Hold a jobs summit, a “do-fest” not a “talk-fest”. Get rather excited about business migration. Create a new category called “entrepreneur plus”. (Give the job of policy development to the wrong department, but that’s another story). Wait one year. Check the mailbox. Discover just one (ONE!) applicant.
Trumpet “work place skills” as one of the BIG SIX economic drivers. Establish a skills forum to drive the skills strategy. Announce that the forum will meet five times in 2010, starting in March, so that early progress can be made. Then forget to call the March meeting, or any others, so that yet another leg of the Governments economic plan turns out to be a hologram.
Get serious about rebutting the mounting criticism that the Government has no plan for the economy. Rush out a one pager to prove that an economic plan really does exist. Discover that there isn’t really enough hard facts to fill a page. So add in ‘more elective surgical services, more hips, more cataracts ‘as an identified driver of economic growth!
Have another brain wave. Declare New Zealand has a future as an important international financial hub. Then do, ummm, well nothing really. So…
Breathlessly announce that it is Government policy to catch up with Australia’s GDP/capita by 2025. Forget to spell out how. Then discover that we are heading the other way. Go into denial of the bleeding obvious, relying on a hilarious attempt at obfuscation, rather an acknowledging the truth and playing a longer game.
(See A goal is not a strategy by the New Zealand Institute)
Take an axe to Kiwisaver and halve it. Cancel payments into the Cullen fund. Wait almost two years. Discover that New Zealanders’ don’t save. Set up a committee to find out why.
Come up with the idea that lots of rich people would like to retire to Godzone and bring their money with them. Ignore strong official advice to the contrary.
Announce with due fanfare. Wait 3 months. Discover that only 12 have applied (of whom 7 were coming anyway), and that none have yet been granted.
Remove the biofuels sale obligation on oil companies on the basis that it is nanny state!! At a stroke, destroy investor confidence among biofuel producers.
Rush to repair the damage by offering biofuel producers a fat taxpayer funded subsidy. Producers decline to uplift the subsidy, of course, because (competitively priced) biofuels are just too much bother for oil companies now that the legal obligation on them has been removed.
Tax changes: Part 2:
A year later the Government announces a “tax switch”. GST goes up to 15%. Income tax comes down.
A closer look reveals the obvious. The rich are net winners, the poor are net losers. The rich-poor gap widens, still further.
Tax changes: Part 1:
Soon after the election, the new Government tells us that:
• they are out of money, but
• they can nonetheless afford tax cuts.
About 30% of the resultant tax cuts go to the top 3% (yes, dear reader, 3%) of earners.
But to pay for it the hi-tech research and development tax credit is scrapped. Hi-tech, high growth, high wage, companies take a hit. A number of (especially Aussie based) companies that were planning to relocate to New Zealand stay put.
Hi-tech exports languish.
Change the law so that anyone working for an employer in a small business can be fired in the first three months without notice and without reason. Justify the change on the basis that employers will be more likely to employ people.
Wait a year. Ask officials whether it worked. Receive a paper saying it seems not to have increased employment opportunities.
Claim the exact opposite and extend the fire-at-will provisions to all employers, with the result that for most employers nothing will change but for rat-bag employers things will get abusive.
Decide that the New Zealand economy needs a “step change” and that mining on the conservation estate is the way to achieve it. Ignore the “sustainable” part of the sustainable economic development. (How many times can you mine gold?)
Blame Lucy Lawless and Robyn Malcolm for being emotional, then note that 30,000 others begged to differ by marching down Queen Street, Auckland with them.
Then argue internally. Then stage a complete U-turn, claiming it wasn’t really a U-turn at all.
Decide that national standards for primary school children are a good idea. Sell the idea on the basis that parents deserve clear and accurate information (who could disagree?)
Then invent the standards, implement them without trial, discover that the standards themselves are not clear, and that comparing children accurately from one school to the next (called moderation) doesn’t work well.
Claim that opposition to the scheme is ideological, but stay silent as school principals quietly continue to use the standards that already exist, and have done for ages.
Wait till an economic downturn arrives, and people are keen to hone their skills so they can get back into the workforce. Then slash adult & community education (“night school”), even though it is known to be a highly efficient use of taxpayer money.
When pushed on the logic of the decision, cry poor saying that “savings had to be made somewhere”.
Then rub salt in by substantially increasing funding to private schools at the same time.
Suspend payments into the “Cullen fund” – that’s the fund that helps pre-pay superannuation for when all the baby boomers retire in the next twenty years, and therefore makes national super sustainable.
Justify that decision on the basis that the global economic downturn means that the government is fresh out of cash, and would need to borrow.
Quietly overlook the fact that the share market was really low at the time and that that is precisely when smart people buy.
Forgo a huge profit opportunity for the “Cullen fund” as a result, leaving the future of national super uncertain, yet again.
Declare ACC to be in big financial trouble, even though it collects about $1 billion a year more in revenue than it pays out in claims. Rachet up the levies for everyone. Single out motorcyclists for an especially harsh increase. Then cut the cover for lots of things such as hearing loss. Make it really hard for the victims of sexual abuse.
Then quietly prepare part of the ACC scheme for privatisation, even though it is demonstrably the fairest and most cost-effective scheme in the world and the envy of many nations.
This post is inspired by Charles Chauvel’s post earlier today especially his point 3.
When our PM arrives in Copenhagen he will declare two world firsts for NZ. The first first will be our ‘all gases all sectors’ ETS. He will not dwell on the fact that it was passed 15 months ago in David Parker’s name and that his Government has since gutted it. It still has form but struggles for substance.
The second first will be NZ science leadership on agricultural gases especially methane. He will announce, again, an international NZ-led effort. Splendid. Except it began about 5 year’s ago. Remember the Fart Tax? Well the farmers paid up anyway and so did the taxpayer and the research got started. (I was both Climate and Science minister at the time)
Not that we shouldn’t do more. Not that another conference of research workers mightn’t be a good idea. But it ain’t new.
So what would be new?
*research and business development of ligno-cellulose(ie forestry products or by-products) to ethanol in pilot refineries beginning in BoP where the science and the wood is most concentrated. Actually the science is done but the scaling out of the lab isn’t.
*research into deep geothermal energy. That research got underway two year’s ago but modestly. We need baseload thermal electricity to wind out Huntly and to give charging capacity to electric vehicles….
*an undertaking to purchase a few hundred electric vehicles, possibly limited for official use in Wellington in the first instance, not to save lots of petrol (there would be too few), but to test recharging options, planning law, and other infrastructure so that when they are available affordably we will be ready.
The Conference would erupt at your speech because they would see substance Mr Key. Substance Mr Key. Mr Key? Hello? Hello…….?
The A-G’s report into Bill English confirms that he does have a pecuiary interest in the house he sought to rent to the taxpayer for $47k.p.a. Here is the relevant quote: ‘the Crown was renting a property for Mr English from a trust in which he had an interest, and the arrangement was explicitly based on a view that he did not have an interest.’
That means he should never have received the money.
It means his ‘voluntary’ return of the money is no longer voluntary.
It means that the legal construct that said he (somehow) did not have an interest came nowhere near fooling the A-G. She applied common sense instead of legal shading. Bill English is a common sense fellow. He would have known his construct was self serving.
Further it now makes Bill English’s claim that he changed his trust deed ‘for personal and family reasons’, well, incredible. That is, a deceit. The truth, contained in both the A-G’s report and written questions is that Bill English’s family trust was first discussed in officialdom in Nov 08 and by about Dec 3 Bill had a clear idea what he needed to do. He changed the deed in Jan, signed a declaration that he had no pecuniary interest on Feb 1 and the cash flowed until the Dom asked questions months later when expenses were made public for the first time.
So this was a construct.
But I still haven’t got to the bottom of one aspect: given that no Minister has ever before sought to rent their house to the taxpayer at above backbench rates and conditions, new rules needed to be created to allow it. Who did the creating? My only clue is an email from officialdom that says the ‘ninth floor’ did. Mr Key has so far not answered that question. Best I try again.
As his first year in the job draws near I still have not fathomed what John Key wants to do now that he has the job. Muldoon, Bolger and Shipley had a much firmer grip on the tiller. By contrast Mr Key seems to experience the job as a child might a recreation park; lots to be done, lots of new things, lots of smiles.
But no discernable political philosophy. Goff, Hyde, Norman/Turei, Turia/Sharples have a political compass. So too English. Ditto Rudd, Obama, Brown, Zuma, Merkel……..But not Mr Key.
Mr Key is a retail politician. Soundbites not strategies; today not beyond today; poll findings not beliefs.
When he does one day stop being a prime minister he will talk, not of what he strived for, but of what he saw and how he felt. Just like a kid coming out of Disneyland.
The budget is now five days old and a sense of deceit is starting to settle around it for two reasons. The first is the obvious one that today’s government cannot guarantee tomorrow’s super at the same time as, rightly or wrongly, they elect to create a $34B hole in the NZ super (Cullen) fund. The government’s assurances that such a hole has no consequences are patently wrong. Less obvious, because it requires insider knowledge, is the nature of the government’s advice when it chose to pass tax cut legislation for April ’10 and ’11 in the middle of Dec ’08. The pace of deterioration of the government’s books in the closing months of ’08 was startling. On Nov 8 Labour ministers stopped getting advice and National ministers started getting it. By mid December they would have clearly understood that their tax plans could not be afforded. But they passed them anyway and now folk are wising up to that. Brian Rudman did a piece in the Herald last Wednesday which nailed that issue and (according to usually reliable sources) the editor got a bollocking on the phone from Mr Key for his troubles. Not v primeministerial. So the 100 days of action have ended and the 100 days of retreat are upon us. It is pertinent that while many NZers are understanding of the case for breaking a promise, a growing number are reflecting a view that legislating for that promise in the first place was less than honest. In the government’s defence there was and is uncertainty around, but it is not plausible that they couldn’t see the direction and pace of change by the second week of December.