Robertson’s task: to build something to be proud of

Three National ministers and an MP proclaimed in Parliament last Wednesday their “pride” in what their government has done on climate change. Really?

The cabinet’s proud record is an emissions trading scheme which exempted farmers and traded in crooked units from Russia and Ukraine plus tentative moves on transport and heating and research on animal methane.

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Immigration is about much more than houses

Winston Peters has banged on about immigration for close to a quarter-century. In the 1996 election it was his salient point of distinction, as Asian migrant numbers climbed.

His party got 13% and he got to be Deputy Prime Minister.

Immigration wasn’t Peters’ only line. He was pitching against market-liberal economics, soothing ageing survivors of Sir Robert Muldoon’s “Robsmob”.

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Keep the revolution rolling? Or bring back the cardigan?

Colin James, Australia New Zealand School of Government seminar, Wellington,
5 August, 2016

This is work and thought in progress. Constructive comments welcome to

A public service serves the public, or should. It is, or is supposed to be, the instrument of the collective public will and interest. When the public changes, or changes its mind, so logically does, or should, the public service.

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Investing in a public sector transition – to what?

Dorothy Adams, head of Bill English’s social investment unit, is from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), has a State Services Commission (SSC) email address and is quartered in the Treasury. Meet the new public sector.

Actually, most of the sector will remain in its various bunkers.

But another different bit is the proposed ministry for vulnerable children (as the New Zealand Herald labelled it last week). It is intended to be able, like the Accident Compensation Corporation, to buy the services it needs for its at-risk children.

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Will band-aids do? Or time for something stronger?

Winston Peters has taken to saying low interest rates discourage savers. He might add: they hurt his primary constituency.

Peters and his ageing cohort will not be pleased if/when the Reserve Bank (RBNZ) cuts its official cash rate (OCR) again next week and later cuts again and, if offshore and onshore trends persist, again. That’s the inflation-targeting scripture and Graeme Wheeler is a priest.

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Time for a local message for national politicians?

In the sidelines of Britain’s frenetic commentary on its Brexit vote has been a debate about the “regions” and their councils. Was London, the capital, too up-itself? Is Wellington?

Local government experts Peter McKinlay and Adrienne von Tunzelmann in their monthly commentary on Thursday quoted Britain’s New Local Government Network director Simon Parker on “the deep social divisions” the referendum exposed: “London sticks out like sore thumb, an island of Remainers in a sea of Brexit.”

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Democracy is about the people, not the leaders

If David Cameron had wanted a guide to the risk he was running in putting Britain’s future with Europe to a referendum, he might have scanned Jim Bolger’s mistake with MMP.

If Australians need help to get over their macho belief that only a Prime Minister with an absolute majority can rule effectively, they could ask Helen Clark and John Key how to do real policy when in a minority.

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National: some big questions in the air

Imagine this coming weekend’s National party conference without John Key, Bill English, Steven Joyce and Murray McCully.

Few, maybe no, delegates will. The party is buoyant, flush with funds and set on a fourth term. The short-term outlook is sunny.

But out in the world there is wind and rain: Britain’s “little England” Brexit vote, Donald Trump’s rampage and many other signs of reactions against Europe’s and the United States’ elites and their conduct of public affairs over the past 30 years.

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