O’Sullivan on Shearer

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

I found myself wondering this week whether Shearer – who notoriously hates wearing a suit and tie – really only gets supercharged when he is wearing a flak jacket. He fluffed his way through a punchy interview on NewstalkZB when host Sean Plunket tried to pin him down on Labour’s position on the Maori Council’s controversial water rights claim.

The Shearer argument went something like this: Yes, John Key is inflaming things by rarking up the Maori Council and saying his Government won’t be bound by any Waitangi Tribunal ruling on the push to stop the Mighty River Power share float until a deal is done in this area. But, no, Maori don’t have a valid water claim. Nobody owns water. We pay for water rights to use water, whether it be for irrigation or hydro-electricity or whatever.

In other words, Key is right but I don’t want to say so because my party expects me to go into opposition mode at every opportunity.

There are plenty of other examples.

Shearer’s opposition to foreign investment in New Zealand farmland was also rather contrived. When Labour’s private polling indicated widespread public unease over the Shanghai Pengxin acquisition of 16 dairy farms, he chose to lift the scab off this running sore rather than pour on salving balm. Though privately he is not that fazed. Same too with partial privatisation of state-owned power companies.

Shearer held up Norway as a shining exemplar of what’s possible when it comes to developing a small nation economy. Yet many Norwegian SOEs are partially listed; the country has also built its fortune on oil.

Shearer should not have backed himself into these ideological corners.

Norway seems to be the new Finland.

Shearer needs to get out of this poll-driven mode. He is fundamentally an intelligent man who is at heart an internationalist. There is no shame in agreeing with the Prime Minister on some basic fundamentals. Both men are trying to capture the centre, after all.

His caucus seem to be pushing him towards the left.

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