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Keeping 'em honest: A look at the glaring inconsistencies on politicking around the wage subsidy, JobStart and house price growth

Keeping 'em honest: A look at the glaring inconsistencies on politicking around the wage subsidy, JobStart and house price growth

By Jenée Tibshraeny

Consistency. It’s something we humans like. It helps us makes sense of the world and anticipate what’s coming, so we can plan accordingly.

Consistency is key to building a brand, which is of course central to getting people to vote for you if you’re a politician.  

Yet an interview did with National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith last week, highlighted more inconsistency than his pitch to bring confidence and stability would suggest.

Taking from, and then giving to, profitable businesses

Goldsmith critiqued the Government for not tightening the eligibility criteria of the wage subsidy, after the initial 12-week subsidy, to prevent undeserving businesses from getting it.

He couldn’t specify how he would make it more “robust” and “targeted”, other than to say National would look at how, and over what timeframe, a decline in revenue is measured. 

Nonetheless, National is proposing to pay businesses $10,000 for every new fulltime employee they hire, up to 10 new employees, via its temporary JobStart programme.  

So, it’s up in arms over businesses that suffered declines in revenue getting taxpayer support, but is proposing to pay businesses in strong enough positions to hire new staff - regardless of whether they’re supermarkets, SMEs or law firms.

Put to him that there was a time when National was even calling for the Government to give businesses cash payments, Goldsmith noted this was only when things were looking really grim during Level 4 lockdown.

He stressed JobStart was only “one part of an overall plan for job creation”.

“The real driver is going to be that private sector investment and confidence and stimulating the economy more broadly,” he said.

4% unemployment... without huge take-up of JobStart 

Yet with the party pledging to create 50,000 jobs at a cost of $500 million when former leader, Todd Muller, launched the policy, its cost isn’t insignificant.

Put to Goldsmith that it was an expensive initiative, he downplayed it, saying it would only cost this much if it was an enormous success.

Yet National surely wants it to be an enormous success, as it’s also campaigning on reducing the unemployment rate to 4% by 2025.

National’s leader, Judith Collins, during a Newshub debate, said she would claw back wage subsidy payments from businesses that legitimately qualified for the payment, but didn’t need it.

Asked how National would do this, Goldsmith distanced himself from Collins’ comments, made off the cuff: “I think Judith Collins, during the debate, made that point. That would be a very last resort - trying to come up with a legislative, clear clawback.”

Goldsmith was supportive of the current system, which sees wage subsidy recipients published online, with the aim of this preventing businesses from not paying their staff or trying to game the system.

Asked what would trigger National to recoup payments, Goldsmith said there would have to be glaring examples of companies taking huge subsidies, when they'd been highly profitable for the same year. If they weren’t yielding to public pressure to return the funds, National would consider its options. 

Goldsmith accepted National would erode “confidence” if it was to pass legislation enabling it to take back what had legally been received by businesses.

A symptom of changes of leadership, staff and direction

The inconsistency continues with National, which touts itself as being better than Labour with money, having made mistakes in its budget and in ads targeting the Greens’ wealth tax.

Creating policy to appeal to a broad-base, in an ever-changing pandemic environment, is always going to be challenging - especially when you’re an opposition party up against a popular prime minister who’s successfully led the country through a tumultuous year.

But, the inconsistency in policy speaks to the upheaval the party has been through in recent months with changes of leadership, staff and strategy.

While the symptoms of its disorganisation can be seen through these incongruent policies, they’ve also been visible on the campaign trail.

Collins found herself in a tight spot when National was outed for blatantly planting supporters on Ponsonby Road during a walk-about.

She copped flak for the way she went about using her Christian faith (which some of us only recently learnt about) to attract support.

And “Team National” didn’t look that cohesive when someone in the caucus leaked a group email from the party's local government spokesperson, Denise Lee, grumbling over Collins announcing a review of Auckland Council without consulting with her.

Labour - inconsistency between rhetoric and delivery

As for Labour, the issue isn’t about inconsistent messaging. It’s about inconsistency between what it says and what it does.

Its over-promising and under-delivering has been well canvased over the past three years.

Looking ahead, it's disingenuous for Labour’s finance spokesperson, Grant Robertson, to say house price growth is not part of his long-term plan to grow the economy, when the Reserve Bank openly acknowledges this is paramount to its plan.

Robertson has made it clear he doesn’t want to make systemic changes now that’ll risk creating instability and affect confidence.

He should come clean about the fact he isn't going to do anything drastic to counter the side-effects of low interest rates boosting asset prices and thus inequality. 

The inconsistency between Labour saying it cares about things like child poverty, but not making bold moves to address a root cause of this - IE housing affordability, is almost worse than the inconsistency between National’s policies and politicking.

National may appear amateur, but it isn't trying to be all over the show. Labour, however, is choosing to do what it takes to hoard political capital and remain in power. 

See this piece for an explainer on why this writer believes most political parties are too afraid to touch the behemoth that is the housing market. 

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Under so called "democracy" -- Procedural democracy:
Critical issues are like balls kicked from Party A to B and then kicked back from B to A.

Under the Chinese political model -- Deliberative Democracy:
Critical issues are discussed, consulted, balanced by all parties, then an agreement with a time horizon of at least five years is drawn, and communicated to general public. Then, everyone works toward achieving it.

Have to Agree.

X, interested in your explanation of the democratic functions of the CCP.



"Deliberative Democracy". In China? It would be hard to think of a more Orwellian phrase. fact check; China is not and never has been run on democratic principles. What would happen to you if you were to return to China and publicly make comments critical of of the government?

I am puzzled. You make it very clear that you have nothing but contempt for our system of democracy and you clearly admire the Chinese one party system. Why do you continue to live here?

Excuse me, "all parties" in China? Please stop defending an authoritarian dictatorship. You could argue is not communist anymore but capitalist but nowhere close to looking like a democratic system. Get your facts straight.

good article, and agree with " believes most political parties are too afraid to touch the behemoth that is the housing market.".
its is the creation of debt not just low interest rates, and unless we get house prices down to 4-5 times the increase in poverty will just increase.
the only way out is to do both increase supply and dampen demand .

Old house - big section - re-zoned terraced housing. Developer bidding frenzy - now paying over 3 million dollars. Where there was one house, there soon will be as many as they can fit. The seller or inheritor is a multi-millionaire ready to spend. This process is going on at lightning speed right now. There will be a glut of jammed in townhouses in the future that devalue as they descend in to quick built leakers. History never repeats!

Talk is cheap. While we may want that house prices become affordable, it'd hard to find any homeowner (or capital gains chasing slumlord) who would want that value of his/her house(s) go down- catch 22. So, the bottom line is, it ain't gonna happen. period.
At least, politicians wouldn't do it for sure. it'd not happen in a modern democracy.
But you never know, what can happen. who expected that a pandemic would paralyze the whole world at this scale.
we should say, God save NZ :).

How to make comparisons.

We have but one government at a time.
Comparing an existing government, what it says, what it does is fine. Congruence is a core human touch stone.

Comparing an existing government to your imaginary other government is not cool.
Comparing an existing government to what an other government did 6 9 or 12 years ago is poor form, because all the variables are different.

Regarding equivalents.
Finding incongruity in what a government says, and what a government does, is not equivalent to "mixed messaging" where conversation clips are patch worked together, often in order to satisfy the opinion writers cognitive position.


It's not about "facts" and it's not about "feelings" - it's about credibility and unfortunately politicians of any creed have lost all credibility - the emperor has no clothes.

National are corrupt, inept and morally bereft. That's a fact.

Nobody has yet asked which - if any - Party is future-appropriate?

More pertinently, which one could morph to there from here.

And why only address the biggest two? That's a hangover to FPP, as are the 'leaders debates'. There are other options/opinions around - my guessing is that one of them is even closer than Labour, to where we have to go......

We are a team of 5 million? Not really. Could hardly get a team of 15 to combine properly last Sunday in Wellington. And there is the problem PDK the vast majority row their own boat as it suits them best, their individual ambition(s) that is. As Lord Russell exclaimed, something like, it is in times like these that the ignorant are too loud and the intelligent too quiet

Good thought - maybe they're too numerous as well as being too loud.

My old Dad used to say that in the course of a lifetime, you'd expect that half the people you meet would be below average.

But he thought it was worse than that.......


Aye, my father was a professional soldier, an officer. He explained quite candidly that below average troops were not exactly unwelcome. You see it is easier to train someone not to think if that person has not ever done much thinking in in the first place. That philosophy sadly has run through all forces throughout the ages. Culminated in the shameful and shocking Project 100,000 introduced by the USA during Vietnam. It remains so in that you don’t need to dig deep to uncover manipulation of the unsuspecting masses since before recorded history.

Despite a good wee article, Jenée, I suspect that the lack of comment is quite indicative of overall attitudes to this election. Sure, some coalition is gonna get itself Elected, and the Levers of Power will be caressed. But many of us judge that, like the controls on a long-abandoned timber hauler, them Levers aren't connected to much that's substantial.....

If you don't own land you'd be a fool to vote for either National or Labour. Neither leader knew the exchange rate of NZD to USD. Neither knew the cost of a barrel of oil.

The sheeple clap at the idea of wages increasing to catch up with house prices. FHBs would need to work 40 hours per week, earning approximately $109 per-hour for the median-house-price to be considered affordable. Clap Clap go the SheEEeeeple.

Median House Price $685,000 / 3 years (recommended loan-to-income) = $228,333 (recommended annual income)

Recommended Annual Income $228,333 / 52 weeks = $4,391 (required weekly income for affordability)

Required Weekly Income for Affability $4,391 / 40 hour work week = $109 (required hourly wage for affordability)

No mention of interest rates in your calculations. Are homes just as affordable at 20% interest as they are at 2%?

Labour and National should both be hanging from the end of a rope.

They are the same.