New brooms, same old dust by Trevor Plumbly
Fine words are always spoken prior to elections. That’s certainly no different down here in NZ, nor is what follows. Stentorian rhetoric gets watered down by the appeasement that comes with the MMP system.* The leader needs to ‘consult’ with two other leaders before actually ‘leading’. It’s ironic that a system touting broader representation looks like poisoning itself with its own prescription.
At the ballot box, we were swept up in a flurry of expectation; our new prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, was all we’d been dreaming of: young, idealistic and a champion for the underdog. Sadly for those of us dreaming of real change, MMP, like most arranged marriages, requires lengthy negotiations and a degree of sacrifice by the bridal party. Promises got re-shaped by the bargaining process and we seem to be left with the same old story with different narrators.
We’re not terminal; we’ve just allowed consumerism and excessive wealth too much latitude. For example, despite losing hundreds of millions, one of our biggest companies continues to pay its CEO NZ$8 million a year. Our publicly owned airline pleads economic restraint for limited service to rural areas, but seems happy to underwrite a visit by an ex US president who charges $400,000 per speech. Meanwhile, our child protection system struggles along with justice and health, rivers and beaches are deteriorating into no-go areas. Equal opportunity simply doesn’t exist anymore; far too much of our basic wealth is owned by an elite few and that needs urgent change. We need to drastically prune bureaucracy because the army of committees, sub-committees and consultants isn’t working, figuratively or literally. Likewise get rid of MMP and pass-the-parcel government, beef up our tax laws to ensure the overly wealthy and obscenely paid make serious contributions to the country that provided their wealth, rather than allowing them the luxury of hiding it in offshore tax shelters. Like I said we’re not terminal, we just need a more healthy diet.
*In New Zealand, people vote using the MMP voting system – Mixed Member Proportional. Its defining characteristics are a mix of MPs from single-member electorates and those elected from a party list, and a parliament in which a party’s share of the seats roughly mirrors its share of the overall nationwide party vote.