I predict that Chris Carter isn’t a big enough jerk to actually betray his (former, certainly?) friends in the Labour caucus and out them as anti-Goff conspirators, but he is a big enough jerk to try and sabotage the party’s conference this weekend with further attacks against Phil Goff.
October 12, 2010
September 17, 2010
So what happened to the opposition?
In Labour’s case I think it was Goff’s super-conservative, zero-risk leadership style. If he opposed the CERRA and denounced it as a power grab then the government would have accused him of abandoning the people of Canterbury. Risk. Risk. Risk. It might have cost him popularity in Christchurch going into the Mayoral race and by-election. Canterbury based Labour MPs might even have crossed the floor – and then Goff’s leadership looks even weaker. It’s typical of modern-day Labour that not a single MP broke ranks and defied the most ineffectual opposition leader I’ve seen in my lifetime.
Once Labour supports CEERA the Greens are in a terrible position. The media would have ripped them to pieces: ‘The only party to vote against the struggling people of Canterbury citing some silly nonsense about a dictatorship – when even the Labour Party supported the bill unanimously.’
But the Greens are a small party – they don’t have to worry about widespread public opinion. Their voter pool overlaps with Labour’s and the Labour supporters are incandescent with rage about their party betraying them. People who are angry about the CEERA have nowhere to take their vote.
Sure, Paul Henry would have told mean jokes about the Greens and John Armstrong would have written a withering column but they don’t speak to potential Green votes. To use an old cliché their vote was worse than a crime – it was a mistake. When they inevitable abuses roll in they would have been the only party in a strong position to condemn them.
Meanwhile, back in the real world Christchurch had another night of aftershocks – they seem almost calculated to cause as much psychological trauma as possible.
September 1, 2010
“I think they should acknowledge that taxpayers across New Zealand are putting their hands in their pockets to the tune of $1.6 billion to honour a promise made with a business that’s actually gone broke. There’s a lot of other things we could have used that $600m for and I would hope that the depositors and the people who are supporting the company are grateful for the support of the New Zealand taxpayer because without that support Timaru and south Canterbury could have ended up $600m out of pocket. I would expect to hear a bit more from that community about their acknowledgement of that taxpayer support.”
Finance Minister Bill English, on the Hubbard supporters who seem to think that SCF’s business plan of taking investors money and lending it at zero interest to people who didn’t qualify for bank loans would have been a winner if the government hadn’t stepped in and ruined everything by paying them all their money back plus 8% interest.
August 19, 2010
There was an instance recently where he was extremely angry at my staff,
characterised by shouting abuse in offices and also as he
stormed up and down the corridor After this occurred, Peter
Keenan tried to calm the situation by telling staff “not to take it
personally; Rodney had just come back from the gym and was
all ‘pumped up’”.
Heather Roy’s leaked Caucus document, providing an insight into the management style of the ACT leader and Minister for Local Government.
July 16, 2010
That’s the question Brian Easton asks and attempts to answer in a discussion paper he recently posted on his site.
My glib answer to this would be that mostly what the government is doing is getting relected and that they know how to do this very well, thank you, but Brian’s focus is on the policy direction and the drivers of policy development within the government. I recommend reading the whole thing but I’m excerpting this section on business as a driver of policy because it’s something I’ve ranted about on a regular basis but never managed to articulate this well:
The business community – especially the Auckland business community – are Key’s friends, his community, and major funders of the National Party. Their account of the world forms a foundation in his and the government’s thinking, even if outcomes do not always meet their expectations.
(National continues to have a rural base, but while it continues to be supportive, Auckland is given greater support, and there appears to be growing rural disenchantment.)
The ABC is not the same thing as the Business Roundtable. It was once, but most serious businesses no longer belong to it, and many of the business people I meet are dismissive of it as having passed its time. The BRT remains vocal, and it is influential on the ACT Party. Sometimes its views align with that of the ABC, although one businessman told me that they were embarrassed when the BRT did, because it turned off the rest of the polity. (I know the feeling.)
The ABC are not the cowboys that ran finance companies. They are mainly people who run real businesses well and New Zealand is the better off for them. They have no representative organisation, although there are other those which sometimes reflect their view – such as the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and the Herald. Think of it more as a network of like-minded people, often with similar problems, who meet in all sorts of venues and in the business pages. Out of this discussion evolves a common view.
I agree with Roger Kerr, executive director of the BRT, that it is rare for someone to be a good business manager and a good economist – although given the ones he has mentioned (always members of the BRT you will observe), it is much rarer combination than he thinks.
Yet business is vitally dependent upon the economy, so it is inevitable that the business community will have a view of it. Where it directly connects with their business they can be very perceptive. As an economic issue becomes less directly connected with their business and more contextual, their insights become – shall we say – aspirational. Their political judgement is hardly better. The ABC’s basic vision is that if you look after business then everything else will come right too, although just what ‘right’ means is vague. Of course we should ensure that business functions well. But that does not mean that looking after business is the ultimate policy objective and business becomes the end in itself, not the means to the end.
Business ends are only part of the way we pursue the goal of the nation; sometimes business cannot have what it wants because that does not contribute to the desired end. That also means that sometimes business models are not the best way of pursuing things. Business does not always understand this.
So the ABC tends to pursue a narrow self-focussed policy agenda. Sometimes it is reasonably effective as with the tax cuts and the ACC changes, and sometimes it takes the government down a track which with hindsight it wishes it had not gone.
The confluence of ACT’s Rodney Hide being Minister of Local Government and Key’s natural empathy with the ABC, meant that initially the government followed the business community’s prescription for the reform of Auckland local government; that where it was not possible to shift the decision into corporate-like agencies which was based upon a business model – then the rump should be managed by a Mayor with powers similar to a corporate chief executive. While there has been some watering down towards a more democratic form of governance, this business-based model for Auckland is still the framework.
Add the ACT propensity to crash through – which in the past has far too often led to crashes. What we have here is all the characteristics which marked the great health redisorganisation of the early 1990s. We await a far from successful – but very expensive – outcome. I dont know what will happen in the local body elections – my main source of Auckland news is the Herald, which is hardly unbiased – but we can expect many expensive systems failures after it.
It is not the only case of the government starting out along the ABC line and has to change course because its voters dont like it. You get a good sense of the disappointment of the ABC from the Herald columnist Fran O’Sullivan who constantly berates the government for not pursuing the business community’s agenda. Her sub-theme is that Key is one of them, but he is too timid to take the course he – and they – believe in. That the public is not as enamoured with the business agenda as business is; that democracy gets in the way of a pressure group pursuing its self interest does not seem to have occurred to Ms O’Sullivan.
A key element of the business agenda is the demand to catch up with Australia – in per capita GDP terms by 2025. We had the ineffective – and largely ACT driven – committee chaired by Don Brash, which made various policy recommendations of benefit to the business community, claiming that it would accelerate economic growth without providing a skerrick of empirical evidence of the effectiveness of their policies.
In fact any orthodox economic analysis shows that there is little chance that we can meet the target. Ironically, the proposed policies are a continuation for the policies which were administered during, and caused, the Rogernomics Recession, which put us so far behind Australia. That is the reason the committee was unable to provide empirical for the effectiveness of its policies, the evidence from the past points to their failure rather than success.
Catching up to Australia is an aspiration, not a policy. As English said, National had no policy in opposition, and it hoped that the officials would find it one. For a quarter of a century officials have been thinking about the objective, had advised previous governments on how to accelerate economic growth relative to the rest of the world, but with little success. Which should not surprise us; if a policy to accelerate economic growth worked it would be adopted by every other country, everyone would grow faster and no-one would catch up.
Why the focus on GDP per capita? The one group in New Zealand who are closest to direct beneficiaries of material economic growth is the business sector. In the long run the profit rate is roughly equal to the growth of GDP. Profits are the objective of business. By arguing for a higher growth rate, it is arguing for a higher profit rate. They may want to have a high profit rate, but that does not mean it should be the ultimate objective of government. Business is a means to an end, not the end in itself.
July 9, 2010
Due to the demise of the Independent the Dim-Post is proud to announce it will be publishing occasional columns by the left-wing political commentator and author Chris Trotter.
So “Party Central” is no longer central to the party that is central to the party at the centre of our party politics.
Am I the only Kiwi who experiences tightness in my jaw and a numb feeling in my left-arm when I contemplate the disarray that has befallen Auckland governance? From the real New Zealanders of the western suburbs to the lesbians and traitors of the so-called educated classes of the North Shore to the mud races of South Auckland to the ancien regime Maori elite of Paratai Drive we have all supped from the golden poison chalice of satanic robot run regional and local government only to find ourselves regaining conciousness yet again in our neighbour’s toolshed with our clothes drenched in urine.
I know I am not the only one. I know we all feel this way. We do.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Millions of years ago when the working class astronomer Charles Darwin discovered New Zealand and founded the Workers Collective of Auckland the waterfront was a taonga that Maori were forbidden to visit and they respected that and knew their place. It was the radical right-wing feminist government of William Massey that spread open the labile pink floodgates of change and swept away the egalitarian order in a wave of capitalist frenzy, separatist Maori entitlement and so-called-women who threaten to press charges because that is what their liberal puppetmasters at our elitist universities have brainwashed them to do.
Like most real New Zealanders I yearn for the days when our great little country was ruled by stocky, moustached trade-unionists but I fear that those days are gone forever, swept away by a great wave that swept everything away like a wave.
No, the party is no longer central. The Maori saw to that with their Treaty Claims and so-called ‘Maori Language’ and the kids these days with their vampire novels and smart mouths and the $300 dollar running shoes.
But just as true is that the centre is no longer party and that is it’s tragedy and our own.
May 25, 2010
It’s a little like In Rainbows or The Trials of van Occupanther – the first time you hear it its nothing special but repeated listening pays off big time.
The video for Bloodbuzz Ohio is a deadpan parody of 90s singer-songwriter music videos. I hate to be one of those bloggers that posts youtube music videos but here we are:
May 23, 2010
One of the better articles about Craig Venter’s new synthetic bacteria:
To distinguish their synthetic genome from the naturally occurring version, the researchers encoded a series of watermarks into the sequence. They began by developing a code for writing the English alphabet, as well as punctuation and numbers, into the language of DNA–a decoding key is included in the sequence itself. Then they wrote in their names, a few quotations, and the address for a website people can visit if they successfully crack the code.
The absence of these features in naturally occurring DNA is yet another argument against the intelligent design hypothesis.
The synthetic genome is an impressive feat of biology but I’m not sure its the breakthrough we’ve been hearing about. Recombinant DNA technology has been around for a while (the Nobel for it was awarded in 1978) and that gives you the ability to tailor make recombinant cells that express particular proteins. The tricky part isn’t modifying the DNA of the cells (we get our undergraduate students to do that in third year labs) but understanding the protein structure and interactions.
Building a cell that can replicate itself it pretty impressive but building a cell that can (say) be injected into a mammal without triggering an immune response is going to be much, much harder.
May 18, 2010
It’s incredible when you stop and think about it. The National Party:
- Campaigned on a promise to lower taxes for middle and upper income New Zealanders.
- Cut taxes for upper income New Zealanders as soon as they got into office.
- Cancelled the tax cuts for middle income New Zealanders in their first budget on the grounds that the country could not afford them.
- Will introduce a second budget giving upper income New Zealanders one of the largest tax cuts in history, paid for by a GST increase that breaks yet another election promise.
Surely any opposition leader worth the name would have a field day with this. So what was Phil Goff talking about on Q & A this Sunday?
GUYON Fruit and yoghurt – GST or not?
PHIL No fresh fruit and vegetables, it’s easily definable that’s why we’re doing it.
GUYON Well what about the example that Paul Holmes gave in the introduction about salted peanuts versus unsalted peanuts?
PHIL No, anything that’s processed is out.
May 17, 2010
Matthew Yglesias is not impressed with the new Robin Hood movie starring Australian actor Russell Crowe:
Wow. What a mess. Remember when Ridley Scott directed good movies? Among other things, this film features the bizarre decision to do an interpretation of Robin Hood who (a) is not called “Robin Hood,” (b) doesn’t steal from the rich to give to the poor, (c) doesn’t live in Sherwood Forest, and (d) doesn’t fight with the Sheriff of Nottingham. Instead you get a boring and historically confused account of the First Baron’s War.
Not a movie I was likely to see anyway but the subject reminds me of that 80s British TV series Robin of Sherwood in which Robin Hood worshiped England’s pre-Christian Celtic Gods, ran through forests in slow motion to Clannad songs and (if my memory is correct) had Ray Winstone as one of his merry men. Anyone watched this recently? How’s it dated?