Without brakes there should be no holding back Ardern – and the lobbyists are signalling their great expectations

Huge  expectations     now    rest   on  the    newly  re-elected   Ardern    government.  Just  as the  pioneering  Labour    government   did in the  1930s   under  Michael  Joseph  Savage  and the fourth  Labour  government   did under  David  Lange  in the  1980’s,  it  has  won a  stronger  mandate   to  fulfill  its  programme.   

So  will  it  become    truly  transformational  – as it   first promised  in  2017 – or  will  the  economic  recession  threatening    NZ  overwhelm   the  new  ministry? 

Election   night  delivered a fairy-tale  outcome   for   the  politician  dubbed  by The   Economist  as   “Jacindarella” ,    but  will  the   second term  not  only  restore    NZ  to  full  employment  and prosperity    but  confirm   the  Ardern   government    as   the  most progressive  since the  days of  its  founding prime minister?   

Already  lobby  groups   are hammering    at the  door.

Working people and their unions have expectations that a new government without a handbrake will move faster and further to support people and the environment,  says    the  CTU’s  Richard   Wagstaff.

“While important progress was made in the last three years, we expect to see more and faster positive change in the next term.  People have spoken and we have collectively chosen to elect a progressive government, without a handbrake, which will place people at the heart of decisions.

“This next government has been given an overwhelming mandate to end poverty and inequality in NZ. A strong union movement is at the heart of that.”

Greenpeace    has  been  quick  to  call  for  sharper  action  on  climate  change.

“With an historic landslide to Labour, solid wins for the Greens and the departure of NZ First, this new government has no more excuses,” says Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman.

 “With Winston Peters and his party gone we expect to see immediate moves to tackle agricultural climate pollution, to invest in rail and cycleways, and to protect the oceans from overfishing.”

Greenpeace believes the election result has given a Labour-led administration the clear runway to pursue an environmental position much more in keeping with the ideals that most Kiwis share.

Polls show that 79% of New Zealanders are concerned about climate change and seven out of 10 want a transformative green recovery out of Covid-19.

Even   lobby groups  for  animal  welfare    are  demanding  Labour  gets properly to work  in  its second term.

Animal rights organisation SAFE CEO Debra Ashton said with a majority of the seats in Parliament, Labour can make quick progress on animal welfare.

Labour can really get things done now, like fulfilling some broken promises on animal welfare. They should start with banning colony cages.

The Labour party had promised to end the caging of hens in 2014 and 2017, yet hens are still confined to colony cages. A 2020 Colmar Brunton Poll showed 76% of people oppose the use of colony cages.

Jacinda Ardern has a clear mandate to phase out the caging of hens.”

Point  of  Order  doubts SAFE’s  plea  will  be  top  of the agenda   when the  new  Labour caucus  meets.

What   may be  more  pressing   for  Ardern  and  her  team  (no, not the one of  5m, but  the  freshly  chosen 64)  will  be the   composition  of  the   government  itself.   Will  it  form a  coalition  with the  Greens,  or  go  it  alone? 

The  Greens’  co-leaders   have   clear expectations  they  will be  invited  into  the  Cabinet room,  but   within  the  Labour  caucus   there  may  be   strong pressure to  go it alone,  particularly  from those  on the  fringes  of  Cabinet  selection.  The  Maori  caucus,  for  example,   may  feel  slighted  if  Cabinet  seats   are offered to  the  Greens.

Those  inclined to  take the long  view  may argue  that  Labour  should  keep the  Greens  firmly  on  side   and  retain  them  in  the tent.

In  any  case,     who  is  going to  speak out  if   Jacinda   insists   the   Greens   should be  kept onside? 

Ardern  has other   weighty  issues to  ponder.  She  will  be  eager to  keep  that   international halo intact.

So  who  to  nominate  as  foreign  minister   in  place  of  the redoubtable  Winston Peters?.

Andrew Little appears to be the most likely candidate. She will also need a new defence minister to succeed Ron Mark and Kelvin Davis is thought to be the choice for that portfolio.

Little will have a hard job succeeding Winston Peters whose longevity in politics gave him an extraordinary range of contacts around the world.  Peters also had a hands-off policy in running MFAT – not digging down into the weeds of which junior or middle-raking officer should be posted  here  or  there.

Nor did he indulge in favourites.  He has left what MFAT hopes will be a lasting legacy in not appointing former ministers to plum appointments.  In this respect MFAT is fortunate in that Ardern won’t be obliged to find jobs for defeated Cabinet ministers.

Little will inherit a fairly well-tuned ministry.  Annette King is regarded as doing a workmanlike job in Canberra, despite coming from a party opposite to the governing Liberal-National coalition.   Her term ends in 2022.

One of the ministry’s best diplomats, Bede Corry, has recently taken over in London as high commissioner and has already become known for his penetrating and insightful reporting on the byzantine ways of the Boris Johnson Conservative government.  In any case, relations are stalled while the British resolve their looming departure from the European Union. 

There has been some progress on negotiations of a free trade agreement but several rounds remain and again, trade policy with the British are in a hiatus while the mechanics of leaving the EU are resolved.

Likewise, in the United States, relations are on hold pending the outcome of the US presidential elections. The term of Ambassador Rosemary Banks concludes later next year. The embassy had made inroads into both the Democrats and Republicans at high levels in terms of policy, meaning that whoever wins the White House, NZ will have high-level contacts.

Despite Peters’ enthusiasm for a free trade agreement with the US, a realistic view is that under President Donald Trump and his special trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, little progress was possible since neither liked bilateral trade deals.

One area where Peters has had a notable success is focusing US attention on the Southern Pacific and the need for an active presence to counter China’s expanding interests and presence.

Whether a Joe Biden administration has a different view is yet to be defined.  His representatives have been opaque. Unlike the administration of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, the Democrats are more inward-looking.  Further, US unions have contributed handsomely to the Democrats’ fighting funds and Biden has gone out of his way to address union rallies.

Defence relations with the US are at their highest levels in decades. The US Navy has had the RNZN represented at the RIMPAC multinational naval exercises off Hawaii, RNZAF officers are training to fly the new Boeing P-8A Poseidons at a US naval air station in Florida while the first steps in building the new C-130J-30 Super Hercules are also underway.   A US navy ship visit is due shortly. Mark has been much appreciated in Defence circles and Davis will have a hard act to follow.


One thought on “Without brakes there should be no holding back Ardern – and the lobbyists are signalling their great expectations

  1. “Angry Andy” as Foreign Minister? Kelvin “the Invisible Man” Davis as Defense Minister? No confidence. What’s the betting Labour will scrap the major Defense procurement projects now underway, in the interests of “wellbeing”?


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