How solid are campaign policies and pledges?

A lot of attention is given to policies and pledges and promises and hints during election campaigns. Parties argue for their own ‘if we are in Government’ pitches and examine and criticise opposing parties’ promises.

But how much weight should we put on campaign statements? The way MMP works, especially when there is a balance of power play like now, parties have to compromise, they have to give up some of their own policies and accept others.

Already we have seen that Peters appears to back off Maori seat referendum pledge.

If he stood by that pledge it would rule out governing with Labour (or so Labour have said before negotiations begin) so what would reduce his bargaining power substantially.

The way our MMP works all policies are negotiable after the election.

The cynical amongst us might think that some of the ‘promises’ are made to be broken by a junior party accommodation.

Greens knew that would have to have Labour to get into Government, so would have to give up some of their own policies and accept some of Labour’s.

Even though Labour and Greens had a Memorandum of Understanding to present a combined bid for government a core part of that agreement was to be able to have different policies. Even if Labour+Greens had been able to form a government on their own neither would be able to fulfil all their promises.

Peters has already made an adjustment, and with only 7-7.5% of the total vote will have to accept that many of the NZ First policies won’t (or shouldn’t) hold sway no matter which way they go.

There should always be big caveats considered on all campaign policies and pledges.

Edwards: 7. Focus on the concerns of the masses

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 this week.

Pledge Seven: Focus on the concerns of the masses

Plenty is wrong with New Zealand – economic inequality, housing unaffordability and cultural divisions. This receives lip service from politicians, but hard issues are mostly essentially thrown into either the “too-hard basket” or the “too electorally sensitive basket”. We’re not seeing any radical answers being put forward by the current lot.

A survey this year showed fewer than one in 10 New Zealanders had complete or lots of trust in elected officials, and trust in MPs had fallen by 54 per cent in three years. Clearly, the public need to be listened to – but contemporary politics appears incapable of this.

 

Edwards: 6. No more big money

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 this week.

Pledge Six: No more big money

Contemporary politics is based on big money. Parties need it to pay for the professionals, the politician salaries, the marketing people and the advertising. All parties from National to the Greens are reliant on money from wealthy individuals. And obviously these interests have disproportionate influence in politics.

More importantly, they have their hands on taxpayer funds meant for parliamentary activities, which they invariably use for electioneering instead. This means that they don’t need activists or even members any more. There are many types of taxpayer-funded resources in Parliament – for example, in the most recent financial year, the “Party Member and Support” budgets for National totalled $51m, for Labour it was $35m, and the Greens got $12m.

An anti-establishment party or politician would campaign to reform all of this, and to put a stop to the misuse of taxpayer funds by politicians.

Edwards: 5. Challenge the political elite

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 this week.

Pledge Five: Challenge the political elite

Today’s ruling class is the “political class”, which refers to politicians and their advisers, public officials, and activists that are in the milieu of power.

There’s an increasing awareness this group is killing off democracy with their inward-looking elite style of carrying out politics. They’re responsible for the highly polished, scripted, professionalisation of politics.

An anti-establishment movement would reject this hollow way of operating. Party conferences wouldn’t be empty, stage-managed media affairs, but forums for proper participation. The image-makers and opinion pollsters would be kicked out. Grassroots activists and mass participation would replace the duplicitous advisers and spin-doctors.

Such a movement would bypass the media and speak directly to the disaffected and the forgotten.

Edwards: 4. Chuck our disconnected deadwood

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 this week.

Pledge Four: Chuck our disconnected deadwood

Politics is now just a career – MPs want a job for life. And they want to be remunerated like CEOs or other elite professionals – putting them into the top one per cent of income earners.

Most New Zealanders struggle to buy their own house, but the average MP owns two and a half houses. They all have significant superannuation funds invested. It’s no wonder MPs are disconnected from real life and real people. We now have a Parliament of the rich.

But democracy works better when it’s a calling, not a highly paid career. Amateur politicians standing for office from all walks of life make for a very different type of Parliament and Government. An anti-establishment party could insist on MPs taking home the average salary. This would keep them in touch with constituents. And it would ensure MPs don’t cling on to the life raft of Parliament, simply because of the riches it provides.

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.

Sign up to ‘our values’

ACT MP David Seymour says that refuges should sign up to ‘our values’. This sounds like a populist poke.

NZH: Refugees should sign-up to our values, says Act’s David Seymour

Act Party leader David Seymour welcomed the quota’s increase to 1000 from 2018 – but said new arrivals should sign a “statement of commitment to New Zealand values”, including freedom of speech, and respect for women and those of different sexualities.

“Countries like Australia and Belgium require immigrants to sign a statement of commitment to national values. A New Zealand Values Statement could include a commitment to respect the basic freedoms that make this country a wonderful place to live.”

Seymour doesn’t seem to have explained how a set of ‘our values’ might be defined, how a pledge to uphold the standards would work in practice.

There is no way a values pledge could be enforced, it would be futile with changes of attitudes and could not do anything about children of refugees.

Who would define what values should be pledged to? The commenters at Kiwiblog?  Authors at Whale Oil? Commenters at The Daily Blog? Authors at Boots Theory?

As a country we couldn’t have a civil discussion and decision on what our flag should look like. I don’t see much chance of defining values that new citizens must pledge to.

And what about existing citizens and the values they live by?

Shouldn’t New Zealand citizens all endeavour to set an example by which refugees and immigrants could follow by examplke?

 

Key pledge on GCSB bill needs to be law

John Key seems to be waking up to remaining issues with his GCSB bill. In an email to Audrey Young at NZ Herald Key has made a pledge on  issuing warrants for GCSB data gathering.

Key to restrict spy warrants

In a dramatic twist on the GCSB bill, John Key now says he will restrict warrants granted to the spy agency so it can’t initially look at the content of New Zealanders’ communications in carrying out its cyber-security function.

And he says if the Government Communications Security Bureau makes a good enough case to access content, he expects it to seek the consent of Kiwis before looking, unless there is a good reason not to.

But a pledge from the current Prime Minister does not ensure this process is continued – especially by future Prime Ministers. It should be defined in the legislation.

The pledge was in a statement issued by a spokesman for Mr Key.

“The Prime Minister and Commissioner of Security Warrants may impose any conditions they wish in a warrant. [He] intends, under cyber security warrants, to not allow the GCSB to access the content of New Zealanders’ communications, including emails.

“If a serious cyber intrusion was detected against a New Zealander, the Prime Minister would require the GCSB to return and make the case to apply for a new warrant to access content, only where the content is relevant to a significant threat.

“In that warrant application, the Prime Minister would also expect the GCSB to seek the consent of the New Zealander involved, unless there were very good reasons not to do so.”

A good assurance, but not enough. Needs to be in law.

Highlander’s alcohol ban shows dedication and example

The Highlanders show they are dedicated to doing whatever they can to succeed in the Super rugby competition.

Highlanders pledge – no alcohol for a month

The Highlanders are on a month-long drinking ban as they try to qualify for the Super Rugby play-offs for the first time since 2003.

…skipper Jamie Mackintosh said the players and management had made a joint call following their bye week to go without alcohol until after their round 12 game against the Hurricanes in Dunedin.

“We just decided as a team during the bye week that the next four weeks were going to be pretty big for us, with the Blues at home, the Cheetahs and Sharks and then the Hurricanes,” Mackintosh said.

“Last year we came back from the bye and dropped games and we didn’t want to have any excuses there. The team and management got together and decided.”

Mackintosh said the booze ban was a big call from the team, especially in South Africa.

“You don’t go out and have a big night but you do enjoy a beer with tea. It’s a great place to socialise and have a beer after a hard days’ training. The management and team have bought into it. It’s not so much about the alcohol, it’s about the team buying into something, sacrificing something together so that we are really focussed for the next four weeks,” he said.

“When I’m lying in my bed in nine or 10 weeks time, whether we made the play-offs or not, we know that we gave it our all. It’s got its challenges, but hopefully the cherry at the end is worth more than a couple of beers with tea.”

This demonstrates team dedication to do what they can to achieve their goals. Most top athletes don’t drink much alcohol anyway these days so as not to detract from their performance, but this is a good way to build the team ethos.

I’m sure they will be able to do this without any outside pressure but it does show a changing attitude towards alcohol.

In my young playing days it was very different. I moved to Auckland in the mid seventies, and a break from social habits allowed me to reassess my lifestyle. I realised had been drinking more than was good for me, and I was determined to do whatever I could to improve my rugby.

I started going to the gym through the offseason, long before the gym became a common place for rugby players. This was easy as it was in my own time.

And at times I put myself on alcohol bans. That was a lot harder. I didn’t find it hard to stay off alcohol, but it was hard explaining when people (frequently ) tried to push and coerce me to drink and didn’t understand why I wouldn’t.

Anyway, go the Highlanders! And good on you. Staunch team making, and a great example. We can enjoy alcohol, but we can do well without it when we choose.