It looks like we’ll have a new government locked in and ready to go some time in the next 24 hours. And I’m looking forward to seeing the new line-up in action.
Of course to date, all we have seen from our new leaders is the infrequent discussions with the media about the process of forming the coalition. But it seems they’re now poised to get into it and we should be excited. After all, it’s what we voted for.
After the distractions of the last six years, one of the positives is that we now have some people of calibre in the leadership roles. And I like the mix.
We have the experienced businessman. The highly experienced politician. And finally the person who offers up the most common sense of anyone from either side of the political spectrum. They should be a good combination. If, and here’s the big if, they can put their differences and their egos aside, and work together.
A line up like that has potential. But like many with potential, their biggest danger is to themselves.
Beyond the leadership there appears to be plenty of capability too. Some are well known. National’s Nicola Willis, Shane Reti, Mark Mitchell and Erica Stanford have always come across as being current, informed and no nonsense.
But there is plenty of talent in the wider coalition team. Act brings the youthful energy of Brooke Van Velden and, at a time when the farming sector needs all the help it can get, former Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard to the table. NZ First will have the party number two, the highly capable but sometimes distracted Shane Jones, and former top cop and Hobson’s Pledge spokesperson Casey Costello on the team.
When I look at what may be possible, a part of my excitement comes from the fact that these are people with very credible backgrounds outside of politics.
We would do well to pause and remember that it’s only a few weeks ago that our previous government was running out of capability as the then PM sought to replace errant ministers in the months leading up to the election. As a result we had people handling substantial portfolios who didn’t have the credentials and frankly, just didn’t seem up to it.
“We have the experienced businessman. The highly experienced politician. And finally the person who offers up the most common sense of anyone from either side of the political spectrum. They should be a good combination.”
We don’t have that issue any more. There is now plenty of talent at the table, including but not limited to those listed above.
And we’re going to need it all. The issues are well known and have been discussed to the point of exhaustion over the last few years. The economy, health, education, crime, policing, racial division and so it goes.
The policies of the three coalition partners, and the potential of their people, augur well to take on these challenges.
One of our biggies is the state of Education. Erica Stanford has made an extremely good fist of dealing with that portfolio in opposition. But the Act Party, and David Seymour in particular, also have good credentials in the education space. I recently attended an event where Seymour spoke about education. He was outstanding and he would make a terrific education minister if that’s where the negotiations land him.
In opposition, Dr. Shane Reti was taking the Health portfolio so seriously that he even spent a few nights out on the ambulances. Believe it or not, the then government were upset at him doing so. But someone who is prepared to get out and spend time at the coalface of one of our biggest portfolios should be celebrated.
Then there is the multi-headed beast that comprises youth offending, major crime, policing, the courts and the judiciary. Every step in the process that results from lawlessness seems to have lost it’s way under the previous government. Mark Mitchell and Casey Costello are both ex cops and both have credentials at the policing end of the argument. But we equally need to review the court programmes, sentencing rules, the timelines and backlogs of our judicial system. The appointment of our new Attorney General will be a critical one. If he doesn’t end up in Foreign Affairs, a role for Winston Peters perhaps?
And then there is the economy. As peaceful as it’s been over the last few weeks without a government, there is plenty to do to get the economy back on track. This week’s economic news included the fact that our trade deficit continues to be too large and, with global prices under pressure, the value rather than the volume, of our exports continues to decline.
In Luxon, Peters, Seymour and Willis we should have the commercial horsepower coupled with the political wherewithal to enable a focus on getting the economy right. It won’t be quick. The new government will inherit inflation, interest rates, debt levels and cost pressures that are the worst in a generation. And I suspect that the ‘opening of the books’ will reveal more bad news than good. But again, it would seem that the new leadership has the background and skills to meet the challenge.
And so, as the picture becomes clearer, we should be positive about the skills and capabilities on offer. The line-up looks good. And so I’m confident about the competence.
Let’s just hope that they can work together.
This article was first published on Newstalk ZB Plus, 23rd November 2023.