Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Labour looks limp

The theatre of parliament does not excite me but occasionally I'll scan through the questions and answers. Yesterday, one about selling state houses to an Australian housing charity led to the exchange below. Labour began with a potentially promising gambit, but quickly crumbled under National's riposte. It typifies Labour's problem with Key and the government. It's stuck with its own stagnant ideology (NO state asset sales EVER) producing incoherent policy; and  a fresh leader with stale lines.

State and Social Housing—Sale of Housing Stock
2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that “Locally-based providers can be closer and more responsive to their community” in relation to the Government’s policy to sell State houses to private providers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and registered community housing providers will need to have a local presence and a strong capacity to meet the needs of their tenants.
Andrew Little : How would a company based in Brisbane be “closer and more responsive” to the needs of Kiwi families in social housing?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Because they will have to be not only registered in New Zealand but have a presence in New Zealand and be subject to the community housing provider regulatory authority. If the head office of a company or an organisation rules somebody out from doing anything, then I suggest the member never go and have another Big Mac, because, and this will come as breaking news, the head office is in America. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am wanting to call the Leader of the Opposition.
Andrew Little : What lessons can a company that provides housing on the Gold Coast teach New Zealand about running social housing in Invercargill?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, this organisation would have to be, if it bought those properties, registered in New Zealand subject to the Community Housing Regulatory Authority, be subject to regular engagement with its tenants, be a responsible tenancy manager, have routine inspections, and be responsive when it comes to repairs and maintenance—so it would have to run a New Zealand operation. I am little surprised that the New Zealand Labour Party hates Horizon Housing, because here is a press release from the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia when the Labor Government was in office saying what an amazing organisation it is and how good it is and what a great job it has done. I know that something Australian is very scary to the Labour Party, but over here we just want somebody who can provide a good service.
Andrew Little : What precise, measurable, provable benefits would be realised by selling these houses to an Australian company that cannot be realised by Housing New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member is asking a wider question about what the benefits are of social housing. If Horizon Housing were to buy these properties, it would have to provide the same role as any other community housing provider. So what I can say in regard to that is that there is widespread support for community housing providers from all parts of this Parliament. In fact, one member of Parliament has gone on to say in relation to this area that there is “no controversy” and “I see huge benefits in this vision of a bigger, more diverse social housing sector.” That of course comes from Mr P Twyford of the Labour Party.
Andrew Little : Point of order! [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is a point of order. I wish to hear it.
Andrew Little : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very straight, and it was pretty concise—
Mr SPEAKER : On this occasion I agree with the Leader of the Opposition. I am going to ask him to ask that question again.
Andrew Little : What precise, measurable, provable benefits would be realised by selling these houses to an Australian company that cannot be realised by Housing New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The same as New Zealand ones.
Tim Macindoe : What support has the Prime Minister seen for the Government’s policy of transferring ownership of houses to grow the community housing sector?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have seen lots of support, including a good summary of the Government’s social housing reform legislation that passed last year. It says as follows: “What does this bill do? It shifts housing stock out of the hands of Housing New Zealand into the community housing sector. This is something that Labour is perfectly comfortable with.” It goes on to say: “The bill is extending—
Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week you made it very clear, and you have repeatedly done this over the last 2 weeks, that the Government should not use Government supplementary questions to attack the Opposition, which is exactly what the Prime Minister is doing.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER : No, I do not need assistance. That is a judgment that I make. But when I look at the question “What support has the Prime Minister seen for this change of ownership the Government is proposing.”, that is a legitimate question in my mind.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would just urge you—your ruling is absolutely correct—to go away and consider what Mr Hipkins has just raised. What he is essentially saying is that it is impossible within a debate for the Government to point out in question time within a wider debate about social housing what has been said on all parts of this debate. That would be a ridiculous notion.
Mr SPEAKER : That is exactly the point that I am trying to make in responding to Chris Hipkins. There will be questions that I think are put down that are no more than a cheap opportunity by a Government to attack another political party, and they are the ones that I will not accept. In this case I think it is quite a legitimate question to ask about what support is out there in the community. If that answer happens to refer to another political party in this Parliament, I cannot help. The Prime Minister can complete his answer if it is required.
Andrew Little : In relation to the Government’s announced proposal to sell State houses to an Australian owner, and given that the Salvation Army in New Zealand has backed out of the proposal to it to purchase State houses, and also that iwi in New Zealand only want the houses for free, so that he now resorts to Aussie buyers, will his Government press ahead with selling State houses, even if no New Zealand providers can afford to buy them and there are no tangible benefits to the families living in them?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member’s question is incorrect.
Andrew Little : Is not the truth of it that this policy was always about the ideology of selling off State houses, whatever the cost, not about improving the lives of the families in those houses at all, and like all his policies it is now falling apart?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : What was falling apart were the Housing New Zealand houses we inherited after 9 years of a Labour Government, because it failed to maintain them. What everybody knows, actually, is there is more demand, and has been under numerous Governments, than there is supply. In Australia, and actually in many countries, we see the equivalent of social housing providers or community housing providers adding to the overall stock, and that is why, in a place like Australia, the Labor Deputy Prime Minister gets up and celebrates this. This is the reality. The Labour Party in New Zealand is scared of an Australian charity coming to New Zealand. They must be incredibly scary, because—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The answer has gone on for long enough.
Tim Macindoe : What other support has the Prime Minister seen for the Government’s social housing reforms?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have seen a series of statements supporting the Government’s approach, including, for example: “The Minister’s vision is that Housing New Zealand should become just another tenancy provider competing in a contestable market with the community housing sector for both tenants and subsidies. We want to see a larger, more capable, empowered community housing sector. It is certainly a view that Labour shares.” That, again, was Phil Twyford.
Andrew Little : Given that the mass sell-off of State houses was meant to be his defining policy for the year, as outlined in January, what is left after 6 months of fiasco, and why does he not just give up on this failed experiment?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : On the latter, because I actually care about New Zealanders who deserve some accommodation, and I am not going to be driven by a bit of mumbo-jumbo into not providing more social houses to New Zealanders. And, secondly, that was an important policy announcement at the start of the year, but also I have made a great many other policy announcements this year, and so far we are waiting for Labour to have one policy announcement, and, guess what? Mr Little has not announced a single one yet.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Perfect headline.

What you see is what you get.