Seeing an Economic Vision



It has been some time since my last post to TDB. I was fortunate to recently come back to NZ briefly for a bit of a break from my work in Pakistan. While my visit was super short, I took the opportunity to read Dirty Politics.

Unfortunately, the book confirmed a number of themes that I have touched on in my previous posts: the devious control of the political narrative, the voracious hunger for those seeking political power for the pure purpose of having political power, a mainstream media bullied by constant deadlines resulting in superficial analysis, and a lack of accountability evident in an arrogant ruling class.

There is one other theme that I have raised on occasion – that it is in the interests of the privileged to not have an engaged body politic.

They don’t actually want you to vote.

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This strategy is confirmed by Simon Lusk in the book and it is clear that it has been taken on board by the National Party through these scurrilous dealings ultimately leading to the Ninth Floor of the Beehive.

Remember, and as others have stated, this comes down to choice. Politics does not demand such behaviour. The excuse that this is mandated by the modern political world is not an absolution – it is a lean to mediocrity and a compromise on the values that we expect of our fellow citizens, let alone our leaders.

Through all this one particular response from the prime minister has fascinated me. His claim that really New Zealanders want to talk about policy has been both enlightening as it is misleading. It is enlightening in that yet again we see his strategy of telling New Zealanders what we should be thinking, and misleading in that he himself, as a New Zealander, doesn’t want to talk about policy.

For me, leadership is about having a vision. Leadership means brining people on board that vision and implementing it. This is not by force, or by stealth, but by giving people ownership of your vision meaning that it becomes collective.

Sometimes, as a leader, your vision changes as others help to improve it. But, ultimately, leadership and the power that governance provides, gives you both the privilege and responsibility to use that power to improve the lives of all New Zealanders.

But, when I look at our current government, I see no vision. I see no leadership.

This remains a government with no ideas. Bill English confirmed as much on The Nation when he was unable to point to any economic vision absent relying on the status quo.

Unfortunately, the status quo is not working for New Zealanders across the country as a whole. We have seen a stuttering, yet claimed, “rockstar economy” based on Christchurch and dairy prices. Neither of these was at the design of our macro-economic management, and both have short term legitimacy.

And, although unnecessary to say, I still struggle to see how the rebuild of Christchurch can be relied upon to point to “growth”. I understand this intellectually, but it belies the collective social reality of Christchurch. The trauma of that city and its people remain.

Meanwhile, we have sold off our dividend earning assets and stopped contributions to the performing Cullen Fund. We have made payouts to corporates while execs pay for personal attacks to undermine criminal investigations into the excesses of financial (mis)management.

Through these supposedly boom times, our debt has ballooned out past $60 billion, inequality remains a fundamental wedge across our society, children remain in poverty with unforgiveable health outcomes, and we remain in what is clearly a low-wage economy where families are genuinely struggling.

There is one thing that the National Party got right in its election advertising. We are sitting in a boat going backwards, while some folks are going in the other direction on a $78 million yacht that is invite only.

I am constantly asking myself what are the job options right now. What if you are a school leaver from, say, Huntly and you have no interest in further education? What jobs can you do? Apprenticeships are virtually non-existent (but you are forced into private job training). You may be able to get a job in a café working minimum wage?

What if you are a 30-something professional working in London, Australia or Hong Kong? What are your options back in New Zealand? Some sectors are great, but across the board the options are limited. You still have to work hard (sometimes harder), but wages are generally less and you are confronted with having to enter our over-priced and prohibitive housing market.

For me, what this speaks to what I call our “diluted economy”. We lack real diversity in our economy meaning that there is no range of options. Where there is potential – for example, in our primary industries – we are not doing enough to leverage those assets. Too much of the income earning potential flows overseas.

Job creation is difficult, almost impossible, unless we stimulate investment and innovation in developing new sectors. We need to promote the flow of money back into our economy to create the higher earning jobs.

A while ago I raised the following questions:

“Where do we sit on our government debt? What is happening with our housing crisis? Where is the investment in addressing child poverty? What strategies do we have for job creation? What about the quality of those jobs? How is the increasing amount of people exposed to precarious work beneficial for our country? What jobs are there for people in the regions? What options are there for school leavers? What are we doing to address our over-valued dollar? Do we have any strategy beyond primary industries? Are we going to have any discussion about our growing retirement liability? Did anyone actually read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report?”

These questions remain. Despite John Key’s call to talk policy, he and his cohorts are unable to answer these questions.

In contrast, Labour has a fully costed economic upgrade. The Greens outline a cohesive argument for an economy based on innovation and sustainability. I am attracted to these policy platforms as they actually outline a vision that is long-term in outlook, is dynamic, and creates in me an expectation of a better New Zealand for more of our people.

Ultimately, that is what I expect of our leadership. I expect an economic vision, rooted in the values of equity and fostering creativity.

Wouldn’t that be exciting?  A New Zealand competing across different sectors, creating more wealth for more of us, while nurturing our greatest asset – our environment – for our future generations.

As a country, we should demand this of our leaders.  Do not accept the status quo built on wealth and social division.  Demand a future that is aspirational, yet tangible, and grounded in sound economic policy.

So, who has the vision?


  1. OMG ! That’s what I’ve been saying .
    We have a leadership deficit .

    But why ? Or , as the fabulous French might ask . Mais pourquoi ?

    It’s my humble view , and frankly there are not many views more humble than mine . ( I also have a face like an old rusted Skoda after its been hit by a coal truck , my mind’s as quick as a Chinese alarm clock soaked in muddy water and yet I still get kissed by pretty girls . I find that comforting . That the age of wonders is not yet over . )
    I wonder why we have such a Leadership deficit ?
    Clearly , there are those whom fear us Kiwis being led .
    Could the reason for that , be that we may be led to defending ourselves , to demanding better stuff , things and lives ? To make sure we , et al , don’t ask uncomfortable questions then when we don’t get answers , we get fucked off ?
    I was trying to find a documentary made on the first sell-off of NZ rail , which I failed to do ( ? ) . It is out there and it is damning .
    Instead , I stumbled over this document .

    Might be a bit outdated but you’ll get the picture .

    Reading down , you can see some very familiar names .

    I would suggest that in here , in this modest document , there are all our answers to all our questions .

    No wonder we don’t have a ‘ Leader ‘ . How long would he or she last ? A week , a month ? How long did Norman Kirk last ?

    If Nicky Harger wrote a book based on the affairs of some of the names and Corporations on this list ? The relationships they had with our politicians ? The ‘ lobbying ‘ that would have gone on ?

    With the utmost respect to the fantastic Mr Nicky Harger , we aint seen nothin’ yet Baby .

    If the outcome of this election goes as I would hope and National and its bizarre cadre of nutters are run into prison , much less out of town , and we see , for example a Labour / Greens / whoever coalition and I don’t then see a deep and on-going public inquiry into the relationships between Big Business and our past and present politicians , then I will know , for sure , that I must emigrate for the sake of my mental health .

    New Zealand was run up a swampy cul-de-sac by some of the names on the list and pirated by those fiends for their personal wealth creation and now we have an opportunity to dig them out like the Ticks ( parasitic arachnid ) they are then turn Her around and steam back out into open waters to continue our journey . If that fails , this time round ? Well , then we’re fucked .

    Great Post @ Michael Timmins . Thanks .

    • I just watched that MISTERY , some powerful screen shots …especially of the sad scenes of suffering and also soldiers, law enforcement….who are often people under orders , caught in the middle…though oftentimes through their own volition…but generally they preform an important function.

      However ,….it is precisely why it is so important to gaurd against evil leaders…we really take our freedoms and democracy for granted. We have never been invaded per se’ ,..and so we tend to be very lax in these affairs , – and are particually vunerable to a more ‘passive ‘and subtle form of control.

      I think the problem is inside each and every one of us , not that people are inherently born ‘good’, others would say ‘good’..or even amoral. In the animal kingdom , it is survival of the fittest..we as humans tend to like to think our intellects are above all that.

      I think we are still subject to the same basic primal ‘survival ‘ instincts…..just less base ways of expressing it.

      So even more so , a good and compelling reason to attempt to rise above the primitive.

  2. Hi Michael
    I think that Labour has the vision. Their policy is both logical and exciting. I want those lower electricity prices, more houses cheaper, higher minimum wage, earlier payments into the Cullen fund etc. When the policies are articulated it is hard to argue with them and hard not to get excited about them. I will be so disappointed if the proposed beneficiaries of these policies (the voters) do not deliver them on September 20. I challenge everyone to find a non voter or an undecided and to talk them round. It can be done.

  3. What a totally insightful, superbly well-informed commentary! Thank you Michael Timmins!

    My view is that The Key government is not there in any way, shape or form, to look after the interests of New Zealanders. It is there to look after the Machiavellian interests of big, outside-NZ, over-bloatedly fat offshore corporations and “maultinationals”.

    For them, Key has been doing a WONDERFUL job. But the job has not yet been concluded. NZ has resisted signing up to their “baby” the Pan-Pacific Trade Agreement! So Key has unfinished business.

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