Goff attacks govt on wages

Written By: - Date published: 11:20 am, December 10th, 2009 - 39 comments
Categories: leadership, phil goff, wages - Tags:

Check out Phil Goff’s general debate speech yesterday on In The House, a handy new site paid for by the Office of the Clerk (can’t work out how to embed from it yet).

The speech is excellent and it focuses where Labour should be focusing: National’s complete unwillingness and inability to do anything for hardworking Kiwis, while at the same time dishing out the dosh for themselves and their mates. It clearly draws a line under the debate over the last few weeks, and marks, hopefully, a determination to focus on the divide between the haves and have nots, where Labour’s attention should be focused:

“This is a government that looks after privilege, not ordinary, hardworking New Zealanders. Their power is going up, their groceries are going up, their rent is going up… a zero wage increase isn’t going to cover an 8% increase in rent. That is driving many Kiwi families into poverty”

“This is a government that has no concept of what its like to be on the average wage and struggling to make ends meet. This is a government that has no concept of fairness”

“Bill English was telling these people that they would have five years of a wage freeze. Five years of a wage freeze would drive people into poverty. And for the Minister for Finance to say that from the high moral ground of having doubled his housing allowance to $47,000, more money than most of these workers get in a full year, shows a lack of moral authority”

“This is a government that has no standards. That expects to put the full weight of recession on ordinary, hardworking New Zealanders, who are finding it toughest at the bottom. These are the people who didn’t get the tax cuts, these are the people who will be paying the cost in the cuts to ACC”

“And Mr Hide, who supports this can take his girlfriend to Hawaii or Disneyland but what about the average family that are finding it impossible to make ends meet?”

“This is a government that has no concept of what is to be on the average wage and struggling to make ends meet. This is a government that has no concept of fairness”

39 comments on “Goff attacks govt on wages”

  1. Swimmer 1

    He makes a good point the price of living will go up and freezing the wages is just going to make it harder for those workers to get by.

  2. TightyRighty 2

    “Bill English was telling these people that they would have five years of a wage freeze. Five years of a wage freeze would drive people into poverty. And for the Minister for Finance to say that from the high moral ground of having doubled his housing allowance to $47,000, more money than most of these workers get in a full year, shows a lack of moral authority’

    I’m assuming that this quote refers to public servants? who pays the public servants wages? while bill english is only doing his job, as labour ministers did before him, it seems strange that phil would either commit to more borrowing and higher future costs, or more tax on the people who are struggling out side the public service to cope. completely anecdotal but most the public service on average earns more than the private sector for comparable jobs. so wouldn’t a pay freeze for government workers be in line with what the private sector is facing?

    • Bright Red 2.1

      Watch the video tighty. He’s talking about hospital support staff who are on $13 to $14 an hour.

      Do you think these people should get a pay cut, tighty? because that’s what a wage freeze is, a pay cut.

      • TightyRighty 2.1.1

        can’t watch videos here. anyway. I’m arguing in general, forget specific cases, i refer to the average public servant, who earns comparably more than someone doing the same job in the private sector. whereas those in the private sector are actually in the engine room of the economy. should the government borrow more so that the average public servant can earn more than the average worker, or should taxes be raised to support this?

        • Bright Red

          tighty. public servants don’t earn more than people in comparable private sector jobs. Look at teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses and tell me they get more in the public sector than the private sector,

          Honestly, if you want to discuss this stuff you’ve got to get informed or engage your brain.

          Also – the government’s revenue increases with inflation, why can’t the wages it pays also increase with inflation?

          • TightyRighty

            look at administrators, data entry people and other back office functional jobs. lawyers, well thats a given. the governments revenue has been decreasing bright red. the tax take is down, while spending is up on last year. so while spending has increased with inflation, revenue hasn’t. with an imbalance in the books, it makes it awfully hard to justify a public sector pay rise when the private sector is paying for it, and not getting one themselves.

            • snoozer

              private sector people are getting an inflation adjustment, tighty. if you’re in a union like me you got one.

              Maybe you’re too silly to join your union. And you can take pride in letting the boss walk all over you and give you an effective paycut instead.

        • Pete


          That “engine room” stuff is gold.

          So let’s talk about the average public servant, but why stop there – why not talk about the average working man – they get more than the average woman. And how about the average white man too, they get more than the Maarees and P.Is and why stop there, why not focus on people over 30. We could go on.

          You forget (or ignore) that ‘average’; meets sweet F.A. when you’re trying to pay the bills.

          And of course to raise the incomes of these people (outside of the engine room – lol), we only have three options – raise taxes, borrow more or nothing.

          Educate thyself.

          • TightyRighty

            how do you plan to raise the money to pay the wages seeing as you know so much pete.

            the private sector is the engine room of the economy, where else does production come from?

            • Bored

              You have got me really bored with this old fashioned line of crap argument. Ask a few questions like who provides the infrastructure, regulatory and legal framework, and very often a very large chunk of the market for the “private sector”. Ever heard the expression “integrated economy?”

              Capcha “clock” that.

              • Pascal's bookie

                Engine rooms don’t move by themselves.

              • TightyRighty

                have, stupid term. one sector prodcues another provides the framework for doing so, paid for by the first. whats so hard to understand about that.

          • gitmo

            I vote for nothing

        • fraser

          “who earns comparably more than someone doing the same job in the private sector.”

          be interesting to see a breakdown (or any stats on this). sure – the upper echelons of the public service might be creaming it, but my experience tells me the average front line worker gets significantly less than what they could get in the private sector.

          its important to remember that there is a vast difference between what either end of the public service gets paid.

          • Bored

            My experience of commerce (a whole working life) as an employee and employer inclines me to make the statement “the closer you are to controlling the margin the more you will get paid”. So if you are the owner you have a much better ability to control your “worth”.

            Experience also tells me that the real value generating workers dont often get paid proportionately for what they do. Example, those who clean up shit in old peoples homes keep the places viable by keeping the retired occupants healthy, alive and consequently able to pay. For this the accountant probably gets paid four times as much. And the owner a heap more.

            Classic to read all you bloggers out there who glorify the market and capitalism without ever questioniong basic tennets like real value, fairness etc. Also those on the left who never give credit for risk taking by those with money to create jobs. A whole heap of selective dishonesty on both sides.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Also those on the left who never give credit for risk taking by those with money to create jobs.

              I’ll give credit where it’s due. It’s not due to capitalists who don’t take risks and the majority of them don’t. They look for nice safe investments that they don’t have to worry over or work at for their money.

              There’s two words that seem to get conflated:
              The two words are not the same and can’t be exchanged in any meaningful way. This doesn’t mean that a capitalist can’t be an entrepreneur just that they usually aren’t.

              • Bored

                Well spotted, bugger all of those who support capitalism want to really be anything other than rentiers living off of shares created by the plunder of formerly state assetts such as Telecom. Then there are banks…

  3. Noko 3

    Their power is going up, their groceries are going up, their rent is going up.

    That it’s “their” rather than “our” shows the relationship between the Labour party and actual worker.

    • Lew 3.1

      Noko, a politician on six figures manifestly can’t say ‘we’ and retain any credibility with the actual working class, though, can they?


    • snoozer 3.2

      it would be dishonest for Goff to claim to be an average worker given an mp’s salary. his job is to represent their interests

  4. Lew 4

    I quite agree, Eddie — a very strong and focused policy speech, to which the government’s only response was general mockery and politicking (although the ‘7 stages of grief’ speech immediately thereafter was pretty funny, it didn’t really have much value beyond entertainment). Hone Harawira’s inclusion in the criticism of government profligacy, after the mention of Rodney Hide, shows that while Goff doesn’t consider that issue off the table (as it were) he’s not specifically homing in on it as he did with his Nationhood speech. That’s as it ought to be: I don’t think Labour should be afraid to criticise the māori party for their actual transgressions or those of their members; only that they shouldn’t make shit up or ampliify it beyond reasonability.

    Just a small thing, but it’ll be interesting to see whether it points to a general change of tack. This sort of thing is what ‘getting back to basics’ means for Labour — not race-baiting and pandering to the electorate’s basest instincts. More of the same, please Phil.


    • Armchair Critic 4.1

      Goff’s speech rocked. I watched it in awe, and I’m kind of difficult to impress.
      The follow up speech was amusing, but totally lacking in substance or empathy and pretty much a waste of parliament’s time.

  5. The great thing about being in opposition is that you can criticise all you like without having to take responsibility for your own mistakes or even have any policy in place. And yes, it worked a treat for National.

    The problem here eddie is pragmatism. This type of attack worked well in the good years (you know those years where Labour allowed Govt spending to gallop ahead of other sectors). When we have just come through (hopefully) the worst recession in 70 years, it looks a little twee given that most of us are happy the worst was avoided and unemployment never reached the limits confidently predicted here and elsewhere.

    As others have pointed it, increases come from more taxes, more borrowing, or cutting other worthy recipients.

    Anyway, Labour should get pretty good at being on opposition as it will have a couple of terms to get their act together.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 5.1

      Except, wage freezes don’t work and they do nothing for productivity. When the freeze comes off wages skyrocket.

      If English were really concerned about the bottom line, he would be evaluating how productive each department actually is.Then he would be able to identify the most productive workers, programs and units and reward them financially. Then he could use the extra productivity to get rid of or ask under-performers to become more effective. Of course that would require leadership and management skills. Any private sector manger will tell you that freezing wages is a short cut to bankruptcy.

      By announcing a five year freeze he is ensuring a rapid decline of public service quality. The best staff will leave for Australia and the private sector and he wiil be left with large numbers of unmotivated under-performers. Eventually without the skill set to do what they are obligated to do, government departments will need to spend huge amounts of money to contract out to specialists or hire staff from overseas at much higher rates to the people who will have just left.

      The Al ‘Chainsaw’ Dunlap approach to management never works- just ask the Chrysler board.

  6. Fixxxer 6

    the logic that cutting wages and forcing low paid workers into poverty is ‘pragmatic’ in a world where the wealthiest 300,000 New Zealanders still have $200 billion in net assets between them (more than everyone else combined) is disgusting.

    • Daveski 6.1

      I never stated that at all. I simply pointed out that to make extravagant claims (as you’ve done also) without showing how you can fund it is easy to do when you’re in opposition. The tax take has dived, and we’re still paying for Labour’s largesse.

      The good point about this line of attack is that whatever national does you can criticise.

      Do nothing – disgusting!

      Borrow money – disgusting!

      Increase taxes – disgusting! Except for those rich pricks of course.

      • fixxxer 6.1.1

        In what demented world is a 2% rise to match inflation ‘extravagant’? It’s treading water.

        I don’t see rich bastards like Rob Fyfe getting pay cuts. No but working Kiwis do.

    • gitmo 6.2

      I think we should feed those wealthiest 300,000 NZers to the Polar bears.

    • Bill 6.3

      “the logic that cutting wages and forcing low paid workers into poverty is ‘pragmatic’ in a world where the wealthiest 300,000 New Zealanders still have $200 billion in net assets between them (more than everyone else combined) is disgusting”?


      Is it Capitalism? Yes…. which may well be regarded as being disgusting. But then, solutions are available.

      However, leftish liberal solutions are a bit like sugar coated dog shit…arguably even more disgusting than the original phenomenon insofar as it purports to make palatable that which should not be dished up under any circumstances.

  7. Fraser asks up thread if there is some data available on the public/private gap.

    I recently got hold of some comparitive data done for a large public entity. It showed a 6-10% gap between the rates the public servants got and the wider market. That gap developed in an 18 month period from early 08 to late 09.

  8. grumpy 8

    This is real “back to basics” stuff from Labour. Following on from Goff’s Foreshore and Seabed speech it’s a real push for the white working class vote. Is this a signal of the end of Labour’s infatuation with “ïdentity politics”? If so, look forward to a swag of much more electable candidates at the next election. Perhaps Labour is not dead yet.

    • Bored 8.1

      I think that National beat Labour to the punch with getting rid of identity politics, mind you they have pretty consistently elected grey haired business suits and the occasional bag of spuds with a blue rosette attached over the years.

      The only thing left to get rid of is the infatuation with leadership presidential style, both Clark and Key are fine examples of being promoted as such, (and Helen unlike Key really did have some leadership qualities).

  9. Jim McDonald 9

    Good speech. Thanks for the link!

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