OPINION: The political year has finally ended. Sweet apolitical holiday bliss.
But not so fast. Did you really think you would get off that easy?
We get to do it all again next year and with the Government halfway through its 100-day programme, it plans on coming back earlier than normal. From late January feet will be firmly back under desks, and the Parliamentary machine will whir into life.
Here are some of the big things set to shape debate in the next political year.
* Tracy Watkins: Top 20 New Zealand political moments of 2017
* Labour’s big ticket families package puts a stake in the ground
* Greens announce contest to elect new co-leader in new year
* National calls Government’s plans for select committee ‘undemocratic’
State of the Nation: The political year will kick off with a series of speeches from the party leaders, designed to be the rallying cry that spells doom, gloom and usually all that’s wrong with the country.
Expect both Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National leader Bill English to talk about housing, inequality and health. Their fixes are likely to be quite different.
Waitangi argy-bargy: Tensions have already risen between the Government and iwi leaders. Labour ministers have questioned the Iwi Chair Forum’s authority, while iwi leaders are promising push-back over Government policies, including a decision to abolish charter schools as well as rumblings over water rights.
English has already promised to celebrate Waitangi Day elsewhere, indicating a western-style clearing of the streets ahead of a showdown at dusk.
Driving that wedge: But where he might want to avoid political tension on the national day, English has no trouble stoking it back in Parliament. Watch that hammer and chisel come out as the National Party works to chip away at the contractual friendship between NZ First and the Greens.
Social and environmental differences abound and if National’s bill to establish a sanctuary in the Kermadec’s gets pulled, the Greens will be forced into some soul-searching.
How many houses was that? Far fewer than 5000 is the likely bet. The Government’s KiwiBuild pledge to build 16,000 more houses in its first term could get off to a slow start next year, but that doesn’t rule out a late surge in the following two.
Let’s talk euthanasia: How about it New Zealand, are we ready for another high-profile and emotive national debate? Too bad, it’s coming. And despite the heartache and at times divisive rhetoric, it’s shaping to be another moment of growth for these progressive little islands at the bottom of the Pacific.
How’s the health? The health of the health sector is not good. But exactly what state it’s in might have passed over the heads of many New Zealanders. As the Government struggles to make good on an expensive set of expectations to fix all that’s wrong it will have some tough, and potentially unpopular, funding decisions to make.
Much ado about nothing new? We’ve already had the “mini-budget” this month; the first official allocation of funds to some of the new Government’s biggest policies. But there’s not a lot of new money in the kitty and so Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s first budget proper, could be more of the same. Some big ticket items will still be funded, but there may not be so many surprises as already-announced policy items get their formal allocation of cash.
The Green race: The hunt is on for a new female co-leader to replace Metiria Turei, and it’ll kick into high gear in the new year. A shortened timeline will likely see a female counterpart to James Shaw chosen in April or May. Watch out for pre-selection manoeuvring and profile-building by potential candidates including party number two, yet relative political newcomer, Marama Davidson. Senior MP and Minister Eugenie Sage however is seen as a solid compromise candidate, never tending to play the factional game.
– Sunday Star Times