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Labour’s Empty Jar - Auckland - AKT

Labour’s Empty Jar


Labour’s performance is so woeful, it can only be concluded they are getting their PR training from the Taliban’s suicide bombing division and want to disintegrate at the next election.

Labour leader Phil Goff got a rare 13-second soundbite when he mentioned at the weekend Labour would not go along with the Government’s determined mission for a Puhoi to Wellsford so-called Holiday Highway.

In his Wellington speech to the Labour Party Congress last Sunday, Phil Goff said:

“…we have to accept that tough choices will need to be made. Things that we would like to do will have to wait until we rebuild the economy.

Part of the solution will be axing projects and programmes that we don’t think are priorities to free up cash for more important areas. The Puhoi to Wellsford holiday highway and the missile system for our frigates are examples. Sacrifices have to be made but under Labour they will be made fairly.”

Since then, I have been waiting for the Labour transport spokesman, Shane Jones, to seize the moment and explain what Labour will actually do about transport - and what the Puhoi policy mentioned by his Leader actually means.

For starters:

  1. If you don’t spent the money on Puhoi,  how will it be re-allocated within the transport budget or will it just be saved in the kitty or used on non-transport initiatives like the research credits mentioned in the same Goff speech - a policy that is so unsexy, as an election pledge no one outside the science community will blink an eye?
  2. Northland local bodies want the Puhoi link. How will you appease them especially as you are fighting a northern by-election right now in Te Tai Tokerau?
  3. Do you support rail in the north and would you build a Marsden Point rail link? Where will that money come from? What is your policy on the threatened provincial rail link closures or mothballing?
  4. If you abandon the Puhoi project, would you still do roading safety improvements in the area, which most people agree are needed anyway?
  5. Would you spend the money instead on Auckland’s CBD rail link? Would that link definitely happen under Labour and when and how would it be funded?
  6. What is your thinking about the proportion of transport money that should be spent on motorways? Where do you stand on the peak oil debate?
  7. What initiatives would you develop  for alternatives including cycling?
  8. Will Labour re-instate an Auckland regional petrol tax?
  9. The next harbour crossing -tunnel? bridge?

Collectively we could come up with a large and impressive list of such questions.

Yet since the Goff speech, the usual cone of silence occurred. We have learnt nothing more since the Puhoi throwaway sound bite from Goff got a fleeting mention in the media and because there was no followup the discussion died.

If there was a moment to talk transport and start a debate, this was it. Shane Jones didn’t come out of his hideaway, Goff did not elaborate and Labour went back to muttering about issues that get a yawn with the public such as the Ministerial BMWs and extra funding for dementia care.

The Government has already cleverly set the framework for the election campaign - namely that the country’s economy is stuffed, we need to make sacrifices and that will include partial sale of assets after the election.

Shortly, the government may well cleverly announce that it will support a CBD link but because of the economy, explain it can’t happen immediately and will need more funding investigation into a private-public partnership or bond arrangement pursued jointly by Auckland Council. Such possibilities have already been canvassed.

That will take this issue off the agenda for the election and while not the ideal outcome, Len Brown may find such a compromise at least shows he has made progress on his election pledges when it’s his turn to face the voters again in 2013.

The Greens consistently issue statements on transport, get involved in transport initiatives, run campaigns, understand the issues. Gareth Hughes is one of the most hardest working MPs. Why has Jones shown no sign he too can get to grips with transport issues?

Recently in debates on this blog we have been reminded on Labour’s past patchy transport record - selling trains and having them rundown, Cullen slow to get to grips with even the need for a New Lynn transport hub , selling Newmarket railway land and procrastination over electrification.

This parliamentary term, Labour’s record on raising transport issues has been one of missing in action. Gareth Hughes asks most of the questions in the House.

The exception was Dr Shearer’s Mt Albert by election which concentrated on the Waterview Project.  Maybe he should be transport spokesman.

The previous transport spokesman Darren Hughes was just as invisible and never returned any of my emails asking for comment on issues.

One can only conclude that Labour doesn’t rate transport as a key issue or enough of a scandal which is where their election campaign seems to be heading once again.

On the evidence so far, it’s a portfolio that is best left on the left to the Greens to understand and articulate  even though some Kiwi motorists may find their policies too extreme!

Not that there seems any chance of it happening after this election with National so popular, but a Greens’ transport minister would be a wonderful thing if there ever was a Labour-Greens coalition or any coalition with the Greens in it.

Transport anyway probably won’t get much of a look-in the election campaign from now on so it’s too late for Jones or Goff to wake up. They missed the boat.

It’s going to be an “all-about-me and my finances and savings”  election debate. And it’s going to be a campaign that will be overshadowed by the timing of the RWC 2011 so don’t expect the average voter to be bothered to come to terms with GPS funding when their eyes is on McCaw and Dan Carter!

Just as well for Shane. He can spend his time in the free MP seats in the Eden Park grandstand and just enjoy the rugby.






  1. The Trickster says:

    Labour are completely asleep at the wheel at the moment. To say they’re useless would be unfair to useless people.

  2. Matt says:

    I just went to labour.org.nz to view their policies - they don’t have any policies on their website!!!!!

    The Greens have policies, including transport policies on their website.

    Even National has policies on their website, even if they state the exact opposite of what they intend to do including:
    Lifting Achievement in Education - national standards testing in other countries consistently has done the exact opposite
    Better public services for all New Zealanders - even though they are cutting the staffing numbers
    And for the most hypocritical read about the BlueGreens stating improving air quality is the most important and urgent thing even though they have just extended the compliance to the already too lax air pollution standards into the indefinite future, condemning many New Zealanders to an early death. (Woodsmoke kills 1100 Kiwis a year)

    So Labour’s chief quality is that they aren’t National, which means they aren’t insincere, hypocritical Machiavellian protectors of their donors’ interests, with John Key smiling out the front to trick all the clueless people into voting for them.

    But what exactly do Labour stand for these days? I have no idea. Voting Labour to prevent National winning the next election would be like contracting chickenpox to try to ward off smallpox.

    I think I’ll vote Green.

  3. Giel says:

    Very insightful comments. Labour are history for a while - not because of Goff but for a whole number of reasons. They are simply uninspiring on a number of levels - transport is one highlighted here. They will probably need one more, if not more, terms in opposition to regroup and gain some inspiration. Sad for them I suspect and many of their supporters – but National know that pain too from 1984.

    Getting the Greens more active will help with Transport and their policies in general are becoming more mainstream. Gareth Hughes seems way more knowledgeable on Transport than Darren Hughes ever was or Shane Jones is. The challenge is to get them working with National more. National if nothing else have shown themselves to be pragmatic and not afraid to “sometimes” learn from mistakes. They have been thrown a lot of curve balls and seem to be a more reflective party - even Bill English’s comments on Corrections funding is highlighting that. They know NZ’s centre vote is a key to longevity in power.

    I believe the current Government will help fund the CBD loop in due course - but they have a lot to balance. Some of their key constituents, who as many have noted here, are ideologically opposed to it or anything to do with PT especially Rail. John Key and Stephen Joyce as I have said before are walking a tight rope not to turn these people off too much and swing them to ACT and we know what that would probably be for PT and Rail - not good. So keeping National Centre with a Right flavour is probably the best we can hope for now - the Maori Party saw that and maybe the Greens in some of their transport supportive projects might see that as well as hard as it may seem to some. Greens don’t have to be Left of centre in all areas. So a strong Green presence might be better than Labour in that respect to keep National honest unless Labour can get their act together very quickly of course which seems increasingly unlikely.

  4. Doloras says:

    Are we ignoring the possibility that Labour are actually as deep within the pockets of the truck lobby as National are? One name for those with long memories: “Harry Duynhoven”.

    Sadly, many commentors on this blog and others will never do the sensible thing and vote for a pro-PT party (such as the Greens, or maybe Hone’s mob). Because the “Greens are wacky” or Hone’s a racist. I read it in the Herald so it must be true.

  5. Giel says:

    Doloras - Agree on that about Labour and the trucking lobby - we saw that when Annette King was Transport Minister and her very pro heavy truck stance for getting more heavy trucks on the road. Labour are not necessarily pro PT or pro Rail. Sure Labour renationalised Rail but that is more about a larger State and control than being pro anything else. As for investing in Rail National is also facilitating Billions into Rail over the next few years - $750 Million Freight Network - $40 Million Tranz Scenic - $1 Billion plus in Auckland Metro and probably the CBD loop in due course. Not to mention Clifford Bay where Labour were so anti it. I bet that doesn’t happen under a new Labour Government!!

    One thing though – What do Tony Friedlander (past president and expert lobbyist for Road Transport Forum), Stephen Joyce and Harry Duynhoven all have in common? They come from Taranaki. Anything in that I wonder?

    To be clear the Greens are pro to Rail and PT.

  6. Paul in Sydney says:

    Logging groups do hand cash out in both directions, the one out in front tends to do better

    The Greens in Aus have strengthened there presence in both the upper and lower houses

  7. Steve says:

    The Greens have been correct on Transport, peak oil and climate change for literally *decades* while the supposedly “competent” parties still have no real idea what is going on…..never mind how to respond to it. Labour and National can now be seen to be deeply incompetent in very important ways. National is clearly the worst with their unsustainable tax cuts, hostility to climate change, apparently rampant cronyism, and they want to build huge expensive roads even as the IEA and IMF are urging governments to move rapidly to deal with a future of increasing oil shortage. I can’t think of a party that has proven itself to be more deeply and broadly imprudent and incompetent on these HUGE issues than National. Breathtaking.

    A Labour-lead government with a strong Green partner would be the best we can hope for this year. I don’t think NZ can afford to wait until 2014.

  8. Matt says:

    Giel, I’ll remind you that Labour increased RUC for heavy vehicles with three days’ notice, over the howls of outrage from big trucking. So before you accuse them of being puppets to the RTF, consider their fairly recent history. The last big RUC increase was under Labour, and they took deliberate steps to ensure that the trucking companies couldn’t pre-purchase millions of km’s of RUC ahead of an increase in the rate.

    As for Labour’s current performance, what’s really frustrating is that Jacinda popped up in a discussion on Transport Blog over the weekend, and got told that we’re really concerned that Labour is doing so terribly poorly at articulating policy. Articulating anything, really, and I made the point that Joyce has been ripe for the plundering on transport numbers for at least the last six months, and Labour’s best efforts have been like a friendly Labrador - a couple of barks, then a roll-over to get their collective tummy tickled.

  9. Giel says:

    Yes and the RUC increase notice period did cause the big trucking protest that was supposed to grind Auckland to halt back in June 2008. It was more a case of the short notice without warning that irritated the truckers than the increase itself. However that shortened notice period was a MoT official recommendation (not really a Labour one). They said that it was the best way to avoid truckers pre purchasing RUC’s at the old rates before the prices went up which is what had happened when the license fees had a gone up the year before. RUCs remember could be pre-purchasable at the old rates before new prices came into effect. Trucking lobbyists had indicated that was issue and it needed correcting but not without warning and their view was Labour had broken their promise on that part of it. I am not sure they actually did. Ironically it wasn’t Labour trying to stick it to trucking - although it may have come across that way - more a Sir Humphry’s moment in officialdom. As per always there is much more to the story than the simple headline story suggests. Who knows officials may have known what the reaction would be and were trying to undermine Labour - Maybe not.

    Everyone knew that RUC’s were going to go up - that was the price for more heavy trucks on the road. A stick for the carrot. More to the point they hadn’t gone up for many years under Labour – and that did serious damage to Rail competiveness from 2000 to 2008. MoT were pushing big time for the Heavy trucks proposal and there was virtually no push back from Labour who didn’t demonstrate much understanding of the issue and actually said it was critical for increased transport productivity. Their approach – Buy the Railfreight operation in an environment where it was just about to be damaged even more by the increases in heavy trucks on the road - you could say that was very ironic.

    One last point - National now regularly increase RUC’s on a regular basis - the most recent being in October 2010 which was 7% increase. So no Labour were not the last ones to increase RUC’s in large way.

  10. ingolfson says:

    I have been told from someone within NZTA that there’s been heavy pressure to lower the RUC charges (“The recession! The fuel prices! We’re hurting!”). Not sure if the lobbyists have made any real inroads on that, but I certainly suspect that we won’t get any new increases anytime soon except of course in truck weights.

    As for Labour - I think they just have no clue, and no FIRE. We might as well not have the election if there’s no real alternative.

    And outside of the transport blog community, I am afraid the Green’s support is still pretty limited, if the last poll was anything to go by. Maybe by election time, some frustrated Labour folks will have switched over, but I doubt the Greens will get 8 or 10% like they do in many parts of Europe (where they also profit from being seen as having some teeth compared to the wishy-washy centre left / labour / social democrat parties).

  11. tbird says:

    The Greens would do better if they were actually an environmentalist party, rather than a far-left party.

    PT is as important as roads and nearly as important as healthcare and education. These are things the government should do.

    Unfortunately the Greens would have businesses close their doors because they could not afford to pay the $20/hour minimum wage to their staff. They would not want to take the risks of starting a new business when they know that it’d be taxed to oblivion to allow rapists out of jail early to smoke weed on the sickness benefit!

    The Greens are wacky. Hone is a racist - I don’t care about the white mofo comment, but to say he wouldn’t let his daughter date a white boy is a bit off.

    Labour’s down the drain. They really are a gaggle of gays and trade unionists, with nothing to offer normal working NZers. (Which is in contrast to their beginnings)

  12. William Stewart says:

    I’m voting Green, but Labour and Green’s policy for $15 minimum wage is economical folly. The only reason greens are going to get my vote is that I’m hoping they won’t be able to deliver on that, but will be able to deliver on transport improvements.


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