Do you want your taxes to fund political parties?

September 3, 2019

Another attempt to get state funding of political parties is underway:

. . .Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson wants foreign donations banned altogether, anonymous donations limited to just $1000 (it’s currently $15,000) and an overall cap of $35,000.

“At the moment big business can buy influence over our political system – there is no limit to what they can donate… At the moment, our current laws are ripe for dodgy dealing.” . . .

But without donations, political parties will have to rely on taxpayer funding to run their campaigns. Hager says this would be preferable to the status quo.

“Rather than them going off to get all sorts of slightly dodgy, slightly mildy legal but corrupt kind of ways from everyone who’s got lots of money, you just pay some public money… It’s just like we pay our police so they don’t have to collect bribes… we pay MPs so they don’t have to work on the side.”

If a politician can be bought for less than $15,000 we’ve got the wrong people as MPs.

If any politician can be bought for more than that we’ve got the wrong people as MPs.

The current law requires donations of $15,000 or more to be declared so any influence would be visible.

While many taxpayers would object to that, Hager says the cost would be a “tiny fraction of a percentage” of the “tens of billions” of dollars the Government spends every year, and worth it to ensure big business and wealthy foreigners don’t have undue influence over our politicians. . . “

If foreign donations are the problem, the law could require all donors to be citizens. It could go further and require all donors to be people and not organisations.

That would excite the unions and the parties they prop up. Matthew Hooton pointed out on RNZ yesterday it’s not just the money they contribute there’s the time and people power they put into supporting their chosen parties.

The cost of public funding of parties might be a ‘tiny fraction’ of government spending but that tiny fraction would be better spent on almost anything else the government funds or left in taxpayers’ pockets.

It’s hard enough to stomach some of the ideologically driven projects governments waste money on without expecting people to fund parties whose philosophies and policies they vehemently oppose as well.

Some parties have fewer, if any more, members than the 500 minimum required to register. Should they make it into parliament MMP gives them power well in excess of their size. Funding them as well would exacerbate the unfairness.

Parties are voluntary organisations. If they can’t attract enough volunteers and supporters to fund them, that’s their problem and not one which taxpayers ought to be forced to solve.


Privacy only a right when you’re left?

October 27, 2016

If there’s an award for hypocritical statement of the year this is a contender:

. . . privacy (like freedom of speech) is an essential part of a person being able to develop their personality and beliefs. It’s as crucial and fundamental as that. Privacy is about being able to develop a sense of self, about being able to develop our ideas (making mistakes, changing our minds) and about figuring out our relationships. Sometimes it is about very private things that we want to keep secret: family problems, sexuality, special likes and dislikes, and fears and hopes that gradually make us who we are.

I know as a writer on intelligence that most people by far aren’t being spied on. But if the idea or fear is around that our lives aren’t private, it undermines this vital stuff about who we are. . . 

It is awful if people wonder needlessly whether someone is reading their private email, or decides they’d better not be involved in politics, or generally shrinks down and limits who they are because of an unnecessary fear of surveillance. Because, unfortunately, the fear that we’re being watched does almost as much damage as the reality would. 

Why is that hypocritical? It comes from Nicky Hager the man who used other people’s private emails and published them in books.

He had no concern for the privacy of people like Cameron Slater, David Farrar and Don Brash. He didn’t worry about the affect his breaches of privacy would have on the people who had written or received the emails he made public.  He believed he had a right to abuse their privacy to further his political agenda.

Privacy isn’t only a right for people you like and whose views support your own.

Privacy isn’t only a right if you’re left.

Privacy, like freedom of speech, is a universal right.

 


A matter of trust

May 9, 2016

The left hoped this morning’s release of the Panama papers would be a bomb that would blow up the Prime Minister.

As has happened every time they’ve tried it, all they’ve delivered is a damp squib.

Rather than being a critical blow to the Government, political commentator Chris Trotter says so far, the Panama Papers revelations have been “meh”.

The entire database of 11.5 million documents will go online on Tuesday morning, but some New Zealand journalists — led by Nicky Hager — have been given early access.

They’ve revealed 61,000 of the documents, leaked from Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca, mention New Zealand. But there is no evidence our zero-tax foreign trust rules are being used for illegal purposes. 

That looks like a big number but 61,000 is less than one percent of the 11.5million documents in total.

“Like a good leftie I was salivating this morning at the prospect of what I was going to come across at [6am],” Mr Trotter told Paul Henry on Monday.

“I read it and I went ‘meh’. This will be the best that they’ve been able to find to date.” . . 

“If you’re going to bring down a Prime Minister… then you’ve got to have something that links the Prime Minister not only to something that has the perception of dodginess but that is actually illegal. Nothing to date that I’m aware of has pointed to any kind of illegality at all,” says Mr Trotter.

“It will be a major issue for a little while, then, as has happened so often before, the Prime Minister will move on.”

While Mr Hager says the Panama Papers conclusively prove New Zealand is a tax haven, PricewaterhouseCoopers tax expert Geoff Nightingale says the present rules are “orthodox” and “not uncommon”.

“We need to think about our reputation — it’s a critical business asset. But there’s nothing broken around the tax treatment of these foreign trusts. These are foreign assets and foreign income of foreigners — all we’re doing is administering them.”

New Zealand is a tiny blip on the international radar. Any damage to our reputation will come from opposition politicians, conspiracy theorists  and the media who are trying to make this look like a scandal when it isn’t.

The OECD consistently ranks our tax rules highly; the government has appointed a tax expert to do a review and has undertaken to make changes should the review deem that necessary.

It’s a matter of trust. Our laws and regulations are robust and trusted internationally and should the review uncover any problems they will be addressed.

The key difference between New Zealand and a proper tax haven is we have rules around disclosure.

“We don’t want to be facilitating illegal international activity and we don’t want to have a reputation for that, and the way we deal that is by being clear about who we’re dealing with and what are the assets and where is the income being distributed.”

Mr Nightingale says a review undertaken by John Shewan, former PricewaterhouseCoopers chair, should be broad enough to fix any reputational issues.

“It’s got the disclosure rules in there, it’s got the anti-money laundering rules in there.”

New Zealand has disclosure rules with several countries. If other countries don’t want us to disclose information on trusts affecting their nationals and companies that is their issue not ours.

Any risk to our reputation is one of perception, and that perception is not based on reality but the ridiculous claims New Zealand is a tax haven when it  isn’t.


Spies spy

March 6, 2015

Our spies are spying.

That isn’t news, it’s what spies do.

If there’ sandy news, it’s that some people appear to be surprised by this. Rob Hosking writes:

So. It seems we have a spying agency which, we learned today, spies on foreigners.

If anyone is surprised, let alone shocked, by this, they really are too gentle a soul for this cruel world.

Spying on foreigners is pretty much what comes on the label when you set up a spying agency. It’s what they do.

Unless you thought David Lange’s Labour government set up the Government Communications Security Bureau to run the country’s pest destruction boards, or to play Farmville on their neat new computers, what on earth did you think the agency has been doing?

The fact GCSB is spying on “friends?” First, those friends have some rather dubious friends and matters such as money laundering of criminal and terrorist activity are key parts of law enforcement these days. . .

We need to know what’s happening in our neighborhood.

To do that we must keep an eye not only on our neighbours but those who might be trying to influence  them.

If there’s anything to raise concern it’s not that our spies are spying, it’s about the oversight of them.

One can accept that, in today’s technologically advanced era, spy agencies are in a permanent race to keep up.

The unspoken assumption of Mr Hager and his excitable supporters seems to be that New Zealand’s GCSB is under some sort of obligation to not do what everyone else – government, citizen, criminal, lobbyist, activist – can do.

That is just silly.

But if a government agency is – as it clearly has done – is now undertaking the kind of surveillance on the scale in which one would expect in today’s world, there needs to be a stepped up level of independent oversight to match the increased spying activity.

There has been some increase, in the amendment legislation passed in 2013, but it is small compared to the rise in activity.

The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance, as the old wisdom has it. This applies to the activities such as the GCSB in two ways: one is we need to expect it to be vigilant in New Zealand’s interests, especially in our “backyard.”

But such vigilance also needs to be applied to an agency with such sweeping, and increasing, powers as the GCSB – especially if it is acting, as it appears to be, at least as much for other governments as it is for our own.

Our spies need to keep their eyes on our neighbourhood and someone needs to keep an eye on them.

 


Key # 1 again

December 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there was nothing certain about that win.

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

Gower’s other awards:

Runner-up politician of the year: Andrew Little.

Back-bencher Kelvin Davis.

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

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

1. JOHN KEY

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

2. ANDREW LITTLE

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

3. KELVIN DAVIS

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

4. SUE BRADFORD

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

5. CAM SLATER – WHALEOIL.

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

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

His losers are:

1. KIM DOTCOM

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

2. HONE HARAWIRA

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

3. LAILA HARRE

See above.

4. JUDITH COLLINS

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

5. DAVID CUNLIFFE

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

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

 

 


Dirtiest trick

August 14, 2014

If Nicky Hager has emails from National Party sources to Cameron Slater he will also have other emails.

Anyone familiar with Whaeloil will know that some of them must be from Labour Party sources, possibly even MPs.

Anyone familiar with Whaleoil will know that some of them could be from journalists.

If Hager was on the path of the righteous which he claims his book would also have exposed them.

At least some of those people should be worried because anyone familiar with Whaleoil will know that fire is fought with fire.

The dirtiest trick is not what Hager exposes but that and how he got the information and published it:

Isn’t the most dirty trick exposed in ’s book, the revelation that Hager reveals that he received six years of stolen e-mails, hacked from Cameron Slater’s Gmail and Facebook accounts?

Is it not ironic that so many on the left have marched and protested against the right of the GCSB to assist the SIS or the Police to intercept communications, if a Judge or retried Judge agrees that there is enough evidence of criminal or national security issues to give out an interception warrant. They protested for weeks and months.

Yet when we get evidence of a massive criminal hacking of six years of personal communications, then they do not see that as dirty politics. They celebrate it, because it occurred against someone they do not like. Does this not suggest a large degree of hypocrisy and faux outrage over the GCSB changes last year? Are any of those anti-GCSB protesters going to condemn Nicky Hager and his unknown associate/s for the hack and publication  of Cameron Slater’s Gmail and Facebook?

Do all those journalists who wrote dozens and dozens of stories about the GCSB Bill, have a view on whether it is okay to criminally hack someone’s private communications, because you don’t like what they write? Is this where we want politics in New Zealand to go – partisans from the left and right trying to hack each other’s communications?

The book does expose dirty politics in New Zealand, the dirty politics of those who criminally hack private communications, and publish them. They’ve just had journalists in the UK go to jail for publishing stories that they knew were based on hacked voicemails. Here though, you get to make royalties out of them.

I don’t think it’s wrong for a judge, retired or practising, to give authorities the right to intercept communications where there is sufficient evidence to justify it.

I do think it’s wrong for someone to hack someone else’s emails to use them selectively and to do so for political purposes.

 

 

 


H is for . . .

August 14, 2014

Another election, another shock-horror book from left-wing conspiracy theorist Nicky Hager.

. . . The book starts with what is already known: that a prime ministerial operative, Jason Ede, regularly feeds information to Cameron Slater, who writes the blog “Whale Oil” and who Mr Hager described as “obnoxious” at tonight’s book launch at Wellington’s Unity Books. 

The book builds on that information though: in an echo of Mr Hager’s most famous effort, The Hollow Men, the book contains leaked emails between National Party figures. 

The book also alleges Mr Ede hacked into Labour Party computers and fed the resulting Information to Mr Slater. 

Mr Hager says he got the information through “a lucky break” because, after Mr Slater’s blog attacked West Coast residents as “ferals” earlier in the year, the Whale Oil blog was hit with a series of denial of services attacks.

As a result of these attacks – and here Mr Hager has been somewhat vague – emails were obtained and these found their way to Mr Hager. . .

Somewhat vague, well yes, he would be wouldn’t he, just as he was more than vague about the source of  then-National leader Don Brash’s correspondence that found its way into his hands.

There’s nothing vague about the timing of the book’s launch though.

It is politically motivated in an attempt to influence the election outcome.

If the talk-back test is any indication, Hager could be very disappointed.

Kerre Woodham introduced the topic on Newstalk ZB last night and few listeners showed much interest in it.

The book has a chapter devoted to David Farrar who responds:

I’ve had a quick read through the chapter on me, and a few things I’ll point out.

  • Hager thinks my setting Kiwiblog up was due to my involvement in the IDU. That’s nuts. I’ve been debating politics online since 1996, originally through Usenet. I set Kiwiblog up because I like debate. It was not encouraged by anyone, and I was surprised it has turned out influential. In fact in the early days quite a few in National put pressure on for me not to blog.

  • I get e-mails from numerous people, including Jason Ede, pointing stories out to me, or suggesting things I may want to blog on. I get them from lots of ordinary blog readers, from friends, from some staff, and sometmes even an MP. But I decide what I blog, and they always accord with my political views.

My blog isn’t nearly as well-read as Kiwiblog or Whaleoil but I also get emails with tips or suggestions for posts.

Sometimes I ignore them, sometimes I use them and when I do it is my own point of view on them. I am open about my involvement with National but have never asked anyone in the party for information. No-one inside or outside the party has ever told me what to write.

  • A tiny proportion of what I blog comes from National sources. Way under 5%. I write Kiwiblog, and people send me ideas – and this is somehow a conspiracy. Very very very occasionally I might proactively ask for some info – maybe every couple of months, if that.

  • Most of what I blog is pro-National, as you would expect. But most weeks there is an issue I disagree with them on. I did multiple posts attacking the Government on the proposed copper tax, and even had Kiwiblog join an aggressive campaign against National on this. I have several times lobbied minor party MPs not to support National on bills or amendments. I recently said I think John Key should have accepted Gerry Brownlee’s resignation.

  • When Curia first set up, it of course had only one client. Since then it has grown nicely. At last count around 60+. The initial staff were mainly people I knew through National, as I took over what had been some internal polling, but today we have well over 100 staff and I don’t think any of them are Young Nats. The 2ic for Curia is a Labour supporter who told me the first time we socialised together that for a right wing bastard, I’m not totally bad. We poll for many clients, whose politics I do not share. I’ve polled for former Labour and Alliance MPs. I’ve polled for Family First, and disagree with them on 90% of their issues.

  • Nicky seems to think it is a secret I am National’s pollster. A bloody badly kept secret. It’s on my website. It is referred to often.

  • He is also excited that my staff do some canvassing work for National candidates or MPs. Yep. It creates extra work for my staff which is great. But we don’t just do it for them. While most of our work is polling, if people want to utilise our call centre, and pay for it, they can. Just last week I had one client contract our call centre to make 18,000 phone calls on their behalf – this is a totally non-political client. I’ll work for pretty much anyone who pays (so long as not a conflict of interest)

Most of the book is on Cam. Cam does some great stuff and he sometimes does some appalling stuff. Cam does not work for anyone, or even take guidance from anyone. He is his own force of nature.

He, like David, will criticise National people and policies and is sometimes complimentary about those on the left.

Hager basically doesn’t like the fact the right now have voices. He basically says no media should ever use me as a commentator. He is threatened by the fact we finally have one organisation (Taxpayers Union) arguing for less government spending, to counter the 2,000 or so that argue for more.

My final comment is to note that people thought his book may be on the NSA and GCSB intercepting electronic communications. It would seem the person who is the biggest recipient and publisher of intercepted electronic communications is in fact Nicky Hager. If someone published a book of e-mails between a group of left-wingers, he’d probably call it a police state, and demand an inquiry.

Does anyone else see even hypocrisy in someone writing a book by the recipient of intercepted emails criticising someone else’s intercepted emails?

The left would be incandescent if it happened to them, but as Liberty Scott notes they are already angry:

. . .You see, attack politics are actually normal.  It’s the norm for many politicians to be pejorative.  The left’s primary pejoratives are to claim policies are “racist” and “sexist”, or that those on the right “hate the poor” and are only in politics for the money (they of course, donate most of their salaries to charity), and finally there is the anti-semitic attacks on John Key and the childish “fuck John Key” contribution to intelligent discourse.

What is apparent is anger.  Anger from those who think they are entitled to spend other people’s money without their consent, anger from those who want to tell other people what to do with their property, anger from those who don’t like foreigners, or foreigners buying things they themselves can’t or wont buy, and conversely anger from those who are fed up with being told they owe others a living, fed up with being told that some people are entitled to be listened to more, because of some aspect of their background.   The anger in politics is due to polarisation.  Those on the right are becoming more clearly cynical of answers that involve more government, while those on the left are less inclined to compromise with business, with those arguing to be left alone, and those who offend and upset them.

Hager’s book from what little has percolated out simply seems to report that some bloggers are affiliated with the National Party.  Who knew?!?  Hager wont write a book about those affiliated with the Labour Party, or the Greens, or heaven-forbid the Kim Dotcom/Alliance Revival/Harawira Whanau First Party, because they are who he wants to have in power.  He talks about how bloggers deliberately try to get media attention to support one political point of view, yet he is guilty of exactly the same tactic when he puts out his books.

Hager’s biggest problem is that what he purports others to do, is exactly what he is trying to do himself.  Pass himself off as “independent” and dedicated to exposing secret political deals, but he is anything but independent, and completely ignores anything going on on his side.

That’s because he’s not an objective journalist, he’s a very subjective conspiracy theorist.

The book will excite the left, those biased in the other direction, like me, will treat it with disdain.

Will anyone other than political tragics be interested in it?

I suspect it will just confirm their poor view of politics and its practitioners.

P.S. the book was launched at Unity Books – that might explain why Stephen Franks calls it a bookshop for book burners:

A significant part of Wellington’s literary set have a poisonous consensus against views they do not favour. In effect they define their tribe by what it agrees to hate. What they hate is drearily predictable, including road improvements (particularly fly-overs), Israel, and any challengers to their clerical view of what is ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’.Thomas Sowell refers to this class as the anointed.  Their world is divided into the righteous and the unrighteous.

Our Prime MInister is among the un-righteous, obviously. Making a fortune is irredeemable, especially out of investment banking, then being overwhelminly popular with voters who have to attract voluntary customers for a living.

Accordingly Unity book-shop has attempted to minimise its sales of John Roughan’s biography of John Key.  Since it was published it has been on the floor behind other stands whenever I or a friend has checked. Much of the time it was face down.

I tackled a person who appeared to be an owner or manager.  He said it was his staff who put it there, and he couldn’t stop them from doing it. Each time he tried to turn it face side up or give it more prominence they would return it to where people would have to ask for it expressly. . .

Last time I was in Wellington I went into the shop, saw the books upside down on the floor, picked up several and placed them right-side up on the table.

I wonder how long it took for staff to put them back on the floor?

 


%d bloggers like this: