Labour’s new KiwiAssure policy has been welcomed by John Armstrong as good politics. And it is. But it’s also good policy – at the same time we’ve got a government hell bent on making sure electricity profits flow to overseas investors, David Cunliffe’s policy is about giving Kiwi’s the ability to ensure that any money made from their insurance stays in the country and pays for hospitals, schools, and New Zealanders’ retirement.
But back to the politics. As Armstrong points out:
When it comes to honesty and ethics, the public ranks insurance companies only slightly above used-car salesmen.
So David Cunliffe cannot really go wrong in committing Labour to setting up a state-owned general insurance firm, KiwiAssure – especially at a time when private companies’ premiums are soaring through the roof and their cover is falling through the floor.
There’s a couple of other threads to this too, one is the close ties National have had with the insurance industry over the years (note how muted Gerry Brownlee has been about recalcitrant insurers in Christchurch), the other is that this policy is another milestone in the return of the Labour party to its roots – the last state insurance company was privatized in the dying days of the neo-liberal fourth Labour government. Which is why Armstrong’s comment that “the purists can weep” is so piquant.
David Cunliffe has brought the Labour party back. Not just to the members of the party but to New Zealanders. There could have been no more appropriate walk-on music as he approached the stage to deliver this policy than a song called “Aotearoa”. “We are New Zealand”. Indeed.