With one cull complete, many of issues the policies were designed to address remain, and the government will need to start moving away from the retrospective and towards the proactive, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.
The mother of all whiteboard sessions
If you’ve ever sat in on a workplace strategy session, you might be familiar with the “stop, start, continue” exercise, sometimes used to get hopeful employees to volunteer ideas for work that can be stopped in order for new work to get done. It’s very difficult for me not to picture the prime minister and cabinet in the days before yesterday’s announcement doing this exact exercise. Here’s the imagined whiteboard:
- TVNZ/RNZ merger – stop
- Biofuels mandate – stop
- Income insurance scheme – soft stop (possible pick up post the election)
- Hate speech law – weak continue and bounced to the Law Commission
- The largest aggregate increase to the minimum wage – start
- The 2023 Labour party election mantra of “focusing on bread and butter” – huge start
Stewart Sowman-Lund has more details on what was announced yesterday.
The cost of explaining
You could also put “early polling momentum” under continue, and place “winning the 2023 election” under start. Getting right to the political point, Toby Manhire posits that while the cost-of-living was the key catchcry yesterday, “the cost that stung Jacinda Ardern into announcing a cull (sorry, refocus) of the government programme, and Chris Hipkins to eagerly take up the clippers, was something different: the cost of getting bogged down in arguments you’ve proved really ropey at making.”
Hate speech law withdrawal a “backward move”
That comment rings especially true for the bouncing of the changes to hate speech laws to the Law Commission. The hate speech law changes have no real cost-of-living implications and it’s fair to ask how much further work is required when the Human Rights Commission, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the country’s worst terrorist attack in Christchurch and the Ministry of Justice have all contributed reviews and recommendations on it to date. It acquired the label “controversial” which now feels like short-hand for badly explained or handled given it’s also applied to Three Waters and the merger. It’s no easy or small subject with its ideological sprawl, but many will be feeling betrayed by this move. The Islamic Women’s Council Of New Zealand called the withdrawal “a backward movement.”
“Dazzling challenges” remain
The least surprising of all the announcements made yesterday was the call to end the TVNZ/RNZ merger. Instead, between $5-12m in additional funding will be allocated to Radio New Zealand, with additional funding provided to New Zealand on Air. Stuff’s Luke Malpass quite fairly notes that matters concerning the media receive outsize coverage for obvious reasons and asks how many votes the move will really change. Toby Manhire has spoken to sources at the media entities involved to gauge their reaction to the news. For those impacted, “the dazzling challenges the public-owned media companies face; many of the same challenges which prompted the exercise in the first place”, remain.
Shift from retrospective review to what will be done needed
The thing about the “The Start, Stop, Continue” exercise in a workplace setting, is that it is most frequently used as a retrospective exercise – a reflection of what went well and what didn’t. As the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan writes (paywalled), “At some point, the government must shift the conversation from what it will not do to what it will do.” Take the one “bread and butter” announcement yesterday, the minimum wage lift. As Coughlan and BusinessDesk’s Dileepa Fonseka (paywalled) note, that wage lift pushes people very close to being in a higher tax bracket. They might be earning more, but they could also be paying more tax. Tax bracket creep will need to be addressed. It’s one example of an issue the government will need to tackle to shift beyond the retrospective and snuff out the lingering “what now?” questions that remain.