Archive for April, 2011

General Debate 30 April 2011

April 30th, 2011 at 1:22 pm by David Farrar

It’s late due to hangover impairment.

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Who will get what in ACT

April 30th, 2011 at 9:06 am by David Farrar

Some big decisions for Don Brash and ACT this week. They include:

  1. Who will be Deputy Leader – Boscawen or Roy
  2. Who will be Parliamentary Leader – Boscawen, Roy or Hide?
  3. Will ACT seek to retain two Ministerial roles?
  4. If yes, which two MPs will be Ministers?
  5. And what portfolios will they seek and get?
  6. Who amongst the ACT parliamentary staff will keep their jobs, and who might return there?
  7. Will Don move to install a new President and/or Board over time (he has said the President is an issue for another day)

Interesting times ahead.

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The Princess Party

April 30th, 2011 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

Had a very fun night in Palmerston North last night (a sentence which some might say was unlikely to ever be uttered by me) watching the Royal Wedding. Yes I’m a Republican, but I can still enjoy a good wedding. The dress code was tiaras for women and black tie for men.

It was a hilariously mixed group of people. Three out of the five Kiwiblog editorial team were in attendance, plus I’d guess half the Don Brash coup committee. A wedding can be a good uniter :-)

We also had members of the Monarchist League and Republicans, so it was a very good fun night. Debating the constitutional reform at 1 am is so much more tolerable after many bottles of champagne.

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Mana Party policies

April 29th, 2011 at 3:33 pm by David Farrar

Mike Treen of the UNITE union has outlined some policies for the Mana Party. They include:

  • Abolish GST and replace with the Social Credit Financial Transactions Tax
  • Nationalise all monopolies and duopolies
  • Effectively bring back compulsory union membership

I’m not sure if they also plan to declare war on South Korea.

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Taxpayer funding the Mana Party

April 29th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Independent MP Hone Harawira spent $43,000 on travel in three months – nearly as much as the entire Maori Party’s bill of $44,410.

I guess he’s had lots of huis to attend.

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Will Don be Finance Minister?

April 29th, 2011 at 10:34 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett and Audrey Young report:

Don Brash wants to be finance minister, and claims the Act Party could gain 15 per cent of the vote in this year’s election under his leadership.

“I’d love to be finance minister,” he said last night.

“When I went into Parliament in 2002, that is what I was hoping to be. I wasn’t planning to be National leader. I was planning to be finance minister in a Bill English-led National government.”

Finance Minister is unlike any other portfolio, as it is so central to the Government, and affects every other portfolio. I would think a party would have to poll at least 15% to be able to make a serious bid for that role.

If ACT make it back into Parliament, the role I’d love to see Don Brash take is education, and have him introduce performance pay for teachers, bulk funding for all schools, abolish school zoning and introduce full parental choice of schools. I think such reforms are vital to improving our country’s future prospects.

He indicated he would ask Mr Key to give Mr Hide’s portfolios to another MP, citing as a precedent Mr Hide’s decision to strip Heather Roy of her portfolios because of her coup attempt.

I can’t imagine he is going to ask Hilary Calvert to become a Minister, so this looks like he is seeking Heather Roy to be reinstated as a Minister.

Last night, Mr Key distanced himself from the “extreme” views of Act and said Dr Brash had “virtually no chance” of becoming finance minister or deputy prime minister after the next election.

The Prime Minister said Act was “not likely to be a party of such size that would be commensurate with those portfolios”.

He said Act had always had extreme policies compared with National’s moderate approach and “my view is that nothing has changed here”.

I doubt anyone can point to an economic issue on which Rodney and Don disagree. So the PM is right that ACT’s policies and views are not changing. What has changed is that ACT may now be able to attract greater support.

Don has said he thinks he can attract 15%. John Ansell has gone even further and claims ACT can get 40% and Don will become PM. Either way, this suggests that ACT will not be expecting National to “take it easy” in Epsom. If they poll over 5% they don’t need Epsom (even though it is always useful to have it as backstop). So my guess is that National will campaign actively for both votes in Epsom.

So the first target for ACT led by Don is to make 5% – otherwise they may not be there at all.  But if they get just 5% or 6 MPs, then they will represent 10% of the Government, so their influence would be roughly 10%.

If however Don can lift ACT to 10% then they have 12 MPs, and would roughly be 20% of the Government. So they would have significantly more influence.

Again, the next couple of sets of public polls will be interesting.

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Born in the USA

April 29th, 2011 at 9:59 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Responding to critics’ relentless claims, US President Barack Obama has produced a detailed Hawaii birth certificate in an extraordinary attempt to bury the issue of where he was born and confirm his legitimacy to hold office. He declared, “We do not have time for this kind of silliness.”

By going on national TV from the White House on Wednesday (local time), Obama portrayed himself as a voice of reason amid a loud, lingering debate on his birth status. Though his personal attention to the issue elevated it as never before, Obama said to Republican detractors and the media, it is time to move on to bigger issues.

Maybe now people will STFU on this issue. It has been the right wing equivalent of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists on the left.

I suspect Obama finally released his long form record as Donald Trump has started championing the birthers claims.

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General Debate 29 April 2011

April 29th, 2011 at 9:53 am by David Farrar
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Hide resigns

April 28th, 2011 at 1:19 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide resigned as Leader of ACT at midday. Don Brash will be elected Leader at the next Caucus meeting.

I’d like to pay tribute to Rodney at this point in time. It is primarily due to Rodney that ACT survived in 2005 and 2008. Over his 15 years in Parliament Rodney has had a greater and more benficial impact on Parliament than most MPs.

I’m glad he is so happily married to Louise, and has become a Dad again. That will remind him of what is truly important in life – far more so than politics.

It looks like Rodney will remain an ACT MP and Minister until the election.

The immediate issues for ACT are:

  1. Does John Boscawen remain Deputy Leader, or does that revert back to Heather Roy.
  2. Does John Banks stand in Epsom for ACT.
  3. List Ranking

While I have said previously that I’m not sure how good a fit John Banks is to ACT, there is considerable logic to having a candidate in the seat who will clearly win it for ACT. If they look guaranteed to win the seat, then they can campaign that voting for ACT is not a wasted vote, and that the more people who vote for them the more influence they will have on policy.

It is possible a Brash led ACT will also make it harder for Winston Peters to get traction (which is of course a good thing). Winston planned to campaign hard on the foreshore & seabed issue, but a Brash led ACT may be more effective in appealing to the coastal coaltion supporters.

Where NZ First, and Labour and Greens, will attack is on economic policy – especially wages, asset sales and superannuation. Goff is already suggesting that it was a cunning National plot to have Don roll Rodney (which is hysterically untrue).

The reality is that Don and Rodney are near identical minds on economic policy. What will determine their influence on Government is not so much who the leader is, but how many seats they win. At 10 seats you roughly expect twice the influence of 5 seats.

So as I said earlier, the next few polls will be interesting.

UPDATE: An excellent blog post from Cactus Kate on ACT.

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Has Calvert switched?

April 28th, 2011 at 9:05 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Don Brash believes he has the numbers to roll Rodney Hide and become the new ACT leader as soon as today after furiously lobbying MPs.

The fates of Brash and Hide rest with the party’s newest MP, Hilary Calvert, who pledged her support for Hide at the weekend – but spent yesterday afternoon in a meeting at Brash’s Auckland apartment with Hide opponent Sir Roger Douglas.

Calvert did not return calls and refused to comment as she left. But after the meeting, Brash said he was “cautiously optimistic” of securing the ACT leadership, suggesting he believes he has her support.

He told National Radio that if she switched votes it would be “logical” for Hide to resign as early as today.

Brash also made it clear he saw no place for Hide in any party he led, suggesting it would be his advice to Hide “to go, quite frankly”

Most of the speculation has been on whether Boscawen would back Brash, not Calvert.The Herald reports:

On Sunday, she said that she backed Mr Hide and would vote for him over Dr Brash, and on Tuesday she repeated that position.

But yesterday, when the Herald asked if her position was still the same after her meeting with Dr Brash, she said: “I’m not prepared to make any comment.”

There’s been a fair amount of disinformation flying around, so we’ll see how things play out today.

However if the media are correct, then Don has won and will become Leader. I still stand by my comments about the nature of the coup. It is about winning the war, not the battle. And my concern is that Don has damaged his brand which was almost being above politics.

If Don does become leader, all eyes will be on teh next set of public polls. I have no doubt ACT will go up in the polls. The two key questions are how much, and from whom will they pull their extra support. I’d also caution not to take the first set of polls as gospel – there is a honeymoon effect. The second set of polls are likely to be more indicative.

Anyway let’s wait to see if the media have it right, and if Don has won. If he has, I’ll blog some ideas for key policies he can campaign on – apart from closing the gap with Australia.

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General Debate 28 April 2011

April 28th, 2011 at 8:55 am by David Farrar
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Sky on iPad

April 27th, 2011 at 3:29 pm by David Farrar

Have just downloaded the Sky TV app for the iPad and can see me using it a lot.

The basic app is that it allows you to see the programme guide for the next week, in an easy to follow format. But the real killer part is that once you enter in your account details you can set your My Sky box to record programmes from your iPad.

So you no longer need to be at home to record things. You might be at a friend’s place and see a programme that you want to record. Hit your iPad and it will be recording within seconds back home.

If you forgot to set it in the mornng to record something, you can do it at any stage during the day.

I wil be using this app a lot.

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Dom Post on Easter Trading

April 27th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

National MP Tau Henare’s plan for a private member’s bill allowing shops to open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday will be the ninth attempt in 15 years to bring some sense to trading laws long past their sell-by date.

This time, Parliament should seize the opportunity to repeal rules which are archaic and riddled with anomalies to the point of being ridiculous.

However, there is little to indicate the Government will have the courage to lead the way.

If history is anything to go by, Mr Henare’s bill will be considered as a conscience vote and fail at its first hurdle, defeated by the usual – and unusual – alliance of Labour, National and Green MPs. Those who vote against it will do so on the grounds of guarding workers’ rights or protecting the sanctity of the most important festival in the Christian calendar – or, in some cases, both.

The unholy alliance of unions and churches.

The list of anomalies is as laughable as it is long. A person can buy or sell a house on Good Friday or Easter Sunday, when real estate agents are allowed to open, but they cannot buy a bottle of bubbly to celebrate – unless they get it from the vineyard on which it was made.

A garden centre can open on Easter Sunday, but not Good Friday – a rule ignored by many as the huge demand easily brings in more than the $1000 fine. Bookstores at airports, train stations and other transport hubs can open, but those in shopping centres must stay closed. Perhaps most glaringly of all, brothels can open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday to sell sex, but those with bars are breaking the law if they sell alcohol.

It is hilarious that brothels can open, but not bars. I wonder if the brothels can sell alcohol?

The usual suspects defend their decisions to ban employees from earning overtime on those days, on the proposition that employers are so evil and callousthey they will break the law and force employees to work against their wills.

On Twitter the other day I asked a Labour activist if he could name a single employer that has done this. I said I’ve worked for around 20 employers and none forced me to work against my will. He also was unable to name a single employer – saying none of his former employers had. But he insisted that it was widespread all the same. Never mind the lack of emperical evidence.

But this got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be useful if the Government or Dept of Labour did a random scientific survey of employees in retailers, to ascertain how many currently have employers who force them to work on days they don’t want to, and also perhaps to look at annual leave taking – do they get to choose when to take annual leave, or does their employer over-ride their wishes.

It would be a great boon to informed debate to have some good data about how employees and employers currently interact.

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Ends and means

April 27th, 2011 at 9:16 am by David Farrar

I have been somewhat surprised at how amateurish the attempted ACT coup has been. In fact, I’d go further and say it somewhat resembles a cluster fuck. I’ll explain where I think mistakes were made, and what I would have done differently.

But first I should make clear that I am in fact highly supportive of the aims or “ends” of Don Brash. I just don’t think the means have been well chosen.

  • I most definitely want a coalition partner for National that is economically more reformist than National, and can attract enough support to survive the tidal ebbs and flows of politics.
  • I have been worried for some time that National’s long-term prospects (post Key) could be somewhat bleak as if ACT (and United once Dunne retires) disappears there are no partners for National. Over time I expect the Maori Party will go with Labour more often than it does with National.
  • I would like National to be more economically reformist. I doubt I disagree with Don Brash on many significant economic issues. However I do believe you have to take the electorate with you – otherwise you get thrown out and all your reforms get reversed. It is only by getting re-elected for multiple terms can your reforms become too entrenched to reverse

So in principle I’m supportive of what Don is trying to achieve – a more popular and hopefully permanent coalition partner for National, that will lead to more economic reform (which will help close the gap with Australia).

But I think the campaign to try and bludgeon ACT into handing over the leadership to Don has been clumsy, not thought through, and has in fact significantly damaged Don’s brand, and hence the brand of any new party he sets up. My criticisms are:

  1. Demanding the sole leadership, not even co-leadership, while not even a member of the party. This makes it look like you see the party as purely a vehicle for your ambitions.
  2. Openly threatening to destroy the party if they do not make you sole leader. This not only pisses off ACT party members, but also damages your standing with voters.
  3. Negotiating through the media. Never a good strategy.
  4. Not leaving room for a dignified compromise. By publicly demanding that the leadership be handed over to you, or you will destroy the party you place the board and caucus in a position where if they then agree they get left with no dignity. In politics you should always be thinking about how to make something look like a win-win (even if it isn’t).
  5. Only commissioned polling data after you launch your public bid for the job. This should have been commissioned weeks ago.

So what would I have done if I was advising Don

  1. Negotiate privately with ACT to see if there is a suitable role.
  2. If no agreement can be reached, then start the work on forming your own party. Do not publicly demand ACT hand over the leadership or you will destroy them.
  3. Announce you are creating a new party.
  4. When media asked why not join ACT, then reveal you tried to, but no agreement could be reached. Then explain that you are doing a new party because you think at best ACT will only be able to win up to five seats again and that you want to win at least 10 seats, so you’ll have more influence on economic policy.
  5. If they ask about the ACT leadership, reply that there is no vacancy there. If they ask whether you considered challenging Rodney, reply that you and Rodney have been friends for over 15 years, and you would never challenge him. Also make clear that you will not stand in Epsom.
  6. Announce you will be standing in Tamaki but your aim is to win 5%. However if Tamaki voters want him as their local MP he would be happy to do so.
  7. Differentiate the new party from ACT by saying the party will be primarily focused on just two areas – economic reform and choice in education. Say that you hope ACT and your party will both be in Parliament to help drive better policies, but that you believe you can attract the most support based on the doubling of National’s vote in 2005.

By demanding ACT hand the leadership over to him or be destroyed, Don has pissed off the very activists that his new party would want to attract. He’s made it a Rodney v Don issue, rather than an issue of how to get better economic reform.

Don’s tactics in 2011 are very similar to his 2003 coup. Coups are normally done behind closed doors and with no media statements. But the key difference is that in 2003 Don was already in caucus. It is different when you are not even a member of the party you seek to lead.

As I said at the beginning, I support what Don is trying to achieve. And I agree with most of what Don says economically. But I don’t think the way he has gone about it has put him in a good light, and hence actually lessens his chances of being able to achieve his goals.

Unless something dramatically changes, it looks like he will not be leading ACT, and he will presumably set up his new party. This is more complicated than one might think. You need a set of rules. You need an initial board. You need rules on who selects candidates, who elects the board, who elects the leader etc. You need principles and policies. You need offices and staff. You need members and activists – and you need money. The last should not be a problem from the sounds of it.

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General Debate 27 April 2011

April 27th, 2011 at 7:49 am by David Farrar
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Mitchell wins Rodney

April 26th, 2011 at 9:06 pm by David Farrar

Mark Mitchell has won National’s nomination for Rodney on the first ballot – a resounding victory. Congratulations to him.

I’ve profiled Mark previously here.

Rodney is a very safe seat for National, so Mark is likely to have a relativly long parliamentary career.

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Imagine the minor party leaders’ debate

April 26th, 2011 at 4:34 pm by David Farrar

The potential line up for the leaders’ debates amongst the minor parties verges on the hilarious. It may include:

  • Russel Norman or Metiria Turei
  • Rodney Hide
  • Don Brash
  • Winston Peters
  • Hone Harawira
  • Pita Sharples or Tariana Turia
  • Peter Dunne

They should make it pay per view entertainment.

Key and Goff will stick with the Prime Ministerial debates unless they are bonkers.

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1-Night

April 26th, 2011 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Rogers at Stuff has an article on 1 Night:

Start-up 1-Night has launched a service that takes the “paper pain” out of ticketing, letting people present their iPhone or a customer card to enter concerts and events.

Co-founder Josh Dry said people who purchased tickets through its website would have the information stored in their 1-Night account – which was synched with their customer card or could be accessed through their iPhone.

“There’s no waiting for a courier or printing on to paper. You can’t lose your ticket because it’s all stored on your account.

I had a catch up with 1 Night a few weeks ago where they briefed me on their business model, and I have to say I was really impressed. As someone who is always losing tickets, I love the idea of not just buying all my tickets online at the one site, but more importantly being able to use my mobile phone as an entry ticket. You never have to worry about lost tickets again, you can buy at the last minute and you get access to an event much quicker.

But their iPhone app goes beyond just ticketing. One can use it to scan in barcodes (using your camera) in ads in magazines (or even posters) and it will purchase the tickets for you (subject to confirmation).

A great example of Kiwi ingenuity. I hope they do well, and also welcome the competition they bring to Tictetek and Red Tickets. At the moment they are servicing just the music industry but I reckon there is great potential to expand to other areas.

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Finny on MFAT

April 26th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Charles Finny, a former MFAT staffer, writes at Stuff on changes to MFAT:

I met a former MFAT colleague a few days after Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully had delivered his speech on planned changes to the way the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry does its business.

I was reminded that many of the proposed changes were actually suggested in the 1989-90 period and about how the MFAT system had been able to muster so much opposition to the proposals that few were implemented. It is therefore with little surprise that I read editorials and op-eds from former diplomats questioning some of what is being proposed.

MFAT has managed to fight off change for many decades.

MFAT has been extremely resistant to change. It has taken longer to embrace new technologies and management systems than pretty much every other organ of government. It is hierarchical and it has never quite come to grips with the tension that exists between specialists and generalists within the organisation. And until Mr Allen took over as CEO, it has never valued experience gained outside the ministry. Those seeking to come back to the ministry after years away were told that they would have to enter at the level they were at when they departed.

MFAT seems to have this strange rule that you can’t be a senior manager there, unless you are also a diplomat.

I agree fully with Mr McCully that competition should be introduced at head of mission level. There are plenty of current and past public servants from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Treasury, the Economic Development Ministry, Customs and Defence with the skill-set and experience necessary to do a head-of- mission job. Martyn Dunne, who is about to go off to Canberra as high commissioner, is an example of this type of person. And from time to time politicians will be the right person for an assignment. Mike Moore is doing a great job in Washington DC right now, as is Jim McLay in New York.

Diplomats deal with both diplomats and politicians. Sometimes the best person for the job will be a senior former politician such as Jim McLay. What should cease is the practice of sending politicians such as Graeme Kelly to a senior overseas post.

I am on record calling for even more radical reforms of the head- of-mission appointment process than Mr McCully. I believe those nominated for these important roles should be forced to appear before the foreign affairs and defence select committee and be the subject of questioning on their knowledge and experience relevant to the proposed assignment.

That’s not a bad idea.

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Why is the PSA silent?

April 26th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour has called on the govermnment to halt all decisions on the broadband roll-out because the man responsible for designing it is at the centre of anti-competitive findings against Telecom which resulted in it being fined $12 million in the High Court yesterday.

Labour Communications and IT spokesperson Clare Curran says a cloud now hangs over the whole of the government’s broadband scheme as Bruce Parkes was named at the centre of the so-called ”two tails” case.

”The Government is trying to legislate for a 10-year regulatory holiday for Telecom, and Mr Parkes has been involved in the design. An independent review must be urgently conducted of both the process and system of the rural broadband initiative (RBI) and the Ultrafast Broadband scheme (UFB,” she says.

Curran says the review should be undertaken by an international expert as the New Zealand industry is too involved and inter-connected on these issues.

I think it is highly regretable that Labour have attacked a public servant in this manner, on the basis of something he did ten years ago when working at Telecom.  Bruce worked diligently for Telecom when he was there, as his job was to get favourable outcomes for Telecom. So through my work at InternetNZ, I often oppossed Bruce and his arguments at fora such as the Commerce Commission.

But he left Telecom, went out to work for Contact Energy, and also became a board member of Citylink. And some time after that got hired by the Chief Executive of the MED to head up their telecommunications section. At the time I commented I thought it was a good appointment – poachers often make the best gamekeepers. People are hired to do a job to the best of their ability, and it is silly to assume you know a person’s views on the basis of their previous jobs.

I am glad Telecom got pinged $12 million for their behaviour over data charges. I recall the days when they charged $1900/month for a product which today is under $100/month. This is why things had to change, and artly resulted in the operational separation of Telecom.

But to suggest that because of something that happend over a decade ago, that Bruce has some how contaminated the UFB and RBI process is unworthy. I’ve been critical of aspects of those processes myself, but smearing a public servant who can’t defend himself is not appropriate behaviour.

The PSA normally publicly defends public servants who get attacked by politicians. Why have they not spoken up on this case?

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Caption Contest

April 26th, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The President of Iran with National’s candidate for Wellington Central. Captions welcome below – funny, not nasty. Hat Tip: Dim Post

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Rodney & North Shore

April 26th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I have tended not to comment on national party candidate selections, even when I have strong preferences. It’s a decision for local members, and it is essentially a private decision.

But sometimes a selection may attract public headlines, as Rodney has done, or have a national impact – as oppossed to a local impact.

Whale Oil has blogged at length on Rodney. His exposure of what was happening helped the Board nullify the initial selection process, and re-open nominations.

First there is the issue of the electorate chair, as reported by Tv3:

The National Party chairman of Rodney electorate was a leader of a pro-white homeland South Africa party, it was revealed today.

The Rodney electorate has already been in the news over reports of infighting and allegations the selection committee was stacked, and the process has been restarted.

Today, TV3 political show the Nation reported that Rodney electorate chairman Cehill Piernar had been a leader of the Conservative Party in South Africa’s Orange Free State, and he fought to retain a white homeland.

The Nation showed documents where Mr Piernar said that if the party could not get the-then Apartheid Government to agree to the whites-only state, “the only option open to us will be to use violence”.

National Party President Peter Goodfellow said Mr Piernar was now a New Zealander.

“He’s in New Zealand now, we’re now a melting pot and people come to New Zealand and establish lives for themselves and he’s been elected by members in Rodney and became chairman some years ago,” he said.

Being electorate chair is a thankless task. Lots of work, no pay, and relatively minor influence. Mr Piernar has probably served in the background well for many years.

However his past is now in the public domain, and a past that advocated violence for a whites-only state is not a good one – even if he has since changed his views.

I’m a big believer that the party is bigger than any individual. Mr Piernar’s past has the potential to damage National. If I was in his shoes, I would put the party first and step down as chair.

Mr Piernar faced accusations of stacking branch membership within the electorate so a fundamentalist Christian accountant, Brent Robinson, could win the nomination for the safe National seat.

Mr Robinson’s candidacy is supported by members of the fundamentalist Life Church.

I don’t know Brent Robinson. All I know is that 150 members of a fundamentalist church signed up to try and help make him the candidate. To me that reeks of hostile takeover.

I’m all for aspiring candidates signing people up to National – but they should do that by door knocking and identifying National party supporters.

If a member of a rotary club sought nomination for National, there is no way I would expect 150 members of that rotary club join the party to vote for him. The fact that 150 church members have joined up suggests to me that it is because they wish to see National adopt their religious views.

I have absolutely no problem with MPs who have strong and deep religious convictions. In fact I consider several of them my friends. My problem is when they seek to legislate their religious beliefs on New Zealand.

I hope delegates in Rodney consider that their choice can and may have ramifications for the wider party. National will not continue to attract the broad based support it does today if it looks like it is going down a path of religious fundamentalism.

And it is on that topic we turn to North Shore, when Ewen McQueen is one of the candidates. Again I have not met Ewen, but he is a former leader of the Christian Heritage Party. I’ve spent the last 15 years trying to keep Christian Heritage out of Parliament, and to be blunt don’t want them to enter Parliament as a National Party MP.

Having the former leader of Christian Heritage in a National Caucus would send tens of thousands of younger urban voters fleeing to Labour. Hell, even I’d consider giving Phil Goff a go if that is the case.

When Christian Heritage wound up in 2006, McQueen said:

Mr McQueen said parliament was lacking a political party that would make a strong and clear stand for the importance of family life, the primacy of marriage and the sanctity of human life …

Mr McQueen said that those who advocated working as individuals to espouse these values within other parties ignored the fact that our parliamentary system was essentially based on political parties. This was even more the case since the introduction of MMP

Mr McQueen should follow his own advice and re-establish a niche party based on his desire to outllaw abortion, civil unions and bring back the death penalty (all CHP policies).

The delegates in Rodney and North Shore have the ability to damage the party significantly with their decisions. I hope they consider their options carefully and elect people who will help lift the party vote for National, not scare voters off National.

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Edwards on Goff

April 26th, 2011 at 11:54 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards looks at the futu for Phil Goff. He notes:

After Clark steps down in the wake of National’s win in the 2008 election, Is unanimously elected Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party. 

Both Goff and Labour have floundered in the polls ever since.   

It’s worth pointing out, however, that Goff’s and Labour’s poll ratings are actually better now, seven months before a general election,  than Clark’s and Labour’s were seven months before the 1996 general election. Had it not been for Winston Peter’s decision to go with National, Clark would have won that election.

There is an important context here. The last time Labour polled below 27% was indeed in 1996. But the Alliance and NZ First between them were polling 33%, and both were pushing left wing messages. So the actual support for leftish parties was 60%. Today it is under 35%.

And Edwards is right Clark coudl have been PM in 1996 if Winston went with her. In fact on election nigth she all but declared herself the victor. It was partly the arrogance of Labour in the negotiations that pushed Peters back towards National.

There is, however, no such expectation that Goff can win this year’s election in November. He has been written off by the media and, if the latest polls are to be believed, by a majority of Labour’s own supporters. After a 27-year career in Parliament the Leader of the Opposition looks almost certain to be denied the glittering prize. Therein lies the tragedy.

Goff, it seems to me, has three strikes against him.

The first is that he took over as leader of a party which had been in office for nine years, which the electorate was thoroughly tired of and which had just lost an election. His task, to re-enthuse that  electorate to the point where it would throw out the government after only one term, was nigh on impossible. Political history argues against it.

Second, he has been around too long. In a post entitled The Prince Charles Syndrome

I think the second strike is the hardest to overcome. Phil Goff joined the Labour Party in 1969 when John Key was an eight year old and became an MP in 1981, when Key was a second year university student wooing Bronagh. It is hard for someone who entered Parliament when Muldoon was prime Minister, to be seen as a Prime Minister for the future.

The third strike against the Leader of the Opposition is that amorphous quality ‘charisma’. Or rather the lack of it. Phil does not have charisma. His ‘image’ – that other indefinable term – is terrible: stiff, wooden, robotic, uncomfortable, ill-at-ease, stern, censorious, lecturing, occasionally irritable, occasionally sour.

In an unhappy irony Goff is a Labour leader with no apparent common touch. The ‘apparent’ is important, because people who know him and people who meet him face to face speak of an entirely different person – approachable, warm, relaxed, funny, a good bloke, a decent man.

I’ve found Goff perfectly pleasant and nice in person. And if we are to have a Labour Prime Minister, I’d rather have Goff than many others.

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Sharon Armstrong

April 26th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reported:

A distraught Sharon Armstrong says she was duped into smuggling five kilograms of cocaine by an online lover.

“Oh God, I feel so foolish,” she told The Dominion Post from her Argentinian cell yesterday. “You know I’ve worked for the government for 20 years. I’ve just been a silly old lady. Silly, silly, silly and too trusting. I’ve been scammed. This is just so shameful.”

Friends and family say her arrest is out of character and believe Ms Armstrong, 54, is the victim of an online dating scam.

The former deputy chief executive of the Maori Language Commission had been a contractor at Wellington Maori education and language company Haemata since February.

An Argentinian official said she was arrested on April 13 as she was waiting to board British Airways flight BA2444 to London.

The cocaine was found after she had checked in her baggage, the official said. A security scan revealed the cocaine concealed by a false bottom in her suitcase.

For several months, Ms Armstrong had been exchanging emails and chatting on Skype with a man she had met online.

She was due to travel to London to meet him but, at the last minute, her flights were changed to go via Argentina, where the man reportedly asked her to pick up some documents relating to a new job.

Friends and family repeatedly warned Ms Armstrong it could be a scam. But the man had put about $1000 toward the cost of the altered tickets, and she thought he was legitimate. She has not heard from him since her arrest.

Considering her family and friends warned her it was a scam, one would have thought that any request to take someone’s luggage should have been refused – especially from someone you have never met.

I’ve only once taken an item for someone else on a plane, and that was taking a pram to London for a very good friend’s pregnant sister.

The latest update is:

A former top public servant accused of cocaine smuggling in Argentina has defended carrying more than one driver’s licence, saying she is “not a criminal”.

Sharon Armstrong, 54, was arrested by police in a Buenos Aires airport about two weeks ago after 5 kilograms of cocaine was discovered in the false bottom of her suitcase.

Police confiscated personal effects, including an iPhone, passport, Farmers card and Argentinian, Australian and United States cash. Officials said they also found four driver licences.

But Ms Armstrong said yesterday she had three licences – New Zealand, Australian and Cook Islands – with her. The Australian licence was for when she visited family, and the $10 Cook Islands licence had expired.

If they are all in your name it is not that suspicious. However while IIRC the Cooks do require you to get a local licence (earns them revenue), as far as I know one can use a NZ licence in Australia. So it does raise some suspicions.

I don’t know Sharon Armstrong, and hope if she is an innocent dupe she is not punished for her stupidity. But I hope she can provide some proof that she was doing this for love, not payment. The difference is several years jail.

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Danyl gets it wrong

April 26th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Been meaning to comment on this post by Danyl at Dim Post for a while, as I would hate anyone to think Danyl is actually correct with his assertion than I regularly con and play journalists – something insulting to me as much as to them. First of all let’s take the article which prompted his post – a profile of Grant Robertson in the Herald quoting me saying:

Kiwiblogger and right-wing commentator David Farrar believes Robertson will be at the forefront of a leadership challenge within the next two terms . . .

Now in Danyl’s world, my comments were part of a cunning plot by National to undermine Phil Goff, and not my honest belief. He should have checked the timing of when I made the comments, and what I actually said.

When Phil Goff did his reshuffle in early Feb I said:

The Robertson move is the best part of the reshuffle. Tony Ryall will have a more challenging time with Grant against him. Health is traditionally a strong area for Labour, and the fact they have performed so dismally in this area has to change, for them to be competitive. It also marks the high regard Robertson is held in, to get it in just two years. He is a future Labour Prime Minister in my opinion.

The next day I blogged:

I’ve long said that I think Grant will become Labour Leader, and indeed probably even a Labour Prime Minister.

I don’t think he will be the next leader, but the one after that. He is young enough to be able to wait his time.

So my initial blogs were praising Goff for Robertson’s promotion, and explicitly saying that I do not think he will be the next leader but maybe the one after that.  Several times I have said that I do not think Grant would be a contender until after 2014 election.

It was shortly after that the Herald rang me as they were doing a profile on Grant, and wanted my comments on why I rate him. Now this was in early to mid February – weeks before the Darren Hughes affair occured and before there was any talk at all of a challenge to Goff.

So Danyl has it 100% wrong when he insinuates that my comments were designed to undermine Goff, and that I conned Derek into running them. Goff’s leadership was not an issue when I made my comments and further more I explicitly said that Grant would not be the next leader.

This is unless Danyl thinks I knew in advance that Darren Hughes would go home with an 18 year old who would flee naked from his home, and that Goff would take no action over it, hence creating leadership speculation.

The other thing Danyl doesn’t realise is that far from my praise of Grant being a cunning National Party plot, it generally results in a flurry of angry phone calls and e-mails from National Party people. I am a member of Wellington Central National Party, a former campaign chair for the seat, and a mate of the just selected candidate. Let me assure you that local Nats get very unhappy when I say good things about Grant. And so do a few Nats at 1 Molesworth Street.

Danyl’s fantasy of this all being some cunning plan of the 9th floor is hilarious, if he could tap my phone. I get some seriously pissed off people calling.

The only thing that makes up for the hostility my comments on Grant’s abilities generate for me from Nats, is the knowledge that they probably generate equally hostile comments to Grant from his Labour activists :-)

So having dealt with the specific, let’s turn to the more general:

Describing DPF as  ‘Kiwiblogger and right-wing commentator’ is an improvement on outlets like TV3 and NewsTalkZB that just describe him as ‘blogger and commentator’ but it does elide his most significant role in the political process namely that he’s THE NATIONAL PARTY POLLSTER. Quoting him in a story about an opposition MP is a little like citing ‘former TVNZ journalist Fran Mold’ or ‘astute political observer Kevin Taylor’. (There is a slight difference, in that they’re directly employed by their parties, while DPF is the director of a company that the National Party contracts.)

I have disclosed on my blog my extensive background with National, and this is pretty well known. But that does not mean I am an uncritical supporter or obliged to say things only helpful to National. I compare it to sports. National is the team I support, and I want my team to win. But that doesn’t mean I won’t criticise the coach, captan and players when they stuff up. And it doesn’t mean I won’t praise other teams when they perform well.

As for the fact that National may have a relationship with Curia. Well off hand I would say that most of the organisations Curia has done work for, I have also criticised at some stage on my blog. Any relationship Curia has with National didn’t stop me doing the post the week before last criticising the Government on use of urgency. That post resulted in numerous critical news stories, and a NZ Herald editorial. I also did around five radio and one TV interview repeating my views.

Yes it is difficult criticising people or organisations you have relationships with. But it is hardly something new to me. In my roles with InternetNZ I had a good working relationship with David Cunliffe who was ICT Minister. And in the last few weeks I’ve actually had a number of meetings with Labour, Green and ACT MPs, where I’ve encouraged them to pressure the Government to make some changes to its telecommunications legislation. Again, it doesn’t always generate undying gratitude from within National.

DPF is the most successful at getting journalists to accept him as an independent and trustworthy commentator, presumably because he’s so genial and likeable and, unassuming.

I don’t believe journalists ask me for comment because I am genial or likeable (and many would dispute that). I assume it it because I give intelligent analysis, and am willing to praise the “other team” and criticise my own team.

Danyl seems to think my blog was invented by National as a cunning social media tool. In fact I’ve been debating politics online since 1996 – because I enjoy it. I did this through Usenet from 1996 to 2003 and then discovered blogs and after gettign addicted to reading them set up my own. This was not done at the request of National, or even with their support, permission or knowledge. I just did it. And in fact in its first year of operations, there was at least one caucus meeting where a number of National MPs complained about things I said on it and asked if the then leadership could stop me blogging.

No one likes to think they’ve been played by the penguin, even though he repeatedly plays many political journalists for suckers on a regular basis.

Again I find this really insulting (apart from Danyl trying to emulate Trevor Mallard with use of an insulting nickname) - to both sides. He presumably think all the journalists except his wife are really stupid, and that I  not only know they are stupid but take advantage of their stupidity to con and play them. That is not how I regard journalists, and Danyl is attributing motives quite maliciously.

It is very very rarely that I will ring a journalist up to push a story – maybe once every six months if even that. And if journalists ring me up, I give them my opinion. Absolutely that is from someone with a pro-National world-view, but that is known.

At the risk of being immodest, I would suggest the reason some journalists do call me and ask for my views and analysis, is because I used to talk candidly to them in the days before blogging. I was never a press secretary but during my eight years in Parliament I had strong relationships with many in the gallery – and I often chatted off the record to them on my take of how things are going. I wouldn’t betray professional confidences, but I would happily admit over a beer that National had terribly fucked up that week. I was rather proud of the fact that when then TVNZ Political Editor Linda Clark retired from the gallery, that I was the only 9th floor staffer to attend her farewell (as she was under a fatwa from the then PM). That was not because I was genial or likeable, but because I would never ever bullshit her and would always talk to her (even if sometimes all I could say is I can’t comment).

This seems a very lengthy and some would say “thou protest too much” response to Danyl’s blog post. And it possibly is. But Danyl is now the most read and I would say powerful left wing blog, so I respond to stuff he says which I wouldn’t on other blogs. Also it is useful to get this out there, so it can be referred to in future.

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