Forwards or backwards

August 1, 2014

This poster is from the National Party archives.

#TBT Here's another piece from the National Party archives for Throwback Thursday, this time from our 1960 general election campaign.</p> <p>A forward-looking National Government is still the only choice to keep New Zealand moving in the right direction.

It was used in the 1960 election.

Fifty four years later the message is still valid.

If National is entrusted with the Treasury benches again it will continue to take us forward.

If Labour the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties win the election they’ll take us backwards.


Blue better for water than Green

July 30, 2014

Green isn’t the best colour for water, Federated Farmers environment spokesman Ian Mackenzie says:

The National Policy Statement (NPS) for freshwater may not have razzmatazz, but arose from that exercise in consensual collaboration called the Land and Water Forum [LawF].  It was the first time industry, councils, government departments and groups from Federated Farmers to Fish & Game, sat down to openly address water issues and find solutions.

At the heart of the NPS are our regional councils, who have been tasked with maintaining and improving water quality while bringing the poorest water quality up to a national minimum standard.  With next to no exceptions, this policy applies to all water bodies whether they are in town or country. This was an essential part of the LawF consensus and the government chose secondary human contact as the national minimum standard.  All of New Zealand’s top water scientists were involved in this.

The Green Party claim they are advocates for the environment and I would have thought they would have welcomed this important piece of legislation; whose intent is to keep New Zealand’s fresh water as the best in the world.

Being a farmer and with so many conflicting claims about water quality you may be dubious about what I am saying.  For an objective ‘warts and all’ water picture, can I direct you to the Land and Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website at www.lawa.org.nz.  It confirms our water quality is generally good, with many rivers and streams improving thanks to farmers’ efforts at riparian protection.

What we know is that most swimming spots monitored by regional councils over the warmer months are generally satisfactory for swimming.  The Greens often claim “60 percent of our water” is unsafe, but a vast number of sites are affected by urban runoff.  

When poor water standards are mentioned too many people blame farming but some of the worst water quality is in urban areas and the result of urban activities.

Now, the Green Party wants to make all water bodies swimmable.   This is disingenuous because of the sheer difficulty and cost of achieving it.

There are 425,000 kilometres of waterways in New Zealand, which would have to meet those swimming standards, 24 hours a day and 365-days of the year. 

The LAWA website states, “rivers and streams in (or downstream of) urban areas tend to have the poorest water quality (the highest concentrations of nutrients and bacteria, and lowest macroinvertebrate community index (MCI) scores).” This is because all our urban storm water systems are designed to use urban rivers and streams to take away all this run-off.  

The Landcare Trust is running a community project to clean up some of the urban streams that flow into the Tamaki River. Regardless of that effort and enthusiasm they will never be able to stop those streams from being contaminated to the extent that they will become safe for swimming. Think of the 150-page NZ Standard for public swimming pools, “to ensure the risk to public health is minimised.”  Most small schools have had to close their swimming pools because of problems maintaining that and other standards.   Trying to apply that standard to all fresh water bodies is a nonsense. 

This is where the Green Party is disingenuous.

When they say ‘all water bodies,’ they really mean only those in the countryside because they do not wish to alarm their core urban constituency.  The Green Party ignores the huge shift in farmers’ attitude towards environmental stewardship and underplays quantum leaps in management and mitigation of farm nutrients, the fencing of waterways, riparian planting, the strategic application of fertilisers and nutrient budgeting and the effects these are having on improving water quality.  The Greens do not mention that many of the sites NIWA test for its National Rivers Network that fail swimming standards are in fact rivers and lakes affected by urban run off. Instead they continue to blame farmers.

There is still more to be done but the imposition of higher standards by regional councils and improvements in farming practices are making a positive difference in many areas.

Farmers like me acknowledge that there is a lot more work we need to do and the vast majority of us are adopting practices and spending tens of millions of dollars a year which, given time,  will sort out our contribution.  But we are not the sole cause or the sole solution.  River quality reports are already showing the benefit of a change in farmers’ attitude toward environmental stewardship, but this narrative doesn’t fit the Green’s script.

The NPS by contrast will be law.  It gives communities the power to decide how much progress needs to be made and over what timeframe. It specifically encourages communities to decide what they want for their rivers and lakes while balancing that with the costs to society and the economy. It has the fish hook that over time, all water bodies will have plans for how they will meet community aspirations, so if the students of North Dunedin decide they wish to swim in the Leith at anytime and the ratepayers of that great Southern town can afford it and are prepared to prioritise that spending over all other, then that is their choice. My guess is the cost will have that city’s burghers muttering darkly at their haggis and prevarication will win.  That’s been the case in most major urban centres. 

The NPS may not have the sexy but implausible sound bite ‘swimmable for all’ but it gives that choice to the community to decide. It is practical, pragmatic and is the law. With water we’re in this together and the NPS underscores that. 

 The idea of being able to swim in every body of water is attractive but expensive and almost certainly an impossible standard to reach everywhere.

Dairying and recent intensification is blamed for poorer water quality but dirty water isn’t new.

My father was a carpenter at what was then Waitaki freezing works at Pukeuri  more than 40 years ago. That’s when the company had to build a huge reservoir to hold water which had to be treated because the water from the Waitaki River, which supplied Oamaru and other smaller settlements, wasn’t fit to wash export meat.

We’ve come a long way since then and while dairying is blamed for the problem it’s also working hard to be part of the solution with initiatives such as Fonterra’s Grassroots Fund:

Fonterra Grass Roots Fund

For those of you in Southland, head on down to Fonterra’s Living Water programme tomorrow with the Department of Conservation which works to enhance sensitive water catchments across New Zealand! Hear our plans, suggest ideas and get involved with some future volunteer opportunities. Enjoy demonstrations by freshwater scientists, a live fish tank display of local freshwater species and a BBQ lunch. It should be a great day! Address: Craws Creek Scenic Reserve, Waituna Lagoon Road, Friday 25th 2014 from 9:30 – 12:30. Any questions, please contact livingwater@fonterra.com
Photo: For those of you in Southland, head on down to Fonterra's Living Water programme tomorrow with the Department of Conservation which works to enhance sensitive water catchments across New Zealand! Hear our plans, suggest ideas and get involved with some future volunteer opportunities. Enjoy demonstrations by freshwater scientists, a live fish tank display of local freshwater species and a BBQ lunch. It should be a great day! Address: Craws Creek Scenic Reserve, Waituna Lagoon Road, Friday 25th 2014 from 9:30 – 12:30. Any questions, please contact livingwater@fonterra.com

There is general acceptance of a need to improve water quality in many areas.

The argument is about how far improvements need to go.

National’s policy imposes a a minimum standard.

It leaves it up to communities to decide how much higher they want, and can afford, their water quality to be.

They are the ones with the most to gain from cleaner water and they are the ones who will have to pay for it.

The Green policy sets an impossibly high standard and leaves communities with no choice regardless of their wishes and priorities.

Blue is a much better colour for water than green.


Too desperate to rule out Dotcom

July 30, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe had a chance to take the moral high ground and he blew it:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has denied he has double standards for refusing to rule out relying on the Internet Mana party to form a government despite deriding National for its coat tailing deals in Epsom and Ohariu.

Mr Cunliffe has accused National of manipulating voters by using the coat-tailing provisions to try to boost its support partners’ chances through electorate deals in Epsom and Ohariu.

However, he will not rule out calling on the Internet Mana Party if needed to form a Government.

The Internet-Mana alliance was set up to try to get the Internet Party into Parliament on the back of Hone Harawira’s seat, Te Tai Tokerau.

MMP allows parties which win an electorate seat to bring in other MPs even if they do not reach 5 per cent of the party vote.

Prime Minister John Key said Mr Cunliffe would try to form a government with the Internet Mana which had a similar deal and Labour had tried similar deals with Alliance and Green MPs in the past.

“A little bit of consistency would be good.” He believed voters knew MMP well enough to make the choices they considered best.

The PM has been open about which parties he is prepared to have in a government he leads and which he won’t.

He’s given voters the information they need to make a fully informed choice and it’s up to them how they exercise that choice.

But Cunliffe is taking Winston Peters’ line in refusing to confirm exactly what he’ll do, or not do, until after the election.

Mr Cunliffe said he had made it clear it was “extremely unlikely” any Internet Mana Party MPs would get ministerial positions, or even lower level associate or undersecretary roles in a Labour-led Government.

But he would not rule out policy concessions in return for their votes, saying that was a matter to discuss after the election. “We will talk to whoever the voters serve up.” . .

That’s another yeah-nah position.

Labour’s consistently polling below 30% an is very unlikely to have a strong foundation of voter support from which to bargain.

Mr Key said he doubted Labour would not include Internet Mana in Cabinet if it was needed to form a government.

“The reality is David Cunliffe about 10 months ago came into the job of Leader of the Opposition and said he was going to deliver a result in the high 30s for Labour and that would see them as the next government. Then he downsized that to the low 30s. In recent times, he’s been saying Labour in the 20s could still theoretically become the government. What we know is when you’re Leader of the Opposition you’re desperate to become Prime Minister and will probably do anything. He’s in the camp of forming an alliance with anybody to get over the line.” . . .

Cunliffe will be desperate to be Prime Minister and if the Green, New Zealand First and Internet Mana parties have enough sets to enable him to cobble together a coalition of the losers he’ll make any concessions he needs to be in government.

He had a chance to show strength as the PM did when he ruled out Winston Peters before previous elections.

But Cunliffe’s too desperate to win at any cost to rule out Dotcom and the Internet Mana Party he funds and controls.

However, rather than helping Labour into government it could well set them even further back.

Moderate voters who are undecided will be repulsed by the spectre of Labour and the GIMPs.

The rules allow the smaller of the bigger parties and an ill-assorted bunch of also-rans to form a government but that’s unlikely to be the sort of government most voters would find palatable.

They have the the prospect of a strong and refreshed National Party likely to need only minor support from other parties who have proven to work well in government  or a weak and stale Labour Party requiring major support from an unproven and disparate assortment of parties.

It’s a choice between progress and stability on one side and regression and instability on the other.


Gotcha doesn’t get voters

July 29, 2014

John Armstrong writes on the disease of gotcha politics:

It sure ain’t pretty. It sure ain’t enlightening. It is most definitely insidious. It is a creeping cancer of the New Zealand body politic.

Regardless of whether it is John Key or David Cunliffe who has the numbers on election night to pick up the reins of power, so-called “gotcha politics” is almost guaranteed to be the big winner of the 2014 election campaign.

If it is voters will be the losers.

“Gotcha politics” is all about focusing voters’ attention on the gaffes and mistakes of opponents rather than trying to win the election by winning the battle of ideas.

It is personality-based politics, not issue-driven politics. It is all about wrecking your opponents’ campaign by landing major hits on their credibility.

It is also negative.

That’s what makes Labour’s exhortation to vote positive so oxymoronic because they’ve spent so much of this parliamentary term being so negative.

At its worst, gotcha politics can be an old-fashioned witch-hunt dressed up in modern-day notions of accountability. None of this new, of course.

What has changed is the extent and intensity of gotcha politics.

Even the Greens are not immune. Last Friday, that party joined others in stressing its campaign would focus on the issues, rather than the sideshows.

Was this the same Green Party whose co-leader Metiria Turei had spent much of the week demanding a prime ministerial apology for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs blunder regarding the granting of diplomatic immunity to a defence attache at the Malaysian High Commission charged with sexual assault?

No matter that various apologies had already been forthcoming. No matter that the State Sector Act and the Cabinet Manual set clear boundaries to prevent ministers interfering in operational matters – thereby begging the question of exactly what John Key was supposed to be apologising for. No matter that the Greens had politicised the whole affair to the point of jeopardising the prosecution of the Malaysian official.

When politicians get ahead of the judicial process justice for both the victim and the accused are the losers.

It is unfair to single out the Greens. Both National and Labour are just as guilty, if not more so. National’s being in Government makes it more likely to be a target of such attacks, however.

One reason “gotcha politics” is becoming more endemic is that Key has neutralised so many issues that Opposition parties are having to resort to personality-based attacks to make any kind of impact.

It’s the Opposition’s role to hold a government to account but it should be able to do that on issues rather than personalities.

If it can’t then it is not ready for government.

The other major factor is conflict-driven news media. The seemingly insatiable 24-hours-a-day appetite of internet news sites means quality has to be sacrificed for quantity when it comes to investigations and analysis.

In these circumstances, it is temptingly easier to manufacture the news through the media playing their own version of gotcha politics by trying to catch politicians out.

And an election campaign provides the happiest of all hunting grounds for such practices.

I am sure this is one of the reasons so many people are disenchanted with politics and that voter turnout is dropping.

Serious analysis and intelligent debate of issues has been replaced by a focus on personalities and sideshows.

Gotcha politics might be entertaining but it doesn’t get the majority of voters, on the contrary it turns many off.

 


Eco-socialism replacing social-socialism

July 23, 2014

Jim Hopkins is a regular guest on The Farming Show to add levity but yesterday he got serious about Labour.

The party’s problem, he said, is that the social-socialism on which it was founded has been replaced with eco-socialism.

. . .If  you think about the labour movement globally and historically and socially it emerged out of the industrial revolution and out of the creation of a huge working class that was required to run all the factories and machinery that actually produced the goods that created the industrial revolution and made the world wealthy.

Well that’s past, unfortunately.  That workforce is now either robotic or lives off-shore in China or India and probably  increasingly in the next decade or so  Africa and in my view if you look at the left at the moment the whole thrust of the left has moved from social-socialism if you like to eco-socialism and I think actually that what you’re really seeing is that the Green Party is the new Labour Party and the old Labour Party doesn’t know where to go . . .

The Labour Party started losing its way when it became a vehicle for lots of disparate causes including feminism and gay rights.

It started with group of people who were in the party because they believed in its philosophy and principles and who were united behind those.

It became a collection of different lobby groups using the party to promote their various agenda.

These might not be conflicting but they’re not unifying either and it makes it difficult for the party to be clear about what it stands for.

It won’t advocate socialism . . .  it’s lost and in my view that it doesn’t help in New Zealand that it hasn’t worked out how to integrate the Lange -Douglas government . . . into their current thinking. . .

Ah yes, they still can’t accept those ‘failed’ policies of the 80s and 90s which the Labour-led governments of the noughties railed against but didn’t attempt to change in any substantial way.

Labour has lost its roots and disowns its most successful policies in recent history.

That’s left the party without a strong foundation on which to build – even if it could agree on what it wants to build and how, which it can’t.

That’s created a vacuum which the Green Party is doing its best to fill.

Unfortunately the green is only a shell sheltering red seeds.

Environmental causes are the cover for socialist social and economic agenda – the eco-socialism to which Hopkins referred.

That agenda used to be Labour’s but it’s now outflanked on the left and unable to put a credible case in the centre to attract the swing votes it would need if it’s to lead the next government.

The fertile ground on which is used to sow social socialism has gone and the Green Party has pre-empted its role in eco-socialism.

That does leave a place for a party which is strong on the environment and reasonable on economic and social issues but Labour isn’t likely to sit comfortably there.

Maybe that’s why so many of its policies are backward looking – it’s looked ahead and can’t see a future for itself.


Paying price for prevarication

July 21, 2014

Last night’s 3 News-Reid Research poll gave Labour more bad news:

PARTY VOTE:

National: 49.4 percent (down 0.3 percent)
Labour: 26.7 percent (down 0.6 percent)
Green: 12.4 percent (down 0.3 percent)
NZ First: 4.3 percent  (up 0.7 percent)
Conservative: 2.7 percent (down 0.1 percent)
Internet Mana: 2.3 percent (up 0.5 percent)
Maori: 1.1 percent (down 0.4 percent)
United Future: 0.2 percent (up 0.2 percent)
ACT: 0.1 percent (down 0.3 percent)

The reason’s for Labour’s poor showing are many, but one of those is Cunliffe’s prevarication over whether or not he’d do a post-election deal with the Internet-mana Party:

SHOULD LABOUR WORK WITH INTERNET MANA IN FORMING A GOVERNMENT:

NO: 59 percent
YES: 29 percent
Don’t know: 12 percent
-
Labour voters:
NO: 47 percent
YES: 40 percent
Don’t know: 13 percent

Cunliffe’s following the Winston Peters’ line on this – he’ll play the cards the voters deal.

But by doing this both men are leaving voters without information they need to cast their votes with confidence.

John Key told everyone months ago which parties he would and would not work with.

People know  what they’d get if they give National their party votes.

In contrast, Cunliffe and Peters continue to prevaricate which leaves voters having to take a gamble.

If they give Labour their party votes they can’t be sure they wouldn’t be helping the Internet-Mana Party into government and if they vote for New Zealand First they have no idea if Peters would move right or left.

In spite of what he says about the possibility of staying on the cross-benches, the lure of some baubles would almost certainly persuade him to change his mind.

A vote for either Labour or New Zealand first is a vote for uncertainty and instability.


If an election was held tomorrow . . .

July 17, 2014

The question polling companies ask is if an election was held tomorrow which party would you vote for?

The answer to that is very encouraging for National and very depressing for Labour and the parties it would need to cobble together a government.

Last night’s Roy Morgan poll and today’s Fairfax Media Ipsos poll, both confirm the trend of National above 50% and Labour and the GIMPs below it.

But the election isn’t being held tomorrow and while the odds favour National that could actually work against it.

No party has won 50% support since we’ve had MMP and the high support could lead to complacency.

National supporters might think they don’t need to vote or they can afford to play with their party vote.

That certainly isn’t the case.

Complacency or over-confidence from centre right voters could let Labour and the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties cobble together a coalition of the unwilling and ill-disciplined.

 


Who cares about the regions?

July 14, 2014

The regions are a foreign country to most opposition MPs.

They visit occasionally, grab a headline about how bad things are and pop back to the safety of a city.

While there they try to show they care, but their policies give the lie to that:

There would be a bleak future for New Zealand’s regions if a Labour/Greens/Internet/Mana Party coalition became Government after the next election, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

“A number of election policies released in the last couple of days show that the regions would be in for a dramatic and long term slowdown if there was to be a change in Government after September 20,” Mr Joyce says.

“Cartoon-like policies from the Greens and the Internet Mana Party against fresh water usage and oil and gas exploration and in favour of big new carbon taxes show how little they understand what drives most jobs and incomes in regional New Zealand. Thirteen of our 16 regions have a big stake in industries based on our natural resources and there would be thousands and thousands of job losses if their policies came to pass.

“The Greens and Internet Mana want the regions to sacrifice most of their livelihoods for holier-than-thou policies that would achieve little except making New Zealanders a lot poorer. The worrying part is that these sort of attitudes would drive any post-election Labour coalition.

“On top of that, the Labour Party mounted a very lukewarm and half-hearted defence of the oil and gas industry on Saturday. Either David Shearer is being controlled by the left wing of the Labour Caucus or he knows it’s all a bit pointless because any left wing coalition energy policy would be run by the Greens with help from Laila Harre and Hone Harawira.”

Mr Joyce says regional New Zealand knows how to balance the environment and the economy to ensure sustainable economic growth.

“This government is working with the regions to lift economic growth and job opportunities while improving environmental outcomes,” Mr Joyce says. “The left talks about the regions but promotes policies that would do real damage to them.

“The stark reminder we have received this weekend is that regional New Zealand would be completely nailed by a Labour/Greens/Internet/Mana coalition.”

 Labour and the GIMPs would take New Zealand backwards.

All primary industries would face more regulation, more restrictions, higher costs and more and higher taxes.

That would result in less production, fewer jobs, lower profits and as a result of that the tax take from them would be lower even though the tax rates would be higher.

One of the reasons New Zealand has survived the global financial crisis and is beginning to prosper is the strength of primary industries.

Any progress would be reversed if Labour and the GIMPs were in government.

They only care about the regions for show.

National by contrast has MPs in all but a couple of provincial seats, knows the regions, understand their issues and governs for all New Zealand – not just the urban liberals to whom Labour and the GIMPs are targeting their policies.


Rabble of competing parties

July 14, 2014

Tracy Watkins writes on the problem the Internet Mana Party, and Laila Harre, pose for the Greens:

. . . The threat posed to the Greens by IMP is three-fold. There is likely to be a crossover in their appeal to the same voters, though maybe not to a huge extent. A lot depends on whether voters fix on Dotcom, or Harre, as the face of the Internet Party. Unless Harre succeeds at radically remaking herself, they would seem to speak to vastly different constituencies.

IMP’s resources will create a lot of noise, however, and the Greens’ static polling suggests it is suffering from a lack of oxygen due to the focus on the minor parties – not just IMP, but the Conservatives. At this stage in the electoral cycle the Greens would normally expect to be climbing in support. Signs of a more aggressive approach toward the media this week suggest a sense of urgency about pushing back.

But the biggest threat posed to the Greens by IMP is that which it also poses to Labour. Its presence turns the Left-wing bloc into a rabble of competing parties and interest groups.

The Greens have been hugely focused in recent years on making themselves less scary to the average voter and presenting the Greens as a credible, known and stable partner in any future Labour-Green government (though Labour hasn’t always appreciated their overtures).

That message is undermined the weaker Labour gets, and the more reliant it looks to be on IMP to get there.

But Labour is sufficiently weakened that it can’t decisively rule IMP out. And given her history, Harre won’t make it easy for Labour or the Greens to do so – either before or after the election if she is in a position to force her way into a seat around the table.

Dim Post sheds some light on the  toxicity of the Green Internet Party relationship:

In the hypothetical Labour/Green/New Zealand First/Mana/Internet Party coalition that voters are being asked to put in charge of the country this election year, its hard to figure out which inter-party relationship is the most poisonous, or who would like to destroy whom the most. But now that Laila Harre’s gone and started pre-releasing Green Party policy on the same day as the Greens and justified it on the basis that she worked for the Green Party for fifteen months, and therefore owns all their intellectual property, somehow, I’m gonna nominate the Green/Internet Mana relationship as, from here on in, probably the most toxic. . .

The weaker Labour is the more power any of the wee parties it would have to rely on for a majority become.

Many of those in the centre are already put off by the prospect of the Green Party in government.

Add the Internet Mana party pulling even further left and bad blood between Harre and the Greens and the rabble of competing parties looks even less like a government in waiting and more and more like a recipe for radical left policies, infighting and instability.


What they’ll need to do

July 12, 2014

Vernon Small muses on one of MMP’s downsides – the need for coalition partners:

. . . In Cunliffe’s case, he can be relatively certain Internet-Mana will be there.

His bigger concern is the political Centre’s negative views of Harawira, his Left-wing allies and Internet founder Kim Dotcom – and more generally about the increasingly fractured Centre-Left vote.

Labour’s vote softened measurably after the Internet-Mana deal became known. It believes that was not because the new party took Labour votes but more because it was a bridge too far for floating voters to contemplate a four or five-way alternative government.

And Labour knows – because it has already started – that National will use that against it.

It is a difficult line for Cunliffe to walk. He needs to emphasise the stability of a three-way deal with the Greens and NZ First – both of which have the advantage of being parties that win in their own right and will, if in Parliament, have achieved more than 5 per cent support. He can contrast that with National’s vassal parties, there only at Key’s favour.

Voters could choose a weak Labour Party propped up by the Green and NZ First parties with the added frightener of Internet Mana or a strong National Party with two or three very small coalition partners.

That’s a choice between instability, uncertainty and backwards policies from the left or stability, certainty and forward momentum from the centre right.

But strategising at the party’s weekend Congress pointed up the problem. Labour was stacking up its potential pluses just to get over the line.

It could push up to about 30, with a good ground game and organisation, the Greens bring about 12 per cent, NZ First would add another 5-6 per cent and Internet-Mana would add the final cherry on top. Presto, 51 per cent.

Over at the National conference the previous week, the mirror-image argument was being played out by its strategists.

Achieve close to 50 per cent and we govern alone. Fall to the mid 40s, and Labour with its allies could get the numbers. Subtext? Deals with our minor allies may be crucial, so brace yourself for Key’s announcement of deals with the minnows.

Memo to Cunliffe and Key: if you are counting them into your thinking, so will the voters.

Memo to voters: look less at what they say they will do and more at what they may need to do to win power.

A weak Labour Party would have to do, and concede, a lot more than a strong National party would.

We're for stable government.


Labour stands firm with no proof

July 10, 2014

The Labour Party is standing firm on its claim the Government has influenced police statistics, despite admitting it has no proof to back it up.

That stance isn’t confined to these accusations which not only smear the government but are an attack on the integrity of police too.

Labour is standing firm on several policies although the facts don’t support their stand.

Examples include:

* The belief that increasing tax rates will increase the tax take.

* The assertion that a capital gains tax will restrain property prices rises even though family homes are exempt and a CGT has not restrained property prices in other countries.

* The contention that adding fewer than one teacher per school will be better for children than improving the quality of teachers.

* The belief that what’s good for unions is good for workers.

* The belief that increasing the minimum wage will not have a negative impact on employment and business.

* The belief that adding costs and complexity to employing people won’t harm jobs.

* The claim that inequality is worsening.

* The belief that changing  KiwiSaver contribution rates would be a viable tool for reducing inflation.

* The assertions that National’s policies aimed at helping people from welfare to work are beneficiary bashing.

* The belief that governments are good at running businesses.

These are just a few of Labour’s policies and beliefs which aren’t supported by facts.

But the most erroneous belief is that they, a party riven by internal divisions, could lead a stable government with the support of the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties.


Cunliffe says nah yeah to Internet Mana

July 7, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe isn’t ruling out going into coalition with the Internet Mana Party:

Deal or no deal? That’s a question Labour Party leader David Cunliffe is facing.

He’s trying to have it both ways with Internet Mana, leaving the door open to working with them in government, but not to the cabinet table. . .

Rousing the party faithful, Labour has one goal in mind – to change the Government. That means hello Internet Mana and its cash-cow, Kim Dotcom.

“After the election we will work with whomever we need to work with to change the Government,” says Mr Cunliffe. “We will have our door and phone line open to whoever wants to change the Government.”

It’s a political dead rat Labour may have to swallow. Some are fighting against, wanting to rule out working with Internet Mana in government.

That includes some of his caucus and at least one candidate.

Phil Goff is on record calling the deal a rort, with Dotcom buying influence. Chris Hipkins says they’re “unprincipled sell-outs” and Dotcom is a “discredited German”.

“I don’t have much time for Kim Dotcom at all to be honest,” says Napier candidate Stuart Nash.

Mr Nash says the same about Hone Harawira. . .

Mr Cunliffe knows he may need the Dotcom, Harawira, Laila Harre combo but doesn’t want them too close.

“Frankly I would be surprised to see anybody other than the Greens and perhaps New Zealand First at our cabinet table,” says Mr Cunliffe. “I think that’s extremely unlikely, extremely unlikely, they’ll be ministers – extremely unlikely.”

So that means no seats in cabinet but a deal still possible.

Internet Mana is a political weakness for Labour and Mr Cunliffe is trying to have it both ways. . .

Like a lot of his other positions it’s a yeah nah – or in this case a nay-yeah one.

He doesn’t want them but he’s not ruling them out and neither Hone Harawiara nor Laila Harre are the sort of people to roll over without being thrown a bone or two which may well include a place in the top kennel.

That won’t go down well with some in Labour on principle and also because they are already facing missing out on cabinet places to accommodate Green and NZ First MPs.

It won’t go down well with either of those other prospective partners and it won’t go down well with most voters.


The importance of certainty

July 4, 2014

Trans-Tasman notes the appeal of certainty and stability:

National emerged neat and tidy from its election year conference. Delegates went home knowing what they have to do to ensure the party can re-form a governing coalition. It’s this disciplined approach which carries its own message to the electorate, contrasting with the inchoate array of parties lined up on the other side of the fence. Private polling shows within the electorate, opinion is beginning to harden on the parties of the left being so disparate, (even if they gained a majority of seats in the next Parliament), a coalition of those parties would be highly unstable and couldn’t last.

Certainty, along with stability, is the priority for most voters. The difficulty for the parties of the left is they project not just instability, but incoherence in the policies they are espousing. The realisation has grown Labour would have to share power with the Greens, NZ First and possibly the Mana/Internet alliance. How would it work? In the NZ Herald this week John Armstrong noted Labour seems to be increasingly paralysed by the division between MPs who put a priority on economic development and those who want environmental concerns to be very much part of that development.

The Opposition has forgotten what Helen Clark did in the run-up to the 1999 election, staging a reconciliation with Jim Anderton and his Alliance to project a united front and give electors an idea of what a Clark-led Govt would look like (even though it must have savaged her personal pride to cosy up to her old foe). . . 

 The more voters see of what a Cunliffe-led Labour/Green/NZ First/Mana/Internet Party might look like the less appeal it has.

There are enough uncertainties in most people’s lives without adding an uncertain coalition and the instability that would come with it especially when its contrast with the certainty and stability of a National-led government with John Key as Prime Minister.


What’s Labour’s position on buying back assets?

July 2, 2014

Finance Minister Bill English explains the benefits of using funds from the partial sale of a few state owned assets to invest in new ones:

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government continues to make good progress in investing almost $4.7 billion from its share offer programme into new public assets. We are able to invest this money without having to borrow more from overseas lenders. At the weekend the Prime Minister and Minister Brownlee confirmed that $212 million from the Future Investment Fund will be invested in 14 important regional State highway projects around New Zealand. That is on top of the $360 million that we have already proposed for regional roads across New Zealand. This investment will continue to build on the Government’s extensive investment in vital infrastructure, which includes ultra-fast broadband, schools, hospitals, roads, and rail, and more of it will be financed from the Future Investment Fund.

John Hayes: How will the latest investment in regional roads meet the objectives set for using capital raised from the Government’s share offer programme?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: This investment follows through on the logic of the sales, where the Government sold shares to investors, the investors passed cash to the Government, and now we have the opportunity to invest that cash. As the Prime Minister said at the weekend, the investment in regional roads is a perfect example of money from the share floats being invested for the benefit of New Zealanders, its economy, and its families. The 14 projects are spread across the country from Otago to Northland, from the West Coast to the East Coast.

John Hayes: What other investments in new public assets has the Government confirmed using proceeds from the share offer programme?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the House is now familiar with, there is $4.7 billion of proceeds from the share offer programme. In Budget 2014 the Government confirmed a further $1 billion of new investment. This included $200 million for health, including $67 million for the new Grey Base Hospital on the West Coast. This took health spending from the Future Investment Fund to $684 million. It also allocated $172 million to education, including the upgrade and replacement of schools in Canterbury. KiwiRail received another $198 million. All up, the $1 billion allocated from the fund in Budget 2014 brought the total allocated to almost $3 billion, which left nearly $1.7 billion in the fund for new public assets over the next couple of years without having to borrow more money.

Using the proceeds for new investments without additional borrowing is very sensible practice and exactly what National said it would do.

The logic of that has until now escaped the Opposition but it now appears to have approval from one party on the other side of the House:

John Hayes: What reports has he seen supporting the Government’s approach to investing proceeds from the share offer programme in new public assets?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports from an unlikely source: an alternative budget that was issued in the last week or two. The reports indicate that this alternative approach to the Government’s finances will continue the current Government’s approach of using proceeds from the share offer programme. The Opposition budget includes the $4.7 billion proceeds from the asset sales being spent on public assets, which was rather a surprise given that they had spent 4 years vigorously opposing the policy.

Labour has prevaricated over whether it would  buy back shares in the state-owned companies which were partially sold by the government.

But its alternative budget indicates it’s now decided it won’t.

That is sensible but how would that go down with potential coalition partners in the Green and NZ First Parties who opposed the sales at least as vigorously and continue to do so?


Moa madness

July 1, 2014

Trevor Mallard election winning strategy is to bring back the moa.

Does this mean he:

a) Is acting in his capacity as a member of the ABC – Anyone But Cunliffe – club.

b) Is trying to distract us from something good National is doing.

c) Is trying to distract us from something bad that Labour is doing.

d) Is aiming for a back to the future version of Mike Moore’s lamb burgers with moa burgers.

e) Is trying to differentiate Labour from the Green Party in its opposition to genetic modification.

f) Has lost the plot.

g) All of the above.

 

 


A wee bit too clever?

July 1, 2014

Politics is hard on families and I respect Holly Walker’s decision to put her family first by deciding to resign.

Her decision to remain as the candidate for Hutt South is somewhat less laudable.

Since Jeanette Fitzsimons lost Coromandel, the Green party hasn’t even pretended to be interested in winning electorates.

I’ve heard their candidates tell meetings to not vote for them, vote for the Labour man or woman, they’re only interested in the party vote.

Like it or not, that’s what MMP allows.

But to have an MP who has stated she will resign from parliament at the end of the term still stand as a candidate in a seat is a new twist of the system.

It’s not unusual to have people stand in seats they can’t win.

Plenty stand in seats for the sake of the party knowing they won’t win nor can they expect to get in on the list. They are taking one for the team in the hope of increasing the party vote.

But this is the first time a list MP who has announced she won’t be in the next parliament still plans to campaign in a seat with the deliberate intent of neither winning it nor returning to parliament.

There are obvious advantages for the party – they have a candidate with profile and the ability to get publicity in a way open to MPs but not so much to a candidate, and who is being paid by the taxpayer.

But what’s in it for the people of Hutt South?

Nothing but another example of MMP’s faults.

The Green Party engineered the early entry of Russel Norman into parliament when he first became co-leader so he could campaign as an MP with the benefits and pay that carried.

That was manipulating the system but at least he was fully intending to be an MP after the next election.

This smells worse than that.

Walker would be paid until the end of the parliamentary term without being a candidate and even if she wasn’t standing in a seat she could still campaign for the party until the election.

So it’s not that there’s any extra cost involved.

It’s more an extra dose of duplicity.

Not trying to win because it’s the party vote that counts is one thing, standing without wanting to win is another.

In the normal course of events a candidate who didn’t expect tow in would be delighted is s/he did but obviously Walker wouldn’t be.

The chances might be slim, and if the good folk of Hutt South catch on to what’s going on, they’ll be even slimmer.

And that’s where she and the party might be being a wee bit too clever.

They might not like the smell of this and decide to give their party votes to a party which stands candidates who genuinely want to be in parliament.


Holly Walker resigns

June 30, 2014

Green Party MP Holly Walker is resigning.

UPDATE:

TV3 reports that although she is withdrawing from the party  list she will continue as the Green candidate in Hutt South.


Strong economy not end in itself

June 30, 2014

Prime Minister John Key began his speech to National’s conference yesterday by looking at what motivates him and the party:

 . .  I know that what motivates me also motivates you.

It’s about working for New Zealand to make this country the best it can be.

It’s about being proud to call yourself a New Zealander.

I want to tell you that what we do is making a difference.

When National came into office the economy was in tatters.

Getting it back on track has been tough.

But this month we recorded the third-highest growth rate in the developed world.

Our country’s trade surplus is at a 20-year high.

And next year, after all we’ve been through as a country, I’m proud to say that the Government’s books will be back in the black.

Ladies and Gentlemen, those are all good things.

They are economists’ measures and they’re hugely important.

But actually, they’re not the way most people measure progress.

Most people use measures that are closer to home and closer to their hearts.

Their questions are more likely to be: “Can I provide the best for my family?”; “Will my kids get a job when they’ve finished their education?”; “Will the health system be there when my family needs it?”; “Am I safe in my home and on our streets?”; and “Will my parents be looked after in their retirement?”.

In answer to all of those questions, we can say “yes”.

A strong economy isn’t an end in itself.

It’s a way of delivering the things people care most about.

A strong economy matters because without it we can’t afford the other things that matter.

And my real sense is that New Zealand has become a much more assured and much more optimistic country.

People are confident they can make a difference in their own lives, and that their children and grandchildren have good prospects.

New Zealanders know that our country is well managed and on the right track.

And they are demonstrating that by their actions.

When we first came into office, a net 3,000 people every month were leaving New Zealand to live in Australia.

That’s now dropped to only 200 a month because people know they’ve got a brighter future here in New Zealand.

We have a plan, and that plan is working for New Zealand.

Over the last year an extra 84,000 jobs were created.

Wages are rising every year, faster than inflation.

New Zealanders have worked hard to get our country back on its feet.

And the Government is ensuring that families share the dividends of that growth.

That’s why the heart of this year’s Budget was a $500 million package for families.

We’re increasing paid parental leave, we’re boosting support for families with new-born children, and I’m proud to say that we’re the party that’s bringing in free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for children under 13.

In our party we believe in supporting families.

Some people think that caring about people and their families is solely the territory of the Left.

Well that is complete and utter nonsense.

And the actions of our government are proving that.

I’m in politics because I care about other New Zealanders, particularly those families who need a hand to pick themselves up.

My family was one of those and I’ll never forget it.

I know where I come from.

My government has been very focused on making sure that the taxpayers’ money we spend helps people lead more independent, productive and hopeful lives.

You’d be surprised at what a novel approach that is, compared to the previous government. . .

This government has focussed on the quality of spending rather than the quantity.

In doing so it’s made positive differences to the lives of individuals and their families and significantly reduce the long-term liability of welfare.

We’re seeing positive change.

It’s under a National-led government that around 1,500 people a week are coming off welfare and into work.

Compared with two years ago, nearly 30,000 fewer children are living in homes dependant on welfare benefits.

I want to share with you a story I read in the paper a little while ago.

It was about a woman who’d raised six kids on the sole parent benefit.

She’d been on it for close to 20 years, until one day her nine-year-old daughter said, “It’s cool being on the benefit. I’m going to go on the benefit like you.”

That sentence – that simple sentence from the mouth of a nine-year-old – made her mother stop in her tracks.

She went out and she got a job.

I don’t imagine it’s easy for her – far from it.

But I absolutely do know that work offers the sort of independence, opportunity and self-esteem that a life on welfare never can.

I’m proud of our welfare reforms under the leadership of Paula Bennett, and I know you’re proud of her too.

The work we are doing in that area is one of the unsung stories of this government, and it’s led to profound changes that are truly transforming people’s lives.

There are other great stories to tell.

Achievement at school is rising and under our Government, more apprentices are being trained.

Just this week I was at WelTec and a young man got up to speak to us.

He said he wasn’t too proud of his past but he’s had the opportunity to do a Pacific trades training course, he’s completing his apprenticeship, and he’s already had job offers – including on the McKay’s to Peka Peka roading project.

To me, that’s what we mean when we talk about investing in our young people.

That’s what we mean when we talk about changing peoples’ lives.

And that’s what we mean when we talk about a brighter future.

We have in front of us right now the best opportunity in a generation to have a long, stable period of rising incomes, as long as we stick to the path we’re on.

But that opportunity will be lost without another National-led government.

It’s just 83 days to the election.

In that time we will be putting in front of New Zealanders a range of exciting new policies.

Our policies will build on the strong foundations we’ve laid over the last six years.

We are proud of what we’ve done, but there is so much more to do.

We’ll have new health initiatives.

We’ll have new ideas to raise achievement in our schools.

We’ll have new policies in economic development, transport, science, justice, welfare, law and order, and the environment.

And that’s not all.

Of course, all the policies we’ll announce are underpinned by our strong commitment to grow the economy and carefully manage the Government’s finances.

We’ll continue to focus attention on what matters.

And we’ll continue to support Christchurch through the rebuild.

I want to specially thank Gerry Brownlee, who has a huge commitment to his city and his community.

We made a commitment to the people of Canterbury on day one and we will not waver from it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the future is positive for New Zealand.

National is the party for people who care about that future.

It’s for people who want to ensure that New Zealand keeps moving in the right direction.

And not just next year, but well beyond that, so New Zealanders find opportunities in an economy that values their skills and produces new jobs and higher wages.

Treasury is forecasting 170,000 more jobs in the economy over the next four years, together with rising wages – if we stick to the path we’re on.

Our challenge is to match and better those predictions.

I know we can.

But as I said yesterday, there is another way things could play out in this year’s election.

National is ahead in the polls at the moment but this election is going to be much, much tighter than many people realise.

We’re going to have to work hard for every vote.

Because that’s what our opponents will be doing, despite their shortcomings.

Labour has David Cunliffe, who takes himself so seriously that other people don’t have to.

The Greens have two co-leaders who want to be co-deputy-prime ministers in some kind of bizarre job-sharing experiment.

Internet Mana – the Maori radical meets file sharing party – is a strange mix standing for goodness knows what.

So if our opponents got into government it would be a complete circus – a recipe for political and economic instability that would be hugely damaging for New Zealand.

The weaker the bigger party is the more power the wee parties have.

A government led by a weakened Labour Party dominated by the Green and New Zealand First parties and also beholden to the Internet and Mana Parties would indeed be a circus and a very unstable one at that.

Our opponents will be cavalier in their spending promises. It’s already started.

They can do that because if they waste money they’ll simply tax you more.

In only five years, the last Labour government increased its spending by 50 per cent, driving mortgage rates into double digits.

In contrast, National respects New Zealanders and their hard-earned incomes.

If we can’t use that money as well as you can, you should keep it.

That will be one of the choices we’ll have as we post surpluses in the years ahead.

Repaying debt, spending a bit more on public services, putting money into the Super Fund, investing in infrastructure and modest tax reductions are the kinds of choices we’ll have.

One of those will be our investment in infrastructure.

Over the last six years, our Government has invested heavily in vital infrastructure to make up for years of underinvestment – from ultra-fast broadband, to schools and hospitals, to roads and rail.

I think of national infrastructure like the framing in a house.

Framing is not usually visible, or glamorous, but everything else in a house depends on it being solid and reliable.

The solid framing of this country is our infrastructure, and households and businesses depend on that.

On good roads, for example, you get better public transport, more efficient freight movement, faster journeys and – very importantly – safer trips for New Zealand families.

One of the key things we did on coming into government was designate seven Roads of National Significance in, or around, our largest population centres.

Of those important projects, we’ve already completed the Victoria Park Tunnel.

The huge tunnel boring machine, affectionately known as Alice, continues to drive progress on the Waterview connection in Auckland.

We are making rapid progress on the Waikato Expressway, the Tauranga Eastern Link, the Kapiti Expressway and the Christchurch Southern Motorway.

And the first sod will soon be turned on the long-awaited Transmission Gully project north of Wellington.

A lot of time was spent discussing and debating these projects in the past.

Under a National-led Government, we’re getting on and making them happen.

Our Government has also been busy in the regions.

We’ve built the Kopu Bridge on the way to the Coromandel, and the Kurow bridges in North Otago.

We’ve extended the Hawkes Bay Expressway and Dunedin’s Southern Motorway.

But there are still more regional roading projects that need to get underway.

The National-led Government has always recognised the vital importance of our regions.

The regions have led this country’s economic recovery and the regions supply a lot of the exports that pay our way in the world. . .

National has already made significant improvements to transport infrastructure and plans more.

The chances of a left-wing government in which the Green Party held sway placing any importance on keeping the regions moving are slight.

. . . Taken together, these roading projects represent a significant new commitment in our regions.

They are another example of the Government’s focus on ensuring that the benefits of the recovery are spread across all of New Zealand.

And they are an example – just one example – of our economic plan to support growth in a modern economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow National Party members.

Our country is firmly on the right track.

Our party is in good heart.

Our government – our National-led government – is delivering strong and stable leadership.

The choice at this election could not be clearer.

That choice is between a positive direction for New Zealand, or a leaderless circus of parties that would do great damage to our country.

That’s why we need you to redouble your efforts to ensure that the choice this country makes on September 20 is the right one.

Together, let’s keep working for New Zealand!

The right choice is the one that’s working.

The wrong choice would reverse the gains made and destroy many of the dividends of the hard work that’s been done.


Winning team won’t necessarily be winner

June 29, 2014

A party enjoying poll ratings which show it could govern alone might be in danger of complacency.

There is absolutely none of that at the National Party conference where the very clear message was

Prime Minister John Key told Patrick Gower:

. . . I know the polls look strong for us. And I know on the 3 Reid Research poll we’ll be able to govern alone and I’m really personally desperately hope that’s what election night looks like. But you and I both know it’ll probably be tighter than that and there’s every chance that we don’t win.. .

Chris Finlayson and Steven Joyce gave a similar message to the conference:

. . . Attorney General Chris Finlayson talked about the “hydra” this morning that grows new heads when the old ones are chopped off.

“Cut off Phil Goff and up shoots David Shearer and Hone Harawira. Saw off David Shearer and up springs David Cunliffe and Laila Harre.

“The fragmentation on the left hasn’t made the hydra weaker,” said Mr Finlayson “only more unstable if it can force its way into power again.”

Campaign chairman Steven Joyce warned delegates that the campaign was “still a little puppy” and that anything at all could happen in the next 84 days before the election – the wackiest thing imaginable, he said.

“A retired Maori activist who has become an MP working with a hard left unionist and let’s just throw in a wealthy German millionaire right-winger, they could form a political party,” said.

“That’s the sort of wacky thing that could happen between now and September 20.

“If Laila Harre, Hone Harawira, Pam Corkery, Kim Dotcom, Russel Norman, Metiria Turei, David Cunliffe, Matt McCarten, and John Minto are the answer, can we please have another look at the question?” . .

National’s got a winning team but it’s up to voters to decide whether to give the winning team the support it needs to  be the winner, or whether they’re going to trust government to the hydra on the left led by a weak Labour dominated by the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties.

With less than three months to go, there's no room for complacency. Join #TeamKey today.  http://mynational.org.nz/support


It’s the party vote that counts

June 28, 2014

The absence of so many of Labour’s sitting MPs and candidates from its list raises questions about those people’s focus.

The confusion is compounded by comments like this from Dunedin South MP Clare Curran:

. . . ”I’m 100% committed to the party vote around Dunedin and the region. My total focus will be on this campaign and that is behind my decision to withdraw from the list.” . . .

Not being on the list sends a strong signal that she’ll be campaigning to hold her seat as the only way to remain in parliament. Quite how that helps maximise the party vote isn’t clear.

National won the party vote in Dunedin South in 2011. The first priority of its candidate, Dunedin born-and-bred Hamish Walker is to build on that but Curran is vulnerable in the seat too.

So are at least four other Labour MPs.

. . . In a sign that National is taking nothing for granted sources say it has also targeted four Labour MPs in seats it thinks it can win – Trevor Mallard in Hutt South, Ruth Dyson in Port Hills, Damien O’Connor in West Coast and Iain Lees-Galloway in Palmerston North.

National’s strategy could disrupt Labour’s efforts to maximise the party vote, given that the survival of those MPs could hinge on them campaigning for the electorate vote instead to keep their political careers afloat. . .

A majority of the electorate votes will keep an MP in, or get a candidate into, parliament.

But it’s the party vote which gets them in to government.

That should always be the priority and in spite of the polls, there is no certainty over which parties will be in government after the election:

. . . With a string of polls showing National around 50 per cent, Key will warn them that voter turnout could be the decider and not to assume the election is a done deal.

‘‘I will reiterate the message that while National is doing very well in the polls in reality this is going to be a very tight election,’’ Key said yesterday.

‘‘This is a race to 61 seats and despite the fact Labour is polling very poorly it could still hold hands with the Greens and NZ First, potentially Internet-Mana, and form a government. So there is no room for complacency within National.’’  . . .

Labour’s dismal polling and unpopular leader should make an election win easy for National, but it’s the total block of party votes for right or left that matters and that will allow one or other of those parties to lead the next government.


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