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Hands-on National

Written By: - Date published: 8:04 am, August 10th, 2013 - 19 comments
Categories: business, national - Tags: , ,

It doesn’t suit the Labour Party narrative – and indeed it’s not their espoused philosophy – but every now and then National can’t help but be “hands on”.

We’ve had the South Canterbury Finances in the past (won’t somebody think of the shareholders!), but this week was a real doozy for it.

Despite going on about small government, non-productive civil servants being a drain on the economy, and how much better the private sector is at running everything, what happens when there’s a real problem?  Why National send civil servants into our biggest and supposedly best private enterprise, Fonterra, to show them how to run a business.

Suddenly those Ministry for Primary Industries bureaucrats are our saviours apparently…  which they may very well be, but this has got to be a real bitter pill to swallow for Bill English et al.  I mean obviously he values those Treasury civil servants (like him), which is why their budget increases when the rest take a cut, but now he’s having to admit that public sector bods in any department might be better than the private sector at business…

Next there’s $30 million (plus less, cheaper power) to save the Meridian Share Float Tiwai Point. For one extra year.  It now can’t shut until January 2017, instead of January 2016.  800 people work there so that’s nearly $40,000 for each employee… except it might not be 800, as they didn’t sign any job guarantees and Tiwai are thinking of halving the employees.

I’m not sure why National didn’t just agree to pay their salaries for the year, it might yet work out cheaper…  and we can bet Rio Tinto (fresh profit announcement: $4.2 billion) will be back in a couple of years with their caps out again.

Still, it means National’s share-float to their rich mates can stay on track.

But that wasn’t enough meddling in business for the week.

Apparently, despite the fact that it’s anathema to National that the government intervene in power prices, it’s perfectly acceptable for them to set broadband prices.  They may both come down wires, but National don’t want you to think about this too deeply.

To be fair there is a significant difference: Labour want to intervene to get prices down (to benefit the public) – National want to intervene to get prices up (to benefit shareholders).  So I guess you can see why only one would be justified in National’s eyes.

There was a good quote from the Telecom Users Association of NZ about the Chorus meddling:

“In the bad old days we used to see MPs debating the price of butter in the House. This is a return to that and worse – instead, we won’t have the debate, the price will simply be set by the Beehive.”

Yup – your broadband plan is now Minister Joyce’s cash cow for the benefit of Chorus’ shareholders.  Enjoy.

I look forward to a hands-on Labour government… one that’s hands-on for the country, not National’s mates.

19 comments on “Hands-on National”

  1. red blooded 1

    Come on now; surely you didn’t expect them to stick to their (cough cough) principles? Just think about all that wintering on about the ‘Nanny Sate’ then think about the long list of interventions like making smoking in prisons illegal, reworking health and safety inspections, building regulations, the ‘super city’, all the interventions in Canterbury (before the earthquakes as well as after), the pressures on councils to ‘free up land for development… Now, some of these policies may well be positive (& some are high-handed officious and worrying) but they are certainly not hands off or ‘getting the government out of private individuals’ lives’! And that’s before we even mention the various spying activities, pressure on journalism etc. when was the last time you heard anyone on the right of the spectrum blathering on about intrusions into privacy or individual choices?

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      +1

      Exactly. This government has never been hands-off except when doing something would have benefited the poor at which point they keep well away.

      • karol 1.1.1

        Agreed with rb & DTB.

        Neoliberal propaganda talks big about non-interventionist small government. But really, this has just been a front for the wealthy elites to be self-serving. They are ‘hands-on” when it helps siphon more profits and control their way.

        I’ve always thought the Shearer “hands-on” slogan is part of the way they aim to look like they are moving away from “neoliberalism”, while actually doing very little to frighten the middle-classes. And in some cases the whole “hands on” thing can be perfectly acceptable to the corporate classes.

  2. BevanJS 2

    Coming very much from the “right” side of opinion I have to agree with much of the points highlighted here. Bring back Fat Rodney.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 2.1

      Come on Hide is no different when push comes to shove. He was bought up in a regulated market, when his fathers trucking business was protected from competition. Much the same for many businesses in New Zealand at the time…. hotels , movie theatres etc all had to have licenses to operate which could be refused on grounds it would harm others

  3. aj 3

    ‘Late on Thurs-day, soon after it was revealed the Government was giving $30 million to the Tiwai smelter, its owner Rio Tinto announced it had made a profit of US$1.72 billion in the six months to June 30, but it had to sack thousands of workers worldwide and slash $1.5 billion in costs to get there. There was no breakdown of the financial results for the Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter in the first half of this year.
    The smelter made a pre-tax loss of $32 million in the 2012 year, but in the previous 2011 year it made a profit of $254 million’

    Southland Times

  4. BrucetheMoose 4

    The government is just reinforcing their free market ideology. If you are big enough and perceived as important enough, they will give you free money.

  5. Ad 5

    Were you really expecting the government to sit back and let this all happen? We won’t ever agree that National has the right motives or balanced costs and benefits the way we like them, but inside 2 months they have:

    – Cut the biggest development Auckland has had in a decade with the Sky City deal
    – Agreed to the Auckland Plan and the top three transport priorities within it including the City Rail Link
    – Helped save the ass of New Zealand’s largest exporter
    – Saved at least several hundred jobs in Invercargill
    – Accelerated the complete reconstruction of New Zealand’s second largest city – and hence pump-primed the entire economy for about a decade
    – Propped up Chorus for several years
    – Stepped in the save meat exports to China
    – Forced Auckland’s council to agree to a housing development package – preparing the economy for a further decade’s surge
    – Deep in preparation to relaunch the tourism industry on the back of the final Hobbit films
    – And is getting ready to force the Denniston open cast coal mine (I don’t have to like it, but West Coasters generally do)

    Were I a National MP, I’d call that a good 60 days work for the economy.
    In fact by and large most Labour MP’s would beg to be on the Treasury benches and cut such a set of deals.

    • BrucetheMoose 5.1

      Accelerated the complete reconstruction of New Zealand’s second largest city – and hence pump-primed the entire economy for about a decade -?
      Sorry that is more propaganda that reality at the moment.

      • Ad 5.1.1

        How many thousand houses in Christchurch have been rebuilt so far? Fletchers will tell you. And that’s without the major capex even coming out of the ground.

        • Sable 5.1.1.1

          I believe there are about 30000 (maybe more) homes still required. National have done little to sort it out save trying to pay people less than their homes are worth and generally procrastinating. Hence the legal challenges springing up like mushrooms. Expect more too.

        • BrucetheMoose 5.1.1.2

          The majority of works to date are classified as low level repairs, the easy fixes to get the stats up for good media releases. Houses that either need full rebuilds or more serious repairs are the more challenging, and this matter has barely been touched in relation to the tens of thousands that it encompasses. Nearly three years on now, there are still thousands who still have no answers to their situation. If they hadn’t got away with writing off 8-9 thousand odd through the red zoning process, the situation would be considerably worse. There is still little progress in the central city. Ironically, on the peripheral areas, where the government has no control over what is to be built , it is ticking over nicely.

    • Lanthanide 5.2

      - Cut the biggest development Auckland has had in a decade with the Sky City deal
      * You say this as if it’s a good thing to drive up the misery caused by problem gambling. Labour wouldn’t have done this, and nor should any government.

      – Agreed to the Auckland Plan and the top three transport priorities within it including the City Rail Link
      * Labour campaigned on the Auckland rail loop, National have always been agin it, and even now it’s on the “never never”, not planned to start until after 2020.

      – Helped save the ass of New Zealand’s largest exporter
      * I’m not really sure of anything National have particularly done in helping the Fonterra mess, and of course any government of the day would do this as well.

      – Saved at least several hundred jobs in Invercargill
      * By paying $30m so the plant stays open for exactly 12 months longer than it would have under the current plans. Most likely the staff roster is going to be cut in half as a result of this new deal, so there’ll be money left over after the $30m from the government goes to pay the remaining worker’s salaries. This is a bad deal, and plainly was done purely to advance their already woeful partial privatization agenda.

      – Accelerated the complete reconstruction of New Zealand’s second largest city – and hence pump-primed the entire economy for about a decade
      * As others above have said, National hasn’t done anything particularly useful to speed up the rebuild of Christchurch. In fact, they’ve hoisted this ridiculous $500m stadium and flash convention centre on us that we simply don’t need.

      – Propped up Chorus for several years
      * And this is good because?

      – Stepped in the save meat exports to China
      * The meat exports to China was a screwup by the government for changing names and other bureaucratic minutia. You don’t get credit for solving a problem that you singlehandedly created.

      – Forced Auckland’s council to agree to a housing development package – preparing the economy for a further decade’s surge
      * Something any government could have done, and indeed Labour’s plan to build 100,000 houses over 10 years has been aped by National’s plans of 39,000 over 3 years in Auckland, after they had made such a big deal about how it was impossible to build 10,000 houses in a year.

      – Deep in preparation to relaunch the tourism industry on the back of the final Hobbit films
      * I’m not sure what this actually means. I suspect it doesn’t actually mean anything.

      – And is getting ready to force the Denniston open cast coal mine (I don’t have to like it, but West Coasters generally do)
      * I heard people from the coast talking about this on National Radio. They were saying how “ultimately mining won’t keep us here forever, but it’s what we need now”. Well, how about they actually start working on the long-term plans *now*, at the same time as launching this new mine? But of course all they’re doing is the new mine.

      • Ad 5.2.1

        - Sky City – Labour did it first and would have done it again.
        – National are now for the CRL, and there’s no prescribed date if you read the PM’s speech.
        – National have helped save Fonterra whether you like it or not.
        – On Tiwai Point – plenty on this site were arguing to let it die. National stood up and made a nice ugly deal. Good local economics and good politics.
        – Would Labour or Greens have done any better on Christchurch? We will never know.
        – I can’t defend the Chorus deal other than it kept a whole bunch of techies in salaries. If anyone can tell me where the jobs are coming from in the broadband revolution I am all ears.
        – The meat thing – agreed it’s their screwup, but it’s their save as well. The current shutdown of abattoir lines from another labeling mixup shows what jobs are at stake without intervention.
        – Clark’s government had 9 years to cut a deal over housing and didn’t lift a finger – including Leaky Homes.
        – Hobbit – it’s the one thing propping up our tourism industry, and it’s down to the Nats cutting a deal. And they get the glory for it when it opens, thrice.
        – Dennison – no one but the Nats has a recovery plan for the West Coast – certainly not Labour or the Greens.

        The points of my response was this: of course that National entirely without principle – but arguably they are at least as interventionist if not more than a prospective Shearer government. And people are loving it according to the polls. As I said clearly at the outset: we don’t have to like how they evaluate these deals. But on a whole bunch of economic management fronts, National are delivering.

        • BrucetheMoose 5.2.1.1

          The Leaky Building saga is a direct result of the National led government deregulating the building industry during the 90’s. The Labour government got it all handed to them like stinking dog poo under a platter cover to spend it’s term trying to clean it up.

          • Ad 5.2.1.1.1

            …and did nothing.

            Here’s a thought for you: the Nats have generated or saved more jobs through direct economic intervention within 5 years than Labour did in 9. These people are on a roll.

            • lprent 5.2.1.1.1.1

              Nats have generated or saved more jobs through direct economic intervention

              Generated? Complete and utter bullshit.

              The number of new jobs created in the last 5 years has been minimal at best to completely non-existent. The number of jobs that has been lost has been something in the order of how many 100’s of thousands? Go and read the household employment surveys (rather than benefits that they’re tossing people off). The only market that they seem to create to actually create jobs in is the market for homeless pan-handlers.

              In my area, National killed every existing program to create new jobs in the economy in the months after they took office. They killed off damn near all of the support for tech based jobs and industries. About the only time that the tech industry ever sees them lifting off their lazy arses is when Joyce or Brownlee show up to try and take credit for what companies managed to do on support from before they took office. Despite this the tech industries are still growing – despite the National government’s stupid policies.

              Labour didn’t really have to save too many jobs – the economy was better. What they tried to do was to create industries. Virtually the entire hi-tech industry built from damn near nothing in the 90’s to ~3% of our exports. The only new manufacturing jobs (where sustainable jobs are largely created) are from hi-tech manufacturing. There has been no support from the government except for pious crap and no action, Like this from Joyce

              Joyce said under a “business growth agenda (BGA)”, the government had set a target to increase exports to 40 per cent of GDP by 2025.

              Yeah right. Another statement to join the rest of them completely unactioned in the past. And that is about all we will ever see – because Joyce is a useless bullshitter. There is absolutely nothing much that the government is doing apart from programs initiated before the change of government, and they cut almost all of that anyway.

              The only jobs that they appear to be interested in are based on extending glorified commodity trading like Fonterra’s business. To which they override things like ECan for short-term returns and build a guaranteed failure long-term. Even there, they aren’t helping to push the products up the value chain – a problem considering that there are a lot of places opening up dairy production.

              • Ad

                I should probably recant and stop teasing.

                The debate I was hoping to provoke was more along the lines of: “So what intervention series would a Labour-led government do that was likely to be superior to the National-led ones?”

                Maybe we can do that closer to the election.

        • Lanthanide 5.2.1.2

          I’ll note that you didn’t actually address most of my points, just spoke past them. So again:

          – Sky City – Labour did it first and would have done it again.
          * Actually that deal wasn’t Labour specifically doing it, and after it was done they passed law for the sinking lid on pokie machines, to try and prevent such a deal being done in the future. The government being sovereign, of course, doesn’t prevent National from doing another such dirty deal anyway.

          – National are now for the CRL, and there’s no prescribed date if you read the PM’s speech.
          * Yeah, that more or less confirms my point. They’re doing it on the “never never”, ie, agree to do it but not actually make any commitment to really do it. Len Brown is saying they need to start it by 2015.

          – National have helped save Fonterra whether you like it or not.
          * My point is, you’re holding National up as some great do-getter government, but *any* government would have stepped in on this issue.

          – On Tiwai Point – plenty on this site were arguing to let it die. National stood up and made a nice ugly deal. Good local economics and good politics.
          * Like I said, the deal only keeps the plant open for an extra 12 months than would otherwise be the case under the current contract. Care to address this point, or do you just not care? $30m for 12 months is way way too much.

          – Would Labour or Greens have done any better on Christchurch? We will never know.
          * No, we can’t know for sure, but we can look at what is happening Christchurch and decide whether it is “good” or “bad”. At the moment I would say it is more “bad” than “good” and that more government intervention could make it “better”. Instead of simply lauding a government for something *anything*, as you currently are, you should laud them if they actually make sustained and visible progress, which I assert National have not.

          – I can’t defend the Chorus deal other than it kept a whole bunch of techies in salaries. If anyone can tell me where the jobs are coming from in the broadband revolution I am all ears.
          * Remember that this ridiculous UFB broadband network was National’s baby, and so far the only use of it is apparently to deliver high-definition TV. Seriously that’s it. They also like to do vague claims about NZ being a high-tech incubator, but you don’t need UFB in order to do that because the real growth markets are international (see Xero and SLI Systems for example) and UFB is a domestic speedup. Any companies that want fast network access can already get it in the 3 main centres. What we really need is better broadband provision to farmers and rural communities – there are some provisions for this in the government’s overall plans, but it’s very much a side-issue compared to the main thrust of UFB.

          – The meat thing – agreed it’s their screwup, but it’s their save as well. The current shutdown of abattoir lines from another labeling mixup shows what jobs are at stake without intervention.
          * So you are trying to give the government credit for fixing an issue purely of their own creation. Rather stupid of you, really.

          – Clark’s government had 9 years to cut a deal over housing and didn’t lift a finger – including Leaky Homes.
          * Yes, and National didn’t do anything until the current Labour opposition announced their Kiwibuild plan. You’re the one trying to show that the current government is some great hands-on mover and shaker, but all you’re proving is they’re out of ideas.

          – Hobbit – it’s the one thing propping up our tourism industry, and it’s down to the Nats cutting a deal. And they get the glory for it when it opens, thrice.
          * Oh, the one thing propping up our tourism industry? Lets all pile on then! Or, you know, the government could try and create other things to sell our tourist industry on. Key is the minister of tourism after all. Remember when we had the National Cycleway and how many jobs that would make and how many tourists it would bring in? Then it just became a network of “great rides”? How about this government do something *new*, not just rehash a tired movie franchise.

          – Dennison – no one but the Nats has a recovery plan for the West Coast – certainly not Labour or the Greens.
          * And that recovery plan is what, exactly? Do tell. Because this government is so hands-on, I’m sure you’ll be able to produce their detailed plan of how the West Coast is going to be rehabilitated – like they promised after Pike River. I believe they built some sort of community centre and haven’t done anything since.

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