Governments have to run on their record. Last term, Labour successfully locked down the country. Then they overdid the lockdowns. This term what has Labour achieved?
Labour inherited a strong economy and an excellent set of books. Labour promised to be fiscally prudent. Covid was used as an excuse to wriggle out of that pledge.
Labour did inherit issues in housing, health and education. After five years the issues are worse. Tens of thousands of households are going to struggle to service 8 per cent mortgages. Health services are failing. The Government’s priority is a Māori Health Authority. Meanwhile, 98 per cent of pupils graduating from decile 10 schools would fail NCEA literacy.
In every election, it’s the economy that takes centre stage. Inflation is at a 30-year high. The Reserve Bank says government spending is contributing to inflation; it has hiked interest rates and is forecasting an election-year recession. Now that the Governor has been re-appointed he has become bold.
It feels like karma. Labour’s re-election was helped by the Reserve Bank at one stage printing a billion dollars a week to pump up the economy. To correct the inflation caused by that money printing the Reserve Bank is helping defeat Labour.
No one would want to campaign on Labour’s record. All Labour can do is try to convince us that National and Christopher Luxon would be worse. It is possible but hard to imagine.
Who cares whether Luxon understands the finer points of Labour’s electric car subsidies? The policy is nonsense. Labour and the Greens’ record on climate change is abysmal. New Zealand’s climate response was criticised at the recent COP27.
Luxon wants to run on as little policy as he can. He has used the Reserve Bank Governor’s statement as an excuse to shelve National’s tax policy. He is going to make himself a very small target.
National will just promise to be a good manager. Luxon would rather be criticised for having no policy than be attacked for the policy that he does have.
Labour cannot run on its record but National has no policy to attack. Desperate Labour is resorting to blue-sky promises.
A new Auckland Harbour Bridge. A multi-billion dollar underground light rail. There is no cost/benefit, no plan on how to fund it. What is Labour’s next blue-sky promise? A bridge over Cook Strait?
Labour must press ahead with its unpopular Three Waters. Labour is fighting a two-front election campaign. National and Act on one front. The Māori Party on the second front. Labour cannot abandon co-government without also abandoning the Māori seats.
The next 12 months are going to be very dangerous. We have no written constitution restraining Labour. The only sanction on any government is the knowledge that they will be accountable in an election. This is why three years may be too short for a good government but too long for a bad one.
Ministers can read the polls. Labour will ignore the Reserve Bank’s advice.
Ministers will go on borrowing and spending. Labour intends to leave inflation as the next government’s problem. Paying back the borrowing is another problem for a future government. It is called laying a minefield.
In 1990 the then Labour finance minister was advised that the government-owned Bank of New Zealand was insolvent. The bank urgently needed a billion-dollar injection. He told no one. He left it as an unexploded bomb.
Luxon and Act’s David Seymour had better factor into their plans the likelihood of many unexploded bombs. The health system appears close to a systematic failure. The briefing for the incoming ministers in many portfolios will make a very grim reading.
There is an even greater danger. MPs who think they are dog tucker can be tempted to try to defeat the outcome of the election.
It is fundamental to democracy that one parliament cannot bind future parliaments.
Not anymore. In the Three Waters bill that critics say privatises billions of dollars of ratepayers’ assets into effective ownership by tribal entities, Green MP Eugenie Sage has an amendment. The amendment requires a 60 per cent vote by future parliaments to privatise the assets. Go figure. Intellectual rigour is not prized in the Green caucus. Under urgency, Labour supported the Green Party amendment.
In 168 years of the New Zealand Parliament, no government has ever attempted to entrench its policies. The only entrenched law is a provision passed with bi-partisan support to safeguard democracy. A future parliament cannot change the electoral law without 75 per cent support.
Labour and the Greens have committed a constitutional outrage. It is an attack on democracy. Even if the reaction forces a U-turn it shows Labour and the Greens are willing to abuse their power.
Lame duck governments are dangerous.