Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 7 April 2017
There are election campaigns, there are weird election campaigns, and there are New Zealand election campaigns.
I arrived in this beautiful country five years ago, having previously lived in Germany, the UK and Australia. And though I fell in love with New Zealand immediately, I am still puzzled by our election campaigns.
You see, in most other countries elections are fought on the big issues – or at least by big personalities.
New Zealand elections, on the other hand, seem to be determined by sideshows rather than big ideas or big personalities.
In the 2011 election, there was the tea tape scandal (rather a storm in a teacup). In 2014, we talked about Kim Dotcom and his “Moment of Truth” (which was truly insignificant). And in every election year, there seems to be a new Nicky Hager book (which Hager would claim is purely coincidental).
I cannot recall a New Zealand election campaign ever dominated by ideas. As friends tell me, such elections used to happen in New Zealand – but that was more than a quarter century ago.
And yet, if you are a democrat you would wish elections to be about the country’s future.
To help the public refocus on the things that matter in this election, we at the Initiative have compiled our very own election manifesto.
We believe that this country deserves a proper debate about our housing market. We are using less than one percent of our land for development and yet we have one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the world. It need not be this way.
We believe that every New Zealand child deserves a great education. Sadly, our education results have declined by international measures and a child’s education chances still depends too much on the socio-economic status of the parents.
We believe that New Zealand does not reap the benefits of globalisation because we make it too hard for potential investors to set up shop in our country. We do not see a need for the Overseas Investment Act.
These are some of the issues we believe deserve to be debated.
Election years should be festivals of democracy. They should be about debating novel ways of tackling our country’s most pressing problems.
Let’s demand that our media and politicians put them at the heart of the election campaign.
To find out more, read Manifesto 2017 and make this election campaign a contest of ideas.