Nail-bit­ing days ahead as new govt is formed

Na­tional’s Bill English and Steven Joyce’s mis­lead­ing at­tack on Labour worked.

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - Ali­son Mau

I reckon that late last night, at the Na­tional Party party, a tiny mo­ment may have passed be­tween Bill English and Steven Joyce, un­no­ticed by any­one else.

A sin­gle thought in a word­less glance: ‘‘It worked.’’

A cou­ple of weeks ago it all looked pretty grim for them. But then, cam­paign man­ager Joyce spot­ted a chink in Labour’s brand-new ar­mour, in­serted the tip of his dag­ger and made a wee space for doubt. Aka, the now­in­fa­mous $11.7 bil­lion ‘‘fis­cal hole’’.

Not a sin­gle econ­o­mist agreed there was such a hole. Joyce couldn’t name one. Bill English couldn’t name one. Things might be ‘‘tight’’ in sub­se­quent years, was as far as any would go.

But it was the only use­ful flow Na­tional had struck thus far, so they rode it to the end. In the void cre­ated by Ardern’s ‘‘wait and see’’ ap­proach to tax, it gave Na­tional fod­der for a mis­lead­ing at­tack ad – ‘‘Labour will raise in­come tax!’’ and a line that English could keep seed­ing and re­seed­ing.

It must have been hard for Bill, a good man no doubt but more­over a good Catholic man, to keep mas­sag­ing the truth in that fi­nal leader’s de­bate on the telly.

Un­der the un­re­lent­ing stu­dio lights he re­jected the eighth com­mand­ment, (which for­bids mis­rep­re­sent­ing the truth in our re­la­tions with others), and in­sisted the fis­cal hole was real, and Labour would raise taxes.

A deal with devil might have seemed a bet­ter op­tion than dis­ap­point­ing Steven Joyce, whose glow­er­ing pres­ence, just off cam­era, you could al­most feel through the telly.

But enough of look­ing back! Na­tional has first dibs on an­other three years, so it’s time to think about how I’ll spend that tax cut. It’s about $20 a week. I don’t need it, but others do.

There are lots of op­tions. Kid­sCan could spend it on food for hun­gry chil­dren – de­spite ex­pand­ing the num­ber of schools it helps, the wait­ing list con­tin­ues to grow.

I could give it to Life­line, a cru­cial sui­cide pre­ven­tion ser­vice whose Gov­ern­ment fund­ing was can­celled in 2016.

That $20 a week will do noth­ing to build more af­ford­able houses, make ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion more af­ford­able, force land­lords to make their rentals warm and dry so that chil­dren don’t de­velop asthma or worse, fix the ridicu­lous farce that our hos­pi­tal wait­ing lists have be­come.

We will have a steady-as-she­goes gov­ern­ment; one which has the fis­cal chops to keep on keep­ing on in much the way it has for the past decade. English’s ad­mis­sion that poverty has been al­lowed to run while Na­tional built up the sur­plus will be par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult to swal­low for those who are strug­gling even though they have jobs.

Na­tional may well take vic­tory as a man­date to con­tinue on as per. That would not be okay. Af­ter all the prom­ises made by English in the past few weeks, those sur­pluses, fi­nally, had bet­ter be spent where it counts. He will have to prove that 50,000 kids will be mag­i­cally pulled out of poverty next April 1 (a bit more cash does not mean a dry house, bet­ter health care or more nu­tri­tious food). He will have to show de­ter­mined progress to­wards do­ing the same for 100,000 kids.

He will have to do bet­ter than the anaemic to­tal of 7000 houses built in Auck­land in the past 12 months, when twice that amount is needed (a ‘‘huge and deeply trou­bling per­for­mance fail­ure’’ ac­cord­ing to one hous­ing strate­gist).

But be­fore any of that is even pos­si­ble, a gov­ern­ment must be stitched to­gether, which means a few days (weeks?) of nail-bit­ing to come.

For those who’re find­ing to­day dif­fi­cult, Life­line has re­leased some tips. Our po­lit­i­cal be­liefs af­fect us deeply, it says, and feel­ing pain and dis­ap­point­ment when your party loses is nor­mal and valid.

Al­low your­self your feel­ings, and un­der­stand that what you fear most from an in­com­ing gov­ern­ment won’t hap­pen im­me­di­ately, so don’t waste too much en­ergy griev­ing for things that haven’t hap­pened – yet.

A gov­ern­ment must be stitched to­gether, which means a few days (weeks?) of nail­bit­ing to come.

Paer­ata School stu­dents are stay­ing warm and dry thanks to Kid­sCan.

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