October 7th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Green energy push has left us blowin' in the wind

EDITORIAL Lessons for Australia in NZ election results

CANBERRA OBSERVED Assurances on religious freedom needed now

ENERGY Peak oil turns out to be another moral panic

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Timor Leste, Australia reach new border treaty

BUSHFIRES Disaster awaits as advice again goes unheeded

GENDER POLITICS Does biological sex matter?

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Intolerance of the 'Yes' campaign for all to see

EUTHANASIA Medical murder: three historical cases

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Gallant Taiwan survives alone in the bitter sea

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Prepare for apologies in a generation's time

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE A reflection on the use and abuse of the thought of the Angelic Doctor

MUSIC Stupendous talent: What to do with all that ego?

CINEMA Trollhunters: Guillermo del Toro's TV fantasy

BOOK REVIEW Debunking the 'harmless' tag


EUTHANASIA Victoria's death bill: questions that need answers

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Lessons for Australia in NZ election results

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, October 7, 2017

The recent elections in New Zealand saw the defeat of the Labour Party led by media darling Jacinda Ardern, and the probable formation of a coalition government between the incumbent Nationals and the New Zealand First Party, led by the outspoken Winston Peters.

NZ Labour's Jacinda Ardern

Ardern was appointed leader of the Labour Party just two months before the election, when it became obvious that her predecessor would lead his party to defeat.

She stood as the candidate of Labour’s feminist left, having earlier been on the staff of NZ Labour PM Helen Clark, before serving a stint with former British Labour prime minister Tony Blair.

On getting the leadership, Ardern promised to reconnect Labour with younger, feminist voters, offering free university education, revision of the country’s laws on abortion along the lines adopted in Victoria and Tasmania in Australia, and support for euthanasia.

This is similar to the agenda adopted by Bill Shorten in Australia and Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s leader in the UK.

Initially, polls recorded a massive swing to NZ Labour, putting it ahead of the National Party, but after several televised debates with the socially conservative leader of the Nationals, Bill English, the honeymoon faded.


Ardern’s support for liberalisation of the country’s abortion law was trenchantly attacked by those concerned that it would lead to the death of children with disabilities.

The Down syndrome advocacy group, Saving Downs, which has seen abortion rates for babies with Down syndrome in countries with liberal abortion laws at alarmingly high levels was outraged, and made headlines with a blunt mock Labour poster.

Bob McCroskie from NZ Family First, a pro-family organisation, said: “Any changes [to existing law] would potentially pave the way for late-term abortions, aborting children on the basis of their gender, aborting those with disabilities.”

He added that if Victoria and Tasmania were to be the models for any law, “that is serious cause for concern”.

After votes were counted, the National Party ended up with 58 seats in the 120-seat Parliament, far more than Labour, which won just 45.

Winston Peters’ New Zealand First won nine seats, and the NZ Greens won seven.

The result of the election is that the next government will have to take seriously the policy positions of New Zealand First, particularly its strong stance in favour of NZ agriculture and industry, a more interventionist approach to the highly traded New Zealand currency, and restrictions on immigration to preserve the country’s social cohesion.

The first lesson for Australia is that adopting trendy left policies, as Jacinda Ardern has done, is a formula for defeat, not victory.

The NZ Labour Party clearly thought that by appointing a young woman as leader, they would create a mood for change that would sweep them into power. In fact, the electorate showed surprising sophistication in separating hype and propaganda from reality.

A substantial section of the NZ population is socially conservative, including working-class voters, and Labour’s adopting left-wing social policies led them to desert Labour.

Although NZ Labour’s vote increased overall, it did so largely at the expense of the Greens, whose vote fell significantly. Ardern’s policies to win the youth vote – including abolishing university fees – clearly helped her there.

A second lesson is that parties that put the interest of mainstream citizens at the centre of their program, rather than appealing to the extremes, will win support at the end of the day.

The NZ Labour Party, like the ALP, supported the introduction of an emissions trading scheme (ETS), including agriculture, which threatens the future of New Zealand’s main export industries, as part of its climate-change policy.

Like the ALP, NZ Labour describes climate change as “the greatest challenge facing the world”, nonsensical hyperbole in the presence of the North Korea threat, and the endless wars in the Middle East.

The adoption of this policy undoubtedly hurt NZ Labour’s vote, as it would in Australia.

A third lesson is that irresponsible, unfunded promises, such as Labour made in New Zealand, lack credibility, lead to the expectation of major tax increases, and ultimately cost votes.

Apart from free tertiary education, NZ Labour promised a huge increase in spending on public health ($NZ8 billion over four years), large increases on school and pre-school funding ($NZ6 billion over four years), large increases to public housing, increased spending on public transport, and increased family payments.

The increased government revenue included the ETS, a new tax on water users (which would eventually be paid by consumers), and a tax on speculation in housing, similar to the ALP’s call for an end to negative gearing on housing in Australia.

As Bill Shorten has committed the ALP to the same type of policies that were being promoted by NZ Labour, there may well be a backlash from voters who see through policies that are socially dangerous and economically irresponsible.

Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.

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