The Prime Minister's Dream.
He aha te mea nui o te ao?
Yesterday saw the State Opening of Parliament, the Speech from the Throne, and then Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s dream for Aotearoa in his first address.
But first the pomp and ceremony, the arrival of the Governor General.
Dame Cindy Kiro arrived on the forecourt outside of parliament to a Māori welcome. I wondered if Winston or David would be first to dash forward and tell them to for goodness sake speak English.
We crossed to proceedings inside the house, where newly elected Speaker Gerry read out confirmation of his appointment in a long winded way until the front row lapsed into unconsciousness, losing the will to live, as is traditional.
Tama Potaka gave an address in Te Reo wearing a tie with a Māori design. The faces of his colleagues around him were stony. Then he sang what must have been the least enthusiastic waiata in the history of parliament.
The procession moved slowly through the outer chambers. In a moment of delightful honesty Gerry said he didn’t really know what happened here, and encouraged people to talk among themselves.
At a time when Māori culture and language are being removed from public life the archaic ceremony, with “Black Rod” banging on the door then leading the MPs out, the sergeant at arms with ceremonial mace over the shoulder, looked utterly absurd. I couldn’t help thinking what the hell has this got to do with Aotearoa?
The Governor General then read the Speech from the Throne, opening our 54th parliament in the name of the King. They could perhaps have asked Rawiri Waititi for the best way to refer to his Majesty in Te Reo, but that’s a skill no longer valued by our government, apparently.
The government is trying to figure out how to stop any more public servants getting extra pay for being proficient in te reo Māori.
But it concedes it cannot dump existing allowances.
"I will ... ask for advice on how we could stop these bonuses being negotiated into future collective agreements," the Public Service Minister Nicola Willis told RNZ.
Winston was seated next to his mortal enemy Seymour. Next to him Nicola was looking a bit glum. Perhaps her mini budget was calling to her? I wonder what it was saying? “You didn’t do your homework did you Nicola, and now there’s a massive fiscal hole. Who are you going to throw in the hole Nicola? Who?”
The speech indicated that the government would be reaching out to those doing it hardest, and helping all New Zealanders. What a complete joke, I thought - they’re literally cancelling fair pay agreements!
It was like listening to a National Party advert, lots of nice words saying the opposite of what they’re actually doing. It did make a change to hear it read by someone warm. But she looked sad, our Governor General.
It carried on. Fiscal plans blah blah cost benefit analysis blah tax relief blah blah blah low income workers - oh come on, that’s not even vaguely true, it’s the opposite of true.
The Governor General read out more and more initiatives that helped people, which the new government were gloating about cancelling. Senior MPs on the opposition side also looked glum, I couldn’t blame them.
Rolling back anti loan shark laws. Good grief, is there nothing these people won’t stoop to in their desire to extract every last piece of wealth from the poor?
For some reason I’d imagined the Speech from the Throne might contain some positive vision for the whole of New Zealand, but it was just a list of the same divisive, negative, ads that nauseated during the campaign. Still, why would they start now?
It made me angry that Dame Cindy had to read out things that weren’t true. Like ACT’s initiatives to waterdown gun restrictions, which we were somehow supposed to believe are for public safety. It’s just nonsense.
To have this highly intelligent, decent, person having to read out this neoliberal claptrap as if it would solve society’s problems seemed so wrong. Especially when she had to talk about the Māori programmes that were being cancelled.
It was like watching a hostage reading a prepared statement to camera. You wondered how they had been induced to do so. Of course being highly professional Dame Cindy spoke beautifully, but some of it must have stuck in her throat.
Reader Margie commented, “Watching opening of parliament. It sounds like our Gov General, who I have respect for, is reading straight out of the National Party handbook. Luxon handed it to her. Does this happen each time? Can she not give speech of her own but has to read what sounds like a propaganda spiel. It even says most families will be better by $50 fortnight. Is this the place for this?”
I replied, “Wasn't it ghastly. Just watching and thinking about what to write next - so uninspiring, just a National Party advert, no vision, nothing.”
Shane Jones’ head started to loll around as if he was trying to stay awake. I actually had some sympathy for him, it was incredibly dull, just a list of policies. No niceties, nothing extra for interest. I’m surprised they didn’t just say “we won and you lost”.
Allowing live exports again, with all the horrific conditions that entails. Cancelling the “Ute” tax, so many who don’t actually need one can have their gas guzzling, double cab, penis extensions. It didn’t feel like a celebration, like the start of something, rather the end.
Still we had the Prime Minister’s first address to look forward to. Nobody was expecting him to become a great orator all of a sudden, but surely now we’d see an end to the petty points scoring and some genuine leadership, whatever he thinks that is.
Well it was heavy on manifesto bullet points and management speak but beyond that? Not much. Meaningless slogans like getting back on track, but light on anything positive. Just full of negativity about the previous lot, and gloating that he’d won.
The leadership of a man showing off to his new buddy, who helped him get the job. Not choosing to speak to the people of the country that he now leads. It was the sheer ordinariness that got me. The lack of any kind of vision or dream for his country.
Imagine if it was you. What would you tell the country of how you want this place to be, the things you’d like to see us achieve, the problems we could solve together?
You might start with the phrase that is the subtitle of this article “He aha te mea nui o te ao?” Even if you don’t recognise those words you probably know the translation, “what is the most important thing in the world?” And the answer “He tangata he tangata he tangata!”, “It is People, it is people, is is people!”
You and I know that. The Labour Party, the Greens, and Te Pāti Māori know it. But I didn’t get the sense that it was something our new Prime Minister understood.
Is this what a young man who dreamed of leading his country had in mind? To take from those with the least, to give to those who had the most? While putting the boot in to Māori and other minorities for good measure?
Maybe it was. It certainly seems to be what the people who supported him voted for.
Those of us who hope for better, who think we should be trying to do the things that bean counters, and the imagination deficient, would have us believe are impossible, will have to put those dreams on hold for the next few years.
But we won’t forget them. They are clearer these last two weeks than ever, and there will be much opportunity to stand up for them in the next three years.
Events like the Action Day in opposition to the coalition’s anti-Māori stance. There will be many more of those - you can guarantee it!
Let’s not leave pay disputes for the next time Labour is in power. I get that’s the best time, because they might actually do something. But we need to speak up for care workers, early childhood workers, and so many other groups, who will have to fight hard for anything they get in the next three years.
As our country re-opens to oil and gas exploration and closes down emission reduction initiatives there will be ample opportunity to show your displeasure with that. With the selling out of our country, for what? So multinational corporations can make more money destroying the planet at the cost of the future living standards of our mokopuna?
Many of you will have been horrified that the new Prime Minister’s dream for Aotearoa includes rolling back Smokefree legislation. Well there is something you can do to voice your disapproval - next week. Like many of you no doubt, I received the following in an email from Labour spokesperson Ayesha Verrall.
Together, we can send a clear message: New Zealanders want a smokefree future.
If you’re able to, please join me and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists who are standing up for this on Parliament’s forecourt in Wellington at 1 pm on Wednesday 13 December, to show your support for the cause.
There will also be a march in Auckland starting from the Domain/Grafton Campus/outside Auckland City Hospital at 1 pm on Wednesday 13 December, and no doubt other events will be organised around the country too.
Democracy isn’t just something that happens every three years. I know it feels awful seeing the actions of the new government, how they will hurt the most vulnerable, but there are good people, like Ayesha, who will be standing up for what is right.
Make sure you stand up over the next three years if Christopher Luxon’s dreams for Aotearoa are not yours.