• Will We Go Forward with the Clocks?

    When we wake up next Sunday morning, the clocks will have moved forward.  This annual event always reminds me of the probably apocryphal story of the house-proud woman who objected to the introduction of daylight saving because she feared that an extra hour of sunshine would mean that her new curtains would fade more quickly.

    But this year, the “great leap forward” of our clocks might be accompanied – faded curtains or otherwise – by an even more significant shift, this time in our politics.  As the sun rises (we hope) on Sunday, we could well awake to a brave new world.

    The difference between the two steps forward is that, unlike the annual and programmed arrival of daylight saving, the possible move into a new political era is very much dependent on decisions we take.

    The pundits (and the polls) are divided in their “guesstimates” as to whether or not we will see a change of government.  But the prospect of someone different in charge, after nine years of the same party in power, is intriguing enough to stimulate speculation as to what we might expect from a change of direction and energy.

    There will of course be a substantial body of opinion that is satisfied with the status quo and that sees nothing but downsides from any prospective change.  But for those of us who think we could do better, and that change and innovation could be welcome, what is it that we might hope for?

    There are probably two kinds of change that we might foresee.  First, we might think of those policy issues which might best be described as “errors and omissions” – those areas of policy which appear to have been either mishandled or neglected over recent years, so that there is a pressing need for more attention to be paid and more resources to be devoted to them.

    There is, for instance, the urgent need to clean up our rivers before they become further degraded.  And, in case the inability of our kids to swim in our rivers without getting sick is not shocking enough, there is the inadequacy of our efforts to confront the reality of climate change and to save endangered species on land and sea.

    We have surely had enough of giving automatic priority to private profit ahead of the survival of the natural world we share and the planet on which we live.

    And then there is the crisis of homelessness and housing unaffordability – again, a regrettable part of the price we pay for allowing the interests of speculators to prevail over the needs and hopes of young families.

    These are severely practical problems that cry out for solution by a government brave and determined enough to tackle them.  But there is a second order of change that we might also think should be addressed.

    There will be many who have concluded – sadly – that a country that was founded on a lofty vision of what democracy and a healthy and happy society could mean has let its standards slip.

    They will regret the poverty that now afflicts so many young Kiwis – and young Maori and Pasifika in particular – so that they are unable to share fairly and fully in the great benefits that New Zealand’s combined effort and enterprise can produce.

    They will regret the loss of that classic Kiwi commitment to a fair deal and opportunity for all, and to a helping hand for those who need it.

    They will regret the mean-mindedness that has now seeped from individual selfishness into social policy, so that those who need help find themselves deprived not only of the basics of life, but of good health, education and even of self-respect.

    They will regret the reduced standards represented by those in public life – the growing tendency to lie and misrepresent – so that the New Zealand that was once a byword for probity and honesty has seen its international reputation slip.

    Above all, we might hope for a government that is more ambitious in its quest to create a good society that attends to the needs of everyone in it and that accordingly sets its sights higher on their behalf.

    Could we perhaps move forward with our clocks?

    Bryan Gould

    15 September 2017




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