The election is over and the dust has largely settled (accept for Te Tai Tokerau) and things aren't looking too good for the National Government's third term:
- They lost their majority and will now have to rely on their coalition partners who were troublesome last time. National will hope that there are no skeletons in David Seymour's cupboard and that Peter Dunne can hold it together for three years.
- After talking up their management of the economy and suggesting tax cuts in the future, English has had to reveal that the books aren't looking too good. The Government is starting their 3rd term with a budget deficit of $2.9 Billion.
- The economic forecasts are also looking more than a little shaky with our most significant industry losing momentum. Dairy prices have dropped substantially and are not projected to rise in the near future and the government had invested much in the ongoing demand for milk powder.
- A drop in log prices will also impact negatively on the economy and could see a large lay off of forestry workers.
- With projected Government income dropping there is a lot of pressure to shift more funds into the struggling health sector. The Government continually talks about the many millions more that they have invested into health, but the extra spending hasn't kept up with inflation and increasing demand. Health has reached a point where no more efficiencies can be made and the only solution left is cutting services and the Southern DHB has reached crisis point. Green Party candidate Rachael Goldsmith has exposed attempts to cover up a lack of mental health beds in Invercargill.
- The Government is also facing the consequences of not addressing the housing shortage in any meaningful way over the last six years. We have a growing homeless problem and a severe shortage of lower cost housing and those that do exist are often substandard.
- Hekia Parata has struggled with the Education portfolio and is widely seen as one of National's most unpopular Ministers. After two court decisions going against her and having to pull back from increasing class sizes it is likely that the IES initiative and changes to the teachers council are going to be strongly opposed. Educators cannot understand why more money is being spent on increasing the pay for some principals and teachers when Special Education is underfunded and many school buildings are substandard.
- The 2013 census revealed growing inequality and in many areas median incomes have dropped. 27% of children are currently experiencing poverty.
How the Government will manage the crises confronting them is already becoming clear:
- Create distractions like a new flag.
- Attack those who expose their inadequacies, especially Nicky Hager, to limit their ability to do this in the future.
- Limit the availability of data and research that shows the extent of the social, economic and environment damage through: Cutting funding to Statistics New Zealand, gag scientists, remove independent environmental reporting, not measure child poverty effectively.
- Blame others like local body councils.
- Spread ministerial responsibilities so that it isn't just one Minister who is responsible for a problematic area. This will make it difficult for the opposition to expose ministerial failure when a Minister can shift responsibility to another and deliberately complicate governance so that obfuscation is easier. The responsibility of housing is now spread around three Ministers (English, Housing New Zealand; Bennett, Social Housing; Smith, Building and Housing). Key can no longer be attacked for his oversight of the GCSB and SIS as he has passed on the day to day responsibility to Finlayson.
- Continue attacks on Labour leaders and manipulating media so that the party's effectiveness in opposition is limited. Cameron Slater lives on in his attack dog role while National will make sure that their connections with him are less obvious.
- Shift responsibility of social services to NGOs like the Salvation Army but cut funding to those that try and address the causes.
- Further demonise and isolate unions, beneficiaries and teachers.
- Rely on the fact that those who suffer most from growing inequality and failing governance don't vote.
"They go hard, they go really hard... I don't feel bullied but they don't hold back."
The next three years will be a battle between a party that succeeds through blurring what is ethical and legal and using dirty politics to manage opposition and the Greens, where transparency and evidence are paramount and hard questions their forte.