The hypocrisy of switches in power
ANALYSIS: ‘‘That’s the kind of thing you say in opposition, not in Government.’’
Former Labour MP Steve Maharey was uncharacteristically candid for a politician when he said this back in 2000. And he’s right – there are some things opposition MPs can get away with that governments cannot.
An opposition is there to hold the government to account and represent their constituents. That gives them the freedom to take a harder stance on an issue than a government might.
Meanwhile, those in power are often constrained when it comes to delivering on promises, due to a) money, b) support needed to get a deal across the line, and c) international security and diplomacy, in some extreme cases.
This has become apparent during the early stages of House swap.
A Labour Party that’s been talking about holding power to account, values and vision, is finding its pragmatism. That sometimes means pivoting, deflecting, stalling - where the oldlook Labour across the aisle would have jumped in boots and all. Basically, one of the first lessons a government learns is how to mind its ps and qs.
There has been a race to the centre in New Zealand politics since the implementation of MMP, the result is political party conflict characterised by greater levels of pragmatism.
Meanwhile, the (sort of) freshfaced National has come out swinging.
Now National’s on the other side of the aisle they have more freedom with what they say, and leader Bill English has made no secret of his party’s plan to make life hard for the Labour-led Government. On the day he announced National’s portfolios, he reminded Labour and the public ‘‘it’s not our job to make this place run’’, adding that National would ‘‘frustrate progress’’ where it could.
And yesterday, National deputy leader Paula Bennett let rip at Labour, saying being a government was ‘‘hard, complex work’’.
‘‘I hope you take advice, I hope you take a breath, I hope you look at the things that are working, and not throw them out, just because ideologically you believe you know so much better than anybody else,’’ she said.
She also referred to the debacle in the House on day one, where it appeared Labour may have made a mistake when it came to its numbers. Labour later said it knew how many votes it could get, if the Speaker’s election went to a vote.
‘‘What was a real shame, after lecturing us repeatedly at how much better and principled this Government was going to be, that the first thing they did was spin it...
‘‘Instead they proved themselves to be absolutely as flawed as the rest of us, welcome to the real world, but you should have had the guts to stand up and say it.’’
It’s not surprising things change when the government changes. It’s always easier to talk the talk, than walk the walk.
Earlier this month, National foreign spokesman Gerry Brownlee called on Foreign Minister Winston Peters to expel a ‘‘hateful’’ Iranian diplomat, who delivered an ‘‘anti-semitic hate speech’’ at a mosque in Auckland.
But it didn’t take long for new Foreign Minister Winston Peters to call Brownlee out on the hypocrisy of his statement.
Peters returned fire, asking why Brownlee had not expelled him when he was foreign minister: ‘‘It happened in June’’.
One of Labour’s flagship education policies during the campaign was the promise to scrap National Standards. The standards were introduced under National, and they are highly unpopular with the unions, and teachers.
But parents like National Standards – they give them insight into their child’s progress; they set a clear measure, and the updates come twice a year.
On Tuesday, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said schools could continue to use National Standards, rather than the ‘‘new and improved’’ measurement.
This appeared to be a big u-turn for Labour.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern fought a campaign based largely on values. Issues like child poverty, suicide, and refugees.
As the situation with the refugees on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea deteriorates, Ardern reaffirmed New Zealand’s offer to resettle up to 150 refugees.
Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly refused Ardern’s offer.
In this case Ardern has stuck to the values Labour campaigned on, but the upshot has been tension in the trans-Tasman relationship.
Depending on what side you land on, some may say Ardern could have had used more pragmatism and less focus on values in this instance.
Earlier this month, National foreign spokesman Gerry Brownlee called on Foreign Minister Winston Peters to expel a ‘‘hateful’’ Iranian diplomat, who delivered an ‘‘anti-semitic hate speech’’ at a mosque in Auckland. It didn’t take long for Peters to return fire, asking why Brownlee had not expelled him when he was foreign minister: ‘‘It happened in June’’.