National's parasitic micro-parties have been allowed to suck a tiny amount out of the body - in proportion to their insignificant size their policy gains have also been insignificant. The NZ Herald summarising what has been divied up so far (with the Maori Party yet to have their turn):
* John Banks ministerial portfolios: Regulatory Reform, Small Business, Associate Education, Associate Commerce.
* Establish Charter Schools (free, state-funded, independently run) to take over under-performing schools or set up new ones.
* Pass law to set cap on government spending limits but with no penalty if breached.
* Annual reporting by Treasury on the income gap with Australia.
* Pass law to require better explanations of regulation-making powers in new legislation.
* Peter Dunne ministerial portfolios: Revenue, Associate Health, Associate Conservation.
* Law to prevent any sell-down of SOEs beyond 49 per cent.
* Cease helicopter hunting of game on conservation estates.
* Cut Families Commission commissioners to one and fund parenting courses and relationship education in schools with the savings.
* Discussion paper on "flexi-super" - different rates depending on age of uptake.
It is all quite insignificant and closely aligns with National's policies anyway.
Act's capping of government expenditure (with no consequences for a breech in the proposed statute) is effectively already in place, the obsession with comparing economic penis size with Australia is pointless and and has no effect, and the regulatory bill will never overcome the irony that it is more regulation interfering with more regulation.
However the "Charter Schools" policy is of significance and despite being Act rhetoric for many years it appears it is probably more of a National brain-wave than an Act one. It is a back-door privatisation of the state school system and a back-door to attempt to erode the powerful teacher unions - as such it will meet fierce resistance. The philosophical basis and the practical consequences will be debated hotly and because the unions will fight it is no surprise that Key was on the radio this morning wanting to plough ahead with it as quickly as possible.
When I recall the sorts of failure in some poorer schools and the type of failed leadership that entrenches poor performance and low expectations - like the head of a school in Tamaki (since closed I understand) who I can remember quoted as saying his school was only good for producing cleaners and low paid workers - there is evidence that the system at the bottom end of the decile ratings could do with a kick in the pants. But how companies and the private sector are supposed to achieve this radical transformation by way of destroying accountability to parents and giving free reign to the government's appointed managers to break teacher unions reeks of hidden agendas rather than quality education as the outcome. As with the bulk-funding scenario that National introduced in the 90's the pilot schemes will be little more than favouratism to the government's (ie. National's) preferred institutions. The first ones will be resourced and supported over and above what the future roll-out will be so it will appear that the scheme is working well - they will not be allowed to fail. The problem will be when they attempt to put it upon the reluctant mass of schools without the same funding.
From the agreement:
With respect to education, the parties have, in particular, agreed to implement a system, enabled under either sections 155 (Kura Kaupapa Maori) or 156 (Designated character schools), or another section if appropriate, of the Education Act, whereby school charters can be allocated in areas where educational underachievement is most entrenched. A series of charters would initially be allocated in areas such as South Auckland and Christchurch. Iwi, private and community (including Pacific Island) groups and existing educational providers would compete to operate a local school or start up a new one. Schools would be externally accountable and have a clearly-defined, ambitious mission. Public funding would continue to be on a per-child basis.
This may be one of the biggest battles ahead for the new government. The idea of competition in the document is purely ideological and is itself "ambitious", ie. a risk. The fact the Nats have got Act to carry the can for it is a wise tactic - any failure will be down to John Banks getting off-side with a profession he once said was full of "sloppy jersey wearing" louts. He's an Associate Education Minister now!
Welfare privatisation is also on the agenda and is another battle in the same war.
The full text of the Act-Nat deal is on National's website.
By comparison Peter Dunne's deal is very much under the radar and non-controversial: National said it wouldn't sell more than 51% of the state assets anyway, and the early retirement possibilities under consideration sound vague.