January 31, 2012
January 30, 2012
The first is the proliferation of religious leaders denouncing homosexuality who turn out to be closeted gay men. The second is the inclination for companies and other organisations to grant their executives vast pay increases irrespective of their performance.
Maybe these things are linked in some occult yet powerful way.
January 28, 2012
But while China is a rising economic super-power and a close trade partner of New Zealand, it’s also a totalitarian military dictatorship. People are allowed to feel apprehensive about such a state building its own vertical supply chains within the New Zealand economy without being labeled xenophobic and racist.
January 27, 2012
Revenue Minister Peter Dunne says the Government will be forced to look at how it can tighten the tax system if the global economy deteriorates further.
For the first time yesterday, Prime Minister John Key conceded he might have to drop plans to return the Government’s books to the black by 2014-15.
In his first major speech for the year, he said the slowing global economy and the European debt crisis had forced Treasury to cut the expected surplus to less than $500 million from the $1.5 billion tipped before the election.
If the outlook worsened before the May Budget, more may have to be done to return the books to surplus or the target dropped altogether.
Dunne this morning said a global recession would force the Government to look at plugging tax loopholes, clamp down on tax avoidance and ensure the system was coherent and consistent.
How things change. Just a month before the election Treasury openly scoffed at the naysayers doubting their insanely optimistic growth projections. And when Labour insisted they could raise revenue by cracking down on tax avoidance, the National government just laughed.
The [Labour] party believes it can raise $300 million a year in additional tax with new anti-avoidance measures, a forecast greeted sceptically in a number of quarters, including the Beehive.
Finance Minister Bill English said that figure was very optimistic. National had already pursued “the low-hanging fruit”, he said, by giving the Inland Revenue Department money to enforce tax rules on property investment which were expected to return $800 million a year.
With that done, “there isn’t a whole lot of easy revenue gains left there”, Mr English said.
Some people have complained that there wasn’t enough emphasis on policy during the election campaign – it was sidelined by the RWC and the teapot tape scandal. Given that the policies of the parties were costed predicated on Treasury’s economic forecasts – which discounted the possibility of a European debt crisis, an event that has been regarded as inevitable for roughly eighteen months prior to the election – it’s a damn good thing we didn’t all focus on ‘the policies’, because with the exception of asset sales, capital gains et al, they were impossible fantasies.
January 26, 2012
There’s a cleared up recording of the tea-cup tapes here. To my mind the most intriguing segment is seven minutes in, when Key discusses the prospect of rebuilding the ACT Party with Banks, and the fact that they both find Don Brash ‘strange’. Key is hard to make out, but he then says something like:
that is why when they rang me in the UK [garbled] 15 percent, have a snap election. No.
We know where the mythical 15% came from – Brash’s conservative estimate for ACT’s vote share under his awesome leadership. But who proposed a snap election to the PM? ACT? Brash? Key’s strategists? Key was in the UK for the Royal Wedding, and if you do a New Zealand google search for suggestions for a snap election dating from around this time you get Guyon Espiner enthusiastically endorsing a snap election and Cameron Slater seeding the rumour. Odd combination.
It’s also pretty funny listening to the PM insist – with apparent sincerity – that he never goes negative and never engages in personal attacks. If you watch him during Question Time, it’s very rare for him to take a break from negative, personal attacks to mention his own government or its policies.
January 25, 2012
Fran O’Sullivan casts a skeptical eye at Sir Michael Fay’s bid to keep the Crafer farms in ‘New Zealand hands’ (Fay is a tax resident of Switzerland), and reviews some not-very-ancient history:
The most interesting example of the influence game that I can recall was with the September 1990 sale of Telecom to the US “Baby Bells” consortium for $4.25 billion. Business readers will recall that Fay Richwhite and Co (the merchant bank controlled by Sir Michael and David Richwhite) and the Freightways partners Alan Gibbs and Trevor Farmer effectively pulled the deal together for Bell Atlantic and Ameritech and emerged with minor holdings themselves after the share float.
The Baby Bells consortium was not the highest bidder when the then Labour Government put 49.9 per cent of Telecom on the block. The top bid was said to have come from Australia’s Optus.
But as former Telecom chief executive Peter Troughton revealed in a National Business Review article in 2006, a few days before the final bids were due, “I was informed that a non-conforming bid would be submitted, and that the government might be prepared to accept it.”
Other bidders were given just 24 hours to match the Baby Bells’ bid.
The NBR article also reported former Telecom company secretary Martin Wylie saying the change in the rules of the sale was a bad signal. “It was a Mickey Mouse way of doing things. I was somewhat surprised that a transaction of that size would be treated on that basis.” There was more besides including the failure to put appropriate conditions around the sale of a monopoly network.
Fay has recently banged on about the lack of transparency in the OIO’s handling of the Pengxin application.
But that pales in comparison to the extraordinary manoeuvring over the Telecom sale. The rival bidders were treated appallingly. Optus was outraged that the Government switched its sales plans within days of the announcement. But it did not file for a judicial review of the Government’s decision. It just accepted this was the way business was done under the second (sic, fourth) Labour Government.
Also worth remembering what happened after they bought Telecom. The company was loaded up with debt, which the new owners then paid to themselves as dividends and then flicked the heavily indebted company on, having made a fortune. Every developed country in the world enjoyed a nineties dotcom boom – except us, because we didn’t have the infrastructure, because our telecommunications monopoly couldn’t afford it.
Fay did the same thing with our rail network. There’s no reason to believe he won’t do exactly the same thing here, and that the farms won’t be sold piecemeal to China within a year of Fay purchasing them and gearing them for more debt.
January 21, 2012
Audrey Young starts the year off with a column about David Shearer and his leadership intentions. The alarm bells start to ring a little louder:
Labour may have elected a leader who, like Key, is hard not to like, but Shearer will be quite a different kind of leader.
Shearer is in no rush. He will be bold when he is good and ready to be bold.
Shearer won’t be responding to every issue just because he is asked – in the way that John Key does and Phil Goff did.
For a start, he is not politically dexterous enough to do so. And having so little experience, he doesn’t have the institutional knowledge of the party or politics generally.
His political compass will be grounded more in values than old Labour traditions.
He will be more positive generally. He will not automatically oppose. He will be measured.
This sounds incredibly similar to Phil Goff’s leadership style. Goff did take some stands: asset sales, obviously; trivialities like the sale of the Crown BMWs, but usually on issues that were damaging to his credibility, with no political upside – like the dispute over whether the SIS briefed him on some alleged Israeli spies. But in general his response to controversial issues and questions was to keep his head down and agree with whatever John Key said. (The canonical example: Key went on Tony Vietch’s radio show and talked about which celebrities he thought were hot. This kicked off a row about sexism, Goff was asked for comment, and replied that he liked the same babes as the Prime Minister, but also his own wife.) Goff very rarely engaged with National or the PM on points of controversy or substance.
The thinking behind this approach was outlined by John Pagani, Goff’s strategic advisor:
They’re waiting for Labour to demonstrate it genuinely understands their needs – and that means endorsing more of what National is doing – the things the voting public approves of.Every time Labour attacks policies and a government that voters generally approve of they alienate themselves further from potential supporters who are swinging between Labour and National.
Insisting the public is wrong is a recipe for even more disaster. Attacking constructive things the government is doing is exactly the wrong option.If anything, Labour should be pursuing more of a consensus approach, so that it can own more of the right direction.
January 18, 2012
I missed this. Via Tim Watkin, who writes on the Inside New Zealand child poverty doco:
Scoop reports that NZOA board member Stephen McElrea raised concerns about this screening several days earlier, on November 17. Seemingly under the misapprehension this was a comedy rather than a documentary, McElrea wrote to the NZOA Chair and CEO, “To me, it falls into the area of caution we show about political satire near elections.”
NZOA’s policy seems to be that no political satire will be produced in New Zealand in the three year period immediately before or after a general election.
January 17, 2012
John Hartevelt wonders if Labour will address the style/existence of Red Alert, the Labour Party’s blog in their revamp of the party.
Red Alert is mostly a train-wreck. Yet some of their MPs get it: Grant Robertson, Phil Twyford and David Cunliffe all seem to understand the basic principles, and write pretty good stuff. Cunliffe’s blogging on the 2011 budget was a text-book example of what an opposition blog should be.
I think the idea Labour needs to grasp is that writing a blog is a form of public communications – the media (and many others) read it and they’ll turn it around into a story if its newsworthy. It’s like sending out a press release, or giving a media conference.
Now, I’m pretty sure that if Clare Curran wanted to send a press release to all the media telling them she thought they were terrible at their jobs, or if Darien Fenton wanted to call a press conference and encourage the nation to boycott the Mad Butcher, there would be processes within the party that stopped them doing that. But for some reason they can just jump on their blog and say whatever they want.
So I’d keep Red Alert, but fold it into the general communications strategy. That means planning. Oversight. Co-ordination. If the leader announces a policy on the same day Trevor Mallard blogs that he’s waxed off all his body-hair to decrease his wind resistance, the latter will be what leads the news. Labour’s MPs have been very slow to grasp this.
If I were them I’d stop issuing press releases and make Red Alert the primary communications tool for the party. But if they can’t control it they need to scrap it.
January 15, 2012
Matt McCarten joins the chorus of voices from the left demanding that Len Brown and the Labour Party speak up on behalf of the Maritime Workers Union in their dispute with the Ports of Auckland.
I don’t know why the political left is silent on this issue – but I’ll throw a cynical idea out there. Maybe Shearer, Brown et al haven’t spoken out on this issue because it happened over the summer holidays, when everyone’s away and all the polling companies are closed down. They don’t know what the public thinks about the issue and they can’t find out for another week or so – so they don’t know whether defending the union is a good idea or not.
Eventually they’ll have some meaningful data, and if enough people side with the wharfies then our politicians can show courage and leadership and side with them too.