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The optics of the thing

Written By: - Date published: 10:04 am, August 18th, 2012 - 39 comments
Categories: Steven Joyce - Tags:

When he was Don Brash’s campaign manager, Steven Joyce used to talk about the ‘optics’ being what matters. Well, let’s consider the optics of a fat, bald old man personally insulting three good-looking young journalists every time they ask him sensible questions. If I were Joyce’s media minder, I would have had my head in my hands throughout Joyce’s appearance on The Nation this morning.

Beyond the optics, here’s some interesting facts that have come out:

The tradeable sector (that’s our exporters and our domestic companies that compete against importers), which National used to slam Labour on because it went into recession in 2005, has stayed in recession under National. Our high dollar means our exporters can’t compete overseas and our domestic businesses get undercut by importers. Joyce dismissed every option to fix the exchange rate.

Joyce thinks we need to import more capital to grow. Does he realise that we export more capital each year than we import? Our $10 billion of profits flows overseas each year. We import about $8 billion a year to finance our current account deficit. It’s often said that we ‘live beyond our means’ but, in truth, we earn more from exports than we spend on imports – the current account deficit isn’t caused by a trade imbalance, it’s caused by all the profits flowing offshore.

Our Economic Development Minister thinks there’s no over-investment in housing, no speculative housing bubble, in New Zealand. Madness. It’s like spending all your time tuning up your car’s engine (or, in Joyce’s case, talking about how the car’s engine needs to be tuned) and then driving with the handbrake on.

The one new idea Joyce has mentioned is a piece of spin. Replacing the ‘100% Pure’ brand with a much vaguer ‘New Zealand story’ brand. Yeah, that’ll fix the problem – which is what again? Oh yeah, too much foreign ownership of high profit New Zealand assets.

No wonder unemployment is at an 18-year high under these clowns.

39 comments on “The optics of the thing”

  1. alex 1

    I’m no fan of Joyce, but you diminish yourself significantly with your first paragraph. Shameful stuff.

    • RedLogix 1.1

      Eddie was merely turning the light of Joyce’s own logic upon himself. Yes that often turns out to be less flattering than hoped for. … optically that is.

    • Eddie 1.2

      I’m not saying it’s bad to be fat, old, or bald. I’m saying that the contrast between him and his questioners and his behaviour made for bad optics

      • OneTrack 1.2.1

        “I’m not saying it’s bad to be fat, old, or bald” – Dont use those words then.

    • Murray Olsen 1.3

      I was fat and I’m oldish. I’m not bald, but I have never had a problem with being called fat and old. I think sometimes we can get a bit precious about these things.

      • lprent 1.3.1

        Nor do I particularly. The old and balding is less of an issue than the damn weight. I hate carting around the extra kg’s. They make stairs look like mountains. But the mostly white beard peppered with grey and black looks a damn sight distinguished then the older versions in black. But how in the hell do I get Lyn to stop tugging on it?

  2. vto 2

    If we New Zealanders owned everything in New Zealand the nation would be so much more wealthy. Sort of like National Party and right wing types in general like to own everything – because it leads to wealth.

    This is what National Party and right wing types like to call a no-brainer.

    So …… how do we do that? Pretty easy actually ….

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      If we New Zealanders owned everything in New Zealand the nation would be so much more wealthy. Sort of like National Party and right wing types in general like to own everything – because it leads to wealth.


      And that is why this government is selling state assets. It makes NZ worse off while enriching the already rich. I truly am amazed that some people can’t seem to see that.

      So …… how do we do that? Pretty easy actually ….

      Have to drop the capitalist meme, have to show that, as a society, we’re not dependent for our wealth upon the capitalists. To show that the capitalists are the reason that we, as a country, are poor.

      • blue leopard 2.1.1


        “Have to drop the capitalist meme, have to show that, as a society, we’re not dependent for our wealth upon the capitalists.”

        I think you would make a stronger argument if you put “unfettered” in front of “capitalist”.
        Unfettered capitalism leads to wealth amassing in fewer and fewer hands. Capitalism with “tempering” activities could work quite well.

        Numerous rules and regulations re finances and redistribution of wealth to the less fortunate tempered the negative effects of “pure” capitalism. What a pity such have been eroded by neo-liberalist/unfettered capitalists/etc.

        Democracy, also, is one of the ways of tempering the unhelpful consequences of pure capitalism, this requires informed voters. What a pity unfettered capitalists are capturing the main media outlets.

        In the way the direction that capitalism is going at present I agree the consequences are as you say, however still consider that putting qualifiers on words such as capitalism makes for a stronger argument.

        Perhaps its more relevant to say it makes for a CLEARER argument.

        I would be interested to hear your views on this.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Capitalism with “tempering” activities could work quite well.

          No because it always leads to the unfettered kind.

          Capitalism always goes for maximum production which results in falling prices and thus profits. When this happens the capitalists demand that government do something about it. In the 1970s we saw increasing subsidies to the farmers and then, once that proved that it wouldn’t work, the free-market got put in place with all the deregulation that comes with it.

          The drive for profit also results in an unsustainable economy. Due to falling prices as production ramps up in the local economy exports are pushed to keep up demand and thus maintain prices. This focus on exports will increase production which of course uses up more resources but it’s also a plan that is destined to fail as the places being exported to can always produce their own* and they can do it cheaper than by importing and will eventually do so. But, most importantly, we will run out of resources to maintain those exports and at that point we won’t be able to support ourselves at all.

          No, the only thing to do is to drop capitalism and go to a sustainable, stable state economy. There really is no other choice.

          * Food is a special case as not everywhere can produce enough food to feed their population. Egypt is a good example of this – they can only feed ~60% of their population. All the rest is imported. But exporting food is still not viable as it uses up more resources than we actually have available which means we need to import (feed for dairy and fertilisers for crops) and those imports will eventually dry up as well.

          • blue leopard


            Very interesting, thank you.

            I can see that the drive toward the unfettered kind of capitalism is the most likely consequence, especially having had it explained in the way that you have.

            I still question whether this has to be the inevitable direction.
            I thought the tension between a central government, working with the intention toward the wellbeing of all, and capitalists, working for their own interests created an effective balance, yet this certainly is not what is occurring at present…..where the government players are more interested in “getting in” with the big boys.

            Clearly access to funds is a central issue of this phenomenon.

            I will have to read up more on the subject I guess.

            Any good links would be most appreciated.

              • blue leopard

                Cheers CV

                I would just like to see people with intelligent views spending more time offering positive alternatives, rather than solely criticising what we’ve got.

                I state this while totally acknowledging that criticising (leading to understanding of the problem) is a very important part of the process.

                It is, however, necessary for people to feel hopeful, that there is a positive way forward.

                Sadly I guess this is way “a brighter future” was so successful. (How sad that people look no further than misspelt slogans; it was really meant to be “blighted” wasn’t it?)

                Thanks for the links (although unable to watch youtube)

                • Colonial Viper

                  I would just like to see people with intelligent views spending more time offering positive alternatives, rather than solely criticising what we’ve got.

                  I reckon it starts with understanding what is good/bad with where things are currently going, and deciding what kind of future they want for NZ.

                  Alternative actions and policies will naturally flow from there.

                  • blue leopard

                    @ CV

                    “Alternative actions and policies will naturally flow from there.”

                    Yes, I sincerely hope so.

                    This is the way I was feeling, however, when one moves in relatively informed circles, and/or are informed, such as many on this website appear, it is perhaps difficult to see what level of information (or more pertinently lack of information) ordinary New Zealanders are exposed to.

                    I believe this is the challenge for politicians.

                    The dearth of information in the majority of lives here, leads to voters being horribly vulnerable to spin/PR tactics (such as “optics” mentioned on this thread).

                    This is the quick and easy method of getting votes and has a very poor effect on the general populations level of awareness.

                    I feel a great deal of concern over this.

                    I feel a great deal of concern over how every enlightened, promising piece of research or movement keeps getting twisted by those with interest opposed to genuine progress and that is all that gets shown in our main media outlets.

                    (Including what just happened with your comment and the Selling Snake Oil site…such hysteria wouldn’t be possible amongst more informed citizens…)

    • blue leopard 2.2


      +1 well said

    • Colonial Viper 2.3


  3. BillODrees 3

    I saw Joyce grandstaning and trying to bully the younger journos. He is an ignorameous.  I switched the telly off.  It is a nice day outside and I didn’t want Joyce to spoil it! 

  4. Kotahi Tāne Huna 4

    Looks like somebody else was watching The Nation this morning. Great to see such a swift response from the Labour leadership team.

    • OneTrack 4.1

      Is he part of the labour leadership team?

    • xtasy 4.2

      Like him or not, he is at least doing something and responding as it should be done by the opposition! The more we see this happen, the better, and it will surely show in the polls. NO rewards without work and effort!

    • Carol 4.3

      And Cunliffe shows how to clearly and sharply articulate the issues, in an interesting and engaging way.

      Note also Cunliffe’s use of the word glossy.

      “Lifting exports as a share of GDP from 30 to 40 per cent would be a massive and admirable achievement,” David Cunliffe said. “The problem is that there is nothing in the Government’s thin ‘glossy’ issued this week, or today’s interview that would get us there.
      “Other than glossy PR, Steven Joyce’s only contribution was to exhort regions to ‘dig it and mine it’, despite the proper processes of local democracy and environmental protections.

      In Question Time this week, Lockwood-Smith disallowed that word as being negative and not objective:


      Hon David Cunliffe: Given that ratings agencies Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch Ratings have all criticised New Zealand’s lack of export diversification and high-value exports, why does the export public relations glossy that he issued yesterday contain no quantitative target for export growth until the year 2025?

      Mr SPEAKER: Order! And, indeed, I would have responded directly myself, had I not listened to the question carefully and heard derogatory comment in the question. So if members include—well, the member referred to a publication that the Government put out yesterday as some glossy.

      Rt Hon Winston Peters: That’s not derogatory.

      Mr SPEAKER: It is not objective language. If members want Ministers to stick to objective language, questions should contain objective language.

      Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Referring to a glossy publication as glossy is hardly subjective.

      Mr SPEAKER: The language was intentionally—[Interruption] Order! The Speaker might look stupid, but he is not that stupid. The language was intentionally derogatory about a publication. It is common language to refer to something as a glossy when it is considered not to have much content. The Minister therefore is at liberty to respond to that. And that is the end of the matter. I will not entertain any further points of order on that issue. Let me be very clear about that.

      Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to re-ask the supplementary question, omitting the word.

      Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the member asked his question. The Minister is answering it.

      Good on Cunliffe on sticking to his language in the press release.

      Glossy (NAct & Joyce) is as Glossy does.

  5. OneTrack 5

    Confirmation bias is a wonderful thing.

    Watching the Nation this morning, I saw a professional politician reasonably explaining the issues the country is facing and the approach the government is taking and why. You can easily argue that they are taking the wrong approach but that is, surely, different ideologies.

    Those three young and pretty journolists (vto started it) seem to be coming with a biased viewpoint (all green and labour party gold members maybe?) but dont seem to be unsettling Joyce at all. Some of the questions were even getting a bit shrill. I do understand they want to win a pulizter prize but…. They quietened down towards the end ie maybe he boggled them with logic. And at the whistle, Joyce – 1, journolists – 0.

  6. aj 6

    Disregarding the looks, the message he was promoting, and what I thought was a very defensive tone shown by Joyce, what leapt out at me was the competence in language and strength of delivery.

    On Message.

    This led me to compare with Shearer, or Cunliffe.

    Shearer’s promotion to leadership is, regrettably, a mistake.

    • xtasy 6.1

      Sorry, I did think the same and made it known from the beginning, but so many disliked the realistic assessment and criticism. Now we can only hope for some wise realisations at Labour’s top, and the logical steps to be taken.

  7. georgecom 7

    The simple truth is that National, Joyce, English, Key etc are out of ideas to do anything about the economy. Their thinking is still 1990s and early-mid 2000s, with various levels of intensity of implementation. All they have left to play with is simply waiting to see what unfolds and try and react with tired out dated thinking.

    There is no ‘brighter future’ with National unless it somehow arrives under its own steam. There is no bright thinking within National, no future thinking within National.

    That is what Joyce is reflecting.

    • lprent 7.1

      Agreed. They really do seem to slowly rehashing every failed idea from the 90’s

    • Draco T Bastard 7.2

      Their thinking is still 1990s and early-mid 2000s,

      Nope, closer to 1890s through to mid 1920s thinking. The end result will be the same.

      • Colonial Viper 7.2.1

        I was going to say pre 1890’s…from 1893 the Liberal government under Richard Seddon (aka King Dick) actually did big things like land reform, to break up the concentration of wealth which had built up, and also introduced a system of old age pensions which greatly relieved poverty amongst the elderly.

  8. xtasy 8

    Sorry, but I disagree with the lead story above:

    Actually Joyce was in his element and at his best on the Nation this morning.

    I strongly dislike his ideas, his absolutely uncompromising laissez faire free market ideology, his arrogance and so forth, but he is a smart and dangerous operator. He is actually more of a handful to deal with than Key, English and others. Key and English may lead the bunch, but the organiser and schemer in main politics, which includes economics and business and education, that is Joyce.

    I was disappointed with the two young journos, who have been much better during other testing interviews. But today they again looked like school-boys.

    They were appalling when Phil Heatley was on the Nation two weeks or so ago, who was allowed to rant on endlessly about his great ideas for oil drilling, mining and so forth, even claiming deep sea drilling had been proved low risk internationally, but referring to the North Sea (shallow waters all over!) in Europe as an example.

    Then he rolled out his absurd, unsocial agenda on Housing NZ and so forth. He talked about “rorting” Housing NZ tenants having boarders claiming the accomodation supplement from WINZ and so forth, all being total nonsense, as Housing NZ tenants are NOT even allowed to sublet rooms to boarders.

    The two same journalists were just not asking any real questions then. They did not have a clue about housing policies and law either. It was embarrassing.

    Labour will do well to target and attack Joyce whereever they can. He is a hard nut to crack, but it can be done (remember his stupid comments re the admitted drink drive alcohol limits and so).

  9. rob 9

    Joyce needs intense scrutiny because he is so uncompromising
    He is quite evil because he thinks success comes with trading or buying and selling rather than growing the wealth of our nation and giving our community security

    • seeker 9.1

      Agreed . Joyce’s laconic persona epitomises National’s lazy, one dimensional, non creative, arrogant, incompetent approach to the economic and social needs of this country. In fact Joyce, along with the National leadership, appears almost indifferent to the country’s needs.
      That is why I am glad that David Cunliffe is Joyce’s opposite number. He is the one person who is rigorous and canny enough to be able to keep Joyce under intense scrutiny. I hope David Cunliffe will stalk the hell out of Joyce and prove to be his nemesis.

    • Lebleaux 9.2

      Please explain how you grow the wealth of anything without buying and/or selling and /or trading

  10. captain hook 10

    Joyces rationale for broadband internet was so that dweebs could download stuff faster nudge nudge wink wink.
    thats his style.

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