Death, taxes and endless Govt reviews
Labour looks to shape election battleground, but it’s a gamble
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.