COMMENT:

The policy National released today is the most important policy we will see this election campaign.

For both health and the economy, nothing else matters as much as the border right now, because it is the most important protection we have for both.

Parties can announce as much as they like for future health spending - but if that border leaks, people will die. They can announce as much money as they like for future wage subsidies, but if that border fails and we're in lockdown, businesses will fall over.

Advertisement

They can announce all the infrastructure spending they like but unless that border lets key workers through, the projects won't get finished. So everything hinges on the success of that border.

And that is why National's policy is the most important announcement this campaign. I would call Labour's policy important because Labour is most likely going to be the party in government actually implementing its policy. But there will be no Labour policy. It's not going to release one.

What you see at the border right now is what you get perhaps with a few iterative improvements.

National's policy isn't bad. There's no shiny new idea to get excited about, but it's got the nuts of bolts of a good plan.

National's promising to put a single minister in charge of a single Border Protection Agency overseeing and managing the border, rather than having two ministers, one Digby and one Ashley in charge.

They're promising to make travellers test negative before jumping on a plane, rather than us dealing with loads of positive cases that increase the risk of a leaking border. They're promising to test all border workers weekly, which was Labour's policy last week but this week it's decided it's only going to test about 10 per cent of border workers weekly.

And they're promising to deploy Bluetooth technology like a Covid card to help contact tracing along, rather than the current plan of big lockdowns as a default.

Obviously, the chances that National actually get to implement this policy are slim given where they're polling, but hopefully this alternative idea will force Labour to lift its game.

Advertisement

Because it can't be acceptable to us that they promise testing and then don't deliver, that they can't find where cases come from, that they lock down an entire city as a default.

Potentially we've just seen the first example of Labour being forced to lift its game: National promised that Bluetooth contact tracing like the Covid Card in an embargoed press release at 10.04am today - 27 minutes later Labour announced it would pilot using the technology in isolation facilities too. Labour have had the Covid Card proposal on their desk since mid-April and took more than four months just to get to a pilot.

Hopefully this is the policy alternative that reminds Labour – and us voters – that we can and should do better at the border.

Heather du Plessis-Allan hosts Drive on NewstalkZB 4-7pm weekdays.