Free Press, 30 May 2022

Mon, 30 May, 2022

THE HAPS

ACT is this year holding not one, not two, but three Annual Conferences. Coming to a town near you (Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch), the Real Change events are open for ticket sales.

Labour’s $127 billion dollar budget has been a fizzer. The agenda moved on immediately. People are now asking how we turned our back on the Pacific, and why Auckland has LA style gang news every day. Labour’s Budget fizzed because did not address inflation (in fact it makes it worse), or any of the long term issues around debt or productivity. ACT is the only Party that’s published a fully costed Alternative Budget for Real Change that would tackle those problems.

THE MANY COSTS OF (LABOUR’S) COVID (RESPONSE)

Labour was elected to bring kindness, fix housing, and focus on more than just one thing. The one thing they wanted to stop focusing on was GDP, or economic growth, instead telling us they’d deliver the world’s first Wellbeing Budget.

Along came COVID and the Government was back to focusing on just one thing. That thing was eliminating COVID. Helped by social media listening reports every four days, the Prime Minister led us through COVID with all the peripheral vision of a P-addict needing a fix.

Now, only the Chinese Communist Party has outdone Labour on COVID tunnel vision. People don’t want to talk about COVID any more, and that’s fair. You can’t change the past. However, every topical challenge we face today can be linked back to to insane excesses of the Prime Minister’s tunnel vision obsession with COVID.

The cost of living crisis is deservedly on everyone’s lips. People are feeling squeezed, not going out due to the cost of petrol. They aren’t planning meals for the week, instead shopping the specials and eating what they can afford. It’s unfair.

The most acute cost of living crisis is in housing. Who can blame a generation who, having nowhere to stay, and deciding to go. History will judge Labour’s latest budget as the brain drain budget.

The best Labour can do is point to other countries with the same problems. What about solving ours? Well, other countries have the same problems because they adopted the same policies. Government’s borrowing cheap money printed by central banks who thought inflation was extinct.

Therein lies the solution, but Labour’s spending spree will fuel the fire. Too much money, along with too many restrictions on production, mean there is too much money chasing after too few goods. That, in a phrase, is inflation. 

We should dump all remaining COVID restrictions, let people stay home if they feel ill and test positive, and dump pre-departure testing. Chris Hipkins says pre-departure testing makes no difference. He’s right it’s not affecting COVID, but it makes a big difference when you’re scrambling around a foreign city trying to find an overpriced test to get you on the plane home.

People feel less safe. A big part of the reason is that the Police have been distracted by Government’s COVID priorities for the past two years. They’ve been made to spend their time trying to stop citizens leave their hotel rooms, and Aucklanders from leaving town. They haven’t been doing the work on youth offenders or gangs, who are now running rampant.

We turned our backs on our Pacific neighbours when they needed us most. No Kiwi tourists, no horticultural workers, even in cases when neither country had COVID. We allowed travel between the North and South Islands, but not up to the Pacific Islands. Small wonder that we look like fair weather friends on the same moral plane as the Chinese Communist Party who have more money.

Labour campaigned on improving mental health as part of its wellbeing approach to governing. The tunnel vision approach to COVID-19 means that we now have children, business owners, and everyone in between in worse mental health than before Labour’s pandemic response. There are children in year three who still haven’t had an uninterrupted year of school. It will take them years to catch up with good education, those without will be behind for life. 

Then there’s social cohesion, another of Labour’s mantras pre-COVID. The divisive and inhuman approach to vaccination just went too far, ending in the conflagration on Parliament’s lawn. Instead, the Government’s ‘if you want to do x, get vaccinated’ approach has smashed social cohesion and trust in each other and our institutions.

We needed to make regular testing an alternative to vaccination, let businesses and Government service providers make their own policies based on risk, and let doctors give exemptions in good faith. Getting from 90 per cent to 96 just wasn’t worth it.

The one agenda that has carried on undinted by the COVID response, and even built into it, is the constant march to the co-governance of everything. It is not only a misguided idea but positively dangerous.

 

Labour’s mandate in 2020 was for managing COVID. As the fulls costs of their response stack up and become clear, they won’t get the break again. ACT’s job is to show there’s a better way forward.