Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Key steals her thunder

What a humdinger. Key's State of the Nation speech shows that his skills from merchant banking may be of use in the political arena. Here's a man who knows how to do a trade-off and get on with it. If the Nats continue in this vein, they will sit like a colossus come the election. Once again, Clark has been out-manoeuvred by the Smiling Assassin.

It is evident that Key has not only forced Clark's hand into making a state of the nation speech of her own tomorrow, he has stolen much of her thunder portended by the pre-schooler vetting preambles that appeared earlier in the year. While Jordan Carter has been asking Dude, Where's My Ambulance?, he lets slip that Clark's theme tomorrow is
"It makes more sense to tackle these problems when a kid is a toddler." Clearly, the pre-schooler vetting thing will be a lynch-pin of Clark's speech. Of the two solutions, teen control or toddler dissection, Key's teen control plan is the more sellable position.

Key's speech got Goff on the defensive, who pointing out that while military-type training camps have been successful with unemployed young people, youth offenders are a different story. Annette King accuses Key of wrapping Labour policy in blue ribbon. King is right. Much of the essence of Nat policy is slowly passing through Labour's digestive and consultation tract. There is still a legislative window of ten months before the election. Key would be a moron to posit anything too novel while there is still time for Labour to snafu the policy as their own. Better to tweak stuff that should have already been done by now and save the juicy bits for when they really need it.

But the speech did what it was intended to do, get people nodding to John Key's rhythm. NZ First is neutered by the Nats because of the sensible idea to shift serious juvenile offending by 12 and 13 year-olds from the Family to the Youth Court system. The Spotlight Sentence, allowing Youth Court Judges to pursue diversion-like sentencing contracts with offenders, is also a goer. Ron Mark looked justifiably rattled on the telly, beseeching the Nats to please consult them.

Behind the criminal courts, the Family Court has the largest caseload. Better that the Youth Court, which was designed with rehabilitation foremost in its mind, deals with the nitty-gritty and leaves the Family Court to deal with the matrimonial property and custody disputes. The new policy also hints at the old Law Commission report, Delivering Justice For All: A Vision for New Zealand Courts and Tribunals, which Labour have studiously ignored.

The universal education supplement for 16 and 17 year-olds sews Tim Shadbolt's campaign for the Southern Institute of Technology into the bargain. Even the policy costing is included. At only 0.1 MS (Mallard Stadium) per year, $100 million is a not unrealistic price tag.

Doozy, dude.