"This election is a clear choice"

Labour are talking up their policy for the upcoming election as a "clear choice" between, well, National and Labour. I'm not running a party political newsletter here, so you can go and read Labour's website if you're interested in whatever political spin they've put on the two options.

But of course in reality there's bugger all choice available in this election. Oh it's all very important of course; asset sales, a capital gains tax, research & development tax credits, welfare "reform" and all that of course does matter. But we need to maintain some perspective here.

As is hopefully becoming clear by now, my BCom majoring in accounting was a complete and utter waste of time, and I have trouble adding up the cost of groceries let alone making any sense at all of the hideous tables of numbers that Labour put out today in its 'Fiscal Strategy'. But, luckily for those of us deprived of Excel-like minds, they included some pretty pictures. Here's one of them (from the 'Fiscal Strategy Supplement', available at

The document that this chart is taken from describes the 'Operating Allowance' as "a sum of money [put aside] for additional operating expenditure in each subsequent Budget." I stand to be corrected, but it sounds to me that this is the money that's left over after all the relatively fixed costs (like running government departments, paying benefits, and everything else the Government does on a regular basis) are accounted for. So it's the money that's available for politicians to play around with, as it were.

So if I've got that even remotely right then, of the money that Labour has available to reprioritise into its various new policies, it's not touching 78% of it. It seems that we can assume that the 78% would be spent in largely the same way regardless of who wins the election.

I think that nicely puts into perspective the actual impact of the changes that Labour are presenting as a "clear choice" for voters this election. Though what Labour are suggesting is certainly a step in the right direction, they are hardly thinking outside the box. Every single thing that they're suggesting, if you look at it from this sort of distance, is simply tinkering around the edges of the way things are done in this country.

If you recall Labour's opening party political broadcast (which I posted about a while back) then you might remember the opening: the election of the First Labour Government in 1935 under Michael Joseph Savage. You won't find many people of any political persuasion who don't think that during the term of that Government we didn't see a radical shift in the direction of the country. It was the birth of the welfare state in New Zealand.

You could be forgiven for not recalling, a bit later on in the broadcast, the rather more brief mention of the Fourth Labour Government of David Lange and Roger Douglas in 1984–1990. But again, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who thought that the reforms undertaken by that Government – the abandonment of Keynesian economics and the large-scale privatisation of state assets – was not another turning point in our political, economic and social history.

Measured against that backdrop, it is important to realise that what we have on offer from the Labour Party of today is far less inspiring. What is being presented as a "clear choice" is really no such thing – it is simply a slight reorientation of a few small parts of the social order that in no way touches the paradigm of Government in New Zealand. It's important, but it's not enough.


Post a Comment