Conservatives on their own

July 28, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out any electoral deal between National and the Conservative Party.

Prime Minister John Key today made clear National’s position on accommodating support parties in electorate contests at this year’s General Election.

The National Party and its partners have successfully provided stable MMP government over two terms of Parliament and through challenging times.

“We will be seeking a further mandate on September 20,” says Mr Key.

“In an MMP environment, the public determines the make-up of Parliament by voting in a combination of parties, and every election is a tight contest.”
“After the election, political parties must work constructively to form and maintain a stable Government and voters want to know what party combinations are possible.”

In January, the Prime Minister made it clear that if National were returned to Government this election, the preference is to continue working with ACT, the Māori Party and United Future as this has been a successful combination.

He also made it clear it would be possible to add the Conservative Party and New Zealand First to this group.

Today he outlined National’s position on electorate contests for the 2014 election campaign.
“We’re seeking to maximise the party vote for National across the country in all seats. It is only through delivering the strongest possible party vote that National voters will return National to Government.”

“For the electorate vote, we will encourage National party supporters to give their electorate vote to the ACT candidate in Epsom and the United Future candidate in Ohariu.”

“We will continue to seek to maximise our party votes in those electorates and that’s what National Party candidates will be working hard to do.

“In East Coast Bays, where the Conservatives have a candidate, the only option to accommodate that party would be to remove a sitting MP from the ballot paper and that, as I have said, is a bridge too far. So there will be no electorate accommodation with the Conservatives.”

“However, we are happy to consider working with the Conservative party post-election should the public vote that party in to Parliament.”

“As I have said previously we are also prepared to discuss working with New Zealand First if that party is returned to Parliament.”

“In Epsom and Ōhariu, both ACT and United Future share a history of working with National and those are proven relationships that have stood the test of time.”

“National doesn’t always agree with ACT, the Māori Party and United Future on every issue, but together our four parties have maintained a stable and successful Government since late 2008.”

“Under the National-led Government, New Zealand is heading in the right direction and if re-elected, National will continue to work hard for all New Zealanders.”

Conservative leader Colin Craig wanted sitting East Coast Bays MP Murray McCully to stand aside so he could have a better chance at winning the seat.

Had that happened in my electorate I would have found it very difficult to vote for him rather than my National MP.

This would have been very different from Ohariu and Epsom. Peter Dunne was the local MP before MMP and Rodney Hide won Epsom when then sitting-MP Richard Worth was trying to hold it.

The people in these electorates chose someone other than the National candidates first and they keep doing that.

This year they can choose to do that again, or not.

That is very different from taking a choice away by pulling a long-serving and popular MP.

If it had been done and Craig won, any votes that counted for the Conservatives which might have helped National form a government could well have been cancelled out by National voters turned off by that thought who’d then vote for another party.

 


More common than sense

July 21, 2014

Winston Peters accused the Conservative Party of plagiarising New Zealand First’s policies.

Common policies isn’t plagiarism but copying a slogan could be and that’s what NZ First has done by adopting it’s common sense as its rallying cry for the election.

Since 2002 when Peter Dunne got the television worm to dance by insisting his policies were common sense, that’s been associated with him and United Future.

Common sense is an appealing slogan but New Zealand First backs it up with policies which have a greater claim to common than sense.

One of these is removing GST from basic food items.

The thought of wiping $15 off every $100 spent on groceries is attractive but it’s not that simple.

Not all of the grocery bill is spent on food and the part that is isn’t all spent on basic items – whatever they are and that’s where the problems, and costs arise.

Exactly what is basic and what isn’t requires definition, that’s open to debate and it all adds complexity and cost to our enviably simple and relatively cheap to administer GST system.

Labour tried to sell removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables at the last election but gained little if any traction. One of the reasons for that was that the biggest gains from that would go to the wealthy who’d save on luxury items.

But the bigger problem with this policy is the cost.

. . . Mr Peters said his policy would save New Zealanders but cost the Crown a whopping $3 billion a year or thereabouts.

“This bold policy aims at the heart of the inequality undermining our society.”

Also “as part of a fair system” NZ First would remove GST from rates on residential property.

“This tax-on-a-tax deceit has to end, and it will,” Mr Peters told around 150 party faithful at Alexandra Park.

He did not provide details on how much that policy would cost, but with local authorities raising more than $7 billion a year in rates, the Crown would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

However, in an echo of Labour’s plan to fund its big-ticket items, Mr Peters said the policies would be funded through “a clampdown on tax evasion and the black economy” which he estimated was worth $7 billion a year. . . .

Inland Revenue already devotes a lot of time and money to detecting and clawing back money lost through evasion and the black economy.

Greater effort would result in greater costs and would be very unlikely to result in a fraction of the billions of dollars that would be lost from the tax take if these policies were adopted.


Silly or weak

July 11, 2014

One of the challenges for the leader of the opposition is to look like a Prime Minister in waiting.

It’s one which David Cunliffe has yet to master, and his silly apology for being a man was another example of that.

 Trans-Tasman points out:

. . . The Labour Party election year congress dominated the first part of the week, with Cunliffe’s rather strange apology for having both an X and a Y chromosome. It was all very well for Labour’s apologists to splutter – as they did – about the apology being taken out of context. The only context which matters is Cunliffe wants to be PM of this country, and is campaigning ferociously to get the job.

In this context, the apology made him look either silly or weak. People don’t, by and large, go for leaders who look silly or weak. And, looking back, the thought of, say, Norman Kirk, Peter Fraser or Michael Savage apologising for being a man boggles the mind a bit. . .

Labour was once the party of the working man – and woman.

It’s strayed a long way from those roots.

That’s reflected in its loss of support in successive polls – and it’s showing up in other places too:

Hat tip for tweet: Keeping Stock

As for the issue which has been lost in the slipstream of the stupid apology, Peter Dunne writes:

. . . Meanwhile, the scourge of domestic violence continues across all communities, sadly without discrimination, right across the country. Let there be no doubt about the severity and complete unacceptability of any violence against women and children in our society. That has to stop – now – and, as the major perpetrators of that violence, men have to face up to their responsibilities in addressing it. Bold action, across the board, is required right now – not simpering, gesturing apologies for a biological fact that cannot be easily altered.

We need to take the wraps off domestic violence and expose its prevalence wherever we can. Police revelations there are around 200 reported cases every day of the year are part of that. Our aim has to be to make any tolerance of domestic violence as unacceptable as drink-driving and smoking have been made in earlier times, so that underlying social attitudes are changed. . . .

 The last thing we need is the absolute trivialising of a serious social problem by fake and insincere apologies, designed more for a headline, than to do any meaningful good. The women and children of New Zealand who live in constant fear and suffering because of domestic violence deserve a far better response than that.

And I make no apology for saying so. . .

Dunne has no need to apologise for taking a serious issue seriously.


Who’s putting jobs and people first?

June 20, 2014

The government is to introduce special legislation to enable the recovery of high value native timber blown over in Cyclone Ita on West Coast public conservation land, Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith has announced.

“We need to take a pragmatic approach and enable the timber to be recovered where it can be done so safely and with minimal environmental impact. This initiative will provide welcome jobs and economic opportunities for the West Coast at a difficult time, and will provide a financial return to DOC that can be reinvested in conservation work,” Dr Smith says.

Cyclone Ita hit the West Coast on 17 April this year and caused the worst windfall damage in generations, felling an estimated 20,000 hectares of forest and causing significant damage to a further 200,000 hectares.

The West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill confines the recovery of useable wood to areas affected by Cyclone Ita and specifically excludes World Heritage Areas, national parks, ecological areas and the white heron sanctuary reserve at Whataroa. Authorisations are only to be issued where the Department’s Director-General is satisfied the proposed method of removing the timber is safe for workers and the public, and minimises environmental impacts. The recovery of timber is limited until 1 July 2019 when the Bill expires. All revenue from royalties will go to the Department of Conservation.

“A law change is needed because the current Conservation Act makes no provision for timber recovery in this sort of extreme event. The Bill will be introduced and passed by Parliament next week under urgency. This is necessary because the large volumes of beech timber will soon deteriorate with sap stain and borer. I am grateful for the common sense support from the United Future and Māori Parties that are enabling Parliament to quickly resolve this issue.

“It is estimated that several million cubic metres of beech, rimu, matai, totara and miro trees have been felled. Stumpage prices for rimu are $250 per cubic metre, and $60 per cubic metre for beech. It is not possible to estimate the volume and value of timber to be extracted because the safety and environmental constraints may require high cost options like the use of helicopters. This law change will enable the detailed work to be done by operators on recovery proposals so as to determine where recovery is viable and safe.

“It may be appropriate to consider a permanent change to the Conservation Act to enable windblown timber in these sorts of situations to be recovered in future, but I am reluctant to do so with urgent legislation of this sort. The Department of Conservation will be commissioning research on the effects on forest regrowth and ecology by comparing similar windblown areas where timber has and has not been recovered to help make a long-term policy decision on this issue.

“It is a tragedy that so much forest has been wrecked by Cyclone Ita but no good purpose is served by leaving it all to rot. The wood will displace some of the $65 million of tropical hardwoods we import each year and give New Zealanders access to our own beautiful native timbers,” Dr Smith concluded.

The move has the support of the Maori Party:

The Māori Party is thrilled that urgent legislation is to be passed by Parliament to allow for the recovery of native timber that has fallen onto West Coast public conservation land as a result of Cyclone Ita. Co-Leader Te Ururoa Flavell joined Dr Nick Smith on the West Coast today to make the special announcement.

“We see this as a great opportunity for the West Coast at a time where the community has had to bear the brunt of the storm. This legislation will open up long-term employment and commercial opportunities for the community and I am proud to be part of today’s announcement,” says Te Ururoa Flavell.

“The Māori Party support this initiative because we see it as a way for the West Coast to take a silver lining from the storm that hit their community on April 17 this year and caused the most devastating windfall damage in decades.”

“Had we not supported the legislation, the timber would have deteriorated and lost its commercial value. In particular, beech sapwood must be recovered within a month before sap stain fungi and beech borer begin to destroy the value of the timber, which is why there is a need for urgency. The felled rimu can be recoverable for up to five years, providing opportunities for long-term employment,” says Te Ururoa Flavell.

“Of course, the safety of the workers will be of paramount importance and authorisations to remove timber will require that the operators provide health and safety plans to show their removal methods would be safe for both the workers and the public. The legislation also provides for public exclusion from areas while timber recovery operations are taking place for their own protection.”

“Ngāi Tahu has expressed their support in principle for the opportunities presented by the legislation and we will support their preference for opportunities for the harvesting of the wind-blown timber and its proceeds to be reinvested into the West Coast community. We will also seek to ensure that the recovery is undertaken in a manner that respects and addresses any environmental and cultural matters of concern that the iwi may have.”

“While we are sad to see that so much native timber has been blown over by Cyclone Ita, we are delighted that Ngāi Tahu and the rest of the West Coast community will benefit from the passing of this legislation,” says Te Ururoa Flavell.

United Future leader Peter Dunne says the timber recovery is the logical response:

. . . “It is very unfortunate so many trees were blown down in this storm but there is just no benefit in leaving the timber to rot” said Mr Dunne.

Parliament will consider urgent, special legislation to enable the recovery of the high value native timber.

UnitedFuture will support The West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill which confines the recovery of useable wood to areas affected by Cyclone Ita and specifically excludes World Heritage Areas, National Parks, Ecological Areas and the White Heron colony.

“This timber recovery plan is the common sense, practical, and logical response to a natural process.

“I am satisfied by the environmental protections and health and safety regulations to which operators will be subject when the timber is removed.

“This will ensure that the West Coast’s unique environment will be protected” said Mr Dunne.

“New Zealand’s hardwood is some of the most beautiful in the world and I am pleased Parliament will enable New Zealanders to access it rather than leaving it to rot” he said.

Former Former Westland Mayor and now National Party candidate Maureen Pugh approached the Minister and asked that permission be given for logging:

. . . “It just seems like a very practical solution to an event that’s happened,” says Ms Pugh.

She says the logs, which are a mixture of rimu, totara and beech, could be worth up to $50,000 each. . . .

The proposal’s being welcomed on the coast – Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says it makes sense as it has the potential to create money. . . .

this is a very good example of a candidate being proactive for the people who’s support she’s seeking.

Contrast that with the Green Party which doesn’t attempt to win electorates and therefore doesn’t have to worry what’s best for the people in them:

 . . . the Greens say it would require a law change and they’d never support it.

“Generations of New Zealanders campaigned to protect West Coast forests – allowing trees to be taken from timber would completely cut across that,” says Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage. . . .

Nature dealt the trees the killing blow.

If they are left where they are they’ll rot.

There is a small window of opportunity to recover the fallen trees which will provide work and replace imported timber.

It will be done with safeguards for workers and the environment and all profits will go to the Department of Conservation to fund more conservation work.

But once more the Green Party will put politics and its own blinkered ideology before people and jobs.


Politics Daily

June 11, 2014

This is an attempt to replace Dr Bryce Edwards’ daily political round-up while he’s taking a break.

I’m not pretending to be balanced.

While I link to a range of news stories, the blogs I link to are usually from the centre to the bluer end of the political spectrum or the more reasonable or witty bits of the pink to red end.

You’re welcome to leave links to other news and blogs in comments.

Employment

Andrea Vance @ Stuff – Name and shame rulebreakers, Government says

John Anthony @ Stuff – Work trial helps disadvantaged

Jonathan Underhill @ Business Desk – Pass mark for 90-day trials in new MBIE survey

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog –

Simon Bridges – Feedback sought on minimum employment standards

Stuff – @ Stuff Demand for workers remains strong

EPMA - EMA backs employment standards ‘white paper’

Local government

Taxpayers’ Union – Ratepayers’ report

Andrea Vance @ Stuff – Which place has the highest rates?

Andrea Vance @ Stuff – Balancing the council books

Stuff – Politicians talk about keeping it local

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – The Ratepayers’ Report

Peter Creswell @ Not PC – And the country’s most indebted council is …

Peter Creswell @ Not PC – Well, that’s awkward

Beehive

Nikki Kaye – Funding for councils to support young people

Business Growth Agenda

Employers and Manufacturers’ Association – Growth Agenda massive, thorough, committed

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment  – Research report on employment law changes released

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Manufacturing still in crisis. Yeah right.

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – The manufactured crisis gets worse

Election

Luke Balvert  @ SunLive – Students prefer Key as PM

Stuff – David Cunliffe hits out at coat-tailing

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock - More Cunliffe hypocrisy

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Quelle surprise…

Hamish Rutherford @ Stuff – Rodney MP dismisses deal with Conservatives

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – There will be no deal in Rodney

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Rudman on coat-tailing and rorts

iPredict – 2014 Election Update #21: Maori Party in Trouble

Pete George @ YourNZ – Epsom Circus

Peter Creswell @ Not PC – At least Joe might get to laugh, instead of cry

IMP

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Photo of the Day – 11 June 2014

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil - 99.5% of New Zealanders can see right through the scam

Geoffrey Miller @ Liberation – Three reasons the Internet Party might be successful

Geoffrey Miller @ LIberation – Three reasons why the Internet Party might not succeed

Adolf Fiinkensein @ No Minister – Who will pay on the final day?

Peter Dunne – Rich boys and their toys

Chris Trotter @ Bowalley Road – Favourable Reference: Why John Key’s Worst Enemy Is The Left’s Best Friend.

Lew @ Kiwi Politico – What is success for Internet MANA?

Social Media

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock - Tweet of the Day – 11 June 2014

Matthew Beveridge – MPs’ response to storm in Auckland

Matthew Beveridge – Colin Craig on social media

Matthew Beveridge – Labour’s Christchurch earthquake policy graphic

Labour

Scott Yorke @ Imperator Fish – Winning in 2014 – a prescription for Labour

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Smith on Mr Cunliffe’s tales of woe

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Astonishing hypocrisy and sanctimony from David Cunliffe

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Labour’s 10,000 outstanding earthquake claims is actually less than 1500, busted again

Other

Fran O”Sullivan @ NZ Herald – Cash donors have expectations

Dominion Post – Today in politics: Wednesday, June 11

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Imagine the outcry if the the Business Roundtable wrote policy for the Right…

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – The success of US charter schools

ACC – ACC levy consultation – it’s easier than ever to have your say

Rob Salmond @ Polity – Easy flowchart for “political analysts”

 


H is for . . .

June 5, 2014

H is for hurry and that is what David Cunliffe appears to be in.

He wants to scarp the coat tail rule that enables parties which win seats to bring other MPs in even if they don’t get 5% of the vote, and he wants to do it within 100 days of getting into government.

Why the rush?

There will be nearly three years until the next election when the law change would apply. That’s plenty of time to draw up legislation, open it to public submission, let it go through the select committee process, report back to parliament and gain the cross-party support which any change to electoral law should have.

H is also for hypocrisy and that what Cunliffe is exhibiting.

He was part of successive governments which were supported by Jim Anderton against whom Labour didn’t try to compete to win the electorate and who, at least in the early days, brought other MPs in on his coat tails.

He was part of successive governments which benefited from Peter Dunne’s support and those of the MPs who came in on his coat tails – even though he won the seat through the votes of National Party supporters.

He was a senior member of the party which didn’t try too hard to win the Coromandel seat which enabled Jeanette Fitzsimons to win as insurance should the Green Party not reach the 5% threshold.

He didn’t worry about the coat-tailers then and is only making a fuss now because of the Internet Mana deal.

Yet he’s not sufficiently worried to take a stand and say he won’t enter a coalition with them which is an equally blatant example of hypocrisy.

While I agree the IMP deal is a perversion of MMP, democracies don’t change electoral law to get rid of potential rivals for power.

They leave it for the voters to exercise their discretion at the election.

I hope there will be more than enough who do that wisely and foil the IMP plan to gain power by manipulating MMP.

If they don’t, so be it.

Cunliffe can cobble together a coalition of GIMPs and try to introduce changes to the electoral law which would sabotage at least one of the parties on whose votes he’ll depend for a majority.

H is also for help and that’s what we’ll all need should that be the sort of government we get.


GIMP but not LIMP?

June 3, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe has been dancing on the head of a pin when asked his view on the Internet Mana Party.

That suggests he’s testing the wind before he works out what he thinks.

Several other Labour MPs have already made up their minds they don’t like it.

Senior Labour Party MPs have used social media to attack the alliance struck between Mana and the Internet Party.

Former leaders Phil Goff and David Shearer, and Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins, are among those who have objected to the deal. It could see MPs from Kim Dotcom’s fledging political vehicle enter Parliament on the ‘‘coat-tails’’ of a victory for Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau.

The strong opposition from within Labour could make post-election coalition talks tricky.

Goff says he feel strongly about Dotcom’s ‘‘pure political opportunism’’, citing his previous donations to ACT MP John Banks, now the subject of a court case. ‘‘He wants to be able to influence and control politicians.’’

Goff says he was previously ‘‘very critical’’ of National for exploiting MMP and failing to implement recommendations from the Electoral Commission to abolish the provision.

‘‘I’m scarcely likely to endorse another rort …I’m being entirely consistent,’’ he said. . . .

Interesting no-one in Labour called it a rort when National voters in Ohariu kept Peter Dunne in the seat which made him a Minister in the Labour-led government.

Goff says he made his feelings clear to the Labour caucus. ‘‘It will be the decision of the party leadership…but I see problems in creating a coalition where the philosophies and principle of people that you are trying to enter into a coalition with is unclear because they seem to be coming from diametrically opposed positions.’’ . . .

Coalitions are by nature unstable even when they have something positive in common.

A coalition built on nothing more than a hatred of John Key and determination to oust National would be a recipe for instability.

Those  views were also reflected in a passionate Facebook post at the weekend. Shearer also used the social media site to write that although he wished the Internet-Mana ‘‘marriage’’ well, he knew ‘‘it’s going to end badly.’’

And on Twitter last week, Hipkins posted: ‘‘The good old days, when political parties formed from movements. Now all it takes is a couple of million and some unprincipled sellouts.’’

All three MPs were linked to the Anyone But Cunliffe [ABC] faction – who were opposed to David Cunliffe assuming leadership of the party. However, a Labour source played down talk of more division, saying all three were close to Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis.

Davis himself posted on Twitter: ‘‘Bro, I think of the people of Te Tai Tokerau, not Sergeant Shultz.’’  He was referring to Dotcom’s German origins. . . .

More than half the caucus is in the ABC faction which makes the party itself unstable.

On present polling a left-wing government would have to consist of Labour and the GIMPs – Green, and Internet Mana parties.

A concerted effort by Labour backing Kelvin Davis to win Te Tai Tokerau would seriously challenge Harawira’s hold on the seat.

If the ABC faction prevails it won’t be LIMP – Labour and the Internet Party and that would leave the GIMPs facing a huge battle for power and relevance.


Brett Hudson Nat candidate for Ohariu

May 1, 2014

National Party members have selected Brett Hudson as their candidate for Ohariu.

“I congratulate Brett on his selection and look forward to working with him,” said Regional Chair Malcolm Plimmer.

“Brett brings a good understanding of Wellington issues and great real world experience to the role.”

Mr Hudson said he was honoured to be selected and will be working hard to secure strong support for National.

“National is working hard and delivering real progress for New Zealand families,” said Mr Hudson.

“Ohariu constituents strongly backed National’s return to Government in 2011. I’ll be focussed on growing that support for John Key and National in 2014.”

Brett Hudson – Biographical Notes

Brett Hudson is a Wellington-based Information and Communications Technology professional.

His experience includes sales and account leadership roles with multi-national organisations (Oracle, IBM, and TelstraClear) and with Kiwi company Starfish Consulting.

His experience drives an interest in using technology to help Kiwi businesses grow and employ.

Brett lives in Karori with his partner, Lindsay Renwick. He has three teenage daughters.

Ohariu is held be United Future’s Peter Dunne but National wins the party vote.

 

 

 


Experiment didn’t work

April 28, 2014

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has announced that  the government will introduce and pass under urgency legislation removing from sale all remaining so called ‘legal highs’.

“While there has been a substantial reduction in the number of these products available and the number of outlets from which they can be sold, reports of severe adverse reactions continue to be received by the National Poisons Centre and Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring” says Mr Dunne.

It has been impossible to attribute these adverse effects to any particular products and in the absence of that ministers accepted my recommendation at cabinet last Tuesday to end the transitional period, taking all products with interim approval off the market.

“I will bring to parliament amending legislation to put this measure in place, to be introduced and passed through all stages under urgency on 8 May and come into force the day after receiving the Royal Assent” says Mr Dunne.

When the legislation was introduced the 41 products which were permitted to be sold were thought to be safe. They aren’t.

The ODT shows the dangers they pose:

Nathan Belcher and Aaron Macahan started using legal highs because that was what everyone else was doing.

But by the time they realised how it badly it was affecting them, it was too late.

The pair could ”easily” smoke four or five bags a day – each.

At $25 a packet, they estimate they spent $7000 on the products just this year.

Their lives followed a pattern of eating, using legal highs and sleeping.  . .

Legalising these drugs was an experiment which hasn’t worked.

Making them illegal won’t get rid of them completely but it will make them much harder to get and get rid of the mistaken perception that they are harmless.


Rural round-up

April 21, 2014

Taking the crosshairs off farmers - Willy Leferink:

Some politicians and lobby groups hell-bent on making farming a feature of the 2014 general election will be taking names and counting numbers.  Yet if you search online with the words “big targets,” you’ll find the banks are in the gun in the United Kingdom while across the ditch, it is tax cheats.

In the universe which is the European Union, its Climate Commissioner has challenged other carbon emitters to follow its lead.  Those big target emitters are the United States, who contribute 15.6 percent of global emissions and this surprised me, China, which is now up to 23.6 percent.  Then again, a fair chunk of humanity and the global economy resides there and in the other big target emitters; Russia, India, Brazil and Indonesia.

Speaking of Russia, I guess Vladimir Putin has made himself a big target for his ‘hostile takeover’ of the Crimea.  While the west rattled less its sabres and more its teacups,you’ve got to wonder if Putin is reassembling old Russia in some kind of geopolitical Lego.

So what’s the lesson here for farmers? . . .

West Coast farms start recovery:

While the South Island’s West Coast bore the brunt of former Cyclone Ita’s wrath, the defining image is that taken by the Otago Daily Times, of past Federated Farmers North Otago provincial president, Robert Borst, using his digger to rescue a motorist trapped by rising floodwaters.

“This is one of the worst storms I can recall,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers West Coast provincial president and the Federation’s adverse events spokesperson.

“Federated Farmers is working with the West Coast Rural Support Trust and we’d like to ask the media to help us in spreading the Trust’s direct telephone number to affected farmers: 03 738 0038.  I need to stress this applies to the West Coast only.

“Getting the Rural Support Trust’s number (03 738 0038) out there is particularly important to beef farmers or graziers who may be struggling. . . .

Wheat disease develops fungicide resistance – Annette Scott:

New Zealand wheat growers will need to rethink their crop-disease management following confirmation the wheat disease speckled leaf blotch has developed fungicide resistance.

Septoria tritici blotch (STB), or speckled leaf blotch, the principal disease affecting NZ wheat crops over the past four years, has developed resistance to the fungicide group that has been most effective in controlling it.

A research team led by Dr Suvi Viljanen-Rollinson, from Plant and Food Research at Lincoln, working with scientists at Rothamsted in the United Kingdom and Aarhus University in Denmark, has confirmed resistance by the NZ zymoseptoria tritici population to quinone outside inhibitors (QoIs), a fungicide group commonly referred to as the strobilurins. . . .

 

Manawatu River improvement is encouraging:

Federated Farmers is thrilled by the improving health of the Manawatu River. A detailed report for the Manawatu River Leaders Forum reveals that the first three years of the clean up have been a success.

“This report is a huge boost for the farming community,” says Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei provincial president.

“While improvements in water quality aren’t able to be measured overnight, we are seeing a downward trend already in nutrient and e-coli levels. With 93 percent compliance and climbing in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region, this improving trend will only continue.

“What we can measure is the actions of our community and the numbers are so encouraging it’s something the farming community can take pride in. Well over 100 kilometres of waterways have been fenced, over 60,000 plants planted for erosion control and riparian margins, as well as farm plans and mapping well under way. . . .

Inaugural Game Animal Council appointed:

Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith and Associate Minister Peter Dunne today announced the appointment of 11 members to the inaugural Game Animal Council.

“The new Game Animal Council is about giving hunters of deer, thar, chamois and pigs an active voice in the management of their recreation. These appointments include a diverse range of interests in hunting and a geographic spread across the country,” Dr Smith says.

The 11 members are:
· Donald Hammond (chair)
· Thomas (Mark) Brough
· Roger Duxfield
· Professor Geoffrey Kerr
· Steven McFall
· Alexander (Alec) McIver
· William Garry Ottmann
· Terence Pierson
· Roy Sloan
· Carol Watson

 


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.


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