The 100 day reckless mistake

Any new Government will need time to find their feet, get their offices organised, and get adequately staffed. Likewise incoming Ministers, who will need time to get properly informed about their portfolios. The Government and especially the Minister of Finance needs to take proper stock of the books and properly evaluate the costs of any proposed policy changes.

This is especially the case when the Prime Minister was recently and suddenly elevated to leadership of their party, has never been an MP in Government before, most of her Cabinet has never been in Government before and one of the Government parties has never been in Government before.

It may have seemed like a good campaign trick, but promising a very ambitious policy programme to be implemented within the first 100 days in office, with many of those days being a holiday shut down period in Parliament, has put a lot of pressure on an already hard pressed administration.

Labour’s commitment: Taking action in our first 100 days

Labour will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Make the first year of tertiary education or training fees free from January 1, 2018.
  • Increase student allowances and living cost loans by $50 a week from January 1, 2018.
  • Pass the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, requiring all rentals to be warm and dry
  • Ban overseas speculators from buying existing houses
  • Issue an instruction to Housing New Zealand to stop the state house sell-off
  • Begin work to establish the Affordable Housing Authority and begin the KiwiBuild programme
  • Legislate to pass the Families Package, including the Winter Fuel Payment, Best Start and increases to Paid Parental Leave, to take effect from 1 July 2018
  • Set up a Ministerial Inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis
  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain
  • Resume contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to help safeguard the provision of universal superannuation at age 65
  • Introduce legislation to set a child poverty reduction target and to change the Public Finance Act so the Budget reports progress on reducing child poverty
  • Increase the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour, to take effect from 1 April 2018, and introduce legislation to improve fairness in the workplace.
  • Establish the Tax Working Group
  • Establish the Pike River Recovery Agency and assign a responsible Minister
  • Set up an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care
  • Hold a Clean Waters Summit on cleaning up our rivers and lakes
  • Set the zero carbon emissions goal and begin setting up the independent Climate Commission

This 100 day plan was released as part of Labour’s policy during the 2017 election campaign.

On top of that a number of enthusiastic Ministers have been trying to push their own pet projects.

It isn’t surprising that the Government is showing increasing signs of struggling to cope.

And there’s a real risk of stuffing things up in the rush. Gezza posted this yesterday:

I don’t conveniently forget anything. I’ve worked in departments thru complete Administration between National & Labour numerous times. Every seismic shift between right & left brings in a bunch of newbie Ministers & those who don’t know how the normal, legitimate processes of government work quickly learn from the BIM onwards with their departments that policies signalled by Opposition parties during campaigning which require significant resource use or change to systems & legislative can rarely be rushed into effect without being first worked through thoroughly – for practical reasons – to identify & minimise risks of adverse consequences (fuck ups that will hit the media & embarrass) the Minister & government) not apparent in Opposition because they don’t know the operational details, exactly what work is required, how long it takes to develop and operationalise the policy (contractors did all our IT system changes – that requires design, testing, debugging, sorting out inevitable conflicts within complex IT structures etc).

I’ll just ignore the rest. It’s irrelevant to my point. I don’t give a toss which administration is in power. They all run the risk of screw ups if they pressure departments to rush things. These matters are drawn to their attention. They have to be. The convention of Ministers taking responsibility when their departments gets something wrong (especially when they disregarded advice) disappeared with the Douglas administration & so it is necessary for these matters to be raised & recorded more than ever as Ministers nowadays default to blaming their departments.

Labour is bound to have no hopers in their Cabinet lineup. Every government does. For me it’s a test of how good the PM is at the job how quickly they move them out & replace them with a good Minister.

That’s a big enough challenge with any new administration, but it has been made more difficult with the self imposed 100 day rush.

On a number of policies not in the 100 day list Ministers have been fobbing off, saying details would be sorted out and advised ‘in due course’. That’s ok for some things, but keeping a handle on the policy costs and their implications for overall finances is a real concern.

What may have sounded decisive during the election campaign looks like a mistake, and is at real risk of being reckless.