Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

NZ First MP chairs Waitangi Board charging $15

September 30th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters is at odds with one of his new MPs Waitangi National Trust chairman Pita Paraone over the trust’s move to charge kiwis to visit the treaty grounds in the Bay of Islands.

As of Saturday New Zealanders will pay $15 to visit the grounds with children up to 18 free if accompanied by parents or caregivers. The charge for overseas visitors will remain at $25 with children free.

Labour’s new Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvis Davis has hit out at the decision saying if there was one place in the country that should be free to New Zealanders, it was the birthplace of the nation.

Mr Peters today said Mr Davis was “120 per cent correct” to say New Zealanders shouldn’t be charged.

“It sends all the wrong signals. You’re charging people to see your history either international or domestic it just doesn’t make any sense from a historical point of view, it really is a very unfortunate development, it should never have happened and should never have got to that state of affairs.”

Speaking from Thailand today Mr Paraone said as chairman of the trust he was “very supportive” of the decision to charge New Zealanders, “although saddened to have to make it”.

“The reality is that we have a responsibility to care for that estate and if you consider the state it has been kept in over the years I think the trust has done an excellent job but with the declining overseas visitor rates, this is follow on effect of that lack of income from that source.”


The Waitangi National Trust is in charge. If they want to charge for entry, it is their call. The land was donated by Lord Bledisloe.

Prime Minister John Key said charging New Zealanders for entry was “a step in the wrong direction”.

“It’s a very special place for such a long list of reasons and I think conceptually I think it would be much better to keep as free entry for New Zealanders.”

Both Mr Peters and Mr Davis said the Government should give the trust more funding to allow it keep free entry for New Zealanders but Mr Key said that wasn’t going to happen.

At a minimum I’d want to see the accounts of the Trust before deciding that they need external funding.



Farewelling Tariana

September 30th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

Tariana Turia arrived in Parliament with a fearsome reputation after leading the occupation of Pakaitore (Moutou Gardens) in Wanganui. She leaves to the sorts of accolades reserved for few.

The transformation of Tariana Turia from scary Maori radical occupying public land to a distinguished and respected Minister has been remarkable.

Attorney General General Chris Finlayson has described her as his favourite politician – “utterly principled and a very decent woman.”

“The Foreshore and Seabed Act is Helen Clark’s legacy to New Zealand; its repeal is Tariana Turia’s and I have to say that Mrs Turia is by far the greater politician.”

I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say the Foreshore and Seabed Act was a hysterical own goal from Labour. They should have merely appealed the court ruling, rather than legislated over it.

Having worked with Naitonal for six years, Mrs Turia developed her favourites.

“I’ve really like Bill English. I have admired his capacity to understand and to think about things. I think he has quite a strong social justice attitude about things. Chester Borrows is another one. Quite strong social justice leaning. And I’ve always like Nikki Kaye. She’s got a mind of her own and at cabinet committee, she basically gives expression to it and I like that and she’s young.”

I think it has been a good thing, having Ministers working with the Maori Party.

Mrs Turia’s patience was tested by Mana leader Hone Harawira when he was part of the Maori Party and began criticizing the relationship with National.

She said he had always wanted to go with National when given the chance.

He pointed to things up in the north that happened under a National Government. He knew that all the health and social services, kura, kohanga reo, waananga, all grew out of National Government and he wanted to go with them.

“The issue for Hone is that Hone is not a team player. He has to be the leader. At that time, that was the problem.

This is a point often overlooked. Hone did not leave the Maori Party over direction and policy. He left because he wanted to become leader.


Ilam candidate says he can’t be part of Labour if Cunliffe remains

September 30th, 2014 at 2:51 pm by David Farrar

James Macbeth Dann was Labour’s candidate for Ilam in 2011. He writes at Public Address:

We delivered tens of thousands of pieces of paper with your face on it. But the reality, the hard truth, is that people in the electorate just didn’t connect with you. I lost count of the number of times I door knocked someone who told me they had voted Labour all their life, but wouldn’t vote for us as long as you were leader. People who would have a Labour sign – but not one with your face on it.


The Labour Party isn’t a vehicle for you to indulge your fantasy of being Prime Minister. While you might think that it’s your destiny to be the visionary leader of this country, the country has a very different vision – and it doesn’t involve you.

Double ouch.

I think I did a good job in a very difficult electorate, and would like to build on it at the next election.

However, I won’t be part of a party that you lead. Not because I don’t like you, but because I simply don’t want to lose again. That’s the reality David. The people of New Zealand don’t want you to be their leader. The comparisons that you and your supporters have thrown up don’t hold water – you aren’t Norm Kirk and you aren’t Helen Clark. You’re David Cunliffe and you led the Labour Party to it’s most devastating result in modern history.

Triple ouch.

If you win, I’ll step aside from the party, to let you and your supporters mould it into the party you want. But in return I ask this: if you lose this primary, you resign from parliament. In your time in opposition, we’ve had you on the front bench, where you let down your leader at the most critical point of the 2011 campaign. You ran for leader and lost, then destabilised the elected leader. Then when you got your chance as leader, you led Labour a party that was polling in the mid-30’s to one that sits firmly in the mid-20’s. There is no place for you in this party anymore.

And the quadruple ouch.

I won’t be entirely surprised if at some stage Cunliffe withdraws from the leadership race, as I suspect Mr Dann will not be the last candidate, MP or activist to make such a declaration.

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Cunliffe, Cunliffe, Cunliffe

September 30th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The former (and maybe future) Labour leader has said a number of pretty silly things in the last 24 hours. Let’s start with my favourite, reported by NBR:

JC: Hold on a sec. You are a leader, and you are a bright man. Why didn’t they vote for you?

DC: I think at the end of the day, people wanted stability. They wanted prosperity.

Indeed they did want prosperity and stability. As a former National staffer I’d like to thank David Cunliffe for making the job of National research staff much easier for the first question time of the new Parliament. They now have their work done for them.

Next favourite is this:

But the worst moment came when Cunliffe claimed he was the leadership candidate National most feared facing in 2017.

Yes he said that John Key was scared of facing off against him again. Truly.

Stuff reports:

Today, Cunliffe said he “always intended to step down” but there were several routes. That’s in contrast to his comments this time last week, when he repeatedly told media it was not his intention to stand down.

He always intended to step down, yet last week said explicitly he would not step down. And Labour wonders why it got 24%.

“I am seeking a new mandate from the membership, the affiliate and the caucus,” he said today, “because I believe there is value to the party not only in having a contest but having the kind of battle-hardened leadership that you need to take this fight to John Key.”

If that is the test, they should make Trevor Mallard leader.

Voters had shown that his level of preferred PM ratings were around about the same as Helen Clark in 1996, he said. “And on many measures a little better than Phil Goff in 2011.” 


Helen Clark just before the 1996 election was 17% Preferred PM (ONCB). But worth noting she was effectively competing with other opposition leaders as Peters had 15% and Anderton 11%. Also Bolger himself was at just 23% Preferred PM, so Clark was only 6% behind Bolger.

Just before the 2011 election, Goff was 15% Preferred PM. And of course he resigned for such a bad result.

The final ONCB poll before the 2014 election had Cunliffe at 12% Preferred PM. Behind Goff and Clark. And 31% behind Key.

But these pols were pre-election. What I’d love to see is a media poll now on Preferred PM. I suspect David Cunliffe is now well below the 12% he was on 17 September.


The PM should not talk on where he wants the currency

September 30th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The New Zealand dollar has slumped US1 cent after the Reserve Bank revealed a currency intervention of more than half a billion dollars during August.

But the Prime Minister says the currency remains far above ‘‘Goldilocks’’ fair value level of about US65 cents.

The kiwi dropped from US78.3c to US77.3c late this afternoon after new figures were released showing the Reserve Bank sold $521m of its New Zealand dollar holdings in August, a massive jump from July when it sold only $2m.

Economists said the central bank had put its money where its mouth was. The Reserve Bank was ‘‘shorting’’ the dollar when it was high and when it was expected to fall and would be happy with the latest fall, economists said. The scale of the intervention was seen as ‘‘material’’ and involved the most selling of the New Zealand dollar since 2007.

However, while the currency has fallen heavily this month, down more than US6c, it only dropped about US2c during August when the central bank was actually selling.

The kiwi had already fallen earlier today after Prime Minister John Key, a former currency trader, said the dollar was too high and the “Goldilocks” level (not too high or too low) would be about US65c.

“I happen to actually support the view that the Governor has that the exchange rate is over valued, so if they have intervened, it would be a matter for them, but it would seem fairly logical,” Key told reporters this afternoon.

I don’t think the PM should comment (even if in support) on decisions of the Reserve Bank Governor. I tweeted:

I would prefer if the Prime Minister did not think aloud about what the Reserve Bank should do.

Matt Nolan at TVHE blogs:

Given their standing and thereby ability to seemingly signal intervention in markets, the prime minister and finance minister really need to keep quiet about policy where there is an independent body involved – as it both creates volatility and indicates that such things are a more political issue.  I was pissed off when Cullen did this, pissed off when Key has done it in the past, and I’m pissed off hearing it now.  I don’t care if someone asked the frikken question, part of central bank independence is having fiscal authorities show a bit of discipline with their comments.

It is a bad precedent. We are lucky we have had strong Governors who can stand up to the Executive (as happened with LVRs), but we may not always have such people in the future.

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Headline vs substance on SAS

September 30th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald headline:

Key: SAS could join Isis fight on ground

The substance:

As far as sending SAS personnel, Mr Key said: “I can’t rule that absolutely out, but what I can say is that I’ll get advice and we’ll see how that goes, but it would be my least preferred option.”

When it comes to any military deployment, no Prime Minister can really rule out a response before a request has been made. But when a PM calls it their least preferred option, it is pretty obvious it will not happen.

Any commitment of personnel “would be a step I think we should take very cautiously and with our eyes open because history tells you that going into places like Iraq is fraught with difficulty and danger and as we know with Afghanistan, it was a very long-term commitment”.

I don’t think we should send troops. If we had air strike capability, that would be a possibility. But we don’t.

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Cunliffe proposes a Maori co-deputy leader

September 30th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Outgoing Labour leader David Cunliffe has offered leadership rival Grant Robertson the job of deputy leader.

“If Grant is not successful, I would like to hold out my hand to him as my deputy so we can bring both sides of the team together and we can go forward together,” Mr Cunliffe said on TV3’s Campbell Live tonight.

He also said he had approached Mr Robertson last week with a peace-making deal.

“That’s why I reached out to Grant last week and I said ‘mate, is there any way we can do this thing to bring people together?’ – and that’s why I’ll tell you now that I’d be very happy to have Grant as my deputy if I am elected by the broader party and caucus to lead this thing for another three years.”

When asked to comment tonight, Mr Robertson said: “I’m running for leader. I have not made a decision about a deputy yet.”

Grant is not that stupid as to accept.

Mr Cunliffe indicated on Campbell Live he had lost the support of his deputy and finance spokesman, David Parker, who is expected to become acting leader after tomorrow’s Labour Party caucus meeting.

Doesn’t that say something?

A short time after appearing on TV3, Mr Cunliffe appeared on Maori Television’sNative Affairs and then TV3’s Paul Henry show. On Native Affairs, he raised the prospect of Labour having co-deputy leaders, one of whom would be a Maori MP.

“We need to see more Maori MPs in senior levels,” he said “and one of the ideas that is floating around – that is a party matter because it would require a constitutional change – is to examine the possibility of having co-deputy positions where one may be Maori.

This is an attempt to get the Maori caucus on side. He is basically offering them a permanent co-deputy leadership position.

But why stop there. Surely there must also be a female co-deputy leader also?

Mr Cunliffe said the culture of the party had to change and that playing “musical chairs” with the leadership was not the answer.

From the man who undermined the last two leaders.

He also implied that the party had become too focused on special interests at the cost of appealing to middle New Zealand.

“We’ve got to get the alchemy right between being true and faithful to our base, our Maori and Pacific and our affiliates and reaching out to middle New Zealand,” he said.

“We can’t be seen as a party of special interests. We have to be inclusive. We have to stand for aspiration.”

He says they can not be a part of special interests at the same time as mooting that there be a co deputy position reserved for a Maori MP.


Key’s open letter

September 30th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

John Key writes in the NZ Herald:

An election is when people vote for a particular party; however the elected Government should work in the interests of every New Zealander and it is my intention to do so.

There will be times when people will disagree with decisions we make, but that is true of core supporters as well.

Over the past six years we have been transparent and straightforward about our decisions and the direction we have taken.

Although we are likely to have an outright majority in Parliament, that won’t change. We’ll continue to do what we said we would do, and will not embark on any agenda we have not campaigned on. We have been, and will remain, a centre-right Government.

In other words National will implement the policies it campaigned on.

Now we are reaching out to other political parties to form a bigger buffer than the one-seat majority from election night. This will give the Government depth and breadth.

John Key is pretty much the only Prime Minister who has ever offered confidence and supply agreements to parties, when they are not needed to govern.

Once we successfully negotiate the Confidence and Supply agreements, I will look at forming a new Cabinet. There are two vacant spots in the existing Cabinet, which gives us room to bring in new talent, and in some cases it makes sense to change portfolios around.

Although the core economic team of Bill English in Finance and Steven Joyce in Economic Development won’t change, there are options for Ministers looking for new challenges.

I hope there are some substantive changes. Renewal is a good thing.

Welfare reform will continue to be a priority, as will health. One of our first targets will be to see hospice funding increased to 70 per cent, and we will also speed up the cancer treatment process so 90 per cent of sufferers receive treatment within 62 days of their first referral.

What an awful uncaring government.

One of the messages we picked up on the campaign trail was that New Zealanders want us to do more for the most vulnerable children in our society. We will continue to try to move people from welfare-based homes to work-based homes, however we acknowledge there is potentially more we can do and we will be looking at ways to do that.

Almost every social indicator we know of says kids raised in families where at least one parent is working do better.

We want to finalise our tax-cut programme and implement modest cuts for low and middle income New Zealanders from 2017.

Good. 2016 would be even better than 2017.


Time for a referendum on the Maori seats

September 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Parliament now has more Maori MPs than ever before, prompting one commentator to question whether Maori seats were still needed.

Nineteen Maori MPs have been elected in general electorates and on party lists. Once the seven Maori seats are included, the total number of MPs who identify as Maori is 26 – up from 21 in 2011.

This means one in five MPs in the new Parliament were Maori, compared to one in seven in the general population.

The National Party’s caucus is 15 per cent Maori, including two MPs likely to be given high-ranking portfolios – Paula Bennett and Hekia Parata.

The growing proportion of Maori in Parliament was met with mixed responses from Maori leaders.

Former Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels said increased Maori representation was a step forward, especially because many were elected in mainstream parties.

But former Alliance MP and Maori commentator Willie Jackson said it meant little unless those Maori MPs fought for Maori interests.

“It’s only a victory if they take a pro-Maori position with their work. You could have 50 Maoris in there but if they don’t act like Maori and don’t work along kaupapa Maori lines and advance Maori position it’s absolutely meaningless.”

The election of 26 Maori MPs was likely to fuel the argument over Maori seats, established to ensure Maori had a minimum representation in the House.

Mr Samuels said Maori needed to have an “informed debate” about whether the Maori electorates were needed.

I don’t think it would be helpful for the Maori seats to be abolished without the agreement of Maori. It would generate hostility and division.

However I think retaining them is divisive also. I do not like having separate seats on the basis of race.

I thought the 1986 Royal Commission on the Electoral System proposed a worthy alternative to the Maori seats – and that was to have a lower (or no) threshold for Maori parties (in recognition of the fact they were competing within a smaller population base).

The one thing no Parliament has ever done, is allow Maori a say on whether they want to retain the Maori seats. I think it is time we do that.

What I propose is a referendum held among those on the electoral roll of Maori descent. It should ask Maori to choose between:

a) retaining the Maori seats
b) The proposal by the Royal Commission to abolish the seats but have no threshold (effectively 0.4% then) for Maori parties

I favour the Royal Commission’s proposal because it would better recognise the diversity of opinion in Maoridom. The Maori seats mean that in each electorate only one view is represented – the winning party. Under the Royal Commission’s proposal, you may have four or five different Maori parties in Parliament – a right wing Maori party, a socialist Maori party, an environmental Maori party, a religious Maori party etc etc. Maoridom would do better with multiple choices – rather than the winner takes all of the Maori seats.


How Nash won

September 29th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A Stuff article on how Stuart Nash was the only Labour MP to win a seat off National in 2011. How did he do it?

Here’s my summary of what worked for him:

  • He campaigned relentlessly for over two years. He didn’t just turn up for the last six months
  • He got himself appointed the local Labour spokesperson so he could maintain a media profile
  • He identified a couple of hot local issues, and got on the popular side of them
  • He had a high profile gimmick such as his red fire truck
  • He had good advisors

It also helped Stuart that the incumbent MP retired. that creates opportunities, and is often the best time to win a seat off the other party.

Even though National will be seeking a fourth term in 2017, it is not at all impossible that they could pick up some electorate seats off Labour. National now has new high energy List MPs in Hutt South, Port Hills and West Coast – Tasman. The incumbent electorate MPs are probably going to retire in 2017 (or sooner if Cunliffe gets re-elected Leader), and if the new National MPs of Bishop, Korako and Pugh work hard to be great local MPs, they could win those seats in 2017.

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A Minister and an Under Secretary

September 29th, 2014 at 2:02 pm by David Farrar

National has announced two confidence and supply agreements – with United Future and ACT.

The United Future one is basically:

  • Agree to work on  the next iteration of the National Medicines Strategy, improving water quality, giving recreational fishers more opportunities. re-affirming the use of public private partnerships for major roading projects and other United Future policies
  • Peter Dunne appointed  Minister of Internal Affairs, Associate Minister of Health and Associate Minister of Conservation. Sits on  Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee, Cabinet Social Policy Committee, and the Cabinet Committee on State Sector Reform and Expenditure Control.
  • National will give Dunne some of their question slots and speaking slots

The ACT one is:

  • National and ACT to continue with partnership schools, regulatory reform and RMA reform
  • David Seymour appointed  Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Minister of Education and Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Minister for Regulatory Reform. Sits on Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee and Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee
  • National will give Seymour some of their question slots and speaking slots

I think making David Seymour an Under Secretary rather than an Associate Minister is a smart move. It allows ACT to be involved in the implementation of policy in areas of importance to them – charter schools and regulatory reform, but doesn’t see a new MP made a Minister straight away. It is quite possible that if Seymour does well, he may become a Minister at some stage.

I imagine they will soon announce an agreement with the Maori Party, but that may be delayed due to the Maori Party’s need to do consultative hui. And then we should get the appointment of the National Ministers.

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Labour MP vs former candidate

September 29th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Beveridge blogs an an extraordinary series of tweets between Labour MP Clare Curran and former Labour candidate Tat Loo. Basically Curran claims Loo has no standing in Labour and that his branch is not constitutionally recognised. That may or may not be the case, but having ths dispute in public on Twitter dismayed many Labour supporters.


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How much each vote is worth in the Labour leadership contest?

September 29th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Thanks to some reverse engineering, we’ve been able to work out the relative strength of the eight voting blocs in the 2013 Labour leadership ballot. Presumably, they’ll be much the same next time.

The relative strengths are:

  • 5,392 members – 1 vote each
  • 497 SFWU members who voted – 1 vote each
  • 23 Maritime Union delegates – 3.8 votes each
  • 39 Dairy Workers Union delegates – 6.9 votes each
  • 23 Rail Union delegates – 8.3 votes each
  • 29 Meat Workers Union delegates – 22 votes each
  • 35 EPMU delegates – 29 votes each
  • 34 caucus members – 159 votes each

Some observations.

  • Only 2% of the total SFWU members cared enough about the Labour leadership to vote
  • Despite their significant power less than half (35/80) EPMU delegates bothered to vote
  • If we assume that say two thirds of the paid up party members voted, Labour has up to 8,000 members
  • The EPMU delegates and Meat Workers delegates are relatively powerful.

The rise and fall of Kim Dotcom

September 29th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A couple of years ago Kim Dotcom was a fairly popular person in New Zealand, and many people had sympathy for what had happened to him. How did he go from being reasonably popular, to arguably the most hated person in New Zealand politics? This post seeks to explore what happened.

I joked to someone that if the day before the election, that if two US Black Hawks had landed at his mansion and US Navy Seals jumped out and bundled him into a the choppers to take him to the US, and John Key held a press conference to announce he had personally authorised it even though his chief legal adviser Steven Joyce said it was “pretty illegal”, National would have got a 10% boost and get 60%.

That is an exaggeration, but National MPs and candidates I spoke to have all said that the most common topic of conversation in the last week was Kim Dotcom, and how members of the public would come up to them unsolicited and speak of how badly they want him not just out of NZ politics, but out of New Zealand.

But it was not once like this, so let’s go back to the beginning. Up until the raid on his mansion, 99.9% of New Zealanders had probably never heard of Kim Dotcom, including the Prime Minister.

The raids were like something out of a movie, with SWAT type teams in helicopters landing. It was, in my opinion, an over-reaction by the NZ authorities to the situation. Yes Dotcom had access to weapons, but he wasn’t Al Capone. Dotcom got sympathy from a fair number of people for the nature of the raid.

It also transpired that the Police did not get the paperwork right with aspects of the raid, and even worse the GCSB did not properly understand his immigration status and the law, and should not have been assisting the Police. This increased the sympathy for Dotcom.

And it should be said that the charges against him in the US are not a clear cut case. My belief is that Dotcom designed his business model to push the law to its limits, and to make money off copyrighted works – but he may not have broken US law. He may have gone over the boundary, but he may not have. It is an arguable case either way. A case that should be heard in court.

My feelings on Dotcom a couple of years ago were relatively benign. I thought the media were overly sycophantic to him, and that he was masterful at promoting a good public image. He made himself the victim. But I have always thought the US charges may not get a conviction, and that the Police were heavy handed (and slightly incompetent) in their handling of the case. So I wasn’t a fan boy, but I said at the time that if he went to the US and won the court case, then I’d welcome him back in New Zealand.

He was a celebrity. He appeared in plays with Jacinda Ardern. He got invited to open the Frankin Road lights. He got the soft treatment in women’s magazines and Campbell Live.

So where did it go wrong? How did he go from being the plucky popular underdog to the most reviled person in NZ? There were a number of reasons.

He became a politician

If Dotcom had not invented a conspiracy theory that Barack Obama and Joe Biden got John Key to let Dotcom into NZ, so he could be arrested an extradited, he would have stayed relatively popular. Rather than merely treating the USG as the enemy, and exposing the tendency of NZ law enforcement to be overly sycophantic to them, he decided to make John Key his personal target. He wanted to destroy John Key, and set up a political party to do so. He went from being an Internet entrepreneur to a politician.

Now to be fair to Dotcom, this was a very logical thing to do. I commented that I’d do the same if I was in his shoes, awaiting an extradition hearing and decision. A country extradites wanted criminals, not politicians. Turning yourself into a politician was in theory a politically smart thing to do – but it depended on what type of politician – a principled politician wanting better policies for NZ, or one seen to be utterly self seeking?

He lost his friends and his staff

Almost everyone close to Dotcom turned on him. He spent up large on himself, and his party, while claiming poverty with his staff, suppliers and friends. New Zealanders are quite egalitarian, and don’t like a guy who flies everywhere in a helicopter leaving small NZ businesses out of pocket for tens of thousands.

The number of former friends and colleagues who now hate him is huge. He managed to burn off goodwill faster than a forest fire.

They leaked to (mainly Whale Oil) various people stories, tapes and videos of Dotcom’s various inappropriate happenings.

He spent too much money trying to destroy Key

If he had only put $500,000 or $1,000,000 into his pet party, there may not have been such a reaction. But $4.5 million looked obscene, especially as it was tied to utu – not a belief in a particular set of policies being good for NZ. Yes Colin Craig put in a lot of money also to his party, but Craig’s motives were seen as upfront – wanting to become an MP and push a particular brand of policies – not revenge.

The alliance with Mana looked unprincipled

Dotcom used to donate to John Banks, one of the most right wing politicians in New Zealand. Mana is the most left wing party in NZ. Apart from a hatred of John Key, Dotcom and Mana were seen to have almost no policy commonality. It looked to most NZers that Dotcom purchased a tame political party, and Mana sold out their principles. Harre and Harawira would once have condemned a foreign born multi-millionaire criminal, whose staff alleged paid them below the minimum wage. But they took his money, and said nothing.

Recall that the Internet Party was meant to appeal to potential National voters, who didn’t think the Government was Internet friendly enough. The alliance killed off that possibility, and in fact drove those voters back to National.

Some on the left saw it as a great way to get the Internet Party into Parliament, and help defeat John Key. The smarter Labour MPs realised it would stink to high heaven, and we saw Chris Hipkins and Phil Goff wisely denounce it in no uncertain terms. They can hold their heads up high – their judgement was spot on. Labour members and activists who routinely denounce Hipkins, Goff and others might want to consider that if they had listened to them at the time, then Labour may not have ended up with such a disastrous level of vote. Cunliffe was far far too slow to distance himself from the Internet Mana Alliance. He should have ruled them out entirely, just as Key did with Peters in 2008.

Laila was the wrong leader

Laila would be a great Deputy Leader of the Mana Party. She is a staunch advocate for workers (except those who work for Dotcom) and unions. But she is no Internet Party Leader.

The Internet community already had mixed feelings on an Internet Party. Some were wary of Dotcom’s motivations, but still thought it was an exciting opportunity to have a party dedicated to Internet issues. If Dotcom has announced someone with real credibility on Internet issues such as ex TUANZ head Paul Brislen, then there would have been a real buzz of excitement.

The announcement of Harre as Leader created a fury with many in the Internet community. They felt that their issues were being hijacked for a cause that had nothing to do with the Internet. Some of those most vehement against the Internet Party were people who may have been potential supporters of it.

There were many good people involved in the Internet Party, such as CEO Vikram Kumar, who have a genuine passion for the Internet. But the leader is all important. Laila made a genuine effort to come up to speed on Internet issues, but the Internet community felt insulted by the use of the Internet’s name for a party led by someone who is not an Internet native and didn’t even know the name of her own ISP.

The Fuck John Key video

This was not a selfie video by someone in the audience. Dotcom, or someone working for him, thought it would be a great idea to stick a video of Dotcom leading a group of fans chanting Fuck John Key. They turned it into a party advertisement, put an authorisation statement on it, and promoted it.

This was a key point, when people really started to get determined to not let him succeed. We’re a fairly polite country. Seeing the German guy facing extradition reveling in the crowd chanting obscenities at the country’s Prime Minister offended huge numbers of New Zealanders, including many swinging voters. Even worse, Harre wouldn’t apologise for it. For National, this video was gold. For Labour, they should have denounced it more strongly and used it as an opportunity to say they would have nothing to do with the Internet Mana Alliance.

The problem Dotcom had at this point is he was purely surrounded by people who hate John Key. Everyone in his circle would have loved the video. They would have had no idea how it played out with middle NZ – who decide elections.

The hacking

Dotcom may or may not have been involved in the hacking, but he was boasting to people about it, his staff were boasting about it, he made a speech boasting of how he hacked the German PM, and of course many NZers thought he was involved. And most voters don’t like it. They think dirty politics is hacking, stealing and spying – not talking to bloggers..

The Moment of Truth

A lot has been written about this before, but there were six things which did Dotcom in.

  1. His two years of assurances he had proof beyond any doubt the PM had lied. He claimed this dozens of times. He even had the privilege of appearing face to face against the PM at a committee meeting, and taunting him with it to his face. He did not just claim he has suspicions – he was adamant he had proof.
  2. The timing of the event pissed people off. His brains trust thought having the week of the election would get the biggest impact. New Zealanders though have common sense and saw it as an attempt to make allegations, without the time to have them fully considered. he should have held it three months before the election – as should have Hager.
  3. The farcical forged e-mail. A retarded five year old could have made a more convincing forgery.
  4. The failure to talk about the e-mail at all, at an event he had spent over a year promoting as the moment when he would reveal the proof
  5. His maniacal laughing throughout the meeting, as if he was Dr Evil in Austen Powers. I suggested National use the footage as their campaign closing.
  6. The combination of a German and three Americans lecturing NZers on their politics in their heavy accents, shrieked foreigners trying to influence the NZ election result

This combined into the biggest farce and own goal I think I have seen in New Zealand politics.

The anger

When I wrote the next morning that it is time to get angry, I had more positive feedback on that post than any other I can recall. It got shared widely on social media, and I got scores of texts and phone calls. People were angry. Everywhere MPs went, they met angry people – angry at Dotcom. They wanted him out of politics, and were determined to vote to stop him having influence on the next Government. The CTU spent $200,000+ on trying to get union members our to vote (obviously for Labour/Greens/Mana). Dotcom’s Moment of Truth cost National not one cent and galvanised their supporters to the polling booths.


So it wasn’t one thing, but a series of bad calls that did Dotcom in. He may blame it on the last two weeks, but it was well over a year’s worth of misjudgements. If he had not invented his conspiracy theory involving John Key, and kept the focus on his ill treatment by sections of the NZ authorities – he would have maintained considerable public support and appeal. If his party had been a genuine Internet Party that sought more than the destruction of National at any cost, then it could have done quite well.

But he surrounded himself by people who hate John Key, and cut himself off from reality. He had no idea at all how the public of New Zealand were starting to regard him as a cancer that needed chemotherapy, rather than the plucky underdog he once was.

There’s a lesson in that for more than Dotcom.

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Labour 1938 – 2014

September 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Labour eletion results

This is a graph of Labour’s general election results in every general election since 1938. I’ve added a trendline in, to reinforce the obvious point. They do go through cycles of relative highs and lows but each high is lower than the one before, and each low is lower than the one before.


Vance on Cunliffe

September 28th, 2014 at 4:08 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance writes in the SST:

Who will be the next Lord of the Flies?

A great analogy. But is Cunliffe Ralph or Jack. Who is Simon? David Shearer?

Normally coups are quick and bloody.

But by his own hand, David Cunliffe’s exit was torturous. A slow-motion train-wreck that played out over a week. His caucus ignored him, defied him, humiliated and deserted him.

And now he’s coming back for some more of the same. David Cunliffe either has the resilience of a cockroach or a total lack of self-awareness. He schemed and manipulated his way into the top job – just as his caucus colleagues schemed and manipulated to keep him out of it.

Could you have imagined what the Government would be like, if they had won? It would be a more civil version of Bosnia!

Cunliffe won the power struggle. But his party lost. Lost their support base. Lost the economic argument for the third election in a row. Lost the election. Lost their third leader in three years. And lost their heart and soul.


David Cunliffe is not the sole reason why Labour is now on its knees. But he made things profoundly worse. He not only failed to connect with voters, he turned them off. And because he failed to inspire the loyalty of his colleagues, he is finished.

The divisions are too pronounced. It seems that there was fault on both sides of the caucus. Parts of Camp David believe the Anyone But Cunliffe faction set him up to fail by sabotaging the campaign. In turn the ABCs believe his focus was always on this post-election fight.

Either way, it now seems impossible for Cunliffe to continue as leader – he patently can’t work with the caucus. To foist him on them again is just cementing a 2017 loss. One man can leave the job – only an immediate exodus of 20 MPs from Parliament would give him a chance of uniting the caucus.

That is basically it – either Cunliffe goes, or half the caucus goes. You could argue that a Cunliffe victory might be good for Labour in the long term, but how could they win in 2017, with that sort of purge?

Cunliffe’s childhood dream to be Prime Minister has died. He’s now got the noose around Labour’s neck, and by driving it into another bitter leadership run-off, he is kicking the chair out from under it.

It will be fascinating to see how the primary election goes. What if Cunliffe wins, but only 20% of caucus has voted for him?

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Some people rorting KiwiSaver home subsidy

September 28th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The SST reports:

Speculators are cheating the KiwiSaver scheme that helps first-home buyers by using it to purchase rental properties.

The rort emerges as the new Government prepares to double taxpayer subsidies under the scheme – a flagship policy in National’s election campaign. An extra $218 million will be available – money that could be diverted into speculative property investments, rather than first homes for young families.

People who use the KiwiSaver first-home deposit subsidy scheme must live in the house they buy for a minimum of six months and it cannot be used as an investment property during that time – a rule designed to dissuade speculators from taking advantage of the popular scheme.

Fairfax NZ has learned of instances where first-home buyers have moved out of their property soon after buying it – or not moved in at all – and are instead renting it out.

This is not surprising. Our lessons of history is that when there is a financial incentive to do so, people will change their behaviour in order to gain the incentive. Any government agency proposing or evaluating a policy should brain-storm all the different ways people might try and rort the system.

Housing NZ financial operations manager Matthew Smith said first-home buyers using KiwiSaver for a deposit could be made to pay back their subsidy with penalty interest if they were caught breaching the rules. They would be required to remedy the breach or pay the subsidy back with penalty interest charged at a current rate of 5.75 per cent.

Smith said applicants were required to sign a statutory declaration stating they would live in the property for at least six months. “We also contact the owner after five months to check they’re still resident in the property,” Smith said.

But Bolton said there was no follow-up system to confirm buyers had stayed in the home.

I guess one needs to know the size of the problem, to decide whether one needs to physically check up on applicants.

My preference would be that the Government doesn’t give out taxpayer subsidies to aspiring home owners, but insteads work more vigorously with local government to free up land, reducing the cost of housing for all New Zealanders.


Fran on Dotcom

September 28th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

On Twitter: Must read: Fran O’Sullivan reports from inside John Key’s rectum and gets trashed by reader comments. EPIC FAIL :)

That was Dotcom at his most charming.

A day later, I was tempted to respond (also via Twitter) to Mr Kim Dotcom and point out that the less than 30 reader comments trashing my column saying that Dotcom’s “Moment of Truth” extravaganza was an ABJECT FAIL, was a mere drop in the bucket compared with the number of voters who contributed to the Internet-Mana wipeout on election night.

But Dotcom admitted he had poisoned the Internet-Mana brand himself.

What Dotcom’s little eruption did prove (like with the gratuitous “Sweet old lady, you’re cute” tweet he sent my way earlier on when I wrote a Herald column spelling out that content providers – like myself – don’t like having their copyright abused) is that this supposed two-fisted fighter for truth can’t take it if he meets up with other than journalistic adoration for his swash-buckling endeavours.

He’s been less vocal on Twitter since last weekend.

Then yesterday there was the Internet-Mana’s incontinent press officer Pam Corkery yet again bleating about the “puffed-up little shits” of telly land in a long-winded justification of her failure to exercise personal discipline at the party’s launch.

I like Pam. I cut my teeth in the private radio era of the early 1980s when the late Paul Holmes held sway on Radio Windy and Pam and a whole host of journalists who then went on to develop strong personal brands on the radio were starting off.

But instead of the inside story of what really went down in the Internet Mana soup which we all know Corkery is capable of providing, all we got was more deflection over the party’s disastrous defeat.

The upshot was that Hone Harawira failed to win Te Tai Tokerau, and Internet Mana finished on just over 1.2 per cent, well short of the 5 per cent needed to put an MP into Parliament.

The Prime Minister they tried to “take down” is back in the Beehive. Voters saw through the puppet-master and his well-paid politicians.

I have a lengthy post on Monday about what went wrong with Dotcom and Internet Mana.

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New Australian spy powers

September 28th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Australia’s spy agency could soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet after new anti-terrorism laws passed the Senate on Thursday night.

Australian spies will soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet with just one warrant, and journalists and whistleblowers will face up to 10 years’ jail for disclosing classified information.

The government’s first tranche of tougher anti-terrorism bills, which will beef up the powers of the domestic spy agency ASIO, passed the Senate by 44 votes to 12 last night with bipartisan support from Labor. …

The new bill also allows ASIO to seek just one warrant to access a limitless number of computers on a computer network when attempting to monitor a target, which lawyers, rights groups, academics and Australian media organisations have condemned.

They said this would effectively allow the entire internet to be monitored, as it is a “network of networks” and the bill does not specifically define what a computer network is.

ASIO will also be able to copy, delete, or modify the data held on any of the computers it has a warrant to monitor.

The bill also allows ASIO to disrupt target computers, and use innocent third-party computers not targeted in order to access a target computer.

On Wednesday afternoon, Senator Brandis confirmed that, under the legislation, ASIO would be able to use just one warrant to access numerous devices on a network.

The warrant would be issued by the director-general of ASIO or his deputy.

“There is no arbitrary or artificial limit on the number of devices,” Senator Brandis told the Senate. …

A third bill enabling the collection of internet and phone metadata for a period of up to two years for warrantless access by law-enforcement and spy agencies will be introduced later this year.

These changes in Australia show how benign the law is in NZ, by comparison. Some differences:

  • Mass surveillance allowed in Australia, but not in NZ (confirmed does not happen by the IGIS and Provacy Commissioner)
  • Law changes rushed through Parliament in a few days, as opposed to NZ which had a public submission process
  • Warrants can be issued by ASIO themselves with no need for warrant to be signed by a Minister and a judicial officer
  • Metadata collection and storing to be legalised in Australia, but not legal in NZ

So the NZ law is relatively narrow, and has checks and balances built in. The Australian law is not.

After concerns were raised by Labor and Senator Leyonhjelm, the government agreed to amend the legislation to specifically rule out ASIO using torture.

Well that’s something!

“The internet poses one of the greatest threats to our existence,” Palmer United Party Senator Glen Lazarus said, speaking out against Senator Ludlam’s amendment.

Oh dear.I’m glad I am in NZ.


Chris Finlayson’s election diary for the Spectator

September 27th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A hilarious account of the election by Attorney-General Chris Finlayson in the Spectator. I recommend you read the whole thing, but some extracts.

Every three years in New Zealand, incumbent politicians must hit the campaign trail. Since 2008, I have chased votes in the Rongotai electorate. My Labour opponent, Annette King, has held the seat since 1996. She is a fine parliamentarian, a thoroughly nice person, and also a distant cousin on my mother’s side. ‘Chris says if he wins Rongotai, he’ll ask for a recount,’ she delights in telling voters.

Annette tells the story, because it is true! Tim Groser is also petrified that one day he will accidentally win New Lynn off David Cunliffe!

They both get it is the party vote that counts.

The Newtown debate is usually the rowdiest of the campaign. In 2011, I was shoved by an Anglican vicar as I made my way out. This year, there are ten candidates lined up across the stage facing the audience squeezed into a wooden church hall. The crowd has a very particular strand of rule-bound, suburban radicalism: every mention of ‘revolution’ is cheered, but the audience will not allow proceedings to begin while party signs are blocking the fire exits. Along with Annette, the candidates include Russel Norman, a Tasmanian who relocated to New Zealand to work for the Green Party and now, holding the office of Male Co-leader, campaigns against foreign ownership. He finds himself fighting candidates from the populist Conservative and New Zealand First parties for the xenophobe vote. The Newtown audience thinks I am insufferably right wing but also thinks the same about the Greens and Labour.

Sounds like Aro Valley.

Puzzlingly, Mr Dotcom does not address the meeting, leaving us to wonder what in the end the moment of truth was. The abrupt termination of proceedings recalls Horace’s line parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.

Chris loves his classics.

The New Zealand union movement’s spiritual home is in the mining towns of the South Island, but most of its well-paid administrators choose to live in Island Bay. This pleasant seaside suburb is the scene of my final candidate’s debate. One heckler is particularly raucous. As I leave the meeting, I remind him that courtesy is contagious. He follows me down the street yelling that I work for the CIA.


By 10pm, National appears to have won an outright majority. For the first time in my three campaigns we have taken the most party votes in Rongotai booths, although Annette retains the electorate by a comfortable margin. I tell my volunteers that, on this trend, I should be able to unseat her by 2038.

Annette may still be there then! :-)

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Cunliffe standing again!

September 27th, 2014 at 2:35 pm by David Farrar

61 National MPs have just cheered as David Cunliffe announced he will contest the leadership of the Labour Party in the upcoming primary.

He will resign as leader at the end of caucus on Tuesday. I presume David Parker will become Acting Leader.

It is inevitable at least Grant Robertson will stand against him.

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A reverse engineering problem

September 27th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I want to try and work out what the relative voting strength of each union was in Labour’s leadership primary. My maths is too rusty to calculate it myself, but hoping some readers can help.

The voting breakdown for each union was:

  • DWU – Cunliffe 33, Robertson 0, Jones 6
  • EPMU – Cunliffe 25, Robertson 8, Jones 2
  • Maritime – Cunliffe 18, Robertson 3, Jones 2
  • MWU – Cunliffe 22, Robertson 1, Jones 6
  • Rail – Cunliffe 18, Robertson 3, Jones 2
  • SFWU – Cunliffe 254, Robertson 177, Jones 66

We know that the overall result was Cunliffe 70.77%, Robertson 17.3% and Jones 11.9%. So the question is what weighting is given to each union, to get that result?

Based on registered members, the DWU should be around 8%, EPMU around 40%, Maritime 3%, MWU 17%, Rail 7% and SWFU 25%. But the voting strength is based on affiliated members, not weighted members. The percentages above could vary by several per cent.

If someone can work out a formula to calculate voting strengths, that would be great. Why I want that, is to calculate the relative strength of a delegate in each union.

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Garner on Cunliffe

September 27th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

It’s beyond doubt that Labour’s caucus doesn’t like David Cunliffe.

Voters don’t either, with a woeful 24 per cent election result, the party’s second worst in history.

The voters are never wrong. Never. So Cunliffe must do the obvious and decent thing and resign before Tuesday’s caucus.

Failure to do anything less means his MPs will nail him.

My sources tell me he can count his supporters on one hand, with only four MPs left backing him. Even his most loyal and ardent supporters, such as Palmerston North’s Iain Lees-Galloway, have deserted him. Staying on is simply not an option any more.

The fact that Cunliffe can’t, or won’t, see the writing on the wall is part of his problem. He’s prolonging the agony and heaping more attention on Labour’s misery. He’s equally blind to his own failings and weaknesses. He sang the wrong tune on election night and he’s missed his notes all week.

Telling his deputy, David Parker, not to talk while Parker stood beside him was simply wrong. It was patronising and poor.

Yep his support base has gone from seven to four. Yet he could still win a wider ballot.

Robertson is the one to watch, and expect him to have Jacinda Ardern as his deputy.

She was at his side during the last primary when the party voted for a new leader. She is one of his biggest supporters.

I think it will be Robertson and Ardern. Both are talented politicians. Both worked for Helen Clark. Ther strength is their weakness – they are what you call professional politicians, who have only ever effectively worked for Government, or as political staff. Neither have ever worked post-study in the private sector.

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How about less fast food and more toilet paper?

September 27th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Manawatu Standard continues with its advocacy for NZUSA with unchallenged students starving stories. The latest:

Using fast food wrappers as toilet paper and cutting fresh food from their diets are some of the desperate measures Manawatu students facing “financial distress” have resorted to.

A meal from McDonalds costs around $10. For that you can get 24 rolls of toilet paper. Seems an obvious solution. Less fast food, and then you can afford toilet paper.

New Zealand spends one of the highest proportions of tertiary funding on student support in the OECD. Our student support scheme is arguably one of the most generous in the world, due to interest free student loans. We spend 47% of our tertiary education budget on student support, compared to an OECD average of 22% or so. This is the second highest in the OECD.

If students need a higher level of income while poor and studying – I’m for that – so long as when they are earning good incomes they pay back the cost of the student loans, which includes the interest. So if we stick interest back on student loans (which won’t cost students anything while they are studying), then we can afford to give them more support while studying.

But what NZUSA wants is truck drivers to pay more in taxes, so doctors and lawyers get more income overall from taxpayers.


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Labourites on why Labour lost so badly

September 27th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald talks to four Labourites on why they think Labour lost so badly. Some of their responses show how out of touch they are.

Len Richards: More than a decade of dirty politics aimed at demonising and destabilising the Labour Party by well-organised and well-funded opponents have taken their toll. The opinion polls reflect the public mood deliberately created by the spin doctors of the right, and the very poor election results for Labour over the last three elections reflect the polls.

So Len thinks Labour did nothing wrong, and Labour lost because of basically bloggers. My God.

His solution is for Labour to go more left wing. I hope they listen to him.

Brian Edwards: John Key, perhaps the most popular leader in New Zealand’s history, was deemed hugely likeable; David Cunliffe was widely disliked and mistrusted. Labour had the wrong leader.

Brian is right that leadership is important. It is only part of the challenge though.

Josie Pagani: Voters began to think Labour was trying to make you a better person rather than better off.

Which is what the Greens do.

John Tamihere: Under Helen Clark the party was captured by academics and tertiary-educated leaders of a union movement that never worked a shop floor. They concentrated on identity politics and controlled the party not on the great economic issues, but on whether you were gay, Maori, feminist, bisexual, etc. … hey have driven people like myself out of the conversation and out of contributing to the party. They have lost connection with middle New Zealand and, particularly, men.

It appears that 80% of men may have voted for parties other than Labour.

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