The Nation misses the hint: Labour's new-old big idea

It was all hints and mirrors, but the Labour Party seems set to embrace one of the big ideas from its own past, one that our grandkids would thank us for

Labour's finance spokesman David Cunliffe was the picture of political discipline on The Nation this morning. He said not a thing that he didn't want to say, but in his own words he was dropping some pretty big hints. Sadly, the interviewers and panel missed those hints.

I know, I'm biased, and I'm failing to resist the temptation of making a dig. I should be a better person! But I also can't resist having an educated guess at exactly what Cunliffe was hinting at.

What do we know of Labour at the moment? I want to post a more considered piece early next week of where it stands at this stage in the electoral cycle, following the Chris carter sideshow. But in short, it's doing the hard yards of policy at the moment, the fun stuff of being in Opposition – arguing out in private a brand-spanking new policy programme they can believe in and put in the shop window prior to the next election.

Phil Goff began the process last year by talking about changing the Reserve Bank Act to include employment and other targets alongside inflation. (He also dallied with some race-based nonsense, but I think that's been purged now). Cunliffe this morning was hinting at one of the next big planks.

With this government being happy interventionists – Holyoakeians rather than Brashites – Labour has room to explore policies that put government front and centre without being labelled as nasty socialists by all but the fringe.

Because that's what happened last time they discussed this plan. That's right folks, my guess is that Cunliffe's hints were about compulsory savings.

He made three key points – New Zealand's lack of savings, owning our own future, and extending KiwiSaver. Hook, line and sinker, that says to me that Labour wants to build our capital base by making KiwiSaver a bigger and bolder compulsory scheme.

It ticks a lot of boxes – showing vision and a commitment to growth – whilst also playing to the country's nationalism and being popular among a surprising number of big business leaders.

And it's in Labour's DNA. It was introduced first by heroic Labour figure Norm Kirk and by Bill Rowling, but killed off by Sir Robert Muldoon in 1975 in what was arguably one of the worst political decisions in New Zealand's history.

Not only that, it's been at the heart of Winston Peter's political thinking for many years, and so builds a bridge to coalition with New Zealand First. Heck, as that link shows, it'd even get the seal of approval of the New Zealand Herald.

Of course there will need to be plenty of short term wealth-creation schemes to go with this, but it's an idea whose time has come. Again. Remember, you heard it here on Pundit first, not on The Nation. (There I go again. Sorry).