The dust has settled, the coalition has been formed, the results are in, and this morning our new National/ACT/Maori Party/United Future (and isn't that a five-headed monster if you ever heard of one?) is being sworn in to Parliament. We at YL Christchurch are not happy with this, for obvious reasons. While we do believe in giving people a chance to prove themselves, some very worrying signs about this government are already emerging. In no particular order, here's a few things we're already worried about:
1) The National/ACT agreement
For a party which got fewer votes than New Zealand First, ACT sure seems to think they've got some kind of mandate from the people to do, well, whatever the hell they want. What they are going to do is drag National even further to the right. Their coalition agreement, among other things, includes provisions for a committee formed from the private sector to go through government spending. Leaving aside the hypocrisy of putting together *more* bureaucracy (and private sector consultants won't come cheap!) in order to cut it, this demonstrates a very worrying attitude to government: that less is always better, no matter what the government is doing. Labour's results over the last nine years speak for themselves, and they didn't achieve that by firing people in the name of ideology.
2) The Minister of Local Government
In keeping with this theme, we're not that happy about Rodney Hide getting Local Government (however preferable it might be to that rumour doing the rounds last week that he was asking for Education.) Think about all the services your council provides for you. And now think about what's going to happen to those services if the council is forced to sell them all off because Hide believes in privatisation. Or about what's going to happen if rates are capped - we're ratepayers too, and we enjoy rate rises about as much as you do, but that doesn't mean that councils will be able to provide the same services on the same amount of money forever. Worried yet?
In this same vein, the party which touts freedom for business now has hold of the Consumer Affairs portfolio (Heather Roy). Contrary to ACT's core beliefs, the free market can and does screw consumers over. Not precisely the people we'd like fighting for our rights in this area.
3) Stephen Joyce
You haven't heard of him? Us either, until he vaulted straight into a major ministerial post before even being sworn in for the first time as an MP. Described in the media as a "self-made millionaire", there's every chance he'll be competent - but he's also a totally unknown quantity, who was barely seen during the election campaign. And National's much-vaunted broadband roll-out is now in his hands. Running radio stations may translate in Key's mind to expertise in information technology, but we're waiting to be convinced.
4) The Old Guard
As much as the media is touting Key as having chosen a new and fresh Cabinet, quite a few faces from the nineties are visible on the front bench - including English, Ryall, McCully, and Nick Smith. (Just think: Murray McCully is now going to represent us overseas.) They presided over some fairly horrific outcomes for a great number of people, and they haven't shown many signs of changing.
5) Climate Change
We'll give John Key credit for getting with the program on the reality of anthropogenic global warming (no point arguing if you never convince anyone) but we're going to have to take it away again for agreeing to have a select committee to hear evidence on its reality and - get this - "assess the quality and impartiality of official advice". That's right; politicians are going to be passing judgement on scientific advice provided by scientists. In the interests of fairness, we're hoping that the committee to assess the reality of continental drift will be announced any day now.