Labour against philanthropy in education

February 18th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An American equity fund manager who wants to open charter schools in New Zealand was introduced to Ngai Tahu leaders by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English.

Hong Kong-based Marc Holtzman plans to open charter or “partnership” schools which he hopes will lead to an education “revolution” in New Zealand.

He said Mr English, who he has known for many years, introduced him to Sir Mark Solomon of Ngai Tahu, who wants to establish schools in partnership.

But the plan, revealed in the Herald yesterday after a confidential report was obtained, is opposed by Labour, which has promised to scrap charter schools.

“I’m very concerned about the idea that you get these sort-of philanthropist, corporate people coming in and trying to buy up large chunks of the education system,” Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said.

So Labour is against wealthy people donating money to try and improved educational outcomes for the most disadvantaged!

He thinks donating money is “buying up chunks of the education system”.  He must think Bill Gates has purchased huge chunks of the welfare system in Africa!

There is absolutely no personal return to Mr Holtzman. He just wants to improve educational outcomes and is happy to donate money to do so.

“If they are genuinely philanthropic and want to contribute, then they could start by supporting the existing education system rather than trying to do something in competition with it.”

Note Labour is concerned about the “system”, rather than outcomes. The thinking is that if some schools do well, this makes other schools look bad, and this is bad for the system. All schools should look equally bad!

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Hipkins on Dotcom

August 8th, 2014 at 9:47 am by David Farrar

My respect levels for Chris Hipkins have just soared for having the balls to call it honestly, despite the fact Mana/Internet is a party of the left.

I wonder if Mr Cunliffe has a view on the video, or more importantly what it says about a party that not only encourages that behaviour, but is so proud of it, they turn it into an official party advertisement?


That’s a second Labour candidate to call a spade a spade and condemn the tactics of Dotcom as thuggish and megalomaniac. My hope is Dotcom will not get to hold the balance of power. The problem for Labour is the polls shows they can not govern without him.

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Well said Chippie

May 12th, 2014 at 11:40 am by David Farrar

Nicely said Chris Hipkins.

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Labour hysterically redefining privatisation

February 26th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Most people know what privatisation is, which is the sale or transfer of a publicly owned asset to the private sector.

Labour is so upset that National has completed its asset sales programme, that Chris Hipkins decided to invent new meanings of privatisation:

“The Government is busy privatising facilities across the entire government sector.

“In education alone there are five charter schools opening this year and the Government is now taking applications for a second round of new privately run schools.

So a new not for profit publicly funded school, but privately managed, is now a privatisation. That is like saying that a new medical centre is a privatisation.

“The Government is also using the reconstruction of Christchurch schools as an excuse to privatise school facilities through the use of public-private-partnerships (PPPs).

Now Hipkins claims PPPs are privatisation. This is hilarious as he worked for Helen Clark when she was promoting them all over the place.

“National is also privatising our roads. A PPP for Transmission Gully has become an endless vacuum for taxpayer funding.

Even more hysterically Hipkins claims building a new road that doesn’t even exist yet is a privatisation. And he ignores PPP sees the road end up in state ownership. The level of hysteria and bullshit in this release is beyond belief. To quote NZTA:

While a private sector consortium will be responsible for financing, designing, building, maintaining and operating the highway for up to 25 years, Transmission Gully will remain a public asset.

And to add to his hysteria:

“In the health sector private hospitals and clinics are being used for elective surgery because the public system lacks the capacity to address our growing health service needs.

Hipkins knows that private hospitals performed elective surgery when Labour was in power. It’s so disappointing to see someone argue against using surplus capacity to treat more patients.

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Lies, damn lies and Labour’s stats

February 13th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour has accused the Government of “throwing money” at charter schools with new figures showing they cost as much as five times more than state schools.

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said today that newly established charter schools were receiving up to $40,000 per student per year compared with the average of $7000 for state schools.

“A handful of children are being funded at a much greater rate than the bulk of Kiwi kids,” Hipkins said.

This is beyond misleading. Charter schools get the *exact* same funding as public schools. That funding is dependent on size. A smaller school gets more per pupil than a larger school. So Hipkins is comparing small tiny schools with massive schools. Also new schools get funded for basically one off capital and property expenses.

“There is no doubt every state and integrated school in the country could dramatically improve their students’ results if their funding was increased to match that given to charter schools,” Hipkins said.

Their funding is the same as charter schools.

Education Minister Hekia Parata told Parliament that small schools cost more whether they were charter schools or state ones.

“There is a different range depending on what the size of the school is, what the nature of the achievement level required,” she said.

A brand new public school of 100 students will get the same funding as a brand new charter school of 100 students. Chippie knows this.

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Garner prescribe dead rats

September 17th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

Cunliffe will need to tread carefully with his reshuffle and the ABC club – except for Trevor Mallard and Chris Hipkins.

Mallard’s time is up. The public tired of him years ago. He has been one of the main protagonists in the fight against Cunliffe. He should be dealt to. He has done his time in NZ politics.

He’s currently on the taxpayers tit living it up in San Fran – it should be his last trip. He’s done well out of NZ politics and it’s time he was moved on. I don’t see what he offers anymore.

He’s on a junket and taxpayers should be appalled. Cunliffe should shoulder tap him and tell him to start looking for relief teaching job in Hutt South after the next election. Labour needs to signal a fresh start under Cunliffe and getting rid of Mallard would do that.

And whip Chris Hipkins will have to go too. Cunliffe needs a whip he can trust. He can’t trust Hipkins, it’s as simple as that.

Pretty blunt advice.

He will need to tread carefully with the other ABC members. Annette King, Phil Goff, Jacinda Ardern, Phil Twyford and, dare I say it, ABC Club President and life member, Clayton Cosgrove are all pretty good performers that can’t be ditched that easily. Cunliffe would be wise to keep them. And he needs to keep them to get this caucus firing.

If you excluded the ABCs from the Shadow Cabinet, there wouldn’t be enough MPs remaining to make up the Shadow Cabinet!

I expect Labour to get a bounce in the polls and Cunliffe to get a honeymoon. But he will want to eat into John Key’s support, not just the Greens. Taking from the Greens will mean nothing. He must rip into the centre.

I worry about the expectations Cunliffe has raised amongst his supporters. He has signalled a strong left-wing agenda which I’m not sure even he believes in.

I think DC believes in getting elected!

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Hipkins gone

September 16th, 2013 at 12:10 pm by David Farrar

Will it be one whip or both whips who go? Hipkins is Senior Whip and Fenton Junior Whip.

A fair enough move. A new leader should be able to have whips that they have full confidence in. This does not mean Hipkins will not remain in the Shadow Cabinet, just that he won’t be Senior Whip.

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More on babies in Parliament

May 21st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Kate Chapman at Stuff reports:

Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta wants better provisions for breastfeeding mothers after she was forced to stay in Parliament with her young daughter until midnight on Friday.

The Business Committee, which oversees the running of Parliament, is set to consider the situation at its next meeting.

Parliament sat under urgency until midnight Friday and late on Saturday as the Government rushed through a raft of Budget-related legislation.

Mahuta was given leave on Thursday night and most of the day on Friday, but she was required to be in Parliament from 9pm until midnight on Friday.

Labour whip Chris Hipkins said Mahuta didn’t have to be in the debating chamber, just the parliamentary buildings.

That is a key revelation. Mahuta could have remained in her office with her baby. There was no requirement at all for her to be in the chamber. So the question has to be asked, did she go down in the chamber with her baby just as a publicity stunt to protest having to be in Parliament at all at that time?

I’m all for MPs being able to take babies into the House, but it is important to note that MPs are not required to be in the House for votes. They merely have to be in the parliamentary precinct.

But Mahuta said it was “silly” she had to take her five-month-old daughter Niua-Cybele to work that late just to make up numbers.

She had raised the matter with Speaker David Carter and Hipkins and expected something to be done.

“I was concerned that provisions weren’t made for nursing mums during urgency in terms of leave numbers … no child should be in the workplace from nine till midnight,” she said.

I understand (my source may be wrong) that Mahuta in fact offered to do the Friday shift. That she was originally rostered on for Thursday, and wanted to swap. So again I am not sure that Mahuta was forced to be there on Friday night.

Now don’t get me wrong. being a working mum is damn hard, and a working MP mum harder than most. I would expect that party whips would do everything possible to give one of their 25% proxies to an MP who is caring for an infant for late night sessions. But we do not know the full details of why Mahuta was rostered on for Friday night. As I said, I understand she was originally rostered on for Thursday, and did a swap.

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key does not believe Parliament’s hours should be reduced to make it more “family friendly”, saying having children while in Parliament was “challenging but do-able” and it was up to each party to ensure nursing mothers had the support and time out needed.

Unless there was a huge explosion in the number of MPs with infants, the 25% proxy allocation to each party should be more than adequate to allow parents with infants to have flexibility with their hours.

Speaker David Carter is considering introducing special leave provisions for nursing mothers after Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta was in Parliament with her baby until midnight on Friday because of urgency. She told the Speaker it was unfair to expect nursing mothers to be in Parliament late into the night.

Mr Key said it was up to the Speaker to decide on any new rules, but it was possible for parties to arrange leave to give priority to those who most needed it, such as nursing mothers. Parties can have one quarter of their MPs away at any time without losing votes in Parliament.

He said it was up to the Speaker to decide whether to formally allow women to take babies into the House.

It isn’t just up to the Speaker. He can not unilaterally change standing orders. The standing orders committee would need to recommend a change to standing orders to change the proxy rules, and the House would need to agree to it – probably by way of a sessional order.

In terms of whether infants are allowed in the House, the rules seem unclear. I can’t find a Speaker’s Ruling on this issue. The preferred approach would be to amend standing orders to make it clear this is allowed, but in the absence of an explicit change I think the Speaker can show some common sense discretion. However let’s be very clear – ultimately the rules of Parliament are not decided by the Speaker, but by the House. He is the House’s servant, not its master.

Labour whip Chris Hipkins said Ms Mahuta had been given significant amounts of leave but there was extra pressure on leave during urgency. Ms Mahuta had agreed to work on Friday night after she was given leave for Thursday.

Oh I should have read this article first. This backs up the point I was making above. Mahuta chose to work Friday night instead of Thursday.

He had taken her off the speaking roster after she told him she had to bring the baby to Parliament.

So again, her decision to go down to the House with her baby was a voluntary one – presumably to gain publicity.

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Labour says early childhood centres are unsafe

May 14th, 2013 at 7:37 pm by David Farrar

In Parliament today:

Chris Hipkins: … but I am concerned about students’ safety from being in classrooms with unqualified, unregistered teachers …

Hon Nikki Kaye: Is the member saying that children in early childhood centres are unsafe? Is that what the member is saying? Is that what he’s saying to every single child in an early childhood centre.


Go read the full transcript but Chris Hipkins clearly says he believes early childhood centres are unsafe because they also can have unregistered teachers.

Is there no end to the scaremongering?

What is especially appalling is to make such claims when we’ve just had the case in Northland of dozens of kids abused by a registered teacher.

Hipkins would have you believe that charter schools will be staffed with pedophiles who have been sacked from state schools. Nonsense. The law allows them to negotiate a proportion of their teachers to be unregistered with the Ministry of Education – if there is a good reason for doing so. There will be the odd exceptional person who can be of great value who may not be a registered teacher. I expect once charter schools are up and running, the number of unregistered teachers will be very low.

Also worth recalling that organisations such as Teach for America send tens of thousands of top graduates into schools in low income communities to help inspire and improve learning outcomes. Their graduates are basically all “unregistered” yet many studies have shown they achieve better results.

Anyway back to the main point – Labour is telling parents that their kids are unsafe at early childhood centres. What horrific deplorable scaremongering.

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Good to know

April 18th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Hipkins blogs at Red Alert:

I’ve made Labour’s position on the future of charter schools very clear – there isn’t one. We will not guarantee on-going funding to any charter school established under the present government, nor will we necessarily offer them integration into the public system. The legislation allowing for their establishment will be repealed.

I’m glad Labour is so clear in stating that regardless of how well charter schools perform, how many under-achieving students they assist, how popular they become, that Labour will close them down regardless.  Parents need to know that Labour will not let any amount of success, stand in the way of appeasing the unions.

Recall these facts on charter schools in New Orleans:

  • The Harvard Business School found 19 of the 20 highest performing non-selective schools were charter schools and “The overall percentage of schools performing below the failing mark of 60 fell from 64% in 2005 to 36% in 2009″
  • That the biggest supporters of US charter schools are African-Americans at 64%. Only 14% of African-Americans oppose charter schools.
  • That the overall performance of all schools in New Orleans has improved from 56.9 in 2004 to 70.6 in 2009.
  • 82% of parents with children enrolled at public charter schools gave their children’s schools an “A” or “B”, though only 48% of parents of children enrolled in non-chartered public schools assigned A’s or B’s to the schools their children attended
  • The Cowen Institute finds significantly higher test scores in charter schools in New Orleans than non charter schools
  • That 78% of students in New Orleans have chosen to attend charter schools
  • That prior to charter schools, 96% of the city’s public school students were below basic proficiency in English and “In 2002, only 31 percent of fourth graders were deemed at or above basic in English/language arts. By 2009, that number had swelled to 59 percent.”
  • The Democratic Mayor of New Orleans says charter schools have meant “the achievement level of the kids in the inner city is now beginning to match the kids on the statewide level in a very, very short period of time”
  • The Mayor also says “Before Katrina, the graduation rate was less than 50 percent. Now it’s more than 75 percent. Test scores are up 33 percent.”

One can see how desperate Labour is to stop charter schools at all costs. Imagine what it could do to union membership, if charter schools in New Zealand did as well as they have done in New Orleans!

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Hipkins on payouts

March 13th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

In Parliament yesterday:

But we heard about the issue of Lesley Longstone and I just want to raise that with Chris Hipkins who has been particularly interested in that issue. I want to take him back and remind him of when he was Victoria University Student Association President and what he said back then about a $42,000 package to get rid of a former vice-chancellor. I quote from the New Zealand Herald in 2000: “Victoria University Students Association President Chris Hipkins said while he did not like the idea of paying people to go away it was money well spent.”

What a change of tune from Mr Hipkins. I am sure that quote will be remembered when he next expressed outrage over a contractual payout.

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I pledge $1,000

February 28th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Paul Easton at the Dom Post writes:

Just a few days after getting a promotion, Labour MP Chris Hipkins has received the chop from his leader David Shearer.

Mr Hipkins was shorn of his red locks this morning to raise money for a cancer charity.


David should have left it hard down. Then Chippie would look the part to be MP for Rimutaka :-)



Looking like a younger Trevor Mallard :-)

While the general consensus was positive, Mr Hipkins was not so sure when shown the results.

”Oh my goodness, it’s really short. What have I done?” he said.

Mr Shearer also had concerns.

”I just hope I can get the red hair off my suit,” he said.

Heh, he may need decontamination.

Mr Shearer revealed he had pledged to have one Labour MP a year shave their head for the cause, Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

He hoped to line up a woman MP for next year, he said.

”I had a word to Annette King last night, but she wasn’t too impressed.”

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, who watched on from the sidelines this morning, also seemed less than keen on the idea.

If Jacinda takes the place of Chris next year, I’m pledging $1,000 in advance to the cancer charity! :-)

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Caption Contest

February 27th, 2013 at 11:37 am by David Farrar

Shearer Hipkins

Hat Tip: Keeping Stock

As always captions should be funny, not nasty.


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How to fix school payroll problems

February 8th, 2013 at 7:31 am by David Farrar

Peter Creswell blogs at Not PC:

Yet again another Novopay pay round has been labelled a shocker, as “the Ministry of Education fielded hundreds of calls from school staff either not paid or underpaid by Novopay yesterday.”

As you might have noticed, a ministerial inquiry is about to be established to inquire why the centrally-planned, centrally-governed, one-size-fits-all system failed. 

Perhaps the first question to be asked is ‘why is such a system is even necessary?’

Schools have their own pay administrators, who currently spend around half their time making up calculating pay and the other half trying to remedy stuff-ups by Novopay. Why on earth not have them simply pay the staff from the school’s bank account, without any need at all for a centrally-planned, centrally-governed, one-size-fits-all payroll system?

Why not?

Because perhaps the second point to contemplate is that the problem with Novopay is not specifically a software problem at all.  I suggest instead it’s exactly what you’re expect of a centrally-planned, centrally-governed, one-size-fits-all system.

I agree. Rather than have all teachers employed by the Ministry of Education and paid by them, I’d have each school responsible for employing their own staff and paying them. If a school wished to used a centralised system such as Novopay they can, or they could use another SAAS system, or local software as they see fit.

It would also mean each school would have flexibility over how much they pay their teachers, within their overall funding.  They could pay a great teacher twice as much as a poor teacher.

Chris Hipkins blogs against performance pay at Red Alert:

There are some excellent teachers working really hard in schools where the students are struggling. They get incredible results, and often the students in their classes learn a lot more in a year than a child at a school with better test scores, yet because the kids are still behind some of their peers at the end of the year, these schools are labelled as ‘failures’. Why would a great teacher work their guts out at a struggling school when they could get more ‘performance’ pay by working in a school that wasn’t struggling?

This is not an argument against performance pay. This is an argument against measuring performance on the basis of test scores, rather than student improvement. It is a red herring. No one who argues for performance pay says it should simply go to the teachers whose students get the highest grades.

As Kelvin points out, there is a lot more to teaching than making sure kids hit an arbitrary and narrowly focused set of standards. The fundamental problem with ‘performance’ pay for teachers is that a narrow range of student achievement statistics alone aren’t a reliable measure of how good a teacher is. Can we do a better job of rewarding great teachers? Undoubtedly. Should we provide more incentives for teachers to undertake professional development and continually strive to be better teachers. For sure. Will ‘performance pay’ based on student achievement help achieve these things? No.

Again, no one I know is arguing for performance pay based purely on student achievement. The problem is Chris thinks performance pay has to be like the current pay system – based on one centralised collective scheme with defined criteria for extra pay to be based on.

I’d make each Board and Principal decide how to allocate “performance pay” in their schools. The school community knows who the great and not so great teachers are. I knew it when I was a pupil. Almost everyone knows it. Some teachers have a marvelous gift for connecting with pupils and some teachers just can’t do it no matter how hard they try.

Performance pay will never work as a centralised system based on what marks your students get. It can work as a flexible system where principals can reward the teachers they know make a huge different to their students and whose loss to the school would be a disaster. This is a subjective local decision, not a rigid central decision.

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Attacking public servants

February 6th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Hipkins attacked the appointment of Sir Maarten Wevers to the Novopay Inquiry as not being independent as he is a former head of the Department of PM and Cabinet.

Chris, of all people, knows that DPMC is scrupulously neutral and serves all Governments with total professionalism. They are totally different to the PM’s Office which is political.

Inventory at Keeping Stock blogs:

We thought more of Mr Hipkins than this small-minded affront to a respected public servant’s integrity. Sir Maarten  Weevers was appointed as head of the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2004 when Helen Clark was Prime Minister. Prior to that he had been a career diplomat who had served New Zealand with distinction both domestically and overseas, and during periods in which both National and Labour governed the country. He was also Private Secretary to PM David Lange at one point in his distinguished public service career. Sir Maarten retired from his DPMC role last year.

However Chris Hipkins slights all public servants  with this indirect attack on Sir Maarten’s integrity. It is a disgraceful slur by Hipkins, which we roundly condemn. Almost all public servants manage to achieve political neutrality and separate their personal and political beliefs from their work. Sir Maarten Weevers has proved that by serving New Zealand’s two most recent Prime Ministers in an apolitical manner.

I can’t think of anyone more independent than a former DPMC head. Probably a former Cabinet Secretary only (who reports to the DPMC head).

The irony here is that Chris Hipkins has history with Novopay that he is anxious to re-write. We blogged back in November that the first Novopay contract was signed when Chris Carter was still Minister of Education. And when it was put to Hipkins on the telly last week (we can’t find the video, unfortunately) that he had been involved when he was a ministerial advisor prior to entering Parliament in 2008, he was very quick to change the subject.

Heh I’m sure he was.

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Hipkins on Lockwood

January 24th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Hipkins blogs at Red Alert:

At some stage over the next few weeks, possibly as early as next Thursday, parliament will elect a new Speaker. As an opposition MP I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but we’ll be sad to see Lockwood Smith go. As Speaker, he has raised the bar in terms of ministerial accountability in the House. His most significant ruling, that when asked a straight question ministers should give straight answers, has changed the whole nature of Question Time. That ruling will remain in place long after his departure, although whether the new Speaker has the ability to implement it with the same precision and diligence is yet to be seen.

Just before Christmas, Lockwood raised the bar again, this time relating to ministerial accountability outside the Debating Chamber. Under parliament’s rules MPs are also allowed to ask written questions of ministers. There are a lot more of these and they don’t always receive the same level of attention questions in the House do. But they’re a vital information channel for the opposition, and they’re another way we can hold ministers to account for their performance and the performance of their departments. …

But the effect of this ruling will extend well beyond this one instance. If the new Speaker maintains this new high standard, the improved level of accountability we’ve seen at Question Time will extend beyond the walls of the Debating Chamber. That’s a good thing.

I’ll blog more fully on Lockwood’s achievements and legacy when he steps down as Speaker, but I thought this post by Chris Hipkins was worth highlighting. It’s not often the Senior Opposition Whip would be so laudatory of a Speaker.

I agree that Lockwood has done an excellent job in improving accountability of the Executive.

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Hipkins and Hughes

January 18th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Two more MP profiles in the Herald. First Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins:

What have you found most rewarding about the past year?

One of the career pluses for me has been questioning Hekia Parata [Education Minister] in Parliament over the Christchurch schooling stuff. I was able to translate a lot of concern amongst the schools being affected into questions and subsequent action in Parliament.

I think this show Chris’ background as a parliamentary staffer and straight into being an MP, that he cites question time as a highlight!

What MP outside your party impresses you?

I would say Chester Borrows [National, Wanganui] but I would have to say in brackets other than the fact that he closed our local Hutt courthouse. He is a thoroughly decent human being. I worked with him on the justice and electoral select committee when he was the chair of that and I found him to be very, very fair and able to do the job without letting the politics get in the way.

Very generous words by Chris.

Do you have a bill in the private members bill ballot?

I do. I have a bill that would require the government to produce their documentation and legislation in plain English. There is an international guide around plain language. Legislation has been passed in other jurisdictions, in the US for example, which means the general public should be able to pick up any document or piece of legislation and understand it without having to have someone decode it. It means you steer clear of bureaucratic language and jargon and acronyms and you basically write in such a way that anyone can understand.

Sounds good in principle, though I wonder if a law is needed. It does remind me of some years ago where there was some bill called the paperwork reduction bill, and the advertisement for submissions on it called for 20 copies of your submission to be mailed to the Clerk’s Office! Very ironic. Luckily now most submissions are electronic.

And Green List MP Gareth Hughes:

What have you found most rewarding about the past year?

Personally, it has been watching my kids grow up. Arlo is 5 now and Zoe’s 2. I guess politically it has been trying to put the issues of fracking and deep-sea oil drilling on the agenda. I think that well and truly is a bit of an issue nationally and we’ve seen the likes of Petrobras pull out which I think has come, in part, because of that public pressure we’ve seen.

I like the answer about the kids. Fracking is on the agenda, and thanks to Gareth we now better understand the huge economic and environmental benefits of fracking – as seen overseas. I’m not sure this is the result he wanted though!

Do you have a bill in the private members bill ballot?

Yes, I’ve got a number I have developed. I’ve got a Copyright Amendment Bill in there which would give Kiwis the ability to use parody and satire which is something we don’t have compared to many other countries. Under the Copyright Act there are a number of exemptions [for copyright] such as for literary criticism or for using for the news. Unfortunately parodying or satirising something isn’t a defence under the Copyright Act.

I’m supportive of this bill. It would bring us into line with other countries such as the US where parody and satire have a fair use provision.

What’s one of the best shows or concerts you’ve been to in recent years?

I’ve really enjoyed Public Service Announcements at Bats Theatre in Wellington. They’ve done three seasons where they just parody politics over the previous month or so. It’s rewritten. They have political characters and they have the mickey taken out of them. The last one was all about David Shearer getting advice from Russel Norman and reminiscing with the ghosts of Lange and Muldoon. I’ve had brief cameos in all of them.

That was a very funny play.

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Treasury costs

December 5th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Treasury’s spending on consultants is set to log a 1000 per cent increase over five years, figures reveal.

The Government’s economic adviser is meant to play a leading role in delivering cost savings as part of the Government’s Better Public Services policy.

But figures uncovered by Labour MP Chris Hipkins reveal its spending on contractors has soared since National took office.

Treasury shelled out $1.968 million on consultants in the 2007-08 year. It is expected to spend $21.927m in 2012-13 – up $19.959m, or 1014 per cent, which Mr Hipkins says is “gob-smacking”.

Sounds appalling, but wait there is a catch.

In this financial year $17m will be paid to consultants on the state-owned assets sale programme.

In other words a non business as normal expense. An expense related to a $5b sales programme. Comparing that to other years is classic apples and oranges.

What I focus on is the overall cost of Treasury. I’m not too fussed about how they split their spending between staff and consultants. You inevitably need both. What is more important is their overall level of “business as normal” expenditure. The Vote Finance Analysis says:

Baselines decrease by nearly $15 million in 2012/13 in comparison to the previous year due to:
• lower forecasted expenditure for the implementation of the mixed ownership model by $15 million
• removal of one off 2011/12 funded initiatives including Better Services for Less – Pipeline Funding of $3 million and and for work associated with accountability and funding arrangements to implement an
investment approach to the benefit system of $1 million
• reduction in funding of $2 million for the management and administration of Crown Guarantee Schemes, and
• a $2 million reduction for efficiency savings and the removal the Government subsidy for KiwiSaver and SSRSS employer contributions.

These baseline decreases are offset by:
• an increase of $5 million, attributable to the shared services for finance, human resources, information management and information technology being supplied to the Department of the Prime Minister and
Cabinet (DPMC) and the State Services Commission (SSC), and
• a transfer of efficiency savings of $1.500 million from 2011/12 to 2012/13 for banking tender and business improvements projects.

So not quite the out of control monster portrayed by Chippie.


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New Lynn v Hipkins

November 23rd, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The New Lynn Labour Electorate Committee have said:

Statement by the New Lynn Labour Electorate Committee

November 21, 2012

The New Lynn Electorate Committee of the Labour Party, at a special meeting called today, voted unanimously to express its full confidence in its Member of Parliament David Cunliffe. While acknowledging that this decision was within the prerogative of the party leader, the LEC noted David’s demotion with regret.

The LEC also resolved to raise with the New Zealand Council of the Labour Party concerns about recent public statements made by Labour’s Senior Whip, and the leaking of confidential caucus information by unnamed MPs following Tuesday’s emergency caucus meeting.

As these processes are now internal party matters we do not intend making further comment.

There is a lot of anger over those comments – more so than the demotion. A demotion can be reversed eventually. But having your Chief Whip call you “dishonest” and “disingenuous” are quotes that can never be shaken off.

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Labour’s Political Management

November 22nd, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Jane Clifton writes in the Listener:

Like a dozen plotters before him, David Cunliffe has today paid the price for believing, against all historical precedent, that he could mime his disloyalty, and not get into trouble because he didn’t actually utter the naughty words out loud.

For all that his supporters, inside and outside the caucus, are insisting that he did nothing wrong, he really and truly did the coupster’s equivalent of waving his knickers at disembarking sailors. He followed several of the bog-standard, by-the-numbers steps taught in Coups 101, to the point that he might have studied at the knee of Maurice Williamson, Brian Connell or Richard Prebble.

1. You make speeches with tacit but heavily coded inferences that if they made you the leader, you would introduce kick-butt policies that the incumbent is too gutless/politically unsound/incompetent to contemplate – carefully omitting specifics.

2. You tickle up edginess among the many anxious party supporters who are panicking at what they perceive is a lack of progress in the party’s profile and poll fortunes.

3. You agree to a live TV interview on the morning of the party’s annual conference debate about the rules for electing the leader at which you conspicuously avoid expressing support for the leader.

Jane is right that DC did play a bit too cute at times with his speeches and his failure to appear more supportive of Shearer. However as Jane notes, this demotion is different to other ones:

It was easy enough for past perpetrators of disloyalty like Chris Carter, Brian Connell and Maurice Williamson to be dogboxed. At the time of their treacherous outings, they weren’t particularly valuable contributors to the big picture – or even useful low-profile Cinderellas. But the backbenching of Cunliffe is a massive loss for Labour. …

Of course, the uncomfortable corollary to Shearer’s no-brainer decision to dogbox Cunliffe is that the wider party is by no means of the same mind as the caucus. The flavour of decision-making at the weekend’s conference made this very clear. This remains both a risk for Shearer and an opportunity for Cunliffe. A lot of the party activists have bought the line that Cunliffe is the party’s criminally unrecognised saviour, and what they will doubtless see as his crucifixion today will intensify Cunliffe’s support base.

I’ve been thinking about how this all came to unfold. The catalyst was Cunliffe’s lines at the Labour Party conference, and this got me thinking.

Why in God’s name hadn’t all Labour Party MPs been given clear talking points about what to say regarding the leadership, for the conference?

I mean, the main focus of the conference was about the rules for electing the leader.  Did no one think that a journalist or two might ask some questions about where MPs stand on the leadership? Did the fact several bloggers and commentators on the left called for Shearer to go not ring a bell in the Labour Leader’s office that maybe some journalists will ask questions?

It is an absolute failure of political management that someone very senior didn’t make sure that all Labour MPs had very clear instructions on what to say if the media ask them how they will vote in February. And most of all, an absolute failure that someone had not sat down with David Cunliffe and negotiated acceptable wording for him. Cunliffe may have been ambitious, but if some lines had been negotiated in advance I believe he would have kept to them. MPs know a failure to stick to an agreed position is political death.

Some may say that is being wise with hindsight. That’s nonsense. I’ve been a parliamentary staffer through several coups. I’ve seen press secretaries spend hours negotiating exact wording of positions with MPs so they can keep their future options open (No aspiring leader ever wants to give a Shermanesque denial that they will never ever stand for the leadership) but minimise any speculation that they are seeking it now. I saw this negotiated with Bill English when Jenny Shipley was leader. I also saw (more from a distance) the negotiations when Don Brash resigned involving Key, English and Brownlee. By being pro-active on it, it meant that leadership changes were relatively orderly.

Even the stupidest political staffer should have worked out that it would be a good idea to negotiate exact talking points with David Cunliffe (in fact the entire Labour caucus) before the conference. And even if the Chief of Staff somehow overlooks this most basic step, then surely the Deputy Leader (who used to be H3) or the Chief Whip (also an experienced former staffer) should have thought of this.

All they had to do was give to caucus a set of acceptable lines to be used in case people asked about the February vote. If they had, then this sacking may not have happened.

So it begs the question. Was the failure to do so incompetence or deliberate?

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Pathetic claims over a second cousin

October 10th, 2012 at 11:55 am by David Farrar

I’m sorry, but how is this even news? Stuff reports:

A new Christchurch school, which will be run by a relative of Education Minister Hekia Parata, is waiting on government approval.

The school, Te Pa O Rakaihautu, was endorsed by the ministry just weeks before work began on the overhaul of the city’s education in October last year.

It is understood the final application is lodged and awaiting approval. Te Pa is chaired by Parata’s second cousin, Rangimarie Parata Takurua, sparking accusations from Labour of a conflict of interest.

I know it is the opposition’s job to try and invent scandals, but this one is pathetic.

A second cousin?

Can anyone out there tell me they seriously think a second cousin is a conflict? How about third or fourth? I’m not sure even a first cousin would be. Hell, I haven’t even met all my second cousins.

It will be a character school, which is similar to a charter school. Both are state-funded and have the power to develop their own way of teaching.

Te Pa was endorsed in September last year by former education minister Anne Tolley before Parata took over the education portfolio after the November general election.

So what is the issue, and why is this even worth the space?

Labour associate education spokesman Chris Hipkins said there was a clear conflict of interest that should have been revealed.

He said the ministry was working to “clear the decks” for privately run schools.

This is a public school! The Labour paranoia against the private sector is infectious.


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The pre-ballot

September 20th, 2012 at 12:37 pm by David Farrar

Chris Hipkins blogs:

 Today at midday there’ll be a ballot for members’ bills, with two places available on the Order Paper. A preliminary ballot will be held to determine which of the following bills will be entered in the main ballot:

20. Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill – Hone Harawira
22. Education (Food in Schools) Amendment Bill – David Shearer

In my view, the Clerk’s decision to conduct a preliminary ballot to determine which of these two bills, which have similar aims, goes into the ballot is the wrong one. While the goals of the two bills are similar, the means of achieving them a very different. The test needs to be whether the bills are substantially the same in their ‘content’, not whether they are the same in the outcome they seek to achieve.

For example, if two bills were put up around the transportation of goods from Wellington to Auckland, and one sought to do so via rail and one via road, if we used ‘outcome’ as the criteria for determining whether they were the same, only one bill would go in the ballot, yet clearly the bills are very different in their content. We’ll be relitigating this for sure, but for today at least, only one of these bills will make it into the ballot.

You can see the full list of bills in today’s ballot after the break. I’ll post the results just after midday.

Update: Hone Harawira’s Bill made it into the ballot and the following were drawn:

Conservation Natural Heritage Protection Bill – Jacqui Dean
Electricity (Renewable Preference) Amendment Bill – Charles Chauvel

Heh, no wonder Labour are annoyed. Imagine if Hone got his bill drawn on what they are trying to make their signature issue.

I wanted to look at both bills, to see if I agree with Hipkins that the bill are different enough to let them both go through. My gut reaction is you trust the Office of the Clerk who have no political motives, but they are not infallible.

But Shearer’s bill is not on the parliamentary website. I don’t know why. Maybe it was only finished this morning. Hone’s bill is here. Hopefully Shearer’s bill will go online at some stage, so we can judge for ourselves.

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The Lusk fixation

April 17th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour seem to have an obsession with Simon Lusk. Trevor Mallard has been blogging on him for over a year, and then in a rush of blood to his head (or somewhere) decided he was the secret leaker in the ACC saga. Never mind that the ACC Minister hasn’t spoken to him once in the past year.

As Trevor’s defamation defence will be based on proving his wild theories had a semblence of credibility, he set his assistant defence counsel Chris Hipkins to work. Chippie filed no less than 259 written questions to Ministers on Mr Lusk. Putting aside the cost to the taxpayer of their paranoia, his fishing expedition was very wide. He asked every single portfolio Minister the following:

Has he or his representatives had any written communication with Simon Lusk within the last six months in his Ministerial capacity; if so, on which date or dates and what was the nature of the communication?

Has he or his representatives had any oral discussions with Simon Lusk within the last six months in his Ministerial capacity; if so, on which date or dates and what was the nature of the discussion or discussions?

Has he or his representatives met with Simon Lusk within the last six months in his Ministerial capacity; if so, on which date or dates and what was the nature of the discussion or discussions?

One or two Ministers are yet to reply, but from what I can see 100% of the responses are “No”. So Trevor’s defence strategy is looking pretty shaky.

Plus anyone who knows Simon knows that at this time of year the last thing he worries about is politics. His main activity is being out on a grassy knoll with a high powered rifle looking for venison to go in the freezer.

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August 12th, 2011 at 9:35 am by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn blogs:

Parliament unanimously passed the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2) today, making some minor but necessary changes to our electoral administration. During the debate, Labour MP Chris Hipkins argued that we should be looking at introducing electronic voting. On Twitter, he asks for people’s thoughts on the issue.

I have just one: is he fucking mad?

The evidence from overseas is overwhelming: electronic voting can’t be trusted. The machines are black boxes. The software is proprietary. They may be run by people with partisan interests. And they’re hackable (not just in theory – in practice). There’s no way for the count to be audited, and no way to tell if the votes entered by voters are actually being recorded, or just sent to the bit bucket.

Electronic voting means putting elections, a vital part of our democratic infrastructure, in the hands of unaccountable, private entities, with poor security and no transparency. We’ll basically be relying on their goodwill that they won’t fix elections. Oh, and blind faith that they won’t leave a yawning security flaw allowing someone else to. As someone who takes democracy seriously, I don’t think that’s a very good idea.

I/S is thinking that the way the US did electronic voting is the only way. I have been pushing for some time that we should trial e-voting for one or more local body elections. Have the option to vote over the Internet, as well as a postal ballot. So no e-voting use of stand-alone voting machines – just use the Internet.

We do banking and tax over the Internet securely, and I am sure can do voting also. We even have a secure government login service which you can use to register companies etc.

And e-voting can be audit-able. Each person who votes can get an e-mail confirmation of how they voted. You could even audit a random sample of voters to ensure their record of voting matches the central record.

And one could have the code for the e-voting software released publicly, so that experts can verify that it is does what it is meant to do.

So I’m with Chris Hipkins. The time has come to at least be trialling e-voting. The logical opportunity is the 2013 local body elections.

UPDATE: The Government has responded to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee review of the 2010 local body elections. They have said:

  1. The Government will look at amending the Local Electoral Regulations 2001 to enable e-voting, with DIA to look into the merits and practicalities
  2. The Government will explore the option of making the Electoral Commission responsible for the oversight of local authority elections
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Another day, another smear

May 12th, 2011 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

Sigh, they just have not learnt from the H-Fee. This latest smear is, in my opinion, actually worse than the H-Fee smear. You see with the H-Fee I do credit that Mike Williams did at least have an honest belief that John Key was the evil mastermind of the H-Fee transaction as he got Key’s signature confused with someone else. So it was a clumsy incompetent smear – but at least one they thought was true.

The BMW smear is worse than that, Because Mallard and Hipkins know it is not true. The most simple of checks would establish the two companies named are totally seperate companies with no common share-holding.

Labour have basically alleged that a $50,000 donation to National from Team McMillan Limited was linked to the Government taking up the option (in the contract Labour negotiated) to upgrade the VIP fleet of BMW cars from BMW New Zealand.

I am amazed some media have focused on who signed off on what, rather than the far more important point that the two companies are totally seperate.

The company that did a deal with DIA is BMW New Zealand Ltd. Their sole shareholder is BMWHoldings B V in The Netherlands. The two directors are Guenther Seeman of Germany and Mark Gilbert of Auckland – the mananging director.

 The company that donated to National is Team McMillan BMW. Their two shareholders are MacFam  Ltd and Collins Asset Management Investments Ltd. MacFam Ltd is owned by Bob McMillan, Kerry McMillan, Ronald Jamieson and James Syme. Collins is owned by Cottisloe Holdings which is owned by Timothy Cook and Beverly Collins.

Team McMillan BMW did not benefit by one cent from the DIA decision. In fact they say they were unaware of it.

So the story is an absolute nonsense. But I suspect we will see lots more of these to come – Labour seem determined to run the same style campaign as they did in 2008.

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