Adoration of the PM is a strong card for Labour but polls are pointing to a close-run election

NZ   politicians  have  been  quiet  over the   holiday season,  perhaps  in the case  of   the  Labour team, reflecting  on the  “year of  delivery”  and where  it all  went  wrong.

But  now  we  are  into a new decade (one  authority has already labelled it  “the roaring 2020s”)  and New Zealand cannot stay  isolated in  some sort of  cocoon, no matter how  much  this may be desired.

Even   those politicians  who have succeeded  in finding a  peaceful  beach on which to  sun themselves  will  be  formulating the strategies  they hope will  work for  them  in election year.

Many  on the  Labour side  of the  fence   believe   Jacinda  Ardern  has a fan base    strong enough to  carry  the coalition to a  second term.   Here at   Point of  Order,   we have  encountered  sufficient adoration within  that  fan base  to  consider  that  they  will stay   loyal  when they  cast  their ballots.

And  she   is  regarded  as  one of the  most admired world leaders,  isn’t  she?

But  as  elections elsewhere have  shown,  particularly   in the UK  but also  in   Australia, constituencies  which have  never   deviated   from being  rock-solid  Labour  for  decades can turn decisively  away  from the party. Continue reading “Adoration of the PM is a strong card for Labour but polls are pointing to a close-run election”

How NZ’s productivity growth might be fostered by finding what makes “frontier firms” tick

We suspect some readers – maybe many – faltered when Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced he has approved the terms of reference “for an inquiry into the economic contribution of New Zealand’s frontier firms”.

Frontier firms?  What are they and give us some examples?

Robertson explained that these are the most productive firms in the domestic economy within their own industry.

“These firms are important as they diffuse new technologies and business practices into the wider New Zealand economy.

“While we do have some world-leading firms, we need them to lift performance and productivity to create a pathway for more firms to succeed on the world stage,” Grant Robertson says.

He referred to work undertaken by the Productivity Commission in 2016 which suggested that New Zealand’s firms – on average – were about one-third less productive than international firms in the same industry. Continue reading “How NZ’s productivity growth might be fostered by finding what makes “frontier firms” tick”

Update on the undermining of literacy – no honours for writers and the rundown of libraries

A pre-Christmas post headed New library boasts admirable resources – but don’t expect to find too many books raised concerns for Point of Order readers about New Zealanders’ reading habits and the rundown of public  libraries.

We quoted  Lloyd Jones, writing on The Spinoff news website about his first visit to the new library in Christchurch.  He said it has a “wonderful sound recording studio”, a sewing room and a  3D printer – but he found the books “herded into an area barely more generous than the space on the ground-floor allocated to teenagers and video games”.

Wellington’s central city library, closed as an earthquake risk in March last year, used to hold 380,000 books and have 3000 visitors, including 500 children, a day.

There is no schedule for reopening it or replacing it, but if that happens new mayor Andy Foster told the Dominion Post (Dec 4) he would like it to have “creative spots and activities such as Lego and 3D printing”.

Jones disagreed with Victoria University’s professor of library information and management studies, Anne Goulding, who said libraries were moving away from being storage places for books and “transactions to building relationships in the community”.

“A library is where people go to read,” Jones said. “A library is where they may borrow a book. A library is one of the most honourable and civic institutions that a community can accommodate and offer to its young.” Continue reading “Update on the undermining of literacy – no honours for writers and the rundown of libraries”

End of the Golden Weather

It’s probably just as well we are still on holiday and Wellington, aka the NZ Government, remains on the beach until Tuesday, January 22, the day after Wellington Anniversary Day. Even then, the mighty organs of government  don’t really stir until the following Tuesday, after Auckland’s anniversary weekend when the great and good disport themselves on the waters of the Waitemata Harbour.

A few ministers mustered the energy to post congratulatory press statements after the New Year honours list was published.

And Winston Peters has been on call- huzzah! – to deal with  happenings in the rest of the world.

Among the benefits of the government being on holiday, we’ve missed some fairly high-level dramas, sufficient to otherwise distract us from the Black Caps’ Australian debacle and tinted skies, thanks to the Australian bushfires .  Then there’s the risk that the Australians might exercise  a reverse deportation process, detaining PM Jacinda Adern and her to-be husband along with Baby Neve to install them in the Lodge, the Canberra residence of the Aussie prime minister.

 

Enough of the levity. These past days have been trying internationally. Continue reading “End of the Golden Weather”

The UN is at the heart of NZ’s foreign policy, our leaders say – so where’s the fuss when Trump gazumps diplomats?

Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters – confirming that no Kiwis had been hurt during Iranian missile attacks on US bases in Iraq on Wednesday –  expressed New Zealand’s deep concern at the escalation in hostilities.

But he made no mention of the role the United Nations might or should play (at least, not in the Newshub report referenced here).

“The Government is working actively with our partners through military and diplomatic channels, and we continue to keep the security situation under close review, including implications for our personnel,” Peters said.

“Now is the time for restraint and de-escalation, and for diplomacy to take over.”

New Zealand troops were sent to Iraq – significantly – as part of a US-led coalition, not as part of a UN presence.

But the government claims to be putting the UN at the heart of its efforts to create a better world.

So why is it silent about Trump’s administration policies and practices which reflect contempt for the UN? Continue reading “The UN is at the heart of NZ’s foreign policy, our leaders say – so where’s the fuss when Trump gazumps diplomats?”

How taxpayers are pumping millions into the motel business to provide emergency housing

Blogger Lindsay Mitchell has used the Official Information Act to flush out data on emergency housing from the Ministry for Social Development.

The results have been posted under the heading Motel charges premium for emergency housing.

At long last MSD has updated OIA requests, Mitchell writes. Responses up to November 2019 are on-line

“ … and always make for interesting reading. For instance payments made to the Olive Tree Motel for emergency housing.”

Clients are granted an amount which is paid directly to the motel, Mitchell explains.

In the June 2019 quarter the motel was receiving $265 a night.

But nightly charges per unit range from $145 to $165 according to their website. Charges reduce for longer stays.

The response to another request reveals that over 600 accommodation providers  received emergency grants in the June 2019 quarter. Continue reading “How taxpayers are pumping millions into the motel business to provide emergency housing”

Hurrah for NZ’s public service – it has taken the silver medal on global “effectiveness” index

New Zealand ranks second overall in the latest International Civil Service Effectiveness index.   Our public service scores top marks for integrity, capabilities and procurement.

The 2019 InCiSE Index covers 38 countries (seven more than in the previous version) and uses 46 more metrics and five more data sources than previously. It has also explored ways of including non-OECD countries and developing countries.

InCiSE attempts to define the core characteristics of an effective central government central service. Effectiveness is then assessed based on two interrelated components: Core functions – the key things a civil service does (“what”). Continue reading “Hurrah for NZ’s public service – it has taken the silver medal on global “effectiveness” index”

We await official buzz from the Beehive on how NZ will respond after Trump’s killer drone stings the Iranians

Because ministers are still on holiday while tensions mount in the Middle East and Donald Trump threatens to emulate the Teleban by destroying Iranian cultural centres, the question of whether New Zealand will hasten the withdrawal of around 45 troops still in Iraq has yet to be unambiguously answered. 

More critically, how the Ardern government will balance foreign policy interests that have become conflicted is open to conjecture, too. 

Perhaps our leaders think everything will be sorted out by the time they get back to their desks in Wellington.

The Beehive website tells us nothing about the government’s position on the crisis, which suggests our leaders have not met to discuss this country’s policy response.

The most recent official post – on January 5 – records Defence Minister Ron Mark announcing three Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopters and crew, two NZ Army Combat Engineer Sections and “a command element” are being sent to support the Australian Defence Force efforts in tackling the Australian fires. Continue reading “We await official buzz from the Beehive on how NZ will respond after Trump’s killer drone stings the Iranians”

New Year tosh on law and order – a bill to enable the Parole Board to do something it can do already

Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe apparently has spent some of his Christmas holiday time thinking about law and order and how to make us safer in our beds.  Let’s hope he comes up with some brighter ideas than the one he announced in a press statement yesterday.

The statement announced he has lodged a private member’s bill crafted – it seems – to ensure convicted murderers who won’t reveal the location of their victim’s bodies will be denied parole.

Macindoe explains:

“An important part of coming to terms with the death of a loved one is the closure of bringing their body home. Sadly, there are some offenders who refuse to disclose where the bodies of their victims are.

“This adds considerably to the distress of relatives who sometimes spend a lifetime agonising over what might have happened, and their inability to hold a funeral and lay their family member to rest.

Macindoe goes on to promise:  Continue reading “New Year tosh on law and order – a bill to enable the Parole Board to do something it can do already”

Ali Khamenei or Donald Trump: who understands the situation better?

Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s key military strategist, killed in a US drone strike, seems to have been a brave man.  He was certainly very confident.

Organising a near act of war against the embassy of the most powerful state in the world, located in the heart of a (nominally) allied capital city, was risky.  Flying into the scene of this triumph was, with hindsight, foolhardy.

The thing with politics – and other forms of conflict – is that while actors can shape events, they can’t wish away the underlying realities of the situation. Continue reading “Ali Khamenei or Donald Trump: who understands the situation better?”