Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bad Nat

One of the temptations of an opposition party running high in the polls, in a relatively strong economic climate, with large fiscal surpluses, is to do as little as possible to damage its political constituency by presenting alternative options to the electorate. There are sound reasons for this. The most important of which, on broad economic policy, is that the flailing Government, short of good ideas, will steal the Opposition’s agenda at any cost to retain office.

For this reason, the Nats aren’t going to announce any broad economic policy until after Michael Cullen delivers his last budget next year. Apart from the risk of copycat policy-making from the government in retreat, the Nats simply don’t know how much money there will be to play with. All the indications are that Labour will throw caution to the wind, and use every resource at its disposal to offer massive bribes to the electorate. Fiscal prudence will be the first victim of Labour’s 2008 budget. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Cullen revises the Reserve Bank’s inflation agreement, to allow Alan Bollard to allow looser monetary policy within Cullen’s massive spending binge.

I simply don’t agree with criticisms of John Key as Labour-Lite. We won’t know what the big ticket policy items are for another ten months. The proof of the accusations of pink toryism won’t have any validity until John Key and Bill English commit to higher government spending in the long term. Frankly, I just can’t see that happening.

While I’m sympathetic to the view that Kate Wilkinson didn't actually endorse the proposal (instead saying it was a "welcome contribution to the discussion"), she should have slammed it immediately. It’s simply bad political practice to encourage a document from the Families Commission that is economically unworkable.

The country simply can’t afford to pay new mothers parental leave for 14 months in the short, or even medium term. And nor should the National Party be welcoming it. Sure, Kate Wilkinson was only publicly stating that she will take the proposal to Caucus. Yet any indication that the Nats are prepared to outspend Labour with taxpayers’ money, is a bloody poor message to be sending to overburdened taxpayers. It’s bloody stupid to be hinting at a massive fiscal injection independently from National’s broader economic policy.

John Key took a much more moderate position on Breakfast TV this morning, and certainly wasn’t endorsing the proposal. But Wilkinson should never have been endorsing it in the first place.

What Wilkinson should have said, and what John Key should have said this morning is:

“Look. The reality is that after eight years of Labour Government, Helen Clark and Michael Cullen have thrown billions upon billions of taxpayers’ money at all kinds of social problems. Taxpayers have paid for it, and the cost has been years of missed opportunity for New Zealanders to grow their incomes. Governments generally don’t spend money better than individuals do. Labour has shown for eight long years that it is ideologically opposed to people becoming wealthier, and instead throws money at people it wants to bribe. National is committed to allowing New Zealanders who aspire to have more, to have the economic independence to make their own choices with their money.

The reality is that New Zealanders simply aren’t wealthy enough to afford such a gold class paid parental leave policy. We aren’t wealthy enough to pour billions more money into health and education, as Labour has done, with no improvement in outcomes. If we’re going to spend more taxpayers’ money, we should expect much better results for taxpayers. We just haven’t had the better results. We can’t afford to be paying 24,000 more civil servants, either. New Zealand taxpayers are struggling to get ahead, not because we don’t have a gold class paid parental leave policy, but because Labour believes in taxing New Zealanders so heavily that they can’t get ahead.

There is a problem in New Zealand with a low birth rate. It is an enormous financial commitment for middle income New Zealanders to have children. Ironically, the state currently encourages many people without the tools to advance themselves economically or socially, to have children they’re not equipped to have. That isn’t a workable policy prescription. The solution is to provide an environment where people take responsibility for the children they do have, and for the state to allow those who do take responsibility for their actions, to have greater freedom to exercise their choices with the money they earn.

This policy proposal from the Families Commission is a precursor to the Government bribing you again with your money at the next election. Michael Cullen will announce another $500 million in his budget, because he is hellbent on doing all he can to expand the size of the state, at your expense. That policy prescription doesn't work. You save and invest your money far better than Michael Cullen does."

It should have been a huge opportunity to slate the excesses of this Labour Government, that they have set up the absurd Families Commission, full of irrational civil servants, who have nothing better to do other than come up with stupid policy proposals that just aren’t affordable. Instead, Kate and Judith have missed the boat by taking a woolly approach that will never be implemented.

1 comment:

riki said...

and on top of all this why do oppositions never accuse govts of social enginering.

Because all oppositions are guilty of it and will conitinue engineering society when they attain treasury benches