There was a knock on the door
Sure enough the NZ Herald was there on my doorstep again early this morning and as I picked it up I found an article marked with a red felt pen that someone ( Mr Louis ) thought I needed to read.
The talking cat was right again so here is that article.
OPINION BY HAYDEN MUNRO
What was he thinking?
It’s a common question that gets asked when politicians put their foot in their mouths.
But Christopher Luxon’s decision on his recent trip overseas to criticise New Zealand businesses for “getting soft” is a particular head-scratcher.
There’s the obvious “why on earth would he say that?” element – it’s not a great look for any politician to go overseas and try to talk our country’s business sector down.
It was an unflattering contrast to Jacinda Ardern’s recent wins for New Zealand overseas – landing major trade deals for our exporters, winning new rights for Kiwis in Australia, and getting rave reviews from business leaders for championing their cause offshore.
But it wasn’t just the bad optics that have people baffled – it’s the substance.
Because it’s been a week now, and Luxon’s done a number of interviews trying to clean up his comments, and journalists still can’t seem to get a straight answer of what he actually meant by it.
Maybe Luxon was just voicing the traditional small government idea that major government interventions in the economy like the wage subsidy actually just prop up businesses that would go under in a free market, and so are bad for the economy in the long term?
But no, National and Luxon have always been supportive of the wage subsidy.
On Morning Report he was asked straight “why are you dunking on New Zealand businesses?”
“Well, what I’m saying there, very clearly, is that we have some great innovation and great creativity and great entrepreneurship in New Zealand, but we’ve frankly got a government that’s actually not recognising that business actually needs to be empowered and actually get out and do things in the world.”
Obviously, that reply makes zero sense.
If what you mean is the Government isn’t doing enough to help businesses, why say the problem is businesses getting soft?
Pushed again, he came back with:
“Well, we want to make sure that our New Zealand businesses are actually out exporting in the world, you know.”
Okay, that’s a bit clearer – he’s saying New Zealand businesses have gone soft because they aren’t exporting enough.
Except, hold on, in the past 12 months New Zealand’s exports were up 11 per cent to $80 billion – literally the highest amount on record. In fact since 2017, our physical exports, actually selling products overseas, has increased by 36 per cent.
That’s a great result for Kiwi businesses who have been doing it so tough during the pandemic. It’s especially impressive when you consider that tourism, one of our biggest export earners, has been hit so badly with the borders closed.
It seems to me the most likely explanation is that Luxon was just playing to the crowd – a conservative British audience – and got carried away trying to attack the Government.
The reality is though, that after two years of pandemic, New Zealand businesses aren’t soft – they’re battle-hardened.
Up and down the country, business owners, especially those running small businesses, have sweated blood to keep their businesses alive and keep people employed.
Think of the hospitality businesses who have gone above and beyond to adapt to covid restrictions, or the tourism businesses who reinvented themselves for the domestic market for two years.
No one who’s been paying attention would call those people soft.
Because, any way you look at it, the country having record low unemployment and record exports is a great set of outcomes in the middle of a global pandemic.
It’s much better than in many other countries, and something Kiwi businesses should rightly feel proud of.
Now for the Opposition, it might be politically tempting to ignore those things or try to talk down the country’s success to make a point. There can be a tendency to ignore progress because you’re worried that your political opponents in the Government might get credit. It’s a common trap that makes Oppositions overly negative in response.
But overdo it and, as Luxon found out this week, you end up saying things totally out of touch with what’s really happening.
And if you find yourself doing that to a foreign audience, don’t be surprised if it rubs people up the wrong way back home.
END OF OPINION BY HAYDEN MUNRO
Yes Hayden was correct again and although he was late just like Fran they both likely had good reason to remind us all now what really just happened right before our noses.
Luxon had really shown us who he really is while overseas.
“Those who think they know it all have no way of finding out they don’t unless our media tell that story”, I said to Mr Louis who was overacting with those big “I am not guilty so feed me” eyes.
“Being right isn’t nearly as important as knowing when to shut up”, said Mr Louis as I poured cat biscuits into his bowl.
There was no comeback to that.
There was a knock on the door