So this is Labour. The last seven days has given us a good insight into what sort of government Labour is trying to lead and the sorts of things it would like to do.
First off was the school lunch programme. Thirty schools across New Zealand will be part of a pilot programme, receiving lunches for their students. This pilot will ultimately lead to 21,000 students receiving free lunches by 2021.
The Prime Minister has banged on about the "politics of kindness" and made child poverty a centrepiece of her value set so this is entirely consistent with that. Still it's pleasing to see something actually happen. We've had a tick under two years and much of the progressive change seems to have been window dressing more than anything else. And frankly, I can only take so many pretty windows before I want to see something more substantial.
Those people opposed to the programme seemed to have three arguments. One, that we shouldn't be excusing "deadbeat" parents; two, that the taxpayer shouldn't be funding lunches for kids; and three, that this wasn't targeted enough and we should be making sure those kids who truly need it are singled out at school and everyone knows.
Point three is really just the softer version of points one and two. Because what all of these arguments boil down to, what we get to if we think about the counterfactual, is that if these children do not receive free lunches then they go hungry. And so to be against this policy is to be okay with children going hungry. And I'm not ready to live in that world.
You can blame the parents all you want, and it's frequently not their fault, but let's say it is. Does this mean the children should be punished for it and go without lunch? No it does not. And if you think it does, then maybe you need to take a look at yourself in the mirror.
So Prime Minister, I'll bring the mirror, you can then take a look at yourself. Because despite promises to the contrary, you're still sanctioning beneficiaries who are failing drug tests when looking for jobs. And by doing so you are punishing the children of those beneficiaries. And the sanctions have been shown not to work.
When quizzed about this, her answer has been that there are fewer than 10 families affected by this sanction. Which is supposed to make it okay? I'm sure the children in those 10 families are stoked this pointless sanction that achieves so little is only affecting such a small number of families.
But by refusing to buckle on this, the Government shows it's not "soft on beneficiaries", which is something that Labour-led Governments can be accused of. And that accusation is usually a negative. Frankly I'd support a Government who is soft on beneficiaries, but I'm not most people. While we like to think we're a caring compassionate country, no Government was ever voted out on being too hard on beneficiaries. National practically exists on this fact.
Then there was Sunday's announcement of a big boost to Pharmac to spend on whatever Pharmac thinks it should spend it on. And the development of a National Cancer Agency headed up by a team of experts. Both are good announcements. Whether or not it was pressured into this by National's announcement earlier this year is irrelevant - though as I said at the time, it's great that we live in a country where the two main parties duke it out on trying to outspend each other on socialised health care.
The change in which Pharmac can assess drugs to now be alongside the work that Medsafe does rather than at the end is also significant but sounds less sexy. It means we'll be more likely to get cutting edge drugs, instead of having to wait for Medsafe to assess them and then begin the arduous Pharmac process.
There is of course plenty more Labour could be doing. It has a giant surplus that it could use to roll out free lunches to all schools around the country and yet it chooses not to do that. It could also dramatically increase benefits like it was recommended to, but at least we're doing something to help those less well-off. The National Government, under John Key, voted down Metiria Turei's Feed the Kids bill. One shouldn't neglect to mention that National did work alongside Fonterra and Sanitarium on a breakfast policy for some schools, but it wasn't of this magnitude, and the private sector did the heavy lifting.
So while Labour was burnishing both its caring and not-so-caring-for-beneficiaries side, National came out with its economic discussion document. The major point that we took away is that National will campaign on raising the retirement age to 67. In 2037. This is fine if you're already old (hello National's voter base), or if you're middle class, white or Asian and work in an office job. But if you've got lower life expectancy, like Māori and Pasifika people do, or you work in more labour-intensive jobs that damage your body, then those extra two years can be a real burden.
If the Government could please roll out more policies with people at the centre of them that would be great thanks. And if National could think beyond its boomer base and realise there's a group of people who aren't middle class and old, then we could look forward to a more equitable future. Provided the planet isn't burned to a crisp by fossil fuel companies first.
Pity National is full of climate change deniers and vowed to repeal the oil and gas discovery ban I guess.
• David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green parties and interned for Bill English while studying.