3 more years…

Election wrap up

The election showed us many things, one of those is that both Labour and the MANA  Movement treated the Māori Party (TMP) as the biggest threat to their own existence. And all three parties paid the price. In the lead up to this election TMP were hanging on for dear life after being written off by ‘the Left’ a mere 10 months ago. It is surprising that TMP were simultaneously ‘written off’ and ‘a threat’. More on that a bit later in this post.

On Election Day eve, I took at shot at punditry here:

My intuition about National polling higher on the day, was also unfortunately consistent with the results although I had overestimated Labour, the Greens and InternetMANA and underestimated NZ First. I really didn’t think NZ was a country looking for conservative guidance with a combined NZ First and Conservative Party (CP) vote being higher than the Greens, although I did sense that the CP itself was not going to get past the 5%. The election results suggest that NZ actual voters are predominantly not ‘left’ and/or that the left is so damaged that it cannot retain its prior support base, nor can it mobilise new voters on any significant scale.

Of note, the Greens didn’t lose their support base though and held their own despite the decreased support for both Labour and InternetMANA. And while Labour were able to capitalise on the Māori and Pasifika vote, this was their worst election result since pre-1930.

The defeat of InternetMANA has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of those who defended the alliance, cast scorn at anyone who criticised it through their belief that Dotcom would bring positive change to our country. Over the next few weeks from InternetMANA commiserators we will hear about how the ‘mainstream media’ are to blame for their ongoing attacks on Kim Dotcom, despite Dotcom throwing himself into the media spotlight at every opportunity he could seize. We’ll also hear how it is the fault of every other party EXCEPT the Internet and MANA parties themselves and the lack of focus on Dirty Politics and the GCSB revelations by Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden, despite the fact both those events scored more airtime than any single party’s policies did this election, that resulted in the defeat of the alliance.

From Labour commiserators we’ll hear that it was the ‘mainstream media’ focus on factionalism and a disjointed left. That it had nothing to do with the fact that David Cunliffe came across as the inauthentic voice of a people in need of change. That it has nothing to do with the front benches that are stacked with old 80’s hacks who have never delivered much for the people they say they represent. Then we’ll see Labour turn on each other and most probably dump all over the Māori and Pasifika caucus that is in fact keeping the party afloat.

The problem with making John Key the target of an election campaign is that he was able to position as the underdog in the face of the general public. He was on the defensive from what the broader public saw as a large scale attack from many fronts: Kim Dotcom’s revenge politics to escape extradition, bitter militants who seize any opportunity to have their ego’s validated, and a left in waiting that were more hungry for power than for change.

Māori Electorates and Māori Politics

In the above post, I was wrong on one seat – Te Tai Hauauru.  I had expected Chris McKenzie to pick up the seat and I am really disappointed that he is not entering Pāremata (Parliament) this term. It’s also a shame that the party vote for TMP isn’t higher since McKenzie is third on the list and could have come through with an extra percentage point in the party vote.  I am also saddened that Marama Davidson and Jack McDonald also miss out this term given their list placings and the fact that the Green party vote didn’t pick up in the way the polls were suggesting.

MANA Movement

Despite being a very vocal critic of the InternetMANA alliance, my heart broke watching Hone Harawira’s disappointment upon realising he’d lost the seat. What I hope he can take from this situation, is the time to reflect and rebuild MANA free of the toxic influences of some of those who’ve involved themselves very heavily in the movement. Harawira didn’t sell out, he was just surrounded by poison and noise. Time to purge it.

Additionally, Harawira didn’t lose the seat because people didn’t like him or respect him, he lost it mostly because people didn’t want Dotcom anywhere near political power and that decision was riding on their votes. That is immense pressure and a huge risk given no-one knew whether they could trust him [Dotcom] as the visionary behind the scenes. Labour also ran a strong campaign, and with the hope that a major party might be in power post-election, suggests TTT were crying out for assistance, that Harawira on his own just couldn’t deliver.

Labour Party

Labour were incredibly disappointing this election. And that no-one picked up on or questioned the fact that ‘Vote Positive’ only applied to non-Māori seats or non-kaupapa Māori based parties was incredibly disheartening.

Labour were very warm to Winston Peters who wants to axe the Māori seats that are currently propping up the Labour Party and who supports ‘One Law For All’ that most of the left derided when proposed by the CP and ACT. Yes, Labour were willing to form a coalition with a party that wanted both those things while simultaneously claiming to be the ‘the Māori party’, but ruling out any constructive working relationship with the two kaupapa Māori based parties – Māori and MANA.

By ruling out the Māori Party, Labour were able to impose the false narrative ‘a vote for the Māori Party is a vote for National’ without so much of a whisper. The narrative served to make it a reality, to attempt to force the Māori Party into another relationship accord with National. Labour effectively ensured that an independent Māori voice was as weak as possible – under a National led government. Labour are attempting to terminate all other avenues for Māori to have a voice. We can only participate if Labour are in government. This is not a strategy that has the aspirations of Māori at heart, it is a strategy that weakens Māori by smothering our voices under the iron cloak of Labour.

Labour have always ruled out Harawira, and while I believe Davis was wholly genuine in his concern about Dotcom and was sincerely contesting the TTT seat, I do not have the same feels regarding the Labour Party itself. Labour used Davis under the pretext of Dotcom to get rid of Harawira because if they [InternetMANA] got into Pāremata, Labour did not want to have to appease his strongwill by giving him a government role in return for his support. Davis definitely deserves to represent TTT, but Labour? meh.

What I hope, is that if Labour do not reflect the support both Māori and Pasifika communities have shown them through electing many of the candidates that constitute Labour’s caucus, then it will be time for the Māori and Pasifika caucus to consider either breaking away from Labour to form a new party, or for those candidates to consider joining other Māori/Pasifika focused parties i.e. Māori Party, MANA, NZ Greens.

Māori do not ‘owe’ Labour anything. Lets never forget that.

Māori Party

The Māori Party as mentioned above were told they’d not exist after the 2014 election. Te Ururoa Flavell retained Waiariki with a decisive majority and there looks like there’ll be enough party vote to get Marama Fox in on the list.

On relationship accord prospects: the Māori Party have almost no leverage this time and it will be vital to consider whether or not it is worth sitting at the table with that in mind. National really does have ‘unbridled power’ and it is unlikely in these circumstances that a relationship accord will serve Māori well. If the Māori Party take ministerial roles but are not able to achieve any significant gains in those roles, then in my opinion it would be unwise to enter a relationship accord with National on that basis because it will reflect the aspirations of the candidates and not necessarily the party and our people. The strength of the Māori party is their independent voice, and it might be time to assert that given there are unlikely to be any real gains under a government that can pass legislation without the support of any other party.

The Māori Party may have survived, but the waka certainly needs repairs.

Kua tawhiti kē tō haerenga mai, kia kore e haere tonu.

He tino nui rawa ōu mahi, kia kore e mahi nui tonu.

You have come too far, not to go further.
You have done too much, not to do more.

– Tā Hēmi Hēnare

[H/T Mero Irihapeti Rokx]

Māori need to use the next 3 years to work out how to bring about kotahitanga while respecting diversity. This should be the priority of both Māori and MANA as well as the Māori wings in both Greens and Labour.


Cunliffe’s economy

To be honest, I’m not convinced by David Cunliffe’s speech to fix NZ’s economy. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read it click on this link: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1209/S00472/speech-cunliffe-fast-forward-growing-good-jobs.htm.

Yes, I am sympathetic to the Scandinavian economic model of free health care, education and generous welfare scheme for the unemployed and pensioners and the focus on human rights. But in reality, this is a mixed market model that will naturally fall back into the neoliberal trap in order to service the large debt incurred through the excessive government spending and borrowing required to maintain the standard of living currently enjoyed by those citizens. It only takes a quick search on the internet to see that Sweden is stepping up its privatisation scheme to do exactly that.

Additionally, Cunliffe’s speech appropriates the ‘renewable energies’ policy advocated by the Green Party since entry into Parliament, knowing that Labour’s competition has not so much been National, but evidently the Greens as apparent in the polls and recent elections. However, in my view, Cunliffe has failed to sell it. Why? Because the objective of implementing policies for the manufacturing of renewable technology is profit. Cunliffe insinuates that if NZ is to be a leader in renewable technology and get in on the $6 trillion dollar industry that it is, the measure of its leadership will always be in dollar value. Also statements such as ‘sustainable growth’ are hyperbole – economic growth is not sustainable, the earths resources are finite. I do agree that NZ should be aiming to be a user of renewable technology and should ensure in the process that all the steps taken to produce this technology is in accordance with ecologically sustainable practices. NZ should be leaders in effecting global environmental change and simply producing exports that are purportedly ‘green’ is not enough. It is counterproductive.  To manufacture these technologies requires the use of minerals and therefore mining. So there will be degradation of the environment in order to make such technology. If we do not have the minerals needed in NZ, then we will probably import them in their usable form, so while we may be limiting the effects on our own environment, we increase our ecological footprint through the very process of getting the products needed to make these technologies and then exporting them once they are ready for the market.  

My intuition is that Labour are trying to reduce the influence of the Greens by pushing similar policy, but Cunliffe is a little insincere in proclaiming the evils of neoliberal policy, when his mixed market economy leads to the same neoliberal trap. This is not a long term solution, because the Scandinavian countries are showing us that a mixed model economy cannot be sustained long term, and this is likely the result of a capitalist based system that functions on crisis.

What do I believe is the answer? I don’t know. But what I think is a better way of economising, is as stated in the comments section of my post on ‘Poverty is the result of inequality’:

where resources are used more efficiently and effectively (ecological sustainability). Capitalism claims to be efficient, but its efficiency is in regards to what it can produce versus how much it cost to produce, so efficiency here is related to ‘money’ – it works against environmental preservation and sustainability. Efficiently economising, would mean that we were not exploiting resources, but in using them we were ensuring that we were not destroying biodiversity and creating environmental hazards. Effectively economising would mean that we were not depriving any person of their basic needs – clean air, water, food, shelter”  

In my view, NZ should be leading the way in global environmental protection/preservation and advocating for the universality of human rights. However, we need the credibility to take up that challenge, which means addressing the inequalities and environmental hazards that successive governments continue blame on global economic conditions – cop out. 

Food in schools

This week the Labour Party announced that it would be supporting the provision of food in low decile schools, in a way coat tailing on the election policy of the Mana Party.
This has spawned a lot of debate between those who think it promotes a lack of parental responsibility and those who think no child should ever go hungry, irrespective of their background.  
The argument behind providing food in schools is that it is estimated around 270,000 children are turning up to school without having had breakfast and without lunch. In a country that prides itself on fair equality of opportunity, the figure is astounding. Some will argue that the State has a duty to ensure that its citizens, especially the children, are not deprived of food. Critics of that argument suggest that it is the role of parents to provide food for their children and not the role of the State. 
So who should be responsible for feeding children during school hours?
Matt Nolan, an economist, who writes on the TVHE blog, suggests that as children are forced to be in an institution for most of the day, we ought to make sure that the institution provides the services required. His baseline for his argument is as follows: 
“We need to think about primary and secondary school education more clearly to get a good idea about the policy of free lunches.  Why do we provide this sort of education, and what does public provision achieve?  We provide this type of education to ensure there is equality of opportunity for individuals in society.  On that note, having shared lunches at school ensures the same thing – we know that appropriate nutrition at a young age is essential for the physical and mental development of an individual.  We know that, especially in low decile schools, there is a definite “underinvestment” in this attribute for kids”

see: http://www.tvhe.co.nz/2012/09/10/free-food-in-schools-equality-of-opportunity/

I agree with this argument. The State specifies certain learning outcomes and in order to achieve those outcomes, every child needs to have the same starting point. While food is not the only factor influencing how a child learns, it is certainly a key factor for ensuring they have the energy to learn.
My issue with the policy proposed by Labour is that it does not go far enough. My view is that lunches provided by the State should be provided in all public and integrated schools. Without detracting from the issue of child poverty, my concern is that while some parents can afford to send their children to school with lunch, are they sending them with the appropriate food? Children’s lunchboxes are often packed with sugar.  The impact of sugar on a child’s learning, in my view, has an effect similar to a child who has little to no lunch. When a child comes crashing down off the sugar, they are lethargic and lack the energy required to learn. It is common knowledge that in many Scandinavian countries, food in schools is standard practice, and this correlates to the relatively good health outcomes in those countries as well. Therefore, by providing lunches in all state funded schools, we could address the correlative issues of hunger and health.
Criticisms that I have heard or read about suggest that feeding children in schools does nothing to address parental responsibility. The assumption is that parents will get lazy and rely on the State to feed their child or children. That attitude is the result of a punitive mind and a lack of compassion through an inability to understand the complexity of the issues faced by parents raising children in poverty. Additionally, they label parents who are unable to feed their children as lazy, useless and negligent, as well as alcoholics, drug addicts, smokers, gamblers and so on. These “labels” do not belong to poor parents. Wealthy parents can also be lazy, useless, negligent, alcoholics. Drug addicts, smokers etc.  My point is that publicising these attitudes affects children and has a huge impact on their confidence. 
When I was at primary school and my mother was on a benefit, if we had no food for lunch, I would pretend I was sick so I didn’t have to go to school, or at lunchtime I would go wait down the road outside the school grounds and tell my friends I was waiting for my lunch to be dropped off, or I would go hide in the cloak bay until the lunch bell rang and everyone had finished eating. Children feel the shame of their parents not being able to feed them and that shame comes from people characterising poor parents according to the labels mentioned above. 
Moving on, with all the socio-economic indicators aside, no parent wants to be in a situation where they are unable to provide lunch for their child or children at school. In fact, I would go as far as to say, that being unable to provide such necessities is likely to be a huge factor exacerbating the stresses that cause the above-mentioned problems. 
Punitive measures suggested by the critics of state funded lunches for children, would rather have poor parents criminalised for not providing lunch for their children or stopping their benefit. My view is that by addressing child poverty through penalising parents is counterproductive. Such penalties add further stress to these families, and stress does not make for good outcomes. 
Providing food in schools as a standard practice is more a rehabilitative approach. It signals to poorer families that the State will take care of the child at school and provide all that is necessary for that child during their time in the school and encourages the parents to take responsibility while the child or children are in the home. Critics will argue that this is highly idealistic. However, if the government makes clear that the raising of the child is a shared responsibility, then the parents can focus on ensuring that they can provide at the least the necessities at home removing the stress of wondering how they are going to provide those necessities for the child at school. The stress is diminished through knowing the State is supporting you, and through that co-operation, parents may start to see hope in their future and in their children’s future.  I am not denying that some parents may still take advantage of the situation, but children should not bear the penalty of the choices made by their parents.