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More jobs on the line as Nats fails to act on the dollar

Written By: - Date published: 7:19 am, October 7th, 2012 - 59 comments
Categories: jobs - Tags:

40 jobs in a hi-tech business repairing jet engines are set to be lost. The business’s profits are being slaughtered by the high dollar. The Bluff smelter could close – 900 jobs directly on the line, plus thousands more in the local economy – as Rio Tinto can’t make a profit with the dollar so high and aluminum prices down. How much longer will we do nothing?

Everyone else is breaking the old, neoliberal rules, which New Zealand signed up to so completely in the 80s and 90s. Everyone else is intervening in their currencies, using tools, printing money to drive their exchange rates down.

It’s beggar thy neighbour stuff. And it’s working. We’re shedding manufacturing at an alarming rate – 40,000 jobs in four years, 200 jobs every week. The US, contrary to popular belief, is gaining manufacturing jobs as it drives its currency down. It’s actually starting to re-import jobs that it lost to China that got the jobs in the first place  by, you guessed it, driving its currency down.

And here we are, playing the good little boy, following all the rules… and getting the shit kicked out of us.

Not only does National not want to do anything, they’re trying to pretend that it’s all OK. They say the jobs we’re losing aren’t real jobs, or are in dying industries. They say that if the currency was lower, we would be poorer – despite the fact that when the currency was lower, just a few years ago, we were richer.

The crazy thing is we say we can’t even lower our official interest rates to low levels like the rest of the world because we’re afraid of sparking another housing boom. And that means all those people in Japan and the US, borrowing printed government money at 0% interest are sending it over here to earn interest lending to our banks. It drives up the dollar and, ironically, gives our banks the credit to create housing bubbles.

What we need is policies that limit the amount of mortgage lending banks can do and capital gains tax – that way we can lower the official interest rate, which will bring down the dollar, without triggering a bubble. That’s what other countries do.

In fact, I reckon that, contrary to the neoliberal myth, bringing down interest rates is the best way to stop the current housing boom. If our interest rates were lower, then those foreigners wouldn’t bother to lend to us and the banks wouldn’t have enough credit to lend to fuel a house price bubble. Then you could just use those other tools to ensure lending goes to productive investment, rather than housing speculation.

But none of that will happen while we have a government that insists that nothing can be done and nothing needs to be done.


59 comments on “More jobs on the line as Nats fails to act on the dollar”

  1. Chris 1

    What CAN we do?

    [the stuff in the post – what everyone else is doing. JH]

    • Jim Nald 1.1

      We can cling on to John Key being PM to look after the interest of foreign exchange gamblers, banksters and their cronies.

  2. ghostwhowalksnz 2

    The kiwi dollar isnt ‘high’ its the US dollar thats falling.

    The way its going the US dollar will have parity with the Bangladesh rupee

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      And the Chinese currency will still be lower due to it’s peg with the US$.

      • RedLogix 2.1.1

        And the question as to WHY the Chinese can peg their currency when no other significant trading nation is allowed to do so … still eludes me as to an answer.

        • BloodyOrphan

          They would squash most other currencies if they didn’t.

        • Draco T Bastard

          That’s easy – China is still part of the old Bretton Woods agreement that set the US$ as the Reserve Currency and which all other currencies were pegged to. As long as they don’t float the Renminbi then they remain part of that agreement and so can keep their peg even though the US unilaterally broke the agreement back in 1971* (IIRC, that’s when the US dropped the Gold Standard because they didn’t have enough gold to back all the money that they’d printed). Of course, the old agreement did have clauses in which were supposed to keep the peg approximately in line with the actual value which China has been ignoring.

          EDIT: Oh, and the fact that lots of US multi-national corporations are making lots of money because of it.

          * You’ll note that we kept our currency pegged to the US$ until 1985

        • Colonial Viper

          because the Chinese and the Americans are in a co-dependent economic relationship, and the Chinese have a lot of leverage on the US gov through US corporates now.

    • prism 2.2

      I think if one analysed the reasons for the height of our dollar it would be found to be arising from sources that are of no benefit to our country’s enterprise and resulting in good retained earnings. We used to have a price of about 60 cents and I don’t see why our exchange rate should have risen by a third. I should say, I can’t see the prosperous country working away at thriving businesses that the naive like me would expect to go with such a high rate.

  3. Poission 3

    They say that if the currency was lower, we would be poorer – despite the fact that when the currency was lower, just a few years ago, we were richer.

    That is a fallacy,based on naive and primitive assumptions that it would import inflation.The decoupling is clearly evident in the US and Japan.

    In NZ the higher dollar also decrease our manufacturing base due to import substitution and reducing the domestic base of a number of exporters eg Bollards last statement.

    Domestically, the Bank continues to expect economic activity to grow modestly over the next few years. Housing market activity continues to increase as forecast, and repairs and reconstruction in Canterbury are expected to further boost the construction sector. Offsetting this, fiscal consolidation is constraining demand growth, and the high New Zealand dollar continues to undermine export earnings and encourage substitution toward imported goods and services.

  4. Nick K 4

    Jet engines are for planes which are bad for global warming so we don’t want these “dirty” jobs anyway.

    [upgraded engines burn cleaner and more efficiently. That’s the work those jobs were doing. JH]

    • Poission 4.1

      They also have a spinoff r&d for biofuel for the engines (work in progress)

    • Lanthanide 4.2

      “[upgraded engines burn cleaner and more efficiently. That’s the work those jobs were doing. JH]”

      Which just falls into Jevon’s paradox. Those planes will still burn the same amount of fuel they otherwise would, we’ll just get more utility from them. Ultimately damage to the environment remains the same (or worse, since there’s increased pollution from people travelling to and from the airport, at the very least).

      • bbfloyd 4.2.1

        So you know for certain that the term “burn cleaner, and more efficiently” equates to the same amount of fuel used to cover the same distances? I had no idea you knew aeronautics, and engineering so well….amazing…

        • Kotahi Tāne Huna

          Nope, that isn’t what I read in Lanth’s point: “more utility” – ie: they’ll fly further on the same fuel, but in the end the same amount fuel will still get burned, and the same amount of carbon will be added to the atmosphere.

          • Lanthanide


            There’s also the multiplicative effect I alluded to at the end, where more plane trips using the same total amount of fuel leads to more pollution from the passengers that took those train trips. Obviously the point in flying somewhere is to go on to to further activities, not sit at the airport, so those new plane trips enabled by the more efficient engines will create more additional pollution activities.

  5. Mikesh 5

    The Malaysians had a similar problem at the time of the Asian crisis. They solved it by removing the ringgit from overseas markets and fixing its value with respect to the US dollar. Although the financial pundits at the time shook their heads sadly and predicted the sky would fall in, it seemed to work and their economy recovered.

  6. "Liberty 6

    The Bluff smelter could close – 900 jobs
    If you are suggesting the state should decrease the price of power or devaluation to save jobs . You would be wrong. The correct solution would be to reduce the wage cost. The smelter has to be economic.
    If there is a choice between no wage or a lower wage the answer is simple.

    • Te Reo Putake 6.1

      Idiot. The wage rates have nothing to do with power price negotiations. Notice how ‘Liberty’ wants to have other people’s liberty curtailed? That’s yer classic libertarian response, right there, folks.

      • liberty 6.1.1

        The price of power is already low. I suspect lower than what a lot of low income are paying. The only other way is for the smelter workers make a voluntary deduction in their wage.
        The demand and price of aluminum fluctuates. Would it not be wise to be flexible?
        And keep the smelter. Or are do think it would be better to kill the golden goose?

        • Colonial Viper

          Government can buy it and run it. $75M should pick the lot up.

          • liberty

            That would be as useful as the craped out train set. That labour wasted over a billion on.
            The state should be drastically downsizing rather than increasing the size of our socialist
            cesspit .

            • Colonial Viper

              The state is here to serve the needs of the people. So I’m not surprised that you’re pushing for the state to retreat in favour of capitalist profiteers.

              Rail is crucial infrastructure of the past and the future, mate.

              • liberty

                “Rail is crucial infrastructure of the past and the future, mate.”

                You are wrong there. Have a read of this post.
                It’s not mine. It’s by someone who is very informed on the subject.

                • Te Reo Putake

                  “It’s by someone who is very informed on the subject.”
                  Liberty Scott? Citation needed.
                  I see Libertarianz are looking having to amalgamate with a stoners in suits party. What is it about liberterianism that makes it so deeply unpopular? Is it just the crap politics or is it a personality thing?

                  • Jokerman

                    He wept

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    What is it about liberterianism that makes it so deeply unpopular?

                    Although I’m in favour of legalising marijuana I’m against returning to the 19th century. I suspect most people with a modicum of sense are which is why the Libertarianz are so unpopular.

                    • liberty

                      I suspect in the circles you frequent. Libertarianism would not be popular.
                      principally because lefties have this deluded view. That they have the God given
                      right to suck of the state tit.
                      The only ones wanting to return to a 19 century economy are Labour/Greens/Mana/NZF. For the economy to prosper The country needs a totally
                      Free market. And a very small Government.

                    • Jokerman

                      challenge is, the grass is getting stronger, and the grazers getting younger
                      (it is definitely not for young minds these days)

                    • Kotahi Tāne Huna

                      “…suck of (sic) the state tit”

                      I don’t suppose the fact that the state would not exist without the people who benefit from it – whether they be a sickness beneficiary like Ayn Rand, or John Galt taking his goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for – factors into your myopic and fictional world view, does it?

            • Kotahi Tāne Huna

              Tool, a “golden goose” that’s no use? Consistency and credibility aren’t your strong points are they?

    • James Henderson 6.2

      the exchange rate is making the smelter uneconomic. reduce that.

    • Lanthanide 6.3

      Labour inputs are a very very minor part of the economics of the bluff smelter. I think you’ll find that they aren’t paying the workers minimum wage anyway, so they can easily reduce labour costs without government intervention.

      Try again?

    • prism 6.4

      give me liberty or give me death. Is that your slogan? The answer is that we need to have livable wages. Not everyone is either as ascetic and stoic as you, or that you are so comfortable at your level of income that you are prepared to walk across other’s skulls to reach your money goals.

  7. Poission 7

    Another canard that is often used is that the manufacturing sector decline is the decrease in the production function eg Joyce (ie a decrease in productivity is a systemic constraint for international competitiveness) this is both a fallacy and a paradox.

    [Production Paradox problem] That during economic downturns following financial shocks productivity decreases,when the so called macroeconomic theory suggests the inverse should hold (that due to the depreciation of human capital) productivity should increase.

    The empirical evidence states that the inverse holds following the 61 Banking crises (since 1980 eg Bordo and Eichengreen across 35 countries) annual productivity has decreased on average by 1.4%.(and inflation is higher)

    The correlations suggest that this is a symptom of the finance complex response,where they harden lending into the productive sector and relax into the investment sector eg housing.ie the financial sector produce a positive feedback which in turn reinforces the productivity decrease (such as manufacturing capital investment etc)

    • The Finance sector (narrowly defined) contributes nothing to productivity other than to ensure that capital is advanced in each production cycle. For which it gets its reward in interest as a share of the profits of production. Otherwise all of its so-called ‘productivity’ is fake being no more than gambling on already existing commodities including money. 
      The Long Depression we are in will not be resolved until either productive capital is devalued to allow profits to be restored, or the system is overthrown and a rational system of planning and production for need put in its place. 

  8. Lanthanide 8

    I have to wonder what the situation would be like if Labour had won the last election.

    If they had, everyone would know that a Capital Gains Tax was on the line. We’d also see WFF extended to beneficiaries. These two policies by themselves could have changed the dynamics of the economy quite a bit.

    • KJT 8.1

      Unfortunately Labour still just proposes tinkering.

      Gareth Morgan has some of the answers. Like taxing wealth, and a GMI.

      Also proof that not all the rich are “rich pricks”.

    • Nick K 8.2

      Nonsense. The CGT was not expected to have a positive impact for for years and years, and certainly not by October 2012. I think (from memory) in about year 8 it was expected to raise about $600-$700 million. All that revenue was going to do was pay for the extension to WFF. Just more failed redistribution. And if you recall, Phil Goff couldn’t even say what impact it would have had. He didn’t know. Hardly an inspiring policy if the leader couldn’t say.

      • Colonial Viper 8.2.1

        Don’t mistake the revenue raised by a CGT with it acting as an influence to alter capital allocation habits.

        If the CGT raised $0 from housing over the next 10 years that would be a good thing: house price stability.

        • Nick K

          Again, nonsense. That would mean no one is selling their property, making the supply side of the equation worse and worsening the affordability issue. Part of the problem with Auckland prices at the moment is supply. We need to increase supply, not reduce it.

          • bbfloyd

            Then get on to your mate johnny sparkles, and tell him to start building state houses again….Or were you kept out of the loop when the decision to assist landlords, and property speculators was made?

            the scheme has worked brilliantly… the housing market in Auckland makes less sense than a Japanese cartoon, yet the profits are greater than ever….. for some…

          • Dv


            0 CGT
            >>That would mean no one is selling their property

            NOPE it means that there is NO capital gain (That means price stability) NOT no property sales.

            What viper said
            If the CGT raised $0 from housing over the next 10 years that would be a good thing: house price stability.

            • Colonial Viper

              These right wingers seem to get stupider as time goes on.

            • Nick K

              Jeez, give me strength. In NZ, house price “stability” would not be affected by a CGT. In fact as a country of property “nuts” (rightly or wrongly) I think it would make things worse, by affecting supply. It hasn’t worked anywhere else it’s been implemented. If CGT was $0, all that essentially would mean is that investment or holiday homes are not selling. And I don’t accept the “family homes are exempt” argument because dollars to donuts Labour & Green will slap that next if investment or holiday home CGT = $0. There is definitely an argument as to whether we should tax capital, instead of income – I like Gareth Morgan’s ideas here. But a one-off CGT would not do anything; and would probably make home affordability worse.

              • Colonial Viper

                Thanks for the incoherant, unrelated, poorly connected jumble of thoughts.

                BTW issues of supply can be solved by public housing.

          • Frank Macskasy

            “That would mean no one is selling their property,…”


            All house sales, everywhere in NZ, would suddenly grind to a halt???

            Even the FAMILY HOME which would attract no gst?!

            Wow. Whodathunk it. Damn.

            So… by that logic, no one would ever go to work (and incur paying PAYE) or set up a business (and pay gst, FBT, provisional tax, ACC, etc)??? And no one would ever buy a truck, and incur RUC?!


            How did we ever get by…? 😉

  9. I am aware that second, and more, rental property owners are already re-setting their personal positions to get around any CGT – whoever brings it in – Nats included.

    A number are already selling up. Am aware of 14 properties, privately (trust) owned, up for auction in two weeks time.

    • “A number are already selling up. Am aware of 14 properties, privately (trust) owned, up for auction in two weeks time.”

      Which is a GOOD thing, right? The more properties released onto the market should give extra choice (and Rightwingers LOVE choice!), and give new homeowners a chance to buy their own property.

      I see no downside here.

  10. mike e 10

    Fartrain the policy is working then the big banks will be pissed as they won’t be able to make as much profit out of property speculation!
    Now young New Zealanders will be able to buy instead of paying ridiculous rents therefore providing stable homes for children to flourish in!

  11. “The Bluff smelter could close – 900 jobs directly on the line, plus thousands more in the local economy – as Rio Tinto can’t make a profit with the dollar so high and aluminum prices down. How much longer will we do nothing?”

    I’m betting on onre thing here; National will not permit the Bluff Smelter to close.

    Sacking 2,500 civil servants is one thing. But 900 workers losing their job in a private company? Uh uh. The Nats won’t stomach that. It would spell their doom at the ballot box, guaranteed.

  12. Nick K 12

    The Bluff smelter is a dirty industry according to the Greens. The smelter emitted about 600,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases (measured as carbon dioxide equivalents) in 2010. Rio Tinto threatened many years ago to close it if the ETS was implemented. Guess what?

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      but they make money on National’s version of the ETS, as the rest of NZ pays it for them.

    • liberty 12.2

      Fortunately National became the government and 900 jobs were saved.

      • Colonial Viper 12.2.1

        You’re kidding right? Tell me how National proposes to save the 900 jobs at the smelter? Will they be as effective as saving the jobs at Stockton?

      • Draco T Bastard 12.2.2

        Wow, 900 jobs were saved. That is soooo awesome…

        …pity about the 100000 lost.

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