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The Speech That Goff Should Deliver

The Speech That Goff Should Deliver

Speech by Hon Sir Roger Douglas, ACT New Zealand
Monday, February 8 2010

Tomorrow Labour Leader Phil Goff is planning to deliver a speech on behalf of Prime Minister John Key. I thought that it might be a good idea to jot down some notes for what I would say if I were Phil Goff speaking on behalf of the Labour Party. I thought it best to start the apology by detailing all that he should be sorry for in the nine years he served in the 5th Labour Government, and then to move on to apologising for his attempts to gain media attention through populist trash talk since becoming Leader of the Opposition.

“The most general apology that I need to make on behalf of the Labour Party is for confusing the intention of a policy with the outcomes it produces. I am sorry for thinking that the mere intention of helping those who were least well off actually did help them. I have now come to realise that, more often than not, those most harmed by a policy are those it was usually intended to help.

“First, let me apologise to the thousands of young people who have lost their jobs because of our support for abolishing the youth minimum wage. If it was easy to lift wages without creating job losses, then we would set an extraordinarily high minimum wage. Unfortunately, wage increases which are not driven by increases in productivity merely exacerbate unemployment.

So, to those 13,000 young people who have lost their jobs because of what we did, I am sorry. I am responsible for your inability to find a job, I am responsible for holding back your opportunity to gain skills and experience. In particular, I wish to apologise to the 39 percent of Maori between the ages of 15 and 19 who are now unemployed. If only National had the guts to do what’s right and get rid of the minimum wage legislation, you would have an opportunity to get ahead.

Second, let me apologise to all those who receive a Government benefit. I now realise that the structure of our welfare system is ensnaring those who most need help by creating perverse incentives that punish success. In particular, I humbly apologise for the Working for Families package. Most recipients of Working for Families now pay effective marginal tax rates in excess of 50 percent. Some pay in excess of 100 percent. We did that to you – trapped you in poverty by no longer rewarding hard work – and I apologise to all those who are struggling against Government to get ahead.

Third, let me apologise to all those school students who would desperately like to escape from their failing local school. I want to apologise to the 22 percent of students this year who will leave school unable to read or write. Many parents would like to enrol their kids in schools out of zone – in schools that are more likely to meet their needs. I apologise for thwarting the choices that thousands of parents would like to make, by introducing strict zoning requirements for schools. Most of all, I am sorry for the fact that wealthy people do have school choice, while the poorest are the ones who have none. I am sorry for creating two classes of pupil.

Fourth, I want to apologise to all those who die on waiting lists. By having a public health system, we have effectively stripped individuals of choices and control over their own health spending, and have allowed the Ministry to decide who is worthy of having an operation. I am sorry to those individuals and the suffering that their families have endured. Moreover, I, Phil Goff, want to apologise for perpetuating the myth that we have “free” healthcare. The cost of healthcare now amounts to 54 cents in every dollar of personal tax paid by individuals. I’m sorry that our health system costs so much and doesn’t deliver for those in need.

Fifth, I am sorry to all taxpayers, because I thought that the Government could pick winners. I am sorry for supporting tax subsidies for the racing and film industry. I forgot that that kind of economic planning was the hallmark of Muldoon’s time, and I apologise for repeating his errors.

I am sorry for misleading the New Zealand public and trying to justify these programs on the basis that they “create jobs.” The tax subsidy merely sees resources used in racing or film as opposed to a more commercially sound project. For the jobs it creates somewhere, there are jobs lost elsewhere. At best, it is neutral on the job front. In reality, it is worse than that, because politicians tend to be poor investors.

Sixth, I am sorry to every superannuitant in this country. When the state controls your entitlement to superannuation, we effectively discriminate against those groups which have shorter life expectancy – and so I apologise to Maori and Pacific Islanders in particular. More generally, I am sorry for continuing with a pay-as-you-go system. I know that the effect of compound interest sees every dollar invested by an 18 year old today return 10 dollars on retirement – and although we could all retire with $1 million in the bank, I am sorry that most end up with a measly $240 a week. The Labour Party apologises to you all.

Seventh, I am sorry that Government monopolies are so expensive, when I know that the solution was competition. Monopolies are never good – be they public or private. Monopolies are always arrogant, controlling, and expensive. I am sorry that I did not force Government run schools and hospitals to compete against each other.

Eighth, I am sorry for populist vote buying. I am sorry that we sold out the New Zealand taxpayer to pay for election bribes like the Supergold Card and interest free student loans. I am sorry that middle New Zealand now pays for these benefits, most of which are consumed by the wealthy, not the poor. Those students who receive a benefit today will be forced to pay for that benefit over the next 45 years. That hardly seems interest free at all.

Ninth, I am sorry for how we treated Maori. While my Government fostered an environment that focussed on historical grievance, we created more problems when we stripped Maori of the right to seek title to the seabed and foreshore. I am sorry for that modern day land grab. I am also sorry that we did nothing to improve the education that Maori get. I am sorry just last week for saying I would govern for the “many, not the few,” which has the implication that I will continue to sell-out Maoridom when it does well in the polls.

Tenth, I apologise for Government ownership of commercial assets. I apologise for this because the absence of commercial ownership has seen these businesses underperform. I realise, as I understood in the 80s, that politicians are just not good at driving performance in private industry. That is why this year the Government will be forced to hand out more money to the failing railroads. I am sorry for hitting you all with that bill.

Most of all, though, I am sorry for convincing many of you that the way to help the poor was through Government. I, Phil Goff, on behalf of the Labour Party, am sorry that those with the lowest incomes are forced to pay to send the children of wealthy parents to University, to pay for superannuation which they often will not collect, and are forced to send their children into schools that fail to educate them.

I am sorry that this will continue as well. We have a National Government whose decisions in the coming year will be done on the basis of the latest polling they have undertaken, which likely means more middle class welfare, more state control, more failure. I am sorry that your latest political masters are continuing a tradition of doing what is easy, rather than what is right. I am sorry that there is no change on the horizon.”

If Phil Goff was being honest with himself this is the speech that he should give. You will be able to judge tomorrow if he is going to continue down the populist path or face up to the problems that New Zealand faces.

ENDS

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