Judith Collins National leader Gerry Brownlee deputy

July 14, 2020

Judith Collins is National’s new leader.

Gerry Brownlee is her deputy.

 


Muller resigns – Updated

July 14, 2020

NewstalkZB has just announced breaking news that Todd Muller has resigned as leader of the National Party.

Update:

Todd’s statement reads:

I have taken time over the weekend to reflect on my experience over the last several weeks as Leader of the Opposition.

It has become clear to me that I am not the best person to be Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the New Zealand National Party at this critical time for New Zealand.

It is more important than ever that the New Zealand National Party has a leader who is comfortable in the role.

The role has taken a heavy toll on me personally, and on my family, and this has become untenable from a health perspective.

For that reason I will be stepping down as Leader effective immediately.

I intend to take some time out of the spotlight to spend with family and restore my energy before reconnecting with my community.

I look forward to continuing to serve as a loyal member of the National Party team and Member of Parliament for Bay of Plenty.

I will not be making any further comment.

Please respect the privacy of my family and me.

This is a bombshell but the right decision for him and one that took a lot of self knowledge.

Leading the Opposition is a tough job at the best of times and he didn’t have any of the honeymoon new leaders usually get.

The caucus now has the job of voting in a replacement and then uniting behind the new leader.

There is no time for internal strife, the country needs a strong and united Opposition and one that is capable of becoming the government in a very few weeks.

 


Labour under SFO investigation

July 14, 2020

The Serious Fraud Office has announced it is investigating the Labour Party over donations in 2017:

The Serious Fraud Office has commenced an investigation over donations made to the Labour Party in 2017.

The SFO said in a statement this afternoon that it is presently conducting four investigations in relation to electoral funding matters.

A fifth matter that the agency investigated relating to electoral funding is now before the courts.

“We consider that making the current announcement is consistent with our past practice in this area of electoral investigations and in the public interest,” the SFO”s director Julie Read said.

In the interests of transparency and consistency, the SFO announced the commencement of all these investigations, she said.

However, the SFO said it had no further comment to make on the Labour Party investigation.

The department’s ongoing investigations include one into the New Zealand First Foundation and two other separate investigations into Auckland Council and Christchurch City Council mayoral electoral funding.

The fifth relates to donations paid to the National Party, which has led to criminal charges Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross and three other businessmen.

The SFO has not laid charges against the National Party, its staff or members but that distinction might be lost on anyone not into the minutiae of the case against Ross and the three businessmen.

The Serious Fraud Office says it is on track to make a call before this year’s election on whether to lay charges in relation to the New Zealand First Foundation, which has been bankrolling the New Zealand First Party. . . 

David Farrar says the charges probably result from an art auction:

If I am correct that this is what the is investigating, then it will come down to whether Labour valued the artworks fairly. That determines who get listed as the donor.

Let’s say a painting went for $25,000. Now if the painting is worth $20,000 normally then the artist is deemed to have made a $20,000 donation and the bidder a $5,000 donation as they paid $25,000 for something worth $20,000.

And only donations over $15,000 get the identity published, so the person who paid $25,000 for it, has their identity hidden.

But what if the painting wasn’t really worth $20,000. Let’s say that is a nominal value but in reality it is only worth $7,000. Then the donor has made an effective donation of $18,000 and should have been disclosed. . . 

Having Labour, the NZ First Foundation, two former Labour MPs who are now mayors and donors to the National Party under investigation isn’t ideal. But it’s better than suspected transgressions of Electoral Law and political donations being swept under the carpet.

However, even political tragics might be tempted to say a plague on all their houses and calls are already being made for public funding of political parties.

That is not the answer to the problem of breaking the law.

The answer is good law that people follow with good processes for ensuring they do and strong consequences if they don’t.


Need to get NZ working

July 10, 2020

National has a plan to get New Zealand working:

National Party Leader Todd Muller has revealed the framework for the party’s Plan to create more jobs and a better economy.

At a speech to the Christchurch Employers’ Chamber of Commerce today, Mr Muller outlined the five elements of National’s Plan.

“All the components of the framework are designed to grow our economy and create more jobs,” Mr Muller says.

“The framework comprises five components: responsible economic management; delivering infrastructure; reskilling and retraining our workforce; a greener, smarter future; and building stronger communities.

“National will be releasing each of these components in a series of major speeches through this month and into early August to give New Zealanders time to scrutinise each element.”

The full plan will not be finalised until after the Government releases the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) in August. It will be available by September 2 when overseas voting begins, to be followed by early voting, which starts on September 5.

It’s sensible to await the PREFU and good to know the timetable.

“National has a plan to rebuild our communities, get Kiwis back to work and deal with the economic and jobs crisis,” Mr Muller says.

“With Labour not having anything to offer except ‘borrow, spend and tax’, National understands that responsible government is about creating a deliberate and considered plan – and then following it.” 

Labour and its coalition partners are very good at spending but bad at good spending. In focusing on the quantity of the spend they forget the importance of the quality.

They are also very good at announcements although as Jane Clifton points out, a lot of these policies aren’t shovel-ready, many are only press release ready:

In the full speech here,  Todd outlines National’s commitment to:

  • An open and competitive economy;
  • A broad-based, low-rate tax system;
  • An independent central bank with the primary goal of price stability;
  • The Fiscal Responsibility Act, now part of the Public Finance Act; and
  • A flexible labour market, underpinned since 2000 by good faith.

Our concern is that that basic macroeconomic framework is being diluted by the current Government – mainly through incompetence than the result of any plan. . .

Jacinda Ardern has admitted her party wasn’t prepared for government and it shows in all the over-promising and under-delivering before Covid-19 hit.

That failure to deliver then was bad enough, it is even worse now with their determination to borrow so much which is likely to deliver far more debt without the financial rigour necessary to ensure the quality of the spend and determination to get back to surplus as soon as possible.

Todd says National won’t panic.

Nor will National cut family incomes. National has already announced that, whatever lies ahead of us through the crisis, we will not raise the taxes you pay or cut the benefits paid to those who need help. We would like Labour to make the same commitment to New Zealand families too.

Nevertheless, National will work to keep borrowing as low as possible. Out of the $80 billion plus they spend each year, all governments have wasteful spending that needs to be trimmed. All finance ministers review all spending each time they bring together a Budget. And we will do the same.

Since the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the economic and political debate in New Zealand has tended to be on the quantity of borrowing or debt repayment each year. These remain critically important. Getting back to fiscal surplus and then paying down debt to 20 per cent of GDP is necessary, not least because New Zealand will inevitably confront another natural, economic or health disaster in the next couple of decades or beyond. But just as important is to focus on the quality of spending.

Labour forecasts net core debt will reach 53.6 per cent of GDP in 2024 under their policies. That’s an eye-wateringly high level. We will work hard to try to keep it lower than that, which would put New Zealand in a better position to recover. But of far greater longer-term importance is that Labour projects that under its policies, but with a far stronger economic environment than we face today, net core debt will still be as high as 42 per cent by 2034. That means Labour intends a mere 11 per cent reduction in net core debt, over a decade. At that rate, we will not get back to the safe 20 per cent mark until perhaps the mid-2050s.

National does not regard Labour’s attitude as anything like prudent. It would leave an enormous debt, not so much to our children but to our grandchildren. And it would leave our children and grandchildren – and also ourselves – profoundly vulnerable were the global economic and strategic outlook anything other blissful for three successive decades. . . .

We learn two lessons from Labour’s economic and fiscal projections and their refusal to rule out higher taxes. First, they don’t have anything to offer except borrow, spend, hope and then tax. Second, and even more important, they don’t think any of their borrowing and spending will actually do anything useful to improve New Zealand’s productivity, economy or the overall wellbeing of every one of us.

I’m not hiding that my Government will borrow large amounts over the next three years, and in 2020/21 in particular. National will always be more disciplined in its spending than Labour. Yes, we will borrow what we need to, to support New Zealanders through the crisis – neither more nor less. But we will not just fling money around, the way the Labour Party is. Instead, we promise to spend it better and invest it better than Labour, in a way that does in fact improve New Zealand’s productivity, economy, the overall wellbeing of every one of us, and which, in turn, makes it easier to pay the debt off. . . .

Labour and its coalition partners have been flinging money round since they got into government.

National went out of office with the government’s books in surplus and forecasts of that to continue.

Even before Covid-19 hit, this government was taking us back to deficit.

If it couldn’t manage the economy well in reasonable times, it can’t be trusted to do it now we’re facing the worst of times.

That matters now more than ever.

It matters because we need a government that knows that taxing more in a recession is counter-productive – making it harder for people to look after themselves and making it harder for businesses to grow.

It matters because we need a government that understands that borrowing for hard times is only the start, it must also plan to pay back the debt, and have a plan that will work to do that.

It matters because we need a government that will get New Zealand working and the failures of this one to deliver on so many of its promises show we can’t trust it to do that.


No excuses

July 8, 2020

If Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker had told media he had the personal details of Covid-19 patients, would not give the information to them, but was alerting them to a serious breach of privacy, he would have been able to stand on the moral high ground.

Instead he made the mistake of sending the details.

That was a very serious error of judgement for which there are no excuses.

I am so very sorry, I know and like Hamish and until now he has done everything a new MP should do in working for his constituents and handling his shadow portfolios well.

I  learned of the news at a National Party function last night.

More than 100 people were there to listen to party leader Todd Muller who spoke with authority and handled questions with aplomb.

The audience was impressed. I am even more so knowing that he knew about this and gave not a hint of the trouble it was causing and the media storm he would be facing afterwards.


Done what, moving where?

July 6, 2020

Labour’s slogan at the last election was let’s do this it’s slogan for this one is let’s keep moving.

So what has the government done and where is it moving?

National Leader Todd Muller says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern’s promises today are “just more KiwiBuild”.

“Nothing Labour promises you this election will be delivered – except more tax for you to pay.

“Labour promised three years ago to “Let’s do this” and hasn’t done any of it.

“Three years later, Labour has nothing left to say for itself except to keep moving, on a road to nowhere.

“Today’s so-called economic plan will go in the same rubbish bin as its KiwiBuild plan, its light rail plan, its mental health plan and its child poverty plan.

“Promising and not delivering to New Zealand’s most vulnerable people is not kind – it’s cruel.

“You cannot afford three more years of Labour, you need a strong National Government to deliver more jobs, a better economy and a better life for you, your family, and your community.”

We can’t afford three more years of Labour because what they’ve done and more importantly, failed to do, shows we can’t trust them to do what needs to be done and to move the right levers to lead New Zealand where it needs to go.

Doing what must be done, moving at the pace and to the place we need to go, needs more than a celebrity leader who’s strong on rhetoric, it needs a good leader with a strong and talented team who deliver on what they promise.

The choice is clear – more of what we’ve got, and haven’t got, from a cabinet of largely empty chairs, or positive change to a team that will fill the chairs and deliver on its promises.


Bridges & Reti up, Clark down

July 2, 2020

National leader Todd Muller has announced two promotions in the wake of Paula Bennett’s decision to retire from politics:

Dr Shane Reti will be ranked number 13 and will take on Associate Drug Reform. Shane has demonstrated a huge intellect and capacity for work, supporting Michael Woodhouse in our Covid-19 response, as well as achieving much in the Tertiary Education portfolio.

Simon Bridges will be picking up the Foreign Affairs portfolio and will be ranked at number 17. Simon has been leader and a minister for a number of years in the last National Government. He expressed a desire for this portfolio and his experience will be valuable in this important role.

Deputy Leader Nikki Kaye will pick up the portfolio of Women and will make several announcements associated with this portfolio in the coming months.

Amy Adams will take the portfolio of Drug Reform. She will work with Shane Reti in this area. . . 

These are all good moves, I am especially pleased that Simon’s experience and skill will be put to good use.

Gerry Brownlee did have the Foreign Affairs portfolio. I have no idea what negotiations went on, but Gerry stepped aside to allow Bill English to be John Key’s deputy when John became leader for the good of the caucus and party. It looks like he has done so again which shows commendable loyalty and grace.

Meanwhile, a mess has been tidied up for the government.

David Clark has resigned as Health Minister:

The embattled MP for Dunedin North said he had become a “distraction” and that the “time is right” for someone else to fill the role, but he will stand as an MP in the upcoming election. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement Dr Clark contacted her on Wednesday to “confirm his wish to resign as a minister” and that she had accepted his resignation. 

The Prime Minister has appointed Labour MP Chris Hipkins as Health Minister until the election. Hipkins is currently the Minister of Education.  . . 

Clark is the third of Ardern’s Ministers to lose his warrant – Clare Curran resigned, and Meka Whaitiri who was sacked.

It has taken a while, had Ardern had more steel the resignation would have been accepted weeks ago when Clark first offered it.


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.


Paula Bennett retiring from parliament

June 29, 2020

Paula Bennett has announced she will retire from parliament at the next election.

. . .Bennett said in a statement she was “looking forward to her next career”.

“Now it is time for the next chapter. I am excited to take the skills I have out of Parliament and into the business world. I have always wanted another career after politics and now is the right time for me to go and pursue that,” Bennett said. . . 

Paula held several ministerial portfolios and was deputy Prime Minister under Bill English.

She has put her heart and soul into her work for the party, her constituents and the country.

I am sorry that she is choosing to leave parliament but happy that she will have the opportunity to use her talents in other ways.


Reds’ policy path to poverty

June 29, 2020

The Reds have announced an $8 billion tax grab:

The Green Party have unveiled a sweeping new welfare policy that would guarantee a weekly income of at least $325, paid for by a wealth tax on millionaires and two new income tax brackets on high-earners. . . 

The $325 after-tax payment would be paid to every adult not in fulltime paid work – including students, part-time workers, and the unemployed. The student allowance and Jobseekers benefit would be replaced. . . 

It would be topped up by $110 for sole parents, and the current best start payment would be expanded from $60 per child to $100 per child, and made universal for children up to three instead of two.

This guaranteed minimum income plan would cost $7.9b a year – roughly half what is spent on NZ Super, but almost twice what is spent on current working age benefits.

Paying for all this would be a wealth tax of one per cent on net wealth of over $1 million and two per cent for assets over $2 million. The party expects this would hit only the wealthiest 6 per cent of Kiwis.

This would take the form of an annual payment and would only apply to those who owned those assets outright – not someone who still had a mortgage on their million-dollar home, for example.

That looks like everyone could avoid the tax by never paying off their mortgage, but the party wouldn’t be that stupid, would it?

Any party that thinks up this sort of economic vandalism could be.

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Green Party’s proposed wealth tax as bureaucratic economic vandalism that would hammer job creators.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Jordan Williams says, “The proposed wealth tax would mean the return of the dreaded compulsory asset valuations that made a capital gains tax so unpopular. A bureaucratic valuation scheme would incentivise people to hide their wealth, or shift it offshore. It would be a dream for tax accountants but hell for small business owners.”

“The policy also appears not to differentiate between asset types.  It would tax entrepreneurs creating jobs the same as someone sitting on an art collection. Ultimately it would cost jobs at the very time New Zealanders need entrepreneurs to create them.”

“Wealthy iwi groups sitting on often unproductive land would also be smashed under this scheme.  It’s bumper sticker type policy which is poorly thought through.”

“Any party that says you should raise taxes in the middle of a recession is divorced from reality. It is scary that all the work James Shaw has done to try and make the Greens more economically credible appears to be for nothing.”

Commenting specifically on the Green Party’s income support policy, Mr Williams says, “Under the Greens’ policy, a family of five with both parents on the dole would receive $1180 a week in taxpayer funds, assuming one of the kids is younger than three. That goes beyond generosity: it is using taxpayer funds to encourage long-term unemployment. Combined with the policies to tax job creators, this package would take a sledgehammer to New Zealand’s productivity.”

There’s no good time to increase taxes and a recession is an even worse time.

Recovery from the economic carnage wrought by the Covid-19 response requires investment, expansion and increased employment opportunities.

This policy will be a handbrake on all of those and an accelerator for benefit dependency which is a pathway to increased poverty.

This policy is typical of a party that’s more red than green and doesn’t understand that a greener country has to be well and truly in the black and you don’t there by taxing more.

New Zealanders gained a glimpse today of what a Labour Greens government would look like, and it involves a lot more taxes, National’s Finance spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith, said today. . . 

At a time when we need our successful small business people to invest and create more jobs, the Greens want to tax them more.

Rather than celebrating Kiwis doing well, the Greens seem to want to punish them.

The Greens never have the influence to get their way entirely, but they would push a Labour Greens coalition in the direction of higher taxes.

Labour have so far refused to rule out taxing people more if they win the election.

The very real fear many New Zealanders have is that this current government, which has $20 billion available for election spending, will spend whatever it takes to try to keep its poll numbers up until the 19 September election.

Then on the 20th, if they win, the smiles will drop and New Zealanders will be presented with the bill – higher taxes.

National has committed to no new taxes for Kiwis in our first term.

While the economy is going down, the Greens want to tax us more, and Labour haven’t ruled out doing the same.

That’s another very good reason to vote for a National/Act government that will focus on policies which foster the economic growth necessary to provide a pathway for progress.


$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.


Tania Tapsell Nat candidate for East Coast

June 7, 2020

Tania Tapsell has been selected as the National Party candidate for East Coast.

Tania is replacing current MP Anne Tolley who has held the seat for 15 years and is not seeking re-election but will be on the Party List. Tania is currently the Deputy Chairperson of the NZ Community Board Executive Committee.

“I’m very excited to be chosen as National’s candidate in East Coast. I’m looking forward meeting with the hard-working people across all parts of our electorate and helping to ensure we see a National Government come September 19,” Ms Tapsell says.

“New National Leader Todd Muller said it best – while we should take some pride in the way the country has come through the health crisis, we now face an unprecedented economic crisis that will require a different set of skills.

“East Coast is a diverse, beautiful electorate spanning from Te Puke through to Gisborne with farming, forestry, horticulture, fishing, manufacturing and tourism the backbone industries of our electorate.

“While the Government has talked big about funding from the Provincial Growth Fund, it has struggled to get these projects off the ground and generate the jobs that were predicted and needed. The people of East Coast work hard and they deserve a Government that will deliver on its promises and support it through these uncertain times.

“We need the values and experience of a National Government to help guide the East Coast, and the rest of New Zealand, out of this economic crisis.

“Todd Muller leads a strong, experienced team that can be counted on to deliver. I’m looking forward to campaigning hard to ensure East Coast continues to have strong National representation,” Ms Tapsell says.

Biographical Notes: Tania Tapsell

Tania Tapsell is currently the Deputy Chairperson of the NZ Community Board Executive Committee. She has been an elected Councillor for the past seven years and is Chairperson of the Council Operations Committee which oversees $1.2 billion in public assets. She has a passion for the environment and led the Council Sustainable Living Strategy.

Tania has a Bachelor of Management Studies Degree from the University of Waikato, diplomas in business and marketing, and is completing her Master of Management. 

Tania’s first career was in tourism and iwi organisations before she went on to work for BNZ Business Partners and then Deloitte.

Tania resides in Maketu where her Te Arawa iwi is from. Her great uncle Sir Peter Tapsell was an Eastern Māori MP and Speaker of the NZ House of Representatives.

Tania has achieved national titles in cross country and gymnastics and was selected for the NZ Maori U21 Touch team. Tania is engaged to Kanin and has an 8-year-old stepson.

While some in the media are still fixated on identity politics, Tania has been selected by party members in the electorate because she is the best person for the role.

National currently has five Maori electorate MPs, Labour has only two in general seats.

But what is more important than numbers is that National doesn’t do identity politics or tokenism. It attracts able and talented people of a variety of ethnicities who share the party’s vision of equal citizenship and equal opportunity.


Get loyal or get out

May 27, 2020

Just days after National got a new leader, Newhub reports that caucus is still leaking:

Newshub has been told by National MPs the new leadership is demanding loyalty after details of leader Todd Muller’s new staffing line-up were leaked to Newshub over the weekend.

And despite that demand of loyalty, the top-secret fortress that is the National Party caucus is already leaking like a sieve – several have shared details of the closed-door meeting with Newshub. . . 

John Key used to remind his caucus that the media was never their friends. That hasn’t changed.

What on earth do the leakers think they will achieve? They are harming the party and won’t be helping themselves.

Leaking is stupid and it’s disloyal, and if there’s two things party members hate in its MPs it’s stupidity and disloyalty.

There’s less that four moths until the election.

National is starting from behind.

Winning isn’t impossible but it won’t be easy.

It will take everybody paddling the party waka, together in harmony.  Everyone must work to not only keep it afloat but heading in the right direction, not leaking which could sink it.

Whether the leaker/s is/are motivated by utu or delusions of their own righteousness they are in the wrong.

They have a stark choice – get loyal or get out and let the rest of caucus and the party volunteers who will be working with them, get on with what matters – replacing the government with one that is far better equipped to get New Zealand out of the mess it’s in.


Talent vs tokenism

May 26, 2020

Some of us see people as people.

Only when the media started questioning why there are no Maori in the top few places of National’s new lineup did I begin thinking about race and so had a look at Labour’s lineup.

They’ve got one Maori in their top 10, it’s Kelvin Davis, the party’s deputy.

National’s number two is Nikki Kaye.

I’d back National’s talent over Labour’s tokenism any day.


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.


Another step forward together in confidence

May 23, 2020

Todd Muller’s first speech as National Party leader:

The past few months, our country has made many sacrifices.

You have made many sacrifices. You have put a lot on the line to get us through this crisis.

Now, we must begin taking another step forward together, with confidence. 

The confidence to rebuild our country, rebuild our economy and to restore the livelihoods of New Zealanders.

Only a National government can provide the leadership to do that.

That is why we must win the next election.

Nikki and I, and our team, understand that the task for the next Government is immense. We’re honoured by the opportunity to lead this Party.

We take it seriously.

I would like to thank and acknowledge Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett.

Simon has worked hard as Leader, given the job his all, and the caucus is grateful for his service.

Both he and Paula have served the Party and our country well.

Thank you to my wife Michelle and our three children for supporting me on this journey.  Kids, Dad will be home soon.

I want to pause here and acknowledge New Zealand’s tremendous response to the health crisis ravaging the world.

We should all be proud of what we’ve achieved together. 

But regardless of these efforts, COVID 19 has hurt us.

My absolute focus as National Party Leader will be New Zealand’s economic recovery.

We will save jobs, get the economy growing again and we will do so by leveraging our country’s great strengths: our people, our communities, our great natural resources, our values of hard work, tenacity, innovation and aspiration.

I know the size of this task and I will bring my all to it.

Yes, I’ve run businesses. I can read a balance sheet and a profit and loss account.  I can tell a good one from a bad one.  And yes, I’ll bring those skills to the Prime Ministership.

But that’s not what drives me.

What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; The Dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; The Mum who coaches a touch rugby team;

This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in – the economy in your community – your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.

This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand.

For too long this economy, your economy – and your life – has been invisible to decision makers in Wellington.

This must change. And under my National government it WILL change. The economy that I believe in – is the one you live in – it is the economy of your community.

If we can rebuild that – we can rebuild our country.

This is what you can expect from my leadership: First and foremost – I’m about what’s best for you and your family – not what’s wrong with the Government.

And I’m not interested in opposition for opposition’s sake. We’re all tired of that kind of politics.

I’m about ideas that get results.

I’m proud of working across Parliament on the Zero Carbon Act. 

Wherever I have the opportunity to work with other parties for our country’s good, I will do so. 

Will I criticise the government?  Yes.

But ultimately, values and ideas are what ground me.

Like the idea that you can shape your own future and are free to do so.

I believe in enterprise, reward for hard work, personal responsibility, and in the power of strong families and communities.

Fundamentally, I don’t believe that for each and everyone of us to do better, someone else has to be worse off.

Those are National’s values. They are New Zealand values.

I don’t believe the right values or the right management skills are guiding our country as it confronts its biggest challenge since the end of the Second World War.

I will lead a party that rises to the great challenges facing us as a nation.

Labour has failed against every measure it has set for itself in Government- KiwiBuild, Light Rail, child poverty, prison numbers.

If we continue on this track of talking a big game but failing to deliver, we simply won’t recognise the New Zealand we are part of in a few years’ time.

Because New Zealanders know, whether or not they support National, they can have confidence that National will meet the challenges our country faces.

New Zealand, it is time for your sacrifice to be repaid, and for your community to be rebuilt.

Today, that work has just begun.

Thank you.

Clarity, direction and positivity on a base of practical experience, this  is what the country needs.

Over at Kiwiblog, you can listen to a Taxpayers’ Union podcast interview with Todd, recorded a few days before his leadership bid.


Team National

May 22, 2020

Todd Muller is the new leader of the National Party:

Todd Muller has been elected Leader of the New Zealand National Party, the party caucus announced today.

Nikki Kaye has been elected as his Deputy.

“There is no Team Todd, there is no Team Nikki, or anyone else – there is only Team National,” Mr Muller said.

“National has always been a coalition of city and country, business and community, conservatives and liberals – National is the party for all New Zealanders.

“New Zealanders need a National Government with the experience and management skills to get our country through the worst crisis since the end of the Second World War.

“My focus as leader is our country’s economic recovery and the strengthening of every community throughout New Zealand.”

I wasn’t impressed that the announcement was leaked from caucus.

The leaking must stop. Caucus must be disciplined and united and focus on what matters – holding the government to account and running a winning campaign.


Leader must be gracious, caucus must be united

May 22, 2020

If Simon Bridges wins today’s leadership challenge he must be gracious.

Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye are both suited to their respective roles as spokespeople for agriculture and education.

Demoting them would be understandable. But leaving them their would demonstrate statesmanship and mean no valuable time would be wasted as their replacements came up to speed with new portfolios.

If the challenge succeeds the new leader must also be gracious.

Opposition leader is never an easy job and the last couple of years have been particularly difficult.

Circumstances have given the Prime Minister opportunities to shine which has left Simon in the shade. On top of this he’s faced sabotage from within and almost unrelenting negative media exposure.

There is no worse example of that then the totally unprofessional and vindictive word cloud which featured in the news a few days (and to which I’m not going to link). That crossed the line from political commentary to personal abuse, even bullying.

But time and time again he’s defied predictions of his political death and should he not do a Lazarus today, he deserves respect for tenacity and focus.

Should he make it one more time he deserves more than respect, he deserves loyalty and unity from his caucus, for his sake and the party’s.

Neither Simon nor Todd is going to out-popular the Prime Minister in the short term, but as Liam Hehir writes, personal unpopularity can be overcome by a policy platform that resonates, and a sound strategy for getting it out there.

There is, however, a big problem. Inter-party divisions do not generally affect the voting intentions of party stalwarts. There is evidence that voters who aren’t partisans, however, will use internal disagreement as a shorthand for evaluating a party’s policy chops. 

So, the path forward is clear. The first thing that must happen is settlement of the leadership question. The next thing is an end to public dissension. 

That means the winner is going to have to strike a careful balance of utu and clemency. Not enough of the former, and he (or she) will have no chance of being anything other than a lame duck. Not enough of the latter and the risk is that disagreements will be intensified. 

Any time National is talking about anything other than the economy it will be bleeding votes to Labour. If it drags on much longer, it will also start bleeding votes to NZ First. It’s the second of those which could turn a tough election into a 2002-level bloodbath. 

MPs who leak and gossip with hostile media should be called to account for risking the jobs of their compadres. Talented MPs should be brought into the fold even if they supported the unsuccessful candidate. Those who would rather reign in hell should be encouraged to explore other options. 

The shenanigans of late are a slap in the face to every unpaid volunteer who has ever stuffed mailboxes or sat through boring committee meetings or parted with their hard-earned cash to support the party’s activities. 

Those people may not abandon the party, but its parliamentary section should not be so careless about letting them down. 

I was an electorate chair when National lost the 2001 election so badly. The following year I was stuffing hundreds of envelopes asking members to pay their subs when the radio news informed me someone was publicly undermining the leader.

I fired off an email to the underminer which started with “bloody hell” and went on to say very, very clearly, how members felt about disunity.

Leaders and MPs come and go, some members do too but the base stays and if there’s one thing that upsets those who remain loyal to the party through good times and bad, it’s MPs who don’t.

New Zealand is facing dire economic times. Job losses already number in the thousands and the social consequences will soon be apparent.

The country needs an opposition focused on holding the government to account.

It needs an opposition able to show it has a plan for a better way to deal with the crisis than the current one which is focused on the quantity of its spend rather than the quality.

And it needs an opposition that shows it has the people to implement the plan who are united and working with their leader

If there’s anyone in National’s caucus who isn’t prepared to get behind whoever wins the leadership vote today s/he should get out and let those who are get on with what must be done for the sake of the party, and the country.


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.


What would change change?

May 19, 2020

Last night’s Newshub Reid Research poll has produced the inevitable proclamations of the political death of Simon Bridges.

But what would changing National’s leader change?

It wouldn’t change the circumstances that have led to the high support for Labour and its leader and the corresponding fall in support for National and its leader.

David Farrar pointed out yesterday that polls during a crisis almost always result in high support for whoever is in charge as patriotism trumps politics.

In Australia Scott Morrison has gone from a -20% net approval rating in the February Newspoll to a +26% rating in the April Newspoll.

In the UK Boris Johnson has gone from a +6% rating in March Opinium to a +29% in April.

Even in the US, Donald Trump is seeing his approval rating increase, despite a pretty terrible actual response to the crisis. Gallup had him at -9% in January and at +4% in March. . . 

The poll also showed that  91.6 percent of respondents backed the decision to go into lockdown.

What the raw number doesn’t show is whether or not that many backed the details.

I backed the lockdown but not the way decisions on which businesses could operate were based on the debatable criteria of essential instead of safety.

Sticking to the former has wrought much greater economic devastation than was necessary and day by day the impact of that on businesses, jobs and lives will be get worse.

And day by day the difference in the ability of National team and the Labour one to repair the damage will become evident.

In spite of the overexcited claims of commentators, changing leaders wouldn’t make much difference to the polls.

What will make a difference is a plan that clearly shows a better way forward for New Zealand, a better future for New Zealanders and a competent and united team to deliver it.

Labour has the unity but it doesn’t have the plan or the competence.

National has a plan and the competence. If caucus keeps its collective head and stays united it will have a much better chance of regaining popularity than if it panics and starts showing disunity because changing leaders won’t change the circumstances that fed the poll results and voters don’t vote for disunity.


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