Sydney Morning Herald on left vs right globally

The Sydney Morning Herald has an in depth article on the challenges facing the right in various countries, including New Zealand.

I chatted to the SMH political editor, Peter Hartcher, for up to an hour on the political situation here.  Always fun to chat politics with interested people.

I suggest people read the full article, but here is an extract about NZ:

In New Zealand, the story is similar. The conservative party, the Nationals, exiled from power since December 1999, have been huddling close in the lee of Labour’s Helen Clark.

More than Britain or the US – indeed, more than any other country – New Zealand was a zealous early adaptor of the Thatcherite market agenda. Per capita, it implemented the biggest privatisation agenda in the world. But the conservative revolution is long since passé and privatisation is a dirty word.

Labour has rolled back some of the early conservative accomplishments. The national system of railway tracks has been re-nationalised. The Post Office banking business, after being sold off, has been re-established. The privatisation of the three national energy companies, halted after the sale of only one, has been frozen. And the National Party is not proposing to change any of these policies.

The conservatives have a popular, young, self-made leader, John Key. “His strategy is ‘don’t rock the boat’,” says David Farrar, a popular conservative blogger who has worked for four Nationals prime ministers and opposition leaders.

“A year ago he tried to shut down traditional areas of controversy – nuclear ship visits and climate change, for example. The Nationals have been ahead in every poll this year and they are likely to win the next election” – due by next November – “but that’s because Labor is old and tired and not because of any upswelling of support for the Nationals’ agenda.”

As with any article, only some of what you say makes it.  Certainly it is true that Key has moved to shut down some areas of difference which could hurt National.  Likewise it is true that the mood is more to throw Labour out, than a popular revolution for National.  I did however give some examples of areas of difference such as allowing minority private shareholdings into some SOEs, the extent of tax cuts, competition for ACC, likely education policy etc.

Some interesting criticism of the Howard Government’s record also by CIS Director Greg Lindsay:

Howard increased the size of the state in Australian life and made it the biggest-taxing and biggest-spending government in the country’s history. Even his signature efforts at deregulation, such as Work Choices, were a confusion of detail rather than a clear retreat of the government, Lindsay argues.

“When you are as rich as Australia is now, you should be reducing the amount of money people receive from government, but Howard increased it. The Howard government forked out obscene amounts of money in Family Tax Benefit A and Family Tax Benefit B. They tried to nationalise the family.”

Sadly all Governments increase spending – the only debate nowadays is by how much. The debate in NZ will be about whether spending increases by $2.5 billion a year or $2.1 billion a year. Now that is what the public want – so they will get it.  But to really push NZ up the global league tables, we would need to be prepared to be a bit radical as to what should the state do and not do.

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