“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


Quote of the day

August 19, 2015

“I am very disappointed the Labour Party has turned TPP into a political platform and broken what appeared to be a very constructive and bi-partisan position on trade,” he says. “However, I would like to think that when the deal is concluded and proceeds through the ratification process, this position will be reversed. There are enough rational thinkers on trade in the Labour Party to enable this to happen.”

Petersen also dismisses critics’ claims that NZ’s negotiators will sell off the country’s sovereignty in an effort to sign up to the TPP.

“I am close to the negotiations – without being directly involved – and I assure you our negotiators are not going to sell NZ’s sovereignty,” he said. “I would urge [the critics] to wait until the final deal is agreed before passing judgement on these aspects and I believe that when the deal is completed the NZ public will be surprised at how good it is and how ridiculous some of the claims have been.”Mike Petersen


Hypocrisy and sabotage would give Hobson’s choice

August 14, 2015

Labour went into last year’s election supporting the planned two-stage flag referendum process and promising to enact it should it become government.

Just a few month’s later the statesman like promise has been supplanted by childish posturing out of pique:

Labour’s Trevor Mallard said he opposed the process and believed it was not time to change the flag.

Mr Mallard said he would be ranking highest the worst possible alternative flag and ranking lowest the best possible one as his protest against it.

 It is hypocritical to say it’s not the time now when his party was fully supportive of the process last year.

And this isn’t just a protest, it’s an attempt to sabotage the process which allows us all to choose a new flag, or not.

He won’t do that by just voting perversely himself but by milking the opportunity for publicity by encouraging others to do it too.

Everyone who doesn’t want a fourth flag, or is open to change but doesn’t like the option we’ll be left with, will have the opportunity to vote for the current flag, which is our third, in the second referendum.

Given the number who don’t want change for genuine reasons and those who will oppose the change out of political pique, the chances are we’ll be stuck with the status quo anyway.

But Mallard isn’t prepared to leave people to choose or not, he’s going to do his best to give us Hobson’s choice.

 


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