Saturday, September 24, 2022

Bryce Edwards: The Political mood of the business elite

The New Zealand Herald has released the results of its annual “Mood of the Boardroom” survey today. Should we care what businesses think of politics, the economy and society? There’s a good argument that we should be more concerned with the “Mood of the Foodbank” or “Mood of the workers”.

Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to see what the Establishment thinks, and what issues businesses are likely to pressure government decision-makers on in future. Readers can also take into account the obvious business bias when interpreting what the results mean.

The business love affair with the PM and Government is over

The business community has generally been very happy with Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Government. In the first few years, and particularly during the Covid pandemic, business were extremely positive about the administration and especially the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

For example, back in 2020 the Mood of Business survey rated Ardern’s performance as nearly 4/5. And business generally rated Labour’s management of the economy and various crises very highly.

This year their judgement of Ardern and Labour has plummeted. Ardern’s own rating out of 5 has dropped to only 2.3. So, there’s been something of a decline: 3 in 2018, 2.9 in 2019, 3.91 in 2020, 3.03 in 2021, and now 2.3.

Ardern is ranked as only the 12th best performer in Cabinet. Grant Robertson is doing better – with the second highest score of 2.98/5. But that is well down from the 4.18/5 he got from business in 2020.

Business leaders regard Climate Change minister and Green co-leader James Shaw as the Government’s strongest performer, obviously on the basis of his climate change initiatives. He even gets kind words from one oil and gas CEO who describes him as a “rationalist”. Various CEOs point to the fact that he has lost the support of his own party, and is in fact “in the wrong party”.

What are business marking the Government well on?

Business isn’t entirely critical of the Labour Government, and the survey results do show that business leaders give them credit in some areas. For example, according to Fran O’Sullivan, “The PM’s scorecard shows CEOs accorded her a top rating of 3.56/5 for how she leveraged her personal brand for NZ business’s advantage internationally.” And she is also applauded by business for her handling of national security and international relations.

In terms of the Government as a whole, there are a number of things they are doing well according to business. Here’s the list of areas that business rated them highly on:

• Supporting Māori and Pasifika aspirations. 3.49/5
• Maintaining strong international relationships 3.32/5
• Progress on international trade agreements 3.16/5
• Maintaining an independent foreign policy 3.01/5
• Addressing climate change challenges 2.71/5

What is business marking the Government down on?

Interestingly, business leaders have some of the same concerns about Ardern’s Government as those on the political left – especially the failure to deliver on their promises.

For example Don Braid of Mainfreight, who has in the past been quite supportive of the Government, says: “There is a lack of direction and sure-footed policy to combat the failings around health, education, housing and crime. Stop the political posturing and interference. Focus on the core fundamentals and then get out of the way.”

When asked about Ardern’s delivery of “transformative change”, business execs rated her only 1.7/5. According to the Herald, a typical comment from business was: “Lots of talk on policy but little actual impact”.

Some of the areas that business rated the Government most poorly on are also areas that Labour supporters might also feel disappointed about. Here are some of Labour’s worst marks from business:

• Addressing the housing shortage 1.81/5
• Improving children’s wellbeing 1.80/5
• Addressing transport constraints 1.80/5
• Immigration 1.36/5

But the management of the economy was also an area of strong concern. For example, when asked if they have confidence in Grant Robertson’s management of the economy, 38 per cent said yes, and 46 per cent said no.

Here are some other areas of poor performance on the economy according to business:
• Maintaining fiscal responsibility 2.14/5;
• Addressing the infrastructure deficit 1.88/5
• Execution and delivery of policies 1.63/5
• Transforming the economy 1.56/5
• Policy planning and consultation with business 1.57/5

What does business think of the opposition parties?

In recent Mood of the Boardroom surveys, CEOs have been quite scathing about the performance of the National Party, its leaders and its finance spokespeople. For example, the Herald points out today that in the past, “Judith Collins came in for a pasting”.

CEOs are warming towards National leader Christopher Luxon (who they gave a rating of 3.24/5), but they seem particularly enamoured with National’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis. For example, “73 per cent of respondents agreed Willis has presented herself as a credible future Minister of Finance”. Some business leaders also talked about Willis as a future leader and prime minister.

On the topic of the Government’s co-governance agenda, CEOs seem quite split. They were asked if co-governance is either “right for the times” or “anti-democratic”, with 37 per cent opting for the former, and 41 per cent for the latter.

Finally, here are the CEO scores for Government ministers:

1. James Shaw (Climate change) 3.27/5
2. Grant Robertson (Finance) 2.98/5
3. Chris Hipkins (Education) 2.95/5
4. Damien O’Connor (Trade) 2.92/5
5. Kiri Allan (Justice) 2.83/5
6. Ayesha Verrall (Covid-19 response) 2.49/5
7. Stuart Nash (Tourism) 2.43/5
8. Megan Woods Energy 2.42
9. Peeni Henare (Defence) 2/39/5
10. Andrew Little (Health) 2.37/5
11. Jan Tinetti (Internal Affairs) 2.34/5
12. Jacinda Ardern (PM, National Security & Intelligence) 2.30/5
13. Kieran McAnulty (Emergency Management) 2.25/5
14. Michael Wood (Immigration) 2.19/5
15. Carmel Sepuloni (Social Dev & Employment) 2.13/5
16. Aupito Sio (Pacific Peoples) 2.12/5
17. Meka Whaitiri (Customs) 2.03/5
18. David Parker (Environment) 2.00/5
19. Priyanca Radhaskrishnan (Ethnic communities) 2.00/5
20. David Clark (Commerce & Consumer Affairs) 1.96/5
21. Marama Davidson (Prevention family violence) 1.94/5
22. Nanaia Mahuta (Foreign Affairs) 1.93/5
23. Willie Jackson (Broadcasting) 1.89/5
24. Phil Twyford (Disarmament) 1.78/5
25. Kelvin Davis (Maori Crown relations) 1.66/5
26. Poto Williams Conservation 1.62/5

Dr Bryce Edwards is a politics lecturer at Victoria University and director of Critical Politics, a project focused on researching New Zealand politics and society. This article was first published HERE


K said...

I thought the lowly #25 k davis, was mainly Minister of Corrections? Another poorly run dept with no support at the top level.

Anonymous said...

So if I was the head of the Labour Party officialdom and thinking what do we need to do to win the next election ? You would have to conclude that the PM’ s ratings are not stellar, the vote is declining and the business community are not impressed. Why would you go to an election with a dead weight loser of a PM?
I’m no rocket scientist but have worked that out, others will also have figured this out, including the Labour Party.
Ardern is toast and when she pulls the pin Labour will crumble, sure as night follows day.