The importance of certainty

July 4, 2014

Trans-Tasman notes the appeal of certainty and stability:

National emerged neat and tidy from its election year conference. Delegates went home knowing what they have to do to ensure the party can re-form a governing coalition. It’s this disciplined approach which carries its own message to the electorate, contrasting with the inchoate array of parties lined up on the other side of the fence. Private polling shows within the electorate, opinion is beginning to harden on the parties of the left being so disparate, (even if they gained a majority of seats in the next Parliament), a coalition of those parties would be highly unstable and couldn’t last.

Certainty, along with stability, is the priority for most voters. The difficulty for the parties of the left is they project not just instability, but incoherence in the policies they are espousing. The realisation has grown Labour would have to share power with the Greens, NZ First and possibly the Mana/Internet alliance. How would it work? In the NZ Herald this week John Armstrong noted Labour seems to be increasingly paralysed by the division between MPs who put a priority on economic development and those who want environmental concerns to be very much part of that development.

The Opposition has forgotten what Helen Clark did in the run-up to the 1999 election, staging a reconciliation with Jim Anderton and his Alliance to project a united front and give electors an idea of what a Clark-led Govt would look like (even though it must have savaged her personal pride to cosy up to her old foe). . . 

 The more voters see of what a Cunliffe-led Labour/Green/NZ First/Mana/Internet Party might look like the less appeal it has.

There are enough uncertainties in most people’s lives without adding an uncertain coalition and the instability that would come with it especially when its contrast with the certainty and stability of a National-led government with John Key as Prime Minister.


Show us the money

June 22, 2014

Last week wasn’t one of Labour’s finest and it would be hard to get a worse start to this week than the news that Donghua Liu spent more than $150,000 on the previous Labour government, including $100,000 on a bottle of wine signed by former prime minister Helen Clark at a party fundraiser.

The embarrassing revelations are contained in a signed statement from Liu, which the Herald on Sunday has obtained.

They come at the end of a horror week for Labour, already under pressure after the New Zealand Herald revealed that Liu paid $15,000 for a book at the same fundraiser in 2007. Labour has said it had no record of any donations from Liu. And leader David Cunliffe had to fight to keep his job after revelations he wrote a letter for Liu’s residency, despite previous denials. . .

he latest developments have sparked calls for a police inquiry.

“This is scandalous from the public’s perspective. There has to be some sort of official investigation, whether it’s a police one or a parliamentary one,” said political commentator Bryce Edwards. “There must be some sort of official investigation, whether it’s a police or parliamentary.”

Asked about a potential investigation under electoral finance laws, Liu’s lawyer Todd Simmonds indicated that Liu was comfortable with his financial support and would cooperate with any inquiry.

Cunliffe last night dodged questions, saying it was a “matter for Labour Party’s head office”. Labour Party general secretary Tim Barnett said the party had no record of the donation.

Liu’s signed statement was dated May 3, two days after Williamson’s resignation. It said:

• Liu paid “close to $100,000″ for wine at a 2007 Labour Party fundraiser;

• That he spent $50-60,000 hosting then-labour minister Rick Barker on a cruise on the Yangtze River in China in 2007; and

• That Liu visited Barker in Hawke’s Bay in 2006, having dinner with him at an exclusive lodge and then meeting for breakfast the next morning. Liu said he made a donation to Hawke’s Bay Rowing, which Barker was associated with.

Barker previously told the Herald that he could barely remember having dinner.

Last night Barker, now a regional councillor, said the revelations came “as a surprise and a complete reversal” of Liu’s previous comments.

Edwards said while it was not clear if Labour had broken any laws, public confidence in the party had been dented. . .

Edwards added that although the blame did not lie with Cunliffe personally, he had to deal with egg on his face. “It does create a charge of hypocrisy because he’s campaigned strongly against the Government relationship with Donghua Liu and it appears Labour’s relationship is just as deep.”

Liu yesterday told the Herald that his donations had been in good faith without any expectation. “It is over to the politicians to make any appropriate declarations. . .

MPs  don’t always, perhaps even usually, know the details of who gives how much money to their parties.

That is to separate them from any accusations of money for favours.

But if the NZ Herald could get a photo of Liu’s wife accepting a bottle of wine from an MP, surely someone in the party could have too before they started slinging mud at National?

Surely someone who was there could remember the event and if not the exact sum, that it was a biggie?

Surely someone in Labour – whether currently involved or not -  who had the party’s interests at heart would have remembered someone paying close to $100,000 for a bottle of wine at a fund-raiser and reminded Cunliffe of that before he led the charge and devoted weeks trying to dirty National instead of concentrating on what really matters.

In his last few interviews he’s finally got his lines straight on that – the sideshows he’s tried to orchestrate to dirty national aren’t what matters but his problem is hypocrisy and poor political management do concern voters and he and his party are continuing to show both.

Before this latest revelation, Duncan Garner called Labour under David Cunliffe a train wreck.

. . . When Cunliffe utters a word or two these days the collective intake of breath among his MPs is simply frightening.

He’s had a host of gaffes this year – and the best he’s looked was when he shut up and stood in the background while his wife, Karen Price, talked about the birds (chickens) and the bees in an interview at their home.

Cunliffe was parachuted into the job of leader, not because his MPs really wanted him – most dislike him – but because Labour Party members and union affiliates were desperate for someone to articulate their values.

To say he’s been a disappointment is an understatement. After this week’s horrors he looks unelectable as the next prime minister. He’s genuinely gone from bad to worse. . .

John Armstrong said Cunliffe has steered Labour on to the rocks:

When it comes to casting aspersions, few insults are as venomous, vicious or more driven by utter contempt than accusing someone of being a “scab”.

That is particularly the case on the left of the political spectrum where the battles of old between capital and labour provided the source of the term to describe those who broke rank from the union and who were then ostracised forever.

A workforce which is now largely non-unionised has made such name-calling far more infrequent, and at times sound rather dated.

But there was nothing quaint about the leader of the Labour Party this week insinuating colleagues who did not give him their full support were scabs.

It was astonishing. It implied treachery in the extreme. What the outburst really revealed was someone looking for scapegoats for his own self-inflicted woes. . .

It wasn’t the letter written 11 years ago and forgotten about that did the damage.

It was that he’s fronted months of attacks on National for links to donors without the political nous to ensure that he and his party were squeaky clean first.

Where the leader’s chief of staff and supposed political strategist Matt McCarten was in this mess is not obvious. But whether or not he was let down by others,  Cunliffe led the attack without having first secured his own position.

Mud clings to the hand that throws it and this week Cunliffe managed to splatter himself, and his party with it.

But having steered the ship on to the rocks, he’s not about to hand over the captaincy, and it’s doubtful anyone could be found willing to accept responsibility for the leaky boat.

Today’s revelations have endangered the boat even more.

Liu said he donated a large sum of money to Labour. The party says it has no record of it.

That’s a very big breach of electoral law and raises a very big question – if the party has no record of the donation where did it go?

And to add to accusations against the party which tries to show itself as welcoming of diversity, let’s not forget the Labour used someone who was granted residency by a Labour Immigration minister to score political points and there’s a nasty undertone, deliberate or not of xenophobia in their attacks:

“However, because I’ve built relationships with politicians, made donations, because it’s election year and, dare I say, because I’m Chinese, I suppose I’ve been an easy target for some to gain some political mileage and score some points.”

In the last election campaign, Phil Goff was let down by his then finance spokesman, Cunliffe, when he was asked to show us the money for his policies.

Less than three months from the next election, the party is going to have to show us the missing money or confirm that a party which can’t account for money it’s been given for its own use can’t be trusted to handle money it takes from taxpayers for public use.

 


Electoral law reform needed

June 7, 2014

Don Brash on Facebook:

So the court has found John Banks guilty. Three observations. First, I have known John Banks for 30 years and have not found him to be anything other than an honest man. Second, it is a huge tragedy for a man who has overcome great personal difficulties; served with distinction as a Member of Parliament, as a Minister, and as the mayor of Auckland; and helped to raise three Russian orphans.

But third, when I contrast what John Banks was found by the court to have done with what Helen Clark’s Labour Party did in 2005 – without the slightest attempt by the Police to call her to account – the offence of which he has been found guilty is utterly trivial.

In 2005, the Labour Party spent Parliamentary funding to the extent of more than three-quarters of a million dollars on explicit electioneering, despite having been warned against doing so by both the Auditor General and the Chief Electoral Officer just weeks before the election. Yes, they eventually repaid that money, but only under strong protest. And of course by that the time the election was won.

And what they could not undo, and were never held to account for, was grossly overspending the legal limit on spending in that election. The Police, in a disgracefully biased decision, decided not to prosecute, despite the Labour Party’s own auditors finding that the Party had unambiguously breached the legal spending limit if spending on their infamous “pledge card” was election spending. And did anybody who saw that “pledge card” think it was NOT part of Labour’s election campaign?

Whatever John Banks did in trying to raise money to finance his mayoral campaign in 2010 did not affect the outcome of that election. By contrast, Labour’s illegal behaviour almost certainly did affect the result of the 2005 election.

This doesn’t excuse Banks.

It shows electoral law either isn’t up to scratch or it isn’t working.

It takes an inordinately long time for the Electoral Commission to refer anything to the police and the only time I can recall that they’ve gone onto lay a charge recently was Labour candidate Daljit Singh.

It took a private prosecution to get this case to court.

If we had the electoral law we need and it worked well, that wouldn’t have been needed.

 


It’s about trust

March 3, 2014

Then Prime Minister Helen Clark opened her announcement of the 2008 election date by saying:

This election is about trust.

It is about which leader and which major party we New Zealanders trust our families’ and our country’s future with.

This election is a choice between a government which has shown it can make the tough choices and an opposition which flip flops on almost every major issue which emerges.

It is an election between a government which takes principled positions and an opposition which says what it thinks the audience in front of it wants to hear.

It is an election about who can be trusted to take our nation ahead to a prosperous and confident 21st century, where all our families and communities can thrive. . .

She was a few years early.

Those statements apply to this government and this opposition.

Today’s flip flop from David Cunliffe has been over the use of trusts.

Labour leader David Cunliffe has confirmed he used a trust to deal with donations to his leadership campaign in last year’s run-off for Labour’s top job.

Yesterday Mr Cunliffe refused to say whether a trust was used or whether he had declared donations in the Register of Pecuniary Interests as from a trust or from the original donors. . .

Yet another yeah, nah moment.
Photo

If this election is going to be about trust, bring it on!


February 26 in history

February 26, 2014

747 BC Epoch of Ptolemy‘s Nabonassar Era.

364 Valentinian I was proclaimed Roman Emperor.

1266 Battle of Benevento: An army led by Charles, Count of Anjou, defeated a combined German and Sicilian force led by King Manfred of Sicily who was killed.

1361 Wenceslaus, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia, was born (d. 1419).

1564 Christopher Marlowe, English dramatist, was born (d. 1593).

1658 Treaty of Roskilde: After a devastating defeat in the Northern Wars (1655-1661), King Frederick III of Denmark-Norway was forced to give up nearly half his territory to Sweden to save the rest.

1794 Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen burnt down.

1802 Victor Hugo, French writer, was born (d. 1885).

1815 Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from Elba.

1829 – Levi Strauss, German-born clothing designer, was born  (d. 1902).

1844 Two Wellington lawyers, William Brewer and H. Ross, undertook a duel as the result of a quarrel that had arisen from a case in the Wellington County Court. When the two men faced off in Sydney Street, Brewer fired into the air but ‘received Mr. Ross’ ball in the groin’. He died a few days later.

'Pistols at dawn': deadly duel in Wellington
1846 William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, American frontiersman, was born  (d. 1917).

1848 The second French Republic was proclaimed.

1852 John Harvey Kellogg, American surgeon, advocate of dietary reform, was born  (d. 1943).

1861  Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya, Russian revolutionary, Lenin’s wife, was born (d. 1939).

1863 U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed the National Currency Act into law.

1866 Herbert Henry Dow, American chemical industrialist, was born (d. 1930).

1870 In New York City, a demonstration of the first pneumatic subway opened to the public.

1885 The Berlin Act, which resulted from the Berlin Conference regulating European colonization and trade in Africa, was signed.

1887 – At the Sydney Cricket Ground, George Lohmann became the first bowler to take eight wickets in a Test innings.

1909  Fanny Cradock, English food writer and broadcaster, was born (d. 1994).

1914 Robert Alda, American actor, was born (d. 1986).

1914 HMHS Britannic, sister to the RMS Titanic, was launched at Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast.

1916  Jackie Gleason, American actor, writer, composer, and comedian, was born (d. 1987).

1917 The Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York.

1919 An act of the U.S. Congress established most of the Grand Canyon as the Grand Canyon National Park.

1928 Fats Domino, American musician, was born.

1928 Ariel Sharon, Israeli Prime Minister, was born.

1929 The Grand Teton National Park was created.

1932 Johnny Cash, American singer, was born (d. 2003).

1935 The Luftwaffe was re-formed.

1935 The Daventry Experiment, Robert Watson-Watt carried out a demonstration near Daventry which led directly to the development of RADAR in the United Kingdom.

1936 Adolf Hitler opened the 1st Volkswagen plant in East Germany.

1936 – In the February 26 Incident, young Japanese military officers attempted to stage a coup against the government.

1947 Sandie Shaw, English singer, was born.

1949 Elizabeth George, American novelist, was born.

1950 Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, was born.

1952 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced that his nation had an atomic bomb.

1954 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey, was born.

1954 Ernst August, Prince of Hanover, heir to the deposed Kingdom of Hanover and a husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco., was born.

1955 Andreas Maislinger, founder of Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service, was born.

1958 Susan J. Helms, Astronaut, was born.

1966 Apollo Programme: Launch of AS-201, the first flight of the Saturn IB rocket.

1968  Tim Commerford, American bass player (Rage Against the Machine), was born.

1971  U.N. Secretary Generlal U Thant signed the United Nations’ proclamation of the vernal equinox as Earth Day.

1972 The Buffalo Creek Flood caused by a burst dam killed 125 in West Virginia.

1987 Iran-Contra affair: The Tower Commission rebuked President Ronald Reagan for not controlling his national security staff.

1990 The Sandinistas were defeated in Nicaraguan elections.

1991  Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein announced the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

1993 World Trade Centre bombing: A truck bomb parked below the North Tower of the World Trade Center exploded, killing 6 and injuring more than a thousand.

1995 The United Kingdom’s oldest investment banking institute, Barings Bank, collapsed after a securities broker, Nick Leeson, lost $1.4 billion by speculating on the Singapore International Monetary Exchange using futures contracts.

2000 Mount Hekla in Iceland erupted.

2001 The Taliban destroyed two giant statues of Buddha in Bamyan, Afghanistan.

2003 War in Darfur started.

2004 – F.Y.R.O.M. President Boris Trajkovski was killed in a plane crash near Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

2005 Hosni Mubarak the president of Egypt ordered the constitution changed to allow multi-candidate presidential elections before September 2005 by asking Egyptian parliament to amend Article 76.

2012 – A train derailed in Burlington, Ontario, Canada killing at least three people and injuring 45.

2013 – A hot air balloon crashed near Luxor, Egypt, killing 19 people.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.


Labour wants more welfare for wealthy

January 27, 2014

One of the worst aspects of Labour’s failed policies of the noughties under Helen Clark was extending welfare to the wealthy.

Policies announced today by the current leader, David Cunliffe,  show they haven’t learned from that welfare should be targeted at those in need, not greed.

. . . I am announcing that for 59,000 families with new-born babies, they will all receive a Best Start investment of $60 per week, for the first year of their child’s life.

The payment will go to all families with a combined income of $150,000 or less, and will give them more choices around how they juggle the pressure of work and care for their baby. . .

Since when have people on incomes anywhere near $150,000 been in need of government assistance to help with the costs of a new baby?

This is bribing people with their own and other people’s money.

Welfare is supposed to help people in need to pay for necessities.

It is neither sensible nor sustainable to extend it to people who aren’t in need to pay for luxuries.

People earning well above the average income who can’t cope with the expenses of a baby don’t need welfare, they need budget advice.


Spot the trend

December 15, 2013

Two observations on Facebook:

Obscure political fact. No leader of the Opposition first elected to Parliament before the incumbent Prime Minister has ever beaten the elected incumbent Prime Minister in an election. Only one Leader of the Opposition elected prior to the incumbent PM has beaten that PM, and that was Helen Clark (first elected 1981) who beat Jenny Shipley (elected 1987), and Shipley never won an election as leader. The electorate doesn’t vote tired faces into the premiership.

David Cunliffe was first elected in 1999. John Key was first elected in 2002. Cunliffe is no Helen Clark, and he won’t be Prime Minister at the end of next year.

And:

Since 1949, no government in NZ has lost office campaigning for a third term except a Labour one in 1990. ‪#‎Anyoneseeingatrendhere‬?

I do see the trend here and I like it.

However, there is absolutely no room for complacency.

All signs are pointing to a very close result in next year’s election.


Focussing on what doesn’t matter

November 2, 2013

The Labour Party’s constitutional changes have given more say, and power to the members.

It has, they say, made the party more democratic. Although quite how allowing organisations more power than individuals can be described as democratic is debatable.

Regardless of that, members are having more say and unfortunately for the party’s PR machine, that is what is getting the publicity from this weekend’s conference.

Yesterday Stuff published some of the more radical proposals including  one that would force the candidate selection committee to consider a range of factors, including sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, disability and age, to ensure they are “fairly” represented in the party.

. . . But there are a raft of other controversial remits to be debated at the conference that will turn the focus on Labour’s social agenda.

They include a radical change to abortion laws that seems to take doctors out of decision-making and give a pregnant woman “the opportunity and freedom to make the best decision for her own circumstances”. . . 

Other proposals are:

* Maori language made compulsory in state schools and teachers required to be competent in te reo

* Privatised state assets renationalised with compensation based on “proven need”

* The Government’s roads of national significance project dumped and the funds put into public transport

* Teaching of civics and democracy mandatory for all schoolchildren

* Laws to discourage excessive alcohol consumption, a review of the purchasing age, alcohol availability and an increase in the price of booze

* Prisoners again getting the right to vote

* A national sex and sexuality education programme dealing with sexual diseases, contraception methods, consent, sexual orientation and gender identity

 * New Zealand becoming a republic

* An apology for the Foreshore and Seabed Act passed in 2004

* A prohibition on school boards of trustees restricting same-sex partners from attending school balls

* A Pasifika television station

* A Maori language newspaper

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson agrees the apology should be issued:

“I am glad that almost a decade after passing this shameful piece of legislation, which denied access to the courts to people based on race, the Labour Party is ready to discuss an apology,” Mr Finlayson said.

The National government repealed the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2011 with the support of the Māori Party and United Future, and restored the right of Māori to go to court through the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act.

“I would suggest that the Labour leadership also apologise for their the party’s abysmal treatment of Tariana Turia because of her principled stand over the issue,” he said.

“While they are at it, they should apologise for the way Helen Clark called Dr Pita Sharples, a man who has devoted his life to improving Māori educational achievement, a ‘hater and a wrecker’.”

“They should apologise that Ms Clark deliberately snubbed the 35,000 New Zealanders who made a hikoi to Parliament to protest that discriminatory legislation, preferring to pose for a photo opportunity with Shrek the sheep.”

“At the same time, Labour may wish to say sorry for the way Treaty of Waitangi settlements stalled almost completely during their nine years in power – averaging 1.6 settlements per year, and needlessly delaying the resolution of these grievances for the good of the country. Last year, the government signed 15 deeds of settlement with iwi, only one fewer than Labour’s total for nine years in office.”

This has brought out several helpful suggestions in social media about other apologies Labour should make, including one to Shrek, although as he’s dead just now that’s a bit late.

Back to the conference.

What members in any party want isn’t always consistent with the party’s philosophy and principles.

People join parties for a range of reasons among which is the desire to push a particular barrow and the party is just a vehicle for doing that.

The trouble for the party is that some of these barrows are more interesting and newsworthy than what else might be going on at the conference and therefore get attention.

The selection criteria proposal has already been watered down but not sufficiently to wash from voters’ minds the conviction that Labour is still focussed on social engineering.

It also leaves questions about what the party thinks is important and how different that is to what matters to voters.

John Armstrong writes on the conference:

. . . You could be excused thinking this might also be an opportunity for the caucus spokesmen and women in key portfolios to give some indication of their thinking even though they may not have been in those roles for very long.

Instead the conference will devote several hours to wrangling over the wording of a “policy platform” document setting out Labour’s values, vision and priorities which has already been months in the drafting.

The platform is supposed to answer that perennial question: what does Labour stand for.

You can safely bet that 99.9 per cent of all voters will never set eyes upon it, let alone read it.

This is the kind of navel-gazing exercise a party undertakes and completes in the year after an election – not a year out from the next one.

It all reinforces the impression of a party focused inwards rather than outwards.

That is underlined by the series of policy remits which deal with such pressing matters as compulsory Maori language classes in schools, apologising to Maori over the foreshore and seabed farrago, state funding of political parties (a hardy annual) and entrenching the Bill of Rights (whatever difference that would make).

Many of the items amount to wish-list policies produced by the party’s sector groups. The words “out of touch” spring to mind.

While all this navel gazing was going on, the government was getting on with what matters, including announcements on a replacement for the Teachers’ Council and the decision to not allow the damming of the Nevis River.

Even on a matter of moment – state asset sales – Labour seems to be living in the past. One proposal up for debate at yesterday’s workshops would have had a Labour government reviewing the state-owned enterprises model so that it was no longer “pro-capitalist” and enabled “workers’ participation, control and management of industry”.

The “policy proposal” would have also required Labour to “re-nationalise” every state asset privatised by the current National Government, with compensation being paid only to shareholders with “proven need”.

That is a blunt retort to Bill English’s jibe that if Labour opposes asset sales so much, why doesn’t the party commit itself to borrowing the money to buy them back.

Exactly where the line would have drawn on compensation is not clear. But there would be some mighty unhappy investors in Mighty River Power if told they were not going to get their money back. That would amount to theft – and would have seriously dented New Zealand’s credibility as a haven for foreign investment, as well as sending all the wrong messages about saving.

The proposal was voted down by delegates. The question is how it managed to make it onto the conference agenda – and why something better was not put up in its place. Sometimes political parties need protecting from themselves.

Labour’s membership may feel liberated by recent changes in the party’s rules. But more influence brings the need to act more responsibly. At some point, however, Cunliffe is going to have to lurch back to the right. It won’t happen today. But it will happen. Watch for some real fireworks within Labour when it does.

Cunliffe won the leadership on votes from members and unions and he’s been feeding them left-wing rhetoric.

Whether or not he believes what he says is difficult to fathom because he varies his message to suit his audience.

However, the impression that remains is that he and his party are lurching to the left.

That might appeal to some of those who didn’t bother to vote last time. But it will repel some who did vote for the more moderate policies promoted by Labour under Phil Goff and won’t give their votes to support a more radical left agenda.

Gains on the left flank could be lost from the centre and go to the right.

While the party is focussing on what doesn’t matter, voters are worried about what does – the economy, education, health and security.

That’s National’s focus too and it’s making a positive difference to the country as the series of good news stories grows.

Meanwhile #gigatownoamaru is focussed on becoming the Southern Hemisphere’s sharpest town,

 


Which PM would they emulate?

September 2, 2013

Sean Plunket, interviewing Labour’s three leadership contenders on The Nation  yesterday, asked them which leader they would emulate.

David Cunliffe opted for Michael Joseph Savage, Shane Jones and Grant Robertson both chose Norman Kirk.

Interesting that Helen Clark wasn’t chosen, and in fact was criticised by Jones:

“Now the thing about Helen, she was into social provision and anti-discrimination, Labour can no longer have that as its dominating brand,” said Mr Jones.

The other two didn’t comment on this, but their enthusiasm for a 50/50 gender split in caucus suggests they don’t agree.


Could a list MP lead?

August 26, 2013

In the unlikely event Shane Jones wins Labour’s leadership selection he won’t be the first list MP to lead a party.

The Green Party is led by two and NZ First is led by one.

He wouldn’t be the first to lead one of the bigger parties either – Don Brash was a list MP when he led National.

If it hadn’t been for Helen Clark’s desperate and expensive election bribes and the media focussing on the exclusive Brethren’s influence while ignoring the pledge card scandal he might have been Prime Minister.

There are advantages to leading as a list MP. It would enable greater concentration on the leadership without the distraction of an electorate.

But that is also a disadvantage – electorate helps keep MPs grounded and in touch with constituents in a way most list MPs aren’t.

That is one of the reasons that even after more than a decade and a half of MMP list MPs are still regarded as somehow not quite as legitimate as those who represent electorates.

There is no reason a list MP couldn’t become Prime Minister but not having a seat could make it a wee bit harder.


Number four

August 24, 2013

Jim Bolger was Prime Minister when Helen Clark became leader of the Labour Party, and the first woman to lead the Opposition.

She almost won the 1996 election but it was run under MMP and Winston Peters allowed Bolger to remain in power.

Jenny Shipley deposed Bolger and became our first female Prime Minister but Clark won the next election.

Shipley lost the leadership to Bill English but he lost the next election.

He usually gets the blame for that but it wasn’t all bad. It did get rid of much of the dead wood – those long serving MPs who ought to have resigned to let fresh blood contest the election but didn’t. He should also get credit for the rule changes which under his leadership, with the help of then president Judy Kirk and general manager Steven Joyce, made National a much stronger party and laid the foundation for its eventual return to power.

Don Brash ousted Bill, boosted membership and funds, and nearly won the 2005 election.

When Brash resigned, John Key won without a fight, and with a unified caucus helped in no small part by his deputy, English, who was, and is, 100% loyal to the leader and party. Key also had, and has maintained, strong, unified membership and good finances.

When Key won the 2008 election, Clark resigned and handed a poisoned chalice to Phil Goff. He, and the caucus, didn’t learn from what happened with National, kept most of the dead wood and lost the 2011 election.

Goff resigned and David Shearer took over, still saddled with the dead wood, disunity in the caucus, the shadowy influence of Clark and dissent in the wider party.

Labour’s about to elect the fourth leader to face the Prime Minister but changing the leader won’t be enough.

The caucus is still full of dead wood and further damaged by disunity.

Membership is low, it’s not united either and party finances are far from healthy. Clark’s shadow still looms large and there’s also the spectre of the unions which most on the right and many in the centre distrust.

Helen Clark defeated outlasted four National leaders and lost to the fifth who had a strong, unified caucus, a strong, unified party and little competition in Opposition from the wee parties.

Labour is about to elect the fourth leader to face Key but he will be fighting fires on several fronts.

He’ll have to unite his caucus and his party and also stand head and shoulders above Russel Norman and Winston Peters who’ve been doing a much better job of leading the Opposition than then man he’ll succeed.

Number four might be able to do what the three before him haven’t, but winning the leadership will be the first and easy step in a steep and challenging climb.


Compare and contrast

August 21, 2013

What’s the difference between National’s GCSB Bill and the one passed into law by Helen Clark’s government in 2003?

Given the emotion generated by the current Bill you’d think that someone in the mainstream media would have compared and contrasted the two pieces of legislation.

No-one has so Kiwiblog has done it:

Helen Clark GCSB law 2003 John Key GCSB law 2013
Inspector-General sole independent oversight two person advisory panel to assist the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
Inspector-General has no staff resources Inspector-General has a Deputy
Inspector-General role is essentially reactive Inspector-General to proactively annually review GCSB procedures, policies and compliance and do unscheduled audits
Inspector General not informed when a warrant is put on the register relating to a New Zealander Inspector General is informed when a warrant is put on the register relating to a New Zealander
GCSB can’t intercept the communications of a NZ citizen or permanent resident but can assist “any public authority” on any matter relevant to their functions, and unclear if the former prevents the latter GCSB can’t intercept the communications of a NZ citizen or permanent resident but can assist (only the) Police, Defence Force or SIS even if it involves a NZer.
No reporting of assistance given to other agencies GCSB will be required to report annually on the number of instances when it has provided assistance to the Police, SIS or NZ Defence Force
No reporting on number of warrants and authorisations GCSB will also be required to report annually on the number of warrants and authorisations issued
Intelligence and Security Committee has secret hearings to discuss the financial reviews of the performance of the GCSB and the SIS Intelligence and Security Committee will hold public hearings annually to discuss the financial reviews of the performance of the GCSB and the SIS
ISC does not have to publicly report to Parliament ISC to report annually to Parliament on its activities
No regular reviews of GCSB An independent review of the operations and performance the GCSB and the NZSIS and their governing legislation in 2015, and thereafter every 5-7 years
GCSB has a function to protect any information that any public authority or other entity produces, sends, receives, or holds in any medium GCSB function to protect any communications that any public entity processed, stored, or communicated in or through information infrastructures
No specification of limits of GCSB assistance Specifies that GCSB can assist Police, Defence Force and SIS, but only for lawful activities such as where warrants have been granted
IPCA has no jurisdiction Gives the IPCA and the IGIS jurisdiction to review any assistance given to Police and SIS respectively
No references to according to human rights standards Specifies all functions of GCSB must accord with NZ law, and all human rights standards recognised by NZ law.
No references to not undertaking partisan activity Specifies GCSB can’t be involved in any action that helps or harms a political party
No requirement to brief the Leader of the Opposition GCSB Director required to brief Leader of Opposition regularly on major activities of GCSB
Requires GCSB to destroy any records not relating to GCSB objectives or functions Required GCSB to not retain any information on NZers collected incidentally as part of foreign intelligence operations unless relates to serious crime, loss of life or national security threats
No special protection for legally privileged communications Legally privileged communications explicitly exempted from scope of an interception warrant
No requirement to have a policy on personal information retention and use GCSB required to work with Privacy Commission to have a policy on personal information retention and use 
No restrictions in GCSB Act on retaining personal information GCSB can only retain personal information for a lawful purpose, and can’t keep longer than required for any lawful purpose

The law currently being debated and roundly condemned has a lot more protections than the one it will replace.

Where were all the protesters in 2003?

More to the point why are opposition MPs who voted for the 2003 law opposing the new law with greater protections?

And another question – if the opposition knows this law is so bad why haven’t they laid out exactly what they’ll replace it with when they are eventually in government?


When the ex comes back

August 7, 2013

In even the best relationships it can be a bit difficult when the ex comes for a visit.

It’s hard for the new partner not to feel second-best and that the ex is more articulate, more respected, more popular.

Labour leader David Shearer would be forgiven for feeling a bit like this when Helen Clark, the woman he succeeded, returns to New Zealand and is fêted by the media.

This week he has even more reason to feel that way because in the interview on Q & A she undermined the opposition to the GCSB Bill.

. . . Helen Clark told Corin Dann that there is a need for a GCSB and she’s urging dialogue across the political divide.

“The answer is yes, you do, because you need that foreign intelligence, and not least for safety and security reasons. I think the real issue is, is there a gap in the law, which the Kitteridge Inquiry apparently found that there was, and if so, how do you deal with that and do you take the opportunity at the same time to write in more controls to protect the privacy of the individual? That, as I see it, is the debate raging at the moment.”

Ms Clark says when her government brought in the 2003 GCSB legislation ”that actually took GCSB out of the shadows and made it a government department with its own Act, which was good. But, you know, in retrospect, as Miss Kitteridge has found, perhaps there was a gap in the law. So that has to be dealt with, but I think it’s really important to try to reach across the political divide when you’re dealing with these issues.”

Ms Clark says, “Try and take the politics out of it and look at what do we as Kiwis need to protect our interests and how do we protect the privacy of individual Kiwis who should never be caught up in a giant trawling exercise across their communications.”

Shearer and Labour had the opportunity to be the grown-ups in opposition by acting like a government in waiting on this issue.

Instead they’ve just been playing political catch-up to the Green Party and Winston Peters who know they’ll never have to lead a government.

They’ve missed their opportunity to get better legislation and because of that have been wasting their time and our money filibustering on the Bill which will eventually pass anyway.


What are they doing?

April 22, 2013

For all the rhetoric about the failed policies of the 80s and 90s from Helen Clark and her caucus, they didn’t reverse them.

They made other mistakes as they taxed and spent the country into recession before the Global Financial Crisis.

But while they tinkered at the edges they made no substantial changes to the policies which got the country out of the economic mire into which we’d sunk.

That was partly because they couldn’t and partly because they understood the dire consequences of trying.

The LabourGreen power play walks away from that.

It ignores the hard lessons that were learned from the socialist policies which led to huge deficits, high interest rates, high inflation and low or negative growth.

It shows a woeful ignorance of the hard work the National-led government has done and why it had to be done.

It illustrates their disdain for investment and businesses confidence which are needed for growth and the jobs that follow.

What are they doing?

They’re abandoning the centre and  striding to the left.

Hopefully they’ll be scaring moderate, thinking voters to the right in the process.


February 26 in history

February 26, 2013

747 BC Epoch of Ptolemy‘s Nabonassar Era.

364 Valentinian I was proclaimed Roman Emperor.

1266 Battle of Benevento: An army led by Charles, Count of Anjou, defeated a combined German and Sicilian force led by King Manfred of Sicily who was killed.

1361 Wenceslaus, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia, was born (d. 1419).

1564 Christopher Marlowe, English dramatist, was born (d. 1593).

1658 Treaty of Roskilde: After a devastating defeat in the Northern Wars (1655-1661), King Frederick III of Denmark-Norway was forced to give up nearly half his territory to Sweden to save the rest.

1794 Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen burnt down.

1802 Victor Hugo, French writer, was born (d. 1885).

1815 Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from Elba.

1829 – Levi Strauss, German-born clothing designer, was born  (d. 1902).

1844 Two Wellington lawyers, William Brewer and H. Ross, undertook a duel as the result of a quarrel that had arisen from a case in the Wellington County Court. When the two men faced off in Sydney Street, Brewer fired into the air but ‘received Mr. Ross’ ball in the groin’. He died a few days later.

'Pistols at dawn': deadly duel in Wellington
1846 William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, American frontiersman, was born  (d. 1917).

1848 The second French Republic was proclaimed.

1852 John Harvey Kellogg, American surgeon, advocate of dietary reform, was born  (d. 1943).

1861  Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya, Russian revolutionary, Lenin’s wife, was born (d. 1939).

1863 U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed the National Currency Act into law.

1866 Herbert Henry Dow, American chemical industrialist, was born (d. 1930).

1870 In New York City, a demonstration of the first pneumatic subway opened to the public.

1885 The Berlin Act, which resulted from the Berlin Conference regulating European colonization and trade in Africa, was signed.

1887 – At the Sydney Cricket Ground, George Lohmann became the first bowler to take eight wickets in a Test innings.

1909  Fanny Cradock, English food writer and broadcaster, was born (d. 1994).

1914 Robert Alda, American actor, was born (d. 1986).

1914 HMHS Britannic, sister to the RMS Titanic, was launched at Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast.

1916  Jackie Gleason, American actor, writer, composer, and comedian, was born (d. 1987).

1917 The Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York.

1919 An act of the U.S. Congress established most of the Grand Canyon as the Grand Canyon National Park.

1928 Fats Domino, American musician, was born.

1928 Ariel Sharon, Israeli Prime Minister, was born.

1929 The Grand Teton National Park was created.

1932 Johnny Cash, American singer, was born (d. 2003).

1935 The Luftwaffe was re-formed.

1935 The Daventry Experiment, Robert Watson-Watt carried out a demonstration near Daventry which led directly to the development of RADAR in the United Kingdom.

1936 Adolf Hitler opened the 1st Volkswagen plant in East Germany.

1936 – In the February 26 Incident, young Japanese military officers attempted to stage a coup against the government.

1947 Sandie Shaw, English singer, was born.

1949 Elizabeth George, American novelist, was born.

1950 Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, was born.

1952 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced that his nation had an atomic bomb.

1954 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey, was born.

1954 Ernst August, Prince of Hanover, heir to the deposed Kingdom of Hanover and a husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco., was born.

1955 Andreas Maislinger, founder of Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service, was born.

1958 Susan J. Helms, Astronaut, was born.

1966 Apollo Programme: Launch of AS-201, the first flight of the Saturn IB rocket.

1968  Tim Commerford, American bass player (Rage Against the Machine), was born.

1971  U.N. Secretary Generlal U Thant signed the United Nations’ proclamation of the vernal equinox as Earth Day.

1972 The Buffalo Creek Flood caused by a burst dam killed 125 in West Virginia.

1987 Iran-Contra affair: The Tower Commission rebuked President Ronald Reagan for not controlling his national security staff.

1990 The Sandinistas were defeated in Nicaraguan elections.

1991  Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein announced the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

1993 World Trade Centre bombing: A truck bomb parked below the North Tower of the World Trade Center exploded, killing 6 and injuring more than a thousand.

1995 The United Kingdom’s oldest investment banking institute, Barings Bank, collapsed after a securities broker, Nick Leeson, lost $1.4 billion by speculating on the Singapore International Monetary Exchange using futures contracts.

2000 Mount Hekla in Iceland erupted.

2001 The Taliban destroyed two giant statues of Buddha in Bamyan, Afghanistan.

2003 War in Darfur started.

2004 – F.Y.R.O.M. President Boris Trajkovski was killed in a plane crash near Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

2005 Hosni Mubarak the president of Egypt ordered the constitution changed to allow multi-candidate presidential elections before September 2005 by asking Egyptian parliament to amend Article 76.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.


Herstory of Waitangi

February 8, 2013

Trans Tasman has suggests the history of the Treaty of Waitangi might be being re-written as a herstory:

There’s a generation of school kids growing up under the impression the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between Governor Hobson and Titewhai Harawira.

This is not so much an indictment on our school system: more on the way Harawira manages to plant herself at the epicentre of our annual national day.

It isn’t clear quite how this happened. True, she managed to make Helen Clark cry, and for some of us there’s always a hope Titewhai – who has become a sort of Kiwi version of a fierce Wodehousian aunt as imagined by one of the more bizarrely gothic Dutch painters – would have a similar impact one of Clark’s successors. There doesn’t seem much chance with the current lot.

If she were to try such a stunt today, John Key would either declare himself relaxed about it, or just have one of his memory lapses. Labour’s David Shearer probably would not notice, unless a staffer or his autocue told him about it. NZ First’s Winston Peters and Act’s John Banks would respond with inarticulate belligerence, and United Future’s Peter Dunne probably with a milder, if more articulate, form of same.

The only ones discombobulated would be Green co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei: they are more used to being part of protests than being on the receiving end of them.

So what does Waitangi Day, our national day, tell us about ourselves – you know, apart from the fact we are suckers for being bullied by stroppy old ladies?

Well, we’re still working on this treaty stuff, and we’re not very comfortable about the whole race issue. But also we’re not ignoring it and we’re kind of muddling our way through it all, if a little noisily and apologetically.

Apropos of understanding the history of the treaty, I have to confess that I went through school under the impression it ended the land wars.

It was only when I did a New Zealand history paper at university that I learned that wasn’t the case.


Look at her record

January 16, 2013

The United Nations Development Programme’s executive board is less than impressed by progress in reducing poverty:

Former prime minister Helen Clark has been hit with a devastating critique of her United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in an official report saying much of its annual US$5.7 billion (NZ$6.8 billion) budget is only remotely connected to ending global poverty.

The densely worded report by the UNDP’s executive board – Clark’s bosses since she became secretary-general in April 2009 – amounts to a stinging performance review.

US media reports say she is leading a counter-attack claiming the study misses the point behind its work.

But the report paints a striking picture of a confused organisation seemingly unable to bring significant change to the world’s 1.3 billion poor people despite spending US$8.5 billion on fighting poverty between 2004 and 2011. . .

Is there any surprise in that, look at Ms Clark’s record on reducing poverty when she was Prime Minister of New Zealand.

That was a much easier job than tackling it on a global scale.

Yet what did she achieve in what was generally a good economic environment globally and domestically?

Her government introduced measures which gave assistance for people in greed rather than need, Welfare for Families which turned middle and upper income families into beneficiaries is a very expensive example of that.

It threw money at problems rather than seeking solutions.

It increased the burden of government, adding to public sector numbers without increasing productivity, and masked recession in the export sector with a consumption boom fuelled by borrowing and spending based on higher taxes.

The number of people unemployed and on very low incomes has increased since the global financial crisis. But there was already a solid foundation of poor who were not helped by Ms Clark’s government through nine years of much better economic times than we’ve had in the four years since she left.

In her defence however,  the executive summary says the report covers the period from 2,000, and Ms Clark has only been secretary general since 2009 and she was set an impossible task.

There are many causes of poverty and among those for the poorest are political and social factors against which an agency like the UN is powerless regardless of how much money it throws at the programme.


The vultures are gathering

April 28, 2012

The wilderness of opposition isn’t a good place to be at the best of times and these are far from the best of times for Labour.

The vultures are gathering, attracted by the growing stench of disarray, decay and disunity.

Phil Goff was handed a poisoned chalice by Helen Clark and he handed it on to David Shearer.

He doesn’t look comfortable with it, and who can blame him?

The wilderness of opposition isn’t a good place to be and it’s even worse when you know at least some of the vultures are supposed to be on your side.

 


Bad policy good politics

March 14, 2012

The 2005 election was very, very expensive.

Helen Clark threw everything she could at it including large amounts of public money.

Graphs of government spending tell the story – a slight increase from 1999 to 2005 then a steep incline from 2005.

Among the expensive 2005 election bribes was interest-free student loans which, as John Key says was good politics (in the sense that this policy helped Labour wint he election) but bad policy.

He said the scheme was politically popular, even if it “may not be great economics”.

“That is about the only thing that will get [students] out of bed before 7 o’clock at night to vote, but it’s not politically sustainable to put interest back on student loans. It may not be great economics, but it’s great politics.

“It is a bit of a tragedy because it sends the wrong message to young people, it tells them to go out and borrow debt.”

It’s not just students who voted for the policy, a lot of their parents and grandparents did too.

Once people have been given something like this it’s very difficult to take it away.

The only way to make a sustainable change to the policy would be with cross-party support and that is unlikely.

The government is making a much more concerted effort to get money back from people who have gone overseas and perhaps the publication of graduate incomes might make some students think before they incur large debts.


Who else would they vote for?

March 7, 2012

The Sunday Star Times was excited by the 100 emails Prime Minister John Key received from people opposed to the sale of the Crafar Farms to Shanghai Pengxin, calling it a heartland backlash.

One farmer said he had been a National supporter for 45 years but the agreement to sell the farms to Chinese interests ahead of New Zealanders was the “final nail in the coffin”.

Key received more than 100 emails or letters opposed to the sale, most within days of the announcement of the deal with Shanghai Pengxin.

“For many years I have voted for National and I believe in the philosophies. I am utterly disappointed at the decision to sell the farms to a foreign buyer … 2011 will be the last time I vote for National,” one said.

Another wrote: “We have always supported you, and National, but we aren’t with you on this. We have to let you know how strongly we feel about this.”

One wonders how much these people understand about the National Party’s philosophy and principles because there is nothing there that would restrict the freedom of people to sell their own land to the highest bidder nor is there anything that would support xenophobia.

Regardless of that, 100 emails isn’t many on a hot-button issue.

“Pretty much on any issue in New Zealand I’ll get 100 emails,      and sometimes I get 10,000 emails if it’s a significant      issue. So there’s a mixture of views, no doubt about that,”      he told TV One’s Breakfast show.   

Mr Key said the Crafar farms sale was not the main issue farmers raised with him.   

“Certainly I’ve been around a lot of rural events – the      Waimumu Field Days, the Golden Shears on Saturday night – and that’s not really the issue they’re coming up and talking  about,” he said.   

“Some farmers come up to me and say `Look, I own the farm, it’s my property right and I should be able to sell it to      whoever I like.’ Others say they don’t want the farmland going overseas. There’s definitely a range of views but I don’t see it hurting National support.”  

People who change allegiance on a single issue aren’t strong supporters to start with, and any farmers who think they’re not happy with National only need to look at yesterday’s debate on changes to pastoral lease rentals to see how much worse off they’d be with a Labour-led government:

The Crown Pastoral Land (Rent for Pastoral Leases) Amendment Bill will replace the land valuation basis for setting rents on  pastoral leases (on mainly high country farms) with a system based on the income earning potential of the  farm land.

Labour MP Raymond Huo said his party was opposing the bill because it was subsidising some high country farmers and did not reflect the real worth of the Crown owned land.

Agriculture Minister David Carter accused Labour of the politics of jealousy and envy and said their policies in Government had shown a “lack of care for the most fragile farming environment’’ in the country.

He said former prime minister Helen Clark had attempted to “drive’’ the farmers off the land and turn it into part of the conservation estate.

The Government now wanted to allow farmers to pay a rent based on the income they could take off the land while maintaining it for future generations. The Crown, he said, had proven to be a poor caretaker of the high country land.

The loss of tussock at the top of the Lindis Pass is a sad reminder of what happens when the Crown tries to replace the high country farmers who have looked after pastoral lease land for generations.

Another example of how poorly Labour understands farming was last year’s beat-up on how much tax they pay.

As Cactus Kate asks, if farmers aren’t going to vote for National, who would they support?

. . .  Labour who will tax the sale on their farm at 15% who along with the Greens will make them pay for their pollution and treat them as the rich pricks they deserve to be treated as?  NZ First…hehe…..

The small number of farmers who have their noses in a knot over the farm sales are shooting the wrong target.

I have nothing against the sale of the farms to foreigners but those who do should be directing the ire at the receivers who insisted on selling the farms as a job lot rather than individually.  That would have opened up a far larger number of would-be buyers and made it much easier for locals to make realistic offers.


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