GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Yesterday and Tomorrow.


The selection of Judith Collins by her colleagues as the new leader of the National Party is a last minute throw of the political dice that might just save the Right from splintering at the upcoming election.

One of the problems of the political Left over the last 30 or so years is that it has been fragmented with voters under MMP choosing between Labour, Greens, TOP and Maori Party to name a few along with NZ First as a centrist party. Whereas the Right has, until now, been solidly National with a much smaller ACT party.

The resignation of Todd Muller yesterday may see a number of traditional National Party voters move to ACT this electio ,but the selection of Judith Collins as leader will certainly do much stem to that flow.

While Judith Collins is a person with very different political views to my own I have to say she is a skilled politician and front- footed last night’s press conference in a way that immediately confirmed Muller’s own assessment of himself that he was not the right person for the job.

For me however there was one particularly revealing economic policy moment when she was posed a rare and intelligent and searching question very late in the gathering.

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“What would be your general approach over the next three years?” the unseen journalist asked.
“ Would you borrow more? Would you cut the spending would you raise taxation. Would you try to pay the debt back or would you leave it to roll down through the generations?”

To which she responded with a tension relieving joke before saying:

“It’s pretty obvious that the National Party is not the party of big taxes . We are the party of sensible spending ,we’re a party of infrastructure ,we’re a party that believes in investing .We’re not stupid with money because we always know that somebody has to pay it back and the last thing that we want is to leave a legacy for the next two generations to pay back on. These are the sorts of views that we are taking into this and that’s where we are always better than the other people because we know that we have to pay it back.”

I’ll have more to say about the economic policies of all the political parties in the coming days but for now I offer just a quick reaction.

That statement by National’s new leader reflects a pre-covid mentality. It reveals a mindset that pretends the economic world has not dramatically changed , that we are not facing a major recession which may become a deep depression.


Because during the Great Depression years of the 1930’s leaders like Franklin D Roosevelt and our own Michael Joseph Savage understood that in such times government spending is what saves an economy not penny pinching or leaving it to business to decide .

The new rules of the post -covid economy are only just forming. The longer the pandemic runs the deeper our economic problems will become.

Yesterday’s thinking which pandered to the vested interests of the few at the expense of the many isn’t going to cut it .

As for” leaving a legacy of debt “for the next generations and being” a party of infrastructure” – I invite you to reflect on how our schools and hospitals were run down under the last National administration and how, in the 1990’s, National Finance Minister Ruth Richardson cut the benefits – with the result that all the diseases of poverty which affect poor children the most all skyrocketed.

So in my view, last night the economic gauntlet has been thrown down .

Labour Greens and all the others now have to pick it up and clearly state why their handling of our economy will be different from the continued neoliberal approach to running it that Judith Collins re-articulated last night.

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. A timely reminder Bryan. ‘Those who forget history are doomed etc…’

    FWIW, I think Collins and Brownlee are sacrificial leaders. With little to no hope of a win, they will hold the party line and test policy on their base voters and form a new front line after the election. It will be very interesting to see who the successful National candidates will be.

  2. “Labour Greens and all the others now have to pick it up and clearly state why their handling of our economy will be different from the continued neoliberal approach to running it that Judith Collins re-articulated last night.”
    As commented on Chris’s Blog I don’t think the electorate as a whole is ready to accept or acknowledge the need for radical change to the way our economy has been run for the last generation that will be needed in the coming few years. Nor I think is it yet evident how it should be run to accomodate the changes afoot in the world with QE rampant, US threatening at least half the world with sanctions and war , and that was before Covid 19.
    They might be best to keep their powder dry and their options open. I would counter the criticism of lacking a plan with the fact that it is unknown and unknowable what reality a plan needs to address.
    D J S

  3. How many experienced politicians has national lost now? Judeath still has a few more has-beens left. I see she has already resorted to calling our PM ‘woke’ on the radio last night. I guess a leopard never changes it spots. I expect as it gets closer to the election judeath will get more nastier by the day.

  4. “Labour Greens and all the others now have to pick it up and clearly state why their handling of our economy will be different from the continued neoliberal approach to running it that Judith Collins re-articulated last night”

    Yes and this is our first “cab of our climate change policy plank” today and we hope that Government is listening to us.

    CEAC press release 16th July 2020.

    “CEAC Calls Gov’t to transport Waste By Rail Not By Road to reduce pollution & climate emissions.”

    Thursday 16th July 2020. Press Release: Citizens Environmental Advocacy Centre

    The Government’s announcement that it will invest in recycling and change the waste levy to reduce our waste is 100% supported by CEAC, and further consideration must be given to the ‘transportation of this hazardous waste in using regulatory rules such as the “Waste Minimisation Act” Waste Minimisation Act 2008 and ‘Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996’
    CEAC advocate to use environmentally safe rail to transport waste not road transport as roads are shared by the public who may become exposed to hazardous waste pollution, as the environment also may be exposed to.
    These are bold and important steps that also will create employment in communities right throughout the country, reduce emissions and address the crisis in plastic waste and food wastes, to be transported by rail rather than by road safely though NZ thus reducing harm and spillage and pollution to our rivers, lakes and coastal waterways.
    A Greener, Smarter Future; climate change policy’, is needed here yet the waste reduction scheme is lacking in substance without any clear policy of how to safely transport the waste.
    Government needs solid plans for saving our climate in all issues they plan in future.
    Glancing at National’s ‘Greener Transport plans’, National only seems to support a Government policy for building yet more roads, because not one word was used to mention “rail freight” – while they are still on track for cutting plans for elevating clean ‘Rail Transport’ over truck transport, for moving more freight by rail, which would thereby keep CO2 ‘climate emissions’ at a far lower levels.
    Government needs to use our public railway to lower climate emissions and use of waste transportation is a Greener, Smarter Future.
    CEAC – adds our support to Government for elevating clean ‘Rail Transport’ over truck transport, for moving more freight onto rail when considering the benefits; thereby keeping our CO2 ‘climate emissions’ at a far lower levels, potentially stabilising climate changing weather events, saving taxpayer spending, keeping all our public highways /local roads safer, reducing road surface destruction from trucks causing immense road/bridge surface damages, and saving taxpayer costs from rising from paying for every day on roads all around our country.


    • Judith Collins treats Climate Change as a joke; – see here; as we should be worried if she gets the PM job we are all stuffed.

      Evidence here;

      Five things Judith Collins has said on climate change
      Olivia Wannan06:20, Jul 16 2020

      RNZ’s podcast, The Detail, discusses Judith Collins’ background and the cut-throat arena of politics.

      ANALYSIS: As Judith Collins takes the helm of the National Party, Stuff revisits some of her recent comments on climate science and policy. While former leader Todd Muller negotiated on National’s behalf to pass the Zero Carbon Act, Collins was reportedly set to cross the floor to vote against the Bill (though she didn’t).

      On the School Strike 4 Climate NZ protests: “They are very earnest and very truthful in what they believe. I don’t know what they’re going to do in 12 years’ time when the world has not actually led to a mass extinction of humans. I’m sure that they will have found something else… Another generation will come. Every generation has its thing.”

      CONTEXT: Collins was speaking to the AM Show on the morning of the September 2019 climate march.
      It’s unclear who Collins is referring to when she speaks of the belief humans would be dying in vast numbers by 2031. But the comment appears to be confusing or conflating several scientific findings: that the world had 12 years to reduce emissions before it becomes impossible (or at least really challenging) to meet the Paris Agreement goals; that catastrophic climate change increases the risk that plants and animals will go extinct in the coming decades; and that global warming will make life increasingly uncomfortable for human societies, as health-threatening heatwaves, famines and infectious disease outbreaks arrive more frequently as the century progresses.

      * Judith Collins, the new leader of National Party, promises to ‘crush’ the Government
      * Will the rangatahi save us? Generation Z: Unapologetic. Uncompromising
      * Zero Carbon Bill passes with near-unanimous support, setting climate change targets into law

      On the 1.5 degrees Celsius Paris Agreement target: “The world will not end if we pass 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5C) of warming. The children marching in the street with signs saying ‘You will die of old age, I will die of climate change’ have been needlessly exploited by an increasingly fanatical Green lobby…

      “Scientists expect the impacts of 1.5C warming to be lower than 2C. But the same statement is true for the difference between 2.0C and 2.5C… The costs of global warming are real, but there is no indication they are insurmountable. And there is nothing magically different that happens at 1.5C that doesn’t happen at 1.6C.
      “Assuming the IPCC models reflect the relationship between carbon dioxide and global warming, there is almost no chance the world will avoid 1.5C.”

      CONTEXT: A few weeks after the September school strike, Collins outlined her thoughts about climate change more fully on Facebook, prompting accusations that National had its own climate crisis.

      Although it’s true that the world won’t end after 1.5C of warming and that the challenges rise as the mercury does, it’s wrong to imply that temperature thresholds don’t mean anything. Some aspects of the climate system have tipping points, beyond which researchers believe the effects of heating get dramatically worse.

      As an example, an award-winning team of Kiwi scientists concluded, if we don’t limit global warming to 1.5C, the melting of Antarctic ice and the inundation of coastal cities may be supercharged. Worldwide, hundreds of peer-reviewed studies helped the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reach the conclusion that a 2C warmer world will be a much more unpleasant and costly place to live in than a 1.5C one.

      It’s also misleading to suggest society can easily absorb the estimated $20 trillion cost of exceeding our 1.5C target by half a degree.

      Collins’ questioning of the link between carbon dioxide and global warming veers into climate denial territory. The link was first established 150 years ago. Studies show climate models have been remarkably accurate over recent decades – though they’re not perfect, and scientists are working to improve them all the time.


      New National Party leader Judith Collins plans to make major changes to the Zero Carbon Act if she wins the election.
      On Covid-19’s impact on climate action: “As a nation we will be changed… We will wonder why the government that talked so much about housing development decided to add climate change into RMA decisions by local councils and we will wonder how that could happen without adequate public consultation. We will be ready to embrace infrastructure on a scale not seen since the ‘Think Big’ days.
      “And when anyone mentions Greta, we will ask: Who?”

      CONTEXT: Collins wrote this op-ed for the Sunday Star-Times, 11 days after the country went into lockdown. She mentions the Resource Management Act amendment bill, which allows resource consents for emissions-intensive projects (such as coal mines) to be refused. Hundreds of submissions were received during public consultation last year. Collins also refers to Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old activist who sparked the global School Strike For Climate movement, which moved online after the pandemic outbreak.


      On New Zealand’s emissions: “[The country] contributes around 0.03 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. So instead of flagellating ourselves and you know, putting a hair shirt on – we should be saying: Who are these big emitters?

      “I’d rather have New Zealand producing milk and dairy products and meat and wool than countries that don’t take any notice at all… I just think that the Greens and Labour and New Zealand First have been happy to go and throw New Zealand farmers under a bus.”

      CONTEXT: Collins, speaking to radio show The Country last year, had her figures wrong. The country’s actual contribution – 0.17 per cent of global emissions in 2014 – is more than five times larger than the stat given. New Zealanders’ per-person emissions are some of the highest in the world, though our emissions profile is unusual – methane contributes comparatively more to our footprint. Our household emissions also continue to rise.

      A few months after this interview, the coalition Government announced a partnership with farmers to measure and price on-farm emissions. The He Waka Eke Noa programme has been making steady progress.

      On the Zero Carbon Bill: “What we need to do is to amend this [Zero Carbon] Bill once it becomes an Act and once we’re in Government… We will be changing these: the target for biogenic methane reduction to be recommended by the independent Climate Change Commission. Otherwise, why bother having it?

      “We will have stronger provisions that consider the level of action being taken by other countries and allow targets to be adjusted to ensure we remain in step with the international community. The bill that we will be putting through will ensure that the commission considers the economic impacts when providing advice on targets and emissions reductions.

      “The bill will also see the emissions budgets being split between biogenic methane and carbon dioxide, as recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. And the bill will also include a greater commitment to investment and innovation and research and development to find solutions for reducing emissions.”

      CONTEXT: During the third reading of the Bill in 2019, Collins outlined her concerns and changes the National Party would make, should it be elected this year.

      The Zero Carbon Act contains split targets, requiring the country to cut biogenic methane by 10 per cent by 2030 and between 24 and 47 per cent by 2050. All other greenhouses gases must be net zero by 2050. Both targets were set by the Government, but Climate Change Minister James Shaw has since asked the Climate Change Commission for advice on the methane target.
      To get us there, the legislation requires a series of emissions budgets to be set, the first by Government, with all future budgets set by the independent Climate Change Commission. Economic analysis of the impacts of different ways of cutting emissions – and the pace of emissions cuts – is part of the commission’s job description.

      • If she can take man made CO2 climate change denial to an election victory in the present “climate ” against Jacinda she is indeed a phenomenon.
        D J S

  5. I see Judeath has given Covid, GCSB & SIS to her mate Gerry B. Based on this. if this lot get in we are all in the fucken shit Gerry made a f…n mess of the Chch earthquake recovery so why would we trust him with something as serious as Covid.

  6. Help! I see Judeath has given Covid, GCSB & SIS to her mate Gerry B. Based on this. if this lot get in we are all in the fucken shit Gerry made a f…n mess of the Chch earthquake recovery so why would we trust him with something as serious as Covid.

  7. Help! I see Judeath has given Covid, GCSB & SIS to her mate Gerry B. Based on this. if this lot get in we are all in the fucken shit Gerry made a f…n mess of the Chch earthquake recovery so why would we trust him with something as serious as Covid.

  8. I think she outlined National’s general approach to politics and economics without committing herself to that approach in these extra-ordinary circumstances.

  9. Bryan, your first paragraph establishes the most certain truth about Collins. Couldn’t think it up myself. We’re resistant, for this election, to her throw of the usual baseless but comforting Right-wing authoritative ideas. But there’s always a chance, like baseless Labour’s last election. Without their crises they’d be gone — as much reactionaries as the ‘Friends of the Rich’. Leadership is the heart of the friends of the people. From what I’ve gathered over the last decades of lived NZ life.

    • Sumsuch Surely you don’t mean that the politicians don’t want to do too much because if they did fix what is so noticeably lacking, there would be nothing to argue and name-call about? And nothing for people to get excited about, no artificial superiority of those who ‘had made it’ voting for more of the same, against strugglers wetting themselves with anxiety and reaching for the potion that would short-term dispel their desperation!

      And what’s political positions would be wiped out as a meeting-place for deal-makers, and sons and daughters of the well-off to make a career. Probably they would be replaced by people retired from their jobs at 50 with a lot of maturity and knowledge of work and citizens co-operating in an organised manner doing what has to be done in a society that satisfactorily runs well? (With no places for land and property speculators and note that derivative denizens would have to roost in their hedges!)

  10. Absolutely right, Bryan.

    ‘The new rules of the post -covid economy are only just forming. The longer the pandemic runs the deeper our economic problems will become.

    Yesterday’s thinking which pandered to the vested interests of the few at the expense of the many isn’t going to cut it.’

    I don’t think many people realise just how precarious the system was before Covid-19 hit, and that Covid-19 was the small breeze that pushed over the house-of cards. Not do they realise just how close to meltdown the now system is.

    I have used the Titanic analogy many times before. Here’s a new analogy that sums up just where we stand, and why the meltdown is imminent.

    ‘This Is a Financial Extinction Event’


    ‘It wasn’t the impact and shock wave that killed off dinosaurs globally–it was the “nuclear winter” that doomed them to extinction. As plants withered, the plant-eating dinosaurs expired, depriving the predator dinosaurs of their food supply.

    This is a precise analogy for the global economy, which is entering a financial “nuclear winter” extinction event. As I’ve been discussing for the past few months, costs are sticky but revenues and profits are on a slippery slope.

    Businesses still have all the high fixed costs of 2019 but their revenues are sliding as the “nuclear winter” weakens consumer spending, investment in new capacity, etc.

    Despite all the hoopla about a potential vaccine, no vaccine can change four realities: one, consumer sentiment has shifted from confidence to caution and from spending freely to saving. This is the financial equivalent of “nuclear winter”: there is no way to return to the pre-impact environment.

    …..As consumers and businesses retrench, borrowing declines while defaults and bankruptcies eviscerate bank profits and balance sheets. As spending declines, businesses with high fixed costs and pre-pandemic business models (crowding people together in close quarters, etc.) cannot generate enough revenues to survive. As the collateral of commercial real estate and profit streams collapse, assets are repriced all down the food chain, reversing the wealth effect: as people feel poorer, they borrow and spend less, creating a feedback loop of lower valuations, lower spending, lower profits, lower borrowing all of which feed back into each other, pushing everything lower.
    The lower reaches of the financial food chain are already dying, and every entity that depended on that layer is doomed: the small business die-off will bring down distributors, banks, landlords, and employment, and as the this layer collapses then the top predators will starve to death as well: Big Tech, healthcare, higher education, tourism, local tax revenues, etc.’

  11. Good article. Straight to the point about what a Collins led govt would mean.The only ‘good’ to come of this is that Collins being that skilled politician is that she will at least encourage a stronger democracy and debate about NZ’s social and economic direction. And that hopefully she will lose.


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