Labour pains National delivers

July 31, 2019

Is this how the National Party and its supporters are seen from the outside?

This is not the kind of stuff to you would expect to get the National Party faithful standing and applauding. It’s not a law and order policy or tax cut or a primary sector subsidy – it’s new health spending. This is the kind of thing Labour does.

Is it any wonder National is perceived as having a good head but too often not credited for having a heart if this is how a political commentator thinks?

Compassionate and effective social policy is what any good government does and it’s what motivates most members of any political party – making the country better for people.

National usually gets credit for economic management but, as the above comment show the reason that matters and what it is able to do and does do with the money it carefully manages, is lost.

A growing economy, and the policies that contribute to that are important not as an end but as the means to pay for the social policies and infrastructure that makes life better for people.

This government would have us believe it’s the first government to care about wellbeing.

Every New Zealand government in my memory has cared about wellbeing and done its best to improve it, albeit with varying success.

Making life better for people was the aim of Bill English’s social investment initiatives. They aimed to not only make life better for the people who were helped into independence, but better for us all by reducing the long term financial and social costs of benefit dependence.

Under this policy the number of people on benefits, and the long term cost of that, were dropping. Under this government both are increasing.

The big difference between this government and the last one, is that National understands the difference between the quality of spending and quantity and that sustainable wellbeing depends on a foundation of a strong and growing economy.

By contrast, the current government thinks more spending is better spending regardless of the results and the cost to those who pay.

National governs with head and heart, the Labour-led one puts feeling ahead of thinking.

That’s why National is able to deliver but in the long term Labour only pains.

National Finance Spokesman Paul Goldsmith explained the link between the economy and services in his speech to the party’s annual conference.

You will have noticed a strong economic theme to the start of the conference.

It’s true, we in the National Party do bang on a lot about the economy.

It makes me think of my old Nana, who always said, ‘money isn’t everything’.

Of course it isn’t.

As one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffett, put it, ‘it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got, if you’re not loved by the people you want to love you, life is a disaster’.

It’s similar with countries. Good government is just as much about preserving and enhancing what is special about this country.

That, to me, is the quality of our environment, our social cohesion, our relatively high trust and low corruption traditions, our commitment to the rule of law, freedom and tolerance of different views, our sense of security.

All these things are incredibly important and should never be taken for granted.

So the economy is not everything, but it is important.

Not because we revere the great machine for itself – it’s simply a means to an end.

The economy is about people. It’s about you, me, our families and our neighbourhoods.

To me, the point of a strong economy is to enable New Zealanders to do the most basic things in life well.

A strong economy improves our chances of finding satisfying and well-paying work so that we can look after ourselves and our families – the most fundamental task each of us have.

A society based on the assumption that its average citizen can’t or shouldn’t be expected to look after themselves and their families is doomed.   

That’s not what we believe.

Work itself, in its countless varieties, brings the opportunity to make a contribution to our world and the people in it, whether we’re providing someone with a new hip, a new app, or a cup of coffee with a smile.

And third, if we do well, we can afford to have some fun in our leisure time, and maybe if we have some energy left do something in the neighbourhood; on the barbecue for the school committee, or whatever.

That, to me, is the good life to which we aspire. 

As well as generating work and opportunities, good economic management and a strong economy enables the country to have better public services that improve our lives – a quality education, access to world-class healthcare when we need it, decent transport infrastructure so we can get home on time, the reassurance of superannuation when we’re old.

There are times in everyone’s life when we need help. At certain times of their lives some people can’t look after themselves and their families; the stronger our economy is, the more we can help.

Now, good economic management is not just about spending money, it’s about generating it. . . 

What’s the goal? To deliver a strong economy and world-class public services that enable Kiwis to look after themselves and their families, to find satisfying work, and to lead full lives.


H word and F word

July 3, 2019

In opposition the three parties now in government were opposed to foreign ownership of farmland.

In government they have made it so much harder for foreigners to buy farms to farm it’s almost impossible for them to do so. But the hoops the overseas buyers have to go through to buy farms to convert to forestry are much lower.

That means would-be foreign buyers are very, very unlikely to get Overseas Investment Office approval to buy distressed dairy or sheep and beef farms, even with plans, and both the ability and funds, to  improve them.

But the same buyers would be Almost certain to get OIO approval to buy those same farms if they intended to turn them into forests.

Overseas interests already own 70% of New Zealand forestry.

Making it much easier to buy farms to plant trees than to raise stock, for arable farming or horticulture,  will mean even more forestry is foreign owned.

Forestry is becoming an F word among farmers and rural communities concerned about the environmental, economic and social impacts of the rapid afforestation of productive farmland.

They can rightly apply the  H word – hypocrisy – to Labour, New Zealand First and Green Parties for their policy of making it easier for overseas purchasers to do this.

But wait there’s more.

These overseas entities will be able to offset their carbon emissions in their homelands, or from investments in other countries, with the trees they plant here.

It’s very tempting to use another F word to express my feelings about this.


Which poll is right?

June 9, 2019

Or:

David Farrar says both can’t be right:

. . .You basically can’t reconcile these . One (or both) of them seem to be outside the 95% confidence interval, ie is the 1 in 20 “rogue” result.

The only other plausible explanation is that as the ONCB poll started a few days after NRR, Labour had a massive drop in support after those first few days. But the difference in dates is unlikely to explain the massive gap.

The polls ever show the direction of change differently. One has Labour down 6% and the other up 3.3%. National is up 4% in one and down 4% in another.

The NZ First result is also outside the margin of error. A 5% and a 2.8% result is outside the 95% confidence interval. . .

Both can’t be right, and just a few weeks ago all the pollsters were wrong about the Australian election.

 


No CGT but . . .

April 18, 2019

The government is not going to adopt a capital gains tax .

The backdown has cost $2 million and 18 months of uncertainty but Simon Bridges point out there will be more taxes:

“While the Government has backed down on a Capital Gains Tax, there are still a range of taxes on the table. They include a vacant land tax, an agricultural tax and a waste tax.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she personally still wants a Capital Gains Tax and that our tax system is unfair. New Zealanders simply can’t trust Labour when it comes to tax. 

“The New Zealand economy has suffered while the Government has had a public discussion about a policy they couldn’t agree on. Put simply, this is political and economic mismanagement. . . 

The government asked a question, the answer to which its three constituent parties couldn’t agree on.

Remember James Shaw saying:

“The last question we should be asking ourselves is, ‘can we be re-elected if we do this?’ The only question we should be asking ourselves is, ‘do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?'”

Labour and the Green Party had to swallow a big dead rat, served to them by Winston Peters:

. . .It wasn’t even an hour after the Prime Minister had put the final nail in the coffin that is the capital gains tax (CGT) when RNZ asked Mr Peters whether Labour will be expecting his party’s support on another issue in return for losing this flagship policy. Mr Peters fired back: “May I remind you, the Labour Party is in government because of my party.”

No reading between the lines necessary. . .

New Zealand First is polling under the 5% threshold, it couldn’t afford to alienate the dwindling number of its supporters.

The capital gains tax, if not dead, is buried while Ardern is Prime Minister, but the threat of other niche taxes is still live.

 


Poverty stats government’s shame

April 3, 2019

The nine child poverty statistics that will be used as the baseline for improvement show released yesterday by Stats NZ show all but one have got worse under the current government:

David Farrar compares the stats under National and Labour:

  1. Percentage of children in households with income under 50% of median, before housing costs. 156,000 in June 2008 and 156,000 in June 2017 so no increase under National (rate dropped 0.3%). In June 2018 increased by 27,000 and rate increased 2.3% for Labour’s first year.
  2. Percentage of children in households with income under 50% of median, after housing costs. 329,000 in June 2009 (no data for 2008) and 247,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 82,000 under National (rate dropped 8.1%). In June 2018 increased by 7,000 and rate increased 0.4% for Labour’s first year.
  3. Percentage of children in households in material hardship. 196,000 in June 2013 (no data before that) and 140,000 in June 2017 so dropped 56,000 under National (rate dropped 5.4%). In June 2018 increased by 8,000 and rate increased 0.6% for Labour’s first year.
  4. Percentage of children in households with income under 60% of median, before housing costs. 252,000 in June 2008 and 243,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 9,000 under National (rate dropped 1.3%). In June 2018 increased by 38,000 and rate increased 3.2% for Labour’s first year.
  5. Percentage of children in households with income under 60% of median, after housing costs. 355,000 in June 2008 and 314,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 41,000 under National (rate dropped 4.6%). In June 2018 increased by 27,000 and rate increased 2.2% for Labour’s first year.
  6. Percentage of children in households with income under 50% housing costs for the base financial year. 258,000 in June 2008 and 236,000 in June 2017 so a drop of 22,000 under National (rate dropped 2.5%). In June 2018 increased by 18,000 and rate increased 1.4% for Labour’s first year.
  7. Percentage of children in households with income under 40% housing costs for the base financial year. 156,000 in June 2008 and 178,000 in June 2017 so an increase of 22,000 under National (rate increased 1.6%). In June 2018 dropped by 4,000 and rate dropped 0.4% for Labour’s first year.
  8. Percentage of children in households in severe material hardship. 84,000 in June 2013 (no data before that) and 74,000 in June 2017 so dropped 10,000 under National (rate dropped 1.0%). In June 2018 dropped by 9,000 and rate dropped 0.9% for Labour’s first year.
  9. Percentage of children in households in material hardship and under 60% median income after housing costs. 96,000 in June 2013 (no data before that) and 86,000 in June 2017 so dropped 10,000 under National (rate dropped 1.1%). In June 2018 increased by 12,000 and rate increased 1.0% for Labour’s first year. . .

Who would have thought it? Seven of the child poverty measures dropped under National, one was static and one went up.

And under the Labour/NZ First/Green government that purports to be compassionate and set reducing child poverty as a priority?

Seven of the child poverty measures worsened and only two improved.

What’s behind the difference?

Former Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English was determined to search out the risk factors which lead to poverty and the disastrous social outcomes that usually accompany it.

Having found them he used the social investment approach – spending more upfront on helping those most at risk. The higher short-term cost was justified by the expected reduction in the long-term human, social and financial costs should those at risk not be helped.

The compassionate and intelligent response of the Labour/NZ First/Green government would have been to continue and build on what was working.

The failure to do so is this government’s shame.

Instead it sabotaged business confidence, wasted money on policies including fee-free tertiary education and winter heating subsidies for people who don’t need them, and got soft on policies that used both carrot and stick for those who could be working but don’t.

Early days is no excuse, this government is almost half way through it’s first term.

It can’t blame National for what’s going wrong when under it, seven of the measures were improving, one was static and just one was going the wrong way.

The government has only itself and its ideological blindness to blame which will be no comfort at all to the families whose situation has worsened.

Lindsay Mitchell blogs on the causes of poverty:

The Canadian think-tank, the Fraser Institute has just released a paper which suggests an elegantly simple framework in finding three causes of poverty: bad luck, bad choices and enablement. The first two need no explanation. The third is described thus:

We can say that poverty is “enabled” when systems and structures are in place to discourage the kinds of efforts that people would normally make to avoid poverty, i.e., find employment, find a partner (especially if children are present), improve one’s education and skill set, have a positive outlook, and take personal responsibility for your own actions. Ironically, it is government programs (welfare, in particular) that are intended to help the poor but end up actually enabling poverty.

In NZ, many of our current influencers (MPs and media) pooh,pooh the idea that bad choices are responsible for poverty despite this being self-evident. They base their disdain for the idea on a belief that greater systems, for example institutional racism, drive bad choices. Of course when they do this they excuse bad choices and even compensate the person making them. Undoubtedly, most of those sitting on the Welfare Expert Advisory Group would hold views of his nature. . . 

The soft bigotry of low expectations is not a cliche, it’s a fact.

This government’s low expectations are enabling poverty and turning around the improvements that National’s policy of social investment were making.


Did you hear the union roar?

March 15, 2019

There was no surprise that Shane Jones replied to questions about a conflict of interest with bombast.

That is business as usual for him.

But threatening Hamish Rutherford, the journalist who broke the story, is a new and disturbing low:

There is a degree of rough and tumble in journalism and, if you’re going to give it out, you have to take it.

But this week vague claims were made which were quite troubling.

On Monday, in an interview with Morning Report, Shane Jones, possibly the most forceful personality currently in New Zealand’s Parliament, described me as a “bunny boiler”.

Whatever he means by that, I would have happily let that pass. Much of the reaction has been fun. I never imagined I would have to explain those sort of cultural references to my parents, themselves avid RNZ listeners.  . .

But Jones also described me as “unethical”, a more serious claim which he has not clarified, despite implying that he might use parliamentary privilege to say more – an ancient right MPs have to say literally whatever they want without legal repercussions, so long as they say it in the House.

It is an ancient and important right. But I understood, at its core, was the need to promote free speech, not to stifle it.

This has led to a difficult couple of days. I have not been able to defend myself as I have not known what the accusations might be.

Jones (or any MP) could say anything at all about me, or you, with no legal comeback.

After Question Time and an urgent debate, it still is not clear. Shane Jones did not use his privilege, but he could do, at any time. . . 

That politicians who resort to personal attack don’t usually have anything substantive to counter criticism will be little comfort.

This is an abuse of power, no more and no less and one which the union representing journalists ought to be condemning.

But did you hear the union roar? I haven’t heard, or read, so much as a whisper from E TŪ, which represents journalists, or any other union.

Nor have I come across anything but a mild that’s not appropriate from Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party which is supposed to stand up for workers.

If I’ve missed the union’s defence of a colleague and condemnation of his attacker, please correct me.

If there hasn’t been one, it is yet another example of unions putting politics before the people they purport to represent.

Disclosure: Hamish Rutherford’s parents are friends and I’ve known him for several years. I was an admirer of his work for the depth of his research, understanding of issues and non-partisan approach long before I met him.


Labour pains National delivers

January 31, 2019

The National Party will put an end to tax bracket creep:

A National Government would link income tax brackets to inflation, ensuring income taxes are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living and allowing New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

“New Zealanders’ incomes are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living because this Government is imposing more red tape and taxes,” Mr Bridges said in his State of the Nation speech in Christchurch today.

“Over the next four years, New Zealanders will be paying almost $10,000 more per household in tax than they would have been under National. The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions on bad spending.

“On top of that, by 2022 New Zealanders on the average wage will move into the top tax bracket. That’s not right or fair. So in our first term National will fix that by indexing tax thresholds to inflation.

“We will amend the Income Tax Act so tax thresholds are adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living. That will mean that within a year after every election, Treasury will advise the Government on how much the thresholds should be adjusted for inflation.

“This would prevent New Zealanders from moving into higher tax brackets even when their income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living. It would ensure New Zealanders keep more of what they earn to stay on top of rising costs of living such as higher prices for necessities like petrol, rent and electricity.

“We will include a veto clause so the Government of the day can withhold the changes in the rare circumstances there is good reason to. But it will have to explain that decision to New Zealanders.

It would take a very serious change in economic health, or a very stupid government, to do that.

“The changes would make a real difference. Assuming inflation of 2 per cent, someone on the average wage would be $430 a year better off after the first adjustment, $900 after the second and $1,400 after the third.

“A family with two earners – for example, one earning $80,000 and the other $40,000 – would be $600 better off a year after the first adjustment, about $1,300 after the second and $1,900 by the third.

“That’s more of their own money in their own bank accounts.

“The first adjustment would prevent Kiwis from paying an extra $650 million a year in tax based on today’s estimates. We can afford that by managing the books prudently and spending wisely.

“We will also do more on tax – but add no new taxes – and I’ll continue talking about our plans between now and next year’s election.

“National is committed to helping New Zealanders get ahead. This step means that as well as cancelling new taxes this Government has piled on, we won’t allow future governments to use inflation as an annual tax increase by stealth.” 

This is a very positive start to the political year from National and a stark contrast to Labour’s which featured what amounts to an admission of failure on their flagship policy:

KiwiBuild’s “interim” targets for this electoral term have been scrapped as the Government recalibrates the programme.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Housing Minister Phil Twyford told media from their caucus retreat on Wednesday that their commitment to building 100,000 affordable homes over the next decade remains intact, but the interim targets for this term did not.

The Government has been dealing with the fallout from an admission by Twyford that the Government would not be able build 1000 of the homes by July 1, its first interim target. Instead it expects to build just 300.

The KiwiBuild policy aims to build 100,000 affordable homes for first-home buyers over 10 years, half of them in Auckland. . . 

They expect us to believe they can build 100,000 affordable homes in a decade when they can’t build 300 in the first year?

Labour is planning to waste money on houses for a relatively few people earning well above the average income. National has committed to letting people keep a bit more of their own money.

It gives voters a very clear choice – Labour pains over housing or National delivering clear policy to end bracket creep.

 

 


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