Politicians have a tendency to accuse others of their own worst faults.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson in the Budget quoted Albert Einstein: “No problem can be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it.”
That is exactly what is wrong with the coalition’s budget.
The Government is yet to see a problem that it believes cannot be solved by spending more money and setting up a working group.
It is exactly the same kind of thinking that created our problems.
Grant Robertson should also have remembered a quote attributed to Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Where’s the plan?
That the Government claims it has a plan does not make it true that it has a plan.
You can search in vain, not just in the Budget, but in the whole coalition programme to date, for a detailed proposal for achieving anything.
There is a fundamental confusion in the Government’s thinking. It comes from the Prime Minister. It is partly because she has never been in government.
All slogans, no policy
Jacinda Ardern believes that to achieve something, all the Government has to do is set a goal and pass a law.
To abolish child poverty, all the government has to do is set the goal of no child poverty and pass a law. To fight climate change, just set the goal of carbon neutrality and pass a law. To solve the housing crisis, just announce the goal of 100,000 affordable homes.
It is slogans instead of policy.
What was Labour doing in opposition?
It does raise the question of what was Labour doing in its nine years in opposition. We know they were busy changing leaders.
Policy does require rigorous analysis and it is difficult. Labour has not done any thinking at all.
Where the Budget is right
The Budget rightly identifies that there are serious issues in health, housing, education and welfare.
It then says there is nothing wrong that extra money cannot solve. That is very tired thinking.
Lessons from history
The last time Labour delivered a Budget with all extra spending and no new policy was when Labour replaced Roger Douglas and David Caygill produced the 1989 Budget.
The then-government announced that the extra spending would see improvements in social services. After a year, the government saw not one improvement. Services in some areas went backwards.
It is possible to predict with certainty that we will see no improvement in services as a result of Budget 2018.
Our problems are structural
The issues facing health, housing, education and welfare are structural.
Grant Robertson is right – these problems cannot be solved by the same thinking that created them.
Simon Bridges is right that no Minister of Finance has inherited a better set of books or a stronger economy. He is also right that the government is raising taxes and burdening the private sector with new regulations.
Where National’s criticisms would have more effect is if the party were to acknowledge there are long-term, structural issues in health, housing, education, welfare and justice.
We need new thinking in health. If only the problem was leaky buildings at Middlemore.
The rising cost of health spending will, on the present projection, bankrupt us.
ACT believes we must move to a system that incentives us to be healthy and take more personal responsibility.
Our housing crisis is actually a land crisis.
The average section in Auckland now costs half a million dollars.
It is a problem whose cause is known: the reluctance of councils to zone enough land for housing. The solution is also known: reform of the Resource Management Act so affordable housing is the priority.
Charter schools were an ACT policy and, in government, National was very reluctant to expand them.
Now they acknowledge charter schools were a remarkable success, especially for Maori and Pasifika who are failing in our state schools.
National’s defense of charter schools would be much more powerful if it acknowledged there are issues in the state education system.
Why should only Maori and Pasifika children benefit from the advantages of charter schools?
All schools should be allowed to become charter schools if they so choose.
In government, National recognised the need for new thinking in welfare, but never walked the talk.
National could not even acknowledge that a universal pension at aged 65 is unsustainable.
ACT says we must reform superannuation to make it fairer to younger generations.
We all know that building expensive new prisons cannot be the answer to crime.
If ever there was an area requiring new thinking, it is crime and punishment.
That’s why ACT believes we should incentivise prisoners to learn basic skills like reading by reducing the length of their sentences.
National should face up to reality
National will fail unless it acknowledges there are real problems and that we need new thinking to solve them.
National could be in opposition for a very long time if the party convinces us that ideas like the Provincial Growth Fund are really just their policies.
It should be careful about claiming credit for policies that are going to fail.
National has a choice. It can say to the country the only thing wrong with the coalition is it is led by Labour not National.
If so, why should voters want a change?
Or, National can say there are real problems that need structural solutions.
The party of ideas
New Zealand needs new thinking to tackle structural problems in health, housing, education, welfare and justice.
Here is where ACT can help. New thinking is what we are all about. ACT is the party of ideas.