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Between Nats lines, not much to be found

Written By: - Date published: 11:29 pm, January 4th, 2010 - 54 comments
Categories: bill english, economy - Tags:

Bill English has usurped his do-nothing leader with an op-ed in the Herald framing National’s agenda for the year to come. This piece was English’s chance to convince New Zealanders to accept his agenda. He gets off to a bad start:

As New Zealand emerges from recession, the Government’s focus has firmly shifted towards significantly lifting our economic performance.

The recession ended 9 months ago. 9 months and the Government has nothing to show for its supposed focus on economic performance. Growth is so weak that its slower than population growth – the pie is getting a little bigger once more, but slower than the number of slices is increasing. Bill is pretty pleased with himself nonetheless:

The 2009 Budget got us on the road to recovery.

No it didn’t. It was delivered after the recession had ended and it did nothing for economic growth, which English says is his priority.

Economic growth matters because it creates jobs, lifts incomes and improves the living standards of families.

Yes, and no. Just as important is where the fruits of economic growth go. Does it go to working New Zealanders through jobs and higher wages? Or does it go to the tiny privileged elite through tax cuts for the rich, higher profits, and wealth concentration?

Making changes that help permanently lift our economic performance will be the overriding focus of the 2010 Budget.

OK, maybe, depends what the changes are and who benefits from them (not all reforms like all boats equally, that’s obvious). So, what are the changes you’re proposing, Bill?

Oh, he won’t say. The bulk of the op-ed is just repetitions of the same old lines that National has been using since before the election – “Protecting New Zealanders from the sharp edges of the recession”, “six key areas as potential drivers of growth” – the same old vague comments, never backed by any detail.

It is clear that English’s actual agenda is to slash public services (got to pay for last year’s tax cuts for the rich and next years’ cuts for corporates somehow). The cover for this is going to be a claim that the public sector is holding back the economy:

the public sector has grown rapidly, but with poor productivity. That has lowered the economy’s overall productivity.

Wrong, of course. The Right has made an art form of lying about productivity. It has not ‘lowered’, it has risen – 17% over Labour’s last terms in office. And I would like to know how English can claim to know the level of public sector productivity. It’s not covered in the productivity stats (if you’re not selling anything, it’s pretty hard to measure how much you’re producing in dollar terms compared to the amount of inputs, which is how you measure productivity).

This opening shot of the year (delivered by the real driver of this government, not Do Nothing Key, who is still in Hawaii), tells us that 2010 will be more of the same from this government – big words, no deeds; over-promise, under-deliver.

54 comments on “Between Nats lines, not much to be found ”

  1. And we have another two years of this idiot.

  2. Rex Widerstrom 2

    While not disagreeing with the general thrust of what you’ve written, Marty, on what basis do you say the recession ended in May 2009?!

    Based on my own experience and that of the large number of business people I know in Australia, things didn’t come right for SMEs here until about the September quarter of last year, though they improved very shakily during the previous quarter.

    I assume you’re basing your assertion on government figures (and I accept that you’re talking NZ while my experience is of Australia) but the real economy didn’t recover anything like that fast. Not here, anyway.

    • lprent 2.1

      It would probably be the technical measure of a recession. Something like negative growth for x quarters.

      It has been depressed throughout 2009 and looks to continuing to be depressed this year. The interest rate drops helped a lot. But the main hobbling effect has been the steadily rising household unemployment. Which I suspect will also hobble government expenditure this year. The peak for that is some time away.

      It is curiously amusing that English is now taking credit for Michael Cullens budget last year, when he was adamant that it was totally wrong in 2008.

    • Marty G 2.2

      I totally agree that the economy is still in trouble, Rex. But growth resumed in the March-June quarter (+0.2%)

    • burt 2.3

      So growth resumed only about 6 months after we got rid of the most corrupt self serving govt NZ has ever had. Funny that.

      • Marty G 2.3.1

        Growth in most countries resumed in the June Quarter. And given that National had made no substantial economic policies by then (or by now, for that matter) and had yet to even deliver a budget, its hard to see how anyone could sensibly put NZ’s emergence from recession in sync with other countries down to action by our government.

        Still a fucken moron I see, burt.

      • burt 2.3.2

        Marty G

        Still in denial that Labour fiscal policies caused a recession in NZ ahead of the global economic crisis?

        • lprent

          Yep. There has been a distinct slowdown in the world economy for about 4 years. In NZ the high interest rates in the property market and therefore the higher costs of capital were constraining growth.

          In any case, the slowdown in the NZ economy wasn’t abrupt, but gradual. That is a lot easier than have an abrupt crash. Looks pretty good in 20/20 hindsight that the economy slowed earlier than the countries like the US with their current 10%+ unemployment.

          burt: Are you ever going to learn any economics? Or just continue to parrot lines that you don’t understand forever?

        • Marty G


          NZ entered recession in Q1 2008, resumed growth in Q2 2009.
          US entered recession in Q1 2008, resumed growth in Q2 2009.

          Present some evidence that government policies caused the recession in NZ. Show me any authority that claims it was Labour’s policies. Treasury says the initial recession was down to falling house prices, high oil prices (same causes as US initially), and drought.

          • burt

            Oh dear Marty G, Q4 2007 for NZ… take the reality pill Marty, the red one is making you sick. The blue one disappoints.

            lprent correctly points to the systemic decline in growth over considerable years under the Labour administration. NZ’s problems as lprent points out were not credit crisis they were stagnation of productivity and growing inflation (external sources acknowledged) pushing NZ into recession completely oblivious to (and before) the shit storm that took the global economy on a ride. – hardly surprising under strong redistribution policies and growing public service, entrenching entitlement mentality with policies of envy tends to do that.

            • lprent

              The sluggish productivity issues in NZ in the 2000’s (which grew by 17% incidentially) were largely a result of lack of available capital. That was largely due to too much investment in a property bubble.

              The inflation was small compared to almost every other country in the OECD, and has nothing much to do with your argument. It is simply largely the result of having an overheated property market driving up interest rates.

              lprent says that almost every OECD countries has been close to a recession for about 4 years. It has bugger all to do with whatever government is in power here. When people stop buying our products like wool and meat, it inevitably has an impact on our teeny economy. And burt – don’t try to put words in my mouth – it is the type of thing that I tend to remember and mark people down as requiring my personal attention for reeducation about how persistently nasty I can get when irritated.

              The whole productivity issue is a structural capital issue that has been around since at least the mid-80’s. Quite simply the way to raise productivity is to either increase capital expenditure in systems, plant, equipment and R&D, or in the short-term by removing the less productive people from the workforce. The latter is how this government is proceeding.

              Frankly the measurement is pretty damn useless because it doesn’t look at the potential workforce – it only looks at those in work.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    thanks to a more stable global economy and the Government’s success in managing New Zealand through the recession.

    Which should actually read:
    thanks to a more stable global economy and the previous Government’s success in managing New Zealand through the recession.

    Because it was the previous government that left the economy in great shape to weather the recession. This government has done absolutely nothing for the economy since it’s been in power except possibly to make it weaker by giving their rich mates a tax cut.

  4. Jenny 4

    While also agreeing with the general thrust of your article Marty, I think the recession is far from over as the following headline indicates:

    Though the Prime Minister talks of the the end of the recession as an established fact.

    I wonder what Key and his advisers will be making of this sort of contrary, but not easily dismissed, headline…


    (And this is not the only sign that the international recession is far from over).

    A very old friend of mine, who had lived through the great depression, told me once, that almost continually throughout the whole period, newspaper editorialists and politicians were continually declaring it to be over.

    • roger nome 4.1

      jenny – you don’t understand the definition of “recession”. Go look it upp.

      • Jenny 4.1.1

        Technically you are right roger nome, (profit) growth has returned because the negative effects of the recession has been pushed onto those least responsible for it.

        Maybe this could be the definition of a Depression; The mass of the population are impoverished to protect the profit taking of the rich and powerful are who are bailed out and protected at a huge cost to everyone else.

  5. Sanctuary 5

    Bill English is a learn nothing man, and he has learnt nothing from the disasterous Richardson/Birch era. My biggest worry is English will be allowed to bring in the sort of draconian and punitive budget he clearly want to, whilst at the same time the stimulus money runs out offshore and the world (and NZ) slips back into recession.

    A draconian, cutting budget in combination with a “W”recession would create the sort of double whammy the would reproduce the circumstances of the early nineties when Ruth Richardson’s dogmatism plunged New Zealand into a long, deep and bitter recession.

  6. Jenny 6

    Maybe English was just stung by business leaders criticisms of his government for not implementing the “pearls” in the Brash Report.

    Business leaders criticise the government for not announcing the end of the recession.


    Continuing their drive to unload the cost of the recession on to working people and their families, these business leaders, claim that all the government needs to do to finally end the recession is to implement the Brash Report.

    As the recession continues no doubt more right wing pressure on the government will be coming from the business lobby to implement most if not all of Brash’s extreme plan.

  7. As I have posted elsewhere on the new “six drivers”:

    “- infrastructure: pretty much the same as the last government – roads, broadband etc – and much as most countries responding to the recession

    – removing red tape and improving regulation: as was the last government, but in the current government’s case, it looks to involve privileging developers, miners and others by reducing environmental protections

    – supporting business and trade: same as the last government (which did more on this)

    – strengthening the tax system: something new, and, if current discussions progress, look to be destined to favour the rich at the expense of the poor (there are interesting less damaging issues on the table, but they are not in tune with the this government’s desire to increase the Gini Coefficient)

    – improving education and skills: ummm – with Ms Tolley at the helm, and reductions in funding in many areas, and capped funding in others, and irrelevant and condemned standards interventions, this is hardly a successful focus for the government

    – lifting productivity and improving services in the public sector: by confrontation, rather that the Partnership for Quality model previously in place, and by lambasting public servants as useless bureaucrats (as HRM tells us, a great way to lift productivity)

    The great gaps are two. The first is pointed out very clearly by Bryan Gould on the same page. There is nothing on broadening our macroeconomic management settings. We stick with the single metric inflation measure, despite the reality that a single-minded focus on that measure has perverse effects on the tradeable sector. Second, there is a failed and again doomed belief that contextual measures will improve workplace productivity. This is wrong. There is no automatic translation of contextual circumstances into improved workplace organisation and performance. This is the gap of gaps.”

  8. tsmithfield 8

    One of my employees just related her recent experience in Christchurch Hospital which serves to illustrate how “productive” our public service is.

    According to her:

    1. The ward was filthy. The toilets were dirty, and the cleaner only vacuumed the open areas of the floor. There was substantial build-ups of dirt and dust at the edges which were not touched by the vacuum cleaner.

    2. She was overdosed on warferin (similar to rat poisin) and sent home in that state.

    3. While at the hospital she was in the same ward as an elderly blind lady. A large sign with “blind” written on it was over her bed. However, the nurses delivered meals to her without telling her the meals had been delivered and offered no help with feeding the lady.

    4. Furthermore, the nurses would proceed to change the blind womans undergarments without even warning her what was happening.

    5. Then one night, the blind woman awoke in major distress. She rang the bell for a considerable amount of time with no response. Even though she was not supposed to get out of bed, our employee hobbled over to the blind woman, and saw she needed urgent attention. Our employee then hobbled down the hall, and found a group of nurses sipping on coffee in the staff room. She was told that she shouldn’t be out of bed. To which she replied that she wouldn’t have had to gotten out of bed if someone had actually responded to the bell.

    6. Another woman protested that she was supposed to be taking an additional pill. Her protestations were ignored. She subsequently had a heart attack. It was then discovered that the woman was correct about the pill.

    This is an anecdotal example, of course. However, this sort of behaviour would not be tolerated in the private sector; if it was, the firm would quickly be out of business. Not so for the public sector which can roll on regardless of the level of service delivered.

    • Pascal's bookie 8.1

      Has your employee complained to the Health and disability commissioner, or some one similar? If not she should. There is a system, if people don’t use it, they shouldn’t complain that it doesn’t work.

      There are similar stories though, from private rest home operators. So I’m not sure that your anecdote illustrates the point you would like it to.

    • Bored 8.2

      Interesting experience, I have heard similar. It would seem to me that the modern way of training people in the running of hospitals really took a dive when nurse training went to polytechs, and the nurses hostels for junior nurses were closed. I remember old flatmates who were trained as nurses under that system and were very punctilious with matters such as hygeine, patient privacy etc. They also had a certain esprit de corps. All of the above you describe seem behavoiral and training based issues. Maybe they are a case of the unwanted consequences of (“necessary”) change.

    • Bill 8.3

      I got admitted to hospital with a blood clot with a little hobblyitis on the side.

      Perhaps the hobblyitis was caused by some contra indicating as the warferin (rat poison) was scraped from the ward floor due to new policies of efficiency being pursued ( why store a drug to use only once when it can be multi-purpose?) and spread on toast with other, unidentifiable toppings.

      As I descended into my hallucinogenic hell I noticed the masked sign writers arrive. Patients howled in groping darkness as knickers flew on and off amid food flying back and forth. Bells rang. Everyone stopped for teas and coffees sweetened by the medications scattered on the floor while the bedlam of squawking yellow livers running for the doors and patients being attacked by killer hearts unfolded all around.

      Then it hit me! The condition of the blind woman opposite and the condition of everyone else was determined by the sign that hung above their bed. The sign rendered the reality!

      I struggled to turn to see what my reality was and there above my bed the bastards had scraped the scum and dirt from corners and crevices and constructed an image of a North Atlantic Cod swinging across a perfect likeness of my visage.

      My sentence, my ascribed condition, Chronic Codswallop.

    • grumpy 8.4

      This is not an isolated incident at Christchurch Hospital. I am aware of major issues which have been subject to complaints from both medical staff and from families to the H&D Commissioner. Tyhe system is probably worse now than in the past.

      There seems to be a system of excusing mistakes and blaming “the system”. The whole complaint process is steered at “the process” and well away from personal (staff) responsibility.

  9. tc 9

    More style over substance lapped up by the media with a ‘thanks sir, can we have some more of that wonderful, insightful, intelligent and accurate material…’

    The media dereliction of duty to their readers is by and large relied on by NACT and the wrecking ball antics of Tolley/Brownlee/Smith going unchallenged by the fourth estate is further evidence of this.

    Look forward to more of this politicial PR spin going unchallenged because even if they wanted to the fourth estate lacks the experience and courage to take on those that can and will hurt them if they do.

  10. JD 10

    “And we have another two years of this idiot.”

    Five given how Labour is polling at the moment.

    • lprent 10.1

      A bit under 2 years to the election. But the poll trends do not look good for national, they’re now consistently on a downward trend.

      Of course Act looks like dead meat both in the general vote, but also in the Epsom seat (from what I’ve been hearing).

      I suspect that the Maori Party isn’t going to do too well next election. They look very tainted and really really political amateurs. I suspect that the electorate vote next time will be a lot harder for them to win.

      I’d guess that the Greens are unhappy with the MOU with national, after Jeanette found out that Brownlee and Joyce had been violating the basics of the MOU.

      So even if the national got a good vote – who in the hell are they going to form a coalition with?

      • Boris Clarkov 10.1.1

        But the poll trends do not look good for national

        Keep dreaming* Lynn, the grandparents of the next Labour Prime Minister haven’t been born yet. The electorate will have the harm of the last decade of Labour firmly in their minds, over the generations it’s going to take us to repay the cost and rebuild.

        (*) actually, don’t dream. Spend the time productively** educating yourself. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be able to distinguish between the Bash shell, the Linux operating system and the fortune application.

        (**)You’ll need to ask someone who doesn’t vote for Labour what this word means.

  11. tc 11

    So true JD…..the saving grace (poor choice of words) is Wodney’s supershity which has the potential to wipe out ACT and at least 3-5 seats straight from Nat back to labor.

    But unless labor can dig it’s head out of it’s own righteous butthole, stop living in the past, dumb down its message instead of preaching over everyones heads (shades of helengrad see) it’s another term on the opposition benches….even if the AB’s lose RWC 2011.

    But most of all it needs candidates who want the seat and don’t sit so high up the list they do nada and still get a list seat (Mangakiekie) or are just too damm lazy (akl central).

    I don’t see any wholesale changes but I still see the likes of Mallard/king/hogson…..good for sacring the kiddies but not what voters want to see back in power.

  12. tsmithfield 12

    Pascal “There are similar stories though, from private rest home operators. So I’m not sure that your anecdote illustrates the point you would like it to.”

    And those private rest-homes are being closed down, as should be the case in the private sector. The market tends to select out poor performers. However, as I mentioned in my last post, the public sector can keep rolling on regardless because there are no profit implications for poor service.

    • Zorr 12.1

      ummm… actually the rest homes are being closed down by the regulatory authority and not the market. So once again the government intervenes. OH NOEZ!

  13. Odysseus 13

    Ts – it is not ” the market ” that is closing down private operators , it is a state agency.

    It is not possible to make assessments of health sector ( let alone public ) sector productivity as it is not measured. If you have some evidence please supply .

    Though at a broad level in terms of ” bangs for bucks” , it is clear that by international standards the publicy funded NZ health sector compares well . And as we all know, the US system ( for example) dominated as it is by private interests, rates poorly.

  14. Pascal's bookie 14

    “And those private rest-homes are being closed down”

    Are they? By the ‘market’?

    This sounds like faith based nonsense. Your initial comment was that such things wouldn’t occur in the private system, because such things would cause the business to fail. Since they do occur, you just waive your hands and say those companies are all in the process of being failed as we speak.

    Has your employee made a complaint? She should. There is a system available to make these things right, if she doesn’t use it, she hasn’t got a valid complaint about the system not working.

  15. tsmithfield 15

    “Are they? By the ‘market’?”

    Yes. By the market. They have put themselves in a position where their main, perhaps, only customer is the state health provider. This is not a good idea from a business perspective due to the major affect that decisions that the substantial/only customer can have on the business.

    Clearly, if they have not met the requirements of their customers, in this case probably their only customer, the customer/s will go somewhere else for the service.

    This cannot be said of the public sector.

    • Pascal's bookie 15.1

      “This cannot be said of the public sector.”

      What’s stopping the private sector competing with the public sector for your employee’s needs?

      And has she made any official complaints? Have you suggested to her that she should?

      • tsmithfield 15.1.1

        She was sent a feedback form to which she made a less than glowing response.

          • grumpy

            From my experience, the Health and Disabilities Commissioner is there to “smooth out” complaints. You would get a response saying that “systems have been improved” or other such crap. The HDC is part of the problem and until it actually starts acting for the people and not the “system” it will hold back improving standards.

            • gitmo

              From my experience Ron Patterson has done an excellent and unbiased job……… have you got any evidence of him acting for the “system” and in a biased manner in relation the HDC decisions …. they’re all published on the webite.

              • grumpy

                Yes, I made a complaint on behalf of my father. It was a cut and dried act of incompetence and negligence but Patterson didn’t want to take any action against the surgeon. His staff tried to “soft soap” me.

                It was only when I got exceptionally “grumpy” that he agreed to send a formal letter of censure.. A few months later another issue with the same surgeon made front page news.

              • gitmo

                That’s no good – as I say I’ve found Ron to be pretty good….. and certainly more balanced than the disciplinary tribunal.

              • grumpy

                Gitmo, I just looked at the HDC site but can’t find the website section where he publishes his decisions. I can find where he has pursued cases to higher authority but they are very few, give no indication as to sanction and the last one is August 2007 – is the HDC still operating?????

              • gitmo

                Complaints and case notes are in the box on the left hand side of the page.


    • Pascal's bookie 15.2

      Yes. By the market.

      Cite some examples.

    • lprent 15.3

      You can go to private hospitals already – pay the insurance.

      They’re definitely clean and tidy because they hire cleaning companies with far higher costs. Similarly they have much better nursing care because they pay more staff per patient.

      What you’re really complaining about is that they also cost more to provide these services. Sure we could make the public health system as nice as the private system. All we have to do is to raise taxes and allocate more money to it.

      Of course the public hospital system is overworked. It is largely free. Consequently it caters to the bulk of the population (that is what a public health system is).

      Unlike the US which has what amounts to a private health system and consequently is piss-poor at public health – shows up in their death stats rather strongly.

      Incidentally public health also gets all of the serious cases from the private healthcare – so has to maintain far more equipment. I’d think that if they were unable to use the public health system and ACC as a backstop, that the private healthcare insurance would be 2-3x as expensive as it is is now.

      • Boris Clarkov 15.3.1

        All we have to do is to raise taxes and allocate more money to it.

        Or by repatriating all of those HIV positive, 3rd world immigrants enticed to NZ by the Clark regime to overburden our health system, each of whom is costing us in excess of $1 million per year in healthcare.

        • lprent

          Yeah right. Another dogwhistle that a moments reflection will tell you is simply moronically stupid.

        • gitmo

          Sorry Boris the cost of treating an HIV positive person is nowhere near $1 million per annum still expensive at about 10k per annum but nowhere near $1 million.

      • burt 15.3.2

        They’re definitely clean and tidy because they hire cleaning companies with far higher costs. Similarly they have much better nursing care because they pay more staff per patient.

        And because they are not public monopolies there is accountability. Remember that word – the one that has no place in no fault systems where one size fits all.

  16. randal 16

    the nats programme is to loot the treasury and give everything to the shadowy collection of jack abramoffs they seem to have acquired.
    the rest is do nothing stuff like promising transmission gully for the next term when they know darn well it is never going to go ahead.
    time to start calling them for what they are and not what the textbooks say they are.

  17. Herodotus 17

    Should ther enot be a discussion on if the govt should operate with a deficit, surplus or be a self balancing budget, then if deficit or surplus should this be indexed to say GDP or do we exist as what has ocurred in the last 8 years when times are great money flods into the govt and when the crap hits then we have to cut our cloth according. i.e. there is no plan “good” governments are a consequence of good times that have little or no bearing on the quality of the govt.
    As an aside There was an interesting article onthe herald by a ex commons MP re the manipulation by the Res Bank (read Nat and Lab) in being so focused on one strategy that the country suffers.

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