Digging “wellbeing” out of Steven Joyce’s fiscal hole

Colin James on the upcoming fiscal update and budget policy statement, Otago Daily Times, 11 December 2018

On Thursday Grant Robertson will get in the ring for his latest wrestling bout with Steven Joyce’s $11.7 billion hole. And he will polish up his “wellbeing” a bit more.

The wrestling will be in the half-yearly economic and fiscal update (HYEFU). The polishing will be in his Budget Policy Statement (BPS). read more

A brittle world, not too unlike 1918

Colin James on the international scene at armistice day 1918 Otago Daily Times, 6 November 2018

Sunday is the centenary of Armistice Day — the end of fighting in the “war to end all wars”, which turned out to be only an instalment.

By the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 16 million had died in the war and 20 million were physically and mentally maimed, many seriously. read more

A first anniversary. Will there be a fourth?

The first Jacinda-Winston-James anniversary is almost here. Will there be a fourth anniversary?

Jacinda Ardern is 38, James Shaw 45, Grant Robertson 46. They have much to look ahead to. Winston Peters is 73. He has much to look back on and an respectable retirement to look out for.

Shaw’s Greens are to Ardern’s left. Peters’ New Zealand First is to her (populist) right. Each has heft — Labour is much the biggest but it needs the votes of both to outgun National. read more

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