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What Is Labour’s Purpose This Term?

Written By: - Date published: 7:57 am, November 28th, 2022 - 35 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, Economy, jacinda ardern, labour, Maori Issues, political parties, poverty - Tags:

It is time to set out succinctly and without recourse to abstract nouns exactly what this Labour government has intended, is doing, and how it seeks to alter the country.

I will keep it as tight as I can.

Rebuild a recentralised state.

It is going to be a strong state, intentionally strong enough to withstand crises of scale that beset us at least once a term. They are building a more direct command of state agency that we had not had since the mid 1980s. They are entity by entity reversing the fracturing of such entities as TVNZ, and RNZ. They have grown the scale and scope of other entities such as Transpower, Waka Kotahi NZTA, Kainga Ora HNZ, Te Whatu Ora Health NZ, and polytechs, and with a greater policy command and ambition we have not seen again since the mid 1980s. In each entity they have touched they have accreted more power to the centre and less to the periphery or to the historic public-private hybrids of corporatisation.

Rebuild central power by liquidating the periphery.

They have accreted power to the centre by liquefying and sucking in any and nearly all regional and local centres of their power. They have stripped local government of much of its capacity to regulate built form, they far more deeply subsidise transport expenditure maintenance and capital, are now regionalising most planning powers, and they have done everything they can to take all forms of water management away from the regions. They have left them with local parks, libraries and pools. In all aspects Wellington, and Wellington’s political order, is once more underscored as the primary source of power in New Zealand and not the commercial power of Auckland or the provincial weight of Canterbury or indeed of the rural sector.

Obey commercial red lines of commercial intervention.

In general don’t regulate commerce more. They do not touch private or near-privatised companies other than in specific tactical points. They have left the electricity companies alone and remain satisfied with near-passively managing their 51% shareholding. They barely touch private oligopolies with much other than in one key exception: Fonterra. They are legislating to have a majority on the pricing board of Fonterra, which reflects Fonterra’s place as now the only business of any global scale at all with New Zealand-resident ownership. They have let China’s state-run investment and export market dominance continue to grow.

In the rebuild of the political centre, and in the hands-off to corporations public or private, they are retaining the middle class as far as they can within and around Wellington, as a legacy circulating political economy. They are ensuring the tight recirculation of liberal democrat ideology that once ruled Wellington under Helen Clark.

Rebuild the place of New Zealand in the world.

They are doing this in terms grander than anything even Peter Fraser might have imagined. We have never had a prime minister more globally renowned on the international stage than this. Across CPTPP, RCEP, COP25-28, carbon markets, Christchurch Accord, and the renewed China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, Labour has reasserted itself as a primary broker of the rules based order of trade and international law upon which all small states utterly depend, and indeed of effective political management of crisis straight through the reorganised and recentralised state. A political dividend has been to permanently tame the Green Party.

She is what the international ideal of political leadership aspires to. Prime Minister Ardern has visited every realm state and province from the equator to Antarctica, which few of our leaders have done: she has re-planted the flag of New Zealand in all our associated lands to their furthest extent.

Do not touch public capital operators, no matter the risk.

The Reserve Bank with its most damaging intent laid bare, the foolishness of the NZ SuperFund Guardians in both light rail and in their portfolio management, the governance nightmare generated by ACC and others in Transmission Gully’s PPP, the folly of the ACC+NZSuperfund investment in Kiwibank requiring the state to buy it back, the incoherence of ACC’s worker insurance scheme and all the waste of taxpayer cash the above has consumed, but not a single person held to account at all. The state is growing centres of public capital with more and power, and there is no control over any of them. The intent of power accreted to the centre is shown in that it does not increase direct Ministerial power or Ministerial accountability to the citizen at all.

Continue to massively expand social welfare…

Few new programmes, but constant gradual expansions. In the course of less than 2 terms they have underwritten most of the pay of every person in this country and most of its businesses. They have expanded social welfare in most areas you can think of including minimum wage, fuel and electricity, childcare subsidies, welfare benefits, and may other fields. They have greatly expanded  public subsidy for the massive construction and utility industries that employ much of New Zealand.

… without altering wealth inequality.

Not with tax (other than exceedingly lightly), not with effective first home ownership policies, with the big exception being the extension of the Bright Line Test. Income tax is no longer the primary instrument to redistribute wealth. They have had ample opportunity to do so but their changes are tiny. There is to be no disturbance to remaining wealth intergenerational handover.

Require New Zealand to accept Maori as core New Zealand identity.

In every single government agency, department and entity, all their contractors, and local government and their contractors, Te Ao Maori protocols and practices are enforced. Finally it is a requirement that the secondary education syllabus teach Maori history as part of New Zealand history. Bring te ao Maori into the discourse of public holidays and indeed into the measurement of time itself. Enable the Maori caucus within Labour to have its head and see where it goes. Reverse the decline of Maori language and practice, as if it is both essential to our identity as a country, and to our competitive advantage as a country. Let some things go wrong and accept on balance that it’s good. Use state procurement as a primary lever to favour growing Maori commerce: they have proven above all other kinds of commerce to be loyal to New Zealand. Use state commercial power as the primary lever to bring wealth to the Maori poor.

Revive politics for the young, ignore the old.

The concerns of the young have been an ideological engine of this government. Labour is deliberately out of step of talkback radio, newspapers and TV news and has such attunement to Twitter and TikTok, when it focuses on self-identity and sexuality and gender and reproductive health, climate change, animal welfare, the voting age, marijuana reform, minim wage and rights, decreasing incarceration, and women in sport and industry.

It keeps the noise of the old down by not mentioning the retirement age and going conservatively on euthanasia, remaining silent on intergenerational wealth transfer, and grinding senior public health down. Whatever the 2023 result Labour has used the triggers of youth to retain their interest in the idea of New Zealand.

It is a deliberately new New Zealand, but kept very quiet.

Labour is forming New Zealand into a deliberate shape even though it never sets out clearly what it’s doing. No big business-to-state conferences. No all-in dialogue. No new language. No particular effort into popularising what they do. No new branding or consistent effort at comms.

It has not proposed to replace the language of the 1984-1998 commercialisation of New Zealand with any other, hence an apparent discursive silence. There is certainly no apparent ideology they have spelled out so the silence is either deliberate or it is through lack of intellectual capacity.

It has neglected most other fields with negligible or sub-therapeutic doses: marine management, conservation, economic development and productivity, innovation, wealth disparity and poverty, health capacity, wealth development, population growth, local skill-building, defence, industry leadership, or anything else like that.

It focused on its limited goals, and that’s that.

The net result of all the work of Labour two terms will be a stronger purpose to the state and to the political order of New Zealand over and above that of commerce and commercialisation. That achievement won’t have much effect upon the citizen other than in moments of crisis, because there is no further developed theory of the state of the state other than that on the tin.

Labour’s recentralisation of power into the political order has meant everyone citizen, visitor and business knows the state will intervene deeper, harder and faster than imagined: it will be recognised as an exemplar in which the state announces simply I’m Back.

35 comments on “What Is Labour’s Purpose This Term? ”

  1. lprent 1

    Effective summary. An awful lot of this has simply been cleaning up the do-nothing policies of the last National government, and the probably continuation of it whenever they finally manage to get back in.

    It really highlights just how totally useless National were in their last 3 terms of office. Shovelling immigration in to boost the local economy while never doing the infrastructure required to support the policy. The rapid increase in new housing was something that National should have been doing back in 2010. Instead they were doing economically useless tax cuts.

    The only thing that really allowed National to survive economically internationally were the FTAs that Labour previously pushed through to keep the external balance of trade in a workable state.

    Labours very centre of the road policies these current terms in office are why National focus on meaningless slogans and personal attacks rather than producing policies that explain what they want to do. Also why they are in a existential on-gong low-simmering feud with Act and their 'independent' attack dogs in the Taxpayers union and NZ Initiative.

    National are really crap at running the country for the benefit of all. Just look at their useless dithering over covid-19. The number of times that they urged the borders to be flung open coinciding with another variant wave was getting to the point of building a strong correlation. You had to wonder if they were deliberately trying to kill the elderly so that they and their progeny could have holidays in Hawaii

    It is going to be an interesting tight election this time around. Basically we're in the same position of the 2017 election with the polls effectively running even between Left to Centre and Right to Centre blocks.

    Labours purpose – the same as always – to leave NZ in a far better ability to withstand the shocks of being a small trading nation in the winds of change. To make sure that everyone in the country has a way to raise themselves out of their birth circumstances if they want to. To limit the aristocratic fallacy that trickle down economics actually works. Plus of course ignoring the self-appointed and rather mindless parasitical opinationators who can talk but not do – the ones that National and Act seem to spend their time kowtowing to.

    • Incognito 1.1

      You can add the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance to the pack of ‘independent’ attack dogs. Together, they’re reminiscent of the organised and concerted DP efforts but with more of a grassroots vibe, which make them more effective and more dangerous.

  2. Sanctuary 2

    Labours latent contradiction is between its position representing the universal interests of a liberal world order and the middle and working classes, and the positions of its constituent forces as defenders of sectional interests. When you throw in the contending pulls of electoralism and of managing a capitalist state (where there is a tension between satisfying capital's demand and political management) and a hefty dose of MPs drawn from the new MMP professional political class with a strong ideological preference for "emprical" managerialism and I think you begin to grasp that Labour has had a certain reformist agenda thrust upon it by circumstances (largely covid) rather than preference.

    Covid didn't just push the government into obvious new "big government" directions. The absolute majority delivered by COVID effectively made the Labour Maori caucus the governments coalition partner – certainly, the Maori Party itself has been reduced to irrelevant clowns this term by the clout Willie Jackson and co currently command, and as noted by the OP that has had far-reaching impications. For example, I think as a result of an expansive Maori agenda we have seen the mood of the Pakeha ruling class turn from the confident expansive white supremacism of the Key era to the defensive and angry white anxiety of Winston Peters and David Seymour.

    All in all, I think Labour didn't plan on anything more ambitious than warmed over third way managerialism when it won power. The lack of any apparent ideology is because the ideology they prefer – managerialism – has been neutered by crisis after crisis. Like an accident victim re-learning how to walk using long atrophied muscles, we should celebrate Lavour's attempts at bipedalism rather than focus on the pale pallour, silent grimace and beads of sweat on their forehead.

    • lprent 2.1

      The lack of any apparent ideology is because the ideology they prefer – managerialism – has been neutered by crisis after crisis.

      In a lot of ways I simply don't care. ideology is completely overrated in a political context. I'm happy to go with learning to be competent and forward looking. You may have noticed that I don’t have a ideological bone in my brain. I find it to be about as superfluous as floppy disks.

      The Nat/Act spent the three previous terms doing fuck-all apart from a slow drift to the rocks that they had raised themselves. Think about making NZ's economy completely dependent on having an open source of cheap imported skilled and unskilled labour. Not building housing for that migrants. Not putting infrastructure into the areas where they were settling.

      If there hadn't been the ChCh earthquakes, it'd have been hard to see that they actually did anything after the first hundred days of their first term. Maybe a few roads for tourists (what tourists?) and they did manage to finish off the couple of infrastructure projects and trade deals that Labour had started in the 4th Labour led government.

      Even with ChCh they screwed up by allowing Brownlee to make it a protracted nightmare over a decade (and still going).

      The 5th Labour government have run into crisis after crisis – and handled them. They're also looking forward and trying to deal with upcoming crisis – like the 3 Waters. National seems to have a problem even realising that there is a problem. The nearest thing I have seen so far from them is that they propose to give more money to the same local bodies that have been drifting into creating the problem over decades. Moreover – they don't appear to realise that they might need to put some real constraints on what that largese is used for. Pretty much a recipe for another slow National disaster.

      Personally I'm like most of NZ. I don't vote because of ideology. I mostly vote because National are completely useless managers, of the economy, trade, foreign relations, basic infrastructure, everything. It is really hard to think of a damn thing that they are useful for. You have to lean all the way back to Bolger to find it.

      BTW: I don't have that much time for the skills of private sector managers. Their timescales are too short to give them good training to be managers of a country. They pretty much top out at a 2 to 3 year planning horizon. Whereas running an country and economy requires a perspective of decades forward and the patience and persistence to see it through.

      National follow that same 'business' prescription – which is why they seem like dilettantes as the countries managers. FFS: their only observable policy this year seems to be youth military camps – something that has statistically failed the last 3 times they tried it.

      Labour are amateurs at being managerial even in that private context. But at least they appear to be capable of learning how to do the job of being the countries directors in a moderately competent way. They are clearly looking forward the decades to starting to fix problems before they happen.

      I have problems down-rating them as directors. They have been competent at crisis. They are trying to push change in the future. They as you say are barely ideological – except for focusing forward. They don’t do the day-today political as well as they probably should.

      I strongly prefer them rather than spinning aimlessly on an inner tube in the sun like the Key government did.

      • Anne 2.1.1

        I have problems down-rating them as directors. They have been competent at crisis. They are trying to push change in the future. They as you say are barely ideological – except for focusing forward. They don’t do the day-today political as well as they probably should.

        Yes. Labour are good directors. They are competent in a crisis. They are very good at seeing into the future – something the right-wingers show an inability to achieve. That is why National and ACT are always late (decades sometimes) in coming to the party. The understanding of the science behind Climate Change is a very good case in point. It took them around three decades to even admit that CC was for real… after every climate scientist had warned them of a coming catastrophe.

        No. Labour do not do the day to day attempts to undermine them at all well. Time and again they allow their political foes [including in the media] to beat the crap out of them and they hardly respond. The bible says:

        "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."

        I'm not religious but that quote is appropriate – especially at the moment.

  3. Maurice 3

    Labour's purpose appears to be rapidly becoming placing the blame on the Green Party for the many failures of policy. Witness the present Green SOP on 3 (5?) Waters.

    There always has to be someone else to blame ….. or throw under the bus.

  4. Sacha 4

    Can someone please explain the connection between these two sentences that I am missing?

    Labour has reasserted itself as a primary broker of the rules based order of trade and international law upon which all small states utterly depend, and indeed of effective political management of crisis straight through the reorganised and recentralised state. A political dividend has been to permanently tame the Green Party.

  5. DS 5

    Labour has centralised, but not nationalised (people need to learn the difference), and the underlying ethos of the Fourth Labour Government is as strong as ever – basically because this Government does not care about economics (in fact, every government since 1984 has done less than its predecessor, and this is no exception).

    The centralisation fetish is all the weirder, given that it is not as if Wellington does anything with the powers it has stripped from the provinces. It is centralisation for centralisation's sake, a power grab without plan, that only serves to alienate the regions – and it relies on the still corporatist neoliberal bureaucracy to somehow act in the name of public service.

    If it weren't so sad, it'd be funny.

    • Ad 5.1

      Well absent any overt theory, manifesto, or World Bank team analysis, it sure looks coherent from the outside.

    • Centralisation assists in crisis. We are in the beginning of a Climate Change crisis.

      Labour aims to get everything it can onto a sustainable climate friendly footing, with ALL contributing. imo

      (I believe the work on 3 Waters is to protect our greatest asset. The life force of all living things. )

      The PM said it was our over riding nuclear moment to face Climate Change.

      Covid proved silos block progress.

      Emergency Teams Hospitals and Councils need to work together not be little fiefdoms doing their own thing.

      Those who wish to privatise Health Education or Water are currently apoplectic with rage. They don't want assets in Public hands .imo.

  6. swordfish 6


    Viciously scapegoating socially-minded, law-abiding low & low-middle income Non-Maori (traditionally, Labour’s core constituency), transforming them into second class citizens via the implementation of Critical Theory 'Equity' dogma in housing, health & elsewhere …

    … essentially forcing them to do all the suffering & sacrificing for colonisation (as the affluent Woke, who disproportionately inherited the wealth from colonisation, doggedly pursue power, affluence & prestige while deploying constant moral posturing & smearing of critics to maintain the initiative) … and then blaming & punishing poorer Non-Maori for the shocking anti-social behaviour of a sizeable section of the Maori Underclass.

    • swordfish 6.1

      In other words, core organisations of the "Left" slowly but surely captured by upper-middle professionals & transformed into their own brutally self-interested Vanity Project … blatantly attacking its core support-base … &, in the process, mutating into something close to the antithesis of traditional Social Democracy.

      • pat 6.1.1

        Brian Easton describes it well…though he could have been a little more specific about who the 'you and me' are…

        "Alternatively, we could be clearer about what the problem is: the nation’s economic income has been cut and that income cut has to be shared among us (not you and me of course, but everyone else). The aim would be to get a better public understanding of what is happening in the hope that the Reserve Bank would not have to be as repressive. Once upon a time this was called an ‘incomes policy’."


        We are not as wealthy as we like to think but all sacrifice must come from someone else…and of course those with the most to lose will make the most noise.

        You also describe them well…and they are as left as my right testicle

    • Nic the NZer 6.2

      I think this version of it is a bit too wordy to actually run on.

      • In Vino 6.2.1

        'run on'? Run on sentences don't make it easier.

        • Nic the NZer

          I was thinking more of Labour 'Running on' their policy leading to the next election. Cleaning up some of the 'run on' sentences could help with clarity but I think they will need a simple phrase which sums it up well for election purposes. Maybe just a juxtaposition of the two in/out groups which rhymes, its on the tip of my tongue but I just can't work it out. Its something like X/Y…. I give up you'll have to fill in the blanks….

          • In Vino

            Sorry Nic.

            I was referring to run-on sentences in swordfish's post no 6, not your response.

            Cool down, swordfish. Stream of consciousness went out of style some time ago. Just write in sentences, and you will not arouse the ire of old folks like me.

    • DB Brown 6.3

      The perpetual victim of circumstance strikes again. Maoris! Fucking trash fire posing as a concerned citizen, POS.

  7. pat 7

    What a load of bollocks…you contradict yourself within the first 5 points.

    The facts are they are terrified of too much Government control …as 'Do not touch public capital operators, no matter the risk." clearly indicates.

    This is a fundamentally neo liberal administration that fears (quite possibly correctly) rowing against the BIS tide.

    If you acknowledge that then everything else MUST fall into line.

  8. Anker 8

    100% Swordfish and Pat……

    I would add to the list of people suffering the health work force (yes even the Drs who for the amount of training they do, arent that well remunerated). But in terms of health, the health work force come last and have been treated with contempt. This includes a document about racism in the health work force (yes the professional managerial class have been well occupied writing this document). And yet one paragrapgh towards the end spoils the fun

    "Although conceptually coherant, establishing the empirical evidence base of racism and each of those impacts has proven to be challenging. Issues of racism exposure measurement and moderating/mediating factors means that findings are mixed with regards to the relationship between racism and physical health outcomes (Paradies et al 2019). However, evidence of the prevalence and consistency of race-based inequities alone provides sufficient rationale for action and intervention"

    Ao Mai te Ra/The Anti Racism Kaupapa

    Never let evidence or lack there of get in the way of ideology.

    [This is the second time in recent days that you’ve quoted text that cannot be traced and/or checked and/or matched with your link, which is why you should always provide a link if you can, as a minimum requirement. It appears this quote is not verbatim, i.e., not a straight copy & paste, and it contains typos and the (changed) literature reference in your quote is incorrect, but this is moot because without the link nobody can look up that reference anyway.

    Here is the correct piece of text with link:

    Although conceptually coherent, establishing the empirical evidence-base of racism and each of these impacts has proven to be challenging. Issues of racism exposure measurement and moderating/mediating factors mean that findings are mixed with regards to the relationships between racism and physical health outcomes (Paradies et al., 2015). However, evidence of the prevalence and consistency of race-based inequities alone provides sufficient rationale for action and intervention.


    This confuses and misleads others, as we can see in this thread, and wastes our precious time. You must pay more attention to your quotes and information sources, or you will receive an educational ban. This is your warning – Incognito]

    • Hunter Thompson II 8.1

      The author(s) of the quoted paragraph can't even spell correctly. I take it they mean racism is rampant in the health system but they can't quantify the evidence to prove it.

      IMO, Labour seems to have the simple goal of clinging to power by any means, no matter what damage is done to democracy.

      • Hanswurst 8.1.1

        IMO, Labour seems to have the simple goal of clinging to power by any means, no matter what damage is done to democracy.

        What have they done to damage democracy as a means of clinging to power?

      • Incognito 8.1.2

        Even if the author(s) had poor spelling or grammar skills, which they hadn’t, could you have come up with an even more pathetic argument and an even less-substantiated claim?

    • Sacha 8.2

      This includes a document about racism in the health work force

      Please provide a link when you quote from something.

    • Incognito 8.3

      Mod note

      • Anker 8.3.1

        My apologies were there typos in my quote?

        • Incognito

          Why do you ask, do you think I made that up? You can compare your text with my copy & paste directly from the link and spot the differences. What do you think Hunter Thompson II @ 8.1 was on about incorrect spelling? Did you see the different year for the literature reference Paradies et al.?

          Some webpages and/or documents don’t allow (disabled) straightforward copying text and one has to do a manual copy & paste if you think it’s really necessary. However, in such case especially a source link should be provided.

          If/when you experience technical difficulties you can reach out for help although everybody here is busy and time-short.

          You have been around here on TS long enough to know how things work and I don’t want to have to spend time checking and moderating your comments. The onus is on you to lift your game.

  9. Anker 9

    Understood. Cheers

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