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Q + A: Panel response to David Cunliffe and Sir Roger Douglas interview

Published: 2:31PM Sunday May 24, 2009 Source: Q + A

Response to David Cunliffe and Sir Roger Douglas interview

PAUL The main thing I took out of that interview with Sir Roger and David Cunliffe is that there is a road and there's a hill and a bus - a bus is going up.  Here's what David Cunliffe said.

 David Cunliffe:  'Well you know I think the analogy here is like a bus going up a hill, it's struggling with the gradient and what National's prepared to do is throw the passengers off, what we would do is drop a gear and power up the engine, and that's the way to go.'

 Now for the life of me I could not find a response to that.  I was trying to think of clever lines, Tim Shadbolt what do you make of that?

TIM Well it was a bit blame game scene going on and there was a lot of ancient history being dragged up, I would have liked to have seen them look at the future a bit more, I mean we've got some big economic tsunamis coming our way, the leaky building syndrome in local government is going to hut us like a sledgehammer, us baby boomers are gonna hit the old age pension, boy that's something all government is going to have to deal with, we've never been through a recession like this, no one's really quite sure,  but I still take an optimistic line.  At the turn of the century in 1901 we had 1.7 billion people in the world, now we've got 6 billion people in the world and one thing they've all got in common is they want to eat food, and New Zealand is essentially in terms of our4 economy a food producing nation.

PAUL Yeah but there's plenty of food production all round the world, you know millions of ...

TIM Not as cheap as ours, that's why the American's are trying to protect their farms.

PAUL Yes, changing the gear the bus going uphill changing the gear, I spose by dropping down a gear he means we've gotta increase the spending bit, increase the lubrication of the economy is that what he means?

SANDRA This will be an interesting budget because what the nuance between Key and Bill English sets will be telling for the future, but in terms of up a hill in third gear, Cullen was considered a tight wad, and he didn't give the taxcuts, but in fact the international commentators are saying New Zealand's well positioned in what is the world's worst recession since 1930 because of it.  So it's interesting that Roger Douglas hasn't changed his tune a jot isn't it?

THERESE It's about speed too, I mean I think the analogy is about speed, how quickly you make the sorts of cuts that National's talking about, and you know Sir Roger's vision is that you would do it quite quickly and quite extensively.  I mean, I remember hearing him speak once and his vision of how to deal with this is you start with a blank sheet, and you say what is it absolutely essential for government to do, so don't tinker around the edges, go straight at departments, programmes, you know so big cuts, done quickly, versus I think what you know his analogy is you've gotta do it a bit slower than that.

PAUL Well that's Sir Roger Douglas's way of doing things wasn't it, but it's probably not Bill English's way, we're seeing a bit more for maternity, we're seeing a little bit for biofuel and so on, but are there gonna have to be cuts?  Are there gonna have to be cuts given the climate of the times, given the present situation, and will that mean job losses?

SANDRA I don't think that there have to be cuts, and that's what I was saying, I think that Cullen's a bit of an unsung hero as a Finance Minister, because he didn't give taxcuts he's left this country in very good shape and I think even John Key would acknowledge that, but I think that they're gonna have to be very prudent in terms of their spending, and also in terms of their bail outs, when you've got the United States talking about bailing out banks to the trillions of dollars, New Zealand doesn't have that kind of luxury available to them, but having said that there is the proposition of actually cutting services to New Zealand citizens, Health and Education, is just not tenable.  Look the last time the policies of Sir Roger were put in place, what we saw at the end of it was unprecedented youth poverty in this country, massive unemployment, unprecedented, we'd never seen asset sales, a loss of sovereignty, it just simply didn't work.

THERESE` But with all due respect I do think that spending has gotten out of line with the income that's coming in, and there is a gap there and something has to be done.  So I think the budget needs to be judged not only on what they're gonna do in the short term, but the long term, because debt is an issue and if National's smart they'll argue that issue in the correct way, which is do you in that future generations?

TIM Yes but they don't tell us either way.  Look what I'm seeing happening is there are two buses, one's going up the hill, and one's going down the hill, and it's a one way road, because we're constantly told we've gotta be prudent, we've gotta cut spending, and then we're told we've gotta stimulate the local economy, I mean we're getting ...

THERESE There's the median crises though and there's also the long term and it's very clear to me that the budget needs to address both those things, we need to increase productivity growth, that's what going to grow ...

PAUL Either way I think the government assisted in its approach to the public by the general understanding that we're in something of a crisis and it may get a lot worse.  Looking ahead to the week what do you expect, the House resumes this week, what would you be looking at this week Timothy?

TIM Well I'm still following the Bonny and Clyde story, it's so funny, I mean it's all about banks and how efficient they are in the modern age when we have bail outs, when they're not obviously very well organised, and then of course the question is what would you do if ten million ended up in your bank account.

PAUL Quickly what would you do, just quickly?

TIM No, I can run but I can't hide, I'd have to give the money back.

PAUL You'd go straight round to the bank.  What would you do with ten million, looking at next week?

THERESE I mean the big story of course is the budget and to see what exactly National comes up with and what we saw today was a really good display of the sort of broader issues, and very much very different views on the proper role of government, this is the most political thing that will happen all year, I know it's about the economy, I know it's about finances, but in its very heart of hearts it is the vision statement for the government for the next year.

PAUL It is a very very big document that's right and very confusing and it's probably hard to discuss it, that's why we've got buses going up and down hills on a one way road.  What are you looking for this week?

SANDRA With the banana box on board.  Well it will be a test for Key because this is his first budget and this is a massive recession there's no getting away from that, but like Tim I tend to suspect that the ordinary member of the public's going to be more interested in whether Bonny and Clyde may ... it or whether ever.

PAUL If you got the ten million in your account would you take me with you?

SANDRA Oh Paul, in a flash.

PAUL Thank you very much panel.


 

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