Polls show public accept reality?

February 22, 2010

The government is open to a rise in tobacco tax; there may be fewer government departments at the end of this parliamentary term;  the requirement for a 9% return on equity from Crown Research Institutes will be relaxed; Cabinet is considering more oil exploration; Bill English is disappointed with DOC and RadioNZ playing politics; long term economic restructuring is more important than short term jobs; and falling business confidence is a dose of reality.

A media release from TVNZ highlighted these points from the Guyon Espiner’s interview with Finance Minister Bill English on Q&A yesterday.

The most important of these is that government focus on long term economic restructuring rather than short term jobs.

It takes courage from a government to do what’s right in the long term when they’ll be judged at the ballot box in the short term.

The last administration bought lots of votes and we’re paying for it now. This one is facing criticism from the left for being too tough and the right for not being tough enough.

In spite of that and the need for strong medicine the polls are holding up for National. Perhaps that shows that the public realise this and have also accepted the  dose of realism which businesses are facing up to.


The curse of opposition

January 18, 2010

Guyon Espiner ended his North & South column on his predictions for government initiatives in the coming year by saying:

Which brings us to Labour, well it doesn’t really, but I guess I have to mention them. Right at the end.

There. I think that’s accorded them an amount of space commensurate with their level of relevance.

That’s the curse of opposition, especially when you’ve been there a short time after a very long time in government.

It’s even more difficult when the new government and the Prime Minister are as popular as this National-led one and John Key are at the moment.

If Labour highlight a problem or propose new policy they’ll be asked why they didn’t do something about it when they were in power.

That’s if anyone takes any notice which isn’t likely when, as Espiner points out, they’re barely relevant.


Not easy no excuse not to try

November 2, 2009

The government is planning to tweak benefits to encourage people back into work.

On Q&A yesterday:

GUYON So this is quite interesting, it’s something we haven’t heard before, you are going to Cabinet with the policy to again send young mums who are on the DPB out to work when their child reaches a certain age, and to tighten the eligibility perhaps around sickness benefits or to reduce that in some way?

BILL Well these are policies consistent with the undertakings we made when we were in opposition.

GUYON But they’re back on the cards now that things are picking up a bit?

BILL That’s right yeah, we’ve always felt that we could do a better job of making sure people had more incentive about getting off welfare to make sure it’s a bit more difficult to get on those longer term benefits, because once people are on those they’re pretty much trapped out of participation in the work force.

Guyon is wrong about not hearing this before, as Bill said this was National’s election policy.

Not being new won’t stop criticism of it.

However, what the critics overlook is that while benefits help people in the short term it’s not good for the recipients or society if people who could work stay on them for years.

Finding work which is flexible enough to fit around child care needs for single parents isn’t easy. But not being easy isn’t an excuse for not trying.


TVNZ 7 tempted me

November 1, 2009

TVNZ 7 invites you to experience the recording of a special studio show analysing the performance of the National-led government’s first year in power .

National’s First Year featuring an in-depth interview with Bill English plus analysis and debate, kicks off TVNZ 7’s Spotlight on the Eocnomy month.

TVNZ 7 dedicates November to exploring the question of what sort of New Zealand will emerge from the recession, to demystifying economics and to debating issues surrounding New Zealand’s economy. What needs to change to ensure a prosperous future? A range of programming across the channel in November provides insight and information on all things economic.

Before the show, you’re invited to join us for a breakfast briefing about TVNZ’s digital channels.

Please join us at 8am on Tuesday November 3 for a hearty breakfast and a general update on TVNZ’s digital channels TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7. At 8.45 we’ll usher guests into the studio for our one hour show National’s First Year.

That’s what the invitation said and for a moment or two I was tempted.

Then reason prevailed. The cheapest option would be flying from Christchurch which is 3 1/2 hours drive away and there’d also be taxi fares and accommodation in Auckland. Even if I factored in the opportunity it might provide to catch up with our daughter who’s studying up there it was extravagant in terms of both money and time.

Besides I’ve got a meeting tomorrow, a dentist’s appointment on Tuesday and an assignment due in on Wednesday.

But it’s peaked my interest so I’ll try to watch the programme and now I’ve told you about it too which was probably all the invitation intended anyway.

P.S. Don’t tell David Cunliffe who’s so upset about the ads for the programme  which feature the Finance Minister, the invitation has a photo of Bill and Guyon Espiner too.


Govt wastes $1b on social services

October 18, 2009

Guyon Espiner interviewing Tariana Turia on Q & A this morning:

TARIANA . . . What I’m saying is already we have a whole range of services that are contracted out, they’re extremely prescribed, and over the years we’ve seen a huge waste of public money on these services, because none of those things have in fact empowered families to take that responsibility for themselves, to not remain in that mode of thinking that people need to do things for them.  We want to change that and that came out strongly in our conference yesterday that our people want that.

GUYON What is the magnitude of this, because I looked at a consultation document which has been released on the Ministry of Social Development website, about the Whanauora policy and it talks about a Whanauora fund being set up.  Now in the past you’d talked about possibly a billion dollars going into that.  Are we looking at that sort of magnitude?

TARIANA Well to be frank with you there’s probably a billion dollars already being wasted now, so a billion dollars that’s put into Whanauora that going to transform families’ lives so that they’re not so dependent on the state to do for them, but more importantly that their families become sites of safety.  That’s a critical part of Whanauora.

Like Stephen Franks, who was a guest on the panelwhich discussed this interview, I’m not sure how spending a billion dollars from the state helps people become independent from it.

But I agree that too much is spent now on measures which increase dependence rather than assisting people to become independent.


Reasons not to vote Green

October 4, 2009

Guyon Espiner’s interview with Metiria Turei on Q&A  provided the following reasons not to vote Green:

1. The public transport mantra:

By investing in public transport for example, we not only build a comprehensive public transport system for all communities across the country, but we help to mitigate the impact of the importation of oil into this country. . .

Public transport isn’t necessarily the answers in cities and its definitely not the answer in small towns and rural areas.

2. The opposition to free trade:

Well our position is that you need to have systems of fair trade, that make sure that New Zealand can retain its economic sovereignty, and free trade deals tend to undermine the economic sovereignty.

The only fair trade is free trade.

Oh no, we are not extremists like some others might be, where free trade is the only option for New Zealand which tends to be the kind of ACT National kind of extreme.  We prefer a model that deals with these issues in a sensible rational way, making sure that New Zealand retains the highest level of economic sovereignty, to make the best decisions for its own people while being engaged with the global trade movement, which is very important, particularly when you’re dealing with under developed countries for example who need support.

The only sustainable support for developing countries is trade.

3. They won’t accept that a stock take of mineral resources on public land is sensible and that the economic and social benefits from mining land with low conservation values could be done without degrading the environment.

Now we don’t want the government, we’re very fearful that the government will rip out our national parks just to find coal and petrol, so we would like to make sure that the national parks and marine reserves and wetlands for example are kept free form threats of mining.

This view  is based on blind ignorance. No-one is suggesting ripping out national parks.

4. They overcharged on a flat rented by their MPs but owned by their super fund:

Earlier this year we did – those went out of whack, between February and March of 2009 one of the houses, MPs were claiming over the market value, we fixed that valuation in June to make sure they’re only being asked to pay under market value, and last week we refunded that over claim.  So we made a mistake and we fixed it.

They repaid the excess claimed – about $6000. But no mention was made of the fact they get more by renting from their super scheme than if they owned the flats themselves.

Kiwiblog has calculated that over the eight years they have owned the property they would have only been able to claim rent of $116,000 instead of $192,000.

5. Hypocrisy.

GUYON  . . . you have been telling other MPs and other political parties that you’re the moral compass of parliament, yet you’ve been ripping the taxpayer off.

The panel responding to this interview was political commentator Dr. Therese Arseneau, former National MP Paul East and former Labour president Mike Williams.


Presbyterian approach of Billonomics wins approval

June 17, 2009

In the July issue of North & South Guyon Espiner takes a look at the two top men in the government, those on the way up and those who may be at risk.

On Finance Minsiter Bill English he says:

. . . it’s a good bet the cautious approach will prove the right one and that highly indebted and far-flung New Zealand was poorly palced to spend its way out of poverty. To have unemployment well below rates in the US, Britain and Australia without indulging in their huge spending programmes is evidence at thsi stage Billonomics is working.

English is Catholic but his apporach to the economy has been Presbyterian: getting on to of debt and getting in control of spending without repating the slash-and-burn tactics we was in the early and late 1990s. . .

Without the luxury of surpluses to play with a Presbyterian approach is driven at least as much by necessity as philosophy but it seems to be working.

We may not be out of the woods yet but at least we’ve got a map and directions to help us on the way without saddling our children and grandchilren with debt which will put a rein on economic growth when the world recovery eventually rebounds.


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