Cracker by Damian Christie

Dude, Where's My Car?

I thought I’d save my blogging for the weekend.

Extensive research tells me ninety something percent of you won’t read this until you’re on the boss’s time on Monday, and a little part of you will be thinking “lucky sod, being all weekendy, while I’m stuck here on a Monday morning.” At least, that’s if you share the same warped logic as me. Those of you who do, please picture me writing this while breaking frequently to bask in a little sun trap, the location of which coincides perfectly with my new comfy sofa. Mmm.

I saw a car this morning on my way to bFM, a little 1960s MG convertible. I thought to myself, ‘cool car, wouldn’t mind one of those’. Then I remembered that I do have one, or at least my mechanic has one, and has had for the past ten months, lucky bugger. Is it just me or does that seem like a little too long to replace a gearbox? And no need to send me feedback about the perils of owning old English cars, I’ve heard it all before.

The All Blacks v Australia test was a fantastic piece of rugby last night. As well as pleasantly reminding me why I no longer live in Wellington – at least in Auckland the rain only travels vertically – it was the perfect combination of us dominating the possession, a number of tense near-miss opportunities, looking like we could lose it at any time but coming through victorious. A runaway victory like we had against the English is all well and good, but it’s the close ones that keep your attention for a full eighty minutes.

Last Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of the Lange/Douglas Labour Government. Much of the media coverage was overshadowed with discussion and speculation around Big Dave’s health, which is understandable. After Michael Joseph Savage, Lange is arguably the country’s most loved former Prime Minister – no mean feat when you consider some of the very painful changes he oversaw.

Twenty years on, the jury is still out on many of those changes. For some, an odd rose-tinted cloud has drifted over the Muldoon era, and the reality of wage freezes, price freezes, runaway inflation, butter mountains, no choice of consumer goods, foreign exchange restrictions and having to bribe your mate at Telecom with a crate of beer to get a phone installed have been replaced with a general sense of “things were better then”.

The current Labour Government won't praise the efforts of its infamous former Finance Minister, but nor has it sought to undo much of his work. Ditto the continued reforms by Ruth Richardson under Bolger’s National Government. This approach of condemning a policy while in Opposition but continuing it when in power just seems the way things are done nowadays. With Cullen and Brash in control of Finance, it’s like an economic Good Cop/Bad Cop – the outcome’s the same either way, but one’s going to let you have a cigarette. Actually, with the current Labour Government, that’s probably the last thing it’s going to let you have.

If Lange’s Labour Government will always be remembered for its drastic economic reforms, I wonder if Clark’s will have the same legacy in the social sphere. Prostitution, civil unions, matrimonial property reforms, lesbians can be fathers too, no smoking in bars, (possibly) smacking – will history join the dots? Will Clark & Maharey be the Lange & Douglas of the 21st century?

If it’s less obvious, perhaps it’s because of the method by which some of the legislation is passed. In this regard, conscience votes has always seemed a bit odd to me. Why should economic issues be any less subject to ethical concerns than social ones? Taxation to a libertarian is as much a moral issue as GE is to a greenie, or gay marriage to a conservative.

So while Labour is responsible for the current wave of social reforms, the fact that even its own MPs are (in theory, at least) allowed to vote according to their consciences allows a degree of separation from the party proper. Labour didn’t pass the bill, Parliament did. Douglas never had that luxury when it came to his reforms.