Editorial: We are not immune from 'seismic' shock

Trump's performance during the past few weeks suggests he is spinning out of control and headed for a heavy defeat in November. Photo / AP
Trump's performance during the past few weeks suggests he is spinning out of control and headed for a heavy defeat in November. Photo / AP

With so much drama on the international political stage this year, the New Zealand political scene has struggled for attention. It is a moot point whether the conditions that produced the vote for Brexit and the US presidential nomination of Donald Trump are also present in this country.

Underlying much of the discontent in those countries and Europe generally are poorly performing economies and terrorism, which many blame on immigration.

So far, New Zealand has been more fortunate on both counts. The economy has seen steady growth and good employment and the nation remains untouched by terrorism. But immigration is being popularly blamed by some for the main problem - the highest house prices relative to incomes in the world.

Could this be the issue that turns next election into an event of "seismic" proportions, like England's decision to leave the European Union or the likely consequences should Trump win the presidency? Winston Peters will hope so.

He represents much the same fears of immigrant labour, investment and influence that motivated the Brexit vote and handed the Republican presidential nomination to Trump. But a large part of the mood in England, Europe and the United States may simply have been impatience with the usual order of things.

Provincial England (as distinct from London and Scotland, which wished to remain in the EU) wanted to see what would happen if they upset the status quo. So did Trump voters in the Republican primaries. Brexit and Trump carried a novelty value that Peters would struggle to offer this country. He has been around longer than anybody else in Parliament. He has been touted as a potential "kingmaker" before every election most of us can remember, but only one election result, 1996, has put him in that position. That was the first election under MMP and the resulting coalition was not a happy experience for Peters, his party or the country. It is hard to see him producing a seismic wave next year.

In any case, by the time New Zealanders vote, the world will either be well over the novelty value of Brexit and Trump or, heaven forbid, living with the consequences.

The British Government will not formally notify the EU of its decision to leave before the end of this year and it may still be trying to negotiate the best terms it can get from Brussels by the end of 2017. As for the United States, Trump's performance during the past few weeks suggests he is spinning out of control and headed for a heavy defeat in November. The Republican Party will need to salvage what it can for its congressional and state candidates and, a year on, might be looking to change its rules for primary elections so it cannot again be captured by a populist with no regard for security alliances, voting minorities, or facts, truth and common decency.

But there is no room for complacency. More must be done to contain house prices, especially, if New Zealanders are to remain open in their outlook and continue to celebrate the rapidly rising population this country now attracts.

- NZ Herald

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