Thursday, September 4, 2014

Election 2014 The Dilemma: Some Personal Musings

Not voting is not an option for me. Democracy is flawed, but it is the best system around. People died to get this freedom to vote, and I will exercise it. I must.

But deciding who to vote for this time around has to be one of the hardest decisions ever. For those on the extreme right (of which I am not one) it is not difficult. Act seems to have got its act together (pardon the pun) and returned to its core business. They are almost guaranteed a seat in parliament because of the stitch-up in Epsom, so a vote for them in Epsom is certainly not wasted. Yet, polls suggest that to cast a party vote for them outside of Epsom is likely a waste, as they are unlikely to get enough to bring in another candidate. I am outside Epsom, so even if was inclined, on the basis of the polls, I wouldn’t think about them.

Others on the centre-right create more than a bit of a quandary. On the one hand, it seems easy. National have governed for six years. NZ is doing well by many markers. They have bought the country through some difficult times in GFC. Compared to the left which is a fragmented disparate group, they are a ‘stable’ option (although Dirty Politics does call this into question). Their prospective partners are relatively benign compared to those on the left. Yet, in their time the gap between the wealthy and poor has grown. The middle class is increasingly squeezed. I wonder if they are concerned enough about the environment. I would like workers to get a better deal. The questions around NZs involvement in ‘big brothering’ is worrying. Then there is the dirty politics saga and especially the Judith Collins affair which calls into question the integrity of the National caucus and shakes one’s confidence in National – there is a lot of smoke, is there a fire and how big is it? The name Cameron Slater makes me want to run as far from the right as possible. Despite John Key’s protestations of ignorance, can we really believe he did not know what was going on in his office? He should have known – it is his office! If he didn’t, doesn’t that show poor leadership? And what else is there that has yet to be revealed? Yet, National remain a possible option simply because the other options are equally if not more shaky.

Other centrist/right options here are first United Future. Yet, although Dunne is likely going to be re-elected thanks to his mate John, a vote for UF is kind of the same as one for Act; it goes nowhere on current polling which doesn’t look like shifting.

Then there are the Conservatives. They appear to have integrity and stand in many cases for common sense. They also stand for family values that I can really relate to. Yet, some find Colin Craig a little unusual when it comes to things like moon landings – although I think people are unfair here. He seems a decent guy to me. Then there is the idea of binding referenda, which sounds like a great idea but could become a real annoyance and great cost to the country over time. And then there is the big question – will they crack the 5% threshold? And they need to unless a deal is done in East Coast Bays. Let’s say they get 4.9%; that is a lot of kiwi votes that effectively go down the tubes and don’t affect outcome. So, with them polling around 3-4 at the moment, it is a gamble. Still, they are an option if you are comfortable with a national government and want Conservatives with them at the table.

Maori is another centre-right option. I feel that they have acquitted themselves well under Sharples and Turia and having a voice for the Tangata Whenua in the caucus is a good thing. So, although Flavell is untested (he did well in the TV3 dinner party though), they are an option for those in the middle/right concerned about National’s baggage but wanting a centre-right government.

And of course there is NZ First. A vote for NZ First would certainly count, as they are polling well above the 5% threshold. They also have a lot of common sense ideas. Yet, their rhetoric on race has always made me uncomfortable. And while he has NZ politics best smile, do we really want Winston in the driver’s seat after the next election? That is a thought that makes me really nervous. I find it hard to back a guy who could go either way. I want him to make his mind up. Then I might consider his party.

So what about the left? Whoever one votes for on the left, there are issues. First, a government has to be formed that in some way includes the leaders and egos of Labour, Greens, NZ First, and at least the support of Mana-Dotcom. How will it work when their leaders with their disparate policies, bottom lines and strong personalities get together to hammer out policy? How would a collective of David Cunliffe, Hone Harawera, John Minto, Winston Peters, and with Dotcom himself looming larger than life in the background work together? I would love to be a fly on the wall at those meetings!

The Mana Dotcom party seems a very uneasy alliance which threatens to come apart almost daily,whether it be Hone over the their employment policy or Georgina Beyer more recently. And even if Mana Dotcom provides only confidence and supply, such a government would have Dotcom having a hand in NZ governance. Having seen snippets of those videos of him inciting revolutionary fervour sends chills down the spine. Is his involvement a good thing?

And then there is what to make of Dotcom? While I have friends who extol his virtues, I am unconvinced. He remains a wanted man who is considered a serious criminal by the US government who are seeking his extradition. He is a self-confessed hacker. These are no small things. By coincidence dirty politics revolves around hacking – raises all sorts of questions to me. Is he really a hero? A kind of Robin Hood? Or is he like that guy who wasn’t actively committing any ‘crime’ himself but had a big warehouse where criminals placed their stolen stuff (‘upload’) for others to come and buy (‘download’)? Isn’t that a crime? Or am I missing something? Certainly, at the least, the jury is out on him and I would prefer to wait to see how things play out before seeing him anywhere near the NZ parliament.

To be honest, I can’t take Mana Dotcom seriously. The sight of the radical social justice advocate John Minto getting into parliament on the back of Dotcom’s money is deeply disturbing (not to mention his old man dancing! – not that I can talk – but I know not to do it on TV!). Hone is controversial enough on his own without being in cahoots with Dotcom. I think they will blow apart quickly after the election – too many egos to last.

What about the Greens? They have a range of very interesting and positive politics. I especially like their emphasis on cycling – bring it on. However, being one who is passionately pro-life, I find their abortion policy abhorrent. Despite their protestations about it being ‘honest’, it will surely lead to more abortions as what barriers there are taken down. So, while advocating for the care of the environment and social justice in this nation is needed, and their leaders present an intelligent and united front, I cannot give them my vote in good conscience.

So what about Labour? Three things make me hesitate about Labour. First, I worry about the Capital Gains tax. If we were forming a tax policy from scratch, I think a CGT has some real merit. Where people invest in property etc, tax on their profit would seem appropriate. Yet, in the current housing market I think it is, to be frank, a dumb idea. Why? Because, in a housing market which already has a significant shortage of rental accommodation in Auckland and Christchurch, it will bump up rents as some landlords pass on the cost of the not insignificant tax to their tenants. Rents are already crazy in these cities, and with people not able to buy their own homes in many cases, will make renting even harder. Alternatively, other prospective and present landlords will choose not to invest in property and so there will be less NZers investing in housing and there will be an even greater shortage of rental properties. This will surely also push up rents unless there is a sudden great supply of accommodation available (below). So, it will lead to many kiwis, in Auckland and Christchurch in particular, not only unable to buy their own homes, but will also push rents up. As such, because of the context we are in, I think introducing a CGT at the moment is a crazy idea. Not to mention the kind of intricate debates going on about what happens after a person dies and the house is sold? Etc? It does not seem a well-conceived policy and I think it will have very dire effects on the cost of accommodation which will hurt the poor most. And Labour is all for the poor, right?

Secondly, there is their 100,000 affordable homes policy. This seems far-fetched to me where Auckland and Christchurch are concerned. Where will the builders come from, and will the companies buy in when they can make more down the road in more ‘unaffordable’ housing? It will require government incentives for them to buy in I would think, and so where does that money come from? (CGT?). If builders do get behind it, maybe, just maybe, 100,000 homes can be built – but affordable ones, in Auckland? Where? What sort of boxes will they be? The future slums? In Christchurch? Really? It also relies on Labour having more than one term as it doesn’t kick in until after this three years – so who says they will even be there to continue it? Of course if they can pull the building off, the problems around rentals will be eased (above). But will they? And how long will that take? And who will feel the pain in the meantime? The poor! I am not sure they have thought this through.

Thirdly, David Cunliffe. He is not a popular man at the moment. I thought in the last few weeks he was coming back. He did well in the first debate. Yet, now he is being brutally exposed over the CGT shooting himself in the foot with gaff after gaff. Further, does he have the full support of his own caucus? Does he have the leadership skills to hold together the leaders of the left? I find myself struggling on both counts. I am not sure anyone would have those leadership skills; and anyone who tried, would need a fully united team behind them.

So who to vote for? I have problems with every party and none satisfies me. Who shall I choose? No idea. I like the thought of a more socially just society, that draws me to the left. Yet the thought of increased government and taxation worries me – what with income tax, GST, rates, and potentially a CGT, how much tax will it take? On the other hand, I am a traditionalist where family values are concerned and like the idea of stability, that draws me to the right. Yet, there are serious questions raised about the integrity of the Nats and whether my vote will go anywhere if I go for the other small right parties. And while I am disturbed by the thought of Dotcom, I am equally concerned at the antics of Cameron Slater.

The truth is I have no idea who to vote for at this point. I will continue to watch, listen, read, pray, and think. Then, no doubt, I will make the usual last minute call, take a punt, close my eyes, and vote. I will probably quickly regret the vote – wouldn’t be the first time! God help me! More importantly, God help us all. May it be that somehow in the mess we call NZ politics, you our God of Nations will bring about the formation of a strong stable government which will see NZ secure, prosperous, and socially just. Amen.


Kia Ora said...

Good article Mark honestly expressed. Personally I am tired by the pace of culture change, some of it championed by Parliment even where there is little demand. I am not a fan of social engineering by those who suppose themselves to know better. Georgina Byer's desperate attempt to get back in the trough is really sad.

GC said...

Thanks Mark - well said - much appreciated.

GC said...

Thanks Mark - well said - much appreciated.

Luke Pilkinton-Ching said...

Well said Mark.
One thought - I have heard that CGT might bring house prices down as those with money won't invest in housing. Housing won't be seen as such a good investment, therefore, taking pressure off the housing market.

Anonymous said...

It's almost a case of voting against some parties than for one who ticks all the boxes.


Lisa Humphrey said...

Dot Com is a Revolutionist...he is adding some Lycra to the Whale Boned Corset of the old boys club Government we inherited from the English. Brave man for challenging the staus quo. Revolutionists stretch the boundaries and forge a new paths...he is upfront about his money and his 'hacking'. If you haven't already read Dirty Politics its a must for anyone who has any thread of public interest. I love Whistle blowers, Jesus was a whistle blower. Ps I am an Anarchist but am voting Internet/Mana

A. J. Chesswas said...

A. I don't think you can blame National Party policy for the gap between the rich and the poor.

B. Have you heard of the Blue Greens? Have you noticed that National doesn't walk about scrapping the RMA the way Act do? What about National excatly is bad for the environment? And bear in mind this question is posed by a professional environmental planner!

C. Judith Collins resigned after pressure from the PM.

D. Totally unfair to compare a blogger who plays a bit rough, but lawfully, to a criminal hacker extradited from a number of countries and stirring up young people to chant "F### John Key".

E. Conservatives at 5% = a non-churchgoing Christian and Buddhist and who else in power with their 8 seats?

F. National at 50% = 13 Christians plus a whole lot of other people adhering to good old-fashioned Kiwi values in power.

G. Easy.

H. Vote National.