Little versus Peters on Pike River

Winston Peters has kicked off his political year by picking up on his Pike River posturing, but criticism of Labour has prompted a retort from Andrew Little.

NZ Herald: Little: Peters’ Pike River re-entry comments ‘cheap’

Peters said his party believed in a report that said there is no technical mining reason that re-entry could not be achieved safely.

“We believe your report and believe that a party should be allowed to enter the drift to look for your men,” Peters told the meeting.

“And to all those who say we’re not serious on this promise we say, our party will make re-entry into Pike River a bottom line at the next election.”

That’s a repeat of what he said late last year.

The Paroa Hotel is owned by Bernie Monk, whose son Michael died in the mine. Monk said a crowd of more than 100 gathered to hear from the NZ First leader.

“He was overwhelmingly applauded by the people here today … he is the first politician that has really stood beside us and made his feelings known.”

This comment grated with Labour supporter Anne at The Standard:

Well, that’s a bit rich coming from Bernie Monk. Either he’s showing a political bias or he has a poor memory. Andrew Little (starting before he became leader) spent many hours/days/weeks over time talking with… comforting… trying to do everything he could to get the men back into the mine. I recall question after question after question in the debating chamber. He has never given up.

But of course Andrew doesn’t use his personal support for political gain. He just gets on with what he knows should be done. How many hours/days/weeks has Winston spent on the West Coast trying to help the victims of the tragedy?

Peters had a specific dig at Labour:

Little has promised that a Labour Government would get an independent assessment of the mine and re-enter it if it was declared safe.

Peters told the meeting that promise was “weak and disingenuous”.

“It means, ‘sometime never’. You already have a thoroughly professional report from world leading experts in this field. How many more reports do the authorities need before they can say ‘Go in’? What more proof could they possibly want?”

Andrew Little took issue with Peters’ comments.

“One thing I am never going to be challenged by Winston on is my commitment to Pike River. And the difference between me and Winston Peters is I wasn’t sitting in a Cabinet in the 1990s that undermined our health and safety regulations in mine regulations, specifically,” Little told the Herald.

“This is a serious issue. Put aside the, I thought, cheap call about Winston leading a team in there – that is disrespectful to the mines rescue folks and others who are experts – you do want the best possible decision to be made.”

Peters and Labour seem to be intractably at odds over Pike River re-entry.

Peters wants to go with the report obtained by (some of the) Pike River victims’ families and says NZ First “will make re-entry into Pike River a bottom line at the next election”.

Little wants an independent assessment, which seems sensible. But presuming such an assessment isn’t done before the election that would appear to make a coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First impossible – unless either Little or Peters change their stance.

While Monk and some of the Pike River families are trying to talk re-entry of the mine up into an election issue I’m not sure that the wider public vote will define the election by it.

But the political posturing could define the next government, which based on the stated positions of National and Labour versus NZ First that would leave NZ First out of any coalition.

Winston’s bottom lines

There’s a lot of unknowns about how next year’s election will go. One of the biggest questions will be how National goes under Bill English’s leadership – will their support drop now John Key has stepped down? Will it stay dropped?

Labour are still struggling to be a major party. They seem to have given up competing head to head with National, and are now relying on Labour+Greens, but their Memorandum of Understanding doesn’t seem to have enthused voters.

There is one certainty – the media will continue to promote Winston Peters as ‘kingmaker’. There’s a good chance (but no guarantee) NZ First will end up in a position where they can play National off against Labour+Greens. Winston remains adamant he won’t do that until after the election.

But there have already a few bottom lines mentioned.

1. Superannuation

New Zealand First’s objective is to preserve the entitlement of New Zealanders to retire and receive New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) as it now is with eligibility at 65 years and as a universal non-contributory publicly funded pension scheme with no means-testing.

It’s very unlikely Winston would relent on this one.

2. No Maori Party

Ensure the future of the Maori seats is a decision for the people to make having examined the significant increase in representation numbers of Maori MPs under MMP.

And (in June 2016):

Stopping separatism …is a bottom line for NZ First working with any future government, Winston Peters says.

“…and for example a parallel state where you’ve got a state within a state because of separatist racist laws then we will not go down that path and I’m saying it right now.”

Peters has ruled out a coalition that included the Maori Party in the past. This doesn’t look like changing.

3. Immigration

New Zealand First is committed to a rigorous and strictly applied immigration policy that serves New Zealand’s interests. Immigration should not be used as a source of cheap labour to undermine New Zealanders’ pay and conditions.

The rest of their Immigration policy sounds strong but is actually vague.

…stopping mass immigration is a bottom line for NZ First working with any future government, Winston Peters says.

“…if mass immigration continued…then we will not go down that path and I’m saying it right now.”

It’s difficult to know what Winston would insist on for immigration, but he plays the immigration card often to supporters so would have to make some demands.

4. Pike River Re-entry

Winston Peters says Pike River re-entry is bottom line to election deals

Winston Peters says re-entering Pike River mine is a “bottom line” to any election deal made next year.

“I’m making no bones about it, we’ll give these people a fair-go, and yes this is a bottom line, and it shouldn’t have to be,” he said on TV’s Paul Henry show on Wednesday morning.

Any political party seeking New Zealand First’s support to form a government in the 2017 election will have to commit to re-entering the mine.

National want to leave any re-entry decision up to Solid Energy. Andrew Little has supported re-entry but has not absolutely committed Labour to it.

5. Police numbers

Winston Peters demands 1800 extra police

The New Zealand First leader and Northland MP wants the number of police officers increased by 27 percent, in line with Australia’s per capita ratio.

“We’re looking at something like 1800-1900 officers just as a start now to get to a level where we once were, and then build upon that,” he says.

He says it’s a bottom line in any negotiations regarding the formation of the next Government.

So that is five bottom lines that I’m aware of.

? Prime Minister

Arise Sir Winston, Prime Minister of New Zealand?

…here’s another theory that’s been doing the rounds much longer.

It is that Peters will only retire after he has fulfilled his ambition of one day being prime minister. It’s even said to have been put on the able in NZ First’s protracted negotiations to form a government in 1996.


Forget ‘kingmaker’, Winston Peters wants to be the next Prime Minister

That seems to be a claim only on the Paul Henry Show, Peters doesn’t say that. But is that one of his goals?

I don’t think National would agree to a Winston as PM deal, but would Labour and Greens, where none of none of Little, Metiria Turei and James Shaw have any government experience? Peters has already been deputy Prime Minister, from 16 December 1996 to 14 August 1998 (under Jim Bolger).

Are there other Winston/NZ First bottom lines so far?

Little v PM English on child poverty

Yesterday Bill English faced his first Question Time in Parliament as Prime Minister, facing Andrew Little first up on questions on child poverty, with housing added to the mix – possibly the defining issues of next year’s election campaign.

David Seymour, Winston Peters and Metiria Turei joined in.

Prime Minister—Child Poverty

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he agree with Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft that the level of child poverty means “this is not the New Zealand I grew up in nor is it the New Zealand most of us want”; if so, what responsibility does he take as Prime Minister for his Government’s record?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): We do not want children growing up in persistent deprivation. I am proud of the steps the Government has already taken, including raising benefits by $25 per week for the first time in 40 years—something not done by the previous Labour Government. Alongside raising incomes, we are focusing on dealing with the complex dysfunction that traps families in long-term low incomes.

Andrew Little: Why are there more children living in poverty today than 8 years ago, when National took office?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not agree with the member’s assertion.

Hon Members: Oh!

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the New Zealand Government publishes the most comprehensive measures of income of all developed countries in the world. The most recent information is up to 2014, which is prior to changes in free doctors visits for under-13s, the hardship package that was introduced under this Government, and other measures that we are taking for smarter support for vulnerable families.

Andrew Little: Why, after 8 years, has his Government not set targets to reduce income poverty and material deprivation amongst New Zealand children?

Hon Paula Bennett: Well, we have.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have. We have set quite specific targets in respect of all those factors that create the circumstances of persistent deprivation—that is, reduction in recidivism rates, reduction in long-term welfare dependency, and reductions in rheumatic fever. We have insulated 300,000 homes to improve the standard of housing and reduce poor housing, and, as I have said, we have increased incomes for families on benefits for the first time in 40 years.

Andrew Little: Is it acceptable to him that, according to the Child Poverty Monitor report, 110,000 Kiwi kids live in houses with severe damp or mould problems?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course that is not acceptable; the question is what steps should be taken to deal with it. This Government has insulated 300,000 such houses, and now runs much more focused systems for dealing with those children who show signs of ill health because of the quality their housing.

Andrew Little: How much money over the last 8 years has his Government taken out of Housing New Zealand in dividends, while Emma-Lita Bourne got sick and died in a cold, mouldy State house?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the member misunderstands exactly how Housing New Zealand’s finances work, but when tenants are experiencing ill health because of the standard of those State houses, money is not a barrier to fixing them. All such incidents are meant to be dealt with by Housing New Zealand within a short amount of time precisely because of the ill effects on the tenants.

David Seymour: Is not the real problem with housing and poverty the fact that New Zealanders produce half as many homes per capita as we did in the 1970s?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member puts his finger on the nub of the issue. Misguided planning laws over the last 10 or 20 years have meant that our cities have not been allowed to grow, and that has helped to push up the price of housing and has made it less likely that good-quality, lower-cost housing is built in our cities.

Andrew Little: Will he back my bill to make it illegal to rent out damp, mouldy, unhealthy homes, or does he think it is OK for slum landlords to exploit poor families and make kids sick?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is already the law, in fact, that you cannot rent out a home that is going to be bad for someone’s health.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: To the Minister, is it not a fact that our parliamentary colleague from Epsom has stumbled on it—that we are not building nearly enough houses as we were in the 1970s and that we got mass immigration, which he has allowed in, in the 1990s and the 2000s?

Hon Members: Who’s the question to?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Who was the question to?

Mr SPEAKER: Did the Prime Minister not hear the question? I can have it repeated.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I think I did. It is the case that there have been fewer houses built per 100,000 people in New Zealand in the last 10 or 15 years, because the planning laws have been designed to stop that happening. As for immigration, the National-led Government stands proudly open to trade, investment, and migration.

Andrew Little: After 8 years of rising child poverty on his watch, will he sign up to Andrew Becroft’s target of reducing child poverty by 10 percent in the next year and take immediate steps to get there, or are we going to continue to hear empty words, just like we did from his predecessor?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Since 2012 we have published a set of quite focused targets aimed at dealing with the social dysfunction that traps families in the combination of welfare dependency, criminal recidivism, low education levels, and child abuse. The data about that is more detailed and more transparent than in pretty much any other developed country, and the Government is acting on that information—in many cases, family by family, because that is the only way to change their lives. Signing up to a target does not change their lives.

Metiria Turei: Does he accept the finding of the Children’s Commissioner’s report that on average 28 New Zealand children die each year of a poverty-related condition—each of those years being when National has been in Government?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I have not seen the detail of that. The Child Poverty Monitor takes information from the Government’s annual report on the state of incomes and households across New Zealand. But I think both the Labour and Green parties grossly oversimplify this issue. If it was just a matter of income, there would be no child poverty, because incomes are higher than they were. The hard bit we are dealing with in child poverty is the social dysfunction that has been there for 20 or 30 years, and this Government is addressing that in a more focused, thorough, and transparent way than any previous Government.

David Seymour: Is it not also related that one in five of the 60,000 children born in New Zealand every year are born into a family dependent on benefits?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think that is roughly the case. Of more concern is that about one in 100 of these children are born into households where there is criminal offending, child abuse, violence, and long-term welfare dependency. We are closely focused on working with those families to break what are long-term cycles of deprivation.

Metiria Turei: What is the point of his Government’s interventions if not one of them has saved a single one of those children’s lives?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I just do not agree with the member. I mean, there have been quite sophisticated advances in, for instance, interventions around rheumatic fever, where the rate of diagnosis of rheumatic fever has halved in the last 3 years, precisely because of excellent work done by the Minister of Health and the Minister for Social Development. The rate of substantiated child abuse, which was rising, has flattened out. Those measures, among many others, may well have saved lives.

Metiria Turei: So how many families in 2017 does he expect will have to bury their children who have died because of poverty-related illness?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would hope none. I would hope none because it would be a tragedy for any family to bury their child. But what I do know is that billions of dollars have been spent ineffectively in the last 20 to 30 years because of following the recipe that that member would advocate, which is to throw money at the problem. This Government is doing a much smarter job of supporting our vulnerable families, and, of course, we have a long way to go.

Pike River re-entry plan

Pike River families came to parliament today with a plan for re-entry to the Pike River mine. The plan is backed by experts who have different advice than the experts advising Solid Energy.

Stuff: Families of Pike River mine disaster victims release expert plan for safe re-entry

Families of some of the victims of the 2010 Pike River mine explosion have submitted an experts’ report to Parliament in a bid to stop Solid Energy from sealing the “crime scene” forever.

The report was written by David Creedy, vice-chairman of the United Nations group of experts on coal mine methane, and Bob Stevenson, a former mines inspector in Britain.

The report has been peer-reviewed and endorsed by Britain’s leading mines rescue expert, Brian Robinson, and mining ventilation experts John Rowland and Roy Moreby.

“What I have is a credible plan from our mines experts, our international experts, from the UK and Australia, saying this can be done and it can be done safely,” Osborne said while holding the report up to the crowd.

“And it’s actually not that hard. The drift is safe. It is a stone tunnel, it cannot explode, we can enter it. These guys, our experts, are saying it can be done.”


The method for re-entry proposed by Creedy and Stevenson would involve establishing a nitrogen plant at the mine to provide inert gases as required.

Surface boreholes would serve as “return airways” along the 2.3km drift, with flame traps installed at two boreholes to prevent fuel combustion.

The 170m stopping would be ventilated, with air or nitrogen allowed into the mine, while auxiliary fans would be established at the drift entrance to control airflow into the mine.

The report says the ventilation system, complete with degassing units, would more than double the amount of air required to dilute the measured methane flow to a safe standard of one per cent.

“Special attention” would be given to the maintenance bays at 1.9km, which are offset to the drift.

Once the ventilation system was complete, the “inbye workings” – those going towards the coal face – would be isolated to remove the risk of heating and reduce gas emissions.

As the drift was entered, roof, wall and floor conditions would be inspected before workers proceeded. Additional support would be installed in areas where the drift condition was a concern, while existing camera evidence could identify areas unable to be traversed until made safe.

Major obstructions such as floor debris would be removed to minimise hazards, and vehicles would be used to transport materials and provide rapid evacuation of miners.

The number of workers in the mine would be limited to the “absolute minimums” for the work being done.

I have no doubt that the mine could be re-entered, but there will always be risks involved.

And it will cost, probably a substantial amount, but no indication of how much.

Getting right up the drift and into the mine, searching for and recovering 29 bodies, and investigating possible causes of the explosions, would be a time consuming and costly project.

I understand some of the families want remains recovered, but it still has to be asked whether the chances of success stack up and if it is worth the risk.

Labour leader Andrew Little vowed to families he would do everything he could to open the site for re-entry should his Labour party be elected at the next election.

“A political commitment was made to you, that the Government of the day would do everything they could to get your men out and bring them back, to return them to you so you can give them a dignified farewell.

“And so you are right to come here to have that promise fulfilled.”

But he didn’t say Labour would re-enter the mine, just that they would get expert advice. This really isn’t much difference to John Key’s commitment.

…Peters saying he was so confident in the expert plan to re-enter the mine that he would go in himself.

Peters said that, as “someone with some experience” in working underground, he would have no problem entering the mine drift.

Peters worked on the Snowy Mountain Scheme in the 1960s in what he described as a tremendously dangerous project where “they lost a man a mile”.

That is ridiculous populist pandering, even for Peters. There is no way anyone should let him anywhere near the mine.

English has dismissed Winston Peters’ offer of personally entering the mine, saying the NZ First leader should not trivialise the tragedy.

“I don’t think anyone will take that seriously. There’s a serious safety issue there and he shouldn’t trivialise it,” English said on Tuesday afternoon.

“He’s not an expert. The issue here is around the safety of the mine and, under the law, the decisions have to be made about the safety of that mine by people who are responsible for it, not by politicians.”

And Peters has said NZ First will make re-entry a condition of coalition support (another one).

Politics aside, the plan should be assessed, at least approximately costed, and judged against the chances of success.

Key’s last Question Time as PM

Key attended his last Question Time as Prime Minister in Parliament yesterday – he doesn’t do Thursday’s in Parliament.

Labour had wisely chosen to look ahead and focus on National’s leadership contenders, but Winston Peters and James Shaw addressed questions to Key.

Both Peters and Shaw set themselves up for free shots from a relaxed looking Key, who obliged.

Peters and Ron Mark started flashing scorecards during questions but this was stamped on by the Speaker.

But Key set himself up by interjecting into Andrew Little’s first question.

ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Minister of Finance. Does he stand by his statement—

Rt Hon John Key: Oh, God, I’m irrelevant already.

ANDREW LITTLE: John, it is all over. It is all over, brother.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, as I said yesterday, I can sense the excitement in the air, but we will still conduct question time under the normal rules.

ANDREW LITTLE: It is not the excitement; it is the relief on the face of the Prime Minister.

3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers; if so, why?

It turned out to be a swipe at Bill English, Jonathan Coleman, Judith Collins and Paula Bennett, and gave Key the opportunity to praise them. The exchange concluded with:

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he possibly have confidence in all of his Ministers when all we are hearing from his answers and from the spills coming out of caucus is terrible instability, feuding, backstabbing, fighting, all sorts of secret calls—so much so that it has fallen to New Zealand First to look like the epitome of stability?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, when you have a caucus of one, it is reasonably easy to be stable. But the member may have noticed that on Monday—the last time you held up a sign it said “No” and it should have said “Yes”.

Shaw also tried some lame jibes at Ministers who are contenders for promotions.

7. JAMES SHAW to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

James Shaw: Does he have confidence in Jonathan Coleman, and does he even know what he looks like?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. I am pretty sure he is the one that is just over there. But, you know, given he has been in quite a number of my Cabinets, and I am awake for most of them—absolutely.

James Shaw: Does he have confidence that if Judith Collins becomes Prime Minister, New Zealand will not wake up one day and find itself tied with Zimbabwe on the Transparency International corruption index?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have absolute confidence in Judith Collins, and I have absolute confidence in all of my caucus and my Cabinet colleagues.

James Shaw: Does he have confidence that if Steven Joyce becomes the finance Minister he will not lose the entire surplus on one of those roulette wheels he gave to Skycity Casino?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Here is a prediction: when the Skycity Auckland Convention Centre opens in, I think it is, 2019, from memory, it will be a sparkling asset used by many convention-dwellers, both internationally and locally. It will not cost a cent of taxpayer or ratepayer money, and, if it is true to form, the Labour Party members, who will still be in Opposition, will be coming over to the opening, just like they did when they objected to the hobbits and so many other things in the past.

James Shaw: Is the real reason that New Zealand’s productivity is so low because every working-age New Zealander has been bored to death listening to Bill English?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If that is his test, then I should introduce him to his own caucus colleagues. Man, they are not exactly people I want to party with when I leave Parliament—let me give you a clue. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I dealt with the showing of those visual aids by New Zealand First earlier. If it continues again from any of those members, they will be leaving the Chamber. I do not want to have to issue that warning again.

James Shaw: Now that he knows who his likely successors are, is he tempted to turn round and say: “Actually, Bill, I’ve changed my mind.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Definitely not. As I said on Monday, it has been a great privilege to be Prime Minister of New Zealand for the last 8 years and to lead such a fantastic Cabinet and caucus. I am immensely proud of what this Government has achieved, but, as I said on Monday, I have called time on my own political career, and I will not be turning back on that decision.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: In his long and successful tenure as Prime Minister over the last 8 years in this House, does he recall a day when the Greens have put more effort into their questions?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but it is good to see that they are getting the hang of it, because they are going to be asking questions for a very long time.

‘Incompetent Opposition’

On Paul Henry this morning Winston Peters said:

“No doubt about it, you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due … But he had extraordinary luck, including an incompetent opposition. I wish him all the best and his family all the best.”

Successful people usually make their own good luck – and deal competently with bad luck.

The GFC and the earthquakes and Pike River were hardly good luck.

But did Peters really mean that Key was lucky to have an incompetent Opposition?

Doesn’t Peters at other times see himself as effectively the leader of the Opposition?

Since Key has been Prime Minister there have been four Labour leaders of the Opposition, Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little.

Peters has outlasted the first three of them, and probably considers Little’s five years in parliament and two years as leader piffling compared to his political career that dates back to 1978, the last 23 years as leader of NZ First.

Key’s exit will possible give Peters a new lease of life, but each of those must be getting harder for him, he has had plenty.

Even Winston’s grandstanding in Parliament has been waning. Some people still like him, quite a few, but he probably described himself to an extent when he referred to incompetent opposition.

Leader’s responses

Andrew Little was quick to respond to John Key’s resignation announcement via Twitter:

That’s a gracious and respectable off the cuff reaction. And on Facebook:

Although we have our differences on policy, John Key has served this country generously and with dedication. I called him this afternoon to wish him and his family the best.

Metiria Turei put more politics and herself into her response.

A more considered response from Greens co-leader James Shaw:

Green Party statement on resignation of the Prime Minister

The Green Party wishes to extend its best wishes to the Prime Minister, following his resignation today.

“On behalf of Metiria, the Green Party MPs and the Party, I would like to thank John Key for his eight years of service as Prime Minister,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“No matter your political allegiance, you have to respect someone who chooses to make the personal sacrifices required to be our country’s Prime Minister.

“I would like to pass along our best wishes to him for whatever his future holds, and to his wife, Bronagh, and children Stephie and Max as well, who I’m sure have made many sacrifices of their own.

“Being the leader of a major political party, and indeed the country, is not an easy job; Mr Key should be applauded for his commitment to public service and to New Zealand,” said Mr Shaw.

Māori Party acknowledges John Key

Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell
Māori Party Co-Leaders

The Māori Party will always be grateful to John Key for making a space at the table of his Government for a kaupapa Māori Party.

“It has been under the leadership of John Key that the Māori Party has been able to secure gains for Maori and advance kaupapa Māori over the past eight years,” said Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

“We may not have agreed on everything but we’ve always maintained a respectful relationship with the Prime Minister and he with us,” said Mr Flavell.

“We’ve had some tough talks on many issues but at the end of the day, respect for each other prevailed and that’s why he has always seen us as a party that governments can work with,” said Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox.

“We’re all about whānau in the Māori Party, so we understand and support Mr Key’s call to return to his family and be with them more.”

Both co-leaders were confident that the new Prime Minister would continue the mana-enhancing relationship between the National Party and the Māori Party.

“It’s up to the National Party to decide who will lead them now. The Māori Party will work with anyone to advance kaupapa Māori.”

The Act Party:

And a press release:

ACT congratulates John Key

“The ACT Party congratulates John Key on eight years as Prime Minister, and the noble way he has bowed out,” says ACT Leader David Seymour

“Under John’s leadership, the Government has steadfastly maintained New Zealand’s policy settings.  As a result, we remain at the top of almost every international league table for good policy settings. In the long term, all Prime Ministers are judged for the policies they leave behind, and John will be judged well.

“It is a reality of MMP that ACT has played a vital role helping John to become and remain Prime Minister. He thanked me for that this morning. I’d like to thank him on behalf of ACT and its previous leaders for the constructive way we’ve worked together over the past eight years.

“We also extend our warmest regards to Bronagh as the Keys get their lives back after a decade of service to the country.”

Peter Dunne (United Future):

“I’m gonna miss him”.

“I got a call from the Prime Minister about 12.20 this afternoon to inform me and he gave his reasons, as I understand it family, time to move on, time to give a new leader a good chance with the run-in to the election next year etc.

“I admire him for having the courage to make that call, it would have been very easy if his mind was somewhere to have simply carried on for the sake of the party. It’s a huge decision and it’s one I think that no one in their wildest dreams would have imagined happening.

“The test will be just who the new leader is, how that beds down, and what the reaction of New Zealand is. I think most New Zealanders will take a day or two to absorb this, and then they will make a judgement based on what they see the likely new line-up looking like.”

Ex Prime Minister Helen Clark:

 “John Key has worked tirelessly to promote New Zealand and its interests over eight years as Prime Minister. I am personally highly appreciative of the support he has given me as a New Zealander in the international system. I respect his decision to stand down now and spend more time with Bronagh and his children, and I wish him all the best for whatever the future holds.”

Bill English:

John Key’s intelligence, optimism and integrity as Leader of the National Party and Prime Minister of New Zealand means he will be judged by history as one of New Zealand’s greatest leaders, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says.

“On behalf of the National Party, the Government and New Zealand I thank John for his years of dedicated and outstanding service to our country.

“Through good times and bad, his strong leadership has been steadfast and this is a more confident, successful and self-assured country because of his contribution. He has truly made a difference.

“I thank Bronagh, Stephie and Max for the sacrifice they’ve made to enable John to be an extremely successful and effective leader.  We are deeply appreciative.

“While the gap he leaves is huge we understand and respect his decision to step down from a job from which there is no respite.  We wish John and his family every success with their life out of the public eye.

“Under John Key’s leadership the Government has worked alongside New Zealanders to ensure our country is one of the most desirable places to live, work and raise a family in the world.”

The National Caucus will consider the implications of the Prime Minister’s decision and how to ensure New Zealand stays on course to continue building a strong economy, increasing opportunities for our families and businesses, rewarding enterprise and effort, while protecting the most vulnerable.

“It is a tribute to the Prime Minister’s outstanding leadership that he will leave behind a united team with plenty of talent to take New Zealand forward and build on his legacy,” Mr English says.

The worst for last – Winston Peters:

Prime Minister John Key’s announcement today that he is to stand down cannot be credible , or for any reasons he has given, says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“The fact is that the economy is not in the healthy state that the Prime Minister has for so long claimed, and there are other issues which have caused this decision as well.

“The New Zealand public should have been informed of this a long time ago.

“Clearly the Prime Minister does not believe the superficial polls any longer.

“Contrary to certain perceptions the Prime Minister and his Finance Minister are unable to muddy the waters anymore.”

Is he just a bitter old twit, or does he really think that will attract support for NZ First?

Seymour slams Super policies

Act MP David Seymour has slammed ‘baby boomers’ (I’m one of those) that he says will “turn our country into a debt-ridden basket case”.

The Spinoff: NZ baby boomers are building a banana republic, and no one gives a shit

The Treasury has made it clear that current superannuation policies will turn our country into a debt-ridden basket case, and yet media remain largely silent and politicians in denial. Young people need to get voting in a hurry, writes David Seymour.

You could be forgiven for missing that the Treasury published its four-yearly Long-term Fiscal Outlook this week (please, please stay with me, I promise this is worth it). The gist of the report is the same as the previous two editions:

If no policy changes are made, by 2060, when current students reach retirement age, government debt will be 206 per cent of GDP.

No matter how well you prepare for retirement, you’ll be living in a banana republic.

No, it’s unlikely to be a republic, New Zealand politicians are as reluctant to deal with ditch the monarchy as they are dealing with escalating superannuation costs.

The reason? Ageing baby boomers who will be more numerous and longer-lived in retirement than any generation before them. Right now there are four working-aged taxpayers supporting every retiree, but by the time current university students retire there will be only two.

Probably – unless eating ourselves to earlier deaths reverses the improving life expectancy trends of recent decades.

The cost of pensions and healthcare as a share of the economy will double, the government will run large deficits, and the international financial community will demand higher interest rates on New Zealand government debt, leading to larger deficits.

John Key and Bill English claim the country can afford the huge increases in costs, or they don’t care about leaving the problem for future governments.

The first way of absorbing the change is to raise taxes by about a quarter, so GST becomes nearly 20 per cent and the top tax rate goes over 40 per cent, along with every other rate being increased by the same proportion. People embarking on their careers now would pay a 25 per cent extra “boomer tax” for being born at the wrong time.

There tends to be a bit of resistance to increasing tax rates, especially by this sort of amount.

Another alternative is extreme productivity growth, the private economy grows faster than ever for longer than ever, and public services become more efficient than ever. We basically trade our way out of this situation and become so rich we can afford all-you-can-eat pensions and healthcare for retiring boomers.

This is the Key/English gamble.

The problem is that pensions are tied to income so getting wealthier just increases the amount paid out.

The final option is to adjust pension entitlements. Follow Australia, the US, UK, Germany, Canada, to name a few, who have increased the retirement age so there are more workers and fewer pension recipients.

Seymour laments the lack of media coverage of the report and the predicted problems – but people have been shouting  about Super unaffordability for a long time, but politician’s ears are deaf to it.

John Key has torpedoed the debate by saying he’d rather resign than raise the pension age, effectively saying to his supporters: choose fiscal sustainability, or me. Labour and the Greens have followed suit, abandoning the policy after the last election. New Zealand First would rather serve yum cha at their party conference than debate the issue.

Almost every political leader is holding their hands up to their ears and chanting, “la la la la la.”

Peter Dunne tried to force a re-evaluation of Super in the last term of the current Government, proposing ‘flexi-super’, but English and Key looked like having no intention of  acting on the ‘discussion document’ that was done as part of their confidence and supply agreement with United Future.

If NZ First holds the balance of power after next year’s election there is now way Winston will allow any cutting back of Super payments for his primary constituency.

National under Key’s leadership is committed to kicking the Super can down the road.

Unless ACT gets a few more seats and is in a balance of power situation and forces National to do something?

That may be what Seymour is angling at.

To have any hope of success I think that Act and Seymour will have to promote Super change (not ‘discussion’) as a core election policy, and they will have to win enough seats to be able to force Key’s hand.

If Act succeeds in the election then the choice may be National+Act with Super reform, or National+NZ First with a booming Super budget with a risk of our economy blowing up (after Winston has retired or died so he won’t care).

I think Seymour has the gumption to have a go at this. Would he get enough support? Will younger people start to vote for Act to try to sort out their not so Super prospects?

Winston Trump

It’s not surprising to see Winston peters trying to piggy back off Donald Trump’s success in the US.

Yahoo: Peters vows to `tip over the trough’

The NZ First leader is outraged because former cabinet minister Tony Ryall has been appointed chairman of Transpower after being a board member since May.

Mr Peters initially said Mr Ryall had been appointed to the board of Trustpower but later changed that to Transpower.

Mr Peters published a list of seven appointments of former MPs and said there had been many more.

“The real issue here, with some exceptions, is how many had no qualifications for these positions,” he said.

“Many of these candidates leave parliament quoting `fresh challengers’ and `new opportunities’ but come back to dip into the public purse.

“New Zealand First intends to tip their trough upside down.”

New Zealand could do with a fresh new face in politics who is prepared to challenge those who have sought and benefited from the baubles of power.

Jeeriatric try hards may have more limited appeal.

NZ lessons from US election

There’s a lot to be learned from the US campaign and election, including here in New Zealand.

Andrew Little is nowhere near being seen as an establishment alternative, and Labour+Greens are campaigning on being a different flavour of same old. Metiria Turei and especially James Shaw don’t stand out as the alternative the masses want.

Winston Peters is trying hard to ride the Trump wave here, and he does have a maverick aspect, but you can’t get much more “same old” and part of the political establishment as Peters.

And while Peters says a lot how much has he actually done this century apart from benefiting from a few baubles and giving pensioners free transport in some areas (not in the regions he claims to champion).

Peters achieved a lot in winning the Northland by-election, but what has he achieved there since? He can hardly campaign there next year on being something different for the far north.

But if National wants to hold their edge in next year’s election they need to do far more than sit on their comfortable economy.

There is growing dissatisfaction with the growing disparity between low and middle income earners. The Prime Minister and all MPs have just had another pay rise of 2.5%, backdated to July – who else gets backdated pay rises these days?

Last year MPs received an increase between 3 and 4 percent after a law change aligning their salaries with public sector pay rises.

This is well ahead of ordinary people’s wage growth. It is indexed to high earners rather than average earners. This indicates the wage gap is widening.

The Government ignores this and other growing areas of dissatisfaction at their peril.

Incremental ‘steady as she goes’ has been rejected in Britain and in the US.The people of the Western world are becoming increasingly restless and increasingly annoyed at ‘the establishment’.

Are Key and English capable of being bold reformists? Or will they dice with danger and bank on being returned because they might be a bit better than the other lot?

Once dissatisfaction with the incumbent government sets in it can be very difficult to combat.