Political playground

April 8, 2014

Trans Tasman takes politicians back to school:

Hone Harawira, one suspects, used to specialise in Chinese burns and other playground tortures when he was at school. The Mana Party leader has the kind of air about him redolent of such schoolyard antics. John Key was probably the cheeky kid who cracked enough jokes to be popular with the other kids but who nevertheless did his homework assiduously and kept on authority’s good side. David Cunliffe was the greasy goody two shoes, bright, geeky and probably a bit of a sneak. Peter Dunne – swotty pants. Russel Norman – ditto, but a more argumentative version of the same. Metiria Turei: the slightly flaky party girl (a bit like Paula Bennett, in fact).

We had classic playground diversion stuff this week when it was suggested Harawira is the lone electorate MP Kim Dotcom has signed up to his party. It’s not me, sir, Harawira protested – pointing indignantly to the class swot Peter Dunne sitting quietly in the corner. Key of course has rubbished the idea his support partner might be in talks with the Internet pirate who has promised to bring the Prime Minister down. “Not a dog show,” the PM laughed, which prompted a few to remember the Country Calender spoof about the remote controlled sheep dogs, and to ponder Dunne’s resemblance to a slightly affronted Scottish Rough Collie.

Former Labour leader David Shearer – the decent kid  everyone used to pick on – is the other candidate who has been suggested, but this looks even less likely than Dunne. Dotcom has historically held a somewhat awkward relationship with the truth which has occasionally brought him to the attention of the authorities. This looks like another of those occasions. . .

An awkward relationship with the truth, may or may not apply to the 2000 members his Internet Party claims to have.

It’s applied to register as a political party.

. . . Following registration the Internet Party will need to submit its rules providing for the democratic participation of members and candidate selection within the time period specified by law. . .

It’s constitution is here but Russell Brown raises questions on whether they allow for democratic participation by members:

1. There is a special role called ‘party visionary.’ This is defined as Kim Dotcom, or a person selected by Kim Dotcom. THis visionary has the automatic right to sit and vote on the party’s executive and policy committee and cannot be kicked out by the membership.
2. To stand for election to the party’s executive, in addition to being nominated by current members of the party you’ve got to be nominated by a current member of the National Executive. This locks in the incumbents.
3. The party’s executive has nearly unfettered control over the list: they put together an initial list, send it out to the membership to vote on, and then they ultimately decide what the final list should be having regard to the member’s choices.
4. The national executive chooses who stands in what electorate. No local member input at all.
5. The party secretary has a very important role (eg they get to solely arbitrate over disputes; they set out the process for amending the constitution, they decide the process for electing office holders; they’re a voting member of the National Executive). The only problem is they’re legally an employee of the party’s shell company, meaning that it is very hard for the members to exercise democratic control over the secretary (you can’t just fire an employee).
6. On a related note: the way the Internet Party is structured is so all its assets are kept in a shell company (Internet Party Assets Inc), away from the party itself. I don’t know what the purpose of this one was TBH. (the rules of this company were meant to be attached to the constitution in a schedule, but as far as I can see they’re not there)
7. They’re using the old ‘vote in Parliamentary caucus’ decides leader method. To be fair, most parties use this though. There is a bit of a quirk though that until we know their list we don’t know who their party leader is, because if they’re outside of Parliament their party leader is just whoever is at number 1 of the list. (I also note there’s no way to remove a leader if they don’t have representation in Parliament).”

Not so much of, for and by the members as of, for and by Dotcom.

But the silver lining to the Dotcom cloud is that every bit of media attention he’s getting – and he’s getting a lot – is less for the rest of the opposition.


Schadenfreude

March 5, 2014

David Cunliffe’s many mistakes over the use of a trust to hide donations to help  his leadership campaign have provided his opponents with the opportunity to accuse him of all sorts of things, including hypocrisy.

Probably none relishes this more keenly than John Banks who can be forgiven for more than a wee bit of schadenfreude:

ACT MP John Banks labelled Mr Cunliffe and former leader David Shearer, who initially failed to declare an overseas bank account, as hypocrites.

“These are the same people who paraded in the house as paragons of virtue and railed against me day after day, week after week and month after month. They should look at themselves – these people are hypocrites.” . . .

Duncan Garner also employs the h word:

. . . David Cunliffe is a former high-flying business consultant – his wife is a top lawyer – they know how these things work. His friends are business people. His wife knew about it and kept all this secret. How on earth did she think they were going to get away with this approach? Their collective judgement on this is woeful.

Where was he when Labour rallied against National’s use of trusts to fund its many elections campaigns? It’s why Labour changed the law and brought in the Electoral Finance Law. Was he not in the Parliament at the time? No, he was there. Did he speak up against National’s use of secret trusts? Oh yes he did.

Labour politicians of all shapes and sizes criticised National for months for receiving secret money. Cunliffe was in there, boots-’n’-all. Trevor Mallard went further and claimed there was a ‘secret American bag-man.’ It was never proved.

I’ll never forget Labour climbing into National over electoral finances. Now Cunliffe looks like a complete hypocrite despite the apology. National has every right to pile into him on this. Just like Labour piled into National over secret trusts and campaign donations.

I’m starting to wonder just who Cunliffe is. What does he stand for? Is he anti-business or pro-business? Does he care about the poor? Or hang out with the rich? My big question really is this: Who is the real David Cunliffe?

Is he a fake?

That’s an f word no politician can afford to have directed at them, especially when more than half his caucus will also be feeling more than a wee bit of  schadenfreude.


Green policy radical red

January 27, 2014

Labour’s former leader David Shearer has realised the faults in his proposal for free breakfasts in school:

. . . Is it right to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on to every low-decile school in the form of a food hand-out?

There’s an old saying: give someone a fish and it will feed them for a day; teach someone to fish and it will feed them for a lifetime.

Of course, we all agree that no child should be hungry at school. But what’s missing is a programme that will not only fix that but also improve nutrition and ensure self-reliance.

Before coming into politics I ran huge feeding programmes for starving kids, including one for 30,000 children in Somalia.

Without that food, those children would have died. But the programme was always designed to be temporary. As soon as the crisis passed, the families moved on, relying on themselves.

My fear is that we will institutionalise dependence through relying solely on a feeding programme. We need to be far more forward-looking. . .

Unfortunately Labour’s potential coalition partner hasn’t seen the light.

The party’s policy announced yesterday is to provide:

. . . 1.     A dedicated School Hub Coordinator ($28.5 million per annum)
The Hubs Coordinator will work for the school to recruit adult and community educators, early childhood, social and health services and explore other opportunities to develop a unique hub in conjunction with the school and its community.
 
2.     Free afterschool and holiday care programmes ($10 million per annum)
We’ll provide free after-school care and holiday programmes for every child at decile 1 to 4 schools, and we will expand access to Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) low income subsidies to children at decile 5-10 schools.
 
3.     A national school lunch fund ($40 million per annum)
The Fund will make lunch available at all decile 1 to 4 primary and intermediate schools, but will be available to other schools based on need.
 
4.     Dedicated school nurses in decile 1-4 schools ($11.6 million per annum)
School nurses will deliver primary health care to children and their families in the school environment where they are known and trusted. . .

 Not only have the Greens not taken note of Shearer’s concerns, they haven’t done their homework on what support is already available:

Education Minister Hekia Parata says the Green Party appeared to be completely unaware of what happens every day in schools up and down the country when it wrote its latest policy ideas.

“We already have around 300 nurses working with virtually every school in the country and with a particular focus on low decile-schools.

“We already provide social workers for every decile 1 to 3 primary school in the country, under the Social Workers in Schools scheme.

“There are already a number of schools operating as community hubs, so it’s not a new idea, but it’s also not a concept that should be forced on every school.

“With Fonterra and Sanitarium we already provide a breakfast in schools programme five mornings a week to any school that wants it.

“We have increased our funding to KidsCan who provide services like raincoats and shoes for children and provide school lunch packs from donations.

“We already subsidise after-school care and holiday care for about 50,000 children, with assistance targeted at low-income families.

“We are already investing $1.5 billion in early childhood education, up from $860 million in 2007/08. Participation in early childhood education has risen to almost 96 per cent and we are focusing on improving participation amongst the most vulnerable groups.

“The Greens should do their homework. They are clearly unaware of all the things the Government is doing in this area, and they are also clearly in denial that the biggest influence on children’s achievement is quality teaching, says Ms Parata. 

“Quality teaching raises achievement for kids from all schools, no matter what their decile ranking, which is why we announced our big new investment on Thursday to raise teaching practice and strengthen school leadership.

“If the Greens really cared about getting better results in education they would back that policy instead of opposing it, and they would do the work to understand what is already happening in terms of providing additional support for children in school.”

Steven Joyce put it more succinctly:

Free milk and breakfasts (paid for by Fonterra and Sanitarium) are given to any schools which want it – and not all do.

Among those which don’t are some decile 1 -4 schools who will have publicly funded lunches foisted upon them.

Other support already provided is targeted at those in need.

In spite of the danger Shearer has seen, the Green Party will use public money to fund policies which institutionalise dependence, waste money where it’s not needed, foist food on schools that don’t want it and treat some of the symptoms but do nothing to address the underlying causes of the problems.


No bang, just recycled whimper

January 23, 2014

Labour and its leader finished 2013 having made no real progress in the polls in months.

They’d said and done nothing to excite people as they headed on holiday making it essential that they started the year with a bang.

Instead of that Cunliffe delivered a recycled whimper.

Whoever came up with this strategy needs to do some serious rethinking.

All it’s done is put the focus on policies which failed three years ago, remind us Cunliffe was the Finance spokesman when they were developed, and provide the opportunity to question the party’s grasp of economics.


Labour to stick with tax and spend prescription

January 22, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe has ditched the party policy to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables and exempt the first $5,000 of income from tax.

The GST proposal was never going to have a significant influence on the price of fresh produce and it would have complicated what is an enviably simple tax.

Cunliffe’s predecessor David Shearer had made this decision when he was leader.

Exempting the first $5000 of income from tax would have reduced churn for poorer people who get it back through programmes like Working for Families but it would also have helped the rich as well as the poor which would be anathema to Labour.

The one redeeming feature of both policies was that they were reducing taxes which would have been a pleasant change for that party.

The reason for the policy change shows Labour hasn’t changed:

The Labour Party is ditching two of its flagship tax initiatives from the last election, giving itself an extra $1.5 billion for alternative policy promises.

That’s our money and shows Labour is sticking to its old focus on tax and spend policies.


Strong finish for National

December 21, 2013

The latest  Herald-DigiPoll shows a strong finish for National and holds little comfort for Labour:

Labour’s poll support has slipped after an initial surge following David Cunliffe’s election as leader, the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey shows.

The Maori Party would hold the balance of power if the figures were translated to an election result.

With the left and right blocs fairly evenly split, it could be a close election next year.

Neither National nor Labour would be able to form a government without the Maori Party.

Labour has fallen 2.3 points in the survey to 35.4 per cent. In the September poll, it had a surge in support and could have formed a government with just the Greens and Mana.

National has risen 3.1 points and Prime Minister John Key has somewhat recovered in the preferred Prime Minister stakes, after taking a 9.4 point dive in the last poll.

 He has jumped 6.1 points to 61.9 per cent, well ahead of Mr Cunliffe on 16.5 per cent.
This is a remarkable level of support for National, to be so close to the support it got at the last election when it’s at the end of its fifth year in government.
Labour will be very worried.
The party has climbed from its rock-bottom 2011 election result but hasn’t been able to dent National’s support and new leader David Cunliffe has failed to increase support for the party or himself.

 . . . Mr Cunliffe was elected in September after the resignation of David Shearer in August.

Mr Shearer’s personal popularity in a Herald-DigiPoll survey peaked in March this year when he was preferred by 18.5 per cent, which Mr Cunliffe has yet to surpass, and the party vote at the time of 36.4 per cent was close to its current polling. . .

There’s at  most 11 months to the next election.
That’s plenty of time for things to go wrong for a government but it’s not much time for the bigger opposition party to start looking like a government in waiting and convince the voters it’s ready and able to do a better job than the incumbent one.
It’s not helped by the retirements in National which are providing opportunities for renewal.
Labour provides a stark contrast, still stuck with much the same line up of tired, old faces who put New Zealand into recession before the rest of the world and doesn’t appear to have learned from their mistakes.

The trend is tight

November 11, 2013

Last night’s TV3 Reid Poll showed:

National is on 46.8 percent. It is still on top, but has taken a big drop of 3.5 percent.

Labour are up 1.2 percent on 32.2 percent. That gain comes from the Greens, who are down to 10.2 percent.

And Winston Peters is on 4.2 percent; not quite at the five percent needed to get back into parliament, but still extremely dangerous.

Among the minor parties, Colin Craig’s Conservatives are at 2.8 percent, well over double the last poll. It’s the highest ever result for the party, and crucially, it is taking votes off National.

Hone Harawira gets a decent bump too, scoring the numbers to bring a second MP to parliament.

But as for Act, it appears they won’t win Epsom and will be out of parliament altogether. . .

The significant movement is the rise of the Conservatives, seemingly taking support from National.
But there’s little comfort for Labour when its gain comes at the expense of the Green Party.
Most movement is within the right and left blocks rather than between them and confirms the trend of most polls which have been showing it’s a very tight race.
As Mike Hosking opined:

Any government with a mid-40s support base in a system with so many parties to split the vote really couldn’t ask for more. They’re as popular today as they were the day they won the house five years ago. That’s impressive. But in a game where you’re not the only team, the other teams have let them down so they have real trouble.

So in another time, in another system, a third term would be a given. But under MMP in 2014, I wouldn’t bet the bank.

However, there’s little comfort for the left either.
The results for preferred Prime Minister show John Key at 40.9%, compared with 10.8% for Labour’s leader, David Cunliffe.
Cunliffe is lower than David Shearer was when the last poll was carried out in July.
The increase in Labour’s vote is within the margin of error although the poll was taken while the party conference was on and it and it was getting lots of publicity.
That will be cause for concern for Labour and strengthen the resolve of the ABC – anyone but Cunliffe – block in caucus.

Cunliffe chickens out, Norman steps in

November 6, 2013

Advertising on the Farming Show used to be the most expensive on the Radio Network.

It probably still is because it’s now broadcast nationwide. It’s listened to by a broad audience and not just beyond town boundaries.

I do an occasional spot on the show and often meet people from all around the country, urban and rural, who’ve heard me.

Host Jamie Mackay has a successful recipe with a blend of farming and wider rural issues mixed with sport, music and politics.

It’s the sort of show you’d think an aspiring Prime Minister would want to appear on but one has chickened out:

There’s a certain irony in the position I find myself in with Labour leader David Cunliffe.

You see, David C has red-carded me.

Meaning, for the first time since 2000, when then Prime Minister Helen Clark agreed to a weekly slot, I will not be interviewing the Labour leader on the Farming Show.

Rightly or wrongly, Cunliffe says he won’t get a fair hearing, that we will make fun of him. Heck, we make fun of everyone, including ourselves.

Jamie does make fun of some of his interviewees but the political segments are usually pretty straight. In fact with my ever so slightly blue bias I think he sometimes let Cunliffe’s predecessors and agricultural spokesmen away too lightly.

Had Cunliffe or his media team bothered to listen to the show archives, available here, they’d have known that he’d get a fair go.

I think he has unfairly pigeon-holed me. He needs to understand some of my political history before he consigns me to the National Party lackey file. . .

Brought up in a family where Norman Kirk was admired more than Keith Holyoake, Jamie voted for Social Credit in his first two elections, in 1984 he voted against Rob Muldoon and for Bob Jones, didn’t get round to voting in 1987 and had his first vote for National in 1990.

Even then it was a vote more for a candidate than a party because I liked the cut of a young buck the Nats had dragged down to his home province of Southland from The Treasury in Wellington.

His name was Bill English and he looked like he at least had a bit of spark in him.

However, considering I’m probably in the 10% of New Zealanders who pay 70% of the tax, considering I’m a self-employed business owner with farming interests and considering I still bear the farming scars from some incredibly short-sighted, militant union behaviour in the 1970s and 80s, why would I vote Labour now? 

There’s nothing for me in their policies of higher tax, greater environmental and economic handbrakes for farming and re-unionising the workforce. . . .

So here’s my message for PC David C, which unfortunately I can’t pass on personally. 

If you really want to be the next prime minister, get your teeth into some issues that affect middle and low-income NZ – jobs, education, health, and the minimum wage are traditional Labour strongholds.

Attack National where you have an inherent political advantage and where it might have dropped the ball.

On second thoughts, I might save that message for my new Farming Show correspondent, Dr Russel Norman.

I heard Jamie a couple of weeks ago saying Cunliffe wasn’t coming on the show and he said the same thing this week.

I thought he meant just those days, after all what politician would turn down the opportunity for nationwide publicity on the radio?

But no, it wasn’t just couple of instances that didn’t suit his diary, he’s given the show a flat no for the worst of all reasons, that he wouldn’t get a fair hearing and he’d be made fun of.

How precious is that?

A politician who can’t stand the very gentle heat of the Farming Show isn’t going to cope with the much hotter temperature in other media and parliament.

He wouldn’t have been made fun of unfairly on the show but he will be now.

Jamie’s column is in the current edition of the Farmers Weekly which is delivered free to every rural mail box in the country and sold in book stores and dairies. It’s in the FW’s digital edition and on the website (to which I’ve linked above).

It will be on the Farming Show website soon.

I’ve already heard Jamie mention Cunliffe’s no-show and he’ll keep doing it. he’ll probably mention it to his cousin, political journo Barry Soper, who has does a spot on the show each Friday.

Prime Minister John Key has a weekly interview on the show. He sometimes get a little borax poked at him by Jamie and handles it well. His customary good humour and ability to laugh at themselves will continue to provide a contrast with Cunliffe who was scared of a gentle ribbing.

Deputy PM and Finance Minister Bill English, Minister  for Primary Industries Nathan Guy and Deputy Speaker Eric Roy,  are also regulars on the show. So are Labour’s Primary Industries spokesman Damien O’Connor and former MP now Vice Chancellor of Massey Steve Maharey. In the past former PM Helen Clark, then-National party leader Don Brash, former Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton, former MPI Minister David Carter and Cunliffe’s former leader David Shearer were all on each week.

Since Cunliffe won’t front, Jamie has invited Russel Norman to replace him.

All of these people are or were willing to front Jamie regularly but Cunliffe isn’t.

But worse than this – one of his challenges was to assert himself as leader of the opposition, a position Norman had assumed while David Shearer led Labour.

Instead, he’s handed his rival a free pass to a slot that should have been his own on the Farming Show.

In doing so he’s shown himself a little too concerned with his own image and a little less confident of his own ability than he would like the world to think.

#gigatownoamaru doesn’t chicken out.


Does Cunliffe prefer NZ First to Greens

October 18, 2013

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman was de facto leader of the opposition while David Shearer led Labour.

Under David Cunliffe the party is lurching to the left, crowding the Greens and leaving them with less of that political oxygen which comes from media exposure.

Trans Tasman makes an interesting observation about this:

There also seems to be a closer rapport between Labour under Cunliffe with NZ First’s
Winston Peters.
This suggests Cunliffe wants to follow Helen Clark’s tactics, when he gets the chance of forming a Govt, of embracing NZ First, and leaving the radical Greens with little choice except to back him from the sidelines. The difficulty with this is Labour’s own policy of raising the age of eligibility for NZ superannuation from 65 to 67. A bottom line for NZ First is no tampering with the age of eligibility for superannuation.
That’s a policy a lot of Labour supporters won’t be happy with either so it wouldn’t be too big a dead rat for Cunliffe to swallow in coalition negotiations if it meant he could leave the Greens out of a coalition.
That would of course depend on Labour being in the position to form a government and the easiest way to prevent that is to keep National in power.

What else would he do?

September 19, 2013

Trevor Mallard was one of the prominent members of the ABC – Anyone but Cunliffe – Club.

He now has three choices.

He can swallow his pride and the animosity he feels towards the new leader and put party  unity and loyalty first.

He can resign, now or at the end of this parliamentary term and move on.

He can stay and destabilise Cunliffe’s leadership the way the new leader and others destabilised David Shearer’s.

That Mallard didn’t answer his phone when Cunliffe called with the news he was being replaced as Labour’s Leader of the House suggests he’s not going to take the first option.

The chances of his resigning aren’t high because what else could he do that would pay as well as being an MP does, even without the added perk of excursions like his current one to watch the America’s Cup.

That leaves option three and given Grant Robertson didn’t take up the opportunity to be leader he might not be on his own.

 

 


A Freudian slip?

September 18, 2013

Labour’s new leader David Cunliffe had promised to come out all guns blazing but at Question Time yesterday he  tripped over his own tongue:

Hon David Cunliffe: Why, following the call from the chair of caucus—Chorus—did he see it fit—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member to start his question again.

Hon David Cunliffe: Why, following the call from the chair of caucus, did he see fit— .[Interruption] Why do we not take that a third time?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called for a supplementary question from the Hon David Cunliffe.

Hon David Cunliffe: Why, following his call from the chair of Chorus— . . .

Given only 11 of his 34 MPs preferred him as leader it’s understandable he’s got his caucus on his mind.

Whether or not it was a Freudian slip, it gave Prime Minister John Key an opportunity he was quick to take up:

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are two things. One thing is true: I do get a phone call from my caucus, but they all voted for me.

Cunliffe was then silly enough to give the PM a second opportunity:

Hon David Cunliffe: Given his reliance upon reports, what reliance is he placing on media reports that this $600 million botch-up is the end of Minister Adams’ chances of succeeding him as Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I need to be honest. I really do not think our caucus is looking for a new leader right at the moment, but after question time today the Labour Party— . . .

This is something to which only the media and political tragics will pay any attention.

But given his predecessor David Shearer was criticised so often for his lack of fluency, Cunliffe needed to get it right the first time and he didn’t.


Poor listeners, slow learners

September 15, 2013

The Labour leadership circus has given members a chance to send messages to MPs.

Labour leadership contenders say the main message they have got from rank and file party members is that they want the caucus to stop bickering and work together. . .

Anyone with even a passing interest in politics knows the damage done by disunity and that a party which shows it can’t run itself will not be trusted to run the government.

People inside and outside the Labour Party have been saying this since very shortly after Phil Goff took over as leader after the 2008 election loss.

The message got even stronger as David Shearer’s grasp on the leadership was weakened by slings and arrows from his caucus.

If it’s taken the aspiring leaders this long to get that message about unity they’re very poor listeners, very slow learners or both.

If it’s taken them this long to get the message, will they and the various factions in the party heed it?


Labour worse than war zone

September 9, 2013

Quote of the day:

“I always felt, oddly enough, more comfortable in a war zones than I did in the Labour Party— not so much in the Labour Party but in politics. I mean, obviously in politics you’re getting sniped at from all directions. In a war zone, you can generally tell who the good guys are and who are the bad guys.”David Shearer.

That’s a very revealing insight into the Labour Party in spite of correcting himself and saying politics.

There’s nothing unusual at getting sniped at from the other side, it’s the sniping from you own side and not knowing who are the goodies and who are the baddies that is hardest to combat.

That was what Julia Gillard had to cope with while she was Prime Minister and lack of loyalty from her own caucus was what eventually toppled her.

Shearer faced similar undermining from his colleagues which made it impossible for him, or his party, to make any traction.

Whether his successor fares any better will depend on whether or not he can unite his caucus and the party.

Given the number of factions and depth of divisions between them, that could take some time.


The Green retreat begins

August 30, 2013

Green Party  co-leader, Russel Norman, has been very keen to be Finance Minister and just this week he was also suggesting that he and the party’s other co-leader could share the position of Deputy Prime Minister.

But now he’s saying policy gains are more important than positions.

“What we really want most of all are policy gains – that’s why we got into the business,” says Dr Norman.

“We want a smarter, greener, more compassionate New Zealand, and a smarter, greener, more compassionate government. If we can get those policy gains, that’s the key thing for us.”

But he concedes that those gains will be easier to come by if they can get their MPs appointed to high-ranking positions, such as Minister of Finance or even Deputy Prime Minister.

“Having ministerial positions gives you influence and the ability to get the policy changes that you want, so they’re both on the table,” says Dr Norman. . .

This is the beginning of the Green retreat.

The party has made hay while Labour’s been in the shadows under David Shearer.

But whichever of the three amigos, David Cunliffe, Shane Jones or Grant Robertson,  wins the leadership selection, he will be stronger, more articulate and determined to win back the party’s left flank.

The biggest loser from that will be the Green Party and this softening stance from Norman suggests he knows it.


Absent with leave

August 30, 2013

Trevor Mallard scored an own-goal when trying to distract attention from Labour’s leadership contenders using taxpayers’ money to fly round the country campaigning.

It provided Gerry Brownlee with the opportunity to ask whether David Shearer should be collecting the leader’s pay while taking three weeks leave to lick his wounds.

But Shearer isn’t the only Labour MP who’s going to be on full pay while absent from parliament:

Next week all three contenders will be absent from the House as they go on a roadshow as part of the leadership contest which winds up with an election on September 15.

That means we’re not only paying for David Cunliffe, Shane Jones and Grant Robertson to fly around the country, we’re paying them to campaign instead of attending to their duties as MPs in the House.

They might have leave from their whip to be absent but in what other job could they take off to further their own ambitions on full pay?


Hey, look over there

August 29, 2013

One moment, Labour’s three leadership aspirants are being criticised for using tax-payer funds to fly around the country campaigning.

The next, Trevor Mallard comes up with a distraction:

. . . Hon Trevor Mallard: Has Housing New Zealand given any advice to Ministerial Services as to how to recover approximately $10,800 which was not paid when he squatted for over 6 weeks in a $2 million house owned by Ministerial Services?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: When I resigned as a Minister last year, myself and my family stayed in the ministerial house until the end of that term for my kids who were attending school in Wellington. Ministerial Services gave me consent to leave my personal belongings there until I established a new flat in Hill Street. I would note that it has long been the practice where Ministers resign—and as occurs when there is a change of Government, such as after the 2008 election—that families are given a reasonable amount of time to move. The time when my family moved out was less than 2 weeks after I resigned. . .

Mallard is entitled to be called Honourable but there’s nothing honourable about his behaviour.

A farm worker who lives on the job and is sacked, or resigns, is entitled to a period of grace to find somewhere else to live.

MPs families put up with a lot and expecting them to find and shift to new accommodation immediately upon a change of circumstances is ridiculous.

As the supplementary question which followed from Prime Minister John Key showed, he extended far more courtesy to his predecessor than Mallard’s questions suggests should be permitted:

Rt Hon John Key: Is it true that when National became the Government in 2008, I said to the outgoing then Prime Minister that she should feel free to stay at Premier House as long as she wanted, without rent, to allow a smooth transition and to allow her to pack up with her family?

. . . Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The attitude I have felt consistently from the Prime Minister, whether it was for the families and members opposite when they ceased to be Ministers or my own experience, was one of sympathy for Ministers’ families. I had children at school in Wellington, and I appreciated the Prime Minister’s office allowing those children to stay at school for the 2 weeks to the end of term.

The question also provided the opportunity for a finger to be pointed back at Labour:

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder if you would be able to assist the Opposition in its quest to gain these efficiencies for the State by perhaps ruling that if a Leader of the Opposition publicly announces their intention to relinquish that position, and then fails to turn up to Parliament, that they may not also claim the ministerial salary and various other entitlements that go with that job?

Nick Smith did the honourable thing by resigning when he did and his behaviour following that resignation was exemplary.

Unlike David Shearer who has announced his resignation as Labour leader and who’s taking three weeks holiday to lick his wounds, the Nelson MP carried on with electorate work and parliamentary duties on relinquishing his ministerial warrant. He also earned his reinstatement.

Mallard is just playing hey-look-over-there in the hope that it will distract attention from Labour’s prolonged leadership campaign and the costs of that which are being foisted on the taxpayer.

In doing so, he’s once again shown that Labour wants tough protections for workers because it judges employers by its own low standards.

He’s also crossed the line, which MPs do at their peril, by bringing family matters into House.

Keeping Stock has a video of the exchange.


Number four

August 24, 2013

Jim Bolger was Prime Minister when Helen Clark became leader of the Labour Party, and the first woman to lead the Opposition.

She almost won the 1996 election but it was run under MMP and Winston Peters allowed Bolger to remain in power.

Jenny Shipley deposed Bolger and became our first female Prime Minister but Clark won the next election.

Shipley lost the leadership to Bill English but he lost the next election.

He usually gets the blame for that but it wasn’t all bad. It did get rid of much of the dead wood – those long serving MPs who ought to have resigned to let fresh blood contest the election but didn’t. He should also get credit for the rule changes which under his leadership, with the help of then president Judy Kirk and general manager Steven Joyce, made National a much stronger party and laid the foundation for its eventual return to power.

Don Brash ousted Bill, boosted membership and funds, and nearly won the 2005 election.

When Brash resigned, John Key won without a fight, and with a unified caucus helped in no small part by his deputy, English, who was, and is, 100% loyal to the leader and party. Key also had, and has maintained, strong, unified membership and good finances.

When Key won the 2008 election, Clark resigned and handed a poisoned chalice to Phil Goff. He, and the caucus, didn’t learn from what happened with National, kept most of the dead wood and lost the 2011 election.

Goff resigned and David Shearer took over, still saddled with the dead wood, disunity in the caucus, the shadowy influence of Clark and dissent in the wider party.

Labour’s about to elect the fourth leader to face the Prime Minister but changing the leader won’t be enough.

The caucus is still full of dead wood and further damaged by disunity.

Membership is low, it’s not united either and party finances are far from healthy. Clark’s shadow still looms large and there’s also the spectre of the unions which most on the right and many in the centre distrust.

Helen Clark defeated outlasted four National leaders and lost to the fifth who had a strong, unified caucus, a strong, unified party and little competition in Opposition from the wee parties.

Labour is about to elect the fourth leader to face Key but he will be fighting fires on several fronts.

He’ll have to unite his caucus and his party and also stand head and shoulders above Russel Norman and Winston Peters who’ve been doing a much better job of leading the Opposition than then man he’ll succeed.

Number four might be able to do what the three before him haven’t, but winning the leadership will be the first and easy step in a steep and challenging climb.


40 + 40 + 20 doesn’t equal unity

August 23, 2013

The Labour Party changed its rules last year.

The leader is decided by the caucus and the membership and union affiliates – 40%, 40% and 20% respectively.

That might sound reasonable to people within the party, it looks very messy from outside.

The Labour Party likes to think of itself as a broad church but it’s really just a collection of factions who see the party as a vehicle to get their policies enacted.

It’s almost certain there will be at least two candidates, possibly more.

It’s unlikely the caucus will be untied on who would be the best leader, it’s even less likely the membership will agree with each other and caucus.

Try convincing the public that the new leader deserves their support although the party and members didn’t agree on him ( at this stage there is no obvious her as a candidate) and union delegates had the casting votes.

One of David’s Shearer’s problems was his inability to unite his caucus and his party.

Winning the leadership could well be the easy bit for the new leader.

Internal unity will be the next hurdle and he will have less than two months to do that before the party conference where members may well wish to re-visit the man-ban.


Labour worse than war zone

August 23, 2013

Outgoing Labour leader David Shearer had a compelling back story.

He’d negotiated his way out of life and death situations in war zones.

. . .  dealing with the armed, desperate and irrational. . . .

. . . He has spent time dodging bullets and bombs . . .

He went from one war zone to another.

. . . negotiated his wife’s hostage release from a Somalian warlord, staring down the barrel of an AK47. . .

But he couldn’t win over the competing factions in his party and was defeated by the internal conflict.

. . .The other thing about war and politics is that you have to bring people together. Often there are issues you can have common consensus around, but you have to bring people together. I had to do that a lot in the Middle East and that built skills that are still important. . .

Skills honed in war zones weren’t sufficient to lead labour.

What does that say about the party?


Shearer falls on sword

August 22, 2013

David Shearer has fallen on his sword.

Shearer said his resignation would be effective once a new leader was elected.

Whip Chris Hipkins said a replacement would be decided in three to four weeks. He said he had informed the party president Moira Coatsworth and secretary Tim Barnett this morning.

Heading into the House with list MP Jacinda Ardern, Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said he was the acting leader but he could not say who was acting deputy.

So Shearer thinks he’s staying on until the new leader is selected but his former deputy has appointed himself acting leader.

The caucus can’t even get this right.


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