One of the interesting experiences of my holiday was hearing politicians debate social justice at the Parachute Music festival. I was struck by the way each politician took on an either/or mode of delivery. United Future were very much for the family. National was very much into personal responsibility and government enabling of individuals distributing social justice. The Greens were very into government intervention and as one would expect, brought everything back to the environment and the disadvantaged, powerless and marginalised. NZ First came across as nothing! I couldn't hear anything clear from their rep. Labour were 'more of the same' with the government in socialist style controlling society. It was eye-opening!
Yet surely the answer lies in all of these things; what makes the difference is where the emphasis must fall at any particular time. The central family unit must be the core of the nation and I am thrilled that there is one party who is taking that line. I wish one of the two major parties would move more in that direction although National are closer to this than Labour. Personal responsibility is critical for any society, and the role of government is a fine line between enabling this to occur without seeing people set free from all responsibility and promoting greed and between seeking to deal with social justice through the massive inefficient machinery of government. Yet, there is a need for creative government intervention to ensure that the marginalised and powerless are cared for and that greed does not see an ever widening gap between rich and poor. And of course the environment is critical; the calls are getting louder concerning the dangers of global warming whether the cause is human agency or merely the cycle of life; for me, it seems highly likely it is the former.
The solution is some measure of all of the above. So which of these need emphasis at this time? I would argue that we need to see a shift back toward personal responsibility, family and environment at this time. We need to see businesses encouraged through tax reform while retaining careful taxation to ensure that the marginalised and powerless are cared for. In terms of the environment and family, we have a problem. The Greens have cornered the market on environment and have aligned this with a leftist socialist concern for the marginalised and powerless. They also promote what many Christians consider 'anti-family' viewpoints, loosening the mores of family to include all manner of relationships and eroding the power of two heterosexuals raising a child in a balanced loving home (with involvement from the wider whanau). This means that the ecological concern is tied to what many would see as an 'anti-Christian' agenda where family is concerned. The problem for national is that to take up the ecological agenda will clash with its concern for economic development as without doubt the ecological issue will have economic repercussions.
This makes NZ politics very interesting. What is needed is a blend of concern for the generation of wealth (a little ACT, National), a strong concern for the family as the basis for society (United Future), a strong concern for the environment (some of the Green agenda) and ensuring that the basic needs of society are provided for those who are unable to care for themselves while ensuring a dependency underclass does not go without (a little Alliance, Labour, Greens). Then there is the Maori issue which is tied into the matters of social justice and the poverty (Maori Party). All in all, this is not an easy place to govern.
Add to the this the problem is that Labour and National are so similar in approach that it is amazing; national are a little more right wing; labour a little left; but in reality, both are terribly centrist.
So it comes down to a personality cult as there is not enough difference between the two main parties for the issue to be decided in terms of policy. My observation of Key is that National are in trouble; they have appointed a man who lacks charisma and is taking them too close to Labour adopting a centrist line. Brash for all his faults, had a strong profile and took National away from Labour and gave us a clear option. Could it be that Clark with overwhelm him as she has the other opponents and we have a fourth term of Labour. It is heading that way for me.