The spotlight was on Christchurch last week, and will be on Te Tai Tokerau over the weekend. Lots of stories are slipping by under the radar. But both of these pieces deserve further comment. Tim Watkin at Pundit takes John Key to task:
The PM’s Pike River problems – time to stop digging
John Key’s brought some messy baggage back from Australia, and finds himself in a hole of his own making at a very sensitive time politically. Yet every new word just seems to make it worse
When it comes to talking about mining, the Prime Minister should realise he’s in a hole and stop digging. But from his interview with The Australian to his unconvincing performance during today’s Question Time, he just can’t seem to step away from the pit opening in front of him.
Yesterday, The Australian ran a news story that quoted John Key acknowledging that questions needed to be asked about mine safety standards in this country. He went on to say that a single-entry uphill mine, as Pike River was, would not have been legal in Australia. He stressed that he couldn’t give a complete answer because of the royal commission that’s under way, but added that no dount changes would be recommended.
Key’s statements weren’t in error, nor were they out of kilter with public opinion. The problem is that they were hypocritical – the great political crime – and that they muddied the waters around the commission and looked too political. …
The Prime Minister tried to get his feet back on solid ground, but instantly slipped. He told the Herald that he wasn’t saying that New Zealand had lower safety standards, merely that the countries standards were “different”. He stood by his statements last year that to his knowledge New Zealand standards are on a par with Australia.
But that’s nonsense. It’s clear that New Zealand mining safety standards are a) lower than Australia’s and b) not world’s best practice. …
And John Armstrong at The Herald lampoons Kate Wilkinson and Bill English:
English bounces back faster than economy
The Labour Party might claim National does not have a plan for growing the economy. But National does have a plan. What’s more it is a “cogent” plan. Not only that. It is a plan which plans to increase the number of jobs. For these mind-blowing revelations, we can thank Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson and her replies to questions in Parliament yesterday. …
Almost as excruciating to watch was Labour finance spokesman David Cunliffe’s well-executed evisceration of Bill English … he was brave (or foolhardy) enough to set up a patsy question for himself to which he answered that there was “emerging evidence”that despite the February earthquake in Christchurch, the economy had been on track “and perhaps a little stronger than expected” in the first part of 2011.
The cue for this relative outpouring of optimism was the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research’s consensus forecasts which, in showing economic growth rising to about 2 per cent over the next year followed by 4 per cent in the following year, were “fairly similar” to discredited Treasury forecasts in last month’s Budget.
But Cunliffe had done some homework. He asked whether English recalled his reply to a similar question in September 2009, when he had received reports indicating the economy was showing “some early signs of recovery”.
Or the one in October 2009 to which English had replied: “In recent weeks a number of reports have confirmed an early sign of pick-up in business confidence.”.
Or the one in March 2010, when English replied: “It is important we convert the early start to recovery into a permanent lift.”
Or the one in July 2010 when English had said the economy was “making very significant progress”. …
Cunliffe then cut to the chase, asking if English’s habit of counting his chickens before they had hatched was one reason Standard & Poor’s had kept NZ’s credit rating on negative outlook. English took it on the chin. “I do recall those answers,” he laughed.
There’s no denying that Key’s government remains popular. But that popularity is a house of cards, there’s no foundation of competence to hold it up. I still reckon that the election is all on, if Labour can offer a plausible, forward looking, and well costed alternative.