“I want it both ways”. That’s what many people in New Zealand seem to want. We are constantly berated by some about getting Government out of their lives or business. On the web site of one NZ political party is the comment “New Zealanders know best how to spend their own money, not the government”. In the NZ Herald on Wed 26 Jan the headline reads “Business leaders support partial privatisation of state assets”.
At the last election New Zealanders voted the National party into power to govern based in part by promises of reducing taxes and that has been implemented but any gain has been offset by the increase in GST.
But as soon as something goes wrong we hear these very same people holding their hands out and expecting Government to come to the party. While not decrying the enormous tragedy of the Christchurch earthquake, the first reaction of business has been to turn to government and ask for handouts, the very same business that wants lower taxes and less Government.
Excuse me – if you reduce taxes and cut back on government expenditure for the armed forces and you decrease the capacity of Government Departments like DoL or Civil Defense or agencies such as hospitals, how can you then expect them to respond adequately in the event of a disaster?
Government is facing huge bills from recent catastrophes – last year’s Canterbury earthquake, the leaky building situation, the Pike River tragedy, the bail out of financial institutions. In addition the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) has seen a significant slump in tax revenue as the economy has contracted. Now everyone expects the Government to step in and provide handouts for businesses that can’t operate in Christchurch and to support people with grants.
A simple example to illustrate the point I am making. People in suburbs are complaining that after ten days they still haven’t got toilet facilities. The city’s infrastructure has been severely damaged and a quick fix isn’t possible. So the sight of thousands of portable chemical toilets being delivered is a relief (excuse the pun) for everyone. But why aren’t there stock piled supplies of such essential items – toilets, tents, food, water etc at strategic places around the country? Because we don’t want Government in our lives, we want to rely on private enterprise. But private enterprise is never going to plan for an emergency. Its never going to carry excess capacity for contingencies. It can never supplant the work that Government does and must do as a back stop for our society.
Another example: there’s been a push by some in Government to cut back the scope of fire fighter’s duties to focus solely on fire fighting. Fortunately, senior people in the service have fought to keep the broader scope of the fire service and we’ve seen the result in recent days in Christchurch. Superbly trained and committed fire fighters doing what private enterprise could never do.
“New Zealanders know best how to spend their own money, not the government”; Yeah right. We can spend it on TVs or cars or lattes and don’t worry about tomorrow, Government will step in and pick up the remains of our lives when things go so terribly wrong. When will we wake up?