This was going to be the Government’s “year of delivery”. If you had ordered a pizza, instead of a transformed society, you would be asking for your money back by now.
I can’t recall a year in which a Government has delivered less except maybe 1974.
When the Government changed, the median rent in the country was $400 a week. Now, it’s $450. That the Ardern ministry has continued to sock it to landlords during the ongoing rental property shortage is no coincidence.
While having to scrape together more for their rent, many have also seen their petrol costs increase through new and increased taxes. Partly levied to fund more boutique transport options, these taxes are regressive. For one thing, battling families have less money to spare for such things. The fact that older, more affordable cars use more fuel just rubs salt in the wound.
So, it’s no surprise that Work and Income has had to issue almost half a million hardship grants in the past year. Photos of long queues stretching outside WINZ offices have been in the news, providing an illustration of the problem that should alarm the Government. And while ministers might protest this is a result of their comparative kindness, that’s not how it saw things in Opposition.
If kindness results in people having to queue up at 2 am for hardship grants, then maybe one should focus on effectiveness instead.
In 2017, following a much smaller increase in hardship grants under the old Government, Labour said it was a sign that Bill English had to go. According to the then leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little, the statistic was “a damning indictment of how Bill English’s Government has let things get worse for those most vulnerable in our society”. Ardern has been prime minister longer than English was.
The knock against Ardern has always been that she’s more about empathy than solutions. Time and time again, voters have rewarded the ability to understand and share feelings. The question is whether it will be enough.
Empathy doesn’t pay the bills.