Basics beat side shows

April 11, 2016

National’s three-point rise to 50% in the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll has come as a surprise to some commentators.

Labour’s four-point fall to 28% was probably not.

It is only one poll and anything could happen between now and the election but Kiwiblog shows where the two parties were at the same time in the last election cycle:

In April 2013 National was at 43% and Labour 36% – a 7% gap.

In April 2016 National is at 50% and Labour 28% – a 22% gap.

He points out that Labour leader Andrew Little is on only 7%, three points behind Winston Peters.

This isn’t a strong position from which to launch a winning election campaign.

In another post, Kiwiblog looks at party favourability:

. . . National is viewed favourably by 58% of NZers. That helps explain why 47% voted for them.

Labour is viewed favourably by just 35% of NZers. . . 

National has the least unfavourable – only 28% of NZers dislike National. This will come as a surprise to hard left activists who live in a bubble where 100% of their friends dislike National. . . 

Labour is on 41% for unfavourability.

National at +30% is the only party to have net favourability:

PartyNetFav

National’s continual popularity confounds its critics and many commentators.

There are several reasons for it and one of the biggest is that the government focuses on the basics while Labour gets distracted by sideshows.

That doesn’t mean everything the government does works well. I am tribal National and there are some things the government does I don’t like and some it doesn’t do I’d like it to, but those things don’t matter as much as the basics – the economy, education, health, welfare, and security.

And of course, one big reason National is doing so well is that Labour isn’t.

National can’t rely on that if it wants to win a fourth term, a viable government needs to be there for better reasons than a hopeless opponent but Labour’s continuing focus on side-shows and showing its incompetence in opposition keeps demonstrating it is not a viable government-in-waiting.

 

 

 

 


Labour doesn’t understand business

March 1, 2016

Labour said it’s worried about jobs which will disappear but is complaining the increase in the minimum wage isn’t high enough.

The minimum wage is just that, the minimum. It’s a floor not a ceiling.

Any business which can afford to pay its workers more than that can and many will.

But not all work is worth more than that and imposing higher costs on businesses without lowering other costs or increasing returns will put other jobs and whole businesses at risk.

It will also increase the move to replacing people with machines which is supposedly one of Labour’s big worries.

In another example of Labour’s lamentable lack of understanding of business principles, the party wants to force forests to sell logs to local mills.

Forest owners responded:

Forest owners say they are keen to sell their logs to local mills, so long as the terms of sale match those from export markets.

Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes says there have been cases where local mills have been unwilling to do this.

“It’s not just about price. It’s also about the payment risk, the length of the contract and the quality of the logs on offer. Many modern mills have tight specifications for log supply. Logs that don’t meet those specifications are usually exported. This will always be the case,” he says.

Responding to a call from Labour Party MP Stuart Nash that “foreign forest owners” should be forced to sell logs to local mills, Mr Rhodes says owners of forests – foreign, corporate, private companies, iwi, partnerships or individuals — look for terms and conditions that give them the best overall returns.

“In many cases they get only one chance to do this, having spent 27 years growing their trees. This is crucial – forestry is not a one-way bet. Just ask those forest owners, particularly in Northland, who are not replanting after harvest, because log prices are not high enough to justify re-investment.”

Mr Rhodes says it is unfair to single out overseas owners of large plantations as the reason for mill failures.

“It may appeal to the emotions, but does not advance public understanding one iota. Overseas owned forestry companies are among the leaders of the industry. They make significant investments in jobs, worker safety and the environment.”

 

He says forest owners understand the importance of New Zealand having a viable wood processing industry and are partners in the Wood Council which is committed to having more value added to logs in NZ.

“We are talk regularly with politicians from the various political parties about policies that will assist the forest and wood processing industries remain vibrant, viable industries providing employment in the regions. Mr Nash’s proposed policy is not one of them.”

Forestry is a risky business with a long time between planting and payment.

Forest owners aren’t charities. They’re businesses and need good returns to if they’re going to continue in business and employing their own staff.


“Free” for whom?

February 1, 2016

Labour has unveiled what’s being called a ‘free” tertiary education plan.

“Free” for whom?

I was one of those who supposedly had a “free” tertiary education. There were far fewer students per taxpayer then but people on modest incomes were paying 60% (or was it 66%?) in tax.

The taxpayer already covers 70% of the cost of study. Labour’s policy would save those students who benefit in the short term but they and all other taxpayers would pay more in the long term.

Labour’s supposed constituency of lower skilled workers won’t be enthusiastic about paying more so the children of better-off families can save a bit on their education whether or not what they study is what the country needs.

New Zealand does have a skills shortage in some areas but this policy doesn’t target those shortages, it’s across the board.

Everyone, including those working hard to pay off loans already incurred will be paying more tax to further subsidise the education of people who won’t necessarily be trained in skills we need and some of those who are won’t necessarily stay in New Zealand once qualified.

There are national-good benefits for a better educated population which is why the taxpayer is already very generous in its support of tertiary education.

And the national-good is not an argument for being even more generous, especially when this policy would increase the quantity of students while doing nothing to improve the quality of the education they get.

If there is money to spare  it would be better to be targeted where it will do most good, for example an extension of the existing funding for writing-off student loans for vets, doctors, nurses and others who work in hard-to-staff regions.

But the greatest need in New Zealand is the long-tail of underachievers who fail long before they get near any higher education.

P.S.

Labour hasn’t put much effort in to winning the Invercargill seat in recent years. This policy will help the incumbent MP, National’s Sarah Dowie, retain her seat by doing away with the advantage the Southland Institute of technology has in attracting students with its zero-fees policy.


Three Labour leaders for TPP

January 28, 2016

Two of Labour’s former leaders, Phil Goff and David Shearer, who are still senior members of its caucus are quite clear that they support the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

A third former leader, Helen Clark, also supports the agreement.

Mr Goff, a former leader and former Trade Minister and now an Auckland mayoral candidate, and David Shearer, also a former Labour leader, last night told the Herald they both still supported the TPP.

Mr Goff said the deal should be signed.

Former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark also backed the TPP among 12 countries and it was begun under her leadership. Mr Goff was Trade Minister.

Labour has decided to oppose the TPP on the grounds that it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty.

Mr Goff did not blatantly criticise Labour’s position. But he effectively dismissed that view and the suggestion that Labour would not be able to prevent foreign investors buying New Zealand residential property.

“Every time you sign any international agreement you give away a degree of your sovereignty.” He cited the China free trade deal negotiated when he was Trade Minister.

“We gave up the sovereign right to impose tariffs against China when we signed up to the China free trade agreement. But it came with quid pro quos. China gave up its right to impose huge tariffs on us.

“That’s what an international agreement is; it’s an agreement to follow a particular course of action and a limitation on your ability to take action against the other country.

“You have the ultimate right of sovereignty that you can back out of an agreement – with all the cost that that incurs.”

The costs of not being part of such a wide trade agreement would be significant.

The TPP obliges member Governments to treat investors from member countries as though they were domestic unless exceptions are written into the agreement. Labour wanted an exception written in for investors in residential housing but National did not seek it.

Mr Goff is critical of National for choosing not to do that.

“But there is more than one way to skin that particular cat,” he said. “We retained the right to make it financially undesirable or unattractive to buy up residential property in New Zealand.

“You can still impose, as Singapore and Hong Kong do, stamp duty on foreign investors.” . . 

Labour’s biggest achievement last year was the appearance of caucus unity.

This breaking of ranks shows that the veneer of unity was thin.

That some in Labour disagree with the caucus position might entertain political tragics.

But the bigger significance is that for the first time in decades it’s walking away from the consensus it’s had with National on free trade.

Caucus disunity might hamper its chances of returning to government. But it will get there sooner or later and any failure to foster free trade progress as successive governments have, won’t be in the country’s best interests.


Positivity beats petty and prevaricating

January 18, 2016

Summer holidays provide what many regard as a merciful break from day to day politics in the news.

That in turn provides an opportunity for an opposition leader who wants to get into the hearts and minds of voters to get noticed.

I came across a couple of news items in which Labour leader Andrew Little was quoted but neither was positive. In one he was petty and in the other he was prevaricating.

In the first he criticised Paula Rebstock’s New Year’s honour as political favouritism:

Ms Rebstock has been made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the state. . . 

 

He’s trying to make a political point and criticise the government and in doing so is making a slur on a woman who has years  of work in and for  the public service.

This was both petty and personal.

The second story repeated his assertion that Labour would defy the Trans pacific Partnership.

In the interview he is questioned about how he would do this and repeats what he’s said before about any government he leads picking and choosing which bits of the agreement it would keep.

That sounds definite but it is prevaricating because he knows that once an agreement is signed parties to it can’t decide which bits of it they will honour and which they won’t.

Kiwiblog’s poll of polls show National finished the year polling about 5% higher than it was three years ago and  Labour is about 5% lower.

One reason for this is that National’s leader John Key is usually positive which trumps  petty and prevaricating which is how Little often appears.

 

 

 

 


All jobs not equal

November 9, 2015

Labour’s proposal to use the government’s $40 billion in buying power to create jobs and back local businesses by requiring suppliers to make job creation in New Zealand a determining factor for contracts might be good politics but it’s bad policy.

The government, like any other entity, should be guided by price and quality when buying goods and services.

Unless businesses can adding job creation while competing on both of those factors, the requirement is a subsidy by another name.

If a future Labour-led government pays more, or accepts lower quality, to purchase from a business which creates more jobs it will not be not using public money wisely.

It will  be spending more than it needs to and to do that it has to take more tax, some of which will come from businesses with which those subsidised might be competing.

It could also lead the businesses which get the subsidies into difficulty when the government funding runs out and they find themselves with more staff than they can afford.

All jobs aren’t equal. Those created by government requirement are more expensive and less sustainable than ones created by businesses through their own efforts.

As Bill English said:

“We wouldn’t be chasing around the unemployment number [every] three months to three months – what we want to do is reinforce and encourage the industries that are doing well to invest, employ more people and grow.”

English said it was “not that easy” for the Government to create jobs, and any intervention would be unlikely to get value for money. . .”

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce is taking legal action against the City Council over its decision to require contractors to pay their staff the so-called living wage.

Labour’s policy is in the same feel-good- theory, bad-policy-in-practice territory.

The best thing a government can do for employment is keep a tight rein on its spending and enact policies which enable businesses to prosper which will give them the confidence to employ more people without a subsidy.


Quote of the day

September 30, 2015

. . . Labour’s problem may be summed up in two words: proportional representation. New Zealand’s MMP electoral system allows minor parties to thrive, thus removing the pressure on opposition supporters to transfer their allegiance to the party best placed to defeat the Government. By denying Labour the 5 to 10 percentage points it needs to become a credible competitor to the National Party, proportional representation and the Greens are encouraging the Right to contemplate permanent political ascendancy. . .  Chris Trotter


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