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Still swilling the small beer

Written By: - Date published: 2:00 am, January 23rd, 2009 - 51 comments
Categories: john key, national/act government - Tags:

John Key has written to the Remuneration Board imploring them not to increase wages for MPs and judges in the annual review later this year.

Now, I’ve stated my view on this issue – on National Radio the other week and last year in this post. I reckon MPs’ wages, along with the minimum wage and benefits, should increase at the same rate as the median wage or inflation, whichever is higher. That would mean smaller increases for MPs on the whole (and deny the media a cheap anti-politician story each year) but that doesn’t mean I support Key’s call for an MP wage freeze. Far from it.

First, we should all be uncomfortable with the PM trying to exert pressure on an independent body. Next he’ll be telling the Reserve Bank to change interest rates – whoops, he already has. Labour Ministers generally did a good job of keeping to the right side of this line and when they did, rarely, overstep National seized on that as evidence that public service neutrality was compromised. Key should live up to his campaign hype and keep his nose out of the decisions of independent bodies.

Secondly, we shouldn’t turn politicians’ pay into a political football. A freeze this year? Why not next year too? Hell, why not a pay cut? When pay is politicised politics becomes a rich man’s game.

Thirdly, aren’t there more important things Key should be doing than trying to exert unconstitutional influence (don’t confuse unconstitutional with illegal) over the Remuneration Board? Even if he does cause them not to rise MPs’ and judges’ wages, so what? 122 MPs, average pay about $150K, cancelling a 5% pay rise saves us $900,000. Let’s double that to include the judges. We’re talking 0.003% of government spending – 15 minutes’ worth.

The previous government’s failure was in inadequately managing the media – failing to communicate its story, its values, its achievements. This government’s failure seems to be in putting media management ahead of managing the country – the job for which they are employed.

Key needs to stop playing for petty PR stories and get focused on things that matter.

51 comments on “Still swilling the small beer”

  1. IrishBill 1

    “his government’s failure seems to be in putting media management ahead of managing the country – the job for which they are employed.”

    The question is, if they continue in this vein, will there be a political fall-out or is the art of politics so weighted toward PR now that actual governance no longer matters?

  2. lprent 2

    It is surely a government given to empty gestures and relatively little actual work.

    Most of the time when they do something, it isn’t thought through. Look at the Fire-at-Will Act and the Needlessly-Test-The-Kiddies Act.

    I think that people do make up their own mind. The real issue is that after a long period of this pack of idiots denigrating the process as well as the people in government, that they will complete the task by being bloody useless as well. It is the normal trait of National governments.

    Then it takes along time to get government back to being perceived as being something that works for its contributors and not just for themselves. PR is good at wrecking peoples perceptions of organizations. It is a lot harder to build it up.

  3. ieuan 3

    ‘The previous government’s failure was in inadequately managing the media – failing to communicate its story, its values, its achievements.’

    What are we living in Cuba now?

    Come on, the previous governments failure was not reading the mood of the people.

    As for saving $900K not being important, send it my way, no better still give it to ‘Youth Line’ or ‘Plunket’ they do good work and are always looking for money.

  4. Tigger 4

    Yep, welcome to our new reality, where independent bodies are either pressured to bend to the government’s will or, in the case of Pharmac, the government will do a run around them.

    Of course, if politicians freeze their own wages then they have a far better case to call for businesses to freeze all wages or at least they make this sort of thing acceptable for private businesses owned by Key’s mates to do so… And they will be freezing the wages of people who earn a lot less than MPs.

  5. higherstandard 5


    You last paragraph is more applicable to the last government than this one, we will have to wait a few years to see if there’s any improvement in the perception of government/politicians under the current mob. Although I very much doubt the publics opinion will change very markedly.

    I also find it odd that SP accused the previous government of failing in media management as they were amongst the most PR heavy and ‘spun” administrations (and bureaucracies) in NZ. If Key really wanted to save some public money perhaps a gutting followed by a limit on PR hacks and consultants in government and the Ministries would be a useful start.

  6. lprent 6

    hs: The 5th Labour government was pretty good at doing what needed to be done. For instance dealing with the superannuation problem and debt left over from Muldoon.

    It just was not good at defending itself against concerted attempt to denigrate the process of government.

    This government is already showing strong signs of running out of ideas. They are pissing around at the edges rather than doing the things needed to be done – like dealing with a major recession. They look like they will follow the Muldoon example. Do a lot of meaningless (and expensive) gestures to feather the pockets of their friends, while passing debt to the kids.

  7. higherstandard 7


    Independent bodies like the Hawkes Bay District Health Board ?

    Come on “independent bodies”, “QANGOS” call them what you like have always been pressured overtly or covertly by governments of the day.

    Lynn –

    I think you’re starting to sound like a grumpy caller to talkback !

    I’m not expecting great things from this government, much as I didn’t expect great things from the last government. Suggesting that they have Muldoon like tendencies though is bizzarre, they’ve got far more in common with the last Labour government than they ever will with Muldoon’s.

    You know as well as I that the person who did the most to overcome the issues left by the last Muldoon government is he who must not be named !

    Michael Cullen’s good fortune was to inherit good books and an excellent international and local period of growth so as to correctly pay down debt and look to solve NZs poor savings record. Bill English’s poor fortune is to attempt to keep the country afloat in fairly dire economic conditions.

  8. HS – you’re a dipshit… The “spin doctors” you’re banging on about are mostly people loading web content. Guess why dipshit? No, actually, don’t even try – you’ll just get it wrong ‘cos you’re a dipshit. I’ll tell you outright – it’s because everyone uses the internet and expects to be able to get the answer to everything from it… Especially govt material…

    Of course a dipshit like yourself isn’t gonna be interested in the increase in transparency offered by this when there’s a cheap and dishonest line up for grabs… I reckon you should just fuck off to KB where you can enjoy the company of fellow ignorant trolls…

    A shame really ‘cos you used to be reasonably sane…

  9. higherstandard 9


    There’s no need for the personal abuse just because your funding stream is reliant on producing pretty websites for government departments and/or loading large amounts of mindless drivel upon those websites.

    If your services are deemed to be good value for money I’m sure you’ve got nothing to worry about.

  10. lprent 10

    hs: I’ve always sounded like this about national governments. They are always very good at not doing the things that need to be done.

    Sure Cullen had a relatively easy ride, but he protected the debt repayment process, and pre-debt payments from the continuous calls to spend it on consumption now. The tax-cuts were a ridiculous idea from people who have no intelligence to understand that the government has to be in a good position to weather times like these.

    Whatever you want to say about roger, you’d have to concede that fiscally he left the country in a far worse position than he found it. He did a lot of structural fixes, but bugger all on the basic work of a finance minister – clearing the debty for the bad times. Similarly the national governments of the 90’s didn’t either. They chose giving taxcuts to their supporters over making the economy more effective, and gave us a nice long recession.

    Cullen actually did the job of a finance minister. I don’t think that English will measure up to the standard. To be precise I think he will raid the super fund to pay for taxcuts today.

  11. Whero 11

    Irish Bill said:

    “The question is, if they continue in this vein, will there be a political fall-out or is the art of politics so weighted toward PR now that actual governance no longer matters”

    Good point. Sadly, I think you might be correct. The PR is made easier by the indolent local MSM more interested in filling the space left behind after the display ads are laid out than any Fourth Estate responsibility. Its taken the Goober 77 days to put out his missive on remuneration – it took Obama 1 day – has anyone seen anything in The New Zealand Fox News Herald to point out that the Goober is a copy cat with no ideas of his own? No, instead there is this fawning comparision amounting to more virtual felatio.

    I take hope from the election of Obama. Even the American voters (not God’s brightest little candles) finally awoke and ceased listening to either their leaders or the MSM and, instead, somehow realised for themselves they had been blinded by PR. They realised after the first four years but, by then, the Bush regime had so corrupted their system, the MSM and PR industry so embedded into government that the will of the people was overruled.

    Could that happen here?

  12. higherstandard 12

    Lynn RD didn’t leave the country in a far worse position fiscally than he found it

    That’s an extraordinary comment

    “Whatever you want to say about roger, you’d have to concede that fiscally he left the country in a far worse position than he found it.”

    I have to disagree completely with you.

  13. Tigger 13

    HS – of course you can point to organisations that the last government pressured. But, as SP points out, they had a good sense to mostly keep their hands off organisations like the Remuneration Authority and the Reserve Bank.

    For a group who decried the Labour nanny state they are very good at trying to control everything and everyone…

  14. the sprout 14

    When you compare how little Key has done in the first couple of months compared to what Obama has done in the first couple of days, it really is excruciatingly embarrassing.

  15. lprent 15

    The bleed rate from government after douglas was very close to the bleed rate before douglas, if you remove the asset sales.

    The widespread labour restructure mostly consisted of people getting dumped from private and public jobs and going to swell the ranks of the unemployed. They were then carried by the tax payers. It took a long time for the economy to adjust to provide new jobs and for sufficent people to get upskilled.

    Effectively douglas was using the asset sales to minimize the debt increase. But the government debt after douglas was far higher then before douglas.

    Now a lot of the structural stuff should have been done long before. But Douglas still left the government coffers worse off after he left than before. The revenue vs expense was just as bad (and maybe worse) albeit at a lower level.

    Ignore the mythology and look at the actual numbers

  16. cha 16

    When you compare how little Key has done in the first couple of months compared to what Obama has done in the first couple of days, it really is excruciatingly embarrassing.

    sprout,. things like Rush Limbaugh saying I Fear Obama’s Repeal Of Bush-Era Secrecy Rules ‘Make It Easier’ To Hold Bush To Account

  17. Tigger 17

    sprout – I guess that’s what happens when you go on holiday only weeks after taking a job. If I had asked for leave so soon after starting my job my employer would have (a) said no and (b) rightly questioned my commitment.

  18. Felix 18

    So, National supporters – how’s all the “change” going?

    Getting what you expected from your government? Any complaints?

    Or maybe I should ask again once they’ve had a couple of months to get going… oh hang on…

  19. vto 19

    Good job that MPs pay is restricted. I have been absolutely disgusted year after year after year at the rate of increase they get. It is consistently above inflation and other wage increases. It is also consistently above other public jobs – recall the nurse pay dispute which was settled at some low rate like 2 or 3%, only to have the MPs wages increase by some rude 10% or so a few months later.

    It stinks, so good on Key. And for all your hypocritical complaining re media spin and easy newspaper headlines this will resonate with the public.

    And SP your suggestion that the wages should rise at inflation or median wage, whichever is the higher, smacks of simple greed. Talk about wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

  20. HS – unlike yourself I don’t rely on government money to keep me in hookers and gin. In fact it may come as a surprise to you but the invective aimed at your dipshit self was generated only by my intense dislike of your snide and ignorant persona… I know you would prefer to think you were disliked due to the flaws of the dislikers but unfortunately my wee mate it’s entirely due to the fact that you are an unlikeable dipshit…

    Now fuck off to KB like the good little troll you are…

    [lprent: I refer you to F#$%*n Banned!. You want to write version 2.0? Repetition is such a drag…]

  21. toms 21

    It is becoming daily more apparent that this current lot are going to be characterised by absence at the helm rather than their decision making skills.

    Try this for a bit of fun: google “Anne Tolly” and see how many times that this deeply stupid woman has already refused interviews or to comment since she was elected. And then you’ll see exactly how little governing National actually plans to do. It is like we’ve elected a government for about three Cheneys, ten Bush 43’s and an assorted job lot of alcoholics and stupid people.

  22. vto 22

    Felix, the “change” from the corrupt, power-driven, compromised bunch of has-beens that made up the labour-NZF shambles is going great it seems. All that horrid smelly baggage is no longer.

  23. Carol 23

    Whero, the US MSM, started to get strongly behind Obama at some point in his campaign. I’m not sure exactly when, but it amplified the momentum for Obama.

    I think a large section of the US public is still influenced by the MSM and I’m not sure that they wanted a major change in the US neo-liberal capitalist agenda. I think many wanted to see the positive image of the US and it’s international moral authority returned. Plus there were some other factors like the concerns over the financial crisis.

  24. Felix 24


    Good, but I was looking for something other than vague cliches – now that the election is over we can talk in terms of acts, not words. Like, has your government done anything to live up to the hype of “change”?

    So far I don’t see anything that would impress me had I voted for “a change”.

  25. spot 25

    “It is surely a government given to empty gestures and relatively little actual work….”

    Tough crowd at The Standard, at least this early on. Honestly, have they had that much time at the helm ?

    Election day 8th Nov, Cabinet ‘sworn’ (if that’s the phrase) about 2 weeks later, MPs sworn in 2nd week Decemeber, Parliament sat for about a week (under urgency), then summer recess (for all), house not due to sit until the 12th Feb etc etc.

    The Public Service isn’t exactly at full steam during this period either, and I’m sure they do the lions share of the work.

    I’d prefer any Government to take the time it needs to get the right decisions/policy made, current climate and all. No short-term fixes for what we have on our plate, and that the Nats haven’t said much to date (?) doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of ideas/plans.

    (I hope)

  26. vto 26

    Felix, I know what you mean. On the action front things seems a bit skinny. And I know many people are starting to raise their eyebrows a little. But on the other front the change has been satisfied. Clark, Cullen, Peters, etc together with their ‘style’ and baggage being removed was a significant part of the ‘change’ people voted for.

    A lot of people seem very happy with Key and the different style of leadership. In fact overly happy. Be curious to see some polls..

  27. Jasper 27


    When Obama gave his “Time for a Change” speech is when the MSM got right behind him.

  28. Whero 28

    Tigger said:

    ” . . . For a group who decried the Labour nanny state they are very good at trying to control everything and everyone? ”

    We’ve gone from Nanny State to Daddy State.

  29. higherstandard 29

    Dear Sod

    Most of my income comes from private practice and investments, my public practice accounts for a very small proportion of income.

    Please accept my apologies in relation to my comments about your income stream – I should have realised from your website and that you wouldn’t be employed to produce websites or indeed content for any sane organisation or indeed even governmental departments.

    PS Are you DPF ? You seem determined to send people to his site.


    I think governments meddle and influence supposedly independent organisations and QANGOs all the time, it’s just business as usual (whether it’s good business as usual is of course debatable)

  30. Well it’s like they said in The Hollow Men, a National government would be light on actual policy but would hire a lot of PR people, web designers and other advertising people to fill the gap. This is exactly what we’re seeing and it’s sadly what a lot of the idiots who are also my fellow countrymen voted for.

  31. Anita 31

    The thing I don’t get (and think the media should be covering 🙂 is whether saying it now is in any way relevant.

    The current determination was made in November last year and is effective July 2008 to June 2009. So the new determination will be effective from July this year, but (I’m guessing) may actually be made much later in the year).

    So why talk about it in January? I can’t imagine the Remuneration Authority is actually doing anything about it right now, and the economic climate may change between now and whenever they do.

  32. HS, Private practice you say? I’m guessing there’s a good market explanation for the vast amount of time you have to spend making dipshit comments on the internets…

    I only hope you are a pediatrician or a gynecologist’s nurse as either would dramatically reduce my chances of ever falling prey to your dipshittedness in a more significant fashion than mere exposure to your absurd commentary…

    Oh and Lynn? I’ll behave better now…

  33. Anita 33

    I just read through to the end of the determination. It includes the fact that the “basic expenses allowance” is intended to cover things like raffle tickets and passport photos.

    I’m sure that list added value some how to some thing, but… 🙂

  34. @ work 34

    Speaking of small beer, any one else noticed Farrars column has dissapeared from the NBR? got the result they wanted, carefully and uncritically ushered him in and Farrars propaganda services no longer required perhaps?

  35. higherstandard 35


    If you are a male and judging by your demeanour you most certainly are, and you live long enough you will quite likely require the services of myself or one of my colleagues.

  36. I’ve heard they got Farrar on board to try to boost their online numbers by feeding off kiwiblog (which is why Farrar would advertise his column at the bog, close comments there and encourage comments at NBR). I’ve also heard it didn’t work and there are some concerns that Farrar’s stats might not be what they seem…

    edit: HS – Oh god – you’re a proctologist! That explains so very much… Could you please let me know which island you practice in so I can eliminate any chance of contracting your services! I’ll fly to Christchurch if I have too!

  37. Whero 37

    Carol said:

    ” … the US MSM, started to get strongly behind Obama at some point in his campaign. I’m not sure exactly when, but it amplified the momentum for Obama”

    At the risk of going off topic – the reason you can’t pinpoint when the MSM swung in behind Obama is because it never happened. Sure, there were the (very) few columnists in the MSM who gave him a fair go but they were quickly shouted down. Except in New York where, I have to say, once his nomination was complete, Obama got a great run. Have a look at: http://mediamatters.org/index and have a rummage around there for the details.

  38. Draco T Bastard 38

    Suggesting that they have Muldoon like tendencies though is bizzarre, they’ve got far more in common with the last Labour government than they ever will with Muldoon’s.

    You do understand that Muldoon was a Keynesian economist don’t you?

    For a group who decried the Labour nanny state they are very good at trying to control everything and everyone

    Of course, if it had been left up to people like NACT we would still be living in an Absolutist world.

  39. higherstandard 39


    Close but no cigar.

    If you’re in Wellington you’re safe from me I only practise in Auckland, don’t fly to Christchurch on my account I wouldn’t wish that on anyone ……..cue lunatic ranting from our friends down south.

  40. Felix 40


    Yep, some polls would be interesting.

    I think a good bunch of the people who voted “for a change” are pretty uninterested in politics outside of election season, and will many will revert to complaining about “the gummint”, whoever it happens to be.

    I won’t be putting any bets on the next poll though.

  41. lprent 41

    spot: I’d prefer any Government to take the time it needs to get the right decisions/policy made, current climate and all. No short-term fixes for what we have on our plate, and that the Nats haven’t said much to date (?) doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of ideas/plans.

    Perhaps you should read ETS submission open because if you want to make a submission to the select committee then you have to do it before early Feb.

    Does that sound like taking time for consideration? Or does it sound like a pack of wankers trying to sneak things below the radar. Consider the date of that announcement when looking at the question of wankers.

  42. spot 42

    “Does that sound like taking time for consideration? Or does it sound like a pack of wankers trying to sneak things below the radar”

    A “pack of wankers”. Seriously? I’ll cease to comment, not much point if that’s where the conversation gets to.


  43. lprent: — further to your suggestion I took a look at SamP’s comment of January 8th.. in which was commented:

    Another good one to use is inter-generational equity, which is pretty self explanatory. However, our government isn’t even concerned with equality for those who are living now, so I don’t imagine them caring about equality for those who aren’t even born.

    This morning Rodney Hyde was interviewed on RNZ and distinctly heard to say:

    I believe in the freedom of people to make mistakes.

    Put together it appears to me that this whole thing amounts to copout. Submissions people may make but to what end? Where lies the confidence in those who called for it..? And perforce will act thereafter according to their own beliefs anyway. Would there be any point in non-submission.. ie lack of confidence in the perpetuating parties..

  44. lprent,

    oops! the second blockquote ends at ‘mistakes’

    [lprent: fixed]

  45. lprent 45

    spot: After all of the waffling that NACT did when the ETS was going through about lack of public input? What would you have me call them?

    Perhaps lying hypocritical scheming undemocratic arrogant ‘pleasant people’?

    The lying part is about public consultation….. arrogant is for doing things that Labour would never have dared to do. undemocratic is for how they are doing it. scheming – well that is Act.

    Effectively they have asked for submissions when most people were on holiday. Then given a really short period to have the submissions in.

    They have done it when most academics who have actual expertise on the subject are doing research all over the world – that is what earth scientists and climatologists do during the university break.

    Now tell me – how would you describe this submission period???

  46. On the matter of submissions in relation to CO2 emissions( ie ONLY CO2) the post-Bush autopsy data emerging suggests that any policies arising from ‘fast-follower’ or simply ‘follower’ reliance would deliver nothing “better” per the enzed government’s declared intentions. And the reason— erroneous actual data and record keeping by the Bush administration…

    Oh yes, what has been revealed fits a very deliberate pattern of concealment..Of the facts.

    First hint (and my thanks) to the solveclimate blog. Next confirmation from Dr. Joe Romm at Thinkprogress and here the engineer Brian Angliss’s blog with all linked refs and a very solid presentation.

    Good read.. most useful and distinctly up todate. Would add a definite edge to submitters’ case.

  47. spot 47

    “Now tell me – how would you describe this submission period???”

    I’m not equipped to comment, not my field of expertise, or ‘interest’. I’ve little knowledge about what has gone before, what has been submitted/subject to select committee review, nor am I au fait with that changes the Nats have proposed.

    So I’ll take at face value comments on the subject from yourself, IB, SP et al that it’s not enough time, you know more about it than I do.

    Having said that, the theme of this post was focussing (generally) on the ‘things that matter’, having plans, taking action (etc) – perhaps this is a reflection of that, that the Govt feel strongly about where they need to take this thing.

    The ‘bunch of w*nkers’ thing, personally, I don’t believe any politician deserving of the moniker, on either side of the house.

  48. Felix 48

    The ‘bunch of w*nkers’ thing, personally, I don’t believe any politician deserving of the moniker, on either side of the house.

    Then i hope you never have to deal with any of them. It will certainly alter your perspective.

  49. burt 49

    Steve P.

    “I’m all for larger public service pay rises. But you’ve got to be able to pay for them.”

    google will reveal who I’m quoting. The same person also said to my persistent suggestion that MP’s salaries are linked to the minimum wage;

    I would like to see MPs wages tied to the minimum wage but it’s miniscule part of government spending and not something that politicians decide so I don’t see why you go on and on about it.

    But hey, yes I should have included benefits in the equation as well, I’m glad you added that idea.

  50. BLiP 50

    Some egg said:

    ” . . . The article clearly quotes Key as saying this isn’t on the Government’s agenda at the present moment . . . ”

    Judging by the first 100 days, Goober and the National Party have nothing on the agenda.

    Makes me suspicious. What are they up to? Waiting for Weldon & Co to tell them what to do?

    One thing they are not doing is showing the slightest hint, the merest whiff, the scantiest scant hint of leadership.

  51. lukas 51

    January 23, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I’ve heard they got Farrar on board to try to boost their online numbers by feeding off kiwiblog (which is why Farrar would advertise his column at the bog, close comments there and encourage comments at NBR). I’ve also heard it didn’t work and there are some concerns that Farrar’s stats might not be what they seem

    Looks like you were wrong ‘Sod… your “source” is not as reliable as you think apparently.

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