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.]


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.

A Capital Gains tweak

NZ Herald reports PM makes major move on housing profits and foreign buyers. Is it a major move?

A capital gains tax on residential property sold within two years of buying it is being seen as a step in the right direction, but not far enough, with few expecting the new tax to have a big effect on Auckland property prices.

Prime Minister John Key announced the plan this morning as part of the Budget package.

The exemptions to this new bright-line test will be if the property sold is the seller’s main home, if it is part of a deceased estate or inherited, and or if it is transferred as part of a relationship settlement.

The tax will be on the seller’s normal income tax rate.

Is it a major move? Or will it little more than symbolic in practice?

Labour leader Andrew Little said this afternoon the moves were “weak measures to rein in the astronomical profits property speculators.”

Little thinks it’s a weak move. It’s debatable whether a major increase in capital gains criteria would do much to alter the property market anyway, as property markets that have more stringent capital gains taxing have similar price surges to Auckland.

IRD have already been tightening up on taxing capital gains on property speculation see Improving tax compliance on capital gains.

This change may be little more than a tool to help IRD more clearly define what property sales should be subject to tax. But that may be a good thing.

Tweaks are often the best may to change things, incrementally rather than monumentally.

Major tax changes can create as many problems as they solve, especially if they cause major market shifts.

Andrew Little “should ditch his media minders”

Andrew Little made a promising start to his leadership last year. He has had a difficult situation foisted on him in the Northland by-election. He chose to take a passive role which may have undone some of the initial positive impression.

And since then he seems to have chosen a more combative approach to competing with John Key.

I’ve wondered whether Little has decided on this change of tack or if he is being advised and coached.

It hasn’t been a great success so far. His pre-budget speech this week focussed most on attacking Key and National. It was mostly ignored by traditional media and even the Labour leaning Standard had a lukewarm approach at best, with quite a bit of criticism.

Little seems to have lost his fresh and frank approach.

Is he responsible for changing his approach or has his party machine taken him over?

NeilM at Dim-Post:

Heard the NatRad interview with Little and he came across as the sort of person I had thought he was. Reasonable and intelligent.

He should ditch his media minders pushing him and Robertson into the Hard Men Key is a liar role.

What Edwards had was an ability to change Clark but keep her true to herself.

I think Labours best approach is not to continue the hate Key line that goes down well with the PAS and the Standard but to go – Key was the right guy for that time, GFC – moderate spending vs borrowing etc, but now things have changed and it’s time for a different approach.

That way they can acknowledge having vied for Key as a good strategic decision for the time rather than saying to voters they’re all Crosby textor media manipulated idiots.

Ironic that there’s often common complaints that the left is struggling because voters are ‘media manipulated idiots’ while that could be a better description of Little – I wouldn’t call him an idiot but his and his support team’s approach could be a bit idiotic.

Is Little using the same media management advice that his three failed predecessors used? Repeating past mistakes is not the smartest approach.

Reaction to Little’s speech from the left

There has been some loyal party responses to Andrew Little’s pre-budget speech at the Labour leaning Standard but there has been far from a universal approval.

One of the first comments is from ‘Reality':

Excellent speech. Andrew Little gives a great sense of being a genuine “good guy” not smile and wave PR driven.

The pseudonym is ironic, and one I haven’t seen at The Standard before. Looks like a one off party PR driven promo.

It didn’t take long for a different thread of response.


Same speech we’ve heard from all the leftie leaders over the last 5 or 6 years, just worded differently.

No vision, no solutions deeper than empty rhetoric and one-liners, and nascent xenophobia.

And the left wonder why they fail to get traction.


Labour is hardly a left leaning party. They have more in common with your money wasting mate Mr Budget Blow Out Key…..


Strange you say that – when reading through the speech I tuned out a thought it could as well have been john key giving it.

Bah and humbug we need some green power in parliament !


I thought similarly tinfoil… a little like his 2008 campaign speeches.

Then Labour Party maverick Colonial Rawshark:

Any government which believes in surpluses as a good thing, is a government which believes that austerity, tax increases and service cuts are a good thing.

We should be damned pleased that National is abandoning its goal of getting to surplus. If you really want to push them to achieve their surplus, you know how they will. Tax increases on the poor and service cuts for the poor.


It’s like Labour have looked at what’s worked for National and said, “ok… we can do that too”. They are trying to create the steady as she goes image so that WHEN the electorate get tired of FJK (and they eventually will), there is someone “safe” to take over.

It’s not leadership… it’s management. It’s not visionary… it’s pragmatic. It’s not what NZ needs but it probably what NZ wants.

Jenny Kirk fights back for the party:

Yep – I expected the negative criticism as above.

What none of you negative types are taking into account is the fact that Labour IS working on its work/jobs policy and WILL come up with some realistic policies within the timeframe announced – and you are just all going to have to be patient and wait for it.
Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither will the rebuild of the Labour Party be done in a quick space of time !

Phillip Ure:

it reads like it was written by a committee..

..are there no decent speech writers in labour..?


Yup, and every time Labour comes up with these policies, they’re like Little’s speech… the same old stuff worded differently.

Nothing has changed, nothing will change.

The “same old stuff from the 90’s” doesn’t work any more… get that through your head, that’s why Labour keeps getting rejected… the world has moved on, but Labour is still looking backwards.


Just has to be in time for the next election… I won’t hold my breath. Coming from a staunch Labour family, which included a Labour MP in the First Labour Government (the values of which still resonate strongly with me), it seems to me the sun has well and truly set on the party it once was.

The Murphey:

Jenny it makes no difference what the policies are because they are underpinned by a failed ideology which is literally destroying the earth and its inhabitants

The speech was a waste of air and until someone addresses the money as debt situation then listening to them is a waste of time.

Anthony Robins fights back for the party:

Excellent analysis of the problems and missed opportunities. Light on the alternatives going forward, but you’d expect that at this stage. Overall a very good speech.

But Bill disagrees:

I disagree. We all know it’s fucked. Who cares about the precise details? Damned few. All he had to do was say things are fucked and that Labour believes in and is committed to change. Then lay out that roadmap of hope that takes us to big change.

Timorous wee beasties.


Little is playing the long game. What would be the point in showing your best hand this early in the electoral cycle. The gloss is fast wearing off Key & his government and Little is establishing his cred’s with the electorate.
Little is the only alternative and if you don’t like it, bleating won’t produce the answer you crave.


It’s not a fucking game. It’s people and real lives. Given that, there is no ‘best hand’ – there is only ‘getting your shit together’ and boldly representing people and their wishes.

Or should politicians sit above us all and gamely compete with one another and on their own terms, for a spectators cross on a ballot paper every election? The winners!! Yay!!! Now back to the sports TV, the drudge and the nonsense….my team won/lost.

Te Reo Putake (a party activist):

It pretty much is a game. At least in the sense that it has rules, competitors and judges.

Atiawa is dead right. And not just because we don’t want to give the right two years to attack the policy platform. It’s also because Labour are doing exactly what the SNP have done for the last couple of years. Listening to the people and trying to find policies that the people actually want. I don’t see a problem with that.

Colonial Rawshark

Trust me, NZ Labour are NOT doing “exactly” what the SNP have done LOL

Bill (who has Scottish links and a good knowledge of the SNP):

I can’t agree with you on this TRP.

NZ Labour’s main internal force is its crushing inertia.

What they’re doing is essentially what UK and Scottish Labour did…they saidthey were listening, but ignored everything that didn’t fit with their pre-conceived notions of what the right thing was. For those things that kind of fitted with their view, they tweaked what they heard to make it fit better.

NZ Labour is at best going down the same track as UK Labour in England, or worse, the track they took in Scotland where, yeah…they’re dead. They won’t be coming back.

There’s a lot of negative, which is sort of surprising from a ‘Labour left’ blog. But I’ll leave some of the last words to some party stalwarts.

Jenny Kirk:

It seems, finally (after 7 years in the wilderness), Labour has a Leader who has real old-fashioned Labour values, knows how to articulate them – and what is more, can deal to the current government in terms that we all understand.


That is exactly my impression from meeting him and attending several events where he spoke. Consistent, never wavers, knows exactly where he is going to take the party and it ain’t down any neo liberal track!! The other thing I like about him… he is not the least bit phased by Key. There’s nothing Key and co. can throw at him that he hasn’t encountered before.

I know its frustrating – I get frustrated too – but be patient folks. He would be a fool to articulate policy details now. Time after time over the decades Labour announced their policies too early only to have National pinch them and walk away with victory. Holland, Holyoake, Muldoon and Bolger governments all did it.

  • Holland Government 1947-1951
  • Holyoake Government 1960-1972
  • Muldoon Government 1975-1984
  • Bolger Government 1990-1999

We are in a different age of communication. People aren’t patient. News cycles are very short. Issues come and go quickly.

Hoping to get things right in two years time, leading up to the next election, is a huge risk, something that hasn’t worked for Labour in the past two elections.

Last term Labour went through three leaders in impatience for a turnaround.

Little’s problem with this speech is that it will have struggled to impress the centre, too negative, vague and obviously out of step with reality.

And reaction at The Standard shows that apart from party faithful it failed to impress the left.

The Daily Blog doesn’t appear to have even covered Little’s speech. Neither has Public Address. Neither has Pundit.

Polls don’t ask voters “will you support Labour in two years time if they come up with some worthwhile policies?” Poll momentum, or lack of momentum, reflects what people think now.

If Labour are intent on playing ‘the long game’ they risk playing to a crowd that has long gone to something where there’s been some sign of action.

Andrew Little’s pre-budget speech

Labour leader Andrew Little gave his pre-budget speech yesterday to an audience at Mac’s Brewery in Wellington.

It is also being promoted to a wider audience it has been posted via Labour’s website. The intro:

Thanks for reading my pre-budget speech. In it I talk about how National has broken so many of its economic promises, how it has failed to prepare us for the future and why so many New Zealanders feel they are missing out right now.

Due to an awful layout it’s hard to read through, there are too many changes of format and font. And as this intro suggests it concentrates on slamming National.

The most reported line was :

A lot of effort has gone into glossing over the broken promise. But I see it for what it is — one of the biggest political deceptions in a lifetime.

That may have attracted attention but  it was More than a Little over the top – especially considering that in Little’s lifetime the Lange/Douglas Labour government is famous for a far bigger flip in the 1980’s than failing to quite reach a preferred economic target.

Little’s intro also says:

We need to create more wealth and share it — that means putting jobs front and centre, investing in a more diverse productive economy and boosting our regions.

He gets to what he thinks National should have done about two thirds of the way through his speech.

What they should have done

So, what would a responsible government have done between 2008 and today?

I say there were four major missed opportunities.

  • First, a responsible government would have laid the foundations to diversify the economy.
  • We should have used the economic growth of the last four years to increase our investment in innovation. The government ignored that approach.
  • The third missed opportunity is that a responsible government should have revitalised New Zealand’s regions. Instead, this government ignored them.
  • Finally, this government should have reformed tertiary education to prepare for the coming tidal wave of change in the future of work.

Then he gets to what his vision is. I won’t put this in quotes to retain the formatting.

New Zealand’s next government

I began today by telling you that it is rare for a budget to profoundly affect people’s lives. But that’s the sort of Budget we need now. This could have been one of those budgets. With good growth and low inflation, this is the moment for visionary thinking.

So what is my vision?

I want a New Zealand where neither your postcode nor your parents determine the success you can achieve in life, only your effort does.

I want a New Zealand seizing the opportunities of new ways to do business this century, not struggling to catch up as the world moves on.

A country that trains its young people for the jobs they’ll actually do, not the jobs their parents did.

A country where we reward the risk takers, the innovators, the unafraid.

Where we celebrate growing wealth, and where everyone who works for that success shares in the rewards.

A country where owning your own home is still an achievable dream.

None of this will be easy. The deep, structural problems we face in New Zealand don’t have any quick fixes. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fraud.

Tackling New Zealand’s problems takes commitment, perseverance, vision, and the willingness to take risks. Doing the right thing for New Zealand requires focus, not focus groups.

That’s why our Future of Work Commission, led by our finance spokesperson Grant Robertson, is a two-year commitment where we listen more than we talk, and we come to pragmatic solutions that will guide our policy in the decades ahead.

The Commission is a model of the way we’ll approach all the big issues. We’ll listen, we’ll deliberate, and when we act we’ll make a real difference. That’s the only kind of government I want to lead.

The challenge ahead

We’ll be holding this Government to account on New Zealand’s big issues next week and beyond, in the House and around the country.

That’s our job, that’s what we do.

But there’s a role for you, too.

After the budget each year, Ministers hit the road.

John Key, Bill English and Steven Joyce will be speaking to businesses many times in the coming weeks.

That’s the opportunity for everyone to raise the issues the Government hasn’t delivered on.

Hold them to their word. Ask them:

· Why haven’t we hit surplus?

· Why are we still so reliant on so few commodities?

· Why are you still ignoring the housing crisis?

· Why are you still neglecting the regions?

· And, most importantly, where’s the plan to diversify our economy?

Put these questions to the Government, and see if they have any answers.

Next Thursday, this government has an opportunity to start answering these questions. They have a chance to chart a new course for the New Zealand economy.

It is imperative that they take it.

It’s not unreasonable for every New Zealander to want the best for New Zealand.

· We deserve a government in surplus

· We deserve a solution to the housing crisis

· We deserve vibrant regions

· And most importantly, we deserve a plan to diversify the economy, bringing good jobs to all.

That’s what a responsible government would deliver.

Thank you.

We deserve less exaggeration and nonsense claims about what National have done and haven’t done.

We deserve some detail on what Little and Labour would actually do different

That’s why our Future of Work Commission, led by our finance spokesperson Grant Robertson, is a two-year commitment where we listen more than we talk, and we come to pragmatic solutions that will guide our policy in the decades ahead.

Opposition parties should listen and learn. But they also need to give some indication of what they would do.

Labour have had the last six and a half years to listen and to come up with pragmatic solutions. It sounds like we’re going have to wait another two years to find out what their policies will be.

The Commission is a model of the way we’ll approach all the big issues. We’ll listen, we’ll deliberate, and when we act we’ll make a real difference. That’s the only kind of government I want to lead.

It doesn’t sound much like leading. As much as people like to think they are being listened to they ultimately look for leadership.

All Governments try to ‘make a real difference’. There’s too much vague speech writer babble.

And too many clashes with reality. For example how much have Labour consulted and come up with a pragmatic solution to low voter turnout? Labour proposes withholding tax credits unless enrolled to vote may be a policy in progress but it’s been reported that not even the Labour caucus was consulted about that.

And in being so vague and promising to listen there’s risks. Little’s speech was to a business audience. If the business community say they and the country would benefit from lower business tax rates what sort of ‘pragmatic solution’ would Labour come up with? Pragmatic for whom? New Zealand businesses? Or party appeasement?

This speech seems too long, too negative, too vague, and clashes too much with reality.

Too much blah blah blandrew.

What happened to the blunt, direct, believable Andrew Little of the first few months of his leadership?

He seems to have been transformed into just another package of palaver dominated by pissy pouting.

As one person remarked, this looks like a speech by committee. Labour has lacked effective leadership since 2008. After a brief glimmer of hope it looks like the party under Little is back in it’s rut.

More than a Little over the top

Andrew Little was more than a little over the top claiming National’s ‘promise’ to return to surplus by this year was “one of the biggest political deceptions in a lifetime”. Especially considering what Labour said in the same campaign.

In his pre-budget speech today Little said:

That promise, “to return to surplus in 2014/15” sat proudly as their number one commitment in their election material, distributed to every corner of New Zealand.

But their promise was clear. Their good economic stewardship would see us in surplus.

And now they’ve abandoned their promise.

National’s talk now is about how achieving surplus was an “artificial target” and that getting a surplus is “like landing a 747 on the head of a pin.”

A lot of effort has gone into glossing over the broken promise. But I see it for what it is – one of the biggest political deceptions in a lifetime.

It was election rhetoric that has come back to haunt National a bit. They said it, they have to cop flak for not achieving what they claimed they could do. Finance can be fickle. They should have qualified their claims more carefully.

But the gross overstatement from Little is hardly any better. Especially considering Labour’s own campaign rhetoric, like:

Everything is paid for plus we’re in surplus

Labour’s Alternative Budget

As Kiwis we all want to be able to raise a healthy and happy family, have a well-paid and secure job and the chance to buy our own home. To give every Kiwi those opportunities, we need to grow a strong economy. That means we need solid and stable economic management.

Labour will balance the budget and run surpluses every year. We’ll reduce net debt faster than the current government and pay off National’s record debt by the end of our second term. All of our policies are carefully costed and funded. 

No more carefully costed and funded than National.

Little’s statement that National’s election claim was “one of the biggest political deceptions in a lifetime” may not be one of the biggest political overstatements in a lifetime, but it’s more than a little over the top.

Labour source:

Name calling an immature pall on our politics

A spate of name calling has broken out. Whether it’s ‘Angry Andy’ or any of the many names targeted at John key over the last few years – see the childish Angry Andy, Creepy Key promoted by the person hiding behind the the ‘Natwatch’ pseudonym at The Standard, and the mindless repetition at Whale Oil (sometimes in several posts a day) – it’s unbecoming of what should be a mature democracy.

And there’s childishness from the top.

The Prime Minister has come back with his own description of the Labour leader for saying failing to make a surplus is none of the biggest political deceptions of a lifetime.

“He is turning into Angry Andrew that just wants to turn and start making ridiculous comments.

“I mean, the guy just can’t be taken seriously if he starts making those sorts of comments.”

Petty name calling isn’t a great look either Mr Key.

Andrew Little reacts with more name calling:

Mr Little says he doesn’t see or hear the “angry Andy” moniker “apart from the odd Tory troll on Twitter”.

Mindless abuse and name calling is common in social media – it looks bad enough there, detracting from arguments and credibility. But when the country’s leader and largest opposition party leader resort to stupid slanging matches it casts an immature pall on our politics.

Improving tax compliance on capital gains

In the past Labour MPs have repeatedly claimed and implied that property speculators don’t have to pay tax on capital gains. A year ago then leader David Cunliffe and finance spokesperson David Parker both pushed this fallacy. From Cunliffe and Parker repeat claims on property speculation:

David Cunliffe in a speech to Young Labour:

We have too many children who are getting sick because they live in cold, damp, cramped houses with black mould growing up the walls. Sometimes owned by speculators who just push the rent up while getting rich on tax-free capital gains.

David Parker on The Nation:

“You need to tax the speculators….capital gains tax”
“Loan to valuation ratios would not be needed if they were taxing speculators and building affordable homes.”
“National Party, despite the fact that we had 40 percent house inflation, they’re not doing anything about it. Not taxing speculators…”

Presuming they must have known that IRD does pursue compliance on taxing the capital gains of speculators this looked dishonest.

It’s good to see that Andrew Little seems to be either more informed or more honest. He recently suggesting that the Reserve Bank target speculators as reported in Focus on spec buyers: Little

 Mr Little said the Government must take action on property speculators who were damaging the housing market.

Mr Little is known to not favour the introduction of a capital gains tax, something Labour had campaigned on in the last two elections and lost.

Mr Little said there were several options the Government could take to prevent property speculators building up large housing portfolios and pushing up house prices.

First home buyers, or those who wanted a rental property for retirement, were being shut out of the market by lending restrictions that should be targeted at property speculators who sometimes owned 10 to 20 houses and sat on them, he said.

”The solution needs to focus on Auckland. There is no point in a family trying to buy a house in Wanganui, where prices are dropping, being subject to lending restrictions designed to lower house price inflation.”

Another solution could be those buying multiple properties needing a higher level of equity for subsequent purchases, he said.

But the most important action was to build more houses to increase supply.

He’s on the same page as National in seeing the need to increase the supply of houses. And I’d expect him to agree with Bill English in his approach in IRD to clamp down on speculators.

Finance Minister Bill English yesterday rejected calls by the Reserve Bank to remove tax incentives for investment housing, which the bank has blamed for rising house prices in Auckland. But he said there was an ongoing discussion about whether the Inland Revenue Department could be doing more to enforce existing rules on property trading.

Mr English said there was already a tax in place for people who bought property with the aim of reselling it.

And with real estate agents and buyers reporting high levels of trading activity in Auckland, “there is a question of whether that should give rise to further enforcement activity”.

Speculators are already taxed, when the IRD can determine that they have been speculating.

At present, speculators have to declare that they are buying a house with the intention of reselling it. They are then taxed on the sale.

The IRD scrutinises property transaction records to make sure people are complying with this rule. In particular, it looks at how quickly a house is sold and the number of houses a person is selling.

Figures released by the IRD showed that $52.4 million was collected in 2013/2014 from speculators or traders – either from one-off speculative transactions or patterns of dealing. This figure is expected to increase in 2014/15. The IRD has already collected $63.2 million.

So IRD are addressing speculation and their tax take is increasing.

Any potential changes to the IRD’s resources would be announced as part of the Budget on May 15.

That suggests that the rules are seen as sufficient but that more resources may be provided to improve compliance with tax on capital gains when speculating.

Where’s Andy?

Where’s Andrew Little?

The latest (Herald-Digipoll) poll has Labour stagnant on 28.7% (-0.2) and Little stagnant as preferred PM on Andrew Little 13.9% (+0.3).

Notably Winston Peters jumped from 6% to 12% in that poll.

Little chose to virtually withdraw Labour’s candidate in Northland and he kept a low profile himself. He virtually handed the Leader of the Opposition baton to Peters.

And Little has been hardly seen since. The Easter break didn’t help but that was the same for all parties and all leaders.

Little is travelling overseas, having been spotted at Gallipoli by Cameron Slater.

At about 1930 Andrew Little moved through the crowd and I called out to him and had a chat for about 10 minutes. We stayed away from politics and it was polite and convivial…until Neale Jones his EPMU staffer turned up. I was about to get a photo taken with Little and he had agreed to it, we agreed to terms of using it also.

But Neale Jones interceded and dragged Little away. Any respect I had for the man was lost right there as he let his staff dictate to him what he could and couldn’t do. In the end I watch as Little stood around with no one really talking to him, then Neale Jones recorded a video of Little making a small speech.

I got the impression that Andrew Little really is socially awkward. Still he had the stones to come up and talk to me in front of everyone which more than I can say for John Key.

No publicity might be better than publicity with Slater, but barely.

Little has said that this year he’s concentrating on getting around the country (and around the world) to meet as many people as he can and acknowledges that won’t do much to boost his mainstream media profile.

But there’s a real risk he will lose traction that won’t be easily regained.

Once the voting public has lost sight of Little in the political crowd it might be difficult being seen.

Bridges too far?

Did Simon Bridges got to far in seeking cost details on Northland bridges?

Mr Bridges’ office asked the NZ Transport Agency for information on the bridges and estimated costs of upgrading them prior to the byelection announcement that National would upgrade 10 one-way bridges.

Andrew Little thinks he did.

Labour’s leader Andrew Little said that was a clear breach of the rules for ministers’ use of public officials and Mr Bridges should be sacked.

John Key thinks he didn’t.

Mr Key said he did not believe it was a breach.

“My understanding is it’s quite okay to ask for information. You’re quite free to do that. The issue is whether you’ve got policy advice and Mr Bridges didn’t do that.”

The Cabinet Manual seems unclear.

The Cabinet Manual states that “any requests [ministers] make for advice or information from their officials is for the purposes of their portfolio responsibilities and not for party political purposes”.

Bridges would be responsible for fulfilling the bridges bribe so should be basing decisions on advice and information. Many policy decisions can be both part of Governance and for party political purposes – trying to get re-elected.

Anthony Robins at The Standard thinks it’s clear in Burn the Cabinet Manual:

Key won’t take any action over Simon Bridges’ clear breach (excellent work by Rob Salmond at Polity) of the Cabinet Manual. So, might as well burn the thing, at least for the remainder of this government’s term. Key has no intention of being held to account, or holding his ministers to account, by or for anything at all.

Did Helen Clark and Michael Cullen get advice and information before making their famous election rescuing Student Loan bribe? Was any Minister sacked as a result of that? I’m sure there are numerous examples of advice or information from officials being used for election (party political) purposes.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog calls it A beltway beltway issue.

I don’t believe that anything Simon Bridges did, is a breach of the Cabinet Manual. But regardless this is what you call a classic beltway issue. The number of people who get excited over this is miniscule. Mrs Jones in New Plymouth and Mr Smith in Hamilton want jobs, incomes, decent schools, good healthcare etc.

The sort of people who think this is great politics are the same sort who orgasm over who won question time in the House. I know, because I used to be one of them.

Ecch. But he may have a point, no matter how awfully he has put it.

In comments yesterday on Your NZ Alan Wilkinson commented:

This is b.s. If a Government makes a promise before a by-election it has to implement it and therefore it has to cost it responsibly and accurately.

Totally different to before a general election when it may not be reelected. No matter what the Cabinet manual says the Minister was making a promise in his ministerial capacity which he would have to implement and therefore fund.

Just to add the obvious corollary to this, in a by-election if the Cabinet Manual rule were to be applied it would mean the Government’s opponents in the by-election would be free to promise anything they wished and the Government’s candidate would be unable to promise anything new. Farcical nonsense. It shows exactly how incompetent or biased MSM journalism is that this is not pointed out and the opposition’s arguments rubbished.

There might turn out to be some sort of technical breach of the Cabinet Manual but Alan’s comments make sense to me.

Flipper at Kiwiblog:

The closest that anyone has comes to the true worth of “The Cabinet Manual”: is Helen Clark. She amended “it” to suit each circumstance…and to her benefit.

The reality is that the manual is just a collection of “thou shalt nots” (well if it suits the PM), and “:thou shalls”. It has no stranding in law because it is not backed (compiled pursuant to) by a statute. Many matters upon which it offers guidance may well (probably are) covered by Statute. At best the manual is a collection of Executive fiats.

Back to the instigator of the beat-up to far, Rob Salmond at Polity, who responded to Farrar’s post in The “beltway” response:

By “acted in a political way,” of course, he means “breached the rules of his office.” Also, good luck passing off the actual job of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, to hold the government to account for its actions, as “crying wah wah.”

I agree about Mrs Jones and Mr Smith, though. This is not an election defining issue. I’m guessing Labour’s 2017 election campaign won’t have much to do with this issue, in the same way National’s 2008 campaign didn’t say too much about Taito Philip Field.

The thing about so-called “beltway” issues is that they aren;t much good at election time in their own right, but if a number of similar issues emerge around a government then it forms a more general impression which does matter in elections. That was how National used Field. In National’s case, that general impression might be “arrogant” or “liars” or “duplicitous” or “corrupt.” They’re certainly handing out plenty of material…

So Salmond doesn’t seem to think think this is much of a big deal but is trying to chip away at National’s credibility.

Rob would help his own credibility on this if he didn’t try and compare what Simon Bridges did with what Taito Philip Field – Field was charged with “15 counts of bribery and 25 of attempting to pervert the course of justice”.

Field was jailed for six years on corruption charges, with the sentencing judge saying his offending threatened the foundation of democracy and justice.

Likening this to Bridges going too far seeking Ministerial information and advice looks like a beat-up too far.


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