Little ‘transformational’ about Government so far

Jacinda Ardern promoted her Government as being transformational, but apart from transforming Winston Peters and Shane Jones into well funded promoters of their own interests these is not much transforming going on.

Ardern opened her year claiming that this would be her Government’s year of delivery, but what they have delivered so far has been underwhelming.

The just announced welfare ‘reforms’ have been paltry – see Welfare advisory group – 42 recommendations, 3 to be implemented.

Tim Watkin: Government is running out of chances to be ‘transformational’

Strike one: Capital Gains Tax. Strike two: Welfare reform. The Labour-led government is running out of chances to be the “transformational” administration Jacinda Ardern promised in the 2017 election campaign.

Today the Welfare Expert Advisory Group handed the government a radical blueprint to not just tinker with welfare, but – in their words – to make “urgent and fundamental change”.

It was scathing about sanctions against beneficiaries, saying evidence shows they do little but create more harm to those already at the bottom of society. And it recommended a massive 47 percent increase in current benefit levels.

Those would be hugely controversial reforms… or, you could say, transformational. And they are not of the cuff ideas.

The current and previous Children’s Commissioners have urged such substantial benefit increases as the most effective way to tackle child poverty.

What people seldom consider though is that since then wages and salaries have continued to grow. Super, linked to wages, has grown to. But other benefits – with any increases linked to inflation, not wage growth – have not been increased nearly as much. Until, that is, Sir John Key and Bill English famously raised them in 2015. So the gap between work and welfare has grown since the 1990s.

That’s why the report today says, “The level of financial support is now so low that too many New Zealanders are living in desperate situations”.

In sum, the argument in support of this radical prescription is that you can raise abatements here and offer support there, but the best and least bureaucratic way to tackle poverty is to – wait for it – give the poor more money.

So as part of their coalition deal, Labour and the Greens commission this report. They get the transformational advice most of them would have wanted. How do they respond?

Welfare Minister Carmel Sepuloni agrees the welfare system is not working.

Marama Davidson agrees the welfare system is not working.

And then they commit to ignore the report’s big recommendations.

They say no to up to 47 percent benefit increases, preferring “a staged implementation”. The call for “urgent change” is rejected. Remarkably, Ms Davidson has put her quotes into the same press release, tying the Greens to this approach, when they could have been dissenting from the rafters.

The political and institutional reality is that no government can make these changes overnight. But the cold water thrown on this report underlines what we’ve learnt about this government in its handling of tax, its debt level, labour reform and more.

It is not just incremental, it looks timid.

If the Ardern administration wants to be the transformational government she and her allies think they are in their hearts, they are running out of issues.

A lot of transformation has been limited by NZ First, who seem to have got most of what they want while limiting Labour initiatives (like the CGT) and hobbling the Greens.

Much may depend on what the Government come sup with on climate change, the issue Ardern describe as the nuclear free issue of the present time. Announcements on climate change have been delayed months already. There have been further delays, but promises for next week.

RNZ: NZ First voters will be happy with Zero Carbon Bill deal – Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says his party’s voters will be happy with the deal he’s struck with the Green Party over the Zero Carbon Bill.

Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw this week delayed the release of two reports from the Interim Climate Change Committee until the government makes a decision on how to respond, which will contribute to the final climate change legislation.

Mr Peters wouldn’t be drawn on what the specifics of the bill are but did give an inch when RNZ asked whether his voters would be happy with the legislation, replying, “yes”.

That won’t be encouraging for those wanting transformative action on climate change.

Mr Peters said he couldn’t comment on when the bill would go to Cabinet because that was a matter for the Prime Minister but he understood it would be “sooner rather than later”.

Asked if it would be on the agenda at Cabinet on Monday, Mr Peters said he couldn’t answer that question.

Ardern and Shaw will have a lot of questions to answer if they fail to measure up on climate change. Their reputations are depending on actual transformation.

The future of the Greens in parliament may well depend on this one.


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  1. “Jacinda Ardern promoted her Government as being transformational, but apart from transforming Winston Peters and Shane Jones into well funded promoters of their own interests these is not much transforming going on.”

    Steady on Pete, if Pike River goes to plan we’ll get to spend millions for a fist full of ashes. That’s got be an achievement of some sort.

  2. Gezza

     /  4th May 2019

    This government, to me, just seems to be all over the bloody place.

    I struggle to see any coherence in their policies.

    The Provincial Growth Fund looks chaotic & heaven knows whether it will deliver any real sustainable growth in the regions. One hopes that at least SOME might generate improved skills training & long term self-sustaining employment, but so far it looks uncoordinated & wishy-washy.

    Chris Hipkins & David Clarke have had some hard lessons in negotiating with teachers, doctors & nurses & DHBs that obviously took them completely by surprise.

    Phil Twyford needs no further comment.

    Maybe, by election time, there’ll be some statistics that show some policies are starting to deliver the projected benefits & the economy is still trucking along ok. But, without wanting to sound insensitive, one god-awful devastating event has rescued Ardern from what was looking like an endless tide of mis-steps & lack of intellectual grunt & control.

    Their other biggest stroke of luck now, I think, is Simon Bridges being National’s leader. He’s a gift that keeps on giving.

    • Duker

       /  4th May 2019

      “Chris Hipkins & David Clarke have had some hard lessons in negotiating with teachers, doctors & nurses & DHB”

      except Ministers DONT negotiate with unions…. funny they hardly bothered about the small amounts during nationals time , but now say they need a catchup since 2005. Doctors and teachers are amoung the highest paid sectors of government workers.

      • Gezza

         /  4th May 2019

        except Ministers DONT negotiate with unions
        Yeah they do, & this lot did, via the funding they were prepared to find & allocate to the employing authorities. The strikes weren’t aimed at the DHB, education & health & SSC departments. Come off the grass, Duker.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  4th May 2019

    So far it has been transforming wild promises into dust. The Left don’t seem to care so long as the right words get mouthed. Just airheads.


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