Identity politics left not right

30/09/2022

Kelvin Davis has shown he thinks Maori is based on politics not genes:

Minister Kelvin Davis is standing by his challenge to ACT’s Karen Chhour to “enter the Māori world” and stop looking at the world through a “vanilla lens”; she says he has taken away her mana, leaving her distressed.

The tense exchange in the debating chamber began with questions from Chhour over OT’s relationships – including whether Davis would reassess the relationship between the ministry and Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust. . . 

Chhour asked whether he agreed with Tamihere that the two were in a partnership, not a contract, and whether he would end this partnership if Te Whānau o Waipareira was struck off the charities register.

“What the member needs to do,” Davis responded, “is cross the bridge that is Te Tiriti o Waitangi from her Pākehā world into the Māori world and understand exactly how the Māori world operates. It’s no good looking at the world from a vanilla lens.”  . . 

Passing quickly over the issue of whether this means that Maori aren’t to be held to the same standards as others.

Speaking to reporters outside the debating chamber, Chhour said she was offended.

“When you have to resort to attacking someone on a race-based issue like that I find it quite offensive. I am a Māori woman and I’ve been through the care system and I can tell you Māori children aren’t that different to any other child, they just want to feel loved and feel safe,” she said.

“I’m here trying to make a difference for those children and I think looking at the world from just one point of view is actually quite destructive, and attacking me like that and basically taking away my mana – from a party that stands up and says they want to give Māori back their mana – is actually quite distressing for me.”

ACT’s leader David Seymour described the minister’s comments as “nasty” and “totally racist”.

Davis, however, stood by his comments.

“She whakapapas to Māori but she was raised in a Pākehā world, she needs to cross the bridge that is Te Tiriti o Waitangi so she gets to understand her Māori world better,” he told reporters.

“I’m saying their attitude towards anything that’s Māori is actually nasty,” he said. . . 

He’s ignoring the inconvenient fact that the woman he’s criticising is Maori and had personal experience of the care system as a child.

Davis has now apologised:

Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis has rung Māori ACT MP Karen Chhour to apologise for telling her to leave “her Pākehā world”.

Davis said he didn’t intend for it to be offensive but that he can see why she thought it was and he was sorry, Newshub has been told.

Chhour has accepted the apology.

“Kelvin called and offered an apology which I have accepted. No person should be judged by their identity but rather by their words and actions,” she said.

“I will continue to ask Kelvin questions about our most vulnerable children and I hope next time he comes prepared with information instead of personal attacks.” . . 

Coincidentally,  UK Labour Party MP said something similar this week:

Van Velden said Ardern should look at what British Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer did in response to comments one of his MPs made about UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.

Labour MP Rupa Huq this week said of Kwarteng, “superficially he is a black man”. The MP was forced to apologise and suspended. . . 

Spot the difference: Davis got away with a vanilla apology, Huq was not only forced to apologise she was suspended from her caucus.

But both incidents show that identity politics is more about politics than identity.

Adherents to the gospel of identity who profess to be against discrimination continually discriminate against people whose politics differ from theirs.

That’s why so many feminists didn’t, and still don’t, celebrate Margaret Thatcher as the UK’s first female Prime Minister; Jenny Shipley as our first female Prime Minister and Ruth Richardson as our first – and so far only – female Finance Minister.

That’s why Simon Bridges got no recognition for being the first Maori to lead a major political party and there was no celebration that his deputy, Paula Bennett was also Maori.

To those who identity with identity politics, identity isn’t just about identity but politics, and politics of the left at that which isn’t right.

They lump everyone into a group, denying individuality and agency, using their own narrow definition constrained by their own narrow political views and criticising those who don’t fit in their political corner as not real members of the race, gender or whichever other identity box they want people to fit.

It catoragises people by their identity rather than their actions and character.

It’s a discriminatory and divisive philosophy that slices and dices populations on inherent differences but doesn’t recognise personal differences or our common humanity.


Award for most incompetent Minister goes to . . .

07/04/2022

Who is the government’s most incompetent Minister? There’s plenty to choose from.

Transport Minister Michael Woods is a contender for the $50 million spent on the Auckland bike bridge to nowhere and for continuing to work on the far too expensive light rail project:

While New Zealanders are in a cost of living crisis with record inflation, it is unjustifiable and irresponsible for the Government to steam ahead with their plans to build their light rail vanity project, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Documents released by Treasury today show Michael Wood’s commitment to light rail could explode to an eye watering $29.2 billion – nearly double the cost of what was announced in January, which was already a staggering amount of money at almost $15 billion.

“Treasury’s advice was scathing of the project, saying the Government should not pick a preferred option for light rail until further analysis could be undertaken – advice the Government has clearly ignored.

“Labour’s commitment to this vanity project will cost taxpayers a whopping $100 million before the next election, with no guarantee of spades being in the ground.

“The cost for this project is entirely unjustifiable and the Government needs to accept that this project is simply not worth it. Especially when New Zealanders are dealing with a cost of living crisis, which will only get worse if the Government doesn’t rein in its wasteful spending.

Kris Faafoi is a contender for the way Immigration treated families of essential workers stuck overseas and for failing to fast track residency for essential workers already here.

Immigration policies are also likely to lead to job losses in the tertiary sector:

The Government urgently needs to get international students into the country to prevent looming job losses in the tertiary sector, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Penny Simmonds says.

“Universities and polytechnics are currently considering staff redundancies as a way of coping with declining enrolments this year.

“Labour is allowing 5000 international students into the country next month – but universities and polytechnics can only access 2150 students, or 43 per cent, with the remainder of students heading to high schools, Private Training Establishments and English language schools.

“This will do little to ease the urgent staffing issues facing the sector.

“Given that student visas are currently taking Immigration New Zealand three months to process, students applying in April won’t be processed in time for semester two, putting further stress on our valuable tertiary teaching staff.

On top of that, international research now shows New Zealand is falling out of favour with international students, being ranked last among the major English-speaking education destinations in a survey of more than 10,000 people from 93 countries.

“And the effects are obvious – according to the Ministry of Education in 2019, New Zealand had about 22,000 fulltime international students paying total tuition fees of $562 million. The figures for 2021 and 2022 are estimated to be 70 per cent of that 2019 figure.

“The Government must explain what the rational is for limiting international student numbers, our fourth biggest export earner, when the border is reopening.

“It is appalling that this Government has allowed international education in this country to decline to this level. We must act urgently to prevent further deterioration in this sector and that means not restricting international student numbers coming here.” . .

He’s also fallen short as Justice Minister:

Victims of crime missed out on support they were entitled to because Justice Minister Kris Faafoi failed to sign off the criteria for a $3 million victim support fund for more than five months after the fund was announced, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Earlier this month it was revealed that zero victims were supported by the fund announced in Budget 2021, despite applications being open since July 2021.

“Labour was content to let Victim Support take the blame for this lack of delivery, but it turns out Minister Faafoi didn’t bother to sign off the eligibility criteria until November 2021 – more than five months after the fund was announced and four months after applications opened.

Rather than letting Victim Support take the rap, Minister Faafoi should have fessed up that his incompetence is the real reason why victims are missing out on support the Government promised them.

“Governments spend months finalising the Budget every year so he would have known well in advance that this fund would be open for applications from July. What is his excuse for doing nothing for over five months to ensure victims could access the support? 

“Even worse, the Police Minister has conceded agencies who are meant to advise victims of support they are entitled to were not provided information about the fund until February 2022. . .

That Police Minister Potu Williams is another contender for the silence when police were facing the protesters at parliament, silence over repeated examples of policing by consent that let gangs disregard lockdown rules and terrorise the law abiding while doing it; and her refusal to allow National police spokesman Mark Mitchell to meet the Commissioner or district commanders:

. . . He said: “I don’t think she’s [Williams is] very good at her job and I don’t think she’s across her portfolio, but for her now to use her political power and position in government to start blocking me from meetings – that’s Third World stuff … she may as well go and join the Cabinet in Somalia.” . . 

Trumping that is her denial of an increase in gang violence:

. . .Mitchell asked Williams in Parliament on Wednesday if gang violence had increased or decreased under her watch, to which she replied: “I reject the premise of that question.”  . . .

And this:

Then there’s waste in health with expired vaccines:

Thousands of meningococcal vaccines have been left to expire instead of being given to those most at risk, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“It has been revealed that 17,122 meningococcal vaccines have expired in the last two years, at a cost of $1.6 million, and who knows how many lives.

“The Ministry of Health has a strict eligibility criteria for the meningococcal vaccine, but these vaccines that were left unused could have been made available to those most at risk, to help protect them from this deathly disease.

“The lost opportunity to protect people is a tragedy and that $1.6 million that ended up being wasted could have been spent on other areas of health that desperately need it.

“Last week a meningitis petition was presented to Parliament, pleading to the Government to fund vaccines against the disease. This news will be a cold comfort to those petition supporters.

“This is becoming a concerning pattern of behaviour from Health Minister Andrew Little who has already wasted $8 million worth of measles vaccines in a botched catch-up campaign, and now he can add this one to the growing list.

“Minister Little needs to commit to making expiring meningococcal vaccines available to primary care for use inside and outside of the strict criteria to avoid a tragedy like this happening again.” . .

And the botched measles programme costing $1900 per person:

The botched $20 million measles vaccine catch-up programme is worse than it appears, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“The other week it was revealed that $8 million of measles vaccines were left unused and had expired.

“However, information shows that only 11,206 people of the targeted 300,000 received the vaccine – representing a cost of nearly $1900 per person and reaching only 3 per cent of the targeted population.

“It was also revealed that Labour spent $1.8 million on public relations to frame a campaign ‘with a particular focus on Māori and Pacific people’, yet only 1181 Māori received the vaccine – a PR cost of $1,500 per person.

“Worse still, to date the programme costs show that $2.2 million has been spent on public relations while only $1.61 million was spent on actually delivering the vaccine to Māori.

“Andrew Little seems more interested in PR and spin than actually delivering measles vaccinations to Māori.

“The list of health failures is mounting under Andrew Little’s watch. He failed to deliver any extra ICU beds during a global pandemic, has completely missed every health target set and now he can add a botched measles campaign to his growing list.”

The government put so much effort, and spent so much money, justifying locking us down and persuading us to get vaccinated so that the health system wasn’t over whelmed yet did little or nothing to retain existing staff and recruit more.

That’s left  hospitals understaffed and health professionals overworked :

Their employers have warned them not to speak out but nurses say they won’t be silenced. Overworked and understaffed, they’ve told Sunday that they’ve had enough of a health system under real pressure.

The Omicron surge hasn’t helped, but there was a serious nursing shortage long before Covid struck, and now burnout and resignations are high while the pandemic shut off the supply of overseas nurses.

Nurses still on the job worry patient safety may suffer because they are so short-staffed.

Is the government listening?

No it’s not. Instead it’s going ahead with the complete restructure of the health system that will do nothing to improve pay and conditions for health professionals and nothing to improve services, and outcomes, for patients.

That would be bad enough at the best of times. In the middle of a pandemic it’s a complete waste of scarce funds and people’s focus.

While on health and the pandemic lets not forget the shortage of PPE, the delay in securing vaccines which left the rollout starting late and the RATs debacle.

Then there’s paying more and getting less in several areas.

Carmel Sepuloni has overseen an increase in MSD staff and deterioration in performance:

Our welfare system is less responsive than ever as phone wait times for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) surge, National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“Whether it’s superannuitants, students, people out of work, or a family who needs help to cope with soaring living costs, New Zealander’s deserve timely answers from the department responsible of administering the welfare system.

“Since 2017, the number of MSD staff answering calls has increased from 650 to 1220 people, yet the average wait time has also increased from 4 to 18 minutes, even reaching close to 40 minutes some weeks this year.

“That’s an 88 per cent increase in staff numbers, a large deterioration in performance and no better outcomes for Kiwis.  

“Appallingly, some people have waited longer than three hours while others have reported it took weeks to receive a call back.

“The cost of living crisis has increased demand for hardship grants and there is almost an extra 50,000 people on the unemployment benefit, which means preparations should have been made to cope with more inquiries.

“New Zealander’s deserve a better service given the substantial taxpayer dollars poured into MSD. Simply increasing staff numbers is not going to cut it.

“Minister Sepuloni needs to hold MSD accountable for their plummeting performance and ensures it fulfils its core responsibility to answer New Zealander’s questions and help people access their entitlements.”

Corrections is spending more money on prisoners with worse outcomes:

Taxpayers are spending more money on prisoners, yet violent crime continues to go up, National’s Corrections spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.

“New Zealand taxpayers are now spending $151,000 per prisoner, per year – an increase of over $30,000 per prisoner from 2018/19.

“Overall, there has been an increase of $139 million poured into the Corrections system over the period between 2018/19 and 2020/21, despite fewer prisoners.

“At the same time, there has been a steep decline in the number of prisoners accessing rehabilitation services. Prisoners accessing alcohol and drug programmes alone has dropped from 6311 in 2015/16 to 1065 in 2019/20 – a decrease greater than the drop in prisoner numbers.

“More money is being spent, but we’re getting worse outcomes.

“Rehabilitation is a key way for prisoners to turn their lives around, but in 2019/20 the number of prisoners taking part in rehabilitation programmes plummeted to 2399, from 5845 in 2015/16.

“It can hardly be a surprise then that violent crime is up 21 per cent since 2017, as reported by the Salvation Army, and that we have one of the highest recidivism rates in the OECD.

“This is typical for a Government who are experts at spending taxpayer money with no expectation of results.

“On top of this, Labour is taking soft-on-crime approach which is clearly not working.

“Without effective rehabilitation, re-imprisonment rates and violence will only keep climbing.”

And more is being spent on mental health for no positive results:

The mental health monitoring report out today shows that the Government’s $1.9 billion investment in mental health has delivered no benefit to Kiwis, National’s Mental Health spokesperson Matt Doocey says.

“This is emblematic of a Government that is all spin and no delivery. Labour’s only measure of success is how much it spends on things. But it needs to be about the outcomes that we achieve for New Zealanders.

“The report released today by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission reinforces what many mental health groups and services have been telling me for some time – that they’re not seeing any of the money promised for mental health and can’t point to where it’s gone.

“They have been raising these concerns with the Government for months about staff shortages and growing waiting lists, but have not received a response.

“The findings in the report also show that our specialist services are facing increased demand since the beginning of the pandemic, especially from younger people seeking mental health support.

“The Government says it has invested in the sector, yet services are harder to access. They must explain where the money has gone and why it hasn’t made a difference to improving people’s mental health.

“Making announcements with good intentions isn’t going to solve the growing mental health problems that New Zealand is facing, but strong leadership and a well-managed plan to execute change will. We need targeted spending that delivers outcomes for Kiwis.”

Then there are virtue signalling environmental policies that are nothing more than taxes that increase costs but do nothing at all for the environment:

The Government’s car tax comes into force today, piling on yet another cost for Kiwis facing a cost of living crisis, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Hardworking Kiwis will be hoping that this is just an April Fool’s joke, but sadly they will still have to live with Labour’s new car tax after today.        

“The so-called ‘Clean Car Discount’ gives a rebate for expensive electric vehicles while imposing fees of thousands of dollars on many other vehicles. For example, buyers of a Toyota Hilux* will face a $5175 tax when they first register the vehicle.  

“This will have a negative impact on our farmers and tradies who need utes to do their jobs and contribute to our economic recovery.   

“The Government is penalising farmers and tradies for their choice of vehicle despite there being no viable electric ute available. Even Toyota had to correct the Prime Minister last year that it has no plans to bring an electric ute to New Zealand within the next two years.

“LDV will have an electric alternative, the EV-T60, coming from China later this year. But it is two-wheel drive and can only haul a max of 1,000 kgs for 162km. This is not enough to meet farmers’ needs, who need strength and reliability.

“While the Government gives with one hand, by temporarily reducing fuel taxes, it takes with the other by imposing the Auckland regional fuel tax, a car tax, and is now proposing a biofuels mandate which will further increase the cost of fuel. 

“All of these policies drive up the cost of living for motorists struggling to get by under rapidly rising inflation and fuel prices.

An environmental and transport failure is the train from Hamilton to Auckland:

The Te Huia train today marks its first birthday with news that it has spent more time off the tracks than on them, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“There is not a lot to celebrate about this service which has failed from day one.

“Not only has the train spent more time off the tracks than on them over the past 12 months, taxpayers have poured $98 million into a service which very few people use and which takes much longer than driving between Hamilton and Auckland.

“Furthermore, research produced by the Waikato Chamber of Commerce shows that based on current passenger numbers the train actually emits more carbon emissions than someone who drives their petrol or diesel vehicle between these two cities.

“Patronage is significantly lower than what it was when the service started despite repeated calls to ‘build it and people will come’.

“This painfully slow train is simply not fit for purpose. It doesn’t achieve the outcomes that the Government claimed it would one year ago.

“The Transport Minister is so completely focussed on his legacy projects, he is prepared to waste almost $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a train that isn’t fit for purpose and hardly anyone wants to use.

“Quite frankly this is an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money which would be better spent on extending the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere.”  

If all this isn’t bad enough, there’s the incompetence with funding the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP) 

The Auditor General’s Report on the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP) confirmed what many businesses have been saying – that this Labour Government has been biased and unfair, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Every tourism business in New Zealand has done it tough over the last two years and this report has shown that this Labour Government favoured some and left others to suffer.

“In May 2020 the Government and former Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis opened a $290M fund for struggling tourism businesses. When applications opened, some businesses were accepted without any evidence that they were in financial difficulty, and didn’t have to go through the same process as other businesses.

“The Government seems to believe that only Queenstown exists when it comes to tourism in New Zealand, when in reality there are tourism operators up and down the country who are suffering just as much.

“In typical Labour fashion, they simply threw money at a problem without having a well-managed plan. Current Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has blamed the uncertainty of Covid-19 for these mistakes, but the reality is they failed to think things through at a time when tourism businesses needed them most.

“New Zealanders deserve to have a Government who are responsible with their spending, but this Labour Government has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to make wise or fair spending decisions.

“I am calling on Minister Nash to find those funds that were given out incorrectly, take them back and redistribute them to all Kiwi tourism operators so that they can open up quickly for international tourists.”

Bryce Edwards says the report raises questions of integrity:

Was political favouritism involved in the dishing out of millions of dollars by government ministers to tourism businesses? We can’t know, because the Government didn’t keep sufficient records or have proper processes for the handouts. That’s the obvious question arising from a scathing report released by the Auditor General on Thursday, which has received far too little attention.

The Auditor General’s report investigates a scheme set up by the Government early in the Covid crisis (May 2020), called the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme. The report is one of many that have criticised government procedures during Covid for their lack of integrity. . . 

Harman draws attention to the fact that there have been a number of other reports from the Auditor General’s office that have pinged the Government for poor processes in regard to government departments dealing with private vested interests during Covid – especially the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development.

Of course, one of the most problematic has been the multi-billion-dollar Wage Subsidy Scheme, which was seen to be poorly designed and administered.

There’s a theme building up from these reports – that of crony corporate welfare getting out of hand in recent years. This is one of the blind spots in New Zealand politics and society. Recent governments are prone to giving generous subsidies to business interests, often without any great systems of integrity or best practice. And unfortunately, the public never seems to mind much when it becomes apparent.

It could well be that New Zealand is just too eager to believe the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index results that show this country to be the least corrupt nation on earth. In ignoring reports such as this latest from the Auditor General, the Government is undermining that status.

On the subject of Ministerial oversight of money wasted, there’s plenty to choose from :

So much incompetence, it’s hard to choose which is worse but there’s one person who is supposed to be on top of all the portfolios and those presiding over them. That’s Jacinda Ardern.

Would any other recent Prime Minister have tolerated this litany of laxness from Ministers? Bill English, John Key, Helen Clark? No.

There’s a lot more to leadership than announcing announcements and serving word salads no matter how caring they sound.

Ensuring Ministers are up to the jobs they’re supposed to be doing and holding them to account if  and when they fall short is a very important one by which measure of competence this PM falls short.


Rural round-up

11/06/2021

West Coast mayors call for halt to all SNA work in wake of Far North protests – Lois Williams:

West Coast mayors are calling for a halt to identifying significant natural areas (SNAs) on private land, after suggestions that the process could be paused in the Far North.

An item on TV One news on Friday night cited a leaked e-mail from the office of Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis, indicating that councils which had not already mapped SNAs could hold off until the relevant government policy was finalised later this year.

As recently as 31 May, James Shaw’s office told the Greymouth Star in response to a query that there would be no ‘outs’ for councils when it came to identifying SNAs in their districts.

Since then, there have been strong protests from Māori landowners in the Far North who had received council letters alerting them to potential SNAs on their land. . . 

Can we produce high natural value? Conservation and livestock farming co-existing Prof Iain Gordon – Sarah’s Country:

In this week’s Sarah’s Country’s Opinion Maker we break-down the concept of ‘rewilding’ in a New Zealand concept and the value-add product opportunity with Prof. Iain Gordon, Lincoln University & Australian National University. Iain explains:

  • In Southern Europe, desertification of the land saw farming not financially viable and the farmers moved to the cities. Then there was a build up of biomass, vegetation and large wildfires broke out so the government is paying for farmers to go back and manage the land through grazing livestock!

  • If rewilding approach is adopted, then larger areas can be given over to conservation, because of the potential broader benefits to society from these spaces and the engagement of farmers in practises that are closer to their traditions.

  • In the UK rewilding or conservation grazing is seen as ‘public good’ and good environmental management commanding a premium in restaurants. . .

Orchardist to enjoy weekend sleep-ins – Sally Rae:

Wes Reichel will be entitled to a sleep-in this weekend.

For more than 18 years, Mr Reichel (73) has left his bed at 3.30am on a Saturday, had a coffee and climbed into his produce-laden vehicle and headed to the Otago Farmers Market in Dunedin.

But this past Saturday marked the end of an era, as the Teviot Valley orchardist retired from the market.

While he would continue to grow fruit and vegetables at Te Mahanga Orchard, south of Ettrick, which has been in his family since 1919, he rued he was ‘‘getting too bloody old’’ to continue travelling to Dunedin. . .

Growing professionalism driving awareness of health and safety in shearing industry:

This profile is part of a seven-part series from WorkSafe New Zealand sharing the health and safety approaches taken by the grand finalists of the 2021 FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition. For the next seven weeks, we will be sharing a profile and short video about each of the finalists and how they incorporate health and safety into their work, from a dairy farm manager to an agribusiness banker.

Industry campaigns and growing professionalism are driving awareness of health and safety among shearers,” says national FMG Young Farmer of the Year finalist Joseph Watts. Yet, he still sees plenty of room for improvement.

Joseph, from Waipukurau, will represent East Coast in the national competition. He began his rural career as a shearer, having completed a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise degree and then played squash professionally for several years.

He went on to gain a Graduate Diploma in Rural Studies from Massey University and is now a Technical Field Representative for PGG Wrightson as well as farming some beef cattle on a 30 acre site at Waipukurau, with his partner, vet Lucy Dowsett. . . 

The Co-operative spirit helps Temuka farmer:

When Temuka-based farmer Hamish Pearse suffered a devastating fire in his milking shed in February he witnessed first-hand the benefits of the co-operative spirit of his neighbours, friends and Fonterra.

The fire was discovered around eight o’clock at night and also burnt through the adjoining office and wash room.

“The staff were pretty shaken by the whole thing,” says Hamish. “My dad was emotional about it too, because he built that milking shed himself 30 years ago.”

“The staff were pretty shaken by the whole thing,” says Hamish. “My dad was emotional about it too, because he built that milking shed himself 30 years ago.” . . 

NZ Apples and Pears chief executive to step down:

NZ Apples and Pears Inc. (NZAPI) chairman, Richard Punter, has announced that the organisation’s chief executive Alan Pollard will step down from his role later this year.

Pollard has been in his role for just over nine years. The industry realised about $340m in export earnings when he started as chief executive in March 2012, and about $920m last year, close to the $1billion by 2022 target that was set in 2013.

“As NZAPI defines what business as usual might look like post-COVID, Alan feels that this is the right time for a new leader to bring their own skills, experience and style to the organisation”, Punter said. “We are deeply appreciative of the contribution that Alan has made to the successful growth of the industry and the grower organisation”. . .


Jumped or pushed?

02/11/2020

Kelvin Davis has ruled himself out as deputy Prime Minister:

Whether he jumped or was pushed it is the right decision.

His inability to deal with the media and question time that was so evident in the last government would be even more of a problem if he was deputy PM.

The tourism industry will also be hoping that either he’s ruled himself out of that portfolio or the PM rules him out.

He’s been almost invisible while the sector has been dealing with Covid-19’s decimation and needs a minister who will listen to and work with them.


2020 Jonesies

15/07/2020

The Taxpayers’ Union has announced its Jonesies Awards for 2020:

The third annual Jonesie Awards were hosted at Parliament today, celebrating the best of the worst of Government waste. Watch the video at www.taxpayers.org.nz/2020_jonesies.

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Every year, we host a glamourous Oscars-style award ceremony to highlight and lament the most absurd examples of wasted taxpayer money to emerge in the last 12 months.”

“Behind the tuxedos and gilded statuettes is a serious message: politicians and bureaucrats in both local and central government happily fritter away your hard-earned money on bizarre pet projects and ill-planned schemes without fear of consequence.”

“The Jonesies serve as a shot across the bow for anyone in charge of a government chequebook: rein in the waste, or see your name up in lights at the next Jonesie Awards.”

Local government nominees

Dunedin City Council: Responding to COVID-19 with dots

Dunedin City Council responded to COVID-19 by spending $40,000 on red and blue dots for its main street. The dots were variously justified as a tool to assist social distancing, a way to attract people to the city, and as a “traffic calming” device. The Council also spent $145,000 on a new tourism slogan: “Dunedin, a pretty good plan D”.

Napier City Council: Golden handshakes for a failed CEO

After a series of headline-grabbing failures, Napier City Council gave its CEO Wayne Jack a reported $1 million payout to leave before his contract expired. Mr Jack’s final official act was to throw himself a $4,000 farewell tea party. The Mayor complained that she was not invited.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

When nine-term councillor Andy Foster was unexpectedly elected Mayor last year, he promptly enrolled himself in a $30,000 leadership course at Arrowtown’s Millbrook estate. However, he has refused to say what, if anything, he learned – and has since spent more money on a team facilitator to smooth over problems on his Council.

Auckland Council: Temporary cycleways for COVID-19

Auckland Council installed 17 kilometres of temporary cycleway in response to COVID-19. Like Dunedin’s dots, the initiative was intended to assist social distancing. All works had to be reversed in a matter of weeks. The total cost is estimated to be more than a million dollars.

Rotorua Lakes District Council: $743,000 for the Hemo Gorge sculpture

Rotorua’s 12-metre, 3D printed Hemo Gorge sculpture was initially planned to open in 2017 at a cost of $500,000. Three years later, it is still under construction, and costs have blown out to at least $743,000.

WINNER: Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

Central government nominees

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

The Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Party Leader led the Government’s COVID-19 response by announcing a $72 million funding package for the racing industry. This package included two synthetic horse tracks. No-one has been able to establish how horse tracks relate to coronavirus.

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard: $572,000 for a Parliamentary slide

As part of his initiative to make Parliament more “family-friendly”, the Speaker of the House commissioned the construction of a playground on Parliament’s lawn. The playground, which essentially consists of a slide and some stepping stones, was budgeted at $400,000, but ultimately cost $572,000.

Hon Chris Hipkins: $87 million for unwanted internet modems

An $87 million package to give students the means to study remotely during COVID-19 lockdown resulted in thousands of unwanted modems being sent to wealthy schools. Epsom’s Auckland Grammar alone received 137 unwanted modems, and even Mike Hosking’s child was a beneficiary of the policy.

Hon Shane Jones: Three train trips for $6.2 million

The Regional Economic Development Minister re-opened the Wairoa-Napier rail line last year, predicting that up to six train services would run per week. As of last month, only three services had run in total: a cost of more than $2 million per train trip.

Hon Kelvin Davis: $10 million for AJ Hackett Bungy

In response to a tourism downturn due to COVID-19, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis singled out one of Queenstown’s most successful businesses – AJ Hackett Bungy – for a taxpayer handout. AJ Hackett received a $5.1 million grant, plus a potential $5.1 million loan, all on top of its substantial payout received under the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.

WINNER: Rt Hon Winston Peters for responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

Lifetime Achievement Award

Hon Phil Twyford is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for excellence in government waste.

First elected as a list MP in 2008, Phillip Stoner Twyford was thrust into power as Minister of Housing, Urban Development, and Transport in 2017.

His most high-profile election promise was to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, with an initial investment of $2 billion. Two years into that period, KiwiBuild has delivered just 395 houses – fewer than the number of houses blocked by protestors at Ihumātao. At the current rate, Phil Twyford’s promise will be fulfilled in 436 years.

Even with the taxpayer subsidy, these homes are too expensive or located in places people don’t want to buy. As a result, many finished homes have sat on the market for six months or more, and the Government has promised to buy back homes that do not sell.

Last year, the Prime Minister finally removed Phil Twyford from the Housing portfolio.

However, his record of waste now extends far further than KiwiBuild. As Transport Minister, Twyford blew out the cost of SkyPath – a cycleway across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge – from $67 million to $360 million, with more cost increases expected once construction actually begins.

Twyford has also increased fuel taxes by 12 cents per litre – and even more in Auckland – across three years.

This tax hike was justified on the basis of paying for light rail from Auckland Central, down Dominion Road to the airport. Last month, after two and a half years and $5 million was spent investigating the project, the light rail proposal was shelved.

Despite the main justification for fuel tax hikes being void, Twyford has no plans to reverse his increases to the tax on commuters.

In his maiden speech in Parliament, he remarked: “At the end of our times here, some of us will be remembered, but most of us will not.”

He need not worry. We are confident that taxpayers will never forget Phillip Stoner Twyford.

x


Where are you now?

30/05/2020

Mountain Scene editor Tracey Roxburgh asks a very good question: Dear Minister, where the hell have you been?

Dear Kelvin,

I know you’re busy and all, but I just had one quick question for you.

Where, exactly, have you been?

Or, perhaps, more to the point, as Minister of Tourism, what – aside from tasking Tourism New Zealand to come up with a domestic marketing campaign – have you been doing to support NZ’s tourism industry?

Here’s the thing.

Please forgive me for being blunt – it’s been a tough couple of months and, like many, I’m running low on sleep and patience – but you seem to have been dumbfoundingly quiet. . . 

The whole piece is worth reading, it finishes:

This, Kelvin, is your job.

There are thousands of people in our community who were doing theirs, extremely well, until two months ago.

Now they have no income and no idea when, or from where, they’ll get their next pay cheque.

Some of them will lose their homes, Kelvin.

And, with the utmost of respect, sir, you look like you’re asleep at the wheel of the tourism industry.

Todd Muller was right when he talked about the few heavy lifters and all the other empty chairs round the cabinet table.

The Tourism Minister’s is definitely one of those. You could add the Small Business one too.

It’s closely related to tourism and both Ministers should have been not just working with their sectors, they should have been seen to have been working with them.

Some 1,000 jobs are being lost a day, most of those from small businesses and many from tourism, and it will get worse.

The answer to what have you been doing? is not nearly enough.

Is that likely to change?

If the gaping gaps between promise and delivery on almost everything else this government promised, it won’t.


Talent vs tokenism

26/05/2020

Some of us see people as people.

Only when the media started questioning why there are no Maori in the top few places of National’s new lineup did I begin thinking about race and so had a look at Labour’s lineup.

They’ve got one Maori in their top 10, it’s Kelvin Davis, the party’s deputy.

National’s number two is Nikki Kaye.

I’d back National’s talent over Labour’s tokenism any day.


No plan, wrong people

15/05/2020

If you were looking for a Budget with a coherent plan for recovery, you wouldn’t have found it in yesterday’s:

Today’s Budget doesn’t have the plan we need to get New Zealand working again, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

Kiwis have sacrificed so much through the restrictions of the lockdown, our collective efforts have so far worked well, now we need to get our economy cranking again.

“With a thousand people a day joining the dole queue we needed a proper plan. Spending money is the easy part. But investing billions where it will make the most difference was what we needed.

“Today we are seeing an extra $140 billion of debt. That’s $80,000 per household and it’s our children and grandchildren who will be paying for it. That’s equivalent to a second mortgage on every house.

“We will have $100 billion in deficits for the next four years.

“The Government will spend more than $50 billion, more than any Government has ever spent in any one Budget.

“It needed to be spent in a responsible and disciplined way. What this Budget lacks is any detail and accountability of how it will be spent and what it will achieve. . . 

This Budget had to be a big spending one, but did it have to be this big?

Today’s Budget reveals the sheer scale of the economic challenge New Zealand is facing, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“We’ve just been through a dramatic health crisis, now New Zealanders can see the scale of the economic challenge and just how serious is.

“Unemployment is set to skyrocket to 9.8 per cent highlighting why the first priority must be to save jobs.

“With an extra $140 billion in debt, we’re facing debt levels not seen in decades, that’s nearly $80,000 per household.

“The Treasury predictions of future Government tax revenue and economic growth appear highly optimistic. New Zealanders should brace themselves for worse if this Government carries on.

“We welcome the limited extension of the wage subsidy however the $50 billion slush fund is totally unacceptable. The Government has cynically set aside more than $20 billion that it can spend before the election.

“There is very little in the way of a growth plan in this budget, beyond $230 million to encourage entrepreneurship and some announcements in infrastructure that we all know they will struggle to deliver.

While we agree that Government support is necessary to save jobs, we must be mindful that every dollar spent in today’s Budget will need to be paid back.

“What we need now is a genuine growth plan and careful economic management to pay down debt and get us back to growth without the need for higher taxes. . .

The lack of a plan is a point Paul Henry made:

“I think there is a good chance we [New Zealand] will miss the opportunity. I was hoping that there could be a bounce forward not a bounce back. It’s the human way – a life of least resistance. I’m not depressed, I’m disappointed.” . .

“I haven’t seen a long-term plan yet. I think the last six weeks I’ve seen us fighting a fire and trying to get back on our feet. We need a long-term plan. The world’s changed, and it’s changed for many years to come.” . . 

“There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.

“A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is.

“Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. . .

David Farrar scored the Budget against 13 principles and found it wanting.

Grant White, owner of Logitech, is disappointed in the Budget too:

. . .Covid-19 package estimated to save 140,000 jobs over two years, and create more than 370,000 new jobs. I can’t see it and I await the detail of just how that will be done.

What I do know is what the government clearly doesn’t understand. There is only one thing the economy needs right now – confidence. And this budget is not going to generate it, indeed its failure to stop short and medium term redundancies is going to lead to an even greater reduction in confidence.

Bryce Edwards calls it a Budget with big numbers but little vision:

. . The problem for the government is that it has already been struggling to keep to its promise of being transformative. Previous budgets have shown Robertson and his colleagues have been unable to break free from their cautious instincts.

With the Coronavirus crisis, the opportunity was handed to the government to reset the economy and society, and deal with some long-term problems. Robertson even spoke about this during the leadup to the Budget, saying that now was the time to address intractable problems of economic dysfunction, inequality, and environmental decline. He talked of not wanting to “squander the opportunity”. And yet, many will look at today’s big-spending Budget and ask: “Is that it?

The problem isn’t just there’s no real plan to repair the economic damage inflicted by the COvid-19 response, the government has the wrong people to lead the recovery too.

Empathy and communication are valuable commodities in politics but they’re nothing without the ability to make a good plan and make it happen.

Does anyone who remembers the many and gradually less ambitious Kiwibuild promises really believe that Labour will build the 8,000 houses promised yesterday?

How much faith can we have in a Cabinet with Phil Twyford, Minister for the Kiwibuild fiasco and now Minister for the failed Auckland light rail project?

Or Labour deputy and Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis who after being notably absent while his sector faced the sector’s equivalent of foot and mouth disease, only popped up to do a possum in the headlights cameo with Paul Henry?

Does Minister of Health, David Clark, who was sidelined during the worst health crisis the country has ever faced give you confidence? Or what about his deputy Julie Anne Genter whose responsibilities include vaccinations? Remember the measles epidemic and the on-going flu vaccination debacle?

This government doesn’t have a plan and it does have the wrong people.


Why are we waiting?

08/05/2020

The Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 website gives details of case numbers as at 9am each day.

But it’s not updated until at least 1pm.

Why are we waiting until then?

Is there a good reason, or is it only so we can have what is becoming an increasingly tiresome double act for the media from the Beehive?

In the first few days it was a good idea for the Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to give daily briefings, to inform, reassure the public and to answer questions from journalists.

The DG fronting each day is probably still a good idea but the daily pairing with the PM is not.

Seeing only her, highlights the absence of other Ministers. It raises questions about why they aren’t fronting and none more so than Minister, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis is nowhere to be seen when that sector has been hardest hit by the lockdown.

The tourism sector is imploding, countless jobs are being lost, and many are left with a feeling of uncertainty. . .

What tourism businesses desperately need is a leader to articulate a message of hope. It needs Davis to proactively front the media, on a regular basis, to give an idea of what the Government is doing to save the sector. Because fronting the media gets the message out to operators, who are in the middle of making big decisions about their futures. . .

Davis, like most other Ministers is kept well away from the media.  Giving us only the daily duet is in danger of politicising the Director General because as each day goes by it looks more and more like the purpose is not so much to inform the public as to promote the PM.

Take yesterday’s announcement of what the step down to Level 2 will entail.

It could have been issued as a media release followed by the opportunity for questions from media.

Instead the PM read it out in minute detail as if to a group of young children, and ones with comprehension problems at that.

Or at least that’s what the first bit sounded like. I gave up listening after a very few minutes because I had better things to do with my time and a PM overseeing what could well turn into the worst economic depression in our history  ought to have too.

Ardern is Labour’s, and the government’s, most popular figure but these daily deliveries are in danger of turning into far too much of a good thing.

Much more of this and she’ll find more and more of her audience will be following Pooh’s example of getting into a comfortable position for not listening.


Rural round-up

12/04/2020

Back to the land after lockdown – David Slack:

With agriculture once again New Zealand’s main export earner, are farmers feeling needed again, and what are their prospects once the lockdown eases? David Slack reports from the farm gate.

There’s a photo of my grandmother and her sisters taken by their father in the late days of the First World War. It’s not the usual sort of photo of the time. They’re alive, it’s vivid. They’re up high in the Rangitikei backblocks. There are cows to be milked, they’re carrying cream cans. They look cheerful, they’re doing work that matters.

There were 16 of them in that family. Some of them went on to raise farmers, some raised city folk. My dad raised us to understand there was no future in farming. We didn’t doubt him, and we made our lives in town. . .

Primary interest: Time to cut the cord and let agriculture thrive – Steve Elers:

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said last year that tourism was New Zealand’s “largest export earner”, contributing $39 billion to the economy each year and directly employing more than 200,000 people.

Obviously, Covid-19 has upended the tourism sector, so Davis was left with no choice but to announce earlier this week that he has tasked Tourism New Zealand to lead a programme that includes the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Department of Conservation, and industry parties to “reimagine the way we govern tourism, how we market domestically and internationally, who we market to, and how we manage visitors when they arrive on our shores”. 

Another major sector upended because of Covid-19 is international education. According to the Tertiary Education Commission, international education “contributes $5.1b to the economy and is the country’s fourth largest export earner” – it also supports about 50,000 jobs. . .

Image sells our meat – Neal Wallace:

China is re-emerging as a significant buyer of New Zealand beef as its families continue to use home cooking skills learned when the country was shut down to control covid-19.

Many restaurants in China are yet to fully reopen and NZ beef appears to be an early beneficiary of growing Chinese retail demand as consumers look for meat from a country with a trusted food production system and a clean and green reputation.

But commentators warn we shouldn’t take this interest for granted, especially when other markets weaken as Governments try to contain the virus. . .

No letup for some works – Neal Wallace:

Most of the country’s largest meat companies will continue to process livestock over at least part of Easter to try to ease a developing backlog.

Selected plants run by Silver Fern Farms, Anzco and Affco will process over the long weekend to clear a developing backlog of stock, which, in some cases, has reached six weeks.

Southland’s Blue Sky Meats has started processing seven days a week and plans to work Easter and Anzac Day. 

Anzco chief executive Peter Conley said it will operate its beef plants on three of the four days over Easter. . . 

 

Coronavirus: Working and living in dairy farm bubble during Covid-19 – Lawrence Gullery:

Ben Moore counts himself lucky to be working on the land during the coronavirus outbreak.

He feels fortunate to still be earning an income, to pay the bills and provide for his family on their dairy farm in the Waikato.

“My heart goes out to those who can’t work,” Moore said. “We can still work, still pay the mortgage but I know there are many people out there who can’t.” 

Stuff is celebrating the coronavirus champions – including essential services workers like Moore and community volunteers – who are keeping New Zealand going though the lockdown. . . 

Prime cuts of beef are going to waste as well: After the scandal of £220,000 of milk being dumped every day during the coronavirus lockdown, GUY ADAMS investigates how the meat industry is coping – Guy Adams:

A couple of weeks ago, as panic-stricken shoppers descended on the nation’s supermarkets, Sainsbury’s and Asda quietly introduced a new product to their meat aisles.

Labelled ‘NO FUSS lean Polish beef mince’ and retailing for the bargain price of £2.95 a pound, it helped fill the empty shelves that had until very recently held Union Flag-stamped packets of best British beef.

Farmers, when they spotted it, hit the roof, accusing the rapacious retailers of flooding the market with cheap imports. . . 

 


H is for

19/11/2019

When Labour, NZ First and the Green Party were in opposition they were very critical of National’s Cabinet Clubs through which people paid to attend meals at which senior politicians spoke.

Their criticism has dried up now they’re in government and Labour is charging $1500 for a lunch with Jacinda Ardern who happens to be Prime Minister but will be acting as Labour leader.

Running a political party and election campaigns costs a lot of money. It can be easier to get a sum like this from a few people than it is to raise a similar amount from a lot more people in much smaller amounts.

Anyone who thinks a politician can be bought for $1500 (minus the GST that will have to be paid), or even a lot more, has a very jaundiced view of the world and politicians.

I don’t have any concerns about this method of fundraising. I do have concerns about those who suggest state funding of political parties as an alternative.

And I’m not impressed with the hypocrisy from those who criticised National for raising funds this way but are saying nothing now it’s their end of the political spectrum doing it.

On the subject of hypocrisy, the Veteran  has spotted another large dose of it in Northland:

It appears that Labour has disregarded my quite inspired and well meaning advice that if  ‘they’ want to see Winston First back in parliament then they should have Kevin Davis go List only giving the Jones boy a clear run at the Te Tai Tokerau seat which he would win at a canter …

the prodigal son returning and all of that. I can report that Labour’s well respected Willow Jean Prime has been told she’s going to have to take one for the team and confine her campaigning to anywhere but Northland … Chatham Islands perhaps. . .

Labour did that to allow Winston Peters to win the Northland by-election.

That he wasn’t able to hold it at the next election ought to be a lesson for Northland voters who think another NZ First MP would be any better for them than the party’s leader was.

They should also learn from Southland, the West Coast and Taranaki where this government’s policies are doing far more harm than can be mitigated by dollops of money from the provincial slush fund.


If not sacking AG must investigate

11/03/2019

Shane Jones is in another spot of bother:

After declaring a conflict of interest in a proposed Northland cultural centre, Shane Jones sat through a meeting when ministerial colleagues decided on its multi-million dollar funding application, even giving reassurance about its governance.

Manea, Footprints of Kupe was among the first group of projects to be awarded cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, a $1 billion a year fund secured in coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First, which is coming under increasing criticism. . . 

He has repeatedly said he stepped back from having involvement in the project and denied advocating for it.

But documents quietly posted on the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed that Jones attended what appears to be the single ministerial meeting to determine the application.

“Minister [of Finance Grant] Robertson raised his concerns about the broader management and commercial operations of the project,” MBIE official Mark Patterson wrote.

“Minister Jones provided reassurance that as the project has Far North Holding Ltd, the commercial arm of the Far North District Council, involved in its governance structures, he was comfortable their presence would alleviate any concerns on the issue.”

Patterson added that MBIE would manage other concerns through milestone payments.

“Minister Robertson was comfortable to sign the briefing knowing this mitigation was in place.”

Less than a month after Davis announced the funding, Jones was asked by Act leader David Seymour whether he had held any discussions with his ministerial colleagues about Manea.

“I asked my colleagues to make the decision on that project in order to manage a conflict of interest”.

Later he said he “noted” the involvement of Far North Holdings to colleagues.

On Friday, Jones insisted he purely offered “statements of fact” in the meeting and he believed he had managed his conflict of interest, but acknowledged others would consider it appropriate to exit meetings altogether.

“You can physically exit or you can declare a conflict and let colleagues deal with the issue,” Jones said.

“I don’t believe my presence in any meeting with three other powerful ministers has any deterrent effect.” . . 

He might believe that but it doesn’t stop the perception that he used his influence when he declared a conflict of interest and ought to have not even been in the room.

[Act leader David] Seymour said the documents suggested Jones “was decisive” in seeing the funding go ahead to an organisation he had a prior association with.

“He actually provided reassurance to his colleagues, which is at stark odds with  his repeated assurances in Parliamentary questions that he’d recused himself from any role,” Seymour said, claiming Jones had breached the Cabinet manual.

“I don’t see how you can continue to be a minister when something as simple as a conflict of interest, you can’t manage.”

On Sunday morning, Seymour, called for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack Jones.

“Shane Jones not only involved himself in an application in relation to which he had a conflict of interest, he also concealed this key meeting in answer to a written parliamentary question,” Seymour said.

Clare Curran was eventually sacked for a similar transgression.

National’s regional development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said it defeated the purpose of declaring a conflict of interest and delegating responsibility, “if a minister then engages fully in favour of a project which Shane Jones appears to have done”.

“We need a full explanation from Shane Jones of his involvement in this project from start to finish.” . . 

 Seymour and the Taxpayers’ Union have both called for the Auditor General to investigate:

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Ministers have it drilled into them that when it comes to decisions that involve a personal interest, they shouldn’t be in the room, let alone provide advice and ‘reassurances’. Shane Jones’ behaviour will give taxpayers zero confidence that the Growth Fund is being spent impartially or for economic good.”

“Businesses across the country will look at this example, along with other Growth Fund handouts, and figure that the key to profitability is cosy relationships with the political class. That is the path to cronyism and corruption.”

“The Prime Minister mustn’t let her Government’s reliance on NZ First lead to an open season on taxpayer funds. She should call in the Auditor General to investigate Shane Jones’ actions, and be prepared to strip him of his Regional Economic Development portfolio if necessary.” . . 

The Provincial Growth Fund is a $3 billion fund which has been criticised several times for doling out money without the usual cost-benefit appraisal and rigour which should precede largesse with taxpayers’ money.

The Prime Minister dilly-dallied before sacking Clare Curran.

Given the sensitivities with New Zealand First, it is unlikely she will act on the calls to sack the minister over this matter so it is up to the Auditor General to investigate.


Um, ah, ah

06/09/2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern might still have confidence in Clare Curran but the minister doesnt’ appear to have confidence in herself:

. . . Curran stumbled over her answers in Parliament’s debating chamber, as she was forced to admit that Government business was conducted on her personal email. She was not forthcoming with a response about why she used her Gmail account for official business from “time to time”. 

Asked “what Government business has she conducted via her Gmail account”, Curran appeared flustered and claimed she’d answered the question before being told by the Speaker she had to answer it directly – she then required Lee to ask it again. 

Curran answered: “To the best of my recollection, um, ah, ah, I haven’t, um, I haven’t used my, um I’ve answered um OIA, ah, ah, OIA responses and personal, um and parliamentary questions correctly and to the best of my recollection, um, ah, you know, that, that has, that’s what I’ve done.”

It pales in comparison to the email controversy surrounding former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her 2016 presidential run against US President Donald Trump, but has raised similar questions over security and transparency of information.  . .

When you read Nick Smith’s speech in Tuesday’s snap debate about Curren’s sacking, it is easy to see why she might be lacking confidence in herself:

“We have a Minister of Open Government—actually, the very first Minister of Open Government that’s ever existed in this Parliament—and the promise of the Minister of Open Government was to be the most open and transparent Government that this country has ever had, and then what we find out from that Minister is that not once but twice that Minister behaved in a secretive, in a sneaky, and in a dirty way.

“Now, let’s come to the events that have led to Clare Curran’s resignation as the Minister of Open Government. Firstly, we had the incident with Radio New Zealand.

“Let’s understand how important that is. A free, politically neutral media goes to the heart of how our democracy works.

“We are not …  one of those countries where we have a State media that just spins the Government line, like you might get in a North Korea or a Zimbabwe. Here we have Clare Curran having private, secret meetings with the head of news—not some public servant.

“What is the Minister of Broadcasting doing having meetings—secret meetings—with the head of news at Radio New Zealand? There wouldn’t be a member in this House, not even my newest colleagues, that wouldn’t have a feeling that, well, that doesn’t feel quite right. ‘I’m the Minister of Broadcasting; I shouldn’t really be having secret meetings with the head of Radio New Zealand news.’

“But here’s the part that has me gobsmacked: the week after this Parliament admonishes her for being dishonest about the secret meeting, guess what Clare Curran does? She arranges another secret meeting, this time wearing the portfolio as the Minister of Digital Technologies.

“I’ve been here for 28 years. I’ve seen some Ministers goof it up. What I have never seen is a dicky Minister commit exactly the same crime just one week after there’s a massive controversy.

“Now there are only two possibilities here. Either she’s dumb, or she’s dishonest. I’m sorry, there can only be two explanations for that course of events that has occurred. . . 

Dumb or dishonest?

Oh dear, neither of those are qualifications for a minister inside or outside Cabinet and it says little for Ardern’s judgement that she couldn’t see that.

By taking the soft option of demoting Curren from Cabinet but allowing her to stay on as a minister, Ardern has made her a target and bought herself an on-going headache.

And while we’re not he subject of ministers who are out of their depth, this exchange between National’s Chris Finlayson and Labour’s deputy Kelvin Davis is instructive:


So bad so soon

19/06/2018

How did it get so bad so soon?
It’s a mess of ministers
acting like goons.
My goodness how the
mess has grewn.
How did it get so bad so soon?

With apologies to Dr Seuss, how did it get so bad so soon?

Audrey Young writes that Jacinda Ardern will forgive Winston Peters for anything, even the unforgivable.

A National MP joked this week that the Opposition didn’t want things to get so bad under Jacinda Ardern’s maternity leave that the country was desperate for her return – they just wanted a medium level of dysfunction.

That threshold was almost reached this week even before the big event, and things got worse as the week wore on.

Ardern’s faith in Winston Peters being able to manage the inevitable bush fires that will flare when she is away must be seriously undermined given that he and his party have caused many of them.

A series of accidental and deliberate mishaps has raised questions about a series of important issues including basic coalition management, ministerial conventions, the application of the “No Surprises” policy, and when a minister is not a minister. .  .

Stacey Kirk calls it a three ring circus with one ringmaster at the centre .

Consensus government in action, or a bloody awful mess? 

It’s difficult to characterise the past week as anything but the latter and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be worried about whether she’ll have a Government to come back to when she returns from maternity leave. . .

Patrick Gower wants the old Kelvin Davis back.

Patrick Gower on The AM Show. Credits: Video – The AM Show; Image – Newshub.

Kelvin Davis is a “wounded man walking” who better watch out, says Newshub national correspondent Patrick Gower.

The Corrections Minister on Wednesday announced plans for a new prison, but appeared to be unaware how many of its inmates would be double-bunked.

Corrections boss Ray Smith interjected after Mr Davis froze, confirming Newshub’s suggestion it would be around half.

“I get nervous before interviews,” was Mr Davis’ explanation, when asked about it on The AM Show. . . 

Duncan Garner describes government MPs as misfit kids.

. . .It’s taken them three minutes to look as shabby, arrogant and as broken-down as a third-term government suffering rampant hubris and pleading to be put out of its misery.  . .

Sue Bradford thinks the Greens are in mortal danger.

The Green’s water bottling decision exposes potentially fatal flaws and complacency at the heart of Green Parliamentary operations 

The Green parliamentary wing seem to be clueless about the mortal danger they face following news this week that their own minister, Eugenie Sage, has signed off on the sale and expansion of a water bottling plant at Otakiri Springs. . . 

Hamish Rutherford writes with Winston Peters in charge everything could be up for grabs.

. . . These are extraordinary times. Suddenly, with a Government already battling to keep business confidence up, with a story that the economy keeps on rocking, it seems as if everything is up for grabs.

We are now being handed lessons that have been coming since Peters walked into the Beehive theatrette on October 20 and announced he was forming a Government with the Left.

A Government so broad that the issues on which there is division become so amplified that they could almost appear to outnumber ones where there is consensus.

Where previous coalitions since the creation of MMP managed to keep together because the centre of power was so obvious, the timing of Peters’ action will be further unsettling. . . 

Health Minister David Clark has been accused of trying to gag a health board chair.

A leaked voicemail message appears to show Health Minister David Clark attempting to gag top health officials over the woeful state of Middlemore Hospital buildings. 

Clark has rejected the accusation, which has stemmed from audio of him telling former Counties Manukau District Health Board chair Rabin Rabindran it was “not helping” that the DHB kept commenting publicly.  

Emails suggest he also attempted to shut down the DHB from answering any questions along the lines of who knew what, and when, about the dilapidated state of Middlemore buildings. . . 

Peter Dunne asks is the coalition starting to unravel?

Almost 20 years ago, New Zealand’s first MMP Coalition Government collapsed. It was not a dramatic implosion on a major point of principle, but was provoked by a comparatively minor issue – a proposal to sell the Government’s shares in Wellington Airport – and came after a series of disagreements between the Coalition partners on various aspects of policy.

There has been speculation this week in the wake of New Zealand First’s hanging out to dry of the Justice Minister over the proposed repeal of the “three strikes” law that the same process might be starting all over again. While it is far too soon to draw conclusive parallels, the 1998 experience does set out some road marks to watch out for. . . 

Michael Reddell writes on how the government is consulting on slashing productivity growth.

 . .  I have never before heard of a government consulting on a proposal to cut the size of the (per capita) economy by anything from 10 to 22 per cent.  And, even on their numbers, those estimates could be an understatement. . . .

Quite breathtaking really.   We will give up –  well, actually, take from New Zealanders –  up to a quarter of what would have been their 2050 incomes, and in doing so we will know those losses will be concentrated disproportionately on people at the bottom.   Sure, they talk about compensation measures . . 

But the operative word there is could.  The track record of governments –  of any stripe –  compensating losers from any structural reforms is pretty weak, and it becomes even less likely when the policy being proposed involves the whole economy being a lot smaller than otherwise, so that there is less for everyone to go around.  The political economy of potential large scale redistribution just does not look particularly attractive or plausible (and higher taxes to do such redistribution would have their own productivity and competitiveness costs). . . 

And the Dominion Post lists mis-steps and mistakes and concludes:

. . .Some of this has been simply amateurish.

Such things are often a sign of a government that has outlived its mandate and begun to implode around the core of its own perceived importance. In its tiredness it can trip over the most obvious hurdles.

This Government is barely nine months old. It needs to find its feet, and quickly.

Has there ever been a government that has attracted this sort of criticism just a few months after gaining power?

How did this government get so bad so soon?


Politics and payback before pupils

09/02/2018

Last year Kelvin Davis threatened to resign if two partnership schools in his electorate closed.

. . . The MP Kelvin Davis said Māori wanted a measure of autonomy over the education of their children.

“So if they were to close they would no longer exist, that would be a bottom line for me, so the fact is they can exist as special character schools, that’s the bottom line to me.” . . .

Last year Willie Jackson said Labour wouldn’t close his charter school.

. . . But should it win September’s election, Mr Jackson says Labour has no plans to close his school.

“Andrew Little, Chris Hipkins, they’re very supportive of our schools. They’ve been clear to me about that right from the start, otherwise I wouldn’t have joined,” he told The AM Show on Friday. . .

This year Education Minister Chris Hipkins is threatening the schools with closure:

Hipkins introduced the Education Amendment Bill today, which would formally end National Standards and charter schools.

“The Government’s strong view is that there is no place for them in the New Zealand education system,” Hipkins said. . . 

The bill would mean an end to future charter schools, and allow existing ones to continue while the Ministry of Education considers options – such as becoming a designated character school – on a case-by-case system.

Unlike charter schools, a character school is part of the public education system, is funded like other state schools, and must adhere to the national curriculum.

Five charter schools were scheduled to open in 2018 and will no longer open. Eleven existing charter schools have a combined roll of about 1300 students.

Hipkins wanted existing charter schools to wind up before the end of their contracts by mutual agreement.

“If, however, early termination is not agreed by both parties, I am reserving my right to issue a notice of ‘termination for convenience’, under charter schools’ existing contracts, by the middle of May 2018. This would take effect at the end of the school year.” . . 

The schools were part of an agreement between Act and National and National leader is an advocate for them.

English said closing the schools was “nasty and vindictive behaviour” and was ideological.

“And the victims of it will be young children who could have done better in a school that suited their needs.”

He said although Labour had dismissed concerns because the schools had only 1000 students in them, he said those students deserved the opportunities the schools gave them.

He said it was ‘shameful’ that had challenged Ardern to visit the schools in person to explain the decision to the children.

“I think it shows the PM is uncomfortable with the policy and certainly uncomfortable with facing the impact on the children. I’ve met these kids, I’ve met their parents.

They meet the needs of those kids. There might only be 1000 of them but they matter.”

He said a significant proportion of the students in the schools were Maori and Ardern had promised Maori up north to deliver to them. . .

 

Labour is putting politics, and paying back teacher unions before the needs of pupils.

All the schools, their staff and most importantly their pupils face uncertainty and the knowledge they could be axed at the whim of the minister.

He might give Davis and Jackson some wriggle room by renaming three schools to allow them to continue, but what about the other schools and more importantly the pupils who are succeeding after failing at conventional schools?

 

 

 


Moving targets

10/11/2017

National used yesterday’s question time to attempt to get clarification on the government’s targets for housing and spending.

The answers weren’t helpful:

1. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What will the specific measurable targets be, if any, that she will use to hold her Government to account?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Acting Prime Minister): As Prime Minister, I will hold my Ministers to account for improving the well-being and living standards of New Zealanders.
Rt Hon Bill English: What is the appropriate measure—[Interruption] 
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sorry, I’m just going to start right now. Who is the member who interjected then? Right, there’s an additional question to the Opposition.
Rt Hon Bill English: What is the appropriate measure we should follow to monitor progress on KiwiBuild where the Government has committed to build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make decisions on appropriate targets in due course.
Rt Hon Bill English: So does that mean that the current expression of the Government’s commitment, which is “to build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years” does not necessarily mean what most people would take it to mean?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does the Government stand by—[Interruption] 
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The chief Government whip, I think, interjected, or someone around her did. There is a further supplementary to the Opposition.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister stand by her Government’s commitment to “build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years”?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.
Rt Hon Bill English: Why did the Government commit to “build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years” if it is now not willing to re-express that commitment in this House?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Because the previous Government didn’t build houses.
Rt Hon Bill English: Is it possible that the Government is revising this commitment because of public statements made by the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, that the commitment may involve not building houses but buying existing houses?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No. 
Rt Hon Bill English: What other reason could there possibly be for not being willing to restate a commitment made by all its members right though the election campaign to “build 100,000 houses”? What other reason could there be not to make that commitment here today? 
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We are not revising targets. We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.
Rt Hon Bill English: So is the commitment to build 100,000 houses an appropriate target, or one that is subject to revision or further decisions, or is it one that we should take at its word? 
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The member will find out in due course. . . 

That sounds like the answer is if there’s a target it’s a movable one.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Who is correct: the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, who says that there is a fixed commitment to build 100,000 extra houses, or the Prime Minister, who says such a target has not yet been set?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Housing and Urban Development have reiterated our policy, which is to build 100,000 affordable homes to restore affordable homeownership to this country. . . 

That’s the policy but what’s the target?

The Reserve Bank also questions the number of houses that will be built:

The Government has announced an intention to build 100,000 houses
in the next decade. Our working assumption is that the programme
gradually scales up over time to a pace of 10,000 houses per year by
the end of the projection horizon. Given existing pressure on resources
in the construction sector, the aggregate boost to construction activity
from this policy will depend on how resources are allocated across public
and private sector activities. The Government intends to introduce a
‘KiwiBuild visa’ to support the supply of labour to high-need construction related
trades. While accompanying policy initiatives may alleviate
capacity constraints to some extent, our working assumption is that
around half of the proposed increase will be offset by a reduction in
private sector activity.

It could be the new house target is a movable one because there’s more than a little doubt about the finances:

3. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Can he confirm it is his intention as Minister of Finance to ensure core Crown expenses do not exceed $81.9 billion in 2017/18, $86.1 billion in 2018/19, $88.2 billion in 2019/20, $91.8 billion in 2020/21, and $96.1 billion in 2021/22, as specified in the Labour Party’s pre-election Fiscal Plan?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I can confirm that it is my intention for core Crown expenditure as a percentage of GDP to be within the recent historical range. As to the exact figures in the member’s question, I cannot confirm those as, of course, they are subject to detailed Budget decisions and revenue forecasts that are yet to be finalised.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm that he stands by his statement from 4 September this year, and I quote, “Labour’s Fiscal Plan is robust, the numbers are correct and we stand by them”?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that the Budget that this Government is putting together will be robust and it will deliver on a commitment that this Government has made to ensure that all New Zealanders share in prosperity.
Michael Wood: What else, in addition to managing core Crown expenditure, will guide the Government’s approach to responsible fiscal management?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government will observe the Budget responsibility rules as indicated in the Speech from the Throne: namely, delivering a sustainable operating balance before gains and losses; reducing net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP within 5 years; and ensuring a fair and balanced progressive taxation system. We will also never forget that the purpose of a strong economy is to give every New Zealander the chance to share in prosperity, and we will never be satisfied while children live in poverty or families sleep in cars.
Hon Steven Joyce: Does he stand by his statement also on 4 September, and I quote, that “Our operating expenses are above the line and are clearly stated.”?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Budget that this Government will prepare will be clear about what we are spending and where the revenue for that is coming from.
Hon Steven Joyce: So that’s a no. Can I also ask: does he stand by his statement, and I quote, “We have quite clearly put in the spending requirements to meet the promises we have made. Our fiscal plan adds up. We are absolutely clear that we have the money to meet the commitments that we’ve made.”, also on 4 September?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government will prepare a Budget that shows how we will pay for the important commitments that we have made to ensure that every New Zealander benefits from economic prosperity.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can the Minister of Finance then confirm that it is not his intention to necessarily ensure core Crown expenditure does not exceed $81.9 billion this current financial year, $86.1 billion in the next financial year, $88.2 billion in 2019-20, $91.8 billion in 2020-21, and $96.1 billion in 2021-22? Can he confirm that’s not his intention, even though it was specified in the Labour Party’s pre-election fiscal plan?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that we will keep Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP in line with the historical range.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can the finance Minister then confirm that he doesn’t at all stand by the numbers he presented in the Labour Party’s fiscal plan prior to the election?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government is currently going through the usual process of putting together a Budget. We are absolutely confident that we will deliver a Budget that is in line with the Budget responsibility rules that were outlined in the Speech from the Throne and that will deliver to New Zealanders a fair share in prosperity. As I said in my primary answer, the final numbers are the subject of the normal Budget process. . . 

Hon Steven Joyce: Is he saying that the actual numbers written on the Labour Party’s fiscal plan prior to this election, which he and his colleagues defended vigorously during the election campaign, are no longer relevant? The comments he has made suggest that he will put whatever numbers he likes in front of the public in due course in the next Budget.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have been absolutely clear that the commitment that we have made is that Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP will remain in line with the long-run historical trend. Members on the other side of the House well know that we will now be looking at new revenue forecasts and, indeed, new growth forecasts. They will determine the exact numbers that are presented. But we are very clear on this side of the House: our number add up. . . 

Hon Steven Joyce: Has he noted how often the Reserve Bank mentioned policy uncertainty in their Monetary Policy Statement this morning, and has he considered how his statements in the House this afternoon and his responses to questions will not help with that policy uncertainty when the Reserve Bank was obviously placing some credence on his previous statements about Government expenditure and now he is not even standing by those?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Reserve Bank Governor noted today that his thinking was preliminary, and, just like the member opposite, when the Half Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update and Budget Policy Statement are released before the end of the year, there will be significant certainty about our spending plans. If the member can’t wait, I’ll make up a special advent calendar for him so that he can count down to the half yearly update.

In opposition you might be able to get away with vagueness, but governments need to be much clearer on its spending plans so that public institutions like Treasury and the Reserve Bank have sufficient information to perform their roles effectively.

“This morning’s Monetary Policy Statement from the Reserve Bank makes numerous mentions of domestic policy uncertainty including ‘uncertainty around tax policy’, uncertainty around the ‘future impact of these policy changes’ and ‘heightened uncertainty regarding the domestic outlook,” Mr Joyce says.

“While the Bank is taking a steady as she goes approach at this point, it is clear that their economic forecasting is affected by a lack of clarity from the new Government as to their fiscal and economic plans.

“This is not a surprise as we are all still yet to see the figures underpinning the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First, which was signed over two weeks ago, and we are all still yet to see the Government’s mythical final 100 Day Plan.

“Yesterday’s Speech from the Throne contained 51 new spending commitments, which will put significant pressure on the Government’s spending track and net debt.

“The first Bill In Parliament this week seeks to legislate for $325 million of extra spending, without any reference to how this fits in to the government’s wider spending plan.

“The public will rightly be concerned that the large number of spending promises they have heard about could sacrifice New Zealand’s hard work to get back into surplus and start paying down debt.

“The irony is that in recent years all the economic risks have been offshore. Now just as the world economic outlook is strengthening, all the risk and uncertainty is being generated domestically by the economic opaqueness of the new Government.

“It is time for the Government to be much more transparent and start releasing more details of their fiscal plans.”

It’s possible they haven’t got any fixed ones, like their housing target they’re movable.


Captain called wrong

15/09/2017

Jacinda Ardern made a captain’s call on the possibility of introducing a capital gains tax without putting it to voters.

Just a couple of weeks ago deputy Kelvin Davis was rebuked for saying it would be put to voters.

Yesterday it was her finance spokesman Grant Robertson who fronted the media to say that was no longer the case.

The captain called wrong.

It shows her inexperience.

It shows the party isn’t ready for government.

It shows their leader isn’t ready to be Prime Minister.

Experience and judgement matter and this episode shows she lacks both.

 

 

 


New face solves only one of Labour’s problems

01/08/2017

Andrew Little has resigned and been replaced by Jacinda Arden.

Labour also has a new deputy in Kelvin Davis.

I don’t think this was the fresh approach the party’s now obsolete billboards were promising and it will solve only one of its problems.

The new face will get more, and more positive, publicity than the old one did, at least for a while. But she’s still leading the same party and has inherited all its other problems.

One of those is a lack of money which will be exacerbated by the expense of new hoardings and any other publicity already produced.

Another is confusion about what it stands for and poor policies which result from that.

And the big one is the memorandum of understanding with the Green Party.

The Green’s have been the only ones to gain from that and have shown contempt for both Labour and the MOU.

If they can’t be trusted in opposition, how on earth could they be trusted in government, especially if New Zealand First was also in the mix?

P.S. Echoing Nick at No Minister, spare a thought for the volunteers. It’s no fun when your party is in disarray and it will be the volunteers who will be doing most of the work taking down and replacing the hoardings.


Davis will resign if partnership schools close

24/07/2017

Kelvin Davis, Labour’s Te Tai Tokerau MP says he will resign if the two partnership schools in the north are closed down:

 . . The MP Kelvin Davis said Māori wanted a measure of autonomy over the education of their children.

“So if they were to close they would no longer exist, that would be a bottom line for me, so the fact is they can exist as special character schools, that’s the bottom line to me.” . . .

The party’s policy on partnership schools is confusing – saying it wants to close them but would continue to support kura kaupapa and special character schools.

Whether the two in Northland would be safe under this policy is debatable but Davis’s threat is not.

It’s also yet another sign that Labour can’t sing from the same song sheet in opposition and so are still a long way from being a government-in-waiting.


Key # 1 again

11/12/2014

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.)

 

 


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