There is no evidence to suggest private interests run state services better than the Government.

Shortly after the explosions at Pike River in November 2010, John Key stood "in solidarity" with those who had lost loved ones in the disaster - 29 men; fathers, brothers and sons.

The speech he gave at the remembrance service was moving. In it, he talked about the pain of a close-knit community losing so many lives far too young; about the burden of growing up without a father, and about the beauty of the Paparoa Ranges where the men lie. He spoke of their retrieval, and of efforts to get to the bottom of that terrible disaster.

Not four years later, and at a meeting to hear from the Pike River families about the special, personal importance to them of strong health and safety laws in New Zealand workplaces, not one National Party MP was present.

Not only that, but strong workplace safety laws look to have been watered down by the unholy influence of the party's friends in business, in my opinion spurred on by the particular disdain the Nats hold for anyone - be they public health advocates, unions, civil servants, scientists or anyone else - with views that discomfit their friends.


People have asked me over the years why my columns have become more strident in tone; more "biased against" the Government. The answer's that the examples of contempt for the public, hypocrisy, and flat-out bulls***tery have become too overwhelming to ignore.

And while these traits can also be found in the opposition, it's not the same. A journalist - even an opinion columnist writing on politics, which is not the same thing as investigative journalism and certainly not as important - must necessarily give more weight to the actions of the party in power. Anything else starts to look like meaningless diversion.

The other reason, of course, is that I love New Zealand - not in a new flag baloney, jingoistic, Richie McCaw-worshipping kind of way, but as a country that is small enough, wealthy enough, and forward-thinking enough to ensure a great life for most.

I think we could be in a position to help shape some of the solutions to problems faced by the whole of humanity - climate change, war, and famine, for just a few. But all that requires excellent and active governance, rather than the present style of drifting on arrogance and popularity, sure the market will provide, and uncaring if it doesn't.

I believe the ideological sell-off of our hard-built state assets, the hocking off to private interests of our health and education systems, the cost-cutting and the abandoning of our state housing stock, are disasters already in the making, and will only accelerate under the TPP.

There is simply no evidence to suggest private interests run state services better than the Government, and if they are not a vast improvement, there is no reason to involve them.

I think hearing blank-eyed ministers defend the likes of Serco inflames the heart of anyone who genuinely cares.

I think of all the failures of governance we witness; one of the worst has to be in housing - from extracting an absurdly high dividend from Housing New Zealand, to the demonisation of state house tenants and beneficiaries, to zero effort given to get house price inflation under control, to the active incentivising of huge investment property portfolios, many of those held by National Party ministers, it is completely misguided.


I say that as someone who has benefited enormously from this very system.

But I sit in an expensive house in central Auckland as a result of many factors - most notably generous in-laws and a complete fluke of timing - rather than any particular effort of my own. If I have a "glass half full" mentality, it's because that's easy for someone in my privileged position to have.

Meanwhile, children live in sheds and sleepouts and die from the diseases of overcrowding not 40 minutes away.

We seem to have embraced the idea that Government should get out of our core services, even though many of the best-run countries in the world have active, empathetic governance ensuring a high quality of living for all.

They are not communist dictatorships.

I believe we need to hold our Government, whatever stripe it is, to the task of doing what it is there to do. That's what has driven this column.

Thanks very much for reading.

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