Forum: Party policies shape up — rather badly

Policy developed on the fly is often less than inspiring

It’s hard not to conclude that the high tech and IT sectors are being badly treated by both major parties in this election.

It started off well, with a budget-time broadband bidding war promising — and still promising — a significant boost in investment in vital infrastructure. But since then things seem to have gone off the rails in both political camps.

Governments have to be judged on their actions, and the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act really does contain some shockers, particularly sections 92A and 92C (see page one), but maybe also a few sleeping issues.

The act puts internet service providers in the nasty position of having to make calls on whether to host material after a complaint that it infringes copyright, and then having to decide what to do about the material if it decides to remove it or block it.

The industry asked for a “notice and notice” regime, whereby material would not be removed without the customer that posted it having a chance to respond to an infringement allegation.

The process by which this legislation, after months of consultation, was thrown together at the last minute is also questionable.

On the other side, we see the National Party planning to cancel research and development tax credits. It was a long, hard battle to get these in the first place, and now they are going to help fund tax cuts.

What is really happening here? National has decided to fund consumption over production. It has decided to increase our national trade deficit rather than reduce it. And, once again, there are signs this was done at the last minute without adequate thought.

The worst part about this policy, for me, is it is exactly what you would have expected the ideological National governments of yore to do. I thought things had changed.

I don’t think either of these failures are the result of what Sam Morgan calls “partisanship as a substitute for thinking” (see page 8). They are both simply signs of knee-jerk policy development by politicians who are failing to appreciate the broader implications of their actions. Proof that ideology is not the driver comes in National’s plan to direct 40% of New Zealand superannuation into New Zealand investments.

This has already been well pulled apart in the media, including media normally supportive of National. The essential problem with it is that it corrupts New Zealand Super and, if actually implemented, would force the fund to invest in all kinds of dodgy stuff to meet a quota. That’s just bizarre.

And that’s before you get into the obvious and disastrous economic effects a fund that is forced to be a buyer will have in New Zealand’s broader investment markets.

So, which bunch of spur-of-the-moment, knee-jerk policy makers do you want making decisions that affect the country’s ICT sector, or indeed the entire economy? As one anonymous economist told NBR columnist Ben Thomas: “This is becoming a scary election”.

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