“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

Can petty Parliament grow up into the big issues?

Senior ministers have been abroad on national business: trade and climate change. Doing such business well needs a firm, broadly agreed national foundation. Can Parliament measure up?

Not if you judge it by the National-Labour petty points-scoring on swearing-in day last Tuesday.

Shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges withdrew National’s agreement the previous day to back Trevor Mallard for Speaker to leverage an increase in select committee numbers above what he had proposed pre-election. read more