Political story of the day

June 20, 2014

While sideshows and mud slinging are getting attention, the government is getting on with business as normal which includes working hard to progress freer trade.

Time to get down to business on tangled trade deal - Audrey Young:

At 3am tomorrow, New Zealand time, John Key will have the second most important meeting of his visit to the United States.

It’s a lunch meeting with US Trade Representative Mike Froman at the New Zealand Embassy, where ambassador Mike Moore, a former World Trade Organisation director general, will also be present.

Froman is effectively leading the Trans Pacific Partnership talks, which are in a parlous state.

Rescuing the deal from a pitiful result is Key’s top priority for the trip. . .

New Zealand already has very open borders which means we have little to lose and a lot to gain from any free trade deals and the TPP would be particularly helpful if it includes agricultural produce.

But negotiations are painstakingly slow.

 


Political story of the day

June 19, 2014

The round-up of political stories while Politics Daily is taking a break seemed  like a good idea but it was taking too much time.

Instead, I’ll feature a political story of the day and welcome you to add others.

My pick won’t necessarily be the most important one, and today’s isn’t:

Politics. It just IS cricket: Sports diplomacy at the UN – Audrey Young:

The United Nations hasn’t seen so much fun in ages.

The Palestinian chief diplomat at the UN tried out his first game of cricket.

The Prime Minister told risqué jokes about his wife.

And Foreign Minister Murray McCully was stumped, possibly for the first time in his life.

Cricketing legend Sir Richard Hadlee was the draw card on the East Lawn of the United Nations at an event to promote the Cricket World Cup next year jointly hosted by New Zealand and Australia, starting February 14. . .

Make cricket, not war?


Contagious excellence

January 24, 2014

Th Post Primary Teachers’ Association is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about proposals for new, and better paid, roles for teachers and principals announced by Prime Minister John Key yesterday.

PPTA President Angela Roberts said she was “cautiously optimistic” and welcomed the extra resourcing to support teachers, as well as greater collaboration between teachers across schools.

She said its ability to work as intended would depend on how it was implemented, but welcomed Mr Key’s promise that the profession would be involved in implementing the new roles. . . .

She said it provided the potential for good teachers to advance their careers without having to leave the classroom to take up leadership positions.

“It feels like what they have done is not just recognise and reward the great teachers, but once they’ve recognised those great teachers they will treat them for what they are, which is a great resource, and enable them to support their colleagues.”

That’s high praise from the organisation which normally opposes anything from National on principle.

Principals’ Federation President Phil Harding said the announcements were significant for both principals and teachers.

“It’s hard for me to say it but I’m pretty damned impressed. It is a huge amount of new money and I have never seen such a transformation of ideas and discussion into policy and money in my life. It has gone from a theoretical discussion about how the system needed to evolve and change just last year to the appropriation of significant resource.”

He was hopeful it would work as intended and believed the $50,000 financial incentives for good principals to take on challenging schools were sufficient. . . .

Why it’s hard for him to say he’s impressed has a lot more to do with politics than education, but at least he’s said it.

The School Trustees’ Association, which is more focussed on the impact on pupils than teachers, is less guarded in its enthusiasm:

Keeping great teachers in the classroom and investing in better career pathways for our teachers and principals is a great way to start the new year, says NZSTA President Lorraine Kerr.

“We’ve been talking about finding better ways to boost collaboration between schools for a long time.

It’s exciting to see the talk being converted into action,” she says. “This is a really good initiative.”

Providing better career pathways for our teachers and principals is an idea that that we fully endorse, as is developing a better way of supporting teachers and principals to continually improve their professional practice. Boards will be enthusiastic about the message this sends about valuing our principals and teachers. We will need to work through the practicalities of how Executive Principals

and Expert Teachers being off-site two days a week will shake down in their own schools, but boards are generally very proud of the expertise their staff have, and will be eager to share that expertise with other schools in a structured way as long as their own staff and students don’t lose out as a result.

It is good to hear the commitment to working through the practicalities through consultation with the sector, and NZSTA is looking forward to playing a constructive part in those discussions. We have all shown a lot of good faith over the last year or so, including principals’ groups and teacher unions, by engaging in open discussions with Minister Parata. The Ministerial Cross-Sector Forum is a good example. It hasn’t always been easy, so it’s good to see that investment in relationship-building bearing fruit.

If we do this right, there is potential for these new positions to make excellence contagious through all our schools. That will be our opportunity for 2014.

Challenge accepted.

The NZEI is sceptical which means it can’t see past its politics to the benefits this will bring to teachers and more importantly pupils but Audrey Young writes they and the opposition:

will look as though they are opposing it for the sake of opposing it.

Key has identified an age-old problem in schools that really good teachers often leave the classroom to progress their careers.

Credible research over the years has linked good teaching to good results by pupils.

Most of us know that anecdotally because we’ve experienced it.

We don’t need credible research to know that good teachers can lift achievement and that good principals can have a huge impact on the school environment, the expectations and teaching quality. . .

It’s difficult for unions to argue against this without shooting holes in their arguments about how important teachers are.

. . . Teacher unions have found it difficult to accept performance pay because it necessarily implies some teachers are not performing well. They fear it could undermine the collegiality among teachers that is vital to successful schools.

But the way that Key has outlined the new teacher positions however looks less like a policy to divide and rule teachers and more like something all teachers should aspire to becoming. Hopefully it will also lift the status of the teaching profession in society.

The teacher unions need to accept that plans to improve teaching need not be an attack on their members. . . .

Rather the opposite is the case.

Improving teaching, rewarding good ones, helping all of them getting and treating them like the professionals they should be is good for them and those they teach.


Not Judge Judy

December 3, 2013

Tweet of the day:

 


Top two in step

November 7, 2013

John Armstrong marks the fifth birthday’ of John Key’s government with an interviewing showing how National’s leader and his deputy and Finance Minister Bill English have forged a successful working relationship.

Bill English is talking about electric fences. But not the kind used on his Southland farm.

Sitting at the other end of a couch from John Key in the Prime Minister’s Beehive office, the Minister of Finance is explaining the complex and delicate dynamics which drive the most important relationship in the corridors of power – the one between Key and himself.

He is referring to the boundaries which Key – a moderate conservative with a dread fear of losing the hearts and minds of election-determining middle-income earners – establishes around what he considers to be no-go areas for reform-minded ministers like English.

“He [Key] is very good at making it clear when those boundaries are infringed … It’s like electric fences. You hit the electric fence.”

It seems that does not happen very often. By this stage of proceedings both politicians know exactly what is and is not acceptable to the other.

Success in any relationship requires an understanding of, and respect for, boundaries.

Strenuous efforts are made to kill any suggestion of disagreement around the Cabinet table. The idea that there might be even a sliver of daylight between the stances taken by the two most powerful figures in the country can shake public confidence in a government.

In 2005, the Herald came under huge pressure not to run a story which intimated that Helen Clark and Michael Cullen were not seeing eye-to-eye over the timing of tax cuts.

When a prime minister and finance minister are in harmony, the governing party can be a formidable creature slaying all that dare cross its path. . . 

John and Bill might have disagreements round the margins but they are in step on everything that really matters.

The lingering question is how this pairing has avoided the pitfalls which have seen governments paralysed when the two pockets of power have stopped trusting one another and started undermining one another.

Told, the Herald wants to focus on their partnership before and after National was returned to power in 2008, Key turns and looks at English and exclaims “Okay, love” and laughs. English replies in typically droll fashion: “As a loyal deputy, I can assure you, it is not a partnership.” He means not that sort of partnership.

The humour, however, has an edge which leaves the listener wondering just how well the two men actually get along. . . .

Anyone who has seen them together knows they get along well.

Both have keen senses of humour and often use the other as the butt of that. Being able to do that without threatening their relationship requires genuine and mutual liking and respect.

English’s approach to reform is to make incremental changes, rather than doing it all at once.

As a young backbencher in the 1990s, he watched Richardson’s big-bang approach blow up in her face. National’s opponents claim English’s incrementalism is all about keeping the punters in the dark about his real objectives.

English denies this. “[It's about] taking the public along, not just for political reasons, but because it’s how you win the arguments.”

Bulldozers don’t win arguments, a slower, more careful approach which allows people to see results does.

What the pair both say is that the success of their partnership is in part because they occupy the same “ideological space”. More likely, English is more ideologically focused. But – like Key – he is also a pragmatist.

Refusing to offer up examples which would be swooped on by opponents, Key says differences of opinion occur over “nuances” rather than over the Government’s direction – the case with the open warfare between Lange and Douglas.

Key says he cannot imagine how Lange’s and Douglas’s Beehive offices became so isolated from one another. In contrast, his and English’s staff are constantly in and out of each other’s offices on the ninth and seventh floors of the building. . .

It’s not just the leader and deputy who are in step and communicating properly, their staff are and do too.

English – who is careful not to talk over Key throughout the 45-minute interview – notes that important matter of “distinct hierarchy”.

“If a prime minister says ‘this is what we are going to do’, whether I might completely agree is irrelevant, particularly with a successful prime minister. If he says ‘I want this’, then that is what happens.”

That doesn’t however mean who can’t be persuaded to change his mind as Audrey Young gives some examples.

Prime Minister John Key has admitted he had to be persuaded to back off his bid to press the Reserve Bank into exempting first-home buyers from the banks’ new rules on loan-to-value ratios (LVRs) by Finance Minister Bill English. . .

But in a joint interview with Mr English this week – marking five years in power for the National-led Government – he indicated that Mr English thought taking on the independent bank would be more trouble than it was worth.

“So I took a step back from that and said ‘yeah, okay, well fine’. That’s the way it goes.” . .

“I’d be the first to admit I was a bit nervous about raising GST thinking can you actually politically sell all of that,” he said.

“Actually after we did all the modelling and we worked on it together, we were absolutely convinced it was fair and would actually work and it would deliver the sort of policy outcomes we wanted. And actually it’s definitely delivering results for the economy.” . .

People in any relationship have different ideas, it’s how differences are handled which matters.

Mr Key said the measure of any decent relationship was that you worked your way through all sorts of issues and respected each other’s views.

Mr English made much of what he described as Mr Key’s instinctive ability to communicate with the public and maintain its support, and knowing how to set boundaries in terms of policy constraints.

They cited the example of state tenants’ entitlements.

Mr Key said successive Ministers of Housing and Housing officials had wanted the income that any state tenant received from boarders to be received to be counted as income in terms of calculating entitlements.

“But my view is well that would be seen as a step too far for large families or families that are trying really hard to make ends meet.

“And in the end if they are prepared to go the extra mile of having someone live in their home and cook them a meal, they are just good New Zealanders trying to get ahead.

“It’s like the carparking [dumped fringe benefit tax] issue.

“In the perfection of the IRD officials, we should have carried on with putting an FBT on those carparks – but that’s how you lose the public,” he said.

Mr Key also indicated that he had put constraints on labour market reforms.

Both men are pragmatic and that’s one of the reasons for their success and the continuing popularity of the government.

They’ve built up trust by saying what they’ll do and doing it and taken a good percentage of the public with them.

The strong relationship between the two of them, their mutual trust and respect, and understanding of their differences and different roles have also played an important role in that.

Armstrong finishes with a couple of quotes on how they see each other:

Bill on John:

• “(John) has more ideas than we know how to handle. My framework is a bit more conventional so I spend a lot of time just dealing with issues in a reasonably predictable way but the PM is always stretching the boundaries.”

• “He’s endlessly capable of everything, I assure you – catching fish, cooking pasta, making up policy, being friends with the Queen. There is nothing this man can’t do.”

John on Bill:

• “They are quite complementary skills. I do a lot of going around the country opening things and cutting ribbons and being the kind of face of the party that’s interacting with the public. And Bill is doing a lot of the long term thinking, heavy-lifting and policy design, all the things that involve ministers … I’m kind of the retail face.”

I think John is understating the important role he plays in policy development and ensuring the government is working well.

But that ‘retail face”, the man the public see and like is a big part of his role and an important ingredient in the positive view the public still have of the government after five years in power.

#gigatownoamaru is in step to become the Southern Hemisphere’s fastest town.


Diplomacy in words

January 14, 2013

It’s far too early to award the diplomatic line of the year award, but this from Rotorua MP Todd McLay has to be a contender:

I don’t think anybody could do Tim Groser’s job but I would love an opportunity to do more in an area I have done a bit of work in before.

He was replying to Audrey Young who asked him if he would like Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser’s job.

 

 


Finlayson tops Herald’s ministerial rankings

November 12, 2012

Attorney General and Minister for Treaty Negotiations and Labour Chris Finlayson has number one spot in the NZ Herald’s ministerial rankings.

Audrey Young dubs him the Minister for results:

Chris Finlayson has emerged as one of John Key’s most valuable ministers in National’s second term. He has scored the highest rating of all ministers in my report card on the Executive prepared with colleagues in the Herald press gallery team. . .

Mr Finlayson is Attorney-General and Treaty Negotiations Minister. He is also Labour Minister since Kate Wilkinson resigned after the royal commission’s damning report into the Pike River disaster.

On the face of it, that may not seem a natural fit – and it may be just a temporary appointment until the next reshuffle. But Mr Finlayson’s skill set may be the right one to keep the job for the rest of the term. He gets results. He has a big intellect and has a good head for detail. But he is also emotionally intelligent, and was a good choice to send to the West Coast to discuss the report with the Pike River families.

His achievements in Treaty Negotiations are the most notable. Who would have imagined two years ago the Government concluding a deal with Tuhoe?

He doesn’t make a fuss but gets things done and the number of Treaty settlements successfully concluded is worthy of praise.

Health Minister Tony Ryall and Justice Minister Judith Collins scored highly as well. The Opposition has been able to inflict few dents on the Government in health, such is Mr Ryall’s control after four years in the portfolio. Labour has had three spokespeople over four years. . .

At the other end of the ranking was education Minister Hekia Parata.

Education is always a tough portfolio and always seems to be tougher for National ministers.

That is partly due to the strength of teacher unions which are ideologically opposed to the party regardless of the merit of its policies.

Let’s not forget that for all the bad press, the Minister has kept an unrelenting and much needed focus on improving standards, especially for that long tail of under achievers.

Then there’s the Ministry of Education which has obviously learned nothing from the debacle over school closures udner Trevor Mallard in the last Labour government’s first term .

Closing or merging schools is always going to be fraught. Doing it in Christchurch which was already dealing with so much after the earthquakes required extra sensitivity which it didn’t get.

How some of the really silly suggestions, merging Avonside and Christchurch Girls’, and Christchurch and Shirley Boys’ for example which even the minister admits was crazy,  was ever mooted, let alone presented for discussion, is difficult to understand.

And a ministry which says it didn’t gives schools information because it was too complex requires radical surgery.

The full ranking (in Cabinet order) is:

John Key – 7
Prime Minister, Tourism, SIS, GCSB

Bill English – 8
Finance

Gerry Brownlee – 7.5
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Transport

Steven Joyce – 7
Economic Development

Judith Collins – 8.5
Justice, ACC

Tony Ryall – 8.5
Health, State-owned Enterprises

Hekia Parata – 3
Education

Chris Finlayson – 9
Attorney General, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Labour

Paula Bennett – 7
Social Development

David Carter – 8
Primary Industries, Local Government

Murray McCully – 7
Foreign Affairs

Anne Tolley – 7
Police, Corrections

Jonathan Coleman – 8
Defence, State Services

Tim Groser – 8
Trade, Climate Change issues

Phil Heatley – 5
Housing, Energy and Resources

Kate Wilkinson – 4
Conservation, Food Safety

Nathan Guy – 6
Immigration, Veteran’s Affairs, Associate Primary Industries

Craig Foss – 6
Commerce, Broadcasting

Amy Adams – 7
Environment, Communication and Information Technology

Chris Tremain – 6
Internal Affairs

Maurice Williamson – 7
Building, Customs, Land Information

Jo Goodhew – 6
Senior Citizens, Women’s Affairs

Chester Borrows – 6
Courts, Associate Justice, Associate Social Development

Simon Bridges – 7
Consumer Affairs, Associate Climate Change, Associate Transport


Finlayson tops Herald’s ministerial rankings

November 12, 2012

The Attorney General, Minister for Treaty Negotiations and now acting Minister of Labour, Chris Finlayson is number one in the NZ Herald’s ministerial rankings.

Chris Finlayson has emerged as one of John Key’s most valuable ministers in National’s second term. He has scored the highest rating of all ministers in my report card on the Executive prepared with colleagues in the Herald press gallery team. . .

Mr Finlayson is Attorney-General and Treaty Negotiations Minister. He is also Labour Minister since Kate Wilkinson resigned after the royal commission’s damning report into the Pike River disaster.

On the face of it, that may not seem a natural fit – and it may be just a temporary appointment until the next reshuffle. But Mr Finlayson’s skill set may be the right one to keep the job for the rest of the term. He gets results. He has a big intellect and has a good head for detail. But he is also emotionally intelligent, and was a good choice to send to the West Coast to discuss the report with the Pike River families.

His achievements in Treaty Negotiations are the most notable. Who would have imagined two years ago the Government concluding a deal with Tuhoe?

I think this is well deserved.  He doesn’t make a fuss but gets things done. The number of Treaty negotiations successfully concluded is in deed notable

Health Minister Tony Ryall and Justice Minister Judith Collins scored highly as well. The Opposition has been able to inflict few dents on the Government in health, such is Mr Ryall’s control after four years in the portfolio. Labour has had three spokespeople over four years. . .

At the other end of the ranking, education Minister Hekia Parata scored only 3.

The education portfolio is always a tough one. That it is tougher for National ministers in part shows the difficulty of effecting change in the face of strong unions which are ideologically opposed to the party regardless of the policy.

In spite of that and opposition from teacher unions at every step,the Minister has kept an unrelenting and sorely needed focus on improving standards, particularly for the long tail of underachievers.

Her work appears to have been handicapped at times by the Ministry of Education which seems to have learned nothing from the debacle over school closures under Trevor Mallard in the last Labour government’s first term.

School closure is always emotionally fraught. In Christchurch in the wake of earthquakes there was even more need for great care. The announcement and some really silly suggestions, such as merging Avonside and Christchurch Girls’, and Shirley and Christchurch Boys’ was, as Hekia Parata herself says crazy.

The loss of more than 9,000 pupils and earthquake damage to school property necessitated change, and major change at that, but a Ministry which handled such a sensitive issue so badly and says it didn’t give schools all the information because it was too complex needs major surgery.

The Herald’s rank (in ministerial order) is:

John Key – 7, Prime Minister, Tourism, SIS, GCSB

Bill English – 8, Finance

Gerry Brownlee – 7.5, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Transport

Steven Joyce – 7, Economic Development

Judith Collins – 8.5, Justice, ACC

Tony Ryall – 8.5, Health, State-owned Enterprises

Hekia Parata – 3, Education

Chris Finlayson – 9,Attorney General, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Labour

Paula Bennett – 7, Social Development

David Carter – 8, Primary Industries, Local Government

Murray McCully – 7, Foreign Affairs

Anne Tolley – 7, Police, Corrections

Jonathan Coleman – 8, Defence, State Services

Tim Groser – 8, Trade, Climate Change issues

Phil Heatley – 5, Housing, Energy and Resources

Kate Wilkinson – 4, Conservation, Food Safety

Nathan Guy – 6, Immigration, Veteran’s Affairs, Associate Primary Industries

Craig Foss – 6, Commerce, Broadcasting

Amy Adams – 7, Environment, Communication and Information Technology

Chris Tremain – 6, Internal Affairs

Maurice Williamson – 7, Building, Customs, Land Information

Jo Goodhew – 6, Senior Citizens, Women’s Affairs

Chester Borrows – 6, Courts, Associate Justice, Associate Social Development

Simon Bridges – 7, Consumer Affairs, Associate Climate Change, Associate Transport


Will it be cACTus Kate?

June 25, 2011

Roarprawn said it first – Hong Kong based lawyer Cathy Odgers was going to become an  Act candidate.

Audrey Young takes up the story today:

Cathy Odgers, the author of the acerbic website Cactus Kate, is expected to be approved today as an Act candidate – one of the reasons sitting MP Heather Roy is likely to today announce she will stand down at this year’s election.

I know Cathy only though her blog and a few blogging related emails but she has one very good characteristic for an aspiring MP - loyalty to her party and its leader:

. . . politics must be about loyalty to the Party and that means publicly to its Leader while that person is still the Leader. If you are going to stab them then let it be in the front and behind closed doors in an appropriate party forum. And let it stay in that room.

Act has a reputation for disunity and as the party for old(er) men. Cathy’s candidacy will make a difference.

I wonder if her candidacy might also increase the chances of Rodney Hide staying on as a candidate for Act?

P.S.

Roarprawn says Roy was dumped and Keeping Stock asks is Cactus Act’s prickly solution?


Most parties support most clauses of MaCA

March 16, 2011

 Politics is usually reported as black and white with differences highlighted and areas of agreement ignored.

If you’d listened to yesterday’s debate on the Marine and Coastal Areas legislation and read stories about it you’d think that only National and the Maori Party supported any of it.  But Audrey Young reports that most parties support most of the bill’s clauses:

 

All parties, and Hone Harawira support the repeal of Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed 2004 Act.

All parties support the right of Iwi to go to court – Harawira doesn’t because he thinks they already own the area in contention.

National and United Future support the proposed test; the Maori Party thinks the test should be easier; Labour thinks the test should be left to courts; Act and Green want it left to the courts and Harawira opposes this clause.

National, the Maori Party and UF, support allowing Iwi to negotiate directly with government instead of going to court; Labour agrees but want the decision ratified by the courts not parliament; the Green Party supports this but under tests outlined by the courts and Harawira opposes it.

All parties and Harawiara support the ban of sales of areas under customary title.

All agree that public access to these areas should be guaranteed.

National, the Maori Party, UF, Act and Labour don’t want to do anything about the 12,500 private titles that include parts of the foreshore and seabed. The Greens want these titles treated the same way as customary title (ie public access and no sale) and Harawira wants them all under Maori title.

National, the Maori Party and UF support the MaCA Bill, the other three parties and Harawira oppose it.

The most vehement opposition from outside parliament is from people who think they’ll lose access to beaches.

Legislation doesn’t apply to beaches – it applies to the foreshore and seabed, the bit from the high tide mark to the 12 mile limit – and everyone in parliament agrees that public access should be guaranteed.

So why all the fuss when most parties agree on most clauses and public access will be guaranteed by all of them?



Ambassador Moore

January 21, 2010

Isn’t the response to the appointment of Mike Moore as our next Ambassador to the USA entertaining?

In the media release announcing the appointment Foreign Minister Murray McCully said:

“As a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and co-chair of the US-NZ Partnership Forum, Mr Moore is the best possible candidate for this important role.

 Phil Goff welcomed the appointment but Kiwiblog notes Red Alert has not yet managed any congratulatory messages.

Many National supporters were unhappy when Labour appointed Jim Bolger to chair KiwiBank and KiwiRail but the government support of those institutions was anathema to many from the right. Moore’s appointment can’t be directly compared with those when Labour worked hard to advance free trade when it was in power and International relations usually have cross party support.

Audrey Young points out Moore beat McCully in his first election to parliament. Obviously the Minister has long got over that but maybe Labour people have longer, and more bitter, memories.

Moore has earned a good international reputation since leaving parliament. I think he’ll be a strong advocate for New Zealand in the post – as long as the Americans can understand his sometimes idiosyncratic use of the English language :)


Did you see the one about

November 21, 2009

Thought for the day - Quote Unquote has a new angle on paper, scissors, rock. Whilte you’re there you might enjoy NZ farmer letter of the year – an answer to the problem of travel perks.

Worlds apart - Progressive Turmoil on the differences in mobile phone use in different countries.

Chicken Fever hits parliament - Audrey Young spots a chook and comes up with some answers to the question of why the chicken crossed the road.

Spam journalism # 63 and Much ado about nothing - Macdoctor points out the difference between smaller increases and cuts.

Goff loses chess game to analogue computer - gonzo Freakpower gets satirical.

Work/life balance – it’s not about the pets - The Hand Mirror finds the paid/ unpaid work balance leaves little time for life.

Saving the minghty kauri - Over the Fence on the fund to fight kauri die back.

Supply and demand or what? – Anti Dismal on what matters.

One thing to keep in mind - The Visible Hand on the real issues.

What’s in the water - Alison Campbell at Sciblogs on the dangers of water births.

Trickle down carbon sequestration - Daniel Collins at Sciblogs shows tree planting in the wrong place may compromise water supply.

Greens revealed as biggest spender in Mt Albert by-election - Liberation shows money doesn’t buy votes.

Berlin wall series:  Poland,  Czechoslovakia and Bulgeria , - by Liberty Scott.

Big Boys toys - Frenemy is truck spotting.


No show strategy

October 27, 2008

Audrey Young  wonders if Winston Peters’ no-shows are deliberate:

He has been a no-show for a leaders’ forum run by The Press, for Radio New Zealand’s debate on Our Place in the World and for the Sky interview Campaign 08 last week.

Perhaps he thinks that he stands a better chance of being elected if people don’t hear from him.


Nats 7/10 Labour 5/10

October 11, 2008

Audrey Young gives Labour 5/10 as it fights to bury the third-term blues.

And Paula Oliver gives National 7/10 as it treads carefully to grasp the prize.


How much is enough?

October 8, 2008

Tracy Watkins thinks John Key is offering enough:

A year ago, Key might have risked over promising and under delivering on those amounts.

But that was a vastly different world..

The failure to deliver more may peel off some soft support among those who were leaning toward National but, because of Working for Families, will not be a whole lot better off.

But the rest will probably agree with Key that it’s a package that’s right for the times.

So is it enough? You’d have to say yes.

Colin Espiner says the tax plan is tailored for the times.

Herald commentators  aren’t impressed:

John Armstrong says families on low wages are not so well off with National but:

Overall, the tax package wins plaudits for being fiscally responsible. It won’t win big in electoral terms because of its generosity – someone on $80,000 only gets $6 a week more than they would from Labour’s package.

As for National’s plan for rescuing the (sinking) economy, there was nothing new today. We’re still waiting.

Audrey Young says:

National’s tax package does what it promised in some respects, doesn’t meet promises in other respects and offers some complete surprises.

One of the surprises was the promise of an independent earner rebate. . . .

. . . But the biggest concern will be National’s commitment to reverse what many see as protections in the KiwiSaver scheme that Labour recently passed.

They stopped a loophole allowing employers to effectively deny KiwiSaver employees pay increases on the basis that they have done deals on KiwiSaver contributions.

National sees this through different glasses, giving employers freedom to give non-KiwiSaver employees pay rises equivalent to their contribution increases to KiwiSaver employees.

Excepting one is pay rise for today, another is one you can cash in only at 65.

It is a recipe for exploitation and unfairness.

Brian Fallow says:

At first glance the big transfer of money in National’s tax package is from KiwiSaver accounts into people’s pockets.

In the short term that gives them more to spend at a time when private consumption is flatlining.

But you can’t have your cake and eat it.

. . . Other elements of the plan are also disappointing from the standpoint of lifting our long-term growth rate – less of an increase in infrastructure spending, and the scrapping of the research and development tax credit.

At least it does not make the rather grim fiscal outlook released by the Treasury any worse. But it is only marginally better.

 Inquiring Mind has done a round up of comments on the blogosphere, which covers a range of views, some of which as he puts it can charitably be described as a partisan perspective.

UPDATE: goNZofreakpower  and Dave Gee  weren’t on Inquiring Mind’s list but are also worth a look.

UPDATE 2: So is Liberty Scott.


Is there more?

August 20, 2008

Keeping Stock, with tongue in cheek, muses that next time he and his wife visit their lawyer they’ll use the Peters’ method of paying what they want, when they want, if at all.

He thinks he might try that with their accountant and other providers of goods and services and that raises the question – who else, if anyone, has been providing what without payment to New Zealand First and/or its leader?

Audrey Young  attempts to explain the unusual relationship between Peters and his lawyer.

Do we have a right to know if there are similar unorthodox relationships with other people who provide services or supplies to him and his party?


Peters in favourite position

August 18, 2008

Audrey Young previews this evening’s privileges committee hearing and compares it to the Wine Box inquiry.

Mr Peters is about to take the witness stand and National has to be very careful how it treats him. Mr Peters v The Rest is his favourite position.

No, it’s not about the privileges committee hearing that begins tonight into a $100,000 donation to Peters by billionaire Owen Glenn.

It’s what I wrote in June 1996 on the eve of Peters’ appearance at the Winebox inquiry in Auckland.

Peters and hearings go together all too easily and I’ve witnessed many of them.

To any other politician such hearings would be a traumatic event. To Peters they present a platform, an opportunity to attack, though it doesn’t always work out the way he plans it…

Regardless of what the committee determines there is no doubt that Peters will be in his element with public and media attention on him.


They said this about the list

August 18, 2008

Even if the election result is not as favourable for National as current polls, the party list indicates the new caucus will be younger, have more ethnic representation and more women than the current caucus.

Tracy Watkins  says:

The elevation of the newcomers reflects National’s push to put up more women and elect a more ethnically diverse caucus.

Dene MacKenzie  says:

National Party campaign chairman Steven Joyce could be a broadcasting minister in waiting after being ranked 16th on the party’s list, released yesterday.

… A study of National’s list shows an emphasis on areas which in 2005 cost the party the election, particularly in South Auckland.

This election, National will have candidates listed high enough in South Auckland seats to ensure they become MPs, with the prospect of lifting the party vote.

Peseta Sam Lotu-liga (standing in Maungakiekie) has been ranked at 35 and Kanwal Bakshi (Manukau East) is at 38.

McKenzie also notes:

Dunedin health manager Michael Woodhouse looks assured to enter Parliament as a National Party list MP judging from the party’s full list released yesterday.

Mr Woodhouse, chief executive of Mercy Hospital, is ranked 49th on the list, meaning National has to poll, on paper, anywhere above 41% for him to become the list MP based in Dunedin.

Several candidates ranked below him are likely to win electorate seats so to be safe, National would have to poll 43% for him to become an MP.

If he does enter Parliament, he will be the replacement for Katherine Rich, who has been the party’s list MP from Dunedin for the past nine years.

Audrey Young  says:

On current polling, the list would produce six Maori MPs, three Asian MPs and a Pacific Islander in National’s next caucus.

The six Maori would be sitting MPs Georgina te Heuheu, Tau Henare and Paula Bennett, joined by Hekia Parata, Paul Quinn and Simon Bridges. The latter may get in Parliament by winning the Tauranga seat.

Pansy Wong, a sitting list MP, expects to be joined by broadcaster Melissa Lee and Indian businessman Kanwal Bakshi.

The party’s Maungakiekie candidate, Auckland City councillor Sam Lotu-Iiga, has been given an assured place in Parliament at number 35 on the party list.

… There are many variables that determine the number of list MPs allocated to a party, including the number of electorate seats it wins, its total party vote and the number of votes cast for parties that are eventually not entitled to any seats.

But under a scenario that sees National polling 48 per cent (and, say, Labour 35 per cent, the Greens and NZ First 5 per cent, the Maori Party with four seats, and one seat each for Act, United Future and Progressives) and with National keeping the electorate seats it now holds, the party would win another 27 list seats, all the way to number 61 – Marc Alexander, a former United Future MP who will contest Jim Anderton in Wigram.

Some polls suggest there might be even more, but lessons from history and a dose of realism make that unlikely because smaller parties usually get more support during the campaign.


Stop digging start apologising.

July 21, 2008

The Herald uses its editorial to tell Winston Peters to stop digging. He should also start apologising.

It was one thing to make a denial without checking all possible sources of his financial support, and flourish a silly sign to news cameras, but Mr Peters did not hear alarm bells even when the Herald discovered an email in which Mr Glenn asked a public relations adviser, “You are saying I should deny giving a donation to NZ First? When I did?”

A wiser man would have run a quick check on all sources of funds related to his personal political activities and his party. Instead our Foreign Minister descended to baseless and disgraceful allegations of his own – against the integrity of this newspaper, its editor, and our fair-minded political editor, Audrey Young.

Definitely not the actions of a wise man.

We were not particularly surprised by that response. Mr Peters has made a career of bluff and bluster and convincing enough poor voters that the media is the enemy. But we have been surprised at his behaviour since he was forced on Friday to concede Audrey Young’s disclosures are true.

At least, that is what he should have conceded. An honourable and decent public figure would acknowledged his error and apologised to her in the course of explaining himself. Mr Peters did neither. After his lawyer, Brian Henry, told him Mr Glenn had in fact contributed $100,000 to his legal costs in 2006, Mr Peters put out a statement that was not only devoid of apology or regret but attempted to give himself some wriggle room in semantics.

This was not an honorable or decent statement.

He did not make a donation to the NZ First Party,” he said of Mr Glenn, “he made a donation to a legal action he thought justified”. Later, at his party’s 15th anniversary conference, Mr Peters maintained this desperate distinction. “Not one cent went to NZ First and not one cent went to me,” he insisted. “A donation was made to a legal case which is a massive difference … “

No, it is not. He brought a case against the election spending of the MP who captured his Tauranga seat. The law hears those actions in the name of individuals, not parties. Had the petition succeeded, the beneficiaries would have been Mr Peters, if the seat had been restored to him, and his party, since an electorate gives a party more secure representation in Parliament. Mr Glenn obviously believed he was contributing to NZ First and to all intents and purposes, he was.

Indeed, it might disturb Mr Glenn to hear that the donation was technically not for a party’s legal action but for an individual MP’s, because that MP is the country’s Foreign Minister and the Monaco-based billionaire would like to be appointed our honorary consul there. It is a humble enough request from an expatriate who leads a multi-national logistics enterprise and has given millions to his country of birth, most recently to endow the new Auckland University business school that carries his name.

Except that buying honary appointments isn’t supposed to happen in an open democracy.

He was also the Labour Party’s largest donor at the last election, a connection noted when he was named in the New Year Honours. Labour weathered that news easily enough and NZ First could have done likewise, had Mr Peters not foolishly denied it. He has put himself in this hole and he would be smarter to stop digging.

And start apologising. Sorry really isn’t that hard to say if you understand what you’ve done is wrong; refusing to say it suggests he either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care.


Another NZ First Donation Goes Back

June 18, 2008

The first of the nine charities to which NZ First donated money, in the mistaken belief this means it no longer owes $158,000 to parliamentary services, has repaid the $10,000 it recieved.

Not surprisingly Peters reckons someone got to Cystic Fibrosis:

“The real issue is who got to them,” he said. “It’s a very sad day when people put petty politics ahead of human interest.”

Goodness me, the master of petty politics doesn’t understand the real issue is that donating to charity does not absolve the party of its debt to parliamentary services.

Audrey Young said she was tempted to feel a smidgen of sympathy for Winston Peters because the charity had asked for a donation.

But I have resisted temptation. Peters dreamed up a stunt that he believed would inoculate himself from criticism – who wants to bag groups like Cystic Fibrosis Association?

Yet all he done is draw more attention to a stunt that has backfired.

He has dragged yet another charity into the midst of a political row. This money was always going to be contentious and tainted in the view of some because so many people believe it rightly belongs with taxpayers.

He sought to keep the charities a secret from the public, knowing that news is anything someone doesn’t want you to know, especially something a politician doesn’t want you to know.

Speaker Margaret Wilson has agreed to keep his secret. She knows which groups have received which money but says it Peters’ secret for him to disclose – or words to that effect.

It is time for someone to do the right thing.

It is indeed and Keeping Stock has a link for on-line donations to Cystic Fibrosis should anyone wish to support them for putting principle before their genuine need for money. So do Kiwiblog,  and Whaleoil. And Not PC links to the charity’s website.

Is it too much to hope that inside Winston’s cloud of hypocricy there may be a silver lining in that this is the action that finally allows voters to see through him? The media and bloggers already have: 

The Dominion editorial says:

But giving $158,000, taken from the public purse, to outside organisations does not constitute repayment of a debt. Nor does refusing to name the recipients, something he had previously undertaken to do, lend credibility to the exercise. Mr Peters says he has decided not to name the charities because he does not want them bothered by the “prying media”.

That is a one-fingered salute to those who hold to the quaint notion that politicians should be accountable for how they spend public money.

It is also unsatisfactory. Who is to say that NZ First does not regard the Re-elect Winston Campaign in Tauranga or, for that matter, NZ First itself, as charities?

By retrospectively changing the law, the Government obviated the legal requirement for politicians to repay the money they unlawfully spent. But the moral obligation to comply with the law of the day remains. NZ First has not met it.

If no other benefit arises, Mr Peters’ reluctance to do the right thing serves as a useful reminder of how a politician positioning himself to once again act as a post-election kingmaker, operates.

And Inquiring Mind  notes: Peters yet again demonstrates not only arrogance, but total contempt for the media and indirectly for the public, as according to him they should only ever know what he wants them to know.

Annie Fox  doesn’t understand why NZ First hasn’t been struck off for not paying the money back. It’s because they colluded with Labour to change the law to make their illegal use of public money retrospectively legal.

I doubt that Winston and his party will admit defeat and repay Parliamentary Services, but the other eight charities which received donations can follow the lead given by Cystic Fibrosis and Starship (which turned down the initial donation last year).

Then it will be up to voters to deliver the final blow at the ballot box.  


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