What Woes Wellingtonians, Boxing Bill or Economics
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Wellingtonians, Boxing Bill or Economic
First published on
By Paulo Politico
are unlikely to be seduced by the sight of a sweaty Bill
English getting punched around inside a boxing ring, Paulo
Politico considers a TKO.
Wellington is an
intensely political place. Wellingtonians love politics and
harbour strong views about decisions that are made in the
Beehive. So often the views Wellingtonians tend to be
defined only after intense scrutiny of parliamentarians,
from the Prime Minister right through.
Prebble use to say that residents in Wellington Central are
the smartest and most educated electors in the country. His
detractors might suggest that they proved him right when
Labour’s Marian Hobbs outpolled him by 1,482 votes, two and
a half years ago.
But if Prebble’s view of
Wellingtonians is correct, then the Evening Post- BRC
business poll of 300 Wellington businesses, published on 6
May, is good news for Prime Minister Helen Clark and Finance
Minister Michael Cullen.
Despite the difficult
economic conditions experienced by countries overseas,
Wellington business leaders remain remarkably upbeat about
the economic climate in this country. An impressive 43
percent of respondents believe that trading conditions for
their business will get better or much better over the next
six months. Only 7 percent of respondents believe
conditions will get worse or much worse.
is broadly consistent with the expected performance of the
New Zealand economy overall. An impressive 38 percent of
respondents expect the economy to improve or improve
significantly. This compares to only 13 percent of
respondents who expect the economy to deteriorate, with only
2 percent anticipating a significant deterioration.
How galling it must be for National leader Bill
English to see the optimists outnumber pessimists by nearly
three to one.
As the Wellington region contains one
of the largest concentrations of voters, it must also alarm
the opposition to see an overwhelming number of respondents
who are upbeat about its long-term economic prospects. A
stunning 79 percent are either optimistic or very optimistic
about Wellington’s economic prospects, compared to a paltry
13 percent who are either pessimistic or very pessimistic.
Once again optimists outnumber pessimists, this time by more
than six to one.
The economic outlook for Wellington
is good news for the government and for Prime Minister Helen
Clark. Approval of Clark’s performance has increased to 69
percent. The number of respondents who are ‘very satisfied’
with her performance has nearly doubled, from 14 percent in
February to 27 percent in April.
Finance Minister Michael Cullen has also improved. His
overall approval rating has increased from 42 percent in
February to 49 percent in April. This result comes a month
prior to Dr Cullen delivering his third Budget, which is
likely to illustrate that, the main economic indicators
(inflation, the current account, employment and government
spending) point to a healthy and buoyant economy.
Labour’s bogey has always been the perception that it
is a bad manager of the economy. Business has often led the
charge that Labour is unfriendly to business and industry,
and cannot preside over a growing economy. The BRC survey
indicates that Labour is disavowing itself of the bogey that
has cost it support in the past – 42 percent of respondents
now regard the government as being business friendly.
Things don’t get better for National leader Bill
English. While Clark achieves a satisfaction rate of 69
percent, English (a former Minister of Finance) can only
manage a satisfaction rate of 24 percent. Dissatisfaction
in English remains at a dangerously high 53 percent.
National may well take some comfort from the fact
that Wellington’s business community appears to have some
sympathy with National’s plan to privatise ACC, as well as
lower income tax and corporate tax rates. But the party is
offside with business on the issue of Industry New Zealand –
the creation of Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton.
Business respondents overwhelmingly (78 percent)
approve of Industry New Zealand giving help to businesses,
industries and regions to foster growth and jobs.
Respondents support the existence of Industry New Zealand by
more than six to one.
The significance of this poll
should not be discounted. Wellington is a diverse region.
It boasts the extremes of wealth and poverty, younger and
older New Zealanders. It contains a rural element, and is
home to a large number of Maori, Pacific, and ethnic
communities. Add in the Prebble observation that
Wellingtonians are smart and thoughtful people, and the BRC
survey results are a potential windfall for the government.
Over the past month the opposition has tried day
after day to hammer the government with revelations and
mini-scandals. The government has preferred to focus on
regional development, improved health services, and
initiatives such as improved vocational training for
Helen Clark travelled to Indonesia
to meet President Megawati Soekarnoputri. Her visit
provided an opportunity to discuss the importance of
economic development in the Asia-Pacific region. At the
same time, Bill English, desperate for publicity, signed up
to participate in a boxing match.
The contrast could
not be more striking.
The BRC poll published in the
Evening Post should not be taken out of context. It is only
one survey. Only one community in one part of the country
was invited to respond. The bad news for the opposition is
that the respondents represented one of the most important
stakeholder groups for the centre right – business people
who are ambitious about economic growth and business
If those intelligent and cynical
respondents are confident about the state of Wellington’s
economy and the performance of the government, then Helen
Clark has won another little battle in the lead up to the
Apart from Ohariu-Belmont, Labour holds
every North Island electorate south in Rangitikei. National
is restricted to chasing party votes only.
But if the
business community, the last bastion of conservatism, is
holding out for the re-election of Helen Clark’s government,
then what are her opponents suppose to do?
educated Wellingtonians are unlikely to be seduced by the
sight of a sweaty Bill English getting punched around inside
a boxing ring. Send your comments to:Spectator News
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