Dunne on budgets past and present

Like him or not Peter Dunne has been around for a lot of budgets and offers an insight into the bad old days of handout/slash budgets compared to the modern tweakism.

The 2015 Budget has been presented, and while Parliament settles down for the next day or so to debate some of the consequential legislation, the public will begin to pick over the entrails to determine their assessment of it.

Essentially, it will boil down to one thing – do they feel personally better or worse off as a consequence. They may take account of the small projected Budget surplus, with bigger surpluses to come in the years ahead, but they will also remember there was to be a surplus this year which has not eventuated, so they will take that promise with a grain of salt.

They will look at the social assistance package, noting with quiet approval the rise in benefit levels (for some, their anxious consciences will be salved by that) but then they will quickly check to see if they are one of the losers because of the consequential adjustments to Working for Families payments.

In most cases, they will conclude that the Government has probably got it “about right” with little real impact on their own circumstances, and so they will just carry on with their lives.

As it should be. Lotto has taken over as the Kiwi dream of deliverance from financial hardship.

Not that they really expected anything different. The days of Budgets being the year’s “Big Bang” have long since passed, with much of the detail announced by Ministers in the weeks immediately beforehand, even though as the Minister of Finance has shown in this Budget the odd surprise can still be delivered on the day.

All of this is a far cry from the Budgets of old, when people would listen in intently, waiting for the feared words, “As of midnight tonight …”, which usually presaged the introduction of new taxes, levies or reductions in some form or other of government services. Gone too are the old traditions of the pre-Budget stock-up of alcohol, and tobacco products to avoid Budget tax increases – even these are indexed now, and movements in rates announced well in advance, so no-one is caught by surprise.

Few truly lament the passage of all that drama.

There is another reason why the Budgets of old should be forgotten. Their fundamental purpose was different – they were the politicians’ version of Scrooge’s Christmas, the one time in the year when goodies were dished out to those whom the Government liked, or wanted to like it, while those whom it did not like or care much about were either ignored or scapegoated. An economic and political morality play, if you like.

Today, the Budget is much more a statement of the Government’s plan of action for the year ahead, a politically and economically strategic document, rather than just handing out the loot.

One thing that not has changed in the transition is the attitude of the Opposition. Be they of the left or the right, be the circumstances adverse or more propitious, Oppositions always oppose the Budget, with as much and fire and passion as they can muster, even though changes of government over the years have led to very few changes in Budget settings.

Benefit levels are a good example – the last significant uplift in basic levels was when Sir John Marshall was Prime Minister, 43 years ago.

Another National government.

When benefits were slashed by National in late 1990, despite its outrage and fury at the time, the Labour-led Government after 1999 did not restore the cuts. Now that a basic adjustment has been made, the Opposition are predictably saying it is not enough.

This is the sort of thing that makes Budget watching such fun – so long as no-one takes it too seriously. Debate will rage in Parliament over the next few days; the pontificating commentariat will have its worthy say; and then, by early next week or so, life will settle back to pretty much what it was beforehand.

Until we go through it all over again next year.

Most people don’t go through it al again, they ignore the budget and the political theatrics surrounding it. Which isn’t a bad thing.

Source: Dunne Speaks

Little’s budget speech

Andrew Little’s budget speech has been slammed by opponents, not surprisingly,

John Key “That was singularly the worst reply speech by a Leader of the Opposition this Parliament has heard.”

David Farrar: “Andrew Little’s Budget speech is the worst I can recall from an opposition leader. He made David Shearer look like David Lange. It was incoherent, he lost his way several times, and just stumbled from one page to the next. I think he even repeated a few lines by accident.”

FromThe Standard:

Alwyn “I’ve heard some terrible speeches from Little but this one takes the prize for puerility.”

Greg Presland “It was not the best I have seen him give but I do not expect perfection. It was still miles better than Key’s. You have to understand the opposition gets little notice of what is in the budget so initial speeches are always somewhat reflective.”

Karen “Little’s speech was workmanlike rather than inspiring but his transphobic joke at the beginning was unforgivable IMO. It is one thing not to support increased surgery because of budget constraints, it is another to make a joke at the expense of vulnerable people. Bad form Mr Little.”

Little’s comment: “I do not know what he is trying to hide: some sort of fiscal gender-reassignment or something—who knows what it is. But he cannot produce a surplus. ”

Nordy went in to bat for the team “Little’s good, direct speech was full of substance – something we aren’t used from Key & Co. A continuation of the real thinking about the future and what is needed for our country we have seen from Labour and other parties on the left. Whether he is or isn’t ‘inspiring’ is really of no consquence – substance and hard work for all New Zealanders is what he provides ans what we need. No wonder he worrys the ‘right’.”

One line from Little that forgets a bit of major recent history: “This is a Government that has been 7 years in office—7 years in office—and that has enjoyed the best of times: record high dairy prices, record high export volumes, and growth of over 3 percent. ”

Draft transcript:

Appropriation (2014/15 Supplementary Estimates) Bill

Speech – ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition)

ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition): “Wait until tomorrow.”, they said. “One sleep to go.”, which was a bit rich for a Government that spent 7 years sleeping at the wheel. If this is a plan that is working, then why have we seen today one of the biggest spends on alleviating child poverty, which this Government has known of for 7 years and done nothing about until now?

Why has this Government been panicked into doing something about the desperate Aucklanders who cannot get to own their own homes? They are hardly features of the Budget at all, and we know why: because the Government cobbled it together in just the last few weeks alone.

I move, That all the words after “That” be deleted and be replaced with “this House has no confidence in a Government which has failed to deliver the jobs, the incomes, or the real surplus they promised, squandered the golden economic weather, failed to diversify our economy, failed to meaningfully fix the housing crisis, neglected regional New Zealand, and is tired, out of touch, and out of ideas.”

This is a Government that is demonstrating management by sleepwalk, because that is what this Budget is. This is a Budget that manages the decline.

There is nothing in this for the long-term future of New Zealand that will give hope and confidence to those who are working hard and struggling to get ahead. So we see now this surplus of $176 million for next year. Well, just remember—just remember—last time the Government promised a surplus of over $300 million, and the deficit is over $600 million; the billion-dollar gap. It is the billion-dollar gap that has materialised in 1 year alone.

So my message to New Zealanders is this: the Government might have promised it, it might have budgeted for it, but you cannot trust it because it never, ever happens. It is a continuation of the Dance of the Seven Veils.

Poor old Bill English there, ever since about 2010 another veil comes off and a promise is made. In 2011 another veil comes off and the promise is made again. We have had that repeatedly and now we have had another veil removed and we know that there are still more to go.

I do not know what he is trying to hide: some sort of fiscal gender-reassignment or something—who knows what it is. But he cannot produce a surplus.

This is not a real surplus in this Budget, and he knows it. New Zealanders will see it for what it is: a desperate Government that cannot fulfil the core election promise that it made last year that it would return the books to a balance and a surplus.

And there is a good reason why. Good Governments manage the Government’s books to achieve a surplus. There is a reason why the last Labour Government managed the Government’s books to achieve nine successive surpluses, because when you get a surplus you do the stuff that builds a nation.

You can put in place your New Zealand Superannuation Fund to prefund superannuation, because when you take a close look at these books, what you see is that by 2018 the cost of New Zealand superannuation is going to rise—it is going to increase—by nearly $1 billion a year, in just 3 years’ time.

And what is this Government doing for it? Absolutely nothing—absolutely nothing. That is the disgrace of this Government: no forward looking, no sense of the future, manage it by sleepwalking, hope that nobody notices, and come back next year and it will all be the same again. That is what this Budget represents.

There is no future in this Budget. There is no hope in this Budget. The next generation, and the next Government, and the future generations of New Zealanders are going to have to cobble together and patch up the failures of this Government, including meeting the cost of New Zealand superannuation.

This mob over here have no sense of future and do not know what to do about it, so they crib around the edges—a million dollars here, a million dollars there. It is not enough to build a strong, resilient New Zealand. They failed. They have failed.

So we have had the surplus, we have had the surplus chimera, we have had the ethereal result—it will not happen. And then we have got the challenge of dealing with child poverty. Well, we will give them some credit for that. They have taken a step.

They have taken a step: they have increased benefits. But they paid for it by taking it out of the future-building initiative: KiwiSaver .

It has taken away the kickstart for those future generations of New Zealanders who need to save—and know it—for their retirement, all those parents lining up to sign their kids up for it because they know that at least if they get that, at least if they get that kickstart, then by the time they get into their adult lives, they have got a little nest egg to continue to build on.

It is just an incentive you have when you are a youngster to carry on the saving. This Government steals from the next generation, and it does not know what to do about their needs. That is what it is doing. It is taking off the top of Working for Families to pay for it.

This is a “fiddling-around Budget”. This is a “fudge-it Budget”. The Government is doing it again. It has no long-term plan.

And then there are the initiatives on housing. Well, this is the biggest rort, of course. This is the biggest rort. It has got new tax plans, new rules that Bill English proudly announced today: “We’ve got new rules on tax.”

Two days ago he was saying that they probably will not work. I do not know how they got left in the speech when 2 days ago he was saying that they will not even work, but he has put them in there.

I want to say this about the house build programme, because the Labour Party has been saying for some years that the way to deal with the housing supply problem, the way to make sure that more Aucklanders get into an affordable home, is that the Government, the State, must lead the house building programme. So I credit this Government for taking the first step of saying that it will do that, of putting land aside.

But I want to say this: we will support that initiative on one condition. I look at John Key and I look at Bill English and I look at Nick Smith and I look at Steven Joyce and I look at Paula Bennett. None of them will look back.

I say to each of you, because you are the ones in charge of housing, you know what is going on: make this promise to New Zealanders.

Make the promise to New Zealanders that every single one of the houses built on the land you have released in the announcement today will be an affordable house that ordinary New Zealanders can get into. Make that promise today. You have got a dozen TV cameras around here you can make it to. Make the promise today, Mr Prime Minister.

Do not get on your hind quarters in 15 minutes’ time and flap about like a rooster on heat and give your usual dog and pony routine. Make a genuine promise, one that you are prepared to stick by. Be straight with New Zealanders. Tell them: “We are serious about affordable housing.” Make sure those houses are affordable houses.

And to Paula Bennett I say: make sure you discharge your responsibilities to all New Zealanders, to good New Zealanders, the hard-working New Zealanders who still hold on to that dream of getting their own home. And make sure you deliver. Your failure to deliver, if you cannot guarantee—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: The member opposed HomeStart.

ANDREW LITTLE: —if you will not guarantee, Nick Smith, that every single one of those houses will be an affordable home that ordinary New Zealanders in Auckland can get into, then you will have failed. You will have failed New Zealanders and you will have failed the test that you have set for all Governments, which is to look after average New Zealanders.

So far all you have done is look after your rich mates. That is not a policy. Your home build policy is not a policy for the property developers who contribute so handsomely to National Party coffers. It ought to be a promise to ordinary New Zealanders who want only to get into their own home.

That is what I ask you to do. That is what I am asking you to do. I want to say this about ACC. We have had the repeat of the promise about ACC, and we know that it is not a promise. We know that it is not a promise. It is “It could happen.”, “It might happen.”, “It’s 2 years away.”, “We’ve got further work to do on it.”

So I say this to Nikki Kaye and to Bill English and to John Key: make the promise. Look New Zealanders in the eye and say that you will cut ACC levies.

Sue Moroney: Do it now.

ANDREW LITTLE: You could do it now; Sue Moroney is right. You could do it now. You have not. You have held on to the cash. You have deprived good businesses and hard-working New Zealanders of their cash. Now you have promised that it might happen sometime in the future.

Make the promise now. Mr Prime Minister, look in those TV cameras when you are up there prancing around, and make the promise to good New Zealanders that you will see through to make those ACC cuts so Kiwis will have some money back in their pockets. Make a promise you are prepared to stand by. Make a promise that New Zealanders can rely on and trust. It would be the first one in your political career. This is a disappointing Budget in so many other ways.

This is a Budget where New Zealanders were hanging out, looking for an expression of hope for the future.

This is a Government that has been 7 years in office—7 years in office—and that has enjoyed the best of times: record high dairy prices, record high export volumes, and growth of over 3 percent.

Now we know it is all going down. You look at the projections and they are all about to go down.

This is as good as it gets. New Zealanders deserve better—New Zealanders deserve better.

They deserve a Government that is thinking about the regions, that is thinking about what happens to the regions when that dairy cash dries up and those small towns and hamlets across New Zealand struggle to wonder what to do next.

The farmers, the stock and station agents, and all those who contract to the farming sector have to buckle down, batten down the hatches. They are wondering what to do next. They are going to look at this Government and say: “You let this happen. It didn’t have to be like this. You had the opportunity. You had the good times. You could have prepared better.”

And they will say and we will say that you blew it. Bill English and John Key, you blew it. You have turned up today with a Budget that just continues the same sleepwalking, somnambulant management that we have got used to for the last 7 years. It is not good enough—it is not good enough.

New Zealanders deserve better, and we need better. We are facing some difficult times ahead. The Government knows it; we all know it. New Zealanders know it, and they were looking for an expression, for a statement of vision and leadership such as we have never seen before with this Government. And we have not got it.

It has been more of the same—fiddle around the edges, faff around the sides, and carry on as if no one is noticing. Well, they are noticing.

What we now need is a Government that is genuinely focused on the future. It is not just about dealing with the issue of making the books give the appearance of a surplus that is not going to happen.

It is about a Government that is focused on building a nation, and on giving people opportunities.

It is fine to lift the benefits, fine to help those people, even though you are making it harder for sole parents with kids at the age of 3 and over. That is going to be the real hardship. How are those folks going to cope?

It is fine to make some of those gestures, but what those people who are out of a job want is a job. What those people who are desperately in need want is more work—not the 1-hour jobs that Steven Joyce promotes and encourages; they are only half jobs, the sort of minuscule jobs.

They want real jobs that mean they can earn a living income and get ahead. That is what New Zealanders want.

The Government cannot even keep its promise to add the 150,000 jobs by next year. The Government has had to abandon that one.

The Government cannot even meet the promise to lift incomes by $7,000 a year extra by next year either. It has had to push that out too.

The Government knows how bad things are, and it serves us up this sort of mess of potage today and pretends that it is all sweet and rosy. Well, it is not, and New Zealanders know it.

New Zealanders are hanging out for a Government that is serious about lifting all New Zealanders, serious about what is happening in the regions, serious about what is happening down on the farm, and serious about what is happening in small to medium sized enterprises.

There is nothing in this Budget for them, except continuing to hold on to the ACC levies that the Government does not need to. The Government has whacked on a few extra taxes—a departure tax and an arrival tax—and it is going to tax every user of the telecommunication services with a new levy on the operators; $150 million a year.

Do you know who is going to pay for that? Ordinary New Zealanders. Do you know why the Government thinks that that measure is an OK thing to do? It is because it does not care about ordinary New Zealanders.

That is why for 7 years the Government has shut New Zealanders out of their own homes.

That is why for 7 years the Government has not cared about those living in dire poverty. The Government just does not care. We have seen more of that in this Budget today.

New Zealanders need a Government that is focused on a number of core things—diversifying our economy; making sure that the State plays its role in investing, and encouraging private investment in other sectors in the economy to boost and diversify it; making sure that our people, our education system, is prepared for the future; preparing young people for the jobs of tomorrow, not repeating the jobs of today; and really, genuinely fixing our housing crisis. It is nice to have the building plan, but it will not be fast enough, and there will still be people without a home in years to come. I think of people like Gene Simmons—not Gene Simmons; Gene Harris. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Andrew Little. [Interruption]

[Continuation line: LITTLE: There is Gerry Brownlee. Gerry Brownlee says he was asleep.]

ANDREW LITTLE

There is Gerry Brownlee. Gerry Brownlee says he was asleep. Well, he has woken up after 7 years now. He has woken up after 7 years and come to life.

I think of people like Gene Harris, who is in his 30s and is a marketing manager. He rents a two-bedroom flat in Hillcrest on the North Shore with his partner and his baby. He contacted us, because he is sick and tired of this Government, its arrogance, and its contempt, and of this Government laughing at people like him.

He told us this: “The opportunities are few and far between. Even if you’re on a good wage, you can’t get ahead, and there’s something just not right about that.”

Like so many thousands of other New Zealanders, a good man is struggling. He is working hard to get ahead and he cannot because of the failures of this Government. That is what this Government represents; that is what this Government has achieved. It has let down far too many others.

So Gene Harris is looking forward to a Government that is serious about building the nation, building our economy, strengthening it, giving him and his family an opportunity, and letting them realise their dreams of homeownership and a secure future.

Then there is Simon Paterson, who has also been in touch with us. He is an IT manager from Mosgiel, who has a family and, like many other Kiwis who live in the regions, he is sick and tired of seeing the regions neglected. He told us this: “Middle New Zealanders like me are feeling increasingly left out in terms of stuff like health care and education.”

We know that those figures on education today are not enough to fill the gap that has been slowly developing in funding for that sector.

He said: “There’s been tax breaks for the rich, but nothing for anyone else.” That is how he summarises this Government, and it is impossible to disagree with him.

[It’s easy to disagree with that claim – any well informed politician would know that.]

We need a Government that is focused on the future; that is focused on all of New Zealand; that wants to fix the real problems; that is thinking far ahead; that is not tinkering at the edges; that is not sleepwalking around letting more and more New Zealanders down; that is creating those real opportunities; that when it says it is going to generate more housing seriously does so; and that when it says it is going to lift incomes by $7.000 a year actually is serious, genuine, and honest about it and does so.

Not like this one—not like this Government that loosely makes promises it has no intention of keeping. That is what characterises this Government time and time again.

It is time to have a Government that can write a Budget that is good for New Zealand; that is good for all New Zealanders; that makes a difference; that will support the wealth generators and the wealth creators; that sustains the entrepreneurs, the innovators, the dreamers, and the doers; not a Government that faffs around the edges supporting the extremely rich who contribute to the National Party coffers but that does nothing for the vast majority of the rest of New Zealand.

Open Forum – Friday

22 May 2015

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is to encourage you to raise topics that interest you. 

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Metiria Turei’s unkeepable promise

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has attacked Nationals budget.

Today John Key could have chosen kids.

He could have backed all the young New Zealanders out there doing it tough.

But instead the Prime Minister chose to give the bare minimum of help to our poorest kids and abandon the hopes of our younger generations.

Sneering at the most significant benefit increase for decades.

This stingy Budget is not for our kids and it’s not for those under 40 – the abandoned generations.

If the economy is not working for everyone, it isn’t working at all.

And how would the Greens get the economy “working for everyone’?

New Zealanders needed something different, something more, from the Budget today and didn’t get it.

There is an alternative. The Green Party has a plan to retool the economy for a better, cleaner future which provides opportunity and prosperity for everyone.

What plan, apart from tax more and hand out more? “Prosperity for everyone” is not a plan, it’s an impossible dream.

The Green Party is the only party prepared to stand up for younger New Zealanders – and that’s a promise we’ll be keeping.

If standing up for younger New Zealanders means speaking up like this then it’s a promise Turei can keep. But it promises false hope.

But if it means achieving anything significant then I think it’s an unkeepable Green promise.

Budget headlines

I’ve only seen headlines and summaries on the budget. Two stand out to me from those that the Herald has highlighted in Budget 2015: 10 things you need to know.

  • Budget deficit of $684 million this financial year.

That was signalled so is no surprise, and was expected to be a major criticism of Bill English, John Key and National,

  • A $790 million child hardship package, includes an increase in $25 of core benefit for beneficiaries with children.

In contrast that’s a major surprise.

And it isn’t hard to see that if the increase in benefits wasn’t included the deficit could have been avoided.

This is a very significant choice and signal from National, putting welfare of some of the poorest ahead of a long standing target.

Budget 2015

The budget will be presented in Parliament today at 2 pm.

I’ll be otherwise occupied so will miss all the excitement – but it usually takes the pundits a day or so to properly dissect it and give in depth analysis.

If you want to discuss it go for it here.

Iain Lees-Galloway unhappy in Parliament

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway wasn’t happy with the Speaker David Carter nor a number of Government MPs  yesterday in Question Time.

 

Disgusting display of arrogance from Bill English in the house. And from elsewhere in the house (that I may not name) too.

He retweeted

The Speaker’s reasoning only makes sense if…nope. It’s just plain ridiculous

And  

Carter now shut Cunliffe out. Peters tries to help. Carter says public will judge… We have. You’re a useless, useless puppet

Then tweeted:

Parliament has become a complete farce. Most of you already think that but it’s been confirmed for us too today.

Retweeted 

Carter again demonstrating how a biased Speaker contributes to disorder in the house

Blaming the Speaker for ‘disorder in the house’ ignores the responsibility (or lack of) of those who are being disorderly, the MPs.

Then

I was wrong… child Poverty IS a laughing matter (going by National MPs’ giggles anyway).

Then another target:

Tim Groser and other Nat MPs very excited that he’s made a dick of himself on the international stage. Must be a National MP KPI.

Back to the Speaker – retweet of

When Carter says “no doubt in my mind the question has been addressed”, has he considered that the problem might be his mind?

Then yet another target:

More patronising arrogance from a National Party Minister. Take a bow, Simon Bridges.

Most of the criticism of the Speaker seems to have come from this exchange between Grant Robertson trying to dig into aspects of Bill English’s budget – it is hardly surprising that English wouldn’t reveal what could be addressed in the budget.

Draft transcript:

5. Finance, Minister—Statements on Return to Surplus

[Sitting date: 20 May 2015. Volume:705;Page:6. Text is subject to correction.]

5. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : Does his Budget 2015 speech include the statement, “there will be a small surplus this year and increasing surpluses forecast over time”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The member will just have to wait one more sleep to find out.

Grant Robertson : Why should New Zealanders believe his making a promise for a surplus for next year and forecast surpluses for the following years tomorrow, given that he made that exact promise last year and will break it tomorrow?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Well, I am quite confident that New Zealanders will make up their own minds about that, regardless of what that member says. In fact, if that member criticises the Budget and our economic management, most of them will conclude that we are probably doing the right thing.

Grant Robertson : Is it correct that Treasury advised him that the surplus he will promise tomorrow for next year is possible only if there is a significant rebound in global dairy prices?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The member will just have to wait until tomorrow, but I hope tomorrow he uses the term “fiscal crisis”, because—

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am going to invite the member to ask that question again.

Grant Robertson : Is it correct that Treasury advised him that the surplus he will promise tomorrow for next year is possible only if there is a significant rebound in global dairy prices?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The member will have to wait until tomorrow, but I hope he uses the term “fiscal crisis” tomorrow.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! If the member is saying that question has not been addressed, on this occasion, it has. He talked about the surplus that will be promised tomorrow in his question. It has been addressed.

Grant Robertson : Is it correct that Treasury advised him that a surplus for 2015-16 is possible only with a significant rebound in global dairy prices?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The member will have to wait until tomorrow.

Hon Members : No, no.

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Well, he will have to wait until tomorrow.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is the third time I have asked a straight question to the Minister—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. That is not the same question he has asked three times. On the second occasion he repeated the question he had asked the first time, and on that occasion I ruled that, because of the way it was framed, that question had definitely been answered. Does the member have a further supplementary question? [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet, and I am going to warn that member that if he interjects like that again while I am on my feet, I will be asking him to leave the Chamber.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you telling me that the Minister addressed the question I just asked?

Mr SPEAKER : No, I am not. I am saying that when you rose and took a point of order and said you had asked the same question three times, you are—[Interruption] I have a very good mind to do it. The point I was making was that the member was wrong with his first point of order, when he said he had asked the same question three times. He had not. We are moving forward, if the member wishes to ask—[Interruption] I am not entertaining further questions on my—[Interruption] Order! I am not entertaining any further adjudication on that matter. If the member has further supplementary questions, I will hear them.

Ron Mark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am trying to be helpful, as an independent observer.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will simply raise his point of order.

Ron Mark : The point of order, Mr Speaker, to assist you, is that he—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is a point of order, I hope, but it will be heard in silence. It will be heard in silence.

Ron Mark : I am not challenging you at all, but—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Would the member simply raise his point of order.

Ron Mark : I am trying to. The point I want to raise with you is that he did not actually say those words. His words were “This is the third straight question I have asked.”, not “I have asked the same question”—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member may not have heard me, but I said that as far as I was concerned I had adjudicated on the matter and that was the end of the matter. The member may not have heard that.

Grant Robertson : Is it correct that Treasury advised him that a surplus for 2015-16 is possible only if there is a significant rebound in global dairy prices?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The member will have to wait until tomorrow.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How is that an answer addressing that question? It is about advice he has received. He cannot tell me to wait until tomorrow. Amazingly enough, Treasury do give him advice. He ignores it—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! We have had a similar line of questions now on four occasions. It is not the way I would have hoped the Minister would have answered the question, but—[Interruption] Order! Grant Robertson will leave the House. I warned the member that—[Interruption] Order! The member will leave the Chamber.

  • Grant Robertson withdrew from the Chamber.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! We have a point of order that I will hear from Chris Hipkins.

Chris Hipkins : Repeatedly during question time today, when there have been points of order from either side of the House, you have admonished members on this side of the House for their interjections during points of order or when you were on your feet. I would like to know whether the same ruling is going to apply to Mr Brownlee, Ms Parata, and a variety—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have heard enough from that member. There were occasions when there were interjections from this side of the House when I called for order, particularly when Mr Mark was attempting to raise a point of order. I could not identify the particular person who made those interjections. Frankly, they were coming from a large number of people. On this occasion I specifically warned Mr Robertson that if he was to interject again when I was on my feet, I would have no choice but to ask him to leave. He did not heed that warning. He gave me no choice but to deal with him severely. I say to all members that when I am on my feet and I call for silence and then a member specifically, after being warned not to interject, does so, he leaves me no choice but to be severe.

Hon David Cunliffe : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The colleague Mr Robertson in front of me used four supplementary questions to ask the same question, as you have previously advised members to do when Ministers are not giving a straight answer. You have ejected a member who had absolutely understandable frustration. My point of order is to ask you what sanction will apply equally to Ministers who are deliberately thwarting the intent, if not the letter, of the Standing Orders and denying the people of New Zealand the opportunity to have a proper question answered in a proper manner.

Mr SPEAKER : I will hear from the Hon Gerry Brownlee.

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I think that question might be reasonable if it were about a range of topics that any Minister should be able to answer about their portfolio. But 24 hours before a Budget is delivered being asked to give a commentary on what will be in a Budget text is completely unreasonable. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I can understand the sense of frustration on this side. I have agreed with that. But that was not the reason Mr Robertson was ejected from the Chamber. I hope I do not have to point it out again to members. The reason was that he was given a very specific warning. He ignored that warning.

Hon David Cunliffe : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Is it a fresh point of order?

Hon David Cunliffe : It is, because I did not question your ruling that you ejected a member for questioning your judgment. My point of order was, given the circumstances and the understandable frustration on this side of the House and the thwarting deliberately of the intent of the Standing Orders, at what point would any sanction be applied to any Minister who continued to make those types of tactics plain? That was nothing to do with the ejection of Mr Robertson.

Mr SPEAKER : I accept that point. Ministers are responsible for their own answers and those answers are then judged not only by this House but by the public. On one occasion when I did not think that the Minister had answered the question correctly I asked Grant Robertson to repeat the question. That is a tactic I frequently use. [Interruption] The member now interjects and says that it was on four occasions. As I have pointed out to the House, those questions were different. In one he quite specifically talked about a matter that would be addressed in tomorrow’s speech, and that gave the Minister a perfect out to say he would have to wait for the Budget. As to the last question about Treasury advice, it would have been a more satisfactory answer if it had been answered directly by the Minister, but at the end of the day I am not responsible for the answers that are given by any Minister in this House. Ministers themselves are responsible for—[Interruption] Order! Ministers themselves are responsible. They will be judged both by this House and by the public.

Hon David Cunliffe : Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER : No, I have dealt with that matter from the Hon David Cunliffe.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just a minute. I just want to be clear to Mr Cunliffe that I have dealt with that matter. I have made a ruling. I do not intend to relitigate it here today, but if it is a fresh point of order—

Hon David Cunliffe : It is, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : A fresh point of order—the Hon David Cunliffe.

Hon David Cunliffe : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What is the definition of “addressing the question”?

Mr SPEAKER : Now the member is attempting to relitigate the matter. I judge that on every occasion depending on the context and content of the question, the context and the content of the answer. I am the one who makes that judgment.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER : I am sorry—is this a fresh point of order?

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Yes, it is.

Mr SPEAKER : The Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If one of the four questions with additional words gave the Minister of Finance an out, what was the redeeming feature for the first three answers that did not give him a way out?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member is now relitigating a matter that we have already ruled on in the House today. He is not raising a fresh point of order.

Tracey Martin : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Again, I want to give the same warning to Tracey Martin, to be fair to her. If she is raising an absolutely fresh point of order, I am happy to hear it, but if it in any way relitigates the discussion we have now had for the last 10 minutes, then I will be asking that member to leave the Chamber.

Tracey Martin : Thank you, Mr Speaker. I appreciate your warning and I hope that I do not transgress, but I seek your clarification on the last question asked by Mr Robertson—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member now—

Tracey Martin : —not the content of the question, not the content of the question, but I am asking whether you could give a ruling later on about when it is appropriate, if we ask a direct question about a report, for a Minister to say we have to wait until tomorrow—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member is now very dangerously—should be about to leave the Chamber. She is relitigating the decision I have made. I have explained to Mr Cunliffe that I have got to judge every answer given, as to whether it addresses the question. Mr Cunliffe sought more definition on that. I said it depends on the context of the question, the content of the question, the content of the answer, and the context. There is no specific ruling I can give as to whether any question in the future will be addressed or not. I make a judgment to all; that is my responsibility in this House.

Another disgruntled veteran

In response to Disabled Veterans “diminishment of the status” another veteran adds a disgruntled account – Geoffrey Monks writes:

I was away for a few days and returned to find ‘the Letter’ waiting for me. At first glance, it looks like a reasoned announcement about how some contracted services to veterans are going to be improved but, on examination, it proves to be just the opposite. In fact, it has little more substance than a jingo page cobbled together by a word-smith with access to a box of jargon phrases.

I am of an age now where I have endured a long succession of system improvements, refinements, efficiency gains, and enhanced outcome deliveries. I am therefore forever astounded that we in NZ are not the envy of the developed world in respect of our happy, knife-edge-efficient service deliverers and contented service recipients. But it seems that the holy grail of Optimum Efficiency continues to elude us. Why is that I wonder?

Perhaps the answer lies in the nature of Efficiency; which demands a strict balance and ratio between inputs and outputs. To achieve an efficiency gain it is necessary either, to improve the output for the same level of input or, to achieve the same level of output for a reduced input. In my experience with Public Sector Agencies, each regime change is linked to an expectation that the new brooms will achieve an efficiency gain. Given that all of their predecessors will have been striving to achieve improvements in efficiency since the year dot, with each new regime it becomes exponentially harder to generate real output gains. This leaves the newcomer with little choice but to reduce inputs while attempting to maintain outputs at the same level. And this too is much easier said than done, most often resulting in any cost savings reported eventually being reflected in output reductions. For a while, new regimes can hide this diminution of service by misrepresenting reduced costs as an efficiency gain whereas, in reality, it is just cheaper. In some circles, expertise is judged by one’s adroitness in taking up new challenges before evening falls and these chickens come home.

And this, I think, is the position that VANZ has found itself to be occupying. While seeking to disguise its riding instructions under a veil of bureau-speak and nonsense phrases, the new regime at VANZ has not been able to avoid admitting that it is going to reduce the quality and quantity of the services it delivers in order to reduce their costs. The choice of blunt instruments to achieve this outcome is intended to be wielded in two ways. As presaged elsewhere, some services (such as the Transport Concession) are destined to be eliminated altogether. Otherwise, it is intended that some other services, with which veterans might presently be well satisfied, are to be replaced with cheaper less flexible options. While flailing about with its blunt instrument VANZ asserts that it is powerless, in the face of a necessary alignment with “Government standards”, to do otherwise. But, we are assured that the results will at least be of the best value possible, under the circumstances. Really?

I suspect that an equal part of VANZ’ problem is its resolute adherence to the curious notion that it is an across-the-board service deliverer. But it is not: a large part of its’ role is to administer the delivery of services offered by a variety of specialist agencies. It is no more able to judge the quality of a lawn mowing service than it is able to judge the validity of a psychological appraisal. It can only judge the response of the recipients of the service and the costs of its delivery. VANZ’ argument that the signaled reduction in contract rates will obviate the delivery to some (silent?) veterans of any sub-standard service is total rubbish. Indeed, it is more than that: it is outrageously patronizing, for in this round of adjustments ‘cost’ is VANZ’ only consideration.

So, in the words of our esteemed Prime Minister, I would say to the Manager of Veterans’ Services, “Get some guts!” If you think they have had it too good for too long, stop wittering on about improving service delivery models. Just whack Veterans down alongside the pot-heads and dole-bludgers where they belong. From the way they carry on, anyone would think these jokers had rendered some sort of service to the Nation! Now that all the main players are safely back from Gallipoli, you can put all of that eye-watering debt-of-gratitude stuff on the back burner for thirty more years and get on with beasting those ratbags who had the temerity to come home from a war. Oh, and while you are about it, rip into their pensions as well.

Open Forum – Thursday

19 May 2015

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is to encourage you to raise topics that interest you. 

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some basic ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
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  • Debate hard if you like but respect people’s right to have varying views and to not be personally be attacked.
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Moderation will be minimal if these guidelines are followed. Should they ever be necessary any moderator edits, deletes or bans will be clearly and openly advised.

Children’s Commissioner wants ‘conversation’ on targeted welfare

Following on from How many children ‘in poverty’? is this report from NZ Herald that suggests that the Green Party approach to poverty is at odds with the Children’s Commissioner – Universal benefits challenged.

The Children’s Commissioner wants a rethink of universal services such as pensions and free children’s healthcare so more public spending can go to the neediest families.

The commissioner, Hastings children’s doctor Russell Wills, wants tomorrow’s Budget to start a national “conversation” about how to use limited public spending to best effect.

“We need all taxpayers’ funds to make the biggest difference they possibly can,” he said.

And that can only be done by targeting rather than blanket benefits.

“That might mean further targeting of some of those benefits that are currently universal.

“There are lots of examples of that, such as free healthcare under 13 for everybody, free early childhood education for everybody.

“It may be that very structured investment, if spent differently, could make more of a difference to health and education outcomes than it currently does.”

Dr Wills said elderly people would be willing to see more targeted pensions if the savings went to needy children.

Some would be willing, others would probably resent it.

It should be simple to allow pensioners to choose to divert some or all of their pension into a poverty fund.

He also nominated Working for Families as a programme that was “not as targeted as you think”.

A family with four children can get abated tax credits on incomes of up to $120,000 a year.

That doesn’t make sense – upper middle class welfare.

A report last week said 74 per cent of beneficiaries under age 25 came from intergenerational welfare families where their parents were also on benefits.

The report recommended giving priority to parents with children for intensive case management to break that cycle.

Just handing out more money to cement in a welfare class is nuts.

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