Free Press: A Month of Gesture Politics

Mon, 02 Mar, 2020

A month of gesture politics

We’ve long argued New Zealand has a marketing-led Government. Jacinda Ardern is one of the best political marketers in the world, and the worst deliverer in the world. The last few weeks have provided more proof of this than New Zealand can afford.

Whipping oil and gas

Oil and gas is one of this Government’s whipping boys. It provides an essential service, but Labour and the Greens are morally opposed its existence. So, the Government has said ‘if you’re one of 700,000 New Zealanders with a default KiwiSaver provider, you’re not allowed to invest your money in this legal and essential product.’

Big daddy

This isn’t just a paternalistic, it will be counterproductive for the environment and the economy. Default KiwiSaver providers invest $1 billion in oil and gas. That represents about 0.001 percent of the global oil and gas industry. The industry will find replacement investors more easily than KiwiSavers will find replacement investments. Of course, people with default KiwiSaver providers are the kind of people a Labour government is supposed to help.

Mathematics 101

Also last week, the Government promised to pass a new law that will bring down petrol prices. Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi says the Government could bring down petrol prices by 32 cents a litre. But petrol companies’ profit margins are on average only 25 cents. Does he believe petrol companies will work for free? Election year populism: 1. Arithmetic: 0.

Economics 101

The Government says it will bring prices down by making them more transparent through “terminal gate pricing”. That’s where wholesale suppliers must set and publish a price at which they’ll sell fuel to wholesale customers on a spot basis. Normally, it is illegal to share your prices like this. It is called collusion. Economists say this policy will reduce competition.

Economics 201

Treasury also says price terminal gate pricing will lead to higher delivery costs. This goes to the fundamental problem with the Government’s approach. Delivering an essential service reliably up to five million people spread over 1500 kilometres of mountainous country is a tough business. Having a bureaucracy telling businesses how to do it might increase competition, but it will almost certainly introduce complications and increase costs at the same time.

Landlords up next

The Government’s new Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill will restrict landlords’ ability to remove bad tenants and add a new layer of bureaucracy and red tape. The anecdotal evidence is that landlords are threatening to leave the market, increase rents, focus only on the high end of the market, and weed out bad tenants before the legislation becomes effective and it becomes impossible to remove them.

You guessed it

They’ve accidentally hurt the tenants. Even the Government’s own officials at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development say the law will reduce the number of rentals available and increase rents, demand for state housing, and homelessness. As with countless other policies, the Government has shown that it is out of touch with how the real world works.

Coming for vapers

Low-quality law-making from this Government also extends into public health. The Associate Minister, Jenny Salesa, has been under pressure to react to stories of children vaping. Fourteen months on and she’s produced legislation that undermines the health of adult smokers, fails to protect children and unjustifiably limits freedom of expression.

You guessed it again

The policy will lead to more smoking. Salesa’s own officials at the Ministry of Health told her that, by banning vaping ads and flavours, the proposed law creates a risk that “we fail to achieve the potential of vaping and other reduced-harm products to contribute towards Smokefree 2025.” (Read: Fewer incentives and less information about vaping means fewer smokers will switch from tobacco.)

But what about the kids?

The bill also inexplicably fails to take steps to stop kids vaping. This could be achieved by requiring ID when purchasing from a New Zealand vaping website, or when couriers drop off vaping products. To top it off, the Government’s own Attorney-General, David Parker, has told Parliament that the blanket ban on vaping advertising is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act and an unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression.

Those crazy kids

Young ACT has released their drug policy to legalise all drugs. We suspect they are looking for any way possible to escape life under this oppressive coalition government. We also see why Young ACT is the fastest growing youth wing. The others are all so earnest, campaigning for a cup of tea and a lie down. Needless to say, ACT hasn’t taken up their suggestion just yet.

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