Bill English's musings on the prison system are welcome. His economic strategy less so.
It was good to hear Finance Minister Bill English describe New Zealand's prison system as a fiscal and moral failure.
He's right, but that's not the only cause for celebration.
"Lock 'em up and throw away the key" is the type of demagoguery in which his colleague Judith "Crusher" Collins trades.
She will have been displeased to hear her inflammatory rhetoric dismissed by one of her own. Sometimes life is bearable only for its small pleasures.
English also said he hoped the new Wiri prison in South Auckland would be the last any government built in the foreseeable future.
Wiri, of course, is this Government's first public-private partnership (a successful bidder will be announced before the election), and English hopes that partnership will provide better results than the public sector.
I have an ethical concern about private prison management. Jailing people is a serious business, and it makes me uneasy when governments outsource one of the state's sacred duties to the profit-driven commercial sector.
We've all read about the catastrophic results of the United States' outsourcing of some of its military functions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The military also committed atrocities but at least some of those murderers faced a court-martial; all that the private-sector murderers lost were their jobs.
Some state functions are so important that they just have to be done by the government, and by no one else.
But then, the scandal-plagued Corrections Department has done such a poor job, it's easy to see the benefit of at least one privately run prison.
Some people credit the brief private ownership at Auckland Remand Prison in the 1990s with a "cultural change" in Corrections personnel, and if Wiri delivers that and more then the benefits will flow through to the state-run prisons.
English's remarks about Wiri being the last new prison are also important because it means both major parties are now on the same law and order page.
Now we might even hope for cross-party support for policies that address New Zealand's shameful record for the number of citizens incarcerated.
It certainly beggars belief that we're still locking people up for growing and selling pot - an iniquity that is currently the subject of an excellent campaign by the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml).
Pot growers should not be in prison, despite their repeated misdemeanours. It's such an egregious example of English's fiscal and moral failure that the Finance Minister really should get on board Norml's bandwagon.
Mind you, it was not that long ago that I thought English really was on the Norml bandwagon. He started talking about a recovery a while back, when it was midnight in terms of economic data.
At the time, I thought he's not seeing green shoots; he's smoking them.
I was not the only one with doubts, particularly after English's prison comments.
Listen to the Sensible Sentencing Trust's Garth McVicar and you'd think the minister was some white, stoner version of Nandor Tanczos.
But English wasn't stoned; at last there appear to be genuine signs of economic recovery, although fingers crossed that the high dollar doesn't choke it off.
No, the only stoner element in English's environment is his Alice-in-Wonderland dilemma: should he eat the cake labelled "government spending" and grow the economy, or drink the bitter bottle labelled "medicine" and shrink it?
As we found out this week when he announced a public-sector bloodbath, English chose the bitter medicine. And, as Alice noted, "If you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison', it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later."