Tony McKenna: Gallagher spirit needed

By Tony McKenna


Some months ago a World Bank report suggested that New Zealand needs to create an environment that is friendly to large multinational companies and fast growth start-ups. The report strongly suggested that we needed to embrace large corporations to succeed.

I drive past the impressive World Headquarters of the Gallagher Group regularly. The Gallagher brothers and their father epitomise that great New Zealand entrepreneurial spirit and drive. They have taken a small, local company onto the world stage. They are modern heroes. Entrepreneurial creativity and innovation is the only force for transformation and growth in New Zealand's economy. Gallaghers has clearly operated with this guiding ethos and has within a generation stamped its mark internationally.

Why can't this manufacturing spirit be replicated? Despite being at the bottom of the world we have shown that we can "mix it" with the best operating within a certain scale. Do we have a political antipathy towards success that prevents our elected leadership rolling out the most conducive public policy? Is it an irreversible trait of the left wing of politics that success is to be viewed suspiciously or, at best, the fruits of that success redistributed?

Have politicians "run the numbers" on an economic model with company tax at 10 per cent or even zero and GST at 20 per cent. This would not only boost start-ups but encourage former New Zealand-based companies to return from overseas and out-sourcing be repatriated back to New Zealand. We may even see foreign companies base themselves here. Economic modelling would show an increase in employment opportunities and hence a more direct tax take and, no doubt, more to redistribute by politicians who know that the best way to get votes is to promise entitlements.

With the possibility of a Labour- Greens-NZ First coalition in 2014 the chances of this bold economic re-engineering are highly improbable. Lowering taxes are anathema to the left especially if Dr Russell Norman scores the Finance Minister's portfolio. Peters will be no threat as all he wants is foreign travel and a chauffeur driven limo.

Has John Key advanced this economic re-engineering notion? Not withstanding the impressive roading advances, especially around Hamilton and capably negotiating a recession, he has played the articulate, smiling, consummate centrist while performing a "steady as she goes" economic management strategy. No "game changing" policy rollouts; nothing courageous. As Oprah Winfrey said of Barack Obama when he first ran for president, "He is the one". Many of us thought that of ex merchant banker John Key.

Labour has still not purged themselves of the self inflicted guilt of the crusading Roger Douglas era. That this "Prophet of the Restoration" of New Zealand's economic viability was exorcised is, I believe, one of this country's most regrettable political acts. Thirty years on we will never know what our economy may have been. National is the only major party whose economic philosophy would find compatability with the utterances of the World Bank.

Mr Key, to win next year you need to put on your combat fatigues and roll out "shock and awe". Maybe the World Bank suggestions should be part of that along with game changing economic leadership.

No shock and awe! Then New Zealand will be consigned to the worst excesses of the MMP electoral system and the Gallagher spirit, so strikingly evident to Hamiltonians, may become a thing of the past.

Tony McKenna is a Hamilton businessman and long-time city resident.

- Hamilton News

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