Speeches were un­en­light­en­ing

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

For all the me­dia hoopla be­fore the event – they’re ready to rum­ble! etc – the si­mul­ta­ne­ous speech­mak­ing by John Key and David Shearer last week fell a good deal short of the Thrilla in Manila. Rather than try to bat­ter each other into sub­mis­sion, both lead­ers ended up blow­ing air kisses to the le­gions of mod­er­ate vot­ers who – at least ac­cord­ing to the spin doc­tors – might be fright­ened off by any­thing too crunchy.

Ul­ti­mately, Prime Min­is­ter John Key vir­tu­ally limited him­self in his speech to a reshuf­fle of four ex­ist­ing arms of gov­ern­ment into a sin­gle ‘‘busi­ness-fac­ing’’ su­per min­istry to be headed by Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Steven Joyce.

The usual job cuts and bud­get re­duc­tions seem set to fol­low.

To no-one’s sur­prise, busi­ness lob­by­ists such as Phil O’reilly, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Busi­ness New Zealand, expressed de­light at the prospect of a ‘‘busi­ness-fac­ing’’ min­istry headed by Joyce, Cab­i­net’s heav­i­est hit­ter.

He will co-or­di­nate and solely com­mand the func­tions of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, in­no­va­tion, hous­ing and em­ploy­ment.

Shearer’s speech had a lot more rid­ing on it than a de­part­men­tal merger, and Labour’s min­ders had talked up his speech be­fore­hand.

The speech was sup­posed to jus­tify the slow start to the year made by Labour, un­der its new man­age­ment.

More­over, it had been her­alded as a launch­ing pad for Labour’s new di­rec­tion, of­fer­ing not only fresh in­sights into the per­sonal phi­los­o­phy of the still rel­a­tively un­known Labour leader, but also sig­nalling how to­day’s party will dif­fer­en­ti­ate it­self from the Labour Party that Phil Goff led into the last elec­tion.

Fi­nally, the speech was to be­gin the long task of po­si­tion­ing Labour as a cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tive gov­ern­ment.

Ob­vi­ously, no sin­gle speech could ac­com­plish all of that heavy lift­ing.

Yet the speech fell so far short as to be­muse most ob­servers.

Why talk up some­thing bound to un­der­shoot all of its al­leged tar­gets?

The dis­cernible con­tent came down to Labour stick­ing with a cap­i­tal gains tax on all but the fam­ily home.

There was also a strong sug­ges­tion that Labour will dump last year’s elec­tion pol­icy of fore­go­ing tax from the first $5000 of in­come.

Some­thing could also be gleaned from what, for now, went largely left un­said. Shearer hinted, for ex­am­ple, at tak­ing a tougher stance on wel­fare re­form, whereby Labour would sup­port gov­ern­ment giv­ing ‘‘a nudge’’ to those ben­e­fi­cia­ries not pulling their weight.

These few scraps of sub­stance came wrapped in a user-friendly pack­age.

Labour, you may be as­tounded to hear, sup­ports this coun­try be­com­ing more tech-savvy.

It is also in favour of ev­ery­one work­ing hard, work­ing smart, look­ing af­ter their kids, and be­ing part of a brighter fu­ture, where ef­fort is fairly re­warded.

Just how these laud­able aims are to be re­alised, as Key pointed out, was left un­said.

For now, both ma­jor par­ties seem in­tent on couch­ing their aims in the least alien­at­ing way pos­si­ble.

Wher­ever pos­si­ble, the dif­fi­cult con­tent will be left to their coali­tion part­ners. As one Aus­tralian an­a­lyst said of our 2008 elec­tion, the re­sult­ing cam­paign for votes came down to the equiv­a­lent of an ar­gu­ment over whose turn it was to take out the garbage. If he plays his cards in­of­fen­sively enough, David Shearer is plainly hop­ing that by 2014, his turn will have come.

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