du Fresne on Key

March 23rd, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne blogs a recent column:

At one point Mr Carr, a former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank and chief executive of Jade Corporation, emphatically agreed with something Ms Harre had said. Then Ms Harre agreed with something Mr Barnett, the CEO of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, had said. She even expressed some sympathy for the predicament of business. …

It reinforced my sense that there has been a sudden and profound change in the national mood. This can be partly attributed to the urgent need to deal with a sharply contracting economy, but there is more to it than that.

I think it has a lot to do with . In saying this, I’m back-pedalling somewhat because until relatively recently, I was deeply sceptical about Mr Key. I complained to anyone who was prepared to listen that no one knew quite what he stood for. It seemed to me dangerous to elect a prime minister who appeared to have no fixed ideological reference points.

I wouldn’t quite describe John that way. John has centre right beliefs but also a strong pragmatic streak where he focuses on whether he thinks something will work rather than fitting solutions within an overall consistent ideological framework.

Personally I prefer a greater degree of consistency. There is always a degree of pragmatism with any Government, but (for example) I really don’t like the precedent of instructing the Super Fund Guardians to invest 40% in NZ.

I have now come around to the view that the apparent absence of any non-negotiable positions on Mr Key’s part – the very deficiency that I complained about – may make him the ideal leader for our time.

I referred in a previous column to his relentlessly upbeat disposition. That in itself, I believe, has done a lot to change the mood of a country that previously experienced nine years of essentially downbeat leadership from Helen Clark.

Leadership does count. In businesess the quality of the leadership is a crucial factor. It is less vital in a country – but still of not inconsiderable importance.

The other marked difference between New Zealand under Key and New Zealand under Clark is that the old ideological battle lines have suddenly been erased. The new prime minister is happy to engage with anyone and doesn’t rule out any policy if he senses it might work. There are no ideological no-go zones.

I think is getting closer to the real Key. He does have centre-right beliefs but he is not going to rule out ideas if they are not centre-right. And he shys away from a divide and conquer strategy or winner take all mentality we have seen previously.

Recently we have observed Mr Key’s open-minded approach in the way his government supported Miss Clark’s bid for a top job in the United Nations. I think it’s fair to assume this was done not with a cynical motive – in other words, to get her out of the way – but because Mr Key genuinely believed she had the skills for the post and the appointment would bring credit on New Zealand.

Since then it’s been announced that the National government has appointed former Labour Cabinet Minister Paul Swain as its lead negotiator in talks with the Ngati Porou iwi over Treaty of Waitangi claims.

So far I think as many Labour people have had appointments as National!

This is the antithesis of the rampant cronyism pursued by Labour, under which party loyalists such as former party president Mike Williams and ex-CTU head Ross Wilson were appointed to powerful public positions for which they were not necessarily well-qualified, and in which they could be relied on to carry out the government’s wishes.

Williams does have a business background and would have been arguably suitable on a board or maybe two. But they got greedy and went overboard by appointing him to six, so he could be a state funded Party President.

Wilson to be fair does have a strong ACC background. The most discredited appointment has to be Di Yates to a trans-tasman food authority and they included in her thin credentials for the job that she came from the Waikato where a lot of food is produced!

On that criteria, I should be made Ambassador to Sweden because I live on a road with half a dozen embassies close by.

If any country can pull together to avert the sort of economic catastrophe now engulfing the US and Britain, it should be New Zealand. We are a small, intimate country; everyone knows everyone else and we all speak a common language. Ultimately, the values and concerns that unite us are far greater than those that divide us.

One of the interesting features of Parliament is that, away from the public battleground of the debating chamber, where politicians are inevitably tempted to grandstand, MPs build warm and positive relationships that often cross party lines. You see this when they socialise together.

That sort of rapport could be invaluable right now, when the country urgently needs a sense of common purpose. With his ability to take much of the heat out of politics, Mr Key may be the man to make it happen.

Leadership can help and make a contribution. NZ does remain in a more positive mood than other countries. But sadly I don’t think it will be enough when the US and European economies really crash.

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15 Responses to “du Fresne on Key”

  1. jacob van hartog (300 comments) says:

    More of the Orchestrated litany of Lies:

    Bolger , national PM, gasp, was appointed by labour , and a previous national party chair was also given a major appointment.

    No word about paula rebstock , who wasnt identified with Labour , but shown the lift while it was at another floor.

    Just wait by the end of the year a list of former national Mps will be getting plum jobs.

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  2. big bruv (14,217 comments) says:

    jacob

    “Just wait by the end of the year a list of former national Mps will be getting plum jobs”

    And why would you have a problem with that?

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  3. jacob van hartog (300 comments) says:

    Regarding the Icelandic ‘melt down’. This bit from the story has a gallows humour twist..

    “I started as a … “—now he begins to laugh—“an adviser to companies on currency risk hedging. But given my aggressive nature I went more and more into plain speculative trading.” Many of his clients were other fishermen, and fishing companies, and they, like him, had learned that if you don’t take risks you don’t catch the fish. “The clients were only interested in ‘hedging’ if it meant making money,” he says.
    In retrospect, there are some obvious questions an Icelander living through the past five years might have asked himself. For example: Why should Iceland suddenly be so seemingly essential to global finance? Or: Why do giant countries that invented modern banking suddenly need Icelandic banks to stand between their depositors and their borrowers—to decide who gets capital and who does not? And: If Icelanders have this incredible natural gift for finance, how did they keep it so well hidden for 1,100 years?

    Wasnt a party leader a year or two back saying we should have gone down the same path….

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  4. PhilBest (4,757 comments) says:

    DPF:

    “…..Leadership can help and make a contribution. NZ does remain in a more positive mood than other countries. But sadly I don’t think it will be enough when the US and European economies really crash…..”

    I agree that John Key is a nice guy to have as leader. But what about the NZ economic crash, which is not about fallout from overseas at all?

    Look, over the last 8 years or so, the NZ GDP has been artificially inflated to the tune of about 10% per annum, by the effect on consumer spending, of property values also artificially inflating. If it wasn’t for that, the economy would already have been shrinking years ago.

    All the luxuries enacted by the Clark government, like WFF and student loan subsidies and nationalising corporations and assets, and employer contributions to kiwisaver and 4 weeks leave and costly impositions on employers and strangulatory environmental protections; were things that we truly could not afford: we should have been tightening our belts, not loosening them. We now need to tighten twice as much, and we just aren’t home when it comes to getting this message.

    Don Brash and the full “secret agenda” in 2005, MIGHT have turned the NZ economy around in time (and he would have been probably the only leader in the world to have done this, perhaps the Czech Republic leadership too). But John Key in 2009, with “we promise not to touch……..(XYZ)……” just isn’t going to change the direction of the economy by more than, say, 10 degrees; when 180 is needed.

    I notice Gareth Morgan in the latest Listener saying that all NZ-ers should subject themselves to the stress test, of whether they could handle a 50% reduction in the value of their home.

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  5. Fabt3 (23 comments) says:

    PhilBest (4754) Vote: 0 0 Says:

    March 23rd, 2009 at 3:03 pm “just isn’t going to change the direction of the economy by more than, say, 10 degrees; when 180 is needed.”

    Geez do not know about you Phil, but going back from where we just came from just is not that appealing to me.

    For all we know 10 degrees may be enough, may be not enough, but one thing I am sure of ,180 degrees sure ain’t going to fly.

    Agree with your points though about saving up.

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  6. PhilBest (4,757 comments) says:

    I don’t think Reid deserved this negative karma for this comment. I don’t agree with him on Israel, but he is one of the few people who is being realistic about the economic crisis.

    # reid (2228) Vote: Add rating 0 Subtract rating 4 Says:
    March 22nd, 2009 at 11:08 am

    “….. Sometimes I think Bill is a bit sensationalist just for the hell of it and throw away comments such as the one re: the pilot and the intercom are just a wee bit populist….”

    “Yeah but I wasn’t getting my point from what Bill said, I and others have been making it for ages.

    What we’re saying is simply the reality.

    Key is displaying remarkably poor leadership on this utterly critical issue by doing what he’s been doing (soothing noises which are having no effect), and by not doing what he should have been doing, since elected.

    Taking the ‘don’t scare the punters and the markets approach’ which is what he’s been doing is absolutely idiotic because that approach in these times merely exacerbates the fear for reasons I outlined above.

    It’s like Churchill after Dunkirk pretending it would all be OK. Wouldn’t that have been rather dumb? Instead, Churchill offered blood, toil, tears and sweat. And surprise surprise, people responded.

    This situation is exactly similar albeit just different in magnitude. However when you’re talking about thousands of people being made redundant and not getting another job for years and losing their homes, it’s more serious than anything we’ve faced for a very long time. That’s the reality. Pretending it doesn’t exist because you don’t like it, is a position reserved for the village idiot.

    The rest of us need leadership that recognises the gravity and explains what the plan is, in detail. We’re not getting it, and we should have already had it, months ago.”

    WELL SAID, Reid:

    “……It’s like Churchill after Dunkirk pretending it would all be OK. Wouldn’t that have been rather dumb? Instead, Churchill offered blood, toil, tears and sweat. And surprise surprise, people responded……”

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  7. PhilBest (4,757 comments) says:

    Oh, come ON, fabt3, don’t be so deliberately disingenuous.

    I mean the economy is going downhill, shrinking, contracting, in a recession. It needs turning around 180% so it is growing again. John Key, at best, will be slowing the rate of contraction down by a tenth or a fifth or something like that.

    I agree with Reid. We need a Churchill, or even a Lange. Remember Lange giving us all the bad news, and we trusted him, and we let Roger D. do what it took to fix the economy. We re-elected them after 3 years, in fact. (Pity about the ambitious mistress and the loss of nerve).

    Because John Key dug himself into a hole by promising not to change stuff all, he should give us the unpalatable truth and hold another election. He would deserve to gain even more seats at Labour’s expense if the full dirt about what Labour did to the economy was dished up; it never has been and they have got off far to light.

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  8. Gooner (919 comments) says:

    “I notice Gareth Morgan in the latest Listener saying that all NZ-ers should subject themselves to the stress test, of whether they could handle a 50% reduction in the value of their home.”

    The Banks should subject themselves to the same test. They’ll fail it miserably.

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  9. baxter (753 comments) says:

    Phil……..I agree with your first commentary, but not with REID. KEY’s rolling maul approach seems the most practical at present. I agree all the Liabour Social programmes need to be reversed before any recovery can manifest itself, but to do so now would destroy the National morale at a time when it is vital to maintain some positivity. To impose carbon taxes on our farmers, (our only hope of recovery) seems just as insane as borrowing billions to put into the Superannuation fund.

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  10. trout (953 comments) says:

    In terms of political appointments the left demonstrated that they have a very small group of believers that can be trusted to stick to the party line and maintain the ideology even when such doggedness becomes patently absurd. Key’s pragmatism is much closer to the Kiwi psyche than Clark’s socialist driven agenda.

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  11. PaulL (5,446 comments) says:

    The thing about our current crisis is that it is a crisis of confidence. Leaving aside the international aspect of it (about which we can do not much), the main answer to it is to get confidence back. And, in the mean time, do something about reforming our economy so we are ready to grow when the rest of the world comes back. Key is exactly the right man for that job.

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  12. goodgod (1,317 comments) says:

    The way Key is going he will wield more power than Helen Clark by the third term. Then he’ll either resign as leader and move on, or possibly become as insane as Helen did. I can hardly wait to find out.

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  13. PhilBest (4,757 comments) says:

    I stand by my point. The negative karma I am getting on this just shows how deep our denial in this country is running. We are going the same way as the rest of the world, ignoring all the warnings until it is too late.

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  14. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,760 comments) says:

    Don’t worry PhilBest, the GDP and Current Account Deficit figures will be a rude awaking that New Zealander’s won’t be able to ignore.

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