Encouraging Signs From Down Under: New Zealand and Australia Reject Elitism in Different Forms

AP Photo/Brett Phibbs

Over the past few years, the nations “Down Under” have preferred harsh authoritarianism — in the form of Australia’s severe COVID-19 policies under an ostensibly conservative government — or gun-grabbing far-leftism — in the form of New Zealand’s lefty former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. But this past weekend gave conservatives some encouragement in both countries.

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Let’s start with New Zealand’s recent election, which took place on Saturday. After seven years of Labour leadership under Ardern and Chris Hipkins, who succeeded her when she resigned in January, voters decided that it was time for a change. Christopher Luxon and his center-right National Party won the most seats in Parliament, and Luxon will become PM.

“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,” reports the Associated Press. “He said he was humbled by the victory and couldn’t wait to start his new job. He thanked people from across the country.”

Ardern won a spellbinding reelection in 2020 based on her COVID strategy of basically locking everyone else out of the country, as well as an ambitious set of big-government promises. She failed to deliver on those promises, and she resigned in January because, as she said, she “no longer [had] enough in the tank” to serve in the office. Hipkins served as what Conservative Home’s William Atkinson calls “a refreshingly dull replacement for his sainted predecessor,” and scandals combined with those failed promises hurt Labour’s chances to continue in power.

“Labour had done little to match its promises,” Atkinson quips. “A pledge to build 100,000 new affordable homes saw only 1,300 built in five years. Inflation, anemic growth, and growing budget deficits were all inevitable consequences of Ardern’s attempt to build a friendlier North Korea with a half-decent cricket team. Proposals to tax the methane farted by livestock were also unpopular in a food-producing powerhouse.”

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It wasn’t an overwhelming majority for Luxon and the Nationals in a parliamentary system, which means that he will have to form a coalition to govern. Regardless of who Luxon chooses to partner with him in his government, this election served as a rejection of Ardern’s elitist governance.

“With all the regular votes counted, Luxon’s National Party had 39% of the vote,” the AP reports. “Under New Zealand’s proportional voting system, Luxon, 53, plans to form an alliance with the libertarian ACT Party.”

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Meanwhile, across the Tasman Sea in Australia, voters also went to the polls for a referendum that would amend the constitution to give Aboriginal Australians a specific say in government policy.

“Proponents said creating an Indigenous Voice via the constitution would recognize the special place that Indigenous people have in Australian history while giving them input in government policies,” noted an AP report. “Opponents argued it would divide Australians along racial lines without reducing Indigenous disadvantages.”

Australians voted by a margin of nearly 60% against the measure. Indigenous Australians make up 3.8% of the population, and many Aboriginal leaders didn’t think the referendum was worth voting for. Bipartisan support failed to coalesce around the plan, which means that it was probably destined to fail.

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Over at Conservative Home, Paul Goodman points out that “referendums are becoming a safety valve which, by giving people what elites might seek to deny them, lets pressure out of the system, and so helps to preserve it.”

It’s easy to look at what has happened in Australia and New Zealand and be encouraged by this wave of rejecting elitism. We should hope and pray that this wave spreads to the north and west.

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