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Two Shades of Grey

If voters are looking for ‘Big Ideas’ from the current parliamentary campaign, they’re likely to be disappointed – at least with respect to the major players, National and Labour.

Tom Belford01 October 2017

Two Shades of Grey

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That’s not surprising. Conventional political wisdom is that mainstream parties shouldn’t rock the boat during campaigns. Thus their campaign platforms and pronouncements tend toward the vanilla – cherry vanilla from one and vanilla praline from the other.

Most Labour and National campaign offerings revolve around reallocation of spending to politically preferred constituencies – or if not preferred groups, at least oiling bothersome squeaky wheels.

Offering his own “Six ways to make a new New Zealand” in a recent essay, former Massey vice-chancellor “and politician” Steve Maharey wrote:“I do not see the magnitude of change the times demand coming from politicians, who are caught in short electoral cycles, or an increasingly entertainment-oriented media environment.

“President Franklin D Roosevelt, asked why he had not introduced a particular policy, replied: ‘Frankly madam, you will have to make me.’ What he meant is that politicians who want to get elected cannot afford to get too removed from their voters. If they are to make significant change, it helps to know at least someone is on their side.”

That said, the election campaign is not devoid of ‘Big Ideas’. It’s just that they tend to be voiced by candidates and parties inhabiting the fringes of the political spectrum.

To me, a ‘Big Idea’ is one that might truly shift the playing field, representing a radical change in current thinking or policy or control of the public purse (like a capital gains tax). Or an idea that, although controversial, just might strike a chord… reflecting the secret wishes of many voters.

Here are a few ‘Big Ideas’ floated during the campaign.

Share international visitor GST
Some propose to share GST paid by international visitors back to the regions, with proceeds earmarked for tourism-related infrastructure.

Tourism is the nation’s biggest export industry, as international visitors are delivering $40 million in foreign exchange to the New Zealand economy each day of the year. The Government last year collected $1.1 billion in GST from international visitors (YE March 16) and another $1.7 billion from domestic visitors.

Proponents of a rebate argue that tourism is putting an unaffordable burden on local infrastructure – from public toilets to campgrounds to maintaining iconic attractions and sites (like our own Te Mata Peak Park).

Winston Peters would also return 25% royalties from mining, oil and gas, and water to the regions from which these payments originate. And while he’s at it, Winston would exempt food from GST, currently a $3 billion per year revenue stream, to be recouped by “clamping down on tax evasion and the black economy”.

Return petrol taxes
Another scheme to get central government dollars back into local hands is to return petrol taxes to the regions. The biggest local government spend, especially in the provinces, is on roads.

When you last bought petrol, the government collected about 67 cents per litre as fuel excise (excluding GST). You were also charged GST on the petrol excise, which amounts to a tax on a tax.

The Government collects about $1.2 billion per year via the fuel excise duty. But PM Bill English says it’s impossible to determine where the duty is paid, foreclosing any ability to return funds to their origination area.

Back in 2009, then-Transport Minister Steven Joyce killed regional fuel taxes. Labour had approved one for Auckland, and other regions (Canterbury, Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Waikato) were considering them.

Charge for commercial water use
The Green Party would put an immediate 10 cent/litre levy on the sale and export of water, while cautiously pledging if in government to develop a “fair way to charge all commercial water users” after nationwide consultation. Revenue from the levy would be split 50/50 between local councils and mana whenua.

The Greens claim 87% of people asked think water bottler and exporters should pay royalties. Heaps of emotion surround water bottling in Hawke’s Bay, but calls for royalties do open the question: why water bottling and not other commercial uses – e.g., irrigating apples, grapes and veggies, or the water in all those Heinz Wattie’s cans? And that’s where the politics gets tricky!

NZ First and Labour (the latter with a surprising proposal to charge for all commercially-used water) are also on the water levy/royalty bandwagon.

Move Crown agencies out of Wellington
This is a more indirect proposal to boost regional economies. The State sector has about 300,000 employees; the Public Service component (the main 26 agencies like MPI, Treasury, Environment Transport) has about 48,000 employees, 42% of whom (19,248 FTEs) work in Wellington (compared to 2.4% or 1,110 FTEs in Hawke’s Bay).

As long as we must have large public bureaucracies, says Winston, why not spread their payrolls, rents and office equipment/service expenses to our local economies?

And there’s a second asserted benefit – moving these bureaucracies, especially service agencies like MSD, Education and Housing closer to the ‘real’ people of New Zealand might increase their responsiveness and emotional IQ.

Hit wealthy retirees
Not by taxing them more … that’s old news. Instead, cut the superannuation of wealthier ‘retirees’. If the payments to those earning over $50,000 per year were cut in half, that would yield $3 billion to spend for needier purposes.

That’s a proposal of Gareth Morgan’s TOP (The Opportunities Party). But over Winston Peters’ dead body!

Universal Basic Income
And, also from TOP, here’s a way to use some of that $3 billion. Give two groups (initially) a Universal Basic Income – all families with children under age 3 ($200 per family per week), and all citizens over age 65 ($200 each person per week).

Says TOP: “This change starts to honour the millions of hours of unpaid work associated with child rearing, without which our economy would collapse.”

For seniors, TOP’s fine print reconciles the UBI with the limit of superannuation for wealthy retirees!

Net Zero by 2050
A multi-party group of MPs favour an initiative to reduce NZ’s carbon footprint to “net-zero” by 2050. And NGOs are organising around a Zero Carbon Act to achieve that goal.

As long as we must have large public bureaucracies, says Winston, why not spread their payrolls, rents and office equipment/service expenses to our local economies?

Local Government New Zealand recently adopted a less specific “position statement” on climate change stating in part: “Local government seeks to work with central government to develop a joint response to climate change including a clear pathway to a low carbon economy.” Local mayors Dalton, Walker, Hazlehurst and chairman Rex Graham joined numerous other local leaders in signing a supporting “Declaration”.

And even the staid NZ Productivity Commission – not known as a hotbed of environmentalism – has issued a public consultation paper examining options for attaining a “low-emissions economy”. This inquiry states “a working assumption that New Zealand governments will likely frame targets for beyond 2050 that require significant further GHG emissions reductions over existing commitments.”

The Commission notes (alongside all other observers) that the changes required will “mean that the shift from the old economy to a new, low-emissions, economy will be profound and widespread, transforming land use, the energy system, production methods and technology, regulatory frameworks and institutions, and business and political culture.”

Green Infrastructure Fund
Termed the “Kiwibank of the green economy”, this would be a government-owned fund intended to attract and leverage private finance to invest in “transformational low carbon, climate resilient projects” – renewable energy and recycling plants, energy efficiency, biofuels, sustainable agriculture, solar installations and other clean technologies.

The fund’s target rate of return would be 5% with a goal of reducing emissions by 1 million tonnes of CO2 annually. The Government’s portion – $10 million plus a $100 million line of credit over three years – would be financed by raising royalty rates on oil and gas production.

Control cats
This proposition is famously associated with Gareth Morgan, leader of The Opportunities Party. The reasoning here is that cats – both domestic and feral – are major predators and a major threat to our bird populations, including 33 endangered native bird species. Consequently, some believe action is required to better control cats – for example, registering, microchipping, sterilisation, bells on collars, trapping feral cats.

The reasoning here is that cats – both domestic and feral – are major predators and a major threat to our bird populations, including thirty three endangered native bird species.

Feral cats aside (few are advocating their protection!), NZ is home to 1.4 million ‘companion cats’, treasured by their voting owners. Some local councils, notably Dunedin and Wellington, have bravely safaried into the cat regulation territory, but it’s a dangerous political jungle out there!

Referendum on Maori seats
Winston Peters argues that dedicated Māori seats have served their purpose. His NZ First proposes: “Ensure the future of the Māori seats is a decision for the people to make having examined the significant increase in representation numbers of Māori MPs under MMP.”

NZ First also would remove “separate wards based on race” in local government.

Winston in full stride: “…in local government as in central government there has been a pandering to division, separatism, parallel representation and parallel laws without any regard to the hugely destructive consequences.”

Radical but familiar
Against some of the above, proposals to legalise cannabis and raise the drinking age to 20 are fairly tame!

Personality vs policy
Whether you love them or hate ‘em, ideas like these do stir the passions. And they will motivate some voters.

But do policy issues count that much in campaigns? Arguably, mostly to minor parties and their partisans, the instigators of everything on the list above.

Still, because these proposals are the aspirations of minor voices, do they matter? They won’t come to life anyway, unless embraced by or forced upon a major party in a coalition government. And that does happen on occasion.

Indeed, there’s what Rob Hosking, writing in NBR, calls the ages-old “radical dilemma”: “Their ideas might be adopted by the mainstream and in some cases taken even further than were initially imagined. But such radicals are seldom trusted to actually implement those ideas …

“Better, far better, to have such changes implemented by less threatening types. If there is to be change, it should be done without frightening too many people.”

There’s passion in ideology and issues, but to the average punter, other forces are more important.

Chris Keall, writing awhile back in National Business Review, observed:“Earlier today, Prime Minister Bill English said people don’t vote on personality.

“The truth is they do, along with other non-political criteria like confidence, smarts, competence and likeability.

“Don’t shoot the messenger, but policy is way down the list — which is how John Key could win three elections despite being off side with majority opinion, and even non-binding referendum results, on key issues like asset sales and immigration.”

We need only look at the clamour over the ‘Jacinda effect’ to remind ourselves that personality trumps policy.

To get to govern, the point of the exercise, Ardern’s Labour must snatch away a decent chunk of National voters. Will Nat voters ‘defect’ because they’ve suddenly discovered a hitherto suppressed preference for ‘same-old’ Labour policies? Not likely.

But will some Nat voters be drawn to a more attractive personality (by whatever perceived quality, doesn’t matter)? More likely.

Of course the ‘perfect storm’ for Labour would be the convergence of dynamic, fresh personality with equally fresh, dynamic policies. As I write, that convergence isn’t apparent … Labour and National are still just two shades of grey.

Lawrence Yule as your MP for Tukituki

In the next few days voting will begin in the general election, where you get to cast two votes. One for the Party and one for the candidate to represent them. The Government is decided by the Party vote, but what actually happens locally will be largely influenced by your local MP.

My decision to resign as mayor of Hastings to stand for Parliament was not an easy one, and was driven by a wish to improve the lives of people in Hawke’s Bay in a way that I could not as mayor. Issues such as climate change, poverty and the environment are of concern, and of great interest to me.

The National Government has produced an economy that is in great shape thanks to solid financial management from Bill English during significant adverse events, including a recession and the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.

Currently New Zealand is generating 10,000 new jobs a month, which is very positive for our Hawke’s Bay families. Despite this, some of our people remain locked out of the workforce because of a lack of skills, poor attitudes and often substance abuse. I recently met a company director who was looking to import staff from the Philippines to fill roles in his company because he could not find the skills locally. We can do so much better in this space alone.

After door knocking at over 6,000 homes, I am aware there is community concern about water bottling, housing, and education needs. I am con dent all these issues can be resolved and many of the solutions are already underway.

As a prospective MP, I bring a unique set of skills that can add real value in improving the outcomes for Tukituki residents. After 15 years as mayor I have widespread knowledge of the issues we face. My nine years as president of Local Government New Zealand has also meant I am completely familiar with Parliament, its processes and MMP politics.

After door knocking at over 6,000 homes, I am aware there is community concern about water bottling, housing, and education needs. I am confident all these issues can be resolved and many of the solutions are already underway. Last year I advocated strongly to get extra police and these are now being delivered. I am not afraid of hard battles or strong advocacy. I have been doing it for years.

Importantly, my single focus is to be the best local MP and advocate I can for the people of Tukituki. As I have always done, I will always be willing to meet, and provide my mobile number to the public. I intend to set up a regular live Facebook interaction which will allow direct and public questioning and accountability.

I am standing for National as it is a party that rewards hard work, personal accountability, and supports all New Zealanders’ success. Importantly, it also believes that people can spend their own money more wisely than the state.

I am proud that a National Government has halved the number of teenage pregnancies, taken 60,000 Kiwis off the benefit, substantially lifted NCEA outcomes and returned the books to surplus, while substantially lifting health and Police resourcing. Still more can be done to follow these successes.

The role of any government is to set the direction for a nation, decide how they collect revenue for public good, and set priorities for the spending of your money. I look forward to using my skill, energy and passion to get the best outcome I can for the people of Hawke’s Bay.

 

Lorck. Labour. Local.
This is our opportunity to build a better and fairer future for people living and raising families here in the Tukituki electorate.

Like you, I’m local. I’m here, working for you. I’m bringing new energy and positive action with a ‘can-do’ approach that puts people first. By leading on local issues we can enable positive change, empower our local communities and make a real difference for more people living and raising families here, in this great place we call home.

Labour is local; it’s what sets us apart. We support local communities having the right to make decisions when it comes to our local economy and the environment. That’s a real point of difference worth voting for – there is no local in National.

Hastings has experienced this first hand with our GM Free campaign against the Government wanting to remove our local decision-making powers. We stood strong and worked together to protect our right to make decisions in the best interest of Hawke’s Bay, and protected our local democracy. We’ll do the same against oil and gas exploration over our productive and precious aquifers, aquifer recharge zones and surface water bodies.Under

Labour’s new water royalty policy, Hawke’s Bay – yes, us – will have the ability to prioritise on water and charge a local levy on water bottling and use this to invest back in protecting our fresh water and cleaning up our waterways. It is the birthright of every New Zealander to have fresh, safe, secure drinking water and to swim in our local rivers.

Labour is local; it’s what sets us apart. We support local communities having the right to make decisions when it comes to our local economy and the environment. That’s a real point of difference worth voting for – there is no local in National.

It is advocacy like mine on local issues that leads to change. From protecting our fresh water to Havelock North’s promised new school. From removing the costly roadblocks stopping our young people getting a full driver’s license to the $1 million won back for the public healthcare costs of the water crisis. And turning the tap off water bottling consents behind closed doors.

These are just some of the many local issues I have worked on, helping deliver results that have had an impact locally and also for New Zealand.

I have achieved this without being in office; imagine what I will do as Tukituki’s local MP, here working for you.

As a wife and mother, raising a family of five girls in Hastings, I’m incredibly passionate about helping make Hawke’s Bay thrive and prosper.

I’ve lived and breathed this region all my life. I went to local schools, earned a trade, and I’m a local business owner and employer – I’m connected and part of your local communities. With over 25 years experience in media, public relations, politics and business, I have worked across almost every industry in our region, including health, education, energy and our primary sector.

Now I’m putting all my experience, skills and knowledge together to work and represent you. I’m giving my all to earn your trust, confidence and support, and the privilege to represent you as your local Member of Parliament.

 

Pursuing a passion
Being a local electorate Member of Parliament is incredibly demanding. Not only are you on duty 24/7, but everything you do is open to a level of scrutiny rarely applied to any other role. So it cannot be seen as a ‘job’, but rather it has to be a passion. For me, it absolutely is.

First and foremost, I accept that I am a little old-fashioned in that I believe if you want to represent a seat in Parliament you should live within its boundaries. I simply fail to see how you can ever truly understand the dynamics of a community if you are not part of it. I do, therefore, find it rather curious that both of National’s Napier and Tukituki candidates live well outside of the electorates they are hoping to represent. But that’s for them to deal with and not me.

My family on both my mother’s side and my father’s side have lived in Napier for over 150 years. My children are the fifth generation at the local primary school right back to its foundation in 1878. I was educated at Napier Central, Napier Intermediate and Napier Boys’. Napier is my home town and I am incredibly proud to have grown up here and have wonderful memories of a very happy childhood. My affinity with the city means that my passion, when standing up for the issues that are important and providing solutions to the problems that residents face, is very real.

Of course we have the weather and the lifestyle, but hot summers and great facilities count for nothing without great companies providing sustainable work paying good incomes.

I’m the first to admit, there is no detached objectivity to the work I do because I seriously want there to be a sixth, seventh and eighth generation of Nash’s growing up, working and growing old in Napier. This will only happen if we create the type of opportunities our current and future residents find attractive. Of course we have the weather and the lifestyle, but hot summers and great facilities count for nothing without great companies providing sustainable work paying good incomes.

I do believe we live in paradise; that we have won the lottery of life living where we do, but it can be so much better.

This is why I have taken on a number of local issues and causes in an effort to provide solutions and a way forward: the lack of social houses, inadequate police resourcing, the poor state of the fisheries in Hawke Bay, getting trucks off the Marine Parade, supporting Jetstar’s arrival in the Bay, restarting the Napier-Wairoa-Gisborne rail link, charges on bottled water, the future of Napier’s Port, the state of our rivers and lakes – to mention a few.

That’s why every Sunday, rain or shine, I stand on street corners and have discussions with residents about the issues, and it’s why I spend so much of my time advocating in Parliament for what I think will add value to our city.

I have always said that the day I lose the passion and the belief that I can make a difference for the people of Napier, is the day I hang up my proverbial boots and move on. That day certainly hasn’t arrived yet, hence the reason why I am working so hard to retain the privilege of representing Napier in Parliament as the local MP.

Vote David Elliott!
Like my great-grandfather who grew up in a boarding house on Coote Rd, I have lived in all levels of society. A real life, of frugality, of challenges, of success. I am used to overcoming difficulties and working hard to achieve goals. My life skills are diverse and varied, a product of both my childhood and employment. My greatest strength, because of this, is the ability to interact and relate to people.

There is a simple difference between some of the candidates standing this election. Those that focus on negativity, seeking to create hyperbolic issues for PR purposes, and those that are positive and seek to overcome the real problems facing our region.

My family has been ‘relentlessly positive’ long before Labour decided it was fashionable to be so. I’ve had to be, otherwise I would never have made it through the challenges of my past or our family situation today. My daughter’s disability has given me a level of empathy and concern for those who genuinely, through no fault of their own, need the support of the state and representation beyond the family level.

There is no mistaking that I am new to politics. That said, my career has been based on the premise of the safety and care of others. I see being a constituent MP as an extension of that philosophy.

I have no ties to ‘big business’ or ‘political strategists’ and represent no vested interests. My only interest is the success of Napier and the care of its people. In fact, I will be leaving behind a secure, hard-earned career.

I encourage everyone to look at my history, where I have come from, the things I have achieved and the life I currently lead. If they do that, I am confident they will discover a hard-working, straight up, dedicated family man. Someone worth their vote.

It also means I have had to work doubly hard door-knocking and getting out to meet people, so they can have confidence in who they are voting for.

I have no ties to ‘big business’ or ‘political strategists’ and represent no vested interests. My only interest is the success of Napier and the care of its people. In fact, I will be leaving behind a secure, hard-earned career.

I am motivated to be a true constituency MP of an electorate that I am truly passionate about. A place where my great-grandfather helped haul the naval cannon on Marine Parade over Napier Hill from Ahuriri.

I want to work with individuals, communities, and business to ensure a better future for everyone in Napier and Hawke’s Bay.

We all remember the Napier of the past and we should all be proud of the Napier that has emerged over the last decade. I see a Napier and Hawke’s Bay that is strong, confident and vibrant.

In order to keep Napier moving forward we need a voice to government that is committed to getting what we need. A strong, confident voice, to the point of irritation in the ears of the ministers.

I want to see the people who can work, working, and those with genuine need, cared for. I want our children to grow up in the best part of New Zealand, a place that is safe and full of opportunities.

If that is also what you want, then vote for me, David Elliott.

 

 

Tom Belford01 October 2017

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