2019 was meant to be Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s year of delivery. It was meant to be the year in which her Labour-led Government started making strides on policy. Instead I look back instead with frustration at the number of opportunities to strike major blows for particular issues being instead handled with timidity. In some respects what we are watching is like rabbits caught in headlights – stunned, not knowing what to do or where to go.
But things need to happen. As I have bemoaned before and so have many others, the propensity of Labour to reach for the “review”, the “inquiry” and the “working group” instead of announcing policy, introducing Bills of Parliament to the House of Representatives, is staggering.
My five priorities would be (in no particular order):
- Education: Restore postgraduate allowance; downsize the tertiary overhaul to perhaps 9-10 instead of just one; wind back N.C.E.A.
- Economy: A three pronged strike aimed at Northland, East Coast Bays and the West Coast to try to create jobs in these areas – a waste to energy plant for the coast, a biofuel plant for Northland and a big sustainable forestry project for East Coast Bays
- Justice – Amend law to enable 1 week jail sentences for anyone who flees the Police, relying on the deterrent to make people stop and think
- Poverty: Swallow a very big dead rat and introduce a wealth tax for those earning over $1 million per annum – can go towards funding children to get them into school by helping with clothes, food, stationery and so forth
- Health: A one off $1 billion injection to clear as much of the waiting lists as possible
Currently I am not optimistic about this Government. Yes it has announced a large number of reviews, inquiries and working groups – National created more than they admitted to as well – but they need to be delivering their outputs and the Government needs to be converting those reports into workable policy. I do not yet see much of that happening.
A quick review of its major decisions thus far:
- Defence: Ron Mark has been one of the better performing Ministers in this Government with the P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft purchase confirmed, and a preference for the C-130J Hercules shown – despite the latter being inferior to the A400M from Airbus B+
- Climate change – the announcement of ending oil, gas and coal itself is bold and should be congratulated, but getting around to the nitty gritty socio-economic decisions about how this is going to happen is not happening and has the potential to be a massive drag C+
- Housing – The idea of Kiwi Build is good, but the promises attached were grandiose and the execution of them frankly appalling, and only passes because houses are being built, though nowhere near enough C
- Transport – Phil Twyford was relieved of housing so he could concentrate on transport, and because Kiwi Build was not working out, but his handling of rail for Auckland Airport is in danger of becoming a second strike against Mr Twyford C
- Poverty – this really would have benefited from some bravery when the Tax Working Group came out with its recommendations with something like a Wealth Tax or Capital Gains Tax being announced to help children go to school; the very poor and marginalized to pay living costs D
- Environment – I have to be frankly honest that Eugenie Sage has been a major disappointment, with climate change dominating the agenda and the reaction to our waste problems has been less than impressive D
The Government is going to have to improve if it wants to win the 2020 election. Simon Bridges might be out of touch with the public on many things, but with 56 Members of Parliament he only needs 4 plus David Seymour to form a Government. Whilst I am sure that is not lost on the Government, the need to make progress before election day next year seems to be Missing In Action (M.I.A.).