Across the Ditch: Australian radio FiveAA.com.au’s Peter Godfrey and EveningReport.nz’s Selwyn Manning deliver their weekly bulletin Across the Ditch. This week: Weather + Headlines + John Key set to exit Parliament next week + a tribute to Footrot Flats creator and author Murray Ball.
Weather + Headlines
ITEM ONE: John Key Set To Exit Parliament – So what’s his legacy?
Former prime minister John Key is formally nearing the end of his political career – on Wednesday next week he will deliver his valedictory speech and then it is Haere ra to Parliament.
Key has stayed just long enough to prevent a by-election being forced on the National-led Government. If an MP resigns within six months of a general election, a by-election is not required.
Key resigned his prime ministership in December, surprising even his closest Cabinet colleagues. Rumours have abounded about why he really stood down, but to date nothing has surfaced that substantially offers an explanation beyond what Key had said at the time, that he had no more fuel in the tank.
His popularity reached its zenith in 2011 when the Colmar Brunton Poll suggested over 60 percent of those polled preferred Key as their prime minister. By November last year, his popularity based on the same methodology had fallen to 36 percent.
So what of his legacy?
While successfully navigating New Zealand’s economy through the wake of the global financial crisis, the Key Government saw poverty in New Zealand worsen. Homelessness, and drastically reduced disposable incomes (after housing or accommodation costs) have seen millions of New Zealanders become worse off than they were before he came to power. For the five percent of the richest people living here, they, however, have prospered.
Investors have also done well. The rise of residential house prices in Auckland have cooled in the last six months. But the average price for a home in Auckland is now over $1million. A house bought for $720,000 in 2008 when Key’s National’s came to power, now would sell for more than $1.45 million. Such steep climbs have placed considerable hardship even on middle income Kiwis.
Despite upward pressure on housing prices, Key’s Government insisted on taking a hands off approach to foreign investors, that in part, coupled with a short supply of housing stock, caused concerns of economic instability and potential catastrophe should the housing bubble burst.
Once labeled the Smiling Assassin by his colleagues at Merrill Lynch in the USA, the New Zealand public most often saw a comedic version of John Key. This made him popular with many, and loathed by his opponents. He governed by polling the public mood, and ultimately sniffed the breeze and realised his fun was over.
No doubt, controversy will continue to surface and surround this odd political figure despite his exit from politics.
And already, one gets the feeling that many here in New Zealand, when considering the past eight years, are wondering, what was that all about?
ITEM TWO: Cartoonist Murray Ball passes away
The celebrated author and cartoonist Murray Ball died this week aged 78 years of age.
Murray Ball was loved by more than just his generation of Kiwis but was celebrated for actually defining a cultural element of what it meant to be a New Zealander. His cartoons, including Footrot Flats and Stanley were fun, funny, and always expressed a strong message for those who also like to ponder.
He was sincerely political, egalitarian, even arguing the merits of socialism if untainted by totalitarianism.
And his cartoon creations Wal, Dog, Horse, and Cheeky Hobson are characters that so easily resemble so many characters that you may come across when venturing around these islands.
Across the Ditch broadcasts live each week on Australia’s radio FiveAA.com.au and webcasts on EveningReport.nz and Livenews.co.nz and ForeignAffairs.co.nz.