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Key’s first test – fail

Written By: - Date published: 7:34 pm, November 22nd, 2008 - 44 comments
Categories: economy, International, john key - Tags:

Well, John Key took my advice and gave a speech at APEC different from the pro forma MFAT-written speech that might have been expected. Unfortunately, it’s still all style and no substance, all bark but no bite.

Key is scathing of his fellow money-men for taking on more and more risk; he accuses them of being reckless. He says there needs to be more regulation of these “reckless” money-men (although one has to wonder how long he has believed these businesses are behaving badly, given he has most of his money invested in financiers Merrill Lynch).

So far, so good. He’s saying what the Left has been saying all along, and the Right is now conceding – the financiers are greedy and neoliberal de-regulation has permitted them to gamble too much with the result that the rest of us have ended up carrying the can for the problem they created (surprising he never said it during the campaign when he was making capital off his finance experience).

But, unfortunately, this is where he stops, whereas it should be where he is just beginning. He calls for regulation but offers no substantive suggestions for what regulation is needed; says reform is needed but not what reform that should be. Which means he’s not actually saying anything; it’s just empty bluster. In a disturbing continuation of the fluffiness that characterised his time as Opposition Leader, Key identifies a widely recognised problem and then says ‘we need to do something about that’. Real leadership is about providing solutions. So far we’ve seen none of that from Key.

This was Key’s first major test; his chance to make an impact on the international stage. He gets a partial credit for identifying the problem, and a bonus mark for rhetorical style, but on substance, the important stuff, he fails badly.

44 comments on “Key’s first test – fail ”

  1. Daveski 1

    This is the equivalent of the Aussie cricketers having their own umpires. The result was predetermined before the inquiry.

    Mind you, Key’s got a better chance of getting a pass mark from SP than the Black Craps have of winning the first test even with neutral umps!

    Captcha – gutted funds 🙂

  2. yeah, it’s pretty unfair to ask our self-declared finance expert for anything more than empty bluster

  3. gingercrush 3

    And what was the great Helen Clark going to offer??

    Here’s where the left is at a loss. You set expectations no one can delivers because you’ve already decided whatever John Key does is fail.

    Problem is you ignore every media outfit that are looking at APEC as a strength for John Key. And you also missed the detail which was Free trade. Sorry but I give a fail to SP for completely missing the point of APEC. You said he had to earn respect. With the speech he went with he delivered.

  4. sweeetdisorder 4

    But, SP, isn’t everything he does wrong according to you? Change the record.

    Also, what was Clark doing 50 hours after she was made PM.

    Pretty good going from Key I would say.

  5. TimeWarp 5

    Being unfair I think SP. Key had a pretty good crack for what is a diplomatic environment.

    Pretty difficult for him to say what the regulation or reform would be, when speaking to a broad international audience. Even if the principles in each geography would be the same – which I’m not sure they would be – the application would be different.

  6. mike 6

    Bloody gutsy speech for a newby on the Apec block. As commentators noted it was much stronger than clark would ever have delivered.

    Grow up SP

  7. rave 7

    Key is still into greedy neoliberal deregulation, that’s how he made his money and that’s how he will keep it and make more for himself and his mates. In fact its the modus operandi of finance capital and is not amenable to reform.

    So talk up big and empty on the world stage, but at home cut taxes, rob Cullen fund for PPPs, dick around with a few temporary benefits and job and training schemes to window dress, but rev up the machinery of state to lock up the troublemakers who don’t buy the deception.

    The next years are going to be grim and tough for workers on the job and on the streets.
    Its one for all and all for one out there.

    For the righties here that think that APEC speeches are beauty contests, Clark may probably have had a go at pushing for real Keynesian economics.
    Here’s a sample of such thinking.

  8. TimeWarp 8

    I do think though, having given this further consideration, that “charity starts at home”. Great comments from Key in Lima – but what is being, or will be done, to reform and regulate finance in the country he’s appointed to lead, NZ?

    Presumably at the same time he was so liberal with his advice at APEC, English was slaving away over his financial market reform package that will be announced prior to or on Key’s return to take office.

  9. sweeetdisorder 9


    Key is a realist, not blinded by ideology as was Clark.

    tax cuts, encourages domestic savings and investing
    PPP’s spreads cost over a period, much like a mortgage (assuming you own a home)
    Temp benefits, gives people hope when the major job losses come
    Training schemes, I assume you mean Boot Camps, bloody good idea
    Rev up the machinery of state to lock up the troublemakers who don’t buy the deception, what?!?!?!?, you are still here, haven’t seen you locked away in a re-education camp just yet

    The next years are going to be grim and tough for workers on the job and on the streets. Yes they are. Glad we have John key in charge.

  10. gomango 10

    most of his money invested in financiers Merrill Lynch

    I’d imagine not by choice. He’ll have unvested shares and options which he can’t sell until until his vest date. Moot point now anyway – they’re worthless.

  11. sweeetdisorder 11


    most of his money invested in financiers Merrill Lynch

    I’d imagine not by choice. He’ll have unvested shares and options which he can’t sell until until his vest date. Moot point now anyway – they’re worthless.”

    Is this a fact or pure speculation on your part? I don’t think there is any way to easily show this.

  12. gingercrush 12

    Does it matter where his money is invested?

    rave what relevance does your points make? I’m sorry but when it comes to economics the only difference between National and Labour is Labour favours Unions while National favours business. Yes National has elements of neo-liberalism while Labour is more Keynesian. Both both still essentially believe in markets and your thinking only works if National goes way out to the right. Something that isn’t happening. You talk about your class wars etc but they won’t happen under National. Because class wars aren’t the issue you make them out to be. We like to think Labour and National are so different but the reality is there is not much difference.

    As for what Clark would have said. Clark was good internationally, we don’t disagree with that. And I hope I haven’t appeared to be saying Clark didn’t do well overseas or anything like that. Clark’s speeches were cautious in tone but deliberate. That is how she did things in international matters. Clark knew New Zealand had a voice but she also knew we were still a small country. Key acknowledges that and spoke to Clark for advice. Key though was less cautious and I believe that will pay off. We’re fortunate here in New Zealand that both National and Labour largely believe in the same Foreign policy. Sure there are slight differences I’m sure you lot on the left will point to Iraq. But pretty much when it comes to the agenda Internationally National and Labour share the same thoughts.That we should value here. It means the transition from a left to right government or vice versa can be handled easily without much change in how we conduct International affairs.

  13. Carol 13

    Key’s speech sounds a bit like window dressing and self-promotion. I got the impression the main point was to argue for maintaining free trade and the international free flow of finance.. So at the same time as arguing for more regulation of investment banks, and controls on growth of assest bubbles, it’s stil lthe same old neoliberal free trade, limited regulation stuff.So Key seems to be saying, yes I agree with the international trend for more regulation on finances and economies, but keep it open internationally, with a limitation on restrictions.

    And Clark would have put less emphasis on rhetorical flourishes on a big stage, and more on the behind the scenes relationships and negotiations.

  14. Quoth the Raven 14

    sweetd – We’re each going to see it both ways. You see Key as a realist not driven by ideology I see it that he is. That’s because Key’s ideology is your ideology and your ideology is not mine. As it has been seen that PPPs have been failures in other countries with poor risk sharing, unrealistic cost estimations, it has been seen that 3 strikes has been a failure with so many prisoners they have to put them in warehouse with bunks four high in some places in the U.S., it has been seen that TABOR has been a failure in Colorado, private prisons can also seen to be failures with much higher rates of attacks on guards and other prisoners in the U.S and many cases of abuse, not to mention the fact that private prison companies put their money behind sadistic hang em high lobbying groups (that would be the insane sentencing trust here) yet Key supports these. I’d say he supports them through blind ideology or political expediency you’d say he’s a realist.

  15. gingercrush 15

    You know you lot on the left are looking stupid.

    John Key is carrying on the message of free trade something the Clark government continued to push in their nine years of government. Surely one would have expect praise to John Key for carrying on Labour’s message. But no the criticisms are that Key was promoting himself and not offering solutions.

    When Helen Clark came to office in 1999 she inherited a foreign affairs platform which pushed for open and free trade and a continued push to see New Zealand become involved in peace operations around the world. Helen Clark and her government pushed that policy even more. Now that power has changed in New Zealand. John Key’s government will have the job to keep doing the work the previous National and Labour governments did. John Key in his speech pushed for free trade as a way to get out of the international crisis. Something I expect we would have seen from Helen Clark. Hence no change.

    Oh and I’m sure Key is working behind the scenes talking to leaders, negotiating stuff etc etc.

    You lot are acting like Clark and Key are so different when it comes to international affairs. When both of their success in international comes down to keep pushing in New Zealand’s favour more trade liberalisation. Clark in here nine years achieved this. With Key’s first speech its clear he’s carrying on the good work the Clark government did.


    You just can’t criticise what John Key did. It seems pointless and rather petty.

    Steve Pierson in “A chance to make his mark” said: If he were to go to APEC and do that, actually make a difference rather than just notch up ‘pull asides’ and ‘one-on-ones’, it would really be something. He could then, deservedly, call himself a world leader.

    There he applied something Key can’t do and something Clark could never do herself. He asking Key to deliver things neither a Clark government or a Key government would or could achieve. The problem lies in giving expecations nobody can keep. That surely is a problem.

    Its not what the Clark government would have expected out of him. Clark’s government or Clark herself I think would be proud and glad that John Key is pushing for the same things she herself believed in. That is why John Key at APEC was a success.

  16. gomango 16

    pure speculation – but standard treatment is to sell unvested shares as soon as you can – i have and everyone i know does. you just don’t want to have the vast bulk of your personal wealth tied up in one company – especially one you don’t even work for. And the higher up in a company you get the longer the vest period – i’ve been given shares in the past with a 7 year vesting period. So pure speculation. Though kind of irrelevant in the context of this story. Seems like most media commentators gave him a pass mark- this story is the only reference I’ve seen that is scathing.

    You should give him some credit (and Helen too) for the fact he took a 45 minute briefing from her. And Tim Groser is clearly a huge plus and asset for NZ inc.

    And raven – you are assuming Act policy will all be implemented by the Nats – lets just wait and see – I think you;ll be surprised.

    Off to watch the league now – Go Kiwis.

  17. Bill 17

    To be fair, accusing Key of being all ‘style and no substance’ ignores an obvious tendency not limited to Key.

    Here’s a wee insight/ analysis from the G20 meet of a week or two ago


  18. TimeWarp 18

    “tax cuts, encourages domestic savings and investing”

    So simplistic.

    Based on Kiwis behaviour in recent years, extra money goes into spending and consumption, not saving or investment.

  19. Strathen 19

    I find this article to be far too harsh. It highlights a closed minded attitude and blind loyalty that can only detract from debate, wisdom, and enlightenment. All that I gather from this article is the current PM and any member of a National lead government will not be able to do any good for this country for the next 3 years, or longer. What’s the point in writing if this is all you have to share? Why not just create a generic article that is refreshed to the top of the left column each day titled ‘Whatever John Key has done in the last 24 hours, he failed.’

    I commend Helen Clark and John Key sharing ideas and experience before this visit. They put aside their differences of Labour vs National and collaborated Prime Ministerial experience with a new/finance perspective for the good of New Zealand. If only the die hard fans on all political sides could follow the example set by our leaders, this country could start working as one across the board. Something we will need in this globalist world.

  20. Strathen 20

    Time Warp ‘Based on Kiwis behaviour in recent years, extra money goes into spending and consumption, not saving or investment.’

    I completely agree with you in this respect. I also feel this is a major cause of the credit crunch as this is not just restricted to Kiwi’s. Why people insist the credit crunch is purely because of brokers, bankers, finance companies, amazes me. The average citizen needs to take some responsibility as well, but it appears that all the blame is laid at the feet of people who deal in money.

  21. sweeetdisorder 21


    yes, some does go on spending and consumption, some also on saving and investing. It is a bit of both dependent on the economic conditions of the time.

  22. Mr Shankly 22

    Of course

  23. TimeWarp 23

    bollocks sweet, in the last decade plus people have ploughed more into houses, cars and plasmas than they have had in income.

    “it’s a little bit of both” is just mindless prevarication. You make a grand statement in support of broad tax reduction, and then can’t back it up.

  24. sweeetdisorder 24


    backing up what, its basic economics. Tax cuts will see parts spent in may ways, some saved, some is invested, some spent. Yeah, in the last decade people have out spent their incomes on rising house values, what is your point?

    I can’t help the fiscally stupid.

  25. ak 25

    yeah yeah yeah, nice post, whoop-dee freakin do….. Noddy-with-a-speech -impediment does Obama with the predictable result…..

    Meanwhile! Kiwis WORLD LEAGUE CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!

    Suck it up tory rugger-buggers – Hels onwards and upwards on the world stage, progressive politics on a roll world-wide, China (me ole reactionary neand-hand-brake-chinas) poised to assume, li’l Johnny-Dubya on a sticky wicket to Shitsville via the inevitable Act/Maori SHITFEST and MAAAAATTTTTEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

    WORLD CHAMPEENS!!!! gotta luvit, wotanite 4 the underdog!!!!!

  26. Magnus 26

    Timewarm – “Based on Kiwis behaviour in recent years, extra money goes into spending and consumption, not saving or investment.” Half right, half wrong. Extra money goes into spending, consumption and mortgage payments on overvalued Real Estate. Johnny’s mates win again 😉

  27. Carol 27

    If Clark had been PM at this APEC, she wouldn’t have just talked about NZ’s need for international trade in the face of the current financial crisis, but would have continued to try to push the boundaries on climate change and sustainable production, and on this would have been more in sync with some of Obama’s rhetoric. Note that in a past APEC, she did push such climate change boundaries.


    But Helen Clark’s most successful mission at Apec was in the area of climate change.

    Two weeks before the meeting, Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials were not certain it would be on the agenda, other than through the guise of energy security issues. They hedged, saying it would depend on the “disposition” of those around the table.

    Given that the US and Australia are hold-outs on the Kyoto Protocol, there are extreme sensitivities around it.

    Not only did she get it into the leaders’ declaration, with a lot of deference to John Howard also showing leadership on the subject, she is said to have been applauded after presenting her case to the other leaders in their closed session.

    The timing has been exquisite. Without any clear policy yet released, Helen Clark within a month has managed to seize leadership of an issue domestically and in an international setting that is fast becoming recognised as electorally important as it is environmentally.

  28. Carol 28

    Futhermore, Key’s speech is interesting for what he doesn’t say. His focus is all on what can be done to help businesses and contnue to foster economic “growth”. There is no expression of concern or compassion for “ordinary” people who are suffering as a consequence of the financial crisis and the reckless behaviour of the corporates and money men.

    In contrast, even Bush Jr has focused his APEC speech on free trade plus social justice. Key has shown himself to be out of step with the international mood, and still focused on a restrained version of the old neoliberal agenda.

  29. higherstandard 29

    He he – ak I think I might have been almost as excited and under the influence as you seem to have been at 1am – it was an outstanding game. Good on ya Kiwis (and Wayne Bennett)

  30. TimeWarp 30

    sweet, I presume you are referring to the broader NZ population and not myself.

    Making an argument for tax cuts on the basis that the money will be saved and invested, without being able to offer any evidence that any substantial amount will actually not be spent, is fiscally stupid.

    More so because continued consumption based economic growth as seen in the last few years has two major problems. Firstly, it creates the sort of bubble we are now seeing pop with some disastrous consequences. Secondly, it is inflationary.

    Tax cuts that fuel consumption therefore fuel inflation, which those of us who are not “fiscally stupid” know erodes the value of money and spending power, thereby voiding much or all of the gains made in tax cuts in the first place. Worse than that, at the same time inflation erodes the value of savings and investment, sending the country further backwards. And erosion of savings sends a signal to consumers that there is little value in saving, and thereby encourages consumption instead. So it could be argued that in certain circumstances, that apply currently, tax cuts DISCOURAGE long-term saving and investment. THAT combination is fiscally stupid.

    I’m very much in favour of gradually decreasing tax cuts in the long term, but also in favour of systematic approach to managing and developing the whole economy and one-liner based policy doesn’t deliver that.

  31. Janet 31

    Kiwis – World League Champions

    Helped by all that nurturing of local league for many years by Helen.

  32. Tim Ellis 32

    That’s right, Janet. Helen won it for them.

    Goodness me. Partisanship just never stops. Was Helen to blame for the rugby world cup loss last year? No doubt the soggy weather in Wellington tomorrow will be John Key’s fault. We’ve already had enough people blame him for the international credit crisis.

  33. RedLogix 33

    We’ve already had enough people blame him for the international credit crisis.

    No one person is to blame of course; but as Managing Director of Debt Products for Merrill Lynch in the late 1990’s when most of these toxic products were being first developed and launched, Mr Key was arguably a lot closer to that action than Helen was to the rugby last night.

  34. Santi 34

    “If Clark had been PM at this APEC”

    Clark? Who is Clark, but a defeated and almost forgotten NZ politician?
    Who cares about what she says these days. She’s irrelevant.

    Lets move on.

  35. Kevin 35

    How can a speech which was no more than stating the bleeding obvious, be considered anything other than what it was?

  36. lprent 36

    Santi: I seem to remember that Key spent 45 minutes on the phone to Helen before heading to APEC about APEC. Looks like he doesn’t share your opinion.

    From Granny John Key calls an expert for Apec advice

    Mind you it is hard to find your opinions being respected anywhere.

  37. Santi opened his mouth without thinking ,after all the facts are that Key hadto aswk Clark for advice . Amazingly the sour grapes are not coming form Labour but the National Party ,One could be led to belive that the election is still on. Santi’s comments should go in the rubbish bin with the likes of Fran O’Sullivan’s ,who now have to defend Key as he makes mistake after mistake , Watch the body language of English asthe National leadership moves toward him

  38. can anybody tell me what is remarkable about this speech.

    I read the herald item(link provided above) but other than a possibility of it making some announcement of presence and, a little unusually perhaps for a PM(product of politics) to allege to a predominantly business audience that “political” failure of the G20 was how the speaker held matters to be the case should his views be disregarded.

    If I am correct in this then it is quite possible a dichotomy prevails among APEC (not to mention other) nations. Of the kind where business-is-business and politics-is-politics. N’ere the twain etc.

    An observation which may also account for the reported complementarity of two enzed PMs. And yes, adding grist to the present potus’s role. As heard(product of speechwriter/s) and otherwise performed via divers cells.

  39. Sarah 39

    I’m all for the occasional ribbing of Mr Key but I have to admit that this particular attack is shallow and pedantic. These slanted posts do your credibility no good Clint.

  40. sweeetdisorder 40


    I didn’t intend that remark for you, and I am glad you did not take it that way.

    all spending is inflationary, whether it be private or government. So, what do you want, the govt. to hoard all the monies and reduce the pool of money even further? we wouldn’t be in this situation if tax cuts had been given many years ago, and now, giving tax cuts is, for some in the population the same as throwing petrol on a fire. But for others, and given it is a smaller group, this will make the difference between starting a new enterprise or not.

    I think we are arguing the same point, just in different time scales. I think people are crying out for some sort of relief right now.

    From a moral point of view what right does the government have to take more money than it needs. I know that a govt. can always create ‘needs’ for the monies, but then this becomes the larger issue; how much money does a govt need. Well, depends on what you want it to do, the classic red/blue debate.

    The one line policy was in response to another author (rave) earlier in the night.

  41. RedLogix 41

    From a moral point of view what right does the government have to take more money than it needs.

    One might equally ask, “What right does a seller of any good or service have to charge over and above cost, ie to make a profit?”. The question has about as much meaning.

    Besides a private enterprise will keep the profit and spend it on private needs; at least a government is likely to use a surplus on services that benefit all taxpayers.

  42. TimeWarp 42


    Spending has very different characteristics depending on what is consumed (or invested in). Different effects that occur to me include the economic multiplier value of how the spending impact ripples through the economy, and how much of the value is transferred offshore.

    So a consumer spending on a bottle of milk has very different qualitative effects to one buying a plasma television, compared to government spending to retire debt, or to invest in infrastructure.

    People have been crying out for relief, as you term it, for the last many years – driven on by mantras of government greed and lower tax being good. I think it is valuable to have a discussion around this – but my very objection in the first place was a simplistic “tax cuts are good” mentality. The very lack of consideration of the value of money and where it is spent by the wider populace is exactly what has got us to the point we are in now.

    I’m not even going to start discussing the “what right does a government have” comment…..

  43. Tim 43

    Ha, John Key ‘took your advice’. Funny. This is like randal making election predictions isn’t it? Everything he predicts, the opposite happens.
    If John Key had read your ‘advice’ I’m sure he too would have immediately realised the opposite stance would be most appropriate.
    If we are to be realistic about the causes of the current crisis we would have to concede that much of it is due to lending to high risk borrowers. If the risky borrowers were able to pay their loans back then there wouldn’t be a crisis right now. I’m sure the left point of view is that it is the financial institutions that made the loans that are at fault because they should have known the borrowers would get into trouble. So it’s not just the “money men” at fault here. Sure, it’s their own fault for being so stupid as to make the loans in the first place, but the defaulters are the ones in default, so legally they’re the real culprits.
    So excuse me if I don’t buy into your mantra that it is all the fault of greedy free marketeers. Down at the root of it there’s a whole cross section of people borrowing more than they can afford to service. Mostly it is beneficiaries and lower income earners who want houses, flat screens and fast cars, and they want it now. No thought that perhaps they should work hard, upskill, increase their income, save up a decent deposit or even pay for the stuff up front.

    There is a mantra in our household : Short term pain for long term gain.

    We work hard to increase our income, and we don’t spend beyond our means.
    We wait until we can afford something, we pay our credit card down to zero every month.
    We want tax cuts to bring us back to pre 1999 levels. Cullen said the top tax rate would only affect the top 5% of earners but 9 years later it was getting 14% of them. It became a toss up as to whether one of us should quit work to look after the kids full time, and get the government to make up the income difference. Well wouldn’t that be fair? Let’s one of us give up working and that’s about $20k p/a we don’t pay in tax. Then we’d get about $20k a year in welfare. And although we’d effectively cost the government (taxpayers) $40k p/a we’d actually not be much worse off ourselves.
    Now while the left seem to think that is ok (and in fact you seem to think that level of wealth redistribution is some shining ideal to hold up and cherish) I happen to think that it isn’t.
    If you can’t earn it, don’t buy a friggin 4WD or WRX. Don’t get the biggest LCD TV in the shop, and don’t spend $500 out on the turps on payday. That’s MY MONEY you’re spending and I don’t like the idea of bailing you out.

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