Thursday, January 20, 2005

The state we're in

Rodney Hide launched his first State of the Nation speech as leader of Act up in Orkland today. I missed the News at 6 coverage, so I'll have to wait for the late news to tell me what to think. Meantime, I checked out the script.

Nice start linking the tsunami with Labour's lack of The Vision Thing as drifting. Ominous sense that we are in a prelude/eye/aftermath of a disaster. The Wellington earthquakes earlier in the week seems to underline that there's a crisis somewhere, waiting to happen. Rodney as a prophet of loss.

A good go at the youthful entrepreneur (geek) vote. Much flattery, with references to "bright", "keen" and "confident." This is an untapped well for most political parties, which Rodney has shown savvy to exploit. Like him or hate him, he was the first and remains the most respected MP blogger. Makes Don Brash look C++.

Changes up a gear appealing to the self-employed. Another clean move. Labour gets its support from unions and public servants, not the thunderstruck builders, plumbers and so forth. With building construction in Orkland the way it is, there's bound to be more self-employed and SMEs to please with compliance culling.

Labour's Working for Families gig looks like it will need to fend itself off from the Closing the Gaps' fate. Some artfully written (no, I don't know who wrote them. If I'm being sychophantic, I'll make the Hannibal Noise) parliamentary questions earlier in the term yielded some stark realities which have Election Issue written all over them. For example:

"A family with one income earning around $50,000 will keep just 11 cents of every extra dollar they earn. The Government takes 89 cents, 33 cents tax, 30 cents loss of family support, 25 cents loss of accommodation supplement, and 1.2% ACC levies."

The implicit point is that Labour favours both parents (or whatevers) working and raising a family instead of one breadwinner supporting a whole-parent family upbringing, be they Tom, Dick, Dyke, or Harry. No, not Harry... Thankfully there's television, Playstation 2, and X Box to babysit and supervise while both parents juggle debt. Or maybe they're all on drugs.

Reminding the uninitiated of his party president position in Act's genesis, Rodney reaffirmed the party's commitment to the Personal Responsibility, Individual Freedom (PRIF) thing. Probably aimed at keeping the party backbone from going Nats-wards. Don't be spooked by a change in leader. Same aim, different angle.

In a remarkable show of optimism and determination, Rodney managed to turn the poll slump and leadership primary split into positive experiences. Painting Act as the persistent battler, he pointed out his commonality credibility; his Dad, the truckie.

The Association of Consumers and Taxpayers, aka the Liberal Party is now, also, the Workers' Party. What a thought.

Moving along quickly, Rodney then lists The Big Six Points.
  • The safest country in the world. The Get Tough on Crime platform is well-worn and, judging from United Future's opening salvo, looking at turning into a farce. Goff is already building prisons like Labour built state houses in the '50s. The Sentencing Act has incurred longer sentences for Evil People. If accused of soft-cock policy on criminals, Labour can fight from a well-defended position. No mention made on catching white collar criminals, just the thugs and bullies. How to get the courts to process the existing backlog and presumed extra workload is also left unsaid.
  • The Claytons payrise. Rodney wants the government to give that staggering surplus back to workers. For a $40K job, that's $35 extra a week or equivalent to around a 2 percent payrise. Could have been dovetailed into Stuff's report of Scots-like stinginess on pay rises.
  • Quango hunt. A Regulatory Responsibility Act mooted. Sounds like a companion piece to the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Nice touch, do-able and one concrete way to nail down unbridled power.
  • Colour-blind government. Sounds like someone should be rummaging through the Human Rights legislation, looking for a another way to skin this kitty.
  • Immigration. It's all good, of course. Best leave this chestnut to Winston. He wears it so well.
  • The kitchen sink. Rodney presents the work done by the Act team. Heather Roy has been doing a good job chipping away with question time. Her press statements are read with alarm and concern, as opposed to Judith Collins' hysterics on teenage abortions. Nothing new in the Education sector. Somewhat mitigated by Deborah Coddington's recent acquisition of the portfolio since the Donna Awatere Huata fireworks. Muriel Newman's War on Welfare is mentioned. Nothing new. OECD quoted NZ as 'low middle income' next to Greece, Israel and Cyprus. Would have been more incisive if juxtaposed with NZ second 'longest hours at work' behind Japan.