On Sunday 11 October Labour held its Wellington election rally at the Michael Fowler auditorium which can seat 1,800 on two tiers – ambitious. In fact the smaller top tier wasn’t needed and the main tier had some empty seats towards the back, but the audience was easily big enough to create a cheery atmosphere for Labour’s faithful.
The event was appropriately commenced by a karanga. Then there was entertainment by first a R&B singing group then a swing band. This was pleasant enough, but we were into the second half of the rally before any politics was introduced. This in the form of a warm-up speech by Grant Robertson. Robertson’s theme was the government’s handling of the COVID crisis, ending with a paean of praise for Jacinda Ardern.
The remainder of the rally was Ardern’s twenty-minute speech. This too had a focus on the COVID crisis, but Ardern also held out a vision for New Zealand in 2030: still nuclear free; still with a universal system of social support; child poverty halved; no longer a waiting list for housing; every child knowing their history and their nation’s history; 100 percent renewable energy; swimmable rivers; COVID-19 eliminated and a country that had bounced back all the better. Ardern then reminded us of the achievements of her government: raising the minimum wage, increasing parental leave, Best Start, the families’ package, spending on mental health services etc. And 600 Kiwibuild homes constructed, if that counts as an achievement.
By pushing out a vision for 2030 Ardern side-stepped concrete proposals for the next three years. In contrast to the 2017 election, Ardern’s promises a second term of office are few: free school lunches, free apprenticeships and a Matariki public holiday being three of them. Small businesses can look forward to interest-free loans and tax refunds.
Labour’s platform for this election consists largely of its successful record over the pandemic. Other than that its programme is lightweight. The faithful, however, loved it.