Monday, September 25, 2023

A coalition of racism, cruelty, and chaos

Today's big political news is that after months of wibbling, National's Chris Luxon has finally confirmed that he is willing to work with Winston Peters to become Prime Minister. Which is expected, but I guess it tells us something about which way the polls are going. Which raises the question: what would a National - ACT - NZ First government (or governing arrangement) look like anyway? First, it would be unspeakably awful. Second, it would be total chaos.

On the first front, there are three things National, ACT, and NZ First all agree on: racism, cruelty, and climate denial. They all (with varying degrees of intensity) want to shit on Māori and roll back the real progress we've seen in empowering them. While National might not want to go the full ACT and have a referendum on our founding constitutional document (whose repudiation would mean that Pakeha would literally have no right to be here), they're certainly wanting to roll back co-governance, limit consultation, and generally disempower Māori, because they see all of these things as barriers to rich people getting to do whatever they want "economic growth". On cruelty, all three parties are basicly singing from the same song sheet on "law and order", which means harsher sentences, more criminalisation, and billions wasted on new prisons to cope with the victims (and billions more wasted on the social cleanup of mass criminalisation). And on climate denial, ACT and NZ First are explicitly denier, while National is denier but knows that doesn't sell well to the public, and so merely wants to repeal almost all climate policy and return to the "good old days" of setting targets and doing nothing to meet them. So "repeal and do nothing" will end up being the policy, which will then result in the inevitable criticism from the Climate Commission and lawsuit for failing to follow the Zero Carbon Act, until the government repeals the latter to shut down the legal challenges. At which stage they get to explain themselves to the EU and other trade partners and try and convince them why they shouldn't tear up our FTAs given that we just have...

That's a terrible policy agenda which would be terrible for Aotearoa. Racism and cruelty are Not Good, and ignoring our biggest problem is going to see more people killed and more communities destroyed. We will all suffer under such a government.

The bright side, insofar as there is one, is that they will suffer too. Because while the three parties agree on racism, cruelty and climate denial, they disagree on practically everything else. National plus ACT would mean a radical neoliberal government, slashing taxes, sacking public servants, and privatising everything in an awful rerun of the early 1990's. Winston will veto all that. Ditto raising the superannuation age, benefit cuts, or cuts to the minimum wage. Labour's experience from 2017 to 2020 is a useful guide here: Winston nuked anything that wasn't explicitly agreed in his coalition agreement, often at short notice with no consultation. ACT will hate being thwarted like that. And with Rimmer already making noises about holding the government to ransom over every budget, its likely to end in tears.

(Note that this analysis applies regardless of what sort of governing arrangement is ultimately agreed between the three parties. Its possible that National tries minority government, with support from the other two, rather than trying to manage two bitter enemies around the cabinet table. It doesn't matter, because this is about what there's a majority to legislate on. And if the numbers are such that they force Luxon into the arms of Winston, it means that there just won't be a parliamentary majority for any of ACTs economic agenda...)

So, it would be awful, and we'd all suffer. But they'd suffer too, and it might not last beyond a term (pre-2020, I'd have said Winston was cursed, in that anyone who went into government with him lost the next election. 2020 was not a normal election though, so the curse may still hold). And if things are going to be awful, I'll take my grim satisfaction where I can. If people really are going to vote for us to all burn to death, I can at least derive some amusement by watching their racist cooker climate denier government tear itself apart.