Strike two

February 18, 2015

Labour has been plagued by political mismanagement under its last three leaders and it hasn’t got any better under this one.

Strike one for  Andrew Little came with the very tardy payment of a contractor. Bad enough in itself from a former union head and at least of bad a reflection on his office:

. . . Any small business owner will tell you that the one thing they really hate is people who don’t pay their bills.

But one of the worst aspects of this is the shocking political management. Someone, anyone on Little’s team should have paid this bill. It was obvious that Cohen would go feral.

Even when Cohen wrote about it in the National Business Review, Labour still didn’t pay, allowing Steven Joyce to expose and embarrass Little in Parliament.

Why didn’t chief of staff Matt McCarten step in and clean up the mess?

All for the sake of $950 and a bit of internet banking.

First strike on the hypocrisy front for Andrew Little.

And strike one for mismanagement.

Strike two was Little’s failure to consult other parties on the membership of the  Intelligence and Security committee:

Climate change targets, deep sea oil drilling, the Trans Pacific Partnership … there are many thorny issues that could divide Labour and Greens.

In fact, all it took was membership of a parliamentary committee and some clumsy manners from Andrew Little.

The Labour leader raised the hackles of out-going co-leader Russel Norman by excluding his party from Parliament’s Intelligence and Security committee, instead choosing David Shearer.

The Green party learned of the decision through the media – Little had not even informed his own chief of staff Matt McCarten.

To further rub salt into the wound, Little then slighted co-leader Metiria Turei by suggesting she could not compete with Shearer’s knowledge, skills or understanding of security issues.

He appeared to under-estimate the Green Party’s anger, quipping “ask them [if they are upset] tomorrow” when pressed on how he would smooth ruffled feathers.

Little’s first mistake was in seemingly breaking the law by not consulting with the other opposition parties. Refusing to take Norman seriously was his second – and the Greens retaliated with fury. . .

Little is right about Shearer being better qualified than Turei or, as David Farrar points out, any member of the Green Party:

 The Greens are effectively opposed to the very existence of the intelligence agencies. Hence appointing them to an oversight committee means that their interest is just to find ways to discredit the agencies, not to play a constructive role in oversight. . .

However, that doesn’t excuse Little’s failure to follow the law in consulting other Opposition parties.

Political leaders don’t get a very long honeymoon, these two strikes signal Little’s is over and that he’s dogged by the problems of mismanagement which dogged the last three Labour leaders.

P.S. the column in which David Cohen raised the issue of the non-payment is here.

. . . What I was being asked to provide was not media advice or training, after all, but to take out a few hours to talk with Mr Little and then independently distill his views as they might sound to an outsider. Mr Matthews seemed to think his man could do with a bit more clarity. 

As assignments go, it sounded offbeat but I’ve taken far odder ones in my time.  . .

As a nosey-parker, too, I was interested to know more about the opposition’s calamitous recent history and perhaps even some of its current internal tensions. 

Happily on that last point, this was something Mr Matthews immediately hinted at with a number of less-than-enthusiastic references to Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern, along with a slightly baffling digression on how the party’s fortunes will yet be reversed by installing the MP for Kelston, Carmel Sepuloni, as deputy party leader ahead of the next general election. 

Scrolling back through a number of more recent clips of his television interviews, though, I could see why Mr Little’s friends might feel he needed a touch more clarity. 

Like many trained lawyers, and indeed working journalists, I think he tries to parse tumbling thoughts into cogent words as he speaks. Sometimes this serves him better than others. There were occasions when I couldn’t make head or tail of what he was saying. . .

 The atmosphere was congenial if a touch odd. Nobody had thought to turn the lights on, which lent a slightly film noir-ish air to the next couple of hours.

But the conversation was illuminating enough. We talked about Mr Little’s view of his own personal attributes – a lifetime of private sector engagement, an intimate knowledge of the organisation and a track record for bringing people together – and how these may or may not rejuvenate his party. 

We chatted about his time representing journalists as a union leader. He spoke about his general engagement with the media. 

From there, the conversation moved on to last year’s ghastly election campaign, Labour’s perceived image problems and what seems to me to be the piquant irony of a party claiming the mantle of diversity and yet almost consistently refusing to welcome businesspeople into its ranks. 

Interesting stuff. I wrote up my notes as best I could, and sent them off along with an invoice for the time spent. Both were received with thanks.  

Then came the silence.

Four months, many inquiring telephone calls and gazillions of emails on – as of the time of this writing – I’m still none the financially richer for having taken this oddball assignment.  Not by a bean. I’ve been left feeling rather like a one-man nocturnal performer in a Christchurch insurance office. 

Oh well. Isn’t that how things so often are for we self-employed and small business types grinding away in the engine room of the economy? 

This supports my theory that Labour and unions want to be tough on employers because of their own poor record with employees.

There are bad employers and bad employees but they are the minority. Employment law should not be designed as if all employers and sinners and all employees saints.


Norman resigning from Green co-leadership

January 30, 2015

Russel Norman has announced he’s resigning as co-leader of the Green Party.

Dr Norman, whose third child was born two days ago, gave no explanation beyond a generic statement that he wanted to seek his next challenge and spend more time with his family.

His statement to media:

I am announcing today that I will not be standing for Co-leader of the Green Party at our AGM in May.

This is my ninth year as Co-leader and I think it’s time for a change.

This is something I have considered for some time and over the summer break I have had the space to think hard about my future.

I concluded that after nearly a decade, it is a good time to find a new challenge for myself, and to spend more time with my family, and now is also a good time for new leadership for the party.

Norman said at his 11am press conference he would stay on as an MP until the next election. . .

The job of MP places big pressure on families and a desire to spend more time with his should not be questioned.

One could however wonder what new challenges he’ll be seeking and how he’ll be doing that while remaining an MP being paid from the public purse.

That aside, Norman has been co-leader since 2006 and entered parliament then by leapfrogging up the party list.

He can take some of the credit for the increase in Green MPs since then.

The party had dropped from 9 MPs in 2002 to 6 in 2005, went back up to 9 in 2008, gained 14 MPs in 2011 and retained that number, with a slightly lower percentage of the vote, in 2014.

However, he also must shoulder some of the blame for his party’s inability to capitalise on Labour’s low polling last year and for its failure to be part of a government.

The Greens were more effective as an opposition than Labour for much of the last three term and were aiming for more MPs as a result of that.

That they couldn’t do it when Labour was at its lowest point must have been a huge disappointment to them and indicates a need for change.

National has managed to renew and refresh its caucus while in government.

That Labour hasn’t is one its problems and Norman’s decision indicates he might have learned from that.

 


Education the key

December 11, 2014

A new OECD report appears to show inequality is growing in New Zealand.

But NBR editor Nevil Gibson discusses what it really shows:

. . . The four-page summary report based on a working paper, Trends in income inequality and its impact on economic growth (See report here), and statistical tables, has been seized on by the media the opposition as a “failure of trickle down economics” and a case for higher taxes on the rich and more redistribution to the poor.

In fact, this is not the case. The main reason is the dated nature of statistical material, while the policy suggestions carry a heavy caveat that “Redistribution policies that are poorly targeted and do not focus on the most effective tools can lead to a waste of resources and generate inefficiencies.”

The figures that show New Zealand’s growth was inhibited by increased income inequality are based on the period 1990-2010. The figures show “real disposable household income” in New Zealand from 1985 to the GFC (2008) was around the OECD average and well below countries such as Australia.

In the five years post the GFC, New Zealand disposable incomes among the top 10% fell 2.2% (OECD average 0.7%) while those in the bottom 10% fell the least, 0.5% (also the OECD average). Average New Zealand incomes fell  0.9% compared with the OECD average of 1.8%. . .

The GFC hit the richest but National’s policies to look after the most vulnerable during the GFC gave them some protection.

. . . But the main interest in the paper is the evidence it offers on the main mechanism through which inequality affects growth.

This is that the wider income gap between the lower middle class and poor households compared to the rest of society undermines education opportunities for children from poor socio-economic backgrounds, lowering social mobility and hampering skills development.

In other words, it is education rather than taxation that is the key: “a lack of investment in education by the poor is the main factor behind inequality hurting growth,” the report says.

“This compelling evidence proves that addressing high and growing inequality is critical to promote strong and sustained growth and needs to be at the centre of the policy debate,” says OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría:

“Countries that promote equal opportunity for all from an early age are those that will grow and prosper.”

Few would argue that successive governments in New Zealand are seriously deficient in this area and the biggest deniers would be the Labour government of 1999-2008.

The OECD handout summarising the report observes:

“People whose parents have low levels of education see their educational outcomes deteriorate as income inequality rises. By contrast, there is little or no effect on people with middle or high levels of parental educational background.

“The impact of inequality on growth stems from the gap between the bottom 40% with the rest of society, not just the poorest 10%. Anti-poverty programmes will not be enough, says the OECD.

“Cash transfers and increasing access to public services, such as high-quality education, training and healthcare, are an essential social investment to create greater equality of opportunities in the long run.”

As mentioned, the paper also finds no evidence that redistributive policies, such as taxes and social benefits, harm economic growth, provided these policies are well designed, targeted and implemented.

Well-off New Zealanders already carry a high tax burden – more than half of the population pays no tax except GST – so I don’t think any party can justify higher taxes on the basis of this report.

As the report itself warns,” not all redistributive measures are equally good for growth.”

Inequality increased under Labour’s high tax, high spending policies of the noughties.

It has improved under National which has reduced taxes and taken a much more careful approach to targeting spending where it is needed most needed.

One of those areas is education:

The key message of the OECD’s report on inequality, released today, is investment in education and is not a prescription for higher taxes, says the Taxpayers’ Union.

The Union’s Executive Director, Jordan Williams, reacting to the OECD report and interviews with Grant Robertson and Russel Norman on this morning’s Morning Report says:

“Grant Robertson and Russel Norman want to use the report as justification to tax high incomes more, even though the top 6% of income earners already pay 37% of everyone’s income tax. They are trying to use the OECD report to frame small efficient government and incentives to work as a bad thing.”

“We’re disappointed that Mr Robertson continues to refer to the made up economic theory of ‘trickle down economics’. Mr Robertson must know that no such economic theory exists. No economist has ever argued that in order to make a poor person richer you should make a rich person richer first. Economists have, however, argued that economic growth and freedom makes us all, rich or poor, better off.”

“The biggest cost of living is people’s tax bills. Instead of wanting to solve inequality by cutting government waste and taxes at the low end, politicians immediately want to tax more so they can distribute it to constituencies.”

The background to the oxymoronic ‘trickle-down economics’ argument Messrs Robertson and Norman referred to on radio this morning to is available in a piece by New Zealand Initiative Researcher Jenesa Jeram republished with permission.

“Mr Robertson is now shadow Minister of Finance. He should be focused on arguing real economic data, not taking on his own straw men arguments,” concludes Mr Williams.

The poor won’t get richer by making the rich richer first. But nor will taking more than is fair and reasonable from anyone help those most in need.

Higher taxes and poor spending don’t help the poor and harm the wider economy.

Education is the key to helping the poor, along with carefully targeted investments in health and other services needed to provide equality of opportunity for them.


Key #1

December 4, 2014

Prime Minister John Key is Trans Tasman’s politician of the year:

This year’s 10th annual Roll Call can reveal John Key as its Politician of the Year. It was a straightforward choice. Key has stood head and shoulders above the rest in the polls, and his party romped home in its third election, the third time in a row it has added extra seats as well.

Key polled highest among the Trans Tasman Editors, contributors and their Capital insiders who make up the panel which compiles Roll Call, and despite signs there may be trouble ahead for Key if he is not careful, 2014 was his year.

Of course winning a fourth term will be dependent as much on the party’s support staff and their management as the Parliamentary team. The same goes for Labour as it battles to rebuild after its shattering defeat.

Roll Call says Key is “still phenomenally popular and if he comes through a third term without serious damage, a fourth could be within his grasp. But he’ll have to be careful.”

Trans Tasman’s Editors note “Key has not only performed strongly at home, he has become an international figure as well, cementing his and NZ’s reputation abroad with his election as chairman of the International Democratic Union.”

“However there are clouds. The fallout from the “Dirty Politics” saga continues. It should have been firmly put to bed in the campaign. And Key’s tendency to “forget,” or “mishear” the question is becoming a worrying feature of the way he involves himself in the Parliamentary and media discourse.”

“He has the respect – almost the love – of the voters, he needs to be careful he does not treat them with contempt. A fourth term does beckon, but the PM’s tendency to be just a bit smug, a bit arrogant, and at times a bit childish could derail it.”

“For now he is a titan, but Labour has a new leader and a new sense of purpose, and the next election is a long way away.”

National’s Front Bench performed exceptionally well in 2014, with just a single Cabinet Minister losing ground. Nikki Kaye fell from 6.5 to 6, after the “bright young thing” nearly lost Auckland Central. Roll Call suggests she must work harder.

Steven Joyce adds half a mark, taking the man most see as John Key’s successor to 8. “He doesn’t drop the ball and handles a raft of senior portfolios with calm confidence. Outside Parliament he was National’s campaign manager and must share some of the credit for its victory.”

Bill English, last year’s Politician of the Year, maintained his score of 9 out of 10. He is still “the safest pair of hands in the cabinet. Cautious, dependable and now mostly steering clear of debating chamber rhetoric.”

After a bad year in 2013, Hekia Parata has battled back to take her score from 5 to 7. “Key believes she’s competent and wasn’t going to hang her out to dry. He’s giving her the benefit of the doubt in delivering on a gutsy vision for the Education sector.”

Murray McCully takes his score from 6.5 to 7.5 after putting together the team which won NZ a seat on the UN Security Council and doing many of the hard yards himself, while Maggie Barry gets kudos for fitting in well to Conservation and being who “some say is the most popular National MP behind Key himself.” Her score jumps from 3 to 5.5.

The Ministers outside Cabinet are more average with Craig Foss, and Jo Goodhew, going down in score, Louise Upston and Paul Goldsmith staying the same and just Nicky Wagner boosting her score from 4.5 to 5.

Both support party Ministers, Peter Dunne and Te Ururoa Flavell boosted their scores. Dunne from 4 to 5 “gets a point for coming through a horrible year with his head/hair up” while Maori Party leader Flavell goes from 6 to 6.5. “We’ll make a call and say he’s going to be an outstanding Minister.”

The dubious honour of low score for National goes to Melissa Lee. “Hard working but faded after a good start.”

Among the thoroughly shattered Labour MPs, there was little to write home about. David Cunliffe’s score falls from 7.5-6 after the election defeat. But “history may judge him more kindly than last week’s headlines. Is he NZ’s Kevin Rudd?”

Andrew Little’s star starts to shine though. His score jumps from 4.5 to 7. “No-one is going to die wondering what Little thinks. He’s a tough talking union man from way back who isn’t going to compromise his beliefs.”

Labour’s low scorer is Rino Tirikatene who stays on just 2.5 out of 10. “Do still waters run deep or are they just still? Has had time to find his feet and still no impact.”

For the Greens co-leader Russel Norman is the standout, holding his score on 7 out of 10. “After John Key Norman works the media better than any other party leader… If the Greens had gone into coalition with Labour he would have been hard to handle.”

And of course the old war horse Winston Peters is still there, blowing a bit harder than usual. He boosts his score from 7 to 7.5. “Does he have the will and the stamina for another three years on the opposition benches and a campaign in 2017?”

This year for the first time Roll Call also looks at the impact those MPs who left Parliament at the election had, and it is here we find this year’s low scorers Claudette Hauiti and John Banks, both on 1 out of 10.

As for the numbers:

Of National’s 60 MPs, 30 improved their score on last year, 7 went down, and 10 stayed the same. There were 15 new MPs who were not ranked.

Of Labour’s 32, 12 went up, 8 went down, 5 remained on the same score as last year and 7 were unable to be ranked.

ACT’s single MP was unable to be ranked. Of the Maori party’s 2 MPs 1 went up, and the other was unable to be ranked, while United Future’s single MP improved his score.

The Greens had 3 of their 14 MPs improve their score, 4 went down while 6 remained the same, one was unable to be ranked.

For NZ First 2 MPs improved their scores, 1 went down and 2 remained the same. 6 were unable to be ranked.

Of the National MPs able to be rated this year, 32 had a score of 5 or higher, while 13 scored below 5, while for Labour it had 16 of its MPs rated 5 or above, while 9 scored below 5.

The 2014 roll call is here.

 

 


Farming business not bet

November 13, 2014

Dairy farming is ‘no bet’:

Federated Farmers says it’s not the government betting on the farm, but instead farmers making sound market decisions. This comes after Green Party co-leader, Dr Russel Norman, said the government has ‘bet on the farm’ with dairying being a ‘one trick pony,’ which is producing a lower tax take and jeopardising a budget surplus.

“Dr Norman is ill-advisedly attacking New Zealand’s most successful export industry,” says Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“Primary exports are an increasingly large share of our merchandise export returns and dairy an increasingly large share of farm production.

“The signals from the market are that growing middle classes, especially in South Asia, are developing a sustained taste for dairy products, and New Zealand is a respected source of those dairy products.

“Our dairy farmers are rationally taking these market signals on board and not being diverted by the inevitable short term fluctuations, or in Dr Norman’s terms, ‘a bet’

“The reasons for the present market slippage are clear.

“We didn’t cause Ebola in West Africa and our dairy farmers didn’t invade Eastern Ukraine either, but these two disparate events have cost us hundreds of millions of dollars. That same risk would exist if we exported mobile phones or software.

“Yes, the world produced seven billion litres more milk last season in an exceptional run the world-over. While that put a lid on dairy price growth, sanctions following events in the Eastern Ukraine released some three billion more litres and now you’ve got Ebola too.

“No question this season is a poor one. It ranks down there with 2005/6 but that also means the many seasons around them weren’t too shabby. Seasons that have helped to make this country the third most prosperous on earth according to Legatum.

“Unlike the past, our guys have been saving the gains while investing into productivity and environmental improvements. The ASB reckons, according to NZ Farmer, that agricultural bank deposits over the year to the end of September totalled $7.2 billion.

“Within the past few weeks RadioLive’s Duncan Garner has been on-farm and said this after visiting one; “So a bit of a message to the Greens, this guy wanted to pass on a message to the Green Party that they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on what they do with their waste, and I thought it was quite brilliant, actually”.

Andrew Hoggard however doesn’t take too much issue with Russel Norman that the dairy industry might to likened to a pony.

“If he insists that it is a pony he should acknowledge that it is a very strong pony, it’s a stayer and it can perform economic miracles for our nation that Dr Norman would do well to get acquainted with,” Mr Hoggard concluded.

Season Average Dairy Company total payout ($/kg milksolids) Dairy Company payout (inflation adjusted)a
2003/04 $ 4.25 $ 5.34
2004/05 $ 4.58 $ 5.60
2005/06 $ 4.10 $ 4.83
2006/07 $ 4.46 $ 5.14
2007/08 $ 7.67 $ 8.51
2008/09 $ 5.14 $ 5.59
2009/10b $ 6.37 $ 6.82
2010/11b $ 7.89 $ 8.02
2011/12b $ 6.40 $ 6.44
2012/13b $ 6.18 $ 6.18

Fonterra’s milk price payout for the immediate past (2013/14) season is $8.40 kg/MS.
Source: DairyNZ Dairy Statistics for 2012/13
a Weighted to give real dollar values using the Consumers Price Index for the end of the June quarter. Sourced from Statistics New Zealand; Excludes dairy company retentions and deduction for DairyNZ Levy.
b Average dairy co-operative payout (Fonterra, Tatua, Westland)

 The Green Party doesn’t like dairying and it doesn’t like the government.

But neither farmers nor the government are betting on the industry.

Since National came to power in 2008 it’s introduced several measures to help business, foster trade and lower the burden of government.

Meanwhile farmers have got on with farming, accepting the reality that markets, the weather and various other factors beyond their control will affect the payout.

Last season we got a record high payout, this season will be much more modest but the medium to longer term outlook is still bright for dairying and the export income it earns for New Zealand.

 


In praise of erudition

September 27, 2014

National’s candidate for Rongatai, Hon Chris Finlayson writes on his campaign for the elucidation of readers of the Spectator:

Every three years in New Zealand, incumbent politicians must hit the campaign trail. Since 2008, I have chased votes in the Rongotai electorate. My Labour opponent, Annette King, has held the seat since 1996. She is a fine parliamentarian, a thoroughly nice person, and also a distant cousin on my mother’s side. ‘Chris says if he wins Rongotai, he’ll ask for a recount,’ she delights in telling voters. This is supposed to be a joke but, under New Zealand’s mixed member proportional voting system, winning individual seats is not the be all and end all. The number of seats a party has in Parliament is determined by a party vote, and local representatives by a separate electorate vote. As a list MP standing in a traditional left seat my job is to maximise the party vote for National.

The Rongotai electorate takes in Wellington’s rugged southern coast, the Miramar Peninsula and the working class suburbs of Newtown and Berhampore, which are fast gentrifying and turning from red to green. Its furthest boundary is the Chatham Islands, an archipelago around 700km from the mainland. It is a place of isolated natural beauty, rich cultural history, abundant fisheries and distinctively salty mutton. On my most recent trip, the twin-propeller plane was struck by lightning and my stay had to be extended by two days. There is no cellular reception in the Chathams, adding to its attractiveness.

The Newtown debate is usually the rowdiest of the campaign. In 2011, I was shoved by an Anglican vicar as I made my way out. This year, there are ten candidates lined up across the stage facing the audience squeezed into a wooden church hall. The crowd has a very particular strand of rule-bound, suburban radicalism: every mention of ‘revolution’ is cheered, but the audience will not allow proceedings to begin while party signs are blocking the fire exits. Along with Annette, the candidates include Russel Norman, a Tasmanian who relocated to New Zealand to work for the Green Party and now, holding the office of Male Co-leader, campaigns against foreign ownership. He finds himself fighting candidates from the populist Conservative and New Zealand First parties for the xenophobe vote. The Newtown audience thinks I am insufferably right wing but also thinks the same about the Greens and Labour. Dr Norman is accused of dismissing victims of sexual assault. Annette King gets a frosty reception for her party’s track record on Maori issues. I am roundly booed when I say the audience is ‘redistributionist’. More popular are a young man dressed as a shark and representing the Climate Party (his contribution to the debate is ‘learn to swim’) and also the candidate for the Patriotic Revolutionary Front. The PRF wants a benevolent dictatorship and has a leaflet showing a composite picture of Stalin and Einstein as its ideal leader. . .

It’s not just what he says but the way that he says it.

Oh to have the ability to write so eruditely, and also to have been a better Latin scholar.

Can anyone translate his quote (in the paragraph which follows the extract I’ve used) from Horace: parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus ?

I tried Google and got the mountains are in labour, security issues. Even without dim memories of third form Latin I would doubt that is what it means.


Feds wary of Greens

September 10, 2014

I’d add Finance to that:


Greens to tax good farmers to clean up after bad

September 8, 2014

The Green Party wants to impose a tax on irrigation water and use it to pay for cleaning waterways:

“The Green Party will also put a charge on the use of water for irrigation in order to drive more efficient use of our precious freshwater resources,” said Dr Norman.

“The OECD, New Zealand Treasury and the Ministry for the Environment have all recommended water charging, yet National is sitting on its hands.

“According to Lincoln University’s Public Perceptions of New Zealand’s Environment 2010 study, New Zealanders, including farmers, are strongly supportive of commercial users being charged for the water they use.

“That’s because freshwaters is a common good, and the use of it for private profit should result in a direct benefit to both the environment and wider community.

Why only farmers then, why not all commercial users which would include power companies, food processors, restaurants and hair dressers?

“We will ring fence the money generated by the irrigation charge for water pollution clean-up initiatives.

Dr Norman said that his policies reward good farmers that are doing the right things, whereas National’s policies incentivise poor practice. . .

He’s wrong there.

The Green Party would tax all irrigators and use the money to clean up after the minority who don’t protect and enhance waterways.

There is no incentive for poor practice now and very expensive penalties for anyone who breaches conditions set by regional councils.

This is just another tax by another left-wing party that wants to fund its promises to spend more with other people’s money.

 


Peters scared of Craig

August 27, 2014

The Queenstown ASB debate between the finance spokespeople for five parties attracted a sell-out crowd last night.

debate

The photo shows, chair Duncan Garner, Finance Minister Bill English for National, Conservative leader Colin Craig, Labour’s David Parker, Act’s Jamie Whyte and Green Russel Norman.

Duncan Garner said that the Maori Party declined the invitation, Mana didn’t reply and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters refused to come if Craig was there.

The chair gave each speaker three minutes to give a pitch then gave them a few questions before taking questions from the floor.

Labour’s trying to campaign on being positive but its finance spokesman started by being negative about the economy and the outlook.

Jamie Whyte started by quoting Adam Smith:

Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.

He also asked who’s going to make better decisions – someone putting their own money at risk in search of profit of someone using other people’s money in search of votes?

Duncan Garner asked him to name one Green policy he agreed with and he said he couldn’t think of one.

The question Duncan Garner put to Russel Norman at the end of his three minutes was whether he could say something good about the Finance Minister and he said he’d been very responsible.

Colin Craig rattled through his policy which includes tax cuts at the lower end.

The chair asked him to say whether he’d go with National or Labour if he had the choice after the election. He said National because the party would have the most votes.

Clutha Southland MP Bill English got the biggest welcome from his home crowd.

He started by giving people the credit for their resilience, responsible and work and how important that was because the economy doesn’t just exist in an office in Wellington, it’s what people do.

That, in partnership with National-led government’s careful management of public finances, had put New Zealand back on the right track.

He said we now have a platform built on our resilience the positive encouragement from government and the most positive Prime Minister New Zealand has had that will allow us to have sustainable growth.

“You have set that direction and we can keep it,” he said.

There’s a video of the debate here.


Environment not Green priority

August 20, 2014

The Green Party has confirmed the environment isn’t their priority, it’s their socialist economic and social agenda which matters most.

Green co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei want to be in a full coalition with Labour and have senior Cabinet positions that reflect their party’s priorities, social justice and the economy. . .

They’ve always denied the accusation of being a watermelon – green on the outside, red inside. But confirming the environment isn’t a priority proves they are.

The thought of Green MPs in senior cabinet positions, and sharing the position of Deputy Prime Minister will not be attractive to many Labour voters and will be even less so to Winston Peters.

Throw Internet Mana and their puppet master Kim Dotcom into the mix and a potential Labour-Green government becomes even more expensive and unstable.


Greens can’t read Budget

August 20, 2014

Oh dear, the Green Party has been trying to claim it’s economically responsible but it can’t even read the Budget:

Russel Norman and the Greens have again confirmed they cannot read Budgets, repeating incorrect claims that the National-led Government is planning multi-billion dollar cuts to health and education spending over the next three years.

“If I was Russel Norman, I’d ask BERL to cancel the invoice for their latest report on behalf of the Greens,” National Party Finance Spokesman Bill English says.

“The forecast health and education numbers they quote for future years exclude allocations yet to be made from future annual operating allowances for discretionary spending and they also exclude capital investment allocations.

“These decisions are made by ministers just before each Budget – as they have done under successive governments.

“Typically health and education receive most of this extra discretionary operating spending.”

In Budget 2013, the Vote Health allocation for 2014/15 was in the accounts at $14.1 billion. After Budget 2014 decisions, the total health budget, including discretionary spending and capital investment, was actually $15.6 billion.

“This process happens every year, but Dr Norman obviously doesn’t know that – yet he wants to be finance minister one day.

“Although the Greens are again wrong with their numbers, they also fail to understand that it is the results of spending that matter for New Zealanders – such as lower crime and higher educational achievement.”

The Green Party like others on the left put more emphasis on the amount of spending than the effect.

They measure success by the quantity spent rather than the quality of the spend.

It’s not how much that’s spent it’s how well it’s spent that is helping National make a positive difference and show it’s working for New Zealand.


Labour, Green still anti-dairy

August 7, 2014

Labour could hardly contain its glee at the drop in the prices in yesterday’s GlobalDairyTrade auction:

“Another massive drop in milk prices overnight shows New Zealand needs an Economic Upgrade to limit its overreliance on the dairy industry, Labour Leader David Cunliffe says.

“Since February, milk prices have collapsed by 41 per cent, which suggests the short-lived economic recovery may have already ended. . .

“New Zealand is too reliant on one industry – riding the wave of commodity prices is not a long-term solution to grow jobs and incomes. . .

But while crying crocodile tears over the milk price it was announcing a tax that will hit dairy farmers:

. . . “We believe that the use of water for irrigation is a privilege, not an inalienable right. A resource rental is the best tool for making sure fresh water is used efficiently. However we will support proposals for water storage and irrigation schemes provided they have a broad consensus from their communities.

“Labour will use resource rentals to pay for irrigation schemes rather than paying for them out of tax and asset sales. . .

Individuals and communities already have a say in any water storage and irrigation schemes through the resource consent process.

The initial stages of any irrigation scheme are the most expensive for irrigation companies and water users.

Resource rental is just another name for another tax which will  add costs without benefits, make irrigation schemes less viable, production more expensive and lead to increases in food prices.

The Green Party was equally quick to seize on the fall in dairy prices for political purposes:

Falling dairy prices are highlighting the danger of National’s economic strategy that focuses on the export of a few, simple commodities, the Green Party said today. . .

“National’s economic strategy has simplified our economy and concentrated our exports on a few, low-value-added commodities,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.

“National has bet the farm on the farm and it isn’t working. A growing reliance on one or two commodity exports has made our economy more vulnerable to commodity price swings. . .

Both parties either don’t understand or are ignoring the fact that the increase in dairying had nothing to do with government policy.

Farmers made individual decisions on converting farms in response to market signals.

They did so in the knowledge that in the market prices go up and they go down.

They went up last season because demand was high.

They are going down now because supply has increased.

Both parties are also conveniently ignoring the statistics.
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Dairy is important but it accounted for only 21% of our exports in 2012 and has gone up only a little since then.

The risk for dairy isn’t current government policies but those a Labour/Green government would impose including a carbon tax:

. . . Agriculture – which is currently exempt from the ETS – would pay a reduced rate of $12.50 per tonne. This works out as an 12.5 per cent hit on farmers’ income. This includes 2 per cent on the working expenses of the average farm. A Berl Economics report, released with the policy, said dairying will be ”adversely affected.”

But it adds: ”However, at the currently projected pay-out for milk solids, even dairy farms in the lowest decile would remain well above break even in the face of an emissions levy.” . .

That payout projection is much lower now.

When he announced the policy, Norman said dairy farmers could afford it.

It wouldn’t be wise to hold your breath while waiting for him to axe that tax because they can’t afford it now.

Labour and the Greens are simply anti-dairy.

They are vociferous about the costs, ignore the benefits and take no notice of the efforts farmers are making to protect and enhance water and soils.


A wee bit too clever?

July 1, 2014

Politics is hard on families and I respect Holly Walker’s decision to put her family first by deciding to resign.

Her decision to remain as the candidate for Hutt South is somewhat less laudable.

Since Jeanette Fitzsimons lost Coromandel, the Green party hasn’t even pretended to be interested in winning electorates.

I’ve heard their candidates tell meetings to not vote for them, vote for the Labour man or woman, they’re only interested in the party vote.

Like it or not, that’s what MMP allows.

But to have an MP who has stated she will resign from parliament at the end of the term still stand as a candidate in a seat is a new twist of the system.

It’s not unusual to have people stand in seats they can’t win.

Plenty stand in seats for the sake of the party knowing they won’t win nor can they expect to get in on the list. They are taking one for the team in the hope of increasing the party vote.

But this is the first time a list MP who has announced she won’t be in the next parliament still plans to campaign in a seat with the deliberate intent of neither winning it nor returning to parliament.

There are obvious advantages for the party – they have a candidate with profile and the ability to get publicity in a way open to MPs but not so much to a candidate, and who is being paid by the taxpayer.

But what’s in it for the people of Hutt South?

Nothing but another example of MMP’s faults.

The Green Party engineered the early entry of Russel Norman into parliament when he first became co-leader so he could campaign as an MP with the benefits and pay that carried.

That was manipulating the system but at least he was fully intending to be an MP after the next election.

This smells worse than that.

Walker would be paid until the end of the parliamentary term without being a candidate and even if she wasn’t standing in a seat she could still campaign for the party until the election.

So it’s not that there’s any extra cost involved.

It’s more an extra dose of duplicity.

Not trying to win because it’s the party vote that counts is one thing, standing without wanting to win is another.

In the normal course of events a candidate who didn’t expect tow in would be delighted is s/he did but obviously Walker wouldn’t be.

The chances might be slim, and if the good folk of Hutt South catch on to what’s going on, they’ll be even slimmer.

And that’s where she and the party might be being a wee bit too clever.

They might not like the smell of this and decide to give their party votes to a party which stands candidates who genuinely want to be in parliament.


Winning team won’t necessarily be winner

June 29, 2014

A party enjoying poll ratings which show it could govern alone might be in danger of complacency.

There is absolutely none of that at the National Party conference where the very clear message was

Prime Minister John Key told Patrick Gower:

. . . I know the polls look strong for us. And I know on the 3 Reid Research poll we’ll be able to govern alone and I’m really personally desperately hope that’s what election night looks like. But you and I both know it’ll probably be tighter than that and there’s every chance that we don’t win.. .

Chris Finlayson and Steven Joyce gave a similar message to the conference:

. . . Attorney General Chris Finlayson talked about the “hydra” this morning that grows new heads when the old ones are chopped off.

“Cut off Phil Goff and up shoots David Shearer and Hone Harawira. Saw off David Shearer and up springs David Cunliffe and Laila Harre.

“The fragmentation on the left hasn’t made the hydra weaker,” said Mr Finlayson “only more unstable if it can force its way into power again.”

Campaign chairman Steven Joyce warned delegates that the campaign was “still a little puppy” and that anything at all could happen in the next 84 days before the election – the wackiest thing imaginable, he said.

“A retired Maori activist who has become an MP working with a hard left unionist and let’s just throw in a wealthy German millionaire right-winger, they could form a political party,” said.

“That’s the sort of wacky thing that could happen between now and September 20.

“If Laila Harre, Hone Harawira, Pam Corkery, Kim Dotcom, Russel Norman, Metiria Turei, David Cunliffe, Matt McCarten, and John Minto are the answer, can we please have another look at the question?” . .

National’s got a winning team but it’s up to voters to decide whether to give the winning team the support it needs to  be the winner, or whether they’re going to trust government to the hydra on the left led by a weak Labour dominated by the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties.

With less than three months to go, there's no room for complacency. Join #TeamKey today.  http://mynational.org.nz/support


More tax, higher costs, fewer jobs

June 2, 2014

The Green Party plans to impose a carbon tax on us:

. . . Co-leader Russel Norman wants to scrap the current carbon pricing system – the Emissions Trading Scheme.

In its place would be a tax of $25 per tonne of carbon on industry polluters. . .

Critics of the tax claim the tax is a burden on households, who pay higher electricity and fuel costs.

However, the Greens say their levy would be offset by a ”climate tax cut” on the first $2000 of income. 

”We can reduce our emissions without hurting household budgets,” he said. ”Households will be on average $319 better off every year under the Green party policy.” . .

Imposing a tax with one hand and giving a tax with another won’t make anyone better off because the tax will lead to other cost increases on fuel, power and food which will passed on, in part or full, to consumers.

Agriculture – which is currently exempt from the ETS – would pay a reduced rate of $12.50 per tonne. This works out as an 12.5 per cent hit on farmers’ income. This includes 2 per cent on the working expenses of the average farm. A Berl Economics report, released with the policy, said dairying will be ”adversely affected.”

Dairying won’t just be adversely affected by the carbon tax, it will be hit by other Green policies too.

But it adds: ”However, at the currently projected pay-out for milk solids, even dairy farms in the lowest decile would remain well above break even in the face of an emissions levy.”

What happens when the payout drops to its long-term average which is well below the $7 forecast for the coming season?

What about the environmental impact of less efficient farmers in other countries increasing production because our produce is more expensive which makes it easier to compete with us?

And what about the poor people who will face higher prices for dairy products, power and fuel?

Other gas-emitting industries – such as electricity and road fuels – are less likely to be affected because they would be able to ”pass-on any production cost increases to households.” . . .

That will be the households whose earners will be getting a tax cut, the benefit of which will be less than the cost increases from the extra tax.

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said the levy may threaten jobs. 

“Our approach should be unlocking business solutions rather taxing business more,” he said. 

As a “small open trading economy” New Zealand should participate in international emissions trading schemes.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said the tax will make dairy farmers “less competitive” in international markets. . .

Less competitive means lower returns which means less export income which means less economic growth which means we’ll be less able to fund the first world education, health and other services we need.

However green they want to paint it, this is a red policy which will add costs, put downwards pressure on wages and threaten jobs.

Bernard Hickey told last week’s  Alliance Group Pure South conference that the election will be close.

He then went on to list the policies that farmers could expect to adversely affect them under a Labour/Green coalition with whichever other left-wing parties they’d need to govern.

They included: capital gains tax, compulsory KiwiSaver and water restrictions and charges.

Those are three very good reasons to vote National and the Green carbon tax is another.

And Steven Joyce points out some inconvenient truths:

 

 

 


Green list doens’t rate ag

May 25, 2014

The Green Party has released its list for the upcoming election:

1. TUREI, Metiria   2. NORMAN, Russel  

When you have co-leaders one has to be number one on the list, but I’d be surprised if anyone outside the party would put Turei ahead of Norman.

3. HAGUE, Kevin   4. SAGE, Eugenie    5. HUGHES, Gareth 6. DELAHUNTY, Catherine   7. GRAHAM, Kennedy   8. GENTER, Julie Anne   9. MATHERS, Mojo 10. LOGIE, Jan   11. CLENDON, Dave  12. WALKER, Holly  13. SHAW, James  14. ROCHE, Denise  15. BROWNING, Steffan   16. DAVIDSON, Marama  17. COATES, Barry  18. HART, John 19. KENNEDY, Dave 20. ELLEY, Jeanette  21. McDONALD, Jack  22. MOORHOUSE, David   23. ROTMANN, Sea  24. BARLOW, Aaryn  25. LECKINGER, Richard  26. PERINPANAYAGAM, Umesh  27. RUTHVEN, Susanne  28. MOORE, Teresa   29. LANGSBURY, Dora   30. WOODLEY, Tane   31. PERLEY, Chris   32. GOLDSMITH, Rachael  33. KELCHER, John   34. ROGERS, Daniel  35. WESLEY, Richard  36. SMITHSON, Anne-Elise  37. McALL, Malcolm  38. FORD, Chris  39. HUNT, Reuben

Where a party spokesperson is on the list isn’t necessarily a reflection of the importance placed on the portfolios for which they are responsible.

However, farmers will take some comfort in seeing that the agriculture spokesman, Steffan Browning is the lowest ranked sitting MP.

Given how bad the policy is, the lower priority given to it the better.

The media releases says:

. . . “This is a diverse and balanced list. There are 10 women and 10 men in our top 20, six Aucklanders, four Maori and the first deaf candidate in the top 10 of any party’s list in MMP history. . . .

It’s so much easier to put a stronger emphasis on gender, ethnicity and other factors rather than ability when the chances are high that fewer than half are likely to make it into parliament.


Green bank risks putting us in the red

May 14, 2014

The Green Party wants to establish a Green Investment Bank.

The Green Party will establish a Green Investment Bank as a first step in accelerating New Zealand’s transition to a smarter greener economy, Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman announced today.

The Green Investment Bank will be an enduring, government-owned, for-profit bank partnering with the private sector to fund new projects ranging from renewable energy and biofuel production to new clean technologies.

“Like Kiwibank before it, the Green Investment Bank will combine the best of the public and private sectors to accelerate New Zealand’s transition to a smarter, greener economy,” said Dr Norman. . .

Like Kiwibank this would be a bank subsidised by taxpayers in competition with private businesses.

As the Taxpayers’ Unions asks – what could go wrong?

The Taxpayers’ Union is disappointed that the Green Party have announced plans to risk $120 million of taxpayers’ money on a so called ‘green investment bank’.

“Despite successive failure, why do politicians think that they can manage a bank better than the experts?” asks Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union. “The Green Party claims that their bank will be ‘for profit’ but if green technologies were so profitable, what’s stopped commercial banks getting in on the action?”

“The Green Party have a history of incorrectly forecasting high returns in green technologies. In 2001 the Party trumpeted its superannuation fund investing in a wind farm company. Since then, the shares have lost 96% of their value.”

“Does Russel Norman really think that bureaucrats will make profitable decisions with $120 million of taxpayer money, when the Green’s can’t even get it right with their own?”

“We all support developing green energy, but people should pick winners with their own money not be forced to risk nearly $70 per household taken via the tax system.”

The Green plan is to raise the money for the bank by doubling the tax on oil companies.

. . .The party would raise the overall tax take on oil companies to 70 percent from 46 percent, something it says will bring New Zealand in line with the international average. The bank would be expected to cover operational costs from investment returns. The bank will have to be financially self-sufficient, achieving a target rate of return at or above the government’s bond rate, the paper said. . .

Fuel taxes are already high and they impact on everyone directly or indirectly.

Have they thought what the resulting increase in fuel costs would do to motorists and the transport industry?

All investment carries risk.

If people want to risk their own money in investments, green or otherwise, that’s up to them.

If the business case stacked up existing banks would be happy to back them without the need for taxpayer intervention and higher taxes on oil companies which would hit us all and hit the poor hardest.

That would be much better than a government-owned bank which would risk putting us in the red.

 


Greens camapign for state funding continues

May 10, 2014

The Green Party campaign for the state funding of political parties continues:

Some of Wellington’s most recognisable names paid $3500 each to meet Prime Minister John Key at a National Party fundraising dinner also attended by his taxpayer-funded chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson.

As Opposition allegations continue to swirl around National’s so-called “Cabinet clubs” for wealthy donors, it has emerged about 15 people, including former Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast and Weta Digital co-founder Jamie Selkirk, attended the dinner at the Museum Hotel, which raised $45,000 for National. . .

The Museum Hotel event was held in 2011, and organised by hotel owner and National Party fundraiser Chris Parkin.

He said yesterday the event was nothing to do with the Cabinet clubs but was his way of helping to support National.

He joked that at least $2000 worth of each donation was for the food and wine. He did not believe anyone attending fundraising dinners expected to be able to “influence” the prime minister. “They are more there to ask questions.”

Goodness me, a party supporter organises a dinner and donates the proceeds to the party.

I can’t see a problem in that but Norman does.

Green Party leader Russel Norman said the fundraiser showed wealthy people could get access to the prime minister when poorer people could not.

Such fundraisers “may be technically legal, they’re not right”, he said. “If you have a lot of money, you can buy exclusive access to the prime minister.” . .

They aren’t just technically legal, they are legal and they don’t mean that wealthy people get access when poorer people don’t.

It means wealthy people are willing to pay to have a meal attended by the PM when others get to meet and talk with him for free, every day.

A spokeswoman for Key said the Greens were welcome to highlight legitimate fundraisers by National, but Key was more interested in the job of governing.

National had frequently pointed out that all the funds it raised were declared as required by law. She did not respond to a question asking if it was Key’s usual practice to take Eagleson to fundraisers.

Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said National had obeyed the rules around donations by declaring the aggregate of those who donated.

People who donated to political parties liked to see where their money was going and to have contact with those they were giving money to, he said.

People also like to see the government concentrate on governing and issues that matter.

All but the very few who are members of the left-wing parties which want state funding of political parties would also prefer that their taxes were spent on things that matter, not propping up parties which can’t persuade enough people to fund them voluntarily.


How many others feel that way?

April 24, 2014

Shane Jones said he would have refused to work with the Greens in government:

Mr Jones has gone blue – National Party blue, off to work for the Government, revealing his hatred for Labour’s Green allies is so deep that he could never have worked in a Labour-Green coalition government, which would likely have co-leader Russel Norman as deputy Prime Minister.
“I would not have been able to work under Russel Norman as Deputy Prime Minister,” he says.
“I’m totally disinterested in a political career where there may have been a dim prospect that he would be my chief. It would be a long day in hell before that happens.” . . .
How many others in the Labour caucus feel that way and who could blame them? But the weaker Labour is the more bargaining power the Greens will have.

Mr Jones says going Green is wrecking Labour.

“I’ve never ever subscribed to the notion that the only way Labour would be strong is by ‘greening’ itself, so we are some sort of version of the Tasmanian Green Party. I never agreed with that.”

Back to Jones.

Mr Jones says Labour would never elect him leader, that Labour has gone too left and left him.

“The test over whether brand Labour is a broad church will rest in the breath of the September vote. Lose no sleep over doubting whether that is the truth.”

So it’s goodbye to the man they call Jonesy and haere ra to Mr Jones. He crusies off into the Pacific, but his parting shot could not be clearer.

The once broad church that housed people like him is becoming so increasingly narrow that it risks being punished in the polls.

It is still a long time until election day in which time a lot could change.
But once more the media is focussing on disarray within Labour which will not endear it to voters.

Greens want 2 deputy PMs

April 19, 2014

Green co-leader Metiria Turei wants to be c0-deputy Prime Minister too.

The Greens could share the deputy Prime Minster role in a coalition with Labour, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman last month said he was keen on the role.

Ms Turei said she would like to be deputy Prime Minister along with Dr Norman.

“There’s no rules that stop there from being more than one deputy Prime Minister,” she told told The Nation.

“Russel and I have had a co-leadership role in the Greens that’s worked very well for the Green Party. I think something similar would work very well for the country as well.” . . .

That is very much a matter of opinion.

From the outside the co-leadership looks very much like tokenism with Norman being the leader in all but name.

He appears to do far more speaking on the party’s behalf than she does.

In spite of National’s popularity and the distrust and disarray on the left, it is possible the left could still be in government.

But when Labour has spurned the Green Party its won’t be keen on one Green deputy let alone two.

And what would happen when the Prime Minister was overseas – would there then be two acting PMs?

 

 

 


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