Credibility Handicap

August 27, 2008

The sky is overcast and the track is heavy for the Parliamentary Hunt Club’s feature race the Credibility Steeplechase.

 

The first horse into the birdcage is ACTion Man, by Hide n Cheek out of Roger’s Rules. This is a small stallion with a reputation for stamina.

 

Then we have Blue Boy by Future Hope out of Aspiration. He’s young but he’s got confidence and the punters are backing him.

 

Next up is Red Witch by My Way out of Sixties Child. Some commentators think she should be put out to pasture but she’s a stayer and if she can keep in touch with the leaders she’ll have a strong finish.

 

She’s followed closely by her stable mate Man Alone, a gelding by Old Socialist out of Self Interest. This horse never attracts many bets, but often finishes in the money.

 

Te Whanau by First Here out of Passion is another young horse with promise. Lining up next is Mr Sensible by Many Parties out of Whatever Will Win. Then there’s Watermelon by Red Green out of Green Red.

 

And the last horse is Bauble King by Lust for Power out of No Principles.

 

They’re under starters orders, the flag is up and they’re racing now.

 

Blue Boy is out first followed by Red Witch with Man Alone on her tail. Te Whanua and Watermelon are a couple of lengths behind then its ACTion Man followed by Mr Sensible and Bauble King’s bringing up the rear.

 

The field’s slowing as they approach the EFA Hurdle. Blue Boy, Te Whanau and ACTion Man jump cleanly, Mr Sensible hesitates but now he’s over; Red Witch catches a heel in the brush; it’s a bit higher than Watermelon expected and Man Alone stumbles but they’ve managed to jump clear and Bauble King ploughs straight through as if it’s not even there.

 

Over the second hurdle and Blue Boy’s a few lengths clear of ACTion Man. Te Whanau’s made up ground then it’s back then to Red Witch followed closely by Watermelon and Man Alone; then it’s Mr Sensible and last is Bauble King who’s weaving all over the course going from one side to the other and back again but his jockey’s got a firm grip now though he’s veering to the left.

 

The policy hurdle can be tricky but Blue Boy’s heading for the centre and he’s over; ACTion Man’s out on the right and clears it; Te Whanau’s jumped cleanly and the rest of the field is bunched up together but they’re over and away.

 

Blue Boy’s running strongly, he swerves to left then right to avoid a sticky patch but now he’s back up the centre, Te Whanau is half a length back with ACTion Man still in touch, and Mr Sensible a few lengths back.

 

The other horses are bunched together Man Alone is slowing and Bauble King’s bogged down in the mud; Red Witch is making heavy going of it and Watermelon’s getting spattered as they approach the ETS hurdle neck and neck. Will they make it? Yes they’re over but the rest of the field’s well out in front as they approach the last fence.

 

The principle hurdle is tricky, but Blue Boy and Te Whanau clear it, so does ACTion Man, Mr Sensible’s jockey isn’t sure which way to jump but the horse knows where he’s going and they’re over.

 

Watermelon pulls to the left then crashes over and Man Alone looks confused but he clears it too.

 

Well back now Bauble King is staggering and it looks like he might bring the Red Witch down, she’s covered in mud and she’s made a real hash of the principle hurdle but she’s managed to stay on her feet.

 

Down the home straight now and across the finish line it’s Blue Boy in front, a length back to Te Whanau then ACTion Man and Mr Sensible followed by Red Witch with Water Melon and Man Alone on her tail.

 

And here comes Bauble Boy, he’s turned his back on the principle hurdle, his jockey has lost control and there’ll have to be an inquiry.  Hold all bets, the stewards are conferring and this could take some time.


ETS will pass

August 27, 2008

New Zealand First will support  Labour’s Emissions Trading Scheme which means the legislation will now pass.

The Government had to negotiate with the Greens and NZ First to get enough votes, and yesterday the Greens said they would back it. Both the minor parties gained concessions for their support.

The Greens persuaded ministers to allocate $1 billion over the next 15 years for insulating homes to make them more energy efficient.

NZ First said today it had secured a package that would ensure all households received a one-off payment to mitigate the impact of the ETS, which is expected to increase power and fuel costs.

Party leader Winston Peters said low income people and pensioners would also be looked after through inflation-adjusted measures so that they kept ahead of price increases.

He did not however, comment on what perusaded him and his MPs to break their pledge  to:

only proceed with the implementation policies for the Kyoto protocol (aimed at reducing certain greenhouse gas emissions) to ensure they are in harmony with those of our major trading partners, and once a coherent plan has been formulated to allow the appropriate targets to be reached;

And the support of New Zealand First had nothing at all to do with Helen Clark’s standing by Winston Peters in spite of allegations which would have led her to stand down any other minister.


Key rules out Peters

August 27, 2008

John Key has ruled out  working with Winston Peters unless he gives a credible explanation on the Owen Glenn donations debacle.

“Labour Party donor Owen Glenn’s letter to the Privileges Committee completely contradicts Winston Peters’ version of events about the substantial $100,000 donation made by Mr Glenn to Mr Peters’ legal costs.”Mr Glenn’s letter represents a direct challenge to Mr Peters’ credibility, from the only other person in the world in a position to know the facts.

“From Parliament’s point of view, the Privileges Committee provides an appropriate vehicle to resolve the points of conflict and to hold individuals to account. But from the Prime Minister’s and the Government’s point of view, that is not enough.

“Governments and Ministers must enjoy the confidence of the Parliament and, ultimately, the public. Faced with today’s revelations, it is no longer acceptable for Mr Peters to offer bluster and insults where simple, courteous, honest answers are required.

“It is no longer acceptable or credible for Helen Clark to assert a facade of confidence in her Foreign Affairs Minister and to fail to ask the plain questions of him that she has a duty to the public to ask.

“Faced with today’s revelations, Helen Clark must stand Mr Peters down as a Minister. That is what I would do if I were Prime Minister. Helen Clark has stood Ministers from Labour down for much less.

“Unless he can provide a credible explanation about this serious issue, he should be unacceptable to Helen Clark as a Minister in her Labour-led Government.

“Mr Peters will be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by me unless he can provide a credible explanation.”

 

These are strong words and Key gets full marks for putting principle before politics because he has now restricted his options for coalition partners should the donations debacle not be cleared up and Peters get back into parliament.

There is a risk in that but it ‘s a bold move which clearly differentiates Key from Clark.

It also gives voters a very clear message. If they want a National-led government they won’t get one by supporting New Zealand First.


Right to roam with firearms

August 27, 2008

Fish and Game is seeking a High Court declaration challenging the right of farmers to restrict access to their properties.

Federated Farmers High Country chairman Donald Aubrey says that would give people the right to wander at will with loaded firearms.

“It appears to me that this action is to gain access to privately held land for Fish and Game members,” Mr Aubrey said.

Mr Aubrey says farmers with pastoral leases, like any person who rents a home in New Zealand, has the right to exclude others and feel safe and secure in the place they pay rent for.

“House tenants don’t expect other people to have 24 hour access to their homes. Why should it be any different for farmers? Even though the scale is different, the ramifications are not.

“High country farming families have strong relationships with fishermen, hunters and other recreational users. This action by Fish and Game is likely to destroy this goodwill.

Property rights do not vary with size and the fact that the Government owns it is irrelevant. No-one could wander round the section of a state house with a loaded firearm and the reasons which make that illegal also apply to farms, whether they are pastoral leasehold or freehold properties.

Unfettered access, with or without firearms, could disturb stock and interfere with farmwork; and while most hunters are responsible people that doesn’t give them automatic access to other people’s properties.

High country families are geographically isolated which provides more than enough challenges without allowing people to wander round their properties at will with firearms.


The right thing and/or the popular thing?

August 27, 2008

John Armstrong  says Helen Clark faces the choice between ditching Winston Peters or standing by him and risk sustaining collateral damage.

Helen Clark has constantly said that the verdict on Peters would be delivered by the “court of public opinion”. By that, she meant the forthcoming general election.

Such are the massive contradictions between Peters’ and Glenn’s versions of events, however, the court is now very much in session.

There is little question of the verdict. When it comes to deciding who to believe – Peters or Glenn- the public is unlikely to come down on Peters’ side.

…The Prime Minister could opt to continue to take Peters at his word. The problem is the public will overwhelmingly take Glenn’s.

That puts Clark firmly alongside Peters when she has strenuously sought to keep some distance between her and him.

However, arguing over the fine detail of what happened is essentially irrelevant. The political reality is that Peters’ credibility is shot. He is thus no longer credible as a minister.

Clark might well ignore that reality for the sake of political convenience and keeping NZ First sweet. She has so far.

And unusually for one who is normally so politically adroit, she would be doing the wrong thing and the unpopular thing.

What Clark cannot ignore is whether the Glenn letter is the final straw and public pressure for Peters’ dismissal snowballs over coming days to the point where she has to respond or risk her’s and Labour’s credibility suffering a massive hit.

Clark will be gauging the public mood as she assesses whether she can hang onto Peters for the next few weeks until Parliament rises for the election – the point at which Labour’s association with NZ First will effectively go into limbo.

She could stall making a decision on Peters’ future as a minister by saying she will wait for the privileges committee to make its report on the question of whether the $100,000 donation should have been declared in the MPs register of pecuniary interests.

That would at least allow Labour to pass the vitally important Emissions Trading Bill while she can still rely on having NZ First’s backing.

Alternatively, she could cut her losses by taking the radical option – putting everyone out of their misery and announcing an earlier-than-expected election. That would take some of the steam out of things by signalling that Labour’s relationship with NZ First is for all intents and purposes is at an end – at least this side of election day.

We expect politicans to do the right thing but we want them to do the popular thing. Sometimes politicians are lucky and the right thing is also popular.

The farce currently running in parliament where question time has been suspended for a snap debate on tasers suggests that Clark has chosen to stand by Peters. Why would she do that when that is the wrong and unpopular option?


Politics beats democracy again

August 27, 2008

Eyes and ears are trained on parliament awaiting developments over Winston Peters and the donations debacle and Annette King seeks leave to make a ministerial statement on tasers.

Political tactics 1 – democracy 0.

Should you be interested in tasers you can read about them in the Herald.


Ron Mark standing in Rimutaka?

August 27, 2008

Ruminations on whether or not New Zealand First remains in parliament have generally focussed on Peters winning Tauranga or the party gaining 5% of the vote.

But Big News says that Ron Mark is standing in Rimutaka.

If he is, could he win and keep the party in parliament regardless of what happens to Peters?

Hat Tip: Big News.


Dream or nightmare?

August 27, 2008

The September/October issue of Idealog (not yet on line) asks why ministers can’t be drawn from talented Kiwis from around the world and comes up with its suggestions for a dream cabinet.

The only MP in the list is Winston Peters because:

Admit it: you’d miss him. He keeps Foreign Affairs because we prefer to appreciate him from a distance.

Their dream might be turning into a nightmare which illustrates the dangers of writing something several weeks before it’s read.


Peters unleashes flying pigs

August 27, 2008

Winston Peters has just told Jamie McKay on The Farming Show that the farming community will support New Zealand First’s stance on the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Duck – a herd of pigs just took to the air.

The interview will be on line here later today – it begins with Jamie asking: are you a rabid old dog or a misunderstood senior statesman?


Only one is telling the truth

August 27, 2008

The letters to the privileges committee  from Owen Glenn and Winston Peters tell two different stories. Which one will Helen Clark believe?

Tracy Watkins  points out that Peters’ future is in her hands:

The question now is whether Clark will cut her foreign affairs minister loose – or delay till the privileges committee issues its findings. But on the face of Glenn’s testimony she has little room to manoeuvre; her foreign affairs minister’s version of events surrounding the soliciting of money from a man who is also known to have expressed an interest in the position as New Zealand’s honorary consul to Monaco, differs greatly – and puts Peters job squarely on the line.

It is an allegation that goes to the heart of his credibility. Clark would seem to have little choice but to suspend Peters till the matters are cleared up, one way or another. She has suspended other ministers for less.

Peters has always said that Glenn donated $100,000 to his legal fund after being approached by his lawyer, Brian Henry. He says he knew nothing about this donation till Henry informed him in July.

This is what Glenn says:

“The payment was made by me to assist funding the legal costs incurred personally by Rt Hon Winston Peters MP concerning his election petition dispute, at his request. Mr Peters sought help from me for this purpose in a personal conversation, some time after I had first met him in Sydney.

“I do not know Mr Henry. I do not believe that we have met. I do not recall that I, or my assistants, had any discussion or communication with Mr Henry other than to receive remittance details.”

This is what Mr Peters says in relation to Glenn’s statement that the donation was made at his request.

“[This] is not factual and does not coincide with my recollections. I believe that I met Mr Glenn many years ago and on the weekend of 13 August, well before the 2005 election, in Sydney, Bledisloe Cup weekend which is the only time I met him in Australia. ”

Only one of them can be telling the truth.

Karl du Fresne  has some advice for the privileges committee:

They can start by asking a simple question: who has more to lose by telling the truth? Or perhaps I should turn that around and ask: who has more to gain by not being truthful? On the face of it, Glenn has nothing to gain by deceiving the committee. On the other hand, Peters is fighting for his life politically.

He also notes:

A disturbing sub-plot in the controversy is that the New Zealand First caucus meets today to decide whether to support Labour’s carbon emissions trading regime. This decision will have profound long-term economic consequences for New Zealand, and it calls for the most cautious and thoughtful deliberation. What chance of that when the embattled party leader and his increasingly insecure MPs have their minds on the much more immediate issue of their political survival?

The full text of the letters from Glenn and Peters follows the break. Read the rest of this entry »


Kyoto inconsistencies

August 27, 2008

Can anyone explain why:

1) The people who produce oil don’t have a carbon liability but the people who produce meat and milk do?

2) People who cut down forests have a carbon liability when the carbon is still in the wood which is then used for building?

3) People who cut down a forest and replant it in the same place don’t have a carbon liability when those who cut it down and replant elsewhere do?

4) People who cut down a forest and replant it in the same place then cut down the replacement trees six months later pay the carbon liability on the new seedlings not the old trees?

5) There is nothing to stop a business which has carbon liabilities here moving production to another country where it might produce more emissions but have to pay nothing?

6) We aren’t waiting to see what our trading partners do so that we don’t out-pace them?

7) We are introducing legislation which will hamper primary production and add to its cost when the world is short of food?

 *) Our negotiators served us so poorly?

9) Our politicians are rushing through legislation about which there are so many concerns?

10) Our politicians didn’t learn from the way they steamrolled through the Electoral Finance Act that cross-party consensus ought to be sought on matters like this?

11) Our politicians are introducing a scheme which will have an enormous negative economic and social cost with little or no environmental gain?

12) Our politicians want us to lead the world in solving a problem to which we contribute so little?

 

* if I type 8 with a closing bracket it turns into a face.


Glenn says Peters solicited money

August 27, 2008

Owen Glenn  has told the privileges committee that Winston Peters asked him for money.

Peters disputes that.

Kathryn Ryan is discussing this with Radio NZ political editor Brent Edwards as I type. It will be on line here later.

There is no doubt there are enough allegations swirling round Peters now for him to have been relieved of his ministerial responsibilities had he been a Labour MP. The need for New Zealand First’s votes has stayed Helen Clark’s hand until now. but the mud which is being thrown at Peters will bog her down too if she allows this to go on much longer.

The allegations are still allegations and Peters maintains they’re wrong but the mud which is being thrown at Peters will bog Clark and Labour down too if she allows this to go on much longer.

Update: The Roarprawn has pointed me at the text of Glenn’s letter which says:

“The payment was made by me to assist funding the legal costs incurred personally by Rt Hon Winston Peters MP concerning his election petition dispute, at his request.

” Mr Peters sought help from me for this purpose in a personal conversation, some time after I had first met him in Sydney.

“I agreed to help in the belief that this step would also assist the Labour Party in its relationship with Mr Peters. I supported the Labour Party.”

Mr Glenn said the conversation had occurred “some time after I had first met him in Sydney” and he had authorised the payment on or about December 20, 2005.

He said Mr Peters had then thanked him at the Karaka yearling sales in early 2006. He did not believe he had ever met or spoken to Mr Henry.

In response Peters says:

… Mr Glenn’s assertion he had personally requested money “does not coincide with my recollections” and he said he believed the “personal conversation” referred to by Mr Glenn was one he had held with Mr Henry.

He also said he believed he had seen Mr Glenn while the two lunched at the same table at the 2007 Karaka sales, rather than in 2006.

Mr Peters said he had not thanked him until after Mr Henry advised him of the payment on July 18.

In response to that we have a contender for the award for stating the obvious:

Committee chairman Simon Power today said the two statements were inconsistent.


Still no decision on logos

August 27, 2008

The Electoral Commission has decided that The Alliance  had a reasonable excuse for filing its return late; and that the National Party  policy document isn’t an election advertisement.  

But it has determined that the Northern EMA advertisement is an election advertisement and will refer it to the police because it breaches the Electoral Finance Act.

It has also ruled that a New Zealand First flyer and National Party leaflet about meetings with their leaders aren’t election advertisements.

The Commission also decided that a Labour Party  caravan breached the EFA because it didn’t have an authorisation statement but won’t be referring the matter to police.

And it ruled that an item in the Chinese Express Weekly including photos of Labour MPs and candidates wasn’t an election advertsiement.

When the EMA will be referred to the the police but the Labour Party won’t – again – the law of common sense has become even more confusing.

And with less than three months to the election we still don’t know if political party logos are election advertisements.


No pay rise for non-DHB staff

August 27, 2008

Oamaru Hospital support workers are missing out on a pay rise because the Ministry of Health doesn’t recognise that staff at smaller hospitals aren’t employed by District Health Boards.

Last year the Ministry of Health provided DHBs with funds to boost wages for low paid staff but gave only enough to pay DHBs’ direct employees.

Unfortunately for Oamaru Hospital staff they are not direct employees of a DHB. They are employed by Compass Group which is contracted by Waitaki District Health Services and WDHS is contracted and funded by the Otago District Health Board.

This is not the first time Oamaru staff have been disadvantaged by the Ministry providing funds for DHB employees but not those at hospitals contracted to a DHB. Nurses missed out on Multi Employer Collective Agreement rates for the same reason in 2003.

I was deputy chair of WDHS at the time and remember the frustration as we wanted to work with staff to pressure the ODHB, ministry and government for more money. But the Employment relations Act stopped us from talking to staff directly, so we had to work through the union which called a strike.

Eventually the ODHB agreed to fund WDHS to meet MECA rates for nurses even though it wasn’t funded by the Ministry. However, someone didn’t learn the lesson and now Oamaru support staff – cleaners, kitchen workers, orderlies and security – are missing out on pay rises given to people doing the same jobs at other hospitals.

The Ministry doesn’t appear to realise how health services work down here. When what was then Healthcare Otago announced it was pulling out of rural hopsitals a decade ago the Waitaki District Council leaped into the breach and formed a Local Authority Trading Enterprise – WDHS – to run the hospital. It’s the only LATE operating a hospital and it’s been doing so successfully for 10 years except for the on-going problem over funding because the ODHB doesn’t get additional funds for staff not in its direct employment.

The charitable interpretation is that it’s bureaucratic blindness which prevents the Ministry from understanding that we do things differently in the provinces. A more cynical view is that its political ideology which won’t accept that publicly funded private hospitals work. But whatever the cause its the staff who miss out on pay increases.


What does this mean?

August 27, 2008

Dene Mackenzie writes that Peters is kingmaker because in the wake of the Green party capitulation he holds the votes which will determine if legislation to introduce the Emissions Trading Scheme will pass. But:

Mr Peters said he could not say what his caucus would decide to do.

That means:

a) His caucus members have  developed spines and will make up their own minds.

b) His caucus members have developed consciences, realise that they can no longer be associated with their leader’s actions and he can’t rely on their votes.

c) His caucus members recall their election promise  that the party would only proceed with implementation policies for the Kyoto Protocol to ensure they are in harmony with those of our major trading partners, and once a coherent plan has been formulated to allow the appropriate targets to be reached.

d) He’s made the decision but is playing for time to get more attention.

e) He’s lying.

Hat tip: Whaleoil


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