Vance on Goff

Andrea Vance at Stuff blogs:

The parliamentary press gallery have not long traipsed back from our regular Monday “stand-up” with Phil Goff. It was a good chance for us to drill down on some of the finer points of Labour’s new proposals.

Here’s what we know: Labour is proposing to re-instate research and development tax credits, bring farmers into the ETS scheme earlier than expected and lift the minimum wage to $15.

But after our little question and answer session with Goff, there are more questions than answers.

Here’s what we don’t know: Will the tax credits extend to foreign companies? And how is Labour planning to cap them? What will the carbon price will be for the ETS proposals?

We didn’t get an adequate response to criticism that lifting the minimum wage will cost 6000 jobs.

When asked about policy details, Goff repeatedly – and testily – told us to ask Labour researchers. ”Look, I’m not going into the details on that.”

Hmmn, “Ask my staff, not me” is not generally regarded as a good line for leaders to use, even if it is true.

Goff reckons business can afford the wage rise – he told us previous rises under Labour had created jobs, ignoring the fact they were very different economic times.

That is the key point. In a booming economy where jobs are scarce, you can increase the minimum wage with well minimal impact on employment. But pledging to do so at a time of relatively high unemployment and incredibly high youth unemployment is irresponsible as it will price young workers out of the job market.

As at every stand-up, TV political editors Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner toyed with Goff like cats playing with a wounded mouse. They wanted to know how it is possible to impose a cap on the credits. (Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly likes the idea but says it will be impossible to limit insterest. Key says you can’t – and Labour has got their numbers wrong on the cost.)

Goff, sensibly giving Labour’s reputation on spending, stressed there was $800 million in the pot and that was it. But he couldn’t explain how they could impose that limit.

Mainly because you can’t, unless you make the scheme entirely arbitrary and first in first served. This is one of the reasons the scheme was scraped – it has the potential to blow out massively as firms classify expenditure as research to gain the tax credit.

There the matter should have rested – but Goff’s political skills deserted him. Flustered, he fell into a catty exchange, mixing up the two veteran hacks and sniping “It’s sometimes hard to tell the two of you apart.”


This is Guyon Espiner. He is the One News Political Editor.

And this is Duncan Garner, Political Editor for 3 News.

If Phil is having trouble telling them apart, he may need glasses. But to help him, I’ll provide descriptions as if they were super models.

Guyon is the Size 0 editor while Duncan is the plus sized editor.

What a shame. It was all going quite well. The congress generated some positive headlines and, more important, some good debate about the economy. Business NZ liked the tax credits idea, and Goff made a good stab at smacking down Key’s claims that the ETS proposals would drive up the price of milk.

Now the wheels have come off a bit. If Goff can’t answer basic questions about his brand new economic  policies, do Labour’s ideas have your confidence?

Even worse they are not brand new economic policies. They are the policies Labour went into the last election on. So all the detail work was done years ago and would be available in papers and the like.

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