Election 2005 – how has the common good fared?

The 2005 general election brought out a particular brand of focus on the individual which Paul Green of the Palmerston North Justice and Peace Commission found was endemic to the common good espoused in Catholic social teaching.
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Paul Green

By the time this is printed the election results will be known but healing the wounds exposed by the political hostilities may take a little longer to realise.

The campaign had a bitter taste and, for the politically active and involved citizen, it was a frustrating battle.

It was not that policies were hard to differentiate or the parties too similar to distinguish. Far from it, but the issue that seemed to concern most voters was ‘what’s in it for me?’

The media hyped it up and the campaign turned into a two-horse race between National and Labour, while the common good was lost from sight.

It was frustrating because the important issues about resourcing the health and wellbeing of our people, the quality of education being offered in our schools and the relations between Māori and Pakeha became the shadow issues.

Instead of debating how NCEA could best be fixed or replaced, both sides offered simplistic slogans. Instead of facing the real issues about expensive healthcare technology, costly medicines and quality medical personnel, we heard about hip replacements and sex changes. National’s clever poster campaign outclassed Labour’s but Helen Clark’s debating style reduced Don Brash to dithering and denials. Labour was embarrassed about Treasury’s costing of their no interest student loan policy and the exclusive Brethren made an unexpected and embarrassing appearance in support of National. Helen’s police escort and Don’s apology about misleading us seem to have pushed the issues raised in Don Brash’s Orewa speech and the Labour government’s legislation on the foreshore and seabed right off the political map.

Potentially the most divisive of these shadow issues is our troubled race relations and whoever has won power will have to deal with the most startling result of all – a brand new Māori Party. Their four members may be holding the balance of power no matter who governs.

Māori dissatisfaction with Labour’s pre-emptive legislation which denied them their day in court and National’s incitement of racial prejudices coupled with a denial of their special status as Treaty partners, could force compromises that will make a mockery of previous posturing.

Perhaps what constitutes the common good will have to be reconsidered and redefined in a government confronted with the need to heal the wounds exposed by this 2005 election.