Key # 1 again

December 11, 2014

TV3 political editor Patrick Gower has named Prime Minister John Key as politician of the year.

Trans Tasman named him politician of the year last week too.

There could simply be no other. John Key was out on his own this year for one simple reason – he won.

Yes, the Prime Minister’s performance ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.

In fact, Key went from the crème-de-la-crème to the crème-de-la-crap at times.

But Key won. He got National across the line. It was an incredible victory. It defied the political gravity of a third-term and was against the odds of the campaign. . .

I am not sure that anyone except political tragics were particularly interested in the campaign.

To get that was far from easy for Key. The Dirty Politics scandal could have destroyed other campaigns and finished off other leaders.

The election campaign was weird. It was dark too. And it was incredibly brutal for all those involved.

There is no doubt that Dirty Politics knocked Key over at first – National lost control of its campaign.

Yet Key survived. He stood his ground.  In the words of son Max, he “manned up”.

It was like Key absorbed all of the negativity directed at him, and then, like some kind of comic book character, spewed it all out again as some kind of positive force.

There was unpredictability everywhere: Whaledump, Rawshark, Winston, Colin, rappers, hacker(s), Dotcom, Eminem, Cortex and don’t forget Speargun.

National and Key’s defence was simple – they had a plan, and they stuck to it.

“The plan” is a grinding, relentless strategy based on simple messaging and a self-belief that the Key juggernaut can eventually ride out almost anything.

It has been proven time and time again, and this time was proven on the biggest stage (an entire election campaign) facing the greatest degree of difficulty (an entire book of scandal).

Helped in no small part by a dismal and divided opposition which wasn’t looking like a government in waiting.

Key’s politics this year was a potent combination of on the “macro” level, stubbornly sticking to strategy, and on the “micro” level, being what’s called a “clutch hitter” or “big game player” who rises to the occasion.

Key made big moves at a strategic level and stuck to them, and he made big calls in day-to-politics that worked for him too.

On the macro level, one part of the plan that worked well this year was Key’s semi-upfront declaration of his potential coalition partners at the start of the year.

Looking back, it really was a masterstroke – it gave voters a clear picture of how a National Government would work.

Key also gave himself the space with the decision about giving Colin Craig a electorate seat deal and even more space when it came to working with Winston Peters.

In the end, he ruled out a seat deal for Craig because he looked too crazy and wanted him at arms-length. It was a big call but a good call – imagine if Key had been apologising for Craig on the campaign trail as well as dealing with Dirty Politics.

With Winston, Key kept him at arms’ length. But by not ruling Peters out, he always kept himself in the game, it always looked like National could form a Government no matter how bad the polls got.

The PM had the courage and sense to let voters know what they would and would not get with a National-led government.

That provided another stark contrast with then-Labour leader David Cunliffe who stupidly copied Winston Peters’ line that he’d let the voters choose without giving them all the information they’d need to choose wisely.

Key’s and National’s strategy included a bedrock of policies tailored for the centre voter, and conservative political management. They then turbo-charged this with an overload of “Brand Key” marketing.

Key used these to keep his vice-like grip on the centre-ground, and if he has that – National wins. . .

But there was nothing certain about that win.

Steven Joyce’s recent admission that National was polling at 44 percent in the final week and might have needed Winston to govern shows just how different it could have been. . .

Gower’s other awards:

Runner-up politician of the year: Andrew Little.

Back-bencher Kelvin Davis.

Runner-up political non-politician: Kim Dotcom, Whale Oil and Nicky Hager.

Radio Live’s Duncan Garner lists the year’s political winners and losers:

1. JOHN KEY

For all the obvious reasons. He is still the PM and he is still widely popular according to the polls. He had the kitchen sink thrown at him and he almost won the election outright. He’ll have to watch it doesn’t go to his head.

2. ANDREW LITTLE

Couldn’t win a fight in a kindergarten but ends the year on top. His caucus didn’t want him, his party didn’t want him, his electorate didn’t want him. Yet he ends the year looking strong and competent as Labour’s new leader.

3. KELVIN DAVIS

He beat Hone Harawira and therefore beat Kim Dotcom – do I have to say anymore?

4. SUE BRADFORD

She knew Dotcom and Harawira were in an unholy alliance and she put her principles before it all. She called it right – she has values and principles that are beyond reproach whether you agree with her politics or not.

5. CAM SLATER – WHALEOIL.

Yes he’s a dirt-bag, muck-raking, scum-bag attack blogger, but he likes it that way. He doesn’t play by any rule book yet he’s been judged a journalist by the courts. Despite having his dirty laundry aired for the world to see he remains talked about, his blog gets more hits than ever, he breaks stories and the PM returns his texts. Oh and he wins mainstream media awards.

(Close mention: Paula Bennett, now talked about as the next National Party Leader)

His losers are:

1. KIM DOTCOM

Threw millions at trying to rig an election, but the public weren’t fooled. He’s now fighting to stay out of jail. Rest my case.

2. HONE HARAWIRA

He picked the wrong rich friends. Should have stayed poor. At least he’d still be in Parliament. Woeful judgement.

3. LAILA HARRE

See above.

4. JUDITH COLLINS

Was on track to be the next National Party Leader – now she’s struggling to be heard from the backbenchers. Huge fall from grace. Career in tatters.

5. DAVID CUNLIFFE

Came across as a fake and then apologised for being a man. Do we have to say anything more? Awful defeat.

(Close mention: Grant Robertson, rejected twice as Labour’s future leader. That will hurt and in politics if winning if everything, Robertson has twice failed. Ouch. Still, he has huge chance to recover well.)

 

 


Freedom only for those with whom agree?

December 9, 2014

Judith Collins’ first column in the Sunday Star Times has provoked an outpouring from the left about media bias and right-wing conspiracies.

The column was about an issue of health and safety in the building industry which a constituent brought to her notice.

It wasn’t party political. It’s highlighting the sort of issue which comes to MPs’ notice and which the good ones act on.

The condemnation from the left wasn’t universal. Brian Edwards  defended the column.

But others from that end of the spectrum threatened to cancel their subscriptions.

They appear to not grasp the concept that freedom of expression isn’t only for those whose opinions with which you agree.

 

 

 


Collins resigns from cabinet

August 30, 2014

Judith Collins has resigned from cabinet but will continue to campaign for re-election in the  Papakura electorate which she holds with a solid majority.

Ms Collins resignation from cabinet followed the emergence of an email from Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater to PR operative Carrick Graham and others.

The email implies that after (then) SFO boss Adam Feeley briefed Ms Collins, information was leake to Mr Slater then, via Mr Graham, was passed on to the subject of an SFO investigation.

Prime Minister John Key said he had accepted the resignation of Ms Collins followed the receipt of new information that raises allegations about Ms Collins’ conduct as a Minister.

“The relationship between a Minister and their Chief Executive is vital, and goes right to the heart of a trusted, effective government,” Mr Key said.

“This new information suggests Ms Collins may have been engaged in discussions with a blogger in 2011 aimed at undermining the then Director of the Serious Fraud Office. Ms Collins was the Minister responsible for the SFO at the time.

Mr Key released an email which had been recently been provided to his office (see below).

“I have spoken with Ms Collins about the matters in the email, and she strongly denies any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour on her part,” he said. . .

Ms Collins released a statement at midday saying, “A new allegation has come to light from an email conversation from 2011 between Cameron Slater and others suggesting I was undermining the then Director of the Serious Fraud Office,” she said in a statement.

“I was not party to this email or discussion and have only today been made aware of it.

“I strongly denied the claim and any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour.

“I am restrained in clearing my name while I am still a Minister inside Cabinet and I believe the right thing to do is to resign as a Minister so I am able to clear my name.

“I have asked the Prime Minister for an Inquiry into these serious allegations so that my name can be cleared. I will, of course, cooperate with any Inquiry.” . . .

What someone says about someone else, in an email or anywhere else, is only hearsay and not proof of wrong-doing by them.

But the allegations are serious enough to justify an inquiry and it is appropriate that she resigns from cabinet while it is carried out.

 

 


ACC fees dropping

August 6, 2014

The government is delivering a $480m reduction in ACC fees:

ACC Minister Judith Collins today announced reductions to motor vehicle levies in 2015/16 meaning the average New Zealand vehicle owner will be $135 better off each year.

“Earlier this year the Government signalled our intention to reduce ACC levies as part of Budget 2014 – today’s announcement delivers on this,” Ms Collins says.

“ACC continues to improve its financial situation, transforming the way it supports injured New Zealanders and building on its investment returns.”

In the last levy round significant reductions were made to the Work and Earners’ Accounts. This year’s focus is on reductions to the Motor Vehicle Account. The average levy will fall from around $330 to $195. This includes reductions to the licence fee and a drop of 3 cents per litre off the petrol levy.

In addition, the average levy paid by employers and self-employed people into the Work Account will fall to 90 cents per $100 of liable earnings, down from 95 cents.

“These reductions to Work and Motor Vehicle levies represent an annual saving of $480 million to New Zealand households and businesses in the 2015/16 levy year,” Ms Collins says.

“This year’s reductions, which come on top of reductions over recent years, have meant that New Zealand households and businesses will keep almost $1.5 billion, since 2011/12.

“The Government will also introduce risk rating for light passenger vehicles (cars). This will place vehicles into bands, based on their crash safety ratings, from most safe to least safe and charge each band a levy based on the cost to the scheme of different vehicles.

Pricing based on safety ratings matches the costs with the risks.

“While all vehicle owners will receive considerable reductions in their ACC levies, we want to ensure the amount people are paying reflects the cost to the Scheme.”

As an example, the introduction of risk rating for cars, together with the overall reduction of motor vehicle levies, owners of petrol-driven cars in the safest grouping will see the ACC component of their annual vehicle licence fee fall by 66 per cent.

Ms Collins says while the Government remains on track for further levy cuts across all accounts in 2016/17, it’s important levies continue to be set in a way that is fair, fiscally responsible and maintains ACC’s ability to fund entitlements in the future.

“We are working through the exact amounts and timing of those levy reductions and a review of the residual levy – whose role is effectively completed – is part of that consideration,” Ms Collins says.

The new ACC levy rates for motor vehicles will come into effect on 1 July 2015. The lower Work Account levy rate takes effect on 1 April 2015.

 

Today we announced $480 million in levy cuts for 2015/16 which will include the average motor vehicle registration being $135 cheaper from July next year. This is wonderful news for households and businesses and is a testament to ACC’s fantastic performance. Well done! http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/government-delivers-480-million-reduction-acc-levies


Must not ignore nor accept family violence

July 3, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced a suite of measures aimed at addressing family violence.

“Quite simply, the rate of family violence in New Zealand is unacceptable,” says Mr Key.

While crime is at a 35-year low, violent crime is decreasing at a much slower rate.

“Almost 50 per cent of all homicides in New Zealand are a result of family violence. That is, on average, 14 women, seven men, and eight children killed by a member of their family every year.”

Mr Key says together with the Government’s focus on vulnerable children, this work will help New Zealand families live without violence and fear.

“Firstly, Tariana Turia has released the Government’s response to the Expert Advisory Group’s report on Family Violence. Of the 22 recommendations in the report, 19 have been accepted in whole or part by the Government, and I thank the Advisory Group members for their work.

“Mrs Turia is building on the work of the Expert Advisory Group to develop a comprehensive, long-term approach to break the cycle of family violence. This work focuses on changing attitudes and behaviours towards family violence, and on early interventions for drug and alcohol addiction.

“Today I am also announcing further measures to address family violence through Justice, Police and Corrections, which will build on the foundation we have laid in place.”

These include:

  • The establishment of a Chief Victims’ Advisor to the Minister of Justice
  • The trial of an intensive case management service for family violence victims at risk of serious harm or death
  • The trial of mobile safety alarms with GPS technology, so victims can alert police to their location in an emergency
  • Introduction of legislation to change the Sentencing Act, which will allow courts to stipulate GPS monitoring of high-risk domestic violence offenders who can’t currently have this condition imposed on them.

“I would like to thank Ministers Judith Collins, Anne Tolley and Tariana Turia for leading the work to foster a long-term change in behaviour, and to protect people from the misery of violence in the home,” says Mr Key.

“This Government has already undertaken a range of work to protect the most vulnerable New Zealanders.

“A great example of this is the recent passing of the Vulnerable Children’s Bill, which ensures that New Zealand’s most at-risk children get priority,” says Mr Key.

The new law provides 10 new Children’s Teams to wrap services around at-risk children early to keep them safe from harm, introduces new vetting and screening checks for government and community agency staff working with children, and puts the onus on parents who have killed, severely abused or neglected a child to prove they are safe to parent subsequent children.

“We have also increased the penalty for breaching protection orders and improved non-violence programmes for offenders,” says Mr Key

“However, it is important to remember that while governments can make laws, it is up to us as individual New Zealanders to change our attitudes to family violence.

“It is time we learned we must not ignore it, nor should we accept it,” says Mr Key.

 

New Zealand families should not have to live with violence and fear. We’re taking practical steps to address this. https://www.national.org.nz/news/features/protecting-families

Groups working with vulnerable children are supportive of the initiative:

The Red Raincoat Trust says the Chief Victims Advisor will give victims a voice:

The Red Raincoat Trust is delighted to hear of Justice Minister, Judith Collin’s plans to appoint a Chief Victims Advisor. “We are rapt; victims will now have an official voice within the criminal justice process. A Chief Victims Advisor will be able to engage directly with the victims enabling them to understand how the criminal justice process works for them. Until now, this hasn’t happened which often left victims vulnerable and re-victimised” says Debbie Marlow, spokesperson for the Red Raincoat Trust.

Ministers Judith Collins and Anne Tolley announced the Chief Victims Advisor today as part of a package which is hoped will help prevent family violence. Other initiatives announced today include an intensive case management service to provide specialist support for domestic violence victims at high risk of serious harm or death and a multi-agency response system for domestic violence.

“The package announced today will help ensure our families and communities are kept safe and it shows us that this government is committed to ensuring that our victim’s voices are heard and agencies are responding to their needs. Well done!”.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust is also supportive:

The Sensible Sentencing Trust has congratulated the Justice Minister, Judith Collins on today’s announcement regarding the establishment of the Chief Victims Advisor.

“Finally victims of crime will be afforded the true advocacy and support that they are entitled to” says Ruth Money Sensible Sentencing Trust.

We have been actively promoting the concept of victim advocacy for years now and this proposed position will go a long way to balancing victims’ rights within the system and ensuring that the Ministry of Justice stays informed regarding the needs of victims” says Money. . . .

“These moves and proactive measures from Minister Collins and the Government must be applauded. For too long the system has seen the rights of the offender or alleged offender come well before those of the victim and public safety, today we see some balance being proposed”

The Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) welcomes announcements about the trial of an intensive case management service for family violence victims.

The FVDRC is an independent committee that advises the Health Quality & Safety Commission on how to reduce the number of family violence deaths and prevent family violence. Last week it released a report analysing data collected on all family violence homicides that took place over a four-year period. The Committee urged organisations to take more responsibility for preventing abusers from using violence, rather than expecting the victims of family violence to take action to keep themselves and their children safe.

The Chair of the FVDRC, Associate Professor of Law Julia Tolmie, says the Committee’s previous report recommended the development of a nationally consistent high-risk case management process and it is pleasing to see this is being trialled.

“The sheer volume of police call outs for family violence often means the most dangerous cases of family violence do not get the attention they need within the systems we currently have,” she says.

“The aim of an intensive case management service is to bring the key agencies together to share information, as well as to develop, implement and monitor a multi-agency safety plan.”

Julia Tolmie says high-risk case management teams overseas have been highly successful in preventing deaths from family violence. . .

The FVDRC also supports the trial of mobile safety alarms with GPS technology, so victims can alert police to their location in an emergency and the introduction of legislation to change the Sentencing Act, which will allow courts to stipulate GPS monitoring of high-risk domestic violence offenders who can’t currently have this condition imposed on them.

The measures announce deal with reported crime.

Not all abuse and neglect is reported and some isn’t reported until it’s too late.

It is equally important to address the causes of abuse and neglect to prevent them.

The seriousness of the problem is shown by For the Sake of our Children Trust in a 24-year snapshot of 58 deaths of children as a result of neglect or abuse.

It points to clear risk factors:

. . . Based on the 58 known cases listed, 51 cases identified child’s biological parents were NOT married. The perpetrator responsible for the death indicated 27 of the deaths tabulated had a ‘stepfather’ or ‘boyfriend/partner of the mother being responsible or part responsible for the child’s death. The remaining figures for the perpetrator was indicated the mother or relative of the child or unknown.  . . .

Apropos of this, Lindsay Mitchell notes this is a fair assumption given that around 87 percent of children who have contact with CYF appear in the benefit system very early in their lives.

The benefit system has a place as a safety net, but it can also be a trap which increases the chances of poorer outcomes for children, including increasing the risk of abuse and neglect.

Moving families from welfare to work has obvious financial benefits for them and the country.

The social benefits are equally important. they include better educational and health outcomes and a lower risk of neglect and abuse.


113 breaches referred 0 prosecutions?

July 2, 2014

The Electoral Commission has referred 113 breaches of the electoral Act to police in the last three years and none has resulted in a prosecution:

Figures supplied by the Electoral Commission reveal 113 cases have been referred to police for investigation since the beginning of 2011 – not one has resulted in a prosecution.

Daljit Singh, a Labour Party candidate in Auckland’s first Super City elections, was convicted of electoral fraud earlier this year but the actions on which the charge of electoral fraud were based  took place more than three years ago.

Back to the original story:

It’s a figure Justice Minister Judith Collins wasn’t aware of.

Ms Collins doesn’t know the basis on which the Electoral Commission referred the cases to police, and says it’s something she’d have to find out more about before she could express an opinion.

While surprised at the figure, Ms Collins remains critical of opposition party calls for the Electoral Commission to be given the power to prosecute breaches of electoral laws.

“That would be an interesting situation since as I recall it’s mostly their parties that are actually responsible for most of the breaches, but that would be very interesting. That would be turkeys voting for an early Christmas wouldn’t it.” . . .

It would be very interesting and that might not be the answer.

But all those referrals and not a single prosecution is a very strong indication that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

Alleged breaches need to be taken seriously and dealt with quickly – preferably before the election which might be affected by them.


Balancing victims’ rights

June 28, 2014

Victims of serious violent and sexual crimes will be better protected by a new order to help prevent their offender from contacting them, Justice Minister Judith Collins says.

The Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Bill, which passed its final reading today, creates a ‘non-contact order’ to reduce the risk of unwanted contact between victims and their offender.

“Victims of serious crime deserve peace of mind, so they can recover and move on with their lives,” Ms Collins says.

“This Government has made perfectly clear its commitment to putting victims at the heart of our criminal justice system. Introducing these non-contact orders is one more way to ensure victims feel safe and protected from further offending.” 

The new orders can be applied to a person who has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for a specified violent or sexual offence. The orders may also prohibit the offender from contacting the victim in any way, including by electronic means. Where necessary, the orders may ban the offender from entering, living, or working in a particular area.

Victims will be able to apply to the court for a non-contact order at any time after the offender has been sentenced.  An order can also cover an offender’s associates.

Ms Collins says the new orders reinforce the Government’s commitment to putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.

“The passage of this Bill supports this Government’s unrelenting commitment to putting victims first. We’re ensuring victims’ are protected and their voices in our criminal justice system remain strong.”

This measure tips the balance of justice in favour of victims.

We’re delivering on our commitment to put victims at the heart of our criminal justice system by protecting them from further offending. https://www.national.org.nz/news/news/media-releases/detail/2014/06/24/new-orders-will-protect-and-make-victims-strong


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