Who do you believe?

March 27, 2018

National MP Mark Mitchell says New Zealand First has been trying to buy National MPs’ silence.

Labour’s coalition partner NZ First has threatened to withhold regional development funding for an important economic development project in Rodney unless local National MP Mark Mitchell ends his advocacy for it and stops criticising NZ First ministers.

In an extraordinary request over the weekend, NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft – who said she was under instruction from a Minister – also requested that National pledge to not ask Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones questions about the project, should it go ahead.

“Ms Marcroft said she had been sent to tell me that the Mahurangi River Restoration Project would be considered for funding from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund, but for that to happen I would have to end my involvement with it as a local MP.

“Ms Marcroft told me this was because the Government was unhappy with me revealing the illegitimate use of Defence Force aircraft by Defence Minister Ron Mark.

“She also said if I ended my involvement and the money was granted, that they did not want National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith asking Shane Jones questions about it in Parliament.

“Finally, she implied my work as an Opposition MP would be a factor in funding any projects in my electorate I was involved in.

“I immediately told Ms Marcroft this behaviour was unacceptable, and that she had been put in a very compromised position by her colleague. She refused to name them so I said she had two hours to have the Minister call me before I took the matter further.

“She sent a text message an hour later asking me to forget the conversation.

“But this is rotten politics. It goes to the core of our democratic processes and the National Party will not let such behaviour stand.

“This billion dollar Provincial Growth Fund is taxpayer money and should be used to benefit New Zealanders, not buy an easy ride for the Government nor to try and convince local MPs to stop supporting local projects, because they have annoyed the Government.

“The Prime Minister needs to find out which of her Ministers is attempting to use public money for political gain and she needs to quickly explain what she intends to do about it.”

That’s one side of the story.

Here’s the other:

New Zealand First MP Jenny Marcroft was instructed to apologise to the National Party, after being accused of threatening to use taxpayer cash for political gain.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said National MP Mark Mitchell had misunderstood Ms Marcroft in a conversation which “got out of hand” over the weekend.

And Mr Peters rejected claims Ms Marcroft was following the instructions of any NZ First ministers.

“New Zealand First does not seek to constrain opposition MPs from criticism of the government,” he said.

This from the man who has so little trust in his own MPs that he sought to constrain them by making the waka-jumping bill part of the coalition agreement.

But Mr Mitchell told RNZ he did not believe that “for one minute” and denied ever receiving an apology.

“I have not received any apology from Jenny or from anyone from New Zealand First at all. All I’ve received is a text message saying please disregard our conservation.”

Who do you believe?

It’s a local MP’s job to advocate for his constituents and projects that would benefit them.

It sounds like Mitchell has been doing his job too well for the comfort of the government.

 

 

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Teal deal for Question Time

March 19, 2018

Green Party leader James Shaw has announced he’s gifting most of the party’s questions to the National Party.

James Shaw told Corin Dann on TVNZ’s Q+A programme this morning his party would gift its so-called ‘patsy’ questions to opposition parties as a way of holding the government to account. . .

CORIN Sure. Okay. Let’s get on to this issue. So I’m of the understanding that the Green Party is going to announce that you will give your what are called patsy questions in Parliament – so you get, what, one per session, is that right? Primary question – you’re going to give those questions to the Opposition for the rest of the term. Is that correct?

JAMES That’s right. So it’s about 42 questions this year and about 50 next year, based on what we currently know about the calendar. And that is because – and you know this from your time in the gallery, right – that patsy questions are basically a waste of everybody’s time.

CORIN They make the government look good.

JAMES Yeah, that’s right, but I think question time should be about holding the government to account. This is what we said when we were in Opposition. Now that we are in government, we felt that it was important for us to act consistently with what we said in Opposition.

CORIN But if you’re in government, why are you giving the Opposition an extra chance to bash you?

JAMES I know it sounds crazy, but we are crazy about democracy. So I know it seems like a weird move, but I honestly think that the democracy will be better served if question time does what it is supposed to do, which is to hold the government to account, and we are members of the government. I expect us to be held to account, not to use scripted questions to kind of tell some bright, shiny story. . .

It’s no surprise that National has welcomed the gift.

National Party Leader Simon Bridges has welcomed the Green Party’s decision to give the Opposition its allocated Oral Questions in Parliament to allow it to better hold the weak Ardern-Peters Government to account.

“I said when I became Leader that National would remain firmly focused on being an effective Opposition and in the past weeks we have continued to do that.

“That includes during Parliamentary Question Time when Opposition MPs get Ministers on their feet asking questions of importance to New Zealanders, and those efforts will now be bolstered by the Green Party’s decision.

“National will use the Green Party’s Questions as well its own to continue to focus on the issues that matter to New Zealanders – the economy, law and order, housing, public services and the environment.

“The Green Party’s willingness for this weak Government to be held to account is commendable and we will honour the spirit of this move by doing so strongly.” . . 

Labour and its leader Jacinda Ardern will be less than enthusiastic about this move from their support partner.

They may be thinking their week from hell could get worse: the Young Labour camp sexual assault mess; Defense Minister Ron Mark Ron Mark using Air Force helicopters like taxis; Ethnic Affairs Minister Salesa spending an eye-watering $30,186 on travel and now their support partner is suddenly a lot less supportive.

The Greens are sticking to principles on making a teal deal on patsy questions.

Jacinda Labour might not mind if they follow suit by withdrawing support for the wake-jumping Bill but New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will.

This move also raises another question – if the Greens can do a teal deal on questions, are they opening the door for a teal deal on a future coalition?

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Jump while you can Ron

March 16, 2018

Ron Marks is being accused of using Airforce helicopters as taxis.

Last year he was in the news for the wrong reason for breaking rules for wearing his military medals.

Last year he was rolled as party deputy.

If he jumps from his party now he will be sacked as minister.

But if he doesn’t jump now he’s at risk of being kicked out of parliament altogether when his leader Winston Peters gets his wake-jumping bill passed.


Will Marks be rolled?

February 22, 2018

There were no surprises when Winston Peters was re-elected leader of New Zealand First unopposed.

The man and the party are almost one and the same thing and there would be no question of dissension

But this morning’s Politik newsletter Richard Harman, who is usually well informed, suggests that Peters might be about to depose Ron Mark as deputy in favour of Fletcher Tabuteau.

The waka jumping legislation hasn’t been passed yet.

If Mark was sufficiently unhappy with show of no confidence in him he could leave the party and still stay in parliament.

That would mean he’d no longer be a minister though and he could well find that too high a price to pay no matter how upset he was.

 

 


If only there’d been a teal deal

February 16, 2018

The governing coalition is all at sea over fisheries monitoring:

Evidence given to the Environment Select Committee from the Department of Conservation (DOC) today just goes to show the deeply divided factions occurring within the Coalition Government, National’s Fisheries spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.

“Speaking at DOC’s annual review, the Director General Lou Sanson was asked what input his department has had on the new Government’s decision to firstly postpone and then, this week, cancel the introduction of cameras on fishing boats.

“Mr Sanson and DOC have always been spirited advocates of on-board cameras as one of the best practical measures needed to protect our declining marine bird species.

“He told the committee that DOC ‘absolutely’ maintains its position that cameras on fishing boats are essential if we are to reverse the decline in the sort of seabird species we see in our waters.

“It’s therefore quite extraordinary that his Minister, Eugenie Sage, has so quickly and thoroughly distanced herself from Stuart Nash’s decision to cancel the roll-out that the National Government initiated.

“It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to work out that Mr Nash is being leant on by Coalition partner, New Zealand First.

“I’m surprised that as a junior Coalition partner, the Greens have allowed themselves to be side-lined in this way,” Mr Brownlee says.

The Green Party has had to swallow a lot of dead rats in its agreement to support Labour and New Zealand First in government.

Had they been able to countenance a deal with National last year, there would be no compromise over on-board cameras.

If the Greens could moderate their radical left economic and social agenda, they could sit in the political middle, able to go left and right.

A teal deal would have been better for both the economy and environment than what we’ve got – a red and black one with a weak green off-shoot.


No corruption in NZ?

January 30, 2018

We were in Paraguay a few days before last election and the campaign came up in discussion with a local.

She listened to some of the policy pledges we described and said, “And you try to tell me there’s no corruption in New Zealand?”

In the past two weeks there have been two examples which would support her query.

The first was industrial legislation which is payback for union support of Labour.

Changes include the axing of the 90-day trial period for businesses with 20 or more employees and:

Employers will once again have a duty to conclude collective bargaining unless there is a “good reason” not to.

Prospective employees will be provided with information about unions in the workplace, and employers will have to pay union delegates for time spent reasonably representing other workers.

Collective agreements will be required to include pay rates or ranges for various levels of staff.

Unions will be able to access workplaces without gaining prior consent from an employer, but will still need to come at reasonable times and not unduly interrupt business continuity.

New employees will again be required to be employed under terms consistent with any collective agreement for the first 30 days of their tenure.

This will increase the cost and risk of employing staff which will threaten jobs, and businesses.

Unions make large donations of money and people-power to Labour and this is their reward for which workers and employers will pay the cost.

Then there’s the all-weather racing track.

Racing Minister Winston Peters announced the government’s intention to build the $10m track after several races throughout the country had to be abandoned due to weather.

The track could be in Waikato to boost the region and be closer to some of the breeders, with Mr Peters saying Waikato would be “a good option”. . . 

At least two of the race cancellations this summer were in Otago. An all-weather track in the Waikato will be of no use for these courses.

Mr Peters is also promising tax relief for owners who are breeding horses for racing. He says the current legislation, which he delivered last time he was Racing Minister, isn’t working like it should.

Act leader David Seymour points out:

Winston Peters’ promise of tax relief for the racing industry risks creating the perception of US-style corruption”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Mr Peters and NZ First have taken large donations from the racing industry in the past.

“For example, in 2008, the Dominion Post reported that a number of donations totalling at least $150,000 had been made to NZ First from accounts linked to the Vela family.

“This policy risks looking like a quid pro quo for the industry. . .

Lindsay Mitchell says:

. . .If tax breaks can make one industry stronger, then they can make any industry stronger.

Government picking winners is a recipe for corruption and injustice. We cannot expect New Zealanders who have not a skerrick of interest in the racing industry to disproportionately pay taxes to advance it.

Tax breaks are not subsidies if they are applied universally. Reduce tax period.

You are a guardian of public money Winston. Not a private investor. . . 

There’s no danger of policy which addresses specific problems, treats everyone equally or on the basis of need, and/or  helps the whole country being regarded as payback to donors.

But a direct link between donations and the legislation or taxpayer funded projects which reward donors as there is with the unions and Labour’s workplace law changes and past donations to New Zealand First and the assistance to the racing industry, at the very least gives grounds for the perception of corruption.

New Zealand has been at or near the top of global ranking for lack of corruption for years.

That means we’re better than most, and sometimes all, other countries.

It doesn’t mean there’s no corruption at all and it’s links between donations and policies like these which justify our Paraguayan friend’s query.


Who’s Winston wary of?

December 19, 2017

The waka jumping Bill is an affront to democracy:

The Coalition Government must be deeply worried about maintaining internal discipline within their own Caucuses given they are attempting to ride rough shod over our democratic processes by preventing individual MPs from standing up for the voters that elect them, National’s Justice Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Last week the Coalition introduced what is colloquially known as ‘Waka Jumping’ legislation. It might be more accurately called the ‘Winston Peters Self Preservation Bill’ as it was clearly his bottom line for entry into the Coalition.

“The Bill would effectively prevent individual Members of Parliament from speaking out on points of principle and policy, and ensuring the voices of their communities are heard. Worse still, it would enable party leaders to advise the Speaker that a Caucus member isn’t acting as the leader would want and then move to force that member out of Parliament.

“This makes individual MPs more answerable to their party leader than to the voters that elected them. Allowing party leaders to overrule the wishes of voters is fundamentally wrong,” Ms Adams says.

MMP gives far more power to parties than First Past the Post did and this Bill gives them even more power.

“This is about ensuring the factions within New Zealand First, Labour and the Greens are kept from raising objections to the direction of the Government or threatening the leadership of their respective parties.

“The reason the Coalition Government wants to push this piece of legislation through as one of their first bills is to ensure unhappy MPs don’t jump ship. From going soft on crime and immigration to removing benefit sanctions to pushing up taxes on New Zealand families, New Zealand First are having to swallow a whole lot of dead rats which their voters just do not support.

“Overriding democracy to entrench your own political position is an abuse of power of the worst kind.”

Supporting this legislation is a big rat the Green Party will have to swallow.

This affront to democracy ought to stick in the craw of liberal members of the Labour caucus too.

The first waka jumping legislation had a sunset clause. If this doesn’t it is sure to be repealed when Peters is no longer in parliament which begs the question, who in his caucus is he wary of, who can’t he trust?

A leader confident of his caucus wouldn’t need this legislation.

That he does shows Peters isn’t nearly as sure of the loyalty of his MPs as he needs to be and the Bill to strengthen his hand shows he’s weaker than he purports to be.

 


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