Conspiracy censorship or . . .?

June 22, 2018

Speaker Trevor Mallard  ruled out an amendment from the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill that would have made a controversial 106-house luxury development in Northland more attractive to wealthy overseas buyers.

The amendment that exempted Te Arai property development near Mangawhai from the consent provisions of the bill was inserted by the office of Associate Finance Minister David Parker, the minister in charge of the bill.

It was included in recommendations on the bill from the Labour-chaired Finance and Expenditure Committee.

That was despite concerns from National members of the committee that the inclusion of a private exemption for Te Arai development through an amendment to a public bill was inappropriate. . . 

Richard Harman wrote a comprehensive post at Politik yesterday explainging the background to this.

National’s Amy Adams questioned the minister about the issue yesterday:

3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Associate Minister of Finance: What is the purpose of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance): There are three main purposes. The first is to ban foreign buyers of existing New Zealand homes; the second is to bring forestry registration rights into the overseas investment screening regime to ensure they’re treated similarly to existing screening for freehold and leasehold forests, whilst at the same time streamlining screening for forestry to encourage foreign direct investment in the forestry sector; and the third and equally important purpose is to preserve policy space for future Governments to protect the rights of New Zealanders to own their own land. This policy space would, in practice, have been lost forever had this Government not acted to do these things before the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) comes into effect.

Hon Amy Adams: Was it the policy intent of the bill for developers of multimillion-dollar homes targeted at foreign buyers, such as the Te Ārai property development, to be exempt?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. The transitional exemption that was put forward but has been ruled out of order was put forward with the intent of helping the iwi who had suffered long delays on the project. It was a time-limited, transitional measure. There was advice from Treasury that this was procedurally appropriate to allow an exemption. However, the Speaker has advised that the select committee’s recommendation is not within the Standing Orders. The Government accepts the Speaker’s ruling, and therefore the transitional exemption will not proceed.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, is it his intention to promulgate regulations under the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill to exempt the Te Ārai development, or any other development linked to John Darby, from the provisions of that legislation?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, and, indeed, the other regulation-making power in the bill—and the member will know this because she was on the select committee—would not allow such an exemption. . . 

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming the Minister responsible for the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, has he had any discussions about the bill and the proposed Te Ārai development exemption with the chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Michael Wood; and if so, when?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Obviously on a number of occasions, but I do that with every bill that I’m responsible for.

Hon Amy Adams: Since becoming a Minister has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted John Darby or Ric Kayne, as the beneficial owners of the Te Ārai development, or any representative of their business interests; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No. I know thousands of people in New Zealand, including Mr Darby. I have bumped into him probably once or twice in the last decade. The last time I can recall talking to him was when I bumped into him, and it’s so long ago I can’t remember when it was.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, since becoming a Minister, has he met, corresponded with, spoken to, or texted any representative of John Darby and Ric Kayne’s lobbying firm Thompson Lewis; and if so, for what purpose?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Everyone in the House will know that GJ Thompson actually was the acting chief of staff here, so I’ve regularly spoken with him—unfortunately for the member, not about this issue. Someone made me aware that Mr Lewis had some involvement in this. I have not spoken to Mr Lewis about this at all nor corresponded with him. The two meetings that I can recall having with Mr Lewis since we were elected were in respect of carbon rights and forestry, and members of staff were present at those meetings to witness them, as well. . . 

Later Matthew Hooton tweeted:

I read the column but if you click on the link now, it’s disappeared.

Is there a conspiracy, is it censorship is there really nothing to see or is there more to come?

 


Good for party not good for govt

June 15, 2018

In March Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Shane Jones calling for sacking of a board member was a step too far.

A few months later he can say what he likes:

He’s shared a personal opinion, it’s not government policy, and that’s the end of the story,” Ms Ardern told Newshub.

That might have been a personal opinion but it was also a political act and it’s not the end of the story.

Jones wasn’t invited to Fieldays as a private citizen or even an MP, he was invited because he’s a Minister and Ministers should not meddle in private businesses.

If he wants to comment on Fonterra and its board he should buy a farm, some cows and shares in the company.

And then he should still refrain from making personal attacks on board members.

But of course he was playing to the gallery.

RIchard Harman at Politik says it was a carefully calculated campaign by NZ FIrst to boost its poll ratings.

But what’s good for the party’s poll ratings is not good behaviour for a minister, good governance nor for the government.

Jones’s comments added fuel to the fire of concern already burning businesses.

They’ve made the Prime Minister look as if she can’t control her cabinet.

And they’ve added to concerns about what might happen when Jones’s leader Winston Peters is acting PM.

 


Casually wasting diplomatic capital

March 29, 2018

Is the government deliberately setting out to upset international friends?

It started with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s repeatedly sticking her nose into Australia’s affairs over Manus Island refugees.

She followed up by making the mistake of telling a story about Donald Trump mistaking her for Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s wife which she ought not to have shared.

Then came the reluctance by her and Foreign Minister Winston Peters to condemn Russia for the nerve agent poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

And now New Zealand is an international laughing stock over the PM’s claim we have no undeclared Russian spies here.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and foreign affairs minister, Winston Peters, say they would expel Russian spies from the country, if there were any.

More than 100 Russian diplomats alleged to be spies in western countries have been told to return to Moscow, in response to the use of a chemical weapon in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, a former Russia/UK double agent, and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England on 4 March.

The New Zealand government has condemned the attack and supports the international action, but says there are no such “Russian intelligence agents” in the country. . . 

The ABC explains the difference between declared and undeclared spies:

. . . Spy is the conventional term for someone who gathers intelligence overseas, without letting their host country know what they are doing.

They often present themselves as diplomats and work out of embassies, alongside declared intelligence officers.

The difference between declared and undeclared intelligence officers is that the legitimate ones present their credentials to their host country and make it known they are there to make contact and to formally share mutually beneficial information.

Spies appear on an embassy’s list of diplomats, but they are involved in gathering other intelligence.

According to Ian Lincoln, a former diplomat who is now president of the Australian Institute of International Affairs (New South Wales), spies have the same objectives as intelligence officers but use different methods, such as gathering intelligence through unofficial contacts, sometimes by finding a weakness in an individual.

John Blaxland, a professor of international security and intelligence studies, says undeclared intelligence officers pretend to comply with regular protocols, appearing at events and doing other things that make them look like regular diplomats, but on the side, they are carrying out a range of other activities. . . 

Richard Harman’s Politik morning e-newsletter says:

There has been no comment on whether any of the 16 staff with diplomatic status at the Russian Embassy [ in Wellington] may be undeclared intelligence officers — but it is a comparatively  large staff for a country which would seem to have only peripheral interests here..
In comparison’ Australia has 13; China 23 and the USA, 48. 

David Lange’s government burned off friends with its anti-nuclear policy but that was a matter of principle.

This government’s stand doesn’t look to be done on principle:

Whether or not we are seeing the emergence of a new Peters Doctrine is moot. We shall have to wait to see. But it’s curious that Labour has been dragged into this line of thinking.

It may be that Ardern & Co have an instinctive willingness to not necessarily fall in behind the great powers of the West. But is this really the time? Given the personalities in charge of what can be loosely called the West – especially President Donald Trump – there may well be a time quite soon when we want to play an independent hand. There may soon be issues where we want to stand apart from the US and other Western (or Five Eyes) allies on issues of real importance.

So why waste your card playing it now? Why raise the eyebrows – and perhaps the ire – of our traditional friends over this case? New Zealand bases its foreign policy on the international rule of law, so when there is a global consensus that Russia has blatantly and murderously broken those rules, why would we not rush to stand alongside those protesting such an action? Surely this is an opportunity to earn show some solidarity with Britain, the US and others, given that down the track we may want to spend some diplomatic capital distancing ourselves from them.

It seems a careless, overly casual and unnecessary waste of diplomatic capital; one I suspect this government will soon regret.

If the government was acting on principle its words and actions might be understood.

But rather than principle, it looks like it’s fooling round with foreign policy, carelessly and casually wasting hard-won diplomatic capital.

In doing so it’s dangerously out of step with both security and trading partners in a time when the foreign and trading environments are anything but benign.


Will Marks be rolled?

February 22, 2018

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

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

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

The waka jumping legislation hasn’t been passed yet.

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

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

 

 


NZ loses its way

November 22, 2017

For several years, New Zealand has received international attention and praise for its economic success.

Just a few weeks with a new government this commentary from Jared Dillian at Forbes is less than enthusiastic about its policies:

On September 23, the people of New Zealand elected 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern as prime minister, the youngest prime minister in New Zealand’s history. Ardern has brought youthful energy to New Zealand politics, but her scary rhetoric during the campaign (like calling capitalism a “blatant failure”) has some people wondering if she will take the country back to the bad old days of the 70s and early 80s.

New Zealand is a supply-side economic miracle. Not long ago, it was one of the most unfree economies that was not actually Communist in name. Most industry was nationalized, from telecommunications and transportation, to banks and hotels. There were strict capital controls and prohibitions on owning foreign assets. And of course punitively high tax rates, inflation, and extraordinary levels of government debt. . .

Those policies from the early 80s back are the ones which failed us.

The 1980s saw an enormous rollback in the size and scope of government, and the beginning of a supply-side revolution. Of course, economic liberalization was happening around the world at that time, but it was most dramatic in tiny New Zealand.

New Zealand enjoyed unprecedented economic growth, and leapfrogged to near the top of the economic freedom rankings, where it usually sits only behind Hong Kong and Singapore. It became one of the richest countries in the world. Part of New Zealand’s success was due to good central banking; the Reserve Bank of New Zealand was the first central bank in the world to institute a formal policy of inflation targeting, which other central banks have copied over the years, to everyone’s benefit. . . 

Inflation is theft. It steals the real value of money and it’s the poorest who are hit hardest by it.

It seems likely that New Zealand will experience a recession during Ardern’s term. Nobody is predicting a return to the bad old days of the 70s, but New Zealand will probably lose its status as one of the most open, free economies in the world. It takes decades to weaken an economy, just like it takes decades to strengthen it. But investors will probably want to avoid New Zealand for the time being.

This government has taken down the welcome sign to immigrants and inwards investment.

Richard Harman at Politik reports the Government is to put the approval of overseas purchases of farmland on hold as it gets advice from officials on how to carry out its coalition agreement with NZ First to strengthen the Overseas Investment Act.

The hold is likely to affect tens of millions of dollars of property sales and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business transactions.

POLITIK understands that the sale of one large South Island property and the potential sale of an iconic Wanaka station along with two large North Island dairy properties are likely to be caught up in the move.

It was not clear from the comments from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday whether the hold will also apply to overseas business investments – but if that is the case, there are proposed takeovers in both the oil and gas and private hospital sectors that could be affected. . . 

The sale of Icebreaker  to VF Corporation which needs OIO approval as will the sale of carpet maker Godfrey Hirst to global flooring manufacturer Mohawk Industries.

Uncertainty over the economy, the inflationary affect of a lower dollar and higher borrowing, and whether immigrants will be available to fill staff vacancies is denting business confidence.

Less confidence means businesses are less willing to take risks, including hiring more staff.

It’s very early days but if overseas investors are being warned off and local businesses are losing confidence, it’s a sign that New Zealand is losing its way.

 


Finlayson on Labour’s leadership history

July 8, 2013

Last week’s man-ban debacle has once again called into question Labour’s leadership, or lack of it.

Richard Harman gives an outline of how it happened:

Make no mistake this “Man Ban” furore has raised potentially fatal questions about David Shearer’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Here at “The Nation” last week we got a front row view of just how dysfunctional the Shearer leadership machine is.

First up, it is mind boggling that it was left to Cameron Slater and his “Whaleoil” blog to reveal that the party was proposing to allow women-only  candidate selections as part of a bid to evenly balance its gender representation by 2017.

This proposal is part of the party’s Organisational Review which began work last year.

Its proposals have already surfaced at a national conference; at local LECs and at regional conferences.

They then went to the party’s Policy Council.

Either Mr Shearer is so out of touch with what is happening inside his own party or alternatively — as one Labour source suggested to me over the weekend – he simply wasn’t listening.

But nor, apparently, were the rest of the caucus.

Or, and this is important, Mr Shearer’s media advisors.

On Friday, the chief press secretary was on a day off.

That about sums it up.

Such is the lack of urgency in the Leader of the Opposition’s office that his staff work appear to work public service hours. . .

He continues on the difficulty finding someone in labour to discuss the issue and concludes:

We now know that later on Friday an email went out to top Labour party officials advising them to shut up about the “Man Ban”.

Ms Moroney then appeared on “The Nation” with her compromise solution to the whole thing which she said she was going to put to the Caucus.

Surely the time for that was  at least a week ago before the original remit was sent out to the media.

But that would have required planning — and leadership.

We have not heard the last of this whole shambolic affair.

It’s yet another indication that Labour isn’t performing well in opposition and is therefore nowhere near ready to lead a government.

One solution to that is a leadership change and a couple of week’s ago Chris Finlayson helpfully provided a history lesson on that:

. . . One of the great questions of New Zealand history is: “Why is the Labour Party so disloyal to its leaders?”. Right through history, treachery has been the name of the game. Let us look at Arnold Nordmeyer, who provided sterling service to the Labour Party through the first and second Labour Governments. He was the MP for Ōāmaru, then the MP for Brooklyn, and then the MP for Island Bay. He was knifed by Norman Kirk. The rumblings against “Big Norm” started in the second year of his premiership, but he died before the conspirators could knife him.

Then there was my favourite Labour leader, Bill Rowling, a good and a decent man who, as Mr Mallard knows, used to live in Lohia Street, Khandallah. He was undermined by a less talented but more ruthless deputy. How often history doth repeat itself. David Lange was undermined by Mr Goff and his then ideological buddy Roger Douglas. Geoffrey Palmer was certainly an interesting person. He certainly was undermined by Helen Clark and by Mike Moore, but I have to admit that much of the undermining was done by Geoffrey just being Geoffrey.

Mike Moore was undermined by Helen Clark, who knifed him straight after the 1993 election, when Mike had gained an additional 16 seats for his party—that is loyalty for you. Helen Clark knew her history. She kept her enemies at bay, and I am not referring to just the Green Party. She saw off Annette King and Phil Goff in 1996, when they tried to knife her, and she went in 2008, before the daggers went in. Then from 2008 to 2011 we had that very angry Phil Goff, undermined from the very start by Mr Cunliffe—no wonder he is so foul-mouthed and cannot control his tongue.

I recognise that many of the names I have referred to—and I see Mr Robertson looking confused and bewildered—will be unknown to people like Mr Robertson, who have no knowledge of their party’s history, and so are doomed to relive it. It is like some kind of macabre Byzantine dance of killers. People cooperate to get rid of one leader, so that they can turn on the next one.

Then we have David Shearer, who, I think, is a very nice guy, a good and a decent man, a person who has done a lot of good overseas. But none of his dealings with central African dictatorships or Balkan civil wars could have prepared him for the leadership of the Labour Party. Poor David Shearer. He has run out of options. He has nowhere to turn. He cannot rely on his deputy and he cannot turn to his allies. I bet this morning he was reading the New Zealand Herald, looking longingly at seat 17A from Moscow to Havana.

Then we have David Shearer, who, I think, is a very nice guy, a good and a decent man, a person who has done a lot of good overseas. But none of his dealings with central African dictatorships or Balkan civil wars could have prepared him for the leadership of the Labour Party. Poor David Shearer. He has run out of options. He has nowhere to turn. He cannot rely on his deputy and he cannot turn to his allies. I bet this morning he was reading the New Zealand Herald, looking longingly at seat 17A from Moscow to Havana.

Mr Shearer has been quoted as saying that he was surprised by today’s results, but the trouble for Mr Shearer is he is simply too trusting. He is too trusting and too quick to trust people like Mr Robertson to recruit his staff to look after him. He is too quick to trust parties that are out to steal his vote. I imagine that Mr Shearer was delighted when Mr Peters shone that trademark smile and offered to work with Labour to attack the Government. I imagine he was delighted when Dr Russel Norman said: “Let me work with you to design a Stalinist energy policy, and maybe it would be a good idea if we both had a podium in the legislative chamber when we announce the speech, because it would give you more gravitas.” And now Mr Shearer is surprised that Mr Peters and Mr Norman are laughing all the way to the polling booth. In fact, he is so trusting that I have to say I really worry that the hundreds of thousands of dollars in his New York bank account are ripe for picking if a Nigerian scammer ever sends him an email. He would probably be really surprised and delighted to receive it. So what is the moral of the story? There is always a moral. I say this to the Labour Party, with the greatest of respect and affection: loyalty is what binds a party together. If you can’t trust your leader, you’re done.

And if the public can’t trust a party to run itself, we certainly can’t trust it to run the country.

If you prefer to watch and listen to the speech, the video is at the link above.


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