A tale of two caucuses

June 26, 2019

National leader Simon Bridges announced a minor reshuffle of portfolios yesterday:

“Paul Goldsmith will become the spokesperson for Finance and Infrastructure following today’s announcement from Amy Adams that she will leave at the next election.

“Paul is the natural choice for the Finance role. He has done an outstanding job holding the Government to account in the Economic and Regional Development portfolio.

Shane Jones will be very happy with this change, though he shouldn’t relax, the two taking over Paul’s portfolios will be just as effective at holding the Minister to account.

“Regional and Economic Development will now be split across two spokespeople. Todd McClay will look after Economic Development, while Chris Bishop will take over the Regional Development and Transport portfolios.

“Chris has done a brilliant job as spokesperson for Police and deserves to take on more responsibility.

“Jo Hayes has been appointed the spokesperson for Māori Development and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations following the departure of Nuk Korako. Jo is a passionate advocate for Māori.

“Gerry Brownlee will pick up the Foreign Affairs portfolio, Brett Hudson will take on the Police portfolio and Tim Macindoe will become the Shadow Attorney-General.

“Other changes include Michael Woodhouse as the Associate Finance spokesperson, Maggie Barry taking over the Disability Issues portfolio, Stuart Smith will be the spokesperson for Immigration, Todd Muller will be the spokesperson for Forestry, Nicola Willis will take on the Youth portfolio and our newest MP Paulo Garcia will become the Associate Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank both Amy Adams and Alastair Scott for their valuable contributions to the National Party and Parliament. Amy was a brilliant Minister across a range of portfolios. The changes she made to domestic violence laws as Justice Minister have made families in New Zealand safer. Amy has excelled as our Finance spokesperson and has been an outstanding member for Selwyn.

“Alastair should be proud of the work he has done to prevent drug driving, and for the way he has represented and advocated for the people of Wairarapa. I’m pleased they will be here for the rest of the term to help us form policies for the 2020 election.

“National is the largest and most effective Opposition this country has ever seen. I’m proud to lead such a talented and hardworking team.” 

There are no surprises there and there will probably be none in tomorrow’s reshuffle of Cabinet but there is a major difference between the two caucuses – there’s plenty of talent in National’s with many MPs capable of becoming Ministers.

By contrast Labour’s is a shallow pool and, as Barry Soper noted:

. . .The reshuffle will be minor because most of those who should be in Cabinet are already there. And the amount of time Ardern’s taken getting around to shuffling the chairs just goes to show how hard leadership is for a person who clearly finds it hard to be hard. . . 

Ardern doesn’t have much to choose from and, if past form is a guide, will be reluctant to demote the poorest performers.


Rural round-up

June 28, 2017

NZ Farmer Confidence at Record High – Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey:

• Net rural confidence has jumped up in the second rural confidence survey of 2017 and is now at the highest level recorded since the survey commenced in early 2003.

• Farmers across all agricultural sectors were more positive about the outlook for the agricultural economy with the majority citing improved commodity prices as a key reason for increased optimism.

• The number of farmers expecting their own business performance to improve was also up in comparison with the last survey with over half of farmers expecting an improvement in the coming 12 months. . . 

Cannabis more often detected in workers than any other drug – Maureen Bishop:

Cannabis is still the most common drug ”by a country mile” found when staff are tested, farmers attending a workshop in Ashburton last week heard.

Therese Gibbens, general manager of the Canterbury West Coast area for The Drug Detection Agency, said 80% of positive drug results from tests carried out by the company in Canterbury detected cannabis.

This was followed by opiates, amphetamines and methamphetamine.

She had tips for farmers about policies, detection and managing the risks of staff affected by drugs or alcohol, backed up by statistics and experience. . . 

McClay says time is right for trade deal with four amigos:

Trade Minister Todd McClay says he believes the time is right to launch trade talks with Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia as part of the Government’s push for better access in Latin America.

Mr McClay leaves tomorrow to attend the Pacific Alliance Leaders Summit where a trade deal will be top of his agenda.

“We’ve been talking to the four Pacific Alliance countries about better access for Kiwi exporters for the last two years. With direct flights to South America there is increasing opportunity for New Zealanders to do more in these growing markets,” Mr McClay says. . . 

High tech approach to improve safety on SH1 at Moeraki Boulders:

Associate Minister of Transport Tim Macindoe welcomes a new high tech warning system, which will help to improve road safety, has been installed on State Highway 1 in the Waitaki District.

The new Rural Intersection Active Warning System at the turnoff to Moeraki Boulders, off State Highway 1, is now operational and the variable speed limit is now legally enforceable.

“The new warning system is able to detect vehicles approaching the right turning bay at Moeraki Boulders Road and vehicles waiting to turn back on to the highway, and automatically adjusts the speed limit in the area to 70km/h to allow the approaching car to merge safely with oncoming traffic,” says Mr Macindoe. 

The 70km/h variable speed limit will apply 170 metres either side of the SH1/Moeraki Boulders Road. . . 

Be ready for the calving season:


MPI’s Penny Timmer-Arends has attended many field days and workshops to discuss the new bobby calf regulations with those affected across the supply chain.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is asking farmers to be ready for new bobby calf regulations coming in this season.

“The new requirements for bobby calf shelter and loading come in to play on 1 August and we want to make sure everyone is well aware and prepared,” says Paul Dansted, MPI’s Director Animal and Animal Products.

“Calves need to be provided with shelter that keeps them warm and dry, and loading facilities that allow them to walk onto trucks.” . . 

Tegel delivers continued growth with record volumes, revenues and profit:

New Zealand’s largest poultry producer, Tegel Group Holdings Limited , today reported its FY2017 results for the 53 weeks ended 30 April 2017. The Company reported Net Profit After Tax (NPAT) of $34.2 million. This was $22.9 million higher than the prior year mainly as a result of a change in capital structure following listing. Underlying EBITDA was $75.6 million, 0.8% ahead of FY2016. Both NPAT and underlying EBITDA were within the Company’s revised guidance range issued in December 2016. . . 

PCE receives Forest & Bird ‘Old Blue’ environmental award:

Forest & Bird has awarded the outgoing Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment an ‘Old Blue’ for her significant contribution to New Zealand’s environment and wildlife.

“Over ten years, Dr Jan Wright’s insightful reports have illuminated complex environmental subjects and in many cases fundamentally improved public appreciation of those issues,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague. . . 

Kiwis Eating Less Red Meat – Research:

More than half of Kiwis say they are eating less meat, and a quarter expect to be mostly meat-free by 2025, as they focus on their health and budget according to the results of a new survey.

It seems the days of a nightly meal of meat and two veg may soon be behind us too, with one in five of those surveyed (21%) saying they choose to have a meat-free dinner for more than half of the week. . . 


False friends to farmers

August 12, 2015

In the bad old days a downturn in dairy prices would have led to government “doing something”.

Whether that something would be the right thing is moot.

Thanks to the “failed” policies of the 80s and 90s, the economy adjusts without intervention as Finance Minister Bill English pointed out in Question Time yesterday.

A drop in revenue of this magnitude in the dairy sector will have flow-on effects to the wider economy because the dairy sector makes up about 20 percent of New Zealand’s exports and around 5 to 6 percent of the total economy. The automatic stabilisers, though, are providing support to the dairy industry and to the benefit of other industries. For instance, the New Zealand dollar is down 25c against the US dollar for the last 12 months, and this underpins the returns of all exporters, not just those dealing with low prices. The Reserve Bank has cut interest rates, the overnight cash rate, to 3 percent and indicated this may fall further. The Reserve Bank’s most recent forecasts of the economy show that the economy is growing around 2.5 percent a year, which is solid, sustainable growth. . .

During the ag-sag of the 1980s, when all farming was really in crisis, we were paying more than 25% for seasonal finance and mortgage rates weren’t much lower.

The wider economy was doing badly too, with inflation raging.

James Shaw : Has the Minister of Finance received any reports that show that the New Zealand economy will face a $7 billion hole as a result of low dairy prices, and what specific measures is he putting in place to ensure that distressed dairy farmers are supported through this commodity price crash?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Yes, I have seen those reports and I am pleased the member asked about them. In order to understand the context of this, that $7 billion reduction is a reduction on nominal GDP of over $220 billion. When you look at it that way, you can see that it is going to have a negative effect on the economy, but a containable effect, and we can continue to grow at moderate rates. In respect of dairy farmers in distress, Governments have had in place for some time measures for those families that are in severe financial distress, but generally the Government would not be looking to financially support dairy farmers because of low prices.

James Shaw : Does he regret telling Radio New Zealand in March that the concentration of capital in dairying was “not a bad thing”, and how will he now ensure that this over-allocation of resources into one sector does not now put out of work thousands of farm labourers, retailers, contractors, and suppliers who all rely on dairy farms?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The flow of capital into the dairy industry has been based on a longer-term confidence that across the Asia-Pacific region the fast-growing class of middle-income consumers will show more demand for dairy and other protein products. That is a view of the world that is not really disputed by anyone in particular. In the short term, however, the reduction in income will of course have an impact on employment directly on dairy farms, but also in the supporting towns and services. The measures announced by Fonterra last week and the positive indications from the banks that they will finance cash flow for dairy farmers over the next 12 months mean that it will not be as bad as the straight drop in income indicates, because dairy farmers have to spend $4.50 a kilo just to get the milk on the truck.

Tim Macindoe : What implications do recent developments in the international economy have for New Zealand’s economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Although there are risks in the global economy, it is evident that growth in our trading partners is holding up reasonably well—in the range of 3 percent to 4 percent. When we look back through the history of New Zealand’s growth patterns, it is reasonably clear that when our trading partners are growing at that kind of rate—3 to 4 percent—that is a positive indicator for sustainable, moderate growth in New Zealand of around 2 percent to 2.5 percent, which is our long-term trend growth rate.

James Shaw : Given his previous answer that investment in dairying was based on a long-range view of the sector, what work has he done to understand whether the dairy price collapse is actually a structural long-term change in the market rather than a cyclical short-term change?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : We try to make an assessment about that, the same as everyone else. It is pretty evident, though, that no one is quite sure. It is likely that dairy prices will not go back to $8 a kilo. In fact, it may well be not a bad thing because what is evident is that the price going that high has stimulated not just positive supply but probably excess supply. No one quite knows the answer to that question, but talking to the people whose capital investment is at stake and whose livelihoods are at stake, they maintain confidence that prices will rise from where they are—in fact, they have to, because they are below the cost of production—and they maintain a positive view about where they put their investment.

Grant Robertson : Has the Minister of Finance seen this report about the economy under his watch, which features a boat that has run aground?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Yes, I have, and I thought how similar it is to the fate of the Labour Party. [Interruption] . . .

Hon BILL ENGLISH : In the interest of assisting the vice-great helmsman, as I understand it, that is the Westpac Economic Overview, and I note that its forecasts are for between 2 percent and 2.5 percent growth over the next 3 years, despite the fact that it says there is going to be a recession. .

But the Green co-leader still thinks it’s up to the government to do something.

James Shaw : Is he aware that organic milk powder commands up to six times the price premium of conventional milk powder on international markets, and will he turn this crisis into an opportunity by helping move more dairy farmers into organic milk production?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : If the member is correct that farmers can earn six times as much by selling their milk as they earn from organic milk, then I am quite sure they will.

So far organic milk hasn’t got much traction, but if there really is that sort of opportunity it’s up to farmers and processors to make the most of it without interference from politicians.

James Shaw : When he says that this is not a crisis and that dairy is just 5 percent of the economy, is he saying that when the All Blacks lose it just does not matter because they are one of thousands of sports teams playing over the weekend, many of which are winning?

Mr SPEAKER : In so far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Bill English.

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Clearly, the Greens like New Zealanders being able to watch the All Blacks lose, but they do not them to be able to watch them win in the Rugby World Cup. I mean, when people use the word “crisis”, well, the Opposition should explain what that means. If those members think it means that dairy farmers are sitting around with their heads in their hands, paralysed by low prices, then they are wrong. Actually, they are getting up every morning, going out into the cold, wet weather, doing the calving, milking the cows, and spending the money they need to get their production moving and get their product to world markets. Calling it a crisis seems to me to be particularly useless. In fact, it downgrades the resilience and the responsiveness of not just the dairy sector but households right across New Zealand to a bit of economic pressure, which they can handle.

It’s the sad reality of Opposition to try to make the bad times worse. Thankfully most dairy farmers are too busy with calving to hear them.

3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that New Zealand is on the “cusp of something special”; if so, was that “something special” rising unemployment along with plummeting dairy prices?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I stand by that statement, for two reasons. The first is that I am positive and aspirational for New Zealand—

Hon Members : Ha, ha!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : —unlike some people who are always talking the country down. But, actually, the second reason I stand by that statement is that I made that statement on a couple of occasions during debates in the 2014 general election, and we were on the cusp of something special: the worst pounding the Labour Party had ever had—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Andrew Little : Given that the number of people who are unemployed has risen by 13,000 and that unemployment in Taranaki alone is now at 7 percent, and there are hundreds set to join them due to major job cuts announced recently, is it not the truth of it that he is sending more and more families to the cusp of poverty?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, the Government has created—along with the people of New Zealand, of course—148,000 jobs over the last 2 years. But I note that the Labour Party has an interest all of a sudden, apparently, in farming. So when prices go up, it is nothing to do with the Government; when prices go down, it is everything to do with the Government! Those members are not asking: “Why are beef prices high? Is that the responsibility of the Government?”. But I make this simple point: the Labour Party wanted to put a huge number of costs on farmers. That was its policy during the election.

Andrew Little : Given that Westpac says that there will be no more job growth this year, and the economy has grown at just a quarter of the expected rate, has he not driven the economy to the cusp of a recession?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : If the member goes and reads the Westpac report, the glimpse that I had a look through, it showed that growth will be between 2 percent and 2.5 percent over the next 3 years.

Andrew Little : Why has he failed to invest in diversifying the economy, neglected regional infrastructure, and turned a blind eye to the 35,000 jobs lost in manufacturing since 2008?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member needs to get out a bit more—it is as simple as that. If you go around New Zealand and have a look at what is happening around New Zealand, you will see just how diversified the economy is. Tourism spending alone is up over 20 percent from last year, at over $8 billion. The information and communications technology sector is doing well. Kiwifruit growing is back from the lows of Psa. Beef farming is doing extremely well. Horticulture is doing well around New Zealand. Manufacturing—for 33 months in a row the performance of manufacturing index has been expanding. The services sector, export education—the only people who think the economy is solely dairy are in the Labour Party, and it wanted to tax those people— . . .

Little tried again.

Andrew Little : Given that dairy farm prices have already fallen by 18 percent since peaking last October, what preparations has his Government undertaken for dealing with increased sell-offs by insolvent farmers who cannot make ends meet with dairy prices so low?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : What we have done over the course of the last 7 years, after straightening out the mess we inherited from Labour and with our very strong economic management, is to make the economy more efficient and more productive. Here is a bunch of things that we have not done: we have not brought the emissions trading scheme in straight away, we have not put a large tax on water irrigation, we have not put a capital gains tax on every farm, we have not increased the minimum wage to two-thirds of the average wage, and we have not taken money out of the Primary Growth Partnership. We are in favour of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Labour Party—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : —is claiming it is the farmers’ friend. They were the policies it took to the election.

Andrew Little : What is the Government’s response to the reports that, contrary to Bill English’s claims, the banks are already forcing mortgagee sales on indebted farmers, and what is to stop more of these farms being bought by overseas investors?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, I am sure that the banks will work closely with farmers, as they typically do, because there is approximately $35 billion worth of debt, I think, sitting on dairy farms. One of the things the bankers will be sitting there and looking at is they will be looking at the policies of the National-led Government, which has supported the farmers; they will be looking at the proposed policies of Labour, which is anti-farmers; and they will be saying “Thank goodness National is in Government.”

The Opposition parties are trying to act like farmers’ friends but you don’t need a long memory to know they’d be false friends.

This time last year they were in campaign mode threatening to add all sorts of taxes, increase compliance costs and complexity and generally make farming less profitable, more difficult and less enjoyable.

And while they keep saying the government should do something about the payout  I haven’t heard  a single farmer echo them.

 


Electorate boundaries finalised

April 17, 2014

Electorate boundaries have been finalised with changes to 46 seats.

The Electoral Act 1993 imposes strict electoral population limits binding on the Commission.  These provide an overall constraint to ensure that there are approximately equal numbers of people in each electorate so that they have equality of representation in Parliament.  All electorates must contain electoral populations varying not more than ±5% from the following quotas which are calculated in accordance with the Act:

  Quota ±5% Allowance
North Island General Electorates 59,731 ±2,986
South Island General Electorates 59,679 ±2,983
Māori Electorates  60,141 ±3,007

There’s an interactive map of old and new boundaries here.

Jadis, guest blogging at Kiwiblog has winners and losers:

Winners:

, Auckland Central – Having won and held Auckland Central by less than a thousand votes in 08 and 11 Nikki will be overjoyed to see ALL of Grey Lynn move into Mount Albert. . . .

, Christchurch Central – I am really pleased for Nicky as she was gutted when the provisional boundaries came out as they made it a strong red seat. . .

, Hamilton West – Hamilton is unique as it is the only urban centre held by the Nats .  Similar boundaries to the provisionals means that by crossing the river MacIndoe has gained some strong blue areas in a high growth zone.  . .

, Waimakariri – While there are no changes since the provisional Waimakariri is well and truly one of the most marginal seats in the country. . .

Losers:

Ruth Dyson, Port Hills – Dyson is the biggest loser in this boundary review.  Her majority has been reversed with the Nats stronghold of Halswell moving into the seat, and Anderton’s old stomping ground of Sydenham moving into Christchurch Central. . .

, Hutt South – This is the surprise of the final boundaries.  Mallard has gained all of the  Western Hills (good Nat territory) and lost super red areas of Naenae and Rimutaka. Labour should have been able to stop this occurring but appear to have put up no fight.  Mallard should be furious with his party for failing to keep Hutt South a real red seat. . . .

, Maungakiekie – Labour were grumpy in 2008 when Sam took one of ‘their’ red seats in Maungakiekie, so they will no doubt be pleased that the blue booths have almost all been taken out of Maungakiekie.  Beaumont would be silly to think her win is a foregone conclusion as Sam will throw everything into his beloved electorate and is able to cross party divides for electorate support.  This seat is too close to call.  Another true marginal.

It looks like National has gained more and lost less than Labour which could well end up with fewer electorates than it has now.

Does this mean Labour, having failed to get its dead wood to go voluntarily is prepared to lose seats in the hope of renewal in three year’s time?

Or is it just another sign the party can’t get its act together?

 


Silly question, sensible answer

December 12, 2013

It’s a political maxim that you should never ask a question to which you don’t know the answer.

David Parker was silly enough to do that during question time yesterday and got a very sensible answer in response:

Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Which, if any, is his greatest failing in 2013 as Minister of Finance?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): This question does test one’s humility. Without doubt, though, my greatest failing as a Minister of Finance was, as it has been for each of the past 5 years, underestimating the damage done to this economy by the previous Labour Government, and overestimating the ability of Labour members to understand that and apologise for it.

The initial question provided the opportunity for another:

Tim Macindoe: What further progress has the Government made in 2013 in improving the range of negative economic indicators it inherited 5 years ago?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, I would say the credit for progress goes to the households and businesses of New Zealand, which have dealt with difficult circumstances with remarkable resilience and fortitude, and they are achieving results. The economy is growing 2.5 to 3 percent—one of the fastest growth rates in the OECD. We are on track to surplus by 2014-15—one of a handful of countries that will achieve surplus by that time. Back in 2008 the current account deficit was over 8 percent of GDP and it currently sits at less than 4 percent of GDP. Five years ago inflation was running at 5 percent. It is now running at just over 1 percent. Five years ago mortgage interest rates averaged almost 11 percent. Floating rates are now less than 6 percent, although forecast to rise somewhat next year. The tradable sector, which went into recession in 2007, is now succeeding, and we are particularly gratified that the manufacturing sector is expanding and even more gratified that the regions are expanding, many of them at a faster rate than in Auckland.

Labour squandered the good times and left office forecasting a decade of deficits, before the global financial crisis.

National has turned that around, in spite of financial and natural disasters and is now on track back to surplus.

This is an achievement of which the government, and the businesses and households which also weathered the storms, can be proud.

Our economic growth is the envy of many other countries but it would be at great risk should Labour manage to cobble together enough support to form a government after next year’s election.

It’s policies show it hasn’t learned from its high-spending, high taxing mistakes and is determined to repeat them.


All I want for Christmas

November 27, 2013

This photo begs a caption.

Wit is preferable, politics is fine, personal abuse is not.


Sneaky Green but no red

April 30, 2012

As Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe approached the Forsyth Barr stadium where he was addressing the National Party Mainland conference yesterday he noticed a bloke get off a bike with a Green poster.

The same bloke walked into the stadium behind Tim who suggested to the security man that he probably wasn’t supposed to be there. The security man said he’d already worked that out and invited the bloke to leave, which he did.

Apparently there was a small protest outside, waiting for Prime Minister John Key but they were at one end of the stadium and the driver took the PM out the other.

I don’t know who they were or what their gripe was but was told there was nothing identifying any as Labour Party people.

Conference goers in the past when National was in government were regularly harangued by scores of Labour protesters. That none was visible this time could mean they’ve realised the futility of such actions.

It might also be another sign of the party’s ailing state and that it doesn’t have enough activists willing to get out and wave their flags any more.

 

 


%d bloggers like this: