The labour reforms this week reveal a government that has given up on any hope for a competitive economy and is willing to engage in class warfare on behalf of its 'Judith Collins wing'
Last week, evidence was again made plain of a shocking, unacceptable safety record in ports and forests. The Government responded by passing a new law to remove the right to a tea break.
Put aside the fairness argument for a moment and think through these priorities. It sends a dangerous signal that the health and safety of employees doesn't need to be a priority. 'If you can shave off a few expenses by taking shortcuts around safety - do it. We'll back you.'
Guaranteed tea and meal breaks don't intrude into most work places. Most people take breaks when they can and no one measures. The law is there as a safety net for people who work for unreasonable employers.
For all the bleating about 'flexibility', there's nothing in it for employees. The law says that if you lose your tea break you have to be compensated. In other words, if you work you have to be paid. I guess they think they're being kind by not actually introducing indentured servitude.
The flexibility to negotiate breaks is already there, as Labour Minister Michael Woodhouse inadvertently demonstrated by saying that at his DHB, he let nurses on night duty go home early if they worked through their breaks.
The most successful companies in the world usually take the health and safety of their staff seriously because thinking through every step of a process both improves operational performance and keeps people safe.
Rest breaks keep people safe. If businesses don't plan for them, they are not planning their operations properly. So removing tea breaks is not about improving the performance of our economy; it's ideology. It's John Key chucking red meat to his base who have hated the Labour-lite policies of the last six years. It's a signal to the Judith Collins wing of the National party that 'it's all OK, we do know which side we're on in the class struggle.'
For six years government ministers, with some glaring exceptions, have given Oscar performances. They tilted their heads with compassion, left alone interest-free student loans, Working For Families and superannuation. They talked of a bright future where a new flag fluttered above a cycle path.
And then this week the child catcher took away the candy. No more collective bargaining. Your pay will be docked if you take action against a bad employer. And no more tea breaks.
The anti-politics persona has been an act. How could the PM call Labour's Working for Families 'communism by stealth' in opposition, and then embrace it in government? Either his political principles are ankle deep, or it was cynical.
Their vision for the economy is class warfare – a vision where they run the economy for people who already have wealth at the expense of those who are still trying to make it. 'In order to make our lives better we have to make yours more miserable.'
You can't make people better off by paying them less. The way you actually grow an economy and make working people wealthier is to look after them, steadily improve skills and working conditions, and grow the intellectual property of the economy so you can compete in a globe full of opportunity.
National is giving up on a competitive economy and replacing it with one where our only competitive strength will be low wages and unsafe conditions.