Ardern government seeks to butter up farmers with bold export forecasts and on-farm sequestration changes   

Farmers  had plenty to digest this week:  first, the Ministry of Primary Industries assesses exports from the sector will hit a record high $55bn  in 2023; second, the government took an important step back on the on-farm sequestration programme; and third, Field Days at Mystery Creek engrossed  those who attended (though perhaps not the Prime Minister, given the cool reception).

The MPI data showed Dairy again NZ’s largest export sector with forecast revenue due to top $23.3bn. That underlines how important the dairy sector has become in the NZ economy.  Red meat and wool exports are also expected to hit a record at $12.4bn.

Horticultural export revenue is projected to grow 5% to $7.1bn and processed food by 3% to $3.3bn. Continue reading “Ardern government seeks to butter up farmers with bold export forecasts and on-farm sequestration changes   “

 Prime Minister shines again on South-east Asian tour: her deputy not  so much at home

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been snaring the headlines again on her mission in South-east Asia, celebrating the signing of an upgraded free trade agreement with ASEAN, condemning  the regime in Myanmar, and having a 10-minute conversation with US president Joe Biden.

Then there were the formal  meetings of the East Asia Summit in Cambodia. Now  she is seeking to lift trade with Vietnam. Still to come is the APEC forum meeting  in Cambodia, where possibly she will have  a  head-to-head with China’s President Xi Jinping.

She  does this so well that  some  of  her  countrymen  back  home  think she  should do it permanently.

But would those same countrymen accept deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson in the  role of Prime Minister?

Not judging by the criticis  he has been attracting while  she has been away.As Sports Minister Robertson  could  share the glow of the Black Ferns’ triumph. As Finance Minister,the report card was less favourable.

In his Saturday column in the NZ Herald Steven Joyce was particularly severe, contending that the failure to let the central bank focus on stability risks its independence.  

The headline neatly encapsulated the Joyce criticism: “Robertson sticking an Orr in on RBNZ’s role”.

Joyce argues the reappointmentof Adrian Orr as governor of the Reserve Bank by Robertson for a second term of 5 years is “troubling”.

“Because of the bank’s importance and independence, the appointment of the governor is supposed to be a non-partisan decision that both sides of politics can live with. For whatever reason, it is clear that for the opposition parties and many independent commentators that is not currently the case.

“A sensible finance minister concerned for the independence of the institution would have either appointed a new governor or reappointed the current one for a shorter term.

“I should stress the criticism is directed at Robertson. It is Robertson who appointed Orr  and the buck stops with him on  Orr’s reappointment”.

Business journalist Bernard Hickey told Radio NZ’s Morning Report that as an independent, inflation-targeting central bank, RBNZ had missed its target and the public were right to want some accountability.

He said while it had responded to the pandemic in a similar way to other central banks around the world, the various things it had implemented in addition to its remit of setting the official cash rate (OCR) had caused a “perfect storm”.

Hickey points out:

“The Opposition is now saying Adrian Orr is not just a purely independent apolitical person, he did so many things in concert with Grant Robertson, so many joint memorandums of understanding, joint letters, that he crossed the line.”

Claire Trevett, political editor of the NZ Herald,noted in her Saturday column that the cost of living is rated the top  issue for voters,with the economy ranking second.

She says polling  shows on the  issue of which party is  considered best at managing the economy, almost twice as many people believe National is best  at 47% to Labour’s 24%.

Hardly a  feather in Robertson’s cap.  

Trevett reckons the bluntest lesson—or solution—for Labour came in the Reid Research poll,in which an overwhelming 85% of people supported a  tax-free income threshold

“Labour has not ruled out some tax cuts in its 2023 policy, and Ardern’s observation that a tax-free threshold did at least deliver the same to  those on low incomes the same as high may or may not be a hint about what it is looking at.

“It may be Labour’s only  hope”, says Trevett.

So, with an election budget still to come, Robertson back at his desk may be telling himself “Don’t count me out yet”

BRYCE EDWARDS:  Will the Govt act on mega bank profits and reform the banking sector?

Dr Bryce Edwards writes – 

The corporate retail banks are making mega profits on the back of Government policies and indirect subsidies of recent years. As a result, there are calls from across almost the whole political spectrum for greater regulation of the banking sector, including windfall taxes. But will outrage turn into action?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led the charge against the banks this week, warning the likes of ANZ – which announced recently that its profits were up 20 per cent to a record $2.3b – that they are at risk of losing their “social license” to operate here.

The Prime Minister sounded tough, but she was also quick to admit that she has no intention of taking any action or changing the rules. The Finance Minister Grant Robertson was also fast to rule out any reforms or further investigations.

Critics have said that Ardern’s plea for the banks to have “self-reflection” is wishful thinking in the extreme. The Green Party’s finance spokesperson, Julie Ann Genter, put forward this analogy: “Expecting banks… to put people ahead of profit would be a bit like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.” Continue reading BRYCE EDWARDS:  Will the Govt act on mega bank profits and reform the banking sector?

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?

Whoa. 

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.

Thomas Cranmer: Twitter and the Monty Python Business Model

Elon Musk continues to develop the new free speech model for Twitter, drawing on comedy for new ideas and as a way of deflecting political criticism. Jacinda Ardern’s approach involves less humour.  THOMAS CRANMER examines the contrast…

On Sunday I asked the question: would Twitter unfollow the Prime Minister given that, on the face of it, Musk and Ardern have very different ideas of how the public square should operate?

As it turned out, it was a question that the Prime Minister was also pondering. When questioned on Tuesday about Twitter’s change of ownership, Ardern observed that “it is fair to say we are in a bit of unknown territory at this point”. They had, it seemed, changed their relationship status to “it’s complicated”. Despite this setback Musk and Ardern both had a busy week, with each of them progressing their own vision of how public discourse should be moderated.

In a previous article, I observed that humour was central to Musk’s view of free and open debate and this week saw confirmation of that. It started on Tuesday with him toying with the idea of asking twitter users to pay $20 per month for a blue check as a means of verification. When the author Stephen King unceremoniously shot him down, Musk’s response was to lower the price:      Continue reading “Thomas Cranmer: Twitter and the Monty Python Business Model”

THOMAS CRANMER: PM’s urge to get to Antarctica reminds us of NZ’s connections with the ice (mythical and otherwise)

TV3 today reported that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has stressed the importance of New Zealand maintaining its strong connection with Antarctica as other countries contest territory in the region.

Ardern, who is visiting Antarctica, spent yesterday visiting areas away from Scott Base, including the Terra Nova and Shackleton huts, and the Dry Valley

THOMAS CRANMER earlier this week said it is unclear why she wanted to skip Parliament to visit Antarctica – but he noted it does bring to mind last year’s research regarding Maori voyages and the little noticed response from Ngāi Tahu.

 

 For reasons known only to her closest advisors, the Prime Minister seems intent on missing this week’s sitting of Parliament in order to travel to Antarctica – a place described as “the coldest, windiest, remotest place on Earth” by Antarctica NZ general communications manager Megan Nicholl. According to Grant Robertson, the man who deputizes for Ardern during her absences abroad, “it’s the kind of visit the New Zealand Prime Minister should make”.

For the rest of us, we are left to scratch our heads and speculate. The stated reason of marking the 65th anniversary of Scott Base seems, on the face of it, a tenuous excuse to make a very climate unfriendly return flight on a C130 Hercules particularly at a time when there are so many pressing issues on the domestic political agenda. Continue reading “THOMAS CRANMER: PM’s urge to get to Antarctica reminds us of NZ’s connections with the ice (mythical and otherwise)”

Bryce Edwards: The Increasing speculation about Jacinda Ardern quitting

Bryce Edwards writes:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern flies to Antarctica today, and her media spin doctors will be hoping for some good photo opportunities to lift the leader’s popularity. But they will be asking a lot.

Tomorrow it will be five years since Ardern was sworn in as Prime Minister. At that time she was incredibly popular, and her support kept rising, hitting its heights in 2020.

That tide has certainly turned in recent months, and there are signs that Ardern is headed for a very difficult time as Prime Minister in the near future. Economic and social factors may get much worse. And the prospect of Labour’s popularity declining further is possible, especially as difficult reforms throw up problems. Re-election in 2023 has never seemed more in doubt.

Unsurprisingly, there has been an upswing in speculation about how long Ardern will stay on as leader and prime minister. The idea of her stepping down before the next election is gaining traction, despite there being no obvious candidate in the Labour Party who could do a better job than her. Continue reading “Bryce Edwards: The Increasing speculation about Jacinda Ardern quitting”

Michael Bassett: Jacinda – Full steam into the electoral hurricane

Watching Jacinda Ardern respond to the local body election results has been scary, former Labour cabinet minister Michael Bassett writes on BASSETT, BRASH & HIDE.

Teeth flashing, hands waving, exhortations to “be kind”, she seems to be full-steam ahead into next year’s electoral hurricane, he observes.

She has not acknowledged that the mayoral candidates she campaigned for in Auckland and Wellington were trounced at the polls,

“… her endorsement probably more of a liability than a help”.

Bassett sees no sign sign that Jacinda or her ministerial colleagues have learned anything about the unpopularity of many of their policies.  He writes: Continue reading “Michael Bassett: Jacinda – Full steam into the electoral hurricane”

NZ was somewhat slow in imposing sanctions on Russia – but we’ve been tightening the screws bit by bit during the year

We don’t know what impact is being made, but by Point of Order’s rough reckoning, the Ardern Government this week fired off the 13th barrage of sanctions and trade bans on Russia and Belarus in response to Vladimir Putin’s attempts to illegally annex parts of Ukraine.

The latest measures comprise

  • Sanctions which target 51 oligarchs including New Zealand-linked Alexander Abramov and 24 Russian-backed office holders in annexed areas of Ukraine
  • New bans on exports and imports of luxury goods like NZ wine and seafood and Russian vodka and caviar, as well as strategically important products like oil, gas and related production equipment
  • An extension of the 35% tariff on Russian imports till March 2025

New Zealand has now imposed sanctions on more than 1,000 individuals and entities and has imposed unprecedented trade measures which have resulted in New Zealand exports to Russia and Russian imports to New Zealand falling drastically, the Government says.

Russia triggered our responses on February 24 when Putin’s forces launched a full invasion of Ukraine, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.

RNZ next day reported that sanctions announced overnight by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta included a ban on export of goods to the Russian military and security services. Continue reading “NZ was somewhat slow in imposing sanctions on Russia – but we’ve been tightening the screws bit by bit during the year”