Monday, September 19, 2005

NZ shows its true colours

So. The results are in. The coalition talks have begun. Without the special votes having been counted, the next government is looking like
  • Labour, 41% (50 seats)
  • National, 39% (49 seats)
  • New Zealand First, 6% (7 seats)
  • Green Party, 5% (6 seats)
  • Maori Party, 2% (4 seats*)
  • United Future, 3% (3 seats)
  • Act, 1.5% (2 seats)
  • Progressive Party, 1% (1 seat)

* Due to the way the MMP system of government works, the Maori Party get four seats in the house by having won four electorates, even though they won only 2% of nationwide party votes. Quite an achievement for a party that has existed for less than two years.

I was disheartened to see the Green Party only just scrape by, meeting the 5% party vote threshold to make it into parliament. I was also aghast at the radical increase in the number of National voters - from about 28% in the polls last year to about 40% at the ballot box. Here is a party who keenly advocate fostering closer relations with the US, a known global bully and the epitome of consumerist self-interest. To do so would be tantamount to handing the keys of the country over to George Dubya and his oil-suckin', SUV-ridin' christian cronies, and 'assuming the position'.
The results say to me that, as New Zealanders, we are more interested in getting tax cuts for ourselves than other pressing issues, such as the dire state of the healthcare system, and the coming oil crisis. The need of others don't seem to matter, just what we can grab for ourselves. National also want a return to burning coal as a means of electricity generation. So much for clean, green New Zealand. Great for our burgeoning tourism industry, too.

I'm not suggesting that we all rush out and take vows of charitable poverty. Neither do I deny that we are highly taxed in proportion to our incomes, and I'd love to get a better return on my tax dollar. But the time is coming when we will wish we had done something about these problems.

In a conversation I had with anyzoom last week, I noted that as future engineers, if will fall to us to enable the transition from oil-derived energy to other, cleaner methods. It will be our job to ensure the continued supply of power for electricity generation and transport. To this end, the Green party are pushing public transport and getting freight off the roads and onto railways, in order to increase efficiency and cut the number of vehicles on the road. But people are very threatened by this. (I don't own a car currently. I have owned two, and had a company car for 2½ years.) They see it as an infringement on their personal freedom. Most telling are car owners' attitudes during the past few months, when petrol prices increased. What did they do? Did they say "Geez, maybe I should use my car less"? No, they whinged and complained that petrol was too expensive because the government taxed it too highly. They wanted their tax back.

So people aren't willing to give up their energy-intensive lifestyles. They don't see that if they don't jump now, that sooner or later, they will be pushed. And when it happens, it may be too late.

During the election debates aired on TV, National's Don Brash mocked the Greens' policies, saying "if they get their way, we'll all be riding around on bikes!" Yes Don. Your point is..? Maybe if we collectively got more excercise by, say, riding around on bikes, the government wouldn't have to fork out as much for healthcare in the future. Nor would they need to spend tax dollars on the likes of the 'Push Play' and more recent SPARC campaigns to get people off their arses.

Why are people so afraid of caring about the environment? If we don't, we'll end up like Britain, where litter roams free in the streets, and heart disease and cancer are the principal causes of death.


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