General Debate 11 October 2014

October 11th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

An excellent Nobel Peace Prize winner

October 11th, 2014 at 7:05 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girls’ right to education, and Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

With the prize, Yousafzai, 17, becomes the youngest Nobel Prize winner, eclipsing Australian-born British scientist Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 when he shared the Physics Prize with his father in 1915.

That’s a great choice.

Yousafzai was attacked in 2012 on a school bus in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan by masked gunmen as a punishment for a blog that she started writing for the BBC’s Urdu service as an 11-year-old to campaign against the Taliban’s efforts to deny women an education.

To advocate for such a worthy cause at age 11 is impressive enough by itself.

The shooting of her saw three bullets fired from close range. One hit, and went into her forehead and under her skin into her shoulder. As of today no one has gone on trial for her attempted murder.

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Why are some Ministers “Minister of” and others “Minister for”

October 10th, 2014 at 2:38 pm by David Farrar

Someone asked me this question on Twitter, and I wasn’t sure so I asked the Cabinet Office if there were any guidelines about why some titles are “Minister of Health” and others “Ministers for Arts, Culture and Heritage”.

The short answer is that the PM decides, so it is up to him.

The longer answer is that the following factors are taken into account:

  • usually, when new appointments are made to established portfolios, the portfolio titles remain the same (whether “of” or “for”, especially if the title is used in legislation)
  • “of” is often used where the portfolio relates directly to an actual Ministry or Department (eg Minister of Health, Minister of Justice, Minister of Corrections)
  • “for” is often used where the portfolio description is more “generic”, eg where the Minister is responsible for a particular topic or area (eg Minister for Regulatory Reform, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage);
  • sometimes, for reasons of sense or style, it just makes sense to use “of” or “for” (eg the former “Minister of Women’s Affairs has been changed to “Minister for Women”).

That makes a lot of sense. The last point especially resonates. Being the “Minister of Youth” or “Minister of Women” would sound very weird. Would be a cool business card though that said “Minister of Youth” :-)

For those interested these are the different titles:

Minister Of

Civil Defence
Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Energy and Resources
Foreign Affairs
Internal Affairs
Local Government
Maori Affairs
Pacific Island Affairs
Science and Innovation
State Services
Veterans’ Affairs
Youth Affairs

Minister for

Arts, Culture and Heritage
Building and Housing
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
Climate Change Issues
Disability Issues
Economic Development
Ethnic Communities
Food Safety
Land Information
National Security and Intelligence
Pacific Peoples
Primary Industries
Regulatory Reform
Senior Citizens
Small Business
Social Development
Social Housing
Sport and Recreation
State Owned Enterprises
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
Workplace Relations and Safety
Whanau Ora
(the) Community and Voluntary Sector
(the) Environment

My thanks to the Cabinet Office for their prompt and helpful response.


Robertson is nominated

October 10th, 2014 at 1:49 pm by David Farrar

The choice of nominees is interesting. Kris was a strong Shearer supporter and Rino is a member of the Maori caucus, and voted against same sex marriage. While one can read too much into these things, I suspect the choices were made to show Grant can unify and appeal widely.

I noted that it is dated today. I do wonder if it was actually signed around six months ago? :-)

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Nudists coming to Wellington

October 10th, 2014 at 1:46 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The capital will bare all in 2016 when it hosts the world’s largest nudist conference at the Wellington Naturist Club’s HQ in Upper Hutt.

The 2016 International Naturist Federation (INF) World Congress was secured in a joint push from the New Zealand Naturist Federation (NZNF), Tourism New Zealand’s conference assistance programme, Upper Hutt City Council and Business Events Wellington.

Every two years the INF World Congress is hosted by different Federations around the world and this is the first time New Zealand will be hosting the event.

”Along with the Federation Executive and our 1500 members nationwide, we look forward to welcoming the many expected international delegates to New Zealand,” NZNF national president Wendy Lowe said.

You have to feel sorry for the conference staff and waiting staff :-)


Is disputing data dirty politics?

October 10th, 2014 at 1:34 pm by David Farrar

Jarrod Gilbert is tweeting that he has an OIA showing I asked for information to attack him. This is not true. I asked for information to dispute his data, and he seems unable to see the difference. This is the legacy of the Hager book, that people now call anything they disagree with as Dirty Politics. In fact the record will show I have never attacked Dri Gilbert or called him names, while he in fact has called me a range of names of which quisling is one of the politer.

However I can understand he is upset becaise at the end of the day he was right in the assertion he was making, and I was wrong to be dismissive of it. I get things wrong sometimes.

Anyway I thought it would be useful to detail this rather sad saga from the beginning. It started when Dr Gilbert said Anne Tolley’s speech on gangs was incorrect, and he said he would eat a suitcase of carrots if she is correct.

In my experience Ministers tend to be pretty careful about using correct figures, and the nature of Dr Gilbert’s promise to eat carrots attracted my attention, so I had a look at the data under dispute which was that:

4,000 known gang members in New Zealandar responsible for 34 percent of class A & B drug offences; 36 percent of kidnapping and addiction offences; 25 percent of aggravated robbery/robbery offences; 26 percent of grievous assault offences..

Why I thought these figures were credible as that the number of Class A & B drug offences, kidnappings, robberies and grievous assaults is quite low. I was focused on the number of crimes side, not the number of gang members side.

I should point out that no one suggested to me to write my blog post. I didn’t talk to anyone before I wrote it. I saw Dr Gilbert’s post, and thought that the number of crimes in those categories made it very possible gang members were responsible for the proportions quoted.

My blog post here said:

Aggravated Robberies and Robberies

There were 2,032 robberies (both types) last year. 25% would be 508. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

Kidnappings and Abductions

There were 198 kidnappings and abductions last year. 36% would be 71. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

Grievous Assaults

If you add up the 17 assault categories that mention GBH, there were 500 offences last year.  26% would be 130. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

Class A and B drug offences

There were 16,070 illicit drug offences in 2013. They are broken up into specific drugs and it would take a long time to do an exact count. But a previous Stats report is that less than 10% are Class A and B. So a fair assumption is 1,607 Class A and B drug offences last year. 34% would be 546. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

So this was me responding to a post on data, with data. How this is dirty politics I don’t know. After I did the blog post, a staffer from the Minister’s office e-mailed me and said:

Hi David – I have a breakdown which backs up the stats. Let me know if you want them.

Again, nothing extraordinary. In fact sensible pro-active work. I understand the data was also provided to Radio NZ. I did not ask for the data, it was offered to me.

I updated my blog saying:

I have been sent the actual stats the Minister was relying on, which are for the first quarter of 2014. They are:

  • Class A/B drug offences total 218 out of 649

  • Kidnapping and abduction 16 out of 44

  • Aggravated robbery/robbery 72 out of 284

  • Grievous assault 130 out of 506

So I made it very clear I had been sent the stats, and implicitly of course from her office.  Nothing secret.

I commented:

I look forward to the Herald covering the Jarrod Gilbert eating his carrots.

Jarrod then responded with this post:

What the 28 percent prison number represents is gang members as well as gang associates in prison. This makes a massive difference. A few years back The Police Association said gangs and associates numbered 60,000. Associates are difficult. Am I an associate? Is a guy with a brother in the gang an associate? Associates are an arbitrary measure that can capture people not connected to a gang in any meaningful way. Therefore, if you are talking about gangs as ‘membership’ numbers or gangs as ‘members and associates’, then you are talking about very different things. That’s a 4,000 to 60,000 difference. While I think the latter should be avoided, you need to at the very least use one definition or the other and remain consistent. Apples with apples, as they say.

My focus up until now had been on that the statistics around number of offences were correct. I had not focused on the issue of whether those responsible were gang members or merely gang associates.

It seemed unlikely to me that government agencies would be using different definitions for different stats. As it happened they were, and Dr Gilbert was quite correct. I had no way of knowing so I did what was responsible and asked the Minister’s office:

Any useful data to respond to this with?

Note the use of the word data. That is and was my focus, not attacking Dr Gilbert. I regret he feels I was. I reject the idea though that me asking a Minister’s office for data is in anyway inappropriate or dirty.

I don’t have a record of an e-mail in response, but think there was a phone call which said something along the lines of we trust the data from the Police.

I then did this response in which I said:

Now sadly Dr Gilbert won’t accept he was wrong, but is now trying to argue that there is a difference between gang associates and gang members. So he is not at all disputing that are responsible for 25% to 36% of kidnappings, robberies, grievous assaults and serious drug offences. He is now just saying that the crime figures may include associates, not just gang members.

Is Dr Gilbert Saying the Corrections Department is lying when it says 28% of the prison population are gang members? They supplied the data, and I see no reason why they would make it up.

So it is a technical argument over definitions. I don’t care what you call them.

The Police Association are not an official source. The Police are. They say there are 4,000 gang members. I don’t know if they includes associates in that. I presume Police and Corrections are using the same definition.

So I’m glad Dr Gilbert is not disputing that gangs are responsible for 25% to 36% of those four serious crime categories. He is disputing whether they are all done by members, or associates. I doubt that matters to the victims of the grievous assaults, robberies and kidnappings.

Now I’m not proud of this response. I focused on the fact that I was right in saying “gangs” (if you include associates) were responsible for the proportions of crimes. I said that I wasn’t very interested in the difference between a member and an associate. This partly reflected my views that most serious crime in NZ is committed by not that many people and I took the difference between membership and an associate to be matter of degree. In hindsight I should have dealt more seriously with the point Dr Gilbert was making, which was that there is a difference between 4,000 gang members and 60,000 associates. I was trying to win a debating point rather than being fair (I blame the OU Debating Society). I do regret that.

I also honestly didn’t think the Police and Corrections would be using different definitions, so I tended to discount the probability of this.

I also made a mistake in not understanding the wide difference between an associate and a member. I tended to see an associate as someone on their way to being a member, or someone involved a gang if not a formal member. Again I should have recognised that this is an area Dr Gilbert is an expert in, and given more due to that.

Dr Gilbert responded to my blog post with his one here.

Then on 24 September the Minister’s office e-mailed me saying:

Police have released info which says their stats also include associates and family (Which they didn’t tell us at the time). Jarrod will no doubt blog.

My reply was:


What really hit me was that the Police figures included family. As someone who puts a focus on individual responsibility, I was a bit stunned that merely having a family member in a gang would get you classified as a gang associate. That made me realise I was wrong in not giving credence to what Jarrod had said. I acknowledge that even without that info, I should have treated his argument better, as I will in future.

I then did a blog post saying Jarrod was right, and I apologised to him.

While I think my second blog post on the topic was not something I’m proud of, I reject that I was seeking to damage or attack Jarrod. My focus was on the data. It should be apparent from my blog posts that I blog on data all the time. What was meant to be a fairly friendly exchange on offending stats, become more than that. I accept my responsibility for that, but it was never my intent to have Jarrod feel slighted. I would point out again that I have never resorted to name calling, and while I appreciate that some of the comments about Jarrod by some of the commenters here were not pleasant, the same goes for comments on Jarrod’s blog about me.

Again I repeat my apology to Jarrod, but at the same time I reject his assertion that I was conspiring to attack him.My aim was to attack his data and arguments, not him.  Regardless I will in future tread more carefully.


Another legal loss for the anti fluoride campaigners

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

Stuff reports:

A High Court Judge has thrown out an application by opponents of fluoride trying to force the Ministry of Health to treat it as a medicine and regulate the amount added to tap water.

Anti-fluoride group New Health New Zealand had claimed it was absurd that fluoride tablets were deemed a medicine under the act but fluoride added to tap water was not.

However, Justice David Collins ruled when Hydrofluorosilicic Acid (HFA) and Sodium Silico Fluoride (SSF) were added to domestic water supplies in New Zealand to produce fluoride concentrations within the current allowable level of 1.5 milligrams per litre they were not medicines within the meaning of the Act.

The application for declaring them as medicines was therefore dismissed, he said.

The court ruling said that the concentrations would have to be at least six times higher at 10 mls per litre, for them to have to be regulated by the Ministry of Health.


Little puts policies on the table

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

Stuff reports:

Little signalled a major shift in direction if he won the leadership, including the likely ditching of unpopular policies such as raising the pension age.

At a press conference today, the former union boss also signalled a rethink of a capital gains tax, power reforms and free doctor visits for over-65s.

Little said the policies were raised constantly on the campaign trail as either scary or unaffordable.

Most Kiwis were pragmatic enough to realise when some policies seemed “too good to be true”, he said.

His approach could pitch him against finance spokesman and acting leader David Parker, who advocated strongly for Labour’s policy mix.

Little is right to say their policies were part of their failure. Kudos to him for being the only candidate willing to say so.

Parker is the architect of three of those policies, and it will be fascinating to see what he now does.

In terms of the four policies, here’s my views on them.

  • Power reforms – this one is near barking mad. If any one policy scared the entire business community off Labour, this was it. A de facto nationalisation of the industry, with the state setting the price for all generation. Even the guy whose work they claim it is based on, came out and said it was crackers (in more polite terms). This policy must go for them to be credible.
  • Super age to 67. Personally I think this is one of their better policies. But Little is right that there was a backlash from union members about it. Blue collar workers saw it as Labour wanting them to work two years more than previously. However it is fiscally the entirely correct thing to do. The motivation for the policy was to embarrass Key over his silly pledge not to raise it, but they’ve tried that twice now and failed. Also Labour can’t govern without Winston, and Winston will never agree to it, so why take the flak for it?
  • Capital Gains Tax. Apart from being riddled with exemptions, the problem with their CGT policy is that it was one of several new taxes, and NZers saw it as Labour just wanting to tax families and businesses more. I shouldn’t give Labour free advice, but what they should do is copy the Greens with their carbon tax, and say yes we will have a CGT, but we will reduce income and company tax to compensate. This way it is about a fairer tax system, not about taking more money off families and businesses. That would neutralise the issue. However it would mean Labour not having all the extra money for spending.
  • Free doctors visits for over 65s. I don’t think that was a particularly unpopular policy for Labour – just a cynical one that didn’t work.

As I said I think it is a good thing to have a leadership candidate campaign on specific policy changes, as it gives members a chance to vote on them.

Little’s performance in New Plymouth may be an issue however. Not only has did his electorate vote in 2014 drop 12% from what it was in 2011 (and is 28% lower than Duynhoven in 2008), but Labour’s party vote in New Plymouth dropped 9% in 2014 and is 28% lower than in 2008. In absolute terms 2,954 fewer people in New Plymouth voted Labour in 2014 than 2008 and 4,646 fewer people voted Little than Duynhoven.

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Pitmen Painters

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

Pitmen Painters is a play based on the true story of a group miners in Ashington who went along to an art appreciation class run by the Workers Educational Association. The class soon turned from theory into practice, and the miners became sensations in the art world.

It is written by Lee Hall, who may be better known for Billy Elliott.

The Circa production was very well done, with a deft mix of humour, politics and art. Copies of the original artworks were displayed at various times on projectors.

The miners are deeply socialist, as most miners of that era were. The organiser has a tendency to revert to the rule book at every opportunity in deciding what is and is not allowable, including the offer of an attractive young woman to pose nude for them.

When one of the miners is offered a paid patron, this divides the group. Should one be allowed to stand out? The political theme runs throughout the play, but does not dominate it.

The play is reasonably long at two and a half hours, but it never gets stale. The continual conflict between the miners, but also the appreciation of the rarity of what they are doing, makes the play a very enjoyable experience.

It runs at Circa until Sat 8 November.

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Why are we funding a golf tournament?

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

Stuff reports:

The New Zealand Open has been given a major boost, with next year’s national golf championship securing increased government funding and live television coverage.

For the first time the New Zealand Open will be broadcast live in New Zealand and to overseas territories, including Australia and Japan.

And for the fifth straight year, the government has increased the amount of taxpayer funding going to the event.

At a press conference in Auckland today, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce announced a major events development fund investment of $700,000 a year for the 2015 and 2016 events and a one-off cash boost of $250,000 – to be matched by event promoter Sir Michael Hill – to ensure live broadcasting continues.

I don’t think we should be funding a golf tournament. I know the argument is that it is an investment in tourism, but that means we assume that golf tournament would not have occurred and been televised without taxpayer funding – and I doubt that is the case. It is just easier for organisers to hit up taxpayers rather than find additional sponsors.

On twitter several people made good arguments for it as a tourism investment, but I’d like to see hard figures about actual increased visits, rather than just awareness.


I hope she has lost the kids

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

Stuff reports:

Judge Neave said a concerned neighbour called police because she noticed the woman’s infant son playing on the road naked.

The court was told associates of the woman then arrived and found the young boy playing naked in the driveway.

They took him inside and heard screaming coming from the bathroom.

They found the woman’s young daughter with soap in her eyes, clothed and in a bathtub overflowing with cold water, Judge Neave said.

The friends were forced to kick the bedroom door open because the woman, who was hungover, had barricaded herself in, he said.

The mother did not wake up, so the associates clothed the children and took them away from the house, he said.

Police arrived at the house and questioned the woman but she became abusive and refused to discuss where her children were, he said.

A miracle the kids are alive. I hope she does not keep custody, unless she can show remarkable change.

This is the sort of child poverty we should be focusing on – and it is not one that would be fixed by increasing the benefit by $60 a week.


General Debate 10 October 2014

October 10th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Remember peak oil?

October 10th, 2014 at 6:55 am by David Farrar


This shows the known or proven level of oil reserves since 1980, from BPs annual oil report.

Do you recall how we were told for year after year we were at or about to hit peak oil, when production would reach a peak, and the associated oil depletion theory?

Well two things have happened. Production has not peaked and has increased every year, and the reserves are not getting smaller, but also are increasing.



Is the Kiwifruit lawsuit falling apart?

October 9th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Two of the five members of a committee leading a claim to sue the Government for negligence over the PSA kiwifruit disease have resigned.

Allan Dawson, the managing director of Katikati coolstore Aongatete and Murray Gibson, a Te Puke accountant, were both part of a five-member committee behind the Kiwifruit Claim.

The claim, backed by a litigation fund, is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation over the PSA outbreak in 2010 which caused massive loses to the Bay of Plenty industry.

However, marketing organisations Zespri and a number of other groups have urged growers to think carefully about signing up.

An open letter to Prime Minister John Key opposing the claim, originally sent yesterday, was amended and resent today with the inclusion of Dawson as a signatory.

The vast bulk of the industry is against this claim, which appears to be acting for an international local litigation fund.

Gibson meanwhile resigned last night.

“The feedback I have received from clients in recent days and visits I have made to clients to hear their thoughts give me no choice but to resign. The potential impact on my business and professional reputation is a risk I am not prepared to accept,” Gibson wrote, asking to no longer be referred to in material sent to the media.

It is generally wise to listen to your clients.

Hooton insisted the claim would go ahead, with the statement of claim due to be filed in the Wellington High Court next week.

“This is all going as planned,” he said.

Losing 40% of your claim committee was the plan?


Miller on Dotcom

October 9th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Geoffrey Miller at The Diplomat writes on The Downfall of Kim Dotcom:

Outwardly, Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party campaigned against mass surveillance and for free tertiary education and marijuana law reform. But by the end, New Zealand voters saw through the party – officially registered only in May this year – and deemed it a vanity project designed only to win Dotcom enough political support to hold the balance of power under the country’s proportional voting system and veto his extradition to the U.S. An unusual alliance with Mana, a leftist party advocating for the interests of New Zealand’s underprivileged indigenous Maori, seemed like a bold tactical move on paper, but was a disaster in practice. Dotcom’s flamboyant lifestyle and seemingly limitless cash ended up destroying Mana’s credibility of standing up for the downtrodden.

What’s amazing is none of the comrades to Mana still see the problem. At most they just think they needed to manage Dotcom better.

Dotcom led party-goers in a repeated chant against the country’s center-right prime minister, John Key. A video of the “f**k John Key” chant was uploaded to the official YouTube account for Internet Mana and widely circulated through social media. But many New Zealand voters appeared disgusted by the negative campaigning against an enormously popular incumbent.

Yep. That was a significant turning point.

The fact that no credible proof emerged at the “Moment of Truth” to support Dotcom’s much promised “big reveal” – which revolved around an outlandish conspiracy theory that New Zealand had granted him residency only to make it easier for the United States to extradite him – only added to voters’ impression that he was a charlatan.

In May, Kim Dotcom described his pet political party as his “gift to New Zealand.” On election night, he was forced to concede that his very brand had been toxic. For John Key, Dotcom turned out to be the gift that kept on giving. New Zealand voters’ loathing of Kim Dotcom and his tainting of the country’s left played no small part in delivering Key’s center-right National Party a landslide victory.

What we don’t know is if the damage to the left is short-term or long-term. But it has reduced the left’s presence in Parliament to just two parties.

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Hone’s recount increases Kelvin’s majority

October 9th, 2014 at 2:16 pm by David Farrar

The recount results are out and Kelvin’s majority has increased by four votes to 743. What a waste of time and money.

This now means the writs can be returned and MPs officially declared elected.

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Should this be a crime?

October 9th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A brother and sister who met as young adults have been sentenced for incest as they co-parent their child in Christchurch.

The sister has been put on community detention that will keep her at home at night caring for her daughter – a healthy baby – and she must do a year of intensive supervision.

Her older brother’s sentencing was put off at the Christchurch District Court sentencing today because his probation report had not been done.

Judge David Saunders told the brother that he must not go within 100m of flat where his sister is living unless he has prior approval of the Community Probation service.

The sister has the child for five days a week, and the brother has it for the other two days. He will be sentenced on December 2, on charges of incest, wilful damage, and a breach of a community work sentence.

Judge Saunders told the sister at her sentencing that it was not the more common incest situation where an older man had taken advantage of a daughter.

In this case they were siblings and there was only a small disparity in the ages.

While incredibly yucky, they are both consenting adults. I find their decision abhorrent, but I don’t think my moral judgement should have the force of law on them.


And Little makes three

October 9th, 2014 at 12:28 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little has announced:

I have decided to contest the Labour Party leadership.

There are three immediate issues to deal with: creating greater cohesion across the caucus, rebuilding the relationship between caucus and the Party and, most importantly getting the process under way to listen to the voters who have abandoned us.

I have demonstrated skills from my time as a union secretary and former Party president in challenging the status quo and lifting organisational performance.

Andrew has a reasonable chance of winning the contest.

If he can avoid being the lowest polling candidate on first preferences, then he is likely to pick up most of the second preferences from Cunliffe or Robertson supporters.

So Andrew has two challenges, to allow him to win:

  1. Gaining enough first preferences to get him to at least second place.
  2. Having enough caucus votes so that if he wins the overall ballot, he doesn’t face Cunliffe’s problem of being seen not to be backed by his own caucus

I think he has a reasonable chance of achieving the first. I would have thought he would take votes off Cunliffe mainly, especially the union votes.

The bigger challenge is getting a credible number of caucus voters. Very roughly (have not yet done exact count), Grant has around half the caucus, Cunliffe a quarter and a quarter don’t want either (sort of Camp Shearer people). Even if Little gets six or seven of the ones who don’t want either, that is not enough to be credible. Camp Robertson is fairly solid for him. So again his best strategy will be to win two or three Cunliffe caucus members over so he can get to 10 or so.

We’ve yet to see if David Parker enters the race. I’ll do more detailed analysis once the final contenders are known.

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Small on Labour leadership

October 9th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

Cunliffe cannot possibly be the answer. Leading the party to a historic defeat is one reason.

Having not much more than a handful of first preferences in the caucus ought to be another.

The lack of any public (as opposed to party activist) enthusiasm for him is a third.

A return to Shearer ought to be unthinkable. He has the back story of bravery, can do the statesman thing and is formidable on foreign affairs.

But he still has not mastered the fatal hesitancy when dealing with other topics that dogged him through his leadership.

Like Cunliffe he would mark a return to the past.

Stuart Nash and Kelvin Davis have also been mooted. But they are too inexperienced and come from too far back in the caucus.

They may be the dream of a faction of the caucus, notably the ones who were enamoured of Jones, but neither is a viable choice at this stage.

So who?

There seems to be a growing expectation then, that whoever stands Robertson will win.

BUT Robertson also comes with a problem. Not his gay-ness, though for some it is a still an issue. Some in the party are concerned that conservative voters, especially Pasifika ones in South Auckland, would rebel and may even start their own party if Robertson is chosen.

New Zealanders are likely to be more tolerant than many in Labour and the unions think, but it is playing on some minds.

A bigger difficulty for him, though, is not caucus, confidence or competence . . . it’s speaking to voters in an everyday way, stripped of platitudes and bureau-speak. If a consensus does emerge it may be around him, and that may be the safest option.

Labour can ill-afford another mis-start. But he has work to do to present a coherent “vision” for the party and the country in a way that speaks to everyone.

Grant’s biggest challenge will be convincing New Zealanders that someone who has never spent a day working in the private sector (well post study anyway) can lead a Government with competent economic management.

But if we are to suffer a primary race, is there a third player who could energise it and offer a genuine alternative to a hackneyed run-off?

David Parker has been there before and pulled out, but his speech to the Labour conference was a surprise package that had many in the party sitting up and taking notice.

He manages to espouse Labour values while steering away from identity politics.

There is a lot of pressure on Parker to stand. He’s pulled out or refused twice before.

Andrew Little – a former union boss and party president – could energise the troops, would be an easy sell to the unions and speaks to the Left and Right of the party from Labour’s solar plexus.

He is also respected in business circles and that can only be good for fund-raising.

But at this stage he would probably draw fewer first preference votes in caucus than Cunliffe.

Little could potentially win, but if has the support of just five MPs or so, then he risks also looking like a leader without his team behind him.

So the best outcome for Labour? Robertson as leader, with caveats.

Little, Parker and Jacinda Ardern providing the deputy, finance and social policy leadership.

The only thing missing from that is a prominent role for any Maori and Pasifika MPs to reflect their importance and loyalty to Labour.

Two at least must be on the front bench when the dust settles after the leadership race.

Davis and Sepuloni?

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Bill O’Reilly interviews Leon Panetta

October 9th, 2014 at 11:43 am by Lindsay Addie

Yesterday on Foxnews Bill O’Reilly interviewed former US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta. Now let me say I find O’Reilly anything from annoying to showing great intelligence. In this interview he asks some hard questions and is excellent.

Panetta’s comments on Obama are fascinating including those criticising the Obama administration for intelligence and policy failures. He also hints that Obama is indecisive and needs to improve his decision making. Panetta comes across as a man of great insight and straight shooter who also chooses his words carefully. Panetta also adds the Obama is an intelligent man.

Panetta is of course getting flogged by the Democrats for releasing his book right in the middle of the mid-term elections!





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George FM in trouble

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

The Herald reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


3 News on Nash

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

3 News reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Lusk says he does not disclose his clients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seymour door knocking just weeks after the election

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

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


General Debate 9 October 2014

October 9th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Guest Post: Three strikes about to bite hard

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

A guest post by David Garrett, former ACT MP:

Three strikes about to bite hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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