Wednesday 19 December 2018

Coalitions mean plausible deniability

Who knows what the true model here is. Whatever the true model, we simply don't know whether statements by New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister represent New Zealand foreign policy.

Here's Richard Harman. You should subscribe to his newsletter if you want to keep track of what's going on in NZ politics:
The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, confirmed yesterday that she did not see Winston Peters’ major speech on NZ-US relations before he delivered it in Washington, DC, on Saturday.

The speech has raised questions about whether New Zealand is moving its foreign policy closer to the Trump administration and away from the independent stance it has pursued since the ANZUS breakdown in 1985.

It has surprised observers in Wellington that such a major speech could be delivered without at least the Prime Minister’s prior approval and probably that of the Cabinet as a whole as well.

And it has left unanswered, questions as to where New Zealand sits between the United States and China.
Harman has lots more at the link.

So it's impossible to tell whether Winston's speech represents the current view of the government, whether it's Winston off on a branch, or whether it's a deliberate coalition strategy to have someone who can be dismissed as the crazy uncle cozying up to the US to let other parts of the coalition stay friendlier with China: "Oh, that's just Winston. You have to forgive him. They're retail politicians. Retail politicians can get away with anything here. They just have to remind people that they're retail politicians when they're doing it."

The thing I hate most about MMP is the diffusion of responsibility. Given the limits of voter attention, the best we can hope for is that they dish out reward or punishment appropriately come the election, and that fear of that constrains government. But when everyone and no one is responsible for policy, that is a bit harder.

No comments:

Post a Comment