Polity by Rob Salmond



These last few weeks have been dire for the government, across housing, crime, employment, and caring for kids. Yes, I’m biased, but I haven’t seen National have this bad of a stretch for a long while.

We had a Budget that failed to fire anyone’s imagination – with even David Farrar calling it “very bland” on Budget day. And after that we’ve had a long, long string of Wayne-braves by multiple Ministers, ranging from regular dunces like Smith and Collins through to usually sure-handed people like English and Bennett. Let’s count them off.

First, and most obviously, there’s housing. After doing very little for housing in the Budget, Nick Smith and Paula Bennett seem to have been having a private competition over who can screw up their responsibilities the worst. Bennett’s command performance of “don’t upset the government or I’ll put your shit in the street” competes with Nick Smith’s “brown people don’t own homes cos they’re dumb.”

I honestly don’t know which is worse, although they are both awful, ignorant positions to take. Bennett managed to compound her error further by spreading complete fictions about government action to help the homeless.

Even Key’s been getting into the act on housing, claiming the falling home ownership rate is because people of “changing societal norms.” That’s going to be news to all those people showing up at auctions and getting outbid – if only the norms changed, their bids would apparently be enough!

I guess the tens of thousands locked out of home ownership should all bid on the 65 homes under $500,000 that John Key told them to google.

Second, Judith Collins continues her record or overseeing disappointing levels of cuts to, you know, crime, but not lots of cuts to corners, budgets, and ankle bracelets.

(Pro-tip for Judith: don’t call something “uncuttable” without getting someone strong to try cutting it first.)

On TV3’s The Nation, she conceded she’s not going to meet the target she set herself on reducing reoffending, and it’s plainly obvious she’ll miss her self-imposed target on reducing violent crime, too.

Reoffending is going up over the last couple of years, not down; and sexual assaults are up dramatically since 2008. Collins tries to pass all that off as the result of more reporting of crime, but it just doesn’t wash; and nor did her weasel words at the weekend touting a reduction in re-offenders but not re-offending.

Second pro-tip for Judith: Nobody really cares who in particular nicked their TV, what matters is they don’t have a TV!

In social policy, National is well out of step with the public, and with what the public thinks “democracy” means, with its veto of the new law to extend Paid Parental Leave. Most of the people’s representatives want to pass this law, and most of the people want it passed, so National is taking a big risk in the name of a few bucks. Not smart.

And finally on the economy and jobs, there’s a colossal blunder from John Key, just today. Treasury has released study showing his 90 Day Trial policy is a complete flop, not leading to any additional jobs, and instead:

We conclude the main benefit of the policy was a decrease in dismissal costs for firms, while many employees faced increased uncertainty about their job security for three months after being hired.

Not good news for workers, nor for National. Key’s glib response to his own Treasury, via the media:

Pro-tip for John: Your Treasury’s report was precisely a study of what small café owners, with their money on the line, have been doing with the 90 day law. Which is nothing.

Another National talking point down the drain.

And, to top it all off, today the Beehive’s sewerage failed, meaning it is quite literally full of shit.

This whole period has been very messy, possibly worse than they’ve had. And at the moment it’s not easy to see where the next big win for National is coming from, unless they massively reverse course on a house building programme, something 75% of the public wants but the government has spent years saying is insane.

There’s an old idea in politics that people aren’t willing to consider switching teams until they get sick of the incumbent, in just the same way most people don’t buy a new car until the old one starts giving them problems.

The last three weeks show a government car that’s starting to cough and splutter, spewing out noxious gas but not going anywhere fast.

The next fifteen months are going to be fascinating.

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