OPINION PIECE – GORDON BRUCE LITTLE [RETIRED]
In 1994, New Zealand adopted MMP as its electoral system. The defining character of MMP is a mix of members of Parliament (MPs) from single seat electorates and MPs elected from a party list, with each party’s share of seats determined by its share of the party vote nationwide. Each of the two or three parties forming any coalition government have to respect each other’s policies and come to a common ground agreement. This provides checks and balances on the delivery of policies being voted in to law. It was never envisaged that one party would receive more than 50% of the national vote, and would have the power to govern alone – which is the current situation. We have only been exposed to a political party mandating policy into law, without consultation and negotiation, since the advent of Covid-19. Overseas and local advice recommended that the NZ population needed to become inoculated to a percentage of 75%, then 80%, then 90% to reach herd immunity. This would achieve a slower spread of the virus, and those inoculated would suffer less if they contracted the virus. They would, however, still spread the virus. Suddenly, laws were mandated in Parliament to control those who chose not to be vaccinated. Even though those unvaccinated 5% of the population were penalised and restricted in their daily lives. Without a vaccine pass, they could not access public buildings and various areas of work. Many lost their jobs. They were teachers, doctors, nurses, police, military etc. They essentially became second class citizens as a result of the mandates implemented by government. But mandating policy into law has not stopped there. Over the past nine months we have seen the following major changes introduced into Parliament as law, in the areas of: Health Over 5 billion dollars to be spent to establish a separate Maori Health system – under Maori governance, it is expected that Maori will deliver to Maori a better outcome of Healthcare. The remaining 84% of the population will be served by a new government body, after the abolition of the current health boards. This new structure will operate under a co-governance board with Iwi. This is a huge and ambitious deviation from the policy Labour presented at the last election to merely “reduce the number of District Health Boards”. Health services should deliver quality care that is accessible, competent and at a fair price. An example is the Diabetic Retinal Photoscreening program offered to all diabetics in Horowhenua by local optometrists. Funded by the local DHB, patients have their retinas (backs of the eyes) photographed and analysed for any diabetic related changes. Reports are sent back to the patients’ GPs, and to the Palmerston North Eye Dept. if more urgent treatment is required. Three Waters At the end of April, the government mandated to take control of all water services away from local bodies, who at the ballot box are responsible to the voters, and who own these assets. The governing body of this new structure is to be a co-governance board with Iwi. There has been no disclosure of the mechanism (how), nor the cost and delivery (management and measurement) of the benefits to all New Zealanders. We are currently experiencing higher interest rates and higher inflation than we have experienced in a very long time. Finance Minister Robertson has signaled that he is to spend an extra $6 billion on infrastructure in the Budget. If this is not correctly targeted and managed, then it must fuel the already high levels of inflation and interest rates to even higher levels, and someone has to pay these borrowings back. My parents served in WWII, my grandparents in WWI, to preserve democracy and the ensuing freedoms we have enjoyed for the past 65 years. I hope their efforts were not in vain. Trusted and respected governments are those that are transparent, pragmatic and inclusive. How times are changing.