TOP party over

July 10, 2018

The Opportunities Party (TOP) has faced the reality that it’s hit the bottom and the only way ahead  is out:

The Board of The Opportunities Party (TOP) has decided to request that the Electoral Commission cancel TOP’s registration as a political party.

TOP was formed in late 2016 to contest the 2017 election in which it polled at 2.4%. Since the election the Board has considered whether it would invest time and money in preparing the Party to contest 2020 and after due consideration has decided against it.

Party founder Dr Gareth Morgan said, “I’m proud of the policy manifesto we developed and have no doubt it was by far the strongest on offer to improve New Zealanders’ incomes, business productivity, social fairness and environmental sustainability. The legacy of that manifesto remains and to be frank was all that personally ever interested me.”

“The voting public demonstrated that best practice, evidence-informed policy is not of significant concern when deciding elections. When 20% of the vote moves in 48 hours simply on the back of a change of leader, with no improvement at all in policy being offered, what makes the New Zealand voter tick is clear.”

We’ll never know if TOP would have done better had there not been a leadership change.

But it takes more than a leader with a lot more money than political understanding, who’s very sure of himself but with no tolerance for a divergence of opinion, to win a seat or at least 5% of the vote.

“TOP was formed to improve the policy options on offer. Too few voters supported our policies. That’s reality and we accept that. With no inclination to compromise policy for political ambition, or to de-emphasise best practice policy for the promotion of whatever else attracts people’s votes, it’s pretty obvious what the appropriate course of action for this party should be.” . .

All sorts of things attract, and repel, voters, at least some of which defy logic.

But anyone who looks back at past elections will be see just how difficult it is for a new party without a sitting MP to get into parliament.

And in spite of the variety of options available, election after election, around 90% of voters opt for either National or Labour.

Dan Bidois’ maiden speech

July 3, 2018

Dan Bidois delivered his maiden speech today:

Tēnā koutou katoa.

Ko Tainui Te Waka.

Ko Waikato Te Awa.

Ko Ngati Maniapoto Te Iwi.

Ko Ngati Huiao Te Hapu.

Ko Kakepuku Te Maunga.

Ko Te Kauae Te Marae.

Ko Michael Bidois Toku Papa.

No Hangatiki Toku Papa.

Ko Leah Harding-Bennett Toku Mama.

No Hokianga Toku Mama.

Ko Dan Bidois Ahau.

No Reira.

Tena Koutou Katoa.

Mr Speaker. Today I rise in this House for the first time to speak on behalf of the people of Northcote.

I’m here as the result of a by-election that was held on the 9th of June after the departure of the Hon Dr. Jonathan Coleman, a man who held this seat for nearly 13 years, with 9 of those years as a Cabinet Minister. On behalf of the people of Northcote, I wish to thank Jonathan for his service to the Northcote electorate.

I wish to thank the people of Northcote for their support and confidence in me, it’s truly an honour to be your representative in this House.

To the National Party, in particular Party President Peter Goodfellow, our Leader Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett, Alastair Bell, Andrew Hunt, the Young Nats, the delegates who chose me as their candidate, all of the volunteers and staff who helped out on our campaign, and the Northcote Electorate Executive – thank you for your dedication, encouragement, and support, I am indebted to you all.

To retiring Northcote electorate executive member, Gavin Cook, thank you for your service to our party over the past 40 plus years and for your wise counsel offered to me over the past few months. And to my family, mum, dad, Wayne, Fleur, Chontelle and Rob, thank you for your on-going support of my often crazy and unconventional endeavours.

Northcote is the hidden gem of Auckland, and an area I couldn’t be more proud to represent, with its diversity, collective aspirations, entrepreneurial spirit and strong sense of community identity.

What began as a place with only a handful of settlers in the 1800s, developed into a fast growing, ambitious and compact electorate, especially after the Auckland Harbour Bridge opened in 1959. Today, the tight knit communities of Birkenhead, Glenfield, Beach Haven, Birkdale, Chatswood, Hillcrest and Northcote continue to thrive.

The proximity of Northcote to Downtown Auckland attracts many young professionals and aspirational families to the electorate. And it’s a diverse electorate in terms of ethnicity, socio-economic groups, professions and generations. Yet despite the diversity, the people of Northcote share some common threads, they are hardworking, entrepreneurial and family orientated.

Like many other parts of Auckland, Northcote has its fair share of challenges. With the scale and pace of growth in the North Shore over the past 20 years and in the foreseeable future, investments in key infrastructure such as public transport, schools, healthcare services, car parks, and sporting grounds have yet to match this growth.

Congestion is a big problem for many in my area, and the apex of this congestion is Onewa Road, the main arterial route to the CBD. I am committed to ensuring Northcote gets its fair share of investment to manage these challenges, and to being vocal on all matters local and national which impact the people of Northcote.

Mr. Speaker, I come from a place far removed from this House, both literally and figuratively. At 9 months old, I was lucky enough to be adopted into a humble, working class family.

My parents are small business owners. My dad drives trucks and my mum is a saleswoman. They didn’t grow up with much, yet they made a better life for themselves through hard work, personal responsibility and private enterprise.

Two women shaped my life views in particular. My late grandmother, Millicent and my mother, Leah. Millicent grew up poor in Hokianga and was widowed at 35 with two young daughters, after her husband Bill Harding died from an injury that he sustained during the Second World War. A devout catholic, she never dated or remarried, instead dedicating the next 60 years of her life to raise her two children and helping to raise my siblings and I.

My interest in politics stems from Millie. She was a staunch National Party supporter ever since her local MP, Sir Rob Muldoon, helped her into a State House in Glenn Innes in the 1960s. Surviving on only a modest widow’s pension, having access to a State House meant that she could dedicate herself full-time to raising her two kids, and later helping to raise my sisters and I.

She was a person of deep contrasts, for example even though she was a National supporter, she did have a soft spot for Winston. I guess none of us are perfect. And even though she was poor, Maori, and doing it rough as a widowed mum, she believed in personal responsibility and freedom of choice.

She believed in a hand up, not a hand out. Mr Speaker, her values became my values and I know she would be most proud to see her grandson serve in the House today.

The other woman was my mother, Leah, who attended boarding school in the electorate I now represent. My mum faced her fair share of challenges from the moment she adopted me, from taking care of a sick baby, later dealing with a troubled and misbehaving kid, watching her son battle cancer, struggling with her separation and raising 3 children.

I’m inspired by the grit and determination my mum displayed to rise above her challenges and provide for her family. And she worked hard, at one stage holding down 8 different jobs in order to make ends meet.

My mother’s story is indicative of the promise of living here in New Zealand, that anyone can get ahead and make a better life for themselves and their family if they work hard and have the determination to follow through.

Despite this loving family, I was far from a role model growing up. I spent most of my high school years either in detention, chasing girls, or getting into mischief. I was probably on the pathway to prison if it weren’t for an intervention my high school principal made which changed my life forever.

My principal convinced a local butcher next to my high school to take me on as a butcher’s apprentice. Through this job, I developed discipline, customer service skills, discovered the joys of earning a paycheque, and later discovered my passion for economics.

After completing a butcher’s apprenticeship, I was mentored by a senior leader of Woolworths to go to university, ending up with three bachelor’s degrees in economics, marketing and commerce from the University of Auckland, before later completing a fourth degree in public policy at Harvard University.

That a high school dropout can later graduate with a Masters degree from Harvard speaks to the promise of growing up in a free and equitable country like New Zealand. Where any kid, no matter where they come from, whatever their skin colour, or which school they attend, can succeed if they have the determination, aspiration and work ethic to do so.

New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where this story is even possible, and it’s this aspect of our society which I seek to uphold and strengthen.

An upwardly mobile society based on merit and equal opportunity is the endeavour that brings me to this House today. Where every Kiwi kid has the opportunity to reach their potential and fulfil their god given talents. Where every Kiwi kid receives a great start in life through education, and climbs ahead through private enterprise.

Like all of you, I’m here because I want to improve the lives of New Zealanders and to make a difference to the social, economic and environmental future of this great nation. But New Zealand’s future success depends first and foremost on creating a vibrant, dynamic and a knowledge-based economy. For it is only through a strong economy that we are afforded the opportunity to strengthen our environment and address our social issues.

I have always believed in the power of free and competitive enterprise to transform lives and lift all of our communities to a better place in life. And it’s worked for me. From working for $6 an hour as a butchers apprentice, then as a strategy consultant with Deloitte, and as an economist at the OECD, and most recently as a senior executive for Foodstuffs. It’s also worked for my family.

From seeing my parents work their guts out to get ahead and from seeing my older sister’s struggle from pay cheque to pay cheque. Through my life and through the life of my family, I have witnessed the engine of economic growth in our society and its ability to reward hard work, incentivise people, and ultimately improve lives.

Yes, saving rates, interest rates, unemployment rates, real GDP growth rates and bond yields are all important indicators of economic progress at the macro level. But more importantly, a strong economy is about individuals.

The young child who’s employed and earning money instead of roaming the streets looking for trouble. The father who takes pride in the fact he is providing for his family and ends each day with a sense of accomplishment. The disabled person who feels included in society and that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. And the single mother, who feels empowered, free and independent and is able to provide for her children.

I’m proud to be a member of the National Party, a Party that backs Kiwi businesses and strives for a strong economy first and foremost, where everyone can get ahead and improve their lot in life. A Party that favours free, competitive enterprise where government sets the rules of play and then gets out of the way.

My time overseas, living and working in America, France, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Malaysia, gave me an immense appreciation for having grown up in this country. It made me proud to call myself a New Zealander.

It also gave me the opportunity to reflect on some of the challenges this great nation faces in the coming years. Climate change. Rapid advances in automation, robotics and artificial intelligence. A population that’s getting older and living longer. A shifting centre of geopolitical and economic power from the West to the East. And accelerating globalisation calling into question the role of the nation state.

Responding effectively to these challenges and opportunities will determine whether our great nation endures or declines, prospers or shrinks. This is going to be a monumental task, but I relish the opportunity to play a small part of this effort.

I’m positive that New Zealand can rise to the challenges we face and will prosper well into the next century, provided we take a long term perspective to policy development and effectively capitalise on the natural advantages we have as a nation.

We are small enough to be nimble and agile in our policy responses. We are not straddled by the chains of history we are young and forward looking as a nation. We are enterprising, innovative and creative as a culture. We dare to dream big and we are not afraid of rolling up our sleeves and mucking in.

I’m immensely proud to be a New Zealander and to call this place my home. I’m proud to represent the people of Northcote in this House in what is the best place in Auckland to live and raise a family. And I’m proud to be a member of a party that unashamedly backs Kiwi businesses and entrepreneurs to show us the pathway to a better life.

There’s a Maori proverb that says “the person with a narrow vision sees a narrow horizon, while the person with a wide vision sees a wide horizon”.

The horizon I see for New Zealand is positive, full of economic opportunities for our kids and their kids, and prosperous.

It’s my purpose in this House to ensure that the people of Northcote are included in this horizon, and that our nation’s actions reflect these aspirations.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Rural round-up

June 17, 2018

Infected cattle bring opportunity for study – Sally Rae:

It will not be possible to control Mycoplasma bovis if an eradication attempt fails, given the present lack of understanding of the infection and the “gross inadequacy” of existing diagnostics, Emeritus Prof Frank Griffin says.

Otago-based Prof Griffin, whose career has focused on animal health research, described that as the “sad reality”.

He believed the Government’s decision to attempt eradication first was the correct one, even though it brought considerable public liability for taxpayer funding. . .

TB work will help fight M. Bovis:

Eradication of Mycoplasma bovis could be supported by the 25-year legacy of co-operation between OSPRI/TBfree and AgResearch in tracking and researching bovine tuberculosis.  Richard Rennie spoke to Dr Neil Wedlock, one of the country’s senior bTB researchers on what can be learned.

Collaboration between AgResearch scientists and disease control managers at OSPRI TBfree and its predecessor the Animal Health Board has led to important technical breakthroughs resulting in a drastic reduction in the prevalence of bovine tuberculosis in livestock.

Eradication of TB from the national herd by 2026 will be hailed as a disease control success story but there are some challenges to deal with before that happens. . . .

Trio share their travels through hills and valleys – Toni Williams:

You can’t go from mountain to the next mountain without going in the valley,” says farmer and author Doug Avery.

Mr Avery, along with Paul ”Pup” Chamberlain and Struan Duthie, was guest speaker at a Rural Support Mid Canterbury session at the Mt Somers Rugby Club rooms.

Rural Mid Cantabrians were encouraged to ”take a break” with the trio as they spoke of their life experiences – the ups and the downs.

From front-line policing during the 1981 Springbok tour, reaching rock bottom farming in drought-stricken Marlborough to cracking open emotions, they shared it all.

All three spoke of the importance of having a mentor, or a support network of people to help when times were tough. . .

Pure taste sours :

Meat companies have asked Beef + Lamb New Zealand not to launch the Taste Pure Nature origin brand in North America fearing it will confuse consumers and give competitors a free ride.

The Lamb Company, a partnership between the country’s three largest lamb exporters Alliance, Anzco and Silver Fern Farms, has spent 54 years jointly developing the North American market.

Its chairman Trevor Burt fears the origin brand will clash with its Spring Lamb brand. . .

Climate change discussion ‘direction of travel’ is positive – Feds:

The National Party’s five principles on which it will base emission reduction policies, including science-based and taking into account economic impact, are spot on, Federated Farmers says.

The Opposition’s support for a bi-partisan approach to establishing an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission was outlined by Leader Simon Bridges in a speech at Fieldays this morning.  National’s three other emission reduction criteria are technology driven, long-term incentives and global response.

“We’re delighted that the Coalition Government, and now National, have both signaled their recognition that there’s a good case for treating short-lived greenhouse gases (such as methane) and long-lived (carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) differently,” Katie says. . .

Different treatment of methane the right thing for global warming:

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) is pleased to see a differentiated approach, to treat methane differently to long-lived greenhouse gases, being given serious consideration in New Zealand’s climate change policy dialogue.

“Policy must be underpinned by robust science and be appropriate to the targeted outcome. If the outcome we want is climate stabilisation, then the science is telling us to treat long-lived gases differently to methane in policy frameworks” says DCANZ Executive Director Kimberly Crewther . . .

This generation of women not just farm wives anymore – Colleen Kottke:

For many generations, the heads of farm operations across America were likely to be men clad in overalls wearing a cap emblazoned with the logo of a local seed dealership or cooperative.

Back then, most women were viewed as homemakers who raised the children, kept the family fed and clothed, and were delegated as the indispensable “go-fer” who ran for spare parts, delivered meals out to the field and kept watch over sows during farrowing – all the while keeping hearth and home running efficiently

Although many of these duties were important to the success of the farm, they were often looked upon as secondary in nature. Today women are stepping into the forefront and playing more prominent roles on the farm and in careers in the agribusiness industry once dominated by their male counterparts. . .

The h word

June 11, 2018

This isn’t a good look:

Finance Minister Grant Robertson gave a post-Budget speech at a $600-a-head Labour fundraiser at the exclusive Wellington Club, drawing comparisons to the previous National Government’s “Cabinet club” scandal.

According to several attendees, about 40 people, including party supporters, business figures and corporate lobbyists, attended the dinner hosted by Labour president Nigel Haworth on Wednesday, at which Robertson was the key attraction.

A similar dinner is due to be hosted at the even more exclusive Northern Club in Auckland on Thursday night.

National leader Simon Bridges has accused the Government of hypocrisy, after Labour once described National’s events, which appear similar to the one attended by Robertson, as “cash-for-access”.

The concern is that wealthy figures are able to gain access and insight that is not available to the general public.

I don’t think  access and insight are problems, as long as the general public also has reasonable opportunities to meet, hear from and question Ministers at no cost.

If we don’t want public funding of political parties – and I definitely don’t – then parties have to raise funds and these sorts of functions are good ways to do it.

It might be dancing on the head of a pin but the invitation should be clear that the speakers aren’t there as Ministers.

I’ve hosted National fundraisers where guests meet, hear from and talk to party spokespeople. The two-way communication gives value for MPs and those there to meet them.

So it’s not that Robertson was the key attraction that’s the problem, it’s that the invitation said he was there as Finance Minister and that Labour and Robertson in particular criticised National for running similar events.

Now less than a year into government, Labour are displaying gross hypocrisy by doing it themselves and not distinguishing between the role of minister and MP or party spokesperson.

The h-word is never a good look, especially when it’s on display at some of the country’s most exclusive venues.

365 days of gratitude

June 9, 2018

A long walk, phone catch-ups with two friends, soup and bread made, election win for National’s Dan Bidois and rugby win for the All Blacks – tonight I’m grateful for a happy Saturday at home.

Northcote election result

June 9, 2018

8:50 – A win for Dan Bidois, 13,82 votes ahead with 100% of the votes counted.

(And after a shakey start, All Blacks are ahead 25-11 in the test against France).

8:20 – 84.8% of votes counted, Dan Bidois is leading by 1,282.

8:10 – 75 % of votes counted, Dan Bidois ahead by 1,071.

8pm – Dan Bidois leads by 800 with 54.5% of votes counted.

7:20pm  National’s candidate Dan Bidois has a 790 vote lead over Labour’s candidate Shanan Halbert with 48.5% of votes counted.

Sir Bill has earned his title

June 4, 2018

Former Prime Minister, long serving MP and genuinely good man, Bill English has more than earned the title conferred on him in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

Wallace, the electorate he first won, and Clutha Southland the biggest general electorate in the country, which it grew into under MMP were blue seats.

But it takes hard work, a genuine interest in people and the determination to make a positive difference for them to earn the loyalty and respect from constituents he did.

In the run up to the 2001 election and its aftermath he showed a lot more loyalty to his colleagues and some in the party than they did to him, but as he told us during the election campaign last year, he got back up again.

He did that through hard work, determination and focus not on ideology but on what was wrong and how to make it better.

Soon after he became Finance Minister he called a meeting of senior people from the welfare ministry.  One question he asked was who was responsible for getting people off benefits.

The answer was no one. Bill said that had to change and under his leadership of the social investment approach it did.

The way New Zealand came through the GFC, the focus on the quality of spending rather than the quantity, and the willingness to spend more upfront to reduce long term costs are a very positive reflection on him.

So is the very healthy state that his government left the books in.

The position of Finance Minister demands gravitas. When he became Prime Minister he showed his warmth and wit, and also,the strength of his family.

He isn’t only a good politician, he was an exemplary boss.

One way to judge a politician is by the way they treat their staff. Joanne Black wrote this of Bill:

On my worst day in the Beehive, I inadvertently emailed a sensitive document to someone outside the building with the same name as the intended recipient, who worked for another minister. The person who received it behaved honourably and nothing came of it, and the next day it became public anyway, as intended.

But I will never forget my torment when I realised there was nothing I could do that could fix my error. That was the only occasion I have ever deliberately banged my head against something – my desk, in this case. (It hurt, and it didn’t bring back the email. I do not recommend it.)

Key’s chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, came in to work out what to do. I went to Bill’s office and waited for a meeting to end so I could tell him what I’d done. He listened, looked down at his papers and said, “Bugger.”

Although my actions must have disappointed him, he did not raise an eyebrow, much less his voice. You need to be more than just a decent person to succeed in politics.

A minister and a Prime Minister who were not only politically on top of their game, but also believed in public service and were calm and humane in that high-stakes environment, inspired great staff loyalty. . .

Another way to judge a politician is by the way they value volunteers.

The grapevine told Bill that I was facing a very difficult situation. He was Prime Minister at the time and there were several particularly challenging matters he was dealing with but on a morning when he had many much more important matters to deal with, he took the time to phone me.

When I thanked him, I said we were immensely grateful for the practical and moral support we were getting, that it really did help to know people cared and that friends all round the world were praying for us. He said, “I will be too,” and meant it.

He is a good man who served his people and his country well. He is no longer in politics but he will still be in service.

For all that and more he has earned his knighthood.

The full Honours List is here.

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