Role-modelling for a would-be role model

The first “new economy” was the Dutch “tulip mania” in 1637. There was joint stock company madness in London a century later, investor obsession with rickety railway ventures in the mid-nineteenth and an assembly line revolution in the 1920s. Crash, crash, crash, crash.

It is too early to say whether the 1990s “new economy” bubble is bursting or just subsiding and thus what economic effect will follow. But the weekend’s turmoil is a reminder of our vulnerability to overseas events. read more

Next target: the voluntary sector

Next week Steve Maharey will launch another scheme in the Clark-Anderton ministry’s reshaping of government: a new arrangement with the voluntary sector.

Yawn. That sounds almost as boring as debating the constitution – earnest people saying earnest things to each other. What can a “compact” with the voluntary sector say to a pocketbook public? read more

The political history and framework

Legislative Council Chamber 7-8 April 2000
(This deals with the period post-1980, picking up where Bill Oliver left off.)

In his 1992 book, New Zealand’s Constitution in Crisis, Sir Geoffrey Palmer noted a marked lack of interest, not only among the public, but even among his ministerial colleagues, in his reform of the Constitution Act in 1986. read more

The deeper issue in the Waipareira affair

Is there a justification for Richard Prebble’s assault on the Waipareira Trust? Yes, regardless of the final outcome.

His characteristic rough-house, blood-sport style must be distinguished from the deeper issue in this matter.

Waipareira’s money is not a capital sum as Tainui’s is. Tainui’s money came by way of compensation for land taken illegally off the tribe and it is the tribe’s business what it does with the money, whether it uses it wisely or stupidly and which individuals benefit. read more

The imperatives of the polictical economy

Politicians often strike difficulty at the point where politics meets economics. Policy that appeals to the average voter often doesn’t appeal to the people who generate the revenue that pays for it.

For the moment – and probably the next two years, because the economy is running above-trend – this is not an issue for the government. But going into the next election economic growth will be dropping below trend. read more

A tectonic shift in the political faultline

Jim Anderton was the first senior MP to take seriously the balance of payments problem. Most economists at the time – this was four or five years ago – dismissed his concern as cranky but now they and most other MPs have joined him.

Mr Anderton’s early concern was sharpened by his opposition to opening up the economy. read more

The burden of new paradigm politics

At milking time early one morning last week I came across two figures quaffing coffee in an airport lounge, exuding good cheer despite the hour. Wyatt Creech and Nick Smith were hugely pleased with the government.

Why? Because the new tax, ACC and labour laws had reconnected some of National’s core support. Business, they beamed, is shocked. National’s troops have been miraculously energised. read more

Moving from ‘contract’ to ‘relationship’

What is the most important thing a government must do in its first 100 days? Change the tone.

Helen Clark and Jim Anderton beamed self-congratulations at journalists and colleagues yesterday over coffee and biscuits. That in itself is a change of tone. Can you imagine Jim Bolger and Winston Peters doing an arm-in-arm act three years ago? read more

Flinty Clark fronts her fiscal test

Greg Sheridan, the Australian newspaper’s foreign editor was wrong on at least one count in his miasma of accusations about the new defence policy. The Prime Minister is decidedly not flakey.

Flinty would be nearer the mark. In her first three years as Labour leader Helen Clark weathered a hail of personal abuse and white-anting that would have filleted many a supposedly stronger male politician. read more

A radical defence change

In 1941 New Zealand troops on Crete were minced up by German forces backed by air supremacy. Thereafter in the second world war Labour Prime Minister Peter Fraser insisted the army would not fight without air cover.

He woke up a bit late. Two decades earlier Labour’s hero of the left, John A Lee, who lost an arm in the first world war, had argued the same point. Cannon fodder in Lee’s war, our troops met the same fate initially in Fraser’s war after defence spending was heavily cut in the 1930s. read more