Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The ghosts of National's past

So, just nine months into National's term, and suddenly all the ghosts of its past, which it had tried to sweep under the carpet, are crawling out of the woodwork.

First, we have Treasury, returning to its 80's and 90's mentality with a call for public sector cuts and privatisation. Naturally, this call doesn't extend to itself - they increased their core departmental budget by 10% this year [PDF] so they could give better advice on how to further gut the public service.

Second, we have the Business Roundtable, crawling out from under its rock to call for the unemployment benefit to be replaced by loans (so the unemployed can be forced to borrow to eat and turned into debt-slaves for the rich), for privatisation of welfare services (complete with financial incentives for providers to reduce numbers i.e. deny legal entitlements), and for the DPB to be abolished to "discourage pregnancy". It's like a blast from a particularly noxious group of nineteenth century social darwinists. Which is essentially what the BRT's brand of free market fundamentalism amounts to.

And finally, we have failed opposition leader Don Brash being appointed to head the government's new 2025 Taskforce on productivity. As Reserve Bank Governor during the 90's, Brash was infamous for stepping down hard on "wage inflation" - workers getting a fair day's pay for a fair day's work - and for hiking interest rates to keep unemployment high and wages low. His recipe to improve productivity is likely to be more of the same: lower wages, worse conditions, longer hours.

National was elected in 2008 on a centrist platform. It promised that it would not restart the Revolution and take us back to the 90's, but would continue Labour's policies with a fresher face. It must keep that promise. Otherwise, they are likely to be de-elected with extreme prejudice.