Being that rarity, namely a politician (former) who’d actually started and managed a business, I was disappointed to read Stephen Joyce’s criticism of the government for not trying to save the Tiwai Smelter.
First, he accused them of “conveniently hiding behind the skirts of Bill English” who’d said “No More” following the last taxpayer bail-out of the smelter seven years ago. That’s childish. If “no more” was right, as it was then and is today, it’s irrelevant who says it.
Joyce then pointed out some of the government’s excesses in recent months’ subsidies, the inference being that if money can be wasted on those activities, then why not the smelter? That’s stupidly illogical.
Joyce’s concern is the huge unemployment toll that will arise, confirming yet again the historic underlying unimaginative soft socialism of the National Party when it comes to economic matters, namely a history of trying to prop up dead duck victims of change.
Southland is one of our richest farming regions. The problem is Invercargill, a city that was fading badly 50 years back but was hugely boosted by the smelter’s arrival. But one only has to walk its streets to feels its stand-still nature, as indeed with many of our provincial cities. That’s a global phenomenon.
As for Bluff, it has a modern hotel and a sizeable retail area, seemingly based on tourism.
But the fact remains that over recent years there’s been a massive global over-supply of aluminium resulting in a corresponding massive drop in price.
Then came the virus and in its wake will be a devastating world economic depression reducing demand even more. The smelter is simply unsustainable and it’s absurd to pretend otherwise. It should have been closed years ago.
So why did he write this guff and in particular, take a sideswipe at the alleged comfortable and uncaring Auckland and Wellington elite who he asserted, care not a whit for the people of Invercargill?
The answer lies in the heading, namely “Could Government Have Done More to Save Jobs at Tiwai Point.”
His protest will get traction in Invercargill, currently a marginal seat amidst a solid National region. Cynically implying a National government would save the smelter (it won’t) could well swing it for the Nats. The article did Joyce no credit.