Amongst all the trivial political manoeuvrings and carry-ons of parliamentary politics, there are in fact some serious issues that get discussed and decided upon in Wellington. So, for every scandal involving personal behaviour or inappropriate minor public spending, there are decisions being made that have an important impact on our lives. The Government’s annual Budget is one of these. [This blog post is a reproduction of my monthly politics column in Dunedin Fairfax newspaper DScene, out today]
These aren’t technical questions for economists – but issues that all citizens should be concerned with. After all, governing and democracy is essentially all about the questions of ‘Who gets what, when, and how?’. The carving up of the resources of society is heavily political and has a huge impact on our lives. We shouldn’t just leave it to the politicians and hope for the best.
Politicians need to be challenged about economic policy. In Dunedin, National’s Michael Woodhouse needs to be asked if he can guarantee that the billion dollar cuts being forced on government departments will not lead to cuts in the frontline provision of services in Dunedin. Labour MPs Clare Curran, Pete Hodgson and David Parker need to be asked whether their party would really do anything significantly differently if they were running the Treasury – at this stage Labour is good at criticising National but very poor at showing they would take a different approach. The Greens, too, need to be asked some hard questions about their ‘Alternative Budget’, and why the party is now opening the door to a possible coalition with National after the election.
Fortunately we’re coming into an election campaign, so there will be plenty of chances to accost these parliamentarians as they seek your vote for the general election scheduled for 26 November.
There is also a chance to ask them directly about the Budget on Thursday night at a public meeting on campus. The University of Otago Centre for Theology and Public Issues has become a very useful organiser of innovative forums of deliberation, and this week it is hosting a debate entitled ‘So, what did you make of the Budget?’ at 5:00pm at the Allen Hall Theatre. Speakers include Labour’s candidate for North Dunedin, David Clark, National’s Michael Woodhouse, and Metiria Turei for the Greens. But the organisers want the input of the public too. So if you’re angry about National’s Budget, despondent about Labour’s lack of an alternative, or bewildered by the Green Party’s alternative Budget, come along and voice your concerns and ask questions.