If there truly was a 'marketplace of ideas', right now the Labour-led Government would be the Camden Markets and National would be an old drunk who walks past and spits on the stalls.
Camden Markets because hey, not everything for sale is useful or great but at least there's stuff you can buy. While National has nothing except objection and contempt for anything you might pick up.
The Tax Working Group's recommendations have been covered ad nauseam, but if we go back to why the TWG existed in the first place it's because Labour thought the tax system needed tinkering with. Labour saw the tax system benefiting those at the top end who could afford to pour their money into tax-exempt assets, while the regular Kiwi who goes to work and gets a salary was bearing more than their fair share of the burden. Labour views our tax system as something to be improved and so wanted to improve it. National sees the report and recommendations as an opportunity to spit bile and gain political capital.
And now that National has kicked and screamed and yelled at all the TWG's recommendations, if Labour only puts some of them in place then it will look like a very reasonable and sensible thing to do. This is the John Key playbook. And National apparently hasn't learnt anything from its former leader.
Whether or not you agree with the TWG's suggestions is going to be largely ideological, but you can't argue that Labour doesn't believe that change will be good for New Zealand. The Government is not out there actively trying to ruin the country. It's doing what it believes is best.
Once the TWG report was out, the edict came down from the National Party Leader's Office: there are to be no press releases put out that aren't to do with a capital gains tax. National isn't a political party that's for a better New Zealand, it's a political party that's against whatever somebody else said. Even ACT has more policy integrity, but nobody likes its policies. This hasn't stopped National from aping them. Bridges' big announcement of tax bracket's being linked to inflation was just an old ACT policy that 0.5 per cent of New Zealand voted for in 2017.
Go visit National's website. There aren't policies. National's website is actually super revealing of the state of the party right now. Usually your banner image on your party website is the party leader. For National it's a sapling. It's obviously been decided that an immature plant is more engaging and likely to win votes than its leader. All hail sapling!
Visit the values section and more of National's character is revealed. One of its core values is "A limited Government". It's definitely on its way to achieving that. Because it is a very limited opposition.
National has promised us multiple policy documents this year which is great. Except its website is filled with "Have Your Say" sections asking New Zealanders what they want, suggesting the party isn't keen on doing the work itself. You can have your say as a "Young New Zealander". You can have your say as a "Family". You can have your say as a "Senior" or a "Rural New Zealander", you can even have your say as a "Small Business".
All of these people having their say sure does sound a lot like the Government's working groups that National so loudly criticised. Except National isn't paying for the expertise. It wants it for free.
This dearth of policy isn't a situation unique to National mind, Labour spent 9 years in opposition and the only major policy it could come up with was maybe implementing a capital gains tax. Then maybe not implementing a capital gains tax. Then asking a group of "experts" if it should implement a capital gains tax and now it's asking Winston if it's allowed to implement a capital gains tax.
Our opposition parties need to stop focusing on the word opposition and start thinking like an alternative. Be different instead of negative.
So go on New Zealand, go and have your say, and help the sapling-led National Party find a vision. Because right now they're adrift in a sea of optionless negativity. It's certainly not standing up for New Zealanders because right now it lacks the ability to stand for anything.
- David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green Parties and interned for Bill English while studying