Politics in Full Sentences - 22 July 2019

Mon, 22 Jul, 2019

Thursday’s Podcast

Last Thursday, Ruwan and David sat down with Mike Loder from Kiwi Gun Blog to talk about the Government’s failing gun ‘buyback’, the next set of gun law reforms, and ACT’s position on firearms. So far, it has been viewed 12,000 times. You can watch here and listen here.

Good Government?

Last week in Australia, the Prime Minister delivered a lecture which sought to answer the question “Why does good government matter?” Politics in Full Sentences does a forensic investigation into what on earth she was trying to say.

Democracy Under Threat

Jacinda Ardern began by telling her audience that politicians are failing voters. People are turning to populist and nationalist governments. Democratic institutions are under threat. All of this is undoubtedly true. Ardern then lamented that values like the rule of law and freedom of expression were being challenged. That, too, is true. But these values are also being undermined by her own Government.

In April, the Labour Government legislated in just nine days to ban military-style semi-automatics without meaningful public consultation or parliamentary scrutiny. It was mob rule. The Government also put a gun price list together in a few hours and offered gun owners less than fair market value in compensation. Free speech is also under threat from Ardern’s Government. Instead of showing defiance in the face of terror by refusing to erode our free society, the Government decided to undermine freedom of expression by going after ‘hate speech’. If Ardern wants evidence that democratic values are being undermined, she need look no further than her own administration.

Since March, ACT has stood alone in defending the rule of law and freedom of expression. We voted against rushed gun legislation and have proposed the Freedom to Speak Bill which would roll back hate speech legislation and defend freedom of expression.

Free Markets, Inequality, and Poverty

The Prime Minister then argued that voters are fed up because free-market reforms had caused rising inequality and stagnating wages. That is plain wrong. According to the Ministry for Social Development, inequality hasn’t moved since the early 1990s. Statistics New Zealand data says real wages have grown every year since 1996. But let’s assume the PM is correct and wages are stagnating. What has Jacinda Ardern done to improve the position of working New Zealanders? There is nothing on her Government’s agenda that will increase wages.

Industry-wide collective bargaining – so-called “Fair Pay Agreements” – will tie firms up in red tape and make it harder to do business and create jobs. The oil and gas ban and the Zero Carbon Act will cut incomes. A higher minimum wage will put thousands out of work. The Provincial Growth Fund is taxing $3 billion from productive individuals and firms and gives it to failing projects. Fewer sanctions on beneficiaries that don’t comply with their obligations will mean fewer people decide to take up work. We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world meaning firms take on fewer workers and pay lower wages.

Most of this is not a radical departure from National Party policy, but a continuation of it. ACT stands alone in Parliament for the simple proposition that prosperity is not generated by the government but by the people.

Jacinda Ardern is more focused on trendy causes and social engineering – attacking social media companies, te reo in schools, banning oil and gas exploration, plastic bags, and guns – than she is on increasing wages for working New Zealanders.

Turning Inwards

Finally, Ardern warned against protectionism and nationalism, telling the audience that fear and blame were an easy way out for politicians. This argument treats voters like idiots. New Zealanders will remember Labour’s record in opposition. Prior to the 2017 election, Labour promised to slash immigration by up to 30,000. Phil Twyford blamed first-home buyers being locked out of the housing market on people with Chinese-sounding surnames. One of the Government’s first actions was to ban foreigners from buying or investing in residential housing. In opposition, Labour, the Greens and NZ First opposed the TPPA free trade agreement.

ACT has always believed we need to be open to the world. New Zealand is a nation of immigrants. We would be much poorer without the infusion of new people and new ideas. Foreigners can’t be blamed for a housing market that has been suffocated by red tape. And our prosperity depends on free trade: importing goods and services we can’t produce cheaply and exporting those we can produce for high prices to large markets.

“Wellbeing”

If protectionism and nationalism aren’t the answer, what is? Wellbeing, of course. But there is much less to Ardern’s guiding philosophy than first meets the eye. In practice, it means rearranging, setting goals, creating strategies, measuring and reporting. Rearranging the public service so people can work together. (Why do chief executives need to be told to do this?) Measuring indicators other than GDP. Creating strategies for, measuring, and reporting on, “child poverty”. (Inequality, actually). This shines a light on how confused the Prime Minister is.

Rather than government enabling people to make a difference in their own lives, Ardern seems to believe that it is the role of people to enable the business of government. She also doesn’t know how prosperity is created. In her view, economic growth is a given. It can be taken for granted while government pursues other, more trendy, policies.

If the government wanted to improve the lives of New Zealanders, it could start by getting out of the way. Low, flat taxes. Putting parents in charge of their child’s share of the education funding. Letting New Zealanders challenge damaging red tape in court. Cutting wasteful spending. Those are policies that really would improve wellbeing.