Cue harmonica: It looks like the more things change in parliament, the more they stay the same.
The first week of our new government has been highly instructive. Given nine years to think about its approach to governing, and given the same period to learn from Labour’s mistakes, National has begun its term in precisely the fashion Labour ended up being reviled for, the brute exercise of power. National’s modus operandi didn’t seem very new generation to me.
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I was up in the House on Tuesday and heard a superb maiden speech by Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga. It was an excellent and compelling mix of personal and political narrative and brought one or two of his supporters to tears. I hope Sam goes far for he sounded very, very promising.
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The Gallery was full of National Party supporters from Auckland that day and I was embedded in the bosom of their presence. While I’ve embraced the idea that the peaceful circulation of elites is a healthy thing for our democracy it dawned on me that there is a parallel process that also accompanies change elections, one that is decidedly less uplifting: The seamless switching of prejudices as Pepsi’s froth replaces Coca Cola’s.
I heard enough unseemly baggage to lose confidence that a new and inclusive New Zealand was just around the corner.
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It took less than a week for the Maori Party’s fragile positioning to be exposed. Feathers, pounamu, taura, and other symbolic manifestations of Maoridom’s new ‘mana enhancing’ relationship with National will no doubt continue to accrue to the prime minister. But for Pita and Tariana it’s been a week of swallowing taapapa.
Gandhi never failed to describe means as ends-in-the-making, the very definition of ‘mana enhancing’ I’d have thought. Not being consulted over National’s long-elevated and transparently "well signaled" ‘100-day-but-not-before-Christmas bail-out-the-incompetent-employers'-piss-poor-recruitment-bill’ was sort of mana-deflating, I guess. Never mind, I’m sure we’ll all forget, especially those Maori workers and voters among us.
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Turning the great ship of state is like trying to change the direction of an oil tanker, albeit a smallish one in our case. I presume they have people on oil tankers – aside, of course, from the Exxon Valdez – who know how to sail the ship. However, in defense of Gerry Brownlee’s two procedural hiccups in parliament on Tuesday, such wanton fun resulted from his missteps that I can’t help but want more of it. Wonderful chaos, it was, wonderful chaos.
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The new government’s well thought through, carefully crafted, inclusive, and internally coherent policy on the Emissions Trading Scheme is a stupendous triumph of consistency and forward thinking. National's four positions explaining itself are a piffle, and barely worth noting. The main thing is that National is keeping its promises. That means we’ll have an amended ETS system in place by next spring. Phew.
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Bear with me because it’s a bit tricky to critique a dodgy honeymoon when it involves five leaders. And there are five of the buggers, which in the old era was described as a monstrously evil, Old Testament hydra, along with prerequisite illustrations. Given the strong consensus that the Electoral Finance Act was an absurd arse (backed up by countless text-in polls and the fearless and crusading campaign by the Herald), shouldn’t the Police contemplate charging Rodney Hide for wasting their time over his silly yellow jacket.
I wonder how many lives could have been saved, to parody Hide’s law & order grandstanding, while the cops are forced to investigate a case that was triggered by a complaint from one of Hide’s own ACT Party people to highlight something that was already blazed in neon.
Maybe Garth McVicar could plant the appropriate number of crosses next to Mt. Eden prison.
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And speaking of the Herald, come on Mr. Editor, I’m dying to hear what you make of National’s use of urgency last week. Let us know. Will you contemplate publishing the faces of all the MPs who voted for it? Will you do it every month up until the next election? How outraged do feel about the government not letting any opposition MPs (including one of the government’s own support party’s) even view these bills before being able to debate them? Wasn’t that an Attack on our Democracy?
How do you feel about such vital laws as the Education (National Standards) Amendment Bill being drafted on the hoof, without any consultation? That $3,000 fine for second offender truant parents really didn’t need select-committee scrutiny, did it?
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I heard Paula Bennett on the radio on Saturday. She seems to have Uber-command of her portfolio. When asked whether her government would pass its transitional package before Christmas she said “yes.” When asked if it was drafted and ready to go she said “yes.” When asked what was in it she said “You’ll have to wait and see.”
But she couldn’t beat Allan Peachey. During Saturday’s debate on the education bill he repeatedly exhaled the parliamentary fart of ‘you’, which drags the poor Speaker into the debate. The Speaker was forced to rise and admonish Peachey for poor form. After acknowledging the errant nature of his ways, Peachey regained his composure and began again, “Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, you….”
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Another question, this time to talkback callers: Labour has been booted, so why are so many of you still so angry?
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Despite the dominant narrative of our new purposeful government’s momentum-soaked week, man-oh-man, I thought it a right royal shambles. But then I heard from a mate up in Auckland and he reported that his circle of friends and acquaintances were ecstatic at National’s performance. He thought we inside-the-beltwayers were just being picky and negative about Key’s brilliant beginning, suggesting I should write a mournful song and call it The Beltway Blues.
But I’m bound to say that last week’s antics by our new government reminded me of a different tune altogether, one from Led Zeppelin entitled The Song Remains the Same.