Thursday, 7 February 2008

Key = Hide

Finally waking up from both his long political slumbers and his taxpaid weight-watcher's programme, in his first speech for the year ahead (which is helpfully titled "The Year Ahead" so it won't be confused with other years about which he might be talking) Rodney Hide appears to have been taking policy lessons from John Key. 

In a speech that shows every sign of setting the direction for the ACT party's last year in parliament, Hide claims ACT "has the opportunity to change the country's direction," and the goal "to get into a position where our vote is needed to form a government."

I'll let the voters themselves decide whether the latter is likely, but I was interested to see him declare that "to get [ACT] MPs elected we need to drive decent policy -- and to announce and campaign on policy that will make a difference to how the country is run."

Naturally curious what these policies might be, especially since ACT's website shows precious little sign of either announcing or campaigning on any such things -- and having a fair idea of what such policies might look like -- I scoured the speech like a schoolboy through a box of chocolate assortments to find those tempting policy treats from ACT that, as promised, "will make a difference to how the country is run."  I came up short.  For a start, this promised box of goodies has only three treats within --  those covering "the key areas we have been working on," says Hide, which are "Health, Education and the Economy" -- and while each one is wrapped in a tasty coating of criticism of the current state of play in each "key" area, there's little of substance to show why Rodney Hide's party is the answer should he ever get into a position where his vote is needed to form a government. 

To put it bluntly, despite the narrow focus -- and despite "working on" these keys to "making a difference" for some time -- there's precious few goodies here to show for it.  After removing the wrapper on Health, for example, we find just this small soft centre:

What Health desperately needs [says Hide] is greater transparency and accountability. Patients need to know what they're entitled to and what they can expect. Taxpayers need to know what their tax dollars are buying and that they're getting value for money. That alone would be a good first step in a sector where political success is still determined by money spent rather than results achieved.

Sounds like marshmallow to me, I'm afraid, and that's all the policy you're going to hear on one of the three "key" policies on which he's been working.  Just those two buzzwords of "transparency" and "accountability."  Buzzwords abound too in the second "key" area, Education. On removing the wrapper on this shy treat we find an even softer centre than before:

ACT [says Hide] is working on exciting policy in education that will improve vastly the opportunities for young New Zealanders and their families. We can make a big difference in education. And by making a big difference in Education, we can make a big difference to our country's future success.

This is clearly a policy that's big, exciting and different all at the same time (please pause for a moment to recover your breath from cheering), but one looks in vain to find out how, or why it's any one of these. Once again our hunger is unfulfilled,  but in the meantime at least there's there's plenty of cliches in the places where real delights should be. 

Maybe all the time spent "working on key areas" has been spent on the chocolate labelled 'Economy'?  On that there's much more of a hard centre, and what's said is allright ... as far as it goes ... but as policies these sure do put the "micro" into economics.

Hide talks hopefully about his Regulatory Responsibility Bill putting "a bonfire under mindless red-tape" and about ACT's Taxpayers Rights Bill "capping taxes to what they are now"  Fond hopes, I suspect.  And he talks fondly, once again, about his strangely obnoxious concept of "High Performance Government" -- an idea both frightening and oxymoronic at the same time.

He talks too, like all opposition politicians do at this time in the election cycle, of the "need to cut red tape" and to "cut taxes to boost the incentive to work and to invest."  True enough, but when even Hard Labour are using that line, the reawaked Rodney Hide starts to look somewhat like a time-worn Rip van Winkle who's awoken to find that the world has moved on around him, and he hasn't yet caught up. Time for radicalism, man, not soporific soft-soap and the resounding echo of me-tooisms.

At at a time when there IS no parliamentary opposition, this is a time for real radicalism, not cliches, buzzwords and promises to announce something later that other parties are already promising to promise. 

If this speech was a bid to announce Hide's intention to campaign on detailed policies that will make a genuine difference to "how the country is run," then it might have been better in my view to have fronted up with some.

To give the same policy advice I'd give to National's policy directors, if you're truly genuine about policies that change the country's direction then you'd better start campaigning with some policies.  And you wouldn't be worrying about those policies being stolen, because if they are and you're genuine about changing the country's direction, then you'd know that you'd just done that. You'd cheer every time they're stolen, and then you'd go even further out on your road to making your final goal nearer. 

That's what you'd do if you were really genuine, in this year and in every year.

It's worth repeating this for the record: if National aren't the answer, then on this sort of evidence neither is ACT.


  1. Yes, PC. I can only reiterate what I wrote on a previous thread with regard to ACT

    "As ACT won't act (so to speak), do the acting for them. Offer them the opportunity to be with you or against you and if they don't chose the former, attack them as hard as you can go by putting a good candidate against Rodney in Epsom and throwing all your resources into him (or her if you insist on PC language). ACT is finished at the next election anyway unless they revitalise and you people can be the instrument of their revitalisation if you play it properly. Either way you lose nothing and you stand to gain from the publicity alone in such a high profile seat."

    (I hope you don't mind me repeating this, but the 'joie de se voir imprime' has overcome my natural modesty and reticence hehehe).

    So anyway.... I hope you guys are sorting out a top quality candidate to take on Rodney? How's the Architecture business going PC? Are you bored with it and looking for a stimulating change?

  2. Dave, its very disingenious for those who are libertarian minded to wish to "take on" Rodney.

    Surely you'd want to unseat a labour or national candidate over the closest thing NZ has to a libertarian in parliament.

    Libz in NZ seem to be more interested in staying ideologically pure than actually making a difference. Those of us who are small government minded should be looking at who the real enemy is, rather than petty sqabbling among fellow travellers.

  3. My point, mikee, is that alone the Libertarians are most unlikely to break through the 5% threshold and equally unlikely to get a candidate elected to an electorate seat. So that makes them stuffed for parliamentary representation. In fact, at the moment, I would guess only around 10% of voters actually know that the Libertarian party exists at all. Sad, but true.

    ACT is (almost) equally unlikely to achieve either electorate or list representation, judging by their present and recent performance. Rodney seems to have completely lost interest and last time he only just squeaked in, and so that makes them also stuffed as a political force.

    I would suggest that if the Libz take on a fight for a socialist-held seat (by socialist I mean either of the two socialist parties, Labour or National, which between them command oh, I don't know... um... 85% of the public vote) then they are doomed to failure because the electorate regards them (rightly or wrongly - thats not the point) as mad fringe dwellers on the edge of sanity without even the benefit of a colourful leader with a nice head of curly hair).

    So, what's the only alternative? To try to make an alliance (if you'll forgive the use of such a word on a civilised blog) with ACT and pool resources and fight together as the only representatives of the 'right'. That makes sense, doesn't it?

    HOWEVER, if ACT should spurn the Libz, then the Libz should take on Rodney on his own turf. Rodney is finished anyway and ACT will be on the scrapheap after November without an injection of new blood, ideas and personnel.

    If the worst were to happen and the Libz had to take on Rodney, then the resulting publicity (with all those wanky 'commentators' onanising over themselves in an effort to 'read' the result in advance) would be well woth the effort.

    The Libz wouldn't win, of course. National would win - which given the mood of the electorate as a whole isn't surprising - but the excercise would set the Libz up big time for the next one and establish them in the eyes of the electorate as a viable force for next time. At least people would get a chance to hear the message, which is more than is happening now.

  4. I thought it was interesting that ACT took out adverts encouraging people to sign one of the anti-anti-smacking petitions.

    Seeking a protest vote seems far removed from the 'principles not politics' days.

  5. ACT out of parliment equals Libz in how exactly...? The fact is ACT alive and kicking is better than ACT (and Libz) out of parliment anyday.

    Its MMP sucks balls but having a far more Libertarian minded ACT party IN the house is a hell of a lot better than no Libs in at all.

    Until libertarianz even look like getting elected then they have no leg to stand on...much less bleat and whine about those who ARE there and can make a small Rodney can.

    Put up or shut up.

  6. James

    ...and Whetu Kara can make a small difference to the running of the local street kid gang; so by your reasoning he should be supported. Of course, Whetu won't stop the gang members from stealing, fighting, vandalising and raping. But he's such a good boy and he might make a small change (perhaps a little less fighting). Until the local property owners join the gang they should put up or shut up .... according to you.


  7. Get bin the real world Igm....Utopian fantasies are just taht.We need to make the best of what we have....ACT out of Parliment is a step back for liberty in NZ.

  8. James said...
    ACT out of Parliment is a step back for liberty in NZ.

    Agree 100%. The Libz should spend their time hitting the Greens, Labour, NZ First who have done great damage to this country rather than spending their time firing at ACT (& Rodney) which they are like-minded to the Libz (similar policies).

  9. James, it would be a step back for liberty if Act were out, but only when they actually step up and start defending it in an appropriately muscular way.

    Falafulu says the Libz should spend more time attacking the Greens, Labour and NZ First. Of course. So should Act! And yet Hide won't campaign on tax cuts, won't campaign on crime, won't campaign on Section 59 or the Electoral Finance Act, because he doesn't want to seem "negative". He won't attack any Labour minister because he thinks it would be unfair. He won't mention specific tax cuts, or even consider mentioning spending cuts or drug law reform, because he thinks it will scare off the Epsom voters. What will he campaign on? The RRB which he's already put through, school vouchers and outsourcing some medical services. Hardly big steps towards freedom especially as they will be watered down in any coalition agreement.

    New Zealand needs a party to advocate libertarian principles and policies. Act is not that party.

  10. James

    ACT has achieved nothing for freedom. N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

    It makes no difference whether ACT is in the trough or out of it. They have had years of excellent opportunity to do something and in all that time they achieved... nil.

    Now just because you have feelings for the party, that does not mean your worshipping is directed in a worthwhile direction. The object of your affections just does not deserve the support and supplication you are offerring. If it is the cause of freedom you seek to promote, look again at what your heros have said and what they have achieved in that direction. You will be most disappointed.


  11. Hear hear, lgm

  12. Hide is useless. He's had countless opportunities to attack this government, and what do we get?
    A delicate whimpering from the margins and tales of his missing kilos.
    A bloke could get that from his wife any time.


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