Friday, August 19, 2005

National Party Political Address

The first minute of the address is some writing about how they were going to do a big flashy advertisement but then decided to talk to Don Brash in his kitchen. This did appear to me as a gamble as being telegenic is something that Don's not too strong on. The interview was more relaxed than Helen's was and lasted the entire length of the audience. At the end of it, I felt it was fine but then again I am only one person. So onto the specifics.

I was intriuged by his usage "baloney" within the few minutes. This was something that he caught a bit of flak from Labour before until his party rose in the polls. So saying it again seems to be a challenge of some sort.

Don then made a quick punt about how he went into Parliament not to be the most insulting person, which did prompt me to remark "that's Gerry Brownlee's job", before going into detail about himself. Why he changed from Labour to National, why he washed his own socks while abroad as a Reserve Bank Governor, why he was a conscentious objector, how he was opposed to Nuclear Weapons, how he was not a spoilt rich brat and so forth. The intention here was to paint himself as a social liberal rather than being a hardline policy wonk that ate babies for lunch, breakfast and tea. Don didn't mention that he was a Marxist at Canterbury University as this might have frightened off more than a few conservatives.

Don then was asked about unpopularity and he responded with his Owera speech (which initially saw him damned as a racist but then the Government aopted many of his policies once he rose in the polls shortly afterwards). He said he was opposed to state-sponsored racism but then impressed me by saying it was not purely a labour thing.

Then we had a splash of National's policies on Racial Issues, which were:
Need, not race-based funding
No Maori Seats
A third which I couldn't write down in time but might have been prompt settling of treaty issues
Need-based funding is actually government policy so that's uncontroversial. The No Maori Seats looks radical but isn't. The seats were originally created because voting was originally on a property based qualification and this disadvantaged the Maoris who had owned their property communally. The seats were unnecessary once universal male suffrage was introduced (which the Maoris enjoyed a few years before the general population did) but have persisted out of sheer inertia.

Don then spoke about violent crime and how the police were concentrating on speeding tickets rather than real crime. Given George Hawkin's pathetic performance of the portfolio, this was like shooting fish in a barrel. The splash screen reappeared with:
Abolition of parole for violent and repeat offenders
More frontline police
DNA from all convicts
I'm less than enthusiastic about the abolition of parole as it removes a useful method of controlling released prisoners as well as impede prisoners from integrating themselves into the community. If there was a policy to improve the performance of the probation service, I would have been much happier. The other measures are okay.

The next topic is health and here Don spoke about how Helen had promised to fix the waiting lists but failed to do so. The National policies were:
More doctors and nurses
Better care for the elderly
Allowing public money to be spent in funding private operations
The first two look inoffensive to me but the third was interesting. If I recall correctly, it was policy in the Bolger/Shipley government that Labour abolished for ideological reasons.

The next easy target that Don Brash took aim at was Education. I shan't bore you with the details as I haven't noted them down. The National policies in this area were:
New Standards for English and Math
Pay Good Teachers more
The last policy is waving a red flag at the Teacher Unions. It's a good thing that Martin Cooney has been ousted from the PPTA or there would have been blood on the streets by now.

And now Don tackles Welfare. Here he has a problem as Labour has a good employment record (lowest unemployment rating in the OECD). So what does he do? Mention the absolute numbers of working class unemployed, how much worse it was than in the 70s and the numbers of working class unemployed and their children are as large as the populations of Christchurch and Dunedin combined. As Mark Twain puts it, "There are three types of lies; Lies, damned lies and statistics". The obvious labour response would be to point out that the increase in unemployed came from the economic reforms that Don Brash was a part of during the 80s. So I don't imagine Don will be saying too much about welfare in this election. The National Policies are:
Ongoing help and work for Dole
Tough sickness beneficiary checks
Part time work for DPB once their youngest kid attends school
More mild policies.

The next topic was growth. Don says some boilerplate about people leaving and how he plans to encourage growth by enticing them back through the policies of:
Lower Taxes
Fair Childcare

The last isn't actually a growth policy as such but placed here because there was nowhere else to put it. I'm surprised that the Lower Taxes didn't get more play in the address.

Finally there was the issue of trust, another government weakness. Don didn't mention the obvious examples of Doonegate, the Speeding Motorcade and so forth but instead described how Helen had made a promise of getting New Zealand into the top half of the developed countries and then abandoned that promise on the grounds that it was unachievable. Very wisely Don didn't commit himself to the same promise as it was a damnfool thing for Helen to promise in the first place. At the same time, he left the impression that he would carry out the policy, which impressed me as a masterful political achievement.

Finally the address ended with feelgood imagery, which unlike Labour, did have shots of other people in National and Don's wife. So to compare it with Labour, both Helen and Don's scripts were well-polished. Helen's delivery was optimistic while Don was more relaxed and thoughtful. There was plenty of policy meat in both addresses but Labour is hampered by the Government's below par performance in some areas.