Joyce has it backwards

When I saw the headline ‘Collaboration helping recruit health ICT workers‘ I was cautiously optimistic – did the Government actually have a plan to create some jobs?!

But alas, nope. Steven Joyce hasn’t come up with a great scheme to get Kiwi IT grads into jobs, he’s instead trying to get more skilled workers from overseas to fill bums on seats.

A new project designed to attract highly skilled workers to New Zealand is a great example of collaboration between the Government and the private sector, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

Speaking at the Medical Technology conference in Auckland today, Mr Joyce said 12 New Zealand health technology companies – including Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Orion Health – have been working with government agencies such as New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Immigration New Zealand to recruit hundreds of skilled employees for roles in the New Zealand health technology sector.

My first “proper job” after graduating was with a large fortune-500 company from Texas, with a sizeable presence in New Zealand.

In our induction into the company they told us how proud they were to be part of a scheme setup by Jim Anderton as Minister of Economic Development which used government incentives to bring work from overseas to New Zealand, and got Kiwis to do it with decent pay and conditions. This Beehive press release from the time goes into a little bit more detail.

The Labour government invested money in bringing work to New Zealand which led to us having the lowest unemployment rates in the world. The National government is now investing money to bring more skilled workers from overseas.

Two different approaches. I know which I prefer.

“Nasty” Mr Key

This piece from yesterday’s edition of Bryce Edwards’ excellent NZ Politics Daily frames what is happening in New Zealand politics quite nicely…

Have we seen the end of Mr Nice Guy? The number of voters who say they’d like to have a beer or bbq with John Key might soon plummet, as the Government appears to be getting into the hard decisions early in its second term. According to John Armstrong, ‘National seems unaware of how hard-edged it is starting to look with its noticeable drift to the right. The contrast with the soft pragmatism of its first term is starting to become pronounced’. In his column, Ministers risk seeming uncaring as jobs culled, Armstrong writes that public sector reform looks likely to start having a real impact on frontline services – despite Government promises – particularly with possible layoffs of nursing staff at district health boards. He warns that the Government is still to reveal the extent  of contracting out of public services to the private sector, and says it may have a hard job selling that to voters. Tracy Watkins agrees and says even though changes to date have been done far more carefully than in the 1990s, real savings  – particularly in the big budget health sector – will mean job losses in the thousands – see: Public service cuts get deeper.

In my humble opinion, the “new” welfare reforms announced by John Key and Paula Bennett are perfect examples of knee-jerk conservatism. They didn’t actually have any new ideas for reducing welfare dependency, just some half hatched ideas to kick the poor while they are down. The thing is, even these ideas aren’t new, they were announced during the election campaign.

So why re-release them? Their polling is obviously not looking flash. They’ve seen that they’re losing traction to the opposition parties, Labour in particular, and want to remind people that they can be tough. The National Party will be expecting a bump in the polls from an announcement like this, and they may well get it. But will it be the 3-5% they need to actually open a lead in the polls? I doubt it.

Australian Labor: Both Gillard and Rudd lost today

As has been widely predicted and reported, Julia Gillard has one the party room ballot 71-31. While Gillard went into the contest saying she would stand down and drop and leadership ambitions should she lose, Kevin Rudd made no such call.

Gillard will now drop Rudd from cabinet, but he will continue to undermine her from the back bench. He knew he didn’t have the numbers to beat Julia when he resigned as foreign minister last week – this is all part of his game plan. In effect, he plans to “do a Keating”. To refresh your memory, the Paul Keating article from Wikipedia nicely traces the rocky path that Keating took to Kirribilli…

At a 1988 meeting at Kirribilli House, Hawke and Keating discussed the handover of the leadership to Keating. Hawke agreed in front of two witnesses that he would resign in Keating’s favour after the 1990 election.[10] The Deputy Prime Minister, Lionel Bowen, retired at the 1990 election, and Keating was appointed Deputy to Hawke. In June 1991, after Hawke had intimated to Keating that he planned to renege on the deal on the basis that Keating had been publicly disloyal and moreover was less popular than Hawke, Keating challenged him for the leadership. He lost (Hawke won 66–44 in the party room ballot),[17] resigned as Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister, and declared in a press conference that he had fired his ‘one shot’.[18] Publicly, at least, this made his leadership ambitions unclear. Having lost the first challenge to Hawke, Keating realised that events would have to move very much in his favour for a second challenge to be even possible.[19]

Several factors contributed to the success of Keating’s second challenge in December 1991. Over the remainder of 1991, the economy showed no signs of recovery from the recession, and unemployment continued to rise.[20][21] Some of Keating’s supporters undermined the government.[20] The Government was polling poorly.[19] Perhaps more significantly, Liberal leader John Hewson introduced ‘Fightback!‘, an economic policy package, which, according to Keating’s biographer, John Edwards, ‘appeared to astonish and stun Hawke’s cabinet’.[22] According to Edwards, ‘Hawke was unprepared to attack it and responded with windy rhetoric’.[22] After Fightback!, Keating ‘did practically nothing’ as Hawke’s support dwindled and the numbers moved in Keating’s favour.[23] On 20 December 1991, Keating defeated Hawke in a party-room ballot for the leadership by 56 votes to 51.

Sound familiar?

So what’s the solution? From Julia’s perspective, she can use this opportunity to grab the bull by the horns. A Labor loss in Queensland at the end of March will now be entirely blamed on Kevin Rudd destabilising the party just weeks out from the state election. Her campaign to retain the leadership was always on the back foot, but she showed she is a fighter (the press release from Wayne Swan was simply incredible).

She can rebuild, but it’s not going to be easy.

Labour Review – consultation

Labour’s President, Moira Coatsworth, has just announced a schedule of 18 meetings for party members to have their input into the consultation process as part of the party’s organisational review. As well as the meetings, you can submit online. I’d say that it’s just as important to get the feedback from members who have never been to a meeting as it is from those who have chaired hundreds of meetings.

There is a review website live now, where you can learn more about the process and have your say. Get involved. I’m happy for guest posts on The Progress Report if you have any particular view points you’d like to get a wider audience.


Missing Ministers

Yet another wheel coming off the government.

Last week the National foreign minister, Murry McCully announced a very controversial change proposal for his minisitry, which involved the cutting of 305 staff.

You wont find McCully defending the decision however, he has totally gone to ground. As this remarkable report on Stuff reveals…

Prime Minister John Key has defended his Foreign Affairs Minister, saying although Murray McCully is not missing in action, he has “absolutely no clue” where he is.

I’m no expert of the mechanics of the functioning of Cabinet, but I’m pretty sure Key would have had to signed off international travel.

Has he hired a helicopter and fled with Kim Dotcom? Would that make him Murry Dotcom?

Myth busting: we have too many MPs

The Herald on Sunday have used the current MMP Review to trot out the old argument that we have too many MPs. This was a line that Jordan Williams’ failed Vote for Change tried to use – claiming that MMP required 120 MPs to operate, and to reduce the number of MPs we would have to select a different. That particular statement is a blatant lie, and the Electoral Commission did not hesitate to correct them.

So the Herald on Sunday claim that Australia only has 150 MPs – “one for every 152,300 Ockers” in their words. By contrast, New Zealand has 121 MPs, or one for every 36,600 people. Why do we need “so many” MPs?

Except that’s not quite the case.

If we ignore local government – then you still can’t ignore that Australia’s federal government has a bicameral Parliament, with two houses. The lower house, the House of Representatives, has 150 MPs, but they are conveniently ignoring the Australian upper house, the Senate, with their 76 federal senators.

And then you also have the state and territorial governments. Many New Zealanders are blissfully ignorant of these, and often picture them as bloated local councils. But they’re not. They have a large remit over the everyday lives of Australians.

I’ve compiled this table which really shows how much representation the average Australian and New Zealander get…


Government Lower House Upper House Total
Federal 150 76 226
New South Wales 93 42 135
Victoria 88 40 128
Queensland 89 89
Western Australia 59 36 95
South Australia 47 22 69
Tasmania 25 15 40
Australian Capital Territory 17 17
Northern Territory 25 25

New Zealand

Federal 121 121

On these numbers Australia has a total of 825 elected representatives, or one for every 27,720 people (using the 2012 population estimate of 22 million).

Additionally, I just don’t think that Australia is a particularly good comparison for this metric. They have a state system which is very different to how we operate, and they have over five times the population. I’d be interested to hear of any more suitable comparisons that people have (I think a country like Ireland would be better). I’d also imagine that there are NGOs out there that do ratings of “quality” of Government – that’s probably where I’d start looking before diving into straight counts of representatives.

Update: I’ve just noticed David Farrar has run exactly the same numbers I have. Doh.

We need to talk about Kevin

An excellent piece in today’s Age from James Button, a former speech writer for Kevin Rudd. He lets rip into Kevin’s leadership style and the way he operates…

He made crushing demands on his staff, and when they laboured through the night to meet those demands, they received no thanks, and often the work was not used. People who dared stand up to him were put in “the freezer” and not consulted or spoken to for months. The prodigious loyalty of his staff to him was mostly not repaid. He put them down behind their backs. He seemed to feel that everyone was always letting him down. In meetings, as I saw, he could emanate a kind of icy rage that was as mysterious as it was disturbing.

He governed by – seemed almost to thrive on – crisis. Important papers went unsigned, staff and public servants would be pulled onto flights, in at least one case halfway around the world, on the off chance that he needed to consult them. Vital decisions were held up while he struggled to make up his mind, frequently demanding more pieces of information that merely delayed the final result. The fate of the government seemed to hinge on the psychology of one man.


The entire article is well worth a read. It’s a great insight into how the Rudd office worked.

Shearer hits out on asset sales

David Shearer gave a speech to Grey Power yesterday, hitting out at the shambles that is the government’s sale of state owned assets. The government is very quickly losing control of this issue…

From Stuff

Shearer attacked the Government’s estimates of the revenue asset sales would generate, saying when first touted, the partial sales were estimated to raise $10 billion.

”Then it was $6.6 billion, then about $6 billion. Then last week [Finance Minister)] Bill English admitted they were just ‘guessing’ at what the sale price would be.

”It’s the sort of shambles you’d expect to see at a backyard garage sale not when you’re selling off our nation’s valuable assets.”

The Government plans to sell up to 49 per cent of state-owned energy companies Mighty River Power, Genesis, Meridian and Solid Energy and further reduce its shareholding in Air New Zealand.

He’s also hit out at critics of his leadership style.

I’m not the kind of leader who believes in rival tribes playing ‘gotcha’, where bickering and partisanship are prized. Of course that’s what a lot of people look for. They want to score the game, give points for the best smart remark in Parliament. But that’s not what most New Zealanders want.

Great stuff.