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Political slate. Wk/ 9 Nov 2012

Slates slipping off National's roof

It's now been three months of weekly negatives for National. That's likely enough to cement its fallibility.

Unemployment up

Unemployment reached 7.3% a 13 year high, but National said the figure was a surprise and at odds with other data.

The obvious trouble with the figure is that it confounds National's claim that it would create jobs, and that its series of Budgets would slowly improve the economy.

Most of the public long ago forgave National its various economy-related promises as the world recession continued.

The real trouble with the unemployment figure is two-fold:

1. It quantifies voter's direct experience and second-hand 'knowledge' of people losing their jobs

2. It appears to signal that the economy is getting worse, when most voters think we ought to be getting better, or at worst, have stabilised.

John Key suggested the poll was an aberration, but even if it was not, that "it's not going to make the Government change tack".

Surplus gone

National's economic plan does not seem to be on track at all.

This week it had to reveal that the Budget deficit is running $449m worse than forecast. The updated financial statements showed the deficit was $2.1 billion for the three months ended September 30.

The shortfall is entirely due to a low tax take. The concern here is that tax income has consistently fallen short of projections for the entire period of National's administration. The economy has continued to perform poorly.

Bill English said National would have to look at even more spending "restraint" to reach the planned surplus in 2014/15.

National has done reasonably well in cutting spending. Expenditure was $201m lower than its target. It's hard to believe there can be more easy cuts to make.

ETS tweaks for easier business

The Government has kept up a steady spate of changes to ease the costs of doing business in New Zealand. This week it made the previously announced changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The law change delays the introduction of some industries into the regime and gives agriculture an indefinite reprieve from entry.

These changes were its response to the ETS Review last year. The changes are a reminder that long-term persistent lobbying of Government pays dividends.

Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser said the amendments meant NZ met its international environmental obligations "at least cost to the domestic economy" and to allow flexibility to make more changes before 2015.

One Minister down

The Government should have got kudos from the resignation of Kate Wilkinson from the Labour portfolio after the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Pike River Tragedy. The report didn't contain anything daming about the action of this Minister or any other so she did not need to resign. It was explained that she thought it was the right thing to do. And it was. In normal circumstances it should be admired.

Her explanation was underwhelming as it did not acknowledge any sort of responsbility. This goaded journalists into asking tough questions about the Government's role in allowing reduction in mine monitoring. As the resignation applied to only one portfolio, they were clearly skepical about how serious the resignation really was. The lack of preparation and skilful presentation of the resignation suggested that it was Wilkinson's idea only.

Key cracks

In recent weeks John Key has shrugged off forgetfulness, blaming it on his busy schedule entertaining New Zealanders.

This week his wisecracks caused controversy. The week started with the claim that in a public engagement he had called famous footballer David Beckham "as thick as bat shit". He refused to comment, but ended the week saying he never said "bat shit".

During the week on one his many jocular radio interviews, Key called one of the hosts shirts "gay". Cue controversy from the expected places.

The point from this is that whether these cracks are serious or not, last year they never would have been controversial. From
this year, they always will be. John Key would be wise to realise the honeymoon is finally over, and adjust accordingly.

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