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Future Lefts - A year of fun ahead

Thursday 18th January, 2001

A year of fun ahead

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CONTENTS:
Editorial: Looking to the future
Shipley imagines Cabinet papers
"State of the Nation" speech ignored
Rebels get a new name
Website of the week

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Editorial: Looking to the future

So it begins again. After a summer that will probably be remembered for being cooler and less sunny than it could have been, the wheels of the political system are slowly beginning to spin again, in more ways than one. Clark has climbed another mountain. Shipley is still making a fool of herself. The Opposition doesn't have any policy still. Welcome back to another year of Future Lefts.

There will be a few changes this year. Once I judge that there is enough going on politically for a regular publication, Future Lefts will be published at midday on Tuesdays. I've yet to decide if we will publish weekly or fortnightly; depends how interesting life gets. I'd anticipate this being by the middle of February, but it could happen sooner. Content will remain much the same in its orientation: our spin on events, and a light-hearted and sometimes sarcastic take on the news, as well as what events Young Labour is up to.

Helen Clark must have been pretty pleased with herself, climbing that mountain over the break. She has done what commentators once assumed impossible - led a Labour/Alliance coalition government for over a year without any major problems. Implementing core policies, while causing something of a stir in a business community unused to seeing their interests being put on a par with everyone else’s, has led to a sustained surge in the polls for the Government. Labour’s support, even during the darkest days of the winter, was above the 38.7% obtained in the election in 1999.

As Colin James noted in a Herald column this week, those polling results don’t necessarily imply a mandate. They probably indicate that despite the bitter campaigns of last year, the public doesn’t distrust the Government, and is enjoying the sight (rare as it has been) of a Government being elected and keeping its promises.

This will be a fun year because, having largely completed the first phase of the promises made in 1999, the Government needs to start developing the themes it will campaign on next year. Keeping promises is all very well, but voters are going to look for something more. While there is a very real sense still of “reform fatigue” among the general public, Labour governments don’t get elected to do nothing. If we choose to do nothing, the public will vote for the party that does nothing best - the National Party.

There are some things we do know. There won’t be major improvements in public services, because the arbitrary spending limits the Government has chosen will not allow for them. With a limit of about $600m in new spending allowed this year and 2002, fiscal headroom is something they do not have. We will also see the progress of the tax review, which may be a means of providing more revenue after its outcomes are accepted by the coalition parties as policy to run on in the future.

What seems likely, at this point, is that the focus will be kept well away from public services. Blair’s administration in the UK shows that when you let the focus go on public services, you suddenly need to find money for them. Since we’ve ruled that out, the alternative is a focus on economic policy, and building a new consensus around the economic policy of the “active state” that is the nirvana of Third Way administrations everywhere. We could, in fact, have the bizarre situation in 2002 of a Labour Government fighting on a platform of economic competence against a Tory opposition fighting on spending more on social policy.

Stranger things have happened!

Anyway, a new year and a lot to look forward to if you’re on the left.

Till next time,

Jordan

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Shipley imagines Cabinet papers

"Last year she imagined Pacific Islanders climbing in her windows at night - this year she is imagining cabinet papers," says State Services Minister, Trevor Mallard.

"Jenny Shipley still hasn't learnt the difference between fact and imagination. A central part of being opposition leader is being bright enough to check your facts and not to say the first thing that comes into your head.

"She claimed the issue of state sector bonuses was discussed at a cabinet committee meeting in August. Two papers on wage bargaining went to a cabinet committee in August. They related to collective employment agreements for secondary principals and caretakers and cleaners. Neither of these agreements has a bonus component.

"State sector chief executives have been briefed by both the Prime Minister and the State Services Commissioner about the need for frugality within the public service. They have also been reminded of the need for a fair and transparent remuneration system. Bonus payments - especially those made on a department wide basis - are unlikely to fit those criteria.

"While she was State Services Minister, Mrs Shipley set up a system whereby bonus payments and other ad hoc remuneration systems took the place of good faith bargaining and transparent contracts.

"She has left us with an unsatisfactory situation and this government is sorting it out.

"Perhaps Mrs Shipley should make a late new years resolution to check her facts before she blurts forth again," Trevor Mallard said.

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"State of the Nation" speech ignored

ACT’s leader, Richard Prebble, gave his annual “State of the Nation” speech to a select audience at a swanky Auckland hotel on Tuesday.

Prebble’s speech was quite clever, in its own way. You can find it on Scoop or Newsroom, and it’s an interesting read.

There is of course the self-inflating boasting – "Over time the of accuracy of the predictions in my state of the nation address' have created an enviable record." There are the outright mistakes – "...[the ACC, ERA and govt attitudes] were more extreme than anything in Labour's manifesto." There are the totally weird statements – "The new US president will present his tax plan to the US congress and in doing so will focus investors world wide on the importance of taxation."

None of these are surprising. We are all used to Richard Prebble’s rhetoric. However, there are some more interesting bits:

"It is my view now that even if New Zealand does correctly introduce all the right policies in the foreseeable future, currency fluctuation could still destabilise our export sector."

A perfectly logical statement, except for a fundamental problem. Monetary policy can affect two variables really; it can control inflation or it can control the currency’s value. If Richard wants to have the stable dollar he talks about here, he needs to give up on monetary policy as a means of controlling inflation. Yet, ACT supports the architecture that Prebble was part of developing in the 1980’s, with an independent reserve bank controlling inflation.

What does Prebble want? The current system to control inflation, or a stable dollar and resorting to fiscal policy (raising or cutting taxes or spending) to control inflation? This is a fundamental contradiction that makes the rest of the speech look actually coherent.

Anyhow, you can read the rest at your leisure. He’s good at rhetoric and he twists reality, but that just makes him a good politician I guess.

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Rebels get a new name

The ACT party youth wing, formerly known as Prebble’s Rebels (whose President quit in disgust at the end of last year and has, rumour has it, joined the Young Nationals) has renamed themselves.

In a bizarre move, they have chosen ACTivists as their new title. A strange name, given that right wing politics doesn’t rate activism, but probably a saleable one. Presumably the members were consulted, but if new members join up expecting to be ACTive then we suspect they will be sorely disappointed. For ACT, being active means sticking abusive posters up in Wellington.

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Website of the Week: http://www.gmcommission.govt.nz/

The Royal Commission into genetic modification is sitting, and it’s a vital issue. There’s some interesting stuff on the website, including a few background papers that demonstrate a range of perspectives.

If you have any more websites, feel free to let us know about them!

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All submissions should be to the editor, Jordan Carter, at carters@ihug.co.nz.

While this newsletter is published in the name of Young Labour, the contents is entirely the responsibility of the editor and the views expressed here don't constitute any official position of Young Labour. All contents copyright (c) 2000. Subscribe at younglabour-subscribe@listbot.com

Te Wairua Hou - The New Spirit - http://www.younglabour.org.nz

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