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Election Day is Time to Refocus on Policies


Gareth Morgan: Election Day is Time to Refocus on Policies

Over the course of this election campaign there has been a lot of focus on dirty politics and spying, and not a lot on policy. With election day looming, Gareth Morgan is calling for people to refocus on the issues.

To help with this, the Morgan Foundation has prepared a pre-election guide entitled Dumb and Dirty Growth. It includes a summary of the biggest issues facing the country and how the three main parties rate. The document is a summary of the research Morgan and his Foundation have done over the past six years, which together presents a plan for how the country could switch to growing in a clean and clever way.

“Dumb and dirty growth is stuff that makes us richer in the pocket, but poorer in other ways,” says Morgan. “I’m sick of people talking about trade offs between the economy, society and environment. We can have it all, but we have to be smarter about how we do things.” To illustrate dumb and dirty growth, the paper uses the example of draining a wetland to use for dairy farming. Given how rare they are, preserving the few wetlands we have left is far more valuable to New Zealand than a few extra dollars in milk revenue.

Morgan’s overall diagnosis is that none of our three main parties really want to deal with the big issues. And while the paper rates the parties on a variety of policy areas, Morgan is loathe to tally the ratings up or tell people how to vote – it depends on which issues people are interested in. “Just make sure you do vote, otherwise you have no reason to whinge for the next 3 years”.

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What concerns Morgan the most, given the likely re-election of National, is their plans for Resource Management Act (RMA) reform. The RMA is far from perfect, but National wants to strip out environmental protections in favour of economic growth. Put simply, if growth doesn’t generate enough wealth to improve the environment overall, then we aren’t really better off.

What separates this election guide from others is that it doesn’t take parties on face value. Most election guides simply register that parties have a policy in a certain area. This one looks at whether the policy would be able to actually make a difference to the issues that matter. “Most politicians like to look like they are doing stuff, but are too timid to deal with the real issues,” says Foundation researcher Geoff Simmons.

The guide only looks at the three main parties – National, Labour and the Greens. That is because these are the only parties with coherent policy platforms, backed up by a tax and spending plan. “Beyond the three main parties is a lot of dross,” says Foundation researcher Geoff Simmons. Most of them have good intentions, but their policies won’t be able to deliver what they claim, so they can’t be taken seriously. In fact, that sometimes goes for the main parties too”.

The table below summarises the issues Morgan looks at in the report and the ratings received by each party (out of a maximum of 3):

How we Measure Progress001
Economic Development011
Business Growth21½
Oceans Policy111
Climate Change02
Fresh Water122
Conservation 111
Constitutional 000

The full document will be available online at 4pm today on this link:

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