When life-long, hard-line socialists like Chris Trotter raise important questions, on successive days, about the inaction or incompetence of the Ardern government on a whole host of issues, alarm bells should be ringing, loudly, across New Zealand. (See NZ Politics Daily, Bryce Edwards, VUW, 15/16 April 2021)
So, what is going so very wrong for the Ardern government?
Governing New Zealand can be likened to governing a very large corporation. We shareholders (citizens) elect (or under MMP, appoint) the directors to govern the organisation. They in turn appoint the CEO (or CEOs) to manage the activities of the organisation and hold him/her/them responsible for managing the activities as directed. For this to function properly, the directors (caucus) must provide a strategic plan for management to implement and against which the performance of management (eg Dr Bloomfield) can be monitored and measured. The board (caucus) must also prepare a Risk Management Plan to allow for any negative occurrences.
The principles of good governance are well known.
Directors (in this case, politicians) must always act in the best interests of the organisation, ie the whole of New Zealand, not just a part thereof; must exhibit integrity, honesty and transparency at all times; avoid conflicts of interest; be responsive to (ALL) their shareholders; and be competent to lead and strategically manage the affairs of the organisation. How do Ardern and Co stack up against these principles? Are they fit to govern?
Let’s take a quick look at their collective fitness for purpose.
1. Firstly, this government is overwhelmingly comprised of unionists; public servant/policy advisers; teachers; and social workers, comprising 76% of all MPs. Whilst that is not in itself a problem, it does reflect the overwhelming left-wing, socialist orientation of the caucus. A brief review of the backgrounds, qualifications and experience of the current Labour caucus reveals an embarrassing shortage of business, economic and, especially, leadership skills and the competencies needed for this important role.
The vocational backgrounds of the 55-strong Ardern government are:
Public servants/policy advisers 15 (27%)
Unionists 15 (27%)
Teachers 8 (15%)
Community & Social Workers 4 (7%)
Health Professionals 4
Iwi employees 3
No vocational experience 3
Self-employed/sports professional 2
Business executive/employee 1
(Ref: Labour Party Biographies, www.parliament.nz/mps-and-electorates)
Given the obvious collective absence of business, management and organisational leadership experience and the number of urgent crises facing New Zealand today, this government is clearly floundering - as socialist commentators like Chris Trotter claim.
2. Secondly, this government is focused on “diversity” to the exclusion of all else. It accords primary importance to the political identity of its members according to their representation in the community-ethnicity, gender, age, sexual identity, degree of commitment to socialism, and so on. In short, they claim it is far more important to focus on political individual differences, rather than the similarities in our society, ostensibly to ensure “minorities” have a voice. There used to be a saying, now long abandoned, that the best person for the job, not their political identity, should be the most important factor. But what Ardern and Co fail to realise, or perhaps purposely choose to ignore, is that all societies will always comprise minorities, anyway.
(Ref: Intellectuals and Society; Sowell, T., Basic Books, 2011- a MUST read for all New Zealanders)
Societies have always comprised collectives of minority groups and ALL members of ANY society can claim to be in a minority-be it age, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender (yes, males are now a minority in New Zealand), sexual orientation, socio-economic status, the list is endless. We can all claim to be a member of a minority-which is actually and factually, at the base of governmental problems.
Some academics and politicians continue to claim that board diversity (they exclusively refer to women on boards) results in enhanced, superior business performance. There is NO empirical evidence to justify such a claim. In fact, efforts to prove this outcome have all failed.
Yet, the Ardern government has deliberately opted for diversity over merit (skills, experience, competencies, and management ability), so is it any wonder they are floundering around achieving almost nothing-except of course, keeping Ardern in front of the cameras, giving her trademark, almost daily, theatrical performances?
Representational politics based on minority interest groups, can only result in ignoring the needs of the majority, ie everyone else-but then majoritarian democracy is long dead in New Zealand under MMP. So, is this government acting in the best interests of ALL New Zealanders?
3. Thirdly, the Ardern government appears not to know the importance and meaning of the words “transparency” and “truth”. Some commentators have even branded them liars. For example, Ardern and Robertson campaigned on a programme of NO Capital Gains Tax and NO major changes to taxation, including the Brightline tax on investment properties, “on our watch”. Yet within months, they have reversed this pledge, extending this tax, which is clearly a CGT, from 5 to 10 years.
Another strategy exercised by the Ardern government is to withhold important information from the public. There are now several reports to government such as He Puapua and Matike Mai Aotearoa, which propose the constitutional co-governance of New Zealand by 2040, that is, our nation will be governed by a parliament which comprises 50% Maori and 50% of the rest of us. Appeals to ministers for further information on these proposals and other critical issues such as constitutional reforms and the management of the Covid19 vaccination roll-out and MIQ facilities, go unanswered. Or, a favourite, if one even receives a response, is “this is an operational matter and not for politicians to deal with”.
Another favourite technique is to downplay the “rules” surrounding the requirements to comply with Covid19 isolation. Breaking the “rules” is actually breaking the law but Hipkins et al will not publicly state this legal fact. Requests for Hipkins to do so remain unanswered. So far, some 400 people have been prosecuted and imprisoned for breaking the Covid19 “rules”, 48% of whom were Maori.
Still another example of political dishonesty employed by the Ardern government is the technique of “argumentum ad nauseam”, much favoured by Goebbels in Germany in the 1930s. If you repeat an untruth often enough, it will eventually become accepted as fact. Two current examples illustrate the “argumentum ad nauseam” approach:
a. Continually calling New Zealand “Aotearoa New Zealand” or, simply Aotearoa in our media. No public discussion has yet taken place on any formal change to the name of our country. The name is neither historically accurate nor appropriate but repeating it often enough will eventually have the desired effect.
(Ref: “What’s in a Name”, Professor Kerry Howe, Newsroom, 20 September, 2020)
b. Claiming the treaty of Waitangi to be a “partnership”. It was not and cannot constitutionally be a “partnership”, between the Crown and some of those it governs.
(Ref: “Partnerships” by Judge Anthony Willy, NZCPR.Com, 6 December,2020)
There are many other examples of this technique which excludes any public conversation on such matters, preferring to mislead rather than discuss. So, measured on the principles of honesty, integrity, transparency and responsiveness?
4. Fourthly let us look at the most recent record of this government on a number of critical issues facing New Zealand today, since being re-elected in 2020:
The forcible closing of our borders to prevent the importation of Covid 19 virus, was accepted by the majority of New Zealanders as a necessary measure to keep us safe. Most of us complied, and did our bit to halt the spread of the virus. However, this process exhibited a number of basic failures, including a number of people who deliberately flouted the “rules” (actually laws but Ardern and her ministers will not say so). The fact that more than 400 people have been imprisoned for deliberately flouting the rules, of whom 48% were Maori, is simply ignored. But going soft on rule-breakers is not the only example of government’s failure re Covid19. The management of the whole quarantine and isolation programme has been a total shambles. Innocent NZ citizens have been precluded from entry and travel for family reasons, whilst sports teams, entertainers, even an MP’s partner from Mexico, have all been allowed to come here. Multiple cross-infections have hit people in quarantine facilities and on buses from airports to these facilities who had tested negative, because some idiot failed to appreciate that air-conditioning systems and mixed travel can actually spread the virus. The Defence Force had to be called in because security companies could not cope or were too lax in their discipline of those in quarantine. Some frontline workers have either refused to be vaccinated or have lied about being vaccinated. Hundreds of other front-line workers have not yet been vaccinated. The vaccination roll-out for the wider population is still inconclusive and subject to daily waffling by Hipkins and Bloomfield. In the early days of Covid19, we could not tell who was in charge. Dr Clark, Minister of Health, had done a runner during lockdown so was replaced by Minister Woods who kept fudging information, then Deputy PM Robertson also made brief appearances, then finally, Minister Hipkins arrived to “take charge” except that most of the management disasters have occurred on his watch. PM Ardern was/is only permitted to front “good news” on Covid19. The shambles continues and highlights the absolute paucity of management and leadership ability in this government line-up, as set out in paragraph 1 above.
Closing our borders quickly? PASS Ongoing management of Covid19? BIG FAIL
Under this government, since 2017, house prices have skyrocketed to unbelievable levels, to the extent that the median house price across New Zealand is now in the region of$800,000. In Wellington, it is now $1.2 million and even higher in Auckland. A raft of measures including dumping on property investors and landlords; a reversal of the election pledge not to increase the Brightline tax; and preventing property owners from claiming legitimate tax deductions on property investments from other income; have all been introduced.
It is abundantly clear that the Ardern government detests property investors and landlords. The ultimate irony/hypocrisy is the fact that most of these Ardern government politicians own more than one, and in many cases, multiple properties. Oh, and if you thought the family home was exempt, as they promised in the 2017 term, think again-it will now be subject to the same punitive tax arrangements if you conk out and the kids let it for a year, perhaps pending the arrival home, say, of overseas family, or if they have difficulty with a sale. Arden and Co will still not acknowledge (or are ignorant of the fact) that very low interest rates are at the bottom of the housing crisis. So, no progress on that front.
As for their much-vaunted 100,000 house to be built in 10 years, only around 300 have been built, in the last four years, with rents rapidly rising. Uh? What another bloody shambles. On achieving stated housing and house price objectives?
A number of reports now confirm that there is a serious problem in New Zealand with relative poverty, especially child poverty-to which Ardern has committed herself to fix. The results so far? More reports on the reports and no discernible action to date.
Climate related issues
On this issue, again a central plank of the Ardern government, we have at least seen some action. The only problem here is that the actions taken are going to have a greater effect on our economy - an already broken tourism industry (moves to ban freedom campers, etc), on agriculture, our main and major export earner (banning of live animal exports, methane, and other emissions and waste water disposal requirements) and on our energy production (coal-fired boilers, banning of oil and gas exploration, phasing out of petrol-driven vehicles). If you believe that the major causes of global warming are man-made, think again. The American Institute of Physics maintains that, whilst man-made emissions may be a minor factor, the major contributor over millennia are actually sunspot activities; are cyclical; and are measurable. The scientific community is still divided on this issue by the way. Still, one cannot perhaps argue against this-except that the economic fallout will be substantial.
PASS - but look for downstream economic negatives here, requiring a RISK MANAGEMENT PLAN (FAIL)
The revised histories curriculum for schools is currently seeking submissions. The draft guidelines for the new curriculum state that our history will be centred around the history of our Maori migrants who arrived around 1200 AD. This government appears to be hell-bent on down-playing the massive contributions which later migrants made to New Zealand’s infrastructure, agricultural and horticultural industries and other earners such as tourism. Later migrants are all branded as “colonists” whose activities under “colonisation” are the sole cause of the plight Maori people find themselves in today. Our prison population is around 50% Maori, NOT because they committed serious crimes, but because of “colonisation”200 years ago! This is an opinion only, which is lacking in empirical evidence, but is yet another “argumentum ad nauseam” which is beginning to become accepted as fact.
The fact is that from around 1800 AD, the history of New Zealand is a SHARED history, of which Maori history is a part.
Our country was founded on the treaty of Waitangi, a very clear example of tolerance and accommodation, which provides for equal rights for all New Zealanders. Whilst the later New Zealand Wars occurred as a result of rebellion, our history is NOT one of oppression. Many “kupapa” Maori fought on the side of the Crown in these confrontations or “affrays”. Yet Ardern and Co continue to foster this myth of oppression of our Maori people - indeed some of her colleagues repeat the myth ad nauseam, as if it were fact. So, confidence in the development of an objective, impartial treatment of our history?
The most recent report (yes, another one) has been slammed by mental health organisations and health professionals as totally inadequate. Mental health facilities throughout New Zealand are at breaking point but this government’s response? Another report on the enquiry!
The Ardern government is fostering separatism on many fronts across New Zealand-discrimination favouring ethnic minorities in admission to key university education courses such as medicine; the reorganisation of key welfare facilities such as child welfare into a Maori-led organisation; the establishment of a separate Maori Health Authority; clamour for a separate justice system for Maori (in addition to existing Maori- only facilities in our prisons); the removal of New Zealand’s democratic right to elected councils, by creating the establishment of unelected and unaccountable Maori wards in local and regional bodies: a recent bill removing the management of water services from local and regional authorities to a new centralised body which will be co-governed by a 50/50 board of Maori and other appointees; establishing co-governance arrangements over many other bodies such as the Hauraki Gulf Management Authority; the requirement for universities to introduce tikanga and matauranga Maori into courses, administration and research; the use of te reo Maori titles as the primary feature in all government signage; the assignment of human attributes to inanimate things like the W(H)anganui River (gender unknown); and proposals to teach the new schools history curriculum according to the principles of te Ao Maori, including spirituality - which could be illegal.
See where we are headed? Add to this the two reports referred to above (He Puapua and Matike Mai Aorearoa) and one can be forgiven for thinking that separatism is not only well advanced but is being actively encouraged and promoted by the Ardern government as we speak, whilst spouting that we are “a team of five million”. What codswallop!
Acting in the best interests of ALL shareholders?
Recent actions by local authorities, universities and especially Green Party allies of Ardern and Co to limit free speech, a cornerstone of any democracy (ha, ha!), are well advanced. Our laws are currently being reviewed to eliminate “hate speech” – yes, another review/enquiry, but it demonstrates what the Labour/Greens intentions are. Fairness, openness, and transparency?
Old White Men
Suddenly, OWMs are the enemy! They (we) are responsible for every woe of modern New Zealand society, apparently. The Green Party allies of Ardern, almost to a person, condemn OWMs outright. Catherine Delahunty (former Green MP) has proposed getting rid of the Greens male co-leader role as being some sort of anachronism, and that the current co-leader is not radical enough! Goodbye James Shaw. Oh, sorry, brown men are apparently OK. How can Ardern and Co condone an alliance with a group of misfits who condemn others constantly with their ageist, racist and sexist name-calling? Acting in the best interests of ALL shareholders including OWMs?
Gangs and Guns
Since the tragedy of the Christchurch Mosque attack, Ardern and Co have focused on forcibly ridding our society of guns-presumably on the grounds that removing firearms from many law-abiding citizens will somehow prevent a similar attack in the future. But the gun problem in New Zealand lies squarely with criminal gangs and organised crime, not the rural community, duck shooters and collectors. Any fool can work that one out. Since this further limit on our freedoms, the NZ Police have had to resort to carrying firearms on a weekly basis, due to gangs in various parts of New Zealand opting to “protect” their interests by killing their criminal opponents. At least we are not yet in the situation where these thugs progress to killing innocents. Under Labour, the gang problem in New Zealand has escalated out of control. Another example of a totally inadequate response by an inadequate group of weak socialists. Achievement of goals and objectives regarding gangs and guns?
On any of the well-accepted criteria of good governance, the Ardern government has to be described as an abject failure. Attempts to portray our shared history as being based on oppression, is ostensibly untrue. Attempts to portray “old white men” as being responsible for all of the issues which beset New Zealand society, are not only insulting, they are deeply offensive and divisive.
The treaty offered us all an opportunity to progress which, by and large, as citizens of New Zealand, of every ethnicity and creed, we have achieved. This government seems to be, through its total incompetence, determined to divide us.
It is NOT fit to govern.
Henry Armstrong is retired, follows politics, and writes.