown stronger and more numerous from there.

Bomber seems to be of the opinion that a resurgent Labour party, and the Nats pouring everything they have into supporting the Cons might do some serious damage to New Zealand First's vote. Well, if I happen to see a resurgent Labour party to worry about, I might start taking that contention seriously. In the mean-time, National has other, more delectable options open to it than dealing with the Cons (even with the proverbial ten foot East Coast Bays poll); while the sudden salience and strong policy of NZF means that our voters have ever less reason to stray in the direction of Labour or religious extremism as the campaign continues.

In 2017 and in 2020, no matter who's leading it, you can rest assured that there will be a New Zealand First in Parliament to protect your interests.

And in 2017 and in 2020, no matter who's leading the National Party or however desperate they are for cling-ons, you can just about guarantee that there will *still* be no Colin Craig MP.

Our name, and our creed, is New Zealand First. And contrary to Bomber's prediction, just like General Douglas Macarthur to the Philippines ... We Shall Return!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Few New Zealand Firsts

Last week, Trade Minister Tim Groser made the curious statement that it "wasn't New Zealand's place to position itself out ahead of where international negotiations were at". He's speaking in the context of climate change, of course; but as was quite rightfully pointed out by Generation Zero, it's a statement about whether New Zealand should be a world leader that many Kiwis would look at and go "Eh?"

Everyone's familiar with the really big New Zealand Firsts.

We all know that in 1893, New Zealand did something incredible and world-beating and granted the vote to women. In fact, the carrying out of this particular "first" has become so integral to our national psyche that the woman associated with the campaign appears on our banknotes, and has recently been brought back to front an anti-domestic violence campaign. It's slightly less well known that a year later, we produced the first democratically elected female Mayor in the British Empire, in the person of Elizabeth Yates, or that this was followed up just over a hundred years later in 1995 by the world's first transsexual Mayor, and then world's first transsexual MP in 1999, both in the person of Georgina Beyer. Although given that the 1999 election also saw Beyer beating a young Paul Henry running as a National candidate by three thousand votes in what's usually a pretty conservative and right-leaning provincial electorate like the Wairarapa, I'm surprised this isn't more frequently commented upon.

The extension of the right to vote to women was carried out by the ground-breaking Liberal government of Richard Seddon; and while legislation that finally recognized that a woman is just as capable as a man of doing something immensely stupid like voting for ACT deservedly takes pride of place when we talk about the achievements of that government, I'd feel remiss in my duties as an NZF person if I didn't remind you that this was *also* the government which enacted world leading pension legislation designed to ensure that the state would support New Zealanders in their old age. Of course, it's not *quite* fair to describe this as a "world first", on grounds that the Old Age Pension Act of 1898 was passed some nine years *after* Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's very similar Old Age And Disability Insurance bill of 1889 in Germany; but the idea of a state that actually took care of its citizens through active interventions in the economy and transfer payments so that being too old to work didn't mean a huge drop in living standards and pauper-hood, was an awesome one which apparently hadn't been taken up anywhere else in the Anglosphere to that point.

A genuine New Zealand First, however, was the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1894; which attempted to establish the world's first corporatist bargaining structure for industrial relations arbitration and disputes. Whereas previous models had hinged around an adversarial relationship between workers and unions on one side, and entrepreneurs (and frequently the state) on the other and thus left pay and conditions as a matter for argument between the respective parties, the Liberals instead sought to have a compulsory system whereby the state would appoint representatives from each side to a national Conciliation Board, which would take the lead in reviewing and resolving disputes. This may not necessarily sound too impressive to our modern ears, but it's worthwhile considering that the fundamental principles this act enshrined within our law and way of doing things were to stand basically unmolested for nearly a hundred years - finally giving way in 1991 with the National Party's Employment Contracts Act (this was the legislation so repugnant that despite its party of origin, Sir Robert Muldoon could not bring himself to vote for it due to what it would do to the Kiwi worker). I'm a great fan of corporatist industrial relations and economic planning frameworks, by the way, and would thoroughly encourage readers interested in alternatives to neoliberalism to look into them.

Keeping on the theme of workers' rights, we were also the first country in the world to formally institute an 8 hour working day, again under the Liberals, in 1899. This is why we celebrate Labour Day. The same government *also* established the world's first government-funded tourism organization; which leaves me wondering whether Seddon ever found himself in London, skewered by some British journalist for flapping his guns like some form of introduced pest in the headlights trying to defend a blatantly inaccurate marketing campaign in the tourism sector.

The other big New Zealand First that everybody's aware of is the way our country really took a position of international leadership when it came to nuclear issues during the late eighties under the 4th Labour Government. While it's fair to say that David Lange's position on nuclear ships was potentially a little lukewarm in tenacity up until it became politically ill-advised to do anything *but* give effect to the the broad mass of public opinion about the issue, the fact remains that in that instance at least, New Zealand was *very* quick to "position itself out ahead of where international negotiations were at".

To give you a sense of how well-known, remarked upon, and respected this paragraph in the New Zealand Story actually is ... when I was much younger, I used to hit up international Model UN conventions and things like that. Straightaway, as soon as people from other countries would find out you were a Kiwi, they'd tend to rush to compliment us on our nuclear free stance, and talk about how it was an inspiration etc.
While noting that these were International Relations students and what not, and therefore likely to be slightly better informed about diplomatic history than the average bear - and without meaning to produce a Steinlager commercial - it's definitely fair to say that on this issue, New Zealand carved out a strong and deserved reputation as someone who "positions ourselves out ahead of where international negotiations are at".

See, this is the proud legacy of innovative and principled policy-making that I instantly think of  when New Zealand's record is being talked about - either domestically, or on the world stage. We're pioneers, as a people - so much so we even have a national idiom based around creative things you can do with fencing wire. It therefore absolutely makes my blood boil when Nats like Groser decide to dissipate and denigrate that history by pretending that we're some sort of small and apron-stringed young democracy that's got to wait for the big boys of the international arena to be done talking before we can even pipe up with a whisper about how it's our world and our future that's at stake, too.

Anyway, to return to that Steinlager commercial for a moment ... when Tim Groser says that New Zealand ought not be standing out ahead of where international negotations are at, screaming through a loud-hailer at everybody else to catch up ... Willem Dafoe pops into my head to remind us that "some things are worth protecting".

In this instance, our international reputation as world leaders when it comes to doing what's right ... and our climate and environment.

I'm justifiably proud of New Zealand's record at leading the world. Too bad Tim Groser isn't.

(P.s.: This blog-post has contained my own cutting-edge New Zealand First experimentation with subliminal messaging. Hope you don't mind :P )

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Monstrous Government for Women

The biggest event in politics this week just gone has surely been the emerging National scandal surrounding the government's handling of the recent imbroglio surrounding a certain Malaysian diplomatic staffer.

In it, we saw the reprehensible spectacle of a gaggle of greying politicians and senior bureaucrats initially falling over themselves to avoid culpability for the string of events that had lead to a Kiwi victim's right to efficient, local justice being abjured due to either "miscommunication" or more sinister diplomatic considerations involving our eighth largest trading partner.

This was a failing that was only compounded when the relevant Minister responsible's apparent first apology was not to the victim - and McCully's own countryman and paymaster ... y'know, the person he's supposed to be serving as a Minister - but rather to the Prime Minister, assumedly for the cardinal sin of creating a political sideshow in an election year.

I am certainly not alone amidst commentators casting aspersions in the direction of the government for this; but would suggest that this government's issues with failing to properly support Kiwi women go far further and deeper than one sorry diplomatic and legal snafu.

Its handling of this one attempted rape case has quite rightly raised questions in the last week; but vital services like Rape Crisis and the Women's Refuge have been underfunded and closing their doors or heading to central government replete with begging bowls and lodging appeals through the media for funding for months now.

Let's be clear about this. Thanks to National, back in 2012, we literally had a situation wherein an absolutely essential service for Wellington women (in the form of Rape Crisis) was being kept alive and afloat by donations from a pizza company trying desperately to fix its PR after using an incident of sexual assault as a marketing ploy. (Just in case there's any ambiguity here, for the purposes of this piece, I'm slightly more interested in castigating National for creating a situation wherein Hell's intervention was necessary, than I am in vituperating *their* egregious lapse) And yet the Young Nats have the audacity and the gall to try and claim "women's rights" as a National Party cause.

If anything, I'd say that this government's attitude toward victims of abuse and sexual assault is far more strongly evinced by its callous series of decisions to underfund vital services like those above and stop collecting stats on domestic violence, rather than its sudden decision to look like it's attempting to move mountains when all eyes are upon it over this latest scandal.

We can but hope that the logical connection between attempting to bring one alleged attempted rapist to trial here in NZ; and the rightness of supporting other survivors whose personal cases *haven't* made the leap to being election year news circuses is not too long a bow for National's Cabinet to draw.

Of course, given the prominence and salience of women within the National Party's own Caucus and Cabinet, it is perhaps not surprising that the government has not always done the best job of keeping issues most strongly relevant to women at the front of the political (and Budget) agenda. While crude quantitative rubrics for female representation are ultimately an inferior measurement for how female-friendly a party is as compared to, say, its policy and legislative record; the number of females a party puts forward to represent it also tells us a few things about that party's organizational culture and values.

At present, of National's 59 MPs, 15 are female (just over 25%). Of their Ministers in Cabinet, it's six out of twenty (30%); and eight out of twenty five Ministers all up (32%). (And including the government's 3 support party ministers, it comes to nine out of 28 and also about 32%) It's also interesting to note that gender balance within National's Caucus has actually gone slightly *backwards* from where it was under the "chauvinist" Don Brash in 2005. It's certainly interesting to speculate about the nature of a party's interior culture if it's habitually producing gender disparities in its representation such as these.

Of course, it's not like the government's problem is exclusively a National one. If you look at the National Party's support partners, the problem only gets worse. Of the five seats held by the government's support parties, only one is actually occupied by a female ... outgoing Maori Party MP, Tariana Turia.

Now, for those of you in the audience who may think that the single female MP of a party theoretically dedicated to representing and supporting a marginalized people such as our first nations might be a friend and ally of the feminist movement ... well just check out what she had to say on abortion. The easy availability of pregnancy-termination for young Maori is "an excessive focus on controlling our fertility" (I'm assuming by the state); while a teen pregnancy rate for the same demographic five times that of non-Maori is something that apparently cannot be construed as a potentially negative issue; and a woman's fertility is described as a "precious gift" that is "not meant to be the responsibility of one person, alone".

If she got any more overtly pro-life, she'd be able to hand out a latter-day Cross of German Motherhood.

Looking ahead to September 21st later this year, I'm not entirely sure that the problem's going to resolve itself, either. National hasn't released its List yet, so there's very little point playing female fantasy football with its Caucus arrangements - but in terms of support partners, the Maori Party looks likely to either shrink down to a port-a-loo sized Caucus of one (male), or possibly be wiped out entirely depending upon how Waiariki goes. ACT remains the Party of Rich White Men by both policy and politician; while possibly the greatest political bogey-man faced by the cause of Kiwi women is probably the specter-cum-spectacle of Colin Craig entering into Parliament.

If his many and various pronouncements about female promiscuity, how he'd resign as an electorate MP rather than vote in favour of on-demand abortion; or the word of Russel Norman about what Craig thinks the place of women is, aren't enough evidence for you ...

... then perhaps consider the fact that Colin Craig is apparently his party's Spokesman for Women's Affairs (a distinction he shares with Australian Minister for Women's Affairs, Tony Abbott); and his stated belief that "gender equality is one of those concepts that's mostly on paper. I'm not sure that this is something that's a government thing". I suppose it takes a certain sort of person to immediately ask the question "where are the blokes?" when questions as to how we move to secure greater gender equality and egalitarianism are raised.

So what can we do about it?

Well, on September 20th, as you're no doubt almost tired of being reminded by now, you've got a choice.

You can support one of the parties or candidates who've contributed to a government which apparently views $80 million dollars for a coinage-revamp as apparently being a greater spending priority than $30,000 to keep Christchurch's SafeCare rape crisis service open; and which evidently doesn't see anything particularly wrong or hypocritical in showing off Paula Bennett as an example of the sort of transformative support for women which the welfare system can deliver ... while simultaneously cutting and rolling back for the *next* generation of women who need them exactly the same support mechanisms she herself relied upon.

Or, you can do something different.

You can support parties and candidates which have proven track-records of fostering pro-female policies; and inclusive, egalitarian organizational cultures.

If you're not quite sure where to start, this graphic and accompanying BFM interview might be helpful.

In terms of the key non-government players of this election, each of Labour, The Greens, NZ First, and Internet-MANA can make a strong appeal for your vote. Labour's Caucus has always played host to strong female and female-friendly MPs and was prepared to undertake controversial measures to attempt to ensure greater gender equity therein, while Young Labour additionally deserves recognition for trying to get their parent party to take a stronger stance on abortion.

The Greens' commitment to gender equity hardly requires elaboration, and if you like the idea of achieving parity in representation via internal party rules that can be invoked to secure a 1:1 gender balance in Caucus and a gender-split co-leader position ... then I guess you'll like The Greens. There's certainly much to appreciate in the records of their eight female MPs (from a Caucus of 14, so 57%). Personally, I'm somewhat more wildly excited about their absolutely awesome policy of FINALLY decriminalizing abortion.

As applies my own beloved New Zealand First, I can genuinely state that I'm proud to belong to a Party with near-parity within our Caucus (3/7 MPs, or 43%; and it would be a 50-50 4/8 split if Brendan Horan had resigned his seat upon leaving the Party, allowing next-on-the-List Helen Mulford to come in), and with an active culture of supporting women within positions of power and influence within the Party (at last count including the Deputy Leader, Party President, something like half the Party executive, and numerous Chairpersons and other officeholders). I'm particularly proud of this, because unlike either Labour or the Greens (who use targets and quotas), we've managed to achieve this purely through organizational culture and promoting from our own recognized female talent pool.

Meanwhile, MANA has its whole "Wahine Toa" thing going on (and will likely acquire some gender diversity in its Caucus with the likely election of Annette Sykes later this year); while as for the Internet Party ... well, I think I'll let Miriam speak for herself.

In any case, while this article has focused upon how our MPs represent and legislate for Kiwi women; that doesn't mean its relevance is only *for* Kiwi women. We all have a vote and a say on the 20th of September, and regardless of what gender or orientation you identify with, your vote counts equally when it comes to producing progressive change.

So, whether male, female, intersex, transgender, or just plain pissed off ... please use it wisely to support parties and candidates that are going to help make the situation for women in this country better. Not worse.

Or you might wind up being represented by a government replete with MPs who eschew feminism as unnecessary in favour of instead "[working] with people in a sort of a relational, discussion way."

This piece is dedicated to Pareen; for making a Feminist of me, by changing the way I viewed the world.