Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: In defence of the centre

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  • Sacha,

    Stephanie Rodgers translates her disagreement with Rob's view into contrasting messages:

    "No one should have to work more than 40 hours a week to feed their kids. Everyone has the right to the absolute basics – a warm, safe home, a social life, time off with the kids, good food on the table, good shoes on their feet. Going to the doctor when they’re ill and getting a good education at the school down the road.

    Many people can’t find work, or enough work to pay the bills. When people can’t find work because the jobs aren’t there, when people cannot work because they’re sick or injured or are raising babies or taking care of their parents or grandparents, we have a duty as a community to support them, not make them go hungry and live in mould-ridden housing as a punishment for their circumstances.”

    Instead, we’ve had three electoral cycles of: “Everyone should get a living wage but I won’t actually legislate for it because I support small businesses, but they should definitely try to pay a living wage and I’d pay it to government employees, maybe contractors, depending on the financial circumstances.”

    And: “I support people who can’t find work which is all National’s fault but also everyone has a responsibility to find work if they can because bludgers are a blight on our society but we must help the poorest except the ones who can paint roofs because if you can paint a roof you can’t be really sick I reckon.”

    My examples may be just as cherry-picked and oversimplified as Rob’s, but this is fundamentally my problem with “centrism” or “centre-left politics” as it has been practised by NZ Labour since 2008: it cannot clearly tell voters what it stands for. Because it doesn’t seem to stand for anything.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to ,

    People in government and politics (and the management levels of most/all large companies) generally don't have a clue about technology, they just hear about something and latch on to it: "3D printing matter transmutation! Rockets to space! Jet packs!"

    Consequently, governments can't and shouldn't try and pick winners. They should just provide appropriate economic settings and let people get on with it from the bottom up.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Paul Campbell,

    here's a timely Salon article .... basically our growing income disparity is a symptom of us not handling technological change well - yes the robots are coming to take away our jobs, and if we can figure out how to spread the resulting wealth, rather than creating a 1% and an underclass they we're all going to be better off - don't we all want a 4 day week?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Sacha,

    Nails it.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2120 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Sacha,

    yes Steve I'm that easily fooled. If only we could all have your smarts.

    See, we can agree on some things. ;-)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to ,

    3D printing is one of the fundamentals that allows NZ's RocketLabs to undercut competitors worldwide in speed of production of their innovative electric engines, and lower costs enough to disrupt their whole industry.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Consequently, governments can't and shouldn't try and pick winners.

    This government has picked extractive industries, dairy farming and construction including roads. The results either support your hypothesis or just prove that dunces with a 1950s mindset make bad choices.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • chris, in reply to BenWilson,


    Also, interesting. Hopefully he continues.

    That begged more questions than it answered for me, particular his asides about New Zealand First:

    Conversely, some of the possibly-racist-but-definitely-conservative social policy in New Zealand First would normally be considered right-wing, but the party is currently (unfortunately) considered left-wing.

    I have little difficulty distinguishing between racism and xenophobia and it seems pretty clear to me that New Zealand First campaigns on a xenophobic platform which until now I’ve filed under protectionism:

    This policy contrasts with free trade, where government barriers to trade are kept to a minimum. In recent years, protectionism has become closely aligned with anti-globalization and anti-immigration.

    My attempt to discern whether protectionism is left or right wing have been inconclusive:

    Protectionism is not a policy of left or right, it is a policy taken by governments seeking to protect national markets from third party goods.

    So I thought I’d examine our history, of the first Labour Government:

    The Labour Government came to power in November, reflecting at last the fundamental objections of organised Labour, remained resolutely opposed to all forms of assisted immigration in spite of very considerable lobbying and in spite of the administration’s commitment to the development of secondary industries for which some imported skilled Labour might have been useful.

    Of Michael J, Savage:

    Low wage countries produced goods more cheaply, thus undercutting efforts to lift living standards in New Zealand. This in turn was connected to SavageÂ’s suspicion of immigrants from third world countries who might be prepared to work for lower wages. Increasingly he believed it would be necessary to protect the New Zealand economy, by ring fencing it with import controls, curbs on interest rates, and raising tariffs. Price controls first used in 1915 would be extended so as to ensure that Labour’s experiment in advanced social welfare would survive. Inflation must be suppressed.

    Nek Minute:

    The demand for skilled workers required a solution. In 1946 a few psychiatric nurses were brought out as assisted migrants, and in July 1947 a full assistance scheme began

    However it was under National that the Colombo Plan was implemented:

    Schemes of student assistance, begun in the 1950s, brought young Asian students to New Zealand. In particular the Colombo Plan attracted Malaysians, Thais and Indonesians. A few married New Zealanders and settled. By 1971 there were almost 3,000 Malaysians in the country.

    Then under Norman Kirk:

    Dawn raids were a common event in Auckland, New Zealand during a crackdown on illegal overstayers from the Pacific Islands from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. The raids were first introduced in 1973 by Norman Kirk’s Labour government and were continued by Rob Muldoon’s National government

    In my own life, my experience of leftism and its opposite are muddled but, for the most part things seem to hinge on:

    "Between 1984 and 1993, New Zealand underwent radical economic reform, moving from what had probably been the most protected, regulated and state-dominated system of any capitalist democracy to an extreme position at the open, competitive, free-market end of the spectrum."

    From Labour there were victories such as the nuclear ban, the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986, and the head scratcher’s such as the introduction of charges for tertiary education equaling 10 percent of tuition costs In 1989 and then 969% increase in fees the following year. Labour privatised or partially-privatised Telecom, Ports of Auckland, Air New Zealand, then National continued this trend selling off Tranzrail, Contact Energy. And anyone with both eyes open will no doubt recall the strident resistance from the opposition when whichever of these Governments was in power floated the prospect of privatising yet another entity. It was under Labour that Civil Unions were introduced, and under National that Same-sex marriage was legalised. Under Labour we invaded Afghanistan and assisted in overthrowing the Iraqi regime, while under National we assist in protecting an Iraqi regime. Labour removed New Zealanders’ right to define what constitutes their own private communication:

    private communication—
    (a) means a communication between 2 or more parties made under circumstances that may reasonably be taken to indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the parties to the communication; but

    (b) does not include a communication occurring in circumstances in which any party ought reasonably to expect that the communication may be intercepted by some other person not having the express or implied consent of any party to do so

    National neglected to alter this, but did expand the parameters of (b) with:

    16 Section 16 amended (Certain interceptions permitted without interception warrant or computer access authorisation)

    (1) In the heading to section 16, delete ““computer””.

    but think of the children:

    “Given the ubiquity and celebrity of geolocation technologies, an individual has no legitimate expectation of privacy in the prospective of a cellular telephone where that individual has failed to protect his privacy by taking the simple expedient of powering it off,” Brown wrote.


    Labour had Ahmed Zaoui, National Has Kim Dot Com.

    Though their branding is, red they are not by any significant margin. Hijacking an ideology and supplanting it with a greatest claim: being that familiar brand doesn’t denote left except in an arbitrary relative sense, not when the centre has shifted this far right with nothing in the way of meaningful repeal for decades.

    When Labour party fawners like Rob Salmond begin discussing pulling the centre back towards the left, I’d suggest that they may firstly need a microscope to find some leeway between New Zealand Labour and centre (in any objective cumulative sense), and they might find they’re actually already standing on the wrong side of that equation to get any traction using those muscles.

    Certainly you can’t get much closer to centre in this climate without disappearing down the ideological rabbit hole, which is fine as long as you’re we’re all being honest. Personally I’d like to hear more about how these terms; left/right, translate to policy.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    automation could be a benefit for workers if the resulting gains were appropriately directed.

    An argument I have been repeating for decades.
    We were told back in the sixties that automation would give us more leisure time, all it did was steal our jobs and give the benefit to those that already had the wealth.
    However, it does give a whole new meaning to seizing the means of production. Stuxnet for the people, right on.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Sacha,

    innovative electric engines,

    Not only the electric motors but the turbines and even the two stage nozzles, a part that would be virtually impossible to manufacture by conventional means.
    Of course, our beloved Government did little to help this company as the good ol' US of Eh? felt it would hurt them in some way.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • KiwiBarnes, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    +100, Tom

    Manawatu • Since Aug 2015 • 3 posts Report

  • chris, in reply to Sacha,

    My examples may be just as cherry-picked and oversimplified as Rob’s, but this is fundamentally my problem with “centrism” or “centre-left politics” as it has been practised by NZ Labour since 2008

    Yeah, prior to 2008 things were different. When I think political “centre”. Implementing a surveillance state in which all digital communication is by definition the property of the authorities naturally comes to mind.

    she told media that those arrested “at the very least” had been training with firearms and napalm.

    Democracy as it's become; the domain of the poser.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report

  • Paul Campbell,

    Yes but 3d printing is still just a tool like any other, not even that new a tool it was hampered by patents for years

    Cheap printing lets us make stuff like rocket engines cheaper, but it's never likely to make plastic parts more cheaply than injection moulding in volume.

    (Rocket labs engines aren't really 'electric' they have electric turbopumps which is really doable because of changes in battery technology rather than fabbing tech)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to chris,

    However it was under National that the Colombo Plan was implemented:

    Schemes of student assistance, begun in the 1950s, brought young Asian students to New Zealand. In particular the Colombo Plan attracted Malaysians, Thais and Indonesians. A few married New Zealanders and settled. By 1971 there were almost 3,000 Malaysians in the country.

    Because of the Malaysian Government's active discrimination against those of its own citizens who weren't ethnic Malays, the majority of Malaysians who came to NZ under the Colombo Plan were ethnic Malaysian Chinese, as they were denied the chance of higher education at home. In 1970 this already active discrimination was enshrined in Malaysian law.

    When Labour party fawners like Rob Salmond begin discussing pulling the centre back towards the left

    Salmond appears more than happy to let John Key define the centre.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    reckon biological fabbing will be a bigger game-changer

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to chris,

    "Between 1984 and 1993, New Zealand underwent radical economic reform,

    This has to be taken in context.
    Labour inherited an almost bankrupt treasury after the "think big" projects of Muldoon. In a typical National way someone had a great idea and the supporters of the party meddled with it for their own needs, screwed the pooch and left a mess for others to take the blame for, any good that was to have come out of "think big" went to the usual suspects and the country paid the price.
    The 1984 Labour Govt. started out trying to solve the problems left by the National Party but could not get traction, the usual suspects, again, wanted their pound of flesh before allowing the country to reap any benefit (bloody beneficiaries). Backroom deals had been made in the run up to the election between "influential businessmen" and "Labour's fundraisers" to the effect that when and not if, assets were sold, they would be sold at preferential prices to those backers. The BNZ was formed and sold, only later to be bailed out under Shipley.
    An aside here, the bailout was done around the same time as Ruth(less) Richardson's "Mother of all Budgets" where the vote for Social Welfare cut by $650 million, the same amount as the BNZ was bailed out with (bloody beneficiaries bailing out our bank).
    Douglas rolled Lange and the rest is history, Peters exposed the more underhand tax dodges and corruption in the "Wine Box Papers".
    There was much skulduggery around this time, banks lending at preferential rates for Yuppies to buy options on all those not so squeaky clean bonds and shares right through to, as some suspected, State sanctioned murder.
    All this under a "Labour" Govt. Labour in name only, a Trojan horse if you will.
    To this day National continues to blame Labour for all our country's ills yet claims they can carry on with this selling of the "family silver" because Labour did it.
    An analogy if I may, it is akin to throwing buckets of water around your living room and claiming it is a good thing because the fireman did it, difference is that when the fireman did it, your house was on fire, not just in need of a clean.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • chris, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Thanks Joe, wrt to that cartoon, I'd probably insert Sir Rogernomic's shoulders beneath John Key's feet, but still atop that mountain of cash.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report

  • chris, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Nice analogy =)

    This has to be taken in context.
    Labour inherited an almost bankrupt treasury after the “think big”

    I’ve heard that trotted out as justification for the throwing out of the baby with the bathwater all too often by the monocular, but I’ve usually heard it as a conclusion rather than an introduction, so I’m glad you continued.

    Think Big Projects (from Wikipedia):

    – methanol plant at Waitara

    ( Boom times are back for Taranaki’s multi-million dollar methanol industry, with production set to reach record levels.)

    (Methanex New Zealand has restarted its Waitara Valley methanol plant, which had lain idle since 2005 when it was shut down because of a lack of natural gas.
    ammonia/urea plant at Kapuni (After a year long feasibility study, the New Zealand agri-business is looking at the possibility of building a new ammonia-urea plant to replace their Think Big-era facility in Kapuni, South Taranaki.)

    Three international companies have been shortlisted to tender for the job and will submit their proposals and costings by the end of 2015, Ballance chief executive Mark Wynne said. )

    – synthetic-petrol plant at Motunui

    (At the time of its conception, in the early 1980s, world oil prices were very high. Unfortunately, by the time it began producing in 1987, the prices were dropping, making it redundant. Instead of full production of synthetic petrol, the plant switched to making more methanol. It produced its last synthetic petrol in 1997)

    – expansion of the Marsden Point Oil Refinery

    (The refinery uses a medium-sour blend of crude oil, nearly all of which is imported. Most crude oil produced in New Zealand is light-sweet and is exported to refineries in Australia. Marsden Point produces 70 per cent of New Zealand’s refined oil needs, with the rest being imported from Singapore, Australia and South Korea. The Refinery assets were transferred by the Government to the New Zealand Refining Company Limited, a consortium of the five major petrol retailers)

    – expansion of the New Zealand Steel plant at Glenbrook

    (Over 90% of New Zealand’s steel requirements are produced at Glenbrook while the remaining volume is produced by Pacific Steel, a steel recycling facility in Otahuhu, Auckland.)

    – electrification of the North Island Main Trunk Railway between Te Rapa and Palmerston North


    – a third reduction line at the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, near Bluff
    the Clyde Dam on the Clutha River.

    (The Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter is owned by New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter, which in turn is owned by Rio Tinto Aluminium (RTA) (79.36%) and the Sumitomo Chemical Company (20.64%)

    I’ve always wondered by what percentage our national debt would differ from its current $100b if we’d instead retained all the assets sold by both Governments. It's kind of getting to be part of the furniture now. Given the justification for our fire sale often boils down to little more than - the cost of building these much maligned projects listed above? Just because we hadn’t right then found a worthy chauffeur or encountered favourable driving conditions, didn’t mean we’d not built a decent motor vehicle. I always assumed that the key word in the title of this economic strategy was ‘think’.

    Thanks for your very necessary additions to this chapter Steve.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to ,

    Owning the infrastructure/platform is always better, yes. However, we have a cohort of senior decision-makers who think the phrase means little more than highways.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Aaron Incognito, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Hey. It's my blog. It's blue because I thought it was the best (free) stock colour combo offered by Wordpress for that layout.

    Colombia • Since Aug 2015 • 3 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Aaron Incognito,

    Please do keep writing it, too. I’m interested in what you come up with.

    PS: Welcome to PAS

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to chris,

    Epic! I think you're right if the main thrust there is to suggest that Left is not synonymous with Labour, even if it's correlated. Opposing immigrant labour is an example of an idea that goes with the Labour movement, but is not necessarily socially progressive at all, and to that extent, perhaps not left-wing. It's one of the thrusts of Labourism I least agree with, being of an immigrant background myself. In this case mostly British, in a wave that came to dominate the demography of NZ, but still - I find it hard to say that there was something fundamentally wrong with Maori ever letting my people in here, a consequence I have to accept if I want to turn around and say that, for instance, we should be strongly resisting immigrant labour now.

    And if it IS left wing to so oppose immigration, then I'm NOT left-wing.

    I do think that we should probably control immigration, of course. Laissez faire on it is an extreme position. But mostly it's the migration of lots of money that I'm most concerned about. What color the faces are is something I don't see as my right to dictate anything about.

    But my position is just mine. The political center probably isn't colorblind, and accent-deaf. Do we have a duty to try to move that center? Well, put it this way: I'm not going to move an inch. But I can't stop Labour doing it. It might influence whether I want to vote for them a little bit. But it's one of the lesser factors, frankly, influencing why I don't vote Labour. So long as they're still closer to me on that particular issue than the other parties, then I can see a coalition with them as preferable to one of the other parties, or worse, the other parties ruling outright, as they do now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to ,

    I mean this government and too many of their peers in business have a backwards idea about what counts as 'infrastructure' or how to develop a platform/ecosystem rather than a product.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Aaron Incognito,

    Hey. It's my blog.

    My problem with anonymous blogs is that if you can't stand by what you say then why should I listen.
    Aaron (Bhatnagar) Incognito as far as I know. You see it is a trick of the right to pretend to be left and then screw up, or say you used to vote Labour but now because (insert inflammatory accusation here) you don't. So why should I go up that garden path?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to ,

    a more sustainable infrastructure is a well educated population, kitted out with contempory toolboxes.

    Ah, but... who would then clean John Key's toilet?. You see we have to have poor people otherwise how could the wealthy feel so superior?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

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