Despite finishing second in the recent general election Jacinda Arden’s Labour Party will lead the next government of New Zealand after reaching an agreement with the centre-left Green Party and the conservative populists of New Zealand First. The move will result in New Zealand’s first government not led by the National Party since 2008 and as a result much attention has been paid to what the priorities of the next administration will be. In recent days Arden has been more explicit in what her government will do and on the whole the Left should welcome the announcements, although there are some caveats that need to be added.
The current debate around citizenship that is lingering in the Australian political discourse stems from a section of the constitution that should have been removed years ago. The question about citizenship is essentially a masked point about loyalty to the people of Australia. Not only is this unjustifiable mistrust of the perceived ‘Other’ harmful to the fabric of society, the examples of recent weeks illustrate how this section of the constitution has been disruptive to Australian public life in a way that is highly ironic given one of the purposes of such a provision.
One of the issues currently dominating the political discourse of Australia is whether or not the country should legalise same-sex marriage. The actual substance behind this discussion is not the question in most people’s minds, as poll after poll has shown a healthy majority of Australians in support of marriage equality. Indeed, in recent weeks the case has become even more overwhelming as, although opponents of equality often cite their sincerely held religious beliefs, a poll by Galaxy Research found that a majority of Christians in Australia supported equal marriage. Rather than policy substance, the debate has shifted to how equality is introduced. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that there will be a non-binding postal vote plebiscite on the issue and some have since argued that such a vote should be boycotted. I would strongly recommend not to do that.
Last week I covered a news story about how Britain had recently passed a law that would retroactively pardon thousands of gay and bisexual men who had been prosecuted for ‘indecent acts’, also known as homosexual sex. At the time of writing I said: “work on this issue still needs to be done”. Admittedly I was referring to Northern Ireland and Scotland, but the same is true around the world; men convicted of the crime of having sex with other men should have those convictions overturned. For a number of years activists in New Zealand had been lobbying the government to get exactly that, and on Thursday the government agreed.
Malcolm Turnbull has been dealt a political blow this week after the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) withdrew its support for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage. The NXT join the Greens and Labor, which all support marriage equality but oppose Turnbull’s desire for a plebiscite. Normally I would be criticising these political parties for getting in the way of a democratic vote on this issue but because of the structure of the Australian political system, the opposition parties are right to be unforgiving.
After days of counts and recounts, the results of the Australian general election are just about in. In the limited coverage I given to this election, although I believed that Bill Shorten’s brand of leftism was not radical enough, I argued that in the two horse race between soft-leftism and hard-right conservatism, my preference is obvious. Unfortunately the result was not as we on the Left would have wanted. Whilst there are a couple of results still yet to be decided, the Coalition have won the required 76 seats to form a majority government.
The conventional wisdom surrounding elections in liberal democracies is that elections are mostly decided by economic issues. Indeed when this is not the case and issues like immigration or foreign policy dominate an election cycle, this is largely reported as news. To be perfectly honest many of these other issues are related to how it will influence the economy. When talking about immigration, for example, unless it is obvious that the person talking is outwardly racist, concerns are based on how public services will cope and any potential job losses; in other words the concerns are couched in economics. However a new study has shown that young people in Australia are less concerned with the economy than their elders.