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

Bryce Edwards: Politics round-up: Economic ideologies under scrutiny

Economics is likely to dominate the political discourse between now and the general election. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Economics is likely to dominate the political discourse between now and the general election. Photo / Herald on Sunday

Economics is likely to dominate the political discourse between now and the general election. All political parties will be seriously evaluated in terms of what they will do for the economy.

In the weekend, the Greens received a harsh assessment of their economic credentials and capabilities from political journalist Hamish Rutherford, who examined the party's response to the Government's rescue package for Solid Energy - see Greens rush to judgement. Spokesperson Gareth Hughes is taken to task for his questionable characterisation of the deal, with the suggestion that this indicates his party is economically illiterate. A similar point was made by Maria Slade in her more positive piece about Green MP David Clendon and how he is one of the more business friendly faces of the party - see: Greens need to talk business sense. But should the Greens even be concerned with being business friendly and mainstream? Danyl Mclauchlan suggests not, in his blog post The dubious strategic value of the corporate group hug.

But the days of the Greens being outliers in terms of economic ideology are over. The increasing conformity of the party is evident in just how much policy the party shares - not just with Labour - but also with National.

The latest example is the party complaining that National has adopted its housing policy - see Newswire's Govt stole our housing policy - Greens. Such complaints - increasingly frequent in New Zealand politics - serve to show just how ideologically convergent the parties still are in that they can all so easily swap policies. This is reminiscent of the remark once made about policy stealing in New Zealand elections by political scientist RS Milne: 'Each party is mortally afraid that the other will steal its clothing, mainly because the clothing is not distinctively marked with the party's name'.

Labour and the economy

It's widely assumed that Labour is currently veering to the left under the new leadership of David Cunliffe. The retention of David Parker as the finance spokesperson is said to have limited any such radicalism, whose mild approach is on full display in Matt Nippert's interview/profile of him - see: David Parker, details man.

On the political left, there is an in-depth debate going on about the economic direction of the Labour Party. The most analytical component of that debate is a blog discourse started by John Moore's The left's new love for Labour. This prompted Chris Trotter to reply with What's Love Got To Do With It?. Moore responded with Unrequited love - Chris Trotter and the Labour Party, earning a further defence of Labour in Trotter's post The Goal and the Movement. Meanwhile, Steven Cowan has chimed in with The Empty politics of Chris Trotter and Doing a hatchet job on Rosa.

For another leftwing critique of Labour see Matt Robson's A Labour-Led Govt Must Reform Its 2007 Immigration Act. But for a defence of the party leader from questions from the political right, see Scott Yorke's parody: Ten questions for David Cunliffe.

John Armstrong argues that Labour and National have a lot of common ground in terms of the housing affordability issue, but that Labour's increasingly critical stance towards the Reserve Bank reflects Cunliffe's 'intention to give Labour a more bolshie image' - see: Parties play politics over housing crisis. This earns him a withering response from The Standard blogsite - see: All hail RBNZ independence! - Armstrong.

Labour continues to show its support for the Living Wage campaign - see TVNZ's Labour would put pressure on businesses to pay living wage. And now Len Brown has announced his support too - see Jane Luscombe's TV3 item, Mayor commits Auckland to living wage. His mayoral campaign opponent, John Minto is not, however, convinced about Len Brown's sudden love for a Living Wage.

The rise in concern about economic inequality will certainly play a strong role in next year's election campaign. In the last few days there have been plenty of headlines focusing on the wealth at the top - see Tim Hunter's Bosses' pay rises outpace workers, Bernard Orsman's $800,000 salaries for top city staff the market rate, says mayor, Shelley Robinson's Vote on $91k pay rise for acting Chch City Council, and Ben Heather's Surge in rich gaining NZ residency.

Some recent statistics relating to economic inequality are highlighted in the No Right Turn blog post, Going backwards. And for a very full analysis of inequality and some potential solutions, retired judge, Edmund Thomas is giving this year's Bruce Jesson Lecture on the topic of Reducing Inequality - A Strategy for a Cause at the University of Auckland on 30 October.

Local government elections

There are only a few more days to go in the local government elections and during the weekend there was plenty of analysis of the apparent low voter turnout. Perhaps the strongest opinion came from Matt McCarten - see: Democracy dies with lazy voters. And following on from my Friday column - Why you shouldn't vote - I had a short feature in the Herald on Sunday, Cancel the elections and start again?

Some of this relates to the woeful administration of the local government elections - as made apparent in items such as Lynley Bilby's Voting paper gaffes mar local elections and TVNZ's Christchurch election pamphlet bars migrant voters.

Blogger No Right Turn has also pointed to problems with the local government system in the blog post Apathy. And some current government reforms are discussed in Chris Morris' Local govt to be 'squeezed in both directions'. Also very good on the topic, is Kerry McBride and Katie Chapman's Low turnout linked to lack of connection.

For a defence of the current system, see Grant Duncan's I voted...!. A rather radical reform proposal is put by Gil Simpson in Voters should be given extra option.

If you're interested in the more eccentric voting options, watch Torben Akel's 14-minute TV3 item, Meeting the unorthodox mayoral candidates. The eccentric details are reported in Matthew Backhouse's Big promises in local body elections. Similarly, see Sophie Lowery's Hamilton: Serious issues, not-so-serious candidates.

Other items of importance or interest today:

Are New Zealanders political prudes? Has the 'nanny state' gone too far? That's the debate relating to a supposed 'ban' on a breast cancer awareness advertisement - see Newswire's No nipples please, we're Kiwis. Various opinions are expressed in Sean Plunket's Is NZ squeamish over breasts?, the Southland Times' editorial, A little white lie and Brian Edwards' Is New Zealand TV suffering from thelephobia*?. The most considered and informative item is Steven Price's Nipples of discontent.

Matthew Hooton has produced his recommendations for John Key's next Cabinet reshuffle - see his paywalled NBR column, The five ministers who should be sacked. According to Hooton, the under-performers who should be considered for axing include Tony Ryall, Murray McCully, Hekia Parata, Nick Smith, Amy Adams, Nathan Guy, Craig Foss, Chris Tremain (if he hadn't already gone), and perhaps even Jonathan Coleman. Hooton recommends promotions to the front bench for Simon Bridges and Nikki Kaye and believes the next Cabinet intake should include 'Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, Paul Goldsmith, Todd McClay, Louise Upston and Maggie Barry'.

Government information sharing continues to be a hot topic, and so Nicholas Jones' investigation into this will be of interest - see Govt is watching you and Big brother knows all your personal details.

Two major institutions involved in the Christchurch recovery and rebuild receive some critical appraisal today - see Jarrod Gilbert's Cera not Christchurch's 'moral authority' and Martin van Beynen's Tremors exposed Earthquake Commission.

John Key is on an extended world tour of summit meetings at the moment. Is he actually achieving anything in all these meetings? Peter O'Neill of the Timaru Herald satirically summarises Key's meeting with the new Australian Prime Minister in Howdy bro, or is that cuz?. And Grant Duncan explains to an Australian audience why New Zealanders want a better deal from them - see: Where's the choice, bro: Kiwis in Australia get a raw deal.

The Prime Minister also comes in for some scrutiny over his support for Team New Zealand in Hamish Rutherford's PM a 'Johnny come lately' when it came to America's Cup fever. And Toby Manhire offers some advice on future coalition partners - see: Key needs a new partner.

With the Maori seats being discussed at the moment, TVNZ's Marae Investigates had an interesting 6-minute video item about the existence and number of Maori seats, together with the future of the two Maori parties - watch Should the Maori and Mana Parties unite?. Related to that is the 9-minute video Hone Harawira sets the agenda for a united Mana Maori Party.

The Government is currently considering legislation relating to the Maori Council. Blogger Morgan Godfery asks Is it past time to abolish the Maori Council?. And for a background item on Morgan Godfery, see the very interesting Native Affairs profile on him and his family - see the 14-minute video: The Godfery Gang.

Green MP Gareth Hughes says It is time to change Parliament's prayer. He suggests widening it out to other non-Christian religions and incorporating Te Reo. David Farrar also prefers retaining it as a 'general spiritual prayer' but he lists three different options - see: The parliamentary prayer.

Last month the Government announced its decision to ignore the Law Commission's recommendation on merging the various media regulators. Media Law expert Steven Price analyses that decision and labels it 'irresponsible' - see: No one-stop media regulator.

There's currently some ongoing debate on the future of public broadcasting, sparked by the recent appointment of Kris Faafoi as Labour's Broadcasting spokesperson. Chris Trotter examines the issues in his blogpost, The Opinion of the People: Some Thoughts on Labour's Non-Existent Broadcasting Policy. And Martyn Bradbury makes The case for RNZ 2.

Finally, Ben Uffindell lampoons one of New Zealand's most well-read bloggers - see: Cameron Slater takes rare break from watching Whale Oil site traffic.

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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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