Photo: RNZ/Jane Patterson)
Oz Kiwi opinion
The mind boggles at why leading figures in the New Zealand National Party continue to praise John Howard as a ‘role model’ and describe themselves as ‘fans’ of him.
Whatever one thinks of John Howard’s politics in a broader sense, it cannot be forgotten that it was his government that introduced the 2001 changes that shredded long-standing arrangements for reciprocal and equal treatment of trans-Tasman migrants.
These changes have had a profoundly negative effect on many New Zealanders and have left the trans-Tasman relationship on a perpetually uneven footing that is leading to a seemingly ever-increasing number of disputes between our two nations.
By repeatedly lavishing praise on Howard, the National Party is certainly not endearing itself to the most Kiwis in Australia, who have to live with the legacy of his actions. This complete disconnect undoubtedly goes some way in explaining why the National Party performed poorly amongst New Zealanders overseas in the last election in comparison to its share of the vote from within NZ.
National’s election loss ‘unjust and unfair’ – John Howard
28 July 2018
Jane Patterson – Political Editor Radio NZ
Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has told the National Party they were robbed at last year’s election.
Both Mr Howard and former prime minister John Key are at the party’s first post-election conference to bolster morale and show support for rookie leader Simon Bridges.
Mr Howard reassured members and MPs they could have done nothing more, after a great campaign and nine solid years of governing.
“An unjust and unfair political result – you may have got the impression I didn’t agree with it.”
He had sent a handwritten note to former prime minister and party leader Bill English after the election.
“I just said there was ‘no justice in politics’.”
Mr Howard also took a swipe at New Zealand’s electoral system, describing MMP as crook.
Mr Bridges said that reflected a wider held view about the election result but disagreed the system was broken.
“The truth is MMP is our system, I have no proposals or views to change it.”
He admitted to being a huge fan of the former Australian PM.
“I thought about bringing his autobiography along to get it signed but I thought that might be going a step too far.”
National leader Simon Bridges with John Howard. (Photo: RNZ/Jane Patterson).
Mr Howard had overcome adversity and led Australia to greater prosperity, Mr Bridges said.
“In terms of a role model and seeing that, it would be pretty hard to go past someone like John Howard.”
One reporter asked if he thought Mr Howard was such a hero when he was peeling back the rights of New Zealanders in Australia during the 2000s.
“Well, you know, Australia and New Zealand have different views on some of these things and I think that’s going to continue, sadly, for quite some time,” Mr Bridges said.
Party president Peter Goodfellow followed with a not so subtle attack on New Zealand First leader and acting Prime Minister Winston Peters.
National had dodged a “whiskey-swilling, cigarette smoking, double breasted and irrational bullet”.
He said it took Helen Clark eight years to lose touch with New Zealand and the present coalition only eight months, he said.
“We can’t let their incompetence and a lack of a plan allow us to lose focus.”
Bridges on Māori seats: ‘Never say never’
Mr Bridges said he was not ruling out running candidates in Māori seats in the future.
Speaking to media after the opening of the party’s annual conference, Mr Bridges said he was surprised how many Māori turned out to his roadshow meetings across the country.
He said many of them were disappointed by the Māori Party’s departure from politics at the last election but did not see themselves as being hitched to the Labour waka.
It had been decades since National ran candidates in the Māori seats but Mr Bridges was not ruling it out.
“Look, we’re always talking calibrating. I don’t think that’s something that’s active and that we’re actively considering at the moment. Look, I suppose you never say never – you never rule out anything.”
Bridges will be rolled – Peters predicts
Meanwhile, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is predicting National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett could soon be axed by the caucus – as a prelude to Mr Bridges also being rolled.
Mr Peters said National’s leadership was polling so poorly that there would soon be moves against them.
National’s leadership was always unstable after an election defeat, he said.
He told Newshub Nation that Mr Bridges would inevitably be rolled as leader – but the first target would be his deputy.
“I predict that the first person they will come for is Paula Bennett because that’s what jackals do. They come for the smallest, weakest one. And then it’ll be Simon,” he said.
Mr Peters said Mr Bridges could not survive long while National was polling in the 40s and his personal rating was below 10, showing even three quarters of National supporters did not rate him as a leader.
“Simon’s discovered much of his past, like Columbus disovered America – by accident.
“First of all he turns up and suddenly he decides that he’s a Māori. No-one knew that before he got there, then he started looking round for his iwi.”
Mr Peters also accused Mr Bridges of latching on to medicinal marajuana as an issue that could make him look liberal.
“You can’t have too many discoveries like that before people start asking what does this man really think? What drives him down inside?”
[Read the Radio NZ article].