All about the man ban

July 6th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Lots of commentary on Labour’s proposed man ban.

Colin Epsiner writes at Stuff:

Oh dear. I really didn’t think it was possible for Labour to top its own goal over the Sky City corporate box debacle. But it has. 

After a week where the Government ought to be on the back foot over the GCSB saga, Auckland’s nutty property market, and the death throes of one of its coalition partners, Labour has come out with a policy so politically barmy it makes you wonder whether it really has any interest in winning the next election. …

David Shearer has – after initially stating the policy had “some merit” – realised he’s dealing with a political bomb and come out against the policy, saying he favours targets rather than quotas. Senior Labour MPs Phil Goff, Shane Jones, and Andrew Little immediately recognised the damage the proposal would do and have denounced it too. 

But it may be too late. This idea needed to be taken out and quietly shot before it ever saw the light of day. From now until it’s debated at Labour’s annual conference in November, Labour’s opponents will have a field day. 

The Opposition needs to be talking to the electorate about jobs, housing, incomes, and hip-pocket issues. Not navel-gazing about its gender balance. The public, to be frank, doesn’t give a toss whether Labour has 41 per cent women MPs or 50 per cent. They just want good candidates and good policies. 

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:

No Labour MPs other than Manurewa’s Louisa Wall will publicly back a proposal to have women-only selection short lists for some electorates to boost female MP numbers.

After his initial reluctance to comment earlier this week, party leader David Shearer has now come out against the proposal.

Outspoken male MPs Shane Jones and Damien O’Connor panned the idea in no uncertain terms, warning it risked driving away socially conservative blue-collar voters.

Of Labour’s 34 MPs, only Ms Wall has been prepared to publicly support it since it was revealed on Thursday.

Eleven, including Mr Shearer, have said they don’t support it or are yet to be convinced.

But is David Shearer not a member of the NZ Council that has proposed this?

So either he got rolled at the NZ Council meeting, or he has flip-flopped and was for it before he rages against it.

Fran O’Sullivan supports it though:

Congratulations to Party Central for putting gender equality ahead of diversity when it comes to the ranking criteria for selecting the next crop of Labour MPs.

Quaintly, the notion that a 21st century political party might opt to use its selection process to try to make sure that as many women as men represent us in Parliament has been met with howls of derision and barely disguised outrage.

That’s just on the Labour side of politics. Let’s point out here that the most vocal MP opponents (Yes, I am talking aboutyou, Shane Jones and you, Clayton Cosgrove) are only there themselves by virtue of their list rankings.

John Armstrong writes:

When you are in a hole, you can rely on Labour to dig itself into an even deeper one beside you – as it did this week with its shoot-yourself-in-both-feet potential change to party rules to allow women-only candidate selections.

This was not solely political correctness gone stark-raving bonkers. Apart from alienating one group of voters who have drifted away from Labour in recent years – men – such a rule change would be just as insulting to women in insinuating they could not win selection on their own merits.

The proposal should have been kiboshed by the leader the moment he saw it. That he didn’t – or felt he couldn’t – points to deep schisms in the party.

The message voters will take from Labour’s warped priorities is that of a party which cannot get its act together in the snoozy backwaters of Opposition, let alone in the blazing sun of Government.

There is a reasons this never emerged under Helen Clark. She would have strangled this before it was born, even if she privately backed it.

Bryce Edwards has collected some of the best tweets on this issue. Here’s a few:

Bernard Orsman ‏@BernardOrsman

The ‘man ban’. Can things get any worse for Labour. PC madness. @nzlabour

James Macbeth Dann ‏@edmuzik

David Shearer is against the quotas. That should guarantee they get passed

Perfect Mike Hosking ‏@MikePerfectHosk

The Labour Party manban makes no sense at all. It’s like saying “drinkable organic wine.”

Patrick Gower ‏@patrickgowernz

Labour Party wants a quota system for MPs based on gender etc – not merit. Apparently this isn’t a joke.

Michael Laws ‏@LawsMichael

Labour’s next caucus rule – seats reserved for the disabled, the mentally ill, overstayers, gays, vegetarians, the over 70s, the under 20s.

Philip Matthews ‏@secondzeit

@harvestbird Over a couple of beers with my mates building a deck, we decided that the manplan has set progressive politics back decades.

Julian Light ‏@julianlight

Went for a coffee this morn but was refused service. Not enough women had bought a coffee. Seemed about as fair as Labour’s policy #manban

Aunty Haurangi ‏@_surlymermaid

Upside to the #manban : Less likely John Tamihere will get an electorate seat.

Keeping Stock ‏@Inventory2

Sean Plunket describes the #ManBan as “a completely co-ordinated attack by the Labour Party on itself”; and he’s spot on.

Ben Uffindell ‏@BenUffindell

@LewStoddart More women MPs just for the sake of more women MPs is not a noble goal. Sexism lies in the population at large.

Cactus Kate ‏@CactusKate2

50% of houses should b owned solely by women n we should hv zero interest loans 2 fund this #manban

Finally we have Chris Trotter:

AMIDST ALL THE CLAMOUR of its detractors, the true significance of Labour’s “Man Ban” has eluded most commentators.

Yes, the proposed rule change has undoubtedly damaged Labour’s election prospects.

Yes, there are many more important issues the party would have preferred the news media to focus upon.

Yes, it is further evidence of a party with no reliable political grown-ups in charge.

Yes, Labour’s opponents will dine out on it for months.

And, yes, it’s the only thing the 2013 Annual Conference will be remembered for.

But, the “Man Ban” is also proof of something else: that the distance separating Labour’s rank-and-file from Labour’s Caucus has grown as wide as the gulf that once separated the “old” Labour Party from the “new”.

The conference in November should be spectacular!

 

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Opposition parties may look silly over Police complaints

June 9th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour, Greens and NZ First are all somewhat hysterically saying that the report leaked (presumably) by Peter Dunne is a criminal matter, and have all rushed off to the Police to try and get him investigated.

I’ll come back to the hypocrisy of opposition parties demanding a Police investigation into a leak, but let us first deal with two recent leaks. The first is the Kitteridge report.

This was a report that was due to be released to the public. The leak changed the timing of that (and was politically very very unhelpful to the Government), but again it was a report written for public release and its classification was sensitive. What is a sensitive classification. There are six types of classifications in two categories. The two categories are:

  • National security classifications where compromise would damage NZ’s security, defence or international relations
  • Policy and privacy classifications where compromise would damage government functions or be detrimental to an individual

There are four national security classifications, They are:

  1. Top secret
  2. Secret
  3. Confidential
  4. Restricted

The Kitteridge report had NO national security classification.

The two policy and privacy classifications  are sensitive and in-confidence, and it was classified sensitive.

While the report was about the GCSB, it doesn’t mean the report was classified for national security reasons. In fact the report was due to be released publicly anyway. This makes the leaking of it a government issue, not a criminal issue. Don’t get me wrong – the leak was appalling, and a resignation is the appropriate  outcome. But talking of Police complaints is hysteria.

Now let us compare this leak to the leak of a Cabinet paper on MFAt restructuring. Unlike the Kitteridge report, the Cabinet paper was not a paper about to be released to the public. Cabinet papers are for Cabinet, and that paper was leaked even before it got to Cabinet (off memory). That leak is clearly just as “bad” a leak as the Kitteridge report, and arguably worse.

Yet in this case Labour have spent months arguing the leak should not be pursued, and that a leak inquiry is a waste of money. Flagrant hypocrisy. And I hope one day, we will be publicly able to publish why Labour is so frightened about the leaker’s identity being revealed, and any links back to them.

Several on the left are critical of opposition parties demanding a criminal investigation into a leak. No Right Turn blogs:

Firstly, the idea that this leak breached the Crimes Act is utterly ridiculous. Both the offences of espionage (which peters accused Dunne of in Parliament on Thursday) and wrongful communication of official information require that the information in question “be likely to prejudice seriously the security or defence of New Zealand”. John Key was quite clear in his press conference that that was not the case, and there is no possible way in which the leak of material exposing GCSB wrongdoing could be seen in that light. So, the idea that an offence has been commited is pure bullshit, and the Greens should not be trading in it. …

A party like the Greens, committed to democracy and freedom, should be encouraging such leaks, not calling for them to be punished – especially given the shit we’re learning about what the GCSB’s foreign masters have been getting up to.

Russel Norman has sought to justify his position on the grounds that such leaks undermine the idea of Parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies. Firstly, this wasn’t an ISC document, so that’s just a non-sequitur. But more importantly, Parliament pays the bills, so it has an absolute right to scrutinise what is done with our money, no matter how secret and sensitive. And I regard it as not just a right, but a duty of politicians on the ISC to inform the public of wrongdoing. If Norman seriously believes what he’s said, then he is not doing his job properly, and should resign immediately so that his place can be taken by someone less credulous and authoritarian.

The authoritarian Dr Norman!

NBR also reports:

Labour and the Greens are illiberal in pushing for a police inquiry into the Peter Dunne affair, and have revealed themselves as anti leaks to the media, says Bryce Edwards.

“It’s incredibly surprising to see Labour and the Greens have called on the police to intervene over the leak of the GCSB,” the Otago University lecturer and commentator tells NBR Online.

“There’s always problems when the police get involved in the political and media realm. It can have a very chilling affect on politics and journalism,” Dr Edwards says.

And the next time there is a leak to say an opposition MP, how could Labour or Greens complain if there is a criminal Police investigation into it? They are so kneejerk desperate to get a media headline that day, they rarely think about the consistency of their long-term position.

Generally those that regard themselves as politically liberal will not want the police involved unless utterly necessary, says the Politics Daily compiler.

“Therefore the threshold for calling the cops into Parliament and newsrooms should be very high. It’s hard to see that this threshold has been reached in this case,” Dr Edwards says.

“Normally those that call the police in on their political opponents are from an authoritarian political philosophy. By contrast, liberals generally regard those that leak government department reports as heroic whistleblowers that are enabling the freedom of information and the right of the public to know what those in authority are doing.”

The Greens, Labour and New Zealand First have now shown that they stand opposed to leaks to the media, says the lecturer.

That’s the second commentator to use the term authoritarian. And I am unsure of the media will like the opposition (presumably) demanding that a reporter’s phone records, e-mails and other communications be seized because she received a leak.

Dr Norman says a key issue is whether the appendix to the inquiry was leaked. Unlike the body of the report, which was always scheduled to be shared with the public, the appendix is secret – and breaching it could constitute a breach of the Crimes Act.

Peter Dunne did not have the appendix. No information from the appendix has been published, so nice try inventing a make believe crime.

Labour leader David Shearer has called on police to seize Mr Dunne’s emails. His deputy, Grant Robertson, says Mr Dunne should be compelled to give evidence under oath. 

On that basis, they must also be demanding that Phil Goff have his emails seized by the Police and Goff should be compelled to give evidence under oath.

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The nature of Labour

December 11th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards writes in his politics summary about the cyber-bullying allegations with Labour and notes:

The Labour Party has long been drifting towards an organisational and political style that political scientists call ‘electoral-professional’. This is a modus operandi in which a party no longer acts a bottom-up mass membership party but is instead an elite of parliamentarians and parliamentary staff who have almost total control over the image, policy, ideologies and activities of the party.

Party membership in this model is simply not necessary. In fact members and activists are at best tolerated instead of encouraged. Therefore such parties tend to have very low membership numbers, and the members have little real incentive to join unless they want to rise up the ranks to become MPs or parliamentary staff. Instead of relying on the fundraising of party members or their activism, instead such parties rely on backdoor state funding through parliament which pays for the bulk of their activities.

I’ve written in much more detail about this in blog posts such as The professionalisation of party campaigning and The Electoral-Professional party

The upshot is that, if Curran is indeed involved in the suppression of party members’ activism and speech as alleged, then she is hardly acting out of sync with the spirit or operations of the modern Labour Party. Instead she is simply reinforcing and playing the usual role required under the model of the modern electoral-professional style party.

The way to get ahead in the Labour Party is to become a parliamentary staffer. Look at their caucus. The former parliamentary staffers include:

  • The Leader
  • The Deputy Leader
  • The No 4
  • The House Leader
  • The Chief Whip

As far as I know only one MP in National used to be a parliamentary staffer. The Greens also have a fast-track for parliamentary staffers with three MPs having worked for the Greens in Parliament. But at least their selections are not so centrally controlled.

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Armstrong fires back

September 15th, 2012 at 7:53 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes in the NZ Herald:

Here is a blunt message for a couple of old-school Aro Valley-style socialists:

Get off our backs. Stop behaving like a pair of tut-tutting old dowagers gossiping in the salons. In short, stop making blinkered, cheap-shot accusations of the kind you made this week – that the media who went with John Key to Vladivostok and Tokyo concentrated on trivia, interviewed their laptops and parroted Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet press releases. …

Do the likes of former Listener columnist and Greens propagandist Gordon Campbell and former Alliance staffer and now Otago University politics lecturer Bryce Edwards have the faintest idea of the difficulties, obstacles and logistics of reporting an overseas trip by a prime minister, especially one which incorporates a major international forum like Apec?

Does it occur to them to actually pick up the phone and try to talk to those journalists about what is happening and why things are being reported in a certain way?

Of course not. That would risk the facts getting in the way of, well … interviewing their laptops and having yet another ritual poke at the parliamentary press gallery.

To read their drivel while stuck in a Tokyo traffic jam with your deadline approaching faster than a Japanese bullet-train makes your heart sink. …

But never mind. The rules that apply to journalists in terms of accuracy do not apply to Campbell and his echo chamber Dr Edwards – who is not be confused with Dr Brian Edwards, another blogger, but a far more original one when it comes to ideas and analysis.

Bloggers can blog when they like at what length they wish. Admittedly, they are normally not being paid for the privilege. Journalists are. But on a trip like last week’s one, the hourly rate slumps drastically by virtue of the hours worked.

Few media representatives travelling with John Key would have got more than four or five hours’ sleep each night – probably less – because of the Prime Minister’s schedule, which ran from 6am (earlier if a flight was involved) until well into the evening.

Days were spent clambering on and off buses in 35C heat and 100 per cent humidity.

Time has to be found within that schedule to write news stories and other articles – but not just for the following day’s newspaper. News organisation’s websites have to fed – especially if there is “breaking” news.

Deadlines in Asia are punishing, as countries such as Japan are three hours behind New Zealand, meaning deadlines are effectively even tighter.

Then there is the no small matter of filing stories back home. Equipment breaks down, mobile phones that are supposed to be in harmony with Japan’s system turn out not to be.

To Campbell’s credit, he does do his own digging. He is also a regular attendee at the Prime Minister’s weekly press conference. His blog is one of the more valuable. But he does have a blind spot with regards to the press gallery.

The rapidly growing influence of Edwards’ blog was initially down to its being an exhaustive wrap-up of all of the day’s political news. It is now starting to develop a much more political dynamic that is unlikely to please National.

Edwards’ blog is the extreme example of the fact that most blogsites rely on the mainstream media for their information and then use that information to criticise the media for not stressing something enough or deliberately hiding it.

Unlike the mainstream media, the blogs are not subject to accuracy or taste – and sometimes even the law.

It is the ultimate parasitical relationship. And it will not change until the media start charging for use of their material.

Monday’s media summary by Bryce will be an interesting read.

For my 2c I think John makes a very fair point about the reality of being a working journalist on on overseas trip, and the coverage of issues.

To be fair to Edwards, what he does everyday is not so much about blogging. His summary was originally circualated by e-mail, and it was his collection of links that people most valued. I know, as I sponsored it.

Since then his narrative around the day’s stories has become more prominent, and that is what most now read. Few actually read it I suspect on Bryce’s blog. Most I’d say read it off the NZ Herald and NBR websites, who as I understand it pay Bryce for his work – so not quite an unpaid blogger!

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OU Vote Chat

October 27th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I didn’t realise that the interviews with different politicians as part of the OU Vote Chat 2011 were on You Tube. You can view the channel here.

The most viewed one so far is Part I with Hone Harawira. I’ve listened to many of them. Bryce has a good interviewing style, where he lets the pollies talk, but also comes back to stuff they gloss over.

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Trevor joins the truthers and birthers

September 23rd, 2011 at 12:52 pm by David Farrar

The United States has mad conspiracy theorists on the right and the left. Those on the left are the truthers who are convinced Bush and Cheney blew up the Twin Towers and blamed it on poor old Osama. Those on the right are or were the birthers who were convinced that Obama was born in Kenya, and that his grand mother placed a fake birth notice in Hawaii in August 1961 just in case one day he decided to stand for President.

Back home we don’t have truthers or birthers, but instead the Labour Party Campaign Manager Trevor Mallard. He blogs:

Interesting disclosure from David Farrar yesterday. He, along with Matthew Hooton, and (waste of members money) PSA are bankrolling Bryce Edwards, one of the few remaining supporters of the Alliance, to provide the political commentary which mainly attacks Labour and the Greens from the looney left. The guy makes Margaret Mutu look like a well balanced academic.

As we all know the majority of Farrar’s income comes from the taxpayer via a “research” arrangement.

I wonder if Bill English signed the deal off or whether it was just a nod and a wink.

So Bill English secretly instructed me to secretly fund Bryce Edwards, so Bryce would attack Labour. With such insight, Trevor could apply to join either the birthers or the truthers.

First it is interesting to note his portrayal of Dr Edwards as more unbalanced than Margaret Mutu (who called for a ban on white immigration). This may come as a surprise to his many colleagues who have been interviewed by Dr Edwards for the OU Vote Chat series. His attack on Dr Edwards may remind readers of his attacks on Erin Leigh and others, and are perhaps a salient reminder of what awaits people if Labour gets back into Government.

I do wonder what Trevor’s colleague, tertiary education spokesperson Grant Robertson, thinks of Trevor’s attacking of an academic for his political views.

I should point out at this stage that Dr Edwards is what one would call left-wing. Like John Pagani, he used to work for the Alliance in Parliament around 10 years ago. It is of course very unusual for an academic to be left-wing. Almost unheard of.

Now let us get to Trevor’s discovery of this big secret, the sponsorship of NZ Politics Daily. It was a closely guarded secret until I revealed it in Stuff yesterday. Oh except for the fact that every single issues for the last few months has said:

New Zealand Politics Daily is produced independently by Bryce Edwards, Department of Politics, University of Otago, with the help of a research assistant who is paid for by the sponsorship of:
Curia Market Research – the place to go if you want to know what New Zealanders are thinking
Exceltium Ltd – New Zealand’s most successful corporate and public affairs consultancy
PSA – the public sector union advocating for strong public services and decent work.

On top of this daily disclosure by Dr Edwards, I blogged on the sponsorship back in June. The $100/week Curia pays doesn’t go to Bryce but to a research assistant who compiles the scores of stories included in the e-mail edition. I find the compilation incredibly useful as it lists every political story and major blog post for the day, and often discover stories I would have missed through it.

There is absolutely no input or influence over what Bryce writes as an intro summary to the daily bulletin. I would say I disagree with Bryce’s take on things probably twice as often as I agree with one! To give an example of some of Bryce’s recent summaries which in Trevor’s fantasy world Bill English is paying for:

  • This could be the year of the Greens – finally they might crack the 10% mark that has eluded them in every general election so far. And with the popular demise of Labour and the ideological confusion of Mana, the Green Party might end up being the real success story for the leftish side of the political spectrum.
  • With patience to delve through this analysis, anyone should be able see that the Police modus operandi and the Government’s attempts to help the Police out are rather outrageous.
  • The politics-free zone of the Rugby World Cup was supposed to deprive the Opposition parties of any significant media publicity in the main period leading up to the general election – but it might not quite work out as National intended. … Of course, the RWC opening night debacle has tarnished National’s competency reputation … Labour and the Greens are not just basking in National’s woes, however, but seem to be proactively attempting to get their messages out to the public while National has its mind on other things. During the last day or so, Labour and the Greens have been announcing all sorts of policies and campaigns. Labour’s policy on the Christchurch rebuild, in particular, might gain it some real kudos
  • There is no doubt that the National Government deserves the pressure that is currently being applied over the shambles of the Rugby World Cup opening night. …But the fiasco has certainly taken the shine off the National Government’s general appearance of competency. Murray McCully’s days as a minister suddenly seemed numbered.
  • National needs to be reminded that most people believe that we have governments and collective responsibility so people can feel protected from these bolts from the blue. 
  • Another chapter in the saga of malicious bungling by the Police has come to a ridiculous end with charges being dropped against 11 of the accused in the Urewera ‘terror’ case
  • Another chapter in the saga of malicious bungling by the Police has come to a ridiculous end with charges being dropped against 11 of the accused in the Urewera ‘terror’ case
  • The National Party list for the 2011 general election is disappointing and boring.
  • John Key hasn’t let the fact that he has not actually read Nicky Hager’s book stop him from voicing the same arrogant dismissiveness we saw in evidence in his initial handling of the Israeli spy allegations and the work of journalist Jon Stephenson on Afghanistan.
  • Apparently there will be a ‘welcoming committee’ there to greet the National Party ministers and thank them for all that they’ve done to start to rebuild the city. Unfortunately for National, this sarcastic ‘thank you’ will be in the form of a protest against the way that the city is being rebuilt

I don’t mind Trevor’s mad conspiracy theories involving me and Bill English. They are at least amusing, even if often copied from Whale Oil.

But I do think he owes Dr Edwards an apology for impuging his integrity.

Matthew Hooton is less kind to Trevor in his blog post, and Whale is his normal gentle self. Also Keeping Stock chips in.

Finally a video reminder of Trevor  at his finest, courtesy of Whale.

UPDATE: I’m relaxed about Trevor’s defamatory comments and have better things to do than talk to lawyers, But I understand others who were named are not so forgiving and have consulted their lawyers. No parliamentary privilege for Red Alert. Could be an expensive exercise for them as not only is Trevor liable but so is the Labour Parliamentary Party as the blog publisher.

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NZ Politics Daily

June 21st, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged a while back about how invaluable I found Bryce Edward’s NZ Politics Daily. Bryce e-mails out around 5 pm every day a pdf of all the political news and blog stories from the last 24 hours. It’s a great resource.

Bryce (or one of the other editors) also does a summary of the major issues of the day, and particular stories he feels are must reads.  I do recommend interested people either check his website out with the summary, or ask to be put on the e-mail list for the full document.

Now putting it together is a big chore, and Bryce has a couple of guest editors who help put it together who have to be paid. He sought sponsorship for it, and I agreed to have Curia pay for a third of the cost, along with Matthew Hooton’s Exceltium and the Public Service Association.  

My motivation is primarily to support a good political resource, but also saw an opportunity to get the Curia brand out amongst key political people.

There is no editorial input due to the sponsorship. And ironically the main guest editor is Gerard Hehir, the President of the UNITE union. Bryce and Gerald decide which stories get included, and which ones to highlight.

Anyway if you do wish to receive it by e-mail, contact Bryce on bryce.edwards@otago.ac.nz, and you can see the smaller summary at his Liberation website. The NZPD can not be used for commercial purposes, only for research purposes.

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NZ Politics Daily

March 11th, 2011 at 2:05 pm by David Farrar

Otago University Politics Lecturer Bryce Edwards has been producing a daily politics summary for the last two weeks. It must take him hours to do, and is hugely useful to political junkies.

He does a summary of the major issues with his commentary, and then provides links (or pdf copies in the e-mail version) to several dozen stories that have appeared on media on blogsites. They’re helpfully grouped together by topic.

I am already quite addicted to it. While I see most of the stories that Bryce compiles, there are always a few I have not seen. I recommend you check it out every day.

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Good Bye

March 9th, 2010 at 4:43 pm by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards blogs:

Not only is the Destiny Church facing all sorts of internal ructions relating to its financial affairs and control, but the Christian political party that is an outgrowth of Brian Tamaki’s church – the Family Party – has just applied to cancel its registration with the Electoral Commission, and hence dissolve itself. The Family Party – one of three Christian-based parties that sought the party vote in the 2008 election – originally went under the name of ‘Destiny New Zealand’, until a major reconfiguration occurred prior to the 2008 general election.

Yay. The last thing I want is a party linked to a cult being in Parliament.

The Family Party in 2008 got only 0.35% of the vote and in 2005 Destiny itself got 0.62%.

Hopefully this means Arch-Bishop Brian has given up on ruling the country, and will leave most of us alone, and just go back to (financially) preying on his victims parishioners.

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Armstrong on Labour and GST

March 6th, 2010 at 11:43 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

Axe the tax? Labour would if it could. But it can’t. So maybe the tax will stay. Maybe it won’t. Who knows.

Labour isn’t saying. And it won’t be saying for quite a while yet. …

National’s overall tax package will leave Labour nursing a big political headache – how to make up the $2 billion shortfall in revenue if Labour pledges to restore the rate of GST back to 12.5 per cent.

Labour won’t say how. But it can hardly talk of raising income tax rates which National will have just lowered.

No party – not least one coming from such a long way behind its rival – can afford to saddle itself with that kind of platform.

I would welcome Labour giving New Zealanders a clear choice, and campaigning on increasing personal income tax rates.

But that is one thing Labour will definitely not be doing. It is not going to be trapped into declaring a position which it might later regret.

Goff has been around long enough to remember National’s very own GST-induced political disaster.

When Labour introduced GST in 1986, National felt obliged to come up with an alternative – the long-forgotten “Extax”.

With Labour determining no items would be exempted from GST, National saw a gap in the political market. Extax allowed exemptions for basic foods, doctors’ fees, local authority rates and some charities. The tax was universally panned as an administrative nightmare.

The ridicule prompted senior National MPs to lose faith in the policy, resulting in mixed messages as to where National really stood on a broad-based consumption tax.

Not just National MPs. I was an office holder in National in 1987 and I actually voted for the Labour Party, partly because of National’s ridicolous Extax policy.

Meanwhile Bryce Edwards looks at the Axe the Tax campaign. He looks at whether or not is is electioneering regardless of the rules devised by MPs on what is legal:

The Labour Party obviously hasn’t learned much from the severe public ignomany suffered when it was revealed that the party had been paying for its electioneering Pledge Card with public funds while in government. Their latest rort – running a heavily branded bus campaign around the country – is no less electioneering, yet Labour has once again used taxpayer funds to pay for this political advertising. This blog post looks at whether such electioneering can really be called ‘legitimate’, even if the exercise is made to fit into the dodgy Parliamentary Service rules. Regardless of the expenditure’s legal status, few voters will appreciate having to pay for such overt political advertising.

Bryce goes on to distinguish between whether something is “legal” and “legitimate”

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Polls and Prediction Markets

February 26th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I attended on Wednesday night the launch of “Key to Victory” which is the normal post election campaign review book edited by Stephen Levine and Nigel Roberts.

I find these books so fascinating, I was even reading it during the speeches!

Bryce Edwards has reviewed (h/t iPredict Blog) a chapter by Shaun McGirr and Rob Salmond on what sources of information best predicted the election outcome. Was it an individual poll, the iPredict markets or the polls of polls.

The amount invested in iPredict was considerable:

  • $64,500 was traded over the likely nature of ‘the Maori Party’s post-election relationship with National’
  • $25,800 was traded over the Wellington Central battle between Grant Robertson and Stephen Franks
  • $132,100 was traded over whether ‘there will be a National prime minister after the 2008 election’
  • $413,000 in total was invested in election-related predictions

And how did iPredict do”

So, how accurate was iPredict in 2008? McGirr and Salmond conclude that although iPredict overestimated the eventual support for both Labour and National, it was more accurate any individual polling company.

And the individual polls:

In reality in 2008, McGirr and Salmond found this to be the case – with Colmar Brunton and DigiPoll exaggerating public support for National, and Roy Morgan exaggerating support for Labour (p.264).

So which polling companies were most accurate and inaccurate? McGirr and Salmond say that TV3’s TNS poll was the best (as it was in 2005 as well), and Fairfax’s Neilson pool was the poorest.

The TV3 poll is the one that currently shows a 27% gap! Mind you they are now with Reid Research, so there may be a different methodology used now.

Then they look at the polls of polls published by three outlets – NZPA, Rob (at 08 Wire) and myself (at curiablog).

In addition to the five opinion polls, some observers attempted to average out the idiosyncratic errors of the individual polls by aggregating them into a “poll-of-polls” using different methods. The New Zealand Press Association simply took the average of the estimates of the six most recent polls, while The New Zealand Herald took the average of the last four polls. Two blog-based polls-of-polls – one run by David Farrar of New Zealand’s premier political blog Kiwiblog, and one hosted at a smaller blog [run by author Rob Salmond] called 08wire – weighted more recent polls with larger sample sizes more heavily (p.257).

And how did the poll of polls do?

McGirr and Salmond say that ‘Poll-of-polls consistently performed well during the 2008 campaign, outperforming most of the opinion polls and the prediction markets’ (p.270). They therefore advocate that both the media and public should pay much more attention to this highly accurate source of political information.

Tis has prompted me to update the poll of polls widget, which is below.

Salmond ranks the different outlets for their accuracy to the final result. In order they were:

  1. NZ Herald poll of polls 6.1 (error from result)
  2. NZPA poll of polls 6.8
  3. Curiablog poll of polls 8.1
  4. TV3/TNS poll 9.6
  5. 08 wire poll of polls 13.6
  6. iPredict 15.7
  7. TVNZ/Colmar Brunton poll 16.8
  8. NZ Herald/Digipoll poll 19.8
  9. Roy Morgan poll 20.8
  10. Fairfax/Neilsen poll 29.6
  11. NZ Political Stockmarket 109.5

The NZ Political Stockmarket used virtual money, so it shows what a difference real money can make.

The authors conclude that media outlets should not just report the individual poll results when they commission a poll, but also publish regular info on a poll of polls and on iPredict.

Incidentally I will probably review and tweak the curiablog methodology a bit when I have some spare time.

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Bradford on the Greens

October 20th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Liberation has some extracts from a radio interview with Sue Bradford on the Greens:

Sue Bradford: That tension is always there in our Green Party, as it is in green parties around the world… I think that some of the people on the more blue-green, or conservative side of the Green Party will be feeling probably quite relieved that I won’t be a Green MP anymore.

Yet Green party supporters on this blog attacked me when I suggested Sue’s departure pointed to some splits in the party. They insisted it was just about her not winning the co-leadership.

Julian Robbins: Is the Green Party losing its radical edge?…. Is it coming into a sort of comfortable middle age, a professional phase where it tries to be less risk-taking?

Sue Bradford: I think that’s absolutely true…. We did have a real radical cutting edge [in 1999]… I think that we have, to some extent we have begun to lose a little bit of that differentiation with the other parties in Parliament – in terms of being a little less willing to take risks; a little less willing to be radical and “out there”; and the sense that too many political parties – including perhaps our own – are focused on winning the middle ground voters and not seeing the voters out to the sides – in our case, out to the left, and to the environmental left, as being as important as the voters that are in the middle and to the right.

Not exactly a vote of confidence in the leadership.

Julian Robbins: Is the party really ‘fine’? I would have thought that at a time when the Labour Party is at a lower ebb and climate change as an issue as an item is at the top of the agenda, that the Green Party should perhaps be doing much better than it is. Why isn’t it doing much better?
Sue Bradford: …I’ve just given some of the ideas that I have about that. I think that part of the reason for that [lack of political success is] is that we’ve lost the radical edge and we’ve lost some of the points of differentiation with the other parties…

Bradford’s valedictory speech could be interesting.

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Maori Party 2008 Campaign

September 30th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards blogs a summary of the Maori Party’s 2008 campaign.

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Edwards on ACT

September 27th, 2009 at 8:01 am by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards reviews ACT’s 2008 election campaign.

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Edwards on EFA

September 20th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards continues his excellent summaries of chapters on the 2008 election campaign, with one on NZ First.

Also people will be interested in a draft of an article on how the Electoral Finance Act impacted on third parties last year.

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2008 Campaign Reviews

September 12th, 2009 at 1:42 pm by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards has blogged summaries of party’s 2008 campaigns he wrote for a book on the 2008 election. They really are required reading for political junkies, and I really enjoy accompanying graphics.

So far we have:

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Bryce Edwards Drinking Liberally

August 20th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m tempted to quip Bryce likes to drink liberally when my credit card is on the table, but this is about his address to the Dunedin gathering of Drinking Liberally.

His topic was “What’s left in 2009 in New Zealand?”. It is too long to try and paraphrase but I found it very interesting. Bryce is a big fan of Bruce Jesson and quotes him often.

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The left on Taito Phillip Field

August 7th, 2009 at 2:42 pm by David Farrar

Well the silence from most left blogs on the shame of Taito Philip Field has been illuminating. Public Address just did a one line post on their discussion board announcing the verdict. Red Alert remains strangely silent. The various Labour Party members blogs have said nothing much. Of course this is similiar to their comments at the time. Nowhere did they call out for their party to do the right thing and stop defending Field as a man of integrity whose only crime was to work too hard.

There was one notable exception. No Right Turn has, not surprisingly, covered Field in detail from the very first allegations, and decried both Field and his apologists.He was the first to suggest Field’s action represented criminal offending – back in Sep 2005.

Some extracts from what he said back then:

On 8 August 2006:

It’s official: the Labour Party supports corruption. That’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from Helen Clark’s refusal to consider internally censuring corrupt MP Taito Philip Field. …

I expect all political parties in New Zealand to take a hard line against corruption, and when this sort of case comes up, to condemn it and any member involved. Labour’s refusal to do so sends a clear message: that they will turn a blind eye to corruption in order to retain power. This is simply unacceptable, and such a party is not worthy of anyone’s vote.

And on 15 August 2006:

As for the argument that a by-election would threaten the government’s majority, what of it? There are some things more important than being in government – and maintaining the integrity of our political system against corruption is one of them. If Labour can’t stay in power except by looking the other way on this sort of thing, then arguably it shouldn’t be in power at all.

Also of interest in a post from Bryce Edwards, who quotes David Lange in 1997 highlighting dodgy electoral spending and donations returns from Field in 1996. Even back then people were raising issues.

UPDATE: Another honourable exception to the silence was Jeremy Greenbrook-Held. He said in July 2006:

I’m embarrassed that I’m a member of the same political party as this man, and, for the record, would love to see a full privilages committee inquiry into his conduct as an MP. It is not worth loosing Margaret Wilson as speaker to cover this up.

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2008 election epolitics

July 30th, 2009 at 11:31 am by David Farrar

Another must read from Bryce Edwards:

How well were electronic forms of politics utilised in last year’s general election? How effectively did the political parties and electorate candidates use websites, email, social networking in their campaigning? What about bloggers and the mainstream media? These questions are addressed in a chapter by Peter John Chen about ‘the role, use and impact of online media in New Zealand’s 2008 election’, published in Informing Voters? Politics, Media and the New Zealand Election 2008 (edited by Chris Rudd, Janine Hayward and Geoff Craig of the University of Otago Politics department). This blog post is the fourth of a series of explorations of the chapters from the new book (which I also have a chapter in).

Most of the focus is on how parties and candidates used online media, rather than the role of blogs by non candidates. Still very interesting. Labour gets caned for their 2008 e-campaign. No surprise as they had three different websites running.

They also reveal Labour spent around 10% of its advertising budget online and National spent zero.

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Newspaper coverage of the 2008 election

July 20th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards does another of his fantastic summaries of a chapter of a book reviewing the 2008 election. This post is on how the newspapers covered the election.

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Edwards on MPs and Mt Albert

May 28th, 2009 at 1:30 pm by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards has an excellent post highlighting the huge advantage parliamentary parties have – specifically with the Mt Albert by-election:

Therefore it has to be asked, are all the non-Auckland MPs that are currently flooding into the Mt Albert electorate, doing so via taxpayer funding? Is the Green candidate, and Wellington-based MP, Russel Norman really paying his own way to Auckland and finding his own accommodation during his campaigning?

Good questions.

In Mt Albert there are currently a large number of MPs flooding into the electorate to campaign on behalf of their respective candidates. So far, many of these have been non-Auckland MPs, and therefore likely to be using Parliamentary Service funds to be there.

The one particular non-Auckland MP that appears to have been there the most has been Wellington-based MP Russel Norman – in fact Norman is the only non-Auckland MP running in the electorate. While there is nothing particularly wrong with carpetbagging per se – a ‘term is sometimes used derisively to refer to a politician who runs for public office in an area in which he or she is not originally from and/or has only lived for a very short time’ – most people would in fact have a problem with such carpetbagging being funded by taxpayers. It is therefore Norman that should be the most upfront about who’s paying his way.

There’s another reason that Russel Norman should be called to account for his election spending. More than any other politician – other than perhaps Winston Peters – Norman has been the most populist campaigner on issues of ‘money in politics’. He probably pushed harder than any other for the Electoral Finance Act – even though it proved to be a spectacular ‘own goal’ – and has continued to be the most sanctimonious MP (since Peters) about transparency. He’s probably made more allegations against other MPs and parties than anyone (again, except Winston Peters).

Thus this stone-thrower needs to show that he doesn’t also live in a glass house. Therefore Norman should declare whether he has used any taxpayer funds on his campaign, including travel expenses and accommodation claims for his many, many trips to Mt Albert since Helen Clark announced her departure from Parliament. Anything less than this would make his various campaigns against ‘corruption’ seem rather hollow.

Will the Greens practice what they preach?

Likewise, the other parliamentary parties need to be more upfront about their use of backdoor state funding and MP expenses in their campaigns. Labour needs to show that it has learnt its lessons over the EFA and its pledge card. What about Trevor Mallard, who was recently blogging about his experience on the campaign trail? There seem to be a lot of non-Auckland MPs in Mt Albert recently. Unless they are paying their own way, or legitimately and genuinely in Auckland on other business, their use of tax-payer funding to campaign could be classified as ‘corrupt’. And National and the other parties should also declare how they are paying to send MPs into the electorate to campaign.

I recommend people read the full post – it has mounds of historical infoformation also.

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Candidate Expenses and Donations

April 6th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Bryce Edwards has some analysis of the candidate expenses and donations.

  • Total candidate expenditure is $2.26m
  • Total disclosed donations to candidates is $1.26m
  • Average spent for a winning candidate is $12,836
  • In only 38 out of 70 (54%) electorates, did the candidate spending the most money win!!
  • The top five spending candidates all lost – Russell Fairbrother, Paul Adams, Nicky Wagner, Ron Mark and Stephen Franks
  • Only 2 of the top ten winning candidates won their seats, and only seven of the top 20.

Bryce also has calculated the average spending per candidate for each party.

The amount spent by candidates on Internet advertising was interesting for me. The top spenders:

  1. Charles Chauvel $5,551
  2. Jills Angus Burney $2,658
  3. Brendon Burns $2,250
  4. Pita Sharples $,2000
  5. Aaron Gilmore $1,318

What did Charles spend $5,551 on?

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Norman attacks academic

March 30th, 2009 at 3:51 pm by David Farrar

A bad-tempered e-mail forwarded to me reveals that Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has written to political scientists Nigel Roberts and Stephen Levine to try to stop them publishing the research of an academic opponent of the Electoral Finance Act. Levine and Roberts are currently editing their traditional post-election book due out soon, and the book contains a chapter written by University of Otago political scientist Bryce Edwards who is evaluating the impact that the EFA had on last years’ election campaign. Norman has emailed them to essentially say that they shouldn’t be publishing it and that Edwards shouldn’t be researching in this area.

The email from Norman, which was sent to Edwards, and which he kindly forwarded to me, is rather extraordinary, and gives an interesting insight into how thin skinned the Greens (or Norman anyway) is of dissenting views. Despite having a PhD himself, Norman is clearly he’s no fan of academic freedom. Edwards has been widely published and reported on in the area of political finance, yet according to Norman, Edwards, “lacks academic credibility in this area”. Could it be that Norman still can’t handle having the EFA criticized? It seems that Norman and the Greens have dug themselves into a hole on the EFA, and while everyone other former fan of the now-repealed legislation has given up trying to defend the indefensible, the Greens are tying themselves up in knots over it all. They are in a political bunker on the EFA and the idea of an opponent of the EFA researching the effect of the legislation is just too much for them.

Worse than that – in Russel Norman’s view – Edwards has said some critical things about the Greens on his blog! Oh dear. Norman says in his email to Edwards, which Norman also creepily sent to the book editors, ‘you have demonstrated a long history of bias against the Green Party, and you have consistently made untrue statements about the Green Party’. Geez, is Norman turning into Winston Peters?! Norman says: ‘Your previous writing leads me to the view that you are simply unable to give a dispassionate academic account of the EFA’s impact on political parties due both to your virulent opposition to the EFA and to your one-sided and inaccurate commentary on the EFA and the Green Party’. Norman or his staff seemingly went through two and a half years of writings by Edwards to compile their dossier on him.

In fact Norman’s email tirade reads like something Rob Muldoon might have said when he was at his worst. The National Party gets requests from lefty academics all the time, but I doubt that the party then sends out hostile replies that question the academic’s integrity because they might be politically biased! I thought that everyone now accepts that academics have their own biases and that for them to pretend otherwise is just a sham.

Put it like this. Jane Kelsey has well known views on free trade. Think how much outrage there would be if the leader of the National Party fired off an e-mail to senior academics saying Kelsey should not be allowed to publish academic reseaerch on free trade, because she doesn’t support it, and she is biased against parties that do support it? There would be an avalanche of outrage – the Association of University Staff would leap in to defend academic freedom etc. Luckily most National MPs have better things to do than try and get academics prevented from publishing academic research.

And funnily enough, Russel Norman’s nasty little email was actually in response to Edwards kindly inviting Norman to have an input into his research. Considering the Green Party had problems obeying the EFA, I would have thought they would have wanted to detail these problems so a replacement law can avoid the mistakes of the EFA.

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World Famous in Dunedin

March 28th, 2009 at 10:32 am by David Farrar

Had a great night out on the town in Dunedin last night. Started the socialisation at the University staff club around 3 pm having caught up for an old mate, Ross Blanch, for the first time in around 19 years. Ross was elected OUSA President in 1986 in a by-election when the then President quit to join the Labour Research Unit. Ross was actually declared the loser by one vote on the day voting ended (which prompted much alcohol to drown sorrows), but then the next day in the recount they found one vote had been placed in the wrong pile, and he then won by one vote (which prompted much alcohol to celebrate).

Nowadays he is very respectable managing the Clubs and Socs Centre, and is filling in for a year as the General Manager of OUSA. After drinks at the staff club with Ross and Andrew Geddis, I headed to the Cook to meet bloggers Bryce Edwards and Geoffrey Miller. Geoffrey does the ACT Watch blog “From Douglas to Dancing” and is just visiting Dunedin from Germany where he normally resides. Also in the group was a young Austrian socialist, who is here as part of her “masculinity studies” academic research. What a great research topic I thought – so she gets to study Kiwi males out on the town :-)

After a few drinks at the Captain Cook we went to Mou Very – the self titled Smallest Bar in the Universe.

It was here that the Austrian gained the impression that I am a famous person. As we squeezed through the alleyway, a guy in the alleyway looked at me and asked if I was David Farrar. Then as we went outside, I had a brief chat with the owner (who I had done some polling for in 2007 when he stood for Mayor). Then we sat down on the pavement seats and were engaged in an animated discussion when a gentleman walking past stopped and asked the group if one of us was David Farrar, as he had heard me on National Radio but did not know what I looked like. God – I know my voice can be distinctive but that is weird to be recognised on voice alone. The gentleman was actually visiting from Timaru. Then finally a few minutes after that a IT tech and his girlfriend passed by and greeted me.

We then headed further south to the Octagon and went to Pequeno, where the stag party had been the night before. The waitress of course greeted me by name, further cementing the impression everyone in Dunedin knows me. We then took a corner booth and had several rounds of cocktails.  Pequeno is a gorgeous hidden away bar, and I recommend it thoroughly to anyone else visiting NZ.  The booths even have curtains around them so you can have total privacy. Mind you the staff were a bit alarmed, when we pulled the curtains so we could take a photo of our Austrian colleague’s tatoo!

I am technically half Austrian, so was interesting to talk to about Vienna, as I am planning to visit there next year.

Finally got home on Saturday morning. Partying in Dunedin is proving to be very tiring, and I may need a holiday to recover from it!

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Edwards on the axed electoral review

February 16th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Academic Bryce Edwards has a very well researched post on the axed Labour/Greens electoral review. Edwards is no National supporter, having worked for the hard left Alliance for several years – which makes his research and conclusions all the more powerful. I urge people to read the post in full, as it is too long to do justice here – plus he has many apt cartoons to illustrate it. But some key points:

This blog post examines what was behind the review, and why the exercise was always going to be more about window dressing than democracy. Although expert panels and citizens’ forums are not without merit, when compared to similar exercises carried out elsewhere, the planned Labour-Green model for New Zealand was designed to be incredibly weak and undemocratic. What’s more the process by which it was brought about was just as poor as the one that produced the EFA.

Labour and the Greens called its a citizens’ forum – but as you will see it was merely a means to an end – more taxpayer funding.

The Greens strategy on political finance reform entirely backfired in 2007, and the party has had to face up to the public derision – especially because the Greens were complicit in such an appalling and anti-democratic process. For the Greens their advocacy of the review was a cynical attempt to avoid apologizing for the damage done. But worse, the whole Citizens’ Forum was actually also quite a con.

And they still hold out the EFA to be better that its predeccesor!

Second, rather than having any teeth or real power, the review was designed to be purely advisory. For example, the Citizens’ Forum was merely given the task to produce a report for the Expert Panel to read. Such a report ‘may’ then have helped inform the report that the Expert Panel was going to write. And even then, this final report was also merely advisory, and the terms of reference stated that the Minister was then able to choose to accept any elements of it or reject it entirely. (And as we saw with other expert advice tendered to Labour and Greens – such as the Human Rights Commission, Law Commission on the EFA – if it’s not ‘the right advice’ it can be easily brushed aside.)

This part is quite crucial, and I did not even realise it until I read Bryce’s post. The Citizens’ Forum had no power. The main power lay with the hand picked Expert Panel.

Compare this to the British Columbia example where a citizens’ forum was established to look at the voting system. In this case, the established rules of the citizen forum said that ‘If the Assembly recommended a system different from the current system, its recommendation would be placed on the ballot at the next provincial election as a referendum item’ (Snider, 2008). The widely-referred to Ontario citizens’ forum had similar powers.

The Greens kept referring to the Canadian experiences, but as Bryce has detailed what the tried to implement in NZ was a sham with no actual powers at all – it was just political cover.

Essentially, the Citizens’ Forum was to have no role in making recommendations to either the public or the Government. Instead, any outcomes from the Citizens’ Forum would be filtered through the Expert Panel. The official terms of reference made it very clear that it was the Expert Panel body that was to come up with the proposals and options for any change, then educate the Citizens’ Forum on these, and then merely ‘consider the report of the Citizens’ Forum’ while making their own decisions.

I’m kicking myself for not realising how the Greens and Labour had structured this. The lesson for the future is to ignore any names or terms they use, and look at the fine print.

This situation was clearly quite some distance from what the Greens’ Metiria Turei presented it as, when she said in Parliament that the Expert Panel ‘would do a great deal of work preparing information and support systems for the Citizens’ Assembly’.

Much of the Government’s propaganda also tried to obscure the neutered nature of the Citizens’ Forum. The Labour blog ‘08 Wire’ attempted to sell the exercise by incorrectly describing the subservience around the wrong way: ‘the expert panel’s role is basically to do a lot of the (very important) donkey work for the Citizens’ Forum, while the Citizens’ Forum makes all the big decisions’.

But the terms of reference were very clear, and Panel Chair Assoc Prof Andrew Geddis was very unambiguous, saying that the Expert Panel would set the work programme for the Citizens’ Forum. And the Minister, Annette King said the Expert Panel and Citizens’ Forum would only provide an independent, non-political ‘perspective’ on the reform options.

And if either of these groups came up with anything disagreeable, well the public would never get a vote on them.

My concern about the Citizens’ Assembly is that it may be an expensive piece of window dressing, yet another one of those carefully guided sham consultations with the great unwashed public to simply avoid the charge that the public haven’t been consulted.

Indeed, it was to allow Labour and Greens to vote themselves increased taxpayer funding, and claim the public have been consulted on it.

Clearly, since 2005 the Labour and Green parties have taken the vital issue of political finance and electoral law and tried to politicize it for partisan advantage. By arrogantly assuming that they possessed the moral high ground, these parties claimed the right to change the electoral rules. This is fine – essentially it’s ‘victor’s law’ – the baubles of power. But they shouldn’t have turned around and pretended otherwise. And they shouldn’t have pretended that this is a basis on which to build enduring and robust policy and law.

Labour at least appear to have recognised the danger of continuing down this road.

It was therefore not surprising that the Greens tried to fast track the review process to start and be set up before the election, so that National wouldn’t be able to influence it. It was reported that ‘Russel Norman said the party wanted the [Citizens’ Forum] assembly running before the election so it was harder to derail if there was a change of government’ (Trevett, 5 June 2008).

Oh yes, can’t let an election change anything.

In appointing the so-called Expert Panel, the Government and Greens showed that they learnt nothing from the awful EFA process. Obviously, the question of ‘Who gets to appoint the independent panel and set the terms of reference’ would be vital, yet it was stitched up behind closed doors. There were no calls for nominations from the public, and no discussions with other political parties (although the Greens had a strong backroom role in determining who to appoint).

I made this point at the time – it was vital all parties be consulted over the composition of the panel. But again – all done in a private deal.

There should be no doubt that the selection of Associate Professor Andrew Geddis as the chair of the Expert Panel was a very sensible one. Geddis is the number one expert in electoral law. But there also shouldn’t be any doubt that they chose someone with a bias in favour of direct state funding – Geddis had often written supportively of state funding.

Indeed. You would be stupid not to have Geddis on the panel, as he is an expert in this area. But the panel should have been balanced with one or more people who are more sceptical of state funding.

In fact one of the biggest cons of the sham process was the fine print in the terms of reference, which specifically excluded the Citizens’ Forum from examining the current parliamentary funding of political parties. This is, of course, exactly the area of political finance in New Zealand that is most obscured, most influential on the parties, and most negative for the party system. Yet it is precisely this area that Labour and the Greens don’t want the public (or even the experts) sticking their noses into.

Indeed. The advantages of being an incumbent party is huge. Only the ACT Party has managed (since MMP) to enter Parliament without already having an incumbent MP or MPs.

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