Is Neo-Liberalism Dead? – Insite Magazine

At the time that the fourth Labour government introduced the neo-liberal agenda in 1984 there was a genuine sense that something needed to change. After nine years of the most socialist government New Zealand had experienced in recent times under the Muldoon administration something had to be done.

But has New Zealand ever had fully neo-liberal economy? With the continued subsidisation of some corporate industries such as the aluminium smelter, the oil & gas industry, and the dairy industry through the crown irrigation fund I don’t think so. Roger Douglas wrote his book ‘Unfinished business’ discussing these issues amongst other things.

Today I think people are beginning to ask has Rogernomics worked. Asking if it time to consider another way to manage the economy. Personally I always thought that the reliance on the market to fix all ills was swinging the pendulum too far. The very notion that trickle down was going to work ignores the fact that not all people and businesses have equal opportunity.

By accident of birth everyone is born with differing ability to take advantage of opportunities which are presented. Someone born with a silver spoon in their mouth is far more likely to end up with an enhanced ability to earn rather than someone who is born into a inter-generational beneficiary dependence. Yet the free market philosophy dictates that everyone has equal opportunity to make good. The seemingly ever increasing inequality gap should be enough to dispel this particular notion.

More importantly than personal inequality is the growing power of corporations over the small to medium sized businesses who remain at the engine room of the New Zealand economy. This is something that these owners have often discussed with me. It’s all very well ignoring the pleas of those individuals at the bottom of the heap but when hard working Dave the Plumber is beginning to question if he is getting a fair deal then it should be clear to all that something is not right.

So whilst the neo-liberal agenda remains alive and well in New Zealand, I think the winds of change are coming. Winston and the Greens have both campaigned against it’s excesses. The interesting ones to watch will be the Labour Party and whether they ever gain the courage to adjust the economy away from favouring those who have gained the most under the neo-liberal agenda – the corporates – to favouring the average Kiwi.

Submitted 7 February 2018

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Nats out of touch with the regions – Insite Magazine

One of the things I did when advocating against the oil & gas industry in Hawke’s Bay was hold a series of public meetings in rural halls all over the region. We always finished with a cup of tea afterwards so people could come up and talk one on one. The rural community is of course, well known for being true blue but it was fascinating how many would make comment about how the Nats were an Auckland focused party who had forgotten about them.

As you would expect this didn’t translate into them changing their vote but it did indicate to me that there was a disquiet about the regions missing out. You would have thought that Winston winning the Northland bye-election would have been some sort of a wake up call. Apparently not.

Last week we had visit from Simon Bridges, who was in Hawke’s Bay on a fact finding mission. To find out what were the concerns of the business community locally. What amuses me is that nothings really changed in the last 100 days, apart from a new government of course, so why has it taken a trip to the opposition benches for Bridges to come out and find out what peoples concerns are? Did he not know this after nine years in government? Wasn’t he listening then?

Of course this flying visit only exacerbated the feeling that the Nats have lost touch with the regions. But not as much as Judith Collins’s petition on roads, which has been a far more public affair. Here in Hawke’s Bay it raised the question of making the Napier/Hastings express-way four lanes. How wonderful you might say. Not that there is any evidence that four lanes will resolve our rush 30 minutes of course, but why let facts get in the way of a good story.

The public response to the petition has been interesting. Whilst it has garnered a fair number of signatures it reminded everyone that the Nats had nine years in government to do something about the express-way and achieved nothing. So the politicians I’ll be watching are the opposition. To see if they can come to the realisation that reminding people in the regions about their do nothing reputation is not the most clever of moves. Thank you Judith & Simon.

Submitted 30 January 2018

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Greens Co-Leader Race – Insite Magazine

With the upcoming election of it’s female co-leader the Green Party sits at an historical cross roads. The candidate who is elected will give a strong indication of where the members feel the future of the party lies. Marama Davidson has all but announced her candidacy but the other front runners, Eugenie Sage and Julie-Anne Genter have been playing their cards close to their chests.

Davidson is an interesting choice as cheer leader for the far left of the party. She was not selected to be put forward as a minister by her caucus colleagues, nor does her personal popularity translate well south of the Bombay Hills. Personally I don’t think she has the political chops for the role. It will also be interesting to see what the appetite of the membership is for a social radical to be elected as co-leader following the Turei debacle.

Genter seems to be the favourite of right wing commentators but with James Shaw representing that wing of the party it is hard to see the membership wishing to double down with another co-leader with business type credentials. Genter also has to overcome the hurdle of being Auckland based.

This leaves Sage with the environmental space all to herself. This, along with being Christchurch based, makes her an attractive option for the members who wish to see a return to the Green Party owning the environmental space. Something which the focus on social issues caused the Greens to loose sight of in the eyes of the public. The popularity of Sage’s recent announcement about waste minimisation will not have gone unnoticed by the membership.

Co-leaders are elected by delegates from each electorate using STV, so to win the contest candidates need to have wide appeal across the whole country. They also need have to attributes other than popularity. They need to have the ability to bring the green caucus together and dear I say it, help the party heal after the Turei debacle. They also need political acumen. That’s why Sage is my front runner. It’s time the Green Party returned to it’s core business.

Submitted 22 January 2018

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