Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen a swerve to the right by the National Party, meaning that the 2020 election is going to be a real choice.
Simon Bridges has decided that the way out of stagnant polling and a slow stagger to defeat in 2020 is to listen to some of the more extreme forces within his party, though much of what has been announced either lacks detail and/or was rejected by his own party when it was winning elections.
, has confirmed his party's commitment to raising the superannuation eligibility age to 67 in 2037, a policy that Sir Bill English took to the 2017 election and lost.
This was firmly and repeatedly rejected by Sir John in his three successful campaigns.
I recall hearing Sir Michael Cullen on this topic many years ago. He thought the 65-year eligibility age was affordable in the long term if we built an investment pile for the years when predictable population bulges meant extra cash would be required.
The practical result of Goldsmith's announcement is that anyone born after 1972 who opts for National next year will be voting to reduce their retirement income by roughly $16,000 at current rates.
This is called leading with your chin.
National also talked about cutting the corporate tax rate and exploring "accelerated depreciation" though no firm numbers were floated.
Both are policies favoured by right-wingers of the Donald Trump variety and simply add up to tax cuts for the rich.
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Sir John Key managed a reasonably cordial relationship with the union movement, but this too will be thrown away with some new union-bashing policies announced in parallel with the promise to light a "bonfire of the regulations".
National's now promising to get rid of hundreds of "unnecessary" regulations but couldn't come up with many examples.
The policy doesn't seem to reflect any public demand that I've noticed in this post leaky building world.
These are not policies that will broaden National's middle-class voting base or appeal to New Zealand First, National's only viable coalition partner.
These plans are straight out of the National's neo-liberal "Rogernomic" rump, and will make a few rich people a bit richer and help with the National Party's fundraising programme
It will be interesting to see how far Goldsmith can push Bridges away from the centre ground. Will we see policies like the return of market rentals in state houses?
This tripped Don Brash up in 2005 when thousands of usually non-voting state house tenants turned out for Labour.
National is also starting to sound like Donald Trump on climate change.
National's Northland MP Matt King's statement "climate change is natural, and mankind's impact is minimal" fits squarely in the climate change denier minority and drew no rebuke from Bridges.
His opposition to a government policy that seeks to give a mild cost advantage to hybrid and electric vehicles is further confirmation of National's drift into Trumpland. Leading this movement, as a grandson pointed out, is my local National list MP Alfred Ngaro who thinks it's a good idea to drive around in a huge gas-guzzling utility vehicle with his picture on the sides.
I was pleased to see senior Statistics Department official Vince Galvin write a piece explaining how "admin" statistics were getting used to fill the yawning gaps in last year's census as I have no doubt that this is the only avenue now open to his department other than junking the 2018 cCensus and rerunning it next year.
Galvin does, however, concede that "Stats NZ did not expect to have to use admin data so much when we began the 2018 Census" so my core question - why an online data capture strategy was adopted - remains unanswered.
That a significant proportion of our population does not have online access is a published statistical fact which quite likely originates from Galvin's own Stats NZ.
It may be that in 10 or 20 years everyone will live in an online world, but Stats NZ knew that that this wasn't true yet and has paid the price for what can rightly be described as bureaucratic myopia.
Still, this is not the silliest example of the kind of unreal world some of our state servants inhabit. That prize still goes the regional Corrections official who requested proposals for drivers licensing programmes for prisoners in jails. This RFP specifically required the use of a dedicated online training system at a time when few prisoners had access to computers and online access for prisoners was prohibited.
Mercifully, politicians of all stripes have resisted the temptation to try online voting, though given the National Party's recent behaviour I wouldn't put it past them to see some manipulative political advantage in moving in that direction.