Greg Ansley at NZ Herald reports:
Unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent set to rise with more job losses in manufacturing sector Ford’s decision to shut down its production lines in Australia at the cost of thousands of jobs across the automotive industry has dealt another heavy blow to Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ailing minority Government.
Although Ford’s exit has long been expected after 20 years of declining fortunes for the industry, the disappearance of its iconic Falcon is not only a heavy blow to the national psyche but will also further undermine voter perceptions of Labor’s economic credentials.
Ford’s announcement comes a week after a federal budget marked by major spending cuts and expectations of continued deficits, driving down consumer confidence and placing employment squarely in the spotlight for the September 14 election.
A regular question in New Zealand and Australia is whether our respective nations succeed because of, or in spite of, our politicians.
As both nations’ Budgets were read this week, it was a story of two countries that have faced a vastly different set of circumstances over the past five years, and the choices both have made in light of that.
In 2008, Australia had a mining boom, rising wages and no debt. Its government had delivered consistent surpluses, tax cuts and targeted cash payments to targeted voter groups. Growth was assumed and household wealth doubled during the Howard years. It even avoided recession.
In contrast, New Zealand was lurching into debt, had a collapsed non- bank finance sector, a tradeables sector that had been squeezed for several years, a real recession in advance of the global recession, and a structural deficit
So when Finance Minister Bill English announced last Thursday that New Zealand is on track to record a budget surplus (albeit tiny) in 2014-15, it stood in stark contrast to Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan announcing his sixth budget deficit.
Unfortunately for Mr Swan, he had been promising a surplus for 2013 since 2009, and last year he announced “four years of surpluses” to begin this year. So his staggering A$19.4 billion deficit, with years of deficits ahead, was quite incomprehensible.
And recall how certain parties attacked every single act of spending restraint done by the Government over the last four and a half years.
Since Mr Swan has taken over as treasurer, tax revenue has increased by roughly the equivalent of New Zealand’s entire budget. Unfortunately, he and prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard spent all of the increase plus some, and are miffed because revenue did not increase at an even higher rate.
Yep. While NZ Labour’s plan are to bring in some new taxes, and hike spending.
Budgets are ultimately about choices. The Australian Government chose to run it close to the wind, increasing spending by as much as the most optimistic revenue forecasts would allow.
New Zealand made a very different and far more difficult set of choices. In 2008 the issues were obvious: productivity growth was poor, taxes too high – particularly at a relatively modest level of income – and the tax system had little internal integrity.
Government was chomping its way through far too much of the national pie, crowding out private sector activity.
One important thing the New Zealand Government has done is tamp down expectations of spending increases, concentrating on core activities and not using government as a vehicle to give handouts to partisan coalitions of voter groups.
In fact much of the extra spending by National has gone in areas where there are not high pressure lobby groups demanding more money for themselves, but in areas that will promote economic growth such as tourism and science.
But there are still worrying signs. Both New Zealand and Australia have superannuation burdens set to grow immensely, and health and welfare spending continues to outstrip the ability of society to pay in the long term.
Yep. They will be the big challenges for the future.