More common than sense

July 21, 2014

Winston Peters accused the Conservative Party of plagiarising New Zealand First’s policies.

Common policies isn’t plagiarism but copying a slogan could be and that’s what NZ First has done by adopting it’s common sense as its rallying cry for the election.

Since 2002 when Peter Dunne got the television worm to dance by insisting his policies were common sense, that’s been associated with him and United Future.

Common sense is an appealing slogan but New Zealand First backs it up with policies which have a greater claim to common than sense.

One of these is removing GST from basic food items.

The thought of wiping $15 off every $100 spent on groceries is attractive but it’s not that simple.

Not all of the grocery bill is spent on food and the part that is isn’t all spent on basic items – whatever they are and that’s where the problems, and costs arise.

Exactly what is basic and what isn’t requires definition, that’s open to debate and it all adds complexity and cost to our enviably simple and relatively cheap to administer GST system.

Labour tried to sell removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables at the last election but gained little if any traction. One of the reasons for that was that the biggest gains from that would go to the wealthy who’d save on luxury items.

But the bigger problem with this policy is the cost.

. . . Mr Peters said his policy would save New Zealanders but cost the Crown a whopping $3 billion a year or thereabouts.

“This bold policy aims at the heart of the inequality undermining our society.”

Also “as part of a fair system” NZ First would remove GST from rates on residential property.

“This tax-on-a-tax deceit has to end, and it will,” Mr Peters told around 150 party faithful at Alexandra Park.

He did not provide details on how much that policy would cost, but with local authorities raising more than $7 billion a year in rates, the Crown would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

However, in an echo of Labour’s plan to fund its big-ticket items, Mr Peters said the policies would be funded through “a clampdown on tax evasion and the black economy” which he estimated was worth $7 billion a year. . . .

Inland Revenue already devotes a lot of time and money to detecting and clawing back money lost through evasion and the black economy.

Greater effort would result in greater costs and would be very unlikely to result in a fraction of the billions of dollars that would be lost from the tax take if these policies were adopted.


If an election was held tomorrow . . .

July 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

That certainly isn’t the case.

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

 


What they’ll need to do

July 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We're for stable government.


Labour stands firm with no proof

July 10, 2014

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

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

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

Examples include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

* The claim that inequality is worsening.

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

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

* The belief that governments are good at running businesses.

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

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


Cunliffe says nah yeah to Internet Mana

July 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Nash says the same about Hone Harawira. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The importance of certainty

July 4, 2014

Trans-Tasman notes the appeal of certainty and stability:

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

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

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

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

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


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

July 2, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Strong economy not end in itself

June 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

When National came into office the economy was in tatters.

Getting it back on track has been tough.

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

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

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

Ladies and Gentlemen, those are all good things.

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

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

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

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

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

A strong economy isn’t an end in itself.

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

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

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

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

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

And they are demonstrating that by their actions.

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

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

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

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

Wages are rising every year, faster than inflation.

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

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

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

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

In our party we believe in supporting families.

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

Well that is complete and utter nonsense.

And the actions of our government are proving that.

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

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

I know where I come from.

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

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

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

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

We’re seeing positive change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She went out and she got a job.

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

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

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

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

There are other great stories to tell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s just 83 days to the election.

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

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

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

We’ll have new health initiatives.

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

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

And that’s not all.

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

We’ll continue to focus attention on what matters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our challenge is to match and better those predictions.

I know we can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of those will be our investment in infrastructure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Government has also been busy in the regions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow National Party members.

Our country is firmly on the right track.

Our party is in good heart.

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

The choice at this election could not be clearer.

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

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

Together, let’s keep working for New Zealand!

The right choice is the one that’s working.

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


Divided they’re falling

June 27, 2014

Two Labour MPs crossed the floor to support the windblown timber bill being debated under urgency yesterday:

Damien O’Connor and Rino Tirikatene backed the Government’s bill to allow the retrieval of trees felled in Cyclone Ita from some parts of the West Coast conservation estate, while their colleagues opposed it.

O’Connor attacked the bill during the debate on the first reading, but the debate was completed by 72 to 46 with National, NZ First, Maori Party, United Future, Brendan Horan and two Labour votes in favour.

At the beginning of the debate Conservation Minister Nick Smith said the damage done by Cyclone Ita was substantial and an environmental tragedy. It left a dilemma about what to do with the wood.

The West Coast Wind-blown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill
had to be passed urgently as the beech which could be recovered would be too rotten by spring, other wood would last longer and this could be recovered over the five year life of the bill.

It would have been complex to allow the timber retrieval under existing rules and the bill would exclude the high conservation value areas such as National Parks, but it would be allowed in some of the conservation estate. There would be conditions over safety and environmental protections.

Smith said arguments the removal of timber would prevent regeneration was wrong because only a small amount would be recovered. He said Labour was split on the issue and claimed West Coast MP Damien O’Connor could cross the floor.

The wood would provide jobs in the West Coast, Smith said.

Labour’s Ruth Dyson said the bill was not a serious attempt to help West Coast, but a political stunt. The Conservation Act provided for storm felled timber to remain on the ground, so forests could regenerate.

If the bill would provide long term jobs on the West Coast, Labour would support it, but there was no commitment in the Bill to this.

Dyson said the bill would rule out Resource Management Act provisions and it would “devastate” the timber sector who had permits to log native timber as the market would be flooded.

West Coast MP Damien O’Connor said he would support the bill if it guaranteed the jobs created by the log retrieval would stay on the West Coast. The Government wanted the logs exported from his electorate, he said.

There was potential from the logs on the ground, but it would be dangerous to retrieve and much of it would have to be helicoptered out.

He had some “interesting and robust” debates with his colleagues; he believed the logs could be removed without environmental damage. O’Connor said he believed only the rimu would be worth extracting and they would be extracted by logging crews from outside the West Coast and processed elsewhere.

The Greens totally opposed the bill as it believed all the conservation estate should be protected, Eugenie Sage said.

NZ First MP Richard Prosser said the bill should not be passed under Urgency, but it would be supported to committee stage where it wanted changes to made. NZ First wanted the jobs created to go to New Zealand companies and preferably West Coast ones with no logs exported and 25% of royalties to go back to the region. It also wanted the RMA to apply to the operations.

Maori Party Leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the cyclone had caused terrible damage, but this was nature at work. Local Maori felt the felled timber should be used without wasting it. The timber would not be taken from National Parks or other high value conservation land and the conditions would ensure a small proportion of logs were removed in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

After the vote on the first reading MPs moved immediately to the second reading.

The bill completed its second reading by 65 to 51 with National, Maori Party, United Future, Brendan Horan and two Labour votes in favour.

NZ First reversed its initial support in the first reading. . . . 

O’Connor  noisily declined a place on Labour’s list before the last election, he’s back on it this time but if he’s prepared to demonstrate the internal divisions in the party so dramatically he would have been better to keep off it again.

The two Labour votes weren’t needed to pass the Bill so the floor-crossing was playing to the gallery in the electorates they hope will vote for them.

That might help them stay in parliament but confirmation of disunity  will make it more difficult for them, and their party, to get into government.

National is united and standing tall, Labour is divided and falling in the polls:

Support for the Labour Party has dropped 2.2 percent to 27.3 percent in the latest 3 News-Reid Research poll – lower than its share of the vote at the last election.

The poll surveyed 750 eligible New Zealander voters between June 19 and 25, amid the controversy over businessman Donghua Liu’s alleged donations to Labour.

Labour leader David Cunliffe received his lowest rating since taking over the role in November last year. Only 26.3 percent of those surveyed think he is performing well as leader of the Opposition.

National is meanwhile polling at 49.7 percent, down 0.6 percent from the last poll – but still indicating it could govern alone with a 63-seat share of a 122-seat Parliament.

John Key has been given his highest rating as preferred Prime Minister since November 2011, with 46.7 percent support.

On this question Mr Cunliffe is polling in single figures, down 0.2 percent to 9.6 percent.

Mr Key has also received his highest rating since November 2011 when it comes to people who think he is a capable leader – 82.3 percent say he is.

NZ First received only 3.6 percent of the vote, dropping 2 percent from the last poll and placing them under the 5 percent party vote threshold for getting into Parliament.

However the Green Party are up 2.5 percent to 12.7 percent, and the Conservative Party are back up at 2.8 percent – equalling their highest-ever poll result so far.

Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom’s project Internet Mana debuts at 1.8 percent.

The full results are here and give a total of 69 seats to National and its coalition partners and only 53 to the combined left.

It is very unlikely the results will be this good for National in the election but with less than three months until the election there’s not much time for Labour to get better.

And if they keep looking divided they’re more likely to continue falling than start climbing.


Clear choice

June 23, 2014

The choice in this election is stark.

There’s a centre right government led by a strong and popular National Party with John Key, the most popular Prime Minister in many, many years, with several capable new MPs.

It will almost certainly need support parties but their influence will be as minor as they are.

Then there’s the alternative – an unstable left government led by a weak Labour Party with the unpopular David Cunliffe heading stale faces supported by the Green, New Zealand First, Mana and Internet parties who will exert far more influence than their minor status.

That’s a choice between stability and progress from a National-led government or instability and regression from this:

 
Rusty Kane's photo.

 

That looks like two white businessmen which is a strange image for a coalition that includes a radical Maori separatist and several feminists.

Whatever the gender and race of the people behind the hands, I hope we see more of this because this clearly shows the prospect of government by what Bob Jones so accurately described as a rabble of dissimilar, mutually antagonistic parties, all with unpopular leaders and wildly different messages. . . 

If a picture is worth a thousand words – every one in this is telling the undecided in the middle to vote for National.


Left and Right agree

June 18, 2014

Danyl Mclauchlan and Bob Jones both have a way with words.

Although they’re from opposite ends of the political spectrum they have come to a similar conclusion:

Mclauchlan opines at Dim Post:

. . . Labour are trending down, just like last time – but now their votes are (mostly) going to National, not the Greens. Which makes sense to me: we have no idea what National plans to do in its third term, but that lack of vision is still preferable to being governed by a collection of left-wing parties who all hate each other but want to run the country together. . .

And Jones at the Herald:

. . . If anything, his efforts will hugely harm the Opposition cause in Balkanising and confusing its message, thus presenting an electoral option with, on one side, a rabble of dissimilar, mutually antagonistic parties, all with unpopular leaders and wildly different messages, set against a stable governing party with the most popular leader in our history. . .

Yesterday’s Herald-DigiPoll, on which Mclauchlan was commenting shows National well above the combined left bloc which is swapping votes among parties at that end of the spectrum but not getting any closer to a majority.

However, the poll gives no comfort to National.

. . . And yet nobody in the National Party appears to believe they can win a clear majority of the vote on September 20. Though Labour and the Greens together have amassed not much more than 40 per cent in our latest poll, and New Zealand First are well below the 5 per cent threshold for contention, interest still centres on National’s need of viable partners. . . .

Gaining 50% or more of the votes under First Past the Post was rare, it’s never been done under MMP.

National is a victim of its own success, it’s strength has weakened potential coalition partners.

But while commentators worry about potential partners, the task for the party is to  maximise its own vote and ensure supporters aren’t complacent about the risk the left poses.

McLauchlan is wrong about National not having a vision, but right that the alternative is being governed by a collection of left-wing parties who all hate each other but want to run the country together. . .

And Jones clearly articulates the contrast between  a rabble of dissimilar, mutually antagonistic parties, all with unpopular leaders and wildly different messages, set against a stable governing party with the most popular leader in our history.

There’s a clear choice but the big difference between National and the left bloc which shows in successive polls is very unlikely to be maintained on polling day.


Real problem is public funding

June 8, 2014

The Taxpayers’ Union is understandably aghast that the Electoral Commission is giving The Civilian Party $33,000 for election broadcasts.

David Farrar has a table showing the amount allocated to the main parties, and comparing it to their party vote last time, and the average in the public polls since the election (up until when the Commission met).

. . . These are not the only two criteria, but it is interesting to look at the results. Based on vote at the last elections National and Conservatives get a $1 per vote. Labour, Greens and NZ First $1.36 to $1.62 and the smaller parties $3 to $5. This is pretty standard that the smaller parties get proportionally a bit more.

In terms of dollars per average % in the polls, National gets $23,000 per %, Labour $28,000, Greens $33,000, Conservatives $38,000 and NZ First 38,000.

That doesn’t seem entirely fair.

However, my main concern is not who gets who much, but that political parties get any public money for campaigning at all.

They’re voluntary organisations and should fund their own broadcasts.


Recycled poli to lead IM party

May 29, 2014

Former Alliance leader Laila Hare is to lead the Internet Mana Party:

The NBR says she joined the Green Party only 18 months ago and worked as its “issues director” in Auckland. . .

Reusing or recycling an ex-MP could fit the green, but not necessarily the Green, credo.

Whether or not it helps the IM Party gain votes is moot but it will split opposition votes by giving those wanting a more socialist approach another option.

However it’s not likely to help the party appeal to the young tech-savvy non-voters. And yet another hard-left unionist on the red part of the spectrum could also persuade voters in the centre towards the blue end.

The idea of a weak Labour propped up by the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties will make a National-led government more attractive to moderates.

 Bryce Edwards at Liberation has the top tweets on the issue which include:

Laura McQuillan ‏@mcquillanatorz  

Laila Harre first entered Parliament in 1996. Incidentally, people born that year will be able to vote for the first time this year.

 

Laura McQuillan ‏@mcquillanatorz  

And I’m sure knowing the Internet Party leader was first an MP in the year of their birth will be a voter drawcard #rtpt

 

brent simpson ‏@simp  

Um … so the new leader of the Internet Party @lailaharre has made like 27 tweets. Has she really got the quals for this?

 

Andrew Robertson ‏@Unimatrix_0  

Interesting conflict. I bet people who wouldn’t consider voting for Mana or the Internet Party *would* consider voting for Laila Harre.

Lew ‏@LewSOS  

Seriously tho, what does it say about the NZ left that the old guard is being hauled out of retirement, while the right is appointing yoofs?

 

Toby Manhire ‏@toby_etc  

Harré Houdini.

 

michael fletcher ‏@fletchermj  

Which paper will be first with “Harrewira”?

Right Wing Fat Cat ‏@rightwingfatcat  

Mana has absolutely pulled a fast one on the #Internetparty ! Gets all thier funding, dominates the list & have installed a plant as leader!

 

Right Wing Fat Cat ‏@rightwingfatcat  

Internet party supporters have been sold a pup! Laila Harre has more in common with #mana & the greens than #Internetparty supporters #nzpol

 

StoogetalkZB ‏@mattedwords  

i’m betting the Greens are wishing that Dotcom had been extradicted about now.

 

David Farrar ‏@dpfdpf  

Internet Party also announcing tomorrow that their campaign manager will be Simon Lusk.

Dave Guerin ‏@daveguerin  

Laila Harre doesn’t say “Internet” to me, but she might get more votes for a very left-wing party than Mana’s existing candidates

 

James Cardno ‏@jamescardno  

I’d love to know what Harre feels she can get advancing leftist causes via Mana/IP that she felt she couldn’t achieve with the Greens

 

Chris Finlayson ‏@chrisfinlayson  

Laila Harre’s loan from Greens to Mana-Internet Party a sign that planning for Lab-Grn-NZF-Mana-Internet coalition is well advanced?

 

Chris Finlayson ‏@chrisfinlayson  

If Metiria Turei doesn’t back down, that means 5 deputy PMs for David Cunliffe. Six if he can’t convince caucus to bypass @grantrobertson1

Hamish Price ‏@hamishpricenz  

What were the principles that caused @suebr to quit Mana, but @lailaharre to join the @internetpartynz?

Warwick Rasmussen ‏@beanbiz  

So will Jim Anderton be kinda like an Internet-Mana Obi-Wan Kenobi now?

David Farrar ‏@dpfdpf  

If Laila can be the Leader of the Internet Party as she has used the Internet, I think I should be the Leader of the Greens as I eat them

 

Philip Matthews ‏@secondzeit  

Every waka jumper and MMP rorter ever is having a crack at the Harre-Dotcom alliance.

Gareth Richards ‏@garethmr  

Surprised Dotcom didn’t draft Ahmed Zaoui as Leader. That guy knows how to get anti-extradition results #nzpol

 

Cactus Kate ‏@CactusKate2  

Hone, Harre, Sykes and Minto – can John Key be having a better month than this one?

Joshua Hitchcock ‏@jcphitchcock  

Was really expecting someone with, you know, experience and knowledge in the tech sector.

 

Gareth Richards ‏@garethmr  

Laila Harre joins the Aotearoa Legalise Copyright Infringement Party #nzpol

 

Nick Cross ‏@NW_Cross 

So the left is assembling a team of washed up 1990′s egos to contest the election. Lets be kind and call them the ‘Social Justice League

 

Coley Tangerina ‏@ColeyTangerina  

You can’t put Sue Bradford Lite at the head of a Party & make people forget the founder is a neo-liberal DJ version of Mr Burns.

 

Andrew Chen ‏@bobsalive  

So… Green Internet Mana Party (GIMP) alliance?

 

Cactus Kate ‏@CactusKate2  

Laila Harre under the command and control of the millionaire German convicted fraudster. The left just gets funnier every day.

 

Edward Bowie ‏@edbowie 

Laila Harre is great but the whole stitch up undermines the concept of the Maori seats and marks the beginning of the end of their existence

 

GCSB Intercepts ‏@GCSBIntercepts 

”  Why, why, why the Laila?  “

 

Idiot/Savant ‏@norightturnnz  

Wow, Laila harre. Really? I bet Sue Bradford is feeling a little stupid now.

 

Christopher Bishop ‏@cjsbishop  

In 2002 the Alliance was beaten by the Outdoor Recreation Party #facts

 

Bryce Edwards ‏@bryce_edwards  

The Greens really let that possible candidate slip through their fingers.

 

Bryce Edwards ‏@bryce_edwards  

The Greens will be absolutely livid about Laila Harre as Internet Party leader. This will be very damaging for their party vote.

> Danyl Mclauchlan ‏@danylmc  

@thomasbeagle @bryce_edwards She’s pretty formidable. OTOH, Matt McCarten was supposed to have saved the election for Labour.

Toby Manhire ‏@toby_etc  

If it is Laila Harre, bit rude of @KimDotcom not to be following her on Twitter. (The Internet Party and Vikram Kumar both are)

 

Liam Kernaghan ‏@liamkernaghan  

Laila Harre? This story just gets more bizarre as the days go along

 

Patrick Leyland ‏@ProgressReport  

I guess Hone and Kim will be hoping Laila does better than she did against Lynne Pillay. #nzpol

 

Bryce Edwards ‏@bryce_edwards  

I wonder what portfolio Laila Harre would be after in Cabinet this time.

> Rob Hosking ‏@robhosking  

@bryce_edwards Minister of All the Parties.

 

Tova O’Brien ‏@TovaOBrien  

3 News understands Laila Harre to lead Internet Party – her fifth political party

 

Toby Manhire ‏@toby_etc  

@ChrisKeall What did she say when you asked her for comment?

> Rob Hosking ‏@robhosking  

@toby_etc @ChrisKeall I left messages asking, Why why why, dear Laila?

 

To which I add: if Harre is the answer, what was the question?


Can the polls be too good?

May 26, 2014

Three polls in a week have shown an encouraging level of support for National.

First was Roy Morgan:

Today’s New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows a gain in support for National (45.5%, up 3%) now back ahead of a potential Labour/Greens alliance (44%, down 1.5%).

Support for Key’s Coalition partners is little changed with the Maori Party 1% (unchanged), ACT NZ (0.5%, unchanged) and United Future 0% (down 0.5%).

Support has fallen for the Opposition with the Labour Party down 0.5% to 30.5%, the Greens down 1% to 13.5%, New Zealand First 6% (unchanged), Mana Party 1% (unchanged). Support for the Conservative Party of NZ is 1% (up 0.5%) and the Internet Party is now at 0.5% (down 1%). . . .

Last night another two polls confirmed the trend:

ONE News/Colmar Brunton:

 The latest ONE News/Colmar Brunton poll has National 10 points clear of the Labour and Greens block with less than four months to go to the election. . . .

ONE News political editor Corin Dann says Bill English’s sixth Budget has been well received and the poll shows National in a strong position, up four points to 51% while Labour has slipped one point to 30%, with the Greens steady on 11%.

New Zealand First is down two to 4.8% and the Conservatives are down one to 1%. But making its first appearance in the ONE News Colmar Brunton poll is Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party which debuts at 1% alongside the Maori Party and Act.

When it comes to seats in Parliament, National could govern alone with 65 seats while Labour and the Greens could muster just 52. The Maori Party would have three and Act, Mana and United Future one each.

However if NZ First makes the 5% threshold then National with 62 seats would need Act’s help to form a government.

Labour and the Greens would have 50 seats combined, but even with NZ First’s six MPs, the Maori Party’s three and Mana’s one, they would still fall short of the 63 seats needed for a majority. . .

3 News-Reid Research:

The Prime Minister and National are riding high on the post-Budget poll bump at 50.3 percent, up 4.4 percent from the last poll – a result Mr Key called “pleasing”.

It’s not so pleasing for Labour though, which dropped below the 30 percent mark, with 29.5 percent – a psychological blow for the party. . . .

Nearly three-quarters of voters – 73.2 percent – say they agree with National’s family package policy and most Labour voters – 67.3 percent – say they like it too. . .

Meanwhile, the Greens have dropped 1 percent to 10.2 percent and support for New Zealand First has grown by 0.7 percent to 5.6 percent. . .

Translating the poll results into seats in the House, National would get 61 – almost enough to govern alone, but with seven seats between its partners the Conservative Party, Maori Party, ACT and United Future it would give the right 68 seats.

Labour and the Greens would get 35 and 12 seats respectively, with Mana holding one seat and New Zealand First, seven.

But the poll results show the Labour-Green left-bloc is now on the back foot. . .

Other poll results:

  • Conservatives 2.3 percent, up 0.4 percent
  • Maori Party: 0.6 percent, down 0.9 percent
  • Internet Party: 0.6 percent, up 0.2 percent
  • ACT: 0.5 percent, down 0.6 percent
  • Mana 0.2 percent, down 0.9 percent
  • United Future: 0 percent, down 0.1 percent

These results are good, but there is a danger they are too good when there’s a tight and tough election ahead:

Prime Minister John Key is predicting a “tight and tough” election with the Government up against a “left wing block” of parties.

Mr Key told more than 250 party faithful at a conference in Hamilton today National could not be lulled into a false sense of security by high polling numbers ahead of the September 20 general election.

He said National was not just up against the lower polling Labour but its left counterparts including the Greens, New Zealand First, and Mana.

“The real risk for us is to underestimate just how close this election will be.

“None of us should be deluded into believing that a big poll lead by National against Labour means we have election 2014 in the bag.” . . .

 If this was a First Past the Post election National could be more confident.

But under MMP it’s not good enough for a party to have more support than its  biggest rival, it’s got to be able to muster at least 51% support in parliament.

And while National is tantalisingly close to that in polls, it is very unlikely to get that level of support at the election.

The danger is that some National supporters might see the polls, be complacent and think the party will get there without their votes.

Labour keeps saying the large number of people who didn’t vote last time were there supporters. Some might have been but some were supporters of National and its potential coalition partners.

Those supporters who don’t vote won’t just be not helping National.

They could be allowing a Labour/Green/NZ First/Mana and whichever other party they need to form a coalition to win.


Petering out

May 25, 2014

Winston Peters has had more political lives than a cat, but Tracey Watkins thinks he, and the NZ First party which is nothing without him, are petering out:

Anyone who kids themselves that there is life after Winston Peters for NZ First only had to watch the party floundering in the absence of its leader this week.

Frantically trying to head off an attack by their former colleague, expunged NZ Firster Brendan Horan, Peters’ front bench achieved the seemingly impossible feat of making Horan look good by comparison.

They were clueless in the face of Horan’s determination to extract utu from his former party by tabling documents he claimed showed improper use of the taxpayer funded leader’s fund. . .

Not only that, they voted against Labour’s vote of no confidence and had to belatedly ask for their no votes to be counted with the ayes.

Regardless of the ins and outs of Horan’s allegations, however, one thing seems clear: Horan is hellbent on using his last remaining months in Parliament to try to take Peters and the rest of NZ First down with him.

Even if he succeeds he will only be hastening by a few years what increasingly seems inevitable.

With its leader knocking 70, NZ First is a clock that has been slowly winding down since the 1996 election delivered Peters the balance of power. . .

Since the party’s return in 2011, Parliament has been collectively holding its breath waiting for the current team to implode given some of the more eccentric selections – like former North Shore mayor Andrew Williams, notorious for urinating in a public place.

The implosion hasn’t happened yet but there have been plenty of flaky moments. Richard Prosser launched a diatribe against Muslims that prompted hundreds of complaints to the NZ First board. The party’s Pasifika MP, Asenati Lole-Taylor, famously asked questions of the police minister in Parliament about blow jobs and has carved out a cult following on Twitter for her bizarre outbursts. Her most recent was to accuse a press gallery journalist of cyber bullying after he referred to her “shooting the messenger”. Lole-Taylor thought he was alleging she had shot an actual parliamentary messenger. . . 

It’s not quite so funny when you remember we’re paying her salary.

NZ First has never been more than Peters and whichever bunch of sycophants come in on his coat tails.

When he goes the party will go with him.

Whether it’s with a bang at the coming election or a whimper as it peters out over at least one more term is up to voters.

And those who think it could be this election should read Karl du Fresne on Peters in person at a public meeting.

He needs only sway 5% of voters and there could well be enough of the deluded and disenchanted to give him at least one more chance.


NZ First faltering

May 23, 2014

Confidence votes are important for governments.

Without them they fall.

No confidence votes moved by the Opposition are largely for show – and what was shown yesterday was that New Zealand First is faltering in the absence of its leader.

Yesterday parliament was asked to vote on the vote of no confidence moved by labour leader David Cunliffe.

The Green’s default position is to be against everything and it voted against it.

NZ First was leaderless yesterday and without Winston Peters its MPs don’t know what they’re for or against and they too voted against the motion.

The Greens realised their mistake before it was counted and corrected it. NZ First’s MPs did not and Cunliffe’s vote was initially defeated 50-71.

Someone must have told the hapless MPs what they’d done and Barbara Stewart returned to the house to seek leave to correct the result.

Perhaps it was a Freudian slip which shows the MPs really prefer National to Labour, or maybe it was just a sign the NZ First in not just Winston First, it’s Winston only and when he’s not there his MPs haven’t a clue what they’re doing.

The voting starts around 10 minutes, but Bill English’s right of reply which precedes the vote is worth listening to, too.

Should you prefer to read it, here’s Hansard’s draft transcript:

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): It is a privilege to be able to just wind up this Budget debate as the Government looks to a confidence vote with some confidence. I was very pleased to hear Minister Tolley’s speech, because she, along with other Ministers, has done an excellent job over the last 6 years now—almost 6 years—of providing better public services when we have had a tight budget, and we have done it again this year. At a time when the Government is spending less new money, by a large factor, than the previous Labour Government, we are seeing improvements in those kinds of issues that are at the core of the purpose of our public services. Because this is a Government that seeks to resolve problems and reduce misery, not fund a system that feeds off it.

That is where the Labour Party is. The Labour Party believes in State monopolies that fund services that feed off misery. Labour does not want problems solved, because if you have less misery, you have less Government. That is a key to this Budget. Under this Budget the Government will spend 30 percent of GDP—down from 35 percent just 4 years ago. We have been able to control expenditure not by slashing and burning but by understanding the core drivers of criminal behaviour, of educational failure, and social dysfunction, and starting to act on them. I say “starting” because it is pretty clear that the changes we are bringing about in public services are only just getting going and the benefits are only just starting to flow. There is so much more to be done. That is why we have a surplus. We have a surplus because what works in our communities works for the Government’s books: less crime, less spend—you get a surplus. More educational achievement, less remedial teaching—you get a surplus. That is what is working. That is in the context of a growing economy. We are having a confidence vote tonight. This is a confident Budget for a confident country—a Budget for a country that knows where it is going from a Government that knows what it is doing. That is why it is going to win the confidence vote in this Parliament. It is because it is in the context of an economy that is growing and New Zealanders beginning to understand that all New Zealanders can share in the benefits of that growth—this time around, it is New Zealand families with young children. That is the product not of any particular, big decision in this Budget or in the previous five from the John Key – led National Government; it is a product of considered and consistent change over time, always working towards sustained economic growth that can deliver dividends to New Zealand households year after year. New Zealanders do not really measure growth in terms of GDP. They measure it in terms of better job security—and it is a lot better now than it has been for a long time—and whether their incomes are likely to rise. If we achieve, if New Zealand achieves—

Andrew Little: You’ve got a pretty bad start so far—46 percent can’t get a pay rise.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is interesting that the member keeps quoting that, because that is about the average in most years, including when Labour was in Government. In any given year when Labour was in Government, 45 percent of the workforce did not get a pay rise. But I will tell you what they were doing. I will tell you what was happening. They were paying interest rates of 10 percent for first-home mortgages. The cost of living was going up. Inflation by 2007-08 was 5 percent, and today it is less than 2 percent. So they had no wage rises, interest rates were going through the roof to 10 percent, and the cost of living was going up by 5 percent.

Andrew Little: What are you doing to lift wages?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, let us discuss some of the member’s proposals that came up in this Budget debate. Here is one. Here is a question: what is the Labour Party’s immigration policy?

Hon Member: They don’t know.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: All I would say is: “Don’t ask them because they don’t know.”, because I think, as Phil Twyford said, they were going to cut immigration to a net 5,000. So I expect that this weekend at the ethnic functions in Auckland, Labour members will be getting up in front of the Indian community and saying “There’s far too many of you. We’re going to cut the number. We’re going to slash the number—no more Indians.” Then, because they are true to their word, they will be going off to the Chinese celebration and saying “Ahh, too many Asians in housing auctions around Auckland. They’re all Chinese. We’re going to slash the numbers.” And then they are going to go down to the Pasifika function. That is right, and they are going to say “No more family members from the Pacific Islands.” That is because Phil Twyford and David Cunliffe said on the radio: “We are going to slash immigration in order to control the housing market.”

Hon Hekia Parata: That’s what it means.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is not just what it means; it is what they said. It is what they said. Labour’s immigration policy is to slash migrant inflows. I think it is a bit weird. I think it is a bit weird from a party that has traditionally regarded itself as the representative of the migrant communities. But we will be there, Ms Collins will be there, Sam Lotu-Iiga will be there, Kanwal Bakshi will be there, and they will write down what Grant Robertson says to those people. But then it is not weird when you think about what they are saying to low-income New Zealanders.

Chris Auchinvole: What do they say?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I will tell you what they are saying to low-income New Zealanders. They are saying—I thought you might be interested—“We’ve got this really bright new idea, which is to increase KiwiSaver contributions so that the Chinese buyers don’t have to pay higher interest rates.” OK? Or so that the Indian buyers do not have to pay higher interest rates. So we have asked a simple question: by how much would you need to increase KiwiSaver contributions in a compulsory scheme to offset a 1 percent increase in interest rates?

Chris Auchinvole: And what do they say?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: They do not know, so we have done our own calculation and it is 15 percent—15 percent. In the weekend Labour members are going to be out in the Ōtara market, saying to women who have the second job in a household and are doing 25 hours’ cleaning in the middle of the night during the week in order to feed their family: “You have to join compulsory super, and we are going to take 9 percent of your gross income off you. That’s not enough, because when the Chinese drive the interest rates up, we’re going to put it up to 15 percent.”, and we will be listening.

What a stupid, dangerous, unfair policy. Apparently slashing immigration and forcing low-income people to save money they do not have is Labour’s response to the Budget. I used to think it was lazy, but I did not think it was that silly. I really did not. I am looking forward to campaigning in south Auckland with the growing interest from the Pasifika vote. We can stand up and say that jobs are growing, wages are rising, and they will stand up and say “We are going to slash your take-home pay and make sure your family cannot come to New Zealand.” But you know what they will do, they will say something completely different. As usual, we will have no idea what their policy is, because in here, in the office buildings, and on Radio New Zealand they say compulsory superannuation and slashed migration, but when they get out in the suburbs of Auckland, I do not know what they will say. They will sound like Martin Luther King. That is what they will do—

Hat tip: Keeping Stock


Lowering the tone

May 23, 2014

Debate in parliament can be robust, it can also be personal and in the past week there’s been a lowering of the tone with a descent into nastiness:

NZ First leader Winston Peters is known for his expensive suits but he triggered a Savile row of a different nature when he turned on ex-NZ First MP Brendan Horan this week. To say there is bad blood between the two is an insult to leukemia. The loathing runs deeper than the Marianas Trench, as wide as the mouth of the Amazon.

But to do as Peters did, and to describe Horan as “the Jimmy Savile of NZ politics”  - and to do so not once but twice in what was clearly a calculated insult – takes it to a whole new level. Savile, the deceased British “celebrity” who sexually preyed on young, often handicapped, girls, is the nuclear option of insults. It all looked a bit desperate. You cannot make such a comment without backing it up with some evidence.

Yet Peters not only failed to do so, but failed to front in Parliament the following day, when Horan had signalled he would reveal his own deep scandal about NZ First.

It left the rest of the NZ First MPs – who tend to resemble a bunch of ageing Social Creditors with anger management issues at the best of times – making a shambles of trying to use Parliament’s standing orders to block their former colleague.

In the end, Horan’s revelations Peters was using the leader’s budget for electioneering and campaigning expenses, namely software and staff, proved something of a damp squib. It is still far from clear NZ First is doing anything wrong with its Parliamentary funding, although no doubt the party does – like all the others – push it right up to the edge of the rules. . .

New Zealand wasn’t the only party guilty of lowering the tone:

Back in February, Trans-Tasman (14/1933) called attention to what it saw as a “crusty, even nasty, undertone” in political debate. This week the tone was definitely nasty, and it wasn’t an undertone. Winston Peters was slugging it out with his onetime colleague, now independent MP, Brendan Horan labelling him the “Jimmy Savile of NZ politics.” Judging by the sycophantic responses from other NZ First MPs, it was a rehearsed line to put down Horan, who had been trying to table NZ First board meeting minutes, telling Parliament they “point to improper use of taxpayer money.” Just as unpleasant was the tweet from Green MP Jan Logie – “John Key says Bill English has produced as many Budgets as children. Begs the question who he has f&%d to produce it.” Logie subsequently apologised for the comment, but it showed how far current Green MPs have moved from the high standards of former leaders the late Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons. . .

It’s not only far from the standards of the past, it’s a long way from the current code of conduct for Green MPs and the lowering of tone has resulted in a call for MPs to mind their manners:

Prime Minister John Key is warning MPs to behave following what he describes as “a nasty streak” running through Parliament. . . 

Mr Key said on Thursday that politicians risk offending the public with nasty behaviour or mindless tweets.

“Political parties actually need to think about that a little bit. We’re seeing tweets that I think have been wholly inappropriate, we’ve seen all sorts of allegations been made that are unfounded.

“It’s one thing to have parliamentary privilege – it’s quite another thing to actually say those things, because actually they do have repercussions, they do send ripples through the community.”

Mr Key said a tweet is no different from a media statement.

The sort of nastiness that’s been exhibited in the past week is what puts a lot of people off politics.

It adds to the negative view many have of politicians.

And it puts the focus on the petty and personal instead of the principles and policies which really matter.


More bad blood spilt

May 22, 2014

More of the bad blood between independent MP Brendan Horan and his former leader Winston Peters was spilled in parliament yesterday:

. . . Mr Horan told Parliament on Wednesday that New Zealand First is using taxpayer-funded computer software for party political purposes, such as campaigning and fundraising.

He said the party has paid tens of thousands of dollars out of the leader’s budget to develop this software and that Parliamentary staff are running the programme in preparation for the general election on 20 September.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the accusations are without foundation. . .

Horan’s given up on an official complaint about his allegation Peters should have declared a horse on his register of pecuniary interests.

But he’s obviously not giving up on any chance to get at Peters.


What about the provinces?

May 22, 2014

The debate on immigration and the pressure it might place on house prices is an Auckland and Christchurch centric one.

The demand for houses in those two cities is outstripping supply and the inevitable result of that is pressure on prices.

The sadly inevitable result of that is dog-whistle anti-immigration politics.

That’s a triennial hardy for New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as he tries to convert xenophobia into votes each election year.

To his shame, Labour leader David Cunliffe is echoing that dog whistle.

. . . The annual figure has plummeted too, from 34,100 to 11,000, but the immigration debate is now central to the political fight over house prices.

Because as well as more New Zealanders staying home than ever, more foreigners are moving here too – 71,210 in the last year, the highest in 11 years.

Labour leader David Cunliffe says their arrival comes at the expense of New Zealanders.

“Extra heat on our housing market drives up interest rates and exceeds the capacity of our education and health systems to cope,” he says.

Net migration is the crucial overall figure, which shows population growth is also at a decade high, up to 34,400 in the past year.

Treasury has predicted it could blow out to 41,500, and ANZ economists go higher, predicting 45,000.

Labour says the past ideal was just 5,000 to 15,000. . .

Auckland and Christchurch might not want many more people, but what about the rest of the country, in particular the provinces?

After several successive censuses showing the population declining in our district, last year’s census recorded a very small but very welcome increase.

That it was small in spite of the big increase in jobs that have come in the wake of irrigation means had it not been for that development we’d still have been going backwards.

That the debate on immigration focuses on Auckland, and to a lesser extent Christchurch, shows that the provinces aren’t on Labour’s radar.

If immigration is really a problem in some areas – and that is debatable – why does it have to be limited in areas which would welcome more people?

Why should the provinces pay the price for the poor planning decisions which have meant that the housing supply in Auckland hasn’t kept up with demand?

Why should we lose out on immigrants who could provide investment, workers and a population boost where they’re needed?

The xenophobes are quick to point out problems with immigration.

This picture shows the upside in the UK – is it likely to be different here?


NZ politics by Austen

April 20, 2014

Jane Clifton looks at New Zealand politics through Jane Austen’s novels:

We have Labour and the Greens, who anyone can see are made for each other, doing a comprehensive Pride and Prejudice. Just like Mr Darcy, the Greens make an overture to Labour, while making it plain that Labour is really a bit beneath their station and would need to remedy certain unsatisfactory traits and sign a pre-nup first, and Labour comes the full Elizabeth Bennet and tells them to naff off – while making eyes at the dashing but unbecomingly experienced Mr Wickham, aka Winston Peters.

Now Labour leader David Cunliffe is being hauled over the coals for his pertness by a patron every bit as formidable as Lady Catherine de Bourgh: the Labour left, who installed him in office and who expect him to know his duty.

At least in Austen-land, dear reader, all would be well for the left in the end. But it seems destined to transfer to more of a Henry James trajectory: elaborate emotional turmoil culminating, though always elegantly, in open-ended misery. Either the left/New Zealand First parties will fail to build a winning share of the vote, in part precisely because of these inept courting carryings-on making them look disunited, and National will stay in office; or the left will scrape in burdened with intra-party ill will.

Admittedly it’s always amazing how quickly a chip on the shoulder can expire the minute an MP’s bum hits ministerial leather. But the past week’s untidy guts-spilling on the left makes it plain there is simply not enough leather to soothe all the bruised and jockeying egos involved. . .

 Sadly this disarray and distrust on the left doesn’t make it any more certain that we’ll have a National-led government after the election.

SENSE AND INSENSIBILITY

This illustrates why MMP continues to bemuse some voters; how can such contradictory propositions be justifiable at the same time? On the one hand, surely voters should know that if they vote for Party X, that will be as good as voting for Party Y as well because, given the chance, the two will buddy up in the Beehive. Voters might like Party X but deplore Party Y, and should have the information on which to weigh their choice.

On the other hand, such advance team-picking has the effect of railroading some voters into voting tactically rather than strictly honestly – most often so as to minimise the chance of getting the party they badly don’t want in Government, rather than to maximise the chances of the party they most fervently support. NZ First is prey to this, in that most of its supporters will have a marked preference for/aversion to either Labour or National, and if they think Winston will go a particular way, that’s going to cost him votes. He is very wise to say, “If you like me, vote for me.” This agnosticism allows him to auction for the best policy deal.

But then voters become uncomfortable with a minor party holding the balance of power, “wagging the dog”, king-making and so on – unless, of course, the kingmaker is the party they voted for, in which case it’s called “keeping the bastards honest”.

Depending on one’s politics, it might seem reassuring to recall that Mr Wickham was run out of town, and that in the modern version, all Mr Darcy had to do in the end was take his shirt off and jump in a lake.

But there, thankfully dear reader, the Austen-ness of it all comes to a felicitous end.

No party is promising the fairy tale happily ever after. But a government led by National would bring more of the policies which are working and considerably more stability than we’d get from the left.


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