Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: April 26

Should Anzac Day be our national day? Photo / APN
Should Anzac Day be our national day? Photo / APN

Should Anzac Day be our national day? The suggestion is often put forward, particularly around Waitangi Day by those upset at the protests that have become part of the Waitangi tradition. It's in some ways understandable that people feel that protest and division should not be part of a national day, particularly looking at the spirit of unity with which other countries celebrate their national days - a spirit which is also increasingly evident in New Zealand on Anzac Day.

Tim Watkins addresses the issue directly and comes up with five reasons why No, today is not our national day. He argues that Anzac Day has a specific role to play, is about war and loss, is a day shared by other countries - namely Australia and Turkey - and that a national day should 'commemorate a beginning'. In his blogpost A Tale of Two National Holidays, Joshua Hitchcock also compares the commemorations and, while recognizing the value of Anzac day, questions the priorities it reveals: 'We value our participation in a worthless war, and an unwise invasion that ended as an unmitigated disaster, more than we do the very formation of our nation'.

The way politicians and media work hard to play up the noble aspects of courage, comradeship and sacrifice, but ignore the unpalatable facts - particularly around the Gallipoli campaign itself - is a source of frustration for many. Chris Trotter has previously written about the real reason New Zealand troops were sent charging into Turkish machine guns on Turkish beaches in 1915: mainly to prop up the Tsar's Russian Empire. As Trotter puts it: 'In modern terms, it would be like asking 3,000 young New Zealanders to die for the Chinese politicians who ordered the troops into Tiananmen Square' - see: A Huge Exercise In National Denial. Alastair Reith makes a similar point in ANZAC Day: What are we celebrating?, but also looks at the forced conscription and Maori resistance to fighting in WW1 which run counter to the modern Anzac mythology.

Anne Russell has an interesting view on the RSA and the origins of poppy day in Red poppies, militarism and the RSA. She argues that the nature and need for support of war veterans has greatly changed since the years after the world wars. Labour Deputy leader Grant Robertson puts the modern liberal case in favour of Anzac Day. In a carefully worded article he emphasizes how it has become an 'egalitarian event' with a bi-cultural feel that is relatively apolitical (although Robertson can't resist taking a jab at National over the cutting of funding for military bands) - see: Reflections on ANZAC morning.

The key phrase repeated over and over again on Anzac Day is 'lest we forget' - the implication being that we must learn the lessons of the past to try and prevent a repeat of the slaughter. David Beatson thinks we do need to learn - not so much from Gallipoli 100 years ago, but from Afghanistan today. He details a number of issues that our military involvement in Afghanisatan has raised, particularly the fate of prisoners captured by our SAS troops and expresses concern that, just as we appear to be leaving Afghanistan, we may be stumbling into a similar conflict in Syria - see: Afghanistan - lest we forget.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* Speculation continues on the meaning of, and motivations behind, staff changes at the Labour Party - see: Claire Trevett's Conflict behind Shearer aide quitting and Greg Presland's Is David Cunliffe now Shearer's best friend?. And of course, Cameron Slater continues to fan the flames about internal disquiet and inevitable leadership coups - see, for example, his latest post: Nash given the boot in favour of Deputy Leader's man.

* Today's Dominion Post editorial clearly puts responsibility for Labour's inability to dent National's poll ratings with David Shearer - see: Shearer failing to set Labour agenda. For apparent insider-based analysis on why the Labour Party is doing poorly under David Shearer, see Danyl Mclauchlan's latest blogpost, Strategy and tactics.

* Pattrick Smellie argues that, while voters may be more polarised in their view of National, this doesn't automatically benefit Labour, particularly with intense competition from the Greens - see: Electorate polarises angry and pragmatic.

* It seems that the ousted former MP for Te Tai Tonga, Rahui Katene, hasn't lost her political ambitions, and plans not only a comeback to Parliament, but also a takeover of the Maori Party co-leadership once Tariana Turia departs in the near future - see: Former Maori Party MP keen for leadership role. Morgan Godfery examines her future and recommends she stands in Turia's seat of Te Tai Hauauru (Rahui Katene to stand in 2014).

* Kate Chapman looks at how proposed lobbying legislation would have revealed more about the SkyCity casino deal (see: Deal would be transparent under register), while Mai Chen says SkyCity ruckus shows why lobbying bill needed. Bernard Orsman compares the current deal to a similar one made without Government input in 2001 - see: SkyCity deal mirrors one made 11 years ago.

* The Dominion Post editorial opts for a 4% threshold and removal of the one seat exemption from that threshold - see: MMP works but needs some tweaks.

* Danyl Mclauchlan at the Dim Post has a very entertaining and satirical look at how the Government's economic logic would be applied to major household rennovations - see: The DIY Recess Diary of Finance Minister Bill English.

* We often appreciate politicians' talents more when we see them operate outside of their usual political environment - which is why they increasingly attempt to go on various television entertainment and magazine shows. Watch the latest example - David Shearer as a guest panellist on Paul Henry's TV3 comedy, Would I lie to you?. As Claire Trevett points out today, Shearer 'showed he had an astonishing alacrity for making the incredible seem plausible' (Mexican stand-off over wage gulf).

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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