Heart may be happy but head stays fo­cused

Weekend Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

he heart is wrestling with the head. The heart says it would be healthy to have a change after nine years and let’s face it, an at­trac­tive young fe­male Prime Min­is­ter would be good for our im­age in the world. The head says don’t mess with suc­cess.

The heart says it would be good to give a younger gen­er­a­tion a go. The head says gen­er­a­tional pol­i­tics is over­stated. Mil­len­ni­als will be no more of one mind than any other gen­er­a­tion. For ev­ery Jacinda Ardern there will be a Nikki Kaye. Many of the gen­er­a­tion at univer­sity will know free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion is just plain bad pub­lic pol­icy. It’s sick­en­ing to see them of­fered this temp­ta­tion to use the first vote of their lives for self in­ter­est.

The heart says we have bud­get sur­pluses stretch­ing ahead as far as the eye can see. Let’s fix home­less­ness and child poverty. The head says I’d love to, but I’m not sure sta­tis­ti­cal re­searchers are telling us much about the prob­lems. You should check their def­i­ni­tion of home­less­ness. There are noth­ing like 40,000 peo­ple liv­ing on the streets or in cars. And if you agree with them that money is the main prob­lem for poor chil­dren, tell me this.

Once we have lifted all house­hold in­comes above the sta­tis­ti­cal poverty line do you think all the kids will come to school with a cut lunch?

The head took the heart along to the Her­ald’s “mood of the board­room” break­fast on Tues­day to watch Grant Robert­son go head to head with Steven Joyce.

Joyce was his usual calm, mea­sured, author­i­ta­tive self but be­came more earnest when he talked about our eco­nomic scale, pointed out that even the likes of Air New Zealand are min­nows on a global scale, and de­scribed how vi­tal it is for busi­ness here to re­main com­pet­i­tive on costs and have ac­cess to big mar­kets.

If we go to Apec in Novem­ber and de­cline to sign TPP- 11 be­cause we want to close the coun­try to for­eign house buy­ers, he said, ev­ery other coun­try will pull out its old wish list and we will be back where we started so long ago. My heart was think­ing, there goes our im­age too. Com­men­ta­tors on world po­lit­i­cal trends would see our new Prime Min­is­ter more like Trump than Trudeau.

The heart hoped Robert­son would en­dorse just about ev­ery­thing Joyce said but all I re­mem­ber him talk­ing about was lots of “col­lab­o­ra­tion” and sit­ting around ta­bles. And one other mem­o­rable mo­ment near the end when Joyce in­sisted there re­ally was a hole in Labour’s bud­get pro­jec­tions.

“Steven, you’ve ac­tu­ally em­bar­rassed your­self again this morn­ing,” Robert­son replied, “you’re ac­tu­ally mak­ing a fool of your­self.”

Joyce stuck to his guns and Robert­son lost it.

“I’m sick of this, Steven,” he screeched, “for the last two weeks your have been say­ing there is an $ 11.7 bil­lion hole. There isn’t, is there? Is there?” It wasn’t Joyce mak­ing a fool of him­self in front of all those busi­ness de­ci­sion mak­ers.

The one is­sue on which the heart and head agree is the need to re­store the Kiwi hous­ing dream. But the head was trou­bled by some­thing Joyce said on that sub­ject. He is wor­ried that the Re­serve Bank’s lending re­stric­tions might now have cooled de­mand to the point that the sup­ply side will stop grow­ing. Ar­rested growth in our build­ing ca­pac­ity is the last thing we need right now.

Labour of course plans to set up a state build­ing cor­po­ra­tion to pro­vide new houses at cost- price to first- time buy­ers. Joyce doubts it would bring down Auck­land prices. “There is only one house mar­ket,” he said, “You can sell them at $ 400,000 but the buy­ers will flick them for $ 700,000 and say, thanks very much.” Truly the heart was tak­ing a bat­ter­ing there.

Elec­tion cam­paigns are a good, gru­elling test of the char­ac­ter and judg­ment of peo­ple who ask to be en­trusted with our eco­nomic and so­cial well­be­ing. By now re­lent­less pos­i­tiv­ity has palled, the smile is look­ing forced and when you read what Ardern says, it doesn’t mean very much. She seems to talk from a su­per­fi­cial lib­eral check­list. Euthana­sia, check. Eas­ier abor­tion, check. Med­i­cal mar­i­juana, “I don’t need 60 sec­onds”.

I won­der if she took much longer to think about the “cap­tain’s call” on tax re­form that turned to cus­tard this week. Maybe her judg­ment will be bet­ter for this ex­pe­ri­ence, maybe Robert­son will be more ma­ture next time his fig­ures are chal­lenged. The head wants to trust them with the econ­omy but their cam­paign hasn’t given me enough con­fi­dence.

Do they know how far we have come, how hard it has been, how easily it could be un­done?

I’m not go­ing to vote for them but the heart may be happy if they win.

John Roughan

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