Absent Friends – Labour knows what needs to be done to win, but not how to make it happen


WINNING IN SEPTEMBER should be a doddle for Labour. The successful campaign strategy virtually writes itself. Draw together a comprehensive plan for economic recovery post-Covid. Indicate the Government’s general direction of travel by announcing creative solutions to the problems which will, inevitably, arise over the next 100 days. Maintain a “relentlessly positive” approach by insisting, in the spirit of 2017, “We can do this!”

Unfortunately, the biggest problem confronting Labour isn’t recognising what needs to be done; it’s working out how to make it happen.

For the best part of 30 years, Labour’s caucus hasn’t needed to draw together a comprehensive economic plan. In 1984, the plan that came to be known as “Rogernomics” was handed to them, ready-made, by Treasury. Labour and National have dutifully followed Treasury’s plan ever since. So rock-solid has the neoliberal consensus become in New Zealand that both of the major political parties have forgotten how to think in any other way. When either one of them wants to know what to think, they simply ask Treasury.

Prior to 1984, in the years when both Labour and National were mass parties boasting hundreds-of-thousands of members, policy advice was largely sourced in-house. What could not be obtained from members tended to be supplied by key interest groups. National could rely on Federated Farmers, the Employers Association and the Chambers of Commerce. Labour had the trade unions, schoolteachers and university staff, liberal churchmen, voluntary-sector workers, and elements of the Manufacturers Association. The secret to successive National Governments’ extraordinary longevity was simply a matter of stealing Labour’s policies, watering them down, and then introducing them as their own.

This complex process of producing economic and social policy even had a name: “Pluralism”. Society was presented as a multitude of competing “power centres” which the pressure of regular electoral contests forced into the self-reinforcing negotiation of political compromises. Viewed historically, pluralism was an indisputably progressive system. It guaranteed that the interests of workers and their families were both protected and advanced, but only at a speed with which capitalist investors and employers could keep pace, and which afforded them the time required to adapt. In this way “evolution” forestalled “revolution”.

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Obviously, pluralism represented everything which the followers of what we now call neoliberalism detested. In their estimation, the only “power centres” which merited the state’s protection were those which protected the rights and interests of the market. Rogernomics thus set about the systematic dismantling of just about every competing centre of power in New Zealand society. Its straightforward purpose was to create a system in which the formulation of economic and social policy became the preserve of private think tanks and a state apparatus re-configured to serve the interests of capital exclusively. Their objective, largely achieved, was to leave all those seeking an alternative to neoliberalism with literally no viable means of either thinking it up, or making it happen.

You see the problem here? The Covid-19 Pandemic has exogenously generated (i.e. in the way the asteroid-Earth collision influenced the dinosaurs!) a critical need for new and imaginative economic and social policies. Unfortunately, the only institutions capable of formulating such policies are intellectually incapable of thinking outside the neoliberal box. The ideas of neoliberalism permeate not only the advice flowing into National’s caucus from the “Right”, but also the advice flowing into Labour’s caucus from the “Left”. Neither the trade unions, nor the universities; the churches nor the not-for-profit sector; have anything to offer, policy-wise, that even remotely resembles a detailed and comprehensive alternative to the status-quo.

Just consider the fate of what is probably the most heterodox policy package presented to a New Zealand government in the last 30 years: the report of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group. What happened to this radical, sector-wide suite of reforms? It was almost completely ignored. Carmel Sepuloni, the Social Development Minister, simply couldn’t summon-up the independence of mind required to over-rule her MSD advisers – for which her colleagues were no doubt profoundly grateful. What on earth would they have done if she had!

Because it would be a mistake to think that policy orthodoxy and a general reluctance to challenge official advice is behaviour peculiar to Carmel Sepuloni. The same could be said of just about every minister in Jacinda Ardern’s cabinet – including Jacinda herself.

She and her senior colleagues cut their political teeth in an environment where the neoliberal foundations of social and economic policy were regarded as immovable. Those who suggested otherwise, like Jim Anderton’s Alliance, and the Green Party under Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons, were treated like embarrassingly eccentric family members: people to be endured – not heeded. Certainly, anyone within Labour’s ranks foolish enough to suggest that neoliberalism might have had its day – like David Cunliffe – inspired only the rolling of eyes and grinding of teeth among their colleagues.

Like that asteroid, however, the Covid-19 crisis has brought on one or two changes. As both the Prime Minister and her Finance Minister have made clear in recent weeks, the need for a comprehensive policy reset is now urgent. Facing unemployment levels not seen since the darkest days of the Great Depression, the Labour component of the Coalition Government is reaching back, through its own history, for the inspiration needed to confront the vast challenges ahead.

What they are discovering, however, is that Rogernomics’ most pernicious legacy – at least in Labour – is the extraordinary damage it inflicted on the party’s intellectual and moral capacities. Never has the left-wing faction of the party which departed with Jim Anderton in 1989 been needed so desperately. Never has the absence of the alternative thinking it would have encouraged been more telling.

Pluralism, you see, is as vital to the health and progress of parties as it is to the general welfare of societies. I have this on the authority of no less an expert than Matt McCarten – who served as chief-of-staff to Jim Anderton, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little. Ruminating recently upon the ideological monoculture Labour has become, he told me sadly: “We should have stayed, Chris. We should have stayed.”

History, however, seldom offers us second chances. Notwithstanding Jacinda’s need for new ideas, she is unlikely to find them within her current ranks. Certainly, she will not discover them in the policy papers passed up by her neoliberal officials. They won’t be found in the glossy submissions of right-wing think tanks and PR firms either.

The challenge confronting the Prime Minister and her colleagues, therefore, is to somehow muster the intellectual forces needed to move Labour’s admirably simple campaign strategy from the lofty realm of theory into the gritty world of practice.

Never was the old saying more true: “Now is the time for every good person to come to the aid of the party.” Especially those with democratic socialist ideas!


  1. Good articles and thank you for the definition ‘pluralism ‘ and what it means in this context. The truth is however, its all there in the history books for each and every one of us to be reacquainted with how things were done prior to 1984. And the biography’s. It would be hard to honestly say if you were a politician you had never head of Michael Joseph Savage, Norman Kirk , even Rob Muldoon and Kieth Holyoake in this country…

    Harder still to say you had never heard of Keynesian economics, and the uniquely NZ approach to that economic theory. Which is basically part of the ‘pluralism’ you are talking about. For the politicians of the last 36 years they have no excuse , Keynesian economics was the successful status quo adopted and became the political consensus of both major party’s for around 50 years…its what gave us our infrastructure and economic wealth under what you describe as democratic socialism.

    Neo liberalism aka ‘Rogernomics’ destroyed all three.

    I would say it is willful denial and ignorance if a modicum and updated version of Keynesian policy’s are not reintroduced.

    Perhaps however, that family gathering will be in an uproar if those ’embarrassingly eccentric family members’ proved to be the wiser heads after all and that the family had been living a lie.

    That would be a pretty sour pill to have to swallow, I should imagine.

  2. “What they are discovering, however, is that Rogernomics’ most pernicious legacy – at least in Labour – is the extraordinary damage it inflicted on the party’s intellectual and moral capacities.”
    Ain’t that the fucking truth! Which is pretty much why I liken neo-liberalism as much of a religion (ritualistically) as it is an ideology.
    And the weird thing is that Roger Douglas wasn’t that bright in the first place from what I could see.

    • Oh, we were up there with America by being dunned down by an idiot. Thatcher wasn’t better. Boy, the rich have thoroughly disproved themselves over the last 40 years. Or their peak, Trump. But I so much love demo-cracy because of them. The ignoramuses.

      If we’d been in charge we might have survived climate change more intact. Thanks you second-hand car salesmen. But to be honest it was a pyramid scheme all along. Or a righteous party after all our scrimping.

      Just the kids and the grandkids will suffer the hangover of our silliness.

      Such fuckwittery. Illuminated in Yankland.

  3. “Draw together a comprehensive plan for economic recovery post-Covid.”

    They are incapable of drawing together any kind of plan – the evidence of that has been obvious for the last three years. This is a government of fine sounding words with no substance behind them.

      • It’s a sad situation when the best support you can give a party is “Well they’re not as bad as the other lot”. Sounds like the best one can hope for is that you’ll get a better smile when you’re being shafted. Which is why I have no idea who I’m going to vote for and I suspect there are a lot like me – despite what Martin Bradbury thinks.

      • Sadly you are correct.
        I think however, that Labour’s failed attempts at solving poverty and homelessness are more damaging than National’s failure to attempt at all.

    • And Nationals campaign manager Brownlee is all substance Andrew. All 180kg full of soundbites. So whilst you post complaining National wallow in the depths of their neoliberalism with nothing to add to the economy because immigration has stopped, the overseas investment in our housing has stopped and Labour are as good at building roads as National is. The coalition is moving further ahead of a National government by the week.

      • Bert: “….Nationals campaign manager Brownlee is all substance Andrew.”

        Andrew didn’t actually say that, you know. His criticism of the current government is one with which I have to agree (and as an old lefty, I would much rather not!). That critique entails nothing about the competence or otherwise of the other lot.

        It seems to me that we the voters are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, as the saying goes.

        Faced with its demonstrated incompetence (as Andrew has pointed out), I’m damned if I’ll vote Labour again.

        But I’m buggered if I know who’ll get my vote at the next election.

        • Well then I’ll focus purely on National. If you want to take the country backwards then vote National. The last time I voted National was Muldoon.
          Andrew did not use the word incompetence, however all parties have ministers who fail in their duty and the question remains, do you vote for a failed party ( National ) or continue to allow Labour the same amount of time to achieve their goals. Labour and it’s astute leadership gets my vote to rectify 9 years of Nationals incompetence.
          I continue to hear Labours failures but no one has yet convinced me what Nationals successes have been, other than roading, high immigration, massive foreign housing investment, a housing crisis and underfunding in health and in public infrastructure.
          Why anyone would see that as a recipe going into the future as a successful plan, well, they probably vote Trump.

          • Bert: “….If you want to take the country backwards then vote National. ”

            Did you actually read what I wrote? This comment suggests that you’re responding to what you think I wrote, or how you think I’ll vote come the next election. I indicated that I don’t know how I’ll vote at the next election.

            I have said – repeatedly – that I’m an old (as in, boomer) lefty. I’ve never voted National.

            “Labour and it’s astute leadership gets my vote to rectify 9 years of Nationals incompetence.”

            This comment puzzles me. If you were old enough to vote for Muldoon, surely you know that we’re in the present situation because of Rogernomics? Neoliberalism, in other words. Introduced by Labour, perpetuated by both Labour and the Natz ever since. Including the Clark administration. And the current government shows no sign of abandoning that path.

            I’d add that, if you’re old enough to have voted for Muldoon, you cannot fail to have noticed that – paradoxically – he was much more left-wing than anybody now in parliament.

            For me personally, voting Labour at the last election was the triumph of hope over experience. The current lot have turned out to be as bad as their predecessors, fine words notwithstanding. What’s that old saying? Fine words butter no parsnips, I think. You may be prepared to give them some more latitude: I am not.

            “…..underfunding in health and in public infrastructure.”

            I’m well aware of the systematic underfunding issues, particularly in the health sector: I used to work there. I left in the early 1990s. Even then, underfunding was having a negative effect. The problem goes a very long way further back than the last government, though to be sure, its tenure didn’t help.

            “Why anyone would see that as a recipe going into the future as a successful plan, well, they probably vote Trump.”

            If that’s aimed at me, I say again that you’re not reading what I actually wrote. I don’t see any of that as being what the country needs: that’s why I voted Labour at the last election, because its MPs claimed that they’d do better. They haven’t, nor have they indicated that they will do the things that I see as vitally important. I’m done with Labour.

            As for the comment about Trump: what on earth has this to do with NZ? Trump is AMERICAN: no NZ citizens vote in US elections, and US pollies don’t run for office here. That’s just a swipe at some sort of imaginary windmill.

            I do get the impression that, like many Labour supporters, you have difficulty dealing with critique. Surely you aren’t scared that the government will lose the next election?

            • Well said D’Esterre, I agree with every word as a gen Xer who remembers some of Muldoon.
              I see the left as frankly losing the plot at present.
              Likewise I’m no Nat supporter but I will be voting across the aisles come election time.

            • “I’d add that, if you’re old enough to have voted for Muldoon, you cannot fail to have noticed that – paradoxically – he was much more left-wing than anybody now in parliament.”

              Which, if you had any intuition, was why I voted Muldoon at the time.

              • Bert: “Which, if you had any intuition, was why I voted Muldoon at the time.”

                Hahaha…bollocks! No lefties at the time thought that he was a left-winger. Because he wasn’t. It’s only now, when we look back, that we can see how far to the right the NZ political centre has shifted. Are you sure that you were voting back then? I have my doubts.

            • ” that’s why I voted Labour at the last election, because its MPs claimed that they’d do better. They haven’t, nor have they indicated that they will do the things that I see as vitally important.”

              You seem to have a short fuse. Why not allow more time or are you of the “want now” mentality.
              Whilst I agree there have been let downs, I’m more prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt than “I’m done with Labour” after just one term!

              • Bert: “Why not allow more time or are you of the “want now” mentality.”

                Surely you’re aware of the dire situation facing the very poor – many of whom are beneficiaries – and those without adequate housing? The government has had an entire electoral term in which to lay out a concrete plan for the amelioration of the plight of these people. To implement parts of it, even.

                Adequate income is urgently needed: in my view, the government ought to have at the very least followed – if not front-footed – the welfare working group’s recommendations in respect of benefit increases. It’s been known for many years that income levels are inadequate; there wasn’t any need for a working group to tell us this. People needing enough income to feed their families and afford a house can’t wait for some utopian future that may or may not eventuate.

                If you want to cut the current lot even more slack, be my guest: knock yourself out. But not me. If there were the smallest hope that this government would turn away from neoliberalism, we’d by now have seen substantive evidence of it. There hasn’t been. I’m out.

        • Actually D’Esterre, both you and Andrew should be both grateful to Ardern and Labour that you are both alive to contribute to recovering our economy.
          “I’m damned if I’ll vote Labour again” really sounds like a pre- determined opinion.

          • Bert: “…..should be both grateful to Ardern and Labour that you are both alive to contribute to recovering our economy.”

            Hahahaha….utter bollocks! What an egregious piece of presumptuousness on your part. Nobody can say what would have happened, had the counterfactual pertained.

            “….really sounds like a pre- determined opinion.”

            I have no idea what you’re talking about here. My opinion is based on Labour’s failures throughout its term thus far. One would have to be a blithering bloody idiot – and I am not – to allow one’s opinion to be changed by singular events. Look at the pattern: that’s what I’ve done.

            • Look around the world, the evidence is there to show that brilliant leadership has meant NZ is in an enviable decision. Don’t take my critique of you personally D’Esterre. You do come across as hysterical because of this. Vote as you feel you need to. I have this advice however, if you feel, you’d be better off overseas with a covid response then very good luck to you. You generalise Labours failures, what are they? What are the patterns and failures and the evidence to show these patterns? Because everything you say is complete bollocks without evidence.
              Once again I’m extremely glad that I am in NZ under tremendous leadership and thankful that I am able to contribute to the rebuild of our economy.

              • I’m just one of those slugs sluggin’ back too much Müller-Thurgau.


                I’m very happy with the Labour led COL. Overall. Despite their failures. Of which there are many. I’m hoping the coming economic crash will cause them to think a little more about dear old Mickey Joseph Savage and what their party was foundered on…

                PS: It wont happen overnight , but it will happen…

                Happy to let National crash and burn. And I should hope all the rest of these indecisive’s come to their senses shortly,… including Chris …


                • Wild Katipo: “And I should hope all the rest of these indecisive’s come to their senses shortly…”

                  Don’t hold yer breath….

              • Bert: “…NZ is in an enviable decision.”

                I guess that you mean “position”. And no. We aren’t. We’re living in a fortress with the drawbridge pulled up. That’s a dire position to be in, for a very small trading nation at the arse-end of nowhere.

                We depend critically upon connections with the rest of the world. Sooner or later, the borders must be opened. Then what? We’re being told that there’s been renewed outbreaks in various parts of the world. What happens when the virus arrives here again? Which it will, if what we’re told is happening overseas is to be believed.

                And if that’s so, all that’s happened here is that the inevitable has been staved off temporarily. Surely you don’t think that the government could force us all to stay home again?

                Perhaps you’re pinning your hopes on a vaccine. Good luck with that….

                “You do come across as hysterical….”

                I think that we can all see who’s being hysterical here. Your reaction to critique comes across as if Labour were a cult and you’re an adherent indignantly defending it. Right weird….

                “Vote as you feel you need to…”

                You can bet on it. Once I’ve figured out what that is.

                “I have this advice however, if you feel, you’d be better off overseas with a covid response then very good luck to you.”

                Hahaha…the last resort of the person who’s all out of arguments: if you don’t like it here, why don’t you go somewhere else? Jeezus wept….

                “…Labours failures, what are they?”

                You know very well what they are. I’ve said my piece; this and other comment threads are also replete with critique.

                You vote any damn way you want. As will the rest of us.

        • There are brains outside of Parliament who seem to be ignored.
          A think tank assembled may teach old tricks to Labour seat holders and open up new thinking and courage.

    • You obviously didn’t take any notice of the budget, but then Andrew you never take any notice of anything that doesn’t suit your preconceived ideological prejudices.

  4. What I’d liked to see from this govt. in its 2nd term (there are a few other things I haven’t mentioned, but I’m trying to retain some semblance of realism):

    – Move away from indirect taxation, which lays too much tax burden on low-income people
    – Higher income tax on the wealthy (but please, no “we’re sticking it to the rich” rhetoric)
    – Nationalize the electricity supply, so nobody needs “winter energy payments”
    – Nationalize Kiwirail
    – Split Air NZ into international and domestic arms; nationalize the domestic arm
    – Nationalize the universities, and scrap the “unicorp” funding model
    – Scrap the Ministry for Women
    – Suppress school “donations” and fund schools properly
    – Split DOC in two, separating the conservation and tourism functions
    – Use an economic criterion for prioritizing elective surgery, not an ethnic one (currently some boards are giving priority to Maori and Pasifiika)
    – Better pay for school teachers and nurses
    – More funding for teaching aides
    – Six months’ compulsory national service (medical or military or ?) to give young people some sense of a common national project and identity

    What I suspect we will get instead:

    – Mandatory quotas of women and minorities on company boards
    – “Hate speech” legislation
    – “Unconscious bias” training
    – More pandering to minorities and women
    – More corporate welfare
    – Continued tinkering with the neoliberal model

    • Yes to all that Pope Punctilious II

      Just look at Helen Clark and Michael Cullen’s gift to us s being handled now by both National and now Labour???

      Take ‘Kiwi Rail’ just for one case here; – now we have it as a SOE which is sitting about to be scaped and sold again to privateers if it is noit resued with proper funding as Helen and Michael set it up as.

      They set up a ‘crown rail track company’ ONTRACK to manage the rail system all throughout NZ, then bought back the train set after, but when thieving Johnny Key got his hands on it they “amalgamated the ontrack into kiwi Rail and forced Kiwi Rail to fund the track and it failed because of the lack of maintenance as you saw happen when old drains washed ot one KM of Gisborne rail in 2012 and no-one has re-opened the rail since because Kiwi Rail is either broke or don’t want regional rail.

      We all have big issues with Rogernomics/Keyism neoliberalism as it has almost wrecked our country so your list is bang on.
      Kiwi- Rail has several Management problems of ‘incompetence’ now and ‘several heads need to roll’

      To Chris Trotter this was one of your finest historical references to modern NZ Politics well done you have a fan..

    • Some more ideas.

      Cashless society. Then we will know exactly how much tourism brings in for NZ…etc.

      Social housing based on the Vienna model. 25% of housing goverment owned.

      Jobs for all no matter how useless. No benefit unless you are incapable to work.

      • No to cashless society’s and no to ‘No benefit unless you are incapable to work’- such broad sweeping statements doesn’t take into account those returning from overseas in the future or those made redundant for whatever reason. Such a policy would return us back to the early 1930’s where teams of men would dig a ditch and another team would be behind filling it in again. Yes! – that actually happened!.

    • Pope Punctilious II:

      I agree with everything you say, here.

      “Use an economic criterion for prioritizing elective surgery, not an ethnic one (currently some boards are giving priority to Maori and Pasifiika)”

      Absolutely. I hadn’t known that this was happening, but it explains a few things I’d noticed. Socioeconomic status is a marker of disease prevalence. Not ethnicity per se.

      “Six months’ compulsory national service (medical or military or ?) to give young people some sense of a common national project and identity.”

      We have family in Austria and Germany. Both countries practise a system of this sort; family members have had experience of it. In my view, it’s no bad thing. It’s an antidote to emergent solipsism, and to the divisiveness of identity politics, which we are beginning to see here. It would be a useful strategy in a post-colonial society such as this one.

      It’s worth remembering that the notion of the welfare state – or at least alleviating the living conditions of the very poor – has a deep history in Germany. It goes all the way back to Jakob Fugger the Rich, who was a contemporary of the Medicis. He set up the Fuggerei in Augsburg (not far from Munich). It’s a social housing project that is extant. People can visit it, as we’ve done.

      I laughed and sighed over your list of what we’ll likely get instead. Sadly, that’s how it looks at this stage.

      • Interesting stuff D’Esterre. I was vaguely aware of a national service in Germany and Austria, but I’m not usually bold enough to cite those countries as models, for .. (cough) … historical reasons. Francis Futuyama, having apparently moved on from “the end of history”, has suggested a national service as an antidote to identity politics.

  5. 86,400 seconds = 1 day
    1 million seconds = 12 days
    1 billion seconds = 157 years
    1 trillion seconds = 31,000 years

    Trump just printed 2 trillion dollars in the last 4 months and the U.S federal reserve is stacking on billions everyday. It is physically and logistically impossible to count to a trillion dollars in the 300 years of the American democratic experiment. America has gone from no debt to over 20 trillion in 300 years and any physicist will tell you that’s some bullshit magic trick right there.

    Being a Prime Minister means absolutely nothing if you are not prepared to use your own information, knowledge and skills. Be careful of financial porn and candy designed to confuse so people don’t vote and tell you that history always repeats itself. It can’t be both. Experience trumps all in my opinion.

  6. Another well-written article, Chris.

    You have correctly identified the fact that politicians have been led by the nose -often willingly, it seems- by so-called experts in Treasury and the Ministry of Innovation and Employment (a truly Orwellian title), ‘experts’ who have little idea how the real world functions and who rigidly adhere to dysfunctional policies founded on incoherent and inconsistent theories of money creation and economics. As with the quaks who attempted to cure diseased individuals by blood-letting or application of leaches, the quaks in Treasury and MoIE order more blood-letting or more application of leaches when the patient’s (NZ) condition worsens.

    Interesting as historical comparisons are, they are of no value when dealing with unprecedented major discontinuities and unprecedented circumstances.

    The world has never before been so overpopulated with consumeristic fools who are utterly dependent on the rapidly declining fossil fuel base; the world never been confronted with unprecedented environmental meltdown (well not in the past 54 million years since the last major thermal maximum); unrepayable debts have never been at current levels (even allowing for he devaluation of the value of money), not even at the end of the Second World War; the land have never before been so despoiled by development and over-application of synthetic fertilisers; the oceans have never been so acidified and depleted of fish.

    Sadly, the Adern government is committed, via the ill-advise delivered by so-called experts, to making everything that matters in the long term worse. I don’t see that changing until matters get diabolically bad…which may well be later this year if current trends continue.

      • I’d prefer it with a bottle of Müller-Thurgau , just quietly, – and I’m rather concerned how this coming world economic depression will affect our wine stocks.

        Baked beans without Müller-Thurgau ?!!?

        Sacrilege !!!

        The height of political incompetence !!!

  7. Apologies.

    Sadly, the Adern government is committed, via the ill-advice delivered by so-called experts, to making everything that matters in the long term worse

    • Treasury and allied public services need cleaning out of the neoliberal spoilers. They have been allowed to accumulate and deliberately so.

      • Here here john; 100% correct.
        National ‘seeded all their grubby neo-liberals inside all our institutions’ called “advisors” to keep the global cabal and rich on ‘funding subidies’ using public funds to keep their companies going.

        By using “”cross subsidies as Ron Mark stated clearly during his speech on the ‘LAND TRANSPORT (RAIL) LEGISLATION BILL’ 4/6/20 last week, here is what he said;

        here is the Hansard report for 4th June 2020 on second reading of LAND TRANSPORT (RAIL) LEGISLATION BILL – Second Reading

        Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I do rise on behalf of New Zealand First to say this is a great day. This is a great day. This is a great day, to finally see a piece of legislation—we’re having lots of great days over this side of the House.

        I do recall the days when we talked about communications. We talked about the difficulty of local government funding roading networks with an ever growing number of trucks on the roads. We would come along to—in those days it was—the Hon Nick Smith, who was the Minister of Local Government, and try to help him understand the pressure that local government was on. Our diminishing number of rural ratepayers could not fund the repairs and maintenance, let alone the growth, of those rural networks of roads.
        One of the solutions we always talked about was getting trucks off the road, getting product on to rail, and getting it through to the port. Now, whether that meant going up to Napier, up through Mr Yule’s part of the woods, to the port at Napier, or getting it down through the Wairarapa into Wellington, into CentrePort, we always said: why don’t you put more money, Mr National Government person, into rail so we can, one, alleviate the pressure on our ratepayers, and, two, alleviate the pressure on the roading network to commuters who were driving over the Remutaka hills stuck behind logging trucks—truck after truck after truck? But the answer was always, well, we’re not putting money into rail, and rail’s a State-owned entity and it’s got to make its own way, and it’s not the Government’s responsibility to be putting money into rail.
        I heard Mr Bishop just a moment ago—the fundamental objection that today’s National Party in Opposition has to this bill is because of cross-subsidy. Get it? I’ve got that. I understand it. But that totally belies what that Government stood for a few years back when they went into coalition with New Zealand First and they flip-flopped—they flip-flopped. We used to have cross-subsidy, where road-user charges, all that transport funding, went into the consolidated fund, and it was used for education—cross-subsidy—under Robbie Muldoon and Jim Bolger. Mr Bishop, the reason your party changed it is because New Zealand First and Peter Brown made you—in coalition negotiations made you.
        So quite happy to accept cross-subsidy on one day and argue against it on another day. In those days, it was essential. In those days, you couldn’t put 100 percent of the money gathered off of roads into roading because that was just appalling. How would we pay for education, they said. How would we pay for health, they said. We can’t put all the money into roading. Now they’re saying, “Oh my gosh. We can’t take the road-user charges and put them into rail.”
        Hon Member: You’re lost in the past.
        Hon RON MARK: “Lost in the past.” Well, for that new member, freshly promoted—congratulations—if one doesn’t learn from history, one is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, and that in one flippant little chip across the House, sums up the problem on that bench—sums it right up. Denial, denial, denial.
        Here’s the other point: over the hill and far away, in a beautiful valley called the Wairarapa, people are applauding the fact that we will have more trains running commuters in and out of Wellington to the Wairarapa. The local mayors—
        Chris Bishop: We did that. That was us.
        Hon RON MARK: No. Minister Twyford has made that announcement—about $200 million into double-tracking in the Hutt area.
        Chris Bishop: That was us.
        Hon RON MARK: Mr Bishop, there was never any funding or any appropriation or any commitment when I was the mayor of Carterton from that Government to double-tracking, to improving the lines, to more rolling stock, to $98 million in one hit, about $200 million from this Government into the Wairarapa line. That’s new. In fact, Mr Bishop, weren’t you there in Upper Hutt when we made the announcement? Well, the former National Party man who is now the mayor of South Wairarapa is applauding this decision.
        In fact, it was Adrienne Staples—Her Worship the Mayor Adrienne Staples, from South Wairarapa, former National Party president—who got tired of banging her head on the desk trying to say why doesn’t the Government use money from the Land Transport Fund to support rail. Guess what. Her former Worship the Mayor of South Wairarapa was saying, “Well done, coalition Government. Nice one. Thank you very much.”
        Stuck in the past, Nicola Willis, I understand you are. You are stuck in your past rhetoric, in your past ideology, of all that little “The money has to be in this jam jar and only spent on Weet-Bix, and the money in this little jam jar is for the rent, and nothing can shift between the two of them.” That’s why families get into trouble, because there’s no pragmatism, there’s no balance, and there’s no looking at the wider holistic policy.
        This decision is a brave decision. New Zealand First has been adamant that we must rebuild rail. We need to get trucks off. The comment that 99 percent of freight in Auckland goes on the roads is absolutely correct, Mr Bishop—absolutely correct. I’ve got family in the logistics distribution network. I know how important those trucks are. We’ve got Palmerston North, just across the hills from us, right—a centre, a hub, a logistics hub. We know what’s going in and out of there.
        The question is, given all the money that was poured into the roads of national significance and what the last Government was going to do—Mr Yule’s smiling, I know. Don’t smile; you’ll get in trouble. All the money that we know was going to be put into the one-road network by the last Minister of Transport, who was going to lose? Rural New Zealand. And what was that doing? That was propping up unbridled immigration, more and more cars on the roads, more and more trucks, billions of dollars going into Auckland, Mr Bishop—Auckland—at the expense of the Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay, and Manawatū.
        The question is: is that sustainable? Can we continue to promote that sort of greenhouse gas emission? Can we continue to have that many trucks on the road? Can we continue to build so many roads? Why wouldn’t we expand our rail network? Why wouldn’t we find alternate ways of funding it? And, of course, it may only be one train on the Wairoa line up until right now, but build it—and, if what you’ve said is true, then kei te pai. But I’m one of those optimists; I’m a pragmatist. New Zealand First believes build it and it will come. Build it. With the population growth in this country exploding, we have tripped over the 5 million mark at lightning speed, and that has got to be a concern. And the future will not be in building more six-lane highways at the huge cost that the last Government poured into those roading networks—

  8. Yes Chris, you and Matt should have stayed. Most of us reacted in disgust and and went with our hearts rather than our heads abandoning the 90s to the Nats. Staying could have made things different.

    In 1990 the ‘left’ Labour + NLP + Greens got 47.2% and the Nats got 47.8% in the 1990 election. The difference was probably Labour supporters who wanted to punish Labour but refused to vote for NLP.

    Had NL stayed in the party it could have kept an anti-Rogernomics majority alive and won back the abstentions.

    Moreover, the split caused Labour to lose 9 electorates by a margin less than the NL vote. The result could have been around Labour 40 to Nat 46 instead of the terrible defeat of 29 to 67!

    “In 1993 Labour’s share of the vote reduced marginally from 35.1% to 34.7%. But its tally of seats went from 29 to 45. That is, Labour won back 16 seats without any significant increase in the number of those voting because National’s support had greatly evaporated. What counted against Labour was the role the Alliance played in the marginal, mixed class seats in the smaller cities and provinces.”

    In 1993 the NLP had formed the Alliance (with Mana Motuhake, Greens, Democrats and Liberals) whose combined votes has cost Labour 21 seats in 1990). How many did the Alliance now cost Labour?

    Labour’s vote remained static but it won back working class seats lost due to Alliance votes. National’s vote collapsed. The result was that the Alliance (along with NZF) held the balance of power in a number of marginal seats. So for ten days the left and right hung in the balance.

    What happened next is worth quoting from an article on the subject:

    “Mike Moore, then Labour leader, tried to break this class deadlock by embracing the middle class. He said that National had no “moral authority to govern” and proposed that Labour, the Alliance and NZ First form a loose coalition around a 5 point Xmas present.

    The 5 points in this plan were; to bring MMP forward to 1995 (looking at an early election!); reverse the privatization of health and the Accident Compensation Corporation; repeal the Employment Contracts Act, and abolish the 26 week stand down for the dole (which punished the unemployed by not paying up for 26 weeks after they lost their jobs). And all of this by Christmas!

    Anderton played the Grinch and rejected this plan. Instead he offered Alliance support to the party that had the most seats if it abandoned Rogernomics! Not repeal anything, just do nothing! A recount gave National another seat and Labour offered Sir Basil Arthur as speaker to allow National a majority. A by-election in Selwyn in 1994 saw National come within 346 votes of the Alliance winning the safe conservative seat! This confirmed what the ‘93 election had shown, that the Alliance had picked up the majority of its votes in mixed class electorates, because the Greens and Democrats appealed to middle class, self-employed and small business people.

    Workers Power [a revolutionary Trotskyist group] wrote at the time:

    “Opposition Collapses: the 1.2 million who voted against National last November have seen their votes go down the dunny [toilet]. All the opposition parties have refused to oppose National. The Alliance in the days after the election promised to use its two votes to keep National in power if it did nothing. This was a total betrayal of its supporters. The Government by ‘doing nothing’ could allow its radical reforms already in place to continue to destroy workers lives. The bosses would continue to see a ‘recovery’ in their profits but at the expense of a further collapse of the labour movement.” (Workers Power, “New-age or age-old exploitation?” #98 February/March 1994)

    Here, then, we have the complete bankruptcy of the Labour Government of Savage that stays aloof from real class struggles so that it can supposedly defend the collectivist politics supported by the majority of moderate workers in parliament. When it gets hijacked by the new right which attacks that majority, the ‘left’ abandons it to rebuild the ‘Savage’ party. When that fails, it then forms an electoral Alliance with middle class Greens, Liberals and Democrats, while the core working class majority it claims to protect remains loyal to the Labour Party.

    So, during the 90’s when two thirds of the electorate opposed Rogernomics, Anderton preferred to keep the lame duck National Party in power rather than allow the working class majority to put Labour’s promises to repeal major planks of Rogernomics like the ECA to the test. Instead, a decade of defaults and defeats accumulated while the labour movement marked time inside and outside parliament. ”


    To image that the working class can win power through parliament led by democratic socialists is an oxymoron. NZ in the 80’s and 90’s is proof enough.

    • What was demonstrated then was that voters mostly vote for a party name they identify with, without paying much or any attention to the policies that party is following. during the first 3 years even Jim Anderton stayed with the party in the hope it would return to it’s traditional roots. But by the next election and the second term no one taking an interest could help but notice that Labour no longer represented the constituency that had supported them for the past 2 generations and that the philosophy that they had been voting for all their lives was now represented in a new political organisation.
      The error was to think that a large proportion of that constituency actually paid any attention to politics even when their livelihood and that of their children and their country was the issue.
      That is the essential problem with democracy . The voters mostly will not give the issues the attention they deserve. Even those who bother to vote. In fact abstaining if you are not prepared to take an interest except on polling day , is the more honest and ethical thing to do, leaving the result to those who put in the effort to become informed.
      D J S

      • No. That makes Labour supporters mere passive consumers of politics. That top down bureaucratic standpoint was the Left’s undoing. In fact most Labour core supporters were opposed to Rogernomics. Anderton’s split abandoned the fight for that majority in the party. The NLP caused Labour’s defeat in 1990 to become a rout which so the defeat around the ECA in 1991. And in 1993 the Alliance stopped Moore from winning a majority. All the way through the ’90s, Labour’s core base remained, what was missing was the Left inside the party to turn that into a majority of seats against neo-liberalism.

        That top down bureaucratic standpoint still exists in Labour and its explanation is not personality, or bad decision making, but the reason the Labour Party was formed in 1917 which was to and suppress any attempts at independent working class politics and contain the labour movement within the limits of bourgeois democracy.

        • It was then and is now my understanding just as you say, that the majority of core support within the labour party during those years was opposed to Rogernomics.
          That did not however apply to any of the leadership or party officials. They were determined to close ranks around Douglas ; if they might have had private misgivings those doubts were determinedly suppressed. This most certainly included Mike More . There is no suggestion that he would have changed course, he went on to spend the rest of his career furthering the philosophy in an international forum .
          “All the way through the ’90s, Labour’s core base remained, what was missing was the Left inside the party to turn that into a majority of seats against neo-liberalism.”
          That is exactly the point I thought I had made. The base remained faithful to their leaders. But the leaders , including all those standing in electorate seats,did not remain faithful to the traditional ideals of the core . The leaders and candidates were faithful to Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble . Otherwise they would not have been selected .
          Jim Anderton would have stayed and reorganised the party if he had not recognised that it was a lost cause. He was in a better position to judge that than anyone else and it must have tortured him to accept that he had lost it. It was really his party after all considering he was largely responsible for rebuilding it’s membership by a factor of 10X. Without him to draw the support pre ’84 there never would have been a 1984 in New Zealand because roger Douglas would never have been Minister of Finance.
          D J S
          D J S
          D J S

  9. There is NO plan, I note, and the government is stuck between a rock and a hard place, while woke activists storm statues now.

    • Marc: “….while woke activists storm statues now.”

      Thin end of the wedge, right there. If activists get their way over statues, it’ll be something a bit more important next. And if they get that, it’ll be something even bigger. A vicious circle, to mix the metaphors….

      And the current government will do….what? Nothing. Until it’s WAY too late to do anything to stop the looniness.

  10. Day 22 of Todd watch: Nikki Kaye wants international students NOW day. No word on how many as yet. Cost of quarantine to be met by student and facilitated by the University under guidelines from MoH. What could go wrong? (Todd still on the mend but has Janet Wilson for company).

    • The question now is, will these students coming in from China be security screened, now that the CCP has proven to have gone full on rogue. Though that in truth was its real stance all along anyway

  11. The state has surrendered most of economic influence over recent decades, it is unprepared and unable to take control and run the economy now, it is too late. Chaos will come.

  12. They listened to those who wanted affordable homes and thus re-set Kiwi Build as an affordable homes to first property buyers programme. Which of course limited the number who could afford to buy them and made it impossible for it to be a mass building programme – the whole piint of which was a lot more homes and at an affordable cost to government as it was selling them on. Limiting the number of buyers was really a guarantee it would not work in practice.

    • Yeah , maybe they had an inkling covid19 would come along and drop interest rates from the Aussie banks that siphon 6 billion dollars each year from the NZ economy.

      6 billion dollars,… that could build a lot of tin shacks,…tin shacks can be mighty nice when it rains, puts you to sleep real fast with that pitter patter on the roof… goes much better with a bottle of Müller-Thurgau, mind….

    • Easy peasie Chris.

      All labour need to do is invite or even parachute Roger Douglas into a list seat for Labour and ask his advice!
      Problem solved!!

  13. A little research has yielded that (pre covid) NZ would normally have around 60,000 international students studying here. Is National seriously suggesting that their policy will see the Universities anywhere near the $6 billion dollar take that has been promoted. When will the media start demanding detail on this policy. How many can be coped with? 6000?(10%), 600?(1%)? I suspect 6000 will be too high a figure to provide quarantine at a safe level unless they are all put on an island, at the same time, for 2 weeks. AS each plane carries an average of 400(ish) people we are talking about 15 flights arriving at roughly the same time unless quarantine is to be staggered which will in itself, create more problems.

  14. Nationals only policy’s are to overload the infrastructure of the country with imported people of any kind. -Then we wind up paying for the restoration of the infrastructure after it breaks down just like what we see now with the latest state of our Health industry as the Hospitals are found to be in a poor state after years of ‘under-funding’ as this is just one example of how the carpetbaggers take over our state assets then break them down and flog them off to their rich mates for a fire sale price.
    National are evil.

    • Many of Nationals back room followers , by nature of their acceptance of the neo nazi neo liberal economic / sociological ideology are evil. Yet so are the remaining Rogernome’s of the Labour party. They are the ‘ enemy within’.

      Never let either fool you – the neo liberal ideology came straight from the original Thule society of Bavaria / Germany. And then laundered by the Austrian school of economics to be the accepted ‘orthodox’ western economic theory.

      Evil ,… it is.

      Yet the definition of ‘evil’ is very broad,.. suffice to say in this context, it is a malignant political ideology that serves the few and not the many , with disastrous consequences for the many. That is by definition in the secular sense,… an evil ideology. Neo liberalism is but one of many of them.

      • WK, that’s a little magical. And ‘magic’ is a device of the Right. All my Facebook circle come into the political realm they don’t follow by ‘magic’, versus the cynics who feed them the talking points. The Left, being right, don’t need ladlings of that sort of tripe. Reason always does for us.

  15. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.


    Moving a social democratic / labour party vehicle to the left from within the party structure is a tedious undertaking, demands a high level of resources, is most probably hopeless still, but one never knows… perhaps there really is an opportunity.

    A plot for addicted political party-gamblers, perhaps. Not without some dim chances, though.

    But, in light of the day, the overruling priority for our perspectives should be the factual ecological priorities that are presented by our globe right now. These are: all vital signs, emphasized by climate change, are disastrous.

    Compared to the unfolding climatic, terrestrial events anything else can be secondary only.

    As things stand in 2020 it appears more realistically do-able and institutionally appropriate to save the pieces possibly falling apart from the Green Party and try to amalgamate to an open ecological-socialist cadre party, communicating and operating in a highly transparent manner; science-based decision-making through networking of local units, think-tank qualifications among personnel and members.

    We need an uncompromising political platform that goes into election and parliament with a distinct vision on how to completely wither away existing industrialized production and shrivel consumerist lifestyles within the next 20-30 years.


    A first step would be the fixed, controlled, rationed use of energy sources that create greenhouse gases through an annually apportioned, reduced quota per household, factory, farm, industrial and public sector, etc. For example, an immediate limited allocation of petrol for each vehicle only.


    No more mucking around, please.

    Harrison Ford. Protect Nature.
    2020 a Critical Year.


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