Only one poll

December 2, 2018

It’s only one poll, but the latest one from One News Colmar Brunton is a very good one for National as the political year draws to a close:

National up 3% to 46% support, Labour down 3 to 43%, Green Party down 2 to 5%, NZ First dropping 1 to 4%, the Maori Party on 1% and Act on 1%.

It’s the party vote that counts and this result matters more – at least so far as one poll matters at all – than the preferred PM poll in which National’s leader Simon Bridges is still in single figures.

The changes are in margin of error territory but the trend still has National ahead of Labour.

That isn’t enough to govern under MMP, but it shows National support is solid and that the leader’s stardust isn’t enough to make Labour sparkle too.

Under MMP it’s not enough to have the most support, a party has to get to 61 seats by itself or with at least one support partner.

But at this stage of the political cycle, and given, the rough waters National has had to negotiate in recent months that’s a lesser concern than voter support which is still very strong.


Benefits of a bad lambing

November 12, 2018

When then-Awarua MP Eric Roy was first in parliament he was asked what it was like.

He replied, there are too many people up there who hadn’t had a bad lambing.

That was back in 1993.  There are even more without that experience now:

About 10% of national politicians have had agribusiness careers but increasingly members of Parliament are being drawn from careers in the public or Parliamentary services.

A study by Wellington public relations company Blackland PR found 11 of Parliament’s 121 MPs have experience working in the agricultural sector, nine of them from National, one from Labour and one from New Zealand First.

No Green Party MPs have worked in the rural sector.

The company’s director Mark Blackham said 23% of MPs had worked in business or commerce and 19% in central government.

A quarter of Labour MPs and 20% of those from National worked in the public service or in Parliament before being elected.

A third of all MPs had no definable career but an increasing number were heavily involved in activism or worked for non-government organisations, especially among the Green Party ranks, before entering Parliament.

Agriculture is the one career that differentiates party roots.

“Agriculture is the only major economic sector where experience differs between political parties,” he said. . . 

Fewer MPs with an agribusiness or wider rural background is partly a result of MMP. Electorates are bigger in area and fewer in number. One rural MP now services an area that would have had at least two under FPP and list MPs are almost all based in cities.

It is also partly a result of fewer people with any business backgrounds and wider life experience entering parliament and more people whose experience is limited to employment by local or central government and/or in activism.

It’s not only farmers who face bad lambings in a figurative sense. But parliament now has more people with less, if any, experience, employing other people; more who have not had to make decisions which impact on their own and other people’s livelihoods and fewer who have run anything where their own money was at risk.

Parliament is generally more representative when it comes to gender and ethnicity but less representative of people with work and life experience in which they’ve not only faced bad lambings, whether literally or figuratively,  but learned from and become better people as a result of them.

MPs are supposed to represent people and a parliament that is representative of the population ought to do that better.

But MPs are also in parliament to make laws and I’d have more confidence in laws made by people who’ve been through bad lambings – literal or figurative –  than those whose work experience has been confined to bureaucracy or activism.


One year on

October 26, 2018

It’s a year since the Labour-led (or, if you’re pandering to Winston Peters, the Labour-New Zealand First without mentioning the Green Party) – government was formed.

The sun is still rising in the east as it does regardless of who is in government just as most people’s day-to-day lives carry on regardless of the government.

But governments do stuff and what stands out about the first year of this one is that it’s done a very good job of spending money on people who don’t need it.

One of its first big spends was $2.8 billion for fee-free tertiary study, an expensive misdirection of education dollars to people, most of whom would have been studying anyway and who will go on to earn far more as a result of the qualifications they gain.

Another was the $60 a week payment to people who have babies. This is another scattergun approach that goes to everyone regardless of their circumstances which leaves less for those in genuine need.

The winter energy payment to beneficiaries, including superannuitants, was similarly misdirected. Requiring people to apply for it would have weeded out most of those who didn’t need help and making it less expensive to help those who do.

Then we have KiwiBuild – helping a few people on well above the average income buy a house while failing to address the underlying causes of the housing shortage.

Let’s not forget tax breaks for good looking horses and the regional slush fund.

And of course the plethora of working groups – the latest of which is charged with advising on whether to set up another:

Small business owners will be disappointed to hear that the Government’s Small Business Council is too busy to listen right now because it has been asked to advise on establishing a new working group, National’s Small Business spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.

“In a classic ‘Yes, Minister’ scenario, the Council has been tasked with advising Small Business Minister Stuart Nash on the establishment of a Small Business Institute, or to put it plainly, a working group will advise on whether to create another working group.

“The Council, which will also advise on its own future beyond June 2019, is one of more than 180 working groups hatched by a Government that came to office without having worked out its policies during nine years in Opposition. It prefers to use $135,000 of taxpayer money to pay for this working group.

“Not only that, but we haven’t heard anything from the Small Business Council since it was unveiled by Mr Nash two months ago. Mr Nash has also been silent, other than to tell us this week that he’s off to Australia to meet his counterparts.

“Small business owners might have thought a priority for this Government would be to listen to a group that makes up 97 per cent of all New Zealand firms and employs more than 600,000 Kiwis, given their confidence has slumped to a 10-year low. But that will have to wait. . . 

It’s not only small businesses that are waiting.

One-year on we’re all still waiting for policies which will make a positive difference where it matters.

This government, whatever you call it, has been very good at rhetoric, very good at giving money to people who don’t need it and sadly very good at mistaking more spending for better spending.

 

 

 

 


Social sabotage

October 2, 2018
AM show host Duncan Garner called Green co-leader Marama Davidson incompetent for good reason yesterday morning:

The Green Party co-leader appeared on the show on Monday morning to discuss her party’s commitment to raising benefits by 20 percent, but was unable to say how much it would cost. . .

I am staggered by the lack of facts and detailed knowledge that she showed in her interview with me this morning,” Garner said after the interview.

“No detail at all. She’s exposed herself as being underdone at best, and completely incompetent at worst. It’s called flaky. . .

Flaky is a charitable description of the policy she couldn’t give costings for too:

Increasing the baseline amounts for benefits is pretty clear. That increase hasn’t followed wage increases or inflation for far too long. And removing sanctions which we’ve been very, very vocal about, which is about trying going away from that punitive or punishing approach.

Not only doesn’t she know the cost, she doesn’t know the current policy. Benefits do increase with inflation. When it’s low as it has been for some time, the increases aren’t big but they do increase with the cost of living. No sanctions? That means people who, for no good reason, don’t turn up for interviews, don’t try to find work, don’t pass drug and alcohol tests will face  no consequences. People in work are expected to turn up in a fit state to work when and where required, what’s wrong with similar expectations for beneficiaries? No sanctions will also allow non-custodial parents to get away with making no contribution to the support of their children.

Changing the threshold for benefit reductions. There are so many people who want to work, even part time, while raising young children in particular. But those incentives are just really clumsy, confusing , messy, and they don’t make it worth it,” Davidson said.

It’s sad that people regard getting paid for work which gives them a measure of independence as not worth the effort. There might not be much difference financially but even a small increase on what comes from a benefit should be regarded as a bonus, especially when it could be a stepping stone to more work and eventual freedom from benefit dependence. Davidson is right that benefit abatement for people in part-time work are less than ideal, but the alternative is worse.  If the benefit isn’t abated when people start earning, beneficiaries in part-time work would earn more than some people in full time work.

The Greens would also look at combining the in-work tax credit and family tax credit and making them less discriminatory.

They also wanted Work and Income to stay out of people’s personal lives by “moving towards entitlements based on individual needs rather than a blanket policies around starting new relationships and losing entitlements”, Davidson said.

This would mean a beneficiary could be living with someone more than capable of supporting them both and any children, and still be able to keep claiming a benefit. National put a lot of effort into social investment based on the indisputable  financial and human costs of benefit dependency. The Green policy would be social sabotage, creating an underclass of benefit dependents with neither the expectation nor hope that they might become self-supporting. They would turn the welfare safety net into a noose that would entrap people on benefits and saddle the rest of us with the financial and social costs that would result.  

Waste tax tackles wrong end of problem

August 21, 2018

The Green Party wants to increase taxes on waste at landfills.

. . There have been calls to increase the $10 a tonne levy, which applies to only around 11 per cent of waste disposal facilities, to as much as $140 a tonne. The levy in New South Wales for example is more than $A120 a tonne. Sage would not say what she would like to see the levy go up to, saying she wanted to see what the Ministry for the Environment work produced. . . 

This is yet another policy that is long on emotion and short on science.

Reduce, reuse and recycle is the environmental mantra.

Reducing waste in the first place would be a much better strategy than either recycling or higher taxes for disposing of it.

Recycling isn’t necessarily a greener option and higher landfill levies would provide an incentive for illegal dumping which would pose far greater environmental problems than disposal in landfills.

A tax would be tackling the wrong end of the waste problem, potentially increasing greenhouse gases and diverting rubbish from landfills without reducing it.


What dirty deal bought Greens?

August 2, 2018

Bryce Edwards has a leaked document showing the Green Party lied about having to support the wake jumping legislation:

. . . The Greens have never been willing to front up over how they were going to deal with this contentious bill. First, when the coalition was formed, we were told by co-leader James Shaw that his party wouldn’t vote for any policies that they disagreed with. The Greens later changed this to say that they would support the waka-jumping bill through the first stages of the legislation, but wouldn’t guarantee that they would vote for it in the end.

Then last week the party finally revealed that they would indeed vote for the legislation, even though they still opposed it. They justified this capitulation with the notion that their hands were tied by the coalition agreement that they signed up to with the Labour Party – especially the part in which they promised to deal in “good faith” with Labour to fulfil coalition agreements with New Zealand First.

It turns out that the Greens have always known that there is nothing in the coalition agreement they signed with Labour that obliges them to vote for the waka-jumping bill. A leaked Green Party caucus document from January, titled “Advice to caucus – Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill”, reports on official advice informing the Greens that there is nothing in their coalition agreement that binds them to provide support.

This is what the document says about the “good faith” provision in their agreement with Labour: “Advice from the Cabinet Office is that firstly this is a political statement around how we’re endeavouring to work with the Government. It commits us to work through areas of concern in good faith, but does not bind us to support everything set out in the Labour/New Zealand First coalition agreement”.

Why pretend it did?

The fact that the Greens have tried to tell the public the opposite therefore raises some big questions about why they’ve mislead the public on this, and what the real reasons are for their U-turn on the bill.

There are two main possible explanations: weakness or opportunism. In the “weakness” explanation, the Greens have acted like doormats – the leader of New Zealand First has simply demanded that the Greens vote for the bill, or there will be some sort of very negative consequence (perhaps even threatening to walk away from the coalition Government). In this scenario, the Greens have meekly rolled over and given away their principles easily.

Under the “opportunist” explanation, the Greens have demanded some sort of price for voting against their principles. Perhaps it was the oil and gas exploration ban. Perhaps there is an upcoming policy announcement about mining on conservation land, or a deal on the Kermadecs sanctuary. What other horse-trading deals are being done between the three parties in government?

The problem is we will likely never know. We now have an opaque Government in which the official coalition agreements aren’t the full story, and instead we’re being governed by backroom deals that the public isn’t allowed to know about. It seems therefore that the waka-jumping deal epitomises the continued decay of principled and transparent politics, and how even so-called principled politicians such as the Greens are willing to buy into it all. . .

Principled? If they ever were they certainly aren’t now.

Not when the MPs’ line has been they are supporting the Bill because they have too and just last week co-leader Manama Davidson said: “We are doing this because the confidence and supply agreement holds us to it.

MMP requires an occasional diet of dead rats, it doesn’t require lies.

We might never know which of Edwards’ two explanations for them swallowing this large and very dirty rodent is the right one.

Both wrong their supporters and the rest of us who have to suffer them in government.

If the MPs have rolled over because they’re scared of the consequences of sticking to their principles what else might they acquiesce to?

If they did a deal, what is the price of their principles and what dirty deal bought their support?

Whatever the answer to that question is, the fact that someone leaked the document suggests someone in the Green camp is very, very unhappy and isn’t afraid to hurt the party because of it.


Principles pay price of power

July 27, 2018

The Green Party has paid for power with the loss of its principles in supporting the waka jumping legislation.

. . .Labour promised to support the waka jumping legislation in its coalition agreement with NZ First, but the legislation is not covered in its agreement with the Green Party.

However, a clause in the agreement seemingly holds the Greens to supporting any legislation not specifically flagged in the coalition talks, meaning the Greens MPs feel they have to vote for the waka jumping bill. . .

Have they voted for every piece of government legislation so far and will they continue to do so?

Didn’t they vote against the CPTTP? If they could stick to their principles then, when they were in the wrong, why not now when they’d be in the right?

It’s understood that the Green negotiators were asked to produce a list of potential NZ First legislation they could not agree with during coalition talks, and did not think to include Waka Jumping as it had been so long since the law had been an issue.

That was at best naive.

Former Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, who was part of the negotiating team, said earlier this year the agreement did not in fact force the Greens into supporting the bill.

Then why are they doing it?

Green MP Eugenie Sage said “we don’t like it” but it was “very important” to one of the coalition parties.

“It is a dead rat they we have to swallow,” Sage said.

The Greens have long opposed such legislation. . .

Proponents argue that it maintains the proportionality of Parliament while opponents say it stifles democracy.

If maintaining proportionality was so important, National would have got another list MP when Peters won the seat of Northland. Instead of which NZ First got another MP.

National MP Nick Smith said the Greens had “sold their soul” and were “trashing their core values.”

“We’ve never before had a party saying it opposed a bill – leat alone a bill that makes changes to our electoral law and constitution where they are oppose to it but are going to vote it anyway.

“This is the Green Party selling its soul for power,” Smith said.

“They are the last party I would expect to do this.”

He goes further in a media release:

Government changes to New Zealand MMP electoral law enabling a party leader to dismiss an MP would break the constitutional law Allied Powers put in place following the end of the Second World War, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.

“The Government cannot justify this draconian law change on the basis of MMP. Germany has had MMP for over 70 years and has no such provisions. In fact, the Human Rights Commission has drawn to Parliament’s attention that it would be ironic and wrong for New Zealand to have insisted on specific democratic protections in Germany, but to be breaching those protections at home,” Dr Smith says.

It is not just Germany that has constitutional protections for MPs’ free speech. The European Court has over-ridden similar laws like those being proposed for New Zealand as undemocratic. The Supreme Court in Papua New Guinea struck down similar laws there in 2010.

New Zealand is putting itself in the company of totalitarian states like Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone with these electoral law changes.

That isn’t company any country, government or party that stands up for democratic rights would want to be in.

In these countries, Members of Parliament have been dismissed for challenging corruption in their own Government, for participating in a press conference without their leaders consent and for voting in Parliament differently to how their leaders instructed them. The Government is opening up the risk of this happening in New Zealand.

“New Zealanders should be deeply concerned that changes are being made to our electoral law that would be illegal and unconstitutional in most parts of the world. At a time when autocratic rulers are on the rise, New Zealand should be strengthening and not weakening our protections for democracy and free speech.

“This draconian bill that the Government accepts will have a ‘chilling effect on the expression of dissenting views by MPs’ must be abandoned.”

The select committee received submission after submission from legal experts, academics and a broad cross-section of people concerned for this assault on democracy.

And all because New Zealand First’s leader Winston Peters is so insecure and distrustful of his caucus.

Labour swallowed the dead rat in coalition negotiations. Green Party MPs are facing up to swallowing it now so the legislation will go through.

Their members won’t be happy but they are the ones who wouldn’t have countenanced the party going with National.

Had they agreed to a blue-green government they would have got several conservation gains, including the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

Instead of which they’re watching their MPs dine on a large dead rat and wondering what other principles they might sacrifice as the price of power.


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