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Labour Leadership Virtual Hustings Meeting Questions – Full List Of Questions

Posted by on September 14th, 2013

Labour Leadership Virtual Hustings Meeting Questions – Full List

submitted by members – Sept 3rd to Sept 10th 2013

published 14 Sept, 2013

The questions below were submitted by New Zealand Labour Party members for the “Virtual Hustings Meeting” held by the party from September 10th to 14th 2013 and organised by Scoop Amplifier.

14 of these questions were selected and provided to candidates to answer with a 200 word limit. The Questions and Answers were then posted on the Scoop.co.nz and Red Alert ( blog.labour.org.nz ) websites. As this is published a discussion is taking place on the Red Alert site about the answers.

The questions and answers can be viewed at the links below:

1. Environment : What are your views on a clean green NZ?
2. Poverty : How would you ensure no one needs to live in poverty?
3. TPPA : Will you make the TPPA process transparent?
4. Equal pay : What would you do about gender pay discrimination?
5. Peoples : How would bring Maori & Pakeha into a multi-ethnic future?
6. Justice : What is your view of the New Zealand justice system?
7. Disability Issues : Would you create a Ministry for Disability?
8. Voter turnout : How do we motivate more people to vote?
9. Economy : How can we convince voters Labour’s economic policy will work?
10. Older New Zealanders : How would you advocate for older New Zealanders?
11. Party Leadership : What Labour values drive your work for New Zealand?
12. Party Unity : How would you unite the party as a whole?
13. Experience : What have you learned from failure & how would you apply it?
14. Winning : Why are you the one to take on and beat John Key?

CONTENTS

(click these links to jump to questions about each subject below)
Arts sector
Australia and international relations
Commerce
Constitution
Defence
Economy
Education
Employment
Environment
Green and sustainability
Health
Immigration
Income and Tax
Justice
Legislation
Older NZers
Labour Party
Regional issues
Winning edge

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Arts sector

What value do you place on the Arts and Creative Industries as contributors to our cultural health and wellbeing, our ability to achieve distinction, and our economic wellbeing?
John Smyth

Is it important to cultivate and sustain ‘the New Zealand voice’ and ‘the New Zealand story’ or is ‘cultural product’ just another item of trade, like a plastic spoon?
John Smyth

What are your thoughts on the Arts’ budget…….drama, orchestral, dance, etc and for the training, encouragement and support required?
(Margaret) Heather Grimwood

Will you look to create more opportunity for overseas movie houses to come to NZ to shoot films?
Christine Small

Lyndon Johnson said “Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.” Under the current government the arts have been abandoned and the people are perishing. What will you do to ensure the performing and visual arts will be actively supported in New Zealand to aid communication, express visions beyond words, and provide a medium for cultural enlightenment that enables the spirit of the people to flourish?
Helen Gaeta

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Australia and international relations

Would you personally engage with the Australian Prime Minister/Government in seeking to redress their current policies with regards to entitlements for ex-pat Kiwis?
Janet Phillips

Would you consider becoming less tied strategically to the U.S?
Jackie Steincamp

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Commerce

How will you stop private equity firms buying and owning media companies, especially in the Mediaworks and Channel 9 Australia’s situations?
Gary Wills

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Constitution

Would you consider policy that would lead to the appointment of our own Head of State, as in this day and age it seems ridiculous our sharing a Head of State, also a foreigner, with another nation. This would also presumably lead to our becoming a republic.
Murray Eggers

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Defence

I would like each candidate to outline under what circumstances would they send NZ troops into a war zone or peace making deployment, if they were the prime minister?
Julie Beriman

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Economy

Do you support a return to surplus as the priority for fiscal policy, and do you have a time-frame target for achieving this?
James Bews-Hair

Labour spends a lot of time in a deep hole called monetary policy. Last time it was moving from Opposition to Government it emerged from the hole with only a small and ultimately inconsequential change to policy settings. Is there anything decisive that can be done about monetary policy? If not shouldn’t more focus be on more direct efforts to change the structure of the economy?
Patrick Hine

Given the failure of ‘third way’ politics, what does a post-neoliberal New Zealand economy look like to you?
Damien Rogers

What are three major strands for an economic development strategy for New Zealand which the current Government has failed to consider?
Dolores Janiewski

The old (present) economic ideas seem to have failed for many. However the voting public will be sceptical about change (remember Labour and Rogernomics?) Also John Key will come out and say that any new Idea of Labour’s is unworkable. Labour will have to provide concrete proof that any change will work for the marginalised and poor. 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?
Angie Croft

Would you consider reducing the high New Zealand dollar to improve international competitiveness?
Jackie Steincamp

Given the general failure of Simon Upton’s competitive CRI model to serve this country well, do you see a need to revert to something closer to the original cooperative DSIR model for the Labour Party?
Alan Mark

Until such time as free trade agreements are allowed to become ‘restricted trade agreements’ so that local production has a chance to flourish locally and then internationally, unemployment levels of 160,000 people will never disappear. My question to each of you is: Are you prepared to take this fight on to the IMF and the WTO and tell them these facts and that their neo-liberal template is causing huge, permanent unemployment in New Zealand and around the world and that we want to be able to decide our own economic, social and political destiny?
Adam Browne

Will you make the TPPA process transparent ?
Christine Small

What are your views on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement?
Vicki Bunch

Please outline your personal stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. In particular: 1. If negotiations are not concluded before a change in government, would you as leader support your Trade Minister to continue negotiations? 2. If negotiations are concluded prior to a change in government, do you envision taking steps to extricate NZ from this agreement?
Natalie Arnold

What is your view on the TPPA?
Cushla Dillon

If you are elected do you intend to lead NZ into the TPPA agreement?
Cushla Dillon

With Kiwi build is there any provision for low income housing with a provision for income related rents?
Gerard Hill

What is your position on an immediate return to making contributions to the NZ Super fund?
James Bews-Hair

Would you consider implementing an Investment Reserve Fund in an effort to help protect the New Zealand economy against future recession? and if not, why not? (such as found in Sweden or Norway – Relevant article: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/projects/bpea/1982%201/1982a_bpea_taylor_baily_fischer.pdf Also detailed by Peter Katzenstein’s Small States in World Markets: Industrial Policy in Europe )”
Matthew Luke Weaver

Do you think it’s now time to seriously consider a robin hood tax on foreign transactions?
Christine Small

Will you be removing GST from basic food items?
Trevor Scott

If you are elected do you intend to lead NZ into the TPPA agreement?
Cushla Dillon

If you are elected how important will it be to you to discuss openly with NZers the impact the TPPA will have on many aspects of our lives, including trade, our environment, copyright laws and medicine prices.
Cushla Dillon

Do you see an end to the business as usual model and if so when?
Frank Cook

The labour party has said it is in favour of a capital gains tax. Would the gain be counted from when the good was purchased or from when the tax law was changed?
John Raven

What changes would you make to the laws governing home insurance to force insurance companies to pay out within a reasonable period of time?
John Raven

What action will you take to help people trying to get a fair deal from their insurance companies and/or EQC for earthquake damage?
John Raven

Will you make a change in the law that allows people with bare land to insure it?
John Raven

I have a question on housing policy – a possible contradiction as I see it. Labor has accused National of “tinkering arround the edges” of the housing affordability crisis. By this statement Labor have suggested that their initiatives are substantial and will make homes in Auckland/Christchurch and NZ more affordable (at a regions given wage structure). If we believe this, then does this mean that a New Zealand that you lead will encourage and plan for debt deflation? What consequences do you intend housing policy to have for the wider NZ economy.
Jeremy Adrian

I note come of the rhetoric in the media indicates a move to the left. That is fine but how far, Labour is a Centre Left Party, Helen Clark was no right winger but pragmatic. I am concerned that too far left will give Key the Centre and power. Undoing the changes to the latest Bill on Employment Relations is good but what else do the candidates suggest?
Peter Jamieson

Since the 1980′s NZ has been running trade deficits and borrowing abroad to fund our lifestyle. Most of our trading partners use trade restrictions against our exports and yet we generally allow them to have greater access to our market and so we get deeper and deeper in debt. Many of them also use currency manipulation which disadvantages our exporters. How will you level the playing field for our manufacturers and farmers who export and also those who face unfair competition in our domestic market from abroad? Why are we such weak traders, are trade deficits the only way we can reduce inflation?
Dave Wollman

Should the next Labour Goverment institurte a “NZ first” preference in all contracts for goods and services?
Jonathon Everist

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Education

Can you commit to bring back the very valuable Adult Community Education night classes which were killed by the Nats?
Clement Pinto

I believe ECE is the most necessary area of education funding. Will you ensure as a priority that all ECE staff are trained teachers?
(Margaret) Heather Grimwood

Do you think Te Reo Maori should be compulsory in all schools; if so, how will you implement it?
Anaru Ryall

The National Government has made it harder for kiwis to access tertiary education. (Capping numbers/restrictions to student loans/allowances etc). What would you do to improve kiwis’ abilities to further up skill and educate themselves?
Janet Phillips

What strategies would you wish to put in place to ensure no one needed to live in poverty?
Ken Hutchison

How will you reduce inequality in New Zealand?
Perce Harpham

Outline how you would like to see the reduction of inequality progressed in New Zealand, such as higher taxation for those on top incomes, through cost of living increases etc?
Jackie Steincamp

New Zealand has been “internationally regarded as a flagship in creating the necessary infrastructure of early childhood policy around issues of quality, qualifications, access and curriculum. … the undermining of these policies is dispiriting, and even embarrassing, as there is continuing worldwide interest”. (Carr, May & Smith, 2010) What do the leadership candidates plan to do to reverse the watering down of ECE quality? In particular would the candidates favour re-instituting funding for centres with 100% qualified staff?
Anne Smith

Is it possible to have universal free education?
Jonathon Everist

Should more “‘integrated’ schools’ be permitted?
Jonathon Everist

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Employment

What can we do to make sure that there is gainful employment available to suit the abilities and temperament of the least able and that it pays well enough to ensure that individual a reasonable standard of living and ability to participate fully in our society?
Gregg Sheehan

What concrete practical moves would you introduce to increase employment everywhere?
Jackie Steincamp

What support will you give to business owners/managers in daily operation of their business? Instead of watching workers, treating workers as “thick” and “simple”, utilization of workers e.g casual moves to part time, part time moves to full time position.
Gary Wills

What Concrete, practical moves would you promote to engage disaffected youth – and get them into paid employment?
Jackie Steincamp

Would you ensure that carers (Resthomes etc) receive the increases that the recent court hearing has decreed they should receive?
Jackie Steincamp

Gender pay discrimination in NZ is a reality. The recent ruling in the Kristine Bartlett/SFWU case gives some hope. How would your leadership promote progress on achieving equal pay for work of equal value?
Lesley Soper

Would you institute the increased Minimum Living wage across the board (not just Government organisations)?
Jackie Steincamp

Would you consider legislating a pay ratio such as 1:20 for minimum wage versus Maximum possible wage in all public or private organisations in the country in order to ensure better social fairness and social justice to help bridge the ever widening gap between the wealthy and the relatively poor?
Clement Pinto

Presently Support Staff in schools can and are being paid as little as $15.03 per hour to support the learning of quite often our most vulnerable children. What do you see as the labour party’s role in achieving a well resourced workforce in our schools, namely Support Staff?
Linda Jordan

What can we do to make sure that there is gainful employment available to suit the abilities and temperament of the least able and that it pays well enough to ensure that individual a reasonable standard of living and ability to participate fully in our society?
Gregg Sheehan

What concrete practical moves would you introduce to increase employment everywhere?
Jackie Steincamp

What support will you give to business owners/managers in daily operation of their business? Instead of watching workers, treating workers as “thick” and “simple”, utilization of workers e.g casual moves to part time, part time moves to full time position.
Gary Wills

What Concrete, practical moves would you promote to engage disaffected youth – and get them into paid employment?
Jackie Steincamp

Under the National Government there has been a disconnect between the government, in its communications and policy, and the teaching profession (including teachers, principals, boards of trustees and education experts). What would you like to see done to improve this relationship?
Bridget Dymock-Johnson

I agree that all workers deserve a living wage, but, as a provincial Chartered Accountant, I see real difficulty in many small employers, for example in the retail sector, being able to afford $18.40 an hour. They have little opportunity to increase margins when already facing stiff competition from major retailers and online outlets. How do respond to this conundrum?
Bruce Ellis

What specific economic policies will you put in place to help job and wage growth?
John Raven

Do you acknowledge there is an unemployment/ under employment problem in New Zealand especially for those under 25 and over 50?
John Raven

What specific policies will you put in place to help the young and over 50s find work?
John Raven

Would you put in place a mechanism whereby someone can do an apprenticeship at any age?
John Raven

Would you alter the exceptional circumstances threshold for notifying a personal grievance outside the 90 day period?
Steven Zindel

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Environment

Given that the Puhipuhi plateau to the north of Whangarei is a vast storehouse of mostly locked up mercury , how do the candidates feel about the prospect of this area being sifted for minute quantities of gold and silver, thereby unlocking the mercury and allowing the possibility of environmental degradation from Puhipuhi to the Kaipara Harbour?
Jeff Saunders

What are your views on a clean green NZ?
Heather Mannix

What are your views on our one pure gold asset “water” and protecting our waterways?
Heather Mannix

Given that the Puhipuhi plateau to the north of Whangarei is a vast storehouse of mostly locked up mercury , how do the candidates feel about the prospect of this area being sifted for minute quantities of gold and silver, thereby unlocking the mercury and allowing the possibility of environmental degradation from Puhipuhi to the Kaipara Harbour?
Jeff Saunders

The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported in June 2013 that the planet is on a trajectory for a temperature rise around 4oC, well above the 2oC limit of the Copenhagen agreement. They have proposed a 4-for-2 policy to try to bring us back on course and talk of the need for political resolution. What measures, locally and globally, will you pursue to make the Copenhagen target technically feasible?
Frank Cook

Do you believe that global warming is a real and severe threat to our planet.. which includes New Zealand. If so (1) – do you support mining on the Denniston Plateau [which actually was categorically put aside when the Stockton Plateau was given the go-ahead? (2) do you support exploration/mining for oil in our EEZ seas? (3) - would you cancel the MacKay's to Peka Peka Expressway and replace it with the consented Western Link Road? (4) - can you work co-operatively with the Green Party to encourage a sustainable, greener economic policy?
Rochelle Wilson

What aspect of the RMA reforms passed by National would Labour repeal if returned to power?
John Raven

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Green and sustainability

Do you agree that NZ should diversify its primary industry base by developing its significant renewable resources (hydro, wind, solar and marine energy) both to supply the local energy market and to add value to primary products by local processing of energy intensive exports (wood, agriculture, fisheries, iron sands, freezing capability, Australian bauxite, nitrogen fertiliser, cement, glass, ceramics and hydrogen)?
John Irving

Given the economic environment and the benefits of having investment brought to New Zealand via our natural resources, Coal, Gold, and Silver etc. At present environment groups with the best of intentions are costing tax payers and companies money while safe in the knowledge that they will not have costs awarded against them. How do we maintain employment and income while looking after our other natural resources like our Rivers and Wildlife without having a long drawn out court battle like the one currently on-going over the Dennison Plateau between Bathurst and Forest and Bird? We need the employment and we need to keep New Zealand green, how do we do both?
John Adams

How do you intend as Leader to manage the conflicting priorities of economic development and environmental protection?
Lesley Soper

As the NZ Labour Party Leader will you be supporting solar energy within all new homes?
Heather Mannix

As the NZ Labour Party Leader will you be supporting solar energy within all new homes?
Heather Mannix

For Shane Jones: How does he reconcile his support for augmenting West Coast coal mining with the imperatives of reducing global warming by shunning fossil fuel trading and consumption?
Peter and Margaret Bartlett

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Health

What is your view on health? should dental care be subsidised? should primary health be fully funded? should residential facilities for the aged be adequately funded? Should there be one comprehensive hospital in Auckland or should each geographical area have a tertiary hospital?
Julie Berriman

We have a diabetes epidemic. This being caused by the lifestyle factor of being overfat. Overfat is created by eating too much energy to energy use. Not only does this affect people's physical health it impacts on social, mental, psychological and spiritual well being. What will you do, as leader, to tackle this excessively expensive and preventable lifestyle dis-ease which is now starting in early childhood and extending to old age?
Vivienne Shepherd

Under your leadership would a Labour-led Government commit to addressing the discrimination against certain impairment groups (such as adults with Aspergers) which means they are unable to access support through the current MoH’s NASC system?
Hilary Stace

Under your leadership would a Labour-led Government commit to demedicalising disability support services by creating a new Ministry for Disability Issues with a high-ranked minister in cabinet and a chief executive committed to the social model of disability and, preferably, lived experience of disability?
Hilary Stace

What will you do about the national disgrace of children living in poverty in New Zealand? And how soon will you do it?
Mary K Dearsley

WINZ staff need to improve their attitude to the beneficiaries are any of you willing to bring more positive model from the negative model done by current government?
David Maclure

Is it possible to have a universal dental health subsidy as we have for doctors?
Jonathon Everist

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Immigration

There is no point training more apprentices if we are only going to export them to Australia. Will your Government manage the rate of immigration to ensure that labour supply does not exceed demand as has been the practice introduced as a feature of Roger Douglas' neo liberal macro economic policy to ensure that wages in New Zealand were driven to rates less than in Australia?
Lou Yukich

Would you tighten up the immigration laws to push employers to train people already in New Zealand rather than just importing experienced people from abroad?
John Raven

If, like the Australians, you are faced with boatloads of refugees arriving, what will be your policy?
Alastair McKerchar

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Income and Tax

Would a government led by you consider phasing in overtime Income splitting for couples?
Peter Hutchinson

Would a government led by you consider phasing in overtime raising tax free income threshold to the minimum amount required to live? ..eg if an individual needs 15k P.A to meet the basic needs to survive. ..start taxing every dollar after that amount, not before
Peter Hutchinson

Would a government led by you consider phasing in overtime introduction of a "Guaranteed Minimum Income" or GMI of the like proposed by Gareth Morgan?
Peter Hutchinson

As a 53 yr old ex labourer, tradesman, factory supervisor and business owner. I feel bringing in a living wage will just cause higher inflation to the basics of living, and once again the people that need assistance the most will be on the losing end. John Key gave away 4 billion in tax cuts, what will you do to reverse those to truly put money back into the pockets of the workers of this country?
Peter Hutchinson

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Justice

Would each candidate outline their views on the justice system in NZ, do they endorse restorative justice or prefer the fill the prisons option?
John Berriman

What would you do about: a) lawyers not being allowed to act for many people involved in parenting disputes; b) most criminal defendants not being able to choose their lawyer on legal aid; and c) paying lawyers the same legal aid fixed fee per case, irrespective of the work done?
Steven Zindel

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Legislation

Why not make public drunkenness and disorder a crime – rather than fixating on closure hours of bars?
Jackie Steincamp

Under your leadership would a Labour-led Government commit to repealing the NZ Public Health and Disability Amendment Act (No 2) 2013?
Hilary Stace

Are you as a potential leader prepared to support Maryan Street's End of Life Choice Bill, and if you become leader of the Labour caucus and should you become leader of the govt, would you be prepared to support the EOLC Bill as a Govt Bill with a conscience vote?
Jack Havill

Labour did away with Knighthoods/ damehoods when last in power, but they were reinstated by National. Would you support their abolishment, as such awards are incompatible with Labour/Socialist principles.
Murray Eggers

Will you investigate the Governments selling Government owned real-estate to itself without going through public auction?
Christine Small

Will you look into revoking any Social welfare reforms initiated by this Government?
Christine Small

What is the candidates’ view of the recommendations from the Electoral Committee to ditch he ‘coat-tails’ clause for leaders of small parties and to lower the threshold to 4 percent? What action would they take as Prime Minister?
Jenny Pattrick

Considering the extremely high incidence of child abuse in NZ (seventh highest in OECD Countries!) what do you each consider about legislation fully covering Mandatory Reporting in Child Abuse in NZ and as modelled on all Australian States (except, I believe, Western Australia) who have each submitted positive reports to us thoroughly endorsing that legislation (refer to myself for copies or to Jacinda Adhern).??
Robert W Walker

Will your Government amend the Holidays Act S14 provision to return it to the provisions it had prior to the National Party amending it to the disadvantage of workers?
Lou Yukich

Will your Government reinstate the provisions of the Holidays Act that allowed all employees the right to determine when they took alternative days (lieu days)?
Lou Yukich

New Zealand has, along with Australia, the highest rate of teenage cannabis use in the world. We also have the world's highest arrest rate for cannabis offences. Why are we criminalising our young people in this way and what should we do to stop this insanity?
Phil Saxby

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Older NZers

Senior people (those 50+) represent 53% of NZ voters, currently. As an active Labour supporter for some 40 odd years, I have been seeking from the Labour party the policy which will bring this group to strongly support Labour in 2014. Are any of the leadership candidates able to state what he is prepared to advocate for us, Seniors?
Dean Chandler-Mills

Will your Government increase the qualifying age for National Superannuation?
Lou Yukich

Would you support Maryan Street's Member's bill [if " pulled from the hat"] re End-of Life choice for NZ citizens?
Rochelle Wilson

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Labour Party

Who would be your finance minister if you were PM?
Bob Davies

I know it is always possible that the other candidates would not be in the cabinet, but for the sake of argument let’s say they are. What portfolios would you allocate to your fellow candidates if you became the leader (prime minister)?.
Bruce Rogan

What would your Labour Party caucus members say about your leadership style, your leadership strengths, and your leadership weaknesses? What would their perspectives tell me about how you will be leading the Labour Party in the next 18 months?
Dalene Mactier

To ensure a victory in the 2014 election we need courageous leadership. Failure is part of courageous leadership. Tell us about a time that you failed as a leader. What did you learn from that experience and how would you apply your learning in the future?
Dalene Mactier

At times it seems as if politics and integrity is an oxymoron. Tell us about a time where the Labour party caucus direction was in conflict with your personal integrity. How did you manage it and how would you apply your learning in the future?
Dalene Mactier

Did you Vote for David Shearer for Leader at the Previous Caucus vote? if so what did you see in the Candidate that would have suggested he could have won the next Election for Labour, or did you simply see him as a Temporary Leader prepared to loose the next Election until someone better came along?
Geoff Silbery

Why did you join the Labour Party over other parties and what are the key Labour values and principles that drive your work for Labour and New Zealand?
Annalise Roache

What books are you currently reading? What have you read in the last 6 months that has influenced or guided your thinking?
Bryce Bartley

Tell us about a time when you led a group of people to achieve a positive outcome. What did you do and what was the result?
Bryce Bartley

When Labour is mentioned people often refer to the party as the PC patrol or returning to the nanny state, including John Key’s current rhetoric that any of your Leadership would take the party further to the left. What are your key messages to the public in response to charges of PC’ism?
Annalise Roache

Since the last term of the Clark government the Labour party seems to have lost its way and connection with everyday New Zealanders. What do you think lead to this, what can you learn from it and how will you remedy for the future?
Annalise Roache

Under your leadership would a Labour-led Government commit to actively encouraging disabled people onto winnable places in the party list?
Hilary Stace

I am a woman and have three grown daughters and now three granddaughters. Each and every one of us has been able with the right personal attributes, determination and education to achieve without any bias towards us on the basis of gender. Why is there such emphasis on the 50-50 split of male/female MPs for Labour?
Marilyn Geddes

The best government for New Zealand, I believe, is a Labour-Green coalition that tackles global warming and energy supply. What are Labour’s plans for forging an alliance with Greens?
Jocelyn Harris

If it came down to a coalition between NZ First or the Greens, which would you be inclined to go with?
Joss Debraceny

I am in my early 40’s, live in Auckland Central and my friends and I would be described as left/centrist. Less than a handful of people I know vote two ticks for Labour, these days the average urban person simply isn’t aligned to one party, unless it’s National. What do you think of this and as Leader how will you work more authentically and collaboratively with the Greens to be more representative of today’s voters?
Annalise Roache

if you were elected would you agree to formally sign an affirmation of the parties new Policy framework and if in Govt were going to take a decision which was contrary to that party policy be prepared to bring it back to the party for confirmation/ratification?
Edwin Daniel

Critics have said that Labour is divided. How will you unite the party behind you?
Bridget Dymock-Johnson

As the candidate for the leader of the New Zealand Labour Party what qualities/initiatives can you bring to the party and within caucus and the rest of the membership within the country to unite the party as a whole?
Heather Mannix

Would the 2 losing candidates give there FULL support to the winning candidate, and get behind the new leader and party to win the next election?
Whakiao Hopmans

Will the 2 losing candidates tell those caucus members that supported them, that they should now unite, and have no divisions?
Whakiao Hopmans

Given your commitment to unifying the party, will you consider dismantling those branches of the NZLP which enshrine differences based on gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference, so that we can become a party of equality and opportunity for all of New Zealand’s workforce, rather than a broad church hijacked by the special interest agenda?
Damien Rogers

Michael Joseph Savage left an enduring legacy on our Party and on New Zealand. In terms of principles, beliefs and views – how do you relate yourself to our first Labour Prime Minister?
Mark Byford

Undercurrents in the Labour party are compromising a Labour victory in 2014. What was your role in the past in the undercurrents and how will you build unity and synergy in the future?
Dalene Mactier

Our strength is often our weakness too. What do you see as a key strength that you will bring to the Labour leadership that could potentially become your weakness in the future? How will you manage it?
Dalene Mactier

As the Labour leader and prime minister, you will be required to steer the party and the government with a firm hand. How will you ensure that you maintain control, while allowing autonomy and encouraging innovation in younger MPs to ensure we continue to grow strong leaders in the Labour Party?
Dalene Mactier

All of you have identified the importance of Party Unity. What do you see as areas of disunity? How would you promote unity?
Bryce Bartley

I am a gay man in a relationship for the last 35 years. Acceptance has changed but I still find an occasional unexpected pocket of bigotry and abuse. Will NZ accept a gay prime minister?
Chris Brown
Leaders are good because they lead. Telephone canvassers, door knockers and letter box teams do the work on the ground. What difference will your leadership make to building the foot army required to win the 2014 election? Please base your answer on what you have already achieved in your local area.
Steve Farrow

If you were elected leader, would you be happy to work with either of the other two candidates as your deputy?
Lucy Marsden

We are not just electing a Labour leader. Equally importantly, we are electing the person we want to lead a Centre-Left government in 2014. Why do each of the candidates think they are the best suited to lead a campaign that will unite Labour, the Greens and NZ First into a confident, winning team? And how would they go about this vital task?
Phil Saxby

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Regional issues

What steps will you take as leader to support the people of Christchurch in the Eastern Suburbs who are still suffering due to EQC and the lack of transparency and information to support constituents moving forward with their lives?
Heather Mannix

As leader of the party what involvement/input will you have in choosing the by-election candidate for Christchurch East and will you listen to the local membership?
Heather Mannix

Bearing in mind the National Govt’s short-term ‘solutions’ [e.g. $30 million for the Tiwai situation, which only buys a 3-5 year breathing space for the 3200 local jobs at stake], what is your stance on economic development strategies for regions such as Invercargill/Southland? What would you do as Labour Leader to support regional development and jobs?
Lesley Soper

During early protests against the Kapiti Expressway Labour indicated it would stop work on this project and reinstate the two-lane internal western link road if the former had not progressed too far. It now seems unlikely that by the time of the election work on the Expressway will have progressed to the extent that any work could not be incorporated in a Western Link scheme. Would you support work stopping on the Expressway in favour of the hijacked Western Link Road?
Murray Eggers

Will your Government build a railway line from Kaitaia to the port of Whangarei?
Lou Yukich

Will your Government build a new production facility at the Marsden Point Oil Refinery to process New Zealand oil that is currently all exported for want of a processing facility capable of handling New Zealand oil?
Lou Yukich

As a supporter of all Kapiti residents who are “motorway refugees” orwill be stranded within 200 metres of the monster road, I would ask what you would do about the proposed road through Kapiti.
Graham Bathgate

Why should a Labour-led government not develope the collection and exportation, to a desperately thirsty world, of the hugely abundant and squandered volumes of fresh water that the main divide delivers through the West Coast into the Tasman Sea? (water mining!)
Peter and Margaret Bartlett

******

Winning edge

What methods will you engage in to bring about a large drop in the number of electors who do not bother to vote?
Graham Adams

“How can you as an individual help to get the voters – especially the young, who were disengaged in the last election to get out and vote this time?
Steve Cole

To win the next election we need to motivate people to vote and win some of the swing voters in the middle. Share one strategy that you think would be most effective in achieving this?
Dalene Mactier

What guarantee do we have that the leftward shift in rhetoric and policy doesn’t evaporate once Labour becomes the government and the status quo of more right orthodox policies set in?
Geoff Cartwright

It would be good to see Labour lift its game as a strong and passionate oppositional voice. How will you show strength and leadership in this area?
Bridget Dymock-Johnson

Leadership is about many things but the qualities that I have found missing in politicians since the late 70’s are the ability to share a vision for the future of NZ and the ability to inspire. Australians know they are building a nation; why can’t we?
Chris Rapson

I have voted Labour since 1978, and ever since then I have heard all the rhetoric, from all parties about the trickle down theory and stopping the gap between the haves and have nots. Well its not working because to me all politicians are either too scared, or don’t know how to address the situation. Instead we waste huge amounts of money and time on populist vote catching, eg alcohol ,driving laws, or crime. Are any of the candidates prepared to do something radical if voted, and not be another centre left puppet?
Peter Power

Looking back over the last 18 months, what was Labour’s biggest mistake? How will you do this differently in the next 18 months to ensure we have a Labour 2014 victory?
Dalene Mactier

Looking back over the last 18 months, what was your biggest mistake? How will you do this differently in the next 18 months to ensure we have a Labour 2014 victory?
Dalene Mactier

John Key seems to be made of Teflon, people love his down to earth way and the fact he is a self-made millionaire, what do you think is needed to take the shine off his unwavering popularity and why do you think you can be ‘the one’ to take him on and win the next election?
Annalise Roache

Do you believe that there are sufficient votes on the Left of the NZ political spectrum to get Labour into government in 2014, or do we need to frame policies which attract voters from the Centre, and quickly repudiate policies which will lose votes from the Centre?
Gordon Gandy

Wherever you come from, List or Electorate, how will your voting base translate into New Zealand wide voter-appeal?
Steve Farrow

The reality is that to send John Key to the Opposition benches will require a Labour/Green coalition. How do the candidates envisage working with the Greens to produce a public face on policy and co-operation that will maximise the Centre Left vote to reenergise those who didn’t vote in 2011 and to claw back the swinging votes from National.
Bruce Ellis

What do you think is the major reason for Labour’s poor performance in the polls (and last election) and what, under your leadership, will you do differently?
Fraser Newman

All three of the MPs have great ideas, but how are those ideas to be implemented and for those MPs that have the same ideas, why can you do it better than the other MPs (e.g. unifying the party)?
Emma Burke

If when you are in Government you believe that you are going to make a decision which goes against Party policy how will you deal with it?
Edwin Daniel

What do you plan to do to win back traditional labour voters who have become disillusioned with the party/ it’s leadership and have started voting Green?
Phillipa Mallinson

How will you make yourself and the party relevant to undecided/swing voters?
Phillipa Mallinson

While you say that Labour no longer (at last!) subscribes to the neo liberal “free” market economic perspective, Aotearoa is tied into this mode of global economics in several ways, not the least of which are the Trade Agreements (most of which were negotiated by Helen Clark) and we are threatened currently with becoming signatories to the TTP. Our Bill of Rights has virtually no teeth – not to mention religious/Church organisations being blatantly able too violate human rights in the name of Faith/Religion! We are looking at our Constitution to write it or not to write it. For me these three factors, amongst others are utterly inter-connected and any Government looking to bring about constructive change is faced with doing so within this context – which has to change for the dignity and welfare of all people and survival of our planet as a habitat for humans and other species alike. These are, as Grant acknowledges, moral as well as ethical, justice and, above all, spiritual issues. Until politicians recognise that all people are intrinsically of equal dignity and worth and that the above situation needs to be altered accordingly, no piecemeal tinkering with what has happened to this country will be adequately effective. Labour needs to set about systematically undoing what Geoffrey Palmer proclaimed labour would do, and succeeded in doing, that is, change the culture of this country from a perspective of service and respect to the profit motive and commodification of people. The machinery put in place to make the changes proclaimed was systematic and comprehensive and immoral. I remember it well, but then I am much older that you are. Furthermore, of even greater importance is our understanding of the place of the human in planet earth, the universe, the context in which I lives have any meaning. Our industrialised, technological society is damaging the earth, causing unprecedented numbers of species to become extinct and destroying the physical and mental health of people and whole peoples. It is essential that all institutions operate out of our relatively new understanding of our evolutionary development and what that means for how we behave in the inextricable relationship we have with all that exists – we have the knowledge from science – we are acting blindly if we do not teach, learn and understand and act out of what we now know. QUESTION: To what extent does what I have written have meaning for you and if it does how will it inform the way in which you wIll operate as Leader of Labour (Prime Minister) or as a member of caucus working in solidarity to take this country into the future in a comprehensive, wholistic manner?
M Clare Pierson

The Labour Party has a reputation amongst much of middle New Zealand as being a supporter of the “nanny state,” multi-generational welfare and minority politics. How do you propose counteracting that negative perception while still communicating Labour’s values in a compelling way?
Rachel Jones

What specific policies have you seen working in other countries that you think could be imported into the New Zealand context?
Rachel Jones

What policy ideas do you have to offer the party that might be considered fresh and innovative?
Rachel Jones

Many people are frustrated with adversarial politics. Where do you see scope for reaching across the floor?
Rachel Jones

ENDS


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.

*******

LABOUR LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES’ ANSWERS

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.

ENDS


TPPA : Will you make the TPPA process transparent? Labour Leadership Q&A #3

Posted by on September 11th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 3

TPPA : Will you make the TPPA process transparent?

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 starting yesterday (Tuesday 10th September), till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The three candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.

******

Question : What are your views on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement? Will you make the TPPA process transparent?

Submitted by : Cushla Dillon, Auckland

*******

LABOUR LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES’ ANSWERS

Answer from Grant Robertson

The TPPA is more than a normal trade agreement and needs to be treated as such, with caution.

I am a supporter of trade agreements that gain our exporters access to markets that will mean they can create jobs here in New Zealand. But we have to ensure that our rights to make laws, regulate and protect our people and environment is upheld.

In the case of the TPPA we must set clear bottom lines. No change to the PHARMAC model, protection of IP and copyright law, and ensuring our sovereign right to regulate and make policy is supported.

We do need more transparency in the way we deal with trade. I would set up an independent trade advisory group with representation from across the community to ensure there is public participation and understanding of our approach to trade agreements. We must be at the table for these sorts of negotiations, but it is vital that it is a Labour Government at the table.

******

Answer from David Cunliffe

I am concerned about the TPPA. We cannot trade-away our ability to set government regulation. I am worried that John Key and his Government will continue to keep us all in the dark about the text and its implications and I fear they will then present us with the final text some time near the end of this year and insist that we accept it otherwise we will harm our trading relationships.

This will leave us with little or no opportunity to consult with our communities about its potential implications.

We must protect Pharmac, ensure intellectual property provisions are suitable for New Zealand business, and we must not accept limits on our sovereign right to regulate. Any agreement must be in New Zealand’s best interest.

******

Answer from Shane Jones

A very challenging issue. It is vitally important we retain the capacity for our Parliament to regulate for public good.

It is essential that this deal does not hobble our technical industries through punitive patents. Ultimately however I do not want to see our Trade partners in a club without us.

ENDS


Manufacturing in crisis: Why pro-growth tax reform matters

Posted by on November 8th, 2012

During the last two weeks new data has confirmed what we already knew: manufacturing is in crisis. Far more manufacturing businesses are closing than opening and half the manufacturers that started up in 2008 have since gone bust. Iconic Kiwi manufacturer Fisher & Paykel Appliances has been sold offshore and will be delisted from the stock exchange. Advanced crystals manufacturer Rakon has laid off 60 hardworking New Zealanders. Dynamic Controls, a leader in high-tech mobility systems, is moving to close their New Zealand plant.

At the same time the overheated property market in Auckland is rearing its head again.

And just today we learned unemployment has climbed to a horrific 7.3%. Change is clearly needed in New Zealand.

Reform starts with the realisation that the current tax system has a fundamental and inappropriate bias towards speculation and against production and exports. So it is timely to note what a pro-growth tax package should contain, and why it matters to New Zealand’s manufacturing sector economic development.

New Zealand is one of only 3 OECD countries that does not have a capital gains tax and, as my colleague David Parker has noted, both the OECD and the IMF have reminded us this creates real problems.

Why should every dollar that you and I earn in wages or business profits be taxed, while nearly every dollar arising from gains in the value of property or shares or business ownership is tax free?

It’s not fair. And it’s just  not good for the economy either.

Making property speculation tax-free drives money into the property sector, meaning more competition to buy properties, meaning rents go up, and meaning young families are locked out of home ownership.

Making capital gains on business disposals tax-free simply makes an incentive for entrepreneurs to sell their businesses offshore, instead of growing taxable profits and creating jobs in New Zealand. A case in point is the “accountant farmer” who collects farms to realise capital gains, instead of farming to make sustainable profits.

A simple capital gains tax can help move the distortion that currently exists because of our biased tax system.

Without a CGT, the National Government is penalising innovators, meaning the positive spill-overs to our economy of a healthy innovation system are never fully captured by the innovators themselves. Capital is too scarce for young companies trying to commercialise research and development, and too many sell up early and lose their intellectual property to offshore buyers.

That’s why Labour believes a realisation-based, first-home-exempt fair capital gains tax is a no-brainer. All our polling indicates a New Zealanders are coming to agree.

Pro-growth tax reform also means giving our innovators a break; recognising the huge spill-over effects for our economy from a healthy innovation ecosystem.

R&D tax credits create a positive incentive (as opposed to the negative incentive around property). They encourage companies to look forward to future opportunities and help create a more neutral and long sited production environment and create high-value jobs.

Labour is looking seriously at how to bring back R&D tax incentives based on a survey of world best practise. My colleagues David Clark and Megan Woods are working on the link between taxation and innovation.

The bottom line is this: Everyone except the National Government can see the current system is not working. The IMF says we will have the OECD’s largest current account deficit by next year – bigger than Greece! That’s a road to ruin for today’s businesses and tomorrow’s young New Zealanders, so something must change.

Labour, the Greens, NZ First and MANA have launched an inquiry into manufacturing, and we expect submitters will canvass these important issues (along with other crucial issues like the over-valued and over-speculated dollar). Interested people should submit at manufacturinginquiry.org.nz.


The cult of National Party economics

Posted by on September 12th, 2012

“Economics” is a term which is often misused, most particularly by those on the right-wing of politics.

“Economics” is not a religion. “Economics” does not sit on a throne and dictate how humans must arrange their lives. Economics is only lots of models and measures which different people in different contexts have applied to things they were studying.

A good/useful economist behaves like a scientist. They adapt their models and add new measures and methods in a never-ending drive to improve their understanding. The good economist recognises there is no final truth in economics.

Bad/useless economists behave differently. They use meaningless phrases like “economics says”.  They nod at each other and quote Margaret Thatcher: “There is no other way”. They prioritise the imperfect economic tools over the perfectly-human people who use tools.

In the 1970s a group of economists at the University of Chicago reworked a few of the classical economic models – and ignored the rest – and decided they had hit on a new truth about the role of government in the economy (or, more accurately, a belief that government has no role in the economy). Effectively the “Chicago School” economists founded a religion.

This might have been just academic if it weren’t for the likes of Thatcher in the UK, Ronald Reagan in the USA – and Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson and certain Treasury officials right here in New Zealand in the 1980s and 1990s.

Those politicians became true disciples. But, just like the Chicago School, they only picked and chose those small bits from the economics field which matched their existing prejudices. To use an economics analogy they loved Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations but never made the time to read The Theory of Moral Sentiments – let alone Keynes’ General Theory or John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice.

Today The Herald carried an excellent piece from Peter Lyons. Peter teaches economics and he’s been following the often dramatic changes in New Zealand’s economy for more than 30 years. He clearly understands the Chicago religion, but he’s weighed up the evidence and – quite properly my opinion – he doesn’t buy into it.

Unfortunately for ordinary New Zealand families the ministers who are driving economic and finance policies in the National Government do.

In the dogmatic world of John Key, Bill English and Steven Joyce there are no lessons to be learned from the Global Financial Crisis. They appear not to care that their obviously failed policies have seen thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders lose their jobs, their livelihoods and their hope of making a future in New Zealand. They maintain their ‘not my responsibility’ passive government approach when the soaring and over-speculated dollar is killing manufacturing, killing exports, killing the regions and killing hope. It seems it doesn’t even matter to them that Kiwi children are going to school without food because their parents can’t afford to provide it.

While the USA, the UK and the New Zealand people have moved on, all the National Government does is preach failed ideologies.

Read Peter Lyons’ story. Then join the Labour Party. Get involved and help us with our clean, green, clever and evidence-based economic plan, please.

Because, for New Zealand’s sake, we must get rid of this ideological and destructive National government as soon as we can.


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.


Treasury asleep at the wheel?

Posted by on April 11th, 2012

The Auditor General (AG) recently raised serious concerns about the Treasury’s handling of the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme. 

Questions raised by the AG’s critique need urgent and focused attention.

First the history.  The scheme was put in place in a matter of hours – designed and announced the same day.  At the peak of the Global Financial Crisis it ensured there wasn’t a run on financial institutions.  The Auditor General found that it achieved its initial goals and that the economy was stabilised.

But, appearing before the select committee, the AG revealed under questioning the extent of Treasury’s failure to effectively monitor the scheme in the early months.  Risk to the taxpayer waxed unobserved by the official watchdog.  The risk profile of South Canterbury Finance’s loan book, for example, grew rapidly in the early months of 2009.  Within 4 months of the scheme’s introduction, South Canterbury’s deposit base had increased by 25%.   Treasury failed to proactively monitor the growth in risk to the taxpayer.  It did not request regular reports it was entitled to request from the Reserve Bank. 

In her recent appearance before the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee (FEC), the Auditor General said she also found no evidence to suggest the Treasury had asked itself whether further intervention was necessary to protect taxpayer interests.

The scheme ultimately looks set to cost the taxpayer in excess of $1 Billion.  Some of this may have been necessary to ensure New Zealand survived the financial crisis.  However, without further investigation it is not clear just how much of the $1 Billion was avoidable cost to the taxpayer.

Under questioning by David Parker, FEC Committee Chair Todd McClay made it clear he wasn’t about to take a lead on holding Treasury to account.

Treasury failed to effectively monitor the growth in risk to the taxpayer.  In fact, it didn’t make any provision for payouts under the scheme until June 2009.  When asked whether Treasury’s practices had changed sufficient to be sure that they could ask themselves the right questions today, the Auditor General was not able to offer necessary reassurance.

The parliamentary Finance and Expenditure Committee has the job of asking Treasury the tough questions.  When hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are at stake, thorough investigation is demanded.  The people of New Zealand need to be assured Treasury has learned from any mistakes.  To that end, Labour members will be drafting terms of reference for an inquiry into Treasury’s handling of the Crown Retail Deposits Guarantee scheme.

In my experience, people at Treasury have broad shoulders and will welcome rigorous inquiry.


Why The Downgrades Matter

Posted by on October 3rd, 2011

The public does not need to take our word for it that the current government’s economic policies are not working.  There is now even more objective evidence in the form of two important credit rating downgrades delivered on “Black Friday”.

I have written an op-ed for the Herald on why the “Ratings Ref” yellow carded NZ.  Standard and Poors and Fitch agree on what is fundamentally wrong.  They say:

  • First “very high external imbalances, accompanied by high household and agriculture sector debt” (S&P). These are mainly house and farm mortgages borrowed through the banks from foreign lenders to fuel our property obsession.
    • That’s not a new problem and it has levelled off a bit with the recession. But it is at historically high levels and makes New Zealand “an outlier among peers” according to Fitch.
  • Second, “dependence on commodity income” says S&P.  Despite record milk prices we are still not paying our way in the world.  The current account deficit is a long term issue. But it will worsen to 6.9% of GDP while the Net International Investment Deficit (NIID) will grow from 78% to 85% over the next five years.
  • Third “emerging fiscal pressures associated with (our) aging population” (S&P), including health and superannuation.  Suspending the NZ Super Fund pre funding hasn’t helped.

The reaction from Bill English on Q & A yesterday was uttlerly inadequate.  He maintains the government will keep on doing what it is doing.  As if that has done any good so far  – $37 billion extra debt, 47,000 more unemployed and 3.6% lower GDP now than when they were elected.

Here is the Government’s spin, and some perspective on it:

  • We have worked hard to control government spending and succeeded”.  The problem is that some $37 billion of debt has been added since the National Government took office – some $18 billion in this year alone.  While nobody blames any government for earthquakes – and the ratings agencies recognise that both sides of the political spectrum are exercising fiscal restraint, this is not enough to avoid a downgrade.   The agencies’ arenot swayed by the prospect of liquidating $5 billion of SOE assets.
  • We are better placed than some other countries”.   Being “better placed” than Iceland, Greece or Portugal is cold comfort.  Nor is it sufficient, in the face of paralysis in the US and chaos in Europe, to take refuge in Chinese and Australian expansion.  The risks of a slowdown in both economies are significant, and s the ratings agencies demand New Zealand  takes responsibility for its own future.
  • “We are still on track for surplus in 2014-15.  So she’ll be right”.   As if.  The precise timing of short term fiscal balance is not the issue that has worried the ratings agencies.  The long term deterioration driven by poor savings performance, weak exports and the mountain of real estate debt is.  Clutching at such irrelevant straws only highlights the absence of better ideas. 

Proof of the bankruptcy of National’s ideas is in this sobering fact:  only one quarter of OECD countries have been downgraded by Fitch in the last three years.  The last time this happened to NZ was in 1998.  It is nonsense to say we are riding the waves better than most.  To the contrary New Zealand is highly exposed, and saddled with a government that has no plan.

Labour has the policies and the political courage to make a difference and to do what is needed: capital gains tax, strong saving policy, monetary reform and strategic economic development.  It is vital that we implement them before it is too late.

Be in no doubt: what happened on Friday is a very serious development that will have repercussions for many years.  I will write further on what this means for the average Kiwi family.


Budget FAQ #6: Why the Deficit Hole?

Posted by on May 19th, 2011

Our Labour team wanted to understand why every year under National the budget deficit has far exceeded the forecast when they took office. In the graph below, the black line is the projection of the deficit made in December 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis. But you can see the actual deficits have been much larger.

Debt Composition 2008-2011

Part of this is due to National’s tax cuts, even accepting the rosy predictions English made about the cost of his tax packages, they still cost a significant amount (green blocks). This year the deficit has been worsened by one-off events in the form of the Christchurch earthquake and the South Canterbury Finance bailout (brown and purple blocks). But there’s still a huge difference between the 2008 projections and what happened that isn’t accounted for by the one-offs or the borrowing for tax cuts. What’s behind that?

When we look at the GDP growth forecasts vs reality for the same period, the answer becomes clear. Every year, National has projected that a return to strong growth is just around the corner which will mean more tax take, lower benefit costs  – and a smaller deficit. But it hasn’t eventuated. Instead, the economy has stagnated under National and every year National has evened up having to slap billions more on the taxpayers’ bill to cover for this economic underperformance (blue block).

 No doubt today’s budget will also contain rosy growth projections. Will the reality end up being more deficit blowouts?


Budget FAQs #5: Growth Hockey Stick

Posted by on May 19th, 2011

The New Zealand economy has failed to fire under National.  As a result successive rosy Treasury forecasts have been revised downwards.  The starkest example is between last year’s May Budget and December Half Year Update.  

  2010 GDP Track Revision

Implications: The  growth upturn “hockey stick” just keeps getting pushed out into the future.  The so-called GST tax switch had no discernable positive impact on growth.  And the same rosy forecasts will be embedded in today’s Budget.  On this track record Budget 2011 growth  projections will not be worth the paper they are written on.

When the 2009 growth projections are added the picture gets even more interesting.  As this graph shows the actual GDP growth track has been so bad that it is back down to the proections made by Treasury during the darkest days of the 2008/9 global financial crisis.  

   2009-2010 GDP Track

In other words, despite the international crisis having passed 18 months ago and NZ receiving record prices for our agricultrual commodities, our economy has performed so badly that it is back down to the track Treasury predicted during the darkest days of the crisis.   Quite simply, whatever the Govt has been doing is not working. 

In a future post we will decompose the relative impact on debt of this under-performance and otehr factors like earthquakes.

There is no coherent plan from National on how to manage debt reduction alongside needed investments in economic and export development, closing the savings gap, repairing the damage to middle New Zealand, and giving all Kiwis hope and confidence for the future.

Labour has an integrated economic strategy that will achive that withi a fully costed programme that will reduce net debt over a 10 year economic cycle.  You can see the direction we are heading in set out in a recent speech I gave to Business NZ  here.

For the wonks among you, here is the underlying data – all the Government’s own numbers.

  GDP per capita, 95/96 dollars    
 

Actual

Half Year Update 2009

Budget 2010

Half Year Update 2010

30/12/2008

7,805

     

30/03/2009

7,700

     

30/06/2009

7,683

7,683

   

30/09/2009

7,677

7,694

   

30/12/2009

7,716

7,721

7,716

 

30/03/2010

7,741

7,741

7,758

 

30/06/2010

7,734

7,768

7,802

7,734

30/09/2010

7,701

7,795

7,909

7,747

30/12/2010

7,694

7,830

7,883

7,799

30/03/2011

 

7,873

7,928

7,859

30/06/2011

 

7,916

7,973

7,904

30/09/2011

 

7,967

8,026

7,948

30/12/2011

 

8,027

8,088

8,010

30/03/2012

 

8,055

8,118

8,039

30/06/2012

 

8,091

8,156

8,085

 Sources: Budget relevant documents and Statistics NZ series


The Debt Deception

Posted by on March 8th, 2011

As this is my first blog post since the quake, can I preface my comments by acknowledging the devastating loss suffered by too many Cantabrians and their families, of ther lives and homes shattered, and our shared determination to everything necessary to support their rebuilding and renewal.

In this immediate post-quake period we are all exercising restraint – both in the quantity and tone of poitical comment.  But the debt question has in fact been brought into starker relief by the quake, so I am moved to observe the following.   

Before the quake, National would have you believe that New Zealand had a huge international debt problem, and that the solution to that was for the Government to compress spending and services to pay down this debt. 

It was always a half truth: 90% of that debt is private debt and only 10% of it is public (government) debt.

The second deception was that this high debt was “Labour’s fault”.   The facts are that in 2008 net debt (including NZ Super Fund assets) were in surplus to the tune of 4.7% of GDP.   Virtually no government in the western world saw the collapse coming in advance, but at the least the former Labour Government had the books in strong shape.

Post quake, we are all confronted by huge costs. Families have lost loved ones.  Homes and businesses destroyed will take time to rebuild and renew.  Infrastructure is hugely dislocated.  Much of the CBD will have to come down.  Hopefully there will be proper consultation and an eye to the heritage that makes Christchurch unique.

The financial costs are also huge – in Treasury’s February Indicators, around  $12 billion (later estimates put it around $15 billion),  of which some $5 will fall to the Crown because it is not covered by EQC, its reinsurers or private insurance.  Around a further $5 billion in lost Crown revenue will occur due to the reduced tax take from decimated business activity and personal earnings in Christchurch.  (I will blog further on the “growth gap” shortly).

So, to use the PM’s very round numbers – there is $10 billion for the public to find over the next four years or so. 

Some of that can legitimately be redirected from other investments – for example the “holiday highway” north of Auckland - to help fund Canterbury roading costs.

Mssrs Key and English believe the rest can be borrowed – that is, placed on the international debt pile – and say that is now acceptable becasue it is a “one off”.   They are so far dismissing suggestions of any additional support for Canterbury through the tax system.  (Raising the EQC Levy only restores its capacity to deal with future disasters, rather than this one).

Why then was the international debt pile so huge that reducing it by slashing Government spending and prolonging the recession was necessary a month ago, but borrowing the lot is no problem now?

Forgive me, but could it be that the answer is not economic but political?  Could it be that reducing government expenditure pre-quake was the price of Budget 2009 and 2010′s - largely upper income – tax cuts; and that even Canterbury’s needs have been trumped by the need to protect National’s traditional voter base from even a temporary reduction in these tax breaks?

I feel unclean even thinking that.  But the question has to be asked: why not expect the whole community to share part of the cost through the revenue system?  Even the NZ Herald agrees with that.


Bank of England boss criticises banks.

Posted by on March 7th, 2011

Merv King the Governor of the Bank of England is a pretty extreme example of what I consider a crude monetarist. But in this interview with The Telegraph he points the finger at bankers. With good reason.

Now, the Governor is off on why all this has a moral dimension: “The more I’ve thought about how labour markets work, the more I’ve realised that there are hardly any jobs whose tasks you can describe exactly. Nowadays, most jobs have the property that employees can choose to do them well or badly, so employers need to think about the long-term welfare of the staff not just pay today.” It follows that moral attitude is vital. Industry often understands this well. Nissan in Sunderland asks all its workers for ideas to raise productivity, and, says Mr King, it benefits.

The Governor makes a point of visiting manufacturing and service industries all over the country. Such firms pay far lower rewards than financial services but have “an incredibly successful record. They care deeply about their workforce, about their customers and, above all, are proud of their products”. With the banks, it’s different: “There isn’t that sense of longer-term relationships [hence the demise of the local bank manager]. There’s a different attitude towards customers. Small and medium firms really notice this: they miss the people they know.”

He also thinks that there is “too much weight put on the importance and value of takeovers”. They make short-run profits but “it doesn’t make sense to destroy a company with a reputation”. Since the Big Bang in the late 1980s, Mr King goes on, too many in financial services have thought “if it’s possible to make money out of gullible or unsuspecting customers, particularly institutional customers, that is perfectly acceptable”. Good businesses “keep a clear vision of who their customers are, and are run by people who don’t think they should simply maximise profits next week”. But in the past 25 years, banks have increasingly “taken bets with other people’s money”.

That is bad enough, but it gets much worse “if the rules of the game are that they get bailed out if it all goes wrong”. In this weird atmosphere, banks eventually stopped trusting one another. “Financial services don’t like the word ‘casino’, but instruments were created and traded only within the financial community. It was a zero sum game. No one knew which ones were winners when the crisis hit. Everyone became a suspect. Hence, no one would provide liquidity to any of those institutions.”

So what that does that mean for us. Heads the overseas owners of banks win and our balance of payments suffers and tails New Zealand businesses, individuals and the taxpayer cover their losses. And our balance of payments suffer.

Hat tip Lloyd Morrison


Public Sector bashing an (inter)national sport

Posted by on February 9th, 2011

Bill English delivered a message today that public servants who can’t handle change and are waiting around for more money should look for a new job. In other words, cop what the government delivers, be grateful, or b*gger off.

Scapegoating the public sector workforce isn’t confined to New Zealand.  Public sector bashing is a favourite occupation of right-wing governments around the world, particularly since the global recession.  And because public sector workers tend to be more highly unionised than the private sector, their unions are also a target.

In the US, New Republican governors, old right wing radio commentators, Fox News and other extremists are stoking the rhetoric, with a simple narrative, repeated endlessly, that public service and public sector workers are the reason for State and Federal budget problems. This is a blatant effort to disguise the real culprits in the global meltdown and an effort by the mega-rich to preserve their privileged position. 

In the UK, public sector workers are in the gun, not only for huge cuts, but also for blame for the recession, while bankers are getting off the hook. George Osborne, the Tory Chancellor, called unions a “force for stagnation” as they prepared to oppose public service cuts to libraries, community workers, childcare staff and health service staff. Osborne is now threatening changes to the rights of workers. UK business organisation the Institute of Directors (IoD) has called for collective bargaining to be scrapped for teachers and NHS staff. 

Millionaires and right wing economists don’t like the public sector. They want more privatisation so as to create more profitable business opportunities. They want sackings and wage cuts which will allow big earners to maintain low tax rates.  It’s the old neo-liberal prescription which, unfortunately we are seeing emerging in New Zealand.

I want to know if people actually believe that nurses and teachers are responsible for this economic mess?

Wasn’t it the greed of the private sector that got us into the global economic meltdown? Wasn’t it caused by unsustainable lending and complex forms of debt by banks?  Aren’t they and the greedy corporations are to blame, not a few thousand workers employed in the public sector?

But now the rich elite and their friends in conservative governments are trying to pass the buck onto workers by attacking their job security.

Bill English continues to talk about the “bloated public services”, as if there are no human beings involved there.  I’ve got no problem with efficiency and productivity gains and nor, I am sure, do our public sector workforce.

But let’s remember that public sector spending goes well beyond the directly employed public service workforce.  In the UK for example, public spending supports 40% of all jobs, with just 15% in public sector employment and 25% in the private sector.  And public spending and public services (including public service utilities) support 50% of the UK economy – twice as many in the private sector as in the private sector. 

So for those who have may have brought into the rhetoric of public sector blame; get real.  Your job probably depends on public sector spending as well, and Bill’s coming for you too.


In God’s own country

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

Last Sunday, the Sunday Star Times surprised and delighted by leading, no less, with a story about a survey showing people are increasingly concerned at the growing gap between rich and poor in this country, God’s Own which once prided itself on being egalitarian. http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/news/4571307/Wealth-gap-divides-nation

Yesterday it followed up with a major feature  http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/features/4594815/Mind-the-income-gap providing more detail, including a graph from the book The Spirit Level which shows NZ was 18th out of OECD 23 nations in terms of the gap between the richest and poorest 20%.

At Labour’s excellent Summer School over the weekend, Otago University academic David Craig reproduced GINI data which suggested in fact we are now the most unequal society. (He’s sending it and I will post up the link.)

Yesterday’s SST article quotes Brit Tory leader David Cameron as saying of The Spirit Level that it showed that “among the richest countries, it’s the more unequal ones that do worse according to almost every quality of life indicator…”

“We all know, in our hearts, that as long as there is deep poverty living systematically side by side with great riches, we all remain the poorer for it.”

Cameron is doing more than mouthing the words. Last year he appointed former Observer editor and long-time campaigner on equality and a ‘stakeholder’ society, Will Hutton, to head a pay equity review. (I am currently reading Hutton’s latest book Them and Us but more on that at another time.)

So you might think there is the chance for a reasoned debate here in NZ, if not Government pick-up?  Accompanying the SST feature yesterday was commentary from both CTU economist Bill Rosenberg (agreeing) and Roger Kerr, director of the Business Roundtable.

I can’t find an e-version of Kerr’s comments (although the BRT website carries this  http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/assets/Beware_False_Prophets_Jul_10.pdf but he starts by saying: “Other things being equal, I prefer less inequality in incomes and wealth rather than more…”

Kerr then goes on the pan the book and story and dismisses the idea of better equity by saying:  “Equalising incomes, was, of course the socialist goal…”  No one is talking about equalizing incomes, that’s stupid and out of line even with a Tory Prime Minister. What we are talking about is a more equitable society, where the gap between rich and poor is reduced because otherwise everyone suffers.

It is simply obscene, for example, for the Westpac  chief executive in this country to be commanding a salary of $5m+ a year as we struggle out/through a recession for which banks have to take some responsibility. Banker JP Morgan had a rule that his executives should not earn more than 20 times that of his lowest paid employee. Westpac call centre people earn around $45,000 a year. That would take their CEO to around $1m.

That’s the sort of ceiling in place for state sector chief executives. Even then you have to ask why some SOE CEOs are earning twice + what the Prime Minster earns.

John Key is unlikely to follow the line taken by David Cameron. He is more likely to support Roger Kerr’s defence of the growing pay inequity gap and argues opposition is the politics of envy; that we should simply stop redistributing wealth (as if no redistribution has happened) and look at growing the economic pie.

No argument with that if the growth is sustainable but there’s no evidence provided that this is enhanced by paying someone 50 or 100 times what their workers earn.

Moreover, The Spirit Level graph of inequality appears to suggest that more equitable societies are more stable. Spain at tenth on the list of most equitable is the first truly troubled economy to be listed. The USA is second most unequal, just ahead of Portugal.

Neither our economic stability, nor our growing equality gap now perhaps the worst in the western world will be helped by tax cuts heavily favouring top earners. And another dose of state asset sales pushing up power prices won’t close the gaps either.


The Financial Elite have Gambled away our Future

Posted by on January 29th, 2011

Yesterday’s Press Editorial welcomed the PM’s announcement on the beginning of National’s privitisation programme for our country’s assets with the words “John Key was able to demonstrate…the value of his background in the financial industry”.  Excuse me?  Did the Press miss the Global Financial Crisis, where “the over-paid heroes of Wall Street and the City worshipped the gods of globalisation, financialisation and speculation”?   The quote is a teaser for the best of the five books I read over the summer break: “The Gods that Failed: How the Financial Elite Have Gambled Away our Futures” by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson.  The first edition of the book was subtitled: “How Blind Faith in Markets Has Cost us our Future”.  The second edition (published in 2009) has an extra chapter, which as one reviewer said could have been titled: We Told You So.  The authors of this book are economics editors, Elliott with the Guardian and Atkinson, the Mail on Sunday.

The metaphor that drives the narrative is inspired by the twelve gods of ancient Greece that lived on Mount Olympus.  Elliott & Atkinson have styled the super-financiers and the international organisations, (central banks, IMF, World Bank, WTO), the “New Olympians” and the twelve gods of the modern Mount Olympus: globalisation, communication, liberalisation, privatisation, competition, financialisation, speculation, recklessness, greed, arrogance, oligarchy & excess. 

“Greek mythology provides plenty of raw material for a book about the failings of modern financial markets.  There is the story of King Midas, who found the ability to turn all he touched into gold a curse. The tendency of markets to veer between the wild optimism of booms and the manic depression busts is akin to the life led by poor Persephone, condemned to live every six months of every year in Hades. But Pandora – a gift from the gods whose beauty belied her baleful influence on the lives of mortals – makes the best metaphor.”

As they said August 9 2007 was the moment the lid came off the modern version of Pandora’s box.  And the rest is history, which is why I believe this book must be read, because unless we learn the lessons of history, we condemn ourselves to repeating it.

This book is well-researched and easy to read.  It contains a chapter called ‘Last Tango on Wall Street” which has a very simple explanation of how the New Olympians (our Prime Minister’s background the Press values so highly) found ways to make money out of nothing – creating securitised financial products like “collateralised debt obligations” out of the subprime market and then hiding the risks behind AAA rated institutions.  The New Olympians made personal fortunes with bonuses they never had to repay when it all turned to custard.  And they were happy to see the taxpayers pick up the tab for their trillion dollar insanity. 

I conclude with this quote: ‘Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise.  But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation’.  That was John Maynard Keynes in 1936.  When will we ever learn?


Who pays the price of recovery?

Posted by on January 6th, 2011

When I was briefly in Ireland towards the end of last year the prescription being presented to deal with their economic meltdown was familiar. Massive public sector cutbacks, dropping the minimum wage, a reduction is subsidies for healthcare. Similiar austerity measures were being rolled out in the UK, with everything from cuts to school sport and education grants to students from poorer families.

It got me thinking about who is paying the price for recovery from recession? The financial sector? The banks? Or is it down to the average person on the street?

Joseph Stiglitz has picked this up with an article, and edited version of which appeared in the Dom Post this week. As he puts it

It has become fashionable among politicians to preach the virtues of pain and suffering, no doubt because those bearing the brunt of it are those with little voice – the poor and future generations. To get the economy going, some people will, in fact, have to bear some pain, but the increasingly skewed income distribution gives clear guidance to whom this should be: Approximately a quarter of all income in the US now goes to the top 1%, while most Americans’ income is lower today than it was a dozen years ago. Simply put, most Americans didn’t share in what many called the Great Moderation, but was really the Mother of All Bubbles. So, should innocent victims and those who gained nothing from fake prosperity really be made to pay even more?

As Stiglitz also points out in the article the response to the economic crisis of public sector austerity will almost certainly lead to slower recovery, stubbornly high unemployment and a relative decline in competitiveness with those countries, like China who have chosen to invest in their economy rather than cut back.

In New Zealand the effects of the recession are less marked than in other countries, in large part because we went into it, courtesy of Michael Cullen and the fifth Labour government in a better state. But we still are being told that the answer is to cut back, and to accept a tax switch package that overwhelmingly favours the better off.

Of course we need to be prudent with spending, but real investment in skills, infrastructure and active economic development policies is the path to leading us out of recession.

Last word to Stiglitz, with his hope for the year

So this is my hope for the New Year: we stop paying attention to the so-called financial wizards who got us into this mess – and who are now calling for austerity and delayed restructuring – and start using a little common sense. If there is pain to be borne, the brunt of it should be felt by those responsible for the crisis, and those who benefited most from the bubble that preceded it.


I love the Irish

Posted by on December 9th, 2010

WARNING : this video contains bad language:  it’s the Irish man on the street’s analysis of the financial crisis.  If you can’t cope, don’t watch and don’t complain.  Sometimes people just say it how it is!