I would say not very much. Politician’s don’t really listen or want to listen to the general public, politicians are like some strange breed of animal that comes out of hibernation every three years, they creep around, kiss babies, pay lip service to the voters, then as soon as the elections are over they go back into hibernation.
But who do politicians really listen to? Who do they really formulate policy for?
It isn’t for the normal New Zealander, the person that votes for them, pays taxes, and lives in the country; it’s the interest groups that lobby and have vast amounts of cash to influence governments. An example of this would be the Sky City convention centre. The Prime Minister was out one night having a meal, probably at Sky City, (I wonder if he had to pay for it?), at this meal there just happened to be the Sky City directors!
“Mr Key has championed SkyCity’s involvement in the convention centre deal since discussing it at a dinner with the firm’s directors in 2009” (Fisher 2012).
As a result of lobbying SkyCity agreed to pay for a new convention centre while the government would change the law so they could have more gaming tables and extend their licence. Where is the National parties election night headquarters, you guessed it, Skycity; when the National party have conventions, where are they generally held? You guessed right again, SkyCity. This is the power that wealthy interest groups can weld.
Interest groups try to influence every government not just National; the Labour party has and still is heavily influenced by the Unions when it is in government. The Unions want better workers’ rights, and pay for their members, so they try to influence government policy. National on the other hand have business trying to influence their policies; business wants workers’ rights suppressed and more power given to the employer.
Under the heading “Building a Stronger NZ for Families” on the National Party website (http://www.national.org.nz/business.aspx.) you can see policy after policy that has empowered employers over employees. Who is National building a stronger New Zealand for, to me it seems that it is not families. An example of one of their ‘Building a Stronger NZ for Families’ policies would be the 90 day trial period; where an employer can dismiss you from your job without any reason. I am sure when the average voting New Zealander voted, they didn’t think they would be voting in such a draconian law.
Lowering youth wages; 90 day trial period; lowering company tax; cheaper ACC for employers etc
Who would these new employment laws help?
The National party argues that it will help more people into jobs, but how will lowering children’s wages; sacking people at any time for any reason in their first three months at a new job be good for a worker; the only group that I can see these laws helping IS THE EMPLOYER.
The Green party point out during a 2007 press release that
“according to Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men, leading members of the Business Roundtable were secret donors to the National Party in the last election campaign” (Green Party, Press Release 2007)
The power of the interest groups are immense; the bigger and richer your interest group is; the more influence they wield; the more the government will listen to them.
The issue of interest groups is not just a problem we face in New Zealand politics. It is an international issue. For example in America the voting public are fed up with influence that interest groups wield.
“Americans think members of Congress have no interest in listening to them. According to a Public Campaign/Democracy Corps poll, they believe politicians’ priorities are first and foremost special interest groups, then campaign contributors, party leaders and the media, listening to their own consciences and their constituents tied for dead last.” (Nyhart 2014).
It seems politicians in New Zealand are following what is happening internationally. They are listening and formulating policy that benefit those interest groups, and the voters are being left out. Interest groups are making big contributions to political party’s coffers
“The system creates a political inequality that leaves those unable to write big checks left out. It’s not what our Founding Fathers had in mind. We need to return to a government that is truly of, by and for the people, not bought and paid for by big money donors and special interests.” (Nyhart 2014).
Governments are becoming not for the good of the people but for the good of who pays the most and speaks the loudest.
In New Zealand, as in America or for that matter all round the world people don’t give other people money for nothing, they do at some point want something back in return. Under the MMP system it was hoped that interest groups would not have the same power that they once had
“It would be naïve to conclude that these developments have brought about the truly level playing field of classical pluralism. Some interest groups remain more equal than others, and those that are well resourced and organized stand to gain more for their members than those that are not” (Shaw and Eichbaum 2009, 196).
I think that some particular interest groups will always have the government’s ear over others and the general voting public. These elite groups will have the money and power that influence government policy, whether it be through donating monies or threatening to pull business out of New Zealand or not using New Zealand for their next big block buster movie.
Fisher, David. 2012. Puzzle of Key’s extra casino jobs. June 5th. Accessed March 27th, 2014. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10810802.
Green Party, Press Release. 2007. Bussiness Roundtable Member behind attack on reform. December 4th. Accessed March 30th, 2014. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0712/S00057.htm.
Nyhart, Nick. 2014. Lobbyists and lawmakers, one big family. March 29th. Accessed March 30th, 2014. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/28/opinion/nyhart-lobbyists-lawmakers/index.html?iid=article_sidebar.
Shaw, Richard, and Chris Eichbaum. 2009. Public Policy in New Zealand, Institutions, processes and outcomes. Auckland: Pearson Education New Zealand.