We don’t need another save-my-job party

April 29, 2020

Soon to be no longer the Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross plans to launch his own political party.

Former National MP, turned independent, Jami-Lee Ross is starting his own political party ahead of this year’s election and is calling it Advance New Zealand.

In one of his semi-regular newsletters, Ross last night asked his supporters if they would join with him in starting a “new political movement”.

“I want to see a democratic country that has brave voices in the middle that speak truth to power,” he said. . .

“No new party has made it to Parliament without a current or former MP leading it.”

His last point is correct but while it worked for Tariana Turia, Jim Anderton, Peter Dunne and Winston Peters, there are several other disaffected MPs who tried it and failed.

All the ones who succeeded won a seat to do it and he is very, very unlikely to hold his electorate in the election.

It takes a lot more than a sitting MP to form a credible party.  A quick look at previous election results show every three years there are parties that managed to get the 500 members required to register and stand, gained an insignificant number of votes then disappeared.

This is a desperate attempt to cling to his parliamentary career and we don’t need another save-my-job party.


Own goal

February 19, 2020

Suppression orders on the names of the four people charged over political donations have been lifted:

Former National MP, and now independent, Jami-Lee Ross, has been named today as one of the four people facing Serious Fraud Office (SFO) charges in relation to two $100,000 donations made to the National Party. . . 

When news that charges were being laid broke and the National Party said no-one associated with the party was involved I immediately wondered if Ross was one of the accused.

Barry Soper named him on NewsTalkZB and Sean Plunket named him on Magic Talk but I didn’t come across any other reference to him in other media and thought that was unusual when all media had been keen to report his every accusation against National and its leader.

Then all four names were suppressed.

Now the suppression has been lifted it’s being widely reported and what an own-goal by Ross.

He was throwing mud and regardless of the outcome of the court case, he’s managed to smear himself with it.


Drip, drip, drip

November 30, 2018

Leader of the Opposition is reputed to be the worst job in politics.

It’s certainly not an easy one, especially early in the term of a new government when few outside the politically tragic are interested in what you do and say.

The media doesn’t help by fixating on poll results and interviewing their own keyboards to write opinion pieces forecasting the end of the leader’s tenure.

They carry on, drip, drip, drip like water on a stone in the expectation they will eventually be proved right.

They did it to Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little and it worked because the Labour caucus was too fixated on itself and its divisions and the party panicked.

They did it to Helen Clark but it didn’t work. Even when all she could muster in the preferred Prime Minister poll was only 5% she stared her would-be coup leaders down.

They didn’t do it to John Key because he polled well from the start and he became leader towards the end of the Labour-led government’s third term when it was looking tired and stale.

They didn’t do it to Jacinda Ardern but she took over the leadership at the very end of the National-led government’s third term and so close to the election she got far more attention than a new opposition leader normally would.

The drip, drip, drip is happening to Simon Bridges but none of the pundits give their gloomy analysis context. He became leader only a few months after the election when it’s almost impossible for an opposition leader to shine.

Jami-Lee Ross’s sabotage  didn’t help but at least for now, it makes Bridges’ leadership stronger. The National caucus has learned from Labour’s bad example that disunity is electoral poison.

It is the caucus who decides who’s leader. None of them will want Ross to claim the leader’s scalp and anyone with the political nous to be leader would know that this early in the government’s term, it would be almost impossible to make headway in the preferred PM polls and no matter who took over, he or she too would be subject to the drip, drip, drip of negative columns.

What the columnists don’t see, or at least don’t write about, is what I saw yesterday – Simon Bridges speaking confidently and showing his intelligence, sincerity and warmth.

This is not the dead man walking about whom they opine.

He has, to borrow a line from former Invercargill MP Eric Roy, had a very bad lambing.

I don’t know how much tough stuff he’d faced before, but yesterday convinced me that like good farmers after bad lambings, Bridges has got up and is getting on, in spite of the drip,drip, drip that’s trying to take him down.


Back to what matters

October 22, 2018

The news that Jami-Less Ross has been taken into mental health care doesn’t answer the question I asked last week – is he mad, bad or both?

Nor does it excuse his behavior, but it does explain it.

Mental ill-health is serious. Continued  media attention won’t help him and could well hinder his recovery.

National can now return its focus to what matters – holding the government to account for the fall-out from bad policy, and developing better policy to offer the electorate.

It should also allow the media to focus on matters that matter such as the impact of high and rising fuel prices, the charade of the truncated select committee process on the ban on oil and gas exploration and the danger of virtue signaling environment policies that do harm rather than good.


Can’t win, nothing to lose

October 20, 2018

Jami-Lee Ross announced at the start of the week he was going to resign and stand in the resulting by-election.

By week’s end he’d changed his tune.

He’s now not going to resign.

He can justify that as much as he likes but you don’t have to be a cynic to think he’s realised that he wouldn’t win the seat as an independent, that he’d lose his MP’s income, and that the prospects of anyone else wanting to employ him are infinitesimal.

If he can’t win he has nothing to lose which leaves the National caucus with another conundrum.

Could it, should it, get Ross kicked out of parliament under the waka jumping legislation against which it argued so vehemently?

Or should it ignore him in the knowledge that if he stays he could carry on scatter-bombing, hurting untold other people and his former party, under the protection of parliamentary privilege?

A man who knows he can’t win and is unemployable has nothing to lose.

 


Mad, bad or both?

October 18, 2018

Is Jami-Lee Ross mentally ill, just behaving really badly, or both?

Amateur diagnosticians are using terms like manic depression, bipolar and narcissism to describe his behaviour.

Former colleague, Mark Mitchell, who is in a better position to know spoke to Mike Hosking yesterday about mental illness and said: “He has to take responsibility for his actions, but he must look after himself first.”

That was before the release of the tape that didn’t appear to be the smoking gun Ross said it would be, but did needlessly insult other people, all of whom responded with dignity.

Maureen Pugh tweeted:

Chris Finlayson said:

“Any suggestion that I am upset about the tape is just wrong,” he said.

Finlayson noted he had said plenty of nasty things about people himself over his career that thankfully had not been taped.

“I can wound with my tongue at 100 paces,” Finlayson said. . .

David Carter was equally untroubled:

Mr Carter also said he was not in the slightest bit bothered by comments made about him by Mr Bridges.

Mr Carter said Mr Bridges was clearly set up by Mr Ross in the phone call.

“Looking at renewal that’s inevitably needed by all political parties, I take no offence at all about what was said by Simon Bridges.”

Mr Carter has confirmed he will not be seeking re-election as a list MP.

“He’s made two contacts with me, one before he was leader and one after, on both occasions he actively encouraged me to stay – he said I was very valuable contributor to caucus discussions and particularly in a mentoring role to many or our new MPs.

“I have told him I will stay and complete this term but have no intention of standing beyond the election of 2020.” . . 

These are just three of many needlessly dragged into the mess Ross has made. David Farrar writes of the terrible personal cost:

. . . This self-inflicted scandal is taking a terrible human toll. I’ll focus on the politics in another post, but I find it really sad the damage that has been done.

  • Jami-Lee’s career is destroyed and he may not even be employable in NZ. He’s gone from being a newly promoted front bencher to a pariah
  • His wife has the humiliation of what should be private matters between them laid out in public
  • His children will grow up with articles on the Internet about their father’s relationships with other women. As a father this upsets me greatly. No kid should have to endure that.
  • The four women in the article have obviously been through a horrible experience. I’m not the most sensitive soul out there but I found it hard to read the article. It impacted me emotionally. Forget politics. Those women have had a terrible time.
  • In at least one case, a marriage has split up and you’ll have a husband and children hurting
  • Simon Bridges has had someone who was one of his closest mates in caucus secretly tape record him. That is a huge betrayal of trust. Forget the politics. How would you feel if one if your mates did that to you?
  • Maureen Pugh has been humiliated by the release of the tape with a harsh description of her. She is incredibly upset, as is her family. And those who have campaigned for her and supported her are also upset. Maureen’s public response has been magnanimous and classy. But’s let’s not pretend how terrible she must feel.
  • 40,000 National Party members and supporters are upset. The vast majority of these people don’t want to be MPs. They don’t expect to gain anything in return for their hard work door knocking, donating, delivering etc. They just think that New Zealand does better when National is in Government. They feel betrayed and disappointed that this fiasco undermines their hard work

So there is a terrible personal cost to all this. It is very sad and I hope it stops. . . 

Mental illness might explain the behaviour but it doesn’t excuse it nor justify the hurt inflicted.

As a party member I am appalled that any other member, let alone an MP, could behave in this way and inflict so much damage.

If memory serves me correctly, my electorate donated money to help Ross win the seat in the by-election through which he entered parliament.

The party is strong enough to withstand it and winning the by-election will prove that.

Ironically Ross’s actions have also strengthened Simon Bridges’ position. Even if there was some disquiet about the leadership – and I have no knowledge of any –  everyone in caucus knows they must show 100% discipline and unity so as not to reward Ross.

He may well try to release more of what he sees as ‘proof’ but the media needs to ask itself, if it would be in the public interest and safe for his mental health, to carry on publishing it.

Much of what we has become public was not.

Modern media is in a very difficult position, knowing that if they don’t publish something, it can still become public through social media but that doesn’t justify hurting those who will become collateral damage and there is even more need to tread carefully if someone’s mental health is at risk.


Paying for poor policies

August 31, 2018

Business confidence has dropped to the lowest point for 10 years:

In the August ANZ Business Outlook Survey headline business confidence dropped a further 5 points to a net 50% of respondents reporting they expect general business conditions to deteriorate in the year ahead.

However, firms’ perceptions of their own prospects are a much better gauge of actual economic outcomes. This series stabilised at a net 4% expecting an improvement, well below the long-term average of +27%. By industry, manufacturers’ expectations dropped 11 points to become the least positive about their own activity (-4%), while retail and services improved somewhat.

Turning to the survey detail:

* A net 5% of firms are expecting to reduce investment, down 6 points. It is rare for this series to be negative.

* Employment intentions fell 8 points to -6%. No sectors are positive.

These two points are most concerning. Businesses reducing investment and with negative employment intentions will have a direct and negative impact on the economy.

* Profit expectations were flat at -17%. Retail and manufacturing are the weakest sectors at -27% (up 1%pt) and -28% (down 12%pts) respectively.

* Firms’ pricing intentions fell 2 points to +27%. They are strongest for construction but also lifted for retail. Inflation expectations were flat at 2.2%.

 * Residential construction intentions eased 3 points to +13%, while encouragingly, commercial construction intentions bounced 13 points to -4%. . . 

The economy is delicately placed. But it seems increasingly inevitable that wariness amongst firms will have real impacts, in the near term at least, as investment and employment decisions are deferred. . .

The outlook isn’t all bad.

But firms have real concerns about industrial relations policy, minimum wage hikes and costs more generally – and particularly about their ability to pass on higher costs and maintain profitability. Troubles in the construction sector appear to be starting to cause stresses in related firms. And exporting firms will be keeping a nervous eye on signs that global growth has peaked. . .

The Taxpayers’ Union says the drop in confidence shows the urgent need for tax reform:

. . .Taxpayers’ Union Economist Joe Ascroft says, “Businesses need more than a working group. They need real changes in policy direction, including tax reform. Business breakfasts with CEOs and Cabinet Ministers simply won’t cut it for the average small business.”

“Company tax rate cuts – accompanied by full capital expensing – would put a rocket under business investment and put an end to the doldrums. If focused at measures to boost productivity, the evidence shows that tax relief would flow through to workers in the form of higher wages.” . .

Tax reform would help and not just for businesses.

The lower dollar helps export returns but increases the cost of imports, including fuel, the price of which is also being boosted by extra taxes:

The Government’s obsession with fuel taxes shows it doesn’t care about the cost of living for ordinary Kiwis, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.

“Now is the time for solutions to the cost of living, not new taxes. National is taking the initiative with a bill lodged today to repeal regional fuel taxes within three months.

“Fuel prices are sitting at record levels across the country and are set to rise further because the Government is proposing three additional rounds of national fuel tax increases totalling an extra 12 cents a litre of fuel in new taxes.

“In addition, there is an 11.5 cents a litre regional fuel tax in place in Auckland that will be rolled to other regions in a few short years. It adds to this Government’s sorry record of driving up costs for households and businesses and choking economic growth. . .

 

But tax is only part of the problem. The Government has several other poor policies that we’re all paying for:

The message from economists is loud and clear: the Government’s bad economic policies mean New Zealanders will be thousands of dollars a year worse off, says National Party Leader Simon Bridges.

“In the last three months alone NZIER has revised down their GDP growth forecasts which means every man, woman and child will be $1600 a year worse off on average by 2022. That is $6400 for a family of four.

“NZIER are clear that the decline in the economic outlook isn’t just sentiment. Profitability has deteriorated and businesses’ own activity, a measure closely correlated with GDP growth, has weakened. There are real implications for businesses, workers and New Zealanders trying to get ahead.

“The reason GDP growth is now faltering is because this Government has imposed a wide range of policies that are bad for growth. They have imposed more taxes, shut off foreign investment, significantly increased labour and compliance costs, banned oil and gas exploration and wasted billions on low-quality spending.

“And what was the Prime Minister’s solution this morning: another working group. The Government needs to understand that lower growth has real consequences for New Zealand families. Working groups do not drive economic growth, good policies and hardworking New Zealanders do.

“So the goal is simple. We must grow the economy if we want New Zealanders to be better off. A growing economy means more jobs, higher incomes and more revenue to pay for the things we need.

“We need to be pro-growth as that is the only way we can improve our standard of living. National wants New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn. Higher taxes, more regulation, compliance costs and a rising cost of living do nothing to help families get ahead.

 

Added costs and uncertainty are a poisoning business confidence and this week’s announcement of a business council is no antidote.


Let’s (not) tax this

April 10, 2018

The National Party has updated its election tax advertisement as it works to counter the government’s fuel tax grab.

The National Party is highlighting Labour’s double whammy of national and regional fuel tax increases by launching an advertisement to illustrate the costs faced by consumers and a petition to encourage people to voice their opposition, National’s Transport Spokesman Jami-Lee Ross says.

“These taxes will hurt consumers in the pocket. As well as the direct impact on what you pay at the pump, they have an effect on most other products you buy, and that really adds up,” Mr Ross says.

“The Government’s plan is to hit consumers twice, firstly in Auckland but also around the country.

“The net result is motorists paying up to a massive 25 cents a litre in more tax – that’s $15 every time you fill up the car.

“And the regional fuel tax legislation makes it clear that other regions are expected to be paying for regional fuel taxes even though Labour said they wouldn’t be able to.

“People will end up paying more and getting less. This is particularly so in regional New Zealand where the nationwide petrol tax increase is paired with a big decline in state highway investment.

“Regional New Zealanders are being made to shell out for new trams down Auckland’s Dominion Road.

“People are angry on this one. The Government needs to rethink its approach and ease up on the cost increases on Kiwis.

“They claim they are worried about people’s incomes and then they hit them with this.”

The three parties in government claim to be determined to help the poor.

Any increase in fuel tax will hit the poorest hardest and more than counter any gains they might have made through increases to the minimum wage or government payments.

You can sign a petition against the tax here.


Fuel tax and $pend fuel$ inflation

April 4, 2018

National MPs have been warning that the government’s proposed Auckland fuel tax wouldn’t apply just in Auckland – and they have been proved right.

The Government has today confirmed that it plans to gut regional roading projects to pay for trams in Auckland, and to charge regional motorists more to do so, National’s Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.

“Today’s announcement will be met with anger and disappointment right around New Zealand, with the Government confirming it will cut around $5 billion out of the state highway construction programme over the next 10 years.

“That means roads which would have improved safety, created jobs, boosted regional economic growth and better connected our regional farmers and producers to our major centres will be axed.

“This is an extraordinary blow for regional New Zealand, from a Government which has claimed to stand behind it. Instead, the Government is saying their needs are secondary and ensuring tourists can get from the Auckland CBD to the airport is more pressing.

The government has put a $3 billion slush fund in the hands of Shane Jones for regional development. It would be far better to use some of that money for upgrading regional roads, but instead of tax increases not as well as them.

“Motorists right around New Zealand will also be shocked at the extraordinary new taxes the Government plans to impose on them.

“Aucklanders could actually find themselves paying as much as 25 cents a litre extra for their fuel within three years – once the proposed annual fuel excise and proposed regional fuel tax are taken into account.

“That means they will pay an extra $10 to $15 every time they fill up – and in less than three years the rest of New Zealand could be paying that fuel tax too, under legislation the Government introduced last week.

“That this Government will continue the previous Government’s commitment to road safety is to be applauded, but it is undermining that by axing the construction of New Zealand’s safest and busiest roads – the Roads of National Significance.”

The government has been crowing that the families package and increase in the minimum wage will help low income households. But there’s no point putting more money in one pocket if it’s taking more from the other.

An increase in fuel tax will increase the price of transport for people and goods.

The price of every trip will be higher for individuals, charities, businesses and entities like schools and health providers.

That will be inflationary and the people who will be hardest hit by the resulting price increases will be the poor the government is purporting to help.

The new tax also breaks an election promise:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union says the Government’s proposal to increase fuel levies breaks Jacinda Ardern’s promise of ‘no new taxes’ and the widening of the Regional Transport Fund (paid for by petrol taxes) to include funding for cycleways and trams is a dumb idea.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “The plan to increase fuel taxes by 10-12 cents per litre means the Prime Minister is breaking her very clear pre-election promise of ‘no new taxes’.”

“Fuel tax is particularly harmful because of its regressive nature – the people it hurts most are poorer families living in fringe suburbs. This will ultimately mean less food on the table.”

“Aucklanders will be whacked twice over, with today’s fuel tax announcement applying on top of the proposed regional fuel tax.”

“And as if fuel tax hikes didn’t sting enough, the Government is going to be using the revenue to fund cycleways and trams, at the same time they’re slashing funding for highways. In other words, drivers are paying more to receive less.”

When I first became active in the National Party I sat through conference after conference where remits urged the then-government to ensure that fuel taxes went to roads  and not into the consolidated fund.

That eventually happened but now motorists will be taxed more and roading projects will receive less and Labour adds more fuel to the tax and spend fire.

 


Greens to tax good farmers to clean up after bad

September 8, 2014

The Green Party wants to impose a tax on irrigation water and use it to pay for cleaning waterways:

“The Green Party will also put a charge on the use of water for irrigation in order to drive more efficient use of our precious freshwater resources,” said Dr Norman.

“The OECD, New Zealand Treasury and the Ministry for the Environment have all recommended water charging, yet National is sitting on its hands.

“According to Lincoln University’s Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment 2010 study, New Zealanders, including farmers, are strongly supportive of commercial users being charged for the water they use.

“That’s because freshwaters is a common good, and the use of it for private profit should result in a direct benefit to both the environment and wider community.

Why only farmers then, why not all commercial users which would include power companies, food processors, restaurants and hair dressers?

“We will ring fence the money generated by the irrigation charge for water pollution clean-up initiatives.

Dr Norman said that his policies reward good farmers that are doing the right things, whereas National’s policies incentivise poor practice. . .

He’s wrong there.

The Green Party would tax all irrigators and use the money to clean up after the minority who don’t protect and enhance waterways.

There is no incentive for poor practice now and very expensive penalties for anyone who breaches conditions set by regional councils.

This is just another tax by another left-wing party that wants to fund its promises to spend more with other people’s money.

 


Tied up for Tony

July 30, 2014

Parliament will be especially colourful today.

The best Health Minister in recent times, Tony Ryall, is delivering his valedictory speech this afternoon and his National Party colleagues are getting all tied up in tribute to his sartorial splendour:

Photo: On the day of his Valedictory Speech, National MPs are emulating Tony Ryall's infamous shirt-and-tie combos in tribute to an exceptional career.


Member for Hypocrisy

June 7, 2014

Facebook post of the day:

I’m beginning to wonder if David Cunliffe is the Member for Hypocrisy.
Doesn’t like secret trusts – has one himself.
Doesn’t like donations from organisations that lobby for policy – takes tens of thousands from the unions
Doesn’t like the coat-tailing MMP rule – except if he benefits from it by working with Kim Dotcom to become PM.

It is possible Cunliffe would find more support from the Hypocrisy constituency than he has managed to get in polls seeking voters preferences for Prime Minister – not that that would be difficult given how low his support is there.


Once were youngsters

June 2, 2014

Among the many ironies of the Internet Mana Party is the aim to attract young voters when its candidates are middle-aged and older:

David Farrar said  Laila Harre leading the internet party because she uses the internet, would be like him leading the Greens because he sometimes eats them.

I think that’s the sort of logic these baby boomers are using – they can attract young voters because they once were young.

National, by contrast, has young MPs and candidates.

Among them is Cabinet Minister and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye who is in her early 30s.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross was only 11 when Harre first entered parliament so was National’s Dunedin South candidate Hamish Walker.

The party’s Clutha Southland candidate Todd Barclay, was only just at school when she first became an MP.


Compare and contrast

May 15, 2014


Property speculators pay CGT

April 13, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe says it’s ‘lunacy’ that property speculators get tax free capital gain.

But they don’t.

Buying and selling properties as a business, which is what speculators do, attracts a capital gains tax.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : The Government already taxes capital gains on property speculation where property investment is for the purpose of trading. The member may not be aware of that. In addition to this, the Government’s 2010 tax changes on property disallowed deductions for building depreciation, and this raises around $700 million per year from property investors, a much larger number than any estimate we have seen for the foreseeable future for a further extension of the capital gains tax. Further extension of the current tax on capital gains is likely to have high compliance costs, and that is a conclusion that three tax inquiries and several Governments have come to over the last 20 years. If it excludes the family home, it will not raise much difference, it will not raise much revenue, and it becomes effectively a tax on successful businesses. In overseas jurisdictions, it has not improved housing affordability.

Hon David Parker: Why does he think the profits on the sale of investment property are of such critical importance to the economy that they should not be taxed but, instead, be cross-subsidised by every other taxpaying business and worker in New Zealand?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would point out two things, as I pointed out in the primary answer. First, where any property is bought for the purposes of selling, the gains on that are taxed at current income tax rates. It is called an income tax, but, actually, it is a capital gains tax on trading investment property. The member may have seen recent publicity about the scope of the Inland Revenue Department’s activities in ensuring that everyone who does trade in property pays full income tax rates, not the half-baked rate that he proposes in his proposition of 15c in the dollar. They are, actually, taxed at 33c currently. Secondly, the changes made in the 2010 tax package do collect $700 million per year from property investors, which is a much larger number than any revenue that he has posited as a result of his partial extension of the current capital gains tax.

Labour’s policy is built on the lie that we don’t have a CGT.

We do, at 33 cents in the dollar, more than twice the rate Labour is proposing – unless of course they’re going to tax it twice which is quite possible with them.

Jami-Lee Ross: In considering various tax options for New Zealand, what international evidence has the Minister seen on the effects of capital gains taxes on housing affordability?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports from Australia on the effects of a partial capital gains tax, limits on foreign investment, a so-called mansion tax, and compulsory savings. If these policies are meant to improve housing affordability, then they have not, because housing affordability is worse in Australia than in New Zealand. Just today there is a report being published showing that first-home buyers now make up the smallest proportion of the housing market ever in Australia. So the housing market in Australia now consists of fewer first-home buyers than ever, so we would be a bit careful about following that policy prescription.

Hon David Parker: What proportion of investment property sales pay tax as traders; is it closer to zero percent than 100 percent?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not have that information to hand, but I can assure the member that the Inland Revenue Department is vigorously pursuing every investor who trades in property.

Jami-Lee Ross: What reports has the Minister received on the case for a new capital gains tax in New Zealand?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have received the report of a speech to the Wellington Property Investors Association in July 2005. It noted that the Government-appointed tax review in 2001 considered a new capital gains tax and concluded that the disadvantages of such a tax—its complexity and costs—outweighed the theoretical benefits, so it did not recommend such a tax. The speech also noted that the Government of the day agreed with that conclusion that the status quo was entirely adequate. The speech was delivered on behalf of the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen by his associate David Cunliffe. . . .

What’s changed since Cunliffe delivered that speech?

None of the facts, just the politics.


Spending less, delivering more

September 4, 2013

Labour’s aspiring leaders’ expensive promises have provided the government with a golden opportunity to highlight the responsible position it has taken to economic management.

2. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Finance: What steps is the Government taking to responsibly manage its finances and deliver better public services, following fast-rising government spending of the mid-2000s?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): We have followed some fairly basic rules that any prudent household or organisation would follow. We make sure that spending commitments are costed and that there are funds available to pay for those spending commitments, at the same time as balancing the need to support New Zealand families through uncertain times. The Government is on track for surplus next year. We have been able to deliver better results in health, education, welfare, and justice at the same time as reducing a very large surplus due in part to the Christchurch earthquake but also due in part to the policies of the previous Government. We intend to continue to deliver better results, in many cases for less funding.

Jami-Lee Ross: What are the benefits for New Zealand families of the Government’s responsible economic and fiscal management?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The main benefit for New Zealand families has been that they have had a degree of security about their income support and their jobs through some of the more difficult times that this economy has endured in the last 30 years. The cost of living is rising at less than 1 percent a year—a 14-year low. The export sector has been growing in the last 2 or 3 years, despite a high dollar. New Zealand’s 2.5 percent growth in the last year puts us among the faster-growing economies in the Western World. Business and consumer confidence is at, or near, a multi-year high. The Government’s disciplined spending is taking pressure off exchange rates and interest rates.

Jami-Lee Ross: How does New Zealand’s current economic performance compare with the position that the Government inherited in 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government inherited the triple problems of domestic recession, which began early in 2008; the global financial crisis; and the unfunded spending commitments of the previous Government, which saw public spending increase by 50 percent between 2003 and 2008. The New Zealand public is being treated to a display of all the attitudes that led to that, in listening to the Labour leadership contest—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! . . .

Jami-Lee Ross: I will try this one, Mr Speaker. What alternative policies has he seen, and what are the differences between those alternatives and the approach being taken by this Government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has set out on a plan to protect the most vulnerable through difficult times, to return to surplus, and to build a more competitive economy. Our policies have been directed at enabling businesses, in particular, to make the decision to invest another dollar, employ another person, and pay a better wage. There are alternative approaches that involve reckless spending promises with no credible plan to fund them, and policy proposals where the Government uses its regulatory powers as well as its cheque book to buy votes. That is the approach we saw through the mid-2000s. But to give credit where it is due, the Labour leadership candidates are promising to spend—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Minister has no responsibility for that.

Hon David Parker: After Labour ran nine Budget surpluses and reduced net Government debt from 18 percent of GDP to zero, did he say in 2008, when the global financial crisis and recession hit: “This is the rainy day that Government has been saving up for.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I did say that because we were presented with a pre-election update showing 10 years of deficits ahead of us and ever-rising public debt—that is, public debt that never stopped increasing—in those forecasts. I am pleased to say that we have turned it round, but I am worried to think that the Labour leadership candidates think that they could do it all again.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon David Parker: Why does he repeatedly blame the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes for his record borrowing of more than $50 billion in the last 5 years, and if the Government’s spending track was left in such bad shape, how was it that he could responsibly cut taxes?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, it is just hard to know where to start there. The fact is that the tax packages were revenue-neutral—

Hon David Parker: 40 percent to the top 10 percent.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, they were revenue-neutral, and I am proud to say that we are the only developed country that has been table to increase GST and cut income taxes. No one else has actually been able to pull that off. In respect of the Government finances, well, as I said to the member, we were presented with 10 years of ever-growing deficits and ever-growing debt and with public services that were a complete shambles. We are proud to have been able to fix up that mess and do better.

Hon David Parker: Why is it that he finds corporate welfare so easy to justify, yet the idea of supporting the working New Zealanders, who keep this country going, through decent labour laws and fair wages seems to get him into a cold sweat and in need of a lie-down?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is simply wrong. This Government has ensured, with regard to the people whom he is referring to—the people who go to work every day, work hard, and pay their taxes—first, that they get taxed at a fair rate, not a ridiculously high rate; secondly, that when they pay their tax, they actually get public services that work; and, thirdly, that they get an economy managed in a way that they can have some security that when they go back to work the next day, they will still have a job. We are very proud of our record in supporting working people in New Zealand through tough times.

The leadership circus has shown that Labour hasn’t learned from its mistakes and highlights the contrast with National which has focussed on spending less and delivering more.


Rebalancing

June 18, 2013

Jami-Lee Ross’s Bill allowing employers to take on other staff to replace striking workers has been greeted with howls of outrage.

But as Not PC asks, do you own your job?

. . . Strike action by unionised employees is certainly their right.  But the unionised employees have no right to forcibly exclude non-union labour from taking the jobs from which they have voluntarily walked away.

They will disagree with me. They would place pickets and law in the way of employers hiring new folk to replace those who’ve walked out. They will argue, essentially, that they own these jobs and have a right to exclude others from taking them—to exclude them by force, if necessary.

But they don’t own those jobs, and the mistaken idea that they do is what gives unions their power to destroy. . . .

The destruction isn’t only of their employers and his/her business, the damage goes much further than that to all the other people whose lives and businesses are affected.

After the prolonged Ports of Auckland strike a friend was buying jandals and was offered two for the price of one.

The shop keeper said the footwear had been delayed by the strike. By the time he got the shipment it was too late in summer for most people so he was offering two for one to get rid of them.

The right to strike will remain if the Bill succeeds but it will rebalance the power which at the moment is tilted in the favour of unions by allowing employers to keep their businesses running while staff are striking.

It will also reduce the damage done to other businesses not involved in the dispute but which are also affected by a strike.


Fire hose finances

June 1, 2012

Answer of they day from yesterday’s question time:

Jami-Lee Ross: Has he received any reports on alternative approaches to getting back into surplus?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, but I have seen a lot of proposals to simply spend more money, whether it is the increased cost of borrowing more, higher tertiary student support, ineffective research and development tax credits, ever-increasing early childhood education subsidies, or even, in fact, army brass bands. The approach advocated for, resembles a fire hose of borrowed money being sprayed round—and not just borrowed money, but money borrowed internationally. Somehow all of these policies of spending more money and making no savings would apparently still leave the Labour Party back in surplus by— . . .

A “fire hose of borrowed money”.

I do love a good image and oh how I wish I had the skill to turn that phrase in to a picture.

 


Unions for unions or workers?

January 11, 2012

Unions are supposed to be to advocate for and support workers.

As the series of strikes by the MUNZ in its dispute with Ports of Auckland continues at considerable cost to the company, its customers and the workers, it looks like this union is working in its own interests rather than those of its members.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross  reckons MUNZ is biting the hand that feeds it:

Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.

Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

Macdoctor reckons the dispute isn’t about money, it’s about control:

Is PoAL controlled by the shareholders and the board, or is it controlled by the union? That is what the fight is about. The lives of the stevedores involved are a secondary consideration, as are the customers and the business of the port. Even less of a consideration are the ratepayers who will wind up all paying higher rates should PoAL be permanently damaged by this squabble.

Whaleoil and Keeping Stock both have posts quote POAL communications manager Catherine Etheredge who says:

I can confirm that the average remuneration for a full time stevedore, in the year ended June 30, 2011, was $91,480. The average remuneration for a part time stevedore (guaranteed at least 24 hours work a week) was $65,518.

53% of full time stevedores (123 individuals) earned over $80,000. 28% (43 individuals) earned over $100,000 with the highest earner making $122,000.

The averages were calculated by POAL’s payroll team based on actual payments, including for leave days, medical insurance and superannuation contributions. (For employees covered by the collective agreement, POAL matches their superannuation contributions up to a maximum of 7%.) We excluded those who had worked for less than the full 12 months e.g. had left part way through the year.

Employees are also entitled to 15 days sick leave per annum, accruing up to 45 days. All shift workers are entitled to five weeks annual leave. Training for all stevedoring tasks (crane driving, straddle driving and lashing) is undertaken in house and is paid for by the company.

One question that has been asked is how many hours you have to work to earn that $91,000. Stevedores who earned the average $91,000 in the 2010/11 financial year were paid for an average of 43 hours per week, excluding leave days. If you factor leave days in, that increases to 49 hours per week.

This leads to the key issue for the company – the high amount of paid downtime – an average of 35% of total hours paid. An employee getting paid for a 43 hour week is only working around 28 hours; for a 40 hour week, 26 hours. In a busy week, employees get paid for 66.5 hours but can only work for a maximum of 44.5.

On Monday 9 January, to give a recent example, we paid 26 staff a total of $5,484,80 for downtime, because they were entitled to be paid until the end of their set eight hour shift even though the ship had finished & they had gone home. In another example employees worked two hours of an overtime shift but were paid for the full eight hours.

This is not a cost-efficient nor sustainable labour model, especially when the company is not covering its cost of capital, cannot therefore justify further investment in order to grow, and its closest competitor has a labour utilisation rate in excess of 80%. (At Port of Tauranga stevedores start and finish work when a ship arrives and departs).

The company has offered an upfront 10% increase to hourly rates along with the retention of existing terms and conditions in return for more flexible rosters which would significantly reduce the amount of paid downtime. Employees would have the opportunity to plan their roster a month in advance. This proposal would result in a people being remunerated for fewer overall hours at a higher rate than they would currently get for the same paid hours. To be fair, until such time as container volumes recover/improve, the 10% increase to hourly rates would not (as some commentators have suggested) push average remuneration over $100K.

Catherine Etheredge
Ports of Auckland

It’s very difficult to understand the union’s position in the face of these numbers.

Have Maori seats passed their use-by date?

April 7, 2011

Otago used to have special seats for gold miners. When the gold ran out the need for the seats declined and the seats were disestablished.

Maori seats were set up to give votes to Maori men when the right to vote in New Zealand depended on land ownership. When universal franchise was introduced these seats should have gone but they didn’t.

The most recent official view that there was no longer any need for Maori seats was the Royal Commission on MMP but its advice wasn’t taken.

Disestablishing the seats was National Party policy before the last election but it was set aside as one of the conditions agreed to in coalition negotiations with the Maori Party.

That party has good reasons for wanting the seats to continue even though Tariana Turia said in a discussion on Agenda in 2008:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

The seats by themselves didn’t give Maori a voice. They have also often given them inferior representation, sometimes because of the MP and always because of their size.

Most of the seats are far too big to service properly. Te Tai Tonga covers 161,443 square kilometres – the whole of the South Island, Stewart Island and part of Wellington. Te Tai Hauauru is 35, 825 square kilometres in area, Ikaroa-Rawhiti covers 30,952 square kilometres and Waiariki 19,212 square kilometres.

But Maori representation isn’t confined to special seats, the majority of Maori MPs in parliament now aren’t there because of the Maori electorates.

Big News lists the 23 who now sit in the house and Kiwiblog notes:

So that is 23/122 MPs are of Maori descent, representing 18.9% of Parliament. Now this means that Maori are over-represented in Parliament, relative to their population proportion. Now I don’t think this is at all a bad thing. My belief is that Parliament should be diverse and broadly representative of NZ, but we shouldn’t have quotas trying to match the makeup of Parliament to the exact population.

But what it does show is how well MMP has worked for Maori representation. We now have seven Maori MPs in Maori seats, three Maori MPs in general seats (all National) and 13 Maori List MPs.

It also reflects my view that one could do as the Royal Commission recommended, and abolish the Maori seats (in exchange for no 5% threshold on the list for Maori parties). Even without the Maori seats, there would be at least 16 MPs of Maori descent in Parliament (and probably more).

Isn’t it interesting that National, the party so often derided for being the party for middle-aged Pakeha men is the only one to have Maori in general seats, one of whom is a woman and all of whom are young?

Whether it is MMP by itself or whether there would have been an increase in the number of Maori MPs under another electoral system because of changing times and attitudes, is a moot point.

But the numbers show we no longer need special Maori seats and who better to argue that than Botany’s new MP Jami-Lee Ross who said in his maiden speech last night:

Mr Speaker, as a new Member of Parliament, I join the ranks of members, past and present, proud to call themselves Maori.  But whilst I am an individual of Maori descent, I do consider myself a New Zealander first and foremost. I have Ngati Porou blood running through my veins, but I can assure the House that I am a New Zealander who believes strongly in one standard of citizenship.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is an exceptionally important document in New Zealand. It has a very simple and succinct text, but one that must be read in its entirety. We often hear of the principles of kawanatanga as expressed in Article 1, and of tino rangatiratanga in Article 2. Sadly the often forgotten part of the Treaty is Article 3.

The Kawharu translation of the Maori version of Article 3 reads:

For this agreed arrangement therefore concerning the Government of the Queen, the Queen of England will protect all the ordinary people of New Zealand and will give them the same rights and duties of citizenship as the people of England.

I am not convinced that we have reached the point in New Zealand where we calmly and honestly, talk about the relationship between Maori and non-Maori in the context of Article 3. My strong belief in one standard of citizenship means that I believe in fair, full, and final settlements of treaty grievances, with a strong emphasis on the word final. Believing in one standard of citizenship means that I will treat every single one of my constituents equally, regardless of the colour of their skin.

It also means that I do not subscribe to the view that I, or any New Zealander of Maori descent, requires special seats to be elected to Parliament, to Councils, or any other body in this country. It is my hope that the people of New Zealand will be the given the opportunity, in the near future, to examine the role of Maori seats in Parliament by way of referendum. I am a New Zealander of Maori decent, and proudly so. But I hope to challenge the status quo in my time here. I will be criticised along the way, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that all New Zealander’s should be treated equally. He iwi tahi tatou – we are all one people.

One people does not mean we don’t have differences but nor does it mean we need special seats to ensure fair, proper and effective representation for everyone.


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