It has taken a while but tensions are finally starting to show within the parties that form the Government. Jason Walls argues Andrew Little put it best: ‘This is just coalition government’

It has taken a while but tensions are finally starting to show within the parties that form the Government. Jason Walls argues Andrew Little put it best: ‘This is just coalition government’
Winston Peters, Jacinda Ardern & James Shaw, by Jacky Carpenter.

By Jason Walls

It took eight months for the first proper test of this MMP Government to play out – and it did so in spectacular fashion.

This week has seen both the Greens and New Zealand First disagreeing publicly with Labour over key government policies.

NZ First Leader Winston Peters got the ball rolling on Monday after Justice Minister Andrew Little revealed he would not be going before Cabinet to get an endorsement for repealing the three-strikes law.

The reason? “New Zealand First have indicated they would be unlikely to support it.”

“This is just Coalition Government,” Little said, several times when speaking to press.

His boss, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, echoed his comments just hours later.

The next day, it was the Greens' turn.

Land Information Minister, and Green MP, Eugenie Sage and Associate Finance Minister David Clark announced a Chinese bottling company had been given Government approval to purchase a spring in the Bay of Plenty to export a billion litres of drinking water a year.

According to Stuff, Green Party members were furious with the decision.

And rightly so. Before the election, the party had a policy to ban any new water bottling consents, to impose levies on water exports and more concretely respect Treaty of Waitangi water rights.

Greens Co-Leader Marama Davidson was clear in her opposition – “we don’t like it,” she said.

“The Minister (Sage) was constrained by a flawed law which says we're unable to take environmental and treaty decisions into account. This decision does not sit with Green Kaupapa and longstanding Green Party positions,” she said.

Taking these two issues on their own is problematic enough for the Prime Minister.

But add in the fact Peters is suing his own Government for almost half a million dollars and is doing so just as Ardern goes on maternity leave, it’s nothing short of a nightmare for the Government.

But that’s just MMP

The events of this week were seemingly dramatic, especially after all three parties have been playing nice since the Government was formed.

In April, I wrote about how the Coalition had yet to be fractured and, at least in front of the cameras, Peters, Ardern and James Shaw & Davidson were presenting a united front.

But it was inevitable there would eventually be public tension, especially in a Government where Peters is the lynch pin.

The events of this week should not have been unexpected, however, as this is simply how MMP governments work.

Over the nine years National was in power it faced some similar issues with its partners. However, given the significant difference in Coalition partner sizes, it didn’t dominate headlines as much.

In other countries with MMP, this sort of behaviour is all part and parcel of the system.

And people are used to it. In Germany, which adopted the MMP system shortly after World War II, it’s reasonably common for coalition partners to be critical of one another.  

But the MMP system of government has only been around for 20 years in New Zealand and many people still have a first past the post mindset.

It is likely to take many more years before displays, like the ones this week, become a monotony and not a spectical.

But if any government is going to help kiwis understand our own system of democracy, it’s this one.

Andrew Little, had it right: “This is just coalition government.”  

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Ah, MMP, the nice system of comfortable stagnation. The Land of The Lotus Eaters, where nice ideas can play and unpleasant decisons avoided. You gotta love it.

It is indeed. As a tail end boomer in the sweet spot I love MMP. I’d far prefer a National Government instead of this coalition of losers, but the reality is that MMP politically neuters the extremists on both sides and leaves us with a status quo life. Long may it continue.

Yes, people are likely to be in favor of leadership that supports their self interest. Whether it's a coalition, National, or Labour, that doesn't change. It also means that political leadership and governance is overwhelmingly dictated by populism.

This kinda goes with the classic aphorism...

"If you aren't a liberal at the age of 25, you have no heart. If you aren't a conservative at the age of 35, you have no mind".

Just goes to show how home ownership by 35 was taken for granted by previous generations.

So really the headline for this article should read:

"Government debates serious issues confronting Nation - media and neo-cons gobsmacked. Populace stunned by Brazil draw. Dollar falls."

Nothing to see here.


I suspect most NZers don’t really care too much about these kind of coalition disagreements. In fact they possibly see them as a welcome relief and contrast to the last Government which consistently denied the truth over many issues e.g. the Auckland housing hyperinflation. At least this crowd are relatively open & honest enough to acknowledge certain unpalatable economic and social issues even if they have a few internal & public disagreements. I think NZers realise now that there is little that can be done at this late stage of national disintegration (excuse the pun) - although you have to wonder why Labour would continue this unwise practice of giving away our precious water to an entity with low human rights.

It's funny to watch those losers in opposition, especially in parliament, lead by a nutter

I find it interesting to watch. 9 years of being use to being "in charge" where you can be a complete asshole to your staff with no consequences to being in opposition, totally neutered and being unable to cope with it.

I wonder how long it will take them to get their act together and starting developing policies a majority of NZers would vote for under the MMP system.

Greens don't mention 1 billion litres of water = 1 billion plastic bottles. Per year!

Yeah the plastic bottles is an obvious way to resolve the issue and sidestep water rights. I wrote a blog post explaining about how elegant taxing plastic bottles is as a solution to the water bottling issue:

That is the solution, put a 5c tax per litre of liquid, or part thereof, destined for human consumption and packaged in an plastic container. The tax would cover imports, exports and goods destined for domestic consumption.

It still misses the opportunity for the country to gain a share of the profits from the export of its in-demand natural resources, something that NZ is silly to just give away for free.

Also, seems to me this is ultimately easily avoided by the export market. They can simply follow the wine industry and export in large bladders in shipping containers - also avoiding the waste of empty air around each water bottle.

Ummm capturing a share of the profits is exactly what it does 5c per litre share.

As for the whole bladder thing are they made out of plastic? Because if so that is covered.

Perhaps they could fill other things but would people still want fresh NZ water if it was shipped in a tanker to China and bottled there? Probably best just to pay 5c a litre.

It doesn't capture it if it can be avoided by exporting in a different container. There's no assumption a bladder is included in taxation targeting plastic bottles.

Hasn't stopped consumers overseas drinking NZ wine that is shipped overseas prior to bottling, no.

If we could get water exports to 100B litres then 5c per litre is worth $5B per annum. That is between a third and a quarter of all the revenue we get from GST.

and the environmental damage and CC impacts are mind boggling, so that is a no.

Time to consider that we have finite resources and charge appropriately for it so it isnt wasted and its transport impacts are mitigated.

If we could capture the outfall from Manapouri at 500 Cumecs a second and ship it by the tanker load even at 5c a litre the tax take would pay for a lot of needed expenditure currently crowded out by the COLL pre election spending splurge.

They can p($$ right off ..........Its water got goodness sake ............. it falls out of the sky ........... and I catch it in a very big tank and use it for free.

Anyone who thinks I am going to pay a single tax cent for water which was sent here by God ( or whoever ) for a shower , to flush the dunny or wash the dishes or clothes had better think twice.

It will never happen

MMP - the system where a life time trougher who can’t win a constituent seat gets to decide who governs us. There are much better proportion rep systems out there and we are stuck with this dog and fleas like Winston.

The main aim of coalitions is to avoid self-destruction.


They have finally arrived - the real Coalition of Losers (COLs)

You must be REentering a state of depression, having to stand at the sidelines and watch.. lolz

Vs the coalition of liars. Easy choice.

yet they represent 5%+ of the dispersed population who in a democracy should be represented, meanwhile we have ACT who cant get much more than 0.4% who in your book should get influence. Not with my vote that is for sure.

No I don't agree the ACT should decide who governs either. There are plenty of proportional representation systems out there who can accommodate the 5% who voted NZF and the 0.4% ACT and decide who leads.

The current system is a haven for life politician and behind closed doors deal making.

Yes this is MMP, so National party wimps, get used to it.

Except the clowns have taken over the circus and its likely to be a really expensive job cleaning up the mess they are making


Seems to be working to me. Labour and greens wanted to repeal three strikes, nz first is arguing for more consideration. Govt approves water bottling plan, green MPs question it. This might look disorganised but these are areas that need more thought. I’m ok if there are impediments to a government ramming through a single minded view of a complex issue.

Certainly makes a change to years of ramming things through under urgency, and toeing the party line.


If only there were actual impediments.

The water bottling for export in single use plastic bottles, well, it has already been approved despite questions after the fact. The cancellation of searching for oil, decreed prior to any discussion. Where should we be looking for these supposed impediments to a single minded government ramming through single minded views?

Contra to Jason's article wherein a weary acceptance of MMP is argued for, it needs to be recalled that Godzone has no Constitution (unlike the US and Britain), no Upper House to allow measured reflection on legislation, and a tendency (shown all too clearly in the case of the Taranaki Hari-kiri re Oil/Gas) to sweeping, precipitate and (so it seems) completely reflexive action.

This is to be sure, occasional. But it is nonetheless extremely unsettling, especially for the targeted groups. This sort of action is fairly much what is behind the continued slide in business confidence: the question that all think but few say out loud is simply 'what will these clowns do next?'.

It can fairly be advanced that the sort of populism we see now in NZ is an attempt to substitute State action of one sort or another for a fractured sense of national culture and the sacred. Feelz, the faith-based Green initiatives, the raw narcissim of the Winstone Ganders of our Parliament, the inchoate visions of Maori resurgence, the general retreat into solipsism have become the standard fare, and a thin gruel it is.

The results: a plethora of mindless acts (especially by youth, who feel all this anomie most intensely), suicides and self-harm, a deep series of fractures and the start of the demonisations we thought were behind us in the Bad Old Past - boomers vs Millenials, rural vs urban, Greens vs our present level of comfort, renters vs landlords, Awkland vs the rest of the country, cities vs provinces, makers vs takers, vegans vs omnivores, and on and on ad infinitum. There is nothing here to unite us if these chasms widen. And attempts by Gubmints to rub Statist balm, using our own extorted money, into these essentially spiritual communal wounds, miss the mark so completely as to be farcical.

David Goldman argues that a sense of the sacred is needed to give purpose to life

These all are manifestations of what is commonly called the identity crisis of the West, but might better be termed the West’s struggle with the sacred. By “sacred”, I mean that which endures beyond our lifetime and beyond the lifetime of our children, the enduring characteristics that make us unique and will continue to distinguish us from the other peoples of the world, and which cannot be violated without destroying our sense of who we are. The sacred is what a country’s soldiers are willing to die to protect; unless there is something for which we are willing to die, we will find nothing for which we are willing to live.

Tradition surely is part of this, but not every part of our tradition is sacred to us: we find within tradition elements that have prevailed through the ages and which we expect to prevail, if our present existence is to have a purpose, beyond our lifetimes. These elements of tradition cannot exist except through a nation: contrary to Hillary Clinton, it takes not a village but a nation to embody the language, customs and ethos that found our identity. The invariant feature of the various expressions of nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic is an attempt to recapture the past in order to envision a future. “Identity” as a concept is meaningless, except as it is rooted in the past and pointed toward the future. Who we are at the moment depends on where we came from and where we expect to go. Our present, as Augustine argued in Confessions XI, is a composite of memory and anticipation.

Augustine (in City of God XXIV) famously took issue with Cicero’s definition of a res publica as an association founded on common interest, arguing instead that it was founded on a common love. It might be more accurate to say that it is founded on a common sense of the sacred, for the sacred embodies not only love but also awe and fear, specifically the fear that by violating the elements of tradition that define us we will lose ourselves.

" violating the elements of tradition that define us we will lose ourselves" - but what, any more, Defines Us in the here and now?

Politicians, whatever their personal characteristics, do reflect something of the zeitgeist. And it is not a pretty image that we see in that dim mirror. After all, just ponder the various comment threads here on Interest, for confirmation......

Quite an in-depth comment, Waymad!
You could publish ...

I do blog and have done for 15 years, but less recently of late. And the sombre mood in which I composed this little Sunday Sermon was occasioned by a clear-out of the attic, with its layers of family history, in preparation for a hybrid solar install.

While not as eloquent as Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard, you may care to think of it as 'Waymad's Elegy composed in a Dusty Attic'.

I say, you're darn philosophical today. I usually get lost with the words on such things, but your meaning is clear. Desolation and fragmentation in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. I guess I was talking about some part of that the other day when comparing the heroism of George Stevenson's railway building to the Auckland council's weak latter day attempted imitation. A lack of purpose and direction.

Is it the time of year do you suppose? The last few weeks of the solar year as we approach the middle of the darkest quarter. I seem to take note of the time of year more these days, so 6 May to 21 June probably does encourage some tendency to feel a bit detached. I know I find that as the days start getting longer I seem to get livelier and kick off new things. I too have been trying to sort out stuff from the past the last few days, 'tis a strange endeavour, of unexplainable texture and complexity.

'unexplainable texture' indeed. I also have re-read Lars Mytting 'Sixteen Trees of the Somme' over the last week, which added a certain shade of Nordic Noir to proceedings.

But on the bright side: Hutt has 3/4 metre of snow and a shoosh down the slopes always helps.

Waymad, I see at the top of your blog page you have this attributed to Huxley:

The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.

Now isn't this the sort of attitude that has led us to our fractured state? It's a kind of sixties, hippie thing. After all do soldiers willing to die for their nation refuse to acknowledge authority? No. Do they rely on blind faith? Yes. These can be quite good qualities at certain times.

However I do get the impression that should a leader arise who comes for your children in order to turn them into soldiers willing to die for their nation and demands that they worship the sacred you would be rather against this.

Instead of plaintively mourning the loss of tradition and the sense of the sacred you could turn your attention to the fact that what is awry right now is that so many don't question authority and that so many do indeed have blind faith and do in fact hold certain things sacred, it's just not the same things that you hold dear.

Just a thought for a Winter's evening.

I think you may be confusing the quote author - Thomas Huxley 1825-1895 ('Darwin's bulldog' - a noted biologist) with Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) - the later novelist (the Huxleys were a talented lot)..

Aldous certainly wrote about mescaline and other chemical propellants, but is more regarded now for 'Brave New World', in which (Brittanica, again)

..presents a nightmarish vision of a future society in which psychological conditioning forms the basis for a scientifically determined and immutable caste system that, in turn, obliterates the individual and grants all control to the World State.

China is rapidly actualising this scheme with its Social Credit Score, wherein, according to the April Atlantic Monthly the state objective for it is to

allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.

Waymad, I'm really more focused on the statement's message rather than the author. The sixties saw a general rebellion of youth against authority and the so called "sacred" things. Things like war and sexual mores. This trend started even earlier than the earlier Huxley having started off in the age of enlightenment.

The point I'm trying to get across is that if you champion improving knowledge by defying authority, being sceptical and considering faith a sin then you shouldn't be too surprised if things change pretty radically and those changes don't make you happy.

I agree with the statement. I'm just saying the focus of your energy should be more on challenging current authority and current notions of the sacred rather than mourning an idealized perception of how things once were.

The individual's right to choose his own path and his own opinions is paramount. It should be celebrated that people are able to mock the sacred. The trend nowadays is for increasing authority and radical conceptions of what is sacred and a disturbing demonization of people who challenge it.

Of course, I think you "get" this, I just don't think we should stress mourning that which has passed but rather try to improve the future which will always be different.

The answer is Burning Pallet Man on the top of Mt Eden for the Summer Solstice.

It's not such a silly idea, the Norwegians do something similar:

Pallet of Fire

Obvs Wellington already has an equivalent

I'm sure Auckland can do something more epic, more masculine,.... but good effort Wellington.

Agree. NZ's heritage as a nation is one of generations helping each other and passing down something great, something Kiwi.

I've quoted Douglas Murrary's comments on Edmund Burke's philosophy before:

It's my belief that Edmund Burke was right in the central point of his philosophy: that a culture, a society is not simply about us here now, but it is a deal between the dead, the living and those yet to be born. And that you cannot break that pact, and that what you have inherited you do not have the right to give away, any more than you have the right to destroy future generations of your own family or future generations yet unborn, it is a very central pact of civilisation, that deal, between the dead, the living and the yet to be born.

If you give it up and say it doesn't matter if the next generations' society resembles Mogadishu more than Stockholm, then you are breaking that pact.

As long as the understand they're replaceable - and increasingly, replaced - so that those born at the right time can enjoy greater enrichment, ripe to have debt foisted on them to reduce costs to the older generations, and expected to keep the older generations in a comfortable lifestyle regardless, there's simply an imbalance that will continue to fracture the sense of sacred, of a nation.

I can certainly understand the growth in intergenerational resentment as we've seen consideration of what should be passed down being abandoned in favour of treating everything as a business, of seeing Gordon Gecko as something to aspire to rather than a lesson, of society as something to enrich oneself rather than have some sort of mutuality with.

Peters is suing his own Government? Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes, the Attorney General on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development, and former National ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley.

This is great stuff guys. I've often wondered why we're so keen to do different things when we've a remarkable heritage over the past 1,000 years (even 2,000) or so. I suppose the new stuff is adding to that heritage? I hope so.
We have in NZ Inc gone (and indeed are still going) through a time of reconciliation. It is an audit. And it is a painful thing for many, on both sides. Our future as a nation very much hangs in the balance as we negotiate our way through the minefield that we know as The Waitangi Tribunal. Our past is our past. We can rewrite it and pretend to be insulted or we can recognise the faults and failings on both sides and try to resurrect some sort of 21st Century Nationhood that most (if not all) can psychologically buy into, or belong to, or recognise as a land of opportunity for everyone that calls Aotearoa New Zealand home.
The theory's fine but the application towards a successful result (for most if not all) is still the key here. We have so many cultures now living here it's hard to define what that is exactly, and we have groups within that who are trying to persuade the discussion in their favour, because they have the chance. While others grumble about their definition of events and refuse point blank to see the other side of the story, we end up shouting at one another from across the tracks and struggling to get anywhere. This may not be a particularly memorable part of our history, but is a very important part to work through, try and agree on and move forward. Those in this darkness, which some say has been here for 200 years, should try to understand that even within themselves that anger and revenge and hate and slaughter and all that utu was in this land before the Pakeha arrived. In fact, it could have been the reason why the great canoes set out in the first place from the 'Islands of yore' all those many centuries before.
Too much fighting and not enough understanding.

We need to get rid of this Government ASAP .

We have gone from a successful growing, well tuned and well oiled economy, with almost full employment, a lower personal tax rate than Aussie and a stable sensible Government, to a dysfunctional bunch of rabble rousers , none of whom have ever had to generate a single Dollar in their lives, who think money grows on trees or comes from a Bank .

We are going regret voting these palookas into the ring to box for us . ( if you dont know what a palooka is Google it )

And that regret may just come in the form of a recession triggered by these fools upsetting he balance