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Bill English: making it up as he goes along

Written By: - Date published: 8:20 am, August 18th, 2010 - 28 comments
Categories: bill english, Economy, making shit up, wages - Tags:

Bill English drew astonished laughs from the House today as he claimed that wages had risen just 3% after inflation during Laobur’s years in office and then admitted that he hadn’t checked his un-named sources’ information.

Here’s the man you pay quarter of a million dollars a year to be Minister of Finance (speaking on behalf of the PM, who couldn’t be arsed showing up to Question Time):

Chris Tremain: What reports has the Minister seen on real wage growth over the past decade?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen a report that was so incredible that it was hard to believe. It stated that in the 9 years that Labour was in power, real after-tax wages rose by 3 percent in 9 years. I found that number incredible, and we are going to check it.*

English’s fictional source is wrong. He is wrong. Real (ie inflation-adjusted) wages rose far more than that under Labour (and Labour didn’t raise any income tax apart from the introduction of the 39% bracket which only affected a small number – tax as a % of GDP was steady under Labour).

Unlike English, I can back up my claim that wages grew by more than 3% under Labour with real facts, and you can play along at home because all this data is freely available on Statistics New Zealand’s Infoshare.

Now, there’s a number of Statistics series that supply a figure that equates to ‘the average wage’.

From the Quarterly Employment Survey (QEX) there’s the average hourly earnings and average weekly earnings for employees.

There’s also the annual New Zealand Income Survey which has average and median hourly and weekly incomes from wages and salaries – this has the advantage over the QEX of counting all wage and salary income, not just that of employees.

Or, and this is my favourite because it doesn’t get distorted by changes in unemployment, you can take total gross earnings for all employees from the QEX and divide by the size of the working age population from the Household Labour-force Survey.

I’ve taken the figures from each of these sources for the quarter before Labour entered power – 1999 Q3 – and the quarter before it left power – 2008 Q3 – and adjusted them for inflation by dividing the figure by the consumer price index number for those respective quarters (835 and 1077), then multiplying by 1100 – the current CPI.

And here are the results:

Hmm. So during Labour’s time in power, wages grew by 7-16% after inflation, depending on how you measure them. And if the question is: how much did wages per working-age person grow after inflation? The answer is a very impressive 16.2%.

But English wasn’t done with making shit up yet. He then when on to claim that Labour had made New Zealand’s international debt spiral out of control. Fortunately, this too is a fact we can check simply by going to the Statistics NZ infoshare site. And here were are, New Zealand’s net international investment position (ie how much we owe the rest of the world) as a % of GDP:

So, the truth is that New Zealand’s indebtness level actually improved during most of Labour’s term and while it had worsened slightly by the end of 2008, it was under National that it reached danger levels – due to the recession, not National policy.

We’ve got the Minister of Finance, a man responsible for a $65 billion a year budget, citing in Parliament reports from un-named sources, the veracity of which he hasn’t even checked, to make assertions that a palpably false. And even if his accusations against Labour’s record were true, he doesn’t have any solutions himself – indeed, the reason he is spending so much time trying to smear Labour’s record is he is desperate to make is own record look less appalling by comparison.

Do we laugh or cry?

28 comments on “Bill English: making it up as he goes along ”

  1. Good post.

    I could not believe it when English said this. Maybe the report was from the Climate Change Coalition. They are really good with making stuff up.

    Don’t forget that under Labour net Crown debt was zero about a year out from the election. It then moved up but only because of the stimulus package that Labour put in place which National rebranded as its own.

  2. Richard 2

    Also notable is how much Labour lifted the minimum wage during their nine years in power. The biggest wage growth was to those at the bottom of the heap.

    • prism 2.1

      Richard The biggest wage growth was to those at the bottom of the heap.

      Do you mean that the biggest ‘percentage’ wage growth was to those at the bottom? In actual money the stats show that the top of the heap got the most extra cash, often receiving the same as one (or more) beneficiary’s annual living as a bonus or salary rise. The middle class do OK if both work in well paying jobs.

      Low wage growth isn’t high compared to the other wage strata except in percentage terms which are calculated on a low base so might have gone up by 50% ie from $10 an hour to $15.

  3. Armchair Critic 3

    Bill English’s tenure as Finance Minister has been characterised mostly by stasis, with fits of improvisation.
    I’ve pondered why, and can only conclude that it relates to the need to “swallow a few dead rats” to be re-elected in 2011, after which the iron fist will be taken out of the velvet glove. If National win.
    Expect another year of “do nothing”, mixed with hints of “making it up as he goes along”. And hope Labour get their collective shit together.

  4. Lanthanide 4

    I really wish these stats posts that completely pick apart Blinglish’s sloppy antics were given much higher prominence, like in a national newspaper or something. Just somewhere very public so that he can be embarrassed each time he spouts such drivel, so hopefully he would stop doing it.

    • James 4.1

      Links to the sources would be great too. I can never find my way around the Gov websites for stuff I can easily throw at Nat supporters.

  5. tc 5

    We cry because these porkys have been going on awhile now and it never seems to make it beyond blogs like this rather than the MSM so those that voted these chumps in can see the lies and lack of any plan/vision.

    I thought there were consequences for misleading the house?

  6. Zaphod Beeblebrox 6

    Why does he feel compelled to blab on about the past? Does he have targets or aspirations for the future? How does he intend achieving his goals. Does he have any KPI’s we can measure him by.

    PS Might want to tell him he is no longer in opposition.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      He feels compelled to blab on about the past because his vision for the future is the past – circa 15th century where him and his rich mates get to be lords and ladies and everyone else is dying of starvation.

  7. This chump needs to disappear back to dipton. We didn’t want him as PM, a leader for teh National party and certainly not as finance minister. The guy has the Midas touch….if it happened that everything Midas touched turned to shit.

    Cunliffe really needs to challenge this guy to a public debate on the facts and show the bumbling dipshit up for what he is…

  8. RedLogix 8

    Well done Marty. This is the kind of thing you do best of all.

    You really have to think Billy Boy gets away with these porkies because the majority of people in positions of power and influence want him to keep spinnng these comforting lies to them.

    • Rosy 8.1

      What really bothers me is the Speaker lets them get away with it. And allows them to say ‘I’m not responsible for…[insert statement/report from quango or SOE here]’ when it is patently obvious that they should be in terms of policy. Grrr.

      anti-spam: source 🙂

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      He gets away with it because the MSM aren’t showing this level of reporting.

      • bbfloyd 8.2.1

        are you surprised? have you seen what passes for political reporting here? henry paul… et al..

  9. bbfloyd 9

    if bill was a blues singer he would be a match for stevie ray vaughan. the master improviser!!!

  10. burt 10

    You need to look at the PM’s salary in 1999 vs the PM’s salary in 2008. Circa 90% increase – how did that compare to the working people represented by Labour ?

    • bbfloyd 10.1

      ask the people at the higher salaries commission to repeat what has been said, many times especially so that you can get it.
      i know you want to play too, but bill does it better than you, so best leave him to it.

  11. Ron 11

    The Labour campaign for the next election should run with billboards showing Nat Ministers with the word USELESS written under their name. The next billboard along the road should show the same Minister and an MP from the Maori or ACT parties with the words NEXT TO USELESS written underneath. A shot of peter Dunne could just have the word “who?”

  12. Fisiani 12

    Today in Parliament. Q1 It shows the simplistic economic illiteracy detailed above. (Hint. next time try thinking about inflation and tax creep) Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : I mentioned yesterday a report that showed that in the 9 years from September 1999 to September 2008, real after-tax wages in New Zealand grew by only 3 percent in total. I thought that number must be wrong, and I asked my office to check it. The figure is correct. But in fact almost all of that growth happened in the first 4 years of the period. In the last 5 years, from September 2003 to September 2008, there was essentially no growth in real after-tax wages in New Zealand.

    • Armchair Critic 12.1

      Yep, it’s a stark difference between the two parties. Labour had real wages rising, even Bill acknowledges this. National openly stated that they want to see wages fall. And they look like they will succeed in their stated goal.

      • Fisiani 12.1.1

        Got a link to such a ridiculous claim? It’s just the same unbelievable bullshit as the discredited GST claim.

        • Armchair Critic

          What this? You are the gold-medalist at not providing links to back up your assertions. Now you are demanding others back up their assertions with links.
          Clown! This is easy.
          Bill English acknowledges that real wages grew under Labour here. But you knew that.
          John Key is quoted as saying he would like to see wages drop here. And here. And there’s this curious “he said it, but didn’t mean it” bit here. I especially like the bit where the reporter says “We have a transcript of the meeting and we are happy that the quotes printed in the story are an accurate record of what Mr Key said.

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