Bryce Edwards: The Political mood of the business elite

Bryce Edwards: The Political mood of the business elite

The New Zealand Herald has released the results of its annual “Mood of the Boardroom” survey today. Should we care what businesses think of politics, the economy and society? There’s a good argument that we should be more concerned with the “Mood of the Foodbank” or “Mood of the workers”.

Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to see what the Establishment thinks, and what issues businesses are likely to pressure government decision-makers on in future. Readers can also take into account the obvious business bias when interpreting what the results mean.

The business love affair with the PM and Government is over

The business community has generally been very happy with Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Government. In the first few years, and particularly during the Covid pandemic, business were extremely positive about the administration and especially the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

For example, back in 2020 the Mood of Business survey rated Ardern’s performance as nearly 4/5. And business generally rated Labour’s management of the economy and various crises very highly.

This year their judgement of Ardern and Labour has plummeted. Ardern’s own rating out of 5 has dropped to only 2.3. So, there’s been something of a decline: 3 in 2018, 2.9 in 2019, 3.91 in 2020, 3.03 in 2021, and now 2.3.

Ardern is ranked as only the 12th best performer in Cabinet. Grant Robertson is doing better – with the second highest score of 2.98/5. But that is well down from the 4.18/5 he got from business in 2020.

Business leaders regard Climate Change minister and Green co-leader James Shaw as the Government’s strongest performer, obviously on the basis of his climate change initiatives. He even gets kind words from one oil and gas CEO who describes him as a “rationalist”. Various CEOs point to the fact that he has lost the support of his own party, and is in fact “in the wrong party”.

What are business marking the Government well on?

Business isn’t entirely critical of the Labour Government, and the survey results do show that business leaders give them credit in some areas. For example, according to Fran O’Sullivan, “The PM’s scorecard shows CEOs accorded her a top rating of 3.56/5 for how she leveraged her personal brand for NZ business’s advantage internationally.” And she is also applauded by business for her handling of national security and international relations.

In terms of the Government as a whole, there are a number of things they are doing well according to business. Here’s the list of areas that business rated them highly on:

•           Supporting Māori and Pasifika aspirations. 3.49/5
•           Maintaining strong international relationships 3.32/5
•           Progress on international trade agreements 3.16/5
•           Maintaining an independent foreign policy 3.01/5
•           Addressing climate change challenges 2.71/5

What is business marking the Government down on?

Interestingly, business leaders have some of the same concerns about Ardern’s Government as those on the political left – especially the failure to deliver on their promises.

For example Don Braid of Mainfreight, who has in the past been quite supportive of the Government, says: “There is a lack of direction and sure-footed policy to combat the failings around health, education, housing and crime. Stop the political posturing and interference. Focus on the core fundamentals and then get out of the way.”

When asked about Ardern’s delivery of “transformative change”, business execs rated her only 1.7/5. According to the Herald, a typical comment from business was: “Lots of talk on policy but little actual impact”.

Some of the areas that business rated the Government most poorly on are also areas that Labour supporters might also feel disappointed about. Here are some of Labour’s worst marks from business:

•           Addressing the housing shortage 1.81/5
•           Improving children’s wellbeing 1.80/5
•           Addressing transport constraints 1.80/5
•           Immigration 1.36/5

But the management of the economy was also an area of strong concern. For example, when asked if they have confidence in Grant Robertson’s management of the economy, 38 per cent said yes, and 46 per cent said no.

Here are some other areas of poor performance on the economy according to business:
•           Maintaining fiscal responsibility 2.14/5;
•           Addressing the infrastructure deficit 1.88/5
•           Execution and delivery of policies 1.63/5
•           Transforming the economy 1.56/5
•           Policy planning and consultation with business 1.57/5

What does business think of the opposition parties?

In recent Mood of the Boardroom surveys, CEOs have been quite scathing about the performance of the National Party, its leaders and its finance spokespeople. For example, the Herald points out today that in the past, “Judith Collins came in for a pasting”.

CEOs are warming towards National leader Christopher Luxon (who they gave a rating of 3.24/5), but they seem particularly enamoured with National’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis. For example, “73 per cent of respondents agreed Willis has presented herself as a credible future Minister of Finance”. Some business leaders also talked about Willis as a future leader and prime minister.

On the topic of the Government’s co-governance agenda, CEOs seem quite split. They were asked if co-governance is either “right for the times” or “anti-democratic”, with 37 per cent opting for the former, and 41 per cent for the latter.

Finally, here are the CEO scores for Government ministers:

1. James Shaw (Climate change) 3.27/5
2. Grant Robertson (Finance) 2.98/5
3. Chris Hipkins (Education) 2.95/5
4. Damien O’Connor (Trade) 2.92/5
5. Kiri Allan (Justice) 2.83/5
6. Ayesha Verrall (Covid-19 response) 2.49/5
7. Stuart Nash (Tourism) 2.43/5
8. Megan Woods Energy 2.42
9. Peeni Henare (Defence) 2/39/5
10. Andrew Little (Health) 2.37/5
11. Jan Tinetti (Internal Affairs) 2.34/5
12. Jacinda Ardern (PM, National Security & Intelligence) 2.30/5
13. Kieran McAnulty (Emergency Management) 2.25/5
14. Michael Wood (Immigration) 2.19/5
15. Carmel Sepuloni (Social Dev & Employment) 2.13/5
16. Aupito Sio (Pacific Peoples) 2.12/5
17. Meka Whaitiri (Customs) 2.03/5
18. David Parker (Environment) 2.00/5
19. Priyanca Radhaskrishnan (Ethnic communities) 2.00/5
20. David Clark (Commerce & Consumer Affairs) 1.96/5
21. Marama Davidson (Prevention family violence) 1.94/5
22. Nanaia Mahuta (Foreign Affairs) 1.93/5
23. Willie Jackson (Broadcasting) 1.89/5
24. Phil Twyford (Disarmament) 1.78/5
25. Kelvin Davis (Maori Crown relations) 1.66/5
26. Poto Williams Conservation 1.62/5


Dr Bryce Edwards is Political Analyst in Residence at Victoria University of Wellington. He is the director of the Democracy Project.

This article can be republished under a Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0  license. Attributions should include a link to the Democracy Project.  


Further reading on the Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom

Herald: Mood of the Boardroom: More than 100 chief executives rate Government ministers
Herald: Mood of the Boardroom ranks NZ’s politicians
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Business leaders hammer Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson (paywalled)
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Frustration with the Government rises(paywalled)
Jenée Tibshraeny (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Grant Robertson realistic about the tough times (paywalled)

Liam Dann (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Is the Reserve Bank straying from its brief?(paywalled)
Fran O’Sullivan and Tim McCready (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Increased co-governance divides chief executives (paywalled)
Tim McCready (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Business confidence tumbles(paywalled)
Graham Skellern (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Robertson’s star losing its shine(paywalled)
Tim McCready (Herald): Co-governance shouldn’t be a political football (paywalled)
Tim McCready (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Act passes the credibility test(paywalled)
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: A future Prime Minister in waiting?(paywalled)
Duncan Bridgeman (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Labour shortages dominate CEO concern (paywalled)
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom:– Global uncertainty adds to gloom(paywalled)
Tim McCready (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: What about that surplus, Grant?(paywalled)
Graham Skellern (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Time for a reset on immigration and investment (paywalled)
Bill Bennett (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Shortage of skills and labour top concerns(paywalled)
Bill Bennett (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Education sector plays catch-up(paywalled)
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Business leaders show backing for Ukraine (paywalled)
Graham Skellern (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Huntly has place in a renewable world (paywalled)
Bill Bennett (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: ‘Keeping the country in aspic’ (paywalled)
Bill Bennett (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Accelerating climate response(paywalled)
Tim McCready (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Christopher Luxon breathes new life into the party (paywalled)
Thomas Pippos (Herald): No simple answer to the tax question
Bill Bennett (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: The corporate tax rate has cost us business (paywalled)
Tim McCready (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: View on government moves in banking and supermarkets (paywalled)
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Navigating challenging times(paywalled)
Tamsyn Parker (Herald): Mood of the Boardroom: Hanging out the ‘welcome’ sign(paywalled)
Mike Hosking (Newstalk): Corporate New Zealand finally speaks out against the Govt


Other items of interest and importance today

Peter Dunne (Newsroom): Labour must make a bold, unpredictable move to win next election
Jo Moir (Newsroom): The 2020 election taught National what not to do
Stephen Minto (Daily Blog): Dumb and Dumber. Who’s who? Labour or the Green’s centrists?
Thomas Manch (Stuff): Nearly a third of public servants earning more than $100,000
Josie Pagani (Stuff): What voters want is fairness and government action
Luke Kirkness (Herald): Sam Uffindell cleared but true test starts next year (paywalled)
Kate Hawkesby (Newstalk): Grant Robertson scored an own goal complaining that he needs more security
Tess McClure (Guardian): New Zealand hopes to banish jargon with plain language law

Matthew Hooton (Herald): If NZ became a republic I’d back Jacinda Ardern for President(paywalled)
John Minto (Herald): Our chance to become a republic has passed (paywalled)
Jono Williams (Stuff): How will a change in monarch affect Māori-Crown relations?
Brent Edwards (NBR): The irony of next Monday’s public holiday (paywalled)
Mana Wikaire-Lewis (Māori TV): London columnist weighs in on New Zealand republic talk
Tom Peters (World socialist website): The endless tributes to the Queen are being used to divert attention from worsening social inequality

Todd Niall (Stuff): Auckland elections: Voting off to slow start in uncertain race
Jem Traylen (BusinessDesk): Candidate comparison websites are a vital election tool, but can they be trusted? (paywalled)
Bernard Orsman and Simon Wilson (Herald): Rating every Auckland councillor(paywalled)

Bernard Orsman (Herald): Auckland mayoralty: Mood for change? Latest poll confirms Wayne Brown’s support nearly doubling
Tim Murphy (Newsroom): Things turn awkward at edgy mayoral debate
Hanna McCallum (Stuff): Wellington mayoral candidates commit to almost all proposals related to housing and climate justice
Emile Donovan & Sharon Brettkelly (RNZ): Local elections: Three mayoral contests you should know about
Jim Tucker (Stuff): Time to rethink our local body election candidates meetings

John MacDonald (Herald): Don’t make Mahuta the spending spree scapegoat
Thomas Manch (Stuff): Chris Hipkins apologises to Bill English for dragging family into debate
David Farrar: PSC launches Mahuta probe
RNZ: National welcomes review into process for awarding government contracts
Kerre Woodham (Newstalk ZB): Outrage factor over Mahuta’s family contracts is pretty minimal

Michael Neilson (Herald): Decile system to go as new Equity Index for school funding revealed with increases for 90 per cent, while some miss out
Leighton Heikell (Newshub): Schools welcome increase in funding under NZ’s new equity index system
Amy Williams (RNZ): Education Ministry rejected MIQ air purifiers during Omicron surge

RNZ: Expelling Russian ambassador ‘least meaningful’ diplomatic option – Ardern
Ford Hart (Stuff): War in the Taiwan Strait would be ‘disastrous’ for NZ
Bridie Witton (Stuff): Jacinda Ardern discusses Ukraine and Pacific issues with head of the UN
Herald: Jacinda Ardern surprises at Pacific Islands Forum launch where leaders warn emitters: ‘Save us and you save yourselves’
Craig McCulloch (RNZ): Jacinda Ardern meets UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Daniel Dunkley (BusinessDesk): TVNZ’s ‘attitude needs to change’, says broadcasting minister (paywalled)
Daniel Dunkley (BusinessDesk): Widespread concerns over new public media entity
Maria Slade (NBR): All the King’s men and women: Taking silk in a new era (paywalled)

Benedict Collins (1News): ‘Reprehensible’ – Sepuloni slammed over contentious sanction
Jo Cribb (Newsroom): ‘Get real’: Donors must demand transparency about the impact of charities
Martin Gregory (International socialists): Countering the Far Right in Aotearoa Today

Ruwani Perera (Newsroom): Calls for Māori ACC entity after man loses both arms in ‘horrific’ work accident, leaving him severely burnt
Chris Lynch: Chch woman’s potentially fatal skin condition “I thought I was going to die”

Ankur Sabharwal (Stuff): When is a migrant chef not a chef?