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.

 


Labour wants to meddle in meat industry

July 28, 2014

Labour loves to meddle in businesses where it has no business to be and if it gets into government it will be meddling in the meat industry:

Labour will create more jobs and wealth by providing the leadership and funding to help participants reform the meat sector through developing a larger scale sustainable model as part of our Economic Upgrade for the sector, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says.

“The meat sector continues to decline and must meet new challenges to maintain a secure and skilled workforce. Like our wider economy it needs an upgrade to compete overseas.

“Labour will do this by encouraging the creation of businesses with real market scale and, if required, we will look to amend the Commerce Act to achieve this aim. We will also work with Iwi and large agricultural companies to consolidate efforts and interests for the long term. . .

The meat industry is dominated by two farmer-owned co-operatives and there are also several smaller players.

What they do and how they do it is primarily the business of these businesses and their shareholders.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy has repeatedly, and correctly, said he will not intervene unless there sector comes up with a plan supported by the players which requires his assistance.

Anything else would be interference in private enterprise where the government has no right to be.

The industry does have challenges but Guy, and the National Party, understand any change in the meat industry must come from farmers and the processing companies.

Any attempt to impose a solution from the government down would be expensive and have the potential to contravene free trade agreements.


Not good enough

July 28, 2014

Last night’s  ONE News/Colmar Brunton poll  continued the trend of National doing much better than labour and its potential coalition partners:

Less than two months from polling day National has stretched its lead over the centre left parties of Labour and the Greens.

National has climbed to 52% in the latest ONE News/Colmar Brunton poll while Labour is down one point to 28%. . .

Labour on 28% is just above its 2011 election result and the Greens have also slipped, dropping two points to 10%.

New Zealand First is steady on 4% and Internet Mana is on 2% while the Conservatives are up one to 2%. Act stays on 1% and the Maori Party is down one to 1%.

When converted into seats in Parliament, National would easily govern alone with 66 seats. Labour would have 36, with the Greens mustering 13 and the Maori Party three. Internet Mana would bring in three MP, while Act and United Future would have one apiece. . .

Both Labour and the Green party have lost support.

It’s possible that hard-line left voters have gone to Internet Mana and soft centre voters have been put-off by the thought of a Labour Green, New Zealand First, Internet Mana Party and have moved right.

This is good news for National and those who want the party to continue leading a government that is working well for New Zealand.

However, it’s not good enough.

The party was polling at similar levels before the last election and slipped.

One reason for that was low voter turn-out.

Labour thinks most of those who didn’t vote were their supporters but there was a disappointing number of National voters who didn’t vote for a variety of reasons, including thinking that the polls were so good they didn’t need to.

There is a danger that could happen again which is why all National candidates and their teams are working hard to maximise the party vote which is the one that counts for forming a government.


If . ..

July 25, 2014

If Labour wants to help the regions:

Why is it against irrigation?

Why  does it keep calling the main road from Northland to Auckland the ‘holiday highway?

Why has it opposed all the measures National has introduced to help the economy in general and regions in particular?


Apology for a team

July 23, 2014

Today’s general debate began with some apologies:

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. In the general debate this afternoon I think we should on this occasion start with apologies. I think we should start with apologies. I would like to lead off with a few apologies. * No. 1: I am sorry for being a man. Has that been done before? [Interruption] Oh, OK, I will try this one—I will try another one. I am sorry for having a holiday.

Hon Bill English: That’s been done before, too.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Oh, OK. I am sorry for wearing a red scarf. [Interruption] No. Oh, I know: I am sorry for having a moa resuscitation plan. That has got to be new—that has got to be new. [Interruption] No? Another one for you, Mr Speaker: I am sorry for having a secret trust. That would be—

Hon Bill English: No, that’s been done.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That has been done? I am sorry for not telling you about my secret trust, Mr Speaker. Has that been done? And, most of all, Mr Speaker, I am sorry you found about my secret trust. I have another one: I am sorry for being tricky. That has been done before? Well, we have seen a lot of apologies, but from now on I am going to be straight up. I am going to stick to the Labour knitting. That is what I am going to do, with the exception of this stuff. This train is leaving the station. It has left a few times before, but this time it is definitely leaving the station. This is my team. This is my team, except, to be fair, Shane Jones. He is not on the team any more, no. Dover Samuels—he is not on the team any more. Andrew Little—he is not really on the team any more. Damien O’Connor and Rino Tirikatene—they are not really on the team because they crossed the floor. But aside from Shane Jones, Dover Samuels, Andrew Little, Damien O’Connor, and Rino Tirikatene, this is my team.

Hon Member: What about Annette?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, actually, not Annette. She is not really on the team, either, or Phil, because they work hard. They get out in the country, working hard. Clayton is not really on the team. To be fair, I do not think he has ever been on the team. Trevor is not so much on the team—not really on the team. But, aside from Shane, Dover, Andrew, Damien, Rino, Annette, Phil, Clayton, and Trevor, this is my team. This is my team. Well, actually, you have got to exclude Grant, to be fair, because Grant is not really on my team, or David Parker—he is not on the team—or Chris Hipkins. He is not on it. I am not sure about Stuart Nash. I think he is on the team. He must be on the team because he said: “It wasn’t me.” He said in the * Hawke’s Bay Today that he denies the claim that he criticised Cunliffe, although, on the other hand, he also said this: “I must admit when I read it [the newspaper quoting the party source], apart from the swearing, it sounds a little bit like me.” “It sounded like me.”, Mr Nash said. And he said that he was not the source and that the comments could have come from “any of the 15,000 members who were out putting up hoardings in the rain or delivering pamphlets in the cold or this sort of carry-on”. So this is my team, except for Shane Jones, Dover Samuels, Andrew Little, Damien O’Connor, Rino Tirikatene, Annette King, Phil Goff, Clayton Cosgrove, Trevor Mallard, Grant Robertson, David Parker, Chris Hipkins, Kelvin Davis, Stuart Nash, and the 15,000 members of the Labour Party who would have said what I did not say in the newspaper. That is my team. It is game on—it is game on. The Labour Party is marching to the election, united as a single team. That is what is going on. And, of course, we now have the regional growth policy, which we share with the Greens. The regional growth policy—here it is. It is out today. One, put a capital gains tax on every productive business. Two, have a carbon tax at five times the current price. Three, introduce big levies for the use of fresh water. Four, restore a national awards system, which would force regional employers to pay what they pay in Auckland. Five, stop any more trade deals. Six, clamp down on the dairy industry. Seven, clamp down on the oil and gas industry. And then, the coup de grâce*, , when that has all been done and the regions have all fallen over, is to give them a $200 million slush fund to make them feel better. The Labour Party should apologise for that, as well.


NZ envy of world – Joe Hockey

July 23, 2014

Australian treasurer Joe Hockey says New Zealand’s economy is the envy of the world:

Mr Hockey told TV ONE’s Breakfast today that Australia could learn some lessons from their Kiwi neighbours.

“New Zealand has done a splendid job, the Key government is a standout government around the world and as a result of that it is heading towards a surplus,” he said.

“New Zealand is starting to live within its means.”

Delivering his first budget this year, Mr Hockey said he was forced to slash spending by $10 billion because of the previous Labor government’s overspending.

“They took us to a position where if we don’t take immediate action we will face much bigger debts,” he said.

“If you make the difficult but important decisions up front then you get the benefits down the track. We’ve got a long way to go to catch up to the budget position of New Zealand.”

The government borrowed to take the roughest edges off the global financial crisis but at the same time took a very disciplined approach to public spending.

By doing so it turned round the forecast decade of deficits Labour left it with and is now back on track to surplus.

The growing economy is one of the reasons we’re getting a net migration gain:

. . . In the June 2014 year, permanent and long-term (PLT) migrant arrivals numbered 100,800 (up 14 percent from 2013), the first time more than 100,000 arrivals have been recorded in a year. Migrant departures numbered 62,400 (down 22 percent). This resulted in a net gain of 38,300 migrants, the highest annual gain since the October 2003 year (39,300). New Zealand recorded its highest-ever net gain of 42,500 migrants in the May 2003 year.

In the latest year, New Zealand had a net loss of 8,300 migrants to Australia, well down from 31,200 a year earlier. Net gains were recorded from most other countries, led by India (7,000), China (6,300), and the United Kingdom (5,500).

In June 2014, New Zealand had a seasonally adjusted net gain (more arrivals than departures) of 4,300 migrants, the second-highest monthly gain of migrants. The highest gain ever recorded was in February 2003 (4,700).

Net migration has been positive and mostly increasing since September 2012. The difference in the net gains recorded in September 2012 and June 2014 was mainly due to:

  • fewer New Zealand citizens leaving for Australia (down 2,400) 
  • more non-New Zealand citizens arriving (up 1,500)
  • more New Zealand citizens arriving from Australia (up 500).

Seasonally adjusted PLT arrivals of 2,000 migrants from Australia in June 2014 matched the number of departures to that country, resulting in net migration of zero. The last time this series recorded net migration of zero was in August 1991. 

We’re on track for our first ever net gain of migrants from Australia.

No wonder their treasurer envies us and the benefits we’re reaping from the hard, but right, decisions taken to get the government back into surplus and the economy growing sustainably.


Better’s better than more

July 23, 2014

National’s policy of improving teaching quality has more support than Labour’s plan to increase the number of teachers.

New Zealanders would rather money was spent on improving teaching standards than on reducing class sizes, a Herald-DigiPoll survey reveals.

Education has become a political battleground before September’s election, with both major parties promising to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on it.

Asked about their priorities, more than 60 per cent of those polled said they would spend money on trying to improve teaching standards rather than cutting class sizes.

Labour has included reducing class sizes in its election policies.

Another of its policies, a promise to pay schools which do not ask parents for donations, gained support in the poll.

National has pledged $359 million for a scheme that would pay the best teachers and principals more.

Labour countered by promising to use that money to instead hire 2000 more teachers and reduce class sizes.

Asked about those policies, 61 per cent of those polled said the money was better spent on trying to improve teaching standards.

Thirty-five per cent thought it should be used to cut class sizes. . .

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the survey showed parents recognised the worth in the initiative.

“Parents have great knowledge about what makes a difference for their kids’ learning, and it is about the quality of learning that happens in their child’s classroom.”

If there was enough money for both better teachers and smaller classes that would be ideal.

But while we have to make a choice, it’s better to have better teachers than more.

National’s policy was designed to get the best educational outcome. Labour’s was written by the unions who put themselves and teachers ahead of education.

Labour’s policy would make a very small difference in class size, National’s would make a significant difference to the quality of teaching and that will make the most positive difference to pupils.


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.


Two sides one message

July 21, 2014

Electoral law permitted election hoardings to be displayed from yesterday.

Alfred Ngaro’s National Party teams were so keen to paint the Te Atatu electorate blue they started at midnight.

Facebook and Twitter showed MPs, candidates and supporters the length and breadth of the country erecting hoardings and  enjoying themselves while doing it.

Labour teams could be forgiven for not being quite as happy in their work but that’s not the only contrast between the blue hoardings and the red ones.

The message from National is clear and consistent, the one, or should that be ones from Labour are not.

We passed this double-sided hoarding on the way home from Queenstown yesterday.

hoardings 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hoardings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s two sides to the sign but a single message – party vote National.

Labour candidates are giving mixed messages – some are seeking the electorate vote over the party one, a lot of them – like those used in 2011 – don’t show their leader.

The contrast couldn’t be greater.

There are blue hoardings giving a consistent message of unity, support for party leader John Key, and  being quite clear that National wants your party vote. Then there are red ones giving mixed messages which show disunity and leave voters in doubt exactly what they’re being asked to do.

It’s the party vote that counts for forming a government.

National Party MPs and candidates are showing they not only want to be in parliament, they want to be in a John Key-led government.

But the hoardings of at least some Labour MPs show they’re more concerned about their own seats than the fate of their party – their desire to be in parliament is greater than that to have Labour in government.

If Labour MPs and candidates don’t care about the party vote, why would voters?


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.


It’s still the trend that matters

July 20, 2014

Labour has lost four points in the latest Herald DigiPoll, slumping to 26.5%,  its worst level of support in 15 years.

 . . . On this poll of decided voters National would be able to govern alone comfortably and gain another 10 MPs.

National has jumped 4.5 points to 54.9 per cent. A Stuff/Ipsos poll earlier this week also put support for National at 54.8 per cent.

Prime Minister John Key is more popular than he has ever been, scoring preferred prime minister on 73.3 per cent, compared with Cunliffe on 10.5 per cent and New Zealand First’s Winston Peters on 5.5 per cent.

The second-most-preferred PM out of Labour MPs is David Shearer, with 2.2 per cent, followed by Jacinda Ardern on 1.4 per cent. . .

Labour’s total support is down from 30.5 per cent in June, but it is disproportionately down among male voters, with only 23.9 per cent of men backing Labour, compared with 29.1 per cent of women.

Political commentator Chris Trotter said the poll indicated Labour was “more or less bereft of hope”.

“Labour is in an extremely parlous position, and the situation is deteriorating.” 

And the news gets worse for the left:

Contrary to other polls, the DigiPoll had the Green Party losing popularity, which was also bad news for Labour and the left’s prospects. . .

A single poll could be a rogue one but a trend has to be taken more seriously and the left will even though this support reflects the views of those who have decided:

. . . Undecided voters were 11.5 per cent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 per cent. . . .

It’s still the trend that counts and the trend is very good for National but it’s still a couple of months to the election and the result of that, trend not withstanding, is still not certain.

The left might be panicking but there is absolutely no room for complacency on the centre-right.

However, there is


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.


Blanket policy blunt tool

July 13, 2014

Labour’s blanket class size policy won’t address inequality, according to Rose Patterson of the New Zealand Initiative.

The biggest and most important resource in education is not school donations or digital devices. It is teachers. And while Labour’s policy to reduce class sizes, at face value, addresses this most important resource, the class size debate is a nuanced one.   

There are two important caveats with Labour’s policy. The first is that a blanket class size policy to increase the quantity of teachers may not be the most effective tool in the policymaker’s toolbox.  The second is that it does nothing to address something dear to the heart of Labour – inequality.   

Quantity versus quality
National’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success (IES) policy announced at the beginning of this year is a deliberate attempt to improve the quality of teaching. The IES is a game changer, designed to provide clear career structure for teachers. The idea is that exemplary teachers share their skills with others to lift the game for all.

Labour’s class size policy is in blatant opposition to that. They want to scrap the IES and reduce class sizes by injecting an extra 2,000 teachers into schools. If elected, they would gradually reduce class sizes for year 4-8 students from 29 to 26, and reduce secondary school class sizes to a maximum of 23. 

It appears National wants to improve the quality of teaching and Labour wants to increase the quantity of teachers; both believe that their policy will improve the quality of schooling. . .

More teachers where there are more vulnerable pupils could help those who need it most.

But National’s policy of better teachers will do more to left education standards than Labour’s blanket policy of less than one more teacher for every school regardless of their needs.

But what does the evidence on class sizes say? Primary teachers’ union (New Zealand Educational Institute) head Judith Nowotarski quotes research to show smaller class sizes have benefits for learning and life success “beyond the school gate”. Other research shows that on balance, for the same level of resource, more could be achieved by lifting quality, assuming of course the IES policy is effective.

Blanket policy too blunt 
While lifting the quality of teaching might be more effective on balance than reducing class sizes, that’s not to say that class size doesn’t matter. The impact of class sizes depends on a number of factors, like the stage of schooling, the subject being taught, and the background of students.  . .

As Ms Nowotarski says, smaller class sizes are “particularly important for vulnerable children, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those who start school behind their peers”. And Associate Professor John O’Neill of Massey University’s Institute of Education says the class size policy could be more effective if it targeted lower decile schools.

Both hit the nail on the head.

While there is a lot of lip service paid to the decile system, where lower decile schools receive targeted funding, let’s not forget this is only for a school’s operational fund. To put the figures into context, the total operational spend last year was $1.23 billion, and 13% of this fund is decile based. Funding for teachers, which racked up to $3.44 billion last year, is not at all decile targetted.

In other words, while funding is targeted to even out the disadvantages that children from poorer backgrounds start off with, it doesn’t specifically provide more of the most important educational resource: teachers.  

Teacher numbers
Perhaps the question of whether class sizes matter for children of different socio-economic backgrounds is evident in how schools actually use their resources in practice.

The New Zealand Initiative will release a research note on this very issue next month. And one of the surprising findings is that although schools are entitled to the same number of teachers regardless of decile, somehow, lower decile schools employ more teachers. And it’s a stark difference: decile one schools employ one teacher for every 20.6 students, while decile 10 schools employ one per 30.1 students on average.

As schools can use their operational fund to employ extra teachers over and above what they are entitled to under the formula that Labour is proposing to tweak, it seems lower decile schools are using their discretionary funding to employ more teachers. In other words, in the absence of targeted funding to provide smaller class sizes to lower decile schools, schools figure out a way to do it anyway. They recognise the importance of smaller class sizes for their students. But this is not recognised when resources are divvied out from Wellington. 

Low decile schools are already providing smaller classes themselves.

Despite all this, reducing class sizes without improving the quality of teaching is unlikely to lift student learning. Lower decile schools are employing more teachers for their students, but another question still is whether they have the ability to attract highly effective teachers.

The blanket class size policy is an easy vote winner, but it’s a blunt tool.

It might be an easy vote winner but it’s up against a policy to improve the quality of teaching and that will have more appeal to voters – especially parents and prospective employers – than the blanket approach that will give schools less than one extra teacher each.


Will unions let Cunliffe lead Labour back from left?

July 13, 2014

Both Matthew Hooton and Fran O’Sullivan think Cunliffe is trying to lead Labour back from its lurch to the left.

That would be a sensible move because the swinging votes are in the centre and many of those voters are strongly averse to the thought of Labour’s leftwards lurch and it being dragged even further left by its potential coalition partners.

But Labour is beholden to unions for money and people power, and Cunliffe is beholden to them for his leadership.

They won’t be keen on more centrist policies.

In the print edition of the NBR Michael Coote writes:

. . . The phony war raging around David Cunliffe’s leadership of Labour overlooks that the trades union movement has reassumed a decisive role in selecting the head of the party’s parliamentary wing.

Mr Cunliffe is the choice of the unions, Labour’s primary funding source.

If Labour’s predominantly bourgeois parliamentary wing defenestrated its born-again proletarian Mr Cunliffe, its unionist bankrollers could simply cut off the cashflow and let the class traitors turn on the gallows. . .

Even if Cunliffe did manage to lead a lurch back to the centre how long could he hold that position if he was leading a government beholden to the Green, Internet and Mana parties?

They are full of radical left-wingers who will exert every bit of bargaining power they have to implement their hard left economic, environmental and social agendas.


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.


Silly or weak

July 11, 2014

One of the challenges for the leader of the opposition is to look like a Prime Minister in waiting.

It’s one which David Cunliffe has yet to master, and his silly apology for being a man was another example of that.

 Trans-Tasman points out:

. . . The Labour Party election year congress dominated the first part of the week, with Cunliffe’s rather strange apology for having both an X and a Y chromosome. It was all very well for Labour’s apologists to splutter – as they did – about the apology being taken out of context. The only context which matters is Cunliffe wants to be PM of this country, and is campaigning ferociously to get the job.

In this context, the apology made him look either silly or weak. People don’t, by and large, go for leaders who look silly or weak. And, looking back, the thought of, say, Norman Kirk, Peter Fraser or Michael Savage apologising for being a man boggles the mind a bit. . .

Labour was once the party of the working man – and woman.

It’s strayed a long way from those roots.

That’s reflected in its loss of support in successive polls – and it’s showing up in other places too:

Hat tip for tweet: Keeping Stock

As for the issue which has been lost in the slipstream of the stupid apology, Peter Dunne writes:

. . . Meanwhile, the scourge of domestic violence continues across all communities, sadly without discrimination, right across the country. Let there be no doubt about the severity and complete unacceptability of any violence against women and children in our society. That has to stop – now – and, as the major perpetrators of that violence, men have to face up to their responsibilities in addressing it. Bold action, across the board, is required right now – not simpering, gesturing apologies for a biological fact that cannot be easily altered.

We need to take the wraps off domestic violence and expose its prevalence wherever we can. Police revelations there are around 200 reported cases every day of the year are part of that. Our aim has to be to make any tolerance of domestic violence as unacceptable as drink-driving and smoking have been made in earlier times, so that underlying social attitudes are changed. . . .

 The last thing we need is the absolute trivialising of a serious social problem by fake and insincere apologies, designed more for a headline, than to do any meaningful good. The women and children of New Zealand who live in constant fear and suffering because of domestic violence deserve a far better response than that.

And I make no apology for saying so. . .

Dunne has no need to apologise for taking a serious issue seriously.


CTG very bad idea

July 10, 2014

Act leader Jamie Whyte is not impressed by Labour’s proposal to introduce a Capital Gains Tax:

On TV1’s Q&A programme, David Cunliffe boasted that his proposed new capital gains tax would collect an extra $5 billion a year. That is the biggest tax hike in the history of New Zealand. Which is saying something.

This isn’t replacing other taxes, it’s in addition to them.

It is a dreadful boast. Taxes are always paid by people, whatever the taxes are levied on. Income taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes, GST: they are all the same in this respect. They are all paid by people.

Nor are the people who bear the cost necessarily the people who write the cheques to the government. For example, if a capital gains tax means that landlords get a lower return on the capital appreciation of their properties, it will increase the rents they charge their tenants. Or landlords may sell their properties to owner-occupants. The supply of rental properties will then fall and, again, tenants will end up paying more.

Actions have consequences. If the cost of property rises or the return on investment falls, landlords will put up rents or sell and invest elsewhere.

This won’t just affect domestic rentals, it will affect commercial properties too which will add to the costs of businesses.

Where the cost of a capital gains tax will fall is a complex matter and extraordinarily difficult to predict. All Cunliffe knows is that the $5 billion will somehow be extracted from the people of New Zealand so that it can be spent in ways that he figures will buy him the most votes.

At least, that is what Cunliffe thinks he knows. In fact, he has almost certainly over-estimated the amount he will be able to squeeze out of tenants, consumers and entrepreneurs because taxes can be avoided.

Our observation of CGT in Argentina is that it prompts people to hold on to property, especially farms, rather than selling them.

This has led to a lot of absentee ownership, boosted the price of land and made it harder for people to get into farming.

When it comes to income tax, people can divert their activities from highly taxed activities, such as working in productive jobs, to low taxed activities, such as playing golf. When it comes to a capital gains tax, they can divert their investments from rental properties to bigger homes for themselves (which will not incur capital gains tax at sale). They can invest overseas rather than in New Zealand. They can delay selling assets to avoid realising a gain and paying the tax. And they can spend money on accountants and tax lawyers to devise all sorts of other ingenious schemes

Such avoidance activities will reduce the loot Cunliffe can get his hands on. That’s good. But they will also reduce the growth of the New Zealand economy. Resources will not flow to their most valuable uses. They will instead flow to the uses that are farthest from Cunliffe’s grasp.

A capital gains tax is a very bad idea.

I’m not opposed to a CGT per se.

There could be merit in it if it was comprehensive and replaced other taxes so it was cost-neutral.

Labour’s is neither of those and is, as Whyte says a very bad idea.


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.


Guilty until proven innocent

July 9, 2014

Labour wants to end the presumption of innocence in rape cases:

The Labour Party’s plan to reform the criminal justice system would mean that the accused in a rape case would have to prove consent to be found innocent — a change it acknowledges as a monumental shift.

But Labour’s justice spokesman Andrew Little said the current system is broken and in need of a major shake-up. The party favours an inquisitorial system, where a judge interviewed the alleged victim after conferring with prosecution and defence lawyers.

The policy would mean that in a rape case, if the Crown proved a sexual encounter and the identity of the defendant, it would be rape unless the defendant could prove it was consensual. 

“The Crown has to prove more than just sex; the issue of consent has to be raised by the Crown, they have to prove the identity of the offender. They would have to bear that burden of proof before a switch to the defence to prove consent,” Mr Little said. . .

He said the issue of proof would only apply where allegations of rape had been raised.

“It is pretty radical thing to say that ‘all sex is rape’ unless you prove consent. The reality is that in 99.9 per cent of cases, no one is being asked to prove consent.” . .

An inquisitorial could be less traumatic for victims than the current adversarial system.

But requiring defendants to prove consent is a reversal of one of the tenets of our justice system – that people are innocent until proven guilty.

It would mean defendants would be regarded as guilty until they could prove their innocence.

Rape is abhorrent.

It is a crime which inflicts physical and mental damage and for which there is no excuse.

But that doesn’t justify reversing the burden of proof to require defendants to prove their innocence.


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