Last week we had National’s budget and Labour’s conference. A chance for both parties to set out their ideas for the future.
National of course, had the bigger opportunity. They get to turn policy in to action. The budget was the perfect showcase for their ideas and their response to New Zealand’s ongoing economic woes. Unfortunately the showcase was empty. National have no ideas, except to further contract the economy with cut after cut after cut. Among the responses, John Armstrong:
John Key and his National Party colleagues may well take a hit in the polls after the mediocre Budget. The document has had a chilly reception. Few are shouting its merits from the rooftops. … The Budget has displayed a degree of cynicism one would expect from a Government in its third term, not its first.
It is based on heroic assumptions of a strong economic economy, high wage growth and and nothing going wrong. … Overall, the Budget rates a 6 out of 10. Its savings targets feel more like wishful thinking than realism and the Government has left the really hard decisions to the public sector itself.
Is it bold? No. Does it really address the record $16.7 billion deficit? It is a start – tinkering.
While Deficit Phobia provides the rationale for the austerity and privatisation measures contained in this year’s Budget, the government’s stance is a curiously passive one, overall. The largely self-inflicted problems with the revenue base are being treated as essentially self correcting. … Note the complete lack of active policies of structural change…
An anonymous Herald editorial:
A good Budget gives the country a sense that the Government has a firm hand on the tiller and can see where it is going. This Budget does neither.
A Sunday Star Times editorial (not on line):
The Budget was grey, like so much else about John Key’s government. It is neither slash-and-burn nor borrow-and-hope, but a weird sort of wasteland in between.
Bernard Hickey last Sunday set out in detail five reasons why Treasury’s “heroic” growth forecasts are not believable. Other skeptical analysis continued this week, focusing on flawed forecasts and “outlandish” figures, and Key’s KiwiSaver lies. Fair to say in summary I think that the budget has gone down like the proverbial lead balloon.
Ok then, how about Labour? They’re playing the standard opposition hand. Political junkies call for them to release their policy, but no opposition does so until close to the election, when the general public start paying attention. So the policy released this weekend at their “buoyant” conference can only be a hint of things to come. There’s a good summary in Vernon Small’s piece, “Labour rolls up its sleeves on economy”.
Naturally some commentators demanded more, such as this anonymous editorial. In a depressing display of ignorance the writer completely fails to understand, and openly mocks, the idea of a government stimulating public research and development — which was of course Labour’s main conference policy release. (It’s a hopelessly muddled piece in other ways too, calling on the government to “pick winners more carefully” while also lamenting that “Neither scientists nor public officials are well placed to predict what may come of research and development of any kind”.) Compare with Ben Clark’s excellent piece here yesterday on the importance of R&D.
Interestingly enough, John Key tried the same tactic of mocking the R&D policy. But while such buffoonery may seem to work in Parliament, with a gibbering chorous on the benches behind him, it turns out that it didn’t play so well in the real world:
Mr Key got into dangerous territory when he started mocking Labour’s proposed research and development tax credit.
Employers like the tax credit idea and not many at the Upper Hutt luncheon were laughing when Mr Key joked that they would abuse the credit by somehow engineering a trip to Fiji.
Well, it’s pretty obvious to me who has the ideas. Labour, and the Greens. It was thus in 2008 and it remains thus today. It will become more and more obvious as Labour rolls out policy in the lead up to the election. Those without ideas of their own can only taunt and mock like schoolboys. Grow up. Mockery isn’t leadership. Mockery won’t solve our problems.