John Key: big government conservatism?

Yesterday Nick Smith was thinking of taxing plastic bags. Today John Key threatened legislative intervention in an employment dispute. Now the government’s planning to spend $1.5b on telecommunications infrastructure. Now I’m not necessarily opposed to what they’re doing, but they do seem awfully interventionist for a right wing government.

How do people that voted for limited government and a retreat from the recent years of big government feel about all this? Is John Key living up to his promise to pull back from the days of the government ‘meddling’ in people’s lives?

  • Key quickly shut down Nick Smith’s idea on the plastic bag tax, as linked by Brad Taylor in the comments http://www.tvhe.co.nz/2009/03/30/nick-smith-is-the-bag-man/#comments

    I never voted for Key directly, although obviously I preferred him to the alternative (which is what democracy really is – picking the lesser of the available evils).

    I would say the National Government has a mixed record so far. There have been some poor ideas, like the jobs summit and resulting cycleway and this sort of Muldoonist ‘think big’ spending. However, I’d say the positives so far outweighs the negative: 90 day probation period, repeal of EFA, more ‘inclusive’ government (e.g. w.r.t Maori), repeal of thermal generation ban, cutting bureaucracy in state sector (especially ‘hug a polar bear’ schemes), tax cuts, open to private prisons. And in general there has been a personal responsibility theme (pies at schools, plastic bags). All in all, I’d give them a decent pass mark. 🙂

  • StephenR

    …they do seem awfully interventionist for a right wing government.

    First you should probably consider what you mean by “right wing”. We knew before the election that they were really just barely centre right, what with all the uptake of Labour policies and promises not sell state assets, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise.

  • @StephenR
    Yeah, I couldn’t think of a term that fit precisely so I went with a generic label and hoped that people would know what I meant 😛

    Perhaps I am just a bit naive in being surprised at their big spending, interventionist ways. As goonix says, there have been things they’ve done which are more right than centre. But headliners like the jobs summit and its resulting projects just seem more Labour-ish than National to me.

  • I’m with StephenR: National ran on a very centrist platform, and investment in telecomms was explicitly part of the campaign. I don’t think many National voters had any illusions of the party being committed to limited government.

  • StephenR

    My guess is that Key is playing a bit of a ‘long game’ – if he can convince voters he’s done a good job or even a very good job around the time of the next election, he may use that political capital to step up the ‘right wing’ policies at (perhaps, it doesn’t really matter) the instigation of the more idealistic members of cabinet. Will be very interesting to see.

  • I agree StephenR. I hope so anyway.

  • @StephenR
    I don’t see any evidence to suggest that is the case. Are there any particularly idealistic members of cabinet? Politicians generally need to follow public opinion to stay in office. Public opinion at the moment seems to be getting more interventionist, so I would predict National will drift even further to the left fiscally, at least in the short term.

  • StephenR

    @Brad Taylor

    Evidence-schmevidence! 😀 No evidence, perhaps apart from the fact that the commitment not to sell state assets ends at the next election. The longer anyone spends in office, the more things they want to do, and it just naturally follows (IMHO) that this will lead us to the right. Pollies do need to follow public opinion, but also if public opinion of you is high, you may be able to risk an initiative or two, probably in the 2011 election manifesto, which is more the short-medium term…

    edit: as for idealistic cabinet members, one hears about that sort of thing from far more connected pollie-watchers than myself, but they’re mentioned often enough (if only ‘the right wing’ of the National party) for me to assume they exist! McCully and Smith apparently are, and you could probably add anyone else who is still around from the 90s lot…

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