Comparing the front benches

November 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A comparison of the National (11) and Labour (8) front benches.

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MP Status

Only one of Labour’s front bench is a List MP – the leader. All the others are electorate MPs. National is two thirds electorate and one third list.

Gender

Both are close to one third female.

Ethnicity

Both around one quarter Maori.Labour also has a Pasifika front bencher.

Age

For the first time for a while (I think) Labour now has a younger front bench. Three quarters are aged below 50.

Area

Labour has issues here. Half the front bench is from Wellington and no one from Christchurch or provincial NZ.

Island

There is not a single South Island MP on Labour’s front bench. In fact only two SI MPs intheir top 17.

Decade Entered

National and Labour now have similar profiles in terms of longevity of front benchers in Parliament.

So overall this reshuffle has rejuvenated the Labour front bench and the two front benchers now looking quite similiar except Labour has an age advantage and National an area advantage.

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Little’s reshuffle

November 24th, 2014 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

Overall Andrew Little has done a good job with his reshuffle, considering the somewhat limited options he has. I’d give it a 7/10. He has rejuvenated the front bench and not played factional politics too much. Most appointments seem to be based on merit.

His first week as leader has gone well. He has been comfortable in his press conferences, and his tone has been good. When asked on TV this morning why he is calling for Rennie to go, but not also the DPMC head, he gave a logical response based on their different roles.

He hasn’t set the world on fire, and maybe our expectations are lower because of the stuff ups by previous incumbents, but at this stage there is nothing much you can fault him on. Labour need a solid leader, and that may now have it.

In terms of the new line up, let’s start with the overall look, and then the details.

  • A plus for a fresh front bench, of whom only two were Ministers in the last Government
  • A plus for a front bench which has good gender and ethnic diversity
  • A plus for a front bench largely based on merit
  • A big negative for four of the top six being Wellington MPs including Leader, Deputy Leader, Leader of the House and Finance Spokesperson. Labour may struggle to reconnect with NZ when their top six is so beltway.
  • A small negative that no one wanted to be Deputy Leader (except Nanaia) so poor Annette had to be drafted in again

In terms of the individuals

  • Little having no portfolios outside security is sensible
  • King as Deputy Leader is a good short term move (she has it for a year only). While it is a bad look that they need an MP who entered Parliament 30 years ago to remain Deputy, her personal skills for he job are superb. One Labour insider commented to me that the gap between Anette and the next most competent female Labour MP is astonomical.
  • Robertson as Finance is a risk. He is a skilled politician and communicator, but I am not sure how much credibility he will have talking about the economy, when he has never worked in the private sector. His challenge is to bridge that gap.
  • Mahuta gets No 4 mainly because her followers all voted for Little. few could seriously suggest she is their 4th best MP. What are her achievements in the 18 years she has been an MP? With just one portfolio (Maori Development), her workload could be very light.
  • Twyford as Housing and Transport is a good choice – he knows the issues well.
  • Hipkins as Shadow Leader and Education also sound.
  • Sepuloni is promoted ahead of Ardern to get Social Development. A big opportunity for her considering she has had only one term in Parliament. Has to prove she deserves the spot.
  • A very good call making Davis front bench and giving him portfolios such as Police, Corrections and Domestic Violence. Could do very well so log as he gets Little to dump his policy of making people accused of rape having to prove their innocence.
  • Ardern gets demoted for the second time in a row and drops off the front bench (they have only eight front bench seats in the House). She gets a major portfolio in Justice but is against Amy Adams who I think will excel there.
  • Clark gets a promotion and Economic Development. Could have gone further but has a chance to prove himself
  • Sio has Pacific Island Affairs and Local Government. Doubt we’ll see much more than in the past,
  • Lees-Galloway gets the important (for Labour) portfolio of Labour. Suspect Little will lead most of the work in this area though.
  • Woods gets Environment and Climate Change. Likely to be over shadowed by the Greens.
  • Cunliffe, Parker, Shearer and Goff are Nos 14 to 17. This is smart by Little. All get a ranking to reflect their contribution, but also one low enough to suggest they are on the way out (maybe not for Shearer).
  • While Cunliffe has a low ranking, he has meaty portfolios in Regional Development, Tertiary Education and Science. A path to redemption.

In terms of the unranked, surprised Louisa Wall and Stuart Nash not put into the top 20. Also somewhat surprised Sue Moroney not given a ranking.

As I said, overall a pretty smart reshuffle by Little, considering his limited options. The heavy Wellington skew at the top is a significant weakness, but overall he has done a good job of rejuvenation, and starting to put together what could look like a competent alternate Government.

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Little’s options

November 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Little now have a the tough job of nominating a Deputy Leader and allocating portfolios. The deputy role is especially challenging as the three best candidates for the job all don’t want it, and the candidate that does want it is not supported by caucus. Let’s go through the options.

Deputy Leader

Little’s best bet would be Jacinda Ardern. The last four leaders have been from Auckland, and as Little is a Wellingtonian, then a Aucklander as deputy is desirable. Ardern is their most high profile Auckland MP and very popular with the activists. The problem is she really doesn’t want it and was basically Grant Robertson’s campaign manager. On the downside a Little/Ardern ticket means List MPs hold both leadership roles.

Grant Robertson is another option. He has probably the best skill set of the caucus to be deputy, as a good deputy helps manage the caucus and the leader’s office. But again he has done it before and is not that keen on it.

David Parker has ruled it out.

Nanaia Mahuta desperately wants it. But her nomination would go down very badly in caucus.

So Little has to convince either Jacinda or Grant to take it, go with Mahuta or go for a less likely option such as Phil Twyford.

His best bet is to convince Jacinda to step up.

Finance

David Parker has ruled it out.

Appointing David Cunliffe would antagonise caucus massively.

He could go to a next generation MP such as David Clark or Stuart Nash. They would both get eaten alive by Bill English initially but by 2017 could be experienced and credible. This should be about projecting a vibrant future Government in 2017.

Another option being canvassed is Grant Robertson. I think this would be a mistake. Grant is a skilled politician but he has never worked a day in his life (well post study) in the private sector. I don’t think he has credibility in the finance portfolio, and I think Labour would struggle to reconnect with business if he has the job. That’s not doubting his intelligence and ability to articulate the key issues.

Education

Little should be bold and appoint Kelvin Davis as Education spokesperson and the next Minister. Hipkins has done a fine job for Labour in the area, but Davis is a star after beating Harawira, and has greater experience in the sector.

Health

Annette King is easily the best performing Labour MP. However she will not be Health Minister in the next Labour Government, so she should mentor someone new into the role. I’d move Hipkins into health, as he has a good ability to work an issue, and find pressure points. Lees-Galloway is keen on this, but has less caucus support.

I expect King to retire in 2017, and Little to become the MP for Rongotai (where he lives). She has resisted him taking the seat for some time, but now he is leader, he won’t be challenged for it.

Shadow Leader of the House

Robertson is the obvious choice to continue. May need a Deputy if he does take Foreign.

Attorney-General

Keep Parker on here.

Foreign Affairs

While Shearer is very credible here, I’d be tempted to put Robertson in here. He has a love for foreign policy and is a former diplomat.

Economic Development

Cunliffe an obvious choice. Clark and/or Nash could also play a role.

Maori Affairs

Mahuta by default

Social Development

Moroney has this currently. Not spectacular but solid so probably remain.

Front Bench

Robertson and Ardern are automatic as well as Little.

As he won with their support needs to have Mahuta and Cunliffe there, even though upset some.

Parker is looking to exit I’d say, so could keep him off, but for now probably need to retain him. So that is six.

For the other two or three I’d look at Hipkins, Twyford and Clark.

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Will Little retain Labour’s gender quota policy

November 19th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour approved at the last election 40 a rule that they have a gender quota for their list to try and ensure that in 2014 at least 45% of their caucus is female and for 2017 at least 50% is female.

They failed to correctly implement it, as in fact their proportion of woman from 43% to 38% this election. But think what would have happened if they had correctly implemented it. Instead of having 12 female MPs out of 32, they should have had 15. So what would this have meant on the list.

To comply Labour should have no male List MPs, which means no David Parker, Clayton Cosgrove and Andrew Little. They would be replaced by Maryan Street, Moana Mackey and Priyanca Radhakrishnan.

The key take out is that under Labour’s policy, Andrew Little should not be an MP. He is only there because they mis-calculated how much support they would get.

So does Andrew Little support retaining the gender quota, even though it means he should not have retained his list position?

This is a great example of how Labour has introduced barmy rules, but it seems no one is prepared to stand up and challenge them.

Labour have a rule which if correctly implemented would have seen their new leader not retain his seat in Parliament. Rational people would say “hey maybe we should reexamine that rule”.

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Parker v Little on CGT

November 11th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Labour’s leadership contest has turned into a showdown on the party’s capital gains tax policy, with Andrew Little and David Parker at loggerheads over its future.

At the first of three hustings meetings in the critical Auckland region yesterday, Mr Little was stronger than before in condemning the policy, while Mr Parker shifted to more strongly defend it.

Mr Little told the audience of about 300 party members that Labour had now lost support in three successive elections – something that had never happened before.

Been a long time since any major party lost support in opposition two terms in a row.

He said there were a number of reasons for that but two policies stuck out – lifting the retirement age and capital gains tax.

“There are at least two policies I know for a fact have caused people not only to not vote for us but to turn us off completely.”

He said the party and caucus had championed those policies. “But the conclusion I’ve come to now is that those two policies alone are enough to stop people even considering what we have to say any more.”

The tax was aimed at property speculators, but Mr Little said it also impacted on those who had scrimped and saved to buy a second property which they considered their retirement savings.

Mr Parker, the architect of both policies, said it remained the best way to ensure an equitable tax system.

“Currently, our system is rigged and it’s rigged to favour speculation, not investment in jobs. We reward speculation and we punish work. If the capital gains tax is not the answer, then what is?”

People don’t like the Capital Gains Tax because it is an extra tax which will punish families and businesses by up to $5 billion a year when fully implemented, according to their former leader.

But if Labour were smart, they’d stick with a policy for a CGT, but announce they’d give families and businesses reductions in income and company tax to match the increased revenue they’d pay overall with a CGT.

It can be sensible to broaden the tax base – but not to increase the tax take by new taxes. If you want to increase the tax take, then you should concentrate on having a growing economy, rather than new taxes.

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Did Labour ever have 100,000 members?

November 11th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Kiwi in America recently referred to Jim Anderton’s claim that Labour had 100,000 members when he was President.

A former Labour Party parliamentary staffer writes:

I note you picked up on Jim Anderton – re  NZLP’s 100,000 membership claim.

 I don’t believe that the party ever got to 100,000 but probably well over 50,000 in the late 1970s.

History:  In 1976 the NZLP had about 10-15,000 members as best as I could ascertain.   Electorates were controlled by fiefdoms.  The party urgently needed an infusion of members, talent and money.   I knew the NP had 200,000 members at its peak in the late 1940s. 

I suggested a target of 100,000 members by same time in 1977.   Bill was quite taken with the idea and I recollect him discussing it with Bob Tizard and Warren Freer and others.  Part of the logic was to give party members something ambitious to do instead of changing the constitution which they were prone to. 

As I recollect it was the big headline to come out of the conference and Bill was frequently asked over the following year or so how was the party getting along.

Today they appear to have under 10,000 members. Only 5,000 voted in the last leadership election.

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The benefits of fighting protectionism

November 5th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour has fallen in behind the Government’s decision to join a trade pact that gives Kiwi firms the right to bid for more than $2 trillion of overseas government contracts.

New Zealand has joined 43 other countries, including the United States, Japan and all European Union countries, in becoming a party to the World Trade Organisation’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).

Exporters including Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Hamilton’s Gallagher Security are celebrating the agreement, which is designed to ensure companies are treated equally when competing for government tenders in any of the signatory states.

However, the reciprocal deal could have a flipside for some local businesses which may now face more competition from overseas firms when bidding for work with the New Zealand public sector.

So why is Labour supporting this, when they have spent years complaining that companies like Dunedin’s Hillside should have been protected from foreign competitors? In fact wasn’t their policy to tilt the field towards local companies?

Labour foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff supported the agreement. “I am prepared to accept the balance of advantage lies in opening up new opportunities for the best of our exporters to sell goods and services into those markets,” he said.

Although it does not cover all government procurement in all those countries, Joyce said the deal would ensure New Zealand firms were able to bid for work worth more than US$1.7 trillion ($2.16t) annually.

Good to see Goff ignoring the rhetoric of his colleagues, and signing Labour up to support this agreement. If you have confidence in NZ firms, we stand to win more than we lose by having equal access to government procurement tenders across the developed world. Plus it is better for taxpayers to more competition for tenders.

But I wonder why the left blogs who daily denounce neo-liberalism have been so silent on Labour’s support of the GPA? Shouldn’t they be demanding that the four leadership candidates denounce it as neo-liberal trickle down policies?

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Shearer indicates Labour may support security law changes

November 4th, 2014 at 11:51 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Big sporting events bringing large numbers of visitors to New Zealand are one of the Government’s concerns in proposing changes to the country’s security and surveillance legislation.

Senior Labour MPs Phil Goff and David Shearer were briefed this morning on the contents of the prime minister’s major national security speech tomorrow.

Changes to New Zealand’s security legislation will be announced as the Government attempts to plug “loopholes” within the country’s surveillance law and around passports.

Shearer said there was “obviously some rationale for doing it”, and they were “reasonably happy” the measures were ones that needed to be implemented because of gaps in the current legislation.

Great to see an Opposition MP, not just opposing for the sake of it.

Shearer said it was important gaps in surveillance and around passports were closed off, particularly in light of upcoming events in New Zealand which would bring in a lot of visitors, including the Cricket World Cup.

Shearer agreed there were some legislative issues to be dealt with, particularly with the SIS which was governed by “very old” law which was not in line with the police in what it was able to do.

Shearer would not go into detail on what the proposed new legislation would do as he and Goff were briefed in confidence, and it was for the prime minister to announce in his speech tomorrow.

The proposed changes would be subject to a select committee process, which would allow outside submissions to be made, although for a reduced period of time compared to the norm.

I’m pleased to see there will be a select committee process.

“We’re also very pleased with the fact there are going to be submissions around the area as well, so it means there is going to be some more scrutiny on the legislation, and of course there’s going to be a sunset clause as well,” Shearer said.  

Interested in the sunset clause? Is that to allow the full review scheduled for next year to them supersede this interim changes?

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Parker says Labour is like a cult

October 23rd, 2014 at 1:28 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leadership contender David Parker says Labour borders on feeling like “a cult” and must look at its branding – including its symbolic red party colour.

Cult is too harsh a term, but what Labour does suffer from is diversity – diversity of opinion.

National has a caucus and a party that has social liberals and social conservatives. It has those who see the role of the state in the economy is to get out of the way, and those who see its role to be an active participant.

By contrast Labour looks on people who are even close to the economic centre with disdain and suspicion. I know many Labour members who say they feel the party no longer represents them.

Even worse is if you are a social conservative in Labour. Then you are seen as blot on their conscience to be exorcised. You will be told you are in the wrong party.

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Sir Roger Douglas on Labour’s predicament

October 7th, 2014 at 3:19 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Sir Roger Douglas:

The election was clearly an absolute disaster for Labour. The party’s inability to deal with the result is apparent for all to see.

Renewal has several parts and needs to start with a recognition of what went wrong and move towards the changes needed to rectify the situation.

Labour needs to acknowledge: 

  • It lost touch with the feelings, concerns and expectations of voters.
  • That in the process it lost credibility.
  • That a lack of policy consistency and communications consistency cost it dearly.
  • That winning back lost credibility will take time, and consistency will be absolutely vital.
  • That voters often saw Labour as the voice of vested-interest groups, rather than average New Zealanders.
  • That Labour failed to state clearly what it was trying to achieve and how it would go about implementing new approaches.
  • That Labour locked itself into becoming the advocates of processes that could no longer achieve the goals the party set for itself.

So what does Labour need to do about their current situation?  Labour needs to: 

  • Start by restating the social goals they stand for today – goals likely to be very similar to those spelled out by Walter Nash in 1939.
    • a reasonable standard of living
    • access to an adequate education
    • a good health service
    • a good income in retirement
    • a social welfare system that gives people a hand-up, rather than a hand out, and does not lock them into dependency
    • a society which gives people opportunities for self-fulfilment.
  • That’s the easy part – the hard part is how does the party make those goals the foundation of a serious programme to transform New Zealand?
  • To do this the party needs a vision of where it wants New Zealand to be in 25 years time.
  • Next, are the current, or preferred means, capable of achieving these goals? The means Labour used in the 1930s no longer suffice.
  • The question then becomes – can Labour do this? Are Labour members free to think in new, fresh ways?

That’s why they need time to work through the challenges which are:

  • To realise that simply electing a new leader is not enough – the party needs a leader who is in tune with the new realities that exist in New Zealand.
  • Positioning and consistency of policy and communication are vital.
  • This new positioning and the policies need to reflect, and be in tune with the feelings, expectations, and concerns of most New Zealanders. The party needs to explain for example:
  • The goals the policies seek to address.
  • The importance of productivity and efficiency which old Labour did so well. The Party needs to explain that waste consumes resources that would otherwise be available to improve fairness.

For instance, that without efficiency, a more equitable society is impossible.  (This requires a big shift for the Labour Party of the past 15 years.)

  • How the party will, in future, deal with privilege which remains widespread.
  • How it will be the champion of ordinary New Zealanders, not the unions, not the teachers, not the nurses nor the social workers, as they do today.
  • How Labour will deal with the fact that huge increases in spending on health and education have gone to the benefit of providers, rather than consumers. I acknowledge this is hard when the party has been the voice of nurses, doctors and teachers at the expense of the consumer for so long.
  • Explain to supporters why high tax rates have a negative effect on jobs and real wages, and tend to lower productivity which is essential if wages are to rise.
  • How the party will deal with middle-class capture in areas like university education where most of the beneficiaries of state spending are the children of people who could afford to pay more towards educating their offspring.
  • How the party will free people from welfare dependency put there by institutions created in the 1930s, and stoked by policies devised in the 1970s.
  • Why competition in the provision of government-funded services is just as important as it is in the private sector.
  • Explain to New Zealand that there is no such thing as a free lunch e.g. tell people that healthcare now takes 56c of every dollar of all personal tax they pay instead of 40c a few years ago, and what Labour will do about it.
  • Demonstrate that Labour has got to grips with poor incentives to work and how those poor incentives have encouraged socially destructive behaviour.
  • How Labour will shift resources in education, housing, health and welfare in response to changing demands.
  • How Labour will deal with uneven rates of government assistance (e.g. health) for different services and different categories of patients.
  • Whether Labour will continue to provide universal access to many health and welfare services or instead move towards targeted assistance? And if there is to be change, what principles will drive it?
  • How Labour will deal with government waste.

Getting this right will be vital for Labour – recognising that the present welfare system has changed people’s attitudes, and in the process has had effects on society. It is important to understand this if the policy the party goes forward with is to have any likelihood of working.

But, isn’t this simply moving into National party territory?

No – it need not be – why?

  • Because National is the party of the status quo.
  • Despite opposing many of the policies of the Clark government they now act as if those policies were their own.
  • National has borrowed and added to New Zealand’s debt by $60 billion over the last six years rather than get to grips with wasteful expenditure.
  • National has borrowed billions of dollars to fund consumption, rather than investment.
  • National has spent billions of dollars each year on corporate welfare with little or no beneficial results to show for it, and all at the expense of the average New Zealander.
  • National has run budget deficits, but a deficit of courage and imagination has been their main legacy.

National’s do nothing, sit-still, status-quo approach to economic and social policy provides Labour with a real opportunity to get back up on its feet.

What will it take?

  • An upfront admission that Labour has got a lot of things wrong for the last nine to 15 years, and what has led to this conclusion.
  • A set of principles that will guide Labour’s policy decision-making that New Zealanders understand and can measure. For instance:
    • Each genertion should pay for itself.
    • Each family should take as much responsibility as possible for its members.
    • State assistance should be a hand-up, rather than a hand-out.
  • A set of principles like these would drive policy-making towards:
    • No personal income tax for low-income earners. This would limit churning where a lot of tax collected goes on the bureaucracy that then redistributes it.
    • A guaranteed minimum income for those in work.
    • Retirement – risk and healthcare savings accounts for all aimed at driving efficiency in these areas.
  • Paid for by:
    • An end to corporate welfare.
    • An end to middle-class welfare capture.
    • Moving the age of retirment to 70 over 20 years.
    • Better efficiencies in health, education and welfare.
    • An end to Working for Families, once a guaranteed minimum income arrangement has been worked out carefully.

Labour also needs to explain: 

  • That what is important to existing and potential Labour voters is people, not institutions. That Labour policy will in future put people ahead of institutions, unlike the current National party.
  • That provider capture in health and education is a thing of the past, and that funding will instead go to the benefit of pupils, patients and other consumers, not to service providers. That is not to say providers would not do well. They will so long as consumers benefit.
  • An all-out effort to reform the distribution of resources amongst the social service institutions to ensure resources move to the greatest need in terms of social goals.
  • An end to corporate welfare and middle-class welfare, thus enabling tax reductions across the board, and especially for the lower paid.
  • Reform of healthcare (following a review) including looking at individuals’ health savings accounts (Singapore style). Aim at better outcomes, greater efficiency, more fairness.
  • Reform of education. Adopt as a basic principle that no one should fail. Make clear that the current 30% failure rate is not acceptable.
  • Local government in Auckland has been a failure and Labour will change that.

But most of all, New Zealanders will need to believe Labour is for real. Working through these principles will take time.  A good strategy would be to have a locum tenens leader while the necessary work is undertaken. Always remember that any extreme left-wing policies usually hurt the poor, and the poor know it. Such policies would quickly see Labour back to where it is now.

Above all, a top-class opposition would be great for New Zealand.  What’s the chance of that – 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 40, 50%?

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ODT on Curran’s allegations of dirty politics in Dunedin Labour

October 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

In most cases, the revival of a Labour Party branch which says it has doubled its membership since August, and aims to have 100 members early next year, would be welcomed by the sitting MP.

But Dunedin South MP Clare Curran is anything but thrilled by the resurrection of the Andersons Bay-Peninsula branch in her electorate.

She says the branch was reconstituted without official approval, with the aim of undermining her bid to be re-elected.

”This is dirty tricks and dirty politics in Dunedin South,” she told the Otago Daily Times this week.

I await the Nicky Hager book on the Dunedin South Labour Party.

Mr Loo told the Otago Daily Times Ms Curran was used to having ”tight control” of the branch and did not like the fact the Andersons Bay-Peninsula branch was not in her inner circle.

The branch aimed to attract new members who were not university students but were in the trades, labourers or struggling to find full-time work – the traditional base of the Labour Party, he said.

Mr Loo remained a strong supporter of former Labour leader David Cunliffe, who wants the job back but is facing a challenge from Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson, formerly of Dunedin.

Ms Curran and Dunedin North MP David Clark both supported Mr Robertson previously and can be expected to provide similar support in the Labour leadership contest.

So is this branch warfare a proxy for the wider battle?

Pointedly, he mentioned all Labour MPs would face re-selection in 2016 and selection contests were good for the health of the party.

”No MP holds their seat by right. It’s not personal, but the way of developing talent is to give people a chance of participating,” he said.

I don’t think challenges are dirty politics. It is democracy.

Dunedin South was fourth, behind Manurewa, Manukau East and Mangere, in the amount of party vote received.

This is true in terms of votes, but that is partly because Dunedin South had a higher turnout. As a percentage of the vote, Dunedin South was 17th best for Labour.

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Pundits on Labour

October 3rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

I’m going to keep this short and sweet: Labour has fallen apart and it ain’t over yet.

The party is proving to voters why they got just 24.6 percent; it proves they would never have been able to govern. They are tearing themselves apart. They look like narcissists. This is civilian war. This is a fight for control of the party.

Annette King once told me there were no factions in the Labour Party – they were just social groupings, she said. I’m sorry that’s bull-dust. These factions are alive and well and have been since the 1980s. It’s publicly tearing Labour apart and I imagine voters are completely turned off.

It would be very interesting if a media outlet did a poll in the next few weeks.

The ABC club never died when Cunliffe became leader – they just retired to the corner and got more bitter and twisted. It’s no secret who they are: Trevor Mallard is the life president, Clayton Cosgrove, chief plotter, David Shearer, general-secretary, Stuart Nash, head of communications, Annette King, camp mother, Grant Robertson the uncle, Phil Goff, kaumatua, and the errant ABC kids are Jacinda Ardern, Chris Hipkins and Kris Faafoi.

I think you could add the two Dunedin MPs to it as new recruits.

Labour has been heading this way for some time. The powder keg has blown. Cunliffe does not have the support of his caucus. They do not want him; neither do Kiwi voters.

He should have seen all this last week and gone quietly for the good of the party, and the cause, but he has chosen to hit the nuclear option. It is his own personal revenge at the ABCers. It’s breathtakingly arrogant. Which part of election spanking does he not understand?

Labour talks about renewal, but it’s stuck with 1980s politicians pulling the strings. They don’t even look like a viable opposition, let alone a party ready to govern.

 

Just imagine if National had got 2% less and Hone kept his seat, and we had a Labour-Greens-NZ First-Mana Government. It would be chaotic beyond belief.

Patrick Gower writes:

Camp Cunliffe is really hitting the beltway nerve – that Team Robertson can’t be trusted, portraying Mr Robertson as a disloyal deputy who rolled David Shearer.

Although Mr Cunliffe is not prepared to put his name to it.

But that’s not what his press secretary and cousin Simon Cunliffe told 3 News.

In an email he said: “Shearer’s decision to quit followed a caucus numbers push – led by a Robertson follower.”

So Cunliffe’s office actually e-mailed a journalist blaming Shearer’s fall on Robertson.

There is some truth to it though. My understand is that Shearer blames Cunliffe for undermining him, but Robertson for rolling him – hence why he might still stand.

Liam Hehir writes:

You’ve probably heard about this year’s election being Labour’s worst showing in 92 years. In fact, the result was even worse.

In 1922, Labour received 23.7 per cent of all votes cast. This year it received 24.69 per cent of the party vote. However, the latter is not the better of the two.

Ninety-two years ago, New Zealanders voted using first past the post. There was no “party vote” to give a neat measurement of relative party support. The overall voting percentages simply reflect the number of candidate votes counted over all of the then 80 electorates.

In 1922, Labour fielded just 41 candidates, meaning only about half of New Zealanders could vote for a Labour candidate that year.

The seats Labour did not stand in were probably those least favourable to it. Nevertheless, had the party contested every electorate (or were MMP in place back then) we can be fairly sure it would have outperformed its 2014 result.

The same reasoning applies to Labour’s first election three years earlier in 1919. Then it received 24.2 per cent of votes cast despite not standing candidates in a significant number of electorates. Taking this into account, it seems the Labour Party has never had weaker voter appeal than it does today.

A useful analysis. This is a record low.

In 2011, Canada’s Liberals – long the country’s dominant political party – received just 18.91 per cent of the popular vote. Beaten into third place, the party had to relinquish its position as the official opposition. Nevertheless, under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, the party has moved back into first place in the polls.

If only Helen Clark had a daughter!

Or what is Roy Lange up to?

And, of course, there was National’s 2002 catastrophe. It is hard to believe that the party now straddling the political centre like the Colossus of Rhodes received just 20.93 per cent of the vote that year. How has it managed to claw back its status as the natural party of government?

First, National eliminated its competition on the Right. Under Don Brash, National gobbled up almost the whole conservative vote, reducing ACT and UnitedFuture to the lifeless husks they are today. NZ First also barely survived this process as about half of its traditionalist voters defected back to National.

While that restored National’s formidability, the 2005 election proved that it wasn’t quite enough to carve out a workable majority. It then fell to the pragmatic and non-ideological John Key to seize back the centre ground. His ability to do this – bringing both conservative and centrist voters with him – has proved essential to his success as a popular leader.

National needed Brash and Key in that order. Brash to consolidate the right vote and then Key to win the centre vote.

John Armstrong also writes:

It is a suggestion likely made in vain. But the time has surely arrived for those with standing and influence in the Labour Party to break their silence and somehow persuade David Cunliffe that his gambit for winning back the party’s leadership is simply not a starter.

I suggested some time ago that the only person who could save Labour from itself is Helen Clark, if she told Cunliffe to withdraw.

The crux of the matter is that if Cunliffe were to win the party-wide ballot, he would not have the confidence of the caucus members ranked second and third, David Parker and Grant Robertson, never mind the remainder of the parliamentary wing.

He has at most 20% to 30% support in caucus.

The Labour Party has become a laughing stock. But the party’s current circumstances are no joke.

The only viable way forward is that whoever becomes leader has to purge the caucus of the other faction. Otherwise it won’t be credible to the public that they can be a unified party which can govern a country.

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Labour 1938 – 2014

September 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Labour eletion results

This is a graph of Labour’s general election results in every general election since 1938. I’ve added a trendline in, to reinforce the obvious point. They do go through cycles of relative highs and lows but each high is lower than the one before, and each low is lower than the one before.

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Labourites on why Labour lost so badly

September 27th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald talks to four Labourites on why they think Labour lost so badly. Some of their responses show how out of touch they are.

Len Richards: More than a decade of dirty politics aimed at demonising and destabilising the Labour Party by well-organised and well-funded opponents have taken their toll. The opinion polls reflect the public mood deliberately created by the spin doctors of the right, and the very poor election results for Labour over the last three elections reflect the polls.

So Len thinks Labour did nothing wrong, and Labour lost because of basically bloggers. My God.

His solution is for Labour to go more left wing. I hope they listen to him.

Brian Edwards: John Key, perhaps the most popular leader in New Zealand’s history, was deemed hugely likeable; David Cunliffe was widely disliked and mistrusted. Labour had the wrong leader.

Brian is right that leadership is important. It is only part of the challenge though.

Josie Pagani: Voters began to think Labour was trying to make you a better person rather than better off.

Which is what the Greens do.

John Tamihere: Under Helen Clark the party was captured by academics and tertiary-educated leaders of a union movement that never worked a shop floor. They concentrated on identity politics and controlled the party not on the great economic issues, but on whether you were gay, Maori, feminist, bisexual, etc. … hey have driven people like myself out of the conversation and out of contributing to the party. They have lost connection with middle New Zealand and, particularly, men.

It appears that 80% of men may have voted for parties other than Labour.

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Labour’s woes increasing

September 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Rotorua Daily Post reveals that the former Chair of the Rotorua Labour Party voted National!:

A former Rotorua Labour Party spokesman says he has become disillusioned with the party and spent Saturday night celebrating with Rotorua MP Todd McClay.

Rotorua Weekender columnist and local businessman Fraser Newman said he had given up his Labour Party membership, saying the party had lost its way.

Mr Newman said he also voted for Mr McClay on Saturday saying he was an effective local MP who worked hard and had delivered for the city.

“It’s time for Labour to think about its future.

“Does it want to be a small left wing minority party or a centre-left party that appeals to middle New Zealand?”

Again this is from someone who was an electorate chair for them not very long ago.

And you know Labour has troubles when even Steve Maharey says the party has become too left wing!!

Labour moved left to secure what it assumed was its base and never moved back. Over six years it failed to effectively oppose the Government and propose a coherent policy platform that won the support of 40 per cent of voters. It persisted in arguing New Zealand was on the wrong track (which it may well be) when most voters thought the opposite.

In addition, it confused voters by vacillating between behaving like a major party and then like just the largest of a left grouping. When it began arguing that it really was a major party it was too late.

Maharey makes the point:

It should start by understanding that in New Zealand politics the foundation for victory is in the centre. A party seeking to form a stable, strong government has to have a message that appeals to around 40 per cent of these voters.

The Labour leadership contest forced the candidates to try and compete with each other to come up with the most left wing policies they could, to appeal to the base. Their strategy was to be hard left to energise the base and the million non voters. It totally failed as a strategy. They claim they were also trying to target centrist voters – but you know what – you can’t really do both – as the voters are not stupid.

Chris Trotter gets into the metaphors:

Overall, the image presented to the electorate was one of John Key as the embattled matador. Alone in the arena, he faced charge after charge from a seemingly never-ending succession of bulls. But with every twirl of his cape and flash of his sword, the pile of dispatched cattle-beasts grew higher.

The crowd cheered. The roses rained down. “Bravo!” shouted 48 per cent of New Zealand. “Three more years!”

As the dust of combat settles, the identity of the matador’s defeated attackers is revealed. Among them is the political corpse of the redoubtable Hone Harawira, his thick hide pierced by multiple lances. And, sprawled alongside this mighty bull of the North, his blundering sponsor, the massive German beast called Kim Dotcom.

Some distance apart lies the slim political carcass of the brave little steer known as Colin Craig – his wide-eyes still staring imploringly up at the crowd. (Missing from the pile are the bodies of those bulls whose horns actually drew the matador’s blood: Nicky Hager, Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden.)

But in all that vast arena, the most pitiful sight is that of the old bull called Labour.

Its ancient hide is pierced and bleeding; around its mouth a bloody froth. The matador’s sword has penetrated the unfortunate animal’s lungs and heart, but the poor creature still stands there, defiant. Panting noisily, quivering legs about to fold beneath its battered body, Labour seems unaware that its wounds are fatal. That it is dying on its feet.

And Stacey Kirk blogs on today:

So that press conference was a train wreck. Cunliffe says he takes “full responsibility” for Labour’s loss, but they may be hollow words to the caucus as he refuses to take the blame.

He won’t be apologising to his caucus, and he’ll be asking them to trigger a new leadership primary under their constitution.

He’ll effectively do that by asking them to pass a vote of no-confidence in him, (which many would probably gladly do) but then have every chance of regaining the leadership with the backing of the unions and wider party.

That would hardly bring stability to Labour.

And no less than five minutes after Cunliffe spoke of his “disappointment” in Labour MPs speaking to media on their strife, were two MPs speaking to the media – David Shearer and Phil Goff. (I’ve got videos clips of boths of those – I’ll post shortly)

The party is in disarray.

Time to order up a three month supply of popcorn!

UPDATE: John Armstrong reflects:

An extraordinary morning in the Labour Party’s wing of Parliament Buildings. There were only two words to describe things – absolute mayhem.

And that was even before Labour MPs had even begun their crucial post-election caucus meeting, at which there was expected to be some very blunt language during a preliminary post-mortem on last Saturday s crushing defeat.

David Cunliffe is fighting tooth and nail to hang on as leader. His chances of doing so would seem to deteriorate further with every wrong tactic and mistaken ploy he uses to shore up his crumbling position.

Time is Cunliffe’s enemy. He needs an early party-wide vote to refresh his mandate as party leader before the true awfulness of Labour’s thrashing really sinks in and his support among the mass membership and trade unions affiliated to the party which backed him in last September’s leadership ballot rapidly erodes.

Other senior figures like former leader David Shearer are arguing vociferously that the leadership question be left in abeyance until a proper and fundamental review of the party’s failings and the reasons for its dreadful showing in last week’s general election are thoroughly examined. The results of such a review are unlikely to reflect well on Cunliffe.

Cunliffe wants caucus to roll him now, so he can have a quick members ballot. But the craft ABCs won’t play along, and they have three months before they have to have a vote.

UPDATE2: The Labour caucus meeting has now been going for seven hours. Generally they last two hours. It must be brutal in there.

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NZ Herald on Labour’s $100 million get Winston on board fund

September 16th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

It was advertised as the Labour Party’s last big policy of the election campaign. When delivered, however, the plan to set up a $100 million-a-year sovereign wealth fund to invest in “strategic” assets, including clean energy, prompted only a scratching of heads. So small was it in size and so opaque was its intention that Labour’s motive was anyone’s guess. Was it meant to appease Winston Peters? Was it designed to appeal to the Greens? Was it meant for Labour’s left-wingers?

Either way, it was a policy that had little in the way of either substance or merit.

I have a much better idea. Let the economic geniuses of the Labour Party caucus mortgage their houses and assets and raise $100 million of their own money and they can then invest that in whatever assets they want, and let’s see how much money they have left after a few years.

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VSR vs OCR

September 15th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

National’s Associate Finance Minister Steven Joyce said in May that the VSR wouldn’t be very effective. His rough calculations showed KiwiSaver contribution rates would have to rise six percentage points – say from 9 to 15 per cent – to have the same effect as a one percentage point rise in the OCR. …

However, Labour’s finance spokesman David Parker says he estimates that KiwiSaver contributions would have to rise just two percentage points to equal a one percentage point rise in the OCR.

This comes close to an outright lie by Parker.

A change to the KiwiSaver contribution rate will impact around $600 million a year. By contrast the OCR affects around $330 billion of lending. There is not an economist alive I reckon who would agree with Parker.

Again I remind people Labour deliberately declined the offer of a Treasury secondee who could professionally assess stuff like this.

Here’s what the Westpac Bank Chief Economist said:

However, we suspect that the VSR would not be particularly powerful. Our back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that a one percentage-point hike in the VSR would reduce household consumption by just 0.2% of GDP. And in terms of the impact on inflation, a one percentage-point hike in the VSR would be equivalent to an OCR hike of between 10bp and 15bp.

David Parker is claiming an impact three to five times greater than Westpac has calculated. This is not a minor difference. This is a 300% to 500% difference. And this is not a complex calculation. The amount of money paid into KiwiSaver and generally on loan from banks is a known quantity.

I do not believe Parker’s figures are made in good faith. I bet you he can not produce a shred of a calculation to back them up. It is a con.

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Issues that matter – Health

September 12th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

cancer

 

In 2008 only 65% of people requiring cancer treatment got it within four weeks. Many had to go to Australia to get treatment. Today every DHB has 100% of people needing cancer treatment getting it within four weeks. Source: Ministry of Health National Health Targets.

smoking

 

The best way to reduce smoking, is for young New Zealanders not to take it up. In 2007 15.7% of 15 to 17 year olds were smokers. In 2013 this rate had reduced to 8.0%. Source: Ministry of Health Public Health Survey. Note I don’t think this change is not necessarily related to who is in Government, but think it is important to make the point that the trend is very positive.

surgery

 

In 2008 the public health system provided 118,000 elective operations. In 2013/14 it was 161,933. A huge increase of 44,000. Source: Ministry of Health National Health Targets.

Surgery Growth

 

From 2003 to 2008 the number of elective operations increased by 2,950 a year. Since 2008 it has increased by 7,368 a year. Source: Ministry of Health National Health Targets and National Party.

youthdrinking

 

Recall all the moral panic over youth drinking.  Well the Ministry of Health Public Health Survey shows that in 2007 19.5% of 15 to 17 year olds were hazardous drinkers and in 2013 only 8.1% were – almost half as many. Source: Ministry of Health Public Health Survey.

workforce

 

That’s 3,289 more nurses, 1,589 more doctors and 1,000 fewer health managers and administrators since 2008. Source: National Party Health Policy.

workforce2

 

This is the change in percentage terms. Source: National Party. A 17.8% increase in nursing numbers and 26.8% increase in doctor numbers.

ED

 

In 2008 only 70% of people in Emergency Departments were treated within six hours. In 2014 it was 94%. Source: Ministry of Health National Health Targets.

immunisations

 

In 2008 only 76% of two year olds were immunised (on time). In 2014 it was 93%. Source: Ministry of Health National Health Targets.

These are not abstract changes. These are changes that make a huge impact on people’s lives. Few things are more important than quick cancer treatment, shorter emergency department stays, more immunisations and more elective operations. Plus on top of that the youth rates for smoking and hazardous drinking has almost halved.

These are issues that matter.

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The left’s policies will put us back into deficit

September 10th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

One News reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe’s Capital Gains Tax is again under fire – this time from economists at the NZIER who say it won’t generate anywhere near enough money to cover the party’s spending promises.

Labour has over-estimated its capital gains tax numbers, according to a report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research. The report was commissioned by Federated Farmers, which strongly opposes the proposal.

Labour predicts a capital gains tax should raise $3.7 billion by 2026. But the Institute claims it’ll actually bring in less than half of that.

So who do we believe? The NZIEr is probably the (or one of the) most respected economics firms in New Zealand.

Labour on the other hand is the first opposition party in around two decades to decline the offer by Treasury to have a secondee in their office, who could credibly cost their policies for them.

It’s not a hard call.

And in related news, the Taxpayers Union has released a paper by Dr Michael Dunn analysing the likely fiscal impact of the Green Party wages policy. Dr Dunn is the former head of forecasting at IRD, so is an expert in forecasting.

The Greens claimed their wages policy will bring in an extra $800 million a year in tax revenue to the Government. Dr Dunn has calculated that in fact it would result in around $110 million less tax revenue every year, So that is a $2.7 billion hold in the Greens costings. We have a surplus projection of $300 million, so goodbye surplus.

The Greens and Dr Dunn agree that the direct cost of their policy on the Government will be $1.1 bllion over three years. Add on the reduced tax revenue and the total impact on the Government’s books is to leave the Government’s books $1.4 billion worse off – compared to their claim that it would be $1.5 billion better off.

These are not minor differences. These are billions of dollars. And just on one policy!!

I think it is time that we have what the US have, and a NZ version of the Congressional Budget Office which can independently cost policies proposed by parliamentary parties. NZers deserve better than to be conned by political parties that grossly mislead voters over the true costs of their policies.

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The fall and fall of Labour

September 8th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

colmarbrunton

This graph was provided by Colmar Brunton on Twitter in response to a tweet.

Doesn’t it show a remarkable 10 year trend.

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Armstrong on Labour

September 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

Already struggling to make any impact, Cunliffe’s campaign has taken a potentially fatal knock. With two opinion polls yesterday showing Labour marooned at around 25 per cent and National registering at 50 per cent or more, the election campaign may effectively be over.

The only question now is whether growing backing for Colin Craig’s Conservative Party will translate into actual votes on September 20 and in sufficient numbers to clear the 5 per cent threshold – and thus allow Craig to come to the negotiating table with enough seats for National not to have to deal with Winston Peters.

While it is too late to gift Craig an electorate seat, it is likely Key will make some carefully worded statement in the final week of the campaign giving licence for potential National voters to tick Conservative.

The possibility of Labour being in a position to form a government now looks to be virtually non-existent. With two weeks still go, Labour’s campaign is The March of the Living Dead.

If they can’t cobble together a six party coalition, then the focus will go on the leadership. Will Cunliffe fight to stay on? How many List MPs will Labour lose?

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And another Labour candidate going off the rails

September 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Timaru Herald reports:

The Labour Party’s Rangitata candidate, Steve Gibson, said yesterday he was “a bit tired of toeing the party line” which he said was “too respectful,” making a series of strongly-worded criticisms of the National Party.

Gibson said he was concerned about the “degradation of the public’s confidence in the democratic process by Judith Collins, Cameron Slater, Jason Ede and other rotten Shylocks”.

Labour party leader David Cunliffe put Gibson “on a last chance” in August for insulting Prime Minister John Key on Facebook, where Gibson called Key “Shylock” and a “nasty little creep”.

So he is back to calling people in National Shylocks.

Gibson criticised the National Party’s planned education reforms, which include differentiating teachers’ pay levels based on their responsibilities, as “just idiocy”, and said the party looked like “a bunch of dicks” for proposing the policies despite unionised teachers’ official opposition.

Actually the unions all welcomed it, when announced. The primary principals called it a game changer. The PPTA still support it. The NZEI has backflipped, because they seem to be a branch of the Labour Party.

Gibson is to appear at a candidates’ meeting on Wednesday in Timaru. He would not be answering questions from “obsequious, sycophantic scumbags”, which he believed could be written by his opponent, National’s Jo Goodhew.

Between Steve Gibson in Rangitata and Gordon Dickson in Selwyn, there seems to be something in the water down there. Or more a reflection that Labour’s support and membership has collapsed outside the big cities.

 

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Meet Labour’s Selwyn candidate

September 5th, 2014 at 5:20 pm by David Farrar

First go to Radio Live and see the e-mail Labour’s official candidate for Selwyn sent a journalist.  He even signed it as a Labour candidate.

Then in case you think it is a one off, go read his blog.

How the hell did he ever get selected as a candidate? Does Labour have no sane members in South Canterbury?

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On Labour’s Capital Gains Tax

September 3rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A parliamentary staffer notes to me:

Not sure how Cunliffe’s attempt to clarify Labour’s CGT squares with the summary below in their policy document, which doesn’t specifically exclude family homes owned by trusts, and in fact says trusts could not be used to avoid the CGT.

Excluding trust-owned houses from a CGT would seem to raise questions about whether different trustees of the same trust, who live in different houses, would be exempt from a CGT on a number of properties, which would become complicated and costly in terms of foregone revenue.

I also wonder whether Labour’s revenue forecasts were counting on homes held in trusts being included? After all David Cunliffe has said their Capital Gains Trust will lead to families and businesses paying an extra $4 to $5 billion a year in tax.

In Labour’s policy summary their exemptions are:

Exemptions: The family home, personal assets, collectables, small business assets sold for retirement and payouts from retirement savings schemes, including KiwiSaver, will be exempt.

It is not at all clear whether this exemption includes family homes in trusts. I expect the IRD will need to hire hundreds of new staff to deal with such a complex CGT.

I support NZ having a Capital Gains Tax, so long as income and company tax rates fall to compensate. But the CGT should be like GST – with almost no exemptions. Labour’s one is so complicated even the guy who designed it (Cunliffe was Finance Spokesperson when Labour adopted it) doesn’t know how it works.

Rob Hosing at NBR also makes a good point. He states that property speculators are already taxed if they buy and sell property to make capital gains. He gives an example of how someone in Auckland who buys a house for $750,000 and sells it a year later for $900,000 will pay (probably) 33% of the $150,000 profit if they are a property speculator.

Under the current law their tax bill would be $49,500. Under Labour’s Capital Gains Tax they will pay just 15% on their capital gain, so just $22,500 in tax.

Now it is hard to prove someone is a property speculator but National gave the IRD $6.65 million to enforce the current law more vigorously and this lead to an extra $57 million in tax revenue from property speculators.

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Labour joins National in promising a flag referendum

September 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour would also review the design of the New Zealand flag, with the party saying “the time has come for a change and it is right for the issue to be put to the public”.

“We would however support the ability of the RSA and similar organisations to continue to fly the current flag if they so wish. New Zealand changed its national anthem from ‘God Save the Queen’ on a gradual, optional basis and that process worked,” the policy statement says.

Prime Minister John Key has also already announced a referendum would be held on the flag in the next parliamentary term, saying it was his personal preference to see it changed.

This is good. It means that New Zealanders should get to have a vote on the flag, regardless of who wins the election.

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