Thursday, May 20, 2021

Labour actually does something

So, against expectations, the Labour government has actually done something, reversing the 1991 benefit cuts with a significant increase to benefits to levels at least (and usually higher) than those recommended by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (and yes, I checked). Its good, it corrects a historic wrong, and it will help - at least until landlords raise rents to steal it all for themselves. Which highlights the need for more work, especially around housing and renter's rights.

But before we get too carried away, they're also planning to shift unemployment benefits to an ACC-style "social insurance scheme" with a limited duration. I'm really not sure this is a good idea. While (short-term) rates will increase, there's the obvious question of what happens when the support period runs out and how it copes with long-term unemployment. It will also make the scheme subject to the same pressures as ACC around interest rates, and allow the right to perpetually scaremonger about how it is "going bankrupt" and use that as an excuse to cut rates or worse, privatise it (something they tried to do to ACC in the late 1990's). Direct government control and a pay as you go system means there is direct government responsibility, matching our social expectation that no-one in this country should go hungry or homeless. An insurance model seems to undermine that.

And then there's climate change, which Grant Robertson explicitly says is next year's problem. He blamed this on the timelines set by the Zero Carbon Act, but this is bullshit. Nothing stops the government from acting in advance of the Commission's recommendations, and starting work on cutting emissions now. Except of course their own propensity for foot-dragging and delay. This is not a problem we can afford to piss around on; instead we have to throw everything at it now, otherwise we won't have a future worth living in.

Update: So, there's $300 million for as-yet-undefined EV incentives. That's a start, but we're going to need a lot more than that to decarbonise within a decade like we need to.