Good policy is my passion in politics. I tire of the focus on trivia, on personalities, and spin. This is why I am so enthusiastic about my job in National as Caucus Policy Chair, leading policy development. Each weekend this month I have been at party conferences in Invercargill, the Hutt Valley, and Paihia in Northland doing the work on our plans for New Zealand’s future.
I would of course much prefer to be in Government, but Opposition has one advantage. The role as a Minister is so pressured that the day to day work gives little opportunity to get out and engage with New Zealanders and think long term about the future direction of our country. I am enjoying talking to thousands of New Zealanders about the changes needed for our country to do better.
National has learnt from Labour’s failure to do this work in Opposition. In their first year they passed more National Bills through Parliament than from their own Labour or support parties. A major weakness of this Government was the lack of a detailed plan. They have had to form over 200 working groups costing tax payers over $500m to try and backfill the hole. Time and money have been wasted such as the $10m spend on Michael Cullen and co on the Capital Gains Tax Review Group that has now been dropped. The same thing has happened with the Welfare Advisory Group report where only 1% of the recommended changes have been implemented.
Labour’s few policies like Kiwibuild were never properly thought through. The original promise of 100,000 homes costing only $300,000 sounded great. But far from the 1,000 promised in the first year they have built only 80 in 18 months. Most were already being built and the average price has been $540,000. The idea that the Government could build houses faster and cheaper than private building companies was always going to fail.
National’s policy development has been programmed over three years. The first year in 2018 focussed on listening, 2019 is focussed on detailed discussion and 2020 on proposing and promoting policies.
Last year we engaged with thousands of New Zealanders covering small businesses, families, seniors, rural communities and young people. A clear message was concern over the cost of living, particularly with respect to fuel, rent, rates and insurance. We were surprised to find that people rated positively the services of IRD. GPs and Early Childhood Centres were praised. People were very critical of Immigration NZ and Councils.
We are developing policies to address these problems. National is publishing a series of Discussion Documents on the big issues. Our Environment Paper was published in February and on International Relations this week. Further papers will be produced on primary industry, the economy, infrastructure, education, health and social services.
I invite Nelsonians to get a copy of these from my office, caravan or our website and give me feedback. This is an opportunity to have your say on the future of our community and country.