Voters bank bribes

August 10, 2020

A  Q+A Colmar Brunton Poll of the Northland electorate shows there is little very little chance of New Zealand First staying in parliament:

According to the Q+A Colmar Brunton Poll results, Matt King had 46% support, Willow-Jean Prime was on 31% and Shane Jones on just 15%.

Jones winning Northland has been touted as NZ First’s safety net should the party not make it past the 5% threshold needed to stay in parliament.

This poll shows Jones in an unwinnable position and recent nationwide polls put NZ First well short of 5%.

The party has been campaigning for the seat for nearly three years, throwing a high proportion of the grants from the Provincial Growth Fund at projects in the electorate, whether or not the spending was justified.

Northland voters are more intelligent than NZ First thinks they are. They’re happy to accept the money thrown at them but they’re not being bought.

That’s not unusual.

Voters don’t usually reward parties for bribes, they bank them and mov eon to the next project.

 


Waka jumping Act on way out

July 30, 2020

The Waka jumping Act is on its way out:

The Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading, marking one step closer to Parliament getting rid of NZ First’s ‘waka-jumping’ legislation, National List MP David Carter says.

“I’d like to thank the Greens for voting for this legislation. They have reasserted their values as a Party that stands up for free speech, and we look forward to working with them further to make sure this Member’s Bill passes.

“No credible democracy should ever have given the power to Party leaders to dismiss elected Members of Parliament because they don’t agree with the Leader.

“It is an affront to democracy. The public expects elected members to advocate strongly without fear of being punished by their Leaders for expressing different views.

“The free mandate of MPs is internationally recognised as fundamental to a parliamentary democracy. There are only a few countries with the draconian power for Party leaders to dismiss MPs, including Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

These are not countries whose attitude to democracy we should be following.

“As I will be retiring at the next election, I have passed responsibility for the legislation to Nick Smith, who shares my passion for good, democratic process.”

The waka-jumping Act was one of many dead rats the Green Party swallowed in return for joining Labour and New Zealand First in government.

It has now spat it out, incurring Winston Peter’s wrath in the process:

New Zealand First has a track record of pulling support for Labour-Green policies at the eleventh hour.

There’s been the capital gains tax, cameras on fishing boats, and more recently light rail from Auckland city to the airport.

Peters said comparisons can’t be drawn between light rail and waka-jumping.

“We did the work on light rail, the costings and the analysis did not back it up.”

He said the Greens’ were breaking their end of the deal.

“They’re signed up to the coalition agreement on this matter for three years and that term does not end until the 19th of September.”

Peters said the Greens can’t be trusted and voters should remember that on election day.

“You cannot possibly be going forward to the years 2020-2023 contemplating a party that can’t keep its word.”

Is this an instruction for his own supporters to vote for other parties?

But Shaw rejected that criticism.

“I think it’s a bit rich for Winston to suggest that we’re not trustworthy when in fact they’re the ones who have been entirely slippery with the interpretation of our confidence and supply agreement.”

Shaw said his party is fed up with New Zealand First not sticking to the spirit of an agreement.

“I would say that in recent times we have learned that it’s the letter of the agreement, rather than the spirit of the agreement, that’s what counts when it comes to New Zealand First.

“So when it comes to the repeal of the party-hopping bill I would say that we have observed exactly the letter of our agreement.”

So is he just playing the same political games as Peters?

“Well I learn from the master,” Shaw fired back.

That the government has held together when the antipathy between these two parties is so strong.

With just days to go before parliament rises for the election, any presence of unity has gone.

 

 


If they don’t trust & respect each other . . .

July 27, 2020

The three-headed labour, New Zealand First, Green government was always going to be a difficult one.

It would be hard to find any two parties more mutually incompatible than the two smaller ones.

That they sit in parliament on either side of Labour rather than beside each other which was the normal arrangement for parties in government says a lot.

That the government has held together this long has surprised many.

Could it be the Greens have come to like the diet of dead rats they’ve been forced to swallow? Could it be that Labour got so used to having its policies vetoed by NZ First, that it was prepared to accept no progress as business as usual? Could it be that Winston Peters was so determined to last in government for the first time, staying in became more important than accomplishing much?

Whatever the reason that’s kept the parties together, the cracks in the government are turning into crevasses with the end of term in sight.

Last week the antipathy between the Greens and NZ First got vocal:

. . . Green Party co-leader James Shaw has described New Zealand First as a force of chaos, while Winston Peters has warned any future Labour-Greens government would be a nightmare. . . 

It was Peters who started the war of words at a breakfast speech in Wellington this morning.

“If you want to take out some insurance in this campaign to ensure you don’t get the nightmare government I know you’re going to get, then I suggest you party vote New Zealand First,” he said. . . 

Has he forgotten it was he who gave us this government? To use Andy Thompson’s metaphor, he’s the arsonist who lit the fire, why reward him for helping to put it out?

Shaw was happy to respond.

“Well, I think that the nightmare that he’s got is that he’s not going to be back in Parliament.”

Shaw is known to be quite measured when New Zealand First pulls the pin on policies or puts a spanner in the works, but with the campaign unofficially under way he’s ramping up his own rhetoric.

“My experience of working with New Zealand First as a party in government is that rather than a force of moderation, they’re a force of chaos,” he said. . . 

Anyone who has taken even passing note of NZ First’s history would agree with that.

Peters also admitted stopping an announcement of a $100m Southland rescue package:

. . .He did, however, reveal he told Ardern she was travelling to Southland on behalf of the Labour Party, not the coalition government.

“The prime minister was going down with MBIE [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] and other ministers to talk about the future of Tiwai Point.

“We had a discussion the night before as to the positions the various parties might take,” he told RNZ.

“The prime minister was very well aware that she could speak on behalf of the Labour Party, but on this matter, not on behalf of the coalition because there was no paper, no agreement, no Treasury analytics to go behind it.” . . 

This is another reminder that in spite of being the minor partner, NZ First, has wielded power far beyond that granted by its voter support.

Apropos of misusing power, last week Peters faced questions over pressuring Antarctica New Zealand to take two of his friends to the continent:

. . .Foreign Minister Winston Peters directed Antarctica New Zealand to give two highly-prized spots on a trip to the icy continent to two women closely linked to one of South East Asia’s richest families. . . 

While denying any impropriety, Peters followed his usual modus operandi by attempting to deflect attention with a rant in parliament accusing several people of leaking information on his superannuation overpayments as a result of his  inability to fill in the application for superannuation properly.

He declined to repeat the accusations outside the protection of parliamentary privilege and all the people named by him denied the accusations.

It is no wonder the other parties in government are showing they neither trust and respect him and his party, feelings that are obviously mutual.

But if they don’t trust and respect each other how can they expect us to?


Something smells fishy

July 1, 2020

New Zealand First is smelling fishy again: :

Newshub has obtained an explosive audio recording of Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash talking about NZ First MPs Winston Peters and Shane Jones.

The recording was from February 2018, around the time the Government first delayed the rollout of cameras on nearly 1000 fishing boats – since then it’s been delayed again until at least October next year.

In it, Nash points the finger of blame squarely at them for delaying plans to put cameras on commercial fishing boats to make sure they don’t break the law. . . 

Michael Morrah has done a public service in reporting on this, not just because of questions over the delay to cameras but because of the link between the policy and donations.

Fishing company Talley’s donated $10,000 to Shane Jones’ 2017 election campaign. RNZ also revealed that Talleys donated $26,950 to the NZ First Foundation.

Newshub has verified these donations.

Talley’s Andrew Talley told Newshub “within the right framework cameras have a place in modern fisheries management”.

He says there’s “no connection” with donations and the camera delays. . . 

It would be hard to either prove or disprove whether there is a connection.

But there is a problem with NZ First and its foundation which the Serious Fraud Office has referred to the police.

Referral does not mean guilt and for everyone’s sake this must be cleared up before voting starts.

Whether or not it that happens, this story provides yet another reason for National to keep its resolution to rule New Zealand First out as a potential coalition partner.

Labour won’t be able to do that without collapsing the government unless but they agreed to having the dog as a partner and have to put up with the fleas.


Rural round-up

June 13, 2020

Farm jobs offer competitive pay rates say industry experts – Bonnie Flaws:

Former sports trainer Tim Wilson had always harboured dreams of working on a farm, and last year changed career to do just that.

Wilson was motived by both the lifestyle and the potential earnings that farming offered, he said.

He took a $20,000 pay cut to start as a farm assistant, but said he knew long term his earning potential was much higher on the farm.

Wilson started out as a farm assistant and was now beginning his first year training in herd management on a farm near Te Puke, close to Tauranga. . . 

Kiwi workers hold the key to vineyards’ survival, but could we cut the mustard? – Maia Hart:

As thousands become beneficiaries, New Zealand’s biggest wine region still has job opportunities. Could white collar workers really earn their keep in the vineyards? Reporter Maia Hart attempted a morning in the vines. She made minimum wage.

Flanked by rural Marlborough’s grapevines before sunrise, 34 overseas workers in their high vis vests are illuminated by headlights from the company car, jogging on the spot to get their blood pumping and stretch their muscles against the autumn chill.

The workers are in the country on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, a huge labour force doing critical hand pruning over winter. Amongst the group are beginners, who worked in New Zealand during summer, stuck in the country because of the Covid-19 pandemic closing borders.

Thornhill Horticulture and Viticulture supervisor Francis Law said it takes a couple of seasons before workers start to realise how much money they can make. They’re likely to make minimum wage to start with. . . 

How many logs do we need? – Dileepa Fonseka:

A new bill has forest owners fuming, but it could be the tip of the iceberg for them if NZ First are re-elected to Government

Forest owners feel blind-sided by a bill before Parliament, but more changes could be coming.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the owners of forests hadn’t lived up to their end of a social contract to grow the domestic wood processing industry. 

He signalled they could expect harsher treatment next term if NZ First were re-elected to Government.

That could start with reversing forestry’s special exemptions under the Overseas Investment Act, and could see NZ First could join forces with National after the election to make that change. . .

No going Dutch on farms – Gerard Hutching:

A Nuffield scholar from the Netherlands has been researching the difference in the roles women play in agriculture in New Zealand, which is quite different in her native country. Gerard Hutching reports. 

Dutch dairy farmer and Nuffield scholar Heleen Lansink left New Zealand recently with a heightened appreciation of the differences between the roles of women in agriculture in this country and the Netherlands. 

Lansink lives and works with her husband Rogier and their four children on a dairy farm in eastern Holland, close to the German border. They run 85 milking cows on 55ha. . . 

Asian markets bolster red meat exports :

The overall value of New Zealand red meat and co-products exported for April might have been broadly similar to the same period last year, but the impact of Covid-19 resulted in changes to some major markets.

Analysis by the Meat Industry Association showed New Zealand exported $859million of lamb, mutton, beef and co-products during the month. Total exports to the United Kingdom were down 27% to $39.6million compared with last April, and down 30% to Germany ($22million).

Exports to China continued to recover, up 16% to $353.6million.

There were also increases for other Asian markets, particularly Japan, with total exports up 66% to $46.8million and Taiwan up 36% ($36.4million). . . 

New Ballance recruit is a positive sign for agriculture:

Ballance Agri-Nutrients reputation and great farmer-led culture were just some of the reasons why Auckland based IT professional, David Healy, wanted to join the team.

David Healy, an executive with over 20 years of experience leading change management initiatives for start-ups, public organisations and private companies has accepted the role of Chief Digital Officer (CDO) with the 100% New Zealand (NZ) owned farming co-operative.

David has a proven track record in operations management and research, product and business development across diverse industries including lifestyle company VF Corporation, Icebreaker (before and after they were purchased by VF) and Kathmandu Ltd. . . 


$50m wasted on politicising grief

June 11, 2020

Andrew Little, says it is “just impractical” to expect the remains of all of the fallen miners to be recovered from the Pike River mine:

Instead, the re-entry efforts are now essentially solely focused on gathering evidence in the “homicide of 29 men”, Little told a select committee hearing this morning. . .

Re-entry originally had a $23 million budget but the Government has already spent roughly $35m and that that could reach as high as $50m.

But that, according to Little, is the absolute funding limit.

“There is always a limit to these things – I have no plan or intention of returning to Cabinet for any further additional resources.” . . 

The limit was reached a decade ago when the then-National government made the only sensible and ethical decision that lives would not be risked to rescue the dead.

That decision was criticised by Labour, NZ First and the Green Party all of whom are guilty of politicising the grief of the families who believed them.

Mike Hosking says the fiasco has been exposed:

. . .The retrieval of bodies is no longer practical. The simple truth, a decade on, is that the retrieval of remains was never practical.

Little perpetrates the con a little further by suggesting that the main reason they are still there, apart from perceived political gain, is to gather evidence for the crime committed.

If it needs to be stated, let me state it again, there is no evidence, there will be no evidence, and there will be no charges. . . 

Families who are angry, and rightly so, who want vengeance, justice, or a bit of both, all have good arguments and much emotion behind the cause. But that does not a case or charges make, or indeed anywhere close.

The Labour Party should be ashamed of themselves. They took a tragedy, saw a political gap, and leapt on it.

Not just Labour, New Zealand First and the Green Party leapt on it too.

The previous National government did what any logical, sensible, and adult government would have done, all they could. Short of making up stories and promising false hope like the current lot have.

They consulted experts, the experts said it was too dangerous and too big a risk. The Labour Party promised the world. Winston Peters chimed in equally as opportunistically and promised to be one of the first down the shaft.

Millions has been spent, budgets have been blown – and now the cold hard truth. There will be no bodies. The families asked for and were granted by the Labour Party their loved ones back, but it won’t be happening.

But the con is, it never was. The families were used for political gain, and cheap violin string headlines.

Most of them won’t admit it, I don’t think because they all seem enamoured with the Labour Party. This was as much about being against the last government as it was about a rescue. . . 

If they really wanted to know what went wrong they could have saved their time and our money and spent just $40.00 for Rebecca MacFie’s book Tragedy at Pike River.

As is often the case in major failures, there were multiple faults that led to the tragedy and at least some of those should have been known by the union which Little headed at the time.

The chances of investigations uncovering anything that isn’t already known about the compounding failings in design and operation are tiny.

The three governing parties have already done far too much harm, stringing along the grieving families with promises that should never have been made.

They have wasted $35m and finally admitted that they’re not, as they foolishly promised, going to be able to bring the men back.

There is nothing to be gained by wasting another $15m in hopeless pursuit of answers that almost certainly won’t be there.

There is something to be gained if they learned from their mistakes and in future followed National’s good example with the Christchurch massacre and White Island tragedy, in not politicising tragedy.


Keep that door shut

May 26, 2020

One of the questions National leader Todd Muller has been asked is will he open the door to New Zealand First?

His answer is that the decision was made by caucus and it hasn’t changed.

Nor should it.

The door was closed for very good reasons, not least of which is NZ First’s leader Winston Peters can’t be trusted.

Before the last election he gave the usual spiel about waiting until after people had voted then began negotiations with both National and Labour, even though he was serving legal papers on two of National’s most senior MPS – Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley.

That was showing bad faith to both voters and National.

Since then he’s had his day in court, dropped the case against the MPs, lost the case against the Ministry of Social Development but has announced he’s appealing that decision.

Since then the Serious Fraud Office has begun investigating donations to the New Zealand First Foundation and its relationship with the party.

Since then he’s continued to act the way he always does, which is to put his own interests, and that of his party, first regardless of what’s best for the government of which he’s a part, or the country.

He simply can’t be trusted.

Shutting the door to NZ First gave people who want a National-led government a very clear message – if that’s what they want they’d be wasting their votes if they give them to NZ First.

Opening the door will suggest to them they could get a National-led government by voting for NZ First.

Much has been made of National’s rating in last weeks two polls, there’s been only passing reference to NZ First’s support which was well below the 5% required to stay in parliament without an electorate.

With a new leader and refreshed caucus, National’s support will climb again.

With the same old leader and same tiresome antics, there’s a very good chance that NZ First’s won’t.

National got a poll-bounce when it shut the door on NZ First earlier this year. Opening it would send the wrong signal to voters, and help NZ First at National’s expense.

The door was firmly shut months ago and it must stay shut.


If it were done

May 21, 2020

Macbeth was talking about murder when he said, If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly.

That also applies to leadership tussles and National leader Simon Bridges has made the right call in summoning his caucus to settle the matter on Friday.

Every day’s delay is a day more when the issue festers with all the negative media attention that accompanies it leaving little clear air left to hold the government to account.

I am not going to give my opinion on who should be leader.

I support the party and whoever leads it and will continue to do so whether that is Simon with Paula Bennett as his deputy or Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye.

But I will say that whatever the outcome of the caucus vote, all MPs must be loyal to the leader and the party.

The leaking, the criticism and any show of disunity and disloyalty must stop.

Just a few months ago National was polling higher than Labour.

What changed was Covid-19 and the response to it.

The government’s abysmal record of doing very little it said it would until then has not changed.

KiwiBuild, child poverty, climate change  . . . it’s been lots of talk and very, very little action.

What has also changed is the economy.

The lockdown flattened the Covid curve and in the process has flattened the economy.

The government has voted itself so much money in response most of us can’t comprehend the amount. But worse, it doesn’t have a clear plan on how to spend it and at least as important, it doesn’t have a plan on how to repay it.

As Heather Roy explains in a letter to her children:

. . .By way of explanation, this is why I am sorry about your inheritance. Debt is what you have to look forward to and growth will take some time to return. In the short-term, New Zealand is facing a large rise in unemployment, predicted to peak at nearly 10 percent before falling back to 4.6% in 2022 (optimistic I suspect). Government debt will explode to more than 53 percent of GDP, up from 19% now. . . 

Not all debt is bad of course. It often allows you (and countries) to invest wisely in areas that will be of benefit later, but I fear the lack of vision and planning associated with the government borrowing an additional $160 billion means ‘wisely’ isn’t part of this equation. Vision and hope are important for people. We need to know where we are going – what the end game looks like and that the pain is worth bearing because a better life awaits. Hope too, is important. People will endure a lot if they have hope. I’m afraid I saw neither in the Budget last week. There was lots of talk of jobs, and lots of picking winners but not much in the offing for those already struggling and those who will inevitably lose their jobs when businesses go under.

Figures are tricky things. If you say them quickly, especially the billions, they don’t sound so bad. Most people can imagine what they could spend a million dollars on. Billions are a different kettle of fish. Many of us have to stop and think, how many 0’s in a billion? When figures are inconceivable, people give up trying to work out what they mean. After all, the politicians will look after the money side of things, won’t they? I hope you realise that is very dangerous thinking. To start with it’s not the government’s money – it’s yours and mine, hard earned and handed over to the government for custodial purposes.  We hope it will be spent wisely on health, education, social welfare, but after we’ve voted every three years, we don’t have any say on where it goes.

Beware of those saying we can afford to borrow this much money. Just as when we borrow from the bank to buy a car or house, when government’s borrow, repayments must be made and this limits the amount in the pot for spending in extra areas. The state of our economy is your inheritance: to contribute to your tertiary education, to educate your future children, to provide medicines and hospital treatments when you are sick, to help those who for whatever reason have no income. A mountain of debt places the prosperity of your children in peril.

Picking winners is dangerous too. Government’s love picking winners, especially in an election year. Election year budgets often resemble a lolly scramble with media reporting the “winners and losers”.  The simple fact is when you confer advantage on one group everyone else is automatically disadvantaged. Giving to the vulnerable is understandable but private industry winners are not. As an example, those who had been promised Keytruda (last year) to treat their lung cancer only to have that rug whipped out from underneath them now must be devastated to see the racing industry handed $74 million to build/rebuild horse racing tracks around the country. Flogging a dead horse instead of funding up to date medical treatments is folly and unfair in a humane society. 

I know fairness and equity are important to you all. Your generation has a more egalitarian outlook on life. Partly I think this is because you have not experienced real poverty and why New Zealand’s debt doesn’t bother you as much as it does me.

I have recently read two excellent writings by people I respect and I want to share them with you. The first is a report written by Sir Roger Douglas and two colleagues called “The March towards Poverty”. . . 

The report concludes “ For too long, we have lived with the fiction that we are doing well, lulled by successive governments into believing we truly do have a ‘rock star’ economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Starting with Grant Robertson’s post-Covid budget, we must admit to the problems facing our economy and begin to deal with them. Otherwise, current inequalities will remain entrenched, we will continue to fall further behind our OECD partners, and the prosperity of our younger generations will be placed at peril”.

While I’m on the topic of legacies, the second article I want to share is by Chris Finlayson, Attorney General in the Key/English Governments for 9 years starting when I was also a Minister. I’ve been worried about the legality of many of the impositions we have experienced since the country was plunged into lockdown. I know you sometimes think all this theoretical  stuff isn’t that important, but in a well functioning democracy how the law is made and enforced is central to an orderly society we can have faith in. Chris has eloquently described these matters much better than I can in his opinion piece  on the rule of law:

“Some readers will no doubt respond that this rule of law stuff is all very interesting for the legal profession and retired politicians but is hardly of any practical impact given what New Zealand has just avoided.

I disagree. The former Chief Justice, Sian Elias, once said that if only judges and lawyers concern themselves with the rule of law, New Zealand is in trouble. She was right. Adherence to the concept of the rule of law would have helped avoid some of the basic failures of the past eight weeks – failures that should give all New Zealanders pause for thought.”

I’m afraid it’s too late to put Ardern’s debt genie back in the bottle. I apologise on behalf of my generation and older that you and your kids will carry this debt for all of us. My advice to you is to do what this government should have done. Cut costs and minimise your liabilities. Spend only on the essentials and invest in assets that will produce a safe dividend. Perhaps most important of all, stay engaged in our democracy and encourage your friends to do the same. If COVID-19 has taught the world anything it is this: politicians need to be closely scrutinised at all times but especially in crises like these.

The government’s arrogance was exposed a couple of weeks ago when ministers were ordered not to speak in the wake of the Covid document dump. It’s carried on this week when Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis refused to attend the Epidemic response Committee because, doing a Facebook Live session instead.

The country needs an opposition focussed on the government’s mistakes and formulating a plan to do much, much better, not on itself and a leadership struggle.

Whatever happens at Friday’s caucus meeting, this is what National must be doing, and doing it together in step with the leader.

And whether or not there’s a change of leader, one thing must not change – and that’s the decision to rule out any deal with New Zealand First.


So much for rights and freedoms

May 14, 2020

The government gave in to public pressure and raised the number of people permitted at a funeral from 10 to 50.

However only 10 are permitted to attend a wedding, go to church or gather in a private home yet 100 are permitted in a restaurant, bar, casino or strip club.

Making it worse are the new powers the police have to ensure we all adhere to this.

The government has had nearly two months to work out legislation to cover Level 2 alert level and had it gone about it the right way the Opposition would have worked with it and supported it.

Instead they’ve rushed through legislation about which the Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned.

“For weeks the Government has known that we would be moving to alert level 2. It has not allowed enough time for careful public democratic consideration of this level 2 legislation. There has been no input from ordinary New Zealanders which is deeply regrettable,” said Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt. 

“This is a great failure of our democratic process. The new legislation, if passed in its current state, will result in sweeping police powers unseen in this country for many years.” . . .

“In times of national emergency sweeping powers are granted. There is a risk of overreach. Mistakes are made and later regretted. This is precisely when our national and international human rights, and Te Tiriti, commitments must be taken into account.” 

“Human rights can help to ensure all measures are effective, balanced, fair, reasonable, non-discriminatory, proportionate and subject to independent review. If the Government wishes to retain the public’s trust and confidence, it must honour human rights and Te Tiriti.”  

“A process of regular review by Parliament is needed. If passed in its current form, the Bill should be reviewed by select committee at regular terms and the Government should be open to any recommended changes.”   . . 

The rushed legislation is even worse when it gives police more powers at Level 2 than they had at Levels 4 and 3.

Heather du Plessis-Allan reckons the government has lost perspective:

Look at the powers the Government is giving police today and tell me they haven’t lost perspective over Covid-19.

Because it looks a lot like they have.

From today on – once this legislation passes – police will be able to come into your house without a warrant if they think there is a party going on inside. A party. Of more than 10 people. Not a murder scene, not drug-cooking, a gathering of more than 10 people.

That’s a family of two parents, four children and one grandchild.

Is that proportionate under level 2?

You could perhaps make excuses for the East German police approach under levels 3 or 4 when health authorities were worried about silent community transmission, but under level 2 this is overkill.

We have 74 people with Covid-19 in this country and yet the Government believes it’s fine to allow police unfettered access into the homes of 5 million people.

Because that’s what this means: warrantless entry means no one checks that the officers are doing the right thing … it is entirely up to them. . . 

Under normal circumstances a warrant from the court or a JP would be required and police would have to have reasonable grounds for requesting one.

How have we got to a stage where we think this is fine. Where we accept rules that say only 10 people are allowed at funerals but 100 people can go to a pub? Where families can’t get out of quarantine to say goodbye to dying family members and people in hospitals die without any loved ones holding their hands?

This all feels like a blinkered, mono-focused, perfectionist approach to get zero zero zero and to hell with the sadness and loss of human rights.

Politically the law passing today is not a good for the Government but especially bad for the Attorney General, David Parker. This is the same guy responsible for the stuff-up over whether the lockdown was legal or not. He has high regard for his own abilities and yet created far too many legal headaches for the Government thus far.

Perspective has been lost here.

So have rights and freedoms.

An observation by Theodore Dalrymple is apropos here:

It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. 

This government is becoming more despotic by the day and Labour’s coalition partners New Zealand First and the Green Party should be ashamed of their silent acquiescence to these new draconian powers which have been seized under urgency.


Do as I say . . .

March 7, 2020

Jacinda Ardern has issued a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do instruction to voters:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delivered her strongest rebuking of NZ First MP and Minister Shane Jones yet, suggesting that if he was a Labour MP, he would face demotion. . .

How strong is that strongest rebuke?:

“If I had a member within my own party making statements like that, I would have a very obvious ability and course of action that I could take,” she said.

“I could demote, I could reprimand; [there is] a range of things that I could do.”

But all those things were off the table because – although Jones is one of her ministers – he is in a different political party. . .

That is weak and it’s tosh.

She is the Prime Minister and has the power to discipline, which could include sacking, any members of her cabinet.

At least that’s what the Cabinet Manual says, but could it be that the secret collation agreement between Labour and New Zealand First holds a clause that takes that power from her?

We can’t know while the agreement remains secret and in the absence of that knowledge this looks hypocritical:

“My message to voters is this: In election year, the power now sits with you. You determine who is able to form Governments and you have it within your power to decide what you make of those remarks, as well,” she said.

“What is within other’s powers is to join in the condemnation of statements, like those we have seen made by Shane Jones.

“I asked of voters to act on their values when it comes to election time.”

She’s expecting voters to act on their values when she isn’t acting on her own.

She could, as Simon Bridges has done, and as Cat MacLennan writes she should , rule out New Zealand First as a partner in a future government.

She’s failing to discipline Jones and rule out his party next time herself but asking voters to do it for her.,

That’s very much do as she says, not as she does.

In doing that she’s sending a message  to not only not vote for NZ First but to not vote for National because only with that party leading the next government can voters be sure it won’t include NZ First.

 


Fast justice needed

February 19, 2020

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating New Zealand First Foundation:

The SFO had been considering whether to launch an investigation after police handed in a complaint from the Electoral Commission last November.

That followed reports by RNZ about the way the foundation had been handling donations, and questions about disclosure and donors’ identities.

It referred the matter to the police, who promptly sent it to the Serious Fraud Office last week.

The commission said it had formed the view the secretive foundation had received donations that should have been treated as donations to New Zealand First.

“The Commission does not have the investigative powers to form a view about whether this failure to transmit and the non-disclosure means offences have been committed,” the commission said.

The commission passed its findings to police last Monday, and police immediately referred that on to the SFO. . .

Justice can’t be rushed but this is a situation which requires fast action.

This has been under consideration since November. That’s around three months which, even allowing for the Christmas shut down, is a long time.

In less than seven months, people will be casting early votes.

That there is an investigation could have a significant impact on the election and voters need to know the outcome so they can make a fully informed decision before they vote.


Politics of appeasement

February 17, 2020

When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Wondering what Labour and the Green Party think about New Zealand First and its leader?  Are they staying true to their values and promises, or have they adopted the standards and values of New Zealand First and its leader Winston Peters?

Keep wondering because, as Henry Cooke writes,  their silence is deafening:

. . .  there’s a difference between leeway for jokes and leeway for seriously unbecoming behaviour. And the prime minister has slipped this week from the usual kind of space people give Winston to be Winston into plain supplicancy.

Jacinda Ardern is yet to say anything at all about the fact the Electoral Commission made absolutely clear on Monday that the way NZ First was treating donations to its foundations was wrong. . .

Instead of properly taking this on, Ardern has hidden, as politicians often do, behind the perceived inappropriateness of commenting while some process is still active.

Sometimes this waiting game is both useful and sensible – politicians shouldn’t talk too much about murder trials before they finish.

But in this case it makes no sense. . . .

. . .there are ways of commenting on things without alleging criminal conduct. It is the lifeblood of adversarial politics.

Following the Electoral Commission’s finding, Ardern would have been totally within her rights to say, at the very least, that she thought these donations should have been declared to the commission. She could have said she was disappointed that a coalition partner appeared not to have been as fulsome as it could have been with informing the authorities – all without alleging any kind of crime. . .

Later last week it wasn’t just the donations saga on which she wasn’t commenting.

This silence got even louder on Thursday when it became clear that NZ First had some kind of involvement in two covertly taken photographs of journalists reporting on the Foundation story, which found their way onto a right-wing blog. Peters told Magic Talk on Tuesday that “we took the photographs just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”, but later backtracked to say a supporter just happened to see the journalists and thought he or she should snap a photo.

Because of this shifting story, there is a muddle over exactly how involved NZ First and Peters are, a muddle that would best be sorted out by Ardern demanding a fuller explanation from Peters. Any level of involvement in this kind of tactic – clearly designed to intimidate journalists – is worth condemning, and you can bet that, if Ardern was in Opposition, she would manage it.

Instead she’s not commenting, saying it is a “matter for NZ First”, while her office notes that she speaks about ministerial decisions and comments, not about things said as party leader. 

The thing is, the Cabinet Manual does have a section about ministers upholding and being seen to uphold “the highest ethical standards” at all times, not just when doing ministerial business. Ardern has all the ammo she needs to give Peters a dressing-down over this, but instead she defers. Things don’t have to be illegal to be wrong.

And it’s not just Labour which is staying silent.

Worse, this rot of silence has also infected the Green Party, which, as a confidence and supply partner, has plenty of legitimate room to criticise such tactics. You don’t need to tear the Government up or demand that Peters is fired – you can just say what the journalists’ union said on Friday, that Peters needs to explain himself and apologise.

Instead the Greens just talk about how the law needs to be changed – which most people agree with, but isn’t the point. The topic at hand isn’t underhanded but lawful behaviour, it’s stuff that is potentially illegal – hence the police referral. The party should grow back its spine. . .

John Armstrong has a similar view:

Rarely has the current prime minister looked quite so feeble as was evident during yet another turbulent week for her pockmarked, patchwork Administration.

It was another week which witnessed Winston Peters at his frustrating, selfish, perfidious and domineering worst.

In a perfect world, it would have been a week which ended with him having been relieved of the title of Deputy Prime Minister, if only temporarily.

So damning was the verdict of the Electoral Commission on the propriety of the activities of the highly-secretive New Zealand First Foundation that any other minister finding themselves on the receiving end of such a judgement would have been stood down forthwith.

That verdict on its own is a damning indictment. Once it it became public that the commission’s findings had been passed to the Serious Fraud Office, Peters’ relinquishing of his status of Deputy Prime Minister ought to have been a mere formality, if only a temporary measure while the SFO determined whether everything was above board or whether prosecutions should follow its investigation.

Peters, however, has clearly concluded that he is somehow exempt from the rules covering the disclosure of the source of political donations.

The arrogance is breathtaking — especially from someone who has previously suffered the ignominy of being censured by his parliamentary colleagues. . . 

Given that track record, Peters is beyond being shamed.

He might be beyond being shamed, has that rubbed off on the other parties in government?

Just witness the outrageousness of the New Zealand First Foundation, the leaked records of which have revealed its purpose had been to accept donations in the tens of thousands of dollars from some of the country’s wealthiest individuals without having to disclose their names.

Ardern’s problem is that Peters is Deputy Prime Minister. She cannot wash her hands of him no matter how embarrassing his statements and actions might be for her or the wider Labour Party they might be. Neither can she sit blithely to one side and pretend that Peters’ very obvious agenda to undermine the Electoral Commission is not happening.

Ardern needs to read the Riot Act to Peters — and not just to remind him of his constitutional obligations.

Failure to do so makes her look weak. In dragging her down, he is dragging Labour down too.

She’s letting the party be dragged down lest Peters brings the whole government down, even though Simon Bridges’ announcement National own’t work with NZ First should it be in a position to do so after the next election leaves it, like the Greens, the choice of going with Labour or sitting or sitting on the cross benches.

He hasn’t got a lot of options. It would seem to be an opportune time to remind him of that. He is hardly in a position to pull down the Government.

That makes Ardern’s failure to talk tough appear even more pathetic. . . 

And not for the first time. remember Clare Cullen and Iain Lees-Galloway?

The bizarre chain of events which unfolded on Thursday only reinforced the case for Peters losing the title of Deputy Prime Minister.

The revelation that he was party to the covert photographing and filming of journalists whose investigations of the New Zealand First Foundation have uncovered much to embarrass him and his party is a clear breach of the provisions in the Cabinet Manual covering the conduct expected of ministers of the crown.

To quote that handbook: “At all times, ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. This includes exercising a professional approach and good judgement in their interactions with the public and officials, and in all their communications, personal and professional”. . .

Andrea Vance has more to say about snooping on  journalists:

No doubt Peters’ supporters are enjoying the irony of publishing paparazzi-style photographs of the reporters digging dirt on their party

For reasons that are unfathomable to me, New Zealand tends to minimise Peters more outrageous behaviour. But he is no lovable rogue – and this is straight-up intimidation.

Protecting the identity of journalists’ sources is an essential part of media freedom.

The threat of surveillance is chilling. It can have an intimidating and traumatising effect. . .

We might be a troublesome and unlovable bunch, but good journalism and a free press is an essential part of a functioning democracy.  

This attack on Shand and Espiner’s privacy is an attack on the public’s right to know about who is secretly funding their Government partner. 

Both Labour and the Greens must acknowledge that and condemn it, if we are to believe their exhortations New Zealand politics should be transparent and fair.

Both Labour and the Greens are forced into silence or at best mealy-mouthed muttering over New Zealand Firsts and Peters because they daren’t face up to him lest he pulls the pin that blows up the government.

Ever since the coalition was formed they’ve pandered to him, exercising politics of appeasement, having to make material concessions, several of which have been contrary to their principles and values.

They’ve swallowed so many dead rats they must suffer from permanent indigestion.

One of MMP’s big weaknesses is that it allows the tail to wag the dog. Peters and his party aren’t just wagging the other two parties they have forced them to roll over and accept not just policies that are contrary to their principles and they’re now, by refusing to condemn it,  accepting behaviour that is too.

Many commentators have questioned the values and standards of NZ First and its leader. Labour and Greens are day by day being more tainted by association and exposing their own values and standards to questions too.


NZ First referred to police

February 10, 2020

The Electoral Commission has referred New Zealand First to the police:

The Electoral Commission has made enquiries into issues raised regarding the New Zealand First Party and the New Zealand First Foundation and their compliance with the requirements for donations and loans.

Based on the information available, we have formed the view that the New Zealand First Foundation has received donations which should have been treated as party donations for the New Zealand First Party. In the Commission’s view, the donations were not properly transmitted to the Party and not disclosed as required by the Electoral Act 1993.

The Commission does not have the investigative powers to form a view about whether this failure to transmit and the non-disclosure means offences have been committed. These matters have therefore been referred to the New Zealand Police, which have the necessary powers to investigate the knowledge and intent of those involved in fundraising, donating, and reporting donations.

As these matters are now with the Police, the Electoral Commission will not be commenting further.

No doubt everyone in NZ First will refuse to comment further because the matter is with the police.

The rules on donations to political parties and candidates start here.

There’s further explanation here.

The responsibility for disclosure lies primarily with the party secretary, but will this case involve NZ First leader Winston Peters?

He has maintained that the Foundation and the party are separate.

The Electoral Commission obviously thinks otherwise.

Peters has also said the NZ Foundation was modeled on National’s but National treats donations to its Foundation as donations to the party and declares them as it’s required to do.

I was one of National’s regional chairs when the Foundation was established and this was made very clear to everyone in the party and all donors. This and the legal requirements for disclosure are spelled out on the Foundation website.

 


Karma

February 10, 2020

Does anyone remember Winston Peters expressing sympathy and speaking out against the theft and publication of Don Brash’s emails?

No, I thought not.

How about recalling him revelling in it?

Yes.

But what goes round comes round. His Cheshire cat grin slipped when the leaks about New Zealand First and its finances started and now he’s asked his party president to prepare a complaint to the police over what he calls a massive breach of New Zealand First’s party information.

But the latest leaks are about the NZ First Foundation and Peters has always said it was a separate entity from the party.

It can’t be separate when it comes to electoral law and not separate in a complaint to the police, can it?

Are we supposed to believe his assertions that not only are they separate, he’s not party to the Foundation’s business?

Or could this be karma?

 


It’s about trust

February 2, 2020

National leader Simon Bridges has ruled out working with New Zealand First after this year’s election:

Bridges’ messaging is all about bundling New Zealand First, Labour and the Greens together saying: “a vote for NZ First is a vote for Labour and the Greens.”

It was three years ago even though around half the people who voted for NZ First wanted it to support National in government.

“I don’t believe we can work with NZ First and have a constructive trusting relationship,” Bridges says.

“When National was negotiating in good faith with NZ First after the last election, its leader was suing key National MPs and staff. I don’t trust NZ First and I don’t believe New Zealanders can either.”

It’s about trust and Peters can’t be trusted.

This makes NZ First dependent on gaining at least 5% of the vote on September 19 unless it wins a seat.

That’s very unlikely unless Labour throws it a lifeline by campaigning for the party vote in a seat it holds.

That would be rank hypocrisy from both parties which have vehemently criticised for National holding back to help Act in Epsom.

But hypocrisy is not unusual in a politician who can’t be trusted.


Chance for a change?

January 29, 2020

One of John Key’s legacies is announcing the election date early in the year.

He did it, Bill English followed his good example and now Jacinda Ardern has done it too.

This year’s election will be on Saturday September 19th, which is the anniversary of New Zealand women gaining the vote.

Will that give the party with a woman leader an advantage?

Who knows? People vote for and against parties and people for a variety of reasons, many of which have little if anything to do with whether or not it will result in good governance.

If history is a guide, the advantage lies with Labour. We haven’t had a one-term government since MMP was introduced, and the last one under FPP was in 1975.

But history also tells us that this is the first time since MMP was introduced that the party with the most votes is in opposition. It also tells us that it is rare for that party to be polling at similar levels of support it got in the last election and more often than not, polling higher than the party leading the government.

So is National in with a chance to win?

Yes but it won’t be easy and it will depend not only on it at least maintaining its support, it will also depends on what happens to the other parties.

New Zealand First has been hovering below 5% in recent polls. If it doesn’t improve on that, it would be out of parliament, unless it wins a seat.

In spite of its vehement criticism of National’s accommodation with Act in Epsom, NZ First might welcome something similar in a seat with Labour that, if it won, would mean it wouldn’t have to get 5%.

Then there’s the Maori Party. A strong candidate could take a seat from Labour and, in spite of National inviting it into government when it didn’t need to, it might go left rather than right.

Nothing is certain, but In spite of Ardern’s vow to lead a positive campaign, she will find it’s very hard to defend the government’s record when so much of its achievements have fallen far short of its rhetoric.


Just say no

January 27, 2020

If National had ruled out a deal with New Zealand First three years ago, would the latter have got less than five per cent of the vote and the former still be leading the government?

We’ll never know.

But we do know that around half the people who voted for NZ First hoped the party would go with National and that a lot of them are still very unhappy Winston Peters chose Labour and the Green Party instead.

We also know that while Peters was supposedly negotiating in good faith he was also working on legal action against National’s deputy Paula Bennett and then-minister Ann Tolley.

That tells us, once again, that Peters can’t be trusted.

Simon Bridges has said he will announce well before the election whether or not National will rule out New Zealand First.

I hope he does say no to them which will make it quite clear to voters that a vote for that party is a vote for a Labour-led government.

There are risks.

In spite of their many criticisms of National not trying to win Epsom so that Act will get into parliament, Labour and New Zealand First could come to a similar arrangement in another seat in an attempt to secure an electorate for a New Zealand First candidate. If that worked, NZ First would not need to secure five percent of the vote to stay in parliament.

New Zealand First could get back, with or without an electorate,  and National could have too few seats to form a government without it and so be back in opposition.

But there are bigger risks in not ruling out New Zealand First.

It would send the message to voters that New Zealand First might go with National, even though the chances of that are very, very remote.

It would enable Peters to pretend he’ll listen to voters even though last time more opted for National than Labour.

It would give Peters the power he’s had too many times before to play the bigger parties off against each other and extract too high a price for putting them into government.

The worst day in government is supposed to be better than the best in opposition. But if the choice is government with Peters, I’d opt for opposition.

Tracy Martin says this year feels like the beginning of the end for Peters:

. . .So is it time to write Peters off?  Peters has cleverly played up his part as Labour’s handbrake, just as he once pitched himself as a bulwark against National’s extremes.  It’s how he has survived so long in politics – even after the “baubles of office'” fiasco, or Owen Glenn donations scandal.

But you can only play one side against the other for so long and it feels like Peters has played one too many hands.

So is the extraordinary Peters era coming to an end? He is our most familiar face on television; as recognisable as the theme tune to Coronation Street, as well worn as a pair of old slippers.

 But even soap operas eventually have their day.

National ruling out NZ First would make the end of the Peters soap opera much more likely.

Please, National,  just say no.


If the Greens weren’t so red

January 22, 2020

Another delivery failure from the government:

No progress has been made on advancing the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary over the past two years despite specific Government promises in their coalition agreements to do so, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.

“Written Parliamentary Question to Ministers reveal the Government has all but given up on advancing the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. There has been no Cabinet papers and little work by Ministers or officials on the sanctuary. There has been no meetings, no correspondence, and no official papers in more than six months.

“There is now no realistic prospect of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary being put in place during this term of Parliament, despite specific promises in the Confidence and Supply agreement with the Green Party to do so.

“Far from helping to create the new Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, the Government has blocked attempts to progress it. They have put my original Government Bill to create the sanctuary at the bottom of the work schedule and repeatedly blocked my Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Members Bill from being introduced.

“This important sanctuary would protect an area of ocean twice the land area of New Zealand and hundreds of threatened marine species. The Kermadec Sanctuary now joins a long list of policies this Government has failed to deliver on.”

The government hasn’t delivered on this coalition agreement promise which is Greens’ core policy because that party hasn’t the bargaining power of NZ First which is beholden to the fishing industry.

If the Greens weren’t so red they might have contemplated a coalition with National and had no argument about creating the sanctuary.

But the party is deeply red and the environment is the loser because of that.

 


Closed and opaque

December 6, 2019

Didn’t Jacinda Ardern promise to lead an open and transparent government?

That promise has been broken again:

Labour’s decision today to block the request of former New Zealand First President Lester Gray and former Treasurer Colin Forster is the Government covering up serious allegations of financial impropriety of its coalition partner New Zealand First, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says.

“There was no good reason for blocking these senior New Zealand First officials from being heard at the Justice Select Committee on electoral law. They sought the hearing because they had serious concerns about the failure to disclose major donations, unauthorised campaign expenditure and concerns over the New Zealand First Foundation.

No-one with any knowledge of running a political party and election campaign could believe that a party could do that on membership subs, members’ fund raising and donations under the disclosable amount alone.

If the way the NZ First Foundation has been used to funnel donations is within the law then the law must change.

“They were fearful of speaking publically with threats of legal action and the Justice Committee provided a safe place for them to disclose their knowledge of what has occurred.

“Labour is part of a cover up in denying the Committee and New Zealand the opportunity to hear their concerns.

“These issues in New Zealand First go to the heart of our democracy and the result of Election 2017. New Zealanders have a right to know who were the financial backers of the Party that was decisive in the 2017 Election outcome.

We also have a right to see if any dots can be joined between those backers and NZ First policy.

“New Zealand First was the only Party that did not disclose the source of any donations and it had 10 times the value of anonymous donations of any other Party at Election 2017. It has also been revealed since that $500,000 was secretly contributed to the New Zealand First Foundation.

“Labour’s denial to allow senior New Zealand First officials to submit to the Justice Select Committee makes a joke of the Government’s commitment to be the most open and transparent Government ever.

“There could be nothing more important than the transparency of the source of funding for the Party that ultimately determined the Government.

“This is deja vu of the New Zealand First funding scandal that led to the defeat of the last Labour Government. Labour has learnt nothing and is continuing to cover for New Zealand First’s shady dealings.”

The failure to deliver open and transparent government joins a growing list of this administration’s record of rhetoric unmatched by action.

This government is closed and opaque and its MPs’ veto of  NZ First’s former office holders to be heard is another brick in the wall between its promises and delivery.


Rushed law is bad law

December 4, 2019

This headline is a lie:

Government to ban foreign donations

So is the first paragraph:

The Government is taking action to protect New Zealand from foreign interference in our elections by banning foreign donations to political parties and candidates, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today.

It isn’t banning foreign donations, it’s lowering the amount foreigners can donate from $1,500 to $50.

Concern about foreign influence on elections is real, but why the lies and why rush the Bill through under urgency?

Why not give parliament and the public at least a little time to scrutinise it and recommend improvements?

One such improvement would be making it quite clear that donations to a foundation set up to fund a political party would be treated like, and subject to, the same requirements for disclosure as, donations to a party.

Winston Peters claims the New Zealand First Foundation is a similar model to the National Party Foundation.

But National the National Foundation has a website on which the purpose of the capital-protected fund and the uses to which investment proceeds are put is explained.

It also discloses donations to the foundation as donations to the party.

This openness contrasts with the secretive nature of the NZ First Foundation and the way in which it appears to have funded the party’s operational and campaign expenses.

The Electoral Commission is investigating claims it breached the law.

Whether or not it did, this Bill is an opportunity to make it quite clear that donations to party foundations should be disclosed as donations to parties, whether or not proceeds from foundations are donated or loaned parties.

Rushed law is bad law and this one is no exception. This omission could have been corrected and further time to consider could well have discovered other faults and allowed for improvements to be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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