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Free Press – Rhetoric and reality

Column – ACT New Zealand

We are by now used to the soaring oratory of our Prime Minister. She is a world-class communicator. But her governments results tell a very different story. The gap between the coalition governments rhetoric and reality has been stark.

We are by now used to the soaring oratory of our Prime Minister. She is a world-class communicator. But her government’s results tell a very different story. The gap between the coalition government’s rhetoric and reality has been stark.

Our nuclear-free moment…

The Government has been captured by near-religious zealotry on the issue of climate change. The Prime Minister has staked her reputation on it. Even though New Zealand produces only 0.2 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Jacinda Ardern has banned offshore oil and gas exploration and we will soon be signed up to a net zero carbon target. These policies have produced some stunning international headlines.

Their fossil fuel transformation

But hang on. Jacinda Ardern announced this past weekend that New Zealand taxpayers were going to be stumping up an unknown sum of money to connect more Papua New Guineans to electricity. PNG is heavily reliant on oil, gas, and coal. So, conveniently forgetting her rhetoric on climate change, the Prime Minister said she understood that fossil fuels can have a transformational impact, helping economies and living standards grow. Is the Prime Minister completely incoherent on this issue? Or is she trying to have it both ways?

Solving the housing crisis

Phil Twyford hasn’t been short of bombast. He has promised to solve the housing crisis. While ACT believes we should cut red tape, allowing the private sector to build more homes, thereby reducing housing costs, Twyford has contended himself with a raft populist measures: banning foreign buyers and letting fees, KiwiBuild, and the Healthy Homes Guarantee. These measures have been relatively popular, but what has been their impact?

Or not…

The best data we have shows foreigners make up a tiny proportion of buyers and aren’t having an impact on house prices – David Parker admitted as much. Letting fees have reappeared as ‘tenancy fees’ or will be passed on in higher rents. ACT has consistently said that government can’t avoid costs, they can only shift them around. KiwiBuild is subsidising homes that would have been built by the private sector anyway and allowing middle-class Kiwis to make sizable capital gains. The Healthy Homes Guarantee is now pushing up rents.

A fairer criminal justice system?

By all accounts, Andrew Little has been one of the Government’s more impressive ministers. He has consistently talked of a fair, humane and effective justice system. Whatever our disagreements over specific policies, we can all agree on these goals. But, despite Mr Little’s noble aims, the Government has taken its eye off the ball and a serious situation has emerged in the justice system.

Justice delayed is justice denied

Ministry of Justice staff are currently carrying out ‘lightning strikes’ where they walk off the job without any notice. This means courts are not open long enough to hear bail applications and people must continue to be held in jail cells. Providing a functioning justice system is one of the state’s most important roles. The coalition government has been so preoccupied with expensive pet projects, it has neglected to pay court workers properly and ensure New Zealanders have timely access to justice. It is unacceptable that, in a civilised country, people are denied liberty because the government cannot properly fund the justice system.

This is just the start

We could talk about the fact that the Government wants to lift education outcomes for disadvantaged groups but at the same time has scrapped the charter school model that was transforming lives. We could go on to mention that it wants to get young, unskilled workers into work but is instead increasing the minimum wage – killing off 3000 jobs – and pushing through employment relations red tape that will make it harder for firms to hire workers. The inconsistencies will continue to emerge. Eventually, the coalition’s greatest PR weapon – the Prime Minister – will be unable to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality.
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