Editorial approval for Budget

May 16, 2014

From south to north:

The Southland Times writes of felines and finances:

As the budget debate was winding down in Parliament yesterday the most popular story on the Stuff website was still “Cat saves boy from dog”.

Bill English will hardly be distraught. He knows this is not an election-losing Budget.

It’s the first since 2008 to project a surplus. Technically, it is perfectly possible for a Government to be rolled in an election year while economic figures are doing OK. Jenny Shipley managed it while running budget surpluses and with economic growth knocking around 3.5 to 4 per cent.

But the public had emphatically soured on the politics of her administration whereas the Key Government, for all that it has had a wretched couple of weeks, would still need to subside spectacularly to find itself in such straits.

English has found himself in the fairly happy situation of not needing a budget that would quicken any pulses . . . merely keep them steady. This one will surely manage that.  . .

Australia has done English the very considerate favour of delivering a gasper of a hard-times Budget just days before his. So if it was a test, we’d be the winners, right? And who doesn’t like beating the Aussies? Big tick for the Nats, then?

Truth to tell those contrasting fortunes are indeed likely to accelerate the net immigration inflow of more than 38,000 this year. That’s assuming people have been paying attention, what with that fabulous cat footage.

 

The ODT calls it a clever document:

This was the Budget that National – right from the time of its re-election in 2011 – would have hoped it could produce leading into this year’s election.

Mr English has not swayed from his path of fiscal restraint. Sure, he has had to borrow heavily during the past six years, but not to the extent the country plunged into recession.

Now, the return to surplus gives options such as paying down debt.

The careful management of the country’s finances by Mr English, and his team of ministers, has helped ensure New Zealand has been mainly immune from the worst of the global decline affecting Europe, parts of Asia, the United States and, latterly, Australia.

Economic growth has been one of the highest in the OECD and, for once, all Treasury indicators are pointing in a positive direction.

This was a Budget of few surprises, but with enough good news to count for something. . .

It will enable Prime Minister John Key to go into the election campaign confident his 2008 promises of fiscal restraint, providing the best care for families, and delivering a better public service have not been compromised.

Opposition parties will have to promise big to counter National, and if they do, the onus will be on them to say exactly how they will fund those promises. . .

If he is looking for a document to define his legacy as Finance Minister, Budget 2014 is a good place to start.

There is some criticism the Budget is too conservative, but that personifies Mr English, who learnt the trade from former finance minister Sir William Birch. And would most New Zealanders rather have a gambler as a finance minister, or a safe pair of hands?

The ”Boy from Dipton” has lived up to his reputation as a ”conservative” politician in every way.

The Timaru Herald opines on the Budget highlight:

The contrast was telling, helped by the fact Australia’s Budget and ours came just two days apart.

Theirs: there will be pain for everyone.

Ours: we’re operating with a surplus and tax cuts may even be on the way.

But hey, we’re heading into an election, so there’s bound to be some gloss. They aren’t.

The National Government has worked long and hard on being able to say it is spending less than it is collecting, and right on cue it has achieved that.

Selling off a few state assets and spending most of the proceeds has helped, of course, and as Labour’s David Cunliffe rightly points out, National has borrowed a massive $56 billion in its tenure, which costs $10 million a day in interest.

He says that’s a lot of money that could be spent on lifting kids out of poverty, which indeed it is.

But because National is the Government it sets the agenda, and the agenda yesterday was for enough lollies to keep sugar levels up without creating a free-for-all. . .

It’s a steady Budget without attempting to buy votes.

The best thing about it?

It’s not Australia’s.

 

 

The Press writes of seeking the recipe for growth:

When he delivered his first Budget six years ago, Finance Minister Bill English faced a grim prospect. Even though the global financial crisis had not yet hit, the economy had gone into recession some time beforehand.

Government debt was at a reasonable level, but spending in Labour’s last years in office had ballooned and, according to Treasury projections, the Government faced deficits for a decade or more ahead.

National had been elected promising responsible Government finances and a stronger economy, but without changes those looked unlikely.

English smiled yesterday as he took delivery of the bound Budget document and well he might. By delivering a surplus, albeit a tiny one, several years ahead of what he had forecast several years ago, today’s Budget will be brighter than even he expected it to be by now.

Since it came to office six years ago, the Government’s core promises have been that it would deliver a stronger economy, responsible public finances and a better public service.

In 2011, after the earthquakes, it added a promise to rebuild Christchurch. Those pledges have become a mantra and can be expected to be repeated today.

Without engaging in a wholesale slash and burn, it has kept public spending under control while maintaining services.

So far as it is possible for a government to claim credit for the performance of the economy generally, National can be pleased with the prospect of growth possibly hitting more than 4 per cent this year. The trick will be to make that growth enduring. . .

In spite of the benign aggregate position it should not be forgotten that, as an Otago University survey reiterated last week, New Zealand still has significant pockets of deprivation.

There are likely to be numberless reasons for them but a growing economy delivering opportunity and jobs offers part of the solution for sustainably dealing with them.

The Marlborough Express writes the jobs challenge continues:

. . . Finance Minister Bill English told Parliament the realisation of job growth forecasts depends on the confidence of businesses to invest more capital and employ more people.

“That is where new jobs come from. They do not come from the Easter bunny.”

The Easter bunny didn’t get a mention when English unveiled his sixth Budget yesterday.

The test will be how much his programme can lift confidence and stimulate growth to create the environment that will put priority on employment growth.

The Dominion Post notes the crowd goes mild:

This is a deliberately bland and even boring Budget. The Government has clearly decided that grey and safe is its best hope in election year. The only surprise was free doctors’ visits for under-13-year-olds. Middle New Zealand will welcome it, as it will many of the other, carefully telegraphed, handouts. More paid parental leave: who could object? A bit more help with childcare costs: why not?

National has made a virtue of small gifts: it shows that the party is “responsible” and not spending money it doesn’t have. And that is why the $372m surplus is intended to have such political heft. The amount is piffling within a $70b budget, and would make no economic difference if it was an equally mouse-sized deficit.

But the surplus is the signal that a caring government has brought us home safely after a nasty trip through recession. And if we carry on being careful and good, the Government says, life will carry on improving. Finance Minister Bill English gave a hint of tax cuts to come, but waffled when pressed. So that means National is keeping its tax promises till closer to the election.

The real question is: is this all the voters want – thrift, mild rewards, steady-as-she-goes? The dissenters have pointed to National’s noticeable lack of flair and imagination. No big new policies, no bold new directions, no surprises.

But that is what the John Key Government is, and so far it has won elections. In tough times, the Government has spent freely to keep the ship afloat, and then it has slowly brought it to the fiscal shore. Now it welcomes us to dry land. . .

Much bolder moves will be needed, including a capital gains tax. But National’s caution here is a drawback, not an advantage. Sometimes problems are serious and need action. National seems to believe it will be enough to cut red tape and remove some of the planning obstacles in the way of housing. It won’t.

At present there is little rage about poverty, inequality and the housing crisis. These problems are raw and real but voters are patient and only a minority of voters now seem to actually hate National. It will probably take another term before a majority is truly fed up with Key and his band. In the meantime, this bland document may be a document for the times.

The Manawatu Standards call it a Budget comfortable fit for many Kiwis

There may be little bling to Finance Minister Bill English’s sixth Budget but, like a pair of sensible shoes, it will make for a comfortable fit for many New Zealanders.

It was a budget light on ambition, heavy on prudence, in its commitment towards a modest $372 million surplus, but with a few policies bearing a distinctive Labour hue to them.

Its “steady as she goes” tenor does shrewdly mine the Kiwi ethos. Yes, a tax cut would have been nice, but they’ve balanced the books and haven’t forgotten the children. So she’ll be right.

It is a budget good enough to serve its purpose, whether that is pragmatic progress towards further surpluses and the lure of an eventual tax cut or simply placating middle New Zealand until after the general election in September is a matter of perspective. . .

The NZ Herald says the Budget steers safe course in rough waters:

The Treasury gave the show away in the Budget’s supporting documents, mentioning that while tax revenue is running at a lower level than expected, some of the Government’s intended spending has been “rephased” to produce the surplus it has promised.

Opponents can call it a trick of “smoke and mirrors” but the verdict that matters comes from credit agencies. They are unlikely to be concerned. Spending rephased is spending we might never see unless surpluses can be maintained. . . .

The Budget’s best feature is the value Bill English seems to be getting for little extra spending on public services. Departments know the results he wants and seem to be delivering them without complaint from providers or the public.

They have stopped demanding endless increases in funds and he shared the credit with them yesterday for his surplus.

Doctored it may be, but it will get better.

The Herald’s last point is a pertinent one and one of the National governments successes – getting better pubic services for less money.

 


Election editorials

November 28, 2011

The ODT – Three more years:

On any measure, the result of the 2011 general election is a resounding vote of confidence in the leadership and policies of John Key and the National Party. Not since the 1972 Labour victory of Norman Kirk has a single party reached such high levels of support, with National gaining 48% of the vote and 60 MPs in Parliament (pending the outcome of the special votes). The achievement is all the more remarkable given the challenges the country has faced during the past three years . . .

Timaru Herald – No real surpirses:

So now we know. The months of polling are over and we know for sure.

We don’t know everything, because special votes may slightly alter the picture, but we know John Key will be the one to form the Government that will take us through to 2014, when we’ll do it all again. It’s not a surprise, though some elements of the overall picture have been somewhat surprising, particularly the return of Winston Peters to Parliament on the bridge of the good ship NZ First, with a crew of seven supporting him.

For the great survivor of New Zealand politics, it’s a decidedly more comfortable ride than those of John Banks, Peter Dunne and Hone Harawira in their single kayaks. . .

The Press – A mother of a mandate:

As mandates go, they don’t get much bigger. How far will John Key push it?

In a hallmark of the Key style, he will take it as far as he thinks he can while carrying the public with him – but don’t take that as an indication he will go softly on asset sales.

Labour’s brave morning-after talk that it had won the argument on asset sales was nothing more than that – a chin-up exercise aimed squarely at the party faithful after an old-fashioned rout . . .

Dominion Post – Key has the right to sell family silver:

National has won the mandate it sought to pawn the family silver and reshape the welfare system. Prime Minister John Key would be wise to exercise it with discretion.

His party’s 48 per cent share of the vote in Saturday’s election is National’s best result since 1951. It is a personal triumph for the prime minister who has retained the confidence of the public despite having to make provision for the rebuilding of Christchurch in the midst of a global recession . . .

Manawatu Standard – City an atoll of red in an ocean of blue:

The blue tide on Saturday night came from all sides of the compass, but stopped just short of Palmerston North again.

Iain Lees-Galloway, the incumbent Labour member of parliament, somehow managed to not only stop the surge of National support over the country, he increased his majority from 1117 in 2008 to a provisional 3001, with special votes still to be counted.

National won the seat when it came to the party vote, which was probably the prime objective of candidate Leonie Hapeta, who at one stage looked like threatening to turn Palmerston North blue for the first time in decades . . .

Waikato Times – Challenge ahead for Nats:

 In many way it was the most predictable election result in years.

But while his party might have walked off with some 48 per cent of the vote, Prime Minister John Key might well be ruing his actions in the closing weeks, particularly around the now infamous “teapot tapes”. . .

Hawke’s Bay Today – Labour did Nash no favours:

The election delivered just one seismic jolt in Hawke’s Bay but it was one that many had predicted and the casualty, as was the case around New Zealand, was Labour. Actually there were two other casualties in the bailing out of parliament of Labour list MP Stuart Nash and they were the city of Napier and Mr Nash himself . . .  

Gisborne Herlad: Voter’s deliver big tick for John Key’s National Party:

The New Zealand public has given John Key’s National Party a big tick of approval, though not so resounding as to allow it to govern alone — unpopular asset-sale plans made that unlikely.
Mr Key has his mandate for partial privatisation of the state’s power companies and Solid Energy, though, along with radical reform of the welfare system. . .

NZ Herald – Demanding times ahead for National:

So the electorate did not want the National Party to govern alone. Other than that, which signifies its deep resistance to unbridled power, it has handed Prime Minister John Key most of what he wanted – and his opponents on the left nothing much at all.

The election result was encouraging for a party seeking a second term leading the Government. By increasing its share of the vote, and saving enough of Act and United Future to get it over the line, National has its majority. With the Maori Party’s three votes as ballast, it appears more than secure, unless special votes alter the seat allocation to National’s detriment. . .

 

 

 

 

 


Leader in waiting for change

June 20, 2011

Prime Minister John Key in July North and South:

“I was lucky because when I became party leader National was in an upswing and the Labour government was in its dying days. I critiqued the government, but was able to spend a lot of that time actually talking about our agenda – what we’d do in power.”

Contrast that with Labour leader Phil Goff seen as to eager to moan in the Manawatu Standard :

The problem here is that Mr Goff looks like he enjoys negativity, that he lies awake at night pondering new ways to be a wet blanket. He frequently comes across as a little too earnest, a bit too eager to moan.

Opposition parties always run that risk, and keeping the Government accountable is important, but Mr Goff will soon need to show he can do a better job in the hot seat than Mr Key. In that regard, he has a great deal of work to do.

John Key took over National as it was gaining support and he’s built on that.

Phil Goff took over a party which had just been thrown out of office after nine years in power. Its support had been falling for most of the last six and he hasn’t been able to turn that round.

John Key has a united caucus, happy to work with him to earn another term in government.

Phil Goff has a divided and directionless caucus. His leadership is safe for now, only because none of his colleagues want to grasp a poisoned chalice.

National is getting on with the business of governing and clearly articulating a plan to build a better New Zealand based on savings, investment and export-led growth.

Phil Goff and Labour aren’t particularly good at critiquing the government. Every time they look like they’re getting somewhere with that they’re sidetracked by sabotage from within, own goals or side shows. If they’ve got a plan they’re having trouble articulating it.

National is running the country.

Labour doesn’t look as if it’s capable of running itself.

John Key is the Prime Minister.

Phil Goff doesn’t look like a Prime Minister in waiting, he looks like a caretaker leader in waiting for the inevitable post-election leadership change.


Editorials on Maori seats

August 26, 2009

The ODT says:

That Maori believe they are entitled to separate representation because of the treaty is a claim not tested in law, though it may yet be; that seats should be provided for them piecemeal, council by council, as a “gesture” is patronising and scarcely credible.

What next? That each tribe should have a seat? The Cabinet decision may appear to have effectively pre-empted change, but the issue will doubtless return when Parliament debates the legislation. The Government should not retreat from its position.

The Manawatu Standard  says Maori deserve better than this:

The Government’s decision to exclude Maori seats from the new Auckland super city council was the wrong one.

It is a victory for populism over courage, and political expediency over the much more arduous pursuit of justice. What is it that makes acknowledging that Maori hold a special status in this country as its indigenous people so utterly distasteful to so many? Why can we not see any further back than the myopia of Brash-era thinking and view the issue of Maori representation through a broader historical context?

If that were to happen, people like ACT leader Rodney Hide might cease his “one man, one vote” yammering and see an indigenous people whose sense of identity is inextricably linked to the land, and who were systematically marginalised as it was taken from them, divided up and sold for profit particularly in Auckland.

Is it such anathema to ensure they have input into how that land is governed now?

Just two editorials this morning on the issue and they have opposing views.

I’m with the ODT.

UPDATE:

The Nelson Mail says:

Maori are perfectly capable of being elected on their merits when they put themselves forward alongside people of other races. Special consultation is a good thing and already required of all councils by the local government legislation. Guaranteeing seats based on race is something else.

The Taranaki Daily News writes on giving up seats so they can stand:

Are they really so disparaging of their own political prowess that they feel they need a leg-up to compete with others in the political arena? . . . 

 . . . Prime Minister John Key’s announcement that Cabinet will not support separate Maori seats for the Auckland super city is a tip of the hat to the mature political force and nous within Maoridom, rather than a denigration of its status.

It is a recognition that a great deal has happened in the 140 years since Maori seats were established in Parliament in 1868, that much progress has been made to advance the Maori voice, and that they no longer need to stand on the shoulders of others to get noticed.

In fact, we would go so far as to say the idea that Maori need some kind of false apparatus or rigged game to secure their place at the table is patronising and potentially racist in its intentions, a colonial sop that gives the pretence of power while keeping the reins in the hands of the few.

That might have been appropriate 140 years ago, when Maori were a nascent political force still finding their way and learning the ropes.


South Island 1st & 2nd in Young Farmer contest

July 12, 2009

Tim O’Sullivan of Pleasant Point, representing the Aorangi Region, is the 1009 National Bank Young Farmer of the year.

Richard Copland from Gore, representing the Otago-Southland Region was runner-up just four points behind.

rivettingKate Taylor gives a first hand report.

The Manawatu Standard’s report is here.


But Miss . . .

September 26, 2008

The esteemed poet lauretae Jam Hipkins has lost is heart to the teacher who is moonlighting as a prostitute:

I love your lacy algebra

You ease my present tense

I regard your pleasure’s syntax

As a meagre recompense

For the poetry you’ve taught me

Writ on scented, satin sheet

In our one-on-one night classes

Where we shared our rhyming feet.

If my woodwork is improving

If, perchance, I top your class

It is you, sweet Cupid’s tutor

Who has shown me how to pass

Small wonder, then in Flaxmere

With no teacher of the night

That lonely boys’ testosterone

Can fuel a fiercesome fight.

But do not give them homework

Save love’s lessons just for me

You are the moon’s curriculum

You are my chemistry

If I’m A plus in the boudoir

Then I thank your lesson plan

I went in in short trousers

And I staggered out a man!

“Well, what do you think?” the laureate pleaded. “Will it work?”

“Perhaps,” I said sadly.

“But you may have to pay her to listen.”

You can read the rest of Jim Hopkins’ column here.

For other views on the issue:  Read the rest of this entry »


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