In need of govt that knows what it’s doing


Kerre McIvor has tuned into a widespread feeling that the government doesn’t know what it’s doing:

She says that the previous National Government felt more like they were in control of the steering wheel.

“This Government, I just get a sense they have no idea what they are doing.” 

She also took aim at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her refusal to answer questions. 

“I don’t get the sense she’s across her job.”

“You would think even she could set the agenda and put it to him and get the people to brief you. Just one solid answer would be fantastic.

“You’re in charge of the country, act like it!” 

McIvor says that Labour probably didn’t expect to be in Government after the last election, but that was 18 months ago and they should be up and running now.

“I get the sense that they are still trying to get their heads around the job, but this is their job. This is what they have been training all their lives to do – be the Government – and they aren’t doing a very good job of it.” 

I happened to tune into Newstalk ZB yesterday morning when this was being discussed. In spite of pleas from McIvor for people to call and counter her view, almost every call and tweet agreed with her.

Labour wasted almost nine years in opposition with in-fighting. It did little to no policy development and the problems with that have been compounded by its coalition partners.

Bill Ralston opines:

. . .It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the lack of planning and joined-up thinking is a result of the fact that the three political parties in charge have wildly disparate views on what should be done, and, in many cases, nothing is done to genuinely address a problem because one or more of them will block the others’ programme.

The only part of Government that seems to be working in high gear is its publicity machine. Press conferences are held, photo opportunities delivered, media releases pumped out and the appearance of action is created. However, when you look closely, too often you see the scheme just announced is largely cosmetic and does not address the core of the problem. Worse, public money is devoted to a cause but there is no advance planning as to how it should be put to best use.

It seems to me that the Government is making it up as it goes along, occasionally content to be seen to be doing something about problems but not really addressing the causes, because the coalition parties cannot agree on policies. . . 

How long before this starts to show in the polls?


While the government is floundering, National is working hard to develop policies and yesterday announced its economic discussion document.

Simon Bridges started by explaining something the current government doesn’t understand: why their economy matters:

A strong economy means New Zealanders have more in their back pockets to afford the things that matter to them.

Whether that is putting more food in the table or being able to afford nice things for your kids.

A strong economy also means we can invest in the things that matter to New Zealanders.

But a strong economy, first and foremost, needs confident thriving businesses that are willing to invest in new technologies, create more jobs and pay higher wages.

National recognises that Government does not drive the economy.

The economy is driven by all of the people who have good ideas, get up early, work hard, invest their time and money, take risks and try and build opportunities for themselves and others. It’s driven by the people in this room.

New Zealanders need a Government that backs them to compete on the world stage and provides the foundations they need to get on with doing business.

New Zealanders also need a government that knows what it is doing, where it wants to go and has a plan for getting there, none of which this government does or has.

Some of the commitments in the discussion document include:

  • Requiring all government departments and government agencies to pay their contractors on time and within 30 days;
  • Establishing a ‘Small Business Payments Guarantee’;
  • Repealing 100 regulations in our first six months of office;
  • Eliminating two old regulations for every new regulation introduced in our first term;
  • Requiring quality cost-benefit analysis for any major new regulation;
  • Māori land reform; and
  • Ensuring the Treasury has a greater focus on providing sound advice on the effectiveness of Government spending, identifying wasteful spending and driving higher productivity in the public sector;

We’re also proposing or asking for New Zealanders feedback on:

  • Considering new innovative approaches to infrastructure funding;
  • Pricing mechanisms to manage the flow of traffic that are revenue neutral;
  • Allowing savers to deduct the inflation component from their interest income;
  • Accelerated depreciation of business assets;
  • Removing the ability for Governments to give preferential pay agreements to union members during public sector wage negotiations;
  • Bank account number portability; and
  • Removing all remaining tariffs.

And we’re re-confirming a number of previous commitments, including:

  • Indexing tax thresholds to inflation;
  • Repealing the Regional Fuel Tax;
  • Overhauling the Resource Management Act;
  • Reintroducing targets in health, education and law and order;
  • Encouraging direct investment in productive assets by overturning the Government’s foreign investment changes;
  • Repealing the ban on oil and gas exploration; and
  • Repealing recent Government changes made to the Employment Relations Act, such as removing 90-day trial periods.

Some of this continues work National did in government, some of it is new.

All of it shows a party far more prepared for government and running the country than the ones that are supposed to be doing it now.

Who is the real Cunliffe?


Michael Fox and Tracy Watkins ask – will the real David Cunliffe please stand up?

That’s the message from experts who claim the Labour leader is failing to connect with the voting public because he’s not being true to himself. . . 

Former TVNZ political commentator turned media trainer Bill Ralston said Cunliffe came across like he “doesn’t know himself”.

“He always appears to be acting. You know, ‘I’m going to be angry now, I’m going to be funny now, I’m going to be serious’. I don’t know what or who the real David Cunliffe is but we haven’t seen him yet. It’s that inauthenticity that’s the issue. He just is not pitching himself as a normal person.” . . .

Could it be that’s because he doesn’t really know who he is?

Like him or loathe him, there’s no doubt who John Key is and what he stands for. The National Party values are his.

But one of the criticisms often thrown at Cunliffe is that he tries to be all things too all people, saying one thing to one audience and something different to another.

It really is difficult to know who he is and what he believes in.

Both leaders came from poor backgrounds and through family support, education and their own efforts have succeeded.

The PM is comfortable with his own success and is passionate about helping others make the best of themselves too.

Cunliffe over states his CV one minute then tries to minimise his wealth and success the next.

Rather than being proud of what he’s achieved he appears to be embarrassed, even ashamed about it. Instead of using his success as a positive example to inspire others as the PM does, Cunliffe tries to pretend he’s like most of his constituents who have considerably less.

He comes across as a man who isn’t comfortable in his own skin and is unsure about what he stands for.

But does he even believe what he’s saying?

Writing about the difference between Cunliffe and David Shearer – when the latter was leader, Rob Hosking observed:

It is just they do not hang together as a coherent programme. Economically, they are contradictory and they will cause more problems than they solve.

And this is the first difference between the two. Mr Cunliffe is economically qualified enough to know they are incoherent and will strain against each other. Mr Shearer has no such knowledge and probably believes what he is saying. . . .

As noted, Mr Cunliffe is economically savvy enough to know all this, and is shameless enough to peddle it to people who do not know any better.

If he’s not comfortable and sure about himself, is it any wonders voters aren’t comfortable with or sure about him either?

How can you believe what someone’s saying if you can’t be sure he believes it himself?



Moral fervour


Trans Tasman opines:

Moral fervour has its place, but it is something not to be totally trusted. Self righteousness should never be allowed to become mob rule. Society’s norms should be enforced with a degree of legal detachment, lest righteous condemnation be allowed to turn into lynch mob justice.

So it was possible to feel a smidgeon, just a smidgeon, of sympathy for talkback hosts John Tamihere and Willie Jackson this week. They found themselves on the receiving end of a nationwide, social media wide storm of condemnation for their on-air antics in the wake of the “Roastbusters” rape allegations.

But any sympathy should be minimal. The pair are not exactly strangers to these types of  on-air controversies.

Fellow babyboomer broadcaster Bill Ralston  described them, in a friendly way, as some of the last bastions of 1950s male attitudes, but this is hardly an excuse. One would expect the two to have noticed one or two changes since then. Implicit in the way the two questioned one of the rape victims on the air – and also in some commentary elsewhere – is the notion the girls in some way contributed to their predicament.

Now, contributory negligence is a useful concept in civil law, but hardly applies to criminal matters such as rape – unless it is assumed, from the outset, men have as little control as, say, an out of control machine. Tamihere has form in the misogyny area: he famously called women in the Labour Party “front bums.”

Well, now he and his partner are off the air, for acting like a pair of total back bums.


Clark part of Auckland housing problem


The imbalance between supply and demand for houses in Auckland which is the biggest factor behind swiftly rising prices there didn’t happen overnight.

It has been building for more than a decade and local and central governments should have been addressing the issue years ago before it got this bad.

Who was leading the government for nearly a decade as the prices soared?

Oh yes, Helen Clark and she’s part of the problem of houses owned by foreigners.

Rob Hosking points out:

It’s a mark of how bogus the housing debate has become that Labour’s figures about foreign owners of New Zealand houses almost certainly include former leader Helen Clark and her four houses. . .

Labour says more than 11,000 foreigners own houses here they don’t live in.

. . . What Mr Shearer didn’t say is the figure comes from “non-resident” taxpayers who pay tax on houses they own in New Zealand.

Most of those are ex-pat Kiwis who are renting out property they own here while working overseas.

How could Labour put out a policy so badly researched?

This conversation on twitter explains it:


  1. Shearer’s ‘foreign investor’ figures are mostly expat Kiwis – people like Helen Clark & her four houses [PAID] …

  2. .@robhosking This is frustrating. It took you less than a day to find the holes – why aren’t Labour peer reviewing before policy release?

  3. @MeganCampbellNZ Own arse. Both hands. Lack of a GPS navigational device not to mention basic hand/eye co-ordination.

But it gets worse – Labour’s policy is not only based on faulty figures, it also contravenes the Free Trade Agreement with China that was negotiated by the last Labour government.

  1. Lemme get this right. Labour’s housing ban stops expat Kiwis from buying homes here but the FTA lets Chinese buy, along with Aussies? WTF?

  2. @BillyRalston very slightly rushed out policy, you reckon?

  3. @toby_etc I think someone in Shearer’s office had a brain bypass.

  4. @CactusKate2 @BillyRalston @toby_etc C’mon you can’t put this FAIL on the ‘office’. Good politicians ask questions &understand own policy

  5. @MeganCampbellNZ @CactusKate2 @BillyRalston @toby_etc EXACTLY. Blaming minions is what Aaron Gilmores of this world do, not would-be PMs.

Oh dear, faulty figures based on incomplete understanding and no idea about the FTA a Labour government negotiated – is anyone in Labour thinking?

Hat tip: Keeping Stock

P.S. – in case you think I’m guilty of Clark derangement syndrome.The post is to show Labour’s shortcomings – in government for not recognising and acting on the growing imbalance between supply and demand of houses and now for this ill-thought out policy –  not to comment on her investment decisions about which I have no criticism.

Question of the day


Bill Ralston Bill Ralston@BillyRalston

Why is @RusselNorman answer to everything to tax us more? Hey, Wellington’s had a quake, quick let’s pay more tax. Odd.

Green without the red


Quote of the day:

. . . However, in recent years, I have found the voice of the green movement becoming increasingly illogical and hysterical . Not that I disagree with everything campaigners say . .

. . . Doctrinaire greenies need to realise that if we cannot carefully and sensibly exploit our minerals, oil and gas reserves, we are doomed to remain a nice lifestyle block in the South Pacific but never an economic unit. Bill Ralston in The Listener (not yet on-line).

Few would disagree with the need to tread lightly on the earth. But the strident end of the green spectrum turns to red and doesn’t appear to understand that economic and social considerations should be taken into account and balanced with environmental ones.

Media need thicker skin


Quote of the day:

The media’s role is often to be “hostile, aggressive and antagonistic” to governments and politicians when they merit it. That comes with the job of being the “Fourth Estate”. I was once so hostile, aggressive and antagonistic” that Prime Minister Jim Bolger banned me from his press conferences.

It is the media’s job to apply scrutiny, to critique, and to commentate on events and individuals. It is just a shame that it cannot stand it when others do the same to them.

Message to Media: Stop being so pathetically thin-skinned and get on with the job. Bill Ralston

He was commenting to the reaction to Prime Minister John Key’s observation that the media is tougher on a second term government.

He made the comments during an interview with Leighton Smith:

He is quite clear he is making observations, not complaining, that he wasn’t ” bent out of shape by that” and he expected it.

Fran O’Sullivan on blogging on YouTube


Fran O’Sullivan spoke on the accidental empire of political blogging at a breakfast organised by Rural Women NZ earlier this week.

Part of that address is now on YouTube:

Roarprawn posted on the breakfast, so did Big News and Kiwiblog  who also discussed Fran’s suggestion that NZ On Air should become NZ On Media. That in turn led to a post from Bill Ralston.


Not PC  reckons this is an example of life imitating satire; and  Liberty Scott thinks NZ On Air should be abolished

Who’d be a politician?


P.J. O’Rourke explains to Bill Ralston why he wouldn’t want to be a politician:

“Meetings.” He stretches out the work in horror. “If it was just a matter of bossing people around, I wouldn’t mind so much. It don’t think any of us would. But to sit through meetings and have to be pleasant to everyone all the time. Can you imagine? I can’t do it around the house, with my wife and chidlren whom I love; how could I do it with the whole goddam public!”

The interview is in this week’s Listener. You can read a preview here, but you’ll have to buy a copy of the magazine if you want to read it all before it goes on-line next week.

Election’s won?


I’m biased but I’m not over confident about the election outcome. However, others who don’t share my bias are sure that National will win.

The three commentators who followed the TV3 debate said John Key will be our next Prime Minister and Bill Ralston  is saying the same thing:

Helen Clark will go down fighting but go down she will. . .

. . . on Saturday night her government will fall. The public mood is that it is time for change and there is little she can do about that.

. . .  I think the maths is against her. I do not believe NZ First will trigger the 5 per cent MMP barrier and Peters hasn’t got a hope in hell of winning Tauranga. I know everyone always says, “You can’t write Winston off”. Well, this election I do.

That means there will be a sizeable wasted vote, possibly as much as 5 per cent if you include the votes wasted on the Kiwi Party.

At that point John Key and National just have to get half of 95 per cent of the vote and their task is much easier.

. . . When political scientists look back at the 2008 election I think there will be consensus Labour committed a huge blunder in targeting John Key personally. Labour’s hugely negative campaign of denigration is leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many New Zealand voters.

. . . Labour has waged what is essentially an opposition election campaign, accentuating the negative, and it will lead them into opposition.

. . . Its attempts to portray Key as a duplicitous ogre fail when the electorate is increasingly coming to see the National Party leader is not evil incarnate.

If attacking your opposition is better campaign strategy than highlighting record you haven’t got much of a record.

Tonight is the TV3 Leaders debate and Wednesday is the final TVNZ marathon showdown between Clark and Key.

There is no doubt Helen will hit him hard and try to rattle him but, providing he keeps his cool, I doubt if either debate will display John Key as anything other than an affable, intelligent leader more than capable of being a Prime Minister we can actually trust.

At that point Labour’s entire campaign strategy collapses.

And that, my friends, is how Labour lost the 2008 election.

I’m still not that confident, but I am encouraged.

Neutron bomb or damp squib?


Labour must be worried that the fallout from Winston Peters’ lobbying to appoint  Owen Glenn as honorary counsul to Monaco is reflecting badly on Helen Clark and endangering Labour’s chances of re-election.

Bill Ralston  said:

Over the past couple of weeks the polls showed an increasing trickle of voters dribbling back to NZ First as their memories of Peters’ embarrassments of the last few months began to fade in the glare of the election campaign. Their doubts will now be reawakened.

It is a bitter blow for Labour and Helen Clark. They had been counting on NZ First just cresting the 5% MMP barrier and effectively slamming the door on Key’s chances of forming a government.

The depth of their concern is evidenced by the release of their “neutron bomb”.

It’s an attempt to link John Key to the H-fee white collar crime.

But the Herald story is linked to one which quotes former Serious Fraud Office head Charles Sturt saying Key had nothing to do with the matter.

That suggests it’s a damp squib.

Better without MPs


Bill Ralston has discovered the secret to better election TV:

I have found the answer to all those boring political debates and interview programmes (including my own) that litter the election campaign.

Don’t have any politicians on them.

They become so much more fun if you simply have the journalists nattering to each other and then head off for a beer afterwards.

He made the discovery because Winston Peters refused to take part in a Sky TV interview with the leaders and one of his staff, Frank Perry made this suggestion to Ralston who hosts the show:

Another email from Perry: “Mr Peters will not be there. We suggest that you interview yourself – you have had plenty of practice!”

So Frank gave me the idea. If Winston didn’t front then I would have to interview, if not myself, four of Peters’ favourite meerkats. Barry Soper, who Winston had a verbal brawl with in John McCain’s office in Washington, Dom Post investigative journalist Phil Kitchin who broke a series of stories regarding NZ First’s finances that led to Peters angrily calling him a “gripper”, TV3’s Duncan Garner who’s been under fairly constant attack by Peters, and Dom Post gallery journalist Vernon Small who will never be on Winston’s Christmas card list.

It was a pity I couldn’t have rounded the panel off with one of the Espiner brothers who Peters loathes with venom.

. . . I regret he didn’t show up but the show went on anyway and everyone had a great time without him.

Maybe it was an allegory of the coming election, Winston won’t show up in Parliament because New Zealand First won’t trigger the 5% barrier. Some people might regret his disappearance from the political scene but the show will go on without him and we will all have a great time anyway.

We can but hope.

Do we want a circus?


The joy of political commentators like me would know no bounds as such an unwieldy motley crew of conflicting parties would be a magnificent circus to watch in action.

Of course, it would be a disaster in these economic times when a clear, single-minded approach is desperately required to the recession and international market collapse and, instead, New Zealand delivered itself a muddled, bickering coalition of the unwilling and the wilful.

Bill Ralston on what could happen if a silver, bronze and most of the other runners (Labour, Progressive, United Future, Green Party, New Zealand First, Maori Party)  beat gold (National) and the other runners who’d go with them – Act, United Future and Maori Party.

Is he being premature only putting the Green Party on the left when it isn’t announcing its preferred coalition partner until tomorrow?

No. They might be fooling themselves but when you look at their criteria for their preferred coalition partner they’re not fooling anyone else that they are seriously considering going with National.

And that’s one of their biggest weaknesses – if they were strong on the environment and moderate on social and economic policy they could sit in the middle and hold the balance of power election after election. But because they’re on the far left, their options, and their influence are limited to Labour.

TV not best medium for debate


At first glance I thought Helen Clark and John Key were being arrogant by refusing to take part in televised debates with the leaders of the wee parties.

But then I thought about it and came to the conclusion that a debate with eight people on television would do little if anything for the democratic process and it wouldn’t be good viewing either.

My farmer was channel surfing last night and happened to catch Sky while Peter Dunne was being questioned by Bill Ralston and a panel of journalists. They asked intelligent qeustions and he had time to answer them. That’s a much better way to find out what someone stands for and plans to do than the shouting match an eight person debate would descend in to.

The leaders of the wee parties are understandably miffed that TV3 has now decided to can the debate with them because they’ve lost an opportunity for free publicity and Peter Dunne in particular was no doubt hoping to get his party from its 0 poll rating by playing Mr Sensible as he did in 2002.

But TV3 is a private company and has asked the qeustion who’d want to watch the leaders of the six wee parties shouting at and over each other? The answer was obviously not enough people to draw the advertisers so its made a commercial decision to flag the debate as its entitled to do.

Clark won’t go the distance


Bill English is calling on Helen Clark to let voters know if she’s planning to remain as Labour’s.

Helen Clark will only commit to leading Labour ‘into’ a fourth term. She will offer no assurances about what happens after that.“The public can only conclude that if Helen Clark wins the election, New Zealand will have a different Prime Minister by the end of a three year term.
 He refers to a radio interview in which she refused to give a commitment:

PRESENTER: If you win the ah, this election, if you, if Labour wins this election, will you stick around for a full three-year term.
CLARK: Well someone asked that at the press conference today too and I said I have no retirement plans. Here I am, a fit and healthy woman still our doing the back country skiing and enjoying life.
PRESENTER: But no retirement plans isn’t the same as a categorical assurance that people might need, Labour voters might need or voters might need to vote for Labour this election knowing that you will remain for a full three-year term…
CLARK: Well ah…
PRESENTER: …can you give that categorical assurance.
CLARK: Well ah, I’m going into it obviously saying I’m looking to lead Labour for a fourth term and…
PRESENTER: Full fourth term.
CLARK: Well I’m looking to lead for a fourth term ah, and that’s as much as I can say. I mean I’ve got good health and good energy at the moment. Who knows ah, things can change on you but right now I’m looking for the fourth term.
PRESENTER: It’s not quite categorical. It’s a dead…
CLARK: Well…
PRESENTER: I’m looking for an assurance that, that if Labour win a thir [sic] a fourth term, that you would be there for the full three years or as long as Labour stayed in power.
CLARK: Well I’m not announcing my intentions for the election of 2011 Bill. That would be silly.
CLARK: I’m announcing that I’m on for leading Labour into a fourth term. I have no, underline, no retirement plans.
PRESENTER: And leading Labour out of a fourth term
CLARK: Oh well ah, leading Labour to a fifth term. I haven’t made the decision whether I’ll lead Labour for a fifth term but what I’m saying is there’s an election in eight weeks’ time, and you’ve all got lots of notice, and ah, we’ll debate the shape of the policies of the fourth term Labour-led government.

I presume this is the interview Bill Ralston referred to when he blogged:

On Friday on my Radio Live Drive show I asked her, if she did win an historic fourth term, would she serve the entire term of three years as Prime Minister?
There was a lot of waffling from Helen about her being physically fit and not thinking about retiring.

I pressed the PM, saying “not contemplating or thinking about retiring” was not the same as assuring voters she would stay the course in any fourth term.

She did not give a categorical answer.

Read the rest of this entry »

Would Clark serve full fourth term?


It’s easy for those of us in the blue corner to get exctied about the polls but as Chris Trotter  points out a fourth term for Labour is still a possibility.

If that happened, would Helen Clark stay the full term as Prime Minister? Bill Ralston doesn’t think so:

On Friday on my Radio Live Drive show I asked her, if she did win an historic fourth term, would she serve the entire term of three years as Prime Minister?
There was a lot of waffling from Helen about her being physically fit and not thinking about retiring.

I pressed the PM, saying “not contemplating or thinking about retiring” was not the same as assuring voters she would stay the course in any fourth term.

She did not give a categorical answer.

It seems to me that Clark, if she wins, would not want to run the full distance through to a fifth term.

If she did win, she would probably stay as PM for eighteen months to two years and then hand over the reins to someone else so they cold get a decent run at the 2011 election campaign.

The problem here is if Helen Clark admits she will not serve a full term she runs into the same problem John Howard and Tony Blair faced.

By saying it, you become a lame duck PM and everyone starts agitating for you to move on.

If Labour loses Clark would be very unlikely to stay in parliament and this indicates that she’s likely to go if they win too.

Barbeque at Phil’s?

Labour preparing to lose


What is the significance of the rash of Labour appointments in the last month?

Gerry Brownlee listed 96 since June 20 in a press release last weekend, and The Herald had a story yesterday about Labour stacking the NZ Transport Agency with political allies.

It could be normal business, but it might also signal they’ve accpeted they’re going to lose the election so they’re doing what they can for their friends while they can.

Bill Ralston  points to another sign they’re preparing for a loss:

Labour strategists have become dangerously obsessed with trying to demolish Key personally and portray his party as having a secret agenda to sell everything and return us all to some kind of capitalist serfdom.

It is role-reversal. Labour has adopted the negative approach usually taken by opposition parties, allowing National to take a more publicly palatable positive approach to the country’s future.

It is like Labour has looked six months ahead and has already decided it’s the opposition – and maybe it is right.

Fingers crossed.

When will it be?


In the last few days I’ve received a couple of emails asking me to note dates in my diary for November. I’ve replied to both saying yes, subject to the date not being election day.


It is the Government’s prerogative to name the date for an election; not surprisingly it chooses a day which suits it best, keeps that to itself as long as possible to maximise its advantage and isn’t concerned that it might interfere with other plans people may have made.


There is a possibility that if the polls don’t improve for Labour they could call an early election. But there is a danger that will be seen as desperate opportunism and count against them. Besides winter campaigning isn’t much fun and farmers and retired people often go overseas for a sunshine fix at that time of year, although Labour may consider that advantages them.

The Herald on Sunday suggests October 18

Commentator Bill Ralston said the election would have to be kept away from the Beijing Olympics, between August 8 and August 24.

Claving and lambing are in full swing at that time too.

October has not been a popular month for elections but Ralston said Labour governments usually plumped for warmer election days after midwinter.

should be well into spring, with daylight saving restarting on September 28.

Schools would have finished the first week of term 4 and people would be positive about the Labour Day weekend starting on Saturday, October 25.

The Hive  agrees that October 18 is a possibility but so too are November 1 or November 15.


November 14 is Canterbury Anniversary Day which coincides with Christchurch Show and makes it a long weekend so that is unlikely because too many people would be away from home.


So when will it be? Labour secretary Mike Smith  said the Party’s moderating committee is due to meet at the end of June to decide when the ranking will take place. That will be as close as possible to election day to ensure MPs and candidates keep working hard for a place and leave as little time as possible for those who miss out on good places to do any damage.

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