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Economy : How can we convince voters Labour’s economic policy will work? Labour Leadership Q&A #9

Posted by on September 12th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 9

Economy : How will you convince voters Labour’s economic policy will work?

Question : How can we get the voting public to believe that the present economic thinking has failed? And that Labour’s ideas will work for them?

Submitted by : Angie Croft, Christchurch


Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog. This started Tuesday 10th September, and continues till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.



Answer from Grant Robertson

We have to relate our economic vision to the reality of everyday lives.

This means an economy where people come before money. Where the centerpiece is full employment- decent jobs paying decent wages.

We need to talk about Labour using the power of government to help create a productive economy, not one like National’s that is based on speculation and selling off assets.

To create this economy we cannot tinker at the edges. We have to leave behind the neo liberal agenda and create a Labour way. This means changing the settings of monetary policy, giving Kiwi firms a fair go at government contracts, lifting wages, reducing power prices, building affordable homes and investing in industry and regional development.

The message from Labour must be, the economy will work for all New Zealanders not just John Key’s mates.


Answer from David Cunliffe

We need to be clear that the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) blew the lid off the myth that trickle-down economics will create a fairer, more prosperous New Zealand.

Free markets left to their own devices are ultimately destructive of human well-being. Unregulated markets tend towards monopolies and often concentrate vast wealth in the hands of a few. Neither outcome is sustainable or morally right.

When National says they are going to cut people’s legs off, Kiwis don’t want to hear that Labour will too, just nearer the ankles and with more anaesthetic. The post-GFC modern social democratic alternative must include:

• using the power of the state to intervene when markets fail;

• guaranteeing fair workplaces and decent wages through employment laws, including industry standard agreements;

• lifting the minimum wage to $15 and rolling out a living wage as fast as can be afforded;

• building new partnerships between communities, regions, industries and an empowering and investing State; and

• revised marco-economic settings that do not solely focus on inflation but include growth, employment, and our external balance.

New Zealand desperately needs change.

The next Labour Government mustn’t be more of the same.

I am offering Labour a bold economic agenda and leadership with the vision and economic credibility to see it through.


Answer from Shane Jones

Our ideas are exciting. We will use both the market and the State.

I am convinced that our tax system can be refined to incentivise and expedite fresh investment.

Industry will be actively supported, regional development will be promoted and in special cases underwritten.

Our mix of economic stewardship and equity is desperately needed throughout NZ.

I have the experience and the communication skills to sell this narrative.


Keep Our Assets Bill Drawn

Posted by on July 27th, 2012

Yesterday my Labour colleagues and I had an outstanding result from the Members Ballot with four Labour bills drawn.

If successful my State-Owned Enterprises and Crown Entities (Protecting New Zealand’s Strategic Assets) Amendment Bill will see key state assets New Zealand Post, Kiwibank, Kiwirail and others protected for future generations.

It protects essential state assets such as New Zealand Post, Kiwibank and Kiwirail from attempts to sell them off for short term profits. Any government trying to sell these assets will need a 75 per cent majority in Parliament or win a referendum. That’s a fair policy.

We know Kiwis oppose selling our assets. This bill ensures strategic assets sales will need to pass a much higher hurdle, which is only fair.

The need for this bill is clear for all to see. The government is going hell for leather to sell off our essential assets despite massive opposition.

This is the acid test for the government. If National doesn’t support this bill it will be clear they are readying more assets like Kiwirail for sale. I call on all parties to support this bill and protect our assets.

I think New Zealanders will be very supportive of the fact that we are putting in place provisions that will stop sale of other assets.

People will sleep better knowing the Government had to either go to a referendum or get 75 per cent of Parliament before they can sell off Kiwibank.

This is just another way we can stop the sale of strategic asset sales and to keep them for generations to come. Kiwis all across the country are signing the Keep Our Assets petition in droves and to date the Keep Our Coalition has collected over 160,000 signatures, and is well on our way to forcing a referendum. Sign it today.

Asset sales- pay once, pay twice…

Posted by on July 22nd, 2012

Today’s “front of the queue” humbug from John Key is only the beginning of a massive exercise in propaganda and marketing that the government will put in front of New Zealanders in the coming months to try to promote their asset sales programme. I have heard talk of a huge TV advertising campaign and mobile displays all around the country.

And it pays to remember that the hundreds of millions of dollars that are being spent to dress up this sales programme could be being spent on all manner of projects that might actually grow our economy, or give people opportunity or protect our environment. Instead the money is being spent selling off to New Zealanders what we all already own. Its a con job- and one that we are paying for.

Hearing John Key today biff around numbers like $1000 or $2000 and suggest that this is all it takes to be in on these assets is, frankly, offensive. Most people and families don’t have that money lying around, and so the sales amount to a shift in wealth from the many (who currently own them together) to the few (who can afford to buy them). And so National grows inequality in our society.

But we must keep on fighting. Remember to download your petition forms here and get your friends and family to sign up to show the government that they do not have the support of New Zealanders for the sale of our assets.

Asset Sales: Labour’s minority report

Posted by on June 14th, 2012

Last week we released our minority select committee report on the National Government’s Asset Sales legislation. They treated public opinion on this issue with utter contempt and abused the select committee process.  National has an irrational ideological obsession with asset sales. It is the one overriding priority of this government.

You can read the full report here.


Keeping our assets

Posted by on June 11th, 2012

Controversial Asset Sales legislation will face its second reading in Parliament this week. 

It is still possible to keep our assets.  In a piece recently published in the Otago Daily Times, I explain why and how.  

As my colleague Clayton Cosgrove has already pointed out, the normal process has been abused.  Just 0.6% of submissions supported the idea at Select Committee – for good reason – and there are holes in the proposal that future generations will have to deal with. 

The proposal is a dog.

Unfortunately it looks like National members of the committee had cotton wool in their ears. The Government seems determined to plough ahead with its plan to sell off our best revenue generating assets.  They have seemingly no regard for what expert submitters and the general voting public thinks.

In the face of such arrogance, some are tempted to despair.  Not so Grey Power, and other community members of the citizen led campaign to keep our assets.

People are already out collecting signatures for a citizens’ initiated referendum.  The Government could choose to ignore the referendum, but it would be foolish to do so. 

Labour has set up a website in support of the campaign to save our assets. It outlines how you can get involved. There are plenty of campaign resources and you can download petition forms.

Asset sales bill on the move

Posted by on June 8th, 2012

Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee Chair Todd McClay has announced he expects to report the Asset Sales Bill back to the House six weeks early, instead of the original date of 16 July.

How 1448 submissions, of which 9 were in favour and 1421 were opposed, (0.6% in favour and 98.1% against) can be adequately condensed beggars belief.

But as we know National will try almost anything and when you have Treasury write its departmental report before hearing all submissions, anything is possible.

In doing so the government has abused the normal processes of the select committee and bequeathed a series of problems for future governments to rectify.

Unless there’s urgency and whether you’ve won an election or not, governments put legislation through a select committee process for two good reasons.

Firstly, you want to get it right. This bill is full of holes – many of which you can drive a bus through. The copious faults identified by expert and community submitters are compounded by a process of inadequate consideration and pre-emptory deliberation.

Secondly, you should give submitters the right to have their say because they might actually have some good ideas to improve or amend the bill. So why did they bother even going through the select committee process?  This is the government telling the experts and the community that they don’t want to listen.

It’s clear that these tactics were used to limit adverse publicity and attempt to undermine the nation-wide petition for a referendum, rather than enable the committee to go about its business in a thorough and properly considered way.

No evidence was given showing this bill will improve the economic, social and fiscal position of New Zealand. This legislation will only increase power prices, increase asset inequality and make New Zealanders poorer and more indebted to the world in the long-term.

We will know early next week if they plan to sell our assets under urgency. In the meantime listen to my interview on Radio New Zealand this morning.


Posted by on June 7th, 2012

Enemies of democracy

Posted by on May 24th, 2012

Yesterday marked the end of hearings on the government’s disgraceful Mixed Ownership Model Bill.

Astoundingly we were told that Treasury officials had already written their report, before all submissions were heard. It proves that the deal has been preordained and that the government doesn’t give a damn what people think. This is totally reprehensible.

National have treated submitters with contempt, in most cases only giving people a few minutes to submit and one question from the committee. Maybe it’s because they have only heard one submission in favour of their main plan for the economy.

Bereft of any principled ideas or integrity, its members like Maggie Barry have taken to bullying and intimidating submitters – even trying to force submitters to disclose who they voted for at the last election.

Everyone has the right to submit to Parliament and MPs irrespective of who they voted for. They don’t need to be bullied by Maggie Barry. That’s democracy.

The mask hiding the National Party’s typical disdain for democracy has once again slipped. They’ve made a mockery of the select committee process, the submitters and the issue that close to 80% of people oppose. The government should be ashamed.

It never had any intention of listening. Because they know that people resolutely oppose the sale. Instead they’ve had to resort to bullying members of the public who dare to speak out.

Radio New Zealand covered it very well this morning. Have a listen

Economic development ideas

Posted by on April 29th, 2012

During the recess I have been working to fill out some ideas around economic development.

These personal views build on caucus discussions and our 2011 manifesto, and take on board feedback from party and business circles as I have been listening and engaging over the last few months.

This oped, published in the Herald on Friday, argues for lifting sustainable economic growth through a more ‘can do’, positive partnership with between government and business. It argues for a clear and credible strategy that integrates economy-wide, sector-driven and regional initiaitives. It warns of the dangers of the kind of one-off ‘deals’ with indvidual corporates now so typical of National.

This speech, delivered today to a meeting hosted by the New Lynn Women’s Branch of the NZLP, goes back to first principles. It argues that, post GFC, the “invisible hand” of neoliberal economics has failed, that New Zealand cannot cut or sell our way out of a hole, and that Labour must therefore present a clear alternative economic approach to the current government based on our own enduring values.

Hope you enjoy them.

Keep our assets. Sign the petition.

Posted by on April 27th, 2012

Labour is supporting the community campaign Keep Our Assets which aims to force a citizens initiated referendum (CIR) on asset sales. The campaign includes a range of community groups and political parties and is led by Grey Power and the CTU. We need your help in supporting this campaign.

In order to get for a CIR we first need to get the signatures of 10% of the voting population. That amounts to a bit more than 300,000 signatures. It is a lot, but on this issue there is no doubt that the public is on our side.

The Clerk of parliament has approved the referendum question. It is:

Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?

Labour has created a website to support the campaign.  This is a great chance to put the government under pressure and to remind New Zealanders that the future of their power companies and airline is at stake.

Most Kiwis want to keep our assets in NZ hands. If you agree please sign the petition. You can download it here and circulate to everyone you know, and you can sign up to the campaign here.

You can make a difference.

Sticking up for your city

Posted by on April 22nd, 2012

It’s one of the main jobs of any member of parliament to stick up for your patch. You are elected by a constituency and they want and expect you to defend them and promote their rights. I don’t think constituents expect to get a better deal than anyone else in the grand scheme of things, but they don’t want to be treated with contempt and disrespect.

I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone that I’ve come out fighting over the extraordinary, but probably predictable decision by Kiwirail to put the Hillside workshops up for sale. In Saturday’s Otago Daily Times I was quite forthright in expressing my views. I used some rather unladylike language and had to ring my mum the day before to warn her.

I stand by what I said. I think the government (and Kiwirail) have pissed on Dunedin. I think many Dunedin-ites agree. Saturday’s ODT editorial seems to agree too though in more polite terms.

I think that the only way we’re going to sort things is for Dunedin people to take control ourselves. And to have a future Labour government backing rail.

I’ll do my best to help find a buyer for Hillside. I’ll continue to take the fight to parliament and I’ll remain a thorn in the side of this government and the local National List MP Michael Woodhouse who has seriously let down the people of Dunedin in the pursuit of his own career. I’ll advocate for the need for and the importance of this industry to remain in public hands, and indeed to just bloody remain in our country.

When I took this job on I understood that there are times when sticking up for your city is more important than towing toeing a party line that you don’t agree with and which is going to hurt your city. It’s a judgement to be rarely exercised. Sometimes the greater good is more important than a local issue. But every MP should have the right and the responsibility to stand up for their city. This was one of those times. Woodhouse didn’t even think about it.

He blocked a select committee hearing on the petition signed last year by nearly 14,000 people (mostly from Dunedin) calling on the government to save the Hillside and Woburn (Hutt) workshops. He has never been held accountable for refusing to allow the people of Dunedin, the Hillside workers and their union to have a say before a parliamentary committee. He should be.

His government is negligent, disingenuous and downright liars about their responsibilities for Kiwirail and its decision and their knowledge of those decisions. As my colleague David Parker has said; if the KiwiRail board had made the same announcement without telling a Labour government, the board would have been sacked. It is just nonsense and untrue for shareholding Ministers to say they didn’t know Kiwirail’s direction and decisions. And it is very clear that they don’t oppose Kiwirail’s decision to sell Hillside.

There’s more at stake than the nearly 130 jobs, the loss of wages, taxes, skills and the more than 137 year history of a competent and valued rail manufacturing plant to the city of Dunedin. There are more than 70 engineering businesses clustered around Hillside. It’s the backbone of our city. It’s becoming more high tech. It’s a hugely important part of our local and regional economy.

This government doesn’t give a stuff. They allowed (and encouraged) it to be run down and now it’s being sold because Kiwirail says it’s not viable. Kiwirail deliberately made it unviable.

I ask you this. How is that that contracts have been handed to the Chinese to build rail wagons that are dubious in quality, when those same wagons could have been built here? They may have cost a bit more, but the workmanship would have been assured, the maintenance would have been less and have been more easily accomplished, and the people who built the wagons would have been earning decent wages and paying taxes in the New Zealand economy.

Kiwirail, and the government, has blocked any independent scrutiny of the dodgy process in awarding those contracts to China North Rail and the quality issues associated with the Chinese wagons. It’s time for some sunlight on both.

It is not false economy to manufacture in your own country. It’s our productive economy. I’d stand up for manufacturing jobs any day against paying for more pokie machines that create immeasurable social harm and are part of a mates deal to an organisation that will profit, might create a few more service economy jobs, but is unlikely add much more real value to our economy.

And I reckon that’s worth sticking up for.

Government says no to Ports transparency

Posted by on April 4th, 2012

Today I asked the House to agree to introduce my members’ bill, called the Local Government (Council Controlled Organisations) Amendment Bill and set it down for the next Members Day. The government said no.

The bill would have made information held by ports accessible under the Official Information Act and the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

Currently, Ports are excluded in the definition of CCOs under the Local Government Act.  An easy amendment to the Local Government Act, as proposed by No Right Turn, (thanks NRT) would have fixed this deficiency. 

Obviously, the costly dispute at the Ports of Auckland has highlighted the need for this bill. The way in which the Ports of Auckland board and management have acted without transparency and accountability has made it very clear there is a need to ensure that these publicly-owned businesses are opened to the same scrutiny every other public institution faces.

We can get information about the local school or a public library, or even SOEs, but we can’t get information about valuable assets like our publicly owned ports, that are worth millions of dollars.

It’s hard to believe any government that claims it cares about transparency and accountability would have a problem supporting a bill like this one.  But National is demonstrating that it’s all talk when it comes to open government.

So now the bill will go into the ballot. I’m not giving up.

Black Friday Date for Asset Sell Off Submissions

Posted by on March 28th, 2012

Friday 13 April is the closing date for submissions to the committee considering the How Key wants to give our silver to his mates (aka Mixed Ownership Model) Bill.

The Committee has indicated a willingness to travel to hear submissions – so ask if you want to be heard either in your home city or in Wellington.

The link to the parliamentary site is here.

Then and now: Key on all sorts

Posted by on March 14th, 2012

Over the weekend I posted some of John Key’s earlier statements on asset sales and public sector restructuring, pointing out how much his current views and approach differ from what he promised people before he became Prime Minister.

Tonight TV3 have gone one better and unearthed video footage of him speaking to the PSA Conference back in September 2008. Not only does John Key rule out asset sales, he makes a compelling case against them.

“There’ll be no asset sales in the first term of a National government, and there may never be asset sales in the years ahead… Nor am I hell-bent on selling assets actually. I personally think it’s not the issue that the current economy faces. In the world of making the boat go faster, actually I don’t think selling off state assets is going to make the boat go faster.

Labour has been arguing all along that asset sales will not make us a richer country. We’ve been consistent. John Key and the National government have done a complete u-turn and have now placed asset sales at the centre of their economic strategy.

“The Crown’s dividend streams from the Meridians, the Mighty Rivers of the world is large, so on both motivations we don’t have a debt problem, they’re acting, I think, highly effectively as companies, and they’re making money. There is no motivation to sell assets.

Once again, Key is borrowing the line that Labour has been consistently arguing for over a decade. The SOEs are highly profitable. They make more money than we would save in debt repayment costs if we sold them. Also note Key arguing we don’t have a debt problem (Bill English also made similar comments both before and after the 08 election). Interesting how after 3 years of a National government debt seems to be the biggest issue we face…

“So there’s no agenda to sell assets.

This is perhaps the most damning quote. Although Key was careful before the 2008 election to qualify his no asset sales pledge with “during the first term” he gave New Zealanders the very clear impression that he wouldn’t be selling assets long-term either.

“What we are saying is we’re not going to cut jobs, we’re simply capping at 36,000.

That commitment didn’t even last a term. Now he’s promising even more job losses during National’s second term. Nothing about that in their manifesto for 2011.

“The second point is, no we’re not borrowing for tax cuts.

So if they’re not borrowing for tax cuts, and New Zealand didn’t have a debt problem when they took office, why are they now arguing we have a major debt problem and need to sell assets to fix it?

John Key has built his political career on telling people what they want to hear. Eventually that strategy always catches up with people, and it’s catching up with Key big-time.

NZ is not for sale

Posted by on March 11th, 2012

Today David Shearer released a new Member’s Bill to prevent foreign investors from buying rural land unless they can prove it will bring substantial benefits to New Zealand that would otherwise not occur.

National has botched the handling of the Crafar farms issue. They’ve got it wrong. John Key has tried to brush away criticism by arguing land was sold to overseas investors under Labour too and if we were serious about our opposition we’d change the law. Today David made it very clear we will be doing just that.

Unlike National, Labour is out there listening to New Zealanders, who are increasingly concerned about our country being sold out from under us. John Key was right when he said New Zealanders don’t want to end up tenants in their own land. It’s a shame his actions aren’t living up to that sentiment.

David spells out the case for the Overseas Investment (Owning Our Own Rural Land) Amendment Bill pretty clearly:

“We cannot afford to lose control of our best income-producing assets and become tenants in our own land. Selling our farmland to foreign buyers does not improve our economy. Instead the profits simply flow offshore. We also do not want to see New Zealand farms priced out of the reach of Kiwi farmers who are the best in the world at what they do.

National just doesn’t seem to get that we can’t sell our way to a brighter future. Four years ago John Key was ambitious for New Zealand. Today he seems content to manage our economic decline. There are alternatives, and Labour is going to be at the forefront of promoting them.

Click here to download a copy of David’s Bill, along with the detailed explanatory note.

Then and now: Key on SOE sales

Posted by on March 9th, 2012

John Key really doesn’t enjoy being reminded of the promises he made to New Zealanders before the election. It doesn’t matter whether it was the 2008 election or the 2011 election, he clearly doesn’t seem to think he should be held to his word. So here are a few of the commitments Key made about asset sales last year. You can be the judge.

“We’ve given the public a commitment: 85 to 90 per cent of these companies owned by New Zealanders” (John Key, TVNZ Leaders Debate, 23 Nov 2011).

The Mixed Ownership Model Bill introduced into parliament on Thursday contains no provisions that guarantee this. Under the legislation as tabled, there is nothing to stop 5-6 foreign investors scooping up all the listed shares.

“That was one of the tests I set out for the mixed-ownership model: that “New Zealand investors would have to be at the front of the queue for shareholdings”, and that we would have to be confident of widespread and substantial New Zealand share ownership.” (John Key, Question Time, 7 June 2011)

Once again, there is nothing in the Bill that gives New Zealander’s priority over foreign investors. There is also nothing to stop any NZers who do buy shares then on-selling them within a short space of time to a foreign buyer (remember how the local energy retailers were snapped up by overseas investors so quickly…)

“Kiwi mums and dads will be at the front of the queue…” (John Key, Question Time, 6 July 2011)

Leaving aside the obvious question of where these mums and dads are going to find several thousands of dollars to invest on the stockmarket at a time when many are struggling to pay thier own power bills, there is nothing in the legislation that puts mums and dads at the front of the queue at all.

“We’re giving people a commitment: no more than one shareholder can have 10 per cent, majority controlled owned by New Zealanders, 85 to 90 per cent of the entire company owned by New Zealanders. That is my commitment to them tonight as Prime Minister” (John Key, TVNZ Leaders Debate, 23 Nov 2011).

There is nothing in the Bill that ensures Key’s last promise will be honoured. Five foreign investors buying 10% each could scoop up the 49% that is publicly listed.

Guyon: “Can you guarantee that no more than 10 to 15 per cent of these shares will end up in foreign hands?” John Key: “Yes. I spent my life starting in investment banking. I know how these things work.” (John Key, TVNZ Leaders Debate, 23 Nov 2011).

Not sure this one needs any further comment really. It speaks for itself…

If you want to check out the full debate, the whole thing is up on Youtube: TVNZ Leaders Debate

Selling off what we already own

Posted by on March 8th, 2012

Question of the day #1

Posted by on March 6th, 2012

John Key digs in with his deeply flawed bill which will sell off our energy companies

Jobs for the whanau – and the boys

Posted by on February 8th, 2012

The National party are up to their old tricks – appointing people very close to them to positions in a way that is not appropriate.

First Sir Wira Gardiner. Very talented. Appointed by the previous government to do some tricky tasks. But he is married to a Cabinet Minister. He should not be appointed by any Minister in the current government to paid employment. John Key and Bill English have appointed him to sell their asset sales process to Maori.

The Labour government was very strict on this issue. Spouses were even rejected when they topped processes for voluntary advisory groups. It might seem prim and proper but processes need to be seen to be beyond corruption.

And now it appears that one of the two Nat MPs from the last intake who wasn’t good enough to make the extended list to get back in again has been employed to put the chairs out at the very same meetings that Gardiner is running. I’m not sure if Paul Quinn would be very helpful in any role.

Section 9 debacle: The real story

Posted by on February 2nd, 2012

From the New Zealand Herald this morning the real story of the government’s intentions around the treaty clause and asset sales. It seems a draft version of the consultation document was accidentally put on-line.

It showed the Government’s original intention was not to include any Treaty clause at all in the new legislation covering the mixed-ownership model. On Tuesday morning, a sentence was deleted which said the Government was yet to form a final view “but, on balance, favours no Treaty clause”.

Not sounding much like an ‘elegant’ way through as the PM suggested. More like an awkward bulldozer. No wonder the Maori Party were so angry. And in terms of why, well, you heard it here first folks.

The draft also revealed that the main “harm” the Government considered would come from using section 9 was that it would put off institutional investors. It said those investors would not understand it, which would “create uncertainty and have a negative effect on investment in the companies”.

That’s right, follow the money.

And more generally the government’s claims about still having control over the assets are further undermined by another deleted paragraph.

The draft document shows other politically sensitive paragraphs were also deleted at the last minute – including references to the limited powers ministers would have over mixed-ownership-model companies, despite the Government’s majority shareholding, and the aim of the policy being to run them as private firms.

This is privatisation, pure and simple. Core infrastructure assets built up over generations by New Zealanders, currently owned by all New Zealanders are no longer going to be there for us. The handling of the Treaty clause has been a debacle but none of this should shift attention from the real process here- the loss to all of us of our assets.