Divided they’re falling

27/06/2014

Two Labour MPs crossed the floor to support the windblown timber bill being debated under urgency yesterday:

Damien O’Connor and Rino Tirikatene backed the Government’s bill to allow the retrieval of trees felled in Cyclone Ita from some parts of the West Coast conservation estate, while their colleagues opposed it.

O’Connor attacked the bill during the debate on the first reading, but the debate was completed by 72 to 46 with National, NZ First, Maori Party, United Future, Brendan Horan and two Labour votes in favour.

At the beginning of the debate Conservation Minister Nick Smith said the damage done by Cyclone Ita was substantial and an environmental tragedy. It left a dilemma about what to do with the wood.

The West Coast Wind-blown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill
had to be passed urgently as the beech which could be recovered would be too rotten by spring, other wood would last longer and this could be recovered over the five year life of the bill.

It would have been complex to allow the timber retrieval under existing rules and the bill would exclude the high conservation value areas such as National Parks, but it would be allowed in some of the conservation estate. There would be conditions over safety and environmental protections.

Smith said arguments the removal of timber would prevent regeneration was wrong because only a small amount would be recovered. He said Labour was split on the issue and claimed West Coast MP Damien O’Connor could cross the floor.

The wood would provide jobs in the West Coast, Smith said.

Labour’s Ruth Dyson said the bill was not a serious attempt to help West Coast, but a political stunt. The Conservation Act provided for storm felled timber to remain on the ground, so forests could regenerate.

If the bill would provide long term jobs on the West Coast, Labour would support it, but there was no commitment in the Bill to this.

Dyson said the bill would rule out Resource Management Act provisions and it would “devastate” the timber sector who had permits to log native timber as the market would be flooded.

West Coast MP Damien O’Connor said he would support the bill if it guaranteed the jobs created by the log retrieval would stay on the West Coast. The Government wanted the logs exported from his electorate, he said.

There was potential from the logs on the ground, but it would be dangerous to retrieve and much of it would have to be helicoptered out.

He had some “interesting and robust” debates with his colleagues; he believed the logs could be removed without environmental damage. O’Connor said he believed only the rimu would be worth extracting and they would be extracted by logging crews from outside the West Coast and processed elsewhere.

The Greens totally opposed the bill as it believed all the conservation estate should be protected, Eugenie Sage said.

NZ First MP Richard Prosser said the bill should not be passed under Urgency, but it would be supported to committee stage where it wanted changes to made. NZ First wanted the jobs created to go to New Zealand companies and preferably West Coast ones with no logs exported and 25% of royalties to go back to the region. It also wanted the RMA to apply to the operations.

Maori Party Leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the cyclone had caused terrible damage, but this was nature at work. Local Maori felt the felled timber should be used without wasting it. The timber would not be taken from National Parks or other high value conservation land and the conditions would ensure a small proportion of logs were removed in a safe and environmentally friendly way.

After the vote on the first reading MPs moved immediately to the second reading.

The bill completed its second reading by 65 to 51 with National, Maori Party, United Future, Brendan Horan and two Labour votes in favour.

NZ First reversed its initial support in the first reading. . . . 

O’Connor  noisily declined a place on Labour’s list before the last election, he’s back on it this time but if he’s prepared to demonstrate the internal divisions in the party so dramatically he would have been better to keep off it again.

The two Labour votes weren’t needed to pass the Bill so the floor-crossing was playing to the gallery in the electorates they hope will vote for them.

That might help them stay in parliament but confirmation of disunity  will make it more difficult for them, and their party, to get into government.

National is united and standing tall, Labour is divided and falling in the polls:

Support for the Labour Party has dropped 2.2 percent to 27.3 percent in the latest 3 News-Reid Research poll – lower than its share of the vote at the last election.

The poll surveyed 750 eligible New Zealander voters between June 19 and 25, amid the controversy over businessman Donghua Liu’s alleged donations to Labour.

Labour leader David Cunliffe received his lowest rating since taking over the role in November last year. Only 26.3 percent of those surveyed think he is performing well as leader of the Opposition.

National is meanwhile polling at 49.7 percent, down 0.6 percent from the last poll – but still indicating it could govern alone with a 63-seat share of a 122-seat Parliament.

John Key has been given his highest rating as preferred Prime Minister since November 2011, with 46.7 percent support.

On this question Mr Cunliffe is polling in single figures, down 0.2 percent to 9.6 percent.

Mr Key has also received his highest rating since November 2011 when it comes to people who think he is a capable leader – 82.3 percent say he is.

NZ First received only 3.6 percent of the vote, dropping 2 percent from the last poll and placing them under the 5 percent party vote threshold for getting into Parliament.

However the Green Party are up 2.5 percent to 12.7 percent, and the Conservative Party are back up at 2.8 percent – equalling their highest-ever poll result so far.

Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom’s project Internet Mana debuts at 1.8 percent.

The full results are here and give a total of 69 seats to National and its coalition partners and only 53 to the combined left.

It is very unlikely the results will be this good for National in the election but with less than three months until the election there’s not much time for Labour to get better.

And if they keep looking divided they’re more likely to continue falling than start climbing.


Petering out

25/05/2014

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.


More bad blood spilt

22/05/2014

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.


Horan has to act

18/05/2014

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 . . .

15/05/2014

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.


Fixed term pay for MPs proposed

23/10/2013

Independent MP Brendan Horan wants MPs’ pay to be fixed for a parliamentary term:

. . . “Back in December I promised that I would put forward an amendment in a bid to get Parliament to agree that salaries would be set by the Remuneration Authority before the next General Election. The salaries would apply for the three year term of each Parliament.

“Now that the Government has given the bill its second reading, I have formally introduced the Supplementary Order Paper

“I have written to all parties in Parliament seeking their support,” said Brendan Horan.

If adopted, the new law would still require the Remuneration Authority to independently set the salaries of MPs. The difference is that the determination would be published about three months before the election.

“That way, every candidate running for Parliament and all voters will know the remuneration of MPs for the next three years. Voters will choose their MPs, and we’ll have an end to the spectacle of Christmas pay rises,” said Brendan Horan.

It’s a good idea but Horan might have difficulty getting other MPs to accept it.

 


The enemy of their enemy is Green’s new friend

13/03/2013

The Green Party and New Zealand First have little in common except their opposition to National and the possibility they might be in coalition with Labour.

The divide between the two parties has widened with the Greens agreeing to cast Independent MP Brendan Horan’s vote when he isn’t physically in the debating chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters says the move by the Greens to help Horan can unfortunately be seen as legitimising his place in Parliament.

“There is no legitimate place in Parliament for Horan, now or in the future.

“And the Greens are wrong to say that his situation is similar to their exercising Hone Harawira’s proxy.

“Mr Harawira represents an electorate.

“Horan represents no one. For obvious reasons, New Zealand First does not want him and he should have resigned his list seat. . .

Peters might question the legitimacy of Horan’s status but his right to remain and MP is sanctioned by MMP.

A legal right is different from an ethical one, though.

Horan is only in parliament because he was on New Zealand First’s list and having left the party it’s not just Peters who thinks he should resign.

However, the Green Party, which likes to think it’s more ethical than others, isn’t above using his vote when it suits.

The enemy of their enemy is their new friend.


Horan 1 – Peters 0

12/12/2012

Brendan Horan has been summarily dismissed from New Zealand First but he’s not going quietly and he’s not going to show any mercy to his former party if Question Time yesterday is anything to go by.

He asked a supplementary question to one on immigration posed by his former leader:

Brendan Horan: Does the Prime Minister agree that natural justice and due process are relevant in the administration of the Immigration Act?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do, and I think it is important to be consistent when one is applying that. I know that selection of people when they come to New Zealand for visas is difficult, but when 171,000 a year are coming, that is really challenging. But when it is one of eight, you would think you would get it right.

Horan has had time to learn from Peters who won’t be at all impressed by the antics of his pupil.


Horan expelled from NZ First

04/12/2012

Brendan Horan has been expelled from New Zealand First because Winston Peters no longer has confidence in him.

Peters told MPs in a statement to the House that he had recently received “substantial’’ evidence and while it was “deeply regrettable’’, he no longer had confidence in Horan and he would be expelled from the NZ First caucus.

Peters said he believed Horan should now resign from Parliament and because of the nature of the allegations he intended making no further comment on the affair.

Peters has known about the allegations for some time but has covered himself by saying he has recently received ‘substantial evidence’.

Horan’s Queen’s Council has released a statement:

1. As a result of the death of Mr Horan’s mother various issues have arisen concerning the administration of her estate. Those matters are private and personal to the family. Unfortunately some persons, for their own reasons, have chosen to make them public.

2. Mr Horan has been the subject of unwarranted and unfair publicity which has implied that he is dishonest and has stolen from his mother. There can be no other interpretation of that publicity.

3. Mr Horan completely denies any suggestion that he has stolen from his mother or misappropriated her money or assets. He regrets that a private and personal family matter has been made public and his only wish is that the issues concerning his mother’s estate are resolved quickly and properly. He invites any investigation into his mother’s affairs and is confident that any proper investigation will exonerate him entirely.

4. Mr Horan will make no personal comment at all on these matters but has instructed that this release be made on his behalf. As far as Mr Horan is concerned the sooner these matters are resolved the better as he will then be able to return to his work as a Member of Parliament to concentrate on fulfilling his duties without the distraction of false and unjustified allegations.

Paul Mabey QC

If my understanding of MMP is correct, expulsion from the party doesn’t mean Horan has to leave parliament and NZ First won’t get a replacement MP until, and unless, he does.


Political interest trumps natural justice

30/11/2012

The first editor for whom I worked warned me that while family feuds might be of interest to the prurient they were rarely of sufficient merit to warrant publication.

He would have been at best bemused and more likely appalled that accusations over Brendan Horan and his late mother’s money were splashed over the front page of a national paper, even if he is an MP.

His party leader, Winston Peters, has sent him home to sort it out.

Why only when when Peters has know about the accusation for months?

Yes, Horan has been caught up in a family feud over his mother’s will.

That could be viewed as a personal issue – whereby Horan should be left to sort it out on his personal time and keep doing his job.

But by standing Horan down, Peters has elevated the issue to a public one.

Remember Peters was told about this two months ago – and has done absolutely nothing about it.

He says he’s got no evidence from Horan’s siblings proving the allegations about missing money from the mother – but neither has he got any evidence from Horan disproving it.

But Peters only acted to stand Horan down when the story broke on Sunday.

That’s because he doesn’t like the publicity – given Winston Peters’ elderly constituency, he certainly does not want to be seen to be propping up an MP who has been dipping into his elderly mother’s money.

Political interest trumps natural justice now the story is public.The idea that people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty doesn’t seem to matter.


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