Political disunity will cost the election | The Jackal

22 Feb 2020

Political disunity will cost the election

Winston Peters - Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the NZ First Party

We all know that politics can be pretty messy at times. Just look at the Dirty Politics saga in New Zealand, the misgovernment during the Australian bushfires or the recent Trump impeachment debacle in the US. In a macabre sort of way it's what makes politics so fascinating!

It’s amazing how the public reacts to certain controversies. Take the National Party’s ongoing scandal concerning secret donations from prominent Chinese businessmen for instance. The latest Colmar Brunton poll illogically puts National with the Act Party edging ahead and able to form the next Government.

Simon Bridges, who is deeply implicated in the donations fraud, has amazingly gone into double digits as preferred PM for the first time. A whopping 11% of the population now thinks he’s OK. Perhaps this has something to do with him never criticising National's only friend David Seymour, even when the Act Party accepts donations from far-right extremists who want to blow up New Zealand mosques.

Paula Bennett - National Party MP
If the political polling is to be believed, the corruption case hasn’t taken any wind out of National’s sails at all. But what might is senior National MPs taking the limelight from and upstaging the so-called leader of the opposition, Simon Bridges.

After the former National Party Chief Whip, Jami-Lee Ross, was officially revealed as one of the four people charged in the National Party's $100,000 donations fraud case before the courts, Paula Bennett and Judith Collins didn't even bat an eye before going into super spin mode to actively attack Jacinda Ardern for not standing Winston Peters down over the SFO's investigation into the NZ First Foundation. The hypocrisy of National Party MPs was astonishing!

Distracted and put under pressure, Bridges isn’t performing at his best for obvious reasons either. After Bennett upstaged his keynote speech, Collins had to clarify his statements concerning National, if elected, cancelling the planned increases to the minimum wage, which led to some raising questions about who exactly is leading the National Party?

With this sort of public backstabbing going on and the SFO donations fraud case hanging ominously over Bridges' head, you’ve got to wonder if a pre-election change of National Party leadership is on the cards? In terms of who might take over, it’s a two horse race between Bennett and Collins with Christopher Luxton nowhere to be seen.

However it’s not just National’s usually private infighting that’s causing public political ructions. NZ First has decided to undermine the Greens by cancelling the electric vehicle fee-bate scheme, a policy the Greens had campaigned on that was also strongly promoted by Labour. Thankful for the disunity, National MPs even congratulated NZ First’s ostensible betrayal of their coalition partners.

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

NZ First axes Government's 'feebate' electric vehicle subsidy plan, while Greens vow to take the policy to the election 
It is understood this measure was weighed up by the NZ First caucus and it decided such a policy needed to go to the electorate. 
"We can confirm NZ First are holding up the rollout of policy that would mean cheaper electric and hybrid cars for New Zealanders," Shaw said. 

So a misleading headline. Holding up or going to the electorate isn't exactly axing a policy.

During the consultation it came under intense scrutiny from the National Party, which launched an aggressive online ad campaign, labelling the policy a "car tax". Complaints were made against the ads, some of which were upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority.
NZ First was lobbied by rural industries that it would have a regressive impact. 

Perhaps Winston views the position of coalition partner as a competition and undermining the Greens, who let’s face it have little in common with NZ First, is worthwhile in the long run even though it damages their common goal of keeping National out.

The Greens haven’t had a great time getting their environmental policies, some of which are part of their coalition agreement, over the line. In 2018 they also looked ineffectual after Labour gave oil drilling companies more leniency on the conditions of their expiring drilling permits, effectively nullifying the Government’s previous anti-exploration stance.

Has Labour also been lobbied by vested interests and perhaps browbeaten into changing it’s mind by National’s numerous and dishonest attack ads regarding the fee-bate scheme? Perhaps they simply don’t want to forgo the considerable revenue stream that petrol vehicles generate for the Government?

Hopefully there will be some clarification about where everybody stands on this important policy issue. Either way, it isn’t a good look for the Government’s Coalition partners to be ignoring their agreements and squabbling about already announced policies just seven months out from a general election.