No plan, wrong people

May 15, 2020

If you were looking for a Budget with a coherent plan for recovery, you wouldn’t have found it in yesterday’s:

Today’s Budget doesn’t have the plan we need to get New Zealand working again, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

Kiwis have sacrificed so much through the restrictions of the lockdown, our collective efforts have so far worked well, now we need to get our economy cranking again.

“With a thousand people a day joining the dole queue we needed a proper plan. Spending money is the easy part. But investing billions where it will make the most difference was what we needed.

“Today we are seeing an extra $140 billion of debt. That’s $80,000 per household and it’s our children and grandchildren who will be paying for it. That’s equivalent to a second mortgage on every house.

“We will have $100 billion in deficits for the next four years.

“The Government will spend more than $50 billion, more than any Government has ever spent in any one Budget.

“It needed to be spent in a responsible and disciplined way. What this Budget lacks is any detail and accountability of how it will be spent and what it will achieve. . . 

This Budget had to be a big spending one, but did it have to be this big?

Today’s Budget reveals the sheer scale of the economic challenge New Zealand is facing, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“We’ve just been through a dramatic health crisis, now New Zealanders can see the scale of the economic challenge and just how serious is.

“Unemployment is set to skyrocket to 9.8 per cent highlighting why the first priority must be to save jobs.

“With an extra $140 billion in debt, we’re facing debt levels not seen in decades, that’s nearly $80,000 per household.

“The Treasury predictions of future Government tax revenue and economic growth appear highly optimistic. New Zealanders should brace themselves for worse if this Government carries on.

“We welcome the limited extension of the wage subsidy however the $50 billion slush fund is totally unacceptable. The Government has cynically set aside more than $20 billion that it can spend before the election.

“There is very little in the way of a growth plan in this budget, beyond $230 million to encourage entrepreneurship and some announcements in infrastructure that we all know they will struggle to deliver.

While we agree that Government support is necessary to save jobs, we must be mindful that every dollar spent in today’s Budget will need to be paid back.

“What we need now is a genuine growth plan and careful economic management to pay down debt and get us back to growth without the need for higher taxes. . .

The lack of a plan is a point Paul Henry made:

“I think there is a good chance we [New Zealand] will miss the opportunity. I was hoping that there could be a bounce forward not a bounce back. It’s the human way – a life of least resistance. I’m not depressed, I’m disappointed.” . .

“I haven’t seen a long-term plan yet. I think the last six weeks I’ve seen us fighting a fire and trying to get back on our feet. We need a long-term plan. The world’s changed, and it’s changed for many years to come.” . . 

“There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.

“A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is.

“Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. . .

David Farrar scored the Budget against 13 principles and found it wanting.

Grant White, owner of Logitech, is disappointed in the Budget too:

. . .Covid-19 package estimated to save 140,000 jobs over two years, and create more than 370,000 new jobs. I can’t see it and I await the detail of just how that will be done.

What I do know is what the government clearly doesn’t understand. There is only one thing the economy needs right now – confidence. And this budget is not going to generate it, indeed its failure to stop short and medium term redundancies is going to lead to an even greater reduction in confidence.

Bryce Edwards calls it a Budget with big numbers but little vision:

. . The problem for the government is that it has already been struggling to keep to its promise of being transformative. Previous budgets have shown Robertson and his colleagues have been unable to break free from their cautious instincts.

With the Coronavirus crisis, the opportunity was handed to the government to reset the economy and society, and deal with some long-term problems. Robertson even spoke about this during the leadup to the Budget, saying that now was the time to address intractable problems of economic dysfunction, inequality, and environmental decline. He talked of not wanting to “squander the opportunity”. And yet, many will look at today’s big-spending Budget and ask: “Is that it?

The problem isn’t just there’s no real plan to repair the economic damage inflicted by the COvid-19 response, the government has the wrong people to lead the recovery too.

Empathy and communication are valuable commodities in politics but they’re nothing without the ability to make a good plan and make it happen.

Does anyone who remembers the many and gradually less ambitious Kiwibuild promises really believe that Labour will build the 8,000 houses promised yesterday?

How much faith can we have in a Cabinet with Phil Twyford, Minister for the Kiwibuild fiasco and now Minister for the failed Auckland light rail project?

Or Labour deputy and Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis who after being notably absent while his sector faced the sector’s equivalent of foot and mouth disease, only popped up to do a possum in the headlights cameo with Paul Henry?

Does Minister of Health, David Clark, who was sidelined during the worst health crisis the country has ever faced give you confidence? Or what about his deputy Julie Anne Genter whose responsibilities include vaccinations? Remember the measles epidemic and the on-going flu vaccination debacle?

This government doesn’t have a plan and it does have the wrong people.


Which poll is right?

June 9, 2019

Or:

David Farrar says both can’t be right:

. . .You basically can’t reconcile these . One (or both) of them seem to be outside the 95% confidence interval, ie is the 1 in 20 “rogue” result.

The only other plausible explanation is that as the ONCB poll started a few days after NRR, Labour had a massive drop in support after those first few days. But the difference in dates is unlikely to explain the massive gap.

The polls ever show the direction of change differently. One has Labour down 6% and the other up 3.3%. National is up 4% in one and down 4% in another.

The NZ First result is also outside the margin of error. A 5% and a 2.8% result is outside the 95% confidence interval. . .

Both can’t be right, and just a few weeks ago all the pollsters were wrong about the Australian election.

 


Political blood stronger than water

July 20, 2018

Bryce Edwards asks, where are the protests over the government’s new submarine killers?

He might also ask where are the protests against the CTPPP?

He could also ask where are the protests against the decision to pull back from putting cameras on fishing boats?

The answer is that political blood is stronger than water.

Those who would protest against the new planes, and the CTPPP are more likely to be supporters of one or other of the parties in government.

While concern for sustainable fishing crosses political boundaries, people on the left tend to be more likely to protest and having their party in government is keeping Green supporters quiet.

Those opposing these policies might be moved to protest if they had  been promoted by a National-led government but accept, or at least don’t protest against, actions of their own side.

This isn’t confined to any particular spot on the political spectrum.

I wasn’t enamoured of everything the government did from 2008 until last year, but I accepted the reality of politics, and life.

You can’t always get everything you want and my loyalty to National and support for most of what the government it led me did was sufficient for me to keep quiet about the rest.

The rank and file of the Green Party are the ones most likely to find tkeeping quiet difficult. Some members revolted when Environment Minister Eugenie Sage signed off the expansion of a Chinese-owned water bottling plant.

But just as parties need to swallow a few dead rats to get into government, their members have to put up with their MPs not doing everything they want, or doing some things they don’t, when they get there.

As long as the political blood stays thick, party unity will stay strong. It’s when it starts getting watered down, or spilt, that a party, and the government it’s part of, will be wounded.


Anger at wrong target

September 24, 2014

Where does this anger come from?

. . . Two windows were broken at National MP Michael Woodhouse’s central Dunedin office early on Sunday and lit Molotov cocktails were found outside the National Party office in Invercargill.

A brick was thrown at a picture of Mr Woodhouse in the window at the Princes St office. A window on the Jetty St side was also broken.

The vandalism was ”unfortunate and unnecessary”, Mr Woodhouse said yesterday.

”It coincided with some serious disappointment and disgruntlement that some might have had after Saturday night. But I certainly don’t think it has been anything to do with [any] political party.”

”I want to know my staff feel confident in going to work,” he said. 

This was an act of vandalism which wasn’t necessarily politically motivated but posts and comments on blogs and comments on news websites indicate real anger from the left.

University of Otago politics lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards said he expected the ”political temperature to heat up in this term”.

There was a ”huge amount of emotion” among those on the political Left after National’s sweeping election victory, ranging from ”demoralisation to anger to incredulity”, he said.

”[The vandalism] shows a very exaggerated and extreme outcome of how many on the Left are feeling, but it doesn’t typify it.”

Mr Woodhouse was the victim of those ”lurching for a target to express their disappointment at”, Dr Edwards said.

Demoralisation is understandable but the anger and incredulity show a distinct lack of insight.

I cried when it became obvious how badly National was going to be defeated in 2002 and I cried more the next day.  I was very upset but I wasn’t angry nor was I surprised.

It was obvious well before the election that National hadn’t learned from its defeat in 1999,  nor had it learned how to run campaigns under MMP. On top of that caucus was divided, had too many MPs who were part of the government that lost the previous election and it wasn’t looking like a government in waiting.

We hadn’t earned a win.

These were all factors in Labour’s loss on Saturday. It could have learned from the mistakes National made in the run-up to the 2002 election but it didn’t.

They hadn’t learned from their defeats in 2008 and 2011, they didn’t run a cohesive party vote campaign, there are too many old and too few new MPs and they haven’t looked like a government in waiting.

Anger is part of grief but if, as Edwards says, the left is angry they shouldn’t be targeting that at National for winning. They should be looking inside to understand why they lost.


Show us the money

June 22, 2014

Last week wasn’t one of Labour’s finest and it would be hard to get a worse start to this week than the news that Donghua Liu spent more than $150,000 on the previous Labour government, including $100,000 on a bottle of wine signed by former prime minister Helen Clark at a party fundraiser.

The embarrassing revelations are contained in a signed statement from Liu, which the Herald on Sunday has obtained.

They come at the end of a horror week for Labour, already under pressure after the New Zealand Herald revealed that Liu paid $15,000 for a book at the same fundraiser in 2007. Labour has said it had no record of any donations from Liu. And leader David Cunliffe had to fight to keep his job after revelations he wrote a letter for Liu’s residency, despite previous denials. . .

he latest developments have sparked calls for a police inquiry.

“This is scandalous from the public’s perspective. There has to be some sort of official investigation, whether it’s a police one or a parliamentary one,” said political commentator Bryce Edwards. “There must be some sort of official investigation, whether it’s a police or parliamentary.”

Asked about a potential investigation under electoral finance laws, Liu’s lawyer Todd Simmonds indicated that Liu was comfortable with his financial support and would cooperate with any inquiry.

Cunliffe last night dodged questions, saying it was a “matter for Labour Party’s head office”. Labour Party general secretary Tim Barnett said the party had no record of the donation.

Liu’s signed statement was dated May 3, two days after Williamson’s resignation. It said:

• Liu paid “close to $100,000” for wine at a 2007 Labour Party fundraiser;

• That he spent $50-60,000 hosting then-labour minister Rick Barker on a cruise on the Yangtze River in China in 2007; and

• That Liu visited Barker in Hawke’s Bay in 2006, having dinner with him at an exclusive lodge and then meeting for breakfast the next morning. Liu said he made a donation to Hawke’s Bay Rowing, which Barker was associated with.

Barker previously told the Herald that he could barely remember having dinner.

Last night Barker, now a regional councillor, said the revelations came “as a surprise and a complete reversal” of Liu’s previous comments.

Edwards said while it was not clear if Labour had broken any laws, public confidence in the party had been dented. . .

Edwards added that although the blame did not lie with Cunliffe personally, he had to deal with egg on his face. “It does create a charge of hypocrisy because he’s campaigned strongly against the Government relationship with Donghua Liu and it appears Labour’s relationship is just as deep.”

Liu yesterday told the Herald that his donations had been in good faith without any expectation. “It is over to the politicians to make any appropriate declarations. . .

MPs  don’t always, perhaps even usually, know the details of who gives how much money to their parties.

That is to separate them from any accusations of money for favours.

But if the NZ Herald could get a photo of Liu’s wife accepting a bottle of wine from an MP, surely someone in the party could have too before they started slinging mud at National?

Surely someone who was there could remember the event and if not the exact sum, that it was a biggie?

Surely someone in Labour – whether currently involved or not –  who had the party’s interests at heart would have remembered someone paying close to $100,000 for a bottle of wine at a fund-raiser and reminded Cunliffe of that before he led the charge and devoted weeks trying to dirty National instead of concentrating on what really matters.

In his last few interviews he’s finally got his lines straight on that – the sideshows he’s tried to orchestrate to dirty national aren’t what matters but his problem is hypocrisy and poor political management do concern voters and he and his party are continuing to show both.

Before this latest revelation, Duncan Garner called Labour under David Cunliffe a train wreck.

. . . When Cunliffe utters a word or two these days the collective intake of breath among his MPs is simply frightening.

He’s had a host of gaffes this year – and the best he’s looked was when he shut up and stood in the background while his wife, Karen Price, talked about the birds (chickens) and the bees in an interview at their home.

Cunliffe was parachuted into the job of leader, not because his MPs really wanted him – most dislike him – but because Labour Party members and union affiliates were desperate for someone to articulate their values.

To say he’s been a disappointment is an understatement. After this week’s horrors he looks unelectable as the next prime minister. He’s genuinely gone from bad to worse. . .

John Armstrong said Cunliffe has steered Labour on to the rocks:

When it comes to casting aspersions, few insults are as venomous, vicious or more driven by utter contempt than accusing someone of being a “scab”.

That is particularly the case on the left of the political spectrum where the battles of old between capital and labour provided the source of the term to describe those who broke rank from the union and who were then ostracised forever.

A workforce which is now largely non-unionised has made such name-calling far more infrequent, and at times sound rather dated.

But there was nothing quaint about the leader of the Labour Party this week insinuating colleagues who did not give him their full support were scabs.

It was astonishing. It implied treachery in the extreme. What the outburst really revealed was someone looking for scapegoats for his own self-inflicted woes. . .

It wasn’t the letter written 11 years ago and forgotten about that did the damage.

It was that he’s fronted months of attacks on National for links to donors without the political nous to ensure that he and his party were squeaky clean first.

Where the leader’s chief of staff and supposed political strategist Matt McCarten was in this mess is not obvious. But whether or not he was let down by others,  Cunliffe led the attack without having first secured his own position.

Mud clings to the hand that throws it and this week Cunliffe managed to splatter himself, and his party with it.

But having steered the ship on to the rocks, he’s not about to hand over the captaincy, and it’s doubtful anyone could be found willing to accept responsibility for the leaky boat.

Today’s revelations have endangered the boat even more.

Liu said he donated a large sum of money to Labour. The party says it has no record of it.

That’s a very big breach of electoral law and raises a very big question – if the party has no record of the donation where did it go?

And to add to accusations against the party which tries to show itself as welcoming of diversity, let’s not forget the Labour used someone who was granted residency by a Labour Immigration minister to score political points and there’s a nasty undertone, deliberate or not of xenophobia in their attacks:

“However, because I’ve built relationships with politicians, made donations, because it’s election year and, dare I say, because I’m Chinese, I suppose I’ve been an easy target for some to gain some political mileage and score some points.”

In the last election campaign, Phil Goff was let down by his then finance spokesman, Cunliffe, when he was asked to show us the money for his policies.

Less than three months from the next election, the party is going to have to show us the missing money or confirm that a party which can’t account for money it’s been given for its own use can’t be trusted to handle money it takes from taxpayers for public use.

 


Now there are three

August 26, 2013

David Cunliffe is joining the race for Labour leader.

Bryce Edwards has an amusing collection of responses from Twitter among which are:

Jordan McCluskey ‏@JordanMcCluskey

Never has a Labour leader (aspirant) been so brazen about raising taxes. Speechless, but Labour base catnip.

Toby Manhire ‏@toby_etc

Cunliffe warns media not to get ahead of themselves, immediately after delivering speech fit for a third consecutive term victory.

Nick Cross ‏@NW_Cross

BREAKING: David Cunliffe basically Jesus in New Lynn

Tim Murphy ‏@tmurphyNZH

Why does David Cunliffe’s picture on the wall dominate Savage and all the Labour PMs so grandly?

Giovanni Tiso ‏@gtiso

Tecnically David Shearer is still the leader, so I hope Gower asks Cunliffe if he supports him.

Claire Trevett ‏@CTrevettNZH

Cunliffe’s announcement so far is more like a victory speech than the launch of a bid.

James Macbeth Dann ‏@edmuzik

Cunliffe says he’s been “very humbled”, but I think scientists have proven that that is not medically possible


Illiberal left

June 9, 2013

Do LabourGreen and New Zealand First understand what they’re doing in calling for a police investigation over the leaking of the GCSB report?

Politics lecturer Brent Bryce Edwards rightly says they’re being illiberal:

“There’s always problems when the police get involved in the political and media realm. It can have a very chilling affect on politics and journalism,” Dr Edwards says.

Threshold not reached
Generally those that regard themselves as politically liberal will not want the police involved unless utterly necessary, says the Politics Daily compiler.

“Therefore the threshold for calling the cops into Parliament and newsrooms should be very high. It’s hard to see that this threshold has been reached in this case,” Dr Edwards says.

“Normally those that call the police in on their political opponents are from an authoritarian political philosophy. By contrast, liberals generally regard those that leak government department reports as heroic whistleblowers that are enabling the freedom of information and the right of the public to know what those in authority are doing.”

That was certainly the case when, Tracy Watkins reminds us,  Labour’s Phil Goff was gleefully leaking sensitive Cabinet documents relating to Foreign Affairs.

He almost certainly got the papers from a public servant who, like an MP, is supposed to keep confidential matters in confidence and, unlike an MP, be non-partisan in his/her work.

Jane Clifton reminds us:

The affair does underline the dichotomy we in the political firmament face over the issue of leaks, though. Labour and New Zealand First are harrumphing like scandalised Wodehousian aunts about Dunne’s behaviour. Yet both have received, publicised and gloated over similarly spicey leaks in their time.

Leaks have come to the Opposition from two of the most sacred departments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government Security Communications Bureau, at times in farcical quantity. Information from these bureaucracies have the potential to harm this country’s security and trade.

It’s a very unhealthy sign that such officials are prepared to undermine the Government by leaking information that could also undermine the welfare of the country. Yet the Opposition has trafficked in them with abandon, and never has a single Labour, Green or NZ First politician called the police about such documents, as they have done over the Dunne situation.

Clifton goes on to remind us that leaks are undeniably desirable for the media and the public who learn from them.

Calling for a police investigation is at best baffling and definitely hypocritical when all three parties have benefited from leaks, the most recent being of the Henry report to Peters.

Would he like an investigation into that one too?


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