Labour has been in government for seven years and three months. That's a good long time and as one would expect, some things have gone well and some things have gone badly in that time - for the country, for the party and for the government.
One of the hard things about being interested in day to day politics and blogging etc, is that you do get caught up in the mad rush of events. It is hard to sit back and take a longer term point of view at times. Being off shore and talking to expat friends does give the chance to think about things a little more abstractly. I took advantage of the chance.
What is good about it? Here are five things on the domestic record that I particularly like:
- Having the courage to withstand the pressure for major tax cuts, and instead save for the future and invest in public services.
- Fairer labour laws which have helped see unemployment to record low levels, and employment to record highs, as well as better income growth esp for unionised and low paid workers.
- Focused investment in things like student support improvements and income related state housing rents, and large land transport investments.
- Working for Families, boosting household incomes for those who need them most.
- A more active hands on role in economic development, including new regulatory frameworks in some areas.
There are lots more but I think these are probably the most durable and important achievements of the time in government to now. If Labour wins another term I think Kiwisaver and the stuff around better savings rates will have to join the list.
What about bad things? There are five in particular:
- Poor information. Whether it is knowing what happens in the health system, better information about crime rates, or demanding accountability for every single dollar spent in the public service, the information available to the public on what tax dollars are achieving for them have been below par.
- Climate change policy to date - one major failure and a continued worrying inability to translate important goals into meaningful policy with traction. This now seems on the mend but could have been more, earlier.
- A lack of focus on Auckland's development and governance. It would be great to see a subway system under way now, and the Stadium idea should have just been done.
- NCEA. I am convinced that the new system will end up better (testing what people know, not their rank, is a no-brainer), but the implementation of it and the utterly appalling inability to communicate and sell the system to parents and employers are a real downer.
- Too little focus on the poorest New Zealanders. Benefits are still too low; social exclusion is still too much --- and the current tax/spend policies, focus on working families for improvements etc, mean that after eight years the situation is nowhere near as good as I would have liked to see it.
I am sure that others can think of different strengths and weaknesses based on their experience and their values.
As those who know me offline would understand, I am not a blind defender of anything, let alone a government. One of the weaknesses of Labour and National governments is an apparent inability to admit mistakes and to change tack where required, either because of the forces of public opinion, because a policy is not delivering or whatever.
It is a great flaw in our political culture that you could never expect to see a politician admitting that their own government isn't perfect. It's obvious to everyone, including politicians themselves, but the constant desire to score points so often seems to outweigh a constructive or at least civilised discussion about what works and what doesn't, and whose interests should be promoted and why.
The comments threads on this blog are a great example of this point-scoring attitude. So I would like to issue a challenge. Comments below are welcome on the topic of the post: five good things and five bad about what Labour's done since 1999. If there are no bad things, or no good things, or the comment is astray, deleted it will be.
See what you can do...