15 October 2020

So who should get your party vote?

Having returned to NZ, I'm amused by the list of registered political parties.  So for the hell of it, I thought I'd say some words about the party vote choices in alphabetical order:

ACT:  Mild mannered free market liberalism and now socially liberal as well (in some cases too liberal for me). Has sought to win some of the gun-owners' vote, and diluted economic policies given Covid19. Supports a smarter, high-tech approach to Covid19. Social liberalism has burnt off some socially conservative support. Big question is whether some of the team will match the capability and competence of David Seymour.  I'd give 8 out of 10 for ACT, points off for not being more courageous on education, for being a little too bureaucratic on some issues, and David Seymour's position on abortion (I'm halfway between the two extremes). ACT will likely be a vibrant part of the opposition, so watch the maiden speeches of its new MPs.

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party:  Hopefully the ALCP will disband if the referendum goes the way they will support. It has been consistent, and although it is largely full of dopeheads who just want to be left alone, there is nothing wrong with that from my point of view. They aren't going to hurt me.  Sure, regular cannabis use is harmful and it is particularly destructive for young people to smoke cannabis, but the answer isn't the status quo.  ALCP gets 10 out of 10 because there is one issue it campaigns on, but there is little point voting for the party this year, because the referendum on cannabis is your chance to have your say.

Heartland New Zealand Party: Who?  Nothing wrong with a rural party, and this is basically campaigning for more taxpayer funded services in rural areas, although some of its principles I could sign up to (it sounds a lot like the National Party back in its founding years).  Backed by Harry Mowbray, I can't help but think he'd be better off donating and influencing the National Party or ACT instead.  There is a little bit of economic nationalism, a climate change policy that looks like ACT. The review of Auckland Council ought to be welcomed, but let's be realistic, Heartland New Zealand has little influence and even less chance of getting elected. Heartland New Zealand can get 5 out of 10 for freedom.

Mana Movement: What was once the radical breakaway from the Maori Party is now endorsing the Maori Party and isn't competing in the 2020 election. That should give reason to be fearful of the Maori Party now that it has absorbed the ultra-nationalist Mana Movement.

Maori Party: John Tamihere's latest endeavour for power having failed to be elected Mayor of Auckland (on an incoherent centre-right platform) is the Maori Party, which has gone toward the left and advancing an explicit agenda of racial separatism, including a highly corporatist agenda of compulsory quota of Maori businesses having to win government procurement contracts.  For example, it means 25% of road maintenance contracts would have to go to Maori businesses (are they 51% Maori owned?), even though no such businesses exist (and what if there were only one, this monopoly could encourage rent seeking and poor performance). I'm all for devolution of power to lower levels and encouraging individual self-determination, and Maori finding their own solutions for social problems, but the Maori Party now touts the highly debatable notion that Maori social problems are all about racism, and institutions that are structured against Maori. It wants a Maori Parliament, which implies separate laws for Maori. It wants to segregate fully Maori representation in Parliament and local government in Maori seats. No one who believes in limited government and equality before the law would tolerate this ethno-nationalist seek to "nationalise" Maori into an almost parallel state (and you can be sure they aren't to be paid for by only Maori taxes). Tamihere is an opportunist, and will change his stripes as he sees fit.  Hopefully the Maori Party wont make it (it needs to win an electorate), but on a freedom rating it gets 1 out of 10.  Maori are better off sticking with Labour in electorates.

New Conservatives: This is finally a good serious attempt at setting up a socially conservative and free market oriented government to the right of National.  It's good because it's not an explicitly Christian party, like previous attempts (although spot the non-Christian in the candidate list, this shouldn't matter).  Sure it plays hard on drugs and abortion (only the latter I have a bit of sympathy for). It's opposition to excessive action on climate change is positive, although I don't like its policy on binding referenda (I'm not keen on rights being up to a vote).  It's puritanical on alcohol, but surprisingly relatively liberal on prostitution (yes, really). It's approach to porn online is to block it unless it is requested, which I get (to minimise access to children), but this failed in the UK because it's impractical (pretty much impossible to filter out adult content from social media).  The health policy is actually one of the better ones (barring euthanasia, but that's a different issue), and on education, the policy on school choice and funding is good (although I am sympathetic around concerns about gender dysphoria, as I'd leave this up to individual schools to address as a matter of philosophical choice).  Overall (and unsurprisingly) the New Conservatives have some policies that shrink the state, and others that grow the state.  It gets 6 out of 10, if only because it has some philosophical underpinning that respects individual liberty, and some good policies.  It's a shame it wont reach 5% because there is a place for this party and for its views to be debated, but it wont be in Parliament this time.  It's a bigger shame that 2-3 other smaller parties are probably taking away support that should go to this party.

NZ First: I'll give Winston Peters credit for holding up restrictions on freedom of speech, and being a bit of a brake on Labour and the Greens, but then he wouldn't have had to be had he not selected them to be leading the government in the first place. NZ First is generally benign, in that it doesn't do much to undermine freedoms, and generally just wants money thrown at pork barrel sectors like racing and the railways. I have a bit of time for Winston's fiscal conservatism and his correct fears of PRC investment and influence, and also more recently hesitancy around levels of immigration (if only because of the inability of politicians to ensure infrastructure is adequate and concerns about PRC influence).  NZ First gets 5 out of 10, because it doesn't tend to do any harm, and occasionally some good. 

Labour: The best that can be said is that it is a party of incrementalism. For a party doing so well in the polls, it is promising to do very little other than spend up the next generation's money and continuing to accrete the welfare state in scale.  The more government it provides, the more it finds it needs yet more again.  It's the party of ever more state, but you could do worse.  The main problem is that the worse option would pull Labour further over (because fundamentally they DO want to spend a lot more and regulate more). 3 out of 10.

NZ Tea Party: Like a breakaway from ACT, the Tea Party is much more pro-immigration, and has an odd mix of policies that don't form a coherent whole.  Education policy is all about foreign students and export of education.  There isn't really much going on here, and the patronage of Sir Roger Douglas whilst nice, isn't apparent in policies (I mean you'd expect Unfinished Business to be seen here).  Why would you bother when ACT exists?  6 out of 10.

NZ Outdoors Party: Its website operates as a speed that indicates it has a 28k dialup modem connecting it to the internet. It has aspirations of everyone having a home, something called holistic education and sustainable agriculture. Sure it wants a different approach to Covid19, and I have a little time for thinking more broadly about it, but then it turns against 5G which is simply conspiratorial anti-scientific bullshit. Zero waste policy is nice in theory, but it wants a "plastic free New Zealand", a policy that will kill people (by banning medical equipment) and has vast unintended consequences. This party, once a proud party for hunters and shooters is now polluted with a mix of anti-scientific hysteria and "in the clouds" vagueness. 4 out of 10.

ONE Party: A party with theocratic origins which does talk about freedom, and which is sceptical about foreign investment.  Not sure quite what the point is, other than those who think the New Conservatives are too liberal.  It's a Christian party, and although it has some policies that would advance freedom it has plenty that don't. 4 out of 10.

Sustainable New Zealand Party: Like the Greens, but don't them being so left wing, then this is the party wanting your vote. However, it seems an awful lot like a wishlist of the Greens. I note the desire to spend what would be tens of billions of dollars on railways, and a vast range of pricey tech-led projects from recycling to building corporatist environmentalist businesses.  Where's the money coming from?  What about health?  What about education?  2 out of 10.

Advance New Zealand Party: Sure it talks about freedom, and how can I not like a few policies (like income tax free threshold) but it's just anti-reason and anti-science.  The finance policy is lunacy. You're not insane, just avoid. 1 out of 10.

Greens: More tax, more regulation, more government, more borrowing, New Zealand can save the world if only it taxes and regulates businesses and individuals more because of climate change, and if it doesn't, the world will come to an end. More welfare, more "free" stuff and collectivisation (pigeon holing everyone into identity categories). Mining should only be for materials that serve a "socially useful purpose" (seriously?). This is the party that's against capitalism, against private property rights and wants to regulate speech.  Children should both be mollycoddled and not be accountable for what they do, but ought to be able to vote.  Beyond euthanasia and cannabis, the Greens offer nothing for individual freedom. 1 out of 10.

Democratic Party for Social Credit: Funny money is mainstream, but this is still even funnier money.  Just print more for current spending. This movement was an embarrassment of New Zealand politics for years, now it is just an embarrassment for those who advance this nonsense.  1 out of 10.

National Party: Slightly lower taxes, but more spending and less appetite for the identity politics advanced by Labour. Nationals's record, except 1990-1996 (and to a limited extent 1996-1999) is to reverse hardly anything Labour does. Judith Collins is more conservative and probably better than many recent leaders on some freedom points (excluding cannabis of course). National has principles that it could do well to return to, but Labour has successfully fueled a culture of spending and regulation as the answers to any problems, through its utter dominance of the education system and the culture of much of the media.  National gets 6 out of 10, because it at least points in the right direction and has the power to effect change.

The Opportunities Party:  The centre-left policy wonks' party. For clever people that would usually vote Labour, and think they can solve many solutions if only the tax system were tinkered with.  There are a couple of clever people here, but it just the intellectual wing of the Labour-Green parties, and takes its support from there.  Long may it do that.  4 out of 10.

Vision New Zealand:  More Christian theocratic than the ONE Party, it's Destiny NZ Party revived (now with Hannah Tamaki being a more friendly face than Brian). Peppered with nationalism, this is a detailed vision, and one that has little room for individual freedom.  2 out of 10.

14 October 2020

So I'm voting ACT... quelle surprise

It wont be surprise to many, but I'm be voting ACT for my party vote.  I've been critical of ACT for many years, and until lately, David Seymour was struggling to get recognition and attention.  So why ACT?

1.  Freedom of Speech: David Seymour has been forthright in defending freedom of speech from proposals to expand laws on hate speech.  Sure he has had a few unsavoury supporters from that, but my view is that embodied in the US Constitution First Amendment.  The law prohibits threatening speech now, and there is no evidence that restricting what angry violent people say will protect anyone, but there is a risk that criminalising speech against people because of their religion will be a new blasphemy law by default. Free speech is under sustained attack from structuralist theory touters on the hard left (who seek to not only police language but police speakers because of their race, sex and political views) and from theocrats (particularly Salafist and Wahhabists).  With the exception of the New Conservatives (who get wobbly on free speech involving sex and drugs), no other significant party is strong on free speech.  National passed the Harmful Digital Communications Act, although I suspect Judith Collins is better on free speech than some of her predecessors.  ACT's view on academic freedom, specifically requiring taxpayer owned and funded institutions to ensure freedom of debate is maintained is also important.  Sure, it will mean some vileness will be permitted on campus, but this already happens, from activists on the hard-left, whether it is for the destruction of Israel, or for Islamism, or for radical Marxist perspectives, including structuralist views around Maori ethno-nationalism. 

2. Property rights:  Libertarians have been arguing to abolish the RMA for many years (2004!) but it has taken David Seymour to bring ACT on board with this properly.  Sure EVERYONE is talking about replacing the RMA, but be VERY clear, the Labour/Green version of this is a tinkering, mainly to let government build what it wants and to sustain the central planning approach that the RMA has facilitated since 1991 (note that the RMA has origins with Geoffrey Palmer under the Lange Government and then gleefully pushed forward by National under Simon Upton (so-called Hayekian).   The RMA needs to go, and be replaced with a planning system centred NOT on central or local government planning, but private property rights.  ACT's plan is much weaker than I'd like, but a strong ACT vote means the party has a chance to significantly influence replacement of the RMA, and this is one of the key steps needed to address the housing shortage.

3. Role of the state:  ACT has a plan to get back to balancing the books by cutting clearly wasteful spending, whilst simplifying and lowering taxes.  It could do a lot more, but it's a start when both major parties are promising more borrowed money spent.  ACT is also likely to be much more critical on regulation and interventionist approaches to addressing economic and social issues.

4. Climate change:  The Zero Carbon Act is an absurd waste of the legislative process. It is a law to bind governments with their policies, rather than a law that binds individuals or citizens, but is a exercise in virtue signalling (as was the one in the UK).  ACT will replace the ETS with a transparent price of CO2 that is linked to that of NZ's major trading partners, so that it doesn't undermine NZ's competitiveness internationally.  NZ can make its contribution, without it kneecapping its economy, and by having a single price it avoids the need for a panoply of interventionist policies on fossil fuels, transport or farming, among others. 

5. Smarter on Covid19: Taiwan is the great international success story on Covid19 by using technology and ACT advances this. New Zealand will suffer if it goes through another lockdown and New Zealand needs to progressively open its borders to other countries for safe travel.  National wouldn't have done much different from Labour and the NZ economy is running on a sugar hit of borrowing and printed money. This has to come to an end, by having an open economy and a long term sustainable policy to be open, but protecting the most vulnerable and taking simple steps around sanitising and use of masks where appropriate, whilst staying open.

6. Foreign Affairs: ACT is campaigning on strengthening foreign affairs and defence ties with New Zealand's traditional allies, which is important as China continues to pursue a more aggressive approach to foreign policy in the region.

Sure there is a lot else I am less enthused about.  I'd like ACT to be much more pro-active on education choice, with charter schools, funding following students and funding all schools equally per pupil, and to decentralise teacher pay. I'm more conservative on abortion than David Seymour (but not as conservative as many in the New Conservatives).  I'm non-plussed about firearms personally, and I'd love local government to get less power.  I LIKE the proposal for an independent infrastructure corporation, as a step away from politicisation. 

Will ACT bring people into Parliament who I am little uncertain about?  Possibly, but it is the same for all parties and I trust Seymour to keep them in line. What about the alternatives?  Well more on them later. 

13 October 2020

New Zealand Election 2020: Electorate vote Part Two - General Electorates Mangere - Wigram and Maori electorates

As the nation waits in anticipation for the Libertyscott opinion of who you should vote for in electorates, I present the following (and yes, I'll accept any additional information to change my mind about any of them, I simply did a cursory search online for those I don't know):

Mangere (safe Labour): Labour's William Sio is a sure thing here, note he opposed gay marriage. National's Agnes Loheni is standing again, and she speaks well about avoiding a victim mentality.  Her maiden speech included "That soft bigotry of low expectation is the road to hell laid brick by brick with good intentions". She's conservative on abortion, although I don't think late-term abortions on demand are consistent with individual freedom. There isn't much other choice here, Fuiavailili Alailima from New Conservatives talks little about freedom.  Agnes Loheni - National

Manurewa (safe Labour): There is a whole story around why Louisa Wall, the sitting MP, has effectively been ousted by internal party infighting.  So the Labour candidate is now Arena Williams, a young lawyer who looks like being very much in the mould of Ardern. Nuwanthie Samarakone is the National candidate, who is a young entrepreneur (so that's a step up). ACT doesn't have a candidate here, although the breakaway TEA Party does, there is next to no information about its candidate, Wella Bernardo.  New Conservative candidate Mote Pahulu is too conservative for me, s say yes to Nuwanthie Samarakone - National

Maungakiekie (marginal National): Denise Lee is the National MP, she's inoffensive, and her rival is Labour list MP Priyanka Radhakrishnan, whose main achievement has been around campaigning against domestic violence across ethnic communities (which is laudable). On balance I'd prefer Lee in a marginal that Labour might win, but there's little from her background to suggest she's any great advocate for less government. The ACT and New Conservative candidates both say some good things about less government, but none are compelling.   Take your pick

Mt Albert (safe Labour): You'll want to vote against Jacinda Ardern. National list MP Melissa Lee is trying again, and her record in the Key Government is nothing particularly exciting (voting against gay marriage and in favour of NOT raising the alcohol consumption age).  About the only signal you can give here is to try to narrow Jacinda Ardern's majority by voting for Lee, and also keep the young  hard left Green candidate Luke Wijohn at bay Melissa Lee - National

Mt Roskill (safe Labour): Labour's Michael Wood is the MP, and of course was previously a union negotiator and spent years in local government.  National list MP Parmjeet Parmar is trying again to win this seat, but there is little in her profile that suggests she believes in less government.  Give Chris Johnston of ACT your vote.  Chris Johnston - ACT

Napier (marginal Labour): It's hard to see Stuart Nash being unseated here, but this was a secure National seat for some years.  Katie Nimon is head of a long-standing family business and has a shot at unseating Nash, which is good enough for me (especially since this is now my electorate).  Katie Nimon - National

Nelson (marginal National): Nick Smith is no friend of small government, and although the profile of Rachel Boyack of Labour just grates (former union organiser with a big Green bent), I'd be tempted to vote for her to help excise Nick Smith from Parliament (he's number 18 on the list). If you can't cope with Boyack, then Chris Baillie from ACT is an excellent choice, given his commitment to free speech.  However, given Nick Smith's record on the RMA, he is central to the housing crisis and the hand-wringing corporatism that held back the Key government.  Rachel Boyack - Labour

New Lynn (marginal Labour): Deborah Russell is the Labour MP, who effectively said the small businesses failing under lockdown was their fault. Lisa Whyte is the National candidate who despite having been in local government, does appear to support lower taxes and opposes Kiwibuild and the Twyford tram.  Lisa Whyte - National

New Plymouth (moderately safe National): National MP Jonathan Young is socially conservative, but I'm not holding that against him. ACT's Ada Xiao although originally from the PRC appears to support freedom in Hong Kong and supports Taiwan, although that seems a strange pitch for the people of New Plymouth and may be to push back against concerns that she was an aircraft designed for the PRC government.  No strong feelings here.  Take your pick

North Shore (safe National): Maggie Barry has retired, which is no great loss.  National is putting forward Simon Watts who is a health administrator.  Nick Kearney of ACT has openly opposed land tax. Give Kearney your vote.  Nick Kearney - ACT

Northcote (safe National): Dan Bidois is standing again for the Nats, he's quite a clever chap and his maiden speech actually lauded free enterprise.  He's only be there a couple of years, so give him another go.  Dan Bidois - National

Northland (marginal National): NZ First hopes this will be its lifeline, so a vote for Matt King is to stop this and remove one party of corporatist pork barrelling (it isn't insurance against Labour, for obvious reasons).  Matt King - National

Ohariu (marginal Labour): I'm not fan of Greg O'Connor, Labour MP and ex. Police unionist.  Brett Hudson, National list MP is running again, and although he quoted John Stuart Mill in his maiden speech that's not enough to woo me. Jessica Hammond (who I know) is a very bright and very engaging candidate for TOP, but if she were elected she'd bring in TOP MPs, and there is no need for more enthusiasts of new taxes/ex. policy wonks in Parliament.  My friend Sean Fitzpatrick is standing for ACT, and as an entrepreneur and self-made man, who believes in freedom and personal responsibility, he deserves your vote.  Sean Fitzpatrick - ACT

Otaki (moderately safe National): Nathan Guy isn't standing again.  Wing Commander Tim Costley is the new National candidate and although he sees himself as a natural leader (uh oh), he's probably worth a shot this time compared to Labour's Terisa Ngobi, who is clearly in favour of more government.  Tim Costley - National

Pakuranga (safe National): So do you want to keep Simeon Brown?  He's socially conservative, but believes in free speech and talked well about government governing least, yet has been big on advancing the war on drugs.  There's not enough about Mo Yee Poon for me to give him an endorsement.  So Take Your Pick

Palmerston North (safe Labour): Iain Lees Galloway is standing down, so the Labour candidate is Tangi Utikere. He's a former teacher and city councillor, and seems pretty much the bog standard moderate Labour politician. William Wood is the National candidate and is notable for being just shy of being a child, having turned 18 at January. While some think encouraging young people to be politicians is a noble goal, I think it is a waste for young minds to be focused on telling other people what to do, rather than building one's own life. Yet he got a lot of grief because when he was 14. 14! he impersonated Hitler. Now he then apologised and this beat up is so utterly over the top. No one should feel humiliated for what looked like poking fun at Hitler in your early teens, so for that alone, give him your vote.  William Wood - National

Panmure-Otahuhu (new electorate nominally Labour):  former Manukau East MP Jenny Salesa is the Labour candidate, and was a public servant before being an MP.  National list MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is running this time.  His maiden speech was promising, with the only major negative being his strong opposition to gay marriage.  ACT has no candidate, but Ted Johnston, the New Conservative candidate appears weak on freedom especially since he stood for TOP in 2017.  I'd pick Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi - National

Papakura (safe National): Judith Collins holds this and will keep it, so give Bruce Whitehead of ACT your vote, just so she knows some people in her seat have a penchance for individual freedom. Bruce has a long pedigree of being a strong supporter of individual freedom  Bruce Whitehead - ACT

Port Waikato (safe National): former Hunua MP Andrew Bayly is standing for the Nats.  He waged war on meth in homes, which is all very well, but shows little interest in less government.  ACT's Dave King is more promising, whereas Steven Senn of the New Conservatives is a bit too enthusiastic about citizens' initiated referenda for me (freedom doesn't come from the majority voting for whatever they want).  Dave King - ACT

Rangitata (safe National): Megan Hands is the new National candidate, nothing wrong with her (nothing exciting either).  The alternatives are Hamish Hutton of ACT (who seems reasonable) and Lachie Ashton of the New Conservatives (who seems like a Muldoonist).  However James Rae of Not a Party seems like he'd be more fun.  James Rae - Not a Party

Rangitikei (safe National): Generations ago this was the heart of funny money Social Credit, but not anymore.  Ian McKelvie from the Nats will continue to hold this seat.  In his maiden seat he said "I don’t believe we have any ‘rights’ in life – property or otherwise - we must earn them", well... no.   Neil Wilson of ACT is a better choice as he believes in "enlightenment values" and "Human happiness is a legitimate moral purpose and productive work is a good and noble activity. Reason is the tool of choice but without freedom neither happiness nor productive work can be achieved".  He'll do.  Neil Wilson - ACT

Remutaka (safe Labour): Chris Hipkins is the MP here, so you'll want to challenge him. Mark Crofskey is the National candidate, but you'd think he'd update his party website to have a statement that isn't saying Simon Bridges is leading the team.  Otherwise Crofksey seems ok. Hank Optland of the New Conservatives seems largely better, as does Grae O'Sullivan of ACT, but I'd pick Crofskey just to narrow the majority of Hipkins.  Mark Crofskey - National

Rongotai (safe Labour): My old electorate, Paul Eagle from Labour holds it, and I'm going out on a limb here, but I think he deserves it.  He's low on the Labour list and he got some flack lately because he challenged the cycling evangelists who wanted rid of some car parking around Greta Point. He is a shoo in, but what about National's David Patterson? He wants co-investment by central government in Wellington's water and sewerage system, and Council housing.  Bugger that.  Nicole McKee will get in on the ACT list anyway.  I'd be happy with Eagle holding on here.  Take your pick

Rotorua (fairly safe National): Todd McClay of National is expected to hold onto this seat fairly safely, but he is a bit of a mixed bag. Referring to the Xinjiang re-education camps in China as "vocational training centres" rules him out of contention. Sure he may have said more about human rights later, but there should be no tolerance of obeisance to the PRC's nonsense. If only is opponent wasn't so clearly leftwing in the form of Claire Mahon, who has an impressive career funded by UN agencies and Amnesty International, which makes you wonder what she aspires to as the MP for Rotorua.  So both aren't going to be advancing more freedom in New Zealand. Vote Pete Kirkwood from ACT given he at least talks about choice and freedom. Pete Kirkwood - ACT

Selwyn (safe National): Nicola Grigg is the National candidate here who is a shoo in as well.  She was a press secretary to Simon Bridges.  Nothing remarkable here, so give your vote to ACT's Stu Armstrong, who talks about freedom, unlike Bronwyn Lyell of the New Conservatives who is an enthusiast for referenda as well.  Stu Armstrong - ACT

Southland (safe National): Joseph Mooney is the National candidate, and he would be new to Parliament.  He seems like a nice chap, who joined the Nats because he believes in limited government (well someone has to).  There is no ACT candidate and the New Conservative candidate, Fiona Meyer, shows little interest in limited government.  Joseph Mooney - National

Taieri (new electorate, nominally Labour): Clare Curran is stepping down and this new seat which includes rural areas is ripe for the taking. Ingrid Leary is the Labour candidate, and she goes on a bit about rail, which is silliness really. Liam Kernaghan is the National candidate who lists abolishing the RMA as a target, but he was a political advisor to Amy Adams. I can't get enthused about him.  The ACT candidate is from the shooters side of the party, which isn't enough for me and the New Conservative candidate also says little about freedom.  You might vote for Liam Kernaghan because it will annoy the Labour Party, but take your pick

Takanini (new electorate, marginal): Dr Neru Leavasa is the Labour candidate for this new electorate, and seems moderate.  Rima Nakhle is the National candidate, and she seems moderate.  Mike McCormick of ACT is vocal about the size of the state, so vote for him. Mike McCormick - ACT

Tamaki (safe National): National MP Simon O'Connor is standing again, and he is mixed on a range of issues, being socially conservative on some and liberal on others. ACT's Carmel Claridge is a better bet here, Carmel Claridge - ACT

Taranaki-King Country (safe National): National's Barbara Kuriger is standing again here and will be a shoo in again, so Brent Miles from ACT would better earn your vote as he is interested in freedom of speech.  Brent Miles - ACT

Taupo (safe National): Louise Upston is standing again for National and she is a mix as well and has little chance of being unseated. Some social conservatism on gay marriage and alcohol, but she was a benign Minister for Women. David Freeman of ACT is campaigning on liberty, so give him your vote. David Freeman - ACT

Tauranga (fairly safe National): Simon Bridges ought to be ok here, but do you really want to endorse him? NZ First and Labour have no real chance here, so give Cameron Luxton from ACT your vote, given he believes in defending freedom.  Cameron Luxton - ACT

Te Atatu (marginal Labour): Phil Twyford? No. National's Alfred Ngaro has most recently been controversial in his campaigning, but I'm generally not keen on his views.  ACTs Simon Court is likely to be in on the list.  The TEA Party's Frank Amoah might be interesting, but I have seen nothing about his views on anything.  I'd give Ngaro a tick just to try to oust Twyford, but honestly ? Take your pick

Tukituki (marginal National): National's Lawrence Yule is facing a battle with Labour's Anna Lorck for the second time (though this is Lorck's third time). Yule was Mayor of Hasting and head of Local Government NZ, none of which is really consistent with less government.  Lorck is a PR consultant, so there is reason to try to block her third attempt because this is no better than Yule.  If it weren't a close race, I'd damn both their houses and back another, but you should decide if you prefer Yule over Lorck, I'd probably pick Yule but Take your pick

Upper Harbour (fairly safe National): With Paula Bennett standing down, this seat is more competitive than usual. National is offering Jake Bezzant, who is a bit of an entrepreneur, so is a safe choice.  He supports reforming the RMA.  The others aren't much more inspiring, I'm not sure Karen Chhour of ACT is going to be keen on less government and it's hard to find much about Winson Tan of the TEA Party. Take your pick

Waikato (safe National): Tim Van de Molan is the National MP, and to his credit states that he believes in individual freedom of choice.  James McDowall is the ACT candidate, and at number 6 on the list is may get elected anyway. He's led ACT's firearms policy.  Even Caleb Ansell, from the New Conservatives, states a firm belief in individual rights. Given this, you actually have a reasonable choice between them.  Take your pick

Waimakariri (safe National): Matt Doocey is the sitting National MP and he gets credit for quoting Adam Smith in his maiden speech, and talking about how his wife's experience of living in Communist Hungary.  That's not a bad start, so you could do worse.  ACT's James Davies is young and seems to believe in lower taxes and abolishing the RMA.  More notable is New Conservative Leader Leighton Baker, but his focus appears to be referenda and empowering local government over central government.  Matt Doocey seems just fine, but give James Davies your vote in this safe seat.  James Davies - ACT

Wairarapa (marginal National): Mike Butterick is trying to keep this seat for National, with Alastair Scott standing down. There is little to suggest his views on the role of the state.  Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty is trying to win it, he was a bookmaker and a council worker before, and is socially liberal (noted for wanting NZ to become a republic).  As a close race, benefit of the doubt might lie with Butterick, but he's going to have to do more to get my endorsement, so I'm saying Roger Greenslade of ACT is a better choice.  Roger Greenslade - ACT

Waitaki (safe National): Jacqui Dean is the sitting National MP, and is likely to keep it, but who can endorse her? She's obsessed with banning substances, so much that she once called for water to be banned because she didn't know what dihydrogen monoxide is.  I don't want someone that easily tricked having power, so what about the Labour candidate? Liam Wairepo is preferable to Jacqui Dean, even though he is a bit of an activist, he hasn't proven himself to be a fool.  If you can't cope with him, vote Sean Beamish for ACT.  Seam Beamish - ACT 

Wellington Central (fairly safe Labour): You'll want to oust Grant Robertson, so should Nicola Willis of National be given a chance? She's alright, and is currently a list MP. Brooke van Velden is a better choice, albeit she is number 2 on the ACT list.  On balance, given the Greens like to think they might have a chance here (one day), I'd give Willis the vote, just to keep this seat a bit more mobile, given it has been a National and an ACT seat in the past, and because the chance of a National MP would really upset many many people.  Nicola Willis - National

West-Coast Tasman (marginal Labour): Damien O'Connor is one of the conservative Labour MPs, opposing voluntary euthanasia and gay marriage,  as well as abortion decriminalisation.  Sure I disagree on two of those things, but it is good to see Labour isn't quite the closed club to those with different opinions.  National's Maureen Pugh famously described as "fucking useless", is not worth your vote given her opposition to pharmaceutical drugs (these have saved my life).  ACT's William Gardner isn't inspiring, neither is the New Conservative candidate, so I'd support Damien O'Connor just to give the Nats the message to not select Pugh again.  Damien O'Connor - Labour

Whanganui (marginal National):  National MP Harete Hipango is socially conservative and gave quite a maiden speech, although there was precious little there about minimal state.  ACT has no candidate, and the New Conservative thinks the ETS goes to the UN.  Labour's Steph Lewis seems fairly mild, so there is no real reason to fear her much.  Frankly, I'd not bother. None of the above

Whangaparaoa (new electorate, National): Rodney MP Mark Mitchell (National) is standing here and was a cop, so he talks about safety rather than limited government.  Paul Grace from ACT isn't stellar, but he's better than Mitchell.  Fiona Mackenzie of the New Conservatives doesn't mention limited government.  Lorayne Ferguson of Labour is not worth your vote, given her history in the UK Labour Party.  Paul Grace - ACT

Whangarei (safe National): Shane Reti of National is a reasonable fellow and much better than Labour's Emily Henderson (who seems just painfully leftwing).  The other David Seymour is an ACT candidate with Motor Neuron Disease who supports the End of Life Choice Bill. Take your pick

Wigram (safe Labour): You don't want Megan Woods do you? ex. the Alliance/Jim Anderton's Progressive "Coalition". National is putting forward Hamish Campbell, who is a scientist. Miles McConway is the ACT candidate and he is a solicitor who talks a little about freedom.  Take your pick between Campbell and McConway.

Hauraki-Waikato (safe Labour): Princess Mahuta is solid here and doesn't face a serious challenge, so your only choice is actually Richard Hill from the New Conservatives, as his profile refreshingly focuses on excessive government spending and debt.  Richard Hill - New Conservatives

Ikaroa-Rawhiti (marginal Labour): Meka Whaitiri is the Labour MP, her biggest challenger is the Maori Party's Heather Te-Au Skipworth. Personally, I'd vote Whaitiri to keep the Maori Party out.  Meka Whaitiri - Labour

Tamaki Makaurau (marginal Labour): Peeni Henare is facing a serious challenge from John Tamihere, in his latest attempt to gain political power. Henare is not a bad MP, having said the causes of poverty are many and varied, with no single fix. Tamihere on the other hand, is an attention seeker who dreams up new policies to gain attention depending on what he is standing for.  Now with the Maori Party, he's hitched up with ethno-nationalism, and wanting to create a series of Maori client businesses that government would be legally obliged to contract with, when undertaking work, which is a recipe for tokenism and rent-seeking, given experiences in the US.  Tamihere should be stopped, so vote for Henare (and ignore Marama Davidson). Peeni Henare - Labour

Te Tai Hauauru (marginal Labour): Adrian Rurawhe is the Labour MP and he is challenged by Maori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.  She shares Tamihere's simplistic vision, of guaranteed contracts for Maori businesses, simply "raising incomes" and attacking fossil fuel industries.  Vote Rurawhe to stop the Maori Party.  Adrian Rurawhe - Labour

Te Tai Tokerau (fairly safe Labour): Kelvin Davis ought to be fairly safe here, and compared to other candidates, he's ok. In his maiden speech he said " Blaming the system implies we are too weak as a people to help ourselves—that we are victims. Bad stuff has happened, but we must cease to be victims. Māori need to sort ourselves out. Education is the passport, but we need to put ourselves on the flight to the future".  Ka pai! If you need to vote for another, vote for Maki Herbert of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, but I'd stick with Davis.  Kelvin Davis - Labour

Te Tai Tonga (fairly safe Labour): Rino Tirikatene will be safe here, as it is the family electorate in essence. However, don't be too complacent as the Maori Party's Takuta Ferris is the main opponent.  Anituhia McDonald is the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party candidate, so it is hard to beat someone who supports freedom on one issue (and I'm not keen on multi-generational electorates). Anituhia McDonald - Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

Waiariki (marginal Labour): TV's Tamati Coffey took this for Labour last time, and is being challengd by Rawiri Waititi.  We're better off, just, by having Coffey holding onto his seat rather than opening for the Maori Party to get in through this seat.  Tamati Coffey - Labour

So there you have it, if I had my way, the electorate seats would add up as follows:

National 33 (and I think I'm being VERY generous here)

ACT 25

Labour 8

New Conservatives 2

Not a Party 2 


Now that's a sound balance of power!

10 October 2020

New Zealand Election 2020: Electorate vote Part One - General Electorates A-Mana

As with previous elections, I think the party vote is often the easier choice, because that is a vote for a party, a set of principles, philosophy and policies.  I'll write about the party vote later, because for those who believe in more freedom and less government, there are a few options.  Party votes determine power much more decisively than electorate votes, although it is clear that electorate votes in a few cases can open a path to a party getting representation in Parliament.  In Epsom, this has kept ACT alive.  In Auckland Central, the Greens are half hoping Chlöe Swarbrick can provide an insurance policy. NZ First has hopes in Northland as well.  However, most of us are not in those seats.  So what's my criteria for picking an electorate candidate? It's a mix of positive and negative factors:

  • What is the candidate's view of the role of the state? Does she or he want more or less directly, or indirectly?
  • What is the candidate's view on taxation?
  • What is the candidate's view on free trade? (this is an indicator of not having fascist views)
  • Does the candidate want more or less regulation, overall, of both economic and private personal activity?
  • Does the candidate advance, reject or is silent on philosophies that are authoritarian in nature, such as Marxism, versions of theocracy, ethnic nationalism or post-modernist structuralist theories?
  • What is the candidate's views on freedom of speech?
  • Does the candidate have a generally positive or negative view of capitalism?
  • Is the candidate malignantly nationalistic?
  • Does the candidate believe in environmental policies regardless of cost and benefit?
  • Is the candidate personally just unconscionably awful?
  • Is anything in the candidate's career or background indicative of her/his views on anything?

Beyond this is a more fundamental factor:

  • Is the current MP worth replacing?
  • Is there a candidate positively better than the current MP?
  • Is the candidate most likely to replace the current MP worse than the encumbent?
  • Is the electorate one of those that could allow a new party to enter Parliament for < 5% of the party vote?

I'm not going to comment on all candidates, because most have no chance in hell of getting elected.  My methodology for assessment goes as follows:

  1. Who is the current MP?  If that MP is good enough, then she/he get endorsed especially if the alternative is worse.
  2. Who is the challenger from the second place party last time?
  3. If either are just beyond the pale, are there any worth throwing a vote at?  
  4. If none are any good, don't bother.

So here goes:

Auckland Central (Highly Marginal National): With Nicki Kaye retiring, this three way race is tight. In 2017, both Kaye and Labour's Helen White (who led in the latest poll) lost votes compared with 2014.  The main strategy here is to stop Chlöe Swarbrick from providing a beach head for the Greens to get elected if they happen to drop below 5% (and to avoid the trend seen in Melbourne of the Greens setting themselves up in an electorate for good, making the Greens more difficult to oust in the future). Swarbrick is one of the better Green MPs, but keeping the Greens out of Parliament is important to keep Marxist, anti-capitalist, anti- Western and post-modernist philosophies away from Government.  It is tempting to consider Labour's Helen White to keep Swarbrick out, but she is a solidly leftwing employment lawyer, who thinks that there is a "right" to a job.  Emma Mellow as the National candidate is polling second and could well sneak in if the leftwing vote splits.  Mellow is socially liberal, and likely to be wet, but what matters here is keeping the Greens out.  Emma Mellow - National

Banks Peninsula (Marginal Labour): This is a new electorate created out of the Port Hills electorate, including southern and south eastern suburbs of Christchurch as well as Lyttelton and the peninsula itself.  Ruth Dyson is retiring, and the new boundaries may mean this seat could go either way. Labour candidate Tracey McLellan is a union organiser, which typically means wanting more government and more protectionism. National candidate Catherine Chu is a banker, City Councillor and Canterbury DHB member.  I'm rarely a fan of local politicians, although her profile indicates fiscal prudence. On balance, give her a shot to take this seat from Labour. David Fox from ACT is a perfectly credible alternative. Catherine Chu - National

Bay of Plenty (Very Safe National): National's Todd Muller (remember him?) has this and is standing again.  It's a safe seat (he got 61% against 27% for the Labour candidate last time), so he's a shoo in. He's a nice enough guy, and he'll get in again, so you ought to vote for someone to push him towards thinking more about less government.  Bruce Carley of ACT solidly believes in smaller government.  Bruce Carley - ACT

Botany (Very Safe National): This seat is only marginal because Jami-Lee Ross left the National Party under a cloud.  He's not standing, so this ought to be Christopher Luxon's for the taking (62% National electorate vote in 2017). Luxon was CEO of Air NZ and is clearly capable in business. Much has been made of him being an evangelical Christian, but that's not enough to make me wary of him, given how capable he is. ACT's Damien Smith speaks of free trade, property rights and freedom of speech.  Damien Smith - ACT

Christchurch Central (Marginal Labour): Labour's Duncan Webb took this off National's Nicky Wagner. Webb supports the racist BDS campaign against Israel so it's worth trying to vote him out, given his focus. National candidate Dale Stephens is best known for appearing on Crimewatch for the Police.  He's currently a government employee working for NZ Trade and Enterprise, and it appears most of his career has been in government. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but ACT's Abigail Johnson is young and is unafraid of advancing individual freedom.  Webb is likely to win this seat, and as much as I'd like him to be defeated, Stephens isn't going to make much of a difference.  Stephens only deserves your vote to get rid of Webb, but Johnson deserves to be encouraged (and for her deposit to be refunded for her efforts).    Abigail Johnson - ACT

Christchurch East (Safe Labour): Poto Williams is the Labour MP, and given she has suggested removing the presumption of innocence in sexual assault cases, she's fundamentally unfit to be a lawmaker.  It's well motivated, but the idea that the accused in such cases should have to prove consent, is dangerous and a disturbing undermining of a key safeguard in the criminal justice system that would see innocent people being criminalised. Lincoln Platt is the National candidate, and although he's unremarkable, nothing I've seen from him is negative and it's important to try to remove Williams from Parliament (she's 21 on the list so she's unlikely to go, but this is a start).  Lincoln Platt - National

Coromandel (Safe National): With 55% for Scott Simpson vs 21% for Labour in 2017, this one time Green seat is safe with Simpson. He's campaigning for roads, mobile phone coverage and a rescue helicopter for his electorate, and his maiden speech was promising (they often are).  David Olsen from ACT doesn't impress, given he has history in local government and his profile says little about values. Michael Egleton of the New Conservatives is focused on opposing identity politics, so I'd be tempted to give him serious consideration.  Egleton is explicitly opposed to legalising cannabis, Simpson isn't saying much about it.  Given this, on balance, I'd support Simpson.  Scott Simpson - National

Dunedin (Safe Labour): The old Dunedin North now includes Otago Peninsula, so David Clark is effectively the encumbent MP.  I don't care too much about his hypocrisy in cycling during lockdown, other than it indicates a poor sense of judgment. Michael Woodhouse is your National candidate, and really I am no more enthused about him than I am about Clark. Callum Steele-Macintosh gets forgiven for having supported Labour and National in the past, as he's now the ACT candidate.  He deserves your support, although I see someone trying to get elected to local government as usually a negative, he did oppose rates rises.  Callum Steele-Macintosh - ACT

East Coast (Marginal National): With Anne Tolley not standing again, the Nats are putting forward Tania Tapsell.  She's been a Deloitte consultant, which I wont hold against her.  Her opponent is Labour list MP Kiri Allan who lauds the far-left activists Annette Sykes and Moana Jackson as mentors, and the economic nationalist socialist Jane Kelsey.  Give Tapsell a go to keep Allan out of this electorate.  Tania Tapsell - National

East Coast Bays (Safe National): Erica Stanford is the National MP who replaced Murray McCully.  She's a BlueGreen, which isn't necessarily a problem, but she does appear to be a bit of a NIMBY, although her defence of a local charter school is laudable. Michael McCook is the ACT candidate and unlike Stanford, does talk about public debt and waste of taxpayers' money. Don't be tempted by Susanna Kruger or Mathew Webster. Michael McCook - ACT

Epsom (Fairly Safe ACT): He's done a fantastic job in revitalising ACT, it is a no brainer.  David Seymour - ACT

Hamilton East (Fairly Marginal National): National MP David Bennett is socially conservative, opposing gay marriage and legalising cannabis even for medicinal use.  He is a safe pair of hands, but that's about it.  Labour list MP Jamie Strange is trying to win the seat, which was Labour until 2005.  Strange is a former music teacher and church minister who opposes voluntary euthanasia.  So not much between either of them, but I'd prefer Bennett over Strange. Young ACT candidate Myah Deedman comes from an interesting background and far more worthy of your vote than either of them.  Myah Deedman - ACT

Hamilton West (Fairly Marginal National): National MP Tim Macindoe is standing again.  He once was in the United NZ party and is socially conservative. Nothing much inspiring on the freedom side of the spectrum here.  Gaurav Sharma is Labour's candidate, and is a doctor who seems to support more welfare spending and favours a fast train boondoggle between Tauranga and Auckland.  I'd consider voting Macindoe to keep Sharma out, but that's not a recommendation on freedom grounds. Take your pick

Hutt South (Marginal National):  Chris Bishop sneaked into first place in 2017 after Trevor Mallard retired and he's worked like a galley slave for the Hutt South ever since. Labour list MP Ginny Andersen is trying to take it back for Labour.  Bishop is far preferable to Andersen, not least because of his advocacy for more infrastructure that the electorate needs (transport and housing), but also because he is an economic and social liberal having spoken supportively of the reforms of the 80s and 90s.  He's spoken about how wealth growth enables environmental improvements. Andersen has late Marxist-Leninist unionist Bill Andersen in her family and spoken about following in his footsteps. It will annoy Labour intensely if Bishop remains in Hutt South, and he deserves to keep his seat.  Chris Bishop - National

Ilam (Fairly safe National): Gerry Brownlee's closest opponent in 2017 was an independent, Raf Manji. Sarah Pallett, Labour candidate, is the usual academic/unionist who wants taxpayers to pay for tertiary education.  However, I can't endorse Gerry Brownlee.  Paul Gilbert of ACT is a better choice.  Paul Gilbert - ACT

Invercargill (Safe National): National has selected Penny Simmonds to replace Sarah Dowle. She's CEO of Southland Institute of Technology.  Nothing remarkable about her on the freedom point and there is no ACT candidate in Invercargill.  Labour has list MP Liz Craig standing, who is focused on child poverty (which hasn't gone well under Labour).  I can't be enthused about anyone in Invercargill, but I'd give Simmonds the benefit of the doubt for now.  Penny Simmonds - National

Kaikoura (Safe National): National MP Stuart Smith is standing again and he's a solid local MP, with an entrepreneurial background. Richard Evans of ACT supports medicinal but not recreational cannabis use, so I'm not sure if a vote for him is worth much more, likewise with David Greenslade of the New Conservatives.  Take your pick

Kaipara ki Mahurangi (nominally National): Former Helensville MP Chris Penk is standing for the Nats.  The former naval officer is relatively moderate and benign.  He's up against Labour list MP Marja Lubeck (unionist).  He's not really at risk, so give ACT's Beth Houlbrooke a vote.  Beth Houlbrooke - ACT

Kelston (Safe Labour): Labour's Carmel Sepuloni has this seat.  She's a socialist, so support National's Bala Beeram instead. Bala Beeram - National

Mana (Very Safe Labour):  Labour's Kris Faafoi has decided not to contest this seat, and Labour has selected Barbara Edmonds who "was a key contributor to the Government’s law reforms following the March 15 Terror Attacks" and "has been heavily involved in the Government’s tax, social policy, small business and economic responses to COVID-19".  National list MP Jo Hayes has not much of a profile and her list position means she is at risk.  Richard Goode of NAP (Not a Party) believes in voluntarism, and encourages a no show at the election.  So give him your vote. Richard Goode - NAP



05 October 2020

New Zealand election 2020: Thoughts and issues

A lot has happened since I last wrote much on this blog.  I've moved countries (twice), so I am back in NZ (for a while anyway) and then there is Covid19.  So before I discuss the election, this is my view on Covid 19:

  • It most likely emerged by accident in Wuhan and mishandling in China has resulted in the spread of the virus globally;
  • It isn't just a harsher version of the flu, it is more contagious and more dangerous to those who get it;
  • It isn't "planned";
  • An elimination strategy is all very well from a health perspective, but economically it is unsustainable in the medium term. A highly effective containment strategy appears to be more likely to effectively balance health and economic needs (i.e. NSW has done better than NZ in net terms);
  • Taiwan is the gold standard of Covid19 containment and elimination;
  • Strict border control and lockdowns, when done well, have been effective in containing the virus, but longer term a more effective strategy is regimens of strict personal hygiene and surface cleansing, use of masks in crowded locations (e.g. public transport) and extreme care around health and elderly/special care environments.  (There's no need to micro-manage what people do outside on their own).

New Zealand has ridden out the pandemic, so far, because it is a long way away, can easily control its border and wasn't too late in shutting it (although it almost was).  It has helped that New Zealand has been fiscally in surplus for most years since the 1990s, bringing down public debt below 20% of GDP.  The foundations for this were set by both the Lange/Douglas Government in 1984-1988 and the Bolger/Richardson/Shipley/Birch Governments of 1990-1999, not reversed by the Clark and Key Governments. Fiscal prudence bought the New Zealand Government capacity to borrow to subsidise much business in the interim, although the monetary incontinence (as I like to describe it) of recent years (following in the path of the US, UK, the Eurozone et al) has effectively stopped many with credit from having to face up to debts that would otherwise be unsustainable.

Although New Zealand's exports have largely held up during the pandemic, given international tourism was a significant contributor to GDP (short of 6%) and that has virtually collapsed, New Zealand has a significant drop in income from overseas, yet there is little sign that Government (nor most political parties) think this should affect what they do.  Sure, a small part of this is offset by almost no New Zealanders embarking on foreign travel (there being a great window to visit parts of New Zealand formerly dominated by foreign tourists, such as Queenstown), but this makes only a small difference.  It's difficult to exagerrate how devastating Covid19 has been for the aviation industry, with Air New Zealand operating at less than a third of its capacity and little sign that it is likely to recover much beyond that in the coming year.  

Bear in mind although New Zealand's economy doesn't look like it is facing the worst recessions since the Great Depression, this is predominantly artificial.  It is (like Australia), being kept alive by profligate subsidies for wages which are fundamentally unsustainable.  So when the Prime Minister talks about a tax cut being a "sugar hit", she's not too concerned about providing sugar hits of her own, as long as it is in the "giving people borrowed money to keep businesses alive" rather than "letting people keep more of their own income".  The great hope of the Government is that it wont need to keep the sugar hit going, and that in 2021 there will be, at least, some opening up of the borders to Australia and the Pacific at least (which means tourism, business travel and a pool of skilled labour), and perhaps some of the Asian countries that have contained the virus (Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea).  It's difficult to see travel from Europe and the Americas resuming soon, but even moreso, it is difficult to see it returning to pre-Covid levels for years.

So what New Zealand faces is an enormous economic crisis.  Sure, looking at the stockmarket and property prices you'd think there isn't one, but both are stoked by cheap money.  Modern Monetary Theory followed by the Reserve Bank means the banks are flushed with almost free money to lend out, and so the money is going to inflate the savings, superannuation and the property portfolios of those who can borrow.  Is this a bubble that will pop one day? Probably, but this bubble is global and is has enormous negative consequences.  One being that just saving is not rewarding anymore, since there is no return to be gained from piling up money that earns no interest.  More important is that it is making housing more and more unaffordable, aided by a broken market for supply - as local authorities constrain both the supply of land to build on, and the permission to build, and central government constrains the rules around construction (albeit all of this has (mostly) good intentions, but some of it is pure protectionism).

New Zealand has a whole host of social crises. There is a persistent underclass of poverty of means and in some cases aspiration, where alcohol and drug use, domestic violence and sexual abuse, and chronic poor educational performance, combine with criminality generates communities and families with intergenerational despair. None of this is solved by easy answers (tougher on crime or more benefits or pay all teachers more), nor does critical race theory offer answers or explanations.  It is a mix of many answers, but continuing to throw money at the problem, selectively take children away from abusive families and locking away perpetrators for periods of time (and then letting them return to continue the cycle) is a failure. More devolution of power to address problems locally might help, but nonsense around "eliminating child poverty" is an easy slogan than betrays a host of problems - one of which is housing price inflation that few politicians care about (because most of their voters think they are beneficiaries of it).

More recently the Christchurch massacre gave rise to fear that there might be some surge in support for fascist, white supremacist views (albeit the views expressed by the killer ranged from racial and religious bigotry to environmental extremism and admiration for the Communist Party of China), but that has proven to be largely unfounded. Moreover, any fears of an Islamist backlash have also proved unfounded.

So what should matter?

  1. The recession: It doesn't seem like one now, because of the twin "sugar hits" (hey Labour doesn't own that term) of wage subsidies and monetary looseness.  The wage subsidies will be phased out, and the monetary looseness is a copycat policy (largely to avoid the NZ$ from inflating against its rivals).  There a large numbers of people employed based purely on borrowed taxpayer funds to prop them up, this is going to end and a different approach is needed.  New Zealand's international tourism market is dead and within a year at best it could have recovered by 40% (Australia and some others), the loss of this income is currently concealed except in observing property markets in a few locations.  Tax cuts can help, but need to be matched by significant reductions in government waste.  Close scrutiny should oversee all spending to ensure it meets public good intentions, rather than being a transfer for private gain.  New Zealand's economy cannot be sustained if it is trying to bolster a growing welfare state and a growing corporatist state of patronage (see racing). 
  2. Covid19:  Yes the health response has been successful, but is it sustainable? New Zealand could open up to Australia and perhaps Taiwan, Japan and Singapore in the coming year, but what if there is a small outbreak in Australia again?  Does New Zealand swing from being open to closed repeatedly, or does it accept that there needs to be containment and a clever approach to managing risk of travellers?  One observation comparing Australia (ACT/NSW) with New Zealand is that social/physical distancing is almost completely ignored in parts of NZ now, as is use of sanitisers and the contact tracing app.  These habits have become normal in much of Australia and are keeping transmission rates low, but if New Zealand reverts to being lazy about hygiene then it risks transmission if any more cases emerge.  New Zealand needs to be cleverer as it opens up to the world, and it cannot afford long term not to open up as it becomes safer to do so.
  3. Housing:  The failure to grapple the issue of house price inflation is the single biggest policy failure of the past three governments.  The policy of a "big New Zealand" which emerged under the Clark Government has not seen planning and building policies alter to accommodate large numbers of immigrants.  Socialists like the Greens want a large part of the solution to be for more people to be tenants of the state, whereas some on the right see replacing the RMA as the answer.  Few failures have challenged capitalism and free market economics like this, because it looks like a free market, but actually local government constrains both land supplies and consents to build, and central government constrains what and how houses can be built.  Given immigration on the scale of recent years is unlikely to be practicable for several years, there is a chance to reform both planning and building on a transformative scale that focuses on private property rights, clearly defining their limits and potential, and reforms building regulations to meet what is necessary rather than what is deemed "socially desirable".
  4. Education: The long term trend in performance is downwards and statistics about bullying should be a disgrace, and indicative of how a Prime Minister preaching kindness isn't a realistic policy to deal with those who fear being at school.  The education system performs much better for girls than boys, but there is little sense of priority given to addressing this.  Performance for Maori and Pasifika students continues to be below the national average.  New Zealand has one of the most centrally controlled education systems in the world, and much of it is beholden to two powerful unions (NZEI and the PPTA).  Part of the answer is to give schools much more freedom to adapt curricula to meet local needs, including the backgrounds of the students and encourage innovation at the school level, but as long as teachers' employment conditions and pay are governed centrally, reform has to be done on the terms of the unions, which are closed shops and fundamentally protectionist.  Charter schools are a start, but funding should follow students and it should be easier to set up schools, get them approved and for each student to be funded regardless of whether it is a state, private, integrated or any other school.  Labour wont do it, because it represents the status quo and National essentially flinched when it had to chance to reform in the 1990s.

Beyond that what matters to me is ensuring government does not erode personal freedoms.  Yes I'll be supporting the legalisation of cannabis and the End of Life Choice Act referenda, because both enhance personal freedoms.  Sure the bill to legalise cannabis is far from ideal, but taking it out of the criminal justice system is something any libertarian should support.  It doesn't mean cannabis isn't damaging to your health (it absolutely can harm you, whether it is respiratory or neurological), and there needs to be a serious campaign about the destructive impacts regular use has on brains.  However, the answer isn't to criminalise people for what they choose to ingest. 

I'm less bullish on euthanasia than I once was, but the End of Life Choice Act has very defined and limited application and so it deserves to be supported, by giving choice to a small number of people whose lives are terminal and the symptoms they suffer are unbearable to them.  It's their choice, and I'd want to be careful before anyone suggests going beyond the legislation. 

There are much bigger issues out there as well, including the attacks on freedom of speech which are basically well intentioned (i.e. stop dickheads abusing people on the basis of religion), but are easily translated into a new blasphemy law.  There are much more disturbing trends in the UK and the USA on speech that New Zealand should not follow, but which are broadly supported by leftwing academics and politicians, and which see trends in undermining academic freedom.  Related to this, are the attempts by supporters of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to bully others who wish to campaign for Hong Kong independence or to oppose policies of the PRC, to get them silenced (see Australia).  New Zealand must be resolute on free speech, not least because there are calls from various circles to narrow the scope of speech.  Whether it be from the PRC, from hard-left academics, to religious fundamentalists.

Internationally, the world seems very introspective because of Covid19, but geopolitics have changed forever. The benign environment in the Pacific is increasingly not so, because the PRC is seeking to push the limits of what it can get away with in international behaviour and challenge the dominance of the US and its allies. From essentially incorporating Hong Kong almost fully into the PRC, to threatening Taiwan, annexing disputed territory in the South China Sea and border scuffles with India, the PRC wants to reshape the international order to suit its needs and engages in Yuan diplomacy to buy allies at the UN.

Then there is climate change, which is the single-minded focus of the Green Party.  Covid19 has gutted the aviation industry, reduced much international trade and done much more to reduce emissions than any other measure, because it has kneecapped so much economic activity.  I'm not opposed to government policies that either stop subsidising or protecting activities that generate CO2 emissions, or taxing or restricting access to technologies or options that have lower emissions, but adopting policies that have no net impact on the climate (but a negative net economic impact) are an exercise in vanity that is not needed nor achieves anything useful.  Environmental policies that effectively export economic activity to other countries that are not adopting similar restrictions, achieve little other than enriching others.  New Zealand is one of the most energy and environmentally efficient producers of food in the world, so it should be encouraging opening of global markets to its products, not hindering its own capabilities.  As a country with a small population, much of it dispersed in smaller cities and towns, and far away from the rest of the world, its per capita emissions are going to be higher than those in densely populated countries close to markets.  It is not a time to increase costs to businesses and the public just to show off that New Zealand can reduce its infinitesimal proportion of emissions slightly faster than before, with an effect on global warming in the order of delaying increases by a few hours at best.

This election there are two main choices, for the first time, it appears that only four parties will enter Parliament (though the Maori Party may yet win an electorate), so the choice is between a centre-left vision of Labour and the Greens (for the first time without another party) and the centre-right of National and ACT.

Nobody likes to write off Winston Peters, but it is difficult to see how he can recover given that Judith Collins is giving more traditional supporters on the right a reason to vote National. NZ First's main hope is that it can convince more centre-right voters that NZ First keeps Labour from moving too far too the left, but most who think that might prefer simply to vote for a different government. As usual, the Maori Party doesn't expect to get enough party votes to make the 5% threshold (although this should not be so unachievable today given growth in the voting age Maori population), but may manage to win an electorate and bring in another MP on the list.  The New Conservatives are the strongest other party given that there is a constituency for a socially conservative and fiscally conservative party (ACT has effectively abandoned many on the socially conservative side), but it seems unlikely to make 5% without a high profile uplift in support.  On the left, TOP wont make it either, and seems unlikely to maintain momentum after this election (although it serves a useful purpose of drawing votes from Labour and the Greens).  Yet the visions of both main parties are not that different (although their potential governing partners are).

I'll post later about all of the parties and do my usual guide to each electorate