Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Key unplugged

August 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett goes out with Bronagh and John Key:

We go along the edge of the rose gardens and across the road to Rosie cafe. There is a fish and chip shop nearby but Key says he rarely visits. “Body’s a temple. Write that down.”

At Rosie they place him on the corner where he can be easily seen from outside. He’s good advertising. The Keys are clearly regulars. Key asks a waitress about her upcoming wedding and advises on dates. “Go for October. Snare him early.”

Heh.

Key still does his physical training drills, assisted by the boys, at 5.40 several mornings a week. He’s doing a bit of boxing, flailing at a punching bag. He won’t say who he imagines when he’s punching it. 

The boys are his DPS guards.

But Bronagh can get her own back. After Key insists his body is a temple for the fifth time, she says “more like a warehouse”. He laughs and says, “There’s a reason she’s restricted to 600 words a day.”

She also reveals what is possibly the real reason the Max versus Key snr golf game idea was rejected. “Max can whip him. The beautiful thing is Max doesn’t really practise.” Key is highly competitive and doesn’t like to lose. In an attempt to regain ascendancy, he has a putting lesson lined up for the next day.

Key is meant to be a 15 handicap, so Max must be pretty damn good.

It turns out Bronagh also has quite the sense of humour. She mimics a teacher they had at school dubbed “Screaming Skull”.

The mimic emerges again when talking about Key’s handyman abilities. Key’s mother warned her he was useless at DIY. She puts on the late Ruth Key’s Austrian accent: “John is USELESS at fixing things round the house,” she says. “He’s going to have to do a good job because he’s going to have to pay someone else to do everything.”

Again heh.

When I ask Key later who gets which half of the cappuccino, he replies, “I won’t answer that on the basis your headline will be ‘Key likes a bit of fluff’.”

I love his sense of humour.

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The Conservative Party List

August 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports their top five:

  1. Colin Craig, property developer
  2. Chistine Rankin, former Head of WINZ
  3. Garth McVicar, founder of the Sensible Sentencing Trust
  4. Melissa Perkin, lawyer, executive director of the New Zealand Bar Association
  5. Edward Saafi, biomedical scientist, PhD and MBA.

Regardless of politics and policies, I have to say that’s a pretty strong lineup.

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PPTA reaches agreement

August 23rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Only a day after the country’s biggest teacher union walked away from the Government’s flagship education policy, secondary school teachers have agreed on an interim deal over it.

Today the Post Primary Teachers’ Association, representing about 18,000 secondary school teachers, reached an interim agreement around how the teaching roles would work as part of the $359 million Investing in Educational Success initiative.

Good to see there is one union not against their members being able to take up roles that pay $10,000 to $50,000 a year more.

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The right to silence in the UK

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

The Herald reports:

As they did ahead of the 2008 and 2011 General Elections, the New Zealand Police Association yesterday released its policy document “for the future”.

Included in the proposals was a sterner stance on defendants’ refusals to co-operate with statements and evidence.

“The Police Association believes government policy to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system should … amend the law relating to criminal procedure and evidence to allow judge and jury to draw such inferences as appear proper from a defendent’s refusal to answer questions or give evidence,” the policy document reads.

“The incentive to silence greatly obstructs the ability of police, the courts, and most importantly victims, to ascertain the full truth and receive an explanation for an offence.”

“No one can make anyone talk but if you refuse to speak … then they should be able to comment on that,” association president Greg O’Connor said.

“No one is going to force you to speak, but the judge might say, ‘one might have thought if you were innocent, you would want to talk.’ It’s really about going along with the UK.”
In the United Kingdom, which shares New Zealand’s common law legal heritage, “a judge or jury may draw ‘such inferences as appear proper’ from a defendant’s refusal to make statements of give accounts to the police or court, while providing that a finding of guilt cannot be based solely on such inferences”.

“New Zealand should adopt a similar reform,” the association policy states.

The right to silence has been in the common law since the 1600s.

There are two aspects to the right to silence.

  1. The right to actually not answer questions. Most other participants in a trial must answer the question posed to them, or face jail for contempt.
  2. The right not to face adverse comment in court on the fat you have exercised the right to silence

As far as I know, no one wants to change the first part, just the second.

I suspect that juries, even if told not to, do mark a defendant down if he or she remains silent. But plenty of defendants have been found not guilty who have remained silent, so the impact is presumbly minor.

UK law does indeed the court to make adverse comment on a defendant remaining silent, but states the jury must be told no conviction can be be made solely on silence.

Stephen Franks makes the case for adopting the UK law:

I’m sorry that some in ACT have reneged on the policy I worked for in Parliament, according to Stuff.

 That policy to end the “so-called right to silence” (Ted Thomas J’s description of it) took into account the UK experience after ending it more than a decade earlier. It considered the academic writing on both sides (retired NZ judges from both sides of the  left/right spectrum considered it to be a poseur right). But mostly it flowed from my determination to focus our policy back on to increasing the availability to courts of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Most of the lay opposition to its abolition is out of a misconception that a right to silence would be replaced by a rule forcing people to give evidence. It would not. An accused could remain silent still. The only change could be that the court is permitted to recognise and draw inferences from a failure to expose yourself to cross-examination.

 Such a reform would simply recognise a common sense reasoning that probably finds its way into many (but unfortunately not all) jury findings despite vain judicial instructions not to take it into account. That reasoning is that the person in the court in the best position to know what really happened involving him is the defendant. If he has counsel hounding other witnesses with potentially spurious theories about what happened but declines to offer his own evidence, or to expose himself to questioning, then the court is deprived of the most direct account of the truth.

Mike Sabin has a members’ bill to allow adverse comments on silence to be made, where a victim is aged under 12.

Of interest is that former defence lawyer Russel Fairbrother called for a law change in 2008 when a Labour MP, as did Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

Overall I’m not convinced though. The change to the UK law might not be a bad change in itself, but it might be the start of a slippery slope where the right to silence gets eroded more and more.

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Changes to MPs allowances

August 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Remuneration Authority has published its determination for travel and accommodation allowances for Ministers and MPs. This is the first time they have been set by an independent body. Prior to this, the Speaker and the Minister for Ministerial Services determined them. So it is good to have this now with an independent body.

What are the significant changes.

  • Cap on MPs’ Wellington accommodation increases from $24,000 to $28,000, the level it has been at since 2007. This increase reflects the 18% inflation we have had since 2007.
  • Cap on Ministers’ Wellington accommodation increases from $37,500 to $41,000, the level it has been at since 2009. This increase reflects the 11% inflation we have had since 2009.
  • Daily limit for hotels in Wellington increases from $160 to $190 for MPs and from $200 to $240 for Ministers. Again both these changes are near identical to the inflation level since 2007, so in real terms just a catch up.
  • Daily limit for hotels in Auckland and Christchurch increases from $180 to $210 for MPs and $290 for Ministers.
  • Spouse or partner travel was previously unlimited but is now capped at 20 trips a year for MPs and 30 for Ministers, and also now restricted to travel to accompany the MP on official business.
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How Hager got it wrong on The Princess Party

August 22nd, 2014 at 5:10 pm by David Farrar

One section of Nicky Hager’s book stated I had organised a Princess Party, and had dialogue from some unnamed people about getting girls drunk, with an implication I was part of that conversation.

hagerbook

I was not the organiser of the party, and was not a party to the conversation. Yet Hager published this as fact. It is reasonably defamatory as various people have smeared me over it.

I did attend a party in 2011 in Palmerston North held the day before a party conference. I was not the organiser. I invited two friends along, of similiar age to myself. Off memory it was called a Princess Party, because the Royal Wedding was occurring around then. As a Republican, I’m an unlikely organiser.

The e-mails have been released by Whaledump, and I quote from then below. I’m redacting the names of the participants, but of course the source e-mails are on Whaledump.

Name 1, 4/26, 12:02am

my email doesn’t get read

lol

Apparently Pinko is the main driving force behind the Princess party

Now this e-mail is presumably why Hager thought I was the organiser. But he gets it totally wrong. They are laughing at the fact that someone thinks I am the organiser. This is the problem where you write a book on stolen e-mails, and don’t verify, fact check, or interview a single person for it.

One must note the irony of the comment about e-mails not getting read though :-)

————————-
Name 2, 4/26, 12:03am

well i was going to say i have cleared the field for you, given you the most likely targets and will get them drunk for you
————————-
Name 1, 4/26, 12:03am

he has invited [REDACTED] to it and to the one the next night
————————-
Name 2, 4/26, 12:03am

righto, good cleint recruitment

he asked if he can bring Name 3, which i said yes to
————————-

Yep, I got invited to a party, and invited two friends to it – both of a similiar age to me - one male and female. I had no role in the conversation reported in the book. Yet the book reports me as the organiser, and implies I was involved in the conversation.

If Mr Hager is doing reprints of his book, I would appreciate it if he could make the appropriate corrections.

And perhaps this is a lesson to everyone out there, not to take everything in the book at face value. If he has got this wrong, what else has he got wrong? Again this is what happens when you don’t verify anything or give people a chance to respond.

UPDATE: I actually blogged on the party in 2011. To quote me:

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

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

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

Somewhat sad that it was a party, and I’m debating constitutional reform at 1 am at it. Also a very different impression to what Hager’s book implied.

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A Ministry of Public Input

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

Dr Jennifer Lees-Marshment has published a book recommending New Zealand create a Ministry of Public Input. The synopis is:

As political leaders acknowledge the limits of their power and knowledge, they seek a diverse range of public input into government, but this raises profound practical and democratic questions as to how we ensure that public input is collected and processed appropriately and what political leaders are supposed to do with that public input. Through interviews with government ministers and practitioners this research shows how politicians are becoming deliberative political leaders; integrating constructive input from inside and outside government into their decision-making. It also argues that we need to develop a permanent government unit to collect, process and communicate ongoing public input such as a Ministry or Commission of Public Input. By improving public input systems; acknowledging the limits of their own power and knowledge; and devolving solution-finding to others, politicians achieve change that lasts beyond their time in power. Public input is not irreconcilable with political leadership; it is essential to it.

I was one of those interviewed for the book. I think the idea of a Ministry of Public Input, to work across Government, is worth considering. In theory each agency should be doing this anyway, but Jennifer proposes an all-of-Government approach.

A summary of her book is online here.

Those she interviewed include around 51 current and former Australian, Canadian British and Ministers including a dozen current NZ Ministers.

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Goff tried to suppress the fact he was briefed

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

The Herald reports:

He said Dr Tucker told him about Slater’s request for the documents on July 26, the day he received it.

Mr Goff said Dr Tucker said he intended to release that day, “and I hit the roof”.

He had told Dr Tucker it was “unbelievable that you would contemplate doing anything like that – that draws you right into the political arena”.

He said Dr Tucker then agreed to delay the release for a week.

Now think about this.

Phil Goff told the media and the public he had not been briefed on a security issue.

He had been.

The SIS told him that they planned to release the briefing note, after redactions, as it had been requested under the Official Information Act, and there were no legal grounds to refuse it.

Goff hit the roof and heavied the SIS into delaying the release. He thinks that documents showing he was briefed when he claimed not to have been, should not be released to protect him.

And Labour are trying to claim some sort of moral high ground!!

 

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Cunliffe says don’t sack me if Labour loses

August 22nd, 2014 at 1:30 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

David Cunliffe would like to remain Labour leader and take the party into the 2017 election, even if the party loses at the September 20 election.

“In general, and with any new leader, you go through a learning curve,” he said.

“I think there is a very strong argument that it would be a waste of time, energy and resources to go through that process and start again.”

Asked if he planned to stay on no matter what the result, he said, “Unless I feel like I have done such a bad job that it would be in the interests of the party for me not to put myself forward – if that question arises.”

If Labour gets a lower vote percentage that they got under Goff in 2011, then I can’t see how he can make a case for staying. If he gets Labour into the 30s, then his position is strengthened and he probably can carry on despite the lack of confidence from his caucus. If Labour’s results is between 27.5% and 30%, that is the uncertain zone.

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Making the targets more challenging

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

National announced:

Better-than-expected progress in reducing crime and having more young people attain higher qualifications means these two Better Public Service targets will be made more challenging if National is returned to government after the election.

The two targets are among 10 this Government has set to ensure the money invested in public services actually delivers demonstrable gains for New Zealanders, National Party Finance Spokesman Bill English and State Services Spokesman Jonathan Coleman say.

“For too long, governments have considered that spending more money equates to fixing problems, even when the evidence shows that simply isn’t the case,” Mr English says.

“That’s why our Government considers results rather than more spending as the best measure of the effectiveness of public services.

“In 2012, we set measurable targets in 10 challenging areas to improve the lives of New Zealanders, particularly the most vulnerable, and it’s pleasing that our six-monthly updates show good progress.

“In two targets, the results have been so much better than anticipated that we’re lifting the bar so we aim for even more improvement.”

The new targets are:

• Raising the proportion of 25 – 34-year-olds who will have advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees by 2017 to 60 per cent – up from 55 per cent in the current target.

• Reducing the total crime rate by 20 per cent from June 2011 to June 2017 – up from the current target reduction of 15 per cent.

I think it is a very good thing, that when a target is met, you don’t just rest on your laurels, but then make it a more challenging target.

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Has Labour’s bribe backfired on them?

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

The Herald reports:

Labour’s support among the elderly has slumped despite making free GP visits for pensioners the centrepiece of its election campaign launch recently.

A breakdown of the party vote according to age suggests a dramatic fall from 29.3 per cent among pensioners in last month’s poll to just 17.6 per cent in today’s poll.

Once the poll results are broken into age groups they are simply indicative.

But what makes the movement more credible is that New Zealand First, which assiduously courts the grey vote, has gone from 4.7 per cent support among the over 65-year-olds last month to 8.9 per cent of the older vote in today’s poll.

We can estimate how significant these changes are.

We don’t know how many over 65s were in the poll sample of 750, but let’s estimate 200.

A fall from 29.3% to 17.6% has a 99.3% chance of being a true fall, and only a 0.7% chance of being just random sample differences. So it is safe to conclude Labour has fallen in support from over 65s despite their bribe.

An increase from 4.7% to 8.9% has a 94.8% chance of being a true increase, so it is likely they have gained support from over 65s.

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More money for secondary teachers

August 22nd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Primary school teachers and principals have voted overwhelmingly to reject the Government’s flagship education policy.

The NZEI union has announced that it will not engage in collective negotiations in an attempt to shape how the reform will take shape.

If Labour was offering to pay the best principals and teachers up to $50,000 a year more, you can bet the NZEI would have called it the best reforms ever.

Quite hilarious to have a union reject massive pay increases for their best teachers and principals.

But that’s fine. The Government should just work with the more rational secondary sector, and use the entire $360 million on higher pay levels for new secondary positions.

That could mean either twice as many positions can be created in the secondary sector, or they could double the extra salary allowances!

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The Herald Pref PM rating

August 21st, 2014 at 6:12 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

John Key’s popularity has dived by 8.5 points in the first political poll since Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics was released, according to a Herald DigiPoll survey.

Mr Key is still well ahead of Labour Leader David Cunliffe but Mr Cunliffe has jumped by 4.1 points.

Mr Key is preferred Prime Minister by 64.8 per cent, compared with Mr Cunliffe on 14.6 per cent.

The figures do not necessarily reflect the party vote standings which will be released in tomorrow’s Herald.

What this story doesn’t mention until later on is Key’s rating jumped 8% in the last poll, so this takes it back to where it was two polls ago. Here’s his rating since the 2011 election:

  • Apr 2012 64%
  • Jun 2012 64%
  • Sep 2012 66%
  • Mar 2013 63%
  • Jun 2013 65%
  • Sep 2013 56%
  • Dec 2013 62%
  • Mar 2014 67%
  • Jun 2014 66%
  • Jul 2014 73%
  • Aug 2014 65%

I’ve never known the Herald to release one part of their poll before the main poll. My guess is that the party vote figures have not moved much, so they released this early to try and get a bad news story in, to justify their frenzy over the Hager book.

National were at 55% in the party vote last poll. There is no way they’ll be that high again. The two polls before that were 50% and 51% so anything at or above that level would be pretty good in my view. And recall this poll is taken entirely after the Hager book was released.

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Greens forgot to fill in the blanks!

August 21st, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

This was in a Green party press release put out this week:

Treasury’s pre-election update today shows net Government debt will be substantially higher than forecast just three months ago, demonstrating what poor economic managers National, the Green Party said today.

“National like to paint themselves as a safe pair of hands on economic management, but Treasury figures show that net debt is projected to be $3 billion higher in 2018 than projected in the May budget,” Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said.

“That equates at $663 per New Zealander. In six years of National management, net debt per person has risen to $xxx, from $xx.

This tells us two things. The first is that the Greens wrote their release before they even knew what the figures said. The second is that they managed to send a press release out without sticking in the actual data.

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Scaremongering from Forest & Bird

August 21st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Nick Smith released:

Calls by Forest & Bird for the Department of Conservation to stop Bathurst Resources’ preparatory mining work on the Denniston Plateau because of smoke coming from an old mine shaft are ill-informed, Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith said today.

“The smoke is coming from an old mine shaft where low level underground fires have burned for decades. These fires also occur naturally in this rich coal field. These smouldering seams pose no significant threat and are left to burn naturally. Smoke appears periodically relative to atmospheric conditions and has done so for many years,” Dr Smith says.

“It is ridiculous for Forest & Bird to blame Bathurst for these fires and to demand any work stop before they are put out. The smoke is some kilometres from Bathurst’s escarpment mine. Forest & Bird should check with the Department and be better informed before making these sorts of public claims.

“This smoke from an old mine shaft just highlights the degree to which the Denniston Plateau has been previously mined and that it is not the pristine area that some claimed.  It reinforces the Government’s decision to allow the Denniston mine to proceed.”

So the smoke is from a location many kms away from where Bathurst is mining, yet Forest & Bird blame it on them. Anything for a headline!

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Christchurch Old Boys Network

August 21st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader e-mails:

I’m not a huge supporter of Collins but I read this article and it made my blood boil.  This is everything that is wrong with Chch.  The most senior justice in the country dies suddenly and a group of Chch old boys complain about a street being named in his memory.  Clearly he is not one of the First Four Ships and clearly didn’t go to school here.  I’m not a great fan of Brownlee either but you can see the mentality that he has had to put up with in the rebuild.  The old boys network in Chch is alive and well and looking after their own.  This is mean spirited of the lawyers who opposed this.  

I can only agree.

 

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A journalist on the “Dirty Politics” book

August 21st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The e-mail below was written by a current journalist who has worked in radio and print for over seven years.

Several years ago I received a tip-off from an anonymous email address alleging that a police car had run three consecutive red lights, with their lights and siren blaring, and then pulled into a KFC drive-through. They were then seen eating chicken in their car just around the corner. I phoned the KFC but no one on duty was willing to talk to me. The manager wasn’t there. I called the police and spoke to the duty sergeant who confirmed two policemen had indeed been at KFC at the time alleged. He didn’t have the details but would endeavour to find out why they were there. He didn’t get back to me before deadline. I didn’t file.

I had more justification to write that story than Nicky Hager did to write his book. But if I had, I would have been rightly destroyed by the police, as it turned out the two policemen were responding to an alleged assault inside KFC. As it transpired, it was just a push and shove and the blokes involved had left by the time they arrived. So while there, the two cops got some dinner.

Two parts of the tip-off were accurate. It looked bad, but it was entirely legitimate. So as a journalist, I look at what Hager has done with this book and am dismayed. Not just that, but the wider reaction of the media, with a few exceptions, has been woeful. As an industry, we have always been loathe to hold ourselves to account. That needs to change. We shouldn’t accept that Hager can use the cloak of journalism to run, what is effectively, a political attack.

Dirty Politics is not journalism.

As a journalist, the most basic principle we must uphold is that of fairness. That is not to say that what we write or broadcast is always fair, but that whomever we are challenging on an issue is given the opportunity to respond. Some choose not to comment. But they are at least given that choice.

Hager did not corroborate a single accusation in his book. He did not seek comment on the accusations. He did not give his targets a chance to defend themselves, provide context or refute his allegations. Had he, he knew the courts would have likely granted an injunction and the book would not have been published.

Is that a reasonable excuse? In the event the material he had proved categorically illegal behaviour had been undertaken or was being undertaken, yes it would be. But it doesn’t. At worst, it could cost Judith Collins her future in Cabinet for passing on Simon Pleasants name to Slater. The rest is all either old news, gossip, or the blowhard ravings of a blogger and his pals who seriously over-estimate their importance.

I admit I was fascinated to learn Slater gets paid for a lot of what “he” writes by corporates. It explains why he has written so vociferously on several issues, including attacking Simon Bridges over Part 6A and his obsession with plain packaging for cigarettes. I think the public deserve to know corporates pay for his vitriol. But it still doesn’t justify rushing a book out in the manner Hager has pre-election.

Yes, Slater’s blog is nasty and vindictive. So is Martyn Bradbury. So is The Standard. If you think they’re not fed gossip by Labour/Mana-Internet/Greens you’re dreaming. Typically in their case it’s about destroying their own team so no one cares.

What concerns me most is how my colleagues have reported on this so breathlessly. They have repeatedly used the term ‘hacking’ to describe Jason Ede accessing an open website. And accepted without question this idea that it’s like walking through the unlocked door of a private house. It’s not. It’s more like a young Nat heading to the Labour Party’s booth at a university political rally, scanning through their leaflets and finding a clear file stashed in the back marked ‘donors’. Clearly it’s not meant to be there but, well it is. So they read it, take some snaps on their iPhone and humiliate Labour with it, rather than just quietly telling them about the mistake. Politics. 

But what is most disturbing about this, is that the majority of media think it’s acceptable to hack Slater’s email and Facebook, for no reason other than that we hate him. Hager even justified the break-in of Mark Mitchell’s office as just how leaks happen. He is an MP. It is unbelievable that anyone can think it’s acceptable, simply because they have opposing politics.

Hager doesn’t want to know where this material has come from. He believes the hacker’s motives aren’t political. For a smart man, at best he is being willingly ignorant. There is no doubt in my mind that Hager is being played. The problem is he doesn’t care. A real journalist would.

We get tipped off all the time to stories. We have PR people pointing us in directions and press secretaries running lines daily. But we always know what their agenda is. We don’t report blindly. Mostly we try to counter it.

Slater is adamant Dotcom is behind this. That it’s a play to buy/screw an election. If he is, he’ll get away with it. I don’t have the skills needed to nail him, or whoever it is, and the majority of media don’t have the inclination. 

Sure, I expect the ‘left’ will dismiss this column as just part of the broad campaign to destroy Hager’s credibility. In reality, anyone with half a brain can see he’s done that to himself. Dirty Politics isn’t journalism. It’s political activism, enabled by crime. We have to question it.

I would point out that I’m not aware of comments by Hager on the break in at Mark Mitchell’s office.

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Getting excited over, well, nothing

August 21st, 2014 at 10:09 am by David Farrar

The PM has said he wasn’t told about the OIA release from the SIS but his staff were.

NewstalkZb discovered a three year old letter from the SIS Director to them where he said he did advise the Prime Minister.

This got people all excited, but I never saw this as a contradiction as I have worked in Government and in a PM’s Office.

When officials say they have advised the Prime Minister, they generally mean they have advised someone in the PM’s Office.

In my experience it would be very very rare for a Government Department to talk directly to a Minister, let alone the Prime Minister, on an OIA request.

And my assumption has just been confirmed as the then SIS Director has confirmed to media that his 2011 letter was referring to having briefed the PM’s staff, and that he never had a conversation with the PM on it.

Also on the wider issue, of someone tipping off Cameron Slater to ask for the document, I’d also point out that in terms of motive, it may not be someone in Parliament. Phil Goff had incorrectly claimed the SIS had been derelict in their duty and never briefed him on an issue. I could imagine that there were a number of people in the SIS upset about this, and would have been quite happy for the briefing notes to be made public, if requested under the OIA.

I genuinely don’t know who tipped off Whale, but I do know agencies get pretty unhappy when politicians accuse their boss of incompetence or dereliction of duty, and many people at SIS would have known that Goff had been briefed, despite Goff claiming he hadn’t been.

UPDATE: I should add on that I think it is a good thing that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is investigating. I’d also point out that while it involves the SIS, this is an issue about a document that was suitable for release under the OIA, not secret material. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue here, but there is a difference between alerting someone to ask for a document suitable for public release, and alerting someone to something classified.

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Hockey on NZ

August 21st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Australian reports:

JOE Hockey frequently admits he’s a little bit jealous of our cousins across the ditch, in an economic sense at least.

THE treasurer’s green eye probably went an even deeper shade of emerald after New Zealand’s latest employment figures showed their jobless rate tumbled to a five-year low of 5.6 per cent in the June quarter from a revised 5.9 per cent previously.

The best we can hope for is Australia’s jobless rate not reaching 6.25 per cent this financial year, as predicted in Mr Hockey’s May budget.

And what does Hockey say:

He said New Zealand has stolen the advantage from Australia during the past few years by combining domestic structural reforms with newly negotiated trade opportunities in Asia.

“As a result, they have falling unemployment, rising living standards and a budget that is coming into surplus,” Mr Hockey said.

Faced with a hostile Senate over his first budget, Mr Hockey also said he was “quite jealous” that NZ Prime Minister John Key has to deal with only one parliamentary chamber.

Even so, Mr Key and Finance Minister Bill English are showing the world how economic reform should be done.

And it has not been achieved through “luck or complacency”.

“There is no she’ll-be-right attitude,” Mr Hockey said.

Except those parties who want to spend the surpus before we even achieve it, and send us back into deficit.

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Making shit up on Stuff

August 21st, 2014 at 9:45 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

If you’ve heard enough about Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book and claims of Judith Collins’ leaking like a sieve to blogger Cameron Slater, you’re not alone.

Rumours doing the rounds on social media yesterday suggested a group of Young Nats in Hamilton might take matters into their own hands and dispose of a large stock of the dreaded book.

It’s not exactly on the same scale as the book burnings of the Nazi regime or the anti-communist McCarthy era but social media was yesterday buzzing with rumours of an imminent book burning at Waikato University.

The head of the Waikato Students’ Union and a former member of the Young Nats is alleged to have bought 202 copies of Hager’s book to burn.

Aaron Letcher has denied the claims, but the leader of NZ First Youth and a Waikato University source, who asked not to be named, said he did.

Letcher said the claims were false.

“There is nothing to it. I saw the allegations on Facebook by a NZ First person”

The Facebook page Letcher was referring to belongs to NZ First Youth leader Curwen Rolinson, who posted: “So apparently, the CNI Young Nats (and, assumedly, the NZ Young Nats) are buying up copies of Nicky Hager’s #DirtyPolitics . . . and burning them.”

Rolinson said he stood by his post.

His claims have been backed by a Waikato University student who saw the books in Letcher’s possession.

Stuff now runs as front page news (and lead story in the Waikato Times I believe) a rumour on Facebook, pushed by the former Head of NZ First Youth?

And people say there is a problem with standards on blogs!

Here’s what I understand to be the story from someone close to Aaron (Aaron has the flu).

  1. Aaron purchased six copies of the book.
  2. He sent five of them to an Embassy in Wellington, where his mother works, as they couldn’t buy any locally. He kept one for himself to read and was probably very disappointed he was not in the book.
  3. Someone saw the six books in his office and decided he must have purchased them for a book burning or some such stupidity and the rumour started

It’s one thing for there to be a rumour on Facebook, but for Stuff to run this as a front page story without a single shred of evidence is just making shit up.

The hilarious thing is Aaron has done lots of stupid crap in his time. But this is not one of them.

I look forward to the prominent retraction by Stuff. Nah, just kidding. I’m not that much of an optimist.

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This is their front page story, taken from Whale Oil. They ran this as their major lead, with graphics and all – on a false Facebook rumour.

I’ve never complained to The Press Council about a story, and don’t want to start. But if anything ever qualified for a complaint, this would.

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A cheaper way to increase cycling

August 21st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Jamie Whyte announced:

“The National party yesterday announced a $100 million cycle-way that just happens to go through the marginal seat of Hutt South,” said ACT Leader Dr Jamie Whyte.

“The Greens want to spend many hundreds of millions on cycle-ways. ACT’s contribution to this bidding war for the cyclist vote would double cycle use and cost nothing,” said Dr Whyte.

“We need only abolish the law that makes wearing a cycle helmet compulsory. Since 1994, when Parliament established an instant fine of $150 for failing to wear a helmet, cycling has declined by over 50%. Overseas experience also indicates that laws making it compulsory to wear a helmet dramatically reduce cycling.

In fact a study from The Netherlands found that not having a compulsory helmet law has led to much higher levels of bike use.

“This nanny state law does not even save lives,” said Dr Whyte.

“On the contrary, it costs lives. Before the legislation, few people died from cycling accidents and, of those who did, only 20% died from head injuries alone.”

“Research reported in the New Zealand Medical Journal (see http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2012/vol-125-no-1349/article-clarke) shows that, over a 10 year period, only 20 Aucklanders were killed in cycle accidents and only 4 might have been saved by wearing cycle helmets. This same New Zealand Medical Journal article concluded that life years gained from the health benefits of cycling outweighed life years lost in accidents by 20 times” said Dr Whyte.

This is what The Netherlands study found also.

“The diminished health resulting from the reduced cycling caused by compulsory helmet-wearing costs 53 premature deaths a year. ACT would simply abolish the $150 fine for not wearing a helmet. That would save $100 million on cycle-ways in marginal seats, double cycle use and save 53 lives a year,”  said Dr Whyte.

I’d do both.

Note there is a huge difference between saying helmets should not be compulsory, and saying that people should not wear them.

One day I suspect someone will try and mae helmets compulsory for skiing!

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Greens claim they will run bigger surpluses – yeah right

August 21st, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key has taken a shot at Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, saying he must have been smoking dope to believe the Greens could pay off debt faster than National.

The Green Party has claimed its economic policies would pay down debt faster and get bigger surpluses, than under National. Mr Key said he knew the Greens were also keen on legalising cannabis.

“If they really believe that, maybe they’ve been trying the substance because they can’t do it.” Asked if he thought Dr Norman had been smoking weed when he put out the numbers, Mr Key said “well, if he really believes those press releases, yes. Press releases are cheap and easy. Getting back into surplus is a much more challenging issue.”

Mr Key said between them Labour and the Greens had made $28 billion worth of promises already. Even if Labour stuck to its promise to remain in surplus, it would leave no buffer if there was another disaster that impacted on the economy.

The claims they would also be fiscally restrained are laughable.

First of all Labour and Greens have condemned every measure of fiscal restraint in the last six years. We would not be on the verge of surplus if they had been Government.

Secondly it is important to understand how they are claiming they will stay within surplus. It involves the operating allowance.

The Government has allowed $1.5 billion a year of extra spending. This is cumulative. So this year is is $1.5 billion, and next year it is $3.0 billion (over two years ago) and the year after $4.5 billion. Labour and Greens say they will fund all their policies for the next three to four years from those operating allowances.

This is again not even close to credible. What Labour and Greens are implicitly saying, and you have to believe, is that if elected they will make no more spending decisions for the next three or four years. That they will not fund any new initiatives. They will not even have a Budget where they announce new spending, because what they have done is pre-allocate the allowances for the next four years.

Now if you believe that they will make no new spending commitments in the next four years. That for four years they would announce Budgets that are basically one page long and just say “No more spending” then you can believe they will run a surplus. But if you do believe that, can I also offer you this nice bridge for sale.

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National’s first TV ad

August 20th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

National’s first TV ad. I was pretty critical of some of their advertising last campaign (the opening address was terrible) but I have to say I think this one is well done. A clear crisp message that has resonance, plus a bit of humour.

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Greens want co-Deputy PMs

August 20th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Green co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei want to be in a full coalition with Labour and have senior Cabinet positions that reflect their party’s priorities, social justice and the economy.

And they say that the possibility of sharing the role of deputy prime minister has to be on the negotiation table.

So what positions will Hone, Laila and Kim have?

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Flavell on Maori Party wins

August 20th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says that Labour ruling out the Internet-Mana Party from ministerial posts shows the importance of the Maori Party sitting with the Government of the day.

Some parties talk about changing things; the Maori Party actually changes things, he says.

“All the philosophies are fine,” says Mr Flavell. “What we have attempted to do is make it happen.”

Mr Flavell speaks in today’s Herald Hot Seat video, the latest in a series of interviews with party leaders.

He said Mana-Internet leader Hone Harawira, a former colleague, “hasn’t got a mortgage on looking after the poor people”.

“He talked about feeding the children … well we’ve done it. Our kaupapa we put in front of the National Party was the Kickstart programme, which is in fact dealing with over 25,000 children in more than 700 schools.”

The ministerial poverty committee led by Finance Minister Bill English had been a Maori Party initiative and had resulted in extending free access to doctors from under-6s to under-13-year-olds. It extended paid parental leave and parental tax credits and led to further moves to insulate homes and address rheumatic fever.

I don’t agree with their world-view and many of their policies, but the Maori Party is a good example of a party that actually achieves things in a constructive manner.

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