All I want for Christmas? Sure, less bad sing-alongs, but mostly I want less cynical politics than the December Dump we've seen this year

It's the time of year for lists. The best and worst of the year lists. Summer DIY lists. Lists to write to Santa. But here's a not so nice list created by National in these warming weeks leading into Christmas – the cynical dumping list.

Since the week that parliament wrapped up for the year, the government has been rummaging through its drawers for anything worn, torn or otherwise hard to explain and tipping it in the bin.

Once again this government has used a long-running tradition of political cynicism and taken it to an extreme. In the same way the Dirty Politics stories were all examples of old fashioned political tactics taken to rare lows (I won't say 'new lows', because of some of the things governments in the 19th century got up to), this December Dump (TM) is an unusually cynical cast-off of bad news and shifting tactics.

  • Moving aside failed Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga and reinstating Judith Collins into Cabinet
  • Announcing plans to ditch Serco
  • Changing its stance on economic management
  • Closing a failing Charter school
  • Pushing the date for restarting Super Fund contributions out to 2023
  • Admitting National got it wrong funding Herceptin in 2009

The last was an example of something that just came along, but the government had control over the timing of all the others and chose the post-parliament period before Christmas for their release. It's poor form and a cynical manipulation of power.

Why does it matter that something is released at this stage of the year? It's not so much that things don't get reported and questions don't get asked in almost all the usual places (although these have all happened since the weekend TV politics programmes have ended their seasons); it's more that audiences have switched off and even the biggest political junkies – including those in the gallery – are burnt out. So the tone is different, the public less engaged (and less enraged).

The economic management point deserves a little explaining. Just a week ago I wrote that the "missed opportunity' of the year was the unwillingness by government to borrow and build while the price of borrowing was so low, the country in such dire need of infrastructure and the economy and labour market in need of a shot in the arm. Now, Bill English says he's suddenly found another billion dollars for capital expenditure and a bit more borrowing and deficiting don't matter so much. Which is a wild political and fiscal u-turn from his position in recent years and undermines stern words – even promises – on debt.

As Vernon Small has pointed out, this is quite a new approach... quietly and casually tossed out just before Christmas. It's also probably a sign just how scared English really is about El Nino and China.

But, in case you think this is a whole new chapter for National... I also damned National for its short-termism, but sadly the decision to delay contributions to the Super Fund... again... is a sure sign some things haven't changed. And that billion dollars? Rather than be spread around Auckland rail and other more virtuous projects, it seems to be mostly aimed at roads and defence. Sigh.

This is a list I'd really rather not have had to write, one that's against the spirit of good government. So bah humbug to you National. That's a lump of coal in your socking from me.



Comments (7)

by Murray Grimwood on December 17, 2015
Murray Grimwood

"Just a week ago I wrote that the "missed opportunity' of the year was the unwillingness by government to borrow and build while the price of borrowing was so low, the country in such dire need of infrastructure and the economy and labour market in need of a shot in the arm."

You may have written it Tim, and it may be your 'opinion', but it cannot continue to be a true statement on a finite planet.

I suggest that only chosen ignorance - which is quite different to initially-ignorant assumption - can support such a statement.

It is time we had national-level media appraisal - from first principles - of what money is, what underwrites it, and where 'wealth' is going. Seems to be an endemic assumption that money will always buy stuff, and that growth can be forever. Talk about short-termist thinking.

Bah humbug.......


by Ross on December 18, 2015

I imagine a decision on David Bain's compensation claim can't be far off. Xmas/New Year perhaps?

by Viv Kerr on December 18, 2015
Viv Kerr

@Murray. I guess you feel like the guy on Easter Island who warned that they were running out of trees when there was still a bit of forest left and the leaders had decided to build some extra statues.

by Murray Grimwood on December 18, 2015
Murray Grimwood



This fellow is one of the ones who think everyone should have equal access to firewood, but he worships at the base of the statues, too. Just ike the selfish ones, he refuses to count the remaining trees.


by Stewart Hawkins on December 19, 2015
Stewart Hawkins

You may dislike the timing (Christmas or these announcements? - I think all the announcements came first) but there are none that you cogently argue against.

by Suzanne Robins on December 19, 2015
Suzanne Robins

I think the point of this post is about the timings; the cynical and much-overused political ploy of burying embarrassing news by dumping it when parliament is not sitting (so Question Time can't be used) and political analysis is thin on the ground in the mainstream media.

Add to the list the payment of "performance bonuses" to Serco, even for this year; the year in which they've been removed from their contract, with proof that they were running an unsafe and under-staffed prison, whilst under-reporting problems and (by their own account) being held up as the model for others to follow. And (by the way) good old Judith Collins, being presented as a "safe pair of hands" in the Corrections and Police portfolios, was the one who signed up Serco, approved the contract with the ridiculous "performance bonuses" that were actually an incentive to lie and under-report, and was the Minister at the centre of Dirty Politics whose embarrassment was prioritised over much more significant matters when the police decided to raid Nicky Hagar.

Not a good look, National.


by Tim Watkin on December 21, 2015
Tim Watkin

Stewart, the problem isn't the what, it's the when. I'd certainly strongly argue against pushing the Super Fund contribution date out; it's choosing to ask more of the next generation, which will already have its hands full dealing with the baby boomers. That is the short-termism I'm talking about and lacks political courage. History will judge National harshly for 'kicking the can down the road' on this one.

But the real issue is choosing to make big political decisions that could be damaging with voters at a time when scrutiny is at its minimum.

Post new comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.