Once again the media is in a frenzy with claims that Trump will be soon be indicted (link) but given how often Teflon Don has been able avoid being prosecuted in the past so I have rather hesitant to pop the champagne cork given past experiences. Assuming it all goes ahead and Trump is charged resulting in him leaving the GOP presidential primaries, will that result in the current candidates toning down their rhetoric in the culture war knowing that Trump and Trumpism are not a factors to worry about or will one of the candidates step into Trump’s position to be the ‘Trump candidate’. Personally, I think the sane Republicans in blue states in positions of governance who are looking on – they should wait it out, allow Trumpism to crash and burn in the election then bring the party to it’s knees so then it gives the ‘adults in the party’ the leverage to go “ok, we tried your childish thing, now it is time for the adults to take back the party” then purge the party of the freedom caucus and take greater control over who runs in which district rather than the current free for all.
Back in New Zealand it will be interesting to see what the election will result – I’ll vote my usual combination of Labour for my local MP and Greens for my party vote (they’re as far left as one can get in terms of being a viable party with representation already in parliament). Let me start off by saying that Labour has been a huge disappointment – rather than focusing on maybe 5 key areas they tried the scattergun approach with the end result being that very little was actually achieved as a result. The other problem is the lack of a big vision of where Labour want to take the country “here is our vision, and here are the 5 policies that are going to get us there” vs what appears to be meandering along, a bit here and a bit here but not overarching coherent strategy to address the myriad of issues that need addressing. What I would like to see is the following:
- Full electrification of the New Zealand rail network, standardisation on 25kV and expansion of the rail network:
a) Expand the Melling line down to the Kennedy Good Bridge
b) Bore a tunnel for both a rail connection as well as a road connection to Wainuiomata which will open up opportunities for further development as well as improving connectivity between Wainuiomata and the Hutt Valley/Wellington.
c) Tunnel bore a connection in Auckland from the CBD to the airport and connection to north shore. If there is money and time then replace the Auckland harbour bridge with a tunnel instead.
d) Rebuild the long distance passenger service by upgrade the rail track ballast along with investment into depot to depot small goods movement, mixed passenger/small goods for low traffic lines etc.
e) Invest into intercity rail in the south island particularly from the north of Christchurch to the heart of Christchurch where a good portion of the development is occurring as well as investment into light rail particularly out the airport with a focus on grade separation along with ‘cut and cover’ where required.
- Investment into renewables – focus on making greater use of geothermal particular through using closed loop systems where heat is transferred via a liquid being pumped through a closed loop with a low boiling point to heat water to run a turbine.
- Rebuild the ministry of works so that the government has the means by which large scale nation building projects can be executed without constant stopping and starting resulting in the building up of knowledge being lost as teams that completed one project are only on temporary short term contracts rather than long term stable employment where the knowledge can be built and passed down as new employees join and older employees leave or may continue on in a more casual/contractual basis.
- Turn Kāinga Ora into the primary provider of rental accomodation by engaging in a massive house building project – that includes replacing existing houses on large sections and subdividing them with efficient dense housing so that more houses can be provided using the existing land holdings that Kāinga Ora already own. The way to decomodify housing is to make it unenticing for it to be an investment – set Kāinga Ora rental prices based on 25% of a single persons income if they’re a couple or 12.5% if they’re a single person living by themselves (maxing out at $500 for a couple, $250 for a single person). Provide enough housing at that price it would drive landlords resulting in house prices going down not to mention the ability to stay long term in public housing results in buyers being able to be more picky. Long story short the masses would rent from Kāinga Ora, the private sector would build houses to own and what little private sector rentals remain would be to cater for niches that Kāinga Ora would cater for aka rich people wanting to lease a luxury home because they don’t want to have their money tied up in a house they’re living in temporarily.
- Reform the welfare system so that it encourages rather than punishes people who take the initiative and take a chance with a part time or casual job.
a) Completely removal of the stand down period and streamline the process for those who work in seasonal jobs and may find themselves off work for short periods (I worked for a catering company that followed the university calendar resulting in breaks between terms and found I wasn’t eligible for any assistance from social welfare- the problem the business had is that they couldn’t retain staff for that very reason).
b) Increase the level at which abatement kicks in – on a solo parents benefit you can earn up to $160 a week before tax before abatement kicks in (link) which works out to be 7 hours per week. Let’s be realistic, how many employers are going to employ someone for 7 hours a week? at minimum the abatement level needs to be doubled which would give someone a realistic chance of getting a casual/part time job when receiving the benefit.
c) When means testing ask more questions than just “what is your pre-tax income” because in all due respects asking someone what their pre-tax income is tells you nothing about what the financial situation – the purpose of means testing is to find out how much they’re living off once tax, student loans, maybe fines payment plan etc. are taken off the income. It is also important to ask them what their outgoings are or otherwise you’ll end up in a situation of a person owning a business, running all their costs through the business then paying themselves a small stipend so it makes them eligible not just for assistance but their kids can qualify for student allowance etc. If you asked people what their core essential outgoings are such as rent, electricity, gas, petrol for the car or cost of public transport, groceries etc. then you’d seperate those who genuinely need help vs those who game the system through accounting trickery.
I’m not hopeful that something like the above would happen but if it were to happen then it would immensely improve New Zealand by focusing on some core areas then once addressed then building on it. There was a once in a lifetime opportunity in 2016 to lay out such a bold version for New Zealand but unfortunately that opportunity has been squandered.