Armstrong’s View

John Armstrong touches on a number of issues:

No matter what spin the anti-smacking brigade puts on last week’s referendum, the result is still mind-boggling. …

The assumption of voter ignorance is the typical sort of patronising claptrap used by the liberal elites to conveniently explain away something that disturbs their comfort zones. …

Ditto with the smacking referendum. Voters understood exactly what they were doing. Politicians ignore the outcome at their peril.

There is a huge disconnect between the so called liberal elite and the rest of NZ on this issue. Armstrong is right – people knew exactly what they were voting for. This is an issue that has had two years plus of public debate.

Those in National’s senior ranks are most definitely taking note. The highest “no” votes were registered in provincial and rural seats held by that party.

Once it was clear that the turnout was going to be much higher than predicted, the Prime Minister ensured he had a response prepared. This amounted to more monitoring of the existing law to ensure it is working as intended.

That was obviously not going to satisfy the referendum’s organisers, who were seeking the repeal of the relevant section of the Crimes Act.

While Sue Bradford’s amended initiative remains the law, National has taken on board the message from the referendum that voters are drawing a line in the sand against any more measures which might be termed liberal, socially progressive or nanny state-ish.

I remain unconvinced that this will be enough. I think it will remain an issue until the law is amended.

And I don’t think one should include “socially progressive” in the same sentence as “nanny state”. Certainly some people are against both, but I see de-criminalising prostitution (or more correctly solicitation) as the exact opposite of nanny state.

In marked contrast, National’s reform agenda for the economy and social service delivery is meeting little resistance. For example, Bill English has now mentioned on several occasions three dreaded words that usually spell political death – “capital gains tax” – without his world caving in.

That is not to say the Finance Minister is about to bring in such a tax.

But the lack of opposition is emboldening the Government to move faster on the economic front than it might otherwise have done, another example being National’s willingness to allow mining of minerals on parts of the Department of Conservation estate.

I am pleased that National is showing signs that the status quo will not deliver the economy we need.

If nothing else, the politics surrounding the latter is proof there is a God – and that he or she has a wicked sense of humour.

How else to explain the private member’s bill promoted by Act’s John Boscawen, which allows parents to give their child a “light” smack for corrective purposes, making it onto Parliament’s order paper for debate.

The odds on the measure securing the sole spot available were a staggering 28-1 against. Beating those odds in the ballot of private member’s bills – plus the timing just days after the referendum result – suggested divine intervention.

I joked to a Christian lobbyist after the bill was drawn, that perhaps this does show that God is indeed on their side 🙂

National is relaxed about Act getting a pay-off in the polls from Hide appearing principled by saying he would resign his Local Government portfolio rather than steer legislation through Parliament with which he could not agree.

Act has struggled to register above 1.5 per cent support since the election, while backing for National is up to 10 percentage points higher than the party got at the ballot box last year.

While Act appears to have decided to be less supine in its four-way relationship with National, the Maori Party and United Future, it has to ensure it does not overreach itself and become the docked tail wagging a very large National dog.

Most in National would like ACT to be close to 5% than 1%. And again to be fair to Rodney he did not publicise his stance on resigning over the Maori Seats. Whomever leaked the Tau Henare e-mail did that.

National ultimately holds the whip hand. Act’s survival as a parliamentary party rests on Hide holding his Epsom seat. National has no qualms about reminding him that it retains the right to select a quality candidate and make a proper fight of it in the electorate.

Hide’s threat to resign his portfolios is akin to the Black Knight’s sword fight with King Arthur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As Arthur hacks off the Black Knight’s limbs one-by-one, the latter insists his wounds are nothing more than a scratch and suggests the pair call it a draw.

Again I think it is fair to stress Rodney did not want this made public. But having been made public, is is true that there is limited room to take such a firm stance again without a degree of backlash.

If there is a lesson to be drawn from the Byzantine nature of MMP politics, it is not to view an argument over something like the non-establishment of Maori seats in isolation. The Maori Party has been the loser in that instance, it should be the winner elsewhere, thereby reinforcing its current inclination to stick with National.

The review of the foreshore and seabed law will see it emerge the winner when it comes to concessions.

I have blogged previously that by 2011 the Maori Party will probably have a fairly impressive list of achievements or wins. And what will be more remarkable is all of them were gained voluntarily – National could have governed without them.

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