Election 2014: lots of billboards but where’s the policy analysis?

31 July 2014

Former chief nurse DR MARK JONES is back in New Zealand and getting weary of being confronted with billboards of smiling politicians.The now-independent health consultant and theology student asks nurses to not take politicians at face value and to research their policy on health and other issues impacting on their community before casting their vote.

Circumnavigating Rodney District at the weekend with my dear Suzie (motorbike) and kind of enjoying a typical Auckland weather pattern (sun-rain-easterly-sun-rain-westerly on a twenty minute cycle), my necessary attention to dodgy road surfaces was frequently distracted by the smiling visage of our Prime Minister. He seemed to appear around every bend, more so as we re-entered his home electorate of Helensville. On the final leg home though Kumeu, the image loomed larger than ever as we passed the National Party office – that sure is some grin!

Yes, it’s that time again where our ‘pollies’ truly believe plastering their faces on giant billboards all over the place will influence our vote. I can’t quite grasp the sincerity behind the PM’s beaming smile. Having spotted David Cunliffe’s offering as I descended into Henderson Valley yesterday, I would have to say that he also looked a little unnerving.

Don’t get me wrong; it must be hard to strike a natural pose for a picture to be seen by millions, and I struggle to put out a decent lip line without producing what my mother calls a ‘simpleton grin’ (there may well be an example accompanying this piece), but aren’t we meant to get a sense of the man, or indeed, woman, and their values from these depictions?

I won’t be casting my vote on the basis of electioneering photography. John Key has provided sufficient air-time as a moving image with actual words coming out of his mouth to assist in my decision-making; my experience in working with the now Leader of the Opposition when he was Minister for Health (2007–08) gave me a far better sense of his moral framework and philosophy. But where in reality do we look to determine how our political parties will represent our interests and those of our whānau, community, and patients?

As a temporary ex-pat from New Zealand, I was kept pretty much up to speed with what was going on in nursing and healthcare from well-informed friends and colleagues, journals such as this, and news feeds from the College of Nurses and NZNO. Back home again, though, it is pretty difficult to find decent information on any real policy platform of our political parties through the mainstream print media, TV, or their associated web sites.

I have a good idea that both National and Labour have been disingenuous in their management of donated funds, having Chinese friends in high places is probably not as helpful as it may have first seemed for some politicians, and the length of a young man’s hair is worthy of the front page and the leading story on TV news for a whole week. A heap of Euros from nifty use of the web can also bring the internet to Māoridom like never before, and I even had a somewhat worrying impression that perhaps Winston Peters is the voice of reason!

But where is the decent policy analysis? Hopefully the parties will begin to lay out their stalls pretty soon and actually let us know what they stand for so we can make an informed decision. Right now, and I need to stress that I do not have a cheque in the post from the Kingmaker, NZ First actually does have a pretty decent health policy with some really sensible ideas posted on its website. I do hope National and Labour follow suit. The point of all this is a request that you do all in your power to get behind the masks of our democratic leaders and the political pornography so loved by our media.

Remember that clarion call of second wave feminism, ‘the personal is political’? It is down to you to do the research, and as far as humanly possible, get a sense of what the parties stand for with respect to health, and wider policies, and understand how voting for them will affect the community of Aotearoa New Zealand from top to bottom – for the very poor to the very rich and everyone in between.

Living here again, I am only too aware of the beauty and potential of this vibrant and dynamic country. It is down to us to vote wisely and not squander it.