Tuesday 18 November 2008

Protect Our Public Services

THANK God for journalists like Gordon Campbell! Without his latest post, John Key's extraordinary concession to Act over the Taxpayers Bill of Rights would have completely passed me by.

I had, of course, given the Confidence & Supply Agreement between National and Act a quick skim-read and had noted the reference to the TBOR. What I failed to notice, however, was the fact that National has agreed not only to ensure the Bill is referred to the Finance & Expenditure Select Committee, but that it will be treated as a Government measure.

This is what the document states:

Support, within six months, the referral of ACT’s Taxpayer Rights Bill to the Finance and Expenditure Committee of Parliament as a government measure with the aim of passing into law a cap on the growth of core Crown expenses.

So, there you have it - an unequivocal committment to underwrite an extremist neoliberal measure within six months of taking office. As Gordon says, time to batten down the hatches:

Once again, New Zealanders are going to be used as the lab rats in a nutcase libertarian experiement. To summarise, from the Bell Policy Center report, the problems with this tool are: services can't keep pace with growth in the economy. Temporary budget cuts become permanent. Multiple limits restrict flexibility and force false choices. Saving and planning are made very difficult. Yes, that sounds like a good idea to introduce in New Zealand.

In Old New Zealand, I know how the Left would have responded to such a revelation.

A meeting would have been called in Wellington to which representatitives of the Federation of Labour, the Labour Party, the various socialist and communist organisations to the left of Labour, NZUSA, the NZ Council of Churches, and other interested NGOs would have been invited.

Out of this meeting a new organisation, with a catchy acronym would have been announced. Something to rival HART (Halt All Racist Tours) or CARP (Campaign Against Rising Prices). Protect Our Public Services - POPS - perhaps?

Before long there would have been a POPS organisation in every major centre and a national co-ordinating committee would've announced the first of a series of public demonstrations. In the build- up to the first big march there would have been a concerted campaign of letter-writing, pamphleteering, and neighbourhood meetings.

In Old New Zealand The Listener would have run a major investigative feature on TBOR in Colorado. Television NZ would have produced a one hour documentary on the controversy to be screened in prime time. And the irrepressible Wolfgang Rosenberg would have published another of his little booklets: What every citizen should know about: The Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

But, of course, in Old New Zealand, knowing all these things would happen, no government of the Right would ever have contemplated introducing a piece of legislation so hostile to the interests of its citizens.

What will happen in New New Zealand? I guess we'll find out in the next six months.


Joseph said...

keep an eye on Trades Hall, December 11th. ;)

Anonymous said...

To support the referral of a bill to select committee is hardly an an unequivocal committment to underwrite an extremist neoliberal measure within six months of taking office

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is bad news, at least in the short term. In the long term people might see that National is really "Labour-minus" rather than Labour-plus.

But, Chris, that Old NZ is long gone. Not even you can bring it back, and there's not a lot of point wallowing in nostalgia.

What happens in the New NZ is that Gordon Campbell alerts the blogosphere to what's going down, bloggers like you and I fulminate on-line, journos pick it up and then editors bury the story because they want National's honeymoon to last two years minimum.

Seriously, I am sure that the CTU for one will be campaigning against this up and down the country.

Anonymous said...

As Campbell so aptly puts it "Welcome to the Reaganite past, dressed up in new clothes as a pathway to progress."

The National Party, in a new 'centrist' suit raving about progress, but sending us back to the 90s. What were you thinking New Zealand?

New Zealand, did you really want rid of Helen Clark so bad that you were prepared to trade in the public services for it?

Anonymous said...

Chris, why would anyone want to protect public services that fail to serve the public? I work as a provincial GP, and for months, until recently, it was taking nine months to get a non-urgent ultrasound scan for my patients at the local hospital vs a 1-2 week wait in the private sector. Given the choice, many people went privately despite having been coerced into paying taxes for a substandard service. Why on earth would you want to protect this?

Anonymous said...

Richard: If you are in reality a GP (seems odd- a busy GP hanging around on a leftwing blog posting rightwing opinions) and this story is true then the fact that it was a *non-urgent* scan says it all... socialised healthcare is never going to pay for everything, but it will give you life saving treatment if you need it without bankrupting you. Which is fine by me.

Steve Withers said...

If the "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" were law in the US, wouldn't the US$700 billion banking system bailout have been all but impossible? That amount of new expenditure simply would not be allowed for....and the banking system and economic system would be left to collapse.

Colorado, where this was implemented just a few years ago, has already dumped it. The state was falling apart.

Steve Withers said...

Richard Mcgrath: Better to fix a good system than scrap it and replace it with one known to be bad. No one wants a US-style health system.

Bogusnews said...

Labour has increased govt spending by 22Bil a year. About 4Bil went on WFF, which leaves 18Bil on health, education, defense etc.

Is the state service better for it? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the waiting list in hospitals has more than doubled, 40% of kids coming out of schools (by HC's admission) are not properly qualified, our defense force can't fly, fight or sale etc etc.

I struggle to see why watching our pennies in the state service is such a bad thing. Can't be any worse than currently.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: So are you saying that non-urgent healthcare could be privatised? That would be a good start. As you suggest, under socialised health care, people with non-urgent health problems just fester on a waiting list. Like the person who waited several months to see an opthalmologist about an eye problem and lost his/her eye as a result. Yep, you socialists just ooze compassion.

Anonymous said...

Kia ora Mr Trotter, a personal note - just found your blog via the DimPost - choice. Was dismayed when Mr Spondre announced you'd 'hung up' yr policy.net keyboard after the election, was gonna miss your input during the next little while. All o.k now, onwards matey, and I hope the trolls don't get you down.

Anonymous said...

Disgusting thought, giving those filthy taxpaying scum rights.

Carol said...

I agree with most of Peter Haynes comments, @19/11: 10.19am, about the role of bloggers and online political commentators have in critiquing politics and the traditional media.

I think this and other blogs have a particularly important role in monitoring Key/NACT's first 100 days in government, when, as Bomber Bradbury points out today:


so over Christmas while the news media are asleep and holidaying in Fiji, National will ram through Daddy State legislation,

Hopefully there will be some on and offline activities planned in ways that will draw the MSM's critical attention to the cons, as well as the pros, of new legislation, as indicated above via the Trades Hall.

Anonymous said...

Bogusnews - Yes, but if you look at government spending as a percentage of GDP then you'll see it was acutally less under Labour then it was under National in the nineties. Labour was able to spend so much because the economy grew so much. This is what Gordon Campbell points out about TABOR:Crucially, the measure has a rachet down effect on public services. During boom times, central and local governments are prevented from using the higher revenues to expand or to improve public services, or to save for a rainy day. Moreover, because revenues will fall during a recession, the year-to-year measurement will mean that the new base for determining spending growth will become the low revenue point created by the recession. Hence, the TABOR approach renders permanent any cuts to public services that are imposed during bad years.

Do you think that state services would have been better if we hadn't increased funding during the boom times we've just experienced?

rouppe said...

It is hysterical of Gordon Campbell to turn an agreement to support what Rodney comes up with to Select Committee as an assurance that "extremist neo-liberal" is what will happen.

Does Gordon really think that whatever Rodney comes up with will be put into law without examination? I think Rodney will come up with something much more to the Right than many are comfortable with. And he will do that deliberately so that when it is "centred" it is closer to what he really wants. Much the same game that women play when choosing diamond rings... There are plenty of people smart enough to observe what happens/happened in Colorado and attempt to avoid those mistakes.

Surely Gordon cannot argue with the inexorable rise of rates demands. That never go down even after big projects are completed. Wellington is a good example. Stupid Prendegast wants to build that stupid sports centre in a stupid place despite there being sports centres available at Queen's Wharf and Porirua's brand new Te Rauparaha centre. Just don't do it, and get on with the water, sewage, and rail upgrades.

I voted for the change so have got what I asked for. But be assured that I will now be testing what happens with this government against my somewhat liberal benchmark.

If Act get too uppity then Key will simply turn the other way and deal with the MP. That will cause Hide to come running back asking for a second chance.