But Thursday’s speech contained enough hints of a change in the party’s direction to put several feral cats among Labour’s pigeons.
It made it clear Shearer will ditch policies that made Labour feel good about itself but which left voters cold – policies like Goff’s “tax-free zone” for the first $5000 of income, the promise to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables and the manifesto commitment to introduce a new top tax rate on income above $150,000.
That is the first suggestion I have seen that Shearer is also looking to dump the proposed rich prick tax. I hope they do. The top tax rate was dropped to 33% by Labour in the 1980s in return for bringing in a 10% GST and getting rid of tax loopholes. There is no need to raise it, except envy.
Perhaps most significant of all was the speech’s incursion into what has been an effective no-go area – the seemingly unfettered power of the teacher unions to run a ruler over the party’s education policy.,
However, education is central to Shearer’s plan to build the “new New Zealand”. It was here the speech was at its most blunt in putting bad teachers and badly run schools on notice. He later acknowledged it might be necessary to pay teachers more. It can only be assumed he was reserving any such salary increases for the good ones despite performance pay being viewed with intense suspicion by the teacher unions.
Shearer can leave National behind here. National has not committed to performance pay. If Labour does, that would make National look a follower not a leader.
Shearer intends shifting Labour’s mind-set away from not upsetting the practitioners of policy – be they teachers, public servants or whomever – to satisfying the consumers of policy, parents in this case.
I look forward to this being applied to industrial relations also.