Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category
*Update to post. It’s fair enough that the comments are focussing on why I’m not support this or that. I highlighted and bolded one issue that I could definitely support. I didn’t highlight others that I thought needed discussion because I didn’t outright support them. But have subsequently done so. I do however think the discussion should be about the impact of the agenda and not about what I think.
On the 4 April, in the great stone-and-glass National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, luminaries descended to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), Australia’s leading free-market think-tank.
Tickets to the gala dinner cost a minimum of AU$500 (£340) per head, and an auction to raise funds for the IPA featured prizes including a guided tour of the Reagan Ranch in California and a behind the scenes Fox News “experience” in New York City, including a meeting with host Bill O’Reilly . Among the speakers were Rupert Murdoch, journalist Andrew Bolt, billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart, and a man named Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition.
Tony Abbott, Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch took turns sharing the stage. Andrew Bolt (a conservative columnist for the Melbourne Herald Sun) was MC. By accounts, Abbott praised his fellow key-note speakers, especially Murdoch, and promised the crowd a “big yes” to many of the think tank’s list of 75 policies to radically transform Australia.
It’s also important to note that this dinner and the following ideas were the brain children of a right wing think tank. But it’s no coincidence that these three men and their parties share much of the following agenda. I wonder how many of these ideas (which have relevance here) will find their way into National’s agenda if they win another government term? I have marked the ideas which I think have merit.
- Means-test Medicare
- Eliminate family tax benefits
- Abandon the paid parental leave scheme
- Abolish the Baby Bonus
- Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant
- Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food
- Repeal the alcopops tax
- Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling
- Repeal the Fair Work Act
- Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them
- Introduce a single rate of income tax
- Return income taxing powers to the states
- Cut company tax to 25 per cent
- Cease subsidising the car industry
- Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board
- Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification
- End local content requirements for Australian television stations
- Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function
- Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states
- End mandatory disclosures on political donations
- End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
- Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built
- Privatise Australia Post, Medibank and SBS
- Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16
- Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784
- Slash top public servant salaries
- Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database
- Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it (if it is replaced by another costly scheme, most of the benefits will be undone).
- Abolish the Department of Climate Change
- Abolish the Clean Energy Fund and repeal the renewable energy target
- Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol
- Repeal the mining tax
- Privatise the CSIRO and the Snowy-Hydro Scheme
- Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission
- Introduce fee competition to Australian universities
- Means test tertiary student loans
- Repeal the National Curriculum
- Introduce competing private secondary school curricula
- Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities
- Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools
- Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
- Eliminate ‘balance’ laws for radio and television broadcasters
- Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law
- Eliminate media ownership restrictions
- Cease funding the Australia Network
- Rule out government-supported or mandated internet censorship
- End public funding to political parties
- Introduce voluntary voting
- End media blackout in final days of election campaigns
- Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction
- Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a % of GDP
- Legislate a balanced budget amendment which limits the size of budget deficits and the period the government can be in deficit
- Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement
- Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors
- End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering
- Remove all tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade
- Remove anti-dumping laws
- Deregulate the parallel importation of books
- End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace laws
- Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport
- Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games
- End all public subsidies to sport and the arts
- Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency
- End all government funded ‘Nanny State’ advertising
- De-fund Harmony Day and close the Office for Youth
- Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
- Allow the Northern Territory to become a state
- Introduce a special economic zone for northern Australia including:
a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams.
NICOLE MATHEWSON reports in The Press (4 January 2013):
A proposal to shift to a 10-year census could seriously affect Christchurch’s recovery, critics say.
Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson said in July 2011 the Government was considering holding the census once every decade.
Currently conducted every five years, the census helps determine electoral boundaries and funding for services like district health boards, schools and the police.
I agree with our Earthquake Recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/8141560/Missing-Census-data-may-hurt-city
“Christchurch was already living with the consequences of a delayed census …I’d really want to see a good case put up for a delay. We’ve had the schools shake-up landed on the city without the benefit of knowledge about where the settlement patterns are going to fall and that’s wrong.”
Green’s Eugenie Sage cited as an example that one of the reasons for not closing Belfast’s Ouruhia School is potential roll growth from the Prestons and Belfast subdivisions. “Five-yearly census information will help confirm that.”
Labour statistics spokesman Raymond Huo said a 10-yearly census would reduce costs to Statistics New Zealand, but it was “not that straightforward”.
“I think Williamson’s idea is half-baked at best because it’s not that simple,” he said.
“The key drivers are cost constraints and the demand for more frequent detailed and accurate statistics. Particularly for the Christchurch area, we need more frequent and accurate data.”
Indeed. There are at least three issues as Statistics NZ noted:
- Continuing cost increases (due to population growth and inflation);
- Not keeping pace with potential cost savings arising from technological changes;
- Increasing availability of administrative date.
NZ could learn a lot from international experience. Australia has developed its eCensus system and one of the goals for its 2016 census is to further increase internet uptake. At its 2011 census 34% of households completed forms online, already.
Canada is researching methodology options (based on existing administrative registers plus a full-enumeration field census with yearly updates).
France’s approach is unique: a full-enumeration of population and dwelling every five years plus 8% sample conducted every year in large municipalities. Date are released annually as moving averages.
US also changed census model. In 2010, its 10-yearly long-form census was replaced by ACS – a large annual survey of 3 million households.
Statistics NZ in its Transforming the New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings: Issues, options, and strategy gave a detailed analysis of each option/approach.
Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson could simply read it and talk to his officials. His approach has so far been hands-off and his idea, half-baked.
Fran O’Sullivan reported at the weekend about “New Zealand envy” from Australian businesses :
…the frank admiration across the Tasman for English’s economic policies is something that has not been displayed by Australian power-brokers since this country was in the grip of Rogernomics and Bill Birch’s labour market reforms.
Bad comparison Fran. Who in their right mind would want to own up to admiring the dreadful Bill Birch’s Employment Contracts Act or the damage inflicted by Roger Douglas?
And then today the Dom Post reports that Australian firms are moving jobs to New Zealand, attracted by our low wages and more “flexible” labour rights.
Hundreds of Australian jobs have been shifted to New Zealand as producers there try to avoid the impact of high wages, a soaring dollar and restrictive labour laws.
Supermarket giant Woolworths is the latest to transfer jobs across the Tasman, shifting 40 contact centre jobs to Auckland this week.
Imperial Tobacco has also said it will move cigarette manufacturing from Sydney to New Zealand.
As David Parker says, there are record numbers of Kiwis leaving for Australia. They are not going so they can work in call centres or cigarette-making factories.
“National made closing the wage gap a key election pledge in 2008. It now wants to attract investment to New Zealand on the basis of cheap wages.
Heinz Wattie has already ditched 300 jobs across Australia and supposedly was bringing them to New Zealand.
But not for good New Zealand jobs. These days, a Heinz Watties worker is just as likely to end up being employed by Allied Workforce – a temporary labour hire contractor, and be paid minimum wage – doing the same job directly employed and unionised workers used to do for a whole lot less.
Perhaps the brighter future we were promised involves rolling ciggies for Australia?
It certainly seems to involve low wages.
If we wanted to see just how Australia’s budget set it on a path to further outstrip NZ, take a look at the priorities they set in the area of skills. I’ve divided their figures by 5 – Australia’s population is about 22m against our 4.3 – to get a very rough approximation for what this kind of investment might look like in NZ.
- $500 m ($3b in Australia) over 6 years to upskill the workforce
- $110m ($558m) to a new National Workforce Development Fund for 130,000 industry training places
- $40m (100m) on apprenticeships.
Will National’s budget come anywhere near to putting the same investment into skills and training? Well, I’m not holding my breath. But if you wanted the evidence to see the gap grow wider, here it is.
You may have heard of the Big Australia policy – a push for Australia’s population to stretch from 22m to 35m by 2050. One of its key advocates is demographer Bernard Salt who yesterday addressed ACPAC, the conference of Australasian public accounts committees, meeting in Perth, which as an FEC member I am attending with chair Craig Foss.
Salt peppered his address with plenty of NZ references. How we parallel Australia in farm aggregation pushing us to increasingly live on or near the coast, how we face a ‘man drought’ – from about age 22 there are more females than males, peaking at age 35 with a 12% disparity. ( A key part of that being more young Kiwi men than women heading to Australia, in particular, for higher paid work. Salt noted that we have around 550,000 NZers living in Australia and if you tote up the rest, the thick end of one million Kiwis living overseas.
Meanwhile, 2011 sees the first baby boomers turning 65 and able to retire with a pension. For Australia that means while last year it had a net gain of 250.000 people coming into the workforce, this year it’s only at best 150,000. Maintaining any net gain of workers vs retirees each year can only be maintained if Australia keeps up its acceptance of migrants.
Salt notes that when Japan’s demographic fault line occured in 1994 – more retiring than starting work – the Japanese economy stalled and has never recovered. Baby boomer Australians can now expect to live till 85 on average; 40 years ago it was 72. NZ figures will be similar. My dad died last year at 91; he had been retired 30 years.
Salt argues that Australia needs to actively boost its acceptance of migration to meet increasing life expectancy, to prop up the tax base, fill gaps in the skills base, meet some humanitarian obligations – and bluntly, because taking 20-somethings that some other country has educated means getting 40 years of work for no earlier costs. (And yes, while this can be seen as “robbing’ third world countries, he maintains that the world is going to get more brutal in competition for resources, and many who chose to live in Australia will repatriate funds home.)
Some big issues here for us to consider. Immigration has long been a key driver of maintaining NZ’s economic growth. I’ve long thought one of the problems is that too many migrants head for Auckland and put infrastructure, the environment and housing costs under further pressure. If there were a mechanism to encourage more migrants into the areas where NZ is depopulating – rural communities, some provincial cities – we would get a win/win; population growth where it’s more needed and better use of public assets at some risk, such as schools and hospitals. I put this to Salt after his address. Turns out he has written recently on the issue and believes there is a case for encouraging migrants who agree to live for a few years in rural/provincial areas. Sure, once they gained permanent residence or citizenship they would be free to live anywhere – but some are likely to have put down roots. Personally there are few parts of NZ which I couldn’t see myself living, if for example, family connections drew me to it.
I’m not convinced we need a ’Big New Zealand’ policy. I’d prefer to see us drawing back some of those near 1 million expatriate Kiwis. We did get a boost when the global recession happened but frankly, it’s a big ask with wage rate differentials of 30% across the Tasman. Migration tailed off as a result of the recession but will undoubtedly pick up at some point.
Steering more new arrivals into areas other than Auckland, especially some of our rural towns and cities, would seem to make sense.
So Bill English has given up when it comes to the New Zealand economy? That is how it sounded yesterday on Q and A. The wage gap with Australia is here to stay, and we should see it as a strategic advantage. As others have noted this is a far cry from the election campaign when the gap with Australia was the number one issue for National.
David Parker exposed all of this last year when pursuing Gerry Brownlee as to whether the wage gap had widened, which it has.
But this morning John Key has joined in with Bill English in flagging away an pretense of ambition for New Zealand. He is proudly stating that he opened a call centre on the North Shore as the way of the future. Is that as good as it gets? Is this ambitious for New Zealand?
You have heard Labour say a lot that the government does not have a plan for the economy. This is why. We need to invest in skills, training, innovation and clean technology to lift our economic performance. Through its tax cuts targeting the wealthy National’s vision is limited to their tired old faith in trickle down economics. It won’t work, we need an active government supporting the people and businesses who will grow our economy.
The Aussie government has made the connection between truck related deaths and rates of pay, while our government continues to pretend that squeezing drivers’ pay through unfair contracting has no impact on our death and injury toll.
The Secretary for Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins has released a discussion paper, which canvasses a range of practical strategies to reduce deaths and improve road safety in the heavy transport industry.
Called the “Safe Rates, Safe Roads” paper, it explores options for a national approach to truck drivers’ pay and conditions and safety measures across the industry.
Built on the back of a Safe Rates Advisory Group set up by the Labor government last term, the government has managed to bring the industry, unions and other road users together for an honest appraisal of the problems of speed and fatigue in the road transport industry and the economic incentives for drivers to engage in unsafe work practices.
The Australians have come up with a clear body of evidence linking pay rates to safety on their roads. Like here, drivers feel pressure to work long hours to meet schedules, leading to work time breaches, speeding and cutting corners on maintenance.
The discussion paper examines a system of safe pay rates so drivers can work legally and safely and at the same time ensure that everyone is safe on the roads.
Meanwhile, we have “Safer Journeys” and the associated legislation which is due to be reported back in a week or so. A lot about young drivers and the BAC, but not much in it about trucks, even although we know the road freight task is going to double in the next couple of decades.
All we get is bigger trucks.
Under National, New Zealand’s international development aid has lurched to the right. Our Government’s overseas aid agency NZAID was dissolved back into the foreign ministry, and Foreign Minister Murray McCully has made economic development the goal rather than it being a means to achieve poverty reduction. He is re-focusing the aid programme around economic development and can hardly conceal his contempt for the UN Millenium Development Goals.
So it was mildly amusing to see Mr McCully and Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd speak at a joint press conference today after their meeting in Canberra. Mr McCully said they spent “a lot of time talking about our joint and shared responsibilities within this region”. And “…because we’re the dominant providers of development assistance within the region, that means we have to set the pace and set the example.”
In answer to a question from an Australian journalist Mr Rudd explained Australia’s policy on aid which to be fair is mainstream among most OECD countries. It’s just quite a long way from the current New Zealand policy:
Remember our organising principle here is reducing poverty. That is the organising principle of the Millennium Development Goals, reducing poverty by effective investment in primary healthcare, effective investment in universal primary education and effective investment in the basic levels of governance and infrastructure necessary for growth to occur.
I think the choking sound in the background must have been Mr McCully.
As Grant Robertson has previously noted on this blog, next year will see most NZers being entitled to just 9 Statutory Holidays off on pay, instead of the usual 11 days. Anzac Day will fall on the same day as Easter Monday. Waitangi Day is on a Sunday, and under the law is not Mondayised. So, no extra day off for Waitangi Day, (unless you work on Sunday) and no extra day off for Anzac Day either.
But the Aussies aren’t putting up with this. They will have a five day Easter Break, with all states voting to give workers an extra day off on pay on Easter Tuesday to compensate for Anzac Day.
But as the SST reports don’t hold your breath about any similar changes from our government.
Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says “Waitangi Day won’t be Mondayised, and legislating for an extra day off at Easter is extremely unlikely”.
No surprises there I guess. Our government is too busy legislating to trade away the rights of Kiwi workers to holidays and wouldn’t dream of giving workers something they’re not strictly and legally entitled to.
And backbench National MPs continue to push for Easter Friday and Sunday shop trading.
Sometimes, it’s the simple things that matter when it comes to catching up with Australia.
I think this is one of them.
Reading the 2025 Taskforce report #2 reinforces what a lucky escape we had in 2005 when Don Brash and National were beaten by Labour in the general election.
If that hadn’t happened, by now we would be in Brashimania – the country’s assets would be sold off or privatised, NZ Rail and Air NZ would be in the hands of overseas interests, steadily being stripped again of assets, the minimum wage would be gone, the labour market re-regulated in an even more draconian way than the ECA, public health and education would be kneecapped with “competition”, early childhood education would only for those who could afford it, and welfare reforms would ensure that only the “deserving poor” had any assistance – with Dr Brash deciding who they were.
Don’t get me wrong. John Key’s NACTs are just as dangerous. They’re just a bit more careful and devious, because they’re scared of public opinion and know the electorate won’t tolerate another Douglas, Ruth or Brash attack.
The 2025 Taskforce, led by Dr Brash and his cheerleading group for ACT is costing NZers half a million bucks. It’s got another year to run. Yet, its members continue to insist that the failed policies of the 1980s and 1990′s will work now – even when they didn’t work before. Cuts to workers rights, minimum wage, cuts in Working for Families, an increase in the cost of student loans, and severe cuts in other government programmes,along with privatisation of more assets and services, including health and education are all there in report # 2.
Its pleasing to see the NZ Manufacturers and Exporters Association (NZMEA) criticising the report. The NZMEA says that the report is long on diagnosis – (yes, that’s right, we all know Australian wages are way ahead of ours)- but short on therapy.
They say, in their press release that
The Taskforce’s recommendations largely echo the Washington Consensus. This approach has not seen substantial export growth from the countries that have applied it. Earlier this year, the IMF recommended more pragmatism on exchange rates from small economies instead.
And Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Managing Director of the IMF said more just last Monday with this :
…Such ‘growth models’ were unbalanced and unsustainable and inequality may have actually stoked this unsustainable model. In countries like the United States, borrowing seemed to allow ordinary people to share in the rising prosperity…. Inequality can dampen economic opportunity, by preventing the poor from accessing the financing needed to pursue profitable investments. It can divert people toward unproductive activities.
The Washington Consensus is dead. What we need are new ideas and new thinking – the kind that is coming through in Labour policy development that had Labour Party conference delegates buzzing about a different future under a Labour government.
The Taskforce seems incapable of new thinking and should be disbanded. It discredits the government who will once again ignore its recommendations – and it makes ACT look even more stupid than they are.
Dr Brash should give NZ taxpayers our half a million bucks back and accept that the party’s over.
Just to add to Grant’s post, I think Len’s win is a pretty clear rejection of the Rodney Hide-John Key model for the super city.
John Banks said this was a contest between him and a Labour mayor from south Auckland. Well, the people have spoken, and it is great to have a mayor who has campaigned and will govern as an independent but comes from the Labour side of politics.
Rodney Hide has bullied and bulldozed his super city through in a way that has left Aucklanders uncomfortable and uneasy for the last 18 months. This is the first time Aucklanders have had a say on the super city at the ballot box. They have voted for a man who has promised to undo much of the damage done by Rodney Hide.
I don’t think Aucklanders trusted a former National Party Minister to implement the agenda that National has set in place for Auckland. In Len Brown they have chosen a mayor who will not sell our assets, who they trust to give real powers to local boards, and who will hold the powerful council-owned companies to account.
What is going on with the Prime Minister’s diplomatic snub to Australian caretaker PM Julia Gillard? He reluctantly admits to a journalist’s question that he phoned Opposition leader Tony Abbott after the weekend’s election, but not Prime Minister Julia Gillard, because he did not have her number.
So it is OK for the Prime Minister to phone the Australian Opposition Leader who is a fellow leader of the centre-right…but not call the Australian Prime Minister who happens to be a Labour leader? He doesnt have the Australian PM’s number in his phone? He couldn’t get foreign affairs to give him the number?
Does he realise that Australia is this country’s most important relationship?
This morning Australian’s have awoken to the very real possibility of a hung parliament. While there are still several seats that are too close to call, it looks highly likely that neither Gillard’s Labor nor Abbott’s Coalition will make it to the magical 76 required to form a majority government. To us over the ditch, this is nothing unusual. We haven’t had a majority government since about 1994, and the last leader to govern with a comfortable majority was Jim Bolger from 1990-1993.
Once the final count has been completed the most likely outcome for Australia looks to be a minority government supported by independents. But the real question is who gets to lead that government, does the incumbent get the first chance to have a go, should it be the party with the most seats, should Labor’s loss of majority give Abbott the first chance?
It will be interesting to see how the Australian public react to whatever government emerges from these results. If the government ends up being led by the smaller of the two major parties (even if there is only a seat in it) the voting public may well react against them. There will be lessons for us over here in New Zealand. So far under MMP all of our governments have been led by the largest party in Parliament, but that’s not guaranteed.
In 1996 we could have ended up with a Labour/NZ First/Alliance government, even though National was the bigger of the two major parties. In 2002, despite their disastrous result, another percent or two and National could have led a centre-right coalition despite Labour being the much bigger party. Under MMP we could well end up with the biggest party in Parliament leading the opposition, not the government. What happens in Australia over coming weeks could provide a few clues as to how the public would view that.
Yesterday in the House Brownlee made it clear the government is getting close to throwing in the towel on Key’s fundamental purpose of government.
Sometimes you get leaks of policy through interjections. Today we got a gem from Paul Quinn.
After it was pointed out that twice as many firms in Aussie are increasing staff this year than in NZ, and that 23% more Aussie firms are planning to increase wages we at last got the plan.
Quinn said – Kiwis should move to Australia.
Before the last election John Key said the ‘fundamental purpose’ of his government would be to narrow the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia. How’s he doing?
(Note: you can answer more than one)
Qantas has been paying its New Zealand pilots up to 40% less than its Australian pilots, even although they wear the same uniform and fly the same routes.
Positions previously held by Qantas pilots are being lost to Jetconnect pilots as Qantas pay and conditions are much inferior here.
Despite being set up to undertake domestic flights within New Zealand, Jetconnect now operates 154 flights between Australia and New Zealand every week and is effectively an operating division of Qantas, says the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
Its New Zealand pilots wear Qantas uniforms, have Qantas staff numbers, and fly Qantas aircraft with travel routes determined by Qantas.
The ACTU says that where workers are doing the same job as Australian workers and in actual fact replacing Australian workers, Australian work legislation should apply to them.
The gap between Australian and New Zealand wages has grown by more than $50 a week since November 2008. The government has no ideas or plan about how to address this gap, other than to further reduce workers rights.
New Zealand has become a desirable destination for Australian companies who want to pay workers less.
It is MFAT’s fault – yeah right.
And for the record I don’t agree with Phil Goff that McCully should launch an inquiry. McCully can’t prosecute, defend and judge his own case. Someone else should take charge, where’s John Key?