Chris Hipkins must fancy his chances of winning the next election. After all, he knows what a mess Labour has left, and the factors that turned the party’s record majority into a landslide defeat still exist.
In 1975, I was a member of a Labour caucus that was reduced to just 32 MPs. Labour’s commanding majority had been swept away. As there was no one else, Bill Rowling remained leader. We held no review into why we lost. We developed no policy solutions, as no one expected to win in 1978. It did not matter. After all, governments lose elections, rather than oppositions winning them.
To the astonishment of the Labour caucus, in the 1978 election Labour won more votes than National.
The electorate was volatile then - as it is now - because inflation destroys faith in the Government. How can you trust the Government that issues the money, when that money does not keep its value? If New Zealand had had MMP, then in the five elections from 1972 to 1984, the Government would have changed every three years.
After the previous election, this column predicted that decisions already made would see Labour suffer a landslide defeat.
Labour’s election defeat can be traced back to before the 2020 election, when the Reserve Bank advised the Government that it was too risky for the bank to continue to print a billion dollars a month. Easy credit boosted Labour’s re-election prospects, so to have the bank continue money-printing, Grant Robertson gave a taxpayer guarantee.
At the time, this column said that if it was too risky for the bank, it was too risky for the taxpayer. I predicted that too much money chasing the same amount of goods would lead to inflation, and cautioned that no sensible Government lets inflation get started because there is no painless way of ending inflation.
Inflation persisted in the 1970s and 80s for the same reason it persists today. Instead of tackling inflation, governments borrow and spend. While the Reserve Bank had its foot on the brake, the Government had its foot on the accelerator.
Labour’s second mistake was making 2020 the “Covid election”. But Labour did not defeat Covid, or inflation.
The September CPI inflation figure was 5.6 per cent, almost three times the mid-point of the Reserve Bank’s target range.
And the Health Department’s latest weekly Covid statistics report that as of Sunday, there were 243 people in hospital, 544 new cases and two deaths.
National has inherited both issues.
A bloated civil service that is busy awarding itself pay rises is already campaigning against any spending cuts.
People need access to a GP. At my GP clinic, it is a six-week wait for a routine appointment. But how do you know if it is an emergency? Some years ago, I was feeling unwell and wondered if I should see a doctor. The GP said that if I had delayed, I would have died. She called an ambulance to take me to hospital. How many of the 3393 people who have died of Covid, or for whom it was a contributing factor, died because they did not see a GP in time?
Unless National’s coalition stamps out inflation and provides access to healthcare when we need it, this new Government will also be swept away.
The new coalition can win re-election by setting up a ministerial taskforce to repeal red tape. It is red tape that prevents foreign health workers from being able to practise. Red tape prevents building materials that are certified for use in other OECD countries from being used in this country.
The bureaucracy will fight to retain every regulation. There are hundreds of regulations that impose huge costs and have little benefit. There needs to be a bonfire of regulations before Christmas.
Labour has left behind political landmines - problems that are going to explode. The biggest issue is that immigration is greater than the country can absorb.
Stats NZ reports that New Zealand had a record net migration gain of 110,200 in the year to August, almost the population of Dunedin. It is impossible to provide the houses, hospitals, schools and roads that an extra 110,200 people a year require.
Mass immigration is increasing the size of the economy but at the expense of increased homelessness, waiting times in A&E, traffic gridlock and our quality of life. Unless the new Government stops importing truck drivers and waiters and gets 110,200 able-bodied adults off Jobseeker and into work, it will lose the next election.
Chris Hipkins’ only worry is that the loony left, who want a redistribution of wealth, will roll him before he can become Prime Minister again.
- Richard Prebble is a former leader of the Act Party and a former member of the Labour Party.