Monday, 4 November 2013

When did “Kiwi” become the pejorative for big government?

David Cunliffe was pleased to announce at his party’s conference two big policies he wants to take into election year. One was giving preference in Labour’s candidate selection to folk with particular genitals. The other was a policy pinched from Winston Peters.

This was a policy calling for the state, which has enough problems running itself, to run an insurance company. It will, he says, be “a local insurance company called KiwiAssure, which will work for all New Zealanders.”

Or so he says.

He says we wants folk to have the option of patronising a New Zealand insurance company. Which, when you think about it, is extremely patronising to New Zealand insurance company Tower Insurance.

He says we wants folk to see what a state insurer can do, he says.

Oh, David, but we have!

Someone should tell David, and those journalists questioning him about this so unquestioningly, that we have seen in the last few years what a state insurer can do. In Christchurch we’ve seen it in abundance, and many of the stories about what a state insurer can do to people are compiled at EQC Truths—a website “outlining the presence of corruption, systemic fraud, and failure of EQC to abide by its reinsurance treaties”—a website the state is still trying to close for fear folk might read about what a state insurer can do.

So if he wants to folk to see what a state insurer could do, he could just point them there. Or he could point to the sorry record built up by the state’s Accident Compensation Corporation, whose expertise—from many of the stories we hear--is not so much in working for all New Zealanders as in working against New Zealanders who are injured. You can read many of those stories here at the ACCforum, or the most recent high-profile case over at Madeleine Flannagan’s place.)

If he wants folk to see what a state insurer can do, he should also remember what a previous Labour government can do with a state insurer—a Labour government containing Annette King and Phil Goff—who sold off the state insure because it wasn’t providing anywhere like the service to New Zealanders that it should. Apart, that is, from those few New Zealanders employed by that former bureaucracy.

So why Mr Cunliffe thinks being a state insurer will somehow “raise the bar” is fatuous, not to say ludicrous. As if setting up a government department and slapping a “Kiwi” in front of it is enough to make it “work for all New Zealanders.”

He says however that this government department “will build upon” the success of the “wildly popular” (his words) Kiwibank, a bank which he himself admits can attract only 5% of all NZers who have bank accounts—predominantly those who use it to churn their welfare cheque into cash.  A bank which is itself little more a welfare case—set up with taxpayers’ money to do things profit-seeing banks wouldn’t and unable to survive in the market without frequent injections of ever-increasing tranches of OPM to prop up its credit rating—at the extraction of which from successive Ministers of Finance it has proved outstanding. A bank that has delivered its involuntary shareholders, us, the worst return on capital of any bank in the country.

Rest unassured that any of these facts will make a blind bit of difference to a politician desperate for a fix of bigger government.

UPDATE:  Apparently blind to his own party’s proclivities for top-down management (cough, Christchurch, cough) Steven Joyce is surprisingly coherent in opposing the CunliffeCorporation:

According to Labour, the Government should take political control of electricity, house building and now insurance. They want to remove the independence of the Reserve Bank, and they want to go back to a rigid national pay system, where everyone gets the same no matter who they work for or how hard they work; and they want to increase taxes on productive businesses that grow jobs… New Zealanders are entitled to ask which planet are these people on?


Labour’s leadership are keeping their heads in the sand and suggesting what the country needs is a radical step back to the past with less opportunity, fewer jobs for New Zealanders, and more state control.
They haven’t learnt. It was a Labour Government that drove New Zealand into a recession before the GFC … And yet Labour’s leaders want to drag New Zealand not just back to 2008 but all the way to the 1970s.

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