Kay on Greens veto

February 15th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Martin Kay writes at Stuff:

I must say I was surprised to learn that Russel Norman would stop heroic Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi from addressing our Parliament if she ever succeeds in her fight for democracy and is elected leader of her people.

It seems a bit mean-spirited and hypocritical, given the massive public support the Greens have given her as she campaigns against the regime that has brutalised her homeland.

But that is the inevitable position that flows from the Greens’ decision to block Aussie PM Julia Gillard from speaking to a formal session of Parliament tomorrow.

Norman says the Greens vetoed the speech – which will instead be made three hours before Parliament sits – because they did not want to set a precedent that would put us on a slippery slope which could undermine our  “democratic sovereignty”.

Norman seems to be arguing that if the Greens let Gillard speak, then they’ve got to extend the same courtesy to every dictator, tin pot tyrant and dodgy leader who wants to address to Parliament, too.

What utter rubbish.

Norman is letting principle get in the way of discretion.

There would be nothing stopping the Greens allowing Gillard to address Parliament and later vetoing leaders with whom they have a problem.

The veto by the Greens just makes them look petty.

Also ironic to have someone who spent most of their life as an Australian, protesting against letting the Australian PM address the NZ Parliament.

Dom Post Political Awards

December 19th, 2009 at 11:18 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins and Martin Kay hand out their awards:

  • Politician of the Year – John Key
  • Wally of the Year – Rodney Hide
  • The Merit Award for Prime Ministers with English as a second language – John Key
  • Koru Club Award For Services to the Airline Industry – Chris Carter with Roger Douglas runner-up
  • Oliver Twist “Please, Sir, I Want Some More” Award – Bill English
  • Interpol Award for Undercover Operations – Rick Barker
  • James Bond Medal for Services to National Security – Keith Locke, Sue Bradford & Catherine Delahunty
  • Nelson Mandela Award for Services to Race Relations – Hone Harawira with Phil Goff runner-up
  • Lazarus Award – Lockwood Smith
  • Gone by Lunchtime Award – Richard Worth
  • Crimestoppers award – Melissa Lee
  • Dr Doolittle Award – Nick Smith
  • Stop Digging Award – David Garrett
  • Pigs Ear, Silk Purse Award – John Key

The rationale for the Dr Doolittle Award is amusing.

The NZ Super Fund

February 25th, 2009 at 8:35 am by David Farrar

The growing debate over the NZ Super Fund, is an excellent example of how politics has to manage perception, as much as reality.

I doubt even Dr Cullen would disagree that if we did not already have his “Cullen Fund”, he would not propose one in today’s circumstances.

I mean could you imagine getting up, just at the time credit rating agencies are warning that they may downgrade our credit rating, and saying “Hey I have a great idea – let’s borrow an additional $20 billion over the next ten years, so we can invest it in a loss making fund”? I mean, you would get laughed out of the House.

The NZ Super Fund was agreed to on an assumption that we would have a permament structural surplus, and out of that surplus could put aside around $2 billion a year. Maybe there would be the occassional year of deficit, but the consensus was that from 2000 to 2020, there would be lots of large surpluses, and hence why don’t we save some of that money to help pay for the cost of future superannuation from 2020 onwards, when an ageing population will make it harder to cover the cost.

So the whole idea was to save money now, to avoid having to borrow money later.

But we have the stupidity (highlighted by Michael Littlewood this week, but something I have been campaigning on for some time) of borrowing $20 billion over the next decade, to put into the NZ Super Fund. So we are borrowing money, so we can save money, so we won’t have to borrow money? Confused? You should be.  Sounds more dodgy than a hedge fund.

But we now have the politics. In an ideal world, everyone would understand that continuing to borrow money to put into the Super Fund will not in any way affect whether or not future pension levels stay the same. John Key has made a “promise to resign” signed pledge that he would resign if they ever cut the pension level. And in fact his atx cuts have helped boost pensions.

But if he does the sensible thing and say “Oh it is stupid to borrow money (and risk a credit downgrade) to try and save money” and we are going suspend contributions until the books are back in surplus”, then Labour and others will launch a campaign of fear and confusion (remember their 2005 one about National evicting state house tenants) telling pensioners that this means their future pensions are at risk. And some people will believe them.

We see this today in the Herald with Phil Goff demanding the PM come clean on his plans for the Super Fund. And this is simple because Key said they have not changed their position, but they have yet to discuss the issue yet.

John Armstrong warns National to tread carefully:

John Key and Bill English ought to think very carefully before tampering with the New Zealand Superannuation Fund – even if the political risks of doing so may seem relatively slight at first glance. …

A short-term stop on contributions would avoid English having to borrow the money to fund the annual payment into the six-year-old fund. That would make it just a little easier for him to write a Budget which gets international credit rating agencies off his back. It might not be too difficult to convince people that it does not make much sense to borrow money to build up the fund – especially when world financial markets continue to nosedive.

Indeed. But …

There are further reasons not to tinker with the contributions. The first is whether the Government will have the political wherewithal to restart them them once they have stopped. More important, however, is the (mostly) all-party consensus on superannuation policy. It took an age to reach. It will not take much to dissolve it. …

Labour know it is daft to borrow money to save money. Phil Goff is not stupid. But Phil Goff wants to be Prime Minister. So sure as hell he’ll try and politicise what should be a sensible non-controversial move (a temporary suspension of contributions until we are back in surplus) into the equivalent of slashing pensions.

And Martin Kay in the Dom Post reports Peter Dunne is saying don’t do it:

Government support partner Peter Dunne is urging National not to tamper with the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, warning that it would again make state pensions a political football. …

“There’s an argument that because, at the moment, this might have to be funded out of borrowings rather than surpluses, it’s a bit dumb to be doing it. There’s some truth in that, but at the same time, it seems to me that if you’re going through a slow patch economically, given the role that superannuation has long-term, this is the one time not to be putting its future into some jeopardy or doubt.”

So you have the perception in conflict with the reality. You know borrowing to save money achieves nothing in terms of making future super more sustainable. But you know it will lead to a nasty campaign of fear if you suspend contributions.

So I guess you ask, the question the other way around. Sure borrowing to save money doesn’t actually achieve anything, but does it actually do any harm? The cost of the borrowing will be pretty close to the returns from the fund. So it isn’t like a bad policy which actually costs the taxpayers money. It’s just a bad policy that achieves nothing.

So maybe it just isn’t worth the hassle? Just keep the stupid status quo.

Mind you, I’d like a journalists to aggressively ask Phil Goff some questions, such as:

“Mr Goff, if you think the Government can guarantee superannuation by borrowing $2 billion a year to put into the Super Fund, why don’t you advocate the Govt borrow $20 billion a year to put into the Super Fund? Then we could triple the pension”

“Mr Goff, why did your party call for a WINZ staffer to be reprimanded for suggesting a beneficiary borrow money to pay off her debts, yet you advocate the Government borrow money for much the same thing ?”

“Mr Goff, do you think households should follow your advice and borrow money to pay off their mortgages, rather than suspend contributions temporarily”

I suspect the Government will stay with the status quo, as it is just too much hassle for too little gain.

UPDATE: I’m impressed and a bit amazed. The Greens have come out supporting a suspension of contibutions (as have ACT). NZPA report:

And Greens co-leader Russel Norman said any responsible government would reconsider contributions.

“I think people will understand we’re in a very difficult position,” he said on Radio New Zealand.

One can support the principle of the Super Fund, yet agree that it is stupid to currently pay into it, when we are forecast to have to borrow every cent we invest into it for the next decade. Will Goff now accuse the Greens of trying to undermine superannuation?

Fairfax papers on Peters

July 23rd, 2008 at 8:23 am by David Farrar

Also some stories in the Fairfax group. First Martin Kay:

Prime Minister Helen Clark is seeking advice on whether Winston Peters should hand over the $100,000 donated by shipping billionaire Owen Glenn under rules requiring ministers to disclose gifts.

Miss Clark told Parliament she wanted to know if the donation, to help pay Mr Peters’ legal bills from his failed court bid to overturn the 2005 Tauranga result, counted as a gift under the Cabinet Manual.

Under those rules, ministers must relinquish gifts worth more than $500 unless they have the prime minister’s express permission to retain them.

This is Clark’s nightmare – that she has to decide whether or not it is okay for Peters to benefit from a $100,000 gift from a person who was lobbying him to be given a diplomatic appointment.

Clark initially said it definitely was not a gift under the Cabinet rules, so she is backing down from that position.

It will be interesting who she gets advice from. If it is from the Cabinet Office it will be pretty straight advice. If it is from Crown Law I predict it will say it is not a gift! Crown Law can be relied upon to please their client.

It is the first time Miss Clark has acknowledged the donation has a ministerial dimension after days of insisting it is an issue for Mr Peters and NZ First, not for her as prime minister.

Yep it is significant.

Colin Espiner writes:

Peters said he had broken no laws and he was also “confident” he had not misled Parliament.

He said that “big money” had been paid to dig up dirt on him, including by TVNZ, which had hired two detectives to investigate him.

Really. Someone should put that allegation to TVNZ.

NZ First MPs on their way into Parliament yesterday refused to talk to reporters, although deputy leader Peter Brown called out that he had “no concerns” about Peters.

I suspect Peter Brown could walk into a room where Winston is brutally stabbing someone to death, and cheerfully walk out of it and declare he has no concerns about Peters. There is loyalty, there is blind loyalty and then that special brand of it in NZ First.

Calls to sack Peters grow

April 10th, 2008 at 6:37 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports that calls for Peters to be sacked as Foreign Minister (he could be moved to another portfolio) are growing. Business representatives who are still in China are said to be furious and Phil Goff has been trying to calm them down, agreeing it was a “bullshit” situation. Those effectively calling for him to go include:

  • Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Alasdair Thompson
  • Bob Fenwick, a past president of the NZ Export Institute
  • Revenue Minister Peter Dunne

The fact Peters is not just quietly voting against (or abstaining) but has launched a high profile campaign  in NZ against it with newspaper ads is what has them fuming, plus his insistence he will state his views against it when overseas as Foreign Minister.

Martin Kay in the Dom Post covers in more detail the Revenue Minister’s views on Peters:

Mr Dunne, UnitedFuture’s leader and revenue minister, said Mr Peters would fly in the face of “all conventions about good government” if he spoke out against the FTA as a minister. “I can’t see how you stay on that basis.”

… Mr Dunne told Newstalk ZB the FTA was central to the Government’s foreign policy and Mr Peters had to represent that.

Kay also covers the issue of Labour’s about-face on this:

Dr Cullen’s insistence that it is all right for Mr Peters to speak against the deal contradicts comments he made soon after Mr Peters was appointed, when he said the FTA was one of the “highest foreign policy goals”.

His insistence that Mr Peters is free to criticise the deal overseas also appears at odds with a Cabinet circular that says he must speak for the Government “on all issues” when out of the country.

Colin Espiner in The Press also quotes Dr Cullen yesterday:

“I think that people understand very clearly that the confidence and supply agreement provides that Mr Peters is bound on matters purely of foreign policy …”

Now recall that in 2005, Dr Cullen stated in Parliament that the China FTA was one of the Government’s “highest foreign policy goals”.