Labour versus Reserve Bank on immigration

The Reserve Bank Governor points out an obvious flaw in Labour’s claims they can control immigration numbers.

Wheeler pours cold water on Labour’s anti-immigration policy

Labour’s plans to control immigration look to have been dealt a blow by the Governor of the Reserve Bank.

Labour has promised to control immigration and introduce what it’s calling moderate and sensible measures to help address pressures on housing prices.

But Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler says it’s very hard to fine tune immigration to meet demand purposes.

“By the time you make an adjustment you may well find the situation’s completely changed.”

What Wheeler says was obvious as soon as Cunliffe opened his mouth about immigration.

But Labour deputy David Parker is sticking to Labour’s policy (that hasn’t actually been defined, just that they would do something).

Labour confident of immigration policy

Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler says it’s very hard to fine tune immigration to meet demand purposes.

Labour Party Finance spokesman David Parker says the comments don’t undermine his party’s proposals to control immigration.

He says anyone who says so is wrong, maintaining excessive immigration does put pressure on housing supply.

“We don’t accept this unambitious view of the current government that you can’t do anything about house speculation, anything about house prices, or anything about the peaks in immigration.

“You certainly won’t be able to do any of those things if you don’t try.”

a) Smoothing out immigration is extremely difficult when some of the biggest movements – New Zealanders leaving and returning – can’t be controlled at all by the Government.

b) Still no details from Labour about how they might avoid getting peaks in immigration.

Labour’s compulsory Kiwisaver exemptions

Labour have indicated they may exempt some people from compulsory Kiwisaver.

From David Parker’s speech:

Distributional and hardship effects for the lower paid would need to be considered, but could be accommodated in the detail of how the variable rate was applied.

Labour would ensure that everyone was treated fairly.

From the detailed policy document:

5.12 The New Zealand Labour Party is proposing that the existing KiwiSaver scheme become a universal work place savings scheme. This would be achieved by making KiwiSaver compulsory, with exceptions limited to those which apply to the Australian scheme.

So there would be some exceptions similar to Australia’s Superannuation Guarantee

5. Exemptions
An employer is not required to provide superannuation contributions to the following categories of employees:
  • employees receiving a salary/wage of less than $450 (before tax) in a calendar month
  • employees under 18 years of age working less than 30 hours per week
  • non-resident employees paid for work done outside Australia
  • resident employees paid by non-resident employers for work done outside Australia
  • employees receiving salary and wages under the Community Development Employment Program
  • some foreign executives holding certain visas or entry permits under the under the Migration (1993) Regulations
  • employees earning above the maximum super contribution base – super is not paid on the portion of income above the maximum super contribution base
  • employees paid to do work of a domestic or private nature for not more than 30 hours a week, (eg part-time nanny or housekeeper)
  • members of the army, navy or air force reserve for work carried out in that role 
  • eligible employees who made a choice, prior to the abolition of reasonable benefit limits, to not receive employer super contributions because their accumulated super benefits exceeded the pension reasonable benefit limit
  • employees temporarily working in Australia who are covered by a bilateral super agreement – employers are required to keep a copy of the employee’s certificate of coverage to verify the exemption.
  • non-resident employers are not required to provide SG for resident employees for work they do outside Australia.
Note: employees aged 75 years and over used to be exempted from the requirement, however from 1 July 2013 there is no longer an age threshold.

I’ve seen somewhere that they would also tighten up on payment holidays and withdrawals for extreme hardship.

As a comparison here are the Australian rates:

Percentage increase to minimum contribution
In the 2010 Federal Budget, the Treasurer announced important changes to the superannuation guarantee scheme.
  • From 1 July 2013, there is no longer be an age limit on employees for whom employers have SG obligations.
  • The minimum SG contribution will increase from 9% to 12%, phasing in from 1 July 2013. The minimum contributions required to comply with the SG law will be:
Year commencing Minimum SG contribution
1 July 2013 9.25%
1 July 2014 9.5%
1 July 2015 10%
1 July 2016 10.5%
1 July 2017 11%
1 July 2018 11.5%
1 July 2019 12%


Labour policies could help property speculators

Labour’s monetary and tax policies could benefit property speculators in several ways, despite continued claims by leader David Cunliffe and finance spokesperson David Parker that under National speculators are not taxed (they are taxed, see Property speculators are taxed).

Cunliffe “Speculators…getting rich on tax-free capital gains”.

Parker: ““National Party, despite the fact that we had 40 percent house inflation, they’re not doing anything about it. Not taxing speculators…”.

Reducing lending rates, exempting family homes from Capital Gains Tax and lower rates of CGT could all benefit property speculators by reducing their costs and tax.

Reduced lending rates

In Labour’s Monetary Policy Upgrade announced yesterday they said they would allow for increasing Kiwisaver contributions to help keep the official cash rate (and lending rates) lower.

Give the Bank a new tool to adjust universal KiwiSaver savings rates as an alternative to raising interest rates. This would mean Kiwis would pay money to their retirement savings instead of higher mortgage payments to overseas banks.

Property speculators who borrow money to fund their property developments and house purchases will benefit from lower interest rates.

Family home exempt CGT

In his policy speech yesterday yesterday David Parker reiterated that family homes would be exempt CGT.

Our capital gains tax pushes against the tax bias which currently encourages capital into the speculative sector at the cost of the productive sector.

In addition to improving the economy, this will make the tax system fairer, and will take pressure off house prices.

As in most other countries, it will not cover owner occupied homes. The family home will be exempted.

A common way of property speculating and dealing is to purchase a home and live in it (as a family home), do it up, then sell it to benefit from a capital gain.

In Mistaking property dealing for property investment Inland Revenue make it clear that currently purchasing a ‘family home’ with the intention of reselling it is speculating and is taxable.

Some property buyers refer to a “buy and flick” strategy. This approach is most likely to mean you are a property speculator or dealer for tax purposes.

If one of your reasons for buying a property is to resell it, whether you live in it or rent it out, you’re speculating in property and your profit is likely to be taxable.

Labour would appear to exempt this type of speculating from CGT.

Reduced CGT rate

Inland Revenue state:

Dealers and speculators must pay income tax on any gain they make from reselling their property.

If that is replaced by a Capital Gains Tax it could reduce the rate they are taxed. Labour’s proposed CGT rate is 15%.

Income tax rates for individuals (excluding ACC Earner Premium):

  • up to $14,000 10.5 cents
  • from $14,001 to $48,000 17.5 cents
  • from $48,001 to $70,000 30 cents
  • $70,001 and over 33 cents

Any earnings at all (not just from property speculating) over 14,000 are currently taxed at a higher rate than the proposed CGT.

Note: it’s not clear exactly how Labour would handle these situations. Their monetary policy and CGT could be modified with exceptions and additional requirements.

Cunliffe and Parker repeat claims on property speculation

Both David Cunliffe and David Parker have repeated claims that capital gains on property speculation is not taxed. They are wrong again.

David Cunliffe in 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…”

Inland Revenue:

Dealers and speculators must pay income tax on any gain they make from reselling their property.

Cunliffe has made similar claims several times this month, including in Parliament. He has been corrected.

Parker has made similar claims over the past year, including multiple times in Parliament, He has been corrected multiple times.

It can’t be through ignorance.

It looks like deliberate attempts to mislead the public.

Details at Politicheck: Property speculators are taxed

Harawira wants to spend ACC fund on policies

In an interview on The Nation this morning Hone Harawira was asked how the Mana Party proposed funding their policies. Harawira suggested raising taxes “on the rich” and using the ACC fund would help pay for them.

Lisa Owen: So, to be clear, you think you can cover several billion dollars worth of spending through taxation?

Hone Harawira: That’s one of them, there’s another one as well. Did you know there’s 22 billion dollars sitting in the hands of ACC, simply amassing wealth, amassing wealth through the corporatisation of injury? There’s something wrong with that notion. That money should be spent on the needs of New Zealanders, not on investments which are aimed at maximising the wealth of the corporates that are running it.

How big is the ACC fund? NZ Herald reported ACC fund doubles to $24.6 billion.

Latest figures show ACC’s investment fund was worth $24.6 billion.

The ACC Annual Report summarises their financial position as at 30 June 2013:

ACC Financial Position 2013So even though they have $24 billion ACC say they need to increase this to cover their liabilities.

This would mean maintaining existing levels of income to grow the fund. ACC explains how they’re funded.

The money we need to provide our services comes from levies on people’s earnings, businesses’ payrolls, petrol and fees from vehicle licensing, as well as Government funding. When working out how much money to collect through levies, we balance the likely cost of claims against the need to keep levies fair and stable. We distribute the money collected into one of five ACC Accounts, each Account covering a specific group of injuries.

If the fund was reduced then over time the Government would have to pay more to cover ongoing costs, so using up the fund now would cost taxpayers more later.

Mana Party draft policy supports returning to ‘pay-as-you-go’ for ACC. From their (Draft) ACC Policy:

MANA supports the principles originally formulated by Justice Owen Woodhouse in his 1967 Royal Commission report, in which he recommended setting up a new, universal, 24 hour, no-fault system for accident compensation and support. The five principles are: community responsibility; comprehensive entitlement; complete rehabilitation; real compensation; and administrative efficiency.

MANA believes that everything should be done to return ACC to the Woodhouse principles so that individuals and whānau are protected and supported when people suffer injury.

Key policies include:

  • Government to return to ‘pay as you go’ for ACC, rather than expecting ACC to collect enough money to cover all future costs in each year.
  • Make health and wellbeing the priority, rather than forcing people off ACC as quickly as possible.
  • Get rid of the vocational independence (work capacity) test which is unnecessary and is often used simply as a way of forcing people off ACC at the soonest possible opportunity.
  • Ensure that people who suffer from work-related gradual process injury, disease or infection, including from chemical poisoning, and from hearing loss induced by industrial noise, receive full cover from ACC.
  • Require ACC to continue cover as long as an injury remains a cause of a person’s current condition, rather than using pre-existing conditions or age related degeneration as an excuse to withdraw support.
  • Remove the inequity in access to services and healthcare between ACC and Ministry of Health clients, bringing all recipients to the higher level of access to resources.

So Mana want to dig into the ACC fund and spend it on their social policies while adding to ACC coverage and costs with their ACC policies.

To do this they would need agreement from Labour.

David Parker: ACC levy equals 350 years of Govt funding for food in schools

“The Government is taking $700 million more than is needed from New Zealanders through ACC levies over two years. That’s a stealth tax, pure and simple. They’ve been advised to reduce it but are still overcharging New Zealanders.

“That money is enough to cover the Government’s new role in feeding the kids for 350 years. That’s how badly Kiwis are being ripped off.

“The Government is using ACC as a political jelly bean jar, overcharging New Zealanders to fill to the jar to overflowing in order to dole out lollies in election year for political advantage.

“This isn’t prudent financial management, it’s taking directly from New Zealanders’ back pockets to try to win an election,” says David Parker.

Mana are trying to win an election by promising to spend from the ACC fund.

Sue Moroney: ACC levies higher than they need to be

“Money collected in ACC levies can’t be used to fund anything else, as it is ring-fenced for injuries resulting from accidents, so its use to prop up a sham surplus is misleading.

“That money would be better off circulating in the economy, than being tied up in an ACC’s coffers where it is not needed,” Sue Moroney said.

This is just opposition and election rhetoric, there’s no guarantee Mana would get a say on use of the ACC fund and there’s no guarantee Labour would substantially change how ACC operates and is funded.

Mana want to spend from the ACC fund. Labour want to reduce levies. Mana want to increase payouts.

Is that affordable? If so who should pay?

Labour ridiculed over plan to increase top tax rate

A former Labour minister has ridiculed plans to raise the top income tax rate saying it “takes us back to old Labour and the politics of envy”.

This is as reported in The Telegraph in England - Higher tax rates will hold back economic growth Labour’s tax on the rich would send the message that Britain penalises enterprise – but ex New Zealand Revenue Minister Peter Dunne points out it’s relevance here.


Relevant message to NZ Labour for tomorrow here – Higher tax rates will hold back economic growth.

NZ experience also shows higher taxes stymie growth. Labour can’t have it both ways.

This should be a warning to David Cunliffe and David Parker, but they already seem committed to raising the tom tax rate.

Also from The Telegraph:

Labour’s City guru savages Ed Balls for 50p tax pledge

Economics behind Labour’s plan to bring back 50p top rate of income tax would not even get “a pass at GCSE”, says the party’s own former City minister

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, promised on Saturday that Labour would reinstate the tax band for those earning more than £150,000, if the party won the next general election.

He insisted that increasing the rate from 45p to 50p — for “the richest one per cent” of earners — would make the tax system “fairer” and help cut the budget deficit.

However, Lord Myners, who served as City minister in Gordon Brown’s government, attacked the policy, saying it would take the party back to the days of “old Labour”.

Cunliffe has indicated he would increase the top tax rate here – it is sometimes referred to as rich prick tax. But it could be counter productive.

Mr Balls claims his purpose in imposing a 50p tax rate on those earning more than £150,000 is to “finish the job of getting the deficit down and do it fairly”.

The reality is that his plans would cause a significant reduction in Government revenue, making his declared objective more difficult to achieve.

The one policy that will not help lower-income taxpayers is increasing the top tax rate; indeed, as it is known to reduce revenue it is likely to aggravate their situation.

It is revealing that last summer, during the first month in which the rate for higher earners was reduced to 45p, the Treasury received an extra £1.3 billion in income tax. This lends support to the hypothesis of the “Laffer curve”: that there is a point at which higher tax rates become counterproductive.

In a globalised economy higher tax rates push people with money and assets to other countries with more favourable rates, leaving more tax burden for poorer people.

Punitive tax rates are wrong both in practice and in principle.

In a globalised economy, high tax rates simply drive investors overseas, and personal and corporate assets offshore.

Labour’s proposal would send out the negative message that Britain penalises aspiration, enterprise and success.

And it discourages investment from overseas.

The shadow chancellor no doubt hopes to strike a populist chord with voters struggling to make ends meet, and it is possible that he will succeed, at least in the short term.

It is regrettable that Labour, concerned by its modest opinion poll lead and the unfavourable public perception of its leader, has retreated to its comfort zone of class warfare and its former preoccupation with making the rich poorer rather than the poor richer.

Labour here doesn’t have a lead in the polls, it still significantly lags behind National and needs Greens to have any chance of leading Government. Greens are likely to favour raising top tax rates too.

@NW_Cross  points to a Treasury Working Paper from 2012 The Elasticity of Taxable Income in New Zealand

This paper reports estimates of the elasticity of taxable income with respect to the net-of-tax rate for New Zealand taxpayers.

The marginal welfare costs of personal income taxation were consistentacross years, being relatively small for all but the higher tax brackets. For the top marginalrate bracket of 39 per cent, the welfare cost of raising an extra dollar of tax revenue wasestimated to be well in excess of a dollar.

Furthermore, for the top bracket the marginal tax rate was often found to exceed the revenue-maximising tax rate.

Cunliffe and Parker seem to be trying to gain support through populist policies rather than sound policies. They must know higher tax rates can lead to a lower tax take, so presumably they are choosing to dupe voters with a risky tax strategy.

If Labour and Greens do take over and slap higher taxes on the top earners it will be the middle earners – the voters they are trying to dupe – who bear more tax burden. Again. That would be ridiculous.

Labour and rock star moments

Labour’s finance spokespeson issued a media release today ‘Rock Star’ economy has Justin Bieber moment.

“If the economy truly is a rock star then it’s having a Justin Bieber moment.”

Is Labour leader David Cunliffe having a rock star moment? Cunliffe arriving at Ratana:

Justin Bieber as reported earlier today:

UPDATE: Someone else has been on to this, pic posted on by @jefftollan Twitter:

Another with Cunliffe in Labour red:

And @toby_etc turns it round with a feline twist:

(If you’re not sure what that’s about see  Cats That Look Like David Cunliffe)

Labour on drilling – Yeah, Yeah-Nah, Nah

There has been many confusing messages from Labour on oil drilling, ranging from Yeah! to Nah! with a number of “yeah, nah” in between.

Another Labour statement on oil drilling yesterday, yet another vague position. David Parker has sort of clarified but also added to the confusion over Labour’s position on deep sea drilling. Especially confusion over Shane Jones’ promotion of drilling, seemingly supported by Andrew Little, which seems at odds with a number of colleagues.

Summaries of positions:

David Cunliffe – yeah, nah: “We are not opposed in principle”, “we’d get the standards in place and then we’d take them on a case by case basis“.

David Parker – yeah, nah: Labour supports Anadarko’s drilling, would not close down existing consents, “all future consents will require to be at world’s best practice if they are to get approval”.

Shane Jones – Yeah!: says Anadarko has a statutory right to be there, “we mustn’t assume that Anadarko doesn’t have the necessary expertise on hand”, “if oil is discovered we can use that to benefit New Zealand and create job opportunities for our young people in this industry”.

Andrew Little – yeah: Toured Taranaki in July talking to the oil industry with Jones who was reported saying “Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

Moana Mackey – Nah!: Appears to back protesters and said the regulatory environment under which Anadarko was permitted to drill was “deliberately permissive” and the process had been a shambles.

Phil Twyford – Nah: “protesting at the Government’s reckless promotion of deepsea drilling”.

David Shearer – alternatives policy: Is Labour’s Energy and Resources spokesperson “renewables – the way of the future for a clean and clever country like ours”, clean energy versus fossil fuel industries is a “logical choice” and aims to make it policy.

Green Party coalition partner – NAH!

Details of these stated positions:

NZ Herald reports: Labour split on deep sea drilling:

Mr Parker said Labour did support Anadarko’s drilling.

“It’s legal and we’re not saying we would close down existing consents.”

“I’m not saying Anadarko’s doing world’s best practice because I simply don’t know. What I’m saying is we acknowledge that what they’re doing is legally in compliance with the law but we’re going to tighten the law to ensure that world’s best practice is met and that all future consents will require to be at world’s best practice if they are to get approval.

“The industry tells us they’re confident they can meet that standard. We’re not reversing current approvals or banning duly approved drilling into the future.”

He denied his party’s position had changed.

“Our position is that we’ve been saying that the existing consent processes for deep sea drilling in our view are opaque and lax and it’s unclear that New Zealand’s got the response capacity if something goes wrong.”

David Cunliffe told NZ Herald late last month that Labour’s position was that it would potentially support Anadarko’s drilling if it met best-practice and environmental and clean-up standards, but it didn’t yet.

Cunliffe was pushed by Duncan Garner to clarify his position on drilling and eventually confirmed it was Yeah, Nah for n0w – Cunliffe would stop deep sea drilling.

Garner: So you’d put a moratorium on all deep sea drilling until you were satisfied as Prime Minister.

Cunliffe: No, I haven’t said that Duncan, I haven’t said that…

Garner: You’ve effectively said it…

Cunliffe: I’ve said based on what we currently see in the public domain, I’m not convinced that those standards have yet been met.

Garner: So would you stop deep sea drilling as Prime Minister until you saw something that gave you confidence to let it go ahead?

Cunliffe: Yes we would need see material that gave us confidence on a case by case basis.

Garner: So you would stop it until you saw that?

Cunliffe: We are not opposed in principle, we are absolutely up for a mature discussion with the industry…

Garner: Are you opposed on current standards? And I think this is very important…

Cunliffe: No no, we are opposed to the current standards. The EEZ legislation under which this is happening is currently too weak. We have jettisoned a lot of the jurisprudence under the RMA and it needs to be tightened up.

Garner: Ok, so you’d stop it for now and wait til you could get better standards, local standards that you were satisfied with.

Cunliffe: We’d get the standards in place and then we’d take them on a case by case basis.

Labour’s Environment spokesperson Moana Mackey has contributed to Cunliffe’s anti-drilling position information. In September – Block offer 2014 premature without protections:

“Labour has repeatedly stated drilling should only take place if we have the capability to manage a disaster and once robust safeguards are in place.

Labour’s Wellington MPs are also concerned about the considerable expansion of the Pegasus-East Coast Basin with an area of 75,136 square kilometres now up for consultation.

“A Labour government will ensure there are strong environmental protections and listen to affected communities concerned about environmental risks,” Moana Mackey says.

Stuff reports this week: Drilling could split Labour

But Mackey appeared to back the protesters and blamed the Government for Greenpeace’s announcement that it intends to challenge the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to allow Anadarko to carry out deep sea drilling off the Raglan coast .

She said the regulatory environment under which Anadarko was permitted to drill was “deliberately permissive” and the process had been a shambles.

She also accused the Government of being desperate to expedite deep sea oil and gas exploration because it had no plan B for jobs – which also puts her at odds with Jones, who believes mining is a potential boon for jobs.

From that same stuff report Shane Jones seems to be at odds with Labour colleagues on drilling.

Labour MP has backed oil drilling giant Anadarko in a move which puts him at odds with other members of the caucus, including environment spokeswoman who today called for a slow down in the mineral exploration programme. …

Speaking on Maori TV’s Te Kaea tonight, Jones was outspoken about attempts to stop Anadarko from deep sea drilling and said the protesters should remember that the company had a statutory right to be there.

“Protesters need to bear in mind we are buying oil out of the Gulf of Mexico and other far-flung places when we should be focusing on making an industry in our own country.”

Shane Jones (and Andrew Little) in July – Labour duo keen to talk jobs and growth:

Controversial Labour Party bigwig Shane Jones has moved to position the party well clear of the Greens and their “anti-development” message.

In Taranaki for a two-day visit with party justice spokesman list MP Andrew Little, the regional development spokesman spent much of the first day pow-wowing with oil and gas industry players.

“I am keen to defang these misapprehensions that are abounding that somehow industry has disappeared from our purview.

“Nothing could be further from the truth and if my visit provides the opportunity to reinforce the centrality of jobs, the importance of industry and the need for a future Labour-led government to assuage whatever anxieties might be there in the minds of employers or future investors then I am up for the task,” he said.

Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth, Mr Jones said, and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

There was an appetite for such growth in Taranaki but the “anti-development” message was strong on the East Coast, where oil and gas exploration is on the increase, and in the Far North, where he was attending an anti-mining hui next month.

David Shearer hasn’t made any media comments as spokesperson on Energy and Resources – – but he has posted on his Facebook page:

26 October

As Labour’s energy spokesman I’ve had some great meetings with experts in renewables – the way of the future for a clean and clever country like ours.

International research shows that an investment in clean energy creates two to four times as many jobs as the same investment in fossil fuel industries #logicalchoice

He also answered a comment:

Robyn Harris-Iles Make it Labour policy, David!

David Shearer yes, that’s the aim

Phil Twyford protested against drilling last weekend. He tweeted:

I’m at Piha protesting at the Government’s reckless promotion of deepsea drilling risking Gulf of Mexico spill with Dads Army response capacity

David Shearer disappoints in Dunedin

David Shearer visited Dunedin yesterday promoting Labour’s NZ Power policy. With local MPs David Clark and Clare Curran he had a staged PR sympathy/emotional event at a poor power consumer’s house in North East Valley

Later in the day he spoke at a meeting at a packed Knox Church hall. I went along, curious to see how Shearer performed.

David also attended and spoke.

Shearer was certainly more eloquent in a friendly environment, most of the time. I was bit disappointed to hear them just going over all their NZ Power policy, I already knew it, and they haven’t bothered to address any criticisms. All playing on bad National, bad power companies.

I think many of the claims made were disputable, and some more than a little was pure political bull.

It  was mostly well rehearsed talking points but less carefully structured than I’ve seen on TV. But Shearer was still not sure of himself and a few times Parker stepped in to help out. It’s their primary policy and they are obviously pushing it hard, so Shearer should know it inside out and back to front by now. It doesn’t look like he does.

He really doesn’t appear to be on his game, he has no passion for electricity markets or politics.

They took some questions and not patsies, there were Labour supporters want’ answers about Labour would have done (eg Tiwai smelter) and what they would do (eg re-nationalise assets). They avoided giving decent answers to most.

They laid on the emotionals with an illustration of poor Susan in NEV who can’t afford to pay her power bill and it just isn’t fair, that’s why National have be ejected. I found this very sad, after a few years of the next Labour government there will still be people who can’t afford their power bills. They are being sold something that is unlikely to be delivered anything more than partially at best.

When I sat there listening and looking at the potential next PM and Finance Minister it was really quite demoralising. I was hoping to see something good to write about but it confirmed some uninspiring impressions.

And David Clark and Clare Curran looked and sounded like they were at a funeral, which was probably due to the vibes from the audience. There was some clapping of course but it wasn’t a happy or optimistic place. I find that very sad, for Labour and for the country’s political health.

It was a disappointing and deflating experience. Certainly nothing inspiring from a message dominated by negatives. Their doom and gloom is depressing – and they seem to be depressing themselves.

Can’t someone in Labour see what they are doing? They seem to be determined to keep repeating the same old failures.

I want some hope, some excitement, some spark, some indication there’s life left in Labour. But it ain’t happening.

Dunne: “the GCSB Bill can get stuffed”?

Should Peter Dunne tell the GCSB Bill to get stuffed? Many would understand if he did, he’s been dealt with appallingly by the Henry inquiry and some of the coverage of the fallout with unfounded implications of his guilt.

And the questioning of his integrity continues. On The Nation yesterday (repeated this morning at 8.00 am) Steven Joyce said he believed David Henry over Dunne, despite many doubts being raised about the changing stories from the Henry inquiry and the Parliamentary Service.

So it wouldn’t be surprising for a politician in Dunne’s position to retaliate by saying “the GCSB Bill can get stuffed!”

Except it would be surprising for Dunne, who views the Henry inquiry data debacle as a separate issue to the GCSB bill, so it should be dealt with separately, each case on it’s merits.

Some don’t understand this approach to politics, where horse trading and tit for tat spats are seen as the norm. But Dunne isn’t a typical politician, he has a long established reputation as reliable, trustworthy and sticking to his word.

Sure, pragmatic compromises are often necessary in politics. But it’s easier – and better – to deal with these on a case by case basis.

Journalists are used to dealing with all types of politicians, and some seem sceptical of the Dunne approach. Dunne has been asked what sort of deal he’s getting from National for giving their bill his support. I’ve seen this a number of times on Twitter. Yesterday:

John Drinnan ‏@Zagzigger
What do you get from National for supporting GCSB Bill?

Peter Dunne ‏@PeterDunneMP
A good policy outcome.

John Drinnan ‏@Zagzigger
Nothing else – any political concessions?

Peter Dunne ‏@PeterDunneMP
The deal was about improving the Bill.

It may be unusual for a politician to be able to separate issues like this, to stick resolutely to negotiated commitments on a bill while at the same time being poorly treated on another issue.

But Dunne is an unusual politician.

At times he is seen by some as unusually boring, until recently plodding along in Parliament with unsexy responsibilities like Minister of Revenue, overseeing the taxing of us, and Associate Minister of Health, where he dealt with unglamorous things like suicide and drug abuse.

Parliament isn’t show business, despite what some politicians seem to think. Winston Peters seems more suited to vaudeville – for the theatrics and the age.

John Key puts on a bit of an act at times, but the media demand more than the mundane from our leaders. That’s one reason why David Shearer is struggling to get favourable coverage.

But the main task for Parliament and politicians is to run the country, to administer the country’s affairs. Most of that is routine stuff. Boring stuff.

Probably one of the most successful current politicians is the dour and boring Bill English, resolutely doing what he can to sort the economy out through a very difficult period of international turbulence.

Key might be good for sound bites, Peters may be good for fiction and theatrics, but next year’s election is most likely to be won or lost on something boring but essential – our economic performance.

While Key is often credited with being single-handedly responsible for maintaining National’s popularity, it is at least as much to do with the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, who mostly plods away in the background. And the economy seems to be slowly improving.

Shearer is often blamed for Labour’s poor support – and there’s no denying that he is a part of the problem. But Labour’s lack of credibility on being able to manage the country’s finances is at least as damaging, if not more so. And that is the responsibility of another boring politician, David Parker.

Dunne’s reliability and support of the National led financial recovery deserves credit too, although he probably won’t get much for his efforts there. Good politics is more often than not ignored by a media moving more towards entertainment.

If Dunne said “the GCSB Bill can get stuffed!” he would get a lot of media coverage. If he said “you’ve crapped on me, you can stick your bill where….” then he would probably be top billing for a news cycle or two.

But we and the country would be left with an ambiguous law that would (as currently deemed) not allow the GCSB to assist the Police and SIS in trying to protect the country from terrorism and other security vulnerabilities.

So Dunne, while separately seeking redress for the political travesties surrounding the Henry inquiry, is sticking to doing what he thinks is best on the GCSB bill.

Some disagree with his stance. Fair enough, there is always disagreement with politicians and political decisions. It’s difficult enough pleasing some of the people some of then time.

But Dunne is sticking to what he thinks is the best way to deal with a contentious issue.

And – despite drastic consequences that many people are claiming – in a few months the GCSB will have probably slipped back into it’s boring role as a silent agent of security, doing much the same as it has done for decades, albeit with new technology.

The Dotcom debacle was a balls-up – that’s been admitted. But it was an isolated case. The vast majority of New Zealanders will never be affected by what the GCSB does. Unless they secretly prevent a potential major security threat. Which we may never find out about.

And next year’s election will mostly be won or lost by Bill English and David Parker, while the media frenzy focusses on Key and Shearer  (if he survives).

And in the meantime Dunne will be attacked and cajoled over whatever bills come before Parliament  that require his (effective) casting vote. He will have moved on to being called a traitor for something else. Asset sales. GCSB.

Psychoactive Substances Bill. Game Animal Council. Flexi-super. Boring politics. Effective politics. That’s the Dunne deal.

The drama merchants can get stuffed.



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