There's another interesting column from Bill Ralston in this morning's Herald on Sunday where he comments on recent policy initiatives - here 'tis: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10492860&pnum=0
First Ralston deals with Labour's attempts to "muscle up" on the tagging issue. He says:
"The issue of tagging hit the headlines and Helen Clark immediately announced the Government would ban the sale of spray paint to under 18-year-olds and impose harsher penalties for graffiti.
In case it has escaped anyone's attention, under 18-year-olds are banned from buying liquor and cigarettes but they seem to be able to access these forbidden fruits with ease, and there is no reason to expect they will have any more difficulty laying hands on spray cans once the ban comes into force.
Harsher penalties are unlikely to have much effect, either. There are some heavy penalties for using drugs but some people keep happily getting stoned anyway."
Ralston notes that it's a perception issue - suddenly, after the death of a tagger in South Auckland, people are talking about it - so the government has to be seen to be acting. But he then notes that tagging is not a new phenomenon - it's been an issue for a couple of decades - but, of course, it's election year, and the government "must look like it is in charge" - aaaahh, that's it eh. Personally, I don't believe the ban will achieve anything - not until young people's attitudes I blogged about a couple of weeks ago here - http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2008/02/turia-on-tagging.html - are realigned.
So on to Housing - Ralston notes:
"Many thousands of low- and middle-income earners have been struggling with finding affordable housing for more than 10 years. Last week, the Government announced an affordable housing strategy and a shared equity scheme.
Well, actually it's been announcing an affordable housing strategy and shared equity scheme since 2004. This week it simply recycled the proposals and added a couple of extra ideas for investigation.
National's Phil Heatley was quick to point out that the Government's proposed affordable homes were not so easily afforded by the needy.
The average household income in New Zealand is $68,000 a year but the average couple would need to earn $70,000 to service a mortgage on the "affordable" home. If there is only one breadwinner in the household and he or she earns the necessary $70,000 then, of course, the Government declares that person to be rich and taxes the last desperately needed $10,000 of their earnings at the top tax rate of 39 cents in the dollar."
As I blogged the other day, Labour has dug a hole for itself with the confusion that a single-income household can be considered "rich" at $60k by IRD but "poor" up to $70k by Housing New Zealand. As well as muddying the waters, this suggests more "policy on the hoof" from the government, and hastily-conceived policy is bad policy - witness the Electoral Finance Act!!
So Labour still has a dilemma, well summarised by Ralston, to whom I'll leave the last word:
"The Opposition has the advantage in an election year of being able to announce new strategies and programmes. Governments which try to stand on their past record generally fall. They have to come up with something fresh to survive.
What Helen Clark is attempting to do is gazump John Key by demonstrating her Government still has plenty of ideas and policies, and that it has not become stale and moribund after three terms in office. That is a good concept, so long as those new ideas and policies are more than just words."