Monday, March 26, 2007

Five good and five bad for Labour?

Others are doing this, so given my recent underblogging I thought I'd give my thoughts:
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GOOD
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1. Civil Unions. It wasn't Labour policy, but it gave legal recognition to adult relationships that should be treated exactly the same as marriage. Should've legalised gay marriage full stop, and it was made more complicated than it need be, but fundamentally this was a GOOD step.
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2. Legalising prostitution. For most in it, it isn't a profession of choice, and for most people it is unthinkable to sell yourself. However, finally those working in this industry have some legal protection. Yes, this was made more complicated than it need be, but ultimately it must be up to adults to decide what they do with their bodies - and that includes selling for sex.
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3. NOT surrendering on genetic engineering. For all the lies and scaremongering, Labour did not surrender completely to the anti-GE movement's hysteria. There was some courage needed on this in 2002, as TV3's leftwing pinup boy John "I vote Alliance" Campbell tried to make something of nothing.
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4. Remaining pro-free trade. Again, despite the economic nonsense propagated by the Alliance (in the early stages of the government) and the Greens, Labour has continued to promote free trade (although it froze tariffs for far too long, and these are now going to go on a slow track of reductions). On this light it allowed Fonterra to be set up, abolishing the Dairy Board's export monopoly (at least for non-quota markets).
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5. Clark, Cullen and Simpson run the show. Most Labour MPs are not the sharpest knives in the kitchen, most Labour Cabinet Ministers are not either. Clark and Cullen both are, Heather Simpson even moreso. Of the rest maybe only Hodgson and Goff have got some intellectual grounding worth commenting about, and Clark knows it. Labour has run a very tight ship, fools are swiftly disciplined internally, and there is no question of Cabinet Ministers running off on their own hobbyhorses. This external cohesion, despite considerable personal differences between many MPs is what people expect. It also shows how irreplaceable Clark is - without her hard work, discipline and sharp mind - the government would have fallen apart years ago. Cullen is also irreplaceable, with only Mallard coming close to taking on the Finance role, and only because he is a hard worker. When Clark and Cullen retire the rest will miss them, and Hodgson and Goff can't do all the work.
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BAD
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1. Frittering away enormous surpluses on bureaucracy and pork barrel schemes. Beyond any doubt, the greatest lost opportunity is Labour's willingness to literally piss taxpayers' money down the holes of policy advisors (which have grown in huge numbers, if not in quality), administrators and lots of small schemes to spend money to deliver pork to their different constituencies. Government departments have grown and grown, and delivered little in return except reams of reports and studies and strategies. Oh how Labour love having strategies. Strategies on the disabled, on the elderly, on "youf", on the environment, on local government, on transport, on energy, on the internet and the list goes on and on. However, more disconcerting is the money poured into healthcare, for little gain in productivity or quality of service. Money poured into "Working for Families" creating middle class welfare, instead of giving people back their own money. More recently in transport has been the massive increases in road costs, because of the enormous increases in spending fueling inflation in the construction sector and the ambitions of engineers always willing to choose the more expensive options. Labour has wasted billions of dollars, and the sad thing is Dr Cullen knows it.
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2. Nanny tells you what to do. Along with these strategies and bureaucracy is an insipid chardonnay socialist view that the world would be a better place if only people were "educated" to do the right thing. Whether it be to stop smoking, exercise, eat better, drive safely, take a bike instead of drive, watch less TV, be multicultural etc etc, it is a patronising attitude that most adults can't look after themselves, but that bureaucrats in Wellington know what is best for them. What is most disturbing is that it always shys away from blaming people for being stupid or expecting them to carry the responsibility of being a lazy crystal meth addict, but to parent you, give you money and tell you to be better next time. The government treats most people like children, so it is no surprise that so many act accordingly.
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3. Buying the election. It is very simple. Money voted by Parliament to pay for the administrative activities of the government was used to pay for one of Labour's main electoral advertising tools. It was illegal. Labour with its current mix of sycophants, voted to legalise what was illegal. The election was very close in 2005, and Labour lied and deceived the public about this until the last moment. No contrition, just sheer power hungry politics of the kind many of its members would have shouted "foul" at had National done it. Many of the same people who thought George Bush stole the 2000 election, happily cheered when their lot acted to do just that. It simply shows how blind to morality those closest to politics can be.
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4. Local Government Act 2002. Giving local authorities the power of general competence - a blank cheque to do whatever they liked with ratepayers' money, own and run businesses, engage in any new activities - and ratepayers wonder why rates continue to rise above the rate of inflation and above the rate of property value increases. Giving local petty fascists nearly free rein, with barely any accountability (and denying some ratepayers the vote).
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5. Meddle buy meddle. From renationalising and remonopolising ACC, to renationalising the railway network, to renationalising Air New Zealand (and refusing willing investors from saving it), to set up commissioners for electricity and telecommunications, to setting up emergency electricity generation, to unbundling Telecom's local line property rights, to increasing political direction in land transport funding, to banning certain used car imports.... an unwillingness to just let things be and let people pay for what they want, and make business decisions. This meddlesome approach means gameplaying is rife in those sectors the government in interested in. Telecommunications is an obvious one.
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So yes mine match some of Not PC's but I have tried to be a bit different. All I'd add is that one good thing was that Labour gave the Nats the chance to rebuild after a couple of years of appalling coalitions.

4 comments:

Uroskin said...

A "welfare for the middle classes" much bigger than the Working for Families package is the tax skewing in the investment field in favour of property investment due to the lack of level playing field tax treatment of capital gains on investment property.

libertyscott said...

Well, you can't argue that is due to Labour - it has been that for eternity, and no capital gains are taxed at all - including for selling shares.

I don't class the lack of tax as welfare, I'd simply argue other taxes are too high.

Uroskin said...

The tax levels are pretty average in NZ in world terms, it's the average gross wages that are too low.

libertyscott said...

Well 39% on NZ$60k is high by any terms, the wages are low because the demand is low and supply is high.

Wages will go up when demand for people's labour goes up, in a small remote economy that demand isn't going to be significant, which is why so many leave for at least some time.