Cunliffe’s economy

To be honest, I’m not convinced by David Cunliffe’s speech to fix NZ’s economy. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read it click on this link:

Yes, I am sympathetic to the Scandinavian economic model of free health care, education and generous welfare scheme for the unemployed and pensioners and the focus on human rights. But in reality, this is a mixed market model that will naturally fall back into the neoliberal trap in order to service the large debt incurred through the excessive government spending and borrowing required to maintain the standard of living currently enjoyed by those citizens. It only takes a quick search on the internet to see that Sweden is stepping up its privatisation scheme to do exactly that.

Additionally, Cunliffe’s speech appropriates the ‘renewable energies’ policy advocated by the Green Party since entry into Parliament, knowing that Labour’s competition has not so much been National, but evidently the Greens as apparent in the polls and recent elections. However, in my view, Cunliffe has failed to sell it. Why? Because the objective of implementing policies for the manufacturing of renewable technology is profit. Cunliffe insinuates that if NZ is to be a leader in renewable technology and get in on the $6 trillion dollar industry that it is, the measure of its leadership will always be in dollar value. Also statements such as ‘sustainable growth’ are hyperbole – economic growth is not sustainable, the earths resources are finite. I do agree that NZ should be aiming to be a user of renewable technology and should ensure in the process that all the steps taken to produce this technology is in accordance with ecologically sustainable practices. NZ should be leaders in effecting global environmental change and simply producing exports that are purportedly ‘green’ is not enough. It is counterproductive.  To manufacture these technologies requires the use of minerals and therefore mining. So there will be degradation of the environment in order to make such technology. If we do not have the minerals needed in NZ, then we will probably import them in their usable form, so while we may be limiting the effects on our own environment, we increase our ecological footprint through the very process of getting the products needed to make these technologies and then exporting them once they are ready for the market.  

My intuition is that Labour are trying to reduce the influence of the Greens by pushing similar policy, but Cunliffe is a little insincere in proclaiming the evils of neoliberal policy, when his mixed market economy leads to the same neoliberal trap. This is not a long term solution, because the Scandinavian countries are showing us that a mixed model economy cannot be sustained long term, and this is likely the result of a capitalist based system that functions on crisis.

What do I believe is the answer? I don’t know. But what I think is a better way of economising, is as stated in the comments section of my post on ‘Poverty is the result of inequality’:

where resources are used more efficiently and effectively (ecological sustainability). Capitalism claims to be efficient, but its efficiency is in regards to what it can produce versus how much it cost to produce, so efficiency here is related to ‘money’ – it works against environmental preservation and sustainability. Efficiently economising, would mean that we were not exploiting resources, but in using them we were ensuring that we were not destroying biodiversity and creating environmental hazards. Effectively economising would mean that we were not depriving any person of their basic needs – clean air, water, food, shelter”  

In my view, NZ should be leading the way in global environmental protection/preservation and advocating for the universality of human rights. However, we need the credibility to take up that challenge, which means addressing the inequalities and environmental hazards that successive governments continue blame on global economic conditions – cop out. 



  1. I continue to be amazed that there has been so little comment on the speech on "green growth" that Grant Robertson – who, unlike Cunliffe, has actual influence on the party's political direction – gave in Grey Lynn back in June. outlined how Labour plans to go after the Green vote by being less gloomy, more willing to compromise on the issues. It also made the rather extraordinary claim that the world's enviromental challenges represent an opportunity for New Zealand and for Labour.


  2. Cunilffe's earlier speeches have been good, but higher level. Now that he starts talking about details, yes, it feels like there's a decent chunk of the Greens policy in there. In some ways good (the Greens have some sane policy), in some ways bad (Greens vs Labour is bad for us all). I'm unqualified to comment on the following of the Scandinavian model. Robertsons speech felt like yet another one of those "we must offer a strong vision", "we must offer a positive and practical vision", "we need solutions" yabber yabber yabber without actually offering any vision or solutions. Which is about as much as I expect from Labour these days – i.e. empty words.


  3. Totally agree with both comments. Particularly, that now is the time for Labour to embrace the Green's not compete with them, especially as Labour will never get the kind of majority that National currently enjoy. I had a read of Grant Robertson's speech just before, and while less focussed than Cunliffe on the perceived profitability of having a 'sustainable economy', they are both really just using buzz words to pretend they give a shit about the costs to the environment. So true – empty words.


  4. I wish I could agree that Robertson's words in that speech were empty. It seems to me to be most lucid and clear articulation of Labour's plan – to construct and own a middle ground between National and the Greens, and use it to define what it means to apply common sense to the political, social and environmental challenges of our time. It is an utterly cynical design, but it's neither vague nor empty.


  5. I don't see it. I went back and re-read Robertsons speech. I don't see it. I'll go so far as to agree that he says they want to to construct and own a middle ground but it's mostly we're not going to be like National which, whilst admirable, is not a plan. My impression of Labour has been for some time that they keep telling us they are going to make a plan, without ever telling us what the plan is. So I regard another speech telling us they are making a plan as empty noise, buzz words as Ellipsister says.Cunliffe's attempt at least attempted to include some details – Scandinavian model, capital gains tax, reinstate research and development tax breaks. Though as I say, I'm not sufficiently up to speed to pass comment on whether some of those would actually be useful or not.


  6. The way I see it, Robertson's speech was politics, while Cunliffe's what policy. Telling us that Labour is going to do green issues, but with a willigness to compromise and without the doom and gloom, is the real high-level stuff. If there is any coherence in Labour's internal process, policy will derive from that, but it will be a detail. The larger point is: we're going after the Greens, reclaim environmentalism for ourselves, and this is how we're going to do it.


  7. "Labour are trying to reduce the influence of the Greens by pushing similar policy""The larger point is: we're going after the Greens, reclaim environmentalism for ourselves, and this is how we're going to do it."I regretfully concur [sigh]


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