When you look at the policy National has released, it’s clear that the focus is on winning the election, not on developing policy that would work.
There is a most appalling lack of detail – most of the policy one-page wonders from National have left me with more questions than answers because of lack of detail and ambiguous, purposefully ambiguous, wording. Does the work rights policy maintain the status quo on union access (as suggested by the press release) or dramatically curtail it (as suggested by the one-pager)? How many people will the work requirements for the DPB apply to, what exemptions are there, what will the cost of enforcement be? Does blocking “vexatious objections” to RMA applications mean a cosmetic, ineffective change or imposing serious limits on communities’ right to object to projects? These questions are purposely left open, the wording is purposefully left ambigious because that way the Nats don’t “scare the horses” by revealing unpopular policies but don’t rule out implementing those policies either. Then there are the endless claims ‘we’ll close the wage gap’, ‘lift education standards’ etc, but to the question ‘how?’ all we get is a deafening silience.
The numbers (what numbers there are) don’t add up – there just isn’t enough in the kitty to give the tax cuts they’ve led people to expect without cutting services or increasing borrowing. Public servant numbers are supposedly to be capped, yet National’s policies would need upwards of 1000 extra staff. National would borrow but we’re not told how much this borrowing would cost in the long-run and what the economic benefits of the projects paid for would be. Indeed, we’re not even told what the projectw would be.
The rhetoric doesn’t match reality – ‘unclogging the arteries of growth’ is the fine phrase Crosby/Textor came up with but the reality is a few more roads when vehicle use is falling, more fossil fuel power plants, and expensive broadband that even National’s Communications spokesperson can’t imaginea good use for. Borrowing will be ‘hermetically sealed’ from tax cuts, which doesn’t make one iota of sense in the real world but sounds reassuring on the evening news.
The positive, ambition is absent – there is nothing new, nothing exciting in National policy, it the just the same old, same old but toned down a little. Sure, they claim they would keep the flagship Labour programmes like Kiwisaver that are having a real transforming effect but can we trust them? And would they be good shepherds of these programmes when they clearly don’t really believe in them?
If you were a rightwing party that had principles which were fundamentally unpopular but you “desperately wanted to win the election” (in Key’s words) more than you even want to be able to govern well this is the kind of platform you would put together. Viewed from a distance, as an idea, Natioanl’s policy platform looks mediocre but non-threatening, with the lure of tax cuts. Like my first form science project, however, it’s all held together with blue tack and spit. Actually try to make it work and everything will start to come apart.