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How We Are Selecting Our TOP 7 Policies

We’ve been receiving a lot of policy ideas from our membership already; thanks for sending them through. We are developing a method for members to have an ongoing input into policy making, which we will announce in the New Year. 

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Our policy work is advancing rapidly, and we already have a good idea of our TOP 7 policy priorities. Before we announce those TOP 7, we wanted to let you know what we took into consideration as we came up with them.

Here is our beginners guide to policy making TOP style.

Step 1: Identify the problem

Many government policies are a solution looking for a problem. If the media or public get worked up about something, Establishment parties tend to have a kneejerk reaction and roll out what appears to be a coherent response. Too often unintended consequences then take over.

Before anyone goes marching into action, we need to stop and think really hard. Is there a problem here? How material is that problem? What is the real problem here? Are we dealing with the real long term problem or just a short term symptom?

Without clear answers to these questions, governments can often end up barking up the wrong tree. Their action may be popular in the short term, but if they aren’t dealing with the real problem then inevitably the problem returns.

Given the pace of modern life, such a considered approach is often missing. We saw this with the current Government’s attempt to make it up as they were going along on their ‘comprehensive housing plan’. Similarly dragging the chain on emissions reductions is now coming back to haunt them. But this Government is not alone on this front; we saw the same problems under the previous Labour Government with the foreshore and seabed debacle. This short term patch up job approach to government is what you get when you govern according to the polls.

Step 2: What can we do about the problem?

Once we have a clear idea of the problem, we can look at opportunities to resolve it. What does the theory suggest? What does the evidence suggest? What have we tried in the past, and how did that work? What have they tried overseas, and how well did that work?

 

Of course there is evidence and there is evidence. Some evidence is high quality, and priority should always be given to that. Establishment governments here and overseas often don’t want to monitor and evaluate policy because they don’t want to know if it hasn’t worked. Sometimes an idea is new or novel, and hasn’t been tried elsewhere. As a result, sometimes there isn’t much evidence around on a particular topic. However, lack of high quality evidence shouldn’t always be a barrier to action. Overall, we have to make a judgement based on the best available evidence at the time, which is where values come into play

Establishment parties often twist the question of evidence to their political advantage. Look at the issue of obesity, where the Government has announced a ‘22 point plan’ to deal with the problem. They say there is no evidence that junk food taxes work, yet there is more evidence for the use of junk food taxes and restrictions on advertising to children than there is for any of the policies in their ’22 point plan’.

Step 3: What is the downside?

Thanks to the inability of Establishment parties to make tough decisions, we think there are several policies that should be considered ‘low hanging fruit’ in New Zealand. These are the ones that will get priority to make up our TOP 7.

What constitutes a low hanging fruit? It should have high impact on solving the problem, with little or no downside. So what do we mean by downside?

Many policies have unintended consequences, and can compromise other goals. We’ve seen this in the past; perhaps the most well known example was when the government introduced a bounty for possums. Locals in Northland and Coromandel were upset not to have possums nearby so they set some free; actually increasing the spread of possums. Another example has been the Government’s plan to increase our agricultural exports, which in some regions has come at the price of deteriorating water quality.

On the other hand, the ideal policy is a win/win; i.e. it kills two or more birds (problems) with one stone (policy). It certainly shouldn’t compromise other goals.

The most obvious downside to any policy is the cost. Expensive new policy ideas need to be paid for somehow, and we need to acknowledge the impact of that. Most tax is collected via income tax, which already places a heavy burden on the average New Zealander. Income taxes also reduce the incentive for people to work, innovate and create wealth and jobs.

All our TOP 7 policies will either be fiscally neutral, or will have a plan for how to pay for them.

Remember if you think you can do better than our TOP 7, members will have the opportunity to contribute to policy in the New Year. It is our intention that the political rebellion that is The Opportunities Party will bring an altogether higher level of direct participation in our democracy than has hitherto be seen via the practices of the Establishment parties. Exciting.''

 

Image is work from Khalid Albaih adapted by TOP. 

 

Showing 60 reactions

  • Geoff Simmons
    commented 2016-11-30 08:43:55 +1300
    Hi all – I note a number of comments contributing to policy thinking. If you are a member you will have received an email asking for you to contribute your thoughts. I suggest you put these thoughts there because that is where we are doing the work.
  • LIsa Wall
    commented 2016-11-29 20:15:21 +1300
    It has been interesting reading the responses to what the TOP 7 should be. Miles Dugmore commented that a new party should be ‘equality of opportunity’. I suggest that it should be ‘equity of opportunity’ there is a distinct difference and one that needs to be addressed. Personally, I see a number of priorities that need to considered in any policies that TOP evaluates.
    1) The level of poverty that exists in this country is appalling, it needs to be sorted asap.
    2) Social Housing/ closing the ability of foreign ownership when not a New Zealand resident.
    3) Addressing growing inequity
    4) Protection of resources, especially water and our environment. We do not have another ‘New Zealand’ to move to.
    5) Considered appraisal of all free trade agreements. They are not created equally, and ISDS clauses will have a massive impact on citizens, and local business
    6) Taxation – that is meaningful. Multinational corporations in particular cannot continue to get away with paying little to no tax. The top 1% must also pay their fair share, like the rest of us.
    7) Greater investment in Research and development. We need to grow our ability to increase incomes.
    8) A seriously considered look at our banking system, and its impact both locally and worldwide.

    I would also ask, that when implementing policy, that TOP actually consults with people who work at the coalface. All to often policy is driven in economic terms by people who have a specific worldview. The very best outcomes happen when we have robust discussion that challenge our perspectives.
  • Kevin Chamberlain
    commented 2016-11-29 10:39:30 +1300
    Re Oliver’s post on euthanasia – My Top Seven
    1. Economic reform – including taxation, addressing income inequality – i.e. increase in minimum rates set only by Central Govt. not Councils Trade agreements that don’t compromise our sovereignty re-look at the role of the Overseas Investment Office. Aligning fiscal policy with limited powers of RBNZ to improve NZers standard of living (only reason for having politician – to serve the people).
    2. Housing – increasing supply at a faster rate – SOE with greater private sector engagement, using more local resources
    3. Health – better investment across our population, including a referendum on euthanasia, smarter elective surgery.
    4. Education to help enhance and protect our future – lifelong learning
    5. Environmental investment & protection – major area, replacing the ETS with focus on major investment in NZ, such, as waterways, land risk
    6. Immigration & Tourism – policies that better manage these areas
    7. Local Govt. Reform – breaking the inefficient statutory monopolies – differentiating the roles between local and central govt. limitation on unaffordable rate increase (i.e. GWRC 10% compounding each year) – Making Transportation & related infrastructure a Central Govt. responsibility to help ensure its fully integrated
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-11-29 09:56:29 +1300
    There’s another tricky topic that nobody seems to want to go near at the moment, despite the fact that it keeps raising its head almost regularly – euthanasia. I wonder if that is something that might be on TOP’s agenda, or even make the TOP 7 or a future set of policies. I understand if it might not qualify as being a low-hanging fruit.
    In my humble opinion New Zealand is secular and enlightened enough to be able to approach this controversial subject with an open mind, and maybe implement a solution in a controlled, safe and secure way. We should be smart enough to be able to avoid the mistakes that some early adopters might have made, and which might have led to people being euthanized for the wrong reasons, or even for profit.
  • Maxamillian Shields
    commented 2016-11-28 08:07:25 +1300
    Helen Marsh – yes taxation is still very important, and one of the reasons is because it tempers inflation. And another is that it incentivises or disincentivises behaviour. And so we can all debate and decide about what the government spends on – the devil is in the detail – but I’m just making the point that there is no hard constraint on government spending – too often the “we can’t afford it” line is used as an excuse to NOT spend on things. For example, extended paid parental leave was touted as “unaffordable” by Bill English.
  • Alistair Newbould
    commented 2016-11-27 18:14:50 +1300
    To Miles Dugmore. Thanks for the thoughts. Not sure if the “too hot to handle” was deliberate! 197 (?) countries signed up to the Paris accord and presumably take that signature seriously. With the notable exception of USA all seem to be in the process of, or have ratified that agreement. So the world is taking the issue seriously, and flying will either decline or gradually become carbon neutral. Whether or not NZ participates. If we don’t however, we will become the object of scorn on this issue. If we do, we have opportunities to lead the way. eg energy forests, burning wood in facilities with carbon capture and storage in volcanic rock: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/09/co2-turned-into-stone-in-iceland-in-climate-change-breakthrough?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Green+Light+2016&utm_term=176713&subid=8787245&CMP=EMCENVEML1631
    Re importing from high emissions countries, a Carbon tarrif is needed. Any FTA which prevents such a tarrif should not be signed. An annual 10% reduction in emissions is approximately what is needed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Without a solid predictable indication that this will be a requirement in law, business is not going to take any action, unless pushed by their customers.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-11-27 15:28:48 +1300
    Helen – my apologies if I wasn’t clear. My statement re negative impact applied to all of us, not just the weak and vulnerable. As for making money and passing it on, the principles of meritocracy and an inheritance tax, as suggested in an earlier TOP blog thread, could provide a viable approach. The small proportion of the population that you are referring to includes the group that I was describing in my first sentence of my earlier post, and which I’m more than happy to support. Hope that clarifies my position. Thanks for your comments.
  • G. Graham
    commented 2016-11-27 13:48:39 +1300
    Re Helen March’s comment on the disabled.
    Some are good mentally but are unable to work because of physical incapacity.
    Others are physically able but unable to work because of mental incapacity.

    Of the above two the mentally disabled have the hardest time because of their difficulty to budget their finances.

    I would support return of mental hospitals to aid the care of mental patients, life in the outside world must be terrifying for them. In these mental institutions patients who were physically able did work for their keep in a happy environment removed from the stress of budgeting.
  • G. Graham
    commented 2016-11-27 13:26:00 +1300
    Re Helen March’s comment to Greg Fromont on Policy.

    If any current or prospective political Party chooses to ignore New Zealand’s true founding document, Queen Victoria’s Royal Charter of 16-11-1840, ratified on 03-05-1841, it will continue down the road of “Apartheid New Zealand” as was determined without factual evidence by New South Wales Treaty of Waitangi. Go to www.treatyofwaitangi.net.nz where you will find that after the greatest in-depth research from within NZ and overseas no evidence was found to give Maoris exclusive rights that would be unavailable to others. Why? Queen Victoria was a figurehead, same as our present Queen, she had no authority to grant racial privilege within English law and none were given.
  • G. Graham
    commented 2016-11-27 13:05:58 +1300
    Re Oliver Krollmann. In answer to my post regarding our true founding document, Queen Victoria’s Royal Charter of 16-11-1840. He wrote, “the Treaty can play a role in the guidance of 21st century NZ, no matter if it once was our founding document or not”.

    The Treaty never founded NZ, it was ratified by the borders of New South Wales being extended to encompass “all of the islands of NZ”. There is no record of it recrossing the border of NSW.

    It was the Queen’s Royal Charter which authorised our separation from NSW to form an independent British Colony, it was only this that gave us our first constitution, English law only, own Courts to oversee English law only, permitted us to have our own Government and our own flag, which is older than Australia’s. This Royal Charter is without doubt our true founding document, no other. The Treaty only pertains to NSW Government and laws.
  • Helen Marsh
    commented 2016-11-27 12:59:53 +1300
    [Oliver Krollmann]
    The weak and vulnerable generally have very minimal “negative impact … on our environment and the people around us”. Many people are “making money” in highly undesirable “businesses”: pornography, internet scams, high pressure advertising . . . What do these people deserve? People can inherit huge fortunes often including property rights in natural resources did they deserve these things. There is a small proportion of the population who have intellectual or mental health problems. In addition to the Universal Income I would want to give them a disability allowance to compensate. If the rest of us were not so busy in often quite unnecessary employment we might choose to spend some of our time advising the less able so that they can manage on the income from their share of the benefits of natural resources and any disability allowance and not get themselves into trouble.
  • Helen Marsh
    commented 2016-11-27 12:42:37 +1300
    [Maxamillian Shields]

    Bill Mitchell (University of Newcastle, Australia) and I assume the other theorists you mention are proponents of “Modern Monetary Theory”. I agree with the key insight of MMT which (according to wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Monetary_Theory) is that “monetarily sovereign government is the monopoly supplier of its currency and can issue currency of any denomination in physical or non-physical forms. As such the government has an unlimited capacity to pay for the things it wishes to purchase and to fulfill promised future payments, and has an unlimited ability to provide funds to the other sectors. Thus, insolvency and bankruptcy of this government is not possible. It can always pay”. What we have to understand is that when governments issue money (as in a Universal Income) or pay for things they are giving the recipients credit which gives them a right to buy things. If some one has a right to buy something there needs to be someone whose responsibilty it is to produce what they want to buy. There needs to be a corresponding debt.

    So in a way, I also agree with your statement "The ONLY limit on spending is a much softer one and that is when government spending produces too much inflation. Targeting surplus or a balanced budget is pointless. The level of government debt, inandofitself, means nothing. It’s about what the government spends on, and its about the real resources in the economy. If the real resources can’t keep up with the spending, then yes we’re gonna get inflation. But that has nothing to do with balancing the budget or targeting a surplus. " but I think I would disagree about what is “too much inflation” and I believe for money to truly have a stable value there has to be taxation to balance money creation. Everyone should be involved equally in setting the value of money so the value of money should be set by issuing a Universal Income to everyone equally. This credit issued should be balanced by a tax on rights to use natural resources (land and the carbon sink etc.) as natural resources are the limiting factor in the production of products for people to buy. I believe that this would change many prices in the economy and might appear inflationary as our economy is currently hugely distorted and money has hugely different value for different people. I also believe that this would reduce the gap between the rich and the poor and make it possible for many more people to provide for themselves so that far less government services would be required. It is possible that people will no longer want or need state education, state health care etc. Once we have a fair undistorted economy the only things that government should provide are things that the vast majority of people want to pay the government to provide and the cost of such things should be deducted from the Universal Income. So yes, should clearly show where the money is coming from or who is going to pay for the provision.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-11-27 12:26:33 +1300
    I have no problem supporting the weak and vulnerable with some of my tax dollars – as long as they deserve it and didn’t get into a tough spot through a fault of their own.
    If some people made bad decisions and required help getting out of a mess I’m happy to help, too, as long as they’re making progress and amends, and eventually pay back or return the favour in some way (not to me personally but rather to the system or community or society).
    I will not support a policy framework that doles out benefits or other means of support based on arbitrary criteria rather than merit.
    We’re all responsible for our actions, and for reversing or at the very least minimising any negative impact we make on our environment and the people around us.
  • Helen Marsh
    commented 2016-11-27 11:47:58 +1300
    Greg Fromont: I think maybe this stage of “what does a great outcome look like (where are we headed)” should be part of, or prior to Step 1?
    Perhaps we need: Step 1a “Where do we want to be?” Step 1b “What currently is inconsistent with this goal” = ’what are the problems"
    Step 2a “What in the current system are the causes of these problems” Step 2b “What can we do about the problems” as above.
    Step 3 as above but remembering that if we make some people better off we will inevitably make others worse off. I assume that we need the State to protect the rights or needs of the weakest and most vulnerable – that would be in my Step 1 “Where I want to be”
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-11-27 11:38:47 +1300
    … or make the dirty car with the emissions-manipulating software self-driving, which is really the last thing and least important option or feature we should be focusing on at this point. Great analogy, Miles :-)
    But we haven’t seen the TOP 7 yet, so let’s give the guys the benefit of the doubt, before we decide if or if not it’s just more of the same.
  • Miles Dugmore
    commented 2016-11-27 11:29:39 +1300
    Helen Marsh I agree on your two points, that is to include some sort of threading. I’ve had links given to me and they take a great deal of time to filter the real message which can often be put into one or two sentences. I have been a member of four political parties (excluding National – and very very active in two of them) and I see the same thing over and over again. I just gave an example of my exasperation to a friend of mine. It’s rather like someone who manufactures a deeply polluting car and the only alternatives given are to move the seats and change the colour. It’s time for a new Party that is significantly different to the others.. is it going to happen. Sadly I don’t think so from what I see here and what we are all witnessing is the failure of a complex society.
  • Helen Marsh
    commented 2016-11-27 11:26:59 +1300
    The problem, in my opinion, is that governments repeatedly and consistently fail to perform the most important roles of government. They fail to examine property rights in natural resources and set these fairly and they fail to set the value of the legal currency.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-11-27 11:19:23 +1300
    Agree with Helen – a hierarchical view, or at least the ability to reply to a particular post, like on Neighbourly, would be great, if the NationBuilder software allowed it.
  • Helen Marsh
    commented 2016-11-27 11:09:07 +1300
    Can we make these reactions thread? I find it very confusing when reactions to reactions cannot be tied together.
  • Helen Marsh
    commented 2016-11-27 11:07:16 +1300
    Peter Mc Arthur – I went to the link http://conversations.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/events/8-80-city-creating-vibrant-and-healthy-communities but there is too much padding. I find it really annoying when people tell me to listen to something or read some book – I am finding my own things to read and listen to. If you have found something that inspired you I would find it really helpful if you could spell out in a sentence or two what it was that you found inspiring.
  • Friend
    followed this page 2016-11-27 11:07:02 +1300
  • Helen Marsh
    followed this page 2016-11-27 10:31:20 +1300
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-11-26 22:38:32 +1300
    I’m not quite sure what G. Graham is trying to say in his post … in my humble opinion, the Treaty of Waitangi can only play the role of a guideline in a 21st century New Zealand, no matter if it once was a founding document or not.
    I’d also like to see some progress on the road to becoming a republic, having a constitution and merging the electoral rolls, as well as the conclusive settlement of all open Treaty claims. It’s something the Establishment parties seem to shy away from, maybe because of political correctness or fear of voter loss or both. It’d be interesting to know if TOP have a position, or are even considering a policy in that regard. It certainly qualifies as an uncomfortable topic to talk about …
  • G. Graham
    commented 2016-11-26 19:55:58 +1300
    As the Treaty of Waitangi was ratified by the borders of New South Wales (NSW) being extended to encompass “all of the islands of New Zealand” it rendered Maoris instant British citizens with the “same rights” as other British citizens, caused us to be ruled by this State and couldn’t possibly be our founding document as an independent British colony.

    Our true founding document is Queen Victoria’s Royal Charter of 16-11-1840 (available from Archives NZ), ratified on 03-05-1841 to split us from NSW to be an independent British colony, give us our first constitution, English law only, own courts to oversee English law only, authorised
    Hobson’s promotion to be our own Governor and, eventually, our own flag which is older than Australia’s.
  • G. Graham
    followed this page 2016-11-26 19:54:20 +1300
  • Theo Stephens
    followed this page 2016-11-26 12:59:40 +1300
  • Kevin Chamberlain
    commented 2016-11-26 10:20:16 +1300
    In response to Olivier – Re Prison population and how to address this issue – you are spot on, extra support in the form of education and policies that recognize the victims and how as far as its possible the offender can redress the harm that has been done – my suggestion is to be more proactive and invested programmes to focus on this issue.
  • Ian Butcher
    followed this page 2016-11-26 08:49:15 +1300
  • Miles Dugmore
    commented 2016-11-26 08:49:01 +1300
    Alistair Newbould… the politics of reducing CO2 emissions are too hot to handle. No one on the bigger stage, and that includes any future PM of NZ (Key would never even want to think about this issue, let alone talk openly about it). Cattle – there I said it. The USA the biggest emitter per head of population by far. But in specific reference to your comments, if you are going to tax or put a cap on our emissions, then how does that figure when you then import the product you have made too expensive to make in NZ, from a country that is an even bigger polluter than NZ is currently – China. Your suggestions sound nice, but in the bigger picture they will achieve nothing. And why should places like China and India put their houses in order, when in terms of CO2 emission per head of population they are way behind us. The real answer is for people in a country like NZ is to eat less meat, especially red meat and phase out dairy production. Reduce the amount we fly and discourage other Western countries to reduce the amount they fly. Well that would blow the NZ economy apart, but is in effect what needs to be done if you are serious..
  • Maria JJ de Monchy
    followed this page 2016-11-26 08:29:33 +1300