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.


If they can’t run themselves

June 22, 2018

Labour’s continuing missteps and mistakes in opposition often led to the question – if they can’t be trusted to run themselves how can they be trusted to run the country?

This week we’ve seen the answer – they can’t:

In an extraordinary and potentially unprecedented abuse of power, the Government is attempting to impose new taxes on New Zealanders without proper debate, late at night and under cover of Urgency, National’s Shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee says.

“The Government has used Urgency and an amendment to a motion to stop further debate and ram through new laws without proper scrutiny on a matter as important as taking more money off New Zealanders.

“Worse, it’s doing this because of its own incompetence and its inability to carry out a core function of a responsible Government – managing Parliament’s legislative programme.

“And it’s doing so on a Bill which it had already shortened the process for and which it has blatantly failed to win public support for.

“This is not only undemocratic – and potentially unprecedented in the 165 years of New Zealand’s Parliamentary democracy – it is arrogant. The Government is saying to New Zealand that they will be passing new taxes through Parliament by any means possible. 

“This is an unpopular and unnecessary new tax which has been sold as applying to Aucklanders only, but which will be rolled out nationwide in a couple of years, adding hundreds of dollars in costs to the average motorist every year.

“What’s deeply disappointing is the Green Party has chosen to support Labour’s move.

“Both parties have again displayed a breath-taking level of hypocrisy. After being opponents of Urgency and champions of democracy in Opposition, they are taking unconstitutional and unprecedented steps in Government, on matters as fundamental as new taxes.

“The Government has stumbled at every hurdle in its attempt to foist its new regional fuel tax on New Zealanders but it has forged ahead.

“It continues to prove it can’t be trusted. It can’t run Parliament, it can’t run itself and it can’t be trusted to act in the best interests of New Zealand.”

The perception of shambolic government isn’t helped by the Green’s not being sufficiently organised to lodge a question for Question Time.

It cost $310 per minute to run parliament in 2014.

If taxpayers are spending that much we should be able to depend on the government to run it competently.


The h word

June 11, 2018

This isn’t a good look:

Finance Minister Grant Robertson gave a post-Budget speech at a $600-a-head Labour fundraiser at the exclusive Wellington Club, drawing comparisons to the previous National Government’s “Cabinet club” scandal.

According to several attendees, about 40 people, including party supporters, business figures and corporate lobbyists, attended the dinner hosted by Labour president Nigel Haworth on Wednesday, at which Robertson was the key attraction.

A similar dinner is due to be hosted at the even more exclusive Northern Club in Auckland on Thursday night.

National leader Simon Bridges has accused the Government of hypocrisy, after Labour once described National’s events, which appear similar to the one attended by Robertson, as “cash-for-access”.

The concern is that wealthy figures are able to gain access and insight that is not available to the general public.

I don’t think  access and insight are problems, as long as the general public also has reasonable opportunities to meet, hear from and question Ministers at no cost.

If we don’t want public funding of political parties – and I definitely don’t – then parties have to raise funds and these sorts of functions are good ways to do it.

It might be dancing on the head of a pin but the invitation should be clear that the speakers aren’t there as Ministers.

I’ve hosted National fundraisers where guests meet, hear from and talk to party spokespeople. The two-way communication gives value for MPs and those there to meet them.

So it’s not that Robertson was the key attraction that’s the problem, it’s that the invitation said he was there as Finance Minister and that Labour and Robertson in particular criticised National for running similar events.

Now less than a year into government, Labour are displaying gross hypocrisy by doing it themselves and not distinguishing between the role of minister and MP or party spokesperson.

The h-word is never a good look, especially when it’s on display at some of the country’s most exclusive venues.


Northcote election result

June 9, 2018

8:50 – A win for Dan Bidois, 13,82 votes ahead with 100% of the votes counted.

(And after a shakey start, All Blacks are ahead 25-11 in the test against France).

8:20 – 84.8% of votes counted, Dan Bidois is leading by 1,282.

8:10 – 75 % of votes counted, Dan Bidois ahead by 1,071.

8pm – Dan Bidois leads by 800 with 54.5% of votes counted.

7:20pm  National’s candidate Dan Bidois has a 790 vote lead over Labour’s candidate Shanan Halbert with 48.5% of votes counted.


Unprepared, ill prepared

June 8, 2018

The ODT opines, there’s been a lack of progress from the government:

The Government seems intent on digging itself into a hole from which there may be no escape.

After nine years in Opposition, there were expectations change would happen quickly once New Zealand First went with Labour to form a coalition government, with support from the Greens.

However, that has not been the case. More than 100 working parties or inquiries have been established, some of them at least reporting back by the end of the year.

The latest one involves ‘‘fair pay agreements’’, seemingly code for collective bargaining agreements, to set industry standards.

Although the Government appears keen to talk to everyone possible about changes it wants to make, it seems Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods did not bother to consult her colleagues when it came to deciding to stop offshore oil and gas permits being allocated in New Zealand.

When the papers were finally released this week, it was discovered the Government was warned its plans for future oil and gas exploration could have a chilling effect on investment.

The papers said if the supply of natural gas was restricted, the likely price rise for consumers posed a significant risk to the security of energy supply and could have a detrimental impact on some regional economies.

Wasting multi-millions on working groups then failing to consult on a policy with such significant ramifications as this is the sign of a government both unprepared and ill-prepared.

The Government is hamstringing itself. There is a chance, and a real one, the Government will achieve nothing before the 2020 election if it does not start making progress on some key policies.

The only policy it has made real progress on is fee-free education for tertiary students, most of whom don’t need it and which hasn’t resulted in an increase in students.

Even KiwiBuild seems out of reach for Housing Minister Phil Twyford. Branding private housing developments as KiwiBuild will not solve the problem of building 10,000 houses a year. Within a few months, the Government will have been in office for 12 months. Recriminations which are bubbling under the surface now will become fully-fledged attacks on the core competency of ministers who should have hit the ground running when it became their time to serve.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can only hold the coalition together for so long if progress is not being made.

Planting one billion trees has not yet started, social policy is edging its way into the system, and the so-called housing crisis is not being addressed by Labour, which christened it such.

It is unrealistic to expect the Government to implement all its policies in the first 12 months, but some progress should be measurable by now. . .

What is measurable is a lack of business confidence, which is worsened by the prospect of a return to collective bargaining.

Employers say the fair pay agreements are a major cause of concern. BusinessNZ is part of the working group announced on Tuesday but employers say they are not supportive of a national award-type employment regime in New Zealand.

Under the proposal, employers and workers cannot negotiate their own conditions — unless they are above the fair pay rates. Although workers cannot strike for a fair pay agreement, they can strike to get their own rates above the fair pay agreement rate.

This is a return to the days of multi-employment contract agreements (Meca) which broke out separate pay agreements for workers living in high-cost areas, such as Auckland and Wellington.

This is a recipe for job insecurity, an increase in unemployment and business failure.

The craziness of continually forming working parties smacks of a Government ill-prepared to govern. Until Ms Ardern stepped into the position of leader, it did look as though National would win a fourth term. Perhaps Labour MPs had given up on the treasury benches and were going through the motions.

There’s no perhaps about that – they had and they were.

There have been missteps from some ministers, something not good enough from three-term MPs. The at-fault MPs are surely surviving because there is no-one with experience to replace them.

Labour, the major party of the coalition, needs to stop thinking about solutions and start enacting policies. Otherwise, a second term is starting to look out of reach.

Just eight months into government is very early to be talking about it being a one-termer.

But Labour, which spent most of its nine years in opposition wallowing directionless with most of its energy going on undermining its leaders, is unprepared and ill-prepared for government and it shows.

The fee-free policy is Labour’s, the other ones in which there has been any progress are New Zealand First’s money for good looking horses and the regional slush fund which Shane Jones admits is politically biased.

Shane Jones’ admission this morning that his Provincial Growth Fund is a political tool is backed up by new figures released this morning revealing Northland as the main recipient of taxpayers’ money, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Provincial Growth Fund should really be renamed the Political Survival Fund after more than half the funding announced so far has gone to one region – one with less than 10 per cent of regional New Zealand’s population.

“MBIE information shows Northland has sought $54.6 million from the fund so far. Applications from all the other regions combined amounted to $240 million.

“Yet Northland projects have received funding up to $61 million – even more than they’ve asked for. While the rest of the regions have had to make do with $42.4 million combined, plus a $7.5 million grant to the Howard League covering the whole country, including Northland. . .

Northland’s got more than it asked for and the whole of the rest of the country has had to share two-thirds of that amount.

Yet even Northland hasn’t got what it really needs – a better road to and from the rest of the country.

Northlanders will be scratching their heads, wondering why some groups are getting all this attention, while the single most important investment for their region – the double lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei has been scrapped in favour of Auckland’s light rail.

“Shanes Jones is being allowed to use public money for a thinly veiled political slush fund – but on the really big issues, such as advancing oil and gas production, there is no question that New Zealand First’s ‘provincial champion’ label is nothing more than wishful thinking.”

We need a government that’s prepared to govern for the whole country, not one whose major party is so ill-prepared it is mired in the quicksand of working groups and lets its minor partner get away with pork barrelling.


National in drag difficult sell

May 30, 2018

Two polls this week show the National Party still ahead of Labour with about 45% support.

That is encouraging for National and worrying for Labour.

But the latter has two support parties, although New Zealand First is registering below the 5% and the Green Party is hovering close enough  to the threshold to make it possible it might not make it back into parliament and we’d return to a two-party system in spite of MMP.

Possible isn’t probable and in spite of being the most popular party, National lacks any allies with sufficient support to enable it to form a government with more than 50% of the vote.

Act could gain another MP or two, but it hasn’t managed to do that in recent elections and would have to do so without taking votes from National to make a positive difference.

The Maori Party might win back a seat or two, but that too is more possible than probable.

Finding another party which could either win a seat or cross the 5% threshold would not be easy.

Some are suggesting a National MP leaves the party to form another one. But National in drag would be a very difficult sell for party members and other voters, and would only help if it got votes from the left and not the centre-right.

Tariana Turia managed to win a seat when she left Labour and formed the Maori Party; Winston Peters did it with NZ First; Peter Dunne held his seat under several manifestations of what eventually became United Future and former Labour MP Richard Prebble won a seat for Act but they are the exceptions. Any other MPs that I can recall who left a party and formed another failed to hold their seats.

The other option is standing back and making an accommodation to let a new party, which would take votes from Labour, NZ First and/or the Greens, take a National-held seat.

But that would be very difficult to do and would be entering very dubious territory.

National voters gave electorate votes to Dunne but he was a sitting MP when he formed his own party. Act voters opted for Rodney Hide of their own volition and not because National made an accommodation. They supported him and subsequently David Seymour but didn’t have to vote against a sitting National electorate MP to do so.

Trying to persuade National voters to swap support from an MP they voted in for someone from a new party would be a very different matter.

National is a victim of its own success and any attempt to help another party is likely to backfire and sabotage its own support.

It’s also a victim of the failure of MMP to give us a party in the middle that stands for something and could go centre-right but what can it do about without endangering its own support?


%d bloggers like this: