If you're a political anorak like I am, you might do thought experiments where you wonder what New Zealand would look like if National had retained power at the last election. Based off a post from Reddit yesterday, I did exactly that.
Tax cuts would have kicked in by now, widening the gap between rich and poor as high income earners benefit more from income tax cuts. Labour's expansion of social services would not have happened meaning those at the lower end would have a wee bit more cash in hand, but the families package, targeted at poorer families, wouldn't have started. Elderly - both rich and poor - wouldn't be getting subsidised power bills during winter, and parents would get less paid leave when they take time off to have children.
Probably the same number of students would have enrolled in university though.
The world's most expensive road would be being built in Auckland which would bring with it more cars as research shows roads do. This would have a short-term gain in traffic flow, followed by worsening gridlock as more people choose to take their cars into the city instead of public transport. Particularly as the Government doesn't seem to want to expand public transport at all.
Despite a worsening global economic situation, inflamed by Trump's trade wars and a natural end to the boom and bust cycle that a capitalist economy operates under, business confidence would have remained pretty solid because hey, business leaders love a National Government.
This would cause National to feel pretty relaxed.
Beneficiaries would continue to have it pretty bad, with tough sanctions remaining and a mentality from WINZ to cut benefits where possible. Confidence from poor people would be rock bottom but that isn't measured so nobody would know. National definitely wouldn't have formed a Lower Socio-economic council to help deal with the worsening state of our underclass.
The minimum wage would barely keep up with inflation making sure those on the bottom stayed there, with no sense of hope that it may improve.
Our Minister of Health would continue to take a hands-off approach to our mental health system and ignore all suggestions it needed attention, while nurses would be still be striking given that National's pay offer to them was less than half what the current Government offered. Or they may not have taken strike action at all because they knew that National just didn't give a damn.
Lip service would be paid to climate change, with an unstated but understood policy of 'Climate Change Isn't Truly Our Fault'. The Paris Agreement would be all but ignored because that would be damaging to business and our economy. This focus on putting business first would see business confidence stay pretty solid and National fairly relaxed.
We'd have approximately 4000 fewer working groups, with no experts outside of National helping us decide policy. Instead we'd still have Jonathan Coleman telling us what was best for the health sector.
Big ticket infrastructure projects that weren't roads wouldn't even be on the radar because any failings in public sector infrastructure, like hospitals and schools will eventually be fixed by the market. That's how that works, right?
A super prison would be being built, despite the fact that Prime Minister Bill English said prisons were a moral and fiscal failure. The prison system would continue to fail both morally and fiscally. Getting tough on law and order would still be the plan despite evidence that "getting tough" is actually the wrong course, and there certainly wouldn't be a judge asking to see evidence that deterrence is an important factor when it came to sentencing. We wouldn't have made provisions for victims of domestic violence to have leave of work because of the burden this would supposedly put on business (confidence).
There'd still be no housing crisis, so prices would continue their merry march up into the stratosphere, giving property owners a continuing sense of wealth. This would in turn lead to greater levels of credit card and other private debt as homeowners borrow more against the perceived increase in value of their golden egg-laying goose. Non-home owners would give up hope in even greater numbers, investing their savings in avocados and other actually attainable commodities instead. Cars would become the new "first home" for more and more people.
There would definitely be no review of abortion law because many in National think the current system works just fine.
For the middle of New Zealand there wouldn't be any huge visible change. There wouldn't be much of anything. Just a boring, continuation of a series of policies that didn't seem to do much at all. All the while National would be relaxed and business confidence would remain pretty solid.
Clare Curran and Meka Whaitiri would still not be in Cabinet.
- David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green Parties and interned for Bill English while studying