Vance on why Labour can still win

April 8th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance gives five reasons Labour can still win:

  1. The electoral system
  2. He’s no John Key. But he ain’t Phil Goff either
  3. New Zealand First: a spent force?
  4. The missing voters
  5. A new electoral landscape?

The electoral system definitely favours Labour.

Cunluffe is a very good debater, but so was Phil Goff. The challenge for Cunliffe will not be doing well in the debates, but having a good enough brand leading up to the debates that. Vance puts it like this:

He’s two-parts untrustworthy to one-part fake. And that’s just among his MPs.

Ouch.

Andrea is right that Winston is far less of a force in the House now. However that doesn’t mean he won’t make 5%. A few bribes to oldies and bash up the Chinese is a pretty tested formula for him.

The missing voters is what Labour is gambling everything on. It will help them if they can motivate sympathetic non-voters but I’ve yet to see signs that their own supporters are motivated – let alone non-voters.

National not getting any allies into Parliament is the nightmare scenario. They get 59 seats again but can’t govern.

So Vance is correct that Labour absolutely can win. There’s five months to go. The odds are against them but if they get their shit together they will be competitive.

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A further Parliamentary Service cock up

August 3rd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

United Future leader Peter Dunne is considering legal action and Fairfax Media is alleging a “cover up” after it emerged yesterday that Mr Dunne’s emails with reporter Andrea Vance were sent to an inquiry investigating the disclosure of a sensitive report.

The latest twist in the Henry Inquiry saga follows earlier revelations that Vance’s phone records were sent to the inquiry, along with logs of her movements around the parliamentary precinct recorded by a swipecard.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet released all emails relating to the Henry Inquiry late yesterday. One included an attachment containing emails between Vance and Mr Dunne, which was sent to the inquiry by Parliamentary Services on May 21.

About 40 minutes after the message was sent, Parliamentary Service officials tried to recall the email and asked the inquiry to call urgently.

The head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Andrew Kibblewhite said the file was deleted immediately and could not have been opened because the email system was incompatible with that used by DPMC.

Unbelievable. And note it was not authorised:

 Parliamentary Services told the inquiry on May 20 it believed it had the “necessary approvals” to release ministers’ emails. However, the next day, Mr Thorn emailed Chief of staff Wayne Eagleson to ask about Mr Dunne’s emails, adding “I am happy to provide the information as requested.” Mr Eagleson said he told Mr Thorn he was uncomfortable about authorising that because Mr Dunne was not a National Party minister, and Mr Dunne would have to give permission himself.

Which he did not.

The Henry Inquiry had asked for calls made “to and from” the ministers’ phones and Miss Vance’s but specified “we do not want the call logs for (Vance’s phones)” as it was outside conditions of the inquiry.

So twice Parliamentary Service provided private communication details, despite explicit statements that that information was not to be included!

People will try to blame this on the PM or his staff, because that is the nature of the politics game. but really, it looks pretty clear to me that the PM’s Office was very careful not to over-step the mark. The problem lies with Parliamentary Service.

However there is a political management issue here, that may involve both. This info should not be coming out piecemeal. Once it was known such information was sent by mistake, it should have all been disclosed together. But it seems DPMC (seperate to the PMO) only mentioned the e-mail incident yesterday to the PM’s Office.

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A bit of rewriting history

August 1st, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Prime Minister sounds genuinely surprised that somebody in a company operating Parliament’s telephone system would give the records of a journalist’s calls to an inquiry the Prime Minister had commissioned. John Key must not know his own power. …

The Prime Minister ought to have been alert to the risk that something like this would happen when he started a witch-hunt over the early release of the Kitteridge report into the GCSB. When he reflects on the continuing saga of embarrassments he might come to the conclusion that the root of it all is his own impulse to launch inquiries into things that do not warrant them.

This is a significant rewriting of history. In fact the Greens, and other opposition parties, were demanding there be an inquiry into the leak of the Kitteridge Report. This is Russel Norman on 9 April 2013:

Dr Russel Norman: In light of the fact that the cover note on the report says that the appendices are legally privileged and highly classified, does he believe that the leaking of the full Kitteridge report is a serious offence?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That may be possible, but we have yet to see what aspects of the report have been leaked.

Dr Russel Norman: If it does turn out that the full report has been leaked by someone in his Government, what consequences should face the person who leaked this information, which the Government Communications Security Bureau describes as legally privileged and highly classified? What consequences should that person face?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: If appendices that have been given a security classification have been leaked, then there would be significant consequences for the person who leaked them.

Dr Russel Norman: Why does the Prime Minister seem confident that the appendices have not been leaked?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is a matter of whether they appear in the public arena. The Prime Minister does not have the capacity to guess whether someone has them sitting in a shoebox under their bed, but I assume that if they think there is some political effect from leaking those appendices that is worth the risk, then we will eventually see them. They are not in the newspaper today.

Dr Russel Norman: Given that so far the only member of his Government who, he has told us, has had access to this report is the office of the Prime Minister, did he or a member of his staff leak the report?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is not what I said, actually. What I said to the member was that the report has been circulated fairly broadly across Government agencies in the last couple of weeks.

Dr Russel Norman: If he does not know who leaked the report, will he launch an inquiry to get to the bottom of it, given his previous support for an inquiry into a leak at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade over documents that were probably quite considerably less sensitive?

The opposition were demanding an inquiry into the leak. They thought (wrongly) that the PMs Office had leaked it as a distraction (a moronic thing to think, but they thought it). If the Government had not held an inquiry into the leak, it would have been pilloried by the opposition with accusations of a cover up.

For the Herald to suggest that there was no need for an inquiry, and it was some impulse from the PM, is simply wrong. This is an inquiry that the opposition demanded.

Here’s Russel again suggesting the PM or his office leaked it:

Dr Russel Norman: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Was the timing of the leak part of a communication strategy to divert attention from his inappropriate involvement in the appointment of Ian Fletcher, and to have other Ministers front questions in Parliament?

So the Herald editorial is rather silly. I think they are still sulking over the teapot saga.

Andrea Vance writes of her anger on having her phone records released:

 In other circumstances, I could probably find something to laugh about in revelations that the journalist who broke a story about illegal spying was snooped on by Parliament’s bureaucrats.

Let alone, the irony that the reporter in question previously worked for the News of the World, the tabloid at a centre of a privacy violation scandal.

But I am that journalist and I’m mad as hell. Anyone who has had their confidential details hacked and shared around has the right to be angry.

My visit to Speaker David Carter’s office on Tuesday left me reeling. My jaw gaped open when he sheepishly confessed that a log of all calls I placed to people around Parliament over three months was released to an inquiry focused on the leak of the Kitteridge report on the GCSB.

On Tuesday, an IT staffer showed me pages of “metadata” – a record of hundreds of calls I made between February and May.

The conversations, of course, aren’t disclosed. But you can glean a lot from matching numbers, time and the dates of published stories.

After the news broke, I fully expected my line to fall silent as sources shied away from being burned. Thankfully, it hasn’t.

That is the very chilling impact from having those records released. If those phone records showed (for example) which Labour MPs had been called the day before a story regarding rumblings about Shearer – then those MPs would effectively be outed.  Journalists work very hard to protect their sources, and they don’t expect their phone records to be handed over to anyone – unless there is a court order or a warrant for them.

 

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Vance on Norman

July 29th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance writes:

Recently, the Business and Parliament Trust hosted a bit of a do for politicians and big hitters. The charity is aimed at helping MPs and the business world understand each other better. The seminar was held under Chatham House rules but some tantalising observations leaked out from participants.

Prime Minister John Key spoke, and was well received, followed by Labour leader David Shearer.  Norman, according to reports, was hostile and aggressive.

So much so, that some in the audience were reluctant to ask questions, for fear of being attacked. 

Ironic that Norman compared John Key to Muldoon.

Judging from chatter around Wellington, the antagonism was not an isolated episode.

A representative from an oil company tells the story of how Norman turned on his heel and walked off without a word, after they attempted to introduce themselves.

He has recently been making attempts to get around businesses, but to mixed reaction.

Within the agricultural community, there is genuine apprehension the Greens will be part of any future coalition. Industry players say that outside of environmental concerns, there has been little attempt by  the party to understand its issues.

There is frustration that the Greens overlook, or are unaware, about the sector’s innovative strides. Ideological stubbornness is standing in the way of any constructive relationship with those that earn the country a living, they say.

The Greens are entirely ideological – it is their strength and their weakness. It helps them as a political party, as they are very consistent with what they say. However Government by its nature is about flexibility, and a degree of pragmatism, and the Greens in Government could well prove incendiary, and fall apart as the Alliance did.

But the view that Norman and his party are hostile to business, is a shaping up to be a bit of a conundrum for Labour. Should they be in a position to form a government next year, they must find a role to satisfy both his acumen and ambition. That he would become finance minister is quixotic, and there would be noses out of joint (including Jones’) if he was handed the economic development portfolio. Giving him energy would be an interesting move – but would likely end in a ugly clash with oil and gas companies.

Won’t Deputy PM be enough?

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Journalist swipe cards

June 28th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

The journalist who was leaked a sensitive report on the nation’s foreign spy network had her movements tracked by a government inquiry.

The MP forced to resign over the leak, Peter Dunne, said inquiry head David Henry detailed to him the movements of Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance in and out of the parliamentary precinct.

The conversation related to Vance’s movements the day before the leaked report was published and appeared to be based on Henry having access to records of when she entered and left the building using her security swipe card.

Parliamentary Service confirmed last night it released ”metadata” and other security records to Henry for his inquiry but said only after it was satisfied ”that ministers had agreed to cooperate with the investigation”.

It said it would be expected that all swipe cards were reviewed ”if there is a security incident”.

Fairfax can confirm that Vance did not give her permission to hand over her records to the inquiry.

Group executive editor Paul Thompson said last night it would be worrying if the movements of journalists and MPs were being tracked through a security system that was supposed to protect people working within the building, not be used to watch over them.

I think this was the wrong decision by The Parliamentary Service.

Actual employees of a parliamentary agency have no expectation of privacy in their swipe card use. But MPs and journalists are not employees. They are part of the democratic process, and their swipe card data should not be released externally, unless it is under warrant or judicial demand.

Parliamentary Service has said it is expected to review swipe cards if there is a security incident. To look at this claim, we need to differentiate between two types of security incidents.

If the security incident is related to Parliament itself in a physical way, then yes Parliamentary Service should look at swipe cards records. Examples might be if something is stolen from an office, or if there is vandalism to a painting.

But this was about the leaking of government information. It was just an inquiry under the authority of the SSC and DPMC – not a fully empowered ministerial inquiry or commission of inquiry which has the powers to demand evidence.

The Henry inquiry had no power to get that data. It was entirely appropriate for David Henry to ask for it, as it would help his investgation. Parliamentary Service asked Peter Dunne if they could release his swipe card details. He agreed, so they did. They should have also asked Andrea Vance, and only done so if she agreed.

If that wasn’t acceptable to the Henry inquiry, then they would have the option of seeking more powers to demand the data. but Parliamentary Service should not have just handed it over without the permission of the journalist.

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Latest on Dunne

June 10th, 2013 at 12:33 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Shearer said he had lodged a privileges complaint with the Speaker regarding Dunne’s statement to a select committee that he did not leak the Kitteridge report into the GCSB.

Took them long enough. I indicated on Saturday that a complaint to the Privileges Committee was logical. Much more sensible that the hysterical rushing to the Police to try and get a Police investigation, for something that is not a criminal matter.

Fairfax Group executive editor Paul Thompson said politicians should tread carefully before embarking on a witch hunt. That could have a chilling effect on how journalists covered politicians.

Fairfax would protect the communications between its journalists and any contacts, regardless of whether they were the source of sensitive information or not.

“The protection of our sources is paramount,” Thompson said.

“We will resist any attempt to force us to release that sort of information.

If the issue is referred to the Privileges Committee, I don’t expect they would ask Fairfax to co-operate. And Fairfax should not.

But they can ask or order the Department of Internal Affairs to reveal the e-mails between Dunne and Vance.

Thompson also rejected suggestions there was more to the relationship between Dunne and Vance.

NZ First leader Winston Peters has claimed to see emails that were personally embarrassing but Thompson said Fairfax was “absolutely” backing Vance.

Claims are easy. He should produce them if he has them.

“Andrea is a very talented journalist, she has done some terrific work this year,” he said.

“Her handling of the GCSB report was absolutely faultless and there was nothing improper going on. We are 100 per cent behind her.”

Which is what I said on Saturday.

He also rubbished a claim by former National Party president Michelle Boag that Vance leaked the emails to Peters.

“That’s ludicrous,” Thompson said.

With respect, yes it is.

Opposition parties were likely to lodge a complaint with Parliament’s Speaker that Dunne misled Parliament last week when he told a select committee he did not leak the GCSB report.

Dunne maintained he did not leak the report, although he canvassed the prospect with Vance.

That is the issue of privilege. Whether Dunne lied to the select committee.

Prime Minister John Key said today he did not believe Dunne should quit Parliament, regardless of whether he leaked the report.

If leaking means resignation from Parliament, then the only MP left in Parliament would be Ross Robertson.

Also the PM gets no say on whether an electorate MP from another party resigns or not.

Dunne was not the first MP to leak information and he said Labour MP Lianne Dalziel had remained in Parliament after being sacked as minister for leaking material to the media.

And Winston Peters was found by the Privileges Committee to have misled Parliament (and everyone else) on his knowledge on the donation from Owen Glennto his lawyer to cover his legal expenses. He did not resign in the face of that finding. Ultimately the voters make their judgement, as they did on Peters in 2008 and will on Dunne in 2014.

“An investigation by the Privileges Committee is required to get to the truth of the matter. New Zealanders are still none the wiser as to who leaked the Kitteridge Report. All we have is an MP who has resigned as minister but refuses to co-operate with the inquiry,” Shearer said.

“The matter cannot lie here. This is why we have taken the matter to the Privileges Committee to get to the bottom of who leaked the report,” Shearer said.

That is not the role of the Privileges Committee. However their role can be to investigate if Peter Dunne lied in his select committee testimony. There is a difference.

It will be interesting to see how the Speaker rules. On the face of it, it would seem an appropriate issue to be referred to the Privileges Committee. Misleading a select committee is a serious issue.

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Dunne winners and losers

June 8th, 2013 at 8:01 am by David Farrar

Wow, what a day. Who would have picked that Kim Dotcom would indirectly claim Peter Dunne as a victim. Of course in this case Dunne really victimised himself.

I thought I would look at the winners and losers in this affair. As part of that I should say that I am assuming that Peter Dunne did in fact leak the GCSB report to Andrea Vance, despite his denials. Sure he may not have given her a copy, but it seems clear he was the source for her story.

The probability that Dunne and Vance e-mailed 80 odd times in two weeks, mainly re the GCSB, that they were due to meet up the day before she published her story, that he admits he contemplated leaking it but changed his minds – well it would be an incredible coincidence that she happened to have a second source who also had a copy. I sadly have to conclude Peter Dunne is not telling the truth when he says he did not leak the report – or he is using a Clintonian definition of leak.

  Positives Negatives
     
Winston First Winston is the big winner in this. He gains two things he badly needs – credibility and relevance. One can say he is like a stopped clock – still accurate twice a day, but the reality is basically no-one believed him and he was right. The Henry report was always going to out Dunne, but Peters has managed to claim credit for it.

 

The other win for Winston is that with United Future all but dead electorally, that gives National one fewer option post 2014, which makes NZ First a more compelling option.

The only real negative for Winston is his churlish attacks on inquiry head David Henry. He accused the inquiry of being a cover up effectively, when in fact it forensically made its case against Dunne.
David Henry He did his job well, and exposed behaviour by a Minister incompatible with remaining a Minister. His reputation is enhanced. A worry that presumably a member of his team was leaking to Winston. Will there be an inquiry into the leak from the leak inquiry?
David Shearer One less option for John Key, puts Labour in a slightly better position, and Shearer’s chances of being PM elevated. Has been near invisible on this issue, and Peters stole the show.
John Key Commissioned an inquiry that actually found the leaker. Took decisive action and effectively sacked the Minister. The revelations around Dunne will dominate headlines for some days or weeks, knocking the Government’s good economic news to the back pages.

 

One less option post 2014 will increase speculation that a deal with NZ First will be needed.

 

Dunne remaining an MP and voting for the Government may be an issue for some. However the fact he is an electorate, not list, MP makes this less of an issue.

Peter Dunne Basically none. One could try to polish a turd and say his decision to release (most of) his e-mails, but protest the ones Vance sent to him is gentlemanly. Also now he is no longer a Minister, his swing vote will become more sought after. And he has finally managed to shake the gray man image.  But these are all trying to see a silver lining. Basically his political career is over. United Future is over. I can’t imagine Dunne will contest Ohariu again, and his record of being a moderate sensible MP who could serve constructively in Bolger, Clark and Key Governments is over-whelmed by this indiscretion. A sad end to a career of good service.
Andrea Vance Vance is shown as a reporter who can develop and use sources to get exclusive stories.

 

She has become a household name.

She has become a household name.

 

Other potential sources will be rather wary of her in future.

 

Speculation on the nature of her relationship with Dunne is unpleasant to deal with. I’ll comment on this in more detail below.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga
Todd McClay
Paul Goldsmith
One of them could become the new Minister of Revenue outside Cabinet. Two of them won’t be. Also possible Key will just reassign portfolio to an existing Minister such as Coleman or Joyce.

 

The leak inquiry report has resulted in much speculation as to why Peter Dunne did it. Not only did he destroy his career, the actual leak was hugely inconvenient for the Government he was a member of. It over-shadowed the PM’s trip to China, and the unauthorised leak was quite destructive.

There is speculation that the relationship between Dunne and Vance may be more than professional. Normally this stuff would not be something I’d blog about – but when the result is a ministerial resignation due to a leak inquiry, it does become the elephant in the room.

Patrick Gower asked during the Dunne press conference if Dunne was besotted with Vance. He denied this, and said their relationship was professional.

The Herald editorial wonders aloud:

If it was Mr Dunne, which is the only conclusion available from his withholding an 86-email exchange with the Dominion Post reporter, what did he or his party have to gain? Was it the thrill of beating the Prime Minister to the punch, or the desire to stop the GCSB spinning its activities in a more favourable light? Or something not political at all?

John Armstrong also asks:

Why did he tell Vance he was about to be briefed on the contents of the report?

And why were he and Vance exchanging as many as 23 emails a day while Dunne was on holiday in the United States? Was it infatuation? The ex-minister says it wasn’t.

The public may never know exactly what happened. But Henry’s short report is long enough for people to be able to draw their own conclusions.

Another Herald story draws attention to their 300 tweets in the last six months.

There is a bit of a connection of all this to the MPs vs Media debate last month, which both Andrea and I took part in.

The debate two years ago had Darren Hughes in it, debating that politics was a grubby business. Weeks later it emerged he was under investigation by the Police over a sexual assault complaint.

In this debate there was much ribbing of Andrea over the tweets between her and Dunne. It was all in good humour, but again a few weeks later there is a revelation that there was more to it than just tweeting. That Dunne was, at a minimum, a frequent communication with her by e-mail also.

Some people think, or have assumed, there was an affair. I personally think this is not the case at all. Not because there are never affairs between MPs and journalists. There are. But because of the people involved. I know Andrea and her fiancée, whom Andrea moved to NZ to be with. Having observed them together, I would be absolutely amazed if there was any inappropriate behaviour on her part.  Even if she wasn’t engaged, I don’t think she is the sort of person into older married men – to be blunt.

Of course only two people can know for sure. And I have been wrong, as I was on Dunne not being the leaker. But I don’t think their relationship was anything beyond a journalist and a source.

Gower and Armstrong have speculated that Dunne was infatuated with her. I don’t think it was infatuation, but I do think there was probably an element that he found Vance very charming (which she is) and middle aged men will often do stupid things to please young charming women. I’m certainly proof positive of that!

It doesn’t mean you’re infatuated or besotted or even wanting anything beyond friendship, but that you just enjoy the friendship and will do things to help the other person out – and in this case to a degree that you throw common sense out the window.

Of course MPs and journalists do develop relationships for purely professional reasons also. It can be handy to an MP to have a journalist whom they can talk to off the record, and get things into the media they think deserve attention. And it is useful for journalists to have sources who will give them information. This happens all the time. Helen Clark was in fact a serial leaker (she once defended this by saying that by definition the PM can not leak). The key thing with MPs leaking to journalists is you don’t leak things that damage your own party or the Government – if you are part of it. And some things you never leak – and a GCSB report is definitely one of those.

The quantity of the e-mails between Vance and Dunne is certainly well in excess of most MP journalist professional relationships. In fact what surprised me is that they were e-mailing at all. Wasn’t Dunne aware all his e-mails are archived? That some e-mails are subject to the Official Information Act. Also often staff have access to a Minister’s e-mail account.

In one sense the fact they were e-mailing so much, lends me to conclude that Dunne is not a long-time leaker, and there was no affair. An experienced leaker would never be doing it by e-mail. And if you were having an affair, you wouldn’t be tweeting each other so much!

At the end of the day I think Vance just cultivated Dunne as a source. This is what journalists do. It’s actually called good journalism.

Finally, where does this go from here. My predictions:

  • The Police complaint will go nowhere. It is not a criminal matter. The report was not classified with a national security classification.
  • Peters or Labour may try file a privilege complaint alleging Dunne has misled Parliament with his answers at select committee.
  • Dunne’s belief that e-mails between MPs and others are private and should not be released may be tested under the Official Information Act. E-mails to an MP do not come under the OIA, but e-mails to a Minister in their ministerial capacity do. Was Dunne’s access to the GCSB report in his ministerial capacity or his party leader capacity. If the former, then e-mails to and from him may be discoverable under the OIA.
  • Labour and Winston may demand that Dunne resigns as an MP for (presumably) not telling the truth. The problem with this is the hypocrisy. Lianne Dalziel was found to have lied, and she got sacked as a Minister, not an MP. Also Peters himself was conclusively found by the Privileges Committee to have lied, and he did not resign as an MP – and in fact Labour backed him. The voters of Ohariu are the ones who will decide if Dunne remains an MP – should he choose to stand again.
  • Key is more likely to promote an MP to the vacancy, then just reallocate the portfolios.  I’d say Lotu-Iiga and McClay are most likely to step up if he does, but a dark horse could be Paul Goldsmith. Goldsmith has actually written a book on the history of taxation in New Zealand – pretty useful background for a Revenue Minister!
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Vance on Labour

November 11th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance writes:

Here’s not what’s going to happen at Labour’s annual conference later this week. David Cunliffe is not going to rugby tackle David Shearer to the ground while Grant Robertson sits on his head, with Andrew Little shouting “bags be leader”.

Irritatingly, leadership spills don’t happen that way. If only.

I think having Grant sit on your head is an offence under the Crimes Act :-)

Labour is especially good at the nasty, tortured coups – so if the party is going to roll Shearer, expect it to be beastly. But don’t anticipate blood on the floor of the Ellerslie Racecourse come next Sunday night.

All an opposition party leader has to do at his annual conference is suggest he might do a better job than the bloke presently in charge. Unfortunately in Shearer’s case, it’s not the incumbent prime minister, but himself.

For when he stands up to deliver his keynote speech, the 500-odd delegates will be staring at a bloody great leader-shaped hole. He’s got about 20 minutes to convince a disillusioned party faithful that he’s not invisible, hasn’t got a speech impediment – and that he’s got a cunning plan to convince the voters that Labour can deliver a costed, credible alternative to National-omics.

Of course, while he’s doing it, the commentators and the pundits will have one eye on him and the other scrutinising the wannabes and couldvebeens.

And say Shearer doesn’t give a whizz-bang, tub-thumping speech? His performance this year suggests it’s not going to be a belter. This far out from a election he’s not going to be unleashing any astonishing new policies to distract watchers from the leadership question.

As I said previously, I expect Shearer to give a good speech, His challenge is not delivering speeches, but handling questions.

The risks in rolling him are inherent, but the party appears to have gone past that now. Shearer could give the speech of his life but for many it will be too little, too late. Labour have floundered in opposition, they are impatient for power and can’t afford him any more time.

He’s had more leeway and more time than most would have got (from the media pack and party members) simply because he’s such a nice man.

But, sadly, it seems Labour are facing that awkward conversation: “David, we’re sorry, it’s not us, it’s you.”

Ouch.

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Vance on state sector reforms

March 3rd, 2012 at 9:03 am by David Farrar

A very interesting article from Andrea Vance at Stuff:

While Mr Key will front the reforms, they are being driven by Finance Minister Bill English – who is deeply committed to remodelling the sector. And no wonder – he pays the bills and it accounts for one third of New Zealand’s economy.

Essentially, in a drive that would send Sir Humphrey Appleby into apoplexies, the public service is about to become more flexible.

It’s a remarkably simple idea but one that strikes at the very heart of the modern-day civil service. At present individual departments and agencies work on their “outputs” – what they deliver. The social development ministry pays out benefits, Corrections builds more prisons. Annual incentives are set, targets are ticked off and budgets are (usually) met. They work in – excuse the jargon – silos.

By and large “outcomes” – the big picture stuff – are not catered for. …

Politically, “outcomes” are a lot more risky than easily measured “outputs”; it takes just one rogue NGO, or one mis-timed question from the Opposition about a taxpayer funded hip-hop scheme or a misappropriation of funds.

Moving the state sector from being focused on outcomes outputs to outputs outcomes is a heroic endeavour, but worthwhile. As Andrea says, outputs are easily measured and easy to achieve. If one moves towards outcomes, then one has to accept there will be some failures. You can near guarantee outputs, but outcomes are far more complex.

In its purest form, we might see super-ministries, although National is shying away from this for the time being. Instead of merging Corrections, police and justice into one monster law and order department, they have established an umbrella board to oversee co-operation.

I tend to favour super-ministries, but sharing of back office functions and a joint board to over-see co-operation is a step in the right direction.

Which means we are also unlikely to see the logical conclusion of this shift: a much smaller executive.

A half-serious proposal for a seven minister Cabinet was recently floated – and hastily dismissed. National has instead opted for “cluster” ministers – Steven Joyce overseeing economic development, David Carter taking on primary industries.

The model I favour is a 12 member Cabinet with 12 full Ministers (for 12 super-ministries) and 12 Associate Ministers outside Cabinet who will be delegated responsibilities for particular agencies within a super-ministry.

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Vance on Goff

May 24th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff blogs:

The parliamentary press gallery have not long traipsed back from our regular Monday “stand-up” with Phil Goff. It was a good chance for us to drill down on some of the finer points of Labour’s new proposals.

Here’s what we know: Labour is proposing to re-instate research and development tax credits, bring farmers into the ETS scheme earlier than expected and lift the minimum wage to $15.

But after our little question and answer session with Goff, there are more questions than answers.

Here’s what we don’t know: Will the tax credits extend to foreign companies? And how is Labour planning to cap them? What will the carbon price will be for the ETS proposals?

We didn’t get an adequate response to criticism that lifting the minimum wage will cost 6000 jobs.

When asked about policy details, Goff repeatedly – and testily – told us to ask Labour researchers. ”Look, I’m not going into the details on that.”

Hmmn, “Ask my staff, not me” is not generally regarded as a good line for leaders to use, even if it is true.

Goff reckons business can afford the wage rise – he told us previous rises under Labour had created jobs, ignoring the fact they were very different economic times.

That is the key point. In a booming economy where jobs are scarce, you can increase the minimum wage with well minimal impact on employment. But pledging to do so at a time of relatively high unemployment and incredibly high youth unemployment is irresponsible as it will price young workers out of the job market.

As at every stand-up, TV political editors Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner toyed with Goff like cats playing with a wounded mouse. They wanted to know how it is possible to impose a cap on the credits. (Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly likes the idea but says it will be impossible to limit insterest. Key says you can’t – and Labour has got their numbers wrong on the cost.)

Goff, sensibly giving Labour’s reputation on spending, stressed there was $800 million in the pot and that was it. But he couldn’t explain how they could impose that limit.

Mainly because you can’t, unless you make the scheme entirely arbitrary and first in first served. This is one of the reasons the scheme was scraped – it has the potential to blow out massively as firms classify expenditure as research to gain the tax credit.

There the matter should have rested – but Goff’s political skills deserted him. Flustered, he fell into a catty exchange, mixing up the two veteran hacks and sniping “It’s sometimes hard to tell the two of you apart.”

Really?

This is Guyon Espiner. He is the One News Political Editor.

And this is Duncan Garner, Political Editor for 3 News.

If Phil is having trouble telling them apart, he may need glasses. But to help him, I’ll provide descriptions as if they were super models.

Guyon is the Size 0 editor while Duncan is the plus sized editor.

What a shame. It was all going quite well. The congress generated some positive headlines and, more important, some good debate about the economy. Business NZ liked the tax credits idea, and Goff made a good stab at smacking down Key’s claims that the ETS proposals would drive up the price of milk.

Now the wheels have come off a bit. If Goff can’t answer basic questions about his brand new economic  policies, do Labour’s ideas have your confidence?

Even worse they are not brand new economic policies. They are the policies Labour went into the last election on. So all the detail work was done years ago and would be available in papers and the like.

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