Leading article Australia

Silver fern leaf

27 September 2014

9:00 AM

27 September 2014

9:00 AM

The extraordinary victory of John Key and his National party in New Zealand’s recent election came as a relief to many on both sides of the ‘dutch’ (including, of course, this week’s diarist, New Zealand Attorney General Chris Finlayson QC). Besides the obvious pleasure in seeing a good, strong, low-taxing, debt-reducing, conservative government returned with an increased majority, followers of antipodean politics will no doubt have noticed a certain glaring similarity between the state of political play in both countries this past year; namely, the presence of a buffoonish billionaire hell-bent on using his dosh and his media nous to wantonly disrupt and distort sound policy.

Voters in New Zealand, despite initially being captivated by the lunacy of the larger-than-life internet ‘pirate’ Kim Dotcom’s media-savvy and crowd-pleasing gimmicks, presumably saw through his splashing out of a reported $NZ 4 million ($AUS 3.6 million) as little more than a vindictive and paranoid attempt to hijack the democratic process in order to wage a bitter personal feud. Indeed, Australian voters may well recognize such traits in one of our own ‘larger-than-life’ political figures.

But the lessons for Australia go beyond the comforting reassurance that maverick millionaires and their cohorts come with an inbuilt use-by-date. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey in particular should be paying close attention to New Zealand’s impressive economy; once languishing far behind our own, yet now, in many ways, superior. Their recipe for success? Reducing income taxes, particularly at the top, increasing the GST, reducing debt, reducing crime, stimulating growth, changing employment laws, and returning to surplus. Impressively,1600 people move from welfare to work each week.

Meanwhile, NZ Labour’s David Cunliffe – a kind of Kiwi Swan, if such an ugly bird is imaginable – swims around in ever-diminishing circles dreaming up more elaborate ways to feather the nests of his beloved unions. Indeed, what is perhaps most reassuring about the New Zealand result is that the public, once given a taste of conservative policies will quickly get a taste for their results; no matter the antics of handwringing left-wingers, loopy Greens, greedy unions and other populists.


The reluctance of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey to pursue such single-minded economic reform remains a puzzle. Arguably, they did the opposite of the successful John Key/Bill English model – they raised taxes on the wealthy and pushed the surplus into the never-never. Quite who they were hoping to please with such policies remains unclear: the ABC and the Greens perhaps?

John Key, who has increased Nationals majority in each of three elections, was able to win unprecedented support on the promise of forecast growth of around 4%, a return to surplus next year and future income taxes. Tony Abbott could do worse than take a silver fern leaf out of his book.

Real John, real Julia

Full marks to Janet Albrechtsen and John Howard for their riveting show, in which viewers were treated to the ‘real’ John. The contrast with Ray Martin’s woeful Julia Gillard ‘exposé’ could not have been starker.

With Mr Howard, viewers saw personal glimpses into childhood, interesting detours down memory lane, and an honest assessment of his own political strengths and weaknesses. The famous eyebrows got a decent work-out, as Ms Albrechtsen’s questions sometimes caught one of Australia’s longest-serving (and by definition wiliest) politicians off his guard. That Mr Howard was prepared to open up on issues such as the missing weapons of mass destruction and his rivalry with Peter Costello without spin and obfuscation was commendable.

Meanwhile, the ‘real’ Julia slips further and further out of reach. In an almost surreal exposition of post-modern existentialism, we now learn that the decision to reveal who she really is was, apparently, one of her greatest mistakes. Hmmm.

Which means what we are left with is, for want of a better description, the Artificial Julia. This is the poor, long-suffering, vulnerable creature treated so abominably by all around her – ie Alan Jones, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott – whilst she struggled to perform her good works, chief amongst which were, er… we’ll get back to you on that one.

Worse, she compares her own fanciful ‘misogyny’ experience to Islamists kidnapping schoolgirls. Huh?

As Ms Albrechtsen demonstrates, the camera can reveal an awful lot about a person. That is assuming there is actually something there to reveal.

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  • michaelC58

    Have a look at NZ their tax rates:
    Top rate: 33% from $70,000
    30% – $48,001 to $70,000
    17.5% -$14,001 to $48,000
    10.5% – $0 to $14,000

    Interestingly tax from $0 – make everybody who earns a tax payer interested in how their tax is spent.
    How do we re-educate Tony Abbott?

    • EschersStairs

      I suspect that Tony Abbott is doing as much as he can with the political capital he has. The screaming about the budget is nauseating and all they are doing is proposing to slow down the rate of growth of spending.
      An electorate that votes in the likes of the PUP, and other magic pudding parties such as the Greens, has only itself to blame for its fiscal outlook.

    • Rik

      Dear God how do we educate ANY of the politicians in the UK

  • Phil Wallington

    “1600 move from welfare to work each week” … This is simply not true…

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