I can’t leave Auckland behind without commenting on what is an increasingly bizarre and irrational political situation. On my not infrequent trips back to New Zealand I’m always hit with how overwhelmingly wealthy the place seems to have become. Not stinkingly, offensively wealthy with extremes next to grinding poverty as you find in much of the world, across Europe, Asia and much of the Americas. No, there is no real wealth in global terms in New Zealand despite some having aspirations, but neither is there much real poverty as found elsewhere. Poor but not no drinking water poverty.
No, what always hits me, from Ponsonby to Mangere is a rough equity, across a range of course. New Zealand, especially when you consider its lack of natural resources al la Australia, and lack of population, has done rather well for itself in recent years. The populace is well fed, largely healthy, well educated, and has, with obvious exceptions, an economic stability it’s never seen before, at least in my lifetime. It’s as close to a real democracy with all the freedoms that requires as any society has ever been in history. It’s a happy, largely peaceful, clean country with an excellent infrastructure. The economy has boomed over the past decade and everyone who wants a job has one, and one which pays, despite the banging-on about trans Tasman inequity, as well if not better in real quality of life terms than virtually everywhere else on this planet. People take pleasure in whinging about all those things but seriously, get on a plane, look, get a life for god’s sake.
It’s a very different place to what it was ten years back.
Which brings me to the bizarre. Everybody, seemingly, wants to change all that. You rarely hear a good word about either Helen Clark or the Labour government, and the word seems to be its time to go.
And no-one really, if you ask, seems to know why.
From my perspective, quite some miles away, but still very interested, the glaringly obvious question seems to be are you all barking mad? Forget the policy vacuum that John Key seems to be…oh that’s right you’ll get small “tax cuts”, and despite National’s shocking historical track record, they are ‘business friendly’…forget any personal feelings that you may have towards the current PM (although whenever one mentions NZ in this part of the world the listener inevitably says, with thumb up, “Helen Clark”..she’s given the country an aura of respect it didn’t have before in Asia)…forget everything else and think back.
I know that a large part of the electorate is too young to really remember but it is worth reminding them and everyone else what it used to be like under a National government. The grey, divided, depressed and depressing place that Labour inherited in 1999.
And what it would have been like under a National government just a few years back when National shadow ministers were urging NZ to follow, without question, the US into Iraq.
But think further back to what National governments meant to NZ. Under National governments we had dawn raids; Bastion Point; Springbok tours, with hugely divisive and violent riots up and down the country; troops dying in Vietnam; crippling think big projects that NZ paid for, for decades, with no real gain; team policing units that rampaged through inner city Auckland batoning and beating all and sundry with little provocation (I saw it many times); gross economic mismanagement that was handled, ludicrously, by artificial price and wage freezes and Stalinistic controls; the IRD was told to take the gloves off by minister Bill Birch which led to suicides and ruthless bankrupting regardless of the human cost and viability of the business attacked; a tax system that taxed top earners at 66%; an arts sector that was grossly underfunded; and slashes in benefits that threw many onto the dust heap and has caused social problems to this day. Couple all that with an unnecessary and quite depilating national torpor and I certainly have no desire to go back to those dank old days.
How soon we forget….