Death, taxes and end­less Govt re­views

Labour looks to shape elec­tion bat­tle­ground, but it’s a gam­ble

Sunday Star-Times - - FOCUS - Stacey Kirk

They say death and taxes are the only cer­tain­ties in life. But you can add health over­hauls and jus­tice re­form, among other things, when defin­ing the demarcation lines be­tween par­ties ahead of a gen­eral elec­tion.

More than 100 work­ing groups have so far been formed and the num­ber is still tick­ing up­ward.

The lat­est ma­jor re­view to be an­nounced will pave the way for a com­plete over­haul of the health sys­tem – ev­ery­thing from whether the District Health Boards need to be re­duced or re­placed, to the way the health sys­tem is al­lo­cated its money, will be scru­ti­nised.

Spear­headed by key Labour op­er­a­tive Heather Simp­son, un­like some of the other re­views, it’s a safe bet the Govern­ment will be closely in­formed of this one’s progress at ev­ery step.

And the time that it re­turns its find­ings is note­wor­thy: Jan­uary 2020.

The scale of re­form the re­view is likely to rec­om­mend has a low chance of be­ing en­acted in the few months be­fore Par­lia­ment is dis­solved that year.

It makes the point of this re­view as much an ex­er­cise about de­vel­op­ing a cam­paign plat­form as it does about ac­tu­ally chang­ing the health sys­tem.

The Govern­ment has al­ready con­firmed most of the rec­om­men­da­tions of its ma­jor tax work­ing group – lead by for­mer Labour fi­nance min­is­ter Sir Michael Cullen – will be taken to vot­ers at the next elec­tion.

And while it ap­pears to be test­ing the public’s ap­petite for jus­tice re­form with its an­nounce­ment to re­peal the three strikes law, the Govern­ment’s roll­out of any re­form that would ac­tu­ally make a dif­fer­ence to bur­geon­ing prison pop­u­la­tions will be slower to ar­rive.

Even if min­is­ter An­drew Lit­tle’s law changes are pushed through this term, the stage is al­ready be­ing set for a two-and-a-half year de­bate on law and or­der – heart­land Na­tional ter­ri­tory.

The work­ing groups serve a cou­ple of pur­poses. It can­not be es­caped that they are nec­es­sary be­cause Labour was caught so un­pre­pared when it found it­self in Govern­ment, it had no vi­sion of what it wanted New Zealand to look like.

Labour cer­tainly knew what it didn’t like. But it had put to­gether pre­cisely no plans for change, ev­i­denced when it adopted and ex­panded a Na­tional Party policy as a cen­tral cam­paign plank.

In the case of the health sys­tem re­view, it’s a tacit ac­knowl­edge­ment that yes, the health sys­tem needs a full au­dit, but the Govern­ment will not be able to wing it through another elec­tion with­out a clear plat­form.

And be­tween the tax and health re­views in par­tic­u­lar, it sets the elec­tion stage for some clear lines in the sand and per­haps a real dif­fer­ence in choice that New Zealand hasn’t had in rather a long time.

Add jus­tice re­form into the mix and the Govern­ment is tak­ing a gam­ble that the ‘‘tough on crime’’ brigade isn’t as pow­er­ful as some think it is.

An­cient po­lit­i­cal wis­dom would sug­gest that’s wish­ful think­ing, es­pe­cially when there seems to be an ab­sence of a sup­port­ing plan to re­duce re­of­fend­ing and se­ri­ous crime.

But that’s prob­a­bly noth­ing a work­ing group can’t fix.

The Govt is tak­ing a gam­ble that the ‘‘tough on crime’’ brigade isn’t as pow­er­ful as some think it is.

Even if Jus­tice Min­is­ter An­drew Lit­tle’s re­forms are passed, The Govern­ment still faces a lengthy bat­tle with Na­tional over law and or­der.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.