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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012: employment/unemployment

9 January 2013 4 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises.

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 Employment/Unemployment

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The rhetoric:

We agree with you, it’s the government’s responsibility to do everything within it’s powers to try to get people jobs.” – John Key,  17 November 2011

Source

The driving goal of my Government is to build a more competitive and internationally-focused economy with less debt, more jobs and higher incomes.” – John Key, 21 December 2011

Source

It’s true, ultimately if every one was to get off welfare we’d need to create even more jobs, but that’s the Government’s whole agenda is to have a vibrant economy that does produce jobs. I  certainly accept there’s not a job for every single person, but I don’t accept there aren’t some jobs out there.” –  John Key, 28 February 2012

Source

The reality:

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate

Source:  Tradingeconomics – Unemployment rate

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New Zealand Unemployed Persons

Source:  Tradingeconomics – Unemployed persons

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The response:

Unemployment has increased by 70,000 people since National took office in 2008.

The Global Financial Crisis, as a rationale, has worn thin and should be dismissed for what it is;  a shoddy excuse that should no longer be accepted.

The lowest unemployment, as any National politician will happily confirm is in Christchurch,

In Canterbury, in the year to September 2012, the unemployment rate decreased 0.3 percentage points to 5.2 percent. For women the decrease was 0.8 percentage points, down to 5.9 percent. There was a slight increase in the unemployment rate for men (0.1 percentage points), up to 4.6 percent.

The number of people employed rose 8,800 over the year in Canterbury, with 11,600 more people employed in part-time work (up 17.9 percent). There was a 2,800 decrease in the number of people working full time (down 1.2 percent).

The total increase in employment reflected a statistically significant 9,000 rise in the professional scientific, technical services, administrative, and support services industry group. Most of this rise was from the professional, scientific, and technical services industries.

The number of men and women employed in Canterbury both increased. For women the rise in employment was mostly in the professional, scientific, technical services, administrative, and support services industry group. For men the rise in employment was in that industry group, but also in the construction industry.

Source

Which poses the question: if the reconstruction of Christchurch is creating jobs – why has National not engaged in a similar house-building programme throughout the country?

If the reconstruction programme has resulted in increased employment in Christchurch – why not implement the very same solution nationwide, to generate jobs?

The answer, unfortunately, lies in ideological pig-headedness; National does not accept that the State has a role in job creation,

Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.” – John Key,  24 August 2012

Source

Unfortunately (for us, as a nation and society), this laissez faire, market-based  approach, has  failed to deliver the jobs we desperately need. In fact, the “free market” has simply opted for the cheaper, easy-option,

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Foreigners flood in for Chch rebuild

Full story

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Not exactly a stunning result for National’s promise last year to create 170,000 new jobs.

Addendum:

Will Statistics NZ  include the 719 foreign workers as part of any job growth stats for the next Quarter?

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Report_Card_employment

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Guest Author: David Cunliffe on Scandinavian Economic Development

– Hon David Cunliffe, Labour Economic Development and Associate Finance Spokesperson, Clean-tech Cluster Chair

Published 30 September 2012

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Scandinavian Economic Development Speech: Fast Forward – Growing Good Jobs

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Speech to Laingholm District Citizens Association, Laingholm, 30 September 2012

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Robert Louis Stevenson, the man who wrote ‘Treasure Island’, once said: “Everybody lives by selling something”.

In these days of economic treachery, this sounds like a very negative statement.

Everybody lives, today, by selling something.

But actually, the phrase: ‘Everybody lives by selling something’ is merely stating a simple truth.

In order to survive I must breathe air.

In order for me to breathe air, there need to be green plants producing oxygen.

So, when I breathe in, I’m breathing in air that was mostly made in the green plants.

But this is not a one-sided trade.  I don’t just breath in air, I breathe out carbon dioxide, which is in return breathed in by the green plants, and converted back into oxygen, for me to breathe once more.

The green plants and I need each other. We trade what we produce, and both sides survive and prosper as a result of our necessary partnership.

Ecologists call this process of mutually-beneficial trading ‘symbiosis’.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Motivational speakers have a simpler term: they call this process ‘win-win’. There’s no winner and loser when I trade my carbon dioxide to the green plants and get oxygen in return. I need the oxygen; the plants need my carbon dioxide in order to convert sunlight into food.

Provided both sides play fair, this is truly a win-win situation.

The problem is, too often over the last 30 years, and some would say for much longer, the world’s economic system has not been win-win for the average person, indeed for most of us. It’s been win-lose: they win and you lose.

The rich speculators and traders get richer, while the rest of us get poorer. Like it or not, our country is going backwards.

What happened? This widening gap isn’t the Kiwi way. What’s changed over the last thirty years?

Let’s have a quick recap of history. As a result of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the New Zealand Labour Party – like its counterparts around the world – legislated to rein in speculation, to protect jobs and to protect human rights.

Most of New Zealand’s great economic assets, such as our farms, our roads and our forests, grew and prospered as a direct result of these policies. As our nation grew more prosperous, the wealth was widely shared. No children needed to starve in the New Zealand I grew up in.

However, the 1980s and ’90s saw the rise of a philosophy developed by the rich, for the rich. It was called Neo-Liberalism.

Neo-Liberalism is based on the idea that it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Neo-Liberalism is based on the idea that greed is good, that we’re all locked in an economic life-and-death-struggle with each other. Neo-Liberalism says that compassion is for suckers. Neo-Liberalism says that if the world is going to the dogs, it might as well be the top dogs. Indeed, to borrow from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, not only is greed good, “it’s legal.”[i]

When the British Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher was asked about the effects that her Neo-liberal policies would have on society, she replied:

There is no such thing as society… There are individual men and women.[ii]

The amazing thing about the Neo-Liberals is their wilful blindness to how badly their ideas have failed. Not just once, but repeatedly. Neo-Liberal policies directly caused two of the largest financial crashes in history. Did they apologise? No way. Like some mad doctor, when the first dose of medicine didn’t work, they wanted to double the dose.

And so, the Neo-Liberal bandwagon rolls on. Right here in New Zealand, the National Party is still trotting out the same discredited economic policies that got us into this mess in the first place.

I have just returned from Denmark and Finland, and I am convinced there are lessons for us all in how these Scandinavian countries run their economies. In particular, we need to take note of why the Scandinavian countries are slowly winning while many other European countries are rapidly losing.

Let’s take a quick look at the ‘Scandinavian model.’

The ‘Scandinavian model’ isn’t really Scandinavian at all. It could also be called the traditional New Zealand model. A model based on the idea that the economy is like a farm or garden. If you want a garden to grow, then you have to dig the soil and plant the seeds. You have to feed and nurture the plants and you have deal to the weeds when they grow up amongst the crop.

If this sounds like simple common sense: it is.

Any farmer will tell you that you get back from a farm what you put in. If you let weeds grow, you get a farm full of weeds. If you nurture your soil, livestock and crops, you have a good chance of a healthy farm, and a healthy return on your investment.

Which countries are currently surviving the recession best? The ones with the Scandinavian economic model.

According to Neo-Liberal economic theory, the Scandinavian countries should have collapsed by now. After all, they have large numbers of public employees on decent wages. Large trade unions. Very high taxation. A huge amount of government spending. I’m not arguing for a carbon-copy, but it has worked for them.

While the Neo-Liberals in America, Britain and New Zealand have been targeting those on welfare, blaming them for the world’s problems, the Scandinavian countries have been doing the opposite. That is, they’ve been helping those on welfare to get jobs, not blaming them for being poor.

After taking a big hit from the global financial crisis in 2009, the Scandinavian economies have bounced back strongly, while most of the rest of Europe seems stuck in reverse.

What’s the Scandinavian secret? The Scandinavian people have mastered the art of win-win.

For example, on my recent visit, I saw the Danish approach to economic development.

Denmark doesn’t tell its businesspeople what to do. Instead, Denmark sees its businesspeople as partners. The Danish government sits down with its key business groups. The two sides plan a workable strategy. After listening to its voters, workers and business partners, the Danish government doesn’t muck around. Incentives, sector plans, skills training, research and development, industry investment, targets and timetables are all actively used to get the economy moving and to keep it moving.

There is real symbiosis; it’s a win-win partnership, and the whole country benefits.

No surprise then, that Finland and Sweden came third and fourth respectively in the latest World Economic Forum competitiveness survey.[iii]

This competitiveness is driven by a government that understands how to invest in its people. According to the World Economic Forum, the key to the Scandinavians’ success is largely the result of a high level investment by the government and industry in education and training.[iv] The Scandinavians understand that ignorance is poison.

The Scandinavians know they cannot compete with China for low labour costs. They don’t bother to try. Instead, the Scandinavians have learned the value of working smarter instead of merely working harder.

Scandinavian bosses and workers don’t see each other as natural enemies. They may not always get along and they may not always agree, but they understand clearly that bosses and workers need each other.

I wish our government understood this.

GROWING JOBS, NOT WEEDS

So what would a good farmer do to grow the farm called New Zealand? What practical tools and lessons can we take from the small, smart countries of Scandinavia?

Good soil

A good farmer ploughs the soil to create the conditions for healthy growth.

Getting the economic basics right is important.

The first economic basic that we need to get right is trust. Whether it’s with respect to John Banks skirting around the truth or John Key burying his head in the sand over the Dotcom saga, New Zealand’s reputation as an honest country in which to do business is under serious threat.

We have to restore trust, both in New Zealand and overseas. Investors won’t come to New Zealand if they think we’re a banana republic.

And make no mistake about it: Labour welcomes investors to New Zealand. However, we welcome investors who come as partners, not masters. Our country is not for sale. New Zealanders do not wish to become tenants in their own country.

We also need to stabilise our currency, so that businesses have some certainty. We need to keep the New Zealand dollar from continually rising, because if the dollar is too high then our exported goods become too expensive. Other countries do this – so should we. The high New Zealand dollar is making life hard for exporters and it’s simply ruining manufacturing in New Zealand.

As my colleague David Parker has said recently, targeting inflation alone is an old orthodoxy that few countries support[v]. We need more balanced objectives, and a broader range of tools to achieve them.

We also need to stop the housing market from spinning out of control. Not only do high housing prices make homes unaffordable for many ordinary families, but housing booms are usually followed by housing busts. We’ve had quite enough economic train wrecks in recent years, thanks very much.

But economic and financial stability is about more than just keeping prices stable.

Watering the soil

Good farmers don’t just dig the soil, they keep it watered.

The lifeblood of business is capital, but many private investors have taken flight since the crash of 2008. A business community without investment is like a field without irrigation: without some water, the crops will wither and die.

I’m not advocating the government dolling out taxpayer funds to big business. There’s been too much of that already. Taxpayers are sick of it. I’m sick of it.

However, there’s no reason that the government can’t help those who are helping themselves.

For example, suppose a private company needs to do some expensive research and development, and this research and development benefits the whole country.

As another example, suppose a private company is researching a cure for Kiwifruit disease? Labour’s research and development tax credits would help that company find a solution.

Accelerated tax depreciation for short-life technology, and other measures soon to be announced, would also assist the innovation process.

Those kinds of policies could be part of a broader win-win approach. That’s how things work in the Scandinavian countries. That’s how the Scandinavians gets results.

Investment also comes from savings. For those who don’t know it, New Zealanders in recent times has had some of the lowest levels of savings in the developed world.[vi] This is wrong for two reasons: one, without savings, our citizens have no fall-back position if something goes wrong. Two, because when people save these savings can be invested wisely.

That’s why Labour’s universal KiwiSaver plan lifted our savings rate four times faster than National’s alternative. Under Labour’s policy, New Zealand would have more capital available for local investment, rather than relying so heavily on foreign-owned banks.

That’s a lesson the Scandinavians have learned and that our Aussie mates have also got right. We need to get it right as well.

Another area in which Labour is streets ahead of National is in the area of capital gains tax. Let me explain this very briefly: many New Zealand businesses have given up investing in useful and productive areas. Why? Because the New Zealand tax system encourages business to invest in the wrong places. That’s because many of the richest New Zealanders have grown rich from capital gains. They buy a piece of land for a million and sell it for three million. That’s a cool two million dollar profit, much of it tax-free. Regardless of how they earn their income, everyone should pay the same rate of tax.

Investing in property for capital gains not only makes home buying unaffordable for many families, it sucks billions away from productive investments.[vii]

Worse still, history has shown that what goes up generally comes down, and often with a crash.

What a capital gains tax does is encourage all investors to put their money into areas that produce something.  This will have the effect of dampening the current property bubble, while freeing up billions for investment in areas like computer technology or energy production.

This is not some freak theory; it’s acknowledged internationally. That’s why there are only two other developed countries that don’t have a capital gains tax.

Pro-growth tax reform, including a capital gains tax and the restoration of tax credits for research and development, is needed to water the soils: feeding real Kiwi businesses and creating real Kiwi jobs.

Planting the seeds

Good farmers carefully sow and nurture the seeds and tend the crops as they grow to maturity.

The seeds of our economy are the innovation and ideas that can be raised in our universities, businesses, garages and garden sheds.

Kiwis are an innovative, creative people. Our capacity for working wonders with reduced resources has led us to developing the world’s first electric fences, jet boats and so on. The list is almost endless and the ideas are often brilliant. But too often, unless the inventor has deep pockets, too many good ideas don’t get off the shelf. Once the seed capital from ‘friends, fools and family’ runs out, often, so does the business. The sad fact is that – even during the economic good times, four out of five Kiwi business start-ups withered and died in the first two years.

In Japan and Korea, four out of five new businesses survive past two years[viii]. The difference is that in Japan and Korea, there is comprehensive government support for small business development. Support with budgeting. Support with obtaining investment. Support with business plans. Support with taking successful products and showing them to the world.

Last week, the New Zealand Herald told the sad story of how 32 of New Zealand’s biggest high-tech companies have been sold off overseas at an early stage[ix]. That’s like ripping out a crop when it’s half-grown. It’s madness.

Labour welcomes positive investment, but we want to avoid the best and brightest of our young companies being continually hollowed-out from Kiwi ownership.

We need policies that will help young Kiwi companies grow for longer, and become stronger, right here in New Zealand. We know the main problems: a lack of capital to support growth, a lack of experience in trading outside of New Zealand, difficulty communicating with overseas customers and a difficulty delivering the product or service around the world. David Shearer, who is also our Innovation Spokesperson, will be speaking more on our ideas in this area shortly.

Labour also believes that government should try to buy Kiwi-made products where possible and appropriate, and ensure that Kiwi companies have a fair chance to sell to their own government. Taking a hard look at government procurement is also a part of Labour’s policy mix.

The government should also have a strong policy of avoiding products that cause significant environmental harm and those that rely on the cynical exploitation of workers, especially women and children.

Rebuilding manufacturing, sectors and regions

Good farmers have a plan for every paddock on the farm. We need a sustainable growth strategy for every industry sector and region.

Sadly, however, since National took over many regions have slipped backwards, and this is no accident. The East Coast and Northland have skyrocketing youth unemployment. Wasting a generation of young Kiwis in our regions is not good enough. Take forestry for example. We don’t build enough quality products with our own wood. Instead we cut down the trees and ship the logs to ‘sweatshops’ overseas. Under the current New Zealand government policy, there’s simply no incentive to do otherwise.

A similar thing happens in dairy. Our milk is mainly shipped overseas as commodity products like milk powder, while too often those that develop these ingredients into branded products get most of the benefit.

It’s even worse with our seafood. Did you know that for the next four years it is legal for New Zealand companies to catch fish in our waters using Korean boats manned by Filipino sailors who are treated like slaves?[x] This fish, in some cases, is then sent to Asia for processing, then shipped back to New Zealand for sale in our supermarkets. This is madness.

Both the International Monetary Fund and the credit rating agencies have said New Zealand’s biggest weakness is that too great a share of our total exports is selling raw commodities like milk and logs at low prices. Instead, we need to be making something more valuable out of our milk and timber before we export them[xi]. That’s the Scandinavian way.

In case anyone has missed the headlines of the last few weeks about massive layoffs at Tiwai Point, Norske Skog’s Kawerau mill, Solid Energy’s Huntly and Spring Creek mines, Nuplex and APN in Auckland, and many, many others – manufacturing is in crisis in New Zealand.

40,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2008 when National came to government and there are more layoffs to come[xii].  Some 65,000 more New Zealanders are unemployed[xiii] and that’s not counting what Bill English now calls the “safety valve”[xiv] of 54,000 other New Zealanders giving up and moving permanently to Australia in the last year alone – an all-time record.

So we desperately need a high-value manufacturing strategy in this country. Gone are the days when manufacturing was just some unskilled worker bolting two parts together. That style of manufacturing is now inevitably done in low-wage countries. In most cases, we simply can’t compete with Asia when it comes to large-scale, low-cost manufacturing.

However, we’re not out of the race, by any means. According to Statistics New Zealand, there are about 22,700 manufacturing businesses in New Zealand[xv], which together produce about $20 billion of sales[xvi]. $20 billion.

I believe we could triple that, not by lowering our environmental standards or paying our workers less, but doing what we do so well.

New Zealand is very good at thinking small and thinking smart. We can do small production runs of specialist items. We can process raw materials that were gathered nearby. We can produce products on demand for our local market or international markets.

Above all, we can think smart. We can take an idea from concept to manufacture, often on a budget that wouldn’t pay for lunch in America or Germany.

Should the government be backing the manufacturing sector? Absolutely. Just look to the Scandinavian example.

Prof Göran Roos, a leading Scandinavian industrial economist, points out that every dollar in manufacturing business leads directly to $1.74 in turnover elsewhere in the economy[xvii].  And he and others point out that with increasing linkage between manufacturing and high value services in global trade, you can’t win without manufacturing capability. Buy a new car, get a regular servicing package.

The Scandinavians understand that a successful manufacturing strategy provides high-value jobs, good incomes, and helps reduce our overseas debt.

Labour will work with unions and businesses to enhance skills training to help support a strong manufacturing heart. The heart of a high-performance manufacturing sector is highly-productive workplaces with excellent training and decent living wages.

Like in the Scandinavian countries, we want workers to have the training and support to adapt to changing jobs with ‘flexicurity’ throughout their lives. Flexicurity: it means ‘flexible security’[xviii].

This is important. Look at what’s happening with the West Coast coal miners. After a lifetime of hard work in the coalmines, these miners are now facing the economic scrapheap[xix] thanks to National’s plans to railroad the sale of Solid Energy. The miners must now adapt to a changing world.  Can they do this overnight? Of course not.

That’s where the government can help, not with a handout, and not by lowering environmental standards or strip-mining national parks, but with an investment in the future of those workers and an investment in the future of our entire country. It’s time to recognise that our most valuable resource is not just our land, but our people.

Clean and green

Another crucial sector is clean-tech. Labour leader David Shearer has called for a clean, green and clever economy for good reason – there are almost seven billion people on the planet[xx].

It’s obvious now to most governments, including not only the Scandinavians but also most of Europe, China, Korea and Japan, that we simply can’t keep living the wasteful and destructive ways of the past. As government regulations around the world get tougher, there’s a huge global market for clean technology. That is, technology that makes more effective use of our precious resources while reducing pollution and wastage.

You may rest assured; our competitors are investing heavily in clean technology. Why is New Zealand not doing more to win in the global green race – the $6 trillion export market for clean-tech[xxi]?

There are already some great ideas being developed, but building a strong clean-tech sector will only happen if the government sends the right signals. For example, the more we require our power generators to act responsibly, the more we are encouraging the development of alternative ways of generating electricity.

But the National government is going the other way – scrapping Labour’s biofuels obligations and effectively wiping out the infant biofuels industry.  Now they have the gall to say biofuels will save Kawerau[xxii]. Shameful.

Labour believes there is no inherent conflict between positive business and the environment.

Labour is not opposed to environmentally responsible mineral and energy exploration. However, Labour never forgets that most of New Zealand’s export dollars come from living things. A wise government, like a good farmer, needs to protect and nurture the source of our wealth.

We are interested in investments that have a win-win outcome. Investments that create jobs and exports, balanced with appropriate responsibilities to our communities and the environment.

Nobody in Parliament, and nobody in this room, will still be here in 100 years. However, those who follow us will enjoy the gifts we give and will endure the mistakes we make. That thought alone should make us pause.

GROWING JOBS AND HOPE

We need better from our government. We need a comprehensive strategy that includes planning, research, financial incentives and assistance with helping local companies sell their products overseas.

It’s not rocket science; it’s common sense.

Kiwis are very decent people.  They know they’ve been conned by Neo-liberalism and its National-Act acolytes. They want to do something about it. They want to reclaim that wonderful sense of fairness, safety and honesty that used to be the hallmark of this country.

In my remarks today I have stressed three key things:

First, contrary to the failed Neo-liberal policies that got the world into this mess, it’s really clear to you, to me and to the incoming Labour government, that we all do better together when we all win together. Think Scandinavia. Think symbiosis.

Second, it’s in Kiwi DNA to understand farming – the role of government in helping to create an innovative, job rich economy should be like a good farmer.

  • Tending the soil to get the fundamentals right.  Irrigating it with capital and fertilizing it with skills and technology.
  • Planting the seeds of future success through a step change in innovation.
  • Having a plan for each paddock – our industry sectors and regions – so we can be the best we can be.  Understanding that it is crucial to have high value manufacturing and clean technology developed alongside making the best sustainable use from our resources.
  • And never forgetting that our most valuable asset is always our people. Investing in education, skills and lifelong learning; building decent high performance workplaces, and using the power of government to reward good business practices.

Third, we need a government that listens, that works in partnership, then takes action. We can rebuild this economy. We can make this country the envy of the world again. But we need a government that acts, like a good farmer, not one that just sits on the fence, watching the weeds grow, and letting the farm go to ruin.

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REFERENCES AND READINGS

[i] Internet Movie Database, Gordon Gekko quotes, available at http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0012282/quotes

[ii] Keay, D. (1987, September 23), Margaret Thatcher interview, Women’s Own.

[iii] Schwab, K. (ed.), ‘The Global Competitiveness Report 2008–2009’, World Economic Forum, available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GlobalCompetitivenessReport_2012-13.pdf

[iv] ibid.

[v] Hon David Parker’s recent Finance portfolio statements are available at http://www.labour.org.nz/portfolios/finance

[vi] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2012, June 7). Household saving rates – forecasts: Percentage of disposable household income, DOI: 10.1787/2074384x-table7.

[vii] New Zealand Labour Party (2011), David Cunliffe talks about the debt propelled economy (video), available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjyHctIljPM

[viii] Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan. Briefing note.

[ix] Wishart, S. (2012, September 24), ‘Kiwi high tech for sale’, New Zealand Herald, available at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10836029

[x] Ministry for Primary Industries (2012, February), Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Vessels, available at http://www.fish.govt.nz/en-nz/Consultations/Ministerial+Inquiry+into+Foreign+Charter+Vessels/default.htm

[xi] International Monetary Fund (2012, June 7 and prior), New Zealand and the IMF series, available at http://www.imf.org/external/country/nzl/index.htm

[xii] Newson, B. (2012, September 12), ‘Nothing ‘inevitable’ about mass redundancies’, EPMU statement, available at http://www.epmu.org.nz/news/show/173416

[xiv] Cited by Tarrant, A. (2012, September 21), ‘Record loss of migrants to Australia in year to August, Stats NZ says; Nearly net 40,000 cross Tasman to the ‘lucky country’’, interest.co.nz, available at http://www.interest.co.nz/news/61231/record-loss-migrants-australia-year-august-stats-nz-says-nearly-net-40000-cross-tasman-lu

[xv] Statistics New Zealand (2012, September 10), Survey and methods section, ‘Quarterly economic survey of manufacturing’, available at http://www.stats.govt.nz/surveys_and_methods/completing-a-survey/faqs-about-our-surveys/quarterly-economic-survey-of-manufacturing.aspx

[xvi] Statistics New Zealand (2012, September 10), Table 1: All Manufacturing section, ‘Economic Survey of Manufacturing: June 2012 quarter’, available from http://www.stats.govt.nz/~/media/Statistics/Browse%20for%20stats/EconomicSurveyofManufacturing/HOTPJun12qtr/esm-jun12-qtr-tables.xls

[xvii] Roos, G., (2012, June 29), Is Manufacturing in Decline?, special presentation.

[xviii] One European interpretation of ‘Flexicurity’ is detailed at European Commission – Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion section (n.d.), Flexicurity, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=102&langId=en

[xix] Sabin, B. (2012, September 25), ‘Spring Creek miner’s 5th redundancy’, 3news, available at http://www.3news.co.nz/Spring-Creek-miners-5th-redundancy/tabid/421/articleID/270538/Default.aspx

[xx] World Bank estimate cited in Google Public Data set. Granular global population analysis is available from the WolframAlpha knowledgebase (2012), available at http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=world+population&lk=4

[xxi] Innovas, cited in Pure Advantage (2012, May), New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race, p. 2.

[xxii] Hon Steven Joyce, National Party MP and Economic Development Minister, cited by Radio New Zealand (2012, September 11).

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Previous related blogposts

Guest Author: David Cunliffe, Get your invisible hand off our assets

Guest Author: David Cunliffe, A Bold New Direction?

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

Finland, some thoughts

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Guest Author: David Cunliffe, A Bold New Direction?

– David Cunliffe, MP for New Lynn, Labour Economic Development Spokesperson

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Speech to annual Kensington Swan insolvency function, Auckland, 11 June 2012

Tēnā Koutou

Thank you for inviting me into the lion’s den.

As this is a group of insolvency and receivership lawyers and accountants, it’s a fair guess that your businesses will be booming right now.

If I was speaking to a group of exporters and manufacturers, it’s a fair bet the opposite would be true.

And if this was a group of blue collar workers from my electorate in west Auckland, you can bet your boots the mood would be grim.

So many Kiwis are really struggling to make ends meet. After the 2008 crash they were just getting along. A year later this had turned to anger, a year later to despair. This year, many of them are heading for the departure gate: 50,000 a year in the last year alone. A quarter of New Zealanders no longer live here.

So for their sake, and everyone’s sake, let’s begin this conversation by being frank and up-front.

We all know that much of the business community generally favours National.

Unfortunately, New Zealand is still a democracy, so Labour gets voted back in from time to time. That’s “tiresome”! I know, but that’s the way it is.

So, what “evil plans” does Labour have in store for the business community this time? The answer might be welcome news for all but the insolvency team

Anyone who seriously believes that the economy can somehow heal itself by being left alone, hasn’t read a newspaper for the last 12 months.

Looking at world markets over the last few months, I would have to agree that we are “back at the precipice – with a frayed rope” (Brian Fallow, NZ Herald).

Greece may still reject its bailout package; Spanish banks are still in deep trouble; and Italy is too big to bail, or to let fail.

The Beehive spin doctors are all too ready to blame anyone but themselves for New Zealand’s repeated undershooting of growth forecasts. None of it washes.

The Canterbury earthquake rebuild should by now be a source of positive growth – but it is well behind schedule and the government is squarely to blame.

Commodity prices can’t be the problem. They have only just come off record highs, reminding us that putting all our cows in one basket is way too risky.

The results under the Key Government make depressing reading.

No one these days seriously believes that a totally unregulated economy will work. Just as important, no one seriously believes that a totally regulated economy will work. It’s a question of getting the balance right.

Do I want to return to the days when you needed a letter from your doctor before you could buy margarine? Absolutely not. Do I want to return to the days when people had a sense of security and trusted their leaders? Absolutely.

LESSONS FROM THE LAST GREAT DEPRESSION

It is said that “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” (George Santayana); or in plain language… “History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time.”

One of the things that gets me up in the morning is the sentiment expressed in the media and in the current government that “nothing can be done so we may as well take it.”

That we may as well accept appalling emigration levels, high unemployment and record high youth unemployment, an accelerating increase in poverty, and debt that leads to regular international credit downgrades.

We should expect more from each other than that.

There is absolutely no inevitability about economic decline.

We do face utterly fundamental choices about our economic future. Effective change will occur when tens of thousands of us behave differently in our firms and unions, boardrooms and Ministries, classrooms and farm sheds.

Of course it is easier to say what we should not do, than what we should do. So in these remarks I want to draw some lessons for what we should do differently:

1. Regulate Financial Markets

The Great Depression, for those who haven’t studied history, was caused by a lack of government regulation. Then, just like now, the vast majority of businessmen strongly resisted any attempt at government regulation.

Then, after the banks sent themselves bankrupt through unregulated speculation with their clients’ funds, the bankers tried to pretend that it wasn’t their fault.

The 1929 stock market crash triggered an economic tsunami that all but flattened America. Just like now, it was the ordinary people that bore the brunt of the crash and the depression that followed it.

And, as if the crash itself wasn’t bad enough, the government still refused to intervene, so the situation got worse. Bank after bank collapsed, along with the millions of families who had entrusted those bankers with their life savings.

By 1933, 11,000 of the United States’ 25,000 banks had failed. That’s nearly half.

People had no money, so they couldn’t buy manufactured goods. Because people stopped buying manufactured goods, factories closed down. Because factories closed down, workers got fired. Because workers got fired, they couldn’t buy manufactured goods.

And so it went on, and on, and on, until, by 1933, nearly 13 million Americans were unemployed. That was a quarter of the total workforce.

And what was the government’s response: nothing. Why? Because the government was intensely opposed to any kind of regulation of big business – the same view as many of the people in this room.

The then US Secretary of the Treasury was Andrew W. Mellon, who was, by curious coincidence, one of the wealthiest men in America.

Mellon strongly opposed government regulation of the banking sector. However, he strongly pushed for austerity measures to balance the budget. Does this sound familiar?

Mellon advised President Herbert Hoover to:

“liquidate labour, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people.”

Alas, no. What happened in America was exactly the same as is currently happening in Europe. The austerity measures, which were supposed to turn the economy around, instead sent it into a nosedive.

You know, one of the wonderful things about democracy, is that voters sometimes show a good deal more sanity than the politicians or the vested interests.

In America’s case, the voters threw out Herbert Hoover and voted in Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt heavily intervened in the economy, regulated the banks and the stockbrokers, and set America on the path of its longest period of economic growth in history.

I mention all this, because we are currently looking over the economic precipice once more. The world’s three largest economic zones: America, the European Union and Japan/China are already in decline.

And, amazingly, the economic purists in the West are still advocating exactly the same policies as the ones that caused the Great Depression. Really? Have we learned nothing from history?

Who carried the can when the whole house of cards came tumbling down? Certainly not the bankers that set up the house of cards in the first place. As usual, it’s the ordinary people, who pay taxes and naively expect politicians to look after their interests, who are paying the price.

Despite all the promises that the European economic austerity measures would turn this tragic situation around, the opposite is occurring.

When you start firing all your workers and closing down your government departments, those people have no money to spend. Because the workers have no money to spend, the local businesses suffer. So they start firing staff. So the economy goes into deep recession, with no easy way out.

The Labour team believes this is lunacy. If New Zealand goes into a recessionary spiral, what we are close to, we will have to be expansive too.

An increasing number of journalists and politicians are saying what ordinary people already know: that many of the economic policies of the last 30 years have ended in disaster.

You hear the National government taking about the need to sell assets because we have so little money in this country. Do you know why we have so little money in this country? It’s because a large percentage of our economic assets are overseas-owned.

For example, when the Australian-owned banks make billions in profits here, that money isn’t returned to New Zealanders. The money goes straight back overseas.

That financial drain is one of the main reasons we are not paying our way in the world – our external deficit is getting bigger and bigger.

2. Keep and build our assets

And, as if that were not bad enough, the government now wants to sell our major state assets, which is simply going to mean higher power prices for ordinary New Zealanders and still more profits disappearing overseas.

And I’m not the only one who thinks this is nuts. The economic consultants BERL, concluded that the asset sales programme would leave the public accounts looking worse, not better.

BERL’s chief economist, Dr Ganesh Nana, concluded the effect of asset sales on the wider economy would be even worse because the dividends lost to the state would quite likely go to foreign shareholders, adding to the country’s external deficit and national debt.

So why is National proceeding? Is it partly because of its promises to big business? It is partly because many National Party politicians may have links to the very people who will profit from these asset sales? Or partly because the National Party is simply blind?

No matter how many independent analysts report that the asset sales will be an economic disaster that will further increase our national debt, John Key simply looks the other way.

For how much longer, I’m not so sure. I think it’s increasingly obvious that the National government will be dog tucker at the next election. National is hoping that by then, the assets will have been sold and there’ll be nothing we can do about it.

Be that as it may, don’t get me started on the risks of selling off a major stake in our energy system at a time when the world is entering unparalleled energy scarcity and skyrocketing fossil fuel prices – that is the subject of another speech!

3. Get people back to work

If the last Great Depression provides some chilling lessons of what went wrong, it also provides hope for what can be done better.

Much of New Zealand’s response to the Depression in the 1930s and early 40’s is still working for us:

• Around 50% of the state houses still around now were built in the 1930s and 1940s
• Around 40% of all schools still in use were built in this era
• Almost all the North Island dams, and the same of the pylons and substations
• Thousands of rural bridges
• Most of Auckland’s water supply dams and systems
• The core of the Crown Research Agencies, in the form of the DSIR
• Around half of New Zealand’s still-existing hospitals,
• The great North Island pine forests, and
• Most of our government departments now existing were formed, all in that era

Eighty years ago we saw an economic development plan rolled out that turned us all from Depression to development. Like the United States New Deal, the Savage government’s plan altered the course of the country.

For at least 30 years after the end of World War II until the oil shocks of the 1970s, the Government response to the Great Depression still dominated political and commercial life.

In the 1960s, business and the public sector continued this partnership with the great Kinleith Mill near Taupo, and New Zealand Steel at Glenbrook.

Private capital was making money at the same time as the public sector achieved its policy goals.

By the 1980s, the whole system was in need of reform. However, in place of reform, we got a system that closed down productive industries, encouraged energy wastage, created massive unemployment and, above all handed most of the wealth and power to a small elite who the so-called ‘free’ market.

It was this unregulated market that lead to the twin meltdowns; first the 1987 stock market crash, then the 2008 meltdown. Since 2008, the scale of our decline has been substantial.

Throughout the world, pro-business governments have imposed austerity measures and throughout the world, these austerity measures have been an unmitigated disaster.

We need to think with that degree of boldness and clarity, while carefully managing our financial resources, to truly turn back the degree of risk and decline that we now face.

4. Rewrite the invisible plan

By contrast, National is nothing if not predictable in its policies and in its results. From 1990 to 1999, and from 2008 to 2012, the same economic leadership and same result:

• Almost no economic growth
• Public sector cost-cutting that drove recession ever-deeper
• A state that is weaker year after year, and
• A country where wealth transferred from the many to the few, to the point where law firms find it harder and harder to get clients, except in the Receivership Team.

Business is bad. And it was bad the last time National was in, and it’s no coincidence.

Let’s project the same policies after another three years. Here’s how it runs. Treasury again over-predicts GDP growth and hence tax-base income. Private debt remains high and focused on rental housing. The population stagnates and starts to decline even in Auckland.

Respectfully, a buoyant insolvency and mortgagee sector is not the economic sign we want. On the track we are on, it’s what we will get.

When the credit ratings agencies downgraded New Zealand last year, they told us that our biggest problem was not public debt, which is relatively small by world standards, but total private debt and our inability to pay our way in the world.

A new direction is needed.

Let’s not fool ourselves that just doing a little more or a little less of what we have been doing before will save us

LESSONS FROM SMALL SMART COUNTRIES

Small smart countries around the world are grappling with the same issues – how to sustainably grow jobs and incomes in an open, export-oriented economy amid a turbulent world market.

As part of my Economic Development portfolio work, I have commissioned a study of six such countries: Denmark, Finland, Singapore, Taiwan, Ireland and Israel.

The most obvious conclusion of this study so far is that none of them leave their future to chance. The weakest, Ireland, was the one that lowered taxes, opened up to unrestrained foreign investment, and trusted the invisible hand of the market to bring future prosperity.

But whether they have governments of the centre-left or centre-right, all these countries have set a clear vision for where they want to get to, what they want to be, and how they will get there. All set policy targets and timetables and measure their progress.

Take Denmark. It wants to be among the top 10 richest, most innovative countries in the world. It wants to be top 10 for quality labour supply and top three for renewable energy.

They have a 10 year plan to achieve that.

They manage their interest rates, control their housing market, and peg their exchange rate to the Euro.

They manage productivity growth by setting hard targets for education, research and innovation performance, for example:

They invest 3% of their national income in research and development: 2% from the private sector and 1% from the public. That is still dwarfed by neighbour Finland with nearly 4%. New Zealand’s total is less than 1%.

Their innovation strategy is led by the Danish Economic Council, a broad-based top level group including key government agencies, business and labour representatives, and labour experts.

They are careful with their money, and they understand the value of investment.

They invest in research and development, they invest in their infrastructure, they invest in their forests and their environment, but most of all they invest in their people.

To the Danes, investing in education, innovation and infrastructure, is not a liability but an asset. Because without all three, their economy cannot survive.

Is it working? You be the judge – they have fewer natural resources than us, higher population density, and a rubbish climate.

But their income per person is US$40,169 compared to our US$29,882.

Even more importantly, their exports per person are around NZ$ 26,000, compared to our NZ$9,000.

They gain about the same amount from agriculture as us, but many times more from niche manufacturing, environmental services and high technology.

Let’s acknowledge that Denmark is a member of the largest economic union on the planet and has the captive market that comes with that.

Labour under the leadership of both Phil Goff and Helen Clark had a proud record of responsibly improving our trade access. Labour also pushed for environment and labour standards in trade agreements, something we will need to continue to advocate in future.

INVESTMENT, INNOVATION, AND EDUCATION

We need to learn from small smart economies like Denmark. We cannot just leave it to chance, or to the market forces that have got us into this mess.

So Labour went into the last election campaigning for new and better ways to grow our economy.

At the core of our economy-wide measures were big changes to boost capital for business investment, technology and skills. These are the fundamental drivers of productivity.

Our Leader, David Shearer, and Finance Spokesperson, David Parker, have both recently reaffirmed the importance of these changes.

While John Key was hard at work lining his own pockets, David Shearer was getting his hands dirty, feeding and sheltering the people in some of the most depressing and dangerous places on earth. He managed billions of dollars of tax-payers funds with consummate skill, fought corruption and faced down warlords.

Which party leader do you think is better suited to lead us through this time of crisis?

So what will Labour do that shows we have learned the lessons of history?

Number one, we will have to stop the sort of speculation that got us into this mess in the first place.

We have to get investment flowing where it can do the most good – into productive businesses and exports, rather than unproductive financial or property speculation. Like both Treasury and the Reserve Bank, Labour supports a capital gains tax.

Now, nobody in this room, myself included, likes paying tax. And nobody in this room, myself included, likes seeing their hard-earned tax revenue wasted.

I think we all agree that the tax system has to be simple, transparent and achievable.

For example France and Germany are now looking at simplified forms of indirect taxation, such as a financial transactions levy.

It would be so small that most bank users would never even notice it, would be simple to collect, and would raise enough revenue to fund lowering other taxes while fully funding infrastructure development without incurring further public debt. I am delighted that our revenue Spokesperson, David Clark, is keeping a weather eye on these developments.

Another tragic result of the so-called free market is that, the country is now saddled with the multibillion dollar liability of supporting the casualties of this economic religion – the long term unemployed, the single parent families, the pensioners who can no longer afford to warm their houses.

Any economic policy that does not put the unemployed back to work, rebuild the productive sector and help us to pay our way in the world is doomed to failure, and very expensive failure at that.

The current government said they wanted New Zealand to catch up to Australia.

Well it’s working: every week, thousands of Kiwis leave the country in search of a better life across the Tasman.

Why? Because they get paid so much more in Australia. Why are wages higher in Australia? Because the Australian government sees it’s working people as an asset, not a liability.

What’s the National Government’s solution to this – to lower wages still further while doing nothing to improve productivity. Genius.

Clearly no-one told Steven Joyce that Germany, one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, has both high wages and high productivity.

National has again walked away from common sense. One of the key ingredients to Australia’s success has been its compulsory, employment based savings scheme.

Because New Zealand’s workers don’t earn enough to save, the country’s vital savings pool is alarmingly small.

So our second major policy is to lift sustainable local savings and investment is a universal Kiwisaver scheme. This would hike our savings rate four times faster than National’s pallid plan and give every working Kiwi a huge nest egg for their retirement.

To make matters worse, National’s approach to superannuation resembles a man on an iceberg in the sun. He thinks he is on solid ground, but he has built his future on some tragically false assumptions.

The third big policy change from Labour is getting our innovation engine revving. At the moment it is hardly even idling. Total research and development investment in NZ is less than 1% . In Denmark it is 3%. In Finland they are targeting 4% .

Our innovators deserve a break – there are huge public benefits from a vibrant innovation system, and our proposed R and D tax credits reflect that.

By supporting research and development in our business community, we invest in the pillars of economic growth, innovation, education and innovation.

As Economic Development spokesperson, I will be pushing for much higher levels of investment in research and development in both the public and private sector and for a serious overhaul of our innovation ecosystem.

Remember that infrastructure is not just bricks and mortar. Our future depends on having a world class information backbone.

It is a crying shame that it took the current government nearly three years to even begin rolling out its so-called ultra-fast broadband plan. If three years delay is ultra-fast, I’d hate to see ultra-slow.

Fourth, we never forget that our best resource is our people. Education and skills must be a top priority and it must be for all – not just those who can afford them. These three pillars of skills are education skills, physical skills and life skills.

It disgusts me that the National cabinet was prepared to maintain subsidies for their own private schools while firing teachers in everyone else’s schools.

How would Labour fund further investment in education? The answer is simple: stop investing in failure. It is social and economic insanity to be paying people the dole while there are forests to be planted and infrastructure to be built.

Labour will get school leavers off the dole by ensuring a seamless transition into work. We will fund thousands of new apprenticeships by redirecting dole money to job creation with real skills. We will ensure that every young New Zealander under 20 is either earning or learning.

In the twenty first century no-one should expect to be in one job for their whole working life. That’s why learning must be life-long. Denmark invests billions each year into adult and community education, in New Zealand we invest pocket money.

LESSONS FROM THE GRASS ROOTS

Our economy, under National, is like an oil tanker with the captain asleep at the wheel.

Robert Wade, a New Zealand professor at The London School of Economics, summed up how governments should work with their economies. I’ve paraphrased his views:

When the economy is working well, leave it alone.

When the economy has problems or failures that can be fixed, fix them.

And when an economic policy fails altogether, do something else.

Sounds like common sense to me.

A key lesson of the Great Depression is that unregulated financial markets invariably suffer catastrophic failure. The recent Global Financial Crisis is a classic example.

From New Zealand’s economic development perspective, we can turn around the failed policies of the past.

So that means working with individual industries, regions, businesses and communities to help make good things happen.

You have a build a wall one brick at a time.

You have to build a business one customer at a time.

We have to build our economy one region and one industry at a time.

And we must rebuild our community one family at a time.

So we could have all the fine ideas in the world about economic growth, but if it does not put one unemployed worker into a job, or put one more high value product into an export market, then it will not turn our economic boat around.

Renewing our commitment to industry sectors, regions and communities, will be a key part of Labour’s economic development agenda…

I know it’s trendy to talk about recycling. But we’ve overlooked something here. What about “recycling” human beings? There isn’t a person in this room that isn’t deeply concerned at the numbers of young people, especially young Māori and Pasifika who are not only unemployed, but in some cases, currently considered by some to be “unemployable”.

We also have vast tracts of public and private land that is currently badly under-utilised.

Can we please, please, learn some lessons from history. Where did New Zealand’s great commercial forests come from? Where did America’s great commercial forests come from? They were both planted in the Great Depression by the unemployed.

The American Civilian Conservation Corps is a textbook case of turning the economy around by turning people’s lives around.

Throughout America, these groups planted trees, built roads and improved both their lives and the lives of their descendants.

Labour embraced the Conservation Corp idea in our last manifesto. For Labour, the Conservation Corp has always been about skills and training, with the community benefitting. I’ll bet someone will claim that National’s already proposed this. Nonsense. What National wants is to punish the poor and prepare them for a life of dead-end jobs as lowly servants of the rich and powerful.

Instead of merely paying the dole to fit young people, Labour’s Conservation Corps plan includes education and training that will take them on to sustainable employment. I’d like to see them earning a living wage in return for a fair day’s work.

They could learn structure, discipline and life skills. They could then be sent out to do the work that’s currently not being done, from planting trees to disaster relief. Imagine, for example, the difference it would have made if we had had 5000 fit young people available for disaster relief after the Christchurch quake.

New Zealanders loved the Student Volunteer Army and the Farmy Army that helped clean up Christchurch. However, the famers and the students soon had to go back to work. Imagine the difference a full time group would have made?

It’s not just the country that would have benefited, either. Hard work is a great healer for unemployed lives. With training, this same army could now be rebuilding the houses that the Christchurch people so desperately need.

But for now, New Zealand needs more forests. If we could replant some of our unproductive land into forests, we could create one of the world’s greatest carbon sinks. We could create thousands of jobs planting trees, and thousands more processing the timber in a few years.

These new forests could be placed in trust for the benefit of future generations, and New Zealand could be on its way towards becoming carbon neutral.

However, there’s a deeper problem with our current forestry sector: most of the timber simply gets shipped overseas for processing. This robs New Zealanders of jobs and export revenue.

Because many of our best forests are overseas owned, by companies that have absolutely no interest in New Zealand jobs.

Labour is keen to see higher levels of value added in our primary sector, and as Economic Development Spokesperson I am going to be pushing to get New Zealand logs processed in New Zealand mills.

CONCLUSION

While politicians squabble about balancing the government’s books, our ship is in dangerous waters.

The Labour Party is not your enemy.

Your enemy is inefficiency, corruption, and the wastage of both public and private wealth.

Your enemy is a cosy corruption that helps a few friends of the government get very rich at the expense of the community, including most of the business community.

The three pillars of our survival are investment, innovation and education.

An educated population that earns decent wages will work in your factories and offices, will buy your products, and invest in your shares.

Even as we speak, the global crisis deepens. We cannot solve the crisis of the present by repeating the failures of the past.

New Zealand rose to the challenge of the Great Depression and emerged as a prosperous and functional democracy that was the envy of the world.

There are no winning sides on a sinking ship. While we squabble on the deck, our situation grows graver every day.

Our ship cannot sail itself. We can’t wait for the crisis to overwhelm us before we respond.

A global economic tsunami could sink us. We have to work as a team; rather, we have to work as a crew, remembering that we’re all in this together. We all prosper together or we all sink together.

Thank you.

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Blogger’s Analysis

Cunliffe’s   sums it up nicely,

“No one these days seriously believes that a totally unregulated economy will work. Just as important, no one seriously believes that a totally regulated economy will work. It’s a question of getting the balance right.”

Balance.

One word to sum up the need to do away with the  cock-eyed extremism of neo-liberalism.

One day, in the far distant future, voters will understand, and laugh, at Parties like National. Until then, we will see-saw between National stuffing things up, and a centre-left government  having to fix it…

Can’t we just eliminate the Stuff-up Phase and just keep a balanced economy?!

As things stand at present, every six years or so, a sizeable chunk of voters experience a rush of blood to their head and vote for National. Even despite knowing that National’s policies will destructive and will impact on our social services – voters still tick that ‘National’ box.

*facepalm*

Electing National for a second term will prove to be an expensive exercise for us all. Once National privatises our energy companies, expect power prices to rise as investors expect to maximise returns on their investment,

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

Hikes defended – Otago Daily Times – 30 July 1999

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Trans Alta was formerly Capital Power, 100% owned by Wellington City Council up until 1994. In that year, by a narrow majority, WCC voted to privatise 49% of the power company.

As usual, Wellingtonians were promised the usual; lower energy prices; greater efficiencies; blah, blah, ad infinitum-blah.

Wellingtonians swallowed the BS, and re-elected those City Councillors (led by then-mayor, Fran Wilde) who had supported the privatisation of the first half of Capital Power.

In 1995, soon after local body elections, the remainder 51% was sold to Canadian energy company, Trans Alta.

Then the power price rises started.

This blogger has said it before, and will keep saying it again; no one does this to us; we do it to ourselves.

Thankfully, National’s use-by date has passed, and voters’ fascination with John Key  is rapidly waning.

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Acknowledgement

Tumeke

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= fs =

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

3 August 2011 43 comments

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STATE HOUSE RESIDENTS MOVED

Meanwhile, almost 400 tenants have been kicked out of state houses in the last three years.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley said 241 tenancies were ended in the last year.

Tenancies were ended because people had failed to inform Housing New Zealand about income from employment, business interests, assets, that they lived with a partner of sublet the house.

Since July 2010, 119 tenants were successfully prosecuted for fraud.

Housing New Zealand has also identified $6.6 million from the last 12 months that is owed to the Crown, largely for overpaid rent subsidies.

“The state housing system is designed to help people in their time of need. It’s unfair and unacceptable for people to abuse the system and commit fraud to get benefits they are not entitled to. People who deliberately rip-off the system deprive families in real need,” Heatley said.

The houses were now freed up for those with genuine need, he said.

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On most levels, the mis-use of State assets (ie; owned by us, the People)  is a rort that cannot and should not be tolerated.  Housing Minister, Phil Heatley is correct when he reminds us that,

“The state housing system is designed to help people in their time of need. It’s unfair and unacceptable for people to abuse the system and commit fraud to get benefits they are not entitled to. People who deliberately rip-off the system deprive families in real need.”

Although I note that Mr Heatley’s admonitions did not stop certain Ministers of the Crown from ripping of the tax-payer, when it suited them…

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And similar cases where Members of Parliament used their accomodation allowance in ways in was not intended…

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Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said his previous apartment had been very small and was not suitable for him and his wife, now he was spending more time in Wellington as a minister.

He confirmed the apartment was owned by his superannuation trust and was rented to National MP Bakshi Singh, for $400 a week.

As an MP Mr Singh can claim up to $24,000 year in accommodation costs from Parliamentary Service.

Dr Mapp also collected around $700 a week for his new larger apartment and said he could see why his rental income should be used to offset his expense claims.

“I can see why people have concerns and the review will deal with that,’ Dr Mapp said.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley also said he was renting out his old apartment and claiming a $1000 a week in accommodation expenses in a larger home to accommodate his wife and young children.

Mr Heatley would not say whether this was rented to an MP.  – Source

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It seems that rules are different for some folk.

The shortage of state housing is a serious matter, though. This critical problem of decent, affordable housing is not helped by the fact that the Fourth National government (1996-1999) sold around 13,000 State Houses in the 1990s.  These properties were supposedly made available to tenants – but actually went mostly to property speculators (who later sold them for tax-free capital gains).

When Labour was elected to power in November 1999, they immediatly placed a moratorium on the sale of state housing. According to HNZ, they currently ” own or manage more than 66,000 properties throughout the country, including about 1,500 homes used by community groups”

This government has re-instated the sale of state houses.  It does not take rocket science to work out that selling of state housing reduces the availability of housing stock.   Housing Minister Phil Heatley said that,

“… about 40,000 of the 69,000 state house stock will be available for sale,”  but then added,  “that the vast majority of tenants do not earn enough to be required to pay market rent means relatively few will be in a position to buy“. (Source.)

There seems to be nothing stopping tenants from buying their state house and immediatly on-selling it to a Third Party.

Is it any wonder that the shortage of state housing is not being addressed in any meaningful way? It certainly does help those on the current waiting list (as of 30 June);

  • 402 were Priority Eligible — A
  • 3,352 were Priority Eligible — B

Plus a further 5,132 in categories “C” and “D”.

Problem:  there are currently 8,886 people on the HNZ waiting-list.

Solution: build more houses.

This may seem like a ‘flippant’ answer to a desperate problem – but it is not.

The building of 10,000 new state houses may seem an outrageously expensive idea.  But it would address at least three pressing problems in our economy and society;

1. Persistantly high unemployment.

2. Low growth.

3. Inadequate housing for the poorest of our fellow New Zealanders.

At an average housing cost of $257,085 (calculated at DBH website @ $1,773/m for a 145 square metre, small house), the cost (excluding land) is $2.57 billion dollars,  including GST (approximate estimate).

By contrast, the October 2010 tax cuts gave $2.5 billion to the top 10% of income earners.

For roughly the cost of last year’s tax cuts, we could have embarked on a crash building-programme to construct ten thousand new dwellings in this country. The immediate effects would have been profound for the building industry and would have created work for;

  • architects
  • builders
  • glaziers
  • roofers
  • electricians
  • plumbers
  • drain layers
  • painters
  • plasterers
  • tilers
  • landscapers
  • bricklayers
  • concreting contractors
  • insulation installers
  • home-heating installers
  • carpet layers
  • etc, etc.

Work would flow through to associated contractors;

  • truck drivers
  • building waste disposal

Turnover would increase for timber and framing suppliers as well as other building supplies outlets.

In turn, those in the building and associated industries would enjoy massive increase in demand for their products.

And equally important, those on the unemployment queue would suddenly be in high demand, as we needed to train more tradespeople. Which would mean a flow-on effect to polytechnics as they suddenly needed to train hundreds more tradespeople.

A further flow-on effect would impact positively on service industries, as money flowed into the economy, into supermarkets; entertainment; clothing; and elsewhere into the retail sector. As Bill Kaye-Blake of  NZIER, said in April of this year;

The economy is sluggish because people are not spending.

It would be a boom-time, as two and a half billion dollars was spent on products and services.

Would it actually end up costing taxpayers $2.57 billion dollars? The answer is ‘no’.  Government would actually re-coup much of that initial outlay through;

  • gst
  • paye
  • other taxes
  • reduced spending on welfare for unemployed
  • and investment re-couped by rent paid for new rentals

Would it work?

Yes, it would.  An NZIER survey expects a strong pick-up in 2013 when the rebuilding phase hits full-flight, with 3.9% annual growth predicted from a previous forecast of 2.6%.

The government has a strong role to play in tough economic times. A “hands off” approach will achieve nothing except unnecessarily drawing out an already painful recession, and prompting more frustrated  New Zealanders to “cross the Ditch” to Australia, where their government has announced a  programme aimed at 500,000 new jobs.

There is no reason why a determined government cannot adopt a bold programme for economic growth.

Instead of borrowing to pay for tax cuts we can ill afford, we should be investing in jobs.  The rest will almost invariably take care of itself.

We have the resources. We have the money. We have the demand for new housing. What else is missing?

The will to do it.

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Updates

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Fletcher shares at 2-year low after warning

Wellington rental market tough for tenants

Major housing shortage looms

Business NZ sees no economic plan

Downturn in building sector ideal timing for state house build

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