Armstrong on Greens

June 10th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong woke at the weekend:

Norman appeared to offer further evidence of that later in the week when he rounded on the chairman of the Electricity Authority, .

National Party-aligned bloggers were not the only people asking in the wake of that attack who was being Muldoonist now.

Norman’s curt response to Layton’s detailed critique of the joint Labour-Greens plan to reform the wholesale electricity market was pretty tame stuff, especially when placed alongside Winston Peters’ slow evisceration of Peter Dunne.

However, Norman’s attack struck a discordant note coming as it did only days after the Greens’ co-leader had accused John Key of vilifying and bullying his critics in a manner which was as divisive as that of the late Sir Robert Muldoon.

Norman’s rejection of Layton’s 28-page paper, which sought to demolish the Labour-Greens’ notion of setting up a single institution to set wholesale electricity prices, was also in marked contrast to the rebuttal by Labour’s David Parker. The latter challenged Layton’s arguments one by one in a measured tone.

That was the point. Parker showed how to disagree on policy grounds. Norman made it personal, and nasty. Becoming a habit.

Norman’s statement was far more belligerent with a number of references to Layton as a “National Party appointee” to a “National Party-created” regulator.

Layton is no National Party hack, however. He is a highly-respected economist with extensive knowledge and experience of the electricity generating industry over many years.

Indeed Dr Layton is a highly respected economist. He was the director of the non-profit NZIER economics co-operative for five years. Dr Norman’s PhD was on the history of the Alliance Party. Dr Layton’s was on economic history.

I doubt there is an economist in NZ who has done more work in the electricity sector. Dr Layton looks to have done 20 or so reports in the 2000s, for the Major Electricity Users Group (the ones who benefit the most from reliable supply, cheaper prices and better competition).

Fran O’Sullivan also writes:

exposed himself as a “Muldoonist” when he slammed into highly respected economist Brent Layton this week for daring to raise his head above the parapet and defend the work of the NZ Electricity Authority, which he chairs.

Norman was clearly incensed that Layton had issued a paper on the economics of electricity that laid waste to the arguments of three critics of the current regime, and challenged the proposal by the Greens and Labour to set up a new entity – NZ Power – to effectively control prices.

But by slagging Layton off as “nothing more than a National Party-appointed civil servant who has failed to do his job and is now trying to protect his patch”, Norman was straying well into the territory of personal attacks that Sir Robert Muldoon made an art form, and demonstrating a predisposition to a form of political management the Greens co-leader claims to despise.

Long may Russel keep it up. Once a brand is damaged, it is very hard to repair it.

And there would be few people in the Wellington political firmament who would have missed the underlying message sent by the NZ Institute of Economic Research when it issued a short-form CV yesterday under the simple headline: Background: Dr Brent Layton.

The release simply noted the many roles Layton has held: chairman of the electricity market rules committee, a director of Transpower and M-Co, former chairman of Trust Bank Canterbury, a director of the Futures Exchange, deputy chairman of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, chairman of Lyttelton Port Company, chairman of Canterbury Health and also AgResearch and its commercial arm Celentis. Currently, He chairs Sastek, a Brisbane-based hardware manufacturing and software development company. And he has also been one of two external monetary policy advisers to the Governor of the Reserve Bank.

In other words: frame that up against a PhD on the Alliance and a working life spent mainly in Parliament? There is no real comparison.

One can disagree with Layton’s analysis and conclusions. But to label him as basically a failed hack was unworthy.


14 Responses to “Armstrong on Greens”

  1. Nigel (637 comments) says:

    Hardly surprising from Norman, his economic nous or re accurately total lack thereof was evidenced by his proposal for NZ to do qe, if the greens have any sense they will get rid of him ASAP, because if they don’t I seriously doubt they will get back into parliament.

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  2. emmess (1,807 comments) says:

    Russel ‘Pussy Muldoon’ Norman?

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  3. Colville (3,120 comments) says:

    Nigel. Dont put ideas in their widdle gween heads!

    Long may the vile Ginga rule that roost … keep Liarbore looking over right and left shoulders and not knowing which way to turn.

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  4. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    “Dr Layton’s was on economic history.” So that degree is good, but Michael Cullen’s is not?

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  5. hmmokrightitis (1,910 comments) says:

    Put aside the fact, for a moment, that wussel has no understanding whatsoever of how markets work, let along how the electricity market works in NZ at the moment. Nor its history. That recent history of course including labor milking the long suffering domestic user whilst laughing from the sidelines, and making sure that no infrastructure investment of note took place.

    For wussel to come out as he has shown anyone who actually knows anything about that market – and I know parts of it from my days consulting in that space with one of the leading players in the market, an ex partner at E&Y – that he really is quite dangerous. He will look past sense and implement idealogical stupidity that, if allowed to go ahead, will degrade the electricity sector for decades, and, worst case, add a layer of cost, complexity and investment retardation that will also add risk and cost to our economy for years.

    By all means toms, when you get here, accuse me of being a right pollyanna. This isnt politically motivated posturing, its the truth. I give a shit who is sitting in the big seat, be they right or left – but this proposed policy will set the country back 20 years.

    Brent knows his stuff. wussel? Yeah, not even close. The mindless thug is a danger to NZ.

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  6. Nigel (637 comments) says:

    @colville she’s carnage to the left and once the polls start reflecting kiwis dislike of Muldoon ( Norman ) style politics it’s going to be open season. I want the greens to stay where they are in the polls for fear of where the supporters will go :). As for key going early, why would he when the economy is finally finding its legs and the opposition are self destructing, the longer he leaves it the more likely national are over 50% is my take.

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  7. tas (883 comments) says:

    MikeG: Dr. Layton’s PhD and background are highly relevant, Dr. Norman has no relevant experience or qualifications. And that shows in how flippant his dismissal of Layton’s analysis was. Parker actually had something intelligent to say and didn’t need to resort to personal attacks on Layton.

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  8. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    tas – I’m just amused by the double standards that often apply around here. It was often pointed out in a negative way that Cullen had a degree in Economic History, but now we have Farrar singing the praises of someone with a similar qualification.

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  9. hmmokrightitis (1,910 comments) says:

    MikeG, I think you’ll find there is a world of difference between merely gaining a PhD in a subject, and either then using it in the real world, or lecturing on it and related topics. Sir Michael was good at emptying cupboards when he should have been stocking them for a rainy day…

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  10. Cunningham (954 comments) says:

    MikeG (308) it was more what he said then his degree. Labour will be hoping that NZ First start to rise. I suspect they will ditch the Greens in a second if they can otherwise they will be bought down with them. Why they thought cosying up to them so much in the first place was a good idea is beyond me. Clarke may have done many things wrong but she knew the damage the Greens could cause. Shearer will learn the hard way.

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  11. Bob (466 comments) says:

    I wonder how David Shearer feels about having to rely on the Greens to have any chance of winning next years election. All the Labour members must be unhappy about having to rely on Russell and Turei. Every time Turei opens her mouth she sounds like a screaming street protestor. Russel seems to have let his cool slip because he can’t make any headway in pulling Key down. He lost his temper and lashed out. Unfortunately for him he lashed out at a very capable man in the business world whose opinions are more respected than his own.

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  12. Colville (3,120 comments) says:

    nigel, I agree. The ecconomy is healing nicely so longer will be better for the Nats.
    Just need long enough so they can show nice healthy upswings on the flash graphs they will use to confuse punters come election time. *

    *anyone who has noticed my lack of mathematical accumen on the referendum thread may laugh at this comment 🙂

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  13. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    In other words: frame that up against a PhD on the Alliance and a working life spent mainly in Parliament? There is no real comparison.

    You want to play that game, then they both end up being hacks. Why would anyone with any ability at all do a PhD of any kind at those universities? If you have any sort of ability at all, you would be awarded a full PhD scholarship in a programme with competitive entry. Australia has a few world class universities at the graduate level, and New Zealand has none. To be blunt, anyone I know who stays in Australasia to do a PhD goes to ANU unless they have a really good reason not to.

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  14. dime (12,991 comments) says:

    “You want to play that game”

    sure! lets!

    Line up the Mp’s from labour/greens with their worthless cv’s and put em against national

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