Incompetence from Little and Labour

February 19th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

There has been so much incompetence in the saga of the unpaid invoice to David Cohen, it is hard to know where to start. Let’s try and take it in order.

  1. Hiring a right wing journalist to advise on your Labour Party leadership campaign in the first place
  2. Not paying him promptly when invoiced on 10 November
  3. Not responding to the next three e-mails from Cohen asking to be paid
  4. The Leader’s Chief of Staff gets involved on 22 December and doesn’t get it paid that day or even tell the Leader
  5. Two weeks later still unpaid, and COS gets e-mailed again.
  6. Another three weeks goes by and it is unpaid, and the journalist (NB journalist!) has to e-mail again
  7. The COS finally tells Little at the end of January and Little doesn’t get it paid that day
  8. Another week and another reminder and still no action
  9. Little gives a speech on how Labour wants to help small businesses, infuriating the self-employed journalist who e-mails again, now angry. Warning bells should be ringing loudly by now.
  10. Two more weeks later Cohen writes an article in NBR that appears in their print edition last Friday complaining he has not been paid. The incompetence is so huge that this does not result in a payment being made by end of day, but is ignored
  11. Four days later Steven Joyce raises the non payment in the House and finally it is paid
  12. When confronted over the bad look for the Labour Leader to not be paying a worker the money he is owed, Little gets angry at the media and demands they call him a contractor not a worker!

The unpaid bill by itself is not the issue. It is the gross incompetence in Labour that they allowed this to carry on so long. You’re the aspiring prime minister, you’re told a journalist who did work for you has been trying to get paid for months, and you do nothing about it for weeks – even after the journalist writes an article complaining about it.

This may hurt Little significantly. People can relate to the small things, such as stiffing someone for $950. Combined with the stuff up over not consulting with the other opposition parties on the Intelligence and Security committee, and there is a real risk for Labour that their leader’s brand which started off positive, will turn negative. The public rate competence well ahead of ideology.

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Little the law breaker

February 18th, 2015 at 7:09 am by David Farrar

The Herald  reports:

The Green Party says Labour has broken the law by not consulting its co-leaders about a spot on the powerful intelligence and security committee.

The party pointed to the Intelligence and Security Committee Act, which said the Leader of the Opposition could nominate an MP “following consultation with the leader of each party that is not in Government or in coalition with a Government party”.

There is no doubt the Greens are correct and Little has broken the law. He failed to not only consult other parties over his nominations, but failed to even notify them – they found out by way of media release.

His nomination of David Shearer is illegal, and a judicial review would I am sure be successful. However a law suit would only force him to restart the process, not to ultimately make a different choice.

But his failure to consult, despite a statutory requirement to do so, should be alarming. He aspires to be Prime Minister, a role which has numerous positions he effectively appoints, some of which require consultation with opposition parties such as Governor-General, human rights commissioners, officers of Parliament, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security etc. Will a Prime Minister Little be as unconcerned about breaking the law on consultation, as Opposition Leader Little is?

Stuff reports:

Little said he would “consult” with the Greens about the committee’s deliberations. That would fulfil his legal obligations.

No it doesn’t. The obligation is around the nomination of members. He is meant to be a lawyer, yet seems unable to read the statute.

His failure to follow the law also raises issue around his office. His staff should have been aware of the legal requirements, and advised appropriately.

He earlier said he chose Shearer because Norman was standing down as co-leader in May.

He had rejected appointing co-leader Metiria Turei because he wanted someone with “skills, understanding and experience.” 

While he has clearly broken the law in not consulting, his actual decision in not appointing a Green MP is the right one. The Greens are effectively opposed to the very existence of the intelligence agencies. Hence appointing them to an oversight committee means that their interest is just to find ways to discredit the agencies, not to play a constructive role in oversight.

However I do think it is regrettable that Labour kept both spots for itself. While I am not his biggest fan, I think it would have been quite suitable to appoint Winston Peters on the basis he is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

UPDATE: It appears from what Peter Dunne said on Twitter that he was not consulted by the Prime Minister of the Government’s nominees. If correct, this is also a breach of the Act and equally bad behaviour. It is also a bad way for a Government to treat a coalition partner.

There is no question that Dunne himself could not be appointed to the committee, after his leaking of the Kitteridge report to Andrea Vance (denied but not believed). But even though he could not be appointed himself, that doesn’t mean the Government is released from its obligations to consult him (and ACT and the Maori Party).

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Paul Buchanan on Islamic State

February 13th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Paul Buchanan writes:

There are three specific reasons why NZ has to join the fight, two practical and one principled.

The practical reasons are simple: First, NZ’s major security allies, the US, UK and Australia, are all involved as are France, Germany and others. After the signing of the Wellington and Washington security agreements, NZ became a first tier security partner of the US, and as is known, it is an integral member of the 5 Eyes signals intelligence network. It therefore cannot renege on its security alliance commitments without a serious loss of credibility and trust from the countries upon which it is most dependent for its own security.

Secondly, most of New Zealand’s primary diplomatic and trading partners, including those in the Middle East, are involved in the anti-IS coalition. Having just secured a UN Security Council temporary seat at a time when the UN has repeatedly issued condemnations of IS, and having campaigned in part on breaking the logjam in the UNSC caused by repeated use of the veto by the 5 permanent members on issues on which they disagree (such as the civil war in Syria), NZ must back up its rhetoric and reinforce its diplomatic and trade relations by committing to the multinational effort to defeat IS. Refusing to do so in the face of requests from these partners jeopardises the non-military relationships with them.

The third reason is a matter of principle and it is surprising that the government has not made more of it as a justification for involvement. After the Rwandan genocide an international doctrine known as the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) was agreed by UN convention to prevent future horrors of that sort. It basically states that if a defenceless population is being subject to the depredations of its own government, or if the home government cannot defend the population from the depredations of others, then the international community is compelled to use whatever means, including armed force, to prevent ongoing atrocities from occurring. There can be no doubt that is the situation in parts of Iraq and Syria at the moment. Neither the Assad regime or the Iraqi government can defend minority communities such as Kurds or Yazidis, or even non-compliant Sunnis, from the wrath of IS.

That, more than any other reason, is why NZ must join the fight. As an international good citizen that has signed up to the R2P, NZ is committed in principle to the defense of vulnerable others.

The best summary I have seen of why NZ should contribute. Buchanan continues:

Most of all, why has Andrew Little run his mouth about reneging on the NZDF contribution to the anti-IS coalition (which involves formal and time-constrained commitments)? Little has previous form in displaying ignorance of international affairs, but this level of hypocrisy takes the cake. Does he not remember that the 5th Labour government started the rapprochement with the US after 9/11, and that it was the 5th Labour government that initially deceived and misled about the real nature of the SAS role in Afghanistan as well as  the true nature of the mission in Southern Iraq (which is widely believed to have involved more than a company of military engineers). Is he not aware that a responsible country does not walk away from the security alliance, diplomatic and trade commitments mentioned above? Did he not consult with Helen Clark, Phil Goff or David Shearer before this brain fart (or did they gave him the rope on which to hang himself)? Does he really believe, or expect the informed public to believe, that on defense, security and intelligence issues Labour in 2015 is really that different from National? If so, it is he, not us, who is deluded.

All this shows is that Labour is still unfit to govern, or at least Little is not. If he does not understand the core principles governing international relations and foreign affairs, or if he chooses to ignore them in favour of scoring cheap political points, then he simply is unsuited to lead NZ before the international community.

Buchanan concludes:

Andrew Little should know that, and the Greens and NZ First need to understand that this is not about belonging to some exclusive “club” but about being a responsible global citizen responding to the multinational call for help in the face of a clear and present danger to the international community. Because if IS is not a clearly identifiable evil, then there is no such thing.

In any event the fight against IS is dangerous but cannot be avoided.

It is worth remembering that Dr Buchanan is from the left himself. This makes his criticisms all the more stinging.

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Little wants to look at giving Iwi law making powers

February 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has proposed looking at giving Maori greater self-governance, possibly including the ability to make some of their own laws. …

He said it was time to look at what would happen after the settlements were completed.

He said some Native American tribes had law-making powers over their territories in the United States where recognised tribes were exempt from some laws – including taxation – and could create their own laws in many areas. Mr Little said allowing separate law-making was “highly problematic”.

“But we shouldn’t be so dismissive of any claim by iwi over what they do. We do have to function as a nation-state and we don’t want to compromise that. But let’s have a look at it.”

I encourage Labour to clarify their thinking and be very specific in their 2017 manifesto as to what law making powers they think Iwi should be given.

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Little says water should not be traded!

February 6th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour party leader Andrew Little says water should not be traded as a commodity in New Zealand.

Why ever not? That is the best way to allocate and conserve it. Farmers should pay for the water they use for irrigation just as the rich family with a swimming pool should pay for their water use.

Is Little against water meters? Against any form of charging?

He did not believe water was a resource which should be traded commercially.

“We don’t make it, it comes naturally, people need it, it’s life giving. It’s essential and I’m just not sure it’s something we should now go down on creating this big commercial market for.”

Yes it is essential, as is food. But how does Andrew propose water should be allocated – a Government committee dishing out an equal portion to everyone?

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Getting too excited

February 4th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Barry Soper at NewstalkZB reports:

And they’re also luxuriating in the new found popularity of their leader in the latest opinion poll which sees Andrew Little the most popular leader since Helen Clark. Given the other three incumbents since her, it’s hardly reason for popping the champagne corks just yet.

Andrew Little is not the most popular Labour leader since Helen Clark. We’ve had several days of claims such as this, based on an incredibly modest poll result.

On one particular indicator (capable leader) he got a 54% rating. Yes that is 1% above Phil Goff’s initial rating. But being seen as capable is far from being proclaimed popular.

On the Preferred PM indicator which is the indicator of popularity, Little got 9.8%. Cunliffe was on 12.3%. Shearer made 12.6%.  Goff made 12.4%.   He is not the most popular. He is yet to poll higher than any of them.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think Little has had a solid start and is a capable leader. However proclaiming him as the most popular Labour leader since Helen Clark is just daft. He isn’t (yet anyway). The public at best have an open mind on him.

His capable leader rating is basically the same as Goff started on. Goff them made a series of bad calls, and his ratings plummeted. Little’s challenge is to not do the same.

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Hide impressed by Little

February 1st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

The David Cunliffe experiment of tacking left is over. …

Little’s speech was more interesting by far.

He’s new and his speech was an opportunity to learn where he’s directing Labour and, potentially, the country.

And here’s the money quote: “As a union leader I was always conscious that wealth had to be created first before it could be shared. We need to do what’s right for business so we can do what’s right for workers and their families and to keep skills in New Zealand.”

Little recognises the need to create wealth before it can be spent.

And he acknowledges that business creates wealth – and, by implication, not Government. That’s a big statement from a Labour leader.

He told us how as union leader he helped business to help workers and their families.

He’s not a “worker-versus-business” guy. He worked with Fonterra to achieve productivity gains and so boost the pay to workers and farmers.

The bit about farmers is important. He understands the economy is interconnected and farmers are part of his economic equation.

It’s all good news.

Little has outlined his vision and direction. His challenge now is to deliver policy that convinces middle voters he will deliver.

The rhetoric and direction sound promising indeed, as a more moderate rational Labour Party. The test will be whether they devise policy to match, or will be talk without the walk?

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Little’s state of the nation speech

January 28th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little’s speech isn’t (or wasn’t) on the Labour website, but The Standard has a copy of it. A few extracts and comments:

The Labour Party I lead is about jobs. Good jobs. Skilled jobs. Well paid jobs.

That’s what a good, fair and wealthy society is based on. And it’s what Labour stands for.

A job is about more than just an income. It’s about dignity.

Indeed, which is why welfare reform is so important.

And it’s why the next Labour government will make sure New Zealand has the lowest rate of unemployment in the developed world.

Let me say that again – the next Labour government will make sure that New Zealand has the lowest rate of unemployment in the developed world.

No Government can guarantee that, or control that. It’s a silly useless pledge. The level of unemployment can be impacted by government policies, but the main influence is how well individual businesses are doing. They are the ones that crate jobs – not the Government.

A lot of people don’t know that small businesses were responsible for nearly one third of New Zealand’s economy last year.

And that 41% of the jobs created last year were created in firms with fewer than 20 employees.

And yet the question of how we can help these vital businesses to grow is very rarely at the top of the political agenda.

Well, I want to change that.

Because as much as small business does now, I want them to do more.

Excellent. So will Labour announce they no longer plan to scrap 90 day trials for small businesses (now available to all businesses). This is credited by many small businesses as giving them the confidence to hire an extra staff member. Without a 90 day trial the cost of a bad hire can be crippling to a small business.

Will Labour continue with its policy to have a massive increase in the minimum wage, which will reduce employment with small businesses who are least able to pass increased costs on?

Rhetoric is easy, but policies are what counts.

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Little supports zero tolerance for speeding

January 14th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little labelled the review “flakey”.

Police needed time to investigate the circumstances of each accident, before leaping to any conclusions, he said. 

“[For Woodhouse] to go onto a talk-back show and get roasted and decide you are going to do something then it looks, frankly, just a little bit flakey to me,” Little said.

“If there is a debate about whether there should be a more varied range of speed limits – some open roads can accommodate 110km per hour and some can’t – that is a separate debate and we should have that at some point.

“But I am a little bit uncomfortable about this climbing into the police for enforcing the speed limits.”

Little backed police, saying he saw no problem in  “sending a signal when you know that there are peak travel times, saying that you are going to strictly enforce the law.”

So Labour’s policy is that you should be ticketed for driving at 101km/hr in a 100 km/hr zone if it is a holiday period!

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Little pledges to outlaw zero hour contracts

December 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

It was an accident of timing that on the very day he was signalling the party needed to modernise its cloth-cap image, he should be invited to speak at Unite, the most militant of modern unions. There were liberal references to “mate” and “brother” from Mr Little in the question session that followed.

“Will Labour outlaw zero-hour contracts?” one delegate asked directly. Getting rid of them is a new campaign for Unite.

Mr Little had already criticised zero-hour contracts in the morning speech as a disturbing trend.

“Zero-hour contracts” give employers the right to tell employees from week to week how many hours they will be working, if any at all – hence the word zero.

Mr Little answered: “The idea that you sign up and enter into an obligation to make yourself available to the employer with no reciprocal obligation for the employer to provide work, that’s not acceptable.

“If it doesn’t change, we will outlaw it,” he said to resounding applause.

That would be a huge mistake.

I share the distaste that some fast food companies use zero hour contracts, when they have regular hours and demand. I wish good luck to UNITE for negotiating an end to them in those industries.

However Little will be making a huge mistake if he follows through on his pledge to outlaw them, as there are industries and businesses where they are essential.  If an employer literally has no work available, then it is insane to say they must pay staff to turn up and do nothing.

Also many students like zero hour contracts as it gives them flexibility also, to just work the shifts they can. Making it illegal for an employer and employee to agree to a casual contract would be draconian.  It would mean a diary owner couldn’t have a relief worker on call, for example.

Yes there is a problem in the fast food industry. But do not treat all businesses and industries the same. You’ll destroy lots of jobs and employers if you do.

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A balanced set of views

December 2nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald interviewed six people about Andrew Little’s first speech on the future of work. The six people interviewed are:

  • The host who invited him
  • A former Labour press secretary
  • A former Labour MP
  • A former Labour City Councillor
  • A former Labour President
  • A current Labour activist and office holder

From all accounts the speech was fine, and a solid effort. I just thought it unfortunate that five of the six people interviewed are linked to Labour. Would have been good to get reactions from some of the business people there who are not overtly political.

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Little and NZUSA

November 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In my 2009 profile of Andrew Little for NBR I said:

I first met Andrew Little when he was President of the New Zealand University Students Association in the late 1980s.

The organisation was in crisis and at risk of dying. Andrew helped save it, and a reform package was implemented that reduced a staff from 14 (a president, six vice-presidents and seven staff) to a staff of around four (two co-presidents and a couple of staff). The new leaner meaner NZUSA stopped campaigning for Nicaragua, and started focusing on student education and welfare and has been a much more effective beast since.

A former NZUSA insider corrects my memory. He e-mails:

First, the reform of the New Zealand University Students’ Association was in 1986 (Simon Johnson was VUWSA President and Bidge Smith was NZUSA President). I think that Andrew was Sports Officer at VUWSA and was a delegate to NZUSA Councils that year.. 

You are correct there was one president and six vice-presidents and an additional two researchers and a “typing pool”. They described themselves as the Typist Liberation Front (TLR) – i am not making this up.

The reform happened at the 2006 August Council and NZUSA had one President and one vice-president – not the two co-presidents as you stated. 

Although Andrew was involved sort-of in the reform of NZUSA but it was acutally as VUWSA President in 1987 and therefore on the Federation Executive and then as 1988 and 1989 NZUSA President that Andrew was critical in making a full success of the NZUSA reforms that you highlight in your article.

I’m grateful for the clarification. A 28 year old memory can be faulty.

Coincidentally Grant Robertson’s thesis for his honours degree was on the 1986 restructuring. He labeled them a step to the right!

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Little’s reshuffle

November 24th, 2014 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

Overall Andrew Little has done a good job with his reshuffle, considering the somewhat limited options he has. I’d give it a 7/10. He has rejuvenated the front bench and not played factional politics too much. Most appointments seem to be based on merit.

His first week as leader has gone well. He has been comfortable in his press conferences, and his tone has been good. When asked on TV this morning why he is calling for Rennie to go, but not also the DPMC head, he gave a logical response based on their different roles.

He hasn’t set the world on fire, and maybe our expectations are lower because of the stuff ups by previous incumbents, but at this stage there is nothing much you can fault him on. Labour need a solid leader, and that may now have it.

In terms of the new line up, let’s start with the overall look, and then the details.

  • A plus for a fresh front bench, of whom only two were Ministers in the last Government
  • A plus for a front bench which has good gender and ethnic diversity
  • A plus for a front bench largely based on merit
  • A big negative for four of the top six being Wellington MPs including Leader, Deputy Leader, Leader of the House and Finance Spokesperson. Labour may struggle to reconnect with NZ when their top six is so beltway.
  • A small negative that no one wanted to be Deputy Leader (except Nanaia) so poor Annette had to be drafted in again

In terms of the individuals

  • Little having no portfolios outside security is sensible
  • King as Deputy Leader is a good short term move (she has it for a year only). While it is a bad look that they need an MP who entered Parliament 30 years ago to remain Deputy, her personal skills for he job are superb. One Labour insider commented to me that the gap between Anette and the next most competent female Labour MP is astonomical.
  • Robertson as Finance is a risk. He is a skilled politician and communicator, but I am not sure how much credibility he will have talking about the economy, when he has never worked in the private sector. His challenge is to bridge that gap.
  • Mahuta gets No 4 mainly because her followers all voted for Little. few could seriously suggest she is their 4th best MP. What are her achievements in the 18 years she has been an MP? With just one portfolio (Maori Development), her workload could be very light.
  • Twyford as Housing and Transport is a good choice – he knows the issues well.
  • Hipkins as Shadow Leader and Education also sound.
  • Sepuloni is promoted ahead of Ardern to get Social Development. A big opportunity for her considering she has had only one term in Parliament. Has to prove she deserves the spot.
  • A very good call making Davis front bench and giving him portfolios such as Police, Corrections and Domestic Violence. Could do very well so log as he gets Little to dump his policy of making people accused of rape having to prove their innocence.
  • Ardern gets demoted for the second time in a row and drops off the front bench (they have only eight front bench seats in the House). She gets a major portfolio in Justice but is against Amy Adams who I think will excel there.
  • Clark gets a promotion and Economic Development. Could have gone further but has a chance to prove himself
  • Sio has Pacific Island Affairs and Local Government. Doubt we’ll see much more than in the past,
  • Lees-Galloway gets the important (for Labour) portfolio of Labour. Suspect Little will lead most of the work in this area though.
  • Woods gets Environment and Climate Change. Likely to be over shadowed by the Greens.
  • Cunliffe, Parker, Shearer and Goff are Nos 14 to 17. This is smart by Little. All get a ranking to reflect their contribution, but also one low enough to suggest they are on the way out (maybe not for Shearer).
  • While Cunliffe has a low ranking, he has meaty portfolios in Regional Development, Tertiary Education and Science. A path to redemption.

In terms of the unranked, surprised Louisa Wall and Stuart Nash not put into the top 20. Also somewhat surprised Sue Moroney not given a ranking.

As I said, overall a pretty smart reshuffle by Little, considering his limited options. The heavy Wellington skew at the top is a significant weakness, but overall he has done a good job of rejuvenation, and starting to put together what could look like a competent alternate Government.

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Garner on Little

November 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

A bunch of faceless union hacks chose Andrew Little to lead the Labour Party this week.

That’s the truth. It’s as simple and as brutal as that.

Six unions got to vote in the leadership race – but just one union, Service and Food Workers, actually gave all its members the right to exercise their vote.

The other five unions gave the power to about 100 senior delegates to cast the crucial votes on behalf of those on the factory floor.

Who are these delegates? Who knows. If it wasn’t for Little’s 100 union mates who wielded the power and the final say, Little would have come a distant second in this race.

The Labour system is awful. If you want to do membership voting, then do it as the Greens do it – one member, one vote. Not one union delegate having 30 votes.

This is unprecedented for Labour – 27 of its MPs don’t want Little to be their boss.

Yet leader he is. It’s a perverse outcome that looks farcical. But the process is the process – despite it looking like an ass. It certainly doesn’t seem fair to Robertson, and of course he’s gutted and licking his wounds.

So what to make of Little?

In my time covering politics I found him to be straight-forward, competent, organised, gruff, a little grim, dry and blunt but likeable.

So it’s not all bad. Get Labour back up into the early 30s and it’s game on – that’s MMP.

At 30% you lose less badly. At 35% you can govern if Winston chooses you.

At least Little’s not a trumped-up fake like the last leader and a stuttering mess, like the one before that.

Ouch.

But this is a divided bunch. If I was Little I’d offer the deputy leader’s job to Jacinda Ardern.

They need some Auckland influence in there – and she’s a Robertson loyalist. Little could offer the job to Robertson – but then the leader and deputy are from Wellington and that’s a problem.

He must not offer it to failed leadership contender Nanaia Mahuta for all the obvious reasons. And he must promote new blood like Kelvin Davis and Stuart Nash on to the front bench.

I agree Ardern is the logical choice for Deputy. She doesn’t want to be his Deputy, but she is a List MP and a servant of the party. She should be told that she has to take the role.

And what about Robertson? Is he finished? I say no.

He’s promised not to run again for leader – but surely that commitment only lasts for this term.

Robertson, in my view, will always have ambitions to be the leader. But he wants to give Little three years.

However, should Little fail and John Key wins a fourth term, Robertson’s commitment to never stand again means nothing.

Little is now the boss. But don’t write off the apprentice – politics is a long game and Robertson is still running a marathon, not a sprint.

Or will he be Jacinda’s campaign manager next time, rather than vice versa?

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A profile of Little

November 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff has a profile of Andrew Little.

In the mid-2000s, the EPMU took on Air New Zealand over plans to outsource heavy maintenance engineering and airport services. Little hired experts and drew up an alternative business strategy.

A former airline executive – on the other side of the negotiating table – was impressed.

“There is a really interesting blend of practical compassion within Andrew. That pragmatism realises the commercial realities of a business … It was a very tense and adversarial approach taken by both parties but there was a degree of calmness about him, borne out of recognising as a leader that he has got to let the situation unfold a little bit.”

He says Little “opened his eyes”.

“We understood [then] the impact of the decision that we would have been taking. He was a measured, reasonable voice as opposed to antagonistic. He played a very good, diffusing role.”

Little is “well regarded” by many in the business world, the former airline executive says.

The irony is Little is more popular with some employers he negotiated with, than some of his rival union leaders.

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Why Little may be Prime Minister

November 20th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Based on history Andrew Little should become Prime Minister. No opposition leader who went up against a third term Government has failed to become Prime Minister.

Even when a Government did got a 4th term as in 1946 and 1969, Sidney Holland and Norman Kirk went out to win the time after.

So it is more than likely Andrew Little will become Prime Minister. Normally I’d say he’d had a 65% chance or so of winning, as getting a fourth term is so difficult. But bearing in mind Labour’s awful 25% result, and their caucus issues, I’d say his chances at present are around 40% or so of winning in 2014 2017. That’s not an insignificant chance.

I also think he is likely to do better than his three predecessors in the job, for mainly one reason – authenticity. With Little, he will say what he honestly believes, and this is a prerequisite.

The previous three leaders have all suffered from the fact their natural instincts were out of kilter with what they thought they had to say and do.

Phil Goff was a 4th Labour Government Rogernome who as leader pushed policies to the left of Helen Clark.

David Shearer is a guy who wrote about how the private sector could play a useful role in the defence area, yet was forced to come up with a stunningly stupid policy to effectively nationalise the electricity generation industry.

David Cunliffe was the PPP champion in Helen Clark’s Government, but to win power had to reinvent himself as the red reverend.

Andrew Little is a professional unionist, whose beliefs and policies will not (or should not) change greatly in order to be Labour leader. This is a strength for him.

He has some significant handicaps with the 2014 election result and the caucus, but he has a more than decent chance of becoming Prime Minister.

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Labour in New Plymouth

November 19th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

It’s well known that Andrew Little hasn’t done well in New Plymouth as the candidate in 2011 and 2014. But how much has Labour lost support in this seat they used to hold? Here’s the change from 2008 to 2014.

  • Party vote – dropped from 31.4% in 2008 to 21.2% in 2014 – a 10.3 percentage point drop
  • Electorate vote – dropped from 47.9% in 2008 to 31.9% in 2014 – a 15.9 percentage point drop

By comparison Grant Robertson in Wellington Central increased his electorate vote from 42.2% in 2008 to 52.0% in 2014 – a 9.8 percentage point gain.

UPDATE: Russel Brown makes the point:

I’ll be brief (it’s 5am where I am and have to catch a plane) but the Labour’s leadership result and the means by which it was achieved both seem disastrous for the party and for the prospects of the centre-left.

Little didn’t win the support of the party or the caucus, he loses his electorate more badly every time he contests it, and he’s vowing to dump all the intellectual capital built up by David Parker. I can’t see any good thing about this.

Despite all that it is hard to win a 4th term. Little has a 40% chance or so of becoming Prime Minister, despite just four caucus votes for him.

Brown continues:

The result ends the leadership aspirations of Robertson, easily the best campaigner in the field, and pretty clearly lays waste to the coherent economic philosophy that Parker had been patiently building. I could be wrong, but for now I’m of the view that this result borders on tragedy for Labour.

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Little had only four other Labour MPs vote for him!

November 18th, 2014 at 1:52 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little has been elected leader, but with the support of only four of his colleagues. That’s half the support David Cunliffe managed!

Full results are here.

Here’s how it went each round

Caucus

  • Round 1 – Robertson 14, Parker 7, Mahuta 6, Little 5
  • Round 2 – Robertson 14, Parker 7, Little 11
  • Round 3 – Robertson 18, Little 14

Members

  • Round 1 – Robertson 38%, Parker 22%, Mahuta 14%, Little 26%
  • Round 2 – Robertson 41%, Parker 25%, Little 34%
  • Round 3 – Robertson 55%, Little 45%

Unions

  • Round 1 – Robertson 19%, Parker 7%, Mahuta 10%, Little 64%
  • Round 2 – Robertson 20%, Parker 9%, Little 71%
  • Round 3 – Robertson 24%, Little 76%

Overall Little beat Robertson by 50.5% to 49.5%. This is a disaster of a result for Labour. Not in terms of Andrew winning, but the way the votes split. The takeouts are:

  1. The new leader was the first choice of only four of his colleagues!!
  2. The new leader wasn’t the preferred choice of the members, barely beating David Parker
  3. The new leader is only there because of the bloc union vote
  4. More Labour MPs thought Nanaia Mahuta would be a better leader than Andrew Little
  5. If only two (or at the most three) faceless EPMU delegates had voted Robertson instead of Little, then Robertson would have been leader

Andrew has the personal ability to do well, but this result makes it much harder for him. To only have four of your colleagues vote for you makes the job of convincing the public to vote for you much harder.

UPDATE:

  • Grant Robertson has said he will never seek the leadership again. However his statement is not a Shermanesque one which leaves wriggle room in future. I think his statement is premature. If he had lost the members vote it would be justified, but Grant was the popular choice of both the members and caucus and if Little fails, he is the logical sucessor.
  • David Parker has said he will refuse the Deputy and Finance portfolios. He says no plans to leave Parliament but I predict he will be gone by 2016.
  • Little will either make Cunliffe Finance spokesperson (which will make him even less popular with his colleagues) or go to Nash or Clark in the next generation
  • Names being bandied for deputy are Mahuta, Sepuloni, Robertson and Ardern
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How the Labour MPs may vote

November 17th, 2014 at 3:57 pm by David Farrar

Have had a number of discussions over the last few days with various Labour people on the leadership. Everyone expects Little will win, but will it be on the first ballot, and how will the members, unions and caucus vote.

Below if my best estimate of where the Labour MPs loyalties lie. However this may not be reflected in the actual vote. With a Little victory highly likely, some Labour MPs may vote tactically and give Little their first preference to minimise any stories on him being elected with little Caucus support.

The preferences appear to be:

Andrew Little

  1. Lees-Galloway
  2. Sepuloni
  3. Cunliffe
  4. Little
  5. Moroney
  6. Rurawhe

David Parker

  1. Davis
  2. Henare
  3. Nash
  4. Curran
  5. O’Connor
  6. Parker
  7. Shearer
  8. Tirikatene

Grant Robertson

  1. Ardern
  2. Clark
  3. Faafoi
  4. Hipkins
  5. Woods
  6. Cosgrove
  7. Robertson
  8. Twyford
  9. Dyson
  10. Goff
  11. Mallard
  12. King

Nanaia Mahuta

  1. Wall
  2. Mahuta
  3. Salesa
  4. Whaitiri
  5. Sio
  6. Williams
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Assessing the Labour Leadership Candidates

November 17th, 2014 at 1:16 pm by David Farrar
Little Mahuta Parker Robertson
Internal Attributes
Unite the caucus Well placed to do so, as few enemies. Cunliffe endorsement did not help him though Would unite the caucus, but against her, not with her Well respected. Would be given a fair go Would have very loyal support from majority of caucus, but resentment from a few
Establish competent Leader’s Office Would recruit mainly from unions which has problems Very unlikely. Has little personal networks, so would leave to his deputy Robertson has huge networks and would attract a very talented staff
Satisfy the activists Most likely to be given support from the activist base Has gone down well with some activists Unlikely to motivate many Would have huge loyalty from many, but also huge resentment from Auckland ones especially
Attract donors Little had a constructive relationship as EPMU head with many businesses and could do okay here. Unlikely to attract any outside Maori organisations Very credible with business and would rebuild finances Unlikely to attract donors unless Cullen and Palmer agree to become party fundraisers for him
Manage the parliamentary team Little has not made a big impression in Parliament, but did well in growing and managing EPMU Unknown Has been a competent deputy who does much of this for the leader Robertson is hugely experienced and would by far be the best parliamentary team leader
Develop and stick to a political strategic plan Little shows signs of this with his campaigning on removing issues that distracted core voters Unknown Generally good at focusing on important issues Robertson tends to forget the bigger issues of the economy, and go after the scandal of the day.
External Attributes
Media appeal Reasonable relationships with journalists No strong relationships with journalists Rather boring Robertson is very close to many in gallery and would get favourable coverage
Match Key in House Little has been solid in the House but never spectacular Did not perform well when on front bench A solid performer in the House but unlikely to bother Key The only Labour MP who can cause trouble for Key
Likeability Rather dour Rather sour Bland Projects likeability – someone you want to spend time with
Hold own in debates Little is a competent debater Unknown, as has rarely been on TV, but did well last time she was on Won’t get a knock out, but won’t stuff up Formidable and tricky
Have economic credibility Little does have some economic credibility from his EPMY days. He was a welcome change from the old style unionists who only striked, and often struck sensible deals with employers Unlikely Mahuta will be seen to have economic credibility Parker has strong economic credibility Robertson’s employment record has been purely public sector which makes economic credibility challenging for him
Appeal to Waitakere Man Little is from provincial NZ, and EPMU work kept him in touch – but proposals like reverse burden of proof in rape go down like cold sick Mahuta could do quite well here – she is down to earth and relatable Too nerdy Too Wellington
Appeal to Maori Little has no special appeal here Mahuta is effectively a Tainui Princess, and well connected and respected No special appeal No special appeal.
Appeal to Pasifika EPMU background can help Mahuta has significant support here No special appeal Sexual orientation is an issue for some
Appeal to unionised workers Little well ahead. No special appeal Wants to increase their retirement age – not popular with union workers Robertson struggles here.
Appeal to urban liberals Little is effectively an urban liberal, but hides it well, so should retain support from them Unlikely to appeal to urban liberals Parker has some appeal Robertson is King of the urban liberals
Appeal to Auckland Little has little profile in Auckland. Would need Ardern as his Deputy if he wins. Unlikely to appeal to Aucklanders Parker has built up some respect in Auckland Robertson seen as alien to Auckland, hence why he named Ardern as his preferred Deputy
Lift Labour to 30% so they lose less badly Little should safely be able to get Labour back to 30% Hard to see Labour becoming more popular with Mahuta as Leader Hard to see Parker doing better than Goff Robertson should safely be able to get Labour back to 30%
Lift Labour to 35% so they can win if Winston will let them Difficult to see Little attracting an extra 10% of the vote Will not happen Will not happen Robertson has an interesting back story (his father etc), very good communications ability and an association with Clark which could bring some former Labour voters back. Make take more than one term but could get Labour back to mid 30s
Lift Labour to 40% so there can be a Labour/Green Government No No No No

So this is my honest opinion of the four candidates. They all have some strengths, and none of them look like they have the potential to be a game changer (Shearer and Cunliffe had the potential to be, they just didn’t manage to do it).

If I was a Labour Party member and wanted to maximise the chances of winning at the next election I’d rank Grant Robertson first. Also even if he doesn’t win, he has the best skill set to rebuild the party organisation team and parliamentary team so they are less dysfunctional – and this would help the leader after him.

My second preference would be Andrew Little. Andrew was hugely impressive as EMPU General Secretary and a pretty good Labour Party President also. However he hasn’t been a star in Parliament. He may rise to the occasion, if given the leadership (which seems likely), but his record in New Plymouth shows his electoral appeal may be limited.

Prior to them both entering Parliament, I had said that Robertson and Little are potential future leaders.

The third preference would be David Parker. He’s a better Deputy than Leader though.

The last preference would be Nanaia Mahuta. I have nothing personal against her, but when she has had front bench opportunities such as being Education Spokesperson, she doesn’t seem to have been highly effective. I suspect her candidacy is more about becoming Deputy Leader.

I expect Andrew Little will be the winner tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if he gets 50% on the first ballot, and if not, how the preferences flow.

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A Little hyperbole

October 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former union boss Little’s message seemed to resonate well with the audience, which included a strong union presence.

He also attacked the employment law making its way through the House.

“We have never had a more niggardly, nasty National government than the one we’ve got now.”

I guess he has to try and win over the union vote, but this is a ridiculous statement. The Employment Contracts Act of the early 1990s was a magnitude more radical than anything currently in the law, or proposed.

And is Andrew really saying the John Key led Government is more “nasty” than the Muldoon Government?

Such hyperbole may be good red meat for the unions, but they won’t resonate with the voting public.

He said Labour was the only party that took work seriously and balanced the rights of employers with workers’ rights to be protected.

Actually Labour basically has the unions write their industrial relations policy. I’d assert National is the party that gets the balance right.

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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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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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Little for Leader

October 7th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Andrew Little is talking up his connections outside the Labour caucus, amid signals he may stand for the Labour leadership.

The former Labour Party president who has twice failed to win the seat of New Plymouth, was confirmed as an MP on Saturday only after a dramatic swing in special votes away from the Government.

But Little, a former head of the EPMU, said that in the hours since the election result was finalised he had been “prevailed upon by a large number of people” to consider nominating for the party leadership.

While saying that Labour should ideally reflect on its poor election result before a leadership contest, Little talked up his broad connections.

“I know the party because I’ve been party president, in terms of my union work I . . . continue to have a lot of contact with the corporate sector, with working people, a whole range of people. It’s those networks we need to get out to,” Little told TVNZ’s Q+A.

Andrew is a credible and strong contender for the leadership. He is right that a lot of members and activists are saying they want more than two candidates, as the contest risks turning into a referendum on who is to blame – the leader or the caucus.

The Cunliffe and Robertson factions have little time for each other. If Little can gain enough support to not be the lowest polling candidate, he could then pick up second preferences from the candidate eliminated and have a decent chance of winning.

Having a former union boss as the Labour leader, would of course entrench the perception that Labour is beholden to sectional interests, rather than the national interest. This is part of why they got 25%.

But on the positive side, he is in a better position than Cunliffe or Robertson to unify the party.

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Will Little, Shearer or Nash run?

October 3rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The race to be Labour’s leader may no longer be a two-way contest, with Stuart Nash said to be seriously considering a tilt at the top job.

The newly elected Napier MP is biding his time to see if former union boss Andrew Little will throw his hat in the ring. Little’s political future hangs in the balance until tomorrow, when the official election results are declared.

If Little, a former EPMU president, did make it back to Parliament on the list, and decided to enter the primary contest to choose the leader, Nash would not run, a source said.

Nash had earlier ruled it out, saying it was too soon for him.

An insider said he backed away as the caucus waited to see if David Cunliffe would resign and leave Grant Robertson to run unchallenged.

“[He] didn’t want to be the one to trigger a leadership battle that the party had no appetite for.”

But sources say he is reconsidering as the rivalry between Cunliffe and Robertson has turned increasingly bitter. “This is the last thing our party needs, two people going hammer and tongs at each other. It will just turn off New Zealand,” one source said.

Nash is being lobbied hard by Maori and Pasifika members of the party, who believe neither of the two declared contenders can unite the divided factions.

A wildcard option, Nash, 47, represents a break from the rivalries that have torn the party apart in the last three years.

A Cunliffe vs Robertson contest risks being a who is to blame for the loss referendum – the leader or the caucus. Having more than two contenders may focus it more on the future than the past.

It’s not known if the possible nomination of his old boss David Shearer would change his decision. Shearer is still undecided and did not return calls yesterday.

In his Napier electorate yesterday, Nash said his status had not changed. “At this point, I won’t be seeking the leadership of the party.”

The new leader will be installed by November, with the party’s council setting the timetable for the runoff. Nominations will close on October 14, followed by 14 hustings meetings around the country.

Party members, the 32 MPs and affiliated unions all get a say and the result of the vote will be announced on November 18.

I’m picking up a lot of disillusionment among Labour members. I would predict that the number of members who vote will be well down on their last leadership election. This will make the relative power of union votes even more powerful.

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