Friday, April 28, 2023

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Hipkins is sounding like the leader of National

National should be sweating, because Chris Hipkins is stealing their lines. 

That is what struck me listening to his pre-budget speech today. His speech could’ve been delivered by the leader of the National Party.

It was in front of a business audience. He took a crack at the last Government- as if he wasn’t actually a part of Jacinda’s Government- saying “The reality is the Government was previously doing too much, too fast”.

And then he told us that economic growth was his priority. His budget would focus on three things: skills, science and infrastructure investment. 

Couldn’t that have come out of the mouth of a National Party leader? Couldn’t Chris Luxon have stood there and delivered that speech to a business audience, hating on the last Government, prioritising economic growth?

Compare it to Jacinda, who hated business audiences and would focus her pre-budget speeches on child poverty and well-being. 

The problem for National is that a whole bunch of traditionally National leaning voters will not hate what they hear today. That he wants us to become the best little trading nation, that he’s modelling us on Singapore, and that everything his Government does now needs "to be focused on growing our economy.” 

Before they do anything, he wants his Government to ask itself: "What things are going to make the biggest difference to New Zealand right now?” and “What are the handful of things that will help get us ahead and stay ahead?” 

Now anything that Chris Hipkins says needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because he is very good at saying the right things, not so good at following through with action.  As evidenced by the ongoing problems in all the portfolios he’s held: education, police, and tertiary education.

But voters have short memories. And it is such a departure from the ideological social stuff Jacinda's Government got distracted by, like mergers and reforms and Three Waters and hate speech, that it will feel to many like a change of Government already.

We'll see if the budget bears this out in three weeks.

But National should be sweating, because if Hipkins feels like a change of Government, will voters want an actual change of Government?

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show.

1 comment:

hughvane said...

What Hipkins has had to say is nothing but a smoke screen - and a thin one at that. Look beyond it and behind the scenes at what is going on with a raft of social changes in areas such as education and so-called justice.

The current government is pushing ahead in an ideological frenzy with legislative changes, to be enacted before the General Election in October. Despite the assertion of "short memories", I prefer to believe that the greater public will not be hoodwinked.