Rural round-up

September 18, 2020

Dr Doug Edmeades responds to Green Party agriculture policy:

The Green Party’s plan to help Kiwi farmers transition from traditional agriculture to regenerative and organic practices is a bit redundant, according to Dr Doug Edmeades.

Most farmers are already using many regenerative agriculture practices, such as rotational grazing, and zero tillage, the soil scientist told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

“Let’s not delude ourselves that if we follow RA, we will improve soil health, we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality – that’s nonsense.”

Edmeades listened with interest to yesterday’s interview with Green Party co-leader James Shaw, where the Minister said regenerative agriculture would result in better profits for farmers. . . 

‘This just cannot happen’: $9.5 billion at risk as horticulture sector struggles to fill $25-an-hour jobs – Bonnie Flaws:

The shortage of horticultural workers due to Covid-19 border restrictions is putting $9.5 billion of the country’s economy at risk, says New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard.

About 10,000 seasonal workers would be needed starting from next month to prune and pick $1 billion worth of fruit across Hawke’s Bay alone, he said.

The shortage had the potential to cripple the region’s economic recovery.

“This just cannot happen.” . . 

Fonterra set to return to profit, but will it pay a dividend? – Jamie Gray:

Fonterra’s annual result this week is expected to show that the dairy giant is back in the black, but will it pay a final dividend?

The co-op last year posted a net loss of $605 million, driven mostly by writedowns of its overseas businesses, dwarfing the previous year’s shortfall of $196m, and sparking a major change in direction.

Fonterra did not pay a dividend in its previous financial year but in its latest earnings update, it said it would reassess a payout at the end of the latest year to July 31. . . 

The future of food – Greg Bruce:

Most of New Zealand’s lowland areas are now devoted to food production. How we produce food for consumption, sale and export continues to shape our landscape and lives, but the 90 per cent of New Zealanders who live in cities have little contact with those processes and the social and environmental considerations they create.

Can farmers improve yields and use resources more efficiently? Can consumers reconnect with the land and farm practices to make more informed choices and reduce waste? What is the future of our food?

THE LATE MAY EVENING my wife and I went to Coco’s Cantina for dinner, it was appallingly cold, probably the coldest night of the year. I wore a long black double-breasted wool coat, which I call ‘The Aucklander’ because it so obviously marks me as a stereotypical city person, which I am—lacking DIY skills, any sort of self-sufficiency, and any idea of what it takes to survive without a supermarket within easy driving distance. . .

Ewe’ll be seeing spots with quintuplets – Daisy Hudson:

You could be forgiven for thinking you were going dotty.

Sue Rissman certainly did when one of her ewes delivered five spotted black and white lambs on Sunday.

The quintuplets, four girls and a boy, seemed perfectly unaware of the interest in them yesterday as they trotted around after their mum on the 21ha lifestyle block Mrs Rissman and her husband, Grant, own inland from Palmerston.

The pair have 47 ewes, which have overwhelmingly delivered twins and triplets. . .

Two farming families form state of the art dairy business :

Two farming families from the Conwy Valley in Wales have gone into a partnership to run as a single state-of-the art dairy business.

The families decided to join together for a better work-life balance, more stock, less pressure and the prospect of new opportunities.

Young farmer Emyr Owen, 30, from Bodrach, near Pandy Tudur, farms in partnership with his parents on a 185-acre former beef and sheep farm.

He joined up with his next door neighbour Gwydion Jones, 38, whose family formerly farmed a herd of 150 dairy cattle at the neighbouring 95-acre Ty’n Ffynnon farm.. . 


Wrecking ball politics

September 18, 2020

David Clark writes:

Over the weekend I had a phone call from a mate who lives in urban Auckland and he wanted to have a yarn about the new Green Party Agricultural Policy, that to his mind seemed logical, fair and reasonable, almost an exciting step forward, but he wanted to see the policy through the lens of a farmer as well,

I have been reflecting on his question regarding the launching of the Green Party Agricultural “Policy” trying to quantify the feeling of hopeless that I and many farmers feel.

So let’s unpack this a bit.

How our business works is we have a farm income, that is the culmination of all the stock we sell and the grain and seed crops that we grow and sell to processors as it’s eventually makes it way to your local Supermarket.

Out of that income, we pay our farm expenses, seed, fertiliser, fuel and electricity, farm supplies, and various other goods and services. Most of this expenditure benefits businesses in our local town Ashburton and across the wider Canterbury economy.

Once we have sold our produce and paid for our expenses, there is hopefully a wee bit left over, which is what most business owners refer to as their return on investment.

Last year our arable and stock farming business made a pre-tax return on total assets of 3.6%.

The Greens intend to impose a “Wealth Tax” of 2%.

That leaves us with 1.6% return on assets before we pay any Income Tax.

The Greens then plan to “charge a fair price” for the Methane burped by our sheep. I have previously heard prices of $50-$250/t of Carbon Equivalent suggested by the Greens, but let’s say at the low end of that range, our Climate Change cost just for Methane will be 1.5% of total assets.

That leaves us with 0.1%.

The Greens intend to develop a Water Charge in consultation with Iwi.

Previously the Greens have stated that charge should be 10 cents per cubic metre. David Parker publicly stated an intention for a water charge of 2 cents per cubic metre.

Here a Valetta, even at the lower charge of 2 cents per cube, the cost of watering our arable crops would be another 0.4% of total assets annually.

That leaves us making a 0.3% loss.

The Greens then want to impose a levy of fertiliser, want us to run a zero-till or minimum-till system, not sure how that works in a long term seed production system and adopt Regenerative principles.

But here’s the clanger, they intend to impose a Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN) level of 1mg/litre for all waterways in NZ. Currently water flows out of DoC land at western side of Mid Canterbury at 3.2mg/l.

To meet a DIN of 1mg/l, Environment Canterbury’s own report from 2017 found that land use in the neighbouring Selwyn Te Waihora Catchment would have to revert to dryland sheep grazing.

We have budgeted that impact on this farm and it looks like this-

Crop Income, down 92%

Sheep Gross, down 62%

Expenditure, down 70%

Wages, down 91%

EBIT, down 68%

Capital Re-investment, down 74%

Net Profit, down 105%

Tax Paid, down 75%

The actual numbers are irrelevant, because the percentage drops will be seen across many or most farm businesses, regardless of size.

Of course, that is before any of the other new taxes and levies they wish for detailed above.

This conversation hasn’t even begun to touch on the significant investment in technology and infrastructure we have made in the last 15 years to reduce our environmental impact, all of which would be both unaffordable, and irrelevant because none of it will get us even close to meeting the limits the Greens wish for.

The end result of all this is we would now own a totally unviable, un-bankable business that is not much more than a glorified life style block and has no economic future in food production. The knock on impact is that land values will collapse.

My suggestion to my mate, or anyone else in urban New Zealand reading this is to enjoy and savour the standard of living that you currently enjoy, make diary notes, take photographs so that you can look back on the “good ole days” as we embark on our journey to becoming a Zimbabwe or Venezuela of the South Pacific.

It was not sensible policy announced this last weekend, it was the framework for economic destruction.

Given the catastrophic economic news released in the PERFU today, I’m not sure we can afford to take a wrecking ball to the agricultural and horticultural sectors right now.

We definitely can’t afford the wrecking ball approach to agriculture and horticulture which are two of the country’s very few bright economic bright spots and we don’t need to.

Most farmers and horticulturalists have been doing, and are continuing to do, everything they can to operate sustainably environmentally, socially and economically and they are using science to guide them in the best way of doing it.

The Green policy isn’t science based and focuses on the environment with no consideration of the enormous economic and social costs.


Rural round-up

September 15, 2020

Fears for harvest as seasonal workers locked out by Covid-19

Hawke’s Bay growers are facing a serious seasonal labour shortage as the reality of Covid-19 sinks in.

The horticulture and viticulture sectors in Hawke’s Bay need about 10,000 seasonal workers to work across the region starting from next month.

They expect there will be a significant shortfall of people for the upcoming season – which will affect harvest time the most.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said if the fruit was not picked, thousands of permanent jobs would be at risk. . . 

Green Party’s agricultural policy ignores basic science:

The Green Party’s agriculture policy is based on a mistaken understanding about the environmental impact of livestock farming FARM spokesman Robin Grieve said today

James Shaw attempted to justify his Party’s policy to price livestock emissions on his belief that livestock produce half New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. The science and the facts about ruminant methane emissions do not support that.

FARM was set up to present the facts about ruminant methane and the Green Party policy demonstrates how much the facts and the science of ruminant methane emissions are missing from the political debate about global warming. . . 

Farming passion through a lens – Cheyenne Nicholson:

A love of capturing a moment in time through the lens is helping a Manawatu farmer reach her goal of 50:50 sharemilking. Cheyenne Nicholsonreports.

Six years ago Renae Flett combined her love of farming with her love of photography to create her photography business Renae Flett Agri and Events Photography.

Her photos feature in farming magazines and agricultural marketing campaigns, and she has shot several weddings, maternity shoots and everything in between.

“I love to take photos of anything farming. I love farming. It’s my passion just like photography, so being able to combine the two makes me pretty lucky, (and) it’s all grown pretty organically,” she says. . . 

 

Fonterra targets community support where it’s needed most:

Fonterra is taking a new approach to how it provides nutrition to communities, to better reach those most in need across New Zealand.

CEO Miles Hurrell says, as a New Zealand farmer owned co-op, with employees spread right across regional New Zealand, Fonterra is part of many communities.

“We’ve taken a good look at what the country is facing into, particularly in the context of COVID-19, and asked if our current way of doing things is supporting the people who need it most.

“We can see there’s a need for us to expand our thinking and take a more holistic approach that reaches more people – which is why we’re making these changes,” says Mr Hurrell. . . 

New Zealand hemp industry set to generate Hemp $2 billion per annum and create 20,000 jobs:

A new report says a fully enabled hemp industry could generate $2 billion in income for New Zealand by 2030, while also creating thousands of new jobs.

Written by industry strategist Dr Nick Marsh, the report has prompted calls from the New Zealand Hemp Industries Association (NZHIA) for the government to take the shackles off this burgeoning ‘wellness’ industry.

“We are well behind other countries in our attitude to hemp,” says NZHIA Chair, Richard Barge. “Although it is non-psychoactive, many of our current laws treat it as though it is. This report highlights just how short sighted those laws are in economic terms, and how out of step New Zealand is with the rest of the world.” . . 

Lower North Island butchers sharpen up for competition:

Butchers from across the lower North Island sharpened their knives and cut their way through a two-hour competition in the regional stages of the 2020 Alto Young Butcher and ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year competition.

It was a close call, but after a fierce competition Braham Pink from Evans Bacon Company in Gisborne placed first in the Alto Young Butcher of the Year category and Jacob Wells from New World Foxton, claimed first spot in the ANZCO Foods Butcher Apprentice of the Year category.

This was the first regional competition in a national series to find New Zealand’s top butchers to compete in a Grand Final showdown in November. The lower North Island contestants put their boning, trimming, slicing and dicing skills to the test as they broke down a size 20 chicken, a whole pork leg, and a beef short loin into a display of value-added products. . . 

 


Rural round-up

September 14, 2020

Fertiliser levy for vegan fantasy would be handbrake on recovery:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Green Party’s “farming for the future” policy, which would introduce a levy on fertiliser and cost taxpayers $297,000,000 over three years to subsidise “regenerative and organic farming methods”.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Agriculture will be a key plank in New Zealand’s economic recovery. The last thing our farming sector needs is a tax on efficiency in the form of a levy on fertiliser. Fertilisers help farmers produce more with less land, limiting the impact of agriculture on our outstanding natural landscapes. The Greens should be happy about that!”

“That the revenue from this tax will be spent on promoting ‘vegan plant-based practices’ adds insult to injury. The Government should focus on allowing the economy to recover, not wasting money on trendy environmental schemes.” . . 

Nothing sustainable without profit – Sudesh Kissun:

Chair of Dairy Environment Leaders programme Melissa Slattery believes that sustainable farming is highly important to young farmers. T

he Waikato farmer believes the upcoming generation of farmers are driven to learn and adapt, just like the previous generation did for the issues of their time.

“Opportunities will evolve for the new generation farmers who understand what is and will be required in terms of sustainability on farm,” Slattery told Rural News. . . 

Work together industry told – Annette Scott:

Verified sustainable production right across supply chains is key to New Zealand beef improving its standing on the world stage, says NZ Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (NZRSB) chair Grant Bunting.

The results of a pilot programme conducted by NZRSB and delivered at a field day on Rangitikei Station last week are proof NZ can do it, Bunting said.

The NZRSB, formed late last year, is about beef industry stakeholders from across the supply chain working to position NZ as a leading producer of beef that is safe and produced in a way that is environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable.

“We need to ensure we not only keep up with other countries, we want to be world leaders,” Bunting said. . . 

Living the dream:

Kiwi agro-ecologist Nicole Masters is living the dream, touring ranches in the United States with her horse for company.

“I love being able to integrate my two loves which are soil and horses all in one place.”

Nicole has been working in the US for seven years now, pretty much full-time for the past three years, running workshops and coaching clients on how to build soil health and optimise water cycles.

Ranging from bison farmers to winegrowers, her clients are progressive operators who are interested in food quality and improving livestock health and pasture diversity. . . 

Ben Tombs wins Tonnellerie De Mercurey Central Otago Young Winemaker regional competition:

Congratulations to Ben Tombs from Peregrine Wines who came first in the Tonnellerie de Mercurey Central Otago Young Winemaker competition held on Thursday 10th September at VinPro in Cromwell.

Ben was back to defend his title from last year so was thrilled to be again raising the cup. Last year, as he was on the Burgundy Exchange, he was unable to compete in the national final, so is extra thrilled to be heading up to Hawke’s Bay in November this year to represent Central Otago.

Congratulations also goes to Jordan Moores from Felton Road who came second and Rachel Bradley from Burn Cottage who came third. . . 

Cattle might be secret weapon in fight against wildfires, experts say. Here’s how – Katie Camero:

Evidence shows that wildfires have become more widespread and severe over the years, with the ongoing West Coast blazes bearing testament to the worrying trend.

Firefighters and farmers have tricks of their own to prevent fires from sparking and to contain them enough for successful defeat. But there might be a secret weapon that hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves.

Researchers with the University of California Cooperative Extension set out to evaluate how much fine fuel — grasses and other plants known to start fires — cattle eat and how their feeding behavior affects flame activity.

The team concluded that without cattle grazing, there would be “hundreds to thousands” of additional pounds of fine fuels per acre of land, which could lead to “larger and more severe fires.” . . 


How did we get here?

September 14, 2020

For a while during lockdown farmers were feeling the love as criticism dropped and understanding and appreciation of the work we do, the food we produce and the export income we earn, grew.

The love didn’t last long and this from a Southland farmer expressed what may are feeling:

I can’t sleep

There’s a few things on my mind.

I know farmers are supposed to be resilient and just get on with things, but I’ve been chewing over the new laws our government has just passed for a wee while now.

“She’ll be right, we’ll figure it out”…

I’m just thinking how we’re going to get our balage and silage harvested. Our contractor shared a post that they can’t get specialized machine operators into the country because they aren’t considered important enough by our government. They haven’t got enough skilled operators here and will probably have to park up machinery during harvest…

If we can’t get our balage and silage harvested in a timely fashion, we won’t have enough food for our cows for the autumn and winter. The grass doesn’t grow well in the autumn and winter…

We can always feed them crop… except we can’t. Not without breaking the law…

If we graze our cows on crop over the winter, the paddock can’t have more then a 10 degree slope, we can’t leave foot prints deeper then 5cm and we must have it resewn before the 1st of November, along with several other conditions. If we can’t meet these conditions, we have to apply for a resource consent…which requires us to meet these conditions… but we can’t… our cows weigh nearly half a ton each. They’re going to leave foot prints…

We could all grass winter… but we would need a lot more silage and balage…which our contractor may not be able to harvest for us due to lack of skilled staff. It would require us to use up more of the farm over winter causing more damage to our pasture then if we were able to put in crops…

May be we just don’t worry about it, just get the crops in and carry on…business as usual. But we’d be breaking the law…

The worst thing I’ve ever done was get a speeding ticket on my way to see the midwife when I was pregnant with our second child…winter grazing is practically classed by our government as environmental terrorism.

…I’m just a farmer… trying to grow good food for people who think I’m a greedy maniac, trying to destroy the world…

We’ve worked so hard, these past years, to try to help change the face of dairy in NZ. When we converted the farm from sheep to dairy cows, we were going to be the complete opposite of “Dirty Dairy”. Water ways fenced off, nutrient budgets, farm plans, the latest effluent management equipment, all, way before it was law.

Then, a couple years ago, when all this wasn’t good enough, we upgraded again. Spending more then six figures to make sure we were “future proofed”

It’s still not enough

How do we have free range cows that don’t pee or leave footprints? We can’t build a barn, it’s insanely expensive and our cows aren’t really suited to standing on concrete for long periods. Besides what part of free range says “housed in a barn”? We can’t sell the cows, this farm is mainly suited to pasture, not crops for humans. We can’t sell the farm, it’s been in the family for nearly 150 years.

Besides, no one wants to go dairy farming…Lol, wonder why…

During lockdown, farmers were considered an essential service provider, yet rarely got mentioned. Not that we were worried about it. It’s was nice to be left alone to get with our job for a change…

Minister Parker and Minister O’Conner said when they came out with this law that they consulted with farmers and we were “happy” with these new rules.

They lied, on both counts.

How did we get here? How did we get to the point of having rules so outrageous, forced on us, that not even the top operators can figure out how to make it work?

They say it’s to bring the “laggards” up to a better standard. We must be pretty bad then, because our cows leave footprints 5.5cm deep on worked soil after a rain, sometimes more!

But hey, “we’re resilient, she’ll be right. We’ll figure it out.”
I know I usually try to see the bright side of things. I’m still farmings’ biggest cheerleader and I still back our farmers who try their best 100%. But we’re going to have to pull something out of the bag, team. I just haven’t worked it out… yet…

might have a glass of milk and try to sleep…

This was written before the Green Party released its agriculture policy which proposes to make farming even harder:

The Green Party’s agriculture policy is another slap in the face to Kiwi farmers at a time when we should be focused on growing our primary sector, National’s Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett says.

“Their nitrogen reduction limits are madness and would kill off dairying as we know it across the country.

“We are facing the worst economic downturn in 160 years and agriculture will lead our post-Covid recovery. With more than 220,000 people on unemployment benefits now is not the time to be putting the brakes on this still-functioning export industry.

“The Greens’ policy is yet another assault on Kiwi farmers after the Labour-led Government hit them with freshwater reforms that, in some cases, are unworkable and will shackle their ability to innovate while piling costs on to a sector that is vitally important to our country.

“National supports having cleaner waterways in New Zealand but we think there are smarter ways to achieve this. We have to back farmers to farm their way to better outcomes. They must see a pathway to improve while being profitable.

“Unlike Labour, National will work with farmers rather than against them.”

The farmer asked how did we get here?

The answer is through politics and politicians who don’t understand farming, its importance to the economic and social fabric of the country and the effort farmers have, and continue to, put into doing all they can to leave a much, much smaller environmental footprint.

And the answer?

It will take a change of government to get that.


They’re Reds not Greens

September 12, 2020

More proof for the contention that the Greens are really Reds:


Science when it suits

September 1, 2020

Federated Farmers is pleased the Green Party has called for us all to embrace science:

Federated Farmers couldn’t agree more with the call from the Green Party today that science should guide the policies and decisions of MPs.  

“They issued the challenge in relation to the recent positive COVID-19 cases in Auckland but as a party that should be interested in consistency and logic, we look forward to the Greens also applying this ‘listen to the science’ principle to issues such as genetic engineering technologies and methane emissions,” Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard says.  

In a press statement headlined ‘Greens call for continued commitment to science from political leaders’, co-leader James Shaw said in the wake of the new cases of COVID-19 from community transmission “… now is the time to band together as a country, be directed by the science, and back good decision making”.    

Policy should be backed by science and that should support good decision making all the time, not just in relation to Covid-19.

This is spot on,” Andrew said.  “Science also tells us that unlike the long-lived greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, biological methane from New Zealand’s farmed livestock does not need to be reduced to net zero to have no additional effect on global warming. 

“A reduction of 10-22% by 2050 is sufficient, yet the  climate change legislation put in place by the government has a much harsher, non-science based target which will only add extra significant economic costs and undermine the competitiveness of our meat and dairy in the international market.”  

Environment Commission Simon Upton told the government that forestry could be used to offset biological methane but not emissions from fossil fuels and Shaw ignored him.

The Greens have been similarly science obtuse in relation to GE.  

“Gene editing technologies have huge potential in our fight to be predator-free, to deal with pest plants such as wilding pines, and to develop new types of grasses that will lead to ruminant animals emitting less methane. But the Greens appear to have had a closed mind on GE, despite scientists such as Sir Peter Gluckman endorsing the need to debate and embrace these technologies,” Andrew said. 

The opportunity cost of New Zealand’s stubborn policy toward GE will only increase as the exciting technology continues to mature, leaving New Zealand worse off and offering an increasing competitive advantage to other countries. 

Opposition to GE is usually based on emotion not science.

All we are asking is that consumers and producers are empowered to make their own decisions on the technology, rather than being hamstrung by restrictive regulations that ignore the best available science. 

 “The Greens’ new professed enthusiasm to be guided by science is most welcome,” Andrew said. 

If only the Greens acted on Shaw’s call. Unfortunately the party only supports science when it suits it.


Borrowing every dollar

August 31, 2020

Finance Minister Grant Robertson justified not extending the wage subsidy to cover the longer period at alert level 3 by saying: we are borrowing every single dollar that we are paying out.

Did Cabinet take that into account when it signed off the $11.7 million paid to the Green School which has raised the ire of  principals, teacher unions, the Opposition and Green Party members?

Green co-leader James Shaw has copped most of the criticism and warrants it for the hypocrisy in backing the payment when his party policy opposes private schools.

But the decision must have been signed off by Cabinet.

Labour is no doubt enjoying watching Shaw squirm. But it is just as guilty of hypocrisy for agreeing to fund this small, private school with fees of up to $43,000 a year after scrapping the partnership schools which did so much for disadvantaged pupils failed by the conventional education system.

New Zealand First has been uncharacteristically quiet about this but it is in no position to criticise when so many of the projects it has funded with taxpayers’ money would not have passed the cost-benefit test.

That was bad enough when the government books were in surplus.

It is far worse now that every dollar that is spent is borrowed, accruing interest and will have to be repaid.

Robertson reminded us of that in defending his decision to not extend the wage subsidy.

If he, and his government,  took that approach to all other spending the Green School would not have been funded and the country wouldn’t be facing such a mountain of debt.


Should the election be postponed?

August 17, 2020

We’ll learn this morning if the election will be postponed. Should it be?

Labour and the Green Party seem happy to stick with September 19. National, Act, and New Zealand First would prefer a delay.

There is some self-interest in these positions but elections aren’t just about politicians and political parties, they are for the people.

Delaying the election will cause a lot of work for the Electoral Commission which will already have booked places to be used as polling booths and employed people to staff them September 19.

That isn’t by itself a reason to stick with the date. The early announcement of the election date only began with John Key for the 2011 election. Before that the Prime Minister of the day used to leave it until a time he or she chose to announce the date, often only a few weeks before polling day.

In the normal course of events announcing early is better for the Commission, giving it plenty of time to get organised, makes it fairer for all parties and gives the public plenty of notice.

However, events are not coursing normally.

Auckland is in level 3 lockdown and the rest of the country is at level 2. On Friday we were told that these levels will be maintained until August 26th.

If parliament is dissolved today and the election goes ahead on September 19, overseas voting will start a week later and early voting a few days after that.

It’s not just that parties and candidates need time to campaign, it’s that people need time to get to know them, to meet them, listen to them and equally importantly talk to and question them.

And it’s not just the election but two referendums that will be held at the same time. While all of these may be of great interest to political tragics and those who feel strongly on the referendum issues, many people haven’t begun thinking about them yet.

There is also the concern many elderly people and others who are immune compromised could be unwilling to go to polling booths so soon after this cluster of community transmission.

There is no guarantee there will not be another outbreak of Covid-19 in the run up to a new date, but if the government and health officials learn from their mistakes, chances are we will be at level 1 for long enough for a near normal campaign.

The likelihood of at least a few weeks’ delay increased yesterday with a media release from deputy PM, WInston Peters in which he released an open letter to the PM telling her the election should be delayed.

Although that doesn’t alter the PM’s right to decide the election date, it does mean a majority of parliament favours a delay.

Disregarding that, and the other factors supporting a delay would be doing a disservice to democracy.


Waka jumping Act on way out

July 30, 2020

The Waka jumping Act is on its way out:

The Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading, marking one step closer to Parliament getting rid of NZ First’s ‘waka-jumping’ legislation, National List MP David Carter says.

“I’d like to thank the Greens for voting for this legislation. They have reasserted their values as a Party that stands up for free speech, and we look forward to working with them further to make sure this Member’s Bill passes.

“No credible democracy should ever have given the power to Party leaders to dismiss elected Members of Parliament because they don’t agree with the Leader.

“It is an affront to democracy. The public expects elected members to advocate strongly without fear of being punished by their Leaders for expressing different views.

“The free mandate of MPs is internationally recognised as fundamental to a parliamentary democracy. There are only a few countries with the draconian power for Party leaders to dismiss MPs, including Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

These are not countries whose attitude to democracy we should be following.

“As I will be retiring at the next election, I have passed responsibility for the legislation to Nick Smith, who shares my passion for good, democratic process.”

The waka-jumping Act was one of many dead rats the Green Party swallowed in return for joining Labour and New Zealand First in government.

It has now spat it out, incurring Winston Peter’s wrath in the process:

New Zealand First has a track record of pulling support for Labour-Green policies at the eleventh hour.

There’s been the capital gains tax, cameras on fishing boats, and more recently light rail from Auckland city to the airport.

Peters said comparisons can’t be drawn between light rail and waka-jumping.

“We did the work on light rail, the costings and the analysis did not back it up.”

He said the Greens’ were breaking their end of the deal.

“They’re signed up to the coalition agreement on this matter for three years and that term does not end until the 19th of September.”

Peters said the Greens can’t be trusted and voters should remember that on election day.

“You cannot possibly be going forward to the years 2020-2023 contemplating a party that can’t keep its word.”

Is this an instruction for his own supporters to vote for other parties?

But Shaw rejected that criticism.

“I think it’s a bit rich for Winston to suggest that we’re not trustworthy when in fact they’re the ones who have been entirely slippery with the interpretation of our confidence and supply agreement.”

Shaw said his party is fed up with New Zealand First not sticking to the spirit of an agreement.

“I would say that in recent times we have learned that it’s the letter of the agreement, rather than the spirit of the agreement, that’s what counts when it comes to New Zealand First.

“So when it comes to the repeal of the party-hopping bill I would say that we have observed exactly the letter of our agreement.”

So is he just playing the same political games as Peters?

“Well I learn from the master,” Shaw fired back.

That the government has held together when the antipathy between these two parties is so strong.

With just days to go before parliament rises for the election, any presence of unity has gone.

 

 


If they don’t trust & respect each other . . .

July 27, 2020

The three-headed labour, New Zealand First, Green government was always going to be a difficult one.

It would be hard to find any two parties more mutually incompatible than the two smaller ones.

That they sit in parliament on either side of Labour rather than beside each other which was the normal arrangement for parties in government says a lot.

That the government has held together this long has surprised many.

Could it be the Greens have come to like the diet of dead rats they’ve been forced to swallow? Could it be that Labour got so used to having its policies vetoed by NZ First, that it was prepared to accept no progress as business as usual? Could it be that Winston Peters was so determined to last in government for the first time, staying in became more important than accomplishing much?

Whatever the reason that’s kept the parties together, the cracks in the government are turning into crevasses with the end of term in sight.

Last week the antipathy between the Greens and NZ First got vocal:

. . . Green Party co-leader James Shaw has described New Zealand First as a force of chaos, while Winston Peters has warned any future Labour-Greens government would be a nightmare. . . 

It was Peters who started the war of words at a breakfast speech in Wellington this morning.

“If you want to take out some insurance in this campaign to ensure you don’t get the nightmare government I know you’re going to get, then I suggest you party vote New Zealand First,” he said. . . 

Has he forgotten it was he who gave us this government? To use Andy Thompson’s metaphor, he’s the arsonist who lit the fire, why reward him for helping to put it out?

Shaw was happy to respond.

“Well, I think that the nightmare that he’s got is that he’s not going to be back in Parliament.”

Shaw is known to be quite measured when New Zealand First pulls the pin on policies or puts a spanner in the works, but with the campaign unofficially under way he’s ramping up his own rhetoric.

“My experience of working with New Zealand First as a party in government is that rather than a force of moderation, they’re a force of chaos,” he said. . . 

Anyone who has taken even passing note of NZ First’s history would agree with that.

Peters also admitted stopping an announcement of a $100m Southland rescue package:

. . .He did, however, reveal he told Ardern she was travelling to Southland on behalf of the Labour Party, not the coalition government.

“The prime minister was going down with MBIE [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] and other ministers to talk about the future of Tiwai Point.

“We had a discussion the night before as to the positions the various parties might take,” he told RNZ.

“The prime minister was very well aware that she could speak on behalf of the Labour Party, but on this matter, not on behalf of the coalition because there was no paper, no agreement, no Treasury analytics to go behind it.” . . 

This is another reminder that in spite of being the minor partner, NZ First, has wielded power far beyond that granted by its voter support.

Apropos of misusing power, last week Peters faced questions over pressuring Antarctica New Zealand to take two of his friends to the continent:

. . .Foreign Minister Winston Peters directed Antarctica New Zealand to give two highly-prized spots on a trip to the icy continent to two women closely linked to one of South East Asia’s richest families. . . 

While denying any impropriety, Peters followed his usual modus operandi by attempting to deflect attention with a rant in parliament accusing several people of leaking information on his superannuation overpayments as a result of his  inability to fill in the application for superannuation properly.

He declined to repeat the accusations outside the protection of parliamentary privilege and all the people named by him denied the accusations.

It is no wonder the other parties in government are showing they neither trust and respect him and his party, feelings that are obviously mutual.

But if they don’t trust and respect each other how can they expect us to?


Reds’ policy path to poverty

June 29, 2020

The Reds have announced an $8 billion tax grab:

The Green Party have unveiled a sweeping new welfare policy that would guarantee a weekly income of at least $325, paid for by a wealth tax on millionaires and two new income tax brackets on high-earners. . . 

The $325 after-tax payment would be paid to every adult not in fulltime paid work – including students, part-time workers, and the unemployed. The student allowance and Jobseekers benefit would be replaced. . . 

It would be topped up by $110 for sole parents, and the current best start payment would be expanded from $60 per child to $100 per child, and made universal for children up to three instead of two.

This guaranteed minimum income plan would cost $7.9b a year – roughly half what is spent on NZ Super, but almost twice what is spent on current working age benefits.

Paying for all this would be a wealth tax of one per cent on net wealth of over $1 million and two per cent for assets over $2 million. The party expects this would hit only the wealthiest 6 per cent of Kiwis.

This would take the form of an annual payment and would only apply to those who owned those assets outright – not someone who still had a mortgage on their million-dollar home, for example.

That looks like everyone could avoid the tax by never paying off their mortgage, but the party wouldn’t be that stupid, would it?

Any party that thinks up this sort of economic vandalism could be.

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Green Party’s proposed wealth tax as bureaucratic economic vandalism that would hammer job creators.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Jordan Williams says, “The proposed wealth tax would mean the return of the dreaded compulsory asset valuations that made a capital gains tax so unpopular. A bureaucratic valuation scheme would incentivise people to hide their wealth, or shift it offshore. It would be a dream for tax accountants but hell for small business owners.”

“The policy also appears not to differentiate between asset types.  It would tax entrepreneurs creating jobs the same as someone sitting on an art collection. Ultimately it would cost jobs at the very time New Zealanders need entrepreneurs to create them.”

“Wealthy iwi groups sitting on often unproductive land would also be smashed under this scheme.  It’s bumper sticker type policy which is poorly thought through.”

“Any party that says you should raise taxes in the middle of a recession is divorced from reality. It is scary that all the work James Shaw has done to try and make the Greens more economically credible appears to be for nothing.”

Commenting specifically on the Green Party’s income support policy, Mr Williams says, “Under the Greens’ policy, a family of five with both parents on the dole would receive $1180 a week in taxpayer funds, assuming one of the kids is younger than three. That goes beyond generosity: it is using taxpayer funds to encourage long-term unemployment. Combined with the policies to tax job creators, this package would take a sledgehammer to New Zealand’s productivity.”

There’s no good time to increase taxes and a recession is an even worse time.

Recovery from the economic carnage wrought by the Covid-19 response requires investment, expansion and increased employment opportunities.

This policy will be a handbrake on all of those and an accelerator for benefit dependency which is a pathway to increased poverty.

This policy is typical of a party that’s more red than green and doesn’t understand that a greener country has to be well and truly in the black and you don’t there by taxing more.

New Zealanders gained a glimpse today of what a Labour Greens government would look like, and it involves a lot more taxes, National’s Finance spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith, said today. . . 

At a time when we need our successful small business people to invest and create more jobs, the Greens want to tax them more.

Rather than celebrating Kiwis doing well, the Greens seem to want to punish them.

The Greens never have the influence to get their way entirely, but they would push a Labour Greens coalition in the direction of higher taxes.

Labour have so far refused to rule out taxing people more if they win the election.

The very real fear many New Zealanders have is that this current government, which has $20 billion available for election spending, will spend whatever it takes to try to keep its poll numbers up until the 19 September election.

Then on the 20th, if they win, the smiles will drop and New Zealanders will be presented with the bill – higher taxes.

National has committed to no new taxes for Kiwis in our first term.

While the economy is going down, the Greens want to tax us more, and Labour haven’t ruled out doing the same.

That’s another very good reason to vote for a National/Act government that will focus on policies which foster the economic growth necessary to provide a pathway for progress.


$50m wasted on politicising grief

June 11, 2020

Andrew Little, says it is “just impractical” to expect the remains of all of the fallen miners to be recovered from the Pike River mine:

Instead, the re-entry efforts are now essentially solely focused on gathering evidence in the “homicide of 29 men”, Little told a select committee hearing this morning. . .

Re-entry originally had a $23 million budget but the Government has already spent roughly $35m and that that could reach as high as $50m.

But that, according to Little, is the absolute funding limit.

“There is always a limit to these things – I have no plan or intention of returning to Cabinet for any further additional resources.” . . 

The limit was reached a decade ago when the then-National government made the only sensible and ethical decision that lives would not be risked to rescue the dead.

That decision was criticised by Labour, NZ First and the Green Party all of whom are guilty of politicising the grief of the families who believed them.

Mike Hosking says the fiasco has been exposed:

. . .The retrieval of bodies is no longer practical. The simple truth, a decade on, is that the retrieval of remains was never practical.

Little perpetrates the con a little further by suggesting that the main reason they are still there, apart from perceived political gain, is to gather evidence for the crime committed.

If it needs to be stated, let me state it again, there is no evidence, there will be no evidence, and there will be no charges. . . 

Families who are angry, and rightly so, who want vengeance, justice, or a bit of both, all have good arguments and much emotion behind the cause. But that does not a case or charges make, or indeed anywhere close.

The Labour Party should be ashamed of themselves. They took a tragedy, saw a political gap, and leapt on it.

Not just Labour, New Zealand First and the Green Party leapt on it too.

The previous National government did what any logical, sensible, and adult government would have done, all they could. Short of making up stories and promising false hope like the current lot have.

They consulted experts, the experts said it was too dangerous and too big a risk. The Labour Party promised the world. Winston Peters chimed in equally as opportunistically and promised to be one of the first down the shaft.

Millions has been spent, budgets have been blown – and now the cold hard truth. There will be no bodies. The families asked for and were granted by the Labour Party their loved ones back, but it won’t be happening.

But the con is, it never was. The families were used for political gain, and cheap violin string headlines.

Most of them won’t admit it, I don’t think because they all seem enamoured with the Labour Party. This was as much about being against the last government as it was about a rescue. . . 

If they really wanted to know what went wrong they could have saved their time and our money and spent just $40.00 for Rebecca MacFie’s book Tragedy at Pike River.

As is often the case in major failures, there were multiple faults that led to the tragedy and at least some of those should have been known by the union which Little headed at the time.

The chances of investigations uncovering anything that isn’t already known about the compounding failings in design and operation are tiny.

The three governing parties have already done far too much harm, stringing along the grieving families with promises that should never have been made.

They have wasted $35m and finally admitted that they’re not, as they foolishly promised, going to be able to bring the men back.

There is nothing to be gained by wasting another $15m in hopeless pursuit of answers that almost certainly won’t be there.

There is something to be gained if they learned from their mistakes and in future followed National’s good example with the Christchurch massacre and White Island tragedy, in not politicising tragedy.


So much for rights and freedoms

May 14, 2020

The government gave in to public pressure and raised the number of people permitted at a funeral from 10 to 50.

However only 10 are permitted to attend a wedding, go to church or gather in a private home yet 100 are permitted in a restaurant, bar, casino or strip club.

Making it worse are the new powers the police have to ensure we all adhere to this.

The government has had nearly two months to work out legislation to cover Level 2 alert level and had it gone about it the right way the Opposition would have worked with it and supported it.

Instead they’ve rushed through legislation about which the Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned.

“For weeks the Government has known that we would be moving to alert level 2. It has not allowed enough time for careful public democratic consideration of this level 2 legislation. There has been no input from ordinary New Zealanders which is deeply regrettable,” said Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt. 

“This is a great failure of our democratic process. The new legislation, if passed in its current state, will result in sweeping police powers unseen in this country for many years.” . . .

“In times of national emergency sweeping powers are granted. There is a risk of overreach. Mistakes are made and later regretted. This is precisely when our national and international human rights, and Te Tiriti, commitments must be taken into account.” 

“Human rights can help to ensure all measures are effective, balanced, fair, reasonable, non-discriminatory, proportionate and subject to independent review. If the Government wishes to retain the public’s trust and confidence, it must honour human rights and Te Tiriti.”  

“A process of regular review by Parliament is needed. If passed in its current form, the Bill should be reviewed by select committee at regular terms and the Government should be open to any recommended changes.”   . . 

The rushed legislation is even worse when it gives police more powers at Level 2 than they had at Levels 4 and 3.

Heather du Plessis-Allan reckons the government has lost perspective:

Look at the powers the Government is giving police today and tell me they haven’t lost perspective over Covid-19.

Because it looks a lot like they have.

From today on – once this legislation passes – police will be able to come into your house without a warrant if they think there is a party going on inside. A party. Of more than 10 people. Not a murder scene, not drug-cooking, a gathering of more than 10 people.

That’s a family of two parents, four children and one grandchild.

Is that proportionate under level 2?

You could perhaps make excuses for the East German police approach under levels 3 or 4 when health authorities were worried about silent community transmission, but under level 2 this is overkill.

We have 74 people with Covid-19 in this country and yet the Government believes it’s fine to allow police unfettered access into the homes of 5 million people.

Because that’s what this means: warrantless entry means no one checks that the officers are doing the right thing … it is entirely up to them. . . 

Under normal circumstances a warrant from the court or a JP would be required and police would have to have reasonable grounds for requesting one.

How have we got to a stage where we think this is fine. Where we accept rules that say only 10 people are allowed at funerals but 100 people can go to a pub? Where families can’t get out of quarantine to say goodbye to dying family members and people in hospitals die without any loved ones holding their hands?

This all feels like a blinkered, mono-focused, perfectionist approach to get zero zero zero and to hell with the sadness and loss of human rights.

Politically the law passing today is not a good for the Government but especially bad for the Attorney General, David Parker. This is the same guy responsible for the stuff-up over whether the lockdown was legal or not. He has high regard for his own abilities and yet created far too many legal headaches for the Government thus far.

Perspective has been lost here.

So have rights and freedoms.

An observation by Theodore Dalrymple is apropos here:

It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. 

This government is becoming more despotic by the day and Labour’s coalition partners New Zealand First and the Green Party should be ashamed of their silent acquiescence to these new draconian powers which have been seized under urgency.


Plane hypocrisy

March 10, 2020

Guess which back bench MPs spent the most of flights:

The Parliamentary expense disclosure released today shows that, on average, Green Party list MPs are outspending list MPs in all other parties on air travel. On average, the list MPs from the Greens are spending more than a third more than Labour’s equivalent.

Reacting to the figures, Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Jordan Williams said:
 
“The Greens constantly say that we need to reduce air travel if we are to save the planet. They need to practice what they preach.”
 
Average air travel spending for non-ministerial list MPs by party:
Greens – $9,816
NZ First – $8,059
National – $7,332
Labour – $6,499

These MPs don’t have the excuse of servicing electorates at either end of the country like Sarah Dowie, Hamish Walker or Matt King do.

The Greens are all list MPs.

They argue that because there are fewer of them, each has to travel more.

But that doesn’t wash when are the ones that preach to the rest of us about cutting down on all but essential travel and the necessity of reducing our use of fossil fuels.

As Heather du Plessis-Allan writes:

. . . This is a plane (deliberate) and simple case of the Greens being a bunch of outstanding hypocrites. This is the party asking Parliament to declare a national climate emergency. It’s the party trying to penalise people who buy petrol cars, asking stretched farmers to pay for their emissions, trying (and thankfully failing) to put a halt to the building of new roads and begging ACC to divest from fossil fuel stocks. Essentially, it’s the party trying to force everyone else to sacrifice a little something for the climate, while they carry on working towards another year of Elite Gold Koru Club status. . .

The Greens hope it’s all okay because they offset their flight carbon by paying for someone to plant trees. Again, nice try. Even the UN says that’s no get-out-of-jail-free card. Trees planted today, to quote the UN, can’t grow fast enough to avoid what the UN calls “catastrophic planetary changes”. Offsetting emissions is like setting a house on fire, giving it a good five minutes to get started, then putting it out and painting over all the damage.  . .

Hypocrisy is never a good look, it’s even worse in this case because it is so much a case of do as we say, not as we do.

The Greens are forever preaching about what the rest of us should be doing, but when it comes to practice, they find that in the absence of alternative time and convenience come before climate concerns.


Jeanette Fitzsimons 17.1.45 – 5.3.20

March 6, 2020

Former Green Party co-leader and MP Jeanette Fitzsimons has died.

Fitzsimons, 75, was the co-leader of the Green Party from 1995 to 2009, and was an MP from 1996 to 2010.

While I didn’t share her political views, I admired her principled approach.

That extended to her willingness to speak out against her party when it went against its principles in supporting the wake jumping legislation.

UPDATE: RNZ has comments from her husband, Harry Parke, here.


Taxes for public services, not propaganda

February 28, 2020

How would you feel about the tax you pay funding a political party?

An email from the Taxpayers’ Union explains:

The Government are gearing up to use Winston Peters’s and Jami-Lee Ross’s donation scandals to justify replacing electoral donations with taxpayer funded political parties.

Here’s a different idea for cleaning up political donations, which is similar and more cost-effective than taxpayer funding: obey the law.

It’s that simple.

The law is clear. If there is a problem it is politicians and parties not obeying it, and possibly the powers the Electoral Commission has to ensure they do.

Taxpayer funding wouldn’t solve that.

Politicians should let the Serious Fraud Office do its job, instead of exploiting the situation to get their hands on more of your money.

Just this morning, the Greens were on Radio New Zealand calling for reform. Labour’s friendly activists have been in the media calling for the same. And it’s no pipe dream: the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has previously said she’s keen on the idea.

Oh yes. These parties never let an opportunity to try to get taxpayer funding for themselves go by.

James Shaw says “We have a donor-driven democracy, and we’ve got to get rid of that.” That’s code for the Greens taking your money.

Democracy is supposed to be of the people, for the people, by the people; not of the politicians, for the parties, with the people’s money.

It’s not donors funding parties that’s the problem, it’s too many parties with too few members and supporters. That would only get worse if parties could rely on taxes rather than members and supporters for funds.

We pay taxes for public services, not propaganda. 

In a democracy we have to accept governments that gain power legitimately spending taxes on policies we don’t support. We should not have to support our taxes going to support parties, whether or not we support them and what they stand for.

Taxpayer funding for political parties cements the status quo and makes it even harder for new political parties, or groups outside of Parliament, to hold politicians to account.

State funding would also negate the need for parties to build broad membership bases. This is particularly important under MMP because nearly half our MPs are elected through party lists, rather than directly by voters. Taxpayer funding would let parties ignore their members’ views when selecting candidates.

Taxpayer funding would also make it even easier for parties with very few members to thrive.

Like MPs’ pay increases, taxpayer funding of parties could come from nowhere, and be passed through Parliament very quickly. That’s why we need your financial support now to ensure there is a strong voice ready to campaign against these proposals.

The Greens and Labour could try to campaign on taxpayer funding.

That would almost certainly ensure they wouldn’t be returned to government with the power to make that happen.

You can donate to the Taxpayers’ Union to help them campaign against this and other abuses of public funds by going here.

 

 


Politics of appeasement

February 17, 2020

When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Wondering what Labour and the Green Party think about New Zealand First and its leader?  Are they staying true to their values and promises, or have they adopted the standards and values of New Zealand First and its leader Winston Peters?

Keep wondering because, as Henry Cooke writes,  their silence is deafening:

. . .  there’s a difference between leeway for jokes and leeway for seriously unbecoming behaviour. And the prime minister has slipped this week from the usual kind of space people give Winston to be Winston into plain supplicancy.

Jacinda Ardern is yet to say anything at all about the fact the Electoral Commission made absolutely clear on Monday that the way NZ First was treating donations to its foundations was wrong. . .

Instead of properly taking this on, Ardern has hidden, as politicians often do, behind the perceived inappropriateness of commenting while some process is still active.

Sometimes this waiting game is both useful and sensible – politicians shouldn’t talk too much about murder trials before they finish.

But in this case it makes no sense. . . .

. . .there are ways of commenting on things without alleging criminal conduct. It is the lifeblood of adversarial politics.

Following the Electoral Commission’s finding, Ardern would have been totally within her rights to say, at the very least, that she thought these donations should have been declared to the commission. She could have said she was disappointed that a coalition partner appeared not to have been as fulsome as it could have been with informing the authorities – all without alleging any kind of crime. . .

Later last week it wasn’t just the donations saga on which she wasn’t commenting.

This silence got even louder on Thursday when it became clear that NZ First had some kind of involvement in two covertly taken photographs of journalists reporting on the Foundation story, which found their way onto a right-wing blog. Peters told Magic Talk on Tuesday that “we took the photographs just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”, but later backtracked to say a supporter just happened to see the journalists and thought he or she should snap a photo.

Because of this shifting story, there is a muddle over exactly how involved NZ First and Peters are, a muddle that would best be sorted out by Ardern demanding a fuller explanation from Peters. Any level of involvement in this kind of tactic – clearly designed to intimidate journalists – is worth condemning, and you can bet that, if Ardern was in Opposition, she would manage it.

Instead she’s not commenting, saying it is a “matter for NZ First”, while her office notes that she speaks about ministerial decisions and comments, not about things said as party leader. 

The thing is, the Cabinet Manual does have a section about ministers upholding and being seen to uphold “the highest ethical standards” at all times, not just when doing ministerial business. Ardern has all the ammo she needs to give Peters a dressing-down over this, but instead she defers. Things don’t have to be illegal to be wrong.

And it’s not just Labour which is staying silent.

Worse, this rot of silence has also infected the Green Party, which, as a confidence and supply partner, has plenty of legitimate room to criticise such tactics. You don’t need to tear the Government up or demand that Peters is fired – you can just say what the journalists’ union said on Friday, that Peters needs to explain himself and apologise.

Instead the Greens just talk about how the law needs to be changed – which most people agree with, but isn’t the point. The topic at hand isn’t underhanded but lawful behaviour, it’s stuff that is potentially illegal – hence the police referral. The party should grow back its spine. . .

John Armstrong has a similar view:

Rarely has the current prime minister looked quite so feeble as was evident during yet another turbulent week for her pockmarked, patchwork Administration.

It was another week which witnessed Winston Peters at his frustrating, selfish, perfidious and domineering worst.

In a perfect world, it would have been a week which ended with him having been relieved of the title of Deputy Prime Minister, if only temporarily.

So damning was the verdict of the Electoral Commission on the propriety of the activities of the highly-secretive New Zealand First Foundation that any other minister finding themselves on the receiving end of such a judgement would have been stood down forthwith.

That verdict on its own is a damning indictment. Once it it became public that the commission’s findings had been passed to the Serious Fraud Office, Peters’ relinquishing of his status of Deputy Prime Minister ought to have been a mere formality, if only a temporary measure while the SFO determined whether everything was above board or whether prosecutions should follow its investigation.

Peters, however, has clearly concluded that he is somehow exempt from the rules covering the disclosure of the source of political donations.

The arrogance is breathtaking — especially from someone who has previously suffered the ignominy of being censured by his parliamentary colleagues. . . 

Given that track record, Peters is beyond being shamed.

He might be beyond being shamed, has that rubbed off on the other parties in government?

Just witness the outrageousness of the New Zealand First Foundation, the leaked records of which have revealed its purpose had been to accept donations in the tens of thousands of dollars from some of the country’s wealthiest individuals without having to disclose their names.

Ardern’s problem is that Peters is Deputy Prime Minister. She cannot wash her hands of him no matter how embarrassing his statements and actions might be for her or the wider Labour Party they might be. Neither can she sit blithely to one side and pretend that Peters’ very obvious agenda to undermine the Electoral Commission is not happening.

Ardern needs to read the Riot Act to Peters — and not just to remind him of his constitutional obligations.

Failure to do so makes her look weak. In dragging her down, he is dragging Labour down too.

She’s letting the party be dragged down lest Peters brings the whole government down, even though Simon Bridges’ announcement National own’t work with NZ First should it be in a position to do so after the next election leaves it, like the Greens, the choice of going with Labour or sitting or sitting on the cross benches.

He hasn’t got a lot of options. It would seem to be an opportune time to remind him of that. He is hardly in a position to pull down the Government.

That makes Ardern’s failure to talk tough appear even more pathetic. . . 

And not for the first time. remember Clare Cullen and Iain Lees-Galloway?

The bizarre chain of events which unfolded on Thursday only reinforced the case for Peters losing the title of Deputy Prime Minister.

The revelation that he was party to the covert photographing and filming of journalists whose investigations of the New Zealand First Foundation have uncovered much to embarrass him and his party is a clear breach of the provisions in the Cabinet Manual covering the conduct expected of ministers of the crown.

To quote that handbook: “At all times, ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. This includes exercising a professional approach and good judgement in their interactions with the public and officials, and in all their communications, personal and professional”. . .

Andrea Vance has more to say about snooping on  journalists:

No doubt Peters’ supporters are enjoying the irony of publishing paparazzi-style photographs of the reporters digging dirt on their party

For reasons that are unfathomable to me, New Zealand tends to minimise Peters more outrageous behaviour. But he is no lovable rogue – and this is straight-up intimidation.

Protecting the identity of journalists’ sources is an essential part of media freedom.

The threat of surveillance is chilling. It can have an intimidating and traumatising effect. . .

We might be a troublesome and unlovable bunch, but good journalism and a free press is an essential part of a functioning democracy.  

This attack on Shand and Espiner’s privacy is an attack on the public’s right to know about who is secretly funding their Government partner. 

Both Labour and the Greens must acknowledge that and condemn it, if we are to believe their exhortations New Zealand politics should be transparent and fair.

Both Labour and the Greens are forced into silence or at best mealy-mouthed muttering over New Zealand Firsts and Peters because they daren’t face up to him lest he pulls the pin that blows up the government.

Ever since the coalition was formed they’ve pandered to him, exercising politics of appeasement, having to make material concessions, several of which have been contrary to their principles and values.

They’ve swallowed so many dead rats they must suffer from permanent indigestion.

One of MMP’s big weaknesses is that it allows the tail to wag the dog. Peters and his party aren’t just wagging the other two parties they have forced them to roll over and accept not just policies that are contrary to their principles and they’re now, by refusing to condemn it,  accepting behaviour that is too.

Many commentators have questioned the values and standards of NZ First and its leader. Labour and Greens are day by day being more tainted by association and exposing their own values and standards to questions too.


If the Greens weren’t so red

January 22, 2020

Another delivery failure from the government:

No progress has been made on advancing the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary over the past two years despite specific Government promises in their coalition agreements to do so, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“Written Parliamentary Question to Ministers reveal the Government has all but given up on advancing the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. There has been no Cabinet papers and little work by Ministers or officials on the sanctuary. There has been no meetings, no correspondence, and no official papers in more than six months.

“There is now no realistic prospect of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary being put in place during this term of Parliament, despite specific promises in the Confidence and Supply agreement with the Green Party to do so.

“Far from helping to create the new Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, the Government has blocked attempts to progress it. They have put my original Government Bill to create the sanctuary at the bottom of the work schedule and repeatedly blocked my Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Members Bill from being introduced.

“This important sanctuary would protect an area of ocean twice the land area of New Zealand and hundreds of threatened marine species. The Kermadec Sanctuary now joins a long list of policies this Government has failed to deliver on.”

The government hasn’t delivered on this coalition agreement promise which is Greens’ core policy because that party hasn’t the bargaining power of NZ First which is beholden to the fishing industry.

If the Greens weren’t so red they might have contemplated a coalition with National and had no argument about creating the sanctuary.

But the party is deeply red and the environment is the loser because of that.

 


Not so popular

December 3, 2019

There is little doubt that Jacinda Ardern’s leadership enabled Labour to gain enough votes in the 2017 election to cobble together a coalition government.

Her fans among the commentariat would have us believe her popularity is unquestioned.

But over at Kiwiblog David Farrar has the numbers that tell a different story:

    • Governing Party – Clark Labour 45%, Key National 55%, Ardern Labour 39%
    • Opposition Party – English National 39%, Goff Labour 33%, Bridges National 46%
    • NZ First – 2001 2.7%, 2010 3.1%, 2019 4.0%
    • Greens – 2001 6%, 2010 4.5%, 2019 7.0%

And how is the PM as Preferred PM

    • Clark 2001 41%, Key 2010 56%, Ardern 2019 36%

Popular yes, but not as popular as her predecessors.


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