Consensus government or an awful mess?

It’s certainly been a messy week for the Government. Is it a sign of a bigger, awful mess?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tried to paper over some of this weeks cracks by claiming it was consensus government in action, but there were worrying suggestions it was the opposite – both Labour and NZ First ministers look like they are pushing their own agendas with poor or non-existent communication between them.

There are worrying signs of a lack of overall leadership, and this is at a very tricky time, with Ardern distracted by having a baby and due to go on maternity leave as soon as her baby is born (actually as soon as she goes into Labour and goes into hospital).

The big unknown is whether things will spiral more out of control with Winston Peters in charge.

The media have observed this weeks mess and many have commented on it.

Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Three ring circus with one ringmaster at the centre – buckle in for a wild ride

Consensus government in action, or a bloody awful mess?

It’s difficult to characterise the past week as anything but the latter and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be worried about whether she’ll have a Government to come back to when she returns from maternity leave.

Her MPs don’t exactly make it easy for her.

And if this week has illustrated anything it’s what lies at the beating heart of any coalition-related controversy – Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been at the centre of everything.

I don’t think he has. He had nothing to do with the David Clark revelations. And nothing to do with the Green uprising over granting water bottling rights.

And nothing to do with Stuart Nash telling a parliamentary committee he didn’t bother reading advice on what effect increasing poluice numbers might have, and would have ignored the advice if he had read it.

Peters  wasn’t directly involved in Kelvin Davis announcing a new prison that will rely on double bunking to cater for growing prisoner numbers – and Davis went as far as saying they could resort to mattresses on the floor. Peters didn’t directly cause that brain fart, but Labour are limited in becoming more lenient on imprisonment when they require NZ First votes to do any law changes.

But Peters dumped Little in a big mess over 3 strikes.

It began with a hastily-arranged press conference by Justice Minister Andrew Little, to reveal that his grand plan to repeal the three strikes legislation had been shot out of the sky.

He’d spent the previous week giving interviews about his plans to take it to Cabinet and push forward – the only issue was, he did not have the numbers to do so. More embarrassingly for Little, Peters decided to wait until the 11th hour to let him know.

Total humiliation  awaits any member of Cabinet who threatens to step outside the bounds of MMP and attempt a “first past the post”-style power play to get ahead of public opinion – that’s what Little got and really, he should have expected it.

That was in part self inflicted, but Peters played Little then dumped on him big time.

Never one to play second fiddle, Peters also took a starring role in a different drama. Days out from assuming the seat at the head of the Cabinet table was the moment he chose to file papers in the High Court, suing the Government and top officials over their handling of his private superannuation details.

Ardern’s assertions rang out more as pleas, that his actions were a totally private matter. Presiding over a Cabinet that may be liable for an eventual payout to Peters is awkward at best, and a clear conflict at worst – a matter that is most certainly in the public interest.

Peters’ court action looks debatable, but he has made Ardern look weak – or more accurately, Ardern has made herself look weak, just as she is about to hand over most of her power to Peters.

Meanwhile, as sources across multiple polls have suggested NZ First has well and truly settled below the 5 per cent MMP threshold, Shane Jones has pulled out the megaphone to tear strips off Fonterra. A total overstep many might say, of a Minister of the Crown. However, Ardern is adamant these comments were made in a private capacity, despite Jones as good as repeating them in the House.

This again makes Ardern look weak if not impotent in her own Government.

And she is now sidelined, leaving Peters and Jones to take on board this week’s signals and likely do as they please to raise their profile, putting the government at risk.

And Labour’s ministers look increasingly arrogant, uncoordinated and messy.

The Government looks like a bunch of headless chooks, with the fox about to take over the hen house.

 

National supporting non-partisan Climate Commission

National have had a rethinks and have done a bit of a u-turn, now saying the support having a Climate  Commission. This makes strong cross party support for addressing climate issues.

The Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement supports a Climate Commission:

  • Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Commission, based on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

The number one point in the Labour Green Confidence and Supply agreement was setting up a Commission:

Sustainable Economy

1. Adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050, with a particular focus on policy development and initiatives in transport and urban form, energy and primary industries in accordance with milestones to be set by an independent Climate Commission and with a focus on establishing Just Transitions for exposed regions and industries.

a. Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and establish an independent Climate Commission

b. All new legislation will have a climate impact assessment analysis.

c. A comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability indicators will be developed.

d. A new cross-agency climate change board of public sector CEOs will be established.

In a step towards that in April Green co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced an Interim Climate Change Committee:

The Minister for Climate Change today announced the membership of the Interim Climate Change Committee, which will begin work on how New Zealand transitions to a net zero emissions economy by 2050.

“We need work to start now on how things like agriculture might enter into the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZETS), and we need planning now for the transition to 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2035,” says James Shaw.

“The Interim Climate Change Committee will begin this important work until we have set up the independent Climate Change Commission under the Zero Carbon Act in May next year.

“The Interim Committee will consult with stakeholders and hand over its work and analysis to the Climate Change Commission,” Mr Shaw said.

“If we want to help lead the world towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, we must create a moral mandate underpinned by decisive action at home to reduce our own emissions.

“Setting up the Interim Climate Change Committee is a great step in that direction,” says James Shaw.

Last week Shaw announced Zero Carbon Bill Consultation Launch.

Yesterday National leader Simon Bridges tweeted:

Bridges spoke on this – Speech to Fieldays on climate change

One of the big long-term challenges we face is protecting the environment.

In a hundred years, when we’re all long gone, I want to be sure our grandchildren will be living in a New Zealand that is still the envy of the world because of its stunning natural environment as well as its prosperity.

I’ve charged our environmental MPs, led by Scott Simpson, Todd Muller, Sarah Dowie and Erica Stanford with the task of modernising our approach to environmental issues. To run a ruler over our policies. To ask the questions and to push us harder.

And that is also true of climate change.

National recognises the importance to New Zealanders – present and future – of addressing climate change, and playing our part in the global response.

We’ve made good progress recently, but we need to do more.

We implemented the world-leading Emissions Trading Scheme, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic productivity.

I am proud to have been a part of the previous National Government which signed New Zealand up to the Paris agreement with its ambitious challenge of reducing our emissions to 30 per cent less than 2005 levels by 2030.

I was there in Paris as the Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues and I stand by our commitment.

It will be challenging to achieve, and will require an adjustment to our economy. But we must do so.

Today I have written to the Prime Minister and James Shaw, offering to work with them to establish an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission.

I want to work with the Government to make meaningful bi-partisan progress on climate change.

The Climate Change Commission would support New Zealand’s emission reductions by both advising the Government on carbon budgets, and holding the Government to account by publishing progress reports on emissions.

The Commission would be advisory only, with the Government of the day taking final decisions on both targets and policy responses.

There are a number of details I want to work through with the Government before the Commission is launched – such as ensuring the Commission has appropriate consideration for economic impacts as well as environmental, and that the process for appointments to the Commission is also bipartisan.

But I am confident that we can work constructively together to establish an enduring non-political framework for all future governments when considering climate change issues.

This is a significant and a good move by Bridges and National.

With all the multi-MP parties working together positively on climate change issues New Zealand should make good progress on addressing climate change issues.

Peters successfully played to support base over 3 strikes

While Andrew Little has taken a hit after his back down on repealing the 3 strikes legislation, Winston Peters will be feeling quite happy with himself – and many NZ First supporters and potential voters will also be happy.

But Ardern’s leadership of Government has also taken a hit.

Peters has played Little and won handsomely. And the timing of the Peters power play is smart (or fortuitous) too, just before Peters takes over as acting Prime Minister

Tracey Watkins (Stuff): Three strikes lesson – Winston won’t be a token prime minister

Little has been dealt a short, sharp and brutal lesson in real politik by the master of MMP, Peters.

In doing so, Peters has reinforced NZ First’s credentials with its supporters as a vital handbrake on Labour and the Greens, especially when they get too far ahead of public opinion, particularly on touch-stone issues like law and order.

Some valuable credibility for peters and NZ First.

And he has given warning that Peters will be far from a token prime minister whenArdern hands over the reins sometime in the next week or so to give birth.

It has been Peters’ bug bear for years that the big parties still act like first past the post governments under MMP.

…Little fell right into the same hole when he publicly announced two weeks ago he was taking a paper to Cabinet proposing to repeal the law, when he hadn’t even bothered to consult NZ First.

It should have been as obvious to Little as everyone else that repealing the three strikes law was anathema to a law and order party like NZ First.

Little’s face has copped the egg this time, but ‘everyone else’ includes Ardern and her office too. It must have been obvious to them that Little was heading for an embarrassing back down.

So did Ardern let Little walk into this? She and her advisers can’t have been blind to the obvious Peters position on this. otherwise it looks like a major oversight – incompetence.

Regardless of how this came about Peters heads into his role as acting PM with Little’s power pricked somewhat, with a clear warning to other Labour Ministers too.


Ardern is on RNZ now saying a 3 strikes repeal was ‘one small part’ of judicial reform. Trying to play down the debacle.

When pushed she concedes that the repeal is ‘off the table’, despite Little claiming yesterday he would still try to get NZ First support.

Ardern claims the public promotion of a policy that could never succeed ‘is simply democracy and MMP’. It’s a cock-up by Labour, and Ardern is as responsible for it as Little.

Ardern closes saying that the 3 strikes disaster speaks to the strength of the multi party Government. This isn’t a good example to promote.

Waka jumping/oil and gas an MMP trade-off?

When the Greens supported the introduction of NZ First’s ‘waka jumping’ bill into parliament it raised eyebrows and angst. The Greens had until then always strongly opposed legislation like that.

When the Government announced they would not issue any new oil and gas exploration permits the body language of Shane Jones suggested a large degree of discomfort with having to support the decision.

The oil and gas decision turns out to have been made by Government party leaders only without going through Cabinet – see Party leaders made oil and gas decisions, not Cabinet.

Richard Harman at Politik that suggests the two dead rats may have been a tradeoff in Waka jumping and oil exploration

Did the Prime Minister get Winston Peters to support the petroleum exploration ban by locking in Greens support for the waka-jumping legislation?

That is a possible scenario suggested by the papers relating to the ban which were released under the Official Information Act on Tuesday.

The papers set out a timeline which eventually leads to both Peters and Shaw.

A detailed timeline covering March and April is shown, followed by some poindering, .

There is a chain of events here which strongly suggest that Ardern was having to play Peters and Shaw off against each other.

Peters clearly was not happy with the exploration ban.

So how was he persuaded to support it?

Did Ardern persuade Shaw to ignore the protestations of many in his party and support Peters’ waka jumping bill and was that enough to persuade Peters to forget his concerns about the exploration ban?

With a Government relying on two support parties with a sizeable number of MPs, and leverage, this may be a reality of MMP in action.

The oil and gas decision is a done deal – although the possible implications and negative effects of the decision are gradually emerging.

However the waka jumping bill is still going through the parliamentary process. A lot of pressure may go on the Green MPs to not support it through it’s final stages. However will Shaw insist on a dead rat deal being honoured despite party opposition?

 

Voters feel betrayed by Winston Peters

It should hardly be a surprise that some people who voted for NZ First, giving Winston Peters a disproportionately strong hand in negotiating a coalition agreement with Labour, are having some voters remorse.

Some NZ First voters will have preferred NZ First did not side with Labour and particularly with the Greens, but it is specific issues that are apparently dismaying many.

Mike Hosking at NZH: Kiss of death – Winston Peters is betraying his voters

I am receiving large levels of correspondence, and I am not the only one, from people saying they are embarrassed or ashamed that they voted New Zealand First.
They feel duped, ripped off, if not hoodwinked.

And it’s the foreign aid package that’s tipped them over the edge.

A chunk of the New Zealand First vote was to allegedly keep National honest. The theory being, and in normal circumstances under regular rules there was logic, that National would be picked because Winston had picked them before and fundamentally he’s a conservative.

Hence him having to swallow that massive dead fish on oil exploration, not to mention irrigation bans and the dairy crackdown. But the Foreign Affairs package – and it’s $900m worth of aid and more diplomats – is not what a New Zealand First voter would have had at the top of their priority list.

The regional fund might have been. And that still has potential, potential to help the regions and get the party votes. And the key, and this is what virtually all the correspondence is saying, the key is in the name. New Zealand First.

Where’s the New Zealand First in foreign aid? And all this on the back of the news that cheaper doctors’ visits in this country have been delayed.

If all this aid was getting us somewhere, brilliant. But it isn’t. For a party that’s done nothing but go backwards in the polls since the election this is not worth a single vote.

It might well be the kiss of death.

It’s far too soon to rule NZ First out in 2020, but it’s also too soon to know whether Peters will stand again – and if Shane Jones takes over as predicted he will unlikely to appeal to the same people who voted for Peters.

But polls are suggesting some significant voter remorse.

  • Election result 22 September 2017: 7.2%

1 News (Colmar Brunton) polling for NZ First since the election :

  • 9 Nov – 5 Dec 2017: 5%
  • 10–14 Feb 2018: 2.6%
  • 7–11 Apr 2018: 5%
  • 19–23 May 2018: 4.2%

Newshub (Reid Research):

  • 18–28 Jan 2018: 3.8%
  • 27 May 2018: 2.4%

This compares to post 2014 election polls for NZ First (election result 8.66%) – Colmar Brunton:

  • 14–18 Feb 2015: 6%
  • 11–15 Apr 2015: 7%
  • 23–27 May 2015: 7%
  • 11–15 Jul 2015: 7%

Reid Research:

  • 20–28 Jan 2015: 6.9%
  • 21–27 May 2015: 8.1%
  • 15–22 Jul 2015: 8.4%

The last polls prior to last year’s election  were close to NZ First’s result:

  • Reid Research 13–20 Sep 2017: 7.1%
  • Colmar Brunton 15–19 Sep 2017: 4.9%

Both those final polls were taken during early voting.

Obviously a lot can happen between now and the next election, but being in Government will mean that Peters will be more limited in what he can claim, and voters will decide on performance more than promises.

And next election it will be harder for NZ First to create an illusion that they could go with National or Labour, after last year’s farce for ‘keep National honest’ voters.

Cannabis legislation and referendum in 2019?

The Government are considering legislation and referendum on the personal use of cannabis in 2019 – they are committed to a referendum by 2020, but legislation followed by a referendum next year would be an excellent approach.

This sounds very sensible. The Government should be encouraged to take this approach.

The Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement guarantees a referendum by 2020:

19. Increase funding for alcohol and drug addiction services and ensure drug use is treated as a health issue, and have a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at, or by, the 2020 general election.

Now RNZ report: NZ may vote on cannabis legalisation in 2019

(Note – RNZ repeatedly referred to ‘marijuana but I have replaced that with ‘cannabis’)

The government is currently debating whether to hold the referendum in 2019 because it’s not sure holding it at the 2020 General Election would be a smart move politically.

The referendum on legalising cannabis was part of the confidence and supply deal struck between Labour and the Greens – although Winston Peters’ backs one too.

I don’t think there can be any guarantees about whether Winston Peters or NZ First would support this. Their stance on cannabis has been vague and variable over the past few years. NZ First back using referendums in general, but with notable exceptions – Peters was strongly opposed to the flag referendum.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the government’s contemplating holding it next year, rather than in 2020.

“There’s two competing issues, one is it would be convenient to have it then (2020) we’ve got a General Election so we’re already running a ballot there.

“On the other hand, there would be other colleagues who would say ‘well we don’t necessarily want a General Election run on this particular sort of issue, so let’s have it at a different time’ – that issue hasn’t been resolved and it will be a little while before it is, I suspect.”

Campaigning on cannabis could be a major distraction in a general election – but it could improve voter turnout.

Mr Little acknowledged the government had a lot of work to do before any vote.

“We need to make sure there is good public information out there, good events for people to express their views, so that would dictate a timing that would be no earlier that late 2019.”

He said the government still did not know what sort of legalised cannabis system it will propose putting in place.

“We simply haven’t got anywhere near that, I think it’s about getting the mechanics of the referendum sorted, then I think obviously some discussions around scope and maybe some options there.

“The critical question is going to be, what is the question to go to the electorate with, one that makes sense and gives a meaningful answer and gives a mandate if it is approved to proceed with further work – if it’s not approved of course it’s all over.”

Having fair and clear referendum questions is very important.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick said other aspects of how the referendum will be run are still being hammered out too.

“The first thing we have to consider is whether we put legislation before the House first which will then be triggered by whatever the threshold may be of that referendum turn out.

“We’re still working through that, so we’re working with other government parties and inside our own caucus to discern what the best course of action will be,” Ms Swarbrick said.

Swarbrick generally seems to have stepped up capably and done a very good job as a first term MP in a party in Government.

Having legislation before Parliament, with public submissions and a conscience vote, makes a lot of sense. Then let the public approve or disapprove of the legislation via the referendum.

The problem with having the referendum first is that the subsequent legislative process in Parliament could then either be restricted by the referendum question, or could move away from the intent of the electorate.

The legislation then referendum approach could establish a very good model for engaging the public in the democratic process.

Legislation on personal cannabis use next year, followed by an approve/disapprove referendum late in the year, sounds like an excellent option for both cannabis and drug reform (whether it happens or not), and also for democracy.

This doesn’t mean the personal use of cannabis would become legal, but it means that the public would properly get to make the decision.

Budget “a ringing endorsement of the Defence Force from the Coalition Government”

It is notable that this refers to ‘Coalition Government’ – Greens are not a part of the coalition. While NZ First and Grant Robertson have tried to talk up the Defence budget it has been described as “money for a frigate upgrade cost overrun, some joint training and another 800 LSV trainees”.

Minister of Defence Ron Mark talked up the budget allocation for the Defence Force.

Enhancing Defence Force capability

New Zealand’s Defence Force can continue making meaningful contributions to global security and peacekeeping efforts, and respond effectively to events like natural disasters, as a result of Budget 2018 funding, says Defence Minister Ron Mark.

Budget 2018 provides a $367.7 million operating funding boost to the Defence and Veterans portfolios over the next four years, underpinned by an extra $324.1 million for the New Zealand Defence Forces’ operating budget. In addition, Budget 2018 provides $42.3 million in new capital funding for modernisation.

“The extra funding is going to go a long way towards helping the Defence Force meet increasing demand across a range of tasks,” Ron Mark says.

“The funding announced today is also a huge win for conservation, the environment and fisheries protection.

Alongside the increase of $324.1 million in the Defence Force operating budget, Budget 2018 also sees:

  • $41.3 million additional capital investment for the first tranche of investment under the Defence Estate Regeneration Programme Plan
  • an additional $22.6 million operating funding over the next four years and $1.0 million capital funding for the Defence Force to deliver the enhanced Limited Service Volunteer programme (supported by a related investment of $4.2 million over the next four years for the Ministry of Social Development to administer the programme)
  • as announced earlier, $1.1 million in grants to the Royal New Zealand Returned & Services Association (RSA) and No Duff Charitable Trust over the next four years to support the services they provide to veterans – $250,000 for the RSA and $25,000 for No Duff Charitable Trust annually (This initiative was announced before Budget Day.)
  • $6.3 million in 2018/19 for the repatriation of the remains of service personnel and their dependents for those buried overseas since 1955
  • $13.6 million over the next four years set aside for new capabilities.

“This is a ringing endorsement of the Defence Force from the Coalition Government. It recognises the value it provides New Zealand and its meaningful contributions to peace and security around the world,” says Ron Mark.

Defence got a few mentions in the budget speeches in parliament on Thursday.

Grant Robertson:

New Zealand’s Defence Force will be able to make more meaningful contributions to global security and peacekeeping, and better respond to natural disasters, with a $345 million operating funding boost to the Defence and Veterans portfolios over the next four years, including, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development, funding to expand the Limited Service Volunteer programme for young people under 25.

It didn’t rate a mention from Simon Bridges

Winston Peters:

Can I just say it was clear as daylight that the National Party had been hiding the costing—$20 billion, for example, when it comes to the Defence Force, was a fiscal risk. It wasn’t even budgeted for. Then he had a frigate that was overrun by, and costing, $148 million, and they kept it quiet from the public from July last year all the way to election day.

We’ve got, for example, the things that also matter in defence. That’s a substantial boost in a critical area, which means that our defence capacity in the Pacific—so desperately needed by so many Pacific Islands and by the Pacific itself—can now show up responsibly.

That’s it.

However on his ‘National Security’ blog Simon Ewing Jarvie is quite scathing.

Politics, Defence & Budget 2018

The political fate of New Zealand’s Defence rests in two simple questions. The first is how important defence is in the scheme of the current government’s political priorities and the second is how much influence the current Defence Minister has.

Take a look at past behaviour of Government parties as an indicator of the future. Labour’s choices have often seen a reduction in combat capability – think air combat force for example. NZ First talks tough but, when in coalition with National, vetoed the acquisition of the second two ANZAC frigates. At least the Greens are up front in their disarmament desires.

It is clear that Defence is not a high priority for this Government. That’s concerning because there are some important decisions to be made about platform replacement. Good ministers can get money for their portfolios. Putting aside this year’s abysmal budget result, how is Ron Mark placed in the machinery of Government?

First, the general view is that Ron, Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson aren’t exactly drinking buddies so there’s not likely to be any favours done for Defence in that department. The relationship between NZ First and Greens is toxic at the best of times and Defence is right in the middle of that.

I can’t see Ron Mark and Golriz Ghahraman (Green’s Defence Spokesperson) nutting out an accord over a herbal tea anytime soon.

So that brings it back to how Ron is able to leverage NZ First’s support for the Government. Unfortunately, Ron Mark’s star, within his own party, appears to be waning. Were it not, Peters wouldn’t have stood back and let Fletcher Tabuteau roll Mark as Deputy Leader. NZ First got heaps of concessions out of Labour in Budget 2018 but they weren’t going to die in a ditch for Ron Mark or Defence. It’s unlikely that anything is going to change there.

For all the bold election campaign statements by NZ First, Ron Mark got money for a frigate upgrade cost overrun, some joint training and another 800 LSV trainees.

He highlights a lowlight:

$148 million over four years is listed as a new initiative. It is actually the value of the cost overrun for the ANZAC frigate upgrade so it’s not generating any capability that wasn’t already signed up to.

Not only is this not new spending, it’s actually caused a degradation in other Defence capability development. That’s because as part of their ‘kiss and make up’ exercise, the MOD agreed to reduce the specs on the new littoral operations vessel from a purpose-built military specification to a commercially available hydrographic and dive support vessel to ‘save’ a similar amount of money. In December, Mark attacked the previous Government over the frigates saying “it means the lives of men and women were now being compromised”. How can he possibly reconcile that with sending sailors into threat zones in a vessel not designed for self-defence and survivability? You can’t paint it grey and call it a warship.

Grey lipstick on a war pig.

The bulk of the money allocated for acquisition to MOD is for the construction of the new maritime sustainment vessel, HMNZS Aotearoa. Apart from a few legacy projects, there is nothing for the big ticket items listed in the 2016 Defence White Paper.

Finally, but very important, is personnel costs. These are currently about $1b of the cost of running defence. Is there, in effect, a pay freeze? Or, will the operating funds have to be used to retain ‘he tangata’. NZ First campaigned on this and has delivered nothing.

Don’t forget, also, about the ‘drag’ that capital charge and depreciation is having on NZDF’s funds.

 

 

 

 

 

Peters and a handsome horse called Neoliberalism

This week’s budget highlights a big contrast between what Winston Peters has said and what he does. Talking the bucking the system bronco talk in opposition, but trotting along with the establishment for a dividend of baubles.

In past years Peters speeches has condemned National, capitalism and ‘neoliberalism’, but this week’s budget has been described as business as usual, National-lite and a continuation of neo-liberalism.

Not that this sort of duplicity will bother Peters – he has a history of talking a big change talk, but is walking a same old walk.

Winston promised radical change but is helping to deliver more of the same old. He campaigns as an anti-establishment politician, but props up the establishment given half a chance.

Peters has a history of cosying up to whoever will give him a share of power. He worked a coalition with National from 1996-1999, and did it again with Labour in 2005-2008. Neither of those Governments wavered from the same old capitalist approach alongside some state assistance. All Governments since the 1980s have been bitterly described as ‘neo-liberal’ by some on the left.

Peters in a speech in 2010:

New Zealand First was born from those who rejected the radical reforms of National and Labour and who wanted a party that represented ordinary New Zealanders – not overseas interests or those of a few ever mighty subjects.

So, after the blitzkrieg neo-liberal policy destruction of Labour between 1984 and 1990 – and National until 1996, New Zealanders decided they wanted change.

In less than two years Jim Bolger was rolled by Jenny Shipley whose mission was to smash the centre-right coalition and to continue the neo-liberal experiment supported by the Business Round Table and any other stragglers they could cobble together.

We saw some of this recently in the economic prescription of a failed politician who simply could not see that pure neo-liberal economics is a pathway to economic servitude for all but a small privileged elite.

Or maybe he does know this – which makes he, and his ilk, even more dangerous.

Dripping with irony. Peters enabled both the Bolger government and the Clark government prior to making that speech.

In 2016 Government a ‘bum with five cheeks’ – Peters

“Unless we get a dramatic economic and social change as a result of our efforts at the next election, we would have failed. That’s our objective. We know that unless we’ve got a dramatic change from this neoliberal failure that every other country seems to understand now but us, then we as a party would have failed.”

There is scant sign of anything like a dramatic economic and social change in the current Government or in the budget, apart from vague assurances it will be ‘transformational’ at some time in the future.

Also from 2016 – Winston Peters: ‘Most Kiwis are struggling’

“Everyone in New Zealand First knows that our duty, our responsibility and our mission statement is to get an economic and social change at the next election. Otherwise we will have all failed. It was a challenge to my caucus members, my party delegates and everybody else.”

He said there was no use in pursuing the major parties’ neo-liberal economic policies, which he described as being like “Pepsi and Coca-Cola”.

Peters provided the froth for both, and continues to do so.

Leading in to the 2017 election campaign: Winston Peters dismisses ‘irresponsible capitalism’ of other parties with new economic policy

Winston Peters is positioning NZ First as the party of difference and says his policy announcements today will steer away from the “irresponsible capitalism” that every other political party is selling.

The neo-liberal policy adopted by New Zealand politicians in the 1980s is a “failed economic experiment”.

“We want to confront what’s going on and set it right,” Peters said.

“I look at Parliament today and the National party, the Labour party and now the Greens are all accepting of that with a little bit of tweaking. That is astonishing, particularly in the case of the Greens – they’ve done it to try and look respectable – it’s totally disrespectable economic policy.”

Peters has enabled a Labour led Government whose first budget is little more than a bit of tweaking, with the Greens getting a  modest modest bit money for tweaking environmental policies.

Once negotiating power with Labour and the Greens Peters was already talking less radically.

October 2017: Winston Peters wants ‘today’s capitalism’ to regain its ‘human face’

“Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism, not as their friend, but as their foe. And they are not all wrong.

“That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible – its human face. That perception has influenced our negotiations.”

So he moved from radical change to supporting a tweak to capitalism.

And this weeks budget has been barely a tweak. Guyon Espiner calls it a A ‘triumph of neoliberalism’

It turns out you can’t judge a book by its colour either. Labour’s first Budget in nearly a decade came with a bold red trim, rather than the royal blue Treasury uses to present the documents when National is in power.

But inside this was a blue budget not a red one. It’s a description neither Labour nor National would like bestowed on Budget 2018 but this was a triumph of neoliberalism or at least a continuation of it.

A continuation of neoliberalism enabled by and supported by Peters, with a bit of crony capitalism for him and NZ First.

This looked like National’s tenth Budget rather than Labour’s first.

It is the seventh National/Labour budget that NZ First has played a hand in.

Much more largesse has been lavished on the New Zealand First relationship with $1 billion for foreign aid and diplomats and another $1 billion for the Shane Jones provincial growth fund.

Even Winston Peters’ racing portfolio gets a giddy up. The government will spend nearly $5 million on tax deductions “for the costs of high quality horses acquired with the intention to breed”.

It has to be a handsome horse though. The rules say it will be tax deductible if it is a standout yearling “that commands attention by virtue of its bloodlines, looks and racing potential”.

What next? A handsome horse called Neoliberalism? Peters is probably a bit old to ride it, but he is providing the hay.

NZ First’s colours are black and white, and Peters campaigns with black and white rhetoric, but when he gets the chance to get some power he is a kaleidoscope of collusion, whether it be with National, Labour, capitalists or neoliberalists.

Perhaps like Grant Robertson he has a few transformational tricks up his sleeve, holding them back for next year, or next term.

Or maybe his the same old political charlatan, talking a maverick talk in opposition but given half a chance walking the same old establishment walk.

Northcote by-election candidates

Greens have announced their candidate for the Northcote by-election – Rebekah Jaung selected as candidate for Northcote

Jaung wasn’t on the Green list in 2017 but stood in the Northcote electorate. She got 6.73% of the vote, almost the same as the party vote for the electorate which was 6.75%. This is slightly better than the 6.27% overall Green party vote.

Greens have been criticised for standing a candidate as it makes it much harder for the Labour candidate Shanan Halbert, but an upset was unlikely anyway (he lost by 6210 votes in the general election), and Greens need to be showing they are not just a party supporting Labour’s interests.

Candidates announced so far (Wikipedia):

  • Stephen Berry (ACT) – 2017 candidate for East Coast Bays, 5th on party list
  • Dan Bidois (National) – economist, 72nd on National’s 2017 party list
  • Tricia Cheel (Democrats) – social justice campaigner, 22nd on Democrats 2017 party list
  • Shanan Halbert (Labour) – head of Relationships at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, 2017 candidate
  • Rebekah Jaung (Greens) – doctor, Greens 2017 candidate for Northcote

Winston Peters has said the by-election is a waste of money and NZ First won’t stand a candidate, which will only save money for the party, and may be aimed at saving face (not putting NZ First to the test in an election).

Nominations close next Tuesday 15 May.

The by-election is in four weeks, on Saturday 9 June.

Budget boosts DOC predator control

A pre-budget announcement of a significant funding boost for predator control will help towards the ambitious goal of making New Zealand ‘predator free’ by 2050.

In July 2016: Government sets target to make New Zealand ‘predator-free’ by 2050

The Government wants to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050, formally adopting a target to eradicate all pests that threaten New Zealand’s native birds.

Prime Minister John Key announced the goal, alongside Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, as well as a $28 million funding injection into a joint venture company to kickstart the campaign.

“Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards and, along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them,” Key said.

By 2025, the Government has set four interim goals, which include:

• Having 1 million hectares of land where pests are suppressed or removed;
• The development of a scientific breakthrough, capable of removing entirely one small mammalian predator;
• To be able demonstrate that areas of 20,000 hectares can be predator free without the use of fences like the one at at Wellington’s Zealandia sanctuary;
• And the complete removal of all introduced predators from offshore island nature reserves.

“This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.”

See department of Conversation Predator Free 2050

Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) brings together central and local government, iwi, philanthropists, non-government organisations, businesses, science and research organisations, communities, land owners and individuals like you.

Reminds me I have to deal to some nuisance possums. They are lot better around here after a TBFree eradication programme over the last year.

From the Labour-Green confidence & supply agreement:

6. Safeguard our indigenous biodiversity by reducing the extinction risk for 3,000 threatened
plant and wildlife species, significantly increasing conservation funding, increasing predator
control and protecting their habitats.

a. Budget provision will be made for significantly increasing the Department of
Conservation’s funding.

From the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

  • Significantly increase funding for the Department of Conservation.

The Government is following through on this:


Backing Nature – funding a future for native species

Possums, rats and stoats are the big losers in Budget 2018 and our forests, birds and other wildlife the winners, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced today.

“We need to invest in comprehensive predator control in order to save special wildlife like kiwi. We have a biodiversity crisis, where 82 per cent of native birds are threatened with or at risk of extinction,” says Eugenie Sage.

An extra $81.3 million in operating funds for predator control over four years is part of a major boost in conservation funding in Budget 2018. This will enable the Department of Conservation (DOC) to undertake sustained predator control over more than 1.8 million hectares – the largest area ever covered, and about the size of Northland and Auckland combined.

DOC’s previous funding enabled it to achieve possum control across 1 million hectares. The additional funding in Budget 2018 enables the greatest threats to biodiversity – rats, stoats and possums – to be continually controlled over a larger area in an integrated way.

“For the first time, predator control funding will be locked in. Budget 2018 means DOC won’t have to divert funding from other priorities or scramble to get one-off allocations from Government in order to do this essential work,” says Eugenie Sage.

“Both the Coalition Agreement and the Confidence and Supply Agreement recognise the need to increase conservation funding. Budget 2018 delivers on those commitments.

“After years of neglect and piecemeal funding, Budget 2018 is backing nature. DOC can now plan ahead with secure funding to target the predators that are devastating New Zealand’s unique species.”

Eugenie Sage made the announcement at Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington, an example of thriving native forest that we will have more of as a result of this initiative.

“DOC’s pest control improves forest health and the breeding success of threatened species like kākā, kea, rock wren, whio/blue duck and bats,” says Eugenie Sage.

“When 4,000 of our native plants and animals are threatened or at risk of extinction, every single conservation dollar counts. This injection of $81.3 million is only the start of this Government’s investment in nature,” Eugenie Sage said.