Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: March 16

Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Supplied
Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Supplied

Many journalists and commentators have had some difficulty in getting to grips with John Key and David Shearer's speeches yesterday, mainly because there wasn't a lot to grab onto. John Key seems to be the points winner on that score as he put up ten specific targets for the public sector to meet, although the five year timeframe for achievement means that current ministers and departmental CEOs are likely to have moved on before any day of reckoning.

Key 'easily trumped' the newbie Opposition leader with targets that can't really be argued against, according to John Hartevelt. He notes the challenges involved in bringing together four government departments in three months, particularly given the struggle National has had with the internal restructuring of one department with Mfat - see: Key draws first blood in battle of the speeches. John Armstrong picks a winner from yesterday and it's Steven Joyce, the new 'super minister'. Armstrong notes a distinct change of tack by the Prime Minister from even a few weeks ago, saying that his 'willingness to talk about job cuts in the public service has been exhausted' - see: And who emerges brightest star of all.

Hard targets and specific commitments were missing from David Shearer's speech yesterday, but there is a consensus from those reading the entrails that he is pointing Labour, albeit gingerly, on a centrist path. Derek Cheng says that not only is the tax-free policy for the chop, but also likely to go are the higher tax on incomes over $150,000, the extension of Working for Families to beneficiaries, and the no-GST on fruit and vegetables - see: Policy faces axe as Shearer moves to centre. The Herald editorial nods approvingly, particularly at Shearer's 'tilting at previously sacred cows' - specifically bad teachers and welfare reform - Little detail, but Labour makes a start.

Shearer talked a lot about Finland yesterday so Gordon Campbell took a detailed look at Finland's track record, particularly with regard to inequality and says: 'Finland? It may be time for Labour to officially retire Finland as a role model. In citing Finland as an inspiration, Shearer was - lets hope, accidentally - eerily channelling Roger Douglas in his heyday' - see: On the speeches by John Key and David Shearer.

Down at the port the time for the 'vision thing' is long gone. Yesterday the union gained a temporary legal reprieve from restructuring (see - Nick Krause Port decision on hold for hearing) while the Auckland Council debated what it can and can't do. Brian Rudman is scathing of the majority of councilors and the mayor who voted down any resolutions urging the ports company to keep directly employing their workforce. Rudman concludes: 'Rhetoric to one side, you have to agree. Auckland's rulers surrendered power to the unelected yesterday with hardly a whimper'- see: Feeble city leaders surrender right to a say on port. Greg Presland thinks that Rodney Hide must be grinning from ear to ear. Denise Roche, the Greens' industrial relations spokesperson, has a 'why can't we all get along' moment, saying the Ports dispute 'could be resolved next week' if 'cool heads prevail'.

Cool heads have been in short supply in a heated blog war triggered by Cameron Slater's accusation that Duncan Garner was using union-supplied footage to attack the Prime Minister. Those who like blood sports can follow the action in the following posts: Cameron Slater's On Duncan Garner, Martyn Bradbury's Duncan Garner vs Whaleoil over John Key footage, Cathy Odgers' Can't Even Pull Off An Insult Properly, and the Jackal's Odgers vs Bomber.

In other articles of interest Jane Clifton asks Does National have a mandate to sell assets?, saying the Government may be justified in taking umbrage at claims it doesn't have the right to proceed, and Tim Parke, a clinical director at Auckland hospital, looks at why private hospitals are more expensive in the long term and why they actually undermine the more efficient public system - see: Private healthcare threatens public. Finally, Chris Trotter has a eureka moment listening to an interview on Radio New Zealand's Nine-to-Noon (listen here) with Nigel Harworth, ex Ports of Auckland Director and now an HR lecturer at Auckland University. Harworth talks about the entry of China, Eastern Europe, Russia and India into the global economy over the last forty years which saw a doubling of the global workforce. Trotter draws a direct line between that and the struggles workers have currently have to maintain wages and conditions - see: Capitalism's astonishing victory hurts most of us.

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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