Francesca Rudkin: Where is the contest of ideas this election campaign?

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 9 Aug 2020, 10:03AM
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Francesca Rudkin: Where is the contest of ideas this election campaign?

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 9 Aug 2020, 10:03AM

So here we go. The 2020 election campaigning has officially started.

There’s six weeks until voting day and please, please let us be done with the scandals, the leadership dramas, the attention grabbing outbursts. Okay, so I’m dreaming when it comes to that last one, but let’s get on with talking about leading New Zealand through the next decade.  

We all know we have an aging population, declining fertility rates, growing urban population in the top half of the North Island, and a few stagnating regions. Add Covid 19 to the mix, and the next decade just got even more challenging for New Zealand. As Professor Paul Spoonley mentioned this morning, if you look through the current policies on offer, there is very little that relates to long term issues facing New Zealand.

So where’s the contest of ideas?

So far parties have been reluctant to release policy, except maybe the Greens, who have been criticised for releasing too much too soon. What has been announced is generally around the same issues – employment, support for small and medium sized businesses,  infrastructure and shovel ready projects.

These ideas, Nationals Job and Business Start policies and Labours $300 million Flexi-wage package, are designed to reassure us of growth and employment.

In the current situation, that’s not a bad thing.

Both major parties are keen to convince us that they are the right team to lead us through the next three years. National is campaigning on a capable team experienced in dealing with crisis. Your opinion might differ to theirs, especially if you live in Christchurch.

Labour is riding on their success of containing Covid-19 in New Zealand, and pitching themselves as the best option to steady the ship. They have even been honest enough to say this will be a Covid-19 election – how could it not be – and that we shouldn’t expect a manifesto of policy.

But what seems to be missing from the conversation is what we are going to do about the longer-term issues that have the potential to be just as crushing as Covid over the next few decades, the issues Professor Spoonley reminded us about earlier this morning.

Covid is what’s life, and we need to deal with today’s problem today, but we should not just hope for the best with the other tough, complicated and expensive issues we have getting ever closer.

So, my question is where’s the vision, where’s the big picture? Where’s the courage to think about things differently and challenge the status quo? I can’t help but think it’s coming from the minor parties alone.

It’s certainly not what we’re hearing from the main parties – which is more trains, more roads, more wage subsidies. They are all good and well and make us feel secure, but there needs to be more.

If a crisis such as this isn’t a valuable moment for our leaders to think differently about the future of this country, to find new ways of dealing with inequity and deal with the long-known issues that this country faces, then when is.

What we’ve been offered so far may be smart political tactics, but it feels like an absence of true leadership to me.