Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

< Columns

Jacinda: Full Steam into the Electoral Hurricane



Watching Jacinda Ardern respond to the local body election results has been scary. Teeth flashing, hands waving, exhortations to "be kind", she seems to be full-steam ahead into next year's electoral hurricane. No acknowledgement that the mayoral candidates she campaigned for in Auckland and Wellington were trounced at the polls, her endorsement probably more of a liability than a help. Not a sign Jacinda or her hapless ministerial colleagues have learned anything about the unpopularity of many of their policies. A few days after the results, arrogant lightweight, Michael Wood, announced a too-little-too-late change to immigration policies starting next year, completely failing to appreciate that more people have emigrated than immigrated over the last six months, and that there is a desperate labour shortage in the country now. This requires a major opening of the borders to fix. According to the latest Economist bolder moves to encourage backpackers and overseas students to Australia aren't yet producing the desired effects over there, and Wood's timid efforts here will certainly fall short. Carmel Sepuloni, who purports to be in charge of welfare spending, presides over more than 100,000 on "Job Seeker" benefits, few of whom have any intention of seeking a job. She is unable to get them off the couch and into even completely unskilled jobs, possibly because their families and the Hipkins-led education sector have failed so many of them in recent years.

Meanwhile, nurses and teachers are at breaking point, many of them realizing they can ratchet up their remuneration if they go to Australia. Dreary Health Minister, Andrew Little, gives every appearance of hating his portfolio and has no solution to the staff shortages bedeviling the hospitals under his control. In fact, the former union leader has failed even to honour a back-pay deal reached many months ago with nurses whose rising anger is also turning their attention towards migration. Meanwhile, nothing changes on the law and order front. Ram raids continue with kids aplenty, while guns and violence have become a part of everyday life under Jacinda's government. Willie Jackson and Nanaia Mahuta seek only to speed up the mad dash towards co-governance, sensing this might be the last time in their lives when they have the numbers to ram unpopular, undemocratic, Maori racial advantage up Kiwi noses.

The Maori Party has learned nothing from the opinion polls either. Its president, John Tamihere, has been accused of helping himself to Waipareira Trust money to fund his election frolics, telling a journalist who sought to inquire into his conduct with his charitable trust: "Go jump in the lake, white man!" Tamihere described media scrutiny of his political funding as "racist" and a "pogrom", a word which he clearly doesn't understand. In Tamihere's view, Maori now set their own rules about what to do with taxpayers' money. Kelvin Davis' berating of ACT's Karen Chhour by questioning her Maori credentials at least brought a half-pie apology. So far Tamihere hasn't issued one to the journalist he abused. Jacinda says as little as possible about her errant ministers and takes no responsibility for her government's standard policy of forgiving most Maori outrages. I predict that Tamihere's Waipareira Trust which has done some good for urban Maori is strong enough to survive its leader's apparent illegal acts. But If he lacked his small portion of Maori blood, Jacinda would throw him under a bus. Hers is the most unapologetically racist government in New Zealand's history. She admitted several years ago that she didn't know the clauses of the Treaty of Waitangi, and since then clearly hasn't read Article Three which promised Maori the same rights and duties of citizenship as all the rest of us.

While Jacinda shows no sign of heeding the voters, the mainstream media, or some of them, like the New Zealand Herald, are doubling down on her behalf. Having set in-house clown, Simon Wilson, on to trying to destroy Wayne Brown's Auckland mayoral election campaign, the Herald seems desperately scared that a change of government next year might end the taxpayer-funded Public Interest Journalism Fund that underwrites about 40% of the paper's content these days. Wilson and several acolytes seem to have been detailed to harass Brown now he's in office, setting up straw men then knocking them down in the hope that their efforts will assist Jacinda who tried to prevent Brown winning in the first place. But while the Herald will probably continue to harass Brown, saving Jacinda from herself and her feeble ministerial colleagues will almost certainly prove impossible, and the editor would be wise to adjust his plans accordingly.