There’s another question

05/12/2022

It took a week from the first accusations of constitutional outrage, but the government finally did the right thing yesterday :

The entrenchment clause in the Three Waters legislation that sparked outcry has been labelled a mistake by Leader of the House Chris Hipkins and will be removed.

Hipkins announced the backdown today after lawyers labelled the provision undemocratic last week. . . 

“It was a mistake to put the entrenchment clause in and the Government will fix the issue as soon as the House resumes on Tuesday. . .

The mistake is being rectified but there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the whole saga, one of which is who knew what about the entrenchment clause in the Five Waters legislation? :

Labour’s top brass somehow missed the memo at their caucus meeting last week that the Three Waters amendment they were backing was a constitutional bear trap.

The prime minister, the attorney-general and other senior ministers were present when Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta put forward the Greens’ controversial 60 percent entrenchment provision.

The question remains whether they were inattentive, or the proposal put forward was either undersold, or simply unclear. . . 

There is another question – were they attentive and supported it anyway?

There was a storm of criticism after Labour and the Greens passed an amendment during the committee stages of the Water Services Entity Bill under urgency, entrenching an anti-privatisation clause at 60 percent; this means any future government would have to muster at least that level of support to repeal it.

The problem is that goes against legal advice the Three Waters legislation did not meet the constitutional bar for using entrenchment, which is reserved for matters of electoral law. The amendment could create a precedent, paving the way for this government, or those in the future, to entrench laws they felt strongly about.

There are still questions around whether or not Ardern and other senior ministers specifically knew Labour’s vote would be cast in support of the Green MP Eugenie Sage’s proposal for an achievable 60 percent entrenchment clause, given the fact the red flags had already been raised – including at Cabinet.

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins, in charge of running the parliamentary agenda and business of the House, said he “was not aware until after the fact”.

When asked on Monday if she knew an amendment with a 60 percent threshold was going to the House, Ardern did not directly answer the question.

“I know there was discussion around 75 percent, the level of awareness, I could not tell you around the lower threshold.”

When pressed further, Ardern said “the principle of entrenchment has generally attracted a 75 percent threshold… everyone in Labour was very aware of that”.

“What would have been happening in real time is you had both an entrenchment position but a different threshold.” . . 

That avoids the question about real time at the caucus meeting where the entrenchment position with a different threshold was discussed.

One possibility is, despite Mahuta raising it in caucus, the detail offered was not enough to alert MPs and senior ministers present the proposal was for 60 percent and therefore able to pass, as opposed to the original 75 percent.

It’s a Minister’s responsibility to give enough detail to ensure colleagues understand what is being proposed.

If she didn’t, it’s a sackable offence. If she did then the caucus, including The Attorney General, Leader of the House and Prime Minister knew exactly what was being proposed.

Ardern was asked about this again on Thursday in Hamilton. She confirmed she was at the caucus meeting, but added she had “already discussed and pointed out that entrenchment is generally understood to be a threshold of 75 percent”.

When asked about the caucus’s view on the proposal and whether there was any dissent, Ardern said “conversations in caucus are kept in caucus” but reiterated Labour’s position of wanting to ensure a “public asset like water is absolutely protected from privatisation”.

“Entrenchment is commonly understood to be a super majority, 75 percent, what came before Parliament was a more novel approach,” she said. 

That doesn’t answer the question and leaves open the possibility that she knew what was being proposed and supported it.

If she really didn’t know, or understand, Tracy Watkins says the saga goes against the no surprises policy:

There is no possible right explanation for how a contentious entrenchment clause came to be slipped into Labour’s controversial Three Waters legislation under the cover of urgency, and with so little debate even the Opposition didn’t notice.

Either the Government knew what was happening – which is bad – or they didn’t, which is even worse.

If Three Waters was already emblematic of much that many voters don’t like about the government, the entrenchment debacle – the clause has been panned as undemocratic, and unconstitutional – has only likely solidified opinions. . . 

Add openness and transparency to the long list of not-achieved by them.

The official line appears to be that the clause was cooked up by a Green MP and the Local Government Minister and inserted without the knowledge of just about everyone, including the prime minister, Cabinet, caucus and an army of Government advisers.

This beggars belief from a government that has taken the “no surprises” rule to such extreme lengths that even the most inconsequential Official Information Act requests are required to be sent to ministers’ desks as a deliberate stalling tactic.

But if true – if it really is believable for an MP and a minister to fly solo on what legal experts are calling a “dangerous constitutional precedent” – what on earth does that tell us about the state of decision-making in the Beehive?

Is anyone even in charge any more?

What also beggars belief is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s explanation that “it’s not something I would necessarily be aware of”.

If a hotly contentious clause in a deeply unpopular piece of legislation isn’t exactly what the no surprises rule is supposed to cover, what is?

If it was a surprise when it was on the agenda of a caucus meeting that Ardern chaired, she should sack the responsible Minister and also question her own behaviour and control of her caucus.

If it wasn’t a surprise she’s lying.

Either way it raises questions of why this happened.

Astute Left wing commentator Josie Pagani perfectly summed up Labour’s current state of mind: “People with different ideas are wrong. The Government is righteous, opponents are bad.”

So rather than admit it might be out of step with public opinion on Three Waters, or gangs, or crime, or the parlous state of the health system, or the cost of living, the Government plays political games, and does things like plant mini hand grenades for its opponents, should they happen to get into office.

There’s a name for that – third-termitis, which is when ministers get too arrogant, when there are too many political sideshows and the Government starts blaming the messenger rather than the message for its slide in the polls.

Is this a sign it’s come early?

Labour has belatedly admitted its mistake over this clause but is still pushing ahead with the legislation and Fran O’Sullivan points out it’s concerning that it has taken this debacle to get major legal attention on the Bill:

. . . This is a consequential piece of work. Not only does it entrench what many councils see as the legislative “theft” of water infrastructure assets built over many years through ratepayer levies, but — and this is another egregious aspect — it hands considerable power to Māori iwi regulators to make what are essentially proprietorial calls over the use of that water.

None of this has been appropriately debated, let alone discussed through a national conversation which probes the real extent of co-governance and indeed the engineering which exposes those four new regional water entities to financial risk.

The Government has simply resorted to its legislative might to push these reforms through — buying off council resistance with a $2 billion support package called Better Off funding which is a sweetener for the effective loss of their assets. . . 

Franks Ogilvie gave a legal opinion contradicting the government’s assertion that councils will still own their assets.

The Water Users’ Group is seeking a judicial review of Three Five Waters.

. . . We want stop the Government proceeding with Three Waters. In particular, the parts of the scheme that would see water infrastructure removed from Councils, and therefore ratepayer control, and the co-governance model that is proposed for the four new entities.

We need to know if our Courts think that Minister Mahuta’s references to pan-Maori treaty interests are justified in law. We need to know if our Courts think such interests can require or justify taking rate-payer funded infrastructure and turning it into a source of patronage for a tribal elite.

We want the Court to go back to first principles and make sure the Treaty is interpreted consistently with the rules of law. We want the Court to say there is no legitimate legal basis for the proposed co-governance model or any part of the Three Waters scheme that purports to carve out a greater role for Māori than the general public. . . 

They are waiting for a date for the court appearance, Given the government’s move to pass the legislation this year, it might be too late, even if it isn’t they might lose so what then?

If the Court concludes that Treaty interests do justify putting water infrastructure paid for by ratepayers into bizarre new corporations under the effective control of Māori nominees outside democratic dismissal, New Zealanders will know that the remedy can’t come from Court cases. We’ll know unambiguously that it is idle to look to lawyers and the Courts for protection our inherited rule of law traditions. The remedy will have to come from elections to our sovereign Parliament.

Polls show the majority of people oppose the policy. If the government continues to bulldoze it through the only way to undo the damage is to vote for a National-led government next year.

National and Act have both pledged to repeal the legislation and work with councils to develop policy to replace it.


Lies or incompetence?

02/12/2022

Was she lying?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attended a Labour Party caucus meeting where last-minute entrenchment clause in the Government’s controversial Three Waters legislation was discussed, despite her saying on Monday it was “not necessarily something I would be aware of”.  . . .

Hmm,  not necessarily something I would be aware of does not mean she wasn’t aware of it but the inference was very clear that she didn’t know about it until the storm broke.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta confirmed, through a spokesperson, the change to the bill was discussed with the Labour caucus – a meeting of all its MPs – in advance of the House sitting.

“We knew it was novel and may not pass the constitutional threshold, but it was still worthy of consideration,” Mahuta said, in an emailed response to questions. . .

Emailed response? A Minister responsible for a debacle like this ought to be fronting interviews, not corresponding by emails.

But on Thursday, Ardern confirmed she was at the caucus meeting where the change to the bill was discussed.

“I’ve also discussed and pointed out that entrenchment is generally understood to be a threshold of 75%.

“Conversations in caucus are kept in caucus … We took a view on the principle of ensuring that a public asset like water is absolutely protected from privatisation.

“What came before Parliament was a more novel approach.” . . 

She has discussed and pointed that out and what became before Parliament could be described as a more novel approach.

It could also be described as a constitutional outrage.

But this is a word salad that evades the point – did she or did she not know that there was going to be a Supplementary Order Paper to entrench the clause on privatisation?

If she did know she’s been lying by evasion and omission, if not, was she paying attention and understanding what was being discussed and agreed?

Is it lies or simply incompetence?


Who’s in charge?

30/11/2022

Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins both say they knew nothing about entrenching a clause in the Three Five Waters legislation until after it was done:

. . . Remarks from Ardern and Leader of the House Chris Hipkins on Monday made it clear that there were mixed levels of knowledge of the amendment among Labour’s leadership, despite Labour voting in support of the amendment.

“The last I had heard was for a 75 per cent entrenchment which would have failed with only Labour and the Greens supporting it,” Ardern said.

“I wasn’t aware until after the fact that that had been lowered to 60 per cent – I wasn’t in the House when it happened,” Hipkins said. . . 

That begs the question who did know?:

. . . Nanaia Mahuta as the responsible minister, however, knew exactly what was going on.

“We know that while this particular SOP [supplementary order paper] may not pass the constitutional threshold, there is a moral obligation of people who believe that privatisation should not occur to support that particular SOP,” she told the House at the time. . . 

That begs another question: why, when it was such a controversial move, that conflicted with official advice and set a very dangerous precedent, didn’t she tell her leader?

Given that she didn’t, why not and what are the repercussions?

Can you imagine what former Prime Ministers Bill English, John Key, Helen Clark, Jenny Shipley, Jim Bolger  . . . would have said and done had a Minister slipped a sly and anti-democratic move into any  Bill, let alone legislation that is so unpopular?

The current PM has said and done nothing publicly to indicate that she’s doing anything at all to haul Mahuta back and she’s dissembling over the debacle:

The Prime Minister is deliberately dissembling over the Three Waters entrenchment debacle and should simply admit Labour’s mistake and fix it, Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop says.

“After constitutional law experts publicly admonished Labour for its use of an unconstitutional entrenchment provision in the Three Waters legislation, the Prime Minister should have admitted the mistake and said Labour would fix it.

“Instead, Jacinda Ardern not only attempted to confuse the issue, but she also attempted to make it one for Parliament’s Business Committee.

“The Business Committee has nothing to do with this. It is Labour and the Greens’ mistake, and they need to fix it.

“Entrenchment should only be used for constitutional matters, and only after careful thought and debate, not during a rushed process like this was.

“The Prime Minister needs to stop the dissembling. She is misleading the public, and protecting Labour Ministers and Members who created this problem.

“Labour should refer the Water Services Entities Bill back to Parliament to remove the offensive entrenchment provision.

“The fact that Ms Ardern and Mr Hipkins claim they were not aware of the provisions is a further sign that the Three Waters legislation has been a rushed, sloppy process. Not only are they not across the legislation, but they are also clearly not in control of their caucus, which voted for the Green Party’s proposal in the first place.

“Labour could resolve the issue quickly. Instead, it seems determined to deny it has made a mistake in the legislation which would set a dangerous precedent and undermine New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements.”

The lack of any action against the Minister and the dissembling over the debacle begs another question: who’s in charge?

It looks more and more that it is Mahuta and her Maori caucus colleagues and that they hold disproportionate power in government.


Rural round-up

24/11/2022

‘Greenie by default’ farmer speaks out against Govt restrictions – Sally Rae :

The Black family have been farming at Ermedale, about 10km north of Riverton, since 1924.

Third-generation Leon Black is currently at the helm of the property, with wife Wendy — the couple have four children — and he would like to see the family there for another century.

‘‘With the current settings, I would say I’m wasting my bloody time,’’ he said succinctly.

Years ago, Mr Black became interested in breeding animals that produced less methane but with higher production. . . 

More time needed – Peter Burke :

Democracy by stealth – that’s how a highly-respected dairy industry leader Ben Allomes is describing the present Government’s consultation with farmers over agricultural emissions and other issues.

“It is overwhelming and unrealistic for us to be able to give honest democratic feedback on every piece of legislation that they are working on the moment,” he told Rural News.

Allomes, a former DairyNZ director, is calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to take the pressure off farmers and give them more time to properly understand and digest the huge raft of changes that the Government is trying to push through before next year’s election.

He reckons the Government has got a massive number of things they want to achieve before the next election and says most of these seem to be aimed at the primary sector. He says these include greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, animal welfare and labour. Allomes says this is on top of farmers trying to deal with the uncertainties around Covid, such as disrupted supply chains and increasing costs, all of which are creating an uncertain business environment. . . 

Kiwi entity working to change how overseas customers view wool :

A new entity established to promote the strong wool sector is working to change how overseas customers view the product.

Strong wool prices have been subdued in recent years, with the price often not enough to cover the cost of shearing the sheep.

With support from the government, Wool Impact NZ was launched in July with the aim of working with brands to get strong wool products into markets quickly and speed up returns to farmers.

Chief executive Andy Caughey said their work was being helped by the fact that consumers were moving away from fast fashion and synthetic fibres. . . 

Italian label toasts NZ Merino partnership – Sally Rae:

Turn the clock back 25 years and merino growers were told longer wools were a problem and were being heavily discounted by European buyers.

At the same time, the New Zealand Merino Company was formed to specifically champion merino fibre. Chief executive John Brakenridge and Andy Caughey — now chief executive of Wool Impact — approached Italian company Loro Piana and laid down the challenge of finding a way to use those longer wools in a premium product.

As NZM general manager commercial Keith Ovens recalls, it took much investment, trial and error at the Loro Piana processing plant but, in 1997, Pier Luigi Loro Piana issued the first three-year contract for longer wools (90mm-105mm at 18.8 micron), and at a $2 premium to the spinners market of the day.

The Zealander fabric was subsequently launched to Loro Piana’s prestigious client base around the world. It was one of the first fabrics made from 100% New Zealand wool, at a time when growers had been told by the trade that New Zealand wool was only good enough to be used as a blend with wool from other countries, Mr Ovens said. . . 

It’s not the cows, it’s the fossil fuels – Meg Chatham :

A new report shows that greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas facilities worldwide are about three times higher than their producers claim.

Last week, Climate TRACE, a non-profit coalition of researchers, data analysts, and NGOs who use satellite coverage, artificial intelligence, and remote sensing to independently track human-caused emissions, published a new report showing that half of the 50 largest sources of global greenhouse gas emissions are oil and gas production facilities.

From the report:

In no sector is the power of Climate TRACE’s emissions monitoring approach more apparent than in oil and gas. Last year’s Climate TRACE inventory found that emissions from oil and gas production, transport, and refining had been significantly underestimated — owing, in part, to limited reporting requirements and consistent underestimates of methane emissions from both intentional flaring as well as leaks. . . 

Yealands turns green grapes into gree apples with global sustainability awards :

New Zealand premium wine producer, Yealands Wine Group, has won two golds at the 2022 International Green Apple Awards for its ground-breaking Biodiversity Plan, officially launched today.

Yealands attended a special awards ceremony at London’s Houses of Parliament on November 21 to acknowledge the company’s pioneering work to create a more biodiverse environment.

Yealands topped the Regeneration and Carbon Reduction categories at the awards, run by global non-profit The Green Organisation to recognise environmental best practice around the world. Judges were impressed by the company’s 30-year Biodiversity Plan, which will see around 270 ha at its vineyard in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley planted with more than 1,000,000 native trees to improve water quality and protect and enhance sensitive natural areas.

As the first wine producer in the world to be Toitū carboNZero Certified from day one, Yealands has always measured, reduced and offset all emissions. The Biodiversity Plan goes even further to make a positive difference to the environment and community. . . 

 


Highest priority for $211m a year

08/11/2022

Jacinda Ardern was asked what she’d do if money was not a factor.

Her answer, to make all pre-school education free was, as Lindsay Mitchell points out addressing a symptom, not a cause:

Why pose such a redundant proposition when governments are scrambling to spend less? Well, most governments.

But then I thought the answer might shed light on just how naive and ineffective the PM is.

Her big idea? Free early childhood education. 

“I’d make it completely free. Completely free. And when I say completely free, I’d also give choice to families about at what point and stage their child accesses it. Because for some we know it provides stability to kids that they might not have in their home life.”

Hang on. Back up. Isn’t this putting the cart before the horse?

Perhaps you need to address why ‘some’ kids don’t have stability in their home life.

You’ve already thrown a whole lot more money at the problem due to the first wrong diagnosis and now there are thousands more children in unemployed homes. Dare I say it, unstable homes. 

But let’s look at the evidence the PM might be inclined to take heed of. Evidence produced under her own administration.

Whether or not early childhood education improves outcomes for children is at best controversial. . . 

No-one can fault the goal of improving outcomes for children but free ECE wouldn’t be the best way to do it, even if money wasn’t a factor.

No doubt the PM was thinking about the announcement she made later on about increasing childcare subsidies.

The package included increasing thresholds for the subsidies and adjusting Working For Families for inflation.

That does beg the question of why increasing those thresholds and adjusting those payments for inflation is good when, they say,  increasing thresholds for tax brackets and adjusting them for inflation is not.

It also raises questions about priorities for Labour and its leader when money has to be a factor.

One of its priorities appears to be merging RNZ and TVNZ, the rational for which has yet to be properly explained, the cost of doing which is higher than the combined value of the two entities, and now we learn TVNZ will lose $100 million in advertising a year.

The Government’s new public media entity will witness the loss of a third of TVNZ’s existing commercial revenue, equating to about $100 million a year, within five years, according to advice from officials.

This lost revenue will need to be supplemented by taxpayer funding from the Crown, which is forecast to contribute $211m a year to the entity over 30 years, roughly half of which will be used to plug the shortfall in advertising.

The commercial details were revealed in a late draft of a business case for the Government’s RNZ-TVNZ merger, obtained by the National Party.

The party’s broadcasting spokeswoman Melissa Lee said the documents showed the Government was wilfully destroying TVNZ’s commercial model and forcing the taxpayer to pick up the tab. . . 

It’s difficult to believe anyone in the government can think this is a good use of so much money and it would be hard to find anyone in the general public who would think it is, even if it wasn’t going to be borrowed money.

It would be very easy to think of much higher priorities for $211m a year over 30 years – helping people on benefits who could work into work, which would help improve outcomes for children,  and increasing health spending to address the many factors contributing to the crisis in that sector would two of them.


Will she stay or will she go?

26/10/2022

Bryce Edwards writes on the increasing speculation about Jacinda Ardern quitting before next year’s election:

Tomorrow it will be five years since Ardern was sworn in as Prime Minister. At that time she was incredibly popular, and her support kept rising, hitting its heights in 2020.

That tide has certainly turned in recent months, and there are signs that Ardern is headed for a very difficult time as Prime Minister in the near future. Economic and social factors may get much worse. And the prospect of Labour’s popularity declining further is possible, especially as difficult reforms throw up problems. Re-election in 2023 has never seemed more in doubt.

Unsurprisingly, there has been an upswing in speculation about how long Ardern will stay on as leader and prime minister. The idea of her stepping down before the next election is gaining traction, despite there being no obvious candidate in the Labour Party who could do a better job than her. . . 

That there’s no obvious successor who could do better is not a ringing endorsement of the incumbent.

Ardern will always have her critics. For example, no one will have been surprised that the business community have become deeply disillusioned in Ardern. The latest Herald Mood of the Boardroom survey ranked Ardern as only the 12th best performer in Cabinet. Rating her out of five, the CEOs gave her 2.3. This was down from nearly 4/5 in 2020 – the business community were previously very supportive of her leadership, especially during the Covid period.

However, most crucially, support on the political left for Ardern has also been on the decline. Progressive sectors of society that were highly enthusiastic about Ardern’s leadership early on, seem to have lost faith that she will fulfill her promises about child poverty or climate change.

The narrative of non-delivery hurts Labour and Ardern. Those who might normally tend to be supporters have had to face up to the fact that the Government is very good at talking, but less effective at delivering what has been promised. . . 

Until Covid struck National was ahead or only slightly behind Labour in the polls in spite of the former’s then-leader being far less popular than the latter’s.

There were good grounds for that. Labour was unprepared for government in 2017 and mistook aspiration for effective action.

It’s still making that mistake and the consequences of that are worsening as inflation bites harder, making us all poorer and life much, much harder for many.

The sort of policies and progress that might have enthused and mobilised Labour’s own natural support base simply haven’t happened. The failure to make advances on economic inequality, housing – remember Kiwibuild, or the state housing wait list – together with slow or ineffective progress on climate change, means that those on the political left are sometimes the biggest critics of Ardern. . .

They’re joining a growing crowd further to the right incensed by policies that are failing the country economically, environmentally and socially; aggravated by increasing racial divisions.

The Labour Party annual conference takes place next month, and will be a chance for Ardern and her colleagues to show that the party has some new ideas and momentum. There are so many problems building up steam at the moment, and yet Labour and Ardern look like they have run out of steam and ideas themselves. When this happens, it’s normally a good idea to consider the political exit door earlier than waiting to be pushed out. 

Will she stay or will she go?

That the question is being asked so often leads credence to the belief that the chances of her sticking around will continue to diminish as the chances of her winning a third term also worsen.


Sharma’s kamikaze move

19/10/2022

The independent, once Labour, MP for Hamilton West, Dr Gaurav Sharma , has resigned in what looks like a kamikaze move:

Dr Gaurav Sharma was up in political Siberia on Tuesday, sitting alone in the backbenches of the House taking on the Prime Minister. He sat through jeers as he asked his question.

Moments later, there was Sharmageddon in the form of a bright pink Facebook post. He’s gone – resigning his seat – forcing a by-election. . . 

Over the weekend Dr Sharma became convinced Labour was going to boot him out of the Parliament altogether using the waka-jumping legislation.  . .

Dr Sharma claims the plan was to waka jump him later next year. If an MP leaves within six months of a general election, no by-election is held to replace them.

So he took things into his own hands, blindsiding Labour’s top brass.  . .  

Labour says they weren’t going to invoke the waka jumping legislation.  Why would the party do that when the tide is going out against the party even if doing it late enough to not trigger the expense and distraction of a by-election?

“We have not and are not considering the waka jumping provisions nor do I know the basis of Gaurav Sharma’s speculation,” Jacinda Ardern said.  

“Gaurav may wish to reconsider his decision given he is unnecessarily costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars to trigger a by-election he then intends to stand in.” . .

She backed one of her MPs in Wellington’s mayoral election and wasn’t concerned with the costs of the by-election that would have been triggered had he won.

In going Sharma fired some shots at his former colleagues:

The reason I have had to resign is to prevent Labour from taking away the voice of Hamilton West by invoking Waka Jumping 6 months before the General Election. Labour will now try to spin my decision by talking about the cost of the by-election.
But before they do that here are a few things to ask the Labour Party:

1. Labour’s own MP Paul Eagle has been getting paid from taxpayers purse while running as a Mayoral candidate. He also used the MP funding to send a letter to 20,000 houses in Rongotai asking for what local issues mattered the most to people – this was within days of announcing his bid for Mayoralty. Not only this, if Paul had won, a by-election would have been triggered in the Rongotai electorate for MP.

2. Over the years many Labour MPs have triggered by-elections for one reason or another – in fact Labour MP David Shearer resigning and triggering a by-election is how Jacinda Ardern won the Mt Albert electorate seat in 2017.

3. Since stepping down as the Speaker Trevor Mallard has been sitting in the House with no Select Committee duties, no Bills to speak on, no constituent work. In the last 2 months he has been paid well over $25,000 to just enjoy his retirement. Soon he will be on the gravy train to be the Ambassador of NZ to Ireland. And don’t forget he is on the old Parliament contract which means he gets free business class flights for life.

4. Also a quick reminder of government’s failed recent spending

– $51m spent on axed Auckland harbour cycling bridge project

$500k in office rent paid after Auckland cycle crossing canned

– $66 million on Dominion Rd Light Rail report – $44million out of this is on external consultants
– $350 million on TVNZ/RNZ merger

– $200 million on Te Pukenga botched polytech reform

He’s not going quietly but it’s difficult to understand why he’s planning to stand again.

He won the seat from National and Labour won the party vote in the red tide that swept the country at the 2020 election.

That tide is now going out.

But if Sharma stands again, and several of the wee parties also field a candidate, he might inadvertently help his former party by splitting the anti-Labour vote.


We’re not going to take it

15/10/2022

Matthew Hooton joins the chorus pointing out the government’s stupidity:

. . .If her positioning of the new taxes as a world first was designed to prop up her base, it underlined to everyone else the complete idiocy of her move. New Zealand dairy farmers have the lowest GHG emissions per unit of production of any in the world. The same is broadly true of sheep and beef farmers.

Their climate efficiency is such that a block of New Zealand butter sold in London has a smaller climate footprint than one produced in the UK. Every time a Chinese consumer buys New Zealand milk powder over an American, European or Australian equivalent, the climate is theoretically better off.

Yet, right now, government policies mean our dairy herd is declining while the US herd is growing. Every time there is one less cow in New Zealand and one more in the US, the world gets just that little bit hotter.

Ardern knows this, as do Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who attended her haybarn announcement. In my view they are knowingly reducing the competitiveness of the New Zealand agriculture sector relative to its competitors, threatening the survival of provincial communities while consciously increasing global emissions.

Two arguments are made in response. The first is that New Zealand exporters will gain a premium for having the world’s lowest GHG emissions. Except for a tiny sliver of products that might be sold in specialty stores, everybody in the agriculture sector and hopefully even the Wellington bureaucracy and Beehive know this is nonsense.

Were evidence needed, New Zealand could already advertise that our food products are the world’s most climate-friendly but the reality is that international consumers, let alone the global milk powder and hamburger patty auctions, don’t care.

The second claim is even more ludicrous, that, as claimed by Shaw on Tuesday: “Countries grappling with the same challenges as us are once again looking to New Zealand for climate leadership.”

If any other country is looking at us it’s only to laugh at the idiocy of taxing the world’s most efficient farmers when they haven’t got the tools to reduce emissions, there’s a global food shortage and the Paris Accord states climate change policies shouldn’t come at the expense of food production.

Unlike the claim about the alleged market premium, it is possible the likes of Shaw even believe this. But in reality, nobody looks to New Zealand leadership on anything, whether nuclear non-proliferation, free trade or climate-change policy.

That was true even when the rules-based international system prevailed in the 1990s and 2000s, but it has now unravelled.

China’s GHG emissions are now double those of the US and still growing. Those two countries, plus India, the EU, Russia, Indonesia and Brazil, are responsible for 60 per cent of global emissions and growing.

In the current international environment, it is extremely unlikely that Xi Jinping, Joe Biden, Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin are remotely interested in whether or not the world’s most climate-friendly farmers are paying Ardern’s new tax. . . 

Our neighbour has not intention of following this folly:

Groundswell is planning another protest to show to show farmers aren’t going to take it:

In response to the Government’s assault on food production and rural communities with a punitive and counterproductive tax on livestock emissions, Groundswell NZ is holding a nationwide protest at midday on Thursday, 20 October, Groundswell NZ co-founder Bryce McKenzie says.

“The Government’s ideological commitment to punitive and counterproductive emissions taxes on food production is an existential threat to rural communities.”

“After years of faux consultation, the Government has given up on all pretence of a fair and workable agricultural emissions policy.”

“Instead, we have a tax that, on the Government’s own numbers, will result in up to a 20% reduction in production for Sheep & Beef farmers and a 6% reduction for Dairy farmers, while their emissions reductions will be replaced by less efficient foreign farmers due to emissions leakage.”

“Looking good at the UN is not a good enough reason to send rural communities to the wall and drive food prices through the roof. That’s why we’re calling on all New Zealanders to show the Government that We’re Not Going To Take It, this Thursday, 20 October, at midday.”

“Most New Zealanders oppose reducing livestock numbers to meet emissions targets and now we’re going to remind the Government how New Zealand pays its way in the world.”

“As in previous protests, we are asking all those participating to respect private property and support local businesses,” says Mr McKenzie.


Rural round-up

12/10/2022

Pricing farm emissions: it’s great to enable NZ to boast a world first – but how much culling must be done to achieve it? – Point of Order :

The Ardern government is claiming a world first in its policy to cut agricultural emissions.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asserts  that its proposal “delivers a competitive advantage, enhancing our export brand”, and…

“No other country in the world has yet developed a system for pricing and reducing agricultural emissions, so our farmers are set to benefit from being first movers.”

Farmers  themselves  may be bemused, if  not bewildered, by  the Government’s spin because critics claim the  scheme  aims to reduce sheep and beef farming in New Zealand by 20% and dairy farming by 5%, to achieve  what   Federated  Farmers  labels “the unscientific pulled-out-of-a-hat national GHG targets”. . . .

Fake meat, false promises and real consequences  – Meg Chatham :

The impact of fake meat on people and the planet could be more damaging than that of well-raised livestock.

Last year, Bill Gates proclaimed that “all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef” and advocated for the use of “regulation to totally shift the demand” in order to combat climate change.

Ultra-processed food companies tout artfully obfuscated health and environmental benefits of their fake meat alternatives to convince consumers that “meat doesn’t have to come from animals.”

However, upending meat and the livestock industry will not resolve our climate, health, or justice crises. . . 

Simon Upton methane and forestry – Keith Woodford:

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton says there are good reasons to allow forestry offsets for methane rather than for fossil fuels

Simon Upton, in his role as Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has produced a new ‘Note’ for Parliament exploring the possibilities of using carbon sequestration from forestry to offset methane emissions. It is an interesting and some might say provocative paper. Here I present and discuss just some of the big issues that he raises.

First, some explanation about Simon Upton and where he fits into the parliamentary scene. . . .

Milk prices turning sour? – Sudesh Kissun :

Fears of a global recession and questions over global demand for milk products are pushing dairy prices down.

While a strengthening US dollar and lower milk production normally means higher returns for New Zealand dairy exports, a weaker NZ dollar isn’t all good news for farmers, according to Westpac senior agri economist Nathan Penny.

Penny puts last week’s drop in Global Dairy Trade (GDT) prices to the “rising dairy prices in local currency terms and a degree of cautiousness in dairy markets following the broader financial market nervousness of the last few weeks”.

Dairy prices have essentially given back their gains at the previous auction. Butter prices led the falls, plunging 7%. Whole milk powder and cheddar prices both posted falls around 4%. Penny told Rural News the result was worse than what futures markets had forecast. . . 

Paysauce launches National Farm Boss Appreciation day :

The first National Farm Boss Appreciation Day will be held this year on 23 November, to celebrate the great employers out on farms across New Zealand.

Nominations for the best boss open today, with farm workers invited to submit a picture and a short explanation of why their boss is the most worthy. The nominees will feature in an online gallery, and a national ‘people’s choice’ vote will take place during November to crown this year’s winner – who will receive an epic prize pack thanks to PaySauce.

“It’s all about celebrating the good sorts out there, the employers that have their team’s backs, dig in when times get rough and make the industry proud” said PaySauce CEO, Asantha Wijeyeratne. “As the payroll provider for over half the employers in the dairy industry, and with rural employers making up around 70% of our customers in New Zealand, we often hear about the employment challenges they’re facing and overcoming with their teams. We want to spotlight the heroes and celebrate them.”

As nominations are received, a gallery of great employers will be posted on PaySauce’s website, with the opportunity for the country to vote for the winner. . .

Sheer grit at record attempt – Leo Argent :

Woodville shearer Sacha Bond is training hard for an attempt to break the women’s strong wool lamb shearing world record in Southland next year.

Coming from a shearing family, Bond has been a dedicated shearer since her teenage years.

She taught herself how to shear when many others in the industry would not lend a hand to teach her.

However, as her shearing skills became more and more apparent, people came around to her talents. She eventually made her way into the first all-women’s shearing course in New South Wales in 2015. . .

Coromandel hero wins Outdoor Access Champion Award :

Ally Davey can turn her hand to just about anything to get things done, and she inspires others to do the same. Her incredible achievements have earned her an Outdoor Access Champion award from Herenga ā Nuku Aotearoa, the Outdoor Access Commission, presented tomorrow.

The Spirit of Coromandel Trust was set up in 2000 by Andy Reid and the late Keith Stephenson; it funds opportunities for people, particularly youth, to access outdoor activities. After 20 years of fundraising, the trust started building Ride Coromandel Bike Park on an ex-landfill site in 2020, with Ally at the helm as volunteer project manager.

“I remember when I first started, I sat on the grass, and I looked up and thought, ‘Woah, this is such an amazing opportunity. We’ve just got crap all around us and we can make this into something cool.”

The park is a hit and draws riders in from outside the region. It’s been called the little park with a big heart, and Ally is most proud of the difference it’s made for young locals. . . 


War on words

05/10/2022

New Zealand media loves to show the love Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gets from the international media.

There is much less enthusiasm for contrary views of her, like this from Nick Cater in The Australian:

Jacinda Ardern’s pitch to turn New Zealand into the world’s leading manufacturer of bad ideas received fresh impetus last week in an address in New York. Her speech to the UN was a masterpiece of muddled-headed moral equivalence. It wove terrorism, nuclear war, the invasion of Ukraine and climate scepticism into a single threat to humanity demanding global action.

Ardern aspires to turn the country she leads into the conscience of the world. That NZ led the world in nuclear non-proliferation is an established myth within its shores. That it led the world in pandemic management was a myth established by the Economist Intelligence Unit in June 2020, four months before Ardern’s announcement that NZ had eradicated the virus.

Now, Ardern proposes to lead the world in a global response to misinformation on the internet cast in militaristic terms. “The weapons of war have changed,” she told the UN. “They are upon us and require the same level of action and activity that we put into the weapons of old.”

She said words have become weapons of war and has herself declared war on other people’s words through an attack on  freedom of speech.

As with many dangerous progressive ambitions, this one began with the noblest of intentions. The crazed massacre of 51 people in two Christchurch mosques streamed live on the internet by the gunman on March 15, 2019 prompted Ardern to find ways to stop terrorists exploiting the internet. The result was the Christchurch Declaration, which has been adopted by nine countries, the EU, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube and other major tech companies.

In the days before Covid, limited censorship of the internet might have seemed a reasonable idea to those opposed to terrorism. The concerns about mission creep voiced by some at the time, however, now seem prescient.

Under the guise of fighting the pandemic, the tech giants have launched a dangerous war on heterodoxy that preferences the views of the progressive elite. Seriously credentialled medical academics from leading universities were shut out of the debate over the wisdom of lockdowns and the safety of vaccines by algorithms that bar them from contributing to online discussion or buried their opinions so far down the search engine you’d have to scroll for 50 years to find them. . . 

The problem gets worse when, as is often the case, there’s no opportunity for discourse with those who do the barring for those who are barred.

Even Ardern sounds nervous about where this global war on online misinformation might head. “We are rightly concerned that even those most light-touch approaches to disinformation could be misinterpreted as being hostile to the values of free speech we value so highly,” she says. But to allow the internet content to rip, she claimed, “poses an equal threat to the norms we all value”.

“How do you successfully end a war if people are led to believe the reason for its existence is not only legal but noble?” she asked. “How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists?” Seen through the narrow prism of ideological catastrophism, Ardern’s crackdown on scientific dissent presumably seems reasonable. Speaking in Sydney in July she declared that concerns about the militarisation of our region by communist China “must surely be matched by a concern for those who experience the violence of climate change”.

Claims as far-reaching as these demand debate. Ardern, however, hubristically insists there should be none. Perhaps this is because she is convinced her conclusions on climate change are beyond doubt. More likely, she fears their inability to stand up to scrutiny. Why else would she fear debate?

If her conclusions are beyond doubt, what’s to fear from debate?

Conservatives frequently describe the progressive left’s march through the institutions as if we were facing a blitzkrieg, like Poland in 1939. In fact, the progressive cause shuffles, a centimetre at a time, until it gathers unstoppable momentum. . .

The momentum is growing. People are cancelled because of their views, others are wary of speaking out and stay silent lest they lose their jobs.

Some do speak out, including Brendan O’Neill in Spike Online:

Tyranny has had a makeover. It’s no longer a boot stamping on a human face forever. It isn’t a gruff cop dragging you into a cell for thinking or expressing a ‘dangerous’ idea. It isn’t a priest strapping you to a breaking wheel. No, authoritarianism is well-dressed now. It’s polite. It has a broad smile and speaks in a soft voice. It is delivered not via a soldier’s boot to the cranium but with a caring liberal head-tilt. And its name is Jacinda Ardern.

New Zealand’s PM, every online liberal’s favourite world leader, has gone viral over the past 24 hours following the circulation of the shocking speech she gave at the UN last Friday. Before the assembled leaders of both the free world and the unfree world, Ms Ardern raised the alarm about a new ‘weapon of war’. It’s a ‘dangerous’ one, she said. It poses a grave ‘threat’ to humankind. It threatens to drag us headlong into ‘chaos’. We must act now, she pleaded with the powerful, so that we might disarm this weapon and ‘bring [the world] back to order’.

What is this terrible weapon, this menacing munition, that Ms Ardern so passionately wants to decommission? It’s freedom of speech.

She was talking about words. Seriously. About ideas, disagreement, dissent. Her speech focused on the alleged scourge of ‘mis- and disinformation online’. We must tackle it, she said. She acknowledged that some people are concerned that ‘even the most light-touch approaches to disinformation’ could come across as being ‘hostile to the values of free speech’. You’re damn right we are. But us global elites must nonetheless root out virtual bullshit because it can ‘cause chaos’, she said.

Really getting into her stride, she said speech can sometimes be a ‘weapon of war’. Some people use actual weapons to inflict harm, others use words: ‘The weapons may be different but the goals of those who perpetuate them is often the same… [to] reduce the ability of others to defend themselves.’ ‘War is peace’, said Big Brother. Big Sister Jacinda Ardern sees it a little differently: war is speech. Words wound, ideas kill – that’s the hot take of this globe-trotting luvvie against liberty.

And she really is talking about ideas. Modern politicians who wring their hands over ‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation’ are usually just talking about beliefs they don’t like. So at the UN, Ms Ardern gave climate-change scepticism as an example of one of those ‘weapons of war’ that can cause ‘chaos’. ‘How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists?’, she asked. Critiquing climate-change alarmism, calling into question the eco-lobby’s hysterical claims that billions will die and Earth will burn if we don’t drastically cut our carbon emissions, is an entirely legitimate political endeavour. In treating it as a species of Flat Earthism, as ‘disinformation’, the new elites seek to demonise dissenters, to treat people whose views differ to their own as the intellectual equivalent of warmongers. Barack Obama also claims that ‘misinformation’ about climate change – which, in his view, includes painting the environmentalist movement in a ‘wildly negative light’ – is a threat to the safety of humanity. Be mean about greens and people will die.

Call me a ‘weapon of war’, but I believe freedom of speech must include the freedom to be negative – even wildly so – about eco-activists. Activists, by the way, whose hype about the end of the world could genuinely be labelled misinformation. But they are never branded with that shaming m-word. That’s because misinformation doesn’t really mean misinformation anymore. It means dissent. Deviate from the woke consensus on anything from climate change to Covid and you run the risk of being labelled an evil disinformant.

Indeed, one of the most striking things about Ardern’s speech was her claim that if the elites ignore ‘misinformation’, then ‘the norms we all value’ will be in danger. This is the most common cry of the 21st-century authoritarian – that speech can have a destabilising and even life-threatening impact, especially if it concerns big crises like climate change or Covid-19. So ‘climate deniers’ are a threat to the future of the human race and thus may be legitimately silenced. ‘Lockdown deniers’ threaten to encourage the spread of viral infection and thus may be legitimately gagged. The spectre of crisis is cynically used to clamp down on anyone who dissents from the new global consensus. Images of Armageddon are marshalled to justify censorship of troublemakers. ‘Chaos’, as Ardern calls it – that’s what will unfold if your reckless, dangerous ideas are given free rein.

She had company for her call to constrain free speech which brings no comfort:

To see how authoritarian the desire to clamp down on ‘misinformation’ can be, just consider some of the other world leaders who likewise used the platform of the UN to call for tougher controls on speech. Muhammadu Buhari, the brutal ruler of Nigeria, focused on his nation’s ‘many unsavoury experiences with hate speech and divisive disinformation’ and joined the calls for a clampdown on the ‘scourge of disinformation and misinformation’. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, bemoaned the ‘disinformation’ against his nation. The chattering classes cheering Ms Ardern for standing up to ‘fake news’ are implicitly cheering Buhari and Lavrov, too. They are as one with that woke kween when it comes to chasing ‘misinformation’ from the public sphere. 

Freedom of speech is in peril. And it isn’t only threatened by obvious strongmen – like the corrupt rulers of Nigeria or the theocratic tyrants of Iran – but also by a smiling PC woman who is feverishly fawned over by virtue-signallers the world over. Ms Ardern’s UN speech exposed the iron fist of authoritarianism that lurks within the velvet glove of wokeness. From her brutal lockdown, which forbade even New Zealand’s own citizens from returning to their home country, to her longstanding war on ‘extremist’ speech, this is a woman who poses as liberal but can’t even spell the word. If you want a picture of the future, don’t imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever – imagine Jacinda Ardern putting her arm around your shoulder and telling you with a toothy smile that you’re going to have to sacrifice your liberty to save the world from chaos.

If freedom of speech is in peril then so too are other freedoms because if we can’t speak out about other constraints how can we fight them?

Dan Wooton disucsses Ardern’s UN call with Neil Oliver  who says she’s nothing less than dangerous :

 

 

 . . . they fantacise about the kind of  totalitarian control that’s available to the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. You can see that they fanatcise about when the day comes that they’re able to round up their political opponents and those that disagree with them and put them somewhere out of sight . . 

That might be a bit over the top but it’s also a warning of what could happen if those wanting constraints on free speech win.

Peter Kurti from the Centre of Independent Studies adds his voice to those concerned:

What we see here, cloaked in the similarly reasonable language of compassion and safety is that there is only one narrative, there is only one version of the truth and you’re right, that is a totalitarian … state of affairs.

You can listen to his interview with Cory Bernardi on Sky News at that link.

The internet has given the deranged and evil a voice but designating words as weapons of war and responding  with attempts to curtail free speech is the nuclear option of censorship with all the dangers of collateral damage that accompany it.

Apropos of censorship, New Zealand media reported Ardern’s speech but while they usually also report positive responses to her utterances in international media, the only coverage I’ve come across was on The Platform where Sean Plunket interviewed Brendan O’Neill.

 


Where’s the money gone?

29/08/2022

Danyl Mclauchlan writes of an administrative revolution:

He starts with the strain on hospitals, nursing shortage and the government’s inexplicable failure to put nurses on the green list for fast track residency:

How to explain this? It doesn’t seem to be industry protectionism, since nursing industry organisations were furious about the situation. There’s been some suggestion that it’s a form of gender discrimination. Nursing is a traditionally female occupation; if you look at the roles that are on the green list − engineering, construction, primary industries, ICT − they’re mostly male-coded. Or was it racism, because migrant nurses tend to come from the Philippines? I asked someone in the government if they thought either of these were the case, and they doubted it. To them this was probably just an oversight, an error at the ministry of business, innovation and employment (MBIE), but the opposition attacked the government over it so the government dug in its heels and now here they were, forcing nurses to go through a two-year residency process while people died in hospital corridors. This theory is so bleak, there may be truth in it. But I want to explore an alternative, more elaborate explanation. 

The crisis in the health system is happening alongside an $11 billion project to reform the health bureaucracy. Also underway is the centralisation of the polytechnics. These used to be funded and monitored by the Tertiary Education Commission, but this work has been transferred to Te Pūkenga, a new organisation dedicated to the polytechnic sector (and this new organisation is overseen by a new department in the TEC). Te Pūkenga is already in dire financial trouble, with its CEO on paid leave for a period while not responding to media enquiries (he has now resigned). So far the merger has cost $200 million, and the government is cutting back teaching and administrative staff at the polytechnics to pay for it all. The whole debacle has been attacked by former Otago Polytechnic CEO Phil Ker who told the Otago Daily Times: “Those hundreds of millions have just gone into structural stuff. Not a single dollar has been put into improving outcomes for learners, not a single dollar to strengthening the regional providers, and so the issues that we had before Hipkins started this misguided venture, are not only still there, they’re worse. The initial goal was to build a system that delivered more education to more people – particularly Māori, Pasifika and people with disabilities – and to do it better… It just hasn’t happened.”

On the same day Ker made his complaint, Stuff reported that the next phase of the government’s Let’s Get Wellington Moving transport infrastructure project – “a detailed business case involving no construction” – would cost more than $120 million and take three years to complete.

Note that Wellington’s infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating. Also that day NewsHub reported that the government was spending a billion dollars a year on consultants, with Imogen Wells writing: “Back in 2018, the cap on public servants was removed with the aim being to reduce the Government’s contractor and consultant spend. Since then, the number of public servants has grown, but the government’s still spending just as much taxpayer money on contractors and consultants.” . . 

Mclauchlan then moves on to the crisis facing the fire service.

National’s internal affairs spokesman Todd Muller pointed to spending on contractors and consultants increasing from $4.5 million in its last year as the fire service, to more than $140 million over the past five years, since it was centralised as FENZ.

“FENZ had $468m capital expenditure in the last five years and firefighters are questioning where the money has gone,” Muller said. “There has been no improvements to resourcing over that period… We are witnessing fire trucks breaking down across the country.” . . 

Next the government’s attempt to improve mental wellbeing of school children.

 It had allocated $44 million to fund counselling at primary, intermediate and small secondary schools for four years, with the Ministry of Education claiming it would deliver 100,000 hours of counselling each year. But it looked set to provide just 9600 hours this year

In the story, National party mental health spokesperson Matt Doocey said it appeared the government was spending more than $500 per counselling session. “Normally counsellors charge about $150, so you’d have to ask: Where is this money going?” . . 

Where is not just that money but all the other money going? It’s a multi billion dollar question.

Where IS all the money going? In the past few months the government has created a new anti-terror research centre, committed $300 million to replace the school decile rating system with an equity number, created a a new ministry for disabled people, a new national health provider, a new health authority for Māori, a new ambassadorship for Pacific gender equality, a new supermarket watchdog. It’s hard at work creating a new mega-sized public media entity – estimated cost $350 million – and establishing four new regional wastewater entities at an estimated cost of $296 million (the total three waters reform is priced at about $2 billion). It has purchased Kiwibank for $2.1 billion. 

Some or all of these might turn out to be worthy enterprises but there’s a huge assumption in this government and on the left more broadly that they can only be Good Things – that questioning the rapid expansion of the administrative state can only be right-wing hate speech, part of a covert neoliberal plot to gut health, education, welfare. 

Aren’t we seeing an erosion in state capacity alongside all this centralisation and expansion? Aren’t outcomes in health, education and welfare trending down rather than up?

Yes.

What’s going on? You can’t have effective public services without bureaucracies, but it’s not clear that the torrents of money flowing into them are delivering more value to the public or to the marginalised communities some of them are named after. It’s almost as if the primary role of the administrative state is shifting from serving the people to the redistribution of wealth to the staffers, lawyers, PR companies, managers and consultancy firms that work in them, or for them. A billion dollars a year in public sector consultancy is an awful lot of money when you’re running out of teachers and nurses because you don’t pay them enough, and the fire trucks are breaking down.

And when you’re compounding staff shortages in the private sector by competing for workers.

I sound a little conspiratorial when I talk about this, as if there’s a smoky room filled with senior ministers, high-ranked public servants and partners at consultancy and law firms all laughing as they cut frontline services and stuff wads of cash into each other’s underpants. And a certain amount of this happens under every government. But I think there’s something else at work here. 

In 1994 the US historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch died, and a year later his final book The Revolt of the Elites was published. Lasch started his career as a socialist and ended it as a hard-to-categorise hybrid of anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist pro-environmental conservative. The revolting elites in his book are the professional managerial class: the educated technocrats who occupy a commanding position across post-industrial economies, not by direct ownership of capital or overt command of the political system but by managerial  control of all our institutions. They run everything. I’ve written about the professional managerial class before – I don’t think you can understand 21st century politics without them – and for Lasch their most important qualities are: a) they’re a global class; b) they’re more concerned with the virtual and abstract than the physical, and, c) the primary purpose of their politics is therapeutic. 

Could we add to their concern for the virtual and the abstract terrifying ignorance of the practical?

Lasch mourns the decline of the mid-20th century socially democratic left; the working class movement that built the modern welfare state. And he notes that the PMC often imitates their rhetoric but primarily employs the state as a means to appropriate the public’s wealth for themselves while defecting from its core institutions. He notes: “They send their children to private schools, insure themselves against medical emergencies… In effect, they have removed themselves from the common life. Their only relation to productive labour is that of consumers. They have no experience of making anything substantial or enduring. They live in a world of abstractions and images, a simulated world that consists of computerised models of reality.”

And this disconnection from the physical world and their fellow citizens means their politics is increasingly therapeutic rather than material; it’s the politics of personal self-esteem, emotional wellbeing, self-expression, self validation, relentless positivity. Jacinda Ardern gave a nice demonstration of this in a recent interview on TVNZ’s Q+A with Jack Tame. When asked about her government’s failure to deliver across multiple policy areas and what she’d learned from these mistakes, she replied: “You know what, I would not ever change the fact that we have always throughout been highly aspirational. We have always focused on how we can make New Zealand better…  In setting out a vision for what that should look like, you will still hear me talk about New Zealand as a place that should be free of child poverty. Absolutely, because anything less in my mind… anything less demonstrates that we don’t believe that things can and need to improve.”  

It’s hard to criticise aspiration, but it’s useless if the aspiration and vision aren’t met by practical policies to ensure that things not only can and need to improve but do, and do considerably.

The vision is everything. In 2019 the government unveiled its Road to Zero campaign. This approach to road safety, funded at $3 billion over the next three years, “adopts a vision of a New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes”, which it pretends it will realise by 2050, and which is accompanied by a $15 million advertising campaign (including the famous $30,000 in illuminated zero signs). The transport agency delivering the campaign, Waka Kotahi, has seen a dramatic increase in staff, especially comms staff. NewsHub reported it has “more than doubled its PR team since 2017 – when Labour took power – from 32 staffers to 88, 65 of whom are earning $100,000 or more.” It has more managers, more HR administrators, more accountants. It spent $25 million refitting its offices. But road deaths are trending up even though petrol is more expensive so commuter miles are down. RNZ reported that Waka Kotahi have only installed a fifth of the median barriers they were supposed to, and fewer than a fifth of the side barriers. There are numerous media reports about worsening road conditions around the country. 

And,  from Lasch’s perspective, this all makes total sense. For his managerial class the primary purpose of the transport agency and the rest of the state is to create high income jobs and lucrative contracts for the cognitive elite – they are the true value creators, after all – and to deliver media campaigns celebrating the bravery of their visions, the nobility of their aspirations; to affirm that they are the good and smart people. The actual safety conditions of provincial roads are largely irrelevant. And if we circle back to the beginning of this essay, he’d see the decision not to fast-track nurses into the country the same way. Nursing is a credentialed, moderately well paid profession. But nurses are not knowledge workers the way medical doctors and some other health professionals are. Nurses work almost entirely in the real not the abstract, therefore they can’t be adding “real” value to the health system, any more than safety barriers installed by uneducated manual labourers can reduce traffic fatalities, or fire trucks can put out fires.

I’d disagree with the opinion that nurses aren’t knowledge workers but they do work in the real.

When you write about class – or race, gender, faith – it’s hard to avoid the sin of essentialism where you lump a huge, diverse group of people together and declare them all intrinsically good or bad. But what Lasch describes is a cultural and social logic rather than a group of evil people. I’m part of the PMC myself; we’re (mostly) decent on an individual basis. It’s the political outcomes of this class relentlessly following its own self-interest that are bad. In his book Capitalism, Alone, the inequality researcher Branko Milanovic describes the tendency for educated elites to practise “assortative mating” – forming highly credentialed dual-income couples that can afford residential property close to hub cities, where their investments are artificially inflated through strict zoning regulations. This happens all over the world and no one co-ordinates it. Lasch notes that because the PMC is meritocratic it tends to strip-mine non-elite communities of their best and brightest, elevating them into the cognitive class. So anti-managerial movements tend to be disorganised, incoherent, leaderless and easily captured by bad actors. We’re seeing that all over the world, too. . . 

Did we see that in the protest camp at parliament?

There were a lot of people with a lot of grievances, some of them real, but they were largely disorganised, incoherent and leaderless.

A survey showed that contrary to the rhetoric that the majority of the protestors were not right-wing extremists and white supremasists:

. . . 64% of protesters sampled were European, 27% Māori, 4% Asian and 3% Pacific.

There were almost twice as many Māori respondents amongst the sampled protesters as compared to their share of the adult population. Pacific and Asians were under-represented and the proportion of Europeans was very close to their population share.

45.7% of protesters sampled voted for Labour or the Greens. 27.8% voted for National or ACT. Other significant parties voted for were New Conservative 8.7%, Advance 6% and Māori Party 3%. (When those who did not vote are removed).

19% of protesters sampled did not vote. This seems in line with the election results which saw 82% turnout, so around 18% of enrolled adults not voting.

Of the five parties in Parliament the most over-represented are the Māori Party which has three times greater supporter amongst protesters than in the election and the Greens who have twice as much.

ACT has 1.6 times as much while National and Labour voters are under-represented.

Maori Party voters are very unlikely to be white supremacists but given Maori were over represented in groups with lower incomes they are more likely to be harder hit by the expense on theoretical and impractical policies at the expense of those that make a positive difference.

People from the provinces were over represented at the protest as well.

They’re the ones not just geographically but culturally distant from the bureaucrats and consultants.

They have been hard hit by the impractical regulations that have been spewed out by the growing bureaucracy and the deteriorating economy and over stretched public services for which those bureaucrats, consultants and the government that’s spawned them must take some of the blame.

How do we counter this administrative revolution and get policies that make a positive difference for the public, rather than just for the public service?

Could it be as simple as culling the fat from the bureaucracy and using savings to improve pay, conditions, and the number of people on the front line – the ones who work in the real world and face real consequences for getting things wrong which those working with the theoretical rarely, if ever, do.


One rule for us

17/08/2022

Think of a workplace where a staff member felt he had legitimate concerns about bullying which had not been adequately addressed.

Think about that worker being so upset that he went public with his concerns.

Think about the response if the worker’s boss responded publicly by insinuating that the worker was the one who was mishandling those working for him.

Think about the boss deciding not to investigate the allegations made by the staff member, instead calling a meeting of co-workers to discuss the staff member’s future to which he was invited then calling another, earlier, meeting to which the worker wasn’t invited.

Think about the second meeting which the aggrieved worker didn’t attend, at which it was decided his behaviour was so bad he’d be permitted to carry on his work, but suspended from the workplace team.

Think what would happen when the worker took a personal grievance case to the Employment Relations Authority.

Regardless of whether the worker was at fault, he would almost certainly be awarded damages for hurt feelings and probably reinstated in his job.

That could be any workplace in the private sector, and possibly any in the public sector, but not in the Labour Party caucus.

Labour’s treatment of Dr Gaurav Sharma is very much a case of one rule for us and another for them.

It reinforces my view that the party makes such union-friendly and employer-unfriendly industrial relations laws because it thinks everyone treats staff as badly as it does.

That isn’t to say Sharma is right nor that he is the only injured party. Former staff members have criticised him which has prompted Heather du Plessis-Allan to ask why then hasn’t Labour instigated a proper inquiry?

. . .Clearly, on the balance of probability, he is not an innocent here. He has three staff members complaining to the media about him 

But just because he might have behavioural issues, it doesn’t absolve the Labour Party of the allegations he’s laying. 

He claims to have been bullied by former senior whip Kieran McAnulty and by current senior whip Duncan Webb and that the Prime Minister’s office did nothing to stop it.

He claims that he asked them to investigate his complaints and they wouldn’t’ 

Why? 

Any good operator would’ve ordered an investigation by now for two reasons:

First; you shut the story down.

Look at what happened to the Nats with the Sam Uffindell stuff. Those allegations were in the news for two days, the Nats ordered an investigation, and the stories stopped because we all knew we’d find out the truth in 2-3 weeks.  

Now compare that to Labour’s handling of this mess. This is the sixth news day about Sharma. They could’ve shut this down days ago. 

But also, the second reason, due process. 

Here is a guy claiming bullying and being accused of bullying and it’s got very complicated and murky to all of us watching. 

The right thing to do for his sake and for the sake of Kieran McAnulty and Duncan Webb – all of whom risk having their reputations blemished by this – is to order an investigation and clear the names of the innocent parties.

So why won’t the Labour Party do that?  

A generous reading is that they don’t’ want to tie up the time of people they know are innocent. A less generous reading is they don’t’ really want to know what an investigation would unearth. 

They run the risk that while this ends as a news story, but none of us are ever really sure what happened and are left forever suspecting that while Gaurav Sharma might’ve been a bully himself, he was right and Labour were bullies too.

Labour has left the door open for Sharma to be readmitted to caucus but how likely is that when he still feels so aggrieved?

That someone told Sharma of the meeting to which he wasn’t invited suggests he has at least one friend in caucus who puts loyalty to him before loyalty to caucus.

An inquiry could have settled matters, instead it provides ammunition for those accusing Jacinda Ardern of being anything but kind and it will continue to fester.


When politics get personal

16/08/2022

Have you noticed how Labour has started attacking National leader Christopher Luxon?

Richard Prebble explains why:

The commentators are busy writing off National leader Christopher Luxon. One wrote that he is “starting to look more like a Todd Muller“. Another claimed “the number of people who dislike Luxon is very high for a new leader“.

It is total nonsense. Luxon is nothing like the hapless Muller. The only politicians who no one bothers to dislike are those who are totally useless. Around a third of the electorate are committed lefties. They dislike Luxon because they think he can win. Labour would not be testing attack ads if their polling did not say the National Leader is a threat.

Objectively, Luxon’s achievements as a leader are astonishing. When he took over as leader the National caucus was a poisonous bear pit.

It is a remarkable turnaround. He could now boast to his conference that his “MPs have their hopeless Labour counterparts on the run”. He now leads what appears to be a cohesive team.

Luxon has been in Parliament for less than two years and leader for just eight months. It takes most MPs six years and three elections to become effective. What is remarkable is not his occasional slip-up, but that he has made so few.

National received just 25.58 per cent of the vote in the last election. Now it is New Zealand’s most popular party. . .

David Farrar explains just how significant that turnaround is:

I don’t think people realise how remarkable that swing has been. They were 25% behind Labour at the last election and now lead them in every major poll. A swing of 10% is considered significant. A 25% swing is huge. Here’s what the swing has been for every MMP election (gap between  and Labour):

  • 1999: -15%
  • 2002: -12%
  • 2005: +18%
  • 2008: +13%
  • 2011: +9%
  • 2014: +2%
  • 2017: -14%
  • 2020: -32% . . .

Only in the last election, when Labour was assited by Covid-19 and national disfunction has the swing been greater.

Back to Prebble:

Luxon has the great advantage of not only having a good CV, but of looking like a prime minister. Nothing else has changed, so he has to be given the credit for National’s revival.

He has united caucus, gained the support of the wider party and is convincing the voting public that National would lead a much better government than Labour.

The next election is now Luxon’s to lose. Labour’s only hope of re-election is to politically destroy the National leader.

There is a tried and tested formula. Accuse the Opposition Leader of having no policy. And when he does announce some policy, put it on trial and find it guilty.

When Luxon announced a detailed youth unemployment policy on Sunday, some 15 months before the next election, Labour could not wait to find it “guilty”. The attacks would have been more effective if ministers could agree on what is wrong with National’s policy. Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says it is because the policies have no merit. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it is because the policies “already exist”. Of course both could be true.

If both exist why is the government expending effort and money on policies that don’t work?

The apparatchiks are surprised Luxon has chosen youth unemployment as that is not an issue in any poll. Luxon also identified the cost of living as a crisis when inflation was not an issue. His identification of the issue and Ardern’s dismissal of any cost of living crisis is the reason why voters now say National is better able to handle the economy.

There is great unease over how the young are faring under Labour. Just 46 per cent of pupils attended school regularly in term one. There is a 49 per cent increase in the number of young people on the Jobseeker benefit. When Luxon says “get the kids back to school” and that young adults need to “find a job and become independent”, the country agrees.

Not getting the kids back to school and not helping them find a job and become independent isn’t just failing them. It’s causing problems that will haunt the country for decades and the high truancy and benefit numbers can’t all be blamed on Covid-19 and winter ‘flu.

Luxon’s statement to the National Party conference that – “as a nation, we all bear the costs when welfare becomes not a safety net to catch people if they fall, but a drag net that pulls the vulnerable in” echoes Norman Kirk. Kirk used to say that welfare needs to be not a safety net that catches, but a springboard that propels back. . . 

Margaret Thatcher said I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.

Labour’s attacks on Luxon personally and politically reflects well on him and poorly on them.

It shows they recognise how well he’s doing, that they have nothing substantial to criticise him on and no substantial policies to counter his attacks.

The contrast between his decisive reaction to revelations about one of his MPs and Jacinda Ardern’s trade mark equivocation in response to her MP, Dr Gaurav Sharma’s public complaints – ramped up yesterday with screen shots of messages from other MPs –  clearly shows who is the better leader.


A tale of two leaders

15/08/2022

When the news of Sam Uffindell’s schoolboy attack broke Christopher Luxon said there had to be a place for redemption, providing there was contrition and he told the MP to front the media, which he did.

When fresh accusations about Uffindell as a student broke, his leader stood him down pending an independent inquiry.

There was some criticism about that and Uffindell won’t be the only one who is worried about how something they did years ago might turn up. But it is fair to seek answers to questions about what happened and it gives a couple of weeks breathing space while that process goes on.

Contrast that with Jacinda Ardern when Speaker Trevor Mallard accused a parliamentary staff member of rape – accusations that subsequently cost the taxpayer more than $330,000 to settle.

She let him keep his job as speaker, a role which holds considerable power, and has subsequently rewarded him with a diplomatic post.

Then last week Hamilton West Labour MP Dr Gaurav Sharma wrote a column in the NZ Herald raising issues of bullying.

Ardern’s answer to that was to insinuate he had issues managing his staff.

. . .”Starting out as a new MP can be challenging and one of the toughest parts is navigating the new environment but also the role you must play as an MP managing others.” . . .

Where’s the kindness in that?

He responded with a Facebook post and a timeline of events:

Over the last 24hours many of you would have read the op-ed I wrote in NZ Herald. I want to start by thanking a large number of you who have contacted me from across the country with support. I have also had a few people who have tried to harass me without knowing the fully story. Due to being busy with constituent work and more recent matters I haven’t had much time to follow the comments on social media, but from what I have seen there are many genuine questions out there.

In order to give context to the issues I raised yesterday, I am sharing the following timeline of events:

⁃Before I took my oath I was assigned a Relationship Manager by Parliamentary Services to look after me and my staffing levels. This person had a direct conflict of interest in their role due to being a Labour member who had tried to stop me getting selected as a candidate. I raised this on Day 0 with a senior Parliamentary Manager who assured me that this would never be an issue. ⁃In February 2021 I had an underperforming staff member but instead of listening to my concerns, this was actively turned into a major project by the Labour Party Whips to bring me into disrepute and to rein me in. I sat in meetings after meetings being told I was doing a terrible job and that 9/10 times the MP is a bully so we refuse to listen to anything you have to say. I wrote numerous emails to Parliamentary Services and Whips Office asking for support, providing significant evidence of underperformance by a staff member but I was told in clear words “if you are staying up and working until 3am, you should work until 5am to make up for your staff’s incompetence.” Issues I raised involved staff being drunk at work, not showing up to work, being sent on leave without any notice or approval, and a significant wastage of taxpayer’s money. But all I was told was that I need to shut up and do a mentoring course on managing people. I had hundreds of pages to prove that my staff wasn’t doing the work they were hired to do and it affected my ability to provide services to my constituents but I was never listened to. The main bully was Kieran McAnulty who kept gaslighting me, shouting at me, degrading me in front of caucus members and other attendees at events and telling me that I was a terrible MP. His staff members at the Whips Office were the same. One of the most clearest examples was on the night of the America’s Cup final race where he asked me to come to his room for a meeting on a very short notice, but when I got there I was advised that he had to be in an important meeting so couldn’t make it. I spent close to 2 hours sitting with Kieran McAnulty’s staff in his office being told how terrible a manager I was, with no right of reply. But what was most sickening was that when I came out I saw photos of him drinking and celebrating the America’s Cup final while I sat in his office like a school kid at the headmaster’s office.

⁃In August 2021 I found that a Member of Parliament of the Labour Party and a Parliamentary staff member (also a Labour Member) were misusing taxpayer’s money. As someone who took an oath to uphold and protect the interests of this country I raised my concerns with the Relationship Manager at Parliamentary Services. Instead of protecting my identity and looking into this matter, Parliamentary Services forwarded my concerns to the Labour Party Whips and alerted them of what I had said.

The issues of bullying and mismanagement of staff have been the major focus.

This accusation of the Labour Party and a parliamentary staff member misusing taxpayers’ money ought to be getting at least as much attention.

⁃Following this incidence, I was put through further bullying. I was told by then Junior Whip Duncan Webb that what I did was wrong and I should be ashamed of myself. I was told that it was lucky that this Parliamentary Services Relationship Manager (who I had raised issues re conflict of interest on day 0) who is also a Labour Party member informed the Whips Office, because it could have fallen into the wrong hands which could have caused trouble. I was then told by Duncan Webb that an accusation like this could mean that the government could get into trouble, lose the election etc and such issues needed to be contained rather than discussed freely. I was then told by Duncan Webb in clear terms that “the only way this country can succeed is if Labour is in government. Government means Labour. So the Party comes first and foremost before the country.” The matter was never looked into and everything was hushed.

⁃Due to my outspoken stance on squandering of taxpayers money and other policy issues I was further bullied. I was called to last minute meetings with no notice and no support person (but once when I managed to take a caucus colleague with me).

⁃My staffing issues created through the mismanagement of the Whips Office and Parliamentary Services continued. My messages to the Parliamentary Services Relationship Manager were often not returned and I was repeatedly deflected to instead sort it out with the Whips. The same Whips who would bully me and had no legal right to begin with in a triangular relationship between Parliamentary Services (employer), my staff (employee) and myself (day-to-day-manager). I went to the Manager’s Manager but nothing came out of it. I went to the CEO of Parliamentary Services, I wrote emails and made calls – I was promised support to help with the staffing issue but all I got was silence. Many weeks after meeting the CEO I was told that I should go back and talk to the Whips.

Slowly I fell into a cycle of stress, depression and lack of hope as I found myself stuck. I remember one of my former patients sending me very kind message on World Mental Health Day about how I had helped her as a doctor a while ago. I thought to myself about how despite listening to and assisting many of my constituents with bullying and harassment issues, I had to put a bold face up as I struggled everyday with the thought of contemplating suicide. The Labour Party Whips Office and the Parliamentary Services removed all my mānā and didn’t give me any fair process to express my concerns. Slowly I started withdrawing from all the social events in Wellington. Every time I saw my bully Kieran McAnulty speak or smile, it made me sad and angry at the system and the process.

⁃I came to a point in 2021 where I advised Duncan Webb that I had had enough, and because I hadn’t received the support and justice I had been seeking I would go to the media to present the whole issue and tell them how I was being mistreated and there was no investigation into serious claims I had made about the incompetence of a staff member. This is the first time they listened. I was told that they would fly up to Hamilton and talk to me face to face to resolve my issues, which I declined because I had been in meetings after meetings with them for months with no resolution. Their solution included paying a severance pay from taxpayer’s purse to a person who had been repeatedly underperforming. I refused on principle, doing this would mean a double wastage of public money. I kept being pushed to concede but I refused. Eventually they cut a deal with the staff member to encourage them to resign from my office (I did not pay this person out because I stood by my claims which were never and still haven’t been investigated).

⁃After this, the bullying continued in many ways, simplest of which was a freeze on hiring staff. I challenged this and asked them to openly and fairly investigate my claims. But it was refused. For months on end I continued to be short staffed in providing support and services to my constituents who deserved better. I was told that I wasn’t an employee of the Labour Party, or its caucus or Parliamentary Services. My employers were the constituents – but my resourcing was halted by the Labour Party Whips – who were not legally even part of the triangular relationship. A fourth wheel which I continued to challenge shouldn’t be able to make decisions for my constituents especially when they were themselves the bully. When I tried to contact the Parliamentary Services they stopped taking my calls or replying to emails, instead again asking me to talk to the Whips.

⁃I went the only place I felt I could to seek help in December 2021. The Prime Ministers’ Office. The advice was always clear – do not give anything in writing and do not expect anything in writing. Everything can be OIA’ed. So I met the Chief of Staff of PMO for over an hour of meeting which was supposed to be only a 30mins appointment. I took with me hundreds of pages of evidence – emails, timelines, issues etc to explain my case. I very clearly said that Kieran McAnulty was a bully. That I was being bullied. That other caucus members were being bullied by Kieran McAnulty. Few weeks after the meeting when I had not heard from PMO, I contacted the PMO with a written complaint on 18th of December 2021. An investigation was never done. My bully still walks the halls of power with his head held up high, while a “messenger from Caucus” advised me yesterday after my op-ed in Herald that I should take the basement exit and try to avoid Parliament. The kick in the guts however is that despite raising concerns about Kieran McAnulty, not only by me but as I understand by other members of the caucus too (which I had clearly said to the PMO) he was promoted to being a Minister of the Crown. This is our justice.

⁃The issues with Parliamentary Services are even more complex & detailed and have continued. My current staff member has also raised significant concerns about the support from Parliamentary Services and has essentially been ghosted and stone walled. They have had no support in terms of expectation settings & annual review and have been underpaid for a significant amount of time. They went on to raise similar concerns as me re the Relationship Manager (the Labour member with conflict of interest) but it was only after 17months that this person was removed but never investigated for a serious breach of confidentiality (in my case raising concerns re taxpayers money) and in other cases re appropriate support and training.

⁃I know that some people think that I had for some reason tried to time this with what was happening with the issues at the National Party but that is far from the truth. I was told in an email in May by Parliamentary Services that there had never been an investigation against me despite me asking for an official review on multiple incidences. In April this year I contacted a range of lawyers in Wellington and eventually engaged someone to help me draft a legal challenge to the issues I had been facing. I was open about this to the Parliamentary Services and the Labour Whips from the moment I hired the lawyer but they thought I was bluffing. Due to a recent overseas trip and the staff shortage it has taken me a bit longer than I had anticipated to put together all the notes for my grievances and concerns (I am at 40+pages but still writing). Last week I had written to a new Manager at Parliamentary Services asking for a report on some serious complaints I had made (over a year ago). This Manager had promised me 4months ago that things would be looked into but I had not heard back. In reply to my most recent query the Parliamentary Services Manager advised me that they would instead first like to meet me with the Labour Whips and then they would give a written reply. Don’t forget that Parliamentary Services is part of the triangular employment relationship, but Labour Whips aren’t. Hence my comments yesterday about seldom replying and often from behind the Whips’ table.

⁃To me this meeting on Thursday was another attempt to silence me, to bully me and to put me in my place. But unlike other times this time they had given me a slightly longer notice for the meeting. Having been in numerous meetings where I had no support person and was being talked at by 3-4 people often, I decided to take my lawyer Phil Mitchell with me to the meeting to support me. The meeting was called by the Labour Party Whips in their room with the presence of Parliamentary Services on the day of their choosing. They weren’t expecting me to bring a support person let alone a lawyer. Suddenly the conversation in the room was about moving forward. The staffing issues that PM and Whips office claim they had been working with me in good faith to resolve had been going on for 1.5 years but now somehow with the lawyer in the room and threat of a legal case hanging about their head, I was advised that all was forgotten! That I just had to move forward, drop my complaints about Parliamentary Service and significant issues of drunk staff, staff with serious complaints from constituents etc because they didn’t want to investigate these claims. I was told that I was relitigating old matters. At the Thursday meeting I continued to say that Kieran McAnulty is a bully and if they would investigate him. I was just given blank stares and told to move on. I was also told by Duncan Webb that making such claims against a sitting senior Labour MP can affect my career projection.

⁃But they agreed to resolve the staffing issues. Within 30mins of a meeting with my lawyer I had been emailed by two Managers at Parliamentary Services that everything would be resolved and we were moving forward. The ads and roles for staffing were sent to me and I was free to hire asap, something that couldn’t be done in 1.5 years was done in a short meeting with a lawyer. ⁃The reason the op-ed came out yesterday was because the meeting was called by the Labour Whips yesterday at a time and place of their choosing and in that meeting they continued to laugh on my face saying in front of my lawyer “how will you even sue us, you have no legal rights” while repeatedly refusing to investigate anything I have said or investigate me for any issue.

⁃In summary, I stand by my claims that I have been subjected to ongoing bullying by the Parliamentary Service and the Labour Whips and none of my concerns have been investigated. Neither has there been an investigation into any claims against me as per the last written contact from the Deputy CEO of Parliamentary Service. I didn’t just wake up on the wrong side of the bed one day and made these serious claims. For 1.5years I have been trying to seek independent investigation, justice and support from Parliamentary Service, Labour Whips and the PMO. I also want to clearly state that despite what Duncan Webb says it has always been my belief that the country should always come ahead of any party. If I ever have to choose between party and country my allegiance will always be with the country first.

Misusing taxpayers’ money and bullying are very, very serious claims, not in the past as accusations against Uffindell are, but in this term of government and continuing.

There are also accusations from a staff member against another Labour MP, Anna Lorck.

Christopher Luxon has showed strong leadership in seeking an independent inquiry into the claims about his MP’s past and standing him down pending the results of that.

Jacinda Ardern is showing none of the kindness on which she lectures the rest of us, and she’s showing poor leadership.

Serious accusations deserve a serious response that includes an investigation into how much, if any, substance there is to them.

And that doesn’t mean the usual word salad and answering another question than the one she was asked, which is Ardern’s usual way to handle interviews which test her.


H is for

04/07/2022

A post on the NZ Farming Facebook page:

So I’m listening to the news about Jacinda Ardern in the UK promoting tourism to NZ. Saying we’re open for business and want y’all to come on over. Great stuff, I’m all for tourism, its a fantastic industry. But it occurs to me she is promoting one of the most polluting, inefficient, carbon spewing, unsustainable industries there is, while heaping tax and misery on the farmers of NZ, – recognised as having some of the most sustainable, clean, green farming in the world!

Something of a hypocrisy wouldn’t you say??

Like the anonymous poster, I’m all for tourism.

But I’m even more for farming and can see the hypocrisy in the way animal emissions of methane, which is shorter lived and contributes less to warming than carbon dioxide emissions, are regarded when there’s little if any criticism of the fossil-fuel heavy tourist industry.

Hence the use of that h word that applies to a lot of politics and policy around climate change, the economy and environment.

Far too much is based on emotion rather than science.

Far too much would make us colder, hungrier and poorer.

Far too much would do little if any environmental good and at least some would do more harm.


Talent pool too shallow

14/06/2022

When you  want to go, you should go:

. . . Faafoi has lived and breathed politics, first as a press gallery reporter and then as an MP, and because of that he has good political and news judgment.

That judgement served him well when he went to the Prime Minister ahead of the 2020 election and said his heart wasn’t in it any longer.

But safe pairs of hands were few and far between in Labour’s caucus at the time so Ardern asked him to stay.

His usually sound judgment escaped him when he said yes to Ardern, and took on significant reform in the justice sector, a reset of the country’s immigration policy and the merger of state-owned RNZ and TVNZ.

“I don’t think you should take on a Cabinet position if you’re going to be half-pie about it,’’ Faafoi told Newsroom on Monday following the announcement. 

Unfortunately for the country, and especially the people badly let down by bad immigration policy and poor performance in the ministry, he has been going half-pie about his Ministerial duties.

In 2020 Faafoi was widely referred to as a “rising star’’ and tipped to go on to do great things.

But an unreasonable workload coupled with a job he only agreed to at the request of a respected friend and leader, has led to criticisms of him not being across his portfolios, a refusal to front questions on some of the big issues, and a tendency to kick the can down the road.

Faafoi gave his all to Labour and the party has done a disservice by making him stay longer than he wanted to. . .

He wanted to go before the last election but was persuaded to stay on because the Labour talent pool was too shallow.

He’s not the only one who’s stayed too long.

On the flip side, Trevor Mallard’s decision to leave Parliament after 35 years is the right one and won’t have been met with any protest from his party’s leadership.

Mallard has dedicated more than three decades to public service and for that he should be acknowledged.

But in the past couple of years Mallard has clearly lost his passion for politics and at times almost seemed to resent being at Parliament as his temperament got the better of him on multiple occasions.

Apropos of which, how can one of the least diplomatic people in parliament be considered for a diplomatic posting?

Surely the talent pool of potential diplomats is a lot deeper than that of the Labour caucus.

 


Rural round-up

30/05/2022

Fonterra announces record opening milk price payment for its farmers next season as demand remains strong – Point of Order:

New Zealand  has  suffered  several  jolts  in  the  past week, not  least a  higher interest rate regime as the Reserve  Bank counters  surging inflation.  But  at least  one  beacon of  light shines through the gloom:  the country’s leading primary  export  industry’s boom   is  moving  to a  second  season  of high prices.

Dairy  giant Fonterra,  which sets  the  pace  for  other dairy processors,  has announced a record opening milk price payment for farmers next season amid expectations of continued strong demand for dairy products and constrained global supply.

The co-op expects to pay farmers between $8.25 and $9.75kg/MS  for the season starting next month.  The mid-point, on which farmers are paid, is $9 kg/MS.

That breaks the previous record set at this time last year, when Fonterra’s opening price for the current season was $7.25 – $8.75kg/MS, with a mid-point of $8kg/MS. . . 

Rural mental health ignored again this budget :

The Government was made well aware of mental health concerns for rural communities in a meeting in December last year, this Budget has neglected to do anything to address this crisis, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger says.

“It is dead clear from the minutes we received under the Official Information Act that everyone around the table could see that things were bad and getting worse” Kuriger says

“The minutes note that clear themes emerged from a discussion of the drivers of poor mental health, including: workforce shortages, public perception of farmers, and the pace of new regulations.

“If they didn’t already know, it is clear that in December the Prime Minister and Minister O’Connor knew what was happening to our rural communities and were asked by rural sector leaders for help, they’ve had all this time to make a plan but have still done nothing in this budget to address it. . . 

Zespri global revenue exceeds $NZ 4 billion for first time despite challenging 2021-22 season:

. . . A record crop, ongoing investment in brand-led demand creation, and the industry’s ability to respond and leverage its scale and structure have helped Zespri deliver a record result for the 2021/22 season, with total global fruit sales revenue exceeding NZ$4 billion for the first time.

In spite of the immense challenges faced by the industry this season, Zespri’s 2021/22 Financial Results show total global revenue generated by fruit sales reached NZ$4.03 billion, up 12 percent on the previous year, with total global operating revenue up by 15 percent to NZ$4.47 billion. Global sales volumes also increased 11 percent on the previous year to 201.5 million trays.

The results saw direct returns to the New Zealand industry increase to a record $2.47 billion including loyalty payments, despite the considerable uncertainty generated by the COVID-19 pandemic and cost increases across the supply chain. Earnings were again spread through regional communities including within the Bay of Plenty, Northland, Nelson, Gisborne, and the Waikato. . . 

Grower returns remained strong in a challenging season, with per hectare returns representing our second best on record across all varieties: . . 

Top ploughers head to Ireland to compete in world championship – Kim Moodie:

New Zealand’s best ploughing talent is set to represent the country in Ireland this year at the World Ploughing Championships. 

Ian Woolley and Bob Mehrtens, who took out the top titles at the New Zealand Ploughing Championships in Seddon earlier this month, are now preparing to compete against the world’s best in September.

Woolley, who won the Silver Plough conventional competition, told RNZ he’s excited to compete, and to soak up the atmosphere, as the event draws a huge crowd.

“It’s basically their National Field Days, there’s 100,000-odd people there each day for three days, although the plowing is on the outskirts of where the main show is taking place. . . 

Silver Fern Farms partnership between consumers and farmers key to nature positive food production :

Silver Fern Farms today celebrated the launch of its USDA-approved Net Carbon Zero By Nature 100% Grass-Fed Angus Beef at a New York City event attended by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Held at the Kimpton Hotel Eventi rooftop in Chelsea, the Prime Minister was joined by the visiting New Zealand trade mission, Silver Fern Farms US customers and in-market partners, and New York and U.S. national media. The event was to celebrate the successful introduction of Net Carbon Zero By Nature Angus Beef to the U.S., which is already being sold in supermarkets in the New York Tri-state area, the Midwest, and California.

Silver Fern Farms Chief Executive Simon Limmer says closer partnerships between consumers and farmers through products like Net Carbon Zero beef hold the key to addressing our collective climate and environmental challenges.

“As New Zealand’s largest processor and marketer of red meat, we are in a unique position to build closer partnerships between the needs of discerning customers and our farmers in a way that incentivises nature-positive food production,” says Simon Limmer. . . 

MPI announces finalists in 2022 good employer awards :

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust (AGMARDT) have announced finalists for the 2022 Primary Industries Good Employer Awards.

Now in their third year, the Awards are run by MPI and AGMARDT to celebrate employers who put their people at the heart of their businesses.

“We received a number of impressive entries,” says MPI’s Director Investment, Skills and Performance, Cheyne Gillooly.

“Central to all of the entries was a real passion shown by businesses towards supporting their employees by putting their health, welfare and wellbeing first.” . . 


Takers or makers

24/05/2022

This is a government of takers.

They took away our freedom and while the first Covid-19 lockdown was excusable, subsequent ones that were due to the delay in the vaccination rollout were not.

Matthew Hooton writes of the cost of last year’s extended Auckland lockdown:

. . .Then, in late August, our still largely unvaccinated population was hit by Delta. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had no choice but to order what became the long lockdown of 2021/22. It contributed to yesterday’s Budget Economic and Fiscal Update (BEFU) estimating Robertson will end up spending $128.4b to get us through 2021/22.

That’s $13.7b more, or over $7000 for each of New Zealand’s estimated 1.9 million households. The “good news” is that Robertson expects to collect an extra $10.6b in tax this financial year compared with the forecast a year ago, or around $5500 more per household.

Inflation is one reason why, fuelled by both monetary and fiscal stimulus being needed for much longer than if we had been vaccinated before Delta arrived.

That, of course, is only the start of the cost. In Auckland in particular, the preventable lockdown also drove more family businesses broke, ruined a second school year for tens of thousands of students and worsened already fragile mental health.

Yet no one in the Beehive or the bureaucracy has even apologised for the failure to begin our mass vaccination programme six months earlier. . . 

The late rollout also took some of the freedoms we were promised over summer, people without vaccine passes were barred from a lot of places, numbers were restricted for weddings, funerals and other events; and we were all still supposed to sign in.

And let’s not forget taking the freedom to come and go from New Zealand that grounded so many Kiwis overseas, kept others here,  locked out families and friends, is still keeping some migrant families apart and restricting employers ability to get migrant workers.

Then there’s Three Waters and the very real threat that they’ll take away both the assets and control from local authorities and rural water schemes.

And the biggest take away is money  in higher taxes, higher costs through more regulations, and worst of all the loss we’re all having to bear because of inflation that’s adding to the cost of everything and eroding the real value of savings.

Not content with that the government is looking at how to take more from the wealthy, in spite of a promise there would be no new taxes and no wealth tax.

Just think how much better off we’d all be, individually and collectively if they put as much thought in how they could help us to make more instead of how they could take more.

This is a government of takers. The country desperately needs one that understands and supports makers.


Mallard campaigning for NZ First?

04/05/2022

Two former MPs have been trespassed from parliament:

The former deputy Prime Minister has been banned from Parliament, a place he’d worked in for almost four decades.

Winston Peters has been given a two-year trespass notice after wandering through the anti-mandate protest at Parliament in February. That wander could be his last for two years. 

Speaker Trevor Mallard handed down the trespass notice after Peters spent a matter of hours speaking with protesters who illegally camped there for a month.

“We’re going to be inquiring with the Speaker as to exactly what legal advice he has taken in relation to this,” National’s Chris Bishop said.

“My understanding is he basically just went for a wander and a tiki tour.” . . .

Mallard earlier insisted trespass decisions were made by Parliamentary security, not him. But his boss said otherwise. 

“Ultimately, this is a decision for the Speaker,” Ardern said.  . . 

Mallard mishandled the protests badly.

Turning sprinklers on to soak them, and the lawn, and playing loud music.

Trespassing Peters, and former National MP Matt King, is another misjudgment that will hurt him and help Peters who has now been presented with a legitimate grievance and positive publicity.

It could even be seen as campaigning for New Zealand First by putting its leader in the spotlight like this.

He hasn’t decided whether to stand in Tauranga yet but this might persuade him to do so. Even if he doesn’t it will help him towards the 5% his party needs to return to parliament.

But surely even Mallard wouldn’t be that Machiavellian.

However, the alternative explanation is no better – it’s another massive error of judgment, more evidence that he’s not fit to be speaker, a role that requires prudence, and yet another sign he’s well past his use-by date.

That said, if Peters had a lot more self knowledge and humility than he does, he might muse on this being a consequence of his own actions in anointing Labour in 2017.


If they can’t build houses

13/04/2022

Sixteen months on from the Ihumātao settlement and there’s still no houses:

Progress at the disputed land, Ihumātao, remains stalled as the Crown waits for the final members of the governance group to be appointed, writes political editor Jo Moir

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson had hoped the governance group, Roopu Whakahaere, would be up and running in February but it could now be late May before that happens.

It’s been 16 months since the Government announced the controversial land – home to a long-running occupation – had been purchased by the Crown from Fletcher Building for $30 million.

By then, SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) protesters at Ihumātao had been peacefully occupying the privately-owned land for the best part of four years. . . 

If Jacinda Ardern hadn’t interfered many, perhaps most or even all, of the houses Fetchers was going to build would have been built, sold and now housing people. And they’d have been built for a much lower cost than that of building now.

Her interference set a very bad precedent and has kept people out of new homes.

The Crown’s appointments were made in December, but haven’t been announced due to delays around the other members of the group.

Jackson told Newsroom he knew that would leave him open to criticism about the speed in which things are progressing.

“That goes with the territory – this is a hard area,’’ he said.

“You’re talking about people having to give way and it’s taken much longer than I wanted, I wanted this to be away last year for goodness sake.’’

Jackson blames Covid for much of the delay due to the various parties not being able to meet face-to-face to work through any concerns.

“The main thing is they start working together and putting down a plan and a strategy.

“It’s not going to happen overnight – Māori politics is a tough area.’’ . . 

A plan for how to use the land is expected to be drawn up by the end of the year, Jackson said.

He has no intentions of intervening any time soon, because he wants to give the group a decent opportunity to “nut it out’’.  . . 

This is why so many people are so concerned about co-governance.

If it takes this long to get nowhere with houses, what damage will be done to health, three waters and all the other areas for which the government is proposing co-governance?


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