National – “Robertson concedes defeat on budget rules”

National’s finance spokesperson Amy Adams has responded to Minister of Finance Grant Robertson’s announcement yesterday that the Government core debt target would change to a range (see Grant Robertson: shift from net debt 20% target to 15-25% range).


Robertson concedes defeat on budget rules

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has today thrown in the towel by scrapping his self-imposed debt target, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Grant Robertson has been backed into a corner by allowing the economy to slow, over promising and making poor spending choices. Now, instead of a fixed target Grant Robertson has lifted the debt limit by 5 per cent. That loosens the purse strings by tens of billions of dollars.

“This is a blunt admission the Government can’t manage the books properly, it is not wriggle-room. This makes the fiscal hole look like a puddle.

“You can almost guarantee that means debt at the upper end of the range of 25 per cent. This is an admission of defeat from a Finance Minister who has repeatedly used these rules to give himself the appearance of being fiscally responsible.

“This decision will mean billions of dollars more debt because the Government can’t manage the books properly and wants to spend up on big wasteful promises in election year.

“This will pay for things like Shane Jones’ slush fund, fees-free tertiary and KiwiBuild – in other words, it’s wasteful spending.

“Debt isn’t free. It will have to be paid for by higher taxes in the future.

“The debt target is the latest broken promise by the Government as the ‘year of delivery’ continues to be an embarrassing string of failures.

“It took the last Labour Government two terms to lose its fiscal discipline. This Government has given up in 18 months. This confirms you simply can’t trust Labour with the economy.”

Government defensive as Opposition keeps up pressure over KiwiBuild targets

The National Opposition continues to apply relentless pressure on the Government’s lack of significant progress with what was once a strongly promoted ambitious KiwiBuild target of 100,000 houses in ten years.

But the key target seems to be missing – the lack of availability of reasonably priced land.

Yesterday in Parliament:

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Government still committed to building 100,000 KiwiBuild houses over 10 years?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As the member well knows, we’re going through the process of a reset around the KiwiBuild programme [Interruption]. Are we committed to building affordable homes? Are we committed to trying to improve access for first-home buyers? Are we the Government that has built more houses than any other Government since the 1970s? The answer to that is yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is that a confirmation that the 100,000 houses in a decade commitment is now gone?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is it Phil Twyford who’s been reset?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: Then why did the housing Minister Phil Twyford say this morning, on that 100,000 commitment: “It’s like American nuclear ships in the 1980s. It’s a neither confirm nor deny situation.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve just said, we are in the process of working through a KiwiBuild reset, but whilst we do so we are continuing to build houses. Again, as I’ve said many a time in this House, we are a Government building more houses than any other since the 1970s.

Hon Simon Bridges: When is the climb-down on her flagship policy of 100,000 houses in a decade going to be confirmed?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: (a waffly reply)

Hon Simon Bridges: How can she have confidence in Phil Twyford, when he’s seen only 80 KiwiBuild houses built so far and he won’t confirm her flagship policy of 100,000 houses?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because we’ve built more State houses, more transitional houses, and housed more who have been homeless. We have also stopped the sale of residential housing to foreign buyers. We have also closed tax loopholes. We have made a difference to the housing market, and that is ultimately making a difference for families. We inherited a dire situation with our housing market, and we are turning it around.

Hon Simon Bridges: How about a straight answer to a straight question—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. Now, he’ll stand up and he will ask a question properly.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the 100,000 houses in a decade target gone?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve already said to the member’s original question, we are working through our KiwiBuild reset. When we have completed that, we will be making announcements in due course.

Hon Simon Bridges: To be clear, has she had any input into the issue of removing the 100,000 KiwiBuild commitment in recent times?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: (a waffly reply)

Judith Collins also touched on it in question 6.

Hon Judith Collins: Will the recalibration of KiwBuild drop the additionality tests as well as the 100,000 houses target?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I expect that in June we’ll be releasing the results of the reset of KiwiBuild, but I would say this to the member: this Government will not back away from building large numbers of affordable homes for Kiwis, building more State housing, reforming the rental market, housing homeless people, reforming the planning system and infrastructure financing—all of the things that are part of our housing programme that that party never did for nine years in office.

So Twyford did not challenge the suggestion that the 100,000 houses target might be dropped.

National have followed up on this line of attack. RNZ:  KiwiBuild ‘a broken promise’ – Bridges

The government has broken its flagship election promise on Kiwibuild and the Housing Minister should resign, National Party leader Simon Bridges says.

A question mark hangs over a core plank of KiwiBuild – with the government refusing to guarantee its promise to build 100,000 houses over 10 years.

“It was really Labour’s number one flagship promise,” Mr Bridges told Morning Report

“It was the big bold thing they were delivering.

“I’m absolutely certain it is a broken promise and half way through their term it is gone.”

Mr Bridges said if the target did go, Mr Twyford should resign.

While the target number may provide a target for National, it is missing the real target – the lack of availability of reasonably priced land to build on. When in Government National failed to deal with that. There is no sign of Labour dealing with it anywhere near adequately, all they seem to have done with Kiwibuild is put a different label on a continuation of similar means of building, but still with limited land supply.

I don’t think that 100,000 houses in ten years is important at all.

10,000 houses – that is additional houses, not just the Government taking over the development of houses that were being built anyway – in two years would still be underperforming but a big improvement.

National will no doubt claim a win if the 100,000/10 year target is dropped, but who trusts long term political promises?

But the fundamental failure continues – it is too hard to make more land available for building houses. And it looks like fixing that is in the too hard basket for this Government, like the last. What Labour labelled as a housing crisis is more of a crisis of timid government.

 

Consultation before drafting Zero Carbon Act

A Zero Carbon Act commitment to “pass binding climate change legislation in the first 100 days in Government” as”the single most important thing we can do” is being slowed down by taking it to public consultation for about a year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced there will be consultation before drafting a Zero Carbon Act, despite Labour having this goal in their Taking action in our first 100 days plan.

  • Set the zero carbon emissions goal and begin setting up the independent Climate Commission

This is from the Labour-Green Confidence & Supply Agreement:

Sustainable Economy

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.

But this will go to public consultation before the Zero Carbon Bill will be introduced in October 2018 – and that will also include normal consultation as a part of the Bill process.

Consultation is a good thing, but I would have thought that the Greens in particular and also Labour would have been doing some consultation before putting such a high priority on Zero Carbon goals.

Stuff: Government to consult before drafting ‘Zero Carbon Act’ to reduce emissions

The Government will go to the nation to consult on what targets should form the basis of a Zero Carbon Act.

It means legislation will not be introduced this year, as the Government looks to consult over next year before it’s drafted. An “interim” Climate Change commission will be set up, to begin setting New Zealand on a course to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the first step toward establishing New Zealand as a carbon-neutral nation alongside Green Party co-leader James Shaw.

Cabinet agreed to a process of consultation in 2018, before the Zero Carbon Bill was introduced in October.

Ardern said consultation would begin from May next year. It was in the Government’s “100-day plan” to set the carbon zero goal, and Ardern said it had been achieved with the “bare bones” announcement, but a lot of work still needed to be carried out.

So Labour and the Greens made major commitments and promises on Zero Carbon goals but now say a lot of work still needed to be carried out.

I presume this slow down is Labour’s doing, given what the greens committed to in the election campaign:

Greens commit to Zero Carbon Act in first 100 days

The Green Party announced today it will seek to pass binding climate change legislation in the first 100 days in Government. Green Party leader James Shaw made the commitment to a Zero Carbon Act on Newshub’s The Nation debate this morning.

“If we are to treat climate change like our generation’s nuclear free moment, we need to back that up in law”, said Green Party leader James Shaw.

“Successive governments have allowed New Zealand’s climate pollution to keep growing. Only the Greens have a plan to turn that around.

“A Zero Carbon Act will provide an anchor for government action on climate change and drive decisions across the economy to make sure New Zealand is doing its fair share to keep global warming under 2 degrees.

“The Act will mean that climate targets are legally binding, and the Government will be obliged to have a detailed plan about exactly how it will meet those targets, detail that has been desperately missing under National.

“This is what real action on climate change looks like.

“Reducing pollution will mean investing to create a better New Zealand. It means investing in fast, electric and clean light rail in our cities, in warm insulated, energy efficient housing, in solar energy and cheaper electricity.

“This is the single most important thing we can do to ensure that we are protecting the health of our climate, and of our country, for future generations,” said Mr Shaw.

From “the single most important thing we can do” and “seek to pass binding climate change legislation in the first 100 days in Government” to consultation and a delay of about a year.

The single most important thing the Greens seem to have learned is that being a small party in Government can involve major compromises.

However this should come as no surprise as the change in urgency was signalled by Shaw last month.

Newshub: Zero Carbon Act to give businesses ‘a pathway’ to investment 

Mr Shaw, who has taken up the role of Climate Change Minister in the new Government, is set to announce the finer details of the Zero Carbon Act in the next few months.

He told The AM Show the targets will be unveiled in the new Government’s first 100 days, and enshrined in law at some point in 2018.

“We’re very keen [to get environmental targets into law], and in fact all three parties of this Government have the idea that there will be a binding target to become carbon-neutral by the year 2050,” he said.

“The actual legislation will come through next year. We want to do a good job of it, so we need to make sure we consult widely and so on, but we are going to introduce the target in our first 100 days.”

What if consultation shows that the target they set in their first 100 days is unrealistic?

UPDATE: Russel Norman us speaking of the urgency in taking action on RNZ right now.

Labour targeting social and infrastructure deficits, not financial

Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says that a Labour government would target infrastructure deficits and social deficits’ and revise the Government targets on lowering financial deficits.

NZ Herald: Debt targets to be revised under Labour-led Government says Robertson

National increased the debt as a result of the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes from 5.4 per cent of gdp in 2008 to 24.3 per cent now. The deficit peaked at a record $18.3 billion in 2011.

The current target of reducing net debt to 20 per cent of gdp by 2020 will be replaced by getting it down to 10 to 15 per cent by 2025, Joyce recently announced.

But Robertson says that Labour will have a different priority and will revise that.

If Labour’s Grant Robertson is the next Finance Minister he will ditch the new ambitious net debt target set by Steven Joyce as part of the 2017 Budget or the current target.

“We believe there are infrastructure deficits and social deficits that are going to need some investment before we can get to the 20 per cent target,” Robertson said.

“We will review and revise those targets once we are in Government and we’ll see where we get,” said Robertson.

“The last time Labour was in office we got debt down close to zero so of course we are in favour of reducing debt.”

He said the numbers Joyce had “plucked out” for the 2025 target was where Treasury’s longer term forecasts were going anyway.

Greens are on the same page as Labour. This was been written into the Labour-Green fiscal responsibility code.

The wild card is Winston Peters.

Meanwhile New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the Government will present a surplus on Thursday only because it has underfunded many public services including in health, education, police, conversation and housing.

“The Government will have to explain how there is a surplus after addressing all the reasonable demands that need money spent on them,” he said.

“If this Thursday’s Budget does not do that, then claims of a surplus will be without credibility, plausibility or integrity.”

What that means in practice, and whether Peters will come out of coalition negotiations with credibility, plausibility or integrity, won’t be known until late September at the earliest.

 

Child poverty target versus targets

There has been an ongoing argument in Parliament this week about how to target child poverty after the Children’s Commissioner suggested an overall target of reducing it by 5-10% in a year.

1 News: Key shuns Children’s Commissioner’s child poverty target

A target promoted by Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft  to reduce child poverty has been rejected by Prime Minister John Key who says it’s not as simple as that.

The new Children’s Commissioner says politicians should put aside politics and agree to reduce child poverty by five to 10 per cent next year.

Debate on this continued yesterday in Question Time, with Metiria Turei pressing John Key on a single target, while Key insisted it was far more complex than that and that the Government had a number of poverty targets.

Draft transcript:

Prime Minister—Government Policies

2. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Ka tū a ia i runga i te mana o ngā kaupapa here katoa o tāna Kawantatanga?

[Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?]

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister still believe, as he said in this House yesterday, that it is better and more effective for the Government to set individual targets on components of child poverty rather than a specific child poverty reduction target?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister talked yesterday about the Better Public Services targets, like rheumatic fever and early childhood education, did he know that the expert advisory group on child poverty provided a comprehensive list of 51 child poverty – related indicators, including both of those?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, but that is exactly the point, is it not? Last week the member was saying that the target should have 17—today she seems to be saying it is 51. For the last while she has been saying that the number of children is 360,000 and then she said yesterday that she wanted to accept that the Government’s number of 85,000—or at least, 60,000 to 100,000—was correct. She is all over the map, and that is the point. The Government is far better to approach—

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He has not addressed the question, and has instead talked about a Green Party position, which he has no authority over.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. When the Prime Minister rose to answer the question he addressed the question immediately. He certainly has gone on to enlarge on that answer, which is probably unnecessary, but he certainly answered the question immediately.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister committed to his Government using individual indicators and targets to address child poverty, did he mean that he would adopt the expert advisory group’s recommendations for a comprehensive list of child poverty – related indicators?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What the Government did—and, I think, quite correctly—was to say that poverty is a very complicated issue, but that there are some individual component parts which, if the Government focuses resources on and gives attention to, can make significant gains. We are doing that in terms of rheumatic fever. We are doing that in terms of the number of children being immunised. We are doing that in terms of the number of children having access to early childhood education. We are doing that in terms of the number of teenage pregnancies, with young mums on the equivalent of the domestic purposes benefit. I think it is far more sensible for the Government to approach this issue in a systematic and thorough way, dealing with each of these issues, rather than the member spending, as she wants to, her lifetime dreaming up some dodgy number that she knows is wrong.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was an unnecessary and personal attack—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I could not hear correctly what the point of order is.

Metiria Turei: I take personal offence at that personal attack on my integrity, and I ask him to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that the final part of the answer was helpful to the order of the House; I accept that. But I hardly think it was a personal attack on the member.

Metiria Turei: So will the Prime Minister expand the Better Public Services targets to include all of those other indicators that experts have said contribute to child poverty, such as household crowding, infant mortality, self-harm and suicide by children, and serious skin infections?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I doubt we would have an individual Better Public Services target for each one, or there would be so many individual targets that it might lose some of its meaning. All of those issues are on the Government’s radar, and all of them are getting attention.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister is refusing to establish official measurements of child poverty, and also will not set targets for a comprehensive list of child poverty – related outcomes, is he not really telling the country that he will avoid any attempt to identify, to measure, or to reduce child poverty in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Quite the opposite. This is the first Government in the history of this Parliament that has had a list of Better Public Services targets and has been quite happy to be measured against them, and has set those targets in quite challenging areas. The Government produces a raft of different measures and reports in relation to poverty and income, including the longitudinal study by Bryan Perry, which shows that income inequality is not getting worse. The reason the member does not quote it is that she does not like it, because it does not suit her arguments.

Metiria Turei: So what has changed since 2012, when the Prime Minister said: “If you don’t measure, monitor and report on things, I don’t think you can make progress.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Absolutely nothing, and that is why the Government has these individual targets and has a range of different measures. But it is not this Government; there has been longstanding advice from officials that one single measure of poverty in this country would be an inappropriate way of dealing with it.

 

 

Greens confuse democratic process with democratic votes

Despite what some try to claim he number of submissions in a democratic process is not a measure of popular support.

Submissions are not votes.

A high number of submissions promoting one view has become common, but they often mean that one view has been organised and promoted with mass submissions.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei recently sent out an email that was predictably critical of the Government emissions target announcement but her argument is a bad example of the confusion of democratic process versus democratic votes.

Here are five reasons why this weak target should be a concern for all New Zealanders:

  1. This target undermines our democratic process. Back in May, thousands of New Zealanders participated in the Government’s climate consultation. An overwhelming majority (99% of those who specified a target) asked for a more ambitious target than what the Government is proposing. John Key’s administration has effectively ignored almost everyone who participated in the consultation, from doctors and business leaders to scientists and conservation groups.

For a start this doesn’t even give the total number of submissions, she just claims “an overwhelming majority (99% of those who specified a target)”.

How many submissions were there?

How many submissions didn’t specify a target?

But claiming “this target undermines our democratic process” is based either on ignorance of democracy (which is alarming from a party that claims to be more democratic than any other) or it is deliberately deceptive.

Submissions are an important  part of the democratic process, a means of giving the public a say.

But organising mass submissions has become common practice from parties like the Greens and also allied activists:

Like Generation Zero: Use our quick submission tool to call on the Government to commit to a pathway towards zero CO2 emissions by 2050 or earlier, and call for a global zero carbon target in the Paris deal.

This is our chance to call for a plan to Fix Our Future. Take a few minutes to add your voice by submitting below.

It’s easy to have your say. Just fill in your details and tick all the points you agree with.

Personalising your submission will really add weight to it so please add your own thoughts and comments at the end of the form.

In an open democracy like ours groups are free to organise mass submissions, a form of group speak.

But claiming that the number of submissions is some sort of democratic measure of support is an abuse of democracy, or ignorance of how democracy works.Metiria Turei

Either way a party leader should know better than to make claims like Turei has.

Are the Greens confused about democratic processes? Or are they deliberately trying to confuse?