Waka jumping Act on way out

July 30, 2020

The Waka jumping Act is on its way out:

The Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading, marking one step closer to Parliament getting rid of NZ First’s ‘waka-jumping’ legislation, National List MP David Carter says.

“I’d like to thank the Greens for voting for this legislation. They have reasserted their values as a Party that stands up for free speech, and we look forward to working with them further to make sure this Member’s Bill passes.

“No credible democracy should ever have given the power to Party leaders to dismiss elected Members of Parliament because they don’t agree with the Leader.

“It is an affront to democracy. The public expects elected members to advocate strongly without fear of being punished by their Leaders for expressing different views.

“The free mandate of MPs is internationally recognised as fundamental to a parliamentary democracy. There are only a few countries with the draconian power for Party leaders to dismiss MPs, including Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

These are not countries whose attitude to democracy we should be following.

“As I will be retiring at the next election, I have passed responsibility for the legislation to Nick Smith, who shares my passion for good, democratic process.”

The waka-jumping Act was one of many dead rats the Green Party swallowed in return for joining Labour and New Zealand First in government.

It has now spat it out, incurring Winston Peter’s wrath in the process:

New Zealand First has a track record of pulling support for Labour-Green policies at the eleventh hour.

There’s been the capital gains tax, cameras on fishing boats, and more recently light rail from Auckland city to the airport.

Peters said comparisons can’t be drawn between light rail and waka-jumping.

“We did the work on light rail, the costings and the analysis did not back it up.”

He said the Greens’ were breaking their end of the deal.

“They’re signed up to the coalition agreement on this matter for three years and that term does not end until the 19th of September.”

Peters said the Greens can’t be trusted and voters should remember that on election day.

“You cannot possibly be going forward to the years 2020-2023 contemplating a party that can’t keep its word.”

Is this an instruction for his own supporters to vote for other parties?

But Shaw rejected that criticism.

“I think it’s a bit rich for Winston to suggest that we’re not trustworthy when in fact they’re the ones who have been entirely slippery with the interpretation of our confidence and supply agreement.”

Shaw said his party is fed up with New Zealand First not sticking to the spirit of an agreement.

“I would say that in recent times we have learned that it’s the letter of the agreement, rather than the spirit of the agreement, that’s what counts when it comes to New Zealand First.

“So when it comes to the repeal of the party-hopping bill I would say that we have observed exactly the letter of our agreement.”

So is he just playing the same political games as Peters?

“Well I learn from the master,” Shaw fired back.

That the government has held together when the antipathy between these two parties is so strong.

With just days to go before parliament rises for the election, any presence of unity has gone.

 

 


If they don’t trust & respect each other . . .

July 27, 2020

The three-headed labour, New Zealand First, Green government was always going to be a difficult one.

It would be hard to find any two parties more mutually incompatible than the two smaller ones.

That they sit in parliament on either side of Labour rather than beside each other which was the normal arrangement for parties in government says a lot.

That the government has held together this long has surprised many.

Could it be the Greens have come to like the diet of dead rats they’ve been forced to swallow? Could it be that Labour got so used to having its policies vetoed by NZ First, that it was prepared to accept no progress as business as usual? Could it be that Winston Peters was so determined to last in government for the first time, staying in became more important than accomplishing much?

Whatever the reason that’s kept the parties together, the cracks in the government are turning into crevasses with the end of term in sight.

Last week the antipathy between the Greens and NZ First got vocal:

. . . Green Party co-leader James Shaw has described New Zealand First as a force of chaos, while Winston Peters has warned any future Labour-Greens government would be a nightmare. . . 

It was Peters who started the war of words at a breakfast speech in Wellington this morning.

“If you want to take out some insurance in this campaign to ensure you don’t get the nightmare government I know you’re going to get, then I suggest you party vote New Zealand First,” he said. . . 

Has he forgotten it was he who gave us this government? To use Andy Thompson’s metaphor, he’s the arsonist who lit the fire, why reward him for helping to put it out?

Shaw was happy to respond.

“Well, I think that the nightmare that he’s got is that he’s not going to be back in Parliament.”

Shaw is known to be quite measured when New Zealand First pulls the pin on policies or puts a spanner in the works, but with the campaign unofficially under way he’s ramping up his own rhetoric.

“My experience of working with New Zealand First as a party in government is that rather than a force of moderation, they’re a force of chaos,” he said. . . 

Anyone who has taken even passing note of NZ First’s history would agree with that.

Peters also admitted stopping an announcement of a $100m Southland rescue package:

. . .He did, however, reveal he told Ardern she was travelling to Southland on behalf of the Labour Party, not the coalition government.

“The prime minister was going down with MBIE [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] and other ministers to talk about the future of Tiwai Point.

“We had a discussion the night before as to the positions the various parties might take,” he told RNZ.

“The prime minister was very well aware that she could speak on behalf of the Labour Party, but on this matter, not on behalf of the coalition because there was no paper, no agreement, no Treasury analytics to go behind it.” . . 

This is another reminder that in spite of being the minor partner, NZ First, has wielded power far beyond that granted by its voter support.

Apropos of misusing power, last week Peters faced questions over pressuring Antarctica New Zealand to take two of his friends to the continent:

. . .Foreign Minister Winston Peters directed Antarctica New Zealand to give two highly-prized spots on a trip to the icy continent to two women closely linked to one of South East Asia’s richest families. . . 

While denying any impropriety, Peters followed his usual modus operandi by attempting to deflect attention with a rant in parliament accusing several people of leaking information on his superannuation overpayments as a result of his  inability to fill in the application for superannuation properly.

He declined to repeat the accusations outside the protection of parliamentary privilege and all the people named by him denied the accusations.

It is no wonder the other parties in government are showing they neither trust and respect him and his party, feelings that are obviously mutual.

But if they don’t trust and respect each other how can they expect us to?


Something smells fishy

July 1, 2020

New Zealand First is smelling fishy again: :

Newshub has obtained an explosive audio recording of Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash talking about NZ First MPs Winston Peters and Shane Jones.

The recording was from February 2018, around the time the Government first delayed the rollout of cameras on nearly 1000 fishing boats – since then it’s been delayed again until at least October next year.

In it, Nash points the finger of blame squarely at them for delaying plans to put cameras on commercial fishing boats to make sure they don’t break the law. . . 

Michael Morrah has done a public service in reporting on this, not just because of questions over the delay to cameras but because of the link between the policy and donations.

Fishing company Talley’s donated $10,000 to Shane Jones’ 2017 election campaign. RNZ also revealed that Talleys donated $26,950 to the NZ First Foundation.

Newshub has verified these donations.

Talley’s Andrew Talley told Newshub “within the right framework cameras have a place in modern fisheries management”.

He says there’s “no connection” with donations and the camera delays. . . 

It would be hard to either prove or disprove whether there is a connection.

But there is a problem with NZ First and its foundation which the Serious Fraud Office has referred to the police.

Referral does not mean guilt and for everyone’s sake this must be cleared up before voting starts.

Whether or not it that happens, this story provides yet another reason for National to keep its resolution to rule New Zealand First out as a potential coalition partner.

Labour won’t be able to do that without collapsing the government unless but they agreed to having the dog as a partner and have to put up with the fleas.


Contradictions and confusion

June 3, 2020

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the social distancing breaches at the weekend’s protest marches was irresponsible.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the marches breached the rules.

That was yesterday, after the event. Both were silent before the event when they might have been able to persuade people to protest in ways that didn’t breach the rules.

The PM gave us repeated warnings and guidelines for Anzac Day, why didn’t she speak up before the protests?

That she only voiced an opinion after the event is contradictory and confusing for those of us who thought we knew the rules and were keeping to the requirement to have no more than 100 people at an event and to maintain social distance.

But there’s more contradiction and confusion from DIrector General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield:

“There’s currently no evidence of community transmission in New Zealand so at this time, quarantine for 14 days after attending one of these outdoor events is not required.”

If that’s the case why are we still at Level 2 which is handicapping businesses which in turn is costing jobs and livelihoods?

But he says it’s still important that Kiwis remain “alert to symptoms and seek advice if they’re at all concerned”.

“Whatever the alert level in New Zealand, it’s clear COVID-19 will continue to be a global threat for some time and it’s important we remain vigilant – both as individuals and as a country,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“This means continuing to observe physical distancing to keep yourself and others safe, seeking appropriate heath advice, and most importantly staying at home if you’re unwell.”

Continuing to observe physical distancing – unless you’re at a protest or the PM or DG:

Photographs have emerged of the Prime Minister and director general of health posed for pictures close to wellwishers, prompting accusations of hypocrisy from a National Party MP warned by police for doing the same.

It has led to an admission from the Prime Minister it was a struggle to maintain “appropriate distancing” with people approaching wanting “handshakes and hugs”.

It’s been a struggle for the rest of us to maintain “appropriate distancing” at funerals and with family and friends but most of us have managed it.

Bloomfield also confirmed he was in a photograph with strangers but said it was only for a moment.

Northland MP Matt King produced the photographs after facing public criticism when he posted to Facebook photographs of himself with staff from a restaurant in Paihia where he had dined.

King told the Herald today coverage of the photograph led to a phone call from a senior Northland police officer who reminded him of social distancing rules.

“I felt sorry for the cop. He was a senior cop. He said: ‘This is not a formal warning – you’re standing too close‘.” . . .

It doesn’t help that there’s contradictory statements coming from the PM and her deputy:

With businesses hemorrhaging money by the day, the Government should be discussing the move to Level 1 now, not in a week, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller says.

“The Prime Minister and her Cabinet could have discussed the move to Level 1 today. It’s not good enough that all they did was agree to meet again next week to make a call.”

National is demanding the Government immediately release the secret Cabinet papers on which it decided last week to stay in Level 2.

“Divisions between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters are causing confusion about what the secret papers say about how safe it would be to move to Level 1,” Mr Muller says.

“The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have both read the same Cabinet papers but one is telling us it is too dangerous to move to Level 1 while the other says it would be perfectly safe.

“Moving to Level 1 as soon as it is safe is of the greatest importance to small businesses and the thousands of Kiwis losing their jobs each week.

“The public deserves to see the same advice Ms Ardern and Mr Peters are publicly disagreeing about.”

We also need to know the criteria for moving to Level 1 because it obviously isn’t what is on the Ministry of Health’s website or we’d already be there.

Alert Level 1 — Prepare

The disease is contained in New Zealand.

Risk assessment

    • COVID-19 is uncontrolled overseas.
    • Isolated household transmission could be occurring in New Zealand. . . 

Instead we’ve got confusion and contradiction over which gatherings can have more than 100 people and which can’t; between what the DG of Health says and what we’ve been told about Alert Level 2; and between the PM and her deputy and what’s on the website and what’s happening in practice.

The social and economic cost of this is far too high for anything but the clarity and certainty businesses need to make decisions and all of us deserve if the social licence the government lost at the weekend is to be regained.

Without it, more and more people are going to flout the rules in the certain knowledge that they, like the protesters, will be left to do as they will.

 


Keep that door shut

May 26, 2020

One of the questions National leader Todd Muller has been asked is will he open the door to New Zealand First?

His answer is that the decision was made by caucus and it hasn’t changed.

Nor should it.

The door was closed for very good reasons, not least of which is NZ First’s leader Winston Peters can’t be trusted.

Before the last election he gave the usual spiel about waiting until after people had voted then began negotiations with both National and Labour, even though he was serving legal papers on two of National’s most senior MPS – Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley.

That was showing bad faith to both voters and National.

Since then he’s had his day in court, dropped the case against the MPs, lost the case against the Ministry of Social Development but has announced he’s appealing that decision.

Since then the Serious Fraud Office has begun investigating donations to the New Zealand First Foundation and its relationship with the party.

Since then he’s continued to act the way he always does, which is to put his own interests, and that of his party, first regardless of what’s best for the government of which he’s a part, or the country.

He simply can’t be trusted.

Shutting the door to NZ First gave people who want a National-led government a very clear message – if that’s what they want they’d be wasting their votes if they give them to NZ First.

Opening the door will suggest to them they could get a National-led government by voting for NZ First.

Much has been made of National’s rating in last weeks two polls, there’s been only passing reference to NZ First’s support which was well below the 5% required to stay in parliament without an electorate.

With a new leader and refreshed caucus, National’s support will climb again.

With the same old leader and same tiresome antics, there’s a very good chance that NZ First’s won’t.

National got a poll-bounce when it shut the door on NZ First earlier this year. Opening it would send the wrong signal to voters, and help NZ First at National’s expense.

The door was firmly shut months ago and it must stay shut.


Begging questions

May 1, 2020

Winston Peters gave what he thought was a big reveal:

The Health Ministry initially recommended New Zealand shut its borders completely – including to citizens and permanent residents – but this was rejected by Cabinet, the Foreign Minister has revealed today.

In a media conference early this afternoon, Winston Peters said health officials had strongly pushed for shutting the borders, even to New Zealanders, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Peters said while this was “understandable and appropriate advice” from a health perspective, Cabinet ministers rejected that as it was “inconceivable that we [would] ever turn our backs on our own”. . . 

It was understandable and appropriate advice from a health perspective and that’s what people in the Ministry of Health are paid to provide.

Cabinet rejecting the advice is appropriate too. Ministers are supposed to weigh up all the advice they get and decide on a course of action which would very, very rarely, follow all the advice they are given.

He said it was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) that convinced health officials to keep the border open to some in both directions, and the reason he brought this to the public’s attention was because they deserved to be thanked. . .

The Ministry convinced health officials to keep the border open?

Really? Why did anyone need convincing when this was the only legal course because New Zealand signed a United Nations convention which means we can’t refuse entry to our own citizens.

So what was all Peters’ grandstanding about? Mike Hosking reckons the government was playing us like a fiddle:

Did you notice we were played like a fiddle yesterday? Well we were, if you weren’t alert to it.

From nowhere comes Winston Peters, with his startling revelation that Cabinet was given advice by the Ministry of Health to lock all overseas New Zealanders out of the country.

What Cabinet deals with is under the Cabinet Collective. It’s secret. We don’t know what they’ve been advised, and by who.

When was the last time you saw a press conference in which we are told what the Cabinet had been advised on any given day? You haven’t, because it doesn’t happen.

But yesterday it did. Why? I reckon it’s because they’re panicking. They are panicking about the reaction to the health side of their response and the growing reality that the economic fallout is going to be their nightmare. . . 

It will be a nightmare with high health and other social costs too.

But back to yesterday’s charade.

All this shows us is ministries offer free and frank advice devoid of circumstances outside their mandate – ie health doesn’t know, nor care, about UN conventions, they were merely worried about people coming back and infecting us.

And as irony would have it, they were quite rightly worried given we didn’t quarantine. We favoured self-isolation, and we all know where that got us.

And I reckon the Government is now freaking out about the economic fallout, so they need a narrative that shows they care. More teddy bears, more hugs, more of what the Prime Minister does well, like empathy. But not cold, hard economic reality.

In essence, Peters’ revelation is a non-story. Because despite their “oh my god look how kind are we” playbook, they never, given the UN convention and Helen Clark’s tweet, had any real choice to make other than the one they did.

So why did they turn it into yesterday’s pantomime, soaked up yet again by a compliant media? Because when it comes to playing us for suckers they know they have, tragically, an easy audience.

An audience so easy, that no-one has thought to ask the questions that are begging: when did the Ministry of Health give this advice and given the strength of it why weren’t the borders closed to non-citizens earlier and why weren’t people who came in quarantined far earlier?

New Zealand has had a relatively low number of cases of Covid-19. It would have been even lower had the borders been closed sooner and if everyone who came in was put into quarantine far sooner.

Delaying both those decisions has cost lives from the disease.

The extended lockdown as a result of the delay is costing livelihoods and the economic devastation will take more lives too.

Instead of crowing about the non-decision to stand by the UN convention, the government should be apologising for not taking health advice more seriously, sooner.

 


Beware derangement syndrome

April 27, 2020

When Winston Peters put Labour in power I was determined that I wasn’t going to get Ardern Derangement Syndrome.

I’d seen far too much stupidity from people who suffered from Key Derangement Syndrome and was determined not to follow their silly example of making politics personal in this way.

It hasn’t always been easy, but so far I have been able to resist developing ADS.

I accept the PM is a warm and intelligent woman and I’d probably enjoy her company.

However, retaining resistance to ADS doesn’t extend to echoing the adulation that has been heaped on her from many quarters.

That is, as Andrea Vance points out, unhealthy:

Politicians should not have fans. By placing our leaders on a pedestal, it creates an unhealthy and polarising dynamic. 

There is evidence of it already in our online political discourse. Any criticism of the Government’s policies and measures is met with a wave of venom.

Even gentle questioning – by opponents, interest groups or the media – is seen as a personal attack on Ardern. 

It’s also often seen as sexism which is tiresome.

That’s because when people blindly align themselves to one party and their leader, they tend to overlook the negative effects of their decisions.

Those who seek to hold Ardern to account over flu vaccines, personal protective equipment in the health system, or confusion about restrictions, are villainised or strafed with ‘whataboutism.’ . . 

When Ardern is fronting the government that has imposed unprecedented and draconian restrictions on what we can do, at a huge personal, social and economic cost, she must be questioned and questioned hard.

That doesn’t mean personal criticism of her but nor does it  mean uncritically repeating her lines such as going early, going hard.

The initial response to Covid-19 was neither.

Then there are legitimate questions over the arbitrary decisions over what businesses and which goods and services have been considered essential under level four lockdown and the economic and social costs of all that.

Candidates will always be judged on their likeability. But infusing politics with an over-the-top “stan culture” turns elections to a sports game, where we are invested in only who wins, not policy or ideology.

And it upends what the political system should be. Prime Ministers are our civil servants, beholden and accountable to us. It should not be a one-sided relationship.

Hero worship eventually reduces our complex, and occasionally flawed, political figures to one-dimensional icons.

Just because Ardern is remarkable, does not mean she is always right.

Over at Croaking Cassandra, Ian Harrison explains six times she has been factually wrong.

He’s found factual errors in what she’s said on transmission rates, the number of cases per 10,000, the number of deaths, containing the pandemic, mortality rates and testing rate.

Steve Elers also says the PM must be held to account over her claims:

During the Covid-19 daily briefings I’ve found myself yelling at the TV screen and sometimes even throwing things at it. Why? Because our journalists seem far too chummy with the prime minister instead of fulfilling their role as the watchdog for society.

A healthy democracy requires the news media to hold power to account, regardless of who is in power, and to question government decisions, just like when the prime minister says: “Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases, it means zero tolerance for cases.” . . 

For the health and wellbeing of my TV, I hope the news media will start holding power to account. If journalists can’t find the motivation within themselves to ask critical questions of the prime minister, perhaps they should imagine she is Simon Bridges.

Or perhaps not.

At least some seem to have Bridges Derangement Syndrome where it’s not what he says but that it’s he who says it or the way he says it that becomes the focus of criticism.

Just as putting a politician on a pedestal is wrong, so too is unfairly pulling one back and the media does us a disservice if it lets derangement syndrome get in the way of reasoned reporting and analysis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Which do we believe?

March 19, 2020

The PM dismisses a nation-wide lockdown.

Her deputy says:

An urgent Cabinet committee meeting is taking place at 4pm where deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says a full lockdown of the country and the closure of its borders will be discussed.

Which story do we believe?


Fishy

March 9, 2020

Matt Shand has trawled New Zealand First’s past and come up with something that smells fishy:

Winston Peters had dozed off during the meeting in 2001. He was woken by his advisor who handed him a $5000 cheque from fishing magnate Neil Penwarden and a report alleging corruption in the scampi quota system.

 After taking both, he left. 

This set the stage for the so-called “Scampi Inquiry”, which started after Peters alleged corruption in the industry during a speech inside the house, as outlined in Penwarden’s report, then failed to deliver any evidence after it began. 

“It was suggested it was common these sorts of meetings usually generated a donation,” Penwarden says. “We gave the party $5,000. I don’t know if it made it to the party.”  

Handing over money to an MP at these sorts of meetings should not be common practice, it’s con man practice.

If the money made it to the party it should have been recorded and the donor issued with a receipt.

Peters was asked direct questions by Stuff about this incident. His response was to call it “farcical”, belittling the sources contacted individually. Penwarden was able to recall the details. So too was his advisor Ross Meurant who helped broker such meetings. 

Meurant, a former National MP and detective was living in two worlds being employed both by Peters’ as an adviser and by Vela Fishing Group Companies at the same time. 

Meurant says Peters becomes angry whenever someone challenges his own versions of events or stands up to him

“I’m of the view that Winston believes his own version of events,”  Meurant said. 

He may well believe his own version that but it doesn’t mean it’s right.

Meurant is lifting the lid on a long-standing tradition of political influence from the fishing industry and NZ First dating back as far as 2001. . . 

New Zealand First is under investigation by the SFO.

These allegations must be included in that investigation.

What Shand uncovered smells fishy and concludes:

Penwarden never gave any more money to NZ First or to Peters. He says he had learned his lesson. Likewise, other donors to the NZ First Foundation shared this sentiment. Some even asked for the money back. 

“The point is: we learned a lot of Winston Peters and over time standing back and observing his behaviour we were not persuaded in any way about his credibility, honesty and decency and suitability to be involved in politics,” Penwarden says. 

The SFO investigation will take time, almost certainly more time than is left before the election.

In the meantime we have a deputy Prime Minister facing serious allegations about his behaviour and character.

Will Jacinda Ardern continue to stand by him when these allegations aren’t just being made against the party and foundation but against the man himself?

She probably doesn’t even believe the fiction she keeps repeating that because it’s about another party she can’t, as PM, do anything about it and she can’t expect voters to buy it either.

It didn’t wash when it was the party, it will be even less credible now it is her deputy about whom these allegations are being made.


Coincidence or deliberate

March 2, 2020

Winston Peters is Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

It was wearing the latter hat that he went to India last week co-leading a business delegation to increase people and economic engagement with the world’s fifth-largest economy.

He is also leader of New Zealand First and on Saturday one of his MPs, and a fellow minister, delivered a racist rant against Indians on The Nation:

NZ First MP Shane Jones is drawing criticism after saying too many people “from New Delhi” are being allowed to settle in New Zealand.

“If you want another million, 2 million, 3 million people, we should debate it and there should be a mandate, rather than opening up the options, unfettered, and everyone comes here from New Delhi,” Jones told Newshub Nation on Saturday, arguing that New Zealand needs some kind of maximum population policy.

“I think the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those institutions,” he continued. . .

Debating immigration and the number of immigrants is acceptable. Targeting people from a specific country or location within a country is not.

That he did this as his leader was returning from a Ministerial visit to the city Jones cited could have been a coincidence.

It was far more likely to have been deliberate, but why?

Was he just playing to the gallery of anti-immigration supporters, or was this a thinly-veiled attack on his leader and if so what is his motive?

Whatever the answer to those questions is, a more important one is what is Jacinda Ardern going to do about it?

She can’t, as she is attempting to do with Peters and NZ First’s referral to the SFO, say it is the party’s business not hers.

Jones was on The Nation as a Minister, not as a NZ First MP.

She told him he needed to swat up on the Cabinet Manual after what sounded like an attempt to  bribe attendees at a forestry conference with assistance in return for votes.

She has already, justifiably, been labeled weak for the way she is at best slow, and often unwilling, to stand up to MPs and Ministers who cross the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

Has she got what it takes to tackle Jones, or will she again lack the backbone to deal with what has become habitual boorish unbecoming of an MP, let alone a Minister?

And apropos of behaviour unbecoming, there’s been a deafening silence from the Green Party that is supposed to stand against this sort of degrading ranting.

 


Politics of appeasement

February 17, 2020

When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Wondering what Labour and the Green Party think about New Zealand First and its leader?  Are they staying true to their values and promises, or have they adopted the standards and values of New Zealand First and its leader Winston Peters?

Keep wondering because, as Henry Cooke writes,  their silence is deafening:

. . .  there’s a difference between leeway for jokes and leeway for seriously unbecoming behaviour. And the prime minister has slipped this week from the usual kind of space people give Winston to be Winston into plain supplicancy.

Jacinda Ardern is yet to say anything at all about the fact the Electoral Commission made absolutely clear on Monday that the way NZ First was treating donations to its foundations was wrong. . .

Instead of properly taking this on, Ardern has hidden, as politicians often do, behind the perceived inappropriateness of commenting while some process is still active.

Sometimes this waiting game is both useful and sensible – politicians shouldn’t talk too much about murder trials before they finish.

But in this case it makes no sense. . . .

. . .there are ways of commenting on things without alleging criminal conduct. It is the lifeblood of adversarial politics.

Following the Electoral Commission’s finding, Ardern would have been totally within her rights to say, at the very least, that she thought these donations should have been declared to the commission. She could have said she was disappointed that a coalition partner appeared not to have been as fulsome as it could have been with informing the authorities – all without alleging any kind of crime. . .

Later last week it wasn’t just the donations saga on which she wasn’t commenting.

This silence got even louder on Thursday when it became clear that NZ First had some kind of involvement in two covertly taken photographs of journalists reporting on the Foundation story, which found their way onto a right-wing blog. Peters told Magic Talk on Tuesday that “we took the photographs just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”, but later backtracked to say a supporter just happened to see the journalists and thought he or she should snap a photo.

Because of this shifting story, there is a muddle over exactly how involved NZ First and Peters are, a muddle that would best be sorted out by Ardern demanding a fuller explanation from Peters. Any level of involvement in this kind of tactic – clearly designed to intimidate journalists – is worth condemning, and you can bet that, if Ardern was in Opposition, she would manage it.

Instead she’s not commenting, saying it is a “matter for NZ First”, while her office notes that she speaks about ministerial decisions and comments, not about things said as party leader. 

The thing is, the Cabinet Manual does have a section about ministers upholding and being seen to uphold “the highest ethical standards” at all times, not just when doing ministerial business. Ardern has all the ammo she needs to give Peters a dressing-down over this, but instead she defers. Things don’t have to be illegal to be wrong.

And it’s not just Labour which is staying silent.

Worse, this rot of silence has also infected the Green Party, which, as a confidence and supply partner, has plenty of legitimate room to criticise such tactics. You don’t need to tear the Government up or demand that Peters is fired – you can just say what the journalists’ union said on Friday, that Peters needs to explain himself and apologise.

Instead the Greens just talk about how the law needs to be changed – which most people agree with, but isn’t the point. The topic at hand isn’t underhanded but lawful behaviour, it’s stuff that is potentially illegal – hence the police referral. The party should grow back its spine. . .

John Armstrong has a similar view:

Rarely has the current prime minister looked quite so feeble as was evident during yet another turbulent week for her pockmarked, patchwork Administration.

It was another week which witnessed Winston Peters at his frustrating, selfish, perfidious and domineering worst.

In a perfect world, it would have been a week which ended with him having been relieved of the title of Deputy Prime Minister, if only temporarily.

So damning was the verdict of the Electoral Commission on the propriety of the activities of the highly-secretive New Zealand First Foundation that any other minister finding themselves on the receiving end of such a judgement would have been stood down forthwith.

That verdict on its own is a damning indictment. Once it it became public that the commission’s findings had been passed to the Serious Fraud Office, Peters’ relinquishing of his status of Deputy Prime Minister ought to have been a mere formality, if only a temporary measure while the SFO determined whether everything was above board or whether prosecutions should follow its investigation.

Peters, however, has clearly concluded that he is somehow exempt from the rules covering the disclosure of the source of political donations.

The arrogance is breathtaking — especially from someone who has previously suffered the ignominy of being censured by his parliamentary colleagues. . . 

Given that track record, Peters is beyond being shamed.

He might be beyond being shamed, has that rubbed off on the other parties in government?

Just witness the outrageousness of the New Zealand First Foundation, the leaked records of which have revealed its purpose had been to accept donations in the tens of thousands of dollars from some of the country’s wealthiest individuals without having to disclose their names.

Ardern’s problem is that Peters is Deputy Prime Minister. She cannot wash her hands of him no matter how embarrassing his statements and actions might be for her or the wider Labour Party they might be. Neither can she sit blithely to one side and pretend that Peters’ very obvious agenda to undermine the Electoral Commission is not happening.

Ardern needs to read the Riot Act to Peters — and not just to remind him of his constitutional obligations.

Failure to do so makes her look weak. In dragging her down, he is dragging Labour down too.

She’s letting the party be dragged down lest Peters brings the whole government down, even though Simon Bridges’ announcement National own’t work with NZ First should it be in a position to do so after the next election leaves it, like the Greens, the choice of going with Labour or sitting or sitting on the cross benches.

He hasn’t got a lot of options. It would seem to be an opportune time to remind him of that. He is hardly in a position to pull down the Government.

That makes Ardern’s failure to talk tough appear even more pathetic. . . 

And not for the first time. remember Clare Cullen and Iain Lees-Galloway?

The bizarre chain of events which unfolded on Thursday only reinforced the case for Peters losing the title of Deputy Prime Minister.

The revelation that he was party to the covert photographing and filming of journalists whose investigations of the New Zealand First Foundation have uncovered much to embarrass him and his party is a clear breach of the provisions in the Cabinet Manual covering the conduct expected of ministers of the crown.

To quote that handbook: “At all times, ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. This includes exercising a professional approach and good judgement in their interactions with the public and officials, and in all their communications, personal and professional”. . .

Andrea Vance has more to say about snooping on  journalists:

No doubt Peters’ supporters are enjoying the irony of publishing paparazzi-style photographs of the reporters digging dirt on their party

For reasons that are unfathomable to me, New Zealand tends to minimise Peters more outrageous behaviour. But he is no lovable rogue – and this is straight-up intimidation.

Protecting the identity of journalists’ sources is an essential part of media freedom.

The threat of surveillance is chilling. It can have an intimidating and traumatising effect. . .

We might be a troublesome and unlovable bunch, but good journalism and a free press is an essential part of a functioning democracy.  

This attack on Shand and Espiner’s privacy is an attack on the public’s right to know about who is secretly funding their Government partner. 

Both Labour and the Greens must acknowledge that and condemn it, if we are to believe their exhortations New Zealand politics should be transparent and fair.

Both Labour and the Greens are forced into silence or at best mealy-mouthed muttering over New Zealand Firsts and Peters because they daren’t face up to him lest he pulls the pin that blows up the government.

Ever since the coalition was formed they’ve pandered to him, exercising politics of appeasement, having to make material concessions, several of which have been contrary to their principles and values.

They’ve swallowed so many dead rats they must suffer from permanent indigestion.

One of MMP’s big weaknesses is that it allows the tail to wag the dog. Peters and his party aren’t just wagging the other two parties they have forced them to roll over and accept not just policies that are contrary to their principles and they’re now, by refusing to condemn it,  accepting behaviour that is too.

Many commentators have questioned the values and standards of NZ First and its leader. Labour and Greens are day by day being more tainted by association and exposing their own values and standards to questions too.


Do you trust him?

February 11, 2020

Does the Prime Minister trust her deputy?

New Zealand First is reviewing its donation practices as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) decides whether to probe allegations it’s been hiding donations in a slush fund.

No-one with any knowledge of running a political party and campaigns can understand how NZ First could do all it does without getting donations that should be declared.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern now wants a full independent look at political donation laws, and she’s refusing to say whether she trusts New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. . . 

But Jacinda Ardern couldn’t express trust in her Deputy Prime Minister. When Newshub asked if she trusted Peters, she wouldn’t say “yes” or “no” instead replying, “We have an excellent working relationship”. 

Ardern was asked three times but never once said yes she trusts him.

If she doesn’t trust him, how can we?


NZ First referred to police

February 10, 2020

The Electoral Commission has referred New Zealand First to the police:

The Electoral Commission has made enquiries into issues raised regarding the New Zealand First Party and the New Zealand First Foundation and their compliance with the requirements for donations and loans.

Based on the information available, we have formed the view that the New Zealand First Foundation has received donations which should have been treated as party donations for the New Zealand First Party. In the Commission’s view, the donations were not properly transmitted to the Party and not disclosed as required by the Electoral Act 1993.

The Commission does not have the investigative powers to form a view about whether this failure to transmit and the non-disclosure means offences have been committed. These matters have therefore been referred to the New Zealand Police, which have the necessary powers to investigate the knowledge and intent of those involved in fundraising, donating, and reporting donations.

As these matters are now with the Police, the Electoral Commission will not be commenting further.

No doubt everyone in NZ First will refuse to comment further because the matter is with the police.

The rules on donations to political parties and candidates start here.

There’s further explanation here.

The responsibility for disclosure lies primarily with the party secretary, but will this case involve NZ First leader Winston Peters?

He has maintained that the Foundation and the party are separate.

The Electoral Commission obviously thinks otherwise.

Peters has also said the NZ Foundation was modeled on National’s but National treats donations to its Foundation as donations to the party and declares them as it’s required to do.

I was one of National’s regional chairs when the Foundation was established and this was made very clear to everyone in the party and all donors. This and the legal requirements for disclosure are spelled out on the Foundation website.

 


Just say no

January 27, 2020

If National had ruled out a deal with New Zealand First three years ago, would the latter have got less than five per cent of the vote and the former still be leading the government?

We’ll never know.

But we do know that around half the people who voted for NZ First hoped the party would go with National and that a lot of them are still very unhappy Winston Peters chose Labour and the Green Party instead.

We also know that while Peters was supposedly negotiating in good faith he was also working on legal action against National’s deputy Paula Bennett and then-minister Ann Tolley.

That tells us, once again, that Peters can’t be trusted.

Simon Bridges has said he will announce well before the election whether or not National will rule out New Zealand First.

I hope he does say no to them which will make it quite clear to voters that a vote for that party is a vote for a Labour-led government.

There are risks.

In spite of their many criticisms of National not trying to win Epsom so that Act will get into parliament, Labour and New Zealand First could come to a similar arrangement in another seat in an attempt to secure an electorate for a New Zealand First candidate. If that worked, NZ First would not need to secure five percent of the vote to stay in parliament.

New Zealand First could get back, with or without an electorate,  and National could have too few seats to form a government without it and so be back in opposition.

But there are bigger risks in not ruling out New Zealand First.

It would send the message to voters that New Zealand First might go with National, even though the chances of that are very, very remote.

It would enable Peters to pretend he’ll listen to voters even though last time more opted for National than Labour.

It would give Peters the power he’s had too many times before to play the bigger parties off against each other and extract too high a price for putting them into government.

The worst day in government is supposed to be better than the best in opposition. But if the choice is government with Peters, I’d opt for opposition.

Tracy Martin says this year feels like the beginning of the end for Peters:

. . .So is it time to write Peters off?  Peters has cleverly played up his part as Labour’s handbrake, just as he once pitched himself as a bulwark against National’s extremes.  It’s how he has survived so long in politics – even after the “baubles of office'” fiasco, or Owen Glenn donations scandal.

But you can only play one side against the other for so long and it feels like Peters has played one too many hands.

So is the extraordinary Peters era coming to an end? He is our most familiar face on television; as recognisable as the theme tune to Coronation Street, as well worn as a pair of old slippers.

 But even soap operas eventually have their day.

National ruling out NZ First would make the end of the Peters soap opera much more likely.

Please, National,  just say no.


Rushed law is bad law

December 4, 2019

This headline is a lie:

Government to ban foreign donations

So is the first paragraph:

The Government is taking action to protect New Zealand from foreign interference in our elections by banning foreign donations to political parties and candidates, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today.

It isn’t banning foreign donations, it’s lowering the amount foreigners can donate from $1,500 to $50.

Concern about foreign influence on elections is real, but why the lies and why rush the Bill through under urgency?

Why not give parliament and the public at least a little time to scrutinise it and recommend improvements?

One such improvement would be making it quite clear that donations to a foundation set up to fund a political party would be treated like, and subject to, the same requirements for disclosure as, donations to a party.

Winston Peters claims the New Zealand First Foundation is a similar model to the National Party Foundation.

But National the National Foundation has a website on which the purpose of the capital-protected fund and the uses to which investment proceeds are put is explained.

It also discloses donations to the foundation as donations to the party.

This openness contrasts with the secretive nature of the NZ First Foundation and the way in which it appears to have funded the party’s operational and campaign expenses.

The Electoral Commission is investigating claims it breached the law.

Whether or not it did, this Bill is an opportunity to make it quite clear that donations to party foundations should be disclosed as donations to parties, whether or not proceeds from foundations are donated or loaned parties.

Rushed law is bad law and this one is no exception. This omission could have been corrected and further time to consider could well have discovered other faults and allowed for improvements to be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Holes in electoral law?

November 19, 2019

At last  New Zealand First’s funding is being exposed to sunlight:

Almost half a million dollars in political donations appear to have been hidden inside a secret slush fund controlled by a coterie of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ trusted advisers.

The secretive New Zealand First Foundation collected donations from wealthy donors and used the money to finance election campaigns, pay for an MP’s legal advice, advertising, fund a $5000 day at the Wellington races and even pay an IRD bill.

A New Zealand First spokesperson said on Monday the foundation had been in existence across several election cycles. “There has never been any suggestion that it is anything other than lawful,” she said.

Records uncovered in a Stuff investigation show a complex web that appears to be designed to hide donations to the NZ First Party via The New Zealand First Foundation. . . 

I was a regional and electorate chair for the National Party and am still a party member.

The necessity of  adherence to electoral law has always been drummed in at every level of the party, especially for fundraising and financial reporting.

No-one with any understanding of what’s involved could believe that a party like New Zealand First could function and run itself and successive election campaigns on lots and lots of small donations and few if any over the threshold for declaring who’s given how much.

Former NZ First treasurer Colin Forster claimed he was moved out of the party after questioning the financial records.

“When Winston wanted to hire a bus for the Northland by-election we were on the bones of our arse,” he said.

“We had about $20 in the bank and I would not let the party take out a loan. We were told not to worry about it and suddenly there was money.

“I could not understand where the money came from.”

Stuff has seen records for the foundation that suggest there have been breaches of the Electoral Act and that the foundation is being used to obscure political donations to the NZ First Party.

Donors to the foundation are primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires. . .

Every other party in parliament, and most outside it, get donations like this, why would NZ First be any different?

Invoices paid by the foundation seem to show funds were being used for, what appear to be, party expenses.

Among other things, the foundation spent $9364 hiring boxer Joseph Parker to speak at the 2017 NZ First conference, $10,643 on travel reimbursement for MP Clayton Mitchell, $12,000 on legal advice from Russell McVeagh lawyers for Mitchell, and $5000 for a day at Wellington Cup Day races.

It also paid for the party’s Nation Builder website and donations platform, a cost of about $10,000 a month. . . 

Until now it’s been reported that the Foundation only made loans to the party. These payments don’t look like loans.

Efforts have been made by party officials to find out details of the foundation and some say they were removed from the party when they challenged Peters or Henry about finances. There is now a conga line of NZ First Party officials who say they have been forced out of the party. . . 

The party is known as Winston First because it looks like he has total control of it.

But absolute rule works only as long as there is absolute loyalty, or submission.

It looks like there are now enough people who are no longer loyal, or submitting, and they are talking.

The only surprise in this is that it has taken so long for the party’s funding to be questioned like this and that points to holes in electoral law or its administration.


What a waste

November 14, 2019

WInston Peters has accepted that then-Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley did not leak the overpayment of his superannuation to the media.

However, his lawyer is still laying blame for the leak on the Ministry of Social Development.

Crown lawyer Victoria Casey QC gave her closing arguments this morning and argued that Winston Peters’ claim his privacy was breached “falls away entirely” when held up against the law. . .

Casey told Justice Venning the only question he needs to consider is whether her clients’ decision to brief their ministers under the “no surprises” convention breached a “reasonable expectation of privacy” and whether it was “highly offensive”.

“The questions is not does the court agree with these decisions to brief, or even whether the court has any reservations about the decisions to brief,” she said. . .

None of them establish whether there was a reasonable expectation in private facts. None of them establish that the communication from the chief executives to the ministers constitute highly offensive publication.

“Winston Peters could not have had a reasonable expectation public agencies with such information would not tell their ministers who have accountability to the House,” she said.

Casey also spoke of the high stakes for her clients, because these allegations go to the heart of their integrity.

She warned that if Peters’ complaints are upheld it would be “catastrophic” and career-ending for them.

“I ask the court to pay due attention to the chilling effect on the public sector and the reputational impact of even a passing comment by the High Court of the judgments exercised by these two senior public servants.

“I submit that it is appropriate that the court should exercise real caution before engaging in a review of matters that are beyond the scope of the pleaded claim,” she said. . .

What a waste of time, and public money this has been.

Peters has breached his own privacy and that of his partner by exposing them to a couple of weeks’ publicity that has done neither of them any credit.

And sadly while might have put some wavering voters off him and his party, it could also have confirmed the views of the deluded who support him that, in spite of the evidence to the contrary that this is a mess of his own making, he is somehow a victim.

The media has given very good coverage of the trail but it’s hard to beat Cactus Kate for pithiness in these posts:

Winston Peters and his reputation for detail

Winston Peters and his reputation for detail II

Tim Murphy v Barry Soper just got ugly

Who knew in advance about WInston Peters’ super stuffup?

The media have been the story for years Barry

Courtroom 13 – the week in review

Respecting WInston Peters

Silence…

Winston Peters and subjudice

And…….Denny Crane


Sustainable NZ good in theory but

November 12, 2019

Ever since MMP was introduced, New Zealand has been in want of a party that stands for something and sits in the centre, able to coalesce with National to its right or Labour to its left.

The Maori Party could have been that party, but in spite of being the last cab off the rank when Helen Clark led Labour, and in government at National’s invitation its natural home was towards the left.

The many iterations of United Future rarely stood for anything more than keeping its leader, Peter Dunne, in parliament and government.

New Zealand First, similarly stands for keeping Winston Peters in power and his strong antipathy towards National now makes it a natural ally for Labour rather than a true centre party.

The Green Party could have been that centre party if it wasn’t so red. But its hardline social and economic agenda put it to the left of Labour.

Now a new player the Sustainable New Zealand Party has enterer centre stage:

. . .Sustainable New Zealand is neither left nor right wing but is focused on sustainability.  We are able to work with parties of the left or right to get the best deal for the environment. Sustainable New Zealand’s approach is to work with business to innovate and to correctly price ‘externalities’. We will be led by the science when finding solutions and developing policy. Our future will only be sustainable with technological and scientific innovation.

Sustainable New Zealand’s focus is on being ‘practical environmentalists.’ We will work with rather than against our farmers. We favour a regulatory light-touch where possible but with a willingness to act decisively on core issues. We will foster innovation to transition our economy from one that relies on chopping down, digging up, burning or milking something for economic growth to one that is environmentally-benign and makes us all richer. We know that nothing is free. We need to be prosperous to ensure that we can afford to look after our people and our environment. . . 

There’s a lot to like in that and an environmental party that sits in the middle is a good idea in theory, but will it be strong enough to get at least some MPs in to parliament?

One avenue would be to reach an agreement with either Labour or National to allow it to win a seat, the way Act does in Epsom.

But doing that would compromise its ability to work with left or right.

Besides Labour is very unlikely to sour its relationship with the Greens by throwing a seat to a rival and it would be a big risk for National.

Peter Dunne already held the seat when National voters were asked to back him. They did and had to endure three long terms of him supporting Labour governments before National got back into power. He stayed in cabinet and thwarted National’s agenda several times, most notably its attempts to improve the RMA.

Rodney Hide won Epsom by his own efforts, taking it from a sitting National MP who was trying to hold it. Voters have continued to back an Act candidate in the seat but a majority of them give their party vote to National.

Asking a sitting National MP to throw the seat for a Sustainable NZ candidate, or expecting a new National candidate to campaign only for the party vote is a very different and much riskier strategy.

So could Sustainable NZ make it to 5%?

History would say no.

The Progressive Green Party broke away from the red Greens and fielded 15 candidates in the 1996 election but could muster only .26% of the vote.

No new party has made it into parliament without a sitting MP.

However, small parties generally get punished for their performance in government and the Greens will have lost support from both those who think it’s been too left and those who think it hasn’t been left enough.

If enough of the former were joined by those disenchanted by Labour and NZ First and perhaps some of the blue-greens who’ve supported National it might, but the chances of it doing so are slight.

Sustainable NZ has had reasonable publicity since its weekend launch but that will be hard to sustain and it will need a lot of people power and the money they bring to have any hope of turning a good theory into practical electoral success.


Peters suing himself for defamation

November 6, 2019

New Zealand First leader and deputy leader Winston Peters is suing himself for defamation.

He made the decision after realising his claim that publicising details of his superannuation overpayment was defamatory made him realise that his reputation was already low in the opinion of right-thinking people and that was as a direct result his own words and actions.

“After some deep contemplation, on what I’ve said and done and how I’ve said and done it, I have to admit that I have been guilty of that which I accuse others,” he said. “That is, making right-minded people at best think less of me and sadly, too often hold me in contempt.

“Of course it’s the media’s fault and my political opponents have done all they can to aid and abet them.

“If they didn’t stir up matters best left unstirred and uncover things best left covered, the public wouldn’t know anything about those things that make those right-thinking people think less of me.

“A man ought to be left in peace to not read cabinet papers, use taxpayers’ money for electioneering, respond to questions with bluster and equivocation, to accept the baubles of power in contradiction of earlier assertions he was not tempted by them, to do what he said he wouldn’t and not do what he said he would.

“But they would keep digging and stirring and asking questions that paint a picture of me that I have to admit is almost a self-portrait, a picture of me for which I, though my own behaviour, am responsible and therefore I have no option but to sue myself for defaming myself.”

Mr Peters said it was blindingly obvious that a man with a reputation already lowered by himself could not accuse others of lowering it.

“Any fool can see that right-thinking people, amongst whom you will not find the media or my political opponents, already think so little of me it would be an impossibility to go lower in their estimation and the blame for that lies with me.”

When asked if he would attempt to settle with himself out of court, Mr Peters simply held up a sign on which the word no was printed.


Political blood thicker than water

October 7, 2019

The reason New Zealand First has been polling below its election night support is obvious:

NZ First voters would have preferred National to be in Government than Labour by a large margin, newly released survey results say.

The new public survey data shows 44.5 per cent of NZ First voters answered “National” when asked to pick between Labour and National leading the Government, with Labour 10 points behind at 34.1 per cent. . .

I suspect if the choice had been National or Labour and the Green Party, the number preferring National would have been even higher.

But it’s not just Peters opting for Labour with Greens in support, that’s upset members.

A raft of internal NZ First documents have been leaked to the media and the National Party, revealing internal discontent about the way the party ran the last election campaign and Coalition negotiations. . . 

The papers show some were critical of leader Winston Peters for planning to take legal action against National Party figures before Coalition negotiation began and questioned what impact that had on those talks.

It is a very rare breach of the internal secrecy of the party and will be a blow to Peters. . . 

He has had absolute sway over the party for years, but these leaks show that, as many dictators before him have found, the grip eventually loosens.

Documented minutes of a party meeting in November 2017 show members levelling criticism at Peters.

One member said New Zealand First needed to “come up with solutions and start a succession plan post Winston Peters”.

Another said: “Resources for the campaign were not provided, no cogent policies, signs unreadable, distribution of sign issues, listing was confidential, no plan B (or even A) for Jacinder [sic]”.

After the 2017 election, Helen Peterson – a long-time party member, who has stood for election three times – wrote a report titled “NZ First Concerns and issues regarding Election 2017”. She has been approached for comment.

“A number of members nationwide have been extremely disappointed in the way in which the 2017 election campaign was handled,” it said.

The documents reveal members felt the party’s list showed disrespect for hardworking, loyal, hardworking and long-serving members, and favoured candidates who had personal relationships with those who select the list placement.

Members also complained the list process was sexist, as only three of the candidates in the top 18 were female.

It also shows members thought the campaign was unorganised, lacked leadership and had no strategy.

New Zealand First candidates were “for the most part unsupported” and given minimal mentoring or support by the board.

“The extent and magnitude of the issues demonstrate how the party will remain a third party for the foreseeable future unless there is an enormous shift towards accountability, adherence to the constitution and respect for its members.” . . 

These criticisms won’t be any surprise to the many who have long questioned Peters and the apparent disregard for democracy in his party.

But political blood is thicker than water and staunch members will put up with policies and behaviors from and within their party that they will condemn in others. But only for a time.

Peters’ power over his party and its members has been almost absolute.

The resignation of the president, and his explanation of why, and the leaks showing internal dissatisfaction indicate that for at least some members, the time for unwavering support is past.


%d bloggers like this: