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May 15, 2017 | by  | in Politics |
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Political Round Up

Labour Party List

Last week’s delay in the release of Labour’s party list set many a think-piece in motion, with some speculating that the delay hinged on an upset Willie Jackson’s trip to Wellington.

A day later the list was released, revealing a string of new high profile placements.  

Among newer MPs with high rankings are Priyanca Radhakrishnan at number 11, Raymond Huo at 12, and Jan Tinetti at 14.

Meanwhile, several of Labour’s old guard were reportedly disgruntled with a lower list placing. This included former Education Minister Trevor Mallard at number 23.

Conventional Labour Party wisdom has it that the last election was lost partly because of a failure to rejuvenate the party list. Labour leader Andrew Little confirmed that this was at the forefront of the minds of the moderating committee leading up to the list ranking decision.

To address this, Labour Party rules now require half of its caucus to be women, and a quarter to be Māori. Little has also said that he was embarrassed to have no MPs of Indian or Chinese descent going into the last election.

As to the delay, Little confirmed that several members were unhappy with their placement, including new recruit Willie Jackson. Veteran Labour MP Sue Moroney also revealed she was unhappy with a low list placing and would not be standing in the next election.

The number of Māori MPs on the list has also been a matter of debate, with some commentators noting the lack of Māori representation in the top 15.

However, Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis defended the placements, noting top Labour Māori MPs’ recent decision to forgo their list ranking and contend the election as electorate-only candidates. Davis also noted that, on current polling, this would give Labour its highest ever number of Māori MPs in caucus.

MP list rankings are rarely make-or-break for political parties, even in an election year. However, the controversy over Labour’s rollout threatens to play into National’s preferred narrative that Labour are disorganised and divided. With National’s list due out in August, Labour is running out of time to prove them wrong.


Trans-Tasman Relationship

Politicians on both sides of the Tasman are fond of saying that New Zealand and Australia share one of the closest relationships possible between two countries.

While that may be true, recent changes across the ditch are beginning to test that well-worn line.

Last week, the New Zealand government was seemingly blindsided by Australia’s proposal to stop subsidising New Zealand students to attend Australian universities at domestic costs. This is an offer that has long been an important part of the bilateral relationship, with citizens from both countries being able to attend each other’s institutions at greatly reduced fees.

International students are typically charged more than three times the cost of domestic students, meaning that New Zealand students in Australia could be facing costs rising from a typical $7,000 a year to more than $25,000 a year.

The proposal would, however, allow New Zealanders to access Australian student loans for the first time. Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said that she expected this to mean an increase in New Zealanders seeking to study there.

Perhaps most unusual was the degree to which the announcement caught the New Zealand government by surprise. Embarrassingly, Prime Minister Bill English admitted that there had been no prior communication on the policy.

Newly minted Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee was quickly dispatched across the Tasman to meet with his Australian counterpart. In a later press conference Brownlee struck a decidedly more conciliatory tone than English, saying that he thought the policy shock was  “a bit of a one-off.”

Opposition MPs were less forgiving, with many accusing the government of neglecting the more than 12,000 New Zealanders currently studying at Australian institutions.

Labour foreign affairs spokesperson David Parker said that while diplomacy was important, New Zealand interests were clearly being ignored. Similarly, Labour’s education spokesperson Chris Hipkins said he felt Gerry Brownlee had “rolled over and let Julie Bishop tickle his tummy.”

The policy changes come as part of what some see as an erosion of the much touted Trans-Tasman relationship.

Recent policy changes have affected the pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders living in Australia, and many cannot access social welfare benefits despite paying taxes. These are benefits which Australians in New Zealand have access to.

If the relationship is truly becoming as one-sided as many suggest, then National’s approach to foreign diplomacy may cost them come September.

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