Every year, just as a State of the Union address is given by the incumbent President of the United States, the Prime Minister of New Zealand gives a State of the Nation address. In the United States millions tune into watch the address, carried on the cable networks. New Zealand media generally wait until the 6P.M. television news to broadcast bits from the State of the Nation address. In the case of the State of the Nation 2013, it was a bit of a wipe out.
So, what happened?
After years of being maligned for a lack of action giving assistance to New Zealanders getting back into work – and in most cases deserving it – the Government announced today that it would provide NZ$2,000 for people who are learning a trade to purchase their necessary equipment. For once, National appears to have done something right. It has taken a burgeoning problem and tried to come up with a working solution. Of course it comes after years trimming costs in every way possible, and only when unemployment is showing signs of potentially turning into an election issue in 2014. However just this once, it was pleasant to see an attempt being undertaken to undo earlier damage caused by political short-sightedness.
Of course the Labour Party immediately jumped up and down, saying that it was a case of the Government doing too little too late, making a rather rich implication that ignores their own failure to do anything significant about the numbers of new tradesmen and women needed in New Zealand. The Labour Party had nine years in which to introduce something comprehensive, affordable for tradespeople and able to acknowledge the problems that having an acute shortage of skilled workers tends to bring. So maybe it is time to put the acid on the Labour Party and ask them point blank what they would do if they were in office and were dealing with the exact same problems.
Unfortunately that was as far as the good work of National went. It has decided to continue pushing on with asset sales to partially privatise Mighty River, Genesis and Contact Energy. Minister of Finance, Bill English, who is responsible for overseeing the sales said that up to 49% of the Mighty River power company could be put on the market. He claimed as he has done before that New Zealanders would be “first in queue for the sales”. Sales of what? Sales of assets that New Zealanders want a referendum on – which makes the point of a referendum meaningless.
Again, the Government has rounded on so-called red tape affecting the ability to build houses. It is ignoring the fact that if it were not for the Resource Management Act, the Building Act, the Housing Act, among other targets, houses would be built to a much lower standard of construction. They would be built in places such as Bexley where the land is not fit for houses. I can see that this Government really has not learnt the lessons about housing that the Christchurch earthquakes have so graphically displayed. The old saying that lessons not learnt are doomed to be repeated looks like it has a good chance of holding true…
So, all in all, nothing terribly inspiring about this. National is stumbling to the next election happily blindfolded, not caring who or what it runs into along the way or the consequences of doing so. 2013 could be a long year….