Something missing here

‘Mickysavage’ has an odd post at The Standard: John Key – Mr 2%

One of the more interesting aspects of last night’s Colmar Brunton poll was the decline of support for John Key as preferred Prime Minister to 2%.  Jacinda Ardern is polling at twice that level.

Support for Bill English has surged.  But National strategists should be worried about this.  English is no Key.  In real life he is rather non descript and not very exciting.  He will not dominate the media in the way that John Key has.

I didn’t even think about what Key might have got because he has stepped down as Prime Minister and will be leaving Parliament soon. Why would even 2% who voted for him as ‘preferred Prime Minister’ when he prefers to be out of politics?

But there are not one but two interesting omissions from the post – Andrew Little and Winston Peters.

As nondescript and unexciting as Bill English may be he went from 0% in the last two polls up to 31%, most of what Key got in the last poll.

And Little dropped from 8% to 7%, with Peters staying on 8%.

While Labourites may be relishing the chance, at last, to savage Key on a poll result it is of no consequence.

How Andrew Little shapes up against Bill English will largely determine the outcome of this year’s election.

I asked an ex-pat Kiwi in Australia last week (someone who keeps an eye on news here and votes in NZ elections) what they thought of Andrew Little. They hadn’t heard if him.

There’s not just something missing from the poll post at The Standard, there is something missing from Labour.

English on Peters

 

Seems to be a thing in media today to check out Bill English’s views on how National might work with Winston Peters after the election.

In the latest Colmar Brunton poll National were on 46% and NZ First remain high for them this far out from the election on 11%.

That’s a pragmatic position to take at this stage of election year.

1 News: ‘No’ – Bill English stands firm on chances of a pre-election deal with Winston

Prime Minister Bill English says there is no chance of pre-election talks with Winston Peters, but if New Zealanders want Mr Peters in Parliament, National will work with him.

There’s very likely to be no chance Peters would have pre-election talks with any other party, at least not that the public would find out about.

New Zealanders get to say who they want in Parliament but they don’t get to say who they want in Government. That is left to party wheeling and dealing after the election.

Mr English, speaking this morning to TVNZ’s Breakfast programme, said there had been speculation around Mr Peters’ role at the last few elections, but National is not looking to make a deal if he becomes kingmaker.

“He’s signalled it’s unlikely with him either,” Mr English said.

That’s confusing (from 1 News).

However, should voters put him into Parliament, Mr English said National is quite capable of working with him.

“If you needed to, you can work with anyone if that’s what the voters tell you is needed for stable government, and the way the world is, I think that’s what is needed here,” Mr English said.

So English is leaving his options open, as he needs to do.

I think that English may be more likely to try to do a coalition deal with Peters if that is what is required to form the next government.

Key would have more easily walked away from an unpalatable arrangement – perhaps this is what he has done.

But English will presumably be keen to be Prime Minister with an election mandate. He is currently a party appointed mid term replacement.

Whale Oil slump

Whale Oil has been trying to trash Bill English since he became Prime Minister and they have been trying to trash National since New Zealand along with all other countries in the security voted in December to censure Israel, except the US who abstained.

This morning ‘Cameron Slater’ tries to connect the poll result to their anti-English and anti-National agenda: First poll of year sees Nats slump 4 points, thanks Murray

National has slumped 4 points int he latest 1News/Colmar Brunton poll.

Winston Peters is in the box seat, but Bill English must be regretting letting Murray McCully run rogue at the UN Security Council. This is the cost.

National has started the slide to a number starting with 3.

Bill English better get well acquainted with Winston Peters…and he better sort out Murray McCully or this drop will be just the start.

That’s nonsensical analysis, it’s just trying to justify WO’s doom and gloom predictions with what is actually a fairly consistent poll result. National results since October 2015: 47, 47, 50, 48, 48, 50, 46 so 46% is nothing like a slump.

In fact National have been polling consistently within a fairly narrow band since 2012 with low points 4-5 years ago.

Slater is demonstrating again that he uses Whale Oil for political activism rather than as credible media alternative.

Notably Slater’s slant is largely unsupported in comments so far.

Wilson: Some in the media were saying the first poll will have a 3 in front of it. So 46% is great.

Curly1952: I believe the drop to 46% for National was to be expected as JK was the glue to the party.

As far as the McCully factor goes I would suggest that large swathes of the electorate won’t even consider the UN resolution as part of the political barometer in NZ.

Most of the electorate are unlikely to be aware of the UN vote, or won’t care about it.

Omlete:I think the broad electorate have enough native smarts to not want the wreckers/ haters and unionist thugs on the treasury benches. It will be a National led government.

Ross:On what evidence exactly do you blame Murray?

Korerorero: I don’t thinks it’s that bad. National was on 50% in the last colmar poll.
So this is probably a correction to be in line with the other polls which had Nats around 46%. I think you’ll see nats stay around this number (or possible rise again) after their budget surprise that will leave labour shell shocked and the voters happy.

The only one supporting Slater’s agenda was ‘Positan’:

It’s not a correction. Within my many circles there was utter disbelief at the Christmas Eve announcement of NZ’s position on Res:2334 – and then anger bordering on outrage at English’s failure to front during the holidays and explain. The anger grew with the continued failure of any senior Nat to front – especially, with the empty silly letters issued by pressured Nat MPs.

Next, there were the circulating stories as to how English & Co had believed the whole matter would be blown over by the end of the holidays – the reason for the deafening silence – which has wrought the real damage of “my party vote will go elsewhere,” and “sorry, no extra donation this year.”

If National’s members are saying those sorts of things out loud now – that’s why the 46% figure has happened. English has completely misread his party’s membership’s feelings and he’s blown it. I think National’s poll figures could get very much worse.

That sounds very similar to some of the anti-National posts over the last two months.

Of course National’s poll figures could get worse, but there is no discernible effect on them from the UN vote against Israel, and this poll result is only being called a slump by Slater and some desperadoes at The Standard.

The only slump shown here is in Whale Oil credibility as a political analyst.

Sheep shearing Prime Minister

Sheep seem to be a bit of a theme today (but is from last week).

Stunts can backfire in politics, as Bill English well knows (his boxing in 2002 didn’t do any good for his election chances).

But this shows that there is more to English than a Wellington career number cruncher.

Stuff: Sheep shearing whiz PM takes down a legend at world champs

In a shear off with sheep shearing legend Sir David Fagan, Prime Minister Bill English appeared to have the edge on his rival, beating Sir David by several seconds.

English accepted the challenge to go head to head with Sir David at the World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Southland on Saturday.

And despite lots of talk ahead of the event about Fagan starting with a five or 10 sheep handicap, English held his own, shearing his sheep in a creditable time.

English is a fifth generation Southland farmer, so no stranger to the shearing shed.

But can he milk a cow?

 

 

English to meet Turnbull

The New Zealand and Australian Prime Ministers will meet in Queenstown today.

Stuff: Time for another ‘pyjama diplomacy’

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should be able to hit the ground running when he meets Bill English for the first time in Queenstown.

During the earlier more formal part of their talks the Christchurch fires will probably be first up for discussion – Australia has already offered help and Turnbull and English will likely discuss what’s needed.

But the leaders will also discuss the vacuum in world trade talks after US President Donald Trump pulled America out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, and regional security.

English will be sounding Turnbull out on ways to keep the TPP alive – including by reaching out to China to take America’s place as an economic super power.

That would make the deal attractive again to the likes of Japan, and could kick start efforts to save it.

And Tracy Watkins: Counting our trans-Tasman blessings

The annual meeting with the Australian Prime Minister is one of the most important events on the New Zealand prime minister’s calendar. Here are eight reasons why.

She lists:

  1. Trans-Tasman travel
  2. When the chips are down, Australia is there for us.
  3. CER
  4. We’ve both got a lot riding on each other’s success
  5. Tourism
  6. We’re family
  7. They’ve got our back (defence)
  8. A shared history

 

Sealing of Pike River mine will be stopped

The Government has changed tack on Pike River re-entry, citing new robot technology that will make it safer to go into the mine, and will stop the sealing of the mine.

Stuff: Sealing of Pike River mine will be stopped, says Bill English

Pike River families have been told the sealing of the mine will be stopped following a meeting with Prime Minister Bill English, with Solid Energy asked to look into new technology which could allow unmanned entry.

Family members of the Pike River miners met English for the first time in an attempt to stop the sealing of the mine, and emerged afterwards with cautious optimism about the options on the table.

Some family members of Pike River victims have been campaigning for re-entry, some haven’t.

Bernie Monk, spokesman for some of the Pike River families, said the meeting was “very positive”.

“We’ve got another step forward for us…I think they got a lot of understanding about the ins and outs, because it’s not easy for them to understand what we’ve been through over the last six years.”

Monk said English’s promise to stop the sealing of the mine would allow the group to end its picket at Pike River, which had been going on 24 hours a day for 13 weeks.

Forster said English had stated the Government’s continued opposition to any humans re-entering the drift, but shared a a “clear expectation” that non-manned technology, such as aerial drones, should be considered as an option.

‘Aerial drones’ in a mine sounds funny but they could be flown up the shaft.

English said a decision to re-enter the mine was “not about politics, it is about safety”.

In an election year with families pushing hard and parties, particularly Labour and NZ First, making a political issue out of it, then it’s hard to separate some of the politics.

“We lost 29 lives in that mine and I will not risk losing any more.”

The families’ proposal for re-entering Pike River did not include a detailed plan, “and therefore does not make the case for a safe re-entry”, he said.

However, he would ask Solid Energy to stop work on the mine’s permanent seal and explore options for unmanned entry, after the Government was approached in recent weeks by experts with new proposals.

“The families’ technical advisor agreed that there has been significant advancements in technology since the tragedy occurred six years ago.

“We will ask Solid Energy to explore those options. We will also keep the families informed and allow their technical input into the search for options for unmanned entry.”

The Government would give Solid Energy money to look into the unmanned options, English said.

If drones are used they could look but it’s unlikely they could remove bodies.

Several robot vehicles have already been sent into the mine and have failed (broken down).

Labour leader Andrew Little said stopping the sealing of the mine was “the right thing at this stage”, but questioned why the Government continued to rule out a physical re-entry.

“We’ve got to keep the pressure up…because it must still be possible to get in there and see what remains are in there.”

There is one thing worse than not doing anything about re-entry in election year and that would be sending people into the mine and losing more lives.

National launches, Labour squabbles

Tracy Watkins compares the National and Labour starts to election year in National takes the inside running as Labour hobbles election-year start.

Two things happened after Bill English named the election date that should worry his opponents.

National used its advantage to hit the ground running – promising more cops, whacking petrol companies about the head with an inquiry into pricing, and wiping historic homosexuality convictions.

Meanwhile, Labour squandered its good start to the year.

Leader Andrew Little read his MPs the riot act over caucus discipline, after MPs and the party were at odds over Little’s promise of a seat for broadcaster Willie Jackson.

Only one of these parties looks like it’s ready for an election.

National has shown it will be ruthless about neutralising contentious issues between now and September 23. Business as usual, in other words.

Labour, despite claiming it’s ready to fight an election any time, is doing a good job of looking as if it’s still got other stuff on its mind, like settling internal power struggles.

National didn’t have a good start to the year. They handled the US immigration restrictions poorly. However they have reacted to that by setting up MBIE to monitor events in the US so they are better prepared for anything that may effect New Zealand.

But then the contrasts between National and Labour began.

English quietly impressed at Ratana while Labour squabbled with NZ First and the Maori Party.

Little’s ‘state of the nation’ speech symbolically accentuated their marriage to and reliance on the Greens but was absent any new policy and ignored Maori issues that a week earlier Little claimed were very important to Labour at Ratana.

English used his ‘state of the nation’ speech to set up National’s election year and included a major policy (actually it was more than just policy as the Government will start implementing it this year), a substantial increase in police numbers.

Labour responded by claiming National stole their policy and it was being implemented too late. The were left playing the lame card.

Then Little tried to score points over English’s decision not to attend Waitangi on Waitangi Day but I think many people will have agreed with English’s stand against the Te Tii nonsense (which was effectively supported by Winston Peters and others).

English quietly impressed in Auckland instead – see Two remarkable speeches almost ignored.

And Labour’s year turned to custard. Little used Waitangi to announce his recruitment of Willie Jackson, with a promise of a high list placing, and Labour and the left went to war. The so called unity in the Labour caucus was very publicly discredited.

And the biggest left wing blogs, The Standard and The Daily Blog, also went to war, against Labour and against each other.

In the meantime the Greens stoically continued their strategy of promoting Labour and Greens as a reason to ‘change the government’.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the Mt Albert by-election, with the main contenders being Labour’s Jacinda Ardern versus Green’s Julie Anne Genter.

While Ardern plays the celebrity circuit she looks shallow as a politician and lacking in ambition, she seems to be there for the ride with no intention of driving.

In contrast Genter is solid on policy, especially on transport which is a big issue in Auckland.

So while Labour and the Greens claimed the campaign would be good publicity for their joint general election strategy it may end up highlighting a show pony versus a work horse.

While National struts it’s thoroughbred ability to last the distance, which could easily be another three years.

A lot could happen between now and September’s election. English or National could really stuff something up, but so far their election strategy looks smart and sound.

Little could finally find a formula that shows him as a capable leader, and Labour could sack all their strategists and speech writers and start again with a credible and stable campaign.

But they plus Greens don’t just have to look better than National now, they have quite a bit of damage to undo. Quickly.

Two remarkable speeches almost ignored

From Simon Wilson at The Spinoff:

PM Bill English gave two speeches on Waitangi Day. Both were remarkable. Both were almost entirely ignored

It’s good to see Wilson not ignoring them, but very poor of media generally – their obsession with trivia means they often miss important things.

The prime minister spent his first Waitangi Day in office not at the treaty grounds, but at Bastion Point, where Simon Wilson watched him give two of the most surprising Waitangi speeches in living memory.

Did you know Bill English used Waitangi Day to praise the great protest struggle of Bastion Point?

I didn’t know that until I saw Wilson’s article.

He made two speeches on the marae at Bastion Point that day, both of them in front of TV cameras and other media. Almost none of what he said got reported. Instead, there was a frenzy of excitement over his utterly inconsequential phone call with Donald Trump. But what the prime minister said on the marae at Bastion Point was extraordinary.

English chose not to go to Waitangi, preferring to attend a breakfast hosted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. When it came his turn to speak during the powhiri, which was held inside the wharenui, he began with a short mihi and then he said, “I want to tell you why I’ve come here, to this marae.”

He said it was because of what had been achieved by Ngāti Whātua and the manner of its achievement. He spoke directly to Joe Hawke, the much-loved Uncle Joe, the man who in 1976-78 led a 506-day protest “occupation” of the very land they were on that day.

He told them the modern history of Ngāti Whātua was a story of great success. And he wanted them to know he did not view the protest as an aberration in that story, but as a vital part of it. Later, over breakfast in the wharekai, he built on his theme.

There was a large audience – Ngāti Whātua, politicians, community representatives and media – and he said we are all engaged in a “great enterprise” of building a country based on “fairness, tolerance and respect”. Then he said, “We’ve all got better at it because of our struggles over the treaty.”

That’s true, but the general population has a way to go on this.

He said he knew what it cost the kaumātua who negotiated treaty settlements. At another iwi, one leader had told him he’d been unable to sleep the night before they signed. “He said he struggled with the burden of knowing he must say to his ancestors, ‘That’s enough.’ And he struggled with the responsibility of saying the same to his descendants.”

There are so many ways in which treaty settlements are different for Māori and Pākehā, and that’s one of them: Pākehā don’t think like that.

I don’t think Pākehā can think like that, but we can try to understand what it’ may be like. (See The soft and loud of “Pākehā” on ‘Pākehā’)

English also said, “Ngāti Whātua’s future is New Zealand’s future.” It wasn’t a mere platitude about diverse peoples coming together in national unity. He was pointing specifically to the economic and cultural importance of iwi to whole country.

“In the regions,” he said, “and I include Auckland in that, I would say that almost without exception the organisations that are most committed to development are the local iwi.”

That’s another remarkable thing for him to say. Iwi are economic powerhouses in the regions and major agents of social cohesion. Despite what Don Brash and his band of Hobson’s Pledge ostriches might want us to think, they’re not stripping the country of its assets and infrastructure – they’re building them.

“But,” English added, speaking not just of iwi but of the government and the country as a whole, “much as we have good intentions the truth is we have not met our aspirations.” He cited domestic violence, educational underachievement and the high rate of imprisonment: “These things are the signs of failure.”

Failures that are a complex mix of personal responsibilities, societal responsibilities and Government responsibilities.

Which is why, he said, Whānau Ora is important. Whānau Ora, which empowers iwi and smaller communities within them to develop services and direct them where they are needed most. Whānau Ora, said English, “represents the best and truest chance of the next 20 to 30 years”.

The takeaways were provocative. First, have we ever before had a National Party prime minister who speaks so unequivocally in support of Māori agency – and of Māori activism that lays the foundation for Māori agency?

Second, if the Bastion Point protest was historically invaluable, what does that say for other protest movements today – inside Māoridom and more widely?

Third, if English will say these things on the marae, will he say them in Parliament, and in the regions, to business groups and to his own party – will he say them to audiences who are not already primed to agree? He’s a diffident leader, a quiet explainer more than an engaging winner of hearts and minds, and he’s as liable as most politicians to duck the difficult issues when it’s hard to stand up for them.

Wilson closed by saying it is not the Prime Minister’s fault if important things he says are not given the media coverage they deserve. But it’s a shame. What English said on Waitangi Day deserves exposure – those of us who are not Maori can learn and understand more about treaty issues,and we can learn more about what English is prepared to speak about as our Prime Minister.

Prime Minister’s statement

Prime Minister’s statement from Bill English on the opening day of Parliament for election year.


DEBATE ON PRIME MINISTER’S STATEMENT

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): I move, That this House express its confidence in the National-led Government and commend its programme for 2017 as set out in the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament. Happy New Year to you, Mr Speaker, and to the Parliament and to all of those who look after us here in 2017 election year.

I want to confirm that the Government will remain focused on delivering for New Zealanders more opportunities to get ahead. At a time when there is so much distraction and negativity in the wider world this Government will proceed with the programme laid out in the statement: back New Zealanders who take the risks to create new jobs and businesses, back New Zealanders who work so hard each day so that they bring up their families, and back New Zealanders who need support to improve and change their lives.

In remaining focused on the things that matter this year, I want to acknowledge the support of our partners the ACT Party, United Future, and the Māori Party. Collectively our commitment to stable Government is what gives New Zealand so much of an advantage in a world of so much uncertainty. Nothing illustrates that focus better that the announcement last week of over 1,100 police staff. This commitment of half a billion dollars over the next 4 years comes with tight performance requirements for the police, to ensure that our communities are safer because of this investment. It comes after many years, actually, of work with the police to ensure that they can both catch criminals now and improve their crime prevention over time.

And we can make that choice because we have a strong economy and almost uniquely strong Government finances. A strong economy consistently delivering benefits. Higher incomes for families and more jobs.

The current forecasts show this economy growing at around 3 percent on average for the next 5 years. Of course there are risks about what might happen in the world, but that is the potential that we have. Lower unemployment and an average wage reaching $66,000 by 2021. I want to particularly remark on the record participation rate, because this is a dividend of growth. Our participation rate is now at a record high. What that means is that a greater proportion of working-age New Zealanders is now available for and looking for work than ever. That means that because of the growing economy, young people who were disconnected, older women, sole parents, and people with mild disabilities are now more likely to be available because they can see hope for a job. That is a pay-off for our strong economy.

It is no wonder that so many people were happy yesterday about Waitangi Day in New Zealand. It is no wonder. I want to thank the iwi and the urban marae of Auckland and the people of Auckland, hundreds of whom—thousands of whom—showed up to these events yesterday, for showing to New Zealand how Waitangi Day can be a celebration of our nation. It followed on from an excellent discussion between half of Cabinet and the Iwi Chairs Forum in Waitangi just a few days before, along with our partners from the Māori Party. What was striking about that whole week was the desire from people for New Zealand to be open, and for fairness, tolerance, and enterprise, rather than a history of protest and distraction.

When we look around the world, so many other countries are trapped by their internal conflicts. New Zealand is not. We have helped resolve them. Just one startling piece of information: there have only ever been 82 Treaty settlements signed. Of those, 66 were signed by a National-led Government, and 56 of those were signed in the term of this Government. I want to acknowledge our colleague the Hon Chris Finlayson, who has done all that work.

But it appears not everyone is happy. Not everyone is happy, and some of them look unhappy, like the Leader of the Opposition in Waitangi, with only two MPs, one of whom had said it was not a good idea to go. My deputy was there, with a significant delegation of National Party MPs—more than 10. What we saw there made me think of a new bestseller—”Lessons in Leadership”, written by Andrew Little and Winston Peters. Chapter 1 was written by Andrew Little: “How I Went All the Way to Waitangi to Tell Them I Wasn’t Coming”. Chapter 2 is “How, On the Way, I Picked a Star Political Candidate and United the Labour Party”. Chapter 3 was meant to be written by Winston Peters, but did not turn up. I think it would have been “How I Accidentally Spent Time in My Electorate on the Way to Shane’s Party”. Chapter 4 is going to be written by Ron Mark, and it is going to be a potboiler, I can tell you that.

New Zealand is confronted with the political version of what used to be Waitangi Day, and that is Labour and the Greens endlessly moaning about New Zealand—endlessly running down their country, so much so that the moderates and optimists have left the Labour Party. We saw one more resignation today, of the man Labour members now know they should have stuck with as a leader, and that is David Shearer. It is not as if we had not tried to cheer those members up. You would think that the first benefit increase in 40 years would have made them happy. No. No, it did not. You would have thought 130,000 new jobs last year would make them happy. No. You would have thought a new way of dealing with our most disadvantaged children would have made them happy. No. You would have thought a 10 percent increase in the number of police would make them happy. No. You would have thought that better educational achievement, particularly for the Māori and Pacific students that they think they represent, would make them happy. Did it make them happy?

Hon Members: No.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, it did not. You would have thought that—[Interruption]—listen to this—50,000 fewer children in benefit-dependent households would make them happy. Did that make them happy?

Hon Members: No.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is a reason why that did not make them happy, because it is 50,000 fewer people dependent on the Government machine; 50,000 more children with the spark of aspiration that they can grow, get their opportunities, in an economy driven by enterprise, not by big, old-fashioned Government that the Labour party now stands for.

The things that we are going to be doing this year, I guess, will not make them any more happy. In the programme here we have—and the statement that I have tabled—outlines the legislative progress of the Resource Management Act reform bill. This is one part of a comprehensive programme to improve the supply of housing. I will just tell you a bit about the other ones: special housing areas, the HomeStart grants, which are going to help 90,000 young New Zealanders into homes. The Housing New Zealand and Crown Land large scale building programme, which is getting up and under way, particularly in Auckland—the requirement that councils now take into account house-land values when they are deciding their zoning. The $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund currently under discussion between the Government and all the growing councils around New Zealand, the unit title reforms, and the upcoming Urban Development Authority legislation—all of these are focused on improving the supply of housing. And, of course, it takes some time for houses to get consented and built after their subdivisions have been consented and built, but we are on the right track. Last year 10,000 new houses in Auckland—because in the long run, it is only more houses on the ground that will enable a reasonable housing market, and we look forward to the Opposition’s support for those measures, because I believe it too actually does want to have a reasonably operating housing market.

The other thing the Opposition is not happy about is our extensive programme of investing in infrastructure for growth. This is about a shift in mind-set—a shift in mind-set—and, in a sense, this Government has shifted its mind-set along with what has happened with Kiwis, because here is one very good measure of how New Zealanders see their own country. Four years ago 40,000 people left this country to go to Australia. That was the net effect. Now, it is a net zero—in fact, a bit more, I think, a slight inflow. Tens of thousands of New Zealanders who are staying here when they used to leave, and they need more schools, more hospitals, more housing, more transport, and, actually, more investment in the core public sector infrastructure such as defence, police, security, tax collection, and so on.

So the capital spend by this Government in the last 5 years was $18 billion. In the next 5 years it is $32 billion, and that is the story of a consistently growing economy, a now-consistently growing population with moderate and consistent growth and incomes, a country with a clear sense of direction, and a Government committed to the policies that will support that direction. I look forward to—now, this is going to make the Opposition really unhappy—the opening of the Waterview Connection in Auckland. This is a project started by this Government, in fact this Minister of Transport, facilitated by legislation that the Opposition opposed, and it will be the biggest single change in Auckland transport in decades. We know the Opposition will complain about it the whole time.

Another one that is dear to my heart, and so important to rural and provincial New Zealand, is the extension of ultra-fast broadband (UFB). Two weeks ago, before we announced the 1,100 new Police staff, we announced that 150 more towns will get UFB. I met a couple that have installed call centres in Waverley and Ruatōria—Waverley and Ruatōria. They said that the next generation of technology they need, will come with UFB and that is on the list. So is that not fantastic. New jobs, real jobs in the regions being part of a comprehensive focus on regional development that is being carried out by a number of the Government senior Ministers.

We have seen the enthusiasm for that in Southland where they went to launch the plan and 500 people turned up. Even I could not get a crowd that big—in Invercargill 500 people turn up. In the West Coast they have got their own internal argument over what should go in the plan. But there is absolutely no doubt that in the regions they are engaged and invested in a process where Government is working alongside them. We do not pretend that the officials know what is going to work in Gisborne or in the West Coast, but they know. We can help them and we can support them because we back them instead of the Government department.

Another part of our agenda this year that is so critical not just to the regions but to the rest of the economy is trade. I know it is fashionable to talk it down and I know on the other side of the House they are right in line with the US policy which is to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Is it not amazing when you find out whose friends are whose? I am sure half the Labour Party members feel comfortable with that and half of them cannot believe they have found themselves in favour of a closed, isolated, inward-looking economy in New Zealand. We support open trade because we are open to investment, open to people, open to the world, and yes, it is a bit harder.

We do not expect the support of the Labour Party to do something in New Zealand’s long-term interests, like find our way through the challenges of a free-trade agenda when much of the world is making that harder. But one way or another working with like-minded countries we will do that because what we know is when we open the door to our exporters, they are better than anyone in the world at getting through it—better than anyone in the world. We back them. But we are not going to pack up and stay home, crying into spilt milk, just because the US has made a decision to pull out of the TPP. The Asia-Pacific is still the most dynamic economic region in the world and we want to ride that dynamism.

So New Zealand is in an increasingly, uniquely positive situation with a very good outlook compared to almost any other developed country. We have political stability, and it is part of the responsibility of the National Party this year to ensure that it stays that way. There is only one party that can guarantee political stability in this country through this election and it is the National Party and its potential support partners. Anything else—anything else—creates uncertainty when we need more certainty, not less. We have got the opportunity for so many positive choices, because we have Government surpluses. We can increase family incomes. We can invest in more public services. We can invest in the infrastructure for growth. We can pay off debt, which we had to run up to rebuild Christchurch and get through a recession, which of course on “Planet Labour” never happened. I am beginning to wonder who else is on “Planet Labour”—the Greens and, well, Willie Jackson might be there, or he might not be.

We are going to continue to be a reliable and considered partner for our friends around the world, at a time when advocates for openness can make a difference, and that is going to be the story of this Government this year.

Little on leadership and English

This is the ‘latest’ on the Labour Party website (they post more often on Facebook), a critique of Bill English’s state of the nation speech by Andrew Little:

My thoughts on Bill English’s State of the Nation speech

This afternoon, Bill English delivered what was supposed to be his first major speech as Prime Minister. But instead we got a skinny version of a Labour policy, and no new ideas for the biggest challenges facing New Zealand.

That’s rather ironic given that Little announced no new Labour policy in his state of the nation speech.

And it reaffirmed to me that he is no leader.

A real leader wouldn’t ignore the housing crisis, the single biggest issue facing thousands of Kiwis struggling to buy their first home. There wasn’t one mention of it in his entire speech.

Leadership is about looking out for the future and braving the big decisions – not ignoring problems because they’re hard. I know there’s a housing crisis, and Labour has a comprehensive plan to fix it.

And a real leader would’ve announced the funding of extra police officers last year, like I did. Instead, Bill English signed off on a four year freeze on police numbers – and less than a year later, he’s backtracked. He’s a follower, not a leader.

One can easily see this as cynical timing in an election year, but calling it a backtrack by a follower sounds quite odd.

Labour has known there’s a crime problem for a long time and we’ve come up with a solution. Making the right decisions at the right time, not months afterwards – that’s what real leadership is about.

It’s time for a Government with vision, energy and a real plan to make New Zealand a better place.

Let’s change the Government. You can read my State of the Nation speech with our vision of New Zealand here.

That’s the speech without any new policy.

Real leadership would show more vision than a fairly lame attack on the current leader. Rather than putting so much emphasis on trying to belittle his opponent Little should, well, act like he can be a leader.