2025 Taskforce, Don Brash, Posters, Roger Douglas

When are we going to start catching Australia?

Apologies for the lack of recent posts, but I’ve been busy making posters like this for Sir Roger Douglas.  

This one highlights the government’s distinct lack of ambition for New Zealand relative to the country it said it was committed to  catching.

Even an Australia under a Labor government is a fast-moving target for NZ under a National one, so granny steps in the right direction won’t cut it. 

As the 2025 Taskforce’s second report said, “We can catch Australia, but we have to start.”

That, I think, is Brash-speak for, “My former colleagues are as lily-livered as ever.”

And because we’ve yet to start, we now have to grow at 2% a year faster than Australia grows (up from 1.6% faster) — hardly likely under a PM who takes his policy direction from Lucy Lawless.

Will post more posters and have a general catch up soonish.

2025 Taskforce, Allan Bollard, Don Brash, John Key, Politics, Singapore, Tasman Wage Gap

Can NZ catch Tasmania?

People who make excuses for our economic decline say it’s only natural we should be poorer than Australia.

After all, those convict larrikins lucked into a continent-sized treasure chest fair groaning with minerals.

As excuses go, it’s plausible enough. Till your mind  flicks to a little pinprick up north and a bit to the left.

Singapore. That micro-state that accommodates half a million more citizens than New Zealand, on a rock the size of our biggest lake.

Only Singapore’s ‘lake’ has no water.

Yet somehow its people earn more money than both New Zealanders and Australians.

Which goes to show that when it comes to generating wealth, size isn’t anything.

That convenient excuse also doesn’t explain how, for over a century, we used to be just as rich or richer than our sunburnt neighbours.

And it collapses completely when you realise that we’re no longer just Aussie’s poor cuzzie. We’re now poorer than every single Australian state.

Yes, even Tasmania.

So when John Key and Bill English consigned Don Brash’s 2025 Taskforce plan to the too-hard basket, they seemed to be doing their bit to ensure that New Zealand remains a basket case.

If Allan Bollard is right that we’re now only fit to catch the crumbs from Australia’s table, would it be too ambitious to hope that by 2025 we might have caught up with Tasmania?

2025 Taskforce, Don Brash, Emissions Trading Scheme, John Key, Politics, Tasman Wage Gap

The widening Tasman Wage Gap (AKA the John Key Credibility Gap)

I left National in 2008 because I could see that John Key had no ambition for New Zealand, only for himself and his party.

Two years later, Key and National are riding high on their wave of false promises, while the Sunday Star-Times reports the all-too-predictable reality: Kiwi wages slip further behind.

For once I can’t help but agree with Phil Goff, who describes Key’s promise of catching Australia as “reckless and dishonest”:

“He was undertaking to the New Zealand electorate that he had a secret plan whereby he could catch up with Australia, and the truth is he had no such plan. And, far from catching up, New Zealand has fallen further behind.”

Key’s motto, as far as I can see, is “You can fool most of the people most of the time.” And it seems to be working a treat…

Say you’re ambitious for the country. (When you’re not.)

Say you’ve got a plan for growth. (When you haven’t.)

Join forces with a party that actually has a plan. (And ignore it.)

Say you agree with the ‘catch Australia’ goal. (When you don’t.)

Commission a plan to catch Australia. (Then reject it.) 

Chide your central banker for saying we can’t catch Australia with your policies. (When you know damn well he’s right.)

Press on with your Emissions Trading Scheme. (When the country you’re supposed to be catching has put the brakes on theirs.)

(And when the science increasingly supports your first instinct that man-made global warming is a hoax.)

So why is our prime minister doing these things?

And why did he take such a ‘principled’ stance in defying his core supporters on the anti-smacking referendum?

The answer is simple.

It’s because John Key is not running New Zealand for his core supporters. He knows he’s got their votes in the bag.

Nor does he have to worry about those righteous ACT know-it-alls, since they’re hardly likely to cuddle up to the reds or Greens.

No. He’s running our country for the benefit of a few female urban liberals of the Lucy Lawless ilk.

Women to the left of Jeanette Fitzsimons, as he calls them.

Women who took one look at his cheery smile and all-things-in-moderation patter and saw someone they could take advantage of.

A Helen Clark with a feminine side.

Women who couldn’t care less about boring male obsessions like money and Australia. But who care lots about carbon footprints and wrapping their kids in cotton wool.

That’s why, when Lucy and Keisha and co. said, “John, go to Copenhagen,” off to Denmark he dutifully trotted.

That’s why, when the lib-fems said, “John, legalise smacking and we’ll smack you,” he was happy to give 85% of Kiwis the fingers.

And that’s why, when wise heads bombard him with sound reasons to delay the ETS, he’ll be obeying Lucy and the liberals and putting planet before people.

It’s great politics. It’s also negligent leadership. 

Of course, Bill English and others would say, “There’s no point making unpopular changes then getting voted out.”

Yes, there is.

If you really cared about your country, you’d run that risk, knowing that successful reforms tend not to be wound back.

But you can reduce the risk by explaining to people why we need to change – just as a responsible parent explains to his family why they can’t keep living beyond their means.

Roger Douglas took that risk in the 80s. And guess what? The public didn’t like it.

But they understood it.

They returned Labour with an increased majority, and a mandate to finish the job. 

Key could do that too. It would hardly be a huge risk, since the Brash report only calls for cutting spending to 2005 levels.

As Don Brash said, John Key has the communication skills to pull it off.

But does he have the courage?

To find out, keep an eye on that Tasman Wage Gap. Because it’s also the John Key Credibility Gap.

If it closes, he’ll have silenced many a doubter. 

If it keeps widening – as we all said it would – the PM’s political epitaph could well be (to paraphrase Julius Caesar):

 I came, I smiled, I tinkered.

2025 Taskforce, Don Brash, John Key, Politics

National Wallaby breeding programme

You may have seen this slide in an article by Don Brash in the DomPost recently. [Photo: SueAllmanPeople. Parents: Rebecca and Ken Hope.]

I made it for Don to lend weight to his 2025 Taskforce report – which his Reserve Bank and National Party successors clearly find too ambitious for New Zealand.

But in contrast to Helen Clark, who set a bold goal of scaling the heights of the OECD then charted a course in the opposite direction, John Key does have a cunning plan for achieving his 2025 goal…

Pray there’s gold in them thar national parks!

Allan Bollard, Don Brash, John Key, Politics, Roger Douglas

The Reserve Bank Governor’s flag

The open letter below illustrates why I left National to work for Sir Roger Douglas (for a lot less money, I might add).

Alone among New Zealand politicians in my lifetime, Roger believes in setting SMART goals for the country. And setting out plans to achieve them.

I suggested the idea of setting a bold national goal to the National Party.

They thought I was nuts.

“But we might be held accountable!” they scoffed.

So I took the same idea to ACT.

In the blink of an eye, Roger had grabbed it with both hands.

But what should the goal be? “What’s our biggest problem?” he asked himself.

Easy: we’re haemorrhaging people to our bigger and better-run neighbour.

Pretty soon, he’d defined the goal in two words: catch Australia. And set a deadline: by 2025. 

Then he devised the ACT 20 Point Plan to get the job done.

You can imagine my amusement at seeing the 2025 goal come full circle after the election as the goal of the so-called ambitious Key government. 

It’s been interesting to watch the PM profess to be committed to catching Australia, while putting the kibosh on most of the steps necessary to get there.

“You can fool most of the people most of the time” would appear to be the Nats’ belief.

And the fools who give the government their record high ratings confirm that it’s correct.

But for the Governor of the Reserve Bank to play chief surrender monkey is a new low.

Allan Bollard said yesterday that we’ve got no hope of catching Australia, so should resign ourselves to catching crumbs from Australia’s table. 

This is the man who succeeded Don Brash, who left the Reserve Bank for Parliament with the goal of staunching the flow of emigrants across the Tasman.

John Key’s National Party predecessor, the same Don Brash, was hired by Key to devise a plan to do that, and when he did so, John ‘ambitious for NZ’ Key rejected it as too ambitious.

Anyway, this is how our greatest-ever finance minister views the Governor’s capitulation:

 An Open Letter to Dr Allan Bollard by Hon Sir Roger Douglas
Dear Dr Bollard,
I write to you regarding the comments you made about the possibilities of New Zealand matching the level of economic output of Australia on a per capita basis, which you made on ‘Q & A’, Sunday 7 February.
In particular, I was shocked at the following comment:
“I don’t think we can catch up with Australia, Australia’s a most unusual country, Australia has been blessed by God sprinkling minerals across the top of the surface in very easily accessible areas in places where it doesn’t annoy people to mine them.
“China’s there buying all that, it’s not rocket science, they’ve run the economy well, but we just don’t have those advantages, but that’s all good news for New Zealand because there’s a lot of crumbs come off the Australian table that we can take advantage of.”
The idea that the lack of mineral wealth will stymie economic growth is simply wrong. 
Consider the success of Hong Kong during the fifty years it was a British crown colony. 
In 1960, Hong Kong’s per capita income was 28 percent that of Great Britain’s. 
By 1996, it had risen to 137 percent of Great Britain’s. 
Within four decades, Hong Kong – a tiny portion of overcrowded land, with no real resources to speak of except human ingenuity and a port – was able to increase its level of economic output so that it topped the level achieved in the birthplace of the industrial revolution.
In fact, if large resource wealth was a prerequisite for economic success, then many countries that have had much faster growth rates than us should be doing quite poorly – Singapore, Ireland – and countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be doing well. 
Mineral wealth is clearly neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for economic wealth.
A far more potent factor in driving economic growth are the institutions we develop – the nature of our constitution, the policies the Government adopts, and the social norms that develop. 
Economic wealth in Hong Kong has been created by, amongst others: freedom of exchange, both national and international; low taxes that reward productivity and reduce deadweight loss; and a Government that fulfils its core roles – to protect our freedoms, enforce contracts, and help create a framework for competitive markets.
There is no doubt that if we continue to maintain the status quo, then we have no hope of catching Australia. 
To blithely suggest that we can never catch Australia because of the minerals they have is to ignore the lesson of economic history – that policy matters.
Hon Sir Roger Douglas 
Douglas is like Lord Monckton. Everyone calls him names, but no one can match his arguments.
Advertising, Billboards, Don Brash, Politics, PPTA

The 2005 National billboard you never saw


It was my favourite of the lot, but it never ran. Don Brash wanted it to, but others thought no one would understand what PPTA was.

I replied that the media would ensure that they soon did!

I think this billboard would have created a firestorm, which the teacher unions surely deserve.

It would have thrown the spotlight on the real wreckers of the New Zealand education system: unions that for decades have quite deliberately destroyed the futures of thousands of children by insisting that they be exposed to useless, boring, uninspiring teachers.

Let’s hope the latter-day Nats can summon up the guts to deal to these Labour-protected losers – and pay good teachers the six-figure sums they deserve.

(They just might too, as depowering the PPTA would be hugely popular with parents, students, business, and anyone who cares about New Zealand’s future.)