OK so a month back I went to a business forum with Bill English speaking
It was the day that he had said goodbye to Li Keqiang. He had also been at Paremoremo Prison earlier that day handing out Literacy Awards. Both events coloured some of his comments.
I have written before about the reception that John Key got at similar events. We are all aware that English has a PR issue - being perceived as a bit grey, lacking charisma and personality.
So it was interesting to see hear him speak having not doe so for probably 6-7 years. He's made huge improvements in the way that he comes across.
He got four genuine rounds of laughter in the first minute of talking. Whilst never going to reach the level of comfort speaking as Key with his aw shucks boy next door blokey goofiness the new PM came across pretty damn well I have to say. Certainly (as expected) was a lot better on detail than Key and less able to produce a sound bite but nevertheless it was a pretty polished performance. He'd come across a lot better IMO if he could simply get some inflexion into his voice which is a bit atonal.
Overall he came across as a really effective, competent manager compared with Key's team leader persona.
I took some notes at the time but I'm having some issues recalling what I meant so apologies if this is disjointed.
So in bullet form
- Profit used to be a dirty word but now people understand the link between a sustainable business meaning sustainable jobs
- Talking about the visit of China's premier he said that a kappa haka group had ended their performance by singing a love song in Manadarin which had left Li Keqiang visibly moved. The lesson being that personal touches create relationships
- The world particularly the developing world view of NZ is uniquely positive
- Few countries combine low unemployment, low government debt, surpluses and a stable government
- Only have to look across Tasman to see that. In the next 10 years the choices for Oz amount to what to cut and how to raise taxes
- In the next 5 years NZ has a set of choices - build infrastructure - reduce national debt faster (NZ's currently 20% of GDP - UK's is 90% Japans 200%) - Improve public services - Distribute benefits of growth
- We want to do a mix of all those but we have to decide what sensible choices we are going to make and we need a strong economy in order to be able to make sensible choices
- We are currently experiencing the problems of growth but we should relish and enjoy these problems because as a country we know what its like to not have growth
- In 2000 Super Fund projections had NZ's popn at 4.7 mill in the mid 40's. Now its tipped to make 5 mill in 2022
- In the last decade the number of over 65's working has gone from 11-34%
- 300,000 new jobs have been created in the last 12 mths
- Businesses can expect growth to continue. Since we came out of GFC we have had continuing growth but there are risks
- China - Number one risk is that politicos are not smart enough to make choices. Not everyone in China recognizes there are risks to its financial system and those that do argue about their ability to handle these risks
- Trump is currently fulfilling market expectations but what happens if/when the bubble bursts and he can't square the circle of tax cuts/curb the deficit and massive infrastructure spend
- China is positive about US/Chinese relationship because they believe they are too interdependent and need each other . They will have their political disputes but these will be curbed because not to do so will hurt each other
- US Border taxes are bad for everyone. English thinks in the long run the arguments for free trade and open borders will prevail because they are so logical
- Now has much better relationship with Akl City. Traditionally the relationship consisted of childish warring through press releases but you can see through the signing of things like the Akl Transport alignment Project that the 2 parties are now working together
- Previously all discussions were dominated by the need for the CRL with effectively Akl wanting Wtn to fund it
- There has been a lack of investment in the south and west - which is where the people live
- There needs to be clever thinking about what are the next projects. Govt committed to East-West and Northern Corridor but they're the last of the big roading projects
- Money isn't a constraint As long as the govt is convinced Akl is doiung its bit money will be made available
- Whats needed is a process to shorten the time taken to make decisions
- Both sides now respect the others policies. Govt realizes the complexities of the situation and Council appreciate getting a 2nd opinion
- In terms of housing the key in Akl is to bring on my supply, faster through things like the LVR's, home start, short cuts in the RMA etc
- Demand currently outstrips supply by seven years but there is 1 Billion of govt funding available today If Akl Council can show a project that could make housing happen faster the 4's are there but they don't actually have any projects to bring forward
- Akl has responded to the situation very strongly Currently we have the fastest vgrowth in decades at 25%p.a and the longest housing pipeline. If he could just click his fingers and make it happen he would but everything needs to keep growing
- However we know we can make it work We spent 9% of our GDP on the largest publically funded disaster response in the world and industry responded so we know it can be done
- Govt has to be part of that response Own 1:16 houses (27,000 houses in Akl) and you can't tell the monopoly owner they don't need to respond
- Northcote 200 houses will become 1,000 Tamaki 2,000 will become 8,000 Also substantial investment to come in Mt Roskill & Avondale
- Labour talk about need for 10,000 home p.a. but they opposed both 3 Kings and Tamaki developments
Effectiveness of Spend - I
- Every week hundreds of thousands of Kiwi's hand over less than $300 in tax. If they were to keep that it would make an enormous difference to their lives. Govt should do the same and treat the tax take with respect
- A lot of what govt does works well but we spend a lot of money with complex family situations and our record their is poor
- If these families fail the reaction of every govt has simply been to spend more money and it hasn't worked. There needs to be more accountability for the programmes success. Those at risk families account for 25% of social spending We need to apply business principles to that investment
- Inmates at Paremoremo cost us $110K p.a and Only 50% of them can read and write by the time they are 15
- We will have spent $1 mill on each at risk kid in the bottom 6% by the time they reach 35
- Some things have improved lowest rate of solo parents since early 80's
- It is important to see a return on investment but most important is to give these people a better life
- We need to get kids to the start of line of NCEA Lvl 2 At the moment 12-15% aren't making it
- You won't read about in the Herald because its not a sad story but that achievement level for Maori and Pacific Island kids has risen from 53-71%.
- For those at most risk we have taken them out of class where they are one of 22 and given them 1-1 tuition and results show it works.
- Spending money doesn't work. Focus makes the difference
- Customers expect a perfect product that never fails This can't be driven by the market or legislation alone has to be both.
- OSH is an example. Companies see legislation as a burden but its necessary to meet customer expectations especially as there were industries with really bad records.
- In that instance govt had to provide more legislation but there are also instances where it can be streamlined. One example is provisional tax which is an opportunity for technology to help by Apr 2018 that will be replaced by real time online tax payments
- English is v confident about NZ over the next 3-5 years. There's a greater degree of confidence and competence showing in the business community. Contacts overseas reminds him of how well we have done. The Chinese Premier knew a lot of detail about us
Some random points I noted - can't remember context
- Smaller and different is what the public sector struggles with most
- Perception on the left is businesses rip you off and govt should do everything
- Getting authorities to understand time is money is challenging
- Government innovation is seen as an oxymoron
- Govt should support business innovation because they're not going to lead it
- We need to examine multiple pathways because no one can be certain which ones will work
- Turning ideas into commercial reality is the hard part and that's not about money it's about people
- Govt can hand out cash but not good at working out what is innovation
- Govt shouldn't fund hospital schools and prisons it should fund patients, children and problem people
- Finance isn't a constraint Finding solutions is
- Council and govt now geared for growth
- Akl Unitary Plan had a big impact on govt. It could have fallen well short of the govt's aspirations for Akl - but didn't
- Akl did a really good job they're now planning for growth and the message he brings is the govt is willing to invest
Sorry about length of post. English gave more substantive detail in 40 mins than Key did in the 4 or 5 speeches I heard him make.
Few main impressions. English really, really cares. Deride him for his politics and policies but don't doubt that. First PM to ever make the effort to gain a reasonable level of fluency in Te Reo.
He's a bright bastard and very competent and I reckon he's better able to make tough decisions than Key was because he doesn't care about personal popularity. He's an old fashioned conviction politician but with some very modern ideas.
Shame he's been saddled with the scenario of Peters as the king maker because I think he could make an excellent PM, but if that does transpire i think Winston will find English a tougher proposition than Bolger was or Key would've been