Shane Jones: Inflation runs amok while MPs chase their tails

We have been gazing, eating and mythologising Matariki.

Our European counterparts have been baking under the baleful influence of Sirius, the Dog Star - an ominous name that should give the Government pause for thought given there is an economic stray on the prowl: inflation.

Imported and domestic costs are rising. Banks are squeezing borrowers despite profits to make supermarket moguls blush. Our understaffed hospitality sector is running low on resilience. Our tradies are apprehensive that ebbing cashflow, debt and low confidence are harbingers of recession.

The Reserve Bank appears to be going for broke. After creating an enormous amount of cheap money to prevent a depression, it is now engineering a recession. Apparently, this is to strip us of heretical cost expectations. Whether we simmer or boil, it is prescribing pain.

Employers seek suitably skilled labour. Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, unemployment is not our malady. Rather, our firms have a labour supply problem. Ministers should urgently identify all supply choke points, review portfolios and start unblocking them - a task better done with strong economic demand rather than a washed-out market.

Sadly Minister of Workplace Relations and Immigration Michael Wood is not in that mode. Putting employers in the pound with no intention of cutting economic slack, his schtick is compulsory unionisation and jacked-up wages.

A boost of RSE, Pacific migrant workers as a transitional measure would be a start. This would assist our efforts in the Pacific to improve health and wellbeing in their communities - something that featured significantly during the Prime Minister's ministrations at the Suva Pacific Forum shindig.

The scarcity of staff will inevitably crimp business profitability. Given some of the worst affected industries are our exporters, this is a treacherous situation. We need to boost our foreign exchange coffers from land and sea. Regulatory pace and burden need to be tailored to ensure we maintain our international cash flows.

Presumably, Wood believes 348,000 beneficiaries, 11 per cent of workers, will magically fill these staffing gaps. Labour has failed to deliver a satisfactory response to getting people off welfare into work - a waste of potential calling out for a big-time policy reset.

Mind you, realising potential by dispatching them to Te Pūkenga, aka polytechs, could be worse. Why do all these new government agencies, policies and proposals have to have voguish Māori names outwards but are mouldy and scatter-brained inwards?

Established in early 2020, Te Pūkenga has squandered two years of reset opportunity. It has no identifiable strategy or operational plan for financial robustness. Rural and metropolitan polytechnics do not know how they will function under the single body.

A case of bi-lingual devotions without delivery. Consultants have run amok, head office wallahs have grossly expanded. Meanwhile, the provincial polytechnic personnel are adrift, sans direction.

At a time when employers are desperate for skilled personnel, taxpayers are weighed down with bureaucratic self-indulgence to the tune of a $110 million financial deficit. Now that is a taniwha.

Presumably, Christopher Luxon will add this failure to his catalogue of Labour delivery debacles. Keeping a daily deficit score card is the easy part. It's time for his own delivery. His recent overseas trip was unenlightening, compounded by his egregious dissing of our nation.

Rather than talking the challenges in a small open-trading economy and "this is what we do", he throws the private sector under the bus. The irony is stupefying. When aspiring to lead a nation, you never do this or antagonise voters over moral issues.

Luxon's deep-pocketed backers ought to be alarmed.

National won't prevail if more women realise their man is from Mars, oblivious to the orbit and character of Venus, in our political system. He needs to show more than corporate slogans and cliches.

Luxon obviously knows tax cuts mean less revenue and trimming the sails. We're counting down the days until we hear an answer. Irrespective of how Covid borrowings are calculated, creditors still need to be paid.

Of course, this aspiring Prime Minister will need friends. Stage right, David Seymour, who has moved from twerking to mud-wrestling with the Māori Party. His political recipe is a tasteless gruel of Ruthenasia, with a pinch of ethnic click-baiting.

Admittedly, there is genuine frustration with Labour's overreach on Treaty co-governance and clumsy attempts to expand the use of te reo. One such classic is the new name for the Auckland area health agency, Te Whatu Ora Te Toka Tumai Auckland.

How about Health Auckland?

Given this body has to serve all of us, its name is likely to cause cultural laryngitis before boosting healthy patient outcomes. Health users are diverse and families do not need tube-feeding te reo but to be treated and, hopefully, made well.

Uncertainty is growing in our households on how to cope with inflation and the prospects of a recession. Labour is distracted but has to deliver more pragmatism and National less vein-tapping. Act and Māori parties less polarisation. As for the Greens... that is for another story from a galaxy far, far away.