New Zealand Parliament Buildings, Wellington, New Zealand.
Article sponsored by NewzEngine.com

Analysis by Dr Bryce Edwards.

Political Roundup: Threats to politicians and co-governance could be big themes in 2023 

Political scientist, Dr Bryce Edwards.

It has been reported that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will not host her centrepiece Waitangi Day breakfast next year. According to reports by the Guardian and Australian Associated Press, the decision was due to increased fears for Ardern’s safety at the Upper Treaty Grounds.

Although the Waitangi National Trust announcement has not been confirmed by the Beehive, it does raise several important issues relating to the coming election year.

Threats of violence and nastiness against politicians

Government politicians have been reporting increased hostility, harassment, and threats of violence this year. And anyone who closely watches politics will be aware of rising levels of toxicity and nastiness in political debate. Of course, some of it comes from the politicians themselves.

One of the most notable threats of violence in 2022 came when Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson needed the Diplomatic Protection Service to help him board a plane in Whangarei after protesters, apparently opposed to the closure of the Marsden Point oil refinery, chased him with lamingtons.

Act Party leader, David Seymour, responded: “I would have thought that Grant Robertson would be a much bigger threat to lamingtons than lamingtons would be a threat to Grant Robertson”. This was Massey University’s quote of the year this week.

Of course, much more serious threats to safety occurred right outside the Beehive when the Covid anti-mandate protesters occupied the Parliamentary lawn for three weeks. Since then, hostilities have dissipated and Ardern herself recently said tensions have reduced since the Covid mandates have been dismantled.

Last week the anti-vax movement attempted to hold a large demonstration on Parliament grounds again, but despite lots of publicity the protest only managed to attract 20 people at its height. So, despite fears of disinformation and hate fuelling a growing movement of conspiracy theorists, this has largely turned out to be more of a bogeyman.

But there are still serious worries for next year’s election campaign. At last month’s Labour Party conference there was concern expressed about whether candidates would be exposed to increased threats on the campaign, including “insidious trolling”. Labour says it is reconsidering whether to do public campaigning such as walkabouts in shopping malls.

Certainly, being openly heckled in public, and especially at Waitangi, would be terrible PR for the Prime Minister and in great contrast to the Jacindamania in the more positive election years of 2017 and 2020.

It’s possible rising threats to politicians, and any need to cancel the Waitangi barbecue, could be leveraged by Labour in its attempt to be re-elected. One of the party’s themes for next year will be the need to stick with a “safe pair of hands” during dangerous and difficult times.

By emphasising the economic risks together with the dangers of far-right radicals, conspiracy theories and rising disinformation, the Government might be able to convince people to vote for the “devil you know” rather than risking a change of government. Labour can therefore be able to position itself not as a “Government of Transformation” but more as the conservative option at a time of great uncertainty.

Increased debates about public safety

Politicians will need to be very careful in how they characterise themselves as victims of threats of violence or aggression at a time when there are heightened concerns about violent crime in the community. The increased number of violent attacks on dairies and ram raids on shops is starting to resonate widely.

There are many appeals for the Government to do more about violent crime, with widespread concern that they are not taking the problem seriously. Therefore, politicians will need to think twice about crying “poor me” when dairy workers are being shot or having their fingers cut off by criminals, as seen in the weekend.

More generally, when there is increased public pain caused by economic recession and a cost of living crisis, politicians looking for sympathy might not be received well.

Rotorua-based Labour MP Tamati Coffey went public earlier in the year about his Labour-branded car being scratched, forcing him to remove the party branding. But much of the public debate that followed was about his lack of leadership in the Rotorua housing crisis and emergency motel scandal.

So, how much sympathy the public will have for politicians in the firing line is yet to be seen. There might be some sense that the Beehive-ensconced politicians are a being a bit rich when they occasionally get a dose of the real world.

There might also be cynicism that politicians complaining about their safety are seeking the sympathy vote rather than soberly dealing with a real issue. In October, for example, National leader Christopher Luxon said his party was happy to help establish a cross-party group to work out how improve politician safety, but pointed out that “nobody has raised any issues with National, including the Green Party or the Labour Party, who seem to be more keen on raising the issue through media”.

Labour’s changing orientation to te ao Māori

The reported decision to cancel the Prime Minister’s Waitangi barbecue raises questions about Labour’s whole orientation to the traditional Waitangi celebrations in 2023. It is surprising that this much celebrated breakfast event even needs to be cancelled, as it is probably the most secure part of the Waitangi celebrations – it takes place in a controlled area of the Treaty Grounds, encircled by security fences. The ability of the Diplomatic Protection Service to ensure safety at the event would not normally be questioned.

Of course, there is a history of aggravation and violence towards politicians at Waitangi. Don Brash got hit by mud thrown at him in 2004, Prime Minister John Key was assaulted in 2009, and Steven Joyce got a rubber dildo thrown at him in 2016. But this was all at the Te Tii Marae on the lower grounds of Waitangi – quite a different area to the Treaty Grounds, where the barbecue takes place.

Although there are no signs that the Prime Minister and Government are abandoning the Waitangi events entirely, the reported cancellation of the barbecue could simply suggest that Labour is wanting to distance itself from a strong association with te ao Māori in election year.

At the moment the Labour Government is facing a significant battle to turn around their drop in popularity and a very difficult re-election campaign. Labour knows that it needs to jettison unpopular policies and associations – and there seems to be a growing recognition in the party that the dominance of the Māori caucus and aspirations of the co-governance agenda has harmed their reputation at a time when the Government has failed to deliver on core issues.

Co-governance now seems to be on hold for election year, as signalled this month by Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson. The reality is that all of Labour’s focus groups and polling will be telling them that a large part of the public is suspicious of Labour’s agenda in terms of co-governance and the Treaty.

Therefore, it’s possible that issues of ethnicity, the Treaty, and Labour’s orientation to te ao Māori are exactly where Labour will seek a major recalibration in 2023. If this is the case, then they will be doing all that they can not to start the political year with a strong association with first, the Ratana Church celebrations in January, and then with Waitangi in February.

Labour is also going to have to deal with some push back on this from not just their own Māori caucus, but also Māori leaders and the NGO sector. For example, this week over 60 NGOs signed an open letter calling for Labour to “pick up the pace” on co-governance instead of burying the agenda. Similar pro-Treaty and co-governance protests against the Government could easily occur at Waitangi if Labour makes itself and Ardern an easy target. It’s possibly in this context of Labour “abandoning Māori” in 2023, that the Prime Minister’s Waitangi BBQ needed to be cancelled.

But it’s high stakes. Labour’s hold on some of the Māori electorates could be under threat. And at Waitangi, don’t be surprised if Te Pati Māori, or even David Seymour, turn up with bread and sausages to feed the masses in a symbolic stunt to illustrate that Labour is no longer delivering.

Items of interest and importance today

PARLIAMENT
Graham Adams (The Platform): Mainstream journalists smell blood in the water
Chris Trotter (Interest): A new government, but no change, in 2023
Bridie Witton (Stuff): ACT leader David Seymour’s year of asking the hard questions
Brent Edwards (NBR): Finance Minister’s plan to ward off recession (paywalled)
Brent Edwards (NBR): Nicola Willis is committed to fiscal discipline (paywalled)
Bryce Wilkinson (Newsroom): Budget 2023: Feeding the chooks for the general election
Brigitte Morten (NBR): Bah humbug: Christmas ghosts may haunt Labour Government (paywalled)
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): Jacinda Ardern blindsided by Harry and Meghan Netflix doco – has not spoken to Duke and Duchess about it
1News: Jacinda Ardern features in Harry and Megan’s latest Netflix doco
Stuff: Jacinda Ardern to appear in Meghan and Harry’s next Netflix project
RNZ: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to feature in Prince Harry and Meghan’s ‘Live to Lead’ documentary
The Standard: The one thing Jacinda Ardern can do is speak to our hearts
Justin Wong (Stuff): Ōhāriu MP Greg O’Connor to stand for re-election in 2023
Federico Magrin (Manawatū Standard): Tangi Utikere confirmed as Labour candidate for Palmerston North
Torika Tokalau (Stuff): Political career came at a cost to my family, Aupito William Sio says
Stuff: Yeah, Nah: Do you support the Government’s big reforms?

YEAR IN REVIEW
Alexander Gillespie (The Conversation): NZ report card 2022: some foreign bragging rights but room for improvement at home
Duncan Garner (NBR): My politician of the year is unconvincing (paywalled)
Gareth Vaughan (Interest): The 2022 Interesties Awards
David Farrar: Kiwiblog Awards Winners 2022

501 DEPORTEE RULING, JUSTICE
Audrey Young (Herald): Court decision on 501 deportee set to force rethink by Parliament
Erin Gourley (Stuff): Treatment of 501 deportee is unlawful and breaches human rights – High Court
Hamish Cardwell (RNZ): Alan Hall case: Law professor not surprised police asked to probe Crown prosecutors’ role

EMPLOYMENT, BUSINESS
Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): Don’t delay on modern slavery law, Govt told
Chlöe Swarbrick (Herald): Unions show that we win together
Christian van der Pump (Stuff): The causes of ‘market failure’ in the building industry

ECONOMY, COST OF LIVING
Maria English (Stuff): Kiwis need to be able to see everything they owe the Government in one place
David Chaplin (BusinessDesk): Ghosts of inflation past (paywalled)
Rebecca Howard (BusinessDesk): Is big Christmas spending a last hurrah? (paywalled)

COVID-19
Tim Watkin (Pundit): Slouching Towards Christmas In This Year Of Covid
Rowan Quinn (RNZ): Covid-19: 600,000 vaccine doses expire within weeks
Charlotte Muru-Lanning (Spinoff): It’s beginning to look a lot like a Covid surge
Melanie Carroll (Stuff): Teacher fired after refusing Covid jab loses unjustified dismissal claim

HEALTH
Rowan Quinn (RNZ): Omicron, lack of staff blamed for ongoing surgery delays
RNZ: New Dunedin hospital faces cost pressures and delays as beds, services cut
Stuff: Fewer beds, operating theatres at Dunedin’s new hospital after budget blowout
Joseph Los’e (Herald): Māori undercounted and under-resourced in health putea, new data report confirms
Emma Hatton (Newsroom): No Te Ao Māori plan for child mental health facility
RNZ: Sunbed operators caught ignoring melanoma risks

LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Steven Walton (Stuff): Councillors instructed not to talk publicly about chief executive’s pay rise
Logan Savory (Stuff): Invercargill City Council ‘blindsided’ by Audit New Zealand delay
Logan Savory (Stuff): Councillor: Paying mana whenua reps less ‘is not in good faith’
Todd Niall (Stuff): Wayne Brown recalls the 1988 demolition of His Majesty’s Theatre
Nicholas Boyack (Stuff): Skyrocketing costs lift proposed rates rise for Hutt City to 8.9%
Justin Wong (Stuff): New Kāpiti mayor spent nearly $20,000 on election campaign

HOUSING
Olivia Caldwell (Stuff): Rental shortages bite as tourist towns of Queenstown and Wānaka struggle to attract staff
Jenée Tibshraeny (Herald): Higher incomes help boost housing affordability

CRIME
Richard Prebble (Herald): How the cost of cigarettes is fuelling a crime wave (paywalled)
Benn Bathgate (Stuff): Ramraid generation: ‘These kids are broken’

EDUCATION
Alisha Evans (RNZ): Bay of Plenty primary principals want greater recognition of workload
Tom Taylor (RNZ): Piercing ban for boys to stay at Auckland’s Mount Albert Grammar school

OTHER
Dileepa Fonseka (Stuff): Could a Ministry of Works help close New Zealand’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure gap?
Steven Cowan: The Wellington protest: The liberal left defends the status quo
Luke Kirkness (Bay of Plenty Times): Government and Minister Jan Tinetti deserve praise for firefighters deal (paywalled)
Katie Doyle (Stuff): Open letter calls for work on UNDRIP to keep moving
Phil Pennington (RNZ): Archives NZ apologises for privacy breach involving former psychiatric hospital
Daniel Smith (Stuff): Stolen NZ data listed for sale on dark web
Erin Johnson (Stuff): Why DOC couldn’t intervene when concrete was poured next to penguin chicks
Lisa Tumahai (Herald): Climate change: Our moana is in a perilous state – Ngāi Tahu
Catherine McGregor (Spinoff): The Volcano: Rescue from Whakaari tells a harrowing story of pain and resilience

NO COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY

58 − 55 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.