A surplus, just

The Government have got their surplus, just. Bill English may be more relieved than happy, and prudence will need to continue with financial conditions being a bit iffy.


By Hon Bill English

The Government has reported an operating surplus in the fiscal year that ended on 30 June, meeting a target set in 2011 following the Canterbury earthquakes and the international financial crisis, says Finance Minister Bill English.

The OBEGAL surplus of $414 million in the year to 30 June 2015 is equal to 0.2 per cent of GDP and the Government’s operating balance inclusive of gains and losses was a surplus of $5.8 billion or equal to 2.4 percent of GDP.

While core Crown expenses grew by $1.2 billion (1.7 per cent), the increase in spending was lower than the pace of growth in the economy, resulting in expenses easing to 30.1 per cent of GDP, compared with over 34 per cent of GDP four years ago.

“Returning to surplus in 2014/15 is a significant milestone. I’m proud of the steps taken across the wider public service to help deliver the surplus target while also improving the quality of social services delivered to New Zealanders,”  Mr English says.

“The Government is committed to continued prudent management of the public finances, including ongoing attention to operating spending and the underlying drivers of demand for public services. The Government supports reprioritisation of spending that is not delivering results and rigorous management of the Crown balance sheet.

“Our focus must remain on steady and ongoing reductions in public debt over the medium term. That is the most prudent approach to take in a still uncertain global environment,” Mr English says.

“The economy is growing. It recently registered its 18th consecutive quarter of expansion to deliver annual growth of 2.4 per cent in June 2015.

“The Government’s programme to build a more productive economy is delivering dividends in the form of higher living standards and better quality essential services. And it is also delivering returns in terms of the health of the Crown’s finances.

“What today’s figures from Treasury indicate is the Crown’s overall finances have been radically turned around in the years since they had to absorb cumulative shocks outside of the control of any government,” Mr English says.

In the wake of those shocks, the Crown’s annual operating balance excluding gains and losses (OBEGAL) was a deficit of $18.4 billion – that’s equivalent to around nine per cent of national income or GDP in that year.

“It has required very careful stewardship over day-to-day expenses to permit the Government to chip away at the size of the OBEGAL deficits year after year and, in 2014/15, to return to surplus and deliver on the target first set in 2011,” Mr English says.

“Our focus must remain on steady and ongoing reductions in public debt over the medium term. That is the most prudent approach to take in a still uncertain global environment,” Mr English says.

Having criticised National for running deficits for siz years Labour have switched to criticising them for not spending more (which would keep us in deficit).

Nats sacrifice Kiwis’ health and education for surplus

by Grant Robertson on October 14, 2015

National’s drive for surplus has meant less investment in critical areas like health, education, housing and transport – yet John Key told Parliament today he wants the money for cycleways, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says.

“The Government’s belated surplus has been partly achieved by dropping spending by $235m in education, $97m on housing and community development, $52m in health and over $300m on transport and communications.

“These are critical areas. Too many students are failing NCEA, dilapidated state houses are making people sick, patients are waiting far too long in hospital emergency departments and regional roads and internet services are in desperate need of upgrades.

“It also appears that $444m has been taken out of the EQC claims budget. No one in Canterbury waiting for repairs or needing their repairs redone would think that money isn’t needed.

“Bill English says this is the Government saving money but the truth is he is trying to cover his Budget blushes and belatedly scrape together a surplus.

“Incredibly now the Government is in surplus John Key doesn’t want to fix these critical areas – he wants to spend the money on more cycleways.

“The next time Kiwis find themselves waiting for an operation, getting sick in their home, worrying about their children’s performance at school, or nearly crashing on a dodgy road they can thank their lucky stars Bill English has a surplus and John Key has his cycleways,” Grant Robertson says.

I await Robertson’s plan for spending more, resuming contributions to the Super fund, and reducing Government debt.

Aussie view on Key, stable government and ‘incremental radicalism’

John Key seems to be the envy of Aussies – those on the right of politics at least. He, Bill English and their Government have been praised again in Australia.

But is the New Zealand electorate averse to radical change? Or have we just not had anyone to lead it since David Lange and Rogernomics?

When Malcolm Turnbull tooked over as Australian Prime Minister last month he praised Key, and said:

“You have to be able to bring people with you respecting their intelligence. John Key has been able to achieve very significant economic reforms in New Zealand by doing just that: by explaining complex issues and then making a case for them.”

Richard Mulgan at the Brisbane Times picks up on this in New Zealand’s John Key can show Malcolm Turnbull how to lead a stable government.
Turnbull was repeating a point commonly made by business critics of the Abbott-Hockey regime. Key, in New Zealand, along with Premier Mike Baird in NSW, provided an alternative, more measured and ultimately more successful model of right-of-centre leadership, which the Coalition in Canberra could well emulate.

Key, as Turnbull remarked, is a highly effective communicator. He mixes easily with all types of people and is a constant presence in the New Zealand media.

Significantly, Key has managed to maintain his popularity while implementing a number of initially unpopular changes. In an effort to discourage ambitious Kiwis from leaving for Australia, his government cut income tax, particularly the top rate, and paid for it by increasing the rate of GST. Key had not flagged these changes at the previous election but relied on a comprehensive campaign of public information and advocacy

On the vexed issue of asset sales, Key promised no such sales in his first term, a commitment he kept in order to gain voter trust. For his second term, he announced a program of partial sale of assets, such as Air New Zealand and state-owned electricity-generating companies. The LFabour opposition campaigned against the sales but without success (a result similar to that in NSW).

It’s interesting to see how much an Aussie journalist knows about what’s been happening here in politics.

[Update: Mulgan should be familiar with New Zealand politics: “is a political scientist. He was on the 1985–86 New Zealand Royal Commission that recommended MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) representation for elections to the New Zealand Parliament. He was also formerly Professor of Political Studies at Otago and Auckland Universities.]

Effective communication and advocacy are essential but only part of the recipe for Key’s success. Equally, if not more important, are the substance and timing of the policies being communicated and advocated. Key has been deliberately cautious, implementing gradual changes over several terms of government. Since the searing experience of the 1980s and early 1990s, New Zealand political culture has turned firmly against sudden, radical change.

In this policy of gradualism, Key has been greatly assisted by his deputy and Finance Minister (the equivalent of treasurer), Bill English. English entered Parliament in 1990, in time to witness the public repudiation of blitzkrieg economic policymaking. He served time as party leader, leading the National Party to one of its defeats against Helen Clark’s Labour. After Key’s ascent to the leadership, English stayed on to become the back-room powerhouse behind the Key grin.

English is the main architect of Key’s fiscal strategy, which saw New Zealand weather the global financial crisis and set out on a path for budget surplus. He is also a keen reformer of social policy, aiming to retain a reasonable safety net while better targeting the welfare dollar, and has taken a keen interest in public service performance. Leaving Key to look after the politics and win the elections, English has been content to work on a number of medium-term policy strategies.

Mulgan looks at what Turnbull and his Government could learn from this. Then he goes back to the New Zealand experience.

The New Zealand experience points to the value of incremental change that has been thoroughly explained and justified to the voters.

This lesson should also be evident from the brief and sorry history of the Abbott government. Abbott and his treasurer, Joe, Hockey allowed themselves to be seduced into a radical crash-through approach, which involved ditching major election commitments. They never recovered from the political damage of their first budget. Present-day Australians have no more stomach than New Zealanders for sudden and unheralded reforms.

Key and English certainly seem to have learned the lessons and risks of sudden major changes in direction and policy.

And this may be where Labour is making a fundamental mistake, trying to promote major changes like control of the electricity market and proposing a Capital Gains Tax.

Is the New Zealand electorate really averse to radical change? Or is this an inaccurate perception?

Some claim that the main reason for Labour’s slide and their struggle to recover is more due to a perception of turmoil and incompetence, despite proposing policies that are largely popular (CGT) and opposing unpopular policies (like the partial asset sales).

If a strong, credible, charismatic leader lifted Labour and promised major changes would they succeed?

David Lange was sort of like that and his government was the most radical in my lifetime.

Could something similar happen again? Or is the New Zealand electorate to wary of radical change to risk something like that again?

It could be that despite what a few hard left activists think New Zealand is chugging away ok and doesn’t need or want a revolution.

Do we need a Plan B?

Do we need a Plan B for the New Zealand economy?

Andrew Little versus Bill English last week:

[Sitting date: 08 September 2015. Volume:708;Page:6295. Text is subject to correction.]

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Why did he say “Plan A is a good plan” given the state of regional economies?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister) : He said “Plan A is a good plan” because plan A is a good plan. It enables regions to be resilient to shifts in global prices. The Government is supporting regions in a number of ways, including water reform and Resource Management Act reform, recognising that most regional economies are resource-based economies, and we are investing in regions through better alignment in training and skills, education, and research and development. Some regions are under pressure from the volatility in dairy prices. The Government is working with those regions—for example, through regional growth studies—to attract more investment, jobs, and growth.

Andrew Little : Given plan A is a failure that has led to higher unemployment, weak growth, and record debt, why is he refusing to consider a new direction?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : We do not agree with the member’s description of the future of the New Zealand economy. I know he is among the very few people who want to see the economy crash, because he thinks it might benefit his poor leadership and party standing. But, actually, we have a longer-term view that although this is a softer patch for the economy and a difficult period for some industries, we have longer-term confidence in the New Zealand economy.

Andrew Little : Given that plan A has failed, will he update National’s 2014 slogan to now read “Not working for New Zealand”?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question was not heard because of the level of interjection, mainly from my right—[Interruption] Order! I invite the member to repeat the question.

Andrew Little : The question is and was: given that plan A has failed, will he update National’s 2014 slogan to now read “Not working for New Zealand”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : No, because plan A is working for New Zealand, much better than Labour’s political strategy is working for Labour.

What would a Plan B be?

Or if we keep chugging away much as we are (National’s Plan A) are we likely to do ok?

As shown in GDP growth up for June quarter after a slowdown in the March quarter to 0.2% GDP growth has improved in the June quarter to a still modest 0.4%.

What would work best, a reactive economic policy approach, or steady as she goes?

“Labour is the party of economic competence”

Anthony Robins makes a case at The Standard that Labour is the party of economic competence.

The old myth that National are good managers of the economy should now be well dead and buried. By any realistic assessment of the records of the last two governments, Labour is the party of economic competence.

Labour: 9 surplus budgets, paid down net government debt to zero, established the Cullen fund, KiwiSaver, KiwiBank and emissions trading scheme, low unemployment, negotiated a successful free trade agreement with China, and so on.

National: 7 deficit budgets (so far), ran up record government debt, sold productive assets, made significant losses by cutting Cullen fund contributions, gutted the emissions scheme, got taken for a ride by Hollywood, Sky City and Rio Tinto, higher unemployment, is negotiating a disastrous TPP, and more.

There’s some valid points there, but also some questionable ones. And some significant omissions, for example Kiwirail, and the fact that the New Zealand economy was heading into difficult times while Labour was still in Government, having committed the country and the incoming National Government to significant increased spending.

There’s certainly things National can be criticised for, but “made significant losses by cutting Cullen fund contributions” is nonsense, and the Hollywood deal can be credited in part for improving tourism which is one of the countriy’s biggest earners now.

Labour needs to highlight the issue of economic competence next election (with any luck the media will do their job too and fairly present the facts). It is supposed to be a core National strength, but any clothes that emperor ever had are long gone now. National is vulnerable.

Robins looks back to the Labour Government led by Helen Clark and Michael Cullen. They were voted out in 2008, seven years ago.

National aren’t judged on the Bolger Government, or the Muidoon Government.

Of course National is vulnerable, especially if the economic situation worsens or doesn’t improve much.

But Bill English is widely seen as a very sound Minister of Finance who has managed the economy through very difficult times. If he remains then National may still look economically reliable. If not it National will have to look like they have got a comparable replacement.

Sure “Labour needs to highlight the issue of economic competence” – but Andrew Little and Grant Robertson have to do quite a lot of convincing yet about perceptions of their economic competence. If they are still leader and Finance Spokesperson at the election.

And absent any poll recovery miracle Labour still have to grapple with how economically competent Labour+Greens looks, or Labour+Greens+NZFirst looks.

They’ve got plenty of time. It’s two years until we head into the next election campaign.

But they’ve had plenty of time. It’s nearly seven years and four leader/finance spokesperson combinations since Labour lost power.

Before Labour is seen as ‘the party of economic competence’ they need to be seen as a party that can competently manage itself.

Flag Referendums Bill passed

The New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill passed it’s third reading in Parliament yesterday. Radio NZ reports:

Parliament passes law to change flag

Legislation clearing the way for referenda on changing the nation’s flag has passed its third and final reading in Parliament.

The bill was passed by 63 votes to 59 with the support of National, United Future, ACT and the Maori Party.

The first part of the referendum is expected to be held later this year, when voters will pick their favourite of four proposed flag designs.

As we know the process to seek and select alternate flag designs is well under way, with the top forty designs now chosen.

I find it odd that the legislation enabling this has only just passed. There has already been considerable effort and expenditure.

It was interesting to watch the twelve speeches in Parliament on this Bill.

Government speakers promoted the process, but more notably Opposition speakers spoke against the flag change process but didn’t look convinced by their own arguments, especially Trevor Mallard, Grant Robertson and Russel Norman.

Bill English (National):

This Bill will give New Zealanders the opportunity for the first time ever to vote on the flag that represents them and their country.

Trevor Mallard (Labour):

I’m an old fashioned Parliamentarian and I think the role of the Prime Minister is to stand up in this Parliament and to state his views.I waited through the first reading of this legislation. I waited through the second reading of this legislation. I waited through the committee stages for John Key to get on his feet and to give his views.

He went on to complain about the lack of Key’s contribution to the debate – but kept calling it Key’s ‘vanity project’. There’s not only a contradiction on that, there’s also a huge contradiction in Mallard’s and Labour’s pro-change but anti this change stance.

And Andrew Little did not appear to speak on Labour’s contradictory stance.

Alfred Ngaro (National):

It’s disappointing to see that a member…to see that he’s come to a point where he knows and he’s agreed, in fact at select committee he agrees with the changing of the flag. He told us that. It’s in Hansard.

He said that changing the flag is the right thing to do, yet today in this house, to the open public of New Zealand he’s only opposing it out of spite.

Grant Robertson (Labour):

I’m one of the members of the Labour party who thinks that there is a place for a new flag for New Zealand.

But I’m equally a member of the New Zealand public who’s angry with John Key for turning a process…I, along with a lot of other New Zealanders am angry with John Key that a discussion about this, a discussion about out national identity, has become a vanity project for him, and there’s absolutely no doubt that that’s what’s happened.

Ironically as Mr Mallard says, the vanity doesn’t extend to coming to parliament to actually talk about the flag change.

They are trying to argue two opposites at the same time, Unconvincingly.

Labour are intent on trying to depict it as a John key vanity project – but Robertson did not look or sound angry. His argument sounded contrived and insincere.

Russel Norman:

This Bill is of course a classic form over substance Bill. So the form of course is actual pattern on the flag…so it’s really about some people saying they want to change the pattern.

But a flag, the reason why the pattern matters is that it actually refers to a deeper substance, and the deeper substance that it refers to is the constitutional arrangements of the country, ah that’s the thing that really matters.

Norman gave a subdued fairly passionless speech. He wanted to change much more than the flag – he wants to change the constitution along with it.

However the Greens have also campaigned against the flag change as not the right time to put any resources into changing anything while there are ‘more pressing matters’. To be consistent they would not want constitutional changes to be addressed until there are zero hungry children and zero damp houses in New Zealand. That’s never.

Marama Fox (Maori Party):

I think this is an important discussion, and it’s important because I absolutely agree with a lot of the objections about why we’re doing this, but actually I absolutely agree that I’d like to see a change in the flag, and I’d like to see a change in the flag because I’d like to see something that does symbolise our duality of nationhood.

Should we be spending this amount of money on doing it? I’d like to think not.

Should we have put a constitutional change first before we put a flag change in? Absolutely agree with that.

Constitutional change would be much more complex, would take much longer and would be much more expensive than the flag change process.

The Maori Party voted for the Bill.

Links to the all the speeches:

New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 1 Bill English
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 2 Trevor Mallard
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 3 Alfred Ngaro
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 4 Grant Robertson
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 5 Jacqui Dean
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 6 Kennedy Graham
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 8 Jono Naylor
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 9 Russel Norman
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 10 Marama Fox
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 11 Chris Bishop
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 12 Jenny Salesa
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 13 Nanaia Mahuta
New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill – Third reading – Part 14 Joanne Hayes, Lindsay Tisch, Tim Macindoe

Mood of the Boardroom 2015

NZ Herald has published a summary of their annual ‘Mood of the Boardroom’: Dairy and infrastructure top worry lists which shows that business confidence has slipped.

Confidence (out of 5) in:

  • Local economy 2.3
  • International economy 2.54
  • Own business situation 2.99

 The country’s senior business leaders are becoming increasingly concerned about the slowing economy, the Government’s strategy and our reliance on China and dairy exports.

The 2015 Mood of the Boardroom, published today, surveys 110 top corporate chief executives and company directors as well as heads of our leading business organisations.

The results show 75 per cent want to see the Government formulate a Plan B in case the dairy slump continues. Eighty per cent want diversification of the economy accelerated.

Sixty-four per cent of respondents agreed that indicators pointed to an economic slowdown from their own business perspective.

On political performance:

  • Bill English 4.6 (down from 4.75)
  • John Key 4.28 (down from 4.49)

Drops for both is not surprising given the worsening economic conditions and increasing number of embarrassing issues. If this downward movement continues through to the election it will pose re-election difficulties for National.

Jacinda Ardern was rated the most impressive Labour MP for the second year running.

This makes National’s re-election chances less difficult unless Andrew Little and Grant Robertson can gain some credibility in the business world.

Slater versus English and family

Cameron Slater has posted an attack on Bill English ate Whale Oil: SCUM LIST MP SAYS HE WILL VOTE FOR PAIN AND SUFFERING

Bill English has declared he will vote against any euthanasia bill put before the parliament. no debate, no reading the legislation, he is just going to let his Catholic dogma dictate how he will vote.

This is a typical Slater-type attack – Slater has been very critical of English in the past so this is not out of the ordinary. So far.

And now we see one of the problems with MMP and scum list MPs. They don’t have an electorate to listen to or canvas.

They are representative of no one but themselves and the party.Electorate MPs like Nick Smith always survey their electorate and debate the issues with voters.

Much and all as I dislike Nick Smith’s politics, in person he is a top bloke, he keeps getting elected with massive majorities because he listens to his constituents.

Slater also campaigned against MMP so it’s no surprise to see him slamming list MPs.

Until English retired from his Clutha-Southland electorate and went onto the list only last year he kept getting elected with massive majorities. In 2011 with a majority of 16,168 he got 21,375 votes,  over twice as many as all other candidates combined.

Bill English has to listen to no one but his stroppy missus.

This is a low blow from Slater, Bringing English’s wife into is a low blow. Again this isn’t out of the ordinary for Slater, he was particularly nasty during National’s Northland candidate selection slinging dirt involving the family of one candidate.

Some comments supported Slater but there more supporting English and criticising Slater managed to survive the censor’s filter and getting significant support. For example:

That’s a bit harsh. Bill is entitled to his opinion as you are of your opinion.

24 upticks

Yes he is but I don’t want his personal religious beliefs to dictate what I wish to happen if the occasion arises. I would like to make my own decision and have it written down for when I am too ill to fight for that right.

1 uptick


Right, you’ve now lost me. When you call Bill English a”scum list MP”, that shows you to be in the same loony class as those you keep referring to as the Green Taliban and I have laughed with you at their silly antics. I happen to think, also that the Greens are loony. But I also think that there are some areas where people are entitled to exercise their consciences, and the sanctity of life is one such area.

26 upticks


Would you prefer him to say one thing and do another (as so many people do)? At least we know where he stands. While I might not agree with his views, I respect his right to have them.

34 upticks

Compared to:

Catholic or not, this is the sort of arrogance we saw from Cullen. Please remind me who got National down to the miraculous 20% threshold?

English’s expertise lies within financial management. I for one am happy he is no where near social policy. He doesn’t have a clue and doesn’t gauge with the public very well.

2 upticks

I disagree with English on euthanasia but respect his right to have his own stance on what would be a conscience issue if this was voted on in Parliament. This is the report Slater was criticising:

His deputy, Mr English, a Catholic, said today he would vote against any law change.

“The law says that if the doctor helps them die that would be breaking the law and that’s what the judgment said pretty clearly,” Mr English said on TVNZ‘s Q&A programme.

Mr English, whose wife is a GP, said he personally did not believe the law needed to change.

“My personal view is that the law is where it should be,” he said.

3 News

While polls show a sizeable majority of people support euthanasia there are still many who oppose it, and they have as much right to be represented in Parliament as anyone.

This was also raised on Kiwiblog, and Slater is criticised by several including someone who has been a fairly loyal supporter of Slater:


Mr Slater seems intent on re-creating himself as a man of unlovely disposition. I used to enjoy some of his more outrageous observations but, really, he has descended to a level of almost perpetual ad hominism ( if that is a word). The site very rarely contains anything of any interest other than his own insatiable desire to be heard.

16 upticks, 2 down

Keeping Stock

@ Nookin – WO makes his distaste of English pretty obvious. But to attack English’s wife, who to the best of my knowledge has never tried to impose her personal views on the electorate is poor form indeed.

Slater is entitled to his own view, and calling MPs ‘scum’ is typical of his critical approach, but using family members in political criticism crosses a line for most people.

There’s no reason why commerce and compassion can’t co-exist

It’s common to see carping about how compassionless the Government and John key and National MPs are. How they purportedly don’t care about poor people – some go as far as accusing ‘right wing’ politicians and rich people of deliberately keeping the masses poor so they can accumulate wealth.

Which is absurd, as anyone who knows how commerce works knows that the more affluent people are the more prosperous business can be. You can’t make much money out of destitution.

Thursday’s budget has created confusion and consternation on the left. How could an allegedly hard right government be the first to raise core benefit levels for 44 years? Something three eras of Labour led government had failed to do.

Amongst the confusion absurd claims have been made. In Thoughts on budget 2015 Danyl at Dim-Post:

National believes in massive intervention in the economy, mostly in favor of their political donors but also in response to signals from their polling and market research…

rickrowling asked “What are the examples of this?” None have yet been given. This statement is typical from the left of National do anything hinting at compassion – there must be an ulterior motive driven by the greed of the 1%.

One way of trying to explain is by claiming that National’s efforts are weak and the left would have done it better. Like ‘truthseekernz’:

The response from virtually all opponents was lamentable. I would have preferred something like:

“It’s great to see this government adopt a weak tea, might-work-a-little version of the policies we’ve been promoting for years. So we’ve won the policy argument. National has done it because that had to, not because they wanted to. If voters want the real thing, they should be sure to vote for us (whoever ‘we ‘ are – Labour or Greens) next election.”

National can’t have done it because they wanted to what they thought was a good thing to do, they ‘had to do it’. That’s crap of confusion.


John Key’s hallmark of power is pragmatism and if that means that he has to give a little to the masses, he will, and did. But that does not change his wider agenda that has all the markings of seeking neoliberal outcomes.

Again Key “has to give a little to the masses” but has a “wider agenda”. That’s ideological crap.

Neilm has a different take on it:

And Key’s opponents have developed a rather insular, self-reinforcing narrative about how Key hates the children etc which isn’t quite what National is. I’m not suggesting that National is the perfect social justice party but constantly making strategy on the basis that they’re corrupt liars out to destroy democrat and the planet has distracted from forming a strategy that deals with reality.

Tinakori also challenges the left leaning laments.

Wow, Danyl, there are so many straw men in that post. The major two are the propositions that this government was a group of hairy chested economic fundamentalists and that effective social policy is entirely the preserve of the left.

The first was flawed from the very beginning and was probably prompted by the bizarre and false idea that they had embraced austerity as a fiscal policy when their approach was classic Keynesian. This is just another case of the left and the commentariat looking to overseas political slogans for guidance rather than looking at what a government actually does.

As for the big things – fiscal, monetary and general regulatory policy – there is no major change that I can see and the spending changes are pretty small in the context of both government spending and the economy.

richdrich swings the other way:

The “middle class welfare” concept is an artefact of neo-liberalism.

It divides society into “hard working keewees” and “beneficiary scum” (Labour and National both love the former term, but Labour might be a bit softer on the latter. “Communities with needs”, maybe?)

Benefits (apart from disguised ones like tax free capital gains) are denied the former and grudgingly meted out to the latter, accompanied by an appropriate degree of paternalism, like making them spend all day in a Winz office with no toilet – at least they can’t take drugs while they’re in there.

I haven’t seen any sign that National (and ACT and the Maori Party and Peter Dunne) have “grudgingly meted out” the benefit increases. Confused leftists like richdrich can’t bring themselves to even grudgingly meting out praise when it’s due.

How could this tory scum out left the left on social policy? Tinokori suggests:

On social policy you underestimate the personal impact on government policy of growing up in a state house (Key) and the Catholic social conscience (English).

There may be something in that, but there’s far more to it. I’m not Catholic and didn’t grow up in a state house. I did grow up in a very poor household – where I learnt the value of hard work and self responsibility.

Many people in New Zealand who have built their own businesses and careers and wealth have seen and experienced hardship somewhere along the way.

We now seem to have a left who can’t see past their arrogance.

I see more compassion in Key and English and many in business and on the centre right than amongst the carping on the impotent left.

This budget appears to have turned politics upside down in New Zealand. I don’t think it has. It just demonstrates what has been evident for a long time, that the left/right divide was long ago bridged. It doesn’t exist in New Zealand how it once did.

Key and his National government get it. They got it a long time ago, that’s why they are still in government.

There’s no reason why commerce and compassion can’t co-exist. Except in the closed carping minds of the old left. They are left crapping in their own nest.

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.

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


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.


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.


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.


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