Economic direction of New Zealand MUST change

For a combined six terms of Government, the two major parties have talked about an economic overhaul for New Zealand.

Under the previous Labour Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark with Dr Michael Cullen as Treasurer, we heard about a “knowledge economy”. In that time – admittedly a stable one with no major natural disasters and only the 11 September terrorist attacks on the world stage, until the Global Financial Crisis – the surplus grew to $10 billion. Two major entities – Kiwi Saver and Kiwi Bank – were implemented by Labour. Despite this though, there were no huge improvements in wage growth or social indicators.

Under National, we have had a vast growth in dairy farming, with Fonterra now contributing about $13 billion to the G.D.P. per annum. There has been a major increase in road infrastructure being built, and trade deals have been negotiated with numerous countries. Despite their promise of “a brighter future” truancy and youth crime are up, suicide and mental health issues are prevalent and 80,000 young people are not in training or education.

Six terms later and not much has changed. And there is much that does need to change. Business as usual is simply not good enough any more.

Since we have seen what the major parties are (not)prepared to do, below I mention what I advocate. But before we look at my suggestions it is important to know about the challenges that the New Zealand economy faces. Major challenges to the economy include:

  1. A failure to get more young New Zealanders into education or training
  2. Housing prices that are so high that many New Zealanders are simply priced out of the market; and whose rates are so high that people spend their wages just paying the rent
  3. A fear of science – fear of research and development and a distrust of the people who carry this out is stopping New Zealand from becoming a technological leader
  4. The neoliberal attack of the last 30-35 years has undermined New Zealand – market economics have only had modest success at best

But these are the things that need to happen in order to make the New Zealand economy more resilient:

  1. We limit our exports too severely – New Zealand needs to diversify and more niche export industries need to develop
  2. We have a dangerous over reliance on dairy farming – we might be a farming nation, but it is an unequal spread with too much emphasis on dairy and not enough on other forms
  3. The war on science needs to stop and Government investment needs to increase substantially; the process for research grants needs to be simplified
  4. The emphasis on road transport is outmoded, hugely biased and significant investment in railways and the merchant marine needs to happen
  5. Restrict property ownership to New Zealand Permanent Residents and Citizens
  6. Apply a levy – maybe $100 at the border on each tourist, which goes straight into a fund for building appropriate infrastructure in districts too small to be able to afford it themselves (Grey, Buller, Westland, etc)

Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong on the whole with the Resource Management Act. The complaints about it from both the right and the left of the political spectrum suggest that it is working. There are improvements that can be made, but on the whole it works.

We have plentiful untapped energy potential in solar and tidal energy. The price for solar panels has diminished substantially and if the energy companies would permit people to sell back excess power that their panels generate, individual households could create significant savings. This could generate flow on effects into other parts of the economy, such as a greater demand for electricians and other trades people.

So, when New Zealand First leader Winston Peters decides who he is going with, given that many of my suggestions above mirror N.Z.F. policy, I hope to see in the next three years some of these implemented.

A Government today?

By the end of today there could be a new Government. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is expected to announce whether he will go with National or Labour/Greens.

This – unlike 1996 – has not taken 9 weeks. Nor has it involved a coalition document so hefty that I was told a wheel barrow – which might be slight exaggeration – was needed to get it into Parliament on the day that that Government was announced. The size of the coalition document was allegedly a testament to the number of concessions that Mr Peters extracted from National before going with them.

Being a former National M.P. himself, I suspect that he will form a Government with Mr English. Contrary to popular belief I do not expect him to be granted the Prime Minister’s job. Nor do I expect him to be Deputy Prime Minister. This is a National Government that will be wanting to leave a legacy and that will most certainly mean a fourth consecutive term with a National Prime Minister.

In return for that, I expect some hefty policy concessions will be made. Substantial support for railways will probably be one; significant reductions in the number of immigrants able to come here and a change in housing ownership rules to either permit only permanent residents and citizens or possibly just citizens to own property. National will also have make significant concessions on rural investment and agricultural policy as well, given the inroads New Zealand First made in the rural areas.

I do not know how serious Prime Minister Bill English is about pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement forward. This might prove to be a sticking point and one of the places where Mr Peters might find the Labour/Greens camp to be more promising.

Labour and the Greens have a tougher job of negotiating with Mr Peters, although on health, social welfare and education they are much more closely aligned. Like National, if Mr Peters goes with Labour and the Greens, I doubt very much Labour leader Jacinda Ardern will surrender the Prime Minister role, though she might say yes to him having the Deputy role. If not, then Labour would have to make quite substantial concessions across the board.

Labour will want investment in mental health – something I think Mr Peters will be more than happy to do. There may be other areas where they see eye to eye, such as environmental policy.

The best bets for my priorities are definitely with a New Zealand First/Labour/Green coalition. Like everyone else I will have to grit my teeth and wonder how much more gnashing they will take if Mr Peters goes with National. But if he does that, my support for New Zealand First will dry up completely.

Final New Zealand General Election Results 2017

The results we have all been waiting for are out. The New Zealand General Election 2017 final results are as follows:

LABOUR: 46 M.P.’s
A.C.T.: 1 M.P.

The losers are National, who lose Maureen Pugh and Nicola Willis.

The winners are Labour who welcome Angie Warren Clark, who works for Womens Refuge in Hawkes Bay becomes their 46th Member of Parliament. The other winner is the Greens who welcome former Iranian refugee and notable human rights lawyer Golriz Ghahraman to their respective caucuses.

The real winner though is New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. As leader of the party that will have to do a coalition deal with one or the other, Mr Peters occupies what would be reasonably called pole position in the context of coalition negotiations.

This simplifies the potential equations significantly. There are now two clear cut coalition options for Mr Peters to consider. One is Labour+Greens+New Zealand First and the other Is National+New Zealand First. Due to acrimony between New Zealand First and A.C.T there is no prospect of A.C.T joining a coalition.

I believe some seriously heavy bargaining will now take place. People have not forgotten the nine week wake of 1996 when an election held in October of that year resulted in a hung Parliament and

Either way Mr Peters is going to pilloried for his decision. There will be conservative members of the Party who will wish he goes with National and there will be left leaning members (and former members such as myself)who will wish he goes with Labour and the Greens.

Either way there are some great things likely to happen now, such as a significant increase in emphasis on railway transport; the housing crisis will have to be addressed in some form and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement may be finally killed off.

So, let the coalition negotiations start, and hopefully in the near future I will be able to report the signing of a deal between New Zealand First and National or Labour/Greens.

M.M.P. not to blame for decimation of minor parties

Once again we are seeing the detractors of Mixed Member Proportional voting trying to suggest that the system is flawed and that New Zealanders want a new one.

The election on 23 September 2017 resulted in the decimation of the minor parties. Of that there can be no question – it was a dreadful night for them.

For some of the parties, their demise was was natural – Greg O’Connor, who used to be a top policeman in New Zealand stood for Labour in Ohariu electorate. This is the same electorate where United Future self destructed with the resignation of long serving M.P. Peter Dunne, whose departure left no one with any street credibility left in the party..

Likewise Gareth Morgan’s The Opportunities Party fatally shot itself when Mr Morgan described Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern as lipstick on a pig. Perhaps not being a cat lover with a declared vendetta against them, also cost him many votes as cats make wonderful pets for those living alone or who are elderly – and at the same time, as my family discovered with our three cats, excellent bird killers as well. Mr Morgan’s party had been seen by some as the next big opportunity to create more of a peoples movement and Mr Morgan – like Colin Craig with his Conservative Party – threw huge sums of his own money at the election

A.C.T failed to get to 30,000 votes whereupon with its leader David Seymour retaining his Epsom electorate seat, it would have been able to bring Deputy Leader Beth Houlbrooke into Parliament. Many will say the A.C.T. brand  was probably destroyed by its M.P.’s conduct in the first term of the Government of Prime Minister John. Certainly since then it has consistently polled at no more than 1-2% in the polls.

The Maori Party was the victim of a resurgent Labour vote in the Maori electorates, where former weatherman Tamati Coffey defeated co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell as all seven electorates swung back towards the Jacinda Ardern inspired Labour. Some will say their decision to go with National for three consecutive terms probably undid their chances of making up with the centre-left. Three consecutive terms with no notable progress on the hefty issues of school truancy, getting people on benefits into jobs or training, to say nothing of Maori being disproportionately rated in crime statistics has created many a disgruntled voter.

But there was nothing wrong with this. It was simply the Mixed Member Proportional system at work. People wanted more Labour seats in Parliament. The Greens had botched their campaign with Metiria Turei’s acknowledgement that she misled Work and Income New Zealand. New Zealand First didn’t run as convincing a campaign as they could have and it was time to make United Future and the Maori Party pay for their support of National. Those extra Labour seats had to come from somewhere.

Loss of M.P.’s a blow for South Island

With the loss of New Zealand First Members of Parliament Denis O’Rourke, Richard Prosser and Ria Bond, the South Island has had a significant reduction in representation in Parliament. Mrs Bond was New Zealand First list Member of Parliament for Invercargill. Mr Prosser was New Zealand First list Member of Parliament for Waimakariri and Mr O’Rourke was list Member of Parliament for Port Hills electorate.

Mr O’Rourke was a significant voice for environmental, Christchurch, transport and human rights issues. His career as a Christchurch City Councillor, followed by being chair of the committee in charge of the Kate Valley landfill project and later the Central Plains Water irrigation scheme gave him a huge exposure to environmental and local governance law. During his time in Parliament Mr O’Rourke was the spokesperson for Christchurch issues and often took on the cases of disaffected residents having trouble with E.Q.C. or the now defunct Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Mrs Bond is a small business owner who established a hairdressing business in Invercargill. During her time as one, she also chaired the New Zealand Association of Registered Hairdressers. Her time in New Zealand First started with a position on the party’s Board of Directors before she stood for Parliament in 2014.

Mr Prosser stood for New Zealand First in 2011 at no. 4 and entered Parliament along with leader Winston Peters and six other M.P.’s He stood again in 2014 and was returned. During his time in Parliament Mr Prosser championed biosecurity issues.

New Zealand First has a new South Island M.P. named Mark Patterson. Mr Patterson lives in the large Clutha-Southland electorate where he is a farmer. Mr Patterson has said that he will continue to advocate for Clutha-Southland as a list Member of Parliament. Mr Patterson says that he will advocate for rural New Zealand and push for additional Government support to help rural communities.