Labour at 100, reborn or a cot case?

The Labour Party will be celebrating it’s 100th birthday this week. New Zealand, politics and the party have all changed hugely over the last century.

Colin James looks at this in his weekly column: Labour at 100: dotage or revitalisation?

There is global turmoil and the forces on Labour’s side of politics are divided. Answer: get together, to build a voice against a conservative coalition.

The year: 1916. Come to 2016: there is global turmoil and Labour and the Greens have got together to build a voice against a conservative coalition.

Is this book-end history or a phase? That is the question for those celebrating Labour’s centenary this week.

We won’t know whether the Labour-Green get together will have been successful until later next year.

What it seems to acknowledge though is that Labour on it’s own is a spent force.

On Friday a day-long seminar will include a keynote assessment of the 100 years by former historian, acute intellectual and formidable 1999-08 minister Michael Cullen.

Cullen was chief whip, then a minister in the 1984-90 government which, though it boosted social assistance, banned nuclear ships and Springbok tours and set us en route to a bicultural society — all true to Labour — ripped the party apart with un-Labour radical market-led economic reforms.

This compounded Sir Robert Muldoon’s 1970s pitch to “ordinary blokes” which siphoned off wage worker votes.

Since then, like social democratic parties in other liberal democracies, Labour has not worked out how to rebuild a broad social base.

Helen Clark’s and Cullen’s capable cabinet masked this erosion, helped by a credit-fuelled boom and skilful coalition management to creditable low-40s votes in 2002 and 2005.

Labour certainly seems to have lost it’s way, lost it’s mojo, lost capable leadership, and has lost the last three elections.

Hence Labour’s disastrous 25% vote in 2014. But, unlike National after its disaster in 2002, Labour chose not to do a root-and-branch shakeup.

Apart from frequently changing leaders, changing the way that leaders are selected effectively giving unions the deciding vote, changing their minds on past policies without replacing them with much, Labour has done little to shake themselves up.

Labour will take a step on Saturday afternoon with a special conference to adjust the list selection process to preferential membership-wide regional selections and a smaller-than-2014 committee to finalise the national list.

There is no suggestion — at least not officially — of a “man ban” of the sort dumped on the hapless David Shearer in 2013 to lift the proportion of women MPs.

But the 2017 election challenges go far beyond the list.

One is to get Andrew Little connecting. Little’s strength is that he is a straight-shooter. But communications team mistakes and his own political inexperience and need to score points have skewed his aim at times and sometimes the bullets have ricocheted. Examples: an unthought-through attack that caught up Jacinda Ardern’s (innocent) father and shining a media light on a “homeless” family that was actually renovating its house.

Little cannot out-Key Key. But he needs to out-Little Little.

The current Little has failed to fire up any enthusiasm in the party let alone in the wider voting public.

Unlike past leaders who distanced themselves from negative attack politics (they used others to do their dirty work) Little has taken it upon himself to be the party’s main hit man. It is far from attractive, and has been botched too often. There are currently two defamation proceedings against him.

Labour’s second 2017 challenge is to present a government-in-waiting. In 2011 and 2014 those who wanted a change of government had no visible alternative to vote for. Labour was too weak.

The deal with the Greens potentially provides that alternative. Little was bowled over by his reception at the Greens’ conference. Little and Green co-leader James Shaw have been doing some joint business briefings. (Shaw goes over better, some say.)   

By belatedly conceding Labour is not a 45% party and can’t do command performances as National can but must have a partner, Labour has changed the electoral game.

Whether Labour+Greens can win that changed game will depend in part on how convincing the coalition looks. There is a growing understanding on both sides that they will need three or more major joint — “coalition” — policies.

There is currently no sign of substantive joint policies.

And there remains a major problem anyway, Winston Peters, who with NZ First looks to be essential to make up the numbers and Peters will not do pre-election joint policies.

Plus the Peters-Green clash is unresolved. There is no sign of Peters working alongside Turei and Shaw.

But what about the longer-term? Is Labour now forever shackled to the Greens? Might the Greens even morph into the senior partner?

There are no signs of Greens growing enough to become the senior partner, so it would need Labour to decline substantially more for that to happen.

But a 2 to 1 or less power balance between Labour and Greens is totally new territory for Labour. There is little sign yet that that are willing to share power as much as the numbers suggest they need to.

 As in 1916, Labour in 2016 is in turbulent times with big global and societal changes underway that will test it to destruction — or revitalise it.

Unlike Australia, the UK and the US, New Zealand looks very stable politically. Unfortunately for Labour it is National that looks boringly steady.

In Australia, the UK and the US much of the turbulence is within the major parties. Turbulence has also been apparent within Labour here, although that seems to have settled down.

Perhaps next year’s election, and Labour’s fortunes, will be reliant on whether New Zealand voters choose to add to the political turmoil evident elsewhere, or end up preferring the status quo stability that is currently prevalent.

It will be another year or so before we know whether Labour can become born again progressives or are cot cases destined for a rest home.

Living wage pushes power prices up

I think the ‘living wage’ campaign is fine, advocating for higher wages for low paid workers isn’t a bad thing even though the setting of the level of a living wage is debatable due to many varying factors with work and living costs.

But there is a wider cost of higher wages – higher prices.

NZ Herald: Power bills to rise as autumn arrives

Meridian Energy spokeswoman Michelle Brooker said prices rose last year to contain costs which had been affected by inflation, and to allow for business decisions such as putting call centre staff on to the living wage.

So the price they charge for power is higher due to paying living wages. That’s not surprising.

Incidentally companies should look at putting call centres in provincial centres where the cost of living and the cost of housing is much lower than in the big cities, especially Auckland. That would reduce the cost of doing business as well.

I’ve bought power through Meridian for probably a decade, they have been one of the cheaper options for me.

But rising power prices prompted me to look around, and I have just dropped Meridian and changed to Flick Electric Co (effective this week). Meridian offered me a $200 credit not to switch but I’d prefer to just have lower prices rather than one off incentives they give to some customers that add to costs for other customers.

Flick Electric Co. gives New Zealanders access to the wholesale price of electricity direct from the spot market.

In fact we pass on all of the costs of getting power to your place, without any mark-up – that’s generation, distribution, transmission and metering – and then charge you a transparent fee to be your retailer. So, you can relax knowing exactly who you are paying for what. It’s honest and fair.

And in your personalised online portal we’ll show you exactly how much power you’re using every half hour of every day, and what you’re paying for it, so you are empowered to change how you use electricity to save even more.

You can find out how much you could save by joining Flick on Consumer NZ’s PowerSwitch website.

Flick offers three main advantages that I can see:

  • Lower prices generally
  • Allow you to use some power (like chargers, dish washer, clothes dryer) at a time of day or night that the power is cheaper.
  • They don’t lock you in to a term contract.

This means I can save money and save more money by monitoring power usage and spot prices and adjust my use to minimise costs.

We’ve got some smart tools that make it easy for you to see where the price is at any time.

This helps you take advantage of lower prices and means you make your own decisions about when and how much electricity you want to use.

he key price points to note are the morning peak, higher daytime prices, generally lower prices later in the evening, and the very best prices tend to be overnight. When you’re with Flick, managing your power use during these times will make a real difference to your bills.

So if you want to take control, if you’re cool about riding the daily price curves, if you can do some stuff when the price is low, Flick’s for you. It’s your choice – and that’s what Flick’s really all about.

Sounds good to me.

And through me (and many others) reducing power usage and spreading load it makes for a a more efficient use of power for New Zealand.

I initially found out about Flick through Consumer’s PowerSwitch website.

A potential disadvantage with Flick is that bills may fluctuate due to short term spot market price changes, but I’m prepared to wear that as the cost plus model should work out cheaper over time.

Time will tell how this works out. If it’s too expensive or too much hassle I can switch to another supplier whenever I like.

I don’t know if Flick pay a living wage or not. But like most consumers I want the best deal I can find.

Ben Rachinger speaks again

Ben rachinger has kept popping up from time to time thrioughtout the year. He popped up here in Whale Oil jumping the Rawshark yesterday

This prompted quite a bit of reaction and discussion. Some tried to discredit Ben, some tried to shut him up, while some tried to push him into revealing things he was unwilling to talk about. Some did all three in various ways.

Here are some of the things Ben wanted to talk about.

I am not Rawshark. Always wanted to be an independent investigative journalist and to an extent I’ve done some good digging in all this. However I’m a young guy with my own upbringing and shortcomings. Those have long been on display.

The reason I’m here on this site now commenting is that I believe if you are going to be politically tribal, you police your own. Rawshark et al should be policed by their own – that didn’t happen. Slater et al should have been policed by their own – that didn’t happen.

So where does this leave us? It boggles the mind.

And:

Due to the nature of the digital skills of the hacker we can only really find out the identity of the hacker from Mr Hager. Hager has stated he met the hacker and knows his identity. No amount of digging can provide info that isn’t there. Whether I was right or not with my initial musings means little.

This is really internecine political warfare writ large. I’ve done my time on both the Left and the Right. Neither is truly for the people in my opinion. So possibly what needs to happen is the writing of a book/story that is balanced and shines the light on all the players involved.

And:

For myself, my ‘Moment of Truth’ was when Hager didn’t provide the details on the journalists who had been working with Mr Slater. To decide that one is a god, in a way, and to control the destiny of the media or a political faction is something that no one person should ever aspire to or want.

That’s the root problem here. Each side has, in their own and distinct ways, tried to play God with our system of governance. The clusterfuck that this represents, in that no side is clean or clear, has only exacerbated the general publics dislike of the political scene.

That is the issue. Instead of a new flag? We should look at what our democracy really is. Who we vote for. How they work. What tactics they use. Examination of their agendas and motives is both enlightening and disheartening. Because truly, we have no champions. Just bad and worse self-styled ‘liberators’.

And:

I’m of the opinion that the identity of RS is a straw man for all of us. We are missing the point. The point is A) whom was involved in the hack and for what motives.. And B) Do we want what Mr Slater is alleged to have done with XYZ people to go unchallenged? I’m of the mind that both are important points but very difficult to balance in your mind unless you’re independent. Mr Hager will end up naming Rawshark or he won’t. But his relationship with Rawshark and the how/why/where and whom is not my story to tell.

Ben has had a chequered short history online but I think there’s some important issues raised here that haven’t been given enough attention, in particular the abuse of power, the abuse of democracy, and the abuse of journalism.

Please in comments stick to the issues raised in these comments, peripheral issues have had plenty of airing on other threads.

Greed for power versus democracy

The current use ( some say misuse) of our MMP system is only partly the game rules’ fault – thresholds and coat tailing are fiddles designed to benefit the larger parties.

But any democratic system will only ever be as good as what the players (in particular) and the voters make of it. The desperation for power will corrupt any system.

The biggest problem is that there is no provision for a ‘pox on all their houses’ vote. More and more voters protest by withdrawing from the game but that doesn’t punish the manipulators and the corrupters of democracy.

It’s a huge irony that the IMP circus thinks they can pick up the votes of the disillusioned (or the never illusioned).

There’s a huge opportunuty for a principled party but there’s no sign of getting one. the system and the turn off is against it. The two latest political incarnations are attempts by rich people to buy power.

We are seeing what happens when greed for power shits on democracy. Even what appeared to be sensible and reasonable people have been sucked in to the sewer.

Cunliffe’s power graph gaffe

To round off a “week from hell” David Cunliffe is promoting a power price graph that is astounding people across the political spectrum.

Cunliffe power graph

It is being pointed out left, right and centre that this shows the steepest growth in power prices occurred when Labour were in Government.

Rob Hosking More bad judgement, or a staffer ???

David Farrar I really don’t know how you can send out a graphic that makes your own party’s performance (of which you were a senior Minister) look so woeful, without checking it or realising it.

Rory McCarthy Starting to wonder if David Cunliffe is working for the opposition… The amount of basic data gaffes in the last few weeks has been horrific. Seriously who’s advising him  – HINT: If you are trying to show rising power costs – best not to use data showing mass power cost increases under Labour 😐 – Politics 101.

There’s many more coments like that across Twitter and Facebook. Astonishingly Cunliffe is defending the use of this on his Facebook page:

Daniel Stratton Ummmmmm isnt the steepest rise on that graph when Labour was last in govt?

David Cunliffe Our policy has changed. National is content to let the price rises continue.

And ten minutes ago on Twitter:

@MarkCurrieNZ Our policy has changed. National is content for prices to continue to rise.

Has no one in Labour noticed how much this is being ridiculed? Surely someone is aware of the global gobsmacking – no one has thought to tell Cunliffe’s Twitter and Facebook account operators?

Where will it end? All that seems certain is it will continue next week:

Rob Hosking (NBR) The problem with that graph doesn’t stop there….[more next week on this….]

Shane Jones “swallowing dead rats”

Shane Jones looked like he was uncomfortably swallowing dead rats when he was interviewed on Q + A yesterday.

Labour continue to pass the parcel (or hot potato) in their promotion of their “big Kahuna” power policy.

  • David Shearer did a joint launch with Russel Norman.
  • David Parker was interviewed on The Nation a week ago.
  • Grant Robertson had interviews and issued press releases through the week (Shearer was out of the country).
  • It was Shane Jones’ turn to front up on Sunday’s Q + A.

Jessica Mutch asked Jones if he thought Shearer’s joint press conference with Norman launching similar-ish power policies was a good idea.

JESSICA Do you or do you not think it was a good idea?

SHANE Yeah, no, no, the fact that the Greens and Labour sat together and talked about moderating power prices for the benefit of industry and the households is good optics.

JESSICA Steven Joyce put out a press release last night saying that the Greens are having a lot of influence and saying “more middle-of-road MPs like Shane Jones are now isolated and forced to recite the anti-growth agenda”. What’s your response to that?

SHANE No, well, anyone who’s got a sliver of knowledge about me knows that I’m a firm believer in growth. There will be occasions where we continue to have a different position with the Greens, but, look, Steven Joyce-

JESSICA But does Steven Joyce have a point?

SHANE He’s just being hysterical. It’s pretty sad that he’s having to recite my name at a National Party-

JESSICA So you’re not having to swallow dead rats here?

SHANE No, it’s not how politics works. You have your say. You may be a bit frustrated, etc. I mean, I’m a Maori politician. I live with frustration. And then once having arrived at a position, then you go out, you robustly sell it, and then you convince the public that this is good for the economy, this is good for households and the people who are against it are tainted because they’re paid by the government to oppose our policy.

JESSICA So what you’re basically saying is you have to suck it up and go out and sell Labour’s policy.

SHANE Without a doubt. You don’t-

JESSICA Even if you don’t believe in it?

SHANE No, no, no, no, no. What you do is you have your debate and you’ll never ever completely agree with everything behind the scenes, but you show loyalty, and unless the voters believe that you’re a united team, then why would they ever support you?

Labour have tried to look united with Greens to promote a credible  image of Government-in-waiting, but they don’t even look united amongst themselves.

Jones waffled around the topic but looked far from convincing. Neither Shearer nor Parker had looked comfortable when it was their turn.

The Labour “team” has looked like a procession of reluctant individuals – are they all swallowing dead rats in climbing on board the Green machine?

Video – Shane Jones on Labour’s power plan (10:06)

Full Transcript – Q+A: Transcript of Shane Jones interview

 

 

Cheaper power versus Green taxes

A comment from ‘kiwi in america’ (ex Labour) at Kiwiblog:

The Greens propose a raft of NEW taxes, fees, regulations and market constricting policies that will result in imposts on all taxpayers IN EXCESS of the proposed $300 savings in power bills. These include:

  • Beefing up the ETS and bringing in transport fuels AND imposing an extra carbon charge on fossil fuels (already National’s milder less onerous ETS was responsible for the bulk of the power price increase in 2011 the year after its implimentation and a 5c a litre increase in the petrol excise tax) – you can both double that power price AND the likely petrol excise tax increase and so that SINGLE policy area of Green promises alone will more than reverse the savings to the average New Zealander of the proposed KiwiPower saving
  • Increase petrol taxes and removal of the diesel tax exemption (there only because diesel powered vehicles are assessed tax via Road User Charges) – this will simply hike cartage charges that are then passed through to consumers (and tax payers) via higher charges for all consumer goods delivered by trucks (ie pretty much everything)
  • Tonnage or container tax – essentially a tariff designed to protect local shipping – thus all goods imported and transported by ship borne containers will cost more to ship as these charges will be passed on
  • Add the proposed 1.5 – 3% (depending on income) earthquake levy
  • Add a proposed international transactions tax – think that only ‘rich pricks’ will pay this think again – all exporters and importers will pay it adding to their costs also to be passed on to customers
  • Levies on hazardous substances, taxes on solid waste, deposit charges for non-biodegradable products, taxes on fishing companies for resource rentals, progressive (read higher) water charges, levies on gambling turnover, increased developer levies as a compulsory contribution for affordable housing (thus raising the cost of new houses even higher), increased taxes on alcohol and new taxes on soft drinks (evil sugar – must make people eat healthy now), likely ‘fat’ taxes on fast food and biosecurity levies on all arriving passengers and freight

Which of these proposed charges do you support? Because the Greens in government with Norman as Minister of Finance would likely get almost all on their wish list. So yeah pocket that $300 and pay more than double that per household for the privilege of having the Greens in government.

The list above will impact ALL NZers especially the poor.

Then there’s the billions in lost investment because owners of capital look at the affect the mere ANNOUNCEMENT of this policy has had on large market participants and the wise and savvy investor moves their funds (or diverts their funds) to juristictions that are less market hostile.

Who then invests in the electricity infrastructure? The taxpayer? How and with what? Yet higher taxes (on top of this raft of new imposts) or by aggressive new borrowing? New borrowing on that scale will see historically low interest rates spike upwards resulting in a further burden borne by middle income mortgage holders.

Rising cost of business borrowing leads to a contraction in GDP and job losses or a sharp reduction on the rate of hiring again affecting low to middle income earners.

The cost of this power policy demagoguery just keeps climbing but hey who cares when the levers of power beckon.

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