Jim Anderton answers your questions

Written By: - Date published: 9:55 am, April 7th, 2008 - 26 comments
Categories: interview, progressives - Tags: ,

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Today we’re posting the first of our “Interview the leaders” segments – where you get to ask the leaders the questions you want to hear the answers to.

We asked that answers be kept to 300 words and undertook to post them verbatim. We also warned the leaders that they were writing for a politically informed audience and could expect some debate.

Here’s what you asked Jim Anderton of the Progressives:

 Of which of your achievements in politics are you most proud?

I am very proud to have been part of a government that produced the lowest rate of unemployment in a generation.

When this government was elected, the forecasts of mass unemployment stretched out forever. I argued then that New Zealand didn’t have an unemployment problem as much as an unemployment instead of a full employment policy.

The best political decision I have ever made was the decision after the Taranaki-King Country by-election in 1998 to persuade my colleagues to work with Labour towards a co-operative, progressive government. It was not an easy choice for us, it took a lot of work to persuade Labour to come to the party and it came with considerable political costs for my own party.

But it also made possible the election of a government committed to a proactive, partnership approach to the economy, the longest run of economic growth in decades and the largest cuts in child poverty since the Great depression.

The greatest source of improved living standards and higher incomes for the most vulnerable New Zealanders has been the 365,000 new jobs created in that time.

Low unemployment has delivered opportunity and better incomes for tens of thousands of New Zealanders. It has strengthened our communities and improved everything from our crime rate to health statistics.

From reader Daveo: Why should left-leaning NZers vote Progressive rather than Labour or Green?

You should vote for the party that aligns most with your principles and is credibly going to do its best to put those principles into practice.

Left leaning voters should consider the Progressives because we want a New Zealand that has the strength to care.

There are many principles we share with other progressive parties. But I think the value of MMP is that you can promote your own priorities within the mix of a government’s policy range. For example, we were able to push up the agenda policies like paid parental leave and four weeks minimum annual leave.

We won those policies by convincing our colleagues to move them up the agenda, not by making them adopt policies they oppose. Co-operation and rational advocacy is the engine of a successful coalition. I disagree with the Greens’ refusal to state what they will do after the election.

Just as we won gains like the Ministry of Economic Development by concentrating on achievable gains and persuading our colleagues, this year we are focusing on four priorities:

  • Reducing student debt by removing the tax on tertiary education.
  • Making home ownership more affordable. We want families to be able to capitalise family support to save the deposit on a home.
  • Safer communities, by helping to reduce drug and alcohol abuse and more early intervention to turn young people away from a life of crime.
  • New Zealand ownership of strategic assets. We are going to campaign against National’s desire to sell Kiwibank.

If left-leaning New Zealanders want to see this government re-elected, and also pick up these gains, then they should vote Progressive.

From reader Gobbler: Can you demonstrate that Government investment in initiatives such as the ‘jobs machine’ the Ministry of Economic Development or New Zealand Trade and Enterprise generates a greater return to ‘NZ inc’ than say Government investment in a national fibre-optic network and additional overseas fibre optic cabling? – Just as one example

It’s not a choice between creating the agencies or adopting some particular development initiative. The real choice is between doing something and doing nothing.

Before 2000, there wasn’t any agency whose job was to ask, ‘What do we need to grow New Zealand?’ Instead, economic policy was run like the All Black coach selecting a team according to how many blazers the rugby union could afford.

Now we have agencies working to make New Zealand stronger.

Now that MED has been created, we have a ministry able to look at what our innovative businesses need in order to grow and connect to the world – and if the answer is better fibre optic cabling, for example, then it can make the case for that investment. (If Telecom had not been given away, it would be easier to solve the issue now!)

Assistance through the Jobs Machine is aimed less at capital contributions than at helping businesses to get access to expertise and networks. Often, for medium sized firms, ‘Jobs Machine’ investment is not the difference between success and failure. Rather it helps to bring forward the date of successful expansion.

In some cases, private sector investment in regional New Zealand went ahead because the government provided leadership. It was a catalyst to get communities working together. The wood processing centre of excellence in Rotorua and seafood centre of excellence in Nelson are very successful examples. Decisions on these projects are not really about trade-offs against other good ideas, but of getting communities to agree on the highest priority for development and building on their strengths.

Imposing major projects from the top (for example telling communities their highest priority is an infrastructure investment) seldom works.

26 comments on “Jim Anderton answers your questions”

  1. r0b 1

    Congratulations Jim. Your thorough and thoughtful answers set a high standard for other party leaders to follow.

  2. Steve Pierson 2

    I find it interesting that he chose being part of a government that has achieved record low unemployment as his best achievement. It shows that his politics is still based on principle – ie. that in a decent society all people who want it can find work with fair pay and conditions.

  3. Sam Dixon 3

    I’m not sure he makes a convincing case for voting Progressive. Currently, they’re polling something like 0.5%, but Anderton’s safe seat means he’ll be back no matter what the party vote is. Unless they get over about 1.7% of the party vote and, so, get a second seat from the list, any party votes for Progressives are really a waste and would be better used going to an allied Left party – Labour or the Greens.

    He makes a good point about parties declaring their favoured governing partners before the election.

  4. r0b 4

    Minor technical note – The Standard doesn’t seem to have caught up with the end of daylight savings time?

    Steve, agreed, but having said that, I found the answer to the second question less than completely convincing – “because we want a New Zealand that has the strength to care” – bit too sound bite for me.

  5. randal 5

    what more do you want then?

  6. Steve Pierson 6

    r0b. I think it’s a response to the rightwing idea that we have to throw people on the scrap heap – cut social spending, cut wages etc – in order to be successful.

  7. Matthew Pilott 7

    Agreed with r0b’s first comment – it’s good to see that Anderton has taken the time to give thought-out responses to the questions.

    With the comment about removing tax on tertiary education – I would hope that could apply to apprenticeships and other forms of training, not the narrow university-centric model of tertiary education that is often targeted.

    You can get paid more at McDonalds than on an some apprenticeships.

  8. stevedore 8

    One of Anderton’s comments is a misrepresentation/lie:

    I disagree with the Greens’ refusal to state what they will do after the election.

    The Greens have said consistently that they will announce, before the election, which party or parties they could work with, and that decision will be based on shared policy and practice. Given most parties haven’t even said what most of their important policy is yet, it’s a bit hard to criticise this stance.

  9. Daveo 9

    New Zealand ownership of strategic assets. We are going to campaign against National’s desire to sell Kiwibank.

    Good. It’s about time the left took the offensive to National on asset sales- and nobody does it better than Jim.

  10. r0b 10

    what more do you want then?

    Short answer – I want fact based politics.

    In these cynical times its a fine line between conviction and sound bite. Obama is one politician who manages to get the benefit of the doubt on this sort of thing, his signature phrases are judged to be authentic, passionate. Are there any NZ politicians who can get away with it in the same way?

    I’m very sympathetic to Anderton, and when I read a phrase like “because we want a New Zealand that has the strength to care’, part of me thinks “Go Jim!”. But my inner devil’s advocate also thinks “that’s a sound bite, not an answer”. But I’m being mean by picking on that one particular phrase, he does go on to elaborate.

    In general I think Jim gave thoughtful and interesting answers to the questions (though he’s struggling a bit in his answer to third?).

  11. Pablo 11

    Sorry Jim, I haven’t been wowed to vote Progressive, but I think that your seat at the Cabinet table is determined by ensuring Labour wins enough votes to form a government.

    I thought this bit was absolutely spot on. Someone needs to suggest it to the Nats if they want a viable coalition partner come November:

    “There are many principles we share with other progressive parties. But I think the value of MMP is that you can promote your own priorities within the mix of a government’s policy range. For example, we were able to push up the agenda policies like paid parental leave and four weeks minimum annual leave.

    We won those policies by convincing our colleagues to move them up the agenda, not by making them adopt policies they oppose. Co-operation and rational advocacy is the engine of a successful coalition. “

  12. Sam Dixon 12

    I can’t work out why National would want to sell Kiwibank.

    It’s making a profit that the Govt can use to fund services instead of tax and it has introduced better competition into the banking sector, saving kiwis millions that would have gone to the Aussie banks owners as profits.

  13. SweeetD 13

    Sam

    Kiwibank is returning money each year, but still has come no where near the point of repaying the principle it was loaned initially to set the organisation. So, its a very interesting use of the word profit in regard to kiwibank.

  14. Draco TB 14

    (If Telecom had not been given away, it would be easier to solve the issue now!)

    This is true. The selling of Telecom actually prevents the government from doing what is needed to bring our telecommunications into the 21st century. This is because they would have to pass laws that penalized private individuals and you can imagine what would happen if they tried that.

    Generally good answers though. I will probably look more into Progressive than I have.

  15. IrishBill 15

    SD, I imagine it would be very unusual for any bank to return its start-up capital in a few years.

  16. redbus 16

    Short answer – I want fact based politics.
    To put it simply, progressive parties and campaigners often make the mistake of campaigning through ‘fact based politics’ instead of working with one liners, emotive statements and campaigning on the basis of ideological belief.
    The conservatives have, by and large in the States, worked extensively on conservative branding – through media ownership, efficient polling to find out the best method of their campaign, and having set guidelines to create a beneficial election result.
    Progressive parties believe in fact-based campaigning to the point of it being to their detriment. As an example, when George Bush accused John Kerry of lying about his time in Vietnam – thus attacking his ‘American Hero’ appeal – Kerry responded by waiting two weeks to gather facts on the argument and responding professionally. Had he followed a conservative scripture he would have attacked the President for being shallow, and ignorant of the sacrifices the American War veterans made he would have benefited politically while George Bush was made to look like the bafoon that he is. More so, had he gone to the point of getting notably offended by Bush’s statements by arguing, “I still have the shrapnel in my leg proving the sacrifices I made in Vietnam. I feel it every day while you reminisce about your drinking games at the Home Guard. Don’t you dare accuse me of not lying about my time in Vietnam when you did not and have not got the courage to fight for this country!”
    The campaigning method between the Left & the Right is no different here in New Zealand. Under Brash the National party worked extensively to find out the most marketable campaign strategy with Crosby/Textor. You will no doubt recall the anti-Maori (eg. race based funding etc.), anti-PC (‘rife bureaucratic…’ etc.), and progressive tax (‘hard-working Kiwi’s not getting their money’) were the three foundations of that campaign. While Labour responded in the typical progressive way, arguing with fact. The public does not register as well with fact and statistics as it does with groomed marketing lines.

    If you as a progressive want to see the leadership of this country remain where it should be, in progressive hands, then you need to realise that Labour, Progressives and the Green party must communicate their beliefs through story form rather that stating the economic benefit or otherwise to endless policy. Highlighting policy detail does not win elections, highlighting the reasons and stories behind such policy does.

  17. Steve Pierson 17

    redbus. I think that it is both true and unfortunate that emotive positioning is a very powerful campaigning tool. And I think you’re right that its difficult for progressive parties to argue this way. That goes to the foundations of political belief: a lot of conservative thoguht is emotion (especially prejudice, fear, and greed) based, whereas progressive parties are looking for solutions to create a fairer world – their approach tends to be more ‘fact-heavy’. And conservatism is about holding power, whereas progressivism is about making change; that limits progressives in ways that conservatives are not, there are positions that progressive cannot take because they conflict with ideals too much, while nearly thing goes for conservatives if its a vote winner.

    But I don’t think that dooms progressives to being beaten by conservatives playing on emotinal weaknesses, nor do I think that we have to sell out to the lowest form of campaigning. In New Zealand, voters are still influenced strongly by – look at the way polls shift in response to policy annoucnements, whereas you hardly hear anything about policy in American campaigning (not forgetting that they have a very different political system). Progressives need to tell an inspirational story rested on a foundation of solid facutal argument.

    captcha: St Monsanto – I knew the Church loved big business, but this is ridiculous.

  18. Phil 18

    Steve, that strikes me as being mindless pap. Attempting to paint political parties in such simplistic terms is painfully deficient.

    You are allowing personal political preferences to taint what was otherwise interesting analysis from yourself and Redbus.

  19. r0b 19

    redbus – reminds me of one of my favourite Doonesbury cartoons:
    http://images.ucomics.com/comics/db/2003/db030713.gif
    Sigh!

    I think you are correct when you say that fact based politics will often get trashed by image based politics. But when I called above for “fact based politics” I wasn’t talking about just The Progressives. I want the whole system to be fact based. Party policies, the decision making progress, the whole bit. Impossible in the real world I know, but that’s my summer daydream.

  20. Steve Pierson 20

    Phil. I’m not talking parties specifically rather the progressive-conservative divide. I take it you’re disagreeing with my assertion that progressivism is about change and conservatism is about holding power. Well, without getting into a long eesay on the topis, I would just point out the clues are in the names.

  21. MikeE 21

    I’m a bit dissapointed that you chose the patsy questions.

    Will you be asking the National and ACT leaders patsy questions too?

  22. redbus 22

    It’s an ideal all progressives would like, however, we should not get caught up with it during the campaign. To relate it back to the point, Jim’s idealist imagery is exactly the kind of thing progressives should be doing through out this election.

    One thing I forgot to say about this post was that Jim did an excellent job. I respect him as a politician, largely due to his outspokenness against Rogernomics. However, he has not convinced me that a strategic vote for the Progressives over Labour is at all worthwhile. If I lived within his electorate I would give him my electorate vote, other than that I see no reason to vote Progressive when I expect he will be returned by Wigram. I wish him all the best in that endeavour.

  23. Dean 23

    Sam:

    “It’s making a profit that the Govt can use to fund services instead of tax and it has introduced better competition into the banking sector, saving kiwis millions that would have gone to the Aussie banks owners as profits.”

    I trust you’ll be picketing any and all businesses which have offshore markets and which return profits to New Zealand first thing in the morning.

  24. Tane 24

    MikeE, the first question goes to all leaders. The second was asked by a leftie and basically asked why the Progressives are relevant, and the third was a question from the right. We actually debated whether to ask Jim about drugs or economic development, but felt the latter was a more substantial issue. If you want hard questions keep on asking them – you’ve got a chance with Helen Clark over here: http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=1601

  25. lprent 25

    “Minor technical note – The Standard doesn’t seem to have caught up with the end of daylight savings time?

    I’ll look into it. I probably haven’t set up ntp.conf

    Definitely an hour out.

  26. Gobbler 26

    Great concept guys and I’m impressed by Jim’s response – looking forward to more questions and answers in order to bring some facts into the political debate rather than only emotive soundbites.

    (Fingers crossed!)

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