This piece from yesterday’s edition of Bryce Edwards’ excellent NZ Politics Daily frames what is happening in New Zealand politics quite nicely…
Have we seen the end of Mr Nice Guy? The number of voters who say they’d like to have a beer or bbq with John Key might soon plummet, as the Government appears to be getting into the hard decisions early in its second term. According to John Armstrong, ‘National seems unaware of how hard-edged it is starting to look with its noticeable drift to the right. The contrast with the soft pragmatism of its first term is starting to become pronounced’. In his column, Ministers risk seeming uncaring as jobs culled, Armstrong writes that public sector reform looks likely to start having a real impact on frontline services – despite Government promises – particularly with possible layoffs of nursing staff at district health boards. He warns that the Government is still to reveal the extent of contracting out of public services to the private sector, and says it may have a hard job selling that to voters. Tracy Watkins agrees and says even though changes to date have been done far more carefully than in the 1990s, real savings – particularly in the big budget health sector – will mean job losses in the thousands – see: Public service cuts get deeper.
In my humble opinion, the “new” welfare reforms announced by John Key and Paula Bennett are perfect examples of knee-jerk conservatism. They didn’t actually have any new ideas for reducing welfare dependency, just some half hatched ideas to kick the poor while they are down. The thing is, even these ideas aren’t new, they were announced during the election campaign.
So why re-release them? Their polling is obviously not looking flash. They’ve seen that they’re losing traction to the opposition parties, Labour in particular, and want to remind people that they can be tough. The National Party will be expecting a bump in the polls from an announcement like this, and they may well get it. But will it be the 3-5% they need to actually open a lead in the polls? I doubt it.