Trans-Tasman on Housing

July 3rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman reports:

Opposition parties thought they had found the perfect stick to beat up the Govt on social housing needs, after TV3’s The Nation disclosed Aust charity Horizon Housing could be in the market to buy up to 500 state houses. It had those elements (profits going overseas, privatising state assets, “ foreign” buyers for taxpayer-funded housing stock on the cheap) which politicians regard as hot-button issues for voters. But Govt Ministers batted away the attacks, pointing out the Aust charity would be subject to the community housing regulatory authority, and then coming up with a quote from the Deputy PM of Aust (when the Labor Govt was in office) declaring Horizon Housing to be “an amazing organisation” doing a great job in Queensland.

It is only NZ Labour that has this strange hatred of the private sector. Other Labour parties focus on results and effectiveness. but NZ Labour instinctively think anything private sector has little or no role in providing Government funded services.

To rub it in the PM then cited comments from Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford his party wanted to see a larger, more capable, empowered community housing sector. 

They want a larger community housing sector yet oppose all the policies designed to achieve that.


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Labour’s new overlord

July 3rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Delegates of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) voted in favour of a proposal to merge with the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU).

EPMU national secretary Bill Newson said the discussions had been ongoing for quite some time and it was a milestone for the merger.


The new mega-union will have massive power in Labour. This one union will control 13% of the leadership electoral college.

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Milk prices

June 30th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealanders are paying over-the-top prices for milk, with Coca-Cola now more affordable, the Labour Party says.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand showed the average price of two litres of milk was $3.19 in May 2013, which had jumped to $3.45 in May this year.

The milk price index has actually dropped 4% in the last 12 months, so Labour are complaining at the time milk prices are dropping.

The index was 1204 in May 2015, 1254 in May 2014 and yes 1129 in May 2013. So by going back two years Labour makes it look like prices are currently increasing.

What do they look like over the last 15 years?


So milk prices in NZ are quite volatile, with some big increases some years and big decreases in other years. That suggests a competitive market.

In the six years and five months since 2008, milk prices have increased just 8.5% overall. That’s an average of 1.3% a year – so below the mid-point of the inflation target range.

Now let’s go back to the comparison with Coke

Shearer said Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy had some explaining to do, as it was “all looking a bit too cosy”.

It was “perverse” that Coca-Cola was more affordable than fresh milk, at a time when child obesity and diabetes were causing major problems in the health system, he said.

First of all the Government does not set the prices of goods. It is no surprise that something which is basically water with some mass produced syrup costs less than milk which has to be produced on a farm and transported.

But even putting aside the stupidity of the comparison, let’s like at the price increases of soft drinks and milk since December 2008.

Milk inflation has been 8.5% while inflation for “soft drinks, waters and juices” has been 21.7%. So under Labour coke was even cheaper than milk!

Now Stats NZ also has the specific average price for a 2 litre container of milk and a 1.5 litre soft drink. If we make this a cost per litre what does it show?


Now you may understand how truly stupid Labour is being. They managed to pick the exact month where in fact milk is slightly cheaper than coke (by 1 cent) – $1.73 vs $1.74. And of course if we go back to 2008, milk was $1.67 a litre and coke $1.31.

But we should not just blame Labour for not doing their homework. They were counting on media who would not fact check them. This took me around 30 minutes with the Stats NZ database. Wouldn’t it be great if a journalist actually did this and when Labour spout off crap like this, ask them questions such as:

  • As milk prices have fallen 4% in the last year, why are you claiming the price is increasing?
  • As milk prices have increased just 1.3% a year since 2008, what is the problem you are claiming needs fixing?
  • As milk is currently cheaper than Coke, why are you claiming it isn’t?

The only way Labour will learn not to shoot off stupid inaccurate crap, is when people call them on it.

UPDATE: Kudos to Claire Trevett who in this article did look beyond the spin from Labour, and point out prices had dropped in the last year.

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One union to rule them all

June 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The old adage of strength in numbers is the main driver behind the proposed merger between two of New Zealand’s larger unions.

In July, the potential combination of the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) with the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) will be put to the vote at a national conference and if it gets the thumbs up there, the memberships of both groups will then get to have their say.

These are the two largest unions of Labour’s six affiliated unions. Individually they have 42% and 25% of the affiliate vote. If they combine they will have 66% of the affiliate vote. It means the combined union will effectively select their own vice-president of the party, have reps on the list moderating committee, be far more dominant at selection meetings and this one entity would control 13% of the leadership electoral college.

In other words the Labour Party would not be far removed from being a subsidiary of the new combined union.  In a leadership ballot the vote of each delegate would be worth almost 50 times as much as an ordinary member.

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Bishop on Labour being the No party

June 22nd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

National MP Chris Bishop writes in NBR:

Historically in New Zealand politics, the Labour Party has liked to think of itself as the party of progressive, even radical, social change.

Conversely, it is sometimes claimed National is the traditional party of conservatism – the party that manages the status quo; that builds on social changes already made.

Whatever the truth of these claims, today’s political situation differs markedly from these perceptions. National and Labour’s traditional roles have reversed.

Labour is now the real conservative party – fearful of innovative social policy, afraid of new ideas – in short, the party which says “No” to everything.

This is so true.

National has been driving a quiet revolution in the state services, getting government departments to focus on results from the better public services programme.

This is having demonstrably good outcomes, as the regular target reports show: a 38% reduction in youth crime since 2011, a 40% drop in the number of teenage solo parents on a benefit since 2011 and immunisation rates for Maori which are now as high as the rest of the population.

Between 2003 and 2008, government spending jumped 50% but there were little to no improvements in social services, as the Salvation Army noted in its State of the Nation report at the time.

Labour are good at spending, but not good in results.

The government is transforming the welfare system toward one designed around an investment and liability prism. Rather than taking a traditional year-on-year cash view, the Ministry of Social Development looks at the lifetime costs of its clients.

This creates the opportunity to spend more today to get a better long-term outcome for individuals and households. This is leading to profound changes in government policy toward people receiving welfare and other government support.

This is encouraging the government to invest in people, particularly the young, and to do it early. This social investment approach is about targeted, evidence-based investment to secure better long-term results.

So spend more in areas where it will save you more in the long-term, and spend less in areas where little is achieved.

Labour’s response to social policy
The first response is often silence. The party has nothing to say about the social investment approach to policy, nothing to say about better public services targets and little to say about Whanau Ora.

You won’t find many press releases from Labour on these important social reforms, or many Parliamentary questions. It’s almost as if it’s too difficult for its MPs to engage with the issues.

If Labour does have something to say, it often reverts to tired and trite clichés. A favourite is to call the government “neo-liberal” – the social democratic politician’s favourite term of abuse for centre-right governments.

Labour’s response to a recent Productivity Commission report about social services was to wail about the government introducing “vouchers” in social services. The party seemed blissfully unaware that “vouchers” (which simply means funding following people when choosing services) are all around us already – in early childhood education, in tertiary education and so on.

Vouchers is what the left call choice.

On the new social impact bonds, Labour wailed about people “profiting” from social services. Profit already exists throughout social services.

As Eric Crampton of The New Zealand Initiative has pointed out, private hospitals profit by providing publicly funded surgery, private pharmacies profit by filling Pharmac scripts and private medical device manufacturers profit by developing better replacement hips for publicly and privately-funded operations.

Do Labour want to nationalise all pharmacies, all GPs, all midwives?

Overall, Labour is fundamentally uninterested in new approaches to old problems. It is a party stuck in an ideological time-warp – which insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, the government has the answers to everything, can effectively address social problems and all that’s required is more government spending.

Social democratic parties around the world have moved on from this 1970s view of government – social impact bonds, for example, were originally a UK Labour government initiative – but New Zealand Labour appears determined to remain stuck in the past.

These days, National is the party of progressive, equitable, social reform. Labour is the real conservative party – saying no to everything, opposing for opposing’s sake and uninterested in new ideas.

As Chris said, NZ Labour is way out of step with other Labour parties around the world.

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Is unity why Labour lost?

June 16th, 2015 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

Rob Salmond writes at Public Address:

Last year I worked on Labour’s campaign in a relatively senior role, and as a result I had access to some of our internal research, including opinion polls and focus groups.

When people in focus groups reported having voted Labour in the past, but reported planning to vote National in 2014, they were often asked: “why have you changed your mind?” In response, issues of unity, backstabbing, in fighting, and so on came up immediately, spontaneously, and repeatedly. Sitting behind the one-way glass listening to that was no fun at all.

That is interesting.

You then need to ask if people will think if things have changed. The leaking of the review report will not have helped change the perception the public have. Some MPs wanting to expel people who want to set up a think tank won’t help either. The fact their leader only got four votes in caucus is a barrier also.

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Trotter asks if Labour is finished?

June 15th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

IF IT HAD ONLY HAPPENED ONCE, I could have written it off as a simple overstatement. Politics lends itself to exaggeration, and there was a lot of that associated with the Labour Party’s Review of the 2014 General Election. But, what I’m describing wasn’t the usual bluff and bluster of the instant commentariat. What I was hearing was coming from “civilians” – people without a platform – ordinary folks. And, what they’ve been saying to me, over and over again, in the week or so since the Review was leaked to TV3’s Paddy Gower, is the same statement-cum-question:  “I think Labour’s finished as a major party – what do you think?”

Now, this is a not the sort of statement/question that political parties ever want to hear. Because it isn’t just another complaint about this leader, or that policy. No, this is an existential query: and existential queries only get made when the subject has already got at least one foot (and a good portion of leg) in the political grave. …

The difference between National’s response to its electoral nadir and Labour’s reaction to its worst result since 1922, is that the former took its thrashing seriously and Labour isn’t. Long before the Review was complete, Labour insiders were already speculating on whether or not it would be big enough to make a passable door-stop.

This is the key thing. Labour didn’t respond to their then worst ever modern defeat in 2011, and following an even worse defeat in 2014, they again have not looked to make any major changes.

National looked upon its defeat as a catastrophic market failure. National Incorporated’s share price had crashed, the Bank was ready to call in its overdraft, and the receivers were hovering. Time was of the essence. The Board of Directors had to do something.

What did they do? Well, they did what every big business in trouble does. They called in the political equivalent of McKinsey & Co. – consultants in extremis – and ruthlessly refashioned the National Party into a lean, mean electoral machine. National’s review panel didn’t just lop-off the dead wood, they fed it into the wood chipper, mixed it with the blood and bones of several sacred cows, and spread it over their flower beds!

Yep. I recall the special conference to approve the changes. I spoke in favour of them (bar one).

Democracy is one of those things (like fairness) that National tends to honour more in the breach than the execution.

I’m reminded of the quote by General McArthur – I’m here to preserve democracy, not practice it :-)

Perhaps Labour could be saved if, like the ancient Romans, they were willing to install a dictator to “save the Republic” from its enemies (in the case of Labour’s membership that would be themselves!) someone capable of turning the party into a lean, mean electoral machine.

Except, of course, Labour’s never going to do that. Which is why so many people are telling me “Labour’s finished” – and  why, regretfully, I’m agreeing with them.

I think Little, as a former president, could save the party. If he is willing to use his position and prestige to push a significant reform package, then he could get it through. But will he take the risk, or just rely on the hope that the voters won’t want to give National a 4th term?

UPDATE: Rob Hosking has similar thoughts:

Hemmed in by enemies on all sides, the New Zealand Labour Party looks increasingly like the old New Zealand Liberal Party: a movement whose time has passed.

The Liberals had their time in the political sun, but society moved on and the party did not. The different wings of the party hived off into other movements and the party itself was subsumed.

Labour looks headed the same way: its cadre of professional politicians have relied on the political cycle turning their way again but the thing about cycles is they tend to turn and end up in a different place.

That s basically their plan – hope the tide turns.

New Zealand’s political Left is overdue for realignment: that re-alignment has, over the past month, moved much closer. 

Budget 2015, meanwhile, dealt another blow: in its combination of the first real increase in benefit levels since 1972 and greater incentives to get off those benefits, it raised the awkward question of why Labour did not do something similar when in government.

Not for the first or last time, the underlying question many on the Left are asking is: what is Labour for?

Giving more power to unions, so they get more money and members, so they can fund Labour.

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Hooton on Labour’s suspicion of the economy

June 15th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton writes:

Labour’s finance spokesman, Grant Robertson, expresses this suspicion of “the economy” quite well.  As he puts it, fairly gently: “To me, the economy is only a means to an end to the kind of society we want, to the well-being of New Zealanders.”

This makes it sound like the economy is something that is the property of the Government!

For many in Labour, though, the sentiment is more extreme: “The economy” is something dirty and unpleasant; the other; something almost to be feared.  After all, talk in the 1980s of economic efficiency and reform – let alone the dreaded “neo-liberal orthodoxy” – is what created the horror of today’s satanic mills that replaced the workers’ paradise they seem to believe existed prior to 1984. Such talk created the vast underclass that these Grey Lynn and Wadestown liberals have read about on Bryan Bruce’s Facebook page and seen on Campbell Live.

The Grey Lynn and Wadestown sets are smart enough to know they must tolerate the continued existence of “the economy” but only because it is necessary to fund benefits for the  “missing million” and government-funded arts festivals for themselves.

Sadly this is only slightly exaggerated.

In contrast, Progress wanted Labour to take a more holistic view of who people are, how they live and where they want to be.  As they see it, in a 24-hour day, people want the opportunity to spend eight hours being involved in creating something meaningful and valuable at work.  They want another eight hours to enjoy time with their families and communities.  And they need the remaining eight hours for sleep in a safe, warm, comfortable home.

That’s a very good way to look at what people see as important – work, family, and home.

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Trotters forgets tax

June 14th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Well, here’s an idea (hat-tip to Danyl McLauchlan). Why not make it a rule that a Labour MP cannot take home more than the average wage of, roughly, $55,000 per year. The balance of their income, $95,000, would go to the party. This would guarantee Labour an annual income, from its current 32-strong caucus, of at least $3,040,000 per year, or, $9,120,000 over the three year parliamentary term.

That’s not a bad war chest – and just think of the effect on Labour’s voters! Knowing that their MPs are unwilling to take home more than the average income earner. That they’re prepared to give up two-thirds of their salaries to ensure that, come election time, the party of the workers stands a fighting chance against the party of the bosses. That they’re not just in it for the money, and the perks, and the power. What do you think that would do for building trust and identification?

There’s one problem with Chris’ calculations. He’s forgotten tax.

Perhaps Chris silently yearns for a low tax economy, where high earners can donate most of their salary to good causes, rather than pay it to the IRD. But we are not there yet.

The IRD will take $40,420 in tax off each MP compared to $9,520 for someone on $55,000. So that is $30,900 less money per MP to be tithed which is $2,966,400 less money over a three year term.

Maybe that would convince Labour to champion low taxes though – so they can tithe more of their income to Labour!

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Hehir’s three tips for what Labour should do

June 12th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes:

TV3 political journalist Patrick Gower got his hands on a draft of Labour’s “what went wrong in 2014″ report last week. This in and of itself seemed a curious happening, because I had it on good authority that all journalism in this country came to an end when John Campbell’s show was cancelled. Nevertheless, the report is a keen and penetrating insight into what Labour thinks about what is arguably its worst ever result.

It seems that one of the party’s major problems is that its internal bureaucracy is just not extensive enough. In addition to its existing deliberative and decision-making bodies, the report recommends that Labour add a campaign committee, a list vetting committee and an executive committee.

On the off chance that more meetings won’t do the trick of restoring Labour to her electoral former glory, I can suggest three other measures that can help get the party back on track for the 2017 general election.

His three measures are simpler to implement. They are:

  1. Uninstall the Twitter app from all MPs’ smartphones
  2. Ban all references to ‘neoliberalism’ in all verbal or written communications
  3. No more personal attacks on the prime minister

Good reasoning on the Twitter issue:

Yes, I know that it is exciting for opposition MPs to have their latest ‘slam’ of the government retweeted 17 times. I’m sure it is also thrilling to be mentioned in political scientist Dr Bryce Edwards’ “top tweets”. In the last election, however, Labour trailed National by more than half a million votes. Social media isn’t going to fix that and, to the extent that it encourages Labour MPs to play to the gallery, it will make closing the gap all the harder.

The more time Labour MPs spend on Twitter, the more confused they become that people did not vote for them, as everyone likes them on Twitter when attacking the Nasty Nats.

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NZ Labour to the left of other Labour parties

June 11th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A lot of NZ Labour’s problems come from its ideological hatred of the private sector, and their kneejerk opposition to anything involving the private sector – regardless of the impact a programme may have in helping the most disadvantaged.

They’re against privately managed prisons, even if they do a better job of rehabilitating prisoners.

They’re against charter schools even if they do a better job of helping the most disadvantaged students gain qualifications

And we’re seen it again with their kneejerk opposition to social impact bonds. Labour seem to have no fresh ideas of their own, just a long list of things they oppose.

Now take social impact bonds. Are they some sort of right wing master plot to privateer and make money out of social services? No doubt they were pioneered by Market Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Well here are the parties that have been implemented social impact bonds overseas:

  • UK Labour in 2010
  • NSW Labour in 2011
  • US Democrats in 2012
  • Massachusetts in 2012
  • NY State Democrats in 2013

You can have a valid view on the benefits and risks of social impact bonds. But the reality is that these are initiatives pioneered by centre-left Governments that rightly are focused on what works, rather than whether or not it involves the private sector. But NZ Labour seem unable to get past its ideological opposition to the private sector, so they remain stranded as a party that stands for little, but opposes a lot.

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Labour MPs want members expelled for daring to form a think tank

June 10th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Politik reports:

Controversy within the Labour Party over moves by some right wing members and MPs to set up a think tank aligned with the party.

Some sources say that things got heated at last week’s Labour caucus over the proposal and  expulsion of some of those involved was threatened.

As I have said many times, Labour is all for diversity – except diversity of opinion.

But a spokesperson for Labour Leader Andrew Little says that while he does not discuss what happens at caucus, those reports are “inaccurate”.

Indeed the spokesperson said Mr Little said he welcomed the idea.

“Labour is a broad church and we welcome all sorts of ideas,” she said.

“If people want to have things like think tanks with ideas that’s good.”

I don’t even know why it was discussed at their caucus. Members should be free to set up whatever they want.

I co-founded the Taxpayers Union. I didn’t seek permission from anyone in National about it. In fact I didn’t even tell any MP about it until just before it launched. NZTU often disagrees with the Government, and/or criticises National. It’s called having a diversity of views on the centre-right. Labour though seems to again have problems with any diversity of views.

I would have thought the Labour caucus would have more pressing things to discuss than whether they like a proposed think-tank.


Gower on Labour

June 8th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower had some harsh words for Labour in the light of the leaked review, on Radio Live.

Bryce Edwards summarised what Gower said:

“Basically this report is a vanilla description of Labour’s pathetic campaign… What it also illustrates is Labour is still leaking, Labour is still unprofessional, Labour is still engaged in bizarre ruling-by-committee. Labour wasn’t ready for Government in 2014 and I can tell you from looking at this report and the dealings I’ve had with it at the moment, Labour isn’t ready for Government any time soon”.

Gower doesn’t stop there, and argues that the Labour Party has transformed into a narrow party out of sync with ordinary people:  “Labour can’t even review their own disastrous campaign… This is a party with serious, serious problems. It’s rotten to the core. Give up, pack up the Labour tent and go home. Because it’s a shame for what was actually 100 years ago a fine movement that started. And it’s just an embarrassment today. It’s just a group of sectoral interests and chardonnay socialists that have taken it over and driven it into the ground”.

Duncan Garner also extends this point, saying, “I’ve wondered for some time whether Labour is just a special sector party for special interest groups, rather than a mainstream party”. He adds that he genuinely doesn’t know what the party stands for anymore. 

Now understandably Labour doesn’t like such harsh criticism, and they have been putting it about that Gower was so damning of them, because after he approached them over the leaked review, they released it before the 6 pm news bulletin, robbing him of his scoop.

John Drinnan buys into this narrative:

Labour Party folk were stunned when journalist Paddy Gower embarked on a radio tirade on Wednesday, saying the party was “rotten to the core” and had been run into the ground by chardonnay socialists. …

But it seems the extraordinary overreaction against Labour occurred because the report was leaked to him and Radio NZ by a Labour insider and, when the party found out, it passed the report on to other media. Gower got the TV scoop, but ironically, TVNZ screened it earlier in its bulletin. Such is the cut and thrust of media management in the public and private sector.

People brought forward an announcement to counter a leak, which they assumed would be portrayed in a more negative way, then Paddy spat the dummy, presumably to teach Labour a lesson.

With respect, this is pretty rubbish reasoning. The reason it is rubbish reasoning, is that Gower (a 10 year veteran of the gallery) would have known full well that once he approached Labour for comment, they would probably release the report. This is not an unusual thing. Almost every political party does this, and the gallery know they do this. If you hear a reporter has a leaked document and it will be on the 6 pm news, you rush to release it before 6 pm, so you can try and spin it your way.

To suggest that Labour’s releasing the report early would have so enraged Gower, that he lost his temper and went harsh on them as revenge, is just silly. This is, again, pretty normal behaviour from a political party when they hear something has been leaked.

Labour are trying to divert attention away from Gower’s actual analysis, because sadly for them it is harsh but not inaccurate.

There are several things that should be worrying Labour:

  • The review is so superficial and light that it is unlikely to produce great change
  • The voting power of Labour’s sector groups means that any change against their interests is unlikely to get anywhere
  • Oppositions generally grow vote in opposition, not lose it
  • If you do drop support while in opposition, then that is when you need to change things. National did so after the 2002 election, and Labour should have done so after 2011 but didn’t. And now looks to not do so again after the 2014 vote drop.
  • The fact that the review was leaked, shows that Labour is still very divided and lacking the cohesion to be a credible alternative Government
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Thoughts on Labour’s 2015 Review from a former Labour insider

June 6th, 2015 at 4:28 pm by kiwi in america

Labour’s third post-election defeat review (the 2015 edition) was leaked to Paddy Gower of TV 3 News earlier this week. As with the previous reviews in 2009 and 2012, it focused on all the wrong things and offers virtually nothing to solve Labour’s systemic problems. Paddy Gower said he could’ve taken 40 seconds to come up with what’s wrong with Labour not the eight months it took Bryan Gould and his team and spared Labour the hassle and he’s right!

Over Easter 2014, I published a lengthy essay on why Labour is in the position it is in right now. This latest review merely confirms their plight. Labour have lost the last three elections because they have moved away from being a broad church party that once was a home to centrist moderates such as small business and socially conservative people who have a social justice bent. The party is now dominated by more left leaning narrower sector groups such as feminists, trade unionists, academics, beneficiaries and rainbow groups and their sympathisers. Combined together, these groups represent maybe 20% of the voting population leaving another 5 to 10% comprising left leaning floating voters or habitual ingrained Labour supporters who will never leave them. A portion of the socialist and environmental left (the less politicised youth vote that actually votes and the Wadestown socialist set) have mostly gone over to the Greens. The left’s core vote seems to be stuck at its bedrock support of about 36% (if you add in Mana).

What is the impact of changing a party from being a broad based party to a narrower interest group driven party?

  • The loss of moderating voices who are either driven out by strident leftists or leave because their voices are no longer listened to. This loss is keenly felt during the policy making, and in the candidate selection, processes.
  • The party machinery, once captured by the Clark faction (sometimes dubbed the ‘sisterhood’), set about turning the party into an institution that became more controlled by the same likeminded activists who come from the same limited sector groups. This has created an echo chamber where it is difficult for dissenting views, once tolerated, to thrive and act as a moderating influence. Spend a few days at The Standard and you’ll see this tendency vividly on display.
  • The left tends to favour centralised control to enforce cultural and policy purity. This has led to the narrow factional groups selecting candidates in winnable electorate seats and for the upper electable half of the List from the ranks of those who think like them.
  • The party’s activist base is more ideological and this tendency favours the incubation of more left wing policies and a tendency to reward doctrinal pureness over the more appealing pragmatism more often proposed by moderate centrists.
  • The smaller number of members makes it easier to impose the views of the harder left activist base onto the whole party. An example of this was the 2012 Constitutional Amendment changing the election of the party leader to a primary involving the wider party and the affiliated unions. This amendment was one of the longest suicide notes in NZ political history but the party’s base is so insulated and tone deaf to the negative electoral reality of this change that they still congratulate themselves on their democratic generosity giving little heed to the consequences that are now so readily evident in the quality of the two leaders since the change.
  • A smaller membership base has enhanced the power of the unions as their privileged position has remained constitutionally enshrined leading to union favoured candidates now twice winning the leadership; both over the wishes of their caucus.
  • Having purged the party of Rogernomics, the institutional instinct to never again be suckered into right leaning polices has led to party-wide resistance to moving to the centre.
  • Repeated electoral failure, ossification of the caucus (the refusal to weed out the dead wood due to the need for successful leadership challengers to pay off factional support in caucus) and the failure of the extra-Parliamentary party leadership to have or retain a professional fundraiser has led to Labour’s impoverished financial state.

The review instead focuses on mostly the wrong things. It identifies the impact of the lack of fundraising without really drilling down to the nub of the problem. It obsesses over red herrings such as the so-called missing million – a canard that even their own supporters have told them to give up on. It recommends internal structural and procedural changes that will do nothing to enhance Labour’s electoral appeal and indeed some (e.g. the List Committee) will reinforce centralised control over candidate selection and ensure precisely the types of centrist candidates that would appeal more to middle NZ are NOT selected. It genuflects in the direction of PC touchstones such as recommending acknowledging the Treaty of Waitangi more on the hustings (a sure fire way to turn OFF Waitakere Man) and it reflects the flawed leftist mindset that first their left leaning policies must be hidden from view to prevent their opponents from defining them and then explained more articulately; again built around the false assumption that the problem is less the message and more the messenger. There is no mention of any of the REAL reasons for Labour’s unpopularity and utter and complete denial as to the parlous state that it finds itself in for the reasons listed above and thus no strategy to reverse course and win back the middle.

Labour’s electoral prospects have been hampered not helped by the introduction of MMP. In its early years, Labour benefited from MMP because the other party of the left was a creature that came from Labour. The Alliance was dominated by New Labour most particularly Jim Anderton. Anderton was a former Labour Party President before he became an MP and was a close colleague of Helen Clark. Once the Greens broke free from the Alliance and began to campaign as their own brand, Labour was forced to deal with an appealing and virginally new party to its left flank. When Labour could attract centrist votes off National, it could govern with the Greens numbers but keep their nutty vote killing economic policies away from the Cabinet table. I’ve said before, Labour is fighting for votes in a relatively narrow slice of electoral real estate boxed in by a very centrist (and occasionally left leaning) National Party which remains on good terms with its partner party to its right and an expansionist and aggressive Green Party to its left. The consequence of the collapse of Labour’s vote and the leakage of its left leaning supporters to the Greens and its centrist supporters to National, leaves Labour in the invidious position of relying 100% on the Greens to form a government and this time the Greens want Cabinet positions commensurate with their share of the coalition (as the Alliance, Progressives and NZ First all got from Labour at various times from 1999 to 2008). ACT is massively dwarfed by National and so realises it can only be in government with a few modest policy wins and not with any front bench Cabinet position. Labour’s demise and disproportionately greater reliance on the Greens means, no matter how much dodging, tough talking and fudging it may do in the run up to an election, that it must go to middle NZ voters as a government in waiting that will inevitably include front bench Cabinet positions from the Greens leadership and more substantial integration of the Greens’ more extremist anti-business nanny state and vote killing interventions.  Labour’s platform is effectively weighed down by the Greens’ worst publicly announced policy (and the even nuttier ones they are keeping under wraps until the day their leaders get Ministerial warrants!)

The ultimate irony is that the very people who could take Labour back to the vote rich centre are the MPs like Shane Jones who were ostracised, ignored by the bulk of the party and ultimately driven out. The centralisation of the selection process and its capture by the harder left activist base ensures that the new Shane Jones’ are ‘strangled at birth’ and never see the inside of a Labour caucus room. Labour is left to shuffle its leadership around its narrow pool of talent in the hope that someone, anyone will break through, take down John Key and ignite the missing million. Little clearly is not succeeding but what can Labour do? Bumble on to 2017 with Little’s periodic pratfalls or take a fifth punt on Robertson who offers himself as boring gay policy wonkish civil servant? Or run with a pretty new female face in the form of the vacuous Jacinda Adern? Only Nash or Davis have the centrist instincts, appeal and on-the-ground electoral chops to begin to take Labour back to its broad church days. Would the unions and the harder left base vote for either of them? Would both groups voluntarily surrender their own power to control future leadership elections? The answer to both questions is: not likely and therein lies Labour’s conundrum. It is actually trapped where it is and there is little institutional momentum on the horizon to properly change it. A fourth term in Opposition is the only thing that will see them embrace the radical surgery that this review utterly avoids recommending.

[UPDATE] I just listened to the Friday 5 June “Focus on Politics” on National Radio featuring an interview with the Greens’ new male co-leader James Shaw. It has relevance to discussion about Labour’s Review because he repeated the line about the need for pre-election coalition clarity mentioned in the review. Shaw thinks because Labour and the Greens hit polling highs just after their joint announcement of the Kiwi Power policy featuring the partial nationalisation of the power industry that this is evidence that joint campaigning is the way to get a Labour Green government elected in 2017. Both sides seem to think that the lack of clarity over how a Labour Greens coalition would work was part of the reason why both parties polled so low. Like the same comment in the Labour Review, this is delusional thinking on a grand scale. Knowing that Labour and the Greens want to have a stable coalition is not the problem. It’s WHAT that coalition would really implement as policies was the problem for voters. Even with their separate campaigning and relative coyness about what a Labour Greens government would look like was enough for middle NZ voters to conclude that National was a safer option. If Labour and the Greens think spelling out the contours of their coalition and talking about them governing together stably MORE would enhance their chances, good luck with that. Shaw, Turei and the authors of the Review don’t get that floating centrist voters see ANY government with the Greens in it as inflicting anti business nanny state environmental extremism on their wallets and they will vote for National for a fourth term to prevent that from happening.

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More views on Labour’s review

June 5th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Danyl McL blogs:

The draft states – in a diplomatic way – that the affiliates, ie the unions, have an awful lot of power within Labour, but that they don’t do much during elections or give the party much money.

Which I find interesting. Ever since the UK election I’ve been wondering about the role that unions play in left-wing politics there, in Australia, and here. Having these powerful external organisations running around stacking selections, picking MPs and playing kingmaker within the party, which then gets slaughtered when the public don’t like the candidates they picked doesn’t seem to be working out that well for anyone.

Sadly Labour have been moving towards giving unions more power within Labour, not less. The unions annointed Andrew Little leader, despite Grant Robertson being the first choice of the members and caucus.

But I doubt former EMPU boss Andrew Little would agree with that, or the implied criticism of the unions in the review. So my theory is that Little demanded that point be removed from the final draft and someone who felt strongly about the point – and, perhaps, the role the unions played putting Little into power – leaked the draft.

A plausible theory.

A lot of people spent an awful lot of time and money trying to get ‘the missing million’ to vote in 2014. The conventional wisdom on the left is that the missing million stopped voting because there was no alternative to ‘neoliberalism’. Well, the Cunliffe-led Labour Party was very left-wing. The Greens were even more left-wing. Mana/Internet were very left-wing. The missing million didn’t vote for any of them. I’m all for research into this group of voters, but the lesson of 2014 is that targeting people who don’t vote instead of people who do is political suicide.

Hopefully Labour will ignore Danyl, and keep focusing on the missing million!

This section is too long to fully quote, but reveals that Labour does not have an executive committee or a campaign committee, both fairly staggering organisational gaps in a modern political party.

Their NZ Council has 22 members on it. Everyone knows that is too large to be a proper governing body. You need o either have a more manageable size (National has a nine person board) or have an executive committee.

And a party that doesn’t have a campaign committee!

Labour had some embarrassingly terrible candidates in the last election. But one of their biggest problems is that too many of their candidates are unionists or staffers imposed by the party on electorates that they have no connection to, and who keep running in that same electorate even as the electorate and party votes sink lower and lower. Building up the local branches and letting them identify high quality candidates seems like the obvious solution there, not further centralisation. That would be lots of hard work through, instead of a simple organisational change.

Labour Party member Phil Quin is even harsher:

The Gould Review was a carnival of navel gazing. A joke. 


However, the leaked review contains a glistening turd, namely the proposed Vetting Committee for the Labour list.

This is an atrocious idea. Because of its first past the post voting rules, Labour’s governing body is already a mono-factional behemouth incapable of promoting anyone but their own.  Adding an additional committee made up of handpicked members, unelected and unaccountable to party members, to vet poential candidates is not only needlessly bureaucratic; it is flagrantly undemocratic. 

Who would the NZ Council appoint to such a Vetting Committee other than people who agree with them?  How does that solve anything? How does it not simply entrench the problem that the party elites are determined to shrink the talent pool to include only people they would be happy to invite around for dinner?

The solution to a lack of internal democracy is not to create an undemocratic entity that takes even more power away from party members. 

In the pantheon of bad ideas, this one deserve high billing. 

The leaking of the review has highlighted even better than the review itself, the major problem. Labour is unfit to govern. Different factions leaking to do over the other faction.

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Labour’s campaign review

June 4th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Someone in Labour leaked a copy of their campaign review to 3 News. It is online here.

Some of their conclusions are stark:

In general, Labour’s campaign preparation was inadequate.
Perceptions of tension around the leadership and disunity within caucus seriously undermined Labour’s credibility with voters and frustrated any attempt to present a Party that was ready for government.
Labour did not present a coherent and convincing image of itself or its policies. There was a general lack of message discipline, and the policies put forward at the election were often complex, difficult to understand and easily misrepresented by our opponents.
By misrepresented, they mean correctly explained!
Some of the recommendations:
  • It is imperative that Labour acts – and is seen to act as a disciplined and coherent team that is ready for government if it is to win the trust of voters in 2017. As a key element of this process, the senior leadership team within Caucus should be given greater prominence and responsibility throughout the three years.
  • Great care should be taken in deciding when and which policies should be put before the public, and the language that should be used to explain them.

The first one is the leader should stop hogging all the limelight. The second seems to suggest that some of their policies will be kept secret form the public!

  • Labour has still to define positively and confidently convincing, alternative macro-economic policies, which also respond to wider social and environmental issues,despite emerging international challenges to neo-liberal orthodoxy

This sounds like a Bryan Gould point – railing against neoliberalism, despite the fact we do not have anything close to a neoliberal Government.

  • All electorate candidates should also nominate for the list to ensure that candidates campaign for both the electorate and the Party. It was apparent in the last election that some electorate candidates did not campaign for the Party vote.

Such as Clayton Cosgrove, who ironically is a List MP!

Patrick Leyland looks at the review, and is unimpressed with it.

At the end of the day this review is a mess. However the biggest problem will be if the party focusses on the guff in it (I can already imagine the fights that changes to LEC and regional council rules will cause) and continues to ignore the very real political problems it faces – which remain largely unaddressed.

Given this review is a waste of the envelope it was written on, it will be interesting to see how the new leader and president react

Also of interest is Richard Harman at Politik:

Another major Labour Party document has apparently come as a surprise to Leader Andrew Little.

The review of the Election Report was leaked on Wednesday afternoon to Radio New Zealand.

But even though the report was obviously finished,  POLITIK understands it was not made available to the Leader’s office until after it had been leaked.

So the media got hold of the review before the Leader!!


So what was Labour’s response on the $30,000 door?

June 4th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Been sent these e-mails:

From: Group Manager Precinct Services
Sent: Friday, 23 January 2015 3:49 p.m.
To: Tim Macindoe; Chris Hipkins
Subject: Parliament House level 2 – proposed separation door

Hello Tim and Chris,

As you are aware PH level 2 accommodates members from both parties.  When the accommodation allocation was done last September there was talk of installing a corridor door to physically separate the parties, please see the attached floor plan with the small yellow highlighted area indicating the proposed door location.  This door has not been installed – my question to you is “do we need to install it?”

For all the right reasons we are all used to getting up from our desk during the day, leave papers lying around, not always consciously locking our computer, and not often locking the office door.  That’s a great way to be able to work.  The situation I want to avoid is something going missing and the bone being pointed at the other party sharing the floor when it could be anyone at fault, or a genuine mistake.

If we install the door the card readers on either side will prevent the other party from accessing through the door.  ‘Neutral’ people like security officers and Parliamentary Service staff will be able to get through both ways.  The kitchen adjacent to the door will become Nationals (as I understand a gentleman’s agreement has it today); Labour will have access to the kitchen (room 2-012) accessed from the corridor by the spouses room (2-009).  There are stair wells that provide access to either space so members from one party could access the others space via a stairwell.  Installing the door isn’t a complete solution, but it does put a separation point in place for those who’s offices are on level 2.

Could you please consider the merits and pitfalls of installing this door.  I don’t need an immediate answer so if you would like to consult with your members I am happy to wait.  If you want to continue to trial it without the door but reserve the right to ask for it to be installed at some future date that’s fine with me too, I’ll keep the funding in my capital forecast.

I’d like us to agree on what we decided to do (or not do) so we all avoid a tension point in the coming months or years.  Thank you very much.


Group Manager Precinct Services

And the e-mail between National MPs:

From: Tim Macindoe
Sent: Thursday, 29 January 2015 2:09 p.m.
To: Seven National MPs
cc: Nine National staffers

Subject: Your views re: Parliament House level 2 – proposed separation door

Hi everyone,

I have now heard from all of you in response to my request for your thoughts about installing an extra security door on Level 2, and I’m pleased that you are all of the same view.

Thank you for replying and for the helpful reasons you provided for not wanting the door.  I have now summarised those views and replied to Jim Robb on behalf of the National Caucus requesting that the status quo be maintained, while reserving the option to look at the matter again at some future date should problems be reported.

Kind regards,


That’s pretty crystal clear. National MPs and staff were unanimous in January they saw no need for the door. So you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce Labour insisted on it.

Maybe Chris Hipkins could release the e-mails between himself and PS on the issue.

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Labour wants to repeal three strikes

June 3rd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Supporters of the three-strikes law designed to combat violent crime say it should be extended to cover more offences, with one group saying a similar law could cover almost every crime.

But a critic says more should be done to address the causes of violent crime.

The “three-strikes legislation”, which passed into law in June 2010 after a push from then-ACT politician David Garrett, gives people who commit violent offences “strikes” when they plead or are found guilty.

A first strike serves as a warning, and a second strike requires an offender to serve their sentence without parole.

Someone who gets a third strike must serve the maximum sentence possible without parole, unless the court considers it would be manifestly unjust.

Nationally, 5378 first strikes and 76 second strikes have been given, but no third strikes.

So 98.6% of offenders who got a first strike, have not gone on and committed a second strike offence. That’s great. The certainty of knowing that they will not get parole if given a second strike appears to be a strong deterrent.

The violent crime rate was increasing significantly under Labour and pre three strikes. In 2004 it was 77.87 per 100,000 and it increased every year peaking at 105.13 in 2009. Since then it has dropped every year, down to 87.80.

Labour Party justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said she did not accept figures showed the bill worked, and that more specific research should be done.

Labour wanted the law gone, as it took away judges’ power to look at the circumstances around an offence, with the party wanting to put more focus on helping offenders turn away from crime, she said.

So that is crystal clear. Labour will repeal three strikes.

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Trotter says Labour not connecting

May 31st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

In order to sell a Labour Party based on Choice, Aspiration, Responsibility and National Pride; a credible, likeable (and because, historically, Labour is coming off such a low base) a frankly inspirational leader is required. Someone with a personality powerful enough to rekindle the love Labour lost in the 1980s and 90s – and only fleetingly recovered in the early noughties. Someone capable of sparking-up the old flame. And, more than this, someone fresh and fascinating enough to attract and hold the attention of Generations X, Y and Z. Someone to warrant a selfie – and a vote.

Does this sound like Andrew Little? Does it sound like anyone in Labour’s post-2014 caucus? If the answer is “No”, then, even with Sir Michael’s sage advice, the party’s in a pretty pickle. It has tried, four times, to pick a winner: twice by the judgement of the Caucus alone; twice according to the judgement of the whole party. Every single one of them failed to fire. And whoever heard of fifth time lucky?

If they want emotional connection, then maybe the answer is Jacinda?

Something has to be done, however, or, like Sir Keith Holyoake, the New Zealand political leader he so closely resembles, the Prime Minister will lead his party to its fourth consecutive election victory.

Little started strongly last year. Almost everyone said this. But his performance so far this year has been a combination of Missing In Action and Misfiring.

“When in doubt”, says Lynton Crosby, “stand for something!” And then, he might have added, convince a majority of voters to stand with you

If Labour can’t find a leader to do that for them, then, for God’s sake, let them hire a campaign manager who can!

Maybe McCarten should become Leader and Little the campaign manager! :-)

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Cullen on what the left are doing wrong

May 26th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Mike Smith at The Standard blogs an extract from a recent speech by Michael Cullen. I’ve blogged on a similar speech of his previously, but some stuff there worth emphasising:

There are some facts we need to take into account.

First, John Key is a phenomenon – the modern-day Holyoake. We spent 12 years underestimating Holyoake to our cost – we’ve spent nine years underestimating Key. Every now and then we think the tide is turning but I see no evidence of that in the polling data. Key still has numbers which are stratospherically good by historic comparisons – we must recognise that, and the amount of time that we spend on attacking Key is largely a waste of time.

Yet this is what they try and do week in and week out. They’ve done it for nine years so far.

Second, Labour is well behind on leadership and economic credibility – no-one has ever won government by being behind on both.

The leader is Andrew Little and finance spokesperson is Grant Robertson. I think they’d do better if they swapped roles.

Broad areas of agreement on policy – sustainability which for me is the unifying over-arching concept. Issues of inequality and poverty – but let us talk about levelling up instead of levelling down – that is why growth is important because we have to redistribute the dividends of growth – no government has every got elected by redistributing a static cake.

How many Labour policies are about increasing economic growth?

In terms of Labour itself there are four things we nee to recapture. First is choice – for young people what they want to know is that we will enable all people to have choice.

How many Labour policies are about increasing choice? How many are about removing choice?

Second is aspiration  – party that has stood for hundred years for opportunity has lost the concept that we help all people to get ahead. Need to be careful – attacking the super-rich easily turns into people feeling that we are attacking those who are trying to do well.

Only 6% may earn more than $100,000 (and they pay 37% of income tax) but a good 40% or so aspire to earn that much, or have family members earning that much.

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Labour preparing for victory

May 22nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman reported:

Labour leader Andrew Little, who made a good start in the role, has found his poll ratings slipping in recent weeks (with Winston Peters snapping at his heels). He miscued when he contended John Key should stand down a Minister whose brother was reported as facing criminal charges. Bigger problems are to get his team functioning as a policy-making machine, and to stimulate (or discard) those who think they have only to sit it out before they are back in Govt.

Reports of sessions being held for staff to acquaint them how they would operate in Ministerial offices points to a hard-to-shake mindset which underlines the process of rejuvenation has yet to begin. Five of Labour’s MPs have 146 years of service in the House between them.

This must surely be a joke. Labour’s running sessions on preparing for Government just six months after their worst election result in 90 years.


How Labour MPs should have responded

May 20th, 2015 at 9:15 am by David Farrar

Many on the left are up in arms over the responses given by Labour MPs to remits Young Labour got through two regional conferences to full fund gender reassignment surgery (we currently fund four a year). Quotes from Labour MPs included:

  • Andrew Little – “I’m quite happy with my gender.”
  • Stuart Nash – “”I don’t think it’s an issue that’s important to the people of New Zealand”
  • David Shearer – “What is it?”
  • Grant Robertson – ” didn’t feel strongly about the funding of gender reassignment surgery”

Here’s the answer they should have given, which wouldn’t have offended their supporters – “I think it is a good thing that some gender reassignment surgery is publicly funded and it would be nice to extend that, but there are many worthy health procedures to fund, and we’ll consider what the priorities are in future”.

The substance of the answer is much the same, but less dismissive of those who are on the waiting list (which is currently 30 years or so at 4 a year).

And kudos to Young Labour for pushing the remit at Labour conferences. Youth wings should not just be quiet little helpers to parties, but should push their own views on policy, and represent the views of their members.

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Labour blames Govt for an NGO’s expenditure problems

May 19th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Grant Robertson has exclaimed:

The National Government has big questions to answer about how a provider of services to thousands of vulnerable New Zealanders is set to fold, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says.

Relationships Aotearoa which provides support and counselling to families, individuals and survivors of domestic violence is set to shut its doors, minus any last minute intervention.

“There are thousands of vulnerable people and families who rely on Relationships Aotearoa for critical services. The government cannot leave them in the lurch.

“Like other non-governmental organisations, Relationships Aotearoa has been seriously underfunded in recent years. It has been asked to do more with less and the strain has clearly started to tell.

This is typical Labour. If an NGO has financial issues, then the answer is the taxpayer must throw more money at them. In the same breath they expect us to believe they would ever have lowered the deficit.

Let’s take a look at the latest accounts for this NGO:

  • Income of $9.8 million – mainly from the Government
  • Expenditure of $10.3 million
  • Central expenditure has doubled in one year from $984k to $1,957k
  • Equity of $1.5 million
  • Cash in bank of $3 million
  • Central salaries doubled from $551k to $1,065k

So the obvious conclusion from all this is it is all the fault of the Government – yeah right.

Does Labour ever find an issue, where the answer isn’t tax people more and spend more.

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Almost everything Robertson asks for is being done!

May 18th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald has a Budget wishlist from Grant Robertson. What is interesting in there is the total lack of new ideas – in fact 90% of what he calls for is already occurring! Let’s go through them.

What was required was an active policy of targeted financial investment stronger innovation partnerships,

Has he not heard of the Callaghan Institute? The invested $270 million in innovation partnerships in 2014.

encouragement of migration to the regions

You already gain extra points to qualify as a migrant if your job offer is outside Auckland, and the Government has said it is looking at more points on top of that.

and research and development through tax credits to all qualifying companies rather than the grants system that operates now.

This is the one actual difference. It’s not a huge difference whether you encourage R&D through grants or tax credits. One problem with tax credits is it means companies just reclassify expenditure to qualify.

Mr Robertson also said the Budget should focus on making housing affordable for all New Zealanders.

While the Reserve Banks was dealing with the issue of housing demand, “the Government cannot outsource housing policy to them.”

Which the Government announced on Sunday – in contrast to Labour which now has no policy at all on the demand side.

Mr Robertson said he also wanted to see moves in the Budget to diversity the economy away from the reliance on dairy

This is a myth the left love to push.  However if you look at the contribution to GDP, dairy is quite modest at around 4%. And the Stats NZ data series (SNE048AA ) shows the dairy proportion (dairy farming and dairy manufacturing) to be:

  • 2008 3.9%
  • 2009 4.0%
  • 2010 3.1%
  • 2011 3.9%
  • 2012 4.2% (last year available)

So no big change over time.

and it should invest more in education and training to prepare for “a new economy”.

Vote Education (including Tertiary) has increased by $2.378 billion since the 2008 budget and will no doubt increase more in the 2015 budget.

So basically everything Grant demanded the Government do, it has been doing – with the exception of changing R&D grants to R&D tax credits. They really have no policy or ideas.

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Labour says National to blame for US Senate vote

May 15th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

The government’s accused of economic mismanagement, as the Trans Pacific Partnership deal threatens to grind to a halt.

Political infighting in the US means a big delay in negotiations.

New Zealand’s Trade Minister Tim Groser admits it could see the TPP fall apart.

Labour’s trade spokesperson David Parker remarks the government has already talked up the benefits, and promised to land the deal.

“Seems to be the way of this government. They promised we’d be back into surplus long before now and we’re still in deficit, you know we’ve got regions languishing.

“If they don’t make their trade obligations, well it’s just another long litany of imperfect management on the economy.”

So David Parker is implying it is the fault of National that left wing Democrats in the US Senate voted against cloture on fast track authority for Obama.

Not really helping the chance of Labour being seen as a credible opposition.

Incidentally the US Senate has now voted 65-33 to debate the fast track authorisation, so presumably David Parker will credit National with this turn-around!