In David Cunliffe’s words, it means shifting from “politics for” to “politics with”. The problem with “politics for”, 38-year-old first-term MP Grant Robertson says, is that “for most people, politics is something that is done to them. So they disengage.”
James also sketches a new ‘economic revisionism’, “influenced by post-crash international commentary by the likes of Robert Reich, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Robert Skidelsky, Dani Rodrik and Tony Judt plus Olivier Blanchard of the International Monetary Fund and Martin Wolf of the Financial Times”:
The emerging policy frame is said to be “internationalist and outward-looking”, concerned with economic sovereignty but not protectionist. It will aim for an economy which is “clean, green and clever”, not just an appendage of Australia, with an emphasis on saving (“a crucial issue” canvassed by Cunliffe in a recent speech) and innovation, where Labour stalled in the 2000s. The state will be “highly active but not necessarily bigger”. Goff and David Cunliffe have been musing on changes in tax and monetary policy.
Then, in his Otago Daily Times column Children-centred policy, James looks at developments in the party’s social policy:
Labour has also changed tack on how to address the fundamentals of opportunity. Deputy leader and social policy spokesperson Annette King consulted a “commission” of outsiders, some not people normally in the Labour, or any, party camp.
The result, to be presented to Labour’s conference next month, is a focus on children. The aim is to move from developing policy by way of separate adjustments to the various branches of social policy to devising policies to ensure a good start to life and a real prospect of getting well educated and thus a full place in the workforce.
The idea is that from that children-centred base policies will be reshaped for the education, health, housing, justice and welfare portfolios.
. . . King will not just speechify at the conference plenary. There will be a workshop — open to the media, unlike workshops at National’s fear-driven secretive conference — on the commission’s recommendations and the children-centred approach
On the other hand, in his monthly Management column, The brand-leaders of modern politics, James argues that “brand Key has it over brand Goff”.
Brian Easton’s most-recently-available Listener column is Unhealthy Start. I’m standing for election to the Capital & Coast District Health Board and one of the issues I’m most concerned about is health inequalities, so I was struck by his opening paragraph:
We used to think New Zealand was the best place in the world to bring up children. Alas, this is no longer true, as the statistics in the box below show. They come from a report by the Public Health Advisory Committee, “The Best Start in Life: Achieving Effective Action on Child Health and Wellbeing”. The committee says the main reason we do so badly is that we have no properly resourced public agency committed to improving health and well-being outcomes for children.
Out of 30 OECD countries, New Zealand is ranked:
- 21st for infant mortality (5.1/1,000 live births)
- 29th for measles immunisation rates (82% vaccinated by age two)
- 20th for the percentage of children living in poor households (15% of all children)
- 17th for children in overcrowded houses (31% of all children).
New Zealand fares poorly in other international comparisons. It
- is fourth to bottom of all OECD countries for injury deaths among one-to-four-year-olds
- has 14 times the average OECD rate of rheumatic fever
- has rates of whooping cough and pneumonia 5–10 times greater than the United Kingdom and United States
- has a four to six times higher rate of child maltreatment death than OECD countries with the lowest incidence.
Easton has also posted a speech to the New Zealand Home Health National Conference, but it was actually primarily about the global financial crisis and its fiscal ramifications. This is a topic I covered in my column last week, and Easton’s take on the economic outlook is similar. He starts by critiquing the mainstream analysis:
There is a general misunderstanding about the Global Financial Crisis. When the public became aware of it in late 2008, many thought that the Great Depression of the 1930s was repeating itself . . . The relief that a second Great Depression had been avoided swung opinion to the other extreme, so many thought there would be only a short cyclical downturn . . . within a couple of years there would be a strong economic recovery and the economy would be soon on its pre-crisis track.
Easton then raises “the gloomy prospect that we are going to have a long recession, a period of some years when the economy will broadly stagnate”, and considers what this means for public spending: “over a period we are going to have to restrain the expenditure path below what we thought it would be tracking in 2008.” As I did, he warns that this is something progressives also need to take seriously:
Note that even were there a government at the other side of the ideological spectrum, it too would have to severely restrain public spending. Of course it is in the interests of all political advocates to fudge the need for cutting public and private spending, but unless we do that we don’t get back on a growth track and prolong the recession.
Rod Oram’s Star-Times column is entitled The Harsh Truth on Hubbard and makes the case that, despite his virtues as individual, the fault for the collapse of South Canterbury Finance lies primarily with its founder.
In his business commentator slot on Nine to Noon, Oram weighs the various economic impacts of the Canterbury earthquake and argues for the Christchurch City Council to make bold urban design choices during the rebuilding.
Have you got a view on Labour’s policy renewal, children’s health, economic prospects, or the implications of SCF or the earthquake? Leave a comment below.