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.

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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.

 


Mining personal grief for political ends

November 19, 2017

When politicians make promises do you take them at their word?

Under MMP that’s harder because they can always use the excuse, that was their policy but had to let it go during coalition negotiations.

But if it was a promise made by the two parties in government and their coalition partner outside government that one can’t be used.

In August, leaders of Labour, United Future, the Maori Party and the Green Party signed a commitment to reenter Pike River mine.

National, rightly, put lives before politics:

Environment Minister Nick Smith responded to the commitment and said the parties were either making empty promises to the families or proposing to water down a law intended to prevent future workplace tragedies. 

“It is a hollow political stunt for parties to promise manned re-entry of the mine by the end of 2018,” he said.  

“It would be reckless for politicians to override the 800-page detailed assessment that concluded that manned entry deep into this drift was too risky to life.

“There is no cover-up. There is no conspiracy. Pike River was a horrible industrial accident that unnecessarily killed 29 men.

“The greatest duty we owe the memory of these men is to take the risks of explosions in gassy coalmines seriously and to comply with the new workplace safety laws that stemmed from the Royal Commission of Inquiry [into the Pike River Mine Tragedy].”

Winston Peters said he’d be one of the first to go back into Pike River and manned entry was one of New Zealand First’s bottom lines.

Such promises are oh so easy in opposition, but what happens when the reality of government bites?

Pike River Mine minister Andrew Little says he cannot guarantee a re-entry of the mine and has told family members that he will do what he can but safety is the top priority. . . 

“Ultimately, and the families are very clear, the first principle of the set of principles that are governing what we do is safety, the safety of anybody involved in the re-entry project. I’m not going to put anybody at undue risk. I’m simply not going to.”

He did not intend to legislate for any exemption to the health and safety laws or immunity from liability for the Pike River Agency.

Safety was the priority of the previous government in the face of harsh criticism from the Pike River families and then-opposition parties supporting them.

That was the right position.

The Pike River disaster was a tragedy. There are many unanswered questions on how it happened and the shortcoming that led to it happening.

Some of the answers to those questions might be found if it was possible to safely reenter the mine.

But safely is and must always be the operative word.

The bottom line that National and the mine owners stuck to still stands: no lives must be endangered, no lives must be lost, to retrieve the dead.

Some families have accepted this.

Some have not and put their faith in the politicians who promised them manned entry would be undertaken.

Little will be criticised for his safety-first stance, but this time it’s the right one.

The wrong one was making a promise that he and the other politicians, including his leader, Jacinda Ardern, should never have made.

Those politicians were mining personal grief for political ends.

It was despicable behaviour.

 


First confidence test fail

October 24, 2017

Winston Peters used his speech announcing who he would anoint as Prime Minister to give a lament about how dismal the outlook is.

We in New Zealand First believe that an economic correction, or a slowdown, is looming, and that the first signs are already here:

– In the housing market slowdown
– In Reserve Bank and trading banks nervousness
– In the cessation of hot money into our economy
– In property ownership concerns
– In receding consumer optimism, and
– In ebbing retailer confidence

There were great risks in whatever decision we made and despite our having had no influence on these risks, some will attempt to heap the blame on us.

That those blame caricatures are both spurious and misplaced, won’t stop attempts to misdescribe the cause of events.

That’s why we are putting this scenario out front, right now, so that such attempts will fail.

No-one can blame Peters and his party for events beyond their control.  But now they’re in government we can hold them responsible for how they prepare for and react to them.

It won’t be ‘misdescribing’ at all to blame him and the government he’s part if they don’t take a prudent approach to preparing for a gathering storm.

National inherited a projected decade of deficits when it came to power in 2008.

New Zealand was already in recession and then the global financial crisis hit.

It then faced other natural and financial challenges including earthquakes, droughts and a dairy downturn.

No matter what was thrown at them, Prime Minister John Key and his deputy and Finance Minister Bill English projected calmness and confidence. They promised to protect the most vulnerable and were open about making tough decisions.

Thanks to their efforts, and of course all those of the individuals and businesses who contributed to economic growth,  the incoming government has inherited a far sounder financial base and outlook.

Peters by sorry contrast has failed his first confidence test with his gloom and doom but don’t-blame-us speech.

This is reflected in a reader survey by the NBR.

Asked if they expected their businesses to thrive, survive or nosedive, 50% opted for survival with 35% picking nosedive and only 15% picking thrive.

That’s not a scientific survey but businesses need confidence to take the risks to invest and Peters has given them none.


Voters here and there

October 23, 2017
  1. Does this mean people living here and experiencing what was happening had a greater appreciation that National had the country going in the right direction than those living overseas who had to rely on the media?
  2. Will at least some of these people who voted Green in a much greater proportion than people living here did, come home and face the consequences now their party has some influence in government?

 

Votes within NZ: Labour 36.86%; Green 6.06%; NZ First 7.3% and National 44.61%.

Overseas votes: Labour 38.2%; Green 15.23%; NZ First 2.88% and National 37.35%

 


Bugger

October 19, 2017

Winston Peters has opted for a Labour-NZ First coalition.

I hope the anti-trade, anti-business rhetoric that characterised their campaigns is put aside and they govern for the good of the country.

I am very sorry Bill English won’t have the opportunity to carry on his good work – yet.

National with 56 MPs, and most of them holding electorates, will be a formidable opposition.


Electorate accommodation could backfire on both parties

October 18, 2017

Is an electorate accommodation on offer in an effort to woo Winston Peters?

Many commentators think this will be his last term. That has been said    before and while each time it’s said he’s a bit older, there’s no certainty he’ll be any keener on retirement in 2020 than he has been before.

Whether or not he stands again, the party is at risk of slipping below the 5% threshold and out of parliament unless it wins a seat.

But even if Peters wants to contest another election, it’s unlikely he’d risk standing and not winning an electorate. He’s won three but also lost them, he won’t want to lose another.

His repeated criticism of National for allowing electorate accommodations for Act and United Future, would open him to criticism should he ask for one to give him a better chance. But doing what he’s criticised others for doing isn’t usually a problem for him.

However, the people of Northland tired of him in less than a term and voted for Matt King instead. He will spend the next three years doing the hard work a good electorate MP does and winning the loyalty of voters by doing so.

They are unlikely to show enthusiasm for ignoring that and voting Peters back in, even if they’re given a very strong message from National to do so.

Other electorates that have been suggested where National might stand aside are Whangarei and Wairarapa.

Accommodations worked in Ohariu and Epsom. But Peter Dunne already held Ohariu when National’s then leader Jim Bolger gave the wink and nod to voters to give his party the party vote but vote for Dunne as the electorate MP.

Act’s Rodney Hide didn’t need an accommodation to win Epsom the first time. He won the seat from Richard Worth without any help from National.

In successive elections, National’s candidate campaigned only for the party vote making it easier for Hide and then David Seymour to win the electorate vote.

But that is very different from asking voters to drop support for a sitting MP to allow a New Zealand First candidate to win the electorate.

There will be no enthusiasm for that from National members and absolutely no guarantee that enough voters would be prepared to turn their backs on their MP in favour of the NZ First candidate.

It would be a very risky move which could backfire on both parties.

 


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