Simon Bridges is falling into the Opposition trap of opposing for opposing's sake, with little regard for how risible some of his sloganeering has become.
This includes to National's support base — many of whom come from the business sector, and are looking to him for a far more intelligent response to the major issues facing this country than simply acting as a spoiler.
He's been riding high and savouring "National's victory" in defeating Labour's proposal to introduce a broader capital gains regime. But with little thought — let alone policies — on how to replace projected revenues that the taxes would have brought in after a transition period.
In an environment where some New Zealanders can boast about how they pay very little personal income taxes, all National's opposition does is enable the super wealthy to accumulate more untaxed wealth.
There is no fairness in that.
Bridges scored initial political points through revealing "key details" from the Wellbeing Budget ahead of its release.
But his slogans missed the beat. Bleating on about "money for tanks but not for teachers" was simply asinine.
Anyone with even a modicum of common sense knows that New Zealand's defence force and its infrastructure requires significant investment so it can not only be "fighting fit" but "interoperable" with other forces in today's strategic combat environments.
Neither Australia nor the United States — NZ's key defence partners — would welcome an NZ Government that shied away from its responsibilities on that front.
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There were other tortuous comparisons that would have been better consigned to National PR operators' Delete buttons.
Nor is the business sector necessarily offside with the Coalition's decision to front-end social spending in this Wellbeing Budget.
By the end of National's last term in office, considerable disquiet had built up within the business sector over the social cost of a "rock star economy" built on rocketing immigration and untrammelled house speculation.
Here's just one example from this week's Budget where the Government has scored a hit with business.
It's taken almost two decades for the lessons of the early 2000s "Knowledge Wave" initiative to be learnt and a significant venture capital fund created to back early-stage businesses.
There's been Government cash aplenty in the last decade for primary sector initiatives, with few real strings attached by the former National Government apart from meeting performance objectives.
That Government matched agribusiness investments 50-50 for approved projects but it did not take equity in return for those "investments".
As yet, it is unclear what conditions will be attached to the $300m that the Coalition Government — via the Venture Investment Fund ($60m) and the NZ Super Fund ($240) — will inject into venture capital here. The detail will come later. But it will not be a gift.
So, when Bridges bangs on about a "botched Budget", he overlooks the fact that this business friendly initiative is just one of many in Finance Minister Grant Robertson's second Budget that would have met with high acclaim if National had itself implemented it during its last term in office.
Spark CEO Simon Moutter tried to get a corporate funded vehicle off the ground following an innovation mission to study how Israel forged itself as "StartUp nation". But he could not garner sufficient business support for that initiative.
I use this example — which, let's face it, should have moved from concept to implementation at least 15 years ago — as an area where the Coalition Government has listened to business and filled the funding gap.
But there is another reason not to cry wolf too often.
At yesterday's Trans Tasman Circle post-Budget luncheon, Economic Development Minister David Parker underlined how this Budget unfolded during a challenging international environment.
His own international swing — which included China, where he had been to the Belt and Road forum; an APEC meeting in Chile and the annual OECD ministerial meeting in Paris — has left him in no doubt protectionism is on the rise.
Trade tensions were palpable. The refusal to allow Huawei to use some US technologies was another step in the deepening of the US-China dispute.
On top of that, both those major economies were showing signs of slowing down, and Brexit had undermined investor confidence in Europe.
The upshot was that New Zealand business was operating in an environment that was both unstable and less certain that before.
Parker's contention is that New Zealand is "pretty well-placed" to face this instability.
It was sobering.
The Coalition has also listened to business by crafting a new reform package to increase skills and introduce well-targeted vocational training to meet changes in the future of work. Again, this is an area that business has advocated but National did not pick up.
If Bridges wants to earn respect he needs to do more than oppose.
Here are two challenges. First, New Zealanders are living longer.
Bill English — his predecessor as National leader — announced the age for state-funded superannuation would rise to 67 in gradual steps starting in 20 years' time. The changes were to be phased in from July 2037 and would not have affected anyone born before June 1972. The age would have lifted to 67 in 2040.
Is Bridges prepared to openly advocate for the implementation of such a policy in National's next term in office to match OECD norms? Or leave it in the never-never category?
Second, National must forge common ground with the Coalition on greenhouse gas mitigation policies.
Climate change poses an existential threat. If Bridges is to be other than an Opposition ranter he should step up to the challenge and show he is prepared to act in the "small n" national interest.
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