Ruth Richardson

Tears of impotent rage…Felix Marwick is upset he isn’t shaping opinion

Feel the tears of impotent rage from Felix Marwick, upset that he isn’t one of those shaping opinion in election year.

There’s nothing quite like an election campaign for getting tempers up, emotions raised, and judgements lowered. All of a sudden anything becomes a tool for political gain. This is something we all need to bear in mind over the next five and a half weeks before the election.

Those with vested political interests will scheme and manipulate in almost any way that suits their purposes.  We’re already seeing it happen.

Consider the manufactured outrage we’ve already seen over a couple of incidents. Firstly the “f**k John Key” chant recorded at an Internet Mana rally. This is not necessarily the degradation of society and an all time low in politics that some would have us believe. Believe it or not it’s actually not all that unusual for those of the younger generation to use coarse language about their political leaders. It’s been happening for generations. I recall chasing the then Tertiary Education Minister Lockwood Smith around Canterbury University campus back in the 1990s. The language we used was not exactly complimentary and was generally similarly used on any visiting government minister. Just ask Ruth Richardson how she was treated by protestors after her “mother of all Budgets”.

Abuse of politicians isn’t respectful, but it’s not unusual.

What is interesting; however, are those who point to the incident as some sort of political Armageddon and a sign of dirty politics of the left. I’m really not convinced that Cameron Slater can claim any moral high ground here, nor can David Farrar. It’s really a bit rich for someone who ran a billboard campaign against the Electoral Finance Act that compared then Prime Minister Helen Clark to totalitarian leaders to be drawing comparisons between the Internet Party, Dotcom, and Hitler. Dotcom may be many things (and some of them reasonably unsavoury) but to draw parallels between him and one of the most reviled figures of the 20th century is simply ludicrous.

No it isn’t ludicrous Felix, those billboards were legitimate political debate around an issue, the erosion of freedom of speech by a implementation of a draconian law enacted by a morally corrupt government sensitive to criticism. It was a policy debate not a ranty chant from a Fat German Crook. Clark was acting like a totalitarian, and so she got compared to other dictators.

Bear in mind the footage that raised so much ire had been floating around for at least a fortnight and had been previously reported on. Where was the outrage and criticism then? Or was it a deliberate strategy to draw attention away from the other hot story of the day – foreign ownership of New Zealand land?

It was floating around for weeks, but the mainstream media ignored it, swept it under the carpet, pretending desperately that it wasn’t a story. Unfortunately it was. The traditional filters from the media are now gone. News is what people think is news not what tired journalists in the Press Galley think is news.   Read more »

“There are many things I can accept about Winston Peters, but the one thing I cannot accept is he tells fucking lies.”

Cameron wrote this last year, and it has stuck in my mind as one of the best pieces of writing I’ve seen him produce.  Due to his unique place in political history, we are afforded a glimpse inside a meeting that became a pivotal point in New Zealand’s political history.

A meeting, the results of which continue to reverberate through the political landscape like thousands of aftershocks.

Had those present known what would happen to New Zealand Politics because of this, would they have made the same decision?

by Cameron Slater

…it was a dark and stormy night… really it was, as best I can remember. It was in Wellington in 1992.

I was in Murray McCully’s office, observing (I guess you could call it that) a most memorable event. It was the night that key members of the National party caucus met in McCully’s office to draft the expulsion motion to throw Winston Peters from their caucus and to set in motion his eventual resignation from the party and the forming of NZ First.   Read more »

Good stuff, members find their courage

For many years now there has be an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t challenge sitting MPs in the National party.

It is of course a silly notion, politics is all about blood and guts not kisses and cuddles.

The sentiment from head office and MPs is simply self interest…they want a nice tame membership and protection for incumbents. However as time moves on the group think that comes with first attaining power tends to wane and people get other ideas about who should or should not represent their area. Then the challenges come.

The first open challenge in quite sometime is happening in Kaikoura.

Marlborough grapegrower and fourth-generation farmer Stuart Smith is to challenge sitting MP Colin King for the National Party’s Kaikoura electorate candidacy for next year’s election.

The party opens nominations for its South Island electorates tomorrow and Mr Smith said he was putting his name forward.   Read more »

Shrinking the State, never been a better time

I have never been a fan of the state providing solutions for anything. Any solution proposed by the state is likely to be bloated, inefficient and ineffective. Unfortunately in our  modern society we still have to get over the intellectual poverty that socialism has delivered to the body politic, where there is still an over-arching the belief that the state will provide.

Thatcherism though challenged this and in New Zealand we had Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson to slay the socialist dragons…they are still breathing though, even if the breath is a bit wheezy and spluttery.

Still a generation of kids have grown up knowing that subsidies are bad, unions are useless and free enterprise delivers more often than not. The time has never been better than now to start looking at shrinking the state.

So the experiment is over and the results are conclusive. Part one was carried out under Gordon Brown who, as this column said at the time, tested to destruction the theory that vast increases in government spending would cure all the problems of the public services. The national disillusionment and exasperation which followed on that ideological adventure should have led to an immediate repudiation of it by all rational political leaders. But alas, there was a period of suspended disbelief in which the Conservatives insisted that sticking to Labour’s spending commitments was absolutely necessary if they were to have a hope of being elected. Yes, that was what George Osborne used to say back in the darkest days of modernisation.

We have seen the same thing here. Massive increases in spending in education for no discernible improvement in outcomes. Same in welfare. Money is not the answer. National, like the Conservatives stuck with Labour’s spending…time to start unpicking the excesses of Clarkism.  Read more »

NZ’s budget vs Australia’s budget

The Australian Financial Review (subscriber content) has passed comment on the state of the NZ economy and recent budget compared with Australia.

Like all established media, the Financial Review has to cut costs. The Sydney subs desk, traditionally part of the fabric of the newsroom, has been shut and articles such as this are now subbed by a Fairfax Media team in Auckland.

While still getting up to speed, the Kiwi team is well drilled, eager and costs a lot less than if hired under Australian pay rates and dollar. Such supply chain changes are happening across the Tasman also with call centres and information technology, driven by 40 per cent or so cost differences.

The flip side of Australia’s high cost base is its relative prosperity. Over the past two centuries, Aussies have rarely been this much more prosperous than Kiwis, thanks to the mother of all resources booms in Western Australia and Queensland.

Yet a side trip to Wellington confirmed that this trans-Tasman disparity has likely peaked. Australia’s resources boom luck is ending and we’re about to pay for its mismanagement. While New Zealand’s bad luck is about to turn for the better, it also will reap the benefits of its more disciplined policy-making.

Australia enjoyed a minerals boom, we endure the Green party spiking any such development.

New Zealand didn’t have a mining boom to shield it from a global financial crisis recession. The February 2011, the Christchurch earthquake flattened much of the country’s second biggest city. Then came a drought. Elected in late 2008 at the start of this bad luck, John Key’s National government also had to deal with the legacy of nearly a decade of a back-sliding and big spending Labour government.

Key and Finance Minister Bill English let the budget cushion the early bad luck. The deficit blew out to more than 9 per cent of gross domestic product.

The government faced a dreadful set of circumstances when they took office.

Yet, while Wayne Swan’s sixth budget left Australia exiting its mining boom with a fiscal mess, English’s fifth budget a few days later confirmed that New Zealand will be back in surplus in a couple of years. Based on spending restraint, there’s been none of Swan’s shameless accounting trickery. And English has delivered genuine tax reform: a 15 per cent GST, a 33 per cent top marginal income tax rate and a 28 per cent corporate rate.

New Zealand is now likely to grow just as fast as Australia over the next few years. While Australia faces an income crunch, the NZ Treasury forecasts that Kiwi household incomes will rise nearly 20 per cent over the next four years.

What also immediately stands out is Wellington’s grown-up and stable government, even a minority one enforced by New Zealand’s proportional electoral system. There is none of the political madness, dysfunction and class warfare rhetoric that has come from Rudd-Gillard Labor over the past six years.

A former investment banker and a former South Island farmer, respectively, Key and English are more substantial and less tribal than Julia Gillard and Swan. They stress business-friendly growth and dismiss the idea that more government spending means better public services.

It is a model that Tony Abbott, himself the husband of a New Zealander, would be advised to follow. English draws a clear distinction between the crash-through New Zealand reform era of Labour finance minister Roger Douglas and National successor Ruth Richardson. That was followed by nearly two decades of policy drift and retreat under governments of both stripes. Now it’s all about incremental but continual policy reform that cannot so easily be later undone.

Politically, it’s working. Halfway through their second term, the polls give Key’s Nationals 49.1 per cent of the vote, compared to 43.1 per cent for Labour and the Greens. Fifty nine per cent of New Zealanders think the country is heading in the right direction.

It sounds like the Aussies are a wee bit jealous of the state of our economy.

And now the luck. While Australia’s mining boom has been based on China’s infrastructure spurt, New Zealand is at the start of a massive dairy boom driven by middle class Chinese demand for protein. New Zealand excels at turning water into powdered milk protein. Australia’s terms of trade are now sliding from 140-year highs. But, as New Zealand’s terms of trade rise, it faces a challenge well known this side of the ditch: a strengthening exchange rate.

Once upon a time…

…it was a dark and stomry night…really it was as best I can remember. It was in Wellington in 1992.

I was in Murray McCully’s office, observing (I guess you could call it that) a most memorable event. It was the night that key members of the National party caucus met in McCully’s office to draft the expulsion motion to throw Winston Peters from their caucus and to set in motion his eventual resignation from the party and the forming of NZ First.

Many MPs were there, including Doug Kidd, Doug Graham, Maurice Williamson, John Banks, John Carter, Wyatt Creech, Max Bradford, John Luxton, Philip Burdon and others, all perched on chairs, arms of sofas, tables and desks. Some like Ruth Richardson popped in for a few moments to read over the document, such as it was, and nod and give the assent or to suggest a change of a word or two.

I was there because my father had been summoned to help draft the motion, he was the Northern Regional Chair and sat on the party management council who were ultimately going to have to deal with the fall out. We were supposed to be going for dinner…we were very late.

It was a scrappy little document, much dog-eared and rumpled from all the handling and scribbling. Finally a call was made and Bill Birch was summoned and the drinks came out.

Bill Birch came down and perched on the edge of McCully’s desk, he was handed the scrappy little piece of paper…he pulled out his glasses, perched them on the end of nose and peered at the document. After a few moments he nodded and placed that piece of paper in his suit breast pocket. Then he picked up a Glass, it has barely a finger of Scotch in the bottom…and he toyed with it.

Someone asked in the hushed tones if this was the right thing to do…Bill Birch stared imperiously around the room and then launched into a quiet speech about all the things that he like about Winston…then all the things he could tolerate about Winston.

I can’t  remember it word for word but Birch explained how he could accept his drinking, his drunkenness, his philandering, his absenteeism and many other faults…it was a substantial list…but he came to the conclusion.

“There are many things I can accept about Winston Peters, but the one thing I cannot accept is he tells fucking lies.”

And with that he put down the glass with the Scotch untouched, turned and walked out commenting as he went that he better go and tell the Prime Minister.

The next day Winston Peters was suspended from caucus and the rest, as they say is history.

It should be noted that ultimately Winston Peters tried to sue the party in the High Court when they subsequently banned him from standing, after his loss he resigned and formed NZ First contesting the 1993 election and winning Tauranga with Tau Henare winning  Norther Maori.

I have never forgotten that night…for many reasons, but two which stand out was hearing Bill Birch swear, it was the first time and only time. The other was watching him toy with that glass as he listed Winston Peters’ many, many failings.

Now Winston has his own situations that has many of the hall marks of that wintry, stormy night in 1992.

DPB versus Assets Sales – Economic Game Changers

A Guest Post by The Owl.

I certainly don’t agree with everything he says, but since he went to the bother of submitting it then far be it from me to judge.

DPB versus Assets Sales – Economic Game Changers

I can’t start to understand how my grandparents grew up through two World Wars, the Great Depression and a period of social change in the world during the 50’s 60’s and 70’s but what I do know is that my understanding of politics and the economy started when I left school and at the age of 23 and survived through the share market crash of the 80’s.

There has been two major periods of economic downturns in NZ and the world during my short but exciting life and both come after two dictatorial leadership reigns. Harsh comments I know but Robert Muldoon and Helen Clark were clearly strong leaders who fought hard for their economic beliefs.

In a weird but unusual way the country celebrated the change of Rogernomics (Labour) and Ruth Richardson (National) period of economic change – both cold, hard but ground breaking.

These periods of economic change did put the country in great stead and while Labour pushed through assets sales in a major way – their decisions were right. Ruth Richardson followed up by then adjusting the economy with fewer assets.

We celebrated as a country as the government was effectively debt free.

Then we had the nine years of the “nanny state” which effectively took all the cash we had and gave it to the “perceived poor”.  Chuck in a housing boom, a sad few days in the nation’s history with the Christchurch earthquake and we are now all struggling to see the light. They have called it the “credit crunch” or the “the great recession”.

The country needs a way forward. Don’t listen to the Greens who want to plant trees to pay for economic policies and hope that the spiders of this world will spin gold in their webs or the Union laden Labour Party who have a hung up on anyone who earns more than them or are deprived of same sex marriages, listen to your heart and head.

The Maoris’ claim to the water is right and just. Fortunately I think I know enough of the details to side with the tribunal however timing is everything and in this case the timing is poor.

The NZ economy is in the poo! It will be in the poo for years to come and we need game changing policies as with the Rogernomics and the Ruth Richardson periods.

Assets sales are a mixed model sale – one that everyone can live with – for the sake of future generations the country NEEDS a big cash injection and URGENTLY.

The cash injection is to pay for the social welfare policies thrust upon us by Labour, Unions and Helen Clark. This is the same attitude we need now that the Lange government needed to do to pay for the Muldoon Think Big projects.

My calculations are that we need a quick $5 Billion. We have two very simple choices – partial assets sales (as the Government has always said it was partial – so I don’t know where the perception of full assets sales has come from) or the policy I would prefer:

From 2014 there is no new Domestic Purpose Benefit (DPB). I would spend 1% of that existing budget on sex education and free contraception.

The stopping of DPB would generate $20 Billion in 4 years – we can keep the assets.

Here is the Owl’s game changing economic and social policies for 2014.

  1. Halt all assets sales
  2. From 2014 there will be no DPB – focus towards education and social responsibility of the young
  3. Cancel 7 day a week trading – impact and betterment on family units and social activities (e.g. sports clubs which do a great and unrecognized social welfare service would increase dramatically). Tourism will not die and the industry would move towards promoting our outdoor lifestyle – why travel 10,000 miles to get drunk and buy the same label clothes you can get at home – this logic has never been understood by me.
  4. Just absolutely crash down on crime and gangs – build 10 more prisons – remember 99% of NZ’ers doesn’t do crime yet we spend so much money on protecting ourselves. Prisons create jobs – so should have a huge economic and social benefit.
  5. If you are unemployed then you must be available for work – Work brokers at WINZ do a fantastic job finding work for the unemployed.
  6. Student Loans – pay them back – end of subject

Let’s start living again – there is a new generation of children growing up now who don’t know how to socially interact – it is called the “Me” generation – we need the “us” generation to rear its head.

The “Us” generation needs $5 Billion urgently

Ruth Richardson on Civil Servants

Ruth Richardson has commented on the need for civil service reform in the UK…she talks of our reforms here in the 1990s, but since those days we have seen a resurgence of troughing civil servants. New Zealand as much as the UK is still in need of proper civil service reform:

The real crux of the matter is – why should civil servants have jobs for life? The real life “slumdog millionaire” from Mumbai, who wants to use his winnings to take India’s tough civil service exam so he can win a secure and prestigious lifetime job”, is so typical of the species and the problem. And why shouldn’t they be accountable for their performance? A recent poll for the in-house Civil Service newspaper shows that there’s actually support from two thirds of civil servants to strengthen the ability to sack poor performance – proof that good people want to work with good people.

David Cameron might think that Whitehall reform is down his list of priorities. In fact it is the necessary tool to reinvigorate his reform programme and his Government.

Corporate Bludgers tell Government to sort out Super

NZ Herald

Don’t you just love it when corporate bludgers think they get to say how the government spend money…of course they want super sorted…so they can avail themselves of more corporate welfare:

But the CEOs are looking to the Key Government to stake out a bolder vision for New Zealand and tackle big issues, including the eligibility age.

“The only real negative is the failure to address the superannuation debate when the public clearly gets it that something needs to change to maintain affordability,” said a CEO speaking under anonymity.
Jade Software chairman Ruth Richardson – a former National Party finance minister – said “New Zealand had flunked the Super debate”.

Navman chief executive Andrew Blakey said the post-election period “has been disappointing from Key”. He said there had been numerous examples of poor political management pointing to “the complete head-in-the-sand approach to superannuation”.

One chief executive suggested the country should introduce a voluntary “opt out” for New Zealand Super. “If the Government doesn’t have the balls, let’s see if the people do.”

Zespri chief executive Lain Jager said he was “disappointed the Government was not fronting up to the age of entitlement”.

Oh right…Navman was heavily subsidised by the previous Government…

In 2001 they got $1m in corporate welfare.

In 2005 they got another $1m, adding to the corporate bludger reputation.

But despite this corporate welfare Navman has been moving operations offshore…

Zespri of course is the beneficiary of a legislative monopoly, protected from any competition by statute protecting their single desk selling status. The ultimate form of government legislative welfare.

Jade Software is a corporate bludger  as well, booking losses despite millions in government cash:

Jade Software recognised $1.2m in government grants in the year, and was awarded $3.2m over three years from the government’s Technology Development Grant Programme in 2010.

If they want to have a crack at the government and superannuation then best they wean themselves from the corporate welfare.

A nation of makers

Clare Curran has written a post, well it is pretty much a cut/paste from the ODT about Jade Software.

She waxes lyrical about how great they are…and they are, don’t get me wrong…but I wonder if she would have been so bold had she checked out who their Chairman was.

Still if anyone knows about “a nation of makers” it is Ruth Richardson, now endorsed by Clare Curran:

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