Garner on Labour

May 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

Would Jacinda Ardern and Phil Twyford be a better leadership team? Both are from Auckland. Both have performed well this year. Both know the issues. But sources tell me this won’t happen.

The caucus is resigned to heading into the election with Little at the helm. There is a growing acceptance within that Little won’t lead them to victory.

My sources also tell me Little has failed to raise any money and that’s crucial. Also, who can even tell what Labour really stands for any more.

Yes they claim they will sort out the housing woes, apparently, with a major scheme to build 100,000 homes across 10 years. Sounds great. Is it possible? Who knows.

Little’s claim to sort the housing crisis out within the first term doesn’t ring true.

No amount of wand- waving can sort Auckland’s housing issues within three years. It’s impossible.

Labour used to stand for a capital gains tax, then they dropped it. Yet this week they have talked once again about new taxes and targeting property investors and speculators. Does that mean a capital gains tax again? Possibly. But not for the 2017 election.

As far as I can tell their only solid policy is to spend an extra $1.2 billion a year (that’s 80% of the allowance for new spending) on subsidising 100% of tertiary fees for the most well off in society.

Labour commits to tax hikes

May 24th, 2016 at 9:56 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Tax is set to be a major battle line in the 2017 election after Labour’s Grant Robertson signalled his party would increase some taxes to pay for its policies – a stark contrast from National’s expected tax cut platform.

Mr Robertson addressed the issue of tax in a pre-Budget speech on today, saying before the election he would set out a tax policy including measures to ensure Labour could raise the revenue needed to pay for its promises in health, education and housing – a clear signal some taxes would be raised.

Labour MPs have already demanded or promised an additional $2.7 billion a year of annual spending. That alone (and this is before they even get into their election manifesto) would require everyone earning over $70,000 a year to pay 45% tax on income over that level. Or alternatively they’d need to increase GST to 17.5%.

 

Herald on Labour’s housing policy

May 23rd, 2016 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Labour Party surprised many people last week, and dismayed some of its own supporters, by advocating the complete abolition of boundaries on urban expansion.

Its housing spokesman, Phil Twyford, endorsed the Government’s view that boundaries imposed by the Auckland Council have been a major contributor to the escalation of house prices. His announcement was timed to get in ahead of an urban development directive to councils expected from the Government soon, possibly in the Budget on Thursday. But Labour’s proposal goes further than Mr Twyford believes the Government’s national policy statement is likely to go.

“What we are calling for is the abolition of the urban growth boundary, not softening it, not making it more flexible,” he says. “And not just doing what the Auckland Council advocates, which is periodically adding in more parcels of land zoned for development. All that does is feed the speculative land market.”

I hope the Auckland Council listens, but I fear they won’t. And Phil Goff is refusing to back the policy, which is a bad sign.

The main condition is that development on the urban fringe must pay the full cost of the additional infrastructure they need and the party has proposed an interesting method by which this could be financed. It wants the Auckland Council to be allowed to issue infrastructure bonds that would be repaid from rates levied on the newly developed properties.

Developers are already charged for the cost of connecting their subdivisions to a city’s services but Auckland planners have long opposed urban sprawl on the basis of its infrastructure costs, so clearly those costs have not been fully covered in developers’ contributions. Infrastructure bonds could fill the gap. In fact, they could permit more amenities to be built in these new communities than have usually been provided from development levies because bonds are effectively a loan to future residents whereas development levies are built into the upfront cost of houses. …

Infrastructure bonds would enable those savers to share the gains from housing the population boom without pushing up house prices. The bonds might also attract some housing investors, reducing their demand for houses and slowing the rise of prices. New Zealand offers few investments as safe as houses and has an unsatisfied demand for bonds as secure as these. Labour is thinking well.

I agree. I like their policy on bonds rather than developer contributions up front.

A revealing speech

May 23rd, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The speech by Andrew Little this weekend was very revealing, but not in a good way. The Herald reports:

Mr Little said in the eight years under a National Government, the proportion of economic growth that went back to working New Zealanders in wages had dropped from 50 per cent to 37 per cent. Instead he accused National of favouring “those at the top” through policies such as allowing foreign trusts and tax on multinationals.

These are the same policies of course that existed under the last Labour Government, but lets ignore that for now.

Stuff further reports:

Little said just 37 per cent of economic growth had gone into the pay packets of working families since National came to power – down from over 50 per cent under the previous Labour government. 

That meant the average family had lost out on more than $13,000 under the Government, and would miss out on $50 a week this year.

The use of this statistic is rather revealing, as to both how desperate and also how ill informed Labour are. Three things I’d note:

  1. In all my years of politics I’ve never known a voter to talk about the proportion of economic growth that goes to wages. 99% of NZers don’t even know such a statistic exists lets alone give a flying f**k about it. I’m not sure I’ve even hear of it before. It reeks of desperation in trying to find an obscure economic statistic that they can campaign on. Voters care about jobs, wages, hospitals, schools and families – not the proportion of economic growth that goes to salaries. Wages have in fact risen twice as fast as inflation in the last seven years.
  2. Little seems to believe that the Government sits around the Cabinet table and determines what share of economic growth will go to wages. The Government does not create the economic growth and decide which sectors generate it and where. While policies have some small impact, the over whelming factor is decisions made by tens of thousands of businesses.
  3. Use of this statistic goes against Labour’s efforts to show they understand the modern economy. They are effectively railing against entrepreneurs and innovation. Why might a smaller share of economic growth by going to salaries. Well companies like Xero and Uber. They’re great for the economy (and customers) but according to Little they are robbing working NZers of $50 a week.

So Labour have managed to look desperate, ill informed and backwards in one speech. That’s quite an achievement.

Claire Trevett reports in the NZ Herald:

The centrepiece was a very convoluted piece of research about the proportion of economic growth returned to workers. Labour had concluded New Zealanders were getting $50 less a week than they would have been.

It was effectively meaningless beyond showing what clever clogs they were to have worked out such a thing.

Maybe their staff were so busy working on finding this obscure statistic, that they didn’t have time to do due diligence on the home they claimed had 17 people living in it!

It also opened Little to questioning on how Labour would get that back into the pockets of those workers.

Ban tech companies?

Labour selects Invercargill

May 23rd, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour’s Invercargill candidate for the 2017 general election says National’s policies are failing Southland and she wants discussions on state housing, health funding and digital infrastructure in the city.

Dr Liz Craig, a public health doctor, was named as the party’s candidate on Friday. …

Craig is best known for her child poverty advocacy work. She was also Labour’s Clutha-Southland candidate in 2014.

A mother of two, Craig is married to David Craig, and lives between Dunedin and a small farm in Romahapa.

She plans to spend most of her time in Invercargill after her nomination and has been house hunting for an old villa.

In her spare time Craig is re-planting and restoring native trees in Romahapa and also studies Te Reo Maori at the Southern Institute of Technology.

Co-chair of the Invercargill Labour Party, Sue McNeill, said Craig was a candidate of high calibre and determination.

Labour leader Andrew Little said Labour’s nominees in provincial seats were quality.  

“I am looking forward to Dr Liz Craig joining our caucus in 2017.”

Little looks silly when he says stuff like this. You can say they’d be a great MP etc, but stating as a certainty she will become an MP just looks deluded.

Here’s Labour’s record since 2005 in Invercargill:

  • 2005: PV 14,369, EV 13,518, lost by 2,052
  • 2008: PV 12,927, EV 12,750, lost by 6,664
  • 2011: PV 9,296, EV 11,012, lost by 6,263
  • 2014: PV 8,553, EV 10,044, lost by 7,482

Marlborough’s economy

May 20th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour has selected its challenger to try and turn the safe National seat in Kaikoura red.

Former farmer, mediator and community advocate Janette Walker is the first confirmed Labour candidate in New Zealand for the 2017 general election. …

Walker was defeated by National’s Stuart Smith in the 2014 general election after Smith won with a final majority of more than 12,000 votes.

Walker said this time around she was better known but she would not be making any changes to her campaign style.

The campaign style was relentless negativity and gloom.

The result was Labour got a miniscule 17.1% of the party vote in Kaikoura.

The Marlborough economy was not booming, exemplified by 23 empty shops in the town centre, she said.

The electorate is more than Blenheim. Stats NZ reported in March:

For the year ended March 2015, Marlborough’s GDP increased 2.2 percent, which was influenced by volatility in agriculture, largely offsetting increases in other industries.

From 2010–15, Marlborough’s economy increased 28.0 percent. This was led by the manufacturing industry (food, beverage, and tobacco product) – Marlborough’s largest.

28% increase over five years is pretty damn good.

Labour will legalise medicinal cannabis

May 20th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour will legislate for medicinal cannabis “pretty quickly” after taking office, leader Andrew Little has confirmed.

Little said cannabis products should be available to anyone suffering chronic pain or a terminal condition if their GP signed off on it.

Labour MP Damien O’Connor has drafted a bill for Parliament that would shift the onus of decision making on medicinal cannabis away from the minister to GPs and medical professionals.

In a wide ranging Facebook Live interview with Stuff on Wednesday, Little said Labour would pass O’Connor’s law “pretty quickly” after the next election, should it win.

But on the wider issue of decriminalising cannabis, he wanted to see more evidence.

“I don’t have a moral thing about recreational drugs…my own experience of dealing with it as an issue was when I was a union lawyer, when employers started to do drug and alcohol testing and I did a lot of work on that.

“The medical evidence that came back to me overwhelmingly was that a lot of the cannabis available in New Zealand had very high THC (mind altering substance tetrahydrocannabinol) levels. For brains that are still developing in their late teens and early 20s cannabis use even to a modest degree can still cause long term brain damage. So I’d want to know we are addressing that real risk to that issue.”

Both approaches seem sensible. I’d wait to see the results of legalisation in the three US states which have done so, and see if drug related harms have increased due to legalisation. If not, then we should follow cause.

After a trough in the polls, Little believed Labour was bouncing back and said that was shown by the response to him out and about New Zealand. People were stopping him in the street, shaking hands and taking “selfies”.

“There is a mood shift, there’s a changing expectation.”

I agree there is a mood shift about Labour, but not a good one for them!

Trotter on Labour and the Panama Papers

May 18th, 2016 at 12:05 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Labour’s response to the “Panama Papers” has left me cold.

The Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little, lacking hard evidence of criminal behaviour – of any kind – has opted to unfurl his party’s banner on the moral high ground.

He has accused the law firms involved in servicing foreign trusts of participating in a “grubby little industry”.

He’s probably right about that. Shielding rich people from their tax obligations hardly constitutes a noble calling.

My problem with this approach is that it all sounds a bit like a student union SGM, where the deployment of high-flown rhetoric is inversely proportional to the debaters’ command of useful facts.

And of course the leader and half the front bench are former student politicians!

The facts arising out of the Panama Papers are reasonably simple to summarise:

  • New Zealand is not a tax haven in the generally accepted definition of that term.
  • Changes to New Zealand legislation have put this country at risk of being perceived as a tax haven.
  • The Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, took advantage of our legislative laxity to promote New Zealand as a politically stable and corruption-free hiding place for their clients’ assets.
  • The National-led Government’s responses to IRD warnings that New Zealand was at risk of losing its corruption-free reputation were wholly inadequate.
  • The entire problem can be solved easily: simply by toughening-up the disclosure provisions of the relevant legislation.

If Labour had been willing to assess these facts dispassionately, and with an eye to presenting itself as a credible alternative government, its handling of the Panama Papers would have been very different.

From the outset, it would have made it very clear that its number one priority was to protect New Zealand’s international reputation. That being the case, it would have been very careful to avoid calling their country a tax haven.

Their treatment of the Prime Minister would also have been different. Rather than attempting to associate him with the dubious behaviour of Mossack Fonseca, they would have acknowledged that the offending legislation had evolved gradually, under both Labour and National, and offered to make its remediation a bi-partisan effort.

Having sought out and obtained the best advice available from tax lawyers and accountants about how the legislation might best be rewritten to eliminate its usefulness to entities like Mossack Fonseca, Labour would then have approached the Government with an offer to rush through the necessary changes under urgency.

A much more intelligent approach than what they did. Their obsession with Key blinds them. Hopefully they will ignore Chris’ advice.

If all of the above has a faint ring of familiarity to it, that’s because my suggested responses are modelled on the way John Key handled the so-called “Anti-Smacking Bill” back in 2007. Rather than exploiting the mounting toll of damage the issue was inflicting on Helen Clark’s Labour Government, Key arranged for the bill to be passed overwhelmingly with National Party support.

The electorate was startled – but impressed – by Key’s magnanimous gesture towards his political opponent. Here was a man who was prepared to forgo petty partisan advantage for the wider public good. As he strode into the media conference alongside Helen Clark, the television audience saw not a political opportunist, but a future prime minister.

Clark’s right-wing opponents were furious with Key for rescuing her from the anti, anti-smacking backlash. Key just shrugged. He knew that at the perceptual level that truly mattered, he had just made huge gains. In his own, and his party’s, audition for the role of wielder of state power, National was now in front.

Andrew Little preaches a mean sermon, and his finger-wagging is second-to-none. But in that all-important audition for political power, his handling of the Panama Papers has done Labour no favours.

Another own goal.

A big Little fail

May 18th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Labour Party diverted a press conference that was to be held outside a supposedly overcrowded South Auckland house after its occupants denied they had housing problems.

Oh dear. They can’t even organise a photo op competently, so how on earth could they run a country?

Other media had reported there were 17 people living in the Bairds Road, Otara home including in a tent on the front lawn.

But as media waited on the street for Labour leader Andrew Little on Tuesday a man came out to say he was the owner of the house and the claims had been greatly exaggerated.

The tent had been erected because the family were renovating, said the man, who declined to give his name.

“They say there’s 17 people living here, it’s not true,” he said.

So the media all reported this claim uncritically, and you wonder why trust in media is falling. We only find out the truth because Labour was moronic enough to arrange a press conference outside the house, without anyone actually talking to those who lived there in advance.

Imperator Fish on Labour

May 16th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Imperator Fish blogs:

October 2008

When the voters learn what we know about John Key – or what we will soon know once Mike Williams returns from Melbourne – they will be appalled. We now know what the H in H-Fee stands for. It’s “Hasta la vista, baby!”

July 2009

The honeymoon is finally over. John Key is an empty vessel, a man without any convictions, a rich prick who will say anything to be elected. We are in the midst of a global financial crisis, but let’s focus on issues of character and integrity, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by all that other stuff.

August 2011

The honeymoon is finally over. There is a mood of change in the air. The public are falling out of love with John Key. Everywhere I go people tell me they think John Key is an untrustworthy unprincipled swine. His lies are finally coming back to haunt him. This could be the turning point!

January 2013

The honeymoon is finally, finally over. People are finally seeing John Key for what he is – an entitled member of the 1%. We need to double down on our strategy of relentlessly attacking the Prime Minister at every opportunity. If we absolutely must mention jobs, the economy or housing, let’s do so in a way that frames John Key as being uncaring and in the pay of big business. We can’t afford for our ideas to stand on their own merits.

A pretty good summary of Labour for the first few years.

May 2016

This Panama Papers business is alarming, but it’s also the opportunity we’ve all been waiting for. John Key is super wealthy, and we don’t like him, so it stands to reason that he must be up to his neck in all of this. Quick, type his name into the database! Nothing? No, there must be some mistake. Try again. Again, damn you! Well, not to worry. He must use a different Panamanian law firm. He’s still a smug rich prick, and that’s what counts. That’s the message we need to ensure the voters take out of this.

And a summary of their current strategy.

Imperator Fish looks forward:

September 2021

The economy is in a downwards spiral, the world dairy market has collapsed, and global warming and a series of natural disasters have devastated the country. But politically I feel as if we have turned a corner. People are finally focusing on how out of touch John Key is. We just need to drive the message home. Dig up everything you can on the guy. Do we know anyone who knew him at school? Did he steal anyone’s lunch money? Did he ever get a detention? Could there be some connection between John Key and Bernie Madoff that we haven’t yet uncovered? Let’s leave no stone unturned this time, guys. Let’s give our leader some powerful ammunition. She needs something to throw at Key during Question Time today.

April 2027

Our new leader really got some blows in during Question Time today. I’ve not seen any of our 23 leaders since Helen Clark land so many punches. He had Key floundering when he asked about Key’s association with the guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who got done for tax evasion back in the 1980s. I reckon we might just have picked up a few votes today from all the people who follow Parliamentary proceedings, or at least the three of them who aren’t fiercely partisan in their party loyalties.

Heh. May this prediction come true.

February 2044

If Prime Minister Key has a weak spot, it’s his lack of integrity and his fundamental dishonesty. That’s where we need to focus our attentions.

His father John was just the same.

Double heh.

Well done Phil Goff

May 15th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership legislation has passed its first hurdle with support from National, Act, United Future – and one Labour MP.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Amendment Bill will now be considered by the Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee, after passing its first reading 62 to 59.

It was opposed by Labour, the Green Party, New Zealand First and the Maori Party. However, Labour MP Phil Goff voted for the TPP.

In January, Labour leader Andrew Little gave Mr Goff special dispensation to do so, because during Mr Goff’s time as trade minister he started the negotiations for the agreement’s predecessor.

Fellow Labour MP David Shearer had told the Herald he personally supported the TPP, but later said he would be voting along party lines.

Well done Phil Goff for voting for what you know to be in NZ’s best interests.

The last four Labour Party leaders before David Cunliffe all support TPP – David Shearer, Phil Goff, Helen Clark and Mike Moore. They lead the Labour Party for 21 years between them.

Labour still thinks spending, not results, is what matters

May 13th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Finance spokesman Grant Robertson mental health funding  was one of the “yawning gaps” in the health system. 

Labour figures showed his party increased health spending by an average of 8.1 per cent, while National had increased it by 3.4 per cent, he said.

“In the real world, that means people are not getting the surgeries they need, they’re not getting access to the mental health system, they’re not getting primary health care they need.” 

Health spokesman Annette King said Labour would fund health properly.

This sums up pretty much everything that is wrong with Labour. They think that what matters most is spending more money – rather than what that money actually achieves.

According to Labour, if DHBs manage to reduce their property costs by say $200 million, then that is bad as that is $200 million less spending. If DHBs save $100 million on accountants and increase spending on doctors by $50 million then Labour thinks this is bad because that is overall less spending.

I’m not sure Labour will ever get that what matters is results, not spending. Of course you need spending to achieve some things, but claiming an 8% annual increase in health spending is better than a 4% increase is focused on the wrong thing.

The reality is that almost every significant health indicator is better now than in 2008. A few are:

  • Youth smoking rates halved
  • Youth hazardous drinking rates halved
  • 100% of cancer patients now getting timely treatment, compared to 65% under Labour
  • 94% of patients being seen within six hours at ED, up from 70%
  • A 42% increase in the number of elective surgeries
  • An 18% increase in nurses and 27% increase in doctors
  • Immunisation rates up from 76% to 94%

Now if you go back to what Labour achieved despite their massive spending increases, well the answer will be not much. In fact the number of elective surgeries declined from 2000 to 2006.

Here’s the challenge for Labour. Don’t come up with a policy of simply promising more spending. Make a commitment on some outcomes.

Watkins says Labour needs a game changer

May 12th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour’s danger is being seen to be dwelling too much on a negative like  foreign trusts when the Government is talking up the positives.

That has been the story of the last seven years . Which is why Labour needs a game changer.

At the half way point, the perception that National is cruising to a fourth is starting to cement.

You can see it  in the drooping shoulders on the Labour and Green benches. They’re fighting the fight and no one is listening

I have fairly regular chats with folks from Labour and the Greens. Almost without fail the topics of conversations are what chance there is National will get a 4th term, who will replace Key – and when, and the Labour leadership.

I always say that I think National’s chance of a 4th term is around 60%. That is pretty optimistic as the last fourth term was in 1969! The chances should be less than 20%, so I think 60% is pretty amazing.

Almost without fail the folks from Labour and Greens push back against my 60% prediction and say they think it is 95% or 98% or the like. They can’t see Labour doing well enough to post a serious threat. They are always much more bullish about National’s chances than me.

Only NZ First leader Winston Peters seems capable of disrupting the Government and Key’s narrative.

It’s the classic minor party pendulum swing. While Labour and Little sink, Peters is on the rise. And it’s not just his poll ratings. National’s internal polling said to show Peters’ favourability ratings also improving. For a leader as polarising as Peters that’s a significant shift. And it poses a dilemma for Labour

Embrace Peters and voters would see that a Labour, Greens, NZ First alliance could conceivably form the next Government. Labour needs that to take root to reinvigorate the activists and turn out the centre-Left vote.

Peters is far too long in the tooth to let Labour get away with that one of course. He has so far rebuffed Little’s attempts to cosy up and why wouldn’t he? If Peters is king maker at the next election National is a far more likely proposition.

Peters prefers a two party Government to a three party Government. If he holds the balance of power I hope he chooses Labour and the Greens. However if National is on say 45% and Labour on say 28%, it is hard to see him making the guy who got 28% PM.

Labour loses another chief press secretary

May 11th, 2016 at 2:10 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour’s chief press secretary and former editor of the Woman’s Weekly, Sarah Stuart, has resigned from Andrew Little’s office.

Stuart will finish in late May and cited “family reasons” as her motivation for leaving.

“I will be sorry to leave but have made this difficult decision for family reasons. I will miss the cut and thrust of Parliament, the talented team in the Leader’s Office and the strength and integrity that Andrew embodies,” she said.

Stuart, whose other former roles included deputy editor of the Sunday Star-Times, the Herald on Sunday, and the head of APN’s regional and daily community newspapers, has also worked in Sydney as a journalist.

With the departure of Stuart, Labour will be onto their seventh chief press secretary in seven and a bit years.

Off memory they have had G J Thompson, Fran Mold, Kris Faafoi, Julian Robins, Simon Cunliffe and Sarah Stuart.

Labour claimed 30% of Auckland houses purchased by Chinese, actual data shows 2.3%

May 11th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Phil Twyford claimed last year:

Nearly 40 percent of the houses sold in that period went to people of Chinese descent, and as your introduction pointed out, the Chinese New Zealander population in Auckland, according to the most recent census data, is about 9 percent. Now, that is a remarkable discrepancy, and, in my view, it’s simply not plausible to suggest, as many have done in the last couple of years, that the Chinese— ethnic Chinese people who are buying houses in Auckland are all Chinese New Zealanders. It points, I think, to only one possible conclusion, and that is that offshore Chinese investors have a very significant presence in the Auckland real estate market when you consider that Auckland house prices are spiralling out of control at the moment. …

This is an issue about foreign investment, and it doesn’t matter in one sense what the surnames of the buyers are, but if this data shows, and I believe it strongly suggests, that offshore Chinese investors have a major presence, possibly as high as 30 percent of the houses sold by this real estate firm over a three-month period, then that is very significant.

Louise Upston has released actual data. It shows that 4% of Auckland buyers were overseas tax residents and 58% of those 4% were from China which is 2.3% of total Auckland sales.

Phil Twyford should be ashamed of himself for his disgraceful and shoddy data where he failed to differentiate between New Zealanders and foreigners on the basis of their surname. You may have a Chinese sounding surname yet be a 4th generation New Zealander.

The LINZ data is not perfect and they go to great lengths to state its limitations. But the gap between the 30% Twyford was claiming and the 2.3% in the LINZ data is so great that is is preposterous to suggest that Twyford was anywhere near correct.

Stats Chats says:

The LINZ report does a good job explaining the real limitations of `tax residence’ as a criterion, but it’s a lot better than any previous data we’ve had.

I’m looking forward to a Mt Roskill by-election (if Goff wins) where the Labour candidate has to explain to the many Chinese New Zealanders living in Mt Roskill why Labour whipped up Aucklanders to blame them for high property prices.

The data will continue to be updated every three months, so we will be able to see if the levels of purchases by foreign tax residents increases. But for now there is nothing to suggest they are having a big impact on the market, and hence Labour’s policy to ban them is basically worthless, as it would have a miniscule impact on house prices at best. Maybe Labour could focus on real solutions such as increasing the amount of land available, instead of deeming people with Chinese sounding surnames as the problem.

Labour List MPs may fear 2017

May 10th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In 2014 Labour got only five List MPs. Andrew Little only got in on special votes.

They are polling well below the level they were at three years ago. They normally lose support once an election campaign starts as minor parties get more attention. And already Winston is picking up support at their expense.

So at this stage it would be a brave person to predict they will lift their party vote from 2014, and hence their total number of MPs from 32.

However it is quite possible they may pick up two or three electorate seats due to retirements in National etc. They picked up five electorate seats in 2014 despite a drop in party vote. They’ve got some candidates who did fairly well in 2014 (and 2011) and may win if they stand again.

While this is good news for those electorate candidates, it is bad news for Labour List MPs. This means that if they don’t lift their party vote from 2014, they may get only one or two List MPs.

And their problem is that the Leader is a List MP. Also Annette King and Trevor Mallard are likely to go list only for 2017. This means that David Parker, Jacinda Ardern and Sue Moroney could miss out, let alone Labour getting any new MPs on the list.

Ironically if they lost Ardern, this could benefit Little as she is probably the only one who could beat him if they lose the next election. If she goes, then he will probably get to try again in 2020.

Trans-Tasman on Labour and Key

May 10th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman sums it up nicely:

Usually it has been Labour, going back to then party president Mike Williams’ infamous 2007 “H Fee” Sydney trip, which has persistently taken the view Key is a crook and if they keep digging for long enough they will find something on him.

Ten years is a long time to run the same strategy when it isn’t working but, after apparently ditching it earlier in the year, Labour is back with a vengeance

Hopefully Labour will ignore this and continue on with their ten year strategy and make it a 20 year strategy.

Labour’s pitiful call to ban foreign trusts

May 9th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Labour Party would ban foreign trusts to protect New Zealand’s reputation as the Panama Papers saga continues.

God, is Labour incapable of any form of considered decision making.

There could well be some changes needed to foreign trusts, and John Shewan is reporting back exactly on that.

But a trust is not some evil thing. Half the Labour caucus have a trust. Anyone who has a will has a form of trust. And having a foreign trust is not proof of wrong doing or tax evasion or even avoidance. To quote Roger Thompson:

Wealthy people in other countries have these same reasons for using trusts. There may also be a prevalence of kidnapping and blackmail in their country of residence, forced heirship laws (lack of freedom to choose who inherits their wealth when they die) and possibility of arbitrary state seizure of assets. The family and their businesses may be spread geographically and be subject to multiple laws in multiple countries. These are all situations where a trust can offer protection and flexibility.

However many countries do not have laws which enable the creation of trusts. Trusts are typically only found in countries that have adopted the English common law type systems such as UK, commonwealth countries and the USA.

For people in countries that do not have trusts they will need to consider trusts established in other countries that do have laws under which trusts can be created.

Any party that doesn’t make up policy based on is it a good soundbite would look at a proportionate response to the issue of whether some foreign trusts in NZ has been mis-used. Do we need changes to disclosure, to how they are taxed, to what level of details are provided. Do we need a central register? These are all legitimate and worthwhile questions.

But just coming out and saying all foreign trusts are bad and evil and must be banned from New Zealand is hysterical populism that just shows how desperate Labour is.

Banning something should be the last resort, not the first resort.

Webb seeks Christchurch Central

May 5th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Lawyer Duncan Webb is seeking to stand for the Labour Party in Christchurch Central after representing many Canterbury homeowners struggling with earthquake claims.

Webb, a long-time Labour Party member and insurance expert, has announced his intention to stand for Christchurch Central, after nominations closed last week.

National’s Nicky Wagner won the traditional Labour stronghold by only 47 votes in 2011, ousting former journalist Brendon Burns.

The associate Christchurch regeneration minister retained the seat in 2014 against Labour candidate Tony Milne and increased her majority.

Wagner increased it to 2,320 last time. Hopefully it will increase even more in 2017.

In 2014 Labour only got 26.3% of the party vote in Christchurch Central.

Christchurch Central should “never be a National seat”, he said.

“It’s full of ordinary, working people with small businesses and [the electorate] isn’t well served by a Government looking simply at running a surplus.”

If it is full of working people with small businesses, then why would they vote Labour who are looking at paying everyone not to work, and wish to abolish the right of small businesses to have 90 day grievance free trials for new staff.

Trotter calls for coalition of the left

April 29th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

The bitter truth is that if a beneficent angel were to uplift the best politicians from Labour, the Alliance (before it disappeared) the Greens and the Mana Party, and drop them into a divinely crafted political entity that might – or might not – continue to exploit the still potent Labour brand, then the Government of John Key would be in real trouble. The current Labour Party bleats on (and on, and on, and on) about being a “Broad Church”, but the sad truth remains that its reservoir of recruitment has never been shallower.

A genuinely “broad church” party of the Left would balance off Andrew Little with Hone Harawira, Jacinda Ardern with Laila Harré, Stuart Nash with John Minto, Kelvin Davis with Annette Sykes, Grant Robertson with Julie Anne Genter and Annette King with Metira Turei. The whole spectrum of alternative power: from Soft Centrists to Hard Leftists; would be covered.

While I have serious doubts about the electoral appeal of such a group, Trotter has a point that Labour is attracting relatively few denizens of the left.

That Labour’s fatal apostasy [the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief or principle] has rendered such a divinely appointed caucus little more than a pipe dream is the besetting tragedy of progressive New Zealand politics. Its embrace of neoliberalism in the mid-1980s left Labour with the political equivalent of syphilis. Sadly, every one of the many attempts to administer the Penicillin of genuine progressivism (God bless you Jim, Rod, Laila!) was rejected. Consequently, Labour’s bones have crumbled and its brain has rotted. Small wonder that the other opposition parties are reluctant to get too close!

They’re at 27% in the average of the polls, which is 6% worse than three years ago.

 

Little’s conspiracy gets even larger

April 23rd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

As for McCully’s handpicked appointees, these are the members of the Niue Tourism Property Trust whose members are indeed appointed by McCully on behalf of the Niue Government.

It has already been widely reported that they include the likes of the island’s High Commissioner and former police officer Ross Ardern. (Ardern also happens to be the father of Labour MP Jacinda Ardern so one would assume he’s not embedded with the National Party).

But this is where it gets complicated.

The Niue Tourism Property Trust appointed a board to oversee the running of the hotel and according to one of the four board members the agreement was negotiated and signed between Scenic Hotels and the board rather than the trust itself.

The tender process itself, meanwhile, was run by consultancy group Horwarth (which did the early feasibility studies for Auckland’s international conventional centre). So again, a step removed from the government appointees on Niue property trust.

Little is right when he says that it is his role as Opposition leader to ask questions when a big political donor is awarded Government contracts.

But suggesting it “stinks to high heaven” takes things to a different level.

Even if there hadn’t been a number of steps between the minister and the decision to award the contract, Little’s claim appears to rest on the assumption that everyone involved in the process – from senior diplomats, to government agencies and senior politicians – was either swayed by the donation, or leaned on by the minister.

In the absence of a whistle blower, or any documentation, leaked emails or other evidence so far to support that view, that’s a pretty serious accusation. Seemingly, it relies solely on the fact that Hagaman donated money to the National Party.

This is dangerous territory for Little and not because the Hagamans have threatened legal action.

With the involvement of Horwarth, Little’s allegations only stack up if the conspiracy involves McCully, the two Hagamans, the three trustees (including Ross Ardern), the four board members and the staff of Horwarth.

Little was right to ask the question but wrong to leap to judgement before the Auditor General decides even whether to take a look.

If Little had just asked for it to be reviewed, no problems. But he rushed to judgment and declared it stank to high heaven, and insulted the trustees by effectively referring to them as McCully’s handpicked mates when one of them is an MFAT Deputy Secretary and another the High Commissioner (and father of a Labour MP).

If every big donation is going to be decried as dodgy there seem to be only two alternatives – either barring donors from tendering for Government contracts, which is probably unworkable, or a fully state funded regime, which is where the first option ultimately leads anyway, given the inevitable drying up of campaign funds.

This is what Labour wants. They are broke so they want to force taxpayers to fund their party.

Will Labour oppose the China FTA upgrade?

April 22nd, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

China will allow dairy to remain on the table as it progresses talks with New Zealand over an upgrade to an existing free-trade agreement.

But it’s not yet promising that formal re-negotiations will begin over an eight-year-old pact that the government would argue has fallen victim to its own success. 

Prime Minister John Key met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing overnight (NZ time), and said he left the meeting more optimistic than when he went into it, about China’s willingness to progress free-trade talks. 

If an upgrade to the China FTA is negotiated, will Labour oppose it?

Once upon a time this would have been a ridiculous question to ask, especially as they negotiated the China FTA.

But consider these two points:

  1. Labour now regularly rails against the Chinese – everything from investing in a farm to buying a house to being an Chinese chef
  2. The initiated the TPP agreement in Government yet denounced it in opposition

Greens and NZ First both opposed the FTA with China. Labour’s policy has been getting closer and closer to the Greens, so it is not impossible they’ll oppose any upgrade to the China FTA purely because it may happen under National.

Damning Faafoi with faint praise

April 20th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little said:

“Kris Faafoi is a very talented MP whose hard work has earned him a place on the Shadow Cabinet. He is instantly recognisable to many New Zealanders and connects well when he’s on the road – an invaluable skill when working with the tourism industry.

When you read this carefully you see that Little is saying that Kris is being promoted because he used to be on TV and gets on well with people.

You’d think in a press release announcing a new member of the shadow cabinet, they could work a bit harder to talk up his skills.

This isn’t a go at Kris, who I think does a good job as an MP. Just the bizarre press release wording justifying his appointment.

Is business outreach code name for business fundraiser?

April 19th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little announced:

Kris Faafoi has been promoted to Labour’s Shadow Cabinet and receives the Tourism portfolio while Clayton Cosgrove takes on a business outreach role – a move prompted by Mr Cosgrove’s decision to not stand at the next election, says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.     

Business Outreach? That doesn’t sound like a portfolio, but a description for a corporate fundraiser.

HDPA on Labour

April 18th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Heather du Plessis-Allan writes:

It was a couple of weeks ago, at the height of Labour’s most recent series of fluffs. You know, the stuff about Indian chefs and acting like Rob Muldoon with bank lending rates.

I was killing time around Parliament, waiting for a minister. A Labour Party insider was killing time too. We got talking.

Andrew Little said this. Andrew Little said that. Tired of his cock-ups. Tired of being blamed for his mistakes.

It wasn’t a surprise morale in the Labour Party was low, it was a surprise someone was being honest about it.

For a while now, everyone in the party has bravely kept painting their faces, putting on their party frocks and pretending life was peachy.

Later that day, I walked through the arrivals gate at Auckland airport next to a well-connected political mover and shaker. We got talking. Trouble’s brewing in the Labour Party.

They’re talking of cutting Grant Robertson. They’re talking of cutting the chief of staff. Watch this space.

That was two weeks ago. That was before the party hit 28 per cent in the latest poll.

That was before the poll result? Wonder what the chatter must be like now!

Labour has it tough. Labour parties across the world have it tough. These were parties formed to save workers from unjust working conditions. The parties have mostly succeeded. Workplaces and employment legislation is a million times better now than in 1916.

So what does a political party do when its mission is accomplished?

It sits down with a cup of tea – the eight years of opposition might have been an opportune time – and figures out its next task.

But it has to be honest about what it stands for.

Labour told us it stood for the old flag. That’s not true. In black and white, its own policy was to change the flag. It was just trying to get one over John Key. Well, it got one over John Key and it’s still polling worse than the tea-towel flag.

Good point.

Labour told us it stood for keeping Indian restaurant chef jobs for Kiwis. We pondered why we had never seriously considered a career as a chef in an Indian restaurant.

Their future of work!

Look at UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. He’s beating David Cameron in some polls. He’s a borderline-communist eccentric you’re never entirely convinced bothered to shower that morning.

But he’s authentic. He says what he means and will do it.

Corbyn is authentic. I’m not sure emulating Corbyn will help Labour here, but they should give it a try!