Tue. Sep 27th, 2022


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Richard Prebble: Labour singing from National song sheet

4 min read


Labour won the election but we elected a conservative government. Gone from the government programme announced in the speech from the throne is any promise of “transformational change”. Instead we have the false promise of every Tory, “stability and certainty”.

The Government’s priorities are “affordable housing and homelessness, child poverty, and the global climate crisis”.

“The Labour Government will have three overarching objectives: To keep New Zealanders safe from Covid-19: To accelerate our economic recovery: To lay the foundations for a better future.”

Judith Collins could have written most of the speech. Housing is National’s priority too.
Bill English had a more ambitious programme to tackle the causes of poverty.

The Zero Carbon Act was bipartisan legislation.

New Zealand’s response to Covid has been bipartisan.

Every government pledges to “accelerate our recovery” and to “lay the foundations for a better future”.

It is a plan to fiddle with government programmes, not to reform them.

In the next three years Labour has set no targets. Labour has only set targets for some future government: “2025”, “2030” and “the next 10 years”.

Progress is to be measured not by results but by how much taxpayer money is spent addressing an issue.

Consensus is not in itself a bad thing. We only have to look at America to see how dangerous it is when there is no consensus to accept the result of the ballot box. Where consensus is dangerous is when it is to mutually agree to ignore problems.

Not one party mentioned in Parliament’s first debate the IMF report that predicts, on present economic settings, New Zealanders’ incomes by 2025 will be lower than today.

Five years of no income growth. Being poorer will mean it is harder to afford hospitals, education and other government services. Having lower incomes will not make it easier to achieve any of the Government’s goals.

We know the reasons we will be poorer. Government spending is out of control. New Zealand is Covid-free but no Western country has increased government spending faster than New Zealand. Rapidly increasing government debt and our dreadful productivity means we will be poorer.

Labour’s previous commitment to balancing the books has gone and been replaced with a meaningless assurance that “all government spending decisions are made with particular consideration for the sustainability of the Crown’s long-term fiscal position”.

Labour appears to have no plan to ever return to the necessity of funding current spending out of current income.

Improving productivity should have been top of the Government’s priorities. Without productive growth we cannot afford a first-world health system. The reason New Zealand locked down for five weeks was because our hospitals could not cope with even a mild Covid outbreak.

Thanks to Rodney Hide we have a world-class Productivity Commission. We know the reasons for our poor productivity growth. It is the combination of many things. David Seymour in his good speech to Parliament’s first debate is correct that poor government regulations are destroying productivity growth.

The commission has been very critical of our education outcomes. Despite massive increases in education spending New Zealand keeps slipping down the international education test scores. New Zealand pupils now leave school the worst readers in the English-speaking world.

To improve productivity we need transformational change.

Stealing National’s claim to be good managers helped win the election but Labour does not have the ministerial ability to deliver managerialism. Many ministers cannot follow the Cabinet Manual.

In Labour’s first term ministers ClareCurran, MekaWhaitiri, David Clark, Iain Lees-Galloway and Phil Twyford —stripped of his Civil Aviation Authority rolefor using a cellphone on a plane —had to resign.

The new Cabinet ministers seem even more accident prone. Last week Peeni Henare, the new Minister of Defence, gave a false statement to the media.

His statement indicated he wants to do away with a non-political civil service and “to move forward” ministers should sack departmental heads.

Henare told the media that a head of a department “may be vacating in a couple of hours”because “if we want to move forward, we need to look at the people running these organisations”.

The minister responsible for Oranga Tamariki, Kelvin Davis, and chief executive Grainne Moss issued press statements denying she was resigning. By not rebukingHenare the Prime Ministerlets stand the concern that Labour intends to politicise civil service appointments. Then we will have chaos.

Labour has not got the talent to run on a record of management. Better to campaign on a record of getting spending under control and having achieved transformational productivity growth.

What is the point of the Labour Party if it is not a party of reform?

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