Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

What a National Government May Entail

June 23rd, 2008

By Gordon Campbell


Economic uncertainty is National’s latest rationale for why they’re not releasing their main policy positions and costings until the election campaign has virtually begun. Off hand, it is hard to think of a serious pretender to government in any other modern democracy that could get away with concealing the nature and cost of their policies for so long, merely because it suits them tactically to do so.

At most, this year’s election is now only five months away. Could Barack Obama for instance, get away with indicating that he won’t set out his policy stances until say, October – because it suits his election chances to keep the details to himself for as long as possible? C’mon Granny Herald, how about an outraged front page editorial upholding our democratic right to know what these contenders to government have in store for us ?

After all, people agree to be governed, but only by informed consent. So far, the polls are indicating that a change in government is on the cards. Yet so far, the polls have been based on public dislike of the Clark government, not on any comparison between the policy alternatives. The smiling Mr Key is a vacuum in waiting, which people are filling with whatever they desire him to be, and the media isn’t helping much to fill out the picture.

A week ago for instance, as No Right Turn pointed out the NZ Herald ran stories about (a) Key being voted the country’s sexiest politician, and (b) Nelson MP Nick Smith getting engaged by writing his “ Will you marry me?’ proposal in the sand with a stick. Spare us. Early this month, National claimed to have already released some 14, count ‘em, 14 policies. Yet apart from its $1.5 billion promise to roll out broadband by 2012, none have any costings. attached – a rather essential ingredient if voters are to judge how affordable the ‘policies’ are, and the levels of debt that may be required to finance them.

Counted on the list of 14 is the vague promise that by 2050, National will (somehow, no details provided) reduce New Zealand’s carbon emissions to half their 1990 levels by 2050, and equally vague promises to adopt Labour’s nuclear free policy and to continue Winston Peters policy of targeting aid to the Pacific.

Given the virtual information blackout National has imposed about its plans, it would be surprising if fears about its hidden agendas didn’t arise. Frankly, it seems (a) scary and (b) infuriating to be this close to a possible change of government without National being willing to tell us how it proposes to care for the sick, fund schools and universities, manage the workplace, protect the environment and run the economy. Just what has it got in its policy kitbag that it needs to hide?

To shed some light, I’ve tried to summarise below what I think National’s policies in government might be, based on speeches, press releases and statements in the House. This is an open source exercise. Meaning : if you can find other clues on what National plans to do, please send them in, and I’ll add them to a template every week – at least, until National officially shows its hand.

To make the exercise more readable, I’m looking today only at education, health, the economy and law and order – and on Wednesday, will try the same on telecommunications, the environment, and industrial relations.


Education

Spokesperson : Anne Tolley

National is still clearly missing Katherine Rich’s exit from the education debate. As John Key indicated in May National will double the funding from $40 million to $70 million for private schools. In similar vein, National’s education spokesperson Anne Tolley reportedly signalled last week that operational funding for schools will not increase beyond the inflation rate.

Taken in tandem, this signifies that while easing the burden on parents with kids in private schools is a priority for National, helping to meet the operational shortfalls in public schools is not. Therefore, families with children attending public schools will receive nothing from National beyond inflation adjustments to help bridge the funding gaps in our ‘free’ public education system. Incredibly, Labour’s modest 5 % boost in schools’ operational funding in this year’s Budget was denounced as unnecessary ‘pork” by Tolley, who clearly has no idea what she’s doing in this portfolio area.

National, despite its criticisms of NCEA over the last three years, will retain NCEA if and when in government. Last week’s announced review of NCEA took much of the remaining steam out of NCEA as an election issue – though it was already receding after last year’s refinements of the system of checks and balances on marking procedures. Key has announced plans to set national standards in reading, writing and numeracy. National will also offer more opportunities for trades and industry–based training – and private sector learning institutions will be allowed to compete with the public education system to offer such courses to 16 and 17 year olds.

There will be other profit opportunities provided for the private sector in education. Last year, Key announced that the private sector will be more involved in the building – and in the running ? – of public schools, via public/private partnerships. Since then, Key has said that he envisages PPPs in education as being limited to the provision of infrastructure, but this boundary remains to be confirmed, whenever the party’s education policy is finally released.

There is also serious semantic blurriness around the ‘bulk funding’ question. Reportedly, National has ruled this out during its first term in office, at least. In fact, it looks more as if National is interested in something akin to bulk funding, while resolutely shying away from risking ‘a 1990s argument’ by using the term. Key’s full, multiply hedged response on bulk funding is worth quoting, from the April 12 Agenda transcript :

I think it’s unlikely that bulk funding will be part of our programme in 08 and it’s just….we do want to try and deliver a system which gives more flexibility to schooling, but I think you know the issue around bulk funding is a bit of a kind of a 1990′s argument versus 21st sort of century perspective that we want to take…, I’ve asked a whole lot of teachers and principals and while the feedback is mixed those that were previously bulk funded actually like the system. In the end it’s also about where you set bulk funding to ensure that there are no losers, and that can be very expensive – so some flexibility in a slightly higher trust, less regulatory model can work, and we’re playing round with some ideas on that.

Whatever the outcome of National’s ‘playing round with some ideas on that’ entails, this doesn’t read to me as though bulk funding has been dumped, in spirit or in practice. Anne Tolley, the day after this Agenda interview, stated on radio that bulk funding has not yet been discussed [ as policy] and National’s deputy education spokesperson Alan Peachey has been consistently in favour of it.

Moreover, Norman LaRocque of the conservative Education Forum lobby group explained in a speech to the Henderson Rotary Club on June 12 that the term ‘bulk funding’ had best be avoided – essentially for tactical reasons – and hidden instead within a wider concept of school self management. “ Bulk funding is dead,” La Rocque concluded, “Long live bulk funding.” So, watch this space for further exciting developments on Bulk Funding : The Sequel.

And what of vouchers, the other centre right ideological hobby horse in education ? The NZ Council for Educational Research concluded this about vouchers : ‘ Competition for students by schools has not improved quality, achievement or access. Such schemes favour a minority at the expense of the majority. Competition among schools is hardest on those serving lower socio-economic communities and in fact it depresses overall educational levels.’

While National’s prospective coalition partner Act – via Sir Roger Douglas – has once again put forward education vouchers as its core policy, Key has been silent on this topic, as far as I can tell. Apart from in January, when Key publicly advocated making them available to 16 and 17 year old school-leavers, within those trades courses I mentioned earlier.

On student loans, National has embraced the Labour ‘interest free’ policy that it attacked so vociferously in 2005, and it now lists this among the 14 policies that it proudly calls its own. Beyond that, National’s plans on student loans contain only two new ( and minor) elements. It will do a bit of tinkering for the relatively affluent – it is offering a 10 % bonus to those materially blessed students who, during their first ten years of repayment, can afford to pay off their loans in lump sums of $500 or more above the compulsory rate. Example : if students pay off an extra $800, then National will subsidise that, and make it $880. Not exactly a hammer blow at the $10 billion student loan behometh.

Secondly, National is considering the scrapping of student loans for medical students if they agree to do postgraduate residencies in rural communities for three or four years. While welcoming the proposal, NZ Medical Students Association president Anna Dare pointed out that rural communities are not the only problem area. “We have moved beyond a simple maldistribution of our medical workforce and now face a national doctor shortage.” Lower medical fees and increased central government funding of the health system would be required alongside this immediate debt relief, Dare told the Otago Daily Times.

Summary : National will boost its subsidies to private schools and to wealthy students with student loans, and place a virtual freeze in real terms, on operational funding for public schools. It will provide business opportunities in courses for 16 and 17 year olds, and also turn to the private sector to help build ( and manage?) public schools.

Questions:

1. By how much beyond inflation, if at all, does National propose to boost operational funding for public schools ?

2. Via its promotion of PPPs in education, will National allow the private sector to manage and operate New Zealand public schools ?

3. National already supports vouchers for 16 and 17 year olds seeking trades based training. Will a National government introduce education vouchers beyond that point in the public school system ?

4. Will a National government allow school boards any greater role in the setting and administering of teacher salaries within the public school system ?


Health

Shadow Minister: Tony Ryall.

Simon Upton’s health reforms in the early 1990s virtually atomised the public health system, and set competitive forces loose in the health sector from which it has still not yet recovered. Ironic then, to find National’s spokesperson Tony Ryall now preaching the gospel of collective harmony :

“National believes the future lies in working together – primary and secondary, public and private – with a good lead from the government.”

Health will be where National’s essential balancing act – cut taxes, without (much) cutting of public services – will tested, and it is giving clear signs are that spending in the health sector will be rigorously monitored and contained. “We’re not going to be cutting health,” Finance spokesperson Bill English told a post Budget gathering in Christchurch in late May, “but we are going to focus on the harder issue of how to get more out of what you put in.”

Meaning : more from the same funding or less, as National squeezes the health sector to make it more productive. As yet, Ryall isn’t saying whether Labour’s lower charges to visit the doctor and lower charges on prescriptions will be kept, reduced or scrapped.

Last year, Ryall triggered a backlash by indicating fees for doctor visits would no longer be capped, under National. That issue is likely to recur, given the vision for health outlined last Friday by Ryall in his speech to the NZ Medical Association. You can read the full speech here.

The main ingredients? A larger role for GPs, who will be expected to form ‘one stop’ shops (called Integrated Health Centres) for diagnosis, outpatient treatment and referral. The economies of scale at the IHCs will require larger networks of doctors to staff them, and their economic viability will also necessitate them being granted longer term contracts with DHBs. Oh, and there will a bigger role for PPPs in the health sector as well, plus – as mentioned earlier – financial incentives for medical students to do their training and subsequent practice in rural communities.

In essence, the vision is one of moving treatment out of costly hospitals ( will these become known as Disintegrated Health Centres?) ) into primary healthcare care profit centres that will be gifted with a virtual stranglehold on plum DHB contracts. One see why, in this climate, National would not want any cap on fees for visiting the doctor , since there are only a couple of possible financing alternatives if National is truly proposing a more significant shift to primary care than we have already seen under Labour.

These options would seem to be : (a) reduced funding for hospitals, and a shift of those funds into primary care or (b) higher fees paid by patients going to the doctor. What Ryall seems to be proposing is a more profit-driven model, with recoupment at the GP level and productivity gains everywhere else. The package has been framed in the happy talk of convenience, planetary friendliness ( “ travelling is the new petrol-driven financial curse “) and accessibility – even though the fresh primary care emphasis is being pitched by National in the midst of an accelerating shortage of GPs.

In order to carry out its bright new round of cost containment and productivity reforms in health, National has borrowed one of its main buzzwords from a leading Japanese car company. “Lean Thinking,” Ryall explained in his speech to the Theatre Managers and Educators Conference at Te Papa in April : “ is derived from the methods of vehicle manufacturer Toyota. Lean thinking begins with driving out waste, so that all work adds value and serves the patients needs. Identifying value-added and non value-added steps in every process is the beginning of the journey towards lean operations.”

Got that? So, expect an influx of more time and motion health bureaucrats to carry out the studies on what current procedures do, and which procedures don’t, add greater value to the patient/clinician interface. Ryall again, in the same speech : “

Around the country we have hundreds of superbly qualified and motivated clinicians who can take responsibility for redesigning and improving their services. Many are looking at lean thinking. Mid-last year National’s health team held a telephone conference call with an NHS hospital in Scotland to learn about their success is using lean thinking to improve patient service.

Faced with a retention problem among your health professionals ? Ryall’s answer – get doctors to run the hospitals, as well as treating patients ! Or as he puts it, get clinicians to take responsibility ‘for re-designing and improving their services.’ Somehow, Ryall sees hospital doctors and specialists doing more of the re-designing and management of service delivery, while simultaneously doing less of the paperwork. Good trick.

Salaries ? Always an issue, Ryall concedes, always will be. Yet perhaps not as important as that priceless ( meaning : cost free) sense of satisfaction that comes from clinicians being able to lift their game. He wants more ‘productivity’ out of the workers in the health system, free of administrative hindrances. “Many clinicians tell me that improving productivity is a key route to professional satisfaction.”

In Ryall’s opinion, money isn’t the main issue anymore in health care – its more about the cultivation of fruitful and personally fulfilling caring, on current rations. “Money talks, but it is not the only, or even the prime, motivator.” Lean thinking, Ryall concludes, is bringing nurses at Middlemore hospital back to the bedside, and lean thinking is allowing them to do what they had trained to do. “They’re happier, enjoying work and doing more.” Truly, as the sign used to say over the gateway to Dachau concentration camp, work will make you free.

Summary : National looks likely to intensify Labour’s existing focus on primary care. It envisages larger concentrations of GPs working in Integrated Health Centres (IHCs) and will endow them with longer term contracts from DHBs to make the IHC model economically viable. It will use the Toyota car company’s ‘lean thinking’ concepts to crack down on waste in the public health system.

Questions

1. Will National reduce subsidies for GP visits, and allow fee hikes for patients – and how would this be consistent with a focus on primary care ?

2. Will National reduce subsidies on prescriptions and allow hikes in the cost of prescriptions– and how would this be consistent with a focus on primary care?

3. How much does National estimate it will cost to set up and run its system of Integrated Health Services, and will patient fees for visits to IHCs be capped ?

4. By how much, if at all, does National propose to boost health funding in real terms over the next three years ?

5. Where is the waste in the public health system, and how much does National propose to save annually by ‘lean thinking’ and other productivity measures ?

Economy

Shadow Finance Minister : Bill English.

Earlier this month, National blamed the uncertain state of the economy for why it wasn’t releasing economic policy in the meantime. The timing sequence will therefore be : no alternative Budget, a tax package, then a fiscal framework. Nothing at all will emerge, Finance spokesperson Bill English says, until four to six weeks before polling day. National, he says, needs to wait for Treasury’s Pre-Election Fiscal and Economic Update view of the economy. Blame it on Economic Uncertainty.

Ridiculous, of course. If National’s tax package for the next three years depends for its structure and viability on the accuracy of a single Treasury forecast, things are in very sorry shape indeed. One would have thought it would not be beyond English’s capability to issue two sets of figures, based on best/worst case scenarios for the economy.

The reticence looks more like fear of a voter backlash. Clearly, National has raised public expectations on the tax cuts – and will now have to outbid both Labour and United Future without (a) boosting inflation and keeping mortgage interest rates up in the pain zone or (b) fostering voter resentment by dishing out the bulk of the tax cut revenue to the relatively affluent.

Neither dilemma can be neatly resolved. Look therefore, to a headline difference – National abolishes top tax rate! – and a reduction of Working for Families at the top end, to free up some dosh for middle income voters. Again, Key signalled this direction in his April 12 Agenda interview in his comments about Working for Familiues :

“ I’d rather deliver for those higher income earners through taxes as opposed to a government sort of programme, but quite clearly for the vast bulk of people they’ll continue to get Working for Families… and the reason is for lower income families they absolutely need more money to make ends meet and in fact you can’t do it through tax cuts because you can’t cut their taxes enough…

Middle income families, Key continued, have been an ignored group, and the high mortgage belt in Auckland is feeling the pain : “ …I think they are people who are under an awful lot of stress and particularly in more expensive areas like Auckland where they’ve got tremendous mortgages, their interest rates have doubled, and rightfully so they are up in arms, and they deserve and will under a National government get a much better deal.

Prediction : access to Working for Families will be reduced for those on higher incomes, and this will be used as an excuse for giving such people a bigger chunk of the tax cuts, now and in every subsequent year. For everyone else, Working for Families support will be frozen, and will decline over time in real terms.

Tax relief will be directed at middle and upper incomes. However, as Bill English also told the Christchurch post-Budget gathering cited above, National can now offer only a $10 to $16 a week package over and above what Labour has already put on the table. Given the expectations National has created, such a puny offering – it is likely to be less than the ‘block of cheese’ tax cuts that it derided from Labour – could be politically damaging. No wonder that National is wanting to conceal the Tax Cuts That Dare Not Show Their Face until the election campaign madness is fully upon us.

Tax cuts are not the only – or even the main tool in National’s kitbag. Under a National government, public private partnerships (PPPs) are set to become a major vehicle of state provision in almost every sector imaginable – in education, health, roading, prisons, and possibly even in social welfare delivery. If National can’t sell existing state assets to its business allies ( privatisation of everything except ACC is off the agenda, at least during National’s first term of office) it intends to build new ones for them instead.

Understandably, business is rather keen on PPPs – given the ‘no risk’ 30 year contracts, opportunities for cost racheting and guaranteed re-payments that go with them. Globally, the problem with PPPs is that the state tends end up carrying most of the risks, while the private sector tends to reap the bulk of the rewards.

Why is this so? For the taxpayer, the concept is only as good as the government’s motivation and ability to drive strong bargains in how the PPP contracts are structured and managed over the course of their long, 20 to 30 year lifetimes. For politicians, it’s a ‘no risk’ exercise as well. If the contracts turn out to be fishy, the chances are the politicians who signed them will be long gone.

Along the way, the public can have extreme difficulty in getting any useful information about the contracts involving their money. Since these are state partnerships with the private sector, a lot of the detail is ruled to be commercially sensitive. In that sense, PPPs are a device for removing a lot of formerly open government activity from public scrutiny. The inherent problem with PPPs is that we may never know what sort of deal – and what level of costs over time – we are up for.

[For a detailed critique of PPPs, I recommend the many studies on PPPs by Canadian economist Professor John Loxley of the University of Manitoba, including this one and this one :

In a few weeks time, I’ll do a separate column on the international evidence on the track record of PPPs in roading, health and prisons. But not now.]

What we do know is that John Key is very keen on PPPs.

In his speech to the Road Transport Forum last September in Christchurch, Key confirmed that National supports (a) tolls on new roads (b) a reduced consent process for roading projects, and (c) as a particular priority, the reform of the ‘onerous restrictions ‘ placed on roading consents by the Land Transport Management Act. He explained how PPPs work in roading :

The private sector finances, in part or in full, the construction of the road and is repaid over time [where are the disciplines on cost over-runs?] by a service charge from the government [what ensures these cannot be racheted up] or by revenues from the project [ie, by tolls] or a combination of the two. PPPs allow the government to spread payments for major projects over their useful life. [this is actually a problem, since there is no reliable way beforehand to estimate the costs of borrowing involved ] Payment is made only when services are delivered, risks are shared between the private sector and the government [ where is the risk for the private sector ? ] and private sector management and expertise is also bought into play.

On Kiwisaver, National is once again telling voters they will have to wait until a few weeks before the election to hear National’s policy about this scheme. In the wake of a revelation by National MP Kate Wilkinson that National would not enforce compulsory employer contributions, Key was forced to publicly confirm that National would support Kiwisaver contributions at a ‘pretty similar level’ to those currently required under Labour. [ He would have had to grit his teeth to do so. A few months earlier, Key himself had expressed concerns about the impact of compulsory employer contributions on small and medium sized businesses.]

As Finance Minister Michael Cullen pointed out, this still leaves it unclear whether National is supporting merely the 1 % contribution now required, and is intending to dodge the 4 % level envisaged from April, 2011. In particular, National has been called on to clarify whether it would keep (a) The $1000 taxpayer kick start (b) The government contribution of up to $1040 a year (c) The full employer tax credit and (d) The full support for first home buyers. For no discernible reason, National is staying mum about such details.

Summary : National has been trumped on tax cuts, and is with-holding its squib until election eve, presumably to minimize the fallout from public disappointment. To minimize voter antagonism, it has also had to shelve selling off state assets, so PPPs will carry the major weight of its economic agenda. Kiwisaver will be retained, but in truncated form.


Law and Order

Spokesperson : Simon Power

The murders in south Auckland and gang violence in Hastings and Invercargill will cancel out, in the public mind, any political gains for the government from the record low numbers on the dole and other benefits. The current law and order situation is the social equivalent of stagflation : more people may be in work, but some forms of serious violence and social alienation are intensifying, not decreasing.

How to stop the cycle ? New Zealand already has a ratio of one police officer for every 504 people in this country. National, last weekend, indicated its intention to get that down to one to 500. The gist of National’s law and order policy framework was laid out by John Key in his speech last November to the NZ Police Association national conference.

Even before the trial of tasers had been positively evaluated, Key was firmly supportive : “ Increasingly, police are confronted with out-of-control offenders, high on drugs and unaware of their surroundings, who are near impossible to stop….Tasers are the obvious answer. “ Subject of course, to them being positively evaluated.

Anything more the police might want? Key, again :

“We’re also keen to ensure your toolkit makes the most of modern crime-solving technology.

DNA is one such technology….It’s time to increase the range of situations in which we use it…Currently, DNA samples can be taken only with a suspect’s consent, or where people are suspected of an offence punishable by more than seven years imprisonment.

That requirement precludes DNA samples being taken from those suspected of a wide range of significant offences….And it requires police officers to go through the complex process of applying to the High Court for leave to take a DNA sample where consent is not obtained.”

One could well ask – what is so vexingly ‘complex’about having to convince a court why you should be forcibly taking DNA samples from someone yet to be convicted of any crime? Do it anyway without the courts’ permission, Key is saying – even if police are dealing only with a suspect that they’ve picked up, regarding a crime punishable by imprisonment. This latitude is coming from the same party that complains about the powers of the nanny state.

Earlier this year, Key unveiled National’s plans to double the length of residential sentences, to lower the minimum age from 14 to 12 for tougher sentences ( including electronic braceletting in some circumstances) before Youth Courts, and to send youth offenders to boot camps.

In the House on June 18 Key revealed that National has already earmarked $35 million to create what Key has called “army-style correction camps for young people.” National will also impose a $50 levy on all offenders to go towards victims’ costs. It also supports the Clark government measures to crack down on gangs – including measures to make gang membership an offence, and a factor in tougher sentencing.

Trying to convince voters that you’re a tough hombre on law and order is one thing, but the social and economic cost of the policy is something else again. New Zealand already has an exceptionally high ratio of people in prison compared to other modern democracies. New Zealand’s incarceration rate of 197 per 100,000 people is almost twice that of most western European countries. The rate in France for instance, is only 90 per 100,000, and even Britain’s rate is a much lower 140 per 100,000. This is hardly evidence of a ‘soft on crime’ approach holding sway in New Zealand – rather, it suggests that the Sensible Sentencing zealots are driving down a blind alley.

Last week, National’s justice spokesperson Simon Power conceded that National’s combo of no parole for serious violent offenders and longer sentences would mean more prisons would need to be built during National’s first term of office, with all the related costs.

As NBR reports:

“Mr Power also said there was a case to be made for lengthening sentences in some areas and National leader John Key had talked earlier about lengthening supervisory sentences for young people.

He said that in its first term, a National government would be looking at building another prison.

But, he said, that if the prison population continued to track as it was “any government would have no alternative but to do that”.

He had no difficulty with tendering for private management within the prison system.”

This policy will create further scope for private sector profiteering in law and order – via the use of PPPs to build and run private prisons. In case anyone would like to know where that policy ends up, here is an utterly chilling recent account of the US prison industry in New York state :

And here is another equally damning summary from Scotland last year of the lack of positive evidence to support the use of PPPs in building and running private prisons :

In New Zealand, we seem to be racing into the use of PPPs in the law and order context, for ideological and profit-driven reasons – with little if any, supportive evidence, and without a case being made for the social and economic benefits.

Summary : On law and order, National is pitching a ‘ get tough’ law and order message – targeted particularly at youth and violent offenders with little regard to the failure of this approach evident in our already high imprisonment rates, and with no visible concern for the social and economic costs of building more prisons, and housing more inmates. The overseas critiques of PPPs and private prisons are being ignored.

Questions:

1. What are National’s cost estimates for the new law and order policies that it has announced since Mr Key’s Police Association speech last November, up to and including the new prison that it says it will build during its first term?

2. Will National be inviting the private sector to build and run that new prison ?

3. If New Zealand’s already extremely high incarceration rates have not stemmed the tide of violence in our society, why does National think that more of the same will be a worthwhile social and economic investment?

In conclusion, National has plenty of signs scattered in the sand as to what its policies will be. It should now be willing to front up and outline these policies in more detail, with likely costings. National’s evasions and stonewalling on its tax package and Kiwisaver plans in particular, have no justification. If you have further details of what National plans in government, please send them in.

Wednesday : National’s plans on the environment, on the workplace, and telecommunications.

ENDS

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    1. 38 Responses to “What a National Government May Entail”

    2. By Daniel on Jun 23, 2008 | Reply

      Gordon, I realise that National haven’t released their policies in key areas yet, but asking inane questions where the answers are already self-evident or just lampooning policies that you have constructed yourself on the basis of disparate speeches and news articles isn’t a substitute for proper policy analysis.

      Take your analysis of National’s transport policy:

      The private sector finances, in part or in full, the construction of the road and is repaid over time [where are the disciplines on cost over-runs?] by a service charge from the government [what ensures these cannot be racheted up] or by revenues from the project [ie, by tolls] or a combination of the two. PPPs allow the government to spread payments for major projects over their useful life. [this is actually a problem, since there is no reliable way beforehand to estimate the costs of borrowing involved ] Payment is made only when services are delivered, risks are shared between the private sector and the government [ where is the risk for the private sector ? ] and private sector management and expertise is also bought into play.

      All the answers to your questions are implicit in the quote itself. The answer to the first two questions is that a ‘partnership’ is a contractual relationship, so issues such as cost overruns or future prices may be agreed on beforehand in a legally-enforceable document. This is completely normal commercial practice in contracts of this type.

      Not knowing the amount of borrowing required to fund the project beforehand is not the problem that you suggest – rather, it would be the problem of the private party that funds the project, since they carry that risk. The advantage for the government is to spread its requirements for cashflow over several years, rather than being required in one large ‘hit’.

      And where is the risk to the private sector? It is both in accepting the risk of cost overruns on the project and in accepting the risk of traffic demand not meeting projections (causing revenue to be lower than expected). In effect, this means that if the project turns out not to be as beneficial for the community as the government expected, the private partner picks up the tab. On the other hand, the partner may profit if the project was cheaper or generates more traffic than expected. The only thing you have right here is that this may involve the introduction of tolls. So what?

      The valid story here is that National haven’t released their policies yet, and that they’re getting a free ride for doing so. Attacking a few policy strawmen to bulk out the story is unnecessary. In general, your analysis of National’s ‘policies’ above consists of shallow political thought rather than any in-depth thought about the costs and benefits of these against the status quo.

    3. By Robert on Jun 23, 2008 | Reply

      It would seem fair to me to blame Labour for National not announcing policy for were it to be published then it would be contested as part of their election expenses and would have to abide by the appalling rules of the EFA. Now Labour can’t figure out what those rules are and they produced the legislation so as well as not being able to use their mates to engage in election propaganda they have created just the vacumn that everybody else is using.Labour are getting exactly what they deserve.

    4. By George Darroch on Jun 23, 2008 | Reply

      Gordon, I appreciate your analysis. But do you have to Godwin yourself with holocaust analogies? Please. I read the rest of your otherwise rational and informative article with a sour taste in my mouth.

    5. By George Darroch on Jun 23, 2008 | Reply

      “It would seem fair to me to blame Labour for National not announcing policy”

      That has got to be the worst excuse I have ever heard for the major opposition party of NZ.

    6. By Iain Parker on Jun 23, 2008 | Reply

      Study the history of elections in this nation since Holyoake’s National government joined us up to the IMF/World bank without manifest in 1961, Labours non disclosure of Rogernomics when the International Money Club had bankrupted us with bogus loans and infiltrated the Labour Party 1984, National then claiming to be offering a shell shocked nation some humane reprieve from the monetarist onslaught, only to have Ruth Richardson , once elected, to state that “Rogernomics had not gone far enough,” then setting about her own campaign of terror, carried on by Shipley’s “Mother of all budgets”. Then came Helen Clark, a woman that did not have the guts to leave and stand along side Jim Anderton during Labour’s ideological struggles, 1972-84, that saw the International Money Club and their locally recruited co-operatives prevail.
      She claimed that she did not want to go down all guns blazing, but if she was preserved , burning Palmer and Moore, as inept as they were, along the way, she would save us from becoming the class system of privilege the Money Club were seeking to impose. She has failed miserably, this nation has been run at a strategic deficit ever since the monetarists had unfettered access to our statute books for a decade and if you think John Key is going to come riding to the rescue after spending his career as an investment banker, the last two years on the Foreign Exchange Committee of the US Federal Reserve, I allege, there is a stronger chance he is still working for them, to increase their loan book, not increase the lot of a majority of New Zealand’s legitimate citizens and businesses.
      It is Social Credit or Bust for this nation and many others.

    7. By ak on Jun 23, 2008 | Reply

      Another superb post Gordon – a veritable feast of highly pertinent analysis and query expressed with clarity and cast-iron logic.

      The contrast in quality between your writing and that of other political commentators is stark – which perhaps explains the surreal current state of the polls.
      With almost zero scrutiny from the mainstream opinion leaders, National has been allowed to simultaneously pretend to the ultimate responsibility of leadership of our country while offering essentially nothing by way of explaining its intentions. By any measure an utterly bizarre situation – and at best, a demonstration of utter dereliction of duty from the press.
      At worst, a demonstration of its essentially partisan capture over recent years. The lack of media scrutiny (or rather, almost full-throated support)of the classic racist dogwhistle of Orewa One was only exceeded by the lack of criticism of the blatant 2005 “tax-cut” electoral bribe. The current (almost gleeful) acquiescence to the National policy vacuum – while beating up every minor perceived gaffe from Labour (not to mention the almost unbelievable Herald hysterics) – is a third nail in the coffin of our mainstream media’s credibility.

      Keep up the good work Gordon: head and shoulders above the rest of the (albeit very shallow) pack, and a fine exemplar for journos of the future. But don’t expect any answers to your questions – on recent form, our current crop of editors will ensure they stay nicely cached right here.

    8. By r0b on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      Thank you Gordon. I am in full agreement with ak above.

    9. By Chris Twemlow on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      Rather that Critique all your policy nterpretations, which frustratingly is a case of no of meat to chew, TVNZ and the HERALD are the killers of democracy here. Helen in a mince factory, Key is a flight simulator, National for Justice followed by half a dozen crime stories all presented by a grinning puppet! Winstone Peters standing against a no chance Natioal newbie, not even an ironic comment at national cutting it both ways. This story of inbalance, lak of substabce and national pandering really needs to get out, a critique of the teir 1 press’s collusion to wash a lazy audience is necessary.

      So thank you for writing like the 4th estate should.

    10. By JackP on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      I agree with Daniel’s comment. Gordon, you sound like someone who is desperate for information to write about. I don’t agree with you that Michael Cullen trumped National on tax cuts. Michael Cullen is very arrogant and desperate. Even Act came up with a solutions that would blow Labour’s policy out of the water and they are doable. We would each get an extra 500 a week. That is how much waste there is in this Labour government. You could elaborate on that but instead choose to attack something you know very little about at this point.

    11. By Tane W on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      G’day Gordon,

      An excellent piece of writing, proving that substantial analysis can be gained from even the vacuum that is the National Party’s current policy platform. If anyone wants to attack your estimates, predictions and guesses then let’s see the actual policy they put forth. Like you I’ll be glad to see it.

      I’m not a National supporter (though I voted for them three times in the 90s, in the mistaken belief that they were good for Defence), so I can’t honestly say that I will approve of their policies when and if they’re ever revealed. But that’s not the point. The point is that they have released nothing of substance, and do not intend to do so until the last safe moment. How can the electorate make an informed decision with one of the major parties deliberately and purposefully withholding vital information, just because it’s inconvenient to them to do so. The answer is it can’t and that speaks volumes about National’s campaign plan. Yes it’s working (so far) but that doesn’t make it any less reprehensible.

      If nothing else, it shows the contempt National has for its ‘supporters’, and indicates to me that they’re concerned they’ll scare too many of them away. Are their policies that toxic that they can’t see the light of day? Will they shrivel up in the sunlight of public scrutiny, screeching like a dying vampire as they turn into dust? That sentence might seem a bit over the top, but we’ll have to suspend our judgement on that until WE ACTUALLY SEE SOME SODDING POLICY.

      So I guess we’ll just have to wait patiently, with bated breath and low expectations……..

      Cheers,

      Tane W
      Welllington

    12. By AJKM on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      A brillant and eye-opening piece. Thanks for writing it and doing the job of our supposed ‘mainstream’ media. It looks like it is going to be a long, colder winter in New Zealand if National get elected.

    13. By insider on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      Unlike the US we don;t have a fixed election date. Surely if Clark and followers want to debate policiy then it is up to her name the date rather than game playing?

      Why should National dance to her tune when she is unwilling to announce the most basic decision required to get the campaign rolling?

    14. By Brian Marshall on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      Maybe Gordon, you could tell us when the private schools (As opposed to intergrated schools) last had an increase in funding. Last time I looked, the parents of those children paid taxes and voted like everybody else in the country.

      Also could you tell us how putting a cap on GP fees, encourage/discourage Doctors to stay in New Zealand???? Last time I read anything about the Doctor shortage, what the doctors could earn was one of the main reasons why they leave to go overseas.

      Disclaimer of interests: I’ve a daughter that I’d like to put through a private school, but have never voted National.

    15. By TomS on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      Once upon a time the Listener would have run this excellent piece and a wider audience than this site can provide would had read and digested your piece. Now the Listener serves up Joanne Black on how hard it is to get good servants. I am sure there is a metaphor in there.

    16. By K Brendon on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      Hi Gordon
      You do make some valid points about the lack of disclosure and I have respected you as a journalist over the last twenty years. However I must confess as an undecided voter this piece is so pro-Labour, I must wonder if it qualifies as Labour election material under the EFT.

    17. By JQS on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      JackP – We would each get an extra 500 a week. That is how much waste there is in this Labour government. You could elaborate on that but instead choose to attack something you know very little about at this point.

      Would you care to tell us then what actual waste National has identified that could get you that. An embassy in Sweden is about the best National has come up with. They’ve already said they won’t fire any public servants. They’ll leave it to natural attrition. I don’t think laying off a lot of workers is in New Zeaaland’s best interest anyway. National has said they will increase intergenerational debt. So that is it. The only way they can pay for bigger tax cuts without cutting public services like health and education is by increasing New Zealand’s debt. Unless Jack, you know of the where National can cut $3 billion from government spending for the tax cuts they promised but seem fairly ambiguious on now without firing anyone and without cutting public servicies.

    18. By lazy on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      the open source thing is fine, but some of the sources that you’ve chosen are odd. For example in the Education section you cite La Rocque, another Ed lobby group and Act to try and nail what the Nat’s Education policy will be on bulk funding and vouchers. Those groups may well be on the ‘right’ side of the political agenda but there is nothing to suggest that National will accept their views hook line and sinker. I doubt that’ll be the case yet you seem to be implying that.

      It’d be just as illegitimate for you take the views of the Alliance, the Council of Trade Unions and Unite and say that their views are the same as Labour.

    19. By bias alert on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      So you think Tolley is out of her depth and your evidence for this is a government press release from an opponent of Tolley, the Education Minister …

      Wait a cut through the spin and also show your colours as a former green party media staffer all in one go.

    20. By Malcolm Jackson on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      You have a very touching faith in our nation’s public accounting. National cannot say quite how it will reallocate resources because explainations of how they are allocated now don’t make sense.
      In the Westminister traditon all parties must accept that the instruments of governance are ethical and honest. However we keep hearing things. An incoming National government will find out the true situation and take things from there

    21. By dave patience on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      good stuff gordon

    22. By M Juma on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      JackP – “We would each get an extra 500 a week. That is how much waste there is in this Labour government.”

      There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY tax payers can get $500 a week from tax cuts, your claim, or ACT’s “calculations” are such rubbish. Most tax payers don’t even pay $500 in tax a week, so how on earth can the govt cut taxes by $500? thats like some on on the minimum wage earning $500 a week getting $400 tax credit and not paying tax. The Act party are waste of space.

    23. By Russell Brown on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      “Yet apart from its $1.5 billion promise to roll out broadband by 2012, none have any costings.”

      That’s actually the one that bugs me. The broadband spending proposal (it can’t really be called a policy) is unutterably vague. We have an indication from Williamson that it will look a bit like the NZ Institute’s FibreCo model, but that’s it until after the election.

      (Although I’m happy to stand corrected if Williamson said anything new at the TelCo.9 conference yesterday. Did anyone even report his speech?)

      Exactly how we get to to a FibreCo monopoly, how it would be constituted and regulated — who knows? Hell, this is a policy I might even like if I knew what it was (although I can tell you that the major telcos are extremely wary of it).

      Meanwhile, Key is touring the country promising kids in rural towns they’ll be able to “download a movie in seven seconds”. Anyone familiar with the issue will recognise this as bullshit. Gigabit broadband to rural towns? Really? Why doesn’t anyone call him on it?

      Bah.

    24. By Josh T on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      Inceases in government spending will not necessarily increase the quantity or quality of government services. We cannot expect the government to spend its way to higher productivity and wages. I cannot stand the pathetic undertones of this article, and many of the comments on it, that harp on about how much a National government might cut spending to certain areas. There needs to be a new focus to government spending priorities.

    25. By Bryan Spondre on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      M Juma “There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY tax payers can get $500 a week from tax cuts, your claim, or ACT’s “calculations” are such rubbish.”

      There is a lot more to tax than just PAYE, there is GST, RWT, petrol tax, company tax etc etc.

    26. By Rumpole on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      Until Labour release their policy why would an opposition party release theirs. Given the difference in resources and knowledge of the financial specifics that Labour has not published their policies suggests, they have none, they are waiting for nationals so they can copy/criticise them with no ability for National to retaliate. So unless you believe the All Blacks should announce their team and tactics for the next world cup series get real and be patient for the date and rules of the game to be announced.

    27. By mark on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      Where’s the balance in this piece of socialist fiction? Is it fair that a single income family with 2 children earning $80,000 pays 14 times more tax than an identical family earning $45,000. Is that fairness? Wake up NZ, before you become the North Korea of the south pacific.

    28. By George Darroch on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      This is exactly like 2005. Almost all the same dynamics. Even in the last few weeks they were revealing major policy areas. Not new initiatives, but things like health and defence.

      I think it’s probably worse than Gordon has written, and that National saying they need to look at the books is both a pre and post-election strategy.

      The economy is entering a down cycle, due in large part to factors completely out of the control of the Government (oil imports are one exception, but only the Greens have taken the issue seriously until now). Anyhow this is hardly a secret, I know this, you know this, everybody knows this. The state of the Government’s finances is well known, as are the Reserve Bank and other’s forecasts. I suspect that a number of commenters will try and tell me that I am wrong on this, and that Cullen hides the figures under his bed at night.

      As an aside Key, as a former head currency trader for a major bank knows these things too, or he wouldn’t have been able to do his job. Don’t tell me he can’t read economic indicators or treasury reports.

      But come Monday, the new Government will enter the Beehive, open the books, and declare that things are much worse than Labour has made out. They will tell us that Labour has been hiding the true state of the economy and Government finances. And will then use this to enact whatever policy agenda they had planned pre-election. (whether that be moderate, radical, or extreme – we’re only going to have four weeks to look at the policies and try and work that out).

      I’m not saying we’re in for a floating of the dollar, or the mother of all budgets. MMP means more moderation than that. But I do suggest that this is a policy that will give National plenty of room to move post-election, if it is successful.

    29. By Dave McArthur on Jun 25, 2008 | Reply

      The Sunday Star Times repeatedly refused to print this letter in March in response to their sycophantic profile of John Key:

      For publication please:
      Re your special feature on John Key. His “blindness” to” the explosive issue of his generation” is not unusual. Most New Zealanders, including Anti-Springbok Tour leaders, remain blind to the fact that the civil unrest was caused by the global mineral oil price spike of 1979. To counter growing discontent as higher oil prices impacted with deepening inflation and stagflation the National Government used the race card in 1981to retain the rural and blue-collar vote.
      John’s recent comments ascribing the rise in interest rates “from 4% to 8%” since 2000 to Labour’s fiscal mismanagement reveal an appalling blindness in a man who made his fortune out of money trading. More than anyone he should know how the big three trades –arms, drugs and mineral oil- impact on liquidity and inflation.
      He should know that every 42-gallon barrel of oil contains the equivalent of 25000 man-hours of labour. New Zealand has 560 cars/1000 people and uses 36.59 barrels of oil a day per 1000 people (cf China 4.943, India 2.168 bbs/day/1000) and we squander most of the resource. Mineral oil does almost all of our pushing, pulling, lifting and other work for us. When the price of our “servant” rises tenfold (from $US9.98 in 1999 to over $US100 today) our wasteful uses of it results in inflation.
      Your article ends with the suggestion that John’s experience should make him capable of defending the currency. This is obscene and dangerous given his lack of vision as humanity exits the Cheap Oil/Gas Age.

      Signed – Dave McArthur

      I am not saying John Key is an evil man. I am saying the derelict nature of our media plus his lack of insight will result in much needless misery. As credit systems based on $US25 a barrel of mineral oil collapse, unemployment will rise, inflation will surge, tax revenue will shrink, larges areas of stagflation will occur and the general failure of recent Governments to invest in sustainable activities will result in the majority of New Zealanders experiencing a significant loss of wealth. As German history teaches us, this is a recipe for fascism and we had a small taste of it after the 1979 mineral oil price spike.
      Then we were buffered by the fact New Zealanders still owned and had a democratic say in who we use our electrical potential, which includes telecommunications and rail.

      This buffer has been destroyed and John’s response to Government budget deficits will be to have a firesale of remaining assets such as the SOEs. This will mean control of the new “smart” monitoring technology being installed in homes now by the likes of Meridian will be in the hands of a few individuals who will be able to place New Zealanders under unprecedented surveillance.

      It will also be made very easy for John to open our lands and dwellings to rich individuals of other countries so they can invest in real estate here as a bolt hole as the likes of America and Britain implode. This will enhance existing home-ownership trends and force an even wider range of New Zealanders out of home ownership as both the gaps between house prices/wages and rates/pensions widens. Both the Emissions Trading Scheme and KiwiSaver will be refined to further offset and subsidise the lives of the rich minority at the expense of the majority. It will be logical in the economic conditions prevailing for John’s Administration to wipe Universal Superannuation and increase student loans.

      The 1979 mineral oil/gas price rise was only a temporary phenomenon and the maladaptive responses of the Muldoon-Lange Governments caused great structural damage and loss to New Zealand.

      John inherits the Post Cheap Oil/Gas world in which the 1979 shock is a mere blip in the landscape. The economy of the last 60 years has been underpinned by access to incredibly cheap mineral oil/gas. Now all our traditional economic textbooks, theories and practices are redundant. Hence John’s inability to understand the fundamental issues (our addictive uses of mineral oil/gas plus our lack of democracy/science) will result in responses that promote division, civil unrest and violence. That is what history teaches.

      Dave McArthur
      http://www.bonusjoules.co.nz

    30. By Elizabeth Smyth on Jun 25, 2008 | Reply

      Since the 80′s-90′s Health reforms, Mental Health in New Zealand has already undergone a ‘Lean Thinking’ makeover.

      This week, Christchurch Hillmorten Hospital has had to handover the care of some acute inpatients to family, because of severe shortage of beds.

      Existing PPP’s and Primary Care GP’s cannot take the place of any the needed acute inpatient services, at any given time.

      If further cuts were made to inpatient care by a National or by any other government,it would not be because of ‘lean thinking’, but rather ‘disastrous and inhumane’ thinking.

    31. By Steve Withers on Jun 25, 2008 | Reply

      Thoughts in response to your excellent article:

      Educations

      What’s with the increase in welfare payments to private schools? Do private religious schools qualify? For example, would a privately run Muslim madrassa in Auckland qualify? This caused a HUGE uproar in Ontario, Canada last year and cost the Tories there what had appeared to be a sure win in the October 2007 provincial election. Could be a tool here for Winston Peters to win some votes bashing Muslims.

      Economist Paul Krugman has some interesting things to say in “The Great Unravelling” about private business providing public services. They tend not to do it very well. It’s all about the money rather than the service. Utimately, the losers are the users of the serivce who pay more for less.

      Introducing the private sector into educatin could also be seen as a union-busting move targeting the NZEI and the PPTA.

      Health

      In health, looks like fees will be allowed to go up. National’s long term agenda has always been to move us to a US style health srvice where we must pay insurance compnaies for partial coverage. Allowing fees to rise and charging for things currently free will force more people into the private sector. Naitonal will not cut the funding, but they haven’t said they will increase it, either. Looks like a another 1990′s service run-down to create more business for private operators and insurers.

      National’s IHC scheme sounds like gutting public health and downloading it to local, private clinics….who may grow and become contracted private hospitals part-funded by tax dollars in time? Almost all the way to the US model. All they would need to do then is cut state funding and sell us all insurance….if we can afford it.

      No student debt for new doctors who go to rural areas sounds like a good idea, but how do we train surgeons by penalising them with the full student debt for not disappearing into the hinterland for years? If you’re going to slectively relieve debt this way, you need to think a bit more about the unintended consequences.

      Economy.

      In blaming “Economic Uncrtainty” for the delay in releasing its policies, National is efectively saying it HAS NO POLICY. That can’t be true and won’t be. They can easily make clear satements of intent and direction without having to provide locked in costings. As you suggest, provisional estimates will do, thanks. Let’s have them.

      There is something vaguely “whiffy” about providing tax cuts as “relief” to affluent families with huge mortgages they now can’t afford. While appreciating how desperate anyone in financial strife can feel, it also smacks of bailing out the rich with taxes from people who can only afford to rent rather than own a home.

      Also, protecting people from the consequences of investment choices they made seems to undermine the whole idea of markets operating in a rational way. In effect, as subsidy.

      But this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen the wealthier demand welfare to protect themselves from market forces they deem appropriate for others – like the price of our domestic produce being being set at work levels for local buyers while asking for relief from high carbon charges set by the same global markets.

      Replacing at-cost with private substitutes who are supposd to be “more productive” (um….cheaper) has been tried elsewhere and the record of failure is too-often ignored by the ideologicaly faith and those who don’t much care, they just to get their hands on the money.

      PPPs also allow a government to – covertly, like Jeb Bush did in Florida – require people who want to win lucrative contracts to make big donations to the ruling party ONLY (donations are public, after all) or they find they don’t get the contract. In this way, market ideology serves, and may even be a front for, more venal political requiremnts, too. As you say, the transparency issues are also huge. “Commercial sensitivity” becomes the new “top secret”.

      National’s focus on road-building tells us right away how uncommmited they are to reducing emissions. Building for yesterday.

      As for PPP roading projcts, ask Ontarians how they feel about the PPP around Highway 407. An appalling example of socialising the costs (taxpayers paid for it) and privatising the profits (tolls on the tax-funded road go to the road operator).

      The private sector knew nothing about building large highways that they had not already been doing as contractors for government. There is NO added value. There is added costs though as they borrow their part of the cst and then taxpayes have tp pay thatback, too through tolls. It’s a HGE scam on the tax payer and roadusers. Very profitable for the insiders who pull the contracts….with returns guaranteed while costs aren’t.

      Law and Order

      Tasers have been used by the RCMP in anada for several years. As time has gone on, they use them more and more freely, with dozens of incidents where a person was hit by several – up to 7 – tasers at once. A report that came out about 2 weeks ago was damning.

      DNA is an interesting evidential item. Once we are ALL in a DNA database, we will run the risk of having our DNA found….well….anywhere we have ever been. Including crime scenes where we weren’t present at the time of the crime. Better have an alibi for every moment of every day when your cast-off skin and hair may be picked up anywhere. It’s odd how the enemies of the nanny state seem intent constructing a police state.

      Boot camps can’t be compulsorily imposed on anyone,including youth. What do you do? Beat and torture prisoners until they comply? Will we be apologising for the sexual abuse of young prisoners by their minders at such camps in a few years?

      National’s policies on sentencing children are simply moronic and cynical. New Zealand has an abusive, coercive streak that comes through loud and clear on the Right. It’s a thin line between correction and gratuitous abuse. Making the latter policy isn’t wise if the aim is to reduce crime.

      Private prisoners end up being staffed by minimum wage button pushers who open and close gates for prisoners left at the mercy of other prisoners. In the US, staff to prisoner ratios are generally much worse than public prisons. Rehabilitation goes out the window….though you’ve paid for it all right.

      When there’s money to be made, who needs evidence of any social or economic benefits? Certainly not National.

      Conclusion so far appear to be that it’s the same old agenda hiding under a rock.

    32. By Steve Withers on Jun 25, 2008 | Reply

      bias alert: best to deal with the substance than dismiss the source with thought-free labeling.

    33. By Paul Robeson on Jun 25, 2008 | Reply

      #

      By TomS on Jun 24, 2008 | Reply

      Once upon a time the Listener would have run this excellent piece and a wider audience than this site can provide would had read and digested your piece. Now the Listener serves up Joanne Black on how hard it is to get good servants. I am sure there is a metaphor in there.
      quote ends.

      Hey is there any journalist with enough stature (and rich buddies) to put together a publication called say The new New Zealand Listener?

      Make the first new kinda small and obscure in the logo.

      Then continue publishing informed and well researched biting comment.

      The 4th estate is weak in New Zealand and weakening, as well as fractured.

    34. By Paul Robeson on Jun 25, 2008 | Reply

      The other problem here is Labour is all that’s left, these days, if you excuse the phrase.

      Quote
      K Brendon

      Hi Gordon
      You do make some valid points about the lack of disclosure and I have respected you as a journalist over the last twenty years. However I must confess as an undecided voter this piece is so pro-Labour, I must wonder if it qualifies as Labour election material under the EFT.
      Quote ends

      Gordon’s column here has been stingingly critical of the Labour government on our oil resources and on our SOE trading in Africa, yet when he looks at the nats we get this. The left is not as nimble as it was, certainly not at vigorous.

      The left in parliament is Labour or the Greens. The Greens are a confused left- not the straight out workers and unemployed representatives the Alliance were.

      Labour has cozied up to UF and Winston and assumed itself to be the guardian of New Zealand’s left, and there has been no one who has challenged it here or kept it sharp.

    35. By JackP on Jun 26, 2008 | Reply

      Wow, I can see so much resistance when I mentioned about saving 500 a week for taxpayers. I thought this would be a good thing, apparently it is not. If you folks look at the big picture, before 1999, the price for running the government was costing tax payers approximately 32 billion a year. Now it is 52 billion. 20 billion a year more a year. 16000 more public servants have been hired. When you look at the results, it seems the problems are still there. Long surgical waiting lists, police taking longer to respond, junior doctors strike, violent crime up and the list goes on. There are two administrators for every teacher. There is so much waste in government that each taxpayer could be saving 100 dollars a week if there was a downsizing. Instead of money going to hiring more “commissions” or committees or managers, the money should go directly to the front line like more doctors, teachers, more police. This hasn’t happened. When Michael Cullen yelled across the parliament chambers to John Keys calling him a “rich prick” this is typical of labour’s arrogant attitude. philosophy which is “we don’t want the people who work hard to get ahead”. Which is why 45000 left last year from May 2007 to May 2008 to go accross the tazman. Downsizing the government would only be a part of that 500 a week.

    36. By JackP on Jun 26, 2008 | Reply

      Oh, and JQS, John Key said he would put a moratorium on the current size of government employees which is a start.

    37. By Iain Parker on Jun 26, 2008 | Reply

      Hi Steve,
      See, something’s can’t be said in two sentences. I read it, I agreed with much of what you said, meaning, on pluses and minuses, we are probably close to the same ideologies. But, is it not a bit of a “monster” comment for this forum.
      I will state again, under the Labour executive you get the International Money Club and their locally recruited co-operatives by puppet strings, under the National executive you get them in the drivers seat.
      International banking practice is nothing but a multilayered pyramid scam, we have not had a positive Balance of Payments for 40 years, another massive quarterly deficit announced just today(26-6-08), immediately increasing our debt servicg obligations by 11%, until it changes, nothing will. There is only one party in this nation looking to inform the electorate, let alone fight to reform the scam, that is the Democrats for Social Credit.
      Cheers
      Iain

    38. By Carter on Jul 1, 2008 | Reply

      Bryan Spondre:

      “There is a lot more to tax than just PAYE, there is GST, RWT, petrol tax, company tax etc etc.”

      Even adding all those together, most New Zealanders don’t pay nearly $500 a week in tax. How exactly are ACT going to give us all an extra $500 a week, short of robbing the rich to give to the poor? Wealth redistribution’s not really their style.

      Besides which, just think about it for a second:

      $500 a week x 4 million residents = $2 billion a week = $104 billion a year. You’d have to cut almost the entire budget. I know ACT are for small government, but that’s taking it a bit far, dontchathink?

    39. By Zorro on Jul 21, 2008 | Reply

      To all the Nat Critics…

      What do you want??? A government that encourage people to sit on the a**es and get a handout – and should they choose to breed an increasingly bigger handout. Or a government that actually encourages people to get ahead and choose how to spend the money they earn.

      I am sick of seeing how poorly spent my tax money is and just how much wastage their is. Get real people, pull your heads in and stop the pedantic and pointless critism and analysis of every word spoken by a National Party politian.

      Voting for Labour is voting against any chance this country has to prosper and compete in the World. It is a vote to continue supporting and growing a welfare state and for avoiding personal responsibility.

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