Paternalistic Speaker protecting Ardern in Parliament

There have been claims already that Speaker Trevor Mallard has protected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament when under attack by the Opposition.

This came up again after an exchange in Question Time yesterday, where Simon Bridges moved from questions about CGT effects on KiwiSaver to Ardern’s business experience:

Hon Simon Bridges: In light of her comments on fairness, is it fair that under the proposed capital gains tax, the small-business owner will have to pay tax on a third of their business when they sell up for retirement?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, alongside the recommendations around a comprehensive capital gains tax, we’ve acknowledged that, for simplicity, that was what the Tax Working Group suggested. They also put alongside that, increasing the threshold for provisional tax from $1,500 to $5,000, increasing the closing stock adjustment, an increase in the automatic deduction for legal fees, a reduction in the number of depreciation rates.

So there was a suite of options in there, and, again, Mr Speaker, as I know you know, but as I wish the Leader of the Opposition would hear: we have not settled on any of the final recommendations of the report. We are still considering them as a Government.

Ardern brought the Speaker into the discussion.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the problem with answering my questions that she doesn’t understand small business very well?


Hon Simon Bridges: When she told Mike Hosking last week and this morning that she’d run a small NGO that helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I did not tell him that this morning.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she said last week on Mike Hosking that her running a small NGO had helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, I spent more time talking about the fact that my first jobs were all in small businesses. The point that I was making at that time—and actually, I continue to make—is that, as a Government, we are considering all of the issues that have been raised. That includes whether it be residential rentals, whether it be small business, whether it be KiwiSaver.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the NGO she spoke of the International Union of Socialist Youth?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member knows how to use Wikipedia—well done.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has talking to international comrades helped her with her small-business policy development in New Zealand?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the Prime Minister will sit down. We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House. It’s a final warning, and I think Mr McClay will be the first out.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I stand by the fact that I have worked in small businesses, that I have been in charge of hiring and firing, and I’d be interested in how many times he’s had to do that as a Crown prosecutor.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given all the—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Ah, the businessman!

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Mr Brownlee will now stand, withdraw and apologise.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. What was the problem there? I called him a businessman; I apologise for that.

SPEAKER: The member knows well that he interjected while a member was asking a question. He will now leave the Chamber.

Hon Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.

Ex MP Tau Henare:

Ardern was noticeably irritated from early in this exchange.

Richard Harman at Politik: Temper flash from the PM

What appeared to be a flash of temper from the Prime Minister in Parliament yesterday is an indication of how much the capital gains tax debate seems to be getting to her. She and Ministers are getting bogged down in detail as they answer endless questions about how the tax might work…

Audrey Young: Simon Bridges gets the better of Jacinda Ardern over small business experience

Ardern’s loss of form was Bridges’ capital gain as the National leader and the Prime Minister went head to head over a comprehensive capital gains tax (CGT) proposal.

It was a variation on fish and chip shop theme, from the previous day in which slaving over a fat vat in an after- school job gave her insights into how small business owners would be feeling about having to pay 33 per cent tax when they sold up their business for retirement.

Ardern had disputed the NewstalkZB host’s claim that none of the cabinet had experience running a small business.

It was Bridges’ moment but Mallard was having none of it. There are no rules for when applause is tolerated and when it is not. That is decided by the mood of the Speaker who clearly did not like National ganging up on her.

Mallard: “We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House.”

Ardern looks under pressure over the Capital Gains Tax. She and her Government seemed badly prepared for dealing the widely expected recommendations of the Tax Working Group. With a decision still a month or two away, expect National to keep hammering Ardern on this.

Both Mallard and Winston Peters appear to be trying to protect Ardern in Parliament. Grant Robertson also stepped in to help. This looks paternalistic, and doesn’t help Ardern’s case.

Ardern won’t be able to come up with answers on CGT for a while yet, but she at least needs to find a way of handling the questions better – on her own.


Ardern/Labour would ignore international commitments

Jacinda Ardern, apparently speaking on behalf of the Labour Party, said they would pass laws regardless of and presumably contrary to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Stuff reported Labour to carry on regardless of TPPA – Ardern

A Labour Government will make laws without regard to the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and if necessary “face the consequences”.

That was the view of Jacinda Ardern, Labour MP and spokesperson for small business, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce event in Rotorua on Tuesday.

“When we’re in Government we’ll continue to legislate as we would and we’ll face the consequences,” she said.

Ardern said that Labour was not against free trade agreements, but that the TPPA had been passed with very little Parliamentary scrutiny.

“This was very different to your usual trade agreement,” she said.

“It wasn’t just state to state, it was corporate to state.”

There’s been some claims that Ardern has modelled her political career on Helen Clark. This appears not to be the case.

Where’s the common sense and discipline in Labour? Their reaction to the TPPA this week, in leader Andrew Little’s absence, and in spokesperson for Trade David Parker’s absence, has been awful. And this is as bad as it has got.

Deputy leader material? No way on this nonsense.

Ardern is also spokesperson for Justice. And she has suggested Labour should pass laws that ignore international agreements.

This questions her qualifications for another of her roles, spokesperson for Children.

Unless Stuff stuffed up this report, surely Labour wouldn’t go along with this nonsense from Ardern.

A Little challenge on 90 day trial

Andrew Little’s ‘State of the Nation’ speech was big on employment ambition via small businesses but little on detail. He can be excused for being vague at this stage, but he and Labour face some tough decisions. One of those is on the 90 day trial put in place by National. The Labour left is ideologically opposed to it.

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff writes in Big on ambition, little on how to get there:

During last year’s election campaign trail, the 90-day trial legislation came up with frequency and passion usually reserved for socially progressive legislation.

In broad terms, it allows employers to terminate the contracts of employees if it is not working out.

Up and down the country it was repeatedly raised by voters. Support is far from universal, but among the audience Little appears to be pitching to, it is clearly strong.

For the tradesman or the cafe owner looking to take on their first, or even fiftieth employee, the trials are seen by many as cast iron insurance that a lazy worker will not be allowed to undermine their livelihood, even among many Labour-backing businesspeople.

Although core Labour supporters may have a natural aversion to a sweeping right to dismiss employees under almost any circumstances, the sheer number of small businesses means it is an issue that must be addressed by Labour in purely political terms, however difficult that may be.

The ‘labour left’ – union supporters – were instrumental in getting Little into the leadership role. They will be disappointed if there’s no pledge to scrap the 90 day trial. But middle New Zealand, where a lot of small business owners are, will be instrumental in rebuilding Labour’s lost vote share.

Labour might try a compromise, like reducing the trial period to 60 or 30 days. But that risks pleasing no one and/or disappointing everyone.

Amongst many others there will be more than a little challenge getting this one right.

Little speaks to his strengths, needs to build on them

Andrew Little gave his first big speech yesterday to kick off his political year. He wisely spoke to his strengths, building on his uniion past which involved working with businesses. I give him ‘a pass mark, will do better’ as he grows into the position.

In it, I set out my vision for a stronger, more equal New Zealand — one where our businesses thrive and we once again have the lowest unemployment in the developed world.

If you want to see the full text it’s here – State of the Nation 2015.

Little’s presentation is a bit mixed. This is to be expected at this early stage of his leadership. It’s a hugeb step up in public scrutiny. He should improve over the next three years.

Targeting small business for job creation is a reasonable approach, and he has the background to contribute. But he and his minders need to anticipate basics – he wants New Zealand to have the lowest rate of unemployment but he didn’t know what the actual target needed to be. Not a major slip but he needs to avoid this happening.

As a new leader at the start of the parliamentary cycle I’m fully aware of the task I have ahead to build our organisation and the policy platform we will take into the next election. This is a major job.

Acknowledging a major job, which it is. Not just for him but also for the Labouir caucus and the party.

Because as a party committed to creating good jobs for New Zealanders, we know that many of the jobs we want to create will come from businesses like those represented here today. That is the only way to drive down unemployment. We can only do this if we’re all in it together.

For a political party with social democratic values at its heart, like the Labour Party, there is one crucial question: How do we create wealth generation that means everyone gets to fairly participate and share? Which is to say, wealth generation that is inclusive.

Targeting job creation through small businesses is a good approach. Committing to work together with the business community is very good.

But there are a number of policy areas that will be challenging for Little and Labour.

With Labour, it will be easier than ever to start a business and make it succeed.

Labour will make small business a priority.

Will they retain or scrap the 90 day trial?

We will do more to use our tax system to support investment in innovation and Research & Development, so that more Kiwi businesses can compete on the world stage in the cutting edge industries that make up the 21st century economy.

What about the business tax rate. Will Labour propose to leave it as it is, lower it, or raise it.

Will they ramp up the minimum wage? That will impact on small businesses.

There’s still a lot for Little and Labolur to do on this. They have the time to get it right.

This is a good enolugh start to Labour’s year. Little spoke to his strengths but a lot of building on them is required.