A kick in the balls and bloody nose on the way through

Yesterday’s foray into parliament didn’t go so well for the opposition.

Labour were cock-a-hoop, emboldened by the living embodiment of the new Christ figure who leads them. They were helped by an inept performance by Eric Roy.

However their much vaunted insurance policy got panned and then destroyed.

Audrey Young at the NZ Herald reports:

David Cunliffe called John Key’s question stupid, Bill English called David Cunliffe’s new state insurance company idea dumb, and Winston Peters called himself brilliant.

They couldn’t all be right.

With the Speaker away running the New York marathon, Cunliffe still fizzing from his strident speech at the annual conference, and National anxious to puncture Labour’s mood, there had to be a stoush in Parliament’s Question Time yesterday.

Cunliffe started off well but came away with a bloody nose – the answer he gave to what he called Key’s “stupid question” turned out to be wrong itself.

They were arguing about Labour’s new policy to set up a state-owned insurance company, KiwiAssure, as a sister operation to Kiwibank within NZ Post.

Labour says it will reduce the dominance of overseas-owned insurers, keep profits in New Zealand, and bring competition, flexibility and choice to New Zealanders.

Cunliffe implied that National’s opposition to the policy is because it received big donations from the insurance industry in 2005 and attempted to table the Hollow Men documentary on the Nicky Hager book. ?

It was sad and pathetic watching David Cunliffe tout a book written from stolen emails. Claiming that a donation in 2005 has influenced a policy direction in 2013 is really clutching at straws.

Finance Minister Bill English said the idea of a bank taking on more insurance risk “is about the dumbest proposal that could possibly be made in the light of events following the global financial crisis.”

“We have already got the bill for $7 billion of Earthquake Commission risk. Why would we take on more?”

It was glorious day outside but English was having none of that. “Having low-income people working in the rain, paying their PAYE and underwriting financial risk is as dumb an idea was you can have in the 2020s.”

KiwiAssure, if it came to pass, would also be New Zealand 97th insurance company.

What is wrong with the 96 other insurance companies? Not enough competition? How come Labour wants to reduce competition to zero in electricity and increase competition with a 97th company in insurance? The two propositions are not consistent.

Cunliffe called Key the “Kiwi-spoiler,” someone who had beaten up on Kiwbank when it first started, KiwiSaver, KiwiRail and now KiwiAssure.

Key responded on KiwiBank. Yes it was a good little business.

“I might point out though this it has taken $860 million of taxpayers’ money and it has never paid a dividend in 10 years.”

He challenged Cunliffe to name another bank operating in New Zealand that had an insurance company, and offered insurance on the same property they were lending on.

“They do not do that.”

Cunliffe: “Is he aware that ASB Bank own Tower Insurance? If he is, why is he asking such a stupid question.”

Within minutes of Cunliffe’s comment, National’s research unit – or perhaps a few friends in the insurance industry – had got the message to Key that Cunliffe was wrong.

ASB did not own Tower. They sent the list of owners. Key tried to read through the list.

No dividend ever form Kiwibank…what a waste of resources and effort for no actual return. Kiwirail of course cost us the thick end of a billion dollars and gifted an Australian company literally truck loads of cash…it still costs us money. Not really good choices for Labour policy success.

Then Eric Roy had a brainfart.

But the attempts by Key to rub Labour’s nose in the Cunliffe’s error failed at the hands of acting Speaker Eric Roy. He decided to deviate from years of established practice in allowing ministers to be questioned on advice they have received, any advice. Even advice about the ownership of Tower Insurance.

Eventually Labour’s deputy, David Parker, and possibly the source of his leader’s error, did the honourable thing and acknowledged the error by asking Key: “Has he received any advice that ASB in fact own Sovereign Assurance?”

Key: “Yes it does own Sovereign and let us get to the better bit…Sovereign provides life insurance, and the way [Cunliffe] is going, he will need life insurance.”

The National crowd went wild…

Are Labour’s caucus already setting up Cunliffe? This smacks of the dead snapper stunt.

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