Thursday, 6 October 2016

Sins Of Omission: Why Phil Twyford's Most Recent Post Fails To Convince.

Revealing Statement: Why would Labour's housing spokesperson, Phil Twyford, begin his most recent blog post by listing the achievements of New Zealand’s five Labour governments – only to omit entirely any reference to the second and third? As if Walter Nash’s second Labour government of 1957-1960, and the Norman Kirk/ Bill Rowling-led third, which governed from 1972-1975, never existed. Or, if they did, left no achievements worth mentioning behind them.
 
AS ANY GOOD DETECTIVE will tell you, it’s what suspects “fail to mention when questioned” that gives them away. The subjects a person doesn’t want to talk about can tell you as much about them as the things they’re only too happy to discuss. It’s a forensic rule-of-thumb that can be applied with equal success to the utterances of politicians.
 
What, for example, can we deduce from the most recent posting (5/10/16) from Labour’s Housing Spokesperson, Phil Twyford, on the subject of his party’s “housing reform agenda”? Why would a Labour politician begin by listing the achievements of New Zealand’s five Labour governments – only to omit entirely any reference to the second and third?
 
This is what Twyford wrote:
 
“All Governments are defined by the big challenges and how they meet them. For the first Labour Government it was lifting people out of the poverty of the Depression, and dealing with a World War. For the fourth Labour Government, for better or worse, it was modernising and opening up the economy after nine years of Muldoon. For the fifth it was restoring sanity and decency to government and the economy after the nasty divisive 90s.”
 
Extraordinary! It’s as if Walter Nash’s second Labour government of 1957-1960, and the Norman Kirk/ Bill Rowling-led third, which governed from 1972-1975, never existed. Or, if they did, left no achievements worth mentioning behind them. These are serious and highly suggestive omissions. But before we examine them more closely, a word or two must be devoted to Twyford’s characterisation of the fourth Labour government.
 
Most damning of all is that ugly verbal shrug, “for better or worse”. It represents the very worst kind of moral abdication. Twyford is perfectly aware that for tens-of-thousands of Labour supporters the unleashing of Roger Douglas’s neoliberal revolution was an unmitigated disaster. Whole industries, along with the communities that depended on them, were devastated by “Rogernomics”. For those Maori New Zealanders employed in the nation’s processing and manufacturing sectors, the changes signalled the onset of chronic economic and social pain. Thirty years after the “modernising and opening up” of the New Zealand economy, the consequences of the fourth Labour government continue to blight Maori lives.
 
Twyford’s choice of the words “modernising” and “opening up” are also highly revealing. Both expressions are positive (especially when placed alongside their antonyms “antiquated” and “restricting”) and Twyford’s use of them can only be interpreted as a vote of confidence in the fourth Labour government’s actions.
 
Having examined the “worse” side of Twyford’s “better or worse” dichotomy, we must also examine who had cause to experience Rogernomics as something “better” than the economic regime which preceded it. The financial and property speculators, asset-strippers and importers whose political contributions filled Labour’s coffers in the 1980s certainly had reason to sing the praises of the Rogernomics revolution. Curiously, Twyford seems less keen to solicit their support in 2016!
 
Twyford’s essentially positive assessment of the neoliberal policies of the fourth Labour government, coupled with his equally positive comments about the fifth, provide the explanation for his unwillingness to so much as mention the second and the third. Like the rest of his caucus colleagues, Twyford wants nothing to do with the nation-building policies of Labour leaders like Arnold Nordmeyer, Phil Holloway and Norman Kirk.
 
His aversion to the economic ideas of William Sutch and Wolfgang Rosenberg is even stronger. The whole notion of import substitution and state-led investment in new industries produces only synchronised eye-rolling among the current crop of Labour MPs. The party, under Helen Clark, may have restored “sanity and decency to government and the economy after the nasty divisive 90s” (although a great many people on the left of New Zealand politics would dispute Twyford’s rosy assessment!) but that does not mean Labour has the slightest intention of embracing the economic nationalist policies of the second and third Labour governments.
 
It is this refusal that makes Labour’s flagship housing policy – Kiwibuild – so disappointing. Were Labour committed to constructing 100,000 state houses over the next 10 years. If what was being proposed was a dedicated construction force, trained, paid and equipped by the state, and with the capacity to order construction materials in the volumes local and overseas suppliers require to reduce their prices (it currently costs $NZ1,300 per square metre to construct a home in New Zealand, compared to just $NZ600 per square metre in the United States!) then Kiwis could have some confidence in Labour’s promises to build affordable homes. But all Twyford is prepared to say is:
 
“Since the 1980s a generation have convinced themselves Government is not capable of doing anything right. That you can only trust the market. We are going to change that mindset. We are going to do it in partnership with the private sector – but we are going to build 100,000 affordable homes for first home buyers.”
 
Note that well: “first home buyers”. Note also the price of an affordable home in Auckland – approximately $600,000! Labour’s “partnership” with the private sector reduces Kiwibuild to little more than a giant welfare scheme for property developers – in whose pocket the party now so clearly nestles. John A. Lee, the Labour firebrand entrusted with Labour’s original state house construction programme, wouldn’t know whether to laugh … or cry!
 
It is not difficult, however, to imagine what a political detective might say:
 
“Philip Stoner Twyford, you are charged with hoodwinking the New Zealand electorate. You are not obliged to say anything (and, quite frankly, if this is best you can manage, you’d do better to keep your mouth shut) but your failure to acknowledge, when posting, the achievements of the second and third Labour governments, and your refusal to condemn the betrayals of the fourth, will certainly harm your defence in the High Court of History.”
 
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 5 October 2016.

15 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Considering we produce a lot of wood, and most of our houses are made of wood, I'm never quite sure why they cost so much. Now some of it obviously is paying builders – hopefully – a decent wage. But it can't be all that surely? Considering Alibaba will sell you a kit set house for somewhere between US $150 and US$300 a metre? With free postage :).

mikesh said...

I think the point of his speech was that it was Labour governments which brought about change. Whether those changes, and in particular those wrought by the 4th Labour government, were good or bad ones was not really relevant to his argument so he chose to accept that there may be well be differing views these questions.

Polly said...

How can it be $600 sq ft US $ 1300 sq ft NZ? is it local and/ or government bureaucracy?.
Tyford, Salmond and Little tried to pull the wool over NZ eyes with the Chinese surnames rort, when they know full well that the root cause of excessive demand for Kiwi real-estate was Helen Clarks 2008 FTA with China, clauses 138&139 give the Chinese, resident or not, the same abilities as Kiwi, Australian real estate investors to buy property. We now have Kiwi real estate company(Ray White)with offices in China selling NZ real estate thanks to Labour and the 2008 FTA.

What will they spin at their 100 year conference?

Twyford, Salmond and Little all speak with forked tongues, desperately trying to convince us that they are the future, they are not ,what they are is the National lite political party led by a National lite leader with a national lite caucus.

Trump could learn from these scroundrels.

greywarbler said...

mikesh
What a nice softie you are. Your slogan is no doubt 'Always look on the bright side of life' dah dah, di dah. I'm reminded of the mealy-mouthed supposedly Christian quote in a church newsletter once received.

Headed Promise Yourself it has the words:
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile....To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble. Christian D. Larson an American New Thought Leader d.1954. (Did you guess, from USA. Written soon after WW2 it doesn't offer any working hypothesis to prevent a return event.)

Early Christians would never have got their religion established if they were so wet, thoughtless and spineless. The Pilgrim's Progress wasn't about having a beatific smile all day, only the brainwashed and mentally challenged can achieve that. Which of these describes Phil Twyford and his gang.

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
Last year when construction prices were in the news I think it was Ngaitahu who did a timber prices comparison with US, and found that one lineal meter of 4x2 treated no1 Framing cost $1.00 there and about $4 or $5 here. At that very time I was sending Radiata logs off to export. average prices to me at Tauranga about $120 per cubic meter. The % recovery of sawn F1 timber from a good log is about 55% with a bit of no2 thrown inl; So the recoverable F1 from cubic meter of log was worth at Mt Maunganui $120x100/55 =$218. There are 200 lineal meters of 4x2 in one cubic meter , so still in the totally unprocessed log ,one recoverable lineal meter of 4x2 was/ is worth 218/200 = $1.09 . ... it has yet to be milled, dried,dressed,machine graded , preservative treated and distributed to outlets. The export log price is a global market , NZ sawmills have to match the price to access logs. There is something wildly misleading about these price comparisons. Perhaps US massively subsidises it's building materials, or maybe building firms were/are selling stock in US at 25% of production cost as they were/ are going bankrupt and being liquidated, I don't know, but otherwise that $1 4x2 price was utter bullshit and maybe the current quoted comparisons are too. They certainly need some searching analysis.
Cheers David J S

greywarbler said...

Polly
Give Helen Clark a break about the agreement with China. It was a diplomatic and economic triumph and has given us some profile in the world instead of us being like a flat whoopee cushion with the bums of Australia and the USA firmly fixing us in our place at the bottom(s) of everything.

It gives us another line of communication into Asia and breaks down the western white wall and English-speaking hegemony ruling us just a little. And when it comes to dodgy dealings with Asian overtones, we have already been vaccinated by dealing with Australia, and survived, just.

The Free Trade Agreement with China causes problems, but hi-ho problems are what we have for breakfast daily, the one with Oz hasn't gone our way noticeably. No doubt if they chose, our pollies could have established controls over the immigrant effect on the house market, immigrants would have to build a place to NZ regulations (hah hah, that wouldn't be too much of a burden), and then they would have to occupy it or lease it, or...?

Jens Meder said...

Unless we revert to lowest quality slum housing, then regardless of what government there is, for more housing to be built requires a higher savings rate for the capital needed to build housing or whatever extra to what we are building already, whichever way you look at it -

so why not focus on discussing the best and most acceptable ways of raising our national savings rate in a way that also raises our individual prosperity levels universally ?

Why is there no concern nor vigorous discussion on that, if it is true, that without saving for housing, there is no (adequate standard)additional housing ?

Kat said...

Jeez!!! maybe just like John Key Twyford should have just commented on the Aaron Smith situation instead. Then the usual suspects can all nod in unison.

mikesh said...

greywarbler
I would suggest you pull your head in and warble up some comments pertinent to the main argument instead of burbling on about the earliest christians' anatomies. Twyford was merely arguing that Labour governments have been agents of change. He pointedly avoided opening up a discussion on the merits/demerits of the policies of those governments,interesting though such a discussion may have been, as this would have distracted from his main contention.

David Stone said...

G S
The timber for a fully timber lined and clad house from piles to roof framing would cost $250 to $300 per M2 . I would be happy to supply but I would need 6 months notice as I am a 70 yr old one man band, and machining and treatment have to be contracted out to others so delay has to be allowed for.
Cheers D J S

Polly said...

greywarbler, I was talking about honesty from the Labour leadership, its MIA.

Nick J said...

Good research Dave Stone. I constantly hear that per meter building cost only 2/3 of NZ in USA.....apples for oranges?

peter petterson said...

It continues - Chris Trotter v the labour Party.

BlisteringAttack said...

When it comes to this National government, they will be known for being the 'tinkerer government'. Mere administrators.

Potted and faffed about; didn't really achieve anything important regarding social policy.

jh said...

Michael Joseph savage gives apartments the thumbs down
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a42UnqSKMyo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbgu8fluKug