Thursday, January 25, 2024

Bryce Edwards: NZ Politics Daily - 25 January 2024

Top “NZ Politics Daily” stories today

Below are some of the more interesting and insightful New Zealand politics items from the last 24 hours.

1) Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s performance at Ratana yesterday is praised today by Newsroom’s political editor Jo Moir, who says, “For what seemed like the first time, Luxon threw off the opposition hat he’s been so firmly holding onto and finally put on his prime ministerial one.” She says Luxon rose to the occasion, read the mood of the event well and “used his opportunity from the paepae to talk about his Government’s desire to honour the Treaty, his wish to have grown up more immersed in the Māori language and cited a couple of examples of where he’d like Māori and the Crown to work together” – see: PM benefits from Seymour’s Rātana no-show

Moir, who is about to become RNZ’s political editor, is more scathing about Luxon’s coalition partners, saying they were “tone-deaf” in their approach to Ratana. While NZ First’s Winston Peters and Shane Jones “turned up to Rātana spoiling for a fight”, it was the no-show of Act leader David Seymour that she is particularly critical of: “While the day itself is fundamentally about the celebration of a Māori religious prophet, it has come to be much more than that. It’s been important enough for all Prime Ministers to attend for many decades and has officially become recognised as the start of the political calendar and the prelude to Waitangi. For someone so concerned about the country debating the Treaty and what it means for all New Zealanders in the modern world, it is misguided of Seymour to simply not show up. If there had been some other important place for Seymour to be it might have been excused but instead, he was seen doing a social media video on the forecourt of Parliament not long before other MPs headed north to Rātana.”

2) Other politicians are also critical of Seymour’s non-attendance. For instance, Greens Party co-leader Marama Davidson said it was a display of “absolute ignorance” and a dishonoured to the Māori world: “It dismisses the mana and the importance of Ratana, of Wiremu Pōtiki Ratana, and te ao Māori and their political voice” – see RNZ’s David Seymour skipping Rātana 'absolute ignorance' - Opposition MPs

Seymour is quoted in response questioning why he would go to a religious event: “My understanding is a guy came out as a prophet of his own religious movement in the 1870s. And politicians feel a strange obligation to be there every year. I've never felt that.” And: “When people say that somehow Rātana is the sine qua non (essential ingredient) of political discussion in New Zealand, they might be jumping a few sharks.” He says he’s going to Waitangi, a genuinely important political event.

3) The Greens and Labour accused the Government of racism at Ratana. Labour leader told the audience “The policies of this current government encourage, foster, and enable racism in New Zealand and we should call it out for what it is”. Reporting on this, Stuff’s Tova O'Brien, says Hipkins “later agreed with another speaker who had called the government the enemy of Māori” – see: ‘Three-headed taniwha’, government the enemy of Māori - Rātana criticism should give PM pause

O'Brien is also highly critical of Luxon’s performance at Ratana, questioning his refusal to rule out support for Seymour’s Treaty Principles Bill beyond the select committee. She also calls on Luxon to lift his game on Treaty issues before he gets to Waitangi and to reflect on “how much Māori rights matter”.

4) The Herald’s Audrey Young has a mixed review of Luxon’s Ratana performance, saying that it was “fairly bland”, and in his speech, there was “certainly nothing that could be mistaken as supporting Act’s bid to rewrite the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi” – see: Prime Minister Luxon’s Ratana speech exemplifies low-key strategy (paywalled)

The blandness is surely deliberate Young argues: “It was as though Luxon had sent his speech writer a memo: ‘Keep it low-key. Nothing original, nothing controversial, use campaign talking points like the importance of doing, not talking, and getting Maori kids back in school, supporting devolution, and creating a strong economy to lift everyone. And let’s call them principles, Government principles’.”

Young says his is part of Luxon’s general approach at the moment: “Amid turbulence created by his coalition partners, he is adopting a calm, understated approach – nothing that could be mistaken for encouraging more upset, nothing fortissimo, and nothing inspiring.”

In contrast, she says that NZ First kept things interesting at Ratana yesterday: “The fireworks of the day firmly rested with New Zealand First‘s Shane Jones and his leader Winston Peters who were insulted by a Tuhoe speaker, Nika Rua, when he described them as taurekareka - slaves. Jones responded by telling him in Maori that his words would choke him. Jones and Peters were booed, a fairly rare event at Ratana but that brought the fight in both of them.”

5) It looks unlikely that Seymour’s Treaty Principles Bill is going to get majority support in Parliament, but today Richard Harman writes that “there could be another piece of legislation to come which could potentially seek to define the principles of the Treaty” – see: Ratana’s trumpet sounds a warning (paywalled)

Harman explains that NZ First also has a reform programme that could do something similar to what Seymour wants: “Like Seymour’s Bill, provision for the second legislative move is contained within the National’s coalition agreements, this time with New Zealand First. The coalition agreement says National and Act will “amend the Waitangi Tribunal legislation to refocus the scope, purpose, and nature of its inquiries back to the original intent of that legislation.” NZ First Minister Shane Jones, speaking to the media at Ratana, made it clear that the review would include a look at the principles of the Treaty.”

6) The culture wars over Treaty and race clearly continue to heat up, and threaten to get very ugly. Who started this escalating war? Today, Stuff columnist Verity Johnson blames the new Government, and especially Act – see: Why we need to fight for the Treaty of Waitangi

Johnson laments the rising toxicity and polarization on both sides of the debate: “Especially because the absolute worst part of the past three months has been how common it’s become to casually slag off Māori. There’s a noticeable swell in hate, division, racism, crazy talk and an all round sulphuric nastiness. No, Seymour didn’t cause this to exist. Nor is everyone who wants a referendum racist. But this debate has popped a cork, inadvertently or not, on something foul that’s been furiously fermenting in the secret basement of the nation’s soul. Which again, was another huge shock for polite Pākehā society to see up close how mad, bad and crazy parts of us still are.”

7) The Golriz Ghahraman debate continues – especially in terms of whether the public and politics are too hard on women of colour in Parliament. ACT MP and the Minister for Children and Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, Karen Chhour writes about this today in the Post: We are defined not by our race or sex, but by our character (paywalled)

Here’s her key point: “The idea that the pressures of Parliament drive people to bad behaviour, that mental health challenges are an explanation for that behaviour, or that we should hold women of colour to lower standards is offensive. These are excuses. The identity politics on display recently have been something else. We are not defined by our race, or our sex, or any other characteristic we were born with. And we certainly shouldn’t hold people to a different standard because of these arbitrary characteristics.”

8) Is New Zealand First a vehicle for promoting the interests of tobacco lobbyists and companies like Philip Morris? Today RNZ’s Guyon Espiner explores the connections between the party and the industry, and reports on some new potential legislative changes that the Government might make to keep cigarette’s cheaper – see: Official documents suggest a NZ First minister wants to freeze excise tax on cigarettes – but she denies it

Espiner reports on some strong individual links between NZ First and Philip Morris: “Two men who held senior positions with the NZ First party have gone on to work for Philip Morris in New Zealand. David Broome, chief of staff for NZ First between 2014 and 2017, confirmed to RNZ he was currently the external relations manager at Philip Morris. Apirana Dawson, who was director of operations and research in the office of Winston Peters between 2013 and 2017 and led the election campaigns for the party in 2014 and 2017, also went on to work with Philip Morris. He did not respond to messages and calls from RNZ but his LinkedIn profile lists him as having held the position of director of external affairs and communications at Philip Morris since January 2021.”

New Zealand First Associate Health Minister Casey Costello is also reported to be “proposing a three year freeze on CPI-related excise increases for smoked tobacco” and “proposing to remove the excise tax from smokeless tobacco products, where the tobacco is heated to a vapour rather than burned.”

9) The debate about the $19bn Wage Subsidy Scheme rolls on. Today Newsroom’s David Williams reports on criticisms of the Ministry of Social Development for the way they loosely gave out money to businesses that didn’t need it, and then failed to robustly investigate those that might have misused the scheme – see: Billions going begging, litigant philanthropist claims

Professor Jilnaught Wong of the University of Auckland is quoted about his own research: “His conclusion was that some of those companies were receiving the wage subsidy, not suffering the requisite revenue decline, and then paying dividends to shareholders, resulting in a wealth transfer from taxpayers to shareholders of the recipient companies.”

10) The mega-wealthy are also in the spotlight in the Herald today, in terms of New Zealand’s big golf courses for the rich, and whether they represent a social good or bad. Jane Phare writes: “Those on the outside will argue private golf courses are an elite playground for the rich. Those on the inside argue that they want to leave the land in better shape than when they bought it, through native planting, wetlands, open spaces, and trails. Some will make money out of the venture, usually by selling off residential house lots, others won’t. The good operators want to leave a legacy” – see: Living legacy: why rich listers build golf courses (paywalled)

The article profiles all of the elite courses in the country and who owns and plays on them. Here’s one example: “Chinese billionaire Zhaoxi Lu is behind the creation $113m golf course, luxury lodge and a sports academy on a 500ha farm at Muriwai west of Auckland. The 19-hole golf course has been designed by Californian Kyle Phillips and is scheduled to open in 2027. Lu made his money through the giant e-commerce site Alibaba, working with its co-founder Jack Ma. Forbes estimates Lu to be worth $1.6 billion.”

11) The new Government is dealing with how to cut back a large increase in state spending. The NZ Initiative’s Roger Partridge writes in the Herald today about this: “Core government spending in the current year is projected to be 74 per cent higher than when Labour took office in 2017 ($140 billion, compared with $81b in 2017/2018). Adjusting for inflation brings the real percentage increase back to 39 per cent. But even still, most voters would be unable to identify improvements in core public service outcomes - think health, education, or criminal justice – that might justify this increase” – see: Public service cuts needed to help rein in government spending (paywalled)

Partridge points the finger at government departments as the place to make big cuts: “At the average level of public service income reported by the Public Service Commissioner of $97,200, this increased headcount translates to an increased public sector payroll cost of over $1.5b a year… For example, the number of public service ‘managers’ has increased from 5333 in 2017, to 8059 in 2023 (up 51 per cent); ‘policy analysts’ from 2633 to 3949 (up 50 per cent); and ‘information professionals’ from 5437 to 9426 (up 73 per cent).”

12) The Wellington water crisis is becoming a huge political war for the capital. And today the Post’s Andrea Vance outlines: How Tory Whanau has lost the PR war on water (paywalled)

Here’s Vance’s main point: “Whanau has been invisible during a crisis that is so pronounced a regional state of emergency is among the options should a drinking water disaster have to be declared: : a prosperous metropolis in line to become one of the first modern, major cities to run dry, largely because of political mismanagement. During these weeks of uncertainty, when residents were queuing up to buy storage tanks, Whanau’s communication strategy has centred around her personal problems. We know she has embraced exercise after admitting an alcohol problem last year, and that she had Covid. While it’s great the mayor is getting to the gym more, residents are more concerned about how she’s putting the city right, than about how much she can bench. The mayor may wish to distance herself from problems not of her making. But that’s not leadership. This infrastructure emergency has been building for years, as a 2020 mayoral taskforce made stark. Wellington, and other councils, ignored the problem and refused to invest in crumbling pipes because they neglected to read the political runes and thought Labour’s ill-fated Three Waters regime would absolve them of the responsibility. The current friction between central and local government isn’t serving residents.”

Dr Bryce Edwards is a politics lecturer at Victoria University and director of Critical Politics, a project focused on researching New Zealand politics and society. This article was first published HERE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Labour leader told the audience “The policies of this current government encourage, foster, and enable racism in New Zealand and we should call it out for what it is”

Actually no, the policies that have encouraged, fostered and enabled racism in New Zealand are all thanks to you Labour.