Tuesday 28 November 2023

Who’s Driving The Right-Wing Bus?

Who’s At The Wheel? The electorate’s message, as aggregated in the polling booths on 14 October, turned out to be a conservative political agenda stronger than anything New Zealand has seen in five decades. In 1975, Bill Rowling was run over by just one bus, with Rob Muldoon at the wheel. In 2023, Labour was run over by a million busses – driven by ourselves.

BILL ROWLING told New Zealanders that he felt as though he had been run over by a bus. The metaphor was apt. Rob Muldoon’s 1975 electoral victory represented one of the great turnarounds in New Zealand political history. Three years earlier, Labour’s Norman Kirk had sent the National Government of Jack Marshall packing. But, just three years later, Muldoon, Marshall’s populist successor, exactly reversed Kirk’s landslide. National’s majority in the House of Representatives was identical to Labour’s – a whopping 23 seats. New Zealand had voted for the nation they wanted – and Muldoon was determined to give it to them.

It is nearly 50 years since Muldoon’s bus flattened poor Bill Rowling, but, for those with long political memories, the parallels with the election of 2023 are striking. The greatest of these is the profound sense of shock and disorientation among the activist supporters of the Left. Their discomfort is born not only of the brute facts of the election results, but also by the growing realisation that the incoming coalition government is determined to roll back practically all of the Left’s policy advances of the past six years.

Two generations have grown to adulthood since Muldoon’s reactionary political agenda was unleashed upon New Zealand. Young New Zealanders are not accustomed to governments committed to actually dismantling the changes of their predecessors, or, at least, not outside specialist areas such as workplace relations and educational assessment. For citizens under 50, the changes of the last few decades have all been in more-or-less the same direction. Economic policy has been neoliberal. Social policy has been “progressive”. Indigenous policy has been concessionary. Matters may have moved more swiftly under Labour, and slowed down a little under National, but, since 1984, the direction of travel has always been the same – onwards and upwards!

That’s what makes the experience so wrenching for the progressives of 2023. Especially with regard to the one, recurring issue which New Zealanders cannot escape: Race.

It was the National Government led by Jim Bolger that set in motion the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process – ably guided by his Treaty Settlements Minister, Doug Graham – in the early 1990s.

Not to be outdone, Labour, under the leadership of Helen Clark in the early 2000s, launched a policy effort dedicated to “closing the gaps” between Māori and Pakeha. The public backlash created by the policy was hugely strengthened by the Court of Appeal’s surprise affirmation of an enduring Māori proprietary interest in the foreshore and seabed. To keep Labour’s electoral prospects alive, Clark was forced to rein-in Māori expectations dramatically, a move which led to the creation of the Māori Party.

Don Brash, Leader of the Opposition in the run-up to the 2005 General Election, capitalised on the growing public disquiet over ethnic relations by throwing the National Party’s support behind calls for a comprehensive rolling-back of the state’s support for Māori sovereignty.

Brash lost the 2005 election, but only narrowly. “Progressive” New Zealand had been profoundly disturbed by the breadth of support for National’s reactionary policies. Brash, himself, was forced to endure what amounted to excommunication from “polite” political society. His fate was intended to serve as a warning to all serious politicians: mess with Māori (and Te Tiriti) at your peril.

Brash’s successor, National’s John Key, restored his party’s reputation (in the eyes of the political class) by sending the Māori Party’s co-leader, Pita Sharples, to New York to add New Zealand’s signature to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.

Labour’s next prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, went one better; commissioning a group of hand-picked “experts” to compile a secret report, He Puapua, setting forth a pathway to the UN Declaration’s full implementation by the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi’s signing in 2040. Driven forward by Labour’s radical Māori caucus, Ardern and her Pakeha colleagues felt obligated to support their colleagues controversial, Te Tititi-driven constitutional innovation of “co-governance”.

As happened in 2004-05, these bold moves towards Māori sovereignty ignited a Pakeha backlash. In 2023, however, the Left lacked the collective political strength to head-off the forces of reaction.

Across a broad front of social issues, public hostility towards the scope and speed of proposed and/or actual changes neutralised almost entirely the massive support Labour had received in 2020 for its highly successful early handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, the psychological and material damage inflicted upon the population by the pandemic, and the measures adopted to contain it, after 2020, contributed significantly to what the Left only belatedly registered as an alarming swing to the Right.

Separated by nearly 50 years from the strikingly similarly political derangement that followed the onset of the global oil crisis in October 1973, the sudden collapse of public trust and confidence in the Labour Government in 2022-23 was experienced by the Left as a Black Swan event of perplexing severity.

Young leftists had read about the swift succession of progressive moves undertaken by Norman Kirk’s Labour Government. The abolition of compulsory military training; the troop withdrawal from Vietnam, the recognition of “Red” China; the sending of a NZ frigate to protest French atmospheric nuclear testing at Mururoa; the cancellation of the 1973 Springbok Tour; the creation of ACC and the NZ Superannuation Fund. This is what Labour was capable of delivering – from the left.

Less well understood were the social dynamics which made it possible for a right-wing politician as shrewd and ruthless as Rob Muldoon to bring about an absolutely catastrophic change in the political climate. In the 15 months following Kirk’s sudden death in August 1974, New Zealanders egalitarian instincts were harnessed to an aggressively populist campaign directed against a Labour Party portrayed as having been taken over by intellectuals and radicals whose values were wildly at odds with those of “the ordinary bloke”. Not only was Muldoon able to present himself as the saviour of the country’s middle-class, but of its working-class as well. National’s slogan: “New Zealand the way YOU want it”, said it all.

Depressing though it is to admit, New Zealanders’ deeply ingrained social conservatism; their fury at any person, or group, who see themselves as being better than everybody else; their unwillingness to tolerate one rule for thee, and another for me; their impatience with intellectuals and artists; their wariness of difference; their hatred of privilege; and their comfort in conformity; remains as powerful today as it was 50 years ago.

Perhaps, not seeing a Muldoon figure looming over the electoral landscape, the Left felt itself to be safe. But, 50 years on from 1974-75, charismatic leadership is no longer strictly necessary. Fifty years on, we have the Internet, social-media, and algorithms. Today, we can manufacture a Muldoon for every taste. A protean Muldoon, who addresses tens-of-thousands of voters every day, with a message cleverly crafted for them alone, and delivered instantaneously through those magic rectangles of glass that never seem to leave the voters’ hands.

The sum total of these messages, as aggregated in the polling booths, is a conservative political agenda stronger than anything New Zealand has seen in five decades. In 1975, Bill Rowling was run over by just one bus, with Rob Muldoon at the wheel. In 2023 Labour was run over by a million busses – driven by ourselves.

This essay was originally posted on the Interest.co.nz website on Monday, 27 November 2023.


Anonymous said...

And I am proud to have been at the wheel of one of those buses. New Zealanders do not want to be subject to a Marxist ethnostate. He Pua Pua goes well beyond the UNDRIP, which protects the political unity of States ( see Article 46). Labour in its dumb arrogance were facilitating a tribalist coup.

Wayne Mapp said...

I can understand the attraction of the analogy, but it is overwrought. Luxon will not dominate in the way Muldoon did. Neither is he nearly as reactionary. For instance during the campaign debates he emphasised the importance of a bi-partisan foreign policy. Very different to Muldoon.

The big issue is undoubtedly race relations. The public position of the coalition seems dominated by Peters and Seymour. National is going along with it. But they will moderate the positions. Tama Potaka seems quite strong willed. He will not sell Maori aspirations down the river. Neither will Shane Jones. However, neither of them have much patience with the academic approach that propelled the authors of He Pua Pua. Both are more practical than those theoreticians.

The sleeper issue will be climate change. National is going to have to be careful about this. Act and NZF are hotbeds of climate denialism, and that drives much of those two parties climate policies. National cannot afford to be sucked into their vortex. They will need to stamp their authority on the issue, and to be seen to take at least some credible steps. Otherwise National may lose some of their younger voters.

I note that Martyn Bradbury is in ranting mode at the moment. Maybe so are many other Left activists. That will not win back the vote. It looks like pure denialism of what happened. The Left won't win votes back by effectively attacking the middle voters who shifted to National

LittleKeith said...

Labour went down in flames for dozens of reasons, one of the lesser, at the time, in my view was Maorification. It was a factor but its only now that we learn it should of been the major factor.

And sadly there is a gigantic difference between Kirk's Labour and the underhand student politicians activist Labour of 2017 to 2023. The former was operating on the basis of the people, the latter on a minority race.

As each day passes the way Maori was framed into every aspect of daily life in the past 3 years is quite incredible, that the military, for example, had to give a percentage of their procurements to firms or individuals identifying as Maori. Its astounding. It makes no sense. If John Minto et al taught us nothing else during the HART era of the early 80's, it was determination of governance or anything based on race was insane, yet here we are, doing just that. How did this come to be without a single consultation with the people? How? Who campaigned on it? Certainly not Labour! And why? Because they knew damn well it and they would be rejected so they went deep to avoid detection. Marvellous really when you realise the party you've faithfully supported your whole life were as trustworthy as shithouse rats and blinded by delusional ideology.

The thing is, no one but no one in Labour or most of the media seemed to consider the consequences of this laissez-faire race obsessed policy that was working exactly like an unguided missile. No one even thought where it would land or what would happen when it went off and the slumbering population suddenly realised what was going on. Not a clue, only a smug elitist view that what they were allowing, via a mutation within their party, was righteous.

You're right, Labour was hit by a fleet of buses. Disillusioned alienated ordinary people driving them. I think Ardern sensed it and had she remained, Labour were permanently gone. But there was a terrible sense of entitlement that remained. I wonder if they'll ever get it and if so, ever really accept why?

AB said...

@Anonymous 28 November 2023 at 22:11
"New Zealanders do not want to be subject to a Marxist ethnostate"

That's back to front - the majority of NZers seemibgly voted for a Pakeha ethnostate. They voted to erase any consideration of the Maori worldview from how the NZ state operates. They voted to end the possibility of anything other than a Pakeha ethnostate. They voted to end the possibility of balanced, respectful multiculturalism as an endpoint for a society that had its origins in settler colonialism. This is "cultural cleansing", the polite cousin of ethnic cleansing.

Your accusation turns out to be a projection - something common on the right.

David George said...

Wayne: "Martyn Bradbury is in ranting mode"

Not visited his site much Wayne? The spittle flecked, invective filled rant is Marty's MO

Brendan McNeill said...

Apt reflections from Anonymous @19:18 and LittleKeith.

Wayne, 50% of the public are not buying the climate change scam, and I sense the remainder are slowly waking up. It is a fiction promulgated by the same globalist elites that used the Covid-19 pandemic to manipulate the masses and test their totalitarian instincts on a fearful and gullible public. They fully understand you cannot have global governance without a global cause that justifies over ruling national sovereignty. It’s the same agenda that’s now driving the WHO, a globalist organisation seeking authority to over-rule national sovereignty in the next pandemic.

Along with a covid-19 enquiry we really need a similar enquiry into the dogma of human induced climate change where both sides of the argument can be clearly presented. Only one side has been permitted for a very long time now, and if covid19 taught us anything, we know that allowing only one side of the ‘science’ to be presented as ‘fact’ does not facilitate a fully informed public debate.

Geologists tell us that the earth is exiting a mini-ice age. What do we expect will happen to global temperatures in this context?

In any event, water vapour makes up approximately 95% of all greenhouse gasses. CO2 is a contributor to the remaining 5%.


CO2 is not a dangerous gas in the atmosphere, it is fundamental to all life on earth, plant, animal and human. By any historical measure it is presently very low. If it halved from present levels there would be no life on earth.

CO2 makes up 0.04% of the atmosphere. Human contribution of CO2 is 3% of the 0.04%. The idea that the human induced 3% is the fatal cause of climate change is an absurdity, when the natural 97% of CO2 emissions are effectively ignored, and that 95% of all greenhouse gases are water vapour.

I don’t expect this government to directly address the issue given the propaganda we have been subjected to for decades, but at the very least they can insist the public broadcaster provides a balanced commentary giving equal time to both sides of the debate.

Anonymous said...

"The abolition of compulsory military training; the troop withdrawal from Vietnam, the recognition of “Red” China; the sending of a NZ frigate to protest French atmospheric nuclear testing at Mururoa; the cancellation of the 1973 Springbok Tour; the creation of ACC and the NZ Superannuation Fund."

Back then, I was a leftie. I supported those moves by the Kirk government. Unfortunately, the NZ Superannuation Fund didn't survive the Muldoon government. As a polity, we'd be much better off economically if it had. I think that is now widely acknowledged.

I wasn't keen when Ardern took the leadership of the Labour party in 2017 - there was something about her which I didn't like - but nonetheless, I held my nose and voted Labour that year.

By the end of 2018, Labour had lost my support. It was becoming clear that it couldn't - or wouldn't - bring about the changes it had promised on the campaign trail. It was just another neoliberal administration.

At the 2020 election, I voted ACT. The reason was, in the first instance, the government's invidious hate speech proposals. And secondly, I'd taken strong exception to how the government had handled the pandemic: the lockdowns, the border closures (for most citizens) and the vaccination rollout and the mandates.

After the 2020 election, when news of the ethno-nationalist he Puapua document leaked out, along with the undemocratic 3 Waters proposals and the removal of citizens' rights to vote against the establishment of Maori wards at local government level, my alienation from Labour was complete.

I want co-governance gone. I want the Treaty as it was originally written to be recognised, not the revisionist effort of the 1980s. I want all evidence of ethno-nationalism scrubbed from the NZ body politic. Given the nature of contemporary NZ society, our best hope for the future is as a representative democracy: one person, one vote of equal value.

None of this has anything to do with that tired old trope "racism". Or, come to that, either left-wing or right-wing perspectives. It's just common sense. Pragmatism over ideology.

David George said...

Thank you AB, I suspect that many of us are accepting of various cultures without seeing "multiculturalism as an endpoint". That many see the introduction of ethnicity into the political and legal realm, locally and nationally, as a seriously bad idea, and with good reason. Where have such arrangements ever led to free, fair and functional societies?

Though concerns around the co-governance agenda didn't feature particularly highly in pre-election surveys (perhaps overshadowed by the government's chronic mismanagement and failure in other areas) many people, of all races and cultures, were deeply uneasy with it's implementation. No doubt the government knew that; hence the decision to keep it hidden at the previous election and subsequently attempt to stifle any meaningful discussion. That, and the decision to callously remove democratic rights around local authority elections certainly made it all look decidedly dodgy, underhand, corrupt. An attempted coup?

Regarding the stifling of discussion. I see that Willy J. is now claiming that the requirement by PIJF recipients (basically the entire legacy media) for no dissent from what was essentially government dogma around co-governance/treaty issues had nothing to with the government. It was all a complete surprise, apparently, that his handpicked NZ On Air board just did it without the minister being even aware. Yeah Right!

Wayne Mapp said...


You have lost the debate. There is nothing like 50% of the population in your camp. In fact less than 25%.

The great majority of scientific experts have demonstrated that anthropogenic climate change is occurring, and in fact is accelerating. Yes, I know there is a small minority of scientists who do not share that view. The minority cannot explain the accreting increase in global temperatures.

So there is no chance that the public broadcaster is going to give both sides equal weight.

I know that many in Act and NZF won't be happy that Shaw is part of the COP delegation. However, climate change policy has to cover multiple changes of government, and National worked closely with him on climate change legislation. So t makes sense for him to be in the delegation.

greywarbler said...

Reading down the timeline with changes in each election - we hoped that the direction would be upward in a practical way. Instead we seem to have been in a tug-of-war as in warring gangs of street urchins pulling at some prize either wished to be possessed, or to cause chagrin and dispossess the other.

I am listening to a BBC production of The Fellowship of the Ring. I consider that the dysfunction of the political parties and our education system to advise how wise adults would run governance entities show that NZ/AO has no worthwhile political system with an inspiring and pleasing leitmotif pervading the country. We might as well be Germany running, or being pushed, behind the Pied Piper to a dimly lit fate.

Kiwis should gather, cogitate and look to their own wild hearts and minds instead of following Germanic nature worship and a sort of purity never to be found in nature; only in obsessive, driven humans.

Let us read Tolkien and seek a Shire with a parallel list of morals and guidelines to the tablet of Moses; close to the religious but without the historic hang-ups and conflicting saints, some reasonably, wishing for purity eventually but in the distant future. Most things to be possible, but personally restrained, with less excess in desires such as money, possessions and extreme academic theories; there be dragons. And those wanting to take part in the democratic running of the entity have to study,read, pass diploma exams and know the basics of running a complex system delivering affordable required services to the group.

LittleKeith said...

Agreed Brendan McNeill.

"Climate change", that ultimate political piss take, as in the man made version, almost needs a trade mark. You know something is indefensible when it is not allowed to be debated and it is promoted by sheer hysteria. Its pretty much the religion of the 21st century urban middle-class, this era's version of the Catholic church in the pre Tudor medieval period. The threatened outcomes to us sinners that never seem to materialise are amended frequently as are the real facts, to keep it relevant. The devil is a shifty chap, you see. I note its now blamed for male infertility.

The fact that it's practically the manifesto of the progressive middle class political elite, "climate change " carries maximum political heft for all of us to live our lives under the control of their political agenda and ideology. It's no coincidence. There simply is no other way. Propaganda and manipulation par excellence, eh?

My feeling is the bulk of the population are indifferent, kind of think it's real but when the rubber hits the road, are they really willing to give up decades of living standard improvements brought by fossil fuels to live like stoned hippies at subsistence level? Remember, their laptops and cellphones and virtually everything they value will cease to exist without fossil fuels, so I doubt that severely.

This government is simply keeping it real because NZ, like the rest of mankind, have next to no control over the weather or climate, we just go along for the ride. And as such they recognise there is no point destroying our economy and country pretending otherwise! Dare I say, common sense has made a come back in New Zealand.

Kat said...

A song for the present choir.........


Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Wayne

I accept that human induced climate change skeptics may lose the debate, but in terms of statistical data from Pew research, you are wrong. Less than 50% of Americans believe humans are responsible for climate change. I suspect Kiwis whom I rate as somewhat less susceptible to propaganda would be less gullible than their American counterparts.

I’m happy for you to provide data from a reputable polling entity that proves otherwise.


So, the great majority of scientific ‘experts’ whose research funding depends upon agreeing with the narrative have “demonstrated that anthropogenic climate change is occurring” that’s great. Perhaps you can provide me with the mathematical formula that links human induced CO2 emissions to global temperature rise? You do have that stored somewhere? I mean surely the IPCC must have published this formula? Take your time, I’m in no rush maybe you can publish it on this blog post prior to Christmas?

We both know there is no provable link between CO2 emissions and the very slow rise in global temperatures. In addition, there is no such thing as global temperatures, there are only local and regional temperatures, but that’s another aside.

But hey all these scientists working their hearts out to establish the evidence must have a working formula, a model that can be applied where historical temperature data can be shown in reverse as well as predicted forwards? A model that accurately reports historical temperatures as well as predicting future temperatures?

No such model exists, not one of the current IPCC models can validate historical temperature change and predict forward temperature change. It’s a scam Wayne. It’s a thesis without imperical evidence.

David George said...

Wayne: "there is no chance that the public broadcaster is going to give both sides equal weight."

No, no chance of equal weight, of even any questioning of the extreme projections (never mind the theory itself) presented as fact, as The One Truth, when our entire legacy media are signed up "partners" to climate change propaganda outfit Covering Climate Now https://coveringclimatenow.org/partners/partner-list/

If the constant propaganda, the hyping up of irrational fear over even quite ordinary weather events, doesn't strike you as a more than a little strange then I don't know what to say.

John Hurley said...

See what Gert Wilders is saying.
The long resentment of having progressives keeping you locked out of politics

This is why I hate Bob Jones

John Hurley said...

AB said
That's back to front - the majority of NZers seemibgly voted for a Pakeha ethnostate. They voted to erase any consideration of the Maori worldview from how the NZ state operates. They voted to end the possibility of anything other than a Pakeha ethnostate. They voted to end the possibility of balanced, respectful multiculturalism as an endpoint for a society that had its origins in settler colonialism. This is "cultural cleansing", the polite cousin of ethnic cleansing.

All very vague as to the alternatives, they seem to be alluded to although when we see the whites of their eyes our nostrils widen.

Odd that Mike Hosking interviewed Paul Spoonley recently about the banning of Nazi salutes in Australia; right there was the man who wrote the book on it. However that might blow the deal. Spoonley is the witch doctor with the taboo spell ("racism"); forget that we have a dog eat dog economy: landlord; capital gain; tenant slave and an army of liars to prop it up.

D'Esterre said...

"...the majority of NZers seemibgly voted for a Pakeha ethnostate."

They did not. There's no such thing. In addition to being fascist and undemocratic, an ethnostate is predicated upon people belonging to a particular ethnicity. Pakeha is the term coined for the original non-Maori settlers (mostly European), and their descendants born in NZ. I am one such. There were people in that cohort from all over the world. They certainly weren't of one ethnicity. My ancestry is Irish, Scottish and English. A very old friend is of German descent. We're both pakeha. Schoolmates were of French and Scandinavian descent. They're also pakeha. On the other hand, my spouse is a post-war migrant from Europe, who definitely isn't pakeha.

"They voted to erase any consideration of the Maori worldview from how the NZ state operates.
to end the possibility of balanced, respectful multiculturalism...."

No. They voted to end separatism, and against the erosion of the representative democracy which prevails here. Those of us who've been overseas - even to Australia - know that NZ has developed a distinctive culture, an amalgam of the disparate influences brought to it by Maori and by all of the immigrants since the 18th century.

This is the best we can hope for as a society. Other peoples have recognised that this has become a safe, tolerant country, with a strong, democratic tradition. In the most recent election, citizens voted to preserve that tradition.

Anonymous said...

Most NZers are the descendants of poor English and Scottish farm workers and labourers. They brought a deep cultural trait of egalitarianism and contempt for hierarchy and privilege. There are aspects of it that are amenable to a left world view. But the left’s current fascination with identity, and in particularly privileging Māori (front of queue for operations, token positions on govt agencies, preferential access to university courses…) was completely contrary to that egalitarianism. In retrospect, Labour were lucky their vote didn’t collapse more, as Labour have alienated the pakeha and migrant working class base.
Re. Wayne’s comments on climate change - ACT used to be into climate denialism, but David Seymour, Brooke VanVelden and Simon Court are not. They are sceptical that NZ can make any difference to global warming and that the focus should be on resilience to inevitable change. But to smear them as climate deniers is wrong and used to stop genuine debate about what NZ can realistically do.

greywarbler said...

@Anonymous at 5/12 15.19
Good points about our forebears. But what we arrived with and how we worked to better ourselves was from a monocultural past which gradually had to expand to embrace the reality of our mixed cultures. And the result brought out many Brits from a cultured educated background after WW2, plus Europeans escaping the aftermath of war. All raised our levels of civilised communion. And Asians came here with their rites and hard working ways, and Russians with fishing fleets etc. Germans in growing numbers brought us culture and curiosity, such as learning about Moriori. The Nelson School of Music flowered under a German of note (musical).

After WW2 what arose here was a desire to follow materialism, and conservative ideas that tended towards a class society. Now we are separated like one of those clever cocktails where the different densities of potion lie in their different colours in the glass close, unmixed and picturesque. But the taste must be considered when choosing the liqueurs to mingle. ACT and National Party do not have discernment for preparation of a quality tipple, no taste or judgment; their appreciation is based on price and display. They would prize a certain cocktail for an ingredient from an endangered hallucinating plant.

People of such coarse sensibility can only drag our nation down, until we lose any vision of other possibilities and lose opportunity to reach out for them. (I use analogies as it appears that we need to find new ways to illustrate our thinking; we have been talking and thinking since WW2 say 1950, but apparently to a brick wall with lack of comprehension. And when someone wrote anything on that wall, a guardian of terra nullius, terra pugnata, becoming terra sterilis, took out a knife and stabbed the perpetrator. That defines NZ/AO'S Everest of today that we have to climb over. Hillary had it easy!