- Date published:
7:35 am, November 12th, 2017 - 84 comments
Categories: climate change, immigration, jacinda ardern, jobs, journalism, labour, making shit up, nz first, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, winston peters, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:
Herald lifestyle columnist Ben Mack has had published a couple of interesting columns on New Zealand politics. He is an American who has lived here for two years and thinks that we are really friendly. Fair enough.
But over the past couple of weeks he has posted these opinion pieces that when considered together make no sense.
On October 30 he said that Jacinda Ardern would not change a thing. He set out the problems that he thought we were facing and they included these:
• A patriarchal system that rewards sexual abusers and punishes victims.
• The systematic oppression faced by women, LGBT+ people, and everyone not a cisgender white man.
• A mental health crisis made worse not by our healthcare system (though that could use improvement), but the fast-paced, high-pressure world in which we live.
• Our polluted environment.
• Climate change.
• That genderqueer people like myself don’t have the same basic rights as other people do, such as being forced to write “female” or “male” on official forms when we don’t identify as either.
• The xenophobia immigrants face daily.
• The continuing rise of fascism and the far right, including here in Aotearoa (hello, neo-Nazis who might be reading this. Thanks for plastering pictures of me on your websites recently. Gave my social media accounts a nice traffic bump).
And on. And on. And on. Ad infinitum, seemingly.
These are enormous problems. Too big for one person to solve, no matter how committed they are or if they’re the leader of the Government. As long as those things remain problems, I could care less if the Prime Minister was an actual raccoon that had acquired human speech and the ability to walk on two legs.
Again, there’s nothing wrong in hoping Ardern can fix things. But believing she’ll fix everything all on her own is naïve at best, incredibly dangerous at worst.”
Fair enough although I don’t see the design of official forms as being of the same magnitude as climate change. And a claim that the new Government may not be sufficiently sensitive to gender issues and environmental issues seems rather strange.
But then he came up with this doozie of an article posted by the Washington Post which suggested that New Zealand had lurched to the right.
A shadow is poisoning Middle-earth.
On the surface, New Zealand’s new government sounds like a progressive dream: a young, energetic prime minister reminiscent of Barack Obama or Justin Trudeau who not only discusses the importance of feminism but calls people out for misogynistic comments on the spot; ministers for climate change and child poverty reduction; and the fact that the heads of the three branches of government are all women.
But for all the excitement around Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her new government, the real power lies with the far right. And, more terrifying: The far right seized power by exploiting the very system meant to be a fairer version of democracy.
Led by veteran politician Winston Peters — who has made racist comments toward immigrants and people of Asian descent and Trumpian abuse of the press — New Zealand First has traditionally been an afterthought in New Zealand politics. That all changed this past September, when the two largest parties finished close enough in the general election that whichever party New Zealand First decided to enter a coalition with would control enough seats in New Zealand’s German-style MMP (mixed-member proportional) parliament to govern. In other words, a far-right party that received just seven percent of the vote had the power to decide who would rule.
If that wasn’t appalling enough, Peters and New Zealand First held the country for ransom, repeatedly delaying the announcement of their decision for several weeks as they extracted more and more concessions from suitors. When Peters finally declared on Oct. 19 that New Zealand First would go into a coalition with Ardern and her Labour Party, it was only because Ardern had kowtowed the most to his increasingly extreme demands.
The effects of the far right’s influence are already being felt. Amid pressure from New Zealand First, the government has vowed to slash immigration by tens of thousands by making it harder to obtain visas and requiring employers to prove they cannot find a qualified New Zealand citizen before hiring a non-citizen. They’ve also put forward legislation banning non-citizens from owning property, the new minister for immigration has equated increased immigration with increased unemployment (while also failing to denounce his party’s claims that immigration is a factor in New Zealand having the highest rate of youth suicide in the developed world) and proposed a plan that would require people receiving welfare to work.
Cutting down on historically high immigration numbers is evidence of fascism? Preventing overseas entities from buying local property shows extreme right wing tendencies? And referencing Mike Hosking to say that Shane Jones (who is not the Minister of Immigration) thinking loudly and badly that people receiving the dole should also work is evidence that the Minister proposed a work for the dole plan? Please …
And what is missing is any analysis of what the Government has set out to achieve. As noted by Duncan Grieve at Spinoff the list of policy proposals are decidedly progressive. No sign of fascist tendencies anywhere.
To Ben Mack. I hope you enjoy your time here. We are a friendly nation and our communities are strong and dare I say it there are many socialist groupings amongst us. But telling us one day that the left will not be strong enough to create change and the next that the extreme right has taken over is just naff.