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A chat over the fence

Do you want opportunity, or just want? By Trevor Ammundsen

Today sees the branding of this column under a new name; a name influenced by a reader from Kuaotunu. I was having a go at reading her letter to the Editor last week. The letter was quite long; but with a start, my eyes fell on a statement she wrote suggesting that we should call my article, “A chat over the fence”. What a brilliant title I thought, so one conversation with the Editor later, and we have been rebranded. We have attached a photo to the article to reinforce the new brand. There is a story about our fence, but you’ll have to wait for that.

As our General Election approaches its conclusion, it is sad to see quite clear demarcation lines being drawn. The main such line is one where to the left they say, “I want” and to the right they say, “I want the opportunity”. It really is as simple as that, and the policies, for most of what are portrayed as the main election points, can be classified accordingly.

To a certain extent this was summarised in the recent Leaders Debate; when asked if they could nominate one policy which they think defines what they bring to the electorate Chris Hipkins immediately chose free dental care for under thirty-year-olds. Quite definitely, “I want clean teeth for free”. Chris Luxon stated that he wanted to return New Zealand’s education system to the international leading level it once was. Quite definitely, “I want our children to have the best opportunity I can give them to succeed.”

You could carry out the same exercise with most policies and get similar results. Now I can just smell the pencils being sharpened as those who disagree prepare to wrote about the Opposition’s proposed Tax Policies. Save your keyboard fingers. I will answer in anticipation.

National’s tax policies are about the Government being a bit more austere, budgeting better and letting us keep our money. We are not getting more money, just having the opportunity to spend it ourselves, rather than giving that right to nameless bureaucrats. This is most definitely, “I want you to have the opportunity to manage more of your money for the benefit of your family”. This is part of the spinal column of any democracy.

On the other side, we have a desire to keep spending more on whatever pet projects seem to be brewing and the source of that money is the “wealthy,” who apparently have no end of funds available to help pay for anything the left demands. The tax policies of the current government are very much in the, “I want you to pay more,” category.

The biggest challenge facing any Government in this country is to break down the culture of “I want”. This culture started a long time ago when the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) was introduced in the seventies for well-intentioned reasons, while also leading to many making a choice to stay on the benefit and ‘not work’ as a foreseeable life choice. I have and never will decry those who cannot work, but now there are plenty of people who have chosen not to work because life is quite manageable on the benefit and until that opportunity is removed, we will continue to suffer as a country in this vital area of non-productivity. Consider this; our GDP per capita (earnings per person) has dropped by 1.4% over the past nine months, even though our GDP (earnings) has gone up slightly. The pie for all of us is getting smaller. The only way for all to share in a bigger piece of a bigger pie is to become more productive and get our people working. Don’t get taken in by Government slight-of hand over unemployment figures. They are masters of re-classification for their own ends but if you are prepared to see through it all, you will see that genuine unemployment in New Zealand is 9-10%.

So, it’s a simple election really, vote for those who will break down the “I want” culture if you want our country to become a better place. Let’s aim for the horizon rather that ask for a more comfortable hole.

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