Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

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Hallelujah: First Steps of Progress at Last



Some kind of deliverance is at hand. The worst government of my long life is off to the knackers' yard, along with several MPs who played a key role in its demise. National and Act look like they can cobble together a working arrangement before the final count tells them whether New Zealand First will be needed in more than a support-party role. David Seymour should emerge as Deputy Prime Minister and Brooke Van Velden who starred amongst the results should also become a key minister. With new attention to detail, we should get a new education policy and an end to racial division within the Health structure. There will be modest tax cuts, and some reduction of the bloated numbers in the public service.

It's worth brooding over the results. One striking feature was Labour's extraordinarily poor results in Auckland. Losses in Takanini, Maungakiekie, Roskill, New Lynn and possibly Mt Albert and my old seat of Te Atatu suggest that immigrants who were once supportive of Labour have turned against that party. It hasn't suddenly happened. The Chinese community started losing faith several elections back. This time it was the Indian community as well. Overwhelmingly, both groups have younger workers who want to get ahead in their new country. They resent the way Carmel Sepuloni has tolerated easy welfare and are inclined to laugh at those described as "job seekers". The new immigrants know that the mushrooming numbers of people on such benefits have no intention of seriously seeking a job and are there for the ride. Moreover, new immigrants have worked out that those on benefits are disproportionately Maori who under Labour kept receiving additional privileges that they, the newcomers, were expected to pay for through their taxes. This was something Chris Hipkins never even started to explain in any credible way. Arrogant utterances from Nanaia Mahuta, Willie Jackson and Kieran McAnulty, especially the last, reinforced the impression amongst the new immigrants that Labour was turning the country into a privileged place for Maori where Chinese, Indians and non-Maori New Zealanders would never have more than second class status. The better educated knew that Labour's greatest Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, in 1948, had signed up to the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the effect that "all human beings are born free and are equal in dignity and rights" - something Alex Holland recently reminded us of on this blog. Labour's Maorification policy this last three years, which wasn't mentioned on the campaign trail in 2020, cost the party dearly on Saturday.

But there were other factors in Labour's defeat. Silly Michael Wood who was the minister, slowed immigration numbers and family reunification for so long during the pandemic that resentment built among the many immigrant groups even in his own electorate. He did so for inappropriate ideological reasons. He reasoned that if the supply of workers was kept down, then employers would be obliged to pay existing employees more. Ignorant on matters of economics, Wood and the Labour cabinet that let him play his games, seemed blissfully unaware for ages of the inflationary impact his policy would have. Moreover, the gross exploitation of seasonal workers allowed into the country shocked every decent Kiwi while Wood largely turned a blind eye. There is some justice in this world: Wood has gone from Parliament. The clincher for many Indian immigrants in particular has been the ram raids, knife attacks and several murders of dairy proprietors around Auckland. Most immigrants everywhere have always possessed intelligence as well as a willingness to work. They could see that Labour's educational policies were failing their children. Chris Hipkins told us all that his cabinet had no intention of holding parents to account for their failure to ensure children went to school, enabling more than 50% of Maori children, many as young as 12, to skip classes, join gangs, shop lift, and engage in outrageous ram raiding of immigrant-owned businesses. Immigrants could see, too, that our court system had degenerated to the point where there was little or no accountability for youth crime. Labour deserved its defeat on Saturday for its social policy failures.

We would be most unwise, however, to conclude that life is automatically going to improve now that this truly awful Labour government is about to disappear. Remember that ministers in the new government need cooperation from our ever-so-costly public service. Of recent years it has been very poorly led by Peter Hughes, the Public Service Commissioner, while some heads of department, like Iona Holsted at Education, should offer their resignations on Monday for their departments' manifold disasters of recent years. But who takes over? Where are the new ministers going to find adequately trained leaders of the public service who will follow instructions and implement the policy changes their ministers have been elected to deliver? Wellington has a dysfunctional Green Mayor, and a disastrous council. On Saturday two city seats were taken by Greens, several of whose policies would have been welcomed in Soviet Russia. New Zealand has a huge Wellington problem, I'm afraid. Does Christopher Luxon realise how difficult he will find it to deliver his policies. He needs a really tough Minister of State Services. Remember how woeful Labour found shaking any progress out of the public service?

And this is just the beginning to the job of unwinding the horrors in so many sectors during the Jacinda Ardern-Chris Hipkins era.