Former National Party leader Don Brash has finally broken his silence over the lacklustre performance of his successor.
Delivering his speech at Orewa, the place at which he famously delivered the speeches that turned around the fortunes of the National Party after Bill English's dismal leadership, Brash described himself as "deeply worried" by the direction, or lack thereof, being taken by this National-led Government—especially over its economic management, and its pandering to a racist political party.
The National Party’s “constitution emphasises some fundamental values” that this National-led Government has lose sight of – “respect for individual freedom and choice, personal responsibility, equal citizenship and equal opportunity, and limited government.” In losing sight of them, he is worried it is simply occupying office rather than reversing the country’s decline.
Some of my worries are quite specific.
I worry that, despite knowing that the Labour Government’s abolition of the youth minimum wage has very substantially increased youth unemployment – by 12,000 according to Canterbury University economics professor Eric Crampton – we have taken no action..
I worry that, despite knowing that New Zealanders face house prices which are higher, relative to our incomes, than in most other countries, and despite our being one of the least densely populated countries in the world, we have allowed that situation to continue because we’ve not been willing to put a stop to zoning laws which drive up the cost of urban land to ridiculous levels…
I worry that, despite telling New Zealanders before the election that we should be fast followers and not leaders in the race to reduce carbon emissions, we have introduced an all-sectors Emissions Trading Scheme in a situation where none of our three largest trading partners – Australia, China, and the United States – has yet done so, nor in two of those cases seems likely to do so.
I worry that, despite being a party which believes in allowing people the maximum freedom to make choices for themselves, we have to date done nothing to allow more freedom for parents to choose the school their children attend.
Rather than freedom for parents, Anne Tolley’s only thrust as minister is to increase the control of the ministry over schools.
They are the economy, and race relations.
On the economy, he says “New Zealand’s relative economic decline over the last half century is one of the steepest on record anywhere. Reversing that decline won’t be easy.” Particularly if, as he says, there is no sign the Key Government even wants to.
There are six broad policy areas where major change is needed if we’re to get faster and more sustainable growth.
First, it is absolutely imperative that Government gets its fiscal deficit under control quickly… But it’s important to state that this process has barely begun…
… which is to state things mildly indeed.
Second, we urgently need to get the tax on business income down…
Third, … “privatisation” has become a dirty word in New Zealand, thanks to Helen Clark’s propaganda … But the New Zealand paranoia about privatisation is entirely unhelpful if we’re to increase our growth rate…
There is no serious argument against privatisation, and as the Labour Party quietly announced last week while the media were looking elsewhere, even their paranoia against it is being reconsidered. But Brash maintains it’s up to the National Party to roll pack the paranoia, and to
- The biggest owner of dairy farms in New Zealand;
- The biggest fund managers in New Zealand;
- The 50% owner of a large chain of petrol stations;
- By far the biggest owner of rental properties;
- The dominant generator of electricity;
- The dominant owner of our trains and planes;
- The owner of our most aggressively growing bank.
And reason why it should be? Because listed like that, you realise just how pervasive are government-run “businesses” in what is reverting to the Polish shipyard we gave up twenty-five years ago.
notes Brash, with more to come when taxpayers are forced to fund government broadband—and the decisions on the use of those assets are no better now than they were when Muldoon was squandering enormous sums on “Think Big,” and Michael Cullen was spending money we couldn’t afford to buy a railway that barely exists.
Fifth, we need to reduce the huge burden of regulation which still encumbers the business sector – and indeed, encumbers us all as individuals. Why should it take months and months to get a simple building consent to build a modest home in a residential area? Why should it take two years to gain approval to set up a 30-child childcare centre? … The Resource Management Act and the way in which local councils interpret it have a lot to answer for.
People need to be much freer to use their own property as they see fit. Yes, there are public interest issues – pollution, effects on neighbours, and so on – but they don’t include some council’s judgement about “sustainability”, or fit with a bureaucratically imposed “spatial plan.”
But instead of freeing up New Zealanders from the control imposed by the Resource Management Act, all the Key Government has done is to free up the government from its constraints, and to give those bureaucrats more power in Auckland.
Xenophobia must be expunged from decision-making, just as racism must be expunged from politics. This was Brash’s second substantial point.
Now, however, it has reversed that—supporting special treatment for one race in law, and supporting a racist political party in Parliament.
Brash makes good points on every one of these issues, but it’s at this stage that he now missteps, giving tacit support to the ACT Party’s bizarre campaign to effect the permanent nationalisation of foreshore and seabed.
Unfortunately, this shows he’s learned nothing in the five years since he campaigned himself to nationalise foreshore and seabed. And unfortunately, this is what will be most reported about his speech, and in that reporting will undercut every good thing he did have to say. Because he is right to conclude that
our great country is perhaps more at risk today than at any time since the Second World War. I believe it’s safe to say that our relative decline – both in terms of our economy and in terms of racial harmony – will never be reversed if our political leaders allow themselves to be driven entirely by political polls…
Winston Churchill once recalled the time he heard a speaker say that leaders ought to “keep their ears to the ground”. Churchill’s response was typical and as relevant in New Zealand today as it was in the United Kingdom 60 years ago. “All I can say,” he responded, “is that the British nation will find it hard to look up to leaders who are detected in that somewhat ungainly posture.”