Friday 29 January 2021

Judith Collins’ State Of The Nation Speech Fails To Comfort – Or Connect.

Nothing New: State-of-the-Nation speeches are opportunities for those charged with their delivery to demonstrate renewed political credibility. Those hoping that Collins’ SOTN address to the Auckland Rotary Club on Tuesday, 26 January would constitute a significant step towards restoring her credibility must be feeling disappointed.

JUDITH COLLINS, remember her? She’s the woman who led the National Party to its second-worst defeat in 85-years. In a normal political party, leadership of that quality would have left the politician responsible with only one option: resignation. But, National hasn’t been a normal party for quite some time. Not since the departure of its last credible leader, Bill English, in 2018.

State-of-the-Nation speeches are opportunities for those charged with their delivery to demonstrate renewed political credibility. Those hoping that Collins’ SOTN address to the Auckland Rotary Club on Tuesday, 26 January would constitute a significant step towards restoring her credibility must be feeling disappointed. Certainly, National’s normality hasn’t been reclaimed.

A political party trounced as badly as National in 2020 owes the electorate two gestures – at the very least. The first is an apology to the voters for so egregiously misreading their mood and intent. The second is a promise to move beyond its clearly inadequate diagnosis of the nation’s ills and towards a whole new suite of remedies.

Collins’ speech did neither of these things. For the most part it was content to rehash the promises made to the electorate last October. The balance consisted of all the usual bromides of lazy conservatism.

The worst of these was Collins’ reflexive rejection of the Government’s plan to lift the minimum wage:

“Labour’s intentions are laudable but they are focused on alleviating the symptoms of stretched working families struggling to make ends meet rather than on the root causes of prosperity – supporting businesses to be more productive, investing in new capital, taking on new staff and lifting wages.”

We have heard it all before. The only way to lift wages is not to lift wages.

What would really make New Zealanders sit up and pay attention is an admission from National that it is precisely its own and the business community’s ingrained opposition to lifting wages that keeps New Zealand’s productivity so low. Recognition by Collins that only by winnowing-out our weakest businesses – i.e. removing the crutch of low wages – will this country’s long-delayed investment in skills, innovation and new technology become unavoidable. A brave declaration that low-wage economies are low-productivity economies. Now, that would have shaken the nation out of its Covid fever-dreams!

Another of those lazy conservative bromides holds that households and economies are subject to exactly the same constraints. That living beyond one’s means is as disastrous for countries as it is for individuals. Save all we can, reduce our debts as quickly as possible, keep the government’s nose out of our businesses’ business: these are National’s new remedies – same as the old remedies.

For the homeless, the solution is equally traditional – and facile. Make a bonfire of as many regulations as possible. Collins has promised her party’s support for emergency legislation designed to strip away what’s left of New Zealand’s social and physical environmental protections. It would be open-slather for property investors and developers.

“We need to reform our planning and RMA processes with one goal: freeing up land and getting more houses built”, Collins told the Rotarians. “And if councils won’t do it, we will do it for them.” (Some forms of state intervention, it would seem, cannot be done without.)

So far, so “same-old, same-old” from the Collins-led National Party. That familiar conflating of the particular interests of farmers and businessmen with the general interest of the whole nation.

“[W]e had a strong sense of community”, confided Collins, recalling her childhood in the Waikato. “We were surrounded by farming families who got stuck in and helped each other out, particularly when times were tough. It wasn’t something to be remarked on or exclaimed over, it was just the way things were – as a Collins, as a farmer, as a Kiwi.”

As if working-class families, a layer of New Zealand society considerably more familiar with tough times than Collins’ comfortable cockies, wouldn’t know how to get stuck in and help their neighbours.

It has always been there: National’s profoundly objectionable assumption that the only real Kiwis are people like themselves. That the rest of the nation are either parasites or problems. Probably both.

Collins has yet to learn the lessons of Holyoake, Bolger, Key and English. That National only regains credibility electorally by opening its arms wider – not to crush voters, but to comfort them.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 29 January 2021.


Kat said...

Kiwi Keith and Gentleman Jack were the last true blue greats you could say comforted voters. The other three mentioned pale by comparison, especially Key who thought comfort was spelt con.

Collins and there's a laugh.

Mark H. Patrick said...

Chris, You are right. Judith Collins needs to apologise for the National Party's mistakes - in the election and in past governments. Such is the scale of the defeat, it is a multi-generational collapse. She needs look at why the National Party was first formed, and it's core principles.

Apologising for the actions, behaviour and policies of Robert Muldoon; as both Finance Minister and Prime Minister in the 1960, '70's and '80's would be a start. His policies, with that of the inertia of his predecessor, Keith Holyoake; after the 1966/7 'wool crash' caused the right wing radicalism of the later 1980's and '90's.

Had the moderate economic reforms of the late 1950's and early 1960's continued, there would have not been the need for the radical 'catch-up' of the mid 1980's.

And had Keith Holyoake made Tom Shand the Finance Minster after the death of Harry Lake, following the post 1966 election 'wool crash'; and not Robert Muldoon the National party (and governments) would have kept the 'free enterprise' ethos a bit longer. (Shand died straight after the 1969 election). Holyoake, though, still wanted to be the real Finance Minster, as well as other portfolios.

Judith Collin's problem, is that the National party has 'too much baggage'; it has been 'too successful' in the electoral system (mostly under the pre 1996 First-Past-the-Post system system);too much time in Government.

When out of Government, parties can reconnect with their members and the electorate.

The National party is 20 years younger than the Labour party. The Labour party had to think what it was about in 1989; National should have done this about 2008.

Some saw this, and got John Key.

He was the 'last hurrah' for the 'Depression-World War 2' age cohort who missed out on the reforms that should have continued after the 'wool crash' of 1966/7.

That is when National lost it's way and that is what Judith Collins needs to apologise for and address.


greywarbler said...

It has always been there: National’s profoundly objectionable assumption that the only real Kiwis are people like themselves. That the rest of the nation are either parasites or problems. Probably both.
Good one Chris, like that. You are almost as funny and smart as Taika Waititi whom I've just watched on a TedTalk. Thinking like this will help to enliven us to go into the future with (a good) purpose. It seems to me that your first sentence echoes the presumptions of nearly all of the middle-class though. Which gets in the way of calling for change, suggesting some humility and reflection is in order to improve things for others who matter as well as the planet. Q.(for middle-class to reflect) How can you change anything that is perfect, or near?

Jens Meder said...

As long as Labour sticks to its leadership closer to the "Third Way" (upwards by all through participation in the effort by all) political Center of the traditional spectrum between plutocracy (Right) and communism (Left) - and does not slip "leftwards" too far -

I don't think any leadership personality can raise National's fortune much without a substantial shift towards the Center in National's policies.

Actually this should not be too hard for National, when with reference to its original belief in "Property owning Democracy" it gives up on its priority belief in economic liber(tari)alism and joins to maintain or improve Labour's systematic efforts of widening and increasing national and individual wealth ownership creation through the NZ Super Fund and KiwiSaver.

Cheers - Jens.

greywarbler said...

Slogan for National's old men like John Banks.
'Old white men don't fade away - they go grey and dye.'

Odysseus said...

Collins offered a bipartisan way forward on the housing crisis that makes sense. Still waiting to hear anything from Ardern on her 2 month holiday.

John Hurley said...

In 1987 Labour started a "social experiment"* to create a new type of society - post-ethnic cosmopolitan . Once committed this became the moral imperative over and above the well being of the population.
Previously nationalistic National climbed on board as immigration underwrote house/property prices and the building lobby grew influential.

Both National and Labour have cooked their goose. In line with Marcuse the repressive left who dominate media and academia have been censoring for decades so we are arguing with one hand behind our backs. Arguments about population and nation are too toxic. The effect of a lie is proportional to it's coverage. Qanon has nothing on MSM.

See The Reddell Hypothesis

Kat said...

"Still waiting to hear anything from Ardern on her 2 month holiday...."

As Paul Simon sings "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest....."

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Grey: the slogan for John Banks seems to be something like.
"I also made some generic negative statements about Māori people and practices that COULD HAVE BEEN MISCONSTRUED as racist..." :)

Tom Hunter said...

Had the moderate economic reforms of the late 1950's and early 1960's continued, there would have not been the need for the radical 'catch-up' of the mid 1980's.

I've been saying that for years, although the reform push was coming more in the 1960's. If you read the book Honourable Men by a former National Minister you'll find that by 1978 Muldoon had finally begun to accept that slow, modest reform in NZ on things like tariffs should be done, as the Aussies were already doing. But the 1979 Oil Crisis blew that up and sent him running back to Control Mother.

The slow Aussie reforms were the reason that they did not have as big a shock in 1983 with the Hawke government as we did here with Douglas, even though Hawke and Douglas saw eye-to-eye on many issues around regulations, privatisations and so forth.

WRT to the comments about Key, I'm amused. From early in 2008 I predicted that it was actually Holyoake that was his model as PM: don't rock the boat, just manage the status quo. And frankly that's exactly what he did.

And I think we're in the same world now with Jacinda and of course the longer that change is put off the bigger the flood when it happens. Revolutions are almost always bad precisely because of their nature, but it's what we're going to get.

Oh, and one last thing: the only reason Jacinda had such an overwhelming victory in 2020 was because of a one-off called Covid-19 and because National was incompetent as an Opposition, constantly saying yes to the government's ideas but with "we'd dod it better" stamp, the usual National approach. But Labour's actual policies are no more popular now than they were when Little was Leader, some 20% of the voters. Take Jacinda away and those tens of thousands of National people who voted for Jacinda (not Labour) will happily migrate back to the "old ideas" that you try to dismiss, not to mention the tens of thousands of Labour voters who voted for John Key during Labour's 2010's misery period. That's centrism for you.

John Hurley said...

have you noticed that news has stopped seeing both sides Chris? Tonight on TV One they showed the people who broke into Capital Hill on police cam. Naturally it is jumping around but it reminded me of the footage during BLM when it was an info war and you see Newshub version and then Andy Ngo. Tucker Carlson is talking about the Democrats just after winning they are acting vindictivley by shutting down Parler (etc). It is speaking to a particular audience. At least in the US they can switch channels. It doesn't help that MSM teach us te reo while pretending neutrality on Maori issues: it is theirs to broach our space by breaching cultures codes.

Kat said...

And true to form Collins is busy baiting while at the same time telling her caucus not to take the bait and avoid distractions. She said the govt is providing distractions from what really matter to people in NZ like, "we don't seem to have any vaccine in the country.”

Collins omitted of course to tell what these "govt distractions" are. We are left to wonder if all the National caucus are fooled.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Democrats just after winning they are acting vindictivley by shutting down Parler "

Jesus wept, sometimes I worry about the state of New Zealand's Conservatives. Parler was not shot down by the "Dems", it was deplatformed for breaking the actual contracts it signed with the platform by allowing objectionable content. Such as:

“My wishes for a racewar have never been higher. I find myself thinking about killing n—s and jews more and more often.”

The rules that allow you to use the platform are posted by Amazon on and you agree to them before you are allowed on. If you break the rules you can be kicked off. Amazon is a PRIVATE COMPANY, and therefore does not owe you freedom of speech. I'm surprised that conservatives don't understand this.

There is a difference between BLM, who are largely peaceful and protesting about something important – which actually took place – and the insurrectionists who broke into the Capitol building, beta policeman to death, threatened the lives of politicians, for something that didn't happen. The least you can say about them as they are gullible. And I must say that I noticed conservative politicians took refuge as well as Democrats, so no one has huge confidence in these eejits. And Tucker Carlson is a racist pustule on the arse of the world. Anyone who watches fox news and Tucker Carlson should not be talking about "seeing both sides". That's just hypocrisy.

Nick J said...

For anybody who wishes to know what happened to Parler as opposed to GS highly nuanced views you can listen to this podcast in which the CEO of Parler is interviewed.
Check out this Podcast: Tech Censorship And Independent Media, with Glenn Greenwald and the CEOs of Parler and Substack | Ep. 50

There are real issues here that require non partisan analysis. Freedom of speech, the question of private as opposed to state censorship. Then there is the question of monopoly position in markets and is this being abused?

Theres something here that is also bothering me. How do good socialists and Leftists feel free to support monopolist capitalists such as Bezos and Zuckerberg to decide what we should hear? Theres plenty of support for them whilst they are shutting down Trump and his supporters. But that is a Faustian bargain. These gents dont care any more for the Left than the Right. Who will you turn to when they decide what you can hear and say? Will that be too late?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Nick. Either one wouldn't give a toss if Amazon and the like started shutting down left-wing comment. It might be enough to start a boycott, it might be enough to get the monopoly broken up as it should have been years ago.
And as I said to Chris on another post, are you going to force companies to publish speech that might lose them money? Speech that encourages violence and crime? Eventually someone is going to hold them to account for allowing craziness on their platform.That won't go over well with any of the media I would have thought. Five people died because some idiot used their free speech to claim that the American election was fraudulent. That arse on Fox news Hannity called a doctor that was performing abortions a baby killer, and then someone went and shot him. No one seems to want to answer the question "What happens to those people who cause other people's death or injury by free speech?" I've been asking it since the fuss about deplatforming those neo-Nazis a while ago.
Not to mention the Parler had a bit of a reputation for censoring liberal speech. As is their right.

I've only come across one person that was banned, but then I don't really hang around on there, given that my son who knows all about the stuff said don't go near it because there security is amateurish on account of "insert computer babble here".
So – you going to write them a letter about that and get all upset about it? Probably not right? Because one thing I've noticed about many free speech advocates is that although they say they would be quite happy with people they disagree with having freedom of speech, they very rarely bother to complain when people they disagree with are censored. Only their own.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Continued. As I said, you sign up to the rules of engagement when you join. Admittedly not everyone reads them, but they're there and you probably should look at what you can and can't do when you are an organisation. Twitter is quite entitled to enforce its rules, Parler couldn't even enforce its own given that gathered a flood of porn and incitement to violence, which it says it doesn't allow but does. That's because they don't have enough moderators of course which is another sign of the amateur status.
Here's one of their rules:
Parler may remove any content and terminate your access to the Services at any time and for any reason or no reason. Censorship much?

sumsuch said...

I offered to vote for National like my father and grandfather if they increased benefits. Not willing to walk away from that scaremongering.