Gordon Campbell on the tea tape, billboards, minimum wage   16 Nov 2011

Gordon Campbell

First the secret cuppa tea tape, then the billboard defacement plot. Just when the election campaign looked like the mainstream media might have to focus on boring old policy, here come the diversions to the rescue. Was serial billboard defacer Jolyon White one of Russel Norman’s highly trained squad of Green ninjas, or part of a radical Anglican sleeper cell?

The collateral image to the Greens new image of political sobriety has yet to be assessed, but – clearly – the Greens have more to worry about from the actions of their friends than from their enemies. During the 2002 election campaign, they were left scrambling to avoid blowback from the Corngate revelations by Nicky Hager, despite knowing absolutely nothing about the matter until Hager’s book hit the stands.

As election stunts go, White’s actions were at the low end of public disorder – it was peaceful, satirical comment – and Sue Bradford has a point when she says that by dobbing White in, the current Green party has effectively cut itself off from what used to be its activist base. Even so, at this stage of the campaign, a fairly ruthless cost/benefit standard had to be applied. Could the risks involved with this form of activism be justified, given how it would be used to revive negative stereotypes about the party? Clearly, no.

By hubristically going onto RNZ to brag about his actions, White had made it inevitable that his identity – and affiliations – would eventually become publically known. With less than a fortnight to polling day Norman had no option but to try and pre-empt any revelations that might carry over into the final week. Especially given the fact that even in normal conditions, the Greens have traditionally had trouble carrying their high poll numbers through to the outcome on polling day. As for Norman’s decision to stand down his executive assistant Anne Heins… It seems reasonable to expect a ‘no surprises’ policy from your own support staff.

John Key has the bigger problem. Once things start to go wrong on something like the Epsom stunt, they tend to snowball. Key’s attempt for instance, to liken the leakage from his staged photo op with John Banks to the hacking by News of the World journalists of the cellphone of murdered British schoolgirl Milly Dowler has now been denounced as a “cheap shot” by the British lawyer acting for the Dowler family. For Key’s benefit, British barrister Mark Lewis spelled out the difference:

 

There is a difference between the News of the World hacking into someone's phone to find out private information and seemingly - whether accidentally or on purpose - effectively a journalist investigating some kind of political statement.

"But if it's particularly a political statement which affects the future government or the ways to achieve future government in a country, then that's something in the public interest and it sounds like it should be reported, without the unfavourable comparison to what was clearly a criminal act."

Day by day, Key is being left with less and less room to hide. It is time for him to man up and take the consequences of his actions. For someone who has made his carefully manicured personality into his government’s greatest asset, any gap that the tape’s content may reveal between image and substance is going to be magnified – but it is just as clearly in the public interest. Like Jolyon White, Key has only himself and his hubris to blame for the position he finds himself in.


Minimum Wage Rises

The cuppa tea tape is not the only item relevant to the campaign about which Key has been less than forthcoming. Early last year, a Treasury paper on the links between employment and raising the minimum wage contained evidence that there is no significant causal linkage between the two.

That Treasury paper only became available after an OIA request, and Key has consistently cited an alternative finding in a Department of Labour paper that job losses would result. Labour has now accused Key of selectively using only those bits of publically funded research that fit his party’s policy position, instead of putting all the evidence on the table. In a damage control exercise, National’s campaign manager Steven Joyce has argued to the contrary:

 

He said Mr Goff's assertion about the Treasury report was wrong. "The claim that Treasury does not think the minimum wage affects jobs is wrong," he said. "It was based on an edited quote from an exchange of views between a Treasury staff member and a Labour Department staff member about the youth minimum wage.

"The Treasury has told the Government that the minimum wage does impact on employment."

If Joyce is right – and if the 'exchange of views'’ really does (on the whole) come out showing an impact on employment that is demonstrably socially and economically significant, then we may have a global breakthrough here. That Treasury paper dated from March 2010. Late in 2010, US labour market researchers at UC Berkeley released a breakthrough research paper which shows the reverse: that increasing the minimum wage does not lead to the short term or long term loss of low-paying jobs.

The paper is the culmination of a series of competing papers on the links between minimum wage hikes and employment, dating back to the early 1990s. The UC Berkeley paper supports the original seminal paper on the subject by economists David Card and Alan Krueger, who is now Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser.

 

This is one of the best and most convincing minimum wage papers in recent years,” said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard University and a specialist in labour economics. Much economic policy discussion today is more focused on a general lack of jobs rather than on inadequate pay, said [Berkeley economist Michael] Reich, but that doesn’t negate the need for adequate or “living’” wages.

Although increasing the minimum wage can stimulate the economy by putting more money in the pockets of those most likely to spend it on necessities, he said, suggestions to raise minimum wages typically trigger fears. These fears centre around the idea that raising the minimum wage would force many employers to reduce job offerings to meet a more expensive payroll, or that a “tipping point” where the minimum wage becomes too high has already been reached…. [The] findings indicate that an entire generation of previous minimum wage studies that found negative effects on jobs is fundamentally flawed….

The article noted that 17 states and the District of Columbia had a minimum wage higher than the federal level in 2005 and consistently lower job growth than the rest of the country from 1991 to 1996. However, those 17 states and states on the other end of the minimum wage spectrum experienced almost identical job growth between 1996 and 2006.

A link to a subsequent 2011 paper by the UC Berkeley researchers on the (lack of) significant causal linkages impact raising the minimum wage and teen employment can be found here.

In the face of these kind of research findings, those claming that raising the minimum wage in New Zealand will have an unacceptably high impact on jobs tend to make a kind of ‘Goldilocks’ argument – that the US data is from states where the minimum wage is too low to have relevance here, while the minimum wage in Australia is too high to be relevant, either. And if you believe that we’re so unique that economic findings from elsewhere have no relevance… then I have a state asset I’d like to sell you, cheap.

 

********

Add a comment

Bookmark and Share

News

Maori King's son back before court

20 Aug 2014 News
The son of the Maori King will be back before the court next week. Last month, Korotangi Paki, 19, was let off charges of burglary,... more

Shark finning to be banned from 1 October

20 Aug 2014 News
A ban on the finning of all shark species within New Zealand waters will take effect from 1 October this year, Conservation ... more

Business

Airways sees 27% gain in 2015 profit, misses 2014 target

20 Aug 2014 Business News
By Tina Morrison Aug. 20 (BusinessDesk) - Airways Corp. of New Zealand expects to boost profit 27 percent this year, after missing... more

Landcorp cuts FY15 earnings guidance on lower dairy payout

20 Aug 2014 Business News
By Paul McBeth Aug. 20 (BusinessDesk) - Landcorp Farming, the state-owned commercial farmer, slashed guidance for 2015 earnings... more

Living

Adventurer wins prestigious University of Waikato award

20 Aug 2014 Entertainment
Adventurer, management consultant and motivational speaker Jamie Fitzgerald will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the... more

Weta Workshop & Roxy Cinema Exclusive WOAP Event

20 Aug 2014 Entertainment
CoCo at The Roxy unwraps the art of food in film Wellington’s iconic The Roxy Cinema is turning into a movie set next week as... more

Property

House sales down as winter cools market - REINZ

14 Aug 2014 Property
New Zealand house sales fell in July as winter cooled the appetite of house hunters while a drop in properties selling for $400,000... more

NZ property values rise at slowest annual pace in 13 months

7 Aug 2014 Property By Paul McBeth
Aug. 7 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand property values rose at the slowest annual pace in 13 months in July as rising interest rates,... more

Migration

Who's living next door to you?

20 Aug 2014 Migration
Statistics NZ puts out detailed data on different ethnic groups, down to the 108 people from the Isle of Man. Did you know there are... more

NZ population growth speeds up

14 Aug 2014 Migration
New Zealand's climb to 4.5 million people has been faster in the past year than it has in any other year in the past decade,... more

Travel

Auckland 10th most liveable city - again

19 Aug 2014 Travel & Tourism
Auckland has again been ranked the tenth most liveable city in the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has released its... more

Air NZ Dreamliner to be put on show

15 Aug 2014 Travel & Tourism
An Air New Zealand Dreamliner is to be put on show at a famous air show next week. The Boeing 787-9 aircraft will be exhibited to... more

Sport

Four Nations set stage for NZ teams

20 Aug 2014 Rugby League
This year's Rugby League Four Nations will provide the catalyst for five New Zealand representative sides - not just the NZ Kiwis -... more

Commonwealth Games Head of Sport joins World Masters Games

20 Aug 2014 Sport
  From Glasgow to Auckland is the well-travelled route taken by Australian Greg Warnecke, announced today as the General... more

Columns

Martin Doyle Cartoon: Doing Justice to the Election

19 Aug 2014 Opinion
Opinion - Martin Doyle   Martin Doyle Cartoon: Doing Justice to the Election Given the dirty politics that have been exposed in... more

Gordon Campbell on no more Mr Nice Guy

19 Aug 2014 Column
Column - Gordon Campbell   Gordon Campbell on no more Mr Nice Guy by Gordon Campbell When future historians seek to identify... more

Kiwi Success

The duo behind NZ's hottest new label

20 Aug 2014 People
We're expecting big things from Harman Grubisa, the new label from Auckland-based friends Madeleine Harman (right) and Jessica... more

Victoria announces new strategic appointments

11 Aug 2014 Appointments
Victoria University of Wellington has announced the appointment of New Zealand’s first Provost, Professor Neil... more

Recruitment

On track to surplus, more jobs, higher incomes

19 Aug 2014 Recruitment
New Zealand is on track to Budget surplus this year, backed by good growth, more jobs and higher incomes under the ... more

The Right To Work: Young New Zealanders

18 Aug 2014 Recruitment
Getting young people into work is about preparing them for work and ensuring they have ongoing support: sustainable youth employment... more