Thursday, May 01, 2008

English identifies an issue

On BFM with Mikey Havoc this morning Bill English raised as an issue the health risks associated with substandard state housing. However when Mikey asked what National planned to do about it English could only say they were looking into it.

On the back of The NZ Listener's report about dodgy referrals to private accommodation by Housing New Zealand this indicates we continue to have a serious housing problem among those on very low incomes. A serious problem that warrants serious attention.

I'm situated on the left of the political spectrum but right now my main concern with National is not their right-leaning focus but the very small amount of time left for them to actually get a massive chunk of complex policy in place before the election. What's there already seems ad hoc. As an example, National have floated the idea of creating a public television broadcaster. Who would have thought that was likely from a centre-right party? Inconsistencies like this in National's core approach indicate there is no clear vision of governance coming from within the party. I find this almost more worrying than a decisive policy move to the right. If they, once in government, start creating legislation without a clear conceptual frame, then we're going to have to wear those inconsistencies for a long time.

My other major concern is that National will get into office without a real mandate because they haven't presented enough policy for voters to be able make an informed decision about what they're likely to do once elected.

Hopefully I've either missed the boat completely or there's a monster press release in there somewhere waiting to reveal all.

8 comments:

l_d said...

> Who would have thought that was likely from a centre-right party

Maybe I'm misunderstanding but I'd much rather see our main parties not attempt to live up to some silly notion of what is right or left when forming policy.

Thinking of politics always as a right-left tribal conflict over-simplifies almost every issue. This dichotomic mindset leads to all sorts of stupidity from both sides, from the politicians and the public .. it's what makes political commentary boring and childish. I see it's rampant in our political blogosphere and I think it's a pity.

AndrewE said...

I think it makes great political sense for them not to release any potentially contentious policies.

At the moment they are leading in the polls as Labour keeps damaging itself. As such they have no need to try and win on policy. In fact, releasing policy may give Labour something to either attack them with or to appropriate (tax cuts being the first example that springs to mind).

Lyn said...

Well - l_d, I've said before in posts on this blog that I think the left-right divide is an important way to predict what a party is likely to do once it gets into power - who it will form a coalition with, and what types of changes it will bring about, particularly in a situation like this where there is very little policy stated. Right now we can only guess what's going to happen as National are all over the place in terms of the left/right divide, so it's actually tricky to predict anything.

A functional understanding of left and right in politics is more than most people in NZ seem to have. This is super clearly spelled out when Campbell Live compares Labour and National to Coke and Pepsi, saying politics is about branding, not ideas. I wouldn't take the polly blogs as any indication of "political commentary" in New Zealand - as far as I can see there isn't much of that at all.

AndrewE - I can understand the political strategy involved, but that doesn't mean I'm comfortable with the idea of New Zealand electing a government with no stated agendas. That's not, as in literally not, democratic. How can we decide if we want National to lead us when they're not telling us what they're going to do if they get in? The situation is such an indictment of NZ's political landscape - all we're going to do is what we do usually - vote the old government out. This is not a good way to take control of your destiny, and that's something that a healthy democracy should offer us a shot at...

Lyn said...

Errata - I should have said "I wouldn't take the comments on polly blogs as any indication of "political commentary" in New Zealand - as far as I can see there isn't much of that at all." Often the posts on the polly blogs are quite insightful and onb occasion there have been some spectacularly well-informed comments I've seen also.

AndrewE said...

I partially agree with you Lyn. In a perfect world we would be able to decide with full knowledge of what each party would do in a given situation.

I disagree with you about the democracy aspect. It is democratic as we will go to the polls and vote in whichever manner we choose based on the information we have. The conundrum for Labour et al. is that according to current polling most NZers would rather take their chances with National even if they are a bit of an unknown quantity.

That's a bit of an indictment of the current government imho.

Lyn said...

It could be interpreted as an indictment of the current government, but given the lack of political debate that most of NZ indulges in I wouldn't necessarily conclude this. I just think it's how we roll. No one in NZ wants to see the same people in power for longer than three terms. Even I think it's time to see a shuffle within Labour. And in any case, it's easier to criticise something that actually "is" rather than something that doesn't exist - e.g we can see what the current government has done recently, but there's nothing to compare it to on National's side, particularly since they're not telling us what they'll do. We're free to imagine whatever happy outcome suits, and that's not really cricket IMHO.

l_d said...

That's a good point. Maybe it's in the way politics is reported. It's very personality-driven .. Key vs. Clark, rather than policy vs. policy. Which is what really counts. Issues take a back seat to personalities. A party can gain more points grandstanding than it would get releasing policy. They get more airtime too.

This may be really patronising but generally I think people don't appreciate how much goes on inside parliament that doesn't involve lampooning and hijinks.

It's possibly also a sign that all's well in Aotearoa. If the main election issue turns out to become 'tax cuts' we can pretty much declare we live in paradise.

Anyway, although I'd think it a pity to see certain government spending dry up if it came to that, some of what I've heard when it comes to National policy seems not particularly hard line. And a number of important things that Labour have done sound like they will remain in tact, which I think is the most important thing. We're very much living in a Labour society at the moment, and I don't hear much from National about them wanting to break it apart and rebuild it in a different form. Personally I've benefited greatly from 0% student loan interest, kiwibank and kiwisaver. More than tax cuts. And as far as I know all those things aren't going to be touched.

Having said that I refuse to vote purely on my own circumstances until I turn 40 and therefore qualify as a grumpy old man.

Lyn said...

Ah l_d - I just agree with you....it's not very interesting to not have additional comments to add - but there it is...