Free education versus tax cuts, or…

Today’s Herald editorial suggests Free tertiary study may trump tax cuts.

In past years, this Government has started with unexpected announcements – an asset sales programme, a school leadership initiative and a flag change exercise. This time, the most surprising item in John Key’s speech was an indication tax cuts are still on the horizon.

That was surprising because National’s prospective tax cuts provide the fiscal justification for Labour’s big new year proposition: free tertiary education.

If National wants to argue at next year’s election that an entitlement to three years’ free tertiary education is unaffordable, it cannot be offering tax cuts. If it thinks a tax cut will be more appealing to voters than relief from student fees and loans, it may be mistaken.

There may be more pressing social needs for any spare revenue, but few would be as popular.

But in eighteen months time there’s likely to be more policies in the campaign mix than free tertiary education and tax cuts, from both Labour and National.

Labour are promising much more, especially from their ‘Future of Work’ focus.

National have been light on policies, preferring to campaign on their fiscal competence, but they are likely to announce something significant probably at the start of next year.

And there have been hints of something else from Key – addressing poverty related issues especially related to children.

Last year Bill English announced the first benefit increases for decades, and these kick in this year.

I think there’s a good chance that this  year’s budget will provide something significant for children, possibly timed to kick in next year prior to the election.

Free tertiary education that will mostly benefit better off adult New Zealanders versus something significant for struggling kids?

Note that National have already increased early childhood education options. Those who have failed in education by the time they reach their teens are unlikely to go to university.

Labour seem to be trying to repeat their 2005’s successful university education bribe via interest free student loans. Public concerns have moved on from then.

The future of kids may be a strong election policy next year.

Auntie Annette

In Is Annette King our Hillary Clinton? Barry Soper points out that Annette King and Hillary Clinton are close to the same age, 69. King is an early baby boomer, born in 1947, but still going strong in Parliament.

They’re certainly forceful women, even though King is seen to be in the twilight of her long political life.

King, who’s affectionately referred to around Parliament as Auntie, was herself in full flight, making her opponents even more grizzly now that they’re back at work after their summer holiday break. It was good, old school, tub thumping stuff reminding us of Austin Mitchell’s view of God’s Own as the half gallon, quarter acre, Pavlova Paradise.

The Labour MP says unfortunately it’s Paradise lost from the days of Mitchell’s musings when 80 percent of retirees used to own their own homes and education was free.

The half-gallon quarter-acre pavlova paradise is old enough, published in 1972, the year that Norman Kirk became Prime Minister. And King turned 25 when she was still a dental nurse, and also the year she joined the Labour Party.

King was first elected to Parliament in 1984, 32 years ago, but lost her seat in 1990 so had a 3 year break (no MMP in those days).

She became deputy leader of Labour when Phil Goff replaced Helen Clark in 2008, but stood down after Labour’s loss in 2011. After Labour’s loss in 2014 she became interim deputy leader, was reappointed deputy for a year when Andrew Little took over the leadership soon afterwards, and decided to stay on.

She is capable of leading Labour, probably more capable than some of their leaders over the last 7 years, but has not stood for the top position. If Little’s leadership crashes and burns would King step up? If Hillary can do it why not Auntie? She’s one of Labour’s most respected MPs, probably the most respected.

Here is her speech in the Debate on the Prime Minister’s Statement yesterday. It looks back into New Zealand’s history, the ‘good old days’ (for some, including Labour).

Draft Transcript:

Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour): Can I, first of all, wish members who are in the House a happy New Year, and also a happy Chinese New Year, which we are celebrating in this Parliament this very evening.

Fletcher Tabuteau: Ni hao.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Ni hao. Most of us enjoyed our Christmas break with our family. We had fun, we had food, and some of us look like the emphasis has been on food. With the weather that we have had, with our victories in sport—and I have to say to the Prime Minister, none of them was he responsible for. It was all our great team’s work.

With the weather, the sport, the beaches, the activities, the grandchildren, and the holidays some of us have come back with recharged batteries. We have come back energised and excited about the year ahead.

What I found is that when you spend time with your family it often brings out some wonderful memories of days gone by. And it certainly did that for me over this Christmas period when I was around my family.

It brought back memories of my own upbringing. I have to say, I was lucky enough—as I believe you were, Mr Assistant Speaker—to actually live what we call the Kiwi dream. We actually got to live the New Zealand Kiwi dream.

You see, my parents built their first home with a State Advances Corporation loan, and they were able to capitalise their family benefit to put a deposit down on that house. My old dad said to me: “You need to have a freehold home when you retire, then you will be safe.”

I have had the chance to do that. I do own my own home. I have to say, not all our children do. I got that chance because my income related better to the cost of the house I was going to buy, which is not the case today.

And my old dad, he was in the same job for 40 years, then he retired. He never had to change his job. His wages supported a wife and three daughters.

I got paid to train for my first job at the dental school. I got my first job from that training. I never paid for it; they paid me. I got a free tertiary education from the Waikato University.

I got the chance to get the jobs that I wanted. I had the freedom of the outdoors—of family holidays, of clean rivers, of close family, and good food. I had my grandparents, who lived next door to us for most of my young life, and we had neighbours who looked out for us.

The Kiwi dream for many of us was a reality. That was our life. It was what made New Zealand unique—unique in the world. The Kiwi dream was central to who we are as New Zealanders.

We had the highest rate of homeownership in the world, in this country. That is what we aspired to. Around 80 percent of New Zealanders owned their own home by the time they retired.

We had job security. We had jobs to go to. You could go from one job to another. You could train and retrain for a job. We had free education, and we had affordable health. We led the world in living the Kiwi dream.

But what saddens me is to see that dream slipping away for thousands of New Zealanders.

It is like the Government is saying: “It’s not possible to have that dream any more. It’s not important. It’s a bygone era. It’s not needed.”

Well, I have to say, I do not accept that. I will not accept that. I will not roll over and give up on New Zealand being the best place to live in the world, to love, and to work in.

But what worries me is that, I believe, we have become a meaner country. We have become a more selfish country. We are a country that is more about me, me, me than about us.

And our Kiwi values, I believe, are being changed at this very moment. It seems to me that what we celebrate now, and what we worship as success, is money. We see spoilt rich kids who have no concept of how thousands of their peers live, just down the road.

More and more people are being shut out of the Kiwi dream, and this Government is closing that door. It is creating a new reality for New Zealanders.

You see, our economy is increasingly weighted in favour of those who already are doing well.

I believe it started in 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis. It was tough for the world. New Zealand was a little luckier, because the previous Labour Government had left this Government with no Government debt. It had paid down debt. It had the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD —and that is on record if the members want to go and look at it.

But what did the National Government do in 2009? It gave tax cuts to the wealthiest percentage of the population in New Zealand. In the middle of a global financial crisis, its response was to give a tax cut. Billions and billions of dollars have been given to those who did not need it, and those who had the least were told to suck it up because they needed to tighten their belts and they needed to ensure that we got out of the global financial crisis.

The burden was placed on those who had the least. Now we are told that there are going to be tax cuts again, for the very same people. Surprise, surprise! The tax cuts are a promise for next year. Some of us know that next year is election year.

So in election year, when there might be some money that could be spent on far better things, a few at the top are going to receive a tax cut. Not for our kids, not for those older New Zealanders who are looking to have the health services they need, not for free education after New Zealanders leave school—no, not for that. We are told by the Government that that cannot be afforded.

Well, it is all about priorities, is it not? Houses are now unaffordable for thousands of Kiwis. If you have got one and you live in Auckland, you probably feel you are a millionaire, because your house is now worth a million dollars.

But it is a house for a house, so if you change a house you are not going to be much better off, unless you shift to Reefton , or somewhere like that.

If you live in Auckland, you are living in the fifth-dearest city in the world for housing. Imagine that—in New Zealand! We now know that houses are the playthings of speculators, those who often live offshore, who come to buy up houses here and to be able to sell them again and put the cash in their pockets and take it away.

We have a Government that turns a blind eye to poverty amongst children in New Zealand—and “poverty” is a word that must not be spoken. You may call it “hardship”, or “hard times”, but never say “poverty”.

We have got health care that is stretched to the breaking point, and anyone who was at the select committee today would have heard how tough it is on an area like Auckland, with a bulging population, or on an area like Christchurch, where they are still suffering from the impact of an earthquake, particularly in mental health.

The Labour Party does not believe in that future. We have a different future for New Zealand, based on the inherent beliefs of Kiwis. They are beliefs that need to be rekindled by leadership and by a Government that is in touch with New Zealanders and believes in a chance for a decent, secure job, for a warm, affordable home, and for education for the future. We will make that happen.

The first part of our announcements came when we announced that we want to ensure our children and our grandchildren have the opportunity to have post-secondary school education, and the first 3 years of that education free—the same as I had, the same as Mr Joyce had, as Mr Key had, and as Dr Coleman had.

We took it, but that Government does not want to give it back to our children. If we want a future for them, education has to be the future.

As our job market changes, as we know that around 47 percent—is it 47 percent? No, I will not go there; I cannot find it in a hurry.

We know that we have got a changing job market and that we are going to have many people out of jobs in the next 20 years. They need to be retrained into the new jobs that are coming.

This is not our future—our future is to rebuild that Kiwi dream, and we intend to do it in Government.

 

Little – list or Rongotai?

According the the Herald Annette King will stand again in 2017 but may move onto the list only. That will leave her safe Labour electorate open for someone else to step into it.

Andrew Little lives in the electorate and it has been suggested before that he might inherit it. He has lost twice when standing in New Plymouth.

Annette King hints at Labour future

Labour veteran Annette King has confirmed she will stand again in 2017 but possibly only on the list, a step which would open up her Rongotai electorate for leader Andrew Little.

Mr Little lives in the Rongotai electorate in Wellington – a safe Labour seat in which Ms King has been the local MP since 1993.

Asked if Mr Little had asked her to allow him to stand in the seat, Ms King said “that is hypothetical”.

“We talk to each other all the time, but I’ll make my announcement on what I’m going to do in the future.”

She said she would announce her decision “when I’m ready.”

Remember that King had said she would be deputy leader for a year and then stand aside, but after the year was up decided to stay as 2IC to Little.

Mr Little has stood unsuccessfully in New Plymouth for the past two elections but has ruled out doing so again. He was yet to decide whether to stand in an electorate.

“I’m quite enjoying being a list MP having the flexibility to get around the country doing the job I do.”

He said candidate selection for the 2017 campaign had not yet started “so that’s a wee way down the track”.

There is supposedly some political mana in being an electorate MP but I don’t know if the public cares about it.

There’s a good argument for major party leaders to be list only as they have plenty to do without attending to electorate duties as well.

Last term Bill English retired from his Clutha Southland electorate and went list only, a goo idea for someone as busy as a finance minister. Steven Joyce is another senior MP who is list only.

It would be embarrassing for the Labour leader to lose in an electorate, so switching to a safer seat could be attractive for Little.

New Plymouth was won by 105 votes in 2008 by National from Labour’s Harry Duynhoven, after Duynhoven won by 5,434 in 2005 and by 11,533 in 2002.

  • 2005: Labour 37.64%, Duynhoven 53.20%
  • 2008: Labour 31.42%, Duynhoven 47.88%
  • 2011: Labour 25.82%, Little 40.41%
  • 2014: Labour 21.10%, Little 31.56%

Not surprising that Little doesn’t want to stand in New Plymouth again. He only just made it back into Parliament last election, he was the last on Labour’s list to make it.

At least as leader he would be number 1 on the Labour list – if he remains leader.

King has won easily against National’s Chris Finlayson and Green’s Russel Norman for the last three elections, by a consistent margin of about 9,000 each time, but the Labour vote has been much lower.

 

  • 2008: Labour 42.69%, King 52.45%
  • 2011: Labour 34.18%, King 50.52%
  • 2014: Labour 30.35%, King 49.43%

King gets much higher personal support than Labour gets.

2014 party results:

  • National 32.55%
  • Labour 30.35%
  • Green 26.27%

 

Now Norman has resigned the Green vote may or may not hold up, but Little may struggle to get the same electorate vote that King maintained. King is one of Labour’s most respected MPs.

Little’s reply to Prime Minister’s Statement

I think that the leader/s of the Opposition get a copy of the Prime Minister’s Statement in advance so they can prepare their response.

Labour leader Andrew Little began:

…this is a Government that has given up on the future, that has no plan to prepare New Zealand for the future, that is more interested in scoring political points than solving the big problems facing our country, and that is letting the Kiwi dream slip away.”

And then went on to try and score political points against Key and various Ministers.

He seemed to be trying to outpoint Key on negativity. I call it a depressing draw.

 

Draft Transcript:

ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for getting my name right.

I move, That all the words after “That” be deleted and replaced with “this House express no confidence in this National-led Government, because this is a Government that has given up on the future, that has no plan to prepare New Zealand for the future, that is more interested in scoring political points than solving the big problems facing our country, and that is letting the Kiwi dream slip away.”

It is great to be back after a wonderful summer. It is a bit disappointing to see that the Prime Minister is less tanned and is more red in the face, but that is what happens sometimes with a Christmas break where you fret about what is actually going on.

I am very pleased to see that Michael Woodhouse has returned—that we have got through a summer with not a single worm farmer suffering a fatality or a serious harm incident and that the lavender cutters have got through their summer as well in good shipshape.

And I want to congratulate Judith Collins, because what Minister of the Crown has come back to Cabinet, made such a return, and in such a short space of time had such a dramatic impact not only in New Zealand but internationally? Because within a month of Judith Collins coming back to Cabinet, our ranking in the Corruption Perception Index went down two places. And so for a Minister who knows all about conflicts of interest, it is amazing to see the contributions that she has already made.

The Prime Minister made a reference to Taranaki and the roads, and I was very pleased to be in Taranaki this year swimming at Ōākura Beach, driving on its roads—and it does need better roads, because if there is one thing that the unemployment figures have told us about Taranaki, it is the rapid rate at which people are leaving that province because there are no job opportunities there, and 4,000 people have left in the last year alone. Thank you, National Government—thank you, National Government.

I was very pleased to be at Waitangi on the weekend just gone. They are very pleased, actually, that we had an extended Waitangi weekend.

Thank you to the fine work of David Clark MP, Grant Robertson, who drafted the original bill, other MPs on this side of the House, and, of course, Peter Dunne, who very generously supported that, bill because he, at least, is in touch with middle New Zealand and the holidays that they need.

It was very good to be there, because that was a very important place to be on a very important occasion, and I say, Prime Minister, that it is a place for the head of Government to be on the day that we celebrate the founding of this nation and the founding document.

I would repeat Te Ururoa Flavell’s plea—prayer, in fact—that he gave that the Prime Minister return there to be part of that important national celebration. That was a statement—if you could call it that—that has absolutely no vision and no plan for New Zealand at a time when we desperately need one. It was reheated, recycled, and nothing new.

We had the big announcement. The big state of the nation address was the City Rail Link—it is the City Rail Link; it does not go by any other name. It is a policy that the Labour Party has supported from the outset, championed, argued for, and supported.

And the new Mayor of Auckland at the end of this year will be the next great champion of it, and he will do a fantastic job in it.

But what is interesting to see is that as that cause has been put up and argued for, what former Ministers of Transport from that Government have said—let me count the ways. Let me count the ways. There was a Mr Brownlee who was a transport Minister, and he said at one point: “I take big issue with the suggestion that the City Rail Link is helpful or popular.”

And then he went on to say: “this valiant attempt to make the City Rail Link stack up struggles to make the case.” Something has happened in the meantime, because the case has been made and the City Rail Link is on its way. There is another position, from another Minister, a Mr Joyce—

Hon Member: Or Little?

ANDREW LITTLE: —Steven. I think it was Mr Joyce not a Mr Little. No, it was Mr Joyce—a Steven Joyce—and he is the master of flip-flops, let us face it, after Friday. Mr Joyce, the master of flip-flops said: “That’s not smart transport; that’s pouring money down a hole.”—“That’s pouring money down a hole.” The man who took 21 years to get his degree in zoology, he knows about pouring money down a hole, and so he would know all about that.

So there is no plan, there is no vision.

The National Government has reheated the City Rail Link policy because it knows that that is what Auckland desperately needs. And it knows that the right-thinking people—the sensible thinking people—have been championing that cause for many years now.

And at long last, the Government has been dragged, kicking and screaming, up the purple cycleway of Auckland to get to the point where it now has to support it. But that is not the first flip-flop.

That is not the first flip-flop from this Government either—in Government or in Opposition. We know what its track record is like. Remember its opposition to interest-free student loans? Absolutely diametrically opposed to it, and mysteriously, once they are in Government, nothing happens.

Then they were opposed to KiwiSaver, that thing that 2.5 million Kiwis are now signed up to and that is helping millions of Kiwis build up their little nest egg.

Hon Member: “It’ll never work.”, he said.

ANDREW LITTLE: “Never work”, “don’t want it”, “deeply opposed to it”. What happened when they got into Government? Nothing changed.

Then there’s Working for Families. Remember “communism by stealth”—remember “communism by stealth”? Shocking stuff—vile stuff that was going to be gone by lunchtime. They got into Government and 8 years on they are still waiting. They know that it is good for New Zealand.

This is the multi-positional, flip-flopping National Government. It does it all the time, and it is doing it again.

It is time we had a Government of visions: not the visionless, passionless lot we have got over there, but a Government that understands the issues facing New Zealanders.

What New Zealanders are looking for now more than ever before is a Government that is principled, a Government that can look out to the long-term future, see what the issues are, and understand what needs to happen today to build a better future for tomorrow.

That is what New Zealanders are looking for, not the pussyfooting around, the mincing, the politicking, or the point-scoring all over that we get on that sort of side.

Those members crow about the unemployment rate. What they will not tell New Zealanders is that the reason unemployment has gone down is that thousands and thousands of New Zealanders have just given up. They have stopped looking for work. They are no longer part of the labour force, according to the household labour force survey. They have just given up; they have lost hope.

That is one easy way to reduce your unemployment, but what a dreadful way to treat New Zealanders, hard-working New Zealanders who want nothing other than to get an opportunity to work and to get ahead. Well, that is what Labour is about.

The single biggest issue facing us is the issue of the future of work, and the conference that Grant Robertson went to was, funnily enough, the same conference the senior Ministry of Social Development official went to.

Grant Robertson: You paid for that, John. Paid for them to go.

ANDREW LITTLE: They went to it and the Government paid for them. They went only after weeks of asking the Minister of workplace relations and whatever else he is whether they were going to go, whether they should take this issue seriously.

He was not going to go and somebody from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was not going to go, so the Government sent somebody from the Ministry of Social Development.

But that is an important issue, and countries around the world are getting to grips with it—Germany, the United States, and other wealthy countries with good progressive leaders who are thinking about what it means, thinking about what we need to do today to build a better future tomorrow so that our people can fulfil their dreams.

That is not what that Government cares about at all—it does not care about it at all. It was interesting when we announced the first of our major policies, which is about investing in people and investing in their futures: our education policy.

Well, if you want to talk about multi positions, let us go through them. Mr Joyce—the Mr Joyce—first of all says: “Well, spending on tertiary education won’t do anything.” Whoops! He is the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, so that line did not last long.

He had to change his position again; he spends over a billion dollars on it already, so he had to change that position. Then he said “Oh, it’s going to cost too much—it’s going to cost too much.”, but then he realised, of course, that the Government wants to buy tax cuts. It is going to pay for tax cuts somehow, so that argument was not going to wash.

So then he goes on to the third position, which was: “But the money’s not there.” But Bill English knows that it is there, because he has set it aside in future budgets—$1.5 billion.

They are all over the place: no plan, no idea, do not care about the future of New Zealanders.

Then, of course, the Prime Minister’s response is to talk about waitresses, because, apparently, waitresses do not have a future. Apparently, they do not get tertiary education, in spite of the fact that a good quarter of them are already people who are studying. Apparently, on ”Planet Key” waitresses do not do education or training.

Fortunately, he has now promised never, ever to talk about waitresses again for the whole time he is Prime Minister, and I simply make this point: it is not the talking about them that has been the problem.

I want to comment briefly on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, because there are a lot of misleading statements coming out of the Government. If there is one thing that is absolutely clear, it is that the Government does not want a genuine public debate on that agreement.

I want to point out that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is not a strategy. It is an agreement, and there are experts now around the world who no longer even describe it as a free-trade agreement. They are calling it a “managed” trade agreement, because at the end of it—15 years into the agreement, if it comes live—we will still have tariffs, we will still have quotas, and we will not have free trade throughout that trading bloc.

The genuinely independent economic analysis says the benefits for New Zealand are slim. Whether you look at the Tufts University economic analysis or the Peterson Institute for International Economics economic analysis, the benefits for New Zealand are slim.

Let us not kid ourselves: it is interesting that the Peterson Institute for International Economics says that the bulk of the value of that agreement will go to the US, but even in the US it is not expected to generate any new jobs. It is saying: “Let us get prepared for the transition: there are a lot of people who are going to be out of work.”

One of the more dismal analyses for New Zealand even said that we should expect about 6,000 jobs to go under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. I hope that does not happen, but here is the point: there has been an absolute and abject failure of political handling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement by that Government.

It has been diabolical. It would not keep New Zealanders informed while it was being negotiated—would not keep New Zealanders informed while it was being negotiated—dumped it on New Zealand at the end of last year.

Anybody who raises the most mild criticism is shouted down as somehow not knowing what they are talking about.

The Government is a disgrace. For a Government that has been in 8 years, it lacks the confidence of the people to know what is going on and to have a genuine debate, and that is no good at all.

Let us just remind ourselves too about the promises that were made about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement: we are going to have a great deal on dairy. There is no deal on dairy, which is why the value to New Zealand of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement has been downgraded so much. And it is not much better on meat.

It is a managed trade agreement. It locks in agricultural subsidies for the big powers for a longer period of time yet.

That is just the economic stuff, but it is not the economic stuff that is of greatest concern to me. It is the stuff that is nothing to do with free trade. It is the fact that we now have to sign up to other people from other countries having a say on our lawmaking; the fact that under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement our Parliament cannot pass a law to deal with land sales, which, we know, is a major issue for many, many New Zealanders.

It is not just the economic stuff; it is the non-economic factors. And I make no apology. I make no apology for drawing a clear distinction between economic interests and non-economic interests, and they are not tradeable. You cannot set one off against the other.

There is no such thing as trading off the constitutional rights of every New Zealand citizen against the economic interests of others, sparse as they are.

Statecraft has two dimensions to it. It is about the nation States that the Government of the day is in charge of, and it is about our relationship with other nations.

Statecraft does not involve selling out the interests of the nation State that you are responsible for, for the interests of other nations that we interact with. It is a failure of statecraft, not a good thing about it.

I want to say this. I am proud to say that on this side of the House there is a new generation of leaders now emerging who are principled and who reflect the demands of a new New Zealand, whose citizens are looking for leadership that is about doing the right thing for all New Zealanders—[Interruption]

And that just demonstrates how sadly out of touch that miserable Government actually is. It does not care about the people. It is a party of the elite; it is a party of the self-interested. It is not a party of New Zealand’s best interests.

New Zealanders are looking for a party and for a leadership that will talk about the real issues, the long-term issues, the dreams that Kiwis hold dear, and their hopes, and their ability to get ahead and to get an education and to look after themselves and their families, and for them to be part of strong communities so that they can continue to be part of a great New Zealand.

New Zealanders are looking for a new leadership that is about governing for physical and personal security and for economic security as well. Doing that does not require selling out to other, more powerful States than our own.

It is a generation that understands democracy as a process that involves and engages all citizens that does not capture it for the special, the privileged and the elite. That is the challenge we have.

I am proud to lead a party that does have a vision for New Zealand, that is positive about the future of New Zealand, and that does care about the people of New Zealand and the future that they face.

The single biggest issue facing us is the future of work and we are going to deal with it. New Zealanders want to know that we do have a process, that we do have a plan to deal with those whose jobs are facing obsolescence.

The experts tell us that 46 percent of jobs today will be gone in 20 years’ time. This Government knows that; it is getting the same advice. It does absolutely nothing about it—in a last desperate measure.

We are seen to take the issue seriously, and we are talking to our international counterparts, we are talking to international experts; the Government does not care. And its failure to do anything about it, its failure to rise to that issue and to that occasion, speaks volumes. It tells New Zealand that they do not care about ordinary New Zealanders and their future.

Work is changing: technology is emerging now that is going to affect every job, and we need to be doing something about it now.

We need an education system fit for the 21st century —and we will make that investment.

We need an economic strategy that is focused on New Zealanders and what they can do, that attracts investment, that does not kowtow and tug the forelocks to the powerful in hope that some crumbs might fall off the table of other countries, that actually supports New Zealanders and their ambitions—and that is what we are doing.

We need a country whose economy is strong enough to make sure that New Zealanders do get the health care that they need; that everybody does have a warm, dry, and safe home to live in.

You cannot work, you cannot excel at work, you cannot fulfil your dreams, and you cannot look after your family when the roof over your head leaves you cold, damp, and sucking in bacteria and mould because you have a Government that does not care about the quality of our housing.

That is the difference between our two parties. That is the difference between the Labour Party and the National Party.

Ours is a party that understands New Zealanders: their ambitions, their hopes for the future.

Ours is a party that is prepared to invest in that future, to rebuild New Zealand, to rebuild the dreams of New Zealanders and give them confidence and hope for the future.

I look forward to that debate. I look forward to the debate over the next 2 years, as New Zealanders see that there is one party that not only talks to New Zealanders but understands New Zealanders, and reflects their aims and ambitions—and that it is us. And I am looking forward to this year.

Parliament resumes today

Most of those who have Christmas holidays have been back at work for a few weeks.

Members of Parliament resume today in Parliament (ok, some of them have being doing other stuff before now).

Expect the Trans Pacific Partnership to dominate.

The Government will be ramping up their defence/sell job.

Greens and NZ First will continue to oppose it outright, for different reasons.

And Labour may have to try and explain their confusing positions.

On Breakfast this morning Andrew Little repeated that Labour opposes the TPPA but won’t withdraw from it, but they will just defy the bits they don’t like.

That’s one of the worst possible approaches – it doesn’t appease those staunchly anti-TPPA, and would ruin New Zealand’s reputation as a principled and reliable country to make international agreements with.

Awaroa Beach – public, not political

Seven hectares of land, including a beach and bush, at Awaroa Inlet at the top of the South Island is for sale for $2 million.

AwaroaInlet

A Givealittle campaign has so far raised $1.2 million to by this with the intention of giving the land to the Able Tasman National Park.

Givealittle: Pristine beach in the heart of the Abel Tasman

There is a pristine piece of beach and bush in the heart of the Abel Tasman up for private sale. Together we can buy it and gift it to NZ.

Main image

We rang DOC and they said they had been interested in it, but market price was out of their ballpark. We will gift it to DOC, or a suitable trust. The bottom line for this project is that this beautiful piece of NZ is off the market permanently for all to enjoy.

Not really the time for political aspects of this or relying on ‘the government’. Even our NGO’s can’t mobilise in this timeframe. It might simply be vote with your feet before the opportunity passes.

NZ Herald reports:

Last week, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry confirmed that the beach would be added to the Abel Tasman National Park if the online campaign to buy the land succeeded.

Today, Ms Barry said she had instructed conservation officials to speak to the organisers of the campaign about the legal requirements for making the beach part of the national park.

If the target were reached, free access would be secured for the public in perpetuity.

The Department of Conservation has previously said that it is not interested in buying the spot because it is not considered a precious ecological site, but it would be open to receiving the land as a gift.

A spokesman said the department could not justify spending $2 million on 800m of beach and a section of kanuka scrub.

Sounds good. DOC can’t justify buying the land so a public campaign is raising money to buy it and gift it to New Zealand and New Zealanders. They are well on their way to raising the money.

So why the hell has Andrew Little got involved?

Taxpayer money should help buy Awaroa beach: Labour

Today, Labour leader Andrew Little said the Government should make it a Waitangi weekend to remember by agreeing to meet the remaining cost of buying the beach.

“The Prime Minister should follow the lead of thousands of Kiwis who have already stumped up half the purchase price because they see this beach as more than just any old piece of land,” Mr Little said.

“More than 11,000 people have chipped in to the campaign because they care and they see access to as much of our coastline as possible as a birthright.”

A remote beach has suddenly become popular. People are doing what they can to gift to to the public, and that is a popular campaign.

There’s no need for politicians to get involved.

This seems to be a lame attempt by Little to make himself popular by jumping on a popular cause. Does he see this as a prudent use of public money? Or is he trying to make the Government look mean if they don’t pony up with the cash.

Well done Duane Major for your initiative and a successful campaign. There’s no need for politicians to try and pinch your popularity.

 

Little: “we won’t pull out” of TPPA

Andrew Little has caused further consternation and frustration on the left by restating that Labour won’t pull out of the TPPA, despite having sort of having said they oppose it.

Yesterday on RadioLive: Labour won’t pull out of the TPP – Little.

Mark Sainsbury: The thing that sparked all this off of course, the TPPA. Can I just get something straight from you, you’re opposed to us signing it. Does that mean if you become Prime Minister, Labour was in power, you would either pull out of the treaty as it exists, or would refuse to ratify it?

Andrew Little: Ah no, well hold on, we signed it long ago, it was a clerical exercise, it didn’t create the agreement, the agreement was already created.

Created is odd terminology. It wasn’t signed long ago, it was signed by the Trade Minister’s from all twelve participating countries in Auckland the day before.

Andrew Little:  Secondly ratification will happen over the next two years. Our Government has the numbers to do the New Zealand ratification regardless.

Mark Sainsbury: In two years time you could be Prime Minister Andrew Little.

Andrew Little: And so the question then is would we pull out of it, if it’s ratified, all the countries have ratified it would we pull out of it?

We won’t, and the reason why I am making the objection that I am making and the Labour Party is making, and indeed others are about provisions in it that cut across our sovereignty, is that I want to go back and say right there’s things in here that are wrong.

Things in here that we just shouldn’t have, and we will kick up bobsy-die about and put pressure back the way and that’s why New Zealanders are expressing a view about it it’s so important…

Mark Sainsbury: Hang on, it sounds like you’re trying to have a bob each way on this Andrew Little, on one hand you’re saying this is wrong, there’s all sorts of problems with it and things it does cover and flaws in the system, you’re against it. Will you vote against it in the House?

Andrew Little: Yeah we’ve already said um, if there’s, the legi, I mean, let’s go, we don’t get to vote on the TPPA. That’s done and dusted. There’s then legislation that covers some aspects of it that has to come to the House.

Anything in the legislation that cuts across sovereign rights we will oppose. Things that are, that support genuine free trade because we are a free trade party, we will support.

The train has left the station. So what we’re talking about now is how do we protect and preserve New Zealand’s interests under the TPP and that’s what we’re talking about.

Mark Sainsbury: But hang on, you can’t be a lion in opposition, a lamb in Government can you? I mean and it sounds like, while we’re in opposition this is dreadful, this Government sold us out, but if we’re in power we’d do the same thing.

Andrew Little: The Government sold us out on those parts of the TPPA that cut across sovereign rights in New Zealand, the rights for us to make our laws without undue influence and pressure from other interests. That’s what we’re talking about.

Yes there are other aspects that will help some exporters. There’s, you know, we’ve never shied away from that, um but lets be very clear.

The train left the station last October when Tim Groser signed off the agreement in Atlanta with the other Ministers, and what we’re dealing with no is what do we do to get ourselves in ship shape so that when Labour is next in Government and we’re dealing with other countries and big corporates from overseas breathing down our neck they won’t be surprised when we turn around and say ah-ah, this isn’t what New Zealanders want, we’ve opposed this, we’re opposed to it in principle and we’re going to fight against it and we’re going to protect New Zealand’s rights, but we’re not going to cut across um, they um you know our free trade credentials.

Mark Sainsbury: So you’re opposed to it in principle but not in practice.

Andrew Little:  Well if you want to break it down to um, if you’re desperate to have that there’s only one one you know ah one answer to this it’s either completely wrong or completely right. A six thousand agreement isn’t going to be like that.

Um and a free trade a free trade agreement that has some aspects of free trade but then has other things that have absolutely nothing to do with free trade but cut across New Zealand’s rights, I mean it doesn’t break down that simply.

So what I am talking about and what Labour is talking about is doing those things that are going to allow us to protect and preserve ourselves against the worst aspect of the TPPA that are nothing to do with free trade.

Mark Sainsbury:  So you want to fix it, but what I’m just saying, what you’re telling us today here is despite your public opposition to it right now, if Labour was in power, you are Prime Minister, you would not pull New Zealand out of that agreement.

Andrew Little:  Pulling out would would be um is way more difficult than it is to kind of roll off the tongue and lets pull out.

So no, we won’t pull out, but what we will do is fight tooth and nail to stop those things that are undermining New Zealanders’ democratic rights. Cause we have too. Cause we stood for that for decades and we’ll continue to do that.

That’s quite a muddled interview with only vague assurances of protecting rights but stating Labour won’t pull out of the TPPA.

Trying to sound tough while conceding there’s not actually much if anything Labour would actually do.

The clearest thing he said was ‘um’.

Add to this a couple of Little’s responses to a Q & A at Stuff on Thursday:

In what situations do you see New Zealand utilizing the exit clause?

Should the agreement be ratified over the next two years, any question of leaving the TPPA would be a huge call. It is not something that I am contemplating. That’s why I’ve been saying I want the next Labour government to be in a position with a mandate from New Zealanders to re-address the things that cut across our citizens’ rights.

That says much the same thing.

Do you believe the TPP will be amended by the US and become even more draconian for NZ to push it through congress?

Talking to US administration officials and politicians at the end of last year, it was made clear to me that there is no more negotiation, and that the deal is as it is now. Under the US fast track law, there is no scope for individual representatives and senators to pull apart specific clauses and chapters. But in reality, with American politics who would know?

So while Little claims a Labour led government would try and negotiate changes he says here “there is no more negotiation”.

Um.

Labour have backed themselves into a corner on the TPPA and all Little can do is squirm.

 

Trottermania and revolution

Chris Trotter reveals some of the thinking of the revolutionary left in his latest post Making It Stop: Taking Stock Of 4 February 2016, With Some Thoughts About The Way Forward.

First he thanks the organisers of Thursday’s TPPA protest in Auckland.

To Jane Kelsey and Barry Coates I can only say thank you. Demonstrations like the one I marched in on Thursday don’t just happen. They are the product of hours and days and years of hard work, during which people fight not only against loneliness and fatigue, but against the insidious thought that their unceasing efforts might all be in vain.

Observing the glowing faces of Jane and Barry, as they rode down Queen Street on the afternoon of 4 February 2016, it was their selfless commitment to battling on, heedless of setbacks and against all odds, that brought tears to my eyes. Once again, thank you.

One of the features of the protest was the re-emergence of Hone Harawira and the Mana Movement, fighting for Maori sovereignty despite Harawira and others making ignorant or deliberately false claims about it – see Harawira versus TPPA.

Jane Kelsey has been a long time anti-trade political activist who has been working with the Labour Party with their move to a more anti-TPPA stance – see Kelsey briefing Labour on TPPA.

Involved in uniting Kelsey with Labour was Andrew Little’s chief of staff Matt McCarten, who happens to have had close connections with the Mana Party.

Barry Coates was number 17 on the Green Party list for the 2014 election. Recently number 16 Marama Davidson replaced Russel Norman in Parliament so Coates is next in line to be an MP. Here’s his Green candidate profile.

Back to Trotter:

BUT, NOW WHAT? In which direction should the energy generated by the 4 February protest actions be turned?

He suggests a few ongoing protest actions. Then:

The extent to which these core messages have already entered the public’s consciousness has unpleasantly surprised the TPPA’s supporters.

I think he may be overestimating how much the public knows or cares about the TPPA, and there are ample indications the media can see through their spin and have started to call them on it.

Radio NZ, One News and Newshub all showed how little the core messages had entered the protesters’s consciousness let alone the wider public.

They were taken aback at the size and vehemence of the Auckland protests and will already be working on ways to unpick the picture Jane Kelsey and her comrades have embroidered so vividly on the public mind. The Government’s and big businesses’ counter-offensive will have to be met, held, and rolled back.

The comrades versus big business – that’s the core message about what’s driving the TPPA opposition.

I know someone who went to a meeting last week featuring Comrade Kelsey. They genuinely hoped to be informed about the TPPA. They were gobsmacked about how sour and substance-less the messages were.

Strategically, the struggle is between the progressive/patriotic forces operating within the twelve signatory states, and the defenders of the transnational corporations. Obviously, this puts the “Pro” forces at a serious disadvantage. Far from being able to pass themselves off as promoters of the public good, they will emerge from the contest as the big corporations’ fifth columnists, committed to defeating the patriots fighting to prevent the agreement’s ratification.

The people versus the corporations again.

John Key and his Government thus risk entering election year as a collection of figurative “Quislings”, guilty of conspiring against the national interest on behalf of entities without countries, morals or scruples.

If this perception can be driven deep into the electorate’s mind, then National’s chances of re-election will be nil.

Trotter’s comrades dream. It’s a dream they also had last term, with asset sales instead of the TPPA, that became a nightmare when the reality of the election result hit home.

More importantly, the victorious coalition of Labour, the Greens and NZ First will be swept into office with a broad mandate to take on a corporate plutocracy that has ruled without challenge for far too long.

Wonderful. And the world will be rescued from evil at last.

For the first time in over 30 years, there will be a mass political movement dedicated to putting itself “upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus” of the neoliberal machine – and making it stop.

Except this time Labour seem to have decided to fight for the Mana space on the far left, after their worst election result in living memory in part due to a voter reaction against the Internet-Mana.

Comrades were convinced that Internet-Mana would hold the deciding votes after the last election,  and the glorious revolution would be realised.

But instead they crashed, and burned Labour.

Trotter seems to think Labour-Mana is a winning combination along with the Greens and NZ First. I wonder what Winston thinks of all this, he’s politically very astute.

Not long ago Trotter tweeted a link to his post:

Some thoughts on Thursday’s anti-TPPA demo. Has the “Missing Million” woken up?

The ‘missing million’ dream was another failure last election. The ones who vote saw through it.

This seems like just another swing between Trottermanic and Trotterdepressive.

What’s missing is 21st century reality.

Hooton on Labour’s lurch

In his latest NBR column Matthew Hooton claims that Labour has been taken over the far left and is effectively doomed. There’s been some fairly obvious signs of at least part of what he says.

Extreme left completes takeover of Labour

WEEKEND REVIEW Fri 5 Feb 2At least a third of Labour MPs are appalled by the sharp shift to the left. With special audio feature.

That’s behind a paywall but @bryce_edwards has tweeted some details:

“My friend Matt McCarten… introduced me to the word ‘entrism’ in which socialists dissolve their forces into labour parties.”

Hooton writes of “1930s French Trotskyists”, 1960-70s “subversion of the UK Labour Party by Militant Tendency”; says now in happened in NZ

“Labour’s lurch to the extreme left” is visible in party’s radical anti-TPP and new free education policy.

“1/3 of Labour MPs are appalled by the sharp shift to the left but the entrists in the unions and local branches are in control.”

“The moderate centre of the party… plan to launch an offensive against the party’s direction in May, they have no chance of success.”

Hooton’s moderate centre of Labour: Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Parker, Stuart Nash, Clayton Cosgrove, Peeni Henare and Kelvin Davis

After Clark left, “Labour resembled a zombie bank”;

This is to an extent a fair description. They wasted their first term under Goff and floundered through their second term switching to Shearer and then to Cunliffe.

“McCarten and his far-left friends saw an opportunity to be vulture investors”

“McCarten & his far-left friends are well on the way to reducing Labour to… one day be the junior partner in a Green-led Govt”

How did McCarten get the job as the Labour leader’s office chief of staff?

And why did Andrew Little keep him on?

Last week Hooton showed how McCarten played a part in setting up a meeting between Labour staff and Jane Kelsey, with MPs invited to attend. Soon after this Labour seemed to embrace Kelsey’s opposition to the TPPA.

Hooton is probably right, if Labour’s centrist MPs try to rebel they will struggle to succeed. Even if they got Little out of the leader’s spot they wouldn’t have the numbers to get a centrist leader. Unions hold a crucial 20% of the say in selecting Labour’s leader.

And if Hooton is right and there are strong forces in Labour to take them further left then there’s a good chance they will be reduced to minor partners in any potential left wing coalition, or at best a severely weakened major party.

The hard left continue with delusions that they can win popular support, if only a million people with little or no interest in politics suddenly think they are fantastic.

Even if Hooton is only half correct Labour are in serious trouble, and that’s relative to one of their worst elections ever in 2014.

This is bad news for New Zealand politics because there is no other party in a position to pick up their centre support.

 

Labour, protest, trade

Labour mostly kept a distance from the TPPA protests in Auckland yesterday. They have also tried to keep a distance between anti-TPPA and anti-trade. But not everyone in Labour is on the same page.

Andrew Little and Labour dabbled with the TPPA signing and protests but from a distance. They tried to portray their anti-TPPA stance as a principled stand on sovereignty in the same league as New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance:

On this day in 1985 the then Labour Government stood up for the rights of New Zealanders. It refused entry to the USS Buchanan after the US Government would neither confirm nor deny the warship had nuclear capability. Fast forward 31 years and today the Labour Opposition is again standing up for New Zealand sovereignty which the TPPA undermines.

LabourTPPAAgainst

I’m not sure they are onto a winner with this approach, it’s just one of many mixed and muddled messages on the TPPA and is unlikely to get much traction with the TPPA protest movement, nor those who see trade agreements as a necessity.

Little also put out a media release: TPP signing highlights divisions in NZ

The stage-managed signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement at a casino in Auckland today highlights the divisions National’s handling of the deal has caused in New Zealand, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says.

“The Government’s whole management of the agreement has been botched, from the total secrecy to ramming it down people’s throats.

“This has caused a deep divide, and inviting international leaders to sign it just two days before Waitangi – our national day – has added salt to that wound.

“Labour is a pro-free trade party but the TPP goes further than other agreements in undermining our democracy. We shouldn’t need a permission slip from foreign corporations to pass our own laws. That’s why Labour cannot support the agreement in its current form.

“Other countries such as Australia and Malaysia are able to ban foreigners from buying their homes. New Zealand cannot under this deal. That’s just not right.

“Open and transparent debate is crucial to a healthy democracy but the TPP process and John Key’s handling of the deal after it was signed has damaged that.

“Today’s protests are a public sign of the deep discomfort many New Zealanders feel about what is happening in this country. The Government must now seek ways to heal that wound,” Andrew Little says.

This is odd from Little, in particular “John Key’s handling of the deal after it was signed”. The TPPA was only signed yesterday, about the same time this statement seems to have been posted, so dissing Key’s post-signing handling is unjustified.

Litle also did a live chat about the TPPA on Stuff.

If Labour opposes the TPPA why wasn’t the Labour Party more involved with the anti-TPPA protest today?

We’re opposed to the TPPA in its current form because compromises to New Zealand’s sovereignty are not justified by the meagre economic gains. A number of Labour people are involved in today’s protests, including MPs who’ve spoken at rallies around the country.

But Labour involvement with the protest was low profile, especially with Labour’s front bench MPs.

Grant Robertson was at the Wellington protest but wasn’t prominent in Stuff’s: Protesters in Wellington join calls against TPPA signing

Opposition politicians and union members were among those in attendance, with several sharing their concerns about the deal.

Labour finance spokesman Grant Robertson said the TPPA was not a normal trade agreement and required New Zealand to sacrifice too much.

“This is an agreement [where] New Zealand is having to give away the right to make laws and policies in our interests, and that is wrong and we cannot accept that.”

Robertson said the issue was “far from over”, and Kiwis opposed to the deal needed to continue their protests.

“This is not over: as New Zealanders, we have to stand together [and] stand up for our rights to make laws in our own interests.”

Standard Labour talking points on the TPPA. Nothing from Robertson about it on his Facebook page.

Jacinda Ardern seems to have kept her distance from the Auckland protest, and obviously Phil Goff and David Shearer would not be seen supporting the protest.

Meka Whaitiri was there, interesting for Labour’s Associate Primary Industries Spokesperson to be against a trade agreement that will benefit primary industries.

Labour’s trade spokesperson David Clark doesn’t seem to have associated with any protests.

Phil Twyford was at the Auckland protest as this photo with Whaitiri on his Facebook page shows.

TPPATwyfordWhaitiri

Note the US branded jacket with a Labour logo
– with a ‘Corporate Traitor’ sign in the background (hat tip Iceberg)

As Spokesperson for Auckland Issues and Associate Spokesperson for Transport (Auckland and Ports) Twyford could be out of step with Auckland business and export interests there.

Sue Moroney showed her and Labour’s presence via Facebook:

TPPAMoroney

Duncan Garner spotted David Cunliffe:

Cunliffe also posted on his Facebook page with some loyal party lines:

Today, I joined thousands of Kiwis in protest against provisions in the TPPA that would undermine our sovereignty. Great to see people from all walks of life engaged and expressing their views peacefully and thoughtfully.

The New Zealand Labour Party has always stood for free trade and always will – just not at the expense of our sovereignty.

TPPACunliffe

Miriam Bookman Hi David,

I am very disappointed in seeing Labour supporters marching alongside an anti semitic banner, and that you think it appropriate to re-post this image. This is not the Labour I wish to support.

It may be hard to choose your neighbours in a protest march but choice of publicity photos can be an issue.

‪#‎TPPANoWay‬ March down Queen Street Auckland .

Taranaki would presumably cover New Plymouth where Andrew Little has stood twice for Parliament (unsuccessfully, he’s a List MP).

Taranaki-King Country Labour flew a flag for their party:

TPPATaranakiTrade1

The sign in the background appears to be welcoming, but it’s the opposite, as Taranaki-King Country Labour show in another shot.

TPPATaranakiTrade2

That may not be a problem, the Trade Ministers of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, USA or Vietnam may never need to deal with Taranaki-King Country Labour.

 

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