Baboons Kissing Babies
It's election time here in New Zealand. The eight week campaign to election day on 17 September will be, by turns fascinating and dire. The fun has already begun. Helen Clark's Labour party are desperately clinging to power, having had their comfortable margin in the polls eroded by the National party, led by Don Brash.
The problem for the New Zealand voting public is that we are hardly spoiled for choice. Labour have become corpulent and arrogant. Ms Clark is like a raptor, spitting venom at her rivals. Don Brash, leader of the National party has a strange buffoon character. And neither has any particular appeal to the 'mainstream' voters they are trying to woo. The mere thought of seeing either kissing babies is about as embarrasingly awkard as watching Saddam Hussein mugging for the cameras with the 'human shield' children he held hostage back before the western coalition started losing a war of attrition to insurgents.
The fundamental flaw, for me at least, is that neither party seems to have any sense of how to appeal effectively to the psyche of the voters. Labour's billboards seem like ads for The Don and National's put a 'bob each way' featuring both their own charsimatically challenged principal and Clark.
Just last night the encumbents promised to wipe interest off student loans. I don't have a student loan, so it doesn't affect me directly. But I do feel that it is a cynical and desperate measure to buy votes - now that Clark has announced the election date (which she withheld from the public in an annoyingly petty way).
The entire issue of student debt needs to be considered for its effect on the economic grotwh and development of New Zealand, especially as we move into a creative economy and need to attract and retain talent to compete on the world stage. So, it is probably a good thing. Creepy Dr Cullen smugly announced a seven billion dollar economic surplus in his 'chewing gum budget'. But why wait till now?
I can't think of any party or politician who would qualify as The One & Only. I guess it makes sense that dry, characterless people seek power somehow and politics is their refuge. I was pleased to see an old school friend running for the North Shore seat. Phil Twyford is standing for Labour. He seems like a smart guy. But, unfortunately, his career to date, most notably as a lobbyist for Oxfam in Washington. has been about social engineering and redistribution of other people's money. This kind of focus - moving the dust around, seems like such a waste of talent and time. New Zealand has towering issues to face or we will slip further and further behind in the OECD rankings.
Tax and how it is redirected shouldn't be the main focus of this election. What matters is how we grow the economy and increase our stake in the world's economy. Issues that matter are reversing outward migration and inviting the brightest and the best to join us from all over the world to create new wealth.
A government that grows about its ability to plunder its own people's private resources and then crows about its inequitous charitable redistribution just doesn't get it and shouldn't get your vote.
Unfortunately I don't see any vision or strategy being expressed by any other party either.