Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Key on flag

March 12th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Some good insights from the PM on the flag issue, from his speech at Victoria University:

Back in 1965, Canada changed its flag from one that, like ours, also had the Union Jack in the corner, and replaced it with the striking symbol of modern Canada that all of us recognise and can identify today.

Fifty years on, I can’t imagine many Canadians would, if asked, choose to go back to the old flag.

I doubt there would be a single Canadian who would go back.

Long decades of sweat and effort by our sportsmen and women in many codes over countless competitions give the silver fern on a black background a distinctive and uniquely New Zealand identity, and a head start in our national consciousness.

For example, it’s our silver fern, rather than our flag, that’s etched in the crosses marking the final resting place of all New Zealanders who are interred in Commonwealth War Graves overseas.

I did not know that.

Interestingly, it’s the maple leaf that’s etched in the crosses of Canada’s fallen in those same cemeteries.  

The power of a strong symbol.

We want a design that says “New Zealand” in the same way that the maple leaf says “Canada”, or the Union Jack says “Britain,” without a word being spoken, or a bar of those countries’ anthems being heard.

We want a design that says “New Zealand,” whether it’s stitched on a Kiwi traveller’s backpack outside a bar in Croatia, on a flagpole outside the United Nations, or standing in a Wellington southerly on top of the Beehive every working day.

Exactly.

UPDATE: A reader has sent in this picture, which illustrates the point about graves:

grave

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Brown’s advisor says Mayor toast if credit rating drops

March 11th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Len Brown’s principal policy adviser James Bews-Hair says the Auckland Mayor will be “political toast” if the council’s credit rating is lowered.

In an email accidentally sent to the Herald, Mr Bews-Hair said the mayor’s office has been advised there is a risk the council’s credit rating will be downgraded.

The email was circulated to senior mayoral staff on Sunday following Herald inquiries about council debt, which has soared from $3.9 billion to a projected $7.4 billion in the first four years of Mr Brown’s mayoralty.

In a candid email to Mr Brown’s chief of staff Phil Wilson, head of communications Dan Lambert and chief press secretary Glyn Jones – and copied to the Herald – Mr Bews-Hair outlined the mayoral position on maintaining the council’s AA credit rating.

“We need to keep on using the KPI [key performance indicator] for debt that we set for ourselves in election policy – retaining our rating.

“If we do that right, that can become the basis on which we are judged.

“We are advised that there is a risk that we will be downgraded … frankly, though, if we get downgraded in an improving economic environment then we are political toast anyway,” said Mr Bews-Hair.

I’d say toast regardless of the credit rating, but that certainly would deepen the searing.

Mayor Brown, who doubles as treasurer of the Super City, has borrowed $875 million on average in his first four budgets. This is nearly three times the average annual borrowings of $355 million by the former eight councils between 1989 and 2010. Debt repayment in the current financial year is $367 million.

Borrow like there is no tomorrow.

Mr Brown has refused to talk to the Herald on debt issues.

I would have thought a Mayor would be willing to talk to their local newspaper on any civic issue.

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Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter funding

March 11th, 2014 at 3:49 pm by David Farrar

funding-630x355

 

This graphs is very powerful. The starting point is the funding as set by Parliament, and the later years are what has happened under some local politicians.

Whale blogs:

Parliament initially said what each of the services should get – it was $1,500,000 each for the biggies, the orchestra and the rescue helicopter.

Since then, the board has cut money from the helicopter trust for its essential rescue service to give to the orchestra for new harps and pianos.

That’s right – more than $1 million has been cut from the rescue helicopter and given to the orchestra.

Now there are allegations by Murray Bolton – the chairman of the helicopter trust and all round good bloke – that members of Tizard’s dodgy funding board might have been accepting tickets to the orchestra, the festival, the theatre and the opera.

The board says it has a “gifts and inducements” policy.  The rule is that no member of the board can receive ANYTHING worth more than $150.  If they receive anything worth less than $150, the have to declare the gift or inducement.

But Tizard’s dodgy arts funding board is keeping its register of gifts and inducements secret.

They have a secret register???

Stuff reports:

The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust has accused the board that partly funds it of having a confidential gifts and inducements register.

Addressing a meeting of the Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board today, trust chairman Murray Bolton suggested board members may have received free tickets from orchestra, theatre and opera businesses that they fund, and said it needed to make those gifts public.

The accusation comes in the middle of litigation by the trust against the board following big cuts in the funding the board provides the trust.

I’m against the litigation which I think is the wrong way to go. But I do think the helicopter service is quite right to make Aucklanders aware that their funding is being cut massively, with the funds going instead to the arts.

“We do not provide free helicopter joy rides for members of this funding board because ours is an essential service. We wonder if that has been our mistake.

“We wonder if free tickets to gala openings of the orchestra or the opera have been in play here.

“How is anyone to know? After all, you have refused to release your secret register of pecuniary interests. You refuse to tell us, the media, the mayor, or the people of Auckland just who it is that has been giving you gifts and why.”

Bolton said funding for the orchestra, theatre and opera businesses had increased every year while funding for the rescue helicopter had been consistently cut.

Board chairman Vern Walsh said there was no secret register for gifts.

“We can’t make something that doesn’t exist available,” he said.

So it isn’t a secret register, but instead a non-existent register! I think that is worse!

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Fighting on the left

March 11th, 2014 at 3:10 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

The Greens have lodged a formal complaint with Labour over outspoken MP Shane Jones’ attacks on the party.

They’ve complained because an MP from another party criticised them? Who is being thin skinned now?

It comes as the Northland-based list MP faced a ticking off from leader David Cunliffe this morning over his anti-Green comments as well as for straying into other MPs’ areas of responsibility.

It is understood the Green’s chief of staff Ken Spagnolo invoked the official mechanism for airing disputes with Labour’s new chief of staff Matt McCarten and it will be on the agenda of the next top level meeting between the two allies.

Good to see them focusing on the big issues. Again, imagine how they’ll be going running a Government!

Green co-leader Russel Norman said he imagined the matter would be dealt with at chief of staff level.

But he said Labour was obviously had some “internal issues” to deal with.

Just a few!

”There’s clearly some people like Shane Jones within Labour who are uncomfortable about protecting the environment and embracing our clean energy future. but … the Greens know what we are doing and why we’re here.”

Wait, isn’t this a personal attack on Shane Jones? Maybe Jones should complain also through their dispute process!

Meanwhile NewstalkZB report:

Labour leader David Cunliffe says the Greens won’t necessarily be the first cab off the rank if he’s in a position to form a Government after the election.

The translation is he’ll sacrifice them for Winston if Winston asks for it. Poor Greens – 18 years in Parliament and no baubles for them.

There was another oops in David Cunliffe’s life earlier this morning when he referred to his possible coalition partner New Zealand First as ‘Winston First’.

“Winston’s a good guy but I’m not doing coalition negotiations before the vote and we will work with whatever cards the voters put on the table. That may indeed quite likely will be with the Greens, it may well be with Winston First.”

I’m very pleased to see the official Kiwiblog term for New Zealand First catching on!!

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A conscience vote in the UK on euthanasia

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

The Telegraph reports:

The legislation of assisted suicide has moved a significant step closer after the Government made clear that it would not stand in the way of a change in the law.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and peers – including Coalition ministers – will be given a free vote on a Bill that would enable doctors to help terminally ill patients to die, The Telegraph can disclose.

That will be a fascinating vote. There will be MPs in all parties both for and against.

Under the 1961 Suicide Act, it remains a criminal offence carrying up to 14 years in jail to help someone to take their own life.

Four years ago, the Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines that made clear that anyone who assisted a loved one to die while “acting out of compassion” was unlikely to be charged. Since then, around 90 such cases have been examined and no one prosecuted.

So there is a de facto legalisation. It is appropriate the law reflect the reality.

A Bill drawn up by Lord Falconer, a former Labour lord chancellor, to legalise “assisted dying” – allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to terminally-ill patients – is before the House of Lords. Peers are expected to vote on the plans in the next four months.

If the Bill is supported there, it will then pass to the Commons where some MPs say they have detected growing support for the move – influenced by opinion polls suggesting that up to three quarters of the public would support a change in the law.

A 2010 poll found 82% in favour and just 13% opposed.

Observers in Parliament estimate that just over a third of MPs would back a change in the law, a smaller group is strongly opposed, and up to 40 per cent are undecided.

I think a change to allow euthanasia for terminally ill people in pain would gain the support of most MPs in the NZ Parliament.

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Parliament Today 11 March 2014

March 11th, 2014 at 1:39 pm by Jordan.M

Questions for Oral Answer.

Questions to Ministers 2.00PM-3.00PM

  1. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “for most New Zealanders an indicator of how well the economy is doing is whether or not they can keep up with the cost of living”?
  2. Hon KATE WILKINSON to the Minister of Finance: What will be the focus of the Government’s economic programme going into the election on 20 September?
  3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers; if so, why?
  4. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his Government’s policies?
  5. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister of Housing: Does he believe the Government is making it easier for young people in the regions to buy their first home?
  6. IAN McKELVIE to the Minister for Economic Development:What recent reports has he received on the manufacturing sector?
  7. EUGENIE SAGE to the Minister for the Environment: Will she strengthen the proposed water quality national objectives for human health so that New Zealanders can safely swim in our rivers?
  8. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE to the Minister of Labour: What recent progress has the Government made on health and safety reform in New Zealand?
  9. DAVID SHEARER to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What is his Ministry’s best estimate for the percentage increase in retail electricity prices for the period 1 February to 1 August this year for a household of four persons, averaged across New Zealand?
  10. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON to the Minister of Health: What investment is the Government making in improving health services in West Auckland?
  11. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY to the Minister for the Environment: Does she think that companies should be allowed to pollute our rivers for an unlimited amount of time using section 107(2) of the Resource Management Act 1991, or does she think that the use of “exceptional circumstances” should be time limited?
  12. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Justice: Did she note her visit to the Shanghai offices of Oravida Limited in her report to Cabinet on her Ministerial visit to China in October 2013; if not, why not?

Today Labour are asking about the economy, first home buyers, electricity prices, and Judith Collins’ visit to a Chinese milk factory.The Greens are asking about government policies, water quality of rivers, and about river quality as it relates to the resource management act. New Zealand First is asking whether the PM has confidence in all his Ministers.

Patsy Question of the day goes to Chris Auchinvole for Question 8: What recent progress has the Government made on health and safety reform in New Zealand?

Government Bills 3.00PM-6.00PM and 7.30PM-10.00PM.

1. Electoral Amendment Bill – Committee Stage

2. Families Commission Amendment Bill – Committee Stage

3. Border Processing (Trade Single Window and Duties) Bill – Committee Stage

The Electoral Amendment Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister of Justice, Judith Collins. This bill proposes amendments to the Electoral Act 1993 to implement recommendations made by the Justice and Electoral Committee in its Inquiry into the 2011 General Election. The purpose of the amendments is to improve services to voters, candidates, and political parties.

The Families Commission Amendment Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister of  Social Development, Paula Bennett. This bill amends the Families Commission Act 2003 to restructure the Commission so that it comprises a single Families Commissioner and other members, amends some functions of the Commission and provides for the appointment of a Social Science Experts Panel to provide academic peer review and guidance.

The Border Processing (Trade Single Window and Duties) Bill is being guided through the house by the Minister of  Customs, Maurice Williamson. This bill proposes amendments to support the implementation of the Trade Single Window component of the Joint Border Management System.

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Key flags flag debate for next term

March 11th, 2014 at 12:17 pm by David Farrar

The PM has announced:

Prime Minister John Key today outlined a plan to hold a public discussion and vote next parliamentary term on New Zealand’s flag.

In a speech at Victoria University today, Mr Key said it was his belief that the design of the current flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.

“I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag,” he says.

He outlined a plan for a cross-party group of MPs to recommend the best referenda process, and a steering group to ensure the public has the opportunity to engage in discussion on the flag and to submit design ideas.

“It’s really important that consideration of a new flag includes genuine input from New Zealanders.  All voices need an opportunity to be heard,” he says.

“A flag that unites all New Zealanders should be selected by all New Zealanders.  This decision is bigger than party politics.”

Mr Key says that should he have the privilege of remaining Prime Minister after the general election in September, he would write to leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament asking them to nominate an MP to join a cross-party group to oversee the flag consideration process.

The group would recommend the best referenda process to follow, and also be involved in nominating New Zealanders from outside Parliament to form a steering group which would be primarily responsible for ensuring the public has the opportunity to engage in the debate.

“One of the tasks of that steering group will be to seek submissions from the public on flag designs.

“I would like to see the referenda process completed during the next Parliamentary term, so it does not intrude on the 2017 elections.”

This is a sensible pragmatic way forward. There isn’t enough time for a referendum with this election, and there was a risk that people would say Key is using the flag issue as a distraction. By saying he would seek a referendum or referenda during the next term, he indicates commitment to letting people decide the issue for themselves through a referendum – but not at the expense of overshadowing other issues.

In terms of a process, my preference is:

  1. Cross-party group selects steering group
  2. Steering group calls for designs
  3. Steering group short-lists designs
  4. Steering group selects four possible alternative designs to to voted on. Maybe have an option that people could petition to have another design added to the ballot, if they think a worthy one has been missed out.
  5. An initial referendum where people vote on the alternative design – preferably with a ranked ballot paper of preferences.
  6. The alternative design that gets over 50% support after preferences goes to a second referendum
  7. A final binding referendum with a simple binary choice between the current NZ flag and the alternative design
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Jones v Hughes

March 11th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour economic development spokesman Shane Jones has taken a swipe at the Greens, calling ocean spokesman Gareth Hughes a “mollyhawk” for comments Jones says “undermine” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A hearing began today to consider an application by Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) to mine iron ore from the seabed off the west coast of the North Island. …

The Greens also called for a moratorium on all seabed mining until it was proved “unequivocally safe”.

A standard impossible to meet. They also I presume call for a ban on cars until they also are proved “unequivocally safe”.

Jones used an interview on Radio Waatea today to take a swing at Labour’s potential coalition partner, saying its activist stance was inappropriate for a government-in-waiting.

“Minerals and exploration is an essential part of the economy and the process shouldn’t be undermined by political commentary,” he said.

“There’s a standard to be observed between parliamentary figures and state bodies.

“I’ve been warned not to crisscross the Commerce Commission investigation, if it’s good enough for me as the Labour economic development spokesman, then it’s good enough for Gareth Hughes.”

The EPA was also independent from the Government, and Jones said governments-in-waiting needed to observe constitutional proprieties.

Hughes’ contributions were unhelpful, and “carrying on like a mollyhawk” would not achieve anything, he said.

A mollyhawk is a type of gull. I’m not sure quite what Jones is trying to call Hughes by calling him one.

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Key election dates

March 11th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar
  1. Fri 20 June – regulated period begins
  2. Thu 31 July – House rises
  3. Thu 14 August – Parliament dissolved
  4. Wed 20 August – Writ Day
  5. Tue 26 August – Nominations close
  6. Sat 20 September – Election Day
  7. Sat 4 October – Final results declared
  8. Thu 9 October – Return of the Writ
  9. Mon 20 November – latest day for Parliament to meet and a Government effectively to be formed
  10. Mon 9 October 2017 – 51st Parliament dissolves
  11. Sat 18 November 2017 – latest date for next general election

There are 13 sitting weeks of the House to go before it rises.

UPDATE: The start of the regulated period is when the spending caps start for parties and candidates, and also when Parliament moves to tighter spending rules and MPs and parliamentary parties are less able to use their parliamentary budgets for advertising and publications.

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Politicheck

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

A group of NZ political activists have set up Politicheck NZ, which is designed to operate like Factcheck and Politifact in the US.

I said to the founder Rory McCarthy a few weeks ago that in my opinion these sites work best when the staff have no political involvement themselves, as your political views do colour your worldview. However to hire neutral fact checkers requires money – basically a benevolent funder. Fact Check is basically funded by the Annenberg Foundation and costs over $500,000 a year to run. I rate it very highly.

In the absence of a benevolent funder to pay for neutral, the next best thing is to try and have a wide range of views among the “volunteer staff”. They have tried to do that with the appointment of Pete George (ex United Future), Phil Howison (ex Libz), Kyle Church (Greens), Kirk Sepos (no party but strong involvement in Green issues) and Rory (Greens).

I’m not sure if it will work or not. I think the motives of those involved are noble, and hope it goes well. They may find at the end that trying to reach agreement on what is and is not wholly, partially, or not at all true is not that easy as it does get coloured by your personal preferences and worldview.

I look forward to seeing their work over the coming months. In the end media and others will judge them on the credibility of what they say, and how well they make their case when doing a fact check.

Of course Bomber has already said they have no credibility, which probably only gives them credibility with most people!

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It’s 20 September

March 10th, 2014 at 5:04 pm by David Farrar

John Key has announced:

Prime Minister John Key has announced the 2014 General Election will be held on Saturday 20 September.

“I’m announcing the election date well in advance as I believe this gives New Zealanders some certainty and is in the country’s best interests.”

“It is my practice to be up-front with the New Zealand public and provide plenty of notice about election timing.”

National will be campaigning on its strong record in Government and its plans to continue the good progress New Zealand is making over the next three years.

“I am proud of the work we have done to protect vulnerable New Zealanders and help strengthen families and communities through difficult times.”

Mr Key says, “I have already contacted the Governor-General to advise him of the election date.”

The Government’s intention is that the House will rise on Thursday 31 July and Parliament will be dissolved on Thursday 14 August.

Writ day will follow on Wednesday 20 August, and nomination day will be Tuesday 26 August.

This is two elections in a row that Key has announced the date months in advance, instead of what former PMs used to do and only announce it at the last minute to try and game some tactical advantage.

The 20 September date is to allow time for a Government to be formed and have whoever is Prime Minister attend the G20 connference in Australia, as it is the only time we have been invited to attend with all the “big boys”,

Meanwhile (Young) Labour have responded in all too typical fashion to the announcement:

Young Labour fail

 

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. They really need to start introducing some quality control and checking to their infographics. Cunliffe tweets one that shows power prices shot up under Labour. Robertson tweets one that has a massive typo in it, and now Young Labour get the date wrong by two months! And they think they can run the country!!

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A digital bill of rights

March 10th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Cunliffe announced:

Citizens will have their access to the internet guaranteed and be protected from blanket mass surveillance under Labour’s proposed digital bill of rights, Labour Leader and ICT spokesperson David Cunliffe says.

“Kiwis are technology-savvy people who rely on the internet for fundamental daily activities such as banking and communicating with friends, family and colleagues.

“Unfortunately the legal framework to protect New Zealanders’ online hasn’t kept up with the pace of technology.

“Labour will work with stakeholders to develop a digital bill of rights which would address these concerns while making New Zealand a more stable and secure place for businesses to use and store data.

I think in principle this is good idea, although of course details are key. It would be good to have perhaps a draft published before the election, so it can be critiqued.

“The highlighting of international mass surveillance by Edward Snowdon and concerns around the practices of our own Government Communications and Security Bureau has left many Kiwis feeling their online information is vulnerable.

“Such legislation would protect people from the digital equivalent of warrantless phone tapping. While it wouldn’t override current GCSB powers, it would set a principle which would be used to replace the Government’s controversial new legislation.

I’m unsure if this means any change at all. Yeah, Nah maybe.

“It would also guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion, while still outlawing hate speech.

No Right Turn points out that hate speech is not currently outlawed, so this could be interpreted as leading to more censorship:

This sounds good – but its actually an erosion compared to what we have at present. Those freedoms, whether offline or on, are currently protected by the BORA. But hate speech isn’t outlawed in practical terms (there is a crime of inciting racial disharmony, but there was only a single prosecution under the 1971 Act, and the consensus now is that the BORA has made it almost impossible to prosecute). So that “still” hides a massive crackdown on online expression. It may be expression we don’t like, that we find hateful and offensive, but that doesn’t justify outlawing it, any more than it justifies outlawing rickrolling. Which means the answer to Labour’s proposal has to be “no thanks”. Protect freedom of speech unambiguously according to BORA standards or piss off.

And so what should be a hands-down policy win for Labour turns into a mess, because they took a good idea and poisoned it, in the process alienating the very groups the policy was aimed at winning support from. Heckuva job you’re doing there guys. Good luck with that election-thing.

InternetNZ has commented:

InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) says that parts of Labour’s proposed Digital Bill of Rights are excellent, but parts of it may be unnecessary.

InternetNZ supports guaranteeing New Zealanders’ access to the Internet. InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter believes that this is crucial discussion to have, given the importance of Internet access to modern day living.

“Getting online is becoming essential and those who are unable to do so are at risk of becoming second-class citizens. Enshrining a right for all Kiwis to be able to access the Internet is something a modern-day society should be looking at. Whether legislation is the right answer or not aside, the issue is an important one.

“We want to see more thinking from our political parties on how to close New Zealand’s digital divide and we look forward to working across the political spectrum to provide New Zealand with the strongest digital future we can.”

In its press release, Labour also said that the new Bill of Rights would “guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion while still outlawing hate speech.” Mr Carter says that New Zealand has law in force that already does this.

“In New Zealand we have the Bill of Rights Act. Many of the issues outlined in Labour’s proposal – and indeed in the Harmful Digital Communications Bill – could be solved if we re-worked the Bill of Rights for a 21st Century New Zealand. There is no reason to think that laws governing behaviour online should be different to laws offline.

I think the intent is good, and that having a discussion over whether we should have a digital bill of rights is a good discussion to have. I support Labour’s initiative in this area, but again the key is what actually goes in the DBOR. Make it too general and it may have no impact. Make it too specific and you could have the Government having to fund Internet connections for every household. The challenge is to find that sensible balance.

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The manufactured manufacturing crisis hits crisis point

March 10th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

It was less than 12 months ago that combined forces of Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana declared manufacturing in New Zealand to be in crisis. The day before they announced this, manufacturing confidence hit a then record high and things have only got better since.

The latest news is a disaster for their manufactured crisis. Stats NZ reports:

The total manufacturing sales volume had a record rise in the December 2013 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. This was largely due to a strong rise in meat and dairy product manufacturing.

After adjusting for seasonal effects, the volume of total manufacturing sales rose 5.7 percent, with meat and dairy product manufacturing sales up 15 percent.

Up 5.7% in one quarter – that’s incredible growth.

They make the point it isn’t just dairy and meat, even though they are the largest. Other quarterly increases are:

  • Seafood +2.7%
  • Fruit, oil, cereal and food +5.0%
  • Wood and paper +1.6%
  • Printing +8.5%
  • Non-metallic minerals +5.5%
  • Transport +5.9%
  • Furniture +6.2%

They also report the total spending on salaries and wages in the manufacturing sector increased 4.5% in the quarter.

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Social media tips for MPs

March 10th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Beveridge blogs some social media tips for MPs:

  1. Don’t click on links you are unsure of
  2. Don’t buy followers
  3. Do two-way conversations, not broadcasts
  4. Do not link your Facebook account to also post to Twitter
  5. Update regularly
  6. Don’t be needlessly inflammatory
  7. Don’t block people unless obviously abusive
  8. Plus local events and businesses

On the blocking people issue, I agree MPs should only block as a last resort. However I am finding I am blocking more and more people (benefits of not being an MP). I’ll not block those who engage respectfully on an issue, yet disagree.  But I will block those who do nothing but have a go.

The nice thing with blocking on Twitter is that you are in no way stopping them from still criticizing you and saying what they want about you. They can still do that to their heart’s content. It just means that you won’t see them.

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Geddis on donations

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

Andrew Geddis blogs at Pundit:

There’s been a bit of lefty gloating going on around the traps aboutPatrick Gower’s interview with John Key on The Nation, in which he sought to draw an equivalence between David Cunliffe’s use of a trust to receive donations for his Labour leadership campaign and donations that National received back in 2010 and 2011 through a dinner held at “Auckland’s pricey Parnell restaurant Antoine’s”.

The fact that the Herald, Fairfax and TVNZ have all ignored the story is either evidence that, like Geddis, they think it is bullshit (my term) or a vast media conspiracy. I think the former considering they have all been covering the Collins story in a critical way.

But much as I would love to grab a pitchfork and torch and follow in behind the crowd all the way to the door of Key’s castle on a bleak mountain top (which is what he lives in, right?), my goddam conscience just won’t let me do it. So I’m going to have to break ranks and say, “nice try, but not quite.”

The asserted equivalence seems to be that Cunliffe’s trust lumped together a bunch of money and passed it on to him in ways that did not reveal the individuals who donated it, whilst the “Dinner at Antoine’s” likewise generated a bunch of money from individuals that then got passed on to the National Party without anyone getting to see who really gave it. That’s true enough. But it’s a superficial and misleading similarity.

Because the important difference is the intent in each case. 

This is a point I made around 50 times on Twitter at the weekend. A trust hides the identity of the donors, and that is the intent. A dinner does not hide the identity, nor is it designed to. In fact it increases transparency.

Cunliffe’s use of a trust was deliberately meant to enable individual gifts that otherwise would have to be declared to Parliament’s registrar of pecuniary interests (which has a $500 threshold) to remain “faceless”, in that it permitted only the Trust’s gift to Cunliffe to be declared. It’s the exact same strategem that the National Party used for years with its Waitemata Trust donation laundering vehicle – a practice that Labour criticised heavily at the time and enacted the Electoral Finance Act to stop (amongst other things). Which is why Cunliffe’s decision to adopt the same strategy was so very, very silly.

I’d use another word starting with H!

In comparison, none of the individual donations made at the Dinner at Antoine’s (in the form of a $5000 payment to attend) had to be declared to the Electoral Commission, as the threshold for declaring party donations was at that time $10,000 (its since gone up to $15,000). So there was no necessary reason for the donations to be bundled together  and passed over in one lump sum. It just seemed to happen that way because the owner of Antoine’s got the attendees to first pay him for the dinner, then gave a single cheque to National a few days later, rather than the attendees writing out cheques to National directly. If they had done the latter – which would have been entirely legal – then we would not have had any record of the dinner taking place at all.

That is a useful point.  The individual donors were not disclosed, because their donation was below the disclosure limit. And yes if they had paid National directly for the tickets, then the dinner itself would not be disclosed. National could have structured the dinner in a way that it never appeared on the books at all, yet they didn’t. Quite the opposite to Cunliffe.

(Oh, and in case anyone’s wondering how we know how many places any individual person bought, note that National’s financial return for 2010 states that the donation from Antoine’s was made up of “contributions” … so National must have been told who each of the guests at the dinner were. And had any of these guests paid for more than one place at it, their identity would have had to be disclosed under s.210(1)(b) (as the disclosure threshold stood at that time). So the fact that no-one’s name was disclosed tells us that each attendee paid for only one place.)

Yes, and if any of those people had made other donations to National and over a year it exceeded $15,000 they would have been exposed.

That’s why Cunliffe’s decision to use the Trust actually does feed into the whole “tricky” label that National is trying to pin on him. Itwas a strategem to avoid an outcome he did not want, in a way the Dinner at Antoine’s episode was not.

Indeed. The dinner is not a strategy for avoiding disclosure. It is a strategy for getting people to hand over money to the National Party :-)

The rationale for permitting this is that, in the scheme of fundraising for a political party’s campaign, $5000 is such small change that it doesn’t raise any real concern that you’ll get anything in return for it. Indeed, it’s only once someone gives $15000 in a year that we (now) require the political party tell the world who they are. Anything given below that amount is kept strictly between the donor and the party.

OK. That’s fine. But let’s say that the guest list for the Dinner at Antoine’s got leaked. And let’s say that it turned out six of the places around the table were taken by Chris MollerBruce Carter,Peter CullinaneNigel MorrisonRod McGeoch and Brent Harman. (Note to Chapman Tripp or whomsoever may be asked to look at this paragraph – I am not saying that these individuals were at the dinner, but rather posing a purely hypothetical point for the purpose of academic discussion.) Would it not be of considerable public interest to know of that fact? In particular, would it not be relevant to us that (in the purely hypothetical case discussed) members of SkyCity’s Board of Directors had given National $30,000 between them prior to the last election, so that they could spend an evening in private conversation over dinner with the PM? And then let’s say that each of their wives also had chosen to buy a place at the table in their own names – adding another $30,000 to the pot.

I’m not saying that this was what the Dinner at Antoine’s was all about. It probably wasn’t – more likely it was an amalgam of social climbers and old friends taking the chance to hang out with a guy who is (by all accounts) good company. What I am saying, however, is that because New Zealand has set the legal disclosure level for donations to political parties at such a high level, we may never know if and when such a dinner ever does take place. And that, I think, is a problem.

Andrew supports a lower disclosure limit than $15,000. It used to be $10,000 which I supported but National and Labour voted for it to increase to $15,000 in 2010. But as I pointed out yesterday that is still under 0.5% of a party’s allowable spend during the election year.

In the hypothetical case above, I’d point out that each director and spouse would have to pay for their ticket personally. If one person or company was reimbursing them for the ticket or paying for it, then they have a legal obligation to reveal that.

The other thing worth noting is that a dinner is in fact a transparent fundraising device as everyone there sees who everyone else is. Just send a cheque to a political party, and no one knows but them and you. Turn up to a dinner and everyone else there will see. And I’m sure people would notice an entire board of directors there and their spouses :-)

So a very good post by Andrew on this issue. His hypothetical is just that. As it happens I think $10,000 is a better limit than $15,000 but I put this in the context of a party’s likely total spend in election year being between $3 million and $5 million.

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Auckland sites needing a cultural assessment grow to 5,500

March 10th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Bernard Orsman writes:

The Auckland Council has confirmed that an extra 2000 or so properties are covered by a controversial rule requiring owners to seek iwi approval to work on their land.

A rule in the council’s draft Unitary Plan requires applicants carrying out work on 3661 sites of significance and value to mana whenua to obtain a “cultural impact assessment” from one or more of 19 iwi groups.

Now the council has told the Herald the rule applies to “significant ecological areas (SEA)”, of which more than 2000 were in the plan.

Maybe it would be easier for the Council to just provide a list of sites which don’t need a cultural assessment in order to remove vegetation etc. Eventually that will be the shorter list.

Politicians are divided on the iwi consent rule, which Auckland University associate law professor Ken Palmer said must be seen as invalid.

In a letter to the Herald on Friday, Professor Palmer, an expert on the Resource Management Act, said Labour amended the act in 2005 to clarify doubts over consultation, especially with iwi.

“The section unequivocally states ‘neither [an applicant nor a council] has a duty under this act to consult any person about the application’.”

Council chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley disputed Dr Palmer’s interpretation, saying a cultural impact assessment was not equivalent to consultation, but similar to a requirement to supply specialist reports, such as from an engineer.

Semantics. It is another step towards town planners undermining the rights of owners.

Professor Palmer did not agree with Dr Blakeley’s view, saying a specialist report might be justified on matters of land risk, noise and air pollution, etc, but any obligation to consult mana whenua on cultural concerns went beyond this “and impinges on normal rights of freehold ownership”.

Indeed.

Labour’s Maori affairs spokesman, Shane Jones, said the council should assure itself it was taking account of Maori criteria in the act because the average Kiwi would recoil when asked to engage in a long and expensive cultural impact assessment.

Mr Jones said no one doubted the need to embrace obligations to respect sacred sites, but the issue had morphed into something else.

I’m still waiting for someone in the media to pin Nanaia Mahuta down and ask her if she agrees with Shane Jones in his opposition to the cultural assessments. Or Phil Twyford. Or David Cunliffe.

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Williams on Peters

March 10th, 2014 at 7:12 am by David Farrar

Mike Williams wrote yesterday:

Peters was vehemently attacked in the lead-up to the 2008 general election for allegedly accepting a $100,000 contribution from the same Sir Owen two years earlier, then denying it.

Despite a leaked email in which Sir Owen said he’d made a donation to NZ First, when Peters was asked if NZ First had received the money from Sir Owen he held up a sign that read “No”.

He was widely pilloried. NZ First fell short of the 5 per cent threshold by 20,000 votes in the forthcoming general election, disappeared from Parliament and gave John Key’s National Party the election.

As I facilitated the donation in question, I can report – for the first time – that Peters was in fact telling the strict truth.

No he wasn’t. There are two aspects to whether Peters was telling the truth, and Williams focuses on one aspect only – which gives a very misleading impression. I’ll explain.

It was then resolved that a contribution would be made to defray the costs of the court action and a payment was made to the fees account of the lead lawyer, Brian Henry.

The transaction did not involve Peters and no money ever went near him or the NZ First Party. However the privileges committee and media chose to believe the leaked email – and the rest is history.

Peters was asked two things. One was whether Glenn had donated to NZ First and the other was whether he knew in advance about the donation to Brian Henry to cover Peters’ legal fees.

One can argue, like Williams has, that the $100,000 donation was not to NZ First – but to Brian Henry and/or to Peters personally. But that wasn’t the key issue that the Privileges Committee looked into.

Peters claimed that he knew nothing at all about the donation until Henry revealed it. He swore black and blue that he knew nothing at all about it.

The evidence presented to the Privileges Committee (which I attended) was testimony by Glenn and his assistant that it had been discussed. But they had more than their word. The evidence includes

  1. a phone log showing a lengthy call between Glenn and Peters from 1.27 pm to 1.33 pm
  2. a phone log showing Peters called Brian Henry from 1.34 pm to 1.39 pm
  3. a e-mail from Brian Henry at 1.40 pm to Owen Glenn asking for the money, providing a bank account number and referring to his recent discussion with his client

If you believe the two phone calls immediately before the e-mail providing the bank account number for the $100,000 were unrelated, then you are either a member of the Labour Party caucus or I have a bridge for sale!

Also Sue Moroney’s brother testified he heard Peters thank Glenn for the donation.

So let there be no mistake. Peters was not telling the truth. He may have been telling the truth in terms of whether it was a donation to NZ First or not – but there is no way he was telling the truth when he denied knowing anything about the donation. The phone logs and e-mail are a smoking gun.

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Maori MPs and candidates

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

National has had two hotly contested selections this weekend for National held seats. Shane Reti won Whangarei and Wayne Walford won Napier. As it happens they are both Maori. No quotas involved. No racial equivalent of a man ban. No head office deciding. All decisions made by 60+ local members and delegates.

National already has nine Maori MPs. They may have 11 after the election. And unlike some other parties, they select Maori MPs in winnable general seats such as Waitakere, Tauranga, Northland, Botany and also now Whangarei and Napier.

Is it perhaps not time for us agree that we no longer need the Maori seats to get Maori MPs into Parliament. There are other reasons you can advocate there should be Maori seats, but in recent years there’s been a great track record of Maori candidates being selected for winnable general seats.

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The New Zealand Head of State campaign

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

The former Republican Movement has announced:

The Republican Movement is re-naming its entire campaign to make it clear that reforming New Zealand’s head of state is its number one priority. From now on the group will be campaigning under the banner ‘New Zealand Head of State’.

The new campaign Chair, Savage, said “the name-change will focus the wider debate on the specific reforms the group is advocating.”

“A republic can mean different things to different people so we’ve decided to make it very clear we are advocating a New Zealand republic and that a New Zealand republic involves taking the position of Governor-General and transitioning it into a democratically selected and politically neutral office.

“We will not leave the Commonwealth, we won’t be like the United States and it won’t change the legal status of the Treaty. Having our own head of state will resolve the contradictions inherent in having a foreign head of state. Most importantly it will make us constitutionally independent nation for the very first time.”

The British Queen or King will still be Head of the Commonwealth, and NZ would still be a Commonwealth country so we’d still get royal visits in the future even if we have our own New Zealand Head of State.

“Our criteria for a head of state is very clear. Only a New Zealander can be a New Zealand’s head of State and the only fair way to choose that person is through democratic selection. 

Change is unlikely soon, but it will happen!

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More tricky

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

The Herald on Sunday story summary:

The Labour leader dodged questions about helping his rich friend and donor buy an idyllic holiday home

You see the Herald on Sunday asked David Cunliffe about the $4 million purchase. His response:

When the Herald on Sunday asked Cunliffe two weeks ago about the four-bedroom, 200sqm house at Ti Point, overlooking the Omaha holiday home of Prime Minister John Key, he said he had nothing to do with the sale.

Cunliffe said he had no beneficial interest in the property, and his wife Karen had simply played a legal role with the trustee company which bought the property.

If he was not telling the truth, Cunliffe said, “you can have my testicles for garters”.

So the clear impression he gave the Herald on Sunday was it had nothing to do with him, and his wife was simply acting as a lawyer with the sale.

However:

Real estate agent Lorraine Mildon said Cunliffe had been involved in the purchase, and had visited the property.

Cunliffe returned to the property shortly before Waitangi Day last year, she said, on behalf of a friend who was in America.

“He didn’t buy it. His friend did. He came and looked at it on behalf of his friend but he didn’t sign the agreement.”

Neighbour Jan Haslam said she believed Cunliffe had been to visit the property. 

The real estate agent says Cunliffe was involved in the purchase and visited the property pre-sale.

Cunliffe said he first visited with Keenan, who wanted to buy the property, but the gate was locked. “We weren’t able to get on to the property.”

Keenan returned to the US, but Cunliffe went back to Ti Point with his wife and children to inspect the house.

So why did Cunliffe give the Herald on Sunday the impression the sale had nothing to do with him:

Cunliffe did not disclose his visits when the Herald on Sunday inquired about it on February 22. This weekend, he said he had checked his recording of the interview and he had truthfully answered questions about any beneficial ownership of the property. “If you had asked me whether I had visited the property, then my answer would have been yes,” Cunliffe said.

They asked him if he was involved in the sale and he said no. Most people would answer yes if they had been out to visit the property on behalf of the prospective owner. But once again, Cunliffe goes for the tricky response.

Let’s be clear. I don’t have a problem with an MP helping an old friend who is based overseas purchase a property. Nothing wrong with helping your friends. It does get murkier when the friend later becomes a personal donor, which is why disclosure requirements are so important.

The issue is Cunliffe’s response to the Herald on Sunday. His response shouldn’t have been to deny he had anything to do with the sale. It should have been “Yeah I helped Perry purchase it. He’s an old mate and was only in NZ for a few days, so I checked it out for him. It was great to be able to help him out, as that is what mates do for each other”

But he basically denied all knowledge of it, and only when the Herald on Sunday came back to him with testimony from the real estate agent did he admit he was involved, but then claimed he didn’t lie when he originally denied it because he interpreted the Herald on Sunday’s inquiries to be about whether he had a beneficial interest in the property, rather than any involvement.

This is exactly what people mean when they talk about being tricky.

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Guest Post: The First Election Debate

March 9th, 2014 at 8:30 am by David Farrar

First Election Debate Goes to Craig (Gower/TV3)

by John Stringer, a Christchurch spy in Jaffaland.

I was in Auckland last night, so went along to the first election debate for 2014 which kicks off the 2014 campaign.

debatephoto

600 people in the Fisher & Paykel Auditorium, Business School of Auckland University.

Organised by the Dept. of Politics. Gold coin entry, so not a free-for-all.

Gridlock Auckland traffic delayed the debate 20 minutes as not all speakers could arrive on time.

Winston Peters was a no-show. Colin Craig was the last to arrive and received a celebrity welcome.

MC’ed by Patrick Gower, who gave a good humoured mockery introduction of each candidate. Shane Jones of Labour was put down as the Porn King; Jamie Whyte of ACT derided as Mr 0.00% and a potential lecturer of Incest 101 and Polygamy 102; and other good-humoured put downs of each candidate.

According to Patrick Gower of TV3 interviewed on RadioLIVE Marcus Lush this morning, the night went to Colin Craig, who was received as something of a rock celebrity, with students queuing up afterward to get a selfie with him.  As reported here. Craig was the last to leave,

The format was two minutes each, on the following:

1. Each parties basic framework

2. Economy

3. Social Issues

4. Tertiary Education (Funding model) 

1. Each party’s basic framework

Debate commenced with a humorous address by

Colin Craig, Conservative who opened with “honesty” and  some anecdotes about fishing and rugby and blew a whistle (“invented by a NZer,” ie innovation).

John Minto, Mana.  Read his speech, standing for the poor and those left behind by 30 years of neo-liberalism, and those slipping backwards through inequality and poverty. Attacked the “obscenely rich.”  Will abolish GST and feed kids at schools.  Also promised jobs through regional development and to “abolish the dole.”

Gareth Hughes, Greens.  Talked up a progressive government, usual Green environmental policy, solar panels, protecting beaches, attacked National, swimmable rivers and use of smart technology.

Jamie-Lee Ross, National.  “Patrick Gower comedy show, better than Paul Henry.” A NZ that is more free, creates jobs through a competitive economy.  Growth at 3%; talked up results under National, especially growth in jobs (rebutting Minto), also covered education and health.

Te Ururoa Flavell, Maori.  Patrick introduced him as “T-Flav.”  Spoke about Maori Party’s protest beginnings (Foreshore and Seabed); Clarified his party not just for Maori. Shared values between Pakeha and Maori.  Emphasised cooperation with National but holding National back on key policies, such as environmental protection under RMA.  Keep National honest and moderated.

Shane Jones, Labour.  “Explained Colin was welcome, we waited, it’s a long way from the Moon.”  Fairer more equitable power system in NZ; going to introduce a capital gains tax. Assistance for families with a  parent staying at home.

Jamie Whyte, ACT. Began very quietly, lectured on nature of what we think politicians do. Said ACT rejects current definitions. Property rights discussed in context of Foreshore and Seabed.  Education as a consummable and economic sovereignty for all.

[Aside] Capital Gains Tax.

Gower noted the applause for Capital Gains Tax announced by Jones, went to Craig:

• Why no capital gains tax? Craig said CGT doesn’t drive down prices for housing; its not an answer its an impediment.

• Minto supported CGT. Gower to Hughes: why only on housing? Hughes: over investment in housing, locked up and not spent on innovation, IT, clean-tech which are all capital starved.

• Gower to Ross, why National not helping with housing?  Ross agreed with Craig, that  a CGT won’t work (cited Australia) and said Labour was being disingenuous.

• Flavell admitted they didn’t have a policy on CGT but interested in better housing for Maori.

• Jones said Gower’s face is “made for radio.” (slightly booed for that) which he called ‘The Derp face.’  Avoided the question and put a plug in for lifting the retirement age.

• Whyte: opposed to CGT, capital has already been taxed as savings on income. Said land prices are artificially scarce which has pushed prices up.

2. ECONOMY, specifically the Minimum (& Living) Wage.

• ACT opposes minimum wages; can’t legislate incomes and minimum wages pull people out of the labour market.  People need skills. Unfair as it imposes a burden on employers and the consumers of goods; artbitrarily allocates the policy to those doing the most – providing the jobs. Spread the problem across the whole population.

• Jones. Labour will put up the minimum wage, a living wage, Working for Families; challenged listeners to think about whether people can afford to live on $13.50?

• Flavell talked about struggling workers on low incomes, part time workers, and being unable to fulfill their obligations as parents. Set min. wage at $16.00; and $18.80 as a Living Wage.What’s good for Maori is good for NZ, look after the lower end.

• Ross. Only 4 countries in world that have a higher minimum wage comparatively with NZ. [This stat. was later broadly challenged by Gower and several speakers]. Increased it every year they’ve been in office. Ramping up min. wage increases unemployment. Grows welfare, we need more jobs; growth of min wage naturally rather than arbitrarily.

• Hughes emphasized Greens impact on hauling Labour toward a min. wage and living wage. Plan for higher tech, IT jobs, science jobs that pay more.

• Minto. Mana would make living wage ($18.80) the min. wage.  Compared the workers’ share of income over several decades; lower now than it was.  He swore the most. “If bullsh*t was tarseal, you could road the whole country with all of National and Acts policies about this.” Called people bloody bastards and pricks.

• Craig castigated Minto, that he probably paid more tax than Minto did, and at a higher rate [to applause from audience]. Attacked National’s tax cut but said they had been misapplied.  Favours tax cuts better targeted where it benefits most.

Gower challenged Ross’s figures re only 4 countries having higher minimum wages, and min wage rates internationally. Ross spilled anti-Labour statistics on wages. Gower said Labour’s policy was closer to National than Greens or Maori, Jones said to wait for the election. Whyte cited Singapore and Switzerland as nations without a minimum wage. Whyte attacked Labour’s arbitrary pricing of min. wage, because they know “damn well that $20 would create mass unemployment.”  

Gower to Hughes: would it cost jobs? Greens support it because it’s fair; couldn’t clarify if it was a Green priority to push Labour up on the min. wage.  Minto attacked the rich, called them vicious, and tired class struggle rhetoric. Gower challenged him. “Are you saying Colin Craig is a bludger?”  Craig replied Consv. intends to close tax loopholes and largely in agreement with Minto.  Gower was shocked…“Conservatives and Minto in Coalition!”  Craig then traversed over to Education as a metaphor for success and equity regarding income and paying tax.

3. Social Issues with emphasis on Alcohol regulation.

Gower asked each speaker what their personal drinking was.

• Jones: drinking is a conscience issue for him. Not convinced minimum pricing of alcohol will change NZ drinking habits. Cited Geoffrey Palmer’s reforms but disagreed with whipping caucuses on this issue.

• Ross.  Doesn’t drink. Supports age at 18. Agreed with reducing blood/alcohol levels and zero-rating at age differentials.  Access to alcohol should also be restricted.

• Hughes. Drinks a few beers a week. Disagrees with targeting youth; it’s a societal and historic problem. Cited stats re youth drinking being down comparatively.

• Minto: light social drinker now but heavy before. Attacked the booze barons advertising alcohol to teens, and promoting binge drinking culture.

• Whyte, “I’m a slow and steady drinker..I always knew I had it in me.”  [Big applause]. Alcohol should be regulated, but by individuals not the State.  Opposed regulation of venues, should be done by pub owners.  Supported the 18 year age limit.

• Flavell drinks one beer a week.  Moved to Maori policy on tobacco and a smoke-free NZ, and gambling. Maori to attack these issues by addressing price, advertising, marketing and branding as well as caring for those affected by the results of abuse.

• Craig is a light social drinker, beer and wine. “Depends on the number of BBQs.”  Spoke about the reports and the huge costs of subsidising this problem, such as hospital admissions. Most violent crime fueled by alcohol. Audience went quiet while Craig talked on these issues and he got the loudest clap of the night on this topic which seemed to resonate.

[Aside] Have You Ever Smoked a Joint?

Gower asked Craig if he’d spoked a joint and if he supports decriminalisation of cannabis. He may have passively smoked at Auckland University “in the Quad.”  Craig attacked libertarianism, saying people can’t do what ever they want because it affects other people.  Decried synthetic cannabis.

Gower asked Minto, who had smoked a joint.  His personal view is that marijuana should be decriminalised.

Hughes: “I’m a vegetarian Greenie who used to sail on the Rainbow Warrior, what do you guys think?”  Prohibition doesn’t work, supports decriminalisation.

Flavell.  Utterly opposed to decriminalisation because of the severe damage he sees in his communities.

Jones. “I come from Kaitaia, so…”  Not a smoker. Grows like a weed in Kaitaia, not interested in supporting decriminalisaion.

Whyte.  Doesn’t smoke.

4. Tertiary Education.  What is the best funding model?

• Hughes attacked National on capping entries and blamed them for NZ universities slipping in international rankings. Repeated his Green mantra, “Smarter, Greener New Zealand.”

• Ross. Talked up the heavily-subsidised system we have now. Ross suggested Winston Peters didn’t bother to turn up, as the 600 people present did not represent his demographic.

• Minto.  All the speakers, except perhaps for Gareth, got their educations for free. Labour brought in student fee as and National increased them, now at a level above infaltion. Mana wants tertiary education and all education) free for citizenship.

• Craig. The country, universities and students are going into debt to pay for the current system, because we pay for bottoms on seats. We need a more varied system, compete for it and make our universities the best in the world.  Disagreed with Minto’s approach.  Mass education through university (bums on seats) was not the way to go was well supported by the audience.

• Whyte. ACT supports fee subsidisation but is against interest free loans. Let consumers set the market for tertiary education through the vocation sector setting need.

• Flavell. Unfairness in sector due to price hinderances for many people.  Maori want fee reduction policies, a universal student allowance, set at the same level as the unemployment benefit, and repayments set to actual earning levels.  Maori wants to decrease student debt.

• Jones. Praised the scholarship he received that gave him access to tertiary education.

The debate finished with questions about University Councils.

Summary.

Overall the debate was good-willed with a few barbs and a tenor of university humour as led by Patrick Gower’s deprecating style.  The 2 min. session game time for each speaker to get away some content and policy substance. Jones was the most humorous but suffered from cheap-shot syndrome trotting out the predictable recycling of his colleagues hiccups.

Gareth Hughes did very well, he was polished and got his party’s bullet points away (which surprised me) as I’d debated with him recently, and he was not nearly as good.  Jamie Whyte has a long way to go, nice man, but like Richard Prebble says, “not a politician.”  Ross held the flag for National; Minto seemed from another decade; Craig had lots of celebrity support and was given the night by Gower. Flavell injected a much-needed different perspective on many things, which enriched the debate.  It was a bit long at 2 hours.

The two best spears in my view were Hughes and Craig.  Jones was the funniest but a bit of a buffoon.

Most humorous line of the night was probably Hughes re Rainbow Warrior joint-smoking or Gower mocking Whyte over Incest and Polygamy.

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Labour selects Tony Milne for Christchurch Central

March 8th, 2014 at 5:01 pm by David Farrar

Labour has selected Tony Milne to contest the marginal Christchurch Central seat.

Tony is currently a lobbyist for the Problem Gambling Foundation (which is funded by the Ministry of Health), whom he has worked for since 2008.He was also Jim Anderton’s Mayoral Campaign Manager and worked for Tim Barnett from 2003 to 2008. Tony also stood for Labour in Rakaia in 2002 and I think 2005, and has a degree in English and Political Science. He has also been the Youth Vice-President of the Labour Party.

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Walford wins Napier

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

Wayne Walford has won the selection to be National’s candidate for Napier, replacing Chris Tremain. The current majority is 3,701.

Walford is a former CEO of the Waikato Chamber of Commerce. He is currently a business mentor and trainer, and has an MBA from Waikato.

He was also National’s Tauranga Campaign Manager in 2005 that saw Winston Peters lose his hold on Tauranga. We thank him!

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Donation disclosure thresholds

March 8th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

For the excitable out there, let me explain the three different sorts of donations and the thresholds.

  1. A donation or a gift to an MP personally must be disclosed if over $500. That is because it benefits them personally.
  2. A donation to an electorate candidate over $1,500 must be disclosed. The spending limit during the regulated period is $25,700 so any donation over 5.8% of their spending cap gets disclosed.
  3. A donation to a political party over $15,000 must be disclosed. The spending limit during the regulated period for a party that contests all 71 electorates is $2,915,700 so any donation over 0.5% of their spending cap gets disclosed

The reasons we have disclosure is to guard against purchasing undue influence. Personal donations to an MP directly benefit them, hence the low threshold. A donation of say $5,000 to a political party represents probably around 0.1% of their election year expenditure, so isn’t significant. That is why the threshold is $15,000 (I think a case can be made for it to be $10,000 as it used to be), not $500.

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Defamation as a fundraiser

March 8th, 2014 at 2:19 pm by David Farrar

After the Greens used the Craig v Norman defamation case as a fundraiser (I suspect in reality Norman’s costs will be paid for out of their parliamentary budget), Colin Craig has done the same – but with more success.

The Herald reported:

A mock fundraising campaign launched by Conservatives leader Colin Craig to cover his defamation case against Greens co-leader Russel Norman has collected $50,000 in less than a day.

Mr Craig began asking party members for donations today to mimic a campaign by Dr Norman, who was seeking up to $75,000 to cover his legal defence.

He said that it started as a joke among members, but it had “taken on a life of its own”.

The account had already collected around $50,000 including a one-off donation of more than $25,000.

Mr Craig said: “It’s not a case of needing the money. These were people who wanted to participate.”

The party sought donations in the form of pledges which would be collected once the money was required. But many people had paid the money up-front.

Mr Craig said that if the defamation claim went ahead and he won costs, he would ask donors if they wanted their money back. If they did not, he would use the money to fund the party’s election campaign.

This could become a new modern fundraiser for political parties – sue each other for defamation and both sides an then fundraise from it!

The winners? Well, the lawyers of course!

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