Labour lies on health

June 9th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Labour have been going on for months claiming that health funding has not grown to keep up with our population and inflation. They cite a figure of $1.7 billion of under funding on this basis.

I made the mistake of assuming their figure was correct, and not checking up on it previously. I just assumed someone else would have.

But as I had some spare time last weekend I went through the Vote Health expenditure for the last decade. I then got the CPI figures and the resident population figures. And put them into the table below.

Health Funding

So health funding has increased by 35% in nominal terms. In real terms it has gone up 20% since 2008 and even in real per capita terms it is up 8.3%.

That’s pretty good considering the GFC and the Christchurch earthquakes led to huge deficits, which the Government also had to close.

The MoU and the Art of War

June 8th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes:

Labour and the Greens have signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” ostensibly committing both to cooperation in the service of changing the Government.

As the news buzzed around social media, you could be forgiven for thinking the Treaty of Waitangi had just been signed. That very night, Simon Dallow declaimed on the 6pm news that this “joint party power play is already changing the political landscape”. According to some cheerleaders of the Left, John Key’s fate is now all but sealed.

The thinking seems to be that Labour and the Greens are like Ross and Rachel, with the great voting public waiting eagerly for the resolution of the “will they or won’t they?” storyline. Now that Labour has finally committed to the nice guy Greens, a delighted electorate will finally be ready to make their own commitment to changing the Government.

Others think the agreement is a potentially serious blunder. In this narrative, the relationship upgrade with the Greens is an effective spurning by Labour of bad-boy Winston Peters. Because it’s generally considered that Labour won’t be able to govern without Peters’ support, the party’s decision to go with its heart and not its head may cost it dearly.

And in fact, Winston Peters does not seem particularly impressed with what Labour and the Greens have done, grumbling that his party doesn’t “like jack-ups or rigged arrangements behind the people’s back”.

As an aside, this argument is incoherent. By publicly announcing an intention to work together, Labour and the Greens are doing the opposite of going behind the people’s backs. What they are doing is arguably a lot more transparent than the standard New Zealand First method of refusing to state a preference until all the votes are cast and the backroom baubles auction is completed.

Hehir is right that Winston’s argument is incoherent.

So has Labour saved or doomed itself? Actually, the safer money is on the Memorandum of Understanding itself making zero to little difference one way or the other.

The One News Colmar Brunton poll shows that support for National and Labour went up and Greens and NZ First went down after the MoU was announced. But a one off poll change is not what matters – it is the long-term trend, and I doubt we’ll see much of an impact.

If the last half-decade or so has taught us anything, it’s that voters are about as indifferent to political minutiae as commentators are obsessed with it. As if to confirm this, the Greens themselves hailed the agreement as a “game changer” – a prediction that’s been wrongly affixed to any number of events and happenings since 2008 that were supposed to, but didn’t, bring about the end of the John Key era.

Issues that matter to voters are jobs, wages, schools, hospitals etc. MoUs far less so.

So which one is the village idiot?

June 6th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Paul Little writes in the Herald:

On a brighter note, Labour and the Greens are hooking up. Analogies to a marriage were quickly drawn at this exciting news, and they couldn’t be more apt. It was like when you hear that your cousin who everyone had given up on ever seeing hooked has finally got engaged, and then you find out it’s to the village idiot.

So which party is the cousin everyone had given up on and which party is the village idiot?

My pick is the Greens are the dateless cousins, as they have never got into Government. and that makes Labour the village idiot by default?

O’Connor not keen on Greens alliance

June 3rd, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor won’t say whether he supports the new agreement between Labour and the Greens.

The two parties signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday. They’ve agreed to work together to change the Government, to co-operate in Parliament and to investigate a joint policy and/or campaign.

Mr O’Connor would not answer “yes” or “no” today when asked – seven times – whether he supported the memorandum.

I think we can take that to mean a no.

Gower’s Labour-Greens-NZ First Cabinet

June 3rd, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Gower looks at what a Labour-Greens-NZ First Cabinet may look like.

  1. Andrew Little, PM
  2. Winston Peters, Deputy PM, Econ Dev, Immigration, Racing, Senior Cits
  3. Metiria Turei, Co-Vice-Deputy PM, Social Development, SIS, GCSB
  4. Annette King, Co-Vice-Deputy PM, Health
  5. James Shaw, Co-Vice-Deputy PM, Climate Change, Environment, Conservation
  6. Grant Robertson, Finance
  7. Phil Twyford, Housing
  8. Jacinda Ardern, Justice, Arts
  9. Shane Jones, Foreign Affairs, Trade, Fishing
  10. Chris Hipkins, Education
  11. Kevin Hague, ACC
  12. Kelvin Davis, Police, Corrections, Maori
  13. Ron Mark, Defence
  14. Carmel Sepuloni, OSH, Pacific
  15. David Clark, Tertiary Education, Science
  16. Fletcher Tabuteau, Primary Industries
  17. Julie-Anne Genter, Transport
  18. David Shearer, Tourism, Consumer Affairs, Commerce
  19. Tracey Martin, Local Government, Women
  20. Gareth Hughes, Energy, SOEs

So that is 10 Labour Ministers, five NZ First and five Greens.

Greens want Deputy PM

June 3rd, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


Stuff reports:

The Green Party has an eye for the role of deputy prime minister, if it finds itself in such a bargaining position, after the next election. 

And that would “almost certainly” fall to Metiria Turei, her co-leader James Shaw said.

Why not co-deputy PMs? You could have three of them – Grant, Metiria and James!

Speaking on Wednesday, Shaw said it was “entirely normal” the biggest party in a coalition would hold the roles of prime minister and finance minister. 

Not at all. There have only been two full coalitions – National/NZ First and Labour/Alliance. One of those had the finance role go to the junior party/

He denied speculation the move to confirm only Robertson’s portfolio in a potential Labour-Green government was to give the public an assurance the Greens would not be in charge of New Zealand’s finances.

Of course it is. The sad irony is that often Julie-Anne Genter makes much more sense than Grant Robertson on the economy. I’m not sure NZ businesses will be very reassured.

Based on current polling, however, any Labour-Green coalition Government would still likely need the support of Winston Peters and his NZ First party. 

Peters refused to say who he would back before the election. On Tuesday, he rubbished the agreement, calling it a “jack-up”. 

But he did reject the idea of playing “third fiddle” to Labour and the Greens. 

He does not sound keen.

On Tuesday, however, Labour leader Andrew Little was clear the party alliance was “not a monogamous relationship”. 

He would welcome any other party committed to changing the Government and advancing progressive policies.

But he refused to say whether he would leave the Greens out in the cold and form a government with NZ First if it had the numbers and Peters insisted.

Turei said the Greens worked well with NZ First and she had no concerns about being elbowed out.

These were different times, different parties and different leaderships than when Peters blocked the Greens from governing with Labour.

You keep repeating that long enough and you might start to believe it.


Are Labour including affiliate members in the 5,000?

June 2nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

HOW MANY MEMBERS does the Labour Party have in its centenary year? According to the veteran political journalist, Richard Harman, the answer is – not a lot.

Writing in his “Politik” blog on Monday, 23 May, Harman noted:

“Politik has learned that the party’s membership is now probably below that of the Greens, which would place it below 5000, possibly less than half that.”

If true, that is shocking news – and it’s only fair to point out that within 24 hours the Labour Party’s new General Secretary, Andrew Kirton, was assuring Harman that it was not true. “We are far, far higher than 5,000 and therefore well above the Greens.”

In spite of reassuring his readers that the contested information came from “a usually reliable source”, Harman was willing – as of Tuesday morning – to take Kirton at his word.

A more cynical person, upon being told by Labour’s General Secretary that the membership figure is “far, far higher than 5,000”, might offer, by way of response, the words of the infamous call-girl, Mandy Rice-Davies, who, when told that an Establishment big-wig had denied all knowledge of her, shot back the immortal line: “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

Certainly, it would be remarkable if a political party with fewer than 5,000 members entertained any serious hopes of becoming the Government.

I suspect the number of individual members is below 5,000. Labour often muddies the water by including affiliate members as members. But they are not the same thing.

An individual member of a political party is one who every year makes a decision to pay a membership fee to that party. It is a proactive ongoing decision.

Labour’s affiliate members are very different. How they work is like this. Let’s say Union X in 2002 voted to affiliate to Labour. And that 60% of the union members who bothered to vote voted in favour. That union may have 10,000 members yet just 500 may have voted on the decision to affiliate.

Anyway as 60% voted in favour, then 60% of the unions’s members are determined to always be an affiliate member of Labour. So if that union in 2016 has 13,000 then they are deemed to have 7,800 affiliate members. That is despite the fact not a single member of their union pays a sub to Labour (the union just does a block payment at a very low rate).

So if you ever see Labour claim to have X members, ask them how many individual members they have.

Trevett says deal may have handed National the next election

June 2nd, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett writes:

It may indeed be historic but the agreement between the Green Party and Labour today may also effectively have handed the 2017 election to National on a platter.

Labour’s leader Andrew Little was at pains to emphasise the new memorandum of understanding between the two parties was “not monogamous”.

The trouble is that the one man needed to form Little’s Big Love government is NZ First leader Winston Peters and Peters prefers monogamy. …

It is certain there was some resistance in Labour’s own crew to the development. Little has made claims of supporting ‘middle New Zealand’ in recent times and the perception Labour is aligning too closely to the Greens risks undermining that.

There was a grin on Peters’ face after the announcement for a reason. Labour’s support base includes a significant chunk of working class voters who identify more with Peters than the Green Party. Peters will be betting he can scoop up some of that support from Labour. He has already begun, accusing both Labour and the Greens of selling out their supporters.

It is no secret Peters – and some Labour MPs for that matter – think the Green Party is toxic for Labour’s chances of Government. Nor is it any secret that if a Government can be formed with him alone, that is exactly how he likes it.

The only person who will be most delighted by today’s turn of events is one John Key, Prime Minister, whose chances of retaining that title just increased without him having to lift a finger.

Peters has recently said that he has never supported putting the Greens into Government, and isn’t about to start now. The best the Greens can hope for is a Labour-NZ First Government that throws them a few policy crumbs.

Watkins on the Labour-Green “deal”

June 1st, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

Is the Labour-Greens deal what they call the political equivalent of friends with benefits?  The agreement to join forces up to and including the next election campaign apparently comes with no strings attached. The deal foreshadows areas of joint cooperation and policy formation, and maybe even a joint campaign come the next election.

But once the votes are in, all bets are off. The Greens wore their heart on their sleeve at Tuesday’s announcement and talked up the certainty of a political marriage post-election. But with a resurgent Winston Peters lurking in the background, Labour leader Andrew Little was not prepared to commit.

The best reaction to the “deal” was from Steven Joyce:


On that basis, Tuesday’s announcement may make sense. Voters now know that Labour plus the Greens adds up to more than Labour plus none. Labour is hoping that will be the game changer.

Yes, a real game changer that the Greens support Labour over National. This is a shockingly new development, just like it was in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014.

But Labour and Green voters probably had that equation figured in their head anyway. The voters who didn’t are more likely swinging National and NZ First voters. Little may have given them a powerful reason not to tick Labour any more. 

It paints Labour as going further left.


A non agreement

May 31st, 2016 at 4:37 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour and the Greens have announced a memorandum of understanding, to work together to change the Government.

Labour leader Andrew Little said it was time for a change.

“Labour and the Greens have reached agreement, common ground,” he said.

Labour’s relationship with the Green Party was strong and had reached a level of maturity that allowed this step, Little said.

He confirmed he would speak at the Green’s annual conference next weekend.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei said change was on the way.

The Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] would provide crystal clear clarity that was lacking at the last two elections, she told a joint press conference.

A joint approach would change the Government, Turei said.

The MOU included an agreement to co-operate in Parliament and investigate a joint policy and/or campaign.

Little said Grant Robertson would be finance minister in a Labour-Green government but no other discussions had been held over any other roles.

This is a Claytons Agreement. It has nothing of substance, or that isn’t already happening. The key thing is what isn’t in there – any commitment to have Green Party MPs as Ministers. And that isn’t there because they know Winston would veto it, and it is most unlikely they can govern without him.

The MOU is here. Basically it just says they don’t like National. The six commitments are:

  1. waffle on good faith
  2. co-ordinate in Parliament – already happens
  3. investigate joint policy or campaign – meaningless, as no actual commitment to do so
  4. No surprises policy – should already be the norm
  5. co-operate for local body elections – has been happening for last decade anyway
  6. meet monthly – already happening

Again there is absolutely no commitment to there being any Green Ministers at all.


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.