Future Lefts - All The Luck In The World
Editorial: The Eastern Suburbs bite back
Rich Poole "speech"
Super super fund
Poll lays down challenge for Labour
Website Of The Week
Editorial: The Eastern Suburbs bite back.
As Future Lefts went out last week (Thursday night, for those with short memories) a storm was gathering over an advertisement that appeared in the Thursday Herald, and apparently in the Dominion the following day. It was the first in what is so far a two-strike attack on the Government through paid ads in the dailies (the other was from an expatriate businessman who thought it was the Government's fault that the USA has stringent hygiene regulations on cheese imports).
What remains difficult to work out is the motivation of the aptly-named Rich Poole in starting what he must have known would be a controversial string of events. Was he really a well-meaning naïve young man who got a bit of a shock? Was he a tool of the National opposition and the Business Round Table? Is he a spoilt brat who should be ignored?
Personally, I don't think any of the above are quite right. Poole and Roger Kerr tapped into the same sentiment with their ad that got Labour elected to lead the Government last year. People last year knew the country was not headed in the right direction and they wanted a change. Now, eleven months later, people have doubts about the way the Government has been acting and haven't yet seen an appreciable improvement in the economy, in social policy or in many other areas. And looming over the winter, shoving other political issues out of the way, has been the ongoing Closing the Gaps saga.
Ironically enough, Richard Poole has done the Government a favour. Labour owned the "stop the brain drain" rhetoric and policy at the last election and continues to do so. The biggest migrations of people from New Zealand have always occurred when economic policy was fundamentally flawed - at the end of the 1990's, the early 1980's, and earlier times all follow the same pattern. The economic policy changes the Government has made have already begun to have an effect on the tradeables sector, and the extremely fast fall in the value of the dollar is doing the same thing, although with less positive side effects.
What is at the core of the issue, but which has not been addressed by any of the commentators, is that Richard and his mates are actually supporting the economic model that got us where we are. New Zealand's performance on almost every economic indicator other than inflation has been dismal since the early 1980's. Almost two decades of reform have left us with the same problem we started with - a large external deficit and problems diversifying the economy. Swings and roundabouts of unbalanced reform simply have not worked. Those who promote more of the same - as the Round Table does and as Poole and his mates appear to want to - would simply make things worse. The bankruptcy of the current economic paradigm is one that everybody knows about but nobody dares mutter, because we haven't yet got anything to put in its place.
On the other hand, what Poole's campaign did, more effectively than anything else could have possibly done, was take the focus completely off the Treaty issues that dominated politics through the winter. This should allow the Government a breathing space to think through very carefully where it is going on Treaty, Gaps and other issues related to Maori and come up with a better-coordinated strategy on the issue.
The fact is that the concerns that have been raised are real. I would argue that in many areas, the Government simply has a policy process in place that is only starting to deliver very slowly. People won't notice their interest free loans until they apply for the rebate next year. Apprenticeships are starting up very slowly. Closing the Gaps is an endless, multi-term project. Health improvements are glacial. Housing changes start 01 December. On and on the list goes; good policy but not delivering fast enough. In a democratic society, it's probably not possible to deliver fast enough at all.
What made me angry about Richard's ad, and little from the right actually angers me, was that it shamelessly misrepresented where the country has been and where it's going. The problems we're suffering now have their origins forty years ago when we buried our heads over the need to industrialise. We protected instead and continued to export processed grass. In the 70's Kirk tried a start with pre-saving for Super, but Muldoon screwed that up. Muldoon himself made things worse with a limited vision and a failed "Think Big" fantasy. Labour in 84-90 fixed some things but made others worse, and introduced a dangerously anti-government view that National happily (and stupidly) continued with right up to 1999.
Since last year there has been a moderate re-balancing of policy. In a funny way, when Opposition whingers talk about us moving in the opposite direction to the rest of the world, they are correct in that we went way too far to the right in the 80's and 90's. We're getting back to having civilised labour standards, a decent development and stable economic policy, a decent superannuation scheme and better health and education systems.
In short, we're dealing with what Poole complains of. He has the right problems but the wrong solutions. He should have put in his ad before November 27 last year, with some facts about how badly the economy did under the right, rather than now and with baseless mush in it.
But that would imply he had the interests of young New Zealanders at heart.
Till next week,
Rich Poole "speech"
The following was put up on the Website of the Week and is quite amusing. For the record, I'm pretty sure it doesn't come from Richard Poole but it is what a lot of people think he would write. It's quite funny really.
Address to the Northern Club - Richard Poole.
Fellow Act supporters,
Why am I, a 26 year old yet to make his own way in the world, addressing the New Zealand bastion of power that I see before me?
It's very clear - I am here because I am your successor. [pause for glowing approval of young eligible daughters, clipped applause from approving, elderly businessmen]
[begin with a conciliatory tone] I make no claim that a new generation will usurp your present roles - I have already made it clear that I require your capital, economic philosophy and even design skills. Instead I offer two things. Firstly: blind loyalty, untempered by any ethical structure - I demonstrated this amply on national television when I lied to the nation to obscure Mr Kerr's covert role in the campaign. Secondly, like a character in an insidious Orwell novel, I have the ability to mix the truth.
I can say "I believe in our country" while undermining a concept that New Zealanders overwhelmingly voted for. This is because I, as I address YOU before me, believe this is OUR country. [wink and make the nudge-nudge gesture with elbow, pretend to count money].
With a straight face I can say "this campaign is non political". Of course, when I am sent a rude e-mail from someone in the Alliance party I can hand it over to Jenny Shipley to use. We all know that this is not political because the right is right (pause after gushing and deafening applause).
Gone are the days where you, Mr Prebble, can lie about the location of a NZ Rail carriage - however a young guy like me? At worst I'll be perceived as "naive". Note that the irony of advocating flexible labour laws from the comfort of a career steeped in nepotism has been safely lost on everyone. (Speaking of which, the RT Thinktank needs to find another term to replace "flexible labour", too many people are starting to realise that it means lower wages and security, instead of higher profit margins - I'd suggest "contingent labour". That should hold us for a few years).
I am a tall poppy, and by this I do not mean that I started off green and ended up with a very red face. No, I mean that in the rebellion of youth I have followed my father and his friends [pause slowly for effect while admiring glances are collected]. I realized early that it was up to me to get others to join us in our noble cause.
When I saw those Warehouse ads in the paper reminding people of how little they earned, I decided to fill the newspaper with something good and honest; and, failing that, whatever Roger told me. Instead of people being reminded of the cheap stuff they were forced to buy, they must see that 600 private school pupils object to a 6% tax increase.
I am stunned that people think the Roundtable are political. In all my dealings with Roger I found that all he wants is for all rich people to make more money. Roger is not selective, I can assure you, whether people are super rich, or merely rich. It is only the poor he can't stand. So I find the political charges against me quite ignorant.
The reason I did not mention the money on the Holmes show was obvious: People would have got the wrong idea. They might have thought that instead of a disorganized mob of spoilt youth we were an organized mob of establishment wannabes. A charge I find scurrilous [pronunciation note from PR company: sk Uh Ra Liss].
So, gentlemen of the establishment, I am asking you to give deeply tonight.
Give me your respect (mine has strangely gone missing), and give the youth of New Zealand your money [pause for nudging winks all round], I mean it is your youth we are doing this for [more winks, flash winning smile].
Your support is appreciated, although some of it is a little odd. I sent out a self congratulatory e-mail last week, and I received a somewhat strange reply. It said: "someone has not told the emperor he has no clothes on". I have never valued poetry, no money in it.
In fact as I look around the room this evening I must reiterate - the last decade of economic liberalisation HAS been a success despite a stagnant GDP and productivity.
Make no mistake, it's all about us.
Your loyal courtier, Richard.
[Start bowing for standing ovation, look for Daddy telling me to do something spontaneous]
Super super fund
After months of planning, the Government has released details of its superannuation fund, designed to head off the demographic challenge presented by an ageing baby-boomer population in the decades ahead.
In simple terms, the fund will accumulate up to $100bn in today's dollars, saved out of the taxes paid by the baby-boomers before they retire, and the interest that the fund accumulates. It will be managed by a board of governors independent of the Government of the day, and will invest funds commercially wherever the best returns can be found. It will pay out to all people over age 65 at a rate of 65% of the average wage.
Political responses so far have been interesting. The Greens have stated that they will look at the scheme; they deny the significance of the demographic challenge facing the country and appear to think that the current pay-as-you-go scheme is adequate by itself. NZ First leader Winston Peters has come out in favour of the scheme as long as it can potentially be changed to an individualised-account system.
Right wing parties have been put in something of a quandary by the scheme's announcement. ACT has said that it supports spreading Super policy over a longer time horizon, but does not necessarily support the proposed fund, buying into Bill English's idea that the fund must be reviewed.
Bill English's response has been quite significant. It has revealed that National has no policy on superannuation. While its conference this year recognised it had made mistakes on super, it refused to pass a remit supporting super at a level that would allow retired people to live with dignity. National still hasn't committed itself to a universal super scheme funded at an adequate level. If they can't agree to that, then they will find it impossible to support the scheme - which will place them in a very difficult political position.
The Government now has to go out and persuade the public that the proposed Scheme is robust enough to survive a change of government, and that it is the best way to deal with the growing number of superannuitants later this century. Given the vast number of models available for modelling the economy, there is bound to be a robust technical debate over what should happen and how the fund could be structured, or whether the fund should exist, and so on.
Critically, though, this Government is the first since the 1970's to make any attempt at all to deal with the issue of smoothing super payments into the future. For that alone it deserves high praise.
Labour's Annual Conference will be happening in Wellington from Friday 17 November - Sunday 19 November. Based at the Wellington Town Hall, the conference will be a celebration of all we've achieved since the election last year, and start to lay the groundwork for the 2002 election.
While the conference starts on the Friday evening, the daylight hours on Friday are devoted to sector meetings. The national executive is preparing a packed agenda for the sector day, which will run 9.30am to 5.00pm. If you're a Young Labour member, don't miss it. The Executive will report back on events so far this year, and plans for Orientation for next year.
If you would like to attend the Conference and/or sector day, but haven't made any plans yet, contact Alastair Cameron, Policy Rep at email@example.com, or Christal Anderson, Wellington Regional Rep at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as you can.
Poll lays down challenge for Labour
The latest One Network News-Colmar Brunton political poll was released on Sunday night (15 October) and showed the following results:
Labour: down 2 to 40% National: up 2 to 44% Alliance: steady on 3% ACT: up 1 to 4% Greens: steady on 4% NZ First: up 1 to 3%.
This shows National in Government with 63 seats, and Labour in Opposition with 57. If ACT and the Greens got in with 7 seats each (they are closest to 5%) it would be a National-led coalition with 63 seats, to Labour/Green 57.
What seems strangest about this poll is that they seem to have forgotten that the Alliance will win Wigram, and so the threshold isn't relevant for them. It is also highly likely that the Greens will retain Coromandel. Yet, the same cannot be said for either Winston Peters in Tauranga (he only won on a three-way split), and ACT doesn't have any electorate seats at all. I don't know why the people at ONN/CB did this but it seems odd to me.
In the preferred PM stakes, Clark still leads Shipley with both falling, but Shipley falling more.
Probably the most encouraging result is the turnaround in people's confidence in the economy, which has improved by a net 16% since the September poll. Those who think we are heading in the wrong direction are down 9 to 44% and optimists are up 7 to 41%. This holds the key to what I would see as a recovery in the party vote fortunes for Labour in the November poll.
Despite a bad month, politically, the Government has not been much damaged. I would expect to see a renewed focus on reminding the electorate just what an alternative Government would mean (going back to the past, and no defined policies other than admitting what didn't work last time) and waiting for the economy to recover from the current fit of glumness.
Website of the Week: http://www.thevisiblehand.net
The Visible Hand
Jeremy Punnett, an expat New Zealander working in London, was so infuriated by the claim by the "Young New Zealanders" to be representative of his generation, that he put up something of a different view. The site gives a different perspective on New Zealand's situation, a forum for discussion and some open correspondence between Jeremy and Richard Poole. Well worth a look.
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