The MoU paradox

Vernon Small brings up a reminder of the paradox of the Labour-Green Memorandum of Understanding in the aptly headlined Ready or not, it’s election year and the annual theatrics have started – a key aim of the MoU is to present Labour and Greens as a joint ‘government-in-waiting’, but it terminates on election day, before the haggling over coalition arrangements begins.

But the two parties are sailing into a paradox that will only be made more stark by their closer co-operation.

If they are a presenting themselves as a “government in waiting” why does their memorandum of understanding (MOU) formally expire on election day?

We all know why, of course. Because as much as the Greens would like a more enduring pact, Labour does not want to indelibly ink a deal ahead of polling day for fear that will ostracise Winston Peters and NZ First – and give him reason to opt for National if he holds the balance of power.

It makes the sales pitch of a two-party government in waiting too cute by three quarters.

It is a contradiction the parties ought to resolve before election year gets very much older.

Perhaps Labour have indicated a resolution may be coming – Andrew Little attacked Winston Peters over his theatrics over Pike River.

Labour has to compete with NZ First for votes, especially any that National might shed, but Labour will also be keen to get back support that NZ First has been picking up.

The union of Labour and Greens will be emphasised in a week with their joint ‘state of the nation’ act.

While Greens will be pleased with this arrangement, according to Small some in Labour are not so sure.

But the most significant move yet has been that decision by Labour and the Greens to step up the momentum of their agreement to cooperate, with a joint “State of the Nation” event in Auckland next week.

There were misgivings in Labour over the move, with some questioning the wisdom of doubling down on their memorandum of understanding, which had already seen leader’s speeches at their respective annual conferences.

The concern is that greater and greater efforts to present as “one Opposition, two parties” will alienate centrist Labour-leaning voters who are spooked by the Greens – and to be frank there are those inside the Labour caucus who would rather not tie the party to the Greens, full stop.

Labour’s problem is that their support has slipped so much they have a couple of choices:

  1. Concede major party status, accept that they can’t compete with National on their own any more, so semi-join with another party.
  2. Revitalise, rebuild and make a determined effort to be the best supported party again.

They have tried the latter a number of times – including trying four leaders – without any  success.

So last year Labour chose the former, hence the MoU. It is too late to change before this year’s election.

The MoU paradox is still there, despite the Peters attack and the planned joint ‘state of the country’ speeches.

The latter could give us a better indication about the state of the parties, the state of the MoU, and whether Labour is prepared to stop trying a bob each way on NZ First versus Greens.

It would be a nonsense if Labour and Greens campaign together as they are, with the degree of togetherness that next week’s speech emphasises, but to leave prospects of a Labour-Green coalition  up in the air as a maybe, if it suits Labour at the time.

It hasn’t been the game changer some predicted, but Labour is harming their prospects if they buy into Winston’s ridiculous persistence in refusing to let voters know in advance what coalition arrangements they rule in and rule out.

We know that the Greens have to go with Labour if they want to be a part of Government unless Green Party members have a major change of heart about dealing with National.

Perhaps we will get clarity on Labour’s post-election aims from Little’s speech next week, alongside Metiria Turei.

If not the paradox will keep highlighting Labour’s duplicity.

Labour sleepwalking towards a nightmare election

Labour really needed to start election year strongly. There is no sign of that so far.

Labour had a fairly ordinary year in 2016. And ordinary wasn’t good enough.

Andrew Little seems to have established himself as unchallenged leader and has kept the Labour caucus under control, but he has failed to grow into the job.

Mid year Labour signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party, with the apparent aim of presenting a joint approach as a government-in-waiting. Some said that it was a game changer. It seems to have changed nothing – to the contrary, it has entrenched Labour as a struggling mid level party that requires another party as a crutch.

Labour had some successes later in the year. They were very pleased with their efforts in the local body elections, especially in Wellington (ex leader Phil Goff managed in Auckland more on his own).

They had a successful by-election in Mt Roskill, with Michael Wood replacing Goff, and they said this was a great trial run for the general election.

The post-by-election confidence turned into euphoria when John Key announced he was stepping down. Labour seemed to see this as a gift from political heaven, another game changer.

But nothing much seems to have changed.

A Roy Morgan poll taken over the period of Key’s announcement showed a recovery for Labour to 28.5% from an outlier low of 23%, but their January poll just out has Labour slipping to 27%, and Labour+Greens dropped 3.5 to 39.5%.

Colmar Brunton’s last poll in November had Labour at 28%.

Little conceded recently that Labour was polling poorly – “I have to lead a party that starts from 2014 at a 25 per cent vote, polling at the moment at late 20s, 30 per cent sort of mark. So we have a lot of work to do, and I don’t underestimate that.”

But the work he has done so far this year is unimpressive.

This week Little announced that he wouldn’t be standing for the safe Rongotai electorate and would go list only. He should have said this as soon as Annette King announced she would  stand down before the Christmas break.

Little also joined the political fray over Pike River, attacking Winston Peters and offering a solution to re-entry. He will present a bill to Parliament that will dispense with responsibility for safety of entering the mine – something he had lobbied hard to embed in legislation.

On social media Labour has put some effort into negative campaigning, attacking Bill English a number of times. This seems to be repeating the failed strategy of attacking Key over a decade.

Labour thought that the Mt Albert by-election in February would be a good opportunity for them to promote themselves, get positive media coverage, and have another trial run for the general election.

But they may have walked into potential jeopardy, with Greens standing a candidate against them.

Standing Jacinda Ardern looks a bit like rearranging the deck chairs. At best Ardern will win the seat with a comfortable majority. That’s what is expected.

But it could be worse than that.If it looks like a jacked up joint publicity between Labour and Greens the voters may rebel.

Julie Anne Genter looks like a stronger candidate, and the Greens will want to put in a strong showing for themselves. They won’t want to just bolster Labour.

If Ardern’s vote slips too much, and if Genter seriously challenges her, it could turn to custard for Labour. The reality is that the best way that Green can grow their vote is to cannibalise Labour support.

Little and Labour really have to up their game. So far this year there is no sign of that happening.

Little has said their will be few if any major policy announcements – they will concentrate on highlighting common policies with Greens.

Little will share his ‘state of the nation’ speech platform with Metiria Turei.

There is no real leadership from Little, there is no real leadership from Labour. They look nothing like a head to head competitor with National.

There may be some big change or some big event that turns out to be a real game changer for Labour. Little may suddenly find a way of engaging and impressing. Plodding along won’t suffice – they need to change their game significantly.

But at this stage Labour looks like they are sleepwalking towards a nightmare election.

Labour-Green down in Roy Morgan

In the first poll since Bill English took over from John Key National have barely changed (up 1 to 46%) and Labour+Greens are down 3.5 to 39.5%.

It’s early days yet for time post-Key but the change of Prime Minister is showing no sign of being the game changer that some on the left had hoped.

And the campaign since late last year on Whale Oil to attack National and Bill English hasn’t nudged things down at all let alone by the 10% Cameron Slater has suggested might happen.

  • National 46% (up from 45)
  • Labour 27% (down from 28.5)
  • Greens 12.5% (down from 14.5)
  • NZ First 9% (up from 7.5)
  • Maori Party 2% (up from 1)
  • ACT 0.5% (no change)
  • United Future 0.5% (no change)
  • Conservative Party 0.5% (no change)
  • Mana Party 0% (no change)
  • Internet Party 0% (down from 0.5)
  • Other 2% (up from 1.5)

Polling was done from a very quiet time, from 3-16 January 2017.

The movements for Labour wouldn’t look so bad if quoted separately, but some on the left are very keen to combine the two.

roymorgan2017january

It’s very early in election year but this will have disappointed a few on the far right and many on the left.

http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/7127-roy-morgan-new-zealand-voting-intention-january-2017-201701201143

The poll has been mentioned at The Standard but no post as yet. No mention that I can see at Whale Oil but they are often slow with fresh news there, unless it is favourable to one of their agendas.

Considering a minority government

A minority government hasn’t been tried under MMP, but perhaps it is time to seriously consider the option.

If the other parties call Winston Peters bluff, take him at his words on his bottom lines, it is unlikely either National or Labour+Greens will be able to form a majority coalition Government.

MMP was designed to provide a more representative Parliament, which it has. But this could be taken further and give us a more representative governing arrangement. This could be done with a minority government.

Here is a feasible outcome of seats from this year’s election:

  • National 56
  • Labour 28
  • Greens 16
  • NZ First 16
  • Maori Party 2
  • ACT 1
  • UF 1

This puts Labour+Greens+NZ First > National, and Greens+NZ First > Labour, and NZ First=Greens so there is no clear majority in any situation. If the result is approximately along these lines similar uncertainties will exist.

National with twice the MPs of Labour could form the Government, perhaps with the small parties in formal confidence and supply arrangements, but they would still have to rely on either of Labour, Greens or NZ First to pass any legislation. This means successful bills would have a clear majority rather than a bare majority as happens often now.

For Government to be truly representative ministerial positions could be given to opposition party MPs. The best of each party could then participate in running the country.

Some suggestions for portfolios:

  • Andrew Little: Minister of Labour – he has a good background for this and it would allow him to focus on his party’s roots.
  • Grant Robertson: Minister of Foreign Affairs -David Farrar has recommended him for this role, perhaps he has done polls on it.
  • David Parker: Minister of Economic Development, Associate Minister of Finance
  • Jacinda Ardern: Minister of Women’s Affairs, Minister of Communications – she has an affinity with women’s magazines and I couldn’t think of what else she could do.
  • Metiria Turei:  Minister of Social Welfare – giving her experience with the reality of fixing all of our social problems within a budget.
  • James Shaw: Minister of the Environment – something most people expect the Greens to be experts in.
  • Winston Peters – Minister of Workplace Safety, Minister of Mines.
  • Ron Mark: Minister of Defence – it would be good for him to work on the opposite of attack).
  • Te Ururoa Flavell: Minister of Māori Development, Minister of Whanau Ora – makes since for the Māori Party.
  • David Seymour: Minister of Education – time he stepped up to a real challenge beyond his Partnership Schools agenda.
  • Peter Dunne: Associate Minister of Health, Associate Minister of Justice, Associate Minister of Corrections -it would be interesting to see what changes he could make in drug law reform without being hobbled by National.

Being the largest by far National would be the dominant party but would have to work with the whole of Parliament to get things done.

On confidence and supply, with all parties contributing to Government they should be responsible for ensuring it doesn’t fall over.

Those on the right and the left who want radical reforms may complain about a representative arrangement like this, but if they want ideological lurches they need to build sufficient support in Parliament to achieve this.

They won’t do this by sitting on the sidelines complaining, they need to do what everyone else does, build a big enough party with enough MPs to achieve what they want.

A minority government as suggested is unlikely to be a radical reform government, but that’s not out of the ordinary under two decades of MMP anyway.

Incremental change with clear majority support in Parliament is the most sensible way of operating a government – and I believe it is what most voters prefer and want.

Minority government may seem in itself a bit radical but I think it is something well worth trying. It’s really just a step further than what we have now, and a logical step under MMP.

Government respond to Little’s Pike River pledge

Yesterday Opposition leader Andrew Little said he would table a bill in Parliament removing liability from the directors of Solid Energy so that the Pike River Mine can be re-entered.

He said the government claimed the mine could not be re-entered because of the liability risk, so on the first day of the new parliamentary year he would seek leave to table his bill.

That would exonerate Solid Energy’s directors from being held liable for any harm to people taking part in the mine re-entry, he said.

Mr Little said the victims’ families were promised everything that could be done to recover their loved ones’ bodies would be done, and the government needed to follow through on that.

– Little bill to enable Pike River re-entry

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith responded today.

RNZ: Govt: Labour’s Pike River plan ‘hypocritical’

The Labour Party’s attitude to re-entering the Pike River Mine is hypocritical and unsafe, according to the government.

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith accused Mr Little of a dangerous and contradictory position.

“It would be extraordinary to make an exemption from the Health and Safety at Work Act at the very place where 29 workers lost their lives from inadequate standards that triggered the new law,” Mr Smith said.

“This is a bid by Mr Little to outplay [New Zealand First leader] Winston Peters politically rather than taking a principled stand about the importance of a consistent approach to workplace safety.”

Dr Smith said his advice showed the mine had 100,000 cubic metres of methane and was likely to have a residual source of heat as well.

This would be capable of triggering an explosion if there was a source of oxygen.

The minister added there was a risk of rock falls from unstable strata fractured by the 2010 explosions.

“There is a significant difference between someone saying re-entry might be possible compared with company directors taking legal responsibility,” Dr Smith said.

There’s been a lot of other criticism of Little’s move. He lobbied for stronger safety provisions in the current law, and now wants to put them aside to allow re-entry into an unsafe environment.

Some of the Pike River families have tried to escalate mine re-entry into an election issue, but it’s early in the year and it will be difficult to sustain the party posturing.

Little: “there’s not a great deal more”

While Labour and the Greens are ramping up their co-campaigning, announcing they will have a joint ‘state of the nation’ speech at the end of the month and will tour the country with a joint policy statement, Andrew Little has oddly said that “In terms of big, headline stuff there’s not a great deal more. There will be maybe one possibly two more.”.

That is quite vague as we head into election year.

The union between Labour and Greens seems to be Labour’s headline campaign strategy.

NZ Herald: Expect join Labour-Green policies in the lead-up to the election

Leader Andrew Little told media that his party had one, maybe two, big policy announcements to make in election year, but would mostly focus on existing messages around key issues including housing affordability, crime, education and health.

“In terms of big, headline stuff there’s not a great deal more. There will be maybe one possibly two more. There will be some rules about fiscal discipline that we are working on at the moment so people will have a clear understanding about what our priorities are when it comes to government spending and taxing.”

This lack of preparedness at this stage of the term is remarkable – Labour always seem to be working on policy at the moment, and with “not a great deal more” to announce I wonder what they are going to base their campaign on.

Little said he would not announce new policy on January 29.

That’s his best shot at being noticed in setting out Labour’s campaign plans and he’s not announcing any policy? Remarkable.

“You can expect to see one or two joint policy announcements in the next few months between Labour and the Greens.

“There are plans to do that in different sort of ways. One of them is to get around the country with a joint policy statement – talk to a collection of audiences right across the country on a policy area that we have common ground on. People will see that as the year wears on.”

The Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Greens seems to have been a flop. When it was announced there was a lot of hope expressed on the left that it would lift poll numbers, but that didn’t happen. If anything Labour looks more precarious.

Yesterday in Labour leader Andrew Little to stand as a list candidate, leaving Rongotai open Little acknowledged Labour’s poll problems:

“I have to lead a party that starts from 2014 at a 25 per cent vote, polling at the moment at late 20s, 30 per cent sort of mark.

So we have a lot of work to do, and I don’t underestimate that.”

The biggest emphasis from Little seems to be on what Labour and Greens have in common and how they can work together on. This seems a very risky strategy, and one that can’t be undone or diverted from easily.

It looks like Labour are putting Green eggs in one election basket.

Or is it the other way round?

redeggsgreenbasket

Is there not a great deal more than this for Labour?

State of Labour-Green nation

In an unusual move the Labour and Green parties are having a joint ‘State of the Nation’ speech, on 29 January. Both Andrew Little and Metiria Turei will outline their party and joint plans for the year.

Posted by Andrew Little on the Labour Party website:

Labour and Green Party to host joint State of the Nation event

Posted by on January 17, 2017

For the first time Labour and the Green Party are holding a joint State of the Nation event.

Labour Leader Andrew Little and Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei will speak about their priorities for the year in Auckland on Sunday 29 January.

The leaders will discuss the social and economic challenges and opportunities facing the country and present a vision of the stable, responsible, alternative that the parties will offer New Zealand.

Details
Labour/Green Party State of the Nation event
When: 2pm Sunday 29 January
Where: Mt Albert War Memorial Hall
773 New North Road, Mt Albert, Auckland

Posted by James Shaw on the Green Party website (curiously):

Labour and Green Party to host joint State of the Nation event

James Shaw MP on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 – 08:57

For the first time Labour and the Green Party are holding a joint State of the Nation event.

Labour Leader Andrew Little and Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei will speak about their priorities for the year in Auckland on Sunday 29 January.

The leaders will discuss the social and economic challenges and opportunities facing the country and present a vision of the stable, responsible, alternative the parties will offer New Zealand.

Details

Labour/Green Party State of the Nation event

When: 2pm Sunday 29 January

Where: Mt Albert War Memorial Hall

So they are identical announcements. Obviously both parties are keen to be seen as working together closely.

A different slant on it from Turei via email:

For the first time in history, we will be holding a joint State of the Nation event with the Labour Party.  This is a historic event where we will be starting off the year with our combined vision for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Will you join us?

Labour Leader Andrew Little and I will speak about our priorities for the year, plus the social and economic challenges and opportunities facing the country.  But most importantly, we will present a vision of the stable and responsible alternative our parties will offer Kiwis like you.

The event will be held at 2pm Sunday 29th January at the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall 773 New North Road, Mt Albert in Auckland.  RSVP today.

If you can’t join us in Auckland, we will be live streaming the event on our Facebook channel.  We will send out a reminder on the day so that you can be part of this important moment, which shows the important friendship between the Labour Party and the Green Party.

Obama’s legacy

As Barack Obama prepares to leave the White House obituaries for his presidency are being rolled out.

It should be remembered that he took office just as a major financial crisis hit the United States and the world. At least under Obama the US avoided the Global Financial Crisis becoming the worst ever rather than the worst since the Great depression.

Obama’s greatest achievement was to provide healthcare for over 25 million citizens (although, another 20 million are still uncovered_ – but this is likely to be dumped by Trump.

Otherwise Obama is best known for underachievement and lack of delivery.

ODT: A legacy unravelling

Barack Obama started his tenure as the President of the United States with such hope. The first black president of the US is a skilled orator who promised so much, not only for African Americans but for voters who felt disenfranchised and left behind.

Along with his wife Michelle, Mr Obama was living proof African Americans could achieve every goal to which they aspired, as long as they overcame the obvious racial barriers still prominent in the US.

As he prepares to leave office next week, the adulation is flowing for Mr Obama but how will history view him?

The legacy Mr Obama will leave is already being unravelled by critics on both the left and right of the American political spectrum.

He failed to deliver on a lot of promise and promises.

Cornel West at The Guardian: Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama

Our hope and change candidate fell short time and time again.

Eight years ago the world was on the brink of a grand celebration: the inauguration of a brilliant and charismatic black president of the United States of America. Today we are on the edge of an abyss: the installation of a mendacious and cathartic white president who will replace him.

Obama’s lack of courage to confront Wall Street criminals and his lapse of character in ordering drone strikesunintentionally led to rightwing populist revolts at home and ugly Islamic fascist rebellions in the Middle East. And as deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch – Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plans.
This is a depressing decline in the highest office of the most powerful empire in the history of the world. It could easily produce a pervasive cynicism and poisonous nihilism.Is there really any hope for truth and justice in this decadent time? Does America even have the capacity to be honest about itself and come to terms with its self-destructive addiction to money-worship and cowardly xenophobia?

The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility.

The Us didn’t do well under GW Bush, with Iraq being a major blot and he ended his eight years in office handing over a financial crisis.

Obama negotiated through the GFC but didn’t unblot the Middle east misadventure and did little else of lasting note.

Trump may suddenly stop being a flip flopping buffoon and become a responsible reforming leader for his country and he may take the world by diplomatic storm, but predictions he surely must stop playing the fool as he gets into positions of responsibility have proven to be false in the past.

One way or another Obama’s legacy is likely to be overshadowed by Trump’s (that’s already happening before Trump takes over), and it’s unlikely to enhance memories of Obama’s tenure as President.

Obama hasn’t tipped the US over a precipice, but he has overseen his country’s slide to the edge.

 

Wilson: ‘Tasks for Labour’

I don’t know whether Simon Wilson is wanting a press job with Labour, or wants to stand for Labour, or just wants to help Labour win this year’s election, but he has given them a lot of advice in his series of posts over the last week.

He closes with THE TASKS FOR LABOUR which strongly promotes Jacinda Ardern for deputy leader, seems to show Andrew little the door – “If she doesn’t, Andrew Little himself should look to his future” – and seems to be promoting Grant Robertson via a Robertson with Ardern photo “AT THE LAUNCH OF HIS LABOUR PARTY LEADERSHIP BID IN OCTOBER 2014”.

Summarising my posts over the last six days, and a few things I never got round to mentioning, in no particular order…

1. Choose a charisma army of candidates

Labour and the Greens are both short of top-quality MPs. This election they have to introduce a new front bench in the making with many candidates for future leader. Labour must ensure it includes good people from throughout the broad church of the party.

Labour have already chosen a number of candidates, but have a few to go.

How does Labour “introduce a new front bench in the making”? Even if some charismatic new candidates get elected they won’t feature as Labour’s front bench in the campaign. Is Wilson looking ahead to 2020?

Labour must ensure it includes good people from throughout the broad church of the party.

I think they think they are on to this already. They need to have good people who want to stand, preferably women to meet their gender targets.

2. Refresh the front bench now

What, Annette King is still deputy? Why? That should be Jacinda Ardern’s job…

It’s odd to see Wilson promoting his favoured option. He includes a photo of Robertson with Ardern so I assume he fancies them as leaders (they were rejected by the party in 2014).

(The number formatting in his post seems to be stuffed up so the there’s a gap).

4. The underlying concepts to guide the central campaign promises:

  • Tackle child poverty.
  • Grow a high-wage economy.
  • Align the economy with climate-change goals.
  • Make the cities work.

Vague and uninspiring. Selling magazines is quite different to selling a campaign to voters and it shows.

5. Policies that connect to self-declared ordinary people integrated with policies that arouse the activist base.

Then he should review his point 3.

6. Messages of hope, good ideas and shame

Be the party the country has been waiting for. Be the party for the common good.

Forget the shame aim, negative campaigning has failed for Labour for the last decade.

Messages of hope and good ideas? Labour has to do far more than hope some good ideas repeated over and over will win them the election.

The country is waiting for a strong and positive alternate leader, not an airy fairy message monger.

All parties are ‘for the common good’, they just have different ideas on how to achieve it.

7. Andrew Little

Turn him into a liked, admired and trusted leader.

Little doesn’t seem to have transformed himself over the break, time is running out to remodel him.

Can Labour recruit Rumpelstiltskin? The Fairy Godmother of politics?

8. That Blinglish

Call him Caretaker Bill. Treat him like he won’t be there for long.

Name calling and negativity has worked so well against John Key this is sure to work against English.

At the same time Labour (and Wilson) have to stop treating Little as though he won’t be there for long.

9. And oh yes: have some fun. It’s infectious.

In politics fun is winning. Labour seems to be infected by a losing virus. Wilson doesn’t appear to be an antidote.

National’s ‘index of shame’

In Simon Wilson’s latest article in a series that mainly focusses on what Labour needs to do to turn around their failing strategies lists what he calls THE SHAME INDEX in  National’s Index of Shame, and the other issues the left needs to focus on this election.

Shame on them. Shame. On. Them. And disgust on them, because there’s an awful lot for Labour and the Greens to shame the government with. This is an incomplete list.

Wilson makes no attempt to disguise where his political preferences lie.

1. Child poverty

Combatting child poverty is a mindset. When you declare it, and mean it, you’re saying you’re putting children first, you’re going to work systematically and comprehensively and you’re going to prioritise this work. And it’s a terrifically valuable Trojan Horse: you can’t combat child poverty without doing education, health, housing, domestic violence…

That’s a lot of things to sort out – of course everyone wants less ‘child poverty’ and domestic violence, and better education, health and housing, but to be able to afford to spend more money on them you need a sound economy, sufficient tax revenue, and an appreciation of the challenges of making meaningful differences on all of these things. And the time it would require – waving a political wand is not going to cut it.

2. Filthy rivers

It’s about cows. Not just cows, but mainly cows.

There’s no doubt that water quality is a major issue of concern. And that the dairy boom is a significant factor. So do we force the number of dairy cows down significantly? Later in the article Wilson wants exports increased, and dairy is one of our biggest  exports.

Improvements are already happening, for example Fonterra requires waterways to be fenced off on farms supplying them with milk. Fixing the problems takes time – can dirty waterways be cleaned up more quickly?

3. Domestic violence

I put this up in a previous post, but where’s the comprehensive All Blacks-led campaign to remake the idea of what masculinity is?

Domestic violence (and violence in general) is one of the biggest blights on New Zealand society. The current government, and past governments, have tried to address it with some successful changes but nowhere near enough. It will take more than an All Black led campaign to fix it. And the All Blacks are not under the control of Government – why not an MP campaign?

4. Tax evasion

We already accept the principle of equality in our elections, with MMP. We accept it with GST: everybody pays. So why doesn’t the same principle apply to tax on all income?

Governments, through IRD, have worked to reduce tax evasion – it’s illegal so if it can be proven it is prosecuted.

It’s not clear what Wilson suggests here, but I doubt he really means a flat tax on ‘all income’, he doesn’t define income, and I don’t know if he understands what he is proposing or is just  pushing a populist anti-tax evasion  line without really knowing how to deal with it.

5. Farm worker deaths

Since 2013 there’s been a concerted safety campaign in forestry and it seems to be working. But the industry with the biggest number of workplace deaths (nearly five times more than forestry over the last five years) is agriculture. The government refuses to act.

It is certainly a serious problem, but to compare deaths in different industries the number of workers should also be compared. There is in fact about four times as many agriculture deaths per year than forestry deaths – see Workplace fatalities by industry – and the rate of both has dropped since 2013-14.

I would be surprised if the government “refuses to act”. In fact a government agency is trying to do something: “WorkSafe is partnering with farmers and their families, rural community, and sector organisations on a comprehensive information and education campaign starting from February 2015 to tackle the high number of deaths and serious injuries on farms.”

6. Underfunded mental health services

How is this not a major scandal?

Certainly a good case could be made to fund mental health, and all health services, better. How much of an increase in the total health budget would be enough? And where would that money come from?

7. The surging wealth inequality gap

Did you know the salaries of CEOs in our big companies jumped 10 per cent in 2015 and 12 per cent last year?

The escalation in higher incomes does seem obscene, but what is the solution? Impose income limits on private companies?

Should we care about high incomes? Shouldn’t the focus be on raising low incomes and increasing employment levels and productivity?

8. The housing crisis

Because the government has not wanted to unsettle homeowners or mess with their ability to buy more property, we have a housing crisis that is crippling the country’s major city and fast spreading to other centres too.

That’s an extremely simplistic view on the surge in property prices that is occurring in many countries around the world as well as New Zealand. It

Housing is a big issue but Wilson’s simplistic view is aimed at the effects rather than the causes, which are complex, are difficult to turn around, involves local bodies at least as much as central government, and appears to be more of a political hit than based on facts or reality.

9. The Emissions Trading Scheme

The government’s principal vehicle for meeting international commitments to fight the causes of climate change is ridiculously weak and misguided, partly because it excludes agriculture (46 per cent of our emissions) but also because it does not work as an effective tool for reducing the emissions it does measure.

The NZ ETS was initiated by the last Labour government and was tweaked by National and is ineffective. What is not stated nor probably known is what could be effective in it’s place.

One way of reducing agricultural emissions is to reduce animals numbers, which will impact on the exports that Wilson wants to increase.

10. Pike River

This one is pretty simple, really. Promises were made and human decency should prevail.

This is highly contentious but not as simple as Wilson suggests. If body recovery costs more lives who will be blamed? Some Pike River families think it’s a decent decision to leave the bodies where they are.

What is indecent is the level of politicisation of the issue by some. Labour have made noises but haven’t promised to recover the bodies.

11. The Saudi sheep deal

The auditor-general decided there was no evidence Murray McCully had been corrupt in putting this deal together, but she did identify “significant shortcomings”. This shabby affair set a new low for government integrity.

Yes.

12. Housing the homeless

The shortage of emergency and short-term housing for the homeless is appalling in itself, but the added levels of bureaucratic absurdity just beggar belief.

To a large extent yes. Housing  and rental costs are a real and growing problem – but so is housing people who are difficult to house, especially those involved in using or producing drugs.

13. Healthy food in schools

Seriously, what would it cost to get serious about healthy eating in schools?

Wilson takes an odd shot here at a former National MP and links it to Dirty Politics. Is he playing dirty?

Should nutrition guidelines be enforced in school cafeterias?  And all food outlets close to schools controlled? Should more be done to provide ‘free’ (taxpayer funded) breakfasts and lunches to kids at school? No suggestions on any of this from Wilson.

14. Underfunded homecare services for the elderly

What nonsense – and, surely, how easy it would be to fix.

If it was easy and cost effective to fix I think that it would have been done. Does Wilson think that uneconomic underfunding is deliberate? More money will help, but where does that money come from? Taxes from dairy exports?

15. The neglect of Northland

The province of such beauty and such destitution. Northland’s not the only neglected part of the country but it’s one of the most obvious.

No suggestions on how to fix the regions including Northland. I would like to see more done to help regions but writing an online article isn’t a solution, it’s a vague diss.

16. Abuse of children in state care

This is historic but should be addressed better now. Are resources more effective in another inquiry, or in doing something practical?

17. Deep-sea oil drilling

It’s nothing short of perverse for the government to maintain its commitment to deep-sea oil exploration. Not only is it nuts to imagine there is any useful place in the future of this country for a growth in carbon fuels, but the companies themselves are no longer interested.

The Government isn’t spending money on deep sea drilling, they are allowing companies to explore of they choose. If they choose not to what’s the problem? Seems like a gripe without an actual problem.

18. Blaming Helen Clark

Seriously, they’re still doing it, in their ninth year in office.

Clark’s Government did commit the next government to some fairly hefty ongoing costs such as interest free student loans and Work For Families, both of which would be quite difficult to undo, but it does look pathetic to keep blaming Labour (rather than Clark).

This is a mostly vague populist political hit list from Wilson. It’s hard to see it making a significant impact on poliutical change.

I wonder if he balances it with an index of government achievements?