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Why Todd Muller needs to release part 1 of National's economic recovery plan ASAP to avoid being branded the MAGA hat guy leading a divided white party

Why Todd Muller needs to release part 1 of National's economic recovery plan ASAP to avoid being branded the MAGA hat guy leading a divided white party
Nikki Kaye, Todd Muller

By ​Jenée Tibshraeny

The new-look National Party this week has to start telling New Zealanders exactly how it would lead the country’s economic recovery.

It urgently needs to come out with something - one economic policy - to avoid discrediting its entire campaign, centred on rebuilding “the economy you live in… not the economy the bureaucracy talks about”.

Press gallery journalists are feasting on the fresh meat that is Todd Muller. His straight-shooting approach is what makes him the guy you want at your BBQ, but it’s also what makes him susceptible to being baited by journalists fishing for news.

Five days, two unwanted controversies

Since becoming leader, he has made more headlines for having a “Make America Great Again” hat displayed in his office, alongside a Hilary Clinton badge, than he has for anything economically-related.

Just as the white supremacy hat saga subsided, Muller found himself in hot water for the lack of ethnic diversity on his front bench.

Grilled by journalists on Tuesday morning for only having two Maori MPs in his shadow cabinet (Shane Reti and Paula Bennett), National’s new deputy Nikki Kaye made matters worse by adding Paul Goldsmith to the list, saying he has Ngati Porou connections. Muller ran with this.

While the duo was talking to one cluster of journalists, Goldsmith told another, “I have Maori connections, but I’m not Maori myself”.

Minutes later, journalists asked Bennett how she felt about the new leadership holding up Goldsmith as a Maori representative. She laughed and snapped, “Paul?! Ok, right. They’re running the show now, so they can answer to it.”

This is golden TV montage material.

Bennett’s decision to not only make no attempt to salvage her colleagues, but emphasise their blunder, means the other narrative behind the story is that divisions in the party are raw and ugly.

Some will look at these situations and think, ‘The desperate media is creating a storm in a teacup’. Others will see them as speaking to Muller’s principles and character.

Either way, the focus is far from where National wants it.

Personality politics not an option

The new-look party knows it needs to avoid turning the election campaign into a ‘Todd vs. Jacinda show’. It’s aware it’ll lose a battle fought on personality politics.

Muller has repeatedly referred to National as being a “team of 55”, pitting it against Labour, which has "three heavy lifters and 17 empty chairs".

He will draw on the experienced strong performers in his party - Kaye, Amy Adams and Judith Collins - as well as his ambitious supporters, now holding key portfolios - Nicola Willis and Chris Bishop.

Labour on the other hand, will continue keeping the spotlight on Ardern and Grant Robertson.

In emphasising the strength of National’s “team”, supposedly unified by a leader with a track record of finding common ground among people, National’s focus will have to be on policy.  

Indeed, Muller in his first speech as leader, had a go at Simon Bridges, saying: “I'm not interested in opposition for opposition's sake. We’re all tired of that kind of politics. I'm about ideas that get results.”

He said his “absolute focus” was New Zealand’s economic recovery, pledging to be the right person to lead this with a corporate background at Fonterra, Zespri and Apata.

“I’ve run businesses. I can read a balance sheet and a profit and loss account. I can tell a good one from a bad one,” he said.

Show me the money

However, in extended interviews with both RNZ’s Kathryn Ryan and Q + A’s Jack Tame, Muller was grilled for bringing nothing to the table that resembled an economic plan.

Like Robertson, he said he didn’t want to see “austerity” and wouldn’t commit to tax changes. He couldn’t say how much debt was appropriate, but emphasised the need for quality spend - all stuff we’ve heard before.

Pushed by on Tuesday on his performance, and asked when he would release the first iteration of his economic recovery plan, Muller said: “This is day five… I won’t be standing here in four weeks with you still asking the same question. So be very assured, it is an absolute priority for us. And yes, we will phase our responses as you would expect us to.”

During his first question time in parliament as leader, Muller quizzed Ardern on why she hadn’t given businesses affected by COVID-19 cash payments, arguing the wage subsidy was essentially a payment to workers.

Muller has not however come out with a policy saying which businesses National would give cash to, how this would work, how much it would cost, etc.

It three weeks ago released a policy suggesting the Government gives small businesses cash refunds of up to $100,000 based on the GST paid in the six months to January 2020. It proposed that if a business paid more than $100,000 over that period, they could claim up to an additional $250,000 as a repayable loan over five years.

Little room to manoeuvre in the battle for the centre

One can appreciate Muller is only just getting his feet under the table and needs to consult his caucus before coming out with policy.

There is also so much uncertainty around the extent of the COVID-19 fallout that it’s impossible to plan too far ahead. A policy that might seem logical today, could be inappropriate in six months’ time.

And with Robertson being relatively conservative and constrained by NZ First, there isn’t a whole lot of scope for National to differentiate itself when it comes to policy. What’s more, both National and Labour are yet again fighting for centrist votes, preventing them from campaigning on anything too radical.

But if you’re Muller, and you want to take the prime ministership off one of the most popular leaders in the world, who's led an effort to nearly stamp out COVID-19, you need some serious ammunition.

Hoping that come September 19, the reality of job losses will be biting and people will be looking to the party that got the country through the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and 2011/12 Canterbury earthquakes for change, won’t be enough.

National needs an exceptional economic recovery plan. 

No one is expecting it to come out with a full plan this week. But in the absence of phase one, all National has in the eyes of the public is a seemingly smart and decent leader of a divided party, who’s getting smashed for his lack of political nous.

Muller needs to give himself something substantive to talk about, as he introduces himself to the country and tries to build a brand. First impressions count.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


here is a list
. accelerate 5G displacement with Huawei
. eaze process for foreign investment and loose some OIO rules
. increase resident visa quota welcoming more skilled people, eaze visa requirement for student visa
. long term tourists visa with Chinese travellers, Trans Tasman travellers vias mutual recognition
. immediate offical visit to China with form support to China's policy on Taiwan, HONGKONG and etc..

Go NZ and may the luck be with you forever!


Yeah right!!!


Always look on the bright side. Take what is good fare out of this contributor. Every time I read one of the posts I get a clear flashback and visualisation of the hilarity produced by Benny Hill in his sketches of the characteristics of a similar identity.

spray and walk away

Yeah, The Benny Hill News section.


Your list has a chance with China's man in NZ moving up two places on the National list. Getting ever closer to power.


All hail the mighty CCP! I... I've said too much.

NSA has you on it's watch list

What do you mean by "displacement" and "eaze" is not in the on-line dictionary.


Might have inadvertently left the sl of eaze



You missed
* Harvest organs of dissidents
* Send all Muslims to reeducation camps
* Lock up dissenting journalists

Fixed it for you

And Guantanamo Bay

You need to give the troll xing credit for success in repeatedly drawing responses from the ever reactive commentators. And for the diligent enthusiasm he or she applies in daily issuing unsubtle backhanded criticisms of the CCP.

"immediate offical visit to China with form support to China's policy on Taiwan, HONGKONG and etc.."

May your organs be harvested.


If you look at the tourist industry Chinese bus drivers out number New Zealanders. As noted on Duncan Garners show by a viewer comment "tourism is just Chinese drivers driving Chinese buses to Chinese businesses. Now they are parked up receiving taxpayer hand outs. Incidentally
Nigel Latta Why elderly parents?
CEO Immigration NZ
Overall the net benefit of the highly skilled outweighs the costs of the parents. And quite frankly bring the parents is one of the factors we used to attract skilled migrants.
Boy have we been taken for a ride.

So National wants to sell off NZ to China which is a very controlling dictatorship and they also wants to flood NZ with massive amounts of immigrants, yeah that's really going to get people to vote for them. Not to mention they also want to relax anti money laundering rules so they can flood us with dodgy money so only foreign criminals will be able to afford to live here!

National are an absolute joke!!! (-‸ლ)

Looks like they have their own pandemic to sort out. Is Cindy being mentored by Auntie Helen. Makes sense. Do you think they sit down together once a week.

My alternative list:
- accelerate 5G development with anyone - if it's with Huawei, they submit to full inspection of their hardware, firmware and software. No commercial sensitives need to be divulged beyond the contractual arrangements with Spark, Vodafone, 2 degrees et al and the GCSB.
- No more "growth junkie" policies of the Key era, so no loosening of the OIO rules. Instead encourage NZer to veer away from property investment and more into productive investment once the virus mess/global depression wears off.
- Allow skilled migrants to come, but with a focus on those who have lived here before.
- No special tourist visas for any particular nationality. Aside from the trans-Tasman travel arrangements which will remain as is.
- Immediate official visit to Taiwan to encourage more trade (I'm biased as I buy a bit of Taiwanese tech), tourism both ways and understand their masterful successes in combating COVID-19 as we could learn a lot ahead of the next outbreak.....because this will happen again....
- Official statement supporting our friends in Hong Kong in their fight against modern facism.

EDITED - duplicate post somehow happened

Easy. Steal a march! Given recent outpourings we all understand the government needs to increase its revenue markedly. The tax take most certainly will play the major role. The people of NZ are entitled to know what lies in store over the next three years at least, and how it will affect them. National claim to be the party of economic prowess, they continually promote they are better equipped than Labour to lead the recovery. Therefore, put a clear, coherent and viable plan of their proposed tax regime on the table as early as possible for the electorate to digest, approve and vote on.

'The tax take most certainly will play the major role' ... will it though? The soft 'national' voting cohort is essential to secure the treasury benches as Peters exits. Ardern is pursuing a triangulation strategy to attract the centrist voters for whom tax is a critical issue. And just as she is buying election day support from middle NZ by paying double benefits to the newly middle NZ jobless she will proceed very carefully on tax solutions to fund NZs burgeoning debt. Kicking it down the road while interest rates are so low will keep middle onside.

Yes there is a threat in there, latent but still a real threat. There was a great deal of tax restructuring left on the shelf by the untimely and ungrateful 2009 defeat of the Clark/Cullen lot. Is that now to be dusted off under the smokescreen of the impact of CV19? The electorate got wind of it prior to the last election causing an eleventh hour U turn by the Labour hierarchy. Given the present economic adversity facing all of NZ, both National and Labour have a duty to reveal to the people of NZ precisely, what their tax policy will be if they gain power at the next election.

Determining with any degree of reliability what the post C19 NZ economy will look like is fraught. Even govt officials are struggling, with the latest treasury projections already looking too optimistic. Robertson is still at 'best guessing' stage and to suggest Muller & co with their limited resources should produce a detailed tax plan in this fast moving environment is unrealistic. He is already trying to position this as a contest of cabinet depth and experience as opposed to a fiscally dry debating contest.

Yes therein lies the problem. Latest treasury predictions looking too optimistic. At the time of that announcement it was not difficult to digest them with quite some skepticism. In times of uncertainty it is beholden on governments to provide certainty to their people. Elderly are now finding earnings from savings becoming meaningless. Previously well employed are now unemployed. Well managed household budgets have been blown asunder. This is exactly when the high flying earners in the fiscal areas of our civil service should earn their spurs. There has to be some seriously good planning undertaken and it is the responsibility of those elected to government to extract, interpret and progress that information into policy. Playing politics in a time of crisis, about who has got the strongest forward pack is regressive nonsense, no use to anyone other than politicians who just want to score and kick the goals. As the caption correctly and succinctly explains, substance is needed, and fast!

'high flying earners in the fiscal areas of our civil service' ..... over the last 20 years NZs labour productivity growth averaged 1.4% pa to an OECD average of 2%. Our health sector lagged significantly at 0.8% and the education sector at negative 1.4%. About as high flying as AIRNZ.

high flying earners refers to those individuals in the upper echelons of what used to be called public servants but who are now executives of all shapes and descriptions. Or as a Southland farmer years ago liked to describe them as shiny arses. There are salaries and packages that would make your eyes water. And like any AIRNZ pilot a crisis is exactly when those well rewarded credentials are to be proven.


A Party that does not believe in State intervention to come up with a plan. Ha.
A Party that loathes government borrowing and thinks plan ought to be to pay it back via austerity.
Lastly, a Party so obsessed with word "business" it forgets that it is the majority that buy what businesses are trying to sell, that make up 70% of the economy.
national has past sell by date mantra and no approval for anything Labour proposes, which is designed to cushion the blow. We have bad joke of National chiding Labour for not spending fast enough.
National exists for 2 reasons: firstly to stop labour doing anything redistributionist and second to make top 30% richer. That formula and raison d'être never changes

"..Buyer beware. In the past, Muller’s adviser Matthew Hooton used to repeatedly belittle Jacinda Ardern’s credentials for leading the Opposition by asking - what has she ever achieved in politics?, At the time, Ardern had spent her entire political career on the Opposition benches. Well, Muller has failed the Hooton Test by managing to be almost invisible – without legislative initiatives of his own and devoid of a public profile – after spending six years in Parliament, and three of them in government."

Then there is Nikki Kaye's almost identical to Ardern's path to the top

Nikki went to the UK and spent 4 years working in public and private roles. So not quite the same as Jacinda.

So...mostly public career?

Give him a chance, it takes time to learn how to Work The System.
Only been on the outskirts, till recently..
Not a National supporter any more.
I thought Labour was Working. But they allowed Money created out of nowhere and ripped from Savers pockets too. That is not Working, that is a crime in any ones...."Banking System" Seems crime does Pay. We learnt it from the GFC.
Maybe National can work it so Labour is rewarded. I doubt it. I doubt we can turn the clocks the days when Honesty was rewarded.

OOOPS Double Dipping.?? bad...slippery fingers.

Headline says it all. Well said Jenee.
Not as united as they might say...
Kaye showing the sort of in depth research she does..."was based on something,some other MP told her..."
Kaye defended the diversity of the team, saying the party took Māori education extremely seriously and Muller had three women in his top four.
When asked why she had described Goldsmith as Māori she said this was based on information an MP had told her but she would have to check with him.
Ousted deputy leader Bennett exclaimed "Paul!?" when asked about his description as Māori, but said it was a matter for the leadership.
"The new leadership have chosen their top team and they are the ones who are answerable for it."


This article is so dumb. No they should not rush, that is what Labor would do. They should take the time it needs to assemble a quality plan, and present it when ready. Ive never voted National but this reeks of a hit job write up. The standards of are in the dumpster if the last week of nonsense is anything to judge by. Perhaps they are taking their own medicine and rushing to print?
p.s. why am I having to read nonsense about white supremacy? This is tabloid level dribble.

Labor? An Aussie?

No I'm a Kiwi, I've just only voted left, but appreciate the typo note.

Sheesh,they've had nothing to do for 2 months,in Mullers case,6 years...and he hasn't got anything to offer up yet?

National has had a huge changing of the guard. They have swung from the conservative right all the way to the centre, almost left learning. Look up Nikkie Kayes history.
Once you realise whats actually just occurred youl understand why they are effectively starting from scratch.

Well maybe they should have been a bit more prepared.

But it's easy to see why they weren't - they panicked in the face of losing their jobs, rather than having a sensible strategy planned out, or getting Bridges to stand down.

This ain't tiddlywinks.

I agree, national are also mostly incompetent. But there is a more central cluster of MPs at the top 3 of national now. It will result in a new flavour of policy. I welcome that. I assume this election is forgone but it all feels like a healthier tone is soon to come from national. More accepting of liberal social policy like gay rights and the environment. That coupled to reasonable center right economics could plausibly become such a different party it could look to the greens in a couple of elections time.


why is a 'Make America great again' hat, linked to white supremacy?

As much as it's good to have a caring society, socialists seldom give good outcomes, if ever.


Seriously? You really felt the need to ask that? And comparing the outcomes of this pandemic, the USA is not even in the game, and will suffer very badly for a long time.
It would be interesting to see how socialist policies operate without interference from the likes of the USA. No extremes are good, but democratic socialism seems to work pretty well.


democratic socialism is rule by people who think they know better than you.


I think he actually means countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland etc. NZ is probably able to be included in that group as it stands.

Scandinavians have an interesting attitude, I still think they are heading for trouble. Hard working, Smart, diligent, monocultures, still socialism is throwing them a curveball.

I wonder if all that socialist free education made them smart? And if you believe most righties, socialism should be making them lazy not hard working.

They trust their government to always do the right thing and be right, most of my contacts expect the opposite from ours. If their governments said you should all get vaccinated they all would, our outcome would be different.

Isn't our education all from government controlled schools?

Your statement can't be verified so it's almost completely useless.

My daughter lived in Sweden and loved it, son in law is Norwegian. My daughter who is left leaning had two days in regional hospital recently, came out telling everyone to get health insurance.
We are fairly well over to the left of center, yet our schools and hospitals don't appear to give the same outcomes as Scandinavian countries.

Youl need to provide more information because NZ ranks extremely well on most measures that matter:

Education Index:
1 Australia
2 Denmark
3 New Zealand

You say AJ's statement can't be verified so therefore useless, then you provide Wikipedia as a source. Haha absolute gold!

It's actually the human development index produced by the UN, sourced from here:

3rd - good one.

Try looking at the PISA studies (, and you will see how we really stack up on the global front.

You should also look at them over time, we have been consistently slipping for years.

Yeah, we should spend more money on education.

Being a teacher should be considered a job for top achievers to aim for, not a job for people who can't do anything else. Improve working conditions and pay for teachers by 30% overall and build up a culture of excellence in teaching.

Pay the good teachers much more than the also rans.

We're nowhere near left of centre - we're slightly to the right. The debate of where centre actually is lost all meaning when most western countries became devotees of neo liberalism.

Youl need to explain to me what you mean because it doesn't seem that way to me and I am left-wing.

Andrewj , you seem to be sending mixed messages on social democracy. I am swedish and generaly right leaning but have social conscience.

more me just having a conversation and trying to keep an open mind to learning new ideas. A police friend in Sweden tells me immigration has been a disaster, that there are many right wing people in Sweden very opposed to immigration. I'm not well read on social democracy, I've never been a fan of the idea.

Yes immigration is a big problem in Sweden.

Sweden forcibly sterilised the worst 25000 of their indigenous population on the 60"s and get half of their power from Nuclear... could name some more policies you might be keen to follow? Comparisons are pointless unless you look at all aspects.

I'd like to get half our power from nuclear. Where do we sign up?

They are not actually socialist, they are capitalist countries, they have free markets and the means of production are almost entirely private. But i understand what you mean, however redistribution and social institutions tend to deliver low crime and very happy populations.

1 Finland
2 Denmark
3 Norway
4 Iceland
5 Netherlands
6 Switzerland
7 Sweden
8 New Zealand
9 Canada
10 Austria
11 Australia

There is a commonality in that list.

Essentially mixed economies, best of which understand what socialism does best and what capitalism does best and operates with parts of both. The biggest issue we have is the political to-ing and fro-ing over what should be done by the collective and what should be left to the individual.

That's probably more accurate though most production is still private. Either way seems to be a recipe that has worked.

There definitely is commonality. I think I’m with you that left leaning, capitalist (non crony) governments seem to get the best outcomes both in terms of wellbeing and economy. It’s hard to know why this isn’t common knowledge. The US says it all; such natural and historical advantages yet they seem to be stuck in the past and going backwards very quickly.

The sole reason the US went backwards under Obama is he pushed socialist policies such as Obamacare- sort of an NHS style system. Trump is fixing all of that. Also most of these European countries are slowly going bankrupt - take a good look at Sweden.


Goodness me...

On the contrary, that seems to apply as much whoever is in charge.

Whereas these days unfortunately the word "socialism" seems to have become a broad catchall for "anything I don't like" or "hey, they're giving the money to the wrong people".

Because white supremacists sometimes wear them. You know, the same way wearing a blue top means you support gang crime. I hope that clears it up for you.

Depends who you are calling socialist (I would argue it’s a scale not a Boolean).
If you mean the NZ Labour Party, what about those 9 years where Clark and Cullen managed a thriving economy and paid back loads of debt, or this Labour Party that put us into Lockdown which many (including myself) considered an overreaction yet now looks to be allowing us to go back to our normal lives much quicker than anywhere else.

I think his socialist comment is just a throwaway sound bite, I think his main point is about the hat.

Cullen overtaxed using the tailwinds of global growth - then blew it all at the end with a massive reversal and spending splurge which Key inherited and would have bankrupted us in 5 years if not stopped.

After lambasting Working for Families as "communism by stealth" National only kept on maintaining and increasing this communism, as well as communist redistribution of subsidies to property investors. (I use "communism" in the Facebook / John Key sense here, i.e. where muppets apply it broadly to anything the government is doing that they don't like.)

Because people with "Trump derangement syndrome" have the ability to draw a pretty long bow...

The Fonterra experience is not necessarily something to harp on about. Listened to the following presentation over ther weekend. Very interesting.

Institute for Governance and Policy Studies News and commentary Apocalypse Cow: audio & powerpoint
Apocalypse Cow: audio & powerpoint

Audio recording of Peter Fraser's IGPS lunchtime talk on the crash and burn reality of Fonterra's business model

Having watched Todd Muller in the House this afternoon, Ardren has it all over him. As with his predecessor, she not only answers the question put to her but also the next question her opponent will ask before he asks it; and yet he still does!
Surely, a skilled politician would have the nouse to say something like “You’ve touched on XYZ, but what does the Prime Minister say to ABC?”
If we had thoughts that Muller could be John Key 2.0, that’s not likely from what I saw today. More like Simon Bridges 2.0….

Thank the heavens he's not John Key. His tepid leftwing chops, and in particular those of his Deputy, are what may save National longer term.

He's Simon Bridges but without any personality.

I disagree - Muller 2.0 of Don Brash ;)

You should listen to Maserati-Mouth Hosking go after Ardern every Tuesday at 7:10 am.
He blusters and bullies - yet in two years he has never once bested her

He needs to address what is breaking over us.

As do the media.

Forget 'brand', forget POD, just ask him how National will address the Limits to Growth, and what pathway they suggest we follow to become a sustainable society.

My betting is not just that he'll duck the question, but that you will choose not to ask it. :)

“I’ve run businesses. I can read a balance sheet and a profit and loss account. I can tell a good one from a bad one,”

I read his bio. He got his break working as CEO for a company his dad founded. He worked for Fontera. He studied history and politics.

He doesn't really have any background at all in entrepreneurship nor finance.

To be blunt he's not exactly the kind of guy you would hire to run a company let alone run a country.

I genuinely hope he is better than he sounds.

That isn't correct; he was GM of Grower Services, a division of Zespri.

GM is an operational role it's not CEO.

GM's of divisions have a sound understanding of business economics.

I'm sure some do. Those that have an accounting qualification for example or at least those that have studied finance.

Most of a job is learned on the job. All GMs will basic business financial literacy. There is almost no doubt he can read a profit and loss etc.

This is the first of the no doubt many to come clickbait journalist urgings for Muller to come out with policy quickly. Which is exactly what he ought not to. Any one with senior executive experience knows that the midst of a rapidly evolving existential threat is not the time to be setting up ponderous Ardern style committees to develop policy. Credibility and depth to best steer us through the monster storm bearing down is what will focus voters minds. Flashy talkers in front of the camera but who don't have a team with depth behind them will be undone when grim reality stalks mid NZ suburbia.

"Ponderous Ardern style committees" like the covid 19 response?

I am really proud of Jacinda and support her, but it's notable how she was extremely slow to close the border and it cost us about 10B.

Difficult choice with 40,000 kiwis repatriating, no chance to quarantine all of them. In the end she made the right decision. Either way there were costs. In the end, having faith in the majority self isolating and doing the right thing was borne out.

We were lucky it arrived here so very late compared to elsewhere. Arden capitalised on the lucky hand we were dealt - I'm sure Bill English wouldn't have acted quite as soon.

Obviously let the kiwis in but she did little to police it. Military recruited in as quartine officers to deliver food and support to mandatory home isolation of returning kiwis.
That's my flavor of not losing 10B.

Where does your "10B" come from?

That was the estimated cost of the lockdown, i think it was something like 25% of GDP for level 4 and was like 15ish% for level 2. Something like that.

Oldbloke. That's unfair. Any health emergency committee would struggle with its minister located on remote Doctors point beach in Dunedin where internet coverage is patchy.


For me the election is all about jobs - and most particular job creation opportunities. Government needs to get into employing people in a big way - by establishing a few SOEs.

We've got raw wool we can't sell - so put a shovel into the ground now and establish a major production facility. Make wool garments, rugs and blankets affordable again. Set our NZ designers onto the task of creating patterns, translate them to hand knitting - teach knitting free in all the community centres around New Zealand.

Then we've got thousands of Kauri trees that will never recover from Kauri dieback. They need to be logged and processed. Again, build the plant as an SOE and model our own version of a NZ Ikea.

Then there is hemp and hemp product production. Again, money needs to be spent on processing facilities. If they are there, farmers will grow it. Same goes for nut processing.

What I think every government aspirant needs to be is unafraid of setting up the businesses and becoming the employer. The current PGF funding model isn't what is needed as they look for councils and others to 'match' funding. No time for that - we just need new industries to be established with haste.

We're all going to be affected by unemployment - jobs, jobs, jobs needed and the government is best placed to take on the capital risk at this moment in history.

I don't think SOEs are necessarily the way forward but I do believe that barriers which encourage production in the country are a sensible measure. We have to start producing "stuff" and creating jobs not dependent on construction.

Reason I suggest SOEs is that they are the model of government ownership of businesses.

They are certainly one model. During the GFC we saw a lot of stakes taken in financial institutions in the UK and elsewhere. In the Asia FC we saw Hong Kong buying a huge chunk of listed equity (albeit as a by product of protecting the HKD from a hedge fund full frontal).

The issue I suppose with SoE is that noone has any skin in the game. Whilst it's not an ideal solution I'd prefer to see private entrepreneurs building businesses with govt help.

Glitzy. You mean like private construction firms putting up kiwi build houses under government direction. That worked extra well, eh.

You have a point. But what would you suggest ?

Government should build them - a joint venture with the Polytechnic sector as both employer and instructor of the apprentices.

My point was this governments dire record in direct enterprise management and oversight. I agree with you and Kate that in this rare set of circumstances governments must assume capital risk as if they don't the necessary big projects won't happen. But for the short term only. SOEs have proven poor long run capital managers with the increased return on just 51% of the power generators equity vs previous full ownership an example. They also have a lousy record at picking winners. Even unfettered Shane Jones struggles to identify projects worthy enough to burnish his political ambitions. How proponents of more direct state involvement believe a low productivity bureaucracy will somehow magically transform overnight to Roosevelt new dealers and outshane Shane, is fascinating. A NZ resurrection of the polish shipyard syndrome is inevitable if the Twyfords of this world believe they have what it takes to run commercial enterprise. Direct government equity ownership is unavoidable but creating new government managed enterprise just to soak up labour will deliver a 2020 version of the fun 1930s sugar bag days. Robertson is trying to give business low interest loans without much success because banks as gatekeepers have already set their debt covenants with their customers and additional state subsidised money would ratchet up the risk profile of existing loans. Other methods must be found to get the banks on board as they are the only institutions equipped to pick the winners and manage the risk.

One of the key reasons Kiwibuild hasn't worked is because the houses were built by private sector developers who NEED a profit margin (typically 20-30%).
If the government is the 'developer', but they use private sector builders, then the govt obviously doesn't need to make a profit.
Those 630K 3 bedroom townhouses, then become 480-500K...
And wham! The programme works, because the dwellings are actually much closer to some semblance of 'affordability'...
Not rocket science!

Bureaucratic frictional inefficiency drag will quickly consume any profit margin savings.

And what happens to the private sector developers when they're being outcompeted by a government producing a product 20-30% cheaper than they can hope to?

They go away. Tough bickies. A few developers disappear. Most of the jobs are in the design and construction anyway.
Most of them are struggling at those lower price points anyway.
No policy is without it's costs.

I'd prefer to see private entrepreneurs building businesses with govt help.

That makes no sense as then the profits of the taxpayers help are fully privatised. And all the people who work for the SOE have skin in the game - that being their ongoing employment. Same as hospitals and schools - teachers, nurses and all other employees are very invested in getting good outcomes for the public.

Doesn't it depend on how the govt help is structured ? If it's an equity stake or loan with equity kicker the public purse is compensated.

Sure you could structure along the lines of Crown Fibre Holdings - but not so sure the public actually got much of the benefit - no cost of capital during the build out and an $11m discount on sale to one of the consortium partners;

In this case there were specific technical jobs with specific expertise existing in the market - so the model you suggest made sense. It could be a very good model to join up with existing private sector forestry operators to selectively mill the kauri, for example.

But in creating new manufacturing jobs in the economy on a large scale - much of the training (as machinists, etc) will need to be from the ground up. Therefore, full Crown ownership makes sense.

Government startups have a history of failure but I still like your idea. Any ideas as to why they would not fail like so many in the past?

What government startups are you referring to - then I can explain to you why they might have failed.

Most of the SOEs I can think of are still going strong or sold off to raise cash for the government. Solid Energy being an exception (extreme head office largesse) but from what I saw, the nail in the coffin for them was John Key deciding they had to purchase the assets of Pike River.

I found a few but was surprised to find the substantial majority were sold as profitable entities. Mostly I ended up thinking the sales looked like mistakes. Only makes me like your idea more.

private vs public sector. Hmmm. I recall being surprised at this when studying:

About 50% of private businesses fail within 5 years of start up.

Should we accept the same failure rate in public sector start ups?

Agree with you Kate about using our resources but think we should use smart technology. Our daughter finished a honours degree in textile design last year, not fashion. You tell her we want under floor isolation with a,b,c properties from wool and she would set this up or program a commercial machine to do it (no knitting needles required ;)). Did she find a job in NZ? Yeah but minimum wages. Besides her Dad and I, everybody told her she never find a job in her field. Went to Perth and after hard 6 month found permanent job in her field at a local company. Loves it, good pay, company car, phone, laptop. Essential worker and well looked after. I think NZ lacks innovation and thinking outside the square and we are not very good at looking after our young and give them room to fly. Too much focus on short term profit vs potential in my opinion.

Yes, I appreciate no knitting needles required for commercial product applications :-).

And you are so right - with a degree like hers she should have had more than ample opportunities in New Zealand - but our problem is our private sector entrepreneurs aren't textile goods manufacturing oriented - more software, entertainment, graphics, architecture, etc. oriented.

The government needs to get involved in building our manufacturing sector/capability for a whole lot of reasons... not the least of which we hardly build/make anything anymore!!!

Well, government and central bank as exemplified by MPs' focus has ended up pushing most money into easy property instead of productive, innovative enterprise. That's a key problem.

Wool insultation - have not researched cost. Make it compulsory in all new public built housing? Cost...

Our house has Terralana underfloor. Seems to do the trick?

I'm guessing he will want to open the borders as quickly as possible to man dads business...

Apata,Muller left his role at Zespri to take up the position of CEO at Apata Ltd in January 2006.[6] Apata, a Bay of Plenty company specialising in post-harvest operations, was founded by his father and others in 1983
Applications for the 2020 season are now open. Please read the preapplication information below before applying.
Background: Apata Group Ltd has been part of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, since it was first established in 2007 and before that the AIP scheme where we first recruited staff from Malaysia and Thailand.
The RSE scheme helps Apata Group Ltd meet the labour shortage in the Bay of Plenty during our kiwifruit seasonal peak times. The scheme allows us to employ overseas workers to pack our crop when we do not have enough New Zealanders to fill our nightshift vacancies.
RSE workers come back every year between the months of March to October for our main Kiwifruit packing season for periods up to 3 - 7 months at a time.
Apata has recruited RSE staff from Malaysia and Thailand for 10 years now. We have also recruited from Vanuatu for 9 years and Fiji for the first time in 2016.

Very interesting. Thanks for the post.


I truly hope National's economic policy that Muller had in his pocket as reason to roll Bridges, but now is waiting on his team to come up with, is more than:

1. High volume cheap imported labour
2. Selling NZ land and food supply chain to foreign ownership
3. Removing employee and environmental protection to privatise profit and socialise cost

Muller seems like a nice guy, and generally quite impressive. But in interviews he struggles at times, maybe he will improve with time.
I'm not convinced he's party leader material, although he could be a very good minister.

Jenee. Robertson is not conservative. At the first trouble he is spending like no other has. Any only part of it is covid neccessary.
We see zillions mentioned as the solution on some item. Without clear problem definition, or proposed solution. We just see the dollar number.
Eg a billion thrown at DHBs. Good money after bad.
But it's the old radical method. The more people you can have dependent on government whim, the more they have to vote for you.
Robertson has now slipped the leash.

I agree, Robertson has appeared to panic, throwing money around instead of a clear focused and thoughtful plan

He is buying time.

Past September he can do what he likes. Until then he is setting up the pretext - we will be a heavily indebted country, we have bills to pay... I'm sure we can see where this is all going.

Neither the hat nor the make up of the front bench will have any effect outside of the leftist hell hole that is Twitter.

I wounder if his "Clinton" badge stands for murder and corruption

Should stay low and do absolutely nothing, let Ardern run the show and take a fall.
Do not feed an economy rebuild plan that the government can take.
If it works, Ardern takes all the credits, otherwise she can always say the plan was proposed by Muller.
Plus, nothing is likely to work in this crisis.

Have the Labour pollys taken the 20% pay cut they promised yet?

Good article. The National party is doing well to stay in opposition. I have been a national supporter but they are making it very hard to vote for them. Labour are not doing too bad a job with stimulus and supporting the businesses with wage subsidies etc. Can we please forgo the next election and have some kind of advisory board made up of some national party to bring some business acumen into the recovery plan. The election is all but a foregone conclusion with labour between 50 to 60% of the votes. Muller can sit in opposition with his MAGA hat on with his Maori mate, Goldsmith haha

A National Party Working Group, you say?

I don't understand the repetition in media and commentators that National = business accumen. There is nothing in their line up to suggest this. is so.
Same as National know the economy, just one of those things that seems to be said without any validation.
I am not saying Labour are any better, just curious why the phrase is used so much without any evidence.

Welcome to faith based politics.

The MAGA issue in the news reminds me that while in America I bought a Vote Trump 2020 MAGA T Shirt. I wore it on Facebook explaining it was made In Honduras a Nd I was drinking a bottle of Mexican Corona. I lost a few Facebook friends over that and learned some people just need to lighten up, get the irony and have a laugh.

"During his first question time in parliament as leader, Muller quizzed Ardern on why she hadn’t given businesses affected by COVID-19 cash payments, arguing the wage subsidy was essentially a payment to workers'
No Todd, please be honest. It's a payment to businesses, so they can afford retain their workforce.

Apparently having workers doesn't help businesses. I guess our productivity is going to go way way up now that Muller has worked out the secret that allows businesses to be profitable without employees to do the work.

Weird statement wasn't it?
Payinmg a business to pay the employees means spare money to use elsewhere in the business (or not paying staff), the outcome is money kept in the business but with the bonus of keeping workers for a period at least.
I thought the idea was smart instead of just giving cash for any use

Wouldn’t an obvious touchstone be pointing out the gaping loopholes in the Foreign Buyer Ban? If Auckland’s housing bubble stays inflated in the face of Covid economic carnage and you see buyers purchasing like fundamentals don’t matter, you know it’s time to agitate for a free and fair market again.

Has it been kept inflated by anything other than Reserve Bank efforts to do so? Volumes have been way down on previous times. Foreign Buyer Ban at least seems to have helped rather than hindered the market for more NZers.

Some background to Todd Muller's business experience. Did a degree at Waikato in political science and history. Good start for business experience. Worked for kiwifruit company Zespri as Industry Relations Manager
from 2001 to 2003, then as GM Corporate and Grower Services from 2003 to 2006. Always interested how one gets these jobs with that sort of degree. Followed by CEO at a family company. Then Waikato Uni councillor 2007 - 2014. Jobs for almer maters with connections to the National party? A stint as director for Crown Research institute 2011-2014. Jobs for young Nats? Two roles at Fonterra between 2012 and 2014, neither of which seem very business orientated. Then in 2014 off to politics. Coincidentally Nicola Willis now shadow minister for housing has a degree in English and a post grad diploma in journalism, also ideally suited as a business orientated degree. Started straight off in politics and surprise surprise ended up at Fonterra in 2012. Appear to be an old boys or should I say old persons network here. I suppose the only thing going for them is they've worked in the real world but other than that so much for their business experience.

nigelh: from my long experience I haven't seen any correlation between a business degree and political leadership. I don't know what Jacinda's academic background is but she's a brilliant communicator when you compare her with any other leaders. And wouldn't one say that communication is an important facet of leadership?
But I can tell you that there is absolutely no correlation between academic degrees of any type and business success. From my South Auckland schooldays in the 1960s, of the two highly successful businessmen, the one who now has a huge business both here and in Australia had at least 3 attempts to pass school certificate, and the other who developed a chain of branches throughout NZ only just scraped through school cert. In fact I can think of 2 or 3 others as well with similar 'academic success stories'. I do know quite a few 'degreed' people that have had success in their professions, but that is a very long way from being a business success.
That Muller was CEO of a family company doesn't tell us could have been the case that they gave him the job just to give him employment; I've seen this many times; family gives son job in the business they built up because he is otherwise unemployable. It's the actual person who starts and builds up a successful business that deserves the credit not in most cases the son or nephew who is given a job in it.

I actually think that if all of the diverse and important skills required of a Prime Minister, communication ranks ahead of all of the others as being the key to success. The job is largely to explain to the public and the media what the government as a whole is doing.

nigelh: from my long experience I haven't seen any correlation between a business degree and political leadership. I don't know what Jacinda's academic background is but she's a brilliant communicator when you compare her with any other leaders. And wouldn't one say that communication is an important facet of leadership?
But I can tell you that there is absolutely no correlation between academic degrees of any type and business success. From my South Auckland schooldays in the 1960s, of the two highly successful businessmen, the one who now has a huge business both here and in Australia had at least 3 attempts to pass school certificate, and the other who developed a chain of branches throughout NZ only just scraped through school cert. In fact I can think of 2 or 3 others as well with similar 'academic success stories'. I do know quite a few 'degreed' people that have had success in their professions, but that is a very long way from being a business success.
That Muller was CEO of a family company doesn't tell us could have been the case that they gave him the job just to give him employment; I've seen this many times; family gives son job in the business they built up because he is otherwise unemployable. It's the actual person who starts and builds up a successful business that deserves the credit not in most cases the son or nephew who is given a job in it.

I seem to recall an item that may be relevant in today's dire straights.
With all the money currently promised for the future of mankind, plus its Housing Policies, it may prove worthwhile reading again.
I think it was under a National the time. Please note the Date.
May be just what Muller would need to get back into power to sell himself.
A pretty good spokes woman. Just the ticket.

Pretty funny

Press gallery journalists are feasting on the fresh meat that is Todd Muller. His straight-shooting approach is what makes him the guy you want at your BBQ, but it’s also what makes him susceptible to being baited by journalists fishing for news.

This sounds like why the PM spends all her time on facebook, the journalists are driving themselves into irrelevancy. The PM is just like Trump, copying how he has a social media base. Just like Trump but on facebook.
The covid 1pms were never about reporter questions (otherwise they would all have been answered). More about reaching over and into the online watchers.

TM and others, just need get into their own production, again witness the terrible video link Campbell gave TM. Shows the lack of production values, funding that Campbell has.

Looks like the reporters are after TM more of a last ditch expression/ plea for relevancy, because the PM, pays them just childlike attention.

Question for reporters. Why is it more important for TM to have an economic plan, when the current government does not have one.
Reporters are asking TM the questions they wish they could ask the PM.

Mind you it does confirm the worth of the Stuff business. $1.

National just need to utter the word "economy" and they will have more of a plan than Labour! You need to look past the facade of our smiley, hug-loving incumbent to reveal the lack of substance behind her. There's about seventeen empty seats in Cabinet and around 30 empty seats outside! We are not a nation of teddy bears; we need more than cheesy slogans, helicopter money, patronizing reminders the we need to be kind, and a warm embrace. We need an economy that keeps people afloat. Hugs don't pay the mortgage.

Is that you, Todd?

Is that all you've got? Oh come here - give us a hug.

You are saying that Muller is likely to be tarred with the same brush that saw Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson sweep to crushing victories? Okay, that seems like a winning strategy.