If you are looking for the PM, try Napier – and for good measure she might have something to say

Buzz from the Beehive

We drew another blank, when we checked the Beehive website this morning for ministerial announcements, pronouncements or denouncements.  Nothing has been posted since January 16, when Damien O’Connor announced he was travelling to Europe this week to discuss the role of agricultural trade in climate change and food security, WTO reform and New Zealand agricultural innovation.

We last heard from the PM on December 31 when  she issued two statements – Frontline workers to receive COVID-19 Response Award and New Year honours recipients highlight what makes NZ unique.

This does not mean the PM has not at least thought about her job over the holiday period.

A bundle of media reports suggest she has been busy working on how best to get her team into shape for the general election later this year and polishing her policy programme to optimise its appeal to the public.

We learned from 1News (for example) that …

After a summer break, the PM will make her first appearance of 2023 today in Napier at Labour’s annual caucus retreat.

Serendipitously for an election year, the centre-right opposition National party will also hold its first party room get-together in Napier at the same time.

Serendipitous or not, MPs from both political parties will be in Napier for their annual caucus retreats today and tomorrow.

And according to 1News (referring to Jacinda Ardern):

Announcements on her big-ticket priorities are expected to begin as soon as today.

Maybe we will hear something today.  Maybe not.

But Ardern is widely reported to be preparing to (a) announce a Cabinet reshuffle; (b) reveal the date of the election; and (c) remove things from the political agenda to simplify and clarify the Government’s direction.

That third item on what is claimed to be her “to do” list might also be described as an exercise in chicanery, if that indeed is what she intends – she would be aiming to remove the most contentious policies from exposure to rigorous debate in an election year, but would be likely to revisit them once – or if – she and her government are re-elected.

Bryce Edwards, in his Political Roundup today, lists some of the media reports based on expert political analysis and/or crystal ball gazing:

The Nats, presumably, were busy preparing for their caucus gathering in Napier yesterday, because we could find no press statements from them.

Nor from Act.

But both parties were polishing their pitches on Tuesday when (on the Scoop website) they announced:

The Nats –

With a record number of businesses bracing for pain in coming months, the Government needs to come back from holiday with a real economic plan, National’s Finance spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

Results from NZIER’s Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion released today show a net 73 per cent of businesses expect general economic conditions to worsen in coming months – the weakest result on record….

Anyone wanting to speak with NZTA over the phone now has to wait 26 times longer than just five years ago, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“In October 2017, the average wait time for NZTA to pick up the phone was 40 seconds. However, by October 2022, the average wait time had skyrocketed to longer than 18 minutes.

“This is an unacceptable blowout, especially as NZTA have added 1,000 staff in the past five years.”

ACT –

“New Zealand’s proud history of educational achievement is in decline, as kids stop attending class and standards are being lowered across the board. ACT hears ya, we’ve got a plan to make New Zealand’s education system world class again,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“A good education is the most important thing kids need if they’re to grow up to have a fulfilling life and be contributing members of society.”

“It’s little wonder Kiwis are finding their roads are falling apart. The Government has reduced the amount of structural asphalt resurfacings by more than half while greatly increasing the amount of thin asphalt coverings,” says ACT’s Transport spokesperson Simon Court.

“Written Parliamentary Questions answered by Transport Minister Michael Wood show that since 2018, structural asphalt resurfacings have decreased from 18.12km to 7.21km. In the same time period thin flexible asphalt resurfacings have increased from 102.4km to 187.4km.”

“With the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research’s (NZIER) latest quarterly survey showing the lowest business confidence in the survey’s history, it’s clear that real change is necessary to make New Zealand a prosperous country that is open for business,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“NZIER reports that businesses are becoming more cautious and are looking to reduce staff numbers, pare back investment, and increase prices to maintain profitability.

“New Zealand needs to turn this around. Businesses need to operate in an environment where Government regulations don’t make life harder for them. Households shouldn’t be paying more as a result.”

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