Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: October 12

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The EPMU jobs conference held in Grafton. Photo / Dean Purcell
The EPMU jobs conference held in Grafton. Photo / Dean Purcell

Forget about consensus on the solutions - we can't even seem to agree if there is a problem. As Opposition parties, unions and business organisations meet in Auckland today to discuss a "manufacturing jobs crisis", the Government's line is that there is nothing to talk about. The statistics say...whatever the person quoting them wants them to say it seems. Audrey Young makes a valiant attempt to sort out the truth, but finds the politicians have chosen their numbers carefully - see: Facts and figures all add up...sort of. Even Government Statistician Geoff Bascand has felt the need to try and explain what the figures mean, especially the categorisation of someone working one hour a week as 'employed' - see: Making sense of job statistics.

Where there are statistics, graphs will follow and David Farrar uses one to cast doubt on claims of a crisis (see Manufacturing) but is, inevitably, taken to task by Danyl Mclauchlan for careless use of a y axis - see Still in stage one of Kubler Ross model.

Mclauchlan also makes the point that there are no figures yet for the September 2012 quarter, in which a high profile series of mass job losses have taken place. The early signs are not looking good - see: TVNZ's Manufacturing orders hit three-year low and James Weir's Signs of gloom for factories.

In the past the Government has generally echoed the desire for a lower exchange rate but, according to the Finance Minister, the high rate is now a fact of life we have already got used to - see: TVNZ's Kiwis have adjusted to high dollar - Bill English. The 'crisis' in our factories has actually been around since 1965 according to NZIER principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub: 'It is one of the side-effects of rising incomes - you don't have access to cheap labour.' - see: James Weir's Manufacturing activity takes a dive.

The Greens' solution to save jobs by lowering the exchange rate through 'quantitative easing' has generated much debate, most of it opposed to the plan - see: David Mayes' There's no quick fix to fiscal woes and the Dom Post Editorial Greens' plan misses the mark. The ODT doesn't endorse firing up the money presses but says just rejecting alternatives to the current situation is not good enough - see: Time for plain speaking.

Perhaps the fear of inflation, which is the basis of much criticism of the Greens' proposal, reflects the age of the critics says Danyl Mclauchlan - see: Generation gap. Chris Trotter praises the Greens for challenging Labour's neoliberal economics (see: Labour remains chained to ideology) but Steven Cowan thinks it is all pretty tame - see: Never fear, quantitative easing is here!.

The Government did announce one policy this week which it claims will create new jobs for those who most need them - youth. While it is not a full reintroduction of lower minimum wages for all young workers, Sue Bradford notes that it means lower wages will apply for each new job started, not just a first job - see: Demolition derby: National's approach to solving unemployment. The application of lower rates to under 20 year old workers coming off a benefit is to David Farrar's liking - so much so that he thinks it should be extended to all beneficiaries regardless of age - see: The starting out wage.

The number of new jobs that will actually be produced is questionable writes Vernon Small, pointing out that gains in youth unemployment will be offset by the loss of employment opportunities for older workers: 'For the individual who gets a job, policies like starting-out can make a difference. But for the economy it is more jobs we need, not just cheaper labour' - see: More jobs better than youth rate.

Other recent articles of interest include:

* Did the GCSB spy on the Prime Minister? Labour alleges a video exists of John Key talking to GCSB staff in February about their involvement in the Kim Dotcom case, causing the agency to try and find the video and if there has been a leak. David Shearer told TV3's Firstline that the recording was wiped off computers - see: GCSB investigates itself.

* Both Barry Soper (Labour's GCSB leak revealed) and Cameron Slater (Inquiry into GCSB needed) reckon they know who leaked the story to Labour. Slater has joined the chorus for an independent inquiry into the GCSB even though he thinks there may be no substance to the latest twist. The scandal has had so many twists and turns that it is easy to lose sight of the basic issues that have led to this point. On Wednesday, TV3's Campbell Live had an excellent item, focusing on the political environment in which Kim Dotcom's fortunes suddenly changed - recommended: The New Zealand institutions that broke our trust.

* Hone Harawira reinforced his activist credentials this morning by being arrested during a protest against state house removals in Glenn Innes. Harawira, who says he didn't plan on being arrested, will appear in court on October 17 for 'failing to comply with a direction'. His party has been involved in resisting changes which will see the number of state owned rentals halved in the Auckland suburb- listen to RNZ's Hone Harawira arrested overnight during housing protest and see Simon Day's MP Hone Harawira arrested.

* With General Secretary Tim Barnett in charge of processing party memberships, John Tamihere's return to politics could fall at the first hurdle as the former minister re-applies to join the Labour Party - see: Labour promises close look at Tamihere's bid to rejoin. Tamihere is sending a clear warning that a rejection would be challenged: 'You've just got to go with the process and if the process is flawed, you have a go at it.' Even though Tamihere is far more effective than any of Labour's current front bench, his lack of focus and 'brain explosions' mean his return would be a disaster says Cathy Odgers - see: Labour Must Say No To JT.

* Since John Key's visit to Hollywood the real value of the various incentives and tax breaks is being debated. The Press Editorial argues against any extensions in Let film subsidies be, while Gordon Campbell says competing against the Chinese will be tough. While we may have the edge in terms of production expertise they have a huge domestic market the studios are very keen to get access to - see: On the Chinese shadow over John Key's trip to Hollywood. Both Graham Reid (Key: Concession Not Recession and Joe Bennett (PM's long expected party) take a satirical look at how Key's meetings with the moguls may have gone and conclude that Kim Dotcom's head on a platter was on the menu.

* Whether it is cumulative damage over the year or the GCSB spying scandal alone, there is little doubt the Government's woes are now starting to be reflected in the polls - see: Vernon Small's Poll: Government support lowest since 2008. The poll makes 'sobering' reading for National says David Farrar and he suggests five immediate actions that could be taken in response: A commission of inquiry into the GCSB, significant change to the Christchurch schools proposal, amending the ECan legislation to make it a hybrid body as the Commissioners recommended, dealing with the child poverty campaign and positioning the left as the party of higher costs -see: Roy Morgan poll. Not everyone is unhappy with the Government, however, writes David Kennedy - see: National Govt. Brings Much Happiness to Some.

* Did the National Party sabotage a major campaign launch because it would cause friction with the Maori party? - see Rod Vaughan's National suspected of scuttling Ansell's Colourblind campaign launch.

* Finally Scott Yorke reveals that Labour is at last focusing on the issues that really matter - see: Transcript of Labour Leader's Speech to Caucus Members.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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