Robertson versus Statistics

Grant Robertson is Labour Spokesperson for Employment as well as Spokesperson for Finance.

In the former role today he put out a media release today:

Govt should face the facts not skew the facts

Posted by on August 16, 2016

National appears to be actively massaging official unemployment statistics by changing the measure for joblessness to exclude those looking online, says Labour’s Employment spokesperson Grant Robertson.

“The Household Labour Force Survey, released tomorrow, no longer regards people job hunting on websites like Seek or TradeMe as ‘actively looking for work’.

Released tomorrow? Is Robertson jumping the gun?

“That means they no longer fit into the unemployed category, meaning tomorrow’s delayed figures will almost certainly show a decrease in unemployment. This new definition saw a revision of the last quarter’s unemployment figures from 5.7 per cent to 5.2 per cent.

“These figures do not mean there is a drop in the number of people looking for work or that unemployment is actually falling. For the many New Zealanders who use the internet to search for work, the Government is telling them they don’t count.

“Bizarrely while cutting out modern forms of job hunting the HLFS still includes outdated methods such as registering at a ‘employment exchange’ or ‘checking at worksites, farms, factory gates, market or other assembly places’ for work.

“These changes are typical of a Government that actively manipulates official data to suit its own ends. I have no doubt National ministers will embrace the massaged figures and continue not to worry about the real people who are out of work.

“Despite the many flaws in the HLFS its biggest strength is that is has been a consistent measure for almost 30 years. National’s recent changes have completely undermined that. It is arrogance of the highest order to simply write thousands of jobless New Zealanders off the books,” says Grant Robertson.

The Household Labour Force Survey is done by Statistics New Zealand – and the Government Statistician Liz MacPherson has responded:

Like my predecessors I am fiercely protective of the statutory independence of the role of the Government Statistician and strongly refute any assertions made by Grant Robertson that there has been political interference in the production of official statistics.

This independence means that I maintain the right to make changes necessary to ensure the relevance and quality of our official statistics. Changes to the Household Labour Force Survey have been made to ensure that we produce the best possible measure of the current state of the labour market and to maintain consistency with international best practice.

Far from ignoring technological change during the past 30 years, such as the advent of the internet, we are incorporating these changes so as to be technology neutral.

Within the survey questions, to be regarded as actively looking for a job you must do more than simply look at job advertisements, whether it is online or in a newspaper.

It is not uncommon for revisions to be made to official statistics as a result of more accurate information becoming available or changes to international standards and frameworks.

In addition we are introducing new measures – for example underutilisation – enabling a deeper, richer understanding of New Zealand’s labour market.

When this does occur it is standard practice for Statistics NZ to communicate reasons for revisions and anticipated changes well in advance of their official release, as we did on 29 June 2016. View the Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates.

Statistics NZ has a legislative obligation to release objective official statistics. We will continue to do this at all times.

That’s quite a smack down for Robertson.

There doesn’t appear to be anything on this on Robertson’s Facebook or Twitter, where he is often quite active.

Q & A – economy, Trump, ship visits and corrections

Today on Q & A (9 am, TV1):

Today : another week of warnings about the economy – Corin Dann talks solutions with Grant Robertson and David Seymour.

Whena Owens vists Mangere and talks to a community that says Corrections is dumping too many offenders in their suburb-are they being treated unfairly?

Jack Tame reports from Ohio where he interviews two former Presidential advisors – what does Trump need to do to win?

Sir Geoffrey Palmer talks to Corin Dann about upcoming US ship visit – a victory for NZ? And why the change of heart now?

How would a Trump presidency deal with our nuclear free legislation? A Clinton presidency (the last one let the US hissy fit fester away).

Grant Robertson’s solution on the economy – “build wealth from the ground up” – fancy phrase #1.

“Yes there will be more spending”.

Many fancy phrases with little apparent substance.

In depth reporting during Parliamentary recess?

Some response to Tracy Watkins’ suggestion for opposition parties as posted here:   A recess challenge for Labour.

Fox is the hard working Maori Party list MP.

Ditto, and I reckon most of us will be. Kind of a strange column. Must invite Tracey to spend a recess week with me.
My reading of it is not so much MPs not working, but MPs not keeping media attention.

I think this is a very good point from Robertson.

Instead of journalists writing columns about what they think politicians and parties should be doing perhaps that time would be better spent investigating and reporting on what Members of Parliament are actually doing.

Most MPs work very hard. Some seek and get media attention, and that is not necessarily the hard workers, and it is not necessarily the meritorious work being reported on.

Take this column from Claire Trevett yesterday in Small parties under pump as polls loom:

There is precious little oxygen in the rarefied atmosphere inhabited by Government support parties. If evidence was needed it came this week when Dunne tried to remind people of his existence by issuing a press statement setting out the three policy themes he would be focusing on in the lead-up to the 2017 election.

The themes were: an economy that provides fairness, choice and opportunity; establishing core environmental bottom lines; and embracing and celebrating a modern, multi-cultural New ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzz.

It was effectively a campaign launch. It fell with the impact of a feather.

Dunne didn’t defame an opponent, he didn’t stoke up racial or ethnic intolerance, he didn’t say something quietly to a reporter who told another reporter who made it into a major story about a Minister.

MPs who quietly and diligently do their jobs without providing sound bites and click bait for media don’t only get ignored most of the time, they get criticised for being boring.

Going back to what Watkins wrote, it seems she wants opposition parties to provide political media with some headlines during a quiet time, a Parliamentary recess.

I agree with Robertson, more in depth would help a lot, but journalists seem averse to doing the boring hard work that is required to inform the public of what is really going on.

Grant Robertson interview

Lisa Own interviewed Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson on The Nation yesterday. It will be repeated at 10:00 am Sunday but here is the interview online.

Interview: Grant Robertson

Is it time to invest or to borrow to pay for infrastructure? Lisa Owen asks Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson what he’d do in Bill English’s place.

Transcript (provided via Newshub by

Lisa Owen: Labour’s finance spokesperson, Grant Robertson, reckons economic success should include social as well as fiscal surpluses, but with Bill English promising a growth to 2018 of 3 percent, unemployment to 4 percent and surplus peaking at 6.7 billion, those fiscals are looking pretty good. Let’s find out what Grant Robertson makes of that. Good morning.

Grant Robertson: Good morning, Lisa.

You might not like how they’re sharing out the pie, but, come on, the pie looks pretty good, doesn’t it?

Oh, look, we have to be a bit careful with some of those numbers. When you look at the growth numbers, if you do them on a per-person basis, it’s flat. The economy is actually not growing on a per-person basis. Unemployment has gone up. We’ve got 144,000 people out of work at the moment. A place you’re familiar with in Gisborne — one in 10 people out of work there. So you can look at the top-line numbers and say, ‘Yep, sure, the economy’s growing,’ but in the end if people aren’t getting a share in that prosperity, what’s the point in it?

Well, let’s look at some numbers more closely. The government brought forward spending from 2017 to keep pace with immigration. So Labour’s crunched the numbers. Are we keeping up with health and education spending per person?

No, we’re not. If we look at education, for instance, in the 2016-17 year, per pupil, there’s actually going to be an $85 reduction in funding in our education system, and that will mean parents pay, because parents are already meeting a greater cost of their children’s education — 10 times the rate of inflation; that’s how much the so-called voluntary donations have gone up. So, no, we’re not. In health, we’re looking at a shortfall this year of maybe around $50B— $50M, sorry. That’s part of a $1.7B cut effectively in health.

But the thing is Bill English would say, ‘So what?’ to that. He would say, as he just said, you’re just wanting to shovel more money at a problem to show you care, and that doesn’t work. Results are what matter, not the amount that you spend.

Well, I certainly wouldn’t be saying, ‘So what?’ to the elderly constituent in my electorate who’s been waiting for a hip operation for about three years now in constant pain. And University of Otago did a study recently that said that someone who was on a level of pain six years ago and would’ve got an operation doesn’t get an operation today. So these results are not there.

Okay. He also sent a very clear message there about Auckland’s housing challenge. It’s the Council’s fault. Don’t expect concessions to help raise money for infrastructure. So I’m wondering, where should the money come from, do you think?

I think the Auckland Council and Aucklanders generally would be quite surprised to learn today they’re an independent country, because that’s what it sounded like when Bill English was talking today. There’s a joint responsibility to sort this out, and it’s not as if this problem emerged this week or last week. This is something the Auckland Council and the government should have been working on together for a very long period of time, and I think Bill English shoving away constantly every problem to the Auckland Council is unacceptable.

So would you undertake right now then, to Labour if they were in government, to pay for Auckland’s infrastructure?

I think we’ve got to work together with Auckland to pay for the infrastructure. There’s no point throwing around a blame game and elbowing each other in the ribs to say who is responsible. Clearly, the government has a share responsibility here. We have already said that we want to do a massive state-led affordable-house-building programme. That’s KiwiBuild. We think that’s essential. That’s where central government can come on board. We can borrow money more cheaply than the central government level.

But can you even do KiwiBuild, because the one thing that people don’t seem to be addressing is that we don’t have enough builders and plumbers and tradies. So is it even possible?

Absolutely, it’s possible. Certainly, we’ve got people who’ve been employed in the Christchurch rebuild who will now be available, but we should be training more people, and we can do that right now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re proposing the three years free post-secondary school training and education is to keep that momentum going. We want to make sure there’s more apprentices. We’re prepared to take the money that people get for being on the dole and pay that as a subsidy towards employers to take on more apprentices.

Yeah, but apprentices don’t come online for years.

In the building sector, you can get them in there and get them helping out right away, but, yeah, look, we will have to work hard to find that labour, but we have to do it. Fundamentally, getting affordable housing is the core of getting our communities strong. You’ve got— You’ve been running stories about all the people who are moving around from school to school to school; that’s because they don’t have a home to live in. If we actually put housing first, we can build strong communities, and from that we can get better economic growth, we get better society.

The Prime Minister hinted at the fact that Auckland Council should sell off assets — should they?

Well, in my own view, no. Auckland Council have to make its own decisions about that, but that to me is an incredibly short-sighted way of solving a much bigger problem than that — that is solved as a partnership between Auckland City and the government. I have to say, the way Bill English was talking and behaving in that interview with you is a sign of failure. If he’s at war with the Auckland Council, then Aucklanders are being failed by the government.

Well, Bill English has chosen to pay down debt, rather than spend more on infrastructure in the Budget, but I’m a little bit confused about your stance, because in your speech, in your pre-Budget speech, you said, ‘It was concerning that National hadn’t put much of a debt in New Zealand’s debt,’ then on the other hand you said, ‘It’s also time to invest.’ So which is it?

Well, the concerning bit is the fact that they haven’t managed to grow their economy in real terms over the last eight years, so that’s why. We’re not— We’ve got a massive problem with productivity in New Zealand. We are still creaking along in that regard. But what I’m saying, and it’s not just me — it’s also the Reserve Bank Governor, Graeme Wheeler, is saying — is we do need more infrastructure spending. That is a way of helping kick-start a sluggish economy.

So would you borrow to do that?

You’d have to borrow some of that initially, yes, absolutely, but that’s the problem right now today is that we need the economy to get going. It’s flat. GDP is flat. Graeme Wheeler, other economists are saying, ‘Let’s get a bit more infrastructure spending,’ and we’ve got to be very careful about the government’s numbers on infrastructure in the Budget as well. They were claiming $2.1B’s worth of spending. That includes nearly $1B on the IRD’s computer system. I don’t think that’s what most New Zealanders would call infrastructure.


And Bill English’s comments to you — he needs to be very careful about what he was saying there, because the actual new spend on infrastructure is going down at a time where we need more.

All right, there’s a few things I want to get through before we run out of time. You want to restart the Tax Working Group. That’s a Trojan Horse for more taxes, isn’t it?

No, it’s a vehicle for making sure we get a tax system that deals with the fundamental challenge in our economy, and that— No, no, let me finish.

It’s a vehicle for Labour to get new taxes without being honest with the constituency, and saying, ‘You’re going to get more taxes under Labour.’

Absolutely not. It’s a way of making sure that we balance up our tax system. So we’re going to be very specific for that working group about what its mandate is. Its mandate is to get a better balance in the system between incentives to invest in a productive economy and speculation. We have far too much speculation in our economy.

So when it tells you we need a capital gains tax, what are you going to do then?

Well, we’ll look very seriously at that, and that’s why we’re doing it. One of the things about being in opposition—

So there will be, either way you do it, there will be more new taxes under Labour?

We don’t know that until we see what happens, but what we do want is a better balance in the tax system. At the moment, when workers go to work, every day they pay their taxes. When people are speculating, for instance in the housing market, they can get away with it. We need to look at what the best way to deal with that is. We’ll bring the experts in, but they will have a specific mandate to make sure that we start addressing some of the fundamental structural problems in our economy.

Okay, last election you promised not to go beyond National’s spending limits. Is that still your commitment?

We have to wait until we see what they’ve got, but we will run a disciplined budget, but we’ve got priorities, Lisa, and our priorities are health, housing and education, and every New Zealander today can see the problems there. And I think it’s irresponsible of Bill English not to address them.

But the thing is when you look at the things you want to invest in, you already committed KiwiBuild $1.5B up front as an investment, tertiary ed. $1.2B by 2025. You’ve pledged to catch up healthcare and education. Man, that adds up.

It adds up, but it adds up to making sure that New Zealanders get a decent start in life and the opportunity to make the choices that they want. These are investments, Lisa. We’ve got to stop seeing people getting a tertiary education as a cost; it’s an investment.

John Key’s saying that we can afford $3B in tax cuts. Is that the red light for you to have more wiggle room in your spending to spend more— to say you’ll spend more?

What I’m interested in doing is investing to make sure that people get good housing, an education system and a health system that works for them, and that we’ve got the infrastructure to build the decent jobs all over New Zealand. That will be my focus.

All right, before we go, Andrew Little is on single digits when it comes to the preferred Prime Minister stakes — 8.9 percent. Are you happy with that?

Andrew’s not happy with that. The point is he’s doing a good job. He’s brought our team together incredibly well over the last year. We’ve got a focus now on education, health and housing—

8.9 percent is a good job? New Zealanders aren’t seeing a good job.

Look, I can’t take responsibility for the polls. What I know is the guy that I work with every day is working hard. He’s got the vision to say, ‘We need to focus on health, education, housing, building up jobs around New Zealand,’ and I think he’s doing a good job.

8.9 percent is not going to make him Prime Minister, though, so could you challenge him before the next election?

Absolutely not.

Categorical no?

Categorically not. Andrew’s doing a good job.

Labour on the budget

Labour don’t have anything on their website home page about anything since the budget was delivered.

The only post yesterday under Andrew Little was on his Our Work Our Future Bill being drawn from the Members’ Bill ballot – Labour Bill would back Kiwi jobs

There is nothing under Grant Robertson on Labour’s website since May 13th.

However if you search around and find their Press Releases page (I found it via Labour’s Facebook) there are several posts related to the budget.

Andrew Little: John Key fails middle New Zealand with no fix for housing crisis, more underfunding of health

Middle New Zealand has again missed out in this year’s Budget with not a single fix for the housing crisis, and health and education woefully underfunded again, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says.

“This Budget is just a patchwork of ad hocery, a piecemeal package of measures that won’t fix even one of the major problems facing New Zealand, including an out of control housing crisis which the Government wilfully denies. It lacks vision and shows that after eight years in power, National has lost touch.

Grant Robertson: Sticking Plaster Budget fails the test

Bill English’s penultimate Budget fails to tackle the structural challenges facing the economy – a housing crisis, rising unemployment, underfunded health and creaking infrastructure, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.

“This Budget applies a sticking plaster to a compound fracture. There is nothing tangible in the Budget to create more jobs, deliver a real increase in wages and diversify the economy through encouraging new and emerging businesses to grow and export.

Parents will pay more as school budgets frozen

Parents will pay more for their kids’ education as a result of this year’s Budget after the Government froze operational funding for schools, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.

“This means schools are effectively going backwards. They will need to make up the shortfall somewhere and that will mean even more financial pressure on parents. The costs of education are already rising at 10 times the rate of inflation.

No tax cuts “the right move”

Bill English praised by the Greens? Yep, when he signalled there would be no tax cuts after all this year, and neither next year, election year.

Less surprisingly English was criticised by David Seymour and the Taxpayers’ Union.

ODT (from NZH): Takes on tax adding topsy-turvy twist to Budget 2016

Mr English effectively called off tax cuts for this year and next year.

Instead, he would pay off debt.

The Greens were quick to report Mr English had “made the right move”.

There is some sense in paying off more of the huge amount of debt accumulated over the past decade.

On the face of it, it looked like a broken promise.

National wafted the scent of tax cuts during the 2014 election campaign.

The reasons Mr English gave for changing tack were fiscal.

He traded in tax cuts for debt, for infrastructure spending and for boosts in health and education to help pay for surging population growth.

The stronger reason for scrapping the tax cuts are political.

Tax cuts can be popular, but there was hardly a clamour for them. In 2008, that appetite may have been there.

There was an appetite for tax cuts in 2008 after Michael Cullen had allowed taxes to gradually increase through bracket creep while the Clark government dished out billions of dollars to some people through interest free student loans and Working For Families handouts.

There is less pressure on tax cuts now in part because everyone who has a mortgage or a bank loan is enjoying record low interest rates.

Green finance spokesperson Julie Anne Genter: Taking tax cuts off the table the right move

Taking more tax cuts off the table was the right move for Bill English to make in his pre-Budget speech today, the Green Party said.

“It’s good that the Government has realised that tax cuts aren’t the kind of medicine our economy needs right now,” Green Party finance spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said.

“National’s tax cut bribes have historically benefitted people on high incomes, and come at the expense of fixing problems like child poverty and the housing crisis.

Not everyone is happy. The Taxpayers’ Union said National’s low tax policy was “a sham”.

David Seymour: No tax cuts, no spine

ACT Leader David Seymour is disappointed in the Government’s refusal to cut taxes this or next budget.

“Abolishing corporate welfare would have given the Government an opportunity to cut taxes”, says Mr Seymour.

“Under this Government, corporate welfare has risen to $1.344 billion a year – a cost of $752 per New Zealand household.

“These handouts have included payments for sheep given to a Saudi businessman and a boat-building company owned by the world’s seventh-richest man.

It depends on what is dished out in the budget later this month as to whether voters in general will accept that reducing debt – plus a bit of extra spending – is more important than reducing tax rates.

It could also be that English and John Key are wary of the possible political reaction to tax cuts when tax is a very topical issue. “Tax cuts for the rich” (it’s difficult to cut taxes without including higher earners) is a slogan that is already being aired extensively.

Oh, and what is the Labour reaction? I can’t find anything on their website but I managed to find a tweet:

Bill English flip-flops today on tax cuts worthy of Olympic gym selection, but I’d put money on them being waved about in election campaign.

Nothing about whether Robertson thinks it’s good or not, no analysis, no alternative, just a diss for now and a diss for the future.

State of the State on ‘social investment’

A report released by NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), State of the State New Zealand 2016, suggests the Government should focus on root causes and adopt a ‘social investment’ approach to “help Kiwis avoid poor life outcomes”.

It think the Government and in particular Bill English have been talking along these lines for some time.

Stuff: State of the State report: Government needs to focus on ‘root causes’

Released on Monday by NZ Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) and Deloitte, State of the State New Zealand 2016 followed a six-month review of government finances and future burdens to New Zealanders.

During that time, they also talked to “some of the most senior and influential leaders” in the public, non-government and private sectors.

It stated the government finances were in “good shape” for now, but an aging population would cause pressure on the budget.

Social investment was a way forward to save money long-term, the report said. Social investment referred to a return-on-investment mindset, basing social services funding on calculation of long-term economic benefits.

The report made four recommendations:

  1. The Government should publicly state outcomes and targets every four years for those most at-risk of poor life outcomes (across areas such as employment, education, health and housing).
  2. A new agency should be set up to provide specialist social services with a social investment approach built into the funding model.
  3. Better access to government data and detailed evaluation reports.
  4. The recent Child Youth and Family overhaul had also prompted the Expert Advisory Panel to recommend this option.

Deloitte partner Dave Farrelly…

…said funding solutions to “root causes” would prevent the need for these services in the future.

“For example, with social investment the task is not to deliver the next 100 prison beds for the same cost as the previous 50. It’s to remove the need for those new prison beds altogether,” Farelly said.

He described social investment as a “start-up” but said it needed to become a “mainstream” way of working.

Grant Roberston responds:

Labour’s finance spokesman Grant Robertson agreed with some underlying principles in the report, but said there were a range of assumptions and limitations.

“This approach, I think, misuses the word investment in many ways,” he said, saying a better term would be “social expenditure reduction”.

I don’t think that’s a better term at all, it’s awful.

“The big part of the motivation here is about reducing spending, and if that’s one of the primary motivators then I think that colours the way these ideas are done.”

Is that the big p[art of the motivation? It could as easily be claimed that the big part of the motivation was to improve social outcomes with the longer term monetary savings a bonus.

An investment means costs up front.

He said the model reduced people to data points.

“Data is useful and can help inform what we do, but I think there’s a tendency here to just believe that any change might be related to a particular intervention.”


In general what the report talks about is not new.

The Government have recently been using the term “social investment” in relation to data-driven projects, spearheaded by the finance minister.

English welcomed the report, and was pleased to see “good alignment” with the Government’s thinking.

“We see this building on the work already going on in agencies and the Social Investment Unit,” he said.

“The report makes some bold recommendations in this area and we’re not ruling anything out.”



Opposition finance spokesperson on inflation

It’s interesting to see that the ODT in 0.4% inflation in line with Reserve Bank forecasts  quotes criticism from an opposition finance spokesperson – Green MP Julie Anne Genter.

Green finance spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said low oil prices meant the consumer price index was hiding the cost of housing, especially rental housing in Auckland, which was rising much faster than wages and other prices.

Ms Genter said low inflation made it more likely the Reserve Bank would cut the official cash rate again soon, which could just pour more fuel on the housing crisis fire.

‘‘If your rent is going up 5% but you’re one of the almost 50% of New Zealanders who did not get a pay rise last year, overall low inflation isn’t going to help you.”

National’s failure to fix the housing crisis meant New Zealanders were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Lower interest rates could help boost the productive economy but could also cause even more housing cost problems, she said.

High housing costs in Auckland and in an increasing number of regions is a major ongoing issue that doesn’t seem to have any significant solutions. Freeing up of land for subdivision is still slow and land prices keep rising rampantly.

That was likely sourced from a Genter press release: Low inflation hides cost of housing crisis

Low inflation in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) hides the way the housing crisis is hitting peoples’ pockets and distorting our economy, the Green Party said today.

The CPI showed that inflation was 0.2 percent in the March 2016 quarter and 0.4 percent for the year to March 2016, but housing costs rose 3 percent in the year. MBIE data shows rents across the Auckland region rose on average 5.2 percent in the last 12 months.

“Low oil prices mean the CPI is hiding the fact the cost of housing, especially rental housing in Auckland, is rising much faster than wages and other prices,” Green Party finance spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said.

“If your rent is going up five percent but you’re one of the almost 50 percent of New Zealanders who didn’t get a pay rise last year, overall low inflation isn’t going to help you.

“Last week new data showed that median Auckland house prices are now almost ten times the median household income, so it’s clear that housing costs are skyrocketing for people looking to buy their first home.

“Low inflation makes it more likely that the Reserve Bank will cut the OCR again soon, which could just pour more fuel on the housing crisis fire.

“National’s failure to fix the housing crisis means we’re now stuck between a rock and a hard place: lower interest rates could help boost our productive economy, but could also cause even more housing cost problems.

“We urgently need stronger action to fix the housing crisis including a Government-led home-building programme, quality mid-rise apartments around major transport routes, and measures to stop speculation like a comprehensive capital gains tax (excluding the family home) and restrictions on overseas buyers,” Ms Genter said.

In contrast there doesn’t appear to be anything from the finance spokesperson from another opposition party – the Latest from Grant Robertson is dated  05 April 2016.

Robertson’s last  Facebook activity was updating his profile picture  nearly a week ago.

Funnily (or tragically) Robertson posted #outoftouch on Twitter yesterday in response to:

He could get a lesson from Genter on how to be on the ball in his spokesperson role. Genter also got coverage from Newstalk ZB:

Low inflation hiding true scale of housing crisis: Greens

I can’t find Robertson featuring in the news this week apart from references regarding the upcoming Labour caucus reshuffle – leader Andrew Little says that he is totally satisfied by Robertson’s performance:

Little said nobody had suggested he change the finance spokesperson, and when he set up his Shadow Cabinet in 2014 he made it clear Robertson would be in the finance role until at least next year’s election. “I’m totally satisfied with Grant’s performance and have no intention of changing him out of the finance role.”

From NZ Herald Labour to ‘rejig’ caucus

Labour rumblings and reshuffle

Rumours are reported to be rumbling in the Labour camp, but Andrew Little denies there will be any major changes when he reshuffles his caucus following the the announcement that Clayton Cosgrove won’t stand again next election.

Cosgrove seemed to be in semi-retirement anyway.

Heather du Plessis-Allan reports on some insider moans in Labour needs a hero and a cause:

For a while now, everyone in the party has bravely kept painting their faces, putting on their party frocks and pretending life was peachy.

That’s the line that’s been spun. But…

I was killing time around Parliament, waiting for a minister. A Labour Party insider was killing time too. We got talking.

Andrew Little said this. Andrew Little said that. Tired of his cock-ups. Tired of being blamed for his mistakes.

It wasn’t a surprise morale in the Labour Party was low, it was a surprise someone was being honest about it.

It would have been surprising if there hadn’t been concerns expressed, privately at least, about Labour’s and Little’s performance. And this was before last week’s poor poll result and before Little’s flailing attacks on John Key this week.

Later that day, I walked through the arrivals gate at Auckland airport next to a well-connected political mover and shaker. We got talking. Trouble’s brewing in the Labour Party.

They’re talking of cutting Grant Robertson. They’re talking of cutting the chief of staff. Watch this space.

While the political buck stops at the top chief of staff Matt McCarten was recruited by David Cunliffe and that didn’t work well. Little retained McCarten in the critical role and that hasn’t worked out well.

If Little isn’t going then McCarten has to go. Something drastic has to change and that’s one of the few options Little has.

But shuffling Robertson out of the Finance role? That’s less likely for a couple of reasons. Dropping Robertson from Finance would be an admission of a failed gamble with Robertson and would threaten his whole Future of Work thing, something Little is probably reluctant to do.

And demoting Robertson from the most demanding of portfolio roles would give Robertson more time and a reason to reconsider his leadership ambitions.

In any case little says he is not including Robertson in his shuffle plans.

Claire Trevett writes in Labour to ‘rejig’ caucus:

Labour leader Andrew Little will do a “slight rejig” of his caucus this week after Clayton Cosgrove’s decision not to stand next year, but has ruled out changing key personnel such as finance spokesman Grant Robertson.

Little said he had no plans to replace Robertson.

“There will be some slight rejigging in the next week or so, but I’m not anticipating any significant changes.” There was speculation former finance spokesman David Parker could get the finance role back, but Little and Parker denied it had come up.

Little said nobody had suggested he change the finance spokesperson, and when he set up his Shadow Cabinet in 2014 he made it clear Robertson would be in the finance role until at least next year’s election. “I’m totally satisfied with Grant’s performance and have no intention of changing him out of the finance role.”

After stating that Little can’t drop Robertson.

So were the rumblings about Robertson discussed by Labour’s leadership?

Or does it reflect dissatisfaction further down the ranks?

Either is a potential problem for Labour.

What Little has committed to is a minor tweak of caucus roles. Cosgrove is ranked 18 and has hardly been seen over the last eighteen months, but relatively low profile responsibilities…

  • Spokesperson for Commerce
  • Spokesperson for Veterans’ Affairs
  • Spokesperson for Tourism
  • Associate Finance Spokesperson

…so re-assigning those will probably not give any indication that Labour are doing anything different.

So Little’s best option to vitalise (you can hardly revitalise something that has been on life support for nearly a decade) his leadership is replacing McCarten.

Chief of staff is a vital role in a party leadership team. Little is noticeably struggling. If he can find someone who will do the hard work for him behind the scenes, and who will give him frank and helpful advice, then he might (just might) find a way of looking like a future Prime Minister.

Little said the poll was “disappointing” but had not spooked him or the caucus. “We are struggling to get clear messages through on our priorities. We’ve got to work harder at that.”

But this week Little’s priorities seemed to be muddy messages dirt mongering, pretty much the opposite of what he says Labour should be doing.

It’s not a matter of working harder, it’s more a matter of working smarter. Much smarter.

And it would be a smart move to appoint a smart chief of staff.

But the biggest problem may be finding some one willing to try to sort out Labour’s mess.

Future of Work conference

Labour party live tweets from their Future of Work conference.

Getting down to business : “I will be running this like a military operation, albeit, a friendly one” FutureofWorkNZ

has the intellectual grunt to lead this work.


No one must be left out, no one must be left behind.

Change is a constant but the pace is warp speed in digital era.

Thousands have responded:You want work to be meaningful, you have talked about the dignity work provides.

The value of work goes beyond just the income it provides.

We have to confront inequality – the gap between rich and the rest has continued to grow.

10 Big Ideas are a snapshot of the thinking that has emerged from Commission

As many of you can see the economy has worn me down – the small but perfectly formed

The TPP will make it more and more difficult for democracies to protect their people from the very wealthy.

Lifelong learning won’t be a luxury in the future: it’s something we will all have to build into our lives.

Education not just a private investment, it’s a public good. It makes a nation’s workforce work better and smarter.


You have to take the risk – putting out progressive ideas that weren’t yesterday’s ideas.

Facebook boss says Facebook has the biggest unpaid labour force in the world.

This is the first working class in history whose education is higher than the work they’re asked to do.

The thought of 30 years of full time employment does not excite the juices – we have to think outside the box.

We need to reconceptualise work; it’s not just a bloody job.

The class nature of politics is crucial – so other classes can’t pinch the agenda.

“The distribution of security is more unequal today than the distribution of income.

Ye are many, they are few: Shelley.

Grant Robertson’s Future of Work Conference opening speech




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