Low turnout at the local body elections over the weekend should be a cause for concern. The Electoral Commission estimated at 44% of enrolled voters turned out, down from 49% in 2010. Some areas were of particular concern with turnout in Auckland only reaching 35% of eligible voters.
Many theories have been offered as to why this might have been, but what’s more interesting is what we can do about it. Last month the government announced that online voting will be trailed in the 2016 Local Body Elections as a means of improving participation. I think this will be an excellent idea. Postal voting seems like an anachronism in the age when most young people would rather engage with politicians online than through the postal system. We’re more comfortable having all the information on a screen to peruse and it makes it much less likely that forms will simply be lost or forgotten once filled out. I think a particular problem for students with postal voting is that they regularly move flats and updating their address with the Electoral Commission tends to be low on a list of priorities when there is no general election in the near future. Hopefully a method of implementation can be found which makes it easier for students in this situation.
Recently Local Government NZ President Lawrence Yule floated the idea of compulsory voting as an option worthy of consideration, but I don’t think that route is worth going down. Part of the problem which leads to low turnout is the limited effort the politicians themselves are making to engage their communities. Compulsory voting sends the wrong message to these politicians, rather than drawing out non voters by giving them meaningful reasons to vote, these people are treated as low information voters and bombarded with advertising to swing them based on the premise that they know very little about local body issues. It is already quite common for candidates for bodies like the regional council to discuss ‘sexy’ issues which that body has no control over. I think this could ruin the debate we need to have during elections, with complex issues being consigned to the background.
Another daft plan put forward by Labour MP Sua William Sio is the state funding of local body candidates. I really don’t like this idea, giving taxpayers money out is not something that should be done lightly and it’s not clear how this plan will improve turnout. People should also have a right to not be effectively forced to support a political viewpoint they may strongly disagree with through their taxes.
Last week John Key became the first foreign leader to meet with the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, on Australian soil.
Prime Minister Abbott on the state of NZ-AUS relations:
It’s great to be here in the prime ministerial courtyard with my brother prime minister John Key of New Zealand.
New Zealand is in many respects Australia’s closest relationship. We go back a hell of a long way together. New Zealand is family in a way that probably no other country on earth is.
John has invited me to go to New Zealand and sometime next year I would very much hope to do that because it is important to keep our relationship in the best possible repair. Just because we are family doesn’t mean that we should take each other for granted.
Prime Minister Abbott had this to say about the work the NZ Government is doing under the leadership of John Key:
I’d like to say how impressed I am with the way the New Zealand National Government has promoted economic growth, pursued very sensible, orthodox economic policies without in any way engaging in what has become known as austerity.
New Zealand has strong economic growth, reducing unemployment, reducing red tape, increasing trade. This has all been done while building a stronger and more cohesive society and I think that the Key National Government in New Zealand has provided the very model of centre-right government over the last few years and I am happy to learn from the example of John Key in New Zealand.
John and Tony also took the opportunity to mark 500 days till the 2015 Cricket World Cup and held the trophy. NZ and Australia are joint hosts for the tournament.
Have a read of these quotes from John Key’s address to the UN General Assembly. He made it clear that the Security Council has failed to deliver for the people of Syria and that it’s time to have a New Zealand voice at the table.
The UN has too often failed to provide solutions to the problems the world expects it to resolve. The gap between aspiration and delivery is all too apparent, as the situation in Syria has again so brutally reminded us.
This Organisation would not also have been a powerless bystander to the Syrian tragedy for over two years if the lack of agreement among the Security Council’s Permanent Members had not shielded the Assad regime – thereby re-confirming the fears of New Zealand and others who had opposed the veto at the original San Francisco conference in 1945.
It is imperative now that the Council acts. It must adopt a resolution that responds to the use of chemical weapons.
The resolution must also provide for the protection of the civilian population.
On Israel and Palestine
While climate change is an important issue, it pales in comparison to the problems faced by many UN members. One of the most intractable is that of Israel and Palestine. As long as this problem is left unresolved there can be no assured peace in the Middle East, and no security for the wider region. And there can be no resolution without the Israeli and Palestinian peoples both being assured of viable homelands within secure borders.
On New Zealand’s achievements in Afghanistan:
School and hospitals were rebuilt and health centres opened. Mortality rates for children under five were halved. Maternal deaths are a quarter of Taliban-era levels. Girls now make up half the number of primary school children. New Zealand expertise also helped substantially improve agricultural yields through the implementation of modern farming techniques. We are building the largest solar energy system in Afghanistan, which will bring a renewable source of electricity to much of Bamyan township. This has been a big commitment by a small country, situated far away. It also came at considerable cost; ten of our service men and women lost their lives while on duty there. Even so, we are proud of what we achieved in partnership with the people of Bamyan and hope those gains can be sustained in the years ahead.
On our approach to the Security Council:
New Zealand is not advocating revolution but we are asserting the Council can and must do better in the way it conducts its business. That is the approach New Zealand will bring to the Security Council if we are elected next October.
There is no point in joining the Council simply to make up the numbers.
Sometimes, you have to speak up and shine a light on what is going on ‑ or not going on ‑ even when that may be inconvenient to others.
Young Nats President Sean Topham issued this press release on behalf of the organisation today. We are extremely optimistic that the bill will pass tonight, and look forward to celebrating with our LGBT members, and friends and family members.
PRESS RELEASE: Young Nats call on National MPs to vote for marriage equality
The Young Nats are calling on the National Party caucus to embrace our Party principles of freedom and choice and vote for marriage equality in the final vote on the Bill.
“We are calling on every National MP to stand on the right side of freedom and support marriage equality” says Young Nats President Sean Topham.
“Our generation overwhelmingly supports marriage equality and has been at the forefront of the campaign to see change. The Young Nats have been lobbying National MPs all over the country from day one and it comes down to the final vote tonight”
“Many of our MPs they have been contacted by thousands of people from all walks of life, but I urge them to consider our values, look to the future and listen to the voices of our generation when they vote”
On April 1st, minimum wage increases announced by Simon Bridges, as Minister of Labour, came into effect. The minimum wage is now $13.75 per hour, increased from $13.50, and the training and new entrants’ minimum wages increased from $10.80 to $11, which is 80 per cent of the adult minimum wage.
National has provided for an increase in the minimum wage every year since it took office. The Young Nats believe that this government’s increases strike the right balance between protecting low-paid workers’ take-home pay against inflation, and ensuring that job growth isn’t stifled as the economic recovery gains steam.
We support this government’s ambitious plan to make New Zealand a friendlier country for entrepreneurship and investment, so that more jobs will be created here, for New Zealanders.
Take a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to become a Cabinet Minister in the New Zealand Government with Hon Nikki Kaye and Hon Simon Bridges. Both Nikki and Simon were involved in the Young Nats in their early years in the National Party.