No excuses

July 8, 2020

If Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker had told media he had the personal details of Covid-19 patients, would not give the information to them, but was alerting them to a serious breach of privacy, he would have been able to stand on the moral high ground.

Instead he made the mistake of sending the details.

That was a very serious error of judgement for which there are no excuses.

I am so very sorry, I know and like Hamish and until now he has done everything a new MP should do in working for his constituents and handling his shadow portfolios well.

I  learned of the news at a National Party function last night.

More than 100 people were there to listen to party leader Todd Muller who spoke with authority and handled questions with aplomb.

The audience was impressed. I am even more so knowing that he knew about this and gave not a hint of the trouble it was causing and the media storm he would be facing afterwards.


Done what, moving where?

July 6, 2020

Labour’s slogan at the last election was let’s do this it’s slogan for this one is let’s keep moving.

So what has the government done and where is it moving?

National Leader Todd Muller says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern’s promises today are “just more KiwiBuild”.

“Nothing Labour promises you this election will be delivered – except more tax for you to pay.

“Labour promised three years ago to “Let’s do this” and hasn’t done any of it.

“Three years later, Labour has nothing left to say for itself except to keep moving, on a road to nowhere.

“Today’s so-called economic plan will go in the same rubbish bin as its KiwiBuild plan, its light rail plan, its mental health plan and its child poverty plan.

“Promising and not delivering to New Zealand’s most vulnerable people is not kind – it’s cruel.

“You cannot afford three more years of Labour, you need a strong National Government to deliver more jobs, a better economy and a better life for you, your family, and your community.”

We can’t afford three more years of Labour because what they’ve done and more importantly, failed to do, shows we can’t trust them to do what needs to be done and to move the right levers to lead New Zealand where it needs to go.

Doing what must be done, moving at the pace and to the place we need to go, needs more than a celebrity leader who’s strong on rhetoric, it needs a good leader with a strong and talented team who deliver on what they promise.

The choice is clear – more of what we’ve got, and haven’t got, from a cabinet of largely empty chairs, or positive change to a team that will fill the chairs and deliver on its promises.


Planning to fail

July 3, 2020

Ensuring Covid-19 doesn’t get past the border has widespread support, but it’s time for a plan that keeps it there and lets more people in:

The Prime Minister needs to stop misrepresenting the border issue and tell New Zealanders what her strategy is to protect the economy long-term, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“The Government’s clumsy and incompetent management of our quarantine procedures means it is impossible for New Zealand’s border to open tomorrow, next week or even next month.

“That simply would not be safe.

“However, New Zealanders also need to know how and when the border will progressively be reopened, because not doing that is untenable.

“New Zealanders deserve the highest standards to protect them from getting Covid-19, both at the border and when it comes to tracking and tracing in the event of cases in the community.

“We need to know when those standards will be in place so that New Zealanders have confidence to progressively and safely open the border and grow the economy.

“Locking down what’s left of the economy and waiting for a vaccine isn’t an option.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response ignores the issue:

 . . .”It is untenable to consider the idea of opening up New Zealand’s borders to Covid-19.

“In some parts of the world where we have had frequent movement of people they are not estimating that they will reach a peak for at least a month,” Ardern said.

“Any suggestion of borders opening at this point, frankly, is dangerous.” . . .

No-one is asking for the borders to open at this point.

A lot of people, businesses and organisations are asking for information on the plan for when and how the borders will open at some point in the future.

Farmers and contractors need experienced workers, principals facing teacher shortages are looking for staff, secondary schools and tertiary institutions want to be able to host foreign students again . . .

None of these is asking for anything that would risk Covid-19 getting past the border, but all want to know the government’s plan for safe entry of more than returning New Zealanders and the heavily restricted number and categories of people deemed essential workers so they can plan.

Any half competent government would have had people planning ahead months ago.

The omnishambles at the border that required the military and another minister to take over running it, shows that wasn’t done.

The current situation needs a strong focus but the inability for someone in government to look further ahead while others deal with immediate priorities reinforces Todd Muller’s observation there are three or four competent ministers and a whole lot of empty chairs in Cabinet.

Had there been anyone with more ability in any of those chairs, perhaps one of the three deputy Health Ministers for example, Chris Hipkins who already had a very heavy workload wouldn’t have been the only one capable of taking over as Health Minister yesterday after David Clark resigned.

That appointment highlights the shallowness of the Cabinet pond and explains why Muller’s request for details of the strategy for opening the border is being ignored.

There doesn’t appear to be anyone in the government with the time and ability to plan that far ahead which is a very serious problem because as the adage says, if you fail to plan then you’ll plan to fail.


Bridges & Reti up, Clark down

July 2, 2020

National leader Todd Muller has announced two promotions in the wake of Paula Bennett’s decision to retire from politics:

Dr Shane Reti will be ranked number 13 and will take on Associate Drug Reform. Shane has demonstrated a huge intellect and capacity for work, supporting Michael Woodhouse in our Covid-19 response, as well as achieving much in the Tertiary Education portfolio.

Simon Bridges will be picking up the Foreign Affairs portfolio and will be ranked at number 17. Simon has been leader and a minister for a number of years in the last National Government. He expressed a desire for this portfolio and his experience will be valuable in this important role.

Deputy Leader Nikki Kaye will pick up the portfolio of Women and will make several announcements associated with this portfolio in the coming months.

Amy Adams will take the portfolio of Drug Reform. She will work with Shane Reti in this area. . . 

These are all good moves, I am especially pleased that Simon’s experience and skill will be put to good use.

Gerry Brownlee did have the Foreign Affairs portfolio. I have no idea what negotiations went on, but Gerry stepped aside to allow Bill English to be John Key’s deputy when John became leader for the good of the caucus and party. It looks like he has done so again which shows commendable loyalty and grace.

Meanwhile, a mess has been tidied up for the government.

David Clark has resigned as Health Minister:

The embattled MP for Dunedin North said he had become a “distraction” and that the “time is right” for someone else to fill the role, but he will stand as an MP in the upcoming election. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement Dr Clark contacted her on Wednesday to “confirm his wish to resign as a minister” and that she had accepted his resignation. 

The Prime Minister has appointed Labour MP Chris Hipkins as Health Minister until the election. Hipkins is currently the Minister of Education.  . . 

Clark is the third of Ardern’s Ministers to lose his warrant – Clare Curran resigned, and Meka Whaitiri who was sacked.

It has taken a while, had Ardern had more steel the resignation would have been accepted weeks ago when Clark first offered it.


Damned either way

July 1, 2020

Paula Bennett’s retirement announcement has left Todd Muller with a choice.

He can move everyone up a place in caucus rankings or he can do a reshuffle that brings someone who is Maori up several places to appease those focused on identity politics.

He will be damned either way.

But there is a solution.

Simon Bridges who is currently languishing among the MPs who will retire at the election, could be brought up to the shadow cabinet.

He has the experience and ability caucus needs. He also happens to be Maori, not that that seemed to matter to those focused on identity politics when he was leader because to them, it’s not good enough to be in a particular group, you also have to be of the left.

This will require give and take from both men but they, caucus and the party will be stronger for it.


Clark & Ardern doing a Pilate

June 25, 2020

As a former minister of religion Health Minister David Clark will be familiar with the story of Pontius Pilate who washed his hands to absolve himself of any responsibility for Jesus’s life.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was raised a Mormon and should know the story too.

Both of them have washed their hands of the Covid-19 response omnishambles and sheeted all responsibility home on DIrector General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

Ardern was very happy to share the platform and the glory with Bloomfield when he was being sanctified at the 1pm broadcasts through the lockdown but won’t accept the responsibility for the omnishambles or hold Clark responsible for the disgraceful way he behaved last night:

Health Minister David Clark has brutally thrown Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield under the bus while standing right next to him, after the Government’s quarantine testing botch-up. . . 

Dr Clark pointed blame at the Director-General as they stood next to each other in Wellington on Wednesday. 

Newshub’s footage captured Dr Bloomfield’s face after Dr Clark told reporters, “The Director-General has accepted that the protocol wasn’t being followed. He has accepted responsibility for that.”

If you click on the link you’ll see the footage as Clark humiliates his DG whose face shows how he is feeling.

Newshub asked the Health Minister why he won’t take some of the responsibility.

“The Director-General has already acknowledged that the system didn’t deliver here.”

It wasn’t just the system that didn’t deliver, the Minister was’t even present to deliver when he should have been front and centre.

Dr Clark shouldn’t be so quick to lay blame.

If Dr Bloomfield hadn’t been forced to step up as a de facto Health Minister during the COVID-19 response because Dr Clark was AWOL, perhaps Dr Bloomfield would’ve been able to focus on his actual job – running the operational side of things. . . 

A Minister shouldn’t be involved in operational matters but does have responsibility for ensuring that the right processes and systems are in place and they’re operating as they should be.

As Toby Manhire writes:

“Operational matters” aren’t a get-out-of-responsibility-free card. “Operational matters” can be substituted in most sentences for “things that happened”.

Throughout lockdown it was obvious there were problems with supply and deliver of personal protective equipment (PPE), the availability of testing, contact tracing and frustration from health workers that the Minister ought to have ensured were sorted.

Instead, he wasn’t even in Wellington most of the time and now he’s back he’s rewarded the man who was on the spot by pushing all the blame on him:

Health Minister David Clark has finally turned up to work, and when he did, his first job was to throw his Director-General of Health under the bus, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“David Clark’s treatment of Ashley Bloomfield is a disgrace. He humiliated a man we have grown to respect and trust during lockdown.

“While Dr Bloomfield has fronted up day after day, Clark hasn’t even bothered to look at the quarantine arrangements that are so vital in protecting New Zealand from the virus.

“Clark is the very definition of a ‘non-essential worker’.”

Mr Muller observed that while the Minister of Health’s continued, bumbling presence defines the incompetence of the Labour Government, he shouldn’t be the one who should accept responsibility for the furore.

“Did the Prime Minister know that Clark would be directing all blame on Dr Bloomfield?

“Jacinda Ardern is happy to take centre-stage during lockdown briefings but as soon as there’s bad news, she is nowhere to be seen.

“For Ardern, when things go wrong, the buck stops with the frontline workers, never her Ministers, never herself.”

Ministers should not only take responsibility they must act responsibly.

By washing their hands Ardern and Clark are failing to do both.


Tania Tapsell Nat candidate for East Coast

June 7, 2020

Tania Tapsell has been selected as the National Party candidate for East Coast.

Tania is replacing current MP Anne Tolley who has held the seat for 15 years and is not seeking re-election but will be on the Party List. Tania is currently the Deputy Chairperson of the NZ Community Board Executive Committee.

“I’m very excited to be chosen as National’s candidate in East Coast. I’m looking forward meeting with the hard-working people across all parts of our electorate and helping to ensure we see a National Government come September 19,” Ms Tapsell says.

“New National Leader Todd Muller said it best – while we should take some pride in the way the country has come through the health crisis, we now face an unprecedented economic crisis that will require a different set of skills.

“East Coast is a diverse, beautiful electorate spanning from Te Puke through to Gisborne with farming, forestry, horticulture, fishing, manufacturing and tourism the backbone industries of our electorate.

“While the Government has talked big about funding from the Provincial Growth Fund, it has struggled to get these projects off the ground and generate the jobs that were predicted and needed. The people of East Coast work hard and they deserve a Government that will deliver on its promises and support it through these uncertain times.

“We need the values and experience of a National Government to help guide the East Coast, and the rest of New Zealand, out of this economic crisis.

“Todd Muller leads a strong, experienced team that can be counted on to deliver. I’m looking forward to campaigning hard to ensure East Coast continues to have strong National representation,” Ms Tapsell says.

Biographical Notes: Tania Tapsell

Tania Tapsell is currently the Deputy Chairperson of the NZ Community Board Executive Committee. She has been an elected Councillor for the past seven years and is Chairperson of the Council Operations Committee which oversees $1.2 billion in public assets. She has a passion for the environment and led the Council Sustainable Living Strategy.

Tania has a Bachelor of Management Studies Degree from the University of Waikato, diplomas in business and marketing, and is completing her Master of Management. 

Tania’s first career was in tourism and iwi organisations before she went on to work for BNZ Business Partners and then Deloitte.

Tania resides in Maketu where her Te Arawa iwi is from. Her great uncle Sir Peter Tapsell was an Eastern Māori MP and Speaker of the NZ House of Representatives.

Tania has achieved national titles in cross country and gymnastics and was selected for the NZ Maori U21 Touch team. Tania is engaged to Kanin and has an 8-year-old stepson.

While some in the media are still fixated on identity politics, Tania has been selected by party members in the electorate because she is the best person for the role.

National currently has five Maori electorate MPs, Labour has only two in general seats.

But what is more important than numbers is that National doesn’t do identity politics or tokenism. It attracts able and talented people of a variety of ethnicities who share the party’s vision of equal citizenship and equal opportunity.


Contradictions and confusion

June 3, 2020

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the social distancing breaches at the weekend’s protest marches was irresponsible.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the marches breached the rules.

That was yesterday, after the event. Both were silent before the event when they might have been able to persuade people to protest in ways that didn’t breach the rules.

The PM gave us repeated warnings and guidelines for Anzac Day, why didn’t she speak up before the protests?

That she only voiced an opinion after the event is contradictory and confusing for those of us who thought we knew the rules and were keeping to the requirement to have no more than 100 people at an event and to maintain social distance.

But there’s more contradiction and confusion from DIrector General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield:

“There’s currently no evidence of community transmission in New Zealand so at this time, quarantine for 14 days after attending one of these outdoor events is not required.”

If that’s the case why are we still at Level 2 which is handicapping businesses which in turn is costing jobs and livelihoods?

But he says it’s still important that Kiwis remain “alert to symptoms and seek advice if they’re at all concerned”.

“Whatever the alert level in New Zealand, it’s clear COVID-19 will continue to be a global threat for some time and it’s important we remain vigilant – both as individuals and as a country,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“This means continuing to observe physical distancing to keep yourself and others safe, seeking appropriate heath advice, and most importantly staying at home if you’re unwell.”

Continuing to observe physical distancing – unless you’re at a protest or the PM or DG:

Photographs have emerged of the Prime Minister and director general of health posed for pictures close to wellwishers, prompting accusations of hypocrisy from a National Party MP warned by police for doing the same.

It has led to an admission from the Prime Minister it was a struggle to maintain “appropriate distancing” with people approaching wanting “handshakes and hugs”.

It’s been a struggle for the rest of us to maintain “appropriate distancing” at funerals and with family and friends but most of us have managed it.

Bloomfield also confirmed he was in a photograph with strangers but said it was only for a moment.

Northland MP Matt King produced the photographs after facing public criticism when he posted to Facebook photographs of himself with staff from a restaurant in Paihia where he had dined.

King told the Herald today coverage of the photograph led to a phone call from a senior Northland police officer who reminded him of social distancing rules.

“I felt sorry for the cop. He was a senior cop. He said: ‘This is not a formal warning – you’re standing too close‘.” . . .

It doesn’t help that there’s contradictory statements coming from the PM and her deputy:

With businesses hemorrhaging money by the day, the Government should be discussing the move to Level 1 now, not in a week, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“The Prime Minister and her Cabinet could have discussed the move to Level 1 today. It’s not good enough that all they did was agree to meet again next week to make a call.”

National is demanding the Government immediately release the secret Cabinet papers on which it decided last week to stay in Level 2.

“Divisions between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters are causing confusion about what the secret papers say about how safe it would be to move to Level 1,” Mr Muller says.

“The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have both read the same Cabinet papers but one is telling us it is too dangerous to move to Level 1 while the other says it would be perfectly safe.

“Moving to Level 1 as soon as it is safe is of the greatest importance to small businesses and the thousands of Kiwis losing their jobs each week.

“The public deserves to see the same advice Ms Ardern and Mr Peters are publicly disagreeing about.”

We also need to know the criteria for moving to Level 1 because it obviously isn’t what is on the Ministry of Health’s website or we’d already be there.

Alert Level 1 — Prepare

The disease is contained in New Zealand.

Risk assessment

    • COVID-19 is uncontrolled overseas.
    • Isolated household transmission could be occurring in New Zealand. . . 

Instead we’ve got confusion and contradiction over which gatherings can have more than 100 people and which can’t; between what the DG of Health says and what we’ve been told about Alert Level 2; and between the PM and her deputy and what’s on the website and what’s happening in practice.

The social and economic cost of this is far too high for anything but the clarity and certainty businesses need to make decisions and all of us deserve if the social licence the government lost at the weekend is to be regained.

Without it, more and more people are going to flout the rules in the certain knowledge that they, like the protesters, will be left to do as they will.

 


Quotes of the month

June 1, 2020

Our primary industries are the ones that have propped it [the economy] up. We can’t keep borrowing money. Money doesn’t come from out of thin air and if there are jobs there, let us work.

“Don’t give us job centres for queues of people lining up for jobs that aren’t there. We have these jobs sitting under our noses. – Tania Gibson

We need you to accept that there is a problem, see what the problem is, and fix the problem and make sure that the problem never happens again. – Dr Jan White

Vaccine shortages have dogged previous flu and measles campaigns, and doctors have called this year’s flu campaign a “complete debacle”.

It has become abundantly clear that despite the Government’s rejection of such an assertion, a debacle is exactly what it is.  Michael Morrah

The stakes are higher than any election since 1984 because a second-term Ardern Government will have a mandate and an appetite for the largest expansion of the state since Robert Muldoon’s Think Big schemes and endless tinkering beggared the country.  – Damien Grant

The public is putting an immense amount of trust in the Government as it circumvents the usual checks and balances to get us through this crisis. But trust is earned. It’s also key to maintaining social cohesion. – Jenée Tibshraeny

The calamitous way in which Parliament turned Inland Revenue into a small business lender , without a single MP realising they were doing so, is a sign that the time is well past for greater scrutiny to return.

The Government’s refusal to release the advice it used as the basis of its decision to place New Zealand into a highly restrictive lockdown is coming close to an abuse of the extraordinary trust the public has granted it.Hamish Rutherford

No policy decision is costless. Advocates of a longer extension expound the benefits of the approach they advocate; they often are less forthcoming on the costs. The costs of our lockdown could well be slower coming through than the corona virus itself, they are costs that we as the citizens will sooner or later have to bear. – Wyatt Creech

He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. Nate White

One of the worst effects of a lack of understanding of risk management is the precautionary principle. This is the belief that unless you have complete knowledge about the likelihood and impact of the risk, either you shouldn’t take any action at all (e.g. not allowing the trial of a new drug) or you should go all-out to prevent the risk eventuating (e.g. locking down the population in a pandemic). – Kiwiwit

We’ve elected politicians without enough prior life tests and career leadership experience  to exercise democratic control. Without authoritative experienced oversight, some official cultures will inevitably become immune to their own convenient cruelty. “Be kind” means nothing without the leadership diligence that makes it practical, everyday, and integrated among all the other demands of hard decision-making.  Stephen Franks

People talk a big game about moving away from eating meat, and no doubt tell researchers they are vegetarian when asked – but when they get home they are tucking into a big porterhouse. – Trent Thorne

We are very good at managing weeds and pests. Had the Department of Conservation taken it over I don’t know that the same standard of management would have been there to look after it. They don’t have the budget.

“And it would be devastating to watch it fill up with wildings and be overrun by rabbits again.

“They’re very complex places to run and if all of the high country farmers stopped farming it would be a huge burden on the taxpayer to actually manage that land.Andrew Simpson

A lot of farmers, particularly our young farmers, have found themselves in a very lonely place in the last five years.

“I like to think the understanding might shift as people get to understand where their food comes from.

“And it’s our interests to tell our story so that people do understand. We still grow food, and we love the land. The two can coexist. – Andrew Simpson

A human life, it will be said, is of incalculable value, and in some metaphysical sense this is so. Usually we do not value people’s lives in dollars and cents, and we would regard anyone who did so with horror or disgust. But at the same time, we know that in practice we do place a value on people’s lives. We would think it right to spend more on saving a child’s life at the age of 3 than to spend it on prolonging the life of a 95-year-old by five minutes. The relative values of human lives may not be calculable in any precise sense, but where choices have to be made and resources are scarce (as they always are), we make them.

Sacrificing life to maintain normal life may not therefore be a monstrous policy, though the question of how much life can be sacrificed for how much normality is very difficult to answer, because neither the quantity of life sacrificed nor the amount of normality preserved can be known, certainly not in advance, and perhaps not even in retrospect, for there are so many variables that might account for differences. Besides, the two—life lost and economic collapse—are incommensurable. – Theodore Dalrymple

The shackles should be discarded and ministers should be open to scrutiny. If they can’t be trusted to answer questions about their portfolios, they shouldn’t be ministers. – Derek Cheng

Fundamentally, this is a story of two governments and their differing response to the crisis. The Australian Government has committed to preserving jobs by keeping the economy going, no doubt aware that creating a job is so much harder than preserving one. On the other hand, the New Zealand Government chose instead to shut down the economy. As a result, I believe thousands of businesses will close or drastically shrink, and unemployment will grow significantly.

The initial focus by Governments in both countries was quite rightly the health and well-being of the citizens. Australia and New Zealand have achieved admirable results compared to many other countries, particularly the comparatively low number and rate of deaths from COVID-19. The number of deaths per 100,000 population in both countries is much the same. However, the big difference is that Australia will emerge with their economy virtually intact, while we have done serious damage to ours. There is significant business failure happening now in New Zealand that could have been avoided, and still can be in my opinion. –  Lee Short

I see a stark difference between the wealth creators and those untouched and shielded from the impact on the business world. They are not having their pay slashed and are not suffering unemployment or the threat of it. Business owners and employees provide the wealth that funds those in the public service. They take risks, many borrowing substantial sums, some making sacrifices for years. The result is companies that pay tax and employ staff who pay tax. These taxes keep those in public service in employment.Lee Short

Those of us whose adult lives have largely played out over the last four decades should be grateful that we have lived through the best of times, but we owe it to our children and grandchildren to give them at least the same opportunities that we have had to enjoy happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. How we handle the recovery from Covid-19 will determine whether we do so.Kiwiwit

There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.  A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is. Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. – Paul Henry

No opinion is worth expressing that is not also worth contradicting (except, perhaps, this one); nevertheless, clichés have their attraction. They are the teddy-bears of the mind, or, to change the metaphor slightly, the mental lifebuoys we cling to in times of stormy intellectual or political weather. They are the sovereign remedy for thought, which is always a rather painful activity. –  Theodore Dalrymple

 Is mastery of this kind of meaningless verbalisation, eloquently empty and passionately delivered, the key to political success? And if so what does it say of us, the citizens of democracies? – Theodore Dalrymple

As is quite often the case, hiding in the great mound of high-sounding bilge are quite nasty sentiments that would, if taken seriously (which thankfully they will not be), lead straight to a totalitarian society. . . It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. – Theodore Dalrymple

Except that people will remember the sectors that helped them get through – agriculture and horticulture. They might also remember that the air became cleaner during the pandemic, and that the rivers ran clear. The environmental impact of reduction in transport has been noticed globally. The clarity of waterways has featured on RNZ with commentators noting bird song and clear water… because building and roadworks had stopped. No mention was made of the fact that agriculture and horticulture continued, nor that there had been no reduction in animals. – Jacqueline Rowarth

I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness. Michael Woodhouse

How have we got to a stage where we think this is fine. Where we accept rules that say only 10 people are allowed at funerals but 100 people can go to a pub? Where families can’t get out of quarantine to say goodbye to dying family members and people in hospitals die without any loved ones holding their hands? – Heather du Plessis-Allan

You can’t spend your way back to surplus. You can’t tax your back to surplus (without decreasing economic growth). You need to grow your way back to surplus. So most important of all we need policies that will not just get us through the recession but lead to a strong growing economy for the decade that follows. – David Farrar

The budget was heavy in numbers. A few hundred million here, a few billion here – there were big spending initiatives for everything.

But it was light on demonstrating how these programmes will help repair the country. As KiwiBuild showed, good intentions plus government money do not automatically equate to success. But that lesson appears to have been forgotten and Budget 2020 is just KiwiBuild on steroids. – Oliver Hartwich

It’s easy to get lost in all of the big numbers today. The four-year projections of spending, the extra of billions in debt, the debt-to-GDP ratio.

We forget that each of those numbers, all of the numbers in fact, represents a bigger challenge. The burden we place on New Zealanders and the responsibility we have to them.

We forget that a decade of deficits and debt means fewer choices for our kids down the road.

The obligation we as Parliamentarians have to make sure the next generation is better off than we were. That they have more choices, more opportunities, and more ability to succeed in the world because we back them, not burden them with debt.Simon Bridges

Next time, with substantial administrative improvement and a whole lot more political honesty (surely an oxymoron if ever there was one!), there may be some justification in claiming the government’s responses and directives as a  “masterclass of communication” – but definitely not this time. – Henry Armstrong

Whether the virus is quelled or not, in four months’ time the wreckage of New Zealand’s economy will be visible from space. Last week, leaked documents showed the Ministry of Social Development is preparing for an extra 300,000 benefit applications in response to mass unemployment generated by the pandemic.

You don’t have to be a seer to guess that material concerns and a desire for economic and logistical competence will likely trump all other considerations — including abstract notions of “wellbeing” and admonitions to “be kind” — in choosing the next government.Graham Adams

You have had the five million locked up in Cindy’s Kindy with a daily political party broadcast with an incredibly compliant media who have been in her bubble. – Michelle Boag

Our Prime Minister is daily lauded for her leadership in times of crisis.  In the immediate glare of publicity, kindness and empathy are endearing qualities.  The cold reality is that those qualities will not pay the bills.  Gestures of 20% pay cuts are welcomed but 20% of a heck of a lot is no real sacrifice.  Real leadership involves more than optics and safeguarding political gains. It requires tough and hurtful decisions.Owen Jennings

If ‘helicopter’ cash and ‘shovel ready’ projects are the best you can come up with, think again.  If dressing up green initiatives and sneaking through climate change penalties are on the menu, forget it.  If asking us to pay new taxes is in the budget, pull it out again.  Our burden is already too heavy.  Focus on what might hold back private sector initiatives, frustrate investors, limit progress and delay the recovery.  Prune such fearlessly.  Waiting seven years for a consent to increase a water take when your city is running dry isn’t helping anything – the environment, the economy, thirsty businesses or my vegetable garden. –  Owen Jennings

I would like to change the way we treated our farmers and our primary industries for the last while. ‘They are the heroes of our economy and I think they are being treated as though they were the villains.  It is really important to show how valuable the agriculture and primary industries are to New Zealand. They are the basis of our economy, and valuing that is really important to me.  – Penny Simmonds 

I’m afraid it’s too late to put Ardern’s debt genie back in the bottle. I apologise on behalf of my generation and older that you and your kids will carry this debt for all of us. My advice to you is to do what this government should have done. Cut costs and minimise your liabilities. Spend only on the essentials and invest in assets that will produce a safe dividend. Perhaps most important of all, stay engaged in our democracy and encourage your friends to do the same. If COVID-19 has taught the world anything it is this: politicians need to be closely scrutinised at all times but especially in crises like these. – Heather Roy

Australia is currently co-optimising the wellbeing of the Covid outbreak and the wellbeing consequences of the economy better than New Zealand.  If we don’t martial the best possible team for both recovery and reform, we will exacerbate the slide against our greatest comparator and lose even more of our most precious asset, our people.That risks a younger generation not only inheriting greater debt, but also makes Aotearoa a less desirable place to live with substantially less wellbeing. Fraser Whineray

I trust the prime minister a lot more than her critics do. But I also believe that a lot of her cabinet ministers are incompetent, and others are highly unscrupulous, and that this government makes operational and policy blunders on a scale we haven’t seen in our last few decades of technocratic centrism (as I was writing this the news broke that the entire lockdown may have been illegal). And they’re currently making huge decisions based on incomplete information because there is no expert consensus or reliable data available. – Danyl Mclauchlan

So I think there’s value to disrespectful questions and politicised critiques, and even some of the contrarianism, even if a lot of it is misguided or in bad faith, or simply wrong. And I think we need a space for those critiques in our mainstream politics and media instead of shouting it down and leaving it to circulate on the shadowy fringes of the internet. Because the experts are not always right and the government is not always trustworthy. If contrarians warn about the danger to our freedom in this moment, and it makes us more vigilant and we remain free, does it mean the contrarians were wrong? – Danyl Mclauchlan

What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; The Dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; The Mum who coaches a touch rugby team; This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in – the economy in your community – your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.  This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand. Todd Muller

The problem with this government is they’ve two or three strong performers and 17 empty seats in CabinetTodd Muller

Poker machines are a de facto tax on the brain-dead. As a taxpayer I resent having to support no-hopers when in the case of these addictions, their problems are self-inflicted. – Bob Jones

A modern democracy, we should not forget, is a people of the government, by the government, and for the government.Theodore Dalrymple

What the “employed and unemployed workers” of 1935 would be scandalised by is being forced to support other people’s children whose father’s pay nothing. They would be outraged that someone who has committed a crime can come out of a prison and get immediate recourse to welfare – repeatedly! They would be angry that  entire isolated rural communities could turn their local economies on welfare. – Lindsay Mitchell

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects. Alfred

New Zealand’s economy is in strife. Without major change, our constitutional cousin is in decline. Its public finances are in tatters, its biggest export, tourism, has been obliterated — Air New Zealand announced 4000 job losses this week — and New Zealand police now can enter people’s homes without a warrant.Adam Creighton

In one year, New Zealand has blown 30 years of hard-fought ­fiscal rectitude. Its public debt will explode from the equivalent of 19 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 54 per cent by 2022, on the government’s own figures. – Adam Creighton

The Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who have not worked in the private sector, spruik the totems of modern left governments — renewable energy, trees, higher tax, equality — but without much to show for it. Plans for a billion trees and 100,000 houses have come close to almost naught, and a capital-gains tax was dumped. Labour made a song and dance about reducing child poverty too, but on six out of nine measures tracked by Statistics New Zealand it is unchanged or worse since 2017, including the share of children living in “material hardship”, which has risen to 13.4 per cent. – Adam Creighton

The real problem with the Ardern government is they have no idea whatsoever apart from how to throw money at things, – Roger Douglas

In any case, it wasn’t outsized compassion that drove the lockdown sledgehammer but the ­brutal reality of an underfunded health system. With about 140 intensive care unit beds and few ventilators — far fewer than Australia per capita — it was woefully underprepared. Ardern is more popular than ever, and by all accounts is a good person and a great communicator. But if a COVID-19 vaccine remains elusive, New Zealanders may come to question her wisdom as they fall further down the global pecking order. Without economic growth, there won’t be money for more ICU beds. – Adam Creighton

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects.  – Alfred

They’ll make excuses for her, that’s what left supporters and the media do to prop up failed politicians. It’s not about results, it’s about virtuous ideas and statements. The voters least affected – the latte sipping urbanites will keep supporting her, while the poorer people, whom she has vowed are the ones she’s trying to help, will suffer.Melanie

If you, as small business owners, give just one of your newly unemployed neighbours a job before Christmas, you will be the heroes of the economic crisis, the way that our nurses and doctors and all five million of us who stayed at home and washed our hands were the heroes of the health crisis, –  Todd Muller

National does not start by saying everything should be closed unless the Government says it can be open. Instead, our guiding principle is that everything should be open unless there is good reason for it to be closed.Todd Muller

Ethnic communities don’t want tokenism or special treatment; we simply want to be treated as equals and live in an inclusive society. We don’t wish to question or demonise anybody’s “whiteness”. We should all be able to celebrate who we are without fear or favour. – Gregory Fortuin

Muller is still an unknown quantity and has taken over National at the worst possible time for a prime ministerial aspirant. His best hope is that by the election on September 19, unemployment has rocketed, the cult of Winston has shattered, the economy has tanked and voters are starting to worry about how the country will ever pay the billions back.

Then voters might start to think empathy is all very well, but we need a leader capable of some hard- headed decisions that look beyond the lens of political correctness.Martin van Beynen

Don’t be fooled, Winston Peters declarations are not about principle. His game is political expediency. . . Will Winston Peters last the distance or are we seeing the tactic that’s been so successful in the past being reeled out for a third time? Peters shows yet again he will call the shots and for a party polling well below the 5 percent threshold he has nothing to lose. – Heather Roy

Months of monotony, with nothing to look forward to and nothing to distinguish one day from another, is an experience which fundamentally conflicts with most of the ways societies throughout history have found to give structure to the passage of time. Most religions recognise the importance of marking time: celebrating rites of passage, appointing seasons for feasting and fasting, getting together at set times to celebrate, pray, or mourn. As religious holidays die away, secular society invents its own alternatives.

Over the past few months, we’ve been stripped of all that. Those keeping Easter, Passover, Ramadan or other commemorations have had to do so at home and online, for many a very imperfect substitute, and non-believers have lost their rituals too: no birthday parties, no graduations, not even the weekly trip to a favourite coffee shop. We’ve been deprived of almost every conceivable form of public, shared experience — perhaps most painfully of all, with restrictions on funerals, the rituals of grieving. These are anchors, and without them we drift.Eleanor Parker

We’re all hypocrites. Outrage is selective. Personally I’m much more concerned with the fact we’re staring down mass unemployment and a generation-defining economic crisis than the fact Todd Muller has a Trump hat. – Jack Tame

In the face of soaring unemployment and plummeting house prices, middle voters may pause for thought. People who care passionately about inequality, over-tourism and climate change in the good times, tend to be less progressive when their personal economic circumstances are shaken.Andrea Vance


Where are you now?

May 30, 2020

Mountain Scene editor Tracey Roxburgh asks a very good question: Dear Minister, where the hell have you been?

Dear Kelvin,

I know you’re busy and all, but I just had one quick question for you.

Where, exactly, have you been?

Or, perhaps, more to the point, as Minister of Tourism, what – aside from tasking Tourism New Zealand to come up with a domestic marketing campaign – have you been doing to support NZ’s tourism industry?

Here’s the thing.

Please forgive me for being blunt – it’s been a tough couple of months and, like many, I’m running low on sleep and patience – but you seem to have been dumbfoundingly quiet. . . 

The whole piece is worth reading, it finishes:

This, Kelvin, is your job.

There are thousands of people in our community who were doing theirs, extremely well, until two months ago.

Now they have no income and no idea when, or from where, they’ll get their next pay cheque.

Some of them will lose their homes, Kelvin.

And, with the utmost of respect, sir, you look like you’re asleep at the wheel of the tourism industry.

Todd Muller was right when he talked about the few heavy lifters and all the other empty chairs round the cabinet table.

The Tourism Minister’s is definitely one of those. You could add the Small Business one too.

It’s closely related to tourism and both Ministers should have been not just working with their sectors, they should have been seen to have been working with them.

Some 1,000 jobs are being lost a day, most of those from small businesses and many from tourism, and it will get worse.

The answer to what have you been doing? is not nearly enough.

Is that likely to change?

If the gaping gaps between promise and delivery on almost everything else this government promised, it won’t.


Keep that door shut

May 26, 2020

One of the questions National leader Todd Muller has been asked is will he open the door to New Zealand First?

His answer is that the decision was made by caucus and it hasn’t changed.

Nor should it.

The door was closed for very good reasons, not least of which is NZ First’s leader Winston Peters can’t be trusted.

Before the last election he gave the usual spiel about waiting until after people had voted then began negotiations with both National and Labour, even though he was serving legal papers on two of National’s most senior MPS – Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley.

That was showing bad faith to both voters and National.

Since then he’s had his day in court, dropped the case against the MPs, lost the case against the Ministry of Social Development but has announced he’s appealing that decision.

Since then the Serious Fraud Office has begun investigating donations to the New Zealand First Foundation and its relationship with the party.

Since then he’s continued to act the way he always does, which is to put his own interests, and that of his party, first regardless of what’s best for the government of which he’s a part, or the country.

He simply can’t be trusted.

Shutting the door to NZ First gave people who want a National-led government a very clear message – if that’s what they want they’d be wasting their votes if they give them to NZ First.

Opening the door will suggest to them they could get a National-led government by voting for NZ First.

Much has been made of National’s rating in last weeks two polls, there’s been only passing reference to NZ First’s support which was well below the 5% required to stay in parliament without an electorate.

With a new leader and refreshed caucus, National’s support will climb again.

With the same old leader and same tiresome antics, there’s a very good chance that NZ First’s won’t.

National got a poll-bounce when it shut the door on NZ First earlier this year. Opening it would send the wrong signal to voters, and help NZ First at National’s expense.

The door was firmly shut months ago and it must stay shut.


National’s refreshed responsibilities

May 25, 2020

Todd Muller has announced the refreshed responsibilities for his MPs:

He has taken Small Business and National Security.

His deputy Nikki Kaye has Education and Sports and Recreation.

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

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

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

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

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

Louise Upston: Social Development and Social Investment.

Mark Mitchell: Justice and Defence

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

Todd McCLay:Trade and Tourism

Chris Bishop has Infrastructure and Transport

Paula Bennett: Drug Reform and Women

Nicola Willis: Housing and Urban Development and Early Childhood Education

Jacqui Dean: Conservation

David Bennett: Agriculture

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

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

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

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

Barbara Kuriger: Senior Whip, Food Safety, Rural Communities

Jonathan Young:

Nick Smith:

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi:

Matt Doocey:

Jian Yang:

Stuart Smith:

Simon O’Connor:

Lawrence Yule: Local Government

Denise Lee:  Local Government (Auckland)

Anne Tolley: Deputy Speaker

Parmjeet Parmar:  Research, Science and Innovation

Brett Hudson:  Police, Government Digital Services

Stuart Smith: Immigration, Viticulture

Simeon Brown: Corrections, Youth, Associate Education

Ian McKelvie: Racing, Fisheries

Jo Hayes:  Whānau Ora, Māori Development

Andrew Falloon: Biosecurity, Associate Agriculture, Associate Transport

Harete Hipango: Crown Māori Relations, Māori Tourism

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

Chris Penk: Courts, Veterans

Hamish Walker Land Information, Forestry, Associate Tourism

Erica Stanford: Internal Affairs, Associate Environment, Associate Conservation

Tim van de Molen: Third Whip, Building and Construction

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

Dan Bidois: Workplace Relations and Safety

Agnes Loheni:  Associate Small Business, Associate Pacific Peoples

Paulo Garcia: Associate Justice

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


Only way from peak is down

May 25, 2020

Jacinda Ardern is the most popular Prime Minister in a century, Tova O’Brien told us in announcing the Newshub Reid Research poll last Monday.

The claim was repeated by other media. On Friday, RNZ told us Todd Muller had been given the job of taking on the most popular prime minister in history.

The Newshub claim might have been excused as hyperbole but RNZ’s one came days after the Herald fact-checked and put the poll result in perspective :

A poll last night revealed what most New Zealanders probably already knew: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a popular Prime Minister.

But for Newshub to call her the “most popular Prime Minister in a century” is “hasty and premature”, says a political historian.

In fact, there were no opinion polls before 1974 and the claim compares Ardern’s personal popularity to the last century of election results. . .

Though opinion polls don’t often match the votes and to compare them was “silly”, said Grant Duncan associate professor of politics at Massey University.

Ardern hasn’t had the longevity of the likes of Savage nor comfortably won an election. And the poll was taken in an unpredictable and extraordinary time, he said.

“It’s silly to say at this stage, let’s just wait for six years before we make that claim.

“Let’s hold the horses, please.” . . 

We’ll never know if Ardern is more popular than all the Prime Ministers before 1974, but even if the claim was about polls rather than leaders it’s wrong.

For example, then Prime Minister John Key’s preferred prime minister ranking reached as high as 73.3 per cent on a Herald-Digipoll in 2014.

In fact, Key consistently polled around 60 per cent in Herald-Digipolls during his tenure as prime minister and in September 2011 peaked at 59 per cent in the 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll.

There’s no doubt 59.5% is high polling but it’s not in the 60s or 70s. Why did Tova O’Brien make the claim and why, days after it has been fact-checked did RNZ make a similar one?

Does it matter? Yes because as Steve Elers says news turns fake when facts are replaced with hyperbole:

. . . The definition of a century hasn’t changed. So, what has? The credibility of news media — that’s what. Reuters, Forbes, The Guardian, and many other news media outlets from around the world all ran reports of Ardern as the “most popular prime minister in a century”. That’s fake news, folks. Why? Because it isn’t true.

And if the news media are meant to hold the watchdog role of society by questioning and holding power to account, but instead fly the flag for power and spread fake news, who then holds the news media to account? 

Yes, it is meant to be the New Zealand Media Council. Sure, they’re the toothless self- regulatory body for New Zealand’s media but they have no influence over the global media organisations who have already spread this fiction particular to their audiences.

According to my students, those global news media feeds appear prominently in social media of New Zealanders — well, at least in their age bracket.

I would go so far to say that fake news is a real threat to the democracy of our country. In this case, the question needs to be asked: Why was Ardern promoted as the “most popular prime minister in a century” when she clearly wasn’t?

So not the most popular in a century, nor in history, but where to from here? Duncan noted:

“And what goes up, must come down.”

If Ardern’s popularity stopped short of 60% after weeks of positive media opportunities when the country was focused on dealing with Covid-19, how likely is it that it will be bettered as we adjust to the new normal where we’re still constrained in what we can do and with whom we can do it, and 1,000 people are losing their jobs every day?

It might be wishful thinking on my part, but this could be her peak.

The news is already changing from positive coverage of dealing with the health crisis to rising concern about handling the economic one and Ardern is now up against a new Opposition leader who will, at least for a while, be shining in the media spotlight.

That 59.5% didn’t make Ardern the most popular Prime Minister in a century and if that’s her peak, the only way from there is down. Conversely, National has almost certainly reached its nadir and the only way from there is up.


Rural round-up

May 23, 2020

Covid-19: trusting business to work – Todd Muller:

National’s agriculture spokesman, Todd Muller on the role the Government needs to play for agriculture businesses.

As we continue to grapple with the repercussions of COVID-19, we must look at what’s working and use that as a template for other business sectors.

The kiwifruit industry has been a shining example of how it is possible to continue operating at a high capacity, while adjusting to the restrictions of COVID-19.

It has completely re-engineered its systems from harvesting the fruit, to picking the fruit, to packing the fruit and we’ve seen a bumper season with record amounts of NZ kiwifruit making their way across the world as a result.

This has also meant the industry has been able to keep 28,000 seasonal workers in employment, while recording no COVID-19 incidents. This is the sort of leadership that shows how we can keep people safe and keep the economy moving at the same time. . .

Burger run shows food folly – Annette Scott:

The plan for a food security policy is long overdue with the McDonalds lettuce shortage highlighting its need more than ever, Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says.

It is a warning that should not be ignored.

“Vegetable shortages will become a more frequent occurrence unless we get serious about ensuring we have enough food to feed NZ. 

“Like a dog howling at the moon HortNZ has been on about the need for NZ to have a food security policy and plan.  . . 

Milk price impacts vary widely – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra has published a shiny set of third-quarter numbers to cushion the impact on farmer-shareholders of a $1/kg reduction in the mid-point of its milk price forecast for next season.

Ten days before the start of the new season it released a wide-ranging $5.40 to $6.90 opening forecast – representing the difference between despair and satisfaction for New Zealand farmers.

At the same time it shrank the range for this season, now $7.10 to $7.30, and showed the big blocks are in place for a solid outcome to a tumultuous year. . . 

Family sheep and beef farm takes top regional spot at Taranaki Farm Environment Awards:

A long-term commitment to environmental stewardship has earned Rukumoana Farms the top spot at Taranaki’s Ballance Farm Environment Awards, run by the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust.

The awards champion sustainable farming and growing through a programme which sees one Regional Supreme Winner selected from each of the 11 regions involved. As a Regional Supreme Winner, Rukumoana Farms is now in the running for the Gordon Stephenson Trophy, with the winner of this national award to be announced at a later date.

Rukumoana Farms is run by the Brown family – Robert, Jane, Nick, Sophie, Will, Kate and Sam. Thiscohesive family unitissuccessfully driving this farm that has significantlygrownduring the 34 yearsthatRobertand Jane have been involved. . .

Fonterra provides performance and milk price updates:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today announced its third-quarter business update, narrowed the range for its 2019/2020 forecast Farmgate Milk Price, and announced an opening forecast Farmgate Milk Price range for the 2020/2021 season.

  • Total Group Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT): $1.1 billion, up from $378 million
  • Total Group normalised EBIT: $815 million, up from $514 million
  • Total Group normalised gross margin: $2.5 billion, up from $2.2 billion
  • Normalised Total Group operating expenses: $1,665 million, down $148 million from $1,813 million
  • Free cash flow: $698 million, up $1.4 billion
  • Net debt: $5.7 billion, down from $7.4 billion
  • Normalised Ingredients EBIT: $668 million, up from $615 million
  • Normalised Foodservice EBIT: $208 million, up from $135 million
  • Normalised Consumer EBIT: $187 million, up from $128 million
  • Full year forecast underlying earnings: 15-25 cents per share
  • 2019/20 forecast Farmgate Milk Price range: $7.10 – $7.30 per kgMS
  • Opening 2020/21 forecast Farmgate Milk Price range: $5.40 – $6.90 per kgMS
  • 2020/21 Advance Rate Schedule has been set off the mid-point of $6.15 per kgMS . .

Union boss doffs hat to meat companies – Peter Burke:

Meat processing companies have gained praise for the way they handled the challenges around COVID-19 from an unlikely source – the union.

National secretary of the Meat Workers Union, Daryl Carran, who recently took up the role, says all the meat companies have played the game by the rules very well. He told Rural News that if all the problems in the sector were handled in the way that COVID has been, it would be great.

Carran says currently between 75% and 80% of meat workers are on the job and those that aren’t working are either over 70 years of age, have underlying health issues or have personal family circumstances that make it safer for them – and others in the workforce – to remain in isolation

.

 


Another step forward together in confidence

May 23, 2020

Todd Muller’s first speech as National Party leader:

The past few months, our country has made many sacrifices.

You have made many sacrifices. You have put a lot on the line to get us through this crisis.

Now, we must begin taking another step forward together, with confidence. 

The confidence to rebuild our country, rebuild our economy and to restore the livelihoods of New Zealanders.

Only a National government can provide the leadership to do that.

That is why we must win the next election.

Nikki and I, and our team, understand that the task for the next Government is immense. We’re honoured by the opportunity to lead this Party.

We take it seriously.

I would like to thank and acknowledge Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett.

Simon has worked hard as Leader, given the job his all, and the caucus is grateful for his service.

Both he and Paula have served the Party and our country well.

Thank you to my wife Michelle and our three children for supporting me on this journey.  Kids, Dad will be home soon.

I want to pause here and acknowledge New Zealand’s tremendous response to the health crisis ravaging the world.

We should all be proud of what we’ve achieved together. 

But regardless of these efforts, COVID 19 has hurt us.

My absolute focus as National Party Leader will be New Zealand’s economic recovery.

We will save jobs, get the economy growing again and we will do so by leveraging our country’s great strengths: our people, our communities, our great natural resources, our values of hard work, tenacity, innovation and aspiration.

I know the size of this task and I will bring my all to it.

Yes, I’ve run businesses. I can read a balance sheet and a profit and loss account.  I can tell a good one from a bad one.  And yes, I’ll bring those skills to the Prime Ministership.

But that’s not what drives me.

What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; The Dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; The Mum who coaches a touch rugby team;

This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in – the economy in your community – your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.

This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand.

For too long this economy, your economy – and your life – has been invisible to decision makers in Wellington.

This must change. And under my National government it WILL change. The economy that I believe in – is the one you live in – it is the economy of your community.

If we can rebuild that – we can rebuild our country.

This is what you can expect from my leadership: First and foremost – I’m about what’s best for you and your family – not what’s wrong with the Government.

And I’m not interested in opposition for opposition’s sake. We’re all tired of that kind of politics.

I’m about ideas that get results.

I’m proud of working across Parliament on the Zero Carbon Act. 

Wherever I have the opportunity to work with other parties for our country’s good, I will do so. 

Will I criticise the government?  Yes.

But ultimately, values and ideas are what ground me.

Like the idea that you can shape your own future and are free to do so.

I believe in enterprise, reward for hard work, personal responsibility, and in the power of strong families and communities.

Fundamentally, I don’t believe that for each and everyone of us to do better, someone else has to be worse off.

Those are National’s values. They are New Zealand values.

I don’t believe the right values or the right management skills are guiding our country as it confronts its biggest challenge since the end of the Second World War.

I will lead a party that rises to the great challenges facing us as a nation.

Labour has failed against every measure it has set for itself in Government- KiwiBuild, Light Rail, child poverty, prison numbers.

If we continue on this track of talking a big game but failing to deliver, we simply won’t recognise the New Zealand we are part of in a few years’ time.

Because New Zealanders know, whether or not they support National, they can have confidence that National will meet the challenges our country faces.

New Zealand, it is time for your sacrifice to be repaid, and for your community to be rebuilt.

Today, that work has just begun.

Thank you.

Clarity, direction and positivity on a base of practical experience, this  is what the country needs.

Over at Kiwiblog, you can listen to a Taxpayers’ Union podcast interview with Todd, recorded a few days before his leadership bid.


Team National

May 22, 2020

Todd Muller is the new leader of the National Party:

Todd Muller has been elected Leader of the New Zealand National Party, the party caucus announced today.

Nikki Kaye has been elected as his Deputy.

“There is no Team Todd, there is no Team Nikki, or anyone else – there is only Team National,” Mr Muller said.

“National has always been a coalition of city and country, business and community, conservatives and liberals – National is the party for all New Zealanders.

“New Zealanders need a National Government with the experience and management skills to get our country through the worst crisis since the end of the Second World War.

“My focus as leader is our country’s economic recovery and the strengthening of every community throughout New Zealand.”

I wasn’t impressed that the announcement was leaked from caucus.

The leaking must stop. Caucus must be disciplined and united and focus on what matters – holding the government to account and running a winning campaign.


Is it Muller?

May 22, 2020

Newshub reports  :

12:40pm – Sources have told Newshub Simon Bridges has lost the vote. Newshub understands the vote has been won by Todd Muller.

Update: – Nikki Kaye is now deputy.

My loyalty is to National and to its leadership, I congratulate Todd and Nikki.

My sympathy is with Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett who have worked very hard in what proved to be an impossible task.


Leader must be gracious, caucus must be united

May 22, 2020

If Simon Bridges wins today’s leadership challenge he must be gracious.

Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye are both suited to their respective roles as spokespeople for agriculture and education.

Demoting them would be understandable. But leaving them their would demonstrate statesmanship and mean no valuable time would be wasted as their replacements came up to speed with new portfolios.

If the challenge succeeds the new leader must also be gracious.

Opposition leader is never an easy job and the last couple of years have been particularly difficult.

Circumstances have given the Prime Minister opportunities to shine which has left Simon in the shade. On top of this he’s faced sabotage from within and almost unrelenting negative media exposure.

There is no worse example of that then the totally unprofessional and vindictive word cloud which featured in the news a few days (and to which I’m not going to link). That crossed the line from political commentary to personal abuse, even bullying.

But time and time again he’s defied predictions of his political death and should he not do a Lazarus today, he deserves respect for tenacity and focus.

Should he make it one more time he deserves more than respect, he deserves loyalty and unity from his caucus, for his sake and the party’s.

Neither Simon nor Todd is going to out-popular the Prime Minister in the short term, but as Liam Hehir writes, personal unpopularity can be overcome by a policy platform that resonates, and a sound strategy for getting it out there.

There is, however, a big problem. Inter-party divisions do not generally affect the voting intentions of party stalwarts. There is evidence that voters who aren’t partisans, however, will use internal disagreement as a shorthand for evaluating a party’s policy chops. 

So, the path forward is clear. The first thing that must happen is settlement of the leadership question. The next thing is an end to public dissension. 

That means the winner is going to have to strike a careful balance of utu and clemency. Not enough of the former, and he (or she) will have no chance of being anything other than a lame duck. Not enough of the latter and the risk is that disagreements will be intensified. 

Any time National is talking about anything other than the economy it will be bleeding votes to Labour. If it drags on much longer, it will also start bleeding votes to NZ First. It’s the second of those which could turn a tough election into a 2002-level bloodbath. 

MPs who leak and gossip with hostile media should be called to account for risking the jobs of their compadres. Talented MPs should be brought into the fold even if they supported the unsuccessful candidate. Those who would rather reign in hell should be encouraged to explore other options. 

The shenanigans of late are a slap in the face to every unpaid volunteer who has ever stuffed mailboxes or sat through boring committee meetings or parted with their hard-earned cash to support the party’s activities. 

Those people may not abandon the party, but its parliamentary section should not be so careless about letting them down. 

I was an electorate chair when National lost the 2001 election so badly. The following year I was stuffing hundreds of envelopes asking members to pay their subs when the radio news informed me someone was publicly undermining the leader.

I fired off an email to the underminer which started with “bloody hell” and went on to say very, very clearly, how members felt about disunity.

Leaders and MPs come and go, some members do too but the base stays and if there’s one thing that upsets those who remain loyal to the party through good times and bad, it’s MPs who don’t.

New Zealand is facing dire economic times. Job losses already number in the thousands and the social consequences will soon be apparent.

The country needs an opposition focused on holding the government to account.

It needs an opposition able to show it has a plan for a better way to deal with the crisis than the current one which is focused on the quantity of its spend rather than the quality.

And it needs an opposition that shows it has the people to implement the plan who are united and working with their leader

If there’s anyone in National’s caucus who isn’t prepared to get behind whoever wins the leadership vote today s/he should get out and let those who are get on with what must be done for the sake of the party, and the country.


If it were done

May 21, 2020

Macbeth was talking about murder when he said, If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly.

That also applies to leadership tussles and National leader Simon Bridges has made the right call in summoning his caucus to settle the matter on Friday.

Every day’s delay is a day more when the issue festers with all the negative media attention that accompanies it leaving little clear air left to hold the government to account.

I am not going to give my opinion on who should be leader.

I support the party and whoever leads it and will continue to do so whether that is Simon with Paula Bennett as his deputy or Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye.

But I will say that whatever the outcome of the caucus vote, all MPs must be loyal to the leader and the party.

The leaking, the criticism and any show of disunity and disloyalty must stop.

Just a few months ago National was polling higher than Labour.

What changed was Covid-19 and the response to it.

The government’s abysmal record of doing very little it said it would until then has not changed.

KiwiBuild, child poverty, climate change  . . . it’s been lots of talk and very, very little action.

What has also changed is the economy.

The lockdown flattened the Covid curve and in the process has flattened the economy.

The government has voted itself so much money in response most of us can’t comprehend the amount. But worse, it doesn’t have a clear plan on how to spend it and at least as important, it doesn’t have a plan on how to repay it.

As Heather Roy explains in a letter to her children:

. . .By way of explanation, this is why I am sorry about your inheritance. Debt is what you have to look forward to and growth will take some time to return. In the short-term, New Zealand is facing a large rise in unemployment, predicted to peak at nearly 10 percent before falling back to 4.6% in 2022 (optimistic I suspect). Government debt will explode to more than 53 percent of GDP, up from 19% now. . . 

Not all debt is bad of course. It often allows you (and countries) to invest wisely in areas that will be of benefit later, but I fear the lack of vision and planning associated with the government borrowing an additional $160 billion means ‘wisely’ isn’t part of this equation. Vision and hope are important for people. We need to know where we are going – what the end game looks like and that the pain is worth bearing because a better life awaits. Hope too, is important. People will endure a lot if they have hope. I’m afraid I saw neither in the Budget last week. There was lots of talk of jobs, and lots of picking winners but not much in the offing for those already struggling and those who will inevitably lose their jobs when businesses go under.

Figures are tricky things. If you say them quickly, especially the billions, they don’t sound so bad. Most people can imagine what they could spend a million dollars on. Billions are a different kettle of fish. Many of us have to stop and think, how many 0’s in a billion? When figures are inconceivable, people give up trying to work out what they mean. After all, the politicians will look after the money side of things, won’t they? I hope you realise that is very dangerous thinking. To start with it’s not the government’s money – it’s yours and mine, hard earned and handed over to the government for custodial purposes.  We hope it will be spent wisely on health, education, social welfare, but after we’ve voted every three years, we don’t have any say on where it goes.

Beware of those saying we can afford to borrow this much money. Just as when we borrow from the bank to buy a car or house, when government’s borrow, repayments must be made and this limits the amount in the pot for spending in extra areas. The state of our economy is your inheritance: to contribute to your tertiary education, to educate your future children, to provide medicines and hospital treatments when you are sick, to help those who for whatever reason have no income. A mountain of debt places the prosperity of your children in peril.

Picking winners is dangerous too. Government’s love picking winners, especially in an election year. Election year budgets often resemble a lolly scramble with media reporting the “winners and losers”.  The simple fact is when you confer advantage on one group everyone else is automatically disadvantaged. Giving to the vulnerable is understandable but private industry winners are not. As an example, those who had been promised Keytruda (last year) to treat their lung cancer only to have that rug whipped out from underneath them now must be devastated to see the racing industry handed $74 million to build/rebuild horse racing tracks around the country. Flogging a dead horse instead of funding up to date medical treatments is folly and unfair in a humane society. 

I know fairness and equity are important to you all. Your generation has a more egalitarian outlook on life. Partly I think this is because you have not experienced real poverty and why New Zealand’s debt doesn’t bother you as much as it does me.

I have recently read two excellent writings by people I respect and I want to share them with you. The first is a report written by Sir Roger Douglas and two colleagues called “The March towards Poverty”. . . 

The report concludes “ For too long, we have lived with the fiction that we are doing well, lulled by successive governments into believing we truly do have a ‘rock star’ economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Starting with Grant Robertson’s post-Covid budget, we must admit to the problems facing our economy and begin to deal with them. Otherwise, current inequalities will remain entrenched, we will continue to fall further behind our OECD partners, and the prosperity of our younger generations will be placed at peril”.

While I’m on the topic of legacies, the second article I want to share is by Chris Finlayson, Attorney General in the Key/English Governments for 9 years starting when I was also a Minister. I’ve been worried about the legality of many of the impositions we have experienced since the country was plunged into lockdown. I know you sometimes think all this theoretical  stuff isn’t that important, but in a well functioning democracy how the law is made and enforced is central to an orderly society we can have faith in. Chris has eloquently described these matters much better than I can in his opinion piece  on the rule of law:

“Some readers will no doubt respond that this rule of law stuff is all very interesting for the legal profession and retired politicians but is hardly of any practical impact given what New Zealand has just avoided.

I disagree. The former Chief Justice, Sian Elias, once said that if only judges and lawyers concern themselves with the rule of law, New Zealand is in trouble. She was right. Adherence to the concept of the rule of law would have helped avoid some of the basic failures of the past eight weeks – failures that should give all New Zealanders pause for thought.”

I’m afraid it’s too late to put Ardern’s debt genie back in the bottle. I apologise on behalf of my generation and older that you and your kids will carry this debt for all of us. My advice to you is to do what this government should have done. Cut costs and minimise your liabilities. Spend only on the essentials and invest in assets that will produce a safe dividend. Perhaps most important of all, stay engaged in our democracy and encourage your friends to do the same. If COVID-19 has taught the world anything it is this: politicians need to be closely scrutinised at all times but especially in crises like these.

The government’s arrogance was exposed a couple of weeks ago when ministers were ordered not to speak in the wake of the Covid document dump. It’s carried on this week when Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis refused to attend the Epidemic response Committee because, doing a Facebook Live session instead.

The country needs an opposition focussed on the government’s mistakes and formulating a plan to do much, much better, not on itself and a leadership struggle.

Whatever happens at Friday’s caucus meeting, this is what National must be doing, and doing it together in step with the leader.

And whether or not there’s a change of leader, one thing must not change – and that’s the decision to rule out any deal with New Zealand First.


Rural round-up

May 16, 2020

Frighteningly different priorities – Peter Burke:

In the cities people are clambering over each other to get the first Big Mac or piece of deep-fried chicken, not to mention a ‘real’ coffee.

So fanatical were some individuals for a fast-food fix that they were stupid enough to risk undoing the good work of the rest of the country by not sticking to the rules of physical distancing.

Having said that, a few idiot politicians and community leaders have yielded to temptation and broken lockdown rules, setting a poor example. Their actions are insulting to the rural community – farmer, growers, people who work in meat processing plants, packhouses and other facilities to provide food for these unthinking individuals.

And don’t let’s forget all the other essential workers that are the unsung heroes of this crisis.

Nothing for our most productive sector in Budget – National:

Budget 2020 hasn’t provided anything of note for the primary sector at a time when it is leading our nation’s rebuild, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

He says the Government’s claim of ‘rebuilding better’ is nothing but a meaningless slogan for the primary sector. Muller says costly Government proposals like Essential Freshwater are still on the way, there’s no large-scale water storage funding and not enough support to secure the 50,000 workers needed to stimulate the sector.

“Covid-19 has thrown our country into a deep economic hole and we’re now relying on our food and fibre sector to get out of it.

We should be encouraging this sector to grow and maximise its potential but funding has gone backwards. With farmers and growers across the country experiencing the worst drought in living memory this season, it’s disappointing to see no significant investment in water storage,” he says. . .

Farmers want new house rules – Gerald Piddock:

Dairy industry leaders have asked the Government to amend its covid-19 ban on landlords evicting tenants after reports of dairy staff exploiting the rules by refusing to leave supplied housing as the season draws to a close.

As a result, new staff moving onto the farms can’t move into the houses in time for the new milking season in June.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis said the circumstances usually involve a staff member who was exiting dairying when the new rules became law. . .

High country – isolation goes with the territory – Kerrie Waterworth:

Adjusting to the isolation of Covid-19 restrictions has been difficult for many urban dwellers but for families on high country stations isolation goes with the territory.

Duncan and Allannah McRae run Alpha Burn Station, a 4519ha high country beef, sheep and deer farm at Glendhu Bay, 15 minutes drive west from Wanaka.

Before the Covid-19 crisis their two sons, Archie (15) and Riley (13), were at boarding school in Dunedin but they had returned home and were learning online.

Mrs McRae said both she and her daughter, Hazel (10), have had to adjust to having the two big boys back in the house. . . 

Taratahi might host short courses – Neal Wallace:

The Taratahi campus could again be training young people, albeit for short-term courses introducing prospective students to agricultural careers and proviing extra skills for existing workers.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Social Development are considering funding DairyNZ to develop and deliver three-week industry familiarisation programmes at the Wairarapa facility.

The future of the campus has been in limbo since the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre was put in liquidation in December 2018. . .

Want safe affordable food? Reward those who produce it – Peter Mailler;

The world is certainly a paradise for anyone looking for an issue to express an opinion about this week, but I want to take a different approach.

Rather than trotting out my take on the barley tariffs issue and the complete insanity that is diplomacy with China by media, I thought I would try to foster a discussion on an earlier opinion published in The Gauge section and constructively contest some ideas around an issue that I think goes to the core of how the agricultural sector presents itself to the rest of the country. . . 

 


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