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Robson-on-Politics 6 September 2006

Endless civil war on the Right

The endless in-fighting on the Right over policy is very significant. We saw in the final vote on the KiwiSaver legislation last Thursday when National was all alone in voting against the proposal. In favour were Labour, NZ First, the Greens, the Maori Party and Progressive - 71 votes in total, versus the lonely 48 Nat votes.

The reason this is significant in the long-term is that there is no way under MMP that National could ever lead a government without the support of United, NZ First or the Maori Party - or most likely the support of all three of these parties. That means that KiwiSaver, like the NZ Super Fund, and Kiwi Bank, and 4 Weeks' Annual Leave, NZ Trade & Enterprise and a hundred other progressive initiatives enshrined in law since 1999 won't be undone even in the unlikely event of a National-led coalition.


KiwiSaver is progressive

KiwiSaver, which will make it easier for people to save a little extra for their retirement years and to start the habit of saving early (the 4% of gross income can be contributed by a worker's employer), is a progressive move.

One of the great things in KiwiSaver's favour is that it will help Kiwis that don't at the moment have much chance of ever getting into the position of getting into their own home to at the very least have an alternative nest egg by the time they retire in the form of the financial asset that KiwiSaver will help them to build up - that helps us become a more broad-based asset-owning democracy. And the provision for scope to draw down on your KiwiSaver account toward a first home deposit will, we all hope, help more families to get into their first home than would have been the case in the absence of the KiwiSaver Scheme.


It is also good economic management

With every business person currently worried about the rate of inflation coinciding with the slowing in the economy (due in large part to the inept U.S. War on Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine pushing up energy costs and unsettling investors everywhere), another benefit of KiwiSaver starting next year is that it should also help in the short-term to take a bit of pressure of the Reserve Bank's inclination to leave interest rates at their current too-high level. KiwiSaver will help take the pressure off interest rates (and therefore the New Zealand dollar) and that will be good for exporters in 2007-2008.

But the really big issue is that KiwiSaver represents the death or "Rogernomics" and "Ruthenasia" - the days of pure, barren ideology when it was forbidden for governments to "distort"the investment playing field - that is, to tilt the playing field in favour of building up long-term financial assets at the expense of, in this case, current consumption.

The benefits will be seen in 10 to 15 years' time when far more people will have built up money in their KiwiSaver accounts and that very experience will help build a better savings culture in Aotearoa, making us all less vulnerable to economic downturns and less vulnerable also to having so much of our national savings stuck in just real estate.


NZ Herald poll shows LPG unchanged versus election

The NZ Herald's Digi-Poll, released late last week, show support for the Labour-Progressive-Green bloc at 57 seats (unchanged from the last election) and the LPG-Maori bloc unchanged at 61 seats.

The Right-wing remain unchanged at 60 seats, although the composition of the Right's support has changed with deep cuts to NZ First, United Future and ACT. National is cannabalising its mates.

A TV3 and a Morgan poll show the LPG bloc doing better than at the last election, and in the case of the TV3 poll holding an absolute majority in Parliament.

LPG held an absolute majority in Parliament from 1999-2005 and our aim must be to regain that majority in 2008. But the Maori Party must be getting exhausted with National's endless assaults on Maori and I remain hopeful relations between Labour and Maori improve well before the election - that would be best for the interests of the country.


KiwiBank - 450 Kiwis join every day & ACT calls them failures

KiwiBank has 450 Kiwis a day knocking at the door to join its nation-wide New Zealand-owned banking operation. The Right Wing parties like ACT say those 450 Kiwis are losers and that KiwiBank is a failure. There is no doubt that any National-ACT government would sell the bank to one of the big Australian banks that still dominate our market but it is also clear that MMP means that the bank that Jim Anderton campaigned so hard to establish is now part of our national culture and that in fact no future government will ever dare lay their hands on the peoples' bank.


Left needs to keep flexible on strategy

The Left-of-Labour needs to be open-minded about strategy. The Maori Party would have far more influence in Parliament if it won five electorate seats, but didn't put up a Party List. In 2005, every Party Vote received by the Maori Party diminished Maori's relative strength in Parliament.

Amid signs that more action on global climate change is at last coming from the Lab-Progressive government, there is greater reason for the Greens to decide that in 2008 they will really fully focus on joining the next Cabinet table. The Greens know how hard it is for the junior partner in coalition with Labour to maintain brand recognition (due in large part to the ten Labour statements a day about the "Labour-led" government) and that is why some are now beginning to think that it would be much better for the long-term security of the Left if the Greens were to seriously target an electorate seat in 2008 as insurance against the downside of ever joining a "Labour-led" government.


These are all issues we should collectively and carefully assess. Just as National handed Epsom to Rod Hide in 2005 and stood aside to Peter Dunne in 1996, so the centre-left must respond intelligently rather than stand on some misplaced "principle".

Business Tax Review - It's time to take on the Aussies

Last September, Progressive campaigned to match Australia's corporate tax rate of 30% as one measure to assist firms to invest more in their workers' skills and in our national R&D efforts.


We had wanted the corporate tax cut to be made on April 1, 2006, but better late than not at all. Submissions to the Lab-Progressive government's tax review are due Friday (September 8):

Submissions to: policy.webmaster@ird.govt.nz
See also: www.taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz

Oxfam fund-raiser on Saturday

Oxfam and the Umma Trust are jointly hosting a dinner to raise funds for their relief and reconstruction work in the Middle East. Funds raised will assist people in Lebanon, Israel, and Gaza: Saturday (9 September) at 6pm at the Ceramco Park Function Centre, 120 Glendale Road.

Mid East film festival starts tonight

To help break down the barriers between people, the Palm Date Film Festival/Cultural Awareness Trust is showing what look to be some great Middle Eastern movies in Christchurch and Wellington over the next fortnight starting with Bosta, a movie which has brought in larger audiences in Lebanon than any of Hollywood's recent multi-million dollar blockbusters, tonight at Paramount in Wellington.

West Papua

Some on the progressive left have expressed alarm at the prospect of the increasingly close ties between our country and our Asian neighbours because of the black stain of human rights abuses in a number of Asian states.

The reality we face, with the U.S. leading the charge to destroy multilateral initiatives, from lowering the international barriers to agricultural trade which destroy lives and liberty in the Third World to meaningful action to reduce practices that contribute to global climate change, leave us with no alternative other than to close ranks with our closest neighbours.

But that will never be a reason to keep quiet about human rights abuses. Attention is increasingly being focused on West Papua, for example, and my expectation is that in the years ahead support will rise for action to support Papuan national aspirations just as support rose quickly for East Timor a a few years ago after three decades of shameful, deafening silence.



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