Written By: - Date published: 12:27 pm, September 16th, 2017 - 45 comments
Categories: election 2017, jacinda ardern, john key, labour, Media, Politics, superannuation, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:
I suspect that a few progressives’ screens this morning had blobs of coffee sprayed all over them as they read John Armstrong’s attempt to derail the Jacinda juggernaut through the power of his words. The only problem is his words now have little force and the logic in his sentences is hard to ascertain.
He is the man who in an unforgiveable example of hyperbole demanded the resignation of David Cunliffe for forgetting about a form letter written a decade beforehand during the 2014 campaign. Remember the Donghua Liu scandal and how at a crucial time during the campaign Labour was robbed of momentum and smeared with allegations that it had accepted funding for political influence.
And what was really funny is that National’s sting was taken by the media hook line and sinker. It subsequently transpired that National had received a large donation from Liu and because of some unethical use of the disclosure laws the donation was not disclosed at a time that Maurice Williamson was sacked as a cabinet minister for overstepping the mark in relation to Liu. If the media had only done its job properly who knows what could have happened.
Armstrong has appeared again and written this attack piece on Jacinda Ardern.
He claims that Ardern has tripped and made a campaign killing error in changing Labour’s position on tax and on the retirement age. In making this claim he blissfully ignores most recent polling which suggests that Labour is still improving and the Green Party is consolidating its vote.
He claims that Ardern’s desire to bring the New Zealand people along with her is somehow a weakness and contrasts her to John Key, who never ever relied on focus group results or changed direction if he thought there was political merit on doing so. No siree. Not once. Never.
He says this:
Much of Ardern’s amazing rapport with voters has sprung from her being something of a female version of John Key – approachable, open, down to earth, not judgmental, and arrogance-free.
But there is one major difference between them. She has insisted any government she runs will listen and then act. It will lead, not follow.
Of particular note has been her declaration that she will not shy away from tackling the “big generational issues”.
When it comes to such issues, they do not come any bigger or more vexed than the fairness of the country’s tax system and the affordability of current state-funded pension entitlements. With regard to the latter, she has gone Awol.
She has adopted John Key’s pledge to resign as prime minister were the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation to be raised under her watch. Likewise were there to be any reduction in current entitlements enjoyed by those who qualify for the state pension.
Sure, Ardern has made assurances that Labour will restore the annual payments into the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, whose purpose is to meet the shortfall in funding to pay the burgeoning cost of the pension as the population ages.
That might be fine if Labour could guarantee it will be in power for the next 30 to 40 years without interruption.
It can make no such assurance, of course.
Relying on National to feed the fund is optimism at its most hopeless. Despite wallowing in deep surpluses, the ruling party has opted to postpone the resumption of contributions for another three years.
Armstrong’s last three paragraphs provide the perfect reason to change the Government. National is hopeless at planning for the future. But blaming Ardern for this is many levels of weird.
It is Key and National who have gone AWOL. Labour’s policy is to resume contributions to the Cullen Fund to address the affordability of superannuation. And in a world where jobs are going to become more insecure and the future of work is going to become less and less predictable it is actually a good idea to allow older people to retire to allow younger people to take their jobs. Work is disappearing. We need to change things so that everyone can live in comfort and this is precisely why keeping the retirement age where it is is a good idea.
Armstrong then says this about Labour’s capital gains tax policy.
Ardern’s ducking the matter has been completely overshadowed by the U-turn on a capital gains tax, however.
Some would argue she is deserving of huge credit for having tried to speed the implementation of a measure which organisations as unalike as the International Monetary Fund and the Green Party agree is essential.
Ardern and Grant Robertson, Labour’s finance spokesman, have sought to downplay the change of mind that will see any such tax subject to receiving a mandate from voters at the 2020 election, rather than being implemented before then.
The mauling that Labour received from National this week was a reminder enough of how politically poisonous such a measure remains.
The attempt to short-circuit the usual process for introducing a reform of such magnitude is likely to prove to be wholly counter-productive.
Who in their right political mind is going to go into bat for the measure at the 2020 election?
Earth to Armstrong. Labour continues to have as its policy the extension of the bright line test for house sales to five years as well as the preferential tax treatment given to speculators being removed.
And other aspects of a capital gains tax have not been discarded, the Tax Working Party is still planned. It is just that the changes will be put to a popular vote.
It is a strange column really. Armstrong is essentially criticising Labour for being nearly as bad as National.