Political playground

April 8, 2014

Trans Tasman takes politicians back to school:

Hone Harawira, one suspects, used to specialise in Chinese burns and other playground tortures when he was at school. The Mana Party leader has the kind of air about him redolent of such schoolyard antics. John Key was probably the cheeky kid who cracked enough jokes to be popular with the other kids but who nevertheless did his homework assiduously and kept on authority’s good side. David Cunliffe was the greasy goody two shoes, bright, geeky and probably a bit of a sneak. Peter Dunne – swotty pants. Russel Norman – ditto, but a more argumentative version of the same. Metiria Turei: the slightly flaky party girl (a bit like Paula Bennett, in fact).

We had classic playground diversion stuff this week when it was suggested Harawira is the lone electorate MP Kim Dotcom has signed up to his party. It’s not me, sir, Harawira protested – pointing indignantly to the class swot Peter Dunne sitting quietly in the corner. Key of course has rubbished the idea his support partner might be in talks with the Internet pirate who has promised to bring the Prime Minister down. “Not a dog show,” the PM laughed, which prompted a few to remember the Country Calender spoof about the remote controlled sheep dogs, and to ponder Dunne’s resemblance to a slightly affronted Scottish Rough Collie.

Former Labour leader David Shearer – the decent kid  everyone used to pick on – is the other candidate who has been suggested, but this looks even less likely than Dunne. Dotcom has historically held a somewhat awkward relationship with the truth which has occasionally brought him to the attention of the authorities. This looks like another of those occasions. . .

An awkward relationship with the truth, may or may not apply to the 2000 members his Internet Party claims to have.

It’s applied to register as a political party.

. . . Following registration the Internet Party will need to submit its rules providing for the democratic participation of members and candidate selection within the time period specified by law. . .

It’s constitution is here but Russell Brown raises questions on whether they allow for democratic participation by members:

1. There is a special role called ‘party visionary.’ This is defined as Kim Dotcom, or a person selected by Kim Dotcom. THis visionary has the automatic right to sit and vote on the party’s executive and policy committee and cannot be kicked out by the membership.
2. To stand for election to the party’s executive, in addition to being nominated by current members of the party you’ve got to be nominated by a current member of the National Executive. This locks in the incumbents.
3. The party’s executive has nearly unfettered control over the list: they put together an initial list, send it out to the membership to vote on, and then they ultimately decide what the final list should be having regard to the member’s choices.
4. The national executive chooses who stands in what electorate. No local member input at all.
5. The party secretary has a very important role (eg they get to solely arbitrate over disputes; they set out the process for amending the constitution, they decide the process for electing office holders; they’re a voting member of the National Executive). The only problem is they’re legally an employee of the party’s shell company, meaning that it is very hard for the members to exercise democratic control over the secretary (you can’t just fire an employee).
6. On a related note: the way the Internet Party is structured is so all its assets are kept in a shell company (Internet Party Assets Inc), away from the party itself. I don’t know what the purpose of this one was TBH. (the rules of this company were meant to be attached to the constitution in a schedule, but as far as I can see they’re not there)
7. They’re using the old ‘vote in Parliamentary caucus’ decides leader method. To be fair, most parties use this though. There is a bit of a quirk though that until we know their list we don’t know who their party leader is, because if they’re outside of Parliament their party leader is just whoever is at number 1 of the list. (I also note there’s no way to remove a leader if they don’t have representation in Parliament).”

Not so much of, for and by the members as of, for and by Dotcom.

But the silver lining to the Dotcom cloud is that every bit of media attention he’s getting – and he’s getting a lot – is less for the rest of the opposition.

The MP most likely . . .

March 28, 2014

Kim Dotcom is claiming a sitting MP will join his Internet Party.

. . . He repeated his claim that it would be represented in Parliament, whether or not it achieved the 5 per cent MMP threshold for list seats, because a sitting electorate MP would join.

He would not name the person or say which party he or she represented, because of a confidentiality agreement, but it was not Harawira. The MP’s name would be revealed in June. . .

He didn’t know how many MPs were in parliament when asked by Seven Sharp.

There are 121, 70 of whom hold seats.

Given the unity in National and the high probability all those running again will hold their seats any of its 42 MPs would be mad to leap from a rock to sinking sand.

John Banks is retiring and Peter Dunne would have lots to lose and nothing to gain by any dalliance with Dotcom.

Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples are also retiring. The third Maori Party MP, Te Ururoa Flavell would also have too much to lose by leaping from the steady waka into a dotbomb dinghy.

Dotcom says it’s not Harawira and we can take his word on that because while he’s the lone paddler in the Mana waka, he’s not stupid enough to tip it up.

That only leaves Labour.

A few of its MPs might feel uneasy in their seats and most will have some doubt about the probability of being in government after the election.

The prospect of power can do strange things to people but even unhappy Labour MPs wouldn’t be stupid enough to think they’d have a better chance of success by leaping into the unknown.

Who then is the MP most likely to join Dotcom?

Almost certainly someone in his dreams.

Lies, damned lies and . . .

March 22, 2014

I used to chair a trust which supported people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Most of our funding came through government agencies and it was precarious.

We knew that we were competing with other providers and if we ours wasn’t the best proposal someone else would get the funds.

That happens all the times, and not just with government agencies.

The Problem Gambling Foundation has found that out and isn’t happy about it and has Labour’s support for that:

Labour says funding for the Problem Gambling Foundation has been stopped because the foundation opposed the deal to increase the number of gambling machines at SkyCity Casino.

That doesn’t sound good but the very next paragraph makes it better:

But the Government has confirmed the new holder of the contract to provide health and counselling services for problem gamblers throughout New Zealand is the Salvation Army, which also opposed the SkyCity deal.

That didn’t stop Labour blaming the government:

Labour’s Internal Affairs Spokesman Trevor Mallard said the foundation was being forced to close its doors because it vocally opposed the deal between the Government and SkyCity to increase the number of pokies in the Auckland casino, in return for building a new national convention centre. . .

This would be the same Mallard who was a guest of Sky City at the Rugby World Cup.

That was then, back to now:

Mallard said the foundation was the largest provider of problem-gambling services in Australasia and “it is hard to imagine a more qualified organisation to do this work”.

The funding decision was based on far stronger grounds than Mallard’s imagination.

Health Ministry group manager Rod Bartling said negotiations were still ongoing, but the tender process was fair and independently assessed.

“The ministry can confirm that it has informed the Problem Gambling Foundation that it does not intend to renew its national contract to prevent and reduce gambling harm,” he said.

“The process to re-tender the contracts for these services was an open contestable tender process.

“The evaluation panel deciding on the tender comprised six members – three internal ministry staff and three external evaluators from the Department of Internal Affairs, the Health Promotion Agency and a Pacific health consultant.

“The ministry also asked Pricewaterhouse to independently review the procurement process and this confirmed the ministry’s processes followed accepted good practice.”

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne was even stronger in refuting the claims  that the PGF lost funding  due to political pressure.

“The Ministry of Health clearly signalled in 2012 that it would go to the market for the provision of gambling harm minimisation services during its public consultation on this issue, and this is the outcome of that process”, says Mr Dunne.

“This review had been on the cards for some years prior to this, as the development of the sector has to a large extent been undertaken in an ad hoc manner, with duplication of services from national providers simply not achieving best value for money that clients of services are entitled to expect.”

The process to retender the contracts for these services was an open contestable tender.   The evaluation panel deciding on the tender comprised six members: three internal Ministry staff and three external evaluators from the Department of Internal Affairs, the Health Promotion Agency and a Pacific health consultant.  

“The Ministry of Health has been particularly mindful to keep the process clearly separate from any perception of political interference. This extended to commissioning an independent review by Pricewaterhouse on its proposed decisions and I congratulate them on the rigorous commitment to probity they have shown in following this tender process as it went beyond the requirements of best practice”.

“The outcome is that services are more streamlined and will achieve increased service provision from government funding in the gambling harm minimisation area. The Problem Gambling Foundation will continue to be contracted to provide specialist services, if negotiations with them are successful, says Mr Dunne.

It is proposed that the major national provider will be the Salvation Army’s Oasis service, which already provides gambling harm and other addiction and social services across the country.

“I am aware that the Salvation Army has been critical of the government in certain areas over the years, including the SkyCity convention centre, but I see no reason why this should prevent them from being contracted to provide the excellent services that they do.

“For Labour and the Greens to say that the Problem Gambling Foundation’s funding has been cut because of its opposition to particular government policies is patent nonsense. It was not until that process was completed that I was advised of the outcome.

“Just because they have Problem Gambling in their title, doesn’t mean they become a default provider, and I commend the Ministry for its rigorous process and decision making which will ultimately benefit those New Zealanders who may who experience negative outcomes from their, or others, gambling activities”, says Mr Dunne.

The PGF lost funding because the Salvation Army, which was also critical of the Sky City convention centre, convinced the evaluation panel, backed by an independent review by Pricewaterhouse that it was offering something better.

That still wasn’t good enough for Labour leader who has been active on Twitter:

A picture might paint a thousand words but that doesn’t make them true.

Cunliffe and Mallard aren’t going to let the truth get in the way of their story which gives us lies, damned lies and Labour.

Wee parties spread too thinly

November 28, 2013

Green Party MP Gareth Hughes has been given an exemption from the party’s rule that candidates must contest electorates.

Instead, he will run in 2014 as a list-only candidate so he can focus on boosting the party’s youth vote. He stood in Ohariu in 2011, but the party has chosen Tane Woodley to stand there next year.

Most parties allow a few people to stand as list-only candidates and if Hughes was pulling out of Ohariu and not being replaced it would seriously threaten Peter Dunne’s hold on the seat by boosting Labour votes.

But since another Green candidate has been selected this isn’t a strategic move.

The announcement comes straight after yesterday’s news that the party’s co-leader Russel Norman is being challenged because the party had too few MPs in Auckland.

The Green Party is the biggest of the wee parties but both these stories indicate the problem they all face with fewer MPs and members.

They’re spread too thinly and can’t hope to have nation-wide representation in a geographical or a sector sense.

Reality of MMP

November 25, 2013

One of the faults of MMP is that it can give disproportionate power to wee parties and their leaders.

New Zealand First with Winston Peters is a classic example of this.

The Conservative Party and its leader Colin Craig could be another and they are both appealing to a similar constituency.

. . . And Craig, at 45, sees himself as a fresh-faced alternative to political warhorse Winston Peters, 68.

He claims to be eating solidly into Peters’ core constituency of the older, socially conservative voter.

Members have switched allegiance, particularly after NZ First’s annual conference in October, he says. “We are enjoying seeing Grey Power no longer invite Winston, but invite me instead . . . there is a sort of transition. We are slowly taking over that space.”

Craig says one of the reasons Peters is in decline is that “he’s lost the mojo”.

“He’s not the Winston he was . . . and I know he thinks he is going to be here till whenever, but there is a point at which you start to lose credibility . . . my impression is that he was, last time, the protest vote. Now we have offered that opportunity in a similar policy space.”

Senior citizens appear to like Craig’s morally conservative views combined with an anti-asset sales stance. “A lot of them think I’m a lovely young fellow, and I get told I’m a good boy! I don’t mind, if they want to think of me as some sort of adopted son.”

Other parties are obviously worrying about Craig too.

His party is more likely to support a National-led government than a Labour one and a new wee party on the rise is likely to take votes from one in decline.

Craig’s opponents clearly now see him as a rival: David Cunliffe repeatedly refers to him as Crazy Colin. UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne launched an astonishing attack yesterday on some of his former MPs, now with the Conservatives.

Craig shrugs this off. Perhaps Labour is worried that he is gaining ground among Pacific Islanders in South Auckland, he wonders.

“I noticed that he has adopted a slightly anti-Colin Craig rhetoric which I find interesting given that I’ve never met him . . . maybe it’s just because I am going to support National and it has just become politically the thing to say.”

He’s also not upset by Dunne’s insults, saying it is unfounded criticism from a “struggling” politician.

“He is talking out of a lot of disappointment. I mean it can’t be easy when at one stage you had eight MPs and he was really in the middle of it then. A lot has transpired, self-inflicted by and large, and now he struggles to get an annual conference together. As one person said to me: it’s not an annual conference, its a support group.”

The Conservatives need to get 5% of the party vote or win an electorate to get into parliament, neither of which is a given.

But if the party’s there, what does it and its leader want to achieve?

1. Spending beyond their means: Leader Colin Craig says he’d like to match Australia’s defence spending at a “percentage level”. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s figures, Australia’s defence budget is US$26.1 billion. Ours is $1.358 billion. If Craig’s sums are based on GDP, it means an extra $1.55 billion; if it’s on population, it means another $4.87 billion. Either way, it’s a lot of guns.

2. If it wasn’t immediately obvious, more guns: Craig would consider introducing national service in return for free tertiary education. And let everyone else have a gun too: the right to bear arms, and the “Castle Doctrine” (basically, the right to shoot burglars).

3. Freedom of choice: a powhiri or a cup of tea (no confirmation on presence or otherwise of gingernuts): Craig, after the outcry when a visiting Danish MP felt intimidated by a powhiri: “Not all visitors to New Zealand are impressed by a bare-bottomed native making threatening gestures . . . if guests choose not to be welcomed in this way, I’m sure a handshake and a cup of tea would go a long way.”

4. Keep on burnin’: Climate change isn’t our fault. Instead, says Craig, volcanoes and sun flares are to blame. “Globally, our influence on temperature is very, very small. New Zealand’s influence is infinitesimally small.” Therefore, as night follows day, they would scrap the emissions trading scheme.

5. Freedom to rot your teeth: Fluoride, says Craig, is “a poison put in the water supply supposedly to improve dental health. No medical treatment should ever be given to a person without their explicit permission.” Here, he notes the vital impression on medical science made by the good councillors of Hamilton, who voted to remove this poison from municipal water (it was overturned in a recent referendum).

6. Grow yer own, toddlers: “I am 100 per cent behind schools teaching children how to raise/tend a garden.”

7. Investment in paper shredders: “Governments are prone to making unnecessary and sometimes quite ludicrous laws. I have a personal goal to scrap more legislation than I approve.”

8. Close yer legs. It’s cheaper: Craig, in April 2012: “We are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world. This does nothing to help us at all.” This may go hand in hand with dumping the “frankly terrible” Working for Families.

9. Binding citizens-initiated referendums and a 100-day delay on initiating legislation to allow it to be overturned by the public: A deal-breaker in any coalition. “Although other parties might not like the idea much, if it is a choice between government or not, I expect them to be receptive to the idea,” Craig said. This appears to be a not-so-sneaky way to make gay marriage illegal again.

10. And a few other things too: Closing the Waitangi Tribunal; work for the dole; a lot less tax: a tax-free threshold of $25,000 and a flat rate of $20,000; cutting the education department budget by 50 per cent and giving half the saving direct to schools.

It’s difficult to find a coherent philosophy behind this list, some are more dog whistles than policies.

But each will appeal to a few people and some of those will vote for them.

That may or may not be enough to get the party into parliament.

If it does, Craig would be wise to accept there’s a big difference between many ideas which might appeal to some voters and policies which make a positive difference to the country.

If he doesn’t we’ll be faced with another of MMP’s faults – the ability of the tail to wag the dog.

Green Taliban’s place at fringes

November 10, 2013

Quote of the day:

. . . He also called for a stronger voice for environmentalists in the political centre, who he called the “purple-greens”, saying the environmental debate had been taken over by the political left.

“In an open society, there is a place for the Green Taliban, but it is at the fringes, and not centre stage,” he said. . . Peter Dunne.

Just as economic development shouldn’t come at the expense of the environment, sound environmental policies shouldn’t handicap economic growth.

In #gigatownoamaru we’re supporting environmental and economic development in the campaign to become the Southern Hemisphere’s first gigatown.

Who do you trust?

November 8, 2013

Duncan Garner critique’s Prime Minister John Key of the fifth anniversary of his government.

He gives him 7.5/10 and concludes:

Your choice is between John Key and Bill English with a few rag-tag minor right wing parties – or David Cunliffe and Russel Norman – with perhaps Winston Peters in tow.

Who do you trust?

To which a commenter answers:

Let’s not forget his development into a well respected leader in the region as the last APEC conference in Bali showed. And he’s the only Commonwealth leader to ever have been invited to Balmoral – surely that’s worth an extra point :-)

Given all the challenges that have been thrown at Key over the past 5 years, easily a 9.5 out of 10. The answer to your last question is a no-brainer, Cunliffe and Norman in charge is a very scary prospect and when voters enter the booth in November 2014 I think in their hearts they’ll know Key and English are the people to trust. Key to win by a nose next year.

The outcome of next year’s election is very finely balanced.

Labour has more potential coalition partners but it’s still not very strong itself and the prospective of  its possible partners in government may well put off more voters who might be considering voting for Labour.

National has fewer potential partners but is stronger itself.

A still weakened Labour with a strong (for a wee party) Green Party plus  any or all of New Zealand First, Mana, the Maori Party and possibly Peter Dunne is a much more radical and less stable option than a strong National Party with two or three partners.

#gigatownoamaru is backing itself but welcomes support from anywhere to become the Southern Hemisphere’s first gigatown.

Dunne’s bottom lines

October 30, 2013

Untied Future leader Peter Dunne spent three terms supporting Labour, is in his second term supporting National and is showing he could go left or right after next year’s election.

However, he’s got some bottom lines:

. . .  Mr Dunne said he would need Labour to abandon its plans for a capital gains tax, higher taxes for higher income earners, abolition of the Families Commission and opposition to the establishment of the Game Animal Council.

I wouldn’t give him much chance with the first two conditions.

Both Labour and the Green party want more taxes and higher taxes, even though those they’re promoting will do more harm than good.

The Families Commission has yet to justify its existence and the money it costs but it’s not particularly significant in the grand scheme of things. Nor is the Game Animal Council.

Dunne might get the two little things he wants but he would be much safer sticking with National which would give him the bigger ones – no capital gains tax and no envy taxes for higher earners.

Success limits options

October 22, 2013

National is a victim of its own success.

It had the most potential coalition partners when it didn’t have enough support to form a government.

Now it still has the most support in all reliable polls but it’s coalition options are limited.

Prime Minister John Key ruminated on this yesterday:

Speaking at his post-Cabinet press conference, Key signalled that United Future party leader and sole Member of Parliament, Peter Dunne, could return as a Minister outside Cabinet after being forced to resign in June when he refused to cooperate with an investigation into leaked government documents.

That would depend partly on the imminent report of Parliament’s Privileges Committee, but a return to the ministry was a possibility in the current parliamentary term, Key said.

He also indicated he could work with the Conservative Party, led by fundamental Christian businessman Colin Craig.

“Might do. Might do,” said Key in response to questions about whether he could work with Craig. Asked whether such a tie-up could alienate liberal National Party voters, Key said it was the nature of MMP politics that junior coalition partners “will have pluses and minuses.”

“In the end, all I know is that MMP is a coalition-driven system.” . .

You can usually choose your friends but under MMP you have to pick from those the voters foist on you.

Since we’ve had that system the party with the strongest support has formed a government.

To do that next year National has to maintain, and preferably increase, the percentage of votes it gained in 2011 and also have enough MPs on the centre, centre right and right to get a majority.

That won’t be easy but winning rarely is and at least economic indicators are showing that National will be able to campaign on sound economic management which will provide a stark contrast with the opposition parties which are doing their best to out-left each other.

Electoral Amendment Bill good idea

September 20, 2013

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne has introduced an Electoral Amendment Bill with three main provisions:

•         Making on-line party memberships permissible for party registration purposes;
•        Permitting previously registered Parliamentary parties that are deregistered to submit a new registration application within 90 days, without being treated as a new political party;
•         Introducing a mandatory three yearly audit by the Electoral Commission of all registered parties’ memberships to ensure that they comply with the minimum 500 member requirement.

Mr Dunne says the way the Electoral Commission chose to deal with UnitedFuture’s situation has highlighted the need for legislative change.

“My amendments are essentially modern electoral common sense that any reasonable body could have been expected to follow.

“The Electoral Commission had the capacity to address UnitedFuture’s situation pragmatically within its existing internal rules, but a combination of pig-headed legal obduracy and plain executive stupidity meant it failed to do so.

“Therefore, the law has to be changed around them,” he says.

“The new provision for a triennial membership audit is also a sensible one – at the moment the Electoral Commission has no power to check a party’s membership numbers, and has to rely on a party’s word that it has a minimum of 500 current financial members.

“Had, for example, UnitedFuture falsely signed a declaration in April that we had 500 financial members the Commission would have been none the wiser,  and the subsequent course of events where we were punished for our honesty would not have arisen, which is completely absurd,” he says.

Mr Dunne says he will be submitting the Bill to the next Member’s Ballot, and he will be talking with Justice Minister Judith Collins about including its provisions in the Government’s own Electoral Amendment Bill introduced this week, in the event his bill is not drawn from the Member’s Ballot.

The Bill was prompted by UnitedFuture’s deregistration after it reported it had fewer than the 500 members required.

That motivation doesn’t in anyway detract from the common sense of the suggested provisions.

On-line registration is normal practice for many now and should be recognised for registration purposes.

An existing party shouldn’t be treated as a new one when it applies for re-registration.

It is possible that UnitedFuture was a victim of its own honesty and that other parties might have fewer than 500 members but omitted to report that to the Electoral Commission.

Five hundred members is a very low hurdle and a three-yearly audit would ensure that parties do in deed meet the minimum requirement.

Mandatory audit of party membership

August 22, 2013

United Future has been re-registered and recognised as a party in parliament again.

One of the problems the party had was the Electoral Commission’s refusal to recognise electronic memberships.

Its leader Peter Dunne took the opportunity in Question Time yesterday to ask about bringing the law up to date:

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: . . .  —I agree that the time has come when we should also be looking into the greater use of electronic data for all aspects of our electoral system. I have asked my officials and the Electoral Commission to consider ways in which this can be achieved while retaining the very high levels of security and public confidence in the system.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister’s answer mean that she is prepared to look, in the context of the forthcoming rewrite of the Electoral Act, at changes to the law, to ensure that where parties register members online, those memberships will be accepted as valid?


Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Minister also prepared to consider, as part of that review or changes to that legislation, looking at providing for a mandatory audit by the Electoral Commission of all parties’ membership once every 3 years?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have not given that matter any thought, but it is a matter that I could always discuss with the Electoral Commission.

Parties are required to have 500 members to be, and remain, registered. All the Electoral Commission has to go on is confirmation of this from the party.

There is no check on the accuracy of the count of the validity of the memberships and there should be. I would also like to see a significant increase in the minimum number.

Five  hundred members is a very low target for a party to reach.

MMP has given a lot more power to parties, the law needs to ensure that they are representative of more than a few hundred people.

If a party can get tens, even hundreds, of thousands of people to vote for them, they ought to be able to persuade a couple of thousand to join them.

They, and democracy, would be stronger for it.

Wrong place

August 19, 2013

A couple of weeks ago a group Peter Dunne called  “irresponsible scum” protested outside his home late at night.

. . . Mr Dunne, who was not home at the time of the protest, said the “hardcore group” were at his house with a loudhailer on Sunday, past 11pm on Monday night, and also yesterday morning at 7am.

He was concerned his wife and neighbours were being intimidated by the group, whom he said were “irresponsible scum”. . .

A different group protested outside the home of Prime Minister John Key at the weekend.

. . . “People do a job. I have a job to do, not everyone agrees with it,” he told TV ONE’s Breakfast. “There’s plenty of places you can have a go at me, but in my home? I don’t think it’s the right place.”

“I really don’t mind if people protest at Parliament, (but) the reason I’m opposed at home is it doesn’t really affect us.

“The police turn up, we have security at the home, and more often than not when they turn up I’m not there. So they’re taking something out on Bronagh and the kids.”

Mr Key said it is also inconvenient for his neighbours who also have nothing to do with setting legislation. . .

People have a right to protest but MPs’ families and neighbours also have a right to private lives undisturbed by political action outside their homes.

They chose to protest outside MPs’ homes because they knew they’d get publicity.

It won’t make any difference to the legislation to which they’re objecting but it did make the news.

Kiwis could be terrorists

June 26, 2013

Newly independent MP Peter Dunne says the GCSB should not be able to spy on New Zealanders, even on behalf of police or the Security Intelligence Service.

Terrorism in other countries has been undertaken by their own citizens, there is absolutely no reason to believe that couldn’t happen here.

Kiwis could be terrorists and I don’t understand why there is such strong opposition to giving the GCSB powers which could help prevent a tragedy, especially when,as Prime Minister John Key said,  other agencies already have the right to spy:

“This is not a debate about whether a particular New Zealander will have intelligence gathered about them and about their activities – that will happen. The question is whether SIS do it, or GCSB do it under a warrant provided by SIS as an assisting agent.

“Anyone who sits there and says, ‘Well I don’t like the idea that M Mouse of Wellington could get intelligence gathered about them,’ well, they’re out to lunch because that is going to happen if there is a legitimate warrant raised about their activities.”

He said much the same thing during Question Time yesterday:
. . . this is not a debate about whether a particular New Zealander will have intelligence gathered about them and their activities. That will happen with the appropriate safeguards and oversight. The debate is about which agency conducts that surveillance, which, of course, must be done under lawful authority.
He also explained why the change to legislation in necessary:
. . . if we go back, let us say, to 2006, a period when Helen Clark was the Prime Minister. I am sure that if we looked through the records it is eminently possible that the Government Communications Security Bureau provided assistance to either the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, the New Zealand Defence Force, or the Police. That will be the situation when the law is changed, and that is because there are currently difficulties of interpretation and we therefore ceased that assistance. I would also point out that that assistance is very important for New Zealanders, and it provides security and safety for New Zealanders. Members who do not want to provide that security and safety for New Zealanders should make that clear to the New Zealand public next time there is a problem.
There must be conditions on who can spy on us, how and why.
But what is the danger in allowing the GCSB to do what it’s been doing already rather than having  the expense, in monetary and people terms, of several other agencies – police, SIS and Defence Force -  doing the same work?

AG okays Dunne’s leader’s funding – updated

June 25, 2013

United Future leader Peter Dunne can keep his leader’s funding – for now.

The Auditor General has confirmed that, for as long as the United Future party is recognised as a party for parliamentary purposes under Standing Orders, there is lawful authority for the party to receive party funding under the relevant legislation.

It follows that, if the Speaker ceases to recognise United Future as a party for parliamentary purposes, its funding entitlements will change accordingly.

Speaker David Carter is considering Dunne’s right to funding in view of the electoral Commission’s decision to treat UF’s application for re-registration as if it was a new party.


The speaker has ruled that UF will no longer be recognised as a party for parliamentary purposes and its leader Peter Dunne will be treated as an independent MP.

David Carter made the announcement in the house today after giving it “considerable thought”. The ruling is effective immediately.

However, he said if the party were to regain its registration he would “revisit the matter of the recognition of its Parliamentary membership on the basis it is a political party in whose name a member was elected in the 2011 general election. . .

This would be a good time to look at the rules around leader’s funding and whether it is justified for the wee parties.

Which other parties don’t have 500 members?

June 25, 2013

Jane Clifton is feeling sympathy for Peter Dunne over the Electoral Commission’s insistence on signed applications for membership and treating United Future’s application for registration as if it was a new party.

. . . That the party must now be treated as an entirely new entity for the purposes of the system, and wait a couple of months for restoration, is little short of a joke. Again, this may be legally in order. But it’s still inane.

The Opposition, and doubtless members of the public, will see the financial penalties Dunne has incurred as perfectly righteous – but that’s a different argument. It is rather grandiose for a one- or even three-person caucus in Parliament to have the mighty infrastructure of a Leader’s Office and a Research Budget. A bit of judicious recalibration of parties’ entitlements is probably overdue.

MMP allows single-MP parties into parliament but there should be a higher hurdel than a very few members to justify a leaders’ office and the budget that goes with it.

But that Dunne should lose these entitlements because a) his party was the only party foolish enough to be honest with the commission, and b) because the law is an ass and it was unclear how to process such a novel situation through the red tape and c) because in all likelihood officials were spooked by the histrionics of Winston and Labour in Parliament about Dunne’s entitlements, is very unfair.

The Commission must obey the law, even if in this case, it appears the law is at the very lest in need of an update.

However, if the law must be applied it must be applied evenly.

Dunne is facing a tricky climb-back to redeem his career. But the commission needs to redeem itself too, by instigating equal treatment for all registered parties. Having taken such a flinty line with United Future, it should now actively check the numbers for all the parties, and keep a running monitor. That would, of course, be to look for more trouble, so it will probably handily find it lacks the resources for such rigour. . .

I don’t know where the figure of 500 came from in the requirement for a party to have at least that many members.

It is a very low hurdle for an organisation to jump and it ought to be monitored properly.

Givent he low number of members required, it shouldn’t require too much for the Commission to satisfy itself and the public that all registered parties, or at least all those in parliament, do have 500 real, living, human members.

6 – 8 weeks to re-register UF

June 19, 2013

The Electoral Commission is requiring United Future to have signed, dated membership forms from at least 500 members before it will be re-registered.

The forms can be submitted to the party electronically.

Once the Commission has the forms and the party rectifies other deficiencies in its application it will process the application which is expected to take six to eight weeks.

The Commission is notifying the speaker because this could have an impact on United Future’s position in parliament and funding for its leader, Peter Dunne.

The requirement for 500 members is a very low hurdle for a party to jump and it reflects very poorly on United Future that it let its membership slip under that number.

It is possible other wee parties don’t have 500 members but haven’t fronted up to the electoral Commission.


Let’s not go there

June 15, 2013

Jane Clifton explains the motivation for opposition behaviour over Peter Dunne’s resignation:

What’s really going on here is a three-way game of whack-a-mole. Labour, the Greens and Winston’s New Zealand First are odds-on to form the next Government, but as coalitions go, it’ll be a shotgun wedding. There are outbreaks of cooperation, and the official line is that a Labour-Green ceasefire is in place. But at bottom, none of these parties’ main players rate, respect or trust one another. They are on the same side on most issues – ie, whatever National does is evil. But they’re also in predatory competition with one another.

All of which makes Parliament’s battle-lines oscillate alarmingly. Things can seem relatively straightforward when a party recognises that its enemy’s enemy is its friend. But when that “friend” turns out to be more inimical than the enemy, what then?

There would be even more inimical participants if the Maori and/or Mana parties were added to the mix.

Labour is in the process of trying to figure out whether it can help engineer the squeezing out of one or other of its potential partners so it only has to swallow the one set of policy dead rats in government. So whose rats would be the least obnoxious? At the moment, you’d have to say Team Red is fantasising about not having to work with Team Green and thinking that maybe Winston – the devil it knows from past Beehive iterations – is the better option.

If he’s the better option it doesn’t say anything good about the alternative.

The Greens would be exponentially more demanding than Winston. The fact that co-leader Russel Norman is still evangelising the wonders of quantitative easing represents a gigantic elephant room-mate for the putative Labour/Green/NZ First finance minister. The Greens would, of course, like that to be Norman, and there’s another almighty conflict to resolve before even getting bums on seats in the Cabinet room.

The Greens would also hold out for a massive progressive tax realignment that would quickly alienate a chunk of Labour’s salaried and small-business support base, and doubtless reinvigorate the population drain to Australia. The Greens would demand nothing less than a fiscal upheaval.

All of which would provide National with plenty of ammunition to scare voters from listing to the left.

A red government would be bad enough for the country, add green to the mix and you’d get something altogether worse.

It really would be better not to go there.

On pinning down Peters

June 13, 2013

Trans Tasman observes John Campbell’s attempt to pin down Winston Peters:

For those who have been around for a bit, Peters’ mix of belligerence and incoherence is getting more and more like 1970s-80s trade unionist Jim Knox. Certainly Campbell, whose mien is usually bubbly and engaging even with the most difficult subjects, gave an impression of a man in a wrestle with a particularly large and truculent molasses-coated rhinoceros. . .

My memories of Knox are mercifully dim, but I can recall enough to suspect Peters won’t be flattered by the comparison.

Over at Opposable Thumb, Denis Welsh also paints a word picture:

 . . . But the days are long gone when he seized on something really meaningful, and it’s a sign of how impregnable the National government has been to his usual tricks that all the old shark can do now is sink his increasingly blunt teeth into a fellow minor party. Shark bites minnow: this is news? The more Peters attacks Dunne, the more he shows how weakened he has become. And as it also grows clearer with every day that he has no more of substance to throw at his victim (admitting he hasn’t got all the dirt he needs would have been unthinkable once), so we witness the sad spectacle of a veteran showbiz star no longer able to wow the crowds in the same dazzling way. The old soft-shoe shuffle, so slick before, looks worn and creaky now. One is reminded irresistibly of John Osborne’s play/film The Entertainer, in which a faded music-hall performer past his prime keeps wheeling out the same tired old jokes and routines, to increasingly thin applause. Peters has so lost the plot this time, in fact, that he’s in serious danger of rousing public sympathy for Dunne. . .

A truculant molassess-coated rhinoceros; an old shark with increasingly blunt teeth; the old soft shoe-shuffle . . .  looks worn and creaky now.

These aren’t descriptions of a man on the way up and in politics if you’re not going up you’re going down.

Was it all just a lucky guess?

June 11, 2013

Did Peters really have access to emails between Andrea Vance and Peter Dunne or did he just make some lucky guesses based on their Twitter exchanges?

Mr Key said he did not believe Mr Peters had seen emails or other communications between Mr Dunne and the reporter, Andrea Vance, which Mr Peters has claimed contained personally embarrassing material.

“It’s normal modus operandi for Mr Peters, bluff and bluster and claims to have lots of information.” . . . 

Mr Peters again refused to say what information he had, but said there were “countless examples” of others doubting his word in the past and he had proved them wrong.

I’d have said there were more examples of others doubting his word in the past and the doubters being proved right.

McLay new minister

June 10, 2013

Rotorua MP Todd McLay will  be appointed as a new Minister outside Cabinet, becoming Revenue Minister and Associate Health Minister.

These are two of the portfolios held by Peter Dunne until he resigned on Friday.

The third, associate conservation, will be discontinued and the responsibilities will be picked up by Conservation Minister  Nick Smith.

Dunne had an interest in that area from the hunting,s hooting, fishing perspective of the Outdoor Recreation Party which is one of the many wee parties which have been absorbed into United Future.


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