Two great columns today.
John Armstrong has an excellent piece in the Herald, about Bill English’s agenda. The son of Treasury is still in love with their outdated ideas, although he’s happy to let Treasury publicly speak to make National appear more moderate.
Armstrong argues that English, despite protestations, has every intention to implement as many of Treasury’s ideas as he can politically get away with – less public service, flogging assets, privatisation of as much of the public sector as possible:
add all this together – asset sales, a stripping back of the core public service, and extensive contracting out of management and service delivery to the private sector. Then add the opening up of accident compensation to competition.
Then add welfare reform to cut back the number of beneficiaries and you start to get the real picture of National’s slimming of the state’s apparatus and ipso facto its role. […]
This has had little if any effect on National’s sky-high poll ratings. That may be because voters have yet to realise National’s agenda is much greater than the sum of its parts. It may be because voters are not hearing Labour’s shrill warnings.
But it is probably because English’s revolution is incremental rather than “big bang”.
Earlier this week Vernon Small had a DomPost piece about the very weak case for asset sales, so the government certainly don’t seem to have managed to take the media or the public with them on this issue – they’re just hoping the public will vote for “that nice man John Key” regardless.
The other great column today has Tracy Watkins following on from the Greens’ revelations about Westpac gifts to ministers. She writes about the rise of the lobbyist, and their current ability to stay hidden.
She points out that the rules in the US – so often seen as corrupt – are much stricter, and we know exactly who is lobbying whom. Lobbying gifts are banned, where ours are largely hidden in trusts or kept under the $500 mark that needs disclosure.
It’s an article that needs reading in full, so I won’t quote it. It certainly raises some scary points about how journalists are being further restricted around parliament whilst lobbyists (particularly ex-MPs) are getting ever greater access to our politicians.
Even the OIA seems powerless to see who the likes of (anti-Pharmac) Mark Unsworth, Tony O’Brien (Sky), Matthew Hooton, Mai Chen, Stephen Franks, Katherine Rich, Roger Sowry, Doug Woolerton and Barrie Saunders are lobbying, or indeed for whom they’re lobbying. Or how they’re doing it.
We need fresh laws to deal with this.