The wage gap and the Nats’ crediblity gap

Written By: - Date published: 5:01 pm, June 12th, 2008 - 30 comments
Categories: national, slippery, wages, workers' rights - Tags:

Remember when National was all about the wage gap, whinging about it every day? Heard them talk about it lately? The last mention we can find is three weeks ago. Has the issue suddenly gone away?

No, there is still a wage gap and solutions to it require serious debate. But National wasn’t talking about the wage gap because they had great solutions to present (tax cuts? well, we know that tax cuts cannot close the wage gap, only wage increases can), it was merely a stick to beat the Government with. That’s what the ‘New Zealand sucks’ campaign is all about.

So, rather than get drawn into an actual debate, National has dropped the issue and picked up another: trying to beat up a crisis over the hydro lake levels. Once again, National has no actual answer. It opposed the Government setting up the Electricity Commission, which created the reserve power plant at Whirinaki, and we don’t need more capacity now, we have 8500MW vs 6700MW peak demand. After several weeks of National attacks having a clean run, a serious debate on electricity is starting to develop and, as with the wage gap, National is being shown up as having no solutions.

Soon, it will be time to move on. Indeed, they haven’t mentioned lake levels since a half-hearted press release two days ago. Just wait, soon enough National will have another topic to beat up (my bet is crime) and the ‘New Zealand sucks’ campaign will be on again.

30 comments on “The wage gap and the Nats’ crediblity gap”

  1. IrishBill 1

    National have been playing a hit and run public relations game for a few years now. It’s not a bad strategy for an opposition as the news-cycle moves so fast nowadays that by the time the facts are out the story is old news and there’s a new “scandal” to focus on. This PR tactic usually ends in a loss of credibility but so far the media don’t seem to be fatigued by National.

    If I was advising the government I would suggest they put a lot of resource into follow up. Actually contacting the journalist who ran the story and having a bit of a yarn about the story and the hit and run tactic once the dust settles is a good way of inoculating later attempts. It takes a lot of work but over a period of a few months you can render the tactic useless.

    I really don’t think Labour have enough PR people who are willing to approach journalists and do this in the way it needs to be done. They are too focused on big picture “brand” work. Call me old fashioned but I don’t think “branding” is any substitute for just wandering down to the gallery and having a yarn every so often and I think a failure to do so can put a party at risk of seeming out of touch and arrogant in the eyes of the people that they rely on to communicate their stories.

  2. Chris 2

    The beautiful irony about National’s govt. bashing over restricted electricity supply is, if they had their way, there would be no accountable body because it would be under private control and the only accountability would be the “market” and its shareholders. It is only because the control of supply is in public hands and accountable directly to the government (and by proxy the people) that National are even able to blame the govt. from atop their gilded high horse. I’ll bet this irony is lost on them…

  3. ants 3

    Its pretty easy to come up with ammo against Labour when everything in the country is falling apart at the seams:

    Crime, education, health, roading, power, OECD ranking, wages, manufacturing, interest rates, exchange rate (AU,EU), number of beneficiaries (WFF), etc etc.

    National would be silly not to have shots at these easy targets – in fact, Labour would do and have done the same so I don’t see any problems with this.

  4. polaris 4

    Chris – got evidence for that?

    SP – where do you source your 8500 MW vs 6700 MW at peak demand claim? That doesn’t seem to mesh with what people in the industry is saying. If that’s correct, why is the emergency back up plant at Whirinaki running full bore (with diesel so expensive that it sets the market price very high)… why don’t we just use the extra capacity first?

    Did you see Parker’s claim that emissions from electricity have gone down since 2000 when they’ve actually gone up – Farrar fisked that pretty good.

    Finally in relation to no solutions haven’t the Nats been banging on about reforming the RMA to allow more renewable generation? In fact your good friends at Kiwiblogblog even mentioned this in a recent speech Gerry Brownlee gave – see http://kiwiblogblog.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/credit-to-gerry/

  5. polaris. We’re not running the hydro dams at full capacity because it hasn’t been raining. They’re conserving the water. The capcity is there but if we use hydro capacity at full now we risk running out of water to drive them. You know, what this whole issue is about?

    Over the long-term emission are falling. they obviously rise at present when we’re conserving water for hydro by using thermal.

    And, weakening the RMA isn’t a solution because a) they haven’t said how they would weaken it b) the minister already has and uses call-in powers c) capacity isn’t a problem so why would having more power plants solve it?

  6. Tane 6

    Ants – so many half-truths and flat out lies that have been refuted over and over again on this site. People like you are the reason National gets away with its hollow lines.

  7. randal 7

    The nats are in big time damage control at the moment. a) they know they are not going to win the election and b) its showing up in actions like JOhn Carters little outburst. They are in meltdown mode.

  8. Rex Widerstrom 8

    What IrishBill said. However oppositions have been doing exactly this as long as I’ve been actively involved in media and politics and probably well before.

    Sadly it’s the only way to feed the media these days. A (non-political) example… I’m doing PR for a group affected by the liquidation of a certain company. That company went through a voluntary administration only 4 years ago in which creditors (including staff) were forced to accept 0 cents in the dollar or see it fold and fight over the entrails.

    However when I tried to raise this history with most journos the response I got was universally a variant of “we don’t recall that, we haven’t got time to go research it (or even read the documentation you’ve offered us), and we don’t care. Just give us the ‘he said’ for our typical ‘he said / she said’ piece”.

    So the story runs with nil context, nil investigation, nil analysis.

    For once we can’t blame the pollies. They’re only giving the media what it demands. Till we demand better from our media (or the blogs rise up and take over the world!) then ADD reportage is what we’re stuck with.

  9. johndoe 9

    God, you are so silly. Low wage levels are a strategic concern, meaning it is a theme that goes on and on, and lakes are rather more immediate in their capacity to affect all of us in the immediate future. Of course energy gets more daily attention. national.org.nz/MediaReleases.aspx?S=49

  10. Pascal's bookie 10

    johndoe. I’m waiting to see how John Key plans on making Australian wages drop. Is that still the strategic plan?

    I couldn’t see anything about it over at the mess of a site you failed at linking to though.

    The Strategic Wages Gap (sounds so cold war nostalgic) doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the front page. So maybe it’s not a theme that goes on and on for the Nats. It’s just one that went on and the seemed to fall into a policy black hole. Which is the point of this post.

    Perhaps we check the latest release from the Labour & Industrial Relations Spokeswoman. She’ll be on top of National party policy for this strategic issue that just goes on and on. Nope.

    Looks like this post isn’t so silly after all. It looks like it was spot on. The Nats go on about things, but don’t have any policy to share with us. Or even with their spokespeople. Perhaps if we formed a lobby group with a swanky name they’d tell us their policy.

  11. Disengaged 11

    SP: “We’re not running the hydro dams at full capacity because it hasn’t been raining. They’re conserving the water. The capcity is there but if we use hydro capacity at full now we risk running out of water to drive them.”

    Huh? So there is no need to worry about New Zealand’s power generation because we have plenty of capacity, but we can’t use it because we don’t have the water. Isn’t that like a taxi driver saying I’m not worried about the price of petrol because my car has a large petrol tank, but I can’t drive you to the airport because I can’t afford to fill it?

  12. Matthew Pilott 12

    Disengaged – think of it as the difference between the power output of your car, and the petrol remaining to generate that power output.
    We have plenty of car power (our max output is enough to deal with NZ’s peak demand) but we’re running low on gas (hydro lake levels are low) so we need to conserve petrol (not use the water – unlike the car example, we have an alternative to keep that power level up – peaking stations such as Whirinaki).

    Building power stations will provide peak capacity for drought years, but that’s about it (find me a capitalist who’d do that!); in normal years they’d be extraneous.

    Whirinaki is running full-bore to conserve that hydro water – but I expect this will all pass without too much disruption – we have TWICE the capacity of 1992! I’ll be gormed if the media would point that out, but hey, their typical scaremongering serves a purpose in this case.

  13. outofbed 13

    disengaged no it isn’t

  14. T-Rex 14

    Disengaged – more like saying “oil supply limitations aren’t going to have an impact on transport in nz, because we have lots of cars”. The problem is, as you say, one of energy reserve, not power reserve.

    Hopefully the rain hits this weekend.

  15. T-Rex 15

    Heh – Sorry Matt, happened again. Serves me right for spending too long looking up data.

    I haven’t found anything that actually SAYS how new generation capacity goes through approval. As far as I know, any generator is free to add more capacity. Can anyone confirm that?

    ECNZ says nothing about restricting generation. Which, if true, means that everyone whining about how the govt has let this “crisis” come about should really just shut up.

  16. T-Rex 16

    People who should especially shut up:

    That moron Gerry Brownlee – He is whinging on about how the govt has let a crisis develop, how whirinaki is burning too much fuel, and how regulation is the problem. At the same time, his party is opposing the ETS (which is the main investment driver AWAY from generation that burns lots of fuel), and he’s ignoring the fact that the only reason we have a whirinaki peaking plant to avert a crisis is BECAUSE of regulation. The only mechanism the govt could even theoretically have to avert shortages is to regulate more heavily. Gerry Brownlee, you suck.

    Graham Sydney – You’re a great artist, but pardon me if I don’t pay an awful lot of attention to your views on the relative merits of nuclear vs wind energy, you tunnel visioned NIMBY.

  17. T-Rex 17

    Apologies for the 4th post in a row, and partial threadjacking (though this certainly does create a credibility issue for national)…

    Not that I’m treating this as gospel, but http://www.alliance.org.nz/2008/06/08/free-market-electricity-model-fails-as-power-cuts-loom-in-depths-of-winter/

    Sounds like it is, indeed, the free market that’s responsible for the shortage of generation. Which is what I thought.

    Once again – Gerry Brownlee, you are a git. The company you keep – likewise.

  18. T-Rex 18

    Finally – http://www.stuff.co.nz/4576736a13.html

    Woooowwwwww…. it sounds like the electricity market is pretty much like every other economic entity. Don’t make twice as much if doing so will result in selling it all at half the price. Pretty obvious really I guess…

    Dear stupid people in general. Please stop being stupid. I know it’s a little harder, and doesn’t allow quite so much righteous indignation, but it really is better! Even if our latest energy policy means you have to have a few cold showers this year, it’s finally got us moving in the right direction and will save us a BUNDLE in years to come. As well as ensuring security of supply for… well… forever really, that being the point of sustainable resource use.

  19. polaris 19

    SP – still waiting on a source for your 8,500 vs 6,700. Having that much capacity don’t matter much if you have to have conservation campaigns in June to make sure you get through the winter. So your capacity argument is bunkum.

    In relation to emissions from electricity – actually they’re not, as DPF’s post demonstrates. There’s been a 38% increase since 2000, so Parker was totally wrong. There’s been a 138% increase (or so) since 1990…. so not even in the long-term. Are you going to admit your error or not?

    In relation to the RMA
    a) yes they have – take a look at http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleID=12069 for starters but also Nick Smith’s speeches as well
    b) The minister has already reformed the RMA? news to me. When?
    c)capacity is clearly a problem; there has been a failure of generation growth to keep up with demand.

  20. Razorlight 20

    Remember when National was all about the wage gap, whinging about it every day? Heard them talk about it lately?

    Remember when Labour was all about closing the gaps, and taking New Zealand back into the top half of the OECD? Heard them talk about it lately?

  21. T-Rex 21

    Polaris,

    Emissions – So what? At the time most of that capacity was built National was denying climate change even existed! At any rate, it was a decision made by the generation providers under the deregulated model National implemented, and because there was no ETS to guide their thinking. National opposes the ETS that will change this state of affairs.
    But yes, if parker said that electricity sector emissions have dropped under Labours watch then he’s wrong, but if Brownlee is pretending things would have been any different under National he’s lying like a filthy weasel. The only difference under National would have been a total lack of progress on the climate change issue.

    a) You’re right. In fact, that almost sounds like policy. I’ll have a think about its merits and get back to you.
    b) no idea
    c) Capacity is NOT a problem, hydro availability is the problem. It is not the governments fault it isn’t raining, nor does the government have a means of forcing generators to develop reserve for dry years. This is because of deregulation decisions NATIONAL MADE.
    It’s worth remembering that the only reason we’re not in a crisis right now is BECAUSE of the thermal power stations Brownlee is bitching about. Hey, that’s consistent with the govts position on thermal to ensure security of supply.
    Finally – WE’RE NOT ACTUALLY IN A CRISIS. Lake levels are low, and the contingency plans for such an event are being followed.

  22. BeShakey 22

    I’m sure a lot of other people saw it as well, but David Caygill made a number of good points when interviewed about this last week:

    The lake levels are NOT lower than they were in 1992, the inflows ARE.

    We are now much better able to manage situations like this, and the situation is being better managed.

    The increase in domestic power usage isn’t unforseen (he had a great quote, managing to keep straightfaced, (paraphrasing) ‘Yes Rordan, but we did forsee the increase in power use around this time of the year, it happens regularly and is referred to as “Winter”‘.

    While it is impossible to rule out power cuts, they would happen if there was minimal rain for months (in winter) around the hydro lakes, and there was a failure in the system.

    When he was asked whether he felt the EC needed anymore tools or authority he said no.

    Clearly, not an idea situation, but I’ll put good money on their not being power cuts, and that Gerry will just say that it was pure luck that it rained in winter.

  23. mike 23

    “a) they know they are not going to win the election”

    Randal – Centre bet have the next NZ Prime Minister odds @ $3.10 for Helen Clark and $1.35 for John Key.

    Centre bet have never picked wrong in this option. I think the old mare is dog tucker and the young colt will bolt in.

    If you are so so sure of youreslf have some balls and throw a lazy hundy on the old nags beak.

  24. T-rex 24

    “Gerry will just say that it was pure luck that it rained in winter.”

    No doubt. I mean come on – rain in winter??? Chance in a freakin MILLION!

    Polaris – in that Brownlee speech, did you notice how he failed to mention that National opposed the ETS? You know, that little bit of legislation that attaches a price to emissions from power generation and in doing so gives a significant competitive advantage to renewable sources such as wind. Wonder why he left that out…

  25. T-rex 25

    Mike – I’m not remotely confident HC will be the next prime minister. I just know that Nationals points of differentiation largely suck, their track record sucks, and their “young colt” is little more than an empty branding exercise.

    Which is why it doesn’t bother me that much when John Key suffers ad hominem attacks. Fight the battle with the tools of the day afterall – the battleground was well described in ‘sods article the other day.

    If you’re going to campaign on a brand rather than policy, expect the brand to be attacked.

  26. BeShakey 26

    mike – basic logic – the fact that they haven’t made a wrong pick doesn’t mean they won’t (otherwise me winning big on the first few spins on the roulette will would mean I’m guaranteed to win all night).

    Plus, depending on what you mean by ‘this option’ they have mispicked election results, although I’ll be the first to admit they have a pretty good record in this regard. I’d also be interested to know what they mean by ‘win the election’ how well do the aussies actually understand MMP, given that our own media frequently fail to get it. The odds of National getting a greater portion of the votes seems to me to be much greater than the odds of them forming the next government.

    And surely it isn’t a big surprise to you or anyone else that the Nats are favoured, even Labour admits they have a lot of work to do, but I doubt there are many people with even a passing knowledge of gambling that would say, with those odds, on an event four months away, that the less likely option is guaranteed not to happen (or even that it won’t be the most likely option closer to the date).

  27. polaris 27

    T-Rex: national doesn’t oppose an ETS that puts a price on carbon, in principle. it opposes, from what I understand, the current ETS.

  28. T-rex 28

    Polaris – Well yes, that’s what they’re saying, but in the present climate (ahahah) they’re unlikely to say anything else.

    ALL the major emitters are saying that. “Oh no, we totally agree that there needs to be some sort of emissions trading scheme because global warming is terrible and everyone needs to do their part &c &c, we’re just not sure this one is quite right and we’d like to wait longer to make sure it’s perfect”.

    Translation – “We’re awfully happy with the status quo, and will do our damndest to retain it as long as possible”.

    It’s the oldest delaying tactic in the book. Just ask Telecom. “Oh no, we support unbundling completely and only want to deliver the best service to NZ’ers”. Hey, Theresa, your explicit role for the next x years is to make damned sure this unbundling thing takes as long as humanly possible

  29. Jarvis Pink 29

    “Centre bet have never picked wrong in this option. I think the old mare is dog tucker and the young colt will bolt in.”

    Centrebet puts early odds on Brash

    Brash Firms as PM Betting Favourite After Debate

  30. bill brown 30

    Jarvis,

    That doesn’t count ’cause the lefties stole that election. 🙂

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