Left and Right agree

June 18, 2014

Danyl Mclauchlan and Bob Jones both have a way with words.

Although they’re from opposite ends of the political spectrum they have come to a similar conclusion:

Mclauchlan opines at Dim Post:

. . . Labour are trending down, just like last time – but now their votes are (mostly) going to National, not the Greens. Which makes sense to me: we have no idea what National plans to do in its third term, but that lack of vision is still preferable to being governed by a collection of left-wing parties who all hate each other but want to run the country together. . .

And Jones at the Herald:

. . . If anything, his efforts will hugely harm the Opposition cause in Balkanising and confusing its message, thus presenting an electoral option with, on one side, a rabble of dissimilar, mutually antagonistic parties, all with unpopular leaders and wildly different messages, set against a stable governing party with the most popular leader in our history. . .

Yesterday’s Herald-DigiPoll, on which Mclauchlan was commenting shows National well above the combined left bloc which is swapping votes among parties at that end of the spectrum but not getting any closer to a majority.

However, the poll gives no comfort to National.

. . . And yet nobody in the National Party appears to believe they can win a clear majority of the vote on September 20. Though Labour and the Greens together have amassed not much more than 40 per cent in our latest poll, and New Zealand First are well below the 5 per cent threshold for contention, interest still centres on National’s need of viable partners. . . .

Gaining 50% or more of the votes under First Past the Post was rare, it’s never been done under MMP.

National is a victim of its own success, it’s strength has weakened potential coalition partners.

But while commentators worry about potential partners, the task for the party is to  maximise its own vote and ensure supporters aren’t complacent about the risk the left poses.

McLauchlan is wrong about National not having a vision, but right that the alternative is being governed by a collection of left-wing parties who all hate each other but want to run the country together. . .

And Jones clearly articulates the contrast between  a rabble of dissimilar, mutually antagonistic parties, all with unpopular leaders and wildly different messages, set against a stable governing party with the most popular leader in our history.

There’s a clear choice but the big difference between National and the left bloc which shows in successive polls is very unlikely to be maintained on polling day.


Should the honoured be honourable?

June 3, 2013

Would a convicted criminal be given a knighthood?

It’s unlikely unless the crime was in the distant past.

Should someone keep a title if s/he is subsequently convicted of a crime?

Alister Taylor reminds us that people have been stripped of honours:

Albert Henry was the first Premier of the Cook Islands from 1965. In 1974 he was made  a knight in 1974 and subsequently stripped of this honour by the New Zealand government (then in charge of honours for the Cooks) after his conviction of a criminal offence.

What is a matter of greater significance that has been overlooked is that Sir Douglas Graham was made a member of the Privy Council in 1998. The Privy Council is a a highly esteemed honour among politicians. The Council theoretically advises the Queen, however it it is more honour than substance. Is it appropriate that Right Honourables convicted of criminal offences be members of the Privy Council?

There is an easy way out for the government — strip Doug Graham of his “Right Honourable” but allow him to retain his knighthood.

Another of the convicted men, Bill Jefferies, also holds an honour which is much more pertinent. He is an “honourable”, as was Doug Graham before he became a “Right Honourable” Jeffries retains the right to be addressed as “the honourable” for life. He was accorded this honour in 1990 as a result of his appointment, as a Cabinet Minister, to the Executive Council. Doug Graham had earlier been accorded the same honour. “Honourables” retain this honorific for life. 

The OED defines “honourable” as”implying respect; deserving, bringing or showing honour.”.

The third of the convicted men who has an honour is Lawrence Bryant. He holds the high honour of LVO, or Lieutenant of the Victoria Order. This was awarded him by the Queen in 1974 for services to Her Majesty as Assistant Press Secretary. . .

Sir Bob Jones thinks Sir Doug Graham should keep his knighthood because he was unlucky and gullible.

Sir Bob has been convicted himself, but is brushing that under the carpet.
“That doesn’t count because it was for hitting a journalist and that’s accepted, it doesn’t count. They’re to be hit often,” he says.

He’s probably not alone in that sentiment but that’s not the point.

People have lost money and Graham has been judged culpable.

Last night 3 News reported he would withdraw his title himself before it was stripped. Today John Banks hinted that would be the case.
“Sir Douglas is a very very honourable man and outstanding New Zealander. I’m very very saddened with the turn of events,” says Mr Banks.

That would be the honourable thing to do and I think people who are honoured should be honourable.


Being your own boss

October 27, 2012

Sir Bob Jones on the appeal of being your own boss:

But here’s my point: while most folk are content being employed, a sizeable percentage with an independent streak are not. For them, there’s a special dignity in being their own masters even though it’s often fraught with worries.

Contrary to belief, they’re not primarily motivated by money but simply a desire to steer their own ship. There are hundreds of thousands of self-employed New Zealanders who wouldn’t have it otherwise. They’re farmers, retailers, tradesmen, professionals and diverse service providers. . .

. . . Careers advisers and parents should promote to teens thoughts of ultimate self-employment in whatever career they choose. They should home in on kids who eschew team sports for solo activities such as tennis, swimming, athletics, golf, etc. These choices demonstrate independent personalities, content with self-reliance. . .


Just flog yourself with barbed wire

March 15, 2010

When Rob Hamill and the late Phil Stubbs were seeking sponsorship for their Trans Atlantic rowing race entry they asked Sir Bob Jones for help.

He replied, they should just flog themselves with barbed wire. It would have much the same effect for a fraction of the cost.

There may have been moments when Shaun Quincey felt that flogging himself with barbed wire may have been easier and less unpleasant than his solo Trans-Tasman rowing attempt.

But he persevered and had the satisfaction of completing the challenge nine days faster than his father Colin, who rowed the Tasman from New Zealand to Australia in 1977.

Ultra marathon runner Dean Karnazes reckons you start running with your feet, continue with your head and finish with your heart. Long-distance rowing must take a similar level of physical fitness, determination and emotional strength.

It’s a feat he can be proud of and we lesser mortals can be inspired by.


SFO to investigate Peters

August 28, 2008

He asked the Serious Fraud Office to put up or shut up and go away – and they’re going to do the former.

The Serious Fraud Office has decided to launch a full investigation into Winston Peters, and will use its powers to find out whether donations from Sir Robert Jones and the Vela brothers reached his New Zealand First party as intended.

SFO Director Grant Liddell said he had enough information to suspect the investigation may reveal “serious and complex fraud” the threshold for the statutory powers which can force documents to be produced or people involved to answer questions.

Mr Liddell has been assessing a complaint from Act leader Rodney Hide for the past month.

He said he did not believe there was enough evidence to use the SFO powers on the Owen Glenn donation, because it was clear from both men’s accounts the money was donated to Mr Peters’ legal costs.

And while the allegations concerning the scampi select committee were serious, Mr Liddell said “seriousness of allegation alone is not enough”.

He said it may be that further information was uncovered on these allegations that gave him “reason to suspect” and use the powers.

Keep in mind though, as Matthew Hooton pointed out on The Panel  this afternoon that legislation abolishing the SFO is pending; and that if an election was called the priviliges committee would go too.

But even Helen Clark wouldn’t rush through the legislation then call the election so that both inquiries were aborted, would she?


Peters’ fiasco shows MMP flaws

August 1, 2008

Public law specialist Andy Nicholls says the Peters’ debacle shows a review of MMP is needed.

Winston Peters’ value to both Labour and National has become abundantly clear. Both parties are pulling their punches over the donations allegations for fear of alienating him as an ally or future ally.

MMP creates hostage situations. Remember Alamein Kopu and her pull over Jenny Shipley?

In this most recent row Sir Robert Jones has unexpectedly been firing most of the bullets at Peters. He probably summed up the view of many when he said, “I belong to a different era. I don’t like it now under MMP.”

John Key has said National will, if elected, hold a referendum into MMP. Key’s referendum will first ask voters: are you satisfied with MMP? If the majority says no, then a second referendum will be held pitting MMP against some other unspecified alternative.

But is this what we need? MMP was itself born out of a referendum, and voter frustration at the unbridled power of first-past-the-post governments. First Sir Robert Muldoon, then Sir Roger Douglas proved if you could control the Cabinet you could control the country.

But one wage freeze and an unadvertised rapid economic transformation later, voters realised they wanted their leaders on a tighter leash. They wanted them to have to work harder, and more consensually, to get their own way. Which is what MMP delivers with its minority or coalition governments, its requirements to consult and its generally slower pace of change.

Referendums are very blunt instruments and support for MMP in the 1993 one came at least in part from people voting against politicians rather than for a change in the voting system.

Plus, of course, for anyone younger than 32, two-tick voting is voting. So why would we ditch it? Because MMP has flaws which undermine the legitimacy of our parliamentary system.

Nicolls gives examples such as the ability for MPs like Gordon Copeland to abandon their parties, switch allegience and still be an MP; or those like Rick Barker who lose a seat but still get back into parliament – and even cabinet – on a party list. Although this also allows MPs to enter parliament when standing in an unwinnable seat, as Katherine Rich has in Dunedin North.

If that is justified by the sanctity of the party list, then what about Mike Ward and Catherine Delahunty? Both Greens and both higher placed on the list than Russel Norman, yet both pushed inelegantly aside when Nandor Tanczos’s early retirement offered the co-leader the chance to get to Parliament in time for some pre-campaign publicity.

All these inconsistencies create unfairness, though not so much as the threshold rule itself.

Under MMP a party must win 5 per cent of the party vote or an electorate seat. A win in an electorate, where the party scores lower than 5 per cent, still gets a proportionate top-up. So Rodney Hide’s win in Epsom gave Act two MPs even though the party won only 1.5 per cent of the party vote.

By comparison, in 1996, the Christian Coalition won 4.33 per cent of the party vote, a hair’s breadth from the magic threshold. But it failed to win in any electorate – so bad luck, no MPs.

There are two issues. Firstly, is the 5 per cent threshold too high? The commission that recommended MMP preferred 4 per cent, but the two major parties argued for a higher threshold. Those fears have proved unfounded. In fact, as much as MMP has delivered a more diverse Parliament, only one new party (Act) has broken in since the switch to MMP. The others have all been created around a sitting member.

But is the electorate threshold too low? In Germany, a party must win three electorates before qualifying for list seats. Adopting a three-electorates or 5 per cent criterion at the 2005 election would have seen five parties able to get in list MPs.

United Future and Act would have been restricted to Peter Dunne and Rodney Hide. As Jim Anderton couldn’t bring in a list MP under current arrangements, the Progressives would have been unaffected. Since none of those three parties attracted more than 2.6 per cent of the party vote, is that an unfair result?

And then there is the Maori vote. Last election, the Maori Party won 2.12 per cent of the party vote and four electorates, hence it has four MPs. This coming election it may win more electorates even though polling indicates its party vote will be no higher.

Since the number of Maori seats grows in accordance with the number on the Maori roll, it is entirely possible that over time this disparity between the number of MPs elected and the party’s proportion of the party vote will grow. That will mean a larger and larger over-hang and the leading party will need to garner not 61 votes to govern, but 63, 64, 65. Is this what we want?

These are all valid issues in need of debate. But they do not fit the yes-no format of a referendum. Nor do they provide evidence that MMP itself is beyond repair.

What they point to is the need for a considered review of the electoral system. Learning the lessons of the Electoral Finance Act, this should be conducted in a non-partisan way with a clearly stated purpose of seeking greater fairness.

In the spirit of fairness, perhaps such a review should also look at the Prime Minister’s prerogative to set the election date. Or the length of the political term; four years might be more productive.

The problem is that these changes require MPs to vote against their own interest. History tells us MPs don’t do that. Which is why a simplistic question in a referendum is so appealing. It looks as if something substantive is being done, even if it isn’t.

But concerns about MMP’s peculiarities are genuine and a more considered review would be more constructive.

I agree a considered review if not instead of, at least before, a referendum would serve us better than the blunt instrument of for or against vote in isolation.


Too many questions too few answers

July 30, 2008

Another day but still no answers to the qeustions about donations to NZ First and its leader.

The Dominion reports: Would that be acceptable for any other Minister, or any other MP responsible to her?

Five days after NZ First leader Winston Peters promised to return to New Zealand and answer questions about donations to the enigmatic Spencer Trust in an “orderly fashion”, its purpose and funding remain secret.

 At a 45-minute meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Helen Clark, Mr Peters gave an assurance that he and NZ First had done nothing illegal. Miss Clark’s chief of staff, Heather Simpson, Mr Peters’ lawyer and a NZ First staffer also attended the session.

It appears even Miss Clark remains in the dark over how the trust operates; she told Parliament yesterday Mr Peters’ word was good enough for her.

That wouldn’t be enough for any other MP responsible to her let alone a Minister.

The Herald notes another day, another promise.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters insists that there is a “massive” difference between his party getting funding from corporate donors via secret trusts and other parties getting it. He won’t say what, but is promising to spell it out in Parliament today.

But he failed in Parliament yesterday to give answers about Sir Robert Jones’ $25,000 donation to the secret Spencer Trust in 2005, despite having promised during the weekend that he would.

Sir Robert yesterday would not rule out calling in the police if he did not get a satisfactory response about what happened to his money.

Outside the House, Mr Peters was asked what the difference was between his party getting large donations from corporate donors via secret trusts and other parties getting it.

Mr Peters said the difference was “massive”, but that the reporters were not capable of understanding it. He said he would explain it today.

Another Tui moment from the master of manipulation, but manipulation is not acceptable for a Minister.

If there is ever a time we should be grateful that we are a tiny nation on the edge of the world it is now. Imagine what this behaviour from a Minister of Foreign Affairs would do to our reputation as a country relatively free from corruption if other countries noticed or cared.


Can blustering be genetic?

July 29, 2008

Ever wondered why Winston Peters can’t give a straight answer to a simple question?

There is an indication that it might be genetic in his brother Wayne’s interview with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon  yesterday which is transcribed here. When asked about the Spencer Trust and donations to New Zealand First his response was:

“You can read between the lines. . .if anyone is suggesting there was somehow some misconduct with respect to the Spencer Trust they’re going to be sadly embarrassed,” he said.

Responding to that remark, Sir Robert said Wayne Peters sounded like a Winston Peters clone.

“He’s obviously implying it did reach the party and if that’s the case why not say so?” he said.

“This is just silly, it’s fudging the issue. I’m not holding my breath for an accurate answer.”

Silly, yes and whether it’s a result of nature or nurture this shows there is obviously a family failing when it comes to giving straight answers. :)

P.S. Ryan has just interviewed University of Otago associate law professor Andrew Geddes on how donations to political parties might have been legally channelled through trust funds prior to the Electoral Finance Act. It will be on-line here  soon.


Nine to Noon on NZ First

July 28, 2008

Kathryn Ryan interviewed former NZ First staffer Rex Widerstrom, Sir Bob Jones and Wayne Peters over allegations about donations to NZ First on Nine to Noon this morning.

Widerstrom said he remembers at least one conversation in which Winston Peters discussed money going in to the Spencer Trust. Sir Bob was quite clear that he was giving money to NZ First and said a journalist told him that party insiders said money given to the party had not got to it.

Wayne Peters had the same difficulty giving straight answers as his brother. Perhaps

Ryan then discussed the issues with Matthew Hooton and Laila Harre.

Harre summed it up: “The more opportunites Winston Peters has to respond to the issues and allegations the more questions that arise.”

And the more questions arise the muddier the answers become.


Only a fool would pick a fight with Bob

July 27, 2008

If Winston Peters has any personal insight he’ll already be regretting picking a fight with Sir Bob Jones who has said he will write to Wayne Peters asking what happened to the $25,000 he wrote for the Spencer Trust in 2005.

Peters has said he has “no involvement with that trust” administered by his brother, but former NZ First staff member Rex Widerstrom told the Herald on Sunday he was prepared to swear an affidavit stating the trust was set up around the time of the Winebox Inquiry to funnel anonymous donations from people who wanted to support Peters’ various legal battles.

Peters might also ask himself why he questioned Sir Bob’s memory:

Despite Peters’ claims of a failing memory, Sir Robert said that he recalled the background to the donation very clearly.

“There was a lot of drinking and when we got round to the subject [of the donation] there was a tremendous argument and I said ‘Winston, I’m not giving you anything’. Finally to get him off my back I said ‘you can have $25,000 on the basis of friendship’,” Sir Robert said.

Asked if he believed it was plausible Peters knew nothing of the Spencer Trust, he added: “Of course he [Peters] did… [But] there was no bloody mention of the Spencer Trust. The money was to go to his party.

“I don’t tell bloody lies. Why am I in the firing line for an act of benevolence? I won’t tolerate it.”

It would be difficult to find any reasons why Sir Bob and his staff would lie. There are plenty of reasons why Peters might – starting with a political career based in part on his attacks on big business involvement and anonymous donations to political parties.


Rice visit sideshow to Peters’ circus

July 27, 2008

Tracy Watkins concludes her comments on Condoleezza Rice’s visit with these observations:

Peters might have hoped he would not be asked about it today in front of Rice – well, that was never going to happen after the farce played out yesterday at a press conference at which Mr Peters was supposed to clear up the issues around a donation by millionaire Sir Bob Jones.

Peters blustered and obfuscated for 40 minutes, giving journalists no alternative but to put the issue to him today. To do otherwise would have looked like we accepted Peters’ position yesterday.

Silly man, the more he blusters the deeper the hole he’s digging for himself.

It will be interesting to see now whether the PM fronts up to reporters after her press conference with Rice, as has tended to be her practice.

Given the constraints on our ability to ask questions of her and Rice at their formal press conference – media are allowed just four questions in total, two to foreign journalists and two to New Zealand media – you would expect her to come down after and give us a separate briefing. It’s something she has often done in the past after all.

If she refuses then we will be entitled to draw our own conclusions; that she is still weighing up the fall out from the Peters presser yesterday and isn’t ready to rush out yet in fulsome support.

The only rush should be for a full, independent inquiry.


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