Strong political colours for Brash taskforce

The government's 2025 taskforce appointed to work out how to close the income gap with Australia has an interesting political composition.

It's headed by Dr Don Brash, the former leader of the National Party, who, when he was in Parliament was described by then ACT Party leader Richard Prebble as "ACT's ninth MP", because his views on economic and social policy were so close to ACT's positions.

The taskforce also includes Dr Bryce Wilkinson, an economist who has served with the Treasury and with investment advisors CS First Boston. He has worked closely with the Business Roundtable over the last few years.  He has also been active in the ACT party and has previously chaired the party's policy council.

Appointing Dr Brash the current ACT leader and Minister of Regulatory Reform Rodney Hide said that Dr Brash was "ideally suited to (the) role", noting that among his other qualifications a desire to close the income gap with Australia was one of the reasons Dr Brash decided to enter politics in 2002.

Mr Hide said that setting up the taskforce was a key component in the ACT-National confidence and supply agreement

Other members of the five person taskforce are:

  • David Caygill, a member of the reforming Lange Labour government who succeeded Roger Douglas as Minister of Finance. He currently chairs the Electricity Commission and the upcoming ACC Review, and is a member of the Regulatory Responsibility Taskforce. He is widely regarded as a pragmatist and an effective thinker on economic issues
  • Jeremy Moon, the founder and chief executive of Icebreaker, who chairs the Better by Design unit within New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. His company is regarded as a successful model of exporting using natural New Zealand products and a high level of innovation and enterprise
  • Judith Sloan, a part time member of the Australian Productivity Commission and a member of the Australian Fair Pay Commission. The APC has caught the attention of policy makers in New Zealand for its ability to find solutions at an industry level to promote growth and productivity.

The Taskforce is due to present its first report in November and Dr Brash has written to nearly a hundred organisations, companies and individuals in New Zealand and Australia who "we felt, might have a contribution to make."

He's asking for "a two to three pages submission of ideas to close the income gap between the two countries.

The letter specifically asks for input on the barriers to New Zealand's achieving incomes as high as comparable countries, what the government should do about those issues, and how much difference it would makes if the changes proposed (by the submitters) were implemented.

Dr Brash told the NBR government agencies were providing factual data requested by the taskforce, but not policy advice. There was no deadline for receiving submissions, but "the earlier we receive comments the more consideration we can give their views."

He described raising productivity and closing the income gap as "clearly the biggest economic challenge New Zealand is facing."

It was a long term matter, which "won't be achieved through just one report. We expect to build a full set of recommendations over the 3-year period of the Taskforce."


Published in the National Business Review of 16 October 2009