"Imagine," he imagines, breathing hard all the while, that this "more left-wing Labour Party" had taken power in 1999, but with "a wider activist base and a more radical policy and caucus, and aided by the Greens as a coalition partner." His imagination, such as it is, has served up some frankly febrile predictions about what life would be like in New Zealand in 2007 under such a collectivist's wet dream.
To help our erstwhile alternative historian (who seems to have overlooked a few things), I have added the necessary touch of realism to Master Carter's wet dream. Here is how this place would really look if the nightmare situation he describes had truly taken place:
- Health spending would be sitting around 9-10% of GDP and, with the consequent inflation in the Government health system, surgery numbers are down, waiting lists have soared, and small medical supplies companies are listing on the stock exchange at the rate of twice a week. Radiologists are still on strike.
- The 1991 benefit cuts would have been reversed, and beneficiary numbers increased from 270,000 to over 400,000. Shareholders in Sky City and Restaurant Brands/KFC buy condos on the Gold Coast. Meanwhile the three poor saps left to pick up the tab for this welfare explosion have just bought the last remaining flights out to Australia. There are no lights still burning to turn out: Kyoto has put paid to the power stations.
- The industrial relations system would have been re-collectivised, days lost to strikes would have gone through the roof, and no ferries would have crossed Cook Strait since Xmas 2005. No killing has been done at any meatworks since the General Strike of 2003, and meat has been changing hands at $100 per kilo in some inner suburbs of Helengrad.
- Tertiary, early childhood, vocational education and training have been made "free" at point of use, private schools and early childhood centres have been nationalised, and Jane Kelsey, Susan St John and John Minto are writing the curriculum. NCEA has been scrapped for being "too challenging" for students. No one can read, or write, or do sums (but they're all very good at some stick games), and teachers wear kevlar stab-proof vests to schools, which they pay for themselves out of their meagre salaries.
- Nation-wide investment in public transport has have been far higher over the past decade, and flowers and trees now grow on NZ's (very) few motorway systems. Auckland's buses are still empty. There is no work to travel to, no rush hour to negotiate, and Queen St is being dug up again. Car imports have been banned, and the average age of cars is twenty years and rising. Petrol taxes are now set at $3 per litre to help pay for public transport and the MPs' Superannuation Fund. Mike Ward is the Minister for Transport.
- New Zealand would have focused economic policy on local production, not acceded any further into the WTO system, and reinstuted protectionism on local industry. Sue Bradford is the Minister for Trade. Import licensing has been reintroduced (making the holders of these licenses fabulously wealthy), and families in Porirua no longer able to buy cheap imported bedding, clothing and appliances are now making underwear out of their curtains and boiling up rocks to make soup. There is no internet because nobody can afford the locally-assembled computers, and (since they've all been assembled at the Sheltered Workshops) they don't work anyway.
- New Zealand's distribution of income would be moving solidly in a more egalitarian direction, with no one earning over $20,000pa except for civil servants and MPs. Everyone else has been made equally poor, and everyone is equally miserable. Blam Blam Blam reissues "There is No Depression in New Zealand" in a limited edition, with free packets of soma for the first 1,000 buyers.
- Public spending would be at around 42-44% of GDP, around $17bn a year higher than it is today. Interest rates are at 20% and climbing, but still no-one is buying the dollar...
- The country has been renamed the People's Republic of Aotearoa, the Treaty relationship has been put into a modern, bicultural context, and Co-Prime Minister Turia (head of the new Upper House, called the Council of United National Tribes) has just "negotiated" a co-management deal with Fonterra whereby tribal leaders will receive each year's dairy payout to redistribute as they see fit. Farmers are shooting and burying their sheep and cattle.
- Immigration is no longer a problem, and the only flights now are outbound. Without a political platform, Winston Peters retires from politics and buys a corner dairy.