The Government’s “nine years of neglect” meme a bad excuse for under performance

Government ministers keep using the term ‘nine years of neglect’ to attack the last Government (and by association the Opposition), and also as an excuse for not delivering on their own promises.

With a far larger than expected surplus causing some embarrassment due to the lack of urgent action on issues that Labour had claimed needed urgent attention 9before they took over government) this line of attack may continue at least until next year’s pre-budget and budget announcements lead into the election campaign.

The Prime Minister started the year by telling New Zealand that 2019 would be the “year of delivery” but there is another phrase that has become much more synonymous with this Government.

“Nine years of neglect.”

It has become the Government’s go-to defence when its back is against the wall on any given issue.

From Parliament’s question time yesterday Jacinda Ardern showed in her first answer to Question 1 that she is leading the attack/excuse.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, particularly our Government’s $300 million investment in Taranaki Base Hospital announced last week. The Government is investing record amounts into infrastructure, including $1.7 billion set aside in Budget 2019 for upgrading our hospitals and health services, which, of course, after nine years of neglect is much needed.

Question 2:

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The accounts show the coalition Government continues to increase investment in areas that were neglected by the previous Government. Capital investment—including in new hospital buildings, classrooms, roads and rail, and the super fund—was up 13.7 percent over the year. In dollar terms, capital investment in the 2019 year was more than $6.7 billion, building on the $5.9 billion we invested in 2018. This compares with just $3.7 billion in 2017, before we came to office. Our high levels of capital spending demonstrate this Government’s commitment to investing in turning around the infrastructure deficit we inherited after nine years of neglect.

Clark has used the term a lot to make excuses for his slowness to address health issues. Again in question 3:

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Average wages are rising at the fastest rate in a decade. We have, as I said to the member earlier, ensured that those working New Zealanders, through the Working for Families tax credits, do have lower tax to pay. Now, this is the Government that wants to see a strong economy and is investing in making sure that we are also addressing the infrastructure neglect that we inherited—nine years of infrastructure neglect—and we make no apology for investing in our schools, in our hospitals, and in our roads.

And:

Hon Todd McClay: Does he think New Zealanders are paying too much tax?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Average wages are rising at the fastest rate in a decade. We have, as I said to the member earlier, ensured that those working New Zealanders, through the Working for Families tax credits, do have lower tax to pay. Now, this is the Government that wants to see a strong economy and is investing in making sure that we are also addressing the infrastructure neglect that we inherited—nine years of infrastructure neglect—and we make no apology for investing in our schools, in our hospitals, and in our roads.

Again in question 9:

Hon Michael Woodhouse: In that case, why does he continue to blame the previous Government when he believes he has put in sufficient funding to make DHBs viable?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As I’ve said many times before, it will take more than two Budgets to make up for nine long years of neglect. They ran the health system into the ground, and it will take us a wee while to put that right.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: When is he going to take responsibility for the clinical and financial performance of the health sector on his watch rather than blame the previous Government?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’ll take responsibility when I’ve finished cleaning up that Government’s mess.

At the rate Clark is going it will take a long time. Actually growing health needs are likely to continue to struggle against government funding limitations for a long time.

Nanaia Mahut joined the chorus:

Hon Jacqui Dean: How much does she expect rates to rise, in order for councils to fund all of the work she has just described?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: That’s a matter that I can’t be entirely responsible for. The setting of rates is a matter for local councils to determine, and they are mindful that, in balancing the impact on ratepayers with the priority that their people have within their communities, they must balance the books based on what the revenue is that they get from rates. But can I say this: when we came into Government, it was very clear that the local government sector had been left to languish for nine years and the issues of affordability on councils had been neglected. That’s why we embarked on a Productivity Commission report that is looking to provide some solutions, and we’re considering that report and will respond in due course to the cost pressures facing councils.

A report ‘looking to provide some solutions’ at some time in the future, perhaps, is a common theme for this Government.

Later during: Education (School Donations) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

Kiritapu Allan: Barking at cars.

MARJA LUBECK: Really though—barking at cars, all of that. But New Zealanders aren’t as gullible as the National Party probably thinks they are. People know that the flow-on effects from the nine years of neglect and nine years of under-investment are going to take us a little while to fix up. It’s going to take us more than one term to turn that ship around, but we have started to fix a lot of things. We have recently—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am going to call the member back to the bill, which is about school donations. The member has to somehow make the link.

MARJA LUBECK: So much good positive messaging…

Irony that Lubeck seems oblivious to.

It is a dirty meme, both a negative attack campaign, and an excuse for under performance, that is used by and obviously approved by Jacinda Ardern.

This sort of tactic isn’t new – National kept blaming the previous Clark/Labour-led government – but I think that voters would prefer to see more focus on doing things now rather than pointing fingers back into the past. And action.

Ardern promised that 2019 would be the Government’s “year of delivery”. It is becoming apparent that what she and her Ministers are intent on delivering is an ongoing excuse for not delivering anywhere as much as was promised.

It would be a very risky campaign strategy to claim that “It’s going to take us more than one term to turn that ship around” as a reason to be re-elected for a second term.

All incoming governments inherit challenges as a result of previous policies and circumstances.  It isn’t new for Prime Ministers and Ministers to blame past governments, but Labour’s relentless repeating of a lame excuse is wearing increasingly thin.

Next election campaign voters will remember the three years of the incumbent government better than the previous nine years or the nine years before that.

Leave a comment

37 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  16th October 2019

    ‘9 years of neglect’ is a great,effective punchline….much better than -‘Labour did it…too’!

    Reply
    • I disagree. It’s an overused lame excuse line.

      Especially on health people are far more interested in prospects for decent levels of care in the next nine months than nine years some time in history.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  16th October 2019

        well even more overused…’guided us through the GFC and the Christchurch earthquakes’!!
        The lame,default position for National’s ‘achievements’ in 9 years.2 Knighthoods to…boot.

        Reply
        • Yeah, but that’s history and largely irrelevant to most people now.

          People want action now, not moaning about the past, especially when it’s lame political pointscoring.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  16th October 2019

            So after Key was still blaming the previous government up till 2016 ( 8 yrs),suddenly a journo thinks Labour is stretching it after nearly 2 years.
            No one would have been brave to say ‘Lame’ to Keys face and stayed in their job
            Also Walls is an NBR reporter – who seems to also doing double duty with NZME
            https://nz.linkedin.com/in/jason-walls-78355299

            Reply
            • I remember National and Key were often criticised for not doing anything or enough on a number of things. Especially housing. Minimum wage. Paid parental leave. Tax rates. Many more.

              I certainly criticised them. Labour and Greens also criticised them incessantly.

              It’s nonsense to claim that journalists didn’t criticise Key.

        • Zedd

           /  16th October 2019

          tautoko Blzr 🙂

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  16th October 2019

            Labour/Coal’s achievements; KiwiBuild, light rail, end of child poviddy, fair wage for shopworkers, capital gains tax (dropped because of public anger; they overestimated the meanspiritedness of the public), the quick response to the Youth Camp where underage teenagers were turned loose on unlimited alcohol with predictable results, the PM learning about sex assault allegations in her own party after these had only been in the news for a week or more, granting a drug smuggler and a serial drink driver residence….

            Reply
  2. Marja Lubeck

     /  16th October 2019

    The only irony really is that the ‘barking at cars’ etc comment addressed at a negative opposition, was made in a debate on what really is a very positive investment by the Government. Giving more money to schools, so the schools don’t have to ask the parents for donations. However, all the opposition could do is try put a negative spin on it, and vote against it!

    Reply
    • I agree that the opposition do far too much petty barking at cars and negative criticising – I cringe at Simon Bridges criticising the residency issue this morning.

      But continual barking at a car that drove past 2-11 years ago is at least as bad as current negative attacks.

      Reply
    • NOEL

       /  16th October 2019

      Paid my Grandchildren’s fees last month to assist my solo Dad son.
      One teacher at another school I know during a discussion on fees suggested that I would be better off putting it into a negotiated fund as poor parents don’t pay pleading poverty and the more affluent claim it’s donation and also don’t pay.
      The school trip denial whip no longer works with either group.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  16th October 2019

        It is a Donation . The school cant force payment. Thats been the case for decades.
        This is the first government in decades to deal with it.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  16th October 2019

          By making everyone else pay for it, whether they have children or not. The fact that something is free for one person just means that someone else is paying for it.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  16th October 2019

            Marja Lubeck seems unaware that she is paying for this. Some people still don’t seem to know that any money that the government spends comes from OUR taxes. It’s our money; the government doesn’t have any money of its own !

            Reply
          • Fight4NZ

             /  17th October 2019

            The Govt spends “our” money. Obviously. Exactly why civilization invented governments.
            Just as obvious. One person with no children contributes to the welfare of other’s children. That same person will use roads more or medical system more or have the means to do The Great Walks or in some other way benefit more than others from Gov’t provided assets and services.
            Regrettably the hysterical “its my money” crowd are too myopically self-centered to see a bigger picture.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  17th October 2019

              It’s not a question of hysteria; it’s a question of the government acting as if it’s generously giving people things when the things are actually being paid for by taxpayers who are, in many cases, subbing those better off than themselves. Some people seem unable to work out that the only money that a government has is the people’s own money and that nothing is ‘free’. If the government spends money on one thing, it can’t on another.

              You might not mind your money going to someone whose income is many times higher than yours. If you don’t, you are very generous. I find it abhorrent that some people are so far below the poverty line that the poverty line looks like wealth and are paying taxes so that those whose incomes are many times more don’t have to.

  3. Marja Lubeck

     /  16th October 2019

    Have a read and perhaps provide comment on how this long list of achievements could possibly be described as ‘under performance’… https://www.labour.org.nz/government_achievements

    Reply
    • Every Government accumulates a long list of achievements – including the last Government that you accuse of neglect.

      So of course the current Government has done many things.

      But slowness over dealing with things that had been claimed to be urgent, like housing and mental health, and failing to do much at all after getting recommendations like from the Tax Working Group, leave the Government open to criticisms of under performance.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  16th October 2019

        yet to see a long list of National’s achievements.Do you have one?

        Reply
        • Every Government achieves things in each term.

          The Key/National Government in particular dealt with the recession New Zealand was heading into and the Global Financial Crisis very well in general (the current Government is a beneficiary of the surplus they returned to).

          They also dealt with the Christchurch earthquakes – imperfectly but mostly adequately.

          They have been credited with significant progress on Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

          There’s a bit of a list here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_National_Government_of_New_Zealand

          But there are many other things that were done and achieved – some failures, some questionable, but overall I think we came out of their nine years better off than going into it.

          Reply
          • Fight4NZ

             /  17th October 2019

            I have great difficulty with the claim that the GFC etc were dealt with well.
            What I saw was a Cycle Track and a flag referendum. All govt inputs to the economy slashed eg business innovation support, infrastructure outside of roads, environmental governance. A return to selling off anything that isn’t nailed down – public Electricity and water supply, private residential property and Dairy industry access in particular.
            “9 years of neglect ” is overused but also true at an unprecedented level.

            Reply
        • Duker

           /  16th October 2019

          Tax working group….National had one of those too. Guess what they ignored it too. But it’s lame to point that out isn’t it.
          The housing crisis couldn’t be blamed by Key on the previous government, so he denied it even existed and blamed Clark for good measure …in 2016
          https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2016/08/john-key-blames-helen-clark-for-housing-crisis.html
          And again
          https://www.nbr.co.nz/article/key-blames-labour-barrier-foreign-buyer-ban-b-176204
          I don’t even have hours in the day to cover the first 3 yrs of Key.
          This is what happens when they let guys who were students back before 2014 write press gallery stories

          Reply
        • Marja Lubeck

           /  17th October 2019

          Exactly. At least this Government has published ours. Seems National expects us to do in two years what they didn’t do in 9 years.

          Reply
          • Political journalists and I think many voters expect the current Government to do what they promised to do in their first term. It is widely perceived that they are underperforming on their own commitments.

            Reply
      • Blazer

         /  16th October 2019

        ‘well even more overused…’guided us through the GFC and the Christchurch earthquakes’!…how predictable are you!!

        Reply
    • Gezza

       /  16th October 2019

      Hosking talks about yet another slippery failure to perform that must be disappointing Labour’s supporters this morning.

      Mike Hosking: Why even Jacinda Ardern has gone cold on Fair Pay Agreements
      https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12276891

      I often have a look at Question Time at some point during the day, sometimes on the Parliament online site at a cinvenient time, & usually at any question to the PM, plus any others on any issue that’s currently headlining.

      The 9 years of neglect slogan is a total turn off now. It’s been over done. It happens.

      The “barking at every passing car” label, for some reason, always seems appropriate where someone’s doing it, although for me it will always be associated first with Andrew Little, but now also with Simon Bridges, who consistently puts on the same “earnestly concerned” look & does the same thing.

      One watches whatever the government or PM announces on the telly, & then waits for the obligatory 3 second sound bite by the Opposition leader, mindlessly criticising whatever it is, on autopilot.

      Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  16th October 2019

    Farrar has been running posts on all the supposedly critical wellbeing statistics that have got worse under this incompetent CoL that spouts platitudes and does nothing.

    Reply
  5. David

     /  16th October 2019

    There is a connection between the large surplus and Labours constant announcements about investing in this and that. They announce it, allocate a budget but then have no clue how to actually deliver anything much so the surplus of unspent money keeps rising at a rate similar to the health waiting list, the housingvwaiting list, the mental health waiting list etc.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  16th October 2019

      National ran deficits David.The COL are clearly better financial managers.

      Reply
      • When National took over in 2008 as New Zealand was heading into recession, and the world economy turned to custard. If the Clark government had stayed in power they would have run deficits then, and more after the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes.

        National was credited (fairly) with then gradually reducing deficits and eventually returning to surplus, so Labour took over with sound finances. They have benefited from them, and have done well to maintain (and increase) them.

        Some of the loudest criticism of Labour/Robertson/Ardern is that they are not increasing spending enough – and a lot of that criticism is coming from the left who are disappointed with Labour’s under performance and failure to deliver.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  17th October 2019

          Ok how much was Nationals deficits. And extra $60 – $70 bill of borrowing. Christchurch was $10 bill or so but the rebuild has been a big economic boost, buying up centre Christchurch land for the Frame to protect land owners land values not such a good idea.
          Tax increases like the GST increase , a broken election promise , probably slowed the recovery. New 4 lane highways that don’t have a decent BCR aren’t seen as a way to rebuilt the economy especially as they did sweet FA about the housing crisis after opening the immigration taps

          Reply
    • Duker

       /  16th October 2019

      Unspent money ?
      On a cash basis the figures released showed spending was $0.7 bill more than income , thus $700 mill of extra borrowing.
      The economy is at max capacity as far as building stuff goes, so impossible to spend more without blowing out construction prices and wages.

      Reply
  6. Duker

     /  16th October 2019

    Another blame National moment coming up – just like all the rest its TRUE but that just makes it LAME.
    Second NZDF officer points to former Defence Minister amid ‘cover-up’ allegations
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=12277147
    ‘This week, Blackwell told the inquiry he received a copy of the 2011 report from his senior SAS officer in Afghanistan and had briefed Coleman’s predecessor, Wayne Mapp – the Defence Minister from 2008 to late 2011 – in the Beehive soon after.”
    “Retired [Captain] Christopher Hoey – the director of co-ordination between the minister and the NZDF – on Wednesday told the inquiry a register showed he had received the report from Blackwell in September 2011.
    “I am quite certain I would have given the documents to the minister straight away,” he said.
    ‘No surprises’ and how it really works
    “considered important because of sensitivity around Afghanistan following the deaths of New Zealand soldiers and ahead of the 2011 election.

    These are the sorts of storys that only appear prominently on NZH late in the day, and become hard to find next morning ( sometimes with ‘late edits’) I shall keep a full copy

    Reply
  1. The Government’s “nine years of neglect” meme a bad excuse for under performance — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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