Friday, 24 October 2008

What Other Election?

It may have slipped by un-noticed but halfway around the globe there is an election going on.
While the voters bring an end to the marathon that is the US elections in 11 days, the New Zealand election still has fifteen days to run but it is not as straight forward as a party being voted in and another booted out.
New Zealand hasn't been run by a single party with a majority for over 50 years and the mainstream Labour Party and National Party have to cobble together a Government from other parties to take office.
This election is between the centre left Labour Party and the Centre Right National Party but why should we care about an election in a country that has more sheep than voters?
In 2008 the New Zealand Government set about renationalising assets it had previously sold off in a Thatcher style rush to privatise everything. A decision that turned sour with the Government admitting that: "Selling of our public rail system has been a painful lesson for New Zealand".
It has bought back the Air National New Zealand and sea ferry operations after they were run into the ground financially by private owners and was one of the few countries to keep control of it's financial system and out of the hands of private companies.
New Zealand may sounds like a Socialist's paradise but it may well be developing the blueprint to show the rest the way to go as the capitalist system comes crashing down around our ears and we set about buying back all the services and amenities our Governments recklessly sold off to the highest bidder in the Thatcher years.
Nationals John Key is presently holding a narrow lead in the polls over Labours Helen Clark but the decider is which of the large parties the likes of NZ First, the Green Party and the Maori Party join forces with. It's all very complicated.


Cheezy said...

That's a pretty good summary of the situation for an out-of-towner! (although I'm out of the loop myself, so Ruth would probably be the definitive judge about this).

I'd disagree with the word 'socialism' to describe NZ though. Under the current government, the country has been described as one of the most business-friendly places on earth.

Both Labour and National believe in a mixed economy, they just differ about the exact composition of the mix. Labour are usually socially more liberal though - and indeed, more liberal than a lot of the population. This has sometimes been a problem for them.

I'm picking a National coalition win next month, if only because three-term governments in NZ are very unusual, so four-term ones are nearly unprecedented.

You build up a lot of enemies and bad blood during a decade in power... (NZ only has a 3-year electoral cycle).

Noah "Nog" M. said...

I don't know much about NZ politics, but I found the 2005 election results to be quite obscene. Did the heads of the Labor party kill their own mothers in public or something?

Lucy said...

It was a Canadian who explained it to me Cheezy, don't know how he knew the way NZ politics works but he provided the facts. I just meant a socialist paradise in the way that it is taking things back from private ownership and you know how much the red flag bearers like that sort of thing.

Nog - I don't much about New Zealand. Very much like Canada, nobody ever seems to bad mouth the place though.

Dismal Soyanz said...

"Very much like Canada, nobody ever seems to bad mouth the place though."

Oh, I dunno. The Ockers like to take the occasional crack. Fair enuff - so long as they absolutely promise to keep Russell Crowe on their side of the ditch.

There's a pretty strong argument for saying that the state purchase of various infrastructure bits is because of small size and relative distance from the big boys. Investing in NZ is not typically at the top of fund managers/private equity's "to do" list. The govt pumped a lot of money into Air NZ when it was about to go belly up. I'm still not clear on the actual benefit of the purchase of Tranzrail (now nauseatingly called Kiwirail) but it may have something to do with the need to invest in rolling stock.

My view is that we needed to sell of quite a lot of stuff not because it would automatically be more efficient but because we needed to change the way we see government. It should not be an employer of last resort - which is something that the railway was notorious for.

These days we have much greater scrutiny of government departments and state owned enterprises - something we would not have had we stayed with the model of government that prevailed in the 1970s.

It's quite possible we could have got this level of accountability and transparency without the privatisation surge but that assumes a level of prescience which I can never ascribe to anyone let alone politicians.