Nanny State Gives Way to Big Daddy!
National was always quick to accuse the Clark led Labour Government of turning New Zealand into a Nanny State. They used to highlight the "anti-smacking" legislation to support this and claimed Helen Clark was dictating unnecessarily how New Zealanders should live their lives with a raft of "politically correct" but intrusive legislation. Don Brash even appointed Wayne Mapp as their official political correctness eradicator.
Most of this was just political posturing and when Brash was pressed to provide examples of the sort of things that they would hope to change he questioned the power of the Waitangi Tribunal, the Human Rights Commission and the Privacy Commissioner. He also suggested that censoring a conservative Christian video that condemned homosexuality was excessive political correctness.
As far as I know, apart from supporting the release of material that condemned a legitimate sector of New Zealand society (that recently had their human rights supported in the Marriage Bill), Wayne Mapp found nothing that deserved to be eradicated and the position was quickly forgotten. National was also disingenuous about the so called anti-smacking legislation as they had supported it into law and John Key had played a major role in ensuring that it did.
The argument that New Zealand was suffering under a nanny state regime was shown to be nonsense and an excellent response to this hollow argument was written recently by Prof Janet Hoek from Otago University. Prof Hoek claims that the supposed Nanny State doesn't limit free choice it actually enables it by creating a fairer society.
Now that we have a National led Government we are becoming aware of what the National Party were really opposed to, it wasn't about the loss of individual freedoms it was about too much democracy. While Clark's government wasn't perfect they did repeal National's appalling 1991 Employment Contracts Act (which gave unreasonable power to employers) and increased the levels of participatory democracy through the likes of Select Committees.
While the last Labour Government was described as leading a Nanny State, what could we say describes National Party governance? I have decided that "Big Daddy State" fits best, despite its slightly dodgy connotations, as it combines the imagery of a Big Brother and a Sugar Daddy and sounds like the antithesis of the maternal "nanny". Under Clark New Zealand became a sort of feminist utopia with the all the leading roles of governance (Governor General, PM and Attorney General) being held by women and there was a definite shift from the male dominated past. National Party men do appear to be claiming back their territory.
The National Party has the arrogant swagger of a wealthy high roller who lives in the world of casinos, oil magnates and glamour of Hollywood. You just have to see the culture of the Young Nats where money, glitz and attractive young women dominate.
While beautifully presented young women appear all over the Young Nats' Facbook pages, and are often photographed in clusters around John Key, their role seems to be more decorative then politically active. The actual status of young women in National was exposed by right-wing blogger Cactus Kate in 2010 when one of them apparently got ideas above her station (I notice that Cactus has removed her post since I linked to it earlier). Obviously few women make it to the front benches of a National led Government and within the whole coalition of 64 MPs only 25% (16) are female. The opposition parties, in comparison have 59 MPs and almost 50% (25) are female.
The National Party's Governance style is clearly testosterone fueled; high risk and little care for process or detail. Old boy networks dominate and cosy back room deals and secret handshakes seem to be a huge part in how things are done. You only have to follow Metiria Turei's line of questioning to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Economic Development to realize that the Sky City deal had no clear process or documentation and was obviously a cosy, backscratching deal between mates.
The National Party was at its strongest in the 50s and 60s when agriculture dominated our exports and rural communities were the heart of our nation. National used to represent heartland New Zealand and at it's peak had 100,000 members, but the party also represents employers and captains of industry and rural New Zealand has changed as money has shifted from farmers to investors. Now that we are a less egalitarian society, and New Zealand's wealth has been captured by a select few, so has National's support base changed. It is clear that the current National Party mainly advocates for large businesses and corporate interests. It no longer appears to look out for small business owners and seems to even align itself more with the finance/investment sector than the productive sector.
The National led Government has led an even greater transferral of wealth to the already rich with their policies then they did in the 90's. The tax cuts and increase in GST benefited the wealthy only, the refusal to implement a capital gains tax supports property investors and developers, bailing out South Canterbury Finance supported the investment sector and the selling of our power companies is more about boosting our stock market then paying off Government debt. National is largely ignoring the billions lost in tax avoidance by the wealthy and is concentrating on the few millions lost through benefit fraud instead.
The high dollar may be causing difficulties for our manufacturers but the Government seems relaxed about this as their procurement appears to favour outsourcing than supporting local industry. A high NZ dollar doesn't affect property investors nor the local finance sector and makes the importation of luxury cars and the other toys of the wealthy much cheaper. The affect on our rising current account deficit by outsourcing and importing goods, while our exports lose value, seems to be a minor consideration.
If this Government favours a small sector of society over the rest it would end up making itself unelectable unless it can hide the reality of what its doing and National's spin has been hugely successful in doing this. They have milked the existence of the global recession and the Canterbury earthquake for all their worth so that they can keep wage increases low, reduce availability of benefits and ram through unpopular legislation. The fact that lower Government revenue was mainly due to the tax cuts to the wealthy (over $10 billion worth), rather than the recession, is never mentioned (except by Russel Norman whenever he can).
The less scrutiny there is on what they are doing the better, legislation is rushed through under urgency, select committees are bypassed as much as possible, deals lack paper trails, access for information through the OIA is limited (by making information "commercially sensitive"), five yearly environmental reporting is wiped and funding for Statistics NZ is cut by 30%. Unwanted questions in the house are avoided by not answering directly, claiming memory loss or just attacking the opposition with specious accusations.
The Government has ensured that the quality of their public spin is even better enhanced by gifting their cabinet and the Prime Minister's Office with a whopping $3.4 million (almost a 20% increase). They are also ensuring that those who may challenge their plans can be monitored and their protests made illegal.
In summary we have a Government dominated by wealthy men who operate as high rollers and appear to relegate women to the role of decorative appendages. They discourage participatory democracy, deliberately hide the true nature of their dodgy back room deals and want to be able to spy on New Zealand citizens. Welcome to the "Big Daddy State"!