Policy – In contrast to National’s policy vacuum on the economy, Labour has been focusing its policy work on a major change in direction. It’s obvious that the hands-off approach introduced in the 1980s has failed, leading to mal-investment in housing with an economy stripped of its manufacturing capability and geared for import-dependent consumerism.
Labour and National have both woken up to the fact that the world is entering a new age of international scarcity with China (the only big country with the money and the central planning ability) and big private corporations moving to secure access to key natural resources around the world. In New Zealand, that’s farm land and minerals. The difference between Labour and National on the issue is that Labour is prepared to prevent us losing control of these vital, irreplaceable assets, National isn’t. That’s extremely popular policy. Not because people are xenophobic as the Right claims but because we’re not foolish enough to think that selling the foundations of our economy is a good idea or something that constitutes real investment in this country.
Another issue over which National is on the wrong side of public opinion is privatisation. National hates the government owning things and wants to flog them off, preferably while making its mates richer in the process. The public knows that selling assets, whether state-owned or natural, just results in the profits going overseas forever, often for a poor sale price. If Key rules out any asset sales in a second term, then the concept of privatisation will effectively be dead, which the Right can’t handle. If he won’t rule it out, that alone will be enough to cost National an election-losing 5%+ of the vote.