Literary skills have been lacking on both sides of the House this week amid a storm over pay freeze. James Elliott looks at why the Government could well be facing a winter of too many pigs with not enough lipstick.
It’s been another big news week, particularly in the literary world. Simon Bridges has written a book, which poses an obvious question – what did he do for the rest of the afternoon?
Simon’s literary endeavour shows that the maxim that everyone has at least one book inside them has a lot to answer for. In this case a literal interpretation of that maxim is called for and that’s probably where the book should have stayed. In any event National Identity will hit the shelves in August and in my view is already destined to top the best-seller list – of passive aggressive gifts to give this Christmas. And while I’m not someone given to the regular offertory of prayers, I know you’ll join me in a sincere exhortation to Francis de Sales, the patron saint of literature, that we please, please, please be spared the affliction of the audiobook version, National Oydentity.
Literary skills were also in short supply across the aisle this week, with the Government still struggling to communicate its public sector pay freeze decision, preventing pay rises for those in the public sector earning more than $100k and limiting pay rises for those earning more than $60k. Proof of that struggle to communicate effectively is my description of the pay freeze as a pay freeze. The Government doesn’t want the pay freeze to be described as a pay freeze, the Government wants the pay freeze to be described as guidance for public sector pay negotiations, a guidance to freeze pay.
The Government doesn’t want the pay freeze to be described as a pay freeze, the Government wants the pay freeze to be described as guidance for public sector pay negotiations, a guidance to freeze pay.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he regretted the distress his announcement had caused, presumably the distress caused to those of his caucus colleagues who don’t want the pay freeze to be described as a pay freeze. There are two principal reasons why the Government is failing to communicate successfully why the pay freeze isn’t a pay freeze. First, it’s a pay freeze. And secondly it’s probably the inevitable outcome of assigning the task of formulating the communication strategy to sell the pay freeze as not a pay freeze to public servants who will themselves be subject to the pay freeze.
Indeed the pay freeze fiasco could well be the frosty harbinger of a broader winter of discontent to come, discontent that the Government can’t simply talk away. Until recently, effective communication has been one of this Government’s core skills if not signature achievements. However we’re now seeing a decline in that skill set and the Government could well be facing a winter of too many pigs with not enough lipstick.
Even the sure-footed PM has stumbled on what should have been a cake walk communications opportunity. Jacinda Ardern has drawn and donated another sketch to raise money for charity. “Another” because it’s something she’s done before, one of her earlier charity sketches raising $18,000. Unfortunately on this occasion she’s drawn a sketch of a house which if it reaches the hammer price of her earlier sketches will be as unaffordable to most people as the real thing.
Also drawing on her literary skills this week was Judith Collins, who was reported as having written a strongly worded letter to the PM demanding Trevor Mallard’s head, figuratively I assume.
It’s even more unfortunate to draw a sketch reminding people of the housing crisis the same time as the Government announcing a public sector pay freeze in a week when it was reported that median house prices went up by 20 percent in the last year. “Frozen out of the housing market” is the obvious title for the sketch, particularly if you’re employed in the public sector where the median salary is projected to increase by 0 percent each year for the next three years. Because of the public sector pay freeze.
Also drawing on her literary skills this week was Judith Collins, who was reported as having written a strongly worded letter to the PM demanding Trevor Mallard’s head, figuratively I assume. Either way it appears he’s not going to lose it. The rolling boil of the Mallard saga has reached the point where it’s no longer an existential saga in its own right and is now more of a distraction from more serious issues facing the Government – like the public sector pay freeze.
And in fact Trevor Mallard took things a step further, as he’s prone to do, distracting from his own distraction by ejecting Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi from the House during Question Time. The ejection was in form related to how to raise a point of order in the House but in substance related to whether Judith Collins’ questions to the PM about the He Paupua report were racist towards Māori. You can expect there to be more chapters written on that particular topic in the coming weeks.
Have a peaceful weekend.