By Harry Phibbs
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Congratulations to Erna Solberg who has been elected Norway's second female Prime Minister and the first Conservative Prime Minister since 1990.
She is nicknamed Iron Erna – a comparison, of course, with Margaret Thatcher.
The Norwegian Conservatives are a sister party of the British Conservatives as members of the International Democrat Union.
What can we learn from Norway?
Happily there is an English translation of the Norwegian Conservative Manifesto and it includes a number of themes which British Conservatives would recognise.
It says the new Government will "reduce state ownership of Norwegian industry."
There is a section on tax cuts:
The Conservative Party will progressively reduce direct and indirect taxes that weaken the motivation to work, and that curb investment in Norwegian jobs.
Specifically it calls for "gradually reduce and eventually abolish wealth tax" to "abolish inheritance tax" and to "reduce the tax on low and regular incomes."
It also pledged to:
Make it more financially rewarding to go from state benefits into work, for example by introducing a time-limited job-related tax deduction…
Raise the starting point for higher-rate income tax, so that people on regular incomes do not have to pay tax at the higher rate...
Use the taxation policy to make environmentally friendly performance profitable.
The education policy confirms Goveism as a growing export industry:
Ensure access to establish and run publicly financed private and religious schools as an alternative to state schools, and implement an Independent Schools Act where the goals requirement is replaced by a requirement for content and quality. Schools which meet the conditions shall have the right to accreditation unless, following a full assessment, such accreditation has significant negative consequences for the state- school provision for students. Private and religious schools shall not be permitted to pay a dividend to their owners.
There is a priority placed on tackling drug addiction:
The waiting time for treatment for drug and alcohol abusers is too long. The Conservative Party wants more appropriate and fair treatment for people who suffer from drug or alcohol dependency.
Health policy stresses more choice, more transparency and less bureaucracy:
Close down the regional health authorities and replace them with better national steering of health policy, while at the same time giving the hospitals greater freedom and responsibility within the framework of a national health and hospital plan.
Ensure an efficient flow of information on the individual patient while also exercising adequate protection of privacy.
Carry out extensive investigations of quality at the hospitals – for example mortality rates, re-operations and re-hospitalizations.
Ensure the transparency of quality investigations, and make these investigations publicly available..
Introduce free choice of treatment at the government’s expense so that those who need the required healthcare assistance can be offered treatment as quickly as possible.
The section on railways backs privatisation, competition and a new high speed "if profitable."
Design all new railway lines for 250 km/h or higher speeds and eventually build a high speed railway network if this proves to be profitable.
Introduce competition for the operation of passenger trains on more lines..
There is a bold promise for reducing red tape:
Implement measures that together reduce by 25 per cent the costs to industry of adhering to the requirements set by government.
Raise the audit exemption threshold.
Further develop the public reporting portal Altinn and have an objective that businesses shall only need to report the same information once to the public authorities…
Permit Sunday opening for shops.
The section on "Migration and Inclusion" says:
Ensure integration into Norwegian society as quickly as possible through language and knowledge testing for everyone applying for Norwegian citizenship.
Survey children’s language skills and give language training to children with poor Norwegian language skills before they start school. This service will also encompass children who do not attend kindergarten.
In some respects Norwegian Conservatism is a milder brand than Australian version – which triumphed at the polls just a couple of days earlier.
The Norwegian Conservatives, for instance, accept the orthdoxoes about climate change. There will also be some dismay that the Norwegian Conservatives favour membership of the EU – although this is symbolic as they accept it would require a referendum and that there is no prospect of it being approved.
Yet globalisation does provide opportunities for Conservative policy makers. We can learn from the Norwegians and the Australians just as they can learn from us and from each other.