Monday, August 16, 2010

Frank Newman: Straight talking

Paul Holmes wrote a good column in last week’s Herald on Sunday. He was writing about the economy. I liked it because he told it like it is – so few people seem to nowadays. Here are extracts from his column,

“Let me tell you about economists, in particular those we hear on the radio and on television and read in the newspapers. They are fundamentally, intellectually dishonest. They are not to be trusted because they are deeply compromised.
For a start, they know nothing anyway. Flash talk never necessarily means a person knows anything. They know no more than you or me. What's more, they've never run a business where you buy something over there and have to sell it over here for a better price and so make a profit….You would be better off listening to the cackle of chooks or trying to interpret the squeal of dolphins.

“God knows who the man [the Governor of the Reserve Bank] listens to. He should hire a Toyota Corolla and drive round the country for a fortnight. Here is the news: no one is buying. Everyone is kicking tyres. But… there is nothing anyone can do. Not at this end. We have to wait for the great economies to start spending again.

“We just have to get by, handing out the money and piddling it away on the least productive, those who expect to get it for sitting on their backsides because that is the way they've always got it, sitting on their backsides, and who for some reason simply cannot bear to contemplate the idea of work.

“We just have to tolerate that and wait for the economic cycle to turn again in the world. When that happens, once again we'll depend on those with basic human pride to get busy and see opportunities and get to work making a dollar.”

There’s more, it’s very good, and worth a read. Go to the Holmes article >>>

There’s not much I disagree with, except when he says there’s nothing we can do to revive the economy.

There is one major thing that politicians could do – they could get out of the way of ordinary decent folk - local body politicians in particular; they are the worst. If Holmes thinks economists are “fundamentally, intellectually dishonest” he should spend some time sitting around the local council table listening to councillors and senior staff.

Trouble is unlike economists who can be and are largely ignored, the local busy body politicians actually cause community harm. Instead of letting people get on with things, they stand with their clip boards between the present and the future, and make demands until all of the little boxes are ticked - usually stupidly silly demands.

It’s not that they don’t trust us - it’s that they need to make our lives difficult to keep them in their job and justify their salaries upon which so many depend.

The sad thing about them needing us, is that we don’t need them. They are certainly not going to admit that the majority of people they are herding into pens are more able than themselves.

No one should be surprised consent based activities have come to a stand still. When property prices are doubling every few years the outrageous cost of dealing with the box tickers can be absorbed and the frustrations and futilities tolerated. Not so when property prices are flat. People give up, at a time when we need to encourage go-getters not whack them with clip boards and fraudulent fees and charges.

The best thing local councils could do is tell the staff to put their clip boards away, stop writing silly reports about the perils of living, and start helping others get things done. They could scrap their fraudulent development impact fees, cut rates by ditching needless expenditure on airy-fairy reports and policies coming out of their policy departments, and stop spending on capital projects that have a dominant purpose of making politicians look good.

Start encouraging people. Radical stuff for governments I know and not as easy as the lazy “do this or else” approach they have always taken, but hey, it's election year so come on you local body politicians, at least include it in your list of promises!


Anonymous said...

Asking politicians and bureaucrats of any sort to put away their clipboards and stop interfering in our lives is pretty radical - that's what justifies their existence! If you come up with a plan on how this can be made to happen, don't forget to let us know as that could be the salvation of this country!

Frank Newman said...

A step in the right direction would be for all and sundry to tell politicians that they are an intrusion, and remind them that doing nothing is an option, often the best option.

In my six years as a local body politician not a single person suggested we should do less - everyone wanted something, and usually asked for someone else to pay for it. A contrary opinion would have been refreshing.

Anonymous said...

Spot on Frank re NRC& WDC! We attended a recent meeting (sitting behind you). As a 5th generation NZer with 3 of our 4 children working and playing active roles putting their university degrees to use here in whangarei I still have genuine concerns for the future of our grandchildren when local body and national politics seems to attract so many dubious candidates. Keep up the great exposures both of you,and thanks,"Shazza" (non de plume necessary for obvious reasons).

Anonymous said...

There sure are things we can do about the economy and various social malaises that we face, but... the sad truth is that nothing probably will happen because too many NZrs want the govt to pave their way in life....because they are too small thinking to plot their own course.
When someone does come up with a fix or an idea we hears screams of "right wing" or similar...and "business" gets the blame for everything....even though its the economy that pays for those mugs who despise it... We are told that social wellbeing is far more important than the economy....sorry? How can we pay for that without prosperity.

Yes, the politics of envy is alive and well here in Godzone.
Also under MMP we are bound to go in circles.....

I know that many of us are not like that and Im sorry to sound negative but like many, Ive had a gutsfull of it.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to brandish the huge stick of criticism when you have failed to contribute any thing positive yourself especially when you have been in a position to do so. This attack on everyone else and their efforts is the flag of the ever-lasting complainer, the I know better, the egotistical espouser who never comes with any real solutions only the big story of what everyone else does wrong.

Frank Newman said...

In reply to Anonymous 1.37. I am happy to address your comments if you identify yourself. Only then will I know if I am communicating with a former politician, a current politician, a council staff member, or someone free of vested interest.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 1.37pm –Your acrimonious remarks lead me to believe that you are part of the alarming culture of Local Government. Any one free of vested interest in LG knows exactly what Frank Newman is saying.

Trouble is the small businesses and the farmers who contribute more than their fair share to the majority of councils’ pretentious plans do not have the time to fight the bureaucrats. Unfortunately many Councillors have become part of that bureaucratic culture.

I see that a first-term councillor in the Hastings District Council has raised a proposal to limit local politicians to three terms or nine years in office. I commend him for speaking out, but have my doubts that LGNZ would entertain the issue.


Frank Newman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Newman said...

Your are right Sally... by becoming part of the bureaucracy many councillors have become part of the problem. My reservation about the time limit on councillor terms is that in many cases 9 years in office is 9 years too long. I recall the 9 year destruction by one councillor on our local council. They were little more than a green party plant and advocate for the Environmental Defence Society. Unfortunately they ended up in charge of the finances (which are now spirally down the debt vortex, the origins of which can be traced back to the councillor concerned) and having done the damage there they ended up in control of resource consents. The result was a tourniquet of conditions on resource consents.

Local authorities have been captured by incompetence and personal agendas, and the list of candidates does not suggest any change in the future. I am of the view that the presumption of competence and the "enabling" provisions of the 2002 Local Govt Act need to be reversed.