Principles pay price of power

July 27, 2018

The Green Party has paid for power with the loss of its principles in supporting the waka jumping legislation.

. . .Labour promised to support the waka jumping legislation in its coalition agreement with NZ First, but the legislation is not covered in its agreement with the Green Party.

However, a clause in the agreement seemingly holds the Greens to supporting any legislation not specifically flagged in the coalition talks, meaning the Greens MPs feel they have to vote for the waka jumping bill. . .

Have they voted for every piece of government legislation so far and will they continue to do so?

Didn’t they vote against the CPTTP? If they could stick to their principles then, when they were in the wrong, why not now when they’d be in the right?

It’s understood that the Green negotiators were asked to produce a list of potential NZ First legislation they could not agree with during coalition talks, and did not think to include Waka Jumping as it had been so long since the law had been an issue.

That was at best naive.

Former Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, who was part of the negotiating team, said earlier this year the agreement did not in fact force the Greens into supporting the bill.

Then why are they doing it?

Green MP Eugenie Sage said “we don’t like it” but it was “very important” to one of the coalition parties.

“It is a dead rat they we have to swallow,” Sage said.

The Greens have long opposed such legislation. . .

Proponents argue that it maintains the proportionality of Parliament while opponents say it stifles democracy.

If maintaining proportionality was so important, National would have got another list MP when Peters won the seat of Northland. Instead of which NZ First got another MP.

National MP Nick Smith said the Greens had “sold their soul” and were “trashing their core values.”

“We’ve never before had a party saying it opposed a bill – leat alone a bill that makes changes to our electoral law and constitution where they are oppose to it but are going to vote it anyway.

“This is the Green Party selling its soul for power,” Smith said.

“They are the last party I would expect to do this.”

He goes further in a media release:

Government changes to New Zealand MMP electoral law enabling a party leader to dismiss an MP would break the constitutional law Allied Powers put in place following the end of the Second World War, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.

“The Government cannot justify this draconian law change on the basis of MMP. Germany has had MMP for over 70 years and has no such provisions. In fact, the Human Rights Commission has drawn to Parliament’s attention that it would be ironic and wrong for New Zealand to have insisted on specific democratic protections in Germany, but to be breaching those protections at home,” Dr Smith says.

It is not just Germany that has constitutional protections for MPs’ free speech. The European Court has over-ridden similar laws like those being proposed for New Zealand as undemocratic. The Supreme Court in Papua New Guinea struck down similar laws there in 2010.

New Zealand is putting itself in the company of totalitarian states like Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone with these electoral law changes.

That isn’t company any country, government or party that stands up for democratic rights would want to be in.

In these countries, Members of Parliament have been dismissed for challenging corruption in their own Government, for participating in a press conference without their leaders consent and for voting in Parliament differently to how their leaders instructed them. The Government is opening up the risk of this happening in New Zealand.

“New Zealanders should be deeply concerned that changes are being made to our electoral law that would be illegal and unconstitutional in most parts of the world. At a time when autocratic rulers are on the rise, New Zealand should be strengthening and not weakening our protections for democracy and free speech.

“This draconian bill that the Government accepts will have a ‘chilling effect on the expression of dissenting views by MPs’ must be abandoned.”

The select committee received submission after submission from legal experts, academics and a broad cross-section of people concerned for this assault on democracy.

And all because New Zealand First’s leader Winston Peters is so insecure and distrustful of his caucus.

Labour swallowed the dead rat in coalition negotiations. Green Party MPs are facing up to swallowing it now so the legislation will go through.

Their members won’t be happy but they are the ones who wouldn’t have countenanced the party going with National.

Had they agreed to a blue-green government they would have got several conservation gains, including the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

Instead of which they’re watching their MPs dine on a large dead rat and wondering what other principles they might sacrifice as the price of power.


Remember manufactured manufacturing crisis?

July 18, 2018

The manufacturing index has hit a three-year low:

Black Friday delivered a sucker punch to manufacturing in Otago-Southland,  the  monthly BNZ-BusinessNZ manufacturing index contracting strongly to fall to a three-year low.

All indicators covered by the  index regarding the South declined in June,  the lack of both skilled and unskilled staff continuing to erode businesses’ efforts and confidence.

Index scores above 50 reflect expansion, and below, contraction. Otago-Southland plunged from a healthy 58.6 in May to 41.9, which was also well below last year’s average of 57.1, Otago Southland Employers’ Association chief executive Virginia Nicholls said.

“This is a sudden decline, and for the first time this year, is lining up with declining business confidence,” Mrs Nicholls said of the numerous monthly and quarterly business surveys reflecting pessimism. . .

Do you remember how Labour and New Zealand First toured New Zealand researching the manufacturing crisis?

They were in opposition then and there wasn’t a crisis.

They are in government now and there still isn’t a crisis.

But if they carry on with the policies that are causing businesses so much concern there could be one soon.

 


What are the benefits?

June 6, 2018

The decision to ban future offshore petroleum exploration was a political one that didn’t go before Cabinet:

The Cabinet has made no decision on ending oil exploration, documents being released today will show, with April’s announcement made on the basis of a political agreement between the coalition parties.

On April 12, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led a group of ministerial colleagues into the Beehive theatrette to confirm news that the Government had decided it would offer no new offshore permits for oil and gas exploration, with onshore permits offered in Taranaki for as little as three years.

Although the news was delivered by ministers affected by the decision and in a forum usually used to discuss decisions made by the Cabinet, politicians made the decision in their roles as party leaders.

Today the Government will release a series of documents generated in the making of the oil and gas exploration decision, but it has already confirmed to Stuff that no Cabinet paper was created and that the Cabinet has not voted on the matter. . . 

We already knew this major decision with large and detrimental economic, environmental and social impacts was made without consultation with affected parties.

Now we know it was a political decision made without even consulting with Cabinet.

That is no way to run a government or a country.

But wait, there’s more and it’s worse – MBIE produced a paper that warned of the detrimental impacts of the ban  which include but aren’t limited to:

* Increased risk to security of future gas supply to major gas users, most notably Methanex at a time when New Zealand has its lowest reserve to production ratio since the Maui reserve re-determination of 2003. The lead time from exploration success to commercial production takes years, so it is not possible to simply turn on gas supplies once they become tight.

* Increased gas prices to consumers following an tightness in future gas supply.

* Increased uncertainty for major gas users in the industrial sector that rely on gas as an input to their processes.

* A negligible impact in reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions but a likely increase in global gas emissions (from methanol produced from gas in New Zealand being displaced by methanol produced from coal in China). It also removes the opportunity, both domestically and internationally, of any future gas discovery being used to displace coal.

A negligible impact in reducing domestic greenhouse gases and a likely increase in global gas emissions?

This isn’t thinking globally, actIng locally. This isn’t thinking at all.

* Increase perceptions of sovereign risk as this would mark a Marjory policy shift.

* Potentially accelerating decommissioning timeframes, alongside the associated Crown liabilities (measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars) for a portion of these decommissioning costs that represent the amount of taxes and royalties that have effectively been overpaid over the life cycle of the field’s production. . . 

* A detrimental economic impact on the Taranaki region. Methane alone contributed 8 percent of the regional economy of Taranaki in 2017. Methane will be the first company affected by future tightness in gas supply. . . 

To sum up, the ban increases risk around security of supply, costs to consumers and global gas emissions and reduces Crown revenue from future royalties and decreases economic activity in Taranaki.

Added to the detrimental impacts MBIE lists, are decreasing trust in the government and increasing jitters over the Labour, NZ First, Green coalition which now looks more like an Ardern-Peters-Shaw dictatorship.

If it can do this to the energy business and Taranaki without warning or consultation what might it drop on other businesses and other areas?

And the benefits?

I can’t think of any that justify the economic, environmental and social sabotage of the ban and the way it was delivered by decree.


Rural round-up

February 10, 2018

Claims costs soar – Annette Scott:

Farmers have so far lodged 44 Mycoplasma bovis compensation claims with the Ministry for Primary Industries.

While MPI would not give the total value of the claims farmer Aad van Leeuwen said his claim so far was for $4.5 million and that was likely to be tripled.

And despite the law saying compensation for losses made as a result of MPI exercising its powers should leave farmers no worse off, the ministry was likely to make offers to farmers even when they could document actual loss figures.

There is also little likelihood of payments being made quickly. . .

Labour’s 100 days fails farmers:

Labour’s first 100 days in Government has earnt it a dismal report card as far as farmers are concerned, National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.

“The Labour-led coalition has been in government for over 100 days now, yet all they have to show for it is the announcement of a series of expensive reviews and rebrands all the while staying silent on the big issues facing the sector right now.

“The minister Damien O’Connor is raiding $17 million out of the Primary Growth Partnership fund to rebrand MPI, at the expense of vitally important research and development funding – which is now being put on hold. . .

Animal genetics ‘Olympics’ a first for NZ:

About 1000 people will this month travel to New Zealand for three prestigious animal recording and genetics conferences.
For the first time, the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production (WCGALP) will hold its four-yearly conference in NZ.

The congress will be combined with the annual conferences for the International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR) and Interbull – the leading event for research and development in animal improvement, milk testing, DNA parentage analysis, genomics and genetics. . . 

Labour of love for the environment:

Protecting and nurturing the environment for our future generations is a key commitment in the refreshed strategy, Dairy Tomorrow. Many farmers already have their sleeves rolled up doing inspirational environmental work throughout New Zealand. They include third generation dairy farmer Andy Palmer.

It was a chance remark he made back in the late ‘90s that got Andy started on what has become a labour of love spanning two decades. And it’s a passion that’s resulted in an extraordinary legacy of lush riparian planting of native species on his farm near Temuka, which he owns with wife Sharon Collett. . .

Data from new smart sensors can help growers drive yields and cut costs:

Cutting-edge wireless sensor technology now available to UK growers that measures precise humidity, moisture and temperature points, is set to equip farmers with the data they need to help drive improvements throughout their businesses.

Agriculture is becoming increasingly data-driven, and sensing technology is becoming instrumental to the way farmers grow crops.

Access to precise, detailed data is helping farmers to make better, more informed decisions: tailoring cultivation, avoiding produce and crop damage, and reducing costs. . .

Rights granted for peach variety – Sally Brooker:

A new variety of peach has been bred by North Otago orchardists Helen Brookes and Terry Fowler.

The couple achieved the feat at their smallholding at Georgetown, just east of Duntroon, in the Waitaki Valley. They have been granted plant variety rights from the Intellectual Property Office for their ”Sweet Perfection” peach.

The orchard was more of a horticultural interest than a commercial venture, Dr Brookes said.

”We used to and still get a number of visits from organisations to see what we do here. . .


Where did the lollies come from?

December 22, 2017

National left office with an economy that many other countries would envy:

There was confirmation today that the new Coalition Government has inherited a strong economic growth story from the previous National-led Government, National Party Finance Spokesperson Steven Joyce says.

“Stats New Zealand’s report of 3 per cent growth for the year to September together with upward revisions to recent growth figures paint a clear picture of a strong economy over the last few years,” Mr Joyce says.

“They have revised New Zealand’s growth figures for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 calendar years to 3.6 per cent, 3.5 per cent and 4 per cent respectively. That’s a highly respectable growth story in anyone’s language.

“GDP per capita has also been revised upwards in those years. We’ve had 8.3 per cent in real GDP per capita growth over the last five years.

Mr Joyce says the figures released today finally put to bed the fallacy that New Zealand was having a ‘productivity recession’.

“In addition, the figures today show that the construction industry remains strong with the largest quarterly growth since March 2016. Road and rail infrastructure was a key driver, with the largest increase in ten years.

“New Zealand has now experienced 18 quarters of consecutive economic growth; and has grown in 26 out of the last 27 quarters, all the way back to December 2010.

“These figures provide clear confirmation that the new Government has inherited a very strong economy driven by the strong economic plan of the previous Government.

“The Labour-led Coalition needs to take heed of softening business and consumer confidence numbers since the election and make sure their policy changes don’t muck this story up.”

The incoming government is showing great delight in spending the money the strong economy has generated but if it understands how that was achieved, it’s not showing that, as Bill English pointed out in the adjournment debate:

I must say, it has been a bit rich sitting here listening to the moral awesomeness and self-congratulation of the Labour Government over the family incomes package when they opposed every single measure that it took to generate the surpluses that they are handing out. That is why they won’t get the credit they expect from the New Zealand public, because the New Zealand public know it’s a bunch of people who found the lolly bag and ran the lolly scramble without having any idea where it came from. 

The money came from taxes generated from the work and ingenuity of taxpayers under three terms of National-led government’s careful stewardship.

The words and actions of the incoming government give no cause for confidence that the respect for, and careful stewardship of, taxpayers’ money will continue.

 

 


Labour throwing money at wrong end of education pathway

December 7, 2017

The government has announced some details of its fee-free tertiary education policy:

From 1 January 2018 all New Zealand students who finish school in 2017, or will finish school during 2018, qualify for a year of free provider based tertiary education or industry training.

This policy will also benefit those who aren’t school leavers. Adults who have previously studied for less than half full time year of tertiary education or industry training also will qualify for fees free. . . 

This includes overseas students and those studying courses which may or may not have personal benefit but appear to be of  little if any benefit to the country:

Labour must explain why it believes taxpayers should be paying more for people to study golf, homeopathy and skydiving, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Government was reluctant to provide any detail on its multi-billion fees-free policy and now we know why – today’s announcement has confirmed a return to the bad old Labour days of funding international hip hop study tours and family reunions.

“Under the criteria outlined today, fees-free study options will include a Diploma in Tournament Golf from IGQ Golf College, a Diploma in Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine from the New Zealand College of Chinese Medicine and a Diploma in Commercial Skydiving.

“While it makes sense that golf students ‘have an in-depth understanding of golf theory’ is it really a high priority for new spending?

“This is just bad policy. This is on top of the Government’s own estimates showing hardly any more students will be enrolling because of this policy, when Labour has justified this spending by saying it wants greater participation in tertiary education.

“Most of the 80,000 students that will benefit would have enrolled anyway and were prepared to make some contribution to the cost of their study because they saw the lifetime value in it.

“New Zealand’s tertiary education system is already heavily subsidised and the average student loan is paid off in less than seven years. This policy will just give even more money to people who will earn high incomes and should contribute something to the cost of their education.

“The policy represents a colossal missed opportunity and grossly untargeted spending. Surely it would be better to invest public money into targeting the very small group for whom cost is a barrier?

“And with all the money being sucked into supporting every full-time student in their first year, it leaves nothing to invest in the tertiary institutions themselves so that they can deliver world-class education that equips the next generation of Kiwis to be internationally competitive.

“The tertiary education sector has been left in the dark for months and it’s only now getting the details of this major policy. It gives the sector less than a month to prepare for the changes – and all for a policy that acts as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.” 

About 80,000 students will qualify for the fee-free year but how much will it cost and how many extra students will enrol because of it?

The Government expects its $339 million first year fee-free tertiary education policy will see an additional 2000 people enter into study or training next year.

That’s nearly $170,000 per extra student, who may or may not go on to finish the course which may or may not be of any more than recreational value.

Meanwhile New Zealand’s literacy score has dropped for the first time in 15 years.

The government can’t be blamed for that result but it can be challenged on why it’s throwing money at first-year tertiary students when it would be far better used much earlier in the education pathway to improve the literacy of school children.

It probably wouldn’t take $170,000 per pupil and it would be addressing an urgent need which the fee-free policy is not.

Labour is throwing money spraying it round the upper end of the education pathway when there’s urgent need for more to be spent at the lower end, carefully targeted at children who are failing at primary school.


Satire or serious?

November 29, 2017

Act’s newsletter Free Press says it’s learned from a usually reliable source what’s in the secret coalition document:

First Things First: Why is it Secret?
It is very damaging in a democracy for Jacinda Ardern to keep secret what the Government has pledged to its coalition partner. Why the secrecy? There are significant new extra spending promises. Labour does not want the Treasury to know or the extra spending will be added to the Treasury forecasts due to be published shortly.

Running out of Other People’s Money
Already the treasury forecast will show Labour’s election spending promises were understated and there is a blow out. Add the new secret spending promises and New Zealand’s credit rating is at risk. A credit rating decline means everyone’s mortgage payments go up.

Second
There are or were 38 pages to the Labour-New Zealand First agreement. As the PM has almost admitted it has been edited down to 33 pages and Labour is trying to get it lower. The missing five pages are still part of the coalition agreement but both governing parties have conceded it will be very damaging if they are ever published.

The Two Governments Agreement
What is in the agreement? In effect the document creates two governments, A Labour/Green government and a New Zealand First government. Winston Peters is granted a veto over the Labour/Green government but in the New Zealand First government his powers are untrammelled.

Labour/Green Government
The government budget must be submitted to NZ First (Winston) for approval
Labour has agreed to a 10 percent a year increase in the Foreign Affairs budget.
Labour has agreed that NZ First manifesto promises will have priority. The Northland port and railway, for examples
New Zealand First nominations will be approved. For example to the port inquiry.
No concessions can be made to the Greens without prior approval from New Zealand First, think Kermadecs
No new policy not contained in the coalition agreement can be advanced by Labour Ministers without NZ First approval.
All government appointments must be approved by NZ First
New Zealand First Government
Foreign Affairs budget to be increased and Mr. Peter’s Foreign Affairs budget requests cannot be vetoed. Mr Peters can spend his budget how he chooses.
All budget requests from New Zealand First Ministers that have been approved by Mr Peters must get priority.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Peters has the sole right to nominate all Ambassadors and other diplomatic posts not just Washington and London but he cannot be stopped from appointing his mates to be consuls as he tried with Owen Glenn.
As Minister of SOEs Mr Peter’s has the sole power to appoint all the chair and directors of every SOE. Dozens of appointments.
New Zealand First can nominate, over three years, six people to be knights (or, theoretically, Dames) and its nominations will be favourably considered for other honours.
New Zealand First will appoint the next Chief of Defense
A provision requires all Ministers to refer any request from or to a New Zealand First Minister to go through Mr Peters office.
The PM has agreed that she will not dismiss any New Zealand First Minister, MP or appointee without Mr Peter’s approval and the PM has also agreed to dismiss any NZ First minister, MP or appointee if asked to by Winston Peters.
Unbridled Power
No previous Prime Minister has had the power and patronage that Winston Peters has been given. He can appoint his cronies to be Ambassadors, SOE chair and directors and he can give them knighthoods. He has an iron grip over his party. Winston in effect controls the government budget and can spend billions of dollars on his pet projects while vetoing the plans of both Labour and the Greens.

Snookered
No wonder the Prime Minister, who foolishly thought none of this would become known, is desperate to keep it secret. We suspect that at some stage some of the document will have to be released but as the PM is now denying even the existence of five pages of the secret deal it may be years before we know.

We Need Some Responsible Adults Here
The Secretary of the Treasury should demand to see the full 38 pages. If the government will not let the Treasury see the full secret coalition agreement then the Secretary of the Treasury must tag the Government accounts saying that the Treasury had asked and been denied access to the full coalition agreement and future spending may be significantly greater than the forecast.

For the country’s sake I hope this is satire, but I think it’s serious.

We’d know which it is if the document was released to the public as Peters said it would be but Jacinda Ardern is refusing to do.


How many trees?

November 23, 2017

We visited a farm 10 years ago and listened in bemusement as the owner explained his plan to plant trees.

The land had been cleared of scrub and planted as pasture when the then-government was encouraging such development in the 1970s.

But in spite of the fertiliser poured onto it, sheep didn’t thrive on the pastures.

The farmer looked at other options and settled on trees.

We went back again last week and were no longer bemused. In the decade since we’d first visited, many hectares had been converted from pasture to forestry and trees were thriving where sheep wouldn’t.

There will be other properties where forestry with, or instead of, farming is a good option.

But the government’s pledge to plant a billion trees in 10 years seemed at best optimistic if not unrealistic.

It’s not surprising that the number has already halved:

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is already backtracking from his promise to plant a billion trees in 10 years, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“From his statements earlier today it appears he’s realised that the pledge of a billion new trees is entirely unachievable and now he’s attempting to back away from it,” Mr Bridges says.

“His problem is that the target is recorded unambiguously in both the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement and the Speech from the Throne on the new Government’s programme.

“Now he wants to count around 50 million trees that are already planted every year, about half of the billion he’s committed to over a decade. These are happening regardless of his slush fund or the kind of Government in power.

“So his first action is to cut his target in half. Not exactly impressive.

“He needs to immediately stop using his slogan of 1 billion trees to be planted because it’s completely untrue. He should also stand up in Parliament and correct the Speech.

“This backsliding is becoming a pattern for this Government. They want to count trees that are already being planted in their tree target and houses already being built in their housing target. It’s all very underwhelming.

“The reality for Mr Jones is that even planting 500 million trees over a decade, if that’s what the new marketing catch-cry will be, is unlikely.

“After all, the new Government has also committed to slashing the necessary immigration needed for our workforce and the nurseries will find it difficult to gear up for both private and public sector forestry expansion

“All he will do is displace existing private sector activity. The forestry industry should tell him he’s dreaming.”

Doubling current planting, whether it’s done by the private or public sector will require a lot of land, a lot of labour and a lot of seedlings.

The pledge will deliver a new bureaucracy but it will need a lot more than that to plant even half a billion more trees.

And the experience of the farm forester we visited shows that landowners are best to make decisions on what’s best for their land without political encouragement.

 


Labour’s got wrong priority for education

November 17, 2017

The biggest priority for education spending is the long tail of under-achieving children, especially those who don’t manage even basic literacy and numeracy.

The National-led government spent a lot of money working with young people who were destined for a lifetime on benefits knowing investing more now would save much more in both financial and social costs over their lifetimes.

This approach ought to be taken with education, giving one-on-one help to the children who aren’t school-ready when they turn five.

That’s the children who can’t speak English or have poor language skills, even if English is their first language; those who come to school hungry and with other health needs; those who haven’t had the emotional, intellectual and material support all children deserve and need to ensure they are ready and able to learn when they get to school.

At the same time, children already at school who are struggling with numeracy and literacy need more help.

Then there’s children with special needs who for their sake and others in their classes need more help than a single teacher with a room full of children can possibly give them.

Helping these children requires more teachers and teacher-aides. It also requires better teachers.

Teacher unions insist all teachers are good teachers. They’re not, like any other group. They are spread on the bell curve with some excellent ones, some duds and most in the middle.

Putting more money into more training and support to improve teaching standards is another priority.

Teachers aren’t particularly well-paid in comparison with other professions. Part of the fault for that lies in the union insistence that all teachers are equal and refusal to countenance performance pay.

That aside, pay rates that make teacher salaries competitive with pay rates for other occupations which compete with them for recruitment would help.

The new government is determined to alleviate child poverty. Ensuring all children achieve at school so they have what they need to succeed when they grow up should be part of that.

Instead, Labour’s first priority is spending even more on those who mostly need it least, tertiary students.

The taxpayer already pays more than 70% of the cost of tertiary study.

If more help is needed, it should be targeted at those who really need it; at areas of study where there are graduate-shortages and in loan write-offs for professionals willing to work in hard-to-staff places.

The average graduate earns around $1.5 million more over a lifetime than non-graduates who will be paying more tax to help them into better paid jobs.

In opposition the parties in government were strident about the ills of inequality.

How hypocritical that one of their first moves, giving tertiary students fee-free education will make inequality worse.

 


Higher spending, tax, debt

November 16, 2017

Economists are warning that the Labour-led government’d Debt will be billions more than planned.

. . . In Opposition Labour laid out a fiscal plan which would borrow around $11 billion more than National had proposed, but still cut debt as a share of the total economic output from 24 per cent to 20 per cent by 2022.

The plan formed a major point of contention during the election campaign, as National finance spokesman Steven Joyce was widely mocked for his claim that Robertson’s plan had a major “fiscal hole”.

This is a very good argument for independent costing of party policies before an election.

But bank economists, who monitor the likely issuance of government bonds, are warning of pressure for Treasury to borrow billions more than Labour had signalled because of new spending promises.

ANZ has forecast that Labour will borrow $13 billion more than Treasury’s pre-election fiscal update maintained the former Government would over the next four years, although around $3b of that would go to the NZ Super Fund.

Borrowing to contribute to the super fund is as reckless as borrowing to play the share market instead of paying off a mortgage.

This would see net Crown debt at 23 per cent of gross domestic product, 3 percentage points higher than Labour’s plan.

Outgoing ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said the estimates for new spending were “conservative”, including an assumption that the new $1b a year regional development fund would come entirely from existing budgets. . . 

BNZ senior economist Craig Ebert said the figures were hard to determine so early in the term, but borrowing “could amount to a number of billion dollars” more than Labour had outlined. . . 

During question time in Parliament on Tuesday, Robertson maintained that the Government was sticking to its pre-election debt plan.

“But what we’re not prepared to put up with is a situation where we do not have enough affordable homes, where we have not made contributions to the [NZ] Super Fund, and where an enormous social deficit is growing,” Robertson said.

“In those circumstances a slower debt repayment track is totally appropriate.”

A much more disciplined approach to spending would be wiser.

National took office when the kitty was empty and Treasury was forecasting a decade of deficits.

In spite of the GFC and natural and financial disasters, it returned the books to surplus without a slash and burn approach to social spending.

This government has taken over with plenty of money in the kitty and forecasts of continuing surpluses.

With careful management, it should be able to

Labour and many on the left talk about the “failed policies of the 80s”.

They never look at the cause of the problems which precipitated those radical policies – higher spending, higher taxes and higher borrowing.

Those were the failed policies.

Unless the new government takes a much more careful approach, it will take path New Zealand down that path again.


Who knows best?

November 15, 2017

The last Labour government was criticised for nanny-statism and the new one is already in danger of courting the same criticism:

Parenting 101 from your friendly Labour Government.

New parents may relish the idea of both parents being home together, able to bond as a family in those first few weeks of a newborn’s life.

But the Government advises “no”, that’s not necessarily in the interests of your baby.

That’s why it intends to vote down a National Party amendment to the Government’s paid parental leave extension, that would let both parents take their paid leave together.

“Our concern with that is the likelihood it would reduce the amount of time that baby has to bond with their primary caregiver,” said Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

Who knows best what’s best for babies and their parents – the parents or the government?

If both parents were off at the same time, it would reduce the total amount of time that baby’s parents would be on leave. National’s amendment would allow for parents to make a choice – it does not compel them to take leave at the same time.

There’s no compulsion, no we-know-best. It would just give flexibility to parents who could choose to take none, some or all of the leave at the same time, depending on what suited them and their babies.

In all likelihood, Labour doesn’t really believe it knows better than parents what suits them.

So they’d put politics before parents, and babies and risk the accusation of nanny-statism because it’s not their idea.

That’s simply pettiness.


Don’t know or won’t tell?

October 31, 2017

Labour is being loud about what it wants to do, but quiet about what it will cost:

New Finance Minister Grant Robertson needs to front up on the new coalition government’s spending plans and not make inaccurate excuses, National Party Finance Spokesperson Steven Joyce says.

“Mr Robertson has done two long-form interviews over this weekend and yet New Zealanders are still none the wiser about the cost of the coalition’s programme and the impact on their back pockets.

“Saying that he won’t reveal the numbers because he didn’t have access to the public service to prepare them as he did on TV3’s The Nation, is just not good enough,” Mr Joyce says.

“All parties in post-election coalition negotiations were given access to the public service to cost their commitments so that excuse just doesn’t wash.

“That sounds like someone who simply doesn’t want to reveal the numbers.

“He’s either had them costed and doesn’t like what they add up to, or not had them costed. Either way it’s not a reassuring start.

“New Zealand’s healthy government accounts are the product of the hard work of millions of Kiwis. They are entitled to know how much has gone out of their collective pockets in the process of forming this government.

“They also have a right to know whether the new government’s spending plans in actual dollars will match the cast-iron commitments Labour repeatedly made before the election.

“Mr Robertson is already acknowledging his budget is ‘very tight’ and ‘ambitious’.

He needs to front up quickly with the cost of this coalition.”

Whether it’s fair or not, Labour is perceived to be weak on  financial literacy. This silence on costs adds evidence to that perception.

Either they know and won’t say, which begs the question, what are they hiding?

Or they simply don’t know, which is irresponsible and incompetent.

The outgoing National-led government left the government books in a very healthy state with plenty in the kitty and forecasts of on-going surpluses.

The incoming government either can’t work out how much they’re planning to spend, or have worked it out and won’t tell us, both of which are unacceptable.


A snap in time

July 22, 2016

This month’s Roy Morgan poll shows a big jump in support for National and a slump in support for Labour:

During July support for National jumped a large 10% to 53%, now well ahead of a potential Labour/Greens alliance 37% (down 5.5%). If a New Zealand Election was held now the latest NZ Roy Morgan Poll shows National, with their biggest lead since May 2015, would win easily.

However, support for the National partners was down slightly with the Maori Party down 1.5% to 0.5%, Act NZ was up 0.5% to 1% and United Future was 0% (unchanged).

Support fell for all three Parliamentary Opposition parties; Labour’s support was 25.5% (down 2.5%) – the lowest support for Labour since May 2015; Greens support was 11.5% (down 3%) and NZ First 7% (down 2%). Of parties outside Parliament the Conservative Party of NZ was 0.5% (down 0.5%), the Mana Party was 0.5% (unchanged) and support for Independent/ Other was 0.5% (down 0.5%).

rmp

The NZ Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating has increased to 127pts (up 6.5pts) in July with 57.5% (up 3%) of NZ electors saying NZ is ‘heading in the right direction’ compared to 30.5% (down 3.5%) that say NZ is ‘heading in the wrong direction’. . . 

Any poll is only a snap in time.

Last month’s snap showed a larger drop in support for the government, this month’s shows a larger increase.

This result indicates those snapped are more confident in the government and its direction in spite of the slew of negative headlines in the last few weeks.

It could indicate that people accept that problems a long time in the making will be a long time in the solving and aren’t looking to the government for miracles.

It could indicate that people looking at instability in so many other parts of the world are opting for stability here.

Whatever it indicates, it is only a snap in time and the next snap could be very different.


Flag changes

May 8, 2015

Sir Brian Lochore, a member of the Flag Consideration Panel is urging New Zealanders to keep open minds:

. . . Sir Brian would not say what his personal view was, but pointed to changes in flags across the Commonwealth during the past 50 years. Of the 54 Commonwealth members, 45 no longer had a Union Jack on their flag. “A lot of countries have changed. So I guess if I have a view I would like New Zealanders to open their mind and see what’s there, and then clearly vote how they feel. Because we haven’t ever had a chance at deciding on our flag, here is an opportunity for New Zealanders to have a look. That’s all I ask. If it goes back to the status quo, so be it.” . . .

Wise words.

The process has started and it won’t be stopped.

The least we can do, whatever our views on the flag and the process being undertaken to determine whether or not it’s changed, is to keep an open mind.

This shows the flags of some the of the Commonwealth countries which have changed their flags and some which haven’t:

Change the NZ Flag's photo.

The panel is doing a road show to encourage people to participate in the process. the schedule is here.

The select committee has started hearing submissions on the flag change process and Claire Trevett says the real danger to the process is politics.

. . . This is where Labour comes in, apparently determined to sabotage the process. Labour is a relatively pro-republic party in which most MPs favour a change of flag. Despite that, it has set about political point-scoring, even if doing so undermines the very process that might result in that flag change.

Their primary objection is the order of the questions in the referendums. They argue New Zealanders should first be asked whether they want a change – and have a second referendum only if the majority want change.

Labour claims it is an effort to save money. What codswallop. Labour’s objections are an effort to rain on the Prime Minister’s parade and get headlines.

The Ministry of Justice advised against putting the change question first. That was because for many people not entrenched in either camp, the final decision will depend on what the alternative is.

Had the Government gone against that advice, Labour would probably now be accusing it of penny pinching over a matter of national identity. Labour’s approach is rather selfish and short-sighted and if it has the effect of tainting the entire process, the party might rue it.

It could well save $9 million to $13 million in the costs of a second referendum. But that short-term saving would come at a bigger cost in the long term. Once this is over, it will be a long time before anyone dares to raise the issue again.

Labour has also taken to feeding the perception that it is a “vanity project” for John Key. This primarily comes down to sour grapes. Labour wants a new flag. But they don’t want Key to be the one whose name is linked to it. They want it for themselves.

The government has done all it can to ensure this isn’t party political and involve all parties in the process. But Labour’s burning desire to score points against the Prime Minister John Key is blinding them to that.

Questioning referendums is one thing, but trying to influence people’s votes out of puerile political spite is a different matter. It may be true that Key is keen on a legacy, but it should be irrelevant. The referendums are on the flag, not on the political parties or personalities.

In reality, Key has a better chance of securing the change than Labour would. Key is a monarchist so there is far less suspicion about his longer-term motives. It is not being seen as the thin end of the wedge to republicanism. Labour’s current leader, Andrew Little, favours a flag change as part of a wider move towards a republic. Yet NZ is likely to inch towards republicanism rather than gallop. . .

The referendums are a treacherous enough process. The officials’ advice also pointed to the risk of “tactical voting”, in which those opposed to change vote for the least appealing option – so the current flag had a better chance of winning.

The referendum process is now before a select committee and the Flag Consideration Panel has started its work of consulting about an alternative. This is the first chance New Zealanders have had to vote on the flag. The politicians would do New Zealand a favour by simply shutting up and letting the public get on with it for themselves.

The chances of change are compromised by politics because not just Labour but the left in general will vote against change to spite the PM. Add them to those who genuinely prefer the status quo and it will be hard to get a majority for change.

That is a pity.

Whether the flag changes or not, the one we have at the end of the process will be New Zealand’s long after most who vote in the referendum are dead.

Whether that is the flag we have or a new one, people should vote with open minds for what they think is best not for political point scoring.

 


Inside and outside

June 29, 2014

Spot the difference:

Outside the National Party conference: the lonely figure of Trevor Mallard announcing Labour’s lame anti-growth immigration policy – to which he’d forgotten to invite the media.

Inside the conference venue: hundreds of delegates, a united caucus and policies which will build New Zealand and make a positive and sustainable difference to New Zealanders – economically, socially and environmentally.

We're working for a stronger economy.


The world waits

July 22, 2013

The Duchess of Cambridge is in the early stages of labour.

Having any baby is a momentous enough occasion without he or she being third in line to the throne and knowing that the world is waiting too.

Valerie Davies tells a story of the wait for a royal birth  and paints a very sympathetic picture of the maternal grandmother to-be, Carole Middelton.


Is the baby a political pawn?

May 22, 2013

Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta wants more baby-friendly rules for parliament after complaining she had to take her baby into the House during urgency on Friday.

But is it parliament’s problem or Labour’s?

Parties are permitted to have 25% of their MPs absent and Labour could give Mahuta priority. Was there no other MP who could take the late slot on Friday?

The House isn’t unlike a casino with its artificial light and noise. Was there no quieter, darker place for mother and baby than the chamber?

MPs have to be in parliament but they do not have to be in the House. If she had to be in the buildings, why didn’t Mahuta stay in her office with her baby?

Parties can ask for a pair – ie Labour could ask National to take away an MP to cancel out Mahuta’s absence. Did Labour seek a pair?

Ruth Richardson wrote in her autobiography that Labour refused her a pair when she was feeding her baby.

That was about three decades ago.

If Mahuta is using her baby as a political pawn the party hasn’t improved in that time.

Life with a new baby has its challenges under the best of conditions. Trying to balance breastfeeding and full-time work make it even harder.

But the cause of working mothers won’t be advanced by MPs playing silly beggars by deliberately making parenting more difficult for political purposes.


Word of the day

October 22, 2012

Labour – productive work, especially physical toil done for wages; workers, especially manual workers, considered collectively or as a social class or political force; difficult or arduous work or effort; a particular job or task, especially of a difficult nature; the process or effort of childbirth or the time during which this takes place; work at an unskilled manual occupation; to strive; to be burdened by or at a disadvantage because of; to make one’s way with difficulty; to deal with or treat too persistently; to be in labour; to pitch,roll or toss (of a ship); work noisily and with difficulty (of an engine).


Blame rules not players

October 22, 2011

Key and Act’s Epsom deal is just so filthy.

Those are very strong words from Patrick Gower. He was reacting to the news that John Banks will only win Epsom if John Key gives voters the nod and he was directing his anger at the wrong target.

It’s no use criticising people and parties for the way they play the game when they’re playing within the rules.

If anything’s wrong it’s not the players, but the rules and the system which allows this sort of deal that gower should be criticising.

What would he prefer – that parties stay silent before the election and then engage in backroom deals?

MMP allows that too and it’s one of the reasons that it’s is not my preferred voting system.

But given that’s what we’ve got I’d much prefer to know parties’ intentions before I vote so I can do so with my eyes open, than take a stab in the dark and wait while the leaders and their confidantes work out how to get the best deal afterwards.

Critics of pre-election machinations ignore a very salient point. No matter what parties do or say it’s the voters who wield the power.

If enough people in Epsom tick John Banks he’ll win the electorate and allow Act to stay in parliament. If too few opt for him, neither he nor his party will have any seats.

Act, National, their leaders and candidates can nod and wink as they will, or won’t.  The voters can choose to take notice of what they say or do or not. They are the people with the votes and it’s up to them to exercise them as they choose regardless of what any parties or their leaders suggest.


iPredict: Act up to 7%

May 6, 2011

iPredict shows a surge of support for Act after the change of leadership.

Its forecast share of the party vote has more than doubled – up from 3.1% to 7%.

Not surprisingly some of that support has come from people who had supported National which has gone down from 47.5% to 46%.

Forecast vote shares are now: National 46.0% (down from 47.5% last week and 48.0% the week before), Labour 29.3% (up from 28.9% last week), Act 7.0% (up from 3.1% last week), the Greens 6.9% (up from 6.5% last week), New Zealand First 4.8% (up from 4.2% last week), UnitedFuture 1.6% (steady), the Maori Party 1.5% (steady), the Mana Party 1.3% (up from 1.1% last week), the New Citizen Party 0.7% (steady) and the proposed Reform New Zealand Party 0.6% (up from 0.4% last week).

Based on this data, and the electorate results above, Parliament would be as follows: National 59 MPs (down from 62 last week), Labour 37 MPs (down from 38 last week), Act 9 MPs (up from none last week), the Greens 9 MPs (up from 8 last week), the Maori Party 3 MPs (steady), UnitedFuture 2 MPs (steady) and the Mana Party 2 MPs (up from 1 last week). There would be 121 MPs, requiring a government to have the support of 61 MPs on confidence and supply, so that Mr Key’s National Party could govern with the support of one of the Act, Maori or UnitedFuture parties. There would be no politically plausible combination that would allow Labour to govern.

That last sentence is worth repeating: There would be no politically plausible combination that would allow Labour to govern.

Even if New Zealand First reached 5% that wouldn’t change. If all other party votes were constant:

 Parliament would be as follows: National 56 MPs, Labour 36 MPs, Act 8 MPs, the Greens 8 MPs, New Zealand First 6 MPs, the Maori Party 3 MPs, UnitedFuture 2 MPs and the Mana Party 2 MPs. There would be 121 MPs, requiring a government to have the support of 61 MPs on confidence and supply. There would continue to be no politically plausible combination that would allow Labour to govern, but the National Party would have a number of options including governing with Act alone, governing with both the Maori and UnitedFuture parties but not Act, governing with all three of these current support parties, or governing with New Zealand First despite Mr Key’s pledge not to do so.

Overall, the market continues to indicate an 86% probability there will be a National Prime Minister after the election (steady compared with the last two weeks).

There is absolutely no question of John Key going back on his decision not to entertain Winston Peters as a coaltion partner. On these figures that means even if his party got into parliament it wouldn’t be in government.

However, this is a predictions market not a survey and a little more than a week ago iPredict was forecasting that Brash’s attempt to takeover the Act leadership would fail.

A lot has happened since then and there’s more than six months to go to the election in which we can expect a lot more to happen which could influence voters.


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