Dame Anne Salmond: A new start for NZ

20 October 2017
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Many politicians and commentators have argued that under MMP, the largest party should have the first chance at forming a government.  This assumes that the rights of political parties matter more than the rights of citizens to choose the policies that shape their future.

In the 2017 election, the policies put forward by National were supported by a minority of voters. There was clearly a mood for change, and in the event, those parties that offered alternatives to the status quo have formed a coalition government. This is exactly how MMP is supposed to operate.

While Winston Peters is often described as an unpredictable maverick, by all accounts, the process he put in place was robust and disciplined, allowing the various parties to analyse where their policies converged, and where they differed. In the end, the new government is underpinned by policies that drive towards social and economic change.

It's now up to the coalition parties to carry on as they have begun, and to govern the country in the interests of all New Zealanders. Over the past 33 years, the neo-liberal idea of a ‘free market’ ruled by naked self-interest has led to radical disparities of wealth and privilege, and an erosion of care for others and our beautiful land.

It has also undermined democratic institutions in New Zealand. Elections are seen as a Darwinian contest among political parties, in which the winners and their supporters take all, while the losers are shafted.

The independence of the civil service has been corroded, with chief executives who kowtow to their ministers, rather than serving the public interest. Government bodies are stacked with political cronies, while lobby groups dominate much decision-making. 

In New Zealand, it is not just our waterways that have turned toxic as a result of greedy, self-interested politics. This is the real challenge for the new government – to clean up and restore life to our democracy, as well as to rivers and lakes across the land.


Dame Anne Salmond is Distinguished Professor in Anthropology and a Professor of Maori Studies at the University of Auckland, and 2013 New Zealander of the Year.

Used with permission from NewsroomDame Anne Salmond: A new start for NZ published on Friday 20 October 2017.