Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Claims and more claims

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

The Herald reports:

Blogger Cameron Slater has claimed in texts to Prime Minister John Key that senior Labour staffer Matt McCarten was involved in hacking his emails and that Labour even tried to kill him.

To put that into context, it is referring to an alleged conversation among some of those involved in the Dirty Politics saga that they hoped the pressure would lead to Cameron killing himself. As far as I know, no one is saying Matt McCarten is an assassin :-)


Cameron Slater: gave it away to me…Goff leaked SIS report

John Key: It’s a joke isn’t it. They will attack Jason for talking to u and they break the confidentiality agreement. Classic lab.

Slater: Yup…I’m very angry over it…Goff is the one who leaked oravida stuff too.

Slater: They still have standard bloggers on staff

Slater: And Mccarten was involved in hack

Key: Hopefully it will all come out in time

Slater: I wish they would hurry up…they played the real dirty politics…even tried to kill me…I have evidence of.

Cameron blogs:

I had confirmation from two journalists that Phil Goff was the one who briefed them about the report and the source of the leak.

I texted John Key, and informed him of the source of the leak. He thanked me. No discussions of the content of the IGIS report were held, it was a brief exchange.

I did not text Judith Collins and have not texted Judith Collins for some months. We had no discussions regarding the content or otherwise of any report.

In my conversation with Josh Forman I got suspicious because of his intense interest and so fed him some information that wasn’t strictly true so that it could be easily verified by cellphone records.

I repeat. I never had a text conversation with Judith Collins on Monday night. Cellphone records will clearly show this.

The following day Josh Forman continued along that line of inquiry and was imploring me to out the txt with John Key, I couldn’t work out why.

That is until this afternoon.

Josh Forman is a man who lacks integrity. In good faith I was willing to coach someone from the other side so they could have a better voice in the blogosphere.

I now know that his request for coaching was a subterfuge, at the behest of the Labour party in order to gain my trust.

I thought the campaign was weird enough, but this has now reached a new level of weirdness. The biggest issue of the moment is Cameron Slater – he was mentioned 124 times in Parliament this week!

I suspect 90% of the public are confused or bemused or both – or just change the channel when the latest politics story comes on.


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Gareth Morgan on why a flat tax is fairer

November 26th, 2014 at 4:22 pm by David Farrar

The video is from Gareth Morgan, but a colleague of his presents it.

A lot I disagree with him on, but not this issue.

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Are Robertson’s leadership ambitions over?

November 26th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in the Manawatu Standard:

Half a century ago, Richard Nixon addressed the media after narrowly losing election for governor of California.

The defeat was all the more bitter for Nixon since, just two years earlier, he had missed out in one of the closest presidential elections in history.

Dejected, he assured reporters that they wouldn’t have “Nixon to kick around any more” as he declared the end of his public career.

In just six years, however, Nixon was elected president.

Not sure Grant sees that as a good precedent though!

We should keep this in mind as we consider Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson’s latest disavowal of ambitions to lead the Labour Party.

Having been beaten twice in his quest for the leadership, Robertson says his aspirations are over and that he intends to give the new leader his full support.

We should take Robertson at his word. He has put his name forward to lead Labour twice now – and has lost both times. That would demoralise anyone.

I’m sure Grant is committed to his new role.

Robertson retains a following within the Labour caucus, the permanent bureaucracy and the media. He has been accused of using that platform to destabilise at least the last two leaders. By any measure, he will be a natural rallying point for dissent.

The conventional wisdom is that Little should appease Robertson’s loyalists by allowing him to retain a large degree of independence and influence within caucus.

This would be the path of least resistance. In the short term, it would also bring plaudits as a unifying gesture.

However, it could also prove to be Little’s undoing. Such a settlement would hold while things were going well.

Once things got rough, however, the peace could quickly fall apart.

What happens if Labour’s prospects still look bleak by 2016?

What if Little has a period of rough polling, poor media performances and strained caucus relations? Does Robertson just forget the leadership?

In the end the party’s performance will determine how united they stay.

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Dotcom claims he is broke

November 26th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom says he is officially broke.

The German entrepreneur and failed politician has revealed this week that his three-year, $10 million legal fight against extradition to the US to face trial on an alleged conspiracy to commit the biggest-ever breach of copyright has seen him run out of cash.

I can only speak for myself, but if I was running out of cash, I wouldn’t spend $4.5 million on a pet political party.


Lusk: A Campaign Professional’s Guide to Winning New Zealand Campaigns

November 26th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Lusk has written A Campaign Professional’s Guide to Winning New Zealand Campaigns. He’s releasing it a chapter at a time on Amazon.

The first chapter is on the need to start with a good candidate. His first point is a good candidate should be friendly and outgoing. He suggests the following tests:

  • Can they walk into a room of strangers and enjoy it?
  • Do they have charisma?
  • Do they have a prodigious work ethic?
  • Are they are a fighter?
  • Avoid “risk takers” and “sinners”
  • Are they realistic about their chances and career prospects?

This is more a guide for campaign managers than candidates, but prospective candidates would find much of it useful also.



The Press on SIS report

November 26th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Gwyn found, however, that Tucker, in defending himself, had provided an account of the briefing that was “objectively” misleading, by omissions and failure to provide context. The Prime Minister was also misled by the information Tucker provided. When public discussion about the matter blew up, Tucker failed to correct the situation.

Tucker’s errors were undoubtedly serious. He was not as measured and objective as he was required to be. These failures compromised the service’s obligation to appear politically neutral and the service has formally apologised for them, both to Goff and to the Prime Minister.

But contrary to much of the public debate on the matter, Gwyn found no partisan political motive on the part of the SIS or its director. Tucker’s faults were errors of judgment, no more. She also found that no SIS member had improperly leaked information to the blogger Cameron Slater or colluded with him.

Most importantly for the Prime Minister, Gwyn emphatically rejected any allegation of political collusion or direction of the SIS in its disclosure of information. The so-called “Dirty Politics” conspiracy did not exist.


She did find that information was provided by an employee in the Prime Minister’s Office to Slater for political purposes, but that employee was a political one who was not expected to be politically neutral and the information was not classified.

Political staff have political discussions with bloggers. How surprising.

On an issue of most concern to media, Gwyn found that differential treatment of requests for information from mainstream outlets, compared with one received from Slater, arose not from political partisanship but rather poor process, inadequate resources and lack of political awareness. The picture she paints is of a department unused to dealing with Official Information Act requests and under pressure for a quick response, rather than one seeking to act as part of any conspiracy.

Incompetence rather than malice. As is often the case.

The Herald editorial disagrees and says it is all John Key’s fault.

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The Collins report

November 25th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The report by Justice Chisholm into Judith Collins and the SFO Director is here. The key conclusion is:

There is no probative evidence that Ms Collins undermined or attempted to undermine Mr Feeley. The implication that she was so involved is untenable.

I always thought this would be the case.

The report is a fascinating read. If you have the time, read it.  It is very comprehensive. Judith Collins allowed a contractor on behalf of the inquiry to search through all her electronic records over many years.

I am pleased for Judith that she has been cleared. They were very serious allegations.

The inevitable question is whether she becomes a Minister again. As the PM has said, there is no vacancy at the moment. But inevitable there will be reshuffles during the term, and I think her record of achievements in various portfolios speaks for itself and she should return to the ministry when there is a vacancy.

A couple of media have focused on Cathy Odgers not being required to give evidence in person. Well she would have if required, but she sent in an extensive 7,500 or so brief of evidence that the Commission found satisfactory. Also slanted media attacks by journalists trying to defend their own involvement were probably prejudicial against her. It is worth people recalling that the inquiry did find that journalists at the Herald were sharing information with Whale Oil, specifically so he could attack Feeley – so I don’t think they have a moral high ground on this.

Also of interest in the report is how much of the attacks on Feeley were coming from his own staff or ex-staff, resentful at his restructuring. This was very unprofessional of them – and one of them was even prosecuted for forging a purported e-mail from Feeley.

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Guest Post: Maui’s Dolphins

November 25th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Keith Mawson of Egmont Seafoods:

Scientists telling fibs about Maui’s dolphins

In 2003 the government banned fishing in the Maui’s dolphin habitat off Auckland and Waikato.  No Maui’s have been recorded as harmed by fishing since then.

Yet this is not what the experts in the International Whaling Commission were told as they voted against New Zealand at the IWC meeting in Slovenia.

The IWC relied on a paper presented to its Scientific Committee in 2013 which stated there was a yearly documented death rate of the endangered Maui’s from fishing.

It was written by Dr Barbara Maas, who works in London for NABU International, a conservation organisation. 

She reported to the IWC that there was not only a recorded Maui’s death rate from fishing, but that in 2008 it increased.

Since the 2008 protection measures were introduced, the number of stranded and reported bycatch cases has increased slightly (Slooten 2013). Between 1970 and 2008 an average of 1.00 entangled Maui’s dolphin was recorded per year. This figure increased marginally to 1.33 dolphin deaths per annum between 2009 and 2012.

Maui’s are clearly threatened subspecies of dolphin. Though the well-known number of 55 Maui’s adults is an estimate, the real population total is probably not too far off this.

Were Maas’ figures to be true, (though she states the figures come from Otago academic Liz Slooten but Maas provided no footnote reference) there would have been eight dead Maui’s dolphins from fishing since 2008, and nearly another 40 back to 1970.

If fishing was killing them at the stated rate, and expanded into a theoretical and often cited multiplier total of 4.97 per year, then something would need to be done.

But the figures, though worked out to the seemingly scientific second decimal point, are bogus.  A Slooten paper which is the probable source, states the numbers are taken from a DOC database. 

But the DOC database has no such information.  The IWC has been misled.

The information DOC holds is that in four cases, between 1921 and 2002, fishing may have killed a Maui’s.  Two were ‘possible’, one ‘probable’ and one ‘known’.

There is no yearly rate at all.  There are only four instances of fishing possibly killing Maui’s since records were first taken 93 years ago.  It is actually the confirmed reason in only one of these four cases.

Even more significantly, the most recent fishing implicated case was in 2002.  In 2003, the government imposed set net and trawl restrictions in the known Maui’s range – encompassing the areas where these four mortalities had occurred. 

So set net fishing had at most a questioned and minor impact on Maui’s before 2003, but no effect at all has been evident since.

There is no record of any Maui’s ever being caught in a trawl net either.

It is well known where most of the Maui’s live. They frequent shallow waters 30 kilometers north and south of the mouth of Waikato River, with some as far north as the Kaipara.

The occasional migration of Hector’s dolphins from the South Island confuses this picture. Both belong to the species Cephalorhynchus. They look exactly the same.

When Maui’s were categorised as a subspecies of Hector’s dolphins in 2002, the scientists believed the population had been separate since the end of the last ice age thousands of years ago.

Imagine the surprise when in 2010 sampling of DNA found a couple of Hector’s alive right in the core of the Maui’s habitat.  Theoretically they should not be there.  But they are.

Since physical separation of Maui’s and Hector’s no longer applies, genetic distinctions and old fashioned physical measurements are the remaining criteria for distinction.  It’s a weak case, since there is no more genetic difference discovered between Maui’s and Hector’s than there is between at least 26 subsets of Hector’s themselves.

The latest government commissioned survey information of Hector’s is that there are more than 9,000  off the East Coast of the South Island, with other populations off the West Coast and Southland, making a total population of about 14,500.  They are not at risk of extinction.

Dolphin campaigners will not accept this figure and still insist the total Hector’s population off the South Island is not much more than 7,000. 

This much lower number is used in the recent Economists at Large analysis of the Maui’s and Hector’s, which was commissioned by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation organisation.  The report did not mention that the figure is at best a contested estimate.

The Economists at Large document includes a map of where they think Maui’s and Hector’s live and which the authors want for a dolphin sanctuary.   The map depicts three ostensible migration routes of Maui’s going to the South Island.

The map is a Pixar Animation level of imagination.  There is not a shred of evidence any Maui’s dolphins have ever crossed to the South Island, let alone that such migrations are studied and frequent enough to justify a number of detailed route maps.

There is no evidence either that the Maui’s and Hector’s breed with each other, so the demand for a huge no-fishing ‘breeding corridor’ between North and South Islands is another fantasy.

But back to the facts.  Five Hector’s DNA samples have been collected along the Wellington coast to Taranaki since 1967.  No Maui’s DNA has been found south of Kawhia, well up into Waikato, since 1989.

In November 2011 there was a Hector’s sighting in Wellington Harbour.  Over that summer there were sightings up to Taranaki and Hawkes Bay.  There were two sightings between Hawera and Whanganui – the only ones ever recorded.  A beach-cast DNA confirmed Hector’s was found at Opunake in April 2012.

Crucially a dolphin was captured and killed in a fishing net in January 2012.  The regulations prevented any samples being taken and it was returned to the sea.  We will never know whether it was a Hector’s or a Maui’s.  DOC thinks it was a Maui’s. The Ministry for Primary Industries thinks the chances of it being a Maui’s or Hector’s are even.

But in the popular mind it was a Maui’s.  Advocate scientists successfully had more fishing restrictions imposed later in 2012 and then more again the following year.

As a result of these unjustified restrictions the fishing industry along this coast has contracted.  Workers have been laid off.

A risk assessment panel in 2012, with handpicked dolphin advocates, declared there to be Maui’s populations, not just off Taranaki, but as far south as Whanganui which needed protection from fishing effort.

The evidence though is increasingly that in some, but by no means all, summers there is something which drives or lures a very small number of Hector’s from the South Island to the North Island, to Wellington, along the Kapiti coast and then sometimes further north again. 

Off Taranaki, more than 1,000 MPI observer days have been spent on fishing vessels looking for Maui’s in the past two years.  A similar time has been spent by independent observers on oil exploration vessels.  DOC has used boats and aircraft to find Maui’s or Hector’s in the region.

They have seen none of either.  If the expert panel in 2012 had been anywhere near correct in its population estimates then there would have been at least dozens of Maui’s sightings.

Undeterred, the experts keep on supplying their opinions to the IWC. This year the Scientific Committee was informed that the number of Maui’s killed by fishing between Hawera and Whanganui could exceed one per year. 

Based on established ratios of population to capture from the Hector’s in South Island waters this death rate would mean a population of some hundreds of Maui’s would need to exist between Hawera and Whanganui.

No scientists have seen a Cephalorhynchus (Hector’s type) here.  There have only been two public sightings ever.  Both were following Hector’s presence along the coast to the north and south in the 2011-2012 summer.

The panel has been proven quite wrong in another respect as well.  It concluded that the rate of deaths in Maui’s due to disease was less than one every 100 years, so certain was it that fishing, both set net and trawl, was the culprit of population decline.

The panel did not consider three post-mortems which were being conducted on three Maui’s at Massey University.  The cause of death for two of them was established as Toxoplasmosis, a protozoan disease originating from land animals, with cats playing a critical role in the disease life cycle.

The diagnosis resulted in the expert panel’s allocation of disease blame to be used up for the next two centuries and beyond.

Hector’s dolphins dissected at the same time were also riddled with toxoplasma. The species has shown to be more vulnerable to this disease than other types of dolphin.

Unlike the many petitions which have been raised to call on the government to multiply the sea area closed to fishing, none are circulating wanting the government to fund research on Toxoplasmosis.

There is no research programme for Toxoplasmosis, which has been proven to kill Maui’s, yet many calls for more restrictions on fishing, for which there is no evidence that it is causing Maui’s any harm at all.

The conclusion must be that either it’s easier to run a blame-game campaign on human activity, than it is to target disease infection from land animals.

More specifically, is that the campaign to save the Maui’s is more generated by antipathy towards people earning a living from the sea, than it is to actually saving the Maui’s.

Over the past few months Maui’s campaigners have refocused their targeting on the petroleum industry off Taranaki.  There is no evidence that oil exploration or extraction has harmed a single Maui’s in half a century of activity in the region.

But it is interesting to note how the argument on where the Maui’s are supposed to be living, is manufactured to suit the activity being cited to cause the threat.

When fishing is targeted, the Maui’s population is described as being up to three-quarters of the way round the North Island and even off the South Island.  That is, where there is fishing.

But now, when the target is the petrochemical industry off Taranaki, the Maui’s population spread has been totally reinvented.  The new claims are that ‘their entire population [is] residing in a small sanctuary established in 2008 off the west coast of the North Island’.

We all want to see the Maui’s population flourish.  We do not want it to become extinct.  This will mean boring science stuff, such as investigating how the Maui’s get diseases from the land, or how their reproduction might be helped.  None of this is being done.

Instead, ideological targeting masquerading as scientific objectivity will not help them.

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The SIS report

November 25th, 2014 at 1:26 pm by David Farrar

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has reported:

The inquiry found the NZSIS released incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information in response to Mr Slater’s request, and provided some of the same incorrect information to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office.

“These errors resulted in misplaced criticism of the then Leader of the Opposition, Hon Phil Goff MP. Mr Goff is owed a formal apology by the Service,” said Ms Gwyn.

Ms Gwyn found no evidence of political partisanship by the NZSIS but did find that the NZSIS failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality.

 “Having released inaccurate information that was predictably misinterpreted, the then Director of the Service had a responsibility to take positive steps to correct the interpretation. He failed to do so,” said Ms Gwyn.
Warren Tucker was obviously greatly annoyed at Goff denying he had been briefed on the Israelis, when he had been, but the Inspector-General has found his response was not satisfactory. Basically he felt his integrity had been impugned, so supplied information to back him up, rather than to give a full record. Also the SIS have little experience with the OIA and didn’t do stuff they should have, such as giving Goff an advance copy of their proposed response.
That is very disappointing from any state sector head, but especially the SIS. It will add to the task Rebecca Kitteridge has to maintain and grow confidence in the professionalism of the SIS.

Ms Gwyn said she had also investigated allegations, made before and during the course of the inquiry, that NZSIS officers had acted in collusion with Mr Slater or under direction from the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister’s Office. Ms Gwyn said that these allegations were particularly serious and that she had made full use of her statutory powers to investigate them.

“From that thorough investigation, I do not believe that any NZSIS staff member contacted Mr Slater to instigate his OIA request. Nor have I found any collusion or direction between the NZSIS and the Prime Minister or his Office.”

Not Watergate, despite what Russel Norman claims.

Ms Gwyn went to on comment that she had, however, established that a staff member of the Prime Minister’s office had provided unclassified NZSIS information to Mr Slater. However, that information was understood by the Prime Minister’s Office to have been provided for media purposes and there was no breach of confidence towards NZSIS in that disclosure.

“That disclosure did not breach any confidentiality or security obligations owed by those staff to the NZSIS. No classified information was disclosed to Mr Slater.” Said Ms Gwyn.

Basically Jason Ede tipped Cameron Slater off that there was some information worth applying for under the OIA. I’d say parliamentary staff have been tipping people off as to things to apply for since probably the day after the OIA was passed.

It is far to say though that when it comes to material involving a security agency, even if unclassified material, it is not a good look. It would be better for the Government to have just decided themselves to release the material, rather than rely on the OIA.

Also important to stress that while I don’t have a problem with people being advised to apply for things under the OIA (and many in the media may receive such tips also), it is important that all OIA requests are treated equally under the law regardless of who applies.  It seems the SIS did not correctly respond to media requests, as they did not regard them as OIA requests. But this is clearly wrong, as you do not have to cite the OIA for a request for information to be treated as an OIA request.

The full report is here.

I should pay tribute to Cheryl Gwyn for the robust nature of her report. It is very thorough and pull no punches. From time to time government institutions do make wrong calls, and what is important is we have a system that can deal with them.  I said at the time that I thought her appointment was a good one, and this reports shows it was.

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Little and NZUSA

November 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In my 2009 profile of Andrew Little for NBR I said:

I first met Andrew Little when he was President of the New Zealand University Students Association in the late 1980s.

The organisation was in crisis and at risk of dying. Andrew helped save it, and a reform package was implemented that reduced a staff from 14 (a president, six vice-presidents and seven staff) to a staff of around four (two co-presidents and a couple of staff). The new leaner meaner NZUSA stopped campaigning for Nicaragua, and started focusing on student education and welfare and has been a much more effective beast since.

A former NZUSA insider corrects my memory. He e-mails:

First, the reform of the New Zealand University Students’ Association was in 1986 (Simon Johnson was VUWSA President and Bidge Smith was NZUSA President). I think that Andrew was Sports Officer at VUWSA and was a delegate to NZUSA Councils that year.. 

You are correct there was one president and six vice-presidents and an additional two researchers and a “typing pool”. They described themselves as the Typist Liberation Front (TLR) – i am not making this up.

The reform happened at the 2006 August Council and NZUSA had one President and one vice-president – not the two co-presidents as you stated. 

Although Andrew was involved sort-of in the reform of NZUSA but it was acutally as VUWSA President in 1987 and therefore on the Federation Executive and then as 1988 and 1989 NZUSA President that Andrew was critical in making a full success of the NZUSA reforms that you highlight in your article.

I’m grateful for the clarification. A 28 year old memory can be faulty.

Coincidentally Grant Robertson’s thesis for his honours degree was on the 1986 restructuring. He labeled them a step to the right!

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An awful idea

November 25th, 2014 at 6:54 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd has taken his fight for Maori representation a step further, calling for a law change so up to half of all councillors in New Zealand are Maori.

Judd, already fighting critics over his council’s plans to create a Maori ward, believes there should be more Maori representation across the country to better reflect the Treaty of Waitangi. 

“The reasonable interpretation of the Treaty is that you would have fifty-fifty representation around the table,” Judd said. 

Fiji has just ended an electoral system that divided people up on the basis of their bloodline, but Mr Judd wants to extend and entrench such a system here.

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Comparing the front benches

November 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A comparison of the National (11) and Labour (8) front benches.

fb demos

MP Status

Only one of Labour’s front bench is a List MP – the leader. All the others are electorate MPs. National is two thirds electorate and one third list.


Both are close to one third female.


Both around one quarter Maori.Labour also has a Pasifika front bencher.


For the first time for a while (I think) Labour now has a younger front bench. Three quarters are aged below 50.


Labour has issues here. Half the front bench is from Wellington and no one from Christchurch or provincial NZ.


There is not a single South Island MP on Labour’s front bench. In fact only two SI MPs intheir top 17.

Decade Entered

National and Labour now have similar profiles in terms of longevity of front benchers in Parliament.

So overall this reshuffle has rejuvenated the Labour front bench and the two front benchers now looking quite similiar except Labour has an age advantage and National an area advantage.

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The 2014 New Zealand Post-Election Conference

November 24th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve been to every post-election conference put on by Vic Uni since, well as far as I can recall.

They are the one form where all the campaign managers come together and talk about what they did wrong and right, and take questions about the election. You also get some interesting academic contributions on issues ranging from polling to media coverage.

The 2014 conference is on Wed 3 December. Speakers include:

  • John Key
  • David Carter
  • Steven Joyce
  • Te Ururoa Flavell
  • Peter Dunne
  • David Seymour
  • Russel Norman
  • Winston Peters
  • Nicola Kean
  • Corin Higgs
  • Jane Clifton
  • Kate McMillan
  • Colin James
  • Stephen Mills
  • Matthew Beveridge
  • Rob Salmond
  • Morgan Godfery
  • Stephen Church
  • Therese Arseneau
  • Nigel Roberts

Amusingly Labour have been unable to name the poor sucker who will front for them, to speak about their campaign :-)

If you’re a student of politics and elections, its a fascinating day. Only $65 to attend, or $30 for students.

UPDATE: Andrew Little is now fronting for Labour. Updated programme is here – Conference Programme (Nov)

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Little’s reshuffle

November 24th, 2014 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

Overall Andrew Little has done a good job with his reshuffle, considering the somewhat limited options he has. I’d give it a 7/10. He has rejuvenated the front bench and not played factional politics too much. Most appointments seem to be based on merit.

His first week as leader has gone well. He has been comfortable in his press conferences, and his tone has been good. When asked on TV this morning why he is calling for Rennie to go, but not also the DPMC head, he gave a logical response based on their different roles.

He hasn’t set the world on fire, and maybe our expectations are lower because of the stuff ups by previous incumbents, but at this stage there is nothing much you can fault him on. Labour need a solid leader, and that may now have it.

In terms of the new line up, let’s start with the overall look, and then the details.

  • A plus for a fresh front bench, of whom only two were Ministers in the last Government
  • A plus for a front bench which has good gender and ethnic diversity
  • A plus for a front bench largely based on merit
  • A big negative for four of the top six being Wellington MPs including Leader, Deputy Leader, Leader of the House and Finance Spokesperson. Labour may struggle to reconnect with NZ when their top six is so beltway.
  • A small negative that no one wanted to be Deputy Leader (except Nanaia) so poor Annette had to be drafted in again

In terms of the individuals

  • Little having no portfolios outside security is sensible
  • King as Deputy Leader is a good short term move (she has it for a year only). While it is a bad look that they need an MP who entered Parliament 30 years ago to remain Deputy, her personal skills for he job are superb. One Labour insider commented to me that the gap between Anette and the next most competent female Labour MP is astonomical.
  • Robertson as Finance is a risk. He is a skilled politician and communicator, but I am not sure how much credibility he will have talking about the economy, when he has never worked in the private sector. His challenge is to bridge that gap.
  • Mahuta gets No 4 mainly because her followers all voted for Little. few could seriously suggest she is their 4th best MP. What are her achievements in the 18 years she has been an MP? With just one portfolio (Maori Development), her workload could be very light.
  • Twyford as Housing and Transport is a good choice – he knows the issues well.
  • Hipkins as Shadow Leader and Education also sound.
  • Sepuloni is promoted ahead of Ardern to get Social Development. A big opportunity for her considering she has had only one term in Parliament. Has to prove she deserves the spot.
  • A very good call making Davis front bench and giving him portfolios such as Police, Corrections and Domestic Violence. Could do very well so log as he gets Little to dump his policy of making people accused of rape having to prove their innocence.
  • Ardern gets demoted for the second time in a row and drops off the front bench (they have only eight front bench seats in the House). She gets a major portfolio in Justice but is against Amy Adams who I think will excel there.
  • Clark gets a promotion and Economic Development. Could have gone further but has a chance to prove himself
  • Sio has Pacific Island Affairs and Local Government. Doubt we’ll see much more than in the past,
  • Lees-Galloway gets the important (for Labour) portfolio of Labour. Suspect Little will lead most of the work in this area though.
  • Woods gets Environment and Climate Change. Likely to be over shadowed by the Greens.
  • Cunliffe, Parker, Shearer and Goff are Nos 14 to 17. This is smart by Little. All get a ranking to reflect their contribution, but also one low enough to suggest they are on the way out (maybe not for Shearer).
  • While Cunliffe has a low ranking, he has meaty portfolios in Regional Development, Tertiary Education and Science. A path to redemption.

In terms of the unranked, surprised Louisa Wall and Stuart Nash not put into the top 20. Also somewhat surprised Sue Moroney not given a ranking.

As I said, overall a pretty smart reshuffle by Little, considering his limited options. The heavy Wellington skew at the top is a significant weakness, but overall he has done a good job of rejuvenation, and starting to put together what could look like a competent alternate Government.

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Maybe The Standard should charge commissions?

November 24th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale quotes the SST:

Police are investigating an entity that funded Auckland mayor Len Brown’s 2010 and 2013 election campaigns.

More then $750,000 in backing for Brown’s two successful campaigns was paid by a trust that kept donors’ identities secret. Since February police have been investigating whether the trust breached the Local Electoral Act.

The Sunday Star-Times has confirmation from Brown’s former campaign team that Greg Presland was involved in the donor trust. He was also the main trustee of the trust that paid almost $20,000 in anonymous donations to former Labour leader David Cunliffe during Labour’s 2013 leadership contest.

Greg is of course one of the main authors at The Standard which of course campaigns vigorously against the use of secret trusts in politics!

Maybe they could help fund their blog if Greg put in the trust deeds that 1% of all donations go to The Standard :-)

As to whether there is a breach of the law, my initial response was there isn’t, as secret trusts were legal for local government elections in 2010 and 2013.

However the issue raised by the complainant is that a person must be listed as a donor and a trust is not a person. A company is and an incorporated society is, but a trust is generally regarded as not being a legal person, but something on behalf of the trustees (lawyers will correct me if I have this not quite right). So the complainant has said that as the trust is not a person, then the trustees should be named. That seems a not unreasonable thing to do. So it will be interesting what the Police decide – my pick is as usual, nothing.


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Winston back to Chinese bashing again

November 24th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Streamlining rich Chinese into the country because they hold a Chinese-issued credit card has been slammed by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters who said it will lead to corruption here.

But the tourism industry welcomes the new move as knocking down a barrier to growth in getting wealthy Chinese to come to New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand’s agreement with China UnionPay allows holders of Platinum and Diamond UnionPay credit cards to provide evidence of their “premium card” status instead of information on their employment and source of funds, as part of the visa application process.

UnionPay is the only domestic bankcard organisation in China.

In the joint statement by New Zealand and China last week, the Chinese side welcomed “New Zealand’s recent visa facilitation package for Chinese citizens visiting New Zealand for tourism and business, and is willing to work with the New Zealand side to create more favourable conditions for bilateral personnel exchange.” Chinese visa applicants are also required to meet other requirements such as being of good character and having an acceptable standard of health.

This is about making it easier for Chinese nationals to visit NZ, not making it easier for them to gain residency here. This is a crucial difference.

Nationals from many countries can visit here without needing a visa at all. Is Winston complaining that British people can visit NZ and not need to prove they have a job and a source of funds? Of course not, as they’re not Asian.

Tourism Industry Association (TIA) New Zealand chief executive Chris Roberts welcomed the new credit card immigration policy.

He said the TIA had been advocating strongly to the government for more streamlined visa processing for high-value Chinese visitors.

It is one of the key growth opportunities identified in the industry’s Tourism 2025 framework.

“The Tourism 2025 goal of almost doubling total tourism revenue to $41 billion a year can only be achieved by the public and private sectors co-operating to remove barriers to growth and seizing opportunities.

“Smart schemes to target high-value Chinese travellers to get the visas they need as quickly and easily as possible will make New Zealand more internationally competitive for this crucial market, which has grown quickly to become our second-biggest source of visitors after Australia.”

So again this is about tourism, not migration.

However, Peters said Prime Minister John Key had not learnt lessons from the Kim Dotcom affair which had cost the country “a packet in the courts” and tarnished both the government’s and our international reputation”.

“Instead of saying we have a rigorous immigration programme and policies capable of doing the job . . . he’s now transferred that right onto another country and another country’s system.

“If holding some sort of platinum card is going to be the criteria then you hugely expose yourself and leave yourself open to corruption.

Winston has tried this before. I blogged on almost the same issue in 2012. Nationals from 57 countries can visit NZ without even needing a visa. Chinese nationals do still need a visa, and have to provide

  • Proof of good health
  • Proof of good character
  • A proper purpose for visiting
  • Proof they plan to leave
  • Proof of funds to cover stay in NZ ($1,000/mth), and departure
  • Not have a serious criminal record

They still have to fill in a 16 page form. All this change is that having a platinum credit card is an acceptable substitute for a statement from an employer about what their earnings are.

Winston knows this of course, but can never resist an opportunity to scaremonger.

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Calls for Rennie to go

November 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

States Services Minister Paula Bennett says commissioner Iain Rennie retains her confidence, despite opposition calls for him to be stood down over his handling of a sexual harassment complaint against former Cera boss Roger Sutton. …

Labour leader Andrew Little has called for Rennie to be dumped.

“The idea that you arrange a press conference for a senior public servant, about whom a finding of serious misconduct has been made, it is such a lack of judgment that I think it goes to his fitness to do the job,” he said. “He [Rennie] should be stood down and an investigation be conducted into how he came to make that decision.”

Bennett has confirmed she sought “constant” assurances that the investigation was “thorough and professional”. “I have expressed to the state services commissioner that I am disappointed with the handling of Mr Sutton’s resignation last Monday, and he accepts that it should have been handled differently, that there are lessons he has learnt, and that there will never be a repeat.”

On the substantive matter, I’m not convinced (on the evidence to date) that Rennie’s actions have reached the threshold where the head of the state sector in NZ should resign. Yes he made the wrong call in allowing the press conference, but I think one needs to be careful about having state sector CEOS forced out due to political pressure. I would expect a removal to be justified only if there was an ongoing series of wrong calls on multiple issues, rather than one situation handled badly.

On the issue of process, the Government can’t actually simply sack the State Services Commissioner. he can only be sacked by way of resolution of the House of Representatives. S16 of the State Sector Act 1988 states they can only be suspended by the Governor-General for up to 21 days, and they resume their job unless House of Representatives declares by resolution they ought to be removed from office. This shows that the threshold for removal is set very high.


The foreign fighters proposed law

November 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

John Key has released the draft legislation that will go to the House on Tuesday. It will got to select committee very briefly, and then come back to the House to be passed before Christmas.

The four main measures are:

  1. Extending the period the Minister of Internal Affairs can cancel a passport to up to three years from the existing law’s 12 months
  2. Giving the Minister of Internal Affairs the power to temporarily suspend passports for up to 10 working days in urgent cases
  3. Allowing the NZ Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) to carry out video surveillance on private properties for the purpose of observing activities of security concern, modelled on the Police’s powers in the Search and Surveillance Act
  4. Allowing the NZSIS to conduct emergency surveillance for up to 48 hours prior to the issue of a warrant, with the approval of its Director and subject to the oversight of the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.

The first two proposals do not seem a big issue to me. They are just an extension to an existing power.

The third proposal is long overdue arguably, and just brings the SIS powers  in line with the Police.

It is the 4th proposal that I have problems with, and frankly I don’t think the case for it has been made to justify it.

The justification in the bill is that information may come to light that someone not previously identified as a risk is about to travel to a conflict zone, and in the hours it takes to get a warrant, intelligence may be lost and they leave NZ.

I don’t think that is justification enough. Even if someone does leave to go to a conflict zone, that isn’t the end of the world. I’d rather they didn’t, but this isn’t enough of a threat to justify emergency surveillance without a warrant.

I also think there is a danger in trying to cover off every sort of theoretical possibility. You can justify almost anything with hypothetical justifications. You can justify torture if it is to discover the location of a nuclear bomb that will kill 100,000 people. But how likely is it? The question I would ask the SIS is whether there has ever been a situation where something bad happened because they had to wait six to 12 hours to get a warrant? Not a hypothetical situation, but an actual situation?

The danger of emergency powers is that can become a lazy norm. Why bother getting a warrant, if we can take a quick look for 48 hours, and then see if we learn enough to justify a warrant application? Now I have considerable respect for the current SIS Director, but the law should not be about the person in charge, but the institution.

So at this stage I’m unconvinced the fourth part of the law is justified, and if an MP would vote to remove it, unless I got better justification for it.

However it is worth noting there are some safeguards proposed for the emergency surveillance power. They are:

  • Only the Director can authorise
  • A maximum of 48 hours
  • Only when a delay is likely to lead to a loss of intelligence
  • The Commissioner of Security Warrants (CSW) must be notified within 12 hours
  • The CSW or the Minister can order the emergency surveillance to halt, once notified, if they do not think it meets the threshold
  • The Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence must be notified asap and can investigate if an emergency authorisation was appropriate
  • The SIS annual report must report how often an emergency surveillance was done
  • Law change is temporary, until 2018

These are good safeguards, but again I don’t think the case has been made for the power. If I was an MP I’d want details of actual harm caused in the past by not having this power.


Harre quits Internet Party

November 23rd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Laila Harre said on The Nation yesterday that she is quitting as Leader of the Internet Party, and is no longer on the payroll. Dotcom’s $4.5 million has all been spent it seems.

While saying they mismanaged the last month, she seems to have a long list of others to blame, namely:

  • Georgina Beyer
  • The media
  • Labour
  • Greens
  • The “right” attacking

A week after the election I blogged on why the Internet Party failed. What I put it down to was:

  • Dotcom’s motives were not trusted with the $4,5 milion he out into it
  • Laila was the wrong leader for it
  • The Fuck John Key video backfired massively
  • The Moment of Truth fiasco

The Herald on Sunday profiles Dotcom today.

Three years ago the mansion bustled with up to 50 employees but that is now believed to have dwindled to fewer than 10 people, including a butler, security men, kitchen staff and gardeners.

Having only 10 servants instead of 50. That must be very tough.

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PM and Cook

November 23rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

The dinner conversation traversed diverse subjects such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Rewi Alley, cooking skills, and Mr Xi’s preference for three-star hotels in China.

Mr Key, who is the chief cook in the Key household, said Mr Xi said he used to be quite a good cook himself but doesn’t cook any more.

I think it is rather cool that despite being PM, he still has time to cook for his family (and can do so). A very good way to stay grounded.


Taxpayer funding for America’s Cup should cease

November 22nd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Treasury has advised against taxpayer backing for Team New Zealand in the next America’s Cup, labelling it “poor value for money”.

The Government contributed $5 million to Team New Zealand to help retain key staff soon after its 8-9 loss in the 34th Cup in September last year – against Treasury advice – and is considering investing a similar amount to the $36 million contributed last time.

The news that the cup is likely to be in Bermuda, not San Francisco, means that the case for further taxpayer money is even weaker than before.


The focus should be on students not schools

November 22nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Free uniforms and stationery are on offer to those who enrol at a new charter school.

How terrible. Helping poor families.

Millions of dollars will be spent on new charter or “partnership” schools despite hundreds of spare places at surrounding state options.

I don’t care about schools. I care about outcomes for students. The outcomes in these communities to date have been pretty poor.

That has not stopped disquiet from one principal who says it is unfair to expect lower decile schools to compete with charter schools offering free uniforms, stationery and no donations.

They complain that fees are too high and then complain when a school is innovative enough to not need them.

Six intermediate schools are near the site of Middle School West Auckland, a Year 7-10 partnership school that will have a maximum roll of 240.

The schools have enough spare places to enrol an additional 588 students at Year 7-8, according to the ministry document.

Yes, but they are all offering much the same, while the charter school is offering something different, Parents will have a choice.

Partnership schools cannot charge donations, and the school would provide free uniforms and stationery, Mr Poole said, but not as “sweeteners”.

“What we want is that every child walks through the gate at 100 per cent equal.”

Shouldn’t the left be cheering this on?

Mr Poole said that, despite attacks from opponents of charter schools, they did not get more funding, and start-up costs were well below usual amounts for state schools. Creative budgeting and a lack of expensive infrastructure like playing fields enabled them to offer smaller classes and items such as uniforms, he said.

It’s about flexibility. A charter school has greater ability to set its own priorities.

What’s interesting is that the principal complaining about a charter school offering free stationery took part in a protest march where he complained about funding for stationery.

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Garner on Little

November 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

A bunch of faceless union hacks chose Andrew Little to lead the Labour Party this week.

That’s the truth. It’s as simple and as brutal as that.

Six unions got to vote in the leadership race – but just one union, Service and Food Workers, actually gave all its members the right to exercise their vote.

The other five unions gave the power to about 100 senior delegates to cast the crucial votes on behalf of those on the factory floor.

Who are these delegates? Who knows. If it wasn’t for Little’s 100 union mates who wielded the power and the final say, Little would have come a distant second in this race.

The Labour system is awful. If you want to do membership voting, then do it as the Greens do it – one member, one vote. Not one union delegate having 30 votes.

This is unprecedented for Labour – 27 of its MPs don’t want Little to be their boss.

Yet leader he is. It’s a perverse outcome that looks farcical. But the process is the process – despite it looking like an ass. It certainly doesn’t seem fair to Robertson, and of course he’s gutted and licking his wounds.

So what to make of Little?

In my time covering politics I found him to be straight-forward, competent, organised, gruff, a little grim, dry and blunt but likeable.

So it’s not all bad. Get Labour back up into the early 30s and it’s game on – that’s MMP.

At 30% you lose less badly. At 35% you can govern if Winston chooses you.

At least Little’s not a trumped-up fake like the last leader and a stuttering mess, like the one before that.


But this is a divided bunch. If I was Little I’d offer the deputy leader’s job to Jacinda Ardern.

They need some Auckland influence in there – and she’s a Robertson loyalist. Little could offer the job to Robertson – but then the leader and deputy are from Wellington and that’s a problem.

He must not offer it to failed leadership contender Nanaia Mahuta for all the obvious reasons. And he must promote new blood like Kelvin Davis and Stuart Nash on to the front bench.

I agree Ardern is the logical choice for Deputy. She doesn’t want to be his Deputy, but she is a List MP and a servant of the party. She should be told that she has to take the role.

And what about Robertson? Is he finished? I say no.

He’s promised not to run again for leader – but surely that commitment only lasts for this term.

Robertson, in my view, will always have ambitions to be the leader. But he wants to give Little three years.

However, should Little fail and John Key wins a fourth term, Robertson’s commitment to never stand again means nothing.

Little is now the boss. But don’t write off the apprentice – politics is a long game and Robertson is still running a marathon, not a sprint.

Or will he be Jacinda’s campaign manager next time, rather than vice versa?

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A profile of Little

November 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff has a profile of Andrew Little.

In the mid-2000s, the EPMU took on Air New Zealand over plans to outsource heavy maintenance engineering and airport services. Little hired experts and drew up an alternative business strategy.

A former airline executive – on the other side of the negotiating table – was impressed.

“There is a really interesting blend of practical compassion within Andrew. That pragmatism realises the commercial realities of a business … It was a very tense and adversarial approach taken by both parties but there was a degree of calmness about him, borne out of recognising as a leader that he has got to let the situation unfold a little bit.”

He says Little “opened his eyes”.

“We understood [then] the impact of the decision that we would have been taking. He was a measured, reasonable voice as opposed to antagonistic. He played a very good, diffusing role.”

Little is “well regarded” by many in the business world, the former airline executive says.

The irony is Little is more popular with some employers he negotiated with, than some of his rival union leaders.


Key elected head of the International Democrat Union

November 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

John Key was yesterday elected Chairman of the International Democrat Union. This is the global union of centre right parties. It is unprecedented for the leader of such a small country to become the chair.

It has 54 members including the Australian Liberal Party, Canadian Conservative Party, Taiwanese Kuomintang, French UPM, German CDU, UK Conservative and US Republican Party. It was founded by Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, Jacques Chrirac and George H W Bush. John Howard has just retired as the Chairman.

I have had some involvement myself in the IDU and the IYDU. To be elected Chair means that dozens of other Prime Ministers and party leaders are in support of you. It is a sign that John Key is recognised internationally as one of the most successful centre right leaders around the world.

Global politics, like domestic politics, often works on the strength of relationships. Key’s ascension to the IDU leadership is significant.

When he first became National Party leader, some on the left mocked Key as someone who would be incompetent on foreign affairs – how could a money trader know anything about diplomacy. Since then Key has developed strong relationships with both the US and Chinese Presidents, is good friends with the Australian, British and Canadian PMs, and now has been elected by his peers to be the leader of the global grouping of centre-right parties.



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