Micky Savage

Second-guessing the Northland by-election

There’s an interesting debate over at The Standard regarding what Labour and the Greens should do in the Northland by-election, should Winston Peters announce that he’s standing.

Te Reo Putake, in his post entitled ‘Stand by Your Man‘, argues that if Peters stands, Labour and the Greens should withdraw. The basic thrust of the argument is that it would show opposition solidarity (a government in waiting!). Plus, there’s the chance that Peters might be able to take the seat in a one-on-one battle, forcing National to rely on two minor votes to pass legislation, rather than just one.

In a counter-post, Micky Savage argues that doing so would make Labour appear weak, would remove the party’s ability to campaign on issues important to it, and may give NZ First momentum that Labour may regret. Further, Peters just can’t be trusted to actually side with Labour in 2017:

Memories of 1996 when Peters campaigned through the country promising a change of Government but then sided with National are still strong.  And he is the worst sort of politician who can campaign against the cynicism of politics as usual but then engage in the most cynical of politics.

Interestingly, the Greens have now made the decision not to stand a candidate. In a press release, they state:

“It is our strategic assessment that we should not run in the by-election and instead focus on our nationwide climate change and inequality campaigns,” said Green Party Co-convenor John Ranta.

“The world’s attention will be focused on fixing climate change this year and we will be at the forefront of that issue here in New Zealand.

“We have a real opportunity to address both climate change and inequality and we want our party focused on those issues.”

The justification given for not standing is laughable. Standing a candidate provides an easy platform for the party to campaign on climate change and inequality.

So why then aren’t the Greens standing a candidate?

Is it money? Election campaigns are never cheap, and the party might well have decided it simply doesn’t have the resources to spend this soon after a general election.

Or are the Greens trying to lure Peters into the ring, considering him to be the best chance the opposition has of decreasing the Government’s parliamentary majority?

David Farrar at Kiwiblog evidently believes it’s the latter, describing it as “The beginning of the dirty deal in Northland”. I’m unconvinced though. There’s no love lost between the Greens and NZ First, given Peters’ history of trying to shut the Greens out of government. And there’s still no indication as to whether Peters will or won’t stand.

I simply cannot see the Greens pulling out of the race out of the goodness of their hearts, in an attempt to aid a yet-to-be-announced run from Peters. Especially given that Labour have already announced their candidate, and are therefore unlikely to withdraw and upset their local support base.

To my mind, the Greens simply don’t see much opportunity to gain political capital in the upcoming by-election. It’ll be just over half a year since the last general election, and there’s no new policy that can be campaigned on. There’s probably very little spare cash lying around, and they know their candidate can’t win. (Their 2014 candidate, list MP David Clendon, lives in New Lynn, so isn’t even Northland-based.)

If the by-election were being held mid-term, it might have been a different story. Right now though, the timing’s just wrong for a cash-strapped minor party, with no high-profile local candidate.

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Labour’s Steve Gibson – prize arse

There are silver linings to everything, even terrible poll results. On the one hand, Labour’s polling is so bad that 30% is now considered a good result. But at least that means there’s no chance of Steve Gibson accidentally getting in to Parliament on the list.

Mr Gibson obviously didn’t get the ‘Vote Positive’ memo, when he said this about John Key on Facebook:

“there is the REAL face of Shonky Jonkey Shylock…nasty little creep with a nasty evil and vindictive sneer…”

shylock

Here’s Mr Gibson’s Facebook apology:

Two weeks ago I made a completely inappropriate Facebook post. I apologise unreservedly. I was not aware of the connotations of the term and am mortified.

I have removed the post.

I’d wondered how someone knows that Shylock is a money-lender in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, but doesn’t know that the character is Jewish. Well, Mr Gibson has explained on Radio NZ that he was simply repeating things he’d heard elsewhere. There’s something more than a little childish about repeating insults you don’t understand, but at least he wasn’t being knowingly anti-Semitic…

However, there’s another issue, which has been raised by Matthew Beveridge at Social Media & the 2014 General Election. The offending post was on the Facebook page of long-time Labour activist Greg Presland (aka Micky Savage at The Standard). Mr Presland is a former New Lynn electorate chair and he helped set up David Cunliffe’s secret trust during the Labour leadership campaign.

Did no alarm bells ring when a Labour Party candidate published an anti-Semitic slur on Mr Presland’s Facebook page, a page that is open to the world to see? As Matthew Beveridge writes:

There appears to have been no comment, from anyone, about the nature of Steve Gibson’s post on Greg’s wall, until it became public, two weeks after it was posted. If Greg had replied to Steve, pointing out the offensive and anit-Semitic nature of this post, or if he had deleted it before it became public, then it would have been a clear sign those involved in the high levels of the Labour Party take seriously the issue of anti-Semitism and their pledge Vote Positive. However neither Greg Presland nor any of his friends, appear to have made any comments, or taken any action to counter these comments.  Does this lack of action, or comment, from a senior figure in the Labour Party, and his friends, suggest an acceptance of the comments and their nature?

UPDATE:

Russell Brown just noted on Twitter that Steve Gibson was ranting on Stuff.co.nz before he was selected as Labour’s Rangitata candidate. Here’s the rant, which was in response to someone commenting “last thing this area needs is labour”:

yes we need more intensification of dairying to finish off the rivers, more corporatisation of everything to make the top 5% richer and everyone else debt ridden and spyed on to keep them in line, more yes-people in decision making positions so we can all roll over for the fossil fuel barons, more climate change sceptics to accelerate the ‘race to the bottom’ of the non-renewable resources…yes we don’t need any more representation of the workers of South Canterbury, we can leave it all to the self righteous, ‘who-cares-about-the-future-‘cos-I-won’t-be-here-to-worry-bout-it’ people like you, who hide behind a phoney non de plume….you really don’t have a clue really do you?….just a banal and moronic comment, like what comes out of the mouths of your tory ‘heroes’…

Because that’s how you win people over to your side…

ACT’s corporate tax cut number confusion

It’s hardly surprising that ACT has released a policy involving the reduction of corporate tax. Promising not to cut taxes – that would certainly be one for the books…

The NZ Herald reports:

The Act Party wants to cut the company tax rate from 28 per cent to 12.5 per cent by 2020, which it says will see a rush of business activity that would boost jobs and wages.

“No single measure could do more to promote the economic welfare of New Zealanders than cutting the company tax rate. And it is relatively easy, because company tax raises far less revenue for the government than income tax and GST.”

Dr Whyte said reducing the company tax rate from 28 per cent to 20 per cent next year would cost $1.53 billion in lost revenue – which would be made up by scrapping all Government funding to business interests, or “corporate welfare”.

Cutting the rate further by 1.5 per cent a year would cost about $150m in lost revenue. By 2020, the company tax rate would be 12.5 per cent.

The problem is that the numbers don’t match up.

Treasury predicts corporate tax revenue in 2015 to be approximately $9.8 billion. Dropping the corporate tax rate to 20% in the first year would drop that tax take to about $7.0 billion, a drop of $2.8 billion. That’s well above the $1.53 billion in lost revenue that ACT are forecasting in the first year.

Of course, ACT are predicting that decreasing corporate tax rates will increase economic growth, which means that lost revenue will in fact be less than $2.8 billion. ACT estimates that each percentage point reduction in corporate tax results in a $220 million loss in Treasury revenue, which ends up being only a $150 million loss “when you take into account the fact that a lower company tax rate will expand the economic base to which it is applied and increase the dividends and wages subject to incomes tax” (quote taken from Jamie Whyte’s speech – link here).

But applying that formula to ACTs initial 2015 corporate tax rate decrease of 8% yields a loss of just $1.2 billion. Whichever you look at them, ACT’s figures for the first year (based on their own calculations) don’t seem to add up.

In fact, their figures don’t seem to work for subsequent years either. Just look at the table below, again taken from Jamie Whyte’s speech notes.

Table 1: Revenue forgone from a lower company tax, $million

Tax rate Lost revenue Funded by

2015

20.0%

$1,530

Abolishing corporate welfare ($1.5 billion) and carbon trading ($164 million)

2016

18.5%

$154

Part of the $1.5 billion of new spending in the Budget

2017

17.0%

$153

As above

2018

15.5%

$150

As above

2019

14.0%

$150

As above

2020

12.5%

$150

As above

Mr Whyte’s speech says that every 1% decrease in the corporate tax rate will result in a $150 million loss in revenue to Treasury. Yet, his table shows a $150 million loss per 1.5% drop in the corporate tax rate.

Over at the Standard, Micky Savage has posted on “ACT’s voodoo economics“. His self-described “quick calculation” regarding the loss in Treasury revenue doesn’t appear to include any factoring in of increased economic growth, but the interesting part of the post is his update:

ACT candidate Stephen Berry has provided me with some more details of the policy.

  • The cut in the first year will be to 20% at a cost of $3 billion.
  • The initial shortfall will be funded by further asset sales.
  • The 12.5% rate will not be reached until 2020 and they presume that the enhanced growth rate will fund this.

Still does not add up …

It appears ACT’s Stephen Berry doesn’t know the details of the policy either. His estimate of the first year cost to Treasury is almost double that of his leader’s. Further, Mr Whyte says the first year loss will be completely covered by “abolishing corporate welfare and carbon trading”, while Mr Berry thinks further assets sales will be needed to cover a shortfall.

I’d also note that if the corporate tax rate becomes wildly out of synch with personal or trust tax rates, there will be a huge incentive for individuals to set up companies, channelling income through a company at a lower tax rate than if they syphoned it through a trust or declared it as personal income. Such distortions will also impact on ACT’s figures, although there’s nothing in Mr Whyte’s speech to suggest that this has been factored in.

ACT’s figures on this issue look dodgier by the hour.

Poll of Polls update – 31 July 2014

Roy Morgan has just released their latest poll, and finally there’s some relatively good news for the Left! It certainly didn’t take long for Micky Savage at the Standard to have a quick half-gloat… Or Martyn Bradbury at the Daily Blog (especially since Roy Morgan calls cellphones and is thus the only poll worth following, don’t ya know!)…

National slumps significantly, down 5% to 46%, it’s worst poll result from any of the major pollsters since the mid-May Roy Morgan, where National registered at 45.5%.

Labour climbs to 30%, up 6.5%. 30% may not be an amazing result, but given that Labour has had a run of ten major polls in a row placing them under 30%, it’ll give the party something to finally smile about.

The Greens may have dropped 3%, but they’re still on a creditable 12%, leaving a combined Labour/Greens bloc 4% adrift of National.

For the remaining minor parties, there’s good news for Internet Mana, up 1% to 2.5%. NZ First is down 1%, but they still sit exactly on the 5% threshold. The Maori Party gains 0.5% to 1.5%, while the Conservative Party remains static on 1%, and ACT and United Future sit unchanged on 0.5%.

So here’s how the Poll of Polls looks now:

National: 50.1% (-0.3%)

Labour: 27.7% (+0.2%)

Greens: 11.9% (nc)

NZ First: 4.6% (nc)

Maori: 1.0% (nc)

United Future: 0.2% (+0.1%)

ACT: 0.5% (nc)

Internet Mana: 1.9% (+0.1%)

Conservative: 1.5% (nc)

Based on those percentages, the parties are predicted to win the following number of seats:

National: 64 (-1)

Labour: 36 (+1)

Greens: 15 (-1)

NZ First: 0 (nc)

Maori: 1 (nc)

United Future: 1 (nc)

ACT: 1 (nc)

Internet Mana: 3 (+1)

There’s some interesting movement, both in the poll result and seat allocations.

Poll result-wise, the big news is that United Future finally hit 0.2% again, having been marooned on 0.1% since late May!

National finally drops, but stays above 50%, while Labour finally stops dropping and rebounds slightly to 27.7%. In fact, just look at Labour’s last six major poll results – 23.5%, 24.9%, 26.5%, 26.7%, 28% and now 30%. There’s an upward trend there, for those on the Left looking for glimmers of hope!

Internet Mana continues its gradual climb, now up to 1.9%, and that’s just enough to get them a third seat, bringing in Annette Sykes. It’s at the cost of the Greens, who drop a seat, back down to 15 MPs, while National drops a seat to Labour.

That means that there’s a net gain of just one seat to the Left. Overall, the Right bloc is back to a total of 66 seats in total, compared to 54 for a Labour, Greens and Internet Mana alliance.

The Mallard and the Moa

Image

In major policy news yesterday from the Labour Party, Trevor Mallard is reported to have told a group of businessmen that he wants to see moa resurrected and wandering Wainuiomata, thanks to DNA extracted from the extinct birds.

Ordinarily, one would simply expect a few snide posts on the interweb about Labour “talking about the things that matter” (and there were), but this was one diversion that spiralled out of control in a way that was entirely predictable, and had indeed even been seen coming by Mr Mallard (note the stuff.co.nz article stating “He was aware that he had opened himself to “bird jokes and extinction jokes…”).

What followed were an endless stream of moa and extinction jokes in the House (the best being National’s Scott Simpson interjecting with “A live moa!” when Winston Peters got to his feet), a parade of National MPs lining up on the evening news to snigger at Mallard and Labour, and any political message Labour may have wanted to push being utterly eradicated.

The odd thing was that it doesn’t appear to have been an off-hand quip, thought up on the spur off the moment. Look at the photo above – there’s a picture of a moa being beamed up beside Mallard. His speechwriter actually thought Mallard’s moa musings were a fantastic idea.

Over at the Standard, Micky Savage attempted to run defence for Mallard, noting that “Our politicians should be future thinkers and should be willing to discuss ideas and concepts, no matter how bizarre they currently may be” and “Politics can be a brutal, overly serious business sometimes. We should tolerate the odd occasion when our elected representatives break out of their shell and make the odd wisecrack”. He was swiftly rebutted by Colonial Viper, who noted:

Next question: why is there “irrelevant crap like this” being put out there in the first place, 80 days before an election.

The moa quip could have worked – if Mallard had followed up with serious points on how Labour was going to support genetic and genomic research (and science in general) in NZ over the long timeframes needed to pull off something like a moa project. Backed up by a real commitment of money. Stuff that a government in waiting might say on the campaign trail in other words.

But no, there was no actual substance or follow up. So it just looks daft.

Colonial Viper may have been perhaps a tad unfair to Mr Mallard. After all, the stuff.co.nz article noted Mr Mallard saying that his speech included a long term look to the future. I haven’t seen the speech notes, but it’s entirely possible that the moa quip was part of a segment taking about the importance of long-term planning. Nonetheless, even if there was a context within the speech, Mallard’s strange comedy routine for the cameras afterwards, where he talked about only wanting small moa that he could pat on the head, simply looked inane.

National’s odds for an upset victory in Mallard’s Hutt South seat may just have shortened slightly…