Parallels with the Past

Written By: - Date published: 11:08 am, October 17th, 2011 - 12 comments
Categories: brand key, election 2008, election 2011 - Tags:

On Sunday the 10th of May 2008, John Key gave a speech at the Southern Regional Conference explaining National’s platform for the looming election. It’s an interesting read, and looking back to consider words from the past can uncover some revealing realities about the present. Below is a selection of quotes from Key’s speech and a few critical considerations from a current, centre-left, perspective.

New Zealanders are looking for a government that puts their needs first and that can give them real hope for the future of this country. They want a government that is thinking about how to make the most out of tomorrow, not how to cover up the mistakes of yesterday. They’re looking for fresh leadership, with fresh ideas, that is focused on tackling the problems they increasingly confront in their everyday lives.

Key evokes an image of a country losing hope, a country in need of a ‘brighter future’, and a Labour Government faltering from the ‘mistakes of yesterday’. Key suggests his National Party will offer ‘fresh ideas’ to tackle the problems of the people. Yet after coming to power, his bold plan was to build a national cycleway, his finance minister’s solution to our economic trouble was to continue the status quo, and his hope for the future was, in part, founded on a plan to sell state assets. We didn’t see ‘fresh ideas’, we haven’t seen a ‘brighter future’ and the problems most people face in their daily lives have not disappeared. Of course various factors beyond the control of our Government have taken place in the past few years and they deserve recognition, but we cannot excuse our leaders for the failings of their leadership.

Let’s be clear about what we’re all campaigning for this year.  We’re campaigning to make Kiwis’ lives better.
Labour has failed to turn the years of good economic weather into increased financial security for Kiwi families.
Instead, in the past few years, the average Kiwi family has gone from having a little cash to spare at the end of each fortnight, to being further in the red each fortnight.  But don’t worry, says Labour, the Government still has surplus cash to spare for an election-year spend-up.
It’s playing petty politics while families are trying to scrape together the money to pay the power bill.

The final sentence here is curious considering the platform National are now sitting on, campaigning for the partial privatisation of our power generating infrastructure. Yes, some people found it difficult under Labour to ‘scrape together’ money to pay their bills, and some people always will, but have National achieved their campaign promise to ‘make Kiwis’ lives better’? Mortgage rates are rising due to the downgrades, GST went up, and Government services are down.

Can anyone imagine, or more so believe Key suggesting Labour are playing ‘petty politics while families are trying to scrape together the money to pay the power bill’ this campaign? I doubt it. Labour campaigned to retain State Assets last election, they are this year, and they have matched this commitment with policies to deliver a reprieve for all kiwis’ and their families.

Labour should have used the good times to lock in real improvements in our economy, to cut tax, to improve economic productivity, to build effective public services.  If it had done that, Kiwis wouldn’t be feeling the pinch so badly now.
interest rates have doubled.  They’re now the second highest in the developed world.
The largest quarterly loss of jobs since 1989.
43,000 Kiwis leaving for Australia every year – a 20-year high.
Households going deeper into debt just to meet the basic costs of living.  Total household debt has more than doubled but Michael Cullen’s surplus just keeps growing.  As does the Wellington bureaucracy.
After-tax wages falling further and further behind those in Australia.
Aussies are promised yet another tax cut and Kiwis are told to wait longer – for less.
Public services are under-performing. Doctors are striking.  More kids are playing hooky.  Greenhouse gas emissions are up. Violent crime is up.
And, to top it all off, the economy is slowing dramatically.

Key starts with the ideological line, the easy sell with a sniff of sincerity. There were some structural issues that Labour did not adequately address when they were in power, yet if we look across the world, they can’t exactly be isolated for the blame Key wished to attribute. If anything, Labour acted in a prudential manner towards the economy, ensuring that today we are not facing a situation comparable to countries like Greece.

The use of statistics is fascinating; Key took every opportunity to arm himself with them in his 2008 campaign, and the media swallowed them all. Yet watching the House proceedings recently, Key and his Government consistently dismiss statistics produced by the opposition and suggest they do not ‘paint the whole picture’, or they ‘are just one source of many’.

If this is what Labour can deliver after eight years of good global economic conditions, then why should voters trust it to turn things around in the bad times? We don’t know yet just how difficult New Zealand’s economic situation will get, but we do know that Labour can’t be trusted to fix it.

The truth is it’s still blinded by that ideological belief.  Helen Clark has already hinted that she disapproves of the tax cuts a Labor Government plans to deliver in Australia.
The reality is, you can’t trust Labour on tax.  If they can dream up another new way to spend your money, your tax cuts will disappear again.
There is only one party that has consistently called for tax cuts and that can be trusted on this key issue – the National Party.

Key repeatedly brings up the issue of trust, he knew that people wanted change and they wanted to trust that the change would be delivered. He defines his own trust though, and I suppose he hopes that the conviction of the moment outweighs the act of reflective consideration.

How honest has he been with the country since he spoke these words? During his 2008 campaign he held a firm position on asset sales and GST. He said National would not sell assets nor were they considering it, which was half true with the benefit of hindsight. He said National would not raise GST, which was false with the benefit of hindsight.

He expected the country to trust him on his tax plans. In 2010, David Cunliffe had some interesting things to say about National’s tax plan with Bernard Hickey.

Documents recently released by Treasury appear to show a multi-billion dollar hole created by National’s tax switch. Supposedly this exercise was going to be fiscally neutral; there’s nothing fiscally neutral about a multi-billion dollar hole.

What are we to expect if we put our trust in National again this November?

Labour and other parties have been telling the country we need tax reform, that we need sensible increases in income tax and a new capital gains tax. National have so far avoided the topic, yet if they are re-elected, are we to believe they will not increase tax? I think it’s a worthy question considering the current state of our economy, and this election we need hear some National rhetoric on tax, and maybe hear their plan, though judging from last election it is unlikely we’ll hear both.

National will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders for a 21st century economy by focusing our education system on academic standards and achievement.  We will implement a nationwide set of literacy and numeracy standards, and we will ensure schools are transparent about how well students are doing when compared to these standards.

The implementation of this ‘nationwide set of literacy and numeracy standards’ has been a farce. National jumped on an ideological bandwagon without putting critical thought into just how they would implement the system, and how it would equip young New Zealanders for a 21st century economy. Our Primary School Principals launched a campaign recently to have their voice heard on National Standards. They are the people who live in our educational system, and I think the points made in this video are reasonable, concise, and should be heard by parents around the country.

This broadband plan vividly illustrates just how different National’s investment approach will be from Labour’s.  While we will invest in the technology that will dominate the next century, Labour has chosen to invest in the technology of 150 years ago, in the form of a train set – which was already there.  But that’s okay, Toll’s shareholders are really grateful to New Zealand taxpayers for lining their pockets.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear John Key deliver a similiar campaign speech in 12 years time, might it go something like, “Labour has chosen to invest in the technology of 150 years ago, in the form of electricity – which was already there. But that’s ok, Meridian’s shareholders are really grateful to New Zealand taxpayers for lining their pockets.”

As a responsible international citizen, New Zealand must do its best to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.  We need sound, practical environmental policies.   What we don’t need is more inflated rhetoric of the type promoted by Helen Clark.

It’s hard to disagree with the first line, he’s right; we should act as a responsible international citizen and must do our best to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Why then, is National continuing to delay the ETS? The fact is, center-left parties have been committed to building a reputation as a responsible international citizen environmentally, they have backed up their rhetoric, and they are promising to continue this trend.

After National were elected,

“Meanwhile, the ETS is on hold and will be reviewed as a condition of National’s support agreement with the ACT Party.”

And recently, “”The Government does not support the introduction of agricultural emissions into the ETS before 2015. … Agricultural emissions will only be included if practical technologies are available to enable farmers to reduce their emissions and more progress is made by our trading partners on measures to reduce emissions,” Smith said.”

As Prime Minister, I promise to bring energy, fresh thinking, and straightforward, practical ideas to the job.
Over the past 18 months, I have announced policies that illustrate that approach.
Policies like National’s Youth Guarantee, which includes no-fees school-level education for all under-18-year-olds, whether that be at a typical high school, a polytechnic, wananga, or at a private training establishment.  Policies like our Fresh Start camps for young offenders, which will combine the best youth-justice expertise with the use of facilities like those offered by the army. Policies like a crack-down on criminal gangs.

During the 2008 campaign, Chris Carter said, “National’s so-called ‘youth guarantee’ is nothing of the sort. Not the kind of comprehensive policy that is needed as our consultation on the Schools Plus initiative has revealed.”

A recent article by 3news states,

The Government has tried; two years ago it announced a $152 million package called Youth Opportunities.
It included the now defunct Community Max Scheme which, 3 News revealed, paid $31,000 to four young people to catch and tame wild horses in the Ureweras – the majority of which were then let go.
That scheme cost the taxpayer $57 million.
Its biggest spend outside of the youth guarantee this year is boot camps, or the Limited Service Volunteers scheme. It funded 1500 places a year at a cost of $6000 for six weeks – that’s $7.15 million annually.
According to Treasury, there is little evidence that LSV is effective in improving employment outcomes and only 18 percent of participants secured employment. (3news)

So far this election they’re promising a benefit card, it will be interesting to hear what other new ideas they have.

I truly believe we live in one of the best countries on earth, and I believe we can be far greater still.  But to be as good as we can be we have to constantly think about tomorrow, and next year and the decades ahead.  We can’t get bogged down by fads, distractions, or the ideological battles of the past.
I’m just not interested in the tired old political debates from 20 or 30 years ago.  I believe New Zealand’s future depends on grasping good ideas, no matter where they come from, and putting them into action.

I appreciate having a Prime Minister with optimism, John Key has delivered a sense of optimism to our country and he deserves measured respect for this. However, there is only so much optimism can achieve in the real world, and sometimes a dose of pessimism goes a long way when running a country.

Key goes on to say we can’t get bogged down by the ideological battles of the past, he says he’s not interested in the tired old political debates from 20 or 30 years ago. Only a fool is blindly by the fact that National are delivering another blow in the tired old ideological past of neoliberalism. Selling our assets over the past twenty years has not delivered a brighter future; neoliberalism has delivered a dramatic increase in the gap between those with the most and those with the least.

Key believes our future depends on grasping good ideas, no matter where they come from. So why is he so against a Capital Gains Tax? This tax, in nearly every other developed country, has won overwhelming support from economists. Key remains unmoved. Gordon Campbell writes an interesting analysis of the partial privatisation argument, detailing ‘ten myths about Asset Sales’.

The simple reality here is that just as you can’t trust Labour on tax, you can’t trust it on climate change, either.

Is that really the simple reality, three years on?

Victory will be hard-won.  We’re up against some of the most wily and tricky politicians in the business.  Labour is desperate and it will stoop to just about anything to win.


12 comments on “Parallels with the Past”

  1. Afewknowthetruth 1

    It all makes perfect sense once you realise it is all Orwellian.

    ‘new ideas’ = the same ideology that has been in place for decades (corporate theft and control)

    brighter future = continuation on the same path (of destroying everything that is wholesome and good and replacing it with that which is unwholseome and evil) and lower living standards. Greater transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1%.

    freedom and democracy = ever greater expansion of the police state, ever greater surveilance, ever greater restriction of movement and opportunity.

  2. Dv 2

    Key should be charged like Graham and Jeffries (two other NATS) for issuing a prospectus with false statements.

  3. ianmac 4

    Rijab. A great complilation. The Principal’s video is interesting though a bit hard to focus on just one or two points. Anne Tolley has a simpler task by not having to connect National Standards with the improved performance of learning. There isn’t a connection but Anne ignores that and continues to labour the myth that NS will miraculously lift standards.
    If you hold your breath for 5 minutes you will be able to fly which is Tolley sort of demand for credibility.

  4. Peter 5

    Key has some very good speech writers. Times are far worse now. How are the left going to turn Key’s poor performance into votes? Right now it seems people want more of Key than a change.

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