Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

George FM in trouble

October 9th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Electoral Commission has referred Mediaworks to police after a broadcaster on George FM urged people to vote for the Green Party on election day.

The commission said the Auckland-based station broadcast statements on September 20 which were intended to influence people how to vote before the polling booths closed – a breach of electoral rules.

In a statement, the commission said it also took the view that the short broadcast by George FM was an election programme, which was a breach of the Broadcasting Act.

A Mediaworks spokeswoman said the company took its responsibilities as a broadcaster seriously, and trained its staff about election day rules.

“Unfortunately on Saturday 20th September, one of the announcers on George FM was a volunteer, and was unaware of their responsibilities under the Electoral Act.”

At 4.50pm on election day, the volunteer said on air that he had voted for the Greens and encouraged listeners to do the same and vote out the National-led Government.

It staggers belief that someone could think it is okay to broadcast on air on election day that they want listeners to vote for the Greens and vote National out.


3 News on Nash

October 9th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

The Labour Party leadership race has been hit by its own version of Dirty Politics.

3 News has obtained an email showing MP Stuart Nash wanted to set up a rival party with help from a key figure in Nicky Hager’s book.

Mr Nash is denying the threat of the email forced him to quit the race.

“That is simply not true. I have never been blackmailed into standing down,” he says.

The email links Mr Nash to Simon Lusk, a notorious right-wing political operative, who usually works with National, is a close ally of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater and a key figure in Mr Hager’s book, Dirty Politics.

The e-mail has been circulating for some time, allegedly written by Nash’s 2011 campaign manager. I saw it a few days before the election but could not authenticate it as it did not have any headers, so didn’t run it. I thought it might be a fake, as the language was so strong in condemning Nash. I didn’t pass it on to anyone, but I gathered it had spread quite widely so not surprised it eventually got into the media.

The email, from 18 months ago, shows Mr Nash’s Napier campaign manager, Rob Johnson, complaining that: “You had two friends of yours commission a report from Simon Lusk to the tune of 10 grand as to whether you could gain more influence by establishing your own political party in competition with Labour.”

However Mr Nash said he is “Labour to the core”.

In his email, a furious Mr Johnson calls Mr Lusk an “enemy strategist” and Mr Nash “reckless” and “naive”.

He warns Mr Nash if Mr Lusk’s involvement gets back to certain members of Labour, his entire campaign and career could be torpedoed.

Mr Lusk says he does not disclose his clients.

“Although in this case I will make an exception and say Stuart Nash has not paid me.”

Mr Lusk was paid by “Troy” and “Ned”. 3 News can confirm Troy is Troy Bowker, former Hawke’s Bay boy-turned-multi-millionaire Wellington investor, who knows Prime Minister John Key from the London investment banking scene.

Mr Bowker said today a group of business contacts wanted to set up a centre party, but Mr Lusk’s report said “it wasn’t viable” – and Nash said “no”.

The question that isn’t answered was when did Stuart know about his friends commissioning a report from Simon, and did he say no before he read the report or afterwards? In other words were they acting as an agent for Stuart, or totally independently or somewhere in between?

Also of interest would be the report itself. Maybe Stuart could release a copy of it! :-)

Mr Nash says Mr Johnson got the wrong end of the stick with the initial email and calmed down after it was explained, staying on to help him win Napier at the election.

But Mr Johnson’s email had already been passed on within Labour.

Mr Nash was called by acting leader David Parker on Sunday and officially pulled out of the leadership race the same day. It seems inevitable that if he pushed on, it would have been used against him.

There is correlation, but that may not causative. I think the moment Andrew Little started saying he was looking to stand, it made a Nash candidacy less viable.

UPDATE: I understand Mr Lusk is very upset at the suggestion that one of his reports would cost only $10,000.

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Seymour door knocking just weeks after the election

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

The fact he door knocked a Miley Cyrus pre-party is quite hilarious. The more significant thing to note is that it is just three weeks since the election and David is already door knocking constituents. That’s hugely commendable.


Guest Post: Three strikes about to bite hard

October 9th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by David Garrett, former ACT MP:

Three strikes about to bite hard

When the three strikes (3S) bill was making its way through parliament I told Clayton Cosgrove – in response to an interjection – that it might be ten to fifteen years before 3S would really start to bite. Although Cosgrove immediately tried to make capital from my answer, I was not  unhappy with that prediction – in fact I thought it a little optimistic. In my view we have taken a generation to get into the mess we are in with violent offending, and it might take a generation to reverse it. It seems I was unduly pessimistic.

Unless there are extremely good reasons which would preclude such a result, we are about to get our first  “strike” offender sentenced to Life Without Parole (LWOP) for murder as a second strike.  Justin Vance Turner, aged 28, has pleaded guilty to murder. It is his second “strike” offence, and accordingly, he should be sentenced to LWOP in accordance with s.86E (2) of the Sentencing Act. That section requires that a stage two offender guilty of murder should serve a sentence of LWOP “unless the court is satisfied that given the circumstances of the offence and the offender, it would be manifestly unjust to do so.”

The “manifestly unjust” provision was one of the conditions the Nats required in order for them to support the 3S Bill beyond first reading. It did not take long for ACT to agree to the amendment. The words “unless…manifestly unjust” have already been defined in case law. It is a very high hurdle to surmount. If for nothing else, Justice Graham Lang’s sentence notes will be pored over by everyone interested in 3S to see what he says about that phrase in the 3S context.

So what  “circumstances of the offence and the offender”  could cause Justice Lang to sentence to life imprisonment with a finite minimum Non Parole Period (NPP) instead of LWOP? As for the offence, in my respectful view there is absolutely nothing which would justify giving Turner the benefit of the “manifestly unjust” proviso. If the news report is accurate, the hapless victim – a homeless man – was kicked and punched until unconscious, and then Turner “continued stomping on him with enough force that  his head bounced off the floor.”

Given that Turner told police his intent was to kill, it would seem he had little choice but to plead guilty – although I suspect the motivation for the plea at an early stage (the trial was to begin on 1 December) was to try and avoid LWOP on the basis of an early guilty plea. Again in my respectful view, that is no reason to depart from the presumption created by s. 86E (2). Nothing in the 3S provisions of the Sentencing Act suggest early guilty pleas should be a factor in sentence.

What about the “circumstances of the offender”? Because of privacy laws we know little about him other than he has a first strike to his name  for serious  violent offending. There is a suggestion from the terms of the remand that his fitness to plead may have been an issue, but clearly that is no longer the case.

Again in my respectful view, if the court was to find that because of some psychological condition falling short of a “disease of the mind” which would be a reason for an acquittal Turner was prone to episodes of extreme violence, this ought to be even more reason to lock him up for the rest of his life. It is clear from his actions that he is a menace to society, and given his age, he will be for a long time.

One option the Judge has is to decline to impose LWOP, but to give a very lengthy NPP – say thirty or even forty years. If the Judge chose to go down that route the sentence would almost certainly be appealed. That is no bad thing, as it would give the Court of Appeal the chance to make some observation on the decision to apply the “manifestly unjust” proviso, and on the length of minimum NPP that ought to be imposed if the proviso was applied.

Finally it should be noted that LWOP as a possible sentence for murder was not  part of the original 3S Bill, although it was passed into law at the same time. At the 2008 election both ACT and the Nats campaigned on making LWOP available for our worst murderers.  From the aftermath of the  2014 election it appears both ACT and the Nats have lost the appetite  for law and order measures. In time, 2008 -10 may come to be regarded as a brief “window”  which opened and allowed our justice system to start dispensing real justice to killers – and their victims.

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Council for Civil Liberties against a voluntary oral health scheme!

October 8th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Young unemployed New Zealanders are being sent daily reminders to brush their teeth as part of a project an advocacy group says is “beneficiary bashing”.

The Ministry of Health-funded campaign sent participants daily reminders via text message, asking young people on welfare whether they have brushed their teeth that day, and asking them to respond if they had.

The scheme was designed to address oral health problems and reduce the number of beneficiaries requesting expensive emergency dental care grants, the Guardian reported

But it has been condemned by advocates of civil liberties, who say the scheme degrades those on welfare by implying they cannot remember to take care of themselves.

If you’re a teenager on welfare, you are not taking care of yourself – and you generally do not have a great range of life skills at that age.

But more to the point, this appears to be a voluntary scheme.

The Ministry of Health had worked with Work and Income to round up a “large number” of unemployed people in Christchurch to take part in the project, according to reports.

So beneficiaries decided to opt into the scheme. So what the heck are people on about?

Participants in the 10-week programme received a series of “motivational” text messages, in what was thought to be a world-first.

The teeth-brushing messages were likened to smoking cessation services which had seen success with text reminders.

Rates of participants brushing their teeth rose from 53 per cent to 73 per cent during the trial.


But  New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Batch Hales said it was a “beneficiary-bashing process under the guise of a do-good scheme.”

“If they wanted to help people they’d give people free dentist visits,” Hales said.

Oh My God. What a warped world view. They’d rather have the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, than help people to help themselves. The Council seems to think getting free fillings is a better option than brushing your teeth regularly so you don’t need fillings.

The scheme meant people were not considered to be “grownups” able to take responsibility for simple elements of their own healthcare such as brushing their teeth, he said.

Well only 53% were.

A national oral health survey conducted in 2009 found dental decay was the most prevalent chronic and irreversible disease in New Zealand.

So long as it is voluntary, then I see no issue at all – in fact it appears to be a hugely cost effective scheme that has produced great benefits – a 20% increase in good oral hygiene.


Hone’s recount

October 8th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Mana leader Hone Harawira has filed for a recount of the votes in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate.

He lost the seat on election night to Labour’s Kelvin Davis by a margin of 739 votes, and has refused to concede defeat since. His party has concerns about votes that were rejected.

Harawira admitted on TVNZ’s Marae programme that his refusal to concede defeat was a tactic to stretch out the use of his parliamentary perks and pay packet.

“One of the good things about not conceding, for those of you in politics, is if you concede on the night all your travel benefits stop at 12 o’clock,” Harawira said.

“If you don’t [concede], you get to fly round the country and go and see all your people for the next two weeks.”

Say a lot doesn’t it. But he actually got it wrong.

But a spokeswoman for Parliamentary Services confirmed declaration day was typically the date at which parliamentary travel entitlements were cut off for former MPs, regardless of whether they’ve conceded.

“Travel benefits cease for former members on the day they resign or on polling day, if they do not stand, or on declaration day if they stand and are unsuccessful,” she said.

Declaration day was Saturday, when the commission announced the formal election result with the count of the special votes.

So the recount won’t get him extra votes. So why is he doing it? Spare money from Kim to burn?

Mana general secretary Gerard Hehir said the party had some concerns over the way some votes were discounted.

“Particularly around special votes,” he said.

“We understand almost 1000 special votes have been rejected and we’ve just got a lot of concerns irrespective of whether it changes the outcome or not.

There is no way a majority of 700+ will change with the recount. The general rule of thumb is only do a recount if under 200 votes.

UPDATE: Hone is now accusing the Electoral Commission of racism. A very bad loser.

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Expanding the investment approach

October 8th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Agencies that spend $34 billion worth of public money each year face a big upheaval as new State Services Minister Paula Bennett rolls out an “investment approach” from the welfare system across the rest of the public service.

Ms Bennett’s promotion to fifth place in the new Cabinet, in charge of one of the Government’s three key coordinating bodies, the State Services Commission, is a sign that senior ministers want to get better efficiency across the whole public service in the same way that Ms Bennett has driven it through her welfare reforms.

In welfare, her “investment approach” calculated the average lifetime costs of every person who went on a benefit, then shifted staff efforts into those with the highest likely lifetime costs.

That meant pouring resources into “wraparound” support for the most at-risk groups such as for teen parents, who cost taxpayers an average of $246,000 in their lifetime, while giving less support to unemployed jobseekers who cost an average of only $116,000.

Ms Bennett, who also gets an associate role with Finance Minister Bill English, said her new jobs would let her take a similar approach more broadly.

“I definitely think we need some reform in state services and in how we are doing cross-agency work, which you can only do to a certain level within a portfolio. So State Services gets me to oversee and overlook all of it,” she said.

“And both Minister English and I have the intention of rolling out the investment approach wider than just Work and Income. You can see how it fits particularly with those children who are most vulnerable across all different agencies. We’re talking about the same children. If we know who they are earlier, then we’re willing to invest more for that long term gain, both for them as far as what they can achieve in life and it always makes sense as well balancing the books.”

I’m a big supporter of the investment approach which may mean spending a bit more money early on, if it will save money down the track.  However this also means that low quality spending should be canned in favour of spending that produces the biggest benefit.

The reshuffle coincides with a Productivity Commission inquiry into “enhancing productivity and value in public services”, ordered in June by Mr English and outgoing State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman.

The commission has published an “issues paper” today asking for public feedback on how the Government should drive better productivity through the way it buys social services worth $34 billion a year from state departments, district health boards, schools, early childhood and tertiary education providers, the Accident Compensation Corporation and more than 4000 non-government organisations (NGOs).

NZ Initiative director Dr Oliver Hartwich said the investment approach could justify putting more resources into higher quality teachers in low-decile schools to help their students get better jobs in future, or into child health services to reduce future costs when those children grew up.


We should spend more money on the under 5s and less on the over 65s – to be blunt.

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The terror threat

October 8th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The number of New Zealanders planning to serve as foreign fighters in countries like Syria is “far more” than one or two, Prime Minister John Key says. …

He is also planning a major speech once Parliament resumes that looks set to challenge Kiwi perceptions that New Zealand is far removed from terrorist threats.

The speech signals Key’s intention to front-foot security and intelligence issues more aggressively after much of National’s second term was beset by controversy surrounding the GCSB.

Key warned that New Zealand was in a far from benign environment, using the rise of Kiwis seeking to join groups like the Islamic State (Isis) as an example.

“I hope to be able to spell out the risks around foreign fighters. There is no question the Security Intelligence legislation needs reforming.

“If I was to spell out to New Zealanders the exact number of people looking to leave and be foreign fighters, it would be larger than I think New Zealanders would expect that number to be.

“The number currently fighting overseas . . . is relatively small but it’s certainly far more than one or two.”


That is concerning. Even if they go over there with good motivations (to free Syria from Assad), there is a significant risk they get radicalised as they are fighting alongside extremists.

He singled out the rise of foreign fighters as a particular issue for the Government to deal with, likely through legislative change. He would seek cross-party support. “If we cancel a passport for someone who is looking to go overseas as a foreign fighter . . . in other jurisdictions they [are cancelled] for a much longer period of time . . . we think there are some glaring deficiencies there.”

The Greens will knee jerk oppose any change I can almost guarantee. It will be interesting what Labour does. I suspect the primary process will force all the leadership contenders to reject out of hand any possibility of bipartisan support for a law change. But Labour then runs the risk of being on the wrong side of public opinion, as the average New Zealander has little time for those who go off to fight alongside ISIS.

The Herald reported:

Mr Key also wanted to reform SIS legislation. However, he said he would prefer to do that on a bipartisan basis with Labour under its new leader.

If he could not secure Labour’s support, “then there’s a very strong chance that I won’t progress changes in that area”.

It is best to have bipartisan support in this area. So if the Labour leadership contest means Labour won’t support any changes, then they probably won’t proceed – which will be interesting if the lack of a new law leads to problems.

Key confirmed, meanwhile, that New Zealand was expecting a request to join the international effort against Isis.

Deploying the Special Air Service was likely to be among the options considered by New Zealand “but we’ll just need to assess that”.

I hope we don’t do it. The risk of mission creep is too high. We should make some contribution to the international effort, as 60 other countries are doing. But it should not be troops on the ground.


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Advice for new Ministers

October 8th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Once again this is a collaborative effort from talking to some former Ministers and former Ministerial staff – and current ones.

  1. Never fuck with DPMC. They know everything.
  2. Never fuck with the PMO. They talk to the PM up to ten times a day, and you probably talk once a week at best.
  3. Occasionally walk your own release around the gallery – don’t get totally aloof from the media.
  4. Don’t try and be the Dept CEO’s CEO. It is tempting to try and do everything, but that is not a good use of your time, and just annoys the department. You’re the Minister, not the CEO.
  5. Accept your department will stuff up sometimes and make mistakes which you have to shoulder. You can’t be absolutely risk adverse for then nothing happens in your portfolios. The challenge is to make sure the same mistake never happens twice.
  6. Treat your staff well at all times – they are working almost as many hours as you. The Beehive is a cauldron of gossip and unhappy staff radiate discontent. Almost without exception the most politically successful Ministers have the happiest offices.
  7. Move your family to Wellington if you want to keep them. You will now be in Wellington four to five nights a week instead of two.
  8. Don’t neglect the electorate. Your electorate in theory likes having their local MP as a Minister – but not if it means they see less of you. What matters to them isn’t what bills you’ve had passed through the House – but have you remained accessible and helpful as a local MP.
  9. Be a political Minister not just a manager. You should have some some policy goals for your portfolios, and not just be there to implement the Department’s agenda.
  10. Early on ask Bill English if you can spend a couple of hours with him, learning how to manage a massive workload and your diary. Bill has the heaviest workload of any Minister yet he manages to make it home for dinner with his family four to five nights a week. Success is not working from 6 am to midnight six days a week. It is being effective with fewer hours.
  11. Don’t just talk to CEOS. Make sure 2nd and 3rd level managers can tell you what is really happening. Even ring them directly from time to time. Don’t let the CEO become your only source of information.
  12. Treat all with respect, including the newest lowliest MP. You will not be a Minister for ever and friends come and go but enemies accumulate.
  13. Don’t screw the crew. Also be aware that even if you just go out for dinner (because you’re hungry) with a staffer or journalist, then half of Wellington will be gossiping about it the next morning, and speculating on whether the relationship is more then professional.
  14. Meet stakeholders regularly, don’t become remote. Even if the meetings are little more than information sharing, portfolio stakeholders like to be able to access their Minister. A reputation for being hard to get into see can spread quickly.
  15. When the Minister of Finance in your first Budget bilateral tells you your departments are the most bloated, and your vote is personally jeopardising the Government’s fiscal plans – be aware he says that to every new Minister. But also be aware he will win, until you are a senior Minister
  16. Your staffing decisions are most critical. Generally do not make your backbench executive secretary your Senior Private Secretary (unless they are very experienced). Grab one of the old hands – they will keep you from being sacked for breaching the cabinet manual. There is a big difference between being a sole charge secretary and managing a ministerial office of 8 to 12 staff. Many Exeecutive Secretaries can and do make the transition – but not necessarily immediately. You can bring them in as a Ministerial Secretary and then once they have experience in a ministerial office, step up to being an SPS.
  17. A political advisor should be political. They should see pretty much every paper you see, and their job is partly to point out the potential political problems. They should also be someone who can talk to your departments with some authority on your behalf.
  18. It can be a good idea to ask your departments to provide a short (say two page) summary of every paper they send you. This helps you quickly see the important stuff. However this is not a substitute to reading the full documents also. Or at a minimum make sure your political advisor and/or SPS have read the full documents also and provided their own summary if necessary. They may have a different view to your department as to what is important.
  19. Don’t just accept as your portfolio secondees, the recommendation of the CEO. It is quite common to ask for the CEO to provide a list of several departmental staff who are interested in working in the Minister’s office, and make the decision yourself. Getting the right secondees in can be crucial to your effectiveness.
  20. Have a chat to the outgoing Minister and find out where the bodies are buried.
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What If?

October 7th, 2014 at 4:09 pm by David Farrar

Some What If questions.

What if National, not ACT, won Epsom?

National would go from 60 to 61 MPs and have a majority in a Parliament of 121. They are currently in the “just missed out” place on the St Lague formula. So Paul Goldsmith would be an electorate MP, Maureen Pugh a List MP, and John Key would have a majority.

What if National, not United Future, won Ohariu?

Dunne’s seat is an overhang. Parliament would be 120 MPs, not 121. National and ACT could govern.

What if National won Epsom and Ohariu?

National would have 61/120 MPs and have a majority – just.

What is the Maori Party did not win Waiariki?

National would gain a seat, as would Labour and National would have a majority of 61/121 .

What if Hone Harawira won Te Tai Tokerau?

National and Greens would lose a seat each, as Mana would have two seats. National would have 59 MPs and could govern with ACT and United Future.

What is the threshold was 4% below what the Conservatives got?

The Conservatives would have 5 MPs. National loses three, Labour one and Greens one. National on 57 could govern with Conservatives on 5.



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Sir Roger Douglas on Labour’s predicament

October 7th, 2014 at 3:19 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Sir Roger Douglas:

The election was clearly an absolute disaster for Labour. The party’s inability to deal with the result is apparent for all to see.

Renewal has several parts and needs to start with a recognition of what went wrong and move towards the changes needed to rectify the situation.

Labour needs to acknowledge: 

  • It lost touch with the feelings, concerns and expectations of voters.
  • That in the process it lost credibility.
  • That a lack of policy consistency and communications consistency cost it dearly.
  • That winning back lost credibility will take time, and consistency will be absolutely vital.
  • That voters often saw Labour as the voice of vested-interest groups, rather than average New Zealanders.
  • That Labour failed to state clearly what it was trying to achieve and how it would go about implementing new approaches.
  • That Labour locked itself into becoming the advocates of processes that could no longer achieve the goals the party set for itself.

So what does Labour need to do about their current situation?  Labour needs to: 

  • Start by restating the social goals they stand for today – goals likely to be very similar to those spelled out by Walter Nash in 1939.
    • a reasonable standard of living
    • access to an adequate education
    • a good health service
    • a good income in retirement
    • a social welfare system that gives people a hand-up, rather than a hand out, and does not lock them into dependency
    • a society which gives people opportunities for self-fulfilment.
  • That’s the easy part – the hard part is how does the party make those goals the foundation of a serious programme to transform New Zealand?
  • To do this the party needs a vision of where it wants New Zealand to be in 25 years time.
  • Next, are the current, or preferred means, capable of achieving these goals? The means Labour used in the 1930s no longer suffice.
  • The question then becomes – can Labour do this? Are Labour members free to think in new, fresh ways?

That’s why they need time to work through the challenges which are:

  • To realise that simply electing a new leader is not enough – the party needs a leader who is in tune with the new realities that exist in New Zealand.
  • Positioning and consistency of policy and communication are vital.
  • This new positioning and the policies need to reflect, and be in tune with the feelings, expectations, and concerns of most New Zealanders. The party needs to explain for example:
  • The goals the policies seek to address.
  • The importance of productivity and efficiency which old Labour did so well. The Party needs to explain that waste consumes resources that would otherwise be available to improve fairness.

For instance, that without efficiency, a more equitable society is impossible.  (This requires a big shift for the Labour Party of the past 15 years.)

  • How the party will, in future, deal with privilege which remains widespread.
  • How it will be the champion of ordinary New Zealanders, not the unions, not the teachers, not the nurses nor the social workers, as they do today.
  • How Labour will deal with the fact that huge increases in spending on health and education have gone to the benefit of providers, rather than consumers. I acknowledge this is hard when the party has been the voice of nurses, doctors and teachers at the expense of the consumer for so long.
  • Explain to supporters why high tax rates have a negative effect on jobs and real wages, and tend to lower productivity which is essential if wages are to rise.
  • How the party will deal with middle-class capture in areas like university education where most of the beneficiaries of state spending are the children of people who could afford to pay more towards educating their offspring.
  • How the party will free people from welfare dependency put there by institutions created in the 1930s, and stoked by policies devised in the 1970s.
  • Why competition in the provision of government-funded services is just as important as it is in the private sector.
  • Explain to New Zealand that there is no such thing as a free lunch e.g. tell people that healthcare now takes 56c of every dollar of all personal tax they pay instead of 40c a few years ago, and what Labour will do about it.
  • Demonstrate that Labour has got to grips with poor incentives to work and how those poor incentives have encouraged socially destructive behaviour.
  • How Labour will shift resources in education, housing, health and welfare in response to changing demands.
  • How Labour will deal with uneven rates of government assistance (e.g. health) for different services and different categories of patients.
  • Whether Labour will continue to provide universal access to many health and welfare services or instead move towards targeted assistance? And if there is to be change, what principles will drive it?
  • How Labour will deal with government waste.

Getting this right will be vital for Labour – recognising that the present welfare system has changed people’s attitudes, and in the process has had effects on society. It is important to understand this if the policy the party goes forward with is to have any likelihood of working.

But, isn’t this simply moving into National party territory?

No – it need not be – why?

  • Because National is the party of the status quo.
  • Despite opposing many of the policies of the Clark government they now act as if those policies were their own.
  • National has borrowed and added to New Zealand’s debt by $60 billion over the last six years rather than get to grips with wasteful expenditure.
  • National has borrowed billions of dollars to fund consumption, rather than investment.
  • National has spent billions of dollars each year on corporate welfare with little or no beneficial results to show for it, and all at the expense of the average New Zealander.
  • National has run budget deficits, but a deficit of courage and imagination has been their main legacy.

National’s do nothing, sit-still, status-quo approach to economic and social policy provides Labour with a real opportunity to get back up on its feet.

What will it take?

  • An upfront admission that Labour has got a lot of things wrong for the last nine to 15 years, and what has led to this conclusion.
  • A set of principles that will guide Labour’s policy decision-making that New Zealanders understand and can measure. For instance:
    • Each genertion should pay for itself.
    • Each family should take as much responsibility as possible for its members.
    • State assistance should be a hand-up, rather than a hand-out.
  • A set of principles like these would drive policy-making towards:
    • No personal income tax for low-income earners. This would limit churning where a lot of tax collected goes on the bureaucracy that then redistributes it.
    • A guaranteed minimum income for those in work.
    • Retirement – risk and healthcare savings accounts for all aimed at driving efficiency in these areas.
  • Paid for by:
    • An end to corporate welfare.
    • An end to middle-class welfare capture.
    • Moving the age of retirment to 70 over 20 years.
    • Better efficiencies in health, education and welfare.
    • An end to Working for Families, once a guaranteed minimum income arrangement has been worked out carefully.

Labour also needs to explain: 

  • That what is important to existing and potential Labour voters is people, not institutions. That Labour policy will in future put people ahead of institutions, unlike the current National party.
  • That provider capture in health and education is a thing of the past, and that funding will instead go to the benefit of pupils, patients and other consumers, not to service providers. That is not to say providers would not do well. They will so long as consumers benefit.
  • An all-out effort to reform the distribution of resources amongst the social service institutions to ensure resources move to the greatest need in terms of social goals.
  • An end to corporate welfare and middle-class welfare, thus enabling tax reductions across the board, and especially for the lower paid.
  • Reform of healthcare (following a review) including looking at individuals’ health savings accounts (Singapore style). Aim at better outcomes, greater efficiency, more fairness.
  • Reform of education. Adopt as a basic principle that no one should fail. Make clear that the current 30% failure rate is not acceptable.
  • Local government in Auckland has been a failure and Labour will change that.

But most of all, New Zealanders will need to believe Labour is for real. Working through these principles will take time.  A good strategy would be to have a locum tenens leader while the necessary work is undertaken. Always remember that any extreme left-wing policies usually hurt the poor, and the poor know it. Such policies would quickly see Labour back to where it is now.

Above all, a top-class opposition would be great for New Zealand.  What’s the chance of that – 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 40, 50%?

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Voting Blocs 1938 – 2014

October 7th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar


This shows the results for each bloc of parties from 1938 to 2014.

Right parties are National, ACT. Christian and Conservative parties, and since 2008 United Future.

Left parties are Labour, Values/Greeens, Alliance and Mana

Centre parties are Social Credit, NZ Party, NZ First, Maori Party and United Future up until 2008.

What I find interesting is the total left vote since 1999. It has been:

  • 1999 – 51.6%
  • 2002 – 51.2%
  • 2005 – 47.6%
  • 2008 – 41.6%
  • 2011 – 39.6%
  • 2014 – 37.3%

MPs salaries

October 7th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Following confirmation of the size of the Executive, and composition of Parliament, here are the salaries different MPs will be on:


Worth noting that David Seymour as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary is paid only slightly more than the Green Party Whip.

Also note that while the Green Party Leadership is shared, they get just one leader’s salary. I suspect what they do is split the additional $34,370 between them so they each get $164,985.

Select Committee Chairs and Deputies have yet to be determined. There are 14 main select committees, but it is possible there will be less than 14 chairs and deputy chairs as some MPs may be a chair of one and a deputy of another. I’ll update once committees are known, if it changes.

The total salary bill for the 121 Ministers and MPs will be $21,942,420. They each are eligible for a 20% (of base MP pay) superannuation subsidy which is $29,560 each, so if all 121 take that up, that is an additional $3,576,760 bringing total remuneration to $25,519,180.

The “median” MP will get $152,400 salary and $29,560 superannuation subsidy, which is $181,960. The average (mean) salary per MP is $181,342 plus $29,560 which is $210,902.

For a fair number of MPs, they take a significant pay cut entering Parliament. For others, it is the most money they have ever earnt, or will earn. Overall I think the levels are about right, but as always they should set the pay levels to be constant for an entire term of Parliament.


Little for Leader

October 7th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Andrew Little is talking up his connections outside the Labour caucus, amid signals he may stand for the Labour leadership.

The former Labour Party president who has twice failed to win the seat of New Plymouth, was confirmed as an MP on Saturday only after a dramatic swing in special votes away from the Government.

But Little, a former head of the EPMU, said that in the hours since the election result was finalised he had been “prevailed upon by a large number of people” to consider nominating for the party leadership.

While saying that Labour should ideally reflect on its poor election result before a leadership contest, Little talked up his broad connections.

“I know the party because I’ve been party president, in terms of my union work I . . . continue to have a lot of contact with the corporate sector, with working people, a whole range of people. It’s those networks we need to get out to,” Little told TVNZ’s Q+A.

Andrew is a credible and strong contender for the leadership. He is right that a lot of members and activists are saying they want more than two candidates, as the contest risks turning into a referendum on who is to blame – the leader or the caucus.

The Cunliffe and Robertson factions have little time for each other. If Little can gain enough support to not be the lowest polling candidate, he could then pick up second preferences from the candidate eliminated and have a decent chance of winning.

Having a former union boss as the Labour leader, would of course entrench the perception that Labour is beholden to sectional interests, rather than the national interest. This is part of why they got 25%.

But on the positive side, he is in a better position than Cunliffe or Robertson to unify the party.

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Surplus at risk

October 7th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A plunge in the payout to dairy farmers could put pressure on the government’s target of reaching surplus this year, Prime Minister John Key warned today.

Last week, Fonterra slashed its payout forecast from $6 per kilo of milk solids to $5.30, a move which came before another 7 per cent fall in dairy prices. Economists are now warning that the final payout for Fonterra could fall below $5.

Today, Key admitted the impact on the economy could be $5 billion which would inevitably have “some impact” on the Crown’s books. It was possible that the government would take additional steps to protect its surplus target.

It is a good reminder that we are not yet in surplus – just projected to be. The need for fiscal restraint is as strong as ever – the government needs to keep spending at an affordable level, so that we get back into surplus without tax increases. In fact, so in the future we can boost take home pays with tax cuts.


Keall’s advice for each party

October 7th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Keall gives succinct advice for each party in NBR:

  • Labour – change the leader and scrap the primary-style contest
  • Internet-Mana – give up and go home
  • Conservatives – media training for Colin Craig and a deal with National in Napier
  • ACT – media training for David Seymour and push National on tax
  • Maori Party – give up and go home
  • Green Party – stick to being Green
  • NZ First – recruit Shane Jones
  • United Future – cruise control
  • National – nothing different

Ministerial Demographics

October 7th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The demographics of the full 28 person Ministry (including Under-Secretaries) is:

  • 68% male, 32% female
  • 82% European, 14% Maori, 4% Pasifika
  • 11% 30s, 43% 40s, 43% 50s, 4% 60s
  • 39% Auckland, 11% Wellington, 7% Christchurch, 18% Provincial, 25% Rural
  • 75% North Island, 25% South Island
  • 7% entered 1980s, 14% 1990s, 64% 2000s and 7% 2010s

The 25 National Ministers are:

  • 64% male, 36% female
  • 84% European, 12% Maori, 4% Pasifika
  • 8% 30s, 48% 40s, 40% 50s, 4% 60s
  • 40% Auckland, 8% Wellington, 8% Christchurch, 16% Provincial, 28% Rural
  • 72% North Island, 28% South Island
  • 4% entered 1980s, 16% 1990s, 72% 2000s and 8% 2010s

13 of the 25 National Ministers entered Parliament in 2008 or later.

The Cabinet is:

  • 70% male, 30% female
  • 80% European, 15% Maori, 5% Pasifika
  • 10% 30s, 45% 40s, 40% 50s, 5% 60s
  • 45% Auckland, 10% Wellington, 5% Christchurch, 20% Provincial, 20% Rural
  • 75% North Island, 25% South Island
  • 5% entered 1980s, 20% 1990s, 70% 2000s and 5% 2010s

The 11 Front Benchers are:

  • 64% male, 36% female
  • 73% European, 27% Maori
  • 9% 30s, 36% 40s, 55% 50s,
  • 36% Auckland, 18% Wellington, 9% Christchurch, 9% Provincial, 27% Rural
  • 73% North Island, 27% South Island
  • 27% entered 1990s, 27% between 2000 and 2007 and 45% in 2008

So almost half the front bench are relatively new MPs. That’s rejuvenation. Clark’s front bench in 2005 looked very similar to her 1999 one.

In 2008 the initial National front bench was only 22% female.




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Don’t believe the spin

October 7th, 2014 at 6:42 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hager told Radio New Zealand that he accepted the police had the right to be at his home, but he was critical of the “rather draconian” Search and Surveillance Bill passed in 2012 that allowed the raid.

That’s just Hager once again misleading people to try and score political points. I’m 99% certain the Police had the powers to search his house under pre-existing laws. The Search and Surveillance Bill was more about harmonising the powers of other agencies – the Police have always had the power to search and seize for the purposes of a criminal investigation – if a Judge or JP signs a warrant.

Similar raids had not been made in response to a police complaint by the Greens into hacking on the Labour Party’s website allegedly involving National Party staffer Jason Ede, as detailed in Dirty Politics, he claimed. “That is a real crime.”

In Hager world, accessing a website that was left wide open on the World Wide Web is a crime, while hacking someone’s Gmail, Facebook and other accounts is not a crime.

If National had been stupid enough to leave their credit card donation website unsecured on the Internet so you can access it without a password, then I suspect Hager would have published a conspiracy theory book which listed every donor to National and how 65% are members of Rotary or something. Give Whale Oil some credit that he never published any of the names that Labour left unsecured.


Parliamentary Party Funding

October 6th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Here’s the budget for each parliamentary party from The Parliamentary Service. On top of this List MPs get two staff, electorate MPs get three staff, large electorate MPs get four staff and Ministers get on average 10 staff.

The funding is:

  • Leadership funding of $100,000 per party and $64,430 per non Executive MP
  • Party funding of $22,000 per MP
  • MP funding of $85,500 per large (area over 12,500 square kms) electorate MP, $64,260 per normal electorate MP and $40,932 per List MP

There are seven parliamentary parties with 121 MPs. 28 are in the Executive and 93 are not. 12 are large electorate MPs, 59 are normal electorate MPs and 50 are list MPs.

The funding for each party is:

  • National $7,189,168
  • Labour $4,929,360
  • Greens $1,881,528
  • NZ First $1,449,772
  • Maori $334,752
  • ACT $186,260
  • United Future $186,260

The formula has now changed so that MPs now get bulk funded for their staff and ICT costs. The overall level of spending should not have changed, but the new figures now include costs previously directly provided by The Parliamentary Service. The new directions are here.

The funding for each party is:

  • National $17,416,111
  • Labour $11,858,505
  • Greens $3,925,458
  • NZ First $3,105,717
  • Maori $524,808
  • ACT $333,474
  • United Future $333,474



Analysis of the Cabinet and ministry changes

October 6th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The decision to give Finlayson responsibility for the SIS and GCSB is an inspired move for two reasons.

Finlayson is one of the smartest legal minds in NZ. There is no way that either agency will get the law wrong in future if he has anything to do with it. Finlayson will scrutinise any warrants and documents so they are beyond reproach. The appointment is also useful politically – it removes the PM from being tied for for three years answering questions on the GCSB, rather than talking about the Government’s agenda.

English having a formal role in the housing area should ensure that useful work continues to occur there.

Having Joyce take ICT back from Adams, but Adams keeping Communications is interesting. Yet clear where the boundary between the two portfolios will be. My guess is that as the fibre project was Joyce’s baby, he is keen to see its further evolution.

I thought Paula Bannett’s talents are a bit under-utilised. She has given up welfare, which was a huge portfolio, to take on state services, social housing and a couple of associates. But she could do very well in state services if she pushes the investment approach pioneered at MSD to the wider public service.

Jonathan Coleman’s move to Health was widely expected. As a doctor, he knows the sector. However Health is a notoriously volatile portfolio, and this assignment will challenge him beyond what he has had to date. I expect he will be targeted by the Opposition, when we get one.

Adams has a chance to shine as Justice and Courts Minister. There is always a ton of legislation as Justice Minister to see through the House. She failed to gain majorities for a couple of laws in her old portfolios, but shouldn’t have this problem in Justice. She may be able to get NZ First on board for some of it.

Simon Bridges loses Labour but gains Transport. The combination of that with Energy will make him the number one target for the Greens, and possibly Labour. They will try and paint him as unsympathetic to environmental issues, and his challenge is to now allow the left to determine his public image.

Tolley in Social Development is a safe pair of hands. Don’t expect too many issues there.

Kaye swaps Food Safety for ACC, which is a great opportunity to build up her economic credentials. ACC can be a political minefield, as it affects so many New Zealanders. It is a large company with $6.7b revenue last year and almost $30b of assets.

Woodhouse gained Police and Labour. Police should be easy for him. Labour (now Workplace Relations and Safety) will be a bit of a test for him, as there’s nothing Labour fights more than laws which weaken their union funders.

Lotu-Iiga will have big shoes to fill in Corrections, as Tolley had near universal acclaim for her work there. If he does as well as her, he’ll carry on rising.

Maggie Barry’s portfolios of Conservation and Senior Citizens are naturals for her. Getting Arts an unexpected bonus. Shewill be one of the Ministers invoted to the most public meetings. Still has a very positive brand with older New Zealanders.

UPDATE: John Armstrong writes:

For a party about to start its third term in succession, today’s reassignment of portfolios and rankings along with the introduction of new faces is arguably less radical than it should have been in terms of rejuvenation. But equally neither is the reshuffle as cautious as it could easily have been.

Key is conscious voters can quickly tire of third-term governments. however. That makes some form of noticeable renewal essential. Key has given himself the flexibility to do so as the term progresses.

The reshuffle thus promotes a number of more junior ministers as National’s “new wave” for the future.



The Press on tall poppies

October 6th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

One of New Zealand’s tall poppy tendencies is to grumble about the size of executive salaries whenever these are brought to our attention. The disparity between the highest-paid chief executive, on currently a touch over $4 million, and the minimum wage earner on less than $30,000 (excluding overtime or penal rates) is indeed vast. But that doesn’t mean it is unjustifiable.

According to a recent survey, the top five best paid CEOs in New Zealand are David Hisco of ANZ New Zealand ($4.1m), Theo Spierings of Fonterra ($3.5m), Mark Admanson of Fletcher Building ($3.3m), Peter Clare of Westpac New Zealand ($3.1m) and Nigel Morrison of Sky City (just under $3m).

While naysayers will often describe these amounts in a range of adjectives from excessive to extreme to obscene, the figures are not unduly high. They are below the amounts paid in years past, and compare unfavourably to the salaries being paid for top jobs across the Tasman and elsewhere.

Also, while people sometimes balk at the top salaries paid to business people, little noise is heard about the riches to be gained in other areas of endeavour – an All Black captain can earn $800,000 to $1m in a year, a teenage golfer $1.3m so far, and our most famous film-maker has accumulated wealth said to be in the region of $600m. Even the Prime Minister, whose parliamentary pay is a relatively paltry $428,000 a year, wins general approval as a self-made man with a fortune of around $50m, earned as an international currency trader.

The difference, perhaps, is that it is easy to visualise the commitment and drive and sheer guts that goes into becoming an international rugby star, a professional golfer, a film director or a top money-market player. It is less easy to imagine the working life of a chief executive, other than a daily round of suit-wearing, desk-jockeying and general hob-nobbing.

In fact, these people are being paid to take responsibility – often for multi-billion-dollar enterprises involving the investments and livelihoods of thousands – and to keep those businesses running successfully. They have reached their exalted positions often not through a life of privilege, but through hard work. Hisco, the bank boss, is said to have started his career with ANZ by sweeping the car park at a local branch in his hometown, Adelaide.


We should celebrate his success, not condemn it.

The truth is that to survive in and compete on global markets, New Zealand’s top enterprises must position themselves as international companies. To attract the talent required, that means paying the sort of money that might seem high here, but is nothing special in the wider world. As one of the most deregulated and open economies in the world, it is unreasonable to think that remuneration can be capped at some sort of imagined and arbitrary benchmark.


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ODT on Curran’s allegations of dirty politics in Dunedin Labour

October 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

In most cases, the revival of a Labour Party branch which says it has doubled its membership since August, and aims to have 100 members early next year, would be welcomed by the sitting MP.

But Dunedin South MP Clare Curran is anything but thrilled by the resurrection of the Andersons Bay-Peninsula branch in her electorate.

She says the branch was reconstituted without official approval, with the aim of undermining her bid to be re-elected.

”This is dirty tricks and dirty politics in Dunedin South,” she told the Otago Daily Times this week.

I await the Nicky Hager book on the Dunedin South Labour Party.

Mr Loo told the Otago Daily Times Ms Curran was used to having ”tight control” of the branch and did not like the fact the Andersons Bay-Peninsula branch was not in her inner circle.

The branch aimed to attract new members who were not university students but were in the trades, labourers or struggling to find full-time work – the traditional base of the Labour Party, he said.

Mr Loo remained a strong supporter of former Labour leader David Cunliffe, who wants the job back but is facing a challenge from Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson, formerly of Dunedin.

Ms Curran and Dunedin North MP David Clark both supported Mr Robertson previously and can be expected to provide similar support in the Labour leadership contest.

So is this branch warfare a proxy for the wider battle?

Pointedly, he mentioned all Labour MPs would face re-selection in 2016 and selection contests were good for the health of the party.

”No MP holds their seat by right. It’s not personal, but the way of developing talent is to give people a chance of participating,” he said.

I don’t think challenges are dirty politics. It is democracy.

Dunedin South was fourth, behind Manurewa, Manukau East and Mangere, in the amount of party vote received.

This is true in terms of votes, but that is partly because Dunedin South had a higher turnout. As a percentage of the vote, Dunedin South was 17th best for Labour.

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The new Executive

October 6th, 2014 at 11:08 am by David Farrar

The new ministerial list is here.

The change in rankings is shown below.


So Adams and Bridges are the big movers up. Bennett and Coleman also move to the front bench, meaning four new front benchers. This is great – National needs to rejuvenate to maintain support, and Key has shown significant caucus and cabinet rejuvenation, at a time where Labour has stagnated. Kaye, Woodhouse, McClay and Lotu-Iiga also move up the ranks, with the former two moving into Cabinet.

Maggie Barry is a brand new Cabinet Minister, and Louise Upston and Paul Goldsmith become Ministers outside Cabinet.

Craig Foss remains a Minister, but outside Cabinet. And Chester Borrows leave the ministry, but is likely to become Deputy Speaker.

Some of the significant portfolio changes:

  • PM becomes overall Minister for National Security and Intelligence but Chris Finlayson will be Minister responsible for the SIS and GCSB
  • Paula Bennett made Minister for Social Housing and gains Associate Finance plus State Services
  • Jonathan Coleman becomes Health Minister
  • Amy Adams is Justice Minister
  • Simon Bridges gets Transport and gives up Labour to Michael Woodhouse
  • Gerry Brownlee gets Defence
  • Anne Tolley is Welfare, or Social Development Minister
  • Nick Smith swaps Conservation for Environment, and Maggie Barry gets Conservation
  • Nikki Kaye picks up the ACC portfolio
  • Michael Woodhouse also picks up Police and Sam Lotu-Iiga gets Corrections
  • Louise Upston gets Land Information and is Minister for Women
  • Paul Goldsmith gets Commerce and Consumer Affairs

It is an elegant reshuffle with some ministers keeping their main portfolios, but a lot of change. Helen Clark in her third term left rejuvenation far too late. It is good to see the PM determined not to make the same mistake.

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Google suggests

October 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A bit bored so typed some MPs names into Google to see what it suggested as common search terms. They include:

  • john key net worth
  • john key hotdog
  • david cunliffe polls
  • david cunliffe cat
  • russel norman katya paquin
  • metiria turei castle
  • metiria turei jacket
  • peter dunne animal testing
  • peter dunne hair
  • grant robertson real estate
  • david shearer fish
  • jacinda ardern twitter
  • jacinda ardern dj
  • nikki kaye husband
  • simon bridges emotional claptrap
  • judith collins brad pitt
  • judith collins assistant
  • chris hipkins partner
  • bill english siblings
  • julie anne genter partner



Farewell Hone

October 6th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Harawira told his supporters, who had gathered at Parliament today, that he would continue to campaign for the poor.

“Mana’s dream is for a society where Maori can stand tall,” he said.

“Your love and support has sustained me through the darkest of days.”

Harawira said he was proud of his party’s achievements and commitments in Parliament.

“A commitment to ending poverty for all and particularly those most vulnerable in our society – our kids; a commitment to putting an end to the grinding homelessness affecting tens of thousands of New Zealand families; a commitment to putting the employment of people ahead of the sacrifice of jobs in the endless pursuit of wealth for the few; and a commitment to a future where the Treaty of Waitangi is honoured as the basis for justice and good governance in Aotearoa,” he said.

He did not mention the Internet Party in his speech. Instead, he said it was his principles that perhaps got the better of him.

“Mind you – being so highly principled brings with it enormous risk, not least the fact that kids can’t vote and poor people don’t, he said.

It wasn’t principles that got the better of Hone. It was selling them out to Dotcom. If he had not done that, he would still be an MP, and it is pretty likely he’d have a second Mana MP in Parliament also.

There is a part of me that regrets Harawira has gone, because I think Parliament is better when it is representative, and Hone did represent a significant proportion of Maori (and non Maori) opinion. His motives were generally good, even if his judgement was less so.

But the reality in politics is that decisions have consequences. He made an appallingly bad decision, and it had appallingly bad consequences for him. That is how society works – bad decisions often lead to bad outcomes. His defeat was self-inflicted.