Opinion: John Pagani wonders when National will release a policy manifesto for the upcoming election? He's seen only three policies so far

By John Pagani*

In 1987 I was a member of Labour's policy council. What a totally pointless exercise that was: the council couldn't feasibly discuss policy because the party membership was fundamentally on a different page to the Government.

Consequently the manifesto was released after the 1987 election.

Funny, except look how that ended up. 

Now the election is only just over two months away and the National party still hasn't released policy for the next three years.

So far the government has announced, as far as I can tell, three firm commitments:

1. Asset sales.

2. Reforming welfare for 16 and 17 year olds by giving them smart cards.

3. Today's re-announcement that the retirement age will remain fixed at 65.

That's it.

There is a policy page on the National website, but with the exception of Canterbury it is out of date - a rehash of 2008.

By contrast, Labour is today announcing its Christchurch package. Last week we had education, yesterday there was an announcement on pay equity. And of course we have seen big announcements on tax.

We haven't seen a tax policy from National. No one even seems to have asked them when a manifesto will be released.

Could they increase GST again? With an NZ$18 billion deficit, will they cut tax for the wealthy again? Will they increase tax? What about "cap not cut" in the public sector? What about a provision for free pre-school education? With the costs of prisons rising steadily as sentences get ever longer, do we have any firm commitments not to slash sentences to get budgets under control?

You get my drift.

National are avoiding policy pledges because they want the election to be about the past, not the future.

They want the election to be a referendum asking 'what do you think of the job John Key has done for the last three years?' If they release policy, attention will focus instead on their plans for the future, which are either dismal or unpopular. Or vague and ethereal.

Normally you would say the past is some sort of guide to the future, but we still don't really know what John Key believes or what his National Party stands for. 

The absence of policy is a vulnerability for a Government that demonstrably hasn't been able to articulate any plan or vision.

They're drifting into tomorrow, yet they're still to spell out any strategy to lift incomes or improve living standards. It's one short term management tactic after another, combined with a few ideas that aren't popular and don't fix the big problems, like increasing GST and selling assets.

The worst possible result would be a rush of policy in the last fourteen or twenty-one days before the election. With a firehouse release of policy, no one gets a chance to scrutinise the policy, and tear vulnerabilities to pieces. That's bad for New Zealand because scutiny helps to fix probelms and makes for better policy. Look at the forensic examination of Labour's CGT. When do we get to inspect National's tax plans with the same microscope?

Or do we have one rule for the Opposition and another for the Government?

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* John Pagani is an independent political consultant and writer who has worked as an adviser to Labour Leader Phil Goff. He writes his own blog at Posterous.

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6 Comments

At last!  A half decent commentary - well done John, you got there eventually.

Well of course Labour will announce more policy than National, they are busy bodies that want to be involved in everyones affairs.

I have to laugh, after having a so called women as leader/PM for 9 years women hardy got ahead, but now it is important to have equal pay as an election agenda.

JK spending too much time on the catwalk and Letterman and assuring us that they would get the miners out etc. etc.. Not sure what Goff is up for though? GST free carrots and peas was it? Can't remember if we got resolution on whether they'd still be gst free if they came out the freezer department. Oh, I'm being a bit harsh. National took over the fanzone in Auckland recently. Good on them.

Labour & National, both = yawn.

Dear John......National dont need to release any poicies. Your lot are that hopeless that they will sleep walk to victory in the election.

When are your guys going to stop taking constant cheap shots and start focussing on getting your house in order - we actually need a decent opposition.

...... the memory of those 9 horrendous years under Clark & Cullen are too fresh in the citizenrys' minds to go back to Labour just now .

Give it 3 more years ....  And a fresh crop of eager young know-it-alls at the helm , and meebee Labour will make a serious run at power in 2014 .

... they are so stale , Goofy , Klinger & Cunny , worse than Kunst's smelly old limburger cheese .

pretty simple really -  all the Nats are doing is not being like  Labour !  .After 9 grey years the  People are pleased to see happy leaders smiling and waving versus boring roboticism