National’s refreshed responsibilities

May 25, 2020

Todd Muller has announced the refreshed responsibilities for his MPs:

He has taken Small Business and National Security.

His deputy Nikki Kaye has Education and Sports and Recreation.

Amy Adams, who had announced her retirement, is staying on with responsibility for Covid-19 Recovery.

Judith Collins:  Economic Development, Regional Development, is Shadow Attorney-General and takes on Pike River Re-entry.

Paul Goldsmith keeps Finance and has responsibility for the Earthquake Commission.

Gerry Brownlee: Foreign Affairs, Disarmament; GCSB; NZSIS and Shadow Leader of House.

Michael Woodhouse keeps Health, is  Deputy Shadow Leader of the House and Associate Finance

Louise Upston: Social Development and Social Investment.

Mark Mitchell: Justice and Defence

Scott Simpson:  Environment, Climate Change and Planning (RMA reform)

Todd McCLay:Trade and Tourism

Chris Bishop has Infrastructure and Transport

Paula Bennett: Drug Reform and Women

Nicola Willis: Housing and Urban Development and Early Childhood Education

Jacqui Dean: Conservation

David Bennett: Agriculture

Shane Reti: Tertiary Skills and Employment,  Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Associate Health

Melissa Lee: Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Data and Cybersecurity

Andrew Bayly:  Revenue, Commerce, State Owned Enterprises and Associate Finance

Alfred Ngaro: Pacific Peoples, Community and Voluntary, and Children and Disability Issues

Barbara Kuriger: Senior Whip, Food Safety, Rural Communities

Jonathan Young:

Nick Smith:

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi:

Matt Doocey:

Jian Yang:

Stuart Smith:

Simon O’Connor:

Lawrence Yule: Local Government

Denise Lee:  Local Government (Auckland)

Anne Tolley: Deputy Speaker

Parmjeet Parmar:  Research, Science and Innovation

Brett Hudson:  Police, Government Digital Services

Stuart Smith: Immigration, Viticulture

Simeon Brown: Corrections, Youth, Associate Education

Ian McKelvie: Racing, Fisheries

Jo Hayes:  Whānau Ora, Māori Development

Andrew Falloon: Biosecurity, Associate Agriculture, Associate Transport

Harete Hipango: Crown Māori Relations, Māori Tourism

Matt King: Regional Development (North Island), Associate Transport

Chris Penk: Courts, Veterans

Hamish Walker Land Information, Forestry, Associate Tourism

Erica Stanford: Internal Affairs, Associate Environment, Associate Conservation

Tim van de Molen: Third Whip, Building and Construction

Maureen Pugh: Consumer Affairs, Regional Development (South Island), West Coast Issues

Dan Bidois: Workplace Relations and Safety

Agnes Loheni:  Associate Small Business, Associate Pacific Peoples

Paulo Garcia: Associate Justice

At the time of the announcement SImon Bridges was considering his future, he nas subsequently announced he will stay on in parliament and contest the Tauranga seat again.


No plan, wrong people

May 15, 2020

If you were looking for a Budget with a coherent plan for recovery, you wouldn’t have found it in yesterday’s:

Today’s Budget doesn’t have the plan we need to get New Zealand working again, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

Kiwis have sacrificed so much through the restrictions of the lockdown, our collective efforts have so far worked well, now we need to get our economy cranking again.

“With a thousand people a day joining the dole queue we needed a proper plan. Spending money is the easy part. But investing billions where it will make the most difference was what we needed.

“Today we are seeing an extra $140 billion of debt. That’s $80,000 per household and it’s our children and grandchildren who will be paying for it. That’s equivalent to a second mortgage on every house.

“We will have $100 billion in deficits for the next four years.

“The Government will spend more than $50 billion, more than any Government has ever spent in any one Budget.

“It needed to be spent in a responsible and disciplined way. What this Budget lacks is any detail and accountability of how it will be spent and what it will achieve. . . 

This Budget had to be a big spending one, but did it have to be this big?

Today’s Budget reveals the sheer scale of the economic challenge New Zealand is facing, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“We’ve just been through a dramatic health crisis, now New Zealanders can see the scale of the economic challenge and just how serious is.

“Unemployment is set to skyrocket to 9.8 per cent highlighting why the first priority must be to save jobs.

“With an extra $140 billion in debt, we’re facing debt levels not seen in decades, that’s nearly $80,000 per household.

“The Treasury predictions of future Government tax revenue and economic growth appear highly optimistic. New Zealanders should brace themselves for worse if this Government carries on.

“We welcome the limited extension of the wage subsidy however the $50 billion slush fund is totally unacceptable. The Government has cynically set aside more than $20 billion that it can spend before the election.

“There is very little in the way of a growth plan in this budget, beyond $230 million to encourage entrepreneurship and some announcements in infrastructure that we all know they will struggle to deliver.

While we agree that Government support is necessary to save jobs, we must be mindful that every dollar spent in today’s Budget will need to be paid back.

“What we need now is a genuine growth plan and careful economic management to pay down debt and get us back to growth without the need for higher taxes. . .

The lack of a plan is a point Paul Henry made:

“I think there is a good chance we [New Zealand] will miss the opportunity. I was hoping that there could be a bounce forward not a bounce back. It’s the human way – a life of least resistance. I’m not depressed, I’m disappointed.” . .

“I haven’t seen a long-term plan yet. I think the last six weeks I’ve seen us fighting a fire and trying to get back on our feet. We need a long-term plan. The world’s changed, and it’s changed for many years to come.” . . 

“There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.

“A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is.

“Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. . .

David Farrar scored the Budget against 13 principles and found it wanting.

Grant White, owner of Logitech, is disappointed in the Budget too:

. . .Covid-19 package estimated to save 140,000 jobs over two years, and create more than 370,000 new jobs. I can’t see it and I await the detail of just how that will be done.

What I do know is what the government clearly doesn’t understand. There is only one thing the economy needs right now – confidence. And this budget is not going to generate it, indeed its failure to stop short and medium term redundancies is going to lead to an even greater reduction in confidence.

Bryce Edwards calls it a Budget with big numbers but little vision:

. . The problem for the government is that it has already been struggling to keep to its promise of being transformative. Previous budgets have shown Robertson and his colleagues have been unable to break free from their cautious instincts.

With the Coronavirus crisis, the opportunity was handed to the government to reset the economy and society, and deal with some long-term problems. Robertson even spoke about this during the leadup to the Budget, saying that now was the time to address intractable problems of economic dysfunction, inequality, and environmental decline. He talked of not wanting to “squander the opportunity”. And yet, many will look at today’s big-spending Budget and ask: “Is that it?

The problem isn’t just there’s no real plan to repair the economic damage inflicted by the COvid-19 response, the government has the wrong people to lead the recovery too.

Empathy and communication are valuable commodities in politics but they’re nothing without the ability to make a good plan and make it happen.

Does anyone who remembers the many and gradually less ambitious Kiwibuild promises really believe that Labour will build the 8,000 houses promised yesterday?

How much faith can we have in a Cabinet with Phil Twyford, Minister for the Kiwibuild fiasco and now Minister for the failed Auckland light rail project?

Or Labour deputy and Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis who after being notably absent while his sector faced the sector’s equivalent of foot and mouth disease, only popped up to do a possum in the headlights cameo with Paul Henry?

Does Minister of Health, David Clark, who was sidelined during the worst health crisis the country has ever faced give you confidence? Or what about his deputy Julie Anne Genter whose responsibilities include vaccinations? Remember the measles epidemic and the on-going flu vaccination debacle?

This government doesn’t have a plan and it does have the wrong people.


5 point plan to get out of hole

May 11, 2020

National Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith asks: how do we avoid making the economic disaster worse than it needs to be? And how can we get back on track?

. . .I argue we are making it worse than it needs to be and an ill-directed, big spending Budget this week would compound the damage. And I’ll outline National’s five-point plan to get us back on track. . . 

Big spending in the Budget should be focused on saving jobs – such as cash to small businesses most effected – and critical expenses related to health and education.

We’d do well to avoid nice-to-have pet projects, such as the Greens’ wider footpaths, or locking in new or more generous entitlements at this time.

We won’t avoid a $40 billion or $50b dollar hole; but we must not turn it into an $80b, $90b or $100b disaster. All the debt will need to be repaid.

Interest rates are low but that is no reason to borrow more than is absolutely necessary; nor to borrow for nice-to-haves rather than needs.

And, who can best provide the economic management to get us back on track faster?

The past is a guide.

The previous National Government borrowed $50b to get us through the Global Financial Crisis and Canterbury earthquakes. In short order we got on top of it, got back to surplus with a strongly growing, confident country and economy.

National inherited a projected decade of deficits and managed to turn that round while protecting the vulnerable front he worst effects of the earthquakes and GFC.

This Government’s economic management in the two years before Covid struck is more mixed. Yes, unemployment and debt stayed low. But in two years they burned through massive surpluses to project a deficit this year, and growth had stalled to 1.8 per cent in calendar year 2019. Many announcements were made – KiwiBuild, Light Rail etc; little was delivered.

A National Budget this week would include a five-point plan back to progress.

First, lighten the lockdown. Get Kiwis back to work unless there’s an overwhelming reason not to, rather than seeking perfection before slowly restoring freedoms.

Each day a business and its staff aren’t working is a day closer to failure.

Second, save jobs by getting cash to small businesses most in need. Our GST refund proposal to businesses that had lost more than 50 per cent of revenue for two months would help and help strong businesses to drive growth. Our Business Investment Accelerator proposals would incentivise new investment.

Third, we need commonsense and pragmatism around the rules for “2 or 1m world'”. It’s one thing to allow bars and cafes to reopen but if the rules mean that you’d just lose money, you’re no further ahead.

Fourth, unlocking private sector investment is the key to growth and innovation.

We won’t rely on Wellington committees to reinvent the economy. We’ll trust Kiwis to work out how to get back on their feet. We’ll keep taxes low, we won’t regulate firms to death or keep changing the rules, and we’ll back them to succeed.

Fifth, we’ll use the Government’s balance sheet to invest in quality infrastructure – like National did with the Ultra-Fast Broadband – in upgrading our skills, turbo-charging the innovation sector and in improving the quality of public services, such as health.

We need a Budget that backs New Zealanders.

A Budget that backs New Zealanders vs one that’s too heavy on regulation and lets any government, let alone the current one, pick winners?

No contest.


Quotes of the month

May 1, 2020

The most galling aspect of the current lock down is that we could’ve prevented it. If we had introduced strict quarantine at the border and made provision for widespread testing much earlier, like South Korea and others, we probably wouldn’t be in the situation we now find ourselves. We all have to pay a high price to bring this disease under control and that cost is now as much in our liberty as our wallets. I don’t think there is anything to be gained at this time in castigating the Government for their earlier inaction, but let’s not give them undue credit either. Hopefully there will be a reckoning after all this is over. – Kiwiwit

One should never underestimate the power of amnesia in human affairs. Even catastrophes on a vast scale are often soon forgotten, at least by those who were not directly affected by them. The young in Eastern Europe, it is said, know nothing of the ravages of communism, though they lasted decades and still exert an influence, and quite a lot think that socialism might be a good thing to try, as if it had never been tried before. Moreover, no memory exerts a salutary effect by itself unaided by thought and reflection: memory (even where accurate) has to be interpreted, and where there is interpretation there is the possibility of error and disagreement. – Theodore Dalrymple

With a full belly, everyone knows better than farmers how to manage land, and how to care for the countryside. – James Rebanks

This is our wake-up call to respect farming once more — not uncritically: we have an absolute right to want more nature on farmland, high welfare standards for farm animals, and safe and healthy food. –James Rebanks

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column in the Listener in which I was too dismissive of the health risks of the Covid-19 threat. The reaction was furious and often vituperative – which is another thing we have all become accustomed to these days. My column that would normally be spinning off the printing press right now, said, “I got it wrong”.

I did get it wrong, but our job is to scrutinise, and I remain more afraid of the economic fallout of New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 than I am of the virus itself. – Joanne Black

I don’t jeer at smokers, though. Nicotine is a drug, you get hooked on it, and it takes a lot of effort to stop – I had someone doing it with me and we could console and help each other when it got too hard. It was also a time when I didn’t have any money worries, but really, in the end I kept it up because I was determined I wasn’t going through withdrawal symptoms ever again. I hated that I couldn’t just stop without enduring what seemed like punishment instead of the congratulations I deserved. Renée

That cast iron aversion to enforcing personal responsibility is baked in to our law in numerous areas. . . Shame (whakaama) is the mechanism at the cultural heart of nearly all successful systems for control of anti-social behaviour.  – Stephen Franks

It is as if the government is afraid of confronting and dealing with real hard choices –  and being honest on what they value, what they don’t –  and just prefers now to deal in simplistic rhetorical absolutes, when not much is very absolute at all.Michael Reddell

 Bauer’s exit is further evidence that foreign control of New Zealand media is generally ruinous. Australian ownership did grave – some would say irreparable – damage to both our major print media companies and it seems the Germans are no better. Overseas owners have no emotional stake in the country and no long-term commitment to our wellbeing. They don’t understand our culture and ethos and are largely indifferent to New Zealand affairs. They are interested in us only for as long as they can make a profit, and when that ceases, they cut and run. – Karl du Fresne

Many politicians and voters don’t seem to appreciate the reality that every dollar spent by the government needs to come from taxpayers, who need to earn that dollar in order for the government to take and spend it. Even when the government borrows money to fund its splurge, it is just postponing the bill to future taxpayers. Kiwiwit

We will decide to end social isolation and take to the cafes (those that have survived) with gusto. It will be our duty to support what is left of the economy and keep people employed. We will rush to businesses that the COVID-19 Czars deemed non-essential and hope we have the cash to spend and hope they survived. – Judith Collins

Consistency, at least in matters of public policy, is no doubt the hobgoblin of little minds, and not every argument has to be followed to its logical conclusion. Philosophical abstractions cannot be the sole guide to our political actions, though neither can they be entirely disregarded. The man with no principles is a scoundrel; the man with only principles is a fanatic.Theodore Dalrymple

The feminization of society isn’t  the overlay of feminist values. No. It’s the overlay of natural feminine tendencies. Don’t tell me they don’t exist. Most females become mothers. They are biologically designed to nurture. To bond through touch and soft murmurs. To provide their bodies to their babies (and lovers) as cushions and warmth. They placate, they adjudicate. They practice kindness with reasonable ease because that is at the core of the jigsaw puzzle piece they are.

Mine is a traditional but organic view of what a women is. She is not less than a man. And she is not more. – Lindsay Mitchell

When the New Zealand public looks back on the response to Covid-19 they won’t be judging success by whether we went ‘faster’ or ‘harder’ than other governments. Instead, we will want to know whether the Government’s response was balanced and proportionate.

Specifically, was the response proportionate to the risks posed to the citizenry from the virus? Were the short-term and long-term consequences to health and wellbeing appropriately balanced? Were the impacts on younger members of society who bear the brunt of the financial consequences appropriately weighed against the interests of the elderly members who carry the highest health risks? And were the impacts on low-paid wage earners and disadvantaged communities who will fall deeper into poverty appropriately considered and compensated?

Certainly, extending the lockdown beyond four weeks and prolonging border closures would be the right thing to do only if it saves more lives than it costs. Grant Guilford

 I get home and just try to catch up on all the news I missed while I was writing it. As with March 15, I find filtering the horrible events through the filter of a news story that I am writing the best way to numb myself to their power. If you have to sit back and think about the world shutting all its borders for years to come, of a recession deeper than any we’ve felt in a century, of needless deaths if we don’t resist all the things that make us feel alive, then it all gets a bit much. When you get to write it out as a news story its just data to feed into a well-worn formula, a coping mechanism that also happens to be your job. – Henry Cooke

 The best battery of all is a lake. Water management allows more investment in plant based proteins, better management of waterways, and more green industry. If we want this renewable future then as a country we need to have a mature discussion about water storage which must be, and will be, a net positive for the environment. – Rod Drury

One of the lessons from the animal world, is that every disease has its unique characteristics that determine the specific strategy. But every time, one way or another, it requires a track and trace that is carried out with speed and rigour. – Keith Woodford

I write my way into a story, a poem, a play and I write my way out. One thing I know for sure – there’ll be sticking points, hurdles. Writing that flows like it was effortless and easy to write comes only after hard work. Renée

There must be many other people in these strange times who find that having the time, no longer trying to stuff too many duties and activities into their day, they can now discover the world of small things around them, and find it utterly loveable. Birds singing, leaves unfolding, spiders spinning their miraculous webs – all these things can be food for the soul and can remind us of the goodness of life even in ‘these interesting times’, in the words of the Chinese proverb. –  Valerie Davies

What other industry is allowed to steal the product of another industry’s endeavour and pay nothing for it, while at the same time steal their livelihood through advertising? Because that’s what social media does. They pay absolutely nothing for the product that is the lifeblood of their operation and that is the news content made and paid for by news media organisations.

“I know of no other industry where you can steal something and not only get paid for it through advertising but get the government’s backing for it as well. – Gavin Ellis

So let’s use every nuanced tool we have available to us. Let’s protect the vulnerable, require businesses to prove they can operate safely before reopening, seriously consider regional alert levels, and continue with our physical distancing and virus hygiene protocols. But let’s also move quickly to staunch the bleeding of our troubled economy. Otherwise, we may need to start including suicide statistics, domestic violence call-outs and bankruptcy numbers in our daily briefings. – Lizzie Marvelly

My mum has probably never shown up in the GDP. Men can be pretty shit with a tape measure when it comes to women. No offence. But she could help you with that. Run it down your arm. Around the cuff. Calculate costs in an instant. Show you where you went wrong. Pins askew in her mouth. Glen Colquhoun

We’ve been bemoaning the fact that no one wants to listen to the good stories for years. Who would have thought it would take a global pandemic to give us a window to be able to have that voice again? It seems bad taste to be observing silver linings and opportunities whilst so many are suffering however, an opportunity to connect and support our country can only be a positive for everyone in my books. The primary sector’s social licence and our economy depends on it.  – Penny Clark-Hall

The people that we are talking about now are not the sports stars, not the celebrities, they are the people at the front line -the health workers – the Jenny’s from Invercargill, they are the special people. – Sean Fitzpatrick

One of the problems with Government money is that it always feels like other people’s money, doesn’t it? At the end of the day it’s ours or at least future generations’, who will have to pay it back in some way. We ought to be just as cautious with that money as we would be in our own businesses.

If you give cheap or free Government money to enable businesses to continue, in doing so you may be destroying the very thing that is valuable in business, which is the ability to evaluate risks and to take risk where the benefits that flow are greater than the costs. – Rob Campbell

Not all deaths have the same social cost. The death of a 90 year old can be sad, but the death of a child or young adult is almost always a tragedy. Burden of disease estimates often adjust for the number of life years lost and this adjustment should be made in assessments of the benefits of intervention options.Ian Harrison

Is there any rail network in a sparsely populated narrow and skinny country like ours that has ever paid its way? Perhaps the Greens can enlighten us if there is. The Greens will probably say that there is a financial cost to an economy where climate change is front and centre, but we already know what a carbon-free economy in the year 2020 is like – we just have to reflect on the economic destruction that has taken place during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Rail is not an asset – it’s a liability. And it’s not a stimulus package, any more than spending money on people digging holes in the ground is. Stimulus money should be spent on work that will facilitate commerce and enhance the economy in the long-term, not destroy it, which is what the Greens are proposing. – Frank Newman

If the government wants to build on its success so far and continue running an effective public health campaign against Covid-19 at minimal cost to the economy, it needs a robust decision-making framework that will allow rapid response to changing circumstances and reflect a broad range of health, social and economic considerations. – Sarah Hogan

The more the government can show it is learning and carefully considering the complex sectoral, health, social and economic trade-offs at each alert level – most likely by comparison with a ‘no intervention’ alternative – the more likely it is that decisions will prove durable.

Without more structure, rigour and intense communication effort, the gains won so far against the virus risk unravelling if public scepticism and weariness combine to thwart the battle in the months ahead. – Pattrick Smellie

We shouldn’t take our culture and heritage for granted because it has helped us to strengthen our resolve and courage in such an uncertain time.

I have found that looking out for each other and valuing our culture makes us stronger and although it has been tough we will come out stronger as a community. – Hana Halalele

It does stick in my craw that even the most self-reliant of us have all become dependent on the state. I can’t help thinking that this is seen by those in power as a useful by-product of their Covid-19 response. The metaphysical basis of almost all political belief today is social, cultural and economic collectivism. We are all just part of one big, global village, and, as in any village, every person should be concerned with everyone else’s business. Self-reliance is seen as selfishness and is not to be tolerated, and if you think you know what is best for your own life, you simply don’t know what is good for you. – Kiwiwit

As leader of the nation, Ardern is unparalleled. But her performance as leader of the government is less flash. – Matthew Hooton

Amid the coronavirus implosion I’m guessing productivity failures won’t even get much attention this election.  But they should, and any serious recovery plan should go hand in hand with a strategy that has some credible chance of finally beginning to reverse decades of failure.  Turning inwards and looking more heavily to the state is most unlikely to be such an answer. – Michael Reddell

Any one country trying them will quickly find that tariffs meant to protect domestic steel producers, for example, ruin domestic industries that use steel. And when everyone turns protectionist, the complex international supply networks that deliver us everything from cars to phones seize up. –Eric Crampton

Given that a supply chain these days can take in the entire globe, how is the official to know whose making “essential” parts and who’s not? How, even, are manufacturer’s to know, if the screws they’re making are just the ones that are needed to hold together this machine that when running properly makes thatmachine, and that machine is the one that makes ventilators, say. – Peter Cresswell

Here’s what politicians don’t understand: The economy isn’t a lightswitch that can be turned off quickly, then turned back on without consequence. Economic freedom isn’t just an integral part of the American dream, it’s a prerequisite for prosperity.

Most importantly right now? Everyone’s livelihood is essential to them.

Economic activity is, at its heart, a human activity. To disregard some as non-essential is a mistake with heavy consequences. – Amanda Snell

I find myself wondering if people can identify with what I have written about how it feels to be diagnosed with cancer and whether they have found themselves glimpsing the world I live in. In some strange way it could be possible that people are experiencing to one degree or another, what it feels like to have the rug abruptly pulled from under their feet and to wonder if they are going to die. Right now, people are facing one of the greatest challenges in life that they could ever imagine, just as I and many like me faced when we were given our cancer diagnosis. No words can ever describe what it’s like living with cancer but maybe an experience such as what we’re currently living through might provide a glimpse. Like with a cancer diagnosis, this pandemic will change lives and for many life will never return to what they have always known. It will change the way they view their lives and the world, perhaps even their priorities so post-pandemic life becomes a new normal for them. That phrase is one that everyone who has experienced cancer will have heard at some point because life post-cancer is never the same again, it actually does become a “new normal”.  – Diane Evans-Wood

You know, the theatre has kept going through the plague in the 1600s and it has a 2000 year-old history. Performers are part of that whakapapa and there will always be a need for human beings to connect…and, of course, that is what the arts does for us. – Jennifer Ward-Lealand

We need to balance the ability to be financially sustainable while being environmentally sustainable, not be expected to reach lofty targets set when the world was burning more fossil fuels and living beyond its means before the pandemic.

For NZ those targets need to be readdressed as soon as possible. We must lift the lid on the pressure cooker the primary industries have been under as we look to the future. – Craig Wiggins

One thing I do know is that what has become important now has always been important – food, shelter and good company – Craig Wiggins

Everyone who has a job in this economy is an essential worker. Every single job that is being done in our economy with these severe restrictions that are taking place is essential. . . People stacking shelves, that is essential. People earning money in their family when another member of their family may have lost their job and can no longer earn, that’s an essential job. Jobs are essential – Scott Morrison

Merit of action should be based on decisions made (or not made), the application of reason and science, and of course, the final results. Merit and accolade should never be given simply because of person’s age, gender, belief system, or political leanings. Sadly, we are seeing a commentariat very willing to continue its pursuit of identity politics where the ‘who’ is more important than the ‘what’ and ‘how’.  Simon O’Connor

Whether a farmer, café owner or self-employed plumber, the driving force behind most small businesses is the dignity of self-employment. For some people (me for starters) that’s a huge factor overwhelming any other consideration. – Sir Bob Jones

And yet, if there are any two countries that could pull off a clear if hermetically sealed victory — offering a model of recovery that elevates competence over ego and restores some confidence in democratic government — it may be these two Pacific neighbors with their sparsely populated islands, history of pragmatism and underdogs’ craving for recognition.Damien Cave

You are going to be part of a team facing tradeoffs.  Will we cancel the upgrading of the Tauranga to Katikati highway where there are too many road deaths so we can plant trees on good farm land to suck up CO2?  Will we delay buying equipment for an isolation strategy in a probable flu epidemic or build a cycleway on the Auckland harbour bridge?  Should we introduce tough new water quality measures while farmers are struggling and suiciding?  Will Pharmac get more money for new drugs to save five to ten lives or will we build a tramline to the airport?  Can we afford to close maternity hospitals in Southland risking mothers and babies lives so we can shift the Port of Auckland to Whangarei? – Owen Jennings

I have been alarmed to see that disdain for the mainstream media has spread to the mainstream media itself. Recently I was contacted by people who should know better, asking me to send them a copy of my column because they refused to fork out the readies to breach this paper’s paywall. The total required at the time was $1 a week. This much they would not sacrifice because of their aversion to one columnist. They would forgo the fine work produced by many excellent writers who did not have that columnist’s attention-grabbing profile and gift for alienating readers. . . .

Now more than ever, mainstream media which, for all its flaws, continues to uphold basic journalistic standards has a vital role to play in society.

As I explained at the time, refusing to share my column with my stingy friends, if you think life without magazines is bad, wait until you live in a world without newspapers.Paul Little

We must never again allow a situation where the law allows a young woman with much charm and little real world experience, to legally take such dictatorial powers.

The current legislation needs to be reconsidered in Parliament. While it’s conceivable such situations could arise in the future requiring such a heavy-handed approach, the supporting legislation should require say a 75% Parliamentary vote. Sir Bob Jones

There are two clear dangers for New Zealand.

The first is the virus – or more specifically, the prime minister’s strategy of eliminating the virus; how many lockdowns can we endure?

And the second is our prime minister, who fundamentally believes in state control, and is being given a free rein to embed her agenda deep into the heart of our democracy.  – Muriel Newman

Instead of adding to the deficit by throwing expensive shovels at projects, and thereby taking the public sector’s share of total spending up even further than its current, very high, level of 40 per cent of GDP, let’s hold the line on spending and cut tax revenues for a while, and let the households and the business sector sort out the shovelling for themselves. – Tim Hazeldine

For a Government, public confidence is the most precious of commodities. In ordinary times, it allows businesspeople to take more risks, invest in plant and technology, open new markets, start new ventures, employ more staff. It allows householders to decide yes, we will buy the new fridge, take a bigger holiday, eat out more often. Confidence turns the wheels of the economy. Simon Wilson

We are right to take a strong stand to value life and be against premature death. What we should now ask of our leaders is that they be consistent and place equal value on the risks, both physical and mental, for all people. One of the important roles of teachers in a crisis situation is to hear students’ questions and concerns with an open mind and allow them to work their way through things. Suppressing this process can only lead to conformity for the sake of it and a deep sense of helplessness. – Alwyn Poole

We’ve flattened the curve; we don’t need to flatten our country. Indeed, we now need another curve, an upward growth curve – growth, jobs, and a track back to normality.Simon Bridges

 The instinct of the Labour/ New Zealand First government will be to assume that a committee of Wellington politicians and officials, with a couple of business folk, a union rep and two iwi leaders should steer our path into the new economy. The likes of Shane Jones and Phil Twyford will implement it. . .

But the core engine of growth will always be private sector investment – men, women and their businesses taking on new ventures, rebuilding their businesses, expanding, hiring people – taking mad risks. No committee would have thought Kiwis should get into rockets, or into online accounting systems.

The recipe hasn’t changed. Successful economies make it easy for the investment to flow to more productive activities – they welcome investment, they don’t over regulate or over tax, they provide clear and consistent rules, properly enforced, and don’t go changing them all the time. – Paul Goldsmith

This is not a time to panic or point fingers. It is time for us to reveal our true character. Sir Don McKinnon

We need to speak very plainly about this: these three career politicians have absolutely no idea what sectors of the economy are doomed, which have a future, and whether any particular commercial proposal makes sense. Add Economic Development Phil Twyford to the mix, and it risks the appearance of a circus run by clowns. . .

Free-market capitalism works not because it is individualistic — although it is — but because it collectivises everyone’s best guesses and analysis. In contrast, collectivist economic systems reply on the brilliance of individuals or, worse, committees. Again, we should speak plainly: central planners are not just often wrong, but invariably wrong, just like most of us. – Matthew Hooton 

If you have one tenth the number of intensive care beds per capita that Germany does, if you don’t have contact tracing in place, then if you don’t have that level of resourcing available, you’ve got to focus very hard on the keep-it-out strategy. The fact that we’ve had to work so hard to stamp it out can only mean we’ve failed to keep it out. – Des Gorman


Agility and speed needed for recovery

April 13, 2020

National Finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith says agility and speed are needed as we rebuild the economy:

. . . Every day that the talents and energies of Kiwis are not being put to use, every day that most hospital beds are empty and normal health and education activities are not carried out, we are paying a heavy price. 

The critical thing  this coming week is for the Government to clarify what it sees are the steps to progressively reopen the economy after the lockdown.   Is it all online commerce first with home deliveries, all elements of the supply chain feeding essential services, construction and general medical work?  Then what’s next? Everything that doesn’t involve large crowds, while retaining restrictions on borders?

These steps need to be announced as soon as possible.

We need absolute clarity about what’s in and what’s out at each step, and how social distancing in the workplace will work in practice.  Confusion and gross unfairness between businesses may have been forgiven as we raced headlong into lockdown at the start of the crisis, but it won’t be forgiven as we come out. 

If clarity around what is safe rather than arbitrary, confusing and often conflicting rules on what is essential was the guiding principle there would be less confusion and unfairness.

If the level four, three and two system that we’ve created is unnecessarily clunky and rigid, we should abandon or adapt it, so that new segments of everyday life can be opened up as quickly as possible without having to go through a great bureaucratic chain of command to shift from level three to two. 

Throughout, businesses would benefit from as much signalling of the changes as possible to get ready. . .

Businesses need to plan for reopening. The more knowledge they have and the sooner they have it the better able they’ll be to open sooner and safely.

Of course there is a risk that if we open up too soon we may see infection rates go up.  The response to that is extensive testing, tracing and isolation.   But as we can all see, the alternative of staying in lockdown longer than necessary is far from risk free. . .

The economic and social costs are already high and rising. There are also health costs in the lockdown through diagnosis and treatment delayed.

In the medium term, we need pro-growth policies to encourage investment.   This is not the time for the state to take over the economy or for a committee of Wellington officials to decide where investment should flow.

No virus can change the formula for success.  Most growth, jobs and opportunities will come from people and their businesses taking a risk to invest in rebuilding and expanding their enterprises, hiring new people, starting new ventures, buying new machines. 

They’re more likely to make those investments if they feel confident in the direction taken by the Government – that it won’t regulate them to death, over-tax them or keep changing the rules. 

The Government should hold off on the countless new costs and rules it was planning to impose on the productive sector in the next year or so, so that they can catch their breath and get started.

The government has a big role in the recovery, but it is not in doing things businesses are better doing, nor can it be in getting in the way of businesses doing them.

Meantime, it’s a good time to invest quality infrastructure, the innovation and R&D sector, and in the skills needed for the modern workplace.

There’s no reason our country can’t return to prosperity soon if we continue to apply agility and urgency to the great task of rebuilding our economy.

Governments don’t usually do agility and speed but governments don’t usually lockdown their countries either.

It isn’t going to be easy to get out of lockdown, it will be harder still to get over the consequences.

If the government isn’t able to be agile and speedy, it must do all it can to allow businesses to be.


It’s raining

March 23, 2020

The government’s decision to put public health before that of businesses can be justified but National’s Finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith says it’s time to open the public purse:

We are facing the sharpest and deepest recession in living memory.

To avoid an accelerating downward spiral, with the mass failure of previously healthy firms, large scale job losses, mortgage foreclosures and serious hardship, a massive economic package is required now. Bring out the bazooka.

The primary economic goal must be to reduce the number of business collapses, and thereby to sustain jobs and incomes.

We’d support an economic response that is bigger and faster than what has been delivered so far. . . 

Businesses which have received help are grateful but a lot more needs to be done to protect jobs.

The primary source of urgent assistance is the $5.1b wage subsidy scheme. This we support. But the $150,000 cap for businesses, which translates to 21 full time staff, means that around half or more of New Zealand’s workforce won’t be covered the scheme.

While it’s true that most businesses in New Zealand are small, the majority of workers currently work for the 5000 businesses that employ more than 50 people.

Just think of a large scale tourist bus operator with hundreds of employees. This business’s revenues will have collapsed. A subsidy capped at 21 employees will be of little assistance.

Our strong view is that the government’s immediate package of economic support – $6b at best – is far too light. 

The $150,000 cap needs to be much higher, so that workers are covered no matter what the size of the business.

Urgent further consideration also needs to be given to the shape of the scheme. The Government’s scheme pays the money with no guarantee people will be kept in employment – only ‘best endeavours’ are required. The British scheme, recently announced, is a more generous payment for employees kept on the payroll but sent home.

The costs of the British scheme will be eye-watering, but some variation of that will likely be the least worst option.

Monetary policy, meantime, is not yet doing anything like the hard work it did during the GFC. The Reserve Bank will need to do more.

There is no doubt that if further dramatic restrictions on movement and work follow, we will have to go even further. . . 

Working capital will be the greatest challenges facing most businesses. The banks are rightly the first port of call. A government backed line of credit to banks to on-lend to businesses in trouble is required now. I know the government and banks are working on this; I’d encourage them to fast-track their plans.

On the assumption that this disruption could run to months, we should also move urgently to start on useful transport and water infrastructure – work that definitely needs to be done against nice-to-haves. We should fast-track legislation to get the shovels on the ground.

We cannot possibly stop every job loss, nor avoid every business collapse. But we can, and we should, do more to save as many jobs as we can.

Remember this is an economic shock created by government responses to a virus. This is why successive governments have reduced debt when they could. This is what we’ve prepared for.

My plea to the government is to focus on the here and now, and move more rapidly to stabilise businesses as best we can to save jobs. The National Party stands ready to help in any way we can.

The previous government was criticised in some quarters for its determination to return the government books to surplus.

The current government has been criticised for its determination  to keep debt low.

Both were preparing for a rainy day and that day has arrived.

It’s bucketing down and urgent action is needed to prevent the flood of business collapses and job losses that will follow.


Delivering broken promises

December 12, 2019

When the Prime Minister declared this the year of delivery, did she mean delivering broken promises?

Today’s half year economic and fiscal update is a damning indictment on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s economic management as she puts New Zealand back in the red, National’s Finance Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“This Government inherited massive surpluses as far as the eye could see, and has blown them in two years.

The previous Labour government left a decade of deficits and National managed to get back into surplus in spite of the Canterbury earthquakes and GFC.

It’s taken just two years for Labour to undo that good work.

“Treasury has slashed its economic growth forecasts which means fewer opportunities for Kiwis to get ahead, less money to go around and more debt. The Government has turned the strong growth and huge surpluses it inherited into deficits, weak growth and more debt with nothing to show for it.

“The Government is pulling the economy down with one hand through added costs, uncertainty and incompetence, and trying to pull it up with other through more debt. It’s confused, incoherent and chaotic.

The Government has also broken its promise to New Zealanders to reduce debt below 20 per cent of GDP by 2022. This promise was only made because Labour knew New Zealanders didn’t trust them to spend wisely.

“That lack of trust has been fully justified.

“The Government would not need to break their debt promise by almost $5 billion if they had not wasted billions of taxpayer money on failed experimental policies like KiwiBuild, Fees Free or the Provincial Growth Fund.

Borrowing when interest rates are low to fund infrastructure investment isn’t necessarily feckless, but the government wouldn’t need to borrow if it hadn’t wasted money on fripperies.

“After spending its first two years deliberately stopping planned transport infrastructure, it’s a relief the Government has finally woken up to the need to get on with things. We, however, have little confidence it will deliver anything next year either. . . 

The announcement begs some questions.

It is borrowing $19 billion of which $12 billion is earmarked for infrastructure.

What is the other $7 billion to be spent on?

And why wait?

. . But details of these projects were not announced today.

Rather, Robertson said the Government would be announcing the specific projects in early to mid-2020. . . 

Of the new spending announced today, $8 billion is for specific “shovel ready” projects, with a further $4 billion on hand for future spending. . . 

If the projects are shovel ready why not start shoveling now? Do we have enough shovelers or will the work, as Politik says, need more migrants?

Like so many times before, what the government announced is a plan to plan, not actually a plan of action and the money it’s planning to plan to spend would be borrowed because it’s squandered the surpluses that ought to have been available for this type of investment.


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