“Reached the limits of what Government can do”

Comments made by Bill English in his speech at Ratana suggesting that Government had “reached the limits of what Government can do” have been criticised, but I think he makes a valid point.

ODT reported:

In a 10-minute speech which included a brief Te Reo introduction, Mr Little also criticised Prime Minister Bill English’s comments at Ratana yesterday. Mr English told Ratana members to “reawaken the spirit of enterprise” among Maori because Government had “reached the limits of what government can do – government grants, programmes, more public servants.”

Mr Little responded: “I come here to say that’s an abdication of leadership and an abdication of the responsibility of Government.”

But Andrea Vance at 1 News reported more detail: PM Bill English tells elders at Ratana the Government isn’t abandoning Maori

Andrea Vance: Both Mr English and the church seem to be in tune over pulling Maori out of poverty.

Bill English: Somehow along the way we have reached the limits of what Government can do, the limits of Government grants, programmes, more public servants.

englishratana

And what I see around the country, and I think it’s obvious now to every New Zealander, is this burgeoning spirit of enterprise.

Piri Rurawhe (Ratana Church Secretary): That’s always been a whakauru (?) of Ratana. We need to help ourselves before we can help anyone else, and we like that whakauru.

Andrea Vance: Mr English says the Government isn’t abandoning Maori.

Bill English: Government is learning much better how to work with the people who know the people.

Apart from the overdone platitude ‘every New Zealander’ I think English makes a lot of sense here.

We can’t sit back and expect the Government to fix everything. It is often far more effective if the Government helps and encourages communities and families to help themselves as much as possible.

Obviously some Government assistance, funding and interventions are necessary, but people – individuals, families and communities – need to take responsibility for their own problems.

Solutions cannot easily or effectively be imposed, they have to be wanted, and those with problems (with some exceptions) ultimately need to address and resolve them themselves as much as possible.

There is only so much Government can do. Recognising this is important. I think English is on the right track here.

National’s ‘index of shame’

In Simon Wilson’s latest article in a series that mainly focusses on what Labour needs to do to turn around their failing strategies lists what he calls THE SHAME INDEX in  National’s Index of Shame, and the other issues the left needs to focus on this election.

Shame on them. Shame. On. Them. And disgust on them, because there’s an awful lot for Labour and the Greens to shame the government with. This is an incomplete list.

Wilson makes no attempt to disguise where his political preferences lie.

1. Child poverty

Combatting child poverty is a mindset. When you declare it, and mean it, you’re saying you’re putting children first, you’re going to work systematically and comprehensively and you’re going to prioritise this work. And it’s a terrifically valuable Trojan Horse: you can’t combat child poverty without doing education, health, housing, domestic violence…

That’s a lot of things to sort out – of course everyone wants less ‘child poverty’ and domestic violence, and better education, health and housing, but to be able to afford to spend more money on them you need a sound economy, sufficient tax revenue, and an appreciation of the challenges of making meaningful differences on all of these things. And the time it would require – waving a political wand is not going to cut it.

2. Filthy rivers

It’s about cows. Not just cows, but mainly cows.

There’s no doubt that water quality is a major issue of concern. And that the dairy boom is a significant factor. So do we force the number of dairy cows down significantly? Later in the article Wilson wants exports increased, and dairy is one of our biggest  exports.

Improvements are already happening, for example Fonterra requires waterways to be fenced off on farms supplying them with milk. Fixing the problems takes time – can dirty waterways be cleaned up more quickly?

3. Domestic violence

I put this up in a previous post, but where’s the comprehensive All Blacks-led campaign to remake the idea of what masculinity is?

Domestic violence (and violence in general) is one of the biggest blights on New Zealand society. The current government, and past governments, have tried to address it with some successful changes but nowhere near enough. It will take more than an All Black led campaign to fix it. And the All Blacks are not under the control of Government – why not an MP campaign?

4. Tax evasion

We already accept the principle of equality in our elections, with MMP. We accept it with GST: everybody pays. So why doesn’t the same principle apply to tax on all income?

Governments, through IRD, have worked to reduce tax evasion – it’s illegal so if it can be proven it is prosecuted.

It’s not clear what Wilson suggests here, but I doubt he really means a flat tax on ‘all income’, he doesn’t define income, and I don’t know if he understands what he is proposing or is just  pushing a populist anti-tax evasion  line without really knowing how to deal with it.

5. Farm worker deaths

Since 2013 there’s been a concerted safety campaign in forestry and it seems to be working. But the industry with the biggest number of workplace deaths (nearly five times more than forestry over the last five years) is agriculture. The government refuses to act.

It is certainly a serious problem, but to compare deaths in different industries the number of workers should also be compared. There is in fact about four times as many agriculture deaths per year than forestry deaths – see Workplace fatalities by industry – and the rate of both has dropped since 2013-14.

I would be surprised if the government “refuses to act”. In fact a government agency is trying to do something: “WorkSafe is partnering with farmers and their families, rural community, and sector organisations on a comprehensive information and education campaign starting from February 2015 to tackle the high number of deaths and serious injuries on farms.”

6. Underfunded mental health services

How is this not a major scandal?

Certainly a good case could be made to fund mental health, and all health services, better. How much of an increase in the total health budget would be enough? And where would that money come from?

7. The surging wealth inequality gap

Did you know the salaries of CEOs in our big companies jumped 10 per cent in 2015 and 12 per cent last year?

The escalation in higher incomes does seem obscene, but what is the solution? Impose income limits on private companies?

Should we care about high incomes? Shouldn’t the focus be on raising low incomes and increasing employment levels and productivity?

8. The housing crisis

Because the government has not wanted to unsettle homeowners or mess with their ability to buy more property, we have a housing crisis that is crippling the country’s major city and fast spreading to other centres too.

That’s an extremely simplistic view on the surge in property prices that is occurring in many countries around the world as well as New Zealand. It

Housing is a big issue but Wilson’s simplistic view is aimed at the effects rather than the causes, which are complex, are difficult to turn around, involves local bodies at least as much as central government, and appears to be more of a political hit than based on facts or reality.

9. The Emissions Trading Scheme

The government’s principal vehicle for meeting international commitments to fight the causes of climate change is ridiculously weak and misguided, partly because it excludes agriculture (46 per cent of our emissions) but also because it does not work as an effective tool for reducing the emissions it does measure.

The NZ ETS was initiated by the last Labour government and was tweaked by National and is ineffective. What is not stated nor probably known is what could be effective in it’s place.

One way of reducing agricultural emissions is to reduce animals numbers, which will impact on the exports that Wilson wants to increase.

10. Pike River

This one is pretty simple, really. Promises were made and human decency should prevail.

This is highly contentious but not as simple as Wilson suggests. If body recovery costs more lives who will be blamed? Some Pike River families think it’s a decent decision to leave the bodies where they are.

What is indecent is the level of politicisation of the issue by some. Labour have made noises but haven’t promised to recover the bodies.

11. The Saudi sheep deal

The auditor-general decided there was no evidence Murray McCully had been corrupt in putting this deal together, but she did identify “significant shortcomings”. This shabby affair set a new low for government integrity.

Yes.

12. Housing the homeless

The shortage of emergency and short-term housing for the homeless is appalling in itself, but the added levels of bureaucratic absurdity just beggar belief.

To a large extent yes. Housing  and rental costs are a real and growing problem – but so is housing people who are difficult to house, especially those involved in using or producing drugs.

13. Healthy food in schools

Seriously, what would it cost to get serious about healthy eating in schools?

Wilson takes an odd shot here at a former National MP and links it to Dirty Politics. Is he playing dirty?

Should nutrition guidelines be enforced in school cafeterias?  And all food outlets close to schools controlled? Should more be done to provide ‘free’ (taxpayer funded) breakfasts and lunches to kids at school? No suggestions on any of this from Wilson.

14. Underfunded homecare services for the elderly

What nonsense – and, surely, how easy it would be to fix.

If it was easy and cost effective to fix I think that it would have been done. Does Wilson think that uneconomic underfunding is deliberate? More money will help, but where does that money come from? Taxes from dairy exports?

15. The neglect of Northland

The province of such beauty and such destitution. Northland’s not the only neglected part of the country but it’s one of the most obvious.

No suggestions on how to fix the regions including Northland. I would like to see more done to help regions but writing an online article isn’t a solution, it’s a vague diss.

16. Abuse of children in state care

This is historic but should be addressed better now. Are resources more effective in another inquiry, or in doing something practical?

17. Deep-sea oil drilling

It’s nothing short of perverse for the government to maintain its commitment to deep-sea oil exploration. Not only is it nuts to imagine there is any useful place in the future of this country for a growth in carbon fuels, but the companies themselves are no longer interested.

The Government isn’t spending money on deep sea drilling, they are allowing companies to explore of they choose. If they choose not to what’s the problem? Seems like a gripe without an actual problem.

18. Blaming Helen Clark

Seriously, they’re still doing it, in their ninth year in office.

Clark’s Government did commit the next government to some fairly hefty ongoing costs such as interest free student loans and Work For Families, both of which would be quite difficult to undo, but it does look pathetic to keep blaming Labour (rather than Clark).

This is a mostly vague populist political hit list from Wilson. It’s hard to see it making a significant impact on poliutical change.

I wonder if he balances it with an index of government achievements?

Simon Wilson’s Labour series

Simon Wilson, who left as editor of Metro Mag in October, has written a series of articles at The Spinoff over the last few days that almost appear to be the beginnings of some sort of an election campaign.

His main focus is on what the National led government is doing wrong and what Labour in particular needs to do to take over. His political leanings are fairly obvious. In one article he says he would have voted for David Shearer and Helen Kelly.

But there is quite a bit of interesting and thought provoking content – particularly for Labour if they are willing to concede that their current strategies are failing and they need to lift their game substantially.

The articles up until yesterday:

Welcome to election year in NZ. Here’s how the Labour Party can make it a real race

Does Andrew Little stand a chance of leading a centre-left government into Christmas 2017? Ahead of Labour’s caucus retreat this weekend, Simon Wilson has been pondering their task.

The Andy Plan: A 3-step programme to make Labour’s Little an electable prime minister

If Andrew Little hopes to lead the centre-left to victory in the election later this year, he’s got a lot of work to do. In the second of a six-part series, Simon Wilson sets out the task.

The identity politics debate has become cancerous for the centre-left. One Labour MP showed how to join the dots

Is identity politics destroying the Labour Party or is that just the catchcry of a bunch of old white guys trying to get their own way again? Is Labour really a broad church party? Here’s the third part of Simon Wilson’s analysis of Labour in 2017.

Social investment: the two uninspiring words upon which the entire election could hang

If the National Party gets its policy of “social investment” right it could stay in power for another generation. So what will Labour and the Greens do about it? Here’s part four of Simon Wilson’s analysis of Labour in 2017.

Hear us out: There are lessons for Labour in Trump’s win

What on earth can the left learn from Donald Trump? Quite a lot, as it happens, as Simon Wilson explains in part five of his week-long analysis of Labour in 2017.

I don’t know whether Wilson is angling for a press job with Labour for election year, or is offering up his advice because that’s where his interest lies (or perhaps he may be planning a similar series on National (who he generally blasts in this series), Greens, NZ First and other parties contesting the election.

Wilson’s latest article will be addressed in my next posts – see National’s ‘index of shame’.

Turei: “a very radical economic and social agenda”

In an end of year interview with Stuff  Green co-leader Metiria Turei claims that National have “a very radical economic and social agenda” that will become more obvious now “they don’t have the friendly face of John Key to soften its blow.”

The most common criticisms of the National dominated Government led by John key and under Bill English’s economic management has been that they haven’t done enough, that they have been a do nothing ‘steady as she goes’ Government.

I think that more people will see Turei as the one with a very radical economic and social agenda.

That’s why National have been getting in the high forties in the last three elections (44.93%, 47.31%, 47.04%) and Greens seem to have plateaued (6.72%, 11.06%, 10.70%).

I think there is a fairly strong voter resistance to a government strongly influenced by the Greens even under Russel Norman’s attempts to present a moderate, fiscally responsible party. Turei has always been seen as a radical.

Stuff: There’s a new political landscape now, and Greens co-leader Metiria Turei is here to play

Solving child poverty is so obvious…if only leaders didn’t cheapen the seats of power and the media calmed down a bit.

We should all calm down, let Turei wave a Green wand and all our social and environmental problems will be fixed without any adverse impact on the economy. Heaps of money redistributed to the poor and no oil for the rich.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has some choice words about the political year past.

It delivered some shock results, one shock resignation and a “disgraceful” lack of progress on social issues like poverty and housing, she says.

There has certainly been challenges for the Government on housing, but they have been criticised for not doing enough, not for being radical.

There has also been growing pressure – by political design and aided by media – on inequality and child poverty, and again National have been criticised for not being radical enough.

“John Key never had a commitment to public service. For him, it was never about the best public welfare. I think he saw it as a challenge for him personally and I think he enjoyed quite a bit of the job, at least until these last couple of years.

“He certainly made the role of Prime Minister a much more superficial one than it’s ever been before.”

The public/media side of Government and Prime Minister has always been superficial. Key has generally done well with that, but that doesn’t mean more in depth things haven’t been done with less publicity.

However, Turei offers some praise for Key’s decision to leave when he did.

“I’ve always thought politicians should go at the top of our game…rather than getting kicked out and carried out, walking out on your own two feet is a much better thing to do.

“It was wise the way [Key] did it for himself. What he hasn’t done is leave a genuine legacy for the country.”

It’s too soon to judge Key’s legacy. But Key has succeeded where Turei has failed – they both became MPs in 2002, Key by ousting a sitting MP and winning an electorate, Turei as a list MP.

Key spent 6 years in opposition, then the last eight years leading the Government.

Turei has been 14 years in opposition. The Greens have increased their vote since she has been co-leader but seem to have hit a Green ceiling.

She may still get to experience the realities of being in government, and discover that rapid radical economic and social changes are not as easy to implement as she seems to think. And not without adverse effects.

Next year’s election could be make or break for Turei’s legacy.

“I think it’s going to be a really exciting election, because changing the Government is so possible this time around,” she says.

It’s certainly possible – but it was also possible in 2014 and the Greens were very confident of growing their support significantly so they would have a big say in government, only to be disappointed – so much so that Russel Norman decided to opt out.

But if Turei talks too much about others being very radical on economic and social issues she risks drawing attention to herself and her own ideals, and they are far from conservative.

“A very radical economic and social agenda” probably describes Turei more than any other MP, and certainly more than any other party leader.

Most voters probably see Turei as a Mad Hatter compared to TweedleDumLabour and TweedleDeeNational.

Bill’s Cabinet reshuffle

Bill English announced his Cabinet reshuffle this afternoon.

“An opportunity for the Government to renew itself with fresh energy.”

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will remain the Minister of State Services and Climate Change Issues and will pick up the Police, Women and Tourism portfolios.

Steven Joyce will pick up Finance and Infrastructure

Gerry Brownlee will remain the Leader of the House and retain Supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Defence, and the Earthquake Commission portfolios. He will also be appointed as the Minister of Civil Defence.

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have both picked up additional senior ministerial responsibilities. Adams has had Social Housing added to her Justice portfolio.

Simon Bridges continues as the Minister of Transport and will pick up the Economic Development and Communications portfolios and Associate Finance, while Amy Adams retains Justice, Courts and picks up Social Housing, Social Investment and Associate Finance.

Amy Adams will take a lead role in driving the Government’s social investment approach.

Alfred Ngaro, Mark Mitchell, Jacqui Dean, David Bennett will be new Ministers, Ngaro new in Cabinet.

Alfred Ngaro picks up Pacific Peoples, community and voluntary sector, associate minister for children and associate social housing.

Mark Mitchell gets Stats, associate justice and land information.

David Bennett will be associate immigration minister.

Jonathan Coleman continues in his Health and Sport and Recreation portfolios.

Michael Woodhouse has been promoted up the Cabinet rankings (19 to 9), retaining Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety and picking up the ACC portfolio.

Anne Tolley has picked up Local Government and will also be appointed Minister for Children, where she will continue her work on improving outcomes for children and young people. (Note change from ‘Vulnerable Children’ to Children.

Hekia Parata will retain the Education portfolio until May 1, at which point she will retire from the Ministry to the back bench.

Murray McCully will retain the Foreign Affairs portfolio until May 1 at which point he will retire from the Ministry to the backbench. A decision on his replacement will be made at that time.

Judith Collins (who has lost Police and Corrections) “has not been demoted” takes on new responsibilities in Revenue, Energy and Resources and Ethnic Communities, and is well placed to oversee the significant business transformation work occurring at Inland Revenue.

A number of Ministers largely retain their existing responsibilities, including Chris Finlayson, Nathan Guy, Nick Smith, Todd McClay, Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

Paul Goldsmith and Louise Upston have been promoted into Cabinet.

Goldsmith gets Regulatory Reform and Tertiary Education.

Upston picks up Corrections (she was incorrectly picked as a demotion).

Hekia Parata and Murray McCully will exit the Cabinet in 1 May 2017 and move to the back bench (they won’t stand in the election). This means there will be no by-election in McCully’s  East Coast Bays electorate but English says this is to help with transition in Foreign Affairs.

English says he will make an announcement later on who replaces McCully and Parata.

Nikki Kaye would “likely” get education but has a light workload for now.

Nick Smith, who was rumoured to face demotion, keeps environment and building and construction and is at 15 in the rankings (he was 11). English says this isn’t a demotion, new ones have gone up.

There is no ‘Minister of Housing’. Housing will be covered by Nick Smith (Construction) and Amy Adams (Social Housing)

English appears to have ducked a tough decision on housing – Nick Smith is still effectively the housing minister but there has been a change of title from building and housing to building and construction.

Ministers Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew are departing the Ministry.

English says Goodhew didn’t do anything wrong, but her demotion “it’s just part of a process … she wants to be in Parliament … we are considering other roles for her”.

There will be 21 positions in Cabinet until May 1and a further six outside Cabinet (including two support party Ministers) keeping the total number of Ministerial positions at 27 plus the Parliamentary Under Secretary David Seymour. 

“I would like to thank our support party leaders Peter Dunne, Te Ururoa Flavell, and David Seymour for their continued contribution to a strong and stable government.”

“The Broadcasting portfolio has been disestablished. Its responsibilities now included within Communications & Arts, Culture and Heritage”

Kitchen Cabinet: English, Bennett, Joyce, Brownlee, Bridges, Adams, Coleman.

 

 

 

 

Dotcom claims leaked data for election

On Twitter Kim Dotcom has been hinting at disruption and another attempted hit job on next year’s election in New Zealand, and claims there is a mass of emails waiting to be leaked that were the reason for John Key’s resignation, and will be seriously damaging for the National Government.

National looks in a very strong position, especially compared to the alternatives.

Is he claiming to have been responsible for all of those?

Really? That was an overplayed embarrassing fizzer for Dotcom and is likely to have contributed to the poor election result for the Internet Party.

I think he is overrating his influence a bit there.

Yesterday the Spin Bin posted Bombshell Kim Dotcom Exclusive: 2TB of Leaked Govt Data Will Stun New Zealand In 2017 which included:

You have tweeted that an expected release of government information will take down the National Party in the next general election in 2017. What types of material can we expect to see?

Kim Dotcom: Why do you think John Key resigned? This wasn’t about his family. It’s more likely about the next election and 2 terabytes of emails and attachments that were taken from New Zealand government servers. I heard from a reliable source that the Podesta emails seem like cotton candy compared to the amount of disgusting dishonesty the National government will see leaked at the next election.

Why would ‘a reliable source’ tell Dotcom about this (if it is true)?

Key must know. He’s taken the parachute. He can’t stomach the kind of embarrassment that Clinton had to endure with daily releases of dirty emails. And this time even his media cronies couldn’t have saved him. The Internet and alternative media of reputable truth-telling websites are taking over. Leaks are the new political reality. Over time this will be the cure against dishonest politicians. They just can’t survive in this new environment of information.

So hackers and political activists will decide elections, including next year’s New Zealand election?

Despite the drip feeding of emails by WikiLeaks into the US election it was still a close win for trump, and that was probably swung by James Comey’s intervention.

Many people believe that Donald Trump may be of the same ilk as Hillary Clinton. Would a Labour-led coalition government in New Zealand really be a material difference to your case or any significant improvement for the wider public in general?

Current polls suggest that Labour is nowhere near credible as an alternative government. Dotcom/Wikileaks/whoever would have to seriously discredit National and Winston Peters to ensure a Labour+Greens win.

And there would be a good chance of it backfiring, as happened last election where despite Nicky Hager’s book and Dotcom’s ‘Moment of Truth’ the Internet Party flopped and Labour dropped to a record low.

Kim Dotcom: Donald Trump and Brexit are the punishment the elites deserve. Will the Donald drain the swamp? We will have to wait and see. The swamp is exactly what led to the unlawful destruction of my business and the military-style raid and illegal spying against my family.

A Labour government in New Zealand would have no incentive to drag out the monstrosities committed by John Key and his Attorney General Chris Finlayson against my family.

If so what good would it do helping Labour into power? Dotcom just wants to disrupt everything?

The Attorney General is using every tool of power at his disposal to prevent the unavoidable legal victory that is coming my way. He will fail and he might end up in jail himself.

I won’t stop until the truth about the real Mega conspiracy is fully unearthed. And I expect a Labour government will want an independent inquiry into my case which will see the National Party in disarray and embarrassment for years to come.

That’s contradicting his “no incentive” claim – unless he intends giving Labour an incentive via some generous donations?

This will be a brutal and costly experience for New Zealand but it will also be necessary so that something like this can’t happen again.

Something like Dotcom’s legal and extradition problems?

It appears as if he is prepared to ‘disrupt more than ever’, be brutal and inflict a ‘costly experience’ on New Zealand for his own purposes. I’m not sure how voters would view that but I doubt they will play his game for him.

Dotcom lost credibility last election and failed. On election night he admitted his brand was a significant problem with voters. I don’t think that has changed – all that has changed are his tactics.

I don’t know how he will engineer an electoral swing as big as his ego.

PM changes “do not bode well”

Today’s Herald editorial says that history shows that leadership changes while in Government do not bode well for Bill English and National – but the current situation is quite different to past failures.

Leadership changes do not bode well

The National Government today takes the greatest risk of its tenure – a leadership change. This has happened many times in our political history and not with happy results.

They list:

  • Holyoake lost an election after taking over from an ailing Sydney Holland in mid-term.
  • National was defeated after Sir Keith Holyoake finally handed over to Sir John Marshall (Holyoake was effectively forced out).
  • The Kirk-Rowling Government did not survive the change forced upon it by Norman Kirk’s death.
  • David Lange stood down for Sir Geoffrey Palmer in 1989 and he gave way to Mike Moore the following year (Palmer was rolled), six weeks before the election which it lost.
  • The National Government replaced Prime Minister Jim Bolger with Dame Jenny Shipley (Bolger was rolled by Shipley) and was defeated at the next election.

If Bill English is contemplating this history as he prepares to be sworn-in this afternoon, he may take some comfort from the fact that none of New Zealand’s previous Prime Ministers left office in the same circumstances as John Key.

All quite different circumstances.

The Key Government was most certainly not heading for defeat when its Prime Minister announced his retirement a week ago.

That’s very debatable. It looked unlikely that National would get in again without at least getting NZ First support and that’s far from a given. And polls have at times had Labour+Greens competitive with National.

Key is handing his successor a party still polling high in a third term of office, a growing economy with low unemployment and rising budget surpluses that offer possibilities for additional investment in productivity and infrastructure at the same time as more rapid debt reduction and income tax cuts for the lower paid.

English has been well set up to win the election due later next year, which gives him plenty of time to establish his leadership too.

Not really. English has been given a fairly good opportunity, but a lot depends on how he manages the transition to leader, how the voting public views him in charge and the changes he makes to Cabinet, and many possible outside influences.

There is no direct comparison in history of a handover of leadership that we are just seeing – nor of how weak Labour currently is, requiring at least the Greens or NZ First to get back into power with  a reduced proportion of the majority.

A lot can happen between now and whenever we have the next election (anywhere between March and November next year).

 

New Prime Minister and deputy today

A lot going on in Parliament in what would normally have been a wind down week, with John Key officially resigning this morning, followed by Bill English being sworn in as the new Prime Minister, with Paula Bennett as his deputy.

NZ Herald: Reshuffles for National and Labour ensure political frenzy right up to Christmas break

This week was meant to be a quiet end to the Parliament year but instead a new Prime Minister will be sworn in and reshuffles will take place in both Labour and National before MPs slink off for the summer break.

Bill English will be sworn in by the Governor-General as Prime Minister today with Paula Bennett as his deputy after a special National caucus meeting yesterday morning to anoint the pair as National Party leader and deputy.

The pair met at Parliament yesterday for initial talks while John Key was also at Parliament with wife Bronagh to pack up the rest of his office

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English has already said Steven Joyce will be his finance spokesman and is expected to announce his full new Cabinet before Christmas. English, Bennett and Joyce all declined interviews yesterday.

So that could take a few days still.

Andrew Little has also indicated he will reshuffle his shadow cabinet later this week on the presumption that David Shearer will get the UN job and resign from Parliament.

Most of the plebs will probably be more interested in preparing for Christmas and holidays.

Bennett versus Bridges

Now Bill English has been confirmed as New Zealand’s next Prime Minister – he will be sworn in early next week – attention has turned to the deputy spot, being contested by Paula Bennett.

Bennett has been groomed by National and English in particular for a rise in their ranks, and was briefly acting Prime Minister a couple of months ago when John Key, Bill English and Gerry Brownlee were all overseas.

Bennett would tick Auckland, female and Maori boxes.

She is 47 and has been an MP since 2008, now for new electorate Upper Harbour, and is currently ranked 5th in the National Cabinet. Her responsibilities:

  • Minister of Climate Change Issues
  • Minister of Social Housing
  • Minister of State Services
  • Associate Minister of Finance
  • Associate Minister of Tourism

It’s notable that she has been working under English in Finance and under Key in Tourism.

Bridges has been talked about as a leader of the future for quite a while and some have said he has tried to model himself on Key.

He is 40 and has been MP for Tauranga since 2008, and is currently ranked 9th in the Cabinet pecking order. His responsibilities:

  • Deputy Leader of the House (under Brownlee)
  • Minister of Transport
  • Minister of Energy and Resources
  • Associate Minister of Climate Change Issues
  • Associate Minister of Justice

While a deputy needs to be loyal to their Prime Minister both Bridges and Bennett presumably have an eye towards an English retirement which will leave the top job open.

Government by lottery?

In light of the growing discontent with establishment government around the world – the EU, the UK and the US have all had severe reprimands by voters recently – should radically different ways of governing be considered?

What about choosing a committee of ‘MPs’ by lottery?

Nicholas Reed Smith suggests this at The Spinoff: The Trump phenomenon proves that electoral politics has failed. Time to try something new:

An enduring problem is that our democracies are not really democracies. They are oligarchies masquerading as democracies. Any system which has elections as the centrepiece of its popular participation is inherently flawed and easily corruptible. The Classical Athenians knew this, which is why they preferred lotteries to elections.

There are flaws in any system of government as long as flawed people are involved. The New Zealand system using MMP has it’s flaws – in particular a repressively high threshold imposed by people in the major parties to exclude fresh new ideas and parties – but it generally works pretty well. It allows voters to restrain single party power.

Our inept democracies have produced a kind of “rational ignorance” amongst the masses. People have come to realise that they cannot effect change in our democracies and have gradually (rationally) disengaged from politics. This enveloping rational ignorance also helps explain why post-truth politics has found fertile ground in our systems, as people no longer have the knowledge or the desire to discern fact from fiction.

Because rational ignorance is a natural product of our flawed democratic systems, counteracting it has to start with trying to make our systems more democratic. Minimising our reliance on elections – which carry with them a cacophony of campaign-focussed politics – while bringing citizen deliberation back to the fore is a good starting point.

If ordinary citizens start believing they can influence decision-making on a regular basis, not just by voting every few years, then the rational ignorance which has taken hold will start to dissipate. To do this however, we need to break through the pervasive elitism which casts ordinary people as being too stupid to have any productive role in politics. This is an insidious view of the masses which has aided the rise of oligarchies all over the West.

We do not lack ideas about how a more deliberative system which minimises the influence of elections (and oligarchs) could work. For instance, University of Pennsylvania Professor, Alex Guerrero, has designed a system specifically for the United States called a lottocracy. In a lottocracy, not only would the presidential election be scrapped, the United States Congress, two bodies which broadly look at all issues, would be replaced by 20 to 25 single issue committees of up to 300 people all randomly chosen by lottery.

In a lottocracy, a president (or prime minister) would still exist, but they would be selected by a committee and mainly fulfil ceremonial roles as their executive powers would be almost completely stripped. Such a system seems radical because we have come to see democracy as solely being about elections and not about the direct involvement of the citizenry. Changing this perception is an important precursor to pursuing any kind of deliberative democratic solution.

In an age where post-truth politics is becoming more and more influential and our democracies more and more inept, a whole new way of thinking is required. As philosopher Alex Guerrero puts it, “we don’t just need to change who the captain is; we need a new way to travel.” Finding ways to bring the “demos” back into democracy is a necessary starting point.

One issue with government by lottery is that there is no guarantee of a representative committee – imagine the angst if a committee was dominated by rural white South Islanders, or urban Asians.

Regardless of the merits of this non-democratic approach I can’t see it happening. It would require a Parliament of established members and parties to vote to do themselves out of jobs and out of power. That’s the opposite of how they usually want to arrange things.