Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Hope for a generation

Backing track for this post

As the man said, elections have consequences. We all vote in hope for a generation of people that can run the country well while also advancing policies we like. Now that a reforming government is getting to work, here are a few of my hopes.

Stop Persecuting the Poor
Walking among us are many who begrudge welfare payments except to the old, who get the lions share. They wish WINZ was even more aggressive towards the bludgers, which is why Metiria's message was so unacceptable. My hope is that government spending on fraud detection/deterrance gets aligned with expected payoff. If we only cared about the money, so that shitting on the unfortunate and calling it something noble wasn't desired for its own sake, we'd spend less public money persecuting the poor and more chasing tax dodgers.

Evaluate Education Experiments
A new school curriculum(pdf) for New Zealand was finalised in 2007 following a long period of consultation and deliberation. Without actually ditching that curriculum, the National-led government elected in 2008 subverted it by diverting attention to national standards and charter schools. The best you could say is that these were experiments, but why don't we know how they turned out? It seems that an evaluation of charter schools was contracted some time ago but strangely enough the report was timed for release after the election.

Labour's education manifesto says "Taxpayer funding for education should be directed towards learning and teaching, not creating profit-making opportunities for private businesses". That's the correct priority: learning and teaching are paramount and only fools would want to turn the whole thing over to private business. Labour also advocates "Repealing the legislation allowing for Charter Schools", which sounds like bad news for Catherine Isaacs at least. 

My hope is that education in NZ continues to innovate, but with less dogma in what is tried and more evaluation.

Take Environmental Issues Seriously
Climate change poses a global collective action problem. There are only selfish reasons to not join the fight and having worked pretty hard for the privilege of kaitiakitanga over some nice farmland, I'm not looking for a hand-out from the taxpayer now. When my mokopuna ask me about climate change, I'd rather not be making excuses.

As you know, the NZ taxpayer is picking up the tab for agricultural emissions (other than fossil fuel use) so we are being subsidised. Even though my costs will increase, I welcome the new government's plan to include agriculture in the ETS. I hope & trust that soil carbon sequestration will be part of the plan, to create an incentive for others to join the regenerative agriculture movement.

Also, it's embarrassing and wrong that we still turn a blind eye to the pesticide problem. Bee-killing neonics are advertised as standard seed treatments, glyphosate is sprayed everywhere and the EPA just doesn't give a fuck. I hope this generation will bring some order to the EPA.

Promote Competition
Last but not least, I hope we might finally get some action on s36 of the Commerce Act. This is the only part of NZ's competition law that constrains firms with substantial market power from abusing that power.

Due to a long history of liberal merger controls we have lots of firms with substantial market power. Fine, we did that for reasons and are not about to undo it by forcibly breaking them up. Much less fine: s36 doesn't work, so these powerful firms have no real constraint on the use of their market power.

It's not just me who says it doesn't work. The chair of the Commerce Commission is on record as clearly indicating the same thing five years ago. Since then, the competition regulator has effectively been on strike because it considers the law unworkable. The public announcement of this position five years ago effectively gave carte blance to the top-end-of-town. No-one is keeping track of the consequences but the costs of having no law and everyone knowing must be enormous.

If this wasn't so arcane & geeky it'd be a front-page scandal. I hope we get it fixed, pronto.

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