Monday, June 15, 2009

A black hole where the opposition used to be

One of the ways I gather information is by monitoring parliamentary written questions to the Minister of Social Development. That has become a fruitless exercise. The kind of questions I am interested just don't get asked. Where there used to be strong and effective opposition in new Zealand (ACT) there is now a black hole. It is very unhealthy.

Think back to Labour's first two terms. People like Muriel Newman - agree with her or not - was constantly digging and dishing. She kept the issue of welfare in the papers, on the screens and in the minds of New Zealanders. She was Maharey's nemesis. Subjects like the non-naming of fathers, child support debt, women spending their entire adult lives on the DPB, benefit fraud, etc. were all canvassed regularly. In a similar vein Heather Roy did a much-needed, highly effective job on health consistently probing productivity and spending failures and the tragedy of public health rationing and waiting lists. While they may not have been in government, the public was served very well by these opposition MPs.

Unfortunately ACT MPs got sick of being in opposition. Sick of not being able to 'achieve anything' (forgetting that they were achieving a great deal simply by virtue of doing the job of opposition socialist National could not). So when Blair Mulholland asks what is the point of ACT now, with the exception of the Local Government Minister's efforts, I sympathise.

Roger Douglas, with the welfare portfolio, has asked only one question from the Minister of Social Development this year. While I can understand his staunch championing of a privatise-everything approach to welfare, that it's all-or-nothing means no attention is drawn to what might be done within the existing system, which let's face it, isn't going away in his lifetime and probably not mine.

Labour isn't opposition. Apart from being more profligate with public money in the public sector, their basic policies vary little from the government's. They can hardly go attacking National for what they would do themselves. Only for not doing it enough. And present problems are still very much of Labour's making anyway.

The Greens and the Maori Party are not overly keen on attacking National while hedging their pet-policy bets and in the area of welfare are again averse to highlighting the dysfunctional problems it creates and National's refusal to relinquish the status quo.

So now we have a black hole where genuine opposition once operated with zest and purpose. They are all on the same side but it's not the one I'm on.

Now we get this low grade scrapping over what a randy old minister did and didn't do, an abysmally petty by-election where the major 'foes' hug each other at the end. Doesn't this photo say it all?

Most of the money the government takes off you goes on welfare, health and education. Are you happy with what you are getting for it? Tell me yes and I will concede we don't need a real, functioning, opposition.


Anonymous said...


or faux.


proud to be a wingnut said...

Gosh Lyndsay your post is very sobering. Of course we need a strong opposition. Socialistic, National has been for I don't know how long.

I remember voting for the McGillicardy Party because I was so disillusioned with the total lack of principles from National. Could never bring myself to vote Labour.

The lack of strong debate on social welfare issues is only contributing to the brain washing of the people. Very few know how to think for themselves!

I am definitely not happy with the theft of my money to promote the wasteful policies of both national and labour.

Anonymous said...

I thought Act would have done better than they din in the by-election. Wish Rodney was still in opposition, he's so good at it.

Anonymous said...

Listened to Rodney last week and he is onto it. Time will bring some results depending on the weakest link i.e. the National Socialists.
Muriel is still behind the scenes with