Well the other shoe has dropped, and Michael Cullen has now left parliament. His valedictory speech is classic Cullen – best line (re his new role at NZ Post) “When I attacked National last year for swallowing so many dead rats little did I think that some might see me as one of them.”
Anticipating the usual drivel from right wing trolls, let it be stated that Cullen was an excellent, prudent manager of the economy. He has left us well placed to weather the current economic crisis – according to Treasury, the IMF, and even the National Party). It may get bad, but it won’t get nearly as bad as it would have if Cullen hadn’t planned ahead. His lasting legacy will be the visionary long term infrastructure that he put in place, KiwiSaver, KiwiBank, and the Superannuation fund.
I liked Vernon Small’s piece on Cullen’s farewell, and I can’t do better than his final words: “So retires from the House a hilarious, caring, clever, compassionate smart-arse.”
To that I just want to add that, barring revolutionary reforms, Finance Ministers only have marginal impact on the performance of the economy as a whole in the short-term.
What they can do is influence the distribution of wealth to reduce poverty and build the foundations for the future. That is Cullen’s legacy – Working for Families, the Cullen Fund, paying down debt, a more progressive tax system (bottom rate down to 12.5%, top rate to 39%), returning assets to Kiwi hands and keeping them there, and policies like free doctors’ visits, free early childhood education, interest-free student loans the benefits of which we will experience in the decades to come.