On February 13 this year I wrote:
Just at the moment, there is a high degree of admiration in Australia for the achievement of the New Zealand Key Government in very difficult circumstances. I share that admiration. However, in cherry picking those things that suit them, many in Australia ignore some key features of the New Zealand Government.
The first is that on social and moral issues New Zealand is, as it has been for many years, on the Australian left. The second is that New Zealand actually has a very pragmatic approach, In an interview in today's Financial Review with NZ Finance Minister Bill English, he said and I quote:" We're a suburb of Australia and Australia is a province of China." Those are the realities for New Zealand. The country is dependent on economic management in Australia and China, and can only respond as best it can. Australia has yet to learn this lesson."
Mr English's rhetoric and arguments about structural reform would be familiar to many on the "right" side of politics in Australia. However, he makes two points that would be less familiar in this country.
The first is the need for stability, the need to provide a framework that will allow individuals and businesses to plan. Take time, be careful, don't rush. The second is the need to look after the less advantaged and those adversely affected by change. Focus on them, but keep to your core approach. I have called this sharing the benefits.
If you do these things. Mr English argues, people will come along because they see the emerging benefits. Just give them time. That position is supported by the New Zealand public opinion polls.
This is not the Australian position. Here the atmospherics and the poison dominate.In the months since I wrote, Australian Governments at all levels have continued the same broad Australian approach. In New Zealand, the John Key lead National Party has just achieved a sweeping electoral victory giving it a clear mandate to continue the program it has been developing. Mr Key and his colleagues bring change through a process that involves consensus, respect and conciliation within a clear sense of direction. In Australia, Governments try to rule by dictat. We have a mandate, we must do, get out of our way. That doesn't work.
In Scotland, the independence campaign lost the vote, but has changed the UK political landscape for ever. I haven't had time to work through the details, but I suspect that the Westminster politicians have over promised in their desperate desire to keep the UK together. There will be some difficult and tense times before the details are worked through. Still, the Scots have shown that it is possible to achieve major structural change through democratic process in a political structure that seemed set in stone.
To the Catalan independents who hoped for a positive vote, the Spanish Government who wanted a negative vote, both have one. Scotland shows how divergent views can be accommodated in a single structure.
Finishing, just a note. If I haven't written on this in just a week or so, remind me that I was going to write something on super forecasters!