The Opposition: The dog that barks but never bites

Opinion 23/02/2018

By Roman Travers, RadioLIVE broadcaster.

OPINION: It’s all very well being a barking dog; but every now and then, the Opposition needs to sink its teeth in and bite hard.

Having an effective opposition is just as important as having an effective government.

What do any of New Zealand’s opposition parties really stand for – apart from trying to win the next election?

Being the leader of The Beehive Party and not being in parliament is the hardest thing that I have ever experienced. Apart from the time I had malaria while travelling through Africa when I was 21… I guess that and heading to my GP for a prostate check for the first time. Both were tough and comparatively unpleasant experiences that I am in no hurry to repeat.

There is constant focus on the intentions, promises and outcomes of the government, but when do you see our opposition parties held to account?

We are paying the salaries of each and every member of parliament and yet very few appear to have a comprehensive job description or regular reviews to determine their effectiveness.

When was the last time that you wandered down to the office of your local MP and asked them to do anything for you? Have you ever met your member of parliament? It’s not just the concerns you may have regarding the nudist colony being established next door or the neighbourhood rooster who routinely commences his day at 3am. It’s ensuring that your MP understands what is expected of them by their constituents.

Having an effective opposition is just as important as having an effective government.

Why is it that we seem to focus so fervently on leaders and not policy? What is it about a personality that so captivates us all when very quietly in the background; behind the media spotlight; established policy and legislation takes hold and sticks to the county like humidity.

The politics of personality is something that the USA used to have exclusive rights to; and now we have joined them.

The National Party has the unenviable task of selecting their next leader. Or is it a case of a select few who’ve already determined the outcome, now attempting to garner support from those that warm the backbenches?

Being young, bright, good-looking and pregnant seems to be enough for some of us to take greater interest in politics, but this is difficult to achieve when you aren’t young, bright or good-looking and being a male generally rules you out in the pregnancy department.

I have almost no interest in who leads the National Party, although I do make a face like a smacked bum when some names are mooted as potentials. Some of them very much fit the bill of ‘out with the old and in with the old’.

We have a coalition government to lead the country. Why can’t we have a coalition to oppose the government? Wouldn’t that be a far more effective use of the tax payer salaries we pay them? 

There is no question that holding our MPs to account is just as important as it is for MPs to work hard for their constituents, but there is an amazing opportunity for the opposition parties to be highly effective; that is being completely missed.

It’s sad when you see non-government organisations with greater voice, determination and focus on the task they are mandated to perform – than that of our opposition party’s members of parliament.

National needs to get on with choosing their leader and stop pretending that the decision will have any great bearing on the course they’ve plotted. Any leader is merely one voice and one vote in a party where policy and intentions run historically and intrinsically deep.

The Opposition parties need to hold the government to account and remember what it is they are there to do… and who they are there to do it for.

Roman Travers is a broadcaster for RadioLIVE.