No Minister

Ardern, Lange and Cabinet cabals

with 6 comments

As readers will know I usually leave it to my six NM co-authors to focus on the NZ stuff, but in the case of an article I came across last night, I feel it should be spread far and wide.

Jacinda Ardern and the Ghost of David Lange

It’s from the Democracy Project blog based out of Victoria University and it’s a damned good read about the Three Waters project.

David Lange is one of the most tragic figures of our modern political history. Highly articulate and entertaining, he was ushered into power in a landslide in 1984 during an economic and financial crisis. Feted as the youngest Prime Minister of the 20th century, he dazzled the nation with his wit and intellect.

It took a while before it became clear that Lange was using his larger-than-life persona and seductive oratory to sell a transformation of New Zealand’s economic landscape on behalf of a powerful cabal in his Cabinet whose intentions he seemed not to fully comprehend.

The writer makes clear just how similar this all is to Jacinda Ardern, with the additional similarity of Covid-19 substituting for the anti-nuclear issue as the PR-positive smokescreen for Labour while the dirty work gets done behind it:

It seems likely that Ardern will end up being viewed in a similar way. When she was anointed by Winston Peters in 2017, she was feted as the youngest Prime Minister in more than 150 years, before being returned to power three years later in a landslide in response to a pandemic.

Her charisma and glamour are perfectly suited to the superficial politics of the social media age but she is obliged to dance to the tune played by Nanaia Mahuta, Willie Jackson and the Maori caucus — and by the others in her Cabinet, including David Parker and Andrew Little, who support their revolutionary agenda.

That last is the important point. Back in 1984, for all the talk of Douglas and his core there were plenty of others in the Fourth Labour government cabinet like Anne Hercus and Stan Roger who went along for the ride but have escaped the Left’s anger. In the same way Mahuta may be the lead on this, but she could not have pushed it this far without strong support from other parts of Cabinet.

This similarity is also noted:

After last Wednesday’s press conference in which Nanaia Mahuta, in her role as the Minister of Local Government, made it clear she would press ahead with her Three Waters reforms despite overwhelming opposition, it has become pretty obvious who really controls this aspect of the government’s policies. The fact that 60 of the nation’s 67 local authorities either strongly oppose the reforms or have serious doubts about them hasn’t dented the minister’s determination to push changes through Parliament one little bit.

I’ve lost track of the number of things that Labour have pushed through despite massive opposition, relying on the fact that such a thing is often transitory and that if done quickly enough the act can be treated as a done deal that now belongs to the past while more important topics relating to the future can be framed for the next election.

Would that National ever do the same. This Sounds Familiar:

When it matters, Republicans look around and say, “Oh no we can’t do that, we’d lose a man. The Democrats would take seats.” They are virtually a majority for the sake of being a majority. They just want to polish it up, put it on the shelf, and look at it. 

To put it simply, Republicans approach politics like America fights wars: They don’t want to lose a single man. Democrats, on the other hand? They look at politics like the Russians looked at Stalingrad: The congressman in front votes now; when they fall the next man gets elected and he will vote too.

To be fair on this point the writer does allow that Ardern has caved to public opposition on a few things:

Two years ago, she quickly backed off her cherished capital gains tax in perpetuity as soon as it became clear that she was facing a wall of opposition — just as she did in October with the Auckland Harbour cycle crossing.

You could add the collapse on Level 4 Lockdown to that list.

However, those were not core issues for Labour, despite public trumpeting about them, and they did not constitute really fundamental change. For example, the National Party’s “bright-line” test for real-estate gains was already effectively a narrow CGT that could be easily expanded later, and has been.

As the article points out, Three Waters is core, most importantly of all to the Maori caucus, who have Ardern over a barrel in a way they did not with Helen Clark and the Maori Party did not with John Key. Ardern is not calling the shots.

Moreover, in exactly the same way that the detail of the Douglas reforms were hidden for some time by mere details like devaluation, Three Waters is part and parcel of the overall He Puapua approach. Other “details”, perhaps quite large ones, will come into view over time, even with Labour in Opposition:

He Puapua itself states increased Māori rangatiratanga will require financing and that, “There are multiple streams from which financial contributions might be sourced, including, for example, levies on resource use where Māori have a strong claim to ownership, such as water.”

Despite all the spin, when you’re talking about getting returns from an asset then we are talking real ownership of that asset.

For that future, one set of theories driving all this and not discussed in the article – perhaps because it smacks too much of US academic theory – is how deeply embedded the Left wing Maori and White defenders of these schemes are in the ideology of “anti-colonialism” with its connections to Identity Politics, Woke and Critical Race Theory. The racists among them, like Mahuta, hate White people who do not agree with their ideas, while the “anti-racist” White Labour members such as Parker are all in on the Guilt and Shame about their ancestors and ready to do anything to expunge it.

Read the whole article.


Written by Tom Hunter

November 7, 2021 at 1:09 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Makes me wonder if Labour will sacrifice Ardern this weekend, given her optics are failing. It’s only the beginning, really. HC would have shrugged off the level of anger being directed at Ardern now, and laughed at the various international commenters calling her the Kiwi Mussolini, or giving her the plank of the week award. Speaking of such awards, she may get another one soon, will have to keep an eye out.

    There was a creepy insight into the mind of Labour published in the Herald earlier this week by Jane Clifton, The Government’s ongoing battle to convince vaccine-hesitant:

    This brings us to the most confoundingly reimagined word: “voluntary”. Getting vaccinated against Covid is still voluntary, but people will now be heavily penalised for failing to volunteer. Preliminary polling suggests this new, compulsory form of volunteerism is extremely popular, and the Government is amending several laws – having recently deemed this “not” necessary – to make the new parameters of volunteering absolutely clear.

    These semantic contortions are infuriating but well intended. The one clear lesson the world has learnt about vaccine hesitancy is that heavying people is counterproductive, at least as an opening gambit. Most effective persuasion comes from an individual’s peer group and the social leaders they trust. Only if that fails is it time for ultimatums such as “no jab, no job”.

    The Government was reluctant to portend sweeping restrictions on vaccine refusers – even while it was hatching such plans […]

    The CTU now accepts that some workers will lose their jobs if they unreasonably refuse the vaccine. But its cautionary experience was that in workplaces forced early on to mandate vaccination, such as at the border, that prospect led some to say, “Stuff your job, then,” exactly the response everyone was hoping to avoid.

    The political challenge now is to reframe the current provocative media tagline of “two classes of citizen” as being a distinction between the vast majority, who accept they have a social responsibility to keep others safe, and the small numbers who don’t.


    Meanwhile, the morphology of “volunteer” has hit local government especially hard. As councils long suspected, the verb as it applies to the Three Waters policy is both active and, though this is inherently self-contradictory, passive. One can volunteer or one will be volunteered to participate in the scheme.

    If Ardern is sacrificed, and the heavy boot of the government is released, then opposition might fade. Until it’s applied again by Robertson, whom it has been indicated would be the likely successor.

    Next week will be interesting to watch.

    Lucia Maria

    November 7, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    • Obviously I’m not on top of the NZ political gossip to know about any rumors for Adern’s departure but I’d be amazed if they let her go. They were in the low twenty percent and staring at a fourth election loss in a row in 2017. Then she takes over and within weeks boosts them to 37%. All with no changes in policies.

      They still have no policies worth a damn four years later so if she left they’d drift down to the low thirty percent range, and possibly more, although any government seems to get a lift just by being the government and therefore expected to be able to do something.

      Tom Hunter

      November 7, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    • There have been a number of commenters in the media indicating that Ardern could go, which seemed weird, given that the protests are just getting started.

      Check this out, comments were accidentally left ON for this video. There are 384 comments, overwhelmingly negative.

      Lucia Maria

      November 7, 2021 at 8:01 pm

  2. Tom – it’s Ardern, not Adern.


    November 8, 2021 at 9:23 am

    • Haha. Thanks. Will correct. Told you I didn’t take enough notice of NZ politics.

      Tom Hunter

      November 8, 2021 at 9:27 am

  3. […] Ardern, Lange and Cabinet cabals […]

    Comforting Thought:

    November 17, 2021 at 9:47 pm

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