It doesn’t add up

National’s latest policy announcement — that it will keep Working for Families — is notable for two reasons.

First, it confirms that Labour-lite strategy positioning that has clearly been to National’s advantage in garnering public support.

It is a great irony that, despite the Government’s tenuous position in terms of public support, National has had to borrow so much of the Government’s policy in order to regain the voter support it lost during the 1990s. It is interesting in this respect that so many of the policies they have borrowed have been those designed to ensure social fairness.

This is consistent with the point that I have been making that social equity issues were critical to voting choices after the ravages of the 1990s, and that NZers have banked the progress made in this area since 2000, but that they are not prepared to revert to the neo-liberal policies that caused so much pain for vulnerable NZers.

National, no doubt with a little help from Crosby-Textor, seem to have come to exactly the same conclusion. This leaves me conflicted. It is clever, election-winning stuff. And if they are to win the election, it is comforting to think that they have learnt the lesson well enough not to embark on any ACT-style madness this term or next. It doesn’t appear that they harbour quite the sort of secret agendas that they did last time (refer The Hollow Men).

Yet, Key’s past utterances still leave open the possibility that he and they might revert to type. And even if they don’t spring another neo-liberal nightmare on unsuspecting kiwis, chances are they’ll let what’s left of what we used to call the “welfare state” slide. Privatisation of ACC, health and so on by stealth.

Today’s announcement is also important because there really isn’t the money for this tax credit scheme, other elements of the current Government’s programme that are being retained (Kiwisaver, Kiwibank, interest-free student, expenditure on the Railway system, etc) and tax cuts to impress. And, without borrowing to finance tax cuts, confirmed this morning. And especially not in the context of a deteriorating economy.

It doesn’t add up.

Something will have to go. What?


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5 Responses to “It doesn’t add up”

  1. AndrewE Says:

    Actually I think Labour is more “National Lite” in many respects. Certainly in terms of the economy. The only real difference appears to be that National prefers to let us keep more of our money.

    Labour has had ample opportunity to undo everything that Nats did in the 90s and has undid very little of it. Why? Because those changes were necessary and they know it.

    Personally I don’t like ‘working for families’ as I’m working, my wife is working and I have a family and I don’t get jack. I’d rather see a tax cut as that is more fair.

  2. jafapete Says:

    Andrew, I certainly wasn’t thinking that Labour are especially left of centre. You just have to listen to Phil Goff carry on about how many prisons have been built under Labour, and how many more inmates there are now to be disabused of any such notion.

    The “Third Way” seems to be adopted by both sides, here and in the UK and Australia. Watch the G.O.P. or what’s left of it move over the coming months.

    Both parties will be offering you tax cuts this year. How important fairness is over your own interests is entirely a matter for you to decide.

    PS I put an update on the couch potato post that you might enjoy.

  3. AndrewE Says:


  4. roger nome Says:


    “Labour has had ample opportunity to undo everything that Nats did in the 90s and has undid very little of it.”

    That’s WFF? What;s cheaper doctor’s visits? What’s cheaper day-care? What’s a 30% increase in the minimum wage (compared to 10% in the 1990s)? All of them involve an effective reduction of wealth inequality. So while Labour hasn’t turned back many of those reforms, they’ve mitigated them a lot, which is just the same thing but to a lesser degree.

    “The only real difference appears to be that National prefers to let us keep more of our money.”

    Yes, and New Zealand has the lowest tax wedge for medium income earners of all developed, western Nations. But apparently, being the least tax means being over-taxed to National, so Labour has been forced to give in and cement in a structural fiscal deficit (bad for the economy long-term). It’s madness.

  5. A flip-flop too far for Far-Right Fran « Jafapete’s Weblog Says:

    […] and no big borrowing won’t fit falling government revenue in a declining economy. Many others have also pointed to this […]

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