Thursday, October 24, 2013

National Party Playbook Revealed

So the MRP sale isn’t going to bring as much $$ as thought. Is anyone really that surprised? 73% of the New Zealand income tax payers earn less than 50,000 a year. I don't know who can afford to buy shares but it certainly isn't me. I blogged about how National was trying to shift the focus on Sky City to the Opposition and they are running exactly the same playbook on asset sales. Basically they are trying to present Labour as committing 'economic sabotage'. Once again it's "Labour are bad economic managers". 

Asset sales is a political and ideological policy. It is not designed to fix a problem. (No, it is not designed to build schools and hospitals, I wasn't born yesterday!) So why are they surprised that the Opposition has a response to their policy? They are not winning the policy argument so they are blaming the Opposition for having an alternative. If the opposition didn’t have an argument they would have been branded as incompetent. Somehow Labour is responsible for economic sabotage by suggesting an alternative but National are great managers of the economy despite not being able to predict that the opposition would find alternatives. That they would OPPOSE. 

I’m going to be fair. On paper this Government has not been a catastrophic failure. They have shepherded the country through tough times but that’s just it. That is all they have done. We have had 6 years of a center right government and we have not had a single innovative policy idea. Not one single innovating form of governance. New Zealand hasn't been a pioneer in anything. They have attached themselves to the successes of others and that’s about the extent of it. No matter what John Key does, he did not win the Rugby World Cup and he did not give birth to George. 

Despite their only election policy being a monumental failure, they are going to continue to push through and blame the Opposition, which by design has extremely limited capacity to affect anything. It is the Opposition’s job to come with alternative policy ideas. Imagine if they attacked the National Government but didn't provide and alternative. Imagine if they didn't acknowledge that gambling was bad? Imagine if they didn't acknowledge that folks were hurting because of high power prices. Give me a break!

In my last blog, I gave the Opposition some lines. In this one I am going to talk about risks. If my time in politics has taught me one thing it is that repetition works. No matter how many times you tell the public something, you can always tell it to them again. This tactic of National is going to work. They will weave the 'bad economic managers' into every policy. And it will stick in the minds of people. If Labour and Greens think that they have said all they have to on asset sales. They haven't. They could say more and they could say it over and over again. And this isn't economic sabotage. National are terrible economic managers. That is the only conclusion that you can make about a Government that didn't see this coming. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sky City Chinese Whispers

Yesterday John Key claimed that Labour wouldn’t repeal the Sky City law. He had heard it through the ‘Auckland traps’. I know that our politicians mingle with high powered people and gossip and get information from lots of sources but something about the Prime Minister not referring to any kind official briefing or advice really icks me. It sounds beneath him but if that’s how he wants to play it I guess that’s fine. I think the National party knows that this bill is pretty unsavoury to the public and they will do almost anything to try and put the ball back in Labour’s court.

And they have done it now. David Cunliffe is in a position where he cannot say that he will overturn it. Likely it is because he hasn’t had proper legal and policy advice of the implications and does not want to say anything that will come back to haunt him in the future but the public won’t see that and the narrative has already turned.

The Government knows that any future Parliament can do whatever they want so now the conversation has shifted to ‘breaking a contract’. That sounds much worse than ‘reversing a bad policy’. Breaking a contract has all of the ‘bad faith business dealings’ connotations and it successfully paints Labour as people who don’t understand business. This is quite genius actually. But as No Right Turn has pointed out, Parliament is sovereign so John Key and Sky City cannot hope that they'll get into their cozy little deal and we are all just going to take it no questions asked. 

Here are some rebuttal lines: 
  • John Key has made a deal on behalf of the New Zealand public that is fundamentally bad for this country.
  • There is no evidence that this deal with increase anything but our gambling problem.
  • Any future Parliament has the right to reverse policies that are bad for the country and Labour reserves that right when we are in Government.
  • We are not going to be bullied by corporate interests.
  • John Key wants to govern by 1 vote. The vote of John Banks. We will continue to oppose those tactics because that is our job. 
  • Labour are currently looking at options on how we can build a convention centre without relaxing our regulations which are designed to reduce harm. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

An hourglass filled with ovaries

I went to a South Asian supermarket here in Austin and saw this poster. I found it ridiculous and showed it to my mum pointing out how the submissive daughter-in-law shindig (responsible for household cooking) is so outdated especially here in America, to which she responded – this is still the way in that culture.

It isn’t that my mum doesn’t believe in women’s rights or equal rights. She is the one that instilled in me my feminist values. But for her, equal rights comes after you fulfill your societal duties. And that is marriage and children. This would be fine if it were the same for men. Men are never made to feel incomplete because they don’t have a wife or because they don’t have kids. They are never asked the question “don’t you want to have kids?” Never. I have two brothers, I know.

I think often many people (particularly males) might think that we are being paranoid that the world is out to get us. But it is hard not to think that when in society we still don’t have full control over our bodies, we don’t have control over the way we are perceived as a woman in the workplace, we don’t have control over the way we are judged for being assaulted as a way to explain the assault. This is not just a South Asian thing. I have many girlfriends in the legal community who told me that when they went for their first job after law school, employers tried to sell their firms by telling them about their great parental leave plans. The then 23 year olds were shocked it was assumed that in 5 years time they would inevitably be ‘taking a break from their careers’ and the lovely employers would be very understanding about that. No one every questions whether a man gets somewhere purely on merit. It is assumed that if it is a man, it must have been on merit. I want that for myself.

I face implicit and explicit comments everyday about what I can do to be more marriageable. It is always if only you were a bit fairer, a bit taller, a bit slimmer. My mum sometimes say, ‘pretend to not be so opinionated’, ‘men don’t like women who think so much about stuff’. Incidentally my mother is one of the most opinionated women I know. My conversations with my Pākehā friends tells me that they face the same pressures, it's just in a different form. Perhaps slightly more subtle. Well, perhaps not so subtle because if you look at adverts on western tv, it is predominantly and sometimes exclusively women who are selling cleaning products, food, diapers (anything related to babies)! It is not just the South Asian way. 

I can’t help having opinions and I can’t help it if they happen to be feminist. I can’t help it if I don’t believe that a woman’s only place is in the kitchen. I am a person. I am not breeding machine. I have dreams about travelling and working and learning another language among a whole bucket list of stuff that has nothing to do with marriage and children. I don’t have dreams about running a household but there are many days that I wish I did. I really truly wish that I believed in knights in shining armors, and babies, and everlasting love with a man. I don’t. People fall out of love, people cheat, children are expensive, and they don’t grow up the way you want to. Maybe someone will one day change my mind on that but until then I can’t be a person that is always trying to outrun the mythical biological clock in the form of an hourglass filled with ovaries.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Does America need MMP?

I was watching the Rachel Maddow Show from last night where she did a segment on how gerrymandering in America has left Republicans in control of the House even though 1.4million more people in total voted for Democratic Congressional candidates. Take a look at these screenshots I got from her show.

In Michigan, more people voted for democrats but got less seats:

Same in Pennsylvania - 8 more seats:

In the case of Ohio where they won 8 more seats (3x) even though they got only 240,000 more votes. That means they got 10% more votes than the Democrats but 200% more seats.

So what is MMP?

Otherwise known aMixed-member proportional representation apparently started in Germany has been incorporated in New Zealand among other countries. In New Zealand, when we vote for the House of Representatives, we get two votes. We vote for the electoral candidate that we want from our electorate (American equivalent of a district) and then we also vote for a party. The House of Representatives is made up of all those who win their electorate seats but the total number of MPs reflects the percentage of votes the party got ensuring that some people are elected who do not represent a geographic district. 

Now some people think that those MPs (known as list MPs in New Zealand) are not real MPs because they do not represent a geographic area. But people are identified by more than where they come from. They are identified by their values and their expectations from Government. List MPs ensure that those who vote for the Labour candidate still have their views represented. They ensure that the party values are represented even if you vote for a different candidate for the electorate seat because s/he is very good at dealing with representing the electorate as a whole. 

Maybe the U.S. should look into this for their House of Representatives. Americans will tell me my suggestion is blasphemy. It is unconstitutional. Well, I say to that the Constitution wasn't perfect. It originally thought African Americans were 3/4ths of a person. Maybe its time to rethink and consider democracy. Maybe its time to vote for a government that actually governs.