Spot­light thrown on se­cu­rity

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

The car­nage in France has be­gun 2015 in a way that makes any forecasts about lo­cal pol­i­tics – how is new Labour leader An­drew Lit­tle likely to fare against Prime Min­is­ter John Key this year? – seem even more triv­ial than usual.

In pass­ing though, the lack of ac­tual blood­let­ting in our pol­i­tics (and jour­nal­ism) is some­thing for which we should be more grate­ful than we usu­ally tend to be. Es­pe­cially given that France – and other Western coun­tries – have prob­a­bly not seen the last of ji­hadi ter­ror­ism on home soil.

What the events in France will en­sure is that se­cu­rity is­sues will con­tinue to dom­i­nate our pol­i­tics dur­ing the first half of 2015.

In June, that de­bate will cul­mi­nate in the long-promised re­view of our in­tel­li­gence ser­vices.

Tellingly, in the re­cent Aus­tralian and French ter­ror­ism in­ci­dents, the cul­prits were well­known to the au­thor­i­ties, yet still man­aged to arm them­selves and ex­e­cute their plans. As a con­se­quence, the po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ments here in the com­ing months are likely to fo­cus on whether we need to ex­pand the ob­jec­tive pow­ers of surveil­lance of our se­cu­rity ser­vices, or im­prove the sub­jec­tive in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the in­for­ma­tion al­ready avail­able to them.

Here and over­seas, the fail­ings seem to be about in­ter­pre­ta­tion, not de­tec­tion.

This re­al­ity hardly sup­ports an ar­gu­ment for broader surveil­lance pow­ers.

Sup­pos­edly, the me­dia paid too much at­ten­tion to such is­sues dur­ing the elec­tion, while vir­tu­ally ig­nor­ing the econ­omy.

To date though, the eco­nomic re­cov­ery has made pre­cious lit­tle im­pact on wages, in­fla­tion or job se­cu­rity.

Dur­ing 2015, the fall in oil prices will be­come the Gov­ern­ment’s main safety valve, given that this petrol pump re­lief will leave more money in peo­ple’s pock­ets than the re­cov­ery has so far de­liv­ered.

In other good luck for the Gov­ern­ment, the likely de­cline in de­mand from China will be off­set by a resur­gent Amer­i­can econ­omy that will push our dol­lar down fur­ther against the Green­back.

Any de­light among ex­porters will, how­ever, be tem­pered by our steady march to par­ity against the Aussie dol­lar. Among other things that will make New Zealand an ex­pen­sive op­tion this win­ter for Aus­tralian tourists, who still com­prise our big­gest bloc of pay­ing vis­i­tors.

Over­all then, the econ­omy will of­fer slim pick­ings for op­po­si­tion politi­cians.

The high lev­els of un­met need within our health sys­tem – which, be­lat­edly, the Gov­ern­ment be­gan to mea­sure mid- 2014 – may fi­nally be­come a po­lit­i­cal is­sue once those find­ings see thy light of day early this year.

In­evitably though, the early po­lit­i­cal the­atre of 2015 will be about Lit­tle’s abil­ity to build on a promis­ing start.

As oth­ers have noted, Lit­tle was for­tu­nate to be­gin his new job when the is­sues of the day were de­cid­edly non-ide­o­log­i­cal.

This al­lowed him to crit­i­cise the man­i­fest fail­ings in the pub­lic ser­vice over the Roger Sut­ton af­fair, and the flight to Brazil of a no­to­ri­ous crim­i­nal. Simultaneously, Key was end­ing 2014 on an un­usu­ally sour and ragged note.

Pre­sum­ably, a re­freshed John Key will be a more for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent in 2015.

If the econ­omy, health and se­cu­rity ser­vices dom­i­nate the ini­tial agenda, th­ese are all is­sues on which the Greens will test Lit­tle’s abil­ity to stake out a strong and cred­i­ble pol­icy di­rec­tion.

So far, Lit­tle has looked like a safe pair of hands. Gen­uine lead­er­ship will, how­ever, re­quire more.


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