It seems 80’s retro has finally moved from being manifest only as the return of skinny jeans and naff facial hair and is now rearing its ugly big-haired head in parliament. Of course I’m talking not just about 80’s rock legend Roger Douglas but also this clause in the National/ACT confidence and supply agreement:
Establishing a series of Task Forces that include private sector representatives and private sector chairs to undertake fundamental reviews of all base government spending in identified sectors, and to report findings progressively to the cabinet control expenditure committee and relevant ministers.
In the 80’s the use of private sector representatives became highly fashionable. The argument was that successful businessmen (and they were nearly all men, and nearly all members of the BRT) would be able to do their magic on the public sector and thus do what was best for the country.
The reality was they did what all successful businessmen should do: what was best for them.
Back then it resulted in a series of privatisations that coincidentally enriched many of the business representatives who had been offering the advice. This time around? Who knows, perhaps the further contracting out of public services to the private sector or perhaps recommendations to fully privatize some areas that will be deemed to run more efficiently by the private sector and increase PPPs in education and health (and Rodney is already talking about bulk funding).
Have no doubt these recommendations will sound a lot like BRT reports and also have no doubt that the similar review of “Productivity” will result in a series of reports highlighting the need for greater labour market “flexibility”.
I don’t expect the blitzkrieg approach favoured by Douglas though. What will happen is that as findings are “progressively” reported changes will be made incrementally. When I first realised our kids were repeating our dreadful fashion crimes of the eighties I was a little depressed by it. Imagine how I feel knowing we’ll soon be wearing that decade’s policies too.
But in the meantime here’s some 80’s goodness to make you “smile” (it wasn’t all bad!):