Yesterday David Cunliffe had his second Q + A session at The Standard. It was heavily moderated with the usual warnings:
lprent: Stay broadly on topic, and be aware that I will be fully moderating every comment.
The usual rules apply – don’t be stupid. I will not be allowing boring speeches on commenter’s own pet topics, the author sets the topic.. People who make “when did you kill your mother” style accusations may find that they get a 3 month ban for being really stupid.
Because of the venue, orchestration and threats it was dominated by patsy questions, and most answers were predictable parroting of well worn talking points, but it was an interesting attempt by Cunliffe to reach out.
This is communication with Labour’s base that has an interest and involvement in politics. It will be more difficult engaging with the disillusioned and disinterested.
David Cunliffe Questions and Answers
Firstly, it’s really good to be back at the Standard – in the last few weeks our opponents have made it clear that they’re going to play a rough game this election. But we are strong enough to withstand dirty tricks and to focus on what matters to our people – our work, our homes and our families. I’m confident we can win this election and make real change by working together.
Secondly, you’re all welcome to come to my Congress speech in Wellington next Sunday where I’ll be outlining the kind of change we need to make. You can click here to register.
Last Wednesday David Parker and I released our alternative budget. It includes the provision of a billion dollars a year to ensure inflation and demographic increases in health, education, and other social services are accounted for.
Unlike National, we’ll be upfront with our policies in these areas – new policies will come from new spend.
We’re also going to raise the top rate to 36% for every dollar earned over $150,000 a year and we’ll raise the trust rate to the same amount. This will raise as much revenue as raising the top rate further and will cut any incentive to hide income in trusts.
We’re also cracking down on tax avoidance by multi-nationals. We’re doing this because we believe that to get a fair society we need everyone to pay their fair share.
We have carefully shown what we have available to spend on election policy and where we are funding it from. Again, unlike National, we are going into the election campaign with a transparent and accountable position. We have a plan for a fair society, a society based on strong and progressive values – Kiwi values – and we know how we will pay for it.
The kind of values expressed in our Christchurch housing policy that we announced on Friday which states our commitment to building 10,000 new houses, 3,000 of which will be set aside for affordable rentals while the housing crisis is fixed, and another 100 that will be used as emergency housing.
In that announcement we also committed to increasing the Canterbury accommodation supplement by up to $50 a week – Christchurch has some of the most expensive rents in the country, the accommodation supplement hasn’t kept up, and people in Christchurch are suffering. That’s not right and Labour will fix it.
Over the next few months we’ll be releasing more policy focused on making a positive change to New Zealand and building a progressive and egalitarian society, but for now I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and answering your questions. We’re going to win this together.
Demelza: Provincial NZ is struggling, and CRI like AGresearch are making scientists etc redundant when we should be building our research capabilities. How will labour change this approach to science and to AgResearch future footprint plan?
All the evidence is the whole of New Zealands suffers when regions aren’t strong. We’re all in this together.
We desperately need to shift our economy from National’s short term focus on raw materials that hold us hostage to the commodity cycle, and move towards to value-added exports which create high paying jobs in New Zealand.
Our Economic Upgrade is that plan: https://www.labour.org.nz/economicupgrade
The essence of the Economic Upgrade is in boosting the three Is: High levels of local Investment, increased Innovation to give Kiwi business a competitive edge, and strategic Industry and regional development to create good jobs in every region of New Zealand.
Take for example the Forestry and Wood Products section which includes:
- A ‘tax deferral’ for investment in plant and equipment in the forest and wood products industry, by means of an accelerated depreciation provision.
- Reintroduce an R&D tax credit to encourage stronger private investment in high-quality R&D.
- Ensure that public science works to further develop wood-plastic composites.
- Work with the industry and BRANZ to develop building standards for wood construction to accommodate advanced wood construction technologies.
- Support iwi forestry clusters to analyse options for their land.
- Support universities, polytechnics and wānanga, and the forestry ITO to further contribute to the industries and communities they serve.
Red Stag Timber has said that if our Forestry upgrade went ahead they’d build new plant and that would create new jobs in regional North Island.
To specifically touch on AgResearch, David Clark has been doing stellar work with his petition to save Invermay. Under a Government I lead Invermay will stay: http://www.davidclark.org.nz/2014/06/labour-will-save-invermay/
BM: Do you agree with Nationals just announced roading plan. If you don’t, are there any aspects of the roading plan that you would push through if labour did gain power?
This is an election u-turn from National. We’ve been calling for the funding they took from rural roading to be restored for a while. That said, I’d like to see whether the numbers stack up on the projects they’ve picked. Labour allocated more to regional roads than National has.
The bigger picture is that that National’s trying to pass this off as regional development. I think most Kiwis will be wondering why they haven’t come up with a decent plan for jobs in the regions. A proper regional development plan would focus on sustainable jobs, based on getting the best from each region’s potential.
blue leopard on behalf of freedom:
1: Mr Cunliffe, with Drones now being an unavoidable technology, will Labour commit to refusing to support the US Drone Strike missions and insist that any support to the US Drone missions supplied via any resource from New Zealand is for search & rescue missions only?
2: Mr Cunliffe, with life long access to education being a critical foundation for any society, will Labour fully re-instate all Education funding that has been removed since 2008, including Adult Education programmes and all Tertiary assistance for mature students?
I’ve been very clear. Labour has always supported the UN Security Council as the place to decide multilateral peace and security issues. I’ve also been clear that we will not send combat troops to Iraq. New Zealand expects any operations to be compatible with international law.
 What is your policy on the mass secret surveillance of Kiwis by GCSB and the Five Eyes Programme? What changes will you make?
 Will you legislate that Charter schools that receive public funds (a) Can not receive more public funding than public schools (b) Should abide by the rules as required by the education department such as trained/qualified teachers, subject to ERO and public audit of performance and accounts (c) should abide by (a) and (b). Otherwise, no public funds will be available to them.
 Is is correct to say that National focuses on Key’s cult personality while Labour will focus on policies and the people?
Under Labour there will be a full and substantive review of the security services, early in our term.
We’ll also repeal the TICS Bill and the new GCSB legislation, and replace them with laws that protect New Zealanders privacy and freedoms.
There will be no surveillance of a New Zealand citizen, by NZ security services, without a judge’s warrant. End of story.
Jackal: Given the level of public concern about the impact on Maui’s dolphins from oil exploration in the West coast Marine Mammal Sanctuary, is Labour prepared to review their support for seismic surveys and drilling in the sanctuary?
We’ve taken a clear position on this. We’re calling it for the dolphins. Maui’s Dolphin is a critically endangered species.
It’s up to the industry to prove that it is safe before they start. This is a high bar for them to meet, but we’re immensely concerned about Maui’s which is why Labour created the sanctuary and stopped set-netting.
That’s not an accurate description of how this issue unfolded fore Labour last week. A Labour candidate led a protest against a National MP, Cunliffe made an initial statement in support but modified that somewhat when Labour’s past support of offshore exploration was highlighted.
Pasupial: Mr Cunliffe, You state; “I’m confident we can win this election and make real change by working together”. My Questions relate to what parties you feel that you could work together with:
Would you be willing to accept Internet/ MANA Party MPs as part of a Labour-led government if that gave you the numbers to form a progressive coalition post-election (and a mutually satisfactory relationship could be negotiated)?
How about; a United Future & Maori Party MP(s), if they have votes to offer and were willing to negotiate support (I’m assuming a yes for both; Green Party and NZF, a no for; National, ACT & CP, please correct if I’m mistaken)?
In our party’s constitution Labour’s first core principle is “All political authority comes from the people by democratic means including universal suffrage, regular and free elections with a secret ballot.”
We won’t be doing pre-election deals. It’s up to New Zealanders to decide who they send to Parliament.
After the election I’ll talk with anyone committed to changing the Government. It’s fair to say that won’t include National, Act or Colin Craig’s group.
Interesting that he only ruled out three parties.
- Health Benefits Ltd’s approach to cost cutting is largely through centralisation (kitchens, finance, procurement jobs) which worsens the de-population/over population raised in the first question. There’s also its well publicised poor relationship with DHBs and the ‘ponzi scheme’ charge in the media recently.
- DHBs: They are encouraged to co-operate on a regional basis, but how far can this go without more amalgamations, and are they a legacy from a market driven model that is basically defunct?
- How high on the agenda will regional development be, and would you appoint a minister of regional development?
I am very committed to regional development – so much so that as leader I have taken the portfolio for myself. There will absolutely be a Minister of Regional Development in my Government.
Annette King’s exposure of what’s been going on with Health Benefits Ltd has raised some very disturbing issues. We need to get to the bottom of what’s been happening. Annette will be announcing our Health policy soon.
blue leopard: There is quite a lot of criticism expressed re the retirement age by people here on the Standard – how is it that National can put forward we can afford it, yet Labour are saying we can’t?
Are there going to be exceptions for those doing manual work?
Will people who retire early be penalized financially or not?
When is that policy’s details coming out?
Labour’s committed to a sustainable, universal New Zealand Superannuation system – which means every New Zealander is ensured of dignity in retirement. We will never sell that principle out.
To be sustainable, New Zealand has to be able to pay for it without burdening the next generational with crippling levels of tax or debt. The reality is New Zealanders are living longer; life expectancy increased around 3 years during the 9 years of the last Labour Government.
We think it’s important to be honest with New Zealand about the need for very gradual change, so that people can be prepared – while also being assured that universal super will be there when they need it.
The fact is John Key is not being upfront about this, and he knows it. So, under Labour the age will gradually rise by one month a year from 2020.
Noone currently at or near retirement would be affected.
Equally importantly, we will protect those who cannot continue to work in their current jobs or because of physical hardship, where they need financial support by making available a transitional benefit at no lower value than NZ Super.
We are also committed to pre-funding through the very successful Cullen Fund, and we recently announced our investment plan in our fiscal package: http://labour.org.nz/fiscalplan
This is one of Labour’s most contentious policies amongst left wing supporters, as shown by a response from KJT: “This, more than any other policy, has convinced me that Labour is still no more than National lite, re-arranging the deck chairs of Neo-liberalism just a little. What happened to ‘not cutting our legs off’, instead of just ‘adding anaesthetic’?”
ropata: Recent elections have been little more than a side show of the current PM goofing around and glibly pulling ‘facts’ from his a*** in order to win a TV debate. How are you going to combat the “smiling assassin”, when sober debate doesn’t win ratings?
I’m going to be straight-up with New Zealanders. Everywhere I go Kiwis tell me they want to see politicians putting the country and its people first. They want to see real solutions to the problems in their lives. We’ve done a huge amount of policy work and we’ll be making the case for positive change.
kiwigunner: How would you spend the $358m that National have found for Education. Can you categorically say that National Standards will go under the new Labour government?
On that first question you’ll have to wait until we release our education policy, but we do have serious concerns about National’s policy. On the second question. Yes.
phillip ure: research done by treasury showed a small financial-transaction tax on inter-bank/financial-intitutions’ transactions..wd raise enough revenue to enable gst to be abolished..if we chose to use it for that purpose..
..given the public disquiet at the enormous amounts of profits being taken out of the country by those banks..
..do you think the timing is right..and that you wd get public support for such a policy..?
..and will you implement a financal transaction tax..?
A financial transaction tax is something that needs further careful consideration in an international context. We are monitoring global developments with interest.
Our revenue policies recently announced focus on closing down avoidance loopholes and ensuring everyone pays their fair share – including multinational corporations.
ropata: In the light of recent disasters such as Rena, Pike River, and ongoing fatalities in forestry, can you please reinstate some of the “back office” functions of government (ie safety inspectors) that the current govt has cut?
Rena, Pike River, forestry fatalities and leaky buildings all have a common cause: deregulation or self-regulation of commercial activities.
There need to be clear rules, properly overseen, to ensure that health and safety rights and consumer rights are robustly protected from the short term profit pressures of the market.
idlegus: I realise you are a very busy man but will you show yourself in the suburbs, do walk abouts, door knocking, show your face & meet ppl, i mean normal ppl not just business ppl. especially in places like south dunedin. thank you & good luck!
I do that every week, all around the country – and I love it! Getting face to face contact with people wherever they are in their communities is one of the parts of this job that gives me the most satisfaction.
fisiani: I am interested in what you would reverse or tolerate.
1,Will you abolish the 90 day right to prove yourself act?
2. Will you stop the harvest of West Coast wind blown timber?
3. Will you stop Partnership schools and National standards?
The 90 Day fire at will bill is a disgrace. I’ll axe it in our first 100 days.
If he gets enough support to do that from other parties.
ropata: Will you be reviewing the effectiveness & democratic functions of local government (I’m thinking ECan and Auckland SuperCity) and their stewardship of public assets such as Ports of Auckland and water quality in Canterbury?
Yes we will be reviewing these. It’s important that central Government respects local democracy.
ECan should be returned to democratic governance as soon as possible.
It seems that under the current government, irrigation rights come before democratic rights.
politikiwi: Do you feel the “war on drugs” – in terms of treating drugs as a criminal justice issue rather than a health issue – is working? If not, what do you plan to do to improve outcomes?
I want to see more resources devoted to treatment of drug addiction, and Iain Lees-Galloway has been doing excellent policy work in this area. I’m not going to pretend, though, that drug abuse isn’t a gateway into criminal activity for too many users.
Sacha: Labour’s policies so far seem well thought-out. Communication of them has been a worry, however. How do you plan to improve that?
More Q&As on The Standard for a start!
I’ll be visiting every region of the country personally, and we’ll of course be communicating through every available medium.
As well as that, dedicated Labour activists will be engaging in every community the length and breadth of New Zealand.
I also recognise the importance of social media and we will continue to be active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Stephanie Rodgers: Would your government set benefits at levels which allow people to live with dignity, and ensure benefits increase to match rises in the cost of living?
Will Labour in government stop categorising beneficiaries who are unable to work as “Jobseekers” – and the subsequent harassment from WINZ to justify their situation/seek jobs they can’t do?
I’m not going to announce our welfare policy here. But what I can tell you is that the systematic victimisation and demonisation of beneficiaries we’ve seen under National has absolutely no place in Labour’s values or a Labour Government.
William Rea: Did know that there are officially about 400,000 adult New Zealanders who currently use cannabis, and also that NZ has the world’s highest arrest rate for cannabis ‘crimes’. Isn’t this a huge waste of Police time?
We see drug use as a health issue but our position on drug law reform is a conscience issue.
Generation Zero: Climate change is an issue that affects everyone regardless of their social, economic and cultural background. But the effects of climate change tend to be unequally distributed to those who are vulnerable to its effects such as the poor, young and the elderly.
–What do you think we can do to help mitigate negative effects of climate change on vulnerable New Zealanders?
Awareness of climate change is driving significant economic changes globally and this will only intensify as more and more countries begin cutting back emissions. This situation could be a great opportunity or a real risk for New Zealand.
–In 2007, Prime Minister John Key said “Action on climate change is also needed to ensure the prosperity of New Zealand’s economy in an increasingly carbon-conscious world”. Is this still accurate?
–What sectors of our economy would you target to reduce emissions and reduce the risk of climate change?
–Current government policies will see carbon emissions rise significantly by 2030. The Greens have introduced a carbon tax to combat carbon emissions. Do you see this as a effective way of tackling climate change?
Almost 50% of New Zealand’s carbon emissions are due to transport. Public transport, lifestyle/urban planning changes and technology offer ways to reduce emissions. Better transport solutions also have strong co-benefits for health, community cohesiveness and commuting efficiency.
–Is building more motorways instead of investing in public transport consistent with tackling climate change?
–Public transport is an effective way to reduce carbon emissions and combat global warming. Will your transport policies prioritise climate action?
Climate change is the greatest environmental threat we face. I want to reaffirm my personal commitment to strong action against climate change.
I’m a father as well as a politician – and I don’t think it’s acceptable to pass this problem onto our children without doing everything we can to protect them from its consequences.
The science is indisputable, and the consequences are known to be somewhere between serious and catastrophic.
You’d have to be totally irresponsible to withdraw New Zealand from international negotiations.
Action on climate change needs to be part of a broader strategy to transition our economy to a low carbon, high value, renewable energy future.
Part of that is a properly functioning ETS with a real carbon price, and decent public transport.
There are many wins to be had in that process. What we cannot do is stick our heads in the sand and pretend the problem will go away – as the current government is doing.
There’s been much talk on “a broader strategy to transition our economy to a low carbon, high value, renewable energy future” but little in the way of specifics of what, how and what the impact would be.
Descendant Of Sssmit:
- Does the Labour Party believe in an 8 hour working day, 40 hour working week any more and will they take any steps to reinstate this to all workers if they do?
- Last time Labour were in power they re-instated the $20-00 per week cuts back onto NZS. Will they now immediately do the same for other benefits, and remove the youth rate as well that was moved from 18 to 24 – effectively another cut?
Yes we do. We’ll be overhauling industrial law to make sure workers and their unions can get a fair go.
Tired: There seems to be a common theme when people talk of Labour and that is its inability to run a successful economy. How will you go about changing this misconception?
That’s a nonsense – and even the National Party spin machine knows it.
Over a generation Labour governments have overseen higher levels of economic growth than National governments.
During our last term in office we ran fiscal surpluses in 9 years out of 9, and cut net Crown debt to zero.
What’s more, Labour takes a broad based view that doesn’t pretend that fiscal surpluses are the only target that matters. We will reduce unemployment to 4%. We will pay off National’s record debt by the end of our second term. We will grow good jobs with higher wages in all our regions.
We have the plan and the team to deliver on this promise in a robust and real way. No reader of The Standard should allow themselves to be sucked in by National’s hot air on this issue.
I don’t think there’s much chance of most Standard readers being “sucked in by National’s hot air” on any issue.
Syed: Why Labour party becomes so strict on immigration?
Labour has long been committed to an open and multicultural society that values every individual, no matter where they come from, and seeks to build strong integrated communities.
We’re committed to a great immigration system, we’re a nation of migrants and I’m a huge supporter of multiculturalism. We announced our immigration policy yesterday, I’d urge you to take a look at it.
That’s a disappointingly vague and trite response.
Melissa webster: can you tell me your stance on the recriminilisation of street prostitution that has been proposed by New Zealand firsts private member bill?
I’m against this New Zealand First Bill. The existing law already envisages local government being sensitive to the needs of the local community.
A good response clearly stating a position with a brief justification.
1.after the election win will you make a move to abolish the coat-tail rule and lower the percentage for Parties to 2-3% to be able to enter Parliament?
2. would you look into the issue of political donations and maybe do away with private funding of political Parties in favour of a basic state funding for all?
We’ll abolish coat-tailing and lower the threshold if we can get support to do so.
We will also be pushing for greater transparency around donations.
This time Cunliffe acknowledges that support for his preference will be required.
sdm: As somebody with a mortgage, children, and a reasonably family income (between 130 and 150K), what reasons would you give me and my family to vote for Labour
The promise of a fair society in which everyone has the chance to do well for themselves.
He skipped other questions, he would have been better to have skipped this one too rather than answer like that. How can any politician deliver on a promise of “a fair society”.
Alan Davey: Is it possible to stop the biased reporting of political news by our media outlets. This has been a bain of Labours re-election battle and has misled many New Zealanders into believing results that just aren’t true. IE. The manipulation of poll results by Fairfax Media.
The freedom of the press is really important. I have huge respect for New Zealand’s journalists. Obviously, at times, journalists get things wrong – everyone does.
An ironic response considering the amount of Labour criticism of media lately, particularly at The Standard where amongst many claims it’s been said there’s a conspiracy between National and the media to defeat Labour.
That was Cunliffe’s last answer. It was responded to by Anne:
Yes, there are journalists deserving of respect and praise David. There are also journalists who are deserving of nothing but contempt. And in recent times some of the latter seem to have had the upper hand. It is important to acknowledge their existence so that voters hopefully become aware of them, and will accordingly judge their utterances.
Apart from that piece of minor criticism, thank-you for an enlightening hour. It has only served to sharpen the huge difference between yourself and John Key.
John Key – shallow, vindictive, dishonest, greedy and a pathological liar.
David Cunliffe – intellectual substance, caring, principled and honest.
Most at The Standard will agree with Anne’s summary of Key and Cunliffe, but that is not reflected in polls.
Cunliffe needs to discover how he can project intellect, care, principles and honesty to the wider voting public. He needs to do more than cut and paste PR talking points.