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.


Paying price for prevarication

July 21, 2014

Last night’s 3 News-Reid Research poll gave Labour more bad news:

PARTY VOTE:

National: 49.4 percent (down 0.3 percent)
Labour: 26.7 percent (down 0.6 percent)
Green: 12.4 percent (down 0.3 percent)
NZ First: 4.3 percent  (up 0.7 percent)
Conservative: 2.7 percent (down 0.1 percent)
Internet Mana: 2.3 percent (up 0.5 percent)
Maori: 1.1 percent (down 0.4 percent)
United Future: 0.2 percent (up 0.2 percent)
ACT: 0.1 percent (down 0.3 percent)

The reason’s for Labour’s poor showing are many, but one of those is Cunliffe’s prevarication over whether or not he’d do a post-election deal with the Internet-mana Party:

SHOULD LABOUR WORK WITH INTERNET MANA IN FORMING A GOVERNMENT:

NO: 59 percent
YES: 29 percent
Don’t know: 12 percent
-
Labour voters:
NO: 47 percent
YES: 40 percent
Don’t know: 13 percent

Cunliffe’s following the Winston Peters’ line on this – he’ll play the cards the voters deal.

But by doing this both men are leaving voters without information they need to cast their votes with confidence.

John Key told everyone months ago which parties he would and would not work with.

People know  what they’d get if they give National their party votes.

In contrast, Cunliffe and Peters continue to prevaricate which leaves voters having to take a gamble.

If they give Labour their party votes they can’t be sure they wouldn’t be helping the Internet-Mana Party into government and if they vote for New Zealand First they have no idea if Peters would move right or left.

In spite of what he says about the possibility of staying on the cross-benches, the lure of some baubles would almost certainly persuade him to change his mind.

A vote for either Labour or New Zealand first is a vote for uncertainty and instability.


It’s still the trend that matters

July 20, 2014

Labour has lost four points in the latest Herald DigiPoll, slumping to 26.5%,  its worst level of support in 15 years.

 . . . On this poll of decided voters National would be able to govern alone comfortably and gain another 10 MPs.

National has jumped 4.5 points to 54.9 per cent. A Stuff/Ipsos poll earlier this week also put support for National at 54.8 per cent.

Prime Minister John Key is more popular than he has ever been, scoring preferred prime minister on 73.3 per cent, compared with Cunliffe on 10.5 per cent and New Zealand First’s Winston Peters on 5.5 per cent.

The second-most-preferred PM out of Labour MPs is David Shearer, with 2.2 per cent, followed by Jacinda Ardern on 1.4 per cent. . .

Labour’s total support is down from 30.5 per cent in June, but it is disproportionately down among male voters, with only 23.9 per cent of men backing Labour, compared with 29.1 per cent of women.

Political commentator Chris Trotter said the poll indicated Labour was “more or less bereft of hope”.

“Labour is in an extremely parlous position, and the situation is deteriorating.” 

And the news gets worse for the left:

Contrary to other polls, the DigiPoll had the Green Party losing popularity, which was also bad news for Labour and the left’s prospects. . .

A single poll could be a rogue one but a trend has to be taken more seriously and the left will even though this support reflects the views of those who have decided:

. . . Undecided voters were 11.5 per cent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 per cent. . . .

It’s still the trend that counts and the trend is very good for National but it’s still a couple of months to the election and the result of that, trend not withstanding, is still not certain.

The left might be panicking but there is absolutely no room for complacency on the centre-right.

However, there is


Craig rules Conservatives out of govt

July 20, 2014

Conservative leader Colin Craig is planning to contest the East Coast Bays seat.

He hasn’t made a formal approach but he’s keen for sitting MP Murray McCully to stand aside in the hope that people who voted for the National MP would back Craig instead.

There are several flaws with this, not least being there is absolutely no guarantee the people of East Coast Bays would vote for him in sufficient numbers.

The outcome is even less certain now that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is talking about throwing his hat in that ring too.

Craig’s case hasn’t been helped by his party’s chief executive Christine Rankin saying the Conservatives could go right or left and work with National or Labour in government.

Voting for Craig would be difficult enough for National supporters in East Coast Bays if his party was committed to supporting a National government,. Few, if any, would countenance it if they thought there was any chance they’d be helping Labour cobble together a coalition.

The Conservative’s case for an electoral accommodation is even weaker now that Craig has said binding referenda would be a bottom line in coalition negotiations.

At the Conservative Party conference today, leader Colin Craig had a clear message to Prime Minister John Key.

He won’t do any type of deal with National unless it agrees to binding referenda. . .

There is absolutely no way a major party would agree to that policy and even if they did, Andrew Geddis points out that a cconstitutional  change of such magnitude should not be passed by a bare majority.

It’s constitutionally improper to even suggest that this happen – it would be like the Maori Party saying that their price for supporting a Government would be for that Government to legislate via a bare parliamentary majority to make the Treaty of Waitangi a “higher law” constitutional document that could be used to strike down other laws. I don’t care whether you think that would be a good outcome; it would be a bad way to bring it about. . .

But even if it did it wouldn’t work under our system which gives parliament sovereignty:

. . . How in a system of parliamentary sovereignty can Parliament (in the shape of a National/Conservative majority) pass a law that says that the general public is able to, by referendum, bind future Parliaments in their lawmaking decisions?

Even if a National/Conservative Government were to use their majority in Parliament to pass a referendum law that says that if the public vote in the future for or against some measure Parliament “must” follow that vote, exactly how would this law be “binding”? If a future Parliament were to just ignore the result of such a referendum – as is the case with current Citizens’ Initiated Referendums, for which no apparent political price gets paid – then what could be done about it? How, given our system of parliamentary sovereignty, could a court order today’s Parliament to do what a past Parliament said it must do? And what could a court even order in such a circumstance? What odds a judge saying to Parliament “because an Act was passed a few years ago saying that you had to make a law if the public voted for it, you now have to draft, debate and enact this particular Bill on this particular issue.”? . . .

Craig is demonstrating his ignorance of constitutional niceties and his own political naivety by making binding referenda it a bottom line and in doing so has ruled his party out of government.

It’s the sort of policy which might gain votes from the disgruntled.

But the party is a long way from the 5% support needed to get into parliament without the safety net of an electorate seat. Thankfully the chances of him being gifted one were already low and this bottom line will ought to have killed the idea completely.


Petering out

May 25, 2014

Winston Peters has had more political lives than a cat, but Tracey Watkins thinks he, and the NZ First party which is nothing without him, are petering out:

Anyone who kids themselves that there is life after Winston Peters for NZ First only had to watch the party floundering in the absence of its leader this week.

Frantically trying to head off an attack by their former colleague, expunged NZ Firster Brendan Horan, Peters’ front bench achieved the seemingly impossible feat of making Horan look good by comparison.

They were clueless in the face of Horan’s determination to extract utu from his former party by tabling documents he claimed showed improper use of the taxpayer funded leader’s fund. . .

Not only that, they voted against Labour’s vote of no confidence and had to belatedly ask for their no votes to be counted with the ayes.

Regardless of the ins and outs of Horan’s allegations, however, one thing seems clear: Horan is hellbent on using his last remaining months in Parliament to try to take Peters and the rest of NZ First down with him.

Even if he succeeds he will only be hastening by a few years what increasingly seems inevitable.

With its leader knocking 70, NZ First is a clock that has been slowly winding down since the 1996 election delivered Peters the balance of power. . .

Since the party’s return in 2011, Parliament has been collectively holding its breath waiting for the current team to implode given some of the more eccentric selections – like former North Shore mayor Andrew Williams, notorious for urinating in a public place.

The implosion hasn’t happened yet but there have been plenty of flaky moments. Richard Prosser launched a diatribe against Muslims that prompted hundreds of complaints to the NZ First board. The party’s Pasifika MP, Asenati Lole-Taylor, famously asked questions of the police minister in Parliament about blow jobs and has carved out a cult following on Twitter for her bizarre outbursts. Her most recent was to accuse a press gallery journalist of cyber bullying after he referred to her “shooting the messenger”. Lole-Taylor thought he was alleging she had shot an actual parliamentary messenger. . . 

It’s not quite so funny when you remember we’re paying her salary.

NZ First has never been more than Peters and whichever bunch of sycophants come in on his coat tails.

When he goes the party will go with him.

Whether it’s with a bang at the coming election or a whimper as it peters out over at least one more term is up to voters.

And those who think it could be this election should read Karl du Fresne on Peters in person at a public meeting.

He needs only sway 5% of voters and there could well be enough of the deluded and disenchanted to give him at least one more chance.


NZ First faltering

May 23, 2014

Confidence votes are important for governments.

Without them they fall.

No confidence votes moved by the Opposition are largely for show – and what was shown yesterday was that New Zealand First is faltering in the absence of its leader.

Yesterday parliament was asked to vote on the vote of no confidence moved by labour leader David Cunliffe.

The Green’s default position is to be against everything and it voted against it.

NZ First was leaderless yesterday and without Winston Peters its MPs don’t know what they’re for or against and they too voted against the motion.

The Greens realised their mistake before it was counted and corrected it. NZ First’s MPs did not and Cunliffe’s vote was initially defeated 50-71.

Someone must have told the hapless MPs what they’d done and Barbara Stewart returned to the house to seek leave to correct the result.

Perhaps it was a Freudian slip which shows the MPs really prefer National to Labour, or maybe it was just a sign the NZ First in not just Winston First, it’s Winston only and when he’s not there his MPs haven’t a clue what they’re doing.

The voting starts around 10 minutes, but Bill English’s right of reply which precedes the vote is worth listening to, too.

Should you prefer to read it, here’s Hansard’s draft transcript:

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): It is a privilege to be able to just wind up this Budget debate as the Government looks to a confidence vote with some confidence. I was very pleased to hear Minister Tolley’s speech, because she, along with other Ministers, has done an excellent job over the last 6 years now—almost 6 years—of providing better public services when we have had a tight budget, and we have done it again this year. At a time when the Government is spending less new money, by a large factor, than the previous Labour Government, we are seeing improvements in those kinds of issues that are at the core of the purpose of our public services. Because this is a Government that seeks to resolve problems and reduce misery, not fund a system that feeds off it.

That is where the Labour Party is. The Labour Party believes in State monopolies that fund services that feed off misery. Labour does not want problems solved, because if you have less misery, you have less Government. That is a key to this Budget. Under this Budget the Government will spend 30 percent of GDP—down from 35 percent just 4 years ago. We have been able to control expenditure not by slashing and burning but by understanding the core drivers of criminal behaviour, of educational failure, and social dysfunction, and starting to act on them. I say “starting” because it is pretty clear that the changes we are bringing about in public services are only just getting going and the benefits are only just starting to flow. There is so much more to be done. That is why we have a surplus. We have a surplus because what works in our communities works for the Government’s books: less crime, less spend—you get a surplus. More educational achievement, less remedial teaching—you get a surplus. That is what is working. That is in the context of a growing economy. We are having a confidence vote tonight. This is a confident Budget for a confident country—a Budget for a country that knows where it is going from a Government that knows what it is doing. That is why it is going to win the confidence vote in this Parliament. It is because it is in the context of an economy that is growing and New Zealanders beginning to understand that all New Zealanders can share in the benefits of that growth—this time around, it is New Zealand families with young children. That is the product not of any particular, big decision in this Budget or in the previous five from the John Key – led National Government; it is a product of considered and consistent change over time, always working towards sustained economic growth that can deliver dividends to New Zealand households year after year. New Zealanders do not really measure growth in terms of GDP. They measure it in terms of better job security—and it is a lot better now than it has been for a long time—and whether their incomes are likely to rise. If we achieve, if New Zealand achieves—

Andrew Little: You’ve got a pretty bad start so far—46 percent can’t get a pay rise.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is interesting that the member keeps quoting that, because that is about the average in most years, including when Labour was in Government. In any given year when Labour was in Government, 45 percent of the workforce did not get a pay rise. But I will tell you what they were doing. I will tell you what was happening. They were paying interest rates of 10 percent for first-home mortgages. The cost of living was going up. Inflation by 2007-08 was 5 percent, and today it is less than 2 percent. So they had no wage rises, interest rates were going through the roof to 10 percent, and the cost of living was going up by 5 percent.

Andrew Little: What are you doing to lift wages?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, let us discuss some of the member’s proposals that came up in this Budget debate. Here is one. Here is a question: what is the Labour Party’s immigration policy?

Hon Member: They don’t know.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: All I would say is: “Don’t ask them because they don’t know.”, because I think, as Phil Twyford said, they were going to cut immigration to a net 5,000. So I expect that this weekend at the ethnic functions in Auckland, Labour members will be getting up in front of the Indian community and saying “There’s far too many of you. We’re going to cut the number. We’re going to slash the number—no more Indians.” Then, because they are true to their word, they will be going off to the Chinese celebration and saying “Ahh, too many Asians in housing auctions around Auckland. They’re all Chinese. We’re going to slash the numbers.” And then they are going to go down to the Pasifika function. That is right, and they are going to say “No more family members from the Pacific Islands.” That is because Phil Twyford and David Cunliffe said on the radio: “We are going to slash immigration in order to control the housing market.”

Hon Hekia Parata: That’s what it means.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is not just what it means; it is what they said. It is what they said. Labour’s immigration policy is to slash migrant inflows. I think it is a bit weird. I think it is a bit weird from a party that has traditionally regarded itself as the representative of the migrant communities. But we will be there, Ms Collins will be there, Sam Lotu-Iiga will be there, Kanwal Bakshi will be there, and they will write down what Grant Robertson says to those people. But then it is not weird when you think about what they are saying to low-income New Zealanders.

Chris Auchinvole: What do they say?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I will tell you what they are saying to low-income New Zealanders. They are saying—I thought you might be interested—“We’ve got this really bright new idea, which is to increase KiwiSaver contributions so that the Chinese buyers don’t have to pay higher interest rates.” OK? Or so that the Indian buyers do not have to pay higher interest rates. So we have asked a simple question: by how much would you need to increase KiwiSaver contributions in a compulsory scheme to offset a 1 percent increase in interest rates?

Chris Auchinvole: And what do they say?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: They do not know, so we have done our own calculation and it is 15 percent—15 percent. In the weekend Labour members are going to be out in the Ōtara market, saying to women who have the second job in a household and are doing 25 hours’ cleaning in the middle of the night during the week in order to feed their family: “You have to join compulsory super, and we are going to take 9 percent of your gross income off you. That’s not enough, because when the Chinese drive the interest rates up, we’re going to put it up to 15 percent.”, and we will be listening.

What a stupid, dangerous, unfair policy. Apparently slashing immigration and forcing low-income people to save money they do not have is Labour’s response to the Budget. I used to think it was lazy, but I did not think it was that silly. I really did not. I am looking forward to campaigning in south Auckland with the growing interest from the Pasifika vote. We can stand up and say that jobs are growing, wages are rising, and they will stand up and say “We are going to slash your take-home pay and make sure your family cannot come to New Zealand.” But you know what they will do, they will say something completely different. As usual, we will have no idea what their policy is, because in here, in the office buildings, and on Radio New Zealand they say compulsory superannuation and slashed migration, but when they get out in the suburbs of Auckland, I do not know what they will say. They will sound like Martin Luther King. That is what they will do—

Hat tip: Keeping Stock


More bad blood spilt

May 22, 2014

More of the bad blood between independent MP Brendan Horan and his former leader Winston Peters was spilled in parliament yesterday:

. . . Mr Horan told Parliament on Wednesday that New Zealand First is using taxpayer-funded computer software for party political purposes, such as campaigning and fundraising.

He said the party has paid tens of thousands of dollars out of the leader’s budget to develop this software and that Parliamentary staff are running the programme in preparation for the general election on 20 September.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said the accusations are without foundation. . .

Horan’s given up on an official complaint about his allegation Peters should have declared a horse on his register of pecuniary interests.

But he’s obviously not giving up on any chance to get at Peters.


What about the provinces?

May 22, 2014

The debate on immigration and the pressure it might place on house prices is an Auckland and Christchurch centric one.

The demand for houses in those two cities is outstripping supply and the inevitable result of that is pressure on prices.

The sadly inevitable result of that is dog-whistle anti-immigration politics.

That’s a triennial hardy for New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as he tries to convert xenophobia into votes each election year.

To his shame, Labour leader David Cunliffe is echoing that dog whistle.

. . . The annual figure has plummeted too, from 34,100 to 11,000, but the immigration debate is now central to the political fight over house prices.

Because as well as more New Zealanders staying home than ever, more foreigners are moving here too – 71,210 in the last year, the highest in 11 years.

Labour leader David Cunliffe says their arrival comes at the expense of New Zealanders.

“Extra heat on our housing market drives up interest rates and exceeds the capacity of our education and health systems to cope,” he says.

Net migration is the crucial overall figure, which shows population growth is also at a decade high, up to 34,400 in the past year.

Treasury has predicted it could blow out to 41,500, and ANZ economists go higher, predicting 45,000.

Labour says the past ideal was just 5,000 to 15,000. . .

Auckland and Christchurch might not want many more people, but what about the rest of the country, in particular the provinces?

After several successive censuses showing the population declining in our district, last year’s census recorded a very small but very welcome increase.

That it was small in spite of the big increase in jobs that have come in the wake of irrigation means had it not been for that development we’d still have been going backwards.

That the debate on immigration focuses on Auckland, and to a lesser extent Christchurch, shows that the provinces aren’t on Labour’s radar.

If immigration is really a problem in some areas – and that is debatable – why does it have to be limited in areas which would welcome more people?

Why should the provinces pay the price for the poor planning decisions which have meant that the housing supply in Auckland hasn’t kept up with demand?

Why should we lose out on immigrants who could provide investment, workers and a population boost where they’re needed?

The xenophobes are quick to point out problems with immigration.

This picture shows the upside in the UK – is it likely to be different here?


Horan has to act

May 18, 2014

The NBR asks – Will Horan drop the hammer?

It starts by listing the happenings which have made this a horror year for Winston Peters then goes on to say:

Affable TVNZ presenter turned failed MP Brendan Horan could hold the country’s fate in his hands — or at least the outcome of the next election.

Mr Horan tells NBR he’s still trying to decide whether to push ahead with a complaint over Winston Peters’ apparent failure to disclose his financial interest in racehorse Bellazeel.

Having called for Judith Collins’s head for failing to fully comply with her obligations under the Register of MPs’ Pecuniary Interests, it would be untenable for Mr Peters to stay on if  found to have committed the same offence (in reality, of course, Mr Peters would claim conspiracy or some other excuse, but the embarrassment and awkwardness could well push his party under the 5% threshold).

Registrar Sir Maarten Wevers, who oversees the registry of MP’s financial interests, says he cannot look into the matter of his own account. Standing Orders require a formal complaint to be made by an MP.

And Mr Horan is the only one likely to lay the potentially career-ending complaint. . . .

If he’s got grounds for a complaint he’s honour-bound to make one.

If he hasn’t the very slight hopes he might have had of retaining a seat in parliament will be dashed.

And on the face of things, there’s a pretty good case for Sir Maarten to at least have a poke around.

Mr Peters has defended his non-disclosure, saying his interest in the racehorse was a small, short-term syndicated lease, purchased in a charity auction in 2008. The NZ First leader says the lease has since expired and Bellazeel — sired by famous racehorse Zabeel — is no longer running.

According to TVNZ’s report, Mr Peters told reporters earlier this week, “I did have an ownership for a short time but it’s been out to pasture for years.”

Yet NZ Racing records that Bellazeel raced as recently as January. 

In fact, the five-year-old bay mare — sired by the famous Zabeel — has had quite a chipper time of it over the past few months, with two wins and a third from seven starts in the 2013/14 season, earning prize-money of $20,175.

In all, Bellazeel has raced 15 times and won three races, winning $31,575.

And Mr Peters has been fuzzy on timing, his exit from the syndicate is presumably a recent development; NZ Racing still lists him as a co-owner.

What’s holding him back?
So what’s stopping Mr Horan pushing ahead with a complaint? . . .

He made the first accusations under parliamentary privilege but then went too far with fresh ones without that protection:

He went on Radio NZ and, in a live interview, made new accusations against Mr Peters regarding consultants and spending. 

Mr Peters turned his lawyers on RNZ.

The state broadcaster posted an apology to its website the same day, which it also read out multiple times on air.

Having taken his attack a step too far, Mr Horan now seems to have over-compensated in the other direction. . .

There is no downside for him taking the complaint to the registrar if he’s got grounds to do so.

He has to act, providing he’s got facts to back it up.

If he doesn’t he’ll play right into Peters’ hands because it will look like the allegations he made were baseless.


For want of a horse . . .

May 15, 2014

Former New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan has accused that party’s leader of not making a full disclosure of his pecuniary interests.

Independent MP Brendan Horan says Winston Peters must come clean about his own pecuniary interests and his own use of taxpayer money before making spurious allegations against other people.

The 5 year old bay mare Bellazeel is owned by Mr Peters and others, and has a successful racing career. So far in the 2013/14 season from seven starts, the horse has had two wins and a third place, earning prize-money of $20,175. Mr Peters has conspicuously failed to declare the horse in his pecuniary interests return.

“Mr Peters needs to take an honest look in the mirror. He is a prime example of why our Parliament needs to be subject to the Official Information Act,” Mr Horan says.

Brendan Horan says he is also concerned that the New Zealand First Leader could be misusing taxpayer funds. “I am concerned at reports I am hearing regarding overseas junkets, use of contractors and consultants, and other serious mis-spending. Certainly Mr Peters refuses to follow normal practice and report to his caucus on how the Leaders Budget – some $2.5 million in the current Parliament – is being used. I challenge him to open the books so that taxpayers can be sure the money is being used only for proper purposes.

“Real parties are open with their MPs about what funding is being used for and allow them to bid for funding for projects. That doesn’t happen in Winston’s party where Mr Peters like Smaug secretively guards the budget as if it was his own personal treasure,” said Brendan Horan.

 

Peters’ responded in his customary way:

“The allegation made against me today via the news media that I should have declared a small, short term lease interest in a racehorse is worse than just bunkum, it is a deliberate attempt at character assassination.

“That attempt is again bound to fail.

“The details are:

1. No declaration is required to own a horse, let alone lease a 10 per cent share in it.

2. At a charity auction I bought that share in a lease, which has expired.

3. I did not seek to get a tax rebate on the charity.

4. The difference between my outlay at the auction and my personal returns on the horse was a 400 per cent deficit.

5. I never had an ownership share, but a short-term leased share in a syndicate.

6. The New Zealand Racing Board has confirmed with me that my interests appeared in a syndicate lease, which is never ownership.

7. The auction took place in late 2008 and even if there was a requirement to declare, which there is not, I was not in parliament for declarations in 2009, ie, good night nurse on this one. . .

Whether he bought the horse at a charity auction and whether he owned it outright or shared a lease of it is irrelevant.

So too is the date he bought the share – what matters is whether he still had a share in the lease it after he returned to parliament in which case he should have declared it.

. . . Mr Peters said it “cost him a fortune for a minor share” and lost him “a lot of money”.

MPs must declare all property, directorships, gifts, shares and any other interests each year, regardless of whether they are profitable.

Mr Peters said part-owning a racehorse was different to being a director of a company.

“You’re not talking about the same thing. If you look at the declarations, they are all over different descriptions.

That’s because they cover a multitude of different interests in different things.

“If you are trying to say that somehow I was not involved in full disclosure, you couldn’t be more wrong. They don’t say [to] declare all your losses, do they?”

Declaring all directorships, gifts, shares and any other interest regardless of whether they’re profitable does seem to cover the horse.

Asked what charity he bought the horse for, he said: “I suspect I’ve forgotten. They put it up on an auction and I said ‘I’ll be up for that’.” . . .

No-one is questioning that the purchase was at a charity auction and which charity probably doesn’t matter.

What matters is whether he owned a share in the horse, or the lease of it, when he was an MP because if so he should have declared it.

An English king (was it one of the Richards?) supposedly lost a battle for want of a horse.

Peters is unlikely to lose anything over the want of a declaration of the horse even if the allegations are true.

Political tragics might enjoy watching him getting a taste of the medicine he so enjoys dishing out to others.

But it’s unlikely to matter to most voters, and certainly not the deluded who support him and who will no doubt see this as another conspiracy against their hero.

P.S. Pete George has the headline of the day on this with Winny horsed by his own petard.


Wait longer get less with Labour

May 3, 2014

Labour is attacking National for not following Australia’s lead of raising the age of superannuation eligibility.

Australia will be raising the age to 70, Labour plans to raise it to 67.

What Labour is showing is that their plans will either mean less income and/or other priorities for spending.

. . . Finance Minister Bill English said New Zealand can afford to keep the retirement age at 65, despite Australia’s plan to raise it to 70 by 2035.

He said the Australian government, which is dealing with huge deficits, is in a different position to New Zealand, which will return to surplus in the Budget this month.

Mr English said the Government settling the question of the retirement age has allowed the Government to focus on reducing other costs, such as long-term welfare dependency.

Superannuation can be affordable at the current age of eligibility providing the economy keeps growing and money isn’t wasted elsewhere.

Most people would regard superannuitants as a higher priority than younger people who could work and support themselves but don’t.

Increasing the age isn’t Labour’s only policy which will negatively affect older people, their tax increases will too.

National’s tax cuts boosted superannuation rates because they’re based on after-tax income.

Tax rates will increase under Labour, reducing after-tax income and so reducing increases to superannuation.

People will not only have to wait longer to get a pension, they’ll get less when they reach that age than they would under a National-led government.

What will Winston Peters and his followers, who Labour is trying to woo, think of that?


If Peters is preferable . . .

April 12, 2014

John Armstrong forecasts storms ahead for the left:

Having turned its caucus room in Parliament Buildings into a war room staffed almost around the clock by policy wonks, political strategists, experts in social media, plus assorted press secretaries – all in readiness for the coming general election – the Labour Party may find itself with another war on its hands before then. Or something close to it.

The “enemy” on this occasion will not be National. Neither will it be Act. Nor United Future. Nor Colin Craig’s Conservatives. Nor even Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party.

No, this war will be of the internecine variety where the combatants all come from the same neck of the (political) woods.

It will have been sparked by the seemingly endless positioning and posturing ahead of September’s election which will count for little in the aftermath. But this week it all turned ugly for the Greens. And things may yet get uglier still.

It may be that fate has decreed that the power struggle between Labour and the Greens takes centre stage at the worst possible time for the centre-left.

It may not come to open warfare. But the dismissive, almost contemptuous attitude displayed by David Cunliffe with regard to a supposed ally is bound to rankle deeply wherever Green Party members gather.

You can be assured there will be a response; that there will no longer be any scruples about upstaging Labour on the hustings. . .

For all MMP is supposed to be about consensus it is first about competition and then compromise.

Labour has set up a war room and it is aiming not just at National but potential allies with whom it is in competition for votes and the biggest of those is the Green Party.

In-fighting and lack of traction by Labour has enabled the Greens to stake out territory as the de facto leading opposition party.

Labour has more MPs and is a bigger party, but it isn’t getting enough support to be a strong leader in a coalition.

The weaker it is, the stronger the Greens will be and that poses a dilemma for Labour. A stronger Green Party isn’t at all attractive to  voters in the centre. The more power the Greens are likely to have the less attractive a Labour-led government becomes to many in the centre who will be much more likely to move a bit right to National than leap left to Labour.

Labour knows it has to grow the left block, but it also knows this will be harder with a strong Green Party which is why it is doing its best to keep its distance.

Labour’s failure to take the initiative must have made the Greens suspicious. So they approached Labour with a proposal for both parties to co-operate to a much greater extent in the run-up to the election and “brand” themselves as the Government-in-waiting.

What the Greens were really doing was testing the extent of Labour’s commitment to working with them in government following signs that Cunliffe was wavering on that question.

The Greens got their answer soon enough. It was not what they wanted to hear. They got a lecture in semantics – that the next Government would be a “Labour-led” one, not a “Labour-Greens coalition” – and a lesson in history – that Labour had been the dominant party on the centre-left for the past 100 years and thus called the shots as of right.

Cunliffe made it patently clear in word – and more so in tone – that Labour was decoupling itself from the Greens and would be seeking to “maximise its share of the vote” – code for saying it was now open season on territory occupied by the Greens.

Neither could Cunliffe muster much enthusiasm when asked to digress on how Labour would treat the Greens in any post-election negotiations.

Of course, Cunliffe’s remarks were for targeted at an audience of one – Winston Peters. Cunliffe knows he will likely need both New Zealand First and the Greens to make it to the swearing-in of a new Government. But it is Peters’ chalk to the Greens’ cheese. It is Cunliffe’s conundrum.

Peters has choices. The quickest way to have him running helter-skelter towards National’s camp would be for Labour to get tied down in some pre-election arrangement with the Greens.

The Greens are consequently expendable. But for how long? Cunliffe is clearly taking things step-by-step, conscious that the voters might solve his problem. Or compound it.

But Labour’s antipathy cuts deep. Labour does not trust the Greens and believes that party is seeking to supplant it. . .

If Labour doesn’t trust a potential coalition partner it can’t expect voters to either.

The net result of this week’s wrangling is to reduce the centre-left’s share even more. The message most voters would have picked up is that Labour no longer wanted to work with the Greens. Voters hate disunity and punish accordingly.

The Greens deserved better. They are not responsible for Peters’ existence. Cunliffe could have been less dismissive and more accommodating in his language.

He could have accepted a much more limited pre-election understanding. Something symbolic, like Jim Anderton’s invitation to Helen Clark to speak at the Alliance’s conference a year before the 1999 election.

Key likes to wind Peters up; Cunliffe risks looking like he is being cowered by the veteran politician.

Labour’s pursuit of power dictates, however, that Labour be hostage to Peters for the next five months despite knowing such obedience will not make even the tiniest bit of difference as to whether he ultimately favours the centre-right or centre-left. . .

Labour is competing with the Greens to keep its vote strong and is signalling if it has to make comprises it would prefer to do so with Winston Peters.

Peters will be enjoying that. However, if he’s the more preferred partner for Labour it speaks volumes about how little the party thinks of the Greens.


Don’t want wiffle waffle

April 7, 2014

Winston Peters says that the issue of foreign ownership of farms and residential property has always been a bottom line for New Zealand First.

“The reality is that’s always been a bottom line for New Zealand First.”

Read his lips – always has been is not quite the same as is now or will always be.

“We are making it very clear where we stand in this election. People out there don’t want wiffle waffle they want certainty. . .

He’s right we don’t want wiffle waffle.

But wiffle waffle is what we often get from him and it’s what we’re still getting on the question of which party New Zealand First would be prepared to support should he be in a position to do so after the election.

He continues to say it’s up to the voters, as it is. But voters who know if Winston and his sycophants would be prepared to enter a coalition with or give confidence and supply to, one party or another would be able to vote with their eyes open.

As it stands anyone silly enough to favour New Zealand First with a vote will be taking a stab in the dark.

If you can cope with the wiffle waffle, you can listen to the interview on Q & A.

 


Would it be churlish to ask for interest?

April 1, 2014

Winston Peters has finally deigned to repay the $158,000 of public money he and New Zealand First misappropriated for their 2005 election campaign.

Would it be churlish to ask for interest and penalties for late payment?


Another poll confirms the trend

March 18, 2014

Support for he Labour Party is below 30% in the latest Herald DigiPoll survey:

Labour’s support has sunk nearly six points and it is polling only 29.5 per cent in the Herald-DigiPoll survey.

The popularity of leader David Cunliffe has fallen by almost the same amount, to 11.1 per cent. That is worse than the 12.4 per cent worst rating of former leader David Shearer.

National could govern alone with 50.8 per cent if the poll were translated to an election result.

The popularity of John Key as Prime Minister has climbed by 4.6 points to 66.5 per cent. That is his best rating since the election but not as high as he reached in his first term when he often rated more than 70 against Phil Goff.

The increases in support for National and the Greens since December put them at their highest ratings since the 2011 election.

The Greens are up 2.3 points to 13.1 per cent and with Labour would muster a combined 42.6 per cent.

New Zealand First is down slightly to 3.6 per cent but leader Winston Peters’ ratings as preferred Prime Minister at 6.5 per cent suggest the party could still top the 5 per cent threshold required to get MPs under MMP without requiring an electorate seat.

Other polls have shown a decline in Labour’s fortunes this year but today’s is the first to have Labour in the 20s since Mr Cunliffe took over the leadership from Mr Shearer in September last year. . .

Polling began on March 6, in the midst of the fallout over his use of trusts for donations.

But it continued through last week when Mr Key condemned minister Judith Collins for her failure to declare a dinner in Beijing with her husband’s business associates. . . .

The last fortnight was dire for Labour and last week wasn’t good for National, but maybe it’s only political tragics who are really interested in these issues.

Mr Key said the poll was a confirmation that a majority of New Zealanders believe the country is heading in the right direction “but clearly there is a lot more work to be done if we are to create the jobs and increase the living standards that New Zealanders want to see”. . . 

Asked if the issue of Mr Cunliffe’s of Ms Collins non-declarations would have affected the poll, he said: “Voters weigh up a great many factors when considering who to support but I continue to believe the strongest motivation is when a political party is focused on the issues that really matter to voters.” . . .

Individual polls bounce around but this one confirms the trend which shows National and its leader are popular, Labour and its leader aren’t.

There’s just six months until the election.

That’s time enough for National to slip a few points and make it difficult to form a coalition.

But it’s not a lot of time for Labour to climb out of the doldrums and convince voters it could offer good governance and stability with the collection of support parties it would need.


Knowledge is power

March 11, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has called on the wee parties to be upfront about which party they might support after the election.

. . . Announcing the election date on Monday, Mr Key said he is the only New Zealand prime minister to have been so upfront about an election date – and he challenged the minor parties to be, in his words, equally forthright about who they would work with post-election.

He said New Zealand First leader Winston Peters could announce right now that he would go with the largest party, but he won’t.

Mr Key said all the anecdotal evidence he has heard is that Mr Peters would partner with Labour and the Greens: “That’s what I hear,” he said, “so that’s what I’ve got to work on.”

For his part, Mr Peters says the Prime Minister is scaremongering. “He’s never talked to me on the matter,” says Mr Peters, “and whatever his planning skills are, mind-reading is not one of them.” . . .

Peters always insists that who he’ll support will be up to voters.

It will of course, but without telling us which party or parties his would support he’s leaving voters in the dark and expecting them to vote blind.

Knowledge is power – giving voters a clear indication of their intentions helps them make an informed decision.

Peters’s refusal to be clear is simply playing politics.


Which election is Labour trying to win?

March 3, 2014

Last Monday when interviewed by Kathryn Ryan, Labour leader David Cunliffe said:

“We all know the Government is going to change. It’s either going to change this time or next time. I think it’s more likely to change this time, and if it does, the question in front of New Zealanders is what is the composition of that new government going to be?”

For a leader to suggest he’s focussed on anything other than a win in the next election is unusual.

Could it be that he has a two-election strategy, to increase Labour’s vote at the expense of the Green Party this year in the hope that will give him a really strong foundation to win the election in 2017?

His interview on The Nation adds to that suspicion:

• Cunliffe refuses to guarantee the Greens’ place in Labour-led government – “that depends on how the voters decide.”
• Withdraws promise by previous Labour leader David Shearer that Greens will get a proportionate share of Cabinet seats – “we’re different roosters, I’m not doing it that way” – and won’t discuss coalition deals before election.

How the voters decide is the sort of game-playing Winston Peters indulges in.

Giving voters a good indication of what sort of government their votes might result in gives them the power. This shilly-shallying leaves the power with the parties.

But Cunliffe is firing a warning shot across the Green’s bow on purpose.

Voters in the centre aren’t keen on the radical left policies of the Green Party and many would prefer a strong National-led government than a weak Labour-led one beholden to the Greens.

All polls put National well ahead of Labour which would need Green support to govern, and probably some of the other minor players as well.

If Cunliffe could suck votes from the Greens on its left flank it wouldn’t increase the left-bloc but would make Labour stronger.

The swapping of votes within the left wouldn’t be enough to win this election.

But a stronger Labour Party would have a much better chance in the next one if it relegated the Green Party to a very distant third and therefore a much more minor player in government that it would be on current polling.

The trick for Cunliffe would be to lose but not so badly that he’d be deposed as leader.

That would be a delicate balancing act at the best of times and will be even more difficult if the ABC -  Anyone But Cunliffe – decide they’d prefer a big loss and the chance of a new leader.


Lies, damn lies and Winston

February 22, 2014

Winston Peters delivered his state of the nation speech yesterday.

It was full of the usual dog whistles against immigrants and Asians in particular.

One of the claims he made was that Huka Lodge had been sold to Chinese investors.

This has been denied by the lodge and Minister for Land Information Maurice Williams.

. . . “The Overseas Investment Office has spoken to Huka Lodge director and shareholder David McGregor, and he has confirmed no sale has been made or is being considered.

Huka Lodge was last sold in 2003, following Overseas Investment Commission approval, when a Labour Government was in power.

Peters has back-tracked ever so slightly:

Later, Peters modified his claim to say the lodge was for sale.

But only very slightly:

But Peters was unrepentant last night, accusing the OIO of having become a “political pawn”.

Such was the paperwork involved, the OIO may not know the status of the sale, Peters said.

“It’s for sale.”

This is in spite of Huka Lodge director and shareholder David McGregor confirming no sale has been made or is being considered.

But Peters has never let the facts get in the way of his stories in his quest for votes.

It’s just another case of lies, damn lies and Winston.


Time to take focus off mavericks

January 25, 2014

The media has a propensity for getting side tracked by mavericks.

Kim Dotcom is losing some of his gloss but the fascination with Winston Peters continues.

Prime Minister John Key carefully explained his preferences for coalition partners after this year’s election making it very clear New Zealand First would only be considered if the alternative was a Labour?Green government.

That, only-as-a-last-resort statement has prompted lots of interviews with Peters who continues his bizarre insistence that it’s better to keep the voters in the dark until after the election.

Equally bizarre is John Armstrong’s column this morning headlined Peters for Prime Minister? Don’t bet against it.

It is based on the assumption that the PM would resign from politics sometime in the third term, if he got it for which there is no evidence at all.

Political tragics from the left and the media (which is sometimes but not always the same people) have raised this as a possibility but he has always made it quite clear he is in politics to get a job done and isn’t planning to give up part way through.

But even if there was a vacancy for PM in a National-led government Peters wouldn’t ever be considered when there’s a list of able and trustworthy successors within National.

The media needs to take the focus off the mavericks and help voters focus on what matters and what might happen.


National will consider working with . . .

January 21, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced which parties  National will consider working with following this year’s General Election.

His preferences are ACT, the Māori Party and United Future and is not discounting the Conservative Party.

He’s also left the door slightly ajar for New Zealand First.

 “MMP makes it likely that every election will be a tight contest,” Mr Key says.

“That means it’s also likely that following the election we will need to work collaboratively with other parties to form a stable Government.

“First and foremost, National will be campaigning hard for every party vote it can win, because that puts us in the best position to continue the positive policy direction New Zealand is on.

“Put simply, the higher National’s party vote, the more options we have.

“I know that post the 2014 election, National will almost certainly need to work constructively with other political parties to form a stable Government.

“Since November 2008, we have shown that we can lead a stable Government with other political parties involved, even when those parties have different outlooks and policies.

“Looking ahead, it is most likely that the nature of these working relationships will be via Confidence and Supply Agreements, as these have worked well in the past two Parliamentary terms.

“In the end it is the public who largely determine the make-up of the Government by voting in parties to Parliament,” says Mr Key.

Mr Key says that given the right electoral circumstances, his preference would be to continue working with the current three partners to the Government, which are ACT, the Māori Party and United Future.

“I believe there is also a scenario where it would be possible to add the Conservative Party to this group.

“While National has of course had differences with ACT, the Māori Party and United Future, together our four parties have formed a stable and successful Government since late 2008,” Mr Key says.

“We also have policy differences with the Conservative Party, however it is likely that there would be enough common ground to work with them in Government.”

In terms of other parliamentary parties, Mr Key ruled out working with Labour, the Greens and Mana on the basis that there is insufficient common ground to achieve a stable and successful working relationship.

“These parties represent a far left wing agenda that we do not believe is good for New Zealand,” says Mr Key.

With regard to New Zealand First, Mr Key said that he believed a post-election working relationship was very unlikely; however he would not rule the possibility out ahead of the election.

“In 2008 we ruled them out because we were unable to reconcile some of their statements on the Glenn donation matter. Six years has passed and, should New Zealand First be returned to Parliament, we would not rule out a discussion after the election.”

 I sincerely hope that New Zealand’s First’s support won’t be needed, although David Farrar posts on the possibility of asking for it to support a minority government.

It’s more of a vanity vehicle than a party and its leader has shown he’s unreliable.

He’s also not prepared to show his hand before the election:

. . .  Winston Peters says the party is making its position clear from the outset that it will not be part of any pre-election discussions or arrangements aimed at subverting the democratic process.

“We thought MMP would stop the gerrymandering and ‘old boys’ arrangements of the past but some political parties keep manipulating the political process for their own ends instead of trusting the voters.”

Mr Peters says the time for talking about forming governments should be immediately after the election and not before. . .

What he means is he’s not prepared to put commit himself one way or the other for fear of losing votes.

Instead he’ll keep everyone in the dark until he can make a deal which best advantages him.


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