Former Prime Minister John Key has attacked the Labour-led Government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying that it is poorly prepared for a worsening economic climate.
Mr Key was speaking at the National Party Convention when he made the comments about the Labour-led coalition Government. On Saturday night he had hosted former Australian Prime Minister John Howard on stage at a private dinner where Mr Howard had talked about the Australian and New Zealand economies and lamented that New Zealand was letting its economy, which he said was one of the strongest in the world, go to waste under Labour.
This is rather rich coming from a former investment banker who, despite having serious challenges to deal with in his tenure, was left a $10 billion surplus by the out going Helen Clark Government. During the time Mr Key and his successor Bill English were in office, the poverty gap continued to widen, incomes in many professions were stagnant and the funding to key social services that would have helped less fortunate people was relentlessly attacked. Nor was a big effort made to improve the research and development sector, either in terms of funding, or the programme of research priorities.
But it is not dreadfully surprising. National and Labour have long been flip sides of the same coin and it is true that Ms Clark did not help the situation by signing a Free Trade Agreement with China. Ms Clark’s Government came to power in part on the promise of a – to quote her Treasurer Dr Michael Cullen – a “knowledge economy”, which I as first time voter naively assumed meant that sciences would have a major boost and we would be a research and technology development hub.
But now a new Government is in office. It obviously has a different set of priorities, and this Government is definitely refreshing in terms of its approach to social policies that will make it possible for more lower income people to contribute to the economy. The increase of the minimum wage to $16.50/hr, the top up programme that has seen the Government provide a heating allowance, will be most welcome.
Just yesterday, I alluded to an alternative economy that could be developed. I saw none of this being attempted by Mr Key as Prime Minister of Mr Bridges as Minister of Energy and Resources and later Minister of Transport.
It will be interesting to see if Labour now seizes the chance to do something bold and brave instead of a narrow tunnel vision of minor economic adjustments here and there. Or will they sign more questionable trade agreements that do not necessarily put New Zealand first?