This is the fourth State of the Nation Report from The Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit. These reports have spanned a fairly tumultuous period in world economic history with the collapse of global financial markets in late 2007 and rising social tensions since. To date New Zealand has weathered the storm of the global financial collapse well and we are reminded of this constantly through media images of joblessness and mortgage foreclosures in United States and increasing social unrest in Europe. Our good fortune is probably more the result of geography than good management and in particular having Australia and China as two of our biggest trading partners.
While many in Government will argue that their good management is in part responsible for New Zealand’s relative good fortune, it is difficult to see how this management has been little more than a sequence of pragmatic and in most cases quite necessary policy adjustments. There has been nothing bold in the Government’s political agenda despite any rhetoric which would have us think otherwise. In hindsight there was nothing bold in the last Government’s agenda either—simply a series of programmes which dealt pragmatically with the problems of the day without really ever addressing the underlying causes of these problems. The failure of the Labour-led Governments of 1999 to 2008 to deal with the housing bubble is a case in point.
As Parliament winds its way to an election over the next six to nine months it is important to step back a little and to take stock of what has and has not been achieved.