Resist the temptation for schadenfreude

12/08/2022

Labour supporters could be forgiven for indulging in schadenfreude this week.

They will have been watching National’s successful conference, announcement on helping young people move from welfare to work and the One News Kantar poll showing National and Act with more than 60% support being overshadowed by accusations against new Tauranga MP Sam Uffindel.

National supporters should resist the urge to take pleasure in Labour’s discomfort now the boot is on the other foot.

Labour MP Dr Gaurav Sharma has blown the whistle on bullying in parliament and is highly critical of officials and members of his own party:

Much has been said this week about bullying and the abysmal culture of our political parties which, in my opinion, continue to betray the trust of our voters. Over the last few years and under the outgoing Speaker Trevor Mallard there have been a lot of press releases to indicate that the broader work culture in the halls of Parliament is being changed for the better.

While this does sound like the right thing to do, it is – in my experience – a PR exercise to placate some of the backlash from the public in recent years. If there was any serious intent or effort to make a genuine change in Parliamentary culture, the current Speaker and the powers that be would have included Member-to-Member bullying in its terms of reference, if not initially then at least in response to the Francis Report which flagged this as a serious issue after interviewing MPs who spend upwards of 30-35 hours on the Parliamentary precinct over the three or more days we are based in Parliament on sitting weeks.

What makes this worse is the unusual legal relationship where the MPs are not employed directly by the party or Parliamentary Service, but by their own constituents who would be appalled if they saw even half of what their elected representatives have to bear in terms of harassment from inside the Parliament without anyone specific taking legal or moral responsibility for addressing these concerns.

This isn’t a new problem.

For those who need an example, Louisa Wall talked in her valedictory speech about how she was bullied by a senior Labour Party MP early in her career and despite being one of our most outspoken MPs she found out that she had no agency in the halls of Parliament when it came to her own wellbeing. If any of my more recent colleagues could speak freely, I am sure the list of similar stories with no support for MPs being bullied and no consequences for MPs bullying their colleagues would easily fill a book or two.

Crucial to addressing the bullying issue in Parliament is the role of the Parliamentary Service – which is supposed to be an independent and neutral organisation to provide support to MPs. Their own mandate states that “due to the nature of the organisation, Parliamentary Service staff must uphold the highest standards of integrity and trust. We take pride in the fact that we assist members of Parliament to carry out their roles. As well as displaying high levels of integrity, the Service looks for people with political acumen, exceptional customer service skills and an ability to work collaboratively”.

In my opinion, if only this was true.

The above Member-to-Member and Party-to-Member bullying rampant in Parliament is – I believe – promoted and facilitated by this very organisation by working behind the scenes with the Whips Office, the Offices of the Leaders of various Parties, along with the Office of the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The PM’s office – didn’t the people there hear, and act upon, the repeated entreaties to be kind?

The Parliamentary Service’s lack of accountability to both the MP and their constituents and the meddling of political parties in a triangular relationship where they end up being the fourth wheel is cause for much concern, in my view. With the way the current Parliamentary Service is run, you can go weeks and months before getting a reply to urgent issues and when they do have an answer it is seldom in writing and often from behind the desk of the party whips who – in my opinion, and based on what I have seen in my time in Parliament – use the Parliamentary Service to bully and harass their MPs “to keep them in line”. . .

 If anything, in my experience, when an MP raises serious concerns the Parliamentary Service steps back, stonewalls the conversation, ghosts the MP and throws them to the Whip’s Office to be gaslighted and victimised further so that the party can use the information to threaten you about your long-term career prospects.

Politicians especially at top of our current system and from parties across the political spectrum often talk about “changing the system” and “kindness,” but as the saying goes “charity must start at home”.

Who’s at top of our current system? Ah yes, that would be the PM who lectured us time and time again about the need to be kind.

This is very strong criticism, although without an explanation of why the MP was moved to write a column that airs his complaints in public.

He gives no specific examples and no doubt there is at least one other side to the issues raised.

This is in effect a resignation letter for even if he wanted to stand again, surely his chances of being permitted by Labour to do so are nil after these accusations against the party and its leader.

National supporters will be relieved that this might take a little of the focus off its own problems.

But this is no time for schadenfreude.

This week’s revelations and the way the media has covered them is likely to increase the plague-on-all-their-houses views of undecided voters and put good people off seeking selection as candidates.


Talent pool too shallow

14/06/2022

When you  want to go, you should go:

. . . Faafoi has lived and breathed politics, first as a press gallery reporter and then as an MP, and because of that he has good political and news judgment.

That judgement served him well when he went to the Prime Minister ahead of the 2020 election and said his heart wasn’t in it any longer.

But safe pairs of hands were few and far between in Labour’s caucus at the time so Ardern asked him to stay.

His usually sound judgment escaped him when he said yes to Ardern, and took on significant reform in the justice sector, a reset of the country’s immigration policy and the merger of state-owned RNZ and TVNZ.

“I don’t think you should take on a Cabinet position if you’re going to be half-pie about it,’’ Faafoi told Newsroom on Monday following the announcement. 

Unfortunately for the country, and especially the people badly let down by bad immigration policy and poor performance in the ministry, he has been going half-pie about his Ministerial duties.

In 2020 Faafoi was widely referred to as a “rising star’’ and tipped to go on to do great things.

But an unreasonable workload coupled with a job he only agreed to at the request of a respected friend and leader, has led to criticisms of him not being across his portfolios, a refusal to front questions on some of the big issues, and a tendency to kick the can down the road.

Faafoi gave his all to Labour and the party has done a disservice by making him stay longer than he wanted to. . .

He wanted to go before the last election but was persuaded to stay on because the Labour talent pool was too shallow.

He’s not the only one who’s stayed too long.

On the flip side, Trevor Mallard’s decision to leave Parliament after 35 years is the right one and won’t have been met with any protest from his party’s leadership.

Mallard has dedicated more than three decades to public service and for that he should be acknowledged.

But in the past couple of years Mallard has clearly lost his passion for politics and at times almost seemed to resent being at Parliament as his temperament got the better of him on multiple occasions.

Apropos of which, how can one of the least diplomatic people in parliament be considered for a diplomatic posting?

Surely the talent pool of potential diplomats is a lot deeper than that of the Labour caucus.

 


Mallard campaigning for NZ First?

04/05/2022

Two former MPs have been trespassed from parliament:

The former deputy Prime Minister has been banned from Parliament, a place he’d worked in for almost four decades.

Winston Peters has been given a two-year trespass notice after wandering through the anti-mandate protest at Parliament in February. That wander could be his last for two years. 

Speaker Trevor Mallard handed down the trespass notice after Peters spent a matter of hours speaking with protesters who illegally camped there for a month.

“We’re going to be inquiring with the Speaker as to exactly what legal advice he has taken in relation to this,” National’s Chris Bishop said.

“My understanding is he basically just went for a wander and a tiki tour.” . . .

Mallard earlier insisted trespass decisions were made by Parliamentary security, not him. But his boss said otherwise. 

“Ultimately, this is a decision for the Speaker,” Ardern said.  . . 

Mallard mishandled the protests badly.

Turning sprinklers on to soak them, and the lawn, and playing loud music.

Trespassing Peters, and former National MP Matt King, is another misjudgment that will hurt him and help Peters who has now been presented with a legitimate grievance and positive publicity.

It could even be seen as campaigning for New Zealand First by putting its leader in the spotlight like this.

He hasn’t decided whether to stand in Tauranga yet but this might persuade him to do so. Even if he doesn’t it will help him towards the 5% his party needs to return to parliament.

But surely even Mallard wouldn’t be that Machiavellian.

However, the alternative explanation is no better – it’s another massive error of judgment, more evidence that he’s not fit to be speaker, a role that requires prudence, and yet another sign he’s well past his use-by date.

That said, if Peters had a lot more self knowledge and humility than he does, he might muse on this being a consequence of his own actions in anointing Labour in 2017.


How did it come to this?

03/03/2022

Police reclaimed parliament grounds yesterday after a day of violent confrontation.

How did it come to this?

The arrival of the protest convoy was well-signalled could they have been stopped before they got to parliament?

MPs often meet delegations of protesters without agreeing to their demands or condoning their behaviour. It didn’t have to be the Prime Minister, but couldn’t at least a few other senior government MPs have listened to the protesters when they arrived?

The government is supposed to govern for all New Zealand including the marginalised. Why did they treat all the protesters with such disdain, why was there no condemnation of Trevor Mallard’s childish incitement, nor of other MPs who fed the distrust of government the protesters have by antagonising and belittling them?

Why did the label far right stick to the protest when a reliable poll showed most of the people there were not?

Image

Even if many were far right, why would a protest by people at that end of the political spectrum not be considered acceptable when multiple protests by those at the far left have been? Or should the question be: why aren’t far left protests unacceptable if far right ones are?

Protests on parliament grounds are legal, camping there is not. Could police have stopped the protesters taking in the equipment that enabled them to stay? Couldn’t vehicles blocking roads have been ticketed and/or towed, and couldn’t people blocking access to businesses and offices been moved at the start?

Peaceful protests are a democratic right. Protesting in a way that breaks laws, violates others’ rights and destroys other people’s property is not.

The government’s refusal to at least signal the way in which vaccine mandates would end and the criteria for that, engendered some sympathy for the protest.

But whatever the rights and wrongs of the arguments for and against mandates, the violence and vandalism yesterday changed a protest into a riot.

Many other seats of government are surrounded by fences and high security. The occupation and yesterday’s violent and fiery end could well end the relatively free access New Zealanders have had to our parliament and its surrounds.

How did it come to this and what can be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

Shameful as the rioting was, it is trifling compared to the death and destruction being wrought by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

How can that happen in the 20th century, 80 years after the war that started with the invasion of Ukraine’s neighbour, Poland?


Mallard must go

18/02/2022

The Free Speech Union has launched a petition calling on Parliament to remove Trevor Mallard as Speaker:

“Trevor Mallard’s conduct during the protest has degraded the office he occupies. His instruction to journalists not to engage with protestors shows a disdain for fundamental democratic principles,” says Free Speech Union spokesperson, Jonathan Ayling.

“The Press Gallery literally exists to report on parliamentary news and events. Dictating to them how they may report on a story is an unacceptable restriction on press freedom which has a critical role in our democracy, now more than ever. Freedom of the press is founded on free speech, and it protects our basic liberties by giving us access to credible information.”

“It was especially alarming to hear the Speaker made the Press Gallery Chair relay to Barry Soper that there would be ‘consequences’ if he continued to ignore his instruction – that is to say, if he continued to do his job as a member of the free and independent media.”

“Similar comments by a Minister at another time would rightly result in the Prime Minister demanding their resignation. The Speaker’s disdain for democracy is palpable. Only his removal can restore dignity to his office.”

You can sign the petition here.


Time for gown ups

14/02/2022

Threatening people, blocking public thoroughfares and damaging property are not justified no matter the merits of, and vehemence of, views behind a protest.

But among the mad and bad in the crowd surrounding parliament are a lot of people who deserve to be heard.

That doesn’t mean agreeing with them, it does mean giving them the courtesy of listening to them and at least attempting to understand their concerns.

Not only have no MPs attempted to engage with any of the protestors, Speaker Trevor Mallard has requested all members of the press gallery to stay away from them.

Trevor Mallard is essentially preventing members of the press gallery from going anywhere near the protesters.

There’s no dispute the protest was ugly and disruptive. Few of us will have sympathy for assaults on police officers, selfish disruption to businesses from cars parked across Wellington’s Molesworth St, or the hassling of passers-by for wearing masks.

Few of us will applaud placards calling for the execution of politicians and members of the media.

But we also know those are fringe elements. Not everyone there was violent or disruptive. And there were dozens of police keeping watch. In normal, pre-pandemic conditions press gallery members would regularly and freely interview demonstrators.

That’s their job and if they’re not able to do it, alternative media takes over and it’s the fringe elements whose views are heard and seen.

And yet, this is at least the third pandemic protest where most members of the press gallery have got no closer to the protest than standing on the Speaker’s balcony, watching the scene from a floor above.

Apparently, Mallard did not instruct media to stay on the balcony. It was a “request” based on health and safety concerns. But again, judge for yourself.

A member of the press gallery did venture out in spite of this “request”. Disclaimer: it was NewstalkZB’s Political Editor Barry Soper. He’s both my colleague and my husband so I freely admit my bias here.

After spotting Barry out among the protesters on Wednesday, Mallard called the press gallery’s deputy chair to remind him of the “request” that media not use the forecourt to meet the protesters. This request was repeated to Barry, who ignored it and went out a second time that afternoon. Mallard then called the press gallery’s chair to remind her of the “request”. Again, it was passed on to Barry. If a “request” is repeatedly given without solicitation, it starts to look like an instruction.

Mallard should consider the chilling effect he may be having on members of the media, given the power he wields in that building, including the ability to withdraw permission to work in the gallery. It is notable that at least one newsroom dispatched reporters who don’t work in Parliament to cover the protest on the ground, while their press gallery colleagues stayed on the balcony.

Mallard should also consider that the duty of care for the safety of members of the media actually lies with the editors those media report to, not with him.

Finally – and most importantly – he should consider the message this sends to the protesters. TVNZ reporter Kristin Hall observed and tweeted that “protesters are resentful of media standing above them on the parly balcony”. Many of them are already so steeped in conspiracies that they believe the mainstream media are censoring their views and are paid off by the Government. It’s hardly helpful for Mallard to reinforce the conspiracy nonsense by essentially restricting media movement.

Literally looking down on the protestors feeds their belief that the media is figuratively looking down on them too.

Absolutely, there is a fine line in media coverage of protests like this. No one wants to give oxygen to lunatic fringe theories. But we should want to understand the motivations for the protest. . . 

Among the protestors are those who accept the need for vaccinations and are vaccinated but have valid concerns about mandates and their consequences.

We’re currently witnessing a breakdown in the country’s social cohesion. The pandemic is widening divisions. The passion behind this protest is proof. We all know the only way to avoid that getting worse is to understand each other. But we won’t understand each other unless we talk to each other.

That’s the role of the media. Reporters are meant to report. In order to report, they need to talk to people.

As angry and disruptive as some of those protesters were, they’re still our fellow Kiwis. As Speaker, Mallard should be doing everything to try to help heal divisions, not make them worse.

 Mallard’s request to the press gallery to stay away from the protestors has fed into conspiracy theories about the media and his actions over the weekend aggravated matters.

Turning on sprinklers was provocative, stupid and possibly unlawful.

Doing it when the lawn was saturated, rain was forecast was environmentally irresponsible.

Doing it when Wellington is under water restrictions looks like civil disobedience.

People who live and work near parliament are being inconvenienced by the protest, Mallard’s loud music added to the problems they’re experiencing encouraged the protestors to make more noise. Where were the noise control people and did the police on duty at the protest have ear protection?

Mallard is  acting like a child which is not only inappropriate for the office he holds, it is also encouraging the protestors and gaining them sympathy.

It is high time for grown ups to step up.

Every party in parliament accepts the science that backs the need for vaccines. So do some of the people protesting. Right from the start their message was they were anti-mandate, not necessarily anti-vax.

That people who are anti-vax and others with unrelated gripes with the government have joined the protest has muddled the message.

But it should be possible for at least a few MPs to listen to the concerns about mandates without prejudice.

When the only government representative doing something is being juvenile, there’s a golden opportunity for the Opposition to be the gown ups.

If, as is possible, they don’t think they can do that by going out among the crowd, they could invite a few of the protestors in where they can listen without danger of being interrupted or sidetracked by the more militant in the crowd.

That won’t be easy when there appears to be no individuals leading the protest but it shouldn’t be impossible to find a few people who can give a reasoned expression of their opposition to mandates.

That might not lead to a resolution but it ought to improve understanding and that would be a plank in the bridge to progress.

It would also provide an opportunity to reinforce that this is a mess of the government’s making.

If it wasn’t for the slow vaccination rollout and the control freakery that first prevented the import of rapid antigen tests and more recently has led to the requisitioning of the ones businesses had ordered, there might well be no need for mandates, or at least a clear pathway towards an end to them.


Distance doesn’t always lend enchantment

26/01/2022

Distance proverbially lends enchantment to the view, but Dan Wooton, an ex-pat Kiwi, looking home from London is less than impressed:

. . . Many Kiwis have become so brainwashed by Ardern’s incessant spin – swallowed whole by a compliant liberal media – that they reacted with a mere shrug when her government at the weekend revealed citizens who are household contacts of anyone who tests positive for Covid will have to self-isolate for a whopping 24 days as part of her ‘stamp it out’ policy approach. 

Has anyone in government stopped to think about the impact this would have on hospitals, schools, other workplaces and supply chains if – as is very unlikely – people actually did this?

After just nine confirmed Omicron cases, Ardern then plunged the entire country into red alert, a form of lockdown that bans large gatherings, enforces mask mandates, makes Covid passports compulsory if you want to live normally as part of a ‘two-tier society’, and reintroduces work from home orders.

Ardern even cancelled her long-planned wedding to TV star fiancé Clarke Gayford in the ultimate act of virtue signalling aimed at showing New Zealanders she’s going through the hell of lockdown too.

While most governments have tried to quell public panic over Omicron, given the proven mild nature of the variant, Ardern’s regime has done the opposite.

Once again the government has failed to prepare and instead is stoking panic.

Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard – an Ardern loyalist from the ruling Labour party – warned panicked citizens to prepare as if they were facing an ‘earthquake’ by stocking up on emergency supplies, which helped spark an inevitable run on toilet paper.

He also tweeted criticism of Wootton, contravening the convention that the Speaker doesn’t indulge in political point scoring.

Remember panic buying? While the rest of the world is finally waking up to the need to live with Covid long-term, New Zealand remains trapped in March 2020, with terror and paranoia enveloping a country that was once famous for producing hard men like Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary, fearless rugby giant Jonah Lomu and bunjee jump inventor AJ Hackett.

Rather than preparing for the inevitable over the past two years, socialist Ardern is hamstrung by a creaking health system with less than 200 intensive care beds to service five million citizens.

Perversely, she has banned international doctors and nurses from travelling to New Zealand – even Kiwi ones wanting to return home to work – meaning there are chronic staff and resource shortages.

The health system was ailing before the pandemic. The government’s failure to allow health professionals already here to stay, and to fast track immigration for others overseas has exacerbated it.

It’s not just hospitals that are understaffed., rest homes have empty beds because they can’t employ enough carers and nurses.

And while Ardern will never admit it publicly, she’s gripped with the terror that her decision to pursue a Zero Covid policy long-term is unravelling.

New Zealand has virtually no natural immunity, making the country far more vulnerable to Omicron than other countries.

Meanwhile, Kiwis have bought into Ardern’s message that eliminating the virus is not only desirable but possible.

Even a 90 per cent vaccinated country is not enough to reassure most Kiwis who have been manipulated by Ardern into believing that Covid is some sort of black plague that leaders like Boris Johnson have allowed to run rampant, to hell with the consequences.

Illness and deaths from Covid-19 have been much worse in most other countries, but at least some of the credit for the low toll here was down to our isolation and luck rather than good management.

Finally, the world is waking up to the insanity of the New Zealand approach as Ardern’s policies become increasingly draconian.

Keeping passport holders like me out of the country is also illegal, given the country’s Immigration Act guarantees that ‘every New Zealand citizen has, by virtue of his or her citizenship, the right to enter and be in New Zealand at any time’.

Instead, Ardern has instituted a sick Squid Game-like national lottery that dictates whether we can return home at all. . . 

Grounded Kiwis’ legal challenge has been delayed but Kiwiblog has the story of the family who managed to stay in Auckland after arriving in transit, and the opinion of two lawyers who confirm New Zealanders have the right to come home at any time.

What’s most sickening is that to keep locals happy, foreign DJs, musicians, performers, sportspeople and film stars have been allowed in to continue with the veneer of life as normal.

Miraculously, the Kiwi superstar singer Lorde was able to win one of the spots in Ardern’s Squid Game lottery (my poor mum didn’t), which meant she was able to return to the country just in time to perform at Ardern’s now-cancelled summer wedding spectacular. Forgive me for being cynical about whether the lottery is fair.

The Herald had a story correcting social media claims Lorde had skipped MIQ. But it ignored the question of whether or not she got a priority spot. It is possible she struck it lucky in the MIQueue lottery when 10s of thousands of others have not, but if that’s the case, why wasn’t that part of the story?

Meanwhile, a lobby group called Grounded Kiwis has crowd-funded to sue the government, while stranded citizens are now considering using sail boats from Australia as the only means to return to the country with all flights cancelled.

Many New Zealanders will think I’m deeply disloyal for writing this column.

Some will troll me on social media, just as they have attacked helpless Kiwis overseas throughout this pandemic. We chose to live out of the country, after all, they say. Or, if you’re to believe many calls to local talk radio, we’re ‘sewer rats’ intending to infect healthy Kiwis with the dreaded ‘rona.

The local media used to cover my every achievement like a proud distant relative. They revelled in the fact I broke the bombshell story of Megxit in my parent’s living room in Wellington over Christmas in 2019, the last time I was able to return to my birthplace.

But since I have been critical of Ardern’s cruel Covid policies, if I am referenced in the media at all, it is as a ‘foreigner’.

Instead of addressing the message, they criticise the messenger.

Any criticism of Ardern and her policies is taken as a direct attack on New Zealand itself.

Civil resistance and protests are strong and common, but all dissenters are either ignored in the largely pro-Ardern media or portrayed as mad anti-vaxxers.

There is no perspective; no analysis of the data or the economic consequences of her decisions; only hysteria that Ardern has tapped into as some sort of smirking soothsayer. . . 

Rumours abound that Ardern hopes to let the border closures go on as long as possible because if she manages to keep Kiwis out of the country for over three years they will be unable to vote in the next general election, where they are widely expected to try and boot her from office.

Throughout the Covid crisis Ardern has attempted to bring New Zealanders together using the hackneyed phrase, ‘We’re a team of five million.’

She is factually wrong, however, because there are six million Kiwis across the globe.

A million of them have been effectively banned from their own country for over two years – and we’re never going to forget it.

The time has come for the international media to stop presenting Ardern as a Covid hero.

Her policies have been nothing short of wicked for Kiwis trapped overseas and her country now provides proof that the isolationism of Zero Covid is downright dangerous. 

Our media has delighted in stories of overseas praise for Ardern from people who are famous for being well-known, and quelle surprise, yesterday when Wootton’s opinion piece was covered, there was another one from a fan.

Distance is leading enchantment to some views, it won’t nearly as rosy for those desperate to return home, a policy that makes New Zealand stand out in the world for a very wrong reason.

Not all of us here are following the pro-Ardern party line. We are worried about not just the lack of preparedness for the Omicron variant, the control freakery that stopped us trying to look after ourselves with rapid antigen tests, and its heartless disregard for citizens stuck overseas, but other problems of the government’s making or on which it has made no progress too.

In no particular order that includes inflation which is predicted to reach the highest level in 30 years, ridiculously high house prices, the lack of action on the appalling rate of child abuse, the $50m plus wasted on the bike bridge to nowhere. . .

Then there’s the time and money being wasted on changes to the health system instead of addressing much-needed improvements to services and the three waters debacle, both of which are made worse by the government’s racist agenda which is creating two types of citizenship where some are a lot more equal than others.

Those praising as they view from afar, are seeing what the government is happy for them to see. Others, like Wootton, and at least some of us here, haven’t bought into the enchantment and have very real concerns about the state of our nation and its abandonment of citizens abroad.


Playing the racism card

13/05/2021

Anyone else getting sick of people playing the racism card?

The two Maori Party MPs have been trying it in parliament, accusing Opposition MPs who question policy which affects Maori of being racist.

It came to a head yesterday after National leader Judith Collins raised questions over co-governance proposals:

As Collins questioned Ardern about “separate sovereignty” in Parliament, Waititi interrupted her and asked the Speaker to step in. Collins could be heard scoffing as she was forced to sit down.

“Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance and advice,” Waititi said. “Over the past two weeks there has been racist propaganda and rhetoric towards tangata whenua. That not only is insulting to tangata whenua, but diminishes the mana of this House.”

House Speaker Trevor Mallard dismissed Waititi’s disruption, ruling that the conversation was “not at the point” where it was controversial enough to need to be stopped. 

Waititi continued to interrupt Collins and was kicked out of the House. He responded by performing a rousing haka, before departing the Chamber. 

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson also described Collins’ remarks as racist, and congratulated Waititi and Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer for calling her out. 

Davidson said Collins’ “ongoing racist comments” needed to be addressed. 

“This House absolutely deserves better than a narrative that harms tangata whenua communities and damages a pathway for true Tiriti justice.” . . 

What this House and this country deserve is the ability to raise questions about policy that affects us all, and appears to favour only some of us, without  the racism card being played.

Such accusations of racism aren’t confined to parliament. They’re too often made in response to genuine and reasonable questions about, and criticism of, any policies about, or which affect, Maori people.

If making accusations of racisms against questioners and critics of policies is the only reaction those disagreeing with the questions and criticisms have, they’re showing they don’t actually  have any reasonable grounds for argument.


Anything but kind

25/03/2021

Court documents have provided National with fuel to renew calls for Speaker Trevor Mallard to resign:

The legal threats used by Trevor Mallard to silence a Parliamentary staffer who he falsely accused of rape make him unfit to continue as Parliament’s Speaker, Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop says.

National has received the statement of claim by the plaintiff, lodged in the High Court as part of defamation proceedings, which alleges Mr Mallard repeated his false allegation against the staffer in public even after he was told by Parliamentary Service that it was incorrect.

The document also shows Mr Mallard, who has admitted he knew within 24 hours of making the initial claim that he made a mistake, informed the staffer, through lawyers, that he would not apologise, would not pay damages, did not accept the staffer had been defamed, would prove what he said about the staffer was true, and would defend any claim “vigorously”.

Mr Mallard, via his lawyers, said that should the staffer pursue litigation, “the question of his reputation, and his conduct, will be very much the centrepiece of any public proceeding”.

It took about 18 months before Mr Mallard finally settled with the staffer and apologised for “distress and humiliation”. The matter cost taxpayers $333,641.70 in the form of a $158,000 ex-gratia payment to settle the legal claim, $171,000 in fees to Dentons Kensington Swan and $4641.70 to Crown Law for advice to the former Deputy Speaker.

Trevor Mallard has lost the confidence of the Opposition over his handling of this matter and should not continue as Speaker of the House, Mr Bishop says.

“Trevor Mallard behaved in a threatening and bullying way. This wasn’t just a ‘mistake’, as he tried to portray it. His behaviour is unbecoming of someone whose job it is to uphold the standards and integrity of Parliament.

“He is in a position of immense power and has used this power to try and silence a former employee. The irony is that he has exhibited the exact behaviour the Francis review was commissioned to stamp out: bullying.”

National has sought the leave of Parliament to debate a motion of no confidence in Mr Mallard on several occasions this term, but they have been continually blocked by Labour.

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins wrote to the Prime Minister on March 16 to inform her of this latest information regarding Mr Mallard.

“The Prime Minister and her Labour MPs need to ask themselves whether this is the sort of behaviour they’re prepared to keep defending,” Mr Bishop says.

“In any other workplace in New Zealand, Trevor Mallard would be sacked. What’s good for any other workplace should be good for Parliament as well.”

Making the accusation without proof was wrong.

Failing to apologise as soon as he knew he was wrong made it worse.

Allowing the legal process to continue when he knew he was wrong compounded the wrongdoing.

That the legal process included threats should the accused man pursue litigation is unacceptable behaviour from anyone let alone the Speaker.

This could all have been avoided had Mallard apologised as soon as he knew his accusation was groundless.

It could have been avoided had PM Jacinda Ardern done the right thing by seeking his resignation months ago.

Allowing the matter to fester is anything but kind to the man who was wrongly accused and who lost his job as a result of that.

It is also anything but kind to the taxpayer who has already had to pick up the bill for legal costs and could well face even heavier payments for more legal fees and compensation.

The PM says she always reads letters from children. She should not only read but act on this one:

The transcript of Bishop’s speech is after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »


Partisanship trumps right for right and left

15/02/2021

Partisanship from Republicans allowed former USA President Donald Trump to escape impeachment.

. . .The final vote, 57-43, fell 10 short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection. . . 

In the vote, seven of the 50 Senate Republicans joined the chamber’s unified Democrats to convict Trump, but it was not enough to find him guilty. . . 

Those seven let right overrule the partisanship that led the rest of their colleagues to vote against impeachment.

At least there were seven with the courage to vote against their party.

No-one at all in Labour stood up for what was right when Chris Bishop moved a vote of no confidence in the Speaker Trevor Mallard    which Barry Soper says shows their hypocrisy:

Jacinda Ardern preaches about it time and again: How we should all be kind to each other and to look after our wellbeing.

Well, the Prime Minister’s just lost all moral authority to preach to us about niceness, because on that score she’s failed miserably – and so have her Labour sheep in Parliament.

You just had to hear them bleating in Parliament’s debating chamber as National’s Chris Bishop attempted against all odds to move a vote of no confidence in Speaker Trevor Mallard. . . 

If they were an open and transparent Government, if they were democratic and prepared to have the country listen to why National’s lost confidence in Mallard, they could have remained silent and the debate could proceed, even if at the end of it Mallard would remain in his job.

Perhaps they felt the argument for removing him would have been so overwhelming – and it would have been – that their defence of him would have burned their political capital in bucket loads.

So in reality they are now telling us it’s okay to call a man a rapist, to ruin his life leaving him bereft and jobless? Well, that would seem to be the case.

For Ardern to simply say Mallard made a mistake and he’s atoned with an apology for it is simply not good enough.

Within 24 hours of labelling the man a rapist, Mallard says he realised he was wrong. But he waited for 18 months, leaving the taxpayer with a $330,000 legal bill, before he admitted it. He waited for the last day Parliament was sitting to make public his dreadful mistake and issue an apology, on the same day that the Royal Commission into the mosque shootings delivered its report and knowing Ardern had finished her round for media interviews for the year.

This was simply his attempt to bury it, to hope no one noticed.

Mallard may be safe in his job but is now without any moral authority.

Not only has he no moral authority his inability to do the right thing after besmirching a man’s reputation with an unwarranted slur that cost him his job and his health, his colleagues in standing with him have lost some of theirs too.


Wasting time

12/02/2021

I wasted my time yesterday making a submission on the Bill that seeks to trample’s over local democracy.

I submitted:

I write to oppose the Local Electoral (Maori Wards and Maori Constituencies) Amendment Bill.

The Bill undermines local and direct democracy and I oppose both the manner in which it is being rushed through urgency and the Bill itself.

  1. Local body election are nearly two years ago, that’s plenty of time to let the Bill go through the proper democratic process without ramming it through under urgency. .
  2. Decisions on local government should be made by local people in their own local communities. Aiming to abolish the right of ratepayers to veto decisions by councils to establish Maori wards without a community mandate, as this Bill does is an unprecedented attack on local government democracy.
  3. The percentage of Maori councillors is very close to the percentage of Maori in New Zealand. They got elected on their merits not race, they don’t need this patronsing legislation.  Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta claimed in her media release, “Polls have proven to be an almost insurmountable barrier to councils trying to improve the democratic representation of Maori interests. This process is fundamentally unfair to Maori. Increasing Maori representation is essential to ensuring equity in representation and to provide a Maori voice in local decision making.”That is wrong. A survey carried out by Local Government New Zealand in October 2020, showed the proportion of Maori elected to local authorities is now 13.5 percent. With the 2018 census showing Maori as 13.7 percent of the adult population, there is no under or inequitable representation.
  4. It is racist to suggest there is a single Maori view on rates, rubbish, and other business that local authorities deal with; and that Maori can only be represented by Maori. 
  5. The argument that no veto applies to any other change of wards is irrelevant. Changes to wards are administrative not political; they do not change the voting system which Bill proposes to do. If however, the minister thinks the difference between changes to general wards and the establishment of Maori wards is the problem then legislation should be ammended to allow petitions to veto ward changes. This would enhance democracy not trample it as this Bill does.
  6. Parliament should be focusing on the many far more important issues confronting local government and the country.
  7. This measure was not part of Labour’s election manifesto.

Conclusion

I oppose this Bill because in a democracy the voting system is sacrosanct and needs protecting to prevent those in power from manipulating it. I support local people in local communities making decisions about their local government, not central government running roughshod over the top. I’m not opposed to communities establishing Maori Wards, but the people affected by that decision should have a say in it.

The 78 councils across NZ already have well established obligations, under legislation, to work with Māori and help the Crown comply with its Treaty obligations. They should work out together how best to improve and deepen their relationship.

There is no good reason why this change is so critical and the most pressing priority right now with everything else that is going on in the local government sector.

This Bill is being rammed through under a shameful, arrogant and undemocratic process with no meaningful public consultation.

It didn’t take long thanks to some inspiration from the New Zealand Centre for Political Research and the National Party

Why was I wasting my time?

Because the whole process is a sham, only one day was allowed for submissions and they will be ignored.

So why did I bother submitting?

Because the government should be left in no doubt that this process is an affront to democracy and the Bill itself is unnecessary.

This is the second instance Labour has burned its political capital this week.

Neither National’s attempt to pass a vote of no confidence in the Speaker Trevor Mallard nor this Bill and the way it is being rammed through under urgency may matter to anyone but political tragics now.

But political capital is far easily lost than won and burning some of that precious commodity so early in the sitting year provides the Opposition with the opportunity to keep stoking the fire that will, sooner or later, become hot enough for voters to notice and move away.


Wrong & dishonourable

10/02/2021

Trevor Mallard is entitled to be could the Right Honourable.

His allegations that a parliamentary staffer was a rapist, allowing the saga to drag on and only making a very belated apology months later, after litigation and a payment of more than $300,000 for his own and the staffer’s legal costs were wrong and dishonourable.

National moved a vote of no confidence in him yesterday.

Shadow leader of the House Chris Bishop said the attempt to out Mallard was “a matter of principle”.

“We’re very clear that his behaviour is not up to the job of the Speaker.

“It’s just simply not appropriate to have the Speaker of the House besmirching the dignity of Parliament in the way that he has and failing to uphold the standards of the House that he himself is in charge of enforcing,” said Bishop. . . .

The vote wasn’t allowed.

National will try again today but are very unlikely to win.

That might not be all bad for the opposition because it will ensure the matter continues to fester and provide them with opportunities to point out that in opposing the motion Mallard’s Labour colleagues are neither honourable nor right too.


An expensive week

18/12/2020

It’s been a very expensive week for the taxpayer.

There’s the $333,641.70 Parliamentary Services paid for Trevor Mallard’s loose lips – and that’s likely to increase once an employment dispute is settled.

That was followed by the steep increase to the minimum wage, which might add to costs of the lowest paid in the public service and will add costs to all businesses.

As Lindsay Mitchell pointed out it will also increase the cost of benefits.

. . . Down the track it will lift the incomes of many more now that beneficiary rates  are linked to wage inflation. . . 

. . .It makes life harder for businesses and there is no increased certainty about supply of labour if benefit payment rates are competing. Earlier Henry Cooke calculated, “…benefits will go up between $27 and $46 a week by April 2023 – between $10 and $17 a week higher than they would under the old formula.”

To maintain relativity employers will be pressured to raise the wages of those above the minimum wage and are likely to pass their increased costs along to customers and nobody will be any the better for it.

It’s going to be difficult for the Reserve Bank to keep a lid on inflation. . . .

Inflation will negate any benefit from wage increases.

Then there’s the $29.9m paid to Fletcher Building for the land it was to develop for housing at Ihumātao.

It’s not just this payment, it’s the damage it’s done to property rights and the risk it poses to Treaty settlements:

National’s finance spokesman, Michael Woodhouse, said taxpayers were paying for the Government’s bungling of a land dispute.

“Taxpayers aren’t a bank to be called upon to clean up the Government’s poor decisions, particularly when it is meddling in private property rights,” Woodhouse said.

“The Prime minister should never have involved herself in the Ihumātao dispute and taxpayers shouldn’t bailing her out now.

“The ramifications of this Crown deal go much further than the lost opportunity of building houses immediately. It will call all full and final Treaty settlements into question and set a dangerous precedent for other land occupations, like the one at Wellington’s Shelly Bay.

“More than 20,000 Kiwi families are on the waiting list for a home this Christmas. The Government should not be spending $30 million on stopping 480 much-needed houses from being built right now.” . . 

The costs aren’t just financial.

The man defamed by Mallard lost his job and now has health problems.

The steep increase in the minimum wage will cost jobs and could be the last straw for businesses already in a precarious state.

And the political interference at Ihumātao has cost 480 desperately needed houses.

This is a very expensive start to the new government’s term.


Mallard digs deeper

17/12/2020

Trevor Mallard was in a hole before yesterday’s select committee and Heather du Plessis-Allan shows he kept digging:

. . . It turns out $330,000 is not the end of the Mallard clean-up bill us taxpayers are paying. We are in the gun for more. 

As we know, the $330,000 is for Mallard’s legal bills and an ex-gratia payment to the man he accused of rape 

But the man might yet also be paid out by Parliamentary Services, his employer at the time of Mallard’s allegation 

He’s taken a claim – perhaps a personal grievance for the circumstances under which his employment ended 

Now already the taxpayer legal bill for dealing with THAT claim is $37,500.  We don’t know if that’s the end of the legal costs there.  So add that to the $330,000. 

Then there could be a pay out as well.  And the chances of that are high given that it is now in the public domain that Mallard has admitted to defaming the man.  The man’s original claim was for $450,000, so this bill could be high. 

Again, add that to the $330,000. 

So far it appears the man who was falsely accused has had his legal costs covered but received no compensation for the accusation and the loss of his job that ensued.

But what makes this worse, if that’s even possible, is that Mallard did not admit there was more money due when he was asked about it. 

In my opinion, he misled the public with his answer. 

He was asked by Chris Bishop if there was “any further money to be paid”, and Mallard answered “there is no further money to be paid”. 

But then, just over a minute later, the chief executive of parliamentary services, Rafael Gonzalez-Montero admits “there is still a claim against the Parliamentary Service”. 

Michael Woodhouse asks: “Is the committee now hearing that $330,000 is not necessarily the end of the matter in terms of cost to the taxpayer?”

Gonzalez-Montero answers “yes”.

So, not only has the speaker used our money to tidy up his mistakes, but he’s not been totally transparent about exactly how much money it’s costing us.  . . 

The false accusation of rape was bad enough.

Knowing it was false within about 24 hours and not doing immediately admitting that and apologising made it worse.

Letting the whole sorry saga drag out all these months compounded the trouble he’d caused and the expense to the taxpayer.

Saying that no more money was due only to be contradicted moments later raises even more questions.

The initial false accusation was appalling behaviour for anyone, let alone the speaker.

Each time Mallard digs deeper makes it worse not just for him but for the office he holds and the deeper he digs the more validity he gives to calls for his resignation.

The longer this goes on the more political capital he burns for Labour its leader and the more it all undermines their claims to kindness, openness and transparency.


No coincidence

15/12/2020

Had it not been for Barry Soper who had an exclusive interview with the man Trevor Mallard accused of being a rapist, we might never have known the disastrous impact Trevor Mallard’s loose lips had on his victim.

. . . In a two hour sit down discussion in his home, the devastated man said “The accusation of rape has put me in a very dark place”. 

“I was driving to Parliament the day after the bullying and harassment report on the place was delivered and heard on the radio that a ‘rapist’ could be stalking the corridors and it disturbed me greatly,” he said.

However early that afternoon he realised he was the so called ‘rapist’ when he was summoned into the office of the Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero to be stood down. A colleague at the centre of an unsubstantiated complaint against him three years earlier had come forward again after complainants were urged to do so by The Speaker.

“At no time was I spoken to by the review’s head Debbie Francis which I thought I would have been considering an alleged incident had been investigated and was found to be without merit.

“It’s ironic that the review was about bullying and harassment. I feel I’ve been bullied out of Parliament and harassed within it, particularly by the Speaker’s claim,” the teary-eyed man said.

He said his family was dumbfounded, they couldn’t believe he could be accused of sexual misconduct. . . 

That interview was in May last year.

Last week, on the day most media and public attention was on the release of the Royal Commission’s report on the Mosque murders, Mallard released an apology?

Are we expected to believe the timing was coincidental?

Are we also expected to believe the timing of the rule change allowing costs for all MPs’ court settlements to be covered by taxpayer funds, after Mallard was sued for making the remarks, was coincidental?

At the same time Speaker Trevor Mallard was being sued for defamation, he changed the rules so other MPs could also have theirs covered by the taxpayer without disclosing it publicly.

National and Act leaders yesterday said they no longer had confidence in the Speaker after he revealed he’d cost the taxpayer more than $330,600 settling a case after incorrectly calling a former Parliamentary staffer a rapist.

It has also now come to light that the rules for when MPs can claim legal costs when they’re being sued were expanded by the Speaker in August so damages and settlements can come from the public purse.

Those applications have to be signed off by the party leader, the Speaker and chief executive of Parliamentary Service. . . 

The timing of neither was a coincidence.

Releasing the apology that day must have been a deliberate attempt to bury it while attention was focused elsewhere. Changing the rules at the very least was opportunistic.

National and Act have both announced they have lost confidence in Mallard as speaker and they are not alone:

Barry Soper explains why he should resign:

National’s lost confidence in him and Labour, the party that preaches wellbeing and kindness, surely will have no choice but to vote against his continuing in the role.

Labour does have a choice : do they, and their leader want to squander political capital protecting Mallard?

It’s been confirmed that the almost $334,000 in legal costs have been paid out by the taxpayer. Why? Well Mallard had the rules changed after he made his outrageous comment to protect him from having to pay the bill for something he should have known would go against him.

The tragedy in all of this is that the man he accused of a terrible crime, who spoke exclusively to me after the Mallard allegation last year, has suffered serious health issues since he was sent packing and it looks as though he will get nothing from the settlement.

Lawyers for both sides got five-figure payments, The accused man lost his job and his health but it appears he got no compensation.

Mallard must have known his rape claim was false last year, but waited until after the election and much litigation to apologise. If he’d done it last year he would have faced a no confidence vote in Parliament and would likely be gone, as New Zealand First was unlikely to support him.

It’s difficult to fathom why he unsuccessfully demanded the man’s name be made public, other than to cause embarrassment.

It demeans the inquiry into bullying and harassment Parliament launched with great fanfare by Mallard and consultant Debbie Francis. The silence of Francis was deafening when the claim of rape was made.

It shows how the powerful can ride roughshod over the powerless. If the Parliamentary staffer hadn’t spoken to me, this would have been swept under the carpet.

It shows how manipulative the Speaker, ranked as the third most important role in the country after the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, can be in releasing his apology late on the day of the Royal Commission on the mosque shootings and on the eve of the first anniversary of the Whakaari/White Island eruption. . . 

Heather du Plessis-Allan also says Mallard must go:

. . .I don’t believe Mallard should have been given the role. In my opinion the role should have been given to someone who has the respect of their colleagues, control of their temperament and can suspend their party bias.

Mallard is, by contrast, not well-liked in Parliament, has a history of ill-judged behaviour (including punching Tau Henare and saying he wanted to shove a Heineken in an “uncomfortable” part of a rugby official’s body) and has been accused of bias in the debating chamber through his apparent attempts to protect the Prime Minister. . . 

He is a bad look for Labour. For a party that makes a big claim of kindness and wellbeing, it’s a terrible look to promote and defend a senior MP who did the opposite of kindness to a working-class Kiwi.

Mallard should resign, for the sake of his party and the Office of the Speaker. In my view, his conduct is unbecoming of both . . .

Kerre McIvor said the defamation debacle stinks:

. . .  Bad enough that Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard falsely accuses a parliamentary staffer of rape, but while he was being sued for defamation by the aforementioned staffer, he was part of a very quiet rule change. . .

There’s several things about this that stink. One, that Mallard should have been involved in a scheme to extend protection from financial consequences across all of Parliament at a time when he was trying to save his own sorry skin in a defamation suit – a suit he must have known he would lose.

And two, that on the day the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque shootings released its findings, the Speaker of the House used the distraction to issue an apology to the staffer involved, knowing full well that his apology would be buried under the huge number of stories on the inquiry and its recommendations.

He’s not the first person to have done this and he won’t be the last – of any party – but it’s a cynical, shabby move. He’ll be hoping the story will simply disappear over summer and that by the time the House sits in the new year, all will be forgiven and forgotten.

National and Act have declared the Speaker must resign and that his behaviour is such that he no longer has their confidence. A vote of no confidence will surely fail because of the enormous majority Labour enjoys in the House.

But Mallard’s 36-year career has been tarnished. And he’ll likely have a very tough ride over the next two and a half years – deservedly so. 

Labour should have been finishing the year on a high as the first party to command a majority under MMP.

Instead it’s being tarnished by the actions of the Speaker.

They might think it will all go away over summer.

It won’t.

If Mallard doesn’t resign National and Act will make sure it doesn’t and that it is front and centre of attention when parliament resumes in February.


Pay it back petition – UPDATED

11/12/2020

The Taxpayer’s Union has launched a petition to recoup the public funds used to pay for Trevor Mallard’s expensive misspeaking:

A written Parliamentary question has confirmed the Taxpayers’ Union’s understanding that the Speaker paid a six-figure settlement to a staffer he accused of rape.

Responding to the news, Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says:

“Taxpayers should not have to cover the bill for Trevor Mallard’s careless accusations. It’s not like making defamatory allegations is part of his job description.”

“Trevor Mallard must commit to paying back the taxpayer money handed over to the accused staffer and the Labour Party’s law firm.”

The Union has launched a petition calling for the repayment at www.taxpayers.org.nz/trevor.

“The Speaker is paid a taxpayer-funded salary of $296,000, so we’re sure he can work out a payment plan with Parliamentary Services.”

“As a gesture of goodwill, if Trevor Mallard repays the money the Taxpayers’ Union will stop hassling him for spending $572,000 on a slide outside Parliament.”

Forgoing the hassling over the slide is a very magnanimous offer by the TU.

The speaker needs to have the confidence of parliament. He was unpopular in the first term and this is a very bad start to his second.

UPDATE:

National has lost confidence in him:

National has lost confidence in Speaker Trevor Mallard following revelations that more than $330,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on settling the legal dispute he created by falsely accusing a former Parliamentary employee of rape.

The Speaker has revealed to National, in answers to written parliamentary questions, that the total amount of public funds spent as a result of his media comments from May 2019 that resulted in a public apology for “distress and humiliation” was $333,641.70.

Of that, $158,000 was an ex-gratia payment to the former staffer to settle a legal claim, $171,000 was paid in fees to Dentons Kensington Swan and $4641.70 went to Crown Law for advice to the former Deputy Speaker.

“This is unacceptable behaviour from the Speaker of the House. This sheer size of this pay-out illustrates how serious the matter is,” Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

“It is the Speaker’s job to set the standard of behaviour for everyone at Parliament but he has been reckless with his words, resulting in taxpayers footing a bill of more than $330,000 to clean up this mess.

“There has been no formal apology to Parliament for this, despite the National Party encouraging the Speaker to do so on the final sitting day this year.

“Because Mr Mallard has not lived up to the high standards of behaviour that he has set for Parliament, we believe he is no longer fit to hold the role of Speaker.

“The people who work at Parliament, and the taxpayers of New Zealand, deserve better.”

The written answers are here.

Labour has an outright majority so losing National’s confidence might not worry Mallard. But this behaviour ought to worry Labour.


Two reports and an apology

09/12/2020

It is natural to seek to determine who is responsible when an atrocity has occurred and to find someone to blame.

That is not always possible.

The report from the Royal Commission on the Christchurch Mosque murders found several government agencies could have done better but did not point the finger at any individuals.

However, Judith Collins is correct to point out who was responsible:

. . .“The atrocities committed on March 15, 2019 were the actions of an evil terrorist designed to spread fear and silence those who did not share his world view. But the actions of New Zealanders since then in denouncing him and what he stood for is proof that he failed. . . 

“The Opposition stands ready to work constructively with the Government to ensure sure we learn from this event and make New Zealand a safer place for all five million of us.

“Ultimately, the person responsible is the one serving a life sentence without parole. But it appears certain systems within Government could have, and should have, performed better.

Brenton Tarrant admitted committing the crimes. We will never know who the individuals in the government agencies were whose work fell short of what should have been required.

But we need to know that the required changes to fix the shortcomings are made.

“In principle, we support strengthening the role of our security and intelligence agencies but we must tread carefully to safeguard New Zealanders’ rights and liberties.

“We cannot end up sacrificing our liberal democracy, otherwise we will end up with the sort of New Zealand this terrorist was trying to create.

Among those rights and liberties are freedom of speech which must be protected.

“It is clear this terrorist should never have had a gun license and we support moves by the police to improve training and firearms licence vetting.

“But more needs to be done to get guns out of the hands of criminals, and National’s proposed Firearms Prohibition Orders are a crucial tool that we need in this fight.

“We have shown that, as a nation, we are not prepared to give into fear, we are not prepared to tolerate extreme hate, and we are not prepared to let anything like the wickedness that took place on March 15 ever happen in New Zealand again.”

No laws can ever make a country and its population 100% safe.

In addressing the shortcomings that enabled the March 15 attacks to happen the government must make sure it doesn’t over react and mistake excessive restrictions for safety.

The Royal Commission report was released yesterday. Another report has yet to be made public:

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins must immediately release the Roche/Simpson review report into our border testing systems, National’s Covid-19 Recovery spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

The Government commissioned this report under urgency in late August after its border testing systems failed spectacularly, and Chris Hipkins told Parliament today a copy of the report was sent to him on 30 September.

“The report should have been released before the election – but as we learned today in Parliament, the Government has simply sat on the report since then. The Minister would not even commit today in Parliament to releasing the report before Christmas,” Mr Bishop says.

“This is simply unacceptable. As the Minister himself said when announcing the report, ‘the Group’s formation represents another key step in our ongoing battle against Covid-19. As has been our approach from the start, we are continuously reviewing our systems and finding ways to improve. That approach will continue’.

“Getting our border response right is critical for the future of this country. With businesses closing down and Kiwis losing their jobs, we can’t afford to waste time not considering this report.”

It was also revealed in Parliament today that the Ministry of Health disagrees with elements of the report.

“The suspicion must be that the Ministry has spent the time since 30 September fighting to stop the report being released and trying to change the findings of the independent panel.

“There is now even more reason for the report to be released without any changes that may be insisted on by the Ministry of Health. The Government appointed these independent reviewers and the public deserves to see their findings.”

The mosque murders were atrocious but another terror attack is a remote possibility. Community transmission of Covid-19 owing to holes in the border is much more likely.

Whether or not the MoH agrees with the report, the review was done by independent people and not only do we have a right to know what their findings are, we need to know so we can be be sure that any issues it highlights are addressed.

While we await the release of the report, we have had an apology:

Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard has apologised for comments he made last year claiming a rapist was working on the premises.

He made the remarks on RNZ shortly after the release of a report which revealed frequent bullying and harassment at Parliament.

Mallard later told reporters a staffer had been stood down and a “threat to the safety of women” removed.

In a statement released today, Mallard said it was “incorrect” of him to give the impression the man had been accused of rape “as that term is defined in the Crimes Act 1961”.

Mallard had provided a personal apology to the man for the “distress and humiliation” caused to the worker and his family, the statement said.

“Both parties consider this matter is now closed and no further comment will be made.” . . 

There is no mention of compensation for the worker who lost his job and we’re very unlikely to find out how much he received.

It will have been made by Parliamentary Services which is not subject to Official Information Act requirements.

One report has been released, another has not and we’ll almost certainly never know how much Mallard’s loose lips have cost us. And quelle surprise, his apology was announced when all attention was on the Royal Commission’s report. Given this is an open and transparent government, that would just be an unfortunate coincidence, wouldn’t it?


2020 Jonesies

15/07/2020

The Taxpayers’ Union has announced its Jonesies Awards for 2020:

The third annual Jonesie Awards were hosted at Parliament today, celebrating the best of the worst of Government waste. Watch the video at www.taxpayers.org.nz/2020_jonesies.

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Every year, we host a glamourous Oscars-style award ceremony to highlight and lament the most absurd examples of wasted taxpayer money to emerge in the last 12 months.”

“Behind the tuxedos and gilded statuettes is a serious message: politicians and bureaucrats in both local and central government happily fritter away your hard-earned money on bizarre pet projects and ill-planned schemes without fear of consequence.”

“The Jonesies serve as a shot across the bow for anyone in charge of a government chequebook: rein in the waste, or see your name up in lights at the next Jonesie Awards.”

Local government nominees

Dunedin City Council: Responding to COVID-19 with dots

Dunedin City Council responded to COVID-19 by spending $40,000 on red and blue dots for its main street. The dots were variously justified as a tool to assist social distancing, a way to attract people to the city, and as a “traffic calming” device. The Council also spent $145,000 on a new tourism slogan: “Dunedin, a pretty good plan D”.

Napier City Council: Golden handshakes for a failed CEO

After a series of headline-grabbing failures, Napier City Council gave its CEO Wayne Jack a reported $1 million payout to leave before his contract expired. Mr Jack’s final official act was to throw himself a $4,000 farewell tea party. The Mayor complained that she was not invited.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

When nine-term councillor Andy Foster was unexpectedly elected Mayor last year, he promptly enrolled himself in a $30,000 leadership course at Arrowtown’s Millbrook estate. However, he has refused to say what, if anything, he learned – and has since spent more money on a team facilitator to smooth over problems on his Council.

Auckland Council: Temporary cycleways for COVID-19

Auckland Council installed 17 kilometres of temporary cycleway in response to COVID-19. Like Dunedin’s dots, the initiative was intended to assist social distancing. All works had to be reversed in a matter of weeks. The total cost is estimated to be more than a million dollars.

Rotorua Lakes District Council: $743,000 for the Hemo Gorge sculpture

Rotorua’s 12-metre, 3D printed Hemo Gorge sculpture was initially planned to open in 2017 at a cost of $500,000. Three years later, it is still under construction, and costs have blown out to at least $743,000.

WINNER: Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

Central government nominees

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

The Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Party Leader led the Government’s COVID-19 response by announcing a $72 million funding package for the racing industry. This package included two synthetic horse tracks. No-one has been able to establish how horse tracks relate to coronavirus.

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard: $572,000 for a Parliamentary slide

As part of his initiative to make Parliament more “family-friendly”, the Speaker of the House commissioned the construction of a playground on Parliament’s lawn. The playground, which essentially consists of a slide and some stepping stones, was budgeted at $400,000, but ultimately cost $572,000.

Hon Chris Hipkins: $87 million for unwanted internet modems

An $87 million package to give students the means to study remotely during COVID-19 lockdown resulted in thousands of unwanted modems being sent to wealthy schools. Epsom’s Auckland Grammar alone received 137 unwanted modems, and even Mike Hosking’s child was a beneficiary of the policy.

Hon Shane Jones: Three train trips for $6.2 million

The Regional Economic Development Minister re-opened the Wairoa-Napier rail line last year, predicting that up to six train services would run per week. As of last month, only three services had run in total: a cost of more than $2 million per train trip.

Hon Kelvin Davis: $10 million for AJ Hackett Bungy

In response to a tourism downturn due to COVID-19, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis singled out one of Queenstown’s most successful businesses – AJ Hackett Bungy – for a taxpayer handout. AJ Hackett received a $5.1 million grant, plus a potential $5.1 million loan, all on top of its substantial payout received under the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.

WINNER: Rt Hon Winston Peters for responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

Lifetime Achievement Award

Hon Phil Twyford is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for excellence in government waste.

First elected as a list MP in 2008, Phillip Stoner Twyford was thrust into power as Minister of Housing, Urban Development, and Transport in 2017.

His most high-profile election promise was to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, with an initial investment of $2 billion. Two years into that period, KiwiBuild has delivered just 395 houses – fewer than the number of houses blocked by protestors at Ihumātao. At the current rate, Phil Twyford’s promise will be fulfilled in 436 years.

Even with the taxpayer subsidy, these homes are too expensive or located in places people don’t want to buy. As a result, many finished homes have sat on the market for six months or more, and the Government has promised to buy back homes that do not sell.

Last year, the Prime Minister finally removed Phil Twyford from the Housing portfolio.

However, his record of waste now extends far further than KiwiBuild. As Transport Minister, Twyford blew out the cost of SkyPath – a cycleway across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge – from $67 million to $360 million, with more cost increases expected once construction actually begins.

Twyford has also increased fuel taxes by 12 cents per litre – and even more in Auckland – across three years.

This tax hike was justified on the basis of paying for light rail from Auckland Central, down Dominion Road to the airport. Last month, after two and a half years and $5 million was spent investigating the project, the light rail proposal was shelved.

Despite the main justification for fuel tax hikes being void, Twyford has no plans to reverse his increases to the tax on commuters.

In his maiden speech in Parliament, he remarked: “At the end of our times here, some of us will be remembered, but most of us will not.”

He need not worry. We are confident that taxpayers will never forget Phillip Stoner Twyford.

x


Driven to dark place by unsubstantiated accusations

28/05/2019

Barry Soper writes:

The man stood down from Parliament after Speaker Trevor Mallard’s claims about rape has spoken out. . .

He was stood down by the closed shop Parliamentary Service last week, which is exempt from the Official Information Act and will not have to release documents over the alleged incident.

Referring last week to the alleged assaults, Mallard said: “We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape.”

At the time there were questions about the wisdom of this statement given it could prejudice any legal proceedings. Now there are even more questions.

In a two hour sit down discussion in his home, the devastated man said “The accusation of rape has put me in a very dark place”. 

“I was driving to Parliament the day after the bullying and harassment report on the place was delivered and heard on the radio that a ‘rapist’ could be stalking the corridors and it disturbed me greatly,” he said.

However early that afternoon he realised he was the so called ‘rapist’ when he was summoned into the office of the Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero to be stood down. A colleague at the centre of an unsubstantiated complaint against him three years earlier had come forward again after complainants were urged to do so by The Speaker. 

At no time was I spoken to by the review’s head Debbie Francis which I thought I would have been considering an alleged incident had been investigated and was found to be without merit.

“It’s ironic that the review was about bullying and harassment. I feel I’ve been bullied out of Parliament and harassed within it, particularly by the Speaker’s claim,” the teary-eyed man said. . .

The complaint was ruled to be unsubstantiated last year, laid two years after the incident happened.

The man said it resulted from working alongside a colleague at Parliament when a clipboard was lost.

“We searched for the clipboard which was important and with great relief we finally found it. She gave me a high five but being a little old fashioned I hugged her back, that was honestly all there was to it,” the man said.

A hug might be inappropriate or even unwelcome but it’s a long way from rape.

Two years later he said she laid a complaint and both of them were interviewed. In a written decision, after the investigation last year, her claim that he hugged her from behind pushing his groin into her, was found to be unsubstantiated and no further action was warranted.

However after the call from Speaker Mallard last week, the woman, who the man said he’d had a few sharp exchanges with since the hug, asked for the complaint to be reconsidered.

Immediately after that he was sent packing from Parliament with Mallard summoning the media to declare: “I don’t want to cut across any employment or possible police investigation, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed the threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex.”

If it was unsubstantiated two years ago, how could it possible be serious sexual assault, even rape, now? This isn’t she said, he said, the complaint was investigated and wasn’t substantiated.

The Speaker understood the same man was responsible for the two other claims of serious, sexual assault. He later added one of the key dangers is no longer in the building.

The man said he’s dumbfounded but the same woman was involved in one of the other complaints. He said he passed a comment about another woman’s hair looking nice, with the original complainant telling her he was looking at her breasts. 

The third complaint came following a platonic friendship he had with another colleague, who on one occasion came around to his house with her son for a cup of tea with his wife. He says he kissed her on the cheek once as he was farewelling her and he suspects she was put up to the complaint by someone else.

In Argentina it’s common to greet and farewell people with a single kiss, right cheek to right cheek; in Spain it’s a kiss on each cheek and in Holland it’s three kisses.

That isn’t the cultural norm here in the work place but even if a kiss on the cheek might not be appropriate it’s a long way from sexual assault.

After talking to the man, NewstalkZB saw the finding of the investigation against him, a finding that would usually be kept under wraps by the unimpeachable Parliamentary Service. The finding bore out everything the man had claimed and found the claim against him was unsubstantiated. . . 

The accused man is understandably in a dark place and was driven there by the Speaker who turned unsubstantiated accusations of a hug and a kiss on the cheek into accusations of serious sexual assault.

The Francis report raised some very serious questions about the behavior of several people in parliament – MPs, staff and the media.

This now raises questions about the validity of the report.

 


Birds bludgeoned

13/09/2018

Native birds used in a protest against 1080 were bludgeoned to death:

The speaker of the house has laid a complaint with police after discovering native birds used in a 1080 protest were bludgeoned to death.

Protestors laid dead birds on the steps on parliament yesterday along with fake 1080 pellets.

Protestors claimed the birds were killed by 1080 poisoning.

However, Trevor Mallard says forensic experts say the birds were killed by blunt force trauma.

Even people who aren’t experts ought to be able to tell the difference between death by poisoning and death by blunt force.

Who did the bludgeoning and how did the protesters find the birds that had been bludgeoned?

Whatever the answers, and whoever did it, both killing birds this way and using them in a protest like this is seriously sick.


%d bloggers like this: