Diane Revoluta

Something is rotten in the state of New Zealand

Yesterday somewhere between 2000-5000 people marched in Wellington against the government’s plans to partially sell state assets. This followed a similar sized march in Auckland last weekend and a week-long hikoi starting in Cape Reinga. After last year’s record low voter turn out, it would seem that when it comes to political issues apathy is rife in New Zealand. People seem disinterested in the traditional ways in which politicians engage with the public and disillusioned by the corruption and lack of integrity displayed by some politicians. Which is why the size of these protests and the strength of the opposition to asset sales is all the more impressive. Protest is the antithesis of apathy, and the fact that an issue has mobilised so many New Zealanders is good reason for the government to sit up and take notice.

Did John Key sit up and take notice? No. In fact, John Key’s response to thousands of New Zealanders spending their lunch break protesting on the streets (and thousands more supporting them from around the country on Twitter, Facebook and other online forums) was this:

“How many people did they have? Ok, where was it? [laughs] Well, OK, no I wasn’t aware of it.” 

More repugnant than his words is his manner. Key laughs and smirks as he dismisses this protest – the angry, desperate voices of thousands of the people he represents demanding answers.  When around 10’000 people protest over your actions in the space of a week, you know about it. And if you don’t – if you’re not ‘aware of it’ and you show a complete lack of interest in being made aware of it – you are positioning yourself as a leader content on acting without the support of the people and without even the respect to listen to their grievances. The image of that hardened face, scornful smirk and that disdainful laugh are not images of democratic governance. We elect our leaders to represent us: to listen, engage and give life to the will of the people. The very reason we participate in the democratic process is the expectation that the successful candidate will act as a voice for all of the people – not just those who voted for them. A leader who refuses to answers the hard questions, a man who laughs at thousands of his people voicing a plea for change and disrespects the sense injustice that drives people to protest, is not fulfilling their function as a democratically elected leader. At the very least, John Key has a duty to listen to and respect those with a dissenting view.

Last night, Key appeared on Campbell Live for perhaps one of his longest and most pressing interviews in some time. For this, people congratulated him. They said that John Key had ‘fronted up’ and YOU GO JOHN KEY, YOU GO for doing so. John Key deserves no praise for finally agreeing to an interview with a reputable journalist. The fact we see Key fronting up to the media on controversy within his government and hard questions stemming from his actions as a rare event and one for which he deserves praise reflects a dire state. This is part of John Key’s job description. Currently, he is the teacher that refuses to get up in front of a classroom; he is actor that refuses to perform. As the leader of a democratic state, paid and entrusted with power by the people, he has a duty to ‘front up’ and be accountable for both his actions and that of his government. This is not something to be congratulated; this is something to be expected.

Every day I hear Radio New Zealand reiterate that ‘John Key is unavailable for comment’ on whatever the pressing issue of that day. John Key is never available for comment. He is available to Year 6 students to discuss the perks of being prime minister, yet he is unavailable for interviews with one of the most widely listened to and reputable radio shows in the country – every morning and every day. If John Key wants to discuss how much he enjoys being prime minister, what, with all of that free food and spare change jangling in his pocket, that is just fine with me. But that is the warm fuzzy part of being a democratically elected leader. His core function is to represent and be accountable to the people. It is this function for which John Key needs to start being ‘available’.

John Key states that this government has a mandate for asset sales, given that ‘over one million New Zealanders voted for National’ in the 2011 election. Despite this incredibly flawed logic that ignores the fact people vote for a party for a myriad of reasons – perhaps least of all policy – and the fact Labour, as the only viable alternative for many voters, was wallowing in the depths of unpopularity, this argument cannot withstand a citizens initiated referendum that patently states he does not have this mandate; that the majority of New Zealanders – red, blue or otherwise – oppose asset sales. If this referendum takes place, a vote on the single issue of asset sales must override his supposed ‘election mandate’. If it does not, and if he continues to smirk and laugh in the face of widespread opposition and discontent, this country needs sit up and take one, long look at where we are heading. Because there is something rotten in the state of New Zealand and it is this: we have a government that is committed to seeing through its agenda with absolutely no respect for the will of its people; a government more concerned with backroom deals and short-term solutions than representative government and this country’s long-term future. We have a man leading us who does not see it as not his problem – not something about which he should even be aware – that thousands of people are vocally opposing his government’s plans. A man who has the audacity to laugh in the face of his people, who continuously refuses to be held to account for the actions of his government, and a man who is disinterested in the mounting frustration and unrest in New Zealand, is something rotten and we all need to sit up and take notice.    

  1. imhawaian reblogged this from dianerevoluta
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  4. cyclingisbetter reblogged this from dianerevoluta and added:
    get shit done you need...both embarrass this...hunger strike...
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  10. horizonofexpectation reblogged this from dianerevoluta and added:
    Very well articulated.
  11. iamdanbain reblogged this from dianerevoluta and added:
    Great post.
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    I won’t reblog the whole thing, other than to note this excerpt from the writer: ‘Key laughs and smirks as he dismisses...
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