Transparently Opaque: What, exactly, is the “this” Jacinda is inviting us to do?


IT’S NOT TOO LATE, JACINDA. Not yet. But it soon will be. If you keep following the economic and fiscal track you’re on, then the campaign that started with such promise will end in some sort of tawdry compromise with an already discredited status-quo. Or, even worse, in yet another electoral failure. If you begin your career as Labour’s leader by deferring to the Powers That Be, then you will spend the rest of your political life living in fear of them.

“Let’s do this”, your own brilliant slogan, works because it communicates fierce personal determination and raw political urgency in equal measure. But, the person who says “let’s do this” doesn’t immediately add “but only if my colleagues concur”, or, “providing the business community doesn’t object”. The power of the slogan lies in the reassurance it offers that Jacinda Ardern knows what needs to be done – and is not about to let anyone stop her from doing it. Labour has already endured four equivocal leaders, it absolutely does not need a fifth.

But that is what you have begun to do, Jacinda: equivocate. On the subject of taxation, in particular, there is a growing sense that you’re not being straight with the electorate.

You could have looked your fellow New Zealanders squarely in the eye and asked them to tell you, honestly, whether they believe that enough has been spent on housing the homeless, improving mental health care, upgrading our hospitals and schools, expanding public transport and cleaning up the environment. And, when they said “No”, you could have asked them if they were willing to pay just a little bit more in tax to make good New Zealand’s shocking social deficit. And, when they said “Yes”, you could have nodded decisively and said: “Right. Good. Let’s do this!”

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Instead, you have waffled-on about handing over the re-design of New Zealand’s taxation system to a “working group” of “experts”. Telling your inquisitors at the NZ Herald that you were being forthrightly “transparent” about being frustratingly opaque – as if that was a good thing!

One of those inquisitors, the business journalist Fran O’Sullivan, was speaking no more than the truth when she told “Morning Report” listeners that a party which has been in Opposition for nine years has had more than enough time to sort out exactly what they want to do and how they intend to pay for it. Because, if the people we pay $170,000 per annum to sit in the House of Representatives aren’t “experts”, then who the hell are? A bunch of bank economists and corporate tax accountants? Are you seriously going to ask people like this to design your Labour government an equitable system of progressive taxation? Really, Jacinda? Really!

A week or so ago I urged you to reach back into Labour’s past for inspiration about how to pay for your promise to build enough houses to accommodate all those New Zealanders in need of a place to call their own. This week I’m recommending you take a look at the “working group” of “experts” who designed Labour’s social welfare reform “package” back in the 1930s. The artist and author, Bob Kerr, called them “The Three Wise Men of Kurow”.

Kurow is a tiny town in North Otago situated above the Waitaki River. In the grim years of the Great Depression it was a place of considerable privation and distress. Determined to relieve that distress were the local doctor, Gervan McMillan; the local Presbyterian minister, Arnold Nordmeyer; and the local schoolmaster, Andrew Davidson. Between them, these men devised a scheme to take care of the workers on the nearby hydro-electric project and their families. Working around McMillan’s dining-room table they went on to rough-out a way of scaling-up their highly successful local effort into a nationwide welfare scheme. McMillan and Nordmeyer, who were Labour members, presented their ideas to the Party’s 1934 Annual Conference – which seized upon their plan with eager hands. Four years later, the First Labour Government passed the Social Security Act.

Nobody paid these men for their nights around Gervan McMillan’s dining-room table. No one supplied them with detailed Terms of Reference. No public relations firm was engaged to “sell” their ideas to the voters. “Let’s do this!”, said the three wise men of Kurow, for no better reason than “this” needed to be done – and Labour was willing to do it.

You are only too aware, Jacinda, of what needs to be done to heal the harms inflicted on New Zealanders these past nine years. You also know they cannot be healed on the cheap. Strict adherence to the Labour/Green “Budget Responsibility Rules” will force your government to break its promises – to break your promises.

The increased public spending New Zealand so urgently needs can only be funded in two ways. Either it is paid for out of an expanded revenue base, or, out of an increased deficit. Unfortunately, Jacinda, you appear to be ruling out the former, and the Budget Responsibility Rules are ruling out the latter.

So, Jacinda, when you say “Let’s do this”, what, exactly, do you mean? Don’t you think it’s time for you to be completely transparent about what “this” is – and to whom it is being done?


    • Actually “Lipstick on a pig” aptly describe Fran O’Sullivan.
      Can Fran tell us exactly why she works for the right wing neoloiberals. Yes I can understand the Chinese connection and therefore attacking Labour on “Chinese sounding names” and on immigration, yet Fran is hypocritical in asking Jacinda to be honest.
      I listenened to a discussion on National radio the other day and Fran stated that Jacinda needed to come clean on tax,this after stating that English had done a “fine” job over the past nine years. Bryce Edwards was also asked the same question, his first response being that “Fran comes from a right wing perspective”. Fran responded, “oh do I”.

      So Chris, over the past 9 years I have witnessed Fran’s right wing neoliberalism and Fran is the absolute wrong person to be asking this question.
      I note now that Jacinda has seen PREFU, her policies can now have costings, remembering National always had the advantage of costing policy. The latest policy by Jacinda being $8 doctors visits for the marginalised. That’s a “lets do this” moment but of course you know the real reason and answer to what “this” is, I’ll tell you. “Lets get rid of the worst Government in modern history, a Govt who has marginalised thousands, so let’s rid ourselves of this regime, “Let’s do this”

  1. ‘if the people we pay $170,000 per annum to sit in the House of Representatives aren’t “experts”, then who the hell are?

    In my dealings with politicians and ‘experts’ I have found the majority to be scientifically and financially illiterate, and for the most part self-serving liars. Many of them have repeatedly demonstrated that they are professional liars, which is not surprising when one considers that the entire fabric of western society is founded on lies.

    Jacinda is just one more of a plethora of politicians who are required to lie to be part of the corrupt and dysfunctional system, a system which is in the process of ruining everything in the name of ‘progress’.


  2. I’m quite sure “let’s do this” referred to nothing more than her decision to take on the leadership role when the question was suddenly dumped on her 7 weeks out from the election. Sure the phrase works well as an election slogan , but even if it were her original intention that it referred to action post election “this” could hardly have referred to anything but labour’s already published policies.
    You might be asking too much of her Chris. Setting her up for inevitable disappointment .
    D J S

  3. Bang on @ Chris Trotter.

    That’s why I’ve been asking, pleading, begging and imploring Labour to court the farmer. Our primary industry. It’s deeply chilling that Labour have yet to even mention farmers in any capacity. ( Other than how the beastly Cowsploiters are polluting the long black water dhalings. )
    NZ’s actual, proper Farmers ARE OUR ECONOMY and only dead people don’t need to eat FFS! I just happen to be a farmer but even if I were not, I’d say it anyway because it’s our collective reality. It’s true to say so.

    Chloe Swarbrick asked me how that could be done. To bring farmers ‘over’ and ‘away’ from the traitorous Nationals and I think I gave her a reasonable answer given the circumstances that enabled me to get face to face with her.
    The simple answer is security. Farmers would follow anyone anywhere for financial security.
    How can farmers have financial security? My suggestion would be a single , zero interest peer to peer banking administered by a Crown entity. ( Is that gales of laughing, haw,hawing and eye rolling I see and hear…)
    The other and vital element of farming is to employ professional marketing people to deploy our farmer goods across the planet. NOT, the cadre of old crooks and lazy swindlers who sit around primary produce marketing boards diverting cash into their fiefdoms and family trust accounts.
    Finally, weld farmers to their down stream labour force. All for one, and one for all, so the saying goes. That way, farmers and their service industry providers would have the numbers to make a difference at the polls. And/or strike! when the foreign banksters come sniffing around.
    According to The Dept’ of stats’ there are 52 thousand individuals making their sole income from agrarian enterprises. That stat’ speaks for itself.
    Labour should snatch the farmer out from under Nationals pompous, up turned noses and then take NZ/ Aotearoa to the next level in all permutations of the term. As is being promised but without the $-power to implement, as you so correctly pointed out here @ Chris Trotter.

    • From memory. Helen Clark out in a food zone policy or something like that that pretty much said food products couldn’t be transported more than 250 kilometres (or something like that).

      Personally, I believe some sort of grocers licence similar to how alcohol retailers gain license to sell alcohol in West Auckland can maintain good trade both domestically and abroad. This one way to create a functioning farmers market and trade out of dairy intensification. And have a BBQ.

  4. Absolutely right. New Zealand has very low levels of progressive taxation relative to similar countries – our top tax rate on earned income is 33%, Australia’s is 45% and in the UK it’s %50. Business tax rates have been reduced from 33% to 28%. We also have no capital gains tax and we tax low income earners from the very first dollar they earn. In the UK the first $20K of earned income is not taxed at all.
    The Labour Party in NZ has diligently avoided all of this for the past 3 years when instead they needed to be leading it. Grant Robinson has acted like a soft shadow to Bill English – outlining in gently lit tones a rigid adherence to economic orthodoxy – a shining example of what left wing politicians have become – passionless and deeply disappointing.
    The Labour Party have been wallowing in the inherent laziness of Kiwi’s when it comes to thinking through the consequences of low of taxation as evidenced by the above figures and the fact that the vast majority of NZ income earners benefit very little from the current arrangement and yet have eagerly voted for it for the past 3 elections.
    Saying that – I think putting all of the responsibility for challenging the deep seated ignorance of NZ’s working and middle classes 5 weeks out from an election is asking too much of one person – who ever they are.
    This is an issue that needs to be addressed, argued and ultimately won by the NZ Labour Party but firstly the Labour front bench will need to get some courage, vision and leadership and it will take a lot longer than 5 weeks to do that.

    • Those stats are amazing regarding taxation in NZ compared to other 5 eyes spy agreement country’s, – slur intended , – but seriously they are.

      You can really see where so much of the wealth goes out of this country, – no wonder so many foreigners rate NZ as ‘ business friendly ‘. Sucking on the tit , – all of them.

      Well its time these free loading bludgers had a short , sharp shock .

      Pisses me off just thinking about it.

  5. Ah, Labour’s ghost of Banquo and the eternal question:

    To lead or to be led.

    Yeah, good luck with that one…

  6. I hope that the euphoria does not evaporate soon after a Labour success at the election. I don’t doubt some of Jacinda’s passion and commitment to solving some of NZ’s deep social and economic problems but I am too reminded of what happened in the UK when Tory Bliar/New Labour came to power after long years of Thatcher and Major. We all felt relieved and “euphoric” (well, perhaps the less-informed of us) when this happened, but it turned to ashes in the mouth almost within months when the true colours and political designs of New Labour manifested themselves – the same old same old, with a few society-friendly tweeks.

  7. As much as i want the current government to fall on September 23rd i can’t help but feel that this campaign is a re run of 2008 just that they have swapped a millionaire with a neo liberal Morrinsville dj with rock star status.

    Nine years wasted by the current regime and nine years of missed opportunity by Labour to articulate amongst other things a policy on taxation and returning to what Labour used to stand for.

  8. “and when they said ‘no’ you could have asked them if they were willing to pay more tax’ – well Chris Trotter you are dreaming if you think at that point the populace would shout ‘yes’. New Zealanders have a stupid, selfish and mean streak when it comes to paying tax – not seeing it as contributing to a better society for everyone, but rather as some kind of trick to part them from their very own money. All sections of society are guilty – its a national pastime to avoid paying your dues.

    • We aren’t getting much back from all the overt and covert taxes we already pay.

      Up went GST. Up went power prices. Up and down goes the rigged price of petrol. Rents and rates rise like morning mist.

      Would we like to pay more tax? You MUST be joking. Not until it is transparent and guaranteed that the monies extorted actually do reach the intended work, not the purse-leeches we currently indulge.

      And, in this country, that cannot be guaranteed. The ‘market’ and other rorts are disfigured by ‘mates’ rates’, ‘jobs for the insiders’, and other ticket-clipping ventures. Doubt me? Think of Paula Rebstock and Jenny Shipley, for starters. Sticky wee fingers in other people’s wallets. Wondrous reports for filling gaps on shelves.

      More tax to pay grossly over-inflated prices for basics such as building materials? To bribe people to live in low-quality, high-priced cities? To send citizens to other countries to have health procedures? To buy motels to house people (temporarily, of course). To build roads that will be insufficient before the last metre of asphalt is laid?

      That would be a resounding “no”. Thank you.

  9. I find many comments interesting. There was no hard out attack on Key when he was attempting to win his first term. In fact Key blatantly lied when asked if he’d raise tax via GST. Can’t recall Fran going fir an all out attack on Key.

    To those attacking Jacinda, I suggest Jacinda just hard out lie. It seemed to work for Key, National supporters and mainstream media.
    Personally, a CGT on anything but the family home and raising corporate tax are essential.
    As for a “water tax”. Any business that makes a profit from a resource, pays tax. So what’s the problem. I recall the days pre GST, we seemed to have survived that increase. The Government recently put a tax on online purchases because it was unfair on local business.Surely online profit heading offshore is the same as water bottlers taking the profit overseas, so should pay their fair share.

    • Spot on Bert.
      In other words – politics.

      Meanwhile, some on the left handwring and prevaricate.
      “Ooeerr….what if she’s not he real deal?” they say.
      You are well entitled to ask – please do. I hope you find the answers you seek when you read the policies, email, telephone and/or go to your local meet the candidates fora.

      But just remember, your choices at the fairground this year are:
      (1) A Nazional led govt.
      (2) A Labour led govt.

      Not a Greens led govt. Not a NZ First led govt. Not a Mana led govt.

      And of those 2 aforementioned choices, one will at least listen to the voices from the left. The other – not a hope in hell.

      I know whose uncaring face I DON’T want to see in the headlines for the next 3 years…..or any of his scheming successors for that matter.

    • I recall the days pre GST, we seemed to have survived that increase.

      Survived, but not prospered from.

    • With you Bert, disappointing to see people so quick to attack, do they want a change of government or not? I find it galling the demands from Chris for Jacinda to be completely transparent when he has been so silent on the National govt of the past 9 years.

  10. Well I certainly hope they ( Labour ) are not planning to be so ‘ incremental’ there is no difference to National. I do not mind small steps taken in the beginning, and I am under no illusion that we are going to see amazing overnight changes … but change there must be.

    There must be some positive noises made about poverty in this country, welfare, low wages, downgraded social services , polluted rivers, homelessness.

    This is not the Kiwi way .

    When one considers NZ was around 5-6th wealthiest per capita globally during the late 1960’s early 1970’s,… and despite a changing world , something else happened along the way that shrank that status back to 32nd place , – behind Mexico, – during the mid 1990’s ,… and even behind Albania at one point.

    That ‘ something’ was neo liberalism.

    The same neo liberalism that the IMF ( International Monetary Fund ) recently admitted was a failure.

    And things have steadily , increasingly gotten worse. The void between the very poor and extremely rich has never been so glaringly apparent.

    This is not the Kiwi way.

    Witnessing beggars regularly on our streets , … whole family’s sleeping in garages or cars because the two jobs both parents hold are insufficient in wages to pay the rent…

    This is not the Kiwi way.

    Substandard , run down social services such as our hospitals and our education facility’s and a welfare state that exists only as a token gesture , – but whose real job is to deny access , – and in doing so keeping people who are already in desperate straights from being protected from even greater hardship .

    This is not the Kiwi way.

    There have been so many travesty’s of our cultural values because of the persuasive siren call of neo liberalism to treat others as economic units to be manipulated and toyed with in the pursuit of the fast buck.

    And yet it was to prevent this predatory environment analogous to the laws of the jungle that we first developed the concepts of ‘ civilization’ , of ‘rule by law ‘ instead of survival of the fittest , .. and that these ideals and values , – at least in this country , – reached their highest levels from the late 1940’s to 1984,…

    When we adhered to , … and there was a general consensus of agreement of an economy run along the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes, – Keynesianism , – and it was at its most successful , – again , at least in this country , – under the con-sensually agreed upon social democracy we enjoyed pre 1984.

    And while no one is expecting a full blown turnaround back to pre 1984 standards, … the underlying hope by many is that at least at first some key areas are tackled to bring us more in line with that ideal.

    And then hopefully , – after that , – as more people see that it is actually an agreeable circumstance for our country to the ‘many not just the few ‘ ,… the momentum grows and that by small steps, by increments , many of the negative fall out from neo liberal could / will be diminished or banished entirely .

    And to do that , to lift this country , is what Trotter is saying. Otherwise we will have a repeat of the same , or a Blairite third way.

    And lest we forget , all roads lead to Brexit , Corbyn , or even Trump in the absence of an alternative.

    • In hindsight, I could’ve said the same about Key and National , actually most are still trying to work Key out.

      • Good luck trying to work that shyster out Bert but start with narcissism , deceit and greed and go from there.

        I would spend the precious time on someone or something else.

        • Key is as transparent as glass.. Why people are still trying to “work him out” just confuses me.. One only has to factor in his utter disinterest in anyone who isn’t “useful” to his bosses in the head offices of the banks that engineered the 2008 crash in order to have an excuse to drain trillions of dollars out of the pockets of the “peasantry”… His History of being in senior positions within the commercial bank/money trading corporations when the groundwork was being done, in Ireland, for example, and wall st, when the “practice runs” were undertaken preceding the big rip off… and these are just the tip of the iceberg.. The truth has always been right in front of us.. Key was installed as leader of a corrupted, and soulless remnant of the national party, and given blanket protection from any scrutiny purely and simply to prepare NZ for the same fate as the Irish.. Add to that the preparation of NZ to become the bolthoe for the psychopaths that will bring about worldwide devastation in order to make unfettered profits… What else do we need to speculate on? I’ve been saying this since 2004… Isn’t it time we just accepted the reality, and got on with cutting off oxygen to their agenda?

  11. I think I’ll go for the great unknown, I can’t stand the thought of National having a fourth term in government.
    Although if National does win the election, I pretty sure they will sit on their hands and do bugger all ,as they have done for the previous three terms.
    So New Zealanders who want certainty, vote National and maintain the status quo, me I want change and Labour will do me fine.

  12. Yes some of Chris’s statements are sensible.

    QUOTE FROM CHRIS; – “You could have looked your fellow New Zealanders squarely in the eye and asked them to tell you, honestly, whether they believe that enough has been spent on housing the homeless, improving mental health care, upgrading our hospitals and schools, expanding public transport and cleaning up the environment. And, when they said “No”, you could have asked them if they were willing to pay just a little bit more in tax to make good New Zealand’s shocking social deficit.”

    Yes in our HB Today paper they now are criticing Labour MP Stuart Nash about the “vague reopening of the Gisborne rail promise your Transport Spokesperson Micael Wood has released late last week.

    Labour Michael Savage built this section of the line from Wairoa to Gisborne in 1937/ to 1942.

    All otter Parties in opposition plus Maori Party is promising to reopen the line with out any need to be economic.

    They say because of our remote region it is a essential service.

    Sue Moroney even said this at the rail conference in Gisborne last November 2016.

    Gisborne herald aslo has an article asying Labour need to comit to restoring the rail link Labour built in 1942.

    Best Michael Wood and Jacinda get out a more affirmative stand on their own rail service to Remote Gisborne and come to complete the line to Tauranga as was planned in 1911.

    I feel sorry for leaving Labour MP for Napier left in a weaker position as Stuart has long promised the Gisborne rail will return under Labour after labour’s Phil Twyford the preious Transport Spokesperson also promised in 2014.

    All this confussion is swirling around now while National,s Bill English was in HB two days ago! stating that National are building more roads to benefit HB!!!!!!

    We dont want more roads for trucks we have to many trucks now for God sakes.

    Labour may lose Napier if we don’t hear a more solid conviction from Labour here.

    • F@ck the rich , mate – they are the least of this country’s concerns, – what we are concerned about is all the cash they stole from the now poor , unemployed , chronically ill and low waged workers , – along with all their neo liberal enablers from 1984 onward’s.

        • We all know how important it is to keep our families healthy – but last year an estimated 500,000 New Zealanders didn’t go to the doctor when they needed to because they couldn’t afford it. So today I launched our plan to lower GP fees for everyone, in front of hundreds of people who turned out to see our announcement in Mangere, Auckland. Here’s how it works:
          We’ll lower the cost of every GP visit for every adult New Zealander by $10 from July 2018.

          If you’re on a Community Services Card or go to a very low cost access provider, you’ll only pay $8 to visit the GP if you’re an adult (that’s $10 cheaper than National’s plan!) and just $2 if you’re between 13 and 17 (under-13s are already free).

          And to help ensure there are enough doctors, we’ll increase funding to train 300 GPs per year over three years and review frontline healthcare services to make sure that everyone can get the right healthcare when they need it.
          With Labour, half of New Zealanders will now pay $8 or less to see their GP.
          New Zealanders shouldn’t feel like they can’t go to the doctor when they’re sick. Not only is that unacceptable in modern New Zealand, it can also cost the healthcare system more as some people’s illnesses get worse and they can end up in hospital.
          I reckon this is a game changer for health in New Zealand – it’s part of Labour’s plan to fund our health system properly and increase mental health services so everyone can get the care and help they need. Please, spread the news far and wide.
          Thanks so much,

                • means test the doctors subsidy.

                  Means testing?!

                  The neo-liberal answer to doling out the minimum amount of state assistance to those in need.

                  Aside from having to create an expensive bureaucracy to dole out subsidies, means-testing allows right-wing governments to wind back; restrict; or cancel entitlements altogether.

                  Recieving welfare is means-tested and National has kicked thousands from WINZ books by making the process complex, time-consuming, bureaucratic, and difficult to navigate.

                  State housing is means-tested, and families have been thrown out of their homes if their incomes are too high. This creates transience and flow-on negative effects for children’s schooling.

                  Where is the limit set for means-testing?

                  Can you guarantee that a National-led government won’t wind back means-levels, thereby reducing eligibility?

                  Means-testing creates a division of “deserving poor”, “undeserving poor”, and a resentful Middle Class.

                  Which of course, plays into the hands of the Right to then scrap or reduce doctor’s subsidies until they are meaningless.

                  We’ve seen so many examples of this over the past thirty years to be suckered in by that idea.

                  The most cost-effective idea is to make it universal and if it bothers you that much that the rich are benefitting – recoup the cost by raising the top income tax by half a cent, or create a higher tax threshold.

                  Easier. Cheaper. More transparent. And most importantly, less able to be manipulated by National.

  13. While I agree with the sentiment of the article I find this election season depressing because the greatest issue facing us is not being addressed by any party – which is – Will NZ participate in the coming nuclear war or will it not? By participation I mean will the next government continue to side with USA and NATO (North Atlantic Terrorist Organisation) as part of 5 Eyes or not? The answer to this question will determine whether NZ will be directly targeted by nuclear weapons (Waihopai, US Air force base in Christchurch airport etc.) or not. While it would be nice if NZ went independent and pulled all our military out of the US military terrorist operations in its global empire. The question is who is standing up for Peace to try and stop the coming nuclear holocaust? Or at the very least try and make sure NZ is not targeted by nuclear weapons when the nuclear war does break out?

  14. Chris, I think you missed the point of Labour’s new slogan.
    It is very deliberately the language of the younger voter whom Labour hopes to get over to their side.
    It is a proactive slogan, it can mean anything of course but it is powerful for what it implies and that is that anything is possible if you get stuck in.
    Compare it with National’s pleadingly defensive slogan “we’re delivering.. which would be more believable if it were accompanied by English on his knees praying for divine intervention.
    Why Jacinda is connecting with the masses is because she sends out proactive signals which make people confident and confident people will always spread the message to other people.
    That is what Labour are aiming at. It is calculated yes, but no more calculated than the messages of the other parties.
    It was kind of like that too in 1984 and with respect Chris, I’m surprised that you with your great knowledge of history and politics didn’t mention that.

  15. The only way I can see Jacindamania leading to anything resonable is that we get enough Green MPs (and maybe even Winston First) that the fiscal cowards in Labour have no choice but to fake some courage. Jacinda’s comments on Meitiria, where she missed the issue completely but placated the small minded nastiness of the Kiwi psyche, tells me that Labour will do nothing good unless they have no choice.

  16. Jacinda Ardern’s past association with Tony Blair should IMO eliminate her from any role as leader of this country. Jacinda will be au fait with those behind the TPPA and the U.S. “shadow government” leading the push for the TPPA along with the increasing surveillance of citizens of NZ. Worth listening to as these are the agencies our various Governments have allowed to deeply dig into NZ soil:

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