National continues this week to burn its political capital at a fast rate. I’m left thinking that when the government is in recess the mice will play, badly. The disconnected approach to policy releases this week along with the absent Prime Minister speaks volumes. Perhaps the spin doctors and communication experts are on holiday? A storm guaranteed to take the shine off National’s popularity is brewing. ACC, increased use of consultants, Housing taking a double political hit, National vetoing the rights of mothers across the country, and the signal that the government intends to cut costs in our most important service sectors, health, and education.
I commented earlier in the week on the ACC PR disaster that was still coming to a head. Watch this space. The issue is not the release of a spreadsheet of claim numbers, the issue is still buried deeply in the National Party collective hive. This isn’t over yet and the release of the spreadsheet is a red herring for all intents and purposes.
The Labour Party has dragged out the consultancy figures into public light this week noting that the consulting bill for government departments have risen to about $20 million. For an uninformed public this smacks of double-standards given the fact that 2,500 government employees have been dumped. Personally, the figures seem very low, and against the overall spend of total government utterly inconsequential. However, it scores points against National.
Housing New Zealand takes a double hammering this week with the news that over 120 state houses will be removed from use one way or another in Glen Innes along with the Housing Computer System project using yet more contingency and taking the application to over $80 million dollars. The public reads this as a reduction in service to the frontline and possible profiteering, given Glen Innes property prices, coupled with the perceived incompetence of Housing around a computer project that keeps biting National like some zombie that just can’t be put down.
The government has promised to veto the bill that would increase paid maternity leave for seemingly no logical reason. The only offering of an excuse is that they can’t afford to pay for it. A sympathetic public would understand that times are tight and that probably makes sense. The problem is that the opposition has said that the maternity leave bill wouldn’t actually come into effect until government returned to surplus so nullifying National’s argument. This makes National look like it is simply having a go at families for no reason other than it can in what will be perceived as an undemocratic and overbearing decision. Undemocratic given the bill has the numbers to carry and so you would expect should do so. This will provide a line of ammunition to the opposition parties as the bill has to be read three times. You’re going to get sick of hearing about it.
Bill English has signalled cuts to Education and Health. The two bastions of government services. Anyone in public should be worried about this. Both the Ministry of Education and Health have been consistently butchered, reorganised, changed, cut, and put back together like some modern-day Frankenstein over a successive series of government changes over the last few years. All this will do is cost more money and drive a lower level of service. Why? Because that is what happens every time we change government. The elderly population will be worried about the potential decline in health care. Students make a messy voting block swinging all over the place at election time so little damage will be done there.
The National Party has peaked in the last month. The darling of the media up until the election and over the past few months is starting to see the turning away by the broadsheets and public commentators. More and more opinion pieces questioning the government policies and stance are starting to appear. Even the Dompost, died in the wool blue, is seeing an increase in articles questioning the government rationale.
The National Party desperately needs some good news and none is on the horizon. We’ll see the asset sale debate shortly as well. Any drop in the economy will land squarely at their feet and the rise of social media will exacerbate the problem as opinion spreads virally. The ever popular leader, John Key, is nowhere to be seen in the back wash of negative publicity.
The public opinion work has turned.