Gov­ern­ment three-year re­port card

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

John Key cam­paigned for Na­tional on four key prom­ises in 2008: clos­ing New Zealand’s pay gap with Aus­tralia; tax cuts; uni­form ed­u­ca­tion progress stan­dards and prun­ing the pub­lic ser­vice.

Cir­cum­stances were some­what against Mr Key. He in­her­ited an econ­omy that had been in re­ces­sion for a year and it stayed that way for an­other six months, then the Christchurch earth­quakes, the loss of life and drain on the na­tional cof­fers.

So how did those goals work out for Mr Key?

This one didn’t go so well – def­i­nitely a ‘‘stan­dard-not-achieved’’ grade.

In fact, the gap has grown since the elec­tion, and in April this year Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill English at­tempted to put a pos­i­tive spin on the sit­u­a­tion, call­ing New Zealand’s lower wages a strate­gic ad­van­tage.

The fig­ures aren’t easy to com­pare be­cause the two coun­tries’ re­spec­tive sta­tis­tics de­part­ments mea­sure in­come dif­fer­ently and at dif­fer­ent times, but it still clear the gap is widen­ing rather than clos­ing.

Aus­tralia’s av­er­age wage in Novem­ber 2008 was A$ 911 (NZ$1127) and in February this year A$1004 ($1243).

New Zealand’s av­er­age weekly wage was $759 in the year to June 2008 and $769 in the year to June 2010, but not so many peo­ple were earn­ing wages.

Un­em­ploy­ment at elec­tion time in 2008 was 4.6 per cent and this March it was 6.8 per cent.

Busi­ness and Eco­nomic Re­search Lim­ited chief econ­o­mist Ganesh Nana said the wage gap has not changed in the past three years and is un­likely to in the next decade.

‘‘ It’s still

sig­nif­i­cant

and noth­ing has hap­pened to it.

‘‘Some would ar­gue that it has got wider. The risk is that we con­tinue to lose skilled peo­ple over the Tas­man.

‘‘ Yes, it is sig­nif­i­cant, but I would ar­gue that there are more important things we should be con­cerned about.’’

Mr Key and Mr English came through with their promised tax cuts.

The top mar­ginal rate of 38c in the dol­lar on in­comes over $70,000 a year fell to 33c with lesser cuts to ev­ery bracket be­low and com­pany tax was cut from 30 per cent to 28 per cent.

On the flip side of the coin, goods and ser­vices tax in­crease 20 per cent, from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent.

Dr Nana said the cuts did not ben­e­fit New Zealan­ders.

‘‘I don’t think it made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence to the av­er­age New Zealan­der’s abil­ity to bal­ance their bud­get.

‘‘ The big dif­fer­ence was for those on high in­comes.’’

The tax cuts were struc­tured to ben­e­fit those at the top of the in­come scale the most, he said.

‘‘What was needed was in­come at the bot­tom end of the scale to en­able New Zealan­ders to con­tinue ... spend­ing and keep the econ­omy go­ing.’’

This one is a stan­dard def­i­nitely not-achieved, not be­cause they didn’t do what the gov­ern­ment hoped they would achieve, but be­cause it has so far failed to suc­cess­fully in­tro­duce them.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Ann Tol­ley has strug­gled to get pro­fes­sional ed­u­ca­tion­ists on board.

Ms Tol­ley has just started a fresh bat­tle with in­te­grated Ru­dolf Steiner schools, which run on a totally dif­fer­ent timetable geared to the de­vel­op­men­tal progress of in­di­vid­ual pupils, rather than to any state-or­dered one.

Vic­to­ria Univer­sity’s head of school of ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy and im­ple­men­ta­tion Pro­fes­sor Robert Strathdee said iden­ti­fy­ing some stu­dents’ in­abil­ity to progress was a good thing, but there were other, pos­si­bly bet­ter ways, to do so.

‘‘There are plenty of good di­ag­nos­tic stan­dards avail­able to schools,’’ he said.

‘‘The of­fi­cial re­sponse would be ‘sure, they might be there but schools haven’t been us­ing them’.’’

‘‘It’s hard to get away from the feel­ing that there is an el­e­ment of try­ing to en­force [stan­dards] on some schools that haven’t been iden­ti­fy­ing [stu­dents who are not pro­gress­ing].’’

Have na­tional stan­dards been suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented?

‘‘The fact that such a high pro­por­tion of schools didn’t sub­mit the in­for­ma­tion is pretty telling,’’ he said.

‘‘ I think the gov­ern­ment is strug­gling to get trac­tion with the teach­ers. A large part of na­tional stan­dards for the gov­ern­ment is to pro­vide clearer ev­i­dence for par­ents about their child’s progress.

‘‘It’s dif­fi­cult be­cause of course par­ents want bet­ter in­for­ma­tion - the de­bate is how best to pro­vide this.’’

Achieved with merit. The pub­lic ser­vice was capped at 38,895 staff in March 2009 and fell by 4.85 per cent to 36,973 by March.

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