John Armstrong: Ardern's baby leave gives her time to give serious thought to Labour's 'cannot be bothered' attitude to business sector

Jacinda Ardern may have left the building in body for the next five weeks or so. But in mind she will still be operating very much on Wellington time. Her stint on maternity leave gives her a unique opportunity to do something denied to other prime ministers.

Baby willing, her time-out is an opportunity to conduct a relatively relaxed stock-take of what her Government is doing right and what it is doing wrong.

Source: 1 NEWS

With regard to the latter, one of the things that is in dire need of some serious thought is Labour's relationship with business in all its guises and sizes.

When mild-mannered representatives of the business community such as the Auckland Chamber of Commerce's Michael Barnett are warning that business confidence is in "free fall" in the country’s largest metropolis and the engine-room of the economy, it is wise to start listening to what he and other economic soothsayers have to say about what might be causing this crisis.

The PM eventually said it was "pretty special" holding baby Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford for the first time. Source: 1 NEWS

It could be a matter of survival — Labour's survival in government to be more precise.

Labour instead gives every impression that it cannot be bothered. It rather seems to be rubbing its hands in anticipation of some kind of sequel to the Winter of Discontent which saw Labour and the business community lock horns in truly ugly fashion back in 2000.

Ms Ardern and Deputy PM Winston Peters shared a joke, looking relaxed ahead of the important discussions. Source: 1 NEWS

That episode is often painted as a blot on the record of Helen Clark’s government of the time.

As Michael Cullen, her ever trusty Finance minister, made very clear with his "we won, you lost, eat that" jibe at National, Labour was the victor.

That stoush, which centred on Labour’s commitment to repeal the much-hated, anti-trade union Employment Contracts Act and replace it with something more worker-friendly, ultimately proved to be cost-free for Labour.

Once replacement legislation had been passed by Parliament, the sting went out of the storm. It culminated in Clark leading Labour to an easy victory in the subsequent general election two years later.

The Finance Minister responds to a gloomy business confidence survey. Source: Q+A

A similar Cullen-like scoffing can be discerned in Labour’s reaction to the current pessimism that is the prevailing theme of survey after survey of business opinion.

Labour has seized on research which shows the perverse nature of such measures of the economic mood.

That analysis found business confidence was pessimistic at the very time the economy was undergoing strong growth. Yet when the mood was optimistic, the economy grew at a slower rate.

That misses the point, however. Those surveys of business opinion are a vehicle by which to send a message to the governing party. The message is that commercial enterprises both big and small are reluctant to hire more staff or to re-invest profits or borrowing order to lift production.

Labour ignores that message at its peril.

The current crop of Cabinet ministers are still at that stage, however, of the electoral cycle which has them believing they are infallible; that if they really tried, they could walk on water.

Under the leadership of first Andrew Little and then Ardern, Labour has also undergone a marked shift to the left. Those voicing the views of business are few and far between in the Labour caucus.

It is also the case that the Government’s honeymoon is long over. Ardern’s troops have become battle-hardened. With a number of contentious policies covering work-place relations in the pipeline, now is the time to remain staunch rather than being seen to be caving in to employers hell-bent on blocking reform.

That is even more necessary for a Government walking a fiscal tight-rope on the highly sensitive matter of the scale of the pay rise that should be granted to the country’s nurses.

In political terms, the bleating of business figures is of Lilliputian significance compared to ending up on the wrong side of public opinion should public hospitals end up being crippled by rolling strikes.

One ingredient is missing from the Beehive’s battle-plan — discipline.

A major factor exacerbating the frustration of those in the world of business is that it is hard to get a grip on the current three-party governing arrangement and the direction in which it is likely to head when confronted with a problem.

In part, that is because this government cannot get a grip on itself.

This week the Government emphatically denied any intention to allow foreigners possessing the required skills to work in New Zealand in order to speed up the construction of new homes under the KiwiBuild programme.

The following day the Government announced just such a policy.

Business hates inconsistency. It hates uncertainty.

Grant Robertson, the Finance Minister, has conceded there is a problem of perception and the Government needed to lift its game when it came to communicating with business.

So, it would seem this is the Winter of Disconnect, rather than another Winter of Discontent.

It could conceivably end up being something much more serious, however. There is a danger that the regular doses of economic pessimism spiral into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Given the robust good health of the domestic economy, however, it would require a lot of talking by a lot of corporate figures to induce an economic downturn.

Labour needs to remove its blinkers, however.

The argument surrounding the drop in business confidence is not taking place in a vacuum.

When it comes to public opinion as to which political party can best be trusted with the task of managing the economy, Labour starts from a long way behind while National starts from some way ahead.

That is a cold hard fact of political life in New Zealand. You need look no further than the findings of recent 1 NEWS-Colmar Brunton polls for strong evidence that voters do not hold the country’s two major parties in equal regard when it comes to economic competence.

There was a dramatic shift in the public mood in polls conducted prior to last September's general election and ones taken in the immediate aftermath of the formation of the three-party arrangement now ruling the nation.

The number of respondents who thought the economy would be in a better state during the next 12 months than at present dropped from 55 per cent to 36 per cent.

Even more telling was the finding that those who thought the economy would be in a worse state during the same period of time soared from 10 per cent to 36 per cent of those surveyed.

The only thing that changed during the weeks between the two polls were taken was the colour and composition of the government.

Labour has long endeavoured to remove the stigma of questionable economic competence which has attached itself to the party.

If anything, that party’s disregard for the voice of business will only stitch that stigma even deeper into the country’s political fabric.

Jacinda Ardern's Government is now in full stride, despite a slump in business confidence. Source: 1 NEWS



Simon Bridges slammed for 'meth crook' comments by Green Party

The Green Party says National Party  leader Simon Bridges' isn't fit to run a political party after he described state tenants who were kicked out of their homes as "meth crooks".

Housing New Zealand released a report last week admitting it shouldn't have turfed out tenants based on methamphetamine contamination guidelines which have since been found to be misused.

The period was dubbed 'meth hysteria' - during which hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent unnecessarily on stripping out homes, and hundreds of state tenants kicked out.

The Greens say National is now amplifying that hysteria, by calling those finally up for some recompense, crooks.

The person claiming to be the leaker said they suffered from mental health issues in the past.
Source: 1 NEWS

"Continuing to put harmful stigma against people, including families with children, elderly people, who were uprooted, had to find new homes and new communities, lost a lot of their possessions - whole lives were impacted on - and what does Simon Bridges choose to do? He chooses to keep whipping them," said co-leader Marama Davidson.

"So I think that's a clear choice for New Zealanders about what direction he would actually take our country. He's not at all fit to be, ever, leading this country, let alone a political party."

Mr Bridges made the comment on Twitter last week and backed up his comment on RNZ this morning.

"Paying people where Housing New Zealand has determined they have smoked or cooked P - those tenants have - I'm sorry, that is wrong, that is money that should not be going to them," he told Morning Report.

But Housing Minister Minister Phil Twyford made it clear when Housing NZ released its report that it would not be blanket compensation.

"There will be quite an in-depth and case-by-case assessment of each instance where a tenant had their tenancy terminated because of meth contamination," he said.

"In instances where there was contamination above the Gluckman threshold, they will not be eligible for financial assistance. In cases where tenants were involved with manufacturing or dealing, and where there is evidence to support that contention - so there is a level of natural justice at play - they will also not be eligible for compensation."

The Gluckman threshold is based on the report by Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister's former chief science advisor. His assessment debunked the myth that exposure to low levels of methamphetamine contamination is harmful to people's health.

The level of contamination, his report said, could be 10 times higher than the level people were kicked out of their homes for, and even then there is only a low risk to health.

Its release in May led to apologies from top officials, including the new Housing Minister and the head of Housing NZ.

Mr Bridges also apologised for getting "dud advice".

"Yeah, I'm sorry that the advice we got was wrong, and it's made this situation what it is," he told Morning Report in June.

Fronting post-Cabinet on Monday, deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said Mr Bridges was merely making cheapskate allegations in an attempt to take the heat off the previous government's mishandling of the matter.

"If there is proof of criminality, of course they won't get compensation. And I'm ashamed that someone who's got a legal background - or supposedly has one - is making that allegation."

By Gia Garrick

rnz.co.nz

The National leader says it sends a poor message that those found to have cooked or used meth in Housing NZ homes get compensation. Source: Breakfast

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Legendary broadcaster Merv Smith of ZB breakfast fame dies

Legendary radio broadcaster Merv Smith has died.

Newstalk ZB reports Smith dominated breakfast airwaves at 1ZB from 1961 until Paul Holmes started the Newstalk format in 1987.

Former colleague Barry Holland said Smith was the first of the big personalities.

"My endearing memory of him was his humour and his timing. He was just so funny and so natural within himself, and so humble."

Holland said the new Newstalk format "just wasn't his sort of radio". 

"He thought that's the time to go and went and started up a country music radio station that came out of Albany."

After he retired from radio he followed his passion of trains, and ran Merv Smith Hobbies in Newmarket.

He was in his mid-80s.

Merv Smith and McHairy the spider who featured on the breakfast show. Source: rnz.co.nz

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Watch: 'Show them who's boss' - AUT student's sassy graduation video goes viral

Graduation ceremonies are known for their pomp, their ceremony and their gravitas.

Unless you're Eteroa Lafoele, that is, then it's a slay fest.

Dancing and strutting her way across the stage, her AUT graduation video has gone viral.

Eteroa told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp about the moment inspiration hit.

"It was very dead, but I had a moment. I spent 30k on this piece of paper and mum and dad were in the audience, so I thought I'd just let loose.

"Show them who's boss," she said.

Her 23 seconds of stage time won't soon be forgotten. Eteroa says there are plenty of opportunities in life to "own it".

"Owning it, slaying it. Life only comes once. Take 20 secs of life to appreciate it, cos it's amazing."

With her computer science degree in hand, she is now ready to own the software development industry.

Seven Sharp’s Carolyn Robinson spoke with Eteroa Lafoele. Source: Seven Sharp


Mince recalled from an Auckland Pak'nSave after employee's mobile phone falls into mincer unnoticed

Pak'nSave Glen Innes, in Auckland, has been forceed to recall some of its mince meat due to a staff member's mobile phone falling into it unnoticed.

A Foodstuffs spokesperson told the NZ Herald that contrary to the store's approved protocols, one of its worker's had a mobile phone in the production area and it fell into the mincer without anyone noticing.

"The team responsible will be retrained to ensure that such an event does not occur in the future," the spokesperson said.

NZ Herald reports that consumers who bought beef and prime beef mince with a best before date of September 25, 2018 or were served over the counter minced meats with the best before of September 24, 2018 should not eat the products.

Customers can return the meat for a full refund.

The recall is only for mince bought from the Pak'nSave Glen Innes branch on Apirana Ave.

Source: 1 NEWS