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Why didn’t Kate know Nats’ Kiwisaver policy?

Written By: - Date published: 12:48 pm, May 29th, 2008 - 33 comments
Categories: kremlinology, national - Tags: , ,

The most surprising thing to come of the National’s Kiwisaver fiasco is not that they want to undermine the scheme and get employers out of paying their part (this is the party of big business, after all). No, the real shock is to learn that Kate Wilkinson, National’s Industrial Relations spokesperson, is not involved in developing National’s policy on the biggest new work rights issue of the past year and ‘ignorant’, in Key’s words, of the policy.

This is just incredible: National spokespeople not developing policy in the major issues under their portfolio and not even informed by the leadership of what that policy is. It fits though, with what a couple of drunk National backbenchers told a reader one night ‘John doesn’t really know what he wants to do if (when, hah!) he becomes Prime Minister and he certainly hasn’t told us!’

Policy development is in the hands of a few senior Nats (assuming that someone is developing National policy). The fact that National is not sharing the load as normal can only have one explanation the leadership does not trust the caucus because the caucus is opposed to Key’s policy direction. That certainly meshes with the stories of internal ructions we keep hearing. Like the Rogernome faction that controlled Labour in the 1980s, a small band within National is controlling policy, keeping the rest of the party and the country in the dark.

The results of such cabal politics were disastrous for Labour in the 1980s, and it looks like it’s starting to damage National too.

[incidentally, what a world where a party is scared to announce its own policy and its opposition is keen for it to see the public light. Both National and its opponents believe that if people know what National wants to do in government it will cost the party support]

33 comments on “Why didn’t Kate know Nats’ Kiwisaver policy?”

  1. Tane 1

    It’s interesting that for all National’s empty promises about closing the wage gap they don’t even have a proper spokesperson for industrial relations.

    Wages are hugely affected by industrial relations legislation and this is a policy area where National has said it will be making changes. What the hell is going on, and who’s setting their wage policies?

    If the Dom Post this morning is anything to go by the employer lobby certainly has some ideas, and they don’t involve lifting wages…

    “We’d want to ensure employers could take co-contributions into account in pay negotiations to sensibly manage wage and salary costs.”

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/dominionpost/4563922a23917.html

  2. Tamaki Resident 2

    I can understand why National doesn’t want to release policy in areas where it thinks that Labour may copy it’s policies (e.g Student Loans), but the Kiwisaver case is not like this at all. It seems to be simply because they know that their policy will be unpopular with the voters, so the less air-time the better.

    I am also deeply suspicious that a lot of National’s policy (if we do actually see something substantive) will morph into something quite different should they get into power. Fortunately they can no longer use the excuse “the books were in a worse state that the previous Govt let on”, but that won’t stand in the way of McCully & Co. pushing their agenda.

    As has been stated elsewhere, where was the alternative budget? Not just the Nats version of tax-cuts, but the expenditure side as well. I remember the days when the Opposition spokesman was called the ‘Shadow Minister” (and they were all men in those days!) – at the moment they’re all very faint shadows.

  3. Joker 3

    The reality is that all the National MP’s know the Party’s position on most policy. What they might not know completely is where the dead rats are that they will have to swallow.

  4. darryl p 4

    Kate Wilkinson, not told what to say by her leader so says the wrong thing.

    Maryanne Street, told exactly what to say by her leader and says the wrong thing.

    Women. You can’t trust them to do anything.

    🙂

    Post all Feminist rants to:
    Dr Darryl P
    PO Box 156-027
    Ponsonby
    Auckland

  5. roger nome 5

    Indeed, this is very revealing. My opinion is that the policy has probably been looked at a lot and that National isn’t just making things up as they go along.

    So if indeed there is a “kitchen cabinet” (so small all its members could fit in a kitchen) within National, who are in it?

    I guess we have Key and English. Surely the incompetent McCully is out of the loop. Perhaps others may include Ryall, Brownlee and on the outer circle Nick Smith, Simon Power and Judith Collins?

  6. Roger – I think you might want to expand that to Ruth Richardson, Roger Kerr, the Insurance Council and possibly big-oil oh, and federated farmers (amongst others). Of course I could be being cynical, I mean things have changed since the Brash days. Just look at all those new front-bench faces…

    Cap: “hurt starts” – do you think it means for John? Or for… me?!

  7. Steve Pierson: this post is an excellent example of spreading Fear Uncertainty and Doubt : -) Well done!!! I guess time will tell if it is a strategy that works.

  8. Joker 8

    The endless call for National policy details here is actually getting tedious.

    It is like critising a team who is winning by a handsome margin for their defensive tactics. Why do you need to run the ball when your opposition keep knocking it on and giving away penalties.

    The fact is that it is you lefties presently in power. So instead of wasting time casting aspursions about what your opponents might or might not do why dont you get on with running the country well, bringing out your own dynamic policy and live or die on the results. Though I suspect that is your problem.

    Recently this blog has been sounding like the left are already in opposition.

  9. higherstandard 9

    Robinsod

    Are you trying to cue a post by Travellereve ??

    Captcha Siagon principles …. pity would have been good for the previous post.

    On the lack of policy Key pretty much summed it up that they’re going to do very little until an election date is announced and even then I expect them to wait until the last possible moment and keep it wafer thin if the polls stay where they are.

  10. r0b 10

    Policy development is in the hands of a few senior Nats

    Is it? I thought National developed policy by auction.

    Just kidding.

    At least, I hope I’m just kidding. But post Hollow Men you do have to wonder.

  11. Tane 11

    get on with running the country well bringing out your own dynamic policy and live on the results

    The Standard doesn’t run the country, much as we’d like to. All we can do is report, analyse and critique.

    It is like critising a team who is winning by a handsome margin for their defensive tactics.

    The problem is National haven’t even stepped onto the field yet. But I guess that’s where the metaphor falls down.

    Captcha: ‘tackles again’

  12. Joker: good point. I guess National and John Key’s consistent rise in the polls is an indication that ‘keeping quiet’ is working.

    [there no rise in the polls for National. The gap is slightly down after peaking 4-8 months ago, check the Roy Morgan tracking. Get the little things wrong and you end up with the big picture totally out of whack. And, like I say, it’s extraordinary that a party has to hide its policy to be successful? Even more extraordinary, its backers support being kept in ignorance – ignorance is strength after all? SP]

  13. Matthew Pilott 13

    Mmm good point joker, any old fool would think there’s an election on.

  14. andy 14

    Joker,

    I just genuinely want to know the Nats policies so I can make a reasoned voting decision. This is not saturday afternoon footy, there will be real winners and losers.

    Nationals only policy so far is more expensive doctor visits and the ‘same, same’ no nuke, no asset sales 1st term.

    I am sorry if its tedious that I ask for a small return on my tax money from Nationals front, ahem, bench! Cause right know I don’t understand why I am paying them as they seem to be the same as Labour on most issues.

  15. darryl p 15

    National = same as Labour but cheaper and more economical to run.

  16. Joker 16

    Steve, Andy,

    Even though your crew pushed out the electoral campaign spending limit to a year an election has not been called yet.

    I fully expect National will divulge all policy detail in the run up to the election and hope that it lines up with my expectations. If not I wont vote for them.

    All this fretting that National will sneak/trick their way into power shows a real lack of faith in the inteligence of the NZ public.

    Captcha: Newlywed Hockey – Is that anything like a Cleveland steamer?

  17. andy 17

    All this fretting that National will sneak/trick their way into power shows a real lack of faith in the inteligence of the NZ public.

    not the NZ public, our political masters lack of faith in our intelligence (both side of the house)!

    A consequence of a spin/sound bite culture! And some of Us remember the years of policy announcements then direction switches after elections. MMP was a result because the electorate said ‘never again’, but it feels like we are back there again with the Nats policy vacuum.

  18. Rex Widerstrom 18

    There’s a certain irony about all this crowing over the “mis-steps” of Kate Wilkinson and Maryann Street.

    Both expressed an opinion – Wilkinson on Kiwisaver and Street on the cost and location of a conference. So happens I disagree with both opinions, but that’s not the point… I’d actually like my 120 employees to have an independent thought or two, and to operate in an environment where the expression of such thoughts was encouraged.

    Shock horror, I’d even prefer it if they consulted their employers as to their wishes occasionally, and made some effort to reflect that in their work.

    But as soon as an MP says something and then gets soundly spanked by their leader, folks on the opposing side start crowing.

    “Oooo look, someone has disconnected from the hive mind! Quick, contact the Borg Queen (or King, as the case may be) and have them reconnected to the matrix”.

    Yes, I’m mixing my sci-fi metaphors. The point is, I now have a better idea of how Kate Wilkinson and Maryann Street think, and thus a better idea of their suitability as my employees. Their leaders, however, have proven themselves yet again to be bereft of the courage of any convictions whatsoever.

  19. all_your_base 19

    Joker, I suspect you’re going to be disappointed unless by “policy” you mean “focus group tested bullet points”. National’s playing ‘small target’ politics which by definition means going policy light.

    It’s often said that the best indicator of someone’s future behaviour is their past behaviour. Had National not, for example, cut superannuation in the past perhaps there would be less suspicion that they’ll do it again – particularly given Bill English’s recent statement that the current scheme is “overly generous”.

  20. Rex, it’s not about an MP expressing an opinion or making a mistake. It’s about how National is going about policy development and control, and why.

  21. andy 21

    Rex

    I think the Borg mind is supposed to be on show when talking up your team (staying on message), independent thinking should be done behind closed doors in caucus?

    But get your point and sci-fi metaphors..

  22. Draco TB 22

    National = same as Labour but cheaper and more economical to run.

    hahhaha

    That is so funny.

    The reason I dislike working for big business and usually get round to telling them to go fuck themselves is because they do everything on the cheap. The machinery that’s broken but kinda working stays there and doesn’t get fixed and ends up costing more in time, financial cost and frustration.

  23. Rex Widerstrom 23

    andy, you’re dead right… disagreements are ‘supposed’ to be had behind closed doors (where the leadership can make threats about people’s Ministerial prospects / tenure and list rankings; and the wishes of the electorate, other than as may be expressed via focus groups, can be safely ignored or suitable spin concocted to assuage their concerns).

    And then everyone troops out and says they agree even though they’d been threatening to slit their wrists a minute ago (witness the hilarious pirouettes currently being performed by Australian Shadow Treasurer Malcolm Turnbull over Brendan Nelson’s proposal to slash 5c off a litre of petrol).

    And Parliament is nothing more than window dressing for decisions made elsewhere. All parties do it that way, of course. It’s just not my idea of democracy, and nor does it serve the people well, if indeed it can be said to serve them at all.

    Steve, with respect I think it’s about both things. Wilkinson should have been able to defend herself by saying “that’s my opinion, it’s what I believe and I’d be happy to debate that with my colleagues”. As should Street. But both their leaders came charging out, focus group polling in hand, and battered them round their respective ears.

  24. sean14 24

    How many Labour MPs were in on the policy development around KiwiSaver?

  25. Ari 25

    Kate didn’t know for one of two reasons: either the policy wasn’t concrete (see policy-light/small target) and she didn’t do enough work avoiding the issue, or National is an undemocratic boys’ club and most if not all of their women are regularly cut out of the leadership circles, where all the policy is made unilaterally. (see the “merit-based decisions” dogwhistle that they trumpet so proudly)

    There’s good evidence for both positions, so it’s not exactly an eithor-or situation, I think. I’m surprised that there’s actually so much discussion on this, but apparently some people aren’t up to connecting the dots.

  26. Lew 26

    darryl p: “National = same as Labour but cheaper and more economical to run.”

    Cleverest line I’ve seen all day, thanks.

    Rex: “I’d actually like my 120 employees to have an independent thought or two, and to operate in an environment where the expression of such thoughts was encouraged.”

    Bloody oath.

    Ari: “There’s good evidence for both positions”

    I don’t think there’s good evidence for the latter position. I think there’s a common perception of how National is run like the Business Roundtable, but that’s not evidence.

    Which is not to say I don’t think it’s the case, just that I recognise it is somewhat speculative.

    L

  27. Dan 27

    One of the problems of a political party that depends on focus groups and one liners for policy is that they miss out on a feeling for the overall gut reaction. They miss out on the unity of a guiding philosophy. Key’s slipperiness and ability to do a 180 turn on policy is totally understandable: just say what you have to to get into power and then bring out the policy. The spokespeople are tokens, in fact liabilities.
    The overall reaction by NZers when they realise that the Nats are following the Douglas prescription of keeping 99% of NZers uninformed of their intentions will be blunt. That the Nats could not offer an alternative budget says it all and is helping a mist of suspicion creep into the the average Kiwi that John boy is not all he cracks himself up to be.

  28. Tane 28

    Sean, I couln’t tell you for sure, but I can guarantee the Minister of Labour was involved.

  29. Alan 29

    Talking of not knowing policy the Herald on Sunday had an interesting side bar story concerning the antics of a Mr. David Bennett of Pacific Helmets who has been so upset about the tax cuts offered in the budget that he is going to pay all his workers the extra $14.00 a week they will receive from the changes in tax Michael Cullen announced from now until October the 1st when he will cut their pay as the tax system will make up the short fall.
    The Irascible Curmudgeon has an interesting blog about this bit of Tory sophistry which puts Mr. Bennett’s actions into a clearer light than the Herald on Sunday reported.
    Perhaps Mr. Bennett’s announcement is another leak of the hidden National Party policies – this time on workers’ rights?

  30. Lyn 30

    Darryl P – a belated feminist response to your initial comment on this thread: you appear to be a witless tw*t and I, for one, will be reading any of your future comments with this in mind. Cheers

  31. higherstandard 31

    Lyn

    You appear to be a humourless tw*t. Get over yourself.

  32. Lyn 32

    Well, it’s an alternative to getting over you I suppose. Sexism is still mildly funny, even to me, but I try to keep a non-tolerance policy, just on principle. Happy Sunday evening HS.

  33. Jum 33

    darrylp
    Unfortunately, you can always trust women to trust men.

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