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When less is less

Written By: - Date published: 5:25 pm, February 12th, 2009 - 46 comments
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It appears National are trying to promote the “little and often” approach to economic planning – but commentators are appearing a little skeptical. Take John Armstrong:

The $500 million worth of capital spending on doing up state houses, constructing new roads and bridges, building new classrooms and so forth sounds impressive but will directly create (or save) only around 2000 jobs.  Put that figure against the 68,000 the Treasury expects to join the dole queues by March next year and yesterday’s package is a drop in the reservoir…

Bill English is seeking to lower public expectations of what the Government can do by repeating the line that the Government will take the “sharp edges” off the recession. In other words, don’t count on it being able to do more. It is a tricky message to sell, made more difficult when comparisons are made with other countries which are pump-priming their economies like there is no tomorrow.

And from Gordon Campbell:

We’re still waiting for a coherent overall plan for these various ingredients, commensurate with the scale of the crisis coming over the horizon….it is possible that the government response is both too small, AND too wasteful. Initially though, we need to appreciate why the government is adopting a ‘rolling maul’ approach to crisis planning.

He suggested that most of the jobs have a distinctly “burly” quality:

Well, I can’t see very many jobs for women in this package. Women are taxpayers too, and the number of households headed by single women earners is on the rise. Yet this package seems geared almost entirely towards construction and to creating jobs for plumbers, electricians and tradesmen.

Campbell had some criticisms for Labour too:

So far, Labour has managed to tie itself in knots. All week in the House, it has been asserting that the projects in the stimulus package were mainly its ideas AND that they were inadequate. It was like watching a cranky old mammal fiercely claiming its eggs, and then trying to eat them too. Presumably, Labour’s solution was to have the same set of ideas, only bigger. Supersize me that spending on roads, with a side order of bridge-building fries as well, please !

He got me thinking – why hasn’t Labour made more of National’s weaknesses? They had a plan ready to roll out at the election when they were government. What are the comparative strengths/ weaknesses of each according to Labour’s analysis? Perhaps they are saving themselves for an alternative Budget as Labour have presented in the past. I for one would welcome the addition of some depth to the debate.

46 comments on “When less is less ”

  1. TightyRighty 1

    IMO the reason that labour hasn’t made more of National’s weaknesses, is that they can’t. Labour left National very little room to move after saddling the country with some rather large expenditures. ACC snd cullens train set to name a couple. so any attack on national not spending enough, is really an attack on the last government, and we couldn’t have that could we?

  2. Dancer 2

    i think the “mismanagement” is more of a line than an actual fact. Seems to me that we were in a reasonably strong position prior to the electionEg Cullen last August said: “We not only multiplied infrastructure investment nearly three times over; we did it while reducing gross crown debt from over 35 per cent of GDP to under 20 per cent today. For the first time in our history the Crown is a net positive financial asset position.” That’s given the current government room to move.

    On the other hand Rod Oram cast doubt on both camps prior to the election “Labour has the challenge of demonstrating it knows more than it is saying about the economy, domestic and international, National has the bigger challenge of proving it has any insight at all.” And now is the time for National to prove him wrong.

  3. Jarvis Pink 3

    “…cranky old mammal fiercely claiming its eggs…”


  4. John Dalley 4

    Settle down Dancer it is only the first? week back in the sand box that is Parliament. I have been starting to get the impression that all National is doing is rehash Labour’s figures, then cuts them back and calls it an improvement over Labour.
    Time will tell but National looks like it is going to struggle to put together coherent policy.

  5. Lew 5

    “Little and often” could be code for “micro-management”. Muldoon-style?


  6. burt 6

    Dancer said of Labour;

    They had a plan ready to roll out at the election when they were government.

    Are you talking about the secret mini budget that not one detail of the contents was ever discussed? (aka: The hidden agenda to address the problems of the hidden financial blowouts – breach of the public finance act retrospective validations perhaps?????)

    Perhaps it’s impossible in opposition to raise taxes to pay for hidden ACC blowouts? Whatever else they had planned was clearly not worth talking about or they would have been all over National with it.

    What a limp opposition – they know what National are doing wrong but have no ideas themselves. Sad sad sad.

  7. Billy 7

    B..b..b..but I thought John Armstrong was the mouthpiece of the evil right wing mouthpiece of the vrw dressed up as a newspaper. Are we only to take notice of him when he says something we like? Awaiting further instructions…

  8. vto 8

    No govt will stop this contagion. It must run its course. Sadly.

    As such I think the step by step approach, while a difficult political sell in this mini-era of ‘who can make the biggest splash’, is the prudent one. All any govt can do is soften the goings on. It will not be stopped.

    And it fucks me right off. The pain and damage that human behaviour can do to itself. Unknowingly, unwittingly, lemming-like, …

    Some examples of dumb;

    – govt guarantees. Effectively taxpayers underwriting taxpayers. Duh, how can a manwoman underwite himhersefl?

    – Rudd’s $950 per person handout. Really? Should last about a month.

    So while the maelstrom is unstoppable and now too far advanced, concentrating on softening the landing rather than trying to stop the landing altogether is the right way. Remember, that all this govt action is simply another form of debt. And what caused this in the first place?

  9. Quoth the Raven 9

    Billy – SP once said of John Armstrong: in my estimation, our best print political commentator.
    Can’t someone ban Billy the troll?

  10. Billy 10

    Dare ya.

  11. rainman 11

    Can someone please tell me how upgrading the Kopu bridge and tarting up some schools is going to rescue us from global recession? Pretty much none of this “stimulus package” is building any productive asset that will build sustainable future export income. Once the bridge is built, the low wage jobs to build it will be gone.

    We can’t spend/consume our way out of this recession, irrespective of whether public or private money is being spent.

    vto, I think you’ve nailed it.

  12. I love the way you keep trotting Gordon Campbell out as an independant commenatator – I don’t think so!

    IrishBill: despite the fact you have misspelled both “independent” and “commentator” I am interested to know why you consider Campbell to not be independent? He has no party affiliation as far as I am aware.

  13. Rex Widerstrom 13

    Infrastructure investment beats doling out $1000 to every bogan and watching it enrich the pokie operators and bookmakers, then trying $950 to everyone and hoping like hell we’ll all want to buy an Akubra and a Drizabone rather than pay the rent or buy a plasma TV.

    But yes, the number of direct jobs created isn’t flash, unless we insist contractors go back to using shovels and wheelbarrows as per the Depression. Of course Armstrong’s figure of 2,000 overlooks indirect and downstream jobs that may be created or saved but even if we quadruple the estimate it’s still a drop in the ocean.

    But what’s the alternative?

    (And yes, vto has nailed it, unless someone can provide a convincing answer to my question).

  14. burt 14

    I’m still thinking that all Labour had planned for their secret mini budget after the election was to pass validations for not disclosing the ACC blowout.

    I’m wondering how that would have helped the country and and I guess the answer to that is that it would have been in Labour’s best interest so what else could possibly be more important than that?

  15. higherstandard 15


    2006 – 2008 Gordon Campbell was a media and research officer for the Green Party… and fair enough he’s always been very open about which way he leans.


  16. Burt you fuckin absurd retard! I could just as easily say I’m still thinking that if Labour had got in you would have tried to kil the PM and as such you are a dangerous fruit who needs to be locked away…

    Se how that works you stupid cunt? Are you really so delusional and desperate you need to make weird fantasy shit up to justify your strange paranoia??? You’re like a bad 80’s coldwar revenge fantasy movie. Get a life you fruity little creep…

    Oh and I’m sorry to break my ban but someone needed to say that. I’ll see you in three and a half weeks…

  17. burt 17


    Thanks, I feel great that I have got to you. You represent all that is wrong with the rabbid left and to upset you tells me I have hit the raw “lefty fruit loop” nerve.

    I’m patting myself on the back.

  18. northpaw 18

    Infrastructure investment beats doling out $1000 to every bogan and watching it enrich the pokie operators and bookmakers


    But the machine tools deal (backstory I’m guessing to the “wheelbarrows” pitch) is not to be made fun of. Crikey these things are debt indemnifiers.. are they not. Since one side sells jobs and wages, and the other deals and debt blah blah..

  19. northpaw 19


    re burt if I may.. sees the word ‘country’ and uses it thus as an absolute. Akin to a castle on a hill.. capture, keep, mine(his/hers/whatever)… oblivious to erosion, wear and tear, fate, life’s limitations, external factors etc.

    Like kids with tin soldiers.. best before ten years of age.. after which time most kids realise that only they are moving the parts.. only they are fighting themselves..

    Most move on. Did burt..? So.. why else would I make this comment..?

  20. When your cabinet is overwhelmingly male I can definitely see how jobs for women are getting overlooked. I’m not saying women can’t do these jobs, I’m saying that they are more likely to goto men (for any fuckwit who wants to add “sexist” to the list of things I’ve been called today).

  21. “cranky old mammal fiercely claiming its eggs, and then trying to eat them too”

    bit of a poor metaphor. There are, as it happens five species of egg-laying mammals – monotremes – the most famous being the platypus, but still. And even if it was normal for mammals to lay eggs, the metaphor still doens’t make much sense.

  22. Murray 22

    “why hasn’t Labour made more of National’s weaknesses?” Coz your beloved party is led by a couple of fucking has-beens. And the rest of sitting Labour MP’s don’t look too great either. Being a “pinko” in todays political environment is no longer an advantage.

  23. Redbaiter 23

    “someone needed to say that”

    Nobody needed to say it, least of all an honourless cowardly creep without even the modicum of self respect needed to comply with a week’s ban.

    BTW, lets not get delusional here. Armstrong and Campbell would both be lifetime left voters, and being so, they’re incapable of writing from any other perspective, even if they tried. What they say cannot be considered as objective. What’s needed is balance, but there’s no right wing equivalent because the fucking arsehole editors will not hire anyone who isn’t a NY Times liberal fuckwit. Just so typical of NZ’s politically corrupt mainstream media.

    IrishBill: the ‘sod was banned for five weeks, not one. For behavior not too dissimilar to yours I might add.

  24. Morgan 24

    ‘Sod, Love your work!


    Redbait, rumour on the street is Armstrong’s in love with John Key. He’s a conservative, you fool.

  25. bobo 25

    Funny how the right refer to public rail as a trainset , the public roading network must be a scaletrix set by their reasoning then. Most of them have probably never travelled outside NZ to see how rail is fundamental to any functioning city.

  26. Redbaiter 26

    “He’s a conservative, you fool.”

    Because an extreme left moron says he is? Get a life bore.

  27. tsmithfield 27

    I think proceeding with caution is in order here for several reasons:

    1. Our recovery is linked more to the success of the recovery packages in other countries since we have a strong export focus to our economy.

    2. Spending hand over fist has to be paid for with future borrowing. Any short term gain through lavish spending could be accompanied with a lot of long term pain later on. Also, we face credit downgrades if we increase government debt too much.

    3. Many commentators are unsure if the stimulus packages around the world will work anyway. Thus, the “rolling maul” style is probably justified as it allows time to assess the effect of previous moves and time to tweak future moves.

    4. It would be nice to have more money to throw around. However, huge ACC blowouts not disclosed in the PREFU have hamstrung what National can do now to an large extent.

  28. Scribe 28

    IT is the only person who has picked up on the comments from Gordon Campbell.

    Try to pretend you didn’t know Gordon wrote this paragraph. Read it with the belief that — I don’t know — Karl du Fresne or Garth George or Bob Clarkson wrote it.

    Well, I can’t see very many jobs for women in this package. Women are taxpayers too, and the number of households headed by single women earners is on the rise. Yet this package seems geared almost entirely towards construction and to creating jobs for plumbers, electricians and tradesmen.

    Changed your mind at all?

    If a Nat MP or right-wing commentator said this, he/she would be burnt at the stake (blog style).

    captcha: Gordon care (probably not about my comment, I mean)

  29. Tane 29

    Sod you’re supposed to be banned. Pull your head in boyo – you don’t want me to add another month do you?

  30. Redbaiter 30

    “Changed your mind at all?”

    About what exactly? The paragraph is whining politically correct Stalinist/ left wing garbage. Typical of NZ’s mainstream media commentators.

  31. Redbaiter 31

    Gawd, the filter again.. !!!

    Don’t tell me “Stalinist” is a bad word.

    [lprent: It looks at the base word “stalin”. The reason that some words are in auto-moderation is because they have been over-used by trolls previously. While there are lots of ways to use those words in context, most trolls just use them for shock or emotional effect. It saves our time if we simply dump people using them into moderation because trolls have a limited vocab, and find that they cannot resist using those words.

    It is an elegant disincentive to trolling because most people will use certain words only when they really really mean them precisely. That sometimes throws up a false positive. But mostly it just catches the hidebound and unthinking…

    Incidentally I picked the words mostly by looking at the style of discussion (usually flaming) after their use.]

  32. Redbaiter 32

    Yep, it is….

    Why for chrissakes???

  33. Felix 33

    “Changed your mind at all?”

    About what? The paragraph you quoted is, for better or worse, pretty accurate.

    If George had written this, it would be ruing the rise of “households headed by single women earners” but it doesn’t. If it were from a Nat MP it would be full of grammatical errors and if it had been written by Clarkson it would’ve been in crayon.

    I don’t see what’s controversial about the statement though.

    Why for chrissakes???

    I expect because it’s a word which is used almost exclusively used by trolls like you.

  34. Tane 34

    Yep, it is .

    Why for chrissakes???

    It’s a troll filter. Abusive idiots with nothing to contribute often come on here accusing us or other lefties of Stalinism or comparing us to Hitler. It’s just simpler to have them go straight to moderation. A few genuine contributors get caught in the net, but on balance it just makes life easier.

  35. @ work 35

    I’d discribe it more as a rational perspective filter than a troll filter…

  36. northpaw 36


    would you please be consistent.. that last comment of yours began with a spellchecker need but then, irrationally, stuffed up ‘rational’. Yep, it should have come out like rashional to make that consistent grade.

  37. northpaw 37

    can someone please explain to me how my comment appeared in the encryption ‘box’ – as a malfunction it might account for comment loss which otherwise suggests a ban for no apparent reason..

  38. Redbaiter 38

    “I’d discribe it more as a rational perspective filter than a troll filter ”

    Look, I understand the need to try and keep discussion orderly. Fair enough. However I spit upon those posters who claim it is inappropriate to use words like St*l*n*sm.

    Such attempts to curb discussion are merely another leftist device to cloud truth.

    St*l*n*sm is a legitimate criticism of much of what the left do, especially in the sense that it (to me anyway) means the frequent use of propagandists and propaganda organs to implant false concepts amongst the citizenry.

    In this instance, I used it quite correctly to describe the words of a leftist propagandist (Gordon Campbell) writing leftist propaganda (anti- family M*r*ist rubbish) in an organ of leftist propaganda (Scoop).

    It is not extreme or outlandish to comment on the strategy of the long march, Gramsacianism, or any such concepts. They are out there and should be discussed.

    That so many posters here attack anyone wanting to discuss those concepts as “trolls” is more proof of the correctness of those who know the (long term) game the left are playing.

  39. BLiP 39

    Masturbater said:

    ” . . . That so many posters here attack anyone wanting to discuss those concepts as “trolls’ is more proof of the correctness of those who know the (long term) game the left are playing. . . . ”

    Ascribing the programs of a dictator who murdered 30 million of his citizens to a journalist’s thoughts is scarcely reasoned discussion or comparable allusion. The comparision is wrong and, deliberately so, thus, you are a troll simply abusing your fellow commentators and/or making a statement so outlandish that you get the attention you are obviously seeking.

    You’re not folling anyone with this “oh poor me” argument.

    IrishBill: be careful BLiP, while your argument is fine the use of terms like “masturbater” to describe other commenters is unnecessary. That’s the kind of behaviour that got ‘sod banned.

  40. @ work 40


    would you please be consistent.. that last comment of yours began with a spellchecker need but then, irrationally, stuffed up ‘rational’. Yep, it should have come out like rashional to make that consistent grade.

    Normally I have firefox to check my spelling, how ever at work I am not so lucky. I am not a good speller, so when I’m busy I pick and choose where I put my effort into getting things correct. In almost all cases what I write (except for one time the other day where I managed to leave out a word entirely) is quite clear what I am meaning.

    If you consider the fact that I can’t spell well relevant to the quality of my idea’s, then you can fuck off. If all you have to critisize about my idea’s is my spelling, then please try harder next time.

  41. BLiP 41

    IrishBill: be careful BLiP, while your argument is fine the use of terms like “masturbater’ to describe other commenters is unnecessary. That’s the kind of behaviour that got ‘sod banned.

    Message received and understood.

  42. LGD 42

    a distinctly “burly’ quality
    “Shovel-ready” was the phrase used here.

  43. Redbaiter 43

    “Ascribing the programs of a dictator who murdered 30 million of his citizens to a journalist’s thoughts is scarcely reasoned discussion or comparable allusion.”

    As I wrote above and you apparently missed- That is not to me the essence of St*lin*sm. Sure, St*l*n was a mass murderer. So were many other tot*litari*ns. Mass murder is not peculiar to St*l*n. The real point is the effective use of propaganda in shaping political concepts amongst the citizens. St*l*n is generally regarded as the first to use this strategy and to use it so succesfully. H*tl*r, M*o and many other dictators used it subsequently, and it is used today by the left who seek to make socialism the dominant culture and deny any other political viewpoint a legitimate voice.

  44. Pascal's bookie 44

    Rb, so the American revolutionaries and various other enlightenment thinkers didn’t make “effective use of propaganda in shaping political concepts amongst the citizens.”

    Or was they all dirty steekin followers of the Georgian despot too?

    Or is it only propaganda if you disagree with it?

  45. northpaw 45


    tks for telling me of your disability—I can now make allowances.

    Also the obvious directness of your answer reveals a low potential to evade troll filters reliant on correct word spellings.. see what I mean with the someone on this thread using asterisks..

    a hardline response – given here in what I believe your best interests – would be that good ideas need correct expression to gain traction..

    all the best

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