Personal or political?

May 1, 2019

Is the media’s determination to claim the scalp of National leader Simon Bridges personal or political?

Two months ago John Armstrong said the media script required Bridges to end up as dog tucker:

The media have proclaimed Simon Bridges to be dog tucker. Having issued that decree, the media will do its darnedest to make sure he does become exactly that – dog tucker.

That is the ugly truth now confronting Bridges in his continuing struggle to keep his leadership of the National Party intact and alive.

It might seem unfair. It will likely be regarded in National quarters as irrefutable evidence of media bias.

It is unfair. Some pundits had made up their minds that Bridges was the wrong person to lead National within weeks of him securing the job. Those verdicts were quickly followed by bold predictions that it would not be long before he was rolled by his fellow MPs. . . 

Those predictions are heating up again, but why?

Is it personal dislike of him?

Probably not.

There were similar campaigns against Bill English and Don Brash when they were opposition leader.

So is it partisan?

The media were just as quick to criticise and slow to praise Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little so no, it’s not necessarily partisan.

But is it political?

The media tends to be liberal on social issues and Bridges is more conservative.

Could the sustained campaign against Bridges be because he has said he will vote against the Bill to legalise euthanasia and is likely to oppose any liberalising of abortion law?


Drip, drip, drip

November 30, 2018

Leader of the Opposition is reputed to be the worst job in politics.

It’s certainly not an easy one, especially early in the term of a new government when few outside the politically tragic are interested in what you do and say.

The media doesn’t help by fixating on poll results and interviewing their own keyboards to write opinion pieces forecasting the end of the leader’s tenure.

They carry on, drip, drip, drip like water on a stone in the expectation they will eventually be proved right.

They did it to Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little and it worked because the Labour caucus was too fixated on itself and its divisions and the party panicked.

They did it to Helen Clark but it didn’t work. Even when all she could muster in the preferred Prime Minister poll was only 5% she stared her would-be coup leaders down.

They didn’t do it to John Key because he polled well from the start and he became leader towards the end of the Labour-led government’s third term when it was looking tired and stale.

They didn’t do it to Jacinda Ardern but she took over the leadership at the very end of the National-led government’s third term and so close to the election she got far more attention than a new opposition leader normally would.

The drip, drip, drip is happening to Simon Bridges but none of the pundits give their gloomy analysis context. He became leader only a few months after the election when it’s almost impossible for an opposition leader to shine.

Jami-Lee Ross’s sabotage  didn’t help but at least for now, it makes Bridges’ leadership stronger. The National caucus has learned from Labour’s bad example that disunity is electoral poison.

It is the caucus who decides who’s leader. None of them will want Ross to claim the leader’s scalp and anyone with the political nous to be leader would know that this early in the government’s term, it would be almost impossible to make headway in the preferred PM polls and no matter who took over, he or she too would be subject to the drip, drip, drip of negative columns.

What the columnists don’t see, or at least don’t write about, is what I saw yesterday – Simon Bridges speaking confidently and showing his intelligence, sincerity and warmth.

This is not the dead man walking about whom they opine.

He has, to borrow a line from former Invercargill MP Eric Roy, had a very bad lambing.

I don’t know how much tough stuff he’d faced before, but yesterday convinced me that like good farmers after bad lambings, Bridges has got up and is getting on, in spite of the drip,drip, drip that’s trying to take him down.


Labour loses Shearer gains Harre

December 14, 2016

The Labour Party has lost one of its moderate MPs with the resignation of David Shearer who delivered his valedictory speech yesterday.

It’s gaining  former Alliance MP and former leader of Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party,  Laila Harre.

His departure and her return speaks volumes about Labour’s state and direction.


Another by-election

December 8, 2016

Labour MP, and former leader, David Shearer has been shoulder-tapped to lead a United Nations mission in South Sudan.

That will prompt another by-election in a safe Labour seat which is a cost to the taxpayer.

But the bigger cost will be to the party which will lose  another moderate MP

It won’t be a lot of fun going from Prime Minister to back bencher but John Key is staying in parliament so as not to trigger a by-election.

Retiring Labour MP, and another former leader, David Cunliffe, has also said he will stay long enough to not trigger a by-election.


TPPA true & false

February 4, 2016

The National Party has a webpage giving the facts and refuting the myths on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which is being signed in Auckland today.

Don’t believe that?

Chapman Tripp says:

The TPP began life modestly as an initiative between New Zealand and Singapore, but the ambition was that it would evolve into a trans-Pacific agreement.  The first recruits were Chile and Brunei and the net has subsequently extended to Australia, the United States, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam.

New Zealand now finds itself in the vanguard of the new wave of economic globalisation.  This is a coincidence of the worldwide focus on FTAs to further integrate economies, the prominence of Asia, and the United States’ and Japan’s renewed interest in the Pacific Rim. 

Some find this uncomfortable.  Many, including the protesters at Seattle, found the birth of the WTO in 1994 similarly uncomfortable.

Difficult as change can be, this is an opportunity which will not come again.  In its final form, the TPP is the biggest free trade deal in a generation and will establish the architecture of Asia Pacific trading relationships for decades to come.  . . 

and concludes

. . . Labour’s frustration is understandable.  The TPP does not appear to include the specific reservation of rights Labour wanted.  New Zealand negotiators could perhaps have sought a more nuanced provision, such as appears in the NZ-Korea FTA, which arguably preserves some scope to expand the OIA screening regime.  It is hard to see that the more absolute language in the relevant TPP annex was a deal breaker for other negotiating parties. 

Negotiating parties tend not to publicly announce their bottom lines in advance to avoid painting themselves into a corner, as Labour has effectively done.  One cannot, of course, sensibly weigh up the overall merits or demerits of a 6000 page 12 party agreement by looking only at one provision.  To attempt this is to miss the wood for the trees. 

None of the signatory countries will be perfectly satisfied with the deal.  Each will have a particular clause or clauses that they would prefer were not there.  The US Republican Senator, Orrin Hatch, for instance is chagrined that the IP chapter grants only five, and not eight, years’ protection to biologics. 

But if support for the deal was premised on perfection, then it would go the way of the Doha Round.  It is no coincidence that TPP opponents play the single issue game.  Conflating whether one gets everything one wants, and whether the deal is acceptable overall, is a classic black hat strategy. 

The art of negotiating involves being able to push hard for one’s positions, then to stand back and work out whether (even if one did not get all one wanted) the deal on the table is better than no deal at all. 

Here, the question is even more stark.  Would New Zealand be better off inside, or outside, the tent?  MFAT’s national interest analysis reaches a firm conclusion, having weighed everything up over 276 pages.  It is respectfully suggested that this conclusion deserves to be afforded more weight than anyone’s position based on a single issue.

Those last two paragraphs nail it.

The deal isn’t perfect but it is better than no deal at all and New Zealand is better inside the tent than outside it.

The usual nonsense at Waitangi purports to be about the TPPA threatening the Treaty but the Federation of Maori Authorities is cautiously supportive:

. . .Chair Traci Houpapa said there were benefits and opportunities for Māori and all New Zealanders.

“We’ve analysed those documents ourselves and while we have a level of comfort we agree with the 12 month consultation process that the signing on the 4th of February triggers.”

Ms Houpapa said the removal of some or most tariffs for exporters would have financial benefits for the federation’s regional members.

“Māori have a predominate footprint in primary sector industries, we are land, water or sea based so our exporters have obvious benefits if the removal of tariffs are in place and TPP provides for that.”

FOMA is happy with the provisions within the agreement that acknowledge the Treaty of Waitangi, which say it must be enshrined, but FOMA recognises further analysis of what that means is required. . . 

“We recognise TPP is a complex trade arrangement which requires time to fully digest and understand. Our members support the trade benefits and want assurance that our national sovereignty and Treaty partnership are maintained. We welcome proper engagement with government and our members on this important matter,” said Ms Houpapa.

Proper engagement will achieve what all the protests prefaced on political agendas won’t.

Charles Finny says the TPPA deserves praise from Maori:

I believe that rather than being inadequate in its protections for Maori, TPP is if anything a taonga in the way it protects the rights of the New Zealand Government to discriminate in favour of Maori. This in turn, I think, adds enormous mana to Maori.

I feel Maori are being poorly advised from some quarters and it is essential that ministers and government officials spend even more time explaining the protections for Maori in the agreement and the trade benefits that will flow to Maori from it. These benefits are substantial.

TPP is an agreement between 12 countries. Pretty much all the 12 jurisdictions are home to indigenous minorities – for example, the First Peoples of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, the Aboriginal people in Australia, the Malays in Singapore and Malaysia, and the Ainu in Japan.

Yet none of these peoples is mentioned in the main text of the deal and none of their Governments has secured agreement from the other members that they should be allowed to discriminate in favour of them.

In contrast Maori are mentioned, as is the Treaty of Waitangi. Article 29.6 of TPP is actually titled “Treaty of Waitangi”. It says that “provided that such measures are not used as a means of arbitrary or unjustified discrimination against persons of the other parties or as a disguised restriction on trade in goods, trade in services and investment, nothing in this agreement shall preclude the adoption by New Zealand of measures it deems necessary to accord more favourable treatment to Maori in respect of matters covered by this agreement, including in fulfilment of its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi”.

This is pretty much the same clause that has been included in all free trade agreements (FTAs) New Zealand has negotiated since 2001. It has stood the test of time. It has allowed multiple Treaty settlements to be completed and has not had (as some critics claim will happen under TPP) “a chilling effect” on Government’s ability to adopt policies more favourable to Maori than other New Zealanders or nationals of these FTA partners.

TPP’s protection of the Treaty goes even further than earlier FTAs. It states “the parties agree that the interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi, including as to the nature of the rights and obligations arising under it, shall not be subject to the dispute settlement provisions of this agreement.” This means it is entirely up to New Zealand to determine if any discrimination has occurred because of the treaty (so long as this is not a disguised restriction on trade).

I am frankly amazed the US and others have agreed to this provision. Our ministers and officials have done a great job achieving this. All Maori should be saying: “Well done!” . . 

He also posts on Facebook:

TPP contains two types of dispute settlement. In the media and political criticism the two are often confused. There is the standard (in WTO and all our FTAs apart from CER – the reason why apples took so long to resolve)provisions which allow parties to the agreement to challenge breaches of the agreement. This is a purely government to government process and applies to the full agreement unless specified (e.g. interpretation of the Treaty of Waitingi the dispute settlement provisions do not apply). Then, in the investment chapter only, there is the investor state dispute settlement mechanism. This allows a company to challenge a government if it believes that government has breached its commitments in the investment chapter only. Many of the critics (who should know better) suggest that governments can be sued for breaches of outside of the investment provisions. This is not possible.

It is important to stress that TPP is worded differently to NAFTA and the Australian investment treaties that were used to challenge plain packaging of cigarettes. The critics often cite these agreements as examples of why we should fear ISDS without noting the fact that TPP has been drafted with the sloppy drafting in earlier agreements in mind.

New Zealand has been agreeing (indeed advocating for ) ISDS provisions in investment treaties and FTAs since the late 1980s (see for example the original China NZ Investment protection agreement). To date the NZ Government has yet to face a challenge.

Put simply I believe these provisions provide useful security for NZ investors offshore. Some of the governments we trade with and have FTAs or investment treaties are far more likely to breach these agreements than we are.

There are multiple exclusions (e.g. our Overseas Investment laws) and multiple acceptances of our right to regulate to protect the environment, to protect human health and safety, to discriminate for Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi etc to ensure that TPP will not have the type of chilling effect on policy making that the critics maintain. And, on top of the above protections, tobacco is completely carved out of the agreement so no worries there.

But is you want to nationalise huge hunks of the economy without compensation – you do have a problem. As you would if you tried to use human health as a justification for a policy if there was no science to justify the policy. Until recently I did not think that future NZ Governments would act in this way. This is why I think we have nothing to fear and that these provisions can only benefit NZ.

Stephen Jacobi wrote an open letter to Labour leader Andrew Little. It’s worth reading in full, I have chosen the extract with most relevance to farming:

. . . I agree that the dairy aspects of TPP are not as good as they could have been and as we had hoped.  But they are in the view of the negotiators and the dairy industry the best that could have been achieved in the circumstances.  Dairy still benefits more than any other sector from tariff cuts in key markets and the establishment of new tariff quotas.  The meat deal – specifically beef to Japan – is a significant market opening about which the industry has welcomed. Without this we will not be able to compete with Australia which already has an FTA with Japan. To call the rest ‘not much’ is a serious under-estimation – tariff reductions and/or elimination for horticultural products including kiwifruit, wine, wood products and seafood cannot so easily be dismissed. Addressing tariff and non-tariff barriers for manufactured products like health technologies and agricultural equipment is also significant.  This will result in the creation of new markets as you suggest. . . 

Duncan Garner says the political consensus on free trade is over:

After decades of supporting free trade, Labour has chosen to veer left into the bosom of New Zealand First and the Greens and oppose the TPP. It’s short-sighted and totally hypocritical, in my view. It looks like the party has had its strings pulled by anti-TPP academic Jane Kelsey.

This is a serious and controversial departure for Labour, and it may yet hurt the party among middle New Zealand voters.

Do these politicians know that our bottled wine can be sold tariff-free in Canada, Japan and the US on day one of the TPP being implemented? Why would you oppose that after we as a country have fought for this for so long? Most fruit and other produce can be exported tariff-free too, as a result of the TPP.

I travelled the world with Labour and National Party ministers for years, watching them fight bloody hard for market access for our exporters. I have seen a block of New Zealand butter selling for $25 in Japan; the same with cheese. Some of these tariffs are so high our exporters are locked out.

I’ve also seen Phil Goff, Helen Clark, John Key, Mike Moore and Tim Groser invest thousands of hours over the years for this sort of deal. Rather than accuse them of selling out, I’d argue they’ve done a great job. . . 

The truth is Labour has taken a massive risk opposing the TPP. I sense the silent majority understands we have to be part of it, despite the noise from the usual suspects.

Labour is divided and bleeding over the TPP. More Labour MPs want to voice their opinions in support but they’ve been silenced.

Ms Clark, Mr Key, Mr Moore, Mr Groser and David Shearer aren’t idiots. They know New Zealand has no choice but to be on board. Foreign investment is crucial into New Zealand too.

My friend runs a hotel in rural Waikato. The Chinese bought it recently. They have invested thousands into doing it up; they employ 33 locals in and around Tirau and Rotorua. Without the Chinese owners it would have closed and 33 Kiwis would be out of work. We have no option but to be international traders. Without it we die, slowly.

I predict the sky won’t fall in. And exporters stand to make billions more in the years ahead.

We won’t get rich buying and selling to each other; we need barriers broken and global doors open.

That’s why we must continue to fight for international trade deals — knowing there will always be a boisterous but small mob who hate the idea, no matter what the facts. 

Brian Easton who is no apologist for the right, asks can we afford not to adopt the TPPA?

. . . While there has been much focus on the TPP deal, there has been hardly any mention of the WTO (World Trade Organisation) agreement in Nairobi which prohibits agricultural export subsidies. Some 30 years ago a trade negotiator commented to me that getting rid of this dumping might be the best single thing we could do for our exporters. Not only would it stop the undercutting of their markets but it would force domestic agricultural reform because the dumping nations could no longer export the surpluses arising from their subsidies. There is not a lot of this subsidising going on at the moment but without an agreement export subsidies are likely to come back – to New Zealand’s detriment.

What was not always mentioned was that the chair of the WTO agricultural committee which negotiated the deal was a New Zealand ambassador, who is the fifth New Zealand chair in succession. This not only reflects the excellence of our Geneva ambassadors and the priority we give to agriculture in the WTO, but that the powerful – most notably the US – trust New Zealand to do a good job. That trust arises from the way we behave in other trade negotiations, including the TPP. The implication is that if we defaulted on the TPPA we would damage that trust and our ability to function effectively in a wide range of other international negotiations we care about, including on climate change.

That puts us in an extremely invidious position over the TPPA. Sure, we could turn it down, losing both its benefits and its downsides. Were we to do so, however, we would compromise the trust our international activity depends upon, especially the possibility of other trade deals which would open up markets currently restricting our exports. . . 

. . . Japan and the US (indeed the whole of the North American bloc) are members of the TPP. We have been struggling for ages to get deals with these two but have been too low on their pecking order to be noticed. So you might think of the TPPA as a means of getting the deals.

That is a positive, but of course the deals have to be favourable to us. Many argue they are not although their vehemence is offset by those who argue the opposite. The truth is that there are positives and negatives and different people balance them differently. In my opinion it is not much use focussing on a subset of the outcomes and ignoring everything else. Deals are about giving and taking.

The logic in this column is that we now do not have much choice about the TPPA. The government is trapped into agreeing to it because rejecting it has implications for other trade deals and our wider international relations. That is probably what our MFAT officials are advising, although no doubt there are many diverse views in there, just as there were with Vietnam. Here is my best guess about what is likely to happen.

There is a signing of the agreement in Auckland this Thursday. The exercise is primarily ceremonial – agreeing to a common text and exhibiting solidarity. I suppose the protests outside are ceremonial and for solidarity too.

The twelve partners then go away and prepare for the implementation of the text. Some things can be done by regulation, some require a change in law. The degree to which each partner has to do this differs according to their constitutional arrangements. . . 

 

By now there are so many imponderables that there is insufficient room in a column to pursue them all in a balanced way. My guess is that, given the way we are trapped by the wider international issues, the cautious advice is to proceed on the path of implementing the legislation for the TPPA, making as much international progress elsewhere. We can then review whether we really want to go ahead with the implementation. Legislation can always be reversed, agreements abrogated, although if the government changes its mind it is better that some other partner pulls the plug. Much of what is due to happen will be less ceremonial than this Thursday.  

And Prime Minister John Key says:

. . . “Opponents claim we’re giving away our sovereignty and that’s completely wrong – the TPP has almost identical provisions to the China free-trade agreement.”

Mr Key said other countries would not be able to write New Zealand laws and the TPP didn’t increase the cost of pharmaceuticals.

“The TPP is our biggest free-trade deal, successive governments have worked to get free trade with countries like the United States, Japan and Canada for 25 years,” he said.

“It will create significant new trade and economic opportunities for New Zealand… it gives our exporters access to 800 million customers in 11 countries across Asia and the Pacific.”

And those new opportunities will create jobs here, increase our GDP and earn us the money we need to pay our way.

The deal isn’t perfect but it’s better than what we’ve got and a long way better than what we’d have if our competitors were in the warmth of the tent and we were left out in the cold.


Three Labour leaders for TPP

January 28, 2016

Two of Labour’s former leaders, Phil Goff and David Shearer, who are still senior members of its caucus are quite clear that they support the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

A third former leader, Helen Clark, also supports the agreement.

Mr Goff, a former leader and former Trade Minister and now an Auckland mayoral candidate, and David Shearer, also a former Labour leader, last night told the Herald they both still supported the TPP.

Mr Goff said the deal should be signed.

Former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark also backed the TPP among 12 countries and it was begun under her leadership. Mr Goff was Trade Minister.

Labour has decided to oppose the TPP on the grounds that it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty.

Mr Goff did not blatantly criticise Labour’s position. But he effectively dismissed that view and the suggestion that Labour would not be able to prevent foreign investors buying New Zealand residential property.

“Every time you sign any international agreement you give away a degree of your sovereignty.” He cited the China free trade deal negotiated when he was Trade Minister.

“We gave up the sovereign right to impose tariffs against China when we signed up to the China free trade agreement. But it came with quid pro quos. China gave up its right to impose huge tariffs on us.

“That’s what an international agreement is; it’s an agreement to follow a particular course of action and a limitation on your ability to take action against the other country.

“You have the ultimate right of sovereignty that you can back out of an agreement – with all the cost that that incurs.”

The costs of not being part of such a wide trade agreement would be significant.

The TPP obliges member Governments to treat investors from member countries as though they were domestic unless exceptions are written into the agreement. Labour wanted an exception written in for investors in residential housing but National did not seek it.

Mr Goff is critical of National for choosing not to do that.

“But there is more than one way to skin that particular cat,” he said. “We retained the right to make it financially undesirable or unattractive to buy up residential property in New Zealand.

“You can still impose, as Singapore and Hong Kong do, stamp duty on foreign investors.” . . 

Labour’s biggest achievement last year was the appearance of caucus unity.

This breaking of ranks shows that the veneer of unity was thin.

That some in Labour disagree with the caucus position might entertain political tragics.

But the bigger significance is that for the first time in decades it’s walking away from the consensus it’s had with National on free trade.

Caucus disunity might hamper its chances of returning to government. But it will get there sooner or later and any failure to foster free trade progress as successive governments have, won’t be in the country’s best interests.


Better than not very good

February 2, 2015

A 3news Reid-Research Poll shows  55% of voters think Andrew Little is potentially a better match for John Key than his predecessors.

How hard is that?

Helen Clark resigned on election night and anointed Phil Goff.

He never made any traction and had to work with a divided caucus.

He was followed by David Shearer who had to work with a divided caucus and who struggled to string sentences together in interviews.

A change in party rules resulted in the election of David Cunliffe who had to deal with a divided caucus and who could string sentences together but strung different ones for different audiences and tripped himself up with several of them.

Now we have Andrew Little who was elected on the strength of union votes not the majority of members or his caucus. But he can string sentences together, has yet to trip himself up with them and the caucus has managed to hold itself together over the Christmas break while it was largely out of the news.

Being better than three previous leaders who weren’t very good at all isn’t much of an achievement especially when measured against the popularity of the man whose job he wants:

Mr Key is on the up too though, and as for Labour’s bump in the polls, he’s got that covered.

“I’m not surprised,” says Mr Key. “I think Labour is cannibalising the vote on the left of politics as Andrew Little goes through his honeymoon period.”

Voters do like what they see, especially when compared to Mr Little’s predecessors. Asked if Mr Little looks like a better match for Mr Key, 55 percent, a clear majority, say yes, up against 12 percent who say just the same and 18 percent that reckon he will be worse.

But this is crucial. Out of National voters, exactly whom Mr Little needs to win over, almost one in every two, 48 percent, rate him as a better match for Mr Key.

“It’s nice to get all that feedback,” says Mr Little.

“If you think of the election result in 2014, Labour was led to their worst result,” says Mr Key. “A lot of people might think that given how bad that was you can probably only improve from there.”

3 News polls on the same questions regularly, and Mr Little has got some of the highest ratings since Helen Clark. For instance, 54 percent say he is a capable leader; only Ms Clark got higher.

But here’s the problem for Mr Little – 81 percent of voters rate Mr Key as capable. . .

As he is and that’s reflected in party support too:

  • National – 49.8 percent, up 2.8 percent on election night result
  • Labour – 29.1 percent, up 4 percent
  • Green – 9.3 percent, down 1.4 percent
  • New Zealand First – 6.9 percent, down 1.9 percent
  • Conservative – 2.7 percent, down 1.3 percent
  • Maori – 1.3 percent, N/C
  • Internet Mana – 0.6 percent, down 0.8 percent
  • ACT – 0.4 percent, down 0.3 percent
  • United Future – 0 percent, down 0.2 percent

As usually happens between elections the support for the wee parties drops.

 


Labour pains, National delivers

October 17, 2014

Trans Tasman on Labour’s pains:

Members of the party of co-operation, collectivism, and fraternal brotherhood and sisterhood were all over the media this week publicly knifing each other. This is to say nothing of the usual susurration of behind the scenes snarkiness from the various sides of the Labour Party factions. We can expect to hear much, between now and the leadership ballot next month, about “Labour values.”
One can’t help but get the feeling this does not mean what Labour’s activists think it means.
Certainly the last leader but one, David Shearer, did not seem to be full of the milk of human kindness for his fellow party members. Shearer called on his successor, David Cunliffe, to withdraw from politics completely now Cunliffe has ruled out another leadership bid. This looked like a brief outburst – and certainly the party’s organisational wing would be horrified at the prospect of a by-election in New Lynn or anywhere, given the current state of Labour’s funds.
But Shearer did not just say this once. He went on radio and also spoke to journalists outside the party’s caucus room. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold, they say, and Shearer was tucking in to a very large ice-cream tub of the stuff. Mostly, Shearer says, he is concerned Cunliffe’s supporters will undermine whoever gets the leadership in the same way they undermined him. It is not a bad assumption to make. The Labour Left still – somewhat bizarrely – see Cunliffe as a champion of red blooded socialism and if their second choice, acting leader David Parker, doesn’t get the job they will turn feral.
But Cunliffe isn’t going anywhere, it seems. . .

While Labour is engrossed in its own pains, National has negotiated coalition agreements, its ministers have been sworn in and are already working for New Zealand.


It’s still the trend that matters

July 20, 2014

Labour has lost four points in the latest Herald DigiPoll, slumping to 26.5%,  its worst level of support in 15 years.

 . . . On this poll of decided voters National would be able to govern alone comfortably and gain another 10 MPs.

National has jumped 4.5 points to 54.9 per cent. A Stuff/Ipsos poll earlier this week also put support for National at 54.8 per cent.

Prime Minister John Key is more popular than he has ever been, scoring preferred prime minister on 73.3 per cent, compared with Cunliffe on 10.5 per cent and New Zealand First’s Winston Peters on 5.5 per cent.

The second-most-preferred PM out of Labour MPs is David Shearer, with 2.2 per cent, followed by Jacinda Ardern on 1.4 per cent. . .

Labour’s total support is down from 30.5 per cent in June, but it is disproportionately down among male voters, with only 23.9 per cent of men backing Labour, compared with 29.1 per cent of women.

Political commentator Chris Trotter said the poll indicated Labour was “more or less bereft of hope”.

“Labour is in an extremely parlous position, and the situation is deteriorating.” 

And the news gets worse for the left:

Contrary to other polls, the DigiPoll had the Green Party losing popularity, which was also bad news for Labour and the left’s prospects. . .

A single poll could be a rogue one but a trend has to be taken more seriously and the left will even though this support reflects the views of those who have decided:

. . . Undecided voters were 11.5 per cent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 per cent. . . .

It’s still the trend that counts and the trend is very good for National but it’s still a couple of months to the election and the result of that, trend not withstanding, is still not certain.

The left might be panicking but there is absolutely no room for complacency on the centre-right.

However, there is


Who cares about the regions?

July 14, 2014

The regions are a foreign country to most opposition MPs.

They visit occasionally, grab a headline about how bad things are and pop back to the safety of a city.

While there they try to show they care, but their policies give the lie to that:

There would be a bleak future for New Zealand’s regions if a Labour/Greens/Internet/Mana Party coalition became Government after the next election, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.

“A number of election policies released in the last couple of days show that the regions would be in for a dramatic and long term slowdown if there was to be a change in Government after September 20,” Mr Joyce says.

“Cartoon-like policies from the Greens and the Internet Mana Party against fresh water usage and oil and gas exploration and in favour of big new carbon taxes show how little they understand what drives most jobs and incomes in regional New Zealand. Thirteen of our 16 regions have a big stake in industries based on our natural resources and there would be thousands and thousands of job losses if their policies came to pass.

“The Greens and Internet Mana want the regions to sacrifice most of their livelihoods for holier-than-thou policies that would achieve little except making New Zealanders a lot poorer. The worrying part is that these sort of attitudes would drive any post-election Labour coalition.

“On top of that, the Labour Party mounted a very lukewarm and half-hearted defence of the oil and gas industry on Saturday. Either David Shearer is being controlled by the left wing of the Labour Caucus or he knows it’s all a bit pointless because any left wing coalition energy policy would be run by the Greens with help from Laila Harre and Hone Harawira.”

Mr Joyce says regional New Zealand knows how to balance the environment and the economy to ensure sustainable economic growth.

“This government is working with the regions to lift economic growth and job opportunities while improving environmental outcomes,” Mr Joyce says. “The left talks about the regions but promotes policies that would do real damage to them.

“The stark reminder we have received this weekend is that regional New Zealand would be completely nailed by a Labour/Greens/Internet/Mana coalition.”

 Labour and the GIMPs would take New Zealand backwards.

All primary industries would face more regulation, more restrictions, higher costs and more and higher taxes.

That would result in less production, fewer jobs, lower profits and as a result of that the tax take from them would be lower even though the tax rates would be higher.

One of the reasons New Zealand has survived the global financial crisis and is beginning to prosper is the strength of primary industries.

Any progress would be reversed if Labour and the GIMPs were in government.

They only care about the regions for show.

National by contrast has MPs in all but a couple of provincial seats, knows the regions, understand their issues and governs for all New Zealand – not just the urban liberals to whom Labour and the GIMPs are targeting their policies.


What they’ll need to do

July 12, 2014

Vernon Small muses on one of MMP’s downsides – the need for coalition partners:

. . . In Cunliffe’s case, he can be relatively certain Internet-Mana will be there.

His bigger concern is the political Centre’s negative views of Harawira, his Left-wing allies and Internet founder Kim Dotcom – and more generally about the increasingly fractured Centre-Left vote.

Labour’s vote softened measurably after the Internet-Mana deal became known. It believes that was not because the new party took Labour votes but more because it was a bridge too far for floating voters to contemplate a four or five-way alternative government.

And Labour knows – because it has already started – that National will use that against it.

It is a difficult line for Cunliffe to walk. He needs to emphasise the stability of a three-way deal with the Greens and NZ First – both of which have the advantage of being parties that win in their own right and will, if in Parliament, have achieved more than 5 per cent support. He can contrast that with National’s vassal parties, there only at Key’s favour.

Voters could choose a weak Labour Party propped up by the Green and NZ First parties with the added frightener of Internet Mana or a strong National Party with two or three very small coalition partners.

That’s a choice between instability, uncertainty and backwards policies from the left or stability, certainty and forward momentum from the centre right.

But strategising at the party’s weekend Congress pointed up the problem. Labour was stacking up its potential pluses just to get over the line.

It could push up to about 30, with a good ground game and organisation, the Greens bring about 12 per cent, NZ First would add another 5-6 per cent and Internet-Mana would add the final cherry on top. Presto, 51 per cent.

Over at the National conference the previous week, the mirror-image argument was being played out by its strategists.

Achieve close to 50 per cent and we govern alone. Fall to the mid 40s, and Labour with its allies could get the numbers. Subtext? Deals with our minor allies may be crucial, so brace yourself for Key’s announcement of deals with the minnows.

Memo to Cunliffe and Key: if you are counting them into your thinking, so will the voters.

Memo to voters: look less at what they say they will do and more at what they may need to do to win power.

A weak Labour Party would have to do, and concede, a lot more than a strong National party would.

We're for stable government.


Winning team won’t necessarily be winner

June 29, 2014

A party enjoying poll ratings which show it could govern alone might be in danger of complacency.

There is absolutely none of that at the National Party conference where the very clear message was

Prime Minister John Key told Patrick Gower:

. . . I know the polls look strong for us. And I know on the 3 Reid Research poll we’ll be able to govern alone and I’m really personally desperately hope that’s what election night looks like. But you and I both know it’ll probably be tighter than that and there’s every chance that we don’t win.. .

Chris Finlayson and Steven Joyce gave a similar message to the conference:

. . . Attorney General Chris Finlayson talked about the “hydra” this morning that grows new heads when the old ones are chopped off.

“Cut off Phil Goff and up shoots David Shearer and Hone Harawira. Saw off David Shearer and up springs David Cunliffe and Laila Harre.

“The fragmentation on the left hasn’t made the hydra weaker,” said Mr Finlayson “only more unstable if it can force its way into power again.”

Campaign chairman Steven Joyce warned delegates that the campaign was “still a little puppy” and that anything at all could happen in the next 84 days before the election – the wackiest thing imaginable, he said.

“A retired Maori activist who has become an MP working with a hard left unionist and let’s just throw in a wealthy German millionaire right-winger, they could form a political party,” said.

“That’s the sort of wacky thing that could happen between now and September 20.

“If Laila Harre, Hone Harawira, Pam Corkery, Kim Dotcom, Russel Norman, Metiria Turei, David Cunliffe, Matt McCarten, and John Minto are the answer, can we please have another look at the question?” . .

National’s got a winning team but it’s up to voters to decide whether to give the winning team the support it needs to  be the winner, or whether they’re going to trust government to the hydra on the left led by a weak Labour dominated by the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties.

With less than three months to go, there's no room for complacency. Join #TeamKey today.  http://mynational.org.nz/support


Politics Daily

June 4, 2014

John Key

Vernon Small @ Dominion Post – PM plays symbolic immigration card:

It was a half-promise. Almost no promise at all. But Prime Minister John Key’s announcement yesterday his Government was looking at increasing the recognised seasonal employer scheme had all the symbolic force he wanted.  . .

Claire Trevett @ NZ Herald – PM returns to Samoan village which made him a chief:

Prime Minister John Key has returned to the Samoan village of Poutasi five years after it made him an ali’i [high chief] and was welcomed with an ‘ava ceremony. . .

National Party

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Grassroots democracy:

Was in Mount Maunganui last night for ’s selection of a candidate to replace Tony Ryall in the . Tony’s majority in 2011 was a staggering 17,760 votes. . .

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Alfred for Te Atatu:

We met National Party List MP Alfred Ngaro last year and were most impressed by him. We’ve previously posted his maiden speech to Parliament in 2011, which was widely acclaimed. . .

Employment

TV3 – Govt ponders bigger Pacific seasonal quota:

The Government is considering allowing more Pacific Island seasonal workers to come to New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key says. . .

Fracking

Environment Commissioner urges New Zealand to “get ahead of the game” on an expanding oil and gas industry:

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has found regulation in New Zealand is not adequate for managing the environmental risks of oil and gas drilling, especially if the industry expands beyond Taranaki. . .

Pattrick Smellie @ Business Desk – Environmental watchdog gives fracking final tick, seeks national guidelines:

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has given a guarded final clearance for hydraulic fracturing, confirming her 2012 report that there are sufficient environmental safeguards, while calling for a National Policy Statement as a guide for local authorities facing applications from oil and gas companies. . .

Ministers welcome final PCE report on oil and gas :

Ministers today welcomed a report released by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on oil and gas drilling.

Environment Minister Amy Adams and Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges say the Commissioner’s report is a useful contribution to the discussion on how best to manage the environmental effects of onshore petroleum development, including hydraulic fracturing. . .

IMP

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Laila the waka jumper:

We came across this interesting gem hidden away on Stuff; check this out:

Laila Harre is on the spot changing trail
Meanwhile, Norman revealed that new Internet Party leader Laila Harre had wanted to be a Green Party MP before she quit her adviser role in December. . .

David Farrar @ Kwiblog – Harre was on Greens campaign committee until a fortnight ago:

. . .If this was Game of Thrones, Harre would be a sellsword or a mercenary. How can you be on the national campaign committee for one party a fortnight ago, while negotiating to be leader of a competing party? . . .

Pete George @ YourNZ – Harré and non-disclosure of political commentators:

Laila Harré’s political associations were well publicised late last month, but earlier in the month she was posing as a political commentator without disclosing her interests. . .

Tim Watkin @ Pundit – That’s the price I pay for hating Key the way that I do:

If you’ll excuse the paraphrasing of Billy Bragg, it seems appropriate as the left leave the moral high ground for a bit of electoral mud-wrestling and coat-tailing. But at what cost? . . .

Cameron Slater @ Whaleoil – The Internet Party and Postie Plus. No, really:

. . . Now we all know that the Internet Party is nothing but a scam, and the whole process of using MMP to score a hit on Key on behalf of Mr “I’ll destroy, anybody” Dotcom, but to have it so clearly illustrated mere days into her job is rather sooner than I expected. . . .

Pete George @ Grumpollie – How Internet/Mana will appear on the ballot:

I received this email from the very helpful folks at the Electoral Commission today: . . .

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Irony: the Internet Party doesn’t understand the internet:

Regan Cunliffe reports

“Yesterday afternoon, the Internet Party posted the following tweet: . . .”

Brain Rudman @ NZ Herald: Real cost of Dotcom alliance remains to be seen:

When eccentric millionaires hijack the political landscape as their own private playground, mere mortals should be very afraid. Even veteran leftie Sue Bradford, who loudly denounced the latest game and refused to have any part in it, has been shamelessly used by conservative oddball Colin Craig. . . .

Beehive

NZ to invest $5 million to rebuild Tongan schools:

Prime Minister John Key has today announced New Zealand will contribute $5 million to rebuilding schools in Tonga’s Ha’apai islands following the devastating Cyclone Ian earlier this year. . .

NZ to contribute to the upgrade of Teufaiva Stadium:

Prime Minister John Key has today announced New Zealand will contribute around $2 million towards upgrading Tonga’s national stadium in Nuku’alofa ahead of the 2019 Pacific Games. . .

NZ to invest $1 million into Samoa’s tourism sector:

Prime Minister John Key has today announced New Zealand will invest $1 million to help boost Samoa’s tourism sector. . . .

$359m boost for student achievement moves forward:

Education Minister Hekia Parata has welcomed advice from sector leaders on the Government’s $359 million initiative to raise student achievement, saying it maintains momentum and strengthens the path forward.

Ms Parata has released a Working Group report that provides support and advice on the Investing in Educational Success initiative announced by the Prime Minister in January. . . .

Christchurch housing rebuild momentum grows:

Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith today visited the site of a new Housing New Zealand development in central Christchurch, saying the progress on the 12 new two-bedroom apartments illustrate the momentum underway to fix and replace the city’s damaged housing stock. . .

Minister opens new Police National Command Centre:

Police Minister Anne Tolley has officially opened a new National Command and Coordination Centre in Wellington, which will use the latest technology to tackle and prevent crime and to keep New Zealanders safe. . .

Four young New Zealanders chosen for Bastille Day commemorations:

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Christopher Finlayson announced today the four young French-speaking New Zealanders who have been selected to represent New Zealand at the Bastille Day military parade in Paris on 14 July. . . .

Coat Tail law:

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Why wait? Cunliffe says ending coat-tailing a priority for his first 100 days:

David Cunliffe is grandstanding over coat-tailing and brilliantly painting himself into a corner.

Instead he is now saying that ending coat-tailing is a priority for his first 100 days in office…but in order to get into office he may have to rely on coat-tailing parties. . .

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – :

In Firstline this morning David Cunliffe said that will amend the within 100 days of office, to remove the one seat electorate threshold in .

This is absolutely appalling. A Government that will ram through major electoral law changes under , probably with no select committee hearings, and without consensus, is dangerous. Labour have form for this. . . .

Inventory2 @ Keeping Stock – Has Labour learned nothing from the Electoral Finance Bill debacle? :

Those who have been hanging around Keeping Stock for a long time will know our history. The blog was started due to our anger at Labour’s insidious Electoral Finance Bill, rammed through Parliament in the last sitting days of 2007. It was bad legislation, and the process was even worse. . . .

 

Labour

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – Labour now doing the “Have you stopped beating your wife” routine:

How pathethic. Select committee scrutiny of estimates is meant to be about spending and performance of government. Instead uses it for a smear disguised as a question. . .

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – New Ziland Labours Weekly:

It’s a photo you’ll have to click the link to see it.

Phil Quin –  Jump to left puts Labour on rocky road:

Some Labour Party cheerleaders have convinced themselves they can capture the Treasury benches without winning an election. They’re wrong. . .

TV3 – David Shearer – I’m sticking with Labour

Labour’s former leader has no ambition to follow Shane Jones into an ambassador role. . .

Labour candidate for Tamaki Makaurau electorate could threaten Treaty settlement:

The selection of Peeni Henare as Labour’s candidate for the Tamaki Makaurau seat could threaten the settlement of the country’s largest Treaty settlement, between the Crown and Ngapuhi. . . .

Adolf Fiinkensein @ No Minister – Nine years of noise with no performance:

Yessir, that’s what Kelvin Davis needs to be hammering home to the electors of Te Tai Tokerau. . . .

Chris Trotter @ Bowalley Road – Truth Or Dare: Why David Cunliffe Needs To Come Clean with the Labour left:

WERE YOU TELLING THE TRUTH, DAVID? When you told your party that the age of neoliberalism was over? That you, alone among all your colleagues, had grasped the meaning of the global financial crisis, and only you could lead Labour to an election victory that would restore New Zealand to itself? . . .

Chris Trotter @ Bowalley Road – Labour’s flight from reality:

STALLED AT 30 PERCENT in the polls, Labour is still pretending it can win the General Election without help. Bluntly speaking, the party is in a state of serious, collective denial. The most frightening aspect of which, from the perspective of those New Zealanders seeking a change of government in September, is that while the condition persists National cannot possibly be defeated. Heedless, the Labour Party continues to fly from the reality of its own poor performance. Even worse, it’s begun flying from the reality of its own history. . . .

Carbon Tax

Jamie White Russell’s Carbon Tax equivalent to 4.5% rise in company tax:

Last week, the Greens announced a plan to replace the emissions trading scheme (ETS) with a greenhouse gas tax.

Industrial firms that emit greenhouse gases will have to pay $25 per tonne. Farmers will have to pay $12.50 per tonne. This is a BIG new tax, the equivalent to lifting the corporate tax rate from today’s 28% to 32.5%. . . .

Stacey Kirk @ Stuff – Labour opposes Greens’ carbon tax plan:

Labour opposes the Green Party’s new carbon tax policy, saying the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was its preferred option.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said today his party would negotiate with the Greens on the policy, but did not favour it. . . .

Other

Lindsay Mitchell – The living wage effect and EMTRs:

Two parking wardens who will receive $4 an hour extra under the Wellington City Council’s adoption of a living wage each have a partner and a 4 month-old baby. Both say that they will be able to reduce their work hours due to the increase, and spend more time with their families. One from 75 hours down to 40 and the other from 50 down to 40.

Jörg Guido Hülsmann @ Not PC – How inflation helps keep the rich up and the poor down:

The production of money in a free society is a matter of free association. Everybody from the miners to the owners of the mines, to the minters, and up to the customers who buy the minted coins — all benefit from the production of money. None of them violates the property rights of anybody else, because everybody is free to enter the mining and minting business, and nobody is obliged to buy the product. . . .

Gabriel Makhlouf – The diversity advantage:

Thank you very much for inviting me to come and speak to you today. I’m going to focus on an important issue for New Zealand, for the public and private sectors and for the Treasury itself: our diversity advantage. . .

Matthew Beveridge – Twitter conversation 2 Jessica and Michael:

As David Slone said to me on Twitter this morning about the earlier Twitter Conversation of the day post

“proves pollies and journos can be human after all :-)” So here is another example. I have to say, I can’t wait to see why Jessica is looking up the numerology of tweeting MPs…….

 Matthew Beveridge – Social media and open debate:

One of the things we all seem to love about social media is the ability to actively engage with people. This is even more the case when it comes to politicians and parties. For many, social media is the only time and method they have for engaging directly with politicians or parties. Yet some of them are potentially sending the message that they don’t want to engage with people. . .

 Matthew Beveridge – Candidate social media details:

Ashley Murchison and I have been slowly compiling a spreadsheet of social media details for all of the candidates for the various electorates. It has take a while, but we are finally making some progress. The spreadsheet is available here as an XLS spread sheet. . . .


GIMP but not LIMP?

June 3, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe has been dancing on the head of a pin when asked his view on the Internet Mana Party.

That suggests he’s testing the wind before he works out what he thinks.

Several other Labour MPs have already made up their minds they don’t like it.

Senior Labour Party MPs have used social media to attack the alliance struck between Mana and the Internet Party.

Former leaders Phil Goff and David Shearer, and Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins, are among those who have objected to the deal. It could see MPs from Kim Dotcom’s fledging political vehicle enter Parliament on the ‘‘coat-tails’’ of a victory for Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau.

The strong opposition from within Labour could make post-election coalition talks tricky.

Goff says he feel strongly about Dotcom’s ‘‘pure political opportunism’’, citing his previous donations to ACT MP John Banks, now the subject of a court case. ‘‘He wants to be able to influence and control politicians.’’

Goff says he was previously ‘‘very critical’’ of National for exploiting MMP and failing to implement recommendations from the Electoral Commission to abolish the provision.

‘‘I’m scarcely likely to endorse another rort …I’m being entirely consistent,’’ he said. . . .

Interesting no-one in Labour called it a rort when National voters in Ohariu kept Peter Dunne in the seat which made him a Minister in the Labour-led government.

Goff says he made his feelings clear to the Labour caucus. ‘‘It will be the decision of the party leadership…but I see problems in creating a coalition where the philosophies and principle of people that you are trying to enter into a coalition with is unclear because they seem to be coming from diametrically opposed positions.’’ . . .

Coalitions are by nature unstable even when they have something positive in common.

A coalition built on nothing more than a hatred of John Key and determination to oust National would be a recipe for instability.

Those  views were also reflected in a passionate Facebook post at the weekend. Shearer also used the social media site to write that although he wished the Internet-Mana ‘‘marriage’’ well, he knew ‘‘it’s going to end badly.’’

And on Twitter last week, Hipkins posted: ‘‘The good old days, when political parties formed from movements. Now all it takes is a couple of million and some unprincipled sellouts.’’

All three MPs were linked to the Anyone But Cunliffe [ABC] faction – who were opposed to David Cunliffe assuming leadership of the party. However, a Labour source played down talk of more division, saying all three were close to Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis.

Davis himself posted on Twitter: ‘‘Bro, I think of the people of Te Tai Tokerau, not Sergeant Shultz.’’  He was referring to Dotcom’s German origins. . . .

More than half the caucus is in the ABC faction which makes the party itself unstable.

On present polling a left-wing government would have to consist of Labour and the GIMPs – Green, and Internet Mana parties.

A concerted effort by Labour backing Kelvin Davis to win Te Tai Tokerau would seriously challenge Harawira’s hold on the seat.

If the ABC faction prevails it won’t be LIMP – Labour and the Internet Party and that would leave the GIMPs facing a huge battle for power and relevance.


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.

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