Labouring over Labour's labour campaign

Jason Krupp
Insights Newsletter
21 April, 2017

One of the joys of working at the Initiative is writing for the weekly Insights newsletter. As a think tanker it allows you to pick from a veritable smorgasbord of worthy topics and opine on them (hopefully in an insightful manner).

Amid the array of topics, none is more enjoyable than lampooning the foibles of policy, be it Bill Gates’s tax on robots or National’s predator eradication targets that rely on yet-to-be-invented technologies.

Now it is Labour’s turn to star in the silly spotlight. The party recently launched the “what number baby born were you?” website, a carbon copy of a UK Labour campaign, aimed at bulking up its mailing list ahead of the election.

That is all well and good, but the website claims that “Since Labour founded our public health system in 1938, its incredible staff have delivered more than 4 million babies.” Unless I’m reading this wrong, it seems Labour is more or less claiming credit for every child born in New Zealand between now and 1938?

It relies heavily on the presumption that without the introduction of the public health system these four million people would not have otherwise been born. This just doesn’t hold water.

The US public health system is anemic compared to New Zealand’s and yet the Americans seem to have no trouble increasing their population the old fashioned way. Indeed, Africa is the world’s second most populous continent, and you’d be hard pressed to find anything resembling New Zealand’s public health system among its 54 constituent countries.

But, for argument’s sake, let’s take Labour’s claim at face value.

If true, by extension, this campaign implies the party is also responsible for the wonderful things these babies went on to do as grownups. But this logic cuts both ways.

To illustrate, consider that Labour has been trying very hard to paint Nick Smith as the architect of New Zealand’s housing crisis. But since the Minister was born in 1964, we must conclude that at the end of the day Labour is responsible for his birth, and hence the housing crisis. Erk!

As a fairly new father my advice to Labour would be to give credit where credit is due: to the women who went through actual labour to give birth to the four million babies born in New Zealand since 1938. Bravo to them.

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