Reality sets in as coalition deals make government priorities plain
Do the policies agreed to on Friday really herald the 'most right wing government since the early 1990s'?
Mōrena, and welcome to The Bulletin for Monday, November 27, by Catherine McGregor. Presented in partnership with Z Energy.
In today’s edition: Bayly romps home in Port Waikato byelection; Golden Mile project hangs in the balance; preview of Auckland mayor’s 10-year budget show rates rises are coming. But first, an outcry over the trashing of smokefree laws.
Winston Peters and David Seymour shake hands as Christopher Luxon looks on (Photo: Marty Melville / AFP via Getty Images)
The governor general makes it official today
Roles have been doled out, moving boxes are unpacked, and today at 11am the prime minister and new ministers will assemble at Government House for a swearing-in ceremony presided over by governor general Dame Cindy Kiro. Afterwards, the cabinet holds its first, ceremonial, meeting, and then the entire government buckles down to work delivering the ambitious policy programme signed onto by the trio whom Tova O’Brien – and absolutely nobody else – is insisting on referring to as “Lupesey”. Reactions to those deals continued to trickle in through the weekend. Oliver Hartwich, executive director of the NZ Initiative, expressed jubilation, observing that policy after policy closely aligned with the right-leaning think tank’s own advocacy. On the other side of the spectrum was 1 News’ John Campbell who called the dual agreements “empty” and “mean”, decrying their “narrow, limp vision of our future”.
Smokefree bonfire to fill National’s fiscal hole
Among the policies coming in for particular scrutiny is the planned repeal of smokefree laws by March 2024. Both Act and New Zealand First had been "insistent" on reversing the restrictions, incoming finance minister Nicola Willis told Newshub Nation. Extra revenue from more widespread cigarette sales would help fund tax cuts in lieu of the now-scrapped foreign buyers tax, she added, prompting accusations that long-term public health had been sacrificed for a short-term cash grab. Boyd Swinburn of Health Coalition Aotearoa said it would be “a major loss for public health, and a huge win for the tobacco industry whose profits will be boosted at the expense of Kiwi lives”. Smoking rates have halved for nearly every ethnicity over the last decade, “a stunning endorsement of health campaigners’ successes” according to Max Rashbrooke in The Spinoff. The new government has also vowed to ban disposable vaping products and increase penalties for illegal vape sales to under-18s, strengthening the vaping restrictions that came into effect in September.
How far will the government’s ‘anti-woke’ policies go?
It’ll be potentially the most right wing government since the early 1990s (at least according to Stuff political editor Luke Malpass), and it’s kicking off a “War on Woke”, with everything from te reo signage to the Treaty of Waitangi in its sights. Thomas Manch of the Sunday Star-Times (SST) (paywalled) has a meaty analysis of the changes on the table regarding te Tiriti. Unwinding co-governance arrangements like the Māori Health Authority will be stage one, he says, then comes the more complicated issue of Treaty Principles and New Zealand law – both Act and NZ First want their role significantly amended. It’s a prospect that has many commentators appalled. Mihingarangi Forbes tells Newshub the coalition is “[burning] the house down”, while John Campbell says the coalition’s approach to Māori issues is “its heart of darkness”. SST editor Tracy Watkins says the anti-woke crusade will exacerbate social divisions, but ultimately te reo and te ao Māori are too culturally enmeshed in Aotearoa for it to succeed. Act and NZ First supporters are “about to learn that no government can turn back the clock by decree”, she writes (paywalled).
Growing support for four-year terms
National is promising to introduce legislation on a four-year parliamentary election cycle within the first 15 months in power. It’s an idea that has significant support across the political spectrum, as well as among the public. A 2020 survey found 61% support for a move from three years, indicating a change in public mood on the subject. Previous referendums in 1967 and 1990 both defeated the proposal by more than two-thirds majorities. New Zealand has one of the shortest parliamentary terms in the world. Of 190 countries with parliaments, just nine, including NZ, have three year terms.
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Bayly romps home in Port Waikato byelection
National’s Andrew Bayly was returned to parliament after scoring a landslide victory in Port Waikato on Saturday. He received 14,023 votes and won by 11,245, more than double his 2020 margin of 4313. The byelection was called in early October following the sudden death of Act candidate Neil Christensen. He was not replaced, and neither Labour nor the Greens stood for the seat. The only other major party candidate, NZ First’s Casey Costello, received 2778 votes. Bayly’s victory means that National list candidate Nancy Lu, who is of Chinese descent, enters parliament as its 123rd MP. Stewart Sowman-Lund wrote on Friday that Lu’s election will “slightly offset criticism National has faced for the lack of diversity in its incoming caucus. While the party’s list was touted for its balance, many list-only candidates haven’t made it to parliament because of National’s over-performance in electorates. The party has no Pasifika MPs and the lowest proportion of Māori MPs of any political party.”
Golden Mile project hangs in the balance
The formation of a new government has thrown Wellington Council’s plans to semi-pedestrianise Courtenay Place and Lambton Quay into dire jeopardy, reports The Post’s Tom Hunt (paywalled) . The National-Act agreement included an undertaking that stop-work notices be issued for a number of projects, including the Let’s Get Wellington Moving umbrella project. Incoming transport minister Simeon Brown hasn’t confirmed those notices include the $139m Golden Mile project – on which work has already begun – but Act’s David Seymour says he expects work to stop immediately. Despite telling The Spinoff in October that a construction contract was “literally days away”, Mayor Tory Whanau has confirmed to The Post that the main contract remained unsigned. She says she plans to meet with the incoming government to make the case that the project be allowed to proceed.
Click and Collect
The Herald has a preview of Mayor Wayne Brown’s 10-year budget plan, and it includes more rate rises for Aucklanders.
An Australian couple was forced to cancel their Hobbiton wedding after their P&O cruise ship was denied entry into NZ due to biofouling on its hull.
Hamas has released 17 more hostages, including 14 Israelis, in the third hostage release of the ceasefire. A fourth exchange is expected tonight, bringing the total to 50 hostages freed. All are women and minors.
As climate activism steps up a gear, the backlash from authorities is harshening, writes Emma Ricketts. Duncan Greive reflects on the perilous state of local music post-Covid. It’s 40 years since David Bowie’s legendary Western Springs concert. Madeleine Holden finds out what it was like to be there (from her mum and dad). Elizabeth Knox and Claire Mabey reflect on what made Knox’s novel The Vintner’s Luck – published 25 years ago this month – such a hit. Alex Casey meets Christchurch’s legendary turtle rescuer. Asia Martusia King remembers life as a 17-year-old hospital orderly, (dead) “body dispatch” and all.
Auckland United are the 2023 women’s National League soccer champions after a 2-0 victory over Southern United at Mount Smart Stadium.
Provincial unions have told NZ Rugby they agree that governance change is imperative, setting the stage for a revolution in the way the NZ game is run (Herald, paywalled).
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