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Chris Trotter argues that Labour has thrown out the old Political Rule Book, and that the new game they’re playing is no longer called 'Democracy' but 'Holding On To Power At All Costs'

Chris Trotter argues that Labour has thrown out the old Political Rule Book, and that the new game they’re playing is no longer called 'Democracy' but 'Holding On To Power At All Costs'

By Chris Trotter*

What has happened to the old Political Rule Book? This government appears to have found a new edition: one which the rest of New Zealand has yet to see, let alone read. Actions which the old Political Rule Book once rejected as electorally disastrous are being implemented with a jarring and inexplicable confidence. What’s going on?

Let’s begin with the Labour Government’s decision to impose a three-year wage freeze on three-quarters of the Public Service. Under the old Political Rule Book, such an action would have been deemed extremely unwise. That rule book would have explained the sheer folly of effectively decreasing the purchasing power of some of the Labour Party’s most loyal supporters. This is hardly surprising: “Look after your electoral base.”; has always been the first and most important rule of electoral politics.

The old Political Rule Book would have further explained that to unfairly treat people regarded as heroes by a broad cross-section of the electorate is also a very bad idea. New Zealanders are three months into the second year of the Covid-19 global pandemic. That they have come this far without enduring the horrors witnessed in countries overseas is attributed in no small measure to the public servants who have positioned themselves courageously between their fellow citizens and the virus. Telling doctors, nurses, police officers, customs officials, military personnel, health ministry staff and teachers that they won’t be getting a pay-rise for three years, is likely to strike most Kiwis as not only grossly unfair, but as evidence of the most perverse ingratitude.

There was, of course, an entire section of the old Political Rule Book devoted to New Zealanders deep commitment to the idea of “Fairness”. It reiterated the scholarly argument that most New Zealanders feel about fairness the way most Americans feel about freedom. Threaten an American’s freedom and watch out! Fail to meet the ordinary New Zealander’s expectation of fair treatment and, again, watch out! Given the Government’s behaviour, it would appear that this whole section is missing from the new Political Rule Book.

Exactly what the new Political Rule Book does say is the puzzle so many Kiwis are struggling to solve. Once again, judging by the Government’s behaviour, it would appear to discount the old rule book’s warning that extraordinary events, giving rise to extraordinary outcomes, are most unlikely to be repeated. The 2020 General Election, for example, produced a result which the old Political Rule Book declared to be impossible – i.e. a single political party winning an absolute parliamentary majority. That was not supposed to happen under MMP, where coalition governments are the norm.

Not only must we suppose that the new Political Rule Book has radically reassessed the likelihood of a single party winning a majority of parliamentary seats, but that it also argues in favour of extraordinary outcomes being repeatable. More specifically: that the great red wave of electoral gratitude that washed over New Zealand in response to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic can, indeed, be replicated. That all those tens-of-thousands of National voter who defected to Labour in 2020 can be persuaded to vote for Labour again in 2023.

The new Political Rule Book also seems to have had second thoughts about the political rule-of-thumb advising Labour against allowing itself to be outflanked on its left.

Without an absolute majority of parliamentary seats, Labour would be forced to rely upon the Green Party for the numbers needed to govern. Now, the old Political Rule Book warned Labour in the strongest terms not to have a bar of this. (A warning which the Helen Clark-led Labour governments of 1999-2005 were careful to heed.) The rationale being that such overt dependence on the support of a much more radical party would aggravate voter concerns about “the tail wagging the dog”.

To be fair, that same old rule book also cautioned the Greens against allying themselves too closely with a more conservative political entity. Such an alliance was likely to create potentially fatal tensions within the party’s own ranks. (This was, indeed, the common fate of NZ First and the Alliance, both of whom were torn apart by internal conflicts over the party’s fraught relationship with its larger partner).

Assuming that our guesses about the content of the new Political Rule Book are correct, we must assume that the Labour Government is proceeding on the basis that it is no longer imperative to look after its electoral base; that perceptions of behaving unfairly no longer matter; that even if holding onto all the sunshine socialists of 2020 turns out to be impossible, governing alongside the Greens comes with no electoral downside.

We would probably be further justified in assuming that the new Political Rule Book takes into account the recent spate of right-wing populist victories across the West. In this new political environment, policies aimed at inflaming right-wing prejudices should not be summarily dismissed – not even by ostensibly left-wing parties. Not when they could produce an expansion of the party’s electoral base. Labour need not fear the defection of their traditional supporters because, seriously, apart from the Greens, and maybe the Maori Party (both of whom are committed to coalescing with Labour) who else are their supporters going to vote for?

Certainly a new rule of this kind would explain why Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins were willing to announce a policy calculated to win the enthusiastic backing of public-servant-hating conservative voters. Their new rule book may even have recommended throwing such a sop to Cerberus in advance of the Minister of Labour, Michael Wood, announcing the imminent introduction of Fair Pay Agreements – a policy aimed directly at the party’s trade union supporters.

Cynical in the extreme? Well, yes, obviously. But that may be the key difference between the old Political Rule Book and the new.

The old book was written on the assumption that political principles are important, and that, accordingly, political consistency from political parties must also be important. At its core, the old rule book accepted that the game it was regulating was the game called “Democracy”. That’s why it enjoined politicians to put the convictions and interests of their core supporters at the heart of their policy decisions.

The events of the past week – so at odds with the old rules of the game – would suggest that not only have the rules changed radically, but so, too, has the name of the game itself. What our politicians now appear to be playing is a game called “Holding On To Power At All Costs”. It is predicated on voters having a smaller set of principles, and a larger collection of prejudices. A greater propensity to complain, but a reduced willingness to do anything more than post their displeasure on social media. Most important of all, it assumes that voters are rapidly losing the ability to act consistently from first principles; and that they no longer expect their politicians and political parties to even try.


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

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103 Comments

"A greater propensity to complain, but a reduced willingness to do anything more than post their displeasure on social media"

Agree that people in NZ normally do not take to street and protest as in other countries but It does not mean that extreme reaction is not possible in NZ. It just need one catalyst .....may be soon.......important for people in power to be shaken as otherwise they are happy in their ivory tower and will take people and their voice for granted as being just another rant.

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We protested very hard in the early 80s, Springboks tour and anti- nuclear.

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Let's see how hard the pushback if any is against Te Puapua when the details are finally revealed.

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Nurses are furious with this Govt. Many are leaving the profession, some for other careers, many for Aus. Replacing highly skilled and well trained nurses withy overseas graduates form third rate institutions has been the solution to date. High work loads, more professional development, rubbish conditions and dysfunctional, demanding feral patients are not helping.

What a shambles.

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rastus. any data for your assertion nurses are deserting en masse? I read in a recent report from the retirement village sector that they are struggling with retention due to the pay differential between them and the public health sector resulting in significant nursing staff outflow to public hospitals. A close friend who is at senior level in a DHB was saying recently that retention is pretty good at the moment.

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Anecdotal from many front line real nurses- not from dubiously qualified recently arrived rest home nurses. The fact the dhb is dipping into that pool says it all. Is your senior friend in mngt or medical? Sounds like the out of touch mangers who have no idea as to what’s going on.

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I think Brendon, who I understand to be a nurse, has backed this up.
It's disgraceful. Rather than hiring thousands of extra paper pushers in Wellington, the government should have focused on increasing the number and improving the conditions of frontline workers.

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I can tell you that the 60 bed Psychiatric Acute Admitting Wards at Hillmorton, Christchurch have never been fully staffed since I started working there in 2013.

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My friend has detailed real time insight to their DHB hard number data at a senior level. The staff retention scenario has changed markedly to the positive since earlier last year although my friend says inadequate nursing ratio cover remains a serious risk to patient safety.

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I think you missed the point about quality of the nurses.

Good medical nurses leave the sector or go to Australia, and are replaced by lower quality nurses from rest homes. To someone in a senior position who understands quantity and not quality, this looks like a good situation.

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"Good medical nurses leave the sector or go to Australia, and are replaced by lower quality nurses from rest homes."
Disgraceful comment,without any foundation in fact.
Many if not all aged care nurses are highly skilled and are adept at dealing with the full gamut of patient care,if not they would not be employed by the DHB.
In fact the workload and complexity of task is in a lot of cases reduced by leaving aged care and undertaking work in a hospital ward.

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A typical woke response from the uninformed.
Your comments are so far out of touch that you clearly have no hands on experience in the medical or rest care industry.
The rest homes have for years been the refuge of those nurses who could not get placements at DHB's. The DHB's taking the top graduates to train as Registered Nurses (RN's).
Those who could not get in to the DHB's forever struggling to advance medically.
You don't learn much in a rest home. caring for an elderly person is lightyears apart in skill and competency than an acute medical ward.

.

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Correct - it is not uncommon for the aged care sector to employ the bulk of its nurses directly from overseas, often low-wage countries. The number was estimated to be a third of the 5,000 nurses working in aged care back in 2019.

The aged-care industry also threw a massive tantrum when the median wage for residence applications was raised by from $25/hour in 2019 to $25.5, complaining about the unaffordability of such 'challenging' (2%) rate hikes.

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Not woke ,just aware the tosh you spout is drivel.
Jog on,you clearly don't live in the real world.

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Your friend sounds like he/she is part of the problem.

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Ha. Doubting Thomas here. Show me the data and I will believe.

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‘Show me the data’ said the office bound financial controller whose data lumped rest home ‘nurses’ from dodgy third world colleges in with highly skilled acute care dhb Nz registered and trained nurses. They deliberately don’t let their data differentiate.

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Speaking of financial controllers, the going casual rate for 'qualified' tax accountants in Auckland is $24/hour, thanks to a conversion pathway introduced by CAANZ to chartered accountants from India.

The pathway was eventually closed off after receiving an 'overwhelming' response. Ask any local university graduate on how challenging it has become to land an entry level job in a major city ever since.

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I heard a union rep on the radio say the settlement between DHB and nurses is over multiple years and made sense when each step was supposed to be adjusted for CPI every year. That's 3k less in gross pay in the 3rd year of freeze compounded at 40-hour/week (nurses do a lot of overtime).

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Meantime they get poorer relative to the rest of the workforce exacerbated further by inflation.

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Public sector employees earn 35% more than private sector employees on an hourly rate basis. Even after adjusting for a higher ratio of specialist roles in the PS, there is still a significant premium.

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That 35% compares apples with oranges. As per an MBIE report, 18-25% of NZ's workers are on minimum wages and the government hires but a tiny sliver of them. There is seasonality of work in tourism and agriculture, which is why this is more a range than a precise number.

Headhunting firms run periodic remuneration reports comparing salaries by occupation, specialisation, etc. across various sectors. The clear winners are skilled workers (I ran it for engineers, IT/data and finance) financial services, mining, utilities, followed by public sector.

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In my particular specialist Healthcare role, I could work at a private centre down the road for a significant pay rise. I don't because work conditions are better here - if I wanted to move I could go to Australia for a 50-100% pay rise doing the same job.

Other professions may vary, but in my case for a job requiring a specific Scientific Masters degree and 3-4 years on the job training we are not paid ridiculous wages.

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Nurses top the popularity lists for sure. But there are many nurses in quite cushy jobs and earning much more they would in a demanding job in industry or commerce.
As per middleman above. "Public sector employees earn 35% more than private sector employees on an hourly rate basis."
There are droves of dedicated hard working folk in the private sector earning not much more than the minimum wage. Without much security either.
Example. How many 'civil servants' lost jobs in the covid disaster ?

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Does "hourly rate basis" mean that public servants are better able to stick to their contracted hours and/or receive TOIL whilst private more likely to be frowned upon if you aren't doing 50hours/week for your 40hour/week contract?

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That totally agrees with what I am hearing from the work front.
I hear the nurses are white hot with anger. They have been treated like fools for so long now that they have reached the end of their tether. The first offer in their pay round was a one off $800 payment and the second a 1. something percent rise. I hear they are going to totally ignore any claims of a wage freeze and take the gloves off this time. God help the health system and the government. Try running a hospital if they totally refuse to work night shifts or weekends without their goodwill cover. The Govt are going to end up with egg all over their face.
The hospitals are loosing staff hand over fist. Many are taking up work in Australia by leaving NZ or fly in/out contracts. Many are just leaving because they are just sick of being treated like crap. Many are moving away from front line care into easier positions.
It was interesting to note that the Philippines government recommended that their people not move to NZ for Nursing work because the proposition was so poor.

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During the last Labour administration I had the good fortune to work in a contracting role for a major NZ university undertaking nursing training.

Every second nursing student planned to leave for Australia immediately upon graduation.

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Hard to see why you wouldn't when you can earn up to A$72 per hour. You can understand why people are picking up Fly in fly out work from NZ

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Totally agree Rastus. It is not just about the nursing wages either, your comment about feral patients is spot on. I retired from nursing at 60 because I realised I’d had my fill of assaults, I worked in mental health. The turning point came after one assault on me and the crown prosecution service sent me a letter saying no charges would be laid against the patient as it was unclear who was responsible. This was despite evidence of injury, my having witnesses and there was also video footage. Nurses are going to be flocking out of NZ nursing. There are high numbers coming into nursing as people entering nurse tracing are up after Covid but they will be in for a big surprise and probably head to Australia. You also can’t run a health service with newly qualified nurses, you need experienced nurses.

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Nurses have been furious for a long time. Understaffed and being called in on days off. Thanks a lot Alan Gibb wherever you are.

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I'm not convinced the pay freeze has anything to do with votes at the next the election. It's only half a year after the last election (who outside of the public service is going to remember this in two years) also this is at best one upping National (vote for us instead as we hate the public services more) what's the hypothetical case where this matter enough for a voter to change their vote.

This is Robinson balancing the budget but quite why he went for the pay freeze I'm not sure. Maybe as punishment for poor performance, he does see to be openly dissatisfy with (small) parts of it recently.

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It just doesn't make sense any way you slice it. It's about balancing the budget, but they don't even know how much money it will save!?

I can only assume the greens are thrilled, at least in terms of political positioning. I've always been put off by some of their more batsh*t ideas but the need for left-of-labour is becoming acute.

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The Greens are being prudent and patient. They realise that Labour will need them next time to form a government, hence cabinet positions, and likely quite a few strategic ones. Don’t think Labour will be unhappy about that prospect either. They can introduce even more radical and unexpected policies under the smokescreen of coalition necessities. If you think what’s going on this term is irregular and divisive, well just wait, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Sadly, I agree with this, with no credible centre-right political party it really is a fait-a-complit'. I can't see voter turn out being high next time, other than to ensure they can actually govern alone to avoid the above scenario.

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True. No centre-right party in sight with a plan rebuild our economy on high-value service exports.

The 2 wannabe 'business-friendly' parties are content in maintaining a business environment in NZ that favours short-term gains in housing, tourism and commodity exports.

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Yep. I agree they have always had a few stupid ideas, but I voted for them last election. Labour are centrists, even slightly right of centre. Anything left of centre they come out with is just talk.

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IMO Labour are a centrist party now and can't really be said to be center-left. This pay freeze is the clearest signal of this yet.

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The pay freeze is purely a political stunt. Trotter nails it in describing it as a play to the blue voters who went to the red side. Only thing he gets wrong is attributing all of that switch to Ardern's supposedly deft handling of C19. He's right insofar as propaganda susceptible righties are concerned but not for the large conservative team who see through her ministry of truth 'went hard, went early' BS and prefer the assessment of hard nosed medical experts such as Des Gorman ( mostly dumb luck) but who saw nothing but ineptitude and shambles in the nats at election time. What is uniting both blue tribes currently however is deep alarm over the surreptitious rollout that is underway of recommendations in the He Puapua report that Ardern unsuccessfully tried to keep secret. Look for more such decoy chaff from labour strategists.

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I may have missed something, but blue voters I know are disgusted by the wage freeze affecting nurses, teachers, cops, etc. Can't see how it's a sop to blue?

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he is spending 1 billion dollars every three months in emergency accommodation or nearly $4Billion a Year-- often paying motels $280 a NIGHT for rooms that were $100 - The teachers settlement was 1.2 billion dollars over 4 YEARS , i imagine the nurses would be happy to settle for even 50% of that emergency accommodation budget over 4 years not one!

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100% True.

Motel business is in demand just like average 3 bedroom one bath house as government needs for emergency house and are paying premium instead of negotiating as the money is coming not from their pocket but is from hard working tax paid by kiwis.

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Got to fund Sepuloni's 50 / week benefit increases somehow. Public sector pay freeze and increased benefits starts to close the gap toward a UBI.

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"It's only half a year after the last election (who outside of the public service is going to remember this in two years)"

You know who the public service historically vote for? Labour.

If this pay freeze is still in place by then, many of these Labour voters will stay home, or vote for the Greens instead. I'm expecting at least a partial reversal, either overt or implied, well before then.

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Labour won because traditional national voters were scared of a greens/ Labour government and a wealth tax -so many voted labour on the hope that labour could govern alone. Those same voters left labour behind on the 23rd March when labour went after their tax deductions. This clearly shows up in the latest poll decline of 4.5% to 41.5% for labour. Those people wont come back just because public servants wages are frozen - they care more about their income than those of others.

Meanwhile the public service and unions are furious over the wage freezes - so labour has now lost its traditional base of supporters who now have zero trust in the current government to look after them.

I will guarantee come the next poll National will surge 3 or 4 % points and labour will fall by that much and then it will be neck and neck with the polling of ACT and the Greens determining who will next form government. Labour has 2 1/2 years to get their supporters back (not easy with a 3 year wage freeze) but they are off to a pretty awful start in their first 6 months.

I'm not sure a government has alienated a country so quickly before.

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Agree. They're announcing policy but not delivering it. Meantime hypocrisy runs rampant.

100000 tonnes of coal for power generation imported from Asia while we do next to nothing to boost generation for the much touted influx of electric cars and growing population. Wont need a building permit soon just a license to excavate a new cave to live in.

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The government is right now conducting a feasibility study for Lake Onslow battery which will store 8Twh of capacity (the entire current hydro system stores 4Twh at peak capacity, which hasn't been reached for many years now) and allow us to run 100% renewable without any coal generation required.

If the government could snap their fingers and have this report finished yesterday, they would.

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Fine idea in one of the many years of purported delivery.

Its going to struggle on the environmental impact alone. Its going to get tied up in consultation for years.

Interesting more eggs go in the already large hydro basket. Not much diversity if in fact the dry year becomes years in the face of climate change.

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Believe read when the Onslow concept was recently raised someone commented here that there was already a feasibility study in place that had come out pretty much negative? As well are the days of the smelter at Tiwai now seen as inevitably coming to an end? Just seems to be a lot of big balls in the air around re electricity generation and supply with the juggler wondering what to do for the next trick.

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I recall Tiwai could be one of the better smelters around the world which should be kept going based on environmental impact.

Bit like NZ farming thats getting a hard time when is one of the more efficient on the planet. But we could always stop sending food to the rest of the world.

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Don't we export 90%? Where would it go?

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I think the study to some point for Onslow hydro scheme was around $30m. Worthwhile doing a pre-feasibilty study and spend some money to see if its worth spending a huge amount. In any event the Onslow project whether a goer or not it can be parked depending on the future of Tiwai. I thought Tiwai departing is a fact? If that's the case all Transpower need to do is upgrade/build new lines and the same for the convertor/invertor stations as appropriate. Perhaps the EA is blocking that and needs the politicians to tell EA to allow Transpower to proceed with suitable oversight from EA.

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The Onslow scheme, if it goes ahead, will begin construction around 2024-2025 and be completed around 2030. That's already anticipating Tiwai closing.

The point of Onslow is to act as a dry-year battery, something that Manapouri's output being made available doesn't help with to a large enough degree to make Onslow unnecessary.

The grid upgrades to effectively dispatch Manapouri's power throughout the South Island are already underway - and in fact had started before the latest Tiwai notice of closure. Part of the delay of Tiwai closing out to 2024 is to help ensure those upgrades are fully completed in time.

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Presumably the Onslow pumped hydro scheme also will require an upgrade of the inter-island HVDC? If we want to retire most of the thermal, which is all in the NI.

ps. I believe the hydro system was full, or very close to it, just over a year ago?

https://www.transpower.co.nz/system-operator/security-supply/electricit…

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More wind power can be built in the North Island, and that's what will replace the coal.

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Works well in South Australia. Also blades are not recyclable.
100s of millions of tonnes of solar panels heading the same way.

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Well, not everything can have quite the same unblemished environmental record as Coal.

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What's going to buffer the wind for a calm day in a dry season? Current NI thermal capacity is much more than HVDC transfer. Maybe NI hydro could manage it, but... depends on how dry.

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Lake Onslow. Should have similar generation potential as Huntly. When the wind blows strong in the North, the power flows South to refill the big wet battery.

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Sure, Onslow has similar generation to huntly, but it's on the wrong island. Peak NI demand, what at least 4000 MW? Geothermal plus NI hydro flat out, about 3000 MW. HVDC transfer max 1200 MW. Not much margin for error there.

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Its OK.
Auckland city council is draining the mega city of all its energy needs.

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This is what they are proposing, but the losses will be ridiculous. It means you will have line losses both ways, down the country and up the country, which means we will lose something like 20% of the electricity just in line losses. Then you have the pump and friction losses of pumping the water back up before getting it back down again. I can't imagine you will be anything less than 50% loss of power doing it this way.

Best bet is to put the battery near the power source in the NI. If they build Castle Hill in Wairarapa, there is a tonne of land out there with some high enough hills (like the Tararua's) where you could store water and not incur the line losses. I think that's the only way the system will be viable or else we will be overbuilding like crazy.

And regarding Onslow, I would have though the nearby Manorburn dam would have been a better site? I think it's both higher and closer to the outflow of Lake Roxburgh. From being in the area, I also think it would hold about the same amount of water if they put a couple of decent sized dams on it, like they would have to at Onslow.

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Right. So wind at castle hill, smaller pumped hydro nearby to buffer the wind (days/weeks not many months), and onslow, if built, covers dry year risk but not so much with the buffering. In that case the current HVDC capacity is probably sufficient.

I think inclusion of the Manoburn basin in the Onslow scheme is one of the options, close to 10 twh stored using both.

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Yep, that's what makes sense to me. However Manorburn is better geographically located and I think would be less controversial (anglers/huts etc). At 10 TWH, that's far in excess of what's needed right? Weren't they looking at 4-5? Maybe Manorburn and Castly Hill pumped hydro first and Onslow later if required would make more sense.

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Too bad the prospects for castle hill don't look great. I guess the economics are spotty because there's already enough wind generation around that spot prices drop when the wind starts blowing.

I think the likely design range for Onslow is 5-8 twh.

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Hydro has dry years. Wind is variable day on day but very reliable year on year.

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Yes but look at the timing, 2 and a half years from now Labour can promise a huge uptick in public service pay grades to win all those voters back

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In trying to please all are screwing themselves.

100% Agree that Labour won because many did not want Labour / Green government and so to keep Greens out voted Labour and many Asian Kiwi, who were traditionally national supporters went for Labour only to keep Greens out.

Jacinda Arden government is producing half baked policies, which not help them nor NZ, one example is speculators. In order to target speculators went after entire investor community instead of targeting Interest Only loan, which is mostly used by speculators and in absence of Silver Bullet would have acted like one.

We are Waiting and Watching, if Mr Robertson will allow Mr Orr to get away with his policy of Wait And Watch.

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Possibly, but National are really struggling to be a credible party. There is a clear lack of competence which matches at least that of Labour. I would vote for a National party that had competent (with CV's that talk to their ability to achieve and lead) members but for the moment I will stay home, or perhaps vote TOP again as a protest vote.

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Yeah TOP like party not a bad idea if everyone is in experiment mode be it Robertson or anyone....so why not citizens.

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It seems like TOP are largely competing with the lefty vote, with some exceptions. It's getting crowded on that side

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Wouldn't be surprisedor unhappy if Nicola Willis steps up to top job in National.

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Probably a better bet than Luxon at this point, he'll want to keep his powder dry for 2026.

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Principles are a liability in NZ politics. Taking a principled approach to an issue makes it very easy for an unprincipled party to present you in a negative light. Much easier to take the line that will be consistent with the wider NZ media narrative.

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The wider NZ media narrative? You mean the one bought and paid for by the Labour government.

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Well, yes

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Difference between politician and a Leader.

One Leader could change the lives of generation to come best example is Singapore PM - Lee Kuan Yu.

Jacinda Arden had an opportunity and a perfect platform but missed it as politics corrupts and has to be very clear and strong to rise above to lead ( should have the wisdom to see through and be careful with people surrounding them - so called advisors and experts)

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She runs the danger of becoming John Key 2.0 in that regard.

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John key never really spent any political capital.

Labour just spent a bunch on landlord interest deductibility, and arguably fair pay agreements. Also the pay freeze but I'm expecting that to be at least partially if not wholly reversed by the end of the year - guess it still counts as a cost though.

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The first thing that came to mind when I saw the headline photo:

Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

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Tweedle Dumb & Tweedle Dumber .... the only thing dumberer than those two are the Labour loyalists who still cannot recognize the shambles this government is , the mess its creating across our economy and society .... and the mainstream media who're still enthralled by Queen Jacinda ... a summer wedding ... Gisborne .... oh gosh , how wonderful ....

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drip drip drip feeding wedding titbits to keep the limelight away for another 9 months --- then it will be baby time for the next year

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Superb piece.

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I think the public sector pay freeze only makes sense as a fairly cynical ploy to, as Chris says, soften up the public before the much, much more consequential announcement of wider changes in employment policy.
Also keep in mind that public servants have a history of going on strike under Labour governments, more than National ones, because they know that Labour will find it harder to refuse them. I think the pay freeze is an opening gambit in the negotiations to come, trying to set expectations lower -- then, if the unions can only extract 2% or something later on, it won't look like such a failure to union members. So it serves two purposes for two different audiences, and now the inexplicable can be explained.

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The "unions" seem to be going down the identity politics route instead of fighting for everyone. Union membership is so low that every union member is a minority.

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Low union membership is a good thing. I can't think of a single industry or instance where the unions haven't either gutted, completely destroyed - or turned into a laughing stock (Teachers etc.)

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The just announced wage freeze on public sector employees does not affect me or anyone in my family, but I am not simply disappointed, but outraged that a Labour government should see fit to do this.
They haven't even bothered to cost the possible savings on the spurious excuse that some 'exceptional circumstances' wage increases may occur. Does it not embarrass them that this is supported by ACT?

I am equally unhappy that they seem intent to impose unionisation on an economy still trying to deal with the effects of Covid. Now that at least was signalled as Labour policy but at the very least, the timing is awful.

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Welcome to the Undemocratic Socialist Republic of Aotearoa.

The wage freeze is a smack for Frontline workers after covid last year. Wait for Marama's rent controls to mitigate.

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Labour always drifts Right in office.
Jacinda is a rationalist technophile not an ideologue.
She wants to retain the 14% of national voters she peeled off at last election and is more comfortable with their needs than those of 8% who vote Green

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In other words. Never let principles get in the way of good politics?
But do they end up loosing the respect and support of every body?

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Grant Robertson has bought the inflation narrative. He is afraid of cost push inflation so he is trying to make sure wage rises don't get out of control.

He shouldn't be afraid of inflation, he should be afraid of deflation. He should be spending big money on social housing now. Increased debt now to reduce poverty and increase lower income productivity can be inflated away with moderate inflation over time. You can't inflate debt away in a deflationary environment.

If you are afraid of debt now just wait until you have debt in a non-growth environment. The secret is not to try and pay off debt now but to use the money you have borrowed wisely, to use it to increase productivity and keep yourself out of the deflation zone.

Deflation means an ever increasing debt in relation to the nations productive capacity. Concentrating only on the govt's finances rather than the nation's capacity to service debt as a whole will weaken New Zealand's ability to roll over future private and govt debt.

I don't see any sign of local councils being helped with infrastructure funding in the immediate future, just restructuring of bureaucratic entities to give iwi more power to extract rents from developers and landowners. So it seems that the obstacles to local development all over New Zealand at local govt level will remain. It looks to me that there are more roadblocks to progress being put up which means there will be less growth in the future, fewer disposable funds available for NZ citizens to do things with in the future and more social discontent.

The Labour govt is doing what the Obama govt did in the US, letting opportunities to improve the nation slip past them when they had the ability to make positive change and then living to regret their past inaction. If deflation arrives on their watch then our society will be well and truly stuck.

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Pay freeze for essential workers and a leg up to unions though the "Fair pay Agreement". I really don't get it (honestly). Can someone please explain to me how this makes sense or is "fair" ? Thanks

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You really have to wonder who's interests Labor serves.
They are chucking enormous amounts of cash into the economy with the result house prices have disappeared well beyond the horizon for average New Zealanders. On the other hand they want to crush wage rises and any hope that the same average Kiwis will ever catch up and have any hope of owning a home.
The only logical thing to do is get the hell out of NZ. The only more obvious message from the government would be for them to pay peoples transport costs out of the country.
Maybe it is part of some cunning plan that eludes my comprehension.

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The only sector that is getting money shovelled at it is brown.

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Thought Hopkins was callous - if not being dishonest - when he said that many in the state sector had annual increments due so this was not a wage freeze. When there is a predetermined salary step due and those steps are frozen then that is a wage freeze.
His statement is likely to cause more anger than if he had just shut his mouth and left it at a wage freeze.

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Some backpedaling hitting the headlines now. Mealy mouthed stuff though. This government doesn’t even know what it has done, let alone what it is doing or going to do. Looking really hapless and hopeless on all points of the compass, something they themselves, don’t appear to possess.

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Indeed. It's not a good look at all.
Starting position.
Not a wage freeze. Just a wage hold.

Oh lordy....

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They have implemented a pay freeze now so that in 2023 they can go to the election with a promise to immediately give all public sector workers a 10% pay increase.

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This government has lied, deceived and are in the process of racially dividing our once great country.

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Am I the one who wonders if the wage freeze is a genuine austerity measure? Could they really be that desperate to cut back. Because its too hard to believe that even dopey Labour would imagine they'd win votes by stomping civil servants during a pandemic and house price hike

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Over time western societies are aging and becoming more conservative (small 'c'.) The idea that you could get elected on a truly progressive policy platform is laughable. Also the self-preservation instinct of those in power is nothing new.

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Well I don't know? Nobody really likes civil (un)servants?
The PSA is the shitiest union of them all, and I think this is 'straw man' stuff. Their excuse for not doing anything for nearly 4 years!

They're waiting for another global crisis to come along to roll out more big plans for the next 30 years!

By the time that they learn how to count up to 120 and then realise that they have a majority government and absolute control of parliament. It'll be just in time for the election in 2023!

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Remember Labour traditionally bloats the public service, and the current lot are no different. Recent employment figures quote strong hiring in Wellington in public sector roles. Anyone who has ever worked at places like MBIE will attest these are the least productive organisations in the country. Much of the public service is simply a mechanism to fiddle with unemployment figures.

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Mr Jolly's comment reminds me of a quote from a much early time from the then Secretary General of NATO. When asked how many people worked for NATO he famously replied 'about 50%' .

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