Robson-On-Politics 12 July 2006
12 July 2006
The news item on TV3 on Monday, in which MPs spill the beans on the reason why Mr Brash hasn't been rolled yet, is seriously bad news for National for two reasons. First, the MPs' comments indicate there is no consensus on the next leader and, secondly, they indicate that the incoherent policy positions of the party in recent years extend to an incoherent approach to strategic issues like when not to comment publicly about scraps best kept in-house.
Nat-ACT steady, Govt up
The weekend TV3 poll which led to the public in-fighting, but for those that didn't see the news, found Nat-ACT support steady from the last election (unchanged at 50 seats), while Lab-Progressive government would win eight extra seats (59). The poll projects an unprecedented Lab-Progressive-Green majority of 67 seats as the ideas and ideals of the Left triumph.
National has become much more progressive since '99
Yes, I'm serious.
Don't forget that National initially bitterly opposed progressive proposals to establish Kiwibank, the Ministry of Economic Development, Modern Apprenticeships and Paid Parental Leave in the 1999-2002 Parliament.
National now says it would keep all four.
In the 2002-2005 Parliament, some National MPs were even more opposed to my Private Member's Bill to change the law to extend workers' annual leave entitlements by a week than the senior Labour M.P. who initially told me it would happen "over my dead body ". Said MP is still alive and we have four weeks annual leave.
In 2006, National says it won't reverse the Lab-Progressive law change to enshrine four weeks' minimum annual leave which means that progressive advances since 1999 are being cemented into our cultural architecture.
Nats have seen light on party pills too...
I remember the Right in 2004 stone-walling attempts by Jim to restrict party pill retail sales, but these days National says it fully supports Progressive's law change.
...Nats have a chance to change track on alcohol sales
In the last Parliament, the leaders of National, ACT and United all voted against my Private Member's Bill to act on the overwhelming consensus among health professionals working to reverse the excesses of our binge drinking culture.
These days, National MPs put out very strong statements against drug abuse and alcohol misuse is our Number One drug problem. I'm hoping National's caucus will do the right thing in 2006 on youth binge drinking and vote to at least support raising the legal alcohol purchasing age at supermarkets and dairies to twenty years based on the evidence presented to the Select Committee.
Nats wanted NZ soldiers in Iraq, higher government debt
I also remember the strident, table-thumping speeches by National demanding the coalition government send young Kiwis to invade Iraq. But you won't hear progressive-minded people complaining if National wants to re-think its position in light of the tragic shambles that Iraq has become under the failed Bush-Blair strategy.
Nor will progressive-minded people crow if National does a u-turn and abandons its disgraceful 2005 proposal for the central government to significantly increase its overseas borrowing programme in order to raise the funding needed to deliver across-the-board reductions in income taxation rates.
The proposal to increase gross government debt levels back up to 25% of GDP, which would increase the government's debt-servicing costs as well as the mortgage-servicing costs of all working families and small businesses, is a shameful policy and progressives will celebrate National abandoning it in favour of our national interest instead.
Your voice for Tamaki Community Board - Tala Po'e
Progressive members in Tamaki able to help distribute leaflets for our young, honest and reliable candidate, Tala Po'e, please contact the Auckland office.
Greens are taking NZ First's vote
It hasn't gone unnoticed by Auckland Labour people that the Green Party is running a very tactical campaign to siphon-off a portion of NZ First's former constituency in 2008.
The party's targeting of the "anti" constituency (anti-international trade and foreigners "taking control" of NZ), unpredictable actions in Parliament (over microchipping farm dogs) and its public relations masterpiece of "opening to National" by positioning itself as "neither left nor right" are all working for environmentalist party's strategy to reach-out beyond its traditional high-income urban constituency.
Some Labour figures expect NZ First will respond - perhaps with Mr Peters targeting a North of Auckland electorate that is held by a weak National MP. Mr Peters is too proud to ask Labour to stand aside in a Nat vs NZ First contest, and the Greens would be angry were Labour to do so, but either way the contest between the Greens and NZ First strengthens Labour's position relative to National's in their two-way contest to lead the next coalition government.
Tories problem is in-fighting, they ain't staunch
I get all sorts of correspondence in response to Robson-on-politics and one that grabbed my attention was a comparison between the achievements of Progressive and ACT.
I think the main difference between Progressive and ACT is that ACT has been in opposition since it entered Parliament a decade ago and its policy influence on its larger opposition soul-mate, National, has been very limited. Progressive, in contrast, has been inside the Cabinet room mounting the business case for its policies and has been able to strongly influence its government coalition partner in all sorts of areas from Kiwibank to four weeks' annual leave, drug harm minimization policy to regional and industry development.
But a real constraint for independent action in Parliament for Progressive is, of course, collective Cabinet Cabinet responsibility. We can put the case, for example, for a cut to the company tax rate to 30% on the grounds it will encourage greater investment in R&D, worker training and job creation, but we can't spit the dummy and vote against our colleagues in Parliament if we don't win every round, every time.
The small Left-wing party is staunch and focused on strategic policy gains for people, while the small Right- wing party is free to dance with the stars without worrying about actually achieving anything.