Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

How the Labour leadership vote will work

August 26th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Labour electoral college for the leadership has three components to it. Two of them are simple and one is complex. Also a complicating factor is that with three candidates, it is a preferential ballot.

Let’s take the three sections one by one.

Caucus Vote

The caucus gets 40% of the vote. They used to get 100%. They are the ones who actually get led by the Leader, and have to work with the leader on a day by day basis.

There are 34 MPs, so effectively each MPs vote is worth 1.18% of the total vote. If the vote is after Lianne Dalziel resigns then there are 33 votes worth 1.21% each.

Members Vote

They get 40% of the vote. Labour have not revealed how many members they have, but let’s say it is 10,000. If they all vote they get 0.004% each. So an individual vote counts for little, but the overall vote of the members does count for the same as the caucus.

Union vote

The affiliated unions gets 20% of the vote. This is proportional to the number of affiliated members each union has. Again this is not publicly known but we can estimate it. Basically the number of affiliated members is their total number of members multiplied by what percentage voted to affiliate with Labour when they voted to do so. This by definition is a proportion between 50% and 100%.

If we assume all the unions had a similar proportion in favour, then we can estimate their relative voting strength based on their latest returns of members to the Registrar of Unions. The six unions in order of size are:

  1. EPMU (Engineering etc) 36,987 members, 41.5% of union vote, 8.3% of total vote
  2. SWFU (Service Food etc) 22,351 members, 25.1% of union vote, 5.0% of total vote
  3. MWU (Meat) 15,313 members, 17.2% of union vote, 3.4% of total vote
  4. DWU (Dairy) 7,000 members, 7.9% of union vote, 1.6% of total vote
  5. RMTU (Rail) 4,747 members 5.3% of union vote, 1.1% of total vote
  6. MUNZ (Maritime) 2,635 members, 3.0% of union vote, 0.6% of total vote

As one can see the power of unions such as the EPMU and SWFU is considerable and they could well decide who the winner is. This is what happened in the UK Labour Party 2010 election. Ed Miliband won only 46% of the members vote and 47% of the caucus vote but got 60% of the union vote and beat his brother David Miliband. So the elected leader had minority support from both members and caucus, but got there thanks to the unions. The unions actually broke Labour’s rules by including promotion material for their preferred candidate in the same envelope as the voting paper!

But the situation is even worse in NZ Labour, than UK Labour. In UK Labour the unions allow all their members to have a vote. Ballot papers went out to around 2.7 million union members. This diluted the power of the union hierarchy to affect the ballot. They certainly endorsed candidates, and their endorsement won the day for Ed Miliband, but it was still a 60:40 split.

NZ Labour has decided that it is up to each union as to whether all their members will vote, or just their national conference delegates. Only one union, the SWFU, is allowing all members to vote. Good on them for doing so.

The other five unions are having their conference delegates vote only. So how many people is this? Well I’ve gone through the rules for each union to try and estimate this.

  1. EPMU – 1 delegate per 1000 members, 45 delegates
  2. SWFU – full membership vote
  3. MWU  - 1 delegate per 350 members, 54 delegates
  4. DWU - 1 delegate per site with more than 30 members, estimate 70 delegates
  5. RMTU - determined by previous conference so unknown
  6. MUNZ - 1 – 4 delegate per branch (13 branches), estimate 30 delegates

The power of those 45 EMPU delegates is considerable. That is a small enough number for them to meet collectively and decide who to support. Of course it is a secret ballot and they can vote however they like, but as loyal delegates they will vote for what is best for the EPMU. Those 45 EPMU delegates will be worth 8.3% of the total vote. I doubt they will be splitting 50/50 or even 60/40. I predict 80/20 or 90/10 or more.

Each EMPU delegate will get approximately 46 times as much of a say as a normal Labour Party member (if they are a member, they get an additional vote in that section also). A MWU delegate will get 16 times the say of a normal Labour Party member.

The 170 or so delegates from the EPMU, MWU and DWU are worth 13.3% of the total vote.  It is hard to see any leadership candidate winning without them. Those lucky 170 delegates will be getting lots of phone calls as they play a major part in picking the person who could be the next Prime Minister.

UPDATE: Very happy for any union to provide the exact number of voting delegates they have, so I can update the post.

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David Shearer’s Resignation – The Opera

August 26th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

David Shearer’s resignation speech sung as an opera. Very well done.


Greens’ Lobbying Bill killed off

August 26th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Government Administration Committee has reported back the Lobbying Disclosure Bill written by former Green MP Sue Kedgley and introduced by Holly Walker.

It is no surprise that the Committee unanimously recommended the Bill not proceed. The bill was well-intentioned but to be blunt it was drafted so atrociously that it was beyond unworkable. A more sensible bill would have had a reasonable chance of progressing.

I previously covered the intense criticism of the bill by submitters and the Attorney-General said it was inconsistent with the Bill fo Rights:

This Bill significantly limits core democratic expression. In going well beyond what would be required to regulate the activities of lobbyists, it risks creating a chilling effect for average New Zealanders who may fear criminal sanctions for merely communicating with a Member of Parliament on behalf of their business in relation to government policy.  This would be an unacceptable limit on a core element of freedom of expression.

It’s a good lesson that you can harm your own cause by putting up such a badly drafted bill. It’s effectively killed off any possibility of there being any legislative reform around lobbying (not that I was convinced one needed legislation).

The Government Administration Committee has made three non-legislative recommendations which seem worthwhile:

  1. That the House develop guidelines for members of Parliament about handling communications relating to
    parliamentary business, and review the relevant Standing Orders to ensure consistency
  2. That the Government require the regulatory impact statements and explanatory notes of parliamentary bills to include details of the non-departmental organisations consulted during the development of related policy and legislation
  3. That the Government encourage the proactive release of policy papers to make the policy-making process more transparent

At least I won’t now have to worry about ending up in court because I engaged with an MP on Twitter and forgot to tell the Auditor-General about it!


Christchurch East

August 26th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:


National Party nominations for the Christchurch East by-election open today.


The party’s Canterbury Westland regional chairman, Roger Bridge, said the seat, to be vacated by mayoral hopeful Lianne Dalziel, had been held by Labour since 1922.


A sitting government had never won a by-election in a seat it did not hold, but National had a good story to tell about the rebuild, a strong economy and improving public services, he said.

I’ve been amused by how Labour and some in the media have been talking up National’s chances in Christchurch East, suggesting the seat is marginal. Here’s three facts:

  • No Government has won a seat off an Opposition in a by-election since the advent of political parties
  • National has never ever held the seat.
  • Lianne Dalziel won the seat in 2011 with a 19% margin over Aaron Gilmore

Yes National got 46% of the party vote, but that doesn’t change the political reality that no Government has ever won a seat off an opposition in a by-election. There is no real incentive for voters to do so.

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Cunliffe v Robertson

August 26th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Grant Robertson has confirmed he is standing for the leadership, and made a very strong case on TV last night about being part of the future, not the past, and able to unify Labour.

Shane Jones has said he is standing and it is almost unthinkable David Cunliffe won’t stand. At this stage I am comparing just Cunliffe and Robertson as they are by far the most likely to win. Hard to see how Jones can win a majority of caucus, members or unions – however he could pick up enough support to stop the others getting 50% – meaning second preferences will be crucial.

I’ve done a quick comparison of the relative strengths of the two main candidates, in the table below. And then I give my pick as to who would give Labour the best chance of winning in 2014.

Cunliffe Robertson
Speaking Ability Can be a charismatic speaker, but has to be careful not to overdo the hyperbole Not traditionally charismatic, but can do a powerful speech
Likeability The dislike of Cunliffe is intense but not as widely shared as some portray. Most people who know Cunliffe like him Generally acknowledged as likeable and affable, even by opponents
Political Management Cunliffe has very good political strategy and tactical skills. He would not allow Labour to operate in an un-cordinated fashion Robertson is a good political operator tactically, but some questions over his strategic judgement. Had a leading role in the unsucessful 2011 campaign
Issue Management Cunliffe has shown an excellent ability to drive an issue both inside and outside Parliament as we saw with carpark tax and snapper limits Robertson has been at various time health, tertiary education and employment spokesperson and never really bruised any of the respective Ministers
Question Time Cunliffe is a more than competent questioner, and can think on his feet, but not landed any killer blows Robertson is probably the most effective Labour MP at taking on the PM – no mean feat
Unity The big risk. If Cunliffe wins the leadership, the caucus could remain divided and undermining the leader Robertson, if he beats Cunliffe, would have a very strong mandate and the party would unite behind him
Party Hierarchy Most of the NZ Council back Robertson, but Cunliffe would be supported if he wins Robertson is very close to most of the NZ Council, and would have strong backing from them
Party Members Cunliffe has strong support in Auckland, and Labour has few members left in provincial cities. He also has the backing of many activists on social media. What will be crucial is how strongly Cunliffe wins Auckland Robertson has stronger support than many realise. He has the Lower North Island locked up, reasonable South Island support and Young Labour are (mainly) his personal fiefdom
Policy Cunliffe has been pushing a very left line, but that has been rather tactical to position himself vs Shearer. Unknown what his true policy prescription would be. Robertson is probably more left in his beliefs than Cunliffe, but is in the Helen Clark school of gradual sustainable change.
Economic Credentials Cunliffe is a former finance spokesperson, had a very good private sector career including Boston Consulting Group and strong economic credentials Robertson has never worked in the private sector (as in a post uni significant job)
Media relations Cunliffe has a reasonably good relationship with media, but not especially strong. No reporters he is particularly close to. Robertson is assiduous at courting the press gallery, is very close to several journalists, and popular with most of them
Media interviews Cunliffe is very good generally in interviews, but can come off a bit “smarmy’ Robertson also generally very good, and has the ability to sound very reasonable

So both candidates are well qualified, and will (at least initially) give Labour a boost in the polls. But which one should Labour choose?

Well if I was a Labour member, I’d vote for David Cunliffe. He is a bigger risk for Labour, but he also has the bigger potential to gain votes.

The risk with Cunliffe is Labour will remain divided, and that New Zealand won’t warm to him – on the basis his own colleagues haven’t.

But the reason I think he is worth the risk is his economic credentials. The major issue for the last election and the next one will be economic management.  One of the reasons National has done so well is John Key resonates economic credibility with his strong business background.

Labour needs a leader that can be equally credible, or at least reasonably credible. While Grant is a skilled politician, his background is basically entirely within Government. He was a student politician, then a parliamentary staffer and then an MP, with a couple of brief spells with MFAT and Otago University.  That makes it hard for him to convince New Zealanders that he can run the economy better than John Key and Bill English.

Cunliffe has studied at Harvard Business School, and worked at Boston Consulting Group. He was also a very competent Communications and ICT Minister. That gives him a greater opportunity (but not a guarantee) to convince New Zealanders that Labour can manage the economy. They don’t need to convince people that they will spend more on welfare and families and the like. They need to convince on economic management.

So as I said David Cunliffe is a bigger risk for Labour. Grant Robertson is a very solid performer and is certainly a more than safe option. If their ambition is to just gain 4% and govern with the support of the Greens, Winston and Hone, then Grant could well achieve that. But if they want to get a result in the high 30s or even higher, they need to take a risk on David Cunliffe.

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Wired Wellington

August 26th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Strathmore Park blogs:

Nicola Young yesterday hosted what is, as far as I know, the first face to face between Wellington’s homegrown ICT companies and … the Prime Minister. In what has to be the coup of the local body elections to date, Nicola Young managed to get John Key to come and spend some face time with over forty of Wellington’s local geek powerhouses at Prefab in Jessie Street.

The messages were clear. Nicola Young understands the value of the ICT community in Wellington, and given she is also running for the Lambton Ward as well as mayor, that’s important for that community as they live, breathe, work, and do business in that ward. We know that she has an inner geek, she’s admitted that she codes her own website manually.

I went along to the meeting and it was excellent. The range of people there ranged from some of the more well known ones locally such as Catalyst and Powershop to ones which are doing great stuff globally such as the firm which has sold more than 3 million educational devices globally.

Let’s look at some of the messages out of this event.

Firstly, Nicola is serious. To organise an event like this takes a lot of effort and long days. 

Secondly, Nicola is serious about ICT as an industry in Wellington. She could have organised any number of industry groups, but she singled out ICT as a sector and did something for them. It shows a passion for the industry (you can’t hide that inner geek).

Third, John Key turned up and spent a good deal of time talking with the various geeks face to face about what they were doing, challenges, and so on. I want to stress something else here. This was an event with no mainstream media, I suspect that David Farrar and I will be the only ones to write about it. It wasn’t a PR stunt on John Key’s part, and that’s interesting, because that means that Nicola Young has the ear of central government all the way up to the Prime Minister.

In other words, the Prime Minister didn’t turn up because he was going to score media points, he turned up because Nicola asked him to come.

This definitely wasn’t a media opportunity. In fact Nicola and the PM spoke for less than five minutes. After that the PM talked one on with one with each person there over the next hour and a half or so. So it was a great opportunity for each local firm to let the PM know about what they were doing.

I was also very heartened that when the PM did speak, he talked about how the Government is very focused on not having big projects such as the new IRD computer system become something that only global multi-nationals can realistically tender for and that the path they are heading down is to do it in a series of smaller developments rather than one big project. This is exactly what people like Rod Drury had been advocating.

Also was interested to talk to Ari from Powershop and find that they now have around 19% of residential customers. That’s a great success story for a company just a few years old that operates almost entirely over the Internet. It also shows how competitive the retail electricity market is if they can go from 0% to 19% in five years.

Well done to Nicola for organising the event. I think it would be a great template for other centres to use also – instead of masses of speeches, or a cocktail function, you actually give 20 to 30 entrepreneurs face time with the PM.

WCC Watch covers this also.

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Jones standing also

August 25th, 2013 at 7:28 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner has tweeted that Shane Jones will also stand for the Labour Party leadership. Robertson declared today and inevitable Cunliffe will declare, so it looks to be a three horse race.

I suspect Jones is not in it to win, but to gain enough support that the other candidates need his support to win, and to give him maybe Deputy or Finance.

Certainly livens the race up, and will be good to have a more economically moderate candidate in the mix.

Sonny Tau has put out a personal statement in support of Shane Jones:

With the Labour leadership contest now underway, many Māori have thrown their support behind Shane Jones, proud son of Ngāpuhi, who has what it takes to lead Labour, and is the sharpest knife in party’s drawer.

Shane has a formidable intellect, great political instincts and is a brilliant orator in both Te Reo Māori and English. No one can touch Shane – not even John Key or any other politician – when he is in full-flight addressing Parliament.

Shane brings critical constituencies that Labour needs if it is to be in a position to form a Government.

He brings the Māori vote, which Labour knows it can no longer take for granted. Listening to Māori political pundits over the past few days, all have said it is imperative for Māoridom that Shane either leads Labour or is appointed deputy.

No other Labour MP has the understanding, authority or mana to drive through the Māori agenda as Shane can.

Another important constituency he brings is the business world. Shane has chaired a major fishing company and has acquired business acumen within the corporate world. There are precious few within Labour ranks who have this string to their bow. …

I urge Māori to be in touch with their Labour associates over the following days, to express their support for Shane Jones. I will be doing this myself.

That reinforces my belief that Shane is really standing for Deputy.

If Cunliffe beats Robertson, he could well make Jones Deputy. Where does that leave Grant? He can’t be Finance Spokesperson.

If Grant wins, he needs someone from Auckland as his Deputy. Either Cunliffe or possibly Jacinda. Does Jones get Finance?

The loser in all this may be David Parker. Hard to see him holding Finance regardless of who wins.


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Nash blames caucus and Mold for Shearer’s downfall

August 25th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

From The Nation today:

Rachel           Alright Mike we’ll come back to you a little later in the programme.  We’re going to go back now to Hastings where I think we have Stuart Nash, and I think he can hear us now?  You can I think.  Excellent.  Thank you for joining us there.  Can I put that to you actually as David Shearer’s former Chief of Staff.  Was it David Shearer who failed or did the team around him, the immediate team around him?  Did that team fail him?

 Stuart Nash – Former Labour MP

 Well I would say two things Rachel.  There were two things that went wrong.  First of all, you know your political history as well as I do, I cannot think of a party that won an election either in government or in opposition that had an openly dysunified caucus, and the second thing I think went wrong is the strategy was wrong in the Leader’s office.

Rachel           Okay so let’s start with the caucus.  What did the Labour caucus think of Shearer?

Stuart             Well they elected him.  When you elect a leader you stand behind that leader, you work very hard for that leader, and you make sure you give that leader the best possible opportunity to win an election.  Politics is about winning elections.  I personally think David would have been a very good Prime Minister, he’s a smart guy.  Look I don’t buy into the argument that he was too nice.  This was a bloke who lived in Mogadishu.  This was a bloke that led the UN in Iraq.  Mr Nice does not do those sorts of jobs.  This was a hard man.  He was a very good bloke, and like I said I think he would have been a very good Prime Minister given the opportunity.

Rachel           What was going on in the Leader’s office then?

Stuart             Well I firmly believe that if you want to be Prime Minister  you’ve gotta give every New Zealander the opportunity to have met you.  Now if you think about if you want to be President of the United States that person has to travel up and down the country and speak in nearly every little hamlet, town, city, right across America.  And it’s the same in New Zealand.  Helen Clark between 1996 and 1999 spent all her time just travelling up and down and right across New Zealand, speaking to every little Rotary Club, Lions Club, Workingmen’s Club, you know you name it Helen talked to it.  You’ve gotta have meetings with town halls that contain 10 people and contain a 100 people.  You’ve gotta give 10 speeches a week, and then you’ve gotta get up and you’ve gotta give another 10 the next week.  Every single year when you are in Opposition is election year.  There is now sort of hiatus, there’s no holiday, you’ve gotta start campaigning the day after the election.

Rachel           So they had the wrong strategy for him then do you think?

Stuart             They did.  I firmly believe that what David needed to do was – well do what Helen did.  Tuesday and Wednesday in parliament, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, up and down the country speaking to New Zealanders.  Like I said if New Zealanders feel they’ve had the opportunity to meet you it doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily taken up that opportunity, but if they feel as if they have had that opportunity then they’re much more likely to vote for you.  And keep in mind if you come to a place like Hastings, or like Napier, the Leader of the Opposition turning up is still big news, you’re still gonna get your photo in the community daily, or the community weekly.

Rachel           So who do you blame for this failure?  Who do you blame for this failure in strategy?

Stuart             Well David had some staff around him that he listened to, that he took advice from.  The bottom line is, David has resigned as Leader of the Opposition because he felt as if he didn’t have the confidence of his caucus colleagues, and that basically is because the polls weren’t rising in a way that the caucus felt he should have.  So you know I think his chief strategists have actually got to put up their hand and say hey we got it wrong.

Rachel           Who?  Exactly who?

Stuart             Well I actually think Fran Mold needs to put up here hand and say look, maybe I didn’t do things as well as I could have in terms of media relations.  Alistair Cameron perhaps has to as Chief of Staff.  But Alistair’s a very good man and I’ve had a couple of conversations with Alistair, but you know the bottom line is David is the Leader, but I just think if he had spent all his time up and down the country, cos he is a good man, he’s a man of absolute integrity, he’s a man of fantastic values, and he could have been a good Prime Minister.  But what I’m talking about, this isn’t rocket science Rachel, this isn’t the first time this has been said.  This is what every leader in New Zealand and across the western world does if they want to be Prime Minister, President, you name it.  They get out and they meet the people, and they find out what the real issues are.

It will be very interesting to see what happens to both the caucus and the leader’s office if Robertson or Cunliffe wins. Robertson is close to most of the leader’s office staff so I suspect little change there if he wins. Cunliffe however could well bring in new people.

Likewise in the caucus, I see little change in the shadow cabinet except a promotion for Ardern is Robertson wins. Cunliffe however could well dispense with some of the old guard who have spent years briefing against him.

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Beyer says NZ not ready for a gay PM

August 25th, 2013 at 9:11 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Georgina Beyer, the world’s first transsexual mayor and MP, warns New Zealand is not ready for a gay prime minister and may be seeing a social conservative backlash.

With the Labour leadership up for grabs, it raises the question of whether Grant Robertson, the gay deputy leader, could be elevated to head the party, making him a strong possibility for prime minister.

But Beyer, who was an MP for eight years until 2007, said Labour needed to be realistic.

“I don’t think we’re ready yet,” Beyer said. “It’s not because Grant isn’t capable, I think he’s very capable . . . but the stigma that rests over those of us who are out, proud and gay who get into public office becomes untenable because you never shake it off and you get pigeon-holed.”

I disagree. I think it is up to the MP how much they pigeon-hole themselves. There is a spectrum when it comes to gay and lesbian MPs. At one end of the spectrum you have MPs like Chris Carter and Georgina who were very much identity politicians whose persona was around being the first gay MP or the first transsexual MP.

At the other end of the spectrum are MPs like Chris Finlayson who is an MP who happens to be gay. He doesn’t believe his sexuality defines him as an MP, it is just part of who he is.

Grant Robertson is somewhere in between those two extremes. He does promote “gay causes” but has been careful not to let them define him. He is more at the “MP who is gay” end of the spectrum than “gay MP” end.

So I don’t think Grant’s sexuality would pigeon-hole him. It is not to say it will have no impact at all, but I think it is relatively minor.

Beyer said it was possible the debate over gay marriage, which became legal this month, had invigorated social conservatives, meaning New Zealand was less ready for a gay prime minister now than it was a year ago.

Actually I think the legalisation of gay marriage has helped Grant. If it remained illegal then he would be asked constantly as a party leader (if he won) whether he wants the right to marry. He would of course say yes, and the stories would focus on that, and that would pigeon hole him as being into politics for his own agenda, rather than the agenda of the wider group Labour aspires to represent.

John Tamihere, a former Labour MP turned radio presenter, said New Zealand could, in theory, accept a gay prime minister, but it would have to be someone whose sexuality was not core to their reason for entering politics.

Tamihere sums it up well.

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Backing Coney and Rudman

August 25th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Rudman wrote:

Let’s hear it for Auckland councillor Sandra Coney. After a three-month slugfest with the bureaucrats, she has forced them to concede the politicians’ right to see background information and legal advice held by the bureaucracy. …

At the beginning of June, and concerned about the haste involved in preparing the draft Unitary Plan, Ms Coney became aware that a team of senior outside Resource Management Act lawyers and advisers had been commissioned to review the document and ensure it was legally accurate and complied with all relevant legislation and statutory requirements.

As a councillor, responsible for making decisions about the document and eventually approving it, Ms Coney requested a copy of the expert review. She also wrote to chief executive Doug McKay saying, “It is astonishing that I should be expected to participate in workshops and meetings on the Unitary Plan, and make decisions about the UP, but I am denied access to information that the staff have.”

She said she was not a member of the public but “a member of the governing body” and “I consider it essential to my governance role that I am able to access what I believe I need to make good decisions. I believe that the people who elect me would expect I can access any information held by the council and accessible by staff.”

Three weeks later she was told, not by a bureaucrat but by Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, that the bureaucrats wouldn’t hand it over. Chief planning officer Roger Blakeley then wrote refusing her access under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, which she argued was not only irrelevant but ridiculous, as one of the clauses he used as justification was the need to protect “free and frank expressions of opinions by or between or to members or officers or employees”.

I am of the view that a director (or Councillor) should have legal access to pretty much any information they wish to have, so long as it is not personally sensitive (ie staff HR files). You are responsible for an organisation and it is up to you, not the staff, to decide what you need to know.

Having said that I think a director should not be getting involved in operational matters and any such requests should be rare and for a specific purpose. However the decision is for them, not their peers or the staff.

So good on Sandra Coney for standing up for her rights. Her request seemed more than reasonable.


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Cactus for Cunliffe

August 24th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Ms Odgers said on Twitter that she wanted to join Labour so she could vote for MP David Cunliffe to win the leadership: “He represents ambitious, successful, white middle class achievers unpopular with peers.”


Asked how the party would respond to an application by Ms Odgers, who was not a member of any party, Mr Barnett said: “That’s a good question.”

As she is a declared supporter of David Cunliffe, any rejection of her membership would suggest the NZ Council is pro-Robertson!

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10/10 in 42 seconds

August 24th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NZ Herald quiz is here.

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Saint Gareth to the rescue again

August 24th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

With the furore over his cat campaign fading from memory, Gareth Morgan is about to try telling us what we should be eating.

Dr Morgan’s past activities have included confirming the cause of climate change, deciding which fish to catch and eat, proposing solutions for the country’s welfare and tax policies, and voyaging to the Antarctic to raise awareness about issues in the far south.

At the start of this year, he strode purposefully into his attack on the country’s cats, and will soon try to sort out the nation’s eating habits.

Where would we be without Gareth to solve all our big issues for us. Is there any issue at all he isn’t an expert on?

According to New Zealand Doctor, Dr Morgan and Mr Simmons are “set to challenge the food production, processing and marketing industries as well as health professionals, policymakers and the Government”.

The book will urge a tax on foods that don’t reach two stars for health and quality in a nutrition-profiling system to be agreed by health officials, industry and food standards authorities.

How about a tax on books that don’t meet quality standards?

Denmark of course led the world with a tax on food, as Gareth proposes. The tax lasted around a year before being scrapped as a miserable failure which failed to change any eating habits, encouraged cross-border trading, endangered jobs and was a bureaucratic nightmare for producers and retailers. I expect that means it will soon become policy of Labour or Greens in NZ!

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A radical extension of employment law

August 24th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Tens of thousands of women have been given a new weapon in the fight for equal pay after a landmark court decision.

Both sides of the debate have called the Employment Court’s ruling on Thursday a “significant” shift, which is likely to give unions more power to fight employers over gender discrimination.

Even when it isn’t gender discrimination!

The Employment Court has ruled women in female-dominated industries can now compare themselves to men in other industries requiring similar skills when pushing for pay equality.

Employers had argued women workers should only be compared with men in the same industry doing the same work and warned a broader view would be “unworkable”.

However, the court rejected the employers’ interpretation, claiming they could “simply perpetuate discrimination in rates of pay to women”.

This is a fairly radical extension of the law. The law was passed so that if an employer had men and women all doing exactly the same job, and they were paying the men more than the women, it would be illegal.

The court has now interpreted this as saying now they no longer have to be doing the same job, or even be in the same industry. It can compare the job of say a teacher to a police officer and decide for all of New Zealand that teachers must all be paid the same as police officers!

Currently industries traditionally considered “women’s work” could continue to pay women poorly simply because a small group of male co-workers shared their low wages, the court said.

This is the key point. There was no evidence at all that male workers doing the same job were being paid more. In fact they were not.

One can debate about whether or not courts should have the power to declare workers in one industry must be paid the same as workers in another industry. I don’t think they should. But what is galling is there has been no debate in Parliament and no law change.

TerraNova executive director Terry Bell said the company was still considering whether to appeal the court’s decision.

I hope they do. Such a radical and far reaching decision should be made explicitly by Parliament.


Will the unions select the leader?

August 24th, 2013 at 8:12 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

That puts the leadership in limbo for the next three weeks while up to 50,000 voting papers are sent out and candidates make their pitch at a series of meetings across New Zealand.

I suspect it will be far fewer than that. It is widely known Labour has less than 10,000 members despite my best efforts on their behalf.

The six affiliated unions may have another 30,000 to 40,000 members between them but as I understand it most unions are not letting their rank and file members vote – just their union delegates, which are far fewer in number. By restricting it to delegates it will allow that union to promise its support more easily to the candidate who offers that union the most legislative favours.

Each delegate votes individually, and in secret, but make no mistake they will have been told the view of the union leadership about who to vote for and I predict that no union will be a close vote – the candidate the hierarchy supports will get at least 80% of the vote from that union. What is possible is different unions could vote different ways depending on what each has been offered, but Helen Kelly has already said they are talking to each other.


The new rules were an attempt by the party’s grassroots to rein in caucus after a widening rift over policy and direction. But they could drive an even deeper wedge if the party and caucus back opposing candidates and cancel each other out, because the caucus vote counts for only 40 per cent of the total.

That makes Labour’s union affiliates, whose votes count for 20 per cent, the potential king makers and could deliver the caucus a leader that a majority of MPs don’t support.

This will be the first time that corporate bodies will get to directly elect the leader of a political party. Imagine the fuss if for example you had business organisations getting a vote for a political party leader.

If Robertson and Cunliffe do stand, it is highly likely it will come down to who gets the unions on side – and that is easy. Unions will vote for what is in their best interest, so the candidate who promises them (publicly or privately) the most favourable law changes to increase their wealth and power, will get their support.

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The Privileges Committee inquiry into the leak inqiuriy

August 23rd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

My interpretation of the two days of hearings into the leak inquiry is that it was basically a SNAFU. By that I mean there was no malicious intent by everyone – just that many parties involved made incorrect assumptions, and/or didn’t check.

I think the first error was not an appreciation that this inquiry was a bit different to other leak inquiries as the major focus was on whether a Minister leaked it, not a government employee (like in the MFAT leak). When you are dealing with employees a leak inquiry is on far more solid ground – the employers have total authorised access to all work data around their employees – their swipe card records, their e-mails, their photocopier logs and the like. But Ministers and MPs are different, as are journalists when it involves their use of parliamentary resources.

So some criticism to DPMC for not seeing (but hindsight is wonderful) that this inquiry is different to others, and having more specific terms of reference and powers about what the inquiry should and should not be able to seek.

Some criticism also to David Henry for not setting clear processes around seeking of data with agency chief executives. It seems the approach as along the lines of let’s ask for everything we can think of, and up to them to say no. Again, no appreciation of the senstivity when dealing with MPs that they are not in the same constitutional position as employees.

And also some criticism for Parliamentary Service for not having clear policies on when data can and can not be released, and who should be consulted or approve any release. Also the fact that data was being exchanged it seems at pretty much a junior staff level. PS should have recognised the sensitivity of such requests and made sure no data was handed over unless it was operating on a clearly understood basis of who should be saying yes to what.

So no malice involved anywhere, just a lack of overall co-ordination both within agencies and between them. I hope Privileges Committee will have some useful recommendations on how to avoid a repeat.

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Flip then flop

August 23rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Michael Forbes at Stuff reports:

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown hailed it as a vote on which the city council would “show leadership”.

Councillors had spent more than two years arguing over the Basin Reserve flyover project, and yesterday – finally – was the day to declare whether they would support it to a board of inquiry.

But in the end, Ms Wade-Brown just couldn’t bring herself to do it – and she joined five other councillors in voting against the $90 million project.

She had barely left the strategy and policy committee meeting before her fellow councillors were accusing her of a “flip-flop”, of dithering and of being indecisive.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such extraordinary behaviour over one council paper,” mayoral rival John Morrison said.

Ms Wade-Brown began the meeting by saying she would have preferred a tunnel, but the best way to show leadership was to negotiate as many design improvements to the flyover as possible.


After months of negotiations with the New Zealand Transport Agency, the council had done that, and she said she thought the agency would come up with a more pleasing design if the council offered support rather than digging its toes in and saying no.

Again, she’s right.

But then – after councillors had all made speeches, largely confirming their long-held views – Ms Wade-Brown asked to speak again.

“This is a lot better flyover [design] than we started out with,” she said. “But I just cannot support the flyover myself.”

So by her own words she voted against an act of leadership and her own recommended strategy!

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The legal high market

August 23rd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Dozens of synthetic cannabis brands have been cleared for sale by health regulators, despite some containing chemicals linked to psychosis.

Note the difference between the drug being linked and a chemical within it being linked.

On Wednesday, the same day that police charged the first person with selling synthetic cannabis illegally, the Ministry of Health cleared nearly 50 shops to continue to sell similar, but approved, legal highs.

The ministry says 28 legal-high brands have now received interim approval. Approval was given if the brand had been on the market for more than three months without users reporting any serious adverse side-effects.

A sensible approach.

Grant Hall, of legal-high industry body Star Trust, said the brands received only a provisional tick and many would probably not pass the higher hurdle for permanent approval later in the year.

However, the bad side-effects associated with synthetic-cannabis products had been overblown, particularly when compared with alcohol, he said. “By any measure, these products are incredibly low risk.”

Yeah, there is almost a hysterical lynch mob mentality forming in some areas around them.

The products can be sold only through approved stores, with 46 shops receiving interim licences as of yesterday. Another 147 can continue to trade while their applications are being assessed.

In Wellington, 21 retailers can still legally sell synthetic cannabis.

Ten companies have also received interim licences to manufacture legal highs, seven to research them, and 23 to sell them wholesale.

That’s a surprisingly high number of manufacturers, researchers and wholesalers. I wonder what the total turnover of the market is?


Anti-fluoride campaigner tries to silence chemistry experts!

August 23rd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

University of Waikato boffins have been told to keep scientific facts out of the ongoing debate over fluoride.

Roger Stratford – an anti-fluoride campaigner and aspiring Hamilton City councillor – wrote to the university’s chemistry department this week to protest at “the degree of casual support emanating from the chemistry department in local papers in support of the practice [of fluoridating water]“.

“At Fluoride Free Hamilton we intend to limit the debate to the social science and public health aspects of fluoridation,” he writes.

“It would be appreciated if we could receive some confirmation from the chemistry department that it will remain publicly neutral on the matter.

Yes how dare we hear from chemists on chemistry. Next they’ll want to ban doctors speaking on the medical impact. Or anyone who has a different view to them.

Michael Mucalo, a senior lecturer and chairman of the university’s chemistry department said it was important for people to have scientifically accurate information on fluoride.

That was why the faculty would continue to respond in print to letters to the editor that called the science of fluoride into question.

“We have a moral right as academics to give our opinions on this,” he said.

“We want to comment on the science. If claims are made that seem outrageous, then we would like to speak up and give a balanced view.”

So they anti fluoride people want to make outrageous claims, and not have anyone respond to them?


Why Shearer failed

August 23rd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Back in December 2011 I wrote:

On balance I think Shearer has a greater chance of leading Labour to victory, for reasons I have written about previously. But I will say that Shearer is a somewhat risker option. There is greater potential to wins over the hearts and minds of New Zealanders and get Labour’s party vote back into the mid 30s or highers. But there is also a greater risk that Shearer just can’t hack it, and Labour stays weak or gets weaker.

So why did Shearer fail? I think it is a bit superficial to say it is just because he was a nice man, not hard enough for politics. I think there were a number of factors.

  1. Failed to capitalise on his background to portray himself as an “anti-politician”. The public love outsiders and don’t like insiders when it comes to politics. That is why both Don Brash and John Key did so well in the polls. Shearer needed to focus on being the Michael Joseph Savage type of leader who set out his vision for New Zealand, and didn’t spend every second criticising the Government. A classic example is he said he wanted to avoid “gotcha” politics yet for around 150 question times in a row his question to the PM has been a gotcha “do you stand by all your statements” type question.
  2. Didn’t gather the right staff around him. I’m not blaming the staff, as they are often unfairly blamed for things. But is has been apparent that there were no senior staff with the authority and respect to impose the leader’s decisions on the wider parliamentary team.
  3. The old guard remained in control. Shearer was their candidate to stop Cunliffe, but they remained dominant, which meant the caucus never unified.
  4. No strategy. Labour’s major policies appeared to be focus group driven to respond to concerns about foreigners and the like. There was no over-arching strategy which was about having David Shearer known for three things he would do differently that could resonate with people.
  5. No political management of the party. The change to the leadership rules, the further entrenching of union power, the man ban proposals all happened on his watch and undermined him. To be fair to him, normally deputy leaders take care of most of the party management issues and one can speculate as to why this didn’t happen in this case!
  6. A lack of confidence with media and speaking. Shearer can be an excellent speaker when he is saying what he really thinks and believes. But too often he was having to promote policies which I think he was half hearted about. When you have to think about what is the correct thing to say – rather than to just speak from instinct, makes the job harder. It is a skill you can learn, and he struggled with. But when speaking more off the cuff to large groups he could be very persuasive.

I regard the first of my points as the most important. Labour should have developed a 33 month strategy around how to position David Shearer as the next Prime Minister, and then developed policies, communication plans and the like which all worked within that strategy. They needed to have major vision and policy announcements far earlier in the piece so the public would want to hear more and more of the man who would be PM.

The Dom Post editorial notes:

However, Mr Shearer’s biggest failing was that he was never able to convey the impression that there was anything he particularly wanted to achieve as prime minister. On his watch Labour responded to public anxiety about the high cost of housing by unveiling proposals for a government home building programme, a capital gains tax and a ban on foreigners investing in the residential property market. The party responded to concerns about the high cost of electricity by promising to scrap the electricity market and put the industry back under the control of Wellington bureaucrats. Housing and electricity costs are both issues that resonate with focus groups but neither are the sort to excite supporters or persuade the politically undecided to get out of their armchairs.

As leader Mr Shearer was a stunt in search of a philosophy. The strategy concocted around him did not wash and, with the help of his colleagues, he rightly came to the conclusion that things were not going to get any better while he remained leader.

I think this is right. Shearer was meant to be a leader who could appeal to centrist voters, but instead his caucus and advisors pushed him to the left, so that Labour was pushing populist and nationalist policies that appeal to hard left and Green voters, and an overall policy agenda well to the left of the Clark/Cullen Government.


A new Labour Party member

August 22nd, 2013 at 10:19 pm by David Farrar

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 6.07.06 PM


It seems anyone who joins Labour by midnight can vote for the next Leader. Cactus Kate, amongst others, has joined so she can vote for David Cunliffe.

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John Stringer 22 August 2013 – A reprise? (Shearer goes)

August 22nd, 2013 at 9:00 pm by Kokila Patel

Dec 2011…


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Bob Jones on fear of change

August 22nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Bob Jones writes at NZ Herald:

There’s an amusing bitter battle going on in Waikanae, an affluent coastal town 60km north of Wellington. It involves two factions, one, “The Friends of The Waikanae River” headed by an 86-year-old, and its rival, led by a 76-year-old dubbed “The Lord of The River”, who, despite his relative youth, leads the conservative faction in the row.

And the issue in dispute? Damming the river? Drawing water from it? Discharges into it? Brace yourself. It transpires that the dopey district council has been ripping out long-standing native plants from the river’s banks on the absurd grounds that a century ago, those particular species weren’t there.

This has the whole-hearted support of the Lord of The River and his followers but brought cries of “eco-terrorism” and “botanical ethnic cleansing” from The Friends of The Waikanae River (I’m not making this up). Unsurprisingly, it’s also backed by Te Papa’s Curator of Botany, doubtless bearded, who has described The Friends as not true conservationists but gardeners.

Truth is stranger than fiction!

Such is the depth of anger; the next step will be a full-scale shooting war with much loss of life which won’t matter because the protagonists are not making much use of theirs anyway.

That said, if I was to bear arms and join in the bloodbath then it would be alongside The Friends, consistent with my life-long detestation of fanatical conservatism, whether in politics, religion or anything at all.

When some of our more adventurous simian ancestors first dropped from the trees and attempted to stand, you may be assured it would have been to a background gibbering protest from the tree-bound and always-present conservative elements that have dogged human progress ever since.

All human advancement has been marked by conservative resistance. The most stultified period in mankind’s history; the thousand-years Dark Ages, was conservative church-prescribed while today ultra-conservative Islam fanaticism costs the world billions annually in holding its evil efforts at bay.

Political conservatism fought democracy, universal suffrage, votes for women, free education, weekend shopping, free trade and, indeed, every progressive step, big and small, towards our present civilisation. 

Well said Sir Bob.


Shearer resigns

August 22nd, 2013 at 1:41 pm by David Farrar

David Shearer has resigned as Leader of the Labour Party. He will remain an MP. At this stage it looks like Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe will both contest the leadership which means a full membership ballot with the caucus getting 40%, the members 405 and the unions 20%.

Looks like he got killed by his own snapper stunt, with that being the last straw. Which staffer’s idea was that I wonder?

The gallery reported he had until Spring (1 September) to perform or go, and it has come true.

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The begging ban

August 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

The Auckland Council is today voting on a bylaw which could see beggars, illegal windscreen washers and buskers banned from the streets.

Auckland City Mission’s Diane Robertson says the bylaw is welcome, providing it is not misused.

She says the bylaw is about ensuring everyone feels safe.

“Everybody has the right to walk down the street and feel safe.

“I think on the same part, homeless people, people who are begging (and) people who are different are a part of our community, and so they have a right to do what they’re doing.”

Robertson hopes the bylaw is applied fairly.

“If people are causing a nuisance or are affecting public safety, then they can be moved on.

“But if they are just begging quietly, then this bylaw should not apply to them.”

The Onehunga Business Association’s Amanda Kinzett agrees, saying the law will only apply to those being disruptive.

“If someone’s just sitting down with their hat out, that’s different from someone that’s going straight up and being aggressive.”

I’d say the windscreen washers are the greatest menance!

The bylaw looks reasonable so long as it is only used against those actually being disruptive or threatening.

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