ACT on ‘Labour-lite’ housing policy

Yesterday the Government announced plans to build about 25,000 extra houses in Auckland over the next ten years – see National’s Auckland housing policy.

This looked a lot like a partial Labour ‘Kiwibuild’ policy. Despite this Labour MPs slammed it.

Andrew Little belittled the policy:

Breaking news – National admits there’s a housing crisis

National finally admits there’s a housing crisis, but today’s belated announcement is simply not a credible response to the problem it’s been in denial about for so long, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.

“National can’t now credibly claim to be tackling the housing crisis four months out from the election when, for nine years, they’ve ignored the plight of first home buyers and families in need.

“This Government has long rubbished the idea of building houses. Time and again it’s failed to deliver any significant increase in housing supply.

“National cannot be trusted to do anything meaningful for the thousands of first home buyers in Auckland who have been denied their shot at the Kiwi dream.

“Amy Adams has fudged the figures. How many of these houses will actually be affordable? What does ‘affordable’ mean? How will that give hope to first home buyers when speculators can buy these houses too?

“It’s just more smoke and mirrors from a Government that’s failed miserably. It’s a mish-mash of old and new housing programmes. Many of these houses have already been announced.

“Auckland currently has a shortfall of 40,000 houses and growing. This plan won’t address the shortfall, let alone build the extra houses needed to keep up with demand.

“This last minute announcement just won’t do enough. National has had its chance. It’s time for a fresh approach.

“Labour will build 50,000 houses in Auckland people can afford to buy and we’ll increase the supply of state houses; we’ll crack down on speculators; and we’ll invest in warm, dry homes.

“National hasn’t a shred of credibility left. The evidence keeps mounting:

• It promised a big increase in emergency housing beds in the last six months, and hasn’t delivered.
• It’s Special Housing Areas promised an extra 39,000 homes, fewer than 2,000 have been built.
• Housing New Zealand has failed meet its building targets and reduced the number of state houses by 2,500.

“This cynical announcement by National should be seen for what it is – an election year fudge to paper over the cracks of its failure in housing. It’s time for Labour’s plan,” says Andrew Little.

However it was ACT’s David Seymour who went into detail with his criticism.

National need to think bigger than Labour-lite

National needs to do more than just adopt tunnel-vision Labour policies, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“If the goal is to close the housing shortfall, this is a step in the right direction, but it won’t be enough. The proposal will add 25,000 homes when what we need is another 500,000.

“We can only achieve this by fixing the underlying problem: that regulations and infrastructure pressures prevent private developers from building homes.

“The Government will have to loosen up land use rules if it wants to get 34,000 homes built on a few scraps of Crown land. Why not just follow ACT’s plan to replace the Resource Management Act for the whole city, letting private developers do the building for us?

“The Government will also struggle to build houses at an affordable cost under current construction regulations. ACT has a policy for this: we’d replace construction red tape with an insurance requirement, letting developers cut costs in risk-free ways.

“The other problem the Government will face is pressure on infrastructure. Fortunately, ACT has a plan for this too. ACT will allow Councils to use half of the GST from construction projects to fund local infrastructure.

“The Government is right to say we need more homes. But if we want to see these homes built on anywhere near the scale required, we’ll need a stronger ACT to make the government enact substantial reform, instead of Labour-lite tinkering.”

National has failed in it’s attempt to substantially reform the RMA this term and even if they get the chance and try again next term that would talk some time, they would probably need the support of NZ First or Labour, and in the meantime Auckland’s (and New Zealand’s) housing shortage will get worse unless a lot more houses and flats are built.

National’s Auckland housing policy

The Government 9alias the National Party) announced housing policy today to address the severe shortage of housing in Auckland.

They say they have been planning and preparing this for two years but the timing looks a bit cynical, not just because it is election year, but also being soon after Labour announced housing policy at their Congress.

And Labour MPs are all over Twitter claiming National has stolen their policy but it is too late, too little and not good enough.

Govt to build 34,000 new houses for Auckland

Ngaro apologises, sort of

Cabinet Minister Alfred Ngaro has apologised, sort of,  for a speech that threatened repercussions against an application for a partnership school involving Willie Jackson if Jackson cricised National during the election campaign – see Charter school threat from National MP.

Actually that sounds like a poor apology.

This has seriously embarrassed National and senior ministers have (sort of) said that Ngaro’s remarks were out of order.

Stuff:  Apology over threat to withdraw funding from Government opponents

A junior government minister has apologised to his senior colleagues for “crossing the line” after implying people who bagged the Government would lose their taxpayer funding.

National’s campaign manager and Finance Minister Steven Joyce said Ngaro realised he had crossed the line with his comments and apologised.

“He apologised to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and myself as campaign chair. He got carried away…he crossed the line.”

Joyce said Ngaro’s comments were “not the way we operate”.

“We work with providers of all types all the time; people have their political views separate to work they do with the Government. The Government doesn’t take a view on people’s political views.”

Joyce and National and Ngaro will have to do much better than this on arrogance of power, or they could crash and burn this election.

There’s potentially been a lot of damage done to National – something like this could easily precipitate the current Government’s demise.

UK and NZ polls similar

Matthew Hooton claims that the non-public UMR poll has National on 44% and Labour on 28%.

That’s still a big lead for the Conservatives in the UK and Labour there has a lot of ground to make up to be competitive in their election to be held in a month.

There’s still over four months until New Zealand’s election.

National on 44% (they were 43.5% in last month’s Roy Morgan poll) is in risky territory. At that level of support they would have to have NZ First support, either in a coalition or from the cross benches, to form a government.

They could recover some support, depending a lot on how well this month’s budget is seen by the public, but they could just as easily slip back more.

Labour at 28% seem stuck in the high twenties. They were 29.5% in last month’s Roy Morgan. Unless they improve substantially it will be difficult for them to form a government.

These poll numbers are supported by Colin James’ column this week.

Labour in congress — needing a stronger story

The “Jacinda effect” appears to have wisped away. Here and there in the Labour party one can hear glum whispers of three more “long years” in opposition.

Likewise from “coalition” partner, the Greens — who, by the way, got far more in election donations in 2014 than Labour.

“Nine long years”, Labour grandee Steve Maharey used to intone in 1999 before Labour’s win that year. Stuart Nash intoned it last week with the same hope of release.

But will it be “12 long years”? That question will hang over this coming weekend’s pre-election congress (conference).

Labour’s poll average has sunk from over 30% in March to under 28%. Was the lift it got after making Jacinda Ardern deputy leader a blip? (National has also slipped but is still around 45%.) 

Every ‘game changer’ tried by Labour seems to have been no more than a blip. The closer ties with Greens, and attempting to combine Labour and Green poll support so they look competitive with National, has failed to lift anyone by NZ First.

A lot could happen over the next four months. Both National and Labour will be hoping that NZ First isn’t the main beneficiary.

2016 party donations

Stuff has details of party donations for 2016: National tops donations with almost $2m given to the party in 2016

The total donations disclosed for 2016 were:

  • National: $1,943,324
  • Greens: $860,746
  • Labour: $563,915
  • Conservatives: $139,450
  • ACT: $108,730
  • NZ First: $54,946
  • Maori Party: $42,237
  • United Future: Nil
  • Mana: Nil

National and Greens are doing well, Labour is still lagging badly. Labour are doing more to try to get small donations after building contact lists, but that didn’t show up much in last year’s totals.

How does this compare to donations in 2013, the year before the last election?

  • National: $1,037,537
  • Greens: $386,711
  • Labour: $486,506
  • Conservatives: $197,570
  • ACT: $138,840
  • NZ First: $3,050
  • Maori Party: $74,409
  • United Future: Nil
  • Mana: 28,374

So National and Greens are well ahead, while Labour is up a bit but their fundraising last term was woeful. They have a lot of work to do this year.

The political young guns

Audrey Young refers to the ‘relatively young’ Bill English and Steven Joyce as ‘extended seniority’ so doesn’t consider then as part of the young club of politicians – English was named in the National ‘young guns’ late last century.

She doesn’t refer to Andrew Little at all in The rise of National’s young guns an added advantage for the Government.

Instead she names the young guns of the Opposition (all Labour):

It was Labour’s biggest advantage. That advantage has been reduced, if not neutralised, and National, first under John Key and now Bill English, has accomplished a rejuvenation that Helen Clark found difficult in Government.

The Greens are making a feature of their young recruits this election.

Labour has finally managed it in Opposition with

  • Grant Robertson (46)
  • Jacinda Ardern (36)
  • Phil Twyford (54)
  • Chris Hipkins (38)

as their new young hopes.

And currently for the Government and possibly the next Opposition:

  • Amy Adams (42)
  • Simon Bridges (40)
  • Nikki Kaye (37)
  • Jonathan Coleman (50)

This is the future of Government and Opposition beyond the current leadership of National and Labour. Whoever loses out of English and Little are unlikely to continue for long.

NZ First’s younger guns seem to be suppressed and kept out of sight by the old cannon, and Shane Jones (if confirmed) is a re-bore.

The Greens who most likely to figure if they get into Government are:

  • Metiria Turei (47)
  • James Shaw (43)
  • Julie Anne Genter (37)

 

More housing responsibilities for Adams

Nick Smith has been probably the poorest public performer in Government over the last few years. He has had to try to deal with the difficult housing issues in Auckland, but has often done that badly.

Amy Adams has been one of the best performers. She has been gradually taken over housing responsibilities from Smith, who remains as Minister for the Environment and just one housing responsibility, Building and Construction.

In comparison Adams has a long portfolio list:

  • Minister of Justice
  • Minister for Courts
  • Minister for Social Housing
  • Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand Corporation
  • Minister Responsible for Social Investment
  • Associate Minister of Finance

Two of those are directly involved with housing, but Social Investment and Finance have close relationships with Government housing.

Isaac Davidson at NZH: Adams rises, Smith falls in Cabinet reshuffle

Bill English’s reshuffle marks another rise in the ranks for National’s quiet star Amy Adams.

It is also a demotion for Nick Smith, who has now been distanced from any responsibility for the Government’s house-building programme.

English today denied any suggestion of a demotion for Smith, saying reporters “should not read into it”.

But his appointment of Adams appears to recognise that National is bracing for an election-year fight on housing and that Smith wasn’t fit to lead it.

Adams was already responsible for social housing, emergency housing, and Housing New Zealand. She has now been given control over the National-led Government’s plans to build tens of thousands of homes in the next decade.

There are tentative signs that Smith’s various initiatives to lift supply in Auckland are gaining some traction. And as English keeps repeating, the problem is not money but space – something which Government has limited control over.

But it is clear that Smith had lost the public argument on housing affordability.

Adams is a highly capable, confident minister, and perhaps most importantly a good communicator.

English is now trusting her with a huge workload. On top of her housing roles, she maintains the large justice portfolio, and is also responsible for the newly created social investment agency.

Adams has five months to do what Smith couldn’t and at least give the impression that National has the situation under control.

Housing is going to be one of the big issues this election after house prices have gone mad, especially in Auckland but increasingly elsewhere in the country.

People who already own homes may like the increase in value, but those who don’t will see home ownership as an increasingly difficult goal (if that’s what they want, some people are happy to rent).

Adams has little time to fix housing, but if she doesn’t appear as cranky as Smith she will at least give better appearances of competence.

Kaye, Kaye, Kaye

Nikki Kaye was first elected to Parliament in 2008, winning what had been the long time (since 1925) Labour seat, Auckland Central. Kaye beat Jacinda Ardern in the next two elections.

While Ardern has risen in the media Kaye has more quietly risen in Government. She received some publicity last year when she had to have treatment for breast cancer.

Yesterday in a Cabinet reshuffle Kay was promoted to be Minister For Education, a difficult portfolio especially for in a National Government, the education unions sometimes look like branch offices of Labour. Any education reform is usually fought against strongly by the teachers alongside Labour.

NZ Herald gave Kaye’s promotion yesterday quite a bit of attention (notably compared to Stuff who went Brownlee, Brownlee, Brownlee).

Prime Minister Bill English reveals new-look Cabinet

Nikki Kaye and Gerry Brownlee are the big winners in a Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Bill English this afternoon.

As expected, Kaye is the new Education Minister, replacing Hekia Parata.

Given Kaye’s preparation as Associate Minister, and signals (or assumptions) it would have been a shock if she wasn’t promoted to the role.

As Associate Education Minister, Kaye was well placed to take over the education portfolio, English said. She had a particular interest in the subject and brought energy and enthusiasm to the role.

The reshuffle winners

Nikki Kaye (Education Minister)

Has coveted the role of Education Minister since entering Parliament in 2008, and now has it after returning to Parliament this year following breast cancer treatment.

Was the obvious choice given her work as Associate Education Minister since January 2013, which has included overhauling how school property is managed and the construction of new schools and classrooms as Auckland’s population booms.

Has stood at Hekia Parata’s shoulder during recent media standup and now takes over reforms that are the biggest since 1989 and are only partially complete.

If National are re-elected, Kaye will be in charge when debate and opposition really heat up when proposals such as replacing the decile system with targeted funding for “at risk” students come closer to reality in 2020. In the meantime, Labour will go after education and new minister in election year.

NOW: Education Minister, Youth Minister.
WAS: Youth Minister, Associate Education Minister.

Nicholas Jones: Nikki Kaye the right choice for Education Minister but challenges ahead

Any Education Minister can expect to be unpopular with many in the sector, particularly one in a National-led Government.

Kaye is well regarded by those in the sector, but education will be a major battleground in election year and comes with guaranteed controversy and fierce lobbying from education unions.

And the baton being passed from Parata is heavier than normal – this Government is midway through the biggest education reforms since 1989.

While some changes have passed into law many of the biggest are still to come, including replacing the decile funding system with a new model that pays a per student amount depending on how many “at risk” students a school has.

Simon Collins: Kaye: I feel better than I’ve felt in years

New Education Minister Nikki Kaye says she plans to be a “modernising” minister.

Kaye, 37, will be the youngest female Education Minister in New Zealand’s history and says that as part of the “millennial” generation she comes without the ideological “baggage” that previous National Party ministers have brought to the role – especially in their frequent battles with teacher unions.

Instead, she is passionate about new technology, which has already been her responsibility since she became an associate education minister in 2013.

“I think I have already, as associate minister, had quite a focus in terms of modernisation of the portfolio, and you can expect to see more of that in the future,” she said.

“There are obviously some areas I feel very passionately about. The impact of new technology in education is one area, but obviously next week and in the coming weeks you will hear more about my priorities.”

She worked for current Prime Minister Bill English as a policy analyst in 2002, then as a policy officer for two local councils in London, then managed a transport programme for disabled people and worked in information technology at Halifax Bank of Scotland.

She returned to New Zealand in 2007 and won Auckland Central for the National Party for the first time in 2008.

“I think I’m very pragmatic as a person, and I’m very collaborative, I naturally want to work with others to find a solution. All I ask is that we have a respectful relationship where there are no surprises and where we work constructively where we can and disagree where we disagree.”

Kaye took leave from Parliament last September after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she said her doctors had cleared her to return to work. She came third in her division in a recent race running, cycling and swimming around Motutapu and Rangitoto Islands.

“It’s great to get back into exercise,” she said. “I feel better than I’ve felt in years.”

Video: Watch: Nikki Kaye gets education

State of the parties – National

It’s just under six months until the election due on 23 September, but that’s still a long time in politics. At least as much as ever this election is up for grabs, there is no clear idea of what the outcome will be.

National will be hoping to keep it’s support high enough so that along with it’s current coalition partners ACT, United Future and the Maori Party it can sneak back in.

Labour and Greens are trying hard to become competitive as a duet, but that hasn’t gained traction yet going by the polls.

Media always seem to predict that New Zealand First will be in a ‘king making’ position and they may be right this time, it currently seems to be the most likely outcome – uncertainty of which way Winston will swing.

National

When John Key stepped down late last year and Bill English took over as Prime Minister doubts increased substantially that National could hold their support for an unprecedented fourth election. Those doubts remain at this stage.

English has had a mixed start as PM. He has a reputation for being steady and reliable, but as leader he has had some missteps and he is not charismatic.

Media appeal should not be a deciding factor in who can run the country the best, but the media insist on making something out of it for their own benefit. So it can dominate what most voters see.

English has one thing in his favour – Andrew Little, who is no more charismatic than English. Actually it goes further than that – New Zealand politics in general has a lack of charisma.

National has to try and battle the growing perception of problems like crime and poverty, and the housing situation continues to pose problems (but many voters have had significant increases in their property values so may not mind).

National has done a good job again of turning over MPs, their regeneration has been effective. The biggest turn over this time is Key, and perhaps key.

National’s biggest asset is the economy, which apart from housing and despite a dairy dip is still looking very healthy.

So National’s fate may come down to whether the economy decides the election or whether opposing parties can get enough traction on other issues.

But they will also be dependent on what happens to their current support parties, and that is a big unknown at this stage.

Kaye versus Ardern

If Jacinda Ardern thought she wouldn’t have to contend with Nikki Kay again after she moved to the Mt Albert electorate – they competed for Auckland Central for the last two elections – she was mistaken.

Today in Parliament Kaye took a major swipe at Ardern in the General Debate.

I think the phrase that I would give New Zealanders is: you have got one party of substance, of significant initiatives delivering for New Zealand, compared with a superficial cosmetic facelift. I want to talk about the deputy leadership of the Labour Party.

We lost Annette King. I want to acknowledge Annette King. She has been a brilliant member of Parliament. She is someone who has huge respect across the House. And we got Jacinda Ardern.

Now, I have been based in Auckland Central for 8 years. I struggle to name anything that Jacinda has done.

What I can say is that a great example is when Kevin Hague and I developed an adoption law reform bill. We spent a year on that bill; we put it in the ballot.

Jacinda Ardern did a one-line bill telling the Law Commission to write the law for her.

On her first day in the job as deputy leader, on one of the biggest issues confronting our generation, Generation X and Generation Y—on the issue of superannuation affordability—where was she?

She had made a whole lot of statements previously about the importance of raising the age, and Jacinda Ardern was nowhere to be seen. She had cut and run on the biggest issue facing our generation, and that is another example of what is a whole lot of photo ops—yes, she will be across every billboard, but she absolutely failed our generation on her first day on the job.

It looks like National have decided to try and unsettle Ardern, who may have thought everything was smoothly going to plan. Until today.

Kay continued later in her speech.

This is a Labour Party that thinks the only way that it can get into Government is to totally get rid of all of its policies and to make sure that has got some nice fancy new billboards and some photo ops—compared with a Government that is prepared to make the hard decisions, that is investing in infrastructure, and that is investing more than a third more in schools.

And again:

You have got significant investments happening across social housing, and you have got a Labour Party—the main Opposition—that thinks the way that it can win is to have no policy, to have a superficial facelift, and to have another person on the billboards.

I do want to acknowledge that this election will be fought on some of the big issues for Generation X and Generation Y, and in my view it is this side of the House that is confronting those issues, and that side that is failing.

Ardern wasn’t present but responded to media later.

NZ Herald: Gloves off: National MPs target Labour’s Jacinda Ardern in series of attacks

Ardern was not in the debating chamber at the time, but said she saw the debate on television.

She said her and Kaye had made an agreement when they ran against each in Auckland Central to only talk about issues and not make personal attacks.

“I’ve stuck to that,” Ardern said.

Newshub: Nikki Kaye launches war of words on Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern was surprised at the attack, and told Newshub “It’s certainly not a style of politics I’ve seen her use before”.

“Nikki and I have run against each other in Auckland Central for a number of years and usually pretty much stuck to the issues and avoided making it personal. I’m going to stick to that.”

“I’m going to stick with the way I like to do politics, and it’s making sure that you keep away from making it too personal. But each to their own.”

Electorate contests are more one to one and personal, especially when candidates campaign together as Ardern did with Green MY Julie Anne Genter in Mt Albert.

But Ardern should have been aware that by stepping up into a deputy leadership role, and promoting herself as the new face of the party, she was getting into a highly competitive high stakes level of politics.

Voters look for leaders who look like they can lead, not just look and be nice.

Kaye is stepping up to higher levels of responsibility as a Minister, and also as a party representative.

Ardern may need to toughen up and shape up.