Mike's Minute: Weak Government contracting out hard decisions

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Friday, 8 March 2019, 7:58a.m.


Very interesting political developments to report: If you have missed it, we have a new Finance Minister. Sir Michael Cullen returns to the role he had under the Clark government, given the current minister, Grant Robertson, has decided to contract it out.

It is widely accepted by political watchers Labour was not prepared for government based on the fact they weren't expecting to actually win. Thus we got the 100+ working groups on everything from tax, to mental health, to what sort of sandwiches we should eat.

The tax group was specifically set up to find a saleable form of a capital gains tax, they couldn't do it. When they told labour they couldn't do it, they were told to go work harder. They get there in the end, presented the report, and that was supposed to be that.

Except it wasn't given Labour, who not only didn't have a proper tax policy, also had trouble with New Zealand First over getting it across the line.

So they played for time, pretended they hadn't made up their mind, which they had, because Ardern actively campaigned on a CGT being in place by now, but got convinced of the political madness of that by more sensible operators, so shoved it off to Cullen and his working group.

So while they're getting Winston across the line, which I am assuming they won't, given he's supposed to be a man of his word, and has very clearly stated he doesn't like CGTs because they don't work.

But while they're dining at the Green Parrot twisting that particular arm, there has been a vacuum which in itself is a hopelessly naive way to operate a debate on anything, far less something as serious and politically charged as tax.

A debate by the way the Prime Minister herself called for before she then vanished claiming no decision had been made, and she had nothing to say. Only to reappear briefly to whine about all the people in the Herald who were writing things she didn't agree with.

It's got so bad now that Sir Michael Cullen, who presumably had snapped his briefcase closed on this particular project, gets his contract extended to go out and lobby on behalf of his mates who can't, won't, or don't know what to do.

Here's what should have happened, tax is dynamite. Don't stall on it, fob it off or mess with it. Pick your argument, be omnipresent, arm yourself with facts, and go hard. Believe in what you're selling, stick to it, speak in a universal voice, and do it from day one. This lot have done none of that.

They took a hard sell and blew it. They took an emotive issue and ballsed it up completely. They took what ever chance they had to get it across the line and literally fell over themselves with ineptitude.

And what makes it worse is it comes off the back of KiwiBuild, another major policy plank that you thought was about as bad a cock-up as you could get.

Well hold my beer, you and I are now paying Cullen to do the job of people who clearly can't do it for themselves. What's next? They going to contract out the Prime Minister's job?

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