Finance Minister Grant Robertson could barely contain his exuberant enthusiasm over how the government is performing when he opened the general debate in Parliament this week.
It has scored the trifecta: a $5.5bn surplus, an annual GDP growth rate approaching 3% and the lowest unemployment figure in a decade, 3.9%.
“This coalition is on a roll”, he trumpeted.
The good news didn’t end there:
“Just today I received advice about the increased labour force participation rate at 71.1%, the increased employment rate at 68.3%, the decreased unemployment rate at 3.9%, and the decrease in the underutilisation rate at 11.3%—all important information’.
In his state of euphoria, the Finance Minister couldn’t resist a flick at the Opposition.
“I just wish the Opposition would cheer up. I just wish that the Opposition would say, ‘Actually, the economy is doing well,’ and celebrate that story. But, I can understand it, because I do have one concern about unemployment: Simon Bridges, because he is well on his way to becoming unemployed over that side of the House. I know that when Simon Bridges heard the words 3.9%, his heart sank. He thought it was the preferred Prime Minister rating for this month, for him and the National Party”.
Robertson wound up to a round of applause from his backbenchers:
“On this side of the House, we are proud of the fact that more NZers are in work, that unemployment’s going down, that youth unemployment is going down, that wages are lifting. That is the sign of an economy that’s working. That is the sign of the fact that this government has a plan for the economy to benefit all NZers”.
Sadly, not all members of the coalition are on a roll. Clare Cullen is already a forgotten figure. Meka Whaitiri has disappeared into the shadows. And Iain Lees-Galloway is in the dunce’s corner after his performance over his decision not to deport Czech criminal Karel Sroubek.
As Peter Dunne has pointedly noted:
“While Lees-Galloway cannot be held responsible for the original residency decision, which happened long before he became Minister, he has to be held responsible for the decision to effectively confirm Sroubek’s residence by deferring the usually automatic deportation decision for up to five years.
“There have to be serious questions as to his reasons why. Moreover, his failure to offer anything approaching a credible explanation of his actions starts to bring his wider judgment and suitability to hold ministerial office into question”.
Dunne goes on:
“Probably the worst news for Lees-Galloway is that while the Prime Minister did not seem at first to know too much or even be all that interested in the Sroubek case, she is now engaged and becoming irritated and frustrated by what is being disclosed. He will also be well aware that two Ministers have already fallen this year over performance and conduct issues, and will be increasingly concerned not to become the next one to go.He will have realised that what officials disclose when they eventually report back will determine not only Sroubek’s fate, but also his own”.
So not everyone on the government benches will be feeling as bullish about the future as the man in charge of NZ’s finances.