Some ways to change the constitution or not

The Greens will vote for New Zealand First’s waka-jumping bill. That’s coalition government, co-leader Marama Davidson said: swallow a dead rat to get the organic carrot-cake the Greens signed up for.

Winston Peters wants to stop defections. Defectors from his party kept Jenny Shipley’s government afloat in 1998 after she fired him. An Alliance MP also defected, prompting a short-lived waka-jumping law in 2001. In the 2011-14 Parliament New Zealand First kicked MP Brendan Horan out of the party but he stayed on as an independent. read more

A trade deal for some or for all

Negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) formally kick off on Thursday when EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström drops in. Who benefits?

Talks are expected to take up to two years. They come after a long wait near bottom of the EU’s list while it did a range of other deals — a low rank shared with Australia, which is simultaneously, but not jointly, negotiating with the EU. read more

“Licence to govern”. And a path ahead

Occasional article on the budget for the Otago Daily Times 17 May 2018

A government’s first budget sets its tone and path. The title is “Foundations for the Future” and Jacinda Ardern has billed it as “transformative”. Grand words. Does the budget live up to them?

Union and Labour party critics, some highly placed, say it is “too orthodox” to generate the “transformation of our society and economy” Grant Robertson trumpeted to the media in the pre-release budget lockup. read more

How well off are we really? The Treasury wants to know

The Treasury will today [Tuesday 20 March] take another step down its “wellbeing economics” track. On that road Grant Robertson is signposting a “wellbeing budget” in 2019.

The event is the Treasury’s four-yearly investment statement. Up to now it has essentially been a balance sheet of the government’s financial and physical assets and liabilities. Today’s will flag an extension. read more

A lifetime learning. There comes a time.

Around the time I returned from London in 1978 a businessman punched a young journalist called Colin James. People in politics sympathised with me, some barely suppressing schadenfreude.

That other, punched, Colin James went offshore soon after. No one punched this Colin James (me), at least not physically. The incident reinforced for me the merit for a journalist of humility. read more

Politician of the year — and of five decades

It’s time to anoint the politician of 2017. It has to be Jacinda Ardern.

With accomplished assurance, she took Labour from a 24% poll average and falling in July to 36.9% in the election, 12 points up on 2014.

Don Brash’s 2002-05 18-point rescue of National beats that. But Ardern did it in under eight weeks, combining substance and connectedness. She is not “stardust”, Bill English’s shabby scoff. She is of a rising generation, he of a passing one. read more

Ardern’s choice: sticking plasters or building assets

It has been a month for centenaries of revolutions: Vladimir Lenin’s Russian coup and Martin Luther’s challenge to Catholic authorities. Their legacies are very different.

Lenin’s revolution brought to power a brutal Communist autocracy which killed capitalism in one country but also over time trashed the collectivist alternative ideal. Western socialists, including Labourites here, turned to a social democratic accommodation with capitalism. read more