New Zealand politics appears to have wandered into something of a dark and negative space of late.
MPs want out of their parties, and it’s probably little wonder. Labour’s minister Meka Whaitiri’s defected to Te Pāti Māori and Dr Elizabeth Kerekere quit the Greens. It appears what they stand for is not the same as their parties. Their walking is a clear signal of what they will not do - to fall into line with the parties that gave them their privileged positions.
While downtown Auckland was gridlocked with anxious workers again trying to flee rising floodwaters, Te Pāti Māori leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer thought it a good time to stage a welcome for Whaitiri as a member of the Māori Party and were kicked out of the House. This suggests they would rather be evicted than comply with the rules.
The following day, Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson was ejected by Speaker of the House Adrian Rurawhe for repeatedly interrupting Act’s Nicole McKee to express her distaste at the Act MP’s desire to jail more offending Kiwis.
Things got even gloomier as Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods outlined a “dystopian world” she said National was intent on creating.
“That’s what we’re seeing from the Opposition benches - Back to the Future Part Four - starring the protagonist, Gloomy Christopher Luxon, and his sidekick, Negative Nicola Willis,” Woods said.
She claimed 60 per cent of National’s social media posts in April were “negative”, which is not all that surprising from a party warranted as the official “Opposition” but probably a good measure of the atmosphere we’ve found ourselves floating in.
National’s housing spokesman Chris Bishop responded by calling Woods’ oration a “low-energy speech”. “You can see the fire in their eyes going out as the weeks go by,” he said of Labour MPs. One might be excused for thinking the candles are flickering in voters’ interest as well.
Also this past week, National Party leader Christopher Luxon finally capitulated, after repeated questioning, and ruled out working with Te Pāti Māori in any potential coalition after the October election. Once again saying what he will not do. This follows other pronouncements from Luxon stating National will not proceed with the Three Waters reform and will get rid of the Māori Health Authority if he is prime minister.
While rolling out his policy rollbacks, Luxon has also predicted any attempt by Labour to form another government will be a “coalition of chaos”. This is still the most likely scenario, according to the latest poll of polls from Friday.
Speaking of which, even the once-chipper Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has built a legacy of scheduling press engagements to announce what he will not be doing. The so-called $568 million cash for clunkers car scheme; narrowing a plan to nationally reduce speed limits; staggering the rollout of Auckland light rail; the TVNZ/RNZ merger; and a biofuels mandate. All not going to happen.
This leaves us in something of a void about what exactly the parties are planning to do for the brave little country trying to battle economic headwinds and environmental storms in the South Pacific.
There are exactly five months until the general election. There’s still time to hear of some positive policies, some vision for what this country can become; some leaders, well, leading us somewhere rather than hacking back through what was already done or planned.
The delivery of the Budget on Thursday might be the place to start. Let’s just hope it is not dominated by a Finance Minister announcing what he can’t, or won’t, be doing.