Winston Peters versus John Key

Last week John Key said he would consider working with NZ First after the election but that it was “very unlikely” to happen.

In the weekend John Armstrong started some debate with Winston for PM? Don’t bet against it.

The big question is whether National will be willing to trade the one bauble of office which Peters has never enjoyed (and which Labour cannot realistically offer) to secure his signature on a confidence and supply agreement.

Peters has been a finance minister, a foreign minister and a deputy prime minister. That leaves one large and obvious gap in his CV.

Will National seek to find ways around the significant constitutional obstacles to enable the leader of a minor party to do a stint as prime minister – obstacles such as could he realistically sack a Cabinet minister from the majority party?

Then yesterday also in NZ Herald Audrey Young –  Key: Power-sharing off the table

John Key this morning scoffed at speculation that National might consider any power-sharing arrangement with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as though it were complete fantasy.

But the notion is not that off-the-planet that is hasn’t been contemplated. 

Young then details some of the context and then concludes.

In light of John’s column, I asked the Prime Minister this morning if he would rule out a power-sharing deal and he said “that’s not on the table.”

Pressed further, he said ”No, Winston Peters won’t become Prime Minister.”

ZB’s Barry Soper asked him if it were put on the table, would he consider it, and Key said No.

Also yesterday in Parliament’s first debate for the year Winston Peters blasted Key and National.

The plan outlined by the Prime Minister for 2014 brought to mind the word “hoover”. Not the great water dam in the United States, not the first FBI boss in the United States, but the vacuum cleaner. You know why? Because it sucks. John Key has spent too long running around after the movie moguls. He is in his own fantasy land. His speech had the most confused start of any speech that I have ever heard in this House by a party leader—the most confused start that I have ever heard.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister’s of the past would have been embarrassed to have spouted such dribble. I think that a leadership spill in the National Party is not long away.

National is a Government of non-achievers with a woeful record of failure. It always puts the interests of foreign big-business ahead of ordinary New Zealanders.

Mr Key made a speech last week, if you recall, and all of sudden, he says “Oh, we will be happy to talk to New Zealand First.” It is a bit like that famous quote from Jesse Jackson: “Now, Santa Claus running into heavy weather, and he calls for Rudolph.” It is unbelievable— unbelievable. There is no basis for this National Government to boast about its economic record.

The stark, ugly truth is that New Zealand is nowhere near paying its way in the world, Mr Bennett. It is clear that this Government is clueless as to how to address that. Young New Zealanders have been betrayed by this Government.

Two minutes to go, Mr Speaker? One minute to go? Wonderful. That will be enough to finish off this party. What we have heard today, if you look at the penultimate page, is a statement about taking steps this year to introduce a National match-fixing policy. That is what we heard today. It was National’s match-fixing policy for the election.

If you cannot win the game, cheat—fix it. Well, we are on red alert and ready to hand out a card. We cannot say it will be a red card. We cannot say it will be a green card. We cannot say it will be a yellow card. But we most definitely can say that it will be a white card. As soon as they fly, it will be a white and black card, as soon as they—as they will—fly the white flag.

One last statement: remember what Mr Key said about the SIS raid last year? He said he did not know about it. We will prove in this House that he did.

(from draft Hansard DEBATE ON PRIME MINISTER’S STATEMENT 15:19:04~Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First)

National would be nuts to try and work with Winston in a coalition or with a confidence and supply agreement.

Prime Minister for Peters would be preposterous. As would deputy. And any other ministerial responsibility would be very risky and unwise.

Peters last comment was “One last statement: remember what Mr Key said about the SIS raid last year? He said he did not know about it. We will prove in this House that he did.”

Peters has a record of claiming to have proof  when trying to bring political opponents (or eject them from his party as he did with Brendan Horan).  And he has a record of not producing any proof despite his claims of having it.

I don’t know how Key or National could consider trusting him. Despite what Armstrong and Young say, Peters is off the planet.

Which Cunliffe?

Sometimes David Cunliffe sounds decisive. Often he seems decidely duplicitous.

Which Cunliffe

John Armstrong writes in NZ Herald Two Cunliffes … but only one is a winner.

Allies and enemies of David Cunliffe are quickly discovering that Labour’s leader of two months is something of a two-headed hydra.

It seems at times as if there are two David Cunliffes – the one who speaks from the heart, and the one who speaks out of both sides of his mouth.

Cunliffe can speak with intelligence and passion, but he also often sounds contrived, a try hard. And sometimes with a nasty streak.

The first Cunliffe is supremely confident, assertive, decisive, and a straight talker. He leaves those listening in absolutely no doubt that he will do what he is says he is going to do.

Then there is the other Cunliffe. This is the slightly too brash, but still decisive-sounding version who – when his statements are subject to scrutiny – leaves the listener none the wiser as to what he really thinks and where he stands.

This is Cunliffe the professional politician who either refuses to or cannot give a straight answer. Instead, the listener is served up rhetoric and bluster.

After an initial bump in the polls when he took over the leadership Labour under Cunliffe has now settled back into Shearer levels of support. This should be a worry for Cunliffe. Labour can’t afford to switch leaders again before next year’s election.

Perhaps Cunliffe has been trying too hard to be many things to many voters. A two faced, forked tongue impression is becoming established.

He has to learn to be himself – as long as there is only one of him he should then come across as someone who’s words and positions we can understand clearly and can trust.

Otherwise National will rule again after next year’s election, or if Labour squeak in they will be Greened far more than they would want – and far more than most voters would want.

Labour has bet it’s future on David Cunliffe. Which Cunliffe?

(Arm)Strong advice for David Shearer

Another couple of demoralising pundit opinions on David Shearer’s leadership.

Felix Marwick takes a measured look in Leadership back under the spotlight.

And John Armstrong is more blunt in 90 days to save Shearer’s bacon.

But Armstrong also offers some very good advice to Shearer.

  1. Shearer needs to relax. When he tries to sound forthright, he sounds uptight. He sounds like he does not believe what he is saying. He needs to choose the right words and let them make his point.
  2. Shearer should be delivering speeches which reveal exactly what he stands for. The public does not have the foggiest. The public might not turn up to hear him. But the media will.
  3. Shearer needs to relentlessly target the middle ground. That will at times mean taking conservative stances that annoy the Labour left. Too bad. The centre is where many conservative-minded Labour voters now sit.
  4. He needs to get his caucus talking about the issues which matter to the average person. Shearer’s biggest success has been Labour’s promise to build 100,000 affordable houses over 10 years. He needs to ask himself why that has been popular and replicate that across other portfolios.
  5. He needs to be more strategic when it comes to picking fights with National. But he needs to pick some fights with the Greens to show who is going to be the boss in any governing relationship.
  6. He needs to bang a few party heads together and take control of this year’s Labour conference so it becomes a platform for him rather than an embarrassment for the party.

Can Shearer re-invent himself and show some confidence and ability to repair a severely damaged Labour caucus?

And if not, as Marwick says, “will anyone in his caucus be prepared to take up the poisoned chalice that Labour’s leadership appears to have become”.

Ominous for Dunne

The writing is on the wall for Peter Dunne. It’s on a number of walls, especially media walls.

Yesterday John Armstrong was clear in Gravity of situation seems to escape Mr Sensible’s notice:

Maybe the enormity of it all has yet to really sink in. Maybe Peter Dunne is in a state of complete and utter denial. Maybe in his mind he has convinced himself that he did not leak the Kitteridge report on the GCSB despite the evidence – although circumstantial – pointing unerringly in his direction.

With Vance and her employers adopting the standard response of never commenting on sources, it is a fair bet the answer as to who leaked the document lies somewhere in the pile of 86 emails Dunne exchanged with the journalist over a 14-day period.

The public may never know exactly what happened. But Henry’s short report is long enough for people to be able to draw their own conclusions.

And Colin Espiner has just blogged Captain Sensible got too near the flame at Stuff:

Former Revenue Minister/former UnitedFuture leader and possibly soon-to-be former MP Peter Dunne says he looked at but did not leak the GCSB report that found our security services had engaged in illegal spying on New Zealanders.

That wasn’t good enough for Prime Minister John Key who considered Dunne’s faint denials that he was responsible, together with his refusal to release all of the 80-plus emails exchanged with the Fairfax reporter who broke the story, was as close as anyone was going to get to an outright admission of guilt.

And fair enough, too. Even though I also work for Fairfax I have absolutely no idea who Andrea Vance’s sources for her story were – journalists protect sources absolutely, and wouldn’t tell their own mother or partner let alone their editor or a colleague.

But as someone who worked as a political editor in the press gallery for eight years, I’m 99 per cent convinced Dunne was responsible, based on his behaviour since, his refusal to co-operate with the inquiry, and my knowledge of how these things work.

And how these things work is that almost everyone does it. The only difference is that Dunne got caught because he didn’t cover his tracks well enough.

And also from Stuff with Is politician is done and dusted?:

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams said the situation is “end-of-career stuff”, and he expects Dunne to “lick his wounds, then go gracefully”.

It is going to be nigh on impossible for Dunne to argue against this weight of opinion.

About the only remaining question is how long it will take Dunne to come to terms with his situation. It’s a huge step for him to take after three decades in Parliament.

Ironically if he were to resign and champion GCSB and privacy issues that were likely to be involved in the decision to “consider leaking” the Kitteridge report he could end his career with a more enduring legacy than if he had just faded away. There is growing support for leaking the report.

Should Peter Dunne be New Zealand’s Bradley Manning?

Labour and the Greens should be thanking Dunne for having caused the report to be released.

Harping on about the leak of a taxpayer funded report on illegal spying, though, could have the potential to backfire, particularly on the Greens, who have long been ardent campaigners against this country’s entanglement in intelligence alliances. I suspect that Russel Norman will have to explain his position to some pretty angry Green activists in the near future.

And as for Peter Dunne being our Bradley Manning – probably to an extent, yes, as like that truly brave American soldier he risked everything and still got caught, albeit, in the service of a greater cause – freedom of information.

That might be taking it a bit far but Dunne could certainly exit his parliamentary career with higher honours than ex Minister of Revenue.

It would be ironic if Dunne exited parliament as a champion of the left.

And there seems little stigma in being a labelled leaker. Espiner says “almost everyone does it”, and details:

  • Peters is the king of leaks
  • Former Labour prime minister Helen Clark leaked like a sieve
  • There are very senior people sitting around Key’s Cabinet table who have leaked information to me in the past.

As usual there is much hypocrisy surrounding Winston Peters, in this case “the king of leaks” pursuing a leaker.

But the biggest  surprise seems to be that Dunne went so long without leaking. No wonder media didn’t pay him much attention.

The media rewards leaking by giving politicians the publicity they crave. Except Dunne, who doesn’t seem to have benefited in that way. And except when media discard them and throw them to the wolves – see Fairfax leaked or Peters is lying.

Peter Dunne – an unlikely leaker

Winston Peters has made a serious accusation – that Peter Dunne leaked the Kitteridge report the day after he returned from an overseas trip.

Like many I would be very surprised if Dunne was the leaker.

John Key has strongly backed Dunne’s integrity. In PM backs Dunne over Peters’ GCSB leak claim:

Key told reporters that Peters has produced no evidence to back his claim.

“All I’m saying is that he’s using Parliamentary privilege. Mr Dunne’s given a categorical assurance that he didn’t’ leak the report and I accept him at his word,” Key said.

Key in Parliament on Wednesday in Questions for oral answer:

David Shearer: Has the Hon Peter Dunne given David Henry, who was investigating the matter, an assurance that neither he nor his office made the report or any part of it available to any member of the media?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not party to any conversations that Mr Dunne has had with Mr Henry, but what I have seen is Mr Dunne’s categorical assurance that he in no way leaked that report.

David Shearer: Has the Hon Peter Dunne given David Henry, who is investigating this matter, an assurance that neither he nor his office made the report or any part of it available to a member of the media?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To repeat my first answer, I am not privy to the conversations that Mr Dunne has had with Mr Henry. I am aware of the statements that Mr Dunne has made where he has categorically ruled out that he had played any part in leaking the report. If the specific question is about Mr Dunne’s staff, I have had no conversations with them at all nor seen any statements, because they would not be requested. But you are inquiring about the chief of staff for Mr Dunne, who is Rob Eaddy. He is person of absolute integrity and I would be absolutely stunned if he played any part in leaking the report.

John Armstrong in Who-Dunne-it adds spice to dreary day:

He is the most unlikely leaker.

Jane Clifton in An inquiry into the inquiry over the leaks:

Parliament was still agog over quite what magnitude of midlife political crisis Revenue Minister Peter Dunne would have to have had for Mr Peters’ earlier assertion, under parliamentary privilege, that Mr Dunne was the source of the original leak to be true.

Generally regarded as being on the goodie-two-shoes side of the political ledger, Mr Dunne has stoutly denied leaking his copy of the spy report to anyone.

So while it can’t be ruled out it would shock many (including me) if Dunne was the leaker. It just doesn’t make sense, there seems no reason why he would have leaked or that he would risk his career on something that this.

Disclosure: from time to time I have some communication with Peter Dunne on political issues, always at my instigation. He usually responds to questions I put to him.

I asked Dunne some questions about this story when it first broke on Wednesday. I have only had this response from him, when I asked “To me it seems Peters was totally off topic in the finance and expenditure select committee- is that sort of unrelated questioning allowed? Accepted practice? Common?”

His reply:

The questions were certainly beyond the committee’s scope, which was to examine the 2013/14 Estimates for Inland Revenue.

I haven’t had any communication with Dunne since then.

Armstrong on Labour, wood and trees

John Armstrong has written about John Key’s ever-changing story and refers to Key’s very confusing explanations about how he got Ian Fletcher’s phone number, the latest bit of trivia Grant Robertson and Labour seem obsessed with.

Labour’s Grant Robertson asked Key whether he could understand why New Zealanders were struggling to believe anything he had to say on the matter when he could not even say how he came to have Fletcher’s phone number. Key’s response simply added to the confusion.

In some respects, the Prime Minister is his own worst enemy. Having warned the news media last week that he would be much more careful about how he will answer questions, he yesterday threw caution to the wind.

Key seemed to not care about how vague he was.

But quite possibly with good reason. Most people could not really give a toss about how Key got hold of Fletcher’s phone number.

The very real danger for Labour is that in building a case against Key it is thus seen to be fixated by relative trivia; that Labour is so obsessed with destroying Key as a political force that it can no longer see the wood for the trees.

Robertson in particular does seem fixated on trying to discredit Key.

There is some risk to Key, but Robertson’s obsessive attack strategy is risking his own credibility and his political future. Labour has enough problems with leadership credibility with Shearer as it is.

Robertson can speak more coherently and has far more political nous than Shearer, but he seems to be as blind as Shearer to the amount of self inflicted damage he may be doing, to himself and to Labour.

If he keeps hacking away at the wood he may not be noticing which tree is most at risk of falling.

UPDATE: Robertson will be still banging on about GCSB by the look of question 12 for Question Time in Parliament today:

GRANT ROBERTSON to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement on 24 September 2012 in relation to the work of the GCSB, “I think you can take confidence in the fact that to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never been informed or ever had reason to believe there’s ever been an error before”?

Ten ticks for National from John Armstrong

In his Saturday NZ Herald column John Armstrong looks at the problems National has weathered and why they maintain a healthy lead in the polls. He then asks and answers some questions.

The questions are obvious. How have Key and National managed to defy political gravity and, perhaps more pertinently, for how much longer will they be able to do so?

It is possible to list at least 10 factors as being responsible, some of them clear-cut and others simply untested gut-feeling hypothesising.

The ten points:

1. Key’s sky-high rating as most preferred Prime Minister.

This is crucial in drawing many tens of thousands of uncommitted voters plus those with weak attachments to other parties to tick National. The “brain fades” and other lapses of last year, a horror year for him and National, seem to have had little, if any, effect on Key’s personal rating.

Labour has long targeted “Brand Key” in the belief that destroying him will destroy National. The strategy may have backfired, revealing Labour as petty and small-minded. Key’s failings may instead be viewed by the electorate as human, thereby increasing his rapport with voters.

2. Key’s moderate conservatism…

…is very much in tune with the prevailing mood of the wider New Zealand electorate. Helen Clark understood that reality. But she still eventually fell victim to the conservative public’s near hatred of Labour’s supposed political correctness.

3. Key is unashamedly pragmatic

– a word that used to be anathema to purists who stood four-square behind Sir Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson in the 1980s and early 1990s. No longer. Ideology takes a back seat with Key. There is no lecturing of the public as to the kind of policy prescription that ought to be swallowed. There is instead a “no surprises” approach, by and large. And the Government does what it says it will do.

Even National’s showcase policy of partial privatisation has a pragmatic element in the retention of a majority government shareholding.

4. The neutralising of troublesome issues rather than allowing them to linger and fester.

In terms of resources, Steven Joyce has thrown the political equivalent of the kitchen sink at the faults in the Novopay payroll system for teachers. No doubt he would chuck the real thing in Talent2’s direction if it might help.

5. Better manager of the economy

Labour’s recent private polling has confirmed a majority of voters view National as the better manager of the economy. They are likely to continue to do so in uncertain economic times. Why? Because Key and Bill English have a proven track record in handling crises, like the Christchurch earthquakes, in a calm and unflustered fashion.

The Herald-DigiPoll survey had a majority of 49 per cent to 43 per cent agreeing the Government is moving in the right direction. National’s Achilles heel can be summed up in three words – jobs, jobs and jobs. However, there are signs the economy is slowly picking up steam – as evidenced by this week’s gross domestic product figures for the last quarter of last year.

6. Maintaining momentum

National may have issued various vision documents which have ended up propping up shelves around Beehive. But the party is not all that good at articulating those visions. It is good, however, at maintaining momentum. It is essential that a Government be seen to be busy, Otherwise, it looks like it has stalled. – and that is fatal.

7. National is still largely defining what the arguments are about in most policy areas.

By doing so, it’s halfway to winning those arguments. Labour has yet to thrust a new dynamic – for example, a more hands-on style of economic management – on to the political agenda and lead debate on its terms.

8. Opposition keep fighting lost battles

Opposition parties are instead still devoting considerable time and effort to fighting battles they have lost – such as partial privatisations. Or trying to land hits on National by raking over the coals of history – Solid Energy being the prime example.

9. The public may be getting acclimatised to the at times rather chaotic nature of minority government.

Clark’s third term was marred by constant sideshows and distractions. Key’s second term has been similarly afflicted. But it has not been damaged. Voters may now be more willing to accept (or simply ignore) the ever noisier political static if they can be assured National is focused on the bigger picture and getting things done.

10. The political temperature is benign in terms of governing.

Apart from asset sales there are few, if any, issues that are seriously divisive and on which National finds itself stranded on the wrong side of the argument for ideological reasons. Voters may be more tolerant, if not forgiving, of politicians’ occasional lapses. Hekia Parata had to get an awful lot wrong before she lost the public’s confidence.

Armstrong concludes:

Crucially, there’s no mood for change, the real government-killer, or even much hint of such a mood developing.

National may still lose next year’s election, but only because of an absence of coalition partners. Its real enemy is MMP mathematics. It can’t do much about that.

What Armstrong doesn’t say, and I think these are as important as any of his ten points in maintaining no mood for change, are Ten crosses for National’s opposition.

Are Greens guilty of a serious political crime?

The Green Party has been actively promoting policy promises that seem to be of a different planet. A decent job with a living wage, a choice not to work with a living wage anyway, and a decent home for life. Seems like selling a Lotto dream. Or socialist idealism.

John Armstrong said recently “I think they are guilty of a serious political crime — falsely raising people’s hopes and expectations…”

There’s some justification for for that claim. Do the Greens believe they can deliver on their nirvanic promises? If so they are self deluded. Or are they trying to buy votes with policies that simply don’t stack up? That would be dishonest.

Over the last few years the Green Party has successfully raised it’s pollong, raised it’s election vote and raised the number of MPs they have. Since the last election they have held their gains in the polls.

Last year ther Greens, mostly through the profile of Russel Norman, were widely praised for their efforts in opposition and Norman was rated as a far more effective opposition leader than Labour’s David Shearer.

There’s no doubt that the Greens have a solid core of support. There seems to be significant wider sympathy for their causes, it’s common to hear people say that a Green voice in parliament is a good thing. But…

Beyond their very dedicated followers many still have serious question marks over Green policies – many wonder how idealistic and unrealistic they may be. In an editorial yesterday Dominion Post said:

Labour doesn’t have the luxury, as NZ First and arguably the Greens still do, of being niche parties that can make reckless promises. Labour has the burden of being taken seriously. Its policies matter because one day they might be implemented.

Greens don’t see themselves as a niche party any more, they are pitching to be a serious political player. Reckless promises will no longer pass unnoticed.

The political landscape has changed. Now the alternative to National is frequently presented as Labour+Greens. The Greens have shown strong ambitions to be an influental part of the next government. Norman has made clear his ambitions for a major role in a finance portfolio.

Curiously there has been a perceptable change in the public face of the Greens. Since late last year the second Green leader Metiria Turei seems to have switched to a more prominent role than Norman. She has fronted the media more, and has had more significant speaking roles in parliament, both closing for them in parliament last year and opening this year.

Turei is seen as more grass roots Greens but also even more grandiose in her policy promises. In a column in D Scene yesterday she said:

Our coalition of supporters, dedicated to building a modern and progressive Aotearoa New Zealand, will be unstoppable because we will be on the right side of history and represent the best of our country.

We will offer policies full of opportunities to build a better Aotearoa New Zealand, to give everyone a decent start in life, a good job with a living wage, and an abundant environment to be proud of.

Together we are powerful and passionate.

Together we will build a caring country that honours our past, makes good green change in the present, and has our gaze set firmly on the opportunities of the future.

So this is a rally cry for new year, crisp with a fresh promise.

The Green’s environmental credentials are well known and accepted. On that they are seen as an important voice, albeit often over the top in trying to stop any progress – no fracking, no drilling, no mining, no roading.

Their housing policy promises poorer people a secure quality housing option, Homes for Life, whether through ownership or perpetually renewable rental.

John Armstrong has said on this:

The Greens’ overall policy objective is clear. But this “motherhood and apple pie” of a policy is so warped all round, that it would have to be canned before long. I think they are guilty of a serious political crime — falsely raising people’s hopes and expectations on housing, knowing they are not going to be able to deliver.

They are not just trying to raise people’s hopes on housing. Ditto jobs. They are also promising that people can choose not to work and be financially secure.

Greens are currently promoting and promising:

  • A decent start in life
  • A good job with a living wage
  • A choice to not be in paid employment but still get a living wage
  • A decent home for life no matter what your financial circumstances

Do they believe these ideals are possible? They are not detailing how this would all be paid for. They are offering everyone the equivalent of a Lotto dream lifestyle.

Do they really think they can deliver? Do they believe their own hype? Some would call that deluded.

Or is their slick promotional machine deliberately trying to dupe the gullible poor? That would be dishonest.

A serious political crime? At the very least their promises deserve greater scrutiny, and answers to how they think they can deliver on what looks like unaffordable and unattainable.

The Green social media team will read this post. I welcome your defence – a right of reply post?

More from John Armstrong on Green housing policy

In his weekend column John Armstrong referred to the Green housing policy as ‘a dog of a policy’. See ‘Green housing ‘dog of a policy’. He has given me more detail on his views.

The Greens are perfectly entitled to promote such a policy.  But from the moment I read it, I have thought it potentially has huge problems in terms of introduction, workability, equity and fairness. 

Prompting my thinking to some extent was memories of a decision by the Labour Cabinet in the mid-1980s to let the old Post Office Savings Bank offer mortgage finance to people who were not the bank’s customers. (In those days, you had to be a customer to get even a sniff of mortgage finance.)  

The result was that before the bank’s management realised it, the bank was drained of cash from its mortgage fund such that it had to put a temporary stop to lending to long-established customers. You can imagine the furore.  As Postmaster-General, Jonathan Hunt copped the flak. 

In other words, the politics of unintended consequences.

Another factor was that the Greens’ scheme is a shared equity scheme. I was unable to find another such scheme anywhere which is skewed so heavily in favour of the buyer. That may be neccessary if you are targeting home ownership at the very bottom of the income scale. 

But it carries big risks for the taxpayer. 

When you are talking of borrowing $300 million a year —- as the policy hints — the risk is quite high.  I know that at this stage, the policy is in discussion paper form.  But there was little by way of detail, leaving an awful lot of  questions. 

And in this case, the devil is most certainly in the detail.

Yes, a lot of questions that I hope will be answered.

As Armstrong said in his column…

There is no incentive or requirement to pay off capital. Occupiers would have the house for life and enjoy cheap rent at $200 a week.

The Green policy is targeted at low income people. Expect many to never be able to afford to pay off capital.

Some will move to higher incomes. Expect some of them to invest any money they can elsewhere without paying off capital – they would quite possibly get better returns than the very low housing interest rate.

So much of the $300 million per year Government debt to cover this policy will accumulate. For years. For decades. For up to half a century, or more.

Remember that Greens called their policy Home for Life.

Armstrong said “I was unable to find another such scheme anywhere which is skewed so heavily in favour of the buyer.

And similar could be said of the Green policy on renting – they want tenants to be giving the right to renew tenancies to allow them to ‘put down roots in the community’. A home for life, owned by someone else.

It might be hard to find another scheme anywhere which is skewed so heavily in favour of the tenant.

What investors would want to be stuck with no choice about changing tenants or selling their property? Expect rental investors to flee the market.

How would the people be housed then?

Oh, the Government could finance them into a Home for Life that they could own without having to pay for it, ever in their life. At possibly a lower ongoing cost than renting.

Greens have opened their policy for discussion. Good. I hope they have a good think about the politics of unintended consequences.

Green links: Short question & answer sheet and Full housing discussion paper


Annette King on housing policy

In response to a post at The Standard on Labour and Greens living together Annette King has commented on housing policy:

Labour welcomed the Greens housing policy, I should know as I did most of the interviews!

The Greens said their policy built on Labour’s, making the point a govt needs to lead the build of affordable housing to help people into. Thats what KiwiBuild does. There is no commitment from the private sector to fund first homes for NZers.

Our policy and the Greens will be closely scrutinised by our opponents regarding costs and where the money is coming from.We are not afraid of that.

Shearer was asked what the average cost of a house in Auckland is, he replied around $550,000 ( a fact) then said under Labour’s policy cost would be considerably less. How come that part is missed out of any commentary? I could show existing houses for $300,000 in Auckland.

That’s not the issue. Existing houses don’t add to the total number of extra houses needed for people to live in, estimated as an additional 12,000 a year. Why try to create a division where there is little?

There is nothing untoward in questioning how policy will work. You are too quick to put the boot in. The policy is not flawed.

Perhaps you might like to wait as we work with a wide range of organisations and individuals (including NGOs) to put the implementation plan in place before the election for immediate implementation afterwards.

The key components are: 100,000 affordable houses over 10 years;funding provided by Govt through housing bonds; bulk building with considerable scope to bring costs down plus use of govt land (eg Labour’s policy at Hobsonville- state houses plus affordable homes, a mixed development); focus on areas where housing affordability is growing problem (it’s not just about Auckland although its the area of biggest concern); policy to assist people with the deposit gap.

King may not have read (or may have dismissed) John Armstrong’s warning:

John Armstrong: Warning flashes from a housing nightmare

Labour has officially welcomed the Greens’ contribution to the affordable housing debate. Instead, it should quarantine this Nightmare on Struggle Street before it taints its own policy by association.

Labour have proven to be bad at avoiding policy nightmares, and if they get into bed in the same housing as the Greens the tossing and turning may get worse.