Let’s Return to Experience By Trevor Ammundsen.
In an earlier Editorial I wrote about the opportunities politicians have and mentioned a few that realised the opportunities presented to them. In making that all too brief list Simon Bridges was the only current politician that I felt was worthy of mention, for his ten roads of significance program. The reason I mention this is that I read an article by Sir Roger Douglas recently which said a similar thing. He stated that no politician in the last twenty years has done anything of significance for the country.
Obviously, he is not as keen on roading as I am but basically, we are in agreement which lead me to ponder “why is this?”. I have concluded the problem started with Norman Kirk’s Labour Government in 1972. This Government was a significant Government; starting New Zealand towards an independent foreign policy with the sending of Frigates to protest the French Nuclear Testing and the banning of the planned 1973 Springboks Tour. They also lowered the voting age to 18 however which, in my view, was to have drastic effects on the Country.
The next election in 1975 was my first opportunity to vote, at the age of 21. I was mature enough to wonder why teenagers were also allowed to vote but didn’t worry about it overmuch. Reading the manifestos that Parties circulated in those days I was able to give all parties a lot of consideration. This resulted in my selection of the Values Party with their utopia of legal dope smoking, no real work being required and lots of sunshine being very attractive at the time. Those attitudes still seem to be prevalent in many quarters although the Green Party, which evolved from the original Values Party, now seems hell bent on stopping the sun from shining. Other than that, no great evolution of thought can be seen in this political area.
Political evolution has however happened in other areas. In the seventies Politicians had all done their “time”, working on their own Business Operations, running Unions, managing their farms or working in the employment of some other. All were experienced in multiple aspects of life and most wanted to give something back to their Country. The lowering of the voting age did enable younger MPs to gain the support to be elected but under the First Past the Post system these MPs had been well groomed by the experienced politicians around them. With the advent of MMP the chance of a young untrained mind entering Parliament has risen.
The two significant events of lowering the voting age to 18 and changing the voting system to MMP has introduced another career option for the young person who doesn’t wish to really work and that is as a career politician. The path is quite simple. Firstly, leave school and study for a pointless degree that will not tax you too much and gives you opportunities to meet like-minded people. This should be followed up by a couple of years overseas, perhaps cleaning a politician’s office so you can claim political experience gained internationally. Upon your return to New Zealand, you set about earning a spot on a party list, gradually working your way up the list until you become elected. Which party doesn’t matter too much but the more idiotic the existing list for a party looks, the better your opportunity for success. This comment can be supported by a quick glance at the “talent” available in the parties that seem most attractive to the young.
New Zealand is seeing a lowering of standards right across the spectrum, Education, Health, Law and Order and so on. The Economy is a mess and the young Ministers in charge do not seem to understand the value of a dollar. They just put out their hand for more pocket money if they cannot afford the train-set they want. How much of this decay is due to youth in positions of power?
It is hard to answer this question, but the age and experience of our Governments has lowered. For example, the average age of the current cabinet was 48.6 when elected, the oldest member being 62. The previous cabinet, elected in 2017, had an average age of 52.9. It is the lack of experience that this represents that is the concern. What can we do about this; not too much I feel. We can but watch and hope that, like all children who didn’t perform as expected when younger, maybe one day they will learn a few things and surprise us all.