Not Labour led?

September 14, 2018

Winston Peters thinks we don’t have a Labour-led government:

 . .  This is the first real MMP government and consultation and communication are what we do. There’ll always be things that are called a work in progress.

“You had the coalition agreement, then you had the 100-day statement, then you had the Speech from the Throne, then the Budget. If those things we’re talking about are not in those four documents then they are always work in progress,” Peters said.

He insisted the Government was not “Labour-led”.

“We’re happy to be in a coalition representing real change and a chance to address some of the awful anomalies that have gone on in our great society.” . .

 It is a coalition government but one party got five times as many votes as the other which for most people makes it the lead partner.

Peters’ party got only 7.2%  of the votes and while he chose Labour rather than National they were only able to form a government with the support of the Green Party and its 5.8% do the vote.

It’s more than a wee bit strange that those of us who didn’t vote for any of these three parties accept that Labour, which got around 36% support  in the election, is leading the government, but the deputy PM and leader of the minor coalition partner doesn’t.

 


If can’t run parliament . .

September 13, 2018

If Labour can’t run parliament can it run the country?

The Government called for an extended sitting of the House to consider six Bills, but showed exactly how shambolic it is when a Minister failed to be present in the House as required to begin a debate on the next Bill on the Order Paper, Shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee says.

“Today’s performance in the House borders on farcical.

“The Speaker was left with no choice but to end the extended sitting an hour and 45 minutes early meaning next to no progress was made on the Government’s legislative programme.

“Meanwhile, because the Government imposed extended sitting hours without agreement from the Business Committee a whole morning of select committee hearings was lost.

“This means Bills which could have had their first reading and be sent off to select committee for scrutiny this morning will now languish on the Order Paper for an unknown period of time. The machinery of government is being ground to a halt by a Government which can’t get the basics right.

“Leader of the House Chris Hipkins will have ministerial colleagues asking for a please explain.

“The Government needs to get its act together. More people will begin to think ‘if it can’t even run Parliament how can it run the country’.”

Labour is also having problems with its relationship with NZ First which stymied an announcement about the Crown/Maori relations portfolio at the last minute.

. . .It’s the latest disagreement between the coalition partners.

NZ First pulled the rug out from under Justice Minister Andrew Little in June when he announced his plans to repeal the three strikes legislation.

Since then NZ First has cast doubt on a Labour pre-election promise to lift the refugee quota to 1500 and has also signalled it wants to see changes to the contentious Employment Relations Amendment Bill.

It’s understood the lines of communication between Labour and NZ First are still not clear almost one year into the coalition arrangement. . . 

Few will be surprised about the difficulties in dealing with NZ First but governments have to be able to deal with all sorts of difficulties.

One of the valid questions asked of Labour as it struggled with in-fighting in opposition was if it can’t run itself, how can it be trusted to run the country?

After nearly a year in government, it’s showing it can’t run parliament and manage its relationship with the support partner which put it into power.

These are two more reasons to question its ability to run the country.


Mixed Ownership Model works well

August 23, 2018

National’s partial sale of a few state assets has been vindicated by a report released by TDB Advisory:

An independent report released today by TDB Advisory shows that the Mixed Ownership Model introduced under the previous National Government has been an overwhelming success, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“The Mixed Ownership process successfully generated $4.7 billion for public infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and broadband and TDB’s findings highlight the wider issue with the Government’s ideological opposition to private sector involvement in funding new assets.

“The partial sell-down of Genesis, Meridian and Mercury began in 2013 and had three simple objectives: to lower Government debt; to increase investment opportunities for ‘mum and dad’ investors; and to improve the financial performance of each company.

“TDB’s study shows all of these objectives have been achieved.

“The most striking finding is that despite electricity prices being flat-to-falling over the period of the Mixed Ownership Model, shareholder returns have increased by 69 percent and the Government has received higher dividends despite owning a lower share of each company.

“The report also shows that opposition to the Mixed Ownership Model was misplaced. It didn’t lead to higher electricity prices. And it didn’t result in a drop-off in renewable energy generation, which has increased over the period.

“The current Government has an irrational opposition to the private sector. Labour’s ideological resistance to Private-Public Partnerships to build public assets means a number of important projects are failing to get off the ground.

“The Government shouldn’t shut itself off from ideas such as Private-Public Partnerships or Mixed Ownership purely on ideological grounds. Evidence, not ideology, should drive good policy.

So the fear of prices soaring was misplaced; the government is earning a similar amount in dividends from a small shareholding; and pausing less interest; and the people who invested in the shares are getting dividends too.

This report  ought to encourage the government to consider more sales.

. . .Taxpayers’ Union Economist Joe Ascroft says, “This report demonstrates what most analysts already knew: private-sector discipline can transform bloated, inefficient Government-owned companies into efficient market-disciplined businesses. It’s a win-win-win for taxpayers, investors, and consumers.”

“With the Government struggling to meet its self-imposed budgetary restrictions, it’s actually the perfect time for an expansion of the Mixed Ownership Model. Raising capital and increasing dividend payments would give Grant Robertson the room to invest in infrastructure without seriously damaging the country’s books.”

The three parties now in government were vehemently opposed to the MOM.

The report proves them wrong and shows their opposition wasn’t based on fact.

The state still owns too many businesses which could easily be sold, partially or fully, to the benefit of the public finances, taxpayers and the businesses.

If the government would let evidence not ideology guide its decisions, it would sell at least some of them but it is very, very unlikely to do so.

The report is here.

 


Keeping promises to partners breaking promises to people

August 14, 2018

Labour is keeping promises it made to its political partners while breaking promises it made to people when it campaigned last year.

Shane Jones continues to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars with no plan or oversight, while the Government repeatedly breaks promises claiming it doesn’t have enough money, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“When the Government is closing down maternity centres like Lumsden’s, cancelling new funding for cochlear implants for children, breaking its promise of universal cheap GP visits and more funding for mental health initiatives because it claims it doesn’t have enough money, the extra $240 million for planting pine trees is extraordinary.

“The fact is the Government has now found around $485 million for NZ First’s pet project, while at the same time telling teachers it can’t afford the pay rises they want.

This is partly the cost of MMP but it is also about priorities.

The government began by prioritising non-essentials like fee-free tertiary education and has continued to find money for such things as good looking horses while saying there is not enough money for necessities.

“Labour is putting its promises to its political partners ahead of everyday New Zealanders and NZ First is milking that for all its worth.

“Meanwhile, Mr Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund continues to cause real concern.

“From broken promises that there’d be no private gain, to terms described by grant recipients as exceedingly generous to Mr Jones doling out cash to people he knows, the fund has been beset by concerning revelation after revelation.

“The Government is flinging good money after bad at projects we have no detail on, no oversight of and no confidence in and it shows no sign of abating or improving.

“And it makes no economic sense. Mr Jones admits the trees will be planted in regions where there is currently little economic rationale for such a strategy and where commercial foresters haven’t seen the need to expand. None of it makes sense.

“When the teachers unions, maternity carers and advocates for the deaf are sitting across the table from ministers pleading poverty they should keep in mind the fact NZ First has more negotiating power than all of them put together.”

Primary teachers will strike tomorrow as they campaign for better pay and conditions.

Find me anyone who thinks the non-essentials the government is funding should take higher priority than the education of primary school children and I’ll find a bridge to sell them

People who voted for Labour were promised a government that would care about people and put them first. They’ve got one that has  spent too much on paying for power at the expense of necessities.

Instead of putting the needs of New Zealand and New Zealanders first they’ve put the wants of New Zealand First first.


More bloody meetings

August 8, 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s return from maternity leave was supposed to start with an announcement to boost business confidence.

Instead of which she introduced Trade for All which is once again more hui and little doey.

It’s a bit like putting the produce-laden cart before the lumbering Clydesdale as the Government tries to bring the public on board with free trade deals and what they’re calling a ‘Trade for All’ agenda.

It seems a bit like the coalition cobbers trying to salve their guilt for opposing the likes of the old Trans-Pacific Partnership and now supporting it since its name has become more of a mouthful with Comprehensive Progressive added to its title. . . 

And just like all Government announcements without substance they’re setting up a board to advise on how to woo the great unwashed when it comes to trade. And as usual they’ve appointed the chair with the boardroom chairs to be filled later, or as the blurb said “in due course”.  

There would be no need to spend time and money trying to improve their supporters’ poor perception of, and misconceptions about, trade had Labour not spent so much effort in opposition campaigning against it in contradiction of the long-established bi-partisan approach both Labour and National took in the past.

This is using taxpayers’ money to talk to their supporters because most other people understand the benefits and importance of trade.

Their blurb was stating the bleedingly obvious, they want trade benefits to flow to all New Zealanders, they want them to be felt throughout the country, not just in the major cities. . 

Trade has always benefited the whole country for goodness sake. Most of our significant exporters are in rural New Zealand, they’re called dairy, sheep and beef farmers, winegrowers and orchardists. They do well and the whole community benefits.. . .

Businesses will be relieved that Labour has seen the trade light again, but setting up yet another committee and doing yet more consultation won’t help confidence.

The Government’s ‘Trade for All’ agenda is simply a rehash of National’s work on trade and won’t make up for plummeting business confidence caused by the Government’s anti-growth policies, National’s Trade spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Trade for All is nothing more than a shameless rebranding of National’s Trade Agenda 2030 which was aimed at creating opportunities for our exporters to compete on the world stage.

“But while National was consulting on Trade Agenda 2030 with businesses, exporters and the public Labour, NZ First and Green MPs were marching in the streets against the TPP.

“While the Government’s backflip on trade is welcome, it won’t be enough to turn around New Zealand’s worst business confidence levels in ten years.

“We know this is a direct result of bad policies like raising taxes, restricting foreign investment and axing oil and gas exploration – yet the Government refuses to acknowledge that, choosing instead to lecture businesses over their supposed bias. . . 

Instead of action, all this announcement offers is more talk.

And rather than providing reassurance it merely shows that the government doesn’t understand business and has no idea how to address the understandable and growing lack of confidence.

Businesses don’t need yet another bloody committe and more bloody meetings.

They need policies which recognise the importance and value of business.


TOP party over

July 10, 2018

The Opportunities Party (TOP) has faced the reality that it’s hit the bottom and the only way ahead  is out:

The Board of The Opportunities Party (TOP) has decided to request that the Electoral Commission cancel TOP’s registration as a political party.

TOP was formed in late 2016 to contest the 2017 election in which it polled at 2.4%. Since the election the Board has considered whether it would invest time and money in preparing the Party to contest 2020 and after due consideration has decided against it.

Party founder Dr Gareth Morgan said, “I’m proud of the policy manifesto we developed and have no doubt it was by far the strongest on offer to improve New Zealanders’ incomes, business productivity, social fairness and environmental sustainability. The legacy of that manifesto remains and to be frank was all that personally ever interested me.”

“The voting public demonstrated that best practice, evidence-informed policy is not of significant concern when deciding elections. When 20% of the vote moves in 48 hours simply on the back of a change of leader, with no improvement at all in policy being offered, what makes the New Zealand voter tick is clear.”

We’ll never know if TOP would have done better had there not been a leadership change.

But it takes more than a leader with a lot more money than political understanding, who’s very sure of himself but with no tolerance for a divergence of opinion, to win a seat or at least 5% of the vote.

“TOP was formed to improve the policy options on offer. Too few voters supported our policies. That’s reality and we accept that. With no inclination to compromise policy for political ambition, or to de-emphasise best practice policy for the promotion of whatever else attracts people’s votes, it’s pretty obvious what the appropriate course of action for this party should be.” . .

All sorts of things attract, and repel, voters, at least some of which defy logic.

But anyone who looks back at past elections will be see just how difficult it is for a new party without a sitting MP to get into parliament.

And in spite of the variety of options available, election after election, around 90% of voters opt for either National or Labour.


Almost spent the lot

June 25, 2018

Nurses and health boards are continuing to negotiate improved pay and conditions in an effort to avoid strikes.

Last-ditch talks between the nurses’ union and district health boards (DHBs) will continue on Monday in a bid to avoid planned strike action.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and DHBs’ negotiating teams attended mediation on Friday after nurses “strongly rejected” the DHBs’ latest offer on Monday.

The NZNO issued strike notice to the DHBs on Wednesday for July 5, with notice of a second 24-hour strike planned for July 12 likely to be issued next week. . . 

A survey sent to NZNO members on Monday to gauge their priorities for any revised deal had received close to 13,000 responses a day before it closed at 1pm on Thursday.

A message sent to union member’s said their feedback had helped negotiators be “very clear on what your priority issues are and what will be required on order to avert strike action and resolve this dispute”.

The three main priorities were remuneration, safe staffing and pay equity.

However, whether the first nationwide nurses’ strike since 1989 can be averted remains to be seen.

Nurses on Monday “strongly rejected” the DHBs’ latest collective offer, a $520 million package described by Health Minister David Clark as the best in a decade. . .

A $520 million package sounds generous but there would be $275 million more this year had they not wasted it on free fees for tertiary students, nearly $40 million of which will be spent on students who fail to complete their first year.

It would be difficult to find anyone who thinks spending millions on students who don’t need help is a greater priority than  improving pay and conditions for nurses.

Teachers are lining up for more pay and better conditions too and it would be equally difficult to find anyone who thinks that wouldn’t be a higher priority than fee-free tertiary study.

The free-fee policy is just one of several expensive policies. Another is the winter power payment for beneficiaries, some of which will go to wealthy retirees. These are extravagances that Labour and its coalition partners have put ahead of funding necessities.

Then-National Finance Minister Steven Joyce was laughed at when he said there was a big hole in Labour’s pre-election spending calculations and that they hadn’t factored in pay increases for public servants.

The trouble the government now has finding enough to satisfy nurses shows he was right.

Remember how Michael Cullen boasted they’d spent the lot after his last Budget in 2008?

The current government has almost spent the lot already if it wants to keep to the budgetary constraints it’s imposed upon itself to counter accusations it’s a poor manager of money.

Cullen left power with the new government facing a decade of deficits.

By contrast the current government came to power with forecasts of continuing strong surpluses.

They could have spent wisely, factoring in the need for fair increases to give nurses and teachers much better pay and conditions.

Instead they’ve wasted money on fripperies like the fee-free tertiary study and power payments for wealthy people and left far too little for basics like improved pay and conditions for nurses and teachers.


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