It's the 1980s. I'm a child. The coolest show on TV is easily Transformers. The premise is what it says on the can. There are robots and they can transform. Except the parameters within which they can transform are fairly narrow. They can go from being a robot, to being a vehicle, and back again. That's it. It's not wholly transformational. They're more part-time transformers.

It's 2017, the Labour Party under charismatic and impressive new leader Jacinda Ardern has formed a Government in a coalition with New Zealand First with confidence and supply from the Green Party. This will be a transformative Government, Ardern tells us.

it's going to be a big-time transformer. It's going to transform New Zealand I guess is the takeaway. Except at its first big chance to do so it didn't even get to vehicle stage. It baulked. This was some Optimus Sub-Prime rubbish.


I don't for a second think that a capital gains tax would have been a magical panacea for our housing crisis, for our rising inequality, for our homeless problem, or for child poverty. But boy, wouldn't it have been inspiring to see the Government do something bold and transformational to at least begin to address those issues?

Then again, like the Transformers of the 1980s, the parameters this Government has set up for itself means it's limited its own ability to transform.

The Budget Responsibility Rules means it can't borrow much more to do big infrastructure projects, it flat out said there'd be no new streams of revenue so it can't put in a new tax bracket at $150,000 a year - even if it moved the other tax brackets up - and, well, there just doesn't seem to be the appetite to do anything bold.

Ardern said capitalism was a "blatant failure" when it came to housing the poor. Winston Peters said, "far too many New Zealanders have come to view today's capitalism not as their friend but as their foe".

He'd also said earlier that year: "The truth is that after 32 years of the neoliberal experiment the character and the quality of our country has changed dramatically, and much of it for the worse."

There aren't too many people in New Zealand better placed to actually do something about those problems than Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters. And yet at their first big opportunity to do so they did nothing. They didn't even do a little bit. They did nothing.

There's a bunch of people who could have done nothing. I could have done nothing. My 8-month old daughter could have done nothing. John Key sure as hell did nothing. But none of us promised the country we'd be a transformative Government.

Someone like me isn't going to flock to National as a result of this. Sure I'm disappointed in a supposed left-wing Government rushing to meet Tony Blair in the centre, but I'd still prefer that to a National-led Government.


Meanwhile a bunch of centrist voters who might go National or might go Labour will feel better about going Labour if the CGT was what was holding them back.


Go for those people.

But you'd better do something transformative. Because that's what you promised us. You've got the "Wellbeing Budget" in May, which I've been assured has strong demonstrations of progressivism in it and it needs to.

As soon as the Prime Minister said there wouldn't be a capital gains tax so long as she was leader it was apparent what this was. It was a brilliant political move strategically, and a concession that it wasn't just because NZ First blocked it, but an admission that the courage to make a big change to our tax system just isn't there.

The door could have been left open for a CGT if the next Government is just Labour and the Greens, and hey, maybe there'll be a different adjustment to our tax system. Like a land tax. Or a wealth tax. Or nationalising the banks. But I'm not holding my breath.

All this talk of governing in a new way and doing the politics of kindness is great. But you can't eat kindness. Kindness doesn't afford you a house. Kindness doesn't redress the imbalance where one generation got huge amounts of support to get houses, jobs, education, and healthcare while those coming next have been left fighting over scraps.

So this Government had better step up. This Government had better start getting progressive soon. There'd better be more than meets the eye. Or are they just robots in disguise?

David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green parties and interned for Bill English while studying.