The boringness of the 2017 New Zealand General Election

The longer that I’ve lived away from New Zealand the less that I’ve cared about following the news and blog coverage of the day to day political dramas. However, with the 2017 New Zealand General Election less than two months away I would have expected the competition between the two main parties to have become much closer than it is.

A little over six months ago John Key stepped down as Prime Minister and Bill English, who previously lead the National Party to their biggest defeat became Prime Minister. Since then there has been a few scandals within the National Party, namely, the Todd Barclay secret recordings affair. However, despite these upheavals within the incumbent party there has been very little change in their poll numbers with a current average of around 46% primary support.

In contrast, earlier today, Andrew Little’s leadership of the Labour party came to an end as their average poll numbers dropped to 25% and lower. If the new leader Jacinda Ardern can attract voters back to the party their numbers may improve slightly, but I cannot see Labour doubling their primary vote or taking a huge amount of support away from the National Party.

The reality of the New Zealand political landscape is that it is really boring. Although the National Party has been in power for nine years over three terms they have done extremely well in not giving many concessions to their more conservative and extreme right supporters and coalition partners. As a government they have been well disciplined and as a whole the country has grown economically.

While this stability is a blessing that other countries, including Australia, can only dream about (in the same time Australia has had four Prime Ministers and many more leadership spills) it also means that the opposition party has had very few big issues to create as a point of difference from the National Party. Furthermore, when the Labour Party does try and propose something different they often go too far. For example, they currently have a policy which proposes cutting immigration to New Zealand by up to 30,000 people.

Policies which harm the economic growth or unsettle a population which is entirely built on migration are unlikely to win many new supporters. Rednecks and other anti-immigration supporters have their fringe parties to support and Labour really needs to focus on the important day to day issues which will gain them supporters from the centre and centre-right. Policies such as committing to improved rail links in the major cities or changing the taxation system such that low income earners are better off without adversely increasing the tax on higher income earners are ideas that often get broad support. In particular with taxation you could introduce a tax-free threshold, increase taxes slightly at the higher income bands to offset the tax loss without affecting the overall tax payments on a median income earner, and still introduce a small capital gains tax. Policies which are well explained and are positive for the country are likely to gain supporters from the centre of the political spectrum.

Unfortunately, it appears New Zealand is on track for yet another National Party dominated government. Once again, I wish that more young people would vote as many of the parties and policies which are best geared towards them come from parties on the left. Without a strong opposition it enables the ruling party to easily push through laws and policies which are damaging to large minority groups without consequence.

An open letter to the politically apathetic Facebook generation #votenz

To all who will listen,

Voting: simple and easy, even from overseas.

Next Saturday, each eligible New Zealander will be given the opportunity to vote for who they wish to represent them in government for the next three years.

Unfortunately a large number of young people won’t use this opportunity and as a result their opinion won’t be expressed.

The sad reality is that many people will happily answer online polls, express frustration via status updates and in general complain (often quite rightly) about how crap it is to be young won’t leave the house to pop down to their local school or community hall to vote and make a difference where they actually can.

However, this is the true reality: there is more power in casting a vote than three years of online polls, status updates, and complaining combined.

In New Zealand, under the MMP voting system, every vote is equal, and every vote matters.

But, when you don’t vote you are giving up that equality, you are letting someone else decide, and they will surely decide what is best for themselves, not for you.

For young people this election is particularly relevant for two key reasons: minimum wage/employment and education.

Currently the minimum wage in New Zealand is $12.75/hour and in Australia it is $15.51 AUD/hour which converted to NZ dollars is $20.52/hour – almost double.

If National is re-elected to government their policy is to set a youth minimum wage of 80% of the full minimum wage. That would lower the NZ minimum wage to $10.20/hour – less than half that of Australia’s. In other words young people get screwed.

National have also spent the last three years in government making it harder and more expensive to access education. Entry to university and polytechs are now capped, fees have continued to rise, and it is much harder to get student loans and if National get re-elected expect this to get worse.

Put simply, youth unemployment is over 17%, there are few jobs, people who currently have jobs can expect to be paid less for the same work, and upskilling is a tough gig. Young people are being screwed.

However, most other parties have policy to set the minimum wage to $15/hour and increase access to education.

But while young people continue to moan on Facebook, and fail to vote, they will continue to be screwed by a government that doesn’t care about them.

Next Saturday is an opportunity to change that and elect a government that does represent you.

About a third of people under the age of 25 are not enrolled to vote. If this is you then please enrol you must do so before Friday 25th November. You can enrol here: http://www.elections.org.nz/app/enrol/

Most importantly make sure you go out and vote on Saturday.

Chur,
Passionate young kiwi, living in Australia, wishing to call NZ home again someday.

Auckland Council Elections – Where My Ticks Went

It has just taken me an hour and 20 minutes to decide who to vote for in the elections for the new Auckland Council. I tried my best to read all the candidate blurbs and make an informed choice. I did not follow a particular party but instead judged each candidate on their vision and experience. And here is where my votes went:

Auckland Mayor: Len Brown.
I chose to vote for Brown to strategically stop John Banks from winning. My first preference was for Andrew Williams but the chances of him winning are so slim that I do not want to waste my vote.

Auckland Council – Waitemata and Gulf Ward: Rob Thomas.
It is likely that Mike Lee will win this seat, however, of the six candidates, I chose Thomas as he appears to have the best vision for Auckland and is not an old politician but rather a fresh face.

Auckland Council – Waitemata Local Board:

  • Anna Booth
  • Jesse Chalmers (City Vision)
  • Shale Chambers (City Vision)
  • Christopher Demsey (City Vision)
  • Rohan Evans
  • Bruce Kilmister (City Vision)
  • Rob Thomas

In my local board my votes went primarily to the left. However, I did not select every City Vision candidate, instead I chose independents who would bring a good mix of skills to the table as well as some experienced old hands.

Auckland District Health Board:

  1. Helen Gaeta
  2. Edward Saafi (Citizens and Ratepayers)
  3. Jo Agnew (City Vision)
  4. Judith Bassett (Citizens and Ratepayers)
  5. Moira Macnab
  6. Ian Ward (Citizens and Ratepayers)
  7. Jeanette Elley (City Vision)

My votes for the ADHB was split across both the left and the right. I chose candidates who have experience in the health system not those who are there for politics or business reasons.

The mess that is the UK Elections

It is amazing how much technology can change the shape of history, can shape our future, and can shape the outcome of elections. A little over a year ago we saw the election of Barack Obama to the United States Presidency off the back of a massive campaign using new media. Now thanks to two televised election debates we are seeing a mini revolution in UK politics. The only problem is this mini revolution may be the biggest political revolution that never happens because with the UK still using the First Past the Post voting system the party that wins the most number of votes may fail to govern.

Like Australia, the United States, and many other countries the UK has traditionally had two major political parties, the left leaning Labour Party, and the right leaning Conservatives. For a few parliamentary terms the Labour Party will rule and once the voters get sick of them the Conservatives will rule until the cycle reverses. The way in which these governments are elected comes down to local electorates rather than voting for the party you want to win you vote for your local MP. The party that has the most number of electorate MPs elected will get to govern. This is different from NZ politics where under MMP you have two votes one for your local MP and one for the party you wish to govern with the parliament being made up with a mixture of local MPs and party list MPs.

Now the reason a mini revolution has occurred in England is because for the first time Nick Clegg, the leader of the Social Democrats a small minority party, has been included in two televised leaders debates alongside the leaders of the both the Conservative and Labour parties. And in both of these debates Clegg has won. This has seen the Social Democrats rocket up the polls on the popular vote to a position where they are beating Labour and in some poles even leading the Conservatives. This has also thrown the May 6 election wide open with the real possibility of a hung parliament.

The biggest problem with all this analysis though is it may amount to nothing all because of the way FPP operates. The NZ Herald puts it this way:

The really surprising thing about the Nick Clegg surge is that almost nothing has changed.

That may seem an odd thing to say after 10 days in which Labour has been forced into third place in the opinion polls and the Liberal Democrats have broken through for the first time since the formation of the Social Democratic Party nearly three decades ago.

But the way votes translate into seats means that, unless the Lib Dems get up to 36 or 37 per cent of the vote, they remain the third party in seats.

And while Clegg’s party remains the third party in the House of Commons, the outcome of the election is decided by the gap between the Conservatives and Labour.

The shape of politics will be transformed on May 6. That may be the beginning of the end for the Labour Party. And yet the outcome of the election remains surprisingly unchanged.

The reason is that Clegg’s surge has been uncannily even-handed in its effect on the other two parties. The Conservatives have fallen 4.5 points in the polls, on average, since the first debate, and the Labour drop has been the same.

The gap between the two is therefore unchanged, at about 6.5 points, which suggests the Tories would be the largest party in a hung parliament – which is where the country was before the Cleggshell was dropped on this campaign.

The voters are likely to end up, therefore, with David Cameron as prime minister, leader of a minority Conservative government.

All of this screams out that the who democratic process of FPP is wrong, for a party to be able to gain the most number of popular votes and not govern is wrong, for a party to be able to govern on only 30% support is wrong. And focusing on New Zealand for a second this is the exact reason why we should not move back towards FPP or change away from MPP. It is often argued that MMP gives small parties too much power, but I would rather have good, cross party support for well written laws than be ruled by a minority forcing their sole thoughts on the nation.

This morning the Green Party posted a good video about the problems with the UK election to their blog:

Left or Right. There is no centre.

This is a summary graph of the political polls over the past three years. Look at the recent end. National is dropping. But so is Labour. Who is rising? The Greens and Act. What does that mean?

a) The minor parties matter!

b) A vote for Act or National will result in a right wing government. A vote for the Greens or Labour will be a left wing Government.

The choice is yours! This election is not all over. It is not a done and dusted result. It is wide open and your vote matters.

Rock the Vote. November 8 2008.

Green Party Billboards

Yesterday the Green Party launched its billboards for the upcoming election. I particularly like this one:

The problem however is that New Zealand is not on the centre of the earth. It must be!

So in setting out on resolving this problem I decided to be inclusive of all and therefore put the entire globe, spinning behind it. And viola!