Trans-Tasman’s Tortoise and the Hare

February 18th, 2010 at 2:45 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman makes an interesting observation in their newsletter today:

Readers of Trans Tasman, an educated lot, will know the Aesop Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. The two were in a race and the hare got so far in front he took a nap. The tortoise plodded on past him.

looks like trying to transform NZ’s economic reform
progress – in the past we’ve been a bunch of hares – doing sudden bursts of reform and then taking a nap. This time, National is planning on being a tortoise. This was implicit in its initial response to the economic crisis it found on its desk in November 2008. Previous Govts, faced with similar crises, have tended to panic and push every policy button available.

They have usually been shortlived Govts, and they have tended to put NZers off the whole idea of systematic economic reform until it is forced upon them.

We got more tortoise-like behaviour last week, with John Key’s opening statement to the House. A series of headings, it initially looked underwelming, and the more superficial commentators pronounced it as excessively timid.

The implications of some of those headings, on tax as well as on things like education reform and resource development, are now sinking in. Now people have taken the time to think about them, they look more progressive than they looked at the time.

I agree with the sentiments here. Pushing through reform that merely results in a new Government at the next election that reverses that reform, is dumb.

Australia has been a pretty good example of continuous reform, rather than just in the odd spurt of activity. And the PMs statement did have a significant amount of good stuff in it.

My concern though is that pre-election commitments to not touch WFF, Student Loans etc, crown assets, Superannuation, will block significant reform. Now I don’t advocate a change to these policies in this term of Government, but I do hope for the 2011 election National will have a less restrictive manifesto.

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20 Responses to “Trans-Tasman’s Tortoise and the Hare”

  1. Scott (1,800 comments) says:

    Agree with you totally DPF. I think National is restricted by the nine years of semi-socialist redistribution which the country has been subjected to. Basically the mainstream media is in broad agreement with the views of the previous government and is almost instinctively hostile to centre-right policies. However the times are changing and the mood of the nation appears to be against further extension of the welfare state particularly in the light of some beneficiaries obviously ripping off the system .

    In the light of this I would like John Key to gradually lower taxes and seek to reduce the intrusion of government and find ways to gradually shrink the welfare state. Less government, lower taxes, more individual and family responsibility — these are the values on which National was founded. In my view the time is right to move in this direction over the next few years.

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  2. James Stephenson (2,180 comments) says:

    Which would be fine, if you actually got the sense that JK was striking out positively down whatever path he’s chosen…unfortunately the sense I get is that he’s not really sure and he keeps stopping, turning around and making sure people are coming with him…

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  3. big bruv (13,904 comments) says:

    Meanwhile the Tortoise continues to borrow one billion dollars a month.

    I do not share your optimism DPF, I have seen nothing in Key that would even suggest he intends to ever do anything about WFF, Student loans, Crown “assets” or REAL welfare reform.

    He is interested in nothing more than staying in power.

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  4. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    “but I do hope for the 2011 election National will have a less restrictive manifesto.”

    i hope so too. if not, they lose my vote.

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  5. LeftRightOut (622 comments) says:

    dime (1832) Says:

    February 18th, 2010 at 3:08 pm
    “but I do hope for the 2011 election National will have a less restrictive manifesto.”

    i hope so too. Then they’ll be seen for the shills they are and tossed out on their communal arses.

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  6. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    i hope so too. Then they’ll be seen for the shills they are and tossed out on their communal arses.

    Do you think that’ll happen if they’re perceived to have done a good job? I don’t mean a great, super amazing job, but at least above ‘average’. If they do well in these three years, the electorate may dish out a bit of trust. Just a bit.

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  7. queenstfarmer (782 comments) says:

    Pushing through reform that merely results in a new Government at the next election that reverses that reform, is dumb.

    Exactly. It seems so simple it would be laughable, except so many supposed National supporters seem to want John Key to do crazy kamikazee reforms, which would be great until about 21 months from now when they’d get voted out.

    John Key is planning a 3-term-minimum run. Just like a marathon you don’t get there by recklessly charging off at the gun.

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  8. Pete George (23,567 comments) says:

    But just like a marathon you would hope he is figuring out how to get to the finish line by now, without running all over the place.

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  9. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    If he had less support in cabinet/caucus he might’nt be thinking about the finishing line but just getting to the next drinks table. Lets keep this analogy going!

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  10. tvb (4,422 comments) says:

    Sir Roger Douglas has been unusually quiet perhaps he has realised that the reform is quite extensive – there is hardly an area of Government that is being left alone – Justice – some major work there, Social Welare -some quite useful reforms there, taxation – the biggest shake-up in 20 years, Health some quite big stuff happening and Tony Ryall keeps upping the ante there – wthout frightening the Horses, – Education some big work there with the Teachers’ Unions getting quite upset – so it must be good, Resource Management Act, Mining. The cumulative effect is quite big, but somehow people think it is not much. Even John Key’s deadpan delivery masked what is really happening.

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  11. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Tortoise and Hare my Arse. If Shonkey is any animal he’s a chameleon, one day blue, next day red and on special days he is a deep red with a green tint. Personally I think time is running out and being an overall nice guy won’t cut it when the pantry is found to be bare.

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  12. berend (1,709 comments) says:

    DPF: Pushing through reform that merely results in a new Government at the next election that reverses that reform, is dumb.

    Coming from you, I really don’t understand this. David Lange + Roger Douglas were re-elected. Booted after they fell out, and the reform stopped. National + Ruth were re-elected, although Ruth didn’t make it, and although the margin was very slim, was this because the reforms or because of the tensions in the cabinet?

    Anyway, reformist governments were re-elected two times. Would like to hear a counter example.

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  13. berend (1,709 comments) says:

    Scott: Less government, lower taxes, more individual and family responsibility — these are the values on which National was founded. In my view the time is right to move in this direction over the next few years.

    That’s the talk supposedly. Tell me exactly Scott how the government is shrinking. What taxes are going to be lowered? Bill English was retracting aligning the top rate and corporate rates today.

    The National chills talk a good talk, but invariably fail to deliver.

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  14. Viking2 (11,471 comments) says:

    The initial article is one of lies as per socialist training. berend has it right. The reforming Govt’s of our times have both been reelected for long terms as was the Antichrist who goal was to reform the reforms.
    As a matter os interest the stupid Nats gave the Antichrist a gong yesterday and today she back trying to run the country. On 1 news having her say about public broadcasting. That’s what happens when you don’t behave like a winner and banish the conquered .

    Even more revealing was English telling the Auckland business people and in particular one young lady who returned home that he was going to wait for other countries to up their tax rates to make ours look cheap and that was his plan for taxes. All the while his dinner mate was slimmy Maharey.
    When Key going to get rid of English. He’s a financial disaster.

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  15. Caleb (479 comments) says:

    if national keeps going the way it is, it will get a majority at the next election.

    will it form a coalition with the maori party?

    what would that mean?

    does it have the courage to go it alone and set the economic policies that this country needs!

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  16. adam2314 (377 comments) says:

    tvb. Says.

    ” taxation – the biggest shake-up in 20 years, ”

    The plonkers are still raking in the same amount…

    They may have brought the Titanic onto an even keel.

    The ship of state still has a $230 Mill. a week hole in it.. PLUS INTEREST.. How much is that interest ??

    For what !!.. More police.. ??.. Better Health ??.. Higher education for the people ???..

    No !!.. Welfare !!!..

    In my opinion JK is not doing a very good job, and does not look like he will improve.

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  17. bruceh (102 comments) says:

    Sure, let’s give credit for some of the dynamic effects of National’s announced intentions this year.

    However the real measures of how intensive the change and reform effort needs to be is the magnitude of our existing problems and the rate at which the external world keeps changing on us.

    National’s credentials have always been ‘we’re better managers than that other lot’ rather than the credentials of a change agent. The problem with being better managers of what we’ve got is that better management can never succeed in overcoming systemically bad social policy, such as Working For Families.

    Only systemic change can overcome this, which is something that reformers do. By not facing up to the tyranny and perversity of policies such as WFF National is effectively saying – it’s too hard, the systemic impacts are beyond our piecemeal policy skills, the other side has won.

    National is also effectively saying – communicating the benefits of some uncomfortable but necessary changes is beyond our willingness to risk political capital to do what is right.

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  18. big bruv (13,904 comments) says:

    berend is dead bloody right (5:18pm)

    Indeed there is a strong argument to suggest that the greatest reforming government we have ever had (Lange/Douglas only got booted out when they lurched back to the left due to Lange’s inability to keep the Shelia’s in his life under control.

    The left have attempted to rewrite history when it comes to that Labour government, sure some of the reforms implemented by Douglas were harsh and a lot of people lost their jobs but never forget that Labour were voted back in in 87 with an increased majority.

    The Nat’s only won in 90 because labour had stopped the reforms and gone about having a bloody expensive and stupid “cup of tea”

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  19. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    You seem to be clutching at straws here David. 7.3% unemployment and going up versus 5.3% unemployment for Aussie and going down. What sort of time frame are you talking here? Any longer than five years and you will be looking at a lost decade.

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  20. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    Umm… what do all those expensive commissions do exactly? Only today the Tertiary Education Commission was exposed for not doing its job properly. Definitely time for them to go. Bound to be more stuff to go too. Then we could lower all tax rates as there’d be a massive surplus.
    And bb, you are quite right, Labour lost the 1990 election because they got rid of Douglas and the cabinet fell apart, not because of the reforms that happened until 1988.

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