Guest Column: Delivery is the Lowest Bar to Clear

The Prime Minister says this year will be her ‘year of delivery’. While I could point out Governments should be ‘delivering’ all the time (that’s why they’re elected), at least a promise of delivery is progress. 

Last year felt like the year of working groups – we’re up to 242 now (and counting) at a cost of $297 million. Think of a policy area, there’s some highly paid working party out there figuring out what the Labour Government should do. Nice work if you can get it, but it’s depressing and comical that after nine years in Opposition, Labour still couldn’t come up with coherent policy. 

So far the Government’s ‘year of delivery’ is underwhelming, to say the least. 

KiwiBuild was meant to be the answer to our housing woes, but only 62 houses have been built, the targets have been dropped, and they can’t even sell KiwiBuild homes in Wanaka. The whole scheme has become a joke. 

The Provincial Growth Fund, aka the NZ First re-election slush fund, at last count has created 118 jobs for bureaucrats in Wellington and 54 as a direct result of the fund in the regions. I’ve seen better Ponzi schemes. 

When it comes to tertiary education, things are a mess. 

A select group of students in 2019 got their first year of fees paid for, by everyone else at a great expense. Fewer students went to University than before. Oops. 

Fees-free is great for those who get it but incredibly poor public policy. 

Last year was the first year in a decade universities didn’t get a general increase in funding – guess where all the money went? Fees-free. Yet New Zealand’s student loan scheme is already the most generous in the world (no interest and no inflation adjustments). 

One wonders how striking teachers and nurses feel when they see the billions going into free fees for students who would be at University anyway.

Much of the year I suspect will be spent talking Capital Gains Tax. 

Labour are in a right pickle here. They’re desperate to introduce one. It was Labour’s policy at the 2011 and 2014 elections, and in 2017 right up until then Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern got spooked and kicked the issue to the ‘Tax Working Group’. 

The Greens have even said they don’t deserve to be re-elected if they don’t introduce one! 

So don’t believe the line that this is just something to be ‘considered’, Labour are keen as mustard on one and have been for years.

My take on a Capital Gains Tax is pretty simple. 

There’s lots of good and complicated arguments against it, but think of it like this. You tax what you want less of. 

Do we really want less business investment, less entrepreneurship, less intellectual property creation, less savings, less investment in shares and fewer start-up businesses? The Tax Working Group has proposed the most punitive capital gains tax in the world and National will campaign hard against it.

For National this will be a year of holding the Government relentlessly to account and thinking hard about policy to take to the election in 2020. 

People sometimes say to me that National is too negative (I also get people saying we never criticise Labour enough, by the way, proving that in Opposition you can almost never win). I appreciate that people like positivity but being negative is literally our job. 

As someone who’s worked behind the scenes in Government, I am very confident in saying that a good Opposition makes for a good Government. Our system is built on robust debate, critique and questioning of Government. We’ll keep doing that. 

It’s not all doom and gloom though. National will continue to work constructively with the Government on areas we agree on, like reducing child poverty and tackling climate change.

We also have a job to develop a programme should we earn the right to govern in 2020. The good news is we’re all brimming with ideas. I’m proud of the last Government’s achievements, but we didn’t get everything right – no Government does, try as they do. 

Last year, we launched our Have Your Say campaign, and this year we will be releasing policy discussion documents on everything from the economy, law and order, infrastructure, education and health, so keep an eye out for those.

We want to hear from you so we can make your lives better and create more opportunities for you here in New Zealand.

We want to be ready to go on day one after the 2020 election, which is (incredible, I know), only eighteen months away.