When all that money is being pumped into health (as the PM insists), we may wonder why the system is so badly strained

Opposition Leader  Christopher Luxon  has  shown  he  is  a  fast  learner.  Where   earlier  he  often ended  on  the  receiving  end  in exchanges  with  the  Prime Minister in Parliament, now  it  is the Prime  Minister who who can be seen back-pedalling,

Take,  for  example, pressures  in the  health  system  which are causing  so  much anguish  to  New Zealanders.

The  National Party  has  turned  the  spotlight on emergency departments which are facing high demand and staff shortages, with at least one district health board delaying planned surgeries for weeks.

Luxon  had  laid  the  groundwork  for his questions with  an earlier  statement that he would commit to delivering and improving health outcomes.

The government

“… confuses and conflates spending announcements with actually securing outcomes”, Luxon said.

“This government cannot get anything done, it doesn’t matter which portfolio you pick up, they’re actually spending more money, hiring more bureaucrats and getting worse outcomes.” Continue reading “When all that money is being pumped into health (as the PM insists), we may wonder why the system is so badly strained”

A Cabinet reshuffle must be among the options as Ardern considers how to halt growing public disenchantment

After the excitement of her US visit and White  House call, PM Jacinda Ardern is  now  engaged in  the  harsh realities of  running  a  government that  appears  to be  crumbling  by  the  week.

Ministers  are  tripping  over  themselves – this  week it  was Police Minister Poto Williams who became the   butt  of  Opposition calls  for her  to be  sacked.  Then there  were  the  polls charting  a  governing party’s  falling popularity, despite  a huge spend-up  in the latest budget.

The One News Kantar poll at the end of  May put Labour’s  support  down  at 35%. Then came the Roy Morgan poll which had Labour even lower, at 31.5%.

This is  the sixth Roy Morgan sampling to  show  there would be a change of  government  if there were an election now.  According to Ipsos polling, people rate  National as  more capable than Labour on four out of the five top issues – inflation, housing, health care, petrol prices and  crime).

Just what Labour’s own polling is indicating is being kept a party secret, but it is possibly even grimmer than the public polls because in desperation the  party has been using social media to try  to discredit National’s Christopher Luxon, who had succeeded in hitting the  government  where it hurt by drumming  on the themes  of a cost-of-living crisis and the need for   tax  cuts   in  the  budget. Continue reading “A Cabinet reshuffle must be among the options as Ardern considers how to halt growing public disenchantment”

How the Nats are drawing blood by needling the govt on economic issues as living costs surge

Opposition parties appear to have thrust the government on to the defensive on inflation and the  cost-of-living crisis  and are widening the  attack to  find  chinks  in  the  Finance Minister’s armour on  his  handling  of  the  economy.

They have built  a  platform   for   the   forthcoming  budget  debate  which  will  ensure  it is  not  as  one-sided  as  in  earlier  years of the  Ardern  government.

Robertson even conceded in Parliament yesterday “we know that New Zealanders are doing it tough as global factors push up the cost of living”.

He quickly added that the  government is continuing to support low- and middle-income earners through reductions in their fuel bills and income increases.

For National’s  relatively  new  leadership  team, the  cost-of- living  crisis  has  been the  issue  that  has  allowed them  to  sharpen  the  parliamentary  skills  needed   to  spearhead  their  roles   in  exposing weakness  in  the  government policies. Continue reading “How the Nats are drawing blood by needling the govt on economic issues as living costs surge”

Overseas forces are to blame for the surge in our living costs? But non-tradables inflation (up 6 per cent) then must be explained…

In the wake of the latest inflation figures being published today, showing the consumers price index has risen at its fastest pace in some 30 years, the burning question is whether we  have  a  cost  of  living  crisis.

Opposition  parties  (inevitably) seized on the annual 6.9 per cent CPI increase to insist prices  are  out of  control.  National Party leader  Christopher  Luxon says prices   are  a  “silent  thief in  your  pocket”.

On  the other side  of  the political fence, the  Council of Trade Unions contends that inflation  is  being  driven by the price  of  property  and  the  price  of  fuel.

The man who is  running the economy accepts  no  responsibility.   Finance  Minister Grant  Robertson   says  the increases in consumer prices are a “reminder of the current global economic challenges” – but he  adds, almost as an afterthought, they  do  show the need for responsible fiscal policy in New Zealand.

Whatever the huffing and puffing politically, the  hard  fact  is that a  New  Zealander  who  took out  a  30-year  mortgage a  year  ago fixed  for  a  year and  who is  now  looking  to refix could  find  monthly  payments  go  up a formidable 33 per cent. Continue reading “Overseas forces are to blame for the surge in our living costs? But non-tradables inflation (up 6 per cent) then must be explained…”

Poll-jumpy ministers are stung by Luxon’s tax-cut speech but can’t cover up the pressures of rising costs

National Party leader Christopher Luxon  came under  attack  from  his political opponents this  week   — and  from some elements in the mainstream media — for  proposing  tax  cuts  to ease  the  pressure of  what he  dubbed  a  “cost-of-living-crisis”.

Luxon outlined his  plan  in  his  state-of-the-nation address  on  Sunday.

The speech might not have made an  impact with the public as sharp as he  would have liked,  but it  clearly hit a  tender spot  in the  government. Both PM Jacinda Ardern and her deputy,  Grant Robertson, came armed to  Parliament on Tuesday to demolish the Luxon case.

They or their staff  had  also  been  busy briefing journalists who  had  been suggesting Luxon  was  off target,  and  his  proposed tax  cuts  would  be (a) inflationary  and  (b) ineffective.

The government’s sensitivity  might have  been  made  more  acute  by a political poll  (the  Roy  Morgan sampling)  which  showed  Labour  at  32% trailing National  on 38%.  This was  the third  successive poll from the  Roy Morgan  outfit  indicating a  change of  government if  that  mood  was carried  through to  the  election.

The difficulty for  the  government  even  as  it  argues that  inflation may  ease – next month, or in the  next  quarter, or in  the  next year – is  that  the fall in  the  standard of  living  is being felt  across the  board this  very  day.  What’s more, the  extra $6bn  the  government is  committed  to  spend in the budget  will  only add to  inflation. Continue reading “Poll-jumpy ministers are stung by Luxon’s tax-cut speech but can’t cover up the pressures of rising costs”

Now let’s  see  how  Christopher Luxon  develops the image of  a  “caring” National Party

Only  weeks   into becoming leader  of  the  National  Party, Christopher  Luxon has  succeeded   in  pulling  together   his   troops  and at  the  same  time  re-shaping the  message  he  thinks  is needed  to  attract  back the  413,000 voters who drifted  away  in  the  last  election.  The  question    is  whether  he  can  pitch the message  to  haul  back  some of  those  who  voted for  Labour  in 2017  on  the  basis  of  their  promises, but  have  since  realised Labour ministers  don’t  have  the  ability  or  capacity to   deliver them.

Initially  there  was  some  uncertainty  that  Luxon,  with  only   a  year behind him  as  an MP, could   unify  the  faction-ridden National caucus.  But he  settled  those  doubts  impressively   at  the  two-day  retreat  at  Queenstown,  not   least  with  his two  warring  predecessors,  Judith Collins  and Simon Bridges,  showing up  to  breathe  a  new  spirit  of   sweetness  and  light by  the  lakeside.

Luxon  has  resumed polling  to get  the mood of voters, re-engaging  David  Farrer’s  Curia, and  will  use  the  techniques  refined  by  John Key  and Bill  English of  focus groups and  internal polling   as  new  policies  are  formulated. Continue reading “Now let’s  see  how  Christopher Luxon  develops the image of  a  “caring” National Party”

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”

The PM would not be standing by while house prices soared – and look what happened

In January this year Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern insisted: “We can’t stand by while house prices increase at the unsustainable rates we saw in 2020.”

So   what  has  happened  since?

During Auckland’s level 4 and level 3 period – August to November – house prices rose $113,000, or 8.3%.  In the 12 months to November, Auckland prices rose 27.9%.

The  speed at  which house prices have  risen  in  NZ  has  even attracted   the  attention of The  Economist.  It  noted  recently  that

“… in  the  past year, prices in NZ  have  shot  up at a  pace of  more than NZ2000  a  week.  Costs in  big  cities have been  going  up  for years, propelled by a  mix of  cheap  borrowing and  a scarcity  of  new homes”.

The  pandemic  has  made matters worse:  lockdowns  boosted  demand while   labour  and materials shortages constrained  housing  supply. Continue reading “The PM would not be standing by while house prices soared – and look what happened”

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”

Three Waters – Mahuta seems curiously bemused by the numbers of mayors who aren’t buying into her reform plan

When the rising tide of dissatisfaction about a key reform programme has reached a minister’s neck, it seems smart to consider turning off a tap, if not pulling the plug.      

But not Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.  She is reported to be defending the Three Waters reform amid mounting criticism of the sort that was described like this in an Otago Daily Times editorial late last week:

“Opposition to the Government’s ambitious Three Waters plan is substantial, and for good reasons.”

The Three Waters are storm, drinking and wastewater.  

But although too much is unknown and/or uncertain about the government’s reform, the ODT noted, submissions from councils are to close at the end of the month.

Southern mayors have asked the Government to slow down the process and allow time for meaningful public engagement.

“This is the very least that should happen.”

Opposition to Mahuta’s grand design has been recorded throughout the country. 

Curiously, the Minister says she is “curious” about why she isn’t riding a winner – a remark that suggests she hasn’t bothered finding out. Continue reading “Three Waters – Mahuta seems curiously bemused by the numbers of mayors who aren’t buying into her reform plan”