What’s Labour’s position on buying back assets?

July 2, 2014

Finance Minister Bill English explains the benefits of using funds from the partial sale of a few state owned assets to invest in new ones:

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government continues to make good progress in investing almost $4.7 billion from its share offer programme into new public assets. We are able to invest this money without having to borrow more from overseas lenders. At the weekend the Prime Minister and Minister Brownlee confirmed that $212 million from the Future Investment Fund will be invested in 14 important regional State highway projects around New Zealand. That is on top of the $360 million that we have already proposed for regional roads across New Zealand. This investment will continue to build on the Government’s extensive investment in vital infrastructure, which includes ultra-fast broadband, schools, hospitals, roads, and rail, and more of it will be financed from the Future Investment Fund.

John Hayes: How will the latest investment in regional roads meet the objectives set for using capital raised from the Government’s share offer programme?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: This investment follows through on the logic of the sales, where the Government sold shares to investors, the investors passed cash to the Government, and now we have the opportunity to invest that cash. As the Prime Minister said at the weekend, the investment in regional roads is a perfect example of money from the share floats being invested for the benefit of New Zealanders, its economy, and its families. The 14 projects are spread across the country from Otago to Northland, from the West Coast to the East Coast.

John Hayes: What other investments in new public assets has the Government confirmed using proceeds from the share offer programme?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the House is now familiar with, there is $4.7 billion of proceeds from the share offer programme. In Budget 2014 the Government confirmed a further $1 billion of new investment. This included $200 million for health, including $67 million for the new Grey Base Hospital on the West Coast. This took health spending from the Future Investment Fund to $684 million. It also allocated $172 million to education, including the upgrade and replacement of schools in Canterbury. KiwiRail received another $198 million. All up, the $1 billion allocated from the fund in Budget 2014 brought the total allocated to almost $3 billion, which left nearly $1.7 billion in the fund for new public assets over the next couple of years without having to borrow more money.

Using the proceeds for new investments without additional borrowing is very sensible practice and exactly what National said it would do.

The logic of that has until now escaped the Opposition but it now appears to have approval from one party on the other side of the House:

John Hayes: What reports has he seen supporting the Government’s approach to investing proceeds from the share offer programme in new public assets?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports from an unlikely source: an alternative budget that was issued in the last week or two. The reports indicate that this alternative approach to the Government’s finances will continue the current Government’s approach of using proceeds from the share offer programme. The Opposition budget includes the $4.7 billion proceeds from the asset sales being spent on public assets, which was rather a surprise given that they had spent 4 years vigorously opposing the policy.

Labour has prevaricated over whether it would  buy back shares in the state-owned companies which were partially sold by the government.

But its alternative budget indicates it’s now decided it won’t.

That is sensible but how would that go down with potential coalition partners in the Green and NZ First Parties who opposed the sales at least as vigorously and continue to do so?


Valedictory roster

June 19, 2014

Parliament’s Business Committee has released the roster for valedictory speeches from retiring MPs:

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

(At the conclusion of the General Debate)

4.00pm – 4.15pm Dr Cam Calder

4.15pm – 4.30pm John Hayes

4.30pm – 4.45pm Chris Auchinvole

4.45pm – 5.00pm Colin King

5.00pm – 5.15pm Hon Chris Tremain

5.15pm – 5.30pm Hon Kate Wilkinson

Thursday, 24 July 2014

4.45pm – 5.00pm Dr Rajen Prasad

5.00pm – 5.15pm Darien Fenton

5.15pm – 5.30pm Hon Dr Pita Sharples

5.30pm – 5.45pm Hon Tariana Turia

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

(At the conclusion of the General Debate)

4.00pm – 4.15pm Dr Paul Hutchison

4.15pm – 4.30pm Hon Phil Heatley

4.30pm – 4.45pm Eric Roy

4.45pm – 5.00pm Shane Ardern

5.00pm – 5.15pm Hon Tau Henare

5.15pm – 5.30pm H V Ross Robertson

5.30pm – 5.45pm Hon Tony Ryall

The Herald opined that valedictories should be the preserve of “deserving” MPs:

No fewer than 14 National MPs are retiring at the coming election, plus a couple from other parties. While the turnover is refreshing for public life, it carries a cost if every departee gives a valedictory address. . . .

Few voters could name many of those retiring this year. Many are leaving because they have not been able to make much impact and accept that they should give others a chance. More credit to them, but valedictory time should be reserved for those who have made their mark and will be missed.

That is very ungracious and also shows a depressing level of ignorance about the role of MPs.

Most of the good work MPs do never makes the headlines, much of it can’t because it’s helping people over matters which must remain private.

Maiden speeches and valedictories are among the best speeches given.

All MPs deserve the opportunity to do one and in doing so show their work and parliament in a far better light than it’s normally portrayed.


Hayes retiring

January 18, 2014

Wairarapa MP John Hayes has announced he will retire at this year’s election.

Mr Hayes, 65, was first elected MP for Wairarapa in 2005. That followed a career as an agricultural economist and then as a diplomat, including a stint as New Zealand’s ambassador to Iran and Pakistan.

Before becoming an MP, he was best known for his part in the Bougainville peace process. He was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of that work.

He served as private secretary under former Labour trade minister Mike Moore and is currently parliamentary private secretary and chairman of the foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee.

Alastair Scott announced some months ago that he would be contesting the selection for the seat.

Others who might have been constrained by loyalty to a sitting MP might seek selection now they know he is retiring.

This is the 10th National MP to announce retirement at or before the election which is very healthy for the party and caucus and a stark contrast to the stale line-up in Labour which has had only one MP announce his intention to retire.


Two Nat MPs to be challenged

November 1, 2013

Marlborough grapegrower and fourth-generation farmer Stuart Smith is to challenge sitting MP Colin King for the National Party’s Kaikoura electorate candidacy for next year’s election.

This is the second challenge of a sitting MP.

Former banker and owner of Matahiwi Vineyard Alistair Scott is challenging John Hayes in Wairarapa.

MPs should always be aware they have a use-by date and it’s better to retire gracefully than lose a challenge.

However, if they are as good as they think they are they can survive a challenge and be stronger for it.

Challenges can be messy for a party and cause problems within electorates.

But they can also invigorate them, bringing in new members and offering refreshment.

Prime Minister John Key and Justice Minister Judith Collins both won their seats after challenging sitting MPs.

Sometimes the challenger doesn’t win as once the challenge is public more contenders join the race.

This happened in what was then Wallace when someone challenged the sitting MP who decided to retire. Several others were nominated, one of them was Bill English who won the candidacy and the seat.

National selections are democratic – providing an electorate has enough members it is they who choose the candidate under a proportional voting system.

#gigatownoamaru gains points across the political spectrum.


Minimum wage not so low

February 15, 2013

The campaign for a living wage has led to discussion on the minimum wage.

No-one is calling $13.50 high, but it’s not so low in relation to the average wage by world standards.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The minimum wage is currently $13.50 an hour in New Zealand, which is half the average hourly wage of $27. The OECD’s database shows that this proportion is, in fact, the highest in the developed world, and that, on this measure, our minimum wage is, therefore, the most generous in the developed world as a proportion of the average hourly wage. In all other countries the minimum wage is under half the average wage—for example, in Canada, it is 40 percent of the average wage; in the UK, it is 38 percent; and in the US, it is 28 percent.

John Hayes: Do any industries stand out as having higher than average wage increases?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, a few industries do stand out. One of them is the manufacturing industry, where average weekly wages rose 4.1 percent over the last year, and that is actually not a short-term thing. Over a longer period wages in manufacturing have also grown faster than average. Over the last 4 years average weekly wages in the manufacturing sector have risen 18 percent, compared with 13 percent in the economy as a whole. No doubt, that fact has been brought up and discussed at the Opposition’s manufacturing inquiry. 

Hon David Parker: Has the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia grown larger over the last year; if so, will he be providing milestones for National’s promise to close the wage gap with Australia, given that it is growing rather than closing?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not have that information to hand, but I do know that the member is very careful to talk about the wage gap, rather than the after-tax wage gap, which people actually experience. But again, if the member wants to talk about the differences between here and Australia, fundamentally, the main difference is the investments made in Australia in the resources sector over the last few years. That is the fundamental difference. If the member would like to reverse his party’s ambivalence towards the investment in the resources sector in the New Zealand economy, I am sure we could have a good discussion. . .

Comparing wage rates between countries isn’t simple.

There are a lot of variables including tax rates but there is no doubt that the mining industry in Australia has a very strong influence on wage rates there and the government’s attempts to encourage mining here are met by little or no enthusiasm from the opposition.

 


Building in Fantasyland

November 28, 2012

Questions are being raised about the practicality of Labour’s plan to build 100,000 houses for around $300,000.

Acting Minister of Finance Steven Joyce explains some of the flaws in the proposal:

One of the big issues in Auckland is the availability and price of land. The median cost of an Auckland section is nearly $320,000, which is around 60 percent of the cost of the house, and that compares with around 40 percent in the rest of New Zealand. That is why the Government is putting a big emphasis on land section availability in our biggest city. I have heard there are some people who believe there are thousands of sections around Auckland available for around $50,000, apparently. That is news to most people. I actually suspect we would have to zone all the land to Taupō as residential before we would get to that sort of price.

John Hayes: Has he received any other proposals on housing affordability?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have received a proposal that would take $1.5 billion of borrowed money, magically build $30 billion worth of houses with it, provide those houses to people at low interest rates but apparently at no cost to the Government, and then get the $1.5 billion straight back again. Under this particular “back of the envelope” plan, apparently, two-thirds of these houses will be built in Auckland on all those widely available sections that sell for $50,000. A very esteemed colleague of mine has referred to this plan as Fantasy land.

Section prices in Fantasy land must be considerably cheaper than those in Auckland.

However, the Prime Minister has found somewhere else it would be possible to build a less expensive house:

Michael Woodhouse: Has he heard of any reports that would encourage the building of at least one house for $300,000?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have. I have seen the reports that there would be interest to build one house for $300,000 in Lumsden. The advice I have had is that it is possible to build a house for $300,000 in Lumsden. That house would contain David Cunliffe and it would be called the doghouse.

I suspect it would be possible to build a house for less than that in Lumsden, and of a much higher standard than the average doghouse.


Achieving better results

June 27, 2012

Quote of the day:

John Hayes: How will the Government and the Public Service go about achieving better results?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, by focusing on making a difference, rather than just getting more money, which has been the culture up to 2009. Secondly, by working more closely together among departments. But, thirdly, by looking around the wider community to see who can help us with getting higher levels of educational achievement or less offending in prison. Under the National-led Government the Public Service is not so arrogant that it believes everything has to be run by the Public Service.

The idea that the community can help is not new.

That’s what used to happen before the welfare system was established.

The public service has taken over  delivery of support and assistance which was formerly provided by community groups. It’s not necessarily better at doing it which is why it makes sense to hand some of that work back to other organisations.


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