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Parties busy laying out their offers to the voting public

Opinion Piece

With two months to go until the election, the parties have become engaged in a kind of high-stakes poker as they lay out their offers to the voting public in the form of policies which some cynics see more as bribes.

Labour has become the biggest high-stakes player with promises that would cost $17 billion so far and the prospect of more to come. These are largely focused on health and education, where they see government weaknesses and which are also traditional focus areas for a true socialist party. A treasury pre-election update scheduled for August 23 ?is expected to add another ?$1.5 billion to the “pot”.

Labour has been careful to show how it will pay for its policies by foregoing tax cuts and reducing debt more slowly than National, although it would resume payments to the superannuation fund earlier than the Tories.

In doing so it has established clear differences between the two largest parties and set up a solid platform on which the election can be fought. Like all gamblers down on their luck, Labour needs a payout — or in its case, something to reverse a continuing series of disappointing polls.

New Zealand First has its stake on the table in the form of policies that will stop foreign buyers of land, restrict immigration and end “separatism”, not entirely bribes but certainly teasers for the voting public.

In contrast the Greens have largely kept out of the high stakes game, choosing instead to release thoughtful policies like Mending the Safety Net, a review of how the country’s social welfare system can be repaired.

It is unfortunate that this was clouded by co-leader Metiria Turei’s admission of telling lies to Social Welfare while on a benefit.

None of these putative gamblers have anything matching past bribes like Labour’s £100 income tax rebate of 1957, Rob Muldoon’s lowering of the age of entitlement for national superannuation in 1975, and Helen Clark’s scrapping of interest on student loans in 2005.

They are all at the table, but it is the voting public who will decide who has the winning hand.