You really can’t have it all

The politics of reality have made for a strange year.

In Germany, an improbable rainbow coalition burnt lots of coal so it could close its nuclear power stations.  Americans decided an unpopular Biden was marginally less problematic than Trump.  Vladimir Putin overestimated his attractiveness and underestimated Ukraine’s. The Brits fell out of love with their Brexit government.  And China’s Xi is finding it hard to get out of unstable lockdown and into stable growth.

Incumbents are unpopular all over the show – even New Zealand now.  But that doesn’t always mean oppositions are doing much better.

Continue reading “You really can’t have it all”

Astonishing government gaffes—but will they influence  the Hamilton West by-election outcome?  

Government bloopers  have dominated the  headlines over the  past week: yet do  they foretell the  end of the Ardern  government? Or, for that matter, the  result of the Hamilton by-election on Saturday.

The Prime Minister, deftly dancing  on the head of  a pin  over the  backdown on  the 3 Waters “mistake”,  was a  sight to behold. Just as comical was  the  performance  of  Broadcasting  Minister Willie Jackson on TVNZ’s Q+A which won for itself  the headline  (in the NZ Herald): “Jackson’s bizarre interview a  trainwreck”.

These are only symptomatic of a  government standing above a precipice almost demanding to be pushed over it.

Yet whether the electors of Hamilton  West will give it the first shove is  far from clear.

Certainly the National leader Christopher Luxon, when he  was campaigning there last week, got no sense of a  landslide coming in his direction.

Continue reading “Astonishing government gaffes—but will they influence  the Hamilton West by-election outcome?  “

Who says Britain’s Conservative MPs are not future oriented?  

In fact, they are acutely focused on what job they might be able to get after the next general election, due in 2024.

Prospects looked worse after new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his mini-budget on Thursday.  His programme: rolling tax increases for the next six years.  And because tax thresholds are not being raised in line with rising prices and wages, persistent inflation (which also seems more likely) will make it more painful.

Have a smidgen of sympathy for the poor multi-millionaire.  Under the current bipartisan rules of the game, there is no alternative if the growth in debt is to be curbed.  Those who produce the most, must give the most.

Continue reading “Who says Britain’s Conservative MPs are not future oriented?  “

Unions press ahead to win “fair pay” agreements. But what if they add to inflationary pressure?

One of  NZ’s leading economists Cameron Bagrie told  the TV3 AM show on Tuesday the increase in wages in NZ is a “success” but we are getting to a point of too much success.

His warning came as  the Dominion-Post reported what it called “an avalanche”  of fair pay applications are expected to be made over the next few months as unions gather momentum to launch bids for better pay for workers under the new fair pay agreement law.

Fair pay agreements set out specific conditions and deals between workers and employers in an industry or occupation, with the regime for establishing them coming into effect next month.

They can be triggered by support from 1000 workers or 10% of a workforce. The fair pay legislation stemmed from a major plank in the Labour Party’s election policy. 

So how will that  “avalanche”  fit  with what the Reserve Bank  is  trying to do  with its action  to halt the momentum in inflationary pressure?.

Will  it be  another  economic disaster to be  chalked up by the Ardern government?

Here is  what  Bagrie told  AM  viewers:

“What we’ve got there at the moment is success. It’s a great story that wages are moving up, of course, but we are now into that zone where it’s too much success because it’s actually adding to inflation.”

It’s only a  month since the Ardern government passed into  law its flagship fair pay legislation.

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood called it an historic moment for New Zealand workers.

“The Fair Pay Agreements Bill will improve employment conditions, by enabling employers and employees to bargain collectively for industry or occupation-wide minimum employment terms,” he said.

 “By increasing bargaining co-ordination to agree minimum employment terms within a sector, outcomes for vulnerable employees will be improved and we will see growth in the incomes of New Zealand employees.”

Similarly, the Greens said the passing of the legislation was a “landmark change” and a “huge step forward”.

But will the  enthusiasm for  the  new  legislation  be  as  strong if, as Cameron   Bagrie  says,  it  adds to  inflationary pressure  just as the Reserve Bank raises interest rates again in its battle to control the inflation that is pushing  up mortgage bills so fast?

As the Dominion-Post reported this week,many sectors are already prepared to get their applications for fair pay agreements through on December 1.

First Union’s Louisa Jones said bus driver and supermarket retail members wanted to initiate the process and put in applications as soon as possible.

“This is massive. Workers are excited to try and do it.”

They already had over 1000 signatures for supermarket workers, she said.

Earlier this month a deal saw Countdown staff receive an average pay rise of 12% over a two-year collective agreement, with the union wanting to see other supermarket workers offered a similar rise.

First Union is working with the Tramways Union on the bus driver application, with secretary Kevin O’Sullivan saying they would have the numbers to kick off the fair pay process, “no problem at all”.

 O’Sullivan says people in regional NZ and smaller towns will benefit most from fair pay agreements.

“I’m completely confident we’ll [see] no problem having the numbers. The issue will be once we get down to negotiations”.

O’Sullivan said a fair pay agreement would have the most impact in the regions and in smaller towns.

As Point of Order sees it, it would be fiendishly ironic if the wage increases negotiated under the new fair pay legislation add to inflationary  pressure within the economy.

US elections: when in doubt, do nothing

America’s Democrats sighed with relief after Tuesday’s mid-term elections, even though they look likely to narrowly lose control of the House of Representatives, and perhaps even the Senate.

Because notwithstanding high levels of voter dissatisfaction, the widely-anticipated Republican wave petered out.

We should be impressed with the ability of diverse voters and voting regimes over a sprawling continent to deliver such finely nuanced results (including decisive victories for Trump Republican rivals such as Brian Kemp in Georgia and Ron DeSantis in Florida).

Continue reading “US elections: when in doubt, do nothing”

CHRIS TROTTER: Much worse than it looks

Political  commentator CHRIS TROTTER writes –  

THE REID RESEARCH POLL is much worse than it looks. Twelve months from now, when the actual voting papers, as opposed to responses to pollsters’ questions, are counted, Labour’s tally is likely to be much lower than 32 percent. Why? Because the level of voter abstention will be higher than it has been for many elections. Higher than the pollsters at Reid Research and other agencies are willing to assume, which means that the pre-election polls will flatter the Left by a significant margin. When the true level of abstention is revealed on Election Night – especially in relation to Māori, Pasifika and Pakeha voters under 30 – the vicious destruction of the Labour Party by older, whiter and righter voters will be explained.

The flight to abstention in 2023 will reflect a turning away from politics that is likely to gather strength as Labour’s contentious legislation on Hate Speech, Three Waters and Co-Governance contributes to a political climate of unprecedented bitterness and strife. Continue reading “CHRIS TROTTER: Much worse than it looks”

Ardern receives rapturous reception – but was it real?

Political journalists, indulging in a bit of  hyperbole, reported Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as  being treated to a “rapturous” reception at the Labour Party annual  conference.

It’s clear she does command the  adoration of not  just those delegates, but also of many other New Zealanders in a manner  few of her predecessors who led the Labour Party did.

But this may be blinding her to the stern  reality of the current political  mood,  as she  tells RadioNZ’s Morning Report the latest poll figures should be taken with a “grain of salt”.

The Newshub-Reid Research Poll, released  on Sunday night, showed Labour at 32.3%  support, far below  where it  stood  at the  last election.

How  could it be? Ardern might  have  wondered.

In any case, she insisted to interviewers, Labour’s own polling shows it is  neck-and-neck with National.

 All that is  needed  is a spend-up by Finance Minister Grant Robertson in  next year’s budget to  get  it  across the line.

What about  tax  cuts?


Robertson says tax cuts would be inflationary.

So, instead, expect a stream of announcements like those which Ardern made herself on Sunday of  increased childcare subsidies.

That  should do  the trick, party  strategists believe.

Yet  New Zealanders  are  realists and  they  understand  that  the inflation unleashed  in the wake  of Covid is  not  going  away  anytime  soon.

Almost  certainly that  is  why National  has  been inching  ahead  of  Labour in the  polls—even  though  Ardern reckons  they  are  “neck-and-neck”.

According to last night’s Newshub-Reid Research poll, National has nearly a third more support than Labour – 41% compared with 32%. As a result, Labour is currently projected to lose about 24 of its MPs at the next election, and be booted out of office just as the  Labour governments  in 1975  and 1990 were.

Ardern says  NZ is roughly 12 months away from the election and the government’s focus is “people, not polls”.

 The policy  she announced on Sunday  would see a change in the childcare subsidy payment from next year – something more than half of all Kiwi families might benefit from.

The change would mean a family with two parents both working 40 hours a week on $26/hour with two children under five who were currently not eligible for childcare assistance, be eligible for $252/week.

But exactly how much each family saves on childcare will depend on how many hours they work, their incomes, how long their children spend in care and the cost of it.

The government expects the changes will mean the parents of about 7400 additional children will receive the payment on average per month.

About $190 million over the next four years will be spent on the policy.

“I know it will make a difference”, and was in direct response to issues voters had been raising, Ardern told Morning Report.

Point of Order  doesn’t see this kind of  policy move shifting, or reversing, the direction   the polls  are moving. What  Labour  can do  now  may only staunch the  bleeding.

 As  Dr Bryce  Edwards puts it: “New Zealand now essentially has two conservative major parties for the public to choose from. Unfortunately for one of them – the Labour Party – the public increasingly prefers the more authentic conservative option, National”.

On his analysis,  the  rapture  at the  Labour Party conference may have been  more  synthetic  than  originally reported.

Bryce Edwards: Labour’s version of conservatism is no longer popular

Dr Bryce Edwards writes:

New Zealand now essentially has two conservative major parties for the public to choose from. Unfortunately for one of them – the Labour Party – the public increasingly prefers the more authentic conservative option, National. This can be seen in the latest opinion poll showing National continuing to storm ahead of Labour.

According to last night’s Newshub-Reid Research poll, National has nearly a third more support than Labour – 41 per cent compared to just 32 per cent. As a result, Labour is currently projected to lose something like 24 of its MPs at the next election, and be turfed out of power in what could be a landslide reversal of the 2020 victory.

Five years of cautious managerialism

Labour’s five years in power have been incredibly conservative, despite the radical times. Very little in the way of far-reaching reform has been pushed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and few radical policies have actually been delivered. Continue reading “Bryce Edwards: Labour’s version of conservatism is no longer popular”

Excellent writing on the New Right.  The Old might read 

An insightful mini-essay from Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen on how his “own preferred slant of classical liberalism is being replaced” by what – for want of an agreed term – he categorises as the New Right

At his level of intellectual discourse, this means “the smart young people I meet who in the 1980s might have become libertarians”.

Presumably they didn’t.  But nonetheless “the New Right doesn’t entirely reject the basic principles of free market economics”. (Is ‘entirely’ redundant here?) 

Continue reading “Excellent writing on the New Right.  The Old might read “

Perhaps Peters will be a kingmaker – but let’s see what happens to the Nats’ support in future polling

After   five   years of  Jacinda  Ardern    as  Prime  Minister,  a  nostalgia  for  politicians  of  another  era   is  breaking  to the  surface.  The Dominion-Post,  for  example,   rushed  on  to  the  front  page  a  news  item  headlined  “The  return  of  the  Kingmaker”,   while   the  NZ  Herald  featured   a learned  piece  by  Dr  Jarrod  Gilbert headed “Why I’d  be  pleased  to shout  Bill English  a  beer”.

And   there’s   seldom  a  week  when  John  Key  or  Helen  Clark  don’t  get  a  mention,  either to recall their  deeds  or  tap into their  political  skills.

So who’s  “the  kingmaker”   the  Dom-Post  thinks  is  on  the  way  back?

Why,  none  other  Winston  Peters.   The  old  lion, who  has  been  resting  in  his  lair  in  Northland, is  apparently  ready  to re-emerge on   to  the  political  stage, judging   by the  newspaper’s headline. Continue reading “Perhaps Peters will be a kingmaker – but let’s see what happens to the Nats’ support in future polling”