A bunch of less-loving questions about the new coalition deals, like how badly the Maori Party's mana has been damaged by its deal and whether Sir Roger Douglas will be on the leadership council

As much as I hate to mess with Jon Johansson's uplifting mood of aroha and the media's uncritical reports of National's coalition-forming honeymoon period, I've got some questions. Lordy, do I have a lot of questions. And they're not full of love.

  • Won't the Maori Party look at ACT's coalition deal and be kicking itself for not negotiating harder? If they're meant to be the ballast to ACT, then the government is going to tilt well to the right after ACT got much more out of National in terms of policy concessions. Both minor parties have five seats, but the Maori Party did not win support for a single piece of legislation. They got National not to abolish the Maori seats, a concession they'd won before the election, and a promise-nothing review. ACT got two bills supported through to select committee, the multi-billion dollar emissions trading scheme put on hold and thermal generation re-instated, two advisory groups to advance other policy priorities (productivity and the RMA), two taskforces on public sector spending, a working group on education funding, and a leadership council. Last week's rushed hui and meetings with iwi leaders urged the party to get "the best deal possible". Judging by the results, sadly, the Maori Party negotiators failed.
  • Why has the party that was meant to be looking forward to a brigher future chosen to dredge up two of the most divisive issues from the past decade of New Zealand politics – bulk-funding and the Foreshore and Seabed Act?
  • What plans does ACT have for education, not that it has its fingers in that pie? An associate ministership and an inter-working party means you can expect policy initiatives on that front.
  • Who needs to be in Cabinet (and who's got time?) when there was so many councils, taskforces, and working parties to attend? Will Sir Roger Douglas will be on the National-ACT leadership council, and if he is, might that not be even better, more exclusive access than the Cabinet table?
  • Does anyone understand the huge implications of ACT's Taxpayers' Rights bill, that National has promptly promised to support to select committee, "with the aim of passing into law a cap on the growth of core Crown expenses"? It would allow all government spending increases to merely match the rate of inflation plus population growth. Think that through... The government could only offer a new public service if it cut some existing service. Want proper public transport in Auckland? Cut health funding. Want a big pay rise for nurses and police officers? Cut teachers' pay. Want a new scheme to make first house purchases more affordable, or an extension to KiwiSaver, or any other new social policy, and it means a cut somewhere else in public services. As Bernard Hickey has written on the Stuff website, "It would effectively do for fiscal policy what the Reserve Bank Act did for monetary policy. It would be one way to take the politicians out of government". Me, I quite like politicians in my government. I think it's called democracy.
  • Have we wasted the whole last decade debating climate change policy, if we need to go back and start from scratch with a select committee review of ETS? No party was happy with the scheme that was finally passed in September. It took years of negotiation and huge political compromise from those who voted for it. Now National will consider "any amendments or alternatives to it, including carbon taxes". Are we just starting again then? Given that US president-elect Barack Obama is committed to a cap and trade scheme and even the United Nations is working on plans for a "Green New Deal", why on earth are we choosing to give up our competitive advantage (ie years of policy work)?
  • Why is so much of New Zealand business so conservative and, well, stupid? New Zealand's brand is "100% Pure", right? And protecting brand value is what good business does, right? And if we don't stay ahead of other western countries as they green their economies, we're going to struggle to maintain that brand, and with it our export orders, right? So why oh why does New Zealand business support delaying an emissions trading scheme? Our business leaders often praise America and its businesspeople for their business acumen. Well, California has made a commitment to leading the world's nacent green economy. The Los Angeles Business Council, for example, just last week emphasised "the existence of billions of dollars in economic opportunity related to the burgeoning industry that includes solar and wind energy technologies, as well as water conservation and emission-reduction solutions". US venture capitalists pumped $1.1 billion into the clean and renewable energy sector last quarter, up 90 percent on the same quarter last year. Perhaps they have a clue?
  • Why is New Zealand business stupid, part II. This from Business New Zealand this morning: “Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says more laws and regulations always mean more government spending.... The creation of the new role of Minister of Regulatory Reform and the promise of taskforces to identify wasteful spending are a positive response to the problem". Really, without any irony at all? So with a straight face you're saying that more taskforces and ministers – ie more bureaucracy – will help cut bureaucracy. Send in the clowns.
  • Ditto National. How many taskforces, working parties, and councils can a party that campaigned on less government form before it looks ridiculous?
  • When will ACT and the Maori Party first come to blows? (Oh, while I was writing this piece). And will National be able to hold them together?
  • What is a Big Game Hunting Council? And will Sarah Palin be hired as a consultant?

Well, that's a few for a start. Feel free to add your own to the conversation.

 

 

Comments (9)

by Graeme Edgeler on November 17, 2008
Graeme Edgeler

One from me:

National - couldn't you have tasked someone to proof-read the agreements?

"National lead government", "National led government", "National-led Government" or "National Party-led Government"? And if you're trying to argue that this isn't a (loose) coalition but merely a confidence & supply agreement, shouldn't it be the one you missed - "the National Government"?

:-)

by Graeme Edgeler on November 17, 2008
Graeme Edgeler

Won't the Maori Party look at ACT's coalition deal and be kicking itself for not negotiating harder? ... Both minor parties have five seats, but the Maori Party did not win support for a single piece of legislation.

Let's not be too harsh on the Māori Party , they had a very different brief. And let's not ignore what ACT had had to promise in return to get support for the first readings of their bills:

National has identified the initiatives on National’s “My key commitments to you” and “National’s Post-Election Action Plan” publications as priorities for them. ACT agrees to support the legislation required to give effect to these policies.

Had the Māori Party promised support for every legislative initiative of National's first 100 days, they'd likely have gotten some pet first readings too.

by Sam Vilain on November 17, 2008
Sam Vilain

Here's one.  Given Mr. Hide's insistence before the election that they were not seeking policy concessions, why has he then betrayed his mandate by making them?

by Craig Ranapia on November 17, 2008
Craig Ranapia

Let's not be too harsh on the Māori Party , they had a very different brief.

And they didn't bluff badly on a very weak hand, like Rodney did.  Sorry, but does anyone else think bitching John Key as being "to the left of Helen Clark" on Sunday morning was a masterclass in how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

This might scramble the ideological radar a little, but too many more blurts like this, and Tariana Turia might be finding her calls to the the Prime Minister's Office getting returned a lot quicker than Rodders'.  There are plenty of bills that get through the first reading without getting anywhere near the statute books.

 

 

 

by Graeme Edgeler on November 17, 2008
Graeme Edgeler

Given Mr. Hide's insistence before the election that they were not seeking policy concessions, why has he then betrayed his mandate by making them?

I thought the promise was no bottom lines?

Surely he intended to seek policy change ... who knows, maybe he suggested a half dozen things before these ones were accepted?

by Tim Watkin on November 18, 2008
Tim Watkin

Graeme, you say the Maori Party had a different brief. In what regards? Surely you increase mana by making policy gains and improving the lot of your people, not just getting "the baubles of office". I don't mean to be too hard. I have more admiration for Pita Sharples than most MPs and believe he will be a fine minister. But the Maori Party did not get a single one of their policies on the legislative agenda. Nothing on tax cuts for the poorest or the minimum wage, nothing on iwi management in/of prisons, nothing even on extending 20 hours free ECE to Kohanga Reo or small business tax concessions, which you would imagine National would have happily considered. If that was me negotiating, I would think I should have got more.

Craig, I don't agree that the Maori Party had a weak hand. The political capital they were dealing with was huge. National wanted someone other than ACT, for perception if nothing else, and Key wanted the long-term investment in votes that the deal represents for National.

by Graeme Edgeler on November 18, 2008
Graeme Edgeler

Graeme, you say the Maori Party had a different brief. In what regards? Surely you increase mana by making policy gains and improving the lot of your people, not just getting "the baubles of office" ... If that was me negotiating, I would think I should have got more.

I'm not sure you do enhance (not increase - is there a difference - who knows?) mana that way. I'm not saying I understand what mana-enhancing means, but I suspect a lot of us don't. In last week's episode on Agenga, Professor Whatarangi Winiata, Māori Party President(?) had been explaining it for a while, and after being asked if entrenchment was a bottom line ("no") was challenged by Barry Soper that if National still planned to scrap the Māori seats "that wouldn't be mana-enhancing, would it?". He replied that it could be, as National might be seen as giving notice of their rangatiratanga.

I'd certainly suggest that mana-enhancement might not occur if the Māori Party had to sign up to every measure in National's first 100 days, as Act had to get their concessions. This was the Māori Party's different brief: start a relationship, don't sign up to everything, don't become a supplicant. The Māori Party could have gotten some first readings, but it would have had to agree to support legislation with which it may not agree. I suspect that wouldn't be mana-enhancing.

by HIlary Stace on November 18, 2008
HIlary Stace

Great column Tim. Just the questions I have been hoping the mainstream media will raise. Hopefully, they will take a lead from you.

And I thought NZ already led the world as one of the easiest places to do business.

by Craig Ranapia on November 18, 2008
Craig Ranapia

Craig, I don't agree that the Maori Party had a weak hand.

Blame my wonky syntax, because I don't think the Maori Party had a bad hand either.  And it got significantly better after Roger Douglas decided to get his bitch on first thing on Sunday morning after a pretty weak party vote.

But, seriously, I think the Maori Party are playing a very smart long game. Getting bills you know nobody is going to support onto the order paper is easy.  And meaningless.

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