an ambitious change

you may not have noticed, but new zealand got a new government at the weekend. as in the USA, the people voted for a change – but here the change is a swing to the right. the national party, in opposition for nine years, has swept to power on the promise of a “more ambitious” new zealand, which involves not just tax cuts but “regular tax reductions” – as well as more spending to cushion the expected blow of the recession. they promise “ultra-fast” broadband via a “future-proof” network, and describe their approach to the arts as “intelligent intervention rather than constant interference” (i’m struggling to recall any government that’s had a policy of “constant interference” in the arts …). their policies are full of “ambitious” words like “tranche” (i had to look that one up – it means a portion or slice of something, usually money or bonds – but national have used it to refer to homes, which says a lot ) and their top priority is “building ambition”. hey, cool, we’re going to be a more ambitious new zealand! look out, world!!! interestingly, the media have been giving as much if not more coverage to the labour party’s change of leadership; this evening’s TV news featured a spat between two minor parties who will be in coalition with national, followed by labour cheerfully introducing their new leader, phil goff, who talked confidently about winning the next election. for the defeated party, they’re looking pretty good. and the greens did well, with 2 more members of parliament (& co-leader jeanette fitzsimons was recently voted “most trusted leader”). it’s hard to know what the change will mean at the artistic coal-face. national’s arts policy states that they will maintain current (by no means massive) levels of funding, but they’ve also said they will increase other sources of funding by “turbocharging community groups” – whatever that means – and they will reform (yet again) the arts council. one can’t help but feel a bit nervous, in anticipation of the turbocharging and ultrafast ambition that is about to be unleashed on our little tranche of heaven

Comments from the Furtherfield site:

webtwoed politics

Thanks for the update of New Zealand politics Helen. How web2.0ed-up is politics these days?- what a spectacle! The National Party of NZ provides Facebook, a campaign song for sale, youtube channel, bite-sized vision and values, tax calculator and one click to “connect with jonkey”- all above the fold- then flickr sets and a blog. This combines with inflated language to convey a magical belief that just harnessing something that passes for the hopes of the masses will reverse the supposed nightmare of the coming global recession. It evokes the finale of Ghostbusters 2 when our hapless haunted heros banish the bad, gooey evil (that has amassed as a result of the cynicism and depression of the inhabitants of New York) by riding the Statue of Liberty reanimated by same aforementioned goo and 80s pop-tasm “Higher and higher”. Give me Dave Dobbyn and his “little slice of heaven” any day; ) Oh yes…and when did NZ Green party decide to elect leaders of any kind (even if they are co-leaders)? The UK Green Party elected Caroline Lucas as the first ever leader earlier in the year (before then there had just been representatives- but the media obviously weren’t buying it). I still can’t work out where all the online debate went around that issue.

Submitted by Ruth Catlow on 18 November 2008 – 10:16pm.


yep, the national party certainly tapped into the current hype of it all, as did the media; TVNZ’s YouTube debate channel gleaned such important questions from the masses as “do you believe in god?”; there were other more pertinent questions, but the whole style & presentation of the debates – mimicking the USA presidential race by only including helen clark & john key – had very little actual substance & totally sidelined the other six parties that were serious contenders in the elections (5 of which are represented in parliament). the greens have always been quite up there with media, having had the best party web site for years (in terms of design, technology and content), & doing things like releasing campaign cds with good alternative kiwi music. as for their leadership – as far as i’m aware they have always had 2 leaders. for a long time it was jeanette fitzsimmons and rod donald, until rod’s sudden death just after the 2005 elections, which was a big blow for the whole country. he was replaced by russell norman, in keeping with a policy to have male & female co-leaders. the greens also have a policy that every second list candidate is a woman & a similar policy for maori list representation. (the list system is to do with our complicated yet quite good system of mixed member proportional representation). so – now we have to sit back & see how the national party will waddle along, in coalition with the more right-wing ACT party & the dreary United Future party. The Maori party has done well, getting associate ministerial positions outside of caucus, but there are bound to be differences of opinion before too long …

Submitted by Helen Varley Jamieson on 22 November 2008 – 1:07am.