WRONG! Wrong! Wrong! In blasting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s NZ government as “losers take power”, the Murdoch media got it wrong on at least three levels.
Firstly, Ardern and her Labour coalition won government while the real losers are the elected members of the NZ National Party.
Secondly, Ardern gathered the numbers to be elected as a “first amongst equals” in a manner consistent with Westminster tradition.
Thirdly, by pulling together the group of what the Sydney “Daily Telegraph” called “the minnows”, NZ Labour has won government. Hardly the stuff of losers.
Look at the flipside; the inability of the tired, decade-old conservative National Party of former prime minister Bill English to win the trust of a majority of MPs. If the “losers” brand is to be applied, it is to the National Party which has wound up on opposition benches with just over 44 per cent of the vote compared to Labour’s 37 per cent.
The problem for “The Australian” and other Murdoch papers is they believe their own rhetoric and play a key role in attempting to have populist presidential elections in Westminster systems.
Westminster elections are not presidential. That is not our system. Voters elect a local representative and hand over the responsibility to them, as elected members of parliament, to appoint the prime minister.
The only government the Murdoch media sees as “good government” is conservative with majority control. Under the headline “Let NZ be a warning”, the “Daily Telegraph” ran an editorial encouraging Australians to: “Give thought to their votes in any election, because votes carelessly cast can deliver unexpected – and possibly negative – outcomes”.
The experience across Australian jurisdictions is that majority governments dominated by Labor or Liberal have not necessarily been more stable than minority governments. Minority governments have invariably been more accountable.
Ardern will have the support of Winston Peters’ New Zealand First Party and the Greens, commanding 63 of the 124 seats – a majority of just two.
Conservative governments internationally have delivered greater and greater inequity. In contrast, Ardern has promised “an economy that works and delivers for all New Zealanders”. She has good reason. The 2017 Oxfam report identified just eight billionaires have the wealth of the poorest 3.6 billion people in the world and, in Australia, the wealth of the top one per cent is equivalent to the bottom 70 per cent.
More pertinent, Oxfam also identified multinationals as fuelling the inequality crisis. As one of the huge multinational conglomerates, it ought not to be surprising that Rupert Murdoch’s empire would find ways to rail against anything but a government that looks after itself and the ultra-wealthy rather than ordinary people.
Ardern’s belief is that “capitalism must regain its human face”. Ironically, this is supported by one-time National Party treasurer, Winston Peters, who identified “the importance of policies that restrain the operation of free markets”.
The rapid rise to power of the youngest leader in NZ since the 1800s is extraordinary. Ardern became head of the electorally dismissed NZ Labour Party only a month and a half before the September election. She has demonstrated extraordinary leadership during the election campaign followed by successful negotiations to form government. This bodes well for NZ’s third woman as Prime Minister*.
The clearest message from the NZ elections is awareness that the vice-grip of the two major parties in both our countries is being loosened as electors see the importance and effectiveness of broader representation.
*The other two are Jenny Shipley (1997–99) and Helen Clark (1999–2008).