Though I have made dogged attempts to comprehend many difficult things, there are three matters that I will never understand.
I can’t make out how the Air New Zealand flight attendants (not the blokes) keep their often-complicated hair styles in place flight after flight, I can’t get my head around quantum mechanics, and I have absolutely no idea why anyone would think that National runs the New Zealand economy better than Labour.
On Thursday, Stats NZ confirmed that under the guidance of Grant Robertson the country’s economy grew in the most recent quarter and that an upward revision of the previous quarter showed that, despite the flow-on effects of the pandemic and an international downturn, the country was not and had never been in recession.
Defying all predictions, our economy is now nearly 8 per cent bigger than at the start of the pandemic.
In the interests of honesty, we can now expect National to remove the attack ads which say the country is in recession.
After surviving the Covid-19 pandemic with fewer deaths than almost any other country, our national debt is still lower than that of Australia, Britain and Germany, our jobless rate is among the lowest in the OECD and businesses, despite their grumpiness with Robertson (who bailed them out during the pandemic), are profitable.
Contrast this economic performance with the three National Governments I have lived through.
The 1975 to 1984 National Government got the country into such dire economic straits that Sir Robert Muldoon could not produce a budget and had to call an early snap election which was dubbed the “schnapps election” due to Muldoon’s apparent condition when he announced the July election date.
The 1990 to 1999 National government opened up with the “Mother of All Budgets” making the most vulnerable pay for its overcooked promises. Sickness benefits were cut by $27 a week, and user-pays requirements were introduced for services like hospitals and schools, facilities previously funded by the Government and free to the public.
The “cure” was very much worse than the problem and a significant portion of the population had to endure hardship for years. This National Government’s large majority all but evaporated in the 1993 general election and Ruth Richardson, the Minister of Finance, lost her job.
Between 2008 and 2017 another National Government enacted tax cuts for the well-off and we all had to pay when that government increased GST from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent after solemnly promising it would not.
It also stopped paying into our rainy-day savings account, the very successful “Cullen Fund”.
Assuming that political polls remain a reliable predictor of election outcomes, New Zealand may find itself with the most right-wing Government in 32 years following the October election.
The most recent TVNZ poll, however, suggests that this outcome is not set in concrete as it foreshadows a National/Act coalition with just a single-seat majority.
It would only take an upward twitch in voter participation, especially in the Māori seats to return the left side of politics now looking, by contrast decidedly centrist, to government.
The surge of poll support for the Act Party is responsible for tugging the National to the right as that party attempts, with mixed success, to appeal to former National voters now favouring Act.
From the Howard League viewpoint, a National/Act Government would be a depressing setback.
National has replaced what were sensible and proven policies under the leadership of Sir Bill English - like reducing sentences for prisoners who undertake self-improvement - with populist nonsense.
This party would revive “boot camps” for young offenders when all research shows that these act as universities of crime and make youth offending worse.
National’s most foolhardy policy to date is to ban the wearing of gang patches in public.
This policy, if it’s ever implemented, will prove to be counterproductive and for, Christopher Luxon, an ongoing embarrassment.
As gangs are by definition organised and members are not universally stupid, they would evade any new law by subtle changes in the design or colour of their insignia. This will create a nightmare for the courts and an embarrassment for Luxon.
Worse still, this policy may encourage many more gang members to have their gang affiliation tattooed onto their faces as a small minority do already.
This makes leaving a gang, and many do just that when they get jobs, very difficult and prohibitively expensive at between $1000 and $2000 per tattoo removal.
National’s police spokesman, Mark Mitchell, is right when he says we should focus on “getting kids out of gangs”.
Sadly, his party’s policies are likely to have the opposite effect.
Mike Williams grew up in Hawke’s Bay and is a former Labour Party president.
* This article was amended to remove a claim National would need to define gang insignia in legislation to ban it - this legislation is already in place. An error regarding the size of economic growth in NZ, introduced to the column in the subbing process, has also been corrected.