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September 23, 2017

David Lange (1942-2005), New Zealand’s 32nd Prime Minister and a humanitarian of extreme intelligence and cutting wit (ie: the opposite of that man in the US). Lange’s lasting legacy is NZ’s Anti-Nuclear policy.
Political Commentary!

Last night I hooked up my trusty Mac to our Smart TV and we watched TVNZ live while the NZ election votes were counted and commented on. As we are still in Australia we couldn’t watch it on the actual Australian TV, even on any of the numerous Fox channels as I guess who cares about the hundreds of thousands of NZers who live in Australia and would like to join in the fun and see if their votes made a difference? There was a record number of special votes (including ours) as this was a tightly run election. Voting in NZ is not compulsory so voter turnout is always telling. Like Germany, also having their elections this weekend, we have a sensible Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system. In case there are any non-NZers reading this (Americans! Australians!) who feel inclined to change their own country voting system, here is the simple explanation, stolen directly from the official NZ election website, on what MMP is.

MMP is a proportional system, which means that the proportion of votes a party gets will largely reflect the number of seats it has in parliament.
Each voter gets two votes.
The first vote is for the political party the voter chooses. This is called the party vote and largely decides the total number of seats each political party gets in Parliament.
The second vote is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the electorate they live in. This is called the electorate vote. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes.
Under current MMP rules, a political party that wins at least one electorate seat OR 5% of the party vote gets a share of the seats in Parliament that is about the same as its share of the party vote.
For example, if a party gets 30% of the party vote it will get roughly 36 MPs in Parliament (being 30% of 120 seats). So if that party wins 20 electorate seats it will have 16 List MPs in addition to its 20 Electorate MPs.
Coalitions or agreements between political parties are usually needed before Governments can be formed.

Hope you are now clear on this!

We had an Australian/UK friend over for dinner who had to sit through the live election special. He did very well but left before the party leaders gave their end of night speeches! Why this drawn-out watching of the votes coming in is so riveting to us is rather a mystery. We could simply check out the result on the trusty computer at the end of the night. So far the results favour MOT (the centre-right National Party), which is not our own preference as we hoped the new leader of the centre-left Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern, a very smart, very engaging and very positive thirty-seven year old woman, would take the prize (if that is what being a prime minister could be viewed as; a two-edged prize I would guess). She became the leader of Labour only seven weeks ago, as the previous leader was not doing too well. Her party’s popularity soared and by the election day it was a close race. The leader of the National party is nice man, experienced, and seems to have got his mojo working in the past few weeks because of the stimulation of Jacinda’s competition. Because this is an MMP system, although at the end of the night National got more votes than Labour and the Green party combined (two parties who might be happy to form a coalition), National still needs another party’s votes to form a stable government. Those votes belong to a household name politician in NZ (‘Winston’) who has good and bad points and, bottom line, is no pushover. His party, ‘NZ First’ holds enough votes such that if they decide to go with National, National will be the next Government (for a fourth term), but if they decide to form a coalition with Labour along with the Greens, then Labour and Jacinda Ardern will be the next party. This is a small problem with MMP, when the final vote lies with a ‘Kingmaker” (or ‘Queenmaker’). Apart from the coalition chats and negotiations there are still many thousands of special votes to be counted and this process could take two weeks, so we may not have a final answer until mid-October. Such fun.

Whatever the final answer is, it is only for three years (perhaps a tad too brief, four years would be an improvement) and then we all have another shot. In the meantime, touch wood, I think we are lucky to live in NZ for numerous reasons, some to do with being too far away and too unimportant to be of interest to the US or North Korea, and others to do with our political stystem which is pretty good really whichever parties are in, when compared with the rest of the world. Our parliamentarians don’t govern via tweets, they don’t generally throw dirt at each other, they do seem to have some good values, and NZ is still Nuclear Free having been the first country in the world to become so in 1987: Under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987, territorial sea, land and airspace of New Zealand became nuclear-free zones. This has since remained a part of New Zealand's foreign policy. Back when Labour prime minister David Lange spearheaded this policy (supported always by all politcal parties), we were put in the dogbox by the US because they could no longer bring their warships into our waters unless they stated the ships were nuclear free. This they refused to do. NZ stood firm against the US might and their threatened sanctions. According to Wikipedia (what would we do without it?) “New Zealand's three decade anti-nuclear campaign is the only successful movement of its type in the world which resulted in the nation's nuclear-weapon-free zone status being enshrined in legislation.” ‘Enshrined’ is such a lovely word.

In 2013, NZ legalised gay marriage, the 13th country to do so and the first in the Asia-Pacific region. Here in Australia they are currently spending (wasting) an unbelievable amount of money on a postal survey where citizens vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to gay marriage! It is causing all sorts of unrest as the two sides fight it out, sometimes physically. Apparently even if the vote comes back Yes, this does not mean the Government has to act on it. Go figure, as they say in the US. And while they are wasting money and time doing this the world is imploding and possibly exploding right into the Pacific Ocean where it could destroy the sea and all that is in it for the forseeable future. Where are their priorities? (Recall that Australia didn’t give the indigenous people of Australia who have lived here for 40,000 to 60,000 years the right to vote in Federal elections until 1962, and in some Australian States not until 1965). How patient are the Yes for gay marriage voters?

In spite of all this we truly love Australia and many Australians (those we love I suspect will all say Yes), and have loved our almost four months living here and will likely be back again next winter and the one after that. No argument, the weather in Far North Queensland in the winter beats the winter in NZ hands down! If NZ had absolutely perfect weather all year then we really would be up ourselves!

So on Friday, back home we fly (spewing carbon into the atmsphere) to our off-grid island (almost certainly never heard of by Kim Jong Un or that man in the US). As someone said and I repeat so often it might have been me: “The best road is always the road home!” Especially in late spring.


Still waiting. As I tell myself monthly, this is not a game for the impatient or delicately-skinned.

There was a long article about me in the latest issue of the feisty Australian digital magazine for older women, “Broad”. It is a great magazine with lots of excellent articles and no ads, you can purchase it by issue or by an annual subscription (4 issues a year). If you fall into the category ‘woman over 50’ then do check it out (even if you don’t live in Oz or NZ): ( Issue 04 Is Now Live. Broad is a magazine just for mature women. Simply visit our online store and download today at www.broadmagazine.com.au/collections/all)

My latest Psychology Today blog post (Seek Your Whys and Find Happiness: Simon Sinek’s ideas va can be applied to life as well as work) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/trouble-in-mind/201709/seek-your-whys-and-find-happiness
(Note to self: Jacinda Ardern is a woman who puts her Whys first in her work, and that is why she will be a superb prime minister, if not in the next few weeks, in future years.)

Book Review
Two this month, very different, the first a bookclub read, the other a beach read for women with nothing better to do!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This is Scottish writer, Gail Honeyman’s, debut novel. It is winning prizes. Rightly so.

For me, another ‘one of the best’ reads this year. Eleanor Oliphant takes us by the hand into her lonely world as she organises her days (every one the same) at work and in her sad apartment. In her world no-one else takes her by her hand, and indeed why would they? Her hands are red and sore from excema and she often needs to wear gloves. Her face is nothing to look at either with its burn scars. But she is in control of her life, completely in control, even when she falls for a young rock star and realises that this is her fate; they are meant for each other. Mummy is her only millstone, and the Wednesday phone conversations she feels obliged to have with her are sometimes quite unpleasant. She goes about preparing for her love affair with the rock star in her usual meticulous fashion, and finds herself making a friend in Raymond, the rather ordinary IT guy at her workplace. Then she meets his mother—not at all like her own mother— and an old man Raymond rescues when they see him collapse on the road one day.

To tell more about Eleanor Oliphant’s perfectly fine life and how it panned out would spoil her story, but it is a story that is beautifully told in Eleanor’s own unique voice. From her first revelations she has our full attention, and oh, how we care about her! This is definitely a book for reading groups, and for anyone who appreciates superb writing; a story that teaches us things about human nature we may not have fully comprehended before, and opens our minds and hearts in a darkly gentle way. A very easy five stars!

The Copenhagen Affair by Amulya Malladi

It took me a while to warm to this book because of the scene setting around the empty lives of the powerful, rich and ridiculous of Copenhagen. I suppose people do live like this but to have to waste time reading about them is not pleasurable! However, the protagonist, Sanya, was never one of these people, which was the point of course, but I was happy when the story became more about her awakening (almost literally as she emerged from her depression and her bed) and the reader no longer had the lives of the self-indulgent, self-important centre-stage. Sanya was a vivid character and became more so as she fell for the scar-faced Ravn (one of the rich and powerful, but not into handbags and designer dresses so much). The sexual tension kept the book moving along, even though Sanya’s dramatic turn-around from loyal, doormat wife of a tedious Adonis, to flirt and risk-taker with a mad crush on a dark and sexy (ie: dangerous) man (married to one of the empty-headed perfect bodies, who preferred to pretend he didn’t have affairs than risk her wealthy happiness) was a touch unrealistic! But who cares, it is a story, not real life (not mine anyway). The other delightful character was Copenhagen, and as hinted at by the book title, fiesty Sanya and her rather silly rich friends take us on a evocative tour of its cafes and blues bars, museums and landscapes. So I was almost surprised to find I enjoyed this rollicking good yarn, given the debauchery of 90% of its inhabitants. Sanya and Copenhagen was its true core and that, of course was what Amulya Malladi’s story was all about. I wouldn’t think of this as a ‘bookclub’ read in the sense of in-depth discussion material, but it is very engaging women’s fiction, and an excellent, well written (great dialogue) escapism-type holiday or beach read. In that category I am happy to give it four-stars. It comes out this week; thank-you to the publisher and Netgalley for an Advanced Reading Copy.

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