And lo, the bliss of post-election no-government quiet was over.
I started writing this post two days ago and just had to google when the coalition was announced, because it feels like days and days and days. Friday was a rough one, huh?
Here come the new government, with a slew of racist, colonial, anti-queer, pro-landlord policy. There are things in there I didn’t expect would make it through, and the whole lot has turned out more than a bit worse than I expected.
The coalition documents and ministerial list are available here - the coalition agreements list policy platforms the parties have agreed to progress.
NZ First’s include the removal of the Ministry of Educations Relationships and Sexuality Education guidelines, including teaching about gender and sexuality. These guidelines have been incredible in the positive change they’ve made for our rainbow rangatahi, and this policy platform is more than it says on paper. NZ First’s agreement is full of conspiracy dogwhistles (even the WHO makes the cut).
There’s also a line in there about ensuring equality in sport not being influenced by gender - aka removing access to participation in sport and recreation for trans folk in Aotearoa.
And there’s a piece about requiring tertiary institutions to commit to a free speech policy, likely a result of the successful deplatforming of terfs and racists from university venues.
And then there are the attacks on Māori - so, so, so, so many attacks on Māori, from removing references to te Tiriti, to declaring that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People having no relevance to Aotearoa, to English-first government department and policies, to attacking the critically important Māori and Pasifika university admissions schemes, to disestablishing te Aka Whai Ora.
Many of these things were things these parties campaigned on, but some of us (I, at least) didn’t expect to make it through coalition negotiations. I didn’t think the RSE guidelines and sport were such a strongly held political issue, sort of expected National to take issue to some of the more out there policy platforms, but it seems Luxon, with all his negotiating chops and his extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions, just let it all through. I’d struggle to name anything in Act and NZ First’s policy manifestos that didn’t make it through these negotiations.
Others have written more in depth about the last few days that I want to point to - John Campbell’s column linked above is a good place to start:
Perhaps most striking, in National’s agreement with both ACT and New Zealand First, is the extraordinary attention reserved for Māori.
This is the coalition's heart of darkness.
Please also go read Nadine Anne Hura’s latest, for a good summary and a reminder of what we can all do: not lose hope, and keep helping each other:
Of course I was going to stop. Of course I was. I’d seen the boy’s face. The look of anguish he wore is one that has become too familiar to those of us trying to stay engaged in social media, while not ending up in the foetal position.
Personally, I’m still in shock. My first instinct (as it sometimes is, these days) was to pack it all in, leave for the mountains, live a life of solitude, at least for the next three years. Sometimes the mahi is hard enough without a right-wing government actively working against us. Going into the election, at times I felt like having a conservative government would give us a clearer enemy - years of slow movement had make it feel like a slog. But now that we’re here, I’ve had those moments of despair - of “how are we meant to keep doing this when you’re going to make it even harder?”
But then I remember. I remember my work, the people who rely on me, the people I’m making change for. I remember that I’m director and I’m president and as much as I would like I can’t just drop it all for someone else to take care of and just come back when it’s easy again.
That instinct, the feeling of despair, didn’t last long, I’m pleased to say. It comes and goes in waves, but it’s not predominant.
Yesterday, I dealt with those feelings in an absolutely very totally healthy and sane way - by going for a very, very long walk. I set out to walk 41km, the length of the Gaza strip, around and around Hagley Park - a 5.8km loop that, when walked eight times, would equal the distance Palestinians have had to walk in 30 degree heat with limited food and water, the sound of bombs falling in the distance.
I did it on a full puku, with lots of water, friends and whānau and comrades around me. In the evening I sat in my safe home with my feet in an ice bath and could hear fireworks from Christmas in the Park wafting in the air.
The two experiences are incomparable.
I didn’t walk alone, although I was prepared to. At 8am, there were 15 or so of us on the first lap. By the second, we’d grown to around 30. Across the day, people came and went - artists, activists, healthcare workers, parents and kids on scooters and in prams, dogs. People left to join the rally at 1pm, and came back to walk the last few laps.
I made it 36km before tapping out in the end, my feet too blistered and my hips and knees too sore to walk the final lap. I handed the Palestinian flag over to Cole, who had walked the first three laps with me, to finish.
The whole day, people showed their support. From their cars, tooting. Hi-fiving us as we walked past. Joining us to walk a stretch. Many walked with us for multiple laps, racking up the kms themselves. It’s not a small thing to commit to, but it felt like a small, simple thing we could do to hold vigil for our whānau on the other side of the world.
The next three years are going to call for a lot of hope. They will for a lot of active imagining of how the future could be. They’ll call for remembering how things have been, the responsibilities we have to our ancestors and to those who come after us.
But as we watch the Palestinian solidarity rallies grow week on week, we know that the appetite for change and the appetite for justice is there. We know that people will show up - when they come for te Tiriti, we will show up. When they come for our rainbow and trans rangatahi, we will show up. When they come for renters, for our disabled whānau, when they come for everyone who doesn’t own property and those who will suffer more from tobacco and those more at risk from gun violence and when they come for Māori, we will show up.
They have not won. We will not make it easy for them. We will continue to hope and we will continue to help each other. They are in for the fight of their lives.