Steven Joyce’s valedictory

March 28, 2018

Steven Joyce delivered his valedictory speech yesterday evening.

I’ve heard him make many speeches which show his compassion, intelligence and wit.

He left his best for last.


Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National): I must say, preparing this valedictory statement is one of the hardest things I’ve done in this Parliament. It’s very hard to sum up the experiences of the last nearly a decade in one 20 minute speech. So what I’ve decided to do instead is table the 1,521 press releases I made as a Minister over that time. So, at the end of this speech, I thought I’d just do them one by one during the dinner break. Although perhaps the one that I really should table would be my academic record, given that we’ve had so much good discussion about it over the years.

I nearly didn’t actually end up being in this Parliament. Let me tell you a story. After the excitement that was the 2005 election campaign, which was my first as campaign chair, I decided that was me in politics—I can’t think possibly why—and that I’d go off and do something else. And it was.

Then, John Key—Sir John—became the leader of the National Party, and he rang me up and said, “Do you want to do a bit of sort of advisory work for me?”, and I said, “Yes, absolutely; that would be great. No trouble at all—I can fit that in.” Then he rang me up and said, “Would you like to run the 2008 campaign for me.”, and I said, “Gosh, I’ve got a few things on, but I’ll see if I can shift it around and sort of get three months to run the campaign.” Then, at the beginning of 2008, I got a call from him. He says, “Well, look, why don’t you come in and do some real work?”

I thought about it, and I thought, “Gosh, here I am: newly married, young daughter just born, lifestyle block, few directorships—the ultimate in perfect work-life balance. Do I really want to do this?”

Then Judy Kirk rang. Many of us on this side of the House know what it means to be “Judy-ed”. She fixes you with a stare and says, “Your country needs you to do this, Steven.” And I’d had that before, so I knew about that. So I nearly didn’t do it. I rang Judy back and said, “No; I can’t do it.” Then she rang again, and I said, “No; I can’t do it.”

Then my wife noticed that two weeks had passed and I hadn’t rung John. She said, “Well, that tells me that, actually, you probably do want to do this, because you haven’t actually rung the person that asked you and said no.” So she said, “You’d better go and do it.”, and so I did. I came into this House in the 2008 election.

Straight away, I was so privileged—and not many of us have had this privilege—to become a Minister immediately—before I became a parliamentarian, in fact, officially. I was named in the Ministry. I was given my office in the Beehive. And then somebody said to me, “Oh, there’s a space called ‘Parliament’ you have to go to as well”—where they ask you annoying questions and you have to be able to answer them. I said, “Gosh; that seems a bit inconvenient.”—but nevertheless.

So I got my office, and I went into my office on the fifth floor of the Beehive. Remember, I’d come from the private sector, and there was a sort of magnificently large office on the fifth floor of the Beehive. I was thinking to myself, “This looks extravagant.” I thought, “This smells a bit like the public service.” There were these chairs and these couches and this massive boardroom table, and I said to myself, “This is ridiculous. There is absolutely no way one Minister—lowly ranked—needs all this stuff.” Then I had my first officials meeting.

They all came in the door—processed in the door. They all came in, and they sat down around the table, others sat in the chairs, and they stood along the walls, and I realised that I’d entered a particularly different world.

What I did learn quite quickly, though, is that officials have a meeting after the meeting when they go outside and discuss what they think the Minister meant. The good thing about learning that is, until they recognise you, you can sneak out through your senior private secretary’s door and contribute to that discussion: “I think he meant this.”—and people would say, “No, no, no, no.”

I was lucky enough to participate in a huge range of portfolios as a Minister. Building roads was something I enjoyed immensely as Minister of Transport. I know the Greens probably thought that I enjoyed the smell of fresh asphalt in the morning—it’s not completely true. But we did build some wonderful roads linking regional New Zealand with the main centres.

I think of one in particular, which was Waterview, which we inherited. I don’t know whether many people know this; that tunnel was only going to be two lanes in each direction. I looked at that and thought, “Well, I’m no transport engineer, but that feels like it’s going to be out of date pretty quickly.”, and it’s very hard to widen a tunnel. So I said to the officials, “Could you do it three lanes in each direction.”, and they said, “Well, anything’s possible, Minister.” I said, “It also looks too expensive, so is it possible that you could possibly reduce the price of it in the same process”—because three lanes in each direction was $3 billion; two lanes was $2.4 billion. They said, “Well, what do you want, Minister.” I said, “I want about $1 billion off it and I want it a lane wider in each direction.” They reminded me at the opening that that’s exactly what they gave us: $1.4 billion, three lanes in each direction. It was one of my proudest moments as a Minister.

But it was the big projects with the small projects. We did a wonderful one called Matahōrua Gorge, which is on the road between Napier and Gisborne. It’s 214-kilometres long, that road. This was 4.5 kilometres in the middle of it. It was a goat track that was dangerous. We were asked to widen it and completely rearrange the road. I went along to the sod-turning for it and also to the opening. It was one of the most wonderful experiences, because everybody who knew anything about that road had come out: the people that owned the land by the road, the iwi, and the council. They knew all the stories of all the problems that occurred with it, and they were so thrilled that we fixed that road. All we need is another 10 like that between Napier and Gisborne and we’ll be making real progress. So think about that, matua Shane, with your Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund.

So I’ve done countless pōwhiri, sod-turnings, and ribbon cuttings. I got a reputation as somebody who prioritised road investment over rail, which my Cabinet colleagues were always amused about, because we spent more on rail than any other Government in the last 50 years. They were critical, because they thought, well, obviously, I wasn’t selling that sufficiently. But, as I used to say at transport conferences, it’s clear that I love rail. I’m so pro-rail that I called by son “Thomas”.

The other big thing I was involved in initially was the ultrafast broadband network. There have been many favourable comparisons between the New Zealand experience and the Australian experience, including from the current Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who shadowed Stephen Conroy during the setting up of that under the then Labour Government. Not many people know, though, that it was actually Australia that helped us most in our broadband network. They started a year before us, so soon after I got the job I thought, “Well, I’d better head over to the Australia and see what’s going on.” So I went over and met Stephen Conroy in Melbourne as the Minister in charge of their broadband network. I realised quite quickly that he had two problems: he was up against a deadline which he’d set way too early on and he’d, basically, made it that only Telstra could do it. As a result, Telstra just sat there waiting for Stephen Conroy to turn up with a big enough cheque.

So I came back from Australia absolutely determined that ours would be a contest where there are at least two players and we would not have any artificial deadlines. That upset both Bill and the Prime Minister who wanted to say when this thing was going to be started, and I couldn’t tell them, deliberately. But I tell you what: that one trip across the Tasman saved us billions and billions of dollars as a country. I’m absolutely confident about that. And now we have an ultrafast broadband network, fibre to the home to places like Mōkau, Kaitangata, and Naseby. Nobody else in the world has done that—nobody else. Yes; they’ve had fibre to the home, but nobody’s tried to get it to the Nasebys of the world. It’s fantastic.

I’m proud of all the portfolios I’ve been involved with. I’m proud of the science and the tech sector. It’s been one of the biggest thrills of my time in this place: to go around and see some of those amazing tech companies. They’re everywhere. We have hundreds of them, exploiting narrow, deep niches around the world—ADInstruments from Dunedin and Furnware from Hawke’s Bay, who make an ergonomically designed chair for school children which is scientifically proven to stop them fidgeting while they learn. They sell that all over the world. But, of course, the guy who has redefined what is able to be done with technology from a New Zealand base is Peter Beck—it’s great to see Peter here this evening—with Rocket Lab. That is truly amazing, and I know just enough about physics to know how difficult it is to do what Rocket Lab is doing—to actually get projector like that into space.

I remember meeting Peter for the first time, and I wasn’t 100 percent convinced that he would get there. As politicians, we all know that you meet a lot of people with a lot of big plans, and here’s this guy wandering in the door, and he’s going to build rockets and send them into space. I actually think we used to joke about a parliamentarian here who wanted to set up a space industry in New Zealand, and I think possibly John Key replaced him in his electorate. Yet here we were, and I became convinced very quickly that Peter knew what he was doing. Actually, it’s an amazing story, and we haven’t got time to tell tonight, except that Peter came to see me and said, “Look, we’re nearly finished, Minister. Now we just need a regulatory system, and I need it in about six months.” I thought, “Oh, OK, what’s involved there?” He said, “Well, you’ve got to join two or three space treaties, probably pass a law, do a deal with the Americans,” and I thought, “Well, hell, we’d better get on with it.” I want to pay tribute to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials, who actually took that thing and absolutely ran with it. We didn’t quite meet Peter’s deadline, but then, neither did he! But we now have a fit for purpose space regulatory system. Again harking back to the Australians, I understand now they’re trying to work out how New Zealand did it in such a short space of time.

I’m looking forward to going finally to Māhia again. I actually was invited to open the rocket launching site in Māhia. It’s about 100 kilometres off the highway. You get about halfway down and you think you’ve gone in the wrong direction. But anyway, I got there. There were hundreds of people there that had come from all over the place to be at the launch, and I was asked to open it. The Māori trust that owned the land had a whole lot of people there, and there were a number of kuia sitting across the front. I wandered over to see them before we started, and I asked one of them, “Well, look, how do you feel about all this happening on your land?” She said, “Well, we’ve been thinking about diversifying out of beef and lamb for a while, but I must admit we hadn’t really thought of rockets.”

I’ve also been involved a lot in regional development, which is the new black, as Shane Jones knows. I will tell you this: most of the regions actually don’t want a huge amount from Wellington. They actually also don’t want to be told too often that they’re struggling by people who never go there. There are a couple that always do it tough, and actually the Far North is one of them. There’s some tough kids up there. One of the programmes we set up was a thing called Growing Regional Opportunities through Work (GROW) Kaikohe. Ben Dalton from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), who I understand is working for Shane now, went up there to run our regional development programme, and he set up GROW Kaikohe. He came back and told us about the great things that were being done with GROW Kaikohe. It’s basically a collection of about a hundred kids from the hardest parts of society—trying to get them into work, and, most importantly, keep them in work, which is actually the hardest part.

So I went to the graduation with Anne Tolley, but not before Ben had told me about this person called Jo who was running the show. Jo was going around and if necessary pulling these kids out of bed, kicking their bums, doing whatever it took to keep them in work through the year that they were involved in this programme. So I got to go and see this in action at the graduation. I met some of the kids, and there are some tough stories there about families that have been on drugs for a long time, families that were tied up in all the gangs, young mums of 16 and 17 with a couple of kids. I mean, these are the hardest edges of society. And I met the employers, who thought they were actually going to take on some people to work, but then realised quite early on that this was actually a community service that they were doing. They had to adjust their expectations, because they actually had to help these kids for six months or more before they actually got them into a situation where they could contribute to the company that they were working with.

And I met Jo, and she is the coolest person. She actually goes around and does exactly that. She’s effectively the wrangler, the mentor, the navigator in these kids’ lives, and she fixes all that up. And I said, “Well, where do you work? Where do you come from?” She’s actually been in a number of organisations—the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), NGOs—but to me the most important thing was that she was Jo, and that she was prepared to do that. So actually we don’t need to come up with hundreds more programmes, or for each politician to rebrand what’s being done, whether it’s in the Far North or Gisborne. We just need to find a hundred Jos. And I don’t care where they work; just find a hundred Jos, and put them with the kids, and let them get on with it.

I was also involved a lot with the tertiary sector—seven years, in fact, as tertiary education Minister, the longest record ever, apparently—and I think we enjoyed each other. The tertiary sector did some amazing things in terms of performance, whether it was in the provider-based area or the work-based area, and the tertiary education system also is involved in a thing called international education, which is hugely important for New Zealand’s future. I’ve had the privilege of going around to various countries and going to alumni functions and meeting some of the kids that have had their New Zealand education—not so young, some of them—and those people are huge ambassadors and advocates for this country. The countries they come from are hugely important for our prosperity for the rest of this century, if not beyond—places like Korea, Japan, China, South-east Asia, Latin America, and continental Europe—and these are the kids that are going to lead that relationship from their end over the next 50 years. I met a guy in Malaysia who was a deputy chief Minister of one of their provinces who came to Lincoln University in the 1970s on the Colombo Plan, and he still prioritises relationships with New Zealand today. So think of this: international education is the Colombo Plan on steroids. It is hugely important for New Zealand.

Of course, there were some non-portfolio things that I did as well. Some that I was handed, like Novopay, I don’t propose to spend a huge amount of time on this evening, but I would encourage you to read the book—the ministerial inquiry into Novopay. Any Minister who’s involved with ICT projects need to go and read that book. It’s well worth reading, because it’s a lesson. And it’s not a political partisan thing, because it went back over two Governments, but it’s a lesson in what not to do in ICT projects in Government.

Every now and then, of course, I’d get asked to stand in for the Prime Minister when it wasn’t possible for him to be somewhere—or he’d made arrangements, perhaps, to be somewhere else. So it was at Waitangi in 2016. I was asked to lead our team. We had the Iwi Chairs Forum at the Copthorne Hotel. It was a beautiful, sunny, peaceful day, and afterwards I wandered out with the team for what was going to be very quiet and low-key interview. There was nobody around—a couple of police officers, a bit of security: not as much as you’d hope for, in the end—and I was chatting away happily when I felt something hit my face. Whatever it was, it then ricocheted on to the TVNZ reporter’s chest, and then ricocheted down to the ground. I still didn’t know what it was, so we all looked down like this together—journalists, Ministers, pretty much everybody, except for Josie Butler. And we looked at it, and I said, “Gosh.” I thought to myself, “Well, what do you say in these situations?” So I said, “Good-oh,” and then I looked at my colleagues and said, “Well, let’s head off, then.”

As we walked away I said to Nathan Guy, standing next to me, under my breath, “Well, do you think the cameras picked that up?” He said, “Yeah, I think so. Keep walking.” I have to say it’s telling that two of my closest colleagues in caucus, Nathan Guy and Louise Upston, both of whom I otherwise admire and enjoy the company of, were flanking me that day, and neither stepped in front of the senior Minister to, as they say, take the bullet. What was left to do except tweet to John Oliver, to get it over with, and then go and open the new Waitangi museum—which is very impressive, by the way, but it didn’t make the news.

Can I say I hugely enjoyed working with and for John Key and Bill English. Everybody knows John was the front man, but he also has a very powerful intellect. He had a great capacity to get to the numb of an issue quickly, and a great ability to make the right decision, and I believe history will judge him very well. Bill was the engine room guy to the last eight years. He’s the quintessential compassionate conservative. We worked together in finance for eight years. He got fond of the idea of him loading the bullets and me firing. He developed almost infinite patience with all his colleagues, including me. He blossomed as leader, and it is one of my greatest regrets that he didn’t get to serve at least a full term as our Prime Minister. He would have been a superb Prime Minister—well, he was. He would have been a superb Prime Minister for longer. They both placed great trust in me, and I hope I successfully repaid that trust.

When John left, I inherited finance. I got the Treasury officials in—we knew each other—and they asked what I wanted to do in the Budget. I said, “Look, very straightforward: big infrastructure package, big public services, and a family incomes package. We’ve got four months; let’s get on with it.” They went, “Aw, Minister,” and I said, “Well, let’s give it a go.” I actually got to know them all very, very well over that period, and I’m very proud of that Budget. My proudest moment as Minister of Finance was watching the coverage on Budget night, and watching the families on TV talk about what that Budget meant for them. I’m proud that this Government that’s in place now picked up most of that—tweaked it a bit to make it look a bit more like their own, but certainly picked up what we did.

My other job—my weekend job, if you will—was as National Party campaign chair. That happened a bit by accident, too. It started off in 2005, when they quite literally couldn’t find anybody else. So I was the campaign chair, and with Don Brash as leader we went from 22 to 39 percent. It was a massive rollercoaster—red-blue billboards, taxathon ads, the Exclusive Brethren, American bagmen, the first online tax calculator—and ultimately it was close but no cigar.

We tried an interesting technique in that campaign: running our own positive and negative campaign, so as not to give Labour a look-in. We would do all the positive side, and then we’d attack ourselves! I think of a particular example—because there were many, and I was trying to work out which one was safe to say. We were in Hawke’s Bay. Don was doing this very impressive piece about our economic story and what we were going to do, and it had been set up for months in advance. Meanwhile in Tauranga our candidate, subsequent MP Bob Clarkson, was having some difficulties with the media. So we sent Tony Ryall, experienced MP, back to Tauranga to sit with Bob and help Bob with his interview, which was good, until Bob decided he had to stand up and rearrange himself in front of the camera. He actually declared, “Oh, look, I’ve just got to rearrange myself a bit here.”, and then he went outside, and Tony Ryall put his head in his hands on nationwide television. The media, of course, went to Don for his comments on this, and Don, bless his heart, was a master of the six-second soundbite—just not the one you want. He said, “Eh, I don’t think any of my candidates should be adjusting their testicles on national television.”, and that was that day!

So, weirdly, since 2005 I’ve chaired four more national campaigns. We’ve had “Choosing a brighter future”, “Building a brighter future”, “Working for New Zealand”, and “Delivering for New Zealanders”. We’ve had stop-go signs, rowers, “Laboureens”, teapot tapes, the moment of truth—or strewth—show me the money, dirty politics, runners, a few soundtracks, and the H-fee. Still, we had a reasonable run. The last four party vote results were the highest four party vote percentages that any New Zealand party has had so far in MMP.

I’ve had an amazing campaign team around me for all five elections. I can’t name them all, but I want to name Jo de Joux—unflappable Jo, absolutely crucial in all of them—Wayne Eagleson and Mark Textor; Murray McCully, in the early years, before he became a full-time gin sucker; two presidents, Judy Kirk and then Peter Goodfellow; the party board; the tireless Greg Hamilton; the senior leadership team; the MPs, the candidates, and the volunteers—just an amazing machine. There was never a plan to chair five election campaigns; I just kept being asked back, and today I’m hoping that we fix that, finally. We have a good team, though. I want to acknowledge Simon and Paula. They’ve already hit the ground running. We have a lot of strong campaigners coming through, both in the party and here in the Parliament. I’m confident that this party will acquit itself incredibly well in 2020, and, in my view, you will need to, because your country will need you.

There are a lot more people I would like to thank. I’d like to thank my political advisors over the years—in particular, Sir Kenneth Clark, Andrew Falloon, Chris Bishop, and Jo de Joux—two of them now MPs. I want to thank my media staff: Simon, Charlotte, Serene, Rachel—and Anita, who memorably left me after 3 years, cheerfully telling me as she left that she wanted to get out before it all turned to crap—slightly early, Ferg.

I particularly want to single out Anna Lillis, who has doubled as both senior press secretary and political advisor for so long. Thanks, Anna, for your wise and steadying counsel. I want to thank my Senior Private Secretaries—in particular, Kathleen Lambert. Many people in this building will know Kathleen, who house-trained me over the first six years of my time as a Minister. Kathleen was and is an absolute machine. She is famous for her Tim Tam Tuesdays and her millions, literally millions, of post-it notes.

I could tell you a brief story: when I was offshore with Prime Minister John Key in China we were doing these big food and beverage dinners, which profiled New Zealand food and beverage to Chinese media, Chinese officials, Chinese businesses, and so on, and these were massive meals. I went along to the first one in Shanghai, and they had all this wonderful New Zealand produce. They started with salmon, as they often did, because we have wonderful New Zealand salmon. So we were all looking out and they were bringing out all the salmon, and I was thinking oh, this will be nice. This person came up to me and said, “Don’t worry about the salmon, Minister. You don’t have to eat it. It’s fine. We’ve got you something else.” I said, “Well, this is a bit weird. I quite like salmon. I don’t often get to eat it. I quite like the salmon.” “No, no, Minister you don’t have salmon.” So I said, “OK. Fine—I think.”

They brought me out a menu and a nice fresh green salad, and that was fine. I thought nothing more of it until we arrived at the next place on the tour and again it happened. And I said, “No, no, I really want the salmon.” I thought well, I’ll just give it a bit of a go, and they said, “No, no, Minister, you can’t have the salmon. Everybody else can have the salmon, but you can’t, because you don’t eat salmon.” But I’m saying no, I do. I really do. I eat salmon. I’m happy to eat salmon. Give me some salmon. No, Minister. I thought well, I’d better not make an international incident of it. I’ll just you know calmly—. Then we get to Beijing and it happened again, and it actually happened from then on. Whenever I went offshore and they were serving New Zealand salmon, for some reason I was always told I couldn’t have the salmon, and I didn’t know why.

I asked the officials and nobody knew, but obviously somebody had ticked the box at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and said, “This guy when he goes overseas—whatever you do don’t give him salmon.” So I was telling the story in my office one day—a little bit later, sitting in my office—and Kathleen Lambert pricked her ears up, and she said, “Oh, I know why that is.” I said, “Why’s that?” She said, “We were having dinner in your office one night and you asked me what the fish of the day was and I said the salmon and you screwed up your nose at it, so I made a note: doesn’t eat salmon.”, and told MFAT accordingly.

I want to acknowledge my bench mate, Gerry Brownlee. We’ve been together, big guy, for six years. He’s a marvellous politician and a marvellous individual, and I’ve enjoyed working with him immensely, including through Christchurch, where he did the most amazing things, and I think history will record that very positively. I want to acknowledge all the officials that I’ve worked with, and I want to acknowledge Mike Hosking and Annette King, my compatriots in radio. We had a wonderful nine years—longest radio show I’ve ever done; notwithstanding I owned the company at one point—not that one. I want to thank the public of New Zealand. I’ve been humbled to have countless people come up to me on the streets, since I’ve retired, in pubs and in shops around New Zealand in the last couple of weeks and thank me for my service. It’s been very humbling. You are the reason I’ve been here, and the reason it’s actually quite hard to leave.

I want to thank my family, my parents Peter and Lorna, who can’t be here because Mum’s just got out of hospital. I want to thank Diane, my brothers Kevin, Rodney, and Brendan, who hopefully will no longer have to put up with being mistaken for me at the pub by people who are determined to tell me what I should be doing now. I want to thank my wife Suzanne for her unfailing support and confidence in me coming here, in being here, and confidence in my decision to leave here, and her willingness to shoulder all the responsibility in our family for so long.

I have two children: Thomas and Amelia. Amelia’s here today. They have known nothing about me except that I’ve been a Minister for their entire lives, which is strange, because I see myself as quite short term in politics. They know me as leaving at 5.20 every Monday morning before they wake up and coming back Thursday night after they’ve gone to sleep, or on Friday or on Saturday. Then on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, they were used to me sequestering myself outside and reading papers for four or five hours each afternoon at the weekend.

I have to confess that I’ve often worried about the example that I’ve been setting them. Of course parents travel for work. It’s just the relentless nature of the ministerial job, day and day out for years on end, and in my case nine. Then there were the particularly arduous times. During one such time in 2011, my then four-year-old daughter—there were friends around at the house and she wandered up to the TV and I had a video of the Rena on, and she turned around to everybody and said, “That’s where my daddy lives.” Tommy doesn’t say anything, literally. He’s what they call non-verbally autistic. He is 8 years old, doesn’t have any vocabulary at all, but I know he likes having his dad around. He tells me with this laugh and with his eyes, and now he’s going to have dad around some more.

We adults know that kids can be great observes and great levellers. When Amelia was four or five the teachers at her school asked her to tell them what her daddy did. “My daddy works at the Beehive,” she said confidently. “Fair enough,” said the teacher “And what does daddy do at the Beehive?” Amelia thought about it for a minute and then said, He does drawings, he drinks water, and he goes to the toilet.”—which seems like a reasonable summary to me. But not anymore, sweetheart. Not anymore.

Thank you very much everybody for being great to work with. Cheers.



Steven Joyce retiring from parliament

March 6, 2018

Steven Joyce has announced he’s retiring from parliament:

“I have had a wonderful time in this place over the last nearly ten years including nine years as a Minister, and have been privileged to be able to make a real contribution to the development of our country,” Mr Joyce says.

“With the recent change of National Party leadership I have had the opportunity to consider again what I would like to do over the next several years.

“Simon has made a very positive proposal to me to stay and contribute as a senior member of the team on the front bench with a choice of portfolio.

“However I feel that it is time for him to get a new team around him to take National forward and win in 2020 and then govern again for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

“I have offered to assist in any way I can from outside parliament and will remain a staunch supporter of the Party.

“Personal highlights of my time in office include setting up major infrastructure projects like ultrafast broadband, the major motorway and expressway projects now coming on stream, and the electrification of Auckland’s commuter rail network.

“I have also enjoyed my involvement in the tertiary education sector, the hi-tech sector, the science sector and regional New Zealand and am proud of the progress we made as a Government in all four areas.

“I have led the National Party’s general election campaign five times as Campaign Chair and in four of those for John Key and Bill English, we achieved a Party Vote in excess of 44 per cent, the only time it has happened under MMP.

“And it was an honour to be Bill English’s Associate Minister of Finance for eight years before presenting my own budget in 2017, which continued building the platform for future economic growth and focused on boosting incomes for low and middle income earners.

“My plan now is to return to commercial life and seek new challenges and also to focus on being a good Dad to Tommy and Amelia.

“I’d like to thank my wife Suzanne, colleagues, staff, party supporters, the public and all the people I have met through my work for their encouragement, support and friendship over the last ten years in Parliament and fifteen in the party.”

I first met Steven when he was commissioned by the party to lead its reorganisation and I was National’s Otago electorate chair.

He and then-president Judy Kirk went round every electorate seeking members’ views.

That led to new rules which made the party fit for MMP, strengthened its organisation and provided solid stones for the foundation on which the return to government was built.

Steven later became party general manager and I was impressed by how approachable and responsive he was whenever I had the need of his help or advice.

In 1996, 1999 and 2002 National still ran First Past the Post campaigns. The difference between those campaigns and the ones run by Steven from 2005 when no candidate or volunteer was left in any doubt about the importance of the party vote showed in the results.

He’s given more than nine years of service to New Zealand as a Minister and more than that to National.

He’s earned a return to the commercial sector and his family and I wish him, and them well.

National leader Simon Bridges pays tribute to Steven here.


Steven Joyce’s maiden speech

February 20, 2018

National’s finance spokesman Steven Joyce is standing for National’s leadership.

I posted Mark Mitchell’s maiden speech yesterday and those of Amy Adams, Simon Bridges and Judith Collins on Saturday.

Here is Steven’s:

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) : Firstly, I would like to congratulate my local MP, Lockwood Smith, on his election to the role of Speaker.

Could I start by saying a fond greeting to Jeremy Greenbrook-Held of Oriental Bay. In the letters to the editor in the Dominion Post on 24 November, under the heading “Just who is this man Joyce?”, Mr Greenbrook-Held lamented that I had made it into my role without giving a single interview. This will come as a surprise to a number of journalists who had interviewed me prior to that time, but I will nevertheless attempt to fill some gaps for Mr Greenbrook-Held today.

I live north of Auckland but I am a Naki boy—born and raised in New Plymouth. It is a wonderful part of the world, and I love to go back to visit the mountain, the parks and the wild west coast. However, I have to say I am a fan of pretty much all of this country; I am actually a bit of a greenie, just not the type who sits over on that side of the House.

As it is for all of us, my family came here from lands far away. My father’s family are Irish Catholics. My great-grandfather Eugene Joyce arrived as a young man on the Invercargill in 1879. He married Ellen and they settled in Taranaki, where they had seven children. One of them was my grandfather Len, a bee-keeper who lived with his wife, Eileen, in Eltham, which is where my father grew up.

On my mother’s side, my great-grandmother Granny Hooper was a Cockney. She migrated with her family in 1878, landing in Nelson after 4 months at sea. She must have liked it here because she lived to 101, and I can vaguely remember her 100th birthday party, held when I was about 5. My mother was born in Kaponga. Her father was a lawyer turned insurance salesman, and a lay preacher in the Anglican Church. Their family were staunch Anglicans, my father’s family were staunch Catholics, and that was a time when those differences did matter. It tested both families when my parents married in 1961, now nearly 50 years ago. I am thrilled they are both here together in the gallery today.

My parents scrimped and borrowed and bought a Four Square dairy in New Plymouth. They were not greatly educated—they both left school at 15—but they worked really hard to make a go of their business and their family. They ran a 7-day business and brought up five kids at the same time. From where I am sitting today, that seems pretty heroic. My family, then, is from a long line of small-business people. Apart from a few years managing a supermarket, my father and mother always owned their own businesses, including their own supermarket. So it is probably not a surprise that I did the same.

I had my first taste of radio when I was finishing my zoology degree at Massey University in 1983. A bunch of us worked at Radio Massey. In 1984, members may recall, there was an election, so we decided to run a series of current affairs shows in the style of the political television shows of the time, with intercut interviews. With seriously inferior equipment, a fearless group of us worked 24 hours at a time to bring to air the hugely important Radio Massey election specials on political issues of the day. We interviewed luminaries like the late Bruce Beetham and the late Trevor de Cleene, and put those shows to air for audiences of roughly 50 people each night, probably 48 of whom would have preferred to hear the latest Joy Division track.

So I could have been a journalist, maybe. I have a brother and a sister who are members of that truly esteemed profession. Instead, it was during those late-night sessions at Radio Massey that five of us decided to start a commercial radio station of our own. We each put in $100, and Energy Enterprises—which became RadioWorks—was born with $500 in the bank. Energy FM ran as a summer station in New Plymouth for 3 years, which was all we were allowed to do under the law at that time, each time making a bit of money to help pay for our full-time FM licence application. We chased down shareholders and a board of directors, went to a licence hearing with the Broadcasting Tribunal, then waited 15 long months for a decision to be released. During that time we lost three of our number—I think they got bored—and found one more. In mid-1987 Energy FM got a licence to start broadcasting across Taranaki, and on 30 November that year we went to air.

Running one’s own business is hard work. It is hard work a lot of the time, and fantastic fun some of the time. Running one’s own radio station is even more fun. The three of us poured all we had into that business. We continued to live like university students for years, on the grounds that if we did not become used to a more comfortable lifestyle, we would not miss it. We bought stations in Tauranga and Hamilton. We started The Edge, and Solid Gold FM, and built those two and The Rock into national, satellite-delivered networks. We added stations by growth and acquisition, until by 2000 we had offices in every major town and city in the country, and 650 staff across four networks and 18 local radio stations. It was an amazing ride. We all learnt a huge amount about growing and running companies, organisational cultures, and getting the best out of people. I met, and worked with, hundreds of fantastic people, many of whom I count as friends today. Throughout, we had mostly the same board: Norton Moller, Derek Lowe, and John Armstrong. They were my mentors commercially, and I am greatly indebted to them.

CanWest raided our share register on the stock exchange in 2000. Some of us held out for a while, but eventually we realised the dream was over, and I retired from my role as chief executive officer of RadioWorks on my 38th birthday.

It was time to take stock, and time to give something back. I joined the gym. I started running; unfortunately, I later stopped running. And I joined the National Party. I put my name forward, and nearly stood, in 2002, but as it turned out it would have been a purely academic exercise. Instead, I got my first National Party job after the election. I was asked to join the campaign review, and then the full strategic review of the organisation. It was an absolute honour to do both, and to be trusted by a set of people who had no history by which to trust me. The party in 2002 was hurting pretty badly, and I was conscious of the need to take real care.

The rebuilding of the National Party was a team effort, and I am very proud to have played my part. However, a lot of the credit must go to our party’s president. Judy Kirk is now coming up towards 7 years in the role. In 2002, when she took over as president, an opinion poll that week rated the National Party at 18 percent. For the first time in its history it was in danger of no longer leading the centre-right in the New Zealand Parliament. In the 2008 election—1 month ago—the National Party achieved 45 percent of the party vote, the highest vote by any political party under MMP, and the highest vote full stop since 1990. It is a fantastic turn-round, ably led from the front by our new Prime Minister, the Hon John Key, and, prior to him, our previous leaders, Don Brash and Bill English. However, any great leader needs an organisation to lead, and Judy Kirk rebuilt that organisation, without sacrificing either her decency or her principles. When all is said and done, I am confident her name will be up there as one of the National Party’s great presidents, alongside the name of her mentor, Sir George Chapman, and that will be no more than she deserves.

It is traditional to thank your electorate workers in your maiden speech for helping you get to Parliament. I am, of course, one of the lesser beasts—a list MP—and, worse still, one who did not stand in an electorate. But I did run a campaign of sorts. It was a little bit dire in places, according to some of my critics, but redeemed by a fine candidate who shone through despite the poor support he received from his national campaign chair! There are many people I can and do want to thank for that campaign, particularly those at campaign HQ in Wellington, and the thousands of volunteers around the country who put up with the rather dictatorial requirements of the Wellington crew. I will not mention names today. They all know who they are. Can I just say that I could not hope to work with a finer bunch of people.

So, via a stint running another marvellous, proud, smallish New Zealand company with another great team of people, Jasons Travel Media, I arrive here in this building, this hermetically sealed vortex, which is our Parliament. So what contribution can I make to this place? Who do I represent? Well, I think I can be a voice for the people who always pay their taxes and who want to see them go to a good home. Primarily because I have been in business for most of the last 21 years, I can bring an understanding of the thinking of business people—small and medium sized business people in particular, who organise most of the wealth creation that takes place in this country.

I understand the mentality of those who become frustrated at Government getting in the way of their doing their job, who chafe at needless regulation and the sight of wasted tax money, who become frustrated by poorly performing infrastructure. I understand the fear they have of Government organisations muscling in on their industries by spending public money to compete with them in their marketplace for no good reason.

I bring a real understanding of the value of a dollar. From the time I was a little tacker, sitting at my family dining table as my parents added up the week’s takings, I understood that there was no money around if you did not go out and earn it yourself. I understand those people who see Wellington as a “great sucking sound” that hoovers up more and more of the nation’s money so that politicians can look like heroes when they spend it—people who are happy to pay their share but are not happy to see it wasted. I also understand what drives people: the desire to better the lot of themselves and their families under their own steam, and to not have to rely on Government handouts.

I understand that as a country we have limitless calls on our resources, and limited resources. I know that the only way we are going to progress in the manner we all hope for and provide for those less fortunate is by spending wisely the money we have, and spending most of our time working out how to grow faster to pay for all the things we need. And I think I understand what is possible in organisations that think small and nimble, where the frontline is encouraged and well resourced and the back office is pared back, and that are tuned to what the customer is seeking.

One of the distinctive features of this country is that we are a small group of islands at the bottom of the world. There are only 4.25 million of us. Small can be tough. It means small home markets, not as many resources, and not as big a pool of talent as some bigger countries have. However, our smallness need not be a negative; it can be a strength, and it should be more often. Individuals with ambition and drive have shown throughout history that they can achieve a lot more here a lot more quickly than they can in bigger countries. One great running coach, one great rowing coach, can achieve amazing things. Our smallness means that a high proportion of us are interconnected. People used to talk a lot about the six degrees of separation; in New Zealand I am sure that half the time it is just two or three degrees.

Our smallness can translate to nimbleness: the ability to change course, move quickly, make things happen. Sadly, from a vantage point outside the Government and, now, from inside it, I can see that we get wrapped up in the fact that this new regulation or law, or entitlement, or initiative is world best-practice, that by doing it we are suddenly right up there with the EU, or the UK, or the US. Maybe a world-beating, all-singing, all-dancing, multilayered process is the correct approach for a large country. Maybe for us we can trim it down, shorten it, and, dare I say, spend less money doing it. Put it this way: if we cannot, how can we compete with much larger countries? I am all for fair and sensible rules of commerce and social interaction; we just need to scale them to our size and look for the simpler way.

I believe we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in this country, and a corresponding risk that goes with it. We can recapture our mojo and become the feisty, resourceful, exciting, No. 8 wire sort of place that enabled all our forebears to make a success of themselves way down here at the bottom of the world; or we can fade away and continue on the path of figuratively, and maybe one day even literally, being the smallest and poorest also-ran state of Australia.

I do not believe I bring any pretensions to this new role. I am honoured to be provided with the opportunity to serve, and I will work diligently to repay the confidence that has been shown in me by my party, by my leader, and by New Zealanders. When it comes to work I am a believer in doing the hard yards. In rugby terms, and I stress that my familiarity with the code has pretty much always been as a fan, I like to grind it out—nothing too flashy.

I also, these days, like to have a little balance. Members may ask what I am doing here! Apparently, it is a little bit tricky in this Parliament to have balance, but I find that it helps people to keep perspective—which also might be a bit tricky here. I have an inspiration, though: my wonderful wife, Suzanne; our daughter, Amelia; and Gemma the retrodoodle. I know they will insist on seeing me regularly, no more than I will insist on seeing them.

Mr Speaker, I will work diligently to help make this country a stronger, more successful, and proud place. That is why I am here—for no other reason. If I can help to do that, then I will be able to hold my head high when I report back to New Zealanders when my time here is done.

Quotes of the year

January 3, 2018

. . . And there it was, the secret of all overseas-born grandparents the world over who give up everything, their own brothers and sisters back home, their independence, their everything to look after grandchildren.

They do it so their sons and daughters can work or study full time (and keep the economy running) and avoid insanely expensive childcare options.

They do it because they love their grandchildren so much they are willing to live in a country where they can’t understand a lot of what is being said or written around them, but march on nonetheless.

And, in the case of Nai Nai, they do it knowing that even if they can’t teach their grandchild English they will do whatever they can to make sure someone else can. . . Angela Cuming

Cooking means you use better food and you have far more control over what you eat. It also brings a lot of the things to the table – manners, eye contact, social skills, the art of conversation and confidence. . . Ray McVinnie

. . .Yes, according to the science, dairying is a major factor in a decline in water quality. The science also shows this is the result of 150 years of farming, albeit escalated in the past 20 years.

Dairy farmers are doing everything asked of them to reduce the loss of nutrients from their farms. They have bridged stream crossings, fenced waterways, planted riparian strips and built highly technical effluent treatment systems. They want clean streams as much as any other New Zealanders.

But those with their own axe to grind don’t want to know this. And the ignorant follow along.

The opinion writers and the commenters seem to think that clean streams and lakes can be accomplished immediately, that 150 years of pollution can be erased overnight.

It can’t be – even if all farming was banned and the land converted to trees and bush, the leaching would go on. . . Jon Morgan

The brutal truth is that while the Treaty’s influence has grown to the point where it is now cemented into New Zealand’s unwritten constitution, Waitangi Day is sinking under the weight of its conflicting roles.

It doubles as a mechanism for acknowledging legitimate Maori grievances past and present while also serving as the country’s national day and which is about projecting an image of unity and happy families.

Divisiveness and inclusiveness are oil and water. They don’t mix.

The tiresome antics regularly on display at Waitangi have undermined the power and symbolism of the occasion.

The wider New Zealand public which should be happily embracing the proceedings instead feels alienated by them. – John Armstrong

I can perfectly describe why we’re dying on the roads.

It’s you.

It’s not the lack of cops, or lack of passing lanes, or sub standard roads. It’s you. It’s the 40% in 2016 who died or caused death on the roads due to drugs and alcohol. The 24% who died due to speeding and dangerous driving. And the majority of the remaining deaths caused by those who were so clever they didn’t need a seatbelt. Why the hell wouldn’t you put on a seatbelt when you get in a car? – Bernadine Oliver-Kerby

If you become what you are fighting you have lost. You must fight freedom’s cause in freedom’s way. Helen Dale

Trump is never more certain than when he is completely clueless. The truth is that protection against foreign trade leads away from prosperity and strength. A country that deprives itself of foreign goods is doing to itself what an enemy might try to do in wartime—cut it off from outside commerce. It is volunteering to impoverish itself. – Steve Chapman

Protectionism amounts to the claim that everyone benefits when choices go down and prices go up. The only reason more Americans don’t dismiss that claim as self-evident crackpottery is because it comes cloaked in the language of nationalistic resentment.  – Jeff Jacoby

Honesty is to be preferred. However, there is a genuine gulf between the burdens of opposition and leadership. Opposition is fun, and largely without responsibility.  Leadership only sounds fun, and carries abounding burdens, among them the inchoate demands of “American leadership” and the rather specific requirements of interagency coordination. –  Danielle Pletka

 Greater understanding, insight, knowledge – even wisdom – are  gifts we acquire if we’re lucky, as we grow older, yet it’s when we’re young that we have to step up, and so often blunder blindly into the unknown, sometimes realising fearfully that we don’t know, or often, thinking we know better. – Valerie Davies

It was not so long ago that I was a young boy, crying in my room, wishing that I had real legs.  In an attempt to lift my spirits, my dad said one day someone will build you legs that will allow you to run faster than your friends. – Liam Malone

If only I had known that broadening a church required merely climbing up the steeple to set the clock back 20 years, I could have saved a lot of ink and cognitive energy.  Apparently, all New Zealand voters have been waiting for is for Labour to finally reinvent itself as The Alliance Historical Re-enactment Society.  Is there anything Labour’s deviously brilliant internal polling can’t teach us? – Phil Quin

Agriculture is being attacked by misinformation. Agriculture is being attacked by ignorance. Agriculture is being attacked by science illiteracy. Agriculture is being attacked by deceitful marketing. And those things do not discriminate based on party lines. – Kate Lambert

Mr Average migrant is healthier with less character problems than the average New Zealander because they had to go through all of those hoops before they got permission to stay in our country.David Cooper

My challenge to employers is to hire people based on merit, to give women as many opportunities as men and to pay women what they are worth.

It’s 2017. It’s not about what you can get away with. It’s not about what she is willing to accept.

It’s about what she is worth.-  Paula Bennett

If borrowing to put money into the Super Fund is such a perfect ”free money” scenario, why stop at $13.5 billion? Surely we should borrow a couple of trillion. Nobody will notice – it’s all still on the books somewhere. Then we could make mega trillions, pay all our super costs, and never work again. – Steven Joyce

Not that it matters. None of it matters. Who came from where & what happened there. Because lets admit it, New Zealand is a tiny remote island at the ass-crack of the world…WE ALL CAME ON A BLOODY BOAT SOMETIME OR ANOTHER! – Deanna Yang

By nature, I am a pragmatist, not an ideologue. That is because, in my experience, most people just want results that work. Some people have said that my pragmatism indicates a lack of a clear set of principles. I do not think that is true. It is just that my principles derive mostly from the values and ethics instilled in me by my upbringing, rather than by the “Politics 101” textbook.  . .

Mum taught me the things that allowed me to succeed and which I think are echoed by so many Kiwi parents—that you get out of life what you put in to it, that hard work can create opportunities. And that you really can change your own life, not by wishing it was different but by working to make it different

I have brought to politics an unshakeable belief that, regardless of our circumstances, most of us share the same aspirations: we want our children to be fulfilled and we want them to do better than we have. To most of us, what matters more than anything else are the health, welfare, and happiness of those people about whom we care most. In the end, Mum did not leave me any money, our holidays were always pretty basic, and the house we lived in for a long time was owned by the State Advances Corporation. But, truthfully, she left me the most important gift of all: the determination to succeed and the work ethic to make it happen. . .  – John Key

God, I wish I ran a small country. – David Cameron

The only vision really worth having for any government in a democratic society is enabling individual citizens the maximum amount of freedom to pursue their own visions.

All the rest is just politicians indulging in their personal narcissism.Rob Hosking

But in these troubled times of shifting societal landscapes, the simple joy of a cheese roll is a throwback to when times were perhaps less complicated.

That such a simple dish has survived mostly unchanged and is still revered, is a sign that – at the bottom of the country at least – we still enjoy the simple things in life. – Oscar Kightley

He was another example of that unique Aussie — a New Zealander. We claim him with pride, along with Russell Crowe and Ernest Rutherford.  – Robyn Williams on John Clarke.

If humour is common sense dancing, John Clarke was Nureyev. He proved that you can laugh at this strange part of the world, and still keep your mind and heart fully engaged. – Don McGlashan on John Clarke.

 I think I thought he might have been immortal. The Great God Dead-Pan. – Kim Hill on John Clarke

I always said as long as my mind, my body and my heart were in it, then I could do this for as long as I like. My mind’s been pretty good, my body’s been pretty good, but it was my heart that was on the fence. So, it’s time to go.”  – Eric Murray

We prefer to be in a situation where we have a positive relationship with Australia and Kiwis get a good deal in Australia – that’s better than mutual ‘armed war’ to see who can treat each other’s citizens worse. – Bill English

Keep that moment. You get to hold the baby and the mother is there and it’s an experience you can’t prepare for. There’s going to be so many times when this looks hard and it is, so keep that moment. – Bill English’s advice to new fathers.

Beware of the guy with the soft hands – go with the guy with the calluses on his hands. – Neil Smith

Spend two minutes of the hour being negative, but you have to spend the other 58 being positive.Neil Smith

I’m the person who got us into this mess, and I’m the one who will get us out of it. – Theresa May

Civilisation is built on cultural appropriation.

Every society absorbs influences from other cultures, often cherry-picking the best of what’s on offer. This process cuts both ways, because disadvantaged societies learn from more advanced ones. It’s not all about exploitation.

Those who seek to outlaw what they arbitrarily define as cultural appropriation would condemn us to a monochromatic, one-dimensional world beset by sheer boredom – and one in which New Zealanders would be reduced to eating tinned spaghetti on toast, since it’s one of the very few dishes we can call our own.

On second thoughts, scratch that. Spaghetti’s Italian. – Karl du Fresne

Beaver’s far and beyond what I am – he’s a top man. There’s no movie here. I’m just a little white fella that’s chipping away in Dunedin. – Marty Banks

“Yeah, well just the same way you prepare every day,” Peter Burling in response to a reporter’s question:  “You know, looking back to 13, going, okay, you guys were on match point a lot in 13, how do you prepare for tomorrow?”

The biggest software company in the world just got beaten by little old New Zealand software.” – Grant Dalton.

 . . . it’s a privilege to hold the America’s Cup – it’s not a right. And was embodied in the way Team New Zealand was under Sir Peter Blake. If you’re good enough to take it from us then you will and we’ll try very hard to be good enough to keep it. We won’t turn it so to make sure you can’t.Grant Dalton

More so than any other industry, agriculture is a relationship industry. We work with, and spend money with, people we like. People we trust. People we often times consider part of our family. Sometimes those people work for “Big Ag”. Sometimes they don’t. But farmers don’t do business with corporations or small companies. Farmers do business with people.  – Kate Lambert

You only get 40 attempts at farming. From your 20’s to your 60’s, you get 40 seasons,” says Duncan Logan, the founder and CEO of RocketSpace, a tech accelerator company. “In tech, you get 40 attempts in a week. – Duncan Logan

My philosophy is that people who are born with a healthy body and a healthy mind can look after themselves, but people that are unfortunate [enough] not to have that blessing, I’m prepared to help. – Mark Dunajtschik

I am repeating the warning that free money to able-bodied humans anywhere can do just the opposite of what it intends: take away the will to work, the guts to struggle, the spirit to pick yourself up by the bootstraps. . . – Alan Duff

I got up again. – Bill English

Just because males talk loudly doesn’t mean they have anything to say. – Deborah Coddington

Those who work to change public perception in spite of the evidence use a number of tactics – they cherry pick data, they drive fear, they over simplify, they take data out of context, they deliberately confuse correlation with causation and they undermine trust. –  William Rolleston

Innovation in agriculture is where the future health and wealth of New Zealand lies. As a country we need to invest in how we can support this innovation and practice change. Taxation as an answer to agricultural challenges demonstrates a lack of imagination. – Anna Campbell

. . . once a society makes it permissible to suppress views that some people don’t like, the genie is out of the bottle and the power to silence unfashionable opinions can be turned against anyone, depending on whichever ideology happens to be prevalent at the time. . . . What we are witnessing, I believe is the gradual squeezing out of conservative voices as that monoculture steadily extends its reach.- Karl du Fresne

I learned from the film that if we want to have enough food to feed the 30 billion people soon to inhabit the planet and we only grow organically, we’ll have to chop down the rainforest and make it farmland. But if we grow GMO crops that need less space and less water, the rainforest is safe. – Lenore Skenazy

Personality doesn’t feed your children or keep the rivers clean, personality doesn’t make the country safe, it requires sound leadership strong intellect and the right policies. – Jim Bolger

I got up againBill English

The only thing that could bring English down is Winston Peters choosing to go with Labour and the Greens. – Patrick Gower

There are good and bad people in all parties. Sometimes, people with whom you agree will do something dumb. Sometimes, they will conduct themselves in a manner of which you do not approve.

If your chief criteria for judging propriety and competence boils down to partisan affiliation and advantage, then you really are contributing to a problem that is going to drain all the goodwill out of this country’s politics. – Liam Hehir

This is the only assurance to an irreversible path to national freedom, happiness and economic prosperity.
To our neighbours, you now all know the simple choice you face; either support our rights or our refugees. – Morgan Tsvangirai

Loss comes in all forms, not just death, but loss of careers, loss of confidence, loss of relationships and marriage, my own succumbing to the high percentage of those that end upon the death of a child.

With all our collective legislative wisdom, there shouldn’t also have to be loss of faith in a system supposedly designed to protect those that need it at precisely the time when they most need it. . . .

Politics really did become personal for me then. A flick of the pen, wording of an amendment, an exchange in the debating chamber – parliament’s processes affect everyday lives.- Denise Lee

We are not a nation of holier-than-thou busybodies. We are friendly, moral realists who face facts and credit others with doing the best they can when they are in circumstances we are fortunate not to share. That is how we should be represented to the world. – John Roughan

. . . Abundance is no long-term solution. We can’t have as much as we want, for as long as we want. That’s not how life works, it’s not up to us to decide when the fun ends.

We ought to make the most of moments, of the people, of the laughs, because we are numbered. They are numbered. As you wind through them, one day there will be a final click.

We all know this deep down, but we gloss over it day to day. Either because more pressing issues take centre stage, or because pondering mortality of loved ones and ourselves isn’t that enjoyable.

Yes, looking back on captured moments after they’re developed is great. But being present in these moments is key to truly appreciating the finite things in life. –  Jake Bailey

Telling the truth is colour blind. – Duncan Garner

. .  .New Zealand’s GST is uniquely, and admirably, clean. It applies broadly. Every producer has an incentive to report honestly because they also report the GST they paid to their suppliers on every item when claiming GST on their inputs.

Were New Zealand to exempt healthy foods from GST, we would well be on the slippery slope. It is one of those things that sounds really easy, but would be an utter disaster in practice. . . Eric Crampton

I must say, it has been a bit rich sitting here listening to the moral awesomeness and self-congratulation of the Labour Government over the family incomes package when they opposed every single measure that it took to generate the surpluses that they are handing out. That is why they won’t get the credit they expect from the New Zealand public, because the New Zealand public know it’s a bunch of people who found the lolly bag and ran the lolly scramble without having any idea where it came from.  – Bill English

Everybody wants to do the right thing; they just want to know what the expectations are, how long they have got, what it’s going to cost, where the tools are, and they will get up and they will get on with it.  – Barbara Kuriger

. . . the United Nations has just declared access to the internet a basic human right. It’s no more that than ownership of a Rolls Royce.

One can laugh at this stuff but for humanity to make progress it’s actually damaging, leading as it does to false expectations. Far better if the UN was to talk sense and describe it as an aspiration achievable through effort rather than by right. – Sir Bob Jones

The number of children the Labour-led government will lift out of poverty next year is 12,000. That’s over and above the 49,000 the previous government’s 2017 Budget was already lifting out. That”s right 80% of the new government’s achievement was already in train.

The new caring and sharing government’s achievement is much more modest when compared with the previous heartless government’s achievement. But that’s the power of the headline.   – Rodney Hide

Essentially, progressives tend to make up their minds about things according to a grievance hierarchy, which goes something like this: Worries about Palestine trump concerns about gay rights. And concerns about gay rights trump women’s rights which, despite the big and necessary push against harassment and abuse over the past several months, tend to wind up as the last unionised, fair-pay electric cab off the left’s organised and properly supervised rank.

Or to put it another way, being anti-Western means never having to say you’re sorry, but being female doesn’t mean that the left will let you get away with having your own opinion. – James Morrow

One of the wonderful things about living the years that I have, is that Time has taught me so much about myself. In doing so, Time and opportunity have set me free to be the essence of who I really am, rather than the person who has been beset by the grief of bereavement, abandonment, divorce, poverty, pain and rejection. The insights that Time has allowed me to gather, have set me free from those profound and painful experiences to be joyful, happy, fearless, and, – I hope -loving… – Valerie Davies

Where did the lollies come from?

December 22, 2017

National left office with an economy that many other countries would envy:

There was confirmation today that the new Coalition Government has inherited a strong economic growth story from the previous National-led Government, National Party Finance Spokesperson Steven Joyce says.

“Stats New Zealand’s report of 3 per cent growth for the year to September together with upward revisions to recent growth figures paint a clear picture of a strong economy over the last few years,” Mr Joyce says.

“They have revised New Zealand’s growth figures for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 calendar years to 3.6 per cent, 3.5 per cent and 4 per cent respectively. That’s a highly respectable growth story in anyone’s language.

“GDP per capita has also been revised upwards in those years. We’ve had 8.3 per cent in real GDP per capita growth over the last five years.

Mr Joyce says the figures released today finally put to bed the fallacy that New Zealand was having a ‘productivity recession’.

“In addition, the figures today show that the construction industry remains strong with the largest quarterly growth since March 2016. Road and rail infrastructure was a key driver, with the largest increase in ten years.

“New Zealand has now experienced 18 quarters of consecutive economic growth; and has grown in 26 out of the last 27 quarters, all the way back to December 2010.

“These figures provide clear confirmation that the new Government has inherited a very strong economy driven by the strong economic plan of the previous Government.

“The Labour-led Coalition needs to take heed of softening business and consumer confidence numbers since the election and make sure their policy changes don’t muck this story up.”

The incoming government is showing great delight in spending the money the strong economy has generated but if it understands how that was achieved, it’s not showing that, as Bill English pointed out in the adjournment debate:

I must say, it has been a bit rich sitting here listening to the moral awesomeness and self-congratulation of the Labour Government over the family incomes package when they opposed every single measure that it took to generate the surpluses that they are handing out. That is why they won’t get the credit they expect from the New Zealand public, because the New Zealand public know it’s a bunch of people who found the lolly bag and ran the lolly scramble without having any idea where it came from. 

The money came from taxes generated from the work and ingenuity of taxpayers under three terms of National-led government’s careful stewardship.

The words and actions of the incoming government give no cause for confidence that the respect for, and careful stewardship of, taxpayers’ money will continue.



Simple taxes better taxes

November 24, 2017

Former Finance Minister Sir Michael Cullen will chair the working group which is taxed with finding a fairier tax system:

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash announced the terms of reference for the group, which will come up with a series of recommendations by February 2019 which the government will then use to inform its policy direction at the next general election. Robertson said he isn’t making a grab for cash. Reforms could be fiscally neutral and he had an open mind on whether a capital gains tax would be necessary.

“The main goal here is to create a better, balanced and fairer tax system for New Zealand,” Robertson said. “Our belief at the moment is that we do not have that.”

The group has been told to consider the economic environment over the next five-to-10 years and how that’s affecting changing business models, demographics and business practices; whether some form of housing, land or capital gains tax would improve the system; whether a progressive company tax with lower rates for small businesses would improve the system and business environment; and what role tax can play in delivering environment benefits. . . 

The group has been told not to look at increasing income tax rates or the rate of GST, inheritance tax, a tax on the family home, or the adequacy of the personal tax system and its interaction with the transfer system. It has been directed to look at technical matters already under review such as international tax reform targeting multinational profit shifting, and the tax department’s business transformation programme.

While the issue of applying GST to goods and services bought online from overseas could be dealt with separately and was not part of the working group’s brief, Robertson said the group could examine exemptions from GST for particular categories of goods. Labour’s coalition partner in government, NZ First, has campaigned for years to remove GST from fruit and vegetables.

Robertson said the group will be able to look at the tax treatment on savings and investment, which has cropped up in previous reviews as an area in need of reform.

The best taxes are simple taxes.

Taking GST off fruit and vegetables sounds simple but it isn’t. If it’s all fruit and vegetables it will include processed ones which might have lots of sugar and salt added. But if it’s only fresh fruit and vegetables luxury imports like pomegranate will be exempt while frozen vegetables won’t.

Our GST is lauded around the world for its simplicity. Once you introduce exemptions it gets complicated, inconsistent and more expensive to administer.

National’s Finance spokesman Steven Joyce says the working group is underwhelming:

“Its Terms of Reference is written so that it will propose one significant thing at the end of it, a Capital Gains Tax,” Mr Joyce says.

“Yet Mr Robertson’s assertion on the current taxation of capital gains in the property market remains incorrect. People who buy and sell houses for a profit have those profits treated as income for tax purposes under the law today.

“So people can only assume once again that his unspoken desire is to introduce a Capital Gains Tax on farms and small businesses.” . . .

“Nothing will come out of this group that Grant Robertson doesn’t want. And all he wants is a recommendation for a Capital Gains Tax.

“Mr Robertson would be better to dispense with the expense to taxpayers and write out his tax policy for the next election when the time comes in the normal manner.”

I’m not opposed to a CGT per se, if it was fiscally neutral through reductions elsewhere. But as with GST, a simple CGT would be a better one.

Once there are exemptions there are loopholes which will be very good for lawyers and accountants but much less so for the aim of balance and fairness.


Higher spending, tax, debt

November 16, 2017

Economists are warning that the Labour-led government’d Debt will be billions more than planned.

. . . In Opposition Labour laid out a fiscal plan which would borrow around $11 billion more than National had proposed, but still cut debt as a share of the total economic output from 24 per cent to 20 per cent by 2022.

The plan formed a major point of contention during the election campaign, as National finance spokesman Steven Joyce was widely mocked for his claim that Robertson’s plan had a major “fiscal hole”.

This is a very good argument for independent costing of party policies before an election.

But bank economists, who monitor the likely issuance of government bonds, are warning of pressure for Treasury to borrow billions more than Labour had signalled because of new spending promises.

ANZ has forecast that Labour will borrow $13 billion more than Treasury’s pre-election fiscal update maintained the former Government would over the next four years, although around $3b of that would go to the NZ Super Fund.

Borrowing to contribute to the super fund is as reckless as borrowing to play the share market instead of paying off a mortgage.

This would see net Crown debt at 23 per cent of gross domestic product, 3 percentage points higher than Labour’s plan.

Outgoing ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said the estimates for new spending were “conservative”, including an assumption that the new $1b a year regional development fund would come entirely from existing budgets. . . 

BNZ senior economist Craig Ebert said the figures were hard to determine so early in the term, but borrowing “could amount to a number of billion dollars” more than Labour had outlined. . . 

During question time in Parliament on Tuesday, Robertson maintained that the Government was sticking to its pre-election debt plan.

“But what we’re not prepared to put up with is a situation where we do not have enough affordable homes, where we have not made contributions to the [NZ] Super Fund, and where an enormous social deficit is growing,” Robertson said.

“In those circumstances a slower debt repayment track is totally appropriate.”

A much more disciplined approach to spending would be wiser.

National took office when the kitty was empty and Treasury was forecasting a decade of deficits.

In spite of the GFC and natural and financial disasters, it returned the books to surplus without a slash and burn approach to social spending.

This government has taken over with plenty of money in the kitty and forecasts of continuing surpluses.

With careful management, it should be able to

Labour and many on the left talk about the “failed policies of the 80s”.

They never look at the cause of the problems which precipitated those radical policies – higher spending, higher taxes and higher borrowing.

Those were the failed policies.

Unless the new government takes a much more careful approach, it will take path New Zealand down that path again.

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