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?




Nats’ new caucus line-up

March 11, 2018

National leader Simon Bridges has announced the team to take on the government:

National Party Leader Simon Bridges has unveiled his new caucus line-up, saying it reflects his intention to make the most of the party’s considerable experience as well as new talent – and to recognise hard work, new ideas and success.

“The National Party caucus is brimming with energy and enthusiasm and a willingness to work in the best interests of New Zealand. This new line-up reflects that.

“It is a strong mix of former Ministers and senior MPs alongside emerging ones who have proven to me they have what it takes to hold this Ardern-Peters Government to account, to listen to New Zealanders and to develop new policies for the 2020s.

“This means the energy of all 56 of our MPs – Parliament’s strongest and most diverse caucus – is focused on the role of Opposition, ensuring every MP has a chance to directly contribute to taking on the Government and driving innovation and policies in the best interests of New Zealand.

“The team I have announced today also reflects the strength and talents of the women in our caucus, with three in the top five positions, and eight in the top 20. And they are there on merit.

“Unlike our opponents who believe in quotas and catering to special and competing interests, the National Party believes in rewarding hard work and success – in Parliament and out of it.

“That’s how New Zealand will continue to get ahead – through being focused and ambitious, innovative and smart.

“National believes in a New Zealand that is confident, outward and forward looking, and backs itself to succeed on the world stage.

“This team of MPs is an alternative Government in waiting. It will effectively hold this weak Coalition Government to account and ensure the National Party earns the trust of New Zealanders and the right to govern in their interests in 2020.”

Amy Adams Finance and #3

March 8, 2018

National Party leader Simon Bridges has appointed Amy Adams as Finance spokesperson and promoted her to number three.

“Amy is an incredibly experienced former Minister, serving as Associate Minister of Finance as well as holding a range of important and challenging portfolios, from Social Housing to Justice and Environment, which she handled with real diligence and focus.

“She has chaired Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, has a background in commercial law and is a talented and hard-working member of the National Party caucus.”

Adding to her qualifications for the post are her experience as a former lawyer and current partner in a farm.

She also understands the importance of the economy.

New National Party Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams has signalled a strong focus on ensuring the continued success of the New Zealand economy and says she will fight hard against Government policies that will slow New Zealand down.

“New Zealand currently has one of the strongest economies in the western world. That’s not an accident. That’s a result of the hard work of New Zealanders backed by the strong economic plan of the previous National-led Government,” Ms Adams says.

“New Zealand succeeds best when we are open and connected with the world. I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting with and listening to successful exporters and employers in the weeks ahead.

“National will be advancing new economic and social policies ahead of the next election, but first we have to stop the threat posed by Labour’s economic mismanagement.

“Many of the Labour-led Government’s planned policy changes will sacrifice our economic success and make it harder for New Zealand businesses to compete and succeed.

“These changes are bad for all of us. Slower business growth means less investment, fewer job opportunities, and lower wages generally than would otherwise be the case.

“Already businesses are less confident now than they were six months ago, despite the world economy steadily strengthening over this time.

Ms Adams singled out Labour’s overseas investment changes, employment law changes, and proposed new taxes as things that would ankle-tap the country’s medium-term economic performance.

“In Select Committee National MPs are constantly hearing how the Overseas Investment Bill will chill foreign investment. That’s bad for housing construction, bad for the regions, and bad for our economy overall.

“And now the Government’s Tax Working Group is clearly looking to design a more redistributive tax system that removes any incentives for New Zealanders to work hard and get ahead.

“The Government needs to focus on the quality and quantity of their new spending. They are continuously ramping up expectations. I’ll be keeping a close eye on their approach to spending taxpayers’ money.

“This Government needs to heed the lessons of success and stop trying to introduce policies that will only take us backwards and damage the economic security of all New Zealanders.”

National isn’t in to identity politics so won’t be making a fuss about the fact that two women and two Maori occupy its top three places.

Steven Joyce retiring from parliament

March 6, 2018

Steven Joyce has announced he’s retiring from parliament:

“I have had a wonderful time in this place over the last nearly ten years including nine years as a Minister, and have been privileged to be able to make a real contribution to the development of our country,” Mr Joyce says.

“With the recent change of National Party leadership I have had the opportunity to consider again what I would like to do over the next several years.

“Simon has made a very positive proposal to me to stay and contribute as a senior member of the team on the front bench with a choice of portfolio.

“However I feel that it is time for him to get a new team around him to take National forward and win in 2020 and then govern again for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

“I have offered to assist in any way I can from outside parliament and will remain a staunch supporter of the Party.

“Personal highlights of my time in office include setting up major infrastructure projects like ultrafast broadband, the major motorway and expressway projects now coming on stream, and the electrification of Auckland’s commuter rail network.

“I have also enjoyed my involvement in the tertiary education sector, the hi-tech sector, the science sector and regional New Zealand and am proud of the progress we made as a Government in all four areas.

“I have led the National Party’s general election campaign five times as Campaign Chair and in four of those for John Key and Bill English, we achieved a Party Vote in excess of 44 per cent, the only time it has happened under MMP.

“And it was an honour to be Bill English’s Associate Minister of Finance for eight years before presenting my own budget in 2017, which continued building the platform for future economic growth and focused on boosting incomes for low and middle income earners.

“My plan now is to return to commercial life and seek new challenges and also to focus on being a good Dad to Tommy and Amelia.

“I’d like to thank my wife Suzanne, colleagues, staff, party supporters, the public and all the people I have met through my work for their encouragement, support and friendship over the last ten years in Parliament and fifteen in the party.”

I first met Steven when he was commissioned by the party to lead its reorganisation and I was National’s Otago electorate chair.

He and then-president Judy Kirk went round every electorate seeking members’ views.

That led to new rules which made the party fit for MMP, strengthened its organisation and provided solid stones for the foundation on which the return to government was built.

Steven later became party general manager and I was impressed by how approachable and responsive he was whenever I had the need of his help or advice.

In 1996, 1999 and 2002 National still ran First Past the Post campaigns. The difference between those campaigns and the ones run by Steven from 2005 when no candidate or volunteer was left in any doubt about the importance of the party vote showed in the results.

He’s given more than nine years of service to New Zealand as a Minister and more than that to National.

He’s earned a return to the commercial sector and his family and I wish him, and them well.

National leader Simon Bridges pays tribute to Steven here.


Nats not Maori enough?

March 1, 2018

The leader and deputy leader of the national party are Maori.

So is Labour’s deputy, the leader and deputy of New Zealand First, and one of the two contenders for the co-leader of the Green Party.

That ought to be something to celebrate.

It is except that several commentators don’t think National’s Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett are Maori enough.

 . . Bridges’ generational change then is about as solid as his claims to his Maori heritage and that of his deputy, neither of whom have made much of it in their rise up through the ranks; not altogether surprising considering their new leader is just three sixteenths Maori and Bennett’s grandmother was half-Maori. . . 

Funny how it’s only an issue when it’s the National Party.

That aside, the  furore illustrates one of the problems with identity politics – they divide rather than unite.

There is no single way to be a Maori, any other race or ethnicity, gender or any of the other groups people may or may not identify with.

There will be a lot of urban Maori whose experiences are similar to those of the National leadership duo, does that make them any less Maori?

Of course not.

Let’s celebrate that we’re in a country where race, gender and any of the other factors which separate and are used to discriminate against people in other countries simply don’t matter without nit-picking over what does or doesn’t constitute this or that identity.

365 days of gratitude

February 27, 2018

There are other places and parties where a change of leadership comes with acrimony, dissension and disunity.

By happy contrast, Simon Bridges has been elected National’s leader in a contest characterised by civility from all parties.

That and the graciousness shown by the unsuccessful candidates has given him a very good start for his leadership and I’m grateful for that.

Simon Bridges wins Nat leadership

February 27, 2018

Simon Bridges is the new National Party leader.

He is doing a media conference at 1pm.

There is no mention of the deputy but whether or not Paula Bennett still holds that post, she looks happy in this photo.

Update: Paula is still the deputy.

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