Hmm, so another bad, bad week for the directionless Key Government. Lucky a major newspaper steps in with a chance to make the PM look cute and adorable. About one in five of the 50 questions put to John Key in the Sunday Star-Times yesterday are cutesy nonsense, which is the one area where Key shines these days.
I am once again disappointed by the quality of our business class. In the article, you’ve got a bunch of business people given the chance to ask one question on the record of the Prime Minister of their country and they’re mostly inane bull-crap.
Theresa Gattung once ran one of our largest companies and her best question is: who do you admire and what books do you like? Jesus, no wonder our companies fail to perform, look at the minds running them.
Anyhoo, let’s look at Key’s answers. It’s pretty telling that National Party pollster David Farrar chose to highlight a joke question from Valerie Vili and a joke answer; the answers to real questions are pretty weak:
5. Sir Stephen Tindall, philanthropist and founder of The Warehouse: If over the next 15 years overseas mining companies manage to extract say $5 billion worth of minerals from our conservation land, how many actual dollars will the citizens of NZ get back via the government in royalties after the remediation costs?
We are working on this. As I pointed out earlier, we are in a submission process. However, we are confident New Zealanders will retain enough of the value from mining to make this viable. The whole point of this exercise if it goes ahead is to lift New Zealand’s economic performance.
You weren’t asked that John, you were asked what share of the wealth New Zealand gets through royalties. The answer is 0.1%.
7. Oscar Kightley, film-maker and comedian: Pacific heroes Michael Jones and Inga Tuigamala gave you their support, and that of their supporters, because they thought that, under National, Pacific people would be owning factories and not just working in them. When do you think that will happen?
Lifting New Zealand’s economic performance will help all New Zealanders, and I know that is also what Inga and Michael believe. Michael has said publicly it was my aspiration to bring all New Zealanders forward, including Pacific people, which convinced him to support us. I know our strong commitment to economic growth in the Pacific nations, including business mentoring, is important to New Zealand’s Pacific people.
So, no timeline on that aspiration. But Key would have been happy to have another mention of Jones and Tuigamala – they will be National candidates next year to try to piggyback on the World Cup.
11. Keisha Castle-Hughes, actor: When are you going to show us your vision for how New Zealand can grow in a way that doesn’t irreversibly damage our environment and climate?
Balancing our environmental responsibilities with our economic opportunities is a cornerstone of all our policies. It guides what we have done in changing Labour’s emissions trading scheme. It has guided us in terms of changes to the RMA and government environmental agencies. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of misinformation circulated about National’s environmental intentions by our political opponents.
All we can do is keep pointing to the fact that a cornerstone of our policies is balancing our environmental responsibilities with our economic opportunities. As minister of tourism, I am well aware of the need to be cognisant of these issues.
Funny how the ‘balance’ always seems to go in the direction of free-for-all exploitation of the environment. A smarter government would realise that what is good for the environment is ultimately good for the economy – the economy is built on the environment.
27. Ruth Lim, Sunday Star-Times reader, Christchurch: You went through the public school system and seem to have fond memories of your time there, as evidenced by your recent visit to Burnside High. You have also done very well in the business and political world since. What are your reasons for sending your own children to private schools?
I believe all New Zealanders should have the freedom to make choices, especially when it comes to issues like education and healthcare. New Zealand has excellent schools and one of the reasons for that is different schools are able to cater for students’ various needs. My children enjoy their schools they’re a good fit. As all parents know, if your children are happy at their school it makes a big impact on their all-round wellbeing.
Right, so it’s OK for the rich to have choice. Of course, that means a lot of good teachers go to private teaching for higher pay. If you’re rich, you get the better education, if you’re don’t you don’t – got to love that ‘choice’.
29. Robyn Malcolm, actor: The income disparity between New Zealanders is growing and there is an obvious correlation between low income and poor indices in society, ie, crime, family breakdown, family violence, low education etc. What are you going to do about this?
I want to see all New Zealanders reach their potential and succeed and that means getting things right from the very start of someone’s life. Lifting achievement in our schools helps build opportunities for young New Zealanders, which is why we’re focusing on getting more children into early childhood education, and rolling out National Standards. This emphasis on education continues to secondary and tertiary levels, and recognises the fact young New Zealanders will want to choose from a range of options. We’re addressing the drivers of crime, with a raft of new legislation being passed which is designed to give greater powers to the police and to protect Kiwi families. We are also reforming our social services, principally through Future Focus and Whanau Ora, to help people back into work and to take charge of their wellbeing.
There’s no one policy the government can use to solve society’s ills but we can do as much as we can to create an environment which helps all New Zealanders to live fulfilling lives.
Of course, we know that on every measure the Government has failed to deliver. Unemployment is up, wages are down, inequality is getting worse, crime is up, education is being cut. There are a few little pretenses at doing something, but this is basically a do nothing government when it comes to the things that matter.
34. Judy Bailey, former TV newsreader: Given that we know that our experiences and relationships in the first three years of life have a direct bearing on crime, family violence and physical and mental health, and given that we know we get dramatically better value for money by focusing our spending on the early years, how is your government shaping social policy to reflect that evidence?
For New Zealanders to have every chance of success, it’s vital we help every Kiwi child get the best possible start in life. We’re committed to making sure early childhood education is widely available to children from all areas of society, along with pre-school health care. At the same time, it’s important we instigate policies to make sure parents are supported to be able to give their children what they need. Our social policies aim to give parents the power to do just that.
The Government is cutting early childhood education funding and lowering standards.
36. Jonathan Temm, president, New Zealand Law Society: With prison musters rising and the “Three Strikes” initiative likely to increase them further, what strategies are planned to address the causes of crime and to reduce rates of imprisonment?
Drug and alcohol problems, coupled with a lack of life and work skills, can really put offenders on the back foot if they want to turn their lives around. We have a responsibility to helping those who want to helped, and this government is doing just that. We are fulfilling our promise to double the number of places for drug and alcohol rehabilitation and give employment, job skills and literacy training to an extra 1000 prisoners a year.
The path to prison usually starts well before adulthood, however. A significant portion of our policy efforts are focused on reforming sectors like education, state housing and justice. I believe reform in these and other areas will help in our goal of giving young people better opportunities.
Crime is up despite the Government’s policy of locking up everyone they can get their hands on for longer.
43. Gareth Morgan, economist and investor: What is the single most important policy advance, to your mind, if NZ is going to have any chance of closing the income gap with Australia?
I have always maintained there is no one silver bullet. It will be a raft of policies that lift New Zealand’s economic performance. Reforming our tax system in a fair and equitable way is one. Reducing red tape, boosting infrastructure such as broadband, electric rail and road networks, driving better performance in the public sector, and encouraging innovation, particularly in science, are others. This will be an ongoing programme, year-on-year.
The Tax Working Group never said that its tax reforms would boost growth. It never claimed that. It is merely a process of redistributing the wealth from poor to rich.
45. Helen Kelly, president, Council of Trade Unions: Why won’t the government do more in the job creation space when the small initiatives to date have been successful, are cost-effective, and benefit the country as a whole, and particularly when unemployment is higher now than it was when these initiatives were started? Why not, for instance, expand schemes like Community Max or Job Ops or similar schemes or invest in assisting people who are unemployed to gain the skills they need to re-enter the workforce?
You must remember we inherited an economy in recession it’s now been growing for nearly a year that’s a good start. To date, Job Ops has provided 4539 positions for young people with little or no qualifications, keeping them connected to the workplace and earning a wage. The scheme was designed to help young people through a recession by providing a subsidy to employers to take them on. It has been hugely successful. The Community Max scheme was designed also to assist young people into subsidised positions working with communities on local projects. This scheme has also been very popular with young people and the community; both have been a great success.
Both Job Ops and Community Max were designed as time-limited, targeted initiatives to mitigate the effects of a recession on young people who lack the skills, qualifications or experience to compete in a tight labour market. The government is giving consideration to the future of these schemes.
The government is also working with employers through industry partnerships to link beneficiaries with jobs with good results. Every week over a third of those who walk into Work and Income looking for a benefit don’t end up needing one because of an intense focus on matching jobs with people as fast as possible.
Job Ops is just a giant rort – employers just get paid for jobs they were creating anyway. That’s why Treasury described it as poor spending. The government actually cut money for training. It’s good that unemployment is finally coming down but there are quarter of a million jobless Kiwis and unemployment is higher than Australia for the first time in a decade.