Guest Notes

Kiwi notes

6 October 2018

9:00 AM

6 October 2018

9:00 AM

The adoration of Ms Ardern

I am just back from a week in New Zealand where my family and I lived for eleven years, moving from there over to here in 2005.

My old university, down at the bottom of the South Island, flew me over to give a few lectures and talks. I refer to the wonderful university city of Dunedin, where they breed some pretty hardy souls. Well, outside the university itself, especially amongst all the sheep farmers (the least-subsidised and most efficient farmers in the world I might add – which is why New Zealand has never lost a WTO dispute), they breed some pretty hardy souls. Sadly, more and more at Otago University, as with all universities these days, the preponderance of employees leans so far left politically that a conservative like me feels like an atheist alcoholic at a Salvation Army revivalist meeting – though of course a difference is that those working at the Salvation Army actually achieve good works in amongst all the moralising. And the Salvos don’t virtue signal nearly as much as your average academic.

No doubt this goes some way to explaining how popular the new New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is amongst the universitariat. After all, this is a woman who has literally never had any job outside of politics; who spent time as a researcher in the office of former Prime Minister Helen Clark (to my mind the most left-wing Kiwi PM, at least till Ardern); who was a policy advisor to British PM Tony Blair; who was elected President of the International Union of Socialist Youth; and who said only last year that ‘capitalism has failed New Zealanders’, indeed it’s been a ‘blatant failure’. Obviously Ms Ardern attended the Emma Alberici school of economic analysis.


One wonders if she agrees with Jeremy Corbyn that it’s too early to judge if Venezuela is on the right track or not. The point is that this new government in New Zealand is uber politically correct and very, very left-wing.  Any visitor will notice it quickly. I’m a native born Canadian and I’ve made a habit these past two decades or so of saying nowhere on earth is more PC than Canada. Now I don’t think that’s true anymore.

The big news while I was over across the Tasman revolved around a Tax Review that Prime Minister Adern had commissioned from a former Labour government’s Finance Minister (what we here in Australia would call Treasurer) and after that Deputy PM Michael Cullen. Recall that this is the woman who thinks capitalism has failed who did the commissioning. Anyway, news is out that the Cullen Review is going to recommend the Kiwis introduce a capital gains tax.  They might not call it that. It might be packaged as just an extension of normal type taxes. But it smells, tastes and looks like a capital gains tax. And it might even be recommended to hit you at what could be your top marginal rate over there – ouch! You see the NZ Labour government already looks like blowing out the budget, with spending going north and the deficit with it. (Question: When was the last time a Labor government over here in Australia actually delivered a surplus, as opposed to promising one with every waking breath? Those under 40 needn’t attempt to answer.)

At any rate, that big spending/big taxing mindframe is reason number one for loving Jacinda as far as the left-leaning media over in NZ is concerned – though to be fair when I say ‘left-leaning’ I should make it clear that the Kiwi equivalent to our ABC, despite being blatantly biased to the Left, is noticeably less so than here with our ABC. Just sayin’.

A second reason for the adoration it and the universitariat heap on Ms Ardern is her recent United Nations speech in which she played the multilateralist, pro-international law, bring down borders, ‘give peace a chance’ leader (of the virtue-signalling sort you’d exactly expect from an ex-Prez of the International Union of Socialist Youth) to President Trump’s pro-nation state, pro-strong borders, pro-democratic decision-making not rule-by-unelected-elites on the bench and running supranational sinecures speech also given at the UN. The latter thinks we live in a dangerous Hobbesian world where defence spending matters, as do strong military capabilities, and as does the sovereignty of the nation state. The former thinks we live in a John Lennon song, which may be why New Zealand spends next to nothing on defence and even at the height of the Cold War had a virtue-signalling anti-nuclear policy (it became a bipartisan one it pains me to say) that effectively barred US naval ships from visiting. You decide who’s more likely correct. I know that I have.

Here’s the most ironic aspect of the current political scene in New Zealand. Ardern and her Labour party got slaughtered in the last election in terms of the head-to-head popular vote count versus the right-of-centre National party. In fact, ‘the Nats’ almost got half the votes on their own. But they lost because New Zealand has one of the most virulently proportional voting systems on earth, a near-on dead ringer copy of the German system. So Labour combined with the Greens and a small grievance party led by an embittered ex-National man Winston Peters – with all the bargaining to form this three-headed Coalition beast being done AFTER the election allowing no voter input at all. And this points up a larger point I’d make. Former right-of-centre Prime Minister John Key, who is regularly feted over here by people on the right, was in my view not much good at all. He kept spending down, yes. But on big-ticket issues, like changing this Frankenstein voting system he did not invest any of his then immense personal popularity in trying to win the recent referendum on that topic. So it failed. Instead he went all out, Malcolm Turnbull-style, in trying to win the referendum to change the NZ flag. That was slaughtered and the flag’s unchanged.

And so, as is always the case, after the party whose only legacy is to keep the books in pretty good order goes, in come the big spenders to squash that legacy pronto.  What else did they do under John Key?

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