marsden_online: (write)
I experienced less disappointment on elections night / the next morning than last time; probably because National does not have the straight up majority of last election.

The post election commentary as rounded up by Bryce Edwards at the Herald is split with those firmly on the right lauding National's having the largest single share of the vote as a win and moral majority while more numerically educated voices point out that under MMP being the largest major party means diddly squat (especially when your raw number of votes fell); under MMP it is the coalition which represents the largest number of NZers. The fact that we've had a couple of instances of one party effectively managing to govern alone does not change that.
There is a strong narrative at the moment that National has received an extraordinary result. But has it really? The vote for centre right parties has actually declined significantly at this election. At the 2014 election, the aggregate vote for National, Act and the Conservatives was over 52 per cent. This year, the final result for those parties is projected to be little more than 45 per cent. What's more the National Party has now lost allies - United Future and the Maori Party are gone from Parliament, and Act's party vote has halved. Basically, National has cannibalised the vote of other rightwing parties. In devouring its coalition partners, National might now look stronger, but in reality, fewer voters are actually supporting parties of the right.

But it is the illusion that National has won significantly more vote than the political left that particularly needs addressing.


Not included in the roundup but on my radar this from Stephanie Rodgers at Boots Theory
"A side note: The repeated line of questioning about whether there’s a rule, convention, or expectation around the largest party forming the government demonstrate how we’ve really failed to grasp the core function of MMP: delivering a balanced one which is the most appealing to the broadest number of people, not an all-powerful one based on arbitrary geographical lines.


[I continue to be frustrated by the NZ love affair with a two-party, us or them, "rulership" concept of government]

~~~
Surprised by the obliteration of the Māori party but I guess that is the kererū coming home to roost after two? terms of being in coalition with National against the expressed will of their constituency; now that Labour is looking like an effective alternative again.

This makes things interesting because National doesn't have the option of getting support from one minor party or another on a case by case basis. It's basically all or nothing with NZ First ... rendering ACT also irrelevant so maybe we can look forward to them being gone altogether next time.

Riffing off a friend "Democracy: one man, one vote. Today that man is Winston Peters". He does not seem likely to announce his decision until the outcome of the special votes (which includes all those who enrolled while voting early) making about 15% of the total vote - easily enough to move things one way or another by a seat or two. While my personal preference at the present time would be a functional MMP coalition of Labour / NZ First / Greens I think my second preference would be his smartest play: he supports either National, Labour/Greens or Labour with additional outside government support from the Greens form a minority government and rides them for support on every piece of legislation.

That's more how MMP is supposed to work in my opinion; it shouldn't matter which party puts up legislation it should stand on it's own merits against all parties rather than being successful or not at the whim of the "governing" party or parties.

Unfortunately I don't see Winston being happy without a seat at the cabinet table.

Either way I'm not seeing an awful lot of progressive legislation managing to be passed or a significant culture change in the public service over the next few years :( So the rest of us who are comfortable are just going to have to keep stepping up and looking out for our friends - and strangers - who continue to be ground down.

~~~
Particular electorates I was interested in (preliminary results)

# Christchurch Central
Finally dropped National's Nicky Wagner who mostly seems to have MIA for the past term for the Labour candidate; but there is only 0.1% between Labour and National in the party vote

# Epsom
ACT remained in existence thanks to National party voters faithfully using their electorate vote to get David Seymour the electorate seat; however the loyal pooch has already been kicked to the curb for having no actual use in the next terms government.

Sadly it is too soon to say ACT is finished; we will probably have to wait another 3 years to find out. Still I wouldn't be surprised to see a by-election in Epsom sooner than that.

# Ilam
Gerry Brownlee of course won convincingly :( But Raj Manji (Independent) did manage to get over half as many votes as Brownlee, and the Labour candidate managed nearly that many. Combined a total of exactly as many as Gerry (I put the numbers through the calculator several times) so there is actually hope that a well targeted campaign might get him out next time.

# Ōhāriu
Labour took the electorate on the night but only barely ... 679 votes is easily small enough to change on the specials. National easily got the bulk of the party vote. I hear that happened in a number of electorates.

I am not a fan of the Labour candidate who got in there; Greg O'Conner has a well documented history of being "tough on crime" and pro the police having carte blanche to use force and little to no accountability for their actions. I do not buy his line that he was only saying what he had to as the spokesman of the police union; as there is no indication that he was actually trying to challenge the negative culture and corruption within the NZ police force.

# Wigram
My own electorate; Megan Woods won by a far more comfortable margin than last time (I switched my electorate vote to Labour because of the earlier result) but the party vote only had 0.4% in it and went to National :(
~~~
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Giving is a major part of my life. Probably the greater part of it is invisible; charities I regularly support, flybys on givealittle and so forth but to be honest I find these less satisfying than what I can do directly for those around me. Making someone's life immediately better even if only for a short time kicks off one of the few emotional highs remaining to me. You can argue about whether than makes it altruistic giving or not elsewhere, I don't care. What is important to me is that there is less stress in a persons' life at frankly, little substantial cost to me.
- pad your groceries? People who have full stomachs are happier, healthier and think better.
- top up your bus card? Represents pocket change to me, to you might represent the freedom to leave the house and get to where you want/need to be when you want/need to be.
- covered an unexpected shortfall? Luck comes in good and bad, I have plenty of the former so please let me share it with you.

Life does not treat everyone equally, but it is within our power as people to redress the balance. Especially those of us to whom it has been more than fair; and I think compassion demands that we do so. Some people prefer to argue from a position of self interest - make sure other have (just) enough and they won't be motivated to try and take what you have to redress the balance. That's better than building fortresses ("gated communities") and hiring guards to keep the mob from the door I suppose.

I can understand how a person who has had to struggle, work and fight their whole life to get above the line and stay there might not be able to let go of that mindset, no matter how much success they achieve it may be that in their own mind they will always be poor and one unexpected bill away from disaster. But I also know that there are many who do not fall into that trap and having made their way to a comfortable position do a great deal to try and help others do the same. That makes much more sense to me - having been there how would not want to get other people out of the situation once you have means?

I am not one of of these; the metaphorical spoon in my mouth may not have been silver but it is less through my own efforts that I am where I am today than the gifts afforded from from my parents' hard labours. And so I can understand how, up to a certain age, a person can be raised simply not cognizant of the harsh realities of life for many. In the modern world my sympathy for that mindset runs out a year or two after they have reached university and should have had the opportunity to start taking a critical look at the world around them.

As always grateful that again, life has been more than fair to me and my sympathy for the struggles of others is born of intellect and a sense of fairness than hard personal experience.

So we come back to the position where I have- more than enough and so I endeavour to share my good fortune. I give this less than I would like; for two reasons
- Rationally I do need to keep putting some aside for my own future. How much is arguable, but I am not at the position where I can absolutely soak a large expense (such as the one about to be incurred for drain replacement) just yet, and I have no certainty that NZ's welfare state will be in a condition to look after me in my old age.
- it occupies not just the physical resources but also time and energy.

On this latter we have as a society theoretically harnessed the specialisation of labour to handle this. We pay takes to a central organisation (government) and one of the things they are supposed to do with them is make sure that if life treats us poorly we are looked after to a not-uncomfortable standard. In the meantime our money is (supposed to be) used to look after those who life is currently treating poorly. This should free us from the greater part of a need to worry about the circumstances of our families, friends, acquaintances / strangers.

Our current government is rejecting that part of it's duties (granted it is not the first to do so). Instead of going directly - in cash or in kind - to people who need food and shelter significant amounts of "our" money are shown to be being spent propping up companies that by National's own market ethos should probably be allowed to fail / take their business elsewhere, or paid in bribes to already wealthy individuals in countries where corruption is blatant, or siphoned off as indirect subsidies to private accommodation providers and old-boys-network businesspeople who are already "above the line".

One result of this is that I - multiplied by who-knows-how-many-others - have to spend more of my time and energy personally directing resource to the people I can see in need, and relying on the voids which are charities to be doing the right thing just to help regular people when they should be able to focus on those who positions are truly dire. And in some ways that /waste/ pisses me off just as much as seeing people around me living in poverty and the mis-appropriation of public money.

I am one person of good but still moderate means. I cannot do enough to even scrape the surface. I can feed a few people but I cannot house them. Organisations which have been set up explicitly to address the issues and channel the contributions of people like myself are barely scraping the surface. Central government is actively and deliberately following policies guaranteed to make the situation worse while benefiting those who already have more than enough.

My local council is one of the largest providers of social housing in the country (an operation which is currently being strong-armed to privatisation by central government). I occasionally encounter people who state vehemently how they are against their rates being used for such a purpose. I have no time for this attitude. Homelessness and poverty have both local and regional aspects and I absolutely expect our elected representatives at all levels to work together at the task of redirecting a sufficient portion of our taxes to those in need (rates being pretty much the closest we have in NZ to a formal tax on land even if they are not particularly responsive to capital gains).

Taking care of those who do not have the means to take care of themselves I consider the first duty of a supposedly democratic government. All else follows from or supports that. In doing so, for those of a more right-wing bent, people are freed to be more productive and contribute their best to society and the future rather than burning our all - and in the case of those who turn to crime, others all as well - just to survive.

[deep calming breaths]

The point I was getting around to is actually about the visibility of giving. This morning I posted quickly in my FB and Tumblr

When we talk about “give and take” why is the implication always that the giving and the taking are between the same two entities?

If I am in a position to give freely what someone needs why is it expected that I am expecting something in return? If you are in want of something why should it have to come from someone that already owes you or that you are then expected to owe?

Much better that we all give what we can when we see a need, and try to make out own desires visible without guilt or suspicion for others seeking to fulfil them - or be it necessarily with the the acceptance that there may not be anyone who feels they are in a position to do so.

I know a lot of people above and below the line, and plenty of those have moved from one side to the other and sometimes multiple times over the years. I am fairly public about much of the personal giving I do, not because I desire the plaudits (although they are nice) but in an endeavour to set an example to others above the line who may meander across my trail. To make giving freely visible and accepted, because I alone cannot make a lasting difference.

~~~
Related reading: that came through my Facebook feed while I was typing this up: How we got Here

No Way TPPA

Mar. 9th, 2015 09:19 pm
marsden_online: (write)
This past Saturday I attended the local portion of an ongoing series of protest marches against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). While the current NZ government has done many things I consider #notinmyname this is the one that should it go ahead, as I fear it will for I have no faith the the major Opposition party will not equally roll over for it, is the one I feel that will do the most lasting damage to New Zealand. This is because it impacts not only on our economy and international trade but directly on our sovereignty and right to make our own laws as a country.

Now it is the way of properly negotiated international treaties that one or more signatories generally accepts some limits on what they as a sovereign state may do, by way of passing laws and such, in exchange for some perceived benefit. There are two things about the TPPA which I consider to be particularly dangerous; far outweighing any possible benefits.

The first is the near-total secrecy under which it is no only being negotiated but will apparently be brought before our "house of representatives" - with even those worthies (and I use the term loosely) except for a few privileged members of the ruling party being forbidden knowledge of the terms of the treaty. Let me spell that out a bit more - our representatives, whom we rely on to protect our interests, our democracy, will be being told (if this current government retains a majority) to accept this treaty with no opportunity to actually debate its worth to the country, no idea of what we may be giving away or getting in return, and no opportunity to bring it to us, the people and ask what we would have them do.

This turn of events would make an absolute mockery of what it is supposed to mean to live in a democracy. It is the first and most blatant attack on our sovereignty represented by the TPPA.

The second danger is the proliferation of clauses (leaked) enabling international corporations - not even Governments, corporations with no mandate to represent anything but their profit margin - to challenge laws passed by our government in international courts. Now for countries like Australia and NZ that might simply tie up public money which would be much better spent elsewhere, but smaller nations could be forced into "toeing the line" of their/our new corporate masters by the simple likelihood of bankruptcy if faced by these sort of proceedings*.

I don't personally have a great issue with NZ officially becoming a "client state", be it of America as we are currently or some international conglomerate. But that is a decision that should absolutely be discussed and reached publicly, not reached behind closed doors and presented as a coup accompli.

[tangent]
* For an example of this sort of thing already happening see Philip Morris Vs Uruguay and vs Australia, which reportedly (linked article) already has caused our NZ government to about-face on plain packaging for cigarettes. The closest I can find within NZ is this 2013 release from the Ministry of Health which contains the money quote
“To manage this, Cabinet has decided that the Government will wait and see what happens with Australia’s legal cases, making it a possibility that if necessary, enactment of New Zealand legislation and/or regulations could be delayed pending those outcomes.

“The Ministry of Health will now begin developing the detailed policy which will include the size and content of health warnings. I intend to introduce the legislation to Parliament before the end of this year.

The legislation was in fact introduced and judging from this late 2014 release is due for it's second reading. Promising quote
“A key finding from the committee came from their visit to Australia as part of an exchange programme. The data highlighted that daily smoking rates amongst those aged 14 and older have declined from 15.1% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2013, the lowest rate recorded to date. This is very impressive evidence received since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia.”

I do support this governments passage of this legislation, both the bill itself and the due process it appears to have followed.
[/tangent]

My photos from the march
Attacks basic freedoms

Grief

Sep. 21st, 2014 10:53 pm
marsden_online: (Cat Yarn)
Like most of my friends I went to bed last night in a state of grief. As the number of non-voters has come clearer today and the relatively small % of people who actually produced National's likely dominance of NZ politics and discourse for the next 3 years became apparent that grew into a deeper sadness.

This post is just a stream-of-consciousness, spit-wadding ideas which are floating around in my brain out against the wall.

First to note I'm not against National in general. My politics are well to their "traditional" left but that doesn't mean they don't have good policies. There are multiple ways to get things done and government in NZ is (supposed to be) about influencing which way - or preferably which middle path - is taken to address the challenges we face as a country. Unfortunately NZers in general don't seem to have wrapped their heads around the idea of consensus politics, and I include senior members of our parliament here.

I am against the sort of cult of personality, right to rule politics practiced by the current National leadership. I am strongly opposed to a lot of stuff the current national party is implementing which seems driven largely by ideology rather than with regard to proven (or disproven) outcomes or I fear by ulterior motives by which I mean the true results which is being sought are not the ones which are being promoted. This is unfortunately an inherent problem in politics.

My echo chamber is full of anger at the people who didn't vote/appear to be uninvolved or uninterested in politics. It is possible that this actually reflects positively on the general standard of living in NZ that so many people are able to feel that it won;t negatively impact on them regardless of who of the "right/left" is in power, but the truth of the matter is more likely that many of these people have such busy lives just keeping whatever standard of living they have that they do not have the luxury of taking time to engage with the issues of the day. Which to me is an indicator that society is not overall as well off as people think, because in a well off society this time would not be a luxury.

I've seen a lot of confusion over the way so many people seem to have split their vote Labour/National. In a lot of ways I see this blatant vote splitting as a positive, it means that a) the people who are engages understand the difference between who represents them locally and who has overall control of the country and b) the Labour/National(Greens) tribalism is starting to die off. Under MMP it should be perfectly feasible for a National/Labour coalition to form, given that the two parties aren't that far apart on many things. The only thing preventing closer relations between the two parties is that so many old-guard have so much invested in the brand of *not Being X*.

"The right" certainly did get it's vote out better that "the left", even given that explicit support does appear to have dropped since 2011. I think while everyone was distracted by the Brand Key sideshow behind the scenes they actually did work their networks and the party machine make sure that people were going to go to the polls, where the left relied heavily on people going to vote "for the greater good". "The right" understands at a far more integral level that once you have power/influence you have to work to keep that, constantly, and they have. Sadly they chose do do this through the last term by dirty means rather than on the strength of the outcomes of their policies, which one would be expecting to see by the end of a second term. Unfortunately it can be really hard for Sam Citizen to tell the difference between outcomes from policy and mediocre outcomes from a favourable environment.

The general agreement in the part of my echo chamber which talks about such things seems to be that the majority of non-voters probably fall somewhere between Labour and the Greens in the political spectrum, that there is a large gulf there who probably once would have been Labour but can't bring themselves to move Green. There is a lot of talk of Labour having to re-invent itself. Frankly I think Labour would do better splintering along it's well-recognized internal fractures into multiple smaller parties rather than trying to be "The party of the Left" that they once were - only that way can they actually address the spread of issues rather than failing to be all things to many people. It wouldn't hurt National to split either come to that. In my view that is the political landscape which would best show the power of proportional representation for actually building contextual solutions which address the concerns and interests of a majority of those affected, which grouping is going to be different for every situation, and thus widely accepted.

I do wonder how much of the non-vote was younger Internet party support which didn't actually get around to voting. Good on them for stirring up the youth and at least getting them enrolled (I think they had a positive effect there). Hopefully some of those young people rather than being disillusioned and put off politics for the next decade of their lives will maintain an interest and maybe help fill the desperate need for voices speaking up about issues that matter to that demographic, issues which in a lot of ways do overlap with mine but then I'm not "typical".

~~~
One thing is clear though - even if the bulk of NZ is doing OK this government is unlikely to do very much - or even less - for a lot of the people who are near the bottom of the heap in NZ, which means that the rest of us with the means to do so are going to need to step up even more. I may have to bring forward some plans I was not planning to implement until after putting more retirement savings / personal buffer aside.

Look after each other out there.
marsden_online: (Ghostfighter)
"Protest" political parties.
At the party I attended on Saturday it was suggested there should be a "Muppets" party, with Beeker for PM, and on Facebook there's the Stars for the next prime minister of NZ page.

I've never been a fan of "joke" parties, I would rather see a formal method for people to express a non-vote differentiating themselves from those who just couldn't be bothered. I have been known to spoil a ballot rather than not vote, on the basis that at least those still get counted as something. There was a relatively low turnout this election - but it's impossible to differentiate the truly unengaged from the conscientious non-voters from those who didn't vote because "their party was doomed" from those who didn't vote because "their party was going to win anyway".

There is room for a party with the stated aims of
- being a marker for those who can't find something to vote for in the the other parties or who are loyal to a particular party but just can't bring themselves to vote for them this time around
- attempt to make some sense of why thinking people chose not to vote by polling it's members (encourage discourse)
- note: non-exclusive membership - I don't know if the other parties make their membership exclusive or not but in the age of MMP it makes little sense to do so

If it somehow manages to get above the threshold:
- abstain on matters of confidence/supply, abstain / conscience vote (/poll members for a majority?) on other matters
-- agreeing that stable government is good - not there to oppose government but to be a representation of those who didn't like any of the options
-- (I think any matter can by procedure be turned into a confidence and supply matter, so fine tuning needed)

- draft and introduce a members bill to obsolete the party by having some form of "Do not wish to state a preference" option on ballots. This wouldn't be a no-confidence option in the manner that an electorate candidate would have to beat it, or that would potentially leave empty seats in parliament from the party vote - such ballots would be discounted from those calculations while still enabling disaffected voters to "have their say" via the ballot box.

While I have a number of friends who have indicated hey would support such a party if I started one, I don't presently want to be the sole driving force behind the project. There is enough on my plate right now. I would contribute time/resources/ideas if others were prepared to take on the bulk of the of the heavy lifting though ;)

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