Labour leader candidates on TPPA

It’s interesting to look back to Labour’s leadership contest in 2013 and what the candidates views were on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

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

Of course no candidate will disagree with making the process more transparent. Their responses.

Note that these responses were targeting party members and unions in trying to get selected.

Grant Robertson

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

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

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

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

David Cunliffe

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

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

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

Shane Jones

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

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

NZ First is strongly against the TPPA. How would Jones fit with that?

More on who isn’t eligible

A followup to Who isn’t eligible for Labour’s ‘free’ education?.

A number of other people have sought clarification on exactly who won’t be eligible for Labour’s proposed free tertiary education – limited to people who have had no prior tertiary education, which would appear to rule me out due to doing a short course at Polytech over forty years ago.

In NZ Politics Daily: Labour’s return to radicalism Bryce Edwards gives anothe rexample:

Another leftwing critique has been raised on Facebook by Labour Party activist and former election candidate Patrick Hine, who is unconvinced that the policy adequately covers those who will need to retrain in the future, long after they have undertaken tertiary education:

“Now I don’t want to be a spoilsport, but Labour’s policy was presented in Andrew Little’s speech as originating in the economic policy context of the Future of Work Commission and aimed at people who have had jobs and lost them because of changing technology, outdated skills etc.

But if you’re 40 now and the skills you learned doing that polytechnic certificate 20 years ago are obsolete, you won’t be eligible under the policy. Anybody who has undergone tertiary education in the past will be ineligible.

Many of the people it professes to be for won’t be eligible for it. It’s a free tertiary education policy mainly directed at 18-20 year olds – why not argue for it as such? Others will quickly interpret it that way anyway.”

Grant Robertson has replied to this criticism to say that Labour has further announcements to come that will deal with this problem.

I can’t find Hine’s comments on Facebook but others have also brought this up:

Mark Baxter Great start, and I look forward to its implementation. But it does nothing for people like me recently made redundant and needing retraining. I guess like Lange said to me when I asked about Labour’s user-pays education – words to the effect of “Yes, your generation is being screwed sorry”.

Grant Robertson Hey Baxter. We will have more to say about retraining options for people late in the year. A big issue in rapidly changing world of work.

And

Stu Pearce So under the proposed policy, will mature students above the age of 40 also be entitled to 3 years funding?

Grant Robertson Yes, if they have not studied at tertiary level before.

Gregory Stuart Shepherd Not enough. Chicken shit actually, in a world where most of us will have many career changes in our lives.

Grant Robertson We will have more to say about workplace training and retraining in coming months, but I think this is an important start.

So it looks like we will have to wait until later in the year to find out more about this.

Labour split on TPPA

It’s not surprising to see a split in Labour ranks over the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Phil Goff under Helen Clark’s government had quite a bit to do with initiating the TPPA.

Helen Clark recently said:

“What always haunts one as a New Zealand prime minister is, will there be a series of trade blocs developed that you’re not part of? Because that is unthinkable for New Zealanders, an export-oriented, small trading nation.”

“So of course New Zealand has to be in on the action with a [TPPA] and go for the very best deal it can.”

Labour leader Andrew Little has been sort of saying he opposes the TPPA, or at least parts of it, and that he would breach the agreement if it comes into force and he is Prime Minister.

One News last night (partial transcript from video, source Anthony Robins):

Labour finally confirms it’s opposed to controversial TPPA

[Little] “I don’t support it, we don’t support it”

[Little] “Very difficult as it is for us as a party that for 80 years has supported for, championed and advanced the cause of free trade, we see an agreement that cuts right across the rights of New Zealand citizens…”

[Vance] “Plus Andrew Little points to US university analysis which predicts the deal will lead to between 5,000 and 6,000 jobs lost in New Zealand by 2025. The report also estimates GDP growth of less than 0.8% again by 2025.

Grant Robertson has been sort of saying he opposes the TPPA at meetings this week that strongly oppose the TPPA signing, at least giving the impression Labour opposes the signing.

Today the Herald reports MPs break ranks on TPP.

Two senior Labour MPs have broken ranks with the party line and declared their support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), amid rumours that at least one, Phil Goff, could cross the floor of Parliament to vote with National if Labour opposes enabling legislation.

The issue was hotly debated at the Labour caucus retreat in Wairarapa this week.

Mr Goff, a former leader and former Trade Minister and now an Auckland mayoral candidate, and David Shearer, also a former Labour leader, last night told theHerald they both still supported the TPP.

It is no surprise that Goff and Shearer support the TPPA. The only slight surprise is the timing of them coming out in support.

Mr Goff said the deal should be signed.

Mr Goff did not blatantly criticise Labour’s position. But he effectively dismissed that view and the suggestion that Labour would not be able to prevent foreign investors buying New Zealand residential property.

“Every time you sign any international agreement you give away a degree of your sovereignty.” He cited the China free trade deal negotiated when he was Trade Minister.

“We gave up the sovereign right to impose tariffs against China when we signed up to the China free trade agreement. But it came with quid pro quos. China gave up its right to impose huge tariffs on us.

“That’s what an international agreement is; it’s an agreement to follow a particular course of action and a limitation on your ability to take action against the other country.

“You have the ultimate right of sovereignty that you can back out of an agreement – with all the cost that that incurs.”

That’s the realities of international agreements, something that Little and Robertson seem oblivious too, unless they are playing the different sides of the debate.

Mr Shearer told the Herald that his position on the TPP was unchanged and “certainly after reading the NIA [national interest analysis]” that was to support the deal.

Mr Shearer would not comment on whether he would cross the floor.

Little has responded:

Labour leader Andrew Little told the Herald last night that Labour would support tariff-reducing legislation but would oppose any measures if they undermined sovereignty, expressly the issue of selling houses to foreigners, and anything that allowed foreigners to have a say on New Zealand laws.

“As a caucus we don’t support the TPPA in its current form.”

Mr Little said Mr Goff had made his view known to him and to the caucus and they understood his position because he was close to the TPP.

He said the issue of crossing the floor was a matter for future discussion.

Asked if there would be any consequences for Mr Goff and Mr Shearer for supporting the TPP, he said there was an understanding about Mr Goff.

I guess the ‘understanding’ is Goff hopes to win the mayoralty later this year so Little has little control over what he says.

Goff may like to leave Parliament with a legacy of playing a significant role in enabling the TPPA.

“Anybody else in caucus, that’ll be a matter for myself and/or caucus.”

There’s likely to be others in the Labour caucus who have at least some problems with Little’s and Robertson’s stances on the TPPA.

Little was praised last year for apparently mending a split caucus, or at least keeping any differences out of public sight.

It appears that Labour have joined others in trying to use the TPPA as a wedge between National and the opposition, and also a Maori wedge.

But the wedge may end up causing a self inflicted split amongst themselves. Little has created a very difficult situation for himself and for Labour. I presume he will have seen this coming. It was inevitable.

TPPA: Don’t Sign meeting tonight

The TPPA: Don’t Sign meeting will be held at the Auckland Town Hall tonight at 7 pm. It will be live streamed at The Daily Blog.

Jane Kelsey posted at The Daily Blog:

TPPA:Don’t Sign – Fill the Auckland Town Hall tomorrow (Tues) 7pm

PM John Key and his National government say most Kiwis support the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and those who don’t are ignorant or manipulated.
Show him he’s wrong.

Hear dynamic, funny, and scary US former trade attorney and TPPA expert Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen Global Trade Watch, on how the US politics may sink the TPPA.

Jane Kelsey will explain the highlights of the expert papers saying what the TPPA would really mean for Kiwis.

A political panel will tell us why they oppose the signing of the TPPA:
Grant Robertson, Labour; Metiria Turei, Greens; Marama Fox, Maori Party; and Fletcher Tabuteau, NZ First.

The speaking tour is being sponsored by Its Our Future, Action Station, NZ Council of Trade Unions and First Union.

Perhaps there’s no workers involved in export or import companies in NZ Council of Trade Unions or First Union.

Interesting to see Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson opposing the signing and opposing the TPPA.

Yes, it is our future, and how that works out for New Zealand will depend on trade. The Trans Pacific Partnership should improve trade opportunities a bit.

 

 

Expect radical shift in Labour economic policy

Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says we can expect a radical shift in Labour’s economic policy.

A cynic could suggest a radical shift towards common sense would be welcome, but voters tend to be very wary of radical policy suggestions from those who could follow through with them.

Can we also expect a radical shift in primary and secondary education policy?

NZ Herald reports Expect radical changes to economic policy, says Robertson.

Grant Robertson says New Zealanders can expect a radical shift in the Labour Party’s economic policy ahead of the 2017 election as his party looks to prepare workers for huge changes in the labour market in coming decades.

Mr Robertson is in Paris for the OECD’s Future of Work Forum, where politicians, businesspeople and unions are discussing how to adapt to the digital economy and the increasing casualisation of the workforce.

The shadow finance and employment minister is seeking ideas for his Future of Work Commission, a two-year project which will inform Labour’s new economic development policies.

“If we look ahead two decades, there will be enormous change,” he told the Herald from Paris. “Up to half of the jobs in the economy today won’t be there.”

That is because blue- and white-collar jobs are being lost to robotics, automisation and computerisation.

The working environment is becoming more flexible, and people are more likely to have several different career paths over their lifetime.

Mr Robertson said addressing these changes would mean a radical change of direction for his party.

“I do think there will be some big shifts because that reflects the magnitude of the change that is happening,” he said.

The nature of work in New Zealand and around the world has already changed enormously over the past fifty years.

Labour’s Future of Work commission is a good medium term project, focusing on what should be a core policy area for them, labour. It’s the sort of thing that should be done by parties while in Opposition – Labour should have started this sort of thing six years earlier but now is better than going nowhere.

Of course the benefits to Labour and to the country will depend on the quality of the findings of their Commission. Hopefully they will be useful to all parties in looking ahead.

Mr Robertson said New Zealand already had a flexible labour market, but it needed to be balanced with greater security and income support.

“Obviously you can’t take a model and replicate it from one country to another. It’s the principles of it that we are looking at and how something similar could be put in place in New Zealand.”

A less certain working environment meant workers would have to upskill or retrain throughout their careers, Mr Robertson said.

“The idea that you can leave school or go to university and you never have to do anything else is gone now. Whatever system we come up with needs to be linked to the idea that training is an automatic part of your working life.”

Rethinking the amount of upfront tertiary education compared to ongoing training and retraining parallel to careers – most people can now expect to change careers several times through their working lives – is important.

It’s impractical to spend 3-6 years getting degrees and then having to repeat every decade or so.

A good academic grounding is very useful but being able to duck in and out of education or training is becoming essential in many fields of work.

Preparing New Zealanders for the changing workforce will have to begin early – at primary schools – and will prompt changes to the education system and curriculum.

“The more traditional ways of assessing and learning are starting to become less and less relevant,” Mr Robertson said.

“I expect big changes in the education and training system to be one of the things that comes out of the commission,” the Labour MP said.

Is Robertson also hinting at radical changes to primary and secondary level education? That could be challenging given the reluctance of education sectors to relatively minor changes to their comfort zones.

The Future of Work Commission’s findings will be published in November.

That timing is a shame. It is heading into the political dead zone at end of year, and then we will be headlong into election year, so there may be little chance of a decent non-partisan assessment of the results of Labour’s Commission.

Much may depend on how much Labour’s efforts are targeting their election campaign next year and how much is for the future good of the country as a whole.

What more should New Zealand do about Australian detainees?

The uproar in and outside Parliament yesterday over Chirstmas Island detainees seems to be based on demands from opposition MPs that more be done by John Key and the New Zealand Government about how Australia is dealing with and treating New Zealand born people being detained on Christmas Island.

In Parliamentary conduct described as “despicable” (Newstalk ZB):

The House descended in chaos and acrimony yesterday after the prime Minister said the Labour Party was defending rapists and sex offenders with its stance over Kiwi detainees on Christmas Island.

Labour is ‘furious’ about Key’s Question Time accusations, with Labour MP Grant Robertson saying his party’s simply asking that more be done for the Kiwis being detained.

“We are saying the Prime Minster needs to show some leadership on that. That is not backing the crimes that people in there have committed by any means.”

There seems to be more too it than “simply asking that more be done for the Kiwis”. There coukld be a bit of political posturing as well.

There’s also conflicting information about just how dangerous the New Zealanders imprisoned on Christmas Island are.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said Key’s accusations are rubbish, as she knows of a man currently detained who has no convictions, and even won medals during his army service in Afghanistan.

“He belonged to a gang called the ‘Rebels Biker Gang’ and now he’s been picked up, he’s been targeted and put into a detention centre for deportation based on what? Questionable character.”

I presume Fox and Labour’s Kelvin Davis are basing their comments on what detainees have told them, which may not be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Some may be detained without good legal reason but I expect that most have either criminal or immigration issues.

In Question Time yesterday:

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What action, if any, has he taken to follow up on his statement to Malcolm Turnbull regarding New Zealand – born Australian detainees on Christmas Island, “I think, in the spirit of mateship, there should be some compassion shown”?

Andrew Little: Why is he so weak that he spends his time with Malcolm Turnbull talking about what ties to wear rather than having the moral courage to demand that Australia do what is right for the detainees?

Andrew Little: Why has it taken an inmate to die, a 2-day fire, and a full-blown riot for him and his Ministers to finally lift a finger to do something about it?

Andrew Little: Why does he not stop being so gutless and failing New Zealanders and stand up for New Zealanders on Christmas Island and the 151,000 who are now out of work under his Government?

I think Key’s reaction was unhelpful and inflammatory, and an apology would be appropriate, but he is obviously frustrated by being pushed to do more about something he has little say in, Australia’s dealing of criminal and immigration matters.

And iot’s not just the Opposition demanding more be done.

@MatthewHootonNZ on The Huddle is getting this Christmas Island thing bang on right now. Key is being gutless.

What should he do about it? Fo to Canberra and…make them what?

Gee, fly to Canberra or do nothing? You can’t think of any other options Pete?

Send the SAS and a Hercules to Christmas Island?

Don’t be a twit

So Matthew, Grant, Marama, Andrew – what exactly do you think Key can and should be doing that hasn’t been done already?

“The prime minister is a coward ” – on right now.

Hooton must know the political reality of Key’s position oveer what is happening in another country. Does he really think more could and should be done? Or is he, and Labour, using this issue as an excuse to attack Key for their own political reasons.

The Herald in today’s editorial Hamstrung PM cynical on detainees:

Mr Key continues to put his hopes in gentle persuasion rather than public criticism of Australian policy. His response to the riot has been almost sympathetic to Canberra, arguing that if Australian prisoners were rioting at Paremoremo he would not expect a protest from the Australian Government. Opposition parties think he should at least be asking questions of Australia at the United Nations, where it is under investigation by the Human Rights Council, and seeks a seat on that body.

But the fact remains New Zealand has more to lose than to gain by pressing too hard. Citizens of no other country have the right to live and work in Australia as freely as New Zealanders do, without becoming citizens or officially permanent residents. This privilege has been enjoyed by citizens of both countries since time immemorial, but never formalised, it seems.

We have no treaty to invoke against deportation of Kiwis who have been there a long time. We can only hope Kiwis who go there take note, and do not let us down.

Many of the New Zealand detainees have abused a privilege given to just us by Australia. Getting loud and angry like Davis and Little may achieve more – but it may not be the sort of more they are presumably aiming at.

More restrictions on New Zealanders going to Australia and living in Australia would affect many more Kiwis and ex-Kiwis than are detained on Christmas Island.

I wonder if Labour here would be so demanding that more be done if there was a Labor government in Australia?

Regardless, what more could or should New Zealand do over the Australian detainee issue?

Genter versus Robertson, Greens versus Labour

David Farrar has also posted on Chris Trotter’s hopes for a Trudeau type leader emerging on New Zealand’s left (see Scouring Labour for some Trubro magic posted here on Tuesday).

In Does Labour have a Trudeau? Farrar talks of an interesting observation:

I was listening to RNZ’s The Week in Politics today while running. It was on the budget surplus. What struck me was that Julie-Anne Genter came across as far more reasoned and logical on the economy, than Grant (Robertson).

He was still arguing that somehow the seven years of deficits were caused by National while also attacking National for not spending more. It was very weak, while Genter actually made quite reasonable arguments.

Green finance spokesperson Genter has always made quite reasonable arguments, especially on her speciality transport. Someone who is smart and eloquent and makes sure they know their stuff can shift their strengths to other issues.

Last week I posted about observations made by Colin James:

Little versus Shaw, plus the Winston factor

Colin James has made an interesting observation about Andrew Little and James Shaw in his latest column. He wonders if Little may struggle to look like Leader of the Opposition alongside Shaw.

Add to that Genter alongside Robertson as finance spokespeople and Labour versus Green could get very interesting.

Especially if Genter is elevated to co-leader alongside Shaw.

Little, King and Wellington

Andrew Little had to rush an announcement that Annette King will remain as duputy leader despite saying when he became leader that her appointment will be for one year only.

It started with a bit of disarray.

Andrew Little botched the announcement of his deputy. Gave it to a journo over coffee, then coms team scrambled together a press conference.

The conference followed this report on Stuff: Labour leader sticking with Annette King for deputy

Labour leader Andrew Little says rising star Jacinda Ardern didn’t want the deputy leadership.

This comes after he confirmed on Wednesday veteran MP Annette King will stay in the role through to the next election in 2017.

“[Jacinda] hasn’t sought the role. The nature of the role means there’s a lot of back office stuff that has to be done. Jacinda’s strength is of course her outreach and getting out there, especially in Auckland, where I need her to be the most active,” Little said.

From Geneva, where King is leading a New Zealand delegation at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, she said she was “very happy to do whatever Andrew and the caucus want and happy to carry on in the role”.

This isn’t surprising. Ardern doesn’t look like solid deputy material, lacking in experience and in Caucus gravitas.

King looks to be about the only Labour MP capable of doing a good job as deputy.

But this creates a problem for Little and Labour. Little also announced that Grant Robertson would remain spokesperson on Finance.

So the top three Labour MPs remain as:

  1. Andrew Little (Wellington)
  2. Annette King (Wellington)
  3. Grant Robertson (Wellington)

Ardern has to be bumped up to 4 to give some sort of a nod to youth and to Auckland. Nanaia Mahuta is currently at four but she is virtually anonymous so has to drop down.

So next currently:

  1. Nanaia Mahuta (Waikato)
  2. Phil Twyford (Auckland)
  3. Chris Hipkins (Wellington)
  4. Carmel Sepuloni (Auckland)
  5. Kelvin Davis (Northland)
  6. Jacinda Ardern (Auckland)
  7. David Clark (Dunedin)

So that balances things a bit down the order but still Wellington 4 and Auckland 3 plus 2 from well up the North Island.

The first from the South Island is Clark at 10 and he has hardly been prominent (neither have most of the others).

But the biggest imbalance is four of ten Wellington MPS that are top heavy on the line up.

The two hands of Robertson’s surplus response

Today’s Herald editorial – Use surplus for benefit of everyone – highlights a contradiction in the opposition response to the National Government finally, after seven years, achieving an actual surplus.

Across the aisle, opposition parties waved their wish-lists with new confidence, calling for the surplus to be spent on child poverty, more hospital operations, more pre-school education … you name it.

At the same time, they predicted the slender surplus would disappear as suddenly as it arrived.

Labour have long criticised National for following their surplus years under Helen Clark and Michael Cullen with a sequence of deficits.

Even now they lambast National because they say the surplus will be short lived due to tightening economic conditions and low inflation.

But Labour have opposed many measures aimed at keeping a tight rein on spending.

They have pushed for more spending.

As soon as the surplus was announced Labour MPs suggested how it could be spent many times over.

On one hand Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson was highly critical of the meagre surplus:

First surplus a blip on radar screen of debt

by  on October 14, 2015

Bill English’s first surplus is just one black drop in a sea of red, with New Zealanders still paying over $10m a day in interest payments, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says.

“The Finance Minister has finally found a surplus needle in his haystack of debt. Despite promising a ‘significant’ surplus, it’s just $414m. That’s less than 0.2 per cent of GDP – a rounding error, not a surplus.

“But the surplus show is over before it has begun. With the economy running out of steam, National’s promises of a string of surpluses are extremely unlikely to become reality. That’s poor financial management.

“National’s financial management will go down in history as one small surplus – at the peak of the economic cycle – out of nine Budget deficits.

And on the other hand, on the same day, he issued this complaint about the lack of spending required to achieve the surplus:

Nats sacrifice Kiwis’ health and education for surplus

by  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.

“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.

This is Opposition opposing gone mad – criticising National for finally, only just achieving a surplus but hammering them for not spending more. For not spending a lot more.

On one hand he criticises years of deficits, but he wants to hand out heaps more money with his other.

The Herald wrote:

If the surplus in the final account for the year that ended on June 30 can be sustained in the current year and projected to continue, the best use of it would be to reduce debt more quickly. The next best use would be to resume the contributions to the NZ Super Fund that the Government suspended six years ago.

The level of debt and stopping contributions to the Super Fund have also been criticised by Labour.

If Robertson ever becomes Minister of Finance it will be interesting to see how he goes about balancing the books.

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.

GOVERNMENT POSTS FULL YEAR OPERATING SURPLUS

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.

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