Funding furore is enough to bug voters (while marring the PM’s image) – and then the covid-19 virus comes along

Is  it  the   kind of headline  that  will  win  votes at the general  election?  “Rock-star reception in   Fijian  village”    followed  by a   sub-head  “Rapturous   greeting for  Ardern  during visit to launch $3m  sanitation project”.

The  reporter  (veteran Barry  Soper, Newstalk ZB’s  political  editor) poses the  rhetorical  question:  “Is there any wonder that Ardern loves going overseas?”

As   well,   there  has  been  the effusive   welcome  from  Fiji  strongman  Frank  Bainimarama  who,  according  to  another  reporter,  is  expecting, even “demanding”,  Ardern to  pressure  Australia  on  its climate  change  inaction.

Point of  Order  suspects  Ardern  may be  less  forthcoming than  Bainimarama  would  like,  when  she  meets  Australia’s  Scott Morrison.  Almost certainly  climate change  won’t be on the agenda  in the  Morrison-Ardern  talks.

Still, that  won’t  diminish  Ardern’s  popularity  with   those  New Zealanders   who  delight    in her   being  billed   as  one of the world’s  leaders,    by global  media   like  the  US  Time  magazine   which  featured  her  in a cover story   recently.

As   in  Fiji, Ardern  will  be  a  popular  visitor  in  Australia,  where  her  kindness  and compassion  over – for  example – the  Christchurch  mosque shootings  are contrasted  with  the cack-handed  Morrison performance   during the bushfire  catastrophe.

Meanwhile    the  warm  glow  engendered   by  the  headlines in  the  NZ  media will shore  up  the  PM’s  ratings    at   home   and  strengthen  the conviction  in the   Labour  camp    she  can  score a  home run in  this  year’s  election.  New Zealanders always  like to think  their  leaders  cut  a  dash on the international  stage.

Yet  not  all the   omens  are   as  favourable   for  the  government  as  the  PM’s  own ratings.

Already  the  economic clouds  are  darkening  and there  is a  constant  drip-feed  of    news  about  dodgy  donations to  the  NZ  First  Foundation,    which  could  see the evaporation of much of the support  Winston Peters won in 2017, just as it  did  in 2008  in  similar circumstances.

The  latest  report on  NZ  First’s  list of  donors -offers   a glimpse  into  how  policies  adopted   by  the  Ardern  government,  particularly  in the  racing  and  fishing industries, have been influenced  by the stance  taken  by  NZ  First   as a  result,  allegedly,  of  donations  by   key figures  in  those industries.

It  creates  a  problem    for left-wing  commentators   who  profess to be puzzled   why  National  has  avoided poll  damage  over  donations,  even  though  it,  like  NZ  First,  is  said  to  be  afflicted  with  a  “corruption”  scandal arising from  donations.

The problem   is that  there  is  no  evidence of money donated  to  National  having  influenced  public policy    in the  way  which happens to be at the  core of perceptions  affecting    NZ  First.

A  secondary  issue  is the  spillover of those  perceptions  to  the government   itself.

Labour  does not  appear  at  all  keen  to  hold an  inquiry  into  the so-called  “donations  scandal”.  After  all,  doesn’t it  depend  on  funds   from  trade  unions, particularly  in the state sector,  to finance  many of its activities  in the run-up to  an  election?   Who  initiated  the  review  to  secure  “fair pay”?   And  at the instigation of  whom?

It’s  not surprising    commentaries  are beginning  to  appear  in  the   media   calling    on the  Deputy  PM to step aside  until the public has answers  from an  inquiry into  NZ  First  Foundation donations.

The  National   Party  though  won’t  be pushing  that  barrow  too  hard  just yet,  because   it  believes  the  nasty   smell  will   eventually  envelop   all  three  parties in the coalition.

As  if  the   corruption  issue   isn’t  enough to  put  a  serious   question mark    against  the  leadership  of  the  coalition — and let’s  face it,  many   key decisions    have  hinged  on  what   Peters inserted  into the  coalition  agreement — the  government  is  now  confronted    with the  impact  of   the  coronavirus outbreak.

According  to  ASB  economists   it will  stall the  economy,  which in  any case  was  on the decline   after the years of  growth under  National.

Finance   Minister   Grant  Robertson   who  might  have  been contemplating  a  bit  of  an election  year splurge in the  budget, may now have to focus  on  a  more immediate  stimulus  to  ensure the  economy  does not go  into a  nosedive.

If the  government  can’t  do better  in  handling  the  impact of  covid-19  than  it  did in,   say,  implementing its  KiwiBuild  policy  or  reducing   child poverty,  then  all  the kindness  and compassion  exuded  by the  PM  might  not  save the  coalition.                        

One thought on “Funding furore is enough to bug voters (while marring the PM’s image) – and then the covid-19 virus comes along

  1. “Kindness and compassion” if you’re “diverse” and provide the background for a photo opportunity for the global media. But if you’re a farmer in flood ravaged Southland or any other region hit by natural disaster since 2017, not so much.


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