A mandate but not a total one
Last month the country went to the polls to elect our local parliamentary representatives and to decide which party or collection of parties would form the government.
The outcome was a predictable one, perhaps with the exception of the strong support for NZ First leader Winston Peters who singlehandedly steered his party out of the political wilderness.
The election outcome - of a National-led Government - while predictable, was tempered, and did not result in the National majority of votes which almost all polls had predicted leading up to election day.
The failure to win a majority was in my view a good outcome for this region and in fact the country.
The National Party is like most political entities, by and large a collection of mixed agendas.
Some in the party favour a more centrist approach to government, which is guided in part by more altruistic kiwi ideals of fairness and equality.
The party of course also has those who have hard right agendas which favours a dog-eat-dog mantra, where the rights of an individual are dominant, especially if that individual is rich and has power.
It is my belief that had National gained the majority vote, the agenda for the next three years would have been further towards the expectations of the hard right (and former ACT members who deserted ACT en masse) in the party. Had National won the more than 50 per cent support of all who voted, it would have been seen within the party as a mandate for major changes in this country, especially around state-owned assets, welfare reform and employment-related matters.
As it is now, there are moves likely in the short term that will see significant changes in welfare reform, the sale of state-owned assets, and further changes in favour of employers in employment law. However I think it will be tempered by the more socially minded in the party, and perhaps the Maori Party who are expected to again help form the government.
The South Waikato is a region that has been hit hard by the sale of state assets and policy change. As a result of asset sales and free market policy changes in the 1980s Tokoroa went from being a booming forestry town to one enduring business closures and wholesale unemployment.
For many of the ‘‘mums and dads’’ in our community, there is no spare cash to invest in the shares in state assets soon to be put up for sale.
We are a region ravaged by the reforms and government policy changes, and as a result are likely to feel it the hardest with welfare reform.
Our region needs jobs, and a focus on education and training. For many in our community their budget is stretched as it is, with little room for the cuts and hard line the government look set to impose.
New Zealand is a fair society; I hope those with influence within National read between the lines of the voting public, in that yes, there was enough support to continue your role in Government, but not for the hard right agenda preferred by some.
The Maori Party also were given enough information to be able to read between the lines, and that is that the party has lost support, but maintains enough to still have three members elected to parliament, a situation that will likely see the party again help form the Government. Maori voters are patient, but they will be expecting significant gains in improving the lot of Maori this time around, and improvement in how the Maori Party communicates with members, and how the party manages its strategy and focus in the coming three years.
The party is heading into its eighth year in existence, enough time to have ironed out the growing pains of a new political party.
Congratulations to Louise Upston and Tariana Turia who have both done a good job representing our region. I look forward to three years where they work hard to continue to advocate for the needs of all within our region. The world economic situation remains uncertain, and it is time for sure but fair hands to guide our country through the coming three years.