Kim’s little helpers

February 13th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Has been fascinating to look at the nexus between certain MPs and Kim Dotcom. We now know some MPs have had multiple meetings with him at his mansion (lesser mortals visit MPs in their offices, but for Dotcom they flock to his mansion), and the same MPs have asked multiple questions about his case in Parliament. And again at least one of those MPs is vowing to fight his extradition – even if the NZ Courts find he should be extradited. And finally, we have learnt that Dotcom will wind up his political party during the election campaign and endorse one or more other parties – no doubt those who have been helping him so much.

So who have been Kim’s little helpers. I’ve searched the parliamentary database and these MPs have asked multiple questions on his behalf or about his case.

  • Trevor Mallard – 132 questions (128 written, 4 oral)
  • Winston Peters – 82 questions (71 written, 11 oral)
  • David Shearer – 36 questions (22 written, 14 oral)
  • Grant Robertson – 17 questions (15 oral, 2 written)
  • Russel Norman – 13 questions (7 written, 6 oral)

We know that Mallard has met with Dotcom, Peters has been to his mansion three times and Norman at least twice. Norman can’t recall whose idea the meetings were.

Audrey Young has written on how Peters is back to his Owen Glenn tricks and refusing to answer questions about his taxpayer funded trips to talk to Dotcom. Many a wag has suggested he should wave the NO sign up when asked if Dotcom has donated to his party or him.

John Armstrong also writes on the issue:

It is bad enough that the Greens are naive enough to sign up to the fan club which accords Kim Dotcom the folk hero status he clearly craves, but scarcely deserves as some modern-day Robin Hood of cyberspace.

Much worse, however, is that it now turns out that party is blithely willing to play politics with New Zealand’s courts, the country’s extradition laws and its extradition treaty with the United States.

Were John Key to allow some right-wing businessman facing extradition to stay in New Zealand in exchange for him abandoning his plans to establish a political party which might drain votes off National, then the Greens would be climbing on their high horses at break-neck speed and leading the charge in slamming the Prime Minister in no uncertain terms. And rightly so.

Indeed.

By appearing to countenance such a massive conflict of interest through political interference in Dotcom’s potential ejection from New Zealand, Norman has instantly disqualified his party from having any ministerial posts in a coalition with Labour which involve responsibility for the extradition process.

In fact, Norman has probably disqualified his party from having any role in the Justice portfolio full stop.

That’s a win for New Zealand!

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Young on Key and GCSB

July 20th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

 Labour made the GCSB story about John Key, not Kim Dotcom, or the agency itself. And with a few victories against him, such as fingering him for shoulder-tapping an old school mate for the GCSB directorship, it could not bring itself to support Key’s bill.

Key has not been given credit for much in the process. But he clearly had concerns about the GCSB before the unlawful spying on Dotcom.

It had been run by a tight club within the defence and intelligence community and established some disturbing work habits, as the Kitteridge report exposed.

The notion that everything was hunky dory back in the days of former Chief of Defence Force Sir Bruce Ferguson is myth. Most of the legally dubious spying on New Zealanders went on under his, and Labour’s, watch.

Of the 88 cases, only four were warranted, according to the agency itself.

Ian Fletcher’s appointment should, at the very least, be seen as an attempt to break the stranglehold of the old boys’ defence network on the agency and letting some civilian light into it.

Rebecca Kitteridge’s appointment said a lot too. As Cabinet secretary she is not the minute-taker but the guardian of proper process, ensuring that things are done by the rules and the law.

It is clear from her report that the GCSB was not following the law on the issue of collecting metadata on New Zealanders and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security thought it was.

Key is cleaning up a mess entirely uncreated by him. The only area of real criticism is not being more forthright over his ringing Ian Fletcher to let him know about the job. Labour created the mess with their 2003 law change and seem to be refusing to play a constructive role in fixing it. In fact they have said a public inquiry should review if we even stay in the Five Eyes network with Australia, Canada, UK and US – possibly the stupidest of all their policies.

There are three things he could do in the coming week that would make the bill more acceptable than it is now, to the public and other parties.

First, he could write two reviews into the bill, one to begin in 18 months, straight after the next election, and one every five years after that, as the Australians do.

It’s effectively what Labour is promising.

Several weeks ago Key said he would promise a review only if it would get Labour on board.

He should do it to get the public on board, whether or not Labour agrees.

Secondly, he should go back to the Kitteridge report for a lead on how to beef up oversight. The report cited this quote from the 1999 Inspector-General as evidence of how woeful oversight had been: “The fact that there are very few complaints and little need for any inquiry … of the GCSB indicates … that the performance of their activities does not impinge adversely on New Zealand citizens”. …

Thirdly Key, as Prime Minister and the minister responsible for the GCSB, needs to make a clear statement on metadata (information about communications).

Specifically, he needs to say what the GCSB has done in the past and what constraints it will operate under in the future. He should admit that the agency has previously, on many occasions, collected metadata on New Zealanders unlawfully – believing it was doing so lawfully.

He should reassure New Zealanders, if he can do so truthfully, that there has been no mass collection of metadata passed on to intelligence partners overseas and there won’t be in the future.

He should assure the public that any collection of metadata of New Zealanders in the future, like other communications, will have to be by warrant.

The first two seem sensible. The third could be more challenging. People use the term metadata in different ways.

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Will Shearer survive?

July 13th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

At the start of the week, I would have put his chances of surviving at 80/20. Now they would be closer to 50/50.

I still have money on him seeing out 2013, as I don’t think they want to risk Cunliffe as Leader. However if those wanting a change do a Rudd type destabilisation, it may force the caucus to act.

The coverage of the whole “man-ban” issue has exposed the party’s fundamental flaws: its factions, the tensions between the caucus and the party, and the perception that the party is overly concerned with issues of identity.

Amid the leadership issues, there has been a serious debate internally in Labour this week about the wisdom of Maryan Street promoting her euthanasia private members’ bill.

Labour is terrified it will be drawn out of the ballot.

I hope it does. This law reform is badly needed and overdue.

Would the party go with the candidate that could get them closest to Government but risk further disunity in the party, Cunliffe?

Or would it risk going with the lower profile deputy, someone less likely to get them into the Government, someone with less public appeal (nothing to do with him being gay) but more likely to unify the party?

This is the Robertson dilemma. He might be ready but is the public?

Don’t rule out Little!

But replacing Shearer with either Cunliffe or Robertson would be as risky as the move was to put in Shearer.

In the event of failure, the party could be forced to contemplate a second leadership contest closer to the 2014 election with a wild card such as Shane Jones, Little or even back to Goff as leader were Robertson or Cunliffe unable to steer the party away from a disastrous result akin to Bill English’s in 2002 of just over 20 per cent. None of these scenarios is out of the question.

I think going back to Phil Goff is an excellent idea. Please do that.

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Young interviews David Carter

March 30th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

Opposition parties are frustrated that Mr Carter is not applying the same method as Dr Smith.

Generally Dr Smith would decide whether a question was “straight” or “political” and if he deemed it a straight question he would not accept a political answer – one that contained a political attack on a party.

That was hugely different from the days when ministers could simply use a word from the question and be deemed to have acceptably “addressed the question”, which is the requirement.

Mr Carter has opted for a halfway house. If he believes a minister has not addressed a question adequately, he will allow an MP to repeat it, sometimes several times, and Mr Hipkins has used it to the greatest effect with his questioning over the resignation of Education Secretary Lesley Longstone.

“The reason is he is asking straight questions,” said Mr Carter.

Mr Carter said he thought Dr Smith was the best Speaker he had ever seen in action “but I never thought for one minute I would do things exactly as Lockwood did”.

“He tended to paraphrase the question as he saw it and paraphrase the answer as he saw it and then draw a conclusion as to whether the answer was adequate enough.”

Mr Carter said he attempted to do that for the first couple of days but the result was that some MPs sought to bring the Speaker’s comments into a question in the House.

Ultimately if the minister hadn’t given a satisfactory answer, it was not the Speaker’s responsibility, it was the minister’s responsibility.

“At some stage in proceedings you have got to move on and then the Members of Parliament and anybody listening to Parliament will judge the accuracy and ability of that minister.”

I’d make the point that the first months of a Speaker’s regime are always turbulent, and the best time to judge is around four months in.

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Young on McClay

January 14th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young interviews Rotorua MP Todd McClay:

What highlights have you had in the past year?

The first was being asked to chair the finance and expenditure committee. It’s a big step up and quite an honour if I look at other members in Parliament who have been offered the opportunity over the years to choose FEC. The other, and I wouldn’t put one before the other, being able to negotiate support for my member’s bill once it came out of the ballot with Act, United Future and New Zealand First to get my gang patch bill over the line [banning gang patches in Government- and local government-owned buildings]. I’ve received support from those parties to see it all the way into law.

On other MPs:

What other MP makes people’s lives better and does their party impress you and why?

There’s a number of them … Probably the one that I respect the most of other parties would be Te Ururoa Flavell. I find him to be a man of great dignity and respect and a lot of integrity and honesty. His electorate of Waiariki and Rotorua overlap. We work quite closely together on a number of local issues. I have a lot of respect for him because of the gravitas and dignity he brings to the job in Wellington, but the human side to his politics I see on a pretty regular basis around our electorate.

I also think Flavell is a very good MP.

How are you unwinding over summer?

My wife’s a Kiwi too but all my kids were born overseas so when we chose to come home it was so my children could do the stuff I did when I was growing up. Our holiday this year is going to be around camping and beaches. I want them to be able to enjoy for the whole of the school holiday all of the pursuits you can have around water in New Zealand which, by the way, nobody owns. We are going to be camping in and around beaches in the Gisborne area, a bit in the Bay of Plenty and for a week we are heading off into the bush to do a little bit of hunting and walking and staying in a hut away from everybody else.

Sounds like a great family summer.

Do you mean you want Tim Groser’s job [Trade Negotiations Minister]?

I don’t think anybody could do Tim Groser’s job but I would love an opportunity to do more in an area I have done a bit of work in before.

The translation is “Hell, yes” :-)

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Key on Burma and East Asia Summit

November 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting interview with John Key by Audrey Young. Some extracts:

Who first suggested you visit Burma?

My trusty foreign policy adviser [Ben King] and it worked because of location – it is close to Cambodia – and because we as a Government genuinely do believe that the Myanmar [Burma] Government is making progress. I don’t think we are naive to that progress. We understand it is not all perfect. It’s a long way from perfection, but fairly much every country is recognising them now and taking sanctions off them and trying to encourage them. The other EAS leaders have been very strong in their personal views to me. Certainly [President Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono of Indonesia and [Prime Minister] Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore have been very much of the view that [Burmese President] Thein Sein is quite genuine in his progress. …

You said in a press briefing with President Thein Sein that New Zealanders were passionate about human rights.

I care about people’s human rights and, as a country, we have a very proud record indeed. But I’m also realistic about what we can do … we can raise those issues with leaders and we can talk about those issues, and we do that. Moral persuasion over a period of time makes a difference, but we shouldn’t be naive to think that just because we raise it in a meeting it will make all those problems go away. It won’t and it doesn’t.

Can you have real democracy in Burma and still keep the ban on motorbikes?

You could if the voters had the chance to vote out the Government that had such a policy. But apparently the genesis of the ban was that one of the generals’ sons was killed on one so they just got rid of them.

Amazing. The madness of absolute power.

Do you think he’ll visit New Zealand as President?

My foreign policy adviser keeps reminding me to ask. I am not so confident. I hope so and he will probably come to Australia and he has obviously been before. He might. He really wants to. But the problem is that there just aren’t areas of disagreement. There’s obviously the anti-nuclear issue but that has been put behind us long ago. In a world that is so intense for him with so little … I know he personally wants to.

Ironically, you’re more likely to get a US visit if there is a dispute to help smooth over!

Was it a good trip?

I reckon really good. The thing about EAS is we got everything we wanted. We got the President saying let’s try and get a deal by the end of 2013. We said to him ‘do you want us to say this in the press because [if] you do, it will be reported and we’ll be held to account on it?’ and he said yes, absolutely. That doesn’t mean we’ll get a deal. There’s a lot of scepticism from those that aren’t involved in TPP. But he’s really serious about it. He thinks there aren’t that many levels for him to pull. It’s hard. They’ve got very low interest rates, they’re printing money, they’ve got big fiscal deficits. What things can he do to stimulate the economy? That’s one of them. It might fail but it won’t fail by want of trying.

My reading of this is the US needs the TPP more than NZ does. This doesn’t mean NZ should be unreasonable and try to screw the US over in negotiations. But it does mean that the NZ position on issues such as the proposed IP chapter shouldn’t be traded away.

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Audrey’s Ministerial Report Card

November 12th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

NZ Herald Political Editor Audrey Young scores the Ministers out of 10. Her ratings are:

  • Chris Finlayson 9
  • Judith Collins 8.5
  • Tony Ryall 8.5
  • Bill English 8
  • David Carter 8
  • Jonathan Coleman 8
  • Tim Groser 8
  • Gerry Brownlee 7.5
  • John Key 7
  • Steven Joyce 7
  • Paula Bennett 7
  • Murray McCully 7
  • Anne Tolley 7
  • Amy Adams 7
  • Maurice Williamson 7
  • Simon Bridges 7
  • Nathan Guy 6
  • Craig Foss 6
  • Chris Tremain 6
  • Jo Goodhew 6
  • Chester Borrows 6
  • Phil Heatley 5
  • Kate Wilkinson 4
  • Hekia Parata 3

Only the National Ministers were ranked. The average or mean score was 6.8 out of 10 and the median was 7. 22 out of 24 Ministers got a 5/10 or higher.

If you take the 10 frontbench Ministers, the average score increases from 6.8 to 7.4 out of 10.

I am pleased to see Finlayson rated so highly. He has done a very good job, and I’d be inclined to look at keeping him in the Labour portfolio.

Audrey notes:

Chris Finlayson has emerged as one of John Key’s most valuable ministers in National’s second term. He has scored the highest rating of all ministers in my report card on the Executive prepared with colleagues in the Herald press gallery team. …

Mr Finlayson is Attorney-General and Treaty Negotiations Minister. He is also Labour Minister since Kate Wilkinson resigned after the royal commission’s damning report into the Pike River disaster.

On the face of it, that may not seem a natural fit – and it may be just a temporary appointment until the next reshuffle. But Mr Finlayson’s skill set may be the right one to keep the job for the rest of the term. He gets results. He has a big intellect and has a good head for detail. But he is also emotionally intelligent, and was a good choice to send to the West Coast to discuss the report with the Pike River families.

His achievements in Treaty Negotiations are the most notable. Who would have imagined two years ago the Government concluding a deal with Tuhoe?

The report card is done in consultation with the full Herald gallery team. Obviously Hekia Parata has the largest challenge in terms of restoring confidence. Eyes will be on how the Christchurch schools issue is resolved. There must be some change – you can’t ignore the earthquake’s impact on school rolls and damaged buildings. So there will be some people unhappy with the outcome no matter what. However if the communities down there feel they have been listened to, and that their views and arguments have had an impact on the final decisions, then that will help restore the reputation.

UPDATE: On reflection I think the Herald team have been a bit generous to a couple of Ministers. No, I won’t say which ones – but I’d say 21 out of 24 Ministers being 6/10 or higher is a bit generous.

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Key on Key

November 10th, 2012 at 1:51 pm by David Farrar

A fascinating article by Audrey Young:

He is a little regretful at the latest couple of incidents over the shirt and the Beckham conversation.

“From time to time I might push a little bit too hard and I have got to be a bit more careful.”

But essentially he sees it as the media’s problem, not one that comes between him and the public. He hasn’t changed the way he behaves.

“These stories have always been there from time to time. Actually they are an example of where the media is generally out of sync with the public.

“The public talk colloquially, the public’s grammar’s not perfect. They kid around and I don’t think they overly mark me down for that. They just see me as a normal guy.

“I came in as John Key and I’m going out as John Key. The media or our opponents will try and portray that as being too casual. I don’t agree with that.

“You are not going to change me and if you do, it will look like a fraud, it will be a fraud.”

I’m glad he has said that. I’d hate to see Key become one of those politicians who says nothing at all, because it may offend someone. He has an amazing candour about him, and a great sense of humour. Yes sometimes he gets it wrong, but I see his style as a strength – but more importantly it is who he is.

The defensiveness continues with his challenge to show him an example of where he had been required to be incredibly serious and wasn’t.

“I always am. Frankly, I work 19 hours a day pretty much and six-and-a-half days a week. Within those days is a huge range of things I’m doing, a massive range.”

With 30-odd speeches a week and countless briefings on a huge range of subjects, it was little wonder he did not recall everything that was said.

Labour is trying to portray his style as meaning he is detached or lazy. Simply not the case.

He is referring to the fiasco over the spy agency GCSB which told him in September its surveillance of internet mogul Kim Dotcom in January had been unlawful and how it was unable to give him quick answers in preparation for Question Time about the number of briefings he had had.

“I ended up having to do a bit of bloody forensic analysis myself so I called (GCSB boss Ian Fletcher) in later on and said: ‘look, I just don’t think you guys have served me well. I’ve ended having to do all this work and you guys should be able to provide me with those answers’.

“And I said: ‘you’ve really let me down and you need to go away and think about it’.”

He said that conversation was what caused the GCSB to “rip the place apart” and that is when they found a note about a briefing he had had in February.

So it was Key’s ripping the GCSB a new arsehole, that led to them finding the powerpoint presentation.

Key’s relaxed character translates to his leadership style as Prime Minister – it is not hands-on in the way that characterised his predecessor, Helen Clark.

He is said to give his ministers a lot of freedom and is very relaxed with them, right up to the time he needs to be ruthless, as one insider put it.

Like a soft parent, he doesn’t do a lot of reprimanding of ministers, so that when it does happen, it carries a lot of force.

I’ve heard from MPs and Ministers what it is like, when the Prime Minister is not happy with you. You don’t want a repeat experience.

Key is emphatic that he will fight the 2014 election, dismissing claims by commentators that he has somehow lost his mojo. But that doesn’t stop him talking about legacies.

“I want to leave New Zealand in better shape than I found it. I know the job of Prime Minister is not forever and I’m going to do the best I can every day to make that difference.

There is no question he will contest 2014. I wouldn’t guarantee 2017 if he wins in 2014 – and that isn’t a bad thing. Eight years would be a reasonably good tenure.

So if he got hit by a bus this afternoon, who would replace him?

“I had historically always thought it would be Simon Power, but he obviously left.”

He agrees that Bill English, Steven Joyce and Judith Collins would put up their hands – “at least”.

And this is what I like about Key. What other Prime Minister would openly agree about possible contenders to replace him? Almost all other occupants of that office would say something along the lines of “I don’t speculate on hypotheticals”  or “It won’t be my decision” or “It is unhelpful for me to talk on this issue”.

But he reserves his highest praise for Greens co-leader Russel Norman, not Labour’s David Shearer.

“If you want my view, the politician of the year will be Russel Norman by quite some margin.

Heh, mischief making – but also true.

Key says there are three types of issues he has to deal with.

The first are those that just happen on your watch, such as the Christchurch earthquake or the application by a Chinese company to buy Crafar farms.

And for all the opposition to the approval, he is convinced Labour would have dealt with Crafar the same way if it happened under its watch.

“Shearer wouldn’t have been putting up a member’s bill to ban overseas sales (or farmland) or putting a flag on a bloody farm.”

The second type of issues are part of the Government’s agenda, such as the sale of up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power.

Despite the opposition, National campaigned on it and Key believes National would do itself more damage if it did nothing.

“It’s better to do what you think is right and hopefully (voters) like the prescription. But you can’t be scared of your own shadow.”

The last type of issues are “your own self-inflicted mistakes”.

“Yep, we have a few of those but given the huge number of issues we deal with every day, week after week, month after month, do we get that right more often than we get it wrong?

That’s a useful categorization of the three sort of issues. With respect to the last type, I would make the point that you want greater than a 50/50 “pass” rate. I’m not saying Key is implying 50% is adequate. I agree you will never have no self-inflicted mistakes. The challenge is whether a Minister who makes them learns from their mistakes – or keeps on making them.

A very insightful piece by Audrey Young.

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A useful article

March 11th, 2011 at 9:36 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young has done an article in the Herald, which includes this graphic above. You can click on it for a slightly larger version. We learn how similiar the positions of the six parties plus to a degree even Hone is. Here’s the summary:

  1. Repeal Labour’s 2004 Act – all 7 parties support
  2. Allow Iwi to claim customary title through the courts – 6 parties support. Hone’s stance is court not necessary as Maori already have customary title to 100% of coastline
  3. That the proposed test for customary title should be continous use and occupation since 1840 – National and UFNZ support. Maori Party say it should be easier and Hone says there should be no test. Labour, ACT & Greens say leave it to the courts to set the test
  4. Allow for negotiated settlements with Iwi, and ratified by Parliament – National, UFNZ, Maori, Greens and Labour all yes but Labour wants a court to ratify. ACT against and Hone says Maori own it all anyway
  5. A ban of selling customary title – all seven parties support
  6. Guaranteed public access to areas under customary title – all seven parties support
  7. Any change to the 12,500 private titles to the foreshore which have been purchased – no change from National, Maori, UFNZ, Laboru & ACT. Greens want private title to also be unable to be sold and guaranteed public access. Hone says it should all be put in Maori title.

I found this very helpful, because it shows that the areas of dispute are not in fact large – primarily just about what the tests should be, and whether the courts should be further involved.

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Audrey on Little

December 14th, 2010 at 1:19 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young at the NZ Herald reports:

Andrew Little is right: the threat by retiring MP George Hawkins’ to quit Parliament if the Engineers’ Union organiser was picked to replace shows the sense of entitlement that some MPs develop.

I’d go further and say it was a disgraceful abuse of the process. No one will know how many people in Sunday’s marathon selection in Manurewa favoured Louisa Wall over the Engineers’ candidate because of Hawkins’ blackmail to quit if Jerome Mika won.

But unfortunately for Little, the moral high ground has just collapsed under him with his extraordinary admission this morning that the ultimate aim had been to get rid of Hawkins.

“The key objective had been to remove George Hawkins and we achieved that objective,” he is reported in the Dominion Post.

He also called him a lightweight, which is as much an insult to the local members who put him there year after year. It’s one thing to think it – it’s another to say it.

The party deserves to feel as outraged by Little’s statement as Hawkins’ antics.

The Labour caucus this morning could have expected an explanation if not an apology from Little if he were at the caucus.

This shows the problem of Little’s dual roles. As EPMU National Secretary he can call an MP useless, but as party president he can not slag off a long-serving MP in that way. It will cause MPs and party members to questions whose interests he is representing – Labour’s, or the EPMU?

The re-emergence of factional fighting is Goff’s worst nightmare. It kept Labour out of office for nine years and then Helen Clark kept a tight lid on it for another nine years.

Goff is portraying the Little-Hawkins clash as a personality clash rather than a power struggle within the party to limit the power of the unions.

Whatever take you put on it, Labour goes into the summer break in a worse place than when it started the year.

BBQ season perhaps.

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Why Grant Robertson will be PM one day

November 22nd, 2010 at 3:27 pm by David Farrar

I’ve found some of the spin from Labour around the unprecedented 80% drop in an Opposition seats’ majority in a by-election very amusing.

The worst excuse is from Su’a William Sio, who said:

“Low-income people can’t think about the future, let alone about voting in a by-election, when they are being forced to focus on just surviving.

So Labour almost lost because low-income people are focusing on survival. Worst spin attempt ever.

Audrey Young also highlights some terrible spin:

Some in Labour who should know better are creatively suggesting that Labour actually did better in the byelection than the last general election, despite having its majority slashed from 6155 to 1080.

From three senior figures has come the suggestions that Kris Faafoi winning 47 per cent of the candidate vote on Saturday was a better result than the 43.9 per cent party vote that the party got in 2008, when Winnie Laban stood.

That is like comparing raisins and sheep droppings.

So true. Phil Goff is one of those pushing that desperate line.

I saw on Twitter a blog post titled “Reflections on Mana” on Red Alert had appeared. I clicked on the link wondering which MP would be spinning. And I saw it was Grant Robertson, and commented to the person with me “Aha, this will be very very clever spin”. And so it proved.

Grant did something none of his colleagues could do, and something very different to Kris Faafoi’s own comments. He praised Hekia.

I also think Hekia deserves some credit. She is an articulate person who campaigned hard. Most importantly in terms of the result she has been campaigning/working in the electorate non-stop for about four years, compared to Kris’ few months. That makes a differenece. She had a profile and that worked to her advantage. She did not win, but no doubt she feels she put in a good result

Everyone in the press gallery knows Hekia is a very good MP, who ran a good campaign. Grant makes the point that Hekia had a head-start on Kris, and this is right. But what is implicit, but worth stating explicitly, is that the head-start is only useful if you use it effectively. Hekia spent two years supporting community groups, helping with fundraising, sorting out constituent problems, arranging Ministers to visit etc etc. If she had not done that (and done it well) then her headstart would not have assisted her much.

And the challenge for Kris is to spent the next year showing if he can be as effective as Hekia.

There are no doubt some things from a Labour point of view that we would want to do better and different. That’s the nature of a campaign.

And again Grant shows his smarts. Conceding there were mistakes made (but carefully not detailing them) means that his blog post comes over as balanced, thoughtful and not some desperate piece of spin. He should offer tutoring to some of his colleagues in political communications.

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Endorsements for Parata

November 13th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

On The Nation this morning they reported that there is a real split in the Pacific Island vote in Mana, which has traditionally been very strong Labour. They interviewed Liz Tanielu the head of the Teaaomanino Trust which is the biggest pacific island service provider in the region. She says she traditionally votes Labour but that Faafoi is an outsider, and she is angry they could not find a single local to stand, while Hekia has been active for some years in the electorate and “walks the talk”, and that the by-election should not be a party vote but a vote on who will be the best MP.

Then they had on Api Malu, who was representing 40 pacific island church ministers. He says they are looking for people who have worked with them, and that Hekia Parata has impressed a lot of people, and the leadership with what she has done.

Also on the show, Tariana Turia endorsed both Hekia Parata and Matt McCarten as candidates who would make effective MP for Mana.

By coincidence in the Dom Post this morning, Porirua Deputy Mayor Liz Kelly also endorsed Hekia:

Porirua Deputy Mayor Liz Kelly has backed National Party candidate Hekia Parata to win the Mana by-election.

Her prediction will cause ripples as Labour’s Kris Faafoi has been favoured to take the seat, which is viewed as one of Labour’s safest. The party has always polled strongly in the Pacific Island and Maori communities.

Local leaders suggested yesterday that Mr Faafoi’s lack of experience is seen as a drawback.

Ms Kelly, an independent councillor, said Ms Parata’s work in the electorate had not gone unnoticed. “The feedback I’m getting is that Hekia is very popular … There is a lot of support because she’s been working the whole time.”

Mr Faafoi was a “nice guy” but “there’s no history” with the electorate and some voters resented that.

And a local community leader:

Samoan community leader Paula Masoe said Ms Parata had won over a lot of Pasifika supporters. “She’s a hard worker and we respect people who work hard for our community. I’m really happy that someone like Kris put their hand up. But it’s not time for him yet. I don’t want the sweat of our people to be put on someone who’s not ready yet.” …

Experience was valued in the Pacific Island community, she said. “It’s not about having someone who is Pacific Island there, you’ve got to have somebody who is able to carry the huge responsibility and he probably will. But not yet.”

There was a “strong feeling” among local voters that Mr Faafoi was imposed on the community by the parliamentary Labour Party.

“Labour needs to look at themselves because we don’t want to be treated like the poor relations. When they look at putting someone in to speak up for us I’d like to think that they’ve considered a whole lot of other people of our community that have been involved in Labour.

And also in the Dom Post, Chris Trotter effectively endorses Matt McCarten in his weekly column:

I asked Matt if he’d heard of Slavoj Zizek – the Slovenian socialist currently setting the cat of principle among the fat, pragmatic pigeons of the European Left.

“I’m busy, Chris,” he chuckled, “of course I haven’t.” “Well, Matt”, I replied, “Zizek is challenging Europe’s social democrats to stop looking over their shoulder at the European Central Bank; to govern “as if they were free”.

“Maybe that’s what you should ask the Mana electors, Matt. To stop looking over their shoulder at Labour. Could be your slogan: ‘Vote – as if you were free’.”

And in the NZ Herald, Audrey Young says Parata should be promoted to the Ministry:

Pansy Wong’s resignation from the Cabinet a week before the Mana byelection presents Prime Minister John Key with a golden opportunity.

He has the chance to add fresh blood to his ministry without the usual resentments around reshuffles and a chance to show Mana the calibre of National’s Hekia Parata. …

promoting Parata before a byelection – even to a minister outside Cabinet – would tell the Mana electorate something of the calibre of the National candidate.

It is clear that some traditional Pacific Island Labour voters are saying they people should vote for the best MP, not for the party. They are right – this is how MMP works.

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Hone in more context

August 6th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young has an article, where the full transcript of what Hone said is included. I still think he has a very sad outlook on such things, but the full transcript does give a bit more context to his motivation which helps make more sense of it:

Derek says: In the lead up to this, Hone said he did not have many Pakeha friends and talked about giving out energy, and how when he gave out energy to Maori communities, it was all positive, but when it was for non-Maori, “a lot of it is completely barren”.

DC: What if one of your kids came home with a Pakeha, how would you feel about that?

HH: I wouldn’t feel comfortable.

DC: Why not?

HH: I just wouldn’t feel comfortable. That person will come into my house and not have a Maori expectation of how we operate. Do you know what I mean?

DC: Couldn’t you teach them that?

HH: Christ, like I have time for that. I don’t have time to be teaching people about that sort of stuff. We had this old Pakeha chap who died in our local community, and we brought him to our marae, and his mother came. She was really really old. And she stands up in the marae and she says,’this is wonderful. It’s the first marae I’ve ever been to’. She must have been 80-something. I think to myself,’for God’s sake’. You know what I mean?

I really don’t have time to be trying to teach people, aye. I’ve got [barely] enough time to teach my own, to teach myself. There’re some people who enjoy and are good at teaching non-Maori about Maori things. I’m not, so I don’t try. And I don’t try to bullshit anybody that I am, either.

This fuller version of what he said, does change things a bit. I still think anyone who generalises about an entire population based on their ethnicity is somewhat sad though.

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Audrey on National Standards

March 10th, 2010 at 9:55 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

I saw first hand yesterday why teachers are having a difficult job trying to win the argument against Education minister Anne Tolley about national standards. …

It’s not that Tolley was that brilliant. She sometimes sounds like she has had 10 briefings too many from Ministry of Education officials when she falls into jargon like “unpacking” the national standards.

But she has better grip on the subject than the last time Mallard made mince meat of her in the House over moderation of national standards. And once parents join her in the debate, she wins, as was evident yesterday.

And the parents are what this is all about.

Tolley talked about her own kids – two of whom had been “very bright but very lazy” and her five year-old grandson who has started school in Rotorua. He had told her matter of factly that he was now in group 3 reading, not group 4 where he had started – the point being that kids knew exactly where they were in relation to other kids.

That reminds me of my first year at school. I joined the class in September and it was assumed would need to catch up in reading with my classmates so was placed in Group 4 (of 5). By December I had moved into Group 3, Group 2 and then Group 1, and finally because I was such a good reader myself and one other were placed in our own special group where we could read outside unsupervised. I was so proud of that, after having started in Group 4.

That was a rebuttal to one of the Onslow kids who had Tolley on about the brutality of the new reporting system to parents that would show them (and the kids) exactly where they were in relation to others and could be discouraging.

What is brutal, is allowing kids to drop out of school unable to read or write.

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Audrey & Vernon on Labour and Goff

January 23rd, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

First Audrey:

At Tuesday’s caucus meeting in Manukau, Goff will be confirmed resolutely as leader. Under the party’s rules the leadership must be addressed in the first caucus of the year before election year.

Before inviting the caucus back to his Clevedon farm for dinner, he will deliver a short message to his MPs – do better than you did last year.

The implication must be that if they don’t shape up, they will be shipped out.

That is a fair message, as some in Labour have not performed and are missing in action, such as Parekura. Goff should seriously consider a front bench reshuffle and sticking up some of the 2008 intake. He also needs to think about signals to former Ministers – ie does he see a place for them as a Minister, if Labour should win. Then they can make decisions about retiring, and allow further new blood in next election.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Chris Carter had a shocking year, due in no small part to his reaction to media stories about about high travel costs. He will miss the first caucus meeting because he is in the Caribbean monitoring elections for the Commonwealth.

Parekura Horomia made no impact against the Maori Party but is seen as untouchable because he held his seat against it, and is the senior Maori.

Shane Jones, whose leadership ambitions are a frequent source of teasing by National, made no impact in his areas of environment and economic development, but was de facto Maori Affairs spokesman.

And David Cunliffe, whose leadership ambitions are a regular source of teasing within Labour, will be expected to do better against Finance Minister Bill English.

One could suggest Shane and DC need to concentrate on their portfolios, and not Phil Goff’s :-)

Goff is expected to lead a concerted effort this year to make Cunliffe and other MPs put ordinary working people uppermost in their minds as they develop their portfolios and policies.

Is it just me, or the way many Labour MPs talk about “ordinary working people”, they sound like a curator at a museum who is enthused about studying them!

Vernon Small writes:

Labour leader Phil Goff’s job will be on the line at the party’s first caucus meeting of the year on Tuesday, but he is confident no challenger will emerge.

The party’s leadership is always on the agenda at the first caucus meeting of the middle year of each parliamentary term, but despite’s National’s jibes that he is “fill-in Phil” – an interim leader while Labour regroups – Mr Goff is so confident he has invited his team to a barbecue at his Clevedon home … bringing with it the inevitable jokes.

I agree that Goff will not face a challenge this January, and I doubt he will next January either. The odds are that he will remain Leader until the 2011 election (and I have money on iPredict that his job is safe this year).

There will be a bit of a danger period for him – it is the second half of 2010. If National is still 20 points ahead in the polls a couple of months after the 2010 budget (which is the most likely game changer between now and the election), then some in Labour may start to get nervous.

However two things should keep Goff in the job even if Labour remain 20 points behind. The first is the lack of confidence in the alternatives. The second is MMP. Under FPP, MPs would panic at bad poll ratings as them losing their seat meant the end of their political career. But with MMP those on good list positions are insulated from all but the most disastrous election results. So the propensity to panic for self survival is lessened.

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Lighten up

November 24th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn really needs to lighten up sometimes. He proclaims journalism has hit a new low, as Audrey Young blogged about a chicken.

I’m with Big News on this. NRT fails to understand the difference between what a journalist writes for their newspaper, and what they may blog about. Audrey’s story was not published in the NZ Herald. Audrey has done hundreds of hard news political stories. A whimsical blog about an escaped chicken is not a low.

Personally I like press gallery blogs that give us a bit of a light hearted look behind the scenes. I thought Audrey;s blog was very funny. An extract:

The talk of Parliament today has not been Hone Harawira’s future, John Key’s boycott of the Dalai Lama, or Phil Goff ending the 20-year consensus on monetary policy.

What has the whole complex in a frenzy is a chicken on the loose – one I have just captured in image- but only my cellphone.

It is a Leghorn according to the chicken specialists in the Beehive in ministerial offices who have been emailing each other about it all day.

It was let loose a week ago with four other birds by some idiot protestor.

The others have been captured by the SPCA but the fourth one, nicknamed Tegel by the security guards, has eluded capture.

Having worked at Parliament, episodes like that would provide light relief.

Audrey also contributes some chicken crossing the road jokes:

John Key: I haven’t had any advice on that but I’m pretty relaxed about it crossing the road.

Phil Goff: I too have chickens and I know what a difficult decision it can be for chickens when it comes to crossing roads. Labour was perhaps too strict on chickens and we are re-examining our chicken policy, though it should be remembered that it is every chicken’s right to cross the road so long as it does not interfere in the rights of others.

Tariana Turia: In the spirit of manaakitanga, the Maori Party would like to offer a home to the chicken in our offices – after it crosses Bowen St – and its hapu.

Sue Kedgley: Leave it run free range on the mound and give the eggs to Bellamies.

Rodney Hide: Officials have estimated that 108.5 hours have been wasted by the public servants in Wellington gazing out of window onto Bowen St to see the chicken crossing the road. My colleague Heather Roy, the Minister of Consumer Affairs, will deal with it.

Heh, not bad.

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All about Hone

November 14th, 2009 at 5:31 pm by David Farrar

First an interview with Michelle Hewitson. I think the interview is in fact very perceptive, and worth a read.

I asked her son if only his mother was allowed to keep her shoes on. “Pretty much.” How does that work? “She can pretty much go wherever she likes.” …

Because of that surprising show of nerves – it’s not a question you ordinarily think to ask of a Harawira – I asked whether anything frightened him.

“I guess … not really. I don’t think so.” Except his mother? “Ha, ha. Yeah, I guess. She always will, I suppose. She’s my mum.”

All of the above tells you what you need to know about being raised Harawira. You can do what you want and you don’t have to take your shoes off. It’s one definition of being a rebel.

And Claire Trevett:

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira yesterday defended himself against the call for him to resign and took a thinly veiled swipe at the party’s leadership, claiming the wider party was being “dictated to” by a few individuals.

This has the potential to get very messy, especially as the MPs seem to now be communicating through the media with each other, not directly.

And Audrey Young:

Maori Party president Whatarangi Winiata’s bombshell in asking MP Hone Harawira to resign will throw it the party into unprecedented turmoil.

But Winiata and co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples knew that when the request was put to Harawira at a hui in Kaitaia on Thursday.

The fact that they are willing to accept the internal grief, and possibly a permanent rift with the north, shows how strongly they feel about him going.

It has been a decision reached more in sorrow than anger. And it is more an act of self-preservation than of punishment.

If it has been this difficult, they’ve done well to keep things so tight for so long.

The Maori Party represents a broad church of views, from left to conservative. It is not Harawira’s radicalism per se that is the problem but the way he expresses his views in a polarising way.

And can a leopard change his spots?

It was clear from the press conference Turia and Sharples held at Parliament yesterday that their tolerance for Harawira is an at end. The possibility of his remaining a colleague seems remote at this stage.

There can be no mistaking the message: Harawira is not a team-player and is not suited to the disciplines of a political party. The hope is that he recognises that himself.

But Harawiras don’t do humiliation, and the default position would have to be on his fighting expulsion – which in itself could be damaging to the party.

It is a battle the party’s leaders calculated is worth risking.

I hope there is a way forward, because there are some big issues to be resolved such as the Foreshore & Seabed Act, and schisms within the Maori Party will make it harder to find a solution.

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Young on Key in Tokyo

October 30th, 2009 at 11:18 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young covers the lighter side:

You’ve got to wonder how much time John Key spends thinking up stunts. Not much I suspect. He just has an eye for a opportunity.

He pulled one last night on Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama just before the two sets of First Couples were about to head into dinner.

Key pulled out a silver fern pin and proceeded to  pin onto his host’s suit lapel. You have to admire it.

There was no question like ‘’would you like this?” It was just out with it and here, this is what you are wearing.  It went down well.

He might be lucky the Japanese PM’s bodyguards didn’t intervene.

And such was the occasion and glare of the photo press corp cameras it would have been churlish of the new PM to say No.  Even better for the snappers, Mrs Hatoyama took over and started pinning it on her husband’s lapel.

Afterwards, the Japan press corp  wanted to know what the silver fern was and what it meant.

Key really doesn’t need a media team!

It was a bit like the idea Key had to take a loaf of Vogel’s bread that Key took to Helen Clark in New York  – just like the New Zealand TV ads).

The slight drawback on that stunt  was that Clark’s people would not allow pictures of the loaf being handed over though there was no objection to him actually telling people he had done so.

I can’t believe they had to negotiate over the bread!

The two leaders last night exchanged rugby jerseys and balls signed by their sides and Key let it slip to reporters  back at his hotel that Mrs Hatoyama had tried on the All Blacks jersey at dinner and wanted to meet Dan Carter on the say-so of Mrs Key.

They should have brought a Jockey billboard over!

Audrey also has an article on the more serious side:

Japan has effectively wiped the slate clean on past agreements by the two countries on a free trade agreement and signalled it is serious about achieving results.

After talks in Tokyo last night, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Japan’s new Prime minister Yukio Hatoyama asked officials to go back to the drawing board.

A previous agreement to study a free trade deal stalled under past Tokyo governments, with Japanese officials being blamed.

In a joint statement issued last night, the leaders indicated that such stonewalling had to stop – they said they had “instructed the [officials] group to deepen discussions in a constructive manner so as to take the partnership forward”.

Now this is just a very early step, but a hell of a promising one. Reducing barriers with Japan would be as important as an US FTA.

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Young on Key

October 15th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

Prime Minister John Key has just shown why he is Prime Minister.

His intervention yesterday in the debacle over the Rugby World Cup was perfectly timed.

It could not have come any later without the issue getting completely out of control.

But it probably could not have come any earlier, either.

It would have been nicer if it hadn’t become necessary.

Mr Key’s late leadership on the issue stands in marked contrast to his ministers, many of whom have contributed to the chaos.

Labour is pointing the finger largely at Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully over the saga, not least because he gave the Te Puni Kokiri chief executive a burst at a Beehive meeting. Mr McCully carries a fair degree of blame but more for what he hasn’t done than what he has.

He has been absent as Foreign Minister for a large amount of time and neither his World Cup deputy, Gerry Brownlee, Mr Coleman, or Mr English have taken charge.

That leadership vacuum was exacerbated when Mr Key was absent during some critical stages of the MTS bid.

Dr Sharples is not blameless, either. It is clear that he and Te Puni Kokiri kept knowledge of the $3 million TPK commitment to themselves. And when Dr Coleman asked Dr Sharples about the bid, he dissembled, saying he didn’t know much about it.

Hopefully a lesson learned for everyone.

Maori Television has been given a reprieve from being gazumped by a higher bid. But its celebration should not be too premature. In a sense it has been returned to the position it found itself in after the TPK funding had been revealed.

Maori Television have a great opportunity ahead of them. The challenge now is to deliver high quality coverage.

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What a mess

October 14th, 2009 at 10:48 am by David Farrar

My God, the Rugby World Cup free to air rights issue is a mess, to put it kindly. A fiasco maybe.

I’m someone who actually is supportive of the ambition of Maori TV to be the free to air broadcaster. But the sticking point is the only 90% coverage. Having 10% of New Zealanders not able to get free to air coverage of the Rugby World Cup we are hosting was never going to be acceptable.

If Pita Sharples had talked to other Ministers on the (laudable) ambition for Maori TV, they may have been able to actually help with the bid, by asking the right questions. Instead, we now have two different parties in Government appearing to back competing bids by taxpayer funded stations.

So what do the media say. The Herald reports:

Maori TV chief executive Jim Mather says the channel will continue to fight the Government for the rights to screen the Rugby World Cup, and will use money from wealthy iwi and corporate groups to outbid it.

Well that I approve of!

IRB spokesman Ross Young said the board would be open to increased bids.

I bet they are. They must be laughing all the way to the bank.

The Herald understands the Government’s concern about Maori TV’s coverage relates to fears about small crowds at the tournament, already expected to make a $40 million loss.

The Government and Rugby Union can make money only from ticket sales, and are worried about how these would be affected without the hype TVNZ can generate.

Well then TVNZ should have put in a bigger bid initially – possibly with support from the Rugby Union.

But Mr Mather said this was “throwing Maori TV the crumbs” and there was little chance of it being involved. The value to Maori TV was in having the exclusive rights, requiring viewers to switch over, rather than staying behind the major networks.

And this is the big pay off for Maori TV. It can take years for people to get used to checking a channel out. A month of people swapping to Maori TV for the RWC would probably leave them with a lot more viewers after the cup.

So what is the so called Govt plan:

- TVNZ leads bid to show the 16 most important games live and free-to-air, backed by Government money.

- TVNZ will show six games – two of the All Blacks’ pool games, the semi-finals, final, and third/fourth play-off.

- TV3, which has put up some of its own money, will show six games – the two other All Blacks pool games, the semi-finals, final and third/fourth play-off.

If it wants, Maori TV can put up money and simulcast the games TVNZ and TV3 are showing. It can also show the balance of the 16 games that the networks do not want.

The challenge for Maori TV is how they can do a bid that covers more than 90% of NZ.

Patrick Gower writes:

Remember the utter shambles as the All Blacks bombed out of the last Rugby World Cup because they could not organise a simple drop-goal in Cardiff?

If the failure to do the strikingly obvious that day left you horrified, then best to cover your eyes before watching the Government’s bungling of the free-to-air television rights for the next Rugby World Cup. …

TVNZ’s involvement is necessary because it has the reach and numbers to hype up the tournament over the next two years and get people through the gates, with ticketing the only way the Government and Rugby Union can make money and stem losses.

Maori TV can offer unique cultural and language elements as well as the flexibility of scheduling to be able to show wall-to-wall coverage without having to break for regular programming like the nightly news.

Surely getting the two together as co-broadcasters months ago and bargaining with the IRB was the obvious solution?

That would have been nice.

Audrey Young chips in:

The political debacle over the Maori Television Service bid for Rugby World Cup coverage rights has soured relations between National and the Maori Party more than anything else in their one-year partnership.

Yep, and it was al avoidable if Ministers talked to each other earlier on.

The Herald editorial proclaims:

The saga of Maori Television’s bid for the Rugby World Cup’s free-to-air broadcasts has taken a bizarre turn with the Government’s decision to fund a higher bid by TVNZ. The International Rugby Board, seller of the broadcasting rights, must be wide-eyed in wonder and glee that it stands to gain from a contest between two bids financed by New Zealand taxpayers. …

But it has taken a quite disturbing degree of fright at the prospect of Maori Television winning the free-to-air rights. Certainly, the Government had a right to be aggrieved that its coalition partner, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, did not consult National ministers before approving $3 million from his department, Te Puni Kokiri, to finance the bid.

The general rule of thumb is you should consult your colleagues on anything you would expect to be consulted over.

But if the taxpayer must contribute, why not through Maori Television? It is building a strong presence as a public channel for ceremonial events such as Waitangi Day and Anzac Day. Its coverage of the funeral for Sir Howard Morrison was deeply admired by all who caught it. TVNZ seems no longer interested in this sort of occasion either.

Maori Television was offering World Cup commentaries in English and Maori, from familiar faces and new. It aimed to popularise some Maori phrases through the English telecast, meeting its state-funded mission. On recent evidence it would do a conscientious and fine job. Surely a free-to-air partnership can be forged that would meet all concerns and save the taxpayer this ridiculous double bid.

I agree.

And Tracy Watkins:

In effect, we’ve got government ministers bidding against each other – and ratcheting up the cost for taxpayers as a consequence – to suit their own political purposes.

On the one side is Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples who gave Maori TV the green light for a $3 million-plus bid in a nod to his Maori constituency.

On the other are senior ministers Bill English, Jonathan Coleman and Murray McCully, who’ve given TVNZ and TV3 a nod and a wink that the Government will step in with whatever it takes to win the bid over Maori TV – presumably after concluding that their own constituency won’t take kindly to having to tune into Maori TV to watch world cup games.

I don’t think that is the issue. If done in the right way, I think one could have got the Government quite supportive of the bid. The bigger issue is achieving greater than 90% coverage, and also using TV to boost ticket sales.

The script writers for Yes Minister couldn’t have come up with a more absurd plot.

It would be a great script!

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Audrey on reading and driving

September 23rd, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young takes a trip down memory lane to the last MP accussed of reading while driving. It was Richard Prebble, who was then Transport Minister and it turned into a Privileges Committee hearing!

The case of Dr Paul Hutchison reading while driving may remind some of you with a few grey hairs of the furore some years ago over the claims that Richard Prebble had been seen driving while reading – a serious allegation for a Transport Minister as he was at the time. …

It was the subject of a privileges committee hearing though the privileges case was not about the driving perse, but commentary and questions around it. Both Prebble and Radio Windy broadcaster Chris Gollins were “charged” with contempt of Parliament. …

On September 22 1986 Mr Chris Gollins in his regular commentary on Wellington’s Radio Windy stated that the Minister of Transport, the Hon Richard Prebble, had been observed on the previous day driving for a considerable period through Wellington while reading what appeared to be a copy of a Sunday newspaper spread across his steering wheel. …

The Radio Windy commentaries had two immediate consequences. Mr Winston Peters, MP, who had asked the question, raised the Minister’s reply as a matter of privilege on the ground that it had been given with the intention of deliberately misleading the House. At almost the same time, the Minister raised the commentaries as a matter of privilege on the ground that they misrepresented the proceedings of Parliament and reflected on him as a member by libelling him in his capacity as a Member of Parliament.

The committee heard evidence from Mr and Mrs Gollins, senior, the parents of Mr Chris Gollins who had observed Mr Prebble driving on the Sunday, from Mr Chris Gollins and from Mr Prebble. Mrs Prebble, who was a passenger in the car on that day, was unable to appear, but stated by telegram that Mr Prebble had not been reading while he was driving.

The committee has no doubt of the honesty of the evidence given by Mr and Mrs Gollins senior. They were both truthful witnesses endeavouring to assist the committee to the best of their ability. It was in fact only Mrs Gollins who had observed Mr Prebble for any period of time – Mr Gollins having concentrated on his own driving and only having glanced into Mr Prebble’s car while both cars were waiting at a set of traffic lights. Mrs Gollins testified
that she had seen Mr Prebble driving though Wellington central with a newspaper on the steering wheel and that at one point while the car was at a traffic light, he had made what she took to be a remark to Mrs Prebble based on what she had seen in the newspaper.

Mr Prebble strenuously denied that he had been reading the newspaper at any time. He gave evidence that he had purchased groceries and a number of newspapers on the day in question and had placed the newspapers in his lap towards the steering wheel but that he had not read these papers while he was driving the vehicle.

Mrs Gollins rang her son shortly after she arrived at her home that day. This was done in the expectation that Mr Chris Gollins would use the item in his commentary. …However although the first commentary expressly states that Mr Prebble had been observed reading a newspaper while he was driving, it is clear from the evidence that neither at that time or later, did Mr and Mrs Gollins state to their son that Mr Prebble had been reading the newspaper.

This was a conclusion drawn by Mr Chris Gollins, it was not a statement made by the principal witnesses themselves even though Mrs Gollins agreed in evidence that the conclusion was reasonably drawn by her son. Mrs Gollins stated that her son added this conclusion in broadcast on his own initiative.

And the conclusion:

Mr Prebble’s answer to the question in the House was a completely accurate reply and the allegation against him of contempt by lying completely insupportable….A minority of the committee considers that Mr Prebble’s reply was misleading…he was observed driving for a considerable period and a newspaper was spread across the steering wheel. The minority considers that it is a natural inference from the position of the paper that Mr Prebble was reading it at some point on his drive. In these circumstances a minority of the committee would find that Mr Prebble did mislead the House.

It finds [Chris Gollins and Capital City Radio] to have committed a contempt in the broadcast of September 24. The committee believes it was a misunderstanding as to the nature of the Minister’s reply which led Mr Chris Gollins to broadcast the offending remarks….in these circumstances the committee is disposed to recommend to the House that no further action be taken.

Geoffrey Palmer chaired the committee. Also on it were Bill Birch, Michael Cullen, Doug Kidd and Frank O’Flynn.

I presume Kidd and Birch were in the minority. Regardless a fascinating trip down memory lane.

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Watkins on Blogs

September 2nd, 2009 at 7:49 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins blogs:

I like David and he’s definitely one of the sharper knives in the drawer around Wellington, but sadly he seems to have lost his mojo. Back when Labour was in power, he did a sterling job of running issues and was the outlet for the voice of opposition. But nowadays he seems to be floundering over his purpose. Cheerleading is okay but it’s not why people started reading Kiwiblog.

Funnily enough, just a couple of days ago, Audrey Young blogged:

Key’s nervousness is aided no doubt by continued critical commentary on the right including from David Farrar’s Kiwiblog most recently on the Boscawen bill

So one political editor says I’m cheerleading and another says my continued critical commentary is making the PM nervous :-)

It should be no surprise to anyone that Kiwiblog is less “edgy” with National in Government. Of course I am going to be happier with more of what the Government does.

But I do reject the label of cheerleader. Hell, I ignore most of the announcements from Government as boring. And I thought I had been pretty vigorous in opposing the Government’s moves to ban handheld cellphone use in cars. I’ve said many times I don’t support at large Council seats for Auckland. I have called for the anti-smacking law to be changed numerous times. I’ve continued to advocate Nancy Wake getting honoured (despite the change of Government) and have also said several times that the immigration allegations around a National MP should have gone to an independent inquiry.

But I hold centre-right beliefs. I enjoy pointing out lunacy and hypocrisy from the left, and while they keep providing me material, I’ll enjoy keeping that up.

This probably appears somewhat defensive. I think Tracy is probably quite right that Kiwiblog is not the same as in the last years of Labour – I agree. But I don’t like or accept the term “cheer leader”. My purpose in blogging is much the same as when I started – to have my say on anything I am interested in.

Anyway back to Tracy:

Whale Oil: I’ll admit it… once I got over my squeamishness, I quite enjoyed his blog. Utterly nihilistic and entertaining

Nihilistic – that’s a good term for it!

The Standard: They have picked up where Kiwiblog left off and do a good job of running issues as the voice of opposition. It’s a Labour blog in the same way Kiwiblog is a National blog, I guess, so it makes sense that they would fit more comfortably within the blogosphere now Labour is in Opposition. But The Standard is not yet required reading in the same way that Kiwiblog was during Labour’s final few years in government.

I said both before and after the election that I thought The Standard would do better in Opposition, and I agree with Tracy that they are. They seemed to more an anti John Key blog, even when he was in Opposition, than anything else, so having Key as PM gives them much more material.

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Young on Key/Goff

June 9th, 2009 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young blogs:

One politician was bound to be deeply embarrassed today, Phil Goff or John Key. One would be right and one would be wrong. And the answer is that John Key is wrong.

The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader have been publicly disputing what was said in their private conversation on May 6 about text and phone messages from Richard Worth to a Labour woman activist (that stopped on February 23).

Goff insisted his version was more accurate because immediately after the call he had written a file note from the scribbles he had taken during the conversation.

The file note was headed 9.45 – 9.55 pm. Key dismissed that at his post cabinet press conference yesterday saying “that can’t be right because I got off the plane at 10 pm.” Phil Goff has just retrieved his own phone records of the call made from his desk at Parliament to Key’s cellphone. The call started at 21.49 (11 minutes to 10 pm) and lasted 8 minutes and 30s. That means that Goff is substantially correct.

Yep. I assumed Key’s insistence was based on checking records. He shouldn’t shoot from the hip on details like this – especially considering it wasn’t a cruical detail, but it now becomes a credibility issue. Definitely an own goal.

Young however notes:

Key had the moral high ground on this issue last week. His willingness to meet the woman complainant only after she has show the texts and phone logs to his chief of staff is entirely reasonable.Labour’s stalling tactics have looked as though they know they don’t have a solid case but want to spin it out for as long as possible.

Absolutely. Labour are not interested in actually helping the complainant – just using her not for political point scoring.

That accords with his own file note which says the contact from Worth to the woman was “verging on sexual harassment.” And he acknowledged to me this morning that he has not even seen the woman’s responses at any time let alone asked to see them.

I would have thought one would have asked to see all text messages in and out.

But whatever holes there are in Goff’s case at present, Key has just given him a leg up to seize the moral high ground.

Yep. As I said – it was an own goal.

However let us not lose focus on the text messages. Richard Worth’s future may hang on them. It is time to stop messing about, and pass them onto the PM’s Chief of Staff. There is really no excuse for not doing so after all the complaining and publicity.

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Audrey on National Conference

June 8th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young blogs on the National Party conference:

After a few Billy T James – style Maori fella jokes, Sharples spoke seriously about the relationship with National. He talked in general terms about the personal and political hurt the Orewa speech (former leader Don Brash did not arrive until today) on separatism caused and about the new leadership “showing us a better way.”

He gave his perspective on the mana whenua seats proposed by the royal commission in the supercity plan and his take on the foreshore and seabed act which he actually got right – saying it was a theft of the right of Maori to go to court. (Makes a change from the nonsense often whipped up by the Maori Party that the law stole the foreshore and seabed from Maori).

He said the Maori Party was show “respect” by the National party – despite the Maori party voting against National on many measures.

“Our voice is listened to. People listen when we debate….that’s why I am here. I want you to know how authentic our relationship is.”

I missed the speech, but heard from many people it was great.

It was the first time in anyone’s memory that another party leader has spoken to a National Party conference. There is a more ethnic diversity here and a large number of young people than I recall in recent years. But of course a party is never in greater heart than the year after an election win.

It was younger and more diverse than I have seen.

Auckland Mayor John Banks – or Super Mayor as Key called him – has been here .

His quip has of course sent certain other Mayors sky high. They should be less precious. No one thought Helen Clark was backing John Banks, but she worked with him professionally.

There are also rumours afoot that Winston Peters might have a go at the super-mayoralty contest next year. Imagine Key having to work with “Sir Winston” as would surely become as Lord Mayor of Auckland after ruling out working with him in Government! That

Heh that would be a nightmare for John. But Auckland has never been a stronghold for NZ First, and Peters would not make double digits.

The conference is being held at the Trusts stadium in West Auckland. Among the apologies tendered last night was Richard Worth’s. A fun debate between politicians and personalities was cancelled by regional chair Alistair Bell because of the Worth issue. It seemed an appropriate decision in the circumstances not to be having a jolly old time when many delegates were feeling shell-shocked at recent events.

I remember the last time an MPs vs Young Nats fun debate was cancelled – it was at the conference held the day after Sir Robert Muldoon died.

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Audrey Young on Mt Albert

April 25th, 2009 at 8:48 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

There were good reasons for Key to downplay the byelection.

First is the historic improbability that National can win it.

Not only has it never held the seat since the electorate was formed in 1946, but in the 40 byelections in New Zealand since then, the party of Government has never taken a seat from an opposition party.

Indeed. And it is Labour’s safest seat. Yes the Clark factor may be gone, but nevertheless it is far from marginal.

In the aftermath of the English speech, we saw a hint of the debate Goff will mount through May and into the byelection: National’s reneging on the centrepiece of its election campaign, tax cuts.

Goff’s problem is that Labour campaigned so hard against National’s tax cuts that opposing their cancellation looks confusing.

Very confusing. And I look forward to hearing how high Goff would increases taxes in his alternative budget.

If finding the right issues weren’t enough, Goff has caused some internal disquiet as well by forcing Mt Albert favourite Phil Twyford out of contention for the candidacy.

And who wins the nomination will be interesting. Meg Bates has been endorsed by Dame Cath Tizard, Brian Edwards and Judy Callaghan – all people very close to Clark. And Bates worked for Clark. Then you have David Shearer who was hand picked by Goff and went to school with him. So the selection could be a clash between the Clark machine and the Goff machine!

He also faces internal disquiet over a possible shift to the right in policy _ fuelled by Clayton Cosgrove’s condemnation of a Maori rehabilitation prison on separatist grounds.

Labour’s own Pauline Hanson.

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