Written By: - Date published: 2:28 pm, December 5th, 2008 - 38 comments
Categories: community democracy, economy, Environment, national/act government, public services, workers' rights - Tags: treasury
It’s good to see Treasury’s extreme right-wing prescription for New Zealand has not been wholly embraced by the National Party – and it’s easy to see why. While Bill English (a former Treasury wonk himself) no doubt agrees with the policy ideas and direction outlined by Treasury, he has the disadvantage of being accountable to the public again in a few years’ time. Treasury, on the other hand, does not. Perhaps it’s time that changed.
The Treasury has long been a stalking-horse for the neoliberal project in New Zealand, in fact the Treasury was instrumental in kicking it off in the 1980s and 90s. Since then, regardless of who has been in government, their advice has been to further the neoliberal project of slashing workers’ rights, cutting taxes for the rich and underfunding our public services.
This time is no different. In the latest briefing, Treasury is suggesting a massive wealth transfer from the poor to the rich by increasing GST and cutting the top tax rate to 30%.
They want to amend the RMA to undermine community democracy by “trading off broad participation versus speed and certainty” and ruin the environment by changing “the balance between environmental protection and economic growth”.
They also want to, among other things, roll back workplace health and safety, take away your holidays, bring back discrimination against young workers and make it easier for your boss to sack you unfairly.
Reading the briefing it becomes apparent there’s little or no evidence provided to back up these policy prescriptions and nothing in the way of balance. It’s just the same old ideological crap they’ve been peddling since the days of Roger Douglas.
This raises an interesting question. When it becomes apparent that Treasury is to the Right of even the National Party and seemingly incapable of offering balanced advice, what’s the point of having it around? This question is even more relevant for a future centre-left government.
Perhaps it’s time to take a leaf out of Treasury’s books and apply to them the same standards they apply to others. I propose the next Labour-led government opens Treasury up to competition from the private sector. This will surely improve outcomes and lead to more balanced and less politicised advice.
Treasury will still exist, of course, but the government would tender out its advice to the private sector. According to Treasury’s own prescriptions, the level of service should improve and the quality of advice should rise significantly. Plus, the introduction of market pressures should put downward pressure on the bloated public sector wage packets of Treasury staffers.
The discipline of market forces can be wonderful thing. Treasury might like to try it.