Richard Long writes opinion-pieces for the Dom-Post. Yes; before commenters point out that he was a former chief press secretary to former PM Jim Bolger, we know that. But this morning he offers a pragmatic piece; he opines:
Inside the beltway. That's a phrase that Labour's new leader and his party strategists should repeat to themselves before they take instant stances on complex issues which hamstring their policy options down the track.The classics of the past week involve the SkyCity convention centre proposal and the sale of the Crafar farms to Chinese interests. The first was denounced by Labour leader David Shearer as "a shonky deal" and "law for sale". The Crafar farms deal was portrayed as betraying New Zealand farmers and selling a birthright.The commentators, who love the intricacies of beltway issues, were shouting scandal and hyping the myth of growing public anger. But Prime Minister John Key and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce returned from overseas trips to talk common sense on the issues.
It was actually Helen Clark who introduced New Zealanders the "the beltway", a Washington DC phenomenon. She often used to declare that no-one outside "the beltway", apart from us political tragics cared about certain issues.
So whilst the notion is not new, we reckon that Long is pretty much on the nail. The Sky City and Crafar farms issues have been simmering for some time, and yet the John Key-led government rose in two public opinion polls released over the weekend.
Perhaps John Key is right; that the public in general has enough confidence in the overall direction that his government is taking that they will be forgiving of individual issues. There's a poll out today on the Crafar farm sales which suggests that more Kiwis would rather Sir Michael Fay buy them (at an inferior price) that the Chinese consortioum. Have we forgotten Sir Michael Fay, corporate raider and sell-off king? The long-term viability of these farms is far more secure with the Chinese and their joint venture with Landcorp, in our ever-humble opinion.
Labour can beat these issues up all it likes, but it has obstacles like these:
- the 650,000ha of land sales under Labour between 1999 and 2008, and Labour's reform of the Overseas Investment Act (2005) which established the Overseas Investment Office, and
- the fact the poker machine numbers peaked under Labour at over 25000 four years after Labour came to power (December 2003), and that under National, pokie numbers have decreased by 10% from 20000 to 18000 in the three years December 2008 to December 2011.