Folk in general tend to dismiss this aspect of democratic governments. Often it appears childish. But it does serve a vitally important function. It helps keep politicians honest. A politician facing the spotlight at the moment in New Zealand is Phil Twyford, a loud mouthed braggadocio who has a whole bunch of executive responsibilities. Phil has been spotted in the glare of unwelcome publicity and the hounds are off the leash.
The first thing to note is that Twyford, otherwise known to his close friends as Tweeford, is the Minister of Housing. There is apparently a shortage of “affordable housing” in New Zealand. Up to the mark stepped Tweeford during the election campaign and he fair swiped the ball out of the park. He promised that Labour and its cronies would build 100,000 new “affordable houses” above and beyond what would be built by the private sector. Every challenge and question about the veracity of such a promise was dismissed with an arrogant snap of the fingers. Phil knew best.
Now, however, the Opposition and the media have had a chance to look into the details. What they have discovered is that there is nothing there at all. Tweeford has been operating in Cloud Cookoo Land. What’s the problem?
Firstly, Tweeford has no experience whatsoever with the housing construction sector. To be sure, he does have life experience outside of politics in New Zealand. Phil worked for Oxfam. This apparently equipped him to run the NZ Government’s Housing portfolio. His life as a global welfare bureaucrat, serving as a staff member for a now discredited NGO, apparently makes him an expert on housing construction. At least Phil thinks so–as does the Prime Minister, apparently.
Secondly, he has no idea of how economies actually work. Matthew Hooten has exploded Tweeford’s naivete and ignorance about how Government commercial activity drives out private sector commercial activity. Phil is boasting that he will use the Government cheque book to build 100,000 new “affordable houses” without any awareness of the risks of those houses squeezing out private construction firms’ activity in the sector.
Most ironic is the effect of the implausible political promise he continues to make: to build 100,000 new low-value units over the next 10 years above those that would be built anyway. The banks know full well that would inevitably crash the market for apartments and other cheap dwellings, including those recently completed, under construction or still on the drawing boards. [Emphasis, ours. Matthew Hooten, NZ Herald]
Nah. Not a chance. Not in Phil’s make-believe-world. In addition, Tweeford assumes funding will come from the rapid turnover of capital: houses will be built in rapid quickfire manner, sold to a needy homebuyers, and the capital reassigned to the next phalanx of houses.
According to the minister, dozens of Auckland property developers can’t get the banks to fund them. Several hundred potential housing units are being delayed. Twyford, whose previous career was at Oxfam, has proposed two strategies to fast-track these projects. The first is paying a deposit to buy new units off the plans. The second is underwriting the whole development.
These strategies, Twyford believes, will open the banks’ vaults. The $2 billion of taxpayers’ money to be invested in KiwiBuild will thus boost residential construction by up to a net $11.6b over the next four years. Twyford’s number is taken from a three-page Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) memo and assumes no capacity constraints in the construction industry nor any substitution of other developments.
The magic occurs because Twyford believes his $2b will be recycled rapidly over the next four years. Seamlessly, the government will fund a development, see it built in just a few months, quickly sell the units and then put the money into another project, faster and faster. Among the sceptics are the Treasury and Reserve Bank.
Ah, but what would Treasury and the Reserve Bank know? They, according to Phil, are a bunch of young preppy kids playing with spreadsheets. They don’t know anything about the real world of Tweeford. He has secret plans, and he is the Man.
The spotlights are exposing an arrogant man operating well out of his depth, and who can’t swim. Tweeford does not know what he does not know and that makes him dangerous to say the least.
And then there are the embarrassing lapses in behaviour which just seem to keep coming. Phil has been caught operating a cell phone in an aircraft. This is a huge no-no. It has resulted in Tweeford losing responsibility for the civil aviation portfolio. But, in addition, on the same flight, he apparently stood up out of his seat whilst the plane was moving on to the runway. That’s another illegal act. After all, why should rules apply to Tweeford the Great.
Newshub can reveal Phil Twyford may have broken another serious aviation rule. His ministerial responsibility for civil aviation was taken off him on Thursday after he admitted using a cellphone on a flight. But now he’s being accused of breaking another law by standing up out of his seat as the plane was moving to the runway.
National’s Judith Collins has made the claim saying the rule was broken on the same flight from Wellington to Auckland on Budget Day – May 17. Not only did Phil make a call when the plane was taxiing but he also got up afterwards out of his seat,” Ms Collins told Newshub. Just a week after the flight the Transport Minister appears to have a case of brain fade – he can’t remember. “I have no recollection of that, no recollection at all. I’m not saying that I didn’t I just honestly can’t remember I have no recollection that I did stand up. It seems to me unlikely,” he said.
Ms Collins said the information had come from the same source who informed her of the original breach of the rules. “The information has clearly been completely correct to date, so…,” she said. Mr Twyford also doesn’t recall exactly what was happening when he made the phone call on the plane.
That’s an example of the hunting dogs scenting prey.