Editorials 22 April 2010

April 22nd, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dominion Post praises :

Machiavellian, arrogant, hot-headed. Minister Nick Smith has been called all those things and more. And by his friends. He has a reputation for throwing tantrums and flying off the handle when things don’t go his way.

Don’t worry – the praise is coming.

But Dr Smith is also a passionate advocate of his constituents’ interests and a minister who takes his responsibilities seriously. For that, taxpayers have reason to be grateful. It is because he keeps his ear to the ground and takes an active interest in his portfolios that a potential fraud has been uncovered within ACC. The corporation said this week that it had sacked a staff member – known to be its property manager Malcolm Mason – and referred “matters of concern” to the Serious Fraud Office.

Those matters relate to property transactions involving ACC in several different parts of the country and that appear to go back some time. However, it was not until Dr Smith queried the rent ACC was paying for its new offices in Nelson that anyone within the corporation thought to compare the prices it was paying for office space with the going rates. Dr Smith did so because local retailers were worried that the $346,320 a year ACC was paying to rent its Nelson premises set too high a benchmark and because other locals feared ACC was not getting value for money.

The advantage of a Minister also being a well connected local MP.

Dr Smith signalled his unhappiness by refusing to open the building. Contrast his attitude with that of Labour’s former internal affairs minister, George Hawkins, who ignored newspaper reports and industry concerns about the leaky building crisis for more than 12 months about 10 years ago because officials had not formally advised him there was a problem.

“One would expect that, if there was a problem, the people set up to deal with that would inform their minister,” he said at the time. “They did not.”

If Dr Smith had taken the same approach, ACC would still be unaware it was paying twice the going rate for office accommodation in Nelson and would not have uncovered irregularities in other parts of the country.

Irascible? Yes. Economical with the truth? Sometimes. But also an example to other ministers of what the public expects. The job of ministers is not simply to sign pieces of paper put in front of them by officials, open new buildings, bandy unpleasantries across the floor of the House and enjoy their generous salaries and perks. It is to actively represent the interests of voters.

Dr Smith has done so. He deserves to be congratulated.

On this issue, few would disagree.

The ODT focuses on the declaration:

The latest manifestation is the sudden – it has been described as “secret” – accession on Tuesday to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with a statement delivered by Maori Party co-leader and Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples to the United Nations in New York.

It has been met with tension, and what might be described as a tantrum, by the third party in the coalition Government’s bed: Act New Zealand.

Leader Rodney Hide has responded to the news with a display seldom seen even within the somewhat elastic emotional parameters of coalition politics. …

Mr Key and senior National Party figures will be gambling that this gesture towards the Maori Party will further enhance the mana of the latter, cement more tightly the political allegiance between the two parties, and deflate the more demanding ambitions of radical Maori – personified in Parliament in the character and rhetoric of Hone Harawira – while, in practice, giving nothing at all away.

They appear to have decided that the subtlety of principle should be subjugated to the symbolic glue of pragmatism.

It may make political sense, but while National retreats to the safety of descriptors such as “aspirational” and “non-binding”, it is hard to escape the conclusion that, on this matter, it speaks with a forked tongue.

9 Responses to “Editorials 22 April 2010”

  1. Fletch (9,017 comments) says:

    Yet this is the same Nick Smith who is about to foist on us a tax based on faulty science that is going to cripple the country. As John Boscawen said –

    “The increased costs of electricity and petrol will flow through the whole economy. They will flow through the costs of food, housing, and clothing – everything … Our families will pay, our businesses will pay, and our farmers will pay. This is such tragedy because our emissions trading tax goes further than any country in the world

    “We are now alone in our efforts to introduce an ETS and New Zealand businesses are now at a competitive disadvantage to all our major trading partners.

    “We are fools to lead the world in implementing this new tax.”

    I don’t know WTF Smith, Jonky & co think they are doing, but they are going to lead the country to ruin. It’s just another way for the Govt to take money.

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  2. tvb (5,517 comments) says:

    It seems to me the National Party is always making gestures towards to Maori Party. But they do not want to do the hard yards. An example of that is ACC – hard yards but where was the Maori Party. Or dealing with ECan where was the Maori Party when they pulled the plug on the 3rd reading without warning. And other issues. I would far rather they simply walk away now and join the opposition benches where they seem to be happiest.

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  3. Swiftman the infidel (329 comments) says:

    Last time the Maori came for my ancestor’s land my great great grandfather said NO.

    He risked his own life, that of his wife, his 4 sons and his two daughters.

    In the 1880’s a book about the wars was published called ‘Heroes of New Zealand’ which contain biographies of the senior officers of those wars. My g.g. grandfather appears in this book. He was literally a ‘hero of New Zealand’.

    John Key and every National MP should be tried and when found guilty hanged the next day at 9.00 am.


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  4. side show bob (3,476 comments) says:

    I wish Dr Smith would show the same concern for the extra costs about to be dumped on the general population. ACC isn’t the only sucker been taken to the cleaners.

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  5. trout (1,132 comments) says:

    Nick Smith has shown himself to be a fervent advocate for his constituents (even at his own expense) on matters where he considers they are getting a raw deal. He asked questions of Labour Ministers on what seemed to be ACC extravagance in Nelson and got no response. Why oh why then is he being pigheaded on the ETS; it can only be because the Government has already promised foresters and maori massive subsidies for planting trees and will now be liable for compensation. As Alan Kohler says below ETS in Australia is a dead duck and ‘poor NZ is left like ‘a shag on a rock’.

    ‘Melbourne’s Grattan Institute has made a fine contribution to Australia’s greenhouse gas debate with a report, released this morning, that looks into how much emissions trading would actually cost companies and industries. Or at least it would be a fine contribution if there were still a debate going on. There are many national debates in Australia in 2010 – health, population, asylum seekers, tax, super, who’ll win Masterchef – but for the time being carbon trading is not among them.
    No doubt the push for a price on carbon through emissions trading will return one day, but for the moment it has run out of greenhouse gas. Poor New Zealand, still due to start its ETS on July 1, is feeling a bit silly – a shag on a rock. In Australia Kevin Rudd’s CPRS, with its modest targets and elaborate compensation, is twitching feebly on the roadside having been run over by the GFC, Tony Abbott, health reform, tax reform, super reform and international recalcitrance.
    John Daley and Tristan Edis at the Grattan Institute have now put it out of its misery, strangling it with cold reality.
    The report, uses Australian industry’s own data to analyse the impact of carbon pricing, and is a devastating indictment of what appears to have been loose and over-cautious policy-making by the government. ‘

    For more refer to the Business Spectator

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  6. davidp (3,866 comments) says:

    So given two rorts…

    1. ACC paying a few hundred thousand bucks a year more than they should for real estate.

    2. Fantasy climate change that will cost NZ around $50billion, lead to mass unemployment in export industries, lead to misery for low income people who’d like to stay warm in winter, and benefit no one except Enron-style carbon traders and fraudulent climate change researchers.

    …Smith decides to concentrate on the first. It’s nice to be in control of the details, but the government REALLY needs someone who sees the big picture before they bankrupt us all.

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  7. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    trout – There is absolutely no logic to the ETS. For some reason our Government will not even discuss it. The ramifications of this silence are massive. The ACC story is nothing but feelgood garbage.

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  8. trout (1,132 comments) says:

    The logic to the ETS is that it produces another income stream for the Government. And a backdown will lead to massive compensation claims from foresters and maybe even political fallout with the Maori party who were horsetraded to vote for the ETS.

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  9. Chuck Bird (6,592 comments) says:

    “There is absolutely no logic to the ETS”

    Sorry to disagree but there is. It is a simple tax grab.

    Not other country has joined up and is unlikely to. Key knows this. The government is meant to set the money aside but if no other countries join up it will be used to pay off debt. This is better for the Nats vote wise than cutting welfare or forging some income tax cuts.

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