Redrawing of the political battle lines is foreshadowed

Covid-19  still dominates the  news  bulletins and  there  is  only a  shadowy outline  of  the  political  debate that  will  emerge  in  sharper   focus as Christopher Luxon settles  into the  leadership of  the National  Party.

His supporters were  encouraged  by  the  bounce upward  for National  in the first  sampling  of  public opinion  since he took over.  National  rose  to  33%,  up  7%, in the  Curia  poll.

As  Curia’s  David  Farrar  noted,  the overall gap between the centre-left and centre-right is basically unchanged at 6%, so the centre-right needs to pick up another 4% or so to be in a position to form a Government.

“The key difference to last month, is that people now want to hear from National, and both National and Labour are in the 30s.Also very noteworthy is Luxon’s ratings. He enters the Preferred PM ratings at 20% (Ardern 39%). That 20% rating is the highest outside an election period for any opposition leader (excluding Ardern’s six weeks) since John Key”.
Continue reading “Redrawing of the political battle lines is foreshadowed”

Primary producers overcome big challenges (including govt regulations) to lift export revenue in latest forecasts

New Zealand’s  primary  producers  deserve   a  Christmas bouquet – or a big hamper stuffed with goodies – as food  and  fibre  export revenue is projected  to top $50 billion for the  first  time   next  year.  They are achieving this despite  the challenges of regulatory compliance, increasing costs for inputs such as feed and fertiliser, Covid impacts on freight movements and constraints around labour availability.

Total export value is expected to rise 6% to $50.8bn in the year to June 30 2022, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report released today.

Ministers were quick to hop on the bandwagon, despite framing many of the  new regulatory constraints.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the healthy growth forecast across the majority of the primary industries showed the future of the food and fibre sector is bright.

“This is the first time NZ’s annual food and fibre export revenue will crack $50bn – a result we should all be very proud of, particularly as we navigate the  challenges of Covid-19”. Continue reading “Primary producers overcome big challenges (including govt regulations) to lift export revenue in latest forecasts”

O’Connor is confident the DIRA can be tweaked to give effect to farmer vote in favour of Fonterra’s capital restructuring

Farmers    have  voted overwhelmingly  in  favour  of  a  capital  restructure  for Fonterra—- and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor,   who   previously  raised   concerns about the  plan,  now  says  he  is  confident the  government can  work   with the  board   to  get  the change   across the  line.

Fonterra chair Peter McBride last  week  told  Fonterra’s  meeting:

“Either we’re a corporate or we’re a co-operative. The current model, where we’re trying to have a foot in each camp, is not sustainable”.

Farmer-shareholders  made  it  plain  they  wanted  the  “pure”  co-op rather  than the corporate model

Now  it is  over  to  the  board   to  negotiate  the  “tweaks”  which O’Connor  says  he  believes  are  necessary in amending the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act.

O’Connor  accepts the  vote last week is  “a very clear result”.

“I’m pleased for Fonterra. It was really important that they get a clear mandate for change and there’s an indication that the farmers are behind the board.There’s been a shift in focus for both the board and management over the last couple of years. This is an endorsement of the direction of travel.” Continue reading “O’Connor is confident the DIRA can be tweaked to give effect to farmer vote in favour of Fonterra’s capital restructuring”

Luxon is advised to take the Nats back to founding principles – and promise a government that is not divisive

The National  caucus,  suddenly,  seemed transformed.  Whereas under  Judith Collins  it  had been split into warring factions, under  Christopher Luxon (at first blush) it  is  presenting  a  united front. Those   factions quickly  fell   into   step, adopting   Luxon’s  new-page philosophy.

But  has  the Ardern  government much  to  fear?  After all, Labour has a  leader who  dominates  the  centre  ground of  NZ politics, who succeeded in pulling across  400,000  voters to the party just  a  year  ago, and  who  still  draws  crowds  wherever  she  goes, (albeit now  with  some protesters, too).

National’s new  leader,  by comparison,  has  had  only a  year  in Parliament and  his  talents  have  remained,  some  would  say,  hidden   largely  from the public view.

Yet  some  clues   have emerged   as  the  party  undergoes   what  has been  labelled  the  “re-set”, even  if  Luxon’s opponents revelled  in his   early  stumbles   in  the  House. Continue reading “Luxon is advised to take the Nats back to founding principles – and promise a government that is not divisive”

Wool growers, too, have something to cheer about as dairy leads the charge in brightening farmers’ prospects

City dwellers,  preoccupied by  Covid,  may not  have  observed  that the  country’s export  economy is  being  sustained  by   its  primary  industries.  Last  week  came  the  news that  Fonterra had  signalled a  record payout to its suppliers, pumping  $13.2bn into the  regions.

Some analysts think that may be on the conservative side and  the final payout will surpass  $9kg/MS.

In  any  case,  the  ANZ commodity  price index lifted  2.8%  in November,  pushing  it into new  territory.  The  bank’s economists, noting that dairy prices  led the   charge, reported they  were  supported  by strong  gains  in  meat.

Again,  because  of the  preoccupation with the pandemic,  it may have  gone  unnoticed that meat  exporters achieved record returns  in the season ended in September. Total export receipts for beef and sheepmeat  equalled the record returns of 2019–20 and were 17% up on the five-year average.

Beef export volumes reached a record high in 2020–21, up 8% on 2019-20 and 16% up on the five-year average. The high volumes reflected the  numbers of steers and heifers processed.

The higher volumes were easily absorbed by strong consumer demand and tighter global beef supply.

Lamb export volumes in the 2020–21 season were about the same as in the previous season and the five-year average. The average export value was 4% down on the record high of 2019–20, but 8% above the five-year average. Continue reading “Wool growers, too, have something to cheer about as dairy leads the charge in brightening farmers’ prospects”

Righting the Nats may require pitching to voters in the centre – but that need not mean dumping free-enterprise principles


National’s   new  leadership   team had  no  need  to  worry  that, as  they stepped  into  office and into campaigning to replace the Ardern government at the next election, they  would suffer  from a shortage of  advice.  Wherever  they looked   they  could  see mountains  of  it.  

There  was  this  kind (from  a  newspaper  columnist) :

“ In short, new National leader Chris Luxon will likely have to come up with policies and strategies to tackle immediate economic headwinds in five areas: a slow economic bounceback, immigration, a slowing China, tourism, and inflation.”

Or this  kind  (from former National Prime  Minister  Jim  Bolger) who said a “disappointing”  National  has  to  reimagine capitalism because   social  inequality is  pushing  countries to  revolution.

Bolger said the dominant global economic model was dividing society.

“Some are getting obscenely rich and others are going to food kitchens.”  Bolger said Labour was not seriously addressing social inequality.”

Parliamentary veteran Winston Peters, once a National Party deputy leader and MP before forming NZ First,  weighed in. What is  needed, most importantly, is a real vision for NZ, he opined from his (somewhat lonely these days) pulpit.

The Dominion-Post  was  at  its most  omniscient:  NZ  needs  Luxon  to  right   the  Nats.

And  to  make  it  plain exactly  where  it  stood,  the  next  days’ edition  carried  as  a  lead  story the  revelation that

“.. soaring  prices  mean new  National  Party  leader  Christopher Luxon  is  effectively  earning about $90,000  a  week  in capita; gains  from his 7 properties which give him the biggest property portfolio of  any  sitting  MP”.

Point of  Order  resists  the  temptation   to  join  the throng in  offering  advice to the  new  leaders.  But we wonder  whether  Chris Luxon and Nicola Willis are  as convinced  as  the  would-be  advisers appear to  be  that the original  principles  of  the  National Party are  so  shop-worn   they  should be discarded.

It  is  true,  of  course,  that  Labour  has  long departed  from the  principles  on which  it  was  founded (remember   the  “socialisation  of  the means  of production, distribution   and  exchange”)  which it  found both unpopular  and, more  to  the point,  unworkable.

That  doesn’t  mean to say that  some  people don’t believe this system   is  superior  to capitalism.  Yet  it  was  clear  that,  in  an  imperfect  world, most  people  given   the  choice  in the days  when Communist Russia espoused the Leninist philosophy preferred  to  live   in the  West.  The Iron Curtain was designed to keep Soviet-bloc people in, not to keep the capitalists out.

Returning to  modern-day NZ, the  question is  about how to win the  middle  ground  in NZ  politics, which – thanks to Geoffrey  Palmer’s  adoption  of the MMP electoral system – a party must do to win  enough seats to govern at general elections.)  National may well be tempted to at least take a hard look at its original  founding principles  of free-market  capitalism  in a property owning democracy.

Critics  may  argue (as   Bolger  does) that some  people  are  becoming  obscenely rich  and  others  are  going to food  kitchens, but  one  may also look to  the  farming  industry as  it  has evolved  in  NZ  for another example  of the operation of  the free enterprise  system.  It  is  proving  not only  to be the backbone of  the  NZ  economy, but  it is a virtual saviour in  terms  of  export earnings  as  Covid-19 renders  others  like the tourist industry  almost  impotent in  terms  of earning  overseas exchange.

And  now  there  is  evolving an equally  successful outcome   for the  capitalist structure to farming  in  the  hi-tech  industry. As   Southland-born Peter  Beck, founder of the spectacularly successful RocketLab, said this week:

“Right now  the tech  sector in NZ  is  raging…I have a lot to do with the venture capital, it’s  the  best I’ve  ever  seen it and  funding a  lot  of  startups. And  I have to  say that the  quality  and  quantity of  startups  now  is the  best I’ve  ever  seen  it”.    

It’s  no surprise  that “obscenely rich” individuals like  Peter  Beck are backers of new  hi-tech  ventures — this  is  what  capitalists  do — and  they  encourage  others  to  do  the  same. The  theory  is  that  it is  better  to  aim at lifting  all boats.   

Point  of  Order suspects  that’s what  Luxon and  Willis want  to  do.

Fisher  and  Paykel  Healthcare puts pep back into the sharemarket

Fisher  and  Paykel  Healthcare startled  the  sharemarket  out  of  its  lethargy  this  week  when it  reported a  half-year profit  of  $221.8m  on revenue of  over $900m.  The company   again  dazzled  market analysts,  who  had  been expecting revenue  to  fall  after the  record  achieved  in the  previous  12 months, largely through the provision of  medical equipment for hospitals to combat  Covid.

The  Auckland-based  company has  become  the  flag-bearer  for the  hi-tech sector in NZ and   has  signalled  further  growth, announcing that  over the next five years it expects to invest $700m  in land and buildings. This includes a fifth building, completing its Auckland campus, and acquiring land for a second NZ campus.

Over the next five years the company expects to add an additional three manufacturing facilities located outside NZ, the first of which is currently under construction in Tijuana, Mexico.

What  sets F&P Healthcare apart from  most NZ firms  is its  investment in R&D which in this half year was 8% of revenue, or $75.7m.

The  half-year announcement  sent  investors piling  back  into the stock,  which  bounced  up 5%.

The  company’s market capitalisation is  creeping  back close  to  $20 billion. Continue reading “Fisher  and  Paykel  Healthcare puts pep back into the sharemarket”

Greenie groups are grouching about the govt as well as the agriculture sector over greenhouse gases

New Zealand’s  agricultural   industries  on   which  the  country   depends  for the  bulk of  its  export  income are  facing  a  renewed onslaught  from environmental  lobby   groups  which are  challenging the  country’s failure  to place what  they see as an effective  charge  on  agricultural  emissions.  But this  time  Jacinda  Ardern  and James  Shaw are  being bayoneted  alongside  the  farmers.

Greenpeace spokesperson  Christine  Rose  says:

“Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw need to show some mettle, stand up to the dairy industry and include 100% of agricultural emissions immediately”.

Forest  and  Bird is  on a  slightly  more  elevated plane: it  says   it  is calling on He Waka Eke Noa to put their plan to price agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the bin because even He Waka Eke Noa says it wont actually cut emissions”.

He Waka Eke Noa is the name adopted by a Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership which aims to support farmers and growers to protect, restore and sustain the environment and to enhance the country’s well-being and that of future generations.

According to the discussion document He Waka Eke Noa –

Initial modelling suggests these prices would lead to reductions in total agricultural emissions of less than 1% reduction in both CH4 and N2O below 2017 levels, additional to reductions as a result of other environmental policies.” Continue reading “Greenie groups are grouching about the govt as well as the agriculture sector over greenhouse gases”

While Robertson warbles about a robust economy, critics sound a sour note by measuring the debt

Finance Minister  Grant  Robertson  is  still  singing  heartily from the  same  songbook, as he has  done  through   most  of  the  pandemic:  the  economy  has  remained  resilient,  the  government  is  working  closely  with  business,   we  are  well placed for  recovery, the  Crown accounts show  revenue  above   budget  forecasts, the economy’s  performance  has  exceeded the  expectations of  most  economists.

Pause   for  a  roll  of drums….

Robertson has  been careful  to  throw  in  a  caveat , as  he  did  after  singing this  particular  hymn  in   the  House:

“ The recovery is uneven for some sectors and regions, while the pandemic continues to disrupt global supply chains, which is affecting the New Zealand economy”.  

 But, again, the  Ardern   government   is  on  the  job:

“Key government actions to reduce the impact of the supply chain disruption is being led by the Ministry of Transport with an inter-agency forum, where we are working with both importers and exporters. But there is no quick fix to these global issues”.

 And  then  the  final   stanza:

“The government will continue to take a balanced approach and invest in supporting the recovery and meeting other challenges while carefully managing our resources”. Continue reading “While Robertson warbles about a robust economy, critics sound a sour note by measuring the debt”

The PM loses her halo in assessment of ministers – but how did Sepuloni earn her higher rating?

Latest   polling    showed   Labour’s  rating    at 41%,  down  2 points from the  previous  sampling. Significantly,  it  charted  Prime Minister  Jacinda Ardern’s  rating  slipping  even  faster,  to  39%  or  5 points lower.

The trend  confirmed  what  some of  the  country’s  top political journalists (Barry  Soper  of  Newstalk ZB   and Audrey Young  of  the  NZ  Herald) had   already  been  telling their   audiences: that  Jacinda  Ardern’s  halo  had floated  out  to  sea.

In  fact  Audrey Young, in  a  recent   article   on  how  cabinet  ministers have been performing, gave Ardern   only  7  out  of  ten, down 1  from  the  previous rankings  six months  ago.

The  slippage  may  have  accelerated, given that Ardern’s  excusing Auckland’s tardy emergence  to  freedom is  causing  immense  frustration  among  Aucklanders. That   frustration   was  compounded when  Ardern chose  to flip  in  and out  of  Auckland,  using  an RNZAF  757 jet  for the  flight  from Wellington (hey,  no  worry  about the  carbon  emissions, even  though Cop 26  was  in  session  at the  time).

But  back  to  Audrey  Young’s   Cabinet ratings:  what put  her assessment of  Ardern’s  fall  from the  heights into perspective is  that  she  rated   seven   ministers  as  doing  better—-

  • 9/10: Robertson (no change), Sepuloni (+2), O’Connor (+5); and
  • 8/10: Little (-1), Henare (+1), Wood (-1), Shaw (no change).

What  might have  upset  Ardern fans  even  more  was  that the PM was  placed  alongside Phil Twyford, and William Aupito Sio,  not  to  mention  Kiri Allan who had  spent  months  recovering  after treatment  for  cancer.

Of  course   those  fans  might  have  cited  Carmel  Sepuloni  being  given  a  9  out of ten  as    showing something awry with Audrey Young’s judgement.

Lindsay Mitchell, on  her  blog, pointed out   just how  well Sepuloni  had  actually  performed  in the social  welfare  field.

These  are the ministry’s own progress indicators:

  • Average future years on a benefit have increased from 10.6 years in 2017 to 12.4 years
  • Median time to house clients has increased from 54 days to 168 days
  • Percentage of clients who exit a benefit who return to it within one years – increased from 51% to 69%
  • Client net trust score dropped in the last year from +43 to +40.

Point  of  Order   has  difficulty seeing  Nanaia Mahuta  given a  7  out  of  ten  ranking. Her  bludgeoning of local  bodies  in her  Three  Waters policy  demonstrates  a  total  disregard  for  democratic  values.

And  how could Marama  Davidson  rank  alongside Megan  Woods, Stuart  Nash,  or  Ayehsa  Verrall?   Some   would assert   Verrall,  in  her  first  term  in Parliament,  has  shown  a  range  of  skills    that  marks  her  out   for a  senior  portfolio  in  the  next term .

In  any  case,  there   is  plenty   to  chew  over, as  ministers  (and the  country)  enter  the  final  weeks  of  what  history might  mark  as  a  difficult  year  for  politicians  of  all stripes, but  especially  its leaders.