Home NZ Politics Do You Trust Cindy and Co ?

Do You Trust Cindy and Co ?




Trust in government is high in NZ, but will it last until the country’s elections later in the year?

By Richard Shaw, Professor of Politics, Massey University

New Zealand’s general election is currently set for September 19. Under ordinary circumstances, campaigning for the election and two referenda that will take place alongside would be heating up by now, but the country is three quarters of the way through a comprehensive level 4 lockdown.

The first question is whether the election should take place at all. Misgivings are beginning to emerge, including within the coalition government, but at the moment the answer is still a qualified yes.

Regardless of the precise date, New Zealand will be one of the first liberal parliamentary democracies to go to the polls since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic – and it will be the most consequential election any of us have participated in.

Potential for a reverse snap election

Attempting to look five months out is a fool’s game at the best of times (which these are not), but elections are how we hold elected representatives to account. Unless the numbers of ill, hospitalised or dead New Zealanders take a sharp turn for the worse, the election is likely to go ahead.

If the numbers do worsen and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern opts to delay the election, there are several ways in which the date can be pushed back, but it would still likely have to be held this year.

New Zealand’s three-year parliamentary term is entrenched in the Electoral Act, under which the last possible election date is on December 5, unless 75% or more of all MPs vote to extend the term of the 52nd Parliament.

What ever happens, it does not take much to imagine the logistical challenges that COVID-19 is posing for electoral agencies. Contingency planning for various scenarios is already underway, focused on identifying ways in which people can vote if they can’t get to a booth.

Postal voting is one option, but online voting on any significant scale is probably not, because of privacy risks and technical challenges.

Ardern’s calm, measured and reassuring leadership during the COVID-19 crisis has attracted plaudits at home and away – as it did a year ago following the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Unlike other Western countries, New Zealand has a goal to eliminate COVID-19, rather than containing it, and after almost three weeks in lockdown, the number of people who have recovered from the illness now exceeds the number of new cases each day.

According to a recent Colmar Brunton poll, 88% of New Zealanders trust their government to make the right decisions about COVID-19 (well above the G7 average of 59%), and 83% trust it to deal successfully with national problems.

Ardern has fronted the mainstream media more or less daily, her Facebook Live appearance in a hoodie on a sofa received more views than New Zealand has people, and her communication has been crisp, clear and consistent. Go hard and go early. Stay home and save lives. Be kind.

But this is now. Come September, when people’s memories of this phase of the crisis have dulled and they are looking for a path through the social and economic damage COVID-19 is wreaking, a different political calculus will apply.

The role of the state

Few may hold Ardern directly responsible for the wreckage, but she will be held to account for her administration’s response to the challenges that lie ahead.

At that point the contest becomes one of ideas. The pandemic has dragged some venerable old political issues to the surface, chief among them the relationship between state and economy.

In New Zealand, there is broad support for the speed, decisiveness and competence with which the government and its officials have acted. The language of “government failure” has largely vanished and the importance of public institutions has become clear to everyone.

So has the extent to which markets rely upon the state. Except for the truest of believers in market forces, the argument that governments should get out of the way and give the private sector free reign has become untenable. For the time being.

There is burgeoning hope that once the crisis passes we will do a lot of things differently, but a new political and economic order is not a done deal.

New political order

It may seem unlikely that swathes of voters will embrace a return to unfettered markets but it is equally improbable that many will be clamouring for a permanent highly centralised state.

Trust in government is back in fashion for the moment in New Zealand, but we simply cannot tell how widespread support for a more active state will be once the COVID-19 health crisis has waned and the country faces the economic impacts.

New Zealanders talk a good fight about egalitarianism but we are remarkably tolerant of income and wealth inequality, health disparities and homelessness. Those things and more are waiting for us on the other side of COVID-19, and while we may yet come out of this crucible with a new social contract, it will need to be fought for.

That is why the 2020 election in New Zealand matters so much. Constitutionally, New Zealanders will be choosing a House of Representatives. Really, though, we will be choosing a future, because the next government will get to chart a course not just for the next parliamentary term but for a generation.

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  1. Imagine the next term, the one defined as “charting a course for a generation”, having this pack of losers in control.

    We have a Prime Minister who lies, habitually.
    They are the most secretive, manipulative government we’ve had.
    There is no depth in cabinet and no skills outside of politics.
    They are blatantly partisan with our democracy and change laws to favour themselves.
    They sell policy for money.
    They gift contracts to friends and family members.
    They have harmed our natural environment.
    They worsened the Covid-19 epidemic measurably.

    And people will still vote them in. Fucking insanity.



  2. Why is it so hard for sheeple to understand that what this country needs is smaller government both local and national? If we are to recover from the damage this lousy Labour government has caused then government must reduce taxes and government spending, cut bureaucracy and just get out of the way. Not holding my breath.



  3. I find it hard to believe the Colmar Brunton poll. Either that or we have confirmation that the education system has succeeded in dumbing down a couple of generations and the older Kiwis have switched off politics completely.



  4. Definitely not. This COL is a cluster f**k in so many ways, there are far too many to mention and Ed has an ever growing list on another page. This Government has totally F**ked this country. Kindness? Not bloody likely



  5. Venezuela is where NZ is heading under Comrade Ardoom. She believes the people LOVE her, she is drunk on power and her dream of a “kind” and caring nirvana. Failure is inevitable as it always is under ideologues who put their own power before what is best for the nation and its people.

    Going undercover in Venezuela



  6. National has canceled its regional conferences. Their AGM in Wellington in July uncertain. There cannot be a democratic election cannot be held if we cannot have our AGM and there cannot be candidate electorate debates.



  7. I am not satisfied the government, and its Prime Minister, has done as well as the media like to tell us.

    I have not forgotten the Arms Act amendments first round rush and setting aside democracy to pass unreasonable and jacked up legislation out of all proportion to whatever the issue, if an issue actually existed, was.

    Oil and Gas, sorely needed now but set aside for ideology.

    We have Minister Little still pressing on with his bid to rework electoral law during a pandemic. Nothing short of disgraceful and unacceptable.

    We are expected to be pleased hunting is now “allowed” with dumb conditions.

    No, the restrictions are out of proportion to the situation. Cannot cross a regional boundary for example under the present or the next level down. How did we come to accept that limitation on our freedoms. I have not accepted it as reasonable. I wish to go to another property, in another region which is simply a line on a map. I can obtain fuel from a self serve pump, I can stay in my contacts bubble, I can do the return trip in a day easily although Insee no issue with an overnight or longer stay as the “bubble” can be maintained.

    I will be responsible as I care for my health and that of my family. I will be more responsible than the government was in continuing to allow inwards migration without quarantine after we were detained under level 3 and two days later, level 4.

    Contact tracing is suspect still and there are still reported issues with PPE. GP’s have been shortchanged. Media though, got a handout.

    No, enough of this impactive yet mindlessly spending government. They do not get any praise from me for the blatant electioneering they have imposed on us.



  8. Of course I trust Cindy! I trust her to to fuck it up just like everyone of her Ministers in the COL have done so far!
    She and her ministers are the worst government in NZs history.
    What has worked in anything they have touched. Nothing.
    They all take turns for a holiday in whitless protection!
    At the moment, all they can do is hide inside!



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