Edwards on Little

July 1st, 2016 at 3:56 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards writes:

After 18 months in the job, the Leader of the Opposition still looks dreadful on television and sounds dreadful on radio. His ‘bubbly personality’  joke has descended from irony to farce. In a recent interview – I think it was on Q+A – he saidy’know so many times that I eventually gave up counting. He talks to his interviewers but doesn’t engage with them on a personal plane. He looks and sounds like the caricature of an old-style British trade unionist. His personal ratings reflect all of this. That, sadly, is a losing formula for any aspiring Prime Minister. Pity!

A very harsh assessment from a long-term Labour supporter and senior adviser.

Gower says Little should apologise to Shewan

June 30th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Gower writes:

Andrew Little should apologise to tax expert John Shewan for treating him with utter contempt and total disrespect.

Mr Little has been caught out big time — and it serves him right.

Mr Little got things wrong about Mr Shewan and has to put them right.

So Mr Little issued a retraction — at 5:17pm on Saturday, June 18 — two hours and 18 minutes before kick-off of the Wellington Test.

This is so cynical it is sad. Everybody knows that is the absolutely dead time in a media cycle when it would get the least attention. It is cunning and awful and rude and Mr Little’s actions show why people distrust politicians.

Now things have bounced back on Mr Little and his own credibility is being called into question — and it serves him right.

A lot of this is arcane and complex but it is important because Mr Little is auditioning to be Prime Minister. His actions and his words are important.

Mr Little yesterday repeatedly said that Mr Shewan did not ask him for an apology about incorrect statements made about him.

So then Mr Shewan pulled out a letter to Mr Little that said: “I now request the statement I sent to you yesterday be issued with the following additions: ‘I apologise to Mr Shewan for any embarrassment I have caused him through my statements’.”

Sadly for Mr Little, it doesn’t get much clearer than that. Contrary to his public claims, Mr Shewan asked for an apology.

 

Mr Shewan has produced an excellent report,. Labour has been quoting it in Parliament and saying it is good. But previously Little was accusing Shewan of being involved in helping the Bahamas stay a tax haven. He admits he was totally wrong on this, but won’t apologise to Shewan for the smear of his reputation.

Shewan says Little is lying

June 29th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Tax expert John Shewan says that claims by Andrew Little that he did not seek an apology from the Labour leader are misleading.

“The statement that I never asked for an apology is completely incorrect,” Mr Shewan told the Herald today.

Mr Little told reporters this morning that he did not apologise to Mr Shewan, a former PwC chairman, over incorrect statements he made about his background in April because he was never asked to.

“I wasn’t asked to provide an apology. I was asked to provide his assurance that the media report I relied on was wrong.”

He added: “[Mr Shewan] explicitly said ‘I don’t need you to apologise, I want a correction of a statement’, and that’s what I’ve done.” …

But when Mr Little failed to issue a retraction for nearly two months, he wrote back to Mr Little’s office on June 10 and asked for the retraction to be expanded to include an apology.

“I specifically asked for an apology, that being because of the prolonged delay in getting the [comments corrected],” he said.

Mr Shewan said the Labour leader’s office rejected this request. He was also told that any further correspondence should be sent to Mr Little’s lawyer.

On the evening of June 18, a Saturday, Mr Little issued a statement retracting his comments, but stopped short of an apology.

Mr Shewan said he had been reluctant to take legal action while he was undertaking the inquiry into foreign trusts, which was publicly released yesterday.

But he was “dismayed” at Mr Little’s latest comments, and would not rule out further action.

“I’m not prepared to sit by and let him say anything more defamatory.

“I would prefer not to take any legal action and I think it is unlikely that I would. But I don’t just sit around and let people defame me. It’s just not on.”

Getting to be a bit of a trend here with the Hagaman defamation case also.

The Herald article includes the e-mail from Shewan to Little’s office which explicitly seeks an apology.

For Little to claim Shewan never asked for an apology means there are only really two possible options:

  1. Little’s office didn’t show Little the letter
  2. Little is lying

Little playing coy on New Plymouth

June 24th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has been spending time in his old stomping ground – but wouldn’t be drawn on whether he’ll stand in the electorate again.

Little held a public meeting, ironically in the blue room, at the New Plymouth Club on Wednesday night.

He had attended the 2016 Citizens Awards at the New Plymouth District Council on Tuesday night and visited his former school, New Plymouth Boys High, on Wednesday ahead of the meeting.

However Little, who was soundly beaten by National’s Jonathan Young in the 2014 general election, remained tight-lipped on whether he would stand in the New Plymouth electorate in 2017.

“I haven’t made that decision, I have got to make that very soon but I haven’t made that decision,” he said.

Of course he won’t stand again. He got thrashed there last time.

He is looking for a safe seat. Almost certainly he is gunning for Rongotai.

Little retracts statement on Shewan

June 19th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has today backed down from comments that the man charged with investigating New Zealand’s offshore trusts industry had advised the Bahamas Government on protecting its financial sector from tax changes. …

On April 13, Mr Little alleged that Mr Shewan and Dr Brash had effectively advised the Bahamas – a country known for tax haven activity – on how to protect its offshore financial services industry and maintain its haven status.

Appointing him to lead an inquiry on New Zealand’s offshore trusts industry showed a lack of judgment, he said.

But today, in a short statement, Mr Little admitted that he was wrong.

“In April, I made statements concerning advice provided to the Bahamas government by John Shewan, the person appointed to review the disclosure rule concerning foreign trusts in New Zealand. Those statements were based on a report in a Bahamas newspaper,” he said.

“After meeting with Mr Shewan, I accept his explanation that while he advised the Bahamas government on tax matters he did not advise them on how to maintain their tax haven status.”

So two months later he announces on a weekend he was wrong and that he effectively incorrectly smeared Shewan.

I hope media give as much attention to his retraction as they did to his original comments.

Little served

June 17th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has now been served with defamation proceedings by National Party donors and hoteliers Earl and Lani Hagaman.

The Hagamans confirmed in a statement they had now commenced defamation proceedings against Mr Little in the High Court and they had been served on Mr Little.

The defamation suit relates to comments Mr Little made about a management contract Mr Hagaman’s company, Scenic Hotel, was awarded to manage the Matavai Resort on Niue. That was awarded a few weeks after Mr Hagaman donated $101,000 to the National Party during the 2014 campaign.

The Hagamans gave Mr Little a deadline to retract his comments and apologise last month, but Mr Little refused.

“As we said earlier, the reasons we’re taking defamation action have been widely reported in the media and I won’t be repeating his allegations that Earl and I find hurtful, highly offensive and totally false.

We will now clear our names in court”, Lani Hagaman said.

I presume it will go to trial, if not settled, around the middle of next year.

Little on housing

May 26th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

One News reports:

Andrew Little says it will take a Labour-led Government a single term in office to fix the housing crisis the Government denies even exists.

Well that’s nonsense as almost every major city in countries like NZ is facing the same price increase for housing. There is no magic wand that will change the fundamental challenge of demand rising faster than supply. But there are things that can help. But their impact will take a long time.

Last week the party announced a new policy to relax the rules around Auckland’s Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL), which Mr Little says are artificially driving up prices.

“We said we would change the rules on urban limits so we’re not having this arbitrary distinction between properties in Pukekohe selling for $600,000 — that’s just for a section — then just over the boundary you know, properties actually at a more reasonable sort of level,” he told Paul Henry on Monday.

“There’s this arbitrary rule that’s been created that’s just causing this ridiculous inflation in section prices.”

Great to see Little campaigning on this also though. I was worried that Twyford had got the policy through caucus when they were all sleeping. But if Little is promoting it, that means Labour is committed to it – which is good.

Mr Little says if the council doesn’t approve the Unitary Plan later this year, a Labour-led Government will override it and open up the land anyway.

Excellent. I wish National would say the same.

Hide on the Little blunder

May 25th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

The good thing about stunts is that you get to prepare them. You get to choose when and where and have time to develop and craft your message. You have staff and MPs to check things out.

It is important to check every detail and every fact from every angle. The journalists will pounce on the slightest mistake to write a story contrary to the one that you are hoping to make.

You especially have to check the talent. Involving real people is good but they can wander off message.

A lot of work normally goes in to anything like this, and even more if it involves the leader.

The issue was housing. The problem overcrowding.

The journalists were given the address. Turn up and Labour will show you 17 poor people at one address living in a tent.

The journalists are there ahead of you. Everything is ready to go. But then the homeowner wanders out to tell the journos there is no problem, there is no overcrowding, the tent is for furniture and material while he renovates.

The homeowner sounds content and aspirational. He’s fixing up his house. He’s looking to the future. It’s a disaster.

It was.

It’s hard to comprehend how such a monumental error could be made. Had the local MPs not talked to the homeowner? Had Little’s staff not checked and rechecked the story?

I don’t have the answers but the stunt reinforces the impression that Little is unlucky and bumbling. The story will have hardly registered to most and will soon be forgotten except by political tragics such as myself who will tell and retell the story to highlight the importance of preparation and how things can go horribly wrong.

Labour has no route to power without the support of Winston Peters. Peters can’t abide amateurs. He isn’t about to make one Prime Minister.

Also if Winston has a choice between a party polling in the 40s, and in the 20s, he won’t go for the one in the 20s.

A revealing speech

May 23rd, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The speech by Andrew Little this weekend was very revealing, but not in a good way. The Herald reports:

Mr Little said in the eight years under a National Government, the proportion of economic growth that went back to working New Zealanders in wages had dropped from 50 per cent to 37 per cent. Instead he accused National of favouring “those at the top” through policies such as allowing foreign trusts and tax on multinationals.

These are the same policies of course that existed under the last Labour Government, but lets ignore that for now.

Stuff further reports:

Little said just 37 per cent of economic growth had gone into the pay packets of working families since National came to power – down from over 50 per cent under the previous Labour government. 

That meant the average family had lost out on more than $13,000 under the Government, and would miss out on $50 a week this year.

The use of this statistic is rather revealing, as to both how desperate and also how ill informed Labour are. Three things I’d note:

  1. In all my years of politics I’ve never known a voter to talk about the proportion of economic growth that goes to wages. 99% of NZers don’t even know such a statistic exists lets alone give a flying f**k about it. I’m not sure I’ve even hear of it before. It reeks of desperation in trying to find an obscure economic statistic that they can campaign on. Voters care about jobs, wages, hospitals, schools and families – not the proportion of economic growth that goes to salaries. Wages have in fact risen twice as fast as inflation in the last seven years.
  2. Little seems to believe that the Government sits around the Cabinet table and determines what share of economic growth will go to wages. The Government does not create the economic growth and decide which sectors generate it and where. While policies have some small impact, the over whelming factor is decisions made by tens of thousands of businesses.
  3. Use of this statistic goes against Labour’s efforts to show they understand the modern economy. They are effectively railing against entrepreneurs and innovation. Why might a smaller share of economic growth by going to salaries. Well companies like Xero and Uber. They’re great for the economy (and customers) but according to Little they are robbing working NZers of $50 a week.

So Labour have managed to look desperate, ill informed and backwards in one speech. That’s quite an achievement.

Claire Trevett reports in the NZ Herald:

The centrepiece was a very convoluted piece of research about the proportion of economic growth returned to workers. Labour had concluded New Zealanders were getting $50 less a week than they would have been.

It was effectively meaningless beyond showing what clever clogs they were to have worked out such a thing.

Maybe their staff were so busy working on finding this obscure statistic, that they didn’t have time to do due diligence on the home they claimed had 17 people living in it!

It also opened Little to questioning on how Labour would get that back into the pockets of those workers.

Ban tech companies?

Trans-Tasman on the Little fail

May 22nd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman writes:

On one level it is funny, the other level it is far from hilarious. To deal with the humour first: Labour Party leader Andrew Little and his backroom team – a team which tends to have a higher public profile than most Labour MPs – thought it would be a very good way to illustrate the housing crisis by staging a photo opportunity in the back streets of Otara.

Unfortunately Little went to the wrong place and stood in front of a house where the people were living in the car because the house was being renovated not because it was overcrowded. As an aside, for some reason at least one of the television channels chose not to mention this lapse in basic political competence. Others were not so gentle: the result being the Labour Party, once again, being unable to do the political equivalent of walk and chew gum at the same time.

Having worked for four leaders, I’m aghast at how incompetent the management was of this. Normally you would check out every detail in advance, rather than have an angry home owner deny they are over crowded.

David Garrett pointed out how it is normally done:

I am generally a “cock up rather than conspiracy” man…but you have to wonder if this truly was just a fuck up…

I recall in the 2008 campaign ACT pulling a stunt at Mt Eden prison based on one of our claims that, if 3S had been in place before they were killed (i.e. the killers would have been in jail at the time), “77 people would be alive today”…Rodney came up with the inspired idea of propping 77 coffin lids against the walls at Mount Eden prison, and laying it on for the cameras.

The “77 people would be alive today…” claim was based on research I had done following a series of OIA questions well prior to being selected to stand. Before he authorized the stunt Rodney grilled me on the basis for the claim, and demanded to see the OIA’s I had asked and the answers, to see for himself whether the claim stacked up. The stunt went ahead, and we got a lot of media mileage out of it.

All someone had to do to check this one out was have someone reliable go to the house and talk to the bloody occupants! Who didn’t take even that basic step, and why, I wonder? Surely they no longer have a job??

You can’t just blame the staff for this. Little as Leader needs to do what Hide did, and personally grill people to check that what they are about to do won’t explode in their faces.

Little lawsuit going ahead

May 21st, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

“See you in court” – that’s the message from Scenic Hotel Group founders, the Hagamans, to Labour leader Andrew Little.

Little looks set to face defamation proceedings after ignoring an ultimatum and failing to apologise to the Hagamans.

In a statement from Lani Hagaman she said she would “see Mr Little in court” after he failed to retract and apologise his comments that a Niue resort deal they were awarded “stunk to high heaven”.

Little has written to Hagaman’s lawyers saying he has a “constitutional duty to challenge the actions of the Government over the expenditure of public funds”.

Little had every right to ask the Auditor-General to investigate. However by saying the tender “stunk to high heaven” he went well beyond what was advisable. He effectively accused them of corruption.

The Herald further reports:

In a statement released this evening, Lani Hagaman said she would “see Mr Little in court”.

“The reasons we’re taking defamation action have been widely reported in the media and I won’t be repeating his allegations that Earl and I find hurtful, highly offensive and totally false”, she said.

“While Mr Little may be entitled to call for an investigation there is a correct process in which to do this. In my opinion a public flogging is not the correct process.

“We’re incredibly disappointed he hasn’t apologised and retracted what he said.”

Again it isn’t the calling for an investigation which was an issue.

A Little lawsuit

May 12th, 2016 at 12:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has been given a week to retract and apologise for his comments that a Niue resort tender process “stunk to high heaven” or face defamation proceedings.

Last month Little called on the Auditor-General to investigate Scenic Hotel Group being awarded a management contract at the Matavai Resort.

Calling on the Auditor-General to investigate was fine. In fact I’ve said they should investigate also.

But his comments that the tender “stunk to high heaven” were very unwise, and if it does go to court he could face a real problem.

The tests for defamation include:

  • Did the statement harm the reputation of the person?
  • Is it true?
  • Is there malice?
  • Is there qualified or absolute privilege?

It seems to be there is no doubt it harmed the reputation of the Hagamans. And I doubt there is any evidence at all that it is true that there was any wrongdoing or improper influence (unless you believe the father of a Labour MP is part of a conspiracy to raise money for National). So it may come down to qualified privilege and fair opinion.

What would be fascinating if it goes to trial, if if the trustees would be asked to testify, and to hear the testimony of Ross Ardern as to the statement by Little that the process of the board he appoints “stunk to high heaven”

Is Emma Watson part of a dirty seedy industry?

May 11th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Harry Potter star Emma Watson is the latest in a growing list of celebrities implicated in the Panama Papers leak.

The actress was listed as a beneficiary of a company based in the British Virgin Islands, according to The Telegraph.

However, a spokesman said: “Emma receives absolutely no tax or monetary advantages from this offshore company whatsoever – only privacy.”

He said Watson had had her personal safety “jeopardised” by companies publishing her details.

“UK companies are required to publicly publish details of their shareholders and therefore do not give her the necessary anonymity required to protect her personal safety, which has been jeopardised in the past owing to such information being publicly available,” he told The Telegraph.

“Offshore companies do not publish these shareholder details.”

This is a good reminder that there are many legitimate reasons for people to have a foreign trust.

However Andrew Little has said all foreign trusts should be banned as they are part of a dirty and seedy industry.

So by implication he is saying Emma Watson is part of a dirty and seedy industry.

Maybe it is time for Andrew to consider the wisdom of taking a more nuanced position on complex issues, rather than going for the soundbite.

Poor Little

May 11th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

On top of the Greenpeace allegations Key also took a swipe at Green Party MP Mojo Mathers, who along with National MP Paul Foster-Bell, has been linked to a foreign trust.

During Question Time Key told Shaw to “just turn around and ask his colleague, Mojo Mathers, (who) has a foreign trust”.

Mathers sought leave in the House to dispute Key’s claims and clarified she was a “beneficiary of a UK-based family trust”.

“It is not a trust that I own, and it is not a foreign trust,” she told the House.

No-one owns a trust. But if it is a trust based in the UK then it is a foreign trust and she is a beneficiary of a foreign trust.

Of course there is nothing at all wrong with that. No-one thinks Mathers has done anything wrong. But Andrew Little is the idiot who has called for all foreign trusts to be banned saying they are of no value. So Key was using Mathers as an example of how stupid it is to claim all foreign trusts are bad.

Labour leader Andrew Little later defended Mathers and said Key’s comments were “dumb” and “totally tasteless”.

“If he was a man he would stand up and apologise, he didn’t do that.”

“She should never have been put in that position. She’s the only deaf member in the House and this is New Zealand sign language week. It was just totally tasteless,” he said.

I had to read this twice to make sure I read it correctly.

Andrew Little seems to be saying either that being deaf as an MP means you can’t be criticised by other MPs (and it wasn’t even criticism), or that during Sign Language Week you can’t criticise an MP if they are deaf.

Does this mean that during Maori Language Week Labour MPs are banned from criticising Hekia Parata and Simon Bridges?

Little thinks increased costs don’t get passed on

May 8th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Newshub reports:

Andrew Little says it’ll only be “greedy landlords” who hike rents on the back of his proposed Bill to insulate and warm homes.

This reflects the mentality of someone who has never run a business. Like many unionists Andrew seems to think that it doesn’t matter if costs go up, as owners can wear it and won’t increase their charges.

The history of the world is against this. Economics 101 is that if costs increase, charges increase.

But Mr Little rejected suggestions the new requirements would lead to an increase in rents, saying landlords will have plenty of time to absorb the cost.

“That in my view, is a cost landlords will be able to bear over that time, given the increasing value the property will enjoy over that period.

“This does not need to lead to hikes in rents, and only greedy landlords will be seeking to hike rents for this reason.”

Again Little doesn’t understand cashflow.

Sure your property may increase in value, but that doesn’t give landlords any cash. They need income from their properties to pay the mortgage, pay rates, repairs, maintenance etc.

If you force landlords to spend $5,000 more on a property, then that cash needs to come from somewhere.

Little in Iraq

April 30th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has ended a secret trip to Iraq where he says he wanted to see first hand the work of Kiwi troops.

The invitation to visit troops at Iraq’s Camp Taji was issued by Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, after Labour opposed the deployment.

Little’s trip was not announced till after he and Brownlee returned to Dubai on Thursday.

Little says he accepted the invitation to go because it was important to see for himself the work Kiwi troops were doing and the conditions they were working under.

The Opposition leader also met Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled Al-Obedih and senior military officials from the Coalition forces in Iraq.

Good of the Government to invite Little to go, and good that he attended. In the unlikely possibility he becomes PM, he will have to decide on future deployments.

“Labour opposed the deployment because the Iraqi Army’s track record was poor, even after years of training by American and other armies.

“The situation in Iraq, as well as Syria, remains hugely challenging and it is not yet certain how the Iraqi security forces will address issues of motivation and discipline, and continuing ethno-sectarian divisions across the whole army.

“It’s obvious the needs Iraq has won’t be met in the two year period the Government set for the mission. The Government must now be open with the public about the demands being made of it and its plans.”

Labour opposed the deployment, but their reason for doing so has been proven invalid. The Iraqi Army is now winning battles and the training has been cited as a major factor.

Brownlee, who was on his second visit to Taji, said the Kiwi taskforce had trained more than 4000 Iraqi troops since being deployed alongside Australian troops in 2015.

National MP Mark Mitchell also accompanied the group.

“I thought it was important to offer the Leader of the Opposition an opportunity to see Task Group Taji in action for himself, and for Mr Mitchell, as the relevant select committee chair, to have first-hand experience of the mission.”

Task group Taji provides a range of training to the Iraqi Security Forces.

“This training includes basic weapons handling, counter IED, combat first aid, obstacle breaching techniques, planning for combat operations, the laws of armed conflict and human rights.

“It was pleasing to hear from senior Iraqi commanders that Task Group Taji-trained troops have on a number of occasions captured and held towns and territory from D’aesh using their newly attained skills.”These commanders speak highly of the training and intend to cycle units back through Taji for further training when possible.”

Over the last year Islamic State has lost significant territory.

Little will now visit the Zaatari Refugee Camp, where 80,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria are now based.

“New Zealand has had a history of supporting humanitarian causes. We believe the Government must double the refugee quota and that we should be stepping up support for the people who are suffering in these camps,” Andrew Little said.

Labour often says we should treat causes, not symptoms. The misery of the refugees is being caused by Islamic State. If Islamic State is not defeated, the number of refugees will continue to increase massively. So why does Labour say NZ should help refugees, yet opposes doing anything to reduce the number of refugees?

Hide on Niue deal

April 24th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

Labour Leader Andrew Little this week got the political blunderbuss out and blew off both feet and then his arms. He never grazed his target.

In my view, his was a disgraceful display of nastiness and political incompetence not expected of a rookie opposition MP and gobsmackingly awful for a would-be Prime Minister.

I refer, of course, to what Little would have you believe was Niue-gate.

It was a spectacular own goal.

The trustees of the resort are New Zealand High Commissioner to Niue Ross Ardern (Labour MP Jacinda Ardern’s father); MFat Deputy Secretary Jonathan Kings and former NZ High Commissioner to Niue (and Wellington Mayor and National MP) Mark Blumsky. The trustees appoint the board of directors of Matavai Niue Limited (MNL), responsible for the resort’s operation. They are Ian Fitzgerald (chair), Bill Wilkinson, Toke Talagi (Premier of Niue) and John Ingram.

That’s a distinguished list.

Yet according to Little all part of a deal that stinks to high heaven. I didn’t realise the Premier of Niue is one of those Little has effectively accused of corruption.

In 2013 Auckland firm Horwath HTL did an independent review for the board and, among other things, recommended the appointment of a hotel management company.

The following year, on behalf of the board, Horwath ran an Expressions of Interest and Request for Proposals process that culminated in the consideration of two proposals with the recommendation of Scenic Hotels. The board agreed.

The transaction was not just arm’s length, several oceans of separation lay between the political donation and the management contract. There is no evidence of impropriety. The process would appear a model of probity.

Meanwhile, Little has besmirched a successful and highly regarded business couple, a New Zealand business success story, senior government officials, his own MP’s dad, and the Premier of Niue.

National sails on untouched. Little is on camera weaving and dodging the obvious questions and backpedalling on his original concerns.

Politics can be nasty. It’s often incompetent. Somehow Little has managed to plumb new depths.

If Little or his staff had done their homework, he could have handled it very differently – still calling for the AG to investigate, but avoiding smearing those involved by declaring it stinks to high heaven.

Little in big trouble

April 21st, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Scenic Hotel Group founders Earl and Lani Hagaman are considering legal action over Labour leader Andrew Little’s claims about the timing of a donation from Mr Hagaman to the National Party a month before the hotel group was awarded a contract in Niue.

The $101,000 donation was made on 18 September, the last week of the election campaign in 2014. A month later Scenic Hotels won a contract to manage the Matavai Hotel on Niue, which is owned by a trust appointed by Foreign Minister Murray McCully on behalf of the Niue Government.

Mr Little said the timing “stinks to high heaven” and wrote to the Auditor General last week asking for an investigation into the donation and the handling of the contract, which was signed between Scenic Hotel Group and the hotel board in October 2014.

They should. Little has all bit accused them of bribing the NZ Government in order to win the contract.

The Auditor General is yet to decide whether to investigate but in a statement, the Hagamans said they would welcome an investigation from the Auditor General and would cooperate fully.

“In fact we request that an investigation occurs urgently in order to remove any doubt about the integrity and honesty of our name,” said Mrs Hagaman.

I really really hope the Auditor-General does investigate because it will end badly for Andrew Little. The highlight will be the testimony from the father of Jacinda Ardern as to what he thinks of being accused of being part of a corrupt bribe deal.

Lani Hagaman said the management contract for Matavai Resort Niue was gained by Scenic Hotel Group in an open and contestable process against other hotel groups.

The couple were also considering other legal options to address Mr Little’s attack.

“I can assure the public that for us the only thing that will ‘stink to the high heavens’ will be smell of roses which blossom from the fertiliser Andrew Little likes to spread around to gain his own notoriety.”

The politics of smear.

Ian Fitzgerald, the chairman of the Matavai Niue Limited which runs the Matavai has also now spoken, saying he would have “absolutely no concerns” if the Auditor-General looked into the process.

Mr Fitzgerald is one of four board members appointed by the Niue Tourism Property Trust to oversee the running of the hotel, which $18 million of New Zealand aid money has been invested in. The agreement was negotiated and signed between Scenic Hotels and the board rather than the Trust itself. Mr Fitzgerald said he was unaware Mr Hagaman had donated to the National Party and the board had only dealt with Scenic Hotels Group’s managing director, Brendan Taylor. It was in contract negotiations with Scenic Group for six months before the contract was awarded – well before the donation was made.

Have a think about how many people must have been in the corrupt bribe conspiracy for it to have worked.

First of all you’d have McCully, and the two Hagamans.

Then all three members of the Niue Tourism Property Trust which includes Ross Ardern, an MFAT Deputy Secretary and former High Commissioner Mark Blumsky.

But they didn’t decide the contract – the board they appointed did. So all four members of the board would need to be in on the conspiracy also.

So that’s a minimum of 10 people all in on the conspiracy.

Mrs Hagaman said in the past the couple had voted for Labour.

“One of the privileges of being a New Zealander is the ability to have freedom of choice and vote or donate to any political party one chooses. In the past both Earl and I have voted Labour but that was when the party had strong morals and direction and did not practice bully tactics on innocent people.”

If I was Angry Andy I’d consider apologising to the Hagamans and Mr Ardern and others.

Little dodges Ardern questions

April 20th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

One News reports:

Answer the question Mr Little: Labour leader gets repetitive, won’t answer straight on Ardern link

It seems Labour leader Andrew Little isn’t keen to answer questions about the father of one of his MPs that is linked to a hotel deal in Niue that he has criticised.

I bet he won’t.

Either Little was unaware that Ardern’s father was one of the trustees, or he didn’t care. That means either incompetence or malice.

Mr Little yesterday came out swinging about the fact that the Scenic Hotel Group was given the contract to run the Matavai Resort on the tiny Pacific island, weeks after the chain’s founder gave a donation to the National Party.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Scenic have denied there is anything amiss, but that hasn’t stopped Mr Little speaking out about the deal, saying it stinks.

It emerged today that the father of Jacinda Ardern, Ross Ardern, is a trustee owner of the resort, and would have helped appoint the hotel’s board of directors, who organised the contract tender.

Mr Little was asked repeatedly by ONE News if his accusations reflected badly on Mr Ardern, but he wasn’t biting, giving the same stock answer every time.

Little went on about how the trustees were personally appointed by McCully and the decision stunk to high heaven. How can that not be seen as a slight on Mr Ardern (who is a very respected public servant)?

Young says time for Gracinda if Labour lose

April 18th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

Little will stay leader until the next election, of that there is no doubt. If he is not Prime Minister after the 2017 election, it will be Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern’s turn.

But who will be Leader and who will be Deputy?

To put it in perspective, the 28 per cent in TV One’s poll this week is exactly what they got two elections ago, under Goff, but it is better than the 25 per cent they got at the last election under Cunliffe.

I find it is better to compare poll results with poll results at the same stage in previous terms, rather than election results. The reason is that Labour generally loses vote share during election campaigns as minor parties get more attention.

In April of the middle year of National’s 1st term Labour was at 33% (April 2010) and in April 2013 it was at 36%. So the 28% result is significantly worse than what Labour were doing under Goff and Shearer.

The poll results are a reflection of the long-running identity crisis and Little’s recent exacerbation of it.

The party that began TPP under Clark rejected the done deal then tried to be the farmers’ best friend.

The party seeks respectability in the business community but contemplates a return to Muldoonist regulation of interest rates.

It wants to be the party to target inequality but toys with the idea of giving the rich and poor the same universal basic income.

A good summary.

That approach was in action this week with Little’s extraordinary attack on John Key’s so-called moral compass – according to Little, he doesn’t have one – in the wake of the Panama papers.

Establishing a negative impression of Key is everything; nuance is non-existent and facts are a luxury in this new clobbering approach of Little’s.

Labour is not bothered that Key has no foreign trust, that there is no evidence of any unethical behaviour by Key or his lawyer. It is apparently enough that he was a currency trader, that he is wealthy, that he waited for a week before ordering an inquiry into the 12,000 foreign trusts in New Zealand in order to cast him as the Prime Minister only for the privileged and greedy end of town and a person of “no moral compass”.

Yep. The same strategy that Labour has tried to use since 2007.

Hide on Little

April 14th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

Every time I think of Labour Leader Andrew Little – which I must confess is getting less and less – I can’t help but feel sorry for him. Nothing ever goes his way.

Prime Minister John Key sails on and on, seemingly effortlessly. Little fumbles and falls. And if he doesn’t trip up, one of his team does it for him.

Now Helen Clark has teamed up with Key for her tilt at the UN’s top job.

That must rankle.

It’s not just Key endorsing Clark. It’s Clark endorsing Key. They are now a team who talk and strategise. They are Richie McCaw and Dan Carter after the top prize.

It’s impossible for Little to present Key as arrogant and incompetent when Clark calls on his help and he agrees. It looks good for Key. In 2008 voters were forced to choose between the two but now they are a team. It makes Key middle-of-the-road and attractive to the former Labour voters he won in 2008.

This is true. When Key is going all out working with Helen Clark to get her elected, it makes it hard for Labour to paint him as hostile to Labour voters.

The other unfortunate impact on Little is that having Clark back in the news reminds people of what a strong leader she was, and how much Labour has struggled since she left them.

Labour defaming Shewan

April 14th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Politik reports:

The appointment of John Shewan to investigate foreign trusts in New Zealand was always going to be controversial. Mr Shewan has a well deserved reputation as an establishment figure in Wellington. So it wasn’t surprising that Labour Leader Andrew Little alleged in Palriament yesterday that the Prime Minister had appointed John Shewan and Don Brash as advisors to the Bahamas Government when it introduced GST and “advised  that its financial services be zero-rated for value-added tax in order to protect the offshore services industry of that country”.

Mr Shewan vigroously denied this to Checkpoint  He said the trip  to the Bahamas had absolutely nothing to do with its status as a tax haven, and any suggestion of that was complete nonsense. We recommended that they modify their proposed regime significantly and simply follow New Zealand’s rules across the board.” Mr Shewan said they did recommend backing an existing exemption, as per international practice, that financial services be exempt from GST.

Dirty and nasty politics from Labour. John Shewan has advised both National and Labour Governments over the years. But now as they are desperate to try and make NZ look like Panama, Little defames Shewan under parliamentary privilege.

As Shewan said on Checkpoint (you can listen here) his work for the Bahamas had nothing to do with income tax or trusts. It was how to have a best practice GST, and the advice was basically to follow the NZ GST model (which is seen as one of the best in the world).

Little reveals he has no investments!

April 12th, 2016 at 5:18 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has tabled his tax records in Parliament, but failed to convince Prime Minister John Key to follow suit.

Mr Little said the Prime Minister should make a full disclosure to back his statements that all of his tax affairs were above board.

He sought leave during Question Time this afternoon to table his tax forms for the last five years.

The records covered Mr Little’s time as chief executive of the EPMU, where his income rose to $178,000, and his first three years in Parliament.

After tabling the documents, Labour MPs yelled across the House: “Show us yours, John.”

Silly puerile people.

They just want Key to reveal his finances, so they can campaign against him as being a rich prick. They hate his success.

I suspect Key’s tax return would show he pays more in tax than the entire Labour caucus. But that wouldn’t be hard.

Mr Key said he would not release his records, and reiterated that any rumours that he held assets in foreign trusts were false.

He also shot back, saying that Mr Little should be tabling his CV instead, “because he will be out looking for another job soon” – a reference to Mr Little and Labour’s poor poll results.

Just desperate stuff from Labour.

The register of pecuniary interests, published today, confirmed that all of Mr Key’s investments remained in a blind trust, the Aldgate Trust. He was also a beneficiary of the Key family trust.

The register also revealed, however, that Mr Key’s lawyer was the head of a company which specialised in foreign trusts – an embarrassing disclosure in the middle of the Panama Papers debate.

Shock horror – law firms do trusts. Stuff tries to make it a scandal:

Prime Minister John Key has declared a financial link to a company specialising in foreign trusts.

The latest register of MPs pecuniary interests listed the Antipodes Trust Group Limited as a debtor in Key’s entry. The register was released on Tuesday.

On its website, the Antipodes Trust calls itself a specialist provider of trustee and associated services for foreign trusts using New Zealand as their jurisdiction of choice.

I’ve seen a tweet that the short-term deposit is simply from the sale of an apartment in London. As anyone knows when you sell a property it goes into your lawyer’s trust account and they then pay it out to you. So the big scandal is that Key sold an apartment!!

But hey I hope Labour keeps this up, rather than focusing on the economy, jobs, hospitals and schools. I am sure they can drop even lower than 28% if they try.

UPDATE: Felix Marwich has a statement from the PMs Office. The deposit is even more mundane – it is a payment in advance of costs and the money is invested in a NZ trading bank. Yawn.

UPDATE2: As far as I can tell Little has not in fact released his tax returns – merely his wage and salary information. See them at Stuff. They specifically say they exclude income from investments. So what he has released is meaningless – just a schedule of his salary and PAYE.

Now I don’t think Little needs to or should release any information. But when he is trying to take the moral high ground by claiming he has released his tax returns – well the simple fact is he has not. If Key released what Little released, all he would be releasing is his salary as PM and the PAYE on the salary.

Little blames Hooton for deaths threats against Bennett

March 30th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

When you’re the Leader of the Opposition, and media ask you about vile online death threats against a Minister, your only response should be that they are totally unacceptable. Full stop.

To be fair Little did say they are unacceptable, but then he want on to excuse or blame them on the basis of the economy and most bizarrely Matthew Hooton.

The Herald reports:

Asked what was behind the threats to MPs, Mr Little said this afternoon that some New Zealanders were in a worse position compared to a year ago and were feeling less confident about the future.

Umm, compared to a year ago unemployment is down, economic growth is robust, inflation is down and interest rates are down. And oh yeah wages are up

Here’s the key stats:

  • Unemployment 5.3%, down 0.5%
  • Wages up 2.1% from a year ago
  • Inflation just 0.1% from a year ago (down 0.7%)
  • GDP up 2.5%
  • Mortgage rates 5.77%, down 0.94%

So even if you accept the stupidity of claiming that death threats are because the economy is worse than a year ago, the facts are that almost every economic indicator is better than a year ago.

But his rationalising gets worse:

“It’s not a justification for aggressive behaviour or even aggressive comments. But if you combine a sense that people are feeling that life is tougher along with this change in the tone of a lot of communications — some of which are coming from well-paid PR operatives too I might add — then it’s not surprising that there are some people who are going to read completely the wrong signal and think that it’s OK to make completely unacceptable comments.”

Mr Little appeared to single out lobbyist Matthew Hooton.

Asked by a reporter whether he was referring to Mr Hooton, he said “Could be”. He said the lobbyist had “a particularly vicious … edge to his communications”.

Mr Little said he could not cite specific communications off the top of his head.

“They have an edge to them, that is, I think, unfitting of somebody who claims to be a disinterested observer with right-wing leanings.”

Mr Hooton is a former National Party press secretary and is now an outspoken right-wing political commentator.

This is just bizarre.

Nothing Hooton writes is vicious let alone in any way along the spectrum of death threats.

Hooton writes robustly and provocatively. But to compare anything he has written with the filthy abuse from the likes of Phillip Bear is insane.

Hooton robustly criticises MPs in all parties. He has all but called for Murray McCully to be arrested for the Saudi farm affair. He attacks Steven Joyce more often than the combined Opposition. He has criticised John Key on numerous occasions. So for Little to suggest Hooton is some sort of National attack dog is ridiculous.

The best response to his stupidity comes from Hooton:

Asked to respond to Mr Little’s comments, Mr Hooton said the Labour leader was “an idiot” and he had “no idea” what he was referring to.

“I can’t think of anything that could be characterised as vicious over the last 12 months or so,” he said.

“I should probably seek an apology … but I don’t think he’s a person worth seeking an apology from.”

Indeed.

Oh and I missed this victim blaming in this article:

Labour leader Andrew Little said the threats against ministers were “ugly” and “had no place” in New Zealand’s political debate.

It was “hard to gauge” whether treatment of MPs was getting worse, he said. But he had observed a “palpable sense of anger” from voters which was not present a year ago.

“I think there is a lot of frustration and anger. People see a Government that looks increasingly arrogant, it’s smug and out of touch… and they are feeling frustrated.”

If you think the Government is out of touch or arrogant, you vote them out of office. You don’t make death threats.

Using Little’s logic I could argue that the anger is because Labour are such an incompetent opposition, left wing activists are in despair that they may have five terms in opposition, so they are resorting to violent threats.

That’s as sensible an argument as the one Little has made.

Sense from Andrew Little

March 28th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Easter Sunday – it’s quiet. But next year it could be bustling.

Labour leader Andrew Little has expressed favour in allowing shops to trade on the weekend, but he had a few concerns.

“I wouldn’t object to a law that allowed trading on Easter Sunday, providing the right of the worker to genuinely opt-out,” he said.

That’s great. Such a sensible position.

The union movement insists that employers are evil and no matter what the law says, will force employees to work on Easter (ignoring they already work Easter Saturday and Monday).

Little seems to be saying what I advocate – if an employer wishes to open, an employee wishes to earn some extra money and customers wish to shop, then the law should not make that illegal.

The amendment to allow councils to create bylaws and decide for their areas was “wrong in principle”. Little believed the laws should apply nationally.

My preference is for there to be no ban on shops opening nation-wide.

But allowing each Council to decide is preferable to the status quo of a few historic areas being allowed to open, while others can’t.

Ultimately, Little was prepared to run with public sentiment on the issue, as long as Kiwis could decline to work.

“The bottom line is you’ve got to protect the right of workers to genuinely opt-out and not be subject to stigma and pressure.”

The Labour Party would make be making a conscience vote on the legislation, meaning each member would vote individually.

Why not put up an amendment to allow Easter trading nationally, in return for penalties on employers who coerce employees to work?