Friday, September 30, 2005

I Dream of FoNZIE

There has been some heated discussion over at The Whig's on where Act should go from here. He lists 11 policies that Act should use to rebrand and reassert itself as a party of innovation, shit-stirring and setting the agenda. As far as 3:30am policymaking goes, it's not a bad list. Let's have a look.

1. Catherine Judd should resign as president

Assume Whig's dissection is all correct. If not Catherine, then who? No matter how justified one might feel about an incumbent, who could do a better job? Who wants to be a party president? In the political circus, the party president is a platespinner.

From time to time, the audience gives the platespinner their own homemade stick and platter and somehow the platespinner has to successfully integrate it into the act. If the audience finds the performance clumsy or disharmonious from time at any time, they demand a refund. It is a tiring, thankless task which engenders fear and loathing all around.

2. Talk flat tax

Yeeeeaaaah I suppose... Flat tax is an eventual goal for Act, as dictated in Unfinished Business. However, Act has yet to work out a path to this which doesn't give the General Electorate the shits. They've got to sell it better. Explain the Why, the When and the What now. Inform, don't preach. Entertain, don't patronise. Know your arguments, don't read a teleprompter.

For example, when my old man went around the country selling GST and dodging rotten eggs back in the '80s, he made a wager. If anyone was demonstrably worse off after the introduction of GST, he would personally fly them to Wellington and shout them dinner. No-one ever took him up on the offer.

3. Raise the age for Superannuation

No way, José. The Maori Party had a point about lowering the age of superannuation for Their People. Poor people die younger, thereby subsiding the virtuous wealthy who live as long as their private health insurance policy allows. OK, subsidise might be the wrong word, but you get the drift. National Superannuation is the scheme that keeps Boxer the horse happy, dreaming of the day he will retire to green pastures and live out his days in peace. In reality, he overworks himself and gets knackered. Only the pigs get to retire as they live longer through home comforts.

Somehow, the current scheme has to be grandparented and a tax transfer system set up that skims personal income into retirement savings schemes. This would increase NZ's level of savings, improve investment capital for the NZ market, return private responsibility to individuals' personal decisions and provide probably the only asset that some Kiwis will ever have. This is not a million miles away from Cullen's favoured Kiwisaver. Cut back on the arbitrariness of it and you might be on to something.

The trick will be how to top up the lower end of the scale when they reach a retirement age. And should the retirement age be indexed as a proportion of the average lifespan? While no system is fair, at least an indexed retirement age would de-politicise the issue and give some reliability for those poor sods who almost reach retirement and then the government raises the limit again.

4. Neutrality

The good thing about NZ is that we are completely inoffensive to other countries. We are neutral by default. We are unlikely to ever be attacked by our closest neighbours. Australians can't be arsed, the penguins don't care and the Pacific Island nations wouldn't say Boo to a Schmoo. NZ is in a primo spot to play China and the US off each other and neutrality is a subtle way of accomplishing this.

If we are to have any armed forces, we should have kick-ass specialist ones. Our SAS should be better than Navy Seals, our air force should be able to monitor trespassers in our territorial waters, our frigates should make better interceptors than bars.

5. Abolish the Petrol Tax and Use Tolls to Pay for Roading
6. Scrap the RMA
7. Republicanism
11. Tino Rangatiratanga

I dream of FoNZIE, the Federation of New Zealand Independent Enclosures. It is an idea loosely based on Tino Rangatiratanga and its ideal of self-determination, and former convict/ New Zealand Company bastard Edward Gibbon Wakefield's city-state scheme but without his class mentality. In short, let's go back to the provinces.

City councils around the country are already thinking the same thing. They need to co-ordinate with their neighbours in order to develop their patches. The Wellington and Orkland region mayors in particular are looking at some larger structure than their current incarnations.

The Local Government Act 2003 gives them something to work with. Unfortunately, this legislation wasn't balanced by a corresponding lowering of national bureaucracy. Instead of a transfer of responsibility, we have one complicated set of rules sliced and diced by a thick scum of national public servants AND another thick scum of local body bureaucrats adding to the rulebook as well. No wonder the punters lose hope or go overseas.

The needs of Orkland are not the needs of Christchurch. Let each region do what it knows is best based on local knowledge and co-operation not some pre-formulated, abstract crap from Central Services. It's all about districts; district police, district courts, district nurses, district hospitals, district schools, district councils. This ties into the central premise of classic liberal government; its default setting is to stay the fuck out of our faces. If we want help, we'll ask for it. Our present form of governance does neither.

8. Halve the tax on alcohol and cigarettes

Health insurance companies love smokers. They pay higher premiums and die earlier and quicker than non-smokers. Because the government has declared Smoking Is Bad, there's no way they will regulate health premiums for smokers, asking health insurers to justify their rorts. Excise taxes have no bearing on the public costs of these good vices. The tax goes up with the CPI, guaranteeing an income stream that would make Tony Soprano proud.

Act could introduce a similar scheme to Fly Bys. I call it the Happy Daze card. Every time an alcohol or tobacco purchase is made, the excise tax from the sale is credited to the consumer's private health insurer thereby matching the cure with the medicine. The scheme is cost-effective as there is no need for the government to get a cut. Think of it as Truth in Taxation.

9. Start up a Space Programme!

Supporting an increase in R&D would be a start.

10. Licensed Cafes for Cannabis - Increase Penalties for Supply to Minors

Grant the first license to Paul Le Gros and trial a coffee shop in Wellington for two years. Thirty years of prohibition hasn't worked, so why not give it a try?