Winston Peters hijacks National's protest | The Jackal

19 Sept 2017

Winston Peters hijacks National's protest

There was a lot of anticipation surrounding a farmer’s protest in Morrinsville yesterday, a protest over Labour’s proposed levy of 1 to 2 cents per 1000 litres of water used for irrigation.

Federated Farmers and Dairy NZ in particular have been campaigning strongly for the National party this election, and trying to rally the rural troops against any water levy or pollution tax, often by pitting town against country.

You could tell Labour was a bit worried about what a protest of this nature could signify, because a similar protest in 2002 gained the nations attention and solidified many farmers against Helen Clark's government.

New Labour leader Jacinda Ardern even held a meeting in Hamilton to front foot the issue.

On Sunday, the NZ Herald reported:

Jacinda Ardern takes proactive stance on planned Waikato farmer protest

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has taken a pre-emptive strike against Waikato farmers planning a protest meeting tomorrow, saying Waikato rivers are among the worst polluted.

Ardern has been criticised for policies targeting the primary sector such as water charges to pay for river cleanups and bringing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Hamilton, Ardern was unrepentant, saying New Zealand had to ensure its environment was as clean and green as it claimed.

Back in the day when farmers could work their way into farm ownership, National MP Bill English campaigned for the agriculture sector by sitting on a tractor outside Parliament buildings and displaying a sign that read; ‘The mad cow shouldn’t have signed’.

The offensive message was in relation to Labour agreeing to reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, which in hindsight and considering the devastation climate change is causing around the world, looks even more unbecoming today.

National's recent attempt to reignite their negative fart tax campaign is similarly repugnant. All it tells us is that English is pining for the past.

Fast forward to 2017 and the tractor Myrtle he posed on is still the centre of attention. But it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off National’s much vaunted Morrinsville protest.

The first signs of a malfunction occurred when farmers held up more signs clearly designed to cause offence. Verbal arguments ensued between National and NZ First supporters.

Then, after Bob Appleton drove Myrtle the tractor at a group of NZ First supporters, catching one on the foot, the unthinkable happened... Winston Peters grabbed the loud hailer and stole National’s fart tax thunder.

Some news agencies put the protest numbers at 500 to 600 people, most of them close to retirement. Others who attended said there were around 200 to 300 people, many of them NZ First supporters.

This is extraordinary being that the event received widespread advertisement on both our main broadcasting networks as well as a number of widely read publications.

The main reason National's protest failed to fire is because English overcooked the issue.

On Sunday, Scoop reported:

Q+A: Bill English

I mean, there is one answer – slaughter the dairy herd. I suppose that would help. Then next thing they’ll be talking about how to depopulate cities because they cause pollution. Well, that doesn’t make sense.

Because of his apocalyptic statement the Prime Minister continues to be the butt of many a fine joke. In fact he’s looking decidedly isolated because of National’s pro-pollution position.

One of the reasons for a low turnout at National’s protest is because the Labour party has always held rural communities and the industries that make them tick in high regard. It’s arguable that Labour under Helen Clark did more for farmers than the National party ever has, particularly in regards to tax reform and trade agreements.

English looks terribly foolish by trying to convince farmers that their businesses won't be viable if Jacinda Ardern and Labour win the election. Over-inflating the proposed levy and running negative attack adds about a fart tax simply doesn’t wash in a world where information on the actual numbers and Labour's policy is freely available online.

Who exactly is National trying to convince with such adverts anyway?

After nine long years of stagnation many rural communities will be looking for better environmental and economic solutions. In the last few days it’s become even more apparent that only a change of government will provide them.