The economics of Christmas

Very excellent piece in the Guardian today, entitled The state has privatised Santa and nationalised the elves

Santa’s critics note that higher profits and productivity have not resulted in higher pay for the elves. They were seeing their real incomes squeezed even before the Fairy Tale of Wall Street had an unhappy ending in 2008, and then took pay cuts rather than lose their jobs. With welfare being cut, most plumped for a job over the dole even if it meant a cut in living standards.

Santa accepts that the workforce has made sacrifices. But he insists these are vital to keep the company going at a time of cut-throat global competition. The elves have to understand, he adds, that the alternative to zero-hour contracts and pay cuts would be that the jobs would be outsourced from Lapland to a lower-cost grotto in the far east.

More on Labour’s selections

Earlier this month I posted about Labour’s upcoming selections, as Jenny Michie on the Daily Blog has pointed out, Labour has been particularly silent about them. Despite selecting some great candidates, they seem to be hesitant to tell anyone about it. Not a single mention of the process or the successful candidates can be found on the party website, Facebook page or Twitter stream. 

As well as this, I’ve found it extraordinary that as a member I haven’t even been sent an email about what is happening in terms of selection. In the latest copy of the regular magazine that the Victorian Labor Party sends to members, there were practical tips about how to get selected and get involved in the party – really simple stuff, but it makes a huge difference to members who want to get involved (okay, it would be expensive to produce a magazine, but fairly easy to pull together email updates).

Not only does it seem pretty out of touch to be selected candidates without telling the membership, it also seems to be in direct contrast to the recommendations of the organisational review, started just after David Shearer became leader. From the ‘Communication and Organising’ recommendations that came out of the review:

a) We will develop more effective two-way communication with members nationally, regionally and locally. Party and Parliamentary communications will be well integrated and planned.
b) We will use modern tools to have readily available up-to-date information for Party members, as well as guidance for activists and office-holders. This needs to include improvement of our website.

I would find it hard to justify keeping members in the dark about selections against these recommendations.

It would be interesting to see what other review recommendations the party hierarchy is choosing to ignore or forget…

Should David Cunliffe buy back flogged off state owned assets?

Apparently David Cunliffe’s seriously considering buying back the sold-off state owned assets. I have never been a fan of this solution to the problem. It suggests that a Labour government’s main role is furiously Ctl-Z backwards through the last National government’s acts, in an attempt to undo their actions.

First of all, at this point it sits awkwardly with NZPower. NZPower is premised on a group of predominantly private generators, who are then heavily regulated. Within that framework, the regulator acts in the public interest, while the power companies look to their own self-interest. If we are going to buy back the power companies, we need to go further and abandon the SOE model (as Giovanni Tiso puts it “And – again, to state the bloody obvious – you don’t need to privatise SOEs to be neoliberal. You just run them as private companies”), and establish a model for public enterprise that isn’t just running them as private companies. NZPower’s attempt to mediate the issue then becomes redundant.

But also, over the past thirty years the NZ state has divested itself of large chunks of key infrastructure. NZ needs to re-establish democratic control of those aspects of the economy that we feel should be under that control. This will require a programme of nationalisation and municipalisation.

The first targets for that programme should not simply be those assets last sold off by the privatisers, but should be determined by a clear analysis of the country’s economic strategy. The Labour Party often writes policy by a simple process of reaction: this policy is about that bad thing the National party has done, this policy about that. But on this issue we need to go beyond simply undoing the last bad thing National did, and answer some deeper questions about the proper role of public enterprise in NZ.

Will we buy back Contact? Why not? Functionally, they are the same thing — is it simply a matter of historical precedence?) It may be that renationalisation of Chorus is on the cards: would it be better to own Chorus, and 51% of the power companies, or would it be better not to own Chorus and own 100% of the power companies?

These questions, that go deeper than simply shifting SOEs to MOM and back again, which require fundamental readjustments to the neoliberal SOE model, and a clear analysis of what in the economy needs to be subject to democratic control and why, are certainly harder. They are certainly not as easy or simple as “will you buy back Meridan?” But they are certainly key to any attempt to re-establish social democracy in New Zealand.

Where the battle for Chch East was won

I’m a little late to this, but it has already been extensively covered before. In short, Labour achieved a massive victory in the Christchurch East by-election. Poto Williams proved to be an outstanding candidate, and was back by an incredibly formidable campaign team in Jim Anderton and Hayden Munro, and a huge number of other talented and dedicated volunteers from all over the country.

Rob Salmond has already done a great job of looking at the results, and in particular, I’d like to congratulate him for predicting the turnout so well!

I’ve had a very brief look at the results and pulled together the following map to visualise the results. The colour of the dot indicates the strength of the swing (the redder it is the more of a swing towards Labour, the bluer, the stronger the swing against Labour). The size of the dots indicate the total number of votes cast.

You can click on the dots to get the details of the booth, including swing, votes cast and booth name. You’ll see huge swings all over the electorate where Poto managed to significantly improve over Lianne Dalziel’s vote. This really shows how impressive the win was.

The one blue dot, in Shirley, shows a swing of just over 5% away from Labour. I have no idea what either of the campaigns were doing in that suburb, but I’m sure both will be closely evaluating it now!

Update: If you’re having trouble viewing the map please try refreshing the page or viewing it via this link.

Chch East Swing Map

Good news for Bill Shorten


Unlike the recent volatility we’ve been seeing in the polls in New Zealand (and I highly recommend Rob Salmond’s piece on the latest Herald poll), here in Australia we’re seeing a very strong trend emerging, with the Labor opposition under Bill Shorten rapidly taking over from the Government in popularity stakes. This morning’s Age reports

In a double blow to the Prime Minister, it found the only honeymoon is actually being enjoyed by his direct opponent, Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten.

In fact, Mr Shorten’s personal approval continues to climb with fully two-thirds of voters viewing his performance as either satisfactory (41.5%) good (15.9%) or very good (9.2%).

The ReachTEL/Seven News survey of more than 3500 voters was taken on Sunday afternoon, the eve of the 100-day milestone.

It confirmed the findings of the most recent Fairfax-Nielsen and Newspoll surveys revealing that Mr Shorten’s ALP Opposition already leads by 4 percentage points at 52/48 over the Coalition.

Even on primary votes, Labor is virtually level pegging with the combined Liberal and Nationals parties at 40.4 per cent to the Coalition on 41.4.

The importance of accurate data



New York emergency services sent out a demand for payment addressed only to “unknown Asian” after workers filled in sketchy patient information for a $868 ($US784) ambulance ride.

The bill was sent to the vaguely described individual at The New School’s 2 W13th St building, leaving staffers scratching their heads after the bill was delivered there Tuesday.

“I hesitated to open it but then I was like, ‘Well, I could be an unknown Asian,'” said Christine Ahn, 29, who works in the dean’s office at Parsons The New School for Design.

Forward, not back.

Just 18 months out from their next general election, the UK based blog published this excellent piece yesterday about how Labour needs to move forward, not look back, to be competitive in 2015.

With 18 months to go to the election it is obviously time to assign campaign roles and start finalising ideas for the manifesto. It is encouraging for Labour that so many talented figures seem ready to lend a hand. What is so far less clear is what the central thrust and tone of this campaign will be. It will be important not to refight old battles, or unthinkingly recycle old techniques. May 2015 will be different. It will involve a volatile electorate, reduced loyalty to the three old parties, the unknowable UKIP factor, and a media industry in some disarray. No-one has fought a UK election in circumstances quite like these before. Cutting through to sceptical, free-floating voters will require brilliant communication skills. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”, as St Paul said.

Some good advice for their antipodean comrades. I highly recommend reading the full post.