Where are all the young progressives?

Jacinda Ardern’s sudden rise to leadership of the country was lauded (in part by herself) as the start of new generation progressive change.

Jacinda Ardern, 2018.jpg

But where are all the young progressives?

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has a lot of influence in the government. He is nearly seventy four years old and first made it into Parliament in 1979, forty years ago and before the so-called neo-liberal changes in the 1980s.

Winston Peters, 2018.jpg

One of the first things the incoming did was do a u-turn to support and implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. ‘Progressive ‘ was tacked onto the from of the name, but it is much the same as past trade agreements. Responsible for managing this was Labour’s most experienced minister, and one of their oldest – David Parker is nearing 60.

David Parker NZ.jpg

Tax reform has been a major policy of Labour’s. They appointed Michael Cullen to lead their Tax Working Group. He is the same age as Peters (he turns 74 in two days),  and entered Parliament two years after Peters, in 1981.

Image result for michael cullen

Labour has a close relationship with unions, and want to reform labour laws. The appointed ex Prime Minister Jim Bolger to lead that working group. He entered parliament in 1972, before most current ministers were born. He is ten years older than Peters and Cullen. And his group’s recommendations have been described as a return to old school industry wage agreements.

Jim Bolger 2018 (cropped).jpg

Experience is essential in government. So are new ideas, understanding changing times and youthful enthusiasm.

Ardern is fronting a new progressive way of doing politics, but where is the team and the drive behind this? There are no obvious new generation stars beyond Ardern’s accomplished grasp of PR.

Where are all the young progressives? And where is the female input beyond the figurehead of Ardern?

Small minority to make crucual decisions on ‘fair pay’ agreements

Fair Pay Agreements “would set minimum standards to lift wages and conditions across an industry or occupation”, but could be initiated by a small minority of workers – just 10%, or less (1,000 workers). Is that fair? A minority in, say Auckland, could effectively end up imposing ‘fair pay’ across an industry across the country.

This is what the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group has recommended. The Government will now consider what they do – this may not be straight forward, with Labour and Greens requiring the support of another minority, NZ First.

Heather du Plessis Allan: Time to fast-forward to the past

Business is collectively losing its mind over the working group’s recommendations. It’s calling it a return to the national awards of the 1970s.

Business hates that the negotiations can be triggered by as little 10 per cent of the industry’s workforce. Business hates that the contract agreements would be compulsory for all employers in that industry. Business hates paying employees more than it has to.

Business has a few fair points. We can’t expect the cafe owner in Balclutha to pay staff exactly the same wage as the Auckland cafe owner making a killing thanks to the money and foot traffic a city delivers. There should be concessions to regional variance.

These recommendations probably won’t all be accepted by the Government. Labour’s coalition partner New Zealand First might challenge many of them, if not all. Winston Peters’ party has already temporarily pulled its support on Labour’s employment law once before.

So it is far from a done deal at this stage.

But, the motivation behind these recommendations is on the money. Kiwis are underpaid.

That’s debatable. In the private sector we are generally paid what companies can afford to pay and stay in business.

Audrey Young:  Coalition Government lining up smorgasbord of targets for National

The same goes for the fair pay agreements outlined in the Jim Bolger report delivered to the Government this week.

But given New Zealand First’s track record in diluting union-backed legislation, it is hard to imagine the party agreeing to a trigger as low as 10 per cent for workers to force employers to the table for compulsory sector-wide bargaining.

The trouble is that the higher the trigger goes, the less happy the unions will be. A true compromise may result in deeply unhappy unions and employers.

Dominion Post editorial: Why back to the future on pay might not work

Many of this country’s lowest paid and most vulnerable workers have every right to look back in anger at the steady, inexorable fall in the value of their wages, the undermining of working conditions and the perceived out-of-proportion rewards for their employers and many others in the business community.

Bolger’s group was assembled to address such inequities, and its report released this week suggests we go back to the future.

It recommends the creation of fair-pay agreements, a new version of the old collective bargaining that critics have labelled as “compulsory unionism by stealth”.

There is some sympathy for that argument because the proposal, if adopted, would mean that an entire industry would have to negotiate new minimum pay and working conditions if just 10 per cent or 1000 workers in that industry, whichever is fewer, asked for it.

That creates the potential for major upheaval in businesses that have long moved on from the days of compulsory unionism and the environment that went with it.

The reforms are targeted at the country’s low-paid and most exploited workers.

But there is still the potential for major uncertainty, confusion and disruption for everyone within the complicated ecosystem that is our national economy.

For many, the amount they are paid remains the main measure of their perceived value, from the employer and within society. Work conditions are important, but pay is so often the principal point of anger and agitation.

If employers followed a number of local bodies and now Westpac bank in taking on a living wage for their employees, it would go a long way towards quelling that anger, and possibly even lift productivity.

But local bodies can just put up rates to pay for bigger wage bills. Ratepayers have to pay. If companies put up prices customers can choose not to pay.

This too, of course, is a blunt tool, and would not come without cost. But in conjunction with sensible legislation to protect workers’ rights and conditions, as happened when zero-hour contracts were deemed illegal, it could address many concerns without creating widespread disruption and a threat to the economy.

This working group is right to address inequities on behalf of the country’s workers, but it should be careful not to throw out the businesses with the bathwater.

A minority in Government, NZ First, look to be the deciding factor in whether a minority of workers could enable (or force) ‘fair pay’ on a whole industry, which could put a larger number of workers and their jobs at risk.

Another point  – Labour may think it was a master stroke recruiting ex-National MP Jim Bolger to head the Working Group, but why an ageing retired politician? One who is a long way from knowing what ordinary workers feel and experience. Surely there are younger people around who may have a better appreciation of work in the modern world.

Government blurb on the Working Group report:

‘Fair Pay’ team announced

The Government has set up over a hundred panels, working groups, reviews, committees and whatever esle they have called them. They refer to the latest as ‘a ‘Fair Pay Agreeement’ team.


Government’s Fair Pay Agreement work to begin

The Government’s work on establishing Fair Pay Agreements, helping design a collective bargaining system to lift wages and productivity in New Zealand, will be led by former Prime Minister the Rt Hon Jim Bolger, says Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“The Government has a vision for a highly skilled and innovative economy that delivers good jobs, decent work conditions and fair wages, while supporting economic growth and productivity,” says Mr Lees-Galloway.

“The best way to create a high-wage economy is through productivity growth, and we must ensure that workers and businesses benefit from economic growth. While wages have generally grown in the top-two and bottom-two deciles, wages for middle New Zealand have not kept up and as a result feel squeezed by rising costs, particularly in housing.

“We can and must do better for middle New Zealanders. Fair Pay Agreements will establish a framework for employers and employees to work together constructively to lift wages and productivity.

“Workers and employers know their sector best. By working together through effective engagement and bargaining cooperatively, workers and employers can set standards that are relevant to their sector and support productivity and growth.

“The aim of FPAs is to prevent a race to the bottom, where some employers are undercut by others who reduce costs through low wages and poor conditions of employment.

“Through the team led by Jim Bolger, the Government intends to introduce legislation to allow employers and workers to create Fair Pay Agreements that set minimum employment terms and conditions for all workers in the industry or occupation covered by the agreement.

“Fair Pay Agreements will help lift wages and conditions and ensure good employers are not disadvantaged by paying reasonable, industry-standard wages.

“It is time to move toward new models of bargaining. It is time New Zealand adopts a sector-level approach that is common across the developed world.

“Mr Bolger will lead the team of ten to develop recommendations on the design of a Fair Pay Agreement system, which is due to report back by the end of the year, and we will work closely with businesses, organisations and workers to develop a new and enduring framework that is good for employers and workers,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

The team includes worker and business representatives, those with practical on-the-ground experience and experts in law, economics and bargaining systems.

Members of the Fair Pay Agreement team:

Rt Hon Jim Bolger – 35th Prime Minister of New Zealand, former Minister of Labour

Dr Stephen Blumenfeld – Director, Centre for Labour, Employment and Work at Victoria University

Steph Dyhrberg – Partner, Dyhrberg Drayton Employment Law

Anthony Hargood – Chief Executive, Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union

Kirk Hope – Chief Executive, BusinessNZ

Vicki Lee – Chief Executive, Hospitality NZ

Caroline Mareko – Senior Manager, Communities and Participation, He Whānau Manaaki o Tararua Free Kindergarten Association

John Ryall – Assistant National Secretary, E tū

Dr Isabelle Sin – Fellow, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington

Richard Wagstaff – President, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

The terms of reference are available at MBIE’s website.

Abuse and misogyny in politics

There may be more than misogyny at play here but it certainly suggests that female politicians are subjected to worse abuse than male politicians.

RNZ: Gender bias and Facebook comments: Is there a male equivalent of a vile hag?

Analysis – Is there a male equivalent of a “vile hag?” What about a “sanctimonious bitch?” How about “patronising c**t”?

When RNZ posts stories about gender to Facebook, they’re invariably the ones that attract the nastiest comments.

More than race, sexuality, the environment or politics, stories about gender attract abuse, profanity and flat-out nastiness.

That’s bad.

So, when we posted a video from our series The 9th Floor, featuring former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley pointing out the difference in the way women politicians are spoken about, compared to their men counterparts, we braced for an onslaught.

Of more than 100 comments across a dozen RNZ Facebook posts, there is one abusive comment for Jim Bolger (two if you count, “He’s an idiot”), one for Moore and one for Palmer. There are more than 60 for Dame Jenny.

Over at The Spinoff’s Facebook page, at the time of writing, Shipley is called a vindictive bitch and a despicable turd.

Jim Bolger gets called fascist, “thick as pig s**t”, Mike Moore gets called boring, and Geoffrey Palmer gets off with no comments that could be called abusive – that have remained public, anyway.

Politics can bring out the worst in some people. So can gender issues. And when gender and politics are combined it can get very ugly.

Attacks against male politicians happen a lot, but often the worst is directed at female politicians – and the abusers aren’t just male.

“Helen Clark and I could give you the long list of counterpoints. How people have described both of us, compared with our peers … It tells me more about other people than myself,” she told us.

“A giant predatory slug emerges when she unzips the ‘human’ bodysuit at night,” was one way she was described on Facebook.

She was also advised to lose “unwanted pounds” by cutting off her head.

“As vomitingly heinous and odious as perata [sic] or collins or bennett.”

She’s “wasting precious air”, “fit only for the gallows” and should be pushed “in the woodchipper”.

Appalling, but sadly not uncommon.

All the ex Prime Ministers featured in the 9th Floor so far are from last century so won’t be as fresh on many people’s minds, and younger people may hardly know them, but Shipley was only PM for two years following Bolger’s eight, so the quantity and degree of vitriol is way out of proportion to length of tenure. It looks like misogyny, or there is some other reason why female politicians get much worse abuse.

Helen Clark will feature on the 9th Floor this Friday, and she has been subjected to a lot of abuse in the past so will probably cop something like what Shipley did.

So the abuse isn’t just coming from the left or the right of politics, there are abusive people who lash out at politicians, especially female ones, regardless of their leanings.

‘Neoliberalism’ debate continues

The economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s in New Zealand rescued the country from the extreme interventions of Robert Muldoon, which were misguided attempts to re-invent New Zealand’s economy after Britain dumped us as one of it’s primary producers and to deal with the oil shocks of the late 80s.

I don’t recall those reforms ever being described as the introduction of a new ideology, nor them being called neoliberalism. (But I didn’t follow politics closely in those days).

I’ve followed politics a lot more over the last decade and even then it seems to be increasingly in more recent years that people from the left have lamented the advent of neoliberalism and expressed a yearning to how things once were (while never saying how that was supposed to have been).

Certainly how we manage our economy and social services and public services has changed markedly over the last half century. Margaret Thatcher changed things in Britain, and Ronald changed things in the USA. But it was hardly a massive shift from capitalism to neo-liberalism as if it was as drastic as a move in the other direct to communism would have been.

Then this week Jim Bolger, New Zealand Prime Minister in much of the 1990s, seemed to denounce neoliberalism in an interview for RNZ: The Negotiator – Jim Bolger: Prime Minister 1990-97

Bolger says neo-liberal economic policies have absolutely failed. It’s not uncommon to hear that now; even the IMF says so. But to hear it from a former National Prime Minister who pursued privatisation, labour market deregulation, welfare cuts and tax reductions – well, that’s pretty interesting.

“They have failed to produce economic growth and what growth there has been has gone to the few at the top,” Bolger says, not of his own policies specifically but of neo-liberalism the world over. He laments the levels of inequality and concludes “that model needs to change.”

That’s kind of remarkable. Certainly there has some problems that have emerged from how the country is managed over the last three decades.

A discussion was sparked on Twitter today.

Bryce Edwards:

Jim Bolger recants neoliberalism, & now on Michelle Boag graciously acknowledges Laila Harre’s good work in industrial relations!

Liam Hehir:

Can you point to an instance of him explicitly praising “neoliberalism” at any point?

Bryce Edwards:

He’s widely accepted to have overseen the implementation of a version of a neoliberal programme, no? He was fairly praiseworthy of that.

Liam Hehir:

Yeah – and he really expressed no regret for that in the podcast. He also didn’t suggest his reforms were neoliberal – that was Guyon’s word

Bryce Edwards:

All true. Yet David Farrar suggests that Bolger is now “to the left of Helen Clark”. I look forward to your column on this.

Rob Hosking:

There’s a huge amount of oversimplification & revisionism going on about this (and related matters) at the moment. It’s very misleading.

Phillip Matthews:

I’d be interested to know if the word “neoliberalism” was used much in NZ in the 1990s. People talked about market forces or Rogernomics.

I’ve only heard “neoliberalism” being used over the last few years. It’s a retrospective label that most people have no understanding or even knowledge of.

Greg Jackson:

I wrote about economics and politics in the 80’s and 90’s. Never heard “neoliberalism” bandied about in popular or private usage.

Liam Hehir:

Whatever you call it, it was never promoted as an ideological agenda. It was sold as a necessary, if bitter, medicine.

(By prime ministers, I should add).

In the interview, Espiner asks Bolger about neoliberalism. Bolger is non-committal about the term. He then goes on to express some dissatisfaction about current economic circumstances. So what happens, “OMG Jim Bolger has denounced neoliberalism you guys!!!!”

Ben Thomas:

Re revisionism: Guyon suggested Douglas’s economic plan happened under cover of “popular social reform” like homosexual law reform.

I mean, we all pretend on Twitter we’ve always been woke, but that’s a helluva way to misremember 1980s NZ (& the courage of the reformers)

Yeah, the BWB crowd’s window into the 1980s is via Kelsey’s books and Alistair Barry’s documentaries. It gives a skewed picture.

I was sorta relieved when Moore pointed out actually there weren’t thousands protesting in the streets each day, or complete social collapse.

I think generally people knew things had to change and quite drastically.

Matthew Hooton:

The craziest is the idea the “unpopular” economic reforms were possible because of the “popular” anti-nuke & homosexual law reform moves.

For many, anti-nukes was tolerated cos of economic reforms & the homosexual law reform bill was extremely controversial at the time.

How things were economically in the early to mid 80s was untenable, and we can’t undo what has happened.

 

 

  1. How the heck do you change the model from neo-liberalism?
  2. Why don’t we address the problems, deal with them and move forward?

From what I’ve seen most people who say “we must reverse neoliberalism” actually mean “we need to change to socialism”. We can’t go back.

Why don’t we just do what we can to fix the problems we have now and not worry about labels and revolutionary changes.

 

Bolger on brash Orewa speech

This from Jim Bolger’s 9th Floor interview (a series featuring past Prime Ministers) – he obviously isn’t a fan of an ex-Leader of the Opposition, Don Brash.

Talking of Hobson’s Pledge, that doesn’t seem to be making much impact.

The 9th floor – Jim Bolger

In the third The 9th Floor interview Jim Bolger is headlined as ‘the negotiator’ but is stirring things up on ‘neo-liberalism’ and race relations.

RNZ: The Negotiator – Jim Bolger: Prime Minister 1990-97

I think Jim Bolger might be about to spark a debate. Two debates actually. One on our economic settings and the other on race relations.

On neo-liberalism:

He says neo-liberalism has failed and suggests unions should have a stronger voice.

“They have failed to produce economic growth and what growth there has been has gone to the few at the top,” Bolger says, not of his own policies specifically but of neoliberalism the world over. He laments the levels of inequality and concludes “that model needs to change.”

So should we scrap neoliberalism?

Or fix what’s wrong and leave what is generally working ok?

On race relations:

He says Treaty of Waitangi settlements may not be full and final and that Maori language tuition should be compulsory in primary schools.

Indeed Bolger is at his most passionate speaking about Maori issues. He has a visceral hatred of racism and explains the personal context for that.

We asked him whether future generations will open up Treaty settlements again – given Maori got a fraction of what was lost – or whether they are genuinely full and final. He says it is a “legitimate” question and “entirely up to us”.

If Maori are still at the bottom of the heap “then you can expect someone to ask the question again because it means that society has failed”.

He is also scathing of former National leader Don Brash’s Orewa speech on ‘Maori privilege’. “It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Trump but it was in that frame.” Of course Don Brash never made it to PM, replaced by John Key in 2006. ‘Gone by lunchtime,’ was the political phrase popular at the time.

Bolger also says it’s time to give power back to unions.

Being a more recent Prime Minister makes the issues he raises more pertinent to today’s debates.

Blogview – UF#3 Rob Eaddy

Rob Eaddy
Party: UnitedFuture
List: 3
Electorate: Hutt South
Profile (part):

  • Served 8 years as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Rt Hon J B Bolger. In that role he was responsible for strategic policy advice, administration and management of the Private Office of the Prime Minister.
  • Between 1998 and 2003, Rob undertook several Senior Communications, Strategy and Consultancy roles in the Ministry of Health and Hutt Valley DHB.
  • From 2003 onwards, Rob has served as Chief of Staff to the Hon Peter Dunne MP, Leader of United Future New Zealand. He has been and remains, the principal political and strategic advisor on all aspects of current policy and legislative issues.
  • Rob has served as the UnitedFuture negotiator for the Confidence and Supply Agreements between Labour and UnitedFuture following the 2005 Election and between National and UnitedFuture following the 2008 Election.

So while UnitedFuture goes into this election with only one sitting MP the party has more depth of parliamentary and government experience.

Eaddy For Parliament

Wellington – If United Future lifts its popularity a familiar face around Parliament will be returning in an unfamiliar role.

Rob Eaddy is number three on the list behind Leader Peter Dunne and outdoors advocate Doug Stevens.

Eaddy has been Dunne’s chief of staff for some time and before that served similar roles for the National Party and was a senior Beehive official for much of Jim Bolger’s administration.The affable, yet sometimes gruff, Eaddy is a famed political manager and his running in the Hutt South seat could create some interesting tension with Labour’s Trevor Mallard and National’s Paul Quinn.

Petone Herald – ELECTION FOCUS: Your candidates:

Backroom boy moves into the public eye

In 2003 he was asked to return to the political realm, to become chief of staff to UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne. “I had known Peter for a long time and his politics and mine were very similar.”

Eight years later Mr Eaddy has finally stepped out of the shadows, agreeing to become UnitedFuture’s candidate for Hutt South. It’s been the first time he has sought public office, rather than advised those who have achieved it. “It’s a change,” agrees Mr Eaddy. “I’ve always been a defender of those who have got the courage to get up on a soapbox and say what they stand for.”

Because he has been a parliamentary insider his online profile is sparse, but there are a few relevant references to him.

Hon JOHN CARTER Valedictory Statement

I want to say thanks to a number of people. There are so many people to thank. Thanks, everybody. Thanks, everybody in this complex. What a wonderful place to be. But I want to thank three guys in particular who have been special to me in my 24 years within this complex, and they are Rob Eaddy, Paul Plummer, and Wayne Eagleson. I thank the three of you so much for your support. There are many others who have been part of that team, but it has been great to have you guys—and the jokes will not stop, by the way, folks.

Some mentions by David Farrar on Kiwiblog over the years:

One degree of seperation

The United Future Chief of Staff, Rob Eaddy, was Jim Bolger’s Chief of Staff when I worked for Ministerial Services.

A Who’s Who of the Madeleine Setchell story

Staff in the leader’s office broadly are of two types. Those with a party background, and those without.

The other staff, while certainly comfortable with what a party stand for, are not party members or activists. Examples are …Rob Eaddy in United Future …

United Future List

Rob Eaddy, at No 3, is a former Chief of Staff to Jim Bolger, and one of the best political managers around. If United Future did manage to get him into Parliament, he would be an easy pick to become a very competent and successful Minister.

TTTC: DPF, couldn’t agree more with your comments about Rob Eaddy. I’d also add he is one of the most thoroughly decent people you’d ever meet.

[DPF: Yes, he is]

From the archives…

Former Nats chief of staff to head United Future

Mar 18, 2003

Former National Party chief of staff Rob Eaddy has been appointed to that role with United Future, leader Peter Dunne said today.

Mr Eaddy, who will manage the relationship between United Future and the Labour-led Government, left National in 1997 to be communications director of the Health Funding Authority.

He has since been general manager, communications, consultation and relationships for Hutt Valley Health.