Picking up on a trend that has developed this week, I join in other bloggers and social media participants in openly declaring my voting intentions. I think it is important for my readers to understand where I am coming from in terms of political ideology when I discuss issues on this site and, ultimately, if you are not prepared to openly defend and justify your voting choice then you should not be voting for that party in the first place.
This has been an interesting campaign for me as my final decision on who to support has fluctuated back and forth between the two main options all month. I will not be voting the same as I did in 2008, or 2005 for that matter – meaning for all three General Elections I have been able to vote, my decision has been different at each election and, on each occasion my decision was made on election day.
In 2005 I exercised my right to abstain from voting. The Māori Party were new on the scene and not confident enough in their policies to win my support; National, my party of choice growing up as I did in Jim Bolger’s electorate, had under the leadership of Don Brash, undertaken an unprecedented and unsavoury attack on Māori which I could not support; and following Labour’s enactment of the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2003 I had vowed never to vote for them. Waking up on election day I realised that no party had convinced me to support them so I stayed in bed.
My choice in 2008 will surprise and possible offend some people. I had been won over by the Māori Party but I was perhaps a bit naive in my understanding of MMP and believed that with 5 electorate seats likely, my party vote would be wasted so I could give it to my second choice. Feeling the effects of the recession, my vote went to a party that had argued against the Foreshore and Seabed Act and had a strong plan to improve our economic system. That party was ACT. Their 20 point plan made sense to me. Only a year earlier I had completed a degree in Finance at the University of Auckland and believed that in the midst of a recession, economic reform was required. Of course, I would come to regret that decision and came to realise why people often get cynical about politics. After the election, the focus shifted away from the debate on our economic system and ACT descended into the farce that was the Auckland Supercity and deviated so far from their principled stand for the protection of property rights they developed around the Foreshore and Seabed Act so as to be unrecognisable as a liberal party. It was disgraceful, populist politics which has always failed in this country and the movement away from its ideological groundings over the past three years is why ACT will fail tomorrow.
And that brings me to 2011. My conservative, right-wing tendencies are no doubt obvious to you by now and I find much that I like in National’s policies. Then again, there are many policies of both the Greens and Labour that I support as well. A Capital Gains Tax is required, as is a high earners tax coupled with an increasing tax-free bracket at the bottom. Taking GST of fresh fruit and vegetables is not the answer, removing GST altogether is. A consumption tax will always disadvantage the lower social-economic groups and a tax on an individual product or class of products should only be used to deal with the negative externalities created by that product. The award for the best policy of the campaign goes to the Greens for their initiative to introduce a lower tax rate for small businesses. A one-size-fits-all approach to policy does not work in a diverse community. The worst policy is Labour’s plan to increase the retirement age to 67 and is another gross insult to Māori after years of failings by the Labour Party.
Tomorrow my vote will be for the Māori Party. All four electorate seats are likely to be retained and with 3.7% of the party vote, another two members will enter Parliament as list MP’s. The ability of the Māori Party to secure list MP’s is the next step of its evolution towards becoming an established, sustainable party in Parliament and I am beginning to realise the true power of MMP in this regard. 6 Māori Party MP’s are better than 4! I believe in the kaupapa of the Māori Party, I respect the hard work that all four of them have put in over the last 3 to 6 years, but most importantly, I want to support a party that not only places Māori issues at the front and centre of their policy platform, but also has the proven ability to work with whoever forms the Government to achieve gains for Māori. Whānau Ora, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2003 would not have occurred without the ability of the Māori Party to work with the National Government. National and Labour might have turns at occupying the treasury benches, but under MMP, a powerful centrist party can remain influencing Governments of the day for generations.
Even the Greens recognise this, and have worked constructively with the National Government over the past three years. A minor party will never have their policy programme implemented in its entirety, and often promises the world in full knowledge that they will never be held accountable for not getting them implemented. In politics, I will take every small gain that can be gained for Māori – if we take one step at a time we will slowly, but steadily, gain a lot of ground.