Chris Trotter catches up with Roger Douglas and can't help comparing and contrasting his strong vision and transformational policies with the current government's lack of these

Chris Trotter catches up with Roger Douglas and can't help comparing and contrasting his strong vision and transformational policies with the current government's lack of these
Roger Douglas.

By Chris Trotter*

It says much about the health of our democracy that such a thing should come to pass. That two men holding radically divergent views were able to meet and drink coffee together without descending into loud and rancorous disagreement. That one of those men was Sir Roger Douglas says even more.

To say I was surprised that the architect of the economic changes which transformed New Zealand between 1984 and 1990 wanted to meet with me would be to understate the case considerably. For most of my adult life I have, one way or another, fought and criticised what came to be called “Rogernomics”. Not just privately, down at the pub with my lefty mates, but publicly, in print and on the airwaves. I even helped to form, and stood as a candidate for, NewLabour – the political party whose whole raison d’être was to roll Rogernomics back. And yet, here was Sir Roger Douglas on the other end of the line, inviting me to assess his latest ideas for improving New Zealand – kanohi ki te kanohi – over coffee.

It is not my place to summarise or in any other way represent those ideas, Sir Roger has his own plans for that. Suffice to say that they extend and elaborate upon ideas foregrounded in his books Towards Prosperity and Unfinished Business. What I can do, however, is report upon my response to the man – and to make some comparisons.

It is a common refrain, among the under-50s, that Rogernomics is the most enduring legacy of the Baby Boomer generation. Not true. Sir Roger Douglas was born in December 1937, nearly two years before the outbreak of the Second World War. His earliest experiences were not of post-war prosperity, but of the hardships and austerity of wartime and its immediate aftermath. In cultural flavour, Sir Roger is more Frank Sinatra and Patti Page, than Bob Dylan and the Beatles. In political terms, Sir Roger’s experience was of National Party governments cruising to victory on the strength of Labour Party achievements and ideas. He thus came to understand early that ideas matter, and that some legacies can last too long.

That ideas still matter to this spry 81-year-old was obvious from the moment we settled into a quiet corner of the Orvieto Café on Auckland’s Mt Eden Road. He had brought with him an impressive stack of papers – each containing page-after-page of carefully calculated figures. And the way he argued from those figures swept me back more than 30 years to the “Great Economic Debate” initiated by Labour Party president, Margaret Wilson. That debate had become an urgent necessity as it began to dawn on Labour’s membership that the government of David Lange and his frenetic Finance Minister was going to be remembered for something more than declaring New Zealand nuclear-free.

This is how I described Sir Roger’s defence of his new Goods & Services Tax at the Otago-Southland regional conference of the Labour Party in April 1985:

“Douglas is messianic. He scrawls figures on the blackboard with violent energy, barking out his arguments like a Parade Sergeant. There is an aura of absolute conviction about the man that is taking its toll on the waverers. Will they hold?”

Well, we all know the answer to that question. Labour’s GST is internationally famous for being the only value-added tax that left the government responsible for its introduction as – if not more – popular after its implementation than before.

And he’s still got it. As I listen to Sir Roger take me through his ideas on superannuation, education, health and housing, I feel that same nagging doubt; that same fear that I and my comrades may simply not have what it takes to break the man’s spell. Just as in the mid-1980s, it is not a matter of whether or not Roger Douglas is right, but of whether or not his opponents have the ability to persuade a majority of voters that he’s wrong.

It is precisely in this area that the present government is so woefully deficient. Neither in Labour’s ranks, nor NZ First’s, nor the Greens, is there a “policy aggressor” remotely equal to Sir Roger. Jacinda Ardern is every bit as effective as David Lange at conveying emotion – better even. But, just ask Jacinda to set forth a compelling case for “transformational” change in any of the policy areas dear to her heart: child poverty; affordable housing; climate change; and she is reduced to ums and ahs and buzzwords. It’s embarrassing.

Nowhere near as embarrassing, however, as the vapid presentations of her Finance Minister, Grant Robertson: a man for whom the expression “conventional wisdom” might have been invented. Is there anyone, in the New Zealand business community, I wonder, who’d be willing to wager that Robertson has ever sat down to privately crunch the numbers underpinning a comprehensive economic agenda of his own devising? Or, that he has ever seen an orthodox idea for which he was not willing to jeopardise his own government’s popularity? Or, that there has ever been a new and transformational policy presented to him upon which he was not happy to heap the scorn of his advisers?

I could go on – but why bother. There is simply no one in Jacinda’s Cabinet to match Roger Douglas, or his back-up band of Richard Prebble and David Caygill. And, could anyone honestly describe the hands of New Zealand’s current Deputy-Prime Minister as being the equal in safety to those of Geoff Palmer's?

Perhaps that is why, before allowing Sir Roger to begin his presentation, I made one of my own. Because I simply could not miss this strange opportunity to tell him that although we have been on opposite sides of the crucial economic and political debates of the past 35 years, it would be remiss of me not to thank him for showing people like myself that it really is possible to transform a society. That a group of politicians, possessed of a strong vision – backed up by policies for which they have made themselves the most persuasive of advocates – can make the most astonishing changes. Not only that, but that such politicians can defend those changes with sufficient passion and skill to secure their re-election.

Thinking about the way Jacinda has become so fond of ruling-out the “Big Change” tactics of Rogernomics, I simply had to tell him that. Because, whatever else may be said about Sir Roger, New Zealanders are forever in his debt for demonstrating with “absolute conviction” that ideas matter; that some legacies can last too long; and that radical change is possible.


*Chris Trotter has been writing and commenting professionally about New Zealand politics for more than 30 years. His work may be found at http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com. He writes a fortnightly column for interest.co.nz.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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I second that.

Fair enough this Labour lot are vapid indeed in comparison to the innovative but volatile Lange government. But that applies to all of parliament in general, nowadays doesn’t it.

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Holy Don't Know My Left Hand from My Right, Batman, do I really have to state the obvious, Douglas, Prebble and Caygill are screaming right wingers, Labour is a party of the left, or at least is supposed to be.
Then is the sticky little problem of this world needing us to stop doing what we are doing, if we are to have one in the future to live on.
The sort of thinking you seem to be extolling the virtue of most certainly requires us to carry on as usual only faster and more, that is no longer a sustainable option.
At this moment I see no-one who is prepared to truly front up to the dilemma we face, but I will stick with whoever is prepared most to acknowledge there is one.
Oh, and I am not prepared to have our country sold to China, that is a massive reason that I will be careful with my vote.

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I suspect that you are not following the logic of the Rogernomics thinking. The challenge that he raised was that 'traditional interventions' supported the rich not the poor. That massive controls on car imports favoured the car dealers and not someone who wanted to buy a safe car. As we work toward local elections I see so many of the left wing parties, particularly the Greens, who look for interventions that always seem to support the interests of the middle class (after all that is where they come from and what they understand) rather than the poor.

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The calamity of unconsidered/unintended consequences is the left's great failing. We all want to help the poor, the miserable, raise them up and improve their lives, give them value and meaning, but it has to be done in ways that encourage upwards mobility and self reliance rather than leading (and breeding) ever more into the misery of poverty.

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Why would the Left want to help the poor, the miserable, raise them up and improve their lives, give them value and meaning?
It's the Right that wants to do that.
The Left sees the poor, miserable etc as vote fodder, so it would be crazy to transform their lives.
The Right, on the other hand, wants to reduce benefit dependency to reduce taxes, and to make more money by selling goods and services to a prosperous population.

It's the Right that wants to do that.

Only if the poor buy into (and are 'yes men' to) the establishment's status quo. Any attempt to disrupt the status quo or rattle cronyism will not help your cause.

...... to make more money by selling goods and services to a prosperous population

Ahhh, the wealth effect.

9 years of Key, English and Joyce didn't change social mobility one iota in NZ.

The housing crisis being the primary example which Key promised to fixed pre-government and once in-government declared was "a good problem to have". The housing crisis in fact massively decreased social mobility.

As said above the political right failed, as they always do, to challenge the beneficiaries of the status quo, in order to implement policies with bigger benefits for society as a whole.

2 years into the Adern, Robertson and Peter's government I would though agree with Chris Trotter that we are not seeing them articulating a plan that resolves these economic and environmental issues.

The housing crisis which Key promised to fixed pre-government and once in-government declared was "a good problem to have" massively decreased social mobility.

Actually, Key identified the "housing crisis" as a "housing crisis" before it became a "good problem to have."

I think there's a pretty good indicator that he realised the problem had got out of hand. Best to let it run and blame it on "unforseen circumstances" if it all went to seed.

The best opportunity to fix the housing crisis was the GFC. It already caused a house and land price correction. All Key, English and Joyce needed to do in 2009 was relax land-use rules and improve spatial planning plus infrastructure funding and NZ would never have experienced the housing price bubble from 2012 onwards.

Clark and Cullen were stupid to let a housing bubble get out of control from 2002 to 2007.

Key and English were doubly stupid for repeating the mistake post GFC.

If another housing bubble gets out of control under Ardern and Robertson then they are unbelievably stupid. But if you look at the massively inflating rents in Wellington, up more $75/week since the 2017 election it is possible that they are that stupid.

The best opportunity to fix the housing crisis was the GFC

I agree and disagree. The single greatest driver of the housing bubble is the monetary system and hegemony. Unfortunately, I cannot prove that beyond a doubt. The fact that its influence is never really discussed or highlighted by the ruling elite makes me more convinced I'm correct.

If house building was a competitive industry like say TV production then low interest rates wouldn't cause a boom in prices. Ensuring the land-use regulations, the spatial planning and infrastructure provision (externality pricing too) is such that houses can be built competitively is doubly important when interest rates are falling.

Low interest rates and easy credit should only be causing bubbles with things with fixed supply - some art work etc.

I love your assertion that "TV production" in nz is "a competitive industry" and something to aspire to. Yep it produces top quality programs and reality shows. Not

TV production referred to making actual TV's not TV Shows and I didn't say the TV's were made in NZ. It was just an example of a item that people can buy which is produced competitively where prices have fallen not bubbled.

'Clark and Cullen were stupid to let a housing bubble get out of control from 2002 to 2007.'

I'm not convinced that they didn't see electoral feel-good value in that.

Houses and housing industry take a long time to build - the industry has to grow capacity and that takes half a decade. Whereas a bubble can go from trough to peak in 2-3 years. Auckland house prices were flat 2008- 2012, then shot up and stopped in 2016. Rest of country was 1-2 years behind. How do you intercede to stop people selling and buying houses for more money during a bubble?

stop the bubbles from happening in the first place, limit market volatility.
Totally possible, with the right policy settings.

Eh, it's difficult to engage in these philosophical discussions if we rely on parodies of each side as starting points.

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I have traditionally voted Labour. But I'll be thinking twice next time.
To me, their biggest achievement so far in the current term has been to encourage that ever-expanding industry: baby farming.
This is the first time, to my knowledge, that a government has ever fully subsidized a particular farming sector.
The welfare system seems to have created a life-style career option of serial baby production.
Labour has encouraged this by legislating that from October 1st solo mothers need not declare the name of the father of the child.
Inotherwords the tax payer will pick up the whole tab for raising their children.
We all know which demographics are involved.
This Labour party policy is surely at odds with The Green's climate change goals; after all one of the few people who we can rely on to speak the truth about climate change is Sir David Attenborough who attributes all ultimate climate change causes to over-population. Ipso facto why have the Greens not opposed this baby-farming policy initiative
If I may be so presumptuous I would submit a modest proposal that the products of this sector are turned into nutritious protein and exported to the world; this would have some effect in reducing the subsidy paid by the taxpayer to this sector.

??? Where does this come from. If population growth is a problem then it is not caused by solo mothers in NZ. Our population growth by births compared to deaths is stable i.e there is no natural population growth. Immigration is the cause of population growth and if NZ is better environmentally than the source country then globally that is better for climate change. Solo mothers are not to blame for NZs economic or environmental problems. That is a ridiculous assertion. Further it is cruel to punish children and diminish their life chances for something their parents have done.

Regarding climate change, NZ has one of the highest carbon footprints per capita and is therefore much worse environmentally than the source countries of most migrants (except Australia, USA, Canada). Thus most migrants to NZ increase their carbon footprint when migrating to NZ (i.e. bigger house, car, food miles etc etc) and thus globally it is worse for climate change.

So NZ should do something about its per capita green house gas footprint! Like reducing car ownership rates (which is worse than the US) by building our cities such that people have the freedom to mobilize without polluting.

Let's do the smart thing in NZ for a change rather than listen to dinosaurs like Trotter and Douglas or numpties blaming solo mums.

cities are pits of consumption
nothing green about them

Per Capita emissions are totally irrelevant and make no sense whatsoever.

Assume that were we were to shut down the smelter - a large CO2 emitter ex the anodes consumed in the smelting process - NZ's per capita emissions would go down.

Given no one would stop drinking ex aluminium cans as a result - another smelter would increase production.

This would most likely be an existing coal fired smelter in Asia.

Net effect - NZ's per capita emissions go down - global emissions increase.

A exactly similar scenario exists for our steel mill.

Hence the absolute stupidity of per capita emission comparisons.

If 10,000 people move from country A to country NZ. Country A's total emissions fall and Country NZ's rise. Yet globally there is no change. Looking at this issue through a per capita better describes what is actually going on.

I know statistics can hide a multitude of sins but it was fairly obvious what was being described.

Rubbish. If 10000 move from country A where due to lower income and/or population density they are forced to live low carbon, low environmental footprint lives (ie apartment with no car and public transport etc) to country B where their incomes increase and/or due to lower population density they can live in their mcmansion and buy their big suv and thus increase their carbon and environmental footprint of course there is a net global increase.
Should NZ decrease its per capita carbon footprint and environmental footprint - absolutely - but it seems NZers and new migrants would rather sprawl over what was once productive farmland (can't quote survey but the ones I've seen show most kiwis would rather live in standalone house or on lifestyle block than in apartment). Countries like UK have lower per capita carbon and environmental footprints due to necessity, i.e. there is not space for everyone to live in their large suburban house or on their lifestyle block.

That's assuming they had a lower emitting lifestyle before they came to NZ which they changed to a high emitting lifestyle in NZ

On average that might be true.

But if NZ made changes it could easily be a low emitting country. We have renewable electricity so we have the means to electrify transport which would make a huge difference.

No, we have a declining renewable energy sector, since new hydro schemes haven't been built for many years, with one proposal of a "run of river" low impact system banned not long ago, and Project Aqua killed after 10,years of trying a few years ago. When was the last hydro dam built in NZ? The Clyde Dam?
Electric cars aremcoal powered in NZ, running on Indonesian coal as that powers the marginal increase.

seemed OK at the time and was a bonanza for boomers,big redundancy payouts,new cars.but nec minnit,no apprenticeships for your kids,mum has to go to work to pay the bills as we dont own the infrastructure any more.lucky China wasnt cashed up then as they would have done a package deal.

Both Douglas and Trotter are members of a recently-dominant narrative. The Left and Right appraisal is a very shallow, very biased assumption-based incorrectitude.

Really, both represent an unsustainable set of combined actions, and both (as expressed here - I've heard occasional better expressions from Trotter) fail to address what's ahead, via addressing overshoot. And Robertson's problem is how far he can take a neoliberal-doctrine-steeped voting populace, without them slipping off the hook.

Douglas did us no favours at all - but neither did Nash. Time we had an intelligent look forwards.

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Chris Trotter and Roger Douglas are dinosaurs. Neither have much relevance in todays political or economic circles. Chris has spent 30 years making a living out of reporting about the politics of Rogernomics. Of course he would have coffee with Roger... and then report on it...

The current political and economic battle is how to deal with the crisis in housing and the crisis with the environment. Neither of which Roger and Chris have shown any political or economic insight.

In some ways the crisis with housing and environment are two sides of the same coin. How to engineer a just environmental transition to a post carbon economy. How can NZ be an example of a place where real economic inequality problems like the housing crisis are resolved in a manner that is consistent with climate change commitments.

“Neither have much relevance in today’s political or economic circles” RD’s views have relevance in that we can trace the much more extreme inequality in our society now, back to his policies and his neolib/neoclassical economics. Granted, things were not great before that either, but it has become clear to most since the the GFC that the project had/has huge flaws, yes including “externalising” environmental costs. The housing crisis is very much a part of that, along with the problems we’ve been encountering with deregulation (in the building industry for instance).

Fair comments. Certainly 1990 is the point when housing started to deviate from its previous long term equilibrium of costing 3 to 4 times the median household income.

I still stand by my comment that neither Roger or Chris have any insight into how to resolve these economic and environmental problems.

I agree, I once had lunch with Roger Douglas, Im sure I paid. I was very unimpressed, he was stuck in the past with failed dogma.

I think he had seen the Tv series on 'Free to choose' by Milton Friedman, pretty much copied and pasted.

I heard him interviewed on radio recently (I think around the time of the TWG report coming out) and it was hilarious and at the same time a bit sad, in that he was the epitome of the expression, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". It's like time had stood still for him. And on top of that - he (Sir Roger) was soooo excited to have been shoulder tapped for the interview. I think he'd been preparing for weeks, armed with spreadsheets and a huge amount of accountancy/economic analysis that he desperately wanted to get through. He just couldn't seem to grasp the fact that the interviewer was so young (maybe 25-30) and simply didn't understand any of the "historic import" of the guy he was interviewing, and the segment was only 5 minutes each side of a commercial break (not a platform on which to launch a(nother) political party)..

Douglas went way too far. There's no doubt that NZ needed change, though. But it should have been half way between what the status quo was, and where Douglas took us.
I think Trotter's main point, though, is that, agree or disagree with Douglas (and he clearly has hugely divergent political views to Douglas), he and the Labour government at the time had ideas, vision and huge determination. They were also highly skilled at not only crafting that vision but selling it to the electorate.
The current government is full of wishy washy intent. Some good ideas, but very little coherence. It's also often at odds with itself, and not just between the parties. Parker and Twyford seem to have some diametrically opposed views of the world, which have clearly been an issue.

What are Parkers views versus Twyford's?

If you look at Parker's speeches, as well as his proposed changes to the RMA, it's all about increasing public participation in planning decision making.

From the UDA to the light rail, Twyford has all been about stripping away public participation in planning approaches.

Twford favours top down approaches. Parker bottom up.

Fundamental differences regarding planning and the role of the public and local communities in process and decision making.

Their respective agencies have been fighting the battle between the ministers on their behalf. And these battles have been part of the reason why progress has been slow.

Thanks

Way to far? - it is always harder to leap a chasm in two leaps rather than one. I would say he only leaped half way.

What else happened around 1990? Liberalisation of immigration and beginning of relatively rapid population growth c.f. much of rest of developed world e.g Germany is often compared as having minimal house price growth over that period and look at their population growth over that period.

Nonsense - The reason we don't have the problems of Greece or Portugal is that we recognised that the world had changed in the 80's. The current housing issues can be linked to a resistance to providing sufficient land, plus (I believe) accommodation supplements that subsidised manufacturers to move to Auckland from the provinces. What the critics of Rogernomics see is a threat to a massive subsidy of middle class lifestyles. The argument I come back to is that the subsidy of golf in Auckland is greater than the subsidy of public transport - because actually counting the cost of subsidies means that you might make other decisions.

The housing crisis is firstly about poor land-use policies that prevents competition for building cities up and out in an affordable way and secondly poor spatial planning and infrastructure funding. Especially infrastructure that correctly addresses externalities like CO2 emissions and congestion.

If NZ politicians/govt addressed these two issues it would be transformational for NZ.

Right wingers like Douglas occassionally pay lip service to the competitive land-use issue. But never seem to act on it, for instance the modern incarnation of Douglas is Seymour and in Epsom he is a land-use protectionist rather than wanting a genuine free market.

Right wingers mostly ignore the second issue, because infrastructure increases taxes in the short term, which they oppose. In the long term better infrastructure provision leads to a stronger more productive economy so the taxes are repaid.

To credibly resolve housing (and the environment) a plan tackling both the competitive land-use issue and the spatial planning/infrastructure issue needs to be enacted.

“What the critics of Rogernomics see is a threat to a massive subsidy of middle class lifestyles”. Wow, do you know any very wealthy NZ people personally (or are you one)? I do, and the windfall they have had in the past few decades since Rogernomics has been astounding, including no capital gains tax. Having capital to invest in assets, and the compounding of inherited assets, with very little to no tax to pay has produced massive inequality. All this, while we’ve turned into a low wage economy, which benefits guess who? We all know trickle-down is BS.

There is a huge rentier economy in NZ which you see in places like the Koru Lounge. Government owned entities have become prizatised businesses with natural monopolies and oligopolies. The top of the civil service hob knobs in these circles, they would rather imitate and join these circles than properly police it.

The ordinary citizen meanwhile suffers from a high cost low wage economy. There has been a massive emigration from it -3/4 million in recent decades. But the elites just turn on the immigration tap to replace the leaving kiwi diaspora with 1 million new immigrants.

Excellent insights, Brendon.

got my vote

@ ex socialist

The argument I come back to is that the subsidy of golf in Auckland is greater than the subsidy of public transport

Has that actually been quantified somewhere? I'd be really keen to be linked to any information/articles/research you might have in that regard.

When looking at previous governments, that of Kirk’s is largely overlooked. That government was undone most destructively by Muldoon because Norman Kirk died and he was the only one who could keep Muldoon in check. Yet if you look again at what was introduced. ACC still up and running. National compulsory superannuation, dismantled by Muldoon and replaced with the universal super which is said to be unsustainable. The property speculation tax, which Muldoon kept in place until his second term. You cannot change history but just wonder what our economic landscape might be, had the last two remained effective.

Wikipedia has really excellent summaries regarding the achievements of each NZ Government, here's the one for Kirk's, for example;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Labour_Government_of_New_Zealand

And here's Muldoon's;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_National_Government_of_New_Zealand

Some time ago, I compiled summary tables of environment-influencing legislation, regulation and/or actions for each government - and these Wiki pages provided good detail in the achievements of each.

What CT doesn't say in this article is whether the figures that Douglas sold to the country to introduce things like GST and the free market, still stand up to scrutiny with 30+ years of hindsight. Douglas might still believe in them, but we need a much better analysis than this.

While I remember being told that with the introduction of GST, PAYE would reduce, eventually to nothing when GST was at 17.5%. Surprise, surprise that promise was not kept as those who got voted to lead us betrayed those promises and just shafted us!

I remember too, the %15 flat tax rate, before Langes 'cup of tea.' Also those Central North Island forests got sold and It took 3 years of production to pay them off, a great bargain.

Yes, we can look at lots in hindsight that is wrong with Douglas' legacy, but we do have to be mindful that the flat tax (which I assume was fundamental/critical to his overall plan/vision) was never implemented. Then Bolger came along, at a time when middle class and rural NZ had for many been decimated jobs and income-wise, and Richardson dismantled much of the social safety net that the Labour government had established and kept in tact. So, at a time it was most needed - it was dismantled.

And thus "begineth" the cycle of inter-generational deprivation we have never managed to find our way out of.

Lange/Douglas commenced the needed reforms (and the irresponsible and questionably, hurried sales of our assets during the period), but it was the Fourth National Government that eventually produced the real inequalities we have ended up with as a result of that needed reform.

Great points Kate. The fourth national government was a horrid thing.

Re housing Lange/Douglas privatised the Ministry of Works in 1988. So a systematic approach to city spatial planning and infrastructure provision was thrown out the window. NZ Councils were rationalised down to to bigger city and district councils in 1989 but with no ability to raise revenue to supply needed infrastructure capital to be the local equivalent of the MoW. Then Simon Upston enacted Geoffrey Palmer's RMA in 1990, which was theoretically brilliant but practically not. So a massive laissez faire vacuum was created, resulting in leaky buildings, a housing crisis, skills shortages, the slow and poor rebuild of Christchurch....

And with the loss of the MoW, we also lost that training ground for practical skill sets such as fitters/turners, engineers, metal workers, etc - and that training ground function has not been replicated by the private sector, nor by the transfer of the responsibility for such training to the education sector.

Also with the introduction of the RMA we also got the burgeoning private sector involvement in environmental law. Not sure if I've linked you to it before, Brendon but this is a good historical consideration on the planning profession, done in a background paper for the Productivity Commission;

https://mro.massey.ac.nz/handle/10179/14077

'burgeoning private sector involvement in environmental law.'
What was supposed to be a public good profession - planning - has become a private sector gravy train for lawyers and 'planning consultants'.
Bit of a nonsense, really.

Yes. And I don't see how that juggernaut can be reined in. The career path of so many young planners starts in local government and then once they have 10 years (sometime less) under the belt, they hang up a shingle and contract back to local government at 5 or so times their earlier hourly rate.

If you follow the neoliberal acronym of FIRE in respects to our economy, you'll soon see that none of what appears to work poorly is accidentally that way. Finance, real estate, insurance and all things stemming from it have relaxed or non existant frameworks so as to enable oligolopostic behaviour in all aspects which forces up prices. There are clear links between disestablishing the clear and understandable regulatory presence of the old MOW and the arrival of the RMA which could only be decoded by costly American style litigation if you want to develop land. And far from being in the spirit of free enterprise it means that only those who have money in the firstplace can pay to challenge the law in order to develop land and make more money subsequently. Then of course you want to get a decent return for all those costs so you land bank it for a few years, triple the price of the property when you get it rezoned and lobby the council for some handouts to pay for pipes etc...get the picture? Neoliberalism means expensive!

I remember being at an open presentation given by Roger Douglas at Otago University. Grant Robertson was at the front of the hall with other student "agitators" at the time shouting Douglas down. I find a little ironic (and not surprising) that Robertson is now at the helm of mainstream politics. Any hint of "revolution" is gone (or it's simply buried in empty propaganda speak).

I'd say that were it not for a Roger Douglas contemporary named Winston Peters, Ardern/Robertson would be far more progressive/revolutionary in terms of policy change.

Athough everyone now criticizes their budget responsibility rules for being too constraining - the point is, they had to win the Treasury benches first - and if you ask me those rules were necessary to quell concerns from conservative swing voters and the business fraternity.

It makes sense that they have now stated they will relax those in a second term, if they get one.

Given Chris Trotter has been writing about Rogernomics for thirty years, has he ever addressed the massive progress that has been made in South Auckland since then?

The streets are MUCH safer. Unemployment is MUCH lower. Poverty is MUCH lower.

I never understand why you would want to go back to the eighties with massive street riots, destruction of property, huge unemployment, and no hope for the future.

Pure ideology.

The streets are MUCH safer. Unemployment is MUCH lower. Poverty is MUCH lower.

That's all subjective.

Poverty MUCH lower. Not sure if the people living on the street, in cars or garages, or couch surfing would agree with that...

We have metrics to measure these things. However bad it is now, it was worse then. Neither you nor the other responder have addressed my point that empirically speaking, massive improvement has been made. You can get anecdotal evidence if you go and talk to Otara residents as well like I have. The 80s were dark times indeed.

I can't speak for South Auckland but I can give you an empirical fact about NZ. The young adult (15 to 24) suicide rate got a lot worse in the late 1980s and 1990s. It has never really recovered and now we are the worst in the world (OECD). So not much hope was generated for that cohort from Rogernomics.
Stats here http://socialreport.msd.govt.nz/health/suicide.html

We have metrics to measure these things

Yes you do. Metrics such as the unemploment rate.

However, better metrics would be individual perception across a representative sample of the population over time. Gallup does it in the U.S., but not in NZ.

Inequality has worsened significantly, if you look at the Gini coefficient in NZ in the early 80's compared to today.

And there we have it. If the poor get richer you don't care because the rich got even richer.

You'd rather they stayed as poor as possible, just to get that GINI coefficient down.

I see RollingOn you aren't interested in acknowledging the increased rate of young adult suicide that followed from the 1980/90s reforms... So there we have it... your selectivism shows your worldview

Riots, unemployment, destruction of property...that all happened once Roger took over. And what are these riots you speak of - NZers are apathetic, we don't riot. Where else could someone like Roger push through something like he did, and get away with it. Imagine that happening, in, say France??

What makes me laugh is the two terms 'Roger Douglas' and 'vision for the future'. Well your vision you sold us in 84 worked out real well except there was no vision just a blind panic to sell off all the public assetts to your cronies and shift the tax burden unfairly onto low income earners. And look at the state of the country now? We would have been better to move slowly and thoughtfully, which is precisely what Ardern and Robertson should be congratulated on doing until further evidence emerges that its time to act without consideration at which point we'll read douglas's book....

Yep, the cronies did very well over that period;

https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/sale-of-a-nation

Chris, as a right wing, free market capitalist, I can say that you’ve earned my respect and admiration. Today, I fear that we are losing all civility and respect in political discourse, with neither side accepting an alternative view. This is devolving into a major threat to our democracy itself. Plato said that the price for not getting involved in politics was being ruled by our inferiors. With the rise of radicals, I can only hope that the left can muster more people of your intellectual calibre to lead.

Another brilliant piece from Trots. This nails it:

'It is precisely in this area that the present government is so woefully deficient. Neither in Labour’s ranks, nor NZ First’s, nor the Greens, is there a “policy aggressor” remotely equal to Sir Roger. Jacinda Ardern is every bit as effective as David Lange at conveying emotion – better even. But, just ask Jacinda to set forth a compelling case for “transformational” change in any of the policy areas dear to her heart: child poverty; affordable housing; climate change; and she is reduced to ums and ahs and buzzwords. It’s embarrassing.'

Jacinda is a nice person ,charismatic, caring and warm, but she's intellectually a light weight.

And he's on the money on Robertson. A very successful family friend, Nat supporter through and through, who had encountered Robertson a bit 'warned' me about Robertson before the election.

Intellectually a lightweight? How about Bridges?

The problem for politicians is that the need to be voted for. That makes them as intellectually lightweight as the media-fed public are. It's a catch-22 problem.

The real story unfolding, is the Limits to Growth as they encroach, and the actions of various elite figures in reaction to same. Was Douglas aware that the benefits of growth were temporary, limited and not available to those he disenfranchised? Or was he just marching to the neoliberal peer-group drum? And is Trotter aware of the LTG, or is he just advocating a different echelon be the beneficiaries?

Yep Bridges too.
Left or right, doesn't matter.
Like so much of society, it's 'style' over substance.

The only thing that I can remember about Roger Douglas was the 24% interest rates that I had to endure at the time and his quote that "New Zealand will become the Switzerland of the South Pacific". Was happy to see the share market crash and companies like Ariadne burn to ashes, along with a lot of people's money, which was not good.

Those high interest rates and the low house prices and rapidly diminishing mortgages they created set up your generation for life as the mortgages were rapidly inflated away. Be thankful that you got to pay off your house in a few short years rather than the 30 most FHB are looking at now.

Policy aggressor?? Someone who just comes in and burns the house down to start again -anyone can do that. A true hero would change what needed to change while saving all that was good. He threw the baby out with the bathwater. The (fay)rich(whites) at the top got richer through monopolies while the rest of us are no better off in real terms.

At least she isn’t stuffing the bottom 50% who voted for her.

the car story is interesting
before, we had car manufacturing jobs in NZ
taxis were cheap and taxi drivers made a decent living
families could only afford one car so transport for many was bike, walk or bus
there was very little congestion
less money was spent on roads and motorways
our fleet was OLD
after
cars were cheap and plentiful
now we have congestion and they are thinking of congestion charges
taxis are expensive and if going a short distance the driver will tell you to get out
everyone has cars even poor people who cant really afford them
we now need to spend millions on millions upgrading roads and motorways

so in conclusion are we really better off because we can import hundreds of cheap second hand cars from japan