Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

What will it take for John Key to lead National to a 4th term? Could he ever be NZ’s longest serving PM?

October 21st, 2014 at 4:22 pm by kiwi in america

On election night September 20th, centre right supporters, flush with the enthusiasm of National’s historic win seemingly achieving the impossible of being able to govern alone under MMP, talked excitedly of a 4th even 5th term and for John Key to be able to challenge the long standing record in continuous office of Richard John Seddon. But what is the likelihood of Key pulling this off. David had a more detailed post on this subject

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/10/can_national_win_a_4th_or_even_a_5th_term.html

that covers some of the more technical aspects of governing that National must pay heed to – the suggestions in this post arise from studying the history of other 4th term governments and emulating their successes and avoiding their failures.

Since the commencement of the modern party era in New Zealand, Australia and UK (late 19th century) there have only ever been eight four term governments with four in New Zealand (these are highlighted below with an *). All eight are listed below in order of their longevity with the number of elections won in parentheses. Please note that UK Parliamentary terms have a maximum of 5 years and elections are called at the whim of the sitting Prime Minister. Australia, whilst also having the same 3 year term as the NZ Parliament, have held more snap elections than NZ due impasses in their Senate leading to what are called double dissolutions (snap elections of both the House and the Senate):

Australian Liberal Country Government 23 years (1949 to 1972) – 8 terms (won the 1949, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1961, 1966 and 1969 elections)

* NZ Liberal Government 21 years (1891 to 1912) – 7 terms (won the 1893, 1896, 1899, 1902, 1905, 1908 and 1911 elections)

UK Conservative Government 18 years (1979 to 1997) – 4 terms (won the 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992 elections)

* NZ Reform Government 16 years (1912 to 1928) – 4 terms (won the 1914, 1919, 1922 and 1925 elections)

Australian Labor Government 15 years (1983 to 1996) – 5 terms (won the 1983, 1984, 1987, 1990 and 1993 elections)

* NZ 1st Labour Government 14 years (1935 to 1949) – 4 terms (won the 1935, 1938, 1943 and 1946 elections)

* NZ 3rd National Government 12 years (1960 to 1972) – 4 terms (won the 1960, 1963, 1966 and 1969 elections)

Australian Liberal National Government 11 years (1996 to 2007) – 4 terms (won the 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2004 elections)

The list of New Zealand Prime Ministers and their length in continuous office is listed below. Long serving Australian and UK Prime Ministers are added as a frame of reference:

Robert Menzies (Australia 1949 to 1966) – 16 years 2 months

* Richard Seddon (1893 to 1906) – 13 years 1 month

* William Massey (1912 to 1925) – 12 years 10 months

John Howard (Australia 1996 to 2008) – 11 years 9 months

Margaret Thatcher (UK 1979 to 1990) – 11 years 6 months

* Keith Holyoake (1960 to 1972) – 11 years 2 months

* Peter Fraser (1940 to 1949) – 9 years 9 months

* Helen Clark (1999 to 2008) – 8 years 11 months

Assuming the 2017 election is held at a more traditional time of the year (mid November) and also assuming that nothing occurs in the 3rd term of the 5th National Government that causes John Key to resign as Prime Minister, by the time Parliament rises in November 2017, John Key will have served for almost exactly 9 years thus becoming NZ’s 5th longest serving Prime Minister. If he is re-elected for a 4th term then in that term by early 2020 he will eclipse Keith Holyoake and become NZ’s 3rd longest serving Prime Minister. He would need to be re-elected for a 5th term and not resign or be ousted from office before midway through 2021 before he could claim the crown of NZ’s longest serving PM off King Dick.

In examining the experience of these eight 4 term (or more) governments, several key tactics emerge that should be closely adhered to by John Key and his inner circle. Suggestions for National are in bold.

1 – Economic conditions affect a government’s popularity

Economic good times underpinned National’s 2014 3rd term re-election. They kept the Liberals in power in Australia for an unprecedented 23 years – Robert Menzies presided over a 50% growth in real incomes in Australia through the 50’s and early 60’s. Share market and wider economic growth saw Thatcher and the 4th Labour government in NZ re-elected in the mid 1980s.

Likewise sour economic conditions, contractions and high unemployment have cost many governments power (Labour in 1975 and 1990 was swept out of power on the back of very adverse economic conditions). Likewise the Tories in the UK and Labor in Australia in 1996 and UK Labour in 2010 were ejected due to tougher economic times. A collapse in the terms of trade, a severe global contraction on top of the fall in dairy prices could reverse National’s path to surplus and leave it hard pressed to deliver on budget promises making re-election in 2017 much tougher. National’s growth agenda must proceed apace with greater thought given to easing economic reliance on dairy exports.

2 – You must have a plan of transition of power to a rival(s) rising in your own party ranks and this must be carefully managed

In Australia John Howard’s protracted wrangle with Peter Costello as to when he would hand over power destabilized the Howard government. Keating had to fight Hawke to take over Labor. The same tension was evident between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in UK Labour. Holyoake should’ve had Muldoon as his deputy and sooner to satisfy his ambition as his handover to his gentle old friend Jack Marshall meant he was easily outshone by the younger feistier Muldoon. Bolger’s poor handling of Winston Peters led to Peters leaving and forming NZ First. Clark’s failure to have a transition plan is why Labour is in the pickle it is in today.

Robert Menzies was the only long serving PM to leave at the height of his power on his own terms and to ensure he had a successor that was popular (Harold Holt). Menzies won the 1966 election (his 7th) and then after being sworn in as PM resigned as leader and then resigned his Melbourne seat one month later and exited Parliament altogether. The Liberals went on to win one more election and governed for six more years under four different PMs after Menzies left.

Managing Judith Collins will be one of John Key’s crucial tasks in his 3rd term. Mishandling her could result in backbench disquiet that might coalesce around a Collins challenge if National began to consistently poll poorly. Even if the failure to advise her of the delay in giving her the Honourable honourific was unintentional, it created ill will that could fester and was an early unforced error by Key. If she is cleared of any wrongdoing from the Feely SFO interference inquiry, Key should tell Collins privately that she will come back into Cabinet in the next reshuffle if she continues to exercise restraint with her behaviour and public pronouncements.

3 – Disunity destroys governments ….and oppositions

A case in point was Labour in 1990 – its internal civil war was one of the main reasons for its near annihilation. Its disunity in Opposition since 2008 has assisted National’s two re-elections. Menzies stayed in power so long because Australian Labor was disorganized, faction fraught and led by so many leaders. The Rudd v Gillard civil war made it easier for Tony Abbott to win their 2013 election. Australian Labor infighting in the late 90’s and 2000’s helped keep Howard in power. Key and his inner circle must make ongoing caucus and party unity a continuing priority.

4 – Whilst excessive reforming zeal can erode popularity, so can excessive caution

Labour’s flat tax in 1987 was a bridge too far for a centre left party and it led to the Rogernomics related revolt inside Labour that rent it asunder. Howard’s industrial reforms in 2007 were too radical for Australia with its entrenched union power. Margaret Thatcher’s Poll Tax almost killed the Conservatives until reversed by Major.

Holyoake was steady as she goes for too long especially as economic conditions in NZ worsened after Britain joined the EU. Kirk showed energy and vision versus a tired National Government under an old school PM. National in 1949 defeated Fraser’s tired worn out 1st Labour government. Key should not be content to do a Holyoake and just carefully manage the economy – National need to have fresh new policies but ones that are not too radical.

5 – Stay in touch with and listen to middle, centrist swing voter aspirations rather than the media elites, beltway types and the chattering classes

John Howard won several elections against the odds because he followed that advice. The media and opinion shaping elites pounded him over his hard line over illegal asylum seekers. He pushed for major Australian involvement in the War on Terror after 9/11 and he backed Tasmanian loggers jobs over the influential environmental lobby groups. Key kept pressing on with asset sales and the reform of the GCSB in the face of vociferous media opposition knowing that they were beltway issues not influencing middle NZ voters. Similarly his aggressive stance against Nicky Hager and Kim Dotcom in the face of a virtual media obsession on reporting these sideshows in the last election campaign was found to be largely in line with the majority of voters. Cynics will call this poll driven politics but Key has been remarkably adept at staying in tune with centrist voter sentiment and he should not swerve to the right to carve some kind of policy legacy.

6 – Arrogance in office is a vote killer

Her ‘my way or the highway’ attitude in Cabinet ended Margaret Thatcher’s long run as PM as she was ousted by fed up and humiliated Cabinet colleagues. The 5th Labour Government attempt to shut down political dissent with the Electoral Finance Act and its retrospective legislation legalizing the pledge card rorts were acts of arrogance that angered voters. Part of Keating’s problem when he came to fight his second election was a perception of arrogance. Key must do all in his power to keep arrogance out of his office and from his Cabinet no matter how fractured the opposition may be.

7 – Introducing more extreme policies from the more right or left wing base of a governing party is usually unpopular

Keating moved Labor from a careful centrist mild reforming position to more union friendly industrial reforms, aggressive native land title reform and pushes for Australia to be a republic. Clark’s 3rd term was littered with nanny state interventions like telling school tuck shops to stop selling pies, regulating shower nozzles, banning incandescent light bulbs and flirting with regulating sausage sizzles outside supermarkets. Allowing socially liberal legislation to come to the House (legalizing prostitution and civil unions) distracted from core economic policy and came to dominate the agenda a bit too much.

Roger Douglas’ flat tax proposal was too right wing for even the right leaning 4th Labour government. Howard’s aggressive anti-union legislation proved to be too right wing for the Australian electorate. Likewise Labour’s lurch to the left since it has empowered its harder left base with the change to its leadership election process and its need to fight with the Greens for the left vote has made it less electable. A classic example was the suite of envy taxes it proposed – staple fare for left wing parties but not popular in the wider electorate. National should continue to hew a careful mildly centre right agenda with incremental gradual reforms that allow prior reforms to bed in. National’s welfare reforms have been implemented successfully by following this strategy. National should attempt further reform of the RMA in a similar incremental fashion.

8 – Do not create too many enemies inside your own party

John Gorton the longest serving Liberal PM after Menzies in the late 60’s was toppled by his own party for this reason. David Cunliffe created many enemies in his caucus. Under Labour’s old rules, he would never have been elected and his presence as leader exacerbated factional tensions in Labour. Thatcher’s treatment of her Cabinet was legendary in its rudeness and arrogance. In the end they turned on her.

Key must be careful to manage the egos inside Cabinet and not get too far away from the opinions and views of his wider caucus. He should never become isolated on the 9th floor and hide behind staff and he should consult regularly outside his inner circle of Joyce and English.

9 – Refresh your caucus and front bench regularly

Holyoake’s government was tired by the end. Ditto Labour under Clark. Many 4th term governments succumbed to this and the voters tire of the same faces. National under Key has been superb at revitalisation and Key must continue to foster, develop and promote National’s talent inside and outside of Parliament

10 – Exploit the weaknesses of your opponents

All of the long serving PMs were adept at this. Rather than just watch their opponents fight among themselves, they threw down banana peels to kick this process along. John Key is brilliant at this – he uses Parliamentary Question time to hammer his opponents in the split second before they use Points of Order to object. He is also very good at exploiting the tensions between his rivals on the left driving wedges wherever he can between Labour and the Greens. Key’s tactics of attacking his opposition rivals with cheeky humour and quick, good natured barbs must continue.

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Can Labour ever again lead a governing coalition? – 3 scenarios

October 17th, 2014 at 6:10 pm by kiwi in america

Political parties are formed with a view to govern. When a party’s vote drops deep into the 20’s, what must it do to revive its fortunes and poll high enough to lead a governing coalition? Can Labour rise again as National did under Don Brash?

Regular readers of Kiwiblog will recall my lengthy essay posted on Easter Friday about the recent history of Labour; some of it based on my time as an activist there until the mid 90’s attempting to explain Labour’s present day conundrum.

In a nutshell it said that an attempt by the left of the party to seize permanent control of Labour after the massive post Rogernomics ructions under the leadership of Helen Clark, led to a gradual purging of activists from the centrist and right wings of the party. Clark, and her followers in the Head Office and regional hierarchies, ensured the selection of candidates in winnable electorate seats (and after the introduction of MMP, also the party list) that not only ensured she could topple then leader Mike Moore after the 1993 election but also cemented her power base inside Labour guaranteeing her an unchallenged 15 year reign as Labour’s leader. This handed power in the party to an increasingly narrow base of sector and interest groups such as academics, trade unions, progressive feminists and the rainbow coalition gradually driving out activists who were more likely to be white, male, socially conservative, small business owners and church going people of faith. After Labour’s 2008 election defeat, former members of the harder left New Labour Party, homeless after the dissolution of the Alliance, the demise of Anderton’s Progressives and the rise of the Greens, began to come back to Labour assisting in the movement of the party more to the left.

This trend culminated in the amendment to Labour’s Constitution at its 2012 Annual Conference giving 40% of the vote for Party Leader to the party membership and 20% to the affiliated unions leaving only 40% in the hands of the Parliamentary caucus. This new formula enabled David Cunliffe to win the first full leadership primary in 2013 despite having only minority support in caucus – the first time this had ever happened in Labour’s history. The result of his elevation to the leadership was Labour’s third successive and even more disastrous defeat.

When you drive out of the party its more centrist activists, you leave a vacuum that has been filled by harder left activists. When these same activists, alongside the more traditionally left wing trade union leadership, have control of the party’s candidate selections, its policy formation and now the election of its leader, over time you end up with a party, candidates and policies that no longer appeal to middle NZ and a party that is no longer the broad church it used to be. The party may be truer to its left wing principles but it now produces candidates, policies and campaigning rhetoric out of step with the aspirations of floating middle NZ voters that decide elections. National’s moderate centrist direction under John Key has become the natural repository for various key demographic groups that once used to strongly vote Labour and accordingly, Labour has ended up falling further behind National in each subsequent election post its 2008 defeat culminating in its second lowest vote this election since its formation in 1916!

Labour is now undertaking yet another review of why it was defeated and another likely more bruising leadership primary. Here are three possible scenarios as to what Labour can do to revitalize its electoral fortunes:

Scenario 1 – Status quo = no real revitalization

Any of the four current contenders for the Labour leadership are only going to result in variations of a status quo outcome. Here’s the predicted outcome if:

Little wins

With Cunliffe’s withdrawal from the race and the unions’ 20% vote representing a key swing voting bloc, Little stands a better than even chance of winning. However the manner of his victory (as it was with Cunliffe) would be an indictment of modern Labour because he is beholden to an interest group whose power and influence in the wider economy and political marketplace has waned to relative insignificance outside a handful of industries (ports and freezing works) and the public sector. Labour’s Constitutional amendment giving the union affiliates 20% of the vote reinforces one of the most unpopular and unattractive aspects of modern Labour – that of it being controlled by ideologically driven sectional interest groups. Little will find it next to impossible to campaign as a reformer of one of the features of Labour that is a prominent part of its lack of electoral appeal. Little brings other baggage. He’s a poor campaigner as evidenced by his consistently poor showing in both the electorate and party vote in the electorate seat (and his home town) of New Plymouth. Little is also a dour speaker and consistently underwhelmed in the House during Question Time. Whilst he has some experience dealing with the corporate sector, he’s not an aspirational Tony Blair like figure who could transform Labour into a viable New Labour type electable force. Key and Joyce will easily portray Little as a tool of the extremist union movement now largely discredited by middle NZ. The problem of competing for the left wing vote with the Greens also remains and the fault lines of the left leaning party and the right leaning caucus remain making a Little led Labour party just as unelectable in 2017. Status quo.

Robertson wins

He’s campaigning as a fresh face to unify the party. The party membership, bruised after the 2014 defeat, may give the leadership to Clark’s office insider who learned the Clark/Simpson winning way to electioneering and party management. However a Robertson front bench would make no more inroads into Key and the Nats than Goff, Shearer or Cunliffe could manage. The policies will be largely the same because the party is still controlled by the harder left activist base. Robertson may try to move Labour to the centre to woo back the old demographic groups lost over the last 20 years but let’s be honest, is ‘Waitakere Man’ going to be persuaded by a chubby, cardy wearing gay man who is a beltway insider with no work experience outside Parliament. It’s not going to happen. The same need for the Greens will hobble a Robertson led Labour Party just as much it did as the Cunliffe led one. A lurch to the centre will be bitterly opposed by the party’s base and unions. Robertson will campaign on amorphous themes of unity and reaching out but the ideological core of the party precludes the kind of radical shift in thinking it would take to truly win back the middle ground. Thus Robertson is also status quo.

Parker wins

Parker formulated and then campaigned strongly for Labour’s economic programme that was just soundly rejected by voters. How can he credibly repudiate that and try and steer Labour to the centre. The same internal tensions apply to him as to any leader. Parker is an earnest policy wonk with questionable morals – not a recipe to unify Labour and topple John Key. Again the status quo.

Mahuta wins

Mahuta’s candidacy is a long shot and more about positioning herself as deputy. How can a person clearly identified with a minority faction (Maori) who has a reputation for laziness and lacks a charismatic vision ever unite Labour’s factions and win back white male voters.

Scenario 2 – Labour fractures in two

The reality is that Labour has boxed itself into a corner with the change in how it elects its leaders. This scenario could only come about if a truly charismatic outsider or newcomer were to attempt to genuinely move Labour property and provably to the centre. The only current MPs likely to be able to do this would be Stuart Nash (invoking the name of his famous grandfather – we know already he dabbled with Simon Lusk over this very possibility) or Kelvin Davis (making the alluring pitch to be NZ’s first Maori PM!). A future MP such as John Tamihere could also drive such a move to the centre. Labour cannot win back the middle ground with its current panoply of politically correct policies, left leaning special interest factions, MPs with narrow appeal and head office dominated procedures. The man ban and any other gender based quota attempts would have to be abandoned. The new leader would need to be an obviously heterosexual rugby playing beer drinking male to counter the PC, metrosexual, chardonnay socialist perception and stop pandering to the rainbow coalition, reverse Labour’s appearance to be soft on crime and no longer embrace the Greens and their nanny state bans and interventions. This new leader would have to unequivocally sever any connection with the Greens and vow to never be in coalition with them in any form. Ditto the unions. This bold new leader would attack National’s centre heartland with a subtle combination of business friendly policies with a tinge of social conscience. Labour’s right faction remains in Parliament because they have a good number of the electorate seats and could just leave and form a new party. They would take Parliamentary Services funding for their Wellington and electorate offices and likely would get a fresh allocation to pay for a party researcher.

The drawbacks are that a centrist Labour breakaway would still be competing for the centre ground with a moderate National Party and also competing with NZ First. Whilst they would inherit the Parliamentary funding and staffing, they would lack much in the way of party machinery to back them as Labour’s activists are mostly left leaning and would stay with old Labour. Finally what would they call themselves and brand themselves? Remember right leaning Labour MPs (like Peter Dunne and Margaret Austin) left Labour and formed United in 1994 and only Peter Dunne remains. Dunne managed to ride a wave of disgruntled centrist support on the backs of a better than expected debate performance and brought 8 MPs into Parliament in 2002 but lightening has not struck twice.

Scenario 3 – Complete realignment of the centre and left parties

I’m of the view that this is the only option that could see a Labour like party be in a position to govern. But in order to do so, there would have to be a major re-alignment of the current parties that straddle the centre and left of NZ politics and changes of this magnitude could only occur after some key figures retire. Here’s the scenario.

Labour factures into two; a left and a centre party. The centre/right faction as per Scenario 2 merges with NZ First once Winston Peters retires. The only current NZ First MP with the electoral appeal and experience to run or co-run a centrist party is Ron Mark. Let’s call this party the New Democrats (a name similar to Germany’s long standing centrist Party the Free Democrats). Labour’s right leaning members would rally around a Nash or Davis or Tamihere leadership. By combining with Mark (as deputy) and keeping some of the NZ First policy orientation to the elderly, this new party could be good for 20% of the vote as a good base to then try and carve off soft National support. Such a party would be more succesful at this than Labour with all its baggage and factional infighting.

Labour becomes New Labour and, shed of its querulous right leaning caucus members, is free to become a truly left wing party. Mana is done as a brand after the disastrous hook up with Kim Dotcom but Mana hard left activists like Sue Bradford, Annette Sykes and John Minto will be more at home with New Labour shorn of all centrist MPs and members. All that remains is for the Greens to realign themselves and return to their true roots as an environmental party. This cannot happen until Norman and Turei stand down. The socialist elements in the Greens will feel right at home in New Labour and perhaps to consummate a proper marriage of the left, Norman becomes New Labour’s deputy; after all he was a hard left socialist before he was a greenie. This would reduce the Labour versus Greens cannibalization of the left’s vote. The hard left of NZ politics represents about 20% of the electorate. The remaining Greens can hew a consistent and principled mainly pure environmental policy line and be good for 5 to 7 % as they did under Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitsimmons.

Absent the factional infighting and lacking any real competition for the left vote and with a leader unsullied by caucus white anting or wider party unrest, New Labour could attempt to claw its way back to 30%. Add the Greens at 5% and the New Democrats could offer the balance of power that sees the election of a Labour PM. If the new parties operate more strategically (like National, ACT and United currently do) and the New Democrats don’t run candidates in Labour held electorate seats and Labour don’t run candidates in the ND seats, they would enhance the chances of a centre left coalition’s electoral success.

Problems still remain even with this realignment. What policy concessions would New Labour have to make to be acceptable to the Free Democrats? The harder left the policies, the less the electoral appeal. But this realignment seems to be the only hope the left has of ever forming a government – at least while John Key heads National.

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The free flights for the leadership contest

October 17th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The four Labour leadership contenders have defended using taxpayer funded flights for their campaigns, saying most of the other costs will have to come out of their own pockets.

The four — Andrew Little, Nanaia Mahuta, David Parker and Grant Robertson — were at Labour Party HQ this morning to sign a Code of Conduct and go through the campaign rules.

They can use the MPs’ unlimited air travel allowance to travel around the campaign — but have to pay for any other costs themselves including hotels, taxis and meals.

Mr Robertson said the use of air travel was within the rules. “[The taxpayer] is not picking up the tab for the contest. We are obeying the rules we have around airline travel. Everything else is our own cost.”

Mr Little said the contest did involve meeting with the public, which was part of an MPs’ job.

They’re meeting people to get them to vote for them – ie campaigning.

I think it is fine for MPs to get travel to party conferences, just as they also get free travel to speak to rotary clubs, business conferences, union conferences and the like.

But this is different. This is travelling to events which are specifically to get people there to vote for you. There is a direct personal benefit, rather than an indirect political benefit.

They should pay for their own airfares.

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Vernon Small on the Labour circus

October 16th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes at Stuff:

By rights the political debate should be focused on the Government’s handling of two things.

How does it meet its self- imposed need to do something alongside traditional allies and friends in Iraq and Syria without getting too deeply embroiled in the war against Islamic State?

And how will John Key make a dent in the number of children in poverty, given the Government’s pre-eminent focus on work as the best route out of poverty? …

But then along came Andrew Little, Nanaia Mahuta, David Shearer and the whole Labour three-ringed circus to demand its place in the limelight.

Don’t forget David Parker who wasn’t standing and then did stand.

Just what Shearer, a former leader, hoped to achieve with his frustration-download is hard to tell.

He seemed to have an irony bypass attacking David Cunliffe, his supporters, the union voting strength and even Labour’s brand – all in the name of a call for party unity.

He probably has every right to feel aggrieved at Cunliffe’s behaviour at the 2012 annual conference, though Cunliffe continues to deny any involvement in a coup or intent to undermine him.

But to argue Cunliffe should have stayed in the race for leader in order to be defeated, as part of a scenario that would take him out of contention in perpetuity?

It all smacked of a stake through the heart – of taking revenge a kilometre too far.

He was right that Cunliffe’s backers in the blogosphere were off the wall, painting anyone but Cunliffe as a dangerous conservative running dog in harness with the mainstream media.

Danyl McL also has an opinion on how the Labour-aligned blogs are doing more harm than good to the left.

Also, Labour’s Maori caucus is asserting itself as a significant proportion of Labour’s reduced 32-person caucus.

Party sources say it is seeking greater autonomy within the caucus, and is even arguing for a share of research and other resources.

Oh that would be fun. A semi-autonomous caucus within a caucus. So if they formed Government, would they also be a semi-autonomous government within the Government?

 

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Collins’ title

October 16th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has admitted his office may have mishandled matters when he left former Justice Minister Judith Collins to find she had been denied an “honourable” title through the media.

But he is refusing to apologise for failing to call her, and said she may have been “confused” about standard procedure.

Collins was left seething yesterday after she was delivered a humiliating snub by Key, who declined to recommend her for the official title afforded to most government ministers.

I think it is reasonable to wait until the outcome of the inquiry, for not waiting could allow the opposition to say the Government has pre-judged the outcome.

But it would have been desirable for someone in the PMO to have directly communicated with Judith that they were delaying a decision on the title until after the inquiry, so she didn’t get questioned unawares about it by media, as she came out of a funeral.

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Bob Jones on the living wage

October 15th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Sir Bob Jones writes:

Through hard work, he and his wife have built a nationwide airport and CBD lunch retail operation with more than 100 stores, supplied by his Wellington factory working through the night, its output flown out early in the morning across the land. They have about 400, mainly retail, staff.

What staggered me most, given its scale, is how marginal this operation is. Some stores do well, others badly, while many just break even in this intensely competitive field. Raise your prices, I suggested, inducing a derisive laugh. The owner told me regulars making the same daily purchase comprise a large component of their business. Apparently, even the most minor increase elicits outrage and the loss of their custom.

My inquiry as to the best employees brought an unsurprising answer – new immigrants by a country mile. What particularly interested me was the salaries for what’s essentially menial work. In most cases they’re on the minimum wage. Any more and they’re out of business, he said, and I believe him.

Margins in retail are often minuscule. So that would be 400 jobs gone.

I mention all of this in the context of the absurdly titled living wage clamour, the noise invariably coming from leftish critics not employing anyone, nor ever likely to. There are exceptions. Two leftie Wellington city councillors, respective owners of small city retail food businesses, led the charge recently for menial task council employees to be paid the so-called living wage. Inquiry however, revealed their own employees were on the minimum wage.

“We’d go broke,” they wailed when their hypocrisy was exposed. It was classic left do as I say, not as I do, double standards.

It was indeed.

The answer is elementary. If you want the $18.50 “living wage” or better, choose employment paying it, rather than complain.

Harsh but not entirely untrue. There are very very few people in New Zealand that couldn’t train to do a job that pays better than the minimum wage.

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The other five affiliate unions should follow the SFWU lead

October 15th, 2014 at 10:58 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Shearer said the people who walked away from Labour were middle New Zealand – “white blokes” – and Labour needed to win them back.

He also believed every worker in the unions should vote for the leadership rather than delegates casting affiliated unions’ votes, which count for 20 per cent of the vote deciding the leader.

“If we are going to have affiliates contributing to the leadership it should be one person one vote,” he said.

“That’s democracy … not two dozen people voting on behalf of 4000.”

The most powerful delegates are the EPMU ones. Only 35 of them voted on behalf of probably 30,000 or so affiliate members.

In the last leadership election only 149 delegates over five unions decided the votes for the union. Only the SFWU gave all members a vote.

If the Labour Party itself decided that all members should vote, rather than just the caucus bosses, then why not apply the same to the unions?

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Mahuta stands for the leadership

October 15th, 2014 at 12:23 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta will contest the Labour Leadership.

Ms Mahuta said late this afternoon she had made the decision to stand after giving the matter serious consideration.

“This decision has been made with the knowledge that if the party reviews the election outcome, we can learn from the base of support that was demonstrated across Maori electorates in South Auckland and amongst Pacific and ethnic communities.”

Ms Mahuta’s announcement brings the number of contenders to replace David Cunliffe to four with former Deputy leader David Parker, Andrew Little and Grant Robertson also in the running.

Her candidacy announcement at 4.30pm came just before the deadline of 5pm.

Cynically I think this is more about a play for the deputy leadership, or at a minimum ensuring she remains a front bencher.

However it may also be as a result of complaints that all the contenders had been middle aged white men.

There are seven Maori MPs in caucus. If she picks all of them up, then that gets her over 20% of caucus. But hard to see here getting many votes from members or unions.

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Shearer says Cunliffe should quit politics

October 14th, 2014 at 2:11 pm by David Farrar

I think we are starting to see the reality of life in Labour. One former leader is telling another to quit politics. The Herald reports:

Mr Shearer said he would have preferred it for the new leader’s sake if Mr Cunliffe had stayed in the race and lost.

“I think it would have been easier for whoever wins if he had stood and lost. It would be a cleaner break for whoever takes over. His followers undermined Phil Goff and myself and I think he continues to be a presence that will make it difficult for a new leader.”

He said if Mr Cunliffe had lost this would have sent a clear message to his supporters, rather than let them have the impression he could have won if he hadn’t withdrawn. He was also disappointed with Mr Cunliffe’s decision to stay on as an MP. “It would be easier for the new leader if he decided to move on.”

It was a sentiment echoed by several other MPs, although none would be named.

To quote Lady Macbeth – Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!

Cunliffe has pointed out:

Mr Cunliffe pointed out Mr Shearer was also a former leader.

“I think that’s an unfortunate thing for him to say and it belies my long-term loyalty to the party and caucus.”

But Shearer has only been an MP for one and a bit terms. Cunliffe has had five full terms. And I think Phil Goff and David Shearer have a different idea of what loyalty looks like.

“It’s about making sure we set ourselves up for the future so the new leader doesn’t have the same experience I had.”

He had been white-anted by Cunliffe’s supporters when he was leader and did not want the same thing to happen to the new leader.

If Parker or Robertson wins, it is inevitable I’d say that they will also face undermining.

“The people who had attacked himself and Mr Goff were mostly anonymous, Mr Shearer said.

“There are certainly some who’s names I think I know, but these are people who sit behind darkened screens and blog and undermine people.

And several of them now work in the Labour Leader’s office – which explains why so many are so unhappy.

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Don’t rush the law

October 14th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The first Cabinet meeting of the new Government will consider a proposal to tighten New Zealand’s terror laws by cracking down on New Zealanders who go to fight alongside the Islamic State (IS). …

Cabinet would meet today however to discuss a proposal that would extend the time passports could be cancelled and make fighting with IS an explicit criminal act. That legislation would likely be passed under urgency.

While there might be a case for a shortened period from the normal nine months or so to pass a law, any bill should at a minimum go to select committee for public submissions. Again, one might reduce the time period for submissions and consideration from the normal six months, but it would be a bad start to the third term to pass a law like this with no public input.

Urgency could arguably be warranted for certain stages of the bill, but it should not be used to bypass a select committee altogether.

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Cunliffe pulls out

October 13th, 2014 at 3:16 pm by David Farrar

This afternoon David Cunliffe announced he is pulling out of the contest for the Labour Party leadership, and is endorsing Andrew Little. This should boost Little’s chances considerably and may have David Parker regretting his entry into the race, as I suspect if Little wins, that Cunliffe will be his Finance Spokesperson.

This is obviously the end of the road for David Cunliffe’s prime ministerial ambitions. Cunliffe had many political skills, but being able to lead his caucus was not one of them.

It is worth reflecting though that his political career should be judged on more than his 15 months or so as Labour Leader.

He was one of Helen Clark’s better performing Cabinet Ministers. I’ve said many times that I thought he was an excellent Communications and ICT Minister. Also his reign as Health Minister was relatively successful, with the exception of his sacking of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

While I would have disagreed with many of his policies, I always thought that David Cunliffe could have been an excellent Labour Finance Minister. While he has gone left to win over the activist base, he does have a rare (in Labour) understanding of the business world and private sector.

While Cunliffe had many skills, there was no better display of his weaknesses that on election night, and in the weeks following. Launching his campaign to stay leader on the night of the worst election result for Labour in 90 years was incredibly dumb. And then declaring he won’t resign to try and get caucus to sack him, and then resigning, and trying to cling on despite barely 20% of caucus backing him – well it was a sad end to a career which deserved better.

It will be interesting to see what portfolio Cunliffe ends up under the new leader, whoever that may be. Finance is the logical pick, but I can’t see that happening with Robertson or Parker.

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How have the leadership contenders gone in their electorates?

October 13th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I thought it would be interesting to look at how the four (if Shearer stands) Labour leadership contenders have gone in their respective electorates. This may give some idea of their personal appeal, and also their ability to convince people to party vote Labour.

So I looked at the changes in their local party and electorate votes from 2008 to 2014 (or for Shearer from 2009 for his electorate vote).

This is what has happened:

Party Vote

  • David Cunliffe (New Lynn) -4.2%
  • Andrew Little (New Plymouth) -10.3%
  • Grant Robertson (Wellington Central) -10.7%
  • David Shearer (Mt Albert) -13.1%

So New Lynn has actually held up best on the party vote, compared to 2008. The other three electorates have all lost more than 10%.

Electorate Vote

  • Grant Robertson (Wellington Central) +9.8%
  • David Cunliffe (New Lynn) +0.5%
  • David Shearer (Mt Albert) -4.8%
  • Andrew Little (New Plymouth) -15.9%

This indicates that Grant Robertson is very good at increasing his personal vote, but not so the party vote. Cunliffe has held steady, Shearer has declined a bit (but from a by-election high) while Little got 16% less than the former Labour MP in New Plymouth.

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Bowker says Nash knew of report

October 13th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A story in Hawke’s Bay Today has revelations that appear to have been overlooked by other media. They report:

A Wellington businessman has challenged Napier MP Stuart Nash’s claims that a report into starting a new political party by National Party and Dirty Politics figure Simon Lusk was commissioned without his knowledge. …

Wellington businessman Troy Bowker and a man known only as “Ned” approached Mr Nash about starting a new political party. He said he told them he wasn’t interested and, unbeknownst to him, they commissioned a report with Mr Lusk.

Mr Nash said Mr Johnson sent the surfaced email because he mistakenly believed Mr Nash had commissioned the report himself. But Mr Bowker told Hawke’s Bay Today yesterday that, contrary to Mr Nash’s version of events, the Napier MP told them to come back when the report was done.

“We might have had an early conversation with Stuart, he said he wasn’t that keen on the idea … He said let me know when you’ve had a look at the report.” Mr Bowker and his business associate “Ned” approached Stuart Nash proposing to set up a new “centre, centre-right [political] party”, and Mr Nash was aware a report was being commissioned.

Mr Nash yesterday maintained he didn’t know about the report until after the fact.

“I didn’t know they were going to commission a report.”

There is a direct contradiction of evidence between what Mr Bowker and Mr Nash say.

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Air support sounds okay

October 12th, 2014 at 4:28 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small reports:

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand could offer the airforce’s “airlift capacity” as part of a contribution to the international military action against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Key is also signalling that Cabinet will tomorrow take the first step towards cracking down on New Zealanders who go to fight alongside IS, by extending the time passports can be cancelled and by making fighting with IS an explicit criminal act.

Speaking on TV One’s Q+A programme, Key said a range of options were being considered for New Zealand involvement in the IS conflict but more work was needed before a final decision.

Any action should be “useful, practical and work”, he said. That could range from humanitarian action, which was already under way, and include military options such as training, “to ultimately people who would be there right on the front line”.

“The last bit is some sort of military support, but not necessarily people on the ground, so it could be airlift capability.”

I’m very against sending actual combat troops such as the SAS in. But something such as airlift capability sounds a good way of supporting the effort, without risking getting bogged down in a long-term conflict with no exit strategy.

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The cost of corporate welfare

October 12th, 2014 at 8:22 am by David Farrar

The Taxpayers Union released a report on Friday:

  • Since National took office, corporate welfare has cost taxpayers $1-1.4 billion ($600 – $800 per household) per year
  • If corporate welfare was abolished, enough money would be saved to reduce the corporate tax rate from 28% to 22.5%
  • If applied to personal income tax rates, the saving would allow the 30% and 33% income tax rates to be lowered to 29%
  • Alternatively, the 10.5% rate (applicable to the first $14,000 of income) could be reduced to 7%.

Some of the corporate welfare spend is justified, such as tourism. But what Government often misses is the opportunity cost. That if we didn’t spend all that money, what could you do instead – such as cut taxes. Imagine the top tax rate being just 29% or the company tax rate 23%. That would help boost economic growth also.

I encourage people to read the full report by Jim Rose. Is very well done.

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Watkins on the path ahead

October 11th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

Housing changes signalled by Key’s Cabinet reshuffle point the way. Budget 2015 is likely to see a big shift in resources away from Housing New Zealand to third-party providers like The Salvation Army and Presbyterian Support Services for the provision of social housing.
The aim is to boost the availability of social housing, minus any ideological hang-ups about who provides it, and divest the State over time of a housing portfolio that is growing more decrepit by the year and fails to meet demand in areas of highest need.
I don’t care who owns it. I care about if housing is available to the right people, in the right areas, in the right sizes for an affordable price.
Helen Clark’s mistake in being too slow to rejuvenate her caucus left a very deep impression on Key. He has been far more proactive, creating an expectation that there is no room in the caucus for seat warmers.
The departure of a slew of National MPs at the last election is evidence of his more ruthless approach, as is his approach to Cabinet reshuffles.
For the first time that anyone can remember Key has made a practice of demoting ministers for performance issues, rather than the more traditional route of sacking minister’s only when they have transgressed.  This has given him room to constantly renew his Cabinet. Key rang the changes with a reshuffle which he hopes will mitigate the effects of third-termitis.
Key keeps reshuffling his Cabinet while Labour keeps reshuffling their leader :-)
The big unknown is the Green Party. They have ruled themselves out of any deal with National, but being hitched so firmly to Labour has been their curse.
The choice for the Greens now seems stark – either supplant Labour as the major Opposition party. Or position themselves as a permanent party of coalition with Governments of the Left or the Right.
That is pretty much their choices. Even when Labour wins power, they may shut the Greens out again, in order to get a centrist party on board.
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Robertson’s plan

October 11th, 2014 at 9:04 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Grant Robertson has made his pitch for the party leadership, signalling a crackdown on banks, supermarkets and power companies and a plan to rebuild the party.

As he moved to counter the momentum building behind former party president Andrew Little’s bid, Robertson formally filed his nomination yesterday, signed symbolically by Maori MP Rino Tirikatene and Mana MP Kris Faafoi.

He is expected to launch his campaign in Auckland next week aiming to reverse the 2011 leadership launches where David Cunliffe overshadowed him.

As rumours swirled in the party that Cunliffe may withdraw, given Little’s hit on his union base, Robertson yesterday promised ‘‘a three-year programme to rebuild and reconnect the Labour Party as the driving force for progressive change’’.

The rumours over Cunliffe withdrawing have been around for weeks, but I’ll believe it when it happens.

But he defended key policies, saying Little had ‘‘possibly got ahead of himself’’ by questioning plans for a higher pension age, centralised wholesale power prices and a capital gains tax.

It’s a good thing, not a bad thing, if the different contenders put forward different policy programmes.

He endorsed aspects of former MP Shane Jones’ criticisms of supermarkets as one way to address issues that mattered to voters.

‘‘New Zealanders pay way too much for food  …  in a country where we produce enormous amounts of food. We need to look at supermarkets in the sense of the duopoly and what needs to change in the Commerce Act and how do we protect consumers,’’ he said.

foodinflation

I remind people of this graph, when Labour start talking food prices.

Low pay in supermarkets was also a problem.

‘‘We say to the supermarkets, ‘you’re in our society this is how we want it to be’.’’ 

Does anyone else see the problem here? In one breath you say food prices are too high and in the next that you want to increase costs for supermarkets.

He said Labour did not make the argument for lifting the minimum wage, which he agreed with.

‘‘But when he went into workplaces  …  you could see the workers there were worried that their boss couldn’t afford the minimum wage.’’ 

Smart workers.

But Labour first needed to build confidence and lift its vote to 40 per cent. It was easy for National to run a scare campaign about the Greens or Internet-Mana when Labour was on only 25 per cent, he said.

Yep. People don’t worry that much about the coalition partners when the main party is strong, but when the main party is weak, then it is more of an issue.

Lifting the vote from 25% to 40% is no small thing. That’s convincing 360,000 New Zealanders to change their vote to Labour.

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Why are some Ministers “Minister of” and others “Minister for”

October 10th, 2014 at 2:38 pm by David Farrar

Someone asked me this question on Twitter, and I wasn’t sure so I asked the Cabinet Office if there were any guidelines about why some titles are “Minister of Health” and others “Ministers for Arts, Culture and Heritage”.

The short answer is that the PM decides, so it is up to him.

The longer answer is that the following factors are taken into account:

  • usually, when new appointments are made to established portfolios, the portfolio titles remain the same (whether “of” or “for”, especially if the title is used in legislation)
  • “of” is often used where the portfolio relates directly to an actual Ministry or Department (eg Minister of Health, Minister of Justice, Minister of Corrections)
  • “for” is often used where the portfolio description is more “generic”, eg where the Minister is responsible for a particular topic or area (eg Minister for Regulatory Reform, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage);
  • sometimes, for reasons of sense or style, it just makes sense to use “of” or “for” (eg the former “Minister of Women’s Affairs has been changed to “Minister for Women”).

That makes a lot of sense. The last point especially resonates. Being the “Minister of Youth” or “Minister of Women” would sound very weird. Would be a cool business card though that said “Minister of Youth” :-)

For those interested these are the different titles:

Minister Of

Broadcasting
Civil Defence
Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Conservation
Corrections
Customs
Defence
Education
Energy and Resources
Finance
Foreign Affairs
Health
Housing
Immigration
Internal Affairs
Local Government
Maori Affairs
Pacific Island Affairs
Police
Revenue
Science and Innovation
State Services
Statistics
Tourism
Trade
Transport
Veterans’ Affairs
Youth Affairs

Minister for

ACC
Arts, Culture and Heritage
Building and Housing
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
Climate Change Issues
Communications
Courts
Disability Issues
Economic Development
Ethnic Communities
Food Safety
Land Information
National Security and Intelligence
Pacific Peoples
Primary Industries
Racing
Regulatory Reform
Senior Citizens
Small Business
Social Development
Social Housing
Sport and Recreation
State Owned Enterprises
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
Women
Workplace Relations and Safety
Whanau Ora
Youth
(the) Community and Voluntary Sector
(the) Environment

My thanks to the Cabinet Office for their prompt and helpful response.

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Robertson is nominated

October 10th, 2014 at 1:49 pm by David Farrar

The choice of nominees is interesting. Kris was a strong Shearer supporter and Rino is a member of the Maori caucus, and voted against same sex marriage. While one can read too much into these things, I suspect the choices were made to show Grant can unify and appeal widely.

I noted that it is dated today. I do wonder if it was actually signed around six months ago? :-)

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Little puts policies on the table

October 10th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Little signalled a major shift in direction if he won the leadership, including the likely ditching of unpopular policies such as raising the pension age.

At a press conference today, the former union boss also signalled a rethink of a capital gains tax, power reforms and free doctor visits for over-65s.

Little said the policies were raised constantly on the campaign trail as either scary or unaffordable.

Most Kiwis were pragmatic enough to realise when some policies seemed “too good to be true”, he said.

His approach could pitch him against finance spokesman and acting leader David Parker, who advocated strongly for Labour’s policy mix.

Little is right to say their policies were part of their failure. Kudos to him for being the only candidate willing to say so.

Parker is the architect of three of those policies, and it will be fascinating to see what he now does.

In terms of the four policies, here’s my views on them.

  • Power reforms – this one is near barking mad. If any one policy scared the entire business community off Labour, this was it. A de facto nationalisation of the industry, with the state setting the price for all generation. Even the guy whose work they claim it is based on, came out and said it was crackers (in more polite terms). This policy must go for them to be credible.
  • Super age to 67. Personally I think this is one of their better policies. But Little is right that there was a backlash from union members about it. Blue collar workers saw it as Labour wanting them to work two years more than previously. However it is fiscally the entirely correct thing to do. The motivation for the policy was to embarrass Key over his silly pledge not to raise it, but they’ve tried that twice now and failed. Also Labour can’t govern without Winston, and Winston will never agree to it, so why take the flak for it?
  • Capital Gains Tax. Apart from being riddled with exemptions, the problem with their CGT policy is that it was one of several new taxes, and NZers saw it as Labour just wanting to tax families and businesses more. I shouldn’t give Labour free advice, but what they should do is copy the Greens with their carbon tax, and say yes we will have a CGT, but we will reduce income and company tax to compensate. This way it is about a fairer tax system, not about taking more money off families and businesses. That would neutralise the issue. However it would mean Labour not having all the extra money for spending.
  • Free doctors visits for over 65s. I don’t think that was a particularly unpopular policy for Labour – just a cynical one that didn’t work.

As I said I think it is a good thing to have a leadership candidate campaign on specific policy changes, as it gives members a chance to vote on them.

Little’s performance in New Plymouth may be an issue however. Not only has did his electorate vote in 2014 drop 12% from what it was in 2011 (and is 28% lower than Duynhoven in 2008), but Labour’s party vote in New Plymouth dropped 9% in 2014 and is 28% lower than in 2008. In absolute terms 2,954 fewer people in New Plymouth voted Labour in 2014 than 2008 and 4,646 fewer people voted Little than Duynhoven.

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Why are we funding a golf tournament?

October 10th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The New Zealand Open has been given a major boost, with next year’s national golf championship securing increased government funding and live television coverage.

For the first time the New Zealand Open will be broadcast live in New Zealand and to overseas territories, including Australia and Japan.

And for the fifth straight year, the government has increased the amount of taxpayer funding going to the event.

At a press conference in Auckland today, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce announced a major events development fund investment of $700,000 a year for the 2015 and 2016 events and a one-off cash boost of $250,000 – to be matched by event promoter Sir Michael Hill – to ensure live broadcasting continues.

I don’t think we should be funding a golf tournament. I know the argument is that it is an investment in tourism, but that means we assume that golf tournament would not have occurred and been televised without taxpayer funding – and I doubt that is the case. It is just easier for organisers to hit up taxpayers rather than find additional sponsors.

On twitter several people made good arguments for it as a tourism investment, but I’d like to see hard figures about actual increased visits, rather than just awareness.

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Miller on Dotcom

October 9th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Geoffrey Miller at The Diplomat writes on The Downfall of Kim Dotcom:

Outwardly, Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party campaigned against mass surveillance and for free tertiary education and marijuana law reform. But by the end, New Zealand voters saw through the party – officially registered only in May this year – and deemed it a vanity project designed only to win Dotcom enough political support to hold the balance of power under the country’s proportional voting system and veto his extradition to the U.S. An unusual alliance with Mana, a leftist party advocating for the interests of New Zealand’s underprivileged indigenous Maori, seemed like a bold tactical move on paper, but was a disaster in practice. Dotcom’s flamboyant lifestyle and seemingly limitless cash ended up destroying Mana’s credibility of standing up for the downtrodden.

What’s amazing is none of the comrades to Mana still see the problem. At most they just think they needed to manage Dotcom better.

Dotcom led party-goers in a repeated chant against the country’s center-right prime minister, John Key. A video of the “f**k John Key” chant was uploaded to the official YouTube account for Internet Mana and widely circulated through social media. But many New Zealand voters appeared disgusted by the negative campaigning against an enormously popular incumbent.

Yep. That was a significant turning point.

The fact that no credible proof emerged at the “Moment of Truth” to support Dotcom’s much promised “big reveal” – which revolved around an outlandish conspiracy theory that New Zealand had granted him residency only to make it easier for the United States to extradite him – only added to voters’ impression that he was a charlatan.

In May, Kim Dotcom described his pet political party as his “gift to New Zealand.” On election night, he was forced to concede that his very brand had been toxic. For John Key, Dotcom turned out to be the gift that kept on giving. New Zealand voters’ loathing of Kim Dotcom and his tainting of the country’s left played no small part in delivering Key’s center-right National Party a landslide victory.

What we don’t know is if the damage to the left is short-term or long-term. But it has reduced the left’s presence in Parliament to just two parties.

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Hone’s recount increases Kelvin’s majority

October 9th, 2014 at 2:16 pm by David Farrar

The recount results are out and Kelvin’s majority has increased by four votes to 743. What a waste of time and money.

This now means the writs can be returned and MPs officially declared elected.

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And Little makes three

October 9th, 2014 at 12:28 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little has announced:

I have decided to contest the Labour Party leadership.

There are three immediate issues to deal with: creating greater cohesion across the caucus, rebuilding the relationship between caucus and the Party and, most importantly getting the process under way to listen to the voters who have abandoned us.

I have demonstrated skills from my time as a union secretary and former Party president in challenging the status quo and lifting organisational performance.

Andrew has a reasonable chance of winning the contest.

If he can avoid being the lowest polling candidate on first preferences, then he is likely to pick up most of the second preferences from Cunliffe or Robertson supporters.

So Andrew has two challenges, to allow him to win:

  1. Gaining enough first preferences to get him to at least second place.
  2. Having enough caucus votes so that if he wins the overall ballot, he doesn’t face Cunliffe’s problem of being seen not to be backed by his own caucus

I think he has a reasonable chance of achieving the first. I would have thought he would take votes off Cunliffe mainly, especially the union votes.

The bigger challenge is getting a credible number of caucus voters. Very roughly (have not yet done exact count), Grant has around half the caucus, Cunliffe a quarter and a quarter don’t want either (sort of Camp Shearer people). Even if Little gets six or seven of the ones who don’t want either, that is not enough to be credible. Camp Robertson is fairly solid for him. So again his best strategy will be to win two or three Cunliffe caucus members over so he can get to 10 or so.

We’ve yet to see if David Parker enters the race. I’ll do more detailed analysis once the final contenders are known.

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Small on Labour leadership

October 9th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

Cunliffe cannot possibly be the answer. Leading the party to a historic defeat is one reason.

Having not much more than a handful of first preferences in the caucus ought to be another.

The lack of any public (as opposed to party activist) enthusiasm for him is a third.

A return to Shearer ought to be unthinkable. He has the back story of bravery, can do the statesman thing and is formidable on foreign affairs.

But he still has not mastered the fatal hesitancy when dealing with other topics that dogged him through his leadership.

Like Cunliffe he would mark a return to the past.

Stuart Nash and Kelvin Davis have also been mooted. But they are too inexperienced and come from too far back in the caucus.

They may be the dream of a faction of the caucus, notably the ones who were enamoured of Jones, but neither is a viable choice at this stage.

So who?

There seems to be a growing expectation then, that whoever stands Robertson will win.

BUT Robertson also comes with a problem. Not his gay-ness, though for some it is a still an issue. Some in the party are concerned that conservative voters, especially Pasifika ones in South Auckland, would rebel and may even start their own party if Robertson is chosen.

New Zealanders are likely to be more tolerant than many in Labour and the unions think, but it is playing on some minds.

A bigger difficulty for him, though, is not caucus, confidence or competence . . . it’s speaking to voters in an everyday way, stripped of platitudes and bureau-speak. If a consensus does emerge it may be around him, and that may be the safest option.

Labour can ill-afford another mis-start. But he has work to do to present a coherent “vision” for the party and the country in a way that speaks to everyone.

Grant’s biggest challenge will be convincing New Zealanders that someone who has never spent a day working in the private sector (well post study anyway) can lead a Government with competent economic management.

But if we are to suffer a primary race, is there a third player who could energise it and offer a genuine alternative to a hackneyed run-off?

David Parker has been there before and pulled out, but his speech to the Labour conference was a surprise package that had many in the party sitting up and taking notice.

He manages to espouse Labour values while steering away from identity politics.

There is a lot of pressure on Parker to stand. He’s pulled out or refused twice before.

Andrew Little – a former union boss and party president – could energise the troops, would be an easy sell to the unions and speaks to the Left and Right of the party from Labour’s solar plexus.

He is also respected in business circles and that can only be good for fund-raising.

But at this stage he would probably draw fewer first preference votes in caucus than Cunliffe.

Little could potentially win, but if has the support of just five MPs or so, then he risks also looking like a leader without his team behind him.

So the best outcome for Labour? Robertson as leader, with caveats.

Little, Parker and Jacinda Ardern providing the deputy, finance and social policy leadership.

The only thing missing from that is a prominent role for any Maori and Pasifika MPs to reflect their importance and loyalty to Labour.

Two at least must be on the front bench when the dust settles after the leadership race.

Davis and Sepuloni?

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