What does Labour think?

June 3, 2014

On the face of it a tax to discourage something that isn’t wanted is okay.

It works for tobacco.

Perhaps that’s why the Taxpayers’ Union uncharacteristically is welcoming a new tax.

. . . “For us the key questions are whether the Green Party’s policy will result in a simpler, more transparent tax system and whether it will reduce New Zealand’s overall tax burden. From what we’ve seen to date, it appears the proposals could do both.” . . .

The Green part doesn’t want to reduce the overall tax burden.

It wants to add a capital gains tax without any compensating reduction in other taxes and it’s planning other taxes including charges on water.

But the most important question about this policy is what does Labour think?

. . . For the policy to be implemented it would have to be accepted by the Labour Party as part of a coalition deal, and there would have to be a change of government.

Labour isn’t commenting – which usually means it doesn’t agree with what the Greens want.

The tax would impose higher costs on households than any compensatory reduction in other taxes and that would hit the poorest people hardest.

A carbon tax was one of the big factors which sank Julia Gillard’s Labor government in Australia, Labour here will take that into account before it decides whether or not to support the policy here.

 


Rudd retires

November 14, 2013

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced he will retire from parliament.

. . . In a shock announcement on Wednesday night, an emotional Mr Rudd, who served twice as Prime Minister and was one of Labor’s most polarising figures, said there came a time in every politician’s life when their family said “enough is enough” and there was no point “being here for the sake of being here”.

He leaves at the end of the week and did not say what he planned to do next. The general reaction among his colleagues was a mixture of sadness, relief he was gone and concern for the byelection and the pressure it could place on Bill Shorten. . . .

It is very difficult for a former leader to go back to the back benches.

His presence there and active undermining of Julia Gillard destabilised her government.

Had he retired when she beat him in the leadership race the Labor Party might not have retained power but it would almost certainly be in a much stronger position than it is now.


Ruxon on Rudd

October 17, 2013

Former Labor MP Nicola Ruxon has delivered a very frank assessment of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd:

NICOLA Roxon has called on Kevin Rudd to quit parliament, defending the 2010 coup as “an act of political bastardry” that was warranted because he had been “such a bastard himself”.

Delivering what would be her “first and last” public comments on Labor’s time in government, the former attorney-general launched a blistering attack on Mr Rudd.Ms Roxon said it was the “bitter truth” that as long as Mr Rudd remained in parliament, he would feature in leadership polls and be a destabilising figure.

“In my opinion and it is only my opinion, for the good of the federal parliamentary Labor Party . . . Kevin Rudd should leave the parliament,” she said.

“Removing Kevin was an act of political bastardry, for sure, but this act of political bastardry was made possible only because Kevin had been such a bastard himself.”  . . .

It’s difficult to understand why former leaders hang on when they’ve been ousted.

It must be very, very difficult to go from leading the country to warming a seat on the back bench.

Julia Gillard acted with dignity when she accepted her defeat as leader and didn’t seek re-election as an MP.

Rudd’s determination to stay in parliament will continue to destabilise his party.


September 29 in history

September 29, 2013

522 BC – Darius I of Persia killed the Magian usurper Gaumâta, securing his hold as king of the Persian Empire.

480 BC  Battle of Salamis: The Greek fleet under Themistocles defeats the Persian fleet under Xerxes I.

61 BC  Pompey the Great celebrated his third triumph for victories over the pirates and the end of the Mithridatic Wars on his 45th birthday.

1227  Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX for his failure to participate in the Crusades.

1364  Battle of Auray: English forces defeated the French in Brittany; end of the Breton War of Succession.

1547 Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes  Saavedra was born (d. 1616).

1650 Henry Robinson opened his Office of Addresses and Encounters – the first historically documented dating service – in Threadneedle Street, London.

1717  An earthquake struck Antigua Guatemala, destroying much of the city’s architecture and making authorities consider moving the capital to a different city.

1758 Horatio Nelson was born (d. 1805).

1810 English author Elizabeth Gaskell was born (d. 1865).

1829  The Metropolitan Police of London, later also known as the Met, was founded.

1848  Battle of Pákozd: Hungarian forces defeated Croats at Pákozd; the first battle of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

1850  The Roman Catholic hierarchy was re-established in England and Wales by Pope Pius IX.

1862  The first professional opera performance in New Zealand was put on by members of ‘The English Opera Troupe’ and the Royal Princess Theatre Company.

NZ's first professional opera performance

1864  American Civil War: The Battle of Chaffin’s Farm.

1885 The first practical public electric tramway in the world opened in Blackpool.

1907 The cornerstone was laid at Washington National Cathedral.

1907 US singer Gene Autry was born (d. 1998).

1911 Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire.

1913 US film director Stanley Kramer was born (d. 2001).

1916 John D. Rockefeller became the first billionaire.

1918  World War I: The Hindenburg Line was broken by Allied forces. Bulgaria signed an armistice

1932  Chaco War: Last day of the Battle of Boquerón between Paraguay and Bolivia.

1935 US musician Jerry Lee Lewis was born.

1936 Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was born.

1941  World War II: Holocaust in Kiev German Einsatzgruppe C began the Babi Yar massacre.

1943 Polish president Lech Walsea was born.

1943  World War II: U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Italian Marshal Pietro Badoglio signed an armistice  aboard the Royal Navy battleship HMS Nelson off Malta.

1951 Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, was born.

1954  The convention establishing CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) was signed.

1956 English athlete Sir Sebastian Coe was born.

1957 20 MCi (740 petabecquerels) of radioactive material was released in an explosion at the Soviet Mayak nuclear plant at Chelyabinsk.

1961 Julia Gillard, Australian politician, Prime Minister of Australia, was born.

1962  Alouette 1, the first Canadian satellite, was launched.

1963 The second period of the Second Vatican Council opened.

1963  The University of East Anglia was established in Norwich.

1964  The Argentine comic strip Mafalda, by Joaquín Salvador Lavado, better known by his pen name Quino, was published for the first time.

1966  The Chevrolet Camaro, originally named Panther, was introduced.

1975  WGPR in Detroit, Michigan, becomes the world’s first black-owned-and-operated television station.

1979  Pope John Paul II became the first pope to set foot on Irish soil.

1988 Space Shuttle: NASA launched STS-26, the return to flight mission.

1990  Construction of the Washington National Cathedral was completed.

1990 The YF-22, which later became the F-22 Raptor, flew for the first time.

1991  Military coup in Haiti.

1992  Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello resigned.

1995 The United States Navy disbanded Fighter Squadron 84 (VF-84), nicknamed the “Jolly Rogers”.

2004 The asteroid 4179 Toutatis passed within four lunar distances of Earth.

2004 – The Burt Rutan Ansari X Prize entry SpaceShipOne performed a successful spaceflight, the first of two required to win the prize.

2006  Gol Transportes Aéreos Flight 1907 collided in mid-air with an Embraer Legacy business jet, killing 154 total people, and triggering a Brazilian aviation crisis.

2007  Calder Hall, the world’s first commercial nuclear power station, was demolished in a controlled explosion.

2008  The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell  777.68 points, the largest single-day point loss in its history.

2009 An 8.0 magnitude earthquake near the Samoan Islands caused a tsunami .

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


Importance of purpose

September 15, 2013

Julia GIllard has broken two months’ silence to write in The Guardian of the pain – personal and political – of losing.

In it she, criticises her party’s rule change which could entrench a leader, even though under it she would still have beaten Rudd the first time and been able to see off his challenge which unseated her.

But the piece which resonated most with me was this:

. . . Above all else, in politics, in government and in opposition, purpose matters.

Voters do not reject political parties because they believe they do not know how to read polls or hold focus groups or come up with slogans.

Purpose matters. Being able to answer the question what are you going to do for me, for my family, for our nation, matters.

Believing in a purpose larger than yourself and your immediate political interests matters. . .

Our government has a purpose. It’s a positive and aspirational one – to make New Zealand better for everyone.

It’s a purpose not achieved easily or quickly.

It’s a purpose which includes reducing the burden of the state, providing the environment for sustainable growth and helping those who need help to look after themselves to do so, while ensuring those who can’t are looked after.

Contrast that with the purpose of Labour’s three aspiring leaders. They’ve learned nothing from past mistakes and their purpose is to get elected through pork barrel promises  with no thought of the cost in financial, personal or social terms.

Their purpose is power at any cost, not progress at a sustainable price.


Labour worse than war zone

September 9, 2013

Quote of the day:

“I always felt, oddly enough, more comfortable in a war zones than I did in the Labour Party— not so much in the Labour Party but in politics. I mean, obviously in politics you’re getting sniped at from all directions. In a war zone, you can generally tell who the good guys are and who are the bad guys.”David Shearer.

That’s a very revealing insight into the Labour Party in spite of correcting himself and saying politics.

There’s nothing unusual at getting sniped at from the other side, it’s the sniping from you own side and not knowing who are the goodies and who are the baddies that is hardest to combat.

That was what Julia Gillard had to cope with while she was Prime Minister and lack of loyalty from her own caucus was what eventually toppled her.

Shearer faced similar undermining from his colleagues which made it impossible for him, or his party, to make any traction.

Whether his successor fares any better will depend on whether or not he can unite his caucus and the party.

Given the number of factions and depth of divisions between them, that could take some time.


Labor’s lessons for Labour

July 2, 2013

Political leaders almost always get the blame for their poll woes but Luke Malpass points out there is a lot more to Labor’s problems than its former leader.

. . .  it’s often overlooked that Mr Rudd was dumped in large part because many of his policies were either poor quality or unpopular and his administration inept.

Many “policies” were either mismanaged, or simply never materialised.

Climate change topped the list of Rudd policy failures. Despite bloviating that it was “the greatest economic, moral and social challenge of our time”, Mr Rudd quickly abandoned doing anything when it became unpopular.

An ineffective fiscal stimulus was still being spent in school halls years after the global financial crisis had passed, while a home-insulation disaster came complete with house fires, deaths, and a ruined industry.

He presided over an abandoned laptops-in-schools programme. He introduced an unworkable and punitive mining-super-profits tax.

He legislated the Fair Work Act, taking industrial relations back to the 1970s. He dismantled the “Pacific solution” for asylum seekers, helping restart the odious people-smuggling trade, and 100 boat people are now arriving daily.

For this reason Mr Rudd’s elevation will probably make little difference. The policies are the same, and are still unpopular.

The basic conceit, under which Labor has operated since 2009, is that it is no good at “selling its message” – the notion that people might just not like the policies is never countenanced.

The policy failures, political ineptitude, blatant spin and deceit under both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd have been staggering. . .

There are lessons in the Australian Labor Party’s mistakes for the New Zealand labour Party.

The inability for its leader to gain traction is part of its problem.

But that is compounded by its chasing the Green Party to the left and obvious internal instability.

David Shearer’s leadership has never been secure and gets less so with every bad poll.

But just as a change of leader for Labor didn’t improve its policies, dumping Shearer won’t make Labour’s prescription any more palatable.

It has criticised every move National has made to rein in public spending, make the public service more efficient, reduce the burden of the state, encourage people from welfare to work, and other policies which have helped the country weather economic storms and track back to surplus.

Criticism is one role for an opposition. But it also needs to come up with compelling alternatives that make it look like a government in waiting.

Labour has failed to do this and like Labor, failed to see that people simply don’t like its policies.


Will Labour follow Labor?

June 28, 2013

Labour leader David Shearer is on notice :

Labour leader David Shearer has been put on two months’ notice by his own MPs – if the poll ratings don’t improve, his leadership will be challenged.

A Labour MP told 3 News today that Mr Shearer had until spring – two months away – to pick up his and Labour’s performance.

The MP, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The caucus is just really flat. It’s not panic or anxiety just yet, but a couple more bad polls and it will be. David’s got a couple more months. A change in leadership cannot be ruled out before the end of the year.

“Spring time is when people will get really nervous, just over a year out from the election. We don’t want to get into the “Goff-zone”, where it’s too late to change the leader, but you’ve got someone in there the public just don’t want -the phone is just off the hook.” . . .

Continuing poor poll results precipitated a change of leadership for the Australian Labor Party.

Continuing undermining of Julia Gillard’s leadership by her colleagues was one of the reasons for her loss of support.

Labour’s already emulating Labor in that regard and if that continues they’ll be following their Australian counterparts with a leadership challenge in a couple of months too.


Rudd 57 – Gillard 45

June 26, 2013
  1. Reports that Kevin Rudd has won 57 to 45. Awaiting confirmation http://hsun.info/1adEjmS  #auspol #ALP360

 This makes Rudd leader of the Labor Party, it doesn’t make him Prime Minister.
Julia Gillard will have to write to the Governor General recommending that Rudd becomes PM before he can take that role.

Gillard puts leadership to vote again

June 26, 2013

Julia Gillard is putting her leadership to the vote for the second time.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called a ballot for the Labor leadership after supporters of Kevin Rudd took the first steps towards another spill.

Ms Gillard says the spill will be held at 7.00pm AEST, and that whoever loses should retire from Parliament immediately.

She is responding to a petition from Rudd supporters calling for a vote and has little to lose.

If she leads the party into the election, polls indicate it will be decimated and she would have to resign the leadership anyway.

The question her MPs will have to ask is whether the party will stand a better chance under Rudd.

He appears to be more popular with the public than his own caucus which is not a recipe for good government.

 

 


Knitting for victory

June 26, 2013

In World War II people were encouraged to dig for victory by creating or enlarging their gardens to provide their own food.

Julia Gillard is featured in the Australian Women’s Weekly knitting a kangaroo for the soon-to-be-born royal baby.

Julia Gillard in the Australian Women's Weekly

Could she be knitting for victory?

Or is she following a pattern of failed media moments (remember Geoffrey Palmer’s trumpet solo?).

Has she dropped too many stitches?

Or could this stop her leadership, and her Labor government, unravelling?


Gillard calls for leadership vote

March 21, 2013

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called for a leadership vote this evening.

JULIA Gillard has called a caucus meeting for 4.30pm to allow a ballot for leadership positions, after Simon Crean’s dramatic appeal to her to end the party’s deadlock.

A defiant Prime Minister began question time with the announcement of a vote, then challenged the federal opposition: “Meanwhile, take your best shot.”

Regardless of the result the real winner will be the Liberal Party because voters don’t like parties which are unstable and lack unity.

That’s one of the problems both the Australian Labor Party and New Zealand Labour Party have in common.


30 years of CER

February 10, 2013

CER, the Closer Economic Relationship between Australia and New Zealand is 30 years old and both countries are better for it.

Prime Minister John Key says Australia and New Zealand are two of the most integrated economies in the world and this weekend’s talks with Prime Minister Gillard have only strengthened that bond.

The two Prime Ministers are in Queenstown for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ meeting.

Prime Minister Key and Prime Minister Gillard acknowledged the 30th Anniversary of the Australia/New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Agreement (CER). 

CER is widely acknowledged as the vehicle which has seen successive governments on both sides of the Tasman progressively remove barriers to trade in goods, services and investment between the two countries. . .

CER in effect gives us a domestic market of 20 million extra people instead of just our own 4 million.

The population advantage isn’t so great for Australians but the open borders make travel easier and give businesses on both sides of the Tasman more opportunities. Consumers benefit from more choice and often lower prices and/or higher quality.

The relationship has had the odd strain. An example of this was the non-trade barriers Australia tried to impose on New Zealand apples.

However, the World Trade Organisation ruled in our favour – and Ms Gillard had to swallow that when she lost a bet with our Prime Minister:

Ms Gillard made a bet with New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key on the outcome of the 2010 Rugby World Cup – a deal that would see the leader of whichever country lost eat an apple from the winning country.

Luckily for Mr Key, the All Blacks reigned supreme.

The bet was symbolic of the end of Australia’s 90-year ban on New Zealand apples, following a World Trade Organisation ruling that it must allow imports.

Ms Gillard finally honoured the bet during dinner with Mr Key, his wife Bronagh, and Ms Gillard’s partner Tim Mathieson in Queenstown, New Zealand, on Friday night.

“I’d have to say, of course, Australian apples are better,” Ms Gillard said.

She added that Mr Key had tried to serve her New Zealand apples on multiple occasions. . .

She would say that about the apples, but I don’t think all the consumers in her country would agree with her.


Setting the date

February 1, 2013

It’s about 12 24 months since Prime Minister John Key announced the date of  last year’s the 2011 election.

The early announcement came as a surprise and a pleasant change from the usual game-playing and point scoring which the party in government usually employs around the announcement of the election date.

Across the Tasman Prime Minister Julia Gillard has followed his example. She announced a couple of days ago that the Australian election will be on September 14th.

Our PM has signalled he is likely to make an early announcement next year too.

Mr Key said on Thursday he will consider his options over this year’s Christmas break, but is once more likely to announce the election date earlier rather than later.

It might give away a slight example for the government but it’s better for the people tasked with running elections, candidates, party volunteers, other political tragics and the public to have the date set well in advance.

A fixed term is one of the options being considered by the constitutional review which is being carried out.

It is one I favour and I’d also support the suggestion of the fixed term being a four-year one rather than three.


September 29 in history

September 29, 2012

522 BC – Darius I of Persia killed the Magian usurper Gaumâta, securing his hold as king of the Persian Empire.

480 BC  Battle of Salamis: The Greek fleet under Themistocles defeats the Persian fleet under Xerxes I.

61 BC  Pompey the Great celebrated his third triumph for victories over the pirates and the end of the Mithridatic Wars on his 45th birthday.

1227  Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, was excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX for his failure to participate in the Crusades.

1364  Battle of Auray: English forces defeated the French in Brittany; end of the Breton War of Succession.

1547 Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes  Saavedra was born (d. 1616).

1650 Henry Robinson opened his Office of Addresses and Encounters – the first historically documented dating service – in Threadneedle Street, London.

1717  An earthquake struck Antigua Guatemala, destroying much of the city’s architecture and making authorities consider moving the capital to a different city.

1758 Horatio Nelson was born (d. 1805).

1810 English author Elizabeth Gaskell was born (d. 1865).

1829  The Metropolitan Police of London, later also known as the Met, was founded.

1848  Battle of Pákozd: Hungarian forces defeated Croats at Pákozd; the first battle of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

1850  The Roman Catholic hierarchy was re-established in England and Wales by Pope Pius IX.

1862  The first professional opera performance in New Zealand was put on by members of ‘The English Opera Troupe’ and the Royal Princess Theatre Company.

NZ's first professional opera performance

1864  American Civil War: The Battle of Chaffin’s Farm.

1885 The first practical public electric tramway in the world opened in Blackpool.

1907 The cornerstone was laid at Washington National Cathedral.

1907 US singer Gene Autry was born (d. 1998).

1911 Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire.

1913 US film director Stanley Kramer was born (d. 2001).

1916 John D. Rockefeller became the first billionaire.

1918  World War I: The Hindenburg Line was broken by Allied forces. Bulgaria signed an armistice

1932  Chaco War: Last day of the Battle of Boquerón between Paraguay and Bolivia.

1935 US musician Jerry Lee Lewis was born.

1936 Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was born.

1941  World War II: Holocaust in Kiev German Einsatzgruppe C began the Babi Yar massacre.

1943 Polish president Lech Walsea was born.

1943  World War II: U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Italian Marshal Pietro Badoglio signed an armistice  aboard the Royal Navy battleship HMS Nelson off Malta.

1951 Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, was born.

1954  The convention establishing CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) was signed.

1956 English athlete Sir Sebastian Coe was born.

1957 20 MCi (740 petabecquerels) of radioactive material was released in an explosion at the Soviet Mayak nuclear plant at Chelyabinsk.

1961 Julia Gillard, Australian politician, Prime Minister of Australia, was born.

1962  Alouette 1, the first Canadian satellite, was launched.

1963 The second period of the Second Vatican Council opened.

1963  The University of East Anglia was established in Norwich.

1964  The Argentine comic strip Mafalda, by Joaquín Salvador Lavado, better known by his pen name Quino, was published for the first time.

1966  The Chevrolet Camaro, originally named Panther, was introduced.

1975  WGPR in Detroit, Michigan, becomes the world’s first black-owned-and-operated television station.

1979  Pope John Paul II became the first pope to set foot on Irish soil.

1988 Space Shuttle: NASA launched STS-26, the return to flight mission.

1990  Construction of the Washington National Cathedral was completed.

1990 The YF-22, which later became the F-22 Raptor, flew for the first time.

1991  Military coup in Haiti.

1992  Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello resigned.

1995 The United States Navy disbanded Fighter Squadron 84 (VF-84), nicknamed the “Jolly Rogers”.

2004 The asteroid 4179 Toutatis passed within four lunar distances of Earth.

2004 – The Burt Rutan Ansari X Prize entry SpaceShipOne performed a successful spaceflight, the first of two required to win the prize.

2006  Gol Transportes Aéreos Flight 1907 collided in mid-air with an Embraer Legacy business jet, killing 154 total people, and triggering a Brazilian aviation crisis.

2007  Calder Hall, the world’s first commercial nuclear power station, was demolished in a controlled explosion.

2008  The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell  777.68 points, the largest single-day point loss in its history.

2009 An 8.0 magnitude earthquake near the Samoan Islands caused a tsunami .

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


Reflections from NZ

July 6, 2012
Prime Minister John Key gave the John Howard address to the Menzies Research Centre last night.
I was going to post some highlights but decided it was better to copy the whole speech and mark the highlights in bold. That would ahve left more in bold than not so I’ve left it as it was:
Thank you for your welcome.

Can I start by acknowledging some  of the special guests tonight – former Prime Minister John Howard,  Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott and members of his Parliamentary  team.

And I’d like to thank the Menzies Research Centre for inviting me to give this lecture.

The Menzies Research Centre has made an important contribution to public  policy thinking in Australia over many years. It is an impressive  institution.

I was delighted to accept its invitation, because I have a great deal of respect and admiration for John Howard.

I always remember the week I became Leader of the National Party, towards the end of 2006.

I was scheduled to fly to Canberra in my previous capacity as Finance  Spokesperson, but instead made the trip as the new Party Leader.

At short notice, Prime Minister Howard made time in his extremely busy  schedule to see me and to dispense his best wishes, along with some good centre-right advice.

Aside from the personal encouragement he  gave me, it was a very public signal that helped me, as a new Leader,  settle into my role.

Over the following years we developed a close relationship.

John was a great Prime Minister of Australia.

And he was a great friend of New Zealand, working hard to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.

In doing so, he worked closely with my predecessor Helen Clark, despite their domestic political differences.

Following that example, I, too, have enjoyed a good, constructive relationship with Kevin Rudd and with Julia Gillard.

I learned a lot from John Howard, both from my discussions with him, and through watching him as Prime Minister.

I admired the economic programme he oversaw in Australia, his steady leadership through difficult times, and his tenacity.

By the time you’ve been Prime Minister for 11 years, let alone twice been  Leader of the Opposition, you’ve fought a lot of battles and faced a lot of challenges.

It reminds me of a story about the Civil War General Ulysses S Grant.

After a day in which his forces took a real beating, his second-in-command  General Sherman found him sitting under a tree chewing a cigar.

“Well,” said Sherman, “we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?”

“Yes,” said Grant. “Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.”

That’s what being a Prime Minister is often like.

Can I also say that it’s a great pleasure to be here in Australia.

Australians and New Zealanders – all 27 million of us – share a very special corner of the globe.

Geography, our shared colonial history, and our cooperation in peace and in war, have made our two countries very close.

Our soldiers have served together in many distant parts of the world, and  continue to do so today in Afghanistan. These deployments are not  without risk, and I want to acknowledge the SAS soldier who lost his  life in Uruzgan just three days ago.

For a long time our two countries were isolated from the rest of the world.

We had little to do with the Asian countries to the north and west of us,  and England was anywhere up to six months’ hazardous sailing away.

Nowadays the world is a much smaller and far more interconnected place.

Yet our countries remain as close as ever.

We have a comprehensive trade and economic agreement without the drawbacks of a common currency.

Australia is New Zealand’s most important trading partner and our most important source of foreign investment.

And at a practical level we are always there for each other.

That was reinforced for New Zealanders in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes and the Pike River mine disaster.

When 300 Australian Police arrived at Christchurch airport they were met by a spontaneous standing ovation. It was a moving and visual demonstration  that we weren’t on our own. You had our back.

In return, New  Zealand has always been there to help Australia, most recently after the Victorian bushfires and the Queensland floods.

In your time of need we also gave you one of our best rugby coaches – Robbie Deans.

I hope that makes you more competitive, because from the time I became  Prime Minister in late 2008, the head-to-head record between our  national rugby teams reads All Blacks 9 – Wallabies 2.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about that.

Tonight I want to talk about my approach to politics, what drives me, and what  the Government I lead in New Zealand has been doing.

I want to  make it clear that I am not here to suggest any particular policies or  approaches for Australia. That is for Australian politicians and  Australian voters to decide.

But I can give you a sense of where I come from and how the National-led Government has been dealing with  some the challenges facing New Zealand.

And there certainly have been challenges.

One has been to begin the long process of rebalancing the economy.

The New Zealand economy lost competitiveness in the 2000s because growth  was built on all the wrong things – debt, consumption and a 50 per cent  increase in government spending in just five years.

Those factors  acted together to suffocate the tradables sector in New Zealand, which  was effectively in recession from 2004 onwards.

So we have been  doing a lot of work to change some of the key settings in the economy,  help keep the pressure off interest rates and the exchange rate, and  ensure the public sector isn’t diverting too many resources away from  the tradables sector.

Another test for the country has been the  fiscal challenge posed by the combination of a domestic recession, the  impact of the Global Financial Crisis, and the cost of the Canterbury  earthquakes.

From the beginning of the recession, in early 2008,  the New Zealand economy shrank 3.3 per cent in 18 months, and tax  revenue fell 10 per cent.

And while most of the damage from the  earthquakes is covered by insurance, the Government is still expecting  to face a final bill of around $13 billion, or around six-and-a-half per cent of GDP.

As a Government, we absorbed much of the cost of the recession and the earthquakes on our balance sheet, thereby cushioning  New Zealanders from the worst impacts.

But that money has to be  paid back, so we have put a huge amount of effort into making savings  and, in particular, into changing some of the long-term term drivers of  government spending, so we can get back to surplus over the next few  years and start getting our debt down again.

The challenges we’ve faced haven’t just been economic, of course.

We have also been dealing with long-standing social problems that have defied easy solutions.

The 2000s in New Zealand were characterised by the idea that big increases  in government spending, dispensed across a whole range of areas and in a relatively untargeted way, could transform society.

However, that particular experiment ran out of money in 2008 with little genuinely  transformational to show for it, and the problems still remain.

As Prime Minister, I am responsible for leading the Government’s responses to these and other challenges.

As John F. Kennedy once said, we in government are not permitted the luxury of irresolution.

Everyone else can debate issues forever but, in the end, the government has to  cut through all that and make a decision, which will invariably please  some and disappoint others.

In making those decisions, my Government is very pragmatic.

We are guided by the enduring values and principles of the National Party, but we are also focused on what is sensible and what is possible.

Partly, that is the nature of the political system in New Zealand. It is  sometimes said that politics is about convincing 50 per cent of the  population plus one, and that has never been truer than under the MMP  system we have in New Zealand.

But, in any event, I think government is a practical business.

You don’t start with a blank sheet of paper; you start with the country as it is.

And by making a series of sensible decisions, which build on each other and which are signalled well in advance, and by taking most people with you as you go, you can effect real and durable change, which won’t simply  be reversed by the next lot who come into government.

Over time, a series of moderate changes can add up to a considerable programme.

That has been our experience in New Zealand.

In terms of the fiscal outlook, we have effected a significant turnaround.

The advice we had from the Treasury when we first came into office was that if we continued with the settings we inherited, net government debt was likely to reach 60 per cent of GDP by 2026.

Now, after all the  changes we have made, net debt is projected to be zero in 2026, despite  the Government also picking up much of the cost of the earthquakes.

We have also implemented the biggest changes to the tax system in a  generation, to increase the incentives to work hard, save and invest,  and decrease the incentives to consume.

That has included  increasing GST, bringing down personal tax rates across the board, and  dropping the company tax rate to 28 per cent.

We have reformed our planning laws and labour laws, and we are investing heavily in New  Zealand’s infrastructure, including state highways, ultra-fast broadband and the national electricity grid.

We have embarked on a process of selling minority stakes in four state-owned energy companies.

We are making significant changes to the welfare system, including work  obligations for sole parents when their youngest child turns five.

And we are undertaking a long-term programme of public sector reform. This  includes a real focus on results – getting traction on difficult issues  like reducing crime and long-term welfare dependency.

Throughout this time we have been consistent and up-front with New Zealanders about what we are doing and why.

And we have retained pretty broad support across New Zealand.

I want to stress, however, that while I think government is about  practical, considered decision-making, it is not a technocracy.

In the end, the biggest, most fundamental decisions governments are called on to make are not reducible to calculation in a spreadsheet.

Those decisions rely on the judgements of politicians around concepts like  fairness, opportunity, and the balance between individual and social  responsibility.

As a politician, my own gut-level judgements have been hugely influenced by my upbringing and my life experiences.

I was a kid who benefited from both the welfare state and a mother who pushed us to improve ourselves through hard work.

My father died when I was young. We had no other family in New Zealand and we had very little money. My mother was on a Widows Benefit for a time, before she started working as a cleaner.

The State provided us with somewhere to live, and ensured my mother had food to put on the table when we most needed it.

The State also gave me the opportunity to have a good education at the local high school and at university.

My mother made sure I seized that opportunity with both hands.

She was a very strong character, and had escaped persecution in Austria  before the Second World War. What she gave to my sisters and me was far  more valuable than money. Her constant refrain was that, “you get out of life what you put into it”.

My early life was therefore a mix of  strong influences: a close family; an emphasis on individual  responsibility and hard work; first-hand experience of the welfare  system; and a realisation of the opportunities that education offers to  kids from even the humblest of homes.

Those influences have undoubtedly shaped my views on the appropriate role of government.

I believe in a government that looks after its citizens and provides them with opportunities to flourish, but recognises that people are  responsible for their own lives and the well-being of their families.  The way to a better future is ultimately in your own hands.

I  believe in a government that gives people security in times of  misfortune and hardship but doesn’t trap them in a life of limited  income and limited choices. I’ve often said that you can measure a  society by how it looks after its most vulnerable. Yet you can also  measure a society by how many vulnerable people it creates – people who  are able to work, yet end up depending for long periods on the State.

I believe in a government that supports people’s hard work and enterprise, and encourages them to set high aspirations.

I have had a successful career in international finance.

But I have learned that the most valuable assets in life are those closest  to home. As a husband, and as a father of two wonderful children, I can  say that families are in my view the most important institution in our  society.

So I believe in a government that supports families.

At some point, years ago, I found that my own personal beliefs and drivers were a natural fit with the principles of the National Party.

Those principles won’t be a great surprise to you because the origins of the  New Zealand National Party are broadly similar to those of the  Australian Liberal Party.

The National Party was formed in 1936  from the merger of existing liberal and conservative parties. It was  formed to consolidate opposition to the Labour Party, which had won its  first general election the previous year.

The name “National” was  chosen in part because the new party sought to represent the whole  country, without favouring any one class, region, gender, race or  religion.

The name “National” also emphasised that the Party’s principles and policies were rooted strongly in New Zealand.

Its first leaders were men born and brought up in New Zealand – Hamilton,  Holland, Holyoake and Marshall – who thought of themselves first as New  Zealanders, not Irish, Scots, or English.

Keith Holyoake, for  example, was a fourth generation New Zealander, all eight of his  great-grandparents having arrived in New Zealand around the 1840s. While he maintained New Zealand’s traditional links, he also told Britain  quite bluntly that he saw New Zealand as a totally independent nation.

The Party’s founders were not people who saw the world in terms of a  fundamental class conflict, where people’s destinies were largely  foretold. In fact the Party was set up to oppose that view.

On the contrary, the early leaders of the Party had a belief in the  capabilities, and also the responsibilities, of individuals and their  families.

People had choices and could make better lives for  themselves. The government could help them by enabling better choices,  but couldn’t and shouldn’t tell them what to do.

Neither should  the government get in the way of people exercising those choices.  Holyoake, for example, said that while he believed in everybody having  the opportunity for success, he did not believe that, “success in one  individual should be thwarted by efforts to prevent the failure of  another”.

Many in the new Party were practical farmers and businesspeople who wanted common sense solutions to New Zealand’s problems.

As I said, they didn’t see New Zealand as a battleground where a conflict between workers and capitalists was playing out.

Nor were they interested in many of the things British conservatives and liberals exercised themselves about.

It seems to me they were a fairly straightforward and pragmatic bunch of  people who wanted to continue building what was still a relatively young country.

They didn’t believe in uniformity – they thought that  was a socialist idea as well. Rather, they thought that the individual  freedom promoted by National involved many diverse groups with  conflicting interests. Tolerance was the key to working through those  conflicts – giving everyone a say, but ensuring the Party ultimately  focused on the good of the country as a whole.

The National Party has also always understood that businesses large and small create jobs and prosperity.

It is extraordinary how many people, including a lot of Opposition MPs in  New Zealand, think the economy is something separate from the normal  life of the country – something that will just keep chugging along while Parliament worries about supposedly unrelated social issues, like  employment.

In fact – as I am at pains to point out most days in  Parliament – jobs are only created when business owners have the  confidence to invest their own money to expand what they are doing or to start something new.

Giving businesses that confidence is the  most important thing the Government can do to ensure people have jobs,  and that those jobs are sustainable and well-paid.

So those are  the general principles the National Party has been promoting for the  past 76 years: individual responsibility; equality of opportunity;  competitive enterprise; tolerance and respect for all New Zealanders;  and an essential pragmatism – a belief in the practical and the  possible.

Policies change over time, of course, as knowledge develops, attitudes change, and new challenges arise.

But principles and values are an intergenerational guide that ensures the  essence of the Party remains the same, even though individual policy  prescriptions may differ.

And they are an important guide for the future.

When they elect a government, voters accept that that government will have  to make decisions on issues yet to reveal themselves, and react to  situations no-one could have predicted.

It is important that voters have some idea of the considerations that will inform those future decisions.

Sometimes voters have been thoroughly surprised by the government they elected.

Those governments have never worked out very well.

So one of the things my Government has tried very hard to do over the past three-and-a-half years is to be predictable, consistent and upfront  with voters.

John Howard made the same point about the Liberal Party in his lecture to this Centre in 2009.

“Love us or loathe us,” he said, “and there were plenty of both, the  Australian people knew what we believed in and what we wished to achieve for their country.”

That is the approach we have been taking as well.

In particular, we have sought a mandate at each election to implement  certain policies, we have made assurances about others, and we have  stuck closely to our word.

Looking forward, the biggest challenge  to New Zealand is the on-going debt crisis in Europe and the prospect of subdued world growth, or even recession.

New Zealand makes up  less than a quarter of one per cent of the global economy so we can’t  help but be affected by events in the rest of the world.

But I remain optimistic about New Zealand’s prospects.

We have sound economic and financial institutions.

We are producing the sorts of products, and providing the sorts of services, that will be in demand over coming decades.

Sixty per cent of our exports now go to Australia, East Asia or Southeast  Asia. A strong Australia is critical for New Zealand. And Asia is the  most vibrant and growing region in the world.

In addition, the rebuilding of Christchurch is effectively a massive stimulus programme.

Compared to many other developed countries, New Zealand faces a relatively  favourable set of circumstances and opportunities. From what I can see,  looking across the Tasman, so does Australia.

Our corner of the  world, with its 27 million inhabitants, is in a good space. It’s now a  matter of making the most of the opportunities that are out there for  us.

Can I conclude by again thanking the Menzies Research Centre for inviting me to give this John Howard lecture.

A combination of Menzies and Howard represents an imposing total of 30 years of Prime Ministership.

The test of a Prime Minister is whether you left the country in better shape than when you inherited it.

If I can do as good a job as John Howard in that regard, I’ll be more than pleased.

Thank you.


Labor decimated

March 25, 2012

The Australian Labor Party has been decimated in the Queensland State Elections -

Disaffected voters deserted the government to deliver Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman a massive majority, while Ms Bligh was left fighting for political survival in her own seat.

With 70 per cent of the vote counted, Labor had scraped together just six seats, with the LNP picking up 75 in a 16 per cent statewide swing against the government. Labor needs nine seats to retain party status. Among the casualties were six Labor ministers, including Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser.

The victory puts the former Brisbane lord mayor into the record books for landing the premiership without having served a day in parliament.

Australian friends who are staying with us said that Anna Bligh was well regarded for her handling of last year’s floods and Cyclone Yasi but too many other factors were against her and her party.

They expect this to have repercussions at Federal level, making Julia Gillard’s position even more precarious and that Kevin Rudd might be stupid enough to have another tilt at the leadership.

While Australia is enjoying a mineral boom and farming is doing well, the rest of the economy is sluggish.

They said people are grumpy, Labor was spending too much and too many factions made it unstable.

 


Is there no-one else?

February 27, 2012

A majority of Australian  voters would prefer Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, however a majority of the Labor caucus prefer Julia Gillard as leader.

If the voters want the man who caucus can’t stomach and caucus wants the woman who polls show will lead the party to defeat, is there no-one else in the party who would be popular with both the caucus and the public?

P.S.

Does anyone know why there’s no u in the Labor Party although Australia generally follows the British English spelling for labour?


Ruddy mess in Labor

February 23, 2012

We were in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia during the last Australian election campaign.

There was no great enthusiasm for Labor or Julia Gillard there, although we were mostly talking to station owners and business people who probably didn’t give a representative sample of views.

Several referred to her as the “geenger beetch” but I wasn’t sure whether it was her hair colour, gender or politics to which they were objecting.

However, she won the election – just and has managed to hold a fragile coalition together and keep the country on a reasonably sound economic footing in the face of global turmoil.

However, she and her government have become increasingly unpopular and now the man she deposed as leader, Kevin Rudd has resigned as Foreign Minister, jumping before he was pushed by Gillard.

The question now is whether or not he has the numbers to lead a leadership coup or whether he’ll resign and force a by-election.

Exactly what would be achieved by Rudd’s return as party leader and Prime Minister is summed up by Larvatus Prodeo:

. . . a government which presides over an anomalously healthy economy (by international standards) and, for all its imperfections, made real progress in many important areas, is currently ripping itself to bits in a leadership contest between two individuals who do not appear to have any significantly different policy views, in the midst of appalling polling.

It’s a ruddy (Ruddy?) mess which is entertaining for political tragics.

But it’s very damaging for the government and the Labor Party and the only ones likely to benefit from whatever happens are the Liberals.


Phew

October 16, 2011

All Blacks 20- Wallabies 6.

I hope Julia Gillard enjoys the apple she agreed to eat in a bet with John Key.


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