UC politics expert insight: A campaign of missed opportunities

16 October 2020

After a long and COVID-delayed campaign, New Zealand’s general election is just a day away. For the fourth and final time, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National Party leader Judith Collins met last night for a televised debate. University of Canterbury Professor Bronwyn Hayward offers her concluding thoughts alongside four other political experts in article on The Conversation.

  • Minor party leaders at pre-election debate

    Minor party leaders at a pre-election debate: Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson, ACT leader David Seymour, Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

Disasters such as a global pandemic present opportunities for radical policy shifts, but that hasn’t happen in this election campaign. Both major parties relied on the conventional idea of economic growth as the driver of future recovery: investing in growth through training and employment (Labour) or cutting taxes to boost consumer spending (National).

With the focus on COVID risks, there has been little opportunity for debate about our preparedness for the other, slower moving disasters facing New Zealand. Rising house prices, small business priorities and challenges facing tourism have featured often, but any real discussion of structural reform (a wealth or capital gains tax, universal basic income or services) has been shut down firmly by both major parties.

When this year’s 18-year-old first-time voters turn 58 their climate will be virtually unrecognisable from the one we know now. Yet a major Environment Ministry climate report released on the day went unremarked in the final debate, and there was no discussion of the wider burdens that will confront first time voters their whole lives: growing inequality, serious urban water shortages, wildfires, drought, flooding and coastal inundation.

Nonetheless, there were winners in this election campaign: the voters who seized the opportunity to enrol right up to election day, turning out to advance vote in their thousands, many for the first time, including Māori, young people, the homeless and prisoners serving under-three-year sentences (who regained the right they’d lost in a previous law change).

Political debate will only really change when their voices are heard.

This was originally published on The Conversation, read the full article here.

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UC Communications team, media@canterbury.ac.nz, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168