Jacinda Ardern on ‘Redefining successful government”

In a speech while in New York Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has outlined what she sees as successful government, as in her lofty agenda.

Redefining successful government

Speech at International Conference on Sustainable Development

I began preparing my comments for today’s event while sitting at my constituency office in Auckland, New Zealand…

You could say the artefacts I sit amongst in that office sum up my life in politics.  It started with my family, has been full of role models and support, but ultimately is motivated by the idea that politics is a place you can address injustice.

I was raised the daughter of a policeman, and was a product of the 1980s where New Zealand went through a rapid period or privatisation and economic liberalisation. We called it Rogernomics after our Finance Minister of the time, in America the same phenomenon was called Reaganonmics, and the impact on working families was similar. Jobs were lost, manufacturing moved off shore, regulations removed and the gap between rich and poor rapidly expanded.

Then came the 1990s. A conservative government in New Zealand introduced reforms that brought user pay to the fore and welfare cuts for the poorest.

I was young when all of this was happening around me, but I still remember it. If it’s possible to build your social conscience when you are a school girl, then that is what happened to me. I never looked at the world through the lens of politics though, but rather through the lens of fairness.

And that sentiment captures one of the most pervasive values that we have in Aotearoa New Zealand. We are proud but also self-deprecating. Dreamers but also pragmatists. And if there is one thing we hate, it is injustice.

These are the values I believe we need to display in our politics. Because politics is increasingly a dirty word, but values are not.

An earnest politician would be hard pressed to argue with goals like halving poverty, preserving the sustainability of our oceans or inclusive education.

And we’ve started by redefining what success looks like.

Traditionally, success or failure in politics has been measured in purely economic terms. Growth, GDP, your trade deficit and the level of debt you carry. On those terms, you would call New Zealand relatively successful. But in the last few years the deficiency of such measures has become stark.

So we are establishing brand new measure of national achievement that go beyond growth.

Like many, New Zealand has not been immune to a period of rapid and transformational change these past few decades. Globalisation has changed the way we operate, but it has also had a material difference on the lives of our citizens.

Not everyone has been well served by those changes, however.

While at a global level economic growth has been unprecedented, the distribution of benefits has been uneven at the level of individuals and communities. In fact for many, the transition our economy made in the wake of globalisation has been jarring,

Now as politicians, we all have choices in how we respond to these challenges.

We’re investing more in research and development so that we improve the productivity of our economy, we’re focusing on shifting away from volume to value in our export, and we are committed to lifting wages.

We are modernising our Reserve Bank so that it works to keep both inflation and keeps unemployment low, and we’re committed to a better balanced and fairer tax system.

But we also need to do better at lifting the incomes of New Zealanders and sharing the gains of economic growth.

We are signing pay equity settlements with new groups of predominantly women workers, taking the pressure off families by extending paid parental leave to half a year, closing the gender pay gap and raising the minimum wage.

When fully rolled out our Families Package – a tax credit policy aimed at low and middle income earners – will lift thousands of children out of poverty.

But economic gains and growth matter for nothing if we sacrifice our environment along the way, or if we fail to prepare for the future. That’s why we are transitioning to a clean, green carbon neutral New Zealand.

But of course, we are nothing without our people. We have set ourselves some big goals, like ensuring that everyone who is able is either earning, learning, caring or volunteering – including making the first year of tertiary study completely free of fees.

We’re supporting healthier, safer and more connected communities, ensuring everyone has a warm, dry home, and last but not least, making New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

This agenda is personal to me.

I am the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction.

If I were to sum up our agenda though, it would be simple. I want to demonstrate that politics doesn’t have to be about three or four year cycles. It doesn’t have to be self-interested or have a singular focus.

It can think about long term challenges, and respond to them. It can be designed to think about the impact on others, and show that it’s making a difference. And it can even be kind.

As an international community I am constantly heartened by our ability to take a multilateral approach, to sign up to a set of aspirations that are values based.

But perhaps it’s time to also challenge ourselves to move beyond aspiration to action.

That is what we will be doing in our corner of the world.

And I can assure you we will never, never, never give up.

Highly idealistic. It will be good if some of this can be achieved reasonably well over time.

This is in stark contrast to the succession of problems of competence the government is having to deal with back here while she is away in New York – the realities of politics can be quite different to the lofty speech written rhetoric.

Ardern has already stumbled on her ideal of ‘open transparent government’, this has blown up further in her absence this week.

She has admirable goals, and is adept at talking the talk, but the challenge for her and her government will be walking the walk. They seem to be stumbling somewhat more than she cares to admit.

It will take time to see whether New Zealand will improve noticeably under Ardern’s leadership. If things like inequality, child poverty and climate change are substantially improved she will have done very well, but it will take much more than successful speeches on the world stage.

What is the real oil and gas agenda?

There were many mixed messages around the announcement last week that no more offshore oil and gas exploration permits would be issued (while the current Governbment remains in power at least).

Gavin Shaw (editor of Energy News) writes of a possible agenda in A symbolic beheading of the oil and gas industry:

“We’ve stopped the rigs,” Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said to his supporters.

I’m left to conclude that last week’s performance was less about climate change and more a choreographed demonstration of the anti-oil and gas agenda within parts of the Government.

Why remains a mystery, but at least we now know where Green Party Co-leader James Shaw really stands on the issue. Symbolic heads on pikes are more important than actual policy, apparently.

When Shaw spoke last week of moving to a “fossil fuel-free future” by 2050 I suspect he really believed just that.

No one in the world is predicting the end of hydrocarbon use – not the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change nor the International Energy Agency. We will use less for transport, but we will continue to need coal for making steel and oil and gas for all those handy products we use in our computers, aircraft, buses, trains, solar panels and wind turbines.

The IEA continues to call for increased exploration and production investment to meet rising transport demand and to displace coal currently used for power generation and making chemicals and fabrics.

With the global population forecast to increase by a third by 2050, the agency is concerned that supplies of all lower-emitting options are not increasing fast enough.

But Shaw and the Labour Cabinet don’t seem to care. Nor do they understand the role New Zealand – already an oil and methanol exporter – could play supplying those lower emitting products.

Worse than that, the Government appears actively determined that there should be no expansion of the industry here.

Why else would you ban onshore exploration except in Taranaki? Surely we should be looking for gas and geothermal resources on the South Island so that coal-dependent industry there has lower-emission options alongside wood and electrification?

Achieving real emission reductions is going to be complex. It will likely require industry- and regionally-specific interventions, some of which may be counter-intuitive.

Incoherent policy rambling, grandstanding and cherry-picked anecdotes won’t cut it.

So is the Government going to work with the oil and gas industry to utilise its skills to help reduce emissions?

Not yet apparently.

Were it actually focused on emissions reduction it might have allocated a bit more than the $150,000 it allocated for new energy initiatives among the $19.7 million it doled out in Taranaki earlier this month.

That’s a minor handout, and when compared to others:

  • $13.34m – Taranaki Crossing Experience.
  • $5m – Taranaki Cathedral restoration and upgrades.
  • $400,000  – SH43 business case.
  • $250,000 – hill country tree planting business guide.
  • $210,000 – Tapuae Roa support
  • $175,000  – regional ‘future food’ opportunities.
  • $100,000  – new energy development centre business case
  • $100,000 –  Māori enterprise and education (focus on science, technology, engineering, arts/design, mathematics, innovation, and digital).
  • $100,000  – ‘innovation precincts’ feasibility study.
  • $50,000  – H2 Taranaki.
  • $50,000 – Taranaki Future Foods Accelerator business case

That was announced the week before the oil and gas permit announcement. Not a lot of alternate energy funding there.

If the Government has an agenda to transition the country off fossil fuels then they need to treat alternatives seriously.

The Ardern agenda

Jacinda Ardern has been around different media being question about policies, especially tax.

RNZ: Campaign day 2: let’s talk about tax, baby

It’s day two of the election campaign and Labour faced pressure to provide more detail on its tax plans, but is keeping its cards close to its chest – for now.

She was pushed hard on policy in an interview by Guyon Espiner: VIDEO: Jacinda Ardern won’t rule out capital gains tax

NZH:  Jacinda Ardern in The PM Job Interview: ‘It’s time to talk about a republic’

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says it’s time New Zealand started having the conversation about New Zealand becoming a republic.

“I do think that we should start having the conversation. There are a lot of issues that need to be resolved on that path, and I would have liked the government to have had that conversation when the flag debate came up,” Ardern said during a special PM Job Interview with the Herald today.

“That was the time to say, ‘actually, where are we heading? What’s the Crown’s ongoing relationship with Maori if we transition into a republic? Where will we be in 20 years’ time in this regard.'”

Patrick Gower tries to answer  What is the Ardern agenda?

Income tax

A new tax rate on higher earners on say $120,000-$150,000 could be announced in the coming days.

Capital gains tax

Ardern has made a ‘captain’s call’ to not rule out a CGT (excluding family homes) pending an expert panel review during her first term.

Retirement age

 

Ardern has ruled out raising it raise it – ever.

TPP

Ardern says if elected, she will pull out of the deal unless Labour gets a clause allowing it to ban foreign home buyers. She thinks it can be renegotiated.

Water tax

Labour wants to charge a ‘fair and affordable’ royalty to large commercial users of water – including water bottling companies.

Climate change

Ardern revealed she could charge farmers for emissions in the first term of a Labour Government by bringing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Cannabis

Ardern supports legalising medicinal cannabis and expanding the access of medicinal products, but won’t be drawn on how she’d deal with the wider topic of decriminalising recreational cannabis.

 

‘Full steam ahead’ on Trump agenda

The White House is trying to show it is “full steam ahead” with President Trump’s agenda, but steam emitting ears still often dominate the news.

Washington Times: White House says ‘full steam ahead’ on Trump agenda

Returning from an overseas trip that was both celebrated and controversial, President Trump is plowing “full steam ahead” with his domestic agenda, the White House said Tuesday, brushing aside jibes by foreign leaders and new questions about top aides’ links to Russia.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer looked for momentum from the president’s history-making journey across the Middle East and Europe, hoping to break free of the unyielding news coverage of alleged collusion with Russia and other criticisms that have distracted from Mr. Trump’s accomplishments.

“We’re back at home now, and the president and his Cabinet are moving full steam ahead on the president’s agenda,” Mr. Spicer said at the daily White House press briefing. “We’ve got a pretty bold agenda.”

Little had changed in Washington during Mr. Trump’s nine-day trip, however, and Mr. Spicer again clashed with reporters and accused them of peddling “fake news.”

He insisted the president’s agenda was on track and gaining steam, although he acknowledged some frustrations with the pace of Congress.

Having a bold agenda and making progress can be different things.

Mr. Trump’s plans to replace Obamacare, overhaul the tax code and launch a massive infrastructure program remained bogged down in Congress.

“The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt!” tweeted Mr. Trump.

The suggestion that the Senate do away with the filibuster rule, a proposal that would dramatically alter the nature of the chamber, had virtually no support from GOP senators.

What’s more, the two bills Mr. Trump named are, under current rules for certain budget bills, already exempt from filibuster.

Again Trump is contradicting Spicer, or Spicer is contradicting Trump.

He also tweeted about the stalled agenda, which has denied him a major legislative victory after five months in office.

And momentum from Trump’s first overseas trip has not always been in a positive direction.

Mr. Trump repeatedly took to Twitter to vent about news reports focusing on Russia and on comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that were presented as an indictment of the president’s diplomatic skills.

“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change,” the president tweeted.

There have been mixed reactions to Trump’s visit to Europe.

And it looks increasingly likely that Trump will announce a US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, which will put them at odds with most of the world.

Steaming ahead? Or just steaming?