New Zealand

John Edmundson JWE21 at
Sun Jun 25 19:18:53 MDT 2000

The New Zealand Labour Party came back into power in 1999 as a
minority government in coalition with the Alliance, (essentially a
bloc created by a left split from the Labour Party and Mana
Motuhake, a moderate Maori nationalist Party also originating in
the defection of a senior Labour Party MP, now deceased), and
dependent on the Green Party from outside government. The
rhetoric has been NewLabour per Tony Blair, albeit a lot more
sophisticated. They are committed to overturning the Employment
Contracts Act, a piece of anti-union legislation which made it
unlawful to stike in sympathy and effectively eliminated industry
wide awards. Under this law the union movement was decimated
and huge numbers of workers found themselves on individual
contracts. The proposed new legislation, still in process, has been
welcomed by the Trade Union Movement as a move away from the
ECA, but falls a long way short of restoring the pre-ECA strength of
the union movement. Typically, the unions are reluctant to criticize
anything the Labour Party does. The LP is busy telling everyone
how business-friendly they are and how the real change in the law
is to ensure "good faith bargaining." It does restore unions to pride
of place in the negotiations, but the unions are a shadow of their
former selves. Perhaps a better indication of how far left the LP
really are can be seen in a couple of recent statements.

About 2 weeks ago, the "corrections minister" Matt Robson
announced that he was looking at some prison reforms, including
the possibility of conjugal visits for prisoners nearing the end of
their term. Labour was quick to shoot down that proposal. Then,
about a day before the 58 Chinese were found dead at Dover, he
suggested to a Pacific Islanders' meeting that a more leniant policy
towards overstayers might be on the cards. "Left" Labour
immigration minister Lianne Dalziel immediately responded
announcing that no such measure would occur. In fact, she wanted
overstayers to come forward soon because as of October 1they
lose their right of appeal against deportation and can be sent home
the same day.

Any move to the left is merely at the level of rhetoric. They've
canned the purchase of new fighters for the airforce, which will
appease their peace movement supporters, but will free up
resources to make the army more effective - for peace keeping of
course. They've just announced, in the budget, the largest ever
hand out to business in the history of this country, in the form of
grants for R&D etc. The NZLP are still largely the same people who
introduced the "new right" agenda 15 years ago. Helen Clark, the
Prime Minister, was the minister of health in that government and
oversaw the initial steps in the demolition of the public health
system, which now ranks about 42nd in the world. The Labour
Party recognised that the hard line new right policies have gone
about as far as they could go, not simply in terms of privatisation
etc, but also electorally. Mildly "lefty" rhetoric was an electoral
winner because people were sick of the last 15 years of atacks,
but the "left" in Labour terms means getting state intervention back
into the economy in a more hands on sort of way. And it means
supporting the "warm fuzzy" sorts of capitalists while railing
against the already irrelevant and spent forces of the new right.

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