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Political Slate wk / Sept 21 2012

Economy, stupid

Finally chalk one each up for New Zealand First and Labour on financial issues

Ironically, NZF led the way denting the Government's economic credibility this week.

Fours years into a recession with no apparent end, the media and pundits are now ready to question the Government on financial matters.

This week Winston Peters had a private member's bill to amend the Reserve Bank Act. It spurred debate about whether the current Act is helping the economy. The appreciating strength of the New Zealand dollar has raised concerns about exports.

Winston's Bill would have given the Reserve Bank Governor the ability to consider many economic factors when setting the official cash rate (OCR). He claims that inflation has not been a problem for a long time, but a high dollar value has been - so should be a factor in setting an inflation target.

Labour backed Mr Peters' bill. Labour also seems to be advocating more radical options, pointing to US, which is printing money to devalue its currency, and other nations putting in valuation caps.

Labour made its own headway with tough questioning of a 'green shoots' style claim from Bill English this week that the economy had signs of  "solid and broad based growth" as well as "grumpy growth".


Opposition leaders

Both Winston Peters and David Shearer got a jump in the amount of discussion about them online this week. See the graphs below, which record the previous month of volume of online discussion about the leaders.

Unfortunately for Shearer the leap in discussion was all due to a poor interview performance. Off the back of somewhat unimpressive announcements of various social policy positions last week, he stammered his way through a Q+A interview.  Online though, the number of people for and against him was equal.

For Winston the volume of discussion was many times smaller than Shearer, but was also equal in the opinions for and against him. The increase accompanied his performance in the House over the Reserve Bank Bill.

David Shearer:

Winston Peters:

Water everywhere

The water rights political hole reached National's neck. John Key claimed he could nationalise water, but they wouldn't have to because any outcome of a legal challenge was certain to be in the Government's favour. National is simply refusing to discuss the ownership of water at all. It is only prepared to discuss Maori interests in the sales of shares in SOEs. The Government-held hui to discuss Maori interests were boycotted, resulting in paltry turn-out. But the Government is continuing, insisting these are the one chance for Maori to have influence on the shares format.

In some ways this has been an impressive performance from Key. He has clearly learned how to remain steadfast on a policy position and a view of an issue. Public agenda arguments have a tendency to transform as people seek weak spots and carry out agendas.

Fewer schools

The public reacted badly to the Government's announcement of an intention to close schools in Christchurch. Hekia Parata has been the Cabinet golden girl, so the failure of the announcement has created cognitive dissonance. MPs are scrambling to find someone other than the Government to blame. Naturally, they are very uncharitable about the Ministry of Education, as well as teachers for spreading misinformation and panic, and parents and students for being 'emotional'. The political impact is intriguing because of the divided voting patterns of Christchurch. To win elections National hasn't needed Christchurch voters, but it will need the Christchurch regeneration to go smoothly.

Don't bank on Banks

The blow torch was applied this week to John Key in relations to the police report on donations to John Banks. We've been loathe to give the issue much regard as it is part of the usual 'politicking' rather than a serious national matter. But inside Parliament the matter was big stuff, and got even bigger when Kim Dotcom turned up in Parliament. The robustness of John Key's attitude in the face of the attack was admirable. There is a liberal conference being held in Auckland next month to organise what will become the replacement Party for ACT. As that takes shape, National's attitude to John Banks may change.

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