It has been pointed out to me that I have been far too negative about John Key and National in past columns. I would like to rectify that. For the record, I really want the National-Act-Maori Government to succeed, for the good of all of those who get it in the teeth when Governments get it wrong. (Which is not me, nor, I suspect, most of you.)
Besides which it's nearly Christmas, which is not the season for nitpicking negativity but relentless positivity and ambitiousness (to channel our bouncy new PM), both of which I have to admit have been a little challenging this week.
Still, no one said it was going to be easy - eh, Hone? Sometimes you gotta swallow a few dead fish for the greater good.
And so, in that spirit, I want to say how diverting it's been to watch the National-led Government's first action-packed week in Parliament. First, they did what they said they'd do, and a little more besides. If there is a Christmas bonus for the number of laws you can get through Parliament in a single week, they'd surely get it. They showed what a take-charge, we-know-best Government looks like. They were decisive, fleet of foot, efficient and in control. They were not ashamed to admit their mistakes (on KiwiSaver and state houses), even when it exposed a worryingly flimsy grasp of policy.
They did not stand on their principles, instead brushing aside time-wasting due process (who really needs select committees, anyway?), and overriding the heartless officials at Pharmac to extend the funding for the expensive Herceptin.
Because who cares about careful analysis of the data and independence from political interference and emotive lobbying as long as you can put your hand on your heart and say you did what you thought was right?
And, okay, so some of the bills passed into law last week had no names at the time that Gerry Brownlee announced that they were going to be pushed through under urgency. And, it's true that opposition parties weren't even given advance copies of the bills in time to properly digest them before debating them.
But, look, that wasn't the Government's fault. It was the fault of the officials who were still drafting them at the time. And, really, how long does it take to write a law, anyway? Nobody said they had to be good.
In any case, no one needed much time to get to grips with the "tough" but commendably short Bail Amendment Bill. It was under a page long, and removes three words from the old law. We can all feel safer because judges now only have to be satisfied that suspects pose "a risk" rather than "a real and significant risk" when they decide whether they should grant bail.
The Maori Party voted against that one - Maori are already less likely to be granted bail, no matter how much of a risk they pose - but voted for the tax cuts, despite the fact that the cuts giveth to the better paid rather than the lower paid, who would only have blown it on food and electricity anyway. (For example, families earning under $45,000 get nothing, people on $40,000 a year will have to wait till 2011 to get $5 a week, but those on $100,000 will get $24 in 2009, $34 in 2010 and $41 in 2011.)
Still, National is only being fair. The well-paid and the childless have long been neglected by the Labour-led Government.
As have the poor old employers, who will now have 90 days to get rid of workers who don't work out, without even the bother of having to give a reason. Never mind the Human Rights Commission had urged the Government to go through the select committee process, just because this was "a fundamental change to employment law which requires serious consideration".
Why would you bother with that when you have the numbers and a timetable?
National would have got its way on the Education (National Standards) Amendment Act, too, with or without all the pesky arguments. The amendment requires all schools to test their pupils on maths, reading and writing every year from 2010, and increases truancy fees for the parents of children who miss school or don't enroll.
The Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, didn't bother to consult the education sector, and who can blame her? They're a disagreeable bunch who would have wanted to tell her that schools already test for numeracy and literacy, that they already have national norms against which parents can measure their children if they care to.
They'd have said there's more to improving education standards for those at the bottom than teaching to standardised tests, which haven't had much success overseas, and that punitive fines aren't going to make any difference to the parents most likely to cop them.
And that would have been inconvenient.