Goff on Nanny State

The Herald reports:

leader has admitted the party made mistakes with its so-called nanny-state policies as he tries to win back voters turned off by Helen Clark’s regime.

Mr Goff said he wanted to “draw a line under the past”, citing unpopular policies such as those telling people what size shower heads and which lightbulbs they could use.

“We’d stopped listening to what people’s priorities were and seemed to be working on issues they thought were sideshows,” Mr Goff said yesterday.

Sensible and encouraging.

The nanny-state image was a big factor in Labour’s defeat and has been blamed for turning off voters who shared the party’s core values but felt it was interfering with their lives.

Mr Goff said people thought Labour should have been more focused on what really counted for them, such as the struggle to make ends meet.

The Labour Government had engaged itself in too many distractions, such as the smacking debate, when the focus should have been on solving New Zealand’s disgraceful child abuse rates.

“It is not about smacking, it’s about giving the best possible start to our children.”

If Goff was really brave, he’d announce they’ll support the Boscawen bill to select committee. It would make life very difficult for National if he did.

Goff is right that the smacking debate is a sideshow from solving the problems of child abuse.

The backdown on shower pressure regulations and light bulb bans are simple ones to make also, but symbolically useful.

What Labour may not appreciate is that it is not just about whether one has support for an issue, but whether or not is is a priority for the Government. I’ll explain with an example.

I supported the civil union legislation. I even lobbied in favour of it, and I think it was a good law to pass, and think most NZers are comfortable with it.

However that is a different issue to whether or not it should have been a priority for the Government, compared to increasing productivity growth, improving educational outcomes etc. Just because the public agree with you on an issue, doesn’t mean they think that issue is a priority.

As an example that the EU debate in the UK. Most people agreed with the Conservatives on the EU, but they didn’t vote for them as the EU was not as significant an issue as whether or not they have jobs, schools and hospitals.

Now of course a Government can do more than one thing at a time, but the media only report a couple of things a day, so if you are passing civil union legislation, they are not reporting on school standards.

So the lesson for Labour isn’t to only be wary of “unpopular” legislation, but even “popular” legislation such as civil unions and prostitution law reform can damage the Government if voters think this has become your priority.Now that is not an argument to never pass such laws (I am glad they did) but to consider carefully the pace of any law reform.

President Andrew Little said there was no question Phil Goff had the support of the wider party, and the conference was his chance to “step up” and “stamp his imprimatur” on the party.

Well up until the point that Helen sends that text from New York saying “time for a change”!

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