Andrew Dickens: In the battle of the lightweights, Labour is winning

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 May 2020, 3:33PM
Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Andrew Dickens: In the battle of the lightweights, Labour is winning

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 May 2020, 3:33PM

The devil they say is always in the details and it’s fair to say details have been missing in the fight for our survival in a Covid world.

Our return to some sort of activity under Level 2 was marred by indecision over details, along with confusion and flip flops.

One minute retailers had to keep contact tracing registers.  Then, after retailers came up with systems, then they didn’t. Some retailers are only just realising this now.

One minute school buses could only use every second seat.  Next moment the buses are packed like sardines.

These are minor quibbles but when it comes to the multi-billion dollar bonanza that was last week’s Budget things get a whole heap more serious.

Last night, I spoke to Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis about the $400 million that tourism is to get. The question we all have is “to do what?”. Kelvin talks about groups to help advise and facilitate businesses to reorientate towards domestic tourism.

That led to accusations that the money is for working groups. There’s something called a Tourism Asset Protection programme, but he wouldn’t or couldn’t name an asset he was going to protect.

It’s that lack of details that bugs everyone. Without details, it’s just flapping gums and astronomical sums. Remember last year’s Budget where  1.9 billion was allocated to mental health.  What happened to that?

Today I heard a great way to describe it. The economist Cameron Bagrie was addressing the Pandemic Response Committee on the economy. Bagrie said the Government was right to be spending so much money to help stimulate the economy but he criticised the Budget. Not just because of the implications of the debt on future taxpayers but because it lacked a lot of what he calls “Clear Deliverables”.

Clear Deliverables. This is what we’re going to do. This is what we’re going to deliver.

At the moment we know the wage subsidy will be extended costing $3 billion. Trade training gets $1.6 billion. There's $3 billion to build 8000 houses. The DHBs get $4 billion. Rail $1.2 billion and $3 billion for infrastructure.  But what will be the clear deliverables of each of those spends? 

The detail is missing. Who will build the 8000 houses?  When will they start?  Where is the land? What new train tracks will be laid? What roads will be built?

And this is not just a government problem.  Trying to get a clear deliverable out of the opposition is like herding chickens. We hear they’ll cut GST to some and offer tax cuts and then some amorphous words about jobs.

This has been Simon Bridges’ problem through the pandemic. He describes the problems but never offers solutions.  It’s highlighted when the soldiers from the past discuss the issues.  John Key and Stephen Joyce have outlined possible processes clearly.  The latest was Chris Finlayson, who outlined the problems with our hasty lawmaking during the pandemic and how it could have been improved and how it should be in the future.

The leaders of the last government make the new breed in opposition seem like lightweights whose best ability is to moan. Which may explain yesterday’s poll. In the battle of the lightweights, Labour is winning.