- Date published:
7:08 am, July 18th, 2016 - 196 comments
Categories: john key, national, useless - Tags: brighter future, fran o'sullivan, housing, housing crisis, third termitis, tracy watkins
Even National’s fans are worried for them these days. Fran O’Sullivan:
Rich-lister sends message to Key
Rich-lister Stephen Jennings’ warning that “we are facing an iceberg” deserves to shatter business complacency on housing. It should also shatter the complacency of the Prime Minister – if he allows himself to hear it.
Jennings has confronted the business elite with some unpalatable truths: rising house prices and immigration-fuelled economic growth are masking an underlying “iceberg that lies ahead”.
“We are sleepwalking into an economically ugly place,” he warns. “How can we look at ourselves in the mirror and say how can we live with having one of the most unequal education systems in the Western world – and even if you are very selfish you better say to yourself that is not sustainable. “Those chickens are going to come home to roost.” Powerful stuff.
No one from National’s front bench was present to hear him prick the Key Government’s self-satisfaction. That Government has been widely lauded for grappling with the fallout from the Global Financial Crisis and getting the books back into surplus. It has also been a stable Government. But it is now dangerously moving into the self-satisfaction zone that tends to creep up on an administration that has held power for a long time.
Several guests were disappointed no one from Key’s inner circle was present. “Are they going to take the message back to the big guys?” one asked me. “Jesus Christ, what are your grandkids going to do?” said another, predicting it would not be long before young New Zealanders head off overseas again because they could not get a toehold here. …
Housing solutions out of reach
Here are the signs that the Government has lost some of its usual composure.
Ministers have fumbled the housing issue – badly. This week’s “announcement” about the Government forgoing Housing New Zealand dividends seemed particularly untidy.
The shine has come off some of its star performers, including Key’s personal favourite to succeed him, Paula Bennett. If housing is the Government’s achilles heel, it has become Bennett’s bêête noire. There are even questions about whether Housing Minister Nick Smith – one of a dwindling number of faces from the last National government in the 1990s – is on borrowed time.
Meanwhile, ministers appear embroiled in an escalating war with the bean counters across the road at Treasury, rubbishing the advice of their paid boffins on everything from bowel cancer screening to the 90-day-trial period.
As for ideology, that’s been conveniently tossed overboard. A $2 billion programme to renew the state housing stock, and let’s forgo the HNZ dividend while we’re at it? Pah, why not! Even if it’s not so long ago that Finance Minister Bill English was reminding everyone dividends were useful for imposing commercial discipline on Crown-owned entities. A view that is, by the way, as core to National ideology as saving the whales is to the Greens.
Or maybe it’s just an old-fashioned case of third-term blues. Because National is certainly running hard up against the realities of a third term. The country’s problems are well and truly theirs to own, and fix. It used to be fun blaming everything on the last Labour government but only the most try-hard National MPs still laugh at that joke. There are too many seemingly insoluble problems, like housing affordability, which lurches from bad to worse with every $50,000 hike in the median house price.
According to insiders, Labour feels like it’s owning the housing debate at the moment. Labour’s policy is certainly easier to understand. In a nutshell, it’s build more houses. National will howl that things are never that simple. But that’s the curse of being in government. It never is. That’s why they call it the third-term blues.
The “third termitis” meme is becoming well established. Plenty there for the Nats to ponder.