Paying price for unpreparedness

December 10, 2018

Got a problem? The government almost certainly has a review to consider it:

New figures released by National show that since being sworn in, the Government has announced 206 reviews and working groups, or one approximately every two days, at a cost of almost $700,000 dollars a day, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

“The Government has abandoned New Zealanders and delegated the job of governing to officials, think tanks, consultants and former politicians while it focuses on tidying up after itself and cashing its coalition negotiation cheques,” Mr Bridges says.

“This is a Government whose parties had three terms – nine years – to develop their own ideas, but they’re now farming the thinking out to others and charging the taxpayer as they do.

Instead of using opposition to prepare for government, Labour spent the best part of nine years on in-fighting and looking inwards. We are paying the price for their lack of preparedness  for government.

“The Government has no plans for growing the strong economy it inherited, or for improving the lives of New Zealanders. Rather than having a plan and a vision for New Zealand it’s focused on keeping the Coalition together and treading water while we wait for the ever-growing list of reviews and working groups to report back with instructions.

“Meanwhile taxpayers are forking out half a million dollars a day to pay for this Government’s laziness.

“The total cost so far is around $280 million but it is set to be much higher. The Government doesn’t know the cost of 79 of their reviews, so taxpayers could be looking at a $450 million bill. At a time when cost of living is on the rise, rents are going up, and more taxes and regulations are being piled on, New Zealanders don’t need this wasteful spending as they feel the pinch at Christmas time.

Some external consideration and advice is sensible, but 206 reviews and working groups at a cost of $700,000 a day is simply wasteful.

“It is flabby spending. National would cut the waste, stop mulching trees and rolling out free fees, and invest taxpayer dollars in a more considered, targeted way. Savings from these reviews alone could fund the Roxburgh children’s village for the next 90 years, end the teacher strikes, fund 5,600 cochlear implants or axe the regional fuel tax.

“Kiwis can go into this Christmas knowing that only National will be doing the hard yards all summer to hold this Government-of-missed-opportunities to account. We’ll do the work so we’re ready should we earn the right to govern again in 2020.”

That one of the expensive working groups is working on ways to tax us more is particularly galling.

If the government spent less and spent more wisely there would be no need for it to take more tax.

Judith Collins sums it up: Rather than $700,000 per day being spent on Working Groups to tell the Government what to do, wouldn’t it be better to just have a WORKING GOVERNMENT?

 


Only one poll

December 2, 2018

It’s only one poll, but the latest one from One News Colmar Brunton is a very good one for National as the political year draws to a close:

National up 3% to 46% support, Labour down 3 to 43%, Green Party down 2 to 5%, NZ First dropping 1 to 4%, the Maori Party on 1% and Act on 1%.

It’s the party vote that counts and this result matters more – at least so far as one poll matters at all – than the preferred PM poll in which National’s leader Simon Bridges is still in single figures.

The changes are in margin of error territory but the trend still has National ahead of Labour.

That isn’t enough to govern under MMP, but it shows National support is solid and that the leader’s stardust isn’t enough to make Labour sparkle too.

Under MMP it’s not enough to have the most support, a party has to get to 61 seats by itself or with at least one support partner.

But at this stage of the political cycle, and given, the rough waters National has had to negotiate in recent months that’s a lesser concern than voter support which is still very strong.


Political meddling danger to super fund

November 22, 2018

The Suerannuation Fund is at risk from political meddling:

Now, Labour appears to be considering taking steps to require NZ Super to invest in a very specific way in a way no politician has tried to do before.

While no one from the Government is prepared to discuss the plans, it is understood that Economic Development Minister David Parker wants to carve off hundreds of millions of dollars of the Governments contributions to the Super Fund to be specifically invested into early stage companies.

This is often referred to as angel investment. . . 

Angel investment is fine for individuals or private businesses it’s not appropriate for the Super Fund at the directive of politicians.

Leaving aside whether there is a lack of money for early stage companies, a view which is not universally held in the industry, there are bigger issues at play. Having politicians direct the investments of NZ Super is dangerous territory.

Carving up the Government’s contributions to the fund, and earmarking parts for specific areas appears to be a subtle way to direct the Super Fund’s investments. It could easily become a political tool if politicians were able to use their influence to change investment decisions.

Once the door to political influence is opened, it will be difficult to close again, and each idea from Parliament is likely to be more questionable than the last. . .

This is very dangerous territory:

The security of New Zealanders’ pensions is at put at risk if Economic Development Minister David Parker opens up the Super Fund to political interference, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “For seventeen years, the Super Fund has been managed independently from the politicians, invested with the sole purpose of maximising returns for the Kiwi taxpayer. This independence has served the Fund well, and increased the security of our pensions.”

“The news that David Parker wants to fiddle with the Fund to skew investment towards particular types of companies should send a shiver down the spines of taxpayers.”

“If David Parker was some kind of investment guru, he’d be making millions in the private sector, not pursuing a career in politics. In fact, his investment decisions are guaranteed to be distorted by political motivations. This conflict of interest puts the security of our pensions at risk. The politicians need to stick to their core responsibilities and keep their grubby mitts off our Super!”

Putting money into the Super Fund instead of paying down debt is questionable.

But once it’s there, it needs to be invested wisely, not at political whim.

Having politicians direct where funds should be invested puts the Super Fund at risk and should not be countenanced.


Benefits of a bad lambing

November 12, 2018

When then-Awarua MP Eric Roy was first in parliament he was asked what it was like.

He replied, there are too many people up there who hadn’t had a bad lambing.

That was back in 1993.  There are even more without that experience now:

About 10% of national politicians have had agribusiness careers but increasingly members of Parliament are being drawn from careers in the public or Parliamentary services.

A study by Wellington public relations company Blackland PR found 11 of Parliament’s 121 MPs have experience working in the agricultural sector, nine of them from National, one from Labour and one from New Zealand First.

No Green Party MPs have worked in the rural sector.

The company’s director Mark Blackham said 23% of MPs had worked in business or commerce and 19% in central government.

A quarter of Labour MPs and 20% of those from National worked in the public service or in Parliament before being elected.

A third of all MPs had no definable career but an increasing number were heavily involved in activism or worked for non-government organisations, especially among the Green Party ranks, before entering Parliament.

Agriculture is the one career that differentiates party roots.

“Agriculture is the only major economic sector where experience differs between political parties,” he said. . . 

Fewer MPs with an agribusiness or wider rural background is partly a result of MMP. Electorates are bigger in area and fewer in number. One rural MP now services an area that would have had at least two under FPP and list MPs are almost all based in cities.

It is also partly a result of fewer people with any business backgrounds and wider life experience entering parliament and more people whose experience is limited to employment by local or central government and/or in activism.

It’s not only farmers who face bad lambings in a figurative sense. But parliament now has more people with less, if any, experience, employing other people; more who have not had to make decisions which impact on their own and other people’s livelihoods and fewer who have run anything where their own money was at risk.

Parliament is generally more representative when it comes to gender and ethnicity but less representative of people with work and life experience in which they’ve not only faced bad lambings, whether literally or figuratively,  but learned from and become better people as a result of them.

MPs are supposed to represent people and a parliament that is representative of the population ought to do that better.

But MPs are also in parliament to make laws and I’d have more confidence in laws made by people who’ve been through bad lambings – literal or figurative –  than those whose work experience has been confined to bureaucracy or activism.


Growing middle income welfare

November 1, 2018

Housing Minister Phil Twyford says KiwiBuild houses aren’t for the poor:

​KiwiBuild isn’t intended to help low-income families, Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says, in the face of criticism about some of the scheme’s first buyers. . . 

To qualify for a KiwiBuild house, buyers must have joint income up to $180,000 as a couple, or $120,000 as a single person.  Buyers must be first-time purchasers or in the same financial situation as first-home buyers.

KiwiBuild houses sell for up to $650,000, for the largest homes in Auckland.

Twyford said KiwiBuild was aimed at building affordable houses because market failure has led to only 5 per cent of houses being built in this price range in recent years. 

“KiwiBuild is aimed at those families who years ago would have expected to own their own home but have been locked out of the market because of the national housing crisis,” he said.

“It is not a programme aimed at low-income families because they may not be able to service a KiwiBuild mortgage.” . . 

If the houses aren’t for the poor, why are taxpayers’ paying for them?

Houses that are only affordable for people on well above average incomes are affordable in a very limited definition of the word.

People earning that much ought to be able to afford a house without taxpayer assistance.

It might not be brand new. It might not be in the best condition. It might not be in a really desirable suburb. But it would get them on the housing ladder which is a big step above anything low income people could afford.

Labour purports to be the party that helps the poor but its policies increasingly use taxpayers’ money to help people who aren’t poor, boosting the growth of middle and even upper income welfare.

 

 


KiwiCon

October 29, 2018

The new owners have moved into the first KiwBuild house.

. . .”It feels amazing, it feels like we have won the Lotto,” said Jayne, who at 25 and about to graduate as a doctor, was thrilled at winning a ballot for one of the first 18 KiwiBuild homes at McLennan Park.

Jayne and her 24-year-old partner Ross, an online marketer, were on the verge of giving up hope of getting on the property ladder in Auckland before “getting lucky” with KiwiBuild. . .

This is Lotto at the taxpayers’ expense.

The new homeowners have won but Auckland Action Against Poverty isn’t impressed:

 While the Government prioritises its flagship home-ownershp scheme, tens of thousands of people continue to be homeless in Aotearoa, with no hope of being able to ever afford living in one of these Kiwibuild homes. Auckland Action Against Poverty warns that the focus on building so called affordable private housing, subject to market speculation, will further exacerbate the housing crisis, instead of fixing it.

“KiwiBuild homes are out of reach for the working poor and the unemployed, who are the ones facing the real brunt of the housing crisis. With a price-tag of half a million dollars, KiwiBuild homes are a future speculator’s dream”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty’s Coordinator.

We echo the concerns of Monte Cecilia Housing Trust’s Bernie Smith, who called KiwiBuild a ‘community trainwreck’. Displacing thousands of public housing tenants in order to build private housing in public land is a form of partial privatisation of public land, and will cause distress for the tenants evicted.

“The planned net increase to the social housing stock will only be marginal. In South Auckland, the Government is planning to build 10,000 new homes, 3,000 being state homes, which will be built after demolishing 2,700. This means that altogether only a few hundred additional state homes will be available for our fast growing homeless population.

“The Government needs to recalibrate its priorities and instead focus on building far more permanent social housing than it is currently planning. For that to happen, Housing New Zealand needs to be properly resourced and public land needs to be used to house people in public housing, not unaffordable private houses.

“In a few years time we’ll have state led gentrification, with middle and high income earners being able to access some of the KiwiBuild homes while those at the bottom continue to struggle with fast rising rents and lack of social housing.

“We are calling on the Labour Government to get its priorities right and focus on the creation of social housing, instead of entrenching housing unaffordability”.

The price of the house and the age and occupation of the new owners make KiwiBuild look like more middle to upper income welfare.

If this young, professional, childless couple fit the criteria for a brand new home subsidised by taxpayers, then the criteria is wrong.

Yes it’s hard for people to buy any house in Auckland, and lots of other places. But why is helping people earning well above the average income into their own home a higher priority than meeting the needs of poorer people?

Mike Hosking calls it a con:

We may have discovered the crux of the KiwiBuild problem through some new figures from CoreLogic.

The median price paid by first home buyers for a home, for example, in Auckland, is $699,000. KiwiBuild do them for $650,000, so yes a saving, but not a lot.

What we are discovering here, is that the Government doesn’t appear to be able to do anything the market already isn’t. . . 

The real issue here – and this has become clearer and clearer with time and experience – is not the price of the KiwiBuild home, but the affordability.

At $650,000, you can call these homes anything you want. But affordable, for most, they are not.

Affordable for higher earners, a struggle for middle income people and the poor would need to win Lotto to afford them.

It’s called KiwiBuild, it should be KiwiCONstruction with the empahsis on con.

I don’t blame the couple for playing the game but do blame Labour for bad rules and bad policy.

 

 


One year on

October 26, 2018

It’s a year since the Labour-led (or, if you’re pandering to Winston Peters, the Labour-New Zealand First without mentioning the Green Party) – government was formed.

The sun is still rising in the east as it does regardless of who is in government just as most people’s day-to-day lives carry on regardless of the government.

But governments do stuff and what stands out about the first year of this one is that it’s done a very good job of spending money on people who don’t need it.

One of its first big spends was $2.8 billion for fee-free tertiary study, an expensive misdirection of education dollars to people, most of whom would have been studying anyway and who will go on to earn far more as a result of the qualifications they gain.

Another was the $60 a week payment to people who have babies. This is another scattergun approach that goes to everyone regardless of their circumstances which leaves less for those in genuine need.

The winter energy payment to beneficiaries, including superannuitants, was similarly misdirected. Requiring people to apply for it would have weeded out most of those who didn’t need help and making it less expensive to help those who do.

Then we have KiwiBuild – helping a few people on well above the average income buy a house while failing to address the underlying causes of the housing shortage.

Let’s not forget tax breaks for good looking horses and the regional slush fund.

And of course the plethora of working groups – the latest of which is charged with advising on whether to set up another:

Small business owners will be disappointed to hear that the Government’s Small Business Council is too busy to listen right now because it has been asked to advise on establishing a new working group, National’s Small Business spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.

“In a classic ‘Yes, Minister’ scenario, the Council has been tasked with advising Small Business Minister Stuart Nash on the establishment of a Small Business Institute, or to put it plainly, a working group will advise on whether to create another working group.

“The Council, which will also advise on its own future beyond June 2019, is one of more than 180 working groups hatched by a Government that came to office without having worked out its policies during nine years in Opposition. It prefers to use $135,000 of taxpayer money to pay for this working group.

“Not only that, but we haven’t heard anything from the Small Business Council since it was unveiled by Mr Nash two months ago. Mr Nash has also been silent, other than to tell us this week that he’s off to Australia to meet his counterparts.

“Small business owners might have thought a priority for this Government would be to listen to a group that makes up 97 per cent of all New Zealand firms and employs more than 600,000 Kiwis, given their confidence has slumped to a 10-year low. But that will have to wait. . . 

It’s not only small businesses that are waiting.

One-year on we’re all still waiting for policies which will make a positive difference where it matters.

This government, whatever you call it, has been very good at rhetoric, very good at giving money to people who don’t need it and sadly very good at mistaking more spending for better spending.

 

 

 

 


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