Can’t win, nothing to lose

October 20, 2018

Jami-Lee Ross announced at the start of the week he was going to resign and stand in the resulting by-election.

By week’s end he’d changed his tune.

He’s now not going to resign.

He can justify that as much as he likes but you don’t have to be a cynic to think he’s realised that he wouldn’t win the seat as an independent, that he’d lose his MP’s income, and that the prospects of anyone else wanting to employ him are infinitesimal.

If he can’t win he has nothing to lose which leaves the National caucus with another conundrum.

Could it, should it, get Ross kicked out of parliament under the waka jumping legislation against which it argued so vehemently?

Or should it ignore him in the knowledge that if he stays he could carry on scatter-bombing, hurting untold other people and his former party, under the protection of parliamentary privilege?

A man who knows he can’t win and is unemployable has nothing to lose.

 


Taxing too far

October 19, 2018

The petrol tank was around a quarter full when I stopped for more fuel.

It cost more than $100.

As I paid I said to the woman serving me, “I’m pleased this doesn’t mean I can’t buy the groceries, it must be hard for a lot of people.”

She agreed, said her children were on the minimum wage and one sometimes had to toss up between fuel for the car to get to work and food for her family.

That is now the reality for too many people.

The government can cast blame on fuel companies but it has to take some responsibility.

The extra taxes it has already introduced and the additional tax in the pipeline makes the government’s share of the price we pay at the pump too big a proportion of the total cost.

Just like tobacco tax, the extra fuel tax (and GST on top of it) is taking tax too far.

It’s not just that people are now having to toss up between fuel and food, it’s compounded by the inflationary impact of fuel tax because all goods and every service have a fuel component. The extra taxes are making that fuel too expensive and inflating the cost of everything else.

That doesn’t just impact on households and businesses. It is over-stretching budgets for hospitals, schools and the myriad providers of social services, whether or not they are not-for-profit.

The politicians’ encouragement for people to use public transport more doesn’t help these organisations.

They can’t get their supplies delivered by foot, cycle or bus and their staff can’t use those modes of transport to carry out their work.

They’re not an option for many people on shift work nor for anyone who  lives or works too far from bus routes.

When you live in the country you can do your best to minimise the times you need to go somewhere, but some travel is necessary and that requires driving your own vehicle.

When the government has a $5 billion surplus – even if big-cost items in this year’s Budget aren’t included in it – it shouldn’t be introducing any extra taxes.

It should be having a very careful look at its spending, taking a very sharp knife to every excess, and not just forgetting any more fuel tax, it must remove the extra it’s already imposed.

 

 

 


Mad, bad or both?

October 18, 2018

Is Jami-Lee Ross mentally ill, just behaving really badly, or both?

Amateur diagnosticians are using terms like manic depression, bipolar and narcissism to describe his behaviour.

Former colleague, Mark Mitchell, who is in a better position to know spoke to Mike Hosking yesterday about mental illness and said: “He has to take responsibility for his actions, but he must look after himself first.”

That was before the release of the tape that didn’t appear to be the smoking gun Ross said it would be, but did needlessly insult other people, all of whom responded with dignity.

Maureen Pugh tweeted:

Chris Finlayson said:

“Any suggestion that I am upset about the tape is just wrong,” he said.

Finlayson noted he had said plenty of nasty things about people himself over his career that thankfully had not been taped.

“I can wound with my tongue at 100 paces,” Finlayson said. . .

David Carter was equally untroubled:

Mr Carter also said he was not in the slightest bit bothered by comments made about him by Mr Bridges.

Mr Carter said Mr Bridges was clearly set up by Mr Ross in the phone call.

“Looking at renewal that’s inevitably needed by all political parties, I take no offence at all about what was said by Simon Bridges.”

Mr Carter has confirmed he will not be seeking re-election as a list MP.

“He’s made two contacts with me, one before he was leader and one after, on both occasions he actively encouraged me to stay – he said I was very valuable contributor to caucus discussions and particularly in a mentoring role to many or our new MPs.

“I have told him I will stay and complete this term but have no intention of standing beyond the election of 2020.” . . 

These are just three of many needlessly dragged into the mess Ross has made. David Farrar writes of the terrible personal cost:

. . . This self-inflicted scandal is taking a terrible human toll. I’ll focus on the politics in another post, but I find it really sad the damage that has been done.

  • Jami-Lee’s career is destroyed and he may not even be employable in NZ. He’s gone from being a newly promoted front bencher to a pariah
  • His wife has the humiliation of what should be private matters between them laid out in public
  • His children will grow up with articles on the Internet about their father’s relationships with other women. As a father this upsets me greatly. No kid should have to endure that.
  • The four women in the article have obviously been through a horrible experience. I’m not the most sensitive soul out there but I found it hard to read the article. It impacted me emotionally. Forget politics. Those women have had a terrible time.
  • In at least one case, a marriage has split up and you’ll have a husband and children hurting
  • Simon Bridges has had someone who was one of his closest mates in caucus secretly tape record him. That is a huge betrayal of trust. Forget the politics. How would you feel if one if your mates did that to you?
  • Maureen Pugh has been humiliated by the release of the tape with a harsh description of her. She is incredibly upset, as is her family. And those who have campaigned for her and supported her are also upset. Maureen’s public response has been magnanimous and classy. But’s let’s not pretend how terrible she must feel.
  • 40,000 National Party members and supporters are upset. The vast majority of these people don’t want to be MPs. They don’t expect to gain anything in return for their hard work door knocking, donating, delivering etc. They just think that New Zealand does better when National is in Government. They feel betrayed and disappointed that this fiasco undermines their hard work

So there is a terrible personal cost to all this. It is very sad and I hope it stops. . . 

Mental illness might explain the behaviour but it doesn’t excuse it nor justify the hurt inflicted.

As a party member I am appalled that any other member, let alone an MP, could behave in this way and inflict so much damage.

If memory serves me correctly, my electorate donated money to help Ross win the seat in the by-election through which he entered parliament.

The party is strong enough to withstand it and winning the by-election will prove that.

Ironically Ross’s actions have also strengthened Simon Bridges’ position. Even if there was some disquiet about the leadership – and I have no knowledge of any –  everyone in caucus knows they must show 100% discipline and unity so as not to reward Ross.

He may well try to release more of what he sees as ‘proof’ but the media needs to ask itself, if it would be in the public interest and safe for his mental health, to carry on publishing it.

Much of what we has become public was not.

Modern media is in a very difficult position, knowing that if they don’t publish something, it can still become public through social media but that doesn’t justify hurting those who will become collateral damage and there is even more need to tread carefully if someone’s mental health is at risk.


Benefits of foreign ownership

October 18, 2018

What a very generous donation:

Secretive American-born billionaire Ken Dart plans to donate the popular and sprawling Wairoa Gorge Bike Park, near Nelson, to the Crown.

It will be managed by the Department of Conservation, with public access run through the Nelson Mountain Bike Club (NMTBC).

He has also sold South Canterbury’s 4046-hectare Lilydale Station, which includes the land used by Fox Peak Ski Field, to local conservationists.

The 860-hectare Wairoa Gorge will be donated to the Crown by the end of the year, to be managed as a conservation reserve. Dart bought the land in 2010 through his company RHL Holdings and had more than 70km of mountainbike trails built through the mixed native beech and plantation pine forest. . . 

Would this have happened had the land been owned by a local?

I suspect not but sadly this won’t be enough to change the minds of xenophobes who are opposed to any and all foreign investment.


Mud sticks . . .

October 17, 2018

Mud sticks to the hand that throws it and yesterday Jamie-Lee Ross left himself splattered with the muck he chucked at Simon Bridges and the National Party.

In making the accusations he did, he appeared to incriminate himself.

His lack of self-knowledge is confirmed by his determination to stand in the by-election he has triggered by resigning.

He had a majority of nearly 13,000 in last year’s election but that was under the National Party banner and the party vote was at a similar level.

I can think of only four MPs who have left their party and regained their seats.

For each of those there are others who resigned and failed to win the seat again but I’m struggling to name more them because without the party backing they lose and sink into obscurity.

The only way Ross could win would be if no other parties stood and supporters of them united to vote for Ross against the National candidate.

 

 


Still supporting Simon

October 16, 2018

Why are some in the media saying the Ross saga is a threat to Simon Bridges’ leadership?

His expenses were leaked, he asked for an inquiry, the Speaker appointed someone to do one, cancelled it for no good reason, then secretly got one done anyway.

The PwC report didn’t find conclusive proof of who the leaker is but the evidence “points to Mr Ross”.

Bridges released the report and the caucus will meet to discuss it this morning.

None of this provides grounds to destabilise his leadership.

Even if Ross wasn’t the leaker his bizarre texts show he has ruled himself out of caucus.

If he has mental health issues, and those texts indicate he has, he should get the help he needs, but he should resign while he gets it.

Otherwise, I can’t see that caucus will have any choice but to expel him.

Rather than threatening Bridges as some in the media are forecasting, this will strengthen his leadership, and anyone I’ve spoken to in the party (admittedly a very small number) will support that.

Yes, his personal support in polls is reportedly low. That is inevitable for any leader of the opposition at this time in the electoral cycle.

Although there have been very few public polls, no-one who knows is disputing that National’s party support remains around the same as it was at the election.

Anyone who wants to challenge the leader when the party has that level of support doesn’t have the wisdom and sense to lead.

It might not be much fun being in opposition, but the road out of it is not paved with internal dissent and disunity under a revolving leadership.

Until this blip National was doing a very good job of being united, highlighting faults in the government – and there have been more than enough of them – and working on policy development in preparation for the election.

The decision for caucus is a no-brainer – expel the dissident, carry on united under Bridges’ leadership and earn the votes to return to government.

The alternative is to follow the bad example of Labour which left them wandering in the wilderness of opposition for nearly nine years.


Celebrating rural women

October 15, 2018

It’s the International Day of Rural Women.

This year’s theme is: Sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

Rural women make up a quarter of the world’s population. They grow much of our food, strengthen economies and build climate resilience.

From championing access to clean water in Kyrgyzstan to boosting sustainable agriculture in Ethiopia, rural women are mobilizing to support one another, and their contributions are vital for both rural communities and urban societies.

Yet, on almost every measure of development, because of gender inequalities and discrimination, they fare worse than rural men or urban women. . .

This year, we are calling for better public services, including health care, education, childcare and shelters, on which millions of rural women depend; and laws, policies and budgets to improve their livelihoods and well-being.

We stand in solidarity with rural women and their organizations everywhere as they seek to influence the decisions that shape their lives. . .

Most of the problems the day seeks to highlight  apply much more to women in the developing world where agriculture is a lot less sophisticated and there is a lot less mechanisation and a lot more uncertainty about land ownership and women’s legal rights.

When I was working as a rural journalist I was often the only woman at farming meetings and field days. Now it is much more common to see women not only in attendance but in positions of responsibility in  farming and rural organisations.

Rural women in New Zealand are much more involved in agriculture, apiculture, horticulture and viticulture and processing and support businesses in their own right or as active partners and they have equal rights under the law.

Organisations like the Agri-Women’s Development Trust do a lot of work to encourage rural women to make the most of their skills.


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