Edwards: 3. Reform, reform, reform

Political scientist and commentator Bryce Edwards believes that “New Zealand badly needs a revolt against the current political system for the good of our democracy” and has published “my 10-point manifesto for change in New Zealand”.

Each of his ten ‘pledges’ will be posted separately over the next few days.

Pledge Three: Reform, reform, reform

The MMP electoral system works very well, but needs further reform. All existing parties have an interest in preserving the status quo, or only allowing minor tweaks – hence no change occurs, despite an Electoral Commission inquiry and others recommending change.

The most obvious change needed is the abolition of the five per cent threshold that undemocratically prevents new parties challenging incumbents. This would also solve the electoral seat farce in which parties are exempted from the threshold, and various deals are done to game the system.

Edwards: 1. Bring fresh ideas

Political scientist and commentator Bryce Edwards believes that “New Zealand badly needs a revolt against the current political system for the good of our democracy” and has published “my 10-point manifesto for change in New Zealand”.

Each of his ten ‘pledges’ will be posted separately over the next few days.

Pledge One: Bring fresh ideas

An injection of fresh thinking is badly needed. A popular revolt would care less about popularity and opinion polls, but more for dealing with the huge problems faced by society. Heartfelt and passionate ideas and policies would replace those created for “middle New Zealand” by focus groups and other market research. The notion a radical policy might cause offence, or be seen as “extreme” would not disqualify it. In other words, a true “contest of ideas” might be allowed, and convictions appreciated.

Vision for ‘best city in the world’

Auckland mayoral candidate John Palino has released a manifesto book titled A Vision for Auckland (PDF) in which he outlines how he thinks he can make Auckland “the best city in the world”.

Auckland has an amazing opportunity that many cities around the world could only dream of. While some may be opposed to growth, the alternative is far worse. So let’s take advantage of our challenge and make Auckland the best city in the world.

In ways an aim of ‘best city’ may be admirable, but it’s an impossible overall goal – impossible to judge and impossible to achieve.

The purpose of this book is to lay out a very clear choice between the current council’s strategy, which I am convinced is not working and will not work, and an alternative strategy I will put before you. I appreciate your reading this book and allowing me to paint a picture for you of my vision for Auckland.

Palino’s key strategy planks:

  • To implement a comprehensive and transparent budget that reduces rates by 10% over my first term
  • To introduce an Auckland Ratepayers Bill of Rights that will hold Council responsible for meeting and managing within budgets
  • To make Council spending transparent to Ratepayers so they can judge whether or not their money is being spent sensibly
  • To ensure Council priorities are focused on core services and resolving the key problems facing Auckland
  • To provide a planning and regulatory framework that allows and encourages the private sector to genuinely provide affordable new housing in the numbers required
  • To promote economic growth by ensuring business friendly policies and a pragmatic regulatory environment and associated processes
  • To provide a long term city plan that reduces traffic congestion by creating an environment that encourages and allows businesses to develop in locations and provide employment opportunities near where people want to live
  • To abandon the current council ideology that increasing housing density in existing suburbs will solve traffic congestion problems and provide affordable housing
  • To provide an Iwi consultation process for resource consents that is limited to genuine cultural issues, that is speedy and cost certain
  • To hold council officers to account for poor or tardy decisions by establishing a Citizens Decision Review Panel, including relevant external experts, that ratepayers can appeal to

Most of those are fairly general political palaver.

Will anyone believe that it’s feasible or possible to reduce rates by 10% in one term?

A mayor doesn’t have the power to do what they promise in an election campaign. The full council votes on everything, so to achieve what the want a major has to win majority vote in the election, and majority vote for everything in council.

So rates reduction and everything else Palino has in his book is aspirational rather than a promise.

Palino will have to convince voters he can manage a mayoralty and manage the council, and have his say along the way.

‘Best city in the world’ is over the top unattainable. ‘Best candidate for mayor’ might be possible.

Corbyn at a glance

The Telegraph gives a summary of Jeremy Corbyn.

Profile:

Age: 66
Constituency: North Islington
MP since: 1983
Education: Adams’ Grammar School, Shropshire
Before politics: Official for the National Union of Public Employees
Did you know? He has won ‘Parliamentary Beard of The Year’ five times

What he stands for:

  • Ending austerity
  • Protecting workers’ rights
  • Blocking welfare cuts
  • Scrapping tuition fees
  • Creating a National Education Service (like the NHS for healthcare)
  • Ensuring the NHS is completely publicly run
  • Renationalising railways and utilities
  • Abolishing Trident
  • Withdrawing from Nato
  • Introducing rent controls in unaffordable areas
  • Investing more in the arts

“I don’t do personal, I don’t do reaction, I don’t do abuse. Life is too short and it devalues the political process. I think we should try and enhance the democratic life of this country, not reduce it to that level”

– Jeremy Corbyn 

Manifesto:

  • A new national investment bank to encourage growth and reduce the deficit
  • Public ownership of the railway and energy sector
  • Replace Trident with jobs that retain the skills of the workers
  • Reduce the welfare bill through growth and investment
  • Housebuilding programme and rent controls
  • Integrate social care with the NHS
  • A new national education service providing universal childcare, abolishing student fees, restoring grants and funding adult skills
  • Scrap zero hours contracts and a national living wage for all, regardless of age

Wikipedia summary:

As a self-described democratic socialist, Corbyn has advocated:

  • the re-nationalisation of public utilities and railways
  • re-opening coal mines
  • combating corporate tax evasion and avoidance as an alternative to austerity
  • abolishing university tuition fees and restoring student grants
  • a unilateral policy of nuclear disarmament and cancellation of the Trident nuclear weapons programme
  • quantitative easing to fund infrastructure and renewable energy projects
  • reversing cuts to the public sector and welfare made since 2010 by the government of David Cameron.

He is a member of:

  • the Socialist Campaign Group
  • the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • Amnesty International
  • the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
  • the National Chair of the Stop the War Coalition.

The Internet Party’s ‘Action Agenda’

The Internet Party has launched it’s website and member recruitment campaign. As promised it has ten items on an ‘Action Agenda’. Policy details are promised “in our upcoming manifesto”.

At first glance white text on a dark background is not the easiest to read.

A party that will give you faster, cheaper Internet, create high-tech jobs, protect your privacy, and safeguard our independence.

Generic points but in a unique cluster.

Cheaper, Unlimited Internet

Deliver cheaper, unlimited, high-speed Internet for everyone.

The Internet Party will put an end to the bandwidth monopoly, and stop the overpricing and limitations that are harming New Zealand’s digital future. We will make Internet connectivity 50% cheaper and universally available to all New Zealanders, including rural areas. We will take direct action to expand New Zealand’s infrastructure by building a second submarine cable, offering citizens opportunities to take part in the digital economy. 

Who will pay? There must be up front costs at least. If it’s Government subsidised then we pay by different means.
“Universally available to all New Zealanders” is a big promise, but vague. The internet is available to everyone now, with different degrees of accessibility and cost.
“Including rural areas” – user pays or subsidised?

Innovation and Jobs

Boost innovation and high-tech jobs in New Zealand.

The Internet Party’s policies about the digital economy and the environment will bring more innovation, investment, and high-tech jobs to New Zealand. We will double the research and development investment in New Zealand from businesses with incentives and benefits. The Internet Party will support skills development and bridge the digital divide to help everyone connect to and benefit from the Internet.

Very vague and little different to what other parties promise.

Spying and Net Freedom

Stop the government from spying on citizens.
The Internet Party will fight against mass surveillance, removing its legal basis in New Zealand. We will establish better oversight of spy agencies to make sure privacy rights are respected. We will progress a Bill of Digital Rights to ensure that freedoms are appropriately protected online. All New Zealanders have the right to interact and communicate online, securely and privately

Few would argue with that in general. Putting it into practice in a country that’s part of a very interconnected world via communications, politics and trade will be challenging.<

Independence

Strengthen New Zealand’s independence.
From the anti-nuclear movement to women’s voting rights, New Zealanders aren’t afraid of doing what’s right. Our independence must continue. We must not sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement unless it ensures New Zealand’s continued ability to shape our own future and be free from undue foreign and corporate influence. The Internet Party will push for a review of our national security arrangements to ensure they reflect New Zealand’s future interests.

Independence always has to be balanced against inter-dependence, we can’t cut ourselves off from the world, so this will be a lot harder than it sounds. Anything like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement  has to involve trade-offs. The “national security arrangements”  statement means little.

Copyright Reform

Reform copyright laws.

The Internet Party will draft a modern copyright law that ensures safe harbour for Internet service providers, promotes fair use, and compels global content creators to make their products available here without the usual delays. We will advance a balanced system that rewards creators and benefits the public, which in turn will attract innovation and new businesses. Free and open access to knowledge and research is a key requirement for New Zealand’s digital future. 

New Zealand, like any country, can’t make “global content creators to make their products available here without the usual delays”.

“Free and open access” – compelling information providers to do it for free? Some? All?

“A balanced system that rewards creators and benefits the public” sounds good but could be very difficult to achieve, especially as it has to deal with a complex situation already in place.

Digital Currency

Introduce a government-sponsored digital currency.

The Internet Party will support the introduction of a New Zealand-sponsored digital currency that is safe, secure and encrypted, providing for instant international transactions at minimal cost. By becoming a digital currency leader, New Zealand can become a key hub for a growing financial sector.

Sounds a good ideal in theory. Can it be put into practice?

Responsive Government

Make government work for its citizens, not the other way around.

The Internet Party will make government more efficient. Today’s government is disconnected from the public, while citizens regularly experience frustration when accessing government services. We will make the government work for the people. Citizens will be able to give feedback on performance, and we’ll ensure that faster and better government service is delivered as a result. 

Another very good in theory ideal. Similar has been proposed for as long as I can remember.  Government after government has found that it isn’t easy to change a very well established public service organisation.

Will it grow government services? Or will efficiencies reduce the number of jobs required.

 Modern Schools

Modernise schools and the education system.

With our vast knowledge and experience with technology, we are committed to improving New Zealand’s schools. We will ensure high-speed Internet connects every classroom in a safe and teacher-led environment, and that teachers and students are provided with the necessary tools to succeed. The Internet Party pledges to fix the unacceptable Novopay debacle as a priority.

Sounds good. Radical changes in education have often been difficult to get accepted let alone implemented.

How will it be done and HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST?

Environment

Encourage green technologies and protect our environment.

The Internet Party supports a clean energy future. We support investing in clean energy technologies that minimise our impact on the environment and promote sustainable development. We will push for New Zealand to become a world leader in green technologies and smart homes and cities. The Internet Party will work to build green data centres in New Zealand and attract global online companies.

Most of this would be agreed to by all parties. On John Key’s recent trip to China agreements were made to promote green technologies between the countries.

How much will investments in green technologies cost? Will there be a good return on the investment?

And More…

The Internet Party will nominate candidates who are experts in important areas of social policy and reducing social inequalities. We will lead identification of successful global examples, and adapt them to New Zealand based on data-mining, evidence and data-led policy development. Party members and experts will play a direct role in the formation of the Internet Party’s policies.

First they have to attract candidates who are experts. All parties have difficulty in attracting top calibre candidates especially parties with doubtful chances of success. The Internet Party has shown it can recruit people to administrative roles – being apparently well financed helps – but top people may need to see a reasonable chance of electoral success before committing themselves.

There can only be one candidate with the best chance of succeeding. There will only be some people at the top of the party list.

Most of this sounds fine and most people would see little wrong with it – if it could be achieved. But it’s mostly vague and virtually all parties could claim something similar for themselves.

This is a reasonable first up effort – it takes a lot of time to develop substantial policy, and you need a party to do that. Until today there were no members, and until it is registered there is no party – at best several weeks away.

It’s time consuming but not difficult to write up fine sounding policies.

But most people don’t vote for policies, they vote for personalities, they vote for people who they think can do a good job in Parliament.

Until detailed policies are developed and especially until a credible party leader and candidates are known this is an ok early stages work in progress.

This isn’t really an Action Agenda, it’s a starting point. A lot of substantial action will be required.

 

Comparing manifestos

Comparing party manifestos…

Traditional party manifesto:

Your NZ party manifesto: