‘Recession likely’, or not

Different views on the likelihood of a recession.

Forbes: New Zealand, An Economic Success Story, Loses Its Way

On September 23, the people of New Zealand elected 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern as prime minister, the youngest prime minister in New Zealand’s history. Ardern has brought youthful energy to New Zealand politics, but her scary rhetoric during the campaign (like calling capitalism a “blatant failure”) has some people wondering if she will take the country back to the bad old days of the 70s and early 80s.

One of Ardern’s first acts as prime minister was to ban foreign ownership of residential real estate; New Zealand has, by anyone’s measure, one of the biggest housing bubbles in the world. Banning foreign ownership of property sets the country up for a possible real estate crash.

Ardern also opposes high levels of immigration, along with her coalition partner, Winston Peters. It is set to drop dramatically. Immigration, especially skilled immigration, has been a big contributor to economic growth over the years.

It seems likely that New Zealand will experience a recession during Ardern’s term. Nobody is predicting a return to the bad old days of the 70s, but New Zealand will probably lose its status as one of the most open, free economies in the world. It takes decades to weaken an economy, just like it takes decades to strengthen it. But investors will probably want to avoid New Zealand for the time being.

Jared Dillian is the author of All the Evil of This World, and the editor of the 10th Man newsletter for Mauldin Economics.

Liam Dann (NZH): What Recession? Local economists pick good growth

The verdicts are in and despite what Forbes contributor Jared Dillian says, there are no economists picking a recession for Jacinda Ardern’s Government.

Most of New Zealand and Australia’s major economics teams have now reassessed their economic forecasts to factor in the effect of the new Government.

The loose consensus – bearing in mind no two economists ever agree – seems to be that GDP growth is going to be less flash than previously expected next year.

But it’s not crashing through the floor either. Growth forecasts between 2.4 per cent and 3.2 per cent for 2018 still look pretty good by international standards.

Apart from a few random think pieces though – written by offshore commentators who can’t quite believe New Zealand changed Government with the accounts in such good shape – most of the economic and financial community still seems pretty relaxed about the new regime.

It’s very early days to see what the Government will do, and what the economy will do.

And as far as the economy is concerned, it is most at risk from overseas influences.

Little to make decision on Pike River

Pike River re-entry will ultimately be a political decision, with Pike River Minister Andrew Little having the final say.  After saying there would be definite re-entry during the election campaign it has morphed into a maybe.

NZH: PM Jacinda Ardern: Pike River re-entry the goal but not at any cost

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Pike River Minister Andrew Little set out plans for the new Pike River Recovery Agency, including a target of re-entry by March 2019, after Cabinet signed off on it on Monday.

Little said he personally would make the decision on whether to go ahead with a re-entry into the drift of the mine after the agency conducted risk assessments.

The agency would be set up from January and would work closely with the Pike River families on the process.

Labour committed to a re-entry as part of its election campaign, but has since said that was not an absolute guarantee.

Ardern said her commitment to the families was to do everything within the Government’ power to attempt a re-entry, but safety would be priority.

She said it was possible there was information the Government was not aware of, or expert advice that countered the advice the families had. If that happened, it would work through it with the families.

“There will be risks. Our job is to mitigate them as far as possible and to weigh up whether there is an acceptable level of risk. But as I’ve said, there were risks every day that those miners walked into that mine.

“The risk they took on was an unacceptable level of risk at the hands of the company they worked for. Now it’s incumbent on us to make the right decision to try and re-enter that drift, but we have to do it with all the information.

“Any decision to re-enter will be based on a thorough technical assessment of the risks and advice on how the risks can be mitigated. The families know that we will not endanger any more lives, and that has been one of their most important principles.”

Lowered expectations of body recovery.

Stuff editorial: New rulers but the same old problem at Pike River

A new group of politicians is promising to re-enter the Pike River Mine to retrieve the bodies of the miners. So once again the grieving families of the miners are hoping to find their loved ones.

But in the end the result might prove to be the same: that the mine cannot be safely entered, and the families will again be left high and dry. In which case the grief and the outrage will go on.

Andrew Little, the minister in charge of the re-entry, says it won’t happen if it is too risky. “I am not going to put anybody at undue risk. I am simply not going to,” Little said.

So how is that different from what the last lot of governing politicians said? Former National Prime Minister John Key said he would do everything possible to get the bodies out. Labour politicians promised to do something similar. NZ First leader Winston Peters made the most dramatic pledge: he would go into the mine himself.

Perhaps the main political difference right now is that Little is working alongside the families and involving them in the project. He has the advantage that he is part of a new government that has not yet disillusioned the grieving relatives.

Working more closely with the families of dead miners may help the Government avoid criticism and reduce pressure – for now.

Perhaps that is why the families find it understandable that the new Government’s promises of re-entry contained caveats over safety. But they also think it “unlikely” that the risk assessment would uncover something they didn’t know.

The brute reality, however, is that no government could allow re-entry if it is unsafe. Here, however, it seems likely that the experts will disagree. And in that case the final decision will be made by politicians – Andrew Little and his Cabinet colleagues.

The scope for political trouble here is huge, partly because Peters has already decreed that it is safe to go into the mine. He cannot back down on that without damaging his own credibility and infuriating the families.

But the big decision – and responsibility- is with Little.

Because in the end the decision must be the Government’s. If the re-entry results in more deaths in this terrible place, the Government will be blamed, regardless of the recommendations its experts made.

And here the political issues are tangled. The families are grieving and clearly some of them feel that they can never stop grieving unless the bodies are recovered.

But outside this small group there is no large constituency with a passionate commitment to re-entering the drift. Nearly everyone agrees that more casualties in the mine would be a catastrophe compounding a previous catastrophe.

The families, understandably, are likely to have a different view of the safety risk from most other people. That is another reason why the final decision needs to be made by someone whose emotions are not as fiercely engaged.

Or as politically involved.

There will be family and political pressure for Little to enable re-entry. There are real risks regardless of his decision.

Backroom chat becomes international news

If she has learnt anything from the last few days Jacinda Ardern will be now much more careful about what she says, and to whom. Casual chat in private has become international news.

The Guardian: ‘Not that orange’: New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern regrets gossip about Donald Trump

The New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has expressed regret over gossiping about a meeting with Donald Trump after it was reported the US president may have mistaken her for Justin Trudeau’s wife.

Ardern was visibly uncomfortable when asked about reports that she had revealed details of the encounter at the East Asia summit in Vietnam last week to a friend who later went public.

The friend – comedian Tom Sainsbury – revealed in a radio interview that Ardern had told her Trump was “not as orange in real life” and that he had been confused about her identity.

BBC: New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern ‘regrets Trump story

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern says she regrets sharing an anecdote about her recent meeting with US President Donald Trump with her friends.

Washington Post: New Zealand leader regrets story that suggested Trump mistook her for Trudeau’s wife

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she regrets sharing an anecdote that suggested President Trump mistook her for the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“It was a bit of a funny yarn,” Arden told TVNZ on Monday morning, adding that it was “something that I don’t want to cause a diplomatic incident over.”

The reality of being Prime Minister – it’s difficult to trust anyone, even those you thought were friends. And one should expect the media to make headlines out of trivia.

The story was blown up on TVNZ’s Breakfast yesterday in a heavily criticised interview.

TVNZ (video of interview): Jacinda Ardern grilled by Jack Tame over whether Trump mistook her for Justin Trudeau’s wife – ‘It’s quite complicated’

ODT (NZME): Ardern interview slammed as being far from tame

Viewers have slammed Jack Tame as “rude” and “bizarre” over an awkward interview with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

One said Tame’s line of questioning was so “ridiculous,” he’d made her turn the TV off.

Tame has defended this morning’s awkward interview on Breakfast, saying it’s his job “to ask questions”.

Claire Trevett:  Mrs Trudeau, I presume? PM Jacinda Ardern clearly needs better work stories

Ardern had told Sainsbury backstage during the NZ Music Awards because he was a friend of hers. She had told a longer version of the tale to at least one other person.

Ardern has since said she possibly should have just stayed quiet about it. Too right.

Ardern has learned the difference between gossiping as Prime Minister – especially when it involves a controversial figure such as Trump – and gossiping as a backbench MP, or even simply a friend.

In their desperation for trivial headlines the media is forcing politicians to be less forthcoming with comment, and meticulously careful about what they say. This is a shame, but we seem to be stuck with the way things are.

The media have a habit of biting the hand that feeds them.

 

 

Farce news, when comedy becomes the headline

There are enough problems with passing comments on social media becoming ‘news’ stories, but now ‘claims’ by a comedian have hit the headlines.

Click bait headline at NZH: Did Trump mistake Jacinda for Justin Trudeau’s wife?

The question that no one seems to have asked apart from the Herald’s headline writer is answered in the article.

The article leads:

When US President Donald Trump first met Jacinda Ardern at Apec in Vietnam last week, he thought she was the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to comedian Tom Sainsbury.

Sainsbury, who is well known for his impersonation of National MPs on Snapchat, made the claim on Radio Live this afternoon.

How well known? I haven’t heard of him before.

He said he was chatting with Ardern while they were backstage at the Vodafone NZ Music Awards on Thursday night.

“I don’t know if I should be saying this, but she said that Donald Trump was confused for a good amount of time thinking that she was Justin Trudeau’s wife.”

Sainsbury said Trump eventually realised who Ardern was, and that Ardern had also said that Trump was “not as orange in real life”.

Comedians could have a lot of fun if media make a habit of turning their jokes into news.

In a statement, Ardern said: “Someone thought the President had confused us, but in all of the conversations we had it was clear to me he hadn’t, and recalled the conversation we had late last month.”

Ardern said she exchanged pleasantries with the US president and shook his hand, but did not have a substantive conversation.

That has been widely reported, including, I presume, by the Herald, so suggesting via a headline that a comedian joking is news is not a joke, it’s seriously suspect. I didn’t see if they ran it as breaking news or not.

Toby Manhire also pushed the comedian story at The Spinoff: ‘You’ve done well for yourself’: Did Trump mistake Jacinda Ardern for Trudeau’s wife?

This could be called farce news.

I wonder if Justin Trudeau’s wife has a name – but I guess an investigative jouranlist would be required to find that out.

Ardern interview on The Nation

Headlines from the Jacinda Ardern on The Nation this morning:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says discussions have already begun on how to bring climate change refugees into New Zealand under a Pacific seasonal employment plan.

Ardern says for now doubling the refugee quota is enough of an increase, as the country doesn’t have the resources to support more refugees than that.

Ardern has repeated that New Zealand would only get involved with military action against North Korea if it was supported by a United Nations resolution. And while she says there’s been no request so far for Winston Peters to help with the North Korea situation, she says he is available to play whatever role he can in reaching a peaceful resolution.

Ardern says New Zealand should have a conversation about using measures such as a Happiness Index, rather than just GDP, to measure the country’s well-being.

Interview: Jacinda Ardern

Transcript:


Patrick Gower: Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us. On this trip, refugees have been a very big issue for you, a very serious issue, personally. Is it a conviction issue for you?

Jacinda Ardern: Oh, yes, it is. But also, of course, my job is to advocate on behalf of New Zealanders. And I’ve certainly sensed a sentiment from New Zealanders that we should make sure that we do our bit. You know, we are in a position to be able to help – both our neighbour, in Australia, but also to lend assistance to those who are refugees who are currently being held and resident on Manus Island and on Nauru.

Yeah. And on that, there has been some pressure on Australia from you, from New Zealand, essentially. Is that fair, though, given that Australia takes five times more refugees per capita than New Zealand? Is it fair for us to sort of knock them around when we take five times less?

My expectation, or what I have undertaken to do here, is certainly not to knock around Australia. I accept that they play a huge role when it comes to their contribution to refugees and taking refugees. What I’m trying to do is make sure that New Zealand takes its share of refugees as well. We’re on the back doorstep. We’ve made an offer; we’re here to help. They’ve been seeking places to resettle those who are on Manus and Nauru, and I saw an opportunity for us to be a part of that solution. So, certainly, I’m not here to knock them around but to at least make the case, on New Zealand’s behalf.

Yeah, but is it that we need to be more ambitious with our target for refugees? I know that your government will double the quota. But do you now see, five times behind Australia, is there a need to be more aspirational than that? Than doubling the quota?

Yes. Look, the doubling of the quota was an important step to take – it was – and that was the right thing to do.

But do you want to go beyond that is the question.

When we made that offer, we looked into what capacity we had – the ability to make sure that we resettle people properly. And this is a key point as well with Manus and Nauru. People will ask, “Well, why only 150?” I looked carefully at the capacity we had in our system to make sure that when we take on those refugees, we’re able to wrap support around them. We’ve got to keep in mind these are, in some cases, victims of torture who have gone through an extreme set of circumstances, who we need to make sure that when we take on that responsibility, we do it properly. And that’s what we need to do with our quota as well.

So do you see a time when you will go beyond doubling the quota? Do you want to do that?

For now I think the responsible thing to do is double the quota and see that we’re able to do that properly.

One other conviction issue for you is obviously climate change, and you’ve spoken a lot about that. But for the first time, I saw you talk about how you believe that New Zealand’s glaciers have been shrinking because of climate change. Is that right?

Certainly that’s the advice that I’ve had. And we have been advocates on this issue. I see in part, and I’ve spoken on this before, that we have two roles—

It’s costing New Zealanders glaciers – is that your personal view?

Yes. Yes. Well, yes – it is my personal view. But we have a role here. I use that to illustrate a point. We have a role here not only to lead from the front and to use our voice but to demonstrate we’re taking action ourselves. And one of the reasons that we need to do that is because we sit within the Pacific and we see and know that those around us are already feeling the effects of this global issue. In fact, Asia-Pacific, where these meetings are being held and where the attendees have been from, will be gravely affected by climate change.

Sure. And one thing – specific thing – you brought up is climate change refugees.

Indeed.

You want New Zealand to lead on that, do you?

Yeah, I absolutely see a role for us to play in acknowledging that all of us will face climate changes.

What are the practical steps to that?

One of the things we’ve already talked about is we of course already have a programme within the Pacific where we have seasonal workers coming into work directly with New Zealand from our Pacific neighbours. Whether or not we can build in, for instance, an element where we target those who might be affected by climate change and potentially be climate refugees as part of that programme. We’re in the early days, but we’re looking at some options.

So you’re actually working on that. And is this urgent, actually dealing with climate change refugees? Is this urgent for you or is this a sort of “off in the future” thing?

I think the most important thing is for us to try and slow the trend – of course do what we can to make sure that we’re not in a position where we see a large-scale refugee situation. But we also need to make sure that we’re resilient, that we’re also planning, that it’s about mitigation and adaptation. And part of that planning is looking around us and saying — what might be the needs in our regions as well and being prepared for that.

And specific action has started on that, Prime Minister?

Yes. It is very very early stages. Very early stages. Of course we’ve only been in for several weeks, but it’s a conversation that we’re having.

Actually bringing “climate refugees”, so to speak, to New Zealand.

But using some of our existing programmes to see how we can accommodate within that those who might be affected by climate change.

Okay, I want to move now to North Korea, which has obviously been a subject of lots of discussion with you and the other leaders. Now that you have spoken and interacted with these people, how real is the threat of North Korea?

Oh, look, absolutely it is taken as a genuine and real threat by those in the region. Absolutely.

And you, personally, what would you say to New Zealanders? How real is this threat?

Oh, you know, we’ve seen significant increases in testing and the capability of those tests. I think most people would see that and know that it’s a genuine threat and that every member of the international community needs to play a role in doing what we can to de-escalate the situation, put pressure on Pyongyang to make sure that they are responding to the sanctions and the message that’s coming from the international community.

And if they don’t, or if there is a need for military action, is your position – because your position on the record is that New Zealand will not join military action against North Korea unless it is backed by the United Nations. Is that still your position?

The statement I used today at the East Asia Summit was we should use every tool available to us, bar military action. And one of the reasons we’re so firm on that is that we are yet to exhaust all the channels that we have. In fact we’re deploying many of them now, and with some success. So our point is those are the channels and those are the avenues we need to keep pursuing.

And that position still stands?

Yes.

It needs to have the United Nations Security Council resolution?

Yes.

Even if Japan, the United States, Australia…?

Of course. You know, our view has always been multilateral approach is best. We maintain our independent foreign policy, of course, and we’ll continually assess every situation. But, as I said today, we need to pursue every available avenue, bar military action.

And is there an option – when you talk about dialogue with North Korea, which is an important way – is there, in your view, a role, potentially, for Winston Peters, the Foreign Affairs Minister, to play in terms of talking to North Korea? Do you think he is the kind of person that could interact with that regime?

Oh, that’s happened in the past. And I think it is a good reminder that actually, there was a direct request made a few years ago now by the United States administration for support from Mr Peters in navigating a situation with North Korea in the past. That speaks to the level of diplomacy and the level of relationship that I’ve seen Mr Peters has with members of the international community. And I’ve seen it in play during this trip. It is an asset.

And do you think it’s an asset that could be used with North Korea?

To date, we haven’t had that request, but we remain absolutely available as a government – that includes our Minister of Foreign Affairs – to play whatever role we can in reaching a peaceful resolution.

I mean should you put Winston Peters forward?

Look, I would certainly be open to a range of options that we can play our role. To date that hasn’t risen as a potential possibility, but I’d never be closed off to the option.

Now, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership – and without getting into the detail and the nuts and bolts of it – your overarching view on why that’s good for New Zealand. What is your overarching view on why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is good for New Zealand?

We had a set of five goals we wanted to reach. We wanted to make sure that, yes, we had some decent outcomes for our exporters. But we also wanted to protect Pharmac, protect the Treaty of Waitangi, protect our right to legislate, protect our right to maintain our housing market—

Sure. And you’ve done that. What’s the good bit? If someone’s saying to you, “What’s the good bit here”?

And the point we make is that we’ve done that. That therefore enables us to actually place a little more emphasis on the trade deal. Because before, the trade deal was somewhat masked by all of the bits that were much more negative. Now, we haven’t reached a perfect agreement. But there’s no denying this deal gives us access to Japan, in particular, for our beef, for our kiwifruit, for our wine, in a way that we just did not have before.

And what about locking us into the world? Is that important to you? Put the trade to one side; interacting with the world – is that an important part of the TPP for you?

Look, what we have to acknowledge is that we are a small nation, and negotiating free trade agreements, multilateral agreements, give you much greater access often in this environment. And so this has been a way that we’ve been able to access multiple markets.

And very quickly on Australia – I mean, we’ve got leaks in the Australian media; we’ve got your threat of retaliation; we’ve got the Julie Bishop issue; we could go on and on and on. What word would you use to characterise our relationship right now? Because it does not look great to the outside.

Oh, look, New Zealand and Australia’s relationship is much stronger than any political new story of the day – much, much stronger.

So what word would you use?

“Robust”. Robust.

Now, speaking of robustness – to look at a robust measure, to look at the way we measure economic growth – GDP – do you think there is time under your government for a different measure, for a different official government measure beyond GDP?

I see room for a range, and we’ve talked about this before. You know, I want to make sure that people have a set of markers that they can measure our success by.

Do we need to create a new one – a new official measure that looks at different elements of human happiness?

Yeah, we’re very open as a government to exploring markers that sit alongside some of those traditional economic measures. Now, some of them we’ve already talked about. Let’s look at what’s happening for kids.

Like a happiness index?

Well, there have been talks about how you measure well-being, and I think that that’s a conversation a lot of developed countries are starting to have, and we should too.

Okay, and just finally, how have you found the trip? You used the word ‘robust’ before; what word would you use to describe your first outing on the international stage?

Pretty successful.

Little softening on Pike River re-entry

The reality of Government responsibility may have set in as Andrew Little commits to a decision on re-entry of the Pike River mine, but he won’t commit to re-entry, citing safety is a priority.

NZH –  Andrew Little: No ‘absolute guarantee’ of Pike River Mine re-entry

Pike River Mine minister Andrew Little says he cannot guarantee a re-entry of the mine and has told family members that he will do what he can but safety is the top priority.

Little will take his proposals for the membership and structure of the Pike River Re-Entry Agency to Cabinet on Monday after commemorating the seventh anniversary of the disaster at Pike River tomorrow.

Those plans include another risk assessment to decide whether a manned re-entry is possible.

“When we get to the point where we’ve done the planning, done the risk assessment and we’re at the point where we make a decision yes or no, they will be part of that decision.

And in the end there can be no absolute guarantee. But what we can guarantee is that we’ll do the job properly, plan, prepare and assess and they will be involved every step of the way.”

He said that would involve assessing whether any risks could be mitigated and on the advice he had seen so far, that was likely.

“Ultimately, and the families are very clear, the first principle of the set of principles that are governing what we do is safety, the safety of anybody involved in the re-entry project. I’m not going to put anybody at undue risk. I’m simply not going to.”

This seems to be a less certain stance.

As Labour leader, Little had promised a manned re-entry to the drift of the mine to look for the remains of any of the 29 miners who died in the November 2010 explosions and any evidence.

 

In January:  Labour leader Andrew Little makes Pike River re-entry bill an election promise

Labour leader Andrew Little has promised to table a bill in Parliament to help re-entry to the Pike River mine drift.

A Labour Government would get the families’ experts and Solid Energy’s experts together with the aim of coming up with a plan for re-entry, he said.

“The only excuse the Government has given so far for not helping the families get re-entry to the drift of the mine is they are concerned about liability of the directors. Well, we can fix that through legislation.”

In December 2016: Winston Peters says Pike River re-entry is bottom line to election deals

Winston Peters says re-entering Pike River mine is a “bottom line” to any election deal made next year.

On Tuesday evening said Peters was so confident in the expert plan and as “someone with some experience” in working underground, he would have no problem entering the mine drift.

In interviews this morning, Peters also reiterated his claim that he will enter the mine himself.

“I’m making no bones about it, we’ll give these people a fair-go, and yes this is a bottom line, and it shouldn’t have to be,” he said on TV’s Paul Henry show on Wednesday morning.

In May 2017: : Huge Cover-up Over Pike River Mine Re-Entry

There is no doubt that there has been a huge cover up by authorities after the Pike River explosion that killed 29 men, says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“All along the police and the government have maintained it was not safe for anyone to enter the tunnel.

 

“The fact is this evidence proves that it is safe for a search party to go in,” says Mr Peters.

In August: Cross-party agreement pledges a reentry of Pike River Mine

Jacinda Ardern says a Labour Government would reenter the Pike River Mine.

“The Pike River disaster was unacceptable. Twenty-nine people shouldn’t die at work in New Zealand, nor should even one person lose their life while earning a living,” Ardern said in a press release on Tuesday.

“It’s unacceptable that the families don’t have answers seven years later. More and more footage is coming out suggesting we haven’t been told the full story.

“Re-entering the drift will mean we can recover some of the men, and evidence of the cause of the explosions. That will help deliver justice and answers, and bring the men home to their families.”

In September:  Jacinda Ardern visits Pike River, reiterates recovery pledge

Jacinda Ardern has reiterated her commitment to creating a special government agency charged with recovering bodies from Pike River mine.

“We’ve always had specialist advice that says it is possible to do a safe, manned re-entry and that’s what we’ve committed to,” Ms Ardern said.

“[In the last seven years] we’ve had lies, we’ve had broken promises, and we’re quite frankly sick of it,” she said.

If elected as Prime Minister, Ms Ardern says she will create a specialist government agency dedicated to finding a way to safely re-enter the mine in stages to recover bodies and gather evidence.

Included in Labour’s first 100 days pledge:

  • Establish the Pike River Recovery Agency and assign a responsible Minister

They have done that.

Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement:

  • Commit to re-entry to Pike River.

After all that the Government is now going to do a risk assessment and decide whether re-entry is safe or not, and “in the end there can be no absolute guarantee”.

A plea to Ardern on Paid Parental Leave

Both Labour and National are playing politics on Paid Parental Leave.

Labour insisted legislation needed to be passed under urgency – with a plan to increase PPL by four weeks next July, and by another four weeks in 2020 (for a total of 26 weeks). That doesn’t sound very urgent.

Then National proposed an amendment – to give parents the choice how they shared that leave – one parent could take it all, or one could reduce theirs while the other could get some leave too.

This was opposed by Labour who said they wouldn’t allow leave for the mother to be reduced, even if she wanted to. That’s nuts.

A more solid argument is that it would require re-writing and more work, and that should be dealt with at another time. But given that there is no real urgency making a good bill better should be given some sort of priority.

Duncan Garner slams Labour:  Pathetic, petty and poor form, Labour. Dads matter too

So why is it just for mums? Why can’t families split the 26 weeks so mum and dad can share it, spend time together, bond with baby? Because Labour says it’s best for mum to have 26 weeks with baby. Bullkaka. Plunket says flexibility would be good. Stop while you’re well behind.

What is Labour to be telling us what’s best for our families? It has no right. No-one is asking for a dollar more. We just want flexibility for mum and dad to take the time together. I would have taken it – it would have been so very welcome.

No, this is a case of Labour throwing its toys out of the cot. Labour can’t see past its own nose on this one.

It doesn’t want to pick up the flexible approach because it’s National’s idea. Plain and simple. It can’t be seen to be accommodating the baby blues when the Nats saw red over paid parental leave in the first place.

This is truly pathetic from Labour on an overall policy that most support.

Nothing National is asking for will cost more, it’s a disgraceful, short-sighted, pathetic and petty decision by Labour to deny families the chance for mum and dad to share the early weeks together at home.

Of course National is grandstanding. Yes, their record on this issue is poor. But on the flexibility argument they are right.

All it takes now is for Labour to listen.

All this happened while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was out of the country.

But now she’s back she could fix it. The PM could say families are too important to get this wrong. As a father, Jacinda Ardern, I urge you to do it.

Are you really a positive new government that cares for people and doesn’t leave people behind?

If you are all that, then do the right thing. Allow families the right to decide their own future.

I know you’re planning to make it flexible later anyway, so do it now. Give families the right to choose, after all, it’s their life, their baby. Over to you now Jacinda. What will it be?

Will Ardern step in and do something about this? She was asked about it in Question Time on Thursday (edited transcript):

Hon Paula Bennett: Why is the Government opposed to parents having flexibility in how they use their paid parental leave?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I thank the Opposition for bringing forward their suggestion. I personally see merit in the amendment they’ve suggested; that’s why we’ve said we’ll look into it next year.

Hon Paula Bennett: Why doesn’t the Government then send the bill to select committee to consider the changes, given that they do not take effect until 1 July 2018?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The current legislation that’s been considered under urgency has gone through a select committee process twice. That’s why we’ve suggested—[Interruption] That’s why we’ve suggested that…

Hon Paula Bennett: I seek leave to move a motion to refer the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill back to the relevant select committee for further consideration.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that process? Yes, there is.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can the Prime Minister explain, then, why she would not allow this bill to go back to select committee, when there is plenty of time for that to be done? She’s often stated about their preference to have Parliament actually exploring things well. There’s plenty of time for it to go to select committee, and they could actually explore these changes there.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve actually said, I see merit in what the Opposition have put forward, which is why I’ve given an undertaking that we will look into this issue further and use further opportunities when we’re looking at other employment legislation—if it proves to have merit.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she think that her intentions to look at this at a later date are good enough for those families who will suffer financial hardship because they won’t have the opportunity to simultaneously take paid parental leave when there may be causes where a woman is unwell or the baby is unwell and both parents need to be at home?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think parents will appreciate that unlike the last Government, we’re extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks. I think it’s disappointing, given the vehemence that the member’s showing, that she didn’t use the opportunity when in Government to pursue this issue.

Hon Paula Bennett: So does the Prime Minister think she knows what is best for individual families, with all their uniqueness; and if not, why not simply, instead of having good intentions, do what is best and allow flexibility?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For clarity, again, I have already said I see merit in the idea, which is why we are undertaking now that our first priority is to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks. We will then look at the idea that’s been brought forward by the previous Government. I have to again say that if this was an idea that they felt so passionately about, the last nine years would have been a good opportunity to do it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would she and her Cabinet and the Government be so much more wise and informed on this matter had the Opposition put in place this policy in the last nine years?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Deputy Prime Minister is absolutely right; this is an issue that could have been pursued in the last nine years. In fact, I do need to point out we reached out to the member who put up the Supplementary Order Paper and she’s refused to collaborate with us on her very suggestion.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can I simply say, what does she suggest then to these dads and same-sex partners—what does she suggest that they do if they want to support these new mums and their babies but can’t afford unpaid leave, and would benefit from paid parental leave with flexibility?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I will say again, we are going to look into this issue because, as I’ve already said, we see merit in it—we see merit in it. Our first step, however, is to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks, which is a milestone we should all be proud of.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she accept that she’s actually the Prime Minister that could take action and do something—instead of just talking about intentions and whether something has merit, she could actually do something about this?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Taking action means, within our first 100 days, pursuing 26 weeks’ paid parental leave, which was an issue the previous Government not only voted against; they vetoed.

Is it too late to change the bill?

Or will the pragmatic Prime Minister add a worthwhile amendment?

 

 

A problem with Kelvin Davis

There is no doubt that Jacinda Ardern stepped up into the role of Labour leader, and stepped up further in post-election negotiations, as new Prime Minister and generally in her role in international politics (Manus aside).

Not so Kelvin Davis. It seemed to be a good idea to appoint him deputy to Ardern, he had appeared to be a good prospect, he complimented Ardern and he strengthened Labour’s Maori mana.

But Davis always seemed uncomfortable in the role. Some initial swagger was swept aside after he made some poor comments, and he slipped into the background, probably by design of Labour’s campaign.

He has been forced into the foreground again over the last week as acting Prime Minister when both Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters were overseas. Davis was unimpressive fronting for the Government in Parliament this week. He stonewalled without conviction.

Jo Moir at Stuff talks tough: Labour has a problem – the trainwreck of acting prime minister Kelvin Davis

For the last week, Kelvin Davis has been acting prime minister and it’s been nothing short of a trainwreck.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her deputy, Winston Peters, have been cutting deals and forging relationships on the international stage in Vietnam and the Philippines, Davis has been left back in New Zealand to handle the day-to-day business.

Before embarking on this week-long mission, Davis was pretty cool and calm about the whole thing and even described the role as a “figurehead” position.

In this column a week ago, I congratulated Davis for doing an excellent job of saying absolutely nothing, but nobody seriously thought that was a strategy Labour could keep up.

Roll on to Tuesday and Davis was back in the House facing Opposition Leader Bill English on statistical steroids as he did what he does best – stringing together sentences with enough jargon and numbers to make a Treasury report look like child’s play.

National worked out a long time ago that Davis was the weak link in the Labour leadership team and the party is in overdrive finding every way possible to expose that.

Every question Davis had thrown at him on Tuesday was answered first in muffled tones by ministers Phil Twyford, Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson. Davis then stood up and repeated the answers.

I hadn’t noticed that. Question 1 from Tuesday:

You can see it at times here, with Robertson prompting Davis on some answers and appearing to act as his minder.

The ministers didn’t even try to hide the fact they were doing it and Davis blatantly looked to them every time before rising to his feet.

It was like a seriously bizarre game of Chinese whispers that started at Twyford and ran along the front bench until the message was received by Davis.

That wasn’t noticeable on video but must have stood out from the press gallery.

Wednesday arrived. It was a new day; perhaps a new strategy? Not a chance.

There were only two political stories anyone was interested in that day – North Korea and the Government’s net debt target, economists having warned billions would need to be borrowed over the coming years.

As the media gathered on “the tiles”, where ministers are questioned on their way into the House, Davis strode across the bridge toward journalists on his own.

Davis got thrown to the pack and desperately tried to keep his head above water.

Asked what year Labour wanted to reduce net debt to 20 per cent of GDP by, Davis stumbled around before spluttering “over the economic cycle”.

Unconvinced, the reporter asked again, yes, but what year?

Red-faced and out of his depth, Davis conceded he had lost and switched to straight-up honesty, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that”.

This is a key policy of Labour’s and, yes, it’s hard to remember lots of numbers and years but Davis was presumably well prepped on this topic and still didn’t get across the line.

Was Davis prepped? Or is he just being left to flounder by Labour?

Things didn’t get much better in Question Time. The Opposition had not one but three questions lined up for Davis to put him under pressure in a number of portfolios.

But that’s not before he had made a clarification to the House, after saying the week before in answer to a question about the cost of additional police that “those costs have been finalised”.

Actually, “those costs have yet to be finalised”.

This isn’t just a problem with Davis. There seems to be a problem across Labour with different stories on a number of topics – there appears to be a lack of communication and knowledge on key policies.

In Question 1 on Wednesday Davis tried a different strategy – he gave all his answers in Maori, which mewant that many people listening would not know what he said, but again they were vague and ‘in due course’ answers. Nothing answers.

The problem Labour has is that Robertson is the obvious person to be acting prime minister and actually there’s no reason he can’t be.

Peters is barely ever going to fill that role because chances are if Jacinda Ardern’s out of the country, then, as foreign affairs minister, he’s likely to be too.

Labour needs Davis to remain the party’s deputy leader because his promotion to that role ahead of the election was a smart one and no doubt went a long way to helping it win all seven Māori seats.

A smart campaign strategy – once they worked out that Davis needed to be kept in the background. But not so smart it seems when it comes to governing.

But the party can’t sustain the cringeworthy chaos on display of late and it needs a new plan by the time Ardern and Peters jet out of the country again.

Ardern can appoint Robertson in the acting role and keep Davis as deputy leader. It’s messy, but not as messy as what was on display last week.

Failing that, the Government can choose who answers questions in the House on behalf of the prime minister.

If Ardern is away, then Robertson needs to be nominated as acting leader for the purposes of the House at least. It doesn’t solve the issue of press conferences but it gets halfway there.

Labour obviously has a problem with Davis, who is more than struggling.

They have wider problems with mixed messages over a number of policies, so overall their policy decisions and communication needs to improve.

Ardern and Peters are back in the country so the Davis problem can be forgotten for a while, but if Davis can’t step up into a leadership role then Labour need to seriously look at his position.

Robertson must be frustrated, he looked like he was squirming in Parliament each time Davis got up to speak.

Ardern on foreign policy and trade

After her first international trip after becoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in  report from Newsroom – Ardern adjusts to life at the top – Sam Sachdeva reports on her vision on foreign policy and her aims on trade.

Leading on climate change and nuclear-free

The summits were a chance not only to meet world leaders, but for Ardern to articulate her vision for New Zealand’s foreign policy.

She admitted to having big shoes to fill, with her discussions making clear the respect held for our country on the world stage.

“I’ve always known that to be true, but to see it enforced in these forums…is a real testament to the work that’s been done before, and the work all year round that our representatives do.”

During the election campaign, Ardern described climate change as “the nuclear-free movement of our generation”, providing a hint of how she wants to mix the old with the new in New Zealand’s advocacy.

“We have been strong advocates on issues like nuclear non-proliferation and that is as relevant now as it’s ever been, particularly when it comes to the Korean peninsula, and so playing a role in being consistent advocates, particularly from a position of always taking a really principled stance I think is important.”

At her speech to the Apec CEO’s Summit, Ardern spoke about climate change “lapping at our feet” in the Asia-Pacific, and she said it was an area where New Zealand could speak up for others who could be the worst affected.

“I wasn’t the only one [talking about climate change], but there weren’t many of us, and I do think it’s an issue that needs consistent advocacy because in some of those forums there’s an absence of the groups that are directly affected, but the overall Asia-Pacific will feel its impact hugely and yet have some of the most deprived populations in the world as well.”

In a speech during the election campaign Ardern referred to climate change: “This is my generation’s nuclear-free moment, and I am determined that we will tackle it head on.”

Globalising trade and rights

Under John Key and Bill English, New Zealand was an ardent supporter of free trade and globalisation.

While Ardern did sign off on what is now the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), there are signs that she may pursue a more nuanced approach to the benefits of trade.

“We absolutely, absolutely support free trade, but alongside that we’ve got the opportunity now within our trade agenda to say alongside supporting free trade, we have the ability to try to create some architecture that means that we also start globalising rights as well.”

That meant ensuring trade ageements didn’t “simply have trade chase or flow into the country with the lowest labour standards and the lowest wages”.

With social inclusion one of the points of focus at Apec, Ardern said her government was not alone in plotting a new approach.

“What’s clear is that we have started hitting those road blocks where non-tariff barriers and protectionism still exists, and some of the rationale for that is there has been a pushback on trade agendas that haven’t filtered down into prosperity.

“Actually if we really want to sell the benefits of trade, we have to make sure people start feeling the benefits of trade as well, and that’s the next challenge.”

That means more than paying lip service to a new narrative, as Ardern notes: “We can’t just claim that we’re telling the story that hasn’t been told before.”

She points to CPTPP provisions that will allow countries to enforce labour standards – a first for a trade agreement – as a sign of what is possible.

“Basic as they may be, that’s a starting point, and when you start hearing negotiators from countries advocating for their use, because it’s enabled them to start enforcing standards on multinationals operating in their country, where they haven’t successfully been able to pass domestic legislation, then you start seeing the tools that we have in this wider agenda.”

While climate change will be an ongoing test of Ardern’s tenure as Prime Minister the CPTPP is an early test of both Ardern and Labour’s trade aims and priorities, and it is also likely to be a test of Labour’s relationshiip with partners in Government, NZ First and particularly the Greens.

Ardern on Trump – ‘He is consistent”

On her Asian trip Jacinda Ardern has been reported to have met Donald trump briefly but had little interaction with him. She has been questioned about her impressions of him on her return to New Zealand.

NZH – Q & A with Jacinda Ardern: We have a role in taking a lead:

What was your abiding impression of Donald Trump in the few conversations you had with him?

He is consistent. He is the same person that you see behind the scenes as he is in the public or through the media.

Is that a compliment?

I think being consistent – there is something in that.

An odd, or very diplomatic, ‘abiding impression’.

Newsroom –  Ardern adjusts to life at the top:

The flow also took her in the direction of Trump, seemingly Ardern’s polar opposite.

While there was some interest before the trip about what sort of diplomatic incident Trump could cause, Ardern revealed it was almost the opposite.

“I was waiting to walk out to be introduced at the East Asia Summit gala dinner, where we all paraded and while we were waiting, Trump in jest patted the person next to him on the shoulder, pointed at me and said, ‘This lady caused a lot of upset in her country’, talking about the election.

“I said, ‘Well, you know, only maybe 40 per cent’, then he said it again and I said, ‘You know’, laughing, ‘no-one marched when I was elected’.

“He laughed and it was only afterwards that I reflect that it could have been taken in a very particular way – he did not seem offended.”

Funny – but I don’t know if it was a genuine laugh or not, or if on reflection Trump thinks it was funny.