Category Archives: Great NZ minds

On National’s housing

Inititally drafted as a comment on the DimPost – which hasn’t shown up, perhaps existing in a state of perpetual quantum flux of both posted and unmoderated.

My thought’s on National’s “big” plans:

National’s in a bind here – Rogernomics-era policies of tax-free capital gains and inflation-only RBA are a big millstone.

If National’s scheme for first home buyers actually does lift a significant number of buyers into the market it will further fuel our insane housing bubble: keeping interest rates higher than the rest of the OECD and as a result further erode the competitiveness of our exporters. This is macro 101 stuff.

The reality is though, this scheme actually does sweet FA to really help first home buyers – an extra $10k for a new build only represents something like 35 days of housing inflation in the Auckland market. This is how fundamentally broken our economy has become – a $10,000 fillup for builders nearly falls within the rounding error.

The take away: even if it works it’ll only serve to make housing less affordable in the long run.

National is actually very weak here. No rational observer can can support our current system of economic management – it simply isn’t sustainable, it’s pure self-inflicted stupidity. And that’s ignoring actual problems we face such as rural waterways on the verge of collapse, an unfunded superannuation timebomb and 4 degrees of global warming.

Even the short term is grim at the moment – the Government’s own figures show growth is set to halve over next couple of years.

#BrighterFuture everyone


Budget 2014: Same-Same and the Overton Boogaloo

Budget 2014 has dropped and it has delivered few surprises. Writes the imminently sensible Keith Ng at PublicAddress

Ultimately, I think this budget is fine, and National really is doing a reasonable job of managing the finances. I expressed doubts a few budgets ago them pushing the cuts to future governments, but here we are, they’ve actually worn the worst of the cuts.

While the sobriquet “rock star” must surely be beginning to piss-off the chaps on the Treasury benches, there is no doubt that our country is in a relatively stable position. The structural problems left over from Clark are still unsolved (superannuation, balance of payments, housing inflation), but in large part we’re looking pretty fit compared to much of the moribund OECD.

Sure, it still sucks to be poor, and rich people accumulating wealth via capital gains are still untaxed. Our rivers are still toxic, and climate change has the potential to claim us all. Sure. But we could be a fair bit worse off.

If anything the performance of NZ post-GFC is testament to the sobriety Micheal Cullen exhibited to repeatedly bank mammoth surpluses to reduce debt. Our current health also reinforces how reckless the position was of Brash-era National – crying for big tax cuts in a red-hot inflationary economy, while calling for Government to increase debt to fund infrastructure. Had New Zealand followed Brash post-2005, it’s easy to see that we would be a lot poorer off right now.

What is most interesting for me however, are the two key social policies rolled out by the Government. Free healthcare for under children under 13 and a four week extension to paid parental leave. This is the type of shameless and overt social interventionism that would surely have been opposed by prior National caucuses. I can only imagine the howls of anguished rage coming from Jamie Whyte when he discovered that sick children would be further insulated from the fiscal consequences of their choice to fall ill.

This type of expensive social policy is exactly the sort of thing that used to be called “communism by stealth” (John Key 2005), moderated slightly to a “dead rat” that had to be swallowed (Bill English 2009), and now in 2014 the same men in charge of the National Government are proudly announcing headline policies to the left of those that Clark achieved.

So while much may be same-same in Budget 2014 it is clear that the New Zealand version of the Overton window has shifted – resolutely.

Shane Jones Edition

Originally this post was intended as a comment to the (always excellent) DimPost’s writing on, what else, Shane Jones.

The crux of the Jones-issue concerning political minds is – how useful was Jones’ connection to male working class voters? I genuinely believe Jones did connect on some level – as I wrote on the Dim:

FWIW – at the leadership meeting I went to Jones definitely connected best with the blue collar guys sitting in the row behind me.

The line that received the most spontaneous murmurings of assent from the crowd was Jones criticising the performance and discipline of the Labour caucus, something that Cunliffe and Robertson didn’t do.

Jones is definitely a skilled communicator, and reached a part of the electorate that Labour has long struggled to attract. But I don’t think this connection is necessary for a Labour victory. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think Labour will be better off without Jones.

Waitakere Man doesn’t exist as a viable bloc of voters for the left, at least in the way pundits like Trotter and Pagani et al would have you believe.

Men tend to vote right, women tend to vote left. This rough rule of thumb can be seen across Western democracies; it’s a useful place to start when looking at our electoral narrative over the last few cycles.

Take a look at the last two competitive elections Labour faced – 2005 and 2008. National’s success under Key and failure under Brash can largely be attributed to differences in how those two leaders connected with female voters.

Women were turned off by Brash and the Nats lost. Brash was dry, alienating and misogynistic – decrying Labour’s women-friendly policies, demoting women from National’s front bench and, in a final symbol of his political death knell, was exposed as cheating on his wife. Conversely Key is well related to and trusted by women, meaning Labour languishes. Key presents himself as wetter, softer and safer than Brash – a true family man who is much more attuned to the female electorate, and importantly employs highly visible women ministers to champion National’s work.

The “centre ground” of NZ politics that National occupies essentially was staked out by Clark. It’s simple 3rd Way Neoliberalism – involving acceptance of key female-targetted policies like paid parental leave, WFF, and interest free student loans. Mums love their kids, and they vote with children in mind.

National has readily absorbed this –  and hence major iniatives are frequently couched in ways that appeal to this middle ground of female voters. Tinkering in schools has been largely framed so as to maximise appeal to suburban parents with a focus on choice and parental empowerment; assets sales become family-friendly when they are promulgated as helping these same suburban “mums and dads”, despite them only being a tiny slice of actual stock buyers.

The truth of the matter is that there isn’t “centre ground” issues or policies in our political landscape that Waitakere Man is a player in. He is either is in a union and votes in his class interests, or more likely isn’t unionised and tends to vote to the right. Waitakere Man cares much less about paid parental leave or WFF, and most likely actively resents unions despite them championing his economic interests. This is the chap who doesn’t mind hearing someone in a suit using meaningless phrases like “business growth agenda” as neoliberalism argues that what is best for business is best for him.

Meanwhile, there women who voted Labour in 2005, but who switched to Key in 2008. And due to: (pick one) the political cycle/the power of incumbancy/opposition incompetence, they’ve been Key voters ever since. Women are the low-hanging fruit for a left-wing party – securing this demographic is paramount for a left victory.

And Jones just doesn’t appeal to women – he actively alienates them. The porn, the jokes about geldings, the red-blooded appeals that so excited political pundits – none of it resonates with the key bloc whose choices will decide the next Government.

The Nation on Cunliffe

From TV3’s The Nation.

Farrar has eagerly blogged about the muzzling of Cunliffe

We now have a situation where Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson has been gagged from speaking publicly on economic development and related issues. This is not the sign of a happy camp, and indicates how tense things must be.

Tense? Maybe. But thankfully more disciplined than just two weeks ago. Labour’s caucus has been typified by a suicidal level of dysfunction since the electoral loss in 2009, and unless things improve it will remain unelectable. Shearer must impose himself if things are to improve. Goff’s greatest error was to avoid stepping forward – his more assertive performance during the election was a breath of fresh air.

Despite the muck-raking on Kiwiblog, I think Shearer will sleep a little sounder tonight.

Holding a cricket bat

I dont like parliamentary debate in New Zealand. It doesn’t feel relevent, vital or interesting compared to more traditional modes politicians use to communicate with the public, such as appearing on Radio Sport or morning television.

So it’s nice to have my lazy cynicism of the House challenged by some rather good work by Julie Ann Genter.

I found this via James Henderson at the Standard, a man it seems who can’t help but vomit bile across his prose. Mocking the education of “Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, whose qualification for the job is that he used to teach kids to make wooden toys” just confirms my opinion that collectively The Standard brings too much bad karma into the world. Gerry has his his faults; I wish The Standard could usefully assess them.

The decision to build the Roads of National Significance is awful, but it was taken with full advice. It merely continues a long kept tradition established here in the time of Vogel: pork-barrel practices acquired an irresistable hold and wrought upon the parliamentary machine a design which it has never lost.

And Genter shows what a well asked question or two can do in the House. For a new MP it is interesting to hear her speak, and with her slow and careful pronounciation like someone using a second or third language. Like Obama holding a cricket bat.

Genter embarrassed the Government pretty well there. She illustrated pretty clearly how the decision behind Roads of National Significance was venal and gross. Her question in then house can be read as the some version of the “fresh talent takes on tired career politician” storyline.

He aint Muldoon, and she sure aint Lange, but the same generational shift is playing out.

Former Zaoui campaigner Gordon Campbell puts his mind to the salient question – just how credible a security threat is Huawei?

Put it this way: Huawei is the sort of tainted corporate player that – if it were an asylum seeker – we would be clapping it in solitary confinement and trying to deport it as quickly as possible. Unless if course, as in this case, it chose to offer us a lot of money. But sacrificing your country’s basic security for short term trade benefits rarely ends happily.


Lay of the land

So it turns out The Nation returned to the telly over the weekend. A shame I missed it as Natasha Smith’s survey of Shearer, leadership and the party is far too good to miss. Try and make it past that droning clunker of a segue  – hint to TV3: your video footage of David Shearer shows him as having two hands.

As for the actual piece – Labour’s structural fault lines are still raw. The union membership are presented as being at odds with centralising forces, while the place of identity politics within the Labour vision is still in dispute. The key to this is Shearer – the membership can cover the cracks once he has committed his vision to paper.

The most interesting question of 2012 of course is what that vision looks like.