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Tuesday 09 November 2010

Inertial conservatism?

Posted in: Comment, Features
By Craig Young - 24th May 2010

John Key
Well, this isn't a retrograde social conservative government...but it isn't overly progressive, either, insofar as we're concerned.

The Key administration has said that it won't turn back the clock when it comes to abortion access, civil unions, sex work decriminalisation and the anti-hitting legislation of the Clark era. So far, all good. However, apart from provocation defence repeal, there seems to similarly be little prospect of more inclusive government policies either, insofar as we're concerned.

Welcome to the age of inertial conservatism. The Key administration is primarily focused on fiscal responsibility issues, much as the Bolger and Shipley administrations of the nineties were. However, it has learnt some prudence and it's also taking selective notice of the British Tory playbook. It has ignored David Cameron's prudent caution over tax cuts, although it is replicating British Tory attacks on public service staffing and provision. It is also conspicuously less green than the new Cameron administration probably will be, given its prehensile whaling policy and conservation estate mining pronouncements.

Social conservatives have been firmly pushed to one side, although they're too stupid to recognise it as yet. They're still in anti-Clark euphoria, but they should realise that inertia-based conservatism isn't the same thing as full-blooded social conservatism, akin to the US Republican Party variety. As for the 'gains' that they've made, arguably the only one of any significance is the medicinal cannabis derivative ban. Unfortunately, the cannabis decriminalisation lobby is fragmented and lacks professional allies in the New Zealand context, so that failure may have been for tactical and strategic factors as much as facile antidrug populism.

There's also the question of 'consensus' conservatism, issues that are not related to gender, sexuality, family policy, palliative care, bioethics or reproductive and sexual health. For example, I see that the government is pressing ahead with its alcohol supply and consumption law review. As a parent, I tend to favour greater regulation, so I may even support any legislative initiatives toward that end.

Perhaps there are even LGBT policy issues where constructive engagement could be made. For example, I wouldn't be averse to the government announcing a new integrated programme of social scientific and medical investigation of the P/crystal meth crisis at all- indeed, NZAF could even apply for funding in the context of the partial causal relationship that exists between consumption of that drug and participation in unsafe sex.

It may not be inclusive adoption reform, or same-sex marriage or trans-inclusive antidiscrimination law reform, which will probably have to await the next Labour/Green administration. Still, the current government isn't as bad as the dire Republican regimes of Reagan, Bushs I and II and (shudder) Queen Sarah.


Dylan Jones (ed): Cameron on Cameron: London: Fourth Estate: 2010

Craig Young - 24th May 2010

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