Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

$260 million for Canterbury University

November 1st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The University of Canterbury has received the $260 million government cash injection it desperately needs to get back on its feet.

Prime Minister John Key, along with Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce and National Christchurch East candidate Matthew Doocey, made the announcement at the Christchurch campus this afternoon.

The Government’s contribution will fund a new science centre and expand and upgrade engineering facilities, Joyce said. 

“While generally the Government expects tertiary education institutions to fund their own capital investment from their balance sheets, Canterbury institutions are dealing with a unique set of challenges. The blunt reality is that Canterbury University would find it very difficult to recover without this support.”

The university has a redevelopment plan to modernise its campus and infrastructure. The total programme is valued at $1.1 billion over 10 years.

About 25 per cent will be insurer-funded, about half funded by the university and the rest from the government support announced today.

It will be interesting to see what the final bill for the earthquake comes to. Very pleased that the Government is managing to play its part in the rebuild, and remain on a course to surplus. I recall the Greens demanding an increase in tax rates to fund the rebuild.

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Cunliffe gets personal

November 1st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reported:

Despite criticism of the sales, Mr Cunliffe says Prime Minister John Key would sell his mother if he got the chance.

I don’t think the public will respond well to snide personal attacks. You can follow the link and see the video at one minute 30. I can’t imagine any swinging voter will respond well to the combination on display there.

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Labour wants to ignore DOC advice

November 1st, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Too risky is Labour’s view on a monorail proposed between Queenstown and Milford.

Officials have advised the $200 million project be given provisional approval but the Minister of Conservation is still to make a decision on the scheme.

Labour MP Ruth Dyson is against the project saying the monorail will cut a swathe through significant areas of pristine beech forest and has the potential to cost Fiordland its World Heritage status.

“Frankly I think the combination of those things, plus the fact that tourists come to New Zealand for other reasons – they want the pureness of our country.

“I think the stakes are too high, we have too much at risk, and it should be declined.”

It is disappointing that Labour is going against the advice of two separate independent reports from the Department of Conservation. Both the Hearing Commissioner and the DOC Officers have said the project should be provisionally approved. These are reports from public servants whose job is to consider if the impact on conservation land would be too detrimental. I’m disappointed that Labour is saying DOC has it wrong in this case.

There is no risk to World Heritage status with this proposal – you have to be insane to actually believe that UNESCO would remove world heritage status from Fiordland because of a monorail.  And as I have said before the vast vast bulk of the monorail does not go through the National Park.  It goes through the Snowdon Forest Stewardship Area.

As for tourism, I have no doubt this would lead to many more tourists visiting Fiordland. A journey by catamaran and monorail, over bus, will appeal to lots of people. Also they are proposing that the road used to construct the monorail be turned into a mountain bike route also – again lots of people will want to do that.

The man who will have the final say is Nick Smith.

Yesterday he released official advice from DOC about the project, which recommends he give the green light.

But the Conservation Minister says he still has a lot more research to do before he makes his decision.

“There’s a bit of a commercial question as to whether this thing commercially will fly.

“And the reason that is concerning for me is that if it does fail I don’t want the department and the taxpayer being left with sort of a half built white elephant.”

I’ve touched on this before and I agree that is a concern. There should be some provision that money be set aside for it to be removed, if it does fail.

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Labour seeking corporate sponsors for its conference

October 31st, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour is selling access to MPs at its party conference. Conference materials for mailing

They have asked corporates to buy a stand in their marketplace for $1,500 and in return they get:

An opportunity to meet 1:1 in a short meeting with your choice (subject to availability) of Members of Parliament and senior Party officials (further information regarding this will be sent to you on payment). 

All political parties do fundraising, but I think selling direct access to MPs at a party conference is new for New Zealand.

I like how you can specify which gaggle of MPs you want to meet with. Would be tempting to have some fun and pay $1,500 just so you can force a meeting with David Cunliffe, Clayton Cosgrove and Trevor Mallard :-)

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Labour/Green nationalisation policy may destroy 50% of Meridian’s value

October 31st, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Meridian Energy’s partial float on the New Zealand stock exchange was given an initial thumbs up by analysts but they warn the share price is likely to be volatile heading into next year’s general election.

One fund manager said the difference in share price between Labour and National could be as much as 90 cents.

The Government has sold 49 per cent of the country’s largest energy company for $1.50 a share. Investors paid an initial instalment of $1, with a further payment of 50 cents due in 18 months.

The first instalment price at the close of the NZX last evening saw the shares leap 8 per cent to $1.08 on turnover of just over $246 million.

Analysts agreed that day one of the float was successful and the closing share price was in line with expectations.

Devon Funds Management equity analyst Phillip Anderson said new investors would be pleased. “It’s enough for the new investors to be happy – they are feeling good about it – but not so much that it looks like the seller left a lot on the table.”

The general feeling among analysts was that institutions which had their share quotas scaled back had created strong demand for Meridian shares.

But the analysts warned that the general election could affect the share prices of both Meridian and Mighty River Power, which was partly privatised this year.

“My valuation for . . . [Meridian] as a whole is . . . around $1.10 if the Labour Party wins, but business as usual under National at around two bucks,” Anderson said.

That’s a huge amount of destruction of value if there is a change of Government. And consumesr won’t see any of it as Labour/Green changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme will see power prices increase.

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2014 election details

October 31st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Don’t expect an early election next year. Prime Minister John Key hinted yesterday that polling day would be before November but said “one or two” big events could affect the timing. He was coy about the details. He said he would reveal potential post-election coalition partners early in the new year, followed later by the election date. “Not six weeks before it but not necessarily 10 months or so before it.”

I like the way the PM announced the election date so early last time, rather than keep it as a state secret until the last minute in an attempt to gain tactical advantage.

I suspect more interest may be on what he says around potential coalition partners.

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Transmission Gully will actually start construction in 2014

October 31st, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

After 65 years or so, it will actually start construction next year. This is hugely important as that will make it very very hard for the Greens to get it scrapped if they are part of a Government after the next election.

The Herald reports:

Construction on the Transmission Gully alternative route to Wellington will begin in the second half of next year – just before the next general election – Prime Minister John Key announced today.

He expected the 27 km project to be ready for use by 2020. Transmission Gully forms part of the Wellington Northern Corridor which is estimated to cost $2.5 billion.

He said morning peak time traffic from Levin to Wellington is expected to improve by 40 minutes.

He also said the new corridor is projected to reduce the number of fatal and serious traffic crashes from 140 over five years after its completion to 100.

We should organise some parties for the day the construction starts!

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Conservation Department recommends approval of Fiordland Monorail

October 30th, 2013 at 4:01 pm by David Farrar

Nick Smith has announced:

Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith today inspected the site of the proposed Fiordland monorail, met with the applicants, and released official advice recommending he approve the project subject to extensive conditions.

“This ambitious $200 million project involves the building of the world’s longest monorail to enhance the experience of the hundreds of thousands of visitors travelling between Queenstown and Milford Sound,” Dr Smith says.

“I wanted to see for myself the areas affected by the construction of the two terminals and the 29.5-kilometre long, six-metre wide corridor that would be cleared to make way for the monorail through public conservation land. I also wanted to thoroughly scrutinise the impacts on the Snowdon Forest and its wildlife, as well as understanding the effects on the existing recreational users of the area.

“This monorail decision will be no easier than that of the Milford Tunnel. I am very protective of National Parks like Fiordland and this project has the advantage of being largely outside it. However, the monorail still requires clearance of a large area of forest on public conservation land.

This is a key point – that the monorail is almost entirely outside the Fiordland National Park itself.

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Bravo – Labour wants to scrap a quango

October 30th, 2013 at 2:28 pm by David Farrar

Jacinda Ardern has announced:

Labour will scrap the Families Commission to prioritise work on reducing child poverty, its Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

Bravo. I’m all for Labour finding quangos they want to scrap. May they locate many more of them.

Sadly this may be a one off. I think this is the first time in five years they have found a quango they want to scrap. But hey, a start is a start.

Labour of course set up the Families Commission in (I think) 2005 as part of a coalition deal with United Future.

Maybe the Ministry of Women’s Affairs could be next?

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$760,000 to study religion!

October 30th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A university professor who left the priesthood after a year has been awarded more than $760,000 of public money to study Kiwis’ spirituality and religious beliefs.

Joseph Bulbulia, of Victoria University, is one of 109 researchers who will receive a total of $59 million from the Marsden Fund over the next three years.

Professor Bulbulia said religion was “intensely important” to him, but “as for an afterlife, or God, I have no idea”.

I thought God and afterlife tended to be a fairly important part of religion!

Well except for Scientology, which is really a money making scam.

He migrated to Wellington from the United States in 2000, having left the priesthood earlier in his life and then had a daughter before he was married.

He hasn’t been to church for 20 years, other than to please his mother, but said research showed that some events, such as the Christchurch earthquakes, renewed people’s religious beliefs.

Do we need to spend $760,000 to research this?

The full list of Marsden Awards is here. The grant for a study of religious belief is one of the largest, which surprises me. Many of the other grants involve physical science which tends to be far more costly. Some of the more useful physical science ones include:

  • Does the southern edge of the Hikurangi Plateau control Otago tectonics?
  • Unraveling the magmatic processes responsible for phonolitic volcanism using the Mount Erebus lava lake and magmatic system
  • Reconstructing complex ground motion effects in Christchurch during the Canterbury earthquakes: what does this mean for future ground motion prediction?
  • Does investment into seed dispersal alter with plant height and island size?
  • UV-B radiation as a master regulator of photosynthetic performance and leaf organ development in sunlight
  • Improving radiotherapy outcomes: Chain release of drugs to kill refractory cancer cells and inhibit metastatic spread

All of the above awards (except the cancer one) are for less than the religion one. Other fairly dubious ones include:

  • The Crown: Perspectives on a Contested Symbol and its Constitutional Significance in New Zealand and the Commonwealth $604,000
  • Territorial Disputes and Civil Society in Northeast Asian Democracies

University staff can and do research in all sorts of varied areas, as is their right with academic freedom. But I would have thought with a relatively small pool of contestable grants for research beyond the normal, they would be prioritized towards things of more direct relevance for New Zealand.

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BNZ stuffs up

October 30th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

An Auckland man is furious his pre-approved home loan was withdrawn less than 24 hours after he called his bank and was assured the deal was sound.

The man and his partner had dropped leaflets across a West Auckland neighbourhood in search of a property and were about to put in an offer for a private sale.

The Bank of New Zealand pre-approved a loan for up to $800,000 with a $60,000 deposit on September 3, giving the couple three months before the pre-approval expired.

Last Thursday the man, who asked not to be named as he is still hoping to re-finance the purchase, called BNZ and was assured the pre-approval was still valid.

“We said, ‘Is everything all right?”‘ the man recalled.

“They said, ‘Yep, sweet, go for your life, you’re all right’.”

That same day he paid for a valuation report and was about to put in an offer.

But the next day and hours before the start of Labour Weekend he was called by BNZ and told it was withdrawing the pre-approval.

“I’m closing my bank account with them … I don’t want anything to do with them. I don’t do business like that,” the man said.

There’s really no excuse for that. It is not as if the LVR policy was not known well before September 3. The policy outline has been known for six months or longer.

Also the requirement for no more than 10% of their mortgages to be for mortgages with less than a 20% deposit is over a six month window. It is not a month by month requirement. It is over the period 1 October 2013 to 31 March 2014.

Basically the BNZ has stuffed up its projections.

BNZ director of retail Andy Symons said the bank sincerely regretted any inconvenience the withdrawal had caused the man and his partner.

“BNZ confirmed it has very limited capacity to go on meeting pre-approvals for home loans with a deposit less than 20 per cent and communicated this to all our bankers on Friday.

“This has been a rapidly evolving situation in which we have worked hard to balance customer demand with the realities of a stringent new regulatory regime.”

Mr Symons said he was keen to talk to the man about meeting the costs of the valuation, and understood his frustration, particularly after he had checked on Thursday to make sure the pre-approval was still in effect.

“Our bankers across the network were informed of the decision on Friday … he may well have been caught in the middle of that change.”

Mr Symons said that after moves by other banks to cancel pre-approvals, BNZ had had an increase in demand for loans.

Surely you honour your pre-approvals before you accept other loans?

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Asenati on Twitter

October 30th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

NZ First MP Asenati Lole-Taylor spent much of yesterday on Twitter attack, after taking offence at questions about her views on prostitution. She asked Twitter users if they were themselves prostitutes. She asked one whether it was their parents who gave them their lack of integrity, before eventually finding the block button.

You can see one of the exchanges here. Hilarious, albiet unintentionally.

 

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US NZ business as normal finally?

October 30th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In an amiable press conference at the Pentagon, the New Zealand Defence Minister, Jonathan Coleman, handed his American counterpart  an All Blacks jersey – and a three-decade military chill between the two nations appeared to be consigned to history.

US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel told reporters: “Today, I authorised a New Zealand navy ship to dock at Pearl Harbor… This will be the first time a New Zealand navy ship will have visited Pearl Harbor in more than 30 years.”

In fact it will be the first since the New Zealand government refused to allow a US destroyer to dock in its ports in 1984.

It’s taken a long time, but I’m glad we’re finally worked out a way to be good allies, despite a disagreement on NZ’s anti-nuclear policy.

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The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

October 30th, 2013 at 6:14 am by David Farrar

Today is the launch day for the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. The official release is:

 

A group of New Zealanders is establishing the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union to give Kiwi taxpayers a strong voice in the corridors of power.  The Taxpayers’ Union begins operations today.

The Taxpayers’ Union is a politically independent grassroots campaign to lower New Zealanders’ tax burden and reduce wasteful government spending.

Chairman John Bishop says, “we’ve come together to promote sensible fiscal management, to expose government waste and to promote policies to make public spending work better. Government, politicians and taxpayer funded groups are on notice that we are looking to expose waste or rorts.”

“We’re asking New Zealanders to join us and report government waste via a ‘tip line’ on our website.”

Executive Director Jordan Williams says “thousands of organisations and special interest groups lobby for more tax-and-spend.  The Taxpayers’ Union will ensure that at least one group is looking after hard working Kiwis whose taxes pay for politicians’ promises.”

David Farrar, a member of the Union Board says “the concern for our members is that vast amounts of public money is being spent by government on our behalf and we don’t get value for that money.  Our aims aren’t just to cut government spending, but to make public spending work better.”

Setting up a union for hardworking New Zealand taxpayers has been an aim of mine for over seven years. There are thousands of lobby groups out there who demand more spending by taxpayers on their pet causes, and there hasn’t been a voice dedicated to representing the interests of those who have to fund all the spending – taxpayers and ratepayers. It has been my belief that the political environment in New Zealand will be better by having a lobby group that can contribute to the debate on what should and should not be funded by taxpayers.

We are ambitious for the Taxpayers’ Union. Our aim is to become the largest union in New Zealand, achieving over 50,000 members and supporters. We can only achieve this with your help. Please go to our website, like our facebook page, follow us on Twitter. You can subscribe to our newsletter, join as a member and perhaps most importantly donate to us. We are reliant 100% on membership fees and donations from supporters. We do not get any Government funding, and never will.

Some of our initial projects will include:

  • Promote an ‘Armchair Auditors Act’, modelled on legislation enacted in some U.S. states, where all transactions over a de minimis amount are searchable on an online database;
  • Identify and expose the most flagrant examples of government waste;
  • A campaign  against taxpayer funded corporate and union welfare;
  • Expose and halt the significant public funding that lobby groups receive to campaign and lobby government for pet policy and law changes;
  • Promote legislation requiring local referenda for any increase in real per capita rates
  • Promote legislation strengthening the Official Information Act.

Over the break, is a brief history of how the Taxpayers’ Union was formed. This has been a huge labour of love for us. I’ve put in countless hours, and it’s great to have finally launched. We hope to make a real difference.

(more…)

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MOM vs SOE model

October 29th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stacey Kirk at Stuff reports:

If Solid Energy was partly privatised, it probably would not be in the mess it is in now, Prime Minister John Key says.

Continuing to defend the Government’s sell-down of state assets, Key said today a deal to bailout Solid Energy might not have been necessary had the company been partially floated.

“My own personal view is if we’d had the mixed ownership model applied to Solid Energy, it may well not have gotten itself in the mess it did,” he told Firstline.

“That’s because the external analysis would have rung a lot of bells and demanded a lot more accountability,” he said.

This is absolutely right.  Companies listed on the NZX have continuous disclosure obligations. They have a share price which indicates what the investment experts and shareholders think the company is worth. You get far far more accountability with an NZX listing than you do with an SOE.

He also said other state-owned assets such as TVNZ and NZ Post, had proven not to be good long-term investments to hold on to.

TVNZ and NZ Post will probably both be worth next to nothing in 10 years times. We should be selling them while we can get a cent for them.

“People look at it through rose-tinted glasses, but the reality is the SOE [State-Owned Enterprise] model is not actually a brilliant model,” he said.

“The mixed-ownership model is probably a better model,” he said.

I prefer a full private ownership model if the company is a commercial trading company, but MOM is certainly superior to SOE.

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New poll average

October 29th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

curiappa

 

This is updated to take account of the Roy Morgan polls, One News Colmar Brunton poll and Fairfax Ipsos poll. So basically 61 seats for the centre-right, 60 seats for centre-left and Maori Party would hold balance of power.

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Auckland University funding NZUSA

October 29th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

There is a very interesting Employment Relations Authority determination just published between AUSA and its former general manager.

The determination itself is basically about how AUSA almost went bankrupt, and the General Manager didn’t keep the Executive well enough informed. They were deemed justified in sacking him for this. They will be pleased their actions were justified by the ruling. In fact they seem to have followed better process than many other employers.

But what really struck me from the determination was this extract:

The Office of the Vice Chancellor (OVC) informed that in order to assist AUSA to be “a progressive and sustainable student organisation that delivers high quality services to students”, it was prepared to amend the 2012 Services Agreement to include funding of the NZUSA and SJS levies.

That is beyond outrageous. NZUSA is a political lobby group that gets involves with highly contentious non-core student issues such as asset sales. To have Auckland University agree to fund NZUSA is nuts. I can only presume that Auckland University has so much money it can spend some on funding lobby groups. well the Government should remember that the next time the university claims it needs more taxpayer funding.

Even worse, the Parliament of New Zealand passed a law mandating that membership of student associations must be voluntary. Having the university fund AUSA for its membership of NZUSA is a clear subversion of the law.

As I said, the easy thing for the Government to do is use this as an example every time the tertiary sector claims it has not enough money. What next – will Auckland University also start funding Greypower on behalf of its mature students?

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Doesn’t sound very evil to me?

October 29th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The left oppose the ideas of PPPs, and specifically a PPP model for prisons. They would have you think that private prisons will be profit motivated penal institutions that don’t invest in rehabilitation etc.

The reality is that the last private prison we had (Labour tore up the contract) did much better than the state prisons, and the Herald looks at the new Wiri prison:

Inmates moving through the country’s new $300 million prison will be able to track their path to freedom.

As they get closer to the main gatehouse, they are nearing their release date.

The jail, which covers 17ha at Wiri in the southwest of Auckland, is laid out according to the prisoner’s journey.

Factors deciding where they are on the site include the seriousness of offending, length of sentence, level of risk and behaviour within the walls.

“The design mirrors your own personal journey,” says John Holyoake, transition director from private British-owned corrections operator Serco New Zealand.

“So the highest level of security is farthermost from the exit. The concept of punishment has been removed. Instead, this is about rehabilitation and reintegration.”

Isn’t this what the left should be supporting?

Inmates will have computers in their cells, with streams of viewing available: free-to-air television channels and educational information, designed to enhance their vocations or careers once they are out, Holyoake says.

Not exactly hard labour or D block is it.

Those involved in Wiri says it breaks the mould in terms of new prisons because it is a public-private partnership (PPP) between the Department of Corrections and SecureFuture comprising builder Fletcher Construction, maintenance specialist Spotless and operator Serco New Zealand with a 25-year contract. Buildings are designed by architects Mode Design of Australia and Peddle Thorp, working with Beca and SKM.

Excellent.

Double-bunk and single-bunk rooms in the three more secure house blocks at the men’s prison are 8.6sq m in size.

“This will be the world’s best new prison,” says Holyoake.

Near the gatehouse, things are quite different at the cluster of low-security residences.

“Up to 24 prisoners will live in each of the residences, two levels high, almost like a motel unit. They will have their own bedrooms and a budget to buy their food and some people will be learning social skills they never had. Some of the people in here will be working on the outside too,” Holyoake said.

I’m all for rehabilitation, when it works. Some prisoners can not be rehabilitated, but those who can be are worth investing in.

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Labour looking at quotas for everything!

October 29th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

The Labour Party conference in Christchurch this weekend looks set to approve a remit that will require its list to “fairly represent” gays and lesbians among candidates.

Does Labour think gays and lesbians are under-represented in its caucus?

Four out of 34 Labour MPs are gay or lesbian, which is around 12%. An exact population prevalence is unknown but most studies seems to conclude around 3% to 5% of the population are gay or lesbian. Hence there is no way you can conclude that Labour is under-represented or that gays or lesbians are not fairly represented at present.

At present, the constitution says there shall be no barriers to nominees on the grounds of sexual orientation or marital status. But a remit proposed by the party’s ruling New Zealand Council would require the list-ranking committee to pro-actively ensure that its list fairly represents “sexual orientations”, as well as tangata whenua, gender, ethnic groups, people with disabilities, age and youth.

A general obligation for list ranking to try and ensure a caucus has diversity is a good thing, but when you start listing out every possible demographic it can start to get ridiculous. Why no mention of gingas – the most discriminated minority in New Zealand?

The New Zealand Council is also proposing a Maori-only list ranking committee to rank its Maori candidates for the next election.

Of course. And will the non-Maori candidates be ranked by a non-Maori only list ranking committee?

I would again point out that Labour has seven Maori MPs (well after the by-election they will) out of a caucus of 34. That means over 20% of their caucus are Maori – which is significantly higher than the proportion of Maori in the adult population.

This is not a bad thing – far from it. But it does mean that arguing you need measures to have more Maori candidates ranked highly is misplaced.

Under another remit, Labour’s list-ranking committee decisions will also have to aim for a caucus of at least 45 per cent of women next year and at least 50 per cent in 2017. 

I’ve blogged here how this policy would have in the past seen Labour rank Michael Cullen, Jonathan Hunt, David Parker, Shane Jones and Andrew Little in unwinnable slots.

Quotas are very inflexible. This policy, if adopted, means that new candidates who are male will basically have no chance of getting a winnable list spot.

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The Press on Cunliffe

October 29th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

But the poll has brought home the harsh reality that it was always going to take more than just the replacement of the maladroit, tongue-tied Shearer with the clever, experienced, articulate Cunliffe to improve Labour’s fortunes. And for all his touted virtues and supposed preparedness for the role, Cunliffe, in his first few weeks in the leadership, has been less than assured.

He has not got the better of Key in the House. A publicity stunt designed to highlight difficulties young people have buying an affordable house in Auckland backfired when the chosen example was a 23-year-old complaining about not being able to afford a pricey house in one of the more salubrious suburbs that he was not sure he was going to live in anyway.

Yeah I loved how Labour campaigned for the right of 23 year old property investors to buy a half million dollar home with a less than 10% deposit.

In a speech to trade unionists, Cunliffe was heard breathing fire as he told them what they wanted to hear on industrial policy, which he shortly afterwards cooled down considerably for more general consumption. Skirmishing with the Government over the SkyCity convention centre deal, he has been studiously evasive over what Labour would do.

Say one thing to one audience, and another elsewhere and hope no one notices.

None of this may be particularly significant but it points up a shallow opportunism and an unsettling lack of substance in what Cunliffe has so far offered.

National’s continuing high ratings in the opinion polls are almost certainly attributable to satisfaction with the Government’s handling of the economy, the core issue in any general election. On that score, the Government has done well, with growth, inflation, unemployment and the country’s finances looking good, certainly by international standards, and likely to remain so. Cunliffe has not yet presented any reason for voters to believe a Labour-led government would do any better.

As far as I can tell Labour’s economic policies are for more tax, more spending, more debt and more inflation.

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Latest poll

October 28th, 2013 at 7:46 am by David Farrar

I’ve blogged the latest Fairfax/Ipsos poll at Curiablog.

National are up 1.9% to 50.2% and could govern alone on that poll. Not a bad Labour Day present for the country.

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Len and Luigi

October 27th, 2013 at 6:43 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday has an exclusive interview with Luigi Wewege, prior to his departure from New Zealand. Extracts:

Wewege says he had no idea of the intimate sexual detail Bevan Chuang supplied in an affidavit released last week. Wewege will criticise his friend and former boss John Palino but the line of answers he supplies stay mostly as straight as the crease on his trousers.

“All I ever knew was that the mayor made propositions towards her. I never knew the extent. I never knew there were any sexual relations between the two of them.”

Wewege says he ran into Chuang at a mayoral interview for John Palino at a TV station a few months ago. He hadn’t seen Chuang for a while, he says, and she told him she had been propositioned by Len Brown. He says these claims – that Brown hit on Chuang in the Ngati Whatua room and had been exchanging texts with her – were enough to spark his concerns.

And:

What I will categorically say is that John Palino simply did not know the revelations of what was in the affidavit. I certainly don’t think he knew that there was any form of sexual relations between Bevan and [Len].”

The overall interview isn’t too bad for Wewege, but other stories are not so good.

Kathryn Powley writes in the HoS:

Bevan Chuang claims Luigi Wewege knew of the relationship between her and Len Brown in July, three months before the election.

Text messaging between Chuang and Wewege in July and August refer to the relationship. Texting on July 31, in which Chuang discusses why she does not want to be involved in a plan to reveal her relationship with Brown, concludes, “and it won’t help my future by saying I’m involved in an extra-marital relationship?”

Which is in contrast to his statements.

The HoS editorial:

With any luck, New Zealand has seen the last of Luigi Wewege and his style of politics. He told the Herald on Sunday in an interview when we tracked him down this week, that he is leaving the country and has friends in Washington DC who are “appalled” that he is suffering opprobrium for dishing dirt on Auckland Mayor Len Brown.

And the Sunday Star-Times reports:

Naked photos of the woman who had a two-year affair with Auckland Mayor Len Brown were used to force her to go public with her story.

The pictures were sent by a member of rival John Palino’s campaign team in the run-up to the grubbiest local body elections in living memory.

Bevan Chuang alleges nude photos of her were released by Luigi Wewege, who was part of the team campaigning for John Palino to become mayor of Auckland.

The journalist who broke the story of the affair, Stephen Cook, said an email arrived from Wewege, Chuang’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, a week before the story ran.

It contained three naked images of Chuang, with messages such as “love you” and “miss you” scrawled on her body in lipstick. Chuang had taken photos of herself on her phone and sent them to Wewege.

The images arrived at a point when Chuang and Wewege had fallen out because she was resisting his pleas to go public with the story.

The email did not contain a message, but Cook said Wewege was aware of his plans to set up an X-rated website.

“He’s the ultimate love rat, you’d have to say. He’s trying to humiliate her,” Cook said, adding he had no plans to use the images and considered them a gross breach of Chuang’s privacy.

His actions speak volumes. May future women be fore-warned.

This is the story that just keeps developing. While the current focus is on Wewege, Team Brown won’t want the story to remain on the front pages. He’s still cancelling functions, his office is in turmoil, and the inquiry from the CEO has yet to get underway, let alone report.

Andrea Vance wrote in 2012:

Alastair Campbell, Britain’s ruthless bad-boy of spin-doctoring, has a set formula for surviving a political scandal.

If your minister’s woes make the papers for 11 days straight they have to go.

John Banks rode it out. Shane Jones made a half-hearted effort, but lasted barely a week.

Has been around two weeks now, and still some way to go I say. The challenges for Len Brown are:

  • What will the inquiry reveal and conclude?
  • Has he said anything during this scandal that is false, that will be contradicted at a later stage?
  • How to get back to being the Mayor, able to turn up to public functions without risking members of the public yelling abuse
  • Sorting out his office
  • Hoping that the identity of the mystery texter is not revealed to be someone close to him or his office
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Webster apologises to Mitchell

October 26th, 2013 at 1:57 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Auckland City Councillor Penny Webster has issued a public apology to National MP Mark Mitchell for embroiling him in the Len Brown scandal.

In a statement, Webster said she regretted comments by Mitchell about “skeletons” in Mayor Len Brown’s closet had been used “for political cheap shots” and character assassination.

It was revealed last week Brown’s camp were alerted to a sex scandal by comments made by Mitchell to Webster.

“I have decided to make a public statement to set the record straight when I saw him having to defend attacks on his integrity and character by Labour MPs in the Parliamentary debating chamber last night,” Webster said.

“The comment Mark made to me should never have been used for political cheap shots or a character assassination.

”It was not made at a cocktail party or as part of idle gossip. I was in a business meeting with Mark over electoral and council matters when our conversation turned to local government elections and the mayoral campaign. Mark made a passing comment, something like ‘scuttlebutt floating around for a while about the mayor having a skeleton in his closet. If there is a skeleton I hope that his wife and children know because families are always the victims in these sort of things’.”

Webster said she laughed, and said she was sure it wasn’t correct and Mitchell agreed with her.

“It was a generic conversation between him and I, and I deeply regret using his name in a later conversation with the mayor’s chief of staff.”

And Len Brown’s ratepayer funded spin doctors have been using it to try and divert media attention from the Mayor’s actions.

The Mayor still seems to think there is nothing wrong with providing a reference to a woman you are trying to bed, to help her get a job with a Council Controlled Organisation.

Talking of Len’s ratepayer funded spin doctors, Michelle Hewitson interviews David Lewis:

You did have to ask if there were going to be any further, um, troubles. So, are there any more girls? “No. Not that I’m aware of.” Has he asked? “Yes, I have.” And he said no? “Yes.” And he believes him? “Yes.” Well, he has to, doesn’t he? “Yeah.”

So that is an on the record denial via Lewis.

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The value of work

October 26th, 2013 at 1:44 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A 9-year-old’s comment about how “cool” it was to be on a benefit has changed a Huntly woman’s life.

Until six months ago, Judy Wilson was one of about 80,000 sole parents in New Zealand receiving a benefit.

She was devoted to raising her six children but, in her own words, she was also drinking, smoking, and not doing “anything”.

And she had been for close to 20 years.

“It was my nine-year-old that said, ‘It’s cool being on the benefit because you’ve been on it for so long, eh, mum. I’m going to go on the benefit too’.”

Wilson, 43, said she was “shocked” to think her circumstances would have such influence on her daughter, and the comments jolted her into action.

She started a six-week course at WINZ in order to pick up new skills and followed it up with another, more specific course, in caregiver training for about eight weeks.

Since July, she’s been working at Kimihia Home and Hospital in Huntly.

That’s a good outcome. I think we can not under-estimate the impact family has on a child’s expectations. If a child grows up in a household where no adult has ever worked, then they could well decide that work is an option, not a necessity.

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Good to see Crown Law Independence

October 26th, 2013 at 8:45 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Crown Law will take over the prosecution of John Banks on a charge of knowingly filing a false election return.

Private prosecutor Graham McCready received a letter today from Solicitor General Michael Heron confirming he would intervene in the case.

This is bad news for John Banks, but good for an independent judicial system. The prosecution of a (former) Government Minister is obviously not something overly helpful to the Government, and it would have been easy for Solictor General to leave it as a private prosecution. But good to see that they will act independently when they think it is the right thing to do.

Banks has a judicial review of the District Court decision to send it to trial, so that has to be dealt with first.

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