New Zealand votes out woke Labour government by a big margin

October 14, 2023 • 9:15 am

Although if I were a Kiwi I’d probably be a member of the Labour Party, I have criticized them strongly for their education policy: a policy that has constantly tried to insinuate Māori “ways of knowing” (Mātauranga Māori ) into school science curricula (it’s fine if taught as history or sociology).  Labour has also been engaged in a frenetic bout of “decolonization,” trying to get the country to adhere to the Treaty of Waitangi (1840), which has been dubiously interpreted as “Māori get half of everything: jobs, science grants, language in publications, etc.”

This “decolonization”, particularly in schools and colleges, has gone so far that no Kiwi citizen dares oppose it for fear of demonization. Academics, for example, won’t speak up because they’ll be fired. That’s why I get a ton of emails from disaffected New Zealand academics who are afraid to speak up against the insinuation of MM into science curricula, and it’s why I write so much about it. Who else can criticize “decolonization” in NZ without risking their job? (Only retired professor!)

As I’ve also documented, New Zealand’s schools aren’t doing their jobs: they’re slipping in student performance, in student attendance, and in quality when compared to schools in similar countries like Canada, Australia, Singapore, and the U.S.  Kiwis are perfectly aware of this and worried about it, but again—they can’t object. (This decline in educational standards and accomplishment can’t be attributed solely to MM, as it’s been going on for several decades.)

But Labour, first under Jacinda Ardern (for whom I had great hopes) and then Chris Hipkins (former Minister of Education), must take the blame for what’s happened in the last six years, which includes a huge push for “decolonization.”

Apparently the public is fed up with Labour, as this report at the AP shows that Labour just lost the election, while the “conservatives” cleaned up big time (see also the report from the BBC and the live coverage at Stuff).  The new PM, Christopher Luxon, isn’t really “conservative” in the way that American Republicans are; the NZ party is are closer to American “centrism”—or so I’m told:

From the AP:

Conservative former businessman Christopher Luxon will be New Zealand’s next prime minister after winning a decisive election victory Saturday.

People voted for change after six years of a liberal government led for most of that time by Jacinda Ardern.

The exact makeup of Luxon’s government is still to be determined as ballots continued to be counted.

Luxon arrived to rapturous applause at an event in Auckland. He was joined on stage by his wife, Amanda, and their children, William and Olivia. He said he was humbled by the victory and couldn’t wait to get stuck in to his new job. He thanked people from across the country.

“You have reached for hope and you have voted for change,” he said.

Supporters chanted his campaign slogan which promised to get the country “back on track.”

Outgoing Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who spent just nine months in the top job after taking over from Ardern in January, told supporters late Saturday he had called Luxon to concede.

Hipkins said it wasn’t the result he wanted.

“But I want you to be proud of what we achieved over the last six years,” he told supporters at an event in Wellington.

Ardern unexpectedly stepped down as prime minister in January, saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” to do the job justice. She won the last election in a landslide, but her popularity waned as people got tired of COVID-19 restrictions and inflation threatened the economy.

Her departure left Hipkins, 45, to take over as leader. He had previously served as education minister and led the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With most of the vote counted, Luxon’s National Party had about 40% of the vote. Under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, Luxon, 53, is expected to form an alliance with the libertarian ACT Party.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party that Hipkins leads was getting only a little over 25% of the vote — about half the proportion it got in the last election under Ardern.

And in a result that would be particularly stinging for Labour should it lose the seat,

A 40% vote for National versus a 25% vote for Labour is a huge difference, especially when compared to Ardern’s landslide. The NZ public clearly heaved out the old party with alacrity. I don’t know about National’s other policies, but it has promised to reform education, cracking down on schools to improve literacy and reforming curricula. Here are National’s six highlights for educational reform:

National will:

  1. Progressively improve the adult-to-child ratio for under two year olds in early childhood education.
  2. Invest an additional $4.8 billion in school infrastructure, including $2 billion over five years for the Fix New Zealand’s Schools Alliance, and another $2.8 billion over a decade for new classrooms and schools to accommodate growth and reduce the need to impose restrictive zoning requirements.
  3. Establish a $160 million per year fund to support children with additional learning, behavioural and physical needs – allocated based on school roll and need – so schools can invest in the initiatives they believe are appropriate for their student community.
  4. Invest $150 million over four years to fund an additional six million hours of teacher aide support in classrooms, equivalent to around 1500 new teacher aides (at 25 hours per week), or an average of 600 hours per school each year.
  5. Invest $340 million over four years to deliver smaller class sizes by progressively reducing student-to-teacher ratios in primary schools. This will reduce teacher workloads and make sure children get more focused teacher attention in their foundation years.
  6. Establish at least 25 new partnership schools by 2023, including some focussed on high-priority learners such as Māori and Pasifika; children with additional learning needs; and in specialist education areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

A quality education can make all the difference in the future of a child. National knows how important it is for children to leave school with firm foundations in core areas, but also for parents to feel empowered to make the choices that will best suit their child’s needs.

Now #6 does address indigenous people, but it is true that Māori and Pasifika children do poorly compared to others, like whites or Asians.  So I have no objection to giving them special attention, so long as it’s not in the form of a Kiwi-an “affirmative action.” And the reform will concentrate on STEM, the area being most corrupted by decolonization.

But somehow I get the feeling that National is not going to truckle to indigenous demands that their “ways of knowing” be taught as equivalent of modern scientific ways of knowing.  We may have a substantial time to find out, too, as there is no fixed term for NZ’s prime minister: they typically leave office when they lose an election or a confidence vote (in Ardern’s case, she simply resigned claiming she was worn out).  In the 20th century, Kiwi PMs have stayed for up to 13 years.

The voters have spoken—and loudly. Stay tuned.

29 thoughts on “New Zealand votes out woke Labour government by a big margin

    1. Here’s some granular detail that you won’t find in the reporting of the NZ election, and from a previously 100% Labour voting intellectual.
      NZ with a population of 5 million and 120 MPs in a unicameral house , theoretically means greater access for people to their representatives than pertains in the USA, UK, France, Germany, India, Japan etc.

      In my spare time I am an activist for greater Asian representation in the local arts world. ( Google my article ‘NZ Erases Its Asian Musicians’ in ) Initially I had high hopes when Ardern crowned herself Arts minister, which carries utterly nil cachet [ unlike France where I now am on holiday ]. When Labour gained an absolute majority in parliament, the first time any single party in modern times gained an absolute majority, Labour pushed through a maorification for everything agenda — something that Den Dennett might term ‘the universal acid’ in a biological philosophical setting.

      Ardern pushed maori culture first for everything, and pacific second, with no priority for the rest. The sheer travesty was the funding for the maori haka competitions which went from about $500 k yearly to about 15-17 million a year, while the previously best funded arts groups — the NZSO, had its annual budget SYMBOLICALLY cut to being less than the maori haka stuff.

      Over the past 2 years I made lengthy submissions to all parties in parliament on the problem of asian cultural under-acknowledgement. Labour’s Minister for ethnic communities [ ie anyone non white who isn’t also Maori or polynesian ] is an Indian, Priyanka Radhakrishnan. She couldn’t even be bothered to even acknowledge my letter to her despite my Indian name. Radhakrishnan’s conduct is emblematic of how arrogant Labour’s elites became under Ardern — she could have farmed out my letter to one of Labour’s surfeit of MPs, eg Labour Party hack Naisi Chen MP [ who was co-writing Labour’s arts policy ] — but if anything disagreed with their enforced maorification of everything, even Labour’s nonwhite MPs had to tow the line.

      Contrast this to National’s shadow ethnic minister, Melissa Lee MP, and arts shadow, Simon O Connor, who both wrote personal letters to me [ composed by themselves ] — It was clear Melissa Lee had read all 10000 words about Asian arts and cultural issues I sent her. David Seymour, leader of ACT that won 9% of the electorate vote, actually sat down last year with me and quoted (without needing to refer to a crib sheet ) directly from the long arts submission I had also sent the National MPs, but which Labour Minister Radhakrishnan ignored. Partly thanks to my lobbying, ACT now has a sort of arts policy that states that the arts should reflect the population proportions of a liberal multiethnic nation. I am delighted Radhakrishnan just got booted out of parliament, due to the hauteur she showed me.

      Lastly, I sent an updated version of my arts letter 3 months ago to NZ’s Deputy PM — but this time with a letter attached to the bottom of my email, which was thanks from the Epsom Branch of the Labour Party thanking me in 2020 for my ‘generous financial donations’. Presumably this was the main reason the deputy PM asked her dogsbody to reply on her behalf. The Deputy PM was in complete denial of all the facts I had laid out on how Asian arts and culture had suffered under Labour’s ‘maori first and Pacific second’ arts policies.

  1. More partnership (i.e. charter) schools doesn’t necessarily mean more schools following a different curriculum from the Ministry of Education’s curriculum. Such schools may follow a different curriculum, but most of the existing ones follow the standard curriculum.

  2. Meanwhile, Australians have voted against an “Indigenous voice” body, giving indigenous peoples special status. This has been covered a bit here in the UK (BBC, The Times, etc) but all the coverage I’ve seen has been pretty biased, treating the “yes” option as the one everyone should vote for, and failing to report properly why anyone would be against.

    1. Yes, I’ve just read about that vote in the Guardian. I wonder if the example of MM nonsense in NZ was a factor affecting the vote?

      1. The incoming government can’t possibly be worse than the outgoing Ardern-Hipkins administration. But I’m not sure we can expect them to kick “indigenous ways of knowing” out of science classes, as most of National’s front bench is pretty woke.

        Perhaps the most deplorable of the outgoing government’s legacies is the damage they’ve done to the credibility of the state as the custodian of education and healthcare. By racializing healthcare, and by politicizing education to an unprecedented degree, they’ve gifted the centre-right a social license to give the private sector a larger role in both spheres.

      2. Maybe but it was a very small factor. The primary reason was a lack of support for enshrining racism for an advisory body within the constitution with unspecified and unexplained and uncosted powers, a working definition of an aborigine and a deafening lack of explanation of how exactly it would work to achieve any goals.

        The governments slogan was we have to listen better with a lot of emotional rhetoric and manipulation. It’s a gracious request. The heavy promotion of celebrities and sports people promoting the Yes campaign went down like a lead balloon. Aussies love a jolly good lecture from the higher ups.

        The No campaign focused effectively on the Don’t know vote no. Initially the government released a one page Uluru statement with lots of lofty goals but no action plans and this we were told on what we were voting on. After a FOI request it turned out there was 121 pages behind the Uluru statement. Embedded within there was a follow up of treaty, truth talking and reparations. There was talk of demands that the Aboriginals get an unspecified percentage of the GDP.

        It was a disaster for the government and divided the country enormously. Interestingly the only state that voted yes was the ACT which is full of public servants and contains no aborigines suffering from remote isolation with all the inherent problems. The public servants would have benefited hugely with this bureaucratic layer. It would have cost a lot money and achieved zilch like all the other things the government has done in the past and we have been told this will fix the problem.

        A lot of people resonated with the we are one people in one nation. We are all equal.

        P.S. Apologies for the length but I have covered some but not all the issues.

      3. I didn’t hear any mention of NZ during the campaign from either side. The “No” campaign was well funded by fossil fuel companies and mining interests who operate on Aboriginal land and would not like to see their paid for lobbying power diluted by Aboriginal people actually having a voice.
        The no campaign effectively celebrated ignorance with its “if you don’t know, vote no” slogan (quite different to when the same people were yelling “do your own research” during Covid). It also played on fear and natural conservatism of Australians. The irony of all these rich politicians and mining magnates claiming they were against the “elites” was not lost on me. Anyway, yet another utterly shameful day for Australia among many.

  3. The election results in NZ could be relevant to the US if the GOP ever escapes its current diseased state. The continued alignment of old-fashioned Liberals with the Democratic Party depends heavily on the sociopathy of Donald Trump & Co. If a reputable Center-Right returns in even local parts of the GOP, many Liberals will prefer it to the Democrats, particularly if the latter are seen to indulge woke posturing. Although “reputable Center-Right” may seem like an oxymoron in the US, such a thing is not uncommon elsewhere. There are even faint glimmers of it here, such as Governors Scott and Sununu in Vermont and New Hampshire, former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in la-la land, etc. etc..

  4. I’d upvote you if I could. You said that very well.

    Out of curiosity, are there any living or dead conservatives/ republicans you can think of who you would consider voting for, if they were running, in preference to any of the Democrats who are on offer?

  5. None that I can think of that I’d vote for instead of Biden. But American Republicans are far more right-wing than NZ National Party. I would have voted for Luxon over Hipkens in the NZ election, though.

      1. I look forward to an independent ticket consisting of Robert Kennedy Jr. and John Kennedy Jr. Unfortunately, it will turn out to be George Santos pretending to be both of them.

  6. Thanks to all the pandering to “Woke” Puritanical Fake Left bullshit the “progressive” New Zealand government engaged in for years, all progress on the social justice issues they claimed to be promoting will likely be reversed by this new conservative government. PFL bullshit once again is shown to have the opposite effect to what its ideologues claim it is all about.

    1. Hear hear! A National-ACT government is nothing to celebrate. They intend to undo all the changed that Labour made to reduce the degree of “house-hoarding”, which is a big driver of inequality in New Zealand. Luxon himself owns something like 9 or 11 hours. There is no capital gains tax on profits made from property hoarding in NZ. A National-ACT government is bad news for women (efforts made to increase parity between equally-skilled male-dominated and female-dominated fields will be reversed or discontinued, and they claim they will undo the changes made to when children become eligible for subsidised childcare, a big contributor to career progression for women and ultimately a huge contributor to the gender-superannuation-fund gap, gender pay gap etc). And it’s very very bad news for animal welfare, as ACT and the Nats are both horrific on that front. The Nats say they will reverse Labour’s ban on live exports of cows to Saudi Arabia, a practice that is extremely inhumane as well as morally repugnant in a “should be we doing business with the Saudis?” kind of a way. There will be no progress on anything to do with climate change. A good number of Nat MPs are climate change deniers. Their Minister for Police made his large fortune by running a company in the Middle East that sold weapons to mercenaries. As for claims that Luxon is not really all that conservative, he’s an evangelical Christian “forced-birther” who voted against the bill to decriminalise abortion, so there’s that. He also appears to be pretty vacuous. In the education department, it’s unlikely that National will change much. After all, a lot of the rot is from their last term in government. Sadly, I think a big driver of people voting National is that they believe Labour to be responsible for the huge increase in cost of living over the last few years rather than global economic forces, the invasion of Ukraine etc. National always begins every election campaign by promising tax cuts, which lures a lot of voters. Of course, National being National, they will find a way to take that money back from the poor and make sure it “trickles up” to the rich!

      1. We Kiwi’s voted – we want all Labour policies changed…we voted for an equal New Zealand not a pandering to Maori situation – Pacific Islanders and Asians not getting a voice under Labour was so racist and yet – Woke people think…oh let’s get all Native! 200 years has almost passed and Kiwi taxpayers are fed up with giving Maori handouts and special treatment at the expense of all others here…we voted for ‘one country one people’ – if anyone wants to go back to the stone age where Utu was king…vote Labour.

      2. Luxon’s anti-abortion views are of no relevance to National Party policy. Even if wanted to restrict abortion rights, he would stand no chance of doing so, as his caucus is dominated by social liberals. Can you see Nicola Willis and Erica Stanford voting to restrict abortion rights? I’m no fan of Luxon, but if he’s such a social conservative, why did he vote for the legislation banning so-called “Conversion Practices” last year?

        What sort of conservative votes for legislation that effectively criminalizes any parents and medical practitioners who are reluctant to “affirm” a child’s gender dysphoria? Do your homework, and don’t cherry-pick the evidence.

        And the gender pay-gap is the ultimate woke grift. Women earn less on average because men are on average more career-driven, and because of sexual selection – men and women typically have different hierarchies of priorities when choosing a mate. The traits that get men ahead at work are attractive to many women, but there is no comparable sexual payoff for women’s professional success or income.

  7. In my opinion, Jacinda Ardern was a genuinely bad person. Of course, she was/is entirely wrong about MM. However, she has also promoted the career of Laurel Hubbard, the man who pretends to be a woman in weightlifting.

    Will the National party fix the educational system? I rather doubt it. Fixing the school system would require (at least) substantial change along the lines of Singapore. Is that going to happen? In my opinion, the answer is no.

    1. I agree that Ardern was execrable. And such a ham actor! When Hipkins choked up on election night, it felt like real emotion to me – I was moved. I don’t like Hipkins, but it was refreshing to see a genuine emotion for a change, after Ardern’s performative kindness and furrowed brow of “concern”.

      And like you, I’m not optimistic about how National will handle education. Their front bench is pretty woke, and Luxon is risk-averse.

      1. I have read some of what the National party proposes to do in NZ about education. It amounts to spending more money. However, the sad reality is that money has little influence on education. In the US, New York State (NYS) spends roughly 3X what Utah spends. Guess which state has better NAEP scores. For a truly extreme case, consider Cambridge, MA. Cambridge spends an amazing $36K, per-student. Results are rather mediocre.

  8. Of course, the really conservative part of it would be Seymore of Act backing him up with Peters being the awkward yet fun one.

  9. Yes more than a few of us Kiwis are relieved by the election result – I think your valued contributions in highlighting some of the absurdities happening here may have helped us a bit Professor Coyne.
    National is probably closer to the right wing of the US Democrats than it is to the Republican Party; and even though Luxon is a Christian he has promised not to interfere with abortion laws etc.
    ACT are a classical liberal party, whose policies include equal treatment for all NZers regardless of ethnicity and a referendum to define the mysterious ‘principles’ of the Treaty of Waitangi.
    I fear the SJ fundamentalist rot that has engulfed our education system may be too entrenched to shift though.

  10. No matter what culture war differences people might have with the Ardern Labour government I can guarantee that all we will see from from a conservative government is economic mismanagement, lining the pockets of their already rich buddies, the privatisation of national goods and treasures and a war on the poor to distract from the looting. It’s what we get from every conservative government in the anglosphere.

    1. I’m not sure what “conservative” government you’re talking about. The NZ National party is a liberal party, with a sprinkling of conservatives who have little influence on policy. ACT aren’t conservatives either – David Seymour hates conservatives. Yes the new government will probably privatize some public assets (which I regard as treasonous), but election time for grown-ups means choosing the least of the evils on offer. I’ve voted Labour most of my life, but have been completely alienated by the destructive policies and gross incompetence of the Ardern-Hipkins government. Nobody wages “war on the poor”, and increasing social welfare payouts doesn’t lift people of poverty. Teaching people employable skills lifts them out of poverty.

        1. No, it’s the ACT Party that approximates a libertarian position. Someone else on this thread equated the NZ National Party with the right wing of the US Democrats, and that sounds reasonable to me.

    2. i’d disagree with you on that. I voted National this time purely because I hate what I see as the Labour Government’s assault on science in the name of Mātauranga Māori.

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