More than half way

June 24, 2019

This government is more than half way through its term and what has it achieved?

Duncan Garner says it’s the least effective government in 25 years.

It’s flagship KiwiBuild policy has flopped and the flop looks even worse now we know how it began:

. . .Senior MP and shadow housing minister Annette King had just the ticket.

King, who declined to comment for this story, had been in a car on the way to an event with Salvation Army head Campbell Roberts and Housing Foundation head Brian Donnelly in the months before the conference, chatting about the emerging problems in housing. Donnelly’s agency had a scheme where affordable homes were built and sold, and the capital immediately recycled to build more. King liked the idea.

“We said there was a supply problem, and there was a need for there to be an increase of supply of affordable entry-level housing. But the emphasis was on the affordable,” Roberts told Stuff.

“To tell you the truth, I was a bit concerned with the speed at which they grabbed it. I don’t think there was pretty much more than our conversation – which was in the car going to something – it was a not a sitdown meeting, and the next thing they were introducing it,” Roberts said.

And then  it grew:

. . .KiwiBuild is an unmitigated disaster. Dreamed up by Annette King in the back seat of a car, she latched on to it and set the original target of 50,000 houses because it sounded good in her head. A wish-list, not a policy.

Legend has it the close breathing of David Cunliffe down David Shearer’s neck was precisely what prompted the last-minute decision to blurt out 100,000 homes on the day of the announcement. . . 

It wasn’t a carefully thought-out and costed policy. It was an idea prompted by a conversation and a number blurted out.

And what else has the government done?

  • Wasted millions on fee-free education for tertiary students, many of whom would have enrolled anyway.
  • Got soft on beneficiaries – ending the requirement to be looking for work and for solo mothers to name their children’s fathers.
  • Wasted millions prolonging the grief of those mourning the lives lost in the Pyke River mine.
  • Wasted millions on good looking race horses.
  • Incentivised overseas purchases of farmland for conversion to forestry.
  • Virtue-signalled on the environment while ignoring the science provided by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
  • Wailed about the road toll while refusing to do anything to deter drug driving.
  • Done nothing about the risk to mothers and babies with the lack of maternity centres in Central Otago and Southland.
  • Failed to increase funding to Pharmac to keep up with inflation.
  • Contributed to a slowing economy and a drop in confidence. . .

And while it’s spending more on doing less, it’s taking more money from us to do it:

Kiwi households will be $1750 a year worse off on average because of the taxes being piled on by the Labour-led Government, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“This Government has increased fuel taxes three times since it came into power, it’s added on a regional fuel tax in Auckland, introduced ring fencing of losses, an Amazon Tax, GST on overseas roaming, extended the bright-line test, increased Worksafe levies and cancelled tax relief.

“When you add all of these taxes together and take into consideration the cancelled tax relief, Kiwi families are looking at $7000 out of their pockets over four years. That does nothing to increase the wellbeing of an average family.

“The economy is continuing to weaken because of this Government’s poor policy decisions. The cost of living is increasing, rents are up an average of $50 a week, petrol and electricity are increasing.

“New Zealanders can’t afford this Government.

“You can’t trust Labour when it comes to tax. National will index tax thresholds to the cost of living and will not introduce any new taxes in our first term. National believes New Zealanders should keep more of what they earn.”

A lot of the commentariat are taking it for granted that this government will have another term.

But it has less than half a term left to earn a second one.

It will have to do a lot more effective in the next few months than it has been in the last 19 if it’s going to translate its warm words about wellbeing into making a positive difference to the country and its people.


Media say, Labour do

March 1, 2017

Last week Labour deputy leader Annette King said suggestions Jacinda Ardern should replace her were ageist:

Ardern’s win in Mt Albert prompted fresh speculation Little should replace his steady pacemaker King with the crowd-pleasing sprinter Ardern as deputy for the home straight to the election.

There is sense in that. But King can not see it. King’s response was a quite astonishing and vociferous defence of her turf.

She claimed the talk around Ardern was ageist. She even went a little bit Trump, accusing media of having a vendetta against her.

Speaking to the Herald she questioned what Ardern could offer that she did not, other than relative youth. . . 

This week King says:

After some reflection, I have decided to step down from the Deputy Leader’s position in the Labour Party .

I have been considering my position for some time and after discussing the matter with colleagues I feel now is the right time to pass the baton . . 

Jacinda Ardern has my full support to be Labour’s new Deputy Leader. I have watched her political career blossom since she became an MP in 2008 and mentored her when she needed help. After her emphatic victory in Mt Albert, she’s well and truly ready to step up. . . 

This has obviously been a long week in politics for King, long enough to change her mind but what changed it?

The calls for Ardern’s promotion came from the media, was it a case of media say, Labour do?

Or was someone in Labour using the media to advance Ardern’s cause?

These are questions no-one who knows is likely to answer, just as they won’t answer exactly what Ardern has done to justify her promotion.

Losing a seat your party has held for decades is significant, winning it is business as usual.


Little’s temporary line-up – updated

November 24, 2014

Labour leader Andrew Little has announced his new, temporary, line-up.

“Labour has many new and highly capable MPs who will have the opportunity to prove their ability. At the same time our senior hands will be on deck to take the fight to the National-led Government and support our upcoming stars,” Andrew Little says.

“I am pleased to announce Annette King will be my deputy for the coming year. In recent weeks she has shown how crucial her wisdom and strength is to Labour.

“Grant Robertson will be my Finance spokesperson and number three. He is one of the best performers in Parliament and is more than a match for Bill English.

“Nanaia Mahuta’s lead role in Labour regaining the Māori seats is recognised in her number four position and her reappointment as Māori Development spokesperson.

“Talented up and comers Carmel Sepuloni, Kelvin Davis and David Clark are taking on key roles and will be important members of my front bench.

“These roles will be reviewed in a year to ensure Labour has the strongest possible team to head into the 2017 election. . .

These are the only people named in Labour’s media release on Scoop and I’ve just checked Labour’s website which has nothing at all about the new line-up.

Whoever is where on the full list, they are temporary positions because they’re all up for review in a year.

No politician should ever consider a position theirs until they choose to relinquish it. Prime Minister John Key has reshuffled his cabinet including replacing some members.

But putting the whole caucus on notice suggests Little lacks confidence in his own judgement and/or his colleagues.

It’s also hypocritical the leader of a party that opposes 90-day trails for employees is putting his whole caucus on trial.

Update

NewsTalkZB has the full list:

Labour Party Caucus 24 November 2014
1 Andrew Little Leader of the OppositionSecurity and Intelligence
2 Annette King Deputy LeaderHealth
3 Grant Robertson Finance
4 Nanaia Mahuta Maori Development
5 Phil Twyford HousingTransport
6 Chris Hipkins Shadow Leader of the HouseSenior Whip

Education

Early Childhood Education

7 Carmel Sepuloni Social DevelopmentJunior Whip
8 Kelvin Davis PoliceCorrections

Associate Justice (Sexual & Domestic Violence)

Associate Education (Maori Education)

Associate Regional Development

9 Jacinda Ardern JusticeChildren

Small Business

Arts, Culture, Heritage

10 David Clark Economic DevelopmentAssociate Finance

Associate Health (Mental Health)

11 Su’a William Sio Pacific Island AffairsLocal Government

Associate Housing (South Auckland)

Interfaith Dialogue

12 Iain Lees-Galloway Labour
13 Megan Woods EnvironmentClimate Change
14 David Cunliffe Regional DevelopmentTertiary Education

Research & Development

Science & Innovation

Associate Economic Devt

15 David Parker Trade & Export GrowthShadow Attorney General

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations

16 David Shearer Foreign AffairsConsumer Affairs
17 Phil Goff DefenceVeterans’ Affairs

Disarmament

Auckland Issues

Ethnic Affairs

     
Unranked Trevor Mallard Assistant SpeakerInternal Affairs (excluding Gambling)

Sport and Recreation

Animal Rights

Parliamentary Reform

Unranked Ruth Dyson ConservationSenior Citizens

Disability Issues

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery

Unranked Damien O’Connor Primary IndustriesBiosecurity

Food Safety

Unranked Clayton Cosgrove RevenueSOEs

Building and Construction

Earthquake Commission

Assoc.  Finance

Unranked Sue Moroney ACCImmigration

Women’s Affairs

Associate Labour

Unranked Clare Curran ICT
BroadcastingOpen Government

Assoc. Justice

Assoc. Commerce

Unranked Kris Faafoi CommerceState Services

Racing

Assistant Whip

Unranked Louisa Wall Youth AffairsAssoc.  Auckland Issues (South Auckland)

Assoc . Sport and Recreation

Unranked Stuart Nash ForestryEnergy

Land Information

Statistics

Unranked Rino Tirikatene FisheriesAssociate Regional Development

Customs

Unranked Meka Whaitiri WaterAssoc. Regional Development

Assoc. Finance

Assoc. Primary Industries

Unranked Poto Willams Community & VoluntaryAssoc. Housing (Chch)

Assoc. Justice (Family)

Assoc.  Education (Christchurch Schools)

Unranked Peeni Henare TourismAssociate Maori Development (Employment & Te Reo Maori)
 Unranked Adrian Rurawhe Civil Defence & Emergency ManagementAssoc. Internal Affairs (Gambling)

Assoc. Treaty Negotiations

 Unranked Jenny Salesa Employment, Skills and Training

 


In praise of erudition

September 27, 2014

National’s candidate for Rongatai, Hon Chris Finlayson writes on his campaign for the elucidation of readers of the Spectator:

Every three years in New Zealand, incumbent politicians must hit the campaign trail. Since 2008, I have chased votes in the Rongotai electorate. My Labour opponent, Annette King, has held the seat since 1996. She is a fine parliamentarian, a thoroughly nice person, and also a distant cousin on my mother’s side. ‘Chris says if he wins Rongotai, he’ll ask for a recount,’ she delights in telling voters. This is supposed to be a joke but, under New Zealand’s mixed member proportional voting system, winning individual seats is not the be all and end all. The number of seats a party has in Parliament is determined by a party vote, and local representatives by a separate electorate vote. As a list MP standing in a traditional left seat my job is to maximise the party vote for National.

The Rongotai electorate takes in Wellington’s rugged southern coast, the Miramar Peninsula and the working class suburbs of Newtown and Berhampore, which are fast gentrifying and turning from red to green. Its furthest boundary is the Chatham Islands, an archipelago around 700km from the mainland. It is a place of isolated natural beauty, rich cultural history, abundant fisheries and distinctively salty mutton. On my most recent trip, the twin-propeller plane was struck by lightning and my stay had to be extended by two days. There is no cellular reception in the Chathams, adding to its attractiveness.

The Newtown debate is usually the rowdiest of the campaign. In 2011, I was shoved by an Anglican vicar as I made my way out. This year, there are ten candidates lined up across the stage facing the audience squeezed into a wooden church hall. The crowd has a very particular strand of rule-bound, suburban radicalism: every mention of ‘revolution’ is cheered, but the audience will not allow proceedings to begin while party signs are blocking the fire exits. Along with Annette, the candidates include Russel Norman, a Tasmanian who relocated to New Zealand to work for the Green Party and now, holding the office of Male Co-leader, campaigns against foreign ownership. He finds himself fighting candidates from the populist Conservative and New Zealand First parties for the xenophobe vote. The Newtown audience thinks I am insufferably right wing but also thinks the same about the Greens and Labour. Dr Norman is accused of dismissing victims of sexual assault. Annette King gets a frosty reception for her party’s track record on Maori issues. I am roundly booed when I say the audience is ‘redistributionist’. More popular are a young man dressed as a shark and representing the Climate Party (his contribution to the debate is ‘learn to swim’) and also the candidate for the Patriotic Revolutionary Front. The PRF wants a benevolent dictatorship and has a leaflet showing a composite picture of Stalin and Einstein as its ideal leader. . .

It’s not just what he says but the way that he says it.

Oh to have the ability to write so eruditely, and also to have been a better Latin scholar.

Can anyone translate his quote (in the paragraph which follows the extract I’ve used) from Horace: parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus ?

I tried Google and got the mountains are in labour, security issues. Even without dim memories of third form Latin I would doubt that is what it means.


Apology for a team

July 23, 2014

Today’s general debate began with some apologies:

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. In the general debate this afternoon I think we should on this occasion start with apologies. I think we should start with apologies. I would like to lead off with a few apologies. * No. 1: I am sorry for being a man. Has that been done before? [Interruption] Oh, OK, I will try this one—I will try another one. I am sorry for having a holiday.

Hon Bill English: That’s been done before, too.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Oh, OK. I am sorry for wearing a red scarf. [Interruption] No. Oh, I know: I am sorry for having a moa resuscitation plan. That has got to be new—that has got to be new. [Interruption] No? Another one for you, Mr Speaker: I am sorry for having a secret trust. That would be—

Hon Bill English: No, that’s been done.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That has been done? I am sorry for not telling you about my secret trust, Mr Speaker. Has that been done? And, most of all, Mr Speaker, I am sorry you found about my secret trust. I have another one: I am sorry for being tricky. That has been done before? Well, we have seen a lot of apologies, but from now on I am going to be straight up. I am going to stick to the Labour knitting. That is what I am going to do, with the exception of this stuff. This train is leaving the station. It has left a few times before, but this time it is definitely leaving the station. This is my team. This is my team, except, to be fair, Shane Jones. He is not on the team any more, no. Dover Samuels—he is not on the team any more. Andrew Little—he is not really on the team any more. Damien O’Connor and Rino Tirikatene—they are not really on the team because they crossed the floor. But aside from Shane Jones, Dover Samuels, Andrew Little, Damien O’Connor, and Rino Tirikatene, this is my team.

Hon Member: What about Annette?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, actually, not Annette. She is not really on the team, either, or Phil, because they work hard. They get out in the country, working hard. Clayton is not really on the team. To be fair, I do not think he has ever been on the team. Trevor is not so much on the team—not really on the team. But, aside from Shane, Dover, Andrew, Damien, Rino, Annette, Phil, Clayton, and Trevor, this is my team. This is my team. Well, actually, you have got to exclude Grant, to be fair, because Grant is not really on my team, or David Parker—he is not on the team—or Chris Hipkins. He is not on it. I am not sure about Stuart Nash. I think he is on the team. He must be on the team because he said: “It wasn’t me.” He said in the * Hawke’s Bay Today that he denies the claim that he criticised Cunliffe, although, on the other hand, he also said this: “I must admit when I read it [the newspaper quoting the party source], apart from the swearing, it sounds a little bit like me.” “It sounded like me.”, Mr Nash said. And he said that he was not the source and that the comments could have come from “any of the 15,000 members who were out putting up hoardings in the rain or delivering pamphlets in the cold or this sort of carry-on”. So this is my team, except for Shane Jones, Dover Samuels, Andrew Little, Damien O’Connor, Rino Tirikatene, Annette King, Phil Goff, Clayton Cosgrove, Trevor Mallard, Grant Robertson, David Parker, Chris Hipkins, Kelvin Davis, Stuart Nash, and the 15,000 members of the Labour Party who would have said what I did not say in the newspaper. That is my team. It is game on—it is game on. The Labour Party is marching to the election, united as a single team. That is what is going on. And, of course, we now have the regional growth policy, which we share with the Greens. The regional growth policy—here it is. It is out today. One, put a capital gains tax on every productive business. Two, have a carbon tax at five times the current price. Three, introduce big levies for the use of fresh water. Four, restore a national awards system, which would force regional employers to pay what they pay in Auckland. Five, stop any more trade deals. Six, clamp down on the dairy industry. Seven, clamp down on the oil and gas industry. And then, the coup de grâce*, , when that has all been done and the regions have all fallen over, is to give them a $200 million slush fund to make them feel better. The Labour Party should apologise for that, as well.


Saying it with flowers

February 20, 2014

Cameron Slater sent Annette King a bunch of flowers for publicising his blog in parliament yesterday.

Her response was less than gracious:

. . . “I’ve always enjoyed receiving flowers, and it was nice to be thanked by Cameron for promoting his blog. But I think his blog must be in financial trouble because it’s the most miserable bunch of flowers I’ve ever received. The flowers will not require me to put them on my Pecuniary Interests register.” . . .

Ms King said it did show that Mr Slater at least had a sense of humour.

Apropos of flowers and humour, Duncan Garner attempted to end Gerry Brownlee feud, sends Valentine’s Day flowers:

The year started sour between Duncan Garner and Minister Of Lots Of Things Gerry Brownlee. The Earthquake Recovery Minister flatly refused to appear on Drive.

When pressed in Wellington, Brownlee replied there was no issue with Garner.

“I think it’s a lover’s tiff, I’m expecting champagne and roses any time,” he smirked.

So today, being Valentine’s Day, Duncan sent him a gift (picture 1 below). Gerry received the present and is very happy about the present.

He has also sent us a picture of him with his gift for Garner. Though, the gift itself is yet to arrive.

Happy Valentine’s Day Gerry!

The photos show the bunch of red roses and box of chocolates Garner sent the Minister and him with the single bloom and heart-shaped chocolate he was sending in return.

 

 


Discrimination should lose when cultures clash

January 5, 2014

Speaker David Carter is  seeking a review of Maori protocols in parliament after two women MPs were asked to move from the front row at a welcome ceremony.

He said he wanted to “modernise” the protocols. “Parliament needs a protocol that is modern and acceptable to a diversified Parliament.”

Parliament’s longest serving woman MP Annette King and her Labour colleague Maryan Street were asked to move from the front bench during a powhiri at the start of the Youth Parliament several months ago.

That prompted the Speaker to begin a process to review protocols that were put in place 15 years ago with the oversight of the Wellington iwi, Te Atiawa. . .

“I think Parliament needs to be in a position where it actually over time develops its own protocol under guidance from Te Atiawa and other iwi,” Mr Carter said.

What Maori do on their own marae is their business.

But when there’s a cultural clash in parliament, discrimination should lose.

New Zealand led the world in giving women the vote in the 19th century it is unacceptable that they are not treated equally in parliament in the 21st century.

Nineteenth century attitudes to Maori aren’t tolerated in the 21st century, those old attitudes to women shouldn’t be either.


Urewera Operation Eight still before courts

March 26, 2012

Former Police Minister Annette King was interviewed about the Urewera trial on Q&A yesterday.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson wasn’t impressed:

This morning Labour MP Annette King appeared on television and made allegations about the Operation Eight investigation which occurred when she was Police Minister.

There are three on-going matters in the trials arising out of that operation:

1. The defendants’ sentencing on the firearms charges where guilty verdicts were returned;

2. The possibility of the defendants appealing those guilty verdicts; and

3. The Crown Solicitor’s decision on whether or not to seek a re-trial on the charges where no verdict was returned.

It is extremely disappointing a former minister of the Police would make these comments on television when she knows full well the Court process must run its course without political interference.

Government ministers will be making absolutely no comment while these matters are unresolved.

It is inappropriate for anyone, but particularly for politicians, to comment publicly on matters that are before the Courts.

Quite.


Sideshows still going on

December 15, 2011

One of the problems which dogged Phil Goff’s leadership of the Labour Party was sideshows by members of caucus which took the focus off him.

The change of leader hasn’t changed that.

When a new leader takes charge it’s both good manners and good sense for the rest of the party to give him some clear air to get all the positive media focus he can get.

Yet just one day after David Shearer became Labour’s leader its immediate-past deputy, Annette King was making news:

Her parliamentary ambitions are over, but Annette King may now turn her thoughts to the Wellington mayoralty.  

It’s possible she was just responding to a question from a reporter but even so she could have waited to talk about that and  should have waited for what came next:

. . .  but there is a hint of bitterness.

“It’s interesting that, when I read the history of all the people who are responsible for all of our party, that somehow I never get mentioned.

“I actually chaired it all, pushed most of it through, but never mind, it’s always men that get the greater accolades here.”

 The Labour caucus had been more united in recent years than she could remember and Mr Shearer would ease concerns about divisions through the appointment of portfolios, she said.

United in their divisions perhaps, including the one between the men and women.

As for easing concerns about divisions through the appointment of portfolios, is that a not too veiled threat about the consequences should she not get the appointment she wants?

Update:

Adolf points out in a comment that David CUnliffe isn’t playing nicely either:

Defeated Labour leadership contender David Cunliffe will not say if he will accept an invitation to be on the party’s front bench, as he needs time to “work out what’s in my gut”.

What’s in his gut, could it be bile?


Spot the leader – Updated

August 25, 2011

The Listener has been comparing political party websites.

It found 13 pictures of John Key on the front page of National’s

Labour’s is topped by a video of David Cunliffe and you have to scroll right down to the bottom to find a head and shoulders of Phil Goff beside Annette King, David Parker and Cunliffe.

How do other parties feature their leaders?

The Maori Party has photos of it’s president Pem Bird beside co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia just below the masthead.

United Future has plenty of mentions of Peter Dunne but just two small identical head and shoulder shots of him.

Act has a video featuring Former leader Rodney Hide at the top of it’s front page and no other photos at all.

The Mana Party has changing photos some of which show Hone Harawira, although none identify him as leader.

And the Green Party has a link to it’s MPs but no photos and no names.

Update:Stuaker left this comment:

Stuaker says:
August 25, 2011 at 1:40 pm  (Edit)
http://www.greens.org.nz/ is the actual Greens website, which has photos of the co-leaders, as well as other MPs

But when I clicked on it and also typed in the address and still got to The page I linked to i.greens.org.nz

UPDATE 2: It’s an iPad problem – when I tried this link on a PC it worked and shows chagning photos in the masthead which include co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman.


Time to spend or save?

January 23, 2011

Finance Minister Bill English has been quite clear – there is no money for an election year spend-up.

Prime Minister John Key is equally sure that tax and spend policies aren’t what the country needs. The message in an exclusive interview with the NBR  he reinforces that message:

An even tighter rein on new spending than the current $1.1 billion cap is likely over the next few years, Prime Minister John Key says.

A much more aggressive approach to lowering New Zealand’s high national debt levels appears to be under way, with an emphasis on getting government spending under more control as well as on pushing greater private savings. . .

 Mr Key said that as the economy recovers this year there is room to push harder on lowering government spending as a proportion of the economy.

Contrast that with Labour. The first policy announcement for the year came from Annette King who promised to extend paid parental leave and  increase Working for Families’ payments.

How can a party which wants to be taken  seriously ignore the need to reduce government spending? And why would a party which purports to represent poorer people start the year with policies most likely to benefit middle and upper income earners?

If ever there was an election when the party which plays Scrooge is likely to benefit it is this one.

When households are spending less and saving more they’re hardly likely to be receptive to a party which shows itself unwilling to demonstrate similar restraint.


Leadership of the past

November 13, 2008

The ODT editorial is headlined Labour’s odd couple  and while it acknowledges the strengths of Phil Goff and Annette King, it also sees weanesses:

Mr Goff is justly proud of his blue collar constituency and his representation of it, but he also has a first class honours degree in political studies and worked for his education at hard manual labour.

He is no ivory tower liberal intellectual; indeed, one view of his appointment as leader might be as a desire by the Labour caucus for a more conservative party, closer to its roots.

The elevation to deputy leader of Annette King – another bright spark but of similarly conservative background – adds authority to the argument.

Both are confident, forceful debaters in Parliament, have succeeded in tough portfolios, and will ensure the tyros on the Government benches face a vigorous Opposition.

But Mr Goff is 55 and Mrs King 61.

When the next general election is scheduled to be held, they will not be able to be represent the fresh young face of Labour to the electorate.

John Key and Bill English will only be 50 and many on National’s front bench will be younger.

More than half the electorate will be similarly younger.

The decision by Helen Clark (58) to resign immediately as leader, and for Dr Cullen (64) to follow suit, cannot be regarded as other than actions motivated principally by self-interest, and humanly understandable.

To give them credit their immediate resignations gave a clean break, prevented the instability which would have come from the limbo between the election loss and inevitable leadership change and also gave Labour some positive oxygen in the news.

But in three years’ time, let alone in six, the causes which motivated their idealism and political careers (likewise those of Mr Goff and Mrs King) – anti-war activism, feminism, environmentalism, anti-nuclearism, opposition to apartheid, the rise of the Maori rights movement – will have ceased to have resonance either to a regenerated Labour Party or to the wider public.

There will be an entirely new range of concerns to keep the 30 and 40-somethings interested in politics.

In Miss Clark’s case, especially, there seems to have been no prior effort made by the caucus or the party to take the time to carefully assess the election prospects, consider the possibility of loss, and frame a new leadership to take Labour into the future and match National on its own terms.

Such a change should have been planned 12 months ago, and time given for both wings of the party to mull over the options.

Could that ever be done without destabilising the caucus?

Nor does the Goff/King leadership represent a response to the revitalising of party membership, which has been taking place these past two or three years, now reflected in the 13 new MPs elected on Saturday.

Mr Goff and Mrs King, able as they are, echo a leadership of the past 15 years, not of the future.

Positioning David Cunliffe as the party’s finance spokesman implies that he may well eventually become the leader, in the absence of Steve Maharey.

If the argument that Miss Clark and Dr Cullen’s abrupt resignations were intended to ensure Mr Goff and Mrs King were elected as some kind of interim strategy, then Miss Clark has achieved what she intended in terms of who should succeed her.

In this context, Mrs King can only be regarded as a stop-gap deputy.

Mr Goff will seize the change he has been waiting for and will make the most of it: he will be a formidable Leader of the Opposition as the new Government settles in, and if National and Mr Key are unable to convincingly shape a coalition that reflects prospective New Zealand within the next three years, he may well have his best chance for the country’s top job.

But leadership of a political party is not just a matter of appearance; the notorious factionalism which the past deeply divided the Left has under Miss Clark’s warrant been contained.

She made a practice which has served the party well of promoting those who posed a threat to her, or otherwise bringing them inside the executive, rather than giving them room to plot outside.

There is no shadow of doubt, too, that the past nine years have seen a virtually leak-free Labour caucus, so Mr Goff and Mrs King have inherited a well-disciplined group.

Keeping it that way will be a challenge, but the fact that both Miss Clark and Dr Cullen will still be present is a form of guarantee for the new management team.

It is important for democracy and the country that a strong Opposition is available to test the Government.

Mr Goff and Mrs King have been given a chance to prove it, but the choice of them is one of exigency rather than succession planning.

It’s not their ages in itself because people a lot older than 55 and 61 could be intelligent and energetic leaders. It’s that the causes which motivated them are the causes of the past and after a relentlessly negative election campaign, which failed, Labour needs to be looking positively to the future.


State funding on electoral review agenda

September 5, 2008

Labour and it’s allies are determined to introduce state funding of political parties.

Among the terms of reference for the expert panel  to review electoral administration and political party funding are:

The review will examine the current system of election funding and the question of introducing a system of state funding of political parties in New Zealand, including:

  • a review of international funding models;
  • issues with the current system of funding elections and political parties;
  • how any recommended changes to funding would impact on other Parliamentary funding;
  • what level, if any, of state funding of political parties is appropriate;
  • how any such funding should be allocated between political parties;
  • what constraints, if any, there should be regarding what such funding for political parties could be spent on;
  • whether such political party funding should incorporate, or be additional to funding for election programmes set out in Part 6 of the Broadcasting Act;
  • the relationship between state funding levels and rules regarding private funding of political parties.

Annette King announced the panel members today. They are: Otago University associate law professor Andrew Geddis who will be chair; Professor Stephen Levine, head of Wellington University School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International relations; and Dr Jean Drage from Canterbury Unviersity’s poltical science department.

Ms King said that during the first stage of the review, the Panel will review the administration of the electoral system, including the structure of the electoral agencies.

“The second stage includes the establishment of a Citizens’ Forum to ensure public participation in the review process. This group will include citizens selected from each electorate in New Zealand. They will be tasked with examining the funding of elections and political parties.

“The Expert Panel will assist during the Citizens’ Forum learning phase, and will prepare background information on the issues the forum will consider. The work of the Citizens’ Forum and its report will inform the Expert Panel’s final recommendations to the Minister of Justice.”

Ms King said the Expert Panel and Citizens’ Forum will provide an independent, non-political perspective on the reform options. “The independent nature of the process should give the public confidence in the outcome. The two stages of the Review, including the Panel’s work and the public participation process, will be completed by the end of October 2009.”

I don’t know the panel members and make no comment on their abilities, but yet again Labour has failed to consult other parties about the appointments. Yet again they are taking a party partisan apporach to a constitutional matter which ought to have cross-party support.

And while it may have escaped Labour’s notice there is an election in less than two months which might bring a change of government.


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.


Labour’s Next Leader

July 8, 2008

Dene Mackenzine looks at the people who could be the next Labour leader:

The contest to replace Prime Minister Helen Clark might be less brutal and more clear cut than previous leadership challenges, depending on the outcome of the election this year.

Less brutal leadership change? Now there’s an oxymoron.

If, as Miss Clark continues to believe, Labour can cobble together a coalition government, then she remains safe and can leave in her own time, having taken Labour to a historic fourth-term win.

But if Labour loses and the election result is close, party sources believe Trade Minister Phil Goff is the principal candidate for the job.

He is seen as a safe replacement who would not shift Labour markedly away from its centre-left position.

Although he is tainted with having been an MP in the Rogernomics era, many of Labour’s supporters are too young to remember Sir Roger Douglas and his ideas in the David Lange-led government.

If a week is a long time in politics, two decades is ancient history.

Police Minister Annette King is seen as the logical deputy leader for Mr Goff, to give the party a gender balance and an Auckland-Wellington split.

Pity about the mess she created in health, the EFA and last week’s Road User Charge debacle. And let’s not forget blaming crime on the full moon and sunny weather.

The last four opinion polls published show National’s support at more than 50% and its lead over Labour at more than 20 points.

If the polls hold up, Labour could lose up to 18 MPs, including electorate members.

Polls usually tighten before an election – although this time Labour might be where National was in 2002.

If the defeat is not too broad, Mr Goff will be challenged by Health Minister David Cunliffe and Labour Minister Trevor Mallard.

Both would bring with them an image problem.

Mr Cunliffe was identified early in his career as a potential leader, but has earned the disdain of some colleagues for his “superior” attitude.

That has mellowed somewhat and as health minister, and also as communications minister, he has shown a preparedness to take a hands-on approach to his portfolios.

But over at Craig Foss we see that those hands haven’t always done the right thing.

However, that’s another story so back to the ODT:

Mr Mallard was demoted for punching National Party MP Tau Henare, but retains strong friendships in the Labour caucus and is deputy finance minister.

As a former chief whip, he knows how to gather the numbers for a close vote.

A decimation of Labour will see other candidates chancing their arm in the belief that it will take Labour six years, or two terms, to win office.

Energy Minister David Parker and Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove will mount challenges.

Neither is particularly popular with colleagues, and Mr Cosgrove will be a fiercer competitor than Mr Parker.

Mr Cosgrove has been a member of the party since he was 14, and is a protege of former prime minister Mike Moore.

Mr Parker is seen more in the mould of former prime minister Sir Wallace (Bill) Rowling, and would offer a leadership style out of step with modern politics.

That’s the one who looked more surprised than anyone else when he won Otago in 2002 and few were surprised when he lost it to Jacqui Dean three years later.

Also in the mix at this level will be Building and Construction Minister Shane Jones, a Maori MP of whom was expected great things.

He is said to be “hugely bright” but pompous and obviously ambitious.

Not a good combination if you’re trying to win a leaderhsip contest.

Clark successors?

•Labour wins: Helen Clark stays as prime minister.

•Labour loses narrowly: Phil Goff takes over early next year.

•Labour loses moderately: Mr Goff, David Cunliffe and Trevor Mallard fight it out.

•Labour thumped: Free for all, with David Parker, Clayton Cosgrove and Shane Jones fancying their chances.

All very interesting, but the really fascinating point is that this discussion is being had at all. A few months ago leadership change woudn’t have been on anyone’s radar.


King’s record not as good as reputation

July 2, 2008

Annette King has generally been regarded as a “hard working and competent Minsiter”, but her record isn’t as good as her reputation:

* She created the mess in the health system that was passed to Pete Hodgson and then David Cunliffe.

* She presided over the Electoral Finance Bill & her only defence of the Act is attacks on Bill English.

*  And now she’s the cause of the truckers’ protest which is likely to bring the centres of all the main cities to a standstill on Friday morning.


Govt Buys Rail – Road User Charges Rise

July 2, 2008

Is it just a conincidence that road user charges  went up on the day the Government is congratulating itself on buying back the railways and putting Jim Bolger, the man who presided over the “failed policies of the 90s” in charge of it?

Trucking companies are furious after the increase was announced on Monday night and came into effect yesterday.

Road Transport Forum New Zealand chief executive Tony Friedlander said the group, which represents about 80% of the country’s commercial road transport operators, last year sought assurances from Transport Minister Annette King that operators would be notified of increased charges.

The forum received written confirmation members would be informed of changes.

“It is not just the increase. It’s that it came without notice having received assurances. On top of the highest fuel prices in history, increases to the accident compensation levy and wage interest costs, it will do extreme damage to industry.

“Members have said they will have to pass costs as soon as they can.

Producers, processors and consumers are already suffering from steep rises in fuel prices. The increased tax on diesel powered vheicles and others weighing more than 3.5 tonnes  increases the cost of business and living.

The increase was announced in a statement posted on the Government’s website on Monday night. No media statements were issued.

“The timing of this increase and the way it has been done mean the minister could not have done more damage to our industry if she had deliberately tried,” Mr Friedlander said.

“She should not underestimate how angry our members and the industry are.”

Mr Friedlander said the increase would inevitably mean higher costs for businesses and higher prices in supermarkets.

However, Ms King said the impact would be “relatively insignificant” and she did not expect any noticeable effect on consumer prices.

Is Labour trying to self-destruct or are Ministers so out of touch they don’t understand the financial strain businesses and households are facing? When your budget is already overstretched you notice every cent.

Ms King said the increases were introduced to defray costs of the national land transport programme. Under the programme, $2.7 billion was allocated for transport activities in 2008-09. This included about $791 million for state highway construction, $325 million for passenger transport services and infrastructure and $273 million for road policing.

“Without all road users paying their fair share, this level of investment cannot continue to be sustained,” she said.

Does any of that passenger transport component include the trains and ferries her Government just bought? Does it matter that in the provinces we don’t have passenger trains and only cities have buses?

Charges for a 44-tonne truck and trailer unit which travelled 100,000km a year would increase to about $56,000, about $4000 more for operators, Mr Friedlander said.

Road user charges for transport operators in New Zealand were already 200% higher than those paid by Australian businesses using comparable trucks, he said.

Another day, another tax increase, another reason why living or doing business in Australia becomes more attractive.

Bus and Coach Association chief executive Raewyn Bleakley said members were “shocked and angry”. The “highest level of feedback” about the charges had been from tourism operators, she said. “Tourist operators negotiate rates for services months in advance, and this increase will leave them screaming. This will be noticeable in places like Queenstown.”

You can’t take a train or ferry to Queenstown. But this wouldn’t have anything at all to do with the fact that the Government spent $690m buying the railways, would it?

[Update: have just found a comment on Keeping Stock from getstaffed raising this issue]


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