web analytics

Vale atque ave

Written By: - Date published: 3:35 pm, October 5th, 2011 - 10 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

Three Labour MPs gave their valedictories last night; Lynn Pillay, Pete Hodgson, and Jim Anderton in that order. Jim’s career path in political employment was a bit roundabout, Lynn’s the shortest (she’ll kill me for that!), and Pete’s the longest.

All have made a huge contribution to the labour movement in its various forms and to the country, with the standout undoubtedly Jim’s dogged and determined fight to set up Kiwibank, with help he acknowledged from Annette King. Pete Hodgson held 14 portfolios in the fifth Labour government, an indication of his energy and competence. Feisty Lynn did the hard yards, steering the Electoral Finance Bill and the Section 59 changes through Parliament committees.

Most valedictories speak of past achievement. Unusually, Pete Hodgson focussed more on the future, so his valedictory became manifesto and challenge. Poverty and sustainability were the main themes. His speech hasn’t got much coverage in the media, and I think more of it is worth sharing here:

Valedictories are supposed to be about the past, but my head lives mostly in the future. So let me give one portfolio, climate change, a bit more attention, because the world’s response has barely begun. There are 3 key problems. The first is the global addiction to cheap oil. It is an astonishing fuel but they are not making it any more. The second is that climate change is the only area of politics where, when the proof of the need to act finally arrives, the ability to act will have long since gone. The third is that we do not have governance structures that are equal to the task. Disturbingly we may even have discovered the limits of nation state democracies as an idea.

In New Zealand we have an opportunity and obligation to contribute to agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation because we can, and because success increases agricultural productivity. I commend the current government’s commitment to continuing and expanding that science and I wish all involved success and patience in equal measure.

Of course one way to reduce CO2 emissions is to run out of cheap oil. Inevitably we will. That requires a public policy response. Sure, the market will play its part – when a tank of petrol costs $300 not $100, behaviour will change.

But the market alone cannot deliver. Governments need to help. Most governments have started. We have stopped. Fuel efficiency standards scrapped, the biofuels sales obligation scrapped, curtailed sustainability measures in general – indeed the very word has been scrubbed off documents in a frenzied cleansing of the lexicon. This is unfortunate expensive behaviour. I spoke with a New Zealand biofuels company recently which is pulling out of here and investing instead in Thailand and the US. We need to be smarter than that.

Which leads me to sustainable development in general. I view it as a uniting idea, capable of creating wealth, creating ecological room, creating economic diversification and resonating strongly with the Kiwi ethos. Certainly cows and tourism, alone, are not a future, precisely because those activities are not scaleable. There are now three dairy cows for every one that existed when I was in rural practice. If three cows are not a limit, four will be, or eight or some such number. Tourism is similarly not scaleable in New Zealand; the Galapagos effect will see to that at some point.

I define sustainability very simply. If we can’t do it forever then sooner than later we can’t do it at all. Mining national parks is a case in point. So is an energy strategy based on offshore oil and gas production. So is getting rid of public debt by selling public assets. These are all things that can be done but once. They are unsustainable by definition. Sustainable development is very strongly associated with technology. But also with design, with intellectual property, and sometimes with new business models. Whether it is applied to a further advance in some primary product, or whether it is headed in the direction of clean energy, or the creative sector, or weightless exports or whatever, sustainable development demands high skills.

So it is a hi-tech, hi-skill future. Here is another observation. There is a strong association between private sector R & D investment, and exporting. An association is not a cause, and not all exporters research. But nearly all research intensive companies export. Look more closely and those same companies are likely to be developing sustainably. And usually very quickly.  So, policies such as cancelling the R & D tax credit make no sense to me. The government said they couldn’t afford it. Fair enough. But the very next year they lowered company tax from 30c to 28c, which cost even more. We must pay more attention to those firms that owe their existence, not to local domestic demand, but to some technology or some clever entrepreneur or both. Their sand pit is global not local. They usually export, they usually grow quickly, they usually pay high wages. They are the game changers. Not all firms are equal.

But sustainable development does not address the rich-poor gap. It is growing inexorably around the developed world, for many reasons. One is the tension between global salaries and local wages. More than one labour market is at play. I think our approach to poverty has just started to change. It has always been a social justice issue – poverty is unfair on the poor. I think it is now being viewed also as an issue of social dysfunction – poverty is bad for everyone. There are strong links between the rich-poor gap and many social ills – teenage pregnancy, obesity, violence – you name it. Research, including New Zealand research, is beginning to unravel the detail. Addressing poverty matters.

I think we have underused the minimum wage as a tool. We were the first nation in the world to regulate a minimum wage, back in 1894. Since then it has variously risen above two-thirds the average wage and fallen below the depths of irrelevancy. Currently it is a bit below half the average wage. If we are to reap the benefits of a relatively flexible labour market, we should also provide a bunch of civilised minima that endure. In New Zealand the debate is usually framed around the idea that raising the minimum wage will throw the low paid out of work altogether. Many crocodile tears are shed at that altar. But research suggests the opposite – that raising the minimum wage can stimulate local economies and reduce unemployment, though only slightly. The current chair of the Council of Economic Advisors to the US Presidency, Professor Alan Krueger, is one such researcher. He is a mainstream empirical researcher, dealing in the practical, not the theoretical.

I appreciate this House is some distance away from doing for the low paid what we have already done for superannuitants – establishing an agreed floor. But I will leave folk with the idea anyway.

They’ve all done well – but there is still lots to do.

Update: Videos of all the valedictories can be found on Red Alert. Here’s Pete Hodgson’s:

10 comments on “Vale atque ave ”

  1. wobble 1

    Ka pai Pete. Excellent speech. And the hallmark of exactly the kind of person who should be a politician – someone who keeps on wanting to fix injustice.

    Will be sorely missed.

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    A good crew, all of them. The Left is going to miss you all on the front lines aginst those Tories. One more Tory scalp wouldn’t go amiss before Nov 26.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      There’s a reason why we have replacements – it’s so we don’t get caught up in the delusional Randian Super-hero meme.

  3. r0b 3

    Thanks Pete.  And a great note to go out on.

  4. millsy 4

    Too bad Jim Anderton made his peace with Labour by helping to destroy the Alliance as a left wing force in this country. Helen Clark, Lynne Pillay (who took Waitakere in 02) and the Engineer’s union also had their hands in that particular pie.

    IMO that is the reason why this country has drifted slowly right wards since the 2002 election. I would still vote Alliance if they had a decent chance at getting into Parliament.

    But you cant bedgrudge him for Kiwibank. A member of an old forum site I posted to owes me $500 over that 🙂 Of course I’ve written the debt off since I lost contact with him 🙂

  5. Misanthropic Curmudgeon 5

    Interesting that you call Jim (“Bannit”) Anderton a Labour MP: Will you be asking that he return his party leader entitlement?

  6. Anton 6

    If Labour are so concerned about poverty why did they abolish the special benefit back in 2002, introduce the Social Security Amendment Act 2007 which destroyed the concept of welfare as we know it (including work-testing invalids beneficiaries) and a whole host of other nasty right-wing reforms? Labour have never fronted to any of these concerns when asked. One must be left with the conclusion, therefore, that if re-elected they’d continue down this destructive path, pandering to the red-neck talkback radio bigots, flapping around in a kind of hypocrisy they’re now famous for. When anyone from Labour talks about “poverty” I want to vomit.

    • Misanthropic Curmudgeon 6.1

      You forgeot to mention how beneficiaries were still _worse_ off under Labour than _after_ the ‘Ruthenasia’ benefit cuts

      [lprent: You’re starting to look like a white noise troll making rhetorical statements that don’t particularly relate to the post or surrounding comments and seem more designed to start flames than engage in debate. Have a look at the policy if you want to avoid the usual fate of trolls here who are unable to engage in actual discussion.

      Update: Ummm I see some earlier comments that were more mana acquiring. ]

      • Misanthropic Curmudgeon 6.1.1

        I am not lprent, and have never posted under that nym here.

        The only nym I have posted under on The Standard is this one, ‘Misanthropic Curmdgeon’.

  7. Anton 7

    “You forgeot to mention how beneficiaries were still _worse_ off under Labour than _after_ the ‘Ruthenasia’ benefit cuts”

    No, that’s exactly what I was saying. Benefit rates after the 1991 benefit cuts are in fact in dollar terms (save CPI increases) the same as we have now. Labour promised to reverse those cuts but then backtracked. From 1999 Labour picked up where National left off and continued along the path of destruction with the “reforms” I’ve given two examples of. So, saying that beneficiaries were worse off under Labour than after Richardson’s ‘mother of all budgets’ is precisely what I am saying.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Major redevelopment of Wainuiomata High School underway
    Work begins today at Wainuiomata High School to ensure buildings and teaching spaces are fit for purpose, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says. The Minister joined principal Janette Melrose and board chair Lynda Koia to kick off demolition for the project, which is worth close to $40 million, as the site ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 hours ago
  • New expert group appointed to advise Government on Oranga Tamariki
    A skilled and experienced group of people have been named as the newly established Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board by Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis today. The Board will provide independent advice and assurance to the Minister for Children across three key areas of Oranga Tamariki: relationships with families, whānau, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 hours ago
  • COVID-19 vaccine slated for possible approval next week
    The green light for New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be granted in just over a week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today. “We’re making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” Jacinda Ardern said. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    19 hours ago
  • New ACC Board members announced.
    The Minister for ACC is pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to join the Board of ACC on 1 February 2021. “All three bring diverse skills and experience to provide strong governance oversight to lead the direction of ACC” said Hon Carmel Sepuloni. Bella Takiari-Brame from Hamilton ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    22 hours ago
  • Economic boost for Southland marae
    The Government is investing $9 million to upgrade a significant community facility in Invercargill, creating economic stimulus and jobs, Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene have announced.  The grant for Waihōpai Rūnaka Inc to make improvements to Murihiku Marae comes from the $3 billion set ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    [Opening comments, welcome and thank you to Auckland University etc] It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion - the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a moment many feared would never come, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Supporting disabled people to stay connected
    The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities, Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni announced today. The funding will allow disability service providers to develop digital and community-based solutions over the next two ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Voluntary saliva testing offered to quarantine workers from Monday
    Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Next steps in firearms buy-back
    The next steps in the Government’s ambitious firearms reform programme to include a three-month buy-back have been announced by Police Minister Poto Williams today.  “The last buy-back and amnesty was unprecedented for New Zealand and was successful in collecting 60,297 firearms, modifying a further 5,630 firearms, and collecting 299,837 prohibited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature projects target iconic ecosystems
    Upscaling work already underway to restore two iconic ecosystems will deliver jobs and a lasting legacy, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.  “The Jobs for Nature programme provides $1.25 billion over four years to offer employment opportunities for people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the COVID-19 recession. “Two new projects ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New Public Housing Plan announced
    The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The extra 8,000 homes – 6000 public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Prime Minister congratulates President Joe Biden on his inauguration
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Jacinda Ardern said. “New Zealand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago