Watkins on Labour’s shambles

February 1st, 2014 at 6:42 am by David Farrar

writes at Stuff:

This week Cunliffe had his own ‘‘show me the money’’ moment. 

’s $500 million dollar “Best Start” package should have put National on the spot over its own support for new parents.

But what unfolded instead was a shambles over which parents would qualify for the $60 a week baby bonus. That succeeded only in giving National a platform from which to erode confidence both in the package and Labour’s fiscal credibility.

It is tempting to think the policy fell victim to Labour’s desire to dress it up as something other than its 2011 campaign promise to extend the $60-a-week in work tax credit to beneficiaries.

That policy was hugely popular within Labour’s activist base but deeply unpopular among the so-called ‘‘battlers’’ Labour spent most of its 2011 campaign talking about.

Broadening that policy by extending it to households earning up to $150,000 a year makes it more politically palatable among the middle-income nesters. But by years two and three of the baby bonus, the rules around eligibility are squarely pitched at beneficiary households. 

The extension to paid parental leave helps sweeten that pill among working couples. But Cunliffe’s omission of the fact they would not also receive the baby bonus for the first six months while they were receiving paid parental leave was a mistake.

In Key’s words, it looked tricky.

And their advertisement implied that you would get both.

Architect of the policy was Labour’s welfare spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern, but she was not on hand later in the week when Cunliffe fumbled again over detail of the policy.

Finance spokesman David Parker has been strangely absent from the debate, meanwhile. 

Looking back at the days of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen, it is hard not to imagine the former finance minister stepping in to monster his opponents on the fiscal detail when necessary.

I think David Parker was too busy trying to stop David Clark banning Facebook!

Labour’s front bench will be demanding a post mortem on what went wrong. 

Cunliffe may have put the cart before the horse in announcing a big ticket package before opening the books on Labour’s alternative budget.

In an election which will hinge on economic credibility, Labour has not yet  found a way to neutralise National’s narrative that it is the more prudent fiscal  manager.

Labour’s problem is that it has opposed pretty much every single decision of fiscal restraint taken in the last five years.

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26 Responses to “Watkins on Labour’s shambles”

  1. lolitasbrother (338 comments) says:

    In an election which will hinge on economic credibility, Labour has not yet found a way to neutralise National’s narrative that it is the more prudent fiscal manager.

    Labour’s problem is that it has opposed pretty much every single decision of fiscal restraint taken in the last five years.”

    Yes that is right Farrar. I am firmly of the opinion that New Zealanders will see these things as they are and return a NZ Nat Government

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  2. Yogibear (227 comments) says:

    What’s there bet Shearer’s two dead fish are sitting in the Labour Research Unit’s freezer, just itching for a repeat appearance….. Or is that a re-airing?

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  3. Mobile Michael (364 comments) says:

    That’s Labour’s one and only mistake allowed this year. Another policy announcement with hidden loopholes and no one will trust a thing they say.

    And if they claim they are keeping to the $1.5 Billion of cancelled tax cuts to ensure the policy is affordable then they will be laughed out of town.

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  4. Colville (1,769 comments) says:

    Architect of the policy was Labour’s welfare spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern

    That explains why the Baby Bribe policy is so at odds with the way young working wannabe parents think and so poorly targeted. Turning high income familes into beneficiaries, FFS giving someone on $150K the dole?.
    Then saying you get it for a year, oh wait its only six months if you work, but a slapper on the DPB gets it for the full year on top of the $40K/yr she already gets of taxpayers money, breed more why dont ya…? Easy three grand…just lay back and think of England…

    It just makes me angry!

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  5. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    That’s Labour’s one and only mistake allowed this year.

    1. Cunliffe’s speech incorrect.
    2. Handouts incorrect.
    3. Advertising graphic incorrect.
    4. Handled questioning poorly, took a day to try and deal with it and accept responsibility.
    5. David Clark’s suggested Facebook ban.
    6. David Clark complaining about multinational’s tax (again) with no practical solution.
    7. Cunliffe taking a day to dismiss Clark’s gaffe.
    8. David Parker attacking multinational’s tax in Parliament.
    9. Free antenatal policy differs little from current practice
    10. Silent Friday apart from a number of Labour linked bloggers blaming the media “spontaneously”.

    I don’t know if I have missed any but you get the picture.

    Whoops, I did forget one:
    11. Keeping to the $1.5 Billion of cancelled tax cuts to ensure the policy is affordable then they will be laughed out of town.

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  6. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    12. Blamed his cousin for the mistake in his speech.
    13. Tried to claim it was “just one word”.
    14. Wasn’t on top of the policy detail.

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  7. Colville (1,769 comments) says:

    PG @ 8.06

    You are a bit too kind with your wording…

    Items 1, 2 and 3 were blatant lies not slipups.

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  8. Nostradamus (2,758 comments) says:

    The baby bonus wasn’t the only policy disaster for Cunliffe this week.

    Cunliffe said this in his State of the Nation speech on 27 January:

    That’s why we are also committing to a set of initiatives that ensure kids have the best chance from the day they’re born, especially those who need it most.

    This will include:

    • providing free antenatal classes for every expectant mum who wants them

    Ok, right, so free antenatal classes for every expectant mum who wants them (paid for by taxpayers).

    This was confirmed in the Best Start policy:

    POLICY | 2014
    BEST START
    Supporting Expectant Parents

    Labour will ensure all women have access to free antenatal classes, with a focus on first time mums and those who would benefit from them the most.

    So, given Labour’s announcement, one could be forgiven for thinking that not all women currently have access to free antenatal classes. Right? That’s precisely where things went horribly wrong for Cunliffe on 30 January – just three days after the State of the Nation speech. Cunliffe was asked to explain the details of his policy:

    Cunliffe hit another snag today when he could not explain the details of his policy on extending antenatal checks.

    Cunliffe today went to a Trentham kindergarten, where he read a book on dinosaurs to children, to try to switch the focus on the early-childhood components of his policy released on Monday.

    His policy promised “to ensure all women have access to free antenatal classes, with a focus on first-time mums and those who would benefit the most”.

    It said antenatal assessments would be available to all women at 10 weeks, and Labour would set targets for district health boards to deliver that.

    The policy said vulnerable groups, including teenagers, were less likely to attend antenatal classes.

    It pointed to a 2009 study that found 10 per cent of participants in antenatal classes were Maori and less than 1 per cent Pasifika.

    Asked whether free antenatal classes was a new policy, Cunliffe said “free antenatal classes have been to some extent available”.

    “What we are being very clear about is that we will have them for all expectant mums,” he said.

    Labour would increase the target for 10-weeks checks to ensuring 80 per cent of mothers would get them.

    Asked again whether antenatal classes were free to all mothers now, he said: “Not in every case, but I will have to check on the details.”

    He said his advice was that it was not generally freely available to everyone, but he could not say who would miss out.

    Pressed on his knowledge of policy detail, he said: “When was the last time you asked John Key a question to five decimal places?”

    The Ministry of Health’s site makes it clear that free maternity and pregnancy services, such as 10-weeks checks, are available to virtually all, including those in the country on some visas.

    But it says “there may be some charges for antenatal or childbirth education classes, and some tests at a private laboratory”.

    Oh dear – Cunliffe is caught out again!

    If this week is anything to go by, John Key must be looking forward to the election debates later this year!

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  9. Colville (1,769 comments) says:

    PG,

    Item 16 would be timing his SON speech while Lorde was at the Grammys!

    I see Mallards fingerprints on that one!

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  10. kiwi in america (2,330 comments) says:

    Item 17 would be Cunliffe tweeting congratulations to Lord not Lorde

    Key owned Cunliffe in the House – in fact the Nats had such a target rich environment that they had to use Supplementary Questions, answers to primary questions and the PM Statements debate to stick the boot in across all of Labour’s cock ups. Its making Shearer’s start to 2013 look positively professional in comparison.

    Oh to be a fly on the wall at Labour’s caucus retreat and in the offices of some of the ABCs!

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  11. Camryn (549 comments) says:

    Labour has not yet found a way to neutralise National’s narrative that it is the more prudent fiscal manager.

    Is journalist way of saying, “Labour has not yet found a way to neutralise the fact that National is the more prudent fiscal manager.”

    National tends to base its “narratives” on what is actually true, which can be quite a challenge for Labour. I’m sure they’ll eventually find an awesome-sounding not-true thing that could work.

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  12. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    In 2011 it was suggested that Cunliffe set Goff up on his “show me the money” moment by not briefing him properly on CGT policy.

    Is this a case of Jacinda Ardern – who reputedly detests Cunliffe – setting him up by not briefing him properly on policy? A deliberate attempt to undermine his credibility and leadership?

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  13. wreck1080 (3,522 comments) says:

    labour are itching to spend up the fruits of nationals hard graft economics.

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  14. Camryn (549 comments) says:

    @wreck1080 – Exactly. I’d be nice if New Zealand would wait until the meal is cooked to start eating it. We seem to have a taste for half baked though.

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  15. Than (368 comments) says:

    @wreck1080 – Thankfully they won’t get to if they keep doing as badly as they have this month.

    The BS policy announcement has been a disaster on several levels for Labour, even down to the policy name and its abbreviation. The Stuff poll showing people opposed outnumber those in favour by two to one, Cunliffe getting caught out being deceitful, Cunliffe not knowing the details and getting snippy at the media… it’s been one piece of bad news after another.

    Contrast with the strongly positive reaction to National’s education policy announcement. Even the Greens policy launch got mixed/neutral reception, and didn’t put another black mark (by my count this is Cunliffe’s second, with the CV being the first) against their leader’s trustworthiness.

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  16. igm (851 comments) says:

    bludson: It is well known “Mr Ed” Ardern has leadership aspirations . . . just another hapless leech with no background of success.

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  17. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    And the irony of the Best Start possible to the year, not.

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  18. Pete George (21,798 comments) says:

    Item 18 – the claim that one in five children don’t have two pairs of good shoes.

    See http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/02/does_cunliffe_stick_by_shoes_claim.html

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  19. Joanne (177 comments) says:

    I thought Moroney was Labour’s welfare spokesperson not Ardern. I thought the change happened when Cunliffe reshuffled the roles.

    Either way, last week was a train wreck for Labour. I suspect it may continue.

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  20. OneTrack (1,957 comments) says:

    “Labour has not yet found a way to neutralise National’s narrative that it is the more prudent fiscal manager.”

    They really should have taken some of those economics and accounting courses when they were doing their BAs in hip-hop and Phds in political science. Who knew?

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  21. OneTrack (1,957 comments) says:

    wreck1080 – “labour are itching to spend up the fruits of nationals hard graft economics.”

    labour are itching to spend up! fify.

    Don’t forget, Russel also has those printers ready to turn out Aotearoan pesos.

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  22. slightlyrighty (2,448 comments) says:

    John Armstrong in the herald is far more critical of Labour, and labels them not looking ready to govern.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11195037

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  23. thedavincimode (6,102 comments) says:

    The great thing about Cunners is that even the media (Edwards excepted) seem to think he is a bullshitting arsewipe. Who’da thunk?

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  24. Colville (1,769 comments) says:

    If the “slip-ups” of the last month or so have been caused by Cun*liffe being fed bad info from his caucus members its going to be a fun time in the lead up to election 2014. We only need 2 or 3 more hospital passes like the Baby Bribe shambles (thanks you Comrade Cindy) to keep us all laughing our arses off until we see Key wipe the floor with Cunners in the debates.

    Shoooooooowww me the monnnnney!!!!!

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  25. tvb (3,938 comments) says:

    Labour left a financial mess as they always do when they are in office. When the time comes for fiscal restraint they get booted out. They oppose every measure to bring the books back into balance. And when there is a star of hope in balancing the books they jump in and propose new welfare spending. They are not fit to govern ever.

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  26. annie (533 comments) says:

    One more point – if you want to piss the nation’s women off, just reduce them to “mums”. Condescending prat.

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