I prepared this for a US audience; hence its more American perspective. But it may also inform New Zealanders about their politics and about MMP politics.

Ben Mack’s ‘How the far right is poisoning New Zealand’ was such a distorted account of New Zealand politics that it was initially considered satire. That it was serious makes its many wild assertions difficult to deal with in a short response. One will do. He cites the new government slashing immigration numbers as evidence of its being ‘far right’. It is true it has agreed to a target of only half current levels, reflecting concerns about the ability of the economy to absorb the inflow. The annual target is now 0.85 percent of the New Zealand population, around three times higher than recent US levels. Does that make the Obama administration very far right?

American readers will be familiar with uninformed, unidimensional obsessives who litter their political landscape, but they may struggle with situations with which they are unfamiliar. The American-based Political Compass scores the three coalition partners of the current New Zealand Government the Greens as 4 units to the left, New Zealand First as 1 unit to the left and Labour as 4 units to the right. National, the main opposition party and core of the previous government, is scored 8 units to the right so the new government has moved substantially to the left.

To give a sense of the scale, Hillary Clinton is scored 7.5 units to the right, consistent with the common claim by National Party supporters that their political approach is close to the Democrats. To describe either as very far right is ludicrous.

New Zealand has a far right party, ACT, with one seat in its parliament. It won 0.5 percent of the vote. While ACT is economically to the right, it is neither a fascist party nor racist. Three of the four cabinet ministers from New Zealand First, which Mack describes as racist, are in fact Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Mack, an American living in New Zealand, is struggling to understand how the New Zealand electoral system works, for it is very different from the US one. It is a proportional system (based on the Mixed Member Proportional approach similar to Germany’s). Gerrymandering is almost non-existent and the current government was chosen by 49.2 percent of voters on a 79.0 percent turnout. The Opposition parties gained 46.5 percent; the smaller parties which did not meet the threshold for seats in parliament predominantly support leftish policies.

To describe the New Zealand voter or the New Zealand government as far right in American terms is preposterous.

PS. This is posted on the day in which it was announced that coalition talks in Germany are in tatters, 58 days after their election. It took the Dutch eight months to form a coalition government.

Mack grumbled about it taking 27 days for New Zealand to form its government. I think we have to accept that the elections only choose the composition of parliaments.  A second stage is parliament choosing the composition of the executive.

If  Mack had had a broader perspective, he might have noticed that it took Trump 102 days after his election to announce the completion of his inner cabinet (and 27 days after he was inaugurated as President). Because of Senate approvals it took a further 71 days before they were all in office.

Comments (3)

by James Green on November 21, 2017
James Green

In the US there is a reasonably large extreme left block that is extremely poisonous and toxic -- I call them the ultra-liberals. Their presence is most strongly felt in the university campuses. If you think the far right is bad with their climate denial these ultra-liberals are just as compemtuous of reason and evidence although in this case it is the social sciences rather than the natural sciences. I suspect that Mack is one of these ultra-liberals and thus I ignore him just as I ignore the other science deniers of the far right.

by Rich on November 21, 2017

The US president doesn't of course have to hold the confidence of either house of Congress. British Prime Ministers didn't either in 1776, they were appointed by the monarch (sometimes without a parliamentary majority) up until 1834, where William IV was forced to aquiesce in the return of Melbourne as PM.


by Charlie on December 03, 2017

Brian, I am reminded of an old joke:

Q: What's a pessimist?

A: It's what an optimist calls a realist.

And so it is with politics: Generally the person accusing someone of being 'right wing' is from the far left.

NZ doesn't have bands of black uniformed thugs marching down the street smashing the windows of Jewish owned stores. There are no torchlit processions and not even the slightest hint of a gas chamber. (Thank Goodness!)

However we do still have a Loony Left (go check out the Daily Blog if you don't believe me) and it is this type of person who is running around accusing people of being 'right wing'.

What we do have plenty of in NZ are conservatives. Ignoring the redefining that has occurred in recent years in the USA, conservatism is not necessarily right of centre.

Conservatism: Commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation.

So conservatives can come from both the right and the left. For example they can be traditionalist trades unionists who think a womans place is in the home and who are homophobic. (I know a couple).

Post new comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.