Archive for April, 2012

The Cunliffe speech

April 30th, 2012 at 3:18 pm by David Farrar

David Cunliffe delivered a speech yesterday that has many Labour and left activists praising it. It is a speech well outside his area of economic development (He is Economic Development, not Finance spokesperson after Shearer demoted him), and is an effective state of the nation or state of the party speech. I have seen these speeches before, and inevitably when portfolio spokespersons give speeches like this, they are wanting a certain job. Some extracts:

You know that at the last election, the one that we lost so badly, nearly 1 million people didn’t vote. Over 800,000 people: a fifth of the population didn’t vote.

Now you know, there are lots of reasons that people didn’t vote, and there were even more reasons why people didn’t vote for Labour. Let me give you just a few.

The major reason that voters didn’t vote for Labour, and sometimes didn’t vote at all, is simply that Labour failed to inspire voters that it was a credible alternative to National. …

I want to be clear from the outset that this speech represents my own views and does not pretend to represent overall Labour policy. All policies are being reviewed in the post-election period. 

All the classic signs. “My personal views”. “Why we failed”. The implication is “Why we continue to fail”.

When the right-wing party says that it’s going to cut your leg off, voters want the left-wing party to say that it’s not going to cut your leg off. Voters don’t want to be told that the left-wing party is also going to cut your leg off, but cut it off a bit lower down and give you some anesthetic.

 I think that’s a major reason that nearly one million voters deserted us at the last election. It wasn’t because we failed to communicate our policies. Quite the opposite. Those voters saw that our policies – with the exception of asset sales – were mostly the same as National’s. So we can’t really be surprised at the result.

This is a clear call to arms for the left activists. Never mind the reality they were promising $70 more a week to beneficiaries and the like, and most commentator said their policies under Goff were more left-wing than even under Helen Clark. Cunliffe needs the left activist base. The activist base is always less moderate that the supporters. The average National activist is well to the right of a National Government, and the average Labour activist well to the left of a Labour Government.

But you’d never know this if you listened to John Key. Like a quack doctor whose cure has failed, his response is to double the dose until the patient is dead.

 Sorry, John, but let me quote Sir Winston Churchill:

“The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.”

No matter how many politicians and economists still defend the economic policies that led us into this mess, the truth is steadily showing itself.

The obligatory Churchill quote every leadership speech has.

Labour has a new leader with strong values, who’s focused on reconnecting with the voters and has the courage to stand up to bullies. It’s up to us, as a Party, to share with our leader, our hopes, our fears and our dreams, to reconstruct the Party from within, to reclaim our natural constituency of decent, ordinary New Zealanders who believe in fairness and hard work.

This paragraph is astonishing. It strongly implies that the leader does not already share their hopes, fears and dreams. It is a call to action for activists to back Cunliffe’s views and policies and insist Shearer implements them, with a clear implication about what may happen if he does not.

But we didn’t. And we don’t have to back away from creating policies that can turn us away from the economic insanity of the last three decades.

David Cunliffe was a Minister in the last Labour Government. He is now saying that the economic polices of that Government were insane. This is what you do when trying to position yourself as a new leader.

What I find surprising in this speech is not that Cunliffe is making a leadership style speech, but that he has done so in such an unsubtle way. Normally these things are much more subtle and coded. I have never seen an MP urge activists to “share” their views with the leader, in a way which suggests he is out of touch.

The other interesting thing is events of the last week. First we have top Auckland Labour Party official, Greg Presland, who blogged last Wednesday praising David Cunliffe. He implied the Robertson camp was behind the attacks on both Cunliffe and Shearer, and openly said:

Cunliffe may now be Shearer’s best chance of survival as Labour Head Office and the Beehive are filled with Robertson supporters. 

Now bear in mind to have your top Auckland official openly talk about the leader not surviving, and how it is is only the good graces of Cunliffe keeping him alive. In National such an official would be outski. Party officials should never ever talk about how the Leader is struggling to survive.

Then two days later on Friday Chris Trotter blogged:

I was wrong about David Shearer. I made the mistake of believing that a politician with a brilliant back-story couldn’t fail to give us an equally brilliant front-story. …

It’s time for the Labour Caucus to put an end to “the unfortunate experiment” and begin a new one. They could call it “democracy” – and stop taking their party for Grant-ed.

A clear attack on both Shearer, and Grant Robertson, which by omission suggests Cunliffe should be Leader.

Then another two days later, Cunliffe makes a “True Labour” speech, with Tumeke noting:

It was given by David Cunliffe at 2pm Sunday at the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre on his personal beliefs for the economic vision for Labour. 70 people were there by invitation including myself, Chris Trotter and Peter Davis and I have never heard the explanation of why Labour lost the 2011 election and what vision is necessary to regain that support with the passion and intelligence that Cunliffe brought to it. 

Cunliffe launched a personal vision of what I’d call ‘True Labour’, a renouncing of the neo liberal agenda and an explanation that the reason a million enrolled voters didn’t bother to vote Labour was because despite a few policy differences, Labour was still the lighter shade of blue. 

Now I am sure this is all a coincidence because I am a trusting sort of person. But someone more cynical and suspicious than me might wonder about the timing of all this.

UPDATE: Am sure this David Cunliffe campaign website is also a coincidence and is really aimed for the general election in 31 months time.

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Headline v substance

April 30th, 2012 at 2:48 pm by David Farrar

The headline:

Key questions Pullar ACC recording

The lead para:

A recording of a meeting between ACC management and whistle-blower Bronwyn Pullar that reportedly clears Ms Pullar of threatening the corporation has been questioned by Prime Minister John Key.

Further down:

Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast today, Mr Key raised questions about the recording.

“Yes there appears to be a difference of opinion although, as we know with recordings, that it might not be the entire recording,” he said.

“I’m not saying it is or it isn’t, I simply don’t know, but the important point there is that there are three investigations going on … and I’m sure they’ll look at all of the information that’s there.”

I have to say I take that not as “questioning” the recording, but just stating the obvious – relying on media reports based on recordings is not the same as a first hand inspection – as the Police and Privacy Commissioner will do.

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Let Shearer be Shearer

April 30th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

There is an episode of the West Wing called “Let Bartlett be Barlett” (S1E19).

The staff begin to realize that the Bartlet administration has been ineffective because it has been too timid to make bold decisions, focusing instead on the exigencies of politics. Finally, Leo confronts President Bartlet with his own timidity, challenging him to be himself and to take the staff “off the leash.” – in other words, he seeks to “Let Bartlet be Bartlet”. The President and his staff resolve to act boldly and “raise the level of public debate” in America.

This is what David Shearer needs to do also.

I agree with the NZ Herald editorial that says:

They say Leader of the Opposition is the worst job in politics. It requires unceasing, carping criticism of everything the Government does and a relentlessly negative outlook on the country’s condition and prospects under current policies. Somehow this hapless individual is supposed to be popular too.

David Shearer, elected leader of the Labour Party after the last election, has clearly decided this job description is not for him. Whatever he has been doing since his elevation he has not been out front on most of the issues that are making this a testing year for John Key’s Government. There is a view that he is to blame for the fact these issues have not dented National’s standing in two recent polls or lifted Labour’s support. The concern seems to have permeated his own office with the resignation of his chief of staff, Stuart Nash.

If the departure of Mr Nash signals a change of style for Mr Shearer, it would be a mistake. Mr Shearer is clearly not a tub-thumping politician. He seems a normal, thoughtful, cautious and fair-minded citizen. 

Those in Labour who are getting so worked up about the fact they have not gone up in the polls, despite National dealing with some unpopular issues, need to realise that beyond the beltway people are not talking over morning tea about how David Shearer did in the House. Yes, he has some way to go to be a confident and authoritative presence in the House. But he will not become Prime Minister purely by being a good attack dog in the House, and nor does he need to be. That is why you have a Deputy.

Where there is fair criticism of Shearer has been his inability, to date, to articulate what he stands for and how his beliefs are different to both Phil Goff’s and John Key’s. The Goff led Labour achieved a near 100 year low for their vote. David Shearer must avoid being tuned turned into Goff-lite.

The problem, as I understand it from a couple of Labour people, is that David Shearer does have some innovative and exciting ideas around policy, ones that break the stereotype of right vs left. But the problem is he has been unable to get them through his caucus, who remain largely wedded to their current policies.

As the Herald editorial says:

 People do not follow leaders who lack the confidence to be themselves.

The role of political leadership is more than being chairman of the board, or the caucus. Don Brash did not let Caucus decide his Orewa speech. John Key in Opposition did not have Caucus vote on his agreement with Helen Clark over the anti-smacking law compromise. That show of leadership won him huge acclaim at the time.

Likewise in Government, Helen Clark and John Key did not let Caucus determine key policies. In fact one could argue they wouldn’t let Caucus determine a bus timetable!

Shearer needs to start putting out policies and ideas which define him. I probably won’t like most of them, and that is not a bad thing. But neither is it a bad thing, if his caucus don’t like 100% of them also. What is important is that he likes them, and backs them. Leadership is about telling your caucus “these are the policies I want to lead on, back them or find yourself a new leader”. Decision making by committee of 34 is not a good option.

David Shearer is genuinely nice guy, who wants the best for New Zealand (as most, but not all, MPs do). It is incredible that only two and a bit months after Parliament has resumed this year, that some in Labour are already backsliding over their choice. You have to take a medium to long-term strategic view. What matters isn’t the polls at the moment, or how the House is going. What matters is whether or not there is a three year strategy designed to get Labour and its leader perceived as the Government in waiting, and that the right steps are being taken to implement that strategy.

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More bullshit claims

April 30th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand’s high youth death rate among developed nations has been blamed in part on its alcohol-buying age of 18.

A leading suicide researcher, Dr Annette Beautrais, of Auckland University, said this “relatively low minimum drinking age” was a more likely explanation than the better methods New Zealand has over some countries for recording and investigating deaths.

Oh bullshit. Why can’t people check the facts out. The prevalance of young people drinking has in fact been significantly dropping.

In 2006 the annual ALAC survey found 53% of 12 to 17 year olds were drinkers. In 2010 this figure had dropped to 32%. That is in fact a 40% relative reduction in the prevalance rate of youth drinking.

And if you go back to before the age dropped from 20 to 18, in 1997, 80% of 14 to 18 year olds were drinking alcohol despite it being illegal to purchase it. There is no direct data for the the same age range today, but the closest we have is 53% of 15 to 17 year olds were drinkers in 2010. Overall there looks to be fewer minors drinking today than when the purchase age was 20, and beyond doubt the rate has fallen massively since 2005.

Why does the Herald run a story that gives one side of the argument only, and  no dissenting views?

For the avoidance of doubt, of course alcohol is a factor in the suicides of some young people.  But that is a hugely different issue to whether or not the purchase age being 18, not 20, has changed the rate of youth suicides.

The same ALAC research incidentally found 60% of youth binge drinkers had their last drink at home or a family member’s home, and only 27% were at a friend’s house.  So the major supplier of alcohol to young drinkers tends to be family members, not 18 and 19 year olds.

The law change that is needed is to make it an offence to supply alcohol to minors, except with parental consent and in a responsible fashion. That is in the Alcohol Reform Bill, and should be supported strongly as a measure which will make a difference.

Scapegoating 18 and 19 year olds, and blaming them for youth suicides is not the answer, and is quite reprehensible.

Oh just spotted this at the end of the article:

Dr Beautrais said that, on its own, the split age was unlikely to have much impact on the suicide rate.

Oh my God. So even the source of the story says this, yet the headline is “Lower drinking age blamed for high rate of youth deaths”.

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Dom Post on sex offenders register

April 30th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Child sex offenders depend on anonymity and subterfuge to commit their sickening crimes. Restrict their ability to contact children, and the number of potential victims is reduced.

In the case of convicted offenders who have served their sentences but who still have the urge to stalk and groom children, a sex offenders register would help keep kids safe. It could, for example, prevent paedophiles from taking positions in community organisations in which they would have access to young people. It could also apply to those who have committed sexual offences against adults.

Police Minister Anne Tolley is therefore right to consider introducing such a register.

Yet Labour seem to think the status quo is working fine.

That said, there is no reason a register with the right checks and balances could not work successfully. Some will say it infringes the rights of those who have done their time, but the equation is simple: the rights of children to be kept safe from sexual predators come first.

Many sex offenders offend against their own family members, and hence get name suppression automatically. Relying on public media reports of offending is unwise, and they are not comprehensive.

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General Debate 30 April 2012

April 30th, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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The ACC recording

April 30th, 2012 at 7:52 am by David Farrar

Phil Kitchin at Stuff reports:

A recording of a critical meeting between senior ACC managers and the whistleblower who exposed a massive privacy breach reveals the corporation misled its minister and the public.

The corporation has alleged that client Bronwyn Pullar threatened at the meeting to go to the media unless she was given a guaranteed two-year benefit.

It also alleged she said that she would withhold details of the breach involving private details of 6500 other clients – including sexual abuse victims – if her demands were not met.

Once details of the privacy breach were revealed by The Dominion Post, the ACC referred its extortion allegations against Ms Pullar to police.

However, a recording of a key meeting in December between Ms Pullar, her support person Michelle Boag – a senior National Party figure – and two ACC managers is at odds with the corporation’s claims that were included in a report ordered by ACC Minister Judith Collins.

The ACC was given a transcript of the meeting more than three weeks ago, but has refused to correct its report.

Ms Pullar said it was outrageous that, having been provided with the recording, the corporation was refusing to correct a “blatant lie” on a public report. …

The Dominion Post has heard the recording and had obtained an accurate transcript of it. It contradicts several key elements in the ACC report.

The transcript shows:

Neither Ms Pullar nor Ms Boag threatened to go to the media or withhold the data if Ms Pullar was not given a guaranteed two years’ compensation.

ACC’s statement that it was not given specific details of the breach is misleading. ACC was told the data was “highly sensitive information”, including names and details of 6500 claimants.

If ACC have filed a complaint with the Police based on incorrect information, then this is a serious matter.

But Ms Pullar said that the allegation was a misuse of power and “an attempt to smear Michelle Boag’s and my reputation”.

“Had I not recorded this meeting, it would have been ACC’s word against mine.”

Media lawyer Steven Price said the tape was recorded legitimately because Ms Pullar was a party to the conversation at the meeting.

Parties to a conversation cannot be guilty of illegally recording a conversation using an interception device.

I look forward to the completion of the various reports and inquiries so we the public get a better understanding of what actually has happened.

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Decriminalisation by stealth?

April 29th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Ian Steward at SST reports:

Police have been accused of “decriminalisation by stealth” after a study showed cannabis possession arrests have halved in the last 18 years.

A Massey University research centre report shows despite the number of users remaining constant, arrests for cannabis possession since the late 1990s have fallen.

The Government says its policy is anti-cannabis and anti-decriminalisation, but the research shows there were 454 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1998, but only 227 by 2006.

It is worth noting that the research is up until 2006 only. But I doubt it has changed since.

Labour Justice spokesman Charles Chauvel said police had recognised the current approach to cannabis was failing, and had implemented changes in spite of the law. “It’s pretty much decriminalisation by stealth.”

He said a recent Law Commission report recommended cannabis be treated more as a health than a criminal issue, but Parliament “failed to act”.

At the time, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said the Government would not adopt the commission’s recommendation of a three-warnings approach to cannabis.

Chauvel said he agreed with the police approach, but would “prefer it was under the supervision of Parliament”.

I have to say I agree with Chauvel on this issue. The Law Commission recommendation of a mandatory caution scheme was a good one. By not implementing it, it means the Police operate such a scheme without legislative guidance which is less than ideal.

 

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Support for Euthanasia?

April 29th, 2012 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

Sarah Harvey in the SST  reports:

The MP campaigning for the right to die has been buoyed by a poll that shows more than 85 per cent of respondents to a survey supported voluntary euthanasia.

The Sunday Star-Times reader poll of more than 1000 people also found almost three-quarters of people would help a terminally-ill loved one commit suicide, and that support for a law change is highest among men, and those over 60. Labour MP Maryan Street has been working with the Voluntary Euthanasia Society on her End of Life Choice Bill, which would give people the right to “choose how and when they exit this life”.

The private members bill will have to be drawn from the ballot to get a hearing, but Street says the reader poll had the highest support she had seen, with most polls getting 75 per cent backing for a law change.

I wouldn’t compare a readers poll to polls of random New Zealanders. I do think however there is considerable support for a law change amongst the public.

“There is more support out in the community for this than people imagine,” Street said. She had seen a change since a 1995 euthanasia vote was lost 61-29, to 60-57 when it was revisited in 2003. “And, nine years on, attitudes have changed again.”

I think the current law is quite cruel when people like Sean Davison are made into criminals for doing what his mother begged him to do.

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The anti asset sales march

April 29th, 2012 at 9:24 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

An estimated 3000 people joined politicians, unionists and community leaders in the Aotearoa Is Not For Sale hikoi, which passed through Auckland on its two-week journey from Cape Reinga to Wellington.

My normal rule of thumb is to take 33% off any media estimate of a march and 67% off any estimate from the promoters!

But even if 3,000 that is 2% 0.2% of Aucklanders.

Among them was Phoebe and her friend Gloria Strawhan, 13, who carried a banner with the words “Just No” scrawled across it.

It was the overriding message of protesters as they walked up Queen St from Britomart to Aotea Square.

Asset sales? No. Privatisation and the sale of land to overseas investors? No. Mining, fracking and drilling? No. Auckland mayor Len Brown? Step down, the crowd chanted. Act Party leader John Banks? Boo, they hollered.

How fascinating that they want Len Brown to step down. Were the Labour and Green MPs on the march also calling for this?

The Government did not have a mandate to sell assets, despite being elected after saying they would, said Smith.

Sorry, but that is exactly what they have.

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Geddis on donations

April 29th, 2012 at 9:18 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

University of Otago Faculty of Law professor Andrew Geddis said candidates were allowed to meet potential donors and advise them how to give anonymous donations.

“If the candidate subsequently learns a large ‘anonymous’ donation was made to her or his campaign in the days after the conversation, the candidate can claim not to know who it came from,” Geddis said.

I made this point yesterday also. You may know they were going to be a donor, but not which donation was their one. However if the donor was thanked by the candidate afterwards for the donation, that would weaken the claim not to know.

University of Otago lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards said allowing anonymous donations was a serious loophole.

“I think from this point on there will be an increasing call for the ability of anonymous donations to be scrapped.

“It’s almost inevitable we will see that loophole close,” Edwards said.

The sensible thing to do would be to apply the the donation provisions of the Electoral Act to the Local Electoral Act.

It is worth noting that Len Brown also had anonymous donations. His were legally funneled through a trust, so they donated to the trust, and the trust donated to his campaign.

Yesterday, Labour leader David Shearer called for Prime Minister John Key to stand Banks down from his ministerial portfolios.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister said Banks had assured him he had complied with local body electoral law.

Any call for a stand down is ridiculous. While I regard the allegations by DotCom as serious, they are just untested allegations, and they in no way relate to to any actions by Banks as a Minister or MP.

If the Police investigate (which is inevitable), and if they decides to lay charges, then there could be a question of “standing down”, but if MPs and Ministers were required to stand down over untested allegations of electoral breaches then a lot of Labour MPs would still be stood down pending resolution of the complaints the Electoral Commission referred to the Police last election.

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General Debate 29 April 2012

April 29th, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Heh

April 28th, 2012 at 1:28 pm by David Farrar

From today’s Herald.

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RIP Fred Allen

April 28th, 2012 at 1:01 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

All Black great Sir Fred Allen has passed away.

Sir Fred, who at age 92 was the oldest living All Black, had been battling ill health for some time and was in full-time care on the Whangaparoa Peninsula.

He passed away at 3.30am on Saturday morning.

Despite illness, Sir Fred tried to remain as active as ever in recent times.

Earlier this week he unveiled a bridge on Sir Fred All Walk of Honour  at Auckland Memorial Park, Silverdale.

Now that is service until the very end.

He is among the rare group of players to have both played and coached the All Blacks.

The star first-five played 21 matches for the All Blacks, including six tests, between 1946-49. …

After ending his playing days, Sir Fred took up coaching.

He was an All Black selector between 1964-65 and then coached the men in black between 1966-68.

His coaching tenure, which saw him known as ‘The Needle’, included the All Blacks winning all 14 tests under his control.

We have truly lost one of the greats.

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Herald on plain packaging

April 28th, 2012 at 11:15 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Government has been persuaded to follow Australia’s decision requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packs.

The theory seems to be that if all brands are forced into the same style of packet – perhaps a dirty light brown, dominated by health alerts and grisly pictures, the manufacturer identified in small type of a standard font – smoking will lose much of its remaining appeal. This must be the insult to trump them all.

Tobacco companies maintain plain packs will do nothing to reduce smoking and it is hard to disagree. Their business is not one of those that has to compete on artificial brand distinctions with a necessarily identical product. Smokers discern different blends and so long as they can find their preferred brand they are unlikely to care about the packet.

Social science claims to have found that cigarette packaging has some effect on younger people.

A recently published paper was based on group discussions and interviews with young smokers and non-smokers when they were shown plain white packs with prominent health warnings. They offered observations such as: “It looks so boring”, “it’s just budget … it’s like, lame”. Research of that sort insults everyone’s intelligence.

I’ve blogged on this myself. The research is far far from convincing.

Plain packs seem unlikely to bring the anti-smoking campaign much closer to its goal of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025. That goal, endorsed by the Government, could require much more drastic steps, especially in taxation.

A working paper produced in the Ministry of Health is said to suggest raising the cost of cigarettes to $100 a pack in order to reach the target.

The Maori Party seems particularly determined on the issue. With 44 per cent of Maori still smoking, more than twice the proportion overall, the party makes no apology for tax increases that hit the poor hardest.

A 12 per cent excise increase in 2010 is reckoned to have lowered tobacco sales by 10 per cent over the following year. Price is clearly the weapon that works, the only feature of a cigarette packet that counts.

If the cost needs to reach $100 a pack, and they are currently around $20, then they need to go up $80 a pack over 13 years, so an increase of around $5/year.

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The Dotcom Banks donation

April 28th, 2012 at 10:30 am by David Farrar

David Fisher reports:

Act leader John Banks asked for a $50,000 political donation to be split into two parts so it could be made anonymously, says Kim Dotcom and one other witness.

This is unusual, as splitting the donation has absolutely no impact on whether or not it can be anonymous. The level for disclosure is $1,000.

Dotcom said the request was made on April 15, 2010, when Mr Banks was preparing to campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.

He said there were at times three other people in the room while the donation was discussed – and Mr Banks rang later to thank him for it.

The allegation comes after police were asked to investigate Mr Banks’ listing of a $15,000 donation from SkyCity as “anonymous”.

I regard this allegation as far more serious than the Sky City one. As far as I know no one has suggested Banks knew personally of the Sky City donation, which allow him to declare it as anonymous.

If the allegations are correct and that Banks both solicited the donation, and was made aware of when it had been made, and then thanked the donor for it – well I find it hard to see how you can claim that “the candidate concerned does not know who made the donation”, which is the test in the Local Electoral Act.

The only wriggle room might be that if Banks did not know of the amount donated. He could claim he was aware of him being a donor but did not know how much, so hence for that specific donation did not know who made it. Personally I regard that as still being against the spirit of the law, but courts decide on the wording.

This again reinforces to me the need to have much tighter donation transparency requirements for local government elections.

Political candidates are required by law to declare donations if they know who made them. Failure to do so is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

A vacancy is automatically created if any MP is convicted of an offence punishable by two years or more, no matter what punishment they get.

In the case of Mr Banks, a conviction would place at risk his Epsom seat under the Electoral Act and force a byelection. The loss would leave the Government exposed, with its 59 votes in the 121-seat Parliament supplemented only by United Future’s one and the Maori Party’s three.

It is worth noting that a complaint has not yet been laid over the Dotcom donation, once it has it will then be referred to the Police, they will have to investigate and decide whether to lay charges, and if they do then it goes to a court to decide.

Based on their usual speed with electoral issues, this could take some time. If all this did happen and Banks was convicted, then I doubt the overall Government majority would be at risk, as National would win an Epsom by-election with ease.

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Brrrrr

April 28th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A man has been taken to hospital with hypothermia after taking an early morning skinny dip in Wellington Harbour.

Acting police inspector Bruce Mackay said police were called to Oriental Bay, after receiving reports of a naked man swimming near Freyberg pool.

“Police were called to talk to the man, to see why he was naked and swimming in the harbour. He was taken to hospital in a hypothermic condition, but obviously we’re also concerned for his mental wellbeing.”

I’d say anyone who goes swimming in Wellington waters in April is definitionally insane :-)

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General Debate 28 April 2012

April 28th, 2012 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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The Nation 28 April 2012

April 27th, 2012 at 11:42 pm by Kokila Patel

1. Colin James and Duncan Garner on the week in politics
2. Tim Groser on New Zealand diplomacy in the 21st century (With Duncan Garner)
3. A report on the MMP review.
4. Sean Hughes from the Financial Markets Authority on financial market regulation after Petricevic. (With Rachel Smalley)
5. Brian Edwards and Bill Ralston on The Herald, elephants and the Leveson inquiry

TV3 – Saturday 9.30 am, repeated on Sunday at 8.00 am

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NZ’s top student

April 27th, 2012 at 2:22 pm by David Farrar

Hekia Parata has announced:

Jade Fai Leung from Auckland’s St Cuthbert’s College was named today as winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Academic Excellence.

Education Minister, Hekia Parata, presented the Top Scholar Awards, on behalf of the Prime Minister, at Government House.

The Prime Minister’s Award for Academic Excellence recognises the highest achieving student in the annual New Zealand scholarship examinations.

“Jade has achieved an extraordinary six Outstanding Scholarships in Chemistry, Geography, Painting, Physics, Science, and Statistics and Modelling,’’ says Ms Parata.

“This is an amazing achievement as Outstanding Scholars are the top 1 per cent of the cohort for each subject.

“On top of this, Jade has also achieved Scholarships in Biology, English, and Spanish. This makes for an impressive nine Scholarship awards in total.”

She sat scholarship in nine subjects? And got all nine? And was in the top 1 per cent for six of them. And they are as diverse as chemistry and painting? Plus she does multiple languages. Count me impressed.

Photo is from Amnesty.

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Why wouldn’t left voters support the Greens?

April 27th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

In my Herald column I ask the question that if you are a voter of the left, why would you not support the Greens over Labour?

Before I explore why the Greens are doing so relatively well at the moment, first let us look at perhaps the historical reasons why left voters generally did not support the Greens.

The first is policy influence. The two larger parties are the one that can shape Government the most. A party on five per cent has little influence compared to a party on 45 per cent. But this is not the environment in 2012. Labour continues to poll in the 20s only, and the Greens have started to poll between 14 per cent and 17 per cent. This means that in any future Government, the Greens could represent a third or more of the Government, which would give them massive influence – at a minimum Russel Norman could expect to be made Minister of Finance.

And the other historical reason:

The second reason why the Greens historically did not attract widespread support from the left is because they were perceived as extremists. Their defence spokesperson hated the United States. Their justice spokesperson was best known for breaking the law. Their economic policy was to argue against economic growth. Their consumer spokesperson railed against the size of easter eggs, and their welfare spokesperson was a former beneficiary rights activist. At one stage a significant portion of their caucus were actually former Marxist and maoists.

I also point out almost all new Labour policies were already Green policies:

Well if you look at almost all the new policies adopted by Labour in the last couple of years, they stole them from the Greens. Capital Gains Tax – was Greens policy. Extending the in work tax credit to beneficiaries – was Greens policy. Modifying the Reserve Bank Act targets – again Greens policy. Paid Parental Leave extension – forced on Labour by the Alliance, and pushed by the Greens. A hike in the minimum wage to $12 and then $15 – Greens and NZ First policy for many years. A tax-free threshold for all earners – again long-standing Greeen policy.

I’m interested especially in views of left voters as to why they might still be a Labour rather than Greens supporter? Is it tradition? Is it policy? Is it leadership?

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Local body donations

April 27th, 2012 at 1:09 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Labour MP Trevor Mallard has lodged an official complaint about Act leader John Banks failing to disclose a $15,000 donation was from SkyCity during his 2010 Auckland mayoralty campaign.

Mr Mallard lodged the complaint with the Auckland Council electoral officer this week. He also asked the electoral officer to scrutinise “anonymous” donations of radio advertising Mr Banks had included in his return.

SkyCity gave $15,000 each to Len Brown, now mayor, and Mr Banks, his rival, during that campaign.

Although Mr Brown’s donation return listed SkyCity as a donor, Mr Banks’ listed an anonymous donation of $15,000. It did not mention SkyCity.

The penalty for knowingly filing a false return is up to two years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000.

There is a lesser penalty of a $5000 fine if the candidate did not know it was false. MPs convicted of crimes with a penalty of two years or more can not remain in Parliament.

However, Mr Banks said he was not concerned about the complaint, dismissing it as Mr Mallard “up to his old timeless tricks”.

He said he had not known at the time that the donation was from SkyCity and his donations return was accurate as at the date he signed it.

“I signed the document at the said time to the best of my knowledge.” …

Asked how it was that Mayor Brown had known about the SkyCity donation yet he had not, the Act leader said his campaign accountants had dealt with the finances for his campaign and he had based his return on the information they gave him.

Asked if it was possible they had known the donation was from SkyCity, he said it was.

Auckland Council’s electoral officer, Bruce Thomas, said he would consider the complaint and decide whether to refer it to police.

It has been referred to the Police, but that in itself is not of significance. Local electoral officers are basically required to refer every complaint to the Police. The WCC referred to the Police a complaint from a Councillor that I had linked to his official profile without his permission! Yes, seriously.

Anyway let us look at what the Local Electoral Act 2001 says. You need to be aware that it is very different to the Electoral Act, which is much much tighter in terms of donation disclosure.

anonymous, in relation to an electoral donation (as defined in section 104), means a donation that is made in such a way that the candidate concerned does not know who made the donation

So the Act says it is only the candidate who needs to now know the identity. Again this is different from the Electoral Act.

electoral donation, in relation to a candidate at an election, means a donation (whether of money or the equivalent of money or of goods or services or of a combination of those things) of a sum or value of more than $1,000 (such amount being inclusive of any goods and services tax and of a series of donations made by or on behalf of any one person that aggregate more than $1,000) made to the candidate, or to any person on the candidate’s behalf, for use by or on behalf of the candidate in the campaign for his or her election

So a donation of $15,000 definitely qualified.

S109(1) states:

Within 55 days after the day on which the successful candidates at any election are declared to be elected, every candidate at the election must transmit to the electoral officer a return setting out—

  • (a)the candidate’s electoral expenses; and

  • (b)the name and address of each person who made an electoral donation to the candidate and the amount of each electoral donation; and

  • (c)if an electoral donation of money or of the equivalent of money is made to the candidate anonymously and the amount of that donation exceeds $1,000,—

    • (i)the amount of that donation; and

    • (ii)the fact that it has been received anonymously.

So if the candidate knows who made the donation, then they must supply a name and address, while if they do not, just the amount and the fact it was anonymous.

So the test for the Police is simply did John Banks know Sky City donated $15,000 to his campaign. Unless there is proof that he did know (a meeting, e-mails etc), then I can’t see the complaint has any chance of succeeding.

Personally I think the Local Electoral Act should be updated to have similar transparency requirements to the Electoral Act. This would mean:

  • Anonymous donations to a candidate could not exceed $1,500
  • a donation is anonymous where a candidate “could not, in the circumstances, reasonably be expected to know the identity of the donor”

But that is not the current law for local government donations. So I see a very small possibility of the Police taking action.

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How times change

April 27th, 2012 at 12:41 pm by David Farrar

A reader sent this scan to me. Incidentally this was published just two years before the National Academy of Sciences first talked about global warming. Doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, just that predicting something as complex as climate is very very difficult.

UPDATE: Have had pointed out this is near identical to this 2007 climate change cover. This may be a photoshop. However Time in 1974 did run a story called “Another Ice Age?”. So someone has altered a modern cover to fit the old story.

I did check it out on Snopes, which is what I do with a lot of material sent to me by e-mail, but Snopes did not have an article on the cover and it was well known Time did run such an article, so I had no reason to doubt it was an actual cover.

This one is genuine!

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Two more Shearer staffers leave

April 27th, 2012 at 11:22 am by David Farrar

I understand that David Shearer’s Chief Press Secretary, has resigned her job and will be leaving the Labour Leader’s office in the near future.

Also Senior Advisor John Pagani’s contract terminated this week, and he no longer works for David Shearer.

Grant Robertson is almost going to run out of friends to fill these new vacancies :-)

UPDATE: A reporter has tweeted A Labour media spokesperson says “as far as we’re aware Fran has not resigned”. She’s not answering phone calls.

My understanding is that Mold did resign by e-mail some time ago. This was before Nash left the office. However even after Nash’s departure was confirmed, she told other senior staff that she still intended to leave. Maybe she has been persuaded to change her mind. I have this from a very reliable source. I would suggest media ask specifically about any e-mails that include the word resignation or resign in them.

UPDATE2: A reporter has tweeted Mold denies she has resigned. Again I suggest people ask about whether or not she e-mailed her resignation or at least an offer of resignation in recent times. It is possible she has been persuaded to change her mind for now.

UPDATE3: A commenter has stated:

She resigned and announced it to colleagues some time ago. She has been talking about going off on an OE.

Maybe it has all changed now Nash is out of the way.

The commenter is someone with Labour Party connections, as is my original source. That is two independent people who have said Mold has or had resigned and more so announced it to some of her colleagues. Changing one’s mind (if it has changed) does not negate the fact it was announced originally.

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Friday Photo: 27 April

April 27th, 2012 at 9:04 am by Chthoniid

And here we’re back at Okarito Lagoon and and example of the Royal Spoonbill

Click for larger, higher res image

 

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