Monday, May 2, 2011
Ron Smith: The King is dead, long live the King
We shall soon see how the new ‘king’ will rule. The coup, itself, seems to have been a masterpiece of precision and effectiveness. But the new monarch, too, has skeletons in his cupboard and his opponents are already rattling them. On the other hand, Dr Brash knows what he wants, and there are plenty of electors, beyond the membership of ACT, who are dissatisfied with present political choices. This latter particularly applies to traditional National voters (and some National Party activists) who have been infuriated by their Party’s irrational attachment to the global warming myth and its progressive pandering to Maori interests, as well as a more general reluctance to tackle the evident, and growing, problem of public debt. There are also less traditionally committed voters who see these things and who would welcome a broader critique of New Zealand politics than the present coterie of centre and (in varying degrees) centre-left parties is presently offering. As things are presently shaping up, it is up to Dr Brash. The drama that has occupied his assumption of the leadership of ACT ought to make it easy to command public attention, and a spurt of optimism amongst the groups mentioned above, might result in a boost of public support for the Party but it will need to be followed up by clearly articulated specifics.
Foremost amongst these, are policies to address the inevitable economic decline which will follow from the failure to deal effectively with the consequences of present demographic trends and entitlement patterns. Prime Minister Key seems to be in utter denial about these things and the other parliamentary parties (other than ACT) are hardly likely to criticise, beyond asking for more. It is a void Dr Brash is well-qualified to fill, through his background as an economist and former Reserve Bank Governor.
The issue of supposed anthropogenic global warming is a very peculiar one, from a political point of view. Opinion surveys in New Zealand, and countries like it, already reveal a substantial scepticism about official claims of impending disaster, and, particularly, voters everywhere are reluctant to support taxation to head it off. This is especially the case, since some proponents of the global warming hypothesis already concede that the measures actually proposed are unlikely to have a significant impact, even in (for politics) the long term. This is certainly the case as far as New Zealand’s contribution is concerned and the absurdity of continuing with present policies (notably the ETS) is only underlined by the fact that nobody will follow us. This may not be an issue which will determine voter intentions but it is a policy which clearly marks ACT off from any other party.
Maori representation and effective policies to deal with claims for special treatment by Maori are clearly signature issues for Dr Brash and, in the wake of the passage of the Marine and Coastal Areas Act, and the extraordinary decision to secretly commit New Zealand to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, he will need to address these matters in a systematic and detailed way. It will not be easy. His opponents will seek to dismiss any attempt at debate with accusations of racism. He will need to get beyond this. We ought to be able to discuss the issue of equal representation as a matter of constitutional propriety in a multicultural society, notwithstanding undertakings that may have been given 160 years ago, when society was very different. Equally, we do need to address the linkages between health, education and economic problems in Maori (and Islander) communities and social policy settings, that have been long accepted and may now be contributing to the problem.
at 9:37 AM