It is important that we maintain strong leadership throughout the Covid-19 crisis - but the pandemic must not be our only focus this election.
We should also avoid the mistake of thinking that "the only other issue" is the economy. This election, let's vote for love.
The Politics of Love is a new vision of politics. It affirms the importance of people, and it urges us to recognise that non-human animals and the natural environment deserve love, too.
There are three urgent issues that need our attention this election. We must press
candidates to commit to radical change in these areas - and how they respond should inform the way we vote.
To care for the natural environment is to show love to the planet and everyone who lives here. It is also an expression of love for future generations.
The government we elect should ensure that political mechanisms are in place for
putting the climate at the centre of policy-making. It could enact a cross-party Climate Crisis Task Force for urgent action, and it should make the Minister for Climate Change a cabinet minister.
The aim should be to ensure that the important changes the current government has secured can be directed toward measurable results.
We need policies that will rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. "Incentives" are not enough: we must enact regulation that requires industries to reduce their emissions proportionate to their present contributions. We cannot afford to continue appeasing our "primary industries": animal agriculture accounts for almost half of our country's greenhouse gas emissions, and we will not reach net zero without addressing the harmful impact of animal farming.
A loving political agenda must prioritise animal rights, because animals have interests too.
New Zealand has an appalling record when it comes to animal rights abuses. This is partly due to the scale of our animal agriculture industry. The problem isn't only cruelty. It also has to do with us using others for our own purposes: breeding, confining, then killing nonhumans simply because we have a taste for animal products - or can sell them - is wrong.
As bad is our treatment of so-called "pests". The Predator-Free 2050 campaign, which aims to eradicate possums, stoats, and rats by the middle of this century is, essentially, a government-sponsored, taxpayer-funded killing programme. It fails to acknowledge that the animals being targeted are not morally responsible for environmental degradation, and it shifts the blame – if any species is a "pest", it is ours.
There is nothing compassionate about the way we're killing "pests", either. Trapping is cruel. So is the use of 1080 poison, or sodium fluoroacetate: it causes so much suffering that the SPCA has argued its use cannot be justified.
We must insist that parties commit to establishing an independent Animal Rights Commission. The commission might focus on four areas: wild animals, animals used in agriculture, domestic animals, and animals used in experiments. It could begin by
identifying the ways in which abuses occur; then, in consultation with animal advocacy groups, such as SAFE, the New Zealand Animal Law Association, and the New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society, it could review the legislation that exists, as well as mechanisms for enforcing protections, before making recommendations to parliament on legislative changes.
We should also urge candidates to agree to establish an inquiry group to determine what is needed to transition Aotearoa's economy from animal to plant-based agriculture. This group could be a partnership with iwi, centring mātauranga Māori and traditional gardening practices. And it might consult farmers - to engage their expertise, and to ensure that, when we do make changes, they have all the support they need.
The Politics of Love affirms the importance of all people – it is committed to radical quality. If we want to make our society more equal, we need a more equitable tax scheme where the wealthier are taxed at a much higher rate and the revenue is redistributed in social projects.
As Shamubeel Eaqub has written, "At its core, tax is about pooling our resources and redistributing, so that society is better off. Tax is love." Investment must be complemented with regulation - the current Government has invested in housing, for example, but greater regulation is also needed to ensure that every New Zealander has a secure home.
If we wish to realise true equality, however, we also need to advance transformative projects - initiatives that reimagine our society. We might urge candidates to commit to engaging in the process of constitutional change, taking the recommendations of the Matike Mai Aotearoa report as a starting point.
By drawing on the strengths of our diverse cultures, we will transcend injustices rooted in colonisation and realise love for all people.
Almost everything is political, and politics is about more than voting. Nonetheless, this election represents an opportunity for us to make our society better. Let's vote for love.
• Philip McKibbin is the author of Love Notes: for a Politics of Love, published in New York by Lantern Books. He will be giving a free public talk at Time Out Bookstore, on September 15, at 6.30pm.