Rodney Hide's interview with the NZ Herald certainly seems promising. For the first time in ages I have seen an ACT leader prepared to be honest about health:
"I much prefer that we use the private system and focus the Government's attention on ensuring that everyone has access."
Sounds a lot like Unfinished Business, and is half of the libertarian solution. It is one I can see being a big leap forward for healthcare. So what else is new? Well it's all in this policy PDF.
Well ACT wants to keep growth in government spending capped to inflation, EXCEPT for law and order and a one off injection into health spending. Hardly ambitious, something National ought to embrace if we were lucky. This means government growing slower than GDP. Oh how far we have slipped back when this is seen as radical.
39% top tax rate would be gone immediately, again good, but National voted against this tax rate and isn't promising to abolish it.
Then two years of NO tax cuts. Yes ACT offers you nothing till 2011. Presumably it's about fiscal prudence, because after then there is a rolling programme of cuts to a flat rate of 15% by 2018 (12.5% on the first NZ$20,000). Yes 10 years from now! Yes better than nothing, but this ought to be mainstream. National supporters should be embracing this.
GST down to 10% as well, in the same timeframe. Hmmm, public servants really have nothing to fear.
However there is one gem in ACT's policy, but not one I expect the mainstream media to publicise widely.
It is offering a taxfree threshold of NZ$25,000 for those who want to opt out of ACC, the right to claim sickness benefits and state healthcare. It talks of offering a top up for such people to cover their children too for all of that, and education.
So, a chance to opt out of nanny state. THAT is revolutionary, but in parallel with two years of no tax cuts, it is hidden in the mix.
This is what National should be offering, at the very least slower growth in government spending, progressively lower tax cuts to a low flat level, and the chance to opt out of state provided health cover. However ACT should be offering more. ACT offered a flat tax in 1996. It should be pushing for tax cuts every year. It should be calling for serious cuts in spending.
I did think that there was much promise with Rodney Hide, and with Roger Douglas back on board, and yes, ACT shows National what a change in direction could be.
However, it remains profoundly disappointing. I do not see the point in voting for no tax cuts for two years, besides abolishing the 39% top rate.