The first and toughest job in policy making is determining the problem. My experience is ministers and bureaucrats look bewildered when they’re asked what problem they’re trying to fix. They then blurt meaningless claptrap.
So I shouldn’t be too hard on Labour in opposition having no idea what problem its Future of Work report is supposedly addressing. But it’s a troubling omission.
The closest it gets to a problem definition is Grant Robertson saying by way of introduction that the goal is “to allow New Zealanders to face an uncertain future with confidence.”
The problem by implication is that the future is “uncertain,” that New Zealanders are not facing that uncertainty “with confidence” and that here’s policy to fix that.
I am unaware of any crisis of confidence. On the whole it would seem we are pretty much looking forward to the future.
So what’s the problem? I have no idea. But I also can’t make either head or tail of much of the policy that Labour proposes.
Just a collection of bumper sticker slogans. Robbo would have seen some other Labour party or losers of the left hold such a commission and thought it would be good to do it here too. By this time next year no one will remember it even happened.
The report summarises 64 policy recommendations.
These include such gems as “Continue to support Gateway and STAR” (whatever they are), “Support hop-on, hop off training” (whatever that is), “Create new employment-relations framework and collective-agreement targets” (sounds scary), “Address unequal pay” (how exactly?), “Develop regional infrastructure partnerships with post-settlement iwi” (because tribalism in partnership with government will surely work), “Reform education and adopt culturally inclusive learning methods” (reforming education is always good and there’s always room for more inclusivity), “Aim for ICT to be the second largest contributor to GDP” (the government is rubbish at picking winning businesses, so let’s pick an industry), “Appoint a chief technology officer to create a technology roadmap for the next 5-10 years” (because planning tsars worked so well in the past), “Develop a just transition plan for climate change led by an Independent Climate Commission” (let’s shut down fossil fuel use and reverse the industrial revolution in a way that’s fair).
It’s hardly a rallying cry. “Don’t fear the future, vote Labour.” “Support Gateway and Star, vote Labour.” It’s rubbish policy and terrible politics.
Of course, it is Robbo who came up with it. The only race Robbo ever won was the race to the tuck shop.
Labour would benefit greatly from having members who have actually experienced work and know what they’re talking about.
Sadly, the report highlights Labour’s lack of connection with business and the working world. It reads as if it has been written by second-rate teachers, union officials, career politicians and low-level political operatives. That’s because it has been.
Labour chased them all out and they are now all earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in the private sector wondering why they even bothered wanting to work for Labour.
The best thing Labour could be doing for itself and the country is recruiting people who have actually been in the workforce Labour says it cares so passionately about. Or better yet, recruit members who have employed people with their own capital at risk and thereby make the workforce possible.
But with this report, why would anyone bother? Well, it proves Labour an empty vessel, one ripe for a takeover.
My beloved grandfather once said “Empty vessels make the most sound”…and how right he was.