The John and Bill team

November 7th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Two interesting articles in the Herald. The first:

Prime Minister has admitted he had to be persuaded to back off his bid to press the Reserve Bank into exempting first-home buyers from the banks’ new rules on loan-to-value ratios (LVRs) by Finance Minister .

Mr Key went into bat very publicly for an exemption for first-home buyers in June, during the bank’s consultation period on LVRs, which limit low-deposit or no-deposit mortgages by retail banks.

At the time he said he didn’t want the LVR to work for a “bunch of rich people and lock out a whole lot of first-home buyers.”

But in a joint interview with Mr English this week – marking five years in power for the National-led Government – he indicated that Mr English thought taking on the independent bank would be more trouble than it was worth.

“So I took a step back from that and said ‘yeah, okay, well fine’. That’s the way it goes.”

There is a line between advocating and directing. It is important the Reserve Bank is independent. Sadly Labour proposes ending that independence.

Mr Key also admitted he had been very reluctant at first to raise GST in 2010 but was persuaded fairly quickly about its merits.

“I’d be the first to admit I was a bit nervous about raising GST thinking can you actually politically sell all of that,” he said.

“Actually after we did all the modelling and we worked on it together, we were absolutely convinced it was fair and would actually work and it would deliver the sort of policy outcomes we wanted. And actually it’s definitely delivering results for the economy.”

The pair said they did not have arguments or rows.

Mr Key said the measure of any decent relationship was that you worked your way through all sorts of issues and respected each other’s views.

They are a hugely effective team.

Mr English made much of what he described as Mr Key’s instinctive ability to communicate with the public and maintain its support, and knowing how to set boundaries in terms of policy constraints.

They cited the example of state tenants’ entitlements.

Mr Key said successive Ministers of Housing and Housing officials had wanted the income that any state tenant received from boarders to be received to be counted as income in terms of calculating entitlements.

“But my view is well that would be seen as a step too far for large families or families that are trying really hard to make ends meet.

“And in the end if they are prepared to go the extra mile of having someone live in their home and cook them a meal, they are just good New Zealanders trying to get ahead.

“It’s like the carparking [dumped fringe benefit tax] issue.

“In the perfection of the IRD officials, we should have carried on with putting an FBT on those carparks – but that’s how you lose the public,” he said.

Mr Key also indicated that he had put constraints on labour market reforms.

You don’t get to implement much policy in Opposition. You fight the good fight on issues worth it such as the GST tax trade-off and the partial asset sales, but why take a hit on relatively minor issues such as FBT on car parks. No one will thank you in 20 years time for that one.

A second article looks at the John and Bill team:

The lingering question is how this pairing has avoided the pitfalls which have seen governments paralysed when the two pockets of power have stopped trusting one another and started undermining one another.

Told, the Herald wants to focus on their partnership before and after National was returned to power in 2008, Key turns and looks at English and exclaims “Okay, love” and laughs. English replies in typically droll fashion: “As a loyal deputy, I can assure you, it is not a partnership.” He means not that sort of partnership.

The humour, however, has an edge which leaves the listener wondering just how well the two men actually get along.

Very well, because they both understand which job they have, and Bill is not seeking a promotion (and in fact has ruled out ever standing for the leadership).

English’s tentacles certainly extend way beyond the confines of his finance portfolio. He was the one pushing hard for meaningful welfare reform. He has basically overseen the big changes in the housing of the poor. He keeps a watching brief on the public service and its adoption of new methods of delivering services. Given the almost-universal involvement of the Treasury in any reform, however, it is par for the course that the finance minister is involved.

Bill is constantly thinking about how to improve the performance of the Government as a whole. He has dozens of little pet projects on the go at any times ranging from championing open data to some funds for small local councils to do anti-truancy measures.

Bill on John:

• “(John) has more ideas than we know how to handle. My framework is a bit more conventional so I spend a lot of time just dealing with issues in a reasonably predictable way but the PM is always stretching the boundaries.”

• “He’s endlessly capable of everything, I assure you – catching fish, cooking pasta, making up policy, being friends with the Queen. There is nothing this man can’t do.”

John on Bill:

• “They are quite complementary skills. I do a lot of going around the country opening things and cutting ribbons and being the kind of face of the party that’s interacting with the public. And Bill is doing a lot of the long term thinking, heavy-lifting and policy design, all the things that involve ministers … I’m kind of the retail face.”

I wonder how David Cunliffe and Russel Norman or David Parker will work together, if they become Government.

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20 Responses to “The John and Bill team”

  1. alloytoo (432 comments) says:

    The Herald tries desperately to illustrate the non-existent rift between Key and English and fails dismally.

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  2. Samuel Smith (276 comments) says:

    It is simply amazing how wonderful two men can be.

    It’s like they have the combined IQ of a thousand men.

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  3. Reid (15,947 comments) says:

    I wonder how David Cunliffe and Russel Norman or David Parker will work together, if they become Government.

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  4. gazzmaniac (2,317 comments) says:

    They all look like David Cunliffe!

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  5. gazzmaniac (2,317 comments) says:

    And the ginger one went away and had a sulk at the end.

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  6. BeeJay (69 comments) says:

    What we actually have now at long last in NZ, is “Government Ltd”! People, as a team, running the Country the way a good business should be run, recognizing the need to have to balance the budget, to have to achieve properly established financial targets, taking care of their people, knowing that if they fail the “business” will most certainly go down the gurgler! Key & English compliment each other, obviously JK is a proactive, ideas man, not buried in the political dung heap. What a breath of fresh air! Imagine the alternatives with Labour & Greens! Negative reactive, mostly left wing anti profit, anti progress, not a fresh idea from any of them! JK, you’ve got my vote, for sure.

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  7. cha (3,779 comments) says:

    Gosh, it’s almost like they’re having a roastbusters style bromance.

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  8. tvb (4,208 comments) says:

    The Minister of Finance has to have the confidence and respect of the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister has to be able to firmly put his or her view. Sometimes the Prime Minister gives way to the Finance Minister as happens in any successful partnership But it is that relationship which is so important in any successful Government. When that relationship breaks down then the Government will fall. I suspect Bill English wins most of the policy arguments such as they are But the Prime Minister is not going to go down in a hail of bullets for some issue that is important at the margins. The car park issue is a case in point. The revenue gains were trivial the politics were awful Same thing for trivial cost cutting that have a high political price. The Prime Minister is particularly skillful at avoiding petty expenditure cuts or mean taxes that carry lots of political baggage.

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  9. lolitasbrother (478 comments) says:

    As many of us as possible need to be ready to do the thing next October.
    I usually do hoardings. Others need to do door knocking, and be active in other ways in the electorate.
    I have some good new ideas for signs, but not here of course . There are varying opinions on the importance of signs .
    We must remember the left will be out like religious fanatics. Signs need to be checked each day at daylight.
    Sometimes I patrol at night and the religious left get no mercy if they are caught defacing my signs.
    At the end of six weeks you are fairly shagged.

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  10. Reid (15,947 comments) says:

    And the ginger one went away and had a sulk at the end.

    After a slightly girly effort, I’m afraid to say…

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  11. Samuel Smith (276 comments) says:

    I have no doubt that John Key and Bill English will go down in global political history as the best duo ever.

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  12. gazzmaniac (2,317 comments) says:

    loitasbrother
    I think there is traction in certain suburbs in Australia too. A public meeting with candidates in Pacifc Pines, Bondi, and somewhere in Perth will go down very well.

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  13. Alan (1,064 comments) says:

    John Key is just the public face of Bill English’s Administration

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  14. Pita (367 comments) says:

    “I wonder how David Cunliffe and Russel Norman or David Parker will work together, if they become Government.”

    They’ll get along just fine…as long as David wishes to become or remain prime minister… kissing the ginger whinger for that pleasure would be a necessary requirement. Selling his own mother might also be considered.

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  15. OneTrack (2,604 comments) says:

    “I wonder how David Cunliffe and Russel Norman or David Parker will work together, if they become Government.”

    Not to forget, Meteria Turei, Winston Peters and Hone Harawira. Add in a bit of Helen Kelly from Rongotai, and a few of the sisterhood promoted due to the manban and it should make for interesting times. Until they nationalise the newspapers and TV, and send the right-wing bloggers to the gulag of course.

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  16. itstricky (1,563 comments) says:

    The Hoorald is a left wing conspiracy!

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  17. Viking2 (11,133 comments) says:

    There are people called Dream Stealers.

    Guess who.

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  18. Samuel Smith (276 comments) says:

    It’s hard to imagine two more perfect people.

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  19. jasonh (19 comments) says:

    Sam……get a room with thier portraits
    They work well as a team, yes…..but your praising is getting creepy

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  20. itstricky (1,563 comments) says:

    Wow, two up votes. Deluded people ahoy.

    Jason I think your man Sam would call it sarcasm. Doesn’t come across as obviously in the digital forum.

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