John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Labour package could be victim of its own generosity

David Cunliffe. Photo / APN
David Cunliffe. Photo / APN

David Cunliffe's Best Start package seeks to confirm Labour's leader of four months as a firm adherent of traditional Labour Party thinking.

The package does that. But only up to a point. To a degree, Best Start. which will provide extra cash for families with children under the age of three, flatters to deceive.

Best Start draws its inspiration from the expanding welfare state eras of Norman Kirk and Michael Joseph Savage in terms of using the redistributive powers of the state to tackle income inequality and help financially struggling parents to bring up their children.

It appears at first glance to be a generous package which will have those on Labour's left doing cartwheels. It would seem to leave the Greens looking comparatively conservative. No doubt, that was one of the intentions of the package's creators.

And it is a significant first shot in the major Opposition party's efforts to define this year's election as being about income inequality.

The package could yet be a victim of its apparent generosity, however. National is bound to highlight Best Start's provision of a universal payment for a baby's first year of life of $60 a week for all families earning less than $150,000 a year. National will ask if families on that kind of income need or deserve that level of assistance.

The number of qualifying families tails off sharply between the child's first and third birthday, thereby raising further questions about the targeting.

Questions will also be asked as to why if the policy is so essential, it would not be implemented in full until 2018. In short, the policy is not all that it might seem.

- NZ Herald

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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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