Why we are puzzled by the polls and what they are telling us about prospects of the Nats and ACT forming a government

Here’s a  political  conundrum:   why  aren’t   Opposition  parties  doing better in the  opinion polls?

National’s  leadership  has  settled  in, and it’s fair to say support for the Nats has increased since Christopher Luxon replaced Judith Collins.  But the gains have been at the expense of ACT.

And  together,  the two parties  are not  polling  well  enough  to  form a  government on  their own.

It will be worth watching to see if ACT does better after  holding an upbeat  conference last weekend,  oozing confidence levels which  party leader  David  Seymour  might  not  have  recognised  just  five or  so years  ago.

But meanwhile it might take only the suggestion of  a  success  or  two  for  the  government to  turn  around  the  slump  in its  fortunes.

So  far  there  is  no  sign  of that turnaround.

A  government   which began with a  show  of  capability,  if  not in a  blaze  of  glory, is  now finding  that  almost everything  it  touches   fades  into  ashes  so  quickly that   there  is  nothing, or  very little, to see. Continue reading “Why we are puzzled by the polls and what they are telling us about prospects of the Nats and ACT forming a government”

Mahuta cracks down on crime at sea while Williams counts the cash and assets ($500m) seized from criminals on land

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta is another member of the Ardern government who believes in the power of the law to eliminate criminal or undesirable behaviour.

But she seems to be aware that laws have their limitations:  a Bill she introduced to Parliament yesterday “aims” to prevent serious criminal offending at sea.

Megan Woods, as Minister of Energy and Resources, earlier this week was much more confident about a Bill to stop taxpayers having to fund oil field decommissions”.

She insisted:

“The Government is preventing taxpayers picking up the bill for the decommissioning of oil fields …”

Preventing? Or discouraging?

While Mahuta cracks down on crime on the high seas, Police Minister Poto Williams has been cracking down on gangs and criminals on land.

She proudly posted news that the Police have seized $500 million in cash and assets  from gangs and criminals over the past four years.

But many New Zealanders would have been paying attention to another triumph –  the Black Caps’ victory over India in the final of the inaugural Cricket World Test Championship.

The PM and Sports Minister Grant Robertson both extended their congratulations. Continue reading “Mahuta cracks down on crime at sea while Williams counts the cash and assets ($500m) seized from criminals on land”

Robertson signals govt will boldly go where action is needed to tackle the housing crisis

Latest from the Beehive   –

The need for bold action to deal with the country’s housing crisis was acknowledged when Finance Minister Grant Roberson this morning addressed a BNZ Breakfast in Wellington and released the 2021 Budget Policy Statement.

But he spoke only in general terms about the initiatives that will be taken on both the demand and supply side of the housing market.

The speech was posted on the Beehive  website along with news of a new trough being established.

This is yet another “no Pakeha” initiative, a $5.7 million contestable fund “to support Māori with projects that safeguard their mātauranga and taonga on marae, from the ongoing threat of COVID-19.”

We live and learn, eh, because here at Point of Order we did not previously appreciate that the pandemic posed a threat to matauranga and taonga as well as to people.

Among other Beehive announcements:

  • Health Minister Andrew Little congratulated the inaugural Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission and its board, as the Commission marks its first day as an independent Crown entity.
  • From today employers can receive a $350 payment if their employees cannot work from home while awaiting a COVID-19 test result.

Continue reading “Robertson signals govt will boldly go where action is needed to tackle the housing crisis”

It’s his first crack at a wellbeing budget, folks, so grant Robertson a bit of slack

Finance Minister Grant Robertson proudly proclaimed to a Wellington business audience this week that the Labour-led coalition “is getting on with the job of starting to fix the long-term challenges facing NZ and providing opportunity for all”.

He insists the “Wellbeing Budget” he will present later this month is about a new approach to tackling these challenges. His priorities, he says, are clear – the government is:

• Taking mental health seriously,
• Breaking the cycle on child poverty and domestic violence,
• Investing in crucial national infrastructure, like building new hospitals and schools; while
• Managing the books responsibly, and
• Addressing long-term economic challenges like building a sustainable economy and preparing for the jobs of the future.

He sensibly inserted a caveat:  it’s a first attempt at a wellbeing budget

“ … and we are not going to get things 100% right the first time around. Governments have been preparing budgets the same way for decades, so this is a significant change. But we are learning throughout this process and will look to improve it over years to come”.

Just as well, perhaps, since Opposition Leader Simon Bridges was seeking to rain on the Robertson parade.  He issued a press statement pointing out the PM and Robertson had last year launched the ‘Business Partnership Agenda’ which they said ‘brings together the strands of this government’s economic strategy’.

“Since then the Prime Minister and her Finance Minister haven’t mentioned the agenda once.  Not in a speech, a press release or even a tweet. The website hasn’t been updated since it was launched.  It still lists the Chief Technology Officer as a government initiative, despite the idea being axed in September last year. Eleven of the website links on the page don’t even work.”

Bridges rubbed it in by saying this is a government with no economic plan: the “Business Partnership Agenda” was clearly made up on the hoof and then forgotten about after the daily news cycle. “All talk, no action”.

So Robertson will have to be on his game when he presents the budget. He says the government will measure its success by how well it improves the living standards and wellbeing of all NZers.

“Yes, we need prosperity, but we also need to care about how we sustain and maintain that and who gets to share in it.  In order to succeed in this, we need all the tools available to the government to consider wider wellbeing outcomes, to ensure that everything the government does is done explicitly to improve the lives of NZers.

“The government does not dictate a person’s wellbeing. But if we make improving wellbeing our purpose then we have a decent shot at helping improve the lives of all our people”.

NZ still has thousands of young people not in employment, education or training. The home ownership rate has fallen to its lowest rate in over 60 years.

NZ has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD. Hundreds of thousands of children are growing up in poverty.  And Māori and Pasifika continue to experience poor outcomes.

“For me, a simple growth rate is just not sufficient to tell us what success looks like”.

The Finance Minister goes on:

“There are three fundamental elements to our wellbeing plan.

“First, a whole-of-government approach. This is about stepping out of the silos of agencies and working together to assess, develop and implement initiatives to improve wellbeing.

“Secondly, a wellbeing approach means looking at inter-generational outcomes. We have to think about the long-term impacts on future generations at the same time as meeting the needs of the present.

“Thirdly, we need to move beyond narrow measures of success.  The Treasury’s Living Standards Framework is at the core of our approach to this Budget, but the government also has other success measures to draw on as well, such as child wellbeing and poverty indicators, and Statistics NZ’s Indicators Aotearoa NZ.

“Taken together, these are steps forward in giving ourselves a much richer picture of how we are tracking as a country. Ultimately the wellbeing approach still needs to help us make better decisions, identifying trade-offs and balancing outcomes”.

So what’s the essence of the new plan? Robertson sees a wellbeing approach as recognising and weighing up the overall pros and cons of government policy on all of the things that enable New Zealanders to live lives of purpose and value. The job is to ensure that the whole system of government is geared towards improving wellbeing and living standards.

“The focus at budget time is on new spending, but there is much to do to make sure that the baseline and core expenditure is aligned to our goals.  I will have more to say about this in the coming weeks, but we have to ensure our legislative framework, planning, reporting and accountability arrangements shift to support the wellbeing approach.

“Functionally, this requires a different approach to the way budgets have been done in the past.  Previous budgets have essentially been a contestable fund.  Individual agencies would develop and submit bids. The Finance Minister and a small group of other Ministers then made relatively arbitrary decisions on what would and wouldn’t be funded.

“So what is different about this budget?Fundamentally, this year we have taken a much more strategic approach to the budget’s development and production. The budget priorities have been developed on the basis of a wellbeing analysis.

“We have looked at the evidence to assess where we have the greatest opportunities to make a difference to New Zealanders’ wellbeing and we have focused our efforts on those opportunities”.

To inform this analysis the government has drawn on demographic and other data from the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework dashboard, as well as other evidence and advice from science advisors and other sector experts.  This information does not necessarily tell us what interventions should be made, but it shines a powerful light on where interventions are most needed, and where the biggest difference can be made.

The Wellbeing Budget priorities developed from this approach are:

  • Creating opportunities for productive businesses, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy;
  • Supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation, social and economic opportunities;
  • Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, including addressing family violence;
  • Supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders, with a special focus on under 24-year-olds; and
  • Lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities.

“These represent some of the biggest long-term challenges and opportunities that we face as a country. They will not be solved in one go. These are obviously complex, multi-faceted issues, requiring sustained attention and a collaborative, joined-up government”.

Earlier in his speech Robertson had noted the gap between rhetoric and reality was in many senses the defining issue of the 2017 election, and what led to the formation of the Coalition Government.

“This gap between rhetoric and reality, between haves and have-nots, between the elites and the people, has been exploited by populists around the globe.

It is a long-term view of mine, and the parties that make up this government, that we need to close this gap in an inclusive, not exclusive way, because it is the right thing to do and because we need to do so to ensure the public keep faith and trust in government”.

So as the country awaits this revolutionary new approach, let’s hope the gap between rhetoric and reality doesn’t stretch any wider.

Given the government’s reluctance to make the tax system “fairer”, the growing number of homeless, its bungled KiwiBuild programme, and the still high levels of child poverty, there’s a fair bit hanging on the “well being” to be delivered in the budget.

The Treaty and partnership are invoked as TPK goes out to promote Māori wellbeing

The Coalition Government is making solid progress on improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders and the Budget will outline further work, Finance Minister Grant Robertson enthused today.

Responding to the Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report, he said “the scale of the challenge this Government inherited means that we won’t finish our work in one year”.

Well, no.  Jacinda Ardern said something similar in the Prime Minister’s statement, presented to Parliament yesterday.

“I have reflected over summer on three things that remain true to me. No matter how much this Government did in the last year—and it was plenty—there is more to do. There is more to do.  Even if there’s a summer break, I didn’t stop thinking about that for a moment.”

The things to be done include the development of a wellbeing Budget. Continue reading “The Treaty and partnership are invoked as TPK goes out to promote Māori wellbeing”

Why our well-being won’t necessarily be improved by opting for GPI instead of GDP

The Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations has welcomed “Prime Minister Jacinda Adrian’s recent announcement that measuring the national’s progress by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was flawed”.

Let’s overlook the flaw in the council’s spelling of the PM’s name and focus on the implication that Jacinda Ardern was announcing the discovery that GDP has shortcomings as an economic measure.

It depends what you are trying to measure, of course.

The Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations mentions “the growing realisation” that GDP is “narrowly economic in focus and ignored important social and environmental aspects”.

The realisation – awareness would be a better word for it – is several decades old.

Consider this from an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond back in the 1990s (and what he was saying about gross domestic product and gross national produce had been recognised long before that).  Continue reading “Why our well-being won’t necessarily be improved by opting for GPI instead of GDP”