Free Press, 29 November 2021

Mon, 29 Nov, 2021

The Haps

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is now telling you it’s a ‘luxury’ to go wees in your friend’s toilet. The COVID response and her Prime Ministership are descending into parody and farce. She is a well-meaning person well out of her depth, and it’s time for her to go. On the more substantial issue of the traffic light colours; there is simply no logic in areas with no COVID going to red. What happens if they start getting cases?

National Dilemmas

If Free Press had a dollar for everyone saying we should lead the National Party, we would not need the ‘donate’ button below (hint). We don’t usually offer unasked for advice or get involved in party politics, but everyone should break a rule from time to time. We have some advice for the next National Party leader.

In short, stand for something. Without an outside purpose, teams tend to turn their guns inside. That’s when the trouble starts. ACT’s MPs all have the mission statement ‘ensure New Zealand has the best public policy in the world’ at their desk. It is good advice for anyone in politics because policy is what affects people and democracy is about people.

There is no shortage of issues to take a stand on. The old National leadership's deal with the red devil on housing is the most obvious. Then there’s Todd Muller and James Shaw’s deal on the Zero Carbon Act. The current Government’s injection of race into every area of policy needs an answer. The National Party’s policy to make taxes even more progressive belongs with the hard left.

We could go on but, starting with the RMA deal, it’s nuts. To recap, Labour and National came out last month saying they would pass a law under urgency, before Christmas, while the country tries to recover from COVID restrictions. The basic idea is that every residential section will be able to have three three story houses. 

It allows an eight-metre wall one metre from your boundary, and there’s no right to object. If you think that this will get more homes built, sorry. As nearly every submitter to the shortened select committee is telling Labour and National, homes aren’t getting built because councils can’t afford to connect them. Zoning just isn’t the problem. Zoning more land when you’re short of infrastructure is like buying more cars when you’re short of fuel. The next leader should just dump it and tell Labour there is no consensus on this policy.

Todd Muller (remember him?) gleefully signed up to the Zero Carbon Act in a bizarre bromance with James Shaw. The policy is nuts and it won’t achieve New Zealand’s strategic objective for climate change. We need to stay in line with our trading partners, a small trading nation can’t get out of line with them. But we should do so with minimal cost and bureaucracy.

The Zero Carbon Act means Wellington climate tzars decide what sort of car you buy and how you cook your steak. It sets targets for New Zealand to be carbon neutral by 2050 even if no other country does so. It should be dumped in favour of a cap and trade tied to our trading partners’ emissions with favourable treatment for methane.

Steven Joyce once boasted that John Key’s Government made the tax system more progressive. It made a smaller number of people do the heavy lifting with higher tax rates on higher incomes and lower tax rates on lower incomes. 

Now five per cent of income taxpayers pay a third of income tax. Half of taxpayers pay eight per cent of income tax. Progressive taxation is divisive because some voters are makers, but most are takers who feast off them. It is tall poppy syndrome in the tax code, and National wants more of it.

Last month National said it would extend the bottom rate, shifting more of the COVID debt onto a smaller number of tax payers. If we want the future to be wealthier and more united, a commitment to lower flatter taxes would go a long way. 

Then there’s the Government’s racialisation of everything. Children are learning there are two versions of science, one for Māori and one for the rest of humanity. Everything from healthcare to water systems are being put into the co-governance model. PHARMAC is funding drugs for members of one race but not others. The Government setting race relations back decades and the next Government must be committed to universal humanity instead of commodifying people into identities.

Those are a few issues. We haven’t touched on the RMA, education, crime, labour laws or regulation. ACT’s full policy manifesto is here.

These are just a few of the issues where the next national leader could take clear positions. Their only problem? There’s a party that’s already taken them called ACT.