David Shearer’s SOTU speech is here. There’s nothing new in terms of policy, but in value terms it promotes contemporary center-left values, a huge contrast from Shearer’s repeated bizarre attempts in 2012 to win over disaffected ACT voters.
His main critique of the National government is that it’s ‘hands off’. DPF rebutted this argument last week, pointing out the many ways in which National is a ‘hands-on’ government, and in an enormous coincidence the Prime Minister made exactly the same points a few hours later.
I agree with whoever wrote DPF’s post and John Key’s speech – it’s not credible to attack the government’s lack of involvement in the economy when they’re spending $400 million dollars on irrigation in Canterbury, $1.5 billion on broadband, how ever many dozens of billions the Roads of National Significance is costing, and so-on, and so-on. This is not a neo-liberal government.
And looking at ACT’s polling, it seems obvious that the political will for a neo-liberal economic model is dead; the debate is now about what kind of welfare state we want to move towards: a traditional model in the democratic socialist tradition, or a corporate welfare model in which benefits and services are directed away from individuals and into the business sector. I guess you could look at contemporary China or 1960s South Korea as exemplars.
I’m not opposed to this second approach – wouldn’t it be great if we were a country with loads of great, high-paying export focused jobs! But most of National’s corporate welfare measures look like white elephants: roads to nowhere that won’t return the cost of the investment, stadium and convention center boondoggles, etc. It seems to be driven by which sectors of the economy are more effective lobbyists rather than any coherent vision.