Ministerial shortcomings not for Ministerial Services to sort


If people have the skills to be a minister, shouldn’t they have the skills to manage staff?

Perhaps the most concerning facet of the Government’s latest ministerial embarrassment was a comment yesterday from a former Labour Party president, Mike Williams. He told Newstalk ZB the incident reflected a lack of training for those appointed ministers. “I think it’s probably lack of supports,” he said. “Ministerial Services don’t seem to think it’s their job to give these new ministers basic instructions on staffing.”

It certainly should not be the service’s job. It shouldn’t be anyone’s job to give a minister basic instructions in how to manage a small staff. Voters and taxpayers have a right to expect that all of the people a political party offers for election — let alone those chosen to be ministers in a government — possess the personal qualities needed at any level of leadership. . .

It isn’t hard to find examples across the political spectrum where parties have got the selection process wrong and people without the requisite personal qualities, and political skills, get into parliament.

But party selection panels can’t know candidates as well as party leaders know members of their caucuses, especially those they entrust with ministerial warrants.

Even if a focus on ethnicity, gender and other distractions complicates the ministerial selection process, it shouldn’t trump the requirement for competence.

There is always some learning on the job with any new position but that learning for a minister should not have to cover such basic personal qualities as good manners and restraint.

The ability to manage down and up, which includes handling staff, should be a prerequisite for a minister.

If ministers can’t do that and do it well, it reflects poorly on the  leader who promoted them beyond their competence and it is not ministerial services’ responsibility to sort out any shortcomings.

Principals suggest school closures


School principals are talking sense on the best use of scarce funds:

. . . Principals told Radio New Zealand’s Insight programme that earthquake strengthening, leaky buildings and roll growth meant there was not enough property funding to go around, even though the government was expected to spend $6 billion over next 10 years addressing the issues.

With money short, they said, the government should consider closing schools instead of fixing them.

Principal of Te Mata School in Havelock North Mike Bain questions whether having multiple schools with low rolls promotes the best educational outcomes.

“You’ve got schools of under 100 that are spending a couple of hundred thousand on a new library, or classroom modernisation, or even a complete rebuild – don’t know that that’s the best spend of the money,” he said.

“I’m not advocating that we should have super schools where suddenly everyone goes, but when you’ve got multiple schools of less than 50 kids, is that promoting the best educational outcome for kids?” . . 

The number of children at a school isn’t necessarily an indication of the quality of the education it provides and big isn’t always better. But if pupils wouldn’t have to travel too far, it is usually better educationally and better use of money to have them at one bigger school than several smaller ones.

The Education Ministry’s property business case indicates school reorganisations might be considered in some areas.

It said significant roll drops in Gisborne, Tasman, West Coast, Manawatu-Whanganui and Hawke’s Bay would affect the shape of the school network in those areas.

But Kim Shannon of the Education Ministry’s infrastructure unit said the current property problems would not prompt school closures.

“Property is never the issue why you close down a school. That will always be educationally-driven and it will always be about the education needs of that community.”

School closures are usually contentious. But in my experience it’s often people who no longer have children at a school who fight hardest for it to stay open while parents of most pupils opt for what’s best for the education of their children which can be closing or merging with an other school.

Mike Williams, head of Pakuranga College and a member of the Secondary Principals Association, said the government should think about closing and merging schools.

“We have too many schools and so we have a lot of infrastructure that is very badly utilised. In high growth areas, yes, we’re having to build new classrooms, but there are classrooms all round the country that aren’t used, we have schools with very few students in them.”

Mr Williams said no community wanted to lose its school, but nationally that attitude was not sustainable.

PPTA Principals’ Council president Allan Vester said the government had always found it hard to close schools in the face of strong local opposition.

“There’s lots of communities that actually rationalisation needs to occur. There are more schools than are needed in an area, but it’s politically so difficult to make those changes.”

Mr Vester said the ministry knew where there were too many schools and not enough children, but found it hard to intervene.

Labour is still loathed in some areas because of the way then-Education Minister Trevor Mallard used a sledge-hammer approach to school closures more than a decade ago.

But when a school roll starts dropping, parents start taking their children elsewhere and it is possible with the  right approach to convince those who remain that a merger or closure will result in a school that better meets the educational needs of the pupils.

Yesterday, this morning, this afternoon . . . .


Labour said it would announce its list yesterday afternoon.

That changed to this morning.

Now former party president Mike Williams has just told Kathryn Ryan that the list will be released at 3pm this afternoon.

The timing isn’t significant the party management is.

One suggestion for the delay was that the party couldn’t handle the list ranking while dealing with the fallout from the Liu donation allegations.

It is just as likely to be a problem with telling MPs and candidates

Whatever the cause for the delay, how can a party that is once again demonstrating problems running one of its most important internal activities smoothly hope to convince voters it can run the country?

Not the workers’ friend


Kim Dotcom has taken court action to gag a former body guard.

. . . Dotcom made a successful application for an interim injunction against Wayne Tempero in the High Court at Auckland yesterday. The action came soon after the Herald reported that Tempero was set to release “secret revelations” about Dotcom’s “mindset and megalomania”. . .

That hasn’t stopped other staff talking to Whaleoil who has a story of slave wages, bullying, intimidation and the sheer effrontery of a man spending literally millions on himself but short-changing his most loyal staff.

Labour, the Green and Mana parties like to think they’re the workers’ friends.

They and New Zealand First have all been courting, or courted by, Dotcom in the hope he can help them defeat National.

The enemy of their enemy could be their friend but do they want to be friends with someone who appears to be anything but the workers’ friend?

And will the media which have given Dotcom a pretty easy ride, start asking some harder questions now?

P.S. Former Labour president Mike Williams, just said on RadioNZ National’s panel that he’s on Dotcom’s side with the gagging order.

Little change in final referendum results


The final results for the referendum on the partial float of a few state assets show little change from the preliminary ones:


Number of Votes Received

Percentage of Total Valid Votes

For the response




For the response




Informal votes*



Total valid votes



*An informal vote is where the voter has not clearly indicated the response they wish to vote for.

Voter turnout on the basis of the final result is 45.1%.  Turnout is calculated by taking the total votes cast of 1,368,925 (being total valid and invalid votes) as a percentage of the total number of voters enrolled as at 21 November 2013 (3,037,405).

The number of invalid votes cast was 1,585 or 0.12% of total votes cast.  Invalid votes are excluded from the count and include, for example, voting papers that cannot be processed because the voter has made the QR code unreadable, or voting papers cancelled as a result of replacement voting papers being issued.

Breakdown by electorate can be found here.

The Dominion Post says the referendum was a waste of money:

. . . If opponents of partial privatisation believe the Government is now honour bound to reverse its position on state asset sales, then previous governments were presumably honour bound to give effect to the popular will expressed in referendums on firefighter numbers, the size of Parliament, tougher prison sentences and smacking.

Except that on each previous occasion a citizens-initiated referendum was held, the government of the day also ignored its outcome. The 1995 National government did not entrench firefighter numbers at January 1995 levels. The 1999 Labour-led government did not cut the number of MPs from 120 to 99. Nor did it introduce hard labour for serious violent offenders. The current National-led Government has not reversed the anti-smacking legislation introduced by its predecessor.

There’s the rub. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Referendums are, as the 1986 Royal Commission on the Electoral System observed, “blunt and crude” instruments.

They have their place. There are a handful of constitutional issues that should not be decided without reference to the public.

But generally governments should be left to govern. Issues can seldom be reduced to simple “yes” or “no” questions and the country’s position on serious matters should not be determined by populism. . .

Few issues are black and white and therefore most are unsuited to the referendum option of yes or no.

This has been an expensive exercise in self-promotion for the opposition.

Labour’s former president Mike Williams said it was also a way to harvest contact details which discredits the process even more.


Irony deliberate or accidental?


The Afternoons’ panel has just finished discussing the police’s decision not to prosecute John Banks and invited former Labour Party president Mike Williams to give his view.

If memory serves me right he was president when his party was guilty of the pledge card rort.

The question then is: was the irony in inviting him to talk about electoral law accidental or deliberate?

Which is the real Goff?


During discussions on politics from the right and left  on Nine to Noon yesterday, Mike Williams said:

. . . the problem I think at the moment for Phil  is that  he’s kind of one dimensional. You know I can name both of John Key’s kids for example but I can’t tell you the names of Phil Goff’s kids. You’ve got to get him more three dimensional . . .

Politics is very hard on families and if they choose to keep out of public gaze the public, and the media, should respect that choice. Although it does seem a  bit strange that a former Labour Party president doesn’t know at least the names of the leader’s children.

But the more damning observation came from Matthew Hooton:

You could argue that Phil Goff is incredibly multi-dimensional. He starts out as a Vietnam activist then he becomes Roger Douglas’s chief lieutenant; then he’s Helen Clark’s foreign Minister and now he’s wanting to reposition the Labour party to the left . . .

The problem isn’t that Goff doesn’t have enough dimensions, it’s that we don’t know which is the real one.

There’s the long-haired anti-war student.

There’s the lawyer  Political Studies lecturer and union organiser.

There’s the Cabinet Minister from 1984 – 1990 who supported, and helped implement, Roger Douglas’s policies.

There’s the MP who in opposition and then government kept talking about the “failed” policies of the 80s and 90s.

There’s the Cabinet Minister in the 1999 – 2008 government that changed some, but not many, of those policies and introduced nanny-state legislation.

And now there’s the party leader who’s apologised for getting that wrong.

There’s a fine line between being a man for all seasons and being one who shifts with the wind.

Which is the real Goff and which will be delivering his state of the nation address today?

Reasons not to vote Green


Guyon Espiner’s interview with Metiria Turei on Q&A  provided the following reasons not to vote Green:

1. The public transport mantra:

By investing in public transport for example, we not only build a comprehensive public transport system for all communities across the country, but we help to mitigate the impact of the importation of oil into this country. . .

Public transport isn’t necessarily the answers in cities and its definitely not the answer in small towns and rural areas.

2. The opposition to free trade:

Well our position is that you need to have systems of fair trade, that make sure that New Zealand can retain its economic sovereignty, and free trade deals tend to undermine the economic sovereignty.

The only fair trade is free trade.

Oh no, we are not extremists like some others might be, where free trade is the only option for New Zealand which tends to be the kind of ACT National kind of extreme.  We prefer a model that deals with these issues in a sensible rational way, making sure that New Zealand retains the highest level of economic sovereignty, to make the best decisions for its own people while being engaged with the global trade movement, which is very important, particularly when you’re dealing with under developed countries for example who need support.

The only sustainable support for developing countries is trade.

3. They won’t accept that a stock take of mineral resources on public land is sensible and that the economic and social benefits from mining land with low conservation values could be done without degrading the environment.

Now we don’t want the government, we’re very fearful that the government will rip out our national parks just to find coal and petrol, so we would like to make sure that the national parks and marine reserves and wetlands for example are kept free form threats of mining.

This view  is based on blind ignorance. No-one is suggesting ripping out national parks.

4. They overcharged on a flat rented by their MPs but owned by their super fund:

Earlier this year we did – those went out of whack, between February and March of 2009 one of the houses, MPs were claiming over the market value, we fixed that valuation in June to make sure they’re only being asked to pay under market value, and last week we refunded that over claim.  So we made a mistake and we fixed it.

They repaid the excess claimed – about $6000. But no mention was made of the fact they get more by renting from their super scheme than if they owned the flats themselves.

Kiwiblog has calculated that over the eight years they have owned the property they would have only been able to claim rent of $116,000 instead of $192,000.

5. Hypocrisy.

GUYON  . . . you have been telling other MPs and other political parties that you’re the moral compass of parliament, yet you’ve been ripping the taxpayer off.

The panel responding to this interview was political commentator Dr. Therese Arseneau, former National MP Paul East and former Labour president Mike Williams.

Williams jumped or pushed?


John Key said on Agenda this morning that he’d expect out-going Labour president Mike Williams to resign from his government appointed directorships.

Radio NZ  reportsthat he has already done so.

But Mr Williams says he was advised by the agency that oversees Crown owned companies, the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit or CCMAU, that his resignation was expected by ministers in the new government.

Mr Williams says he has now resigned from Genesis Energy, the New Zealand Transport Agency and GNS Science.

In a small country it id difficult to avoid appointing people who share your political affiliations and their ability to do what’s required is the most important thing.

However, there is a strong case for obviously partisan appointees to resign when the government changes and whether he jumped or was pushed Williams was right to stand down.

Fizzer fallout


The rolling average of polls  still favours National so Labour needed something big to give them the momentum they’ll need to catch up in the last week of the campaign.

But the neutron bomb they dropped proved to be a fizzer and the fallout from it is hitting them in the face.


The Press editorialises:


The attempt failed ignominiously and the muck the party was trying to throw has wound up all over itself. Yesterday morning, every senior figure in Labour suddenly became uncontactable when journalists were trying to get hold of them, and all of them, from Clark down, were busily distancing themselves from it.


To add to their woes The Press  found:


. . . that Labour used its taxpayer-funded research unit to trawl through the documents, and also that its chief campaign strategist, senior MP Pete Hodgson, was also working on the story with Williams.


The paper also has a he said-she said contradiction between Mike Williams and Helen Clark:


Williams told TVNZ last night that the Labour Party had funded his trip to Australia a claim at odds with Clark’s version of events.

Clark told reporters in Christchurch yesterday that Labour had “absolutely not” paid for Williams’ trip, and that the money had come from his own pocket.


The Dominion has an explanation for that:

Yesterday Miss Clark said Mr Williams paid for the Melbourne excursion himself, but today said on Newstalk ZB that she had since been updated on the situation.

“He (Mr Williams) told me he paid for it, he now tells me he got reimbursed by the party…” she said.


Miss-use of taxpayers’ money is our business but whether Williams or the party paid for his trip is a matter for the them.


However, regardless of who stumped up the money it was not only a wasted trip, it could prove to be very costly for Labour.


I wouldn’t go so far as Matthew Hooton who reckons Labour’s delivered a fatal blow to their own election chances, but the Stuff poll is encouraging:


Do you think Labour’s attempts to dredge up evidence against John Key from a 20-year-old case the Serious Fraud Office says he was not involved with look desperate?

 Yes (1222 votes, 83.0%) 

No (251 votes, 17.0%) 



Stuff polls are not scientific and reflect the opinions of only those internet users who have chosen to participate.

Rating the troops


Jim Hopkins rates the parliamentary troops. As always, it’s worth reading in full but here’s a taste:

Wouldn’t want her in the trenches next to me.” – Owen Glenn (Order of Merit) offers his assessment of the Prime Minister on Thursday morning.

They do say civil wars are the most bitter of all. But there’s no call to bayonet the wounded, Mr Glenn, old chap.

Especially when your target is the commander herself. What involvement the PM had in the various skirmishes that occurred during the battle of Owen’s Glenn isn’t clear.

We know she was Mentioned in Dispatches for her enigmatic role in various hush-hush Special Ops behind enemy lines. But we had no opinion of her conduct under fire till Private Glenn (now back in the ranks) offered us his.

And it’s come as a shock, to be fair. In a country where standing by your mates and being staunch remain core values, the suggestion you’re not welcome in the trenches is one that would crush the toughest amongst us.

We owe the wounded a duty of care. Before rushing to judgment and inferring some Prime Ministerial LMF (lack of moral fibre), we should ask: “What about the other parliamentary troops? Would we want any of them beside us in the trenches? And how would we rate them if they were?”

Let’s start with Michael Cullen: Not a bad bet, you’d think. He’s a good sniper and likes taking potshots. Which could mean the enemy would keep their heads down.

But ol’ Doc Cullen’s bitchy trigger finger might also see them calling up their big guns and lobbing some shells his way which, allowing for your adjacentness, would mean you’d cop a bit of collateral damage too. 4/10

. . . John Key: We need to tread carefully here. Young Johnny could be our next Commander-in-Chief and there’s no point demoting yourself in the Honorary Consulate department.

But there’s a snag with John. His recent service suggests he’d arrive in the trenches and occupy the position you already had. Which could put you in a hotter spot – or keep you out of trouble. 5/10

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Who wouldn’t want a Green Beret alongside them? Except that Jeanette would’ve knitted her own – out of recycled lentils perhaps – and it would come equipped with noisy combat pollution sensors that could give your position away.

Still, there’d be no obesity in the ranks and the Mess would only stock really healthy low-fat rations like kung-tofu, No-Bully Beef and peace and ham soup. 4.25/10

. . . Mike Williams: (Not in Parliament but close.) Apparently, a “Name, Rank and Serial Number” bloke. He certainly hasn’t cracked when interrogated about his chats with the PM on the matter of Winston’s well-laundered loot. But, if Private Glenn’s right, Mike did ask for a job so he might eventually buckle.

Heck, it’s not like he’s short of work, what with all those gummint boards he’s on. 3.5/10

Rodney Hide: His dancing experience would be great if someone in the Concert Party pulled a hammy. Then there’s the yellow jacket. If that didn’t attract enemy fire, nothing would. And when they’re shooting at Rodders, they ain’t shooting at you!!!!! 7/10

Winston Peters: Okay, you’re surrounded. Out of ammo. Backs to the wall.

Through the fog comes a voice: “Achtung, Kiwis! Throw down your arms. Zat iz an order!!!” Immediately, Winston holds up a sign saying NO. Plus, the man’s astonishingly elusive under fire.

He can’t be pinned down or brought down. A master of disguise, his stealth coating means he can elude sinister forces by becoming invisible at the drop of an affidavit. And even when he’s dead he won’t surrender.

Alas, he’s inclined to shoot himself in the foot and, come memoir time, he’d be the star of every war story. 8/10

Clark self serving – Glenn


Owen Glenn has slammed  Helen Clark and Mike Williams.

“She is very self serving,” he said. “I wouldn’t want her in the trenches next to me.”

Asked if he would support Labour in future, he replied: “I am not exactly cheering for Labour now, not when they turn the dogs on you.”

He said he was so disgusted with his treatment that at one point he wanted to return his Order of New Zealand.

But he decided to keep it as Queen Elizabeth had granted him that, not the government.

He a  (sic) lively exchange he said Labour Party chairman Mike Williams is a liar and a bagman for the party.

“Mr William’s is wrestling with the truth,” he has told a press conference.

They not only bit the hand that had been generously feeding them, they tried to smear it in mud.

They can hardly complain if some of that mud gets thrown straight back at them.

If he goes, who goes too?


Owen Glenn’s evidence to the privileges committee was damning but it’s not just Winston Peters and New Zealand First who are embroiled in the donations debacle:

Before making any response to Mr Peters, Mr Glenn contacted Labour Party president Mike Williams to ensure the donation would not be seen by Labour as unhelpful to its own interests.

Mr Glenn was told by Mr Williams that Labour had no problem with him assisting Mr Peters.

Mr Peters is due to appear before the committee between 7.30pm and 10.30pm to answer the claims made yesterday by Mr Glenn.

In evidence, Mr Glenn said he met Miss Clark privately at her request, when she was attending the opening of the new business school building named after Mr Glenn at the University of Auckland in February this year.

Asked whether he had raised the matter with Miss Clark or she had initiated the discussion, Mr Glenn said he had raised the matter and volunteered how much the donation had been.

This would be the same Helen Clark who repeatedly said she accepted Peters’ word and that the donations debacle was a matter for him and his party.

Earlier in the day, National Party leader John Key raised in the House what many people in Parliament had been talking about: that Mr Glenn had been characterised by senior Government MPs, including Finance Minister Michael Cullen and Environment Minister Trevor Mallard, as being non compus mentis.

Miss Clark said she was not aware of the claims.

Mr Glenn told the committee he was aware members of Parliament, who were members of the privileges committee, had questioned the authenticity of the letters he had written.

“I am also aware it has been said I am ‘confused’ and ‘a liar’. These remarks are damaging to my reputation. These comments are wrong, as the documents I have produced show.”

Yesterday Keeping Stock asked if Glenn was coming to restore his mana or for utu. I think that his evidence did both.

Its not just Peters and his party but Labour and its leader who have been hit.

What are the odds?


What are the odds that Helen Clark didn’t know that Owen Glenn had given a $100,000 donation to Winston Peters when Labour Party president Mike WIlliams knew?

Let me help you here: what are the odds that Williams didn’t tell Clark about his conversation with Glenn when or shortly after it happened?

In the unlikely event of the happening, what then are the odds that Williams didn’t tell Clark about that conversation at some stage this year after one of the many times the issue was raised?

And what are the odds that Clark really believed Peters rather than Glenn?

Glenn confirms Peters solicited donation


Barry Soper has just told Larry Williams that Owen Glenn confirmed his previous letters to the pirvileges committee: Winston Peters asked him for a donation and he would not have given it had the request not come from Peters personally.

Glenn also said that he’d checked with Labour Party president Mike Williams before agreeing to the donation.

That definitely conflicts with Peters’ version of events.

$10,000 punt on National Win


I’m having one of those fortnights this week so just caught up with this in yesterday’s Press over breakfast:

A Melbourne punter thinks National will win New Zealand’s election and has plunged $A 10,000 ($NZ12,720) on John Key’s party. The punter stands to win $A13,500 with Australian betting agency Centrebet if National wins the election later this year.

Centrebet has since firmed National in to $1.30 with Labour the outsider at $3.35.

“It’s one of the biggest bets so far, but we also have a London punter who’s placed L2000 ($NZ5,300) on Key at $1.30,” Centrebet political analyst Neil Evans said.

However, he said Clark has not been friendless in the betting, with a Christchuch punter recently backing her at $3.15, while an earlier Wellington punter staked $1000 on her at $2.65.

Would it be unkind to point out this could prove that only losers are backing Labour?

National opened three months ago at $1.47 and Labour at $2.62.

Over at The Inquiring Mind  Adam Smith has copied a letter to the editor of the NZ Herald from Labour president Mike Williams in which he argues that polls are losing their predictive value.

I wonder what he thinks about betting agences? They can be wrong, but their businesses thrive because they’re right more often.

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