Major challenges for ‘exasperated’ Ardern

All governments have challenges. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her current government have quite a few major challenges stacking up. Ardern seems to rise to international occasions – where all she has done is make grand but very general proclamations – she is not so happy when confronted with real problems dogging her back in New Zealand.

Whether it was this reluctance to front up over domestic difficulties, or jet lag, (and being away from her baby for a week for the first time would likely have been difficult for her), Ardern was reported to be ‘exasperated’ at questions about real issues that need to be dealt with and should be explained.

Audrey Young: Eight big problems for Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern has made a less-than-grand entrance back to mundane domestic politics after her whirlwind visit to Europe last week reinforced her status as a rising star on the international stage.

The Prime Minister delegated her regular Tuesday morning media appearances to Finance Minister Grant Robertson and who could blame her? He was forced to spend most of his time defending the failure of KiwiBuild targets and preparing the groundwork for the delivery of the capital gains tax report.

These are things that the Government cannot hide from, and Ardern should be showing some leadership on.

At her first post-Cabinet press conference she announced she would be delaying any Cabinet reshuffle until after the May Budget.

Perhaps this makes some sense in leaving current ministers to work out how they are going to frame their budge requests as fitting with Arderrn’;s ‘wellbeing’ agenda, and maybe there aren’t a lot of options for replacing poorly performing ministers. There are quite a few who have been disappointing, but there is  even less experience amongst those waiting for promotion.

In the substance of the press conference, Ardern sounded exasperated at questions about the failure of KiwiBuild to meet its first milestone of 1000 houses by July, and by questions about the capital gains tax report.

Ardern’s tetchiness perhaps reflects a raft of challenging issues facing the Government. After a year of settling in, reviewing the past and setting priorities, 2019 will have to be a year of delivery.

It should be a year of delivery, but yesterday Grant Robertson indicated that it may take some time for them to make up their minds about the Tax Working Group recommendations, especially the controversial hobbled CGT.

Robertson patiently continued his mission to change the language over the tax by calling it a “capital income tax” rather than a “capital gains tax” — an attempt to equate it to all other income.

Ardern became impatient when questions turned to the undisputed veto that NZ First will have on any capital gains tax — the Greens have been unequivocal supporters and NZ First longstanding opponents.

Apparently a capital gains tax is just like every other issue the Government debates, and requires the agreement of all three parties.

That is probably correct. See next post.

She also became exasperated when questioned about the failure of KiwiBuild targets — so much so that she could not bring herself to actually say “No” when repeatedly asked if the July target would be met.

A tough day at the media conference, unlike her wowing of international media on her trip to the UK and Europe.

Young details the major issues that Ardern should be dealing with (and fronting up on):

Capital gains tax:

Michael Cullen’s final report is due to be delivered to the Government this week and promises to be the best weapon National will have at next year’s election.

Kiwibuild: The flagship housing policy of 100,000 houses in 10 years is heading for the rocks. A perfect lesson in why political parties should resist over-promising.

Fair Pay Agreements: The Bolger report revisiting national awards has not yet been published but the campaign against it by employers has already begun.

Mental health report: Done and delivered to the Government but the next Budget in May seems a long time to have to wait until this area is properly addressed, having had years of delay under National as well.

Tomorrow’s Schools: The Government has yet to respond to the Bali Haque report restructuring school administration.

Social welfare review: Due to be delivered next month, this report on the treatment of beneficiaries including penalties and incentives has the potential to create tension between Labour and New Zealand First.

Prison reforms: The 2018 conference may have had some great ideas from which to construct a reform package to cut the prison population but getting the public onside is the challenge.

Karel Sroubek: National chipped away for months on the decision to grant and rescind citizenship for this convicted offender and they are not going to let up.

Prime Ministers have to deal with the bad as well as with the good PR.

And one of Ardern’s biggest challenges is to prove that she can walk the walk to live up to her own hype talk. That applies to her ministers and Government as well – this year they have to prove they can deliver on at least some of their promises.