Political blood thicker than water

October 7, 2019

The reason New Zealand First has been polling below its election night support is obvious:

NZ First voters would have preferred National to be in Government than Labour by a large margin, newly released survey results say.

The new public survey data shows 44.5 per cent of NZ First voters answered “National” when asked to pick between Labour and National leading the Government, with Labour 10 points behind at 34.1 per cent. . .

I suspect if the choice had been National or Labour and the Green Party, the number preferring National would have been even higher.

But it’s not just Peters opting for Labour with Greens in support, that’s upset members.

A raft of internal NZ First documents have been leaked to the media and the National Party, revealing internal discontent about the way the party ran the last election campaign and Coalition negotiations. . . 

The papers show some were critical of leader Winston Peters for planning to take legal action against National Party figures before Coalition negotiation began and questioned what impact that had on those talks.

It is a very rare breach of the internal secrecy of the party and will be a blow to Peters. . . 

He has had absolute sway over the party for years, but these leaks show that, as many dictators before him have found, the grip eventually loosens.

Documented minutes of a party meeting in November 2017 show members levelling criticism at Peters.

One member said New Zealand First needed to “come up with solutions and start a succession plan post Winston Peters”.

Another said: “Resources for the campaign were not provided, no cogent policies, signs unreadable, distribution of sign issues, listing was confidential, no plan B (or even A) for Jacinder [sic]”.

After the 2017 election, Helen Peterson – a long-time party member, who has stood for election three times – wrote a report titled “NZ First Concerns and issues regarding Election 2017”. She has been approached for comment.

“A number of members nationwide have been extremely disappointed in the way in which the 2017 election campaign was handled,” it said.

The documents reveal members felt the party’s list showed disrespect for hardworking, loyal, hardworking and long-serving members, and favoured candidates who had personal relationships with those who select the list placement.

Members also complained the list process was sexist, as only three of the candidates in the top 18 were female.

It also shows members thought the campaign was unorganised, lacked leadership and had no strategy.

New Zealand First candidates were “for the most part unsupported” and given minimal mentoring or support by the board.

“The extent and magnitude of the issues demonstrate how the party will remain a third party for the foreseeable future unless there is an enormous shift towards accountability, adherence to the constitution and respect for its members.” . . 

These criticisms won’t be any surprise to the many who have long questioned Peters and the apparent disregard for democracy in his party.

But political blood is thicker than water and staunch members will put up with policies and behaviors from and within their party that they will condemn in others. But only for a time.

Peters’ power over his party and its members has been almost absolute.

The resignation of the president, and his explanation of why, and the leaks showing internal dissatisfaction indicate that for at least some members, the time for unwavering support is past.


Morals prompt NZ First’s president’s resignation

October 4, 2019

Morals were the reason behind the sudden resignation of NZ First president Lester Gray:

New Zealand First party president Lester Gray has quit the party, citing his refusal to sign off financial reports for ‘moral’ reasons. 

A resignation letter reveals Gray took his stand against signing the party’s 2019 reports with a claim he has been kept in the dark over party expenditure and donations, leaving him unable to put his name to them with confidence. . .

In Gray’s resignation letter, obtained by Stuff, he raises issues around communication with senior party officials and uncertainty over financial dealings.

“I refuse to sign off the 2019 Financial Reports with the information I have been provided,” he wrote.

“As President, the limited exposure I have had to Party donations and expenditure leaves me in a vulnerable position.

“This type of operation does not align with my moral and business practice values, and I am therefore not able to support the Party any longer.”

Gray also stated there was “insufficient communication and support from senior members of the Party for me to effectively function as the President“. . .

Is anyone surprised?

A friend with shares in a race horse received a letter before the last election seeking a contribution towards a generous donation to New Zealand First.

Was any donation like this, or from fishing and forestry interests which benefit from its policies, declared? No, and time after time, this party is the only one in parliament that never declares any sizable donations.

It isn’t so much a party as a principality presided over by Winston Peters whose word is law.

NZ First presents an ongoing risk to our reputation for openness, transparency and, relatively, low rates of corruption.

It is a carbuncle on the hide of democracy. Dare we hope that this news might prompt someone to lance it?


More immigration isn’t what they campaigned on

September 18, 2019

The government has announced changes to immigration policy with a streamlined temporary work visa.

It’s been greeted positively by Federated Farmers:

“Our message that workforce and related problems experienced by the big cities are not necessarily those experienced in the provinces has  been taken on board – we congratulate the government,” Feds employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

“The changes will help ensure farmers and others can more easily employ migrants when they need them, and when the options for taking on and training suitable New Zealanders are exhausted.”

By ditching the ANZSCO skill level classifications, there is much greater scope for a migrant worker to achieve career progression on our farms.

“The changes incentivise farmers to invest in training and supporting migrant employees because there’s a greater chance of keeping them than currently exists.

It’s such a waste of time and effort to train people only to have them forced to leave the country when their visas run out.

“We also acknowledge the government for its compassionate and pragmatic approach in reinstating the family entitlement for lower skilled visa holders.  The migrant worker’s children can be educated here, and their partner can get an open work visa,” Lewis said.

“It’s a positive for rural communities to have settled and content families, not just single men who may well be sending all their money home to their family.”

It’s far better to have families together here, participating in the community, than to separate them with the worker isolated and sending money home.

The government has indicated the dairy industry is a likely early target group for one of the new sector agreements, containing specific terms and conditions for recruiting foreign workers.

“Federated Farmers looks forward to working with other Team Ag  partners and the government to help get this sector agreement right,” Lewis said.

DairyNZ and the tourism industry are among others who are pleased with the changes and I agree with them.

Unemployment levels are low throughout New Zealand and out of the main centres are down to the unemployable. It is at least difficult, and often impossible, to get locals who are capable of working on farms, orchards, hospitality and tourism in the regions.

But what do all the people who voted for the governing parties, Labour NZ First and the Green Party think?

All three parties criticised immigration levels when they were in opposition and campaigned on cutting it back.

We can be grateful that now the anti-immigration rhetoric has met the reality of worker shortages it’s the voters who believed the talk who are disappointed but businesses will find it easier to get the staff they need.


H word and F word

July 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

Overseas interests already own 70% of New Zealand forestry.

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

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

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

But wait there’s more.

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

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


Which poll is right?

June 9, 2019

Or:

David Farrar says both can’t be right:

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

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

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

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

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

 


No CGT but . . .

April 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember James Shaw saying:

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

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

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

No reading between the lines necessary. . .

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

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

 


Poverty stats government’s shame

April 3, 2019

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

David Farrar compares the stats under National and Labour:

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

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

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

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

What’s behind the difference?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lindsay Mitchell blogs on the causes of poverty:

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

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

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

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

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


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