I said I'd post something on ACC, so here goes. Oh dear, what a mess.
It's hard to know where to start really. Is it all Labour's fault for increasing entitlements but not premiums? Or the people at ACC, who seem keen to pay themselves large salaries but can't apparently count? Or the recession? Or the fully funded model? Or all of the above?
When news first broke earlier this year of a hole in the ACC accounts, many of us - and I include myself - were a bit sceptical of National's motivation, particularly given that excitable boy Nick Smith was in charge, and he is known for, well, exaggerating from time to time.
But the conspiracy theory peddled by Labour and the EPMU (i.e. Labour) that somehow this is all just a VRWC to derail the ACC, lower public confidence in it, and then sell it to the highest (or any) bidder just doesn't ring true for me.
For starters, I can't believe someone with chairman John Judge's commercial background is going to put his reputation on the line just to help the Government push a particular political ideology. Judge is not going to claim that the very existence of the ACC is under threat if it's not.
Second, there have now been three relatively independent reviews of ACC's financial position, and all of them have come up with the conclusion that it is in the poo.
Third, there's little doubt that the additions made to the scheme by Labour a couple of years ago - including things like lump-sum payouts for the families of suicide victims, and physiotherapy, simply aren't affordable any more.
And fourth, even if National had somehow managed to convince ACC's auditors, and John Judge, and Treasury, and anyone else who's looked at the books to take part in the VRWC, it would all be for nought cos quite frankly, no one would touch ACC with a bargepole anyway.
The commercial insurance market has been devastated by the global financial crisis, and it's difficult to see any commercial insurer being remotely interested in picking up ACC's work at the moment.
On top of that, privatising ACC is a headache the Government simply doesn't need at the moment.
Having said all that, I do think Nick Smith has over-egged the pudding a little bit. At least some of the need for the big increases is because of the move towards fully funding the ACC.
Fully funding means that like a commercial insurer, ACC is required to hold enough in reserve to meet the claims it expects to have to pay out on over a given time. It has never operated like this before, but is now required to.
Originally this was to happen by 2014. The Government - and in fact Labour too - wants to push this out to 2019. You could question whether ACC should in fact ever be fully funded, but that's another argument.
The Government is also going to get some heat over the decisions it's made, and so it should. The massive increases in levies for motorcycles seems grossly unfair to me, and smacks of National hitting a group of voters it doesn't think are likely to be National supporters.
Sure, motorcycles are involved in more accidents, but how many of those were caused by car drivers? As a former motorcyclist myself, it was being knocked off my bike by some idiot in a car that prompted me to hang up my helmet.
Ramping up motorcycle levies also flies completely in the face of all the rhetoric from the Government about reducing congestion, cutting carbon emissions, using less petrol, etc etc. Not to mention parking.
The rises in the earners' levy are also going to cause some dark mutterings down at the pub and around the water cooler. That impacts directly on people's take-home pay, and in the case of the average wage-earner takes around a third of the tax cut they received back in April.
It also hits lower income earners much harder, since the earners' levy tops out at (I think) around $110,000 a year. In other words, once you earn over that you don't pay any more. So high income earners can not only afford the levy increase, but it's only on a proportion of their income - not all of it, like the lower-paid.
Granted, the lower-paid aren't natural National voters either, but there's some Kiwi battlers in the middle there who voted National in 2008 and who might not be that happy right at the moment.
I hear National doesn't have the votes to get the changes through Parliament yet, either, although it probably will manage it eventually because it's cleverly set up a straw man in the form of even higher increases proposed by ACC that don't require a law change.
Therefore if parties don't vote for National's bill, the Government can accuse them of agreeing to even higher imposts on the public. That is quite clever.
The law change will be unpopular, however, and Labour will waste no opportunity closer to the next election to point out that the party who promised to lower your taxes and reduce the government's involvement in your life has, in some cases, done the reverse.
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