National’s choice

Disclaimer: I voted ACT at the last election and I am an ACT party member.

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The ACT party bulletin  yesterday made some important points about both the coalition budget and the National party. Essentially the coalition government was described as one that thinks that every problem can be solved by the application of more money and the creation of a working group.

The past has shown us that extra money on its own is not effective if the underlying problem is not first addressed. My analogy would be giving more money each week to an alcoholic gambler. No matter how much extra money you give him nothing will be achieved because the amount of money was not the main problem.

A plan is needed and the coalition government according to the ACT bulletin does not have a detailed proposal for achieving anything and are all slogans and no policy. Quote:

Jacinda Ardern believes that to achieve something, all the Government has to do is set a goal and pass a law.

To abolish child poverty, all the government has to do is set the goal of no child poverty and pass a law. To fight climate change, just set the goal of carbon neutrality and pass a law. To solve the housing crisis, just announce the goal of 100,000 affordable homes.

It is slogans instead of policy. End of quote.

Despite having nine long years in opposition Labour appears to have done no rigorous analysis of policy at all. Perhaps they were too busy changing leaders to do the hard work required. Issues in health, housing, education and welfare are structural problems and cannot be solved by the thinking that created them. Quote:

The last time Labour delivered a Budget with all extra spending and no new policy was when Labour replaced Roger Douglas and David Caygill produced the 1989 Budget.

The then-government announced that the extra spending would see improvements in social services. After a year, the government saw not one improvement. Services in some areas went backwards.

It is possible to predict with certainty that we will see no improvement in services as a result of Budget 2018. End of quote.

National is right that the government has inherited a strong economy and that they are raising taxes and burdening the private sector with new regulations. National’s criticisms would be more effective, however “if the party were to acknowledge there are long-term, structural issues in health, housing, education, welfare and justice.” Quote:

The rising cost of health spending will, on the present projection, bankrupt us. […] Our housing crisis is actually a land crisis.The average section in Auckland now costs half a million dollars.

It is a problem whose cause is known: the reluctance of councils to zone enough land for housing. The solution is also known: reform of the Resource Management Act so affordable housing is the priority.

[…] Charter schools were an ACT policy and, in government, National was very reluctant to expand them.

Now they acknowledge charter schools were a remarkable success, especially for Maori and Pasifika who are failing in our state schools.

National’s defense of charter schools would be much more powerful if it acknowledged there are issues in the state education system.

[…] In government, National recognised the need for new thinking in welfare, but never walked the talk.

National could not even acknowledge that a universal pension at aged 65 is unsustainable.

[…] We all know that building expensive new prisons cannot be the answer to crime.

If ever there was an area requiring new thinking, it is crime and punishment.

[…] National will fail unless it acknowledges there are real problems and that we need new thinking to solve them.

National could be in opposition for a very long time if the party convinces us that ideas like the Provincial Growth Fund are really just their policies.

It should be careful about claiming credit for policies that are going to fail.End of quote.

In summary National has two choices:

  1. It can say that the only thing wrong with the coalition government is that it is led by Labour instead of National which means that voters are only offered a Labour-Lite option
  2. They can say that there are real problems that need structural solutions and offer a real change

When National was in power the only new policy that I remember was the partnership schools policy that came from the ACT party. ACT really is the party of ideas and they have detailed policy solutions. National need new thinking to tackle structural problems in health, housing, education, welfare and justice so they need a strong ACT party as their main coalition partner. Without ACT in the mix, it is highly unlikely that we will get anything more than the same old tired thinking.


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