Some changes for Kiwiblog

August 19th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Over the last week or so I have seriously considered walking away from Kiwiblog. While some will take huge pleasure in what has happened, let me say that it is genuinely traumatic to have hacked e-mails to and from yourself (even if you were not the one hacked) floating around, and to also realise that because you are a blogger and pollster, it means you and your office is fair game. One of the worst moments was having a senior staff member of mine, who is also a very good friend, tell me that she had been worried that I might think she was the leak, as our politics are different. I hate the impact this is having on so many people.

Some of the revelations coming out, also do not show aspects of the blogosphere in a good light (to put it mildly) and I’ve thought quite a bit about how this impacts the wider blogosphere.

I don’t believe that the book shows me having acted in any way inappropriately. I have  gone out of my way to be open about my background and leanings and relationships, and I follow my own views when I blog – hence why I campaigned against the Government last year on the copper tax (despite being a Chorus shareholder!). I never have taken any form of money or kind for blog posts, and disclose even the mist minor gifts.

There is part of me that wants to walk away so I am no longer a target. Politics is far less important to me than family and friends. I’ve also considered whether to do what Cameron often calls me, and become a travel and arts blogger, and have less or almost no focus on politics. But the trouble is the blog for me is an outlet on what I think – what I like, what annoys me, what amuses me, what appals me. And I can’t imagine it can function as that, if I try and avoid politics. I do genuinely blog because I like having my say – that is my primary motivation.

Also I do like to think, without being immodest, that I do make good contributions to politics in NZ. I can data crunch, I have a 20+ year history of political knowledge which can put things in context, I have good relationships, and I generally get good feedback on my commentary in the mainstream media. I’m far far from irreplaceable, but there are not that many people who have the time, skills and employment situation that allows them to substantively blog.

So after some reflection, I have decided to carry on, but to make some changes. I want to improve trust in myself, Kiwiblog, and perhaps the wider blogosphere. So I’ve decided on the following.

  1. Kiwiblog is sending in an application today to join the Online Media Standards Authority. I’m not doing this so I can be called media. I don’t intend to label myself as media. I’m a blogger. I’m doing it so I can be held accountable to a public code of ethics and standards, and an independent complaint procedure. The code of ethics and standards will apply to both myself, and all guest bloggers here.
  2. I receive up to a dozen unsolicited e-mails a day, suggesting stories to me. Most are from people who are not politicians or staff – just ordinary readers. Some are just links to stories, some make some points on a topical issue. I sometimes quote these e-mails in posts. I have always been very careful to distinguish between content I write, and content people may send me (which I quote as coming from a reader). But I’m going to go a further step and if any content substantially comes from a parliamentary, or political party staffer, source I will state so when using it. I will not name individuals, but if I quote someone I will include information on their affiliations, when relevant. You will find this is very infrequently.
  3. There has been a culture of sharing stories in advance with others who may be interested in the story. Nothing wrong with sharing information. I don’t do it that often, but have when I think I have a particularly relevant story, that others may want to also blog on. This isn’t a conspiracy, it is simply information sharing. However I’m not going to do this in future. Generally no one will gets a heads up on my stories. The exception will be if it is an explicitly co-ordinated campaign such as happened in early 2009 over the pending changes to the Copyright Act, when I contacted blogs from the left and right to take part in the Black Out campaign.
  4. When I have disagreed in the past with stories Cam has run, I’ve tended to say so directly to try and influence him. The joke is my 1% success rate is higher than most.  On the recent case of Tania Billingsley, I said in a phone conversation that I didn’t think speculating on her motives was a wise thing to do. I made contact after a friend of Tania’s asked me to have a word. But I accept that having a direct conversation doesn’t mean I shouldn’t also publicly say when I think something is wrong. So in future I will more often. One can be friends, and say I think you are wrong with what you are doing. And yes we are friends. When I had some health issues a couple of years ago Cam was there for me in a big way, and on a personal note, I know he will remain there for me, and I will for him. But again, it doesn’t mean I can’t say I think you are wrong and shouldn’t do it, just as he regularly calls me out for being a pinko, or the such!
  5. After the election (ie when I have more time) I am going to consult on a tougher moderation policy for the comments. I want them to be robust and forceful, but focused more on issues than people. I have very limited time to read them myself, so probably will ask for some readers to step forward as moderators. We’ll have that discussion in October.

I hope people will appreciate the changes. I welcome feedback on them, and other suggestions. I believe political blogs can play a very valuable role in political discourse, and want to do what I can to be a constructive part of it.

UPDATE: The hone of mainly anonymous bloggers, The Standard, has a go at my decision to have even more transparency than I currently do. And what is hilarious, is the post is anonymous.

Also they print an extract from the book which is totally factually wrong. The party they cite was not organised by me, and I did not even invite anyone to attend. I went to a party in Palmerston North. Around 30 to 40 people attended the party, and they can all attest I was not the organiser. It’s just a smear.

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General Debate 19 August 2014

August 19th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Voluntary does work

August 19th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Nikki Kaye announced:

Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye today welcomed the announcement by Foodstuffs that it will adopt the Health Star Ratings on its Pams and Budget product packaging.

“Having the support of one of the biggest food retailers in the country is a good sign of industry confidence in this new food labelling system,” Ms Kaye says.

“Foodstuffs has more than 650 wholesale and retail stores in the country, and its Pams brand is the single largest grocery brand in New Zealand. The company has said that its aim is for 1400 of its Pams product lines and 315 of its Budget-branded lines to eventually be eligible to display the Health Star Rating. It has indicated that it is likely that 100 of these product lines will carry the new labelling next year.

“This new system is a significant step in empowering New Zealanders to make healthier food choices. Having a voluntary commitment by a retailer of this scale is a very good sign for the future of the Health Star Rating system, and it is my hope that this move by Foodstuffs will encourage other food retailers to follow suit.”

Ms Kaye announced in June that the Government will be adopting the new voluntary food labelling system, which uses a star rating scale of ½ to 5 stars and is able to be used on almost all packaged food products for retail sale.

I’m all for better information on what is in our food, but I much prefer a voluntary scheme, than a compulsory one. Compulsion should be the last resort, not the first.

This shows that a voluntary scheme can work. I preduct that in say three years, the vast majority of food sold will have the star labels.

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No PMO involvement in SIS OIA release

August 19th, 2014 at 6:08 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

The Security Intelligence Service says neither Prime Minister John Key nor his office played a part in the release of controversial documents to blogger Cameron Slater.

The documents were released to Slater six days after he requested them and posted on his Whaleoil  website.

They confirmed the SIS had briefed then-Labour leader Phil Goff about Israeli backpackers who left the country after the Christchurch earthquakes.

In answer to questions from Fairfax Media today, referred from Key’s office to the SIS, a spokesman said the director was responsible for responses under the OIA “and made the decision to release, and what to release in this case”.

“Under the ‘no surprises’ convention the director or a representative would normally inform the minister’s office about what is being released under the OIA. That’s what occured in this case,” he said.

“Neither the PM nor his office expressed a view as to whether the information should be released, or to whom, or when,” the spokesman said.

So the story about Collins getting a prisoner moved is dead, as is this story it seems.

The SIS Director is the former Cabinet Secretary, a role with the utmost integrity as they directly serve PMs and Cabinets of all political persuasions. If Rebecca Kitteridge says there was no involvement of the PMO in decision making, then that would have been the case.

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More bombing in Iraq

August 18th, 2014 at 4:34 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The US on Sunday launched two waves of air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) militants in northern Iraq, in the most extensive American military operations in the country since the withdrawal of ground troops in 2011.

The strikes helped Kurdish peshmerga fighters to regain control of the strategically important Mosul dam captured by militants two weeks ago.

“Mosul Dam was liberated completely,” Ali Awni, an official from Iraq’s main Kurdish party, told AFP, a statement confirmed by two other Kurdish sources.

Well intentioned and probably helping, but what happens when the bombing stops? Will ISIS be weak enough to be take out?

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$100 million for urban cycleways

August 18th, 2014 at 4:16 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The National Party is promising to spend $100 million over four years in new funding on urban cycleways. 

National rolled out its big guns to try to whip up some enthusiasm for the new proposal, but the massed ranks of reporters were barely interested.

Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee visited the Petone foreshore for the announcement this afternoon. 

They attracted a journalistic throng but questions about cycling were over in a flash, then the attention turned to the continuing fallout from the publication of Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics. 

Key’s repeated suggestions that the rest of the country would be more interested in cycleways or other initiatives fell on unresponsive ears.

Petone was chosen as the location of today’s announcement because work is under way to develop a route for cyclists between there and Ngauranga alongside State Highway 2.

Key also noted the national cycle trail network launched in 2009 had  grown to 2575kmm with 10 trails in the North Island and 12 in the South Island.

One can be in favour of both roads and cycleways. I am.

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If you want to follow the 100 recommended on Twitter

August 18th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar


Geoffrey Miller (who co-authored the list) has set up a Tweet list of the 100 accounts to fllow for the election, for those interested.

Actually the list only has 99 members on it, because for some reason Martyn Bradbury has blocked him!

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Norman’s brother-in-law celebrating Nats billboard defacements

August 18th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Kiwi Oscar winner Anna Paquin and her husband, Stephen Moyer, have landed in Wellington – lending some heavyweight celebrity endorsement to the Greens.

The True Blood co-stars are in New Zealand with their almost 2-year-old twins Poppy and Charlie.

Paquin grew up in Wellington and she and her family are understood to be staying with her mother.

Paquin has been tweeting support for Greens Party co-leader Russel Norman and offered to help put up election hoardings. Paquin’s sister, Katya, is Norman’s partner.

Moyer went a step further in his support, posting pictures to his Instagram account of defaced National hoardings.

“One of the great joys of driving down to Wellington town every day is seeing how the National Party posters have been defaced,” he wrote.

Charming. A big believer in democracy.

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12 reasons cats suck

August 18th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I love cats but Elite Daily gives you 12 reasons to join the Gareth Morgan camp:

  1. The reason you even like cats in the first place is because of a parasite in your brain
  2. Cats who cuddle with you don’t actually love you
  3. The way cats do show their love is really creepy
  4. If you are alone with your cat and you die, he will eat you immediately
  5. Cats don’t like sweet things, which means they don’t like dessert, and everyone knows you can’t trust a dessert-hater
  6. Cats kill a hell of a lot of innocent animals for literally no reason
  7. Cats are irritating show-offs
  8. Cat poop could give you a fatal disease
  9. Cats’ purrs are manipulative
  10. Cats are f*cking stupid losers
  11. You know how when you like someone, you’re attracted to his scent? Well, cats hate your scent.
  12. Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Mussolini and Hitler were all afraid of cats

No 4 is the one that worries me!

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Vote Compass

August 18th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

There is a NZ political compass test called Vote Compass, hosted by One News.

Unlike On the Fence which returned some bizarre results, these results seem far far more accurate. It is a way more scientific test. To be fair this is because they had much greater resources.

So well worth doing, and posting your responses. Mine were:

  1. ACT 71%
  2. Nat 66%
  3. United Future 59%
  4. Labour 43%
  5. NZ First 37%
  6. Maori 37%
  7. Greens 27%
  8. Mana 20%

The Conservatives and Internet Party did not co-operate.

So overall it is an excellent resource.

However I was surprised to find out the Electoral Commission is a sponsor of the project, and worse put taxpayer money into developing it.

At the end of the day, this is a site that basically tells people who they should be voting for. It is implicit, not explicit, but when it tells you the parties you most agree with, that is helping those parties.

I think there is no way the Electoral Commission logo should appear on a site, which is implicitly telling people how to vote. It critically undermines their independence and neutrality. I think their involvement is a serious failure of judgment.

Again I think the site is excellent and a great resource. But that is a different issue to the neutrality of the Electoral Commission.

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Smart lights

August 18th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington wants to be the first city in the southern hemisphere with street lights that track runaway dogs, flash when someone is in danger and dim when there is no one around.

A city council committee will this week consider whether to upgrade the capital’s 18,000 street lights with brighter LED bulbs and digital technology that interacts with smartphones, tablet computers and GPS satellites.

They would also be fitted with infra-red sensors so they can dim to about 10 per cent of full power when no-one is around and illuminate whenever someone walks by.

Paul Glennie, the city council’s team leader of strategic planning, said all sorts of services could be delivered once the capital’s street lights were all “talking to each other” across a wireless connection.

Wellingtonians could use their smartphones or tablets to tap into the lights and track how far away a rubbish truck was or see which lamppost their microchipped dog was sniffing around.

Motorists could be directed to available parking spaces via their GPS devices.

City officials could also adjust light levels via their smart-devices or a text message whenever heavy rain or snow hit the city, or when emergency services required.

“It could be that street lights actually flash outside a property that has called for an ambulance,” Glennie said.

LED lights use less power but produce better light, and illuminate to 100 per cent without the need for a warm-up period.

That means there would be no danger to public safety but energy use could drop by up to 95 per cent, Glennie said.

“Currently we leave the lights on all night whether there’s people around or not. But if we can turn them down when no one is around then no one should really be affected.”

Creating the southern hemisphere’s first “smart” light network could cost between $10 million and $20m but save capital ratepayers about $2.1m each year in energy savings.

Sounds a good investment to me.

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Greens pledge higher taxes for higher welfare

August 18th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

A Green Government would hike the tax rate to 40 per cent on income over $140,000 and use the extra revenue to tackle child poverty.

The party’s $1 billion poverty package includes new tax credits for low-income families and children in their first few weeks of life. These would be extended to the children of students and beneficiaries.

The party has this afternoon launched its election campaign in Auckland and also announced plans to harmonise the trust tax rate with the top income tax rate and crack down on avoidance. Its costings say this would generate and extra $1bn a year.

Under the plans, the Family Tax Credit and the In-work Tax Credit would be scrapped and replaced with a Children’s Credit, worth an extra $60-a-week. It would be extended to those who currently miss out on the In Work credit, which is available only to parents who work more than 20-30 hours a week.

Basically a huge income boost to families not working, funded by a tax hike on some families that are working.

The welfare system is designed so there is an incentive to be in work. The Greens want to remove one of they key incentives.

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General Debate 18 August 2014

August 18th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Greens and Labour in Canterbury

August 18th, 2014 at 6:04 am by David Farrar

Georgina Stylianou at Stuff reports:

Cantabrians appear more likely to vote Green than people anywhere else in the country, a new poll suggests.

Data from the stuff.co.nz/Ipsos political poll shows the Green Party gained 8.8 percentage points, according to surveys done at the start of this month, putting the party on 21.2 per cent support in Canterbury against a national average of 11.3 per cent. …

 Labour lost traction in Canterbury for the second month in a row, with the latest data putting it on 14.2 per cent, down 10 percentage points. Last month, Labour lost 3 percentage points while National gained the same amount. National is polling at just over 55 per cent – down 4 percentage points from July – of the Canterbury party vote. …

Right-wing blogger and commentator David Farrar said the Greens and Labour had been competing for the same votes.

At a regional level, the data had a higher margin of error so to “say Canterbury is more Green . . . will require them to stay at that level for another month or so,” Farrar said.

Only 108 people in the poll were from Canterbury. That is a 9.4% margin of error

Greens went from 12.3% to 21.2%. There is a 94.7% chance their vote actually lifted.

Labour went from 17.2% to 14.2%. There is a 71.1% chance their vote actually dropped.

There is an 89.1% chance that the Greens are actually polling higher than Labour in Canterbury.

So none of these are at 95% confidence, but they are more likely than not by some distance.

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Two more polls

August 17th, 2014 at 7:45 pm by David Farrar

curiappa

Details of the two TV polls out tonight are at Curiablog. The weighted average of the polls is shown above.

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Hickey on power prices and rates

August 17th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey writes:

Local governments and electricity companies are to blame for New Zealand’s inflation rate being much higher than it should have been for the past 10 years.

They have raised their prices between 5 and 8 per cent each year for the past decade, despite being semi-regulated and mostly publicly owned.

Let’s have a look at annual electricity inflation in the CPI:

  • 2004: 8.8%
  • 2005: 4.1%
  • 2006: 7.1%
  • 2007: 6.5%
  • 2008: 7.7%
  • 2009: 2.1%
  • 2010: 5.8% (2.2% is a GST increase compensated by tax cuts)
  • 2011: 2.4%
  • 2012: 5.2%
  • 2013: 3.0%

Now let us look at rates.

  • 2004: 3.9%
  • 2005: 7.5%
  • 2006: 7.4%
  • 2007: 6.7%
  • 2008: 5.7%
  • 2009: 5.9%
  • 2010: 6.9% (2.2% is a GST increase compensated by tax cuts)
  • 2011: 4.6%
  • 2012: 4.3%
  • 2013: 4.1%

So I agree with Bernard both have been big contributors to inflation, and both are too high. I would note that they both seem lower in the last five years than the previous five years.

Electricity inflation averaged 5.4% from 2004 to 2008 and 3.3% (excludes GST change) from 2009 to 2013. Rates inflation averaged 6.2% from 2004 to 2008 and 4.7% (excludes GST change) from 2009 to 2013. 

Although the rates have trended down since 2004, they are still much higher than the Reserve Bank’s 1 to 3 per cent inflation target. And that persistent inflation has acted like a type of plaque in the arteries of the economy, putting up its blood pressure of inflation, interest rates and the exchange rate.

Without that persistent inflation at two and three times the rate in the rest of the economy, New Zealand’s interest rates and currency would have been significantly lower.

I’ve always wondered why Reserve Bank Governors Graeme Wheeler and Alan Bollard haven’t convened a conference of mayors and CEOs of councils, electricity generator-retailers and lines companies to read them the riot act.

Not a bad idea. But how much do they contribute?

Electricity is 3.9% of the CPI and rates 2.7% so they make up 7.6% of total costs.  On average they have been responsible for the inflation rate being 0.3% higher per year than it would have been if there were no price increases. A better comparison might be the impact if they had been at the target 2%. Their contribution then is an extra 0.2% a year – which is not insignificant in a tight range the Governor must target.

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100 people to follow on Twitter

August 17th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards in the NZ Herald gives a list of 100 people to follow on Twitter for the election.

Redbaiter will be delighted to have made the list. Well done Red!

The slightly sad thing is I think I was already following 99 of the 100 people listed (can’t follow myself!)

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MP burgled and hacked

August 17th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

The dirty politics saga has taken a fresh twist with the offices of a National Party politician burgled.

Rodney MP Mark Mitchell had a laptop and phones stolen in the burglaries — and his email hacked.

You don’t break into an MPs office for money, alcohol or drugs. You break in for information. They stole a laptop.

Political commentator Chris Trotter said MPs having their property stolen was “not something that we’re used to in New Zealand politics”.

“It’s something we tend to associate with incidents like the Watergate break-in and that scandal.

“No one would condone the organised theft of political information, it puts the whole system at risk.”

So an MPs office has been broken into. I know of a Cabinet Minister’s partner whose office was targeted. Slater’s e-mail and Facebooked hacked. My office has a spy in it. I don’t know if these things are related, but it is natural to be suspicious. Others on the right have reported hacking attempts, where they have seen files being copied from their computer. We do have political espionage in New Zealand. What we don’t know is if it is a series of individuals with no connection with each other, or co-ordinated.

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People sometimes say jerky things in e-mails

August 17th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Yesterday there was some excitement over some e-mails from the Hager book which made it look like Cactus Kate had published Nicky Hager’s address so the Chinese triads could kill him, over his work exposing money laundering.

I know Cactus well and she is an unlikely assassin.

The reality is that people sometimes say jerky things in private e-mail conversations. I suspect most of us have done it. I’m sure I have. Go through what must be over 100,000 e-mails from me, and I am sure you’ll find some where I have said offensive and jerky things.

Cameron often says things in e-mails about how the Headhunters are going to deal to this person, and the triads to this person. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen a reference to this. People often boast and skite in e-mail, and that doesn’t mean it represents what actually happened. With Cameron the proportion is perhaps a bit higher than for most of us. Rodney Hide writes in the HoS on how it took him just 10 minutes to check and verify the claims about him being blackmailed were false. Basically a couple of people heard some gossip, talked about using the gossip, but of course never did.

Hence it is easy to take a few dozen of the worst e-mails from someone, and make them sound like they are a major criminal figure, or the such.

Take for example, me. I’m generally not a vengeful person. But if you were tape recording my phone when I worked out that someone had planted a spy into my office (and one that appears to still have been there maybe just three weeks ago), then you would have heard me swearing and promising bloody retribution.

Then 24 hours later I was fine, after going for a run, which is a great way to calm down. But if you had hacked my phone and heard my initial thoughts, I’d look really bad.

I can’t recall if I ever say the e-mails talking about Hager and triads or something. But if I did, I wouldn’t have been taking them seriously. Its preposterous.

When a threat is real, I will take action. A few years back there was a nasty guy who made death threats on his blog against Sue Bradford. His blog was hosted by Google, so no way to work out his identity. I realised he had once or twice commented on my blog, so I proactively went to Sue Bradford’s office and told them I had info which could help identify him. They told the Police who contacted me, and I gave the info to the Police. Sue’s politics are not my own, but I despise political violence. But people mouthing off on e-mail about the triads doing “chop, chop” is not the same.

There’s also been some focus on the case of Simon Pleasants, a former Labour staffer who worked in Ministerial Services, who some thought might have leaked details of ministerial housing. I do remember that exchange, and I said that I knew Simon well, regarded him as a good guy, and do not think he would have been involved  in any way. My advice was not followed, because well Cam doesn’t tend to be the advice taking type.

But also worth putting this in context. It was unfair to blame Simon just because he was a former Labour staffer. But when a former Labour staffer leaks cabinet papers from MFAT to Phil Goff, then people get suspicious of all former political staffers. When people stick spies into my office, I wonder if I need to start vetting my staff (I won’t). What I’m saying is that because of the actions of a few extremists, people like Simon do get suspected because of their former political role. If you know them, like I did, then you’ll say Nah would never be him. When you don’t, and some information has been leaked, then they do become the number one suspect – unfairly. Blame the former Labour staffer who leaked the MFAT cabinet paper as much as you blame others.

So again, people say jerky things in e-mails. I am one of them. I can’t recall anything horrendously jerky from me, but I’m sure if you go through 100,000 e-mails you’ll find some, and they will get published somewhere someday.

Meanwhile it appears the spy may still be in my office. A closer reading of the book reveals stuff from barely a few weeks ago. So he or she has been stealing scripts for many months. Is he or she just stealing scripts? Is he listening to conversations and passing it on. Is he or she trying to access the office computer? Are the scripts going just to Nicky Hager, or being shared with other political parties? How much of my company’s information has been stolen by this person? What fun questions I’ve got to grapple with.

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The donation disclosure limit

August 17th, 2014 at 8:21 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In a Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll commissioned for the Sunday Star-Times, 68 per cent of respondents say they would welcome a law change to make all political donations public.

Anything under $15,000 can be donated anonymously, and other loopholes exist to keep donors’ names out of the public domain.

Not quite correct. You can only donate up to $1,500 anonymously (where the party does not know your identity). $15,000 is the threshold at which a party donation must be disclosed publicly, and $1,500 the threshold for a candidate donation.

Today, the Star-Times launches a campaign calling for every donation, big or small, to be disclosed.

Labour leader David Cunliffe is one of the MPs open to something like that.

He could start by disclosing the donors to his secret leadership trust. The gall.

But the laws could be tighter. Greens co-leader Russel Norman would like a cap of $30,000 a year for individual donors and a $1000 anonymity threshold.

Absolutely against a cap. People have the right to donate if they believe strongly in a cause. Also caps do not work. They have them in the US, and caps just turn off the “good” donors and incentivise the others to find ways around then, such as PACs or third parties.

What the Greens want is to force taxpayers to fund their political party, rather than their own supporters.

At present, says Otago University political lecturer Andrew Geddis, our threshold is high, both in international terms, but also given that our size means elections are comparatively cheap to contest.

I’m not sure about the international comparisons, but I look at the disclosure limit as a % of a party’s funds needed for a campaign. National in election year will spend probably $4.5 million in total. So a disclosure limit of $15,000 means anyone who gives over 0.3% of the party’s income gets disclosed. Are you likely to buy influence for that amount? I doubt it.

I do personally think $15,000 is a bit on the high side.I thought the old limit of $10,000 was fine, but Labour and National agreed to lift it to $15,000 in exchange for maintaining restrictions on third party campaigns.

But National President Peter Goodfellow said disclosing all donations would have a “hugely damaging impact on genuine involvement in political participation and party membership”.

I thought Labour were upset that their donations database has been exposed on the Internet? Shouldn’t they welcome it, if they now agree with the Greens?

The Electoral Finance Act reforms removed some of the biggest wheezes – in particular, the Waitemata Trust, a blind trust long used by National to collect anonymous cash.

But there remain ways. On Wednesday, National will charge admirers $1350 plus GST a head to dine with the prime minister at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.

Stupid article. The fact it is a fundraising dinner does not change the disclosure requirement. It is a red herring. If the tickets were over the disclosure limit,then they would be disclosed. The issue is the disclosure limit, not the method of fundraising.

But an events industry organiser said it was likely National’s costs for even the swishest event would be $200 a head. The rest, then, is really an anonymous donation.

No, no, no, no. The names are recorded by the party as donations, and if they exceed the limit are disclosed. Theey are NOT anonymous. They are just below the limit.

The Astle dinners, says Norman, are wrong: “I think it is basically circumventing the spirit of the law, because the idea of the law was to make large donations transparent to the public.”‘

Norman is basically lying here. The dinners do not circumvent the law. Again if a ticket is over the disclosure limit, it would be disclosed.

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General Debate 17 August 2014

August 17th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Prizes for voting?

August 16th, 2014 at 4:51 pm by David Farrar

The LA Times reports:

Alarmed that fewer than one-fourth of voters are showing up for municipal elections, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted Thursday to recommend that the City Council look at using cash prizes to lure a greater number of people to the polls.

On a 3-0 vote, the panel said it wanted City Council President Herb Wesson’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee to seriously consider the use of financial incentives and a random drawing during its elections, possibly as soon as next year.

I think this is a bad thing, to start paying people to vote. If they will only vote because some pays them to, then they obviously do not care very much.

A survey of young people in NZ found that allowing voting over the Internet would motivate more young people to vote, than paying them $50.

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Garner on dirty tricks

August 16th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes at Stuff:

Helen Clark was probably the biggest gossip of them all when she led the country. She leaked and spread rumours about people and even those in her own team – I wonder how her private communications and those of her senior ministers would look splashed across a book. I bet it wouldn’t be pretty.

But they never get hacked or spied on.

I was also involved in a series of stories about former Cabinet minister John Tamihere over financial irregularities at his previous job at the Waipareira Trust which saw him sacked as a minister. When I got home, my house had been broken into. Nothing was taken but all the windows and doors had been left open. TV3 hired a security firm to change the locks, watch my kids at school and investigate the break-in. The firm concluded that someone wanted to frighten me – and we left it there. 

There have been some very interesting break ins of offices recently. Why would people break into an MPs office? No drugs., no money, no alcohol.

I also remember doing business with Labour’s chief of staff Matt McCarten in the 1990s, when he ran the Alliance. Matt was fun and charming – but let’s not kid ourselves, if anyone knew how to run a black ops sting it was him.

When I worked in Parliament, Matt sometimes would give me stuff to attack Labour with, on behalf of the Alliance. Now he is their Chief of Staff.

Senior Labour  ministers and press secretaries rang to point me toward The Standard, a Left-wing blog, to read its vitriol on certain days. Who had written those posts? I’m told many were written under fake names by Labour staffers paid by the taxpayer.

My point is politics is dirty, no matter who is in power. Hager seems genuinely surprised at this. Frankly I’m surprised at his naivety.   

Let’s not forget that Hager is a long-time critic of spy agencies and electronic surveillance – but he’s happy to accept and publish information taken from people’s computers without their consent. Dirty tricks indeed.

Spying is wrong – except when they do it.

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Should the Greens be in the potential PM debates?

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

Stuff reports:

Greens co-leader Russel Norman wants to shake the minor party tag once and for all after the latest political poll gave them another seat in parliament.

The Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos Political Poll has National steady on 55.1 per cent, Labour down 2.4 percentage points on 22.5 and the Greens down 1.1 percentage point to 11.3 per cent.

Based on those results, the Greens would increase their numbers in the house by one to 15 seats, Labour would have 29 seats and National would govern alone with 72 seats.

The Greens have been the only party to grow consistently in the MMP environment and had a target of 15 per cent in the general election, he said.

Their results are:

  • 1999: 5.2%
  • 2002: 7.0%
  • 2005: 5.3%
  • 2008: 6.7%
  • 2011: 11.1%

Not quite consistent, but they have done well the last two elections.

That should count for something but they were consistently knocked back from the leaders’ debates.

“We don’t like the way we get excluded from the debates and all of that kind of stuff and if we had our way it would be like in the UK,” he said.

“We’ve argued with the TV stations, unsuccessfully, and with many others that it should be three-way debates with the Greens in there.”

Maybe Norman has a point. Maybe he should appear with David Cunliffe in the debates, and they could split Labour’s time with the Greens in say a 2:1 ratio?

The only problem is that there is no guarantee the Greens will be in Government, even if Labour wins. If NZ First blocks them, what can they do?

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General Debate 16 August 2014

August 16th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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