Jacinda Ardern doesn’t have all the answers ...
Ardern explains why buying a $1 million house helps her understand the housing predicament young people face. Watching her pregnant sister juggle worklife balance inspires her to provide more support for families, says Labour leader.
QNow, I’ve asked you for a short pitch – no more than 140 characters, the length of a tweet – why vote Labour?
Because after nine years we have the potential to turn around our staggeringly low home ownership rates, our declining home ownership, our lack of . . .
QI’m going to have to beep you there, because I think you were over the 140 characters.
I saw that you were about to come in. There’s so much to say, Jonathan!
QAnd why vote Ardern? We know about your politics experience in New Zealand, UK and the US. Clarke Gayford, your partner, seemed pretty defensive when he accused critics of ‘scaremongering’ about your lack of real world experience? Well, I would contest that I do actually have real world experience. Nine years in opposition has certainly taught me about the machinery of government; as did my time working when Labour was in government in Helen Clark’s office.
I would contend that I have more experience than Bill English did before coming into Parliament. But, by virtue of being young, I do politics differently. I think there’s the ability for us to collaborate on more issues. I’m pretty aspirational about some of those gnarly things like our productivity challenges, like the environmental challenges.
QYou worked as a teenager in a fish and chip shop? At the Warehouse, Countdown, a job trainer for people with intellectual disabilities, soup kitchen; a range of things. It’s not all politics. I learnt about small business by working in small business.
My time in the UK I reviewed policing in England and Wales. I sat alongside businesses who were regulated; that was my job, to improve the way that business worked with governments.
QYou promised $10 million for 100 more Plunket and Tamariki Ora nurses. You’ve already signalled nearly a billion more dollars in targeted Working for Families Support. So, here’s a question I’m asking Bill English as well: what personal experience do you bring to the table that helps you understand the challenges faced by different families? There’s the experience that I witness just through my family; my sister trying to balance her life with her baby on the way and my four-year old niece, and my friends balancing work and life as well. And, then there’s my experience having witnessed just how much we need to invest in children if we want to support our future generations. That investment in Plunket and Tamariki Ora, that’s about saying, much earlier on, I want there to be support for our families, particularly vulnerable families. 90,000 more visits in the home for those who need it most. It’s about not assuming that everyone had what my sister had; which was mum there by her side supporting her in that really early period when times were toughest. Not everyone has that. I consider myself lucky. I know I’m privileged.
QYou and your partner Clarke bought a new house in Point Chevalier over summer. How much did you pay for it?
Less than the average house price in Auckland, which is surprising given prices around the place. And, I consider myself lucky. I know I’m privileged.
I know on the salary that I earn I’m the lucky one, and that is probably why I have that extra strength of feeling around making sure that we do more for the next generation to improve home ownership. Nearly a million bucks right? Yeah, pretty close, yeah. So how does that help you relate to that younger generation who think they’re never going to get a foot on that property ladder?
I know that I’m privileged in the fact that I was able to buy that house. It was eyewatering. Look, I come from Morrinsville; house prices like that still make my jaw drop.
When we were looking around it was still hard for us to find something that we could afford to buy and I’m on a good wicket.
So, of course that made me sit there and think what about the rest of New Zealand, and what about those other families? So, that was an experience that I hold in my mind. I’m the lucky one.
It shouldn’t be that way. We should be opening up home ownership for others.
QI’ve given both you and Bill English the opportunity to ask one question of the other. National Party leader Bill English asks of you:
It’s a complicated question. Of course he’s pointing to capital gains and whether or not someone becomes the owner of a second home by having it left to them. My focus is on improving home ownership. Dealing with the housing crisis and fairness is my primary focus.
QDoes that mean you’re happy to essentially reintroduce death duties through an inheritance tax?
No. An inheritance tax isn’t what’s going to enhance our home ownership rates in New Zealand.
I know Bill English has run around listing five different taxes.
The point I raise back to him is, why did you introduce a form of pseudo capital gains tax? And, he did. Without going to voters, without canvassing it, he did.
And, the reason I imagine that he did it is because he knows we’ve got a crisis on our hands.
QYou’re going to stop the sale of any more state houses, even though Housing NZ says the houses that they’re selling aren’t fit for purpose and are being replaced with brand-spanking new homes that meet the needs of 21st century families.
Yeah, I would dispute that. I mean, for instance, 2500 homes in the Canterbury area where they have a waiting list, people down there don’t believe that they should be losing those homes. We’re 3000 net homes down relative to where we were when National started. Yes, we need to renovate our stock; yes, we need to make sure that it’s warm and dry; but selling off our stock, when almost every area they’ve sold we have a need, isn’t right. I’ll give you an example.
In Napier, where I was yesterday, Housing NZ knocked down 100 homes. There’s a waiting list of over 150 there and they haven’t rebuilt them. There’s a handful now on that site. If they wanted to modernise why weren’t they rebuilt? They’ve had nine years.
QYou also want to ban land sales to offshore buyers. Is that just a dog whistle to racists? No.
QThere will be permanent residents returning home who can sit in the UK and vote but aren’t actually allowed to buy a home here.
We want those who have the right to call New Zealand home in the long term to have the right to purchase homes.
QUnder Andrew Little, Labour was characterised by kneejerk populist policies. When Key proposed a flag referendum, Little turned around and opposed it. When English agreed to raise the Super age, Little did a flip-flop and opposed it. When he realised how unpopular a capital gains tax was he booted the idea out of the electoral cycle; and the ‘Chinesesounding names’ dog whistle –
Oh, butter. I was going to say if you’re asking cheese it’s astronomical; I think the last block I bought cost me ten bucks. Butter, I’d say from memory, was about $6ish the last time I went. I made scones and I was outraged.
We have talked in the past about what we can do to put healthy eating into our schools, and we did have a plan around that, it got dumped and now the government has seen that there were some virtues in that. We have a role to play alongside industry; to say, look, we’re over-using sugar in our products. Taxes on sugary drinks don’t address the issue across the board, because it’s in our cereal, it’s even in tomato sauce. surely a low point in Labour’s history. Do you stand by Labour’s handling of all those issues?
Yeah, look, we’ve got to bring our own personality and our own leadership to the job.
On issues like the Chinese surnames, I’d like to think that that wouldn’t have happened under my leadership. But it did happen and we have to then manage that.
Given the aftermath of feeling amongst the Chinese community, that’s something we need to repair. Issues like the Chinese surnames, I’d like to think that that wouldn’t have happened under my leadership.
QIn 2012 you accused the government of betraying future generations by failing to raise the New Zealand Super age. ‘Rather than tackle this big issue for the sake of future generations who want a home, a secure retirement and a country with a sound savings plan, they continue to target them and burden them with debt,’ you said. ‘Politics . . . has to be about doing the right thing.’ Is doing the right thing no longer important to you?
No, it is. And, my reference there to a savings plan actually stands as true today as it was then. The fact National didn’t contribute to the Superannuation Fund has been one of my primary sources of anger. $5.9 billion we’ve foregone because there hasn’t been that investment in that fund.
QHere’s a question from Ian Crighton; he was a registered nurse for 50 years and he worries the needs of provincial New Zealand are being forgotten. He says: Kim Jong . . . oh, South Korean; I went straight to North Korea.
Well given that he was smart enough to negotiate that for himself, I think he would understand that we would want to do it for New Zealand.
That’s a story that I’ve heard from a number people; even just trying to get specialist appointments now. Some of the targets that have been set by government means that people don’t even get their appointments to try and keep those numbers down.
QSo what are you doing? It’s under-funding at its most simple. They’re down over $2 billion in health funding. Essentially that’s why we voted against the tax cuts. That’s why we said, we can’t afford that right now. We put aside an extra $7 billion worth for health explicitly, and that’s to go in and make sure that those DHBs are properly funded.
QWhat are you going to be doing on election night next week? Will you have friends and family around?
I’ll have a small group of people with us, but I’ll be with Clarke which will be good, because we haven’t spent a lot of time together over these last few weeks.
QWinston Peters says he’ll talk to whoever has the most seats. If you need him to form a government will you call him on election night or will you wait for his call?
Actually, probably we need to have a little bit of time to let the results bed in. I don’t imagine actually that will necessarily happen on election night.
QDo you expect we’re going to know who’s Prime Minister next Saturday night? To be honest, on current polls, I don’t know. I hope so.
QPeters hopes a government can be decided by October 12. How long do you think is an acceptable timeframe?
I would hope within a week or two. As quickly as we can. You want to make sure you do it properly. It’s got to last the distance.