English claims some credit for Waitangi calm

Waitangi day, or more accurately the day before Waitangi Day, has been mired in protest for a number of years. However this year things are running far more amicably. A lot of credit for that has to go to Jacinda Ardern’s efforts to engage over several days.

Bill English is also claiming some of the credit – by staying away. English has gone about as far from Waitangi as he can get, Bluff (ok, Slope Point and Stewart island are further south).

Newstalk ZB: English says his avoidance of ‘shenanigans’ has helped make Waitangi better

The leader of the opposition has his own agenda for Waitangi day.

Bill English is attending the Ngai Tahu Treaty Festival.

A number of his National Party MPs will join him in Bluff – in a bid to commemorate Waitangi in different parts the country.

English told Chris Lynch he is pleased to see changes have been made at Waitangi – but he’s chosen not to attend celebrations there again this year, because of controversy that’s occurred in the past.

He may be right, but even if he had attended Ardern’s presence is likely to have dominated, and I doubt that anyone except Cameron Slater would be interested in protesting against English.

Now the protest bubble may have been burst it would be good to see whoever is Leader of the Opposition next year joining whoever is the Prime Minister in a show of Parliamentary unity at Waitangi.

Meaningless but mean leadership speculation

Supposed issues over the leadership of Bill English was very suspiciously leaked on the day he was due to give a big ‘state of the nation speech’ earlier this week, and of course the media thrashed it.

There were the inevitable denials, and inevitable media claims that denials mean the opposite.

Leadership speculation is one of the great blood sports of politics – and is often dirty, whether orchestrated by people with their own leadership ambitions, or by opponents trying to create mischief.

Bill English appears to be secure as National Party leader at the moment, but it hasn’t stopped the speculation and stoking of a what appears to have been a non-story.

Every MP ‘absolutely stands behind the leader’ – until that leader’s position is in jeopardy. It is political suicide not absolutely appearing to stand by your leader.

Political journalists love intrigue, especially over leadership, so are a major (and willing) part of the game.

Ardern v English on poverty measures

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tried to reach out to Bill English and National over proposals to better measure poverty, but it has become a messy stoush.

RNZ: PM ‘saddened’ at claims Nats not consulted on poverty Bill

Reducing child poverty was a strong focus for both National and Labour during the election campaign, and the government promised a bi-partisan approach.

Ms Arden contacted National Party leader Bill English late last year about consulting on the draft bill.

In the letter dated 13 December, Ms Ardern included a “key summary of the proposed Bill”.

It said there would be child poverty targets but they would not be included in legislation so as to not “bind future governments to any particular target”.

The letter sought feedback from Mr English, along with an offer for a briefing from officials.

With the bill due to be introduced to Parliament tomorrow, Mr English told Morning Report this morning his party has had no opportunity to influence the shape of the bill.

Ms Ardern said she was “saddened” to hear this, as she had reached out last year.

“I hope we did provide that opportunity, again we have a select committee process to go through as well on top so I still hope we’ll get support from all parties.

She said she would happy to still work with National outside of the select committee process as the Bill progresses through Parliament.

English is miffed that the Government are dropping the Better Public Service targets

Mr English said the Better Public Service targets were a key component of this policy, which he raised in his response to Ms Ardern.

But there had been no chance to discuss the targets before they were scrapped, he said.

“The government’s on its timetable, it wants to get the Bill introduced before the end of the 100 days, I don’t think they ever seriously intended … that there would be a serious bi-partisan effort on it.”

This came up in question time in Parliament yesterday.

2. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does her Government intend to retain the Better Public Service Targets to reduce the number of people on a benefit by 25 percent, reduce the number of serious crimes being committed by 10,000, and reduce the number of children hospitalised for preventable conditions by 25 percent?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): No. We will have our own system for monitoring and reporting on performance against our priorities. Our targets will reflect our different priorities from the previous Government and will look beyond simple measures and, in fact, to underlying causes.

Rt Hon Bill English: Did the Prime Minister consider past success of selected targets that addressed areas of persistent social dysfunction, such as reducing welfare dependency, reducing reoffending rates for criminals, holding the numbers of children affected by child abuse, and lifting educational attainment among Māori and Pacific students?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think it’s fair to say that probably all Governments share an ambition for reducing crime and improving employment. Our point is that we have a set of priorities that get to the root cause of some of the issues that we’re seeing in New Zealand. A great example, for instance, would be our ambition to measure and target directly issues like child poverty. That’s getting to the root cause of an issue rather than just some of the symptoms, as past Better Public Services (BPS) targets did.

Rt Hon Bill English: Why does the Government persist with the view that poverty in New Zealand is purely a function of income, when the evidence is overwhelming that low educational achievement, family violence, long-term welfare dependency, and serial criminal offending have a huge impact on persistent deprivation and material hardship?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because the evidence points to material hardship as being one of the most consistent drivers of poor outcomes for children. We’ve never argued that that in and of itself was the only issue that needs to be looked at, which is why, of course, we’re also requiring—and will, as a Government, focus more broadly on—a child well-being strategy for the very reasons that the past Minister points out.

Rt Hon Bill English: So can the Prime Minister confirm that the Government is therefore going to abandon a focused approach to social dysfunction, caused by the factors that I’ve referred to, and limit its approach to addressing deprivation simply to the measurement of income?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No, because, in fact, as the member well knows, we’ve also included material hardship as one of the things that we would like to include and hold ourselves to account on. Our point is that we, in fact, want to be broader in the accountabilities we hold ourselves to as a Government. The BPS targets that the last Government had were quite narrowly focused. They looked at symptoms rather than root causes, and in some cases were manipulated and didn’t lead to improved outcomes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will it help in the efficacy of future measurements that she discovered family and child poverty before she entered Government, not nine years after it?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Deputy Prime Minister makes a very good point. We have long held a view, based on research and evidence, that if we wanted to improve the well-being of children we could not ignore poverty as long as the last Government chose to.

Rt Hon Bill English: Has she seen comments by the State Services Commissioner, who said that the Better Public Services targets achieved real results: “More kids are getting immunised. Fewer kids are being physically abused. Participation in early childhood is on the increase. [And] 40,000 fewer working age people are receiving benefits compared with three years ago. That’s a whole bunch of things that change lives.”, and why does she think that achieving those things doesn’t change lives and ought to be stopped?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: This Government has no problem with the issue of targets, with priority setting, with goals as a way to drive the focus from the Public Service and the Government. Our point is we will have our own. In fact, the last Government changed their own targets several times during their time in Government, and it will not surprise the member that we have a different set of priorities—a broader set of priorities—than them.

Rt Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Government’s priority is the measurement of income only, and the other factors that determine material hardship and deprivation reflected in the targets set by the previous Government are now going to be ignored by the new Government—factors such as persistent—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the member—[Interruption] Order! I’ll just ask the Leader of the Opposition to shorten his questions up to one or two, rather than three or four.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Rt Hon Bill English: Has the Prime Minister seen the data that show that maternal and baby care are much more likely to be satisfactory when mothers enrol with their lead maternity carer in the first trimester of their pregnancy, and has she instructed the Public Service to stop focusing on that measure, which was initiated in May last year?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I am being very consistent in the point here that we need to be much broader in the goals that we set ourselves. I take, for example, the rheumatic fever Better Public Services target that the last Government set. That did nothing to resolve the long-term driver of rheumatic fever, which is cold, damp, overcrowded housing. In the same way, if we want to improve maternal outcomes, we have to look at the barriers as to why women aren’t enrolling with lead maternity carers, and they are complex and often involve deprivation.

Rt Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister therefore confirm that the target that was set to lift to 90 percent the proportion of women enrolled in the first trimester with their lead maternity carer has now been abandoned, and if so, why?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We have our own set of priorities. They will be replaced, and they’ll be released in good time.

Rt Hon Bill English: So can I take it, then, the Prime Minister is confirming that target has been abandoned, and people working in social and health services are no longer to be trying to enrol women earlier? And if she has abandoned it, what other measures has she taken to ensure that those women who weren’t enrolled will get better maternal care in the next 12 months?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The implication that those who work in our health services will no longer be interested in the health and well-being of pregnant women in New Zealand is, frankly, an insult. Of course they are, but we’re also saying that this Government’s priority is that those mothers also have decent housing, that they are free of harm and abuse, and that they have decent incomes. We want to get to the root cause of problems, not just the short-term issues.

Parliament resumes this week

Parliament will kick off in 2018 tomorrow (Tuesday 30 January). The order paper includes:

  1. Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill – first reading
  2. Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill – first reading
  3. Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa) Amendment Bill – first reading
  4. Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill – second reading
  5. Conservation (Infringement System) Bill – first reading
  6. Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Bill (No 2) – first reading

So the new Government is busy implementing their policies, but this is just the beginning of an ambitions programme. Much of this was signalled in Labour’s 100 day pledge, but that is mostly initiating things that will take some time.

Henry Cooke (Stuff): 100 days is almost up, but the real fight is just beginning

After five weeks off, Parliament will finally sit again on Tuesday, just in the nick of time for the new Government.

The deadline for their talked-up “100-day plan” of 17 goals is this Saturday.

Before then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National leader Bill English will both give major speeches on Wednesday, hers on child poverty, his a scene-setting “state of the nation” speech to supporters. Ardern will also speak at Laneway festival on Monday.

So political junkies will have a lot of words to digest this week.

…the 100-day plan will not really end on the 100th day of the sixth Labour government.

The battles set up over the last two and a half months will last through until at least 2019, and possibly longer.

Of those 17 tasks in the 100-day plan just three are left: the establishment of an inquiry into abuse in state care, the introduction of workplace legislation, and new legislation to put a child poverty measure into our official statistics.

These are all just the beginning of something much larger.

In fact, almost all of the 17 goals are simply the start of something: legislation introduced, working groups set up, inquiries established.

Outside of the education portfolio little about New Zealand has materially changed since Ardern became Prime Minister.

Good legislation takes time, as does good social policy waiting for funding allocations (this will really kick off in the annual budget in May). There is one certainty – there is never enough money to meet all needs and wants.

Governments work slowly because it matters that they get things right the first time, and financial changes naturally shape themselves around financial years.

By the middle of the year poor and middle income families will be receiving a lot more from Working for Families and a lot more paid parental leave if their families grow.

But the families package, as expensive as it is, is not a structural change to the way New Zealand operates: it’s a shift in funding from tax relief to various benefits already administered by the Government, and a single new one – the simple Winter Energy Payment.

In the immediate term these kind of funding shifts can change individual lives, but this Government clearly has ambitions beyond that, for change that can’t be undone by a future Finance Minister short on cash.

Those kinds of changes – kicked off by the 100-day plan, but nowhere near completed – will dominate the term.

And unless a promise is broken it won’t all happen this term – the tax working group will make recommendations, but Ardern has committed to going to another election before implementing tax changes.

Political scientists don’t generally think that big speeches like the ones coming up this week matter, but politicians definitely do.

It’ll be worth watching both of them to see how each leader is planning to take on the battles this year will bring.

What Ardern and English say this week may give us some hints about how they will approach the year and the term, but it will take months and years to see how their actual actions pan out.

Politics, religion the annual Rātana ritual and babies

I thought that state and religion were supposed to be kept separate (is this true in New Zealand?), but there has long been a close link in New Zealand between religion and politics. This is still the case to an extent, with each political year now kicking off in force with a ritual visit to the Rātana church.

Some history from Te Ara: Religion and politics

The churches played significant, often controversial, roles in politics.

Between the mid-1830s and early 1860s Anglican missionaries, clergy and laymen led the humanitarian campaign to uphold Māori rights and welfare. An even larger number of Māori Christians, also often Anglican, defended their land and political rights.

Between the 1870s and the 1930s Scottish Presbyterians joined forces with other dissenters – Methodists, Baptists, Brethren, Congregationalists, the Church of Christ and the Salvation Army – to form a powerful evangelical coalition.

In the 1880s, as political parties emerged, outsiders – dissenters, Catholics and secularists – often supported the centre-left parties in New Zealand’s relatively narrow political spectrum. The Liberal government (1889–1912) of John Ballance, a moderate freethinker, and Richard ‘King Dick’ Seddon, an Anglican populist, attracted significant support from all three groups.

From 1912 members of the Protestant-dominated Reform party of ‘Farmer Bill’ Massey, a Presbyterian from an Ulster background.

Political success eluded Labour until 1935, when leaders such as Michael Joseph Savage (who returned to his Catholic roots) and Walter Nash, an Anglican socialist, moved the party closer to the ideological centre. A dozen ministers or ex-ministers of religion stood for Parliament in the 1935 election. Labour won a landslide victory by presenting itself as the party of practical Christian compassion, which it contrasted with the heartless and anti-family depression-era coalition government. Savage famously described Labour’s Social Security Act 1938, intended to provide security for all from cradle to grave, as ‘applied Christianity’.

One of the law’s chief architects was Arnold Nordmeyer, a Christian socialist who served as a Presbyterian minister at Kurow before entering politics.

Labour also forged an alliance with the Rātana Church, which lasted into the 1990s. Much subsequent expansion of the welfare state occurred under National governments, testifying to the enduring significance of ‘applied Christianity’ in the middle ground of politics.

Since then I think religion has been less prominent in New Zealand politics, althoughthere have been a number of Christian parties over the last couple of decades –  Christian Heritage, the Christian Democrats, the Christian Coalition and Destiny New Zealand – but all failed to make Parliament on their own.

The Christian Democrats purged Christian references from their policies, changed name to “Future New Zealand” and then merged with Peter Dunne’s United Party but dragged the resulting United Future Party down in acrimony and split.

Minister of Finance and then Prime Minister Bill English has strong Catholic links and follows some of their conservative lines on issues like abortion. National MP Simon O’Connor trained to become a Catholic priest but was not ordained. He recently spoke strongly against the End of Life Choice (euthanasia) Bill in Parliament.

There has been talk from Labour that they are returning to focus on more compassionate social policies, and Jacinda Ardern is often presented as a compassionate person, but although she had a religios upbrining she now says she is agnostic. From Wikipedia:

Ardern was raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but left the church in 2005 because, she said, it conflicted with her personal views (in particular her support for gay rights). In January 2017 Ardern identified as “agnostic”.

Minister of Health David Clark is an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Despite these connections religion is not prominent in politics for most of the year, except for the January Ratana ritual.

RNZ: Political year gears up at Rātana

The pilgrimage of politicians to Rātana Pā traditionally marks the start of the political calendar and has special significance this year as the centennial event.

This will be Jacinda Ardern’s first visit to Rātana as Prime Minister and Labour leader. Along with MPs from Labour, New Zealand First and the Green Party, she is expected to arrive about 11am.

Ms Ardern said she was looking forward to the event, and acknowledged the church may have certain expectations now Labour was in power.

“I welcome that. Expectations are what keep driving you harder.”

National leader Bill English and his team would be welcomed in the early afternoon. He said he expected the reception to be “respectful and warm” as usual.

NZH (video): Highlights from Ratana

Stuff: Rātana offers support, special speaking rights, and a name for Jacinda Ardern’s baby

Even the Rātana ritual has been plastered with baby stuff.

It looks like babies in politics will be far more prominent than religion in politics, despite it being an anniversary year for the Rātana church.

It is significant that Ardern is pregnant, but the importance of that looks likely to be trashed by truckloads of trivia.

Abortion law reform on the table

In New Zealand it’s fairly easy to get a safe abortion, but to do so it’s necessary to claim harm that may be more fabricated than fact.

During the election campaign Jacinda Ardern said she would shift abortion out of the Crimes Act, something that’s long overdue. She said…

“…there will be a majority of Parliament that think, actually in 2017, women shouldn’t face being criminals for accessing their own rights”.

In contrast then prime Minister Bill English said the current sham was “broadly satisfactory” and didn’t need changing.

Now Minister of Justice Andrew Little  is starting a process to look at how to change the law.

Stuff:  Government takes first steps towards abortion law reform

Abortion is a polarising issue with laws that haven’t changed in 40 years. It became an election issue last year when Jacinda Ardern stated in a fiery leaders’ debate that she would shift abortion out of the Crimes Act, where it has been since 1977.

Justice Minister Andrew Little told Stuff this week that Labour wants to “modernise” the laws and see abortion treated as a health issue – not a criminal one.

That means he will soon write to the Law Commission to get advice on the best process for doing so.

Significantly more people support change than oppose it.

In December, Family First commissioned a poll of 1013 New Zealanders found 52 per cent of people generally support abortion while 29 per cent are opposed.

Interestingly, 53 per cent of those who generally support abortion think the time limit for getting one should be less than the current 20 weeks stated in the Crimes Act.

That may depend on how the time limit question was asked. I think that most people would ideally prefer a shorter time frame, but most would also probably support longer times in special circumstances – such as when the mother’s life was in danger.

When, as seems likely, the law change comes to be voted on in Parliament, it will see politicians from either side of the aisle with contrasting views.

National leader English has previously called the current setup “broadly satisfactory”.

His caucus isn’t united in that view though, for example, Nikki Kaye has called the current law “archaic”.

National’s justice spokeswoman Amy Adams told Stuff reforming abortion laws “hasn’t been a focus of the National Party” and she’d want to see proposed changes before commenting further.

‘Not a focus’ is politician speak for avoiding addressing an issue that should be dealt with. It has also been an excuse used, ironically, by Andrew Little when he was Labour leader and pulled a Member’s Bill on euthanasia (taken over by David Seymour, drawn from the ballot and now before Parliament).

Similarly Ardern has previously said she expected some of her own caucus would oppose a bill proposing changes to the law.

When it comes to a vote in parliament it should be a conscience issue. Some MPs are likely to put their own views ahead of the views of their constituency, but that’s how things have always worked. But if the time is right to fix a fudging of current law then Parliament should have enough votes to sort it out.

 

 

Political carols

Excerpts from Toby Manhire: Walking in a Winston Wonderland

We Three Things:

Jacinda Ardern solo:
Just a kid from Moh-orrinsville
Keen to help out Andy Little
It’s not hubris, to just do this
Truth is that I quite like Bill
*
James Shaw solo:
Great Together, I believe in
Speak the truth – that’s how we win
Metiria, great co-leader
Popped into recycling bin
*
Winston Peters solo:
Had enough? Too right they had
Status quo was very bad
Need a deadline? Watch it, Sunshine
Covfefe, believe me, sad!

We Wish you a Merry Christmas
Feat Bill English

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And would just note in passing that the National Party won more votes than anyone and yet is not in government which a lot of ordinary New Zealanders will find surprising as they approach their Happy New Year.

Gareth the Red Mo’ed Reindeer
As sung by Gareth Morgan

Gareth the Red Mo’ed Reindeer
Had a very small ego
But all the lipsticked reindeers
Were a bunch of thick bozos

Fiscal Spells
As sung by Steven Joyce

O! Fiscal spells, fiscal spells
Fiscal hole, OK?
O what fun it is to ride
When you’re running the campaign.

Little Drummer Boy
As sung by Andrew Little

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
Just a new deputy, pa rum pum pum pum
Must replace Annette King, pa rum pum pum pum
Anyway you know what happened after that and it’s all fine now.

Mārie Te Pō
As sung by Don Brash

Mārie te pō, tapu te pō
Marino, marama
Ko te Whāea, me te Tama
Tama tino, tapu rā
Moe mai i te aio
Moe mai i te aio.

Google doesn’t translate that well, but it is obviously

Silent night, holy night, calm, bright etc.

Whāea is mother, Tama is boy/sun but no sign of a virgin there.

 

“What National needs to do” – a transparent envelope

‘Cameron Slater’ in  The back of the envelope analysis of what National needs to do to win in 2020 at Whale Oil:

National still has no path to 61 seats and victory.

That is the key.

They do have various paths to forming the next Government (‘victory’ is not a thing under MMP). It won’t be easy for them – and it won’t be easy for Labour, NZ First or the Greens either.

The problem is like a rotting fish for want of a better metaphor. Everyone knows the ancient proverb that a fish rots from the head down.

And so it is with National.

While Bill leads National, National has no route to 61 seats in the house.

Let’s face it, Bill English is basically devoid of personality.

English was actually credited with running a very good campaign, showing his own personality, and achieving a very creditable result for a third term party in government. He missed out on remaining Prime Minister because NZ First chose not to back them, that’s all.

He tried to emulate John Key’s blokiness and just came across as fake. You can’t spend a lifetime in the beltway scheming and plotting to counter for your own lack of ability and not have it affect your personality. When your chosen career of politician is a career actually chosen for you by your Mum then there is no real driving force inside of you…other that seeking power for power’s sake.

So it’s another attempt to trash English. Another of many attempts.

How popular National would be if they got rid of Bill English and a few other hangers-on like Nick Smith and Paula Bennett.

And others. Slater has been naming National MPs for months that he doesn’t like so wants them out.

So, what National needs to do is lop off the stinking, rotting head of the fish, and get themselves a new leader and deputy more suited to the modern political environment. That team must also show that unlike Labour, they have personality AND the necessary skills to lead the country.

Labour succeeded this year due to the personality of Jacinda Ardern.

English led the country for nearly a year, and was generally regarded as successful at that, except by extremists with their own agendas at the likes of The Standard – and Whale Oil.

All National needs to ask itself is “What is our route to 61 seats?”. As soon as they realise that Bill English won’t provide that route because of his long, long, long history then he will have his political throat cut. If he’s smart he will do it himself after wangling some offshore job somewhere…but he has only a limited time to do it.

Slater offers no analysis of what National should do except dump English and others he doesn’t like. His envelope is very transparent.

I think that English did the right thing staying on as leader of the Opposition. When Helen Clark and her deputy Michael Cullen stepped down straight after losing in 2008 Labour were rushed into appointing Phil Goff as a caretaker leader, and then struggled for nine years until the fortuitous rise of Ardern.

It may well be that it is best for English to retire, but it would be silly to rush that. Other senior National MPs will no doubt also step aside during the next couple of years. They will do it their way, not jump to Slater’s agenda.

And despite repeatedly trashing those in National he holds grudges against, as he did through the election campaign and since, Slater is still largely failing to rouse support on Whale Oil.

Tanya Stebbing commented:

English actually did lead National to an election win, he did brilliantly, it was just that Winston had an axe to grind. Well, Winston won’t have the chance at the next election, so it will be down to Labour/Greens versus National/Act, and if the new govt continue performing poorly they may well lose more votes. We will see petrol hikes next year, no tax cuts, inflation rise, food and services go up. Once people get hit in the pocket, votes become very volatile.

I hope English stays on, he did an outstanding job, wouldn’t it be amazing if he got up yet again for third-time victory, one that is unable to be stolen and there are no coalition nonsense talks! Now, that would be sweet indeed!

That got 24 upticks.

Christie, unlike Slater, tried some analysis (4 upticks):

I have said this before. I believe NZF will be gone t the net election, as Winston has promised and failed to deliver one time too many. That will leave 3 parties in place – two of which are joined at the hip. We will effectively be back to FPP and there is no reason why National cannot govern in such circumstances.

That’s one possibility that looks reasonably likely. Slater responded (1 uptick):

There is plenty of reason. Firstly you are defying the vagaries of MMP. Nowhere int eh world that has MMP has one party ever governed alone.

That doesn’t mean it will never happen. It’s quite feasible that NZ First and Greens miss the threshold next election if they disappoint voters this term. That will leave National and Labour and possibly ACT. A one party government would be likely, unless National tacked ACT on again.

Secondly…what is National’s path to 61 seats?

That’s about the extent of Slater’s ‘analysis’, a question he fails to answer except for banging on about a purge of people he doesn’t like.

I’ll suggest some possibilities to a pathway to 61 seats for National.

Leaders and MPs not rushing into retiring. Being an effective opposition. Coming up with a sensible set of policies. Running an effective campaign in 2020.

Other things largely outside the control of National will also play a major part in any pathways, like how Ardern measures up as Prime Minister, how Labour Ministers perform, how Winston Peters performs, whether Peters retires or not, whether Shane Jones looks anything more than an maleloquent idiot, how James Shaw performs, how the Greens perform.

National did remarkably well for a party in their third term in Government in this year’s election, and they managed that without heeding Slater’s advice.

My back of the envelope analysis of what National needs to do to win in 2020 is to continue to keep as much distance as possible from Slater and his transparent agenda.

More futility on the tax cuts that won’t be

Parliament kicked off again today with questions to the Prime Minister about the planned reversal of the legislated tax cuts. I don’t think anything much was gained in the exchange, but Bill English made several points amongst the exchanges.

Rt Hon Bill English: So can the Prime Minister confirm that, under the Taxation (Budget Measures: Family Incomes Package) Act 2017, which is currently the law of the land, as supported by National, the Greens, and New Zealand First, a teacher on the average wage would, from 1 April 2018, pay $1,060 less in tax if the current law was to continue in place?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have already answered that question, but, as I continue to point out in this House, it is a hypothetical question because that law has not come into effect, and it won’t come into effect.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister aware of just how many families are in a category similar to a teacher on the average wage, who would pay less tax from 1 April 2018 if the current law was allowed to continue?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m glad the member raised the effect on families. As we’ve said, we will not be proceeding with fully bringing into effect the tax-cut package that he introduced, because it gives $400 million to the top 10 percent of earners when, in fact, this Government’s priorities, which are different, will see 70 percent of families with children better off—70 percent.

That’s 70% of families with children, not families without children, and not households without children.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister aware that there are 1.2 million households who do not have children under the age of 18 and, in addition to that, that there are 700,000 superannuitants who would benefit from the reduction in tax that is currently on the law book in this Parliament?

Labour have been trying to divert from those demographics that will not benefit from their planned changes.

Many of them will in fact pay more tax as a percentage of their income as pay rises will increase the proportion of their income taxed at their highest (marginal) rate.

Rt Hon Bill English: Why did her Government decide that money should be taken from a teacher on the average wage and spent on what is now widely regarded as an ineffective policy of providing the first year of tertiary education free for the overwhelming number of young people, who are going to do it anyway?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: First of all, I would say that we have taken nothing away from income tax earners, because they have not received it.

That is a poor way of describing things.

I earn money, and my employer takes money away from me as PAYE tax and ACC Earner Premium, on behalf of the Government.

Under current legislation the Government would take less away from me from 1 April next year.

Under legislation planned by Ardern’s Government more tax will be taken away from me each pay than what is currently legislated.

Perhaps to emphasise her view of how income tax works Ardern repeated herself.

Rt Hon Bill English: Will the Prime Minister answer the question this time, and that is: if it’s unfair for a tax cut that might benefit members of Parliament, why is it fair to remove a tax cut for a teacher on the average wage so that my children can have a much larger subsidy to attend their first of tertiary education?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: First of all, we have removed nothing from those taxpayers.

The Government removes tax from us every pay.

Second of all, I would wager that a number of those teachers would welcome the idea of not having been burdened with student debt by making education more accessible.

And I would wager that a number of teachers would like to pay less income tax so they can pay off their student debt faster, or pay off their mortgages faster, or save more for a deposit to buy a house.

Ardern’s Government plans to take more tax away from many people than English’s government legislated for.

But it’s often futile getting straight questions and straight answers out of politicians,.

English succumbing to bark at every car syndrome

Opponents claimed the Key/English government cost lives, now English is trying that same attack. This looks both petty and highly questionable.

English seems to be quickly succumbing to barking at every car syndrome.

I thought he could be good in Opposition, even decent, but he seems to have chosen descent.

This won’t help National recovery and rebuild. English needs to relearn being an effective Opposition, or else he is unlikely to last out this term.