Labour’s fiscal plan was never realistic

Labour campaigned with a fiscal plan last year, and it was the centre of a controversial claim by Steven Joyce that demonstrated an $11b fiscal ‘hole’.

The reality is that the fiscal plan was not a plan as it could never have been implemented – there was virtually no chance of Labour governing alone. And this is Labour’s excuse for budgeting $12b more than specified in their plan, the cost of governing arrangements with other parties.

This is an obvious reality of single party campaign policies in an MMP environment where single parties have never governed alone, so it may be more a problem of how parties (and media) portray campaign policies.

NZH: Labour’s first Budget vs its campaign plan: Does it match up?

A comparison of Labour’s campaign fiscal plan with its first Budget shows things are not tracking quite as Labour planned during the campaign, something it put down to its coalition agreements and higher costs than expected.

Analysis by NZ Herald data journalist Keith Ng shows total Crown spending is forecast to be almost $12.5 billion higher over the five years to 2021/22 than Labour forecast in the “fiscal plan” it campaigned on in the last election.

That takes it to $24 billion more than National had planned over that period.

Labour campaigned on its fiscal plan against criticism from National that it had not allowed enough to cover the costs of its policies as well as increases in Government spending such as wage increases.

The higher spending also indicates the cost of securing the support of NZ First and the Green Party was higher than Labour allowed for in its fiscal plan and some policies were costing more than expected.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Budget should not be compared to Labour’s fiscal plan because it was based on Labour Party policy while the Budget reflected the Government arrangement with NZ First and the Greens.

In one way that’s a fair claim by Robertson. Labour was never likely to govern alone.

But did Robertson make it clear that his fiscal plan was not a plan?

He could not know which parties Labour may combine with to form a Government. But he must have known his fiscal plan would never remain intact in an MMP government, and should have expressed it with that clear proviso.

Will this happen next election? It’s likely to be glossed over again, or at least Labour may try that, but having been in Government with two other parties it should be much harder to get away with.

Unless Labour campaigns with the expectation that NZ First and Greens will miss the cut and won’t impact on Labour’s fiscal plan.

 

 

 

Trump ‘campaign spy’ claim refuted

As has become normal, Donald Trump made a big claim via Twitter on Friday based on what appear to be nothing more than vague rumours.

And as usual, this seems to have been somewhat embellished.

NY Times: F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims

President Trump accused the F.B.I. on Friday, without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign “for political purposes” even before the bureau had any inkling of the “phony Russia hoax.”

In fact, F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign. The informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, made contact late that summer with one campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, according to people familiar with the matter. He also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page, who was also under F.B.I. scrutiny for his ties to Russia.

No evidence has emerged that the informant acted improperly when the F.B.I. asked for help in gathering information on the former campaign advisers, or that agents veered from the F.B.I.’s investigative guidelines and began a politically motivated inquiry, which would be illegal.

Trump has never been bothered much about evidence when making accusations and claims, but he is demanding an investigation

Fox News: Trump to ‘demand’ Justice probe whether feds spied on campaign for political purposes

Promoting a theory that is circulating, Trump quoted Fox Business anchor David Asman and tweeted Friday: “Apparently the DOJ put a Spy in the Trump Campaign. This has never been done before and by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn’t commit.”

But Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani cast some doubt on that.

On whether there was an “informant” in the 2016 presidential campaign, Giuliani told CNN, “I don’t know for sure, nor does the president, if there really was one,” though he said they have long been told there was “some kind of infiltration.”

Perhaps another investigation would clarify the extent of the FBI attention given the trump campaign, but it would also add another ring to the Trump circus.

How solid are campaign policies and pledges?

A lot of attention is given to policies and pledges and promises and hints during election campaigns. Parties argue for their own ‘if we are in Government’ pitches and examine and criticise opposing parties’ promises.

But how much weight should we put on campaign statements? The way MMP works, especially when there is a balance of power play like now, parties have to compromise, they have to give up some of their own policies and accept others.

Already we have seen that Peters appears to back off Maori seat referendum pledge.

If he stood by that pledge it would rule out governing with Labour (or so Labour have said before negotiations begin) so what would reduce his bargaining power substantially.

The way our MMP works all policies are negotiable after the election.

The cynical amongst us might think that some of the ‘promises’ are made to be broken by a junior party accommodation.

Greens knew that would have to have Labour to get into Government, so would have to give up some of their own policies and accept some of Labour’s.

Even though Labour and Greens had a Memorandum of Understanding to present a combined bid for government a core part of that agreement was to be able to have different policies. Even if Labour+Greens had been able to form a government on their own neither would be able to fulfil all their promises.

Peters has already made an adjustment, and with only 7-7.5% of the total vote will have to accept that many of the NZ First policies won’t (or shouldn’t) hold sway no matter which way they go.

There should always be big caveats considered on all campaign policies and pledges.

This is the last day of the campaign!

Today is the last day of the election campaign for 2017. I’m sure many politicians, candidates, journalists and others such as myself will be relieved when it’s over.

All billboards and other public advertising must be removed by midnight and out of sight by election day (ridiculous given the number of advance votes these days), so campaign teams will be busy today cleaning up their efforts to entice voters.

If you want to promote any candidates or parties here get it done today, because you won’t be allowed to tomorrow because of electoral law.

I won’t be doing any posts on New Zealand politics or the election during the day on Saturday, to reduce the risk of anyone breaking the law and putting the site at legal risk.

I will put up an election night post for anyone who wants to comment after voting closes at 7 pm.

“…this whole election has just been a giant fucking kick to the guts?”

Inevitably there are people who are disillusioned by election campaigns as they become aware their ideals are a long way from being realised.

From Reddit: An election of disappointments…

Far out. Is anyone else feeling like this whole election has just been a giant fucking kick to the guts? This is the first election that I’ve followed closely (during previous ones I’ve been too young and distracted). But yeah, this whole lead up to the election has continually pushed me further down a path of disappointment in politics.

Before the election campaigning started, the state of NZ was pretty disappointing. Huge inequality, super high imprisonment rates, high child poverty, tax loop holes that were massively perpetuating inequality, disproportionate housing prices, high suicide rates, environmental destruction/pollution… you get the picture – NZ certainly had room to improve.

Initially it was looking like another National win. Disappointing, more of the same inequality perpetuated…

Then the Greens (who were, in my opinion, a shining light of hope in that at least the environment might get some wins) started pushing their environmental policies to the back benches, in their attempts to win more votes through social/economic polity. On top of that, the Greens then fell victim to some silly nonsense that was blown out of proportion by the media. Disappointing that the media did that, and that the general public reacted the way they did…

It was great to see Turei standing up for her values, and to see a bit of an up-rising of people in similar (oppressed) positions. But then she gave up, and stood down… disappointing.

Then Labour changed their leadership (but kept 90% of the same policies), and the public started frothing at the loins. It was heartening that we might be able to take a small step toward more equality with Labour’s policies, but disappointing that the public could be so shallow as to have their vote swung by a new face alone.

And now, for fuck’s sake, Labour has bowed to National’s pressure and the size of the possibly small step in the right direction (toward more equality) just got 100x smaller… we’re now all staring down the barrel of the same old gun of perpetuating inequality no matter which major party wins… disappointing as fuck.

The one true beacon of hope in all of this, in my opinion, has been TOP. A fresh party with fresh policies that are actually based on evidence and expert input. But again, disappointing that the general public seem to be too blinkered to even take the time to consider an alternative…

I guess I should just be happy that I’ve been lucky enough to have had the amazing opportunities that have placed me above the half way mark, and I’m on the lucky side of the perpetuating inequality… but still, it feels like a kick to the guts. NZ can’t really win this election.

Are all elections this disappointing?

Can anyone point out some positives for me? Please?

Parties and candidates can’t please all of the people all of the time.

But in their desperation to appeal to all voters do they end up disappointing everyone?

I’m certainly disappointed by the quality of this campaign, by what is on offer and how it has been offered.

ACT campaign launch and education policy

The ACT Party has launched their campaign today and at the same time has announced new education policy – better pay for better teachers.

ACT announces better pay for great teachers

“Good teachers help children grow, develop, and reach their full potential which is vital to their future success,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Unfortunately, because of union contracts, teachers hit maximum pay after ten years, schools can’t reward successful teachers, and teaching is not regarded as a strong career choice for our brightest graduates.

“Right now the best teachers earn the same as the worst teachers. Graduates are deserting Auckland schools or deserting teaching altogether. Teachers can only earn more by taking on administrative work, and spending less time actually teaching kids.

“ACT says this is crazy. We want the best teachers to stay in the profession and in the classroom.

“With the current government surplus at $3.7 billion, ACT will give principals $975 million to pay good teachers more, without cutting government services or raising taxes. But the schools will only be eligible for this funding if they abandon nationally-negotiated union contracts. This will make it easier for principals to replace bad teachers with great ones.

“ACT’s Good Teacher Grants will boost teachers’ pay by $20,000 on average, and elevate teaching as a profession, to attract the best graduates to teach our children and keep the most capable teachers in the classroom.”

Speech and policy explainer : Pay Good Teachers More

ACT BELIEVES

New Zealand kids should be taught by highly skilled professional teachers. Education is the most important gift we can give our children, to give them a head-start in life.

It is wrong that the best teacher and the worst teacher are paid the same. Incentives matter, it’s wrong that the only way for teachers to increase their pay, in many cases, is to take management hours and spend less time teaching kids.

Teachers, as salaried professionals, are undervalued. To attract the best school leavers and graduates into teaching as a profession, we have to lift the overall salary range.

ACT’S RECORD ON EDUCATION

ACT’s proudest achievement is in introducing choice into education. We championed Partnership Schools which are seeing Iwi, Pasifika Groups, community groups and others running new-model schools which are changing kids lives. We don’t believe that one size fits all in education.

Our policy has been to increase support for independent schools – they save taxpayers money, and provide parents with choice in the type of education they get for their children.

OUR POLICY IS TO PAY GOOD TEACHERS MORE

This policy will add $1 Billion into the funding that is available for teacher salaries. On average we will increase teacher salaries by $17,700 per teacher. This will enable the best teachers to stay in the classroom, and elevate teaching as a profession.

The Government surplus sits at $3.7 Billion. That means this policy is affordable and we can deliver improvements in teacher quality alongside tax cuts, while maintaining all core government spending.

We will enable schools to opt out of union contracts. This will mean they gain the flexibility to recognise great teachers by paying them more and rewarding their achievement.

Schools will be able to pay more to attract teachers to fill specialist skills shortages – in areas like science, technology, Te Reo and international languages.

 

What now for the campaign?

Bill English has proven capable of being a good enough Prime Minister. Jacinda Ardern stepped up in last night’s debate and showed that she can look Prime Ministerial.

Ardern wasn’t flawless in the debate, and English hasn’t been flawless as PM. Both have obvious vulnerabilities, personally and through their parties.

Polls show that Labour and National are statistically level pegging, with yesterday’s Colmar Brunton giving a slight advantage to Labour (43%-41%).

What now for the campaign?

Labour have obvious momentum and could keep rising, or they may have peaked and could settle back. National could slip some more, or when it comes to the crunch voters may be attracted back to the safer option. We’ll have to wait and see.

National have a good record on some things, especially on economic management during some difficult years. They also have valid criticism for their less than capable efforts on housing, and health is a major concern for voters who see growing problems. They have also accumulated a number of stuff ups and embarrassments that have taken their toll.

Labour has finally found a leader that appeals to voters. Ardern has turned around her party quite adeptly and dramatically. But they still have a weak looking caucus.

We now have three weeks and a day until the election, but advance voting opens in 10 days (on September 11). Not much time left, but going by a tumultuous campaign so far any number of things could still happen.

Barring any more major surprises I think the crux of the election will come down to three things in particular.

 1. The tide of change versus staying with what we know.

 2. Tax cuts versus uncertainty over possible tax changes and increases.

The National Government have already scheduled tax cuts from next April which amount to about $1,000 in the hand per average wage earner.

Labour have said they will wipe those cuts, they have announced a number of tax increases, and they won’t say what they will do with a capital gains tax (the implication is they will introduce a CGT with exemptions).

 3. Many voters will be having a good look at potential coalition arrangements and what that may mean beyond a single party’s policies.

On current polling:

  • National could only form a coalition with NZ First.
  • Labour could also form a coalition with NZ First.
  • Labour are close to being able to form a coalition with Greens and Maori.
  • Greens are close to not making it back into Parliament.

If National slip more, and/or if NZ First slip more (they have been trending down in the polls) then National may have no coalition options.

If Labour gain more and Greens survive then Labour could have a choice between NZ First and Greens.

An obvious advantage to Labour, but events and polls may have some more twists yet.

 

 

Q+A: Steven Joyce and National’s campaign

Q+A this morning: “Our political editor Corin Dann talks to the National Party campaign manager Steven Joyce about how National will respond to Labour’s rise in the polls.”

On Ohariu – Joyce says they have been doing numbers there too and it’s closer but he said Dunne has it all ahead of him. he gives a big plug for Dunne due to his contribution to stability in government.

He makes the point that voting choices tend to be made quite late in key electorates involving large amounts of tactical voting.

Joyce downplays the strength of Winston peters and New Zealand First.

He concedes that National are about 3% shy of where they want to be, confirming recent public polls that have National in the mid forties.

On the Jacinda effect? No more worried than in any election. Elections are won and lost on small margins, ‘it’s slightly different’, he says similar to 2005 (in which NZ First called the coalition shots).

Aim: TOP dog on cross benches

It’s getting hard to differentiate between attention seeking stunts, a normal day in the campaign, and official party launches these days.

Gareth Morgan and the The Opportunities Party have been campaigning for Months, but they had their official campaign launch today.

Scoop:  Labour will need more than ‘Jacinda Trudeau’: TOP

“Quite clearly, Jacinda’s a great communicator, so that’s good,” said Morgan, who welcomed Labour’s resurgence as “great for New Zealand democracy”.

“It’s an issue of whether that’s sufficient for Labour: the Jacinda Trudeau Effect, I call it,” he said, referring to the impact a young, stylish leader has had on Canadian politics through its Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

On TOP:

While TOP’s plan was to “to be a 30 percent party by 2020”, he expected TOP to poll 10 percent at the Sept. 23 election, although modified that to “being realistic” 5 percent and six MPs in the next Parliament, enough potentially to help form a minority government led by either National or Labour.

TOP has polled 2 percent in three published polls and 3 percent in a UMR poll reported this week by Radio New Zealand.

The party hopes that means it has the momentum to make 5 percent by election day. As TOP expects to win no electorate seats, a party vote under 5 percent would be wasted as it would gain no parliamentary seats under New Zealand’s MMP proportional voting system.

Morgan insisted he did not want to become a Cabinet Minister and would look only to provide support to a government from Parliament’s ‘cross-benches’.

Rather than naming non-negotiable ‘bottom line’ policies, if TOP had a choice of partners, it would pick the one that promised to enact the largest number of TOP’s 15 main policies, said Morgan.

“Whoever gives us the most will get the nod.”

So Morgan wants to be TOP dog on the cross benches.

Little and Labour’s fresh approach

Andrew Little with Labour’s first campaign advertisement.