Monday, 22 March 2021

Free Press May 22: Theatre of the Absurd


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In 2019 there was ReACT, in 2020 there was Dare to be Different. This year ACT's premier event will be Honest Conversations. We hope to see you on May 23 in Auckland, more details will be released very soon.

Theatre of the Absurd

What to make of the Government’s announcement of an announcement? After Cabinet yesterday, the Prime Minister told us when the much-anticipated Aussie Bubble will be announced, in nearly three weeks’ time on April 6th.

It is what you’d expect from a leader whose main expertise is in communications. Such a pity we’re facing a viral pandemic that requires expertise in science, technology, lawmaking and economics. Come to think of it, that sums up most tasks Government must do. Bugger. Don’t cry for me, Aotearoa.

Another answer is that the Government is not only hamming up the communications, but it’s doing so because it cannot deliver on the practicalities.

We know it is possible to travel to and from Australia, because Australian States have managed interstate travel since last year. To this day the Australian constitution contains an option for New Zealand to join as a State.

That’s roughly how they’ve been treating us for the last six months, so far as trans-Tasman travel goes; like an extra State. Victoria and New South Wales opened up to quarantine-free travel from New Zealand in October, then closed when we had cases. They even declared Auckland a ‘Commonwealth hotspot.’

The question is why they can figure it out, but not us? The Government’s COVID management is now a theatre of the absurd, but why? They appear to have set a provisional date for opening and yet are unable to tell us what it is. You can’t help but think the real issue is they’re terrified of reality.

Sooner or later it has to come back, and it is not pretty. A Labour government exists to look after the working people, that’s why they’re called labour. What are the chances of someone who doesn’t have much getting a world class education, a job in a growing economy, and a place of their own to call home?

When you look at these figures, you can see why this Government does not want to leave crisis management. Sooner or later, we’ll have to have honest conversations about things like education, housing, and productivity.

In the major international measures of student achievement, New Zealand students have gone backwards. If you believe in social justice, then you should want the Government’s policies to help transfer useful knowledge to kids who won’t otherwise get it.

Instead, the education system is caught up in a series of fads. They have open plan, student-centred learning. The child is supposed to discover the learnings of human history for themselves instead of an adult just telling them. It’s not only ineffective, it makes New Zealand less equal.

The rise in house prices under this Government is the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of our country. On Tuesday morning they will announce their latest cut and paste housing policy. It will tell us how they are going to tax, subsidise and otherwise cajole a shortage of homes into more politically acceptable hands.

Meanwhile productivity growth remains in the tank. The Government’s main answer to this is redefining productivity as ‘wellbeing.’ This way, they don’t have to measure anything concrete.  Measuring the value of goods and services produced according to what people are prepared to pay for them without being forced, for example, was all too hard.

But at some point, the fog of COVID will lift and these issues will return to the fore. ACT cannot wait. New Zealand is worthy of a proper policy discussion.

When you think through what that will mean for this Government, Monday’s announcement of an announcement makes perfect sense. Much rather eek out another three weeks of bubble envy than reveal they don’t know what to do about education, housing, or productivity.

Then again, maybe the stalling is not a ruse. Perhaps they don’t know how to do a bubble, either? Either way, we are grateful for your support to hold them all accountable.