Saturday 16 March 2024

Expert Opinion: Ageing Boomers, Laurie & Les, Talk Politics.

It hardly strikes me as fair to criticise a government for doing exactly what it said it was going to do. For actually keeping its promises.”

THUNDER WAS PLAYING TAG with lightning flashes amongst the distant peaks. Its rolling cadences interrupted by the here-I-come-here-I-go Doppler effect of the occasional passing car. Laurie watched as Les, taking exaggerated care not to spill a drop from the tall glasses of pale ale he was carrying, steadily closed the distance between the bar and their corner-table by the window.

“That’s welcome rain”, observed Laurie, nodding in the direction of the passing squall.

“Yep,” confirmed Les, glancing out the window, “I was beginning to think we were in for a drought. Perhaps its Nature’s way of celebrating the end of the Government’s first 100 days in office. Blue skies and sunshine just don’t seem appropriate. Or, are you still happy with their work?”

“I am, as a matter of fact. It hardly strikes me as fair to criticise a government for doing exactly what it said it was going to do. For actually keeping its promises.”

Les winced in recognition of his friend’s point. “You got me there, mate.”

“I reckon I have at that. It’s been so long since any incoming government put on such a show of political fidelity. That’s why so many of these young journalists have been so shocked by the roll-back – they’ve never seen one before. Well, not on this scale, at any rate.”

“You’re right. I was trying to think of the last time that an incoming government made such a fetish of dismantling practically every major reform its predecessors had put in place. When would you say it was?”

“That’s easy. You and I are about the same age, so we share quite a few of the same memories. It was Muldoon’s National Government of 1975. Unsurprisingly, he was even more hard-core than Luxon.”

“More hard core than Seymour! Do you remember how he just told employers to stop deducting workers’ contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation scheme? The law was still in place, Muldoon hadn’t had time to repeal it, but he just told them to stop – and they did.”

“Didn’t someone take him to court? Some civil servant, citing the Bill of Rights of 1688?”

“Nothing wrong with your memory, Laurie! That’s exactly what happened. And, if I remember rightly, his name was Fitzgerald, and he won his case. The Supreme Court ruled that Muldoon couldn’t simply cancel the laws of the land – even if he was the Prime Minister. Only Parliament can do that.”

“Something of an own goal, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, all these twerps complaining about this government forcing things through the House under urgency. If that’s the way the Bill of Rights of 1688 says it has to be done, and you’ve promised New Zealanders you’re going to make all these changes in your first 100 days, then of course your going to legislate in haste. After all, the people doing the complaining would be making an even bigger fuss if the Coalition had failed to achieve what it promised to achieve in its first three months.”

“Fair enough, Laurie. But, even so, you can’t be in favour of their decision to repeal the smoking legislation. I mean that went against all the best advice from all the experts in the field. Big Tobacco’s laughing all the way to the cancer clinic!”

“Speaking personally, Les, you’re right – I wouldn’t have repealed the Act. That said, I’m getting heartily sick of hearing people objecting to government policy on the grounds that it goes against expert advice. Who the hell governs this country, eh? Experts? Or the people who elect representatives to govern on their behalf?”

“But …”

“No! Don’t you tell me that the people are too thick to make those sort of decisions. Because, if you believe that, then why bother to have a Parliament at all? Why not just hand over the responsibility for governing us ‘deplorables’ to the experts? You know, all those over-educated idiots in the universities and the public service who can’t tell the difference between a man and a woman, and want to teach our grandkids that Mātaurānga Māori is the equal of Western Science. Jeez, Les, that’s the whole reason the Labour Party was thrown out on its ear – because it no longer trusts ordinary people.”

Les stared mutely into his ale. The thunder sounded a lot closer now.

This short story was published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 15 March 2024.


The Barron said...

It's 50 years since Charles Shultz added Franklin to the Peanuts gang. Perhaps it is time for Laurie and Les to have a friend of colour?

Ricardo said...

Very good Chris.

Larry Mitchell said...

The implication that Luxon is a latter day pale image of Muldoon ... they both viewed/view the Bill of Rights as an optional nicety for instance; is " a stretch" ... though a somewhat plausible one. However in most other respects ... M is chalk to L"s cheese.

Muldoon was a one man band and he had little need for consensus politics under FPP. He could do as HE! bloody well pleased.

Very different for Luxon whose skills of leadership under the double jeopardy of MMP and Coalition governance will need to be exercised exquisitely... whereas Muldoon never had to give a flying fff... photograph! ... about consensus...or anything not to his! liking.

Personally I have my doubts about Luxon but he needs some slack in that rope... either to rope in Winnie, Dave and his caucus ( PHEW! ) or to hang himself... and with not just a 100 days to do it ... but say until Jan 1 2025.

We are witnessing NZ political history in real time. And the stakes are huge Bruce Cotterill ... NZ Herald yesterday... our economy is in deep doo - dos.

It's in the economic field that Luxon will need all the guile and political cunning of a Muldoon. Now there! is a fair analogy ... OK?

Anonymous said...

Did you mean squall rather than skiff?

Anonymous said...

Nah, let them choose who they want to hang out with.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@19:45

Yep, I did mean squall.

Don't know where skiff came from. Quite possibly a life-long linguistic error.

We all have them.

Thanks for drawing it to my attention. I'll make the appropriate change.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Laurie is based on Lawrence Fox

The Barron said...

Just to note: Fictional characters lack freedom of choice

Don Franks said...

Good point Barron. It's time for Laurie - or Les- to man up and identify as a woman of colour.

The Barron said...

Chris has cleverly constructed talanoa as a device to analyze how a generation reacts to political change. Laurie and Les are unashamedly monocultural, very much in line with the southern small town represented by Herbert's Bowalley Rd.
Demographics have changed, even in provincial Otago and the generation depicted. Surely the talanoa would be enhanced by the inclusion of how the political history has impacted other groups.
Of course, I may have just seen CNN discussing Franklin and Peanuts and used it as a wind up.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was taking the piss out of your tedious tokenism.