Roger Douglas

Labour celebrates their first government 80 years ago – has one more party on the political Titanic

This weekend Labour celebrates the first time they formed a government 80 years ago. It is nearly their 100th birthday as well and there isn’t that much to celebrate.

A dinner to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the election of the first ever Labour Government will bring together a potentially explosive mix of people as some of the Rogernomes return to their original home for some reminiscing.

The dinner at Parliament is organised by current MP Stuart Nash, the grandson of the Prime Minister in the Second Labour Government: Sir Walter Nash.

It is to mark the anniversary of the election of the first Labour Government in 1935, under then Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage.

The 100 guests attending include Sir Roger Douglas, the architect of the Rogernomics reforms who later founded the Act Party, and Michael Bassett, another backer of those reforms and minister of the fourth Labour Government. Sir Roger’s nemesis Jim Anderton was unable to attend.   Read more »

Rodney Hide on poll driven fruit cakes

Rodney Hide explains at NBR about how it is polls and polling that drive politics now, not policies.

Policy is now made by public feel. Every decision is open to review and reversal especially if the pushback is from middle voters.

And it works. Prime Minister John Key remains wildly popular and National is well ahead in the polls.

There was a time when government was idealised as rational, with the aim to deliver the best policy backed by a political resolve not to blink and with the benefits to be achieved, or at least understood, by the time of the next election.

It was never such but that was the ideal aspired to. It was what public servants were taught if not what they practised. And it was what politicians admired even if they themselves never quite possessed the needed intellectual grunt to grasp policy options and implications or the necessary political fortitude to stand and argue for sound policy. They nonetheless admired the ideal and followed it when there was political leadership.

That was back a time. This is now.

We have never had a better demonstration of policy by public feel than with Mr Key.

There are no bottom lines. There are no decisions that can’t be overturned. There are no guiding policy principles or political philosophy.

It’s policy management, not policy reform.

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Josie Pagani on Andrew Little’s challenges

Josie Pagani has some sound advice for Andrew Little.

I bet he doesn’t listen though, but he really needs to.

How many times have we seen shots of Labour party leaders declaring unity while standing in front of caucus members, smiling the kind of smile you produce by sucking air through your teeth?

Labour doesn’t need more protests of unity. It needs more open debate.

People used to join the Labour party for the policy fights. A contest of ideas was how you sorted  good ideas from bad. Achievements like paid parental leave and the nuclear free policy were achieved only after advocates won the argument; Unity was earned by debate, not by shutting debate down and pretending there was no diversity of opinion on these issues.

You can’t have a contest of ideas unless you accept into the fold people with a range of views, and celebrate ideological breadth. Bill Rowling and David Lange were both early sceptics of the nuclear free policy; yet today publicly arguing for a minority position within the party is mistaken for disloyalty.

So Andrew Little’s first challenge is to change this culture.

That is so true. Labour has this tug the forelock, doff the cloth cap, kneel in obeisance to the leader mentality that was beaten into them by Helen Clark and her stasi-like control of internal party debate. Those attitudes now need to be beaten out of them.

The 600,000 people who voted Labour a few months ago had nothing to do with this leadership contest. Most didn’t care because the election purported to be a contest between fifty shades of beige:  ‘fairness’ and ‘opportunity for all’ as if anyone in Labour is in favour of unfairness and opportunity only for a wealthy few.

The exception was David Parker and Andrew Little differing over capital gains tax and the retirement age. Andrew Little wants to jettison Labour’s election policies on those issues. He will now have to respond to Parker’s question – if not a CGT, then what? Not forgetting the CGT is more popular in the polls than Labour right now.

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Guest Post – Douglas wrong about National

A guest post from Lindsay Mitchell.


Making some otherwise sound recommendations to his old party, Labour, Sir Roger Douglas made this statement:

 “National’s do-nothing, status-quo approach to economic and social policy provides Labour with a real opportunity to get back up on its feet.”

In the last six years National has done more to address working-age welfare dependence than Labour did in the prior nine.

A Labour supporter would reject my claim on the basis that numbers on the unemployment benefit took a nosedive over their incumbency. That’s true. Work and Income put enormous effort into those on an unemployment benefit, and Labour luckily oversaw an economic boom (giving them full credit for which is as questionable as blaming National for the GFC.)

But chronic welfare dependence, a crippling social and economic issue for New Zealand, lies in the other main benefits:  pre-reform they were the DPB  and Sickness/Invalid benefits combined.

In 2009, National set up the Welfare Working Group, and from there, commissioned the Taylor Fry actuarial work which exposed where long-term reliance is concentrated. The revelation that teen parents and other young beneficiaries entering the system at 16 or 17 would stay there the longest was no surprise.

Through the early 2000s, while only 2-3 percent of the DPB total at any given time was teenagers, between a third and a half of all recipients had begun on welfare aged under twenty. Throughout Labour’s administration I argued that average stays on welfare were much longer than government issued figures. Point-in-time data produces much longer averages than data collected over a period of time, but it suited Labour politically to use the latter data to minimise average stays and downplay dependence.

To understand this statistical phenomena imagine a hospital ward with 10 beds. Nine are occupied year around by chronically ill patients; one is occupied on a weekly basis. At any point-in-time 9 patients have an average stay of 12 months and one, an average stay of one week. But calculated over the year, 85 percent of total patients had an average stay of just 1 week. Equate this to spells on welfare and you can see how long-term dependence can be disguised.

Here is the huge difference between National and Labour.

National looked for what Labour had denied.   Read more »

Guest Post – Thoughts on Labour

A reader and new commenter emails:

Dear Team,

I posted my first comment recently after a long time reading and enjoying the blog (as ‘Reasoned and Rational’). Slowly getting drawn into the vortex ;-)

Some time ago I seem to recall an article which indicated that submissions from readers might be considered if of a suitable standard. I wonder if you’d read through my thoughts below and consider if it meets that standard? If so, please feel free to use it at some time when you have space. If you choose not to, no worries, it’s been fun getting it down in writing.

Best regards,

Reasoned and Rational


I grew up in home with a photo of Michael Joseph Savage on the mantel above the fireplace. My Dad was a working man, and the party ‘we’ supported looked after the interests of the workers, ensured a fair deal from ‘the bosses’, was interested monitoring the terms and conditions of employment, and made sure that there was a safety net in the form of social welfare if something went wrong. Social welfare was to catch you if you fell, and support you until you were back on your feet again. You took personal responsibility for finding work and getting back into it as quickly as possible if circumstances changed.

In the house I grew up in there was a pride in working. My Dad was very unhappy when once I mentioned University as an idea. “That’s just for those that can’t work, boffins and the sons of the bosses” I recall him saying. That certainly didn’t mean that education wasn’t valued, and teachers were respected as providing the route to a better job for me than he’d managed.

Times were different. Unemployment was low. Rob Muldoon once half joked he knew all 70 odd registered unemployed by name. Yes, there were only 70! When I got my first job upon leaving school I was employed not because I was the best man for the job, but for the simple reason I was the only one to reply to the ad.

It was easy to change jobs. Give the boss the two fingered salute on a Friday night, read the ‘Sits Vac’ in Saturday’s Herald and there was a good chance by Tuesday or Wednesday you were starting a new gig. Management trainee jobs were good to get all round experience and were plentiful at the time and amongst many other things I got experience at the Otahuhu freezing works with Hellabys and a timber yard with Henderson and Pollard.

My first five elections were all votes cast for Labour, as much out of habit and conditioning as anything else. I was more interested in what was happening on Saturday night than the long term future of the country.

By the end of that fifth election though, I was out the other end of an apprenticeship, married and watching the sense of disbelief and betrayal that the Lange/Douglas Labour government wrought on my father. He never cast another vote for Labour as long as he lived. He could never vote National so he became one of Winston’s supporters.     Read more »

Using tax cuts to revive the economy – How the poms see NZ

The opposition likes to talk down the economy and the government, yet New Zealand has recovered faster than the rest of the world from the global financial crisis, without the need to slash and burn.

Our economy is the envy of the world.

Even the Poms see that:

In New Zealand, John Key’s National Party romped home to victory on a platform of cutting taxes and balancing the budget, trouncing a Labour opposition that promised to put up taxes. Slashing the top rate of tax has revived the economy, and been rewarded with electoral success as well. True, there are lots of differences between New Zealand and this country. And yet the truth is, there are a fair few similarities as well – and if tax cuts can work there, they can work here.

For a small place a long way from anywhere, New Zealand has a fine history of leading the way with radical experiments in economics. While we were battling over Thatcherism, and the Americans were debating Reagan-omics, the Kiwis had “Rogernomics”, created by the Labour finance minister Roger Douglas. What had been a very 1970s, state-dominated mixed economy was swiftly transformed under Douglas into a laboratory for free market ideas. Financial markets were deregulated, the money supply was brought under tight control, the currency was floated, and industries were privatised. It was a mix that was to become orthodoxy by the 1990s, but Douglas was implementing it while our Labour Party was still planning to nationalise the top 100 companies.

Now it is doing it again – except this time without any encouragement from the US or the UK. Ever since the financial crash of 2008, even centre-Right governments have followed a very narrow path, buying into high taxes, and near-zero interest rates, and allowing budget deficits to balloon, even when financed by printed money, to keep the economy afloat. No one has strayed far from the orthodoxy. Except, that is, New Zealand.

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A Guest Post – Oppose oppose oppose!

Frances Denz writes:

And like many New Zealanders I hate it!  It switches me off.  I stop listening to constant negativity and whining.  It doesn’t work in a marriage and doesn’t work in elections either.

Many years ago in another life, I stood for Labour Women’s Council.  I had to give a speech from the stage with all the other contestants.  Without exception they stood up and whinged – in this case opposing Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble.  There were no hope, no dreams, no goals in their hearts or their speech.

My heart was in my boots as I got up to make only my third speech in public.  Was I going to do the same as them and grizzle and whine?  No, I was going to outline my vision for the positive things I was going to do as their representative.  And every time I made a positive statement I felt myself losing brownie points.  If there had been a “worm” measuring the opinions I would have scored bottom I thought.  The opinion leaders were very hostile to my positivity – I was supposed to prove I could oppose. I thought I had no chance, but I wasn’t going to change my speech which predicated that  we could create a better country with positive action and vision.

I lost.  But not completely as I became the second highest candidate, and when the winner later resigned, I was appointed anyway.  Curiously enough I saw this as a failure but on reflection I realise it was a success as the negative opinion leaders did not win in the long run.   Read more »

Anyone want a rug of dud politicians

Some wag is selling a rug of dud politicians…the cabinet of the 1984 Lange government…complete with a mustachioed Phil Goff who is still in parliament.

dudrug

The good guys on this rug are Roger Douglas and Michael Bassett…the rest are useless, or dead which is a moderate improvement on useless since they can’t do anymore harm.

unbelievable that Phil Goff is still there after 30 years.

Trotter goes all in, Cunliffe a Walter Mitty character

Chris Trotter has gone all in…I sense he is sniffing there is serious trouble inside the Labour party and in particular with David Cunliffe.

One News last night mentioned results of a poll in relation to Winston Peters so I suspect we will be drip fed information and other poll results over the weekend. Over he past 4 weeks there have been a number of polls and none of them are good for Labour and Cunliffe.

My Labour sources are telling me that the rumblings in caucus are pronounced and whatever supporters Cunliffe did have are fast evaporating as their own internal polling shows zero movement, even after major policy announcements.

Chris Trotter is a bellwether for strife in Labour…he is sensing it.

WE’LL ALL HAVE TO WAIT for Sunday’s One News bulletin to discover whether or not the results of the Fairfax Ipsos and Roy Morgan polls are confirmed by Colmar Brunton. If they are then David Cunliffe will have to act swiftly and decisively if he’s to preserve what little remains of Labour’s hopes for victory.

If he fails to act, then the narratives being constructed around his leadership will harden into perceived facts that he will find increasingly difficult to escape.

There are rumours, but I’ve heard those rumours before and they’ve been wrong, so will wait for the results. I suspect though that Labour and National know so I will watch for posts on blogs framing the talking points.

What are those narratives? There are many, but for the moment these are the two most damaging.

The first asserts that while Cunliffe undoubtedly won the support of his party in 2013, he singularly failed to win the support of his caucus. That failure is forcing him to tread with exaggerated caution around his parliamentary colleagues in an attempt to maintain a facade of party unity.

The Leader of the Opposition’s and his advisers’ preoccupation with unity is now extending that caution into the realm of policy with the result that Cunliffe’s campaign promises to enshrine Labour’s core values at the heart of the party’s 2014 manifesto are beginning to ring hollow.  Read more »

1984 Snap Election