This is simply stunning. Don Brash, our new productivity tsar, has just released a speech where he proves he hasn’t changed a bit from the nasty, bigoted far right radical of the Douglas-Richardson era.
It’s a typically long and long-winded speech, but in the first two paragraphs he shows how unsuited he is to fill a position designed to create a consensus on lifting productivity over the next sixteen years.
I’ve stood for election as a National Party candidate in four elections – in a by-election in 1980, and in the general elections of 1981, 2002, and 2005 – so nobody would be surprised to learn that on election night last year I was pleased to see the National Party win the largest share of the vote.
That’s not just because I think John Key will make a fine Prime Minister, or because I know and respect all of the Cabinet, but rather because, speaking as objectively as I can, Helen Clark’s Labour Government was a profound disappointment to me and to many others who care about the future of New Zealand.
There goes any hope Brash will be able put his strong partisan history behind him and approach the productivity issue with an open mind.
Hilariously, he still seems to think one reason New Zealanders are leaving for Australia is because “they’re sick and tired of the political correctness – around race and gender – in New Zealand.” Goodness, I thought we’d left that kind of filth behind us in 2005.
He goes on for several pages attacking the last government, expressing his delight in the ACT Party forming a governing arrangement with National and defending the policies of the reform era. “So much for the ‘failed policies of the past’ as an explanation for our failure to close the gap with Australia!”, he crows.
Of course, Brash can’t publicly prejudge the findings of the 2025 Taskforce he’s chairing, so he pulls out the old Fox News technique of quoting “some observors”, who have found our productivity is flagging because of:
. The rapid increase in government spending after the first MMP election in 1996, and especially after 2005, to the point where government spending in New Zealand is now markedly higher than in Australia as a share of GDP;
. The increased complexity throughout the tax system as a consequence of the increase in the top personal income tax rate in 2000, thus splitting the top personal rate from the company tax rate for the first time since 1988;
. The increased rigidities in the labour market as a consequence of the repeal of the Employment Contracts Act in 2000, and the refusal until this year to contemplate even a very short period during which an employer can dismiss a new employee without the risk of costly personal grievance action;
. The extraordinary obstacles put in front of almost any new investment – be it in roads, electricity transmission, wood processing, or residential land subdivision – by the Resource Management Act, and the way in which local and regional authorities have been allowed to interpret that Act to thwart investment and erode the rights of property owners; and
. The capricious way in which the Labour Government over-rode the rights of the shareholders in Auckland International Airport – and the rights of two major international investors wanting to buy shares in that company – and the rights of Telecom shareholders when the Government decided to unilaterally abrogate the agreement under which the company had been privatised.
It’s quite clear what’s happening here. National realised after 2005 that it couldn’t win a majority with its hard right agenda. So they gave us ‘Labour lite’ and “that nice man John Key”. They’d really changed this time, they promised us. Now they’re back in power it’s clear they were lying all along.
I hate to say we told you so, but, well, we fucking told you so.