The not-so-unstable Coalition

What is it about coalition politics of the Left which so upsets the Nats and the Party’s media partisans. Can’t be disappointment at the electoral loss surely – that’s just peevishness.  Could it be envy that the upstarts are in power? But that can’t be true, for the Coalition has the Greens.  Or is it simply because of the power of fresh ideas when National had very few.

Ideas were exactly what the country desperately needed after nine years of deliberate neglect.  Ideas should be contested and clearly they are and sometimes publicly in this Government.  That takes tolerance, understanding and appreciation of compromise. They represent the core values of coalitions but here have been misconstrued as – shock horror – instability. In other words, change.

But facts indicate how the implementation of fresh thinking and ideas have triumphed over the indifference of laissez faire favoured by the previous Government.

Surely few could deny that in its first 100 days the Coalition acted energetically in the public interest. These were some of its actions over that period.

  1. Legislation to give effect to the Families Package – passed on 14 December.
  2. Extension of Paid Parental Leave – legislation passed 29 November.
  3. Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill setting minimum standards for rentals – legislation passed 29 November.
  4. Ban on overseas speculators buying existing houses – legislation introduced December 14.
  5. Fees free for post-secondary school education or training for first year from 2018 – announced 5 December.
  6. Issue directive to Housing New Zealand stopping the sell-off of state houses – issued on December 20.
  7. Student allowances and living cost loans to increase by $50 from 1 January 2018 – announced 21 November.
  8. Begin work to establish the Affordable Housing Authority and KiwiBuild programme – announced December 19.
  9. Tax Working Group – Terms of Reference announced and Chairman appointed 23 November.
  10. Restart contributions to the Super Fund – First payment made on December 15.
  11. Pike River Recovery Agency – agency opened on January 31.
  12. Legislation to provide greater fairness in workplace – Employment Relations Act amendment announced January 25.
  13. Minimum wage to rise to $16.50 to take effect from April 2018 – announced on December 22.
  14. Introduce legislation to set a child poverty reduction target and to change the Public Finance Act so the Budget reports progress on reducing child poverty – Child Poverty Reduction Bill introduced 31 January. Government targets announced 31 January.
  15. Legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain – Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed first reading 30 December.
  16. Set up an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care – announced 1 February.
  17. Set up a Ministerial Inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis – TOR and members announced January 23.
  18. Set zero carbon emissions goal and begin setting up independent Climate Commission – Interim Climate Change Committee announced 18 December.

In September, Labour’s coalition partner NZ First, celebrated its 25th anniversary and leader Winston Peters praised the party’s record in countering free market ideology. He said the party wanted to be constructive in this coalition but noted a ‘concerted effort’ by opponents to paint the party as the very opposite.

He added: “Almost 1100 items have passed through cabinet and cabinet committees since the Coalition was formed. That shows an incredible level of agreement between Labour and NZ First… signifying the voluminous amount of policy change already agreed between us”.

All of this represents some challenging fresh thinking as part of a quest for social justice. It’s a menu the conservative Establishment has found unpalatable and almost as appalling as… well, electoral defeat.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.