Duncan Bridgeman at NBR writes:
Last week was a pivotal moment in the relationship between the newish government and the business community.
Until recently businesses had been feeling uncertain about the future, wary of certain policies and uneasy about the complexities of the agreements between Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens.
Business confidence was understandably subdued, tempered at first by the construction sector and then exporters and other large employers.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s first budget was fiscally conservative enough to hit pause on the negative sentiment.
Then last week the business world received confirmation of what the oil and gas sector already knew – the Coalition government can’t be trusted.
It is hard to over emphasise what a betrayal of good faith and process the oil and gas decision was. Not the substance of it, but the total failure to consult or take advice.
Any lingering hope that the government may actually work with business and soften the blows of reform was shattered.
And business confidence dived again.
The drastic move to ban oil and gas exploration with no consultation has given other sectors an enormous fright.
The question is, who’s next? The PM refuses to give an assurance that they’ll not do the same in future. At the most, she’ll say it won’t be regular practice. Oh great, they will only occasionally close down an entire industry without consultion.
Whether the business community saw it coming or not doesn’t matter. What matters is they were clearly excluded despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying otherwise.
The document dump under the Official Information Act last week showed the government banned future oil and gas exploration with underwhelming, last-minute analysis from officials. There was also no cabinet paper on the issue, despite the significant ramifications, including lost jobs, lost opportunities and a complete undermining of overseas investment in New Zealand.
Again this is a decision that:
- Labour denied they would do before the election
- Was not in Labour or NZ First’s manifesto
- Was not in the coalition agreement
- Was not consulted on
- Had no advice from officials on prior to the decision
- Was taken without even a cabinet paper, let alone a discussion at Cabinet or a Cabinet Committee
If business groups allow the Government to act like this without consequence, then they have only themselves to blame when it happens again.