It was only a matter of time before Gareth Morgan entered the political sphere with the Opportunities Party. As a wealthy philanthropist, one time economist/kiwisaver fund manager and author of The Big Kahuna he has the time, resources and intellectual firepower to make a mark on New Zealand politics. It would be a shame if his advocacy for restricting the activities of our feline companions, in the interests of native wildlife, prevented a reasoned debate of what are likely to be key components of the new party’s platform – A Universal Basic Income and a Comprehensive Capital Tax. Given the facile nature of most of the New Zealand media I wont go holding my breath. Red Peak. Who cares.
Probably Morgan has recognised the zeitgeist of the moment, the growing discontentment and appetite for change to neo liberal economic policies of the last 30 years as evidenced by the not so surprising rise of Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Podemos and most recently, the Pirate Party in Iceland. Syriza in Greece promised much but ultimately submitted to the existing global status quo. Bernie Sanders also rolled over at the last hurdle and banked on influencing Hillary Clinton rather than running as an independent candidate.
It is not clear at the moment whether the Opportunities Party will be the Gareth Morgan show or a genuine movement of like minded individuals equally able to influence policy. Morgan is quite a forceful and brusque individual, characteristics which polarise many and may not be amenable to the consensus building required of a broad based political movement. Balanced against this is his undoubted drive. Having a healthy personal bank balance also gives him “fuck off” money, to be able to advocate for unpopular policies that others shy away from.
Besides advocating for the extermination of feral cats and other pests (and putting his money where his mouth is) he has also been outspoken on Maori rights and the Treaty.
He has also raised red flags about private debt, the obvious property bubble and the need to prick it, something Key and Little have openly resiled from.
As a supporter of radical tax reform and a Universal Basic Income I remain unsure about his other economic beliefs and skeptical whether a university educated economist can really advocate for overdue reform of the banking and entire financial system that bought us the GFC. He rightly criticizes Labour and National as tinkerers but without addressing the global financial system and how it impacts on New Zealand he runs the risk of being reduced to a tinkerer himself.
If nothing else having another national platform from which to raise important issues should be good for the political health of New Zealand. If the media doesn’t reduce him to a trite, one issue cat killing caricature, in perpetuity. He has the resources and the chutzpah to shake things up. Bring it on.