Pundits on Goff

December 9th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

Phil Goff emerged from Labour’s caucus meeting yesterday claiming his MPs were unanimous in their backing of both the tone and content of his now-infamous “nationhood” speech. There is no reason to doubt him. Short of doing what is currently the unthinkable – toppling him – the caucus had little option but to weigh in behind their leader – in public at least.

I’m reminded of the old adage that anytime a Caucus feels the need to pledge unanimous support for a leader, the coup is not far off. Not as Armstrong says, this is not the case at the moment – but unanimous pledges of support are things best avoided.

There could be no halfway house. The priority was to present a united front to the world outside. That was evident in Goff and party president Andrew Little, who has acknowledged party members’ worries with aspects of the speech, entering the meeting shoulder-to-shoulder.

Given Labour is rating around 30 per cent support in the polls – 20 percentage points behind National – the party could not afford go into the summer recess amidst internal dissent and with questions over the leader’s actions unresolved.

Goff insists he was not playing the race card when he gave the speech. If he was not overtly playing the race card, however, he knew perfectly well that he was producing enough evidence – be it the use of loaded language like “porkbone politics” or the choice of a provincial city audience for the speech – to lay himself open to that charge.

Yeah I’d love him to make that speech at Ratana, on even in Wellington Central, rather than Palmerston North Greypower. Instead Goff says he is not going to talk about the topic again. Dr Brash had the sincerity of his convictions and was happy to defend his views from one end of the country to another.

The PM put it this way yesterday: the tragedy of Phil Goff was that he had made a speech he did not believe in and as a result the Labour Party no longer believed in him. Not quite. The party has to believe in Goff because for the time being it has no one else it can believe in.

What Goff’s advisors do not realise is that the speech did not have credibility coming from someone who has been an MP for around 30 years and a Cabinet Minister in the last Government.

Colin Espiner blogs:

What I found interesting was that neither Goff nor Little tried to deny that there had been discontent within the party over the speech – they simply used the usual political euphemisms such as “robust debate” and the intriguing comment that “the Labour Party is not a Stalinist organisation”.

Heh the missing words are “no longer” :-)

Ironically while Goff claims Labour is not “Stalinist” and has always vigorously debated issues, that actually isn’t true. It didn’t debate very much at all when Helen Clark was in charge, and that’s why Labour was so successful.

I’ve no doubt the party is probably a more relaxed and even pleasant place to be now that Clark and her iron-fisted rule have gone, but the free flow of debate and opinion can always be interpreted the wrong way if one isn’t careful.

That’s all I think has happened with Goff’s speech – at least, so far. No one is going to use this to challenge the leader, partly because no one else wants the job right now and partly because there are so many people in that caucus who think they are next in line that they’d never get any agreement on a candidate to replace him.

I’ve always said it is likely Goff will survive until the election, but it will be fascinating to see who stands after the election. At a minimum you could expect Jones, Cunliffe and Little.

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Espiner says Goff is playing the race card

November 21st, 2009 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner blogs:

Twice in the past week, Goff has played the race card, albeit carefully, by suggesting first that there was one rule for Harawira over his comments about white mo-fos and another rule for other MPs, and then raising the prospect that National’s proposed settlement with iwi over the ETS was based on ethnicity. …

Goff told Parliament he had never indulged “the politics of race” although I think he protested a bit much. He is clearly trying to send a soft dog whistle to Labour supporters who abandoned his party at the last election because they were fed up with precisely the sort of “pandering to Maori” that National could now be accused of.

It will interesting how far Goff is willing to go. I suspect it is considerably more. The irony is it may help them tactically short-term, but it is almost impossible for them to win the next election unless the Maori Party were to support them – they and the Greens would need to win 62, maybe 63 seats.

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Espiner on ACC

October 16th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Colin Espiner blogs on ACC:

I said I’d post something on ACC, so here goes. Oh dear, what a mess.

It’s hard to know where to start really. Is it all Labour’s fault for increasing entitlements but not premiums? Or the people at ACC, who seem keen to pay themselves large salaries but can’t apparently count? Or the recession? Or the fully funded model? Or all of the above?

When news first broke earlier this year of a hole in the ACC accounts, many of us – and I include myself – were a bit sceptical of National’s motivation, particularly given that excitable boy Nick Smith was in charge, and he is known for, well, exaggerating from time to time.

But the conspiracy theory peddled by Labour and the EPMU (i.e. Labour) that somehow this is all just a VRWC to derail the ACC, lower public confidence in it, and then sell it to the highest (or any) bidder just doesn’t ring true for me.

I can never work out if Labour is the political arm of the EPMU or if the EPMU is the industrial arm of Labour.

For starters, I can’t believe someone with chairman John Judge’s commercial background is going to put his reputation on the line just to help the Government push a particular political ideology. Judge is not going to claim that the very existence of the ACC is under threat if it’s not.

Second,  there have now been three relatively independent reviews of ACC’s financial position, and all of them have come up with the conclusion that it is in the poo.

I actually laugh everytime David Parker insists you can’t trust the Government’s figures, considering the last Government’s failure to mention the ACC blowout broke the Public Finance Act. This is not an area of credibility for them.

Third, there’s little doubt that the additions made to the scheme by Labour a couple of years ago – including things like lump-sum payouts for the families of suicide victims, and physiotherapy, simply aren’t affordable any more.

An employee on the average wage is now paying over $1,000 a year to ACC. That is a huge amount of money.

Having said all that, I do think Nick Smith has over-egged the pudding a little bit. At least some of the need for the big increases is because of the move towards fully funding the ACC.

Fully funding means that like a commercial insurer, ACC is required to hold enough in reserve to meet the claims it expects to have to pay out on over a given time. It has never operated like this before, but is now required to.

Originally this was to happen by 2014. The Government – and in fact Labour too – wants to push this out to 2019. You could question whether ACC should in fact ever be fully funded, but that’s another argument.

I want to cover this argument in detail one day. Michael Littlewood has written at length that a Government backed insurer does not need to depart from the old model of collecting enough every year to cover payments for that year.

The Government is also going to get some heat over the decisions it’s made, and so it should. The massive increases in levies for motorcycles seems grossly unfair to me, and smacks of National hitting a group of voters it doesn’t think are likely to be National supporters.

Sure, motorcycles are involved in more accidents, but how many of those were caused by car drivers? As a former motorcyclist myself, it was being knocked off my bike by some idiot in a car that prompted me to hang up my helmet.

Even under the changes, motorcyclists are being subsidised by other drivers. A motorcyclist is 16 times more likely to be involved in an accident. Not even if half are caused by motorists, that is still eight times more likely.

Ramping up motorcycle levies also flies completely in the face of all the rhetoric from the Government about reducing congestion, cutting carbon emissions, using less petrol, etc etc. Not to mention parking.

The purpose of ACC is not to incentivise people to cut carbon emissions, reduce congestion etc. You have other taxes and policies for that. The purpose of ACC is to cover the costs of accidents.

I hear National doesn’t have the votes to get the changes through Parliament yet, either, although it probably will manage it eventually because it’s cleverly set up a straw man in the form of even higher increases proposed by ACC that don’t require a law change.

Therefore if parties don’t vote for National’s bill, the Government can accuse them of agreeing to even higher imposts on the public. That is quite clever.

I don’t think it is clever. I think one should get 61 votes in favour before you announce the changes.

Also Whale Oil has a post on a payout to children of someone killed in an accident. I think there should be some initial support, but when did it happen that  ACC funds you until you are 18, if your parent dies in an accident. If your parent drops dead from a heart attack you get nothing, but if it is an “accident” you get ACC. The original scheme was about looking after people temporarily until they could work again – not social welfare.

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Espiner on cars and cellphones

July 27th, 2009 at 4:54 pm by David Farrar

A very good blog by Colin Espiner:

Why is Steven Joyce banning handheld cellphones in cars?

I remember his predecessor, transport safety minister Harry Duynhoven, agonising over this one. First he was for the idea, then he wasn’t, then he was again. In the end he never got around to it.

Joyce has picked this one up, however, and appears ready to push it through into law. The only debate seems to be over the size of the penalty. A $50 fine or $100? Demerit points as well? That could lead to loss of licence.

And the question I have is whether the banning of handheld cellphones in car has ever been proven to reduce the number of crashes? Does it actually lead to less use of cellphones or does it just criminalise hundreds of thousands of people and results in lots of fines? Or does everyone just swap to hands free cellphones which are reputed to be as distracting?

I hope the Government has some good research to back up their decision. I remain far from convinced.

But the fact remains that handheld phones are no more dangerous than talking on a hands-free. And, according to the research, less dangerous than turning to talk to passengers in the back seat, fiddling with the stereo, or eating in the car – all of which cause more accidents.

Surely some common sense is required here. You don’t (or at least you shouldn’t) reach for a cup of coffee while overtaking on the open road. You don’t turn to yell at the kids while turning at an intersection. And you wouldn’t pick up the phone while completing a bit of tricky driving or trying to park.

On the other hand, on a straight piece of road with little traffic or while chugging along in rush hour, it might be safe to make a quick call. It’s all a matter of judgment, which is surely what driving – and many other things – is all about.

Exactly. Even with a hands free phone I will often stop talking to someone while reversing. Or if the weather is really bad. Or the traffic difficult. But sometimes it is quite safe to talk on the phone. Encourage safer use of phones rather than try to ban handheld phones.

My fear is that by banning handheld cellphones the Government is treating the public like idiots who can’t be trusted to know when it is reasonable to use one. Speed limits and alcohol bans are one thing. Handheld phones are quite another.

If you are pissed, you are pissed for the entire trip. Most people only use the phone for a few minutes on a trip, and do judge when it is safe to do so. For example a quick call at the lights to say you are running late. That will now be illegal if done on a hand held.

I guess National must have polled on this issue, and maybe there isn’t much public outrage. Certainly I think most agree that texting while driving is pretty silly. But I would have thought Joyce would have bigger issues to deal with in his portfolio than banning something for marginal, and probably debatable, safety gains.

Given National was once lukewarm on this idea, I can only conclude a bit of official capture has gone on here, a bit like Kate Wilkinson over the folic acid in bread debate.

In the wake of any skillful public relations campaign, however, I guess it will be pushed through. I wonder, though, whether public resentment might start building once the fines start rolling in.

Public polls have (sadly) shown strong support for such a measure. But I think the Government should be careful here. No-one will vote for a party because they banned handheld cellphones in cars . But if tens of thousands of NZers get fined for receiving a phone call, let alone lose their license then they could well vote against the party that did it.

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Goff’s goofs

July 23rd, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I had to laugh at Labour List MP Carmel Sepuloni trying to insist on Breakfast TV that it had been a great week for Phil Goff.  It was like a finance company spokesperson trying to insist they were sound.

Where do I start. First the Herald reveals that Phil Goff did not tell them the sob story he fed to them, owned a total of three properties, and it was not the case of someone with no assets being forced out of their family home. It was just a case of someone being unwilling to sell their property investments for a loss. I hope this story appears in as prominent place in the print edition as yesterday’s story.

Now even before this episode was exposed, Guyon Espiner blogged:

Labour’s ill-judged foray into the benefit policy debate – offering the dole to anyone who losses their job regardless of their spouse’s income – is a strategic blunder which ignores these basic facts of political life….

Labour now claims it isn’t going to allow the dole to be paid to anyone, regardless of income. But that’s a back down because that is exactly what they were saying on Monday.

You could sense the desperation on Monday after the story was broken in the Herald. Goff had clearly blurted out the story too early because Labour party officials and MPs were scrambling to fill in the details as other media worked to follow up the story.

On Tuesday Goff was desperately trying to claim that he was talking about the principle of middle income people not missing out on welfare and not the details. All the more reason then for not announcing the plan until the details are worked through.

Guyon makes it fairly clear Goff personally blundered by making policy up on the hoof. Guyon also covers their banking inquiry:

I see Labour is having another go. Having failed to win a proper select committee inquiry into whether the banks’ interest rates are too high, they are teaming up with the Greens and Jim Anderton to hold their own “inquiry” – one with no standing, no authority and no power.

Essentially they’ll be sitting in a room, preaching to the converted. Looks like a gimmick to me. Looks like Labour hasn’t fully realised it was turfed out of power.

Indeed.Hat Tip: Keeping Stock

John Armstrong writes this morning:

This has been an especially awful week for Phil Goff. It is not just that the Labour leader has made two blunders – the first being a policy mishap and the second being caught out by failing to reveal pertinent information. It is that a pattern of bad judgment calls is starting to emerge. That will be causing his colleagues some serious concern.

The problem for his colleagues is the lack of options. After 2011 there will be options, but there are not yet.

Twice within the past two months, Goff has sought to cause National discomfort only to end up pinging himself by failing to disclose facts which ended up being revealed by his opponents to his embarrassment.

The first example was Neelam Choudary, the Indian woman who alleged former minister Richard Worth sexually harassed her. She turned out to be a Labour Party activist.

The latest example is a Helensville man, Bruce Burgess, who seemed the perfect example of the kind of middle-class distress Goff had been talking about when he floated a shift in Labour policy so the dole would be paid to redundant workers for up to a year regardless of the income of their partners.

There is a warning in Armstrong’s writing. Having twice sat on highly relevant information, the gallery is going to be far more suspicious of any information from Goff in future. His effectiveness will be reduced due to this.

Goff is kidding only himself if he thinks this new information would not change people’s perceptions of Mr Burgess’s predicament.

Labour knew Mr Burgess owned the properties. It should have dropped his case immediately it knew that. However, presumably Goff was blinded by Mr Burgess being one of John Key’s constituents. The Prime Minister had done nothing to help him. Goff could see the headlines before they appeared. Through his own fault, they have ended up being the wrong ones.

The information totally changed people’s perceptions. Just as Choudary’s identity did also. I actually felt a bit guilty, at the time, for blogging yesterday on the Burgesses as I felt sorry for them being on the verge of losing their only home. While still sympathetic they are in tough times, the fact they have two other properties means they do have options – far better options than most families.

If he fails to win in 2011, Goff knows his party will look for someone else to lead them into the next election. If he keeps performing in the fashion displayed this week his colleagues might start asking themselves whether they should not look elsewhere before then.

I think Goff is safe until 2011, again due to the lack of alternatives.

Duncan Garner also blogs:

Labour sat on the fact he owned three homes. To Labour it was irrelevant to its case – that hardworking Kiwis are missing out under National.

How many Kiwis can cry poor with three homes? It’s a bad look Labour – and I suspect you know it.

Can you imagine how Helen Clark, as Prime Minister, presented with this sort of information – would have acted?

She, and/or Michael Cullen would have not only crucified Burgess – but she or he would have damn well made sure John Key was cut into three pieces,

So Labour needs to go away and look at what it’s doing.

It needs to take a breather. Goff has been too damn keen this week. He’s cocked up. He’s acted like a cut snake.

And finally we have Colin Espiner:

Labour’s also attacking the appointment of former National leader Don Brash to the new productivity taskforce, calling him a stalking horse for privatisation. Goff says it will lead to a renewal of ideas soundly rejected at the 2005 election.

Actually, as Key pointed out in the House yesterday, National wasn’t “soundly rejected” at the 05 election – it only lost by the narrowest of margins. And it was probably the Exclusive Brethren that spooked voters more than National’s privatisation agenda.

Indeed. Mps who call Don “Lord Voldemort” may want to reflect on the fact he got only 2% less than Helen Clark in 2005, and that their references to him as such actually alienate a large segment of the population. Anyway back to Goff:

Goff had another terrible day in Parliament today after the case of poor old Bruce Burgess, a constituent in John Key’s electorate no less, who having worked hard all his life now couldn’t get any assistance from the state after losing his job.

Labour shopped the story to the Herald this morning, which ran it without question. Trouble was, poor old Bruce owns two rental properties besides his lifestyle block in a leafy part of Helensville – in other words, he has assets of at least a million dollars. Now, that doesn’t mean he isn’t suffering, but that wasn’t the picture presented to the public by Goff or the Herald this morning.

Also, according to the Government, Bruce is eligible for $92 a week state assistance – something that wasn’t pointed out earlier either.

Once again, an issue that should have run in Labour’s favour ended up backfiring badly.

So this is what Carmel Sepuloni calls a great week for Phil Goff. I’d love to see what she calls a bad week.

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Reaction to Foreshore & Seabed Report

July 2nd, 2009 at 1:36 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

It is still early days and things could yet unravel over the detail.

But if politics is the art of the possible, then Finlayson’s and Sharples’ independent panel’s revisiting of the vexed question of ownership of the foreshore and seabed lays the foundations for achieving the seemingly impossible – an enduring cure for a longstanding political headache.

The panel’s review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act – required under National’s confidence and supply agreement with the Maori Party – has set solid benchmarks within which the two parties can negotiate the provisions of legislation to replace the law.

Good faith negotiations is preferable to unilateral retrospective legislation.

The NZ Herald editorial:

Six years does not seem a long time in the sweep of history yet it is time enough for a change in the political climate. The recommendation the Government received yesterday to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act seems unlikely to arouse the heat and fear that greeted the Court of Appeal’s 2003 ruling on Maori customary claims. Public opinion is probably no less committed now than it was then to the principle that public access to coastal attractions must not be compromised. But the constant assurances of claimants that access is not at risk appear to have become generally accepted.

And it is helpful the panel has stressed that at length.

Vernon Small writes in the Dom Post:

Politically, the report is a triumph for Tariana Turia and the Maori Party, and the involvement of National in any deal should help limit any Pakeha backlash.

(It is often easier for a party to make radical changes outside its traditional ideological envelope. Labour was able to go much further with privatisation and free-market reforms in the 1980s, before the public rebelled, than National ever could. National was able to get the Treaty settlement process steaming ahead under Sir Douglas Graham in a way that might have raised suspicion if Labour had been in the driving seat.)

Time – and other more pressing issues, such as the economic crisis – have helped put the debate into context.

It is just such a shame for us as a nation that a court ruling which found that, in some rare cases, iwi and hapu could have a set of residual customary rights amounting to freehold title could ever have been allowed to generate so much angst – and racial and political heat – as this one did. The two basic principles – that legal rights should not be unfairly seized and that access to the beaches and freedom of navigation would remain a general right – should have been indisputable.

Colin Espiner blogs:

I’ve just had a very quick read through the Ministerial Review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, which has been released under embargo until 3pm.

It’s three volumes long and runs to hundreds of pages, but in a nutshell what is says is this: the Foreshore and Seabed Act is discriminatory to Maori and should be repealed.

Hardly a surprise, given the panel was hand-picked to provide just such a judgment by the Maori Party – indeed, Pita Sharples threatened to sack it if it didn’t come back with such a finding.

The panel is savage about the Foreshore and Seabed Act, calling it “simply wrong in principle and approach”, discriminatory, and indeed so unfair to Maori that it considers that a Crown apology is necessary.

I have a smile on my face as I think of the look on all the Labour MPs faces as John Key gets up and apologises on behalf of the Crown to Maori – not for something done 150 years ago, but for the actions of Helen Clark’s Government earlier this decade.

The panel recommends a national settlement that gives Maori customary title to the foreshore and seabed, alongside specific usage and access rights to local iwi depending on their claim. It says some form of public right to access and navigation also needs to be written in.

It says that in the meantime, an interim act of Parliament should be passed repealing the legislation, setting up the process for the new system, recognising both Maori title and public access issues, and allowing the Crown to hold legal title until the whole thing is settled.

It’s not a bad compromise, I have to say, and I’m actually pleasantly surprised. I’ve said before that a return to court could be a nightmare for all sides, and the whole thing would drag on for years.

The Government’s response in August will be interesting. Also interesting will be Labour’s response. Phil Goff has, to his credit, been supportive. However I hear one of his senior colleagues has been around the gallery trying to whip up reaction against the report. I wonder if Goff knows of this?

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Espiner on Mallard vs Lockwood

June 29th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner blogs on Mallard vs Lockwood:

Initially Mallard seemed to be suggesting taking a motion of no-confidence in the Speaker, but later said on his blog that Labour would “wait for a better case”.

I think he and his colleagues need to draw a deep breath and wait for a considerably better case.

Lockwood Smith is the best thing to happen to Opposition parties since Question Time was invented. He is easily the most fair, unbiased, and straightforward Speaker Parliament has had in years.

High praise.

In sports parlance, he’s a ref who plays advantage and isn’t always on the whistle. When Mallard took a frankly pathetic point of order yesterday to complain that Key wasn’t addressing the chair when he was speaking, but had his back to him, Smith shut him down quick-smart, saying he was more interested in what the Prime Minister was saying than how he was standing.

That’s what I like about Lockwood Smith. He doesn’t suffer foolish or pedantic points of order. He’s all but stamped out the tabling of press releases. He requires ministers to answer, not just address the question. And he doesn’t yell “order” every five seconds for some minor transgression.

For years people have used the ability to seek leave to table a document as a method of scoring an additional point. You would say something like “I seek leave to table the Minister’s press release of xx in which he says how poor people should move house”. Lockwood has no power to refuse to seek leave on behalf of a member, but often reminds the MP seaking leave to table such a document that the Standing Orders Committee has noted this is an abuse of standing orders as you should only seek leave to table a document MPs do not alreay have access to.

This has massively reduced such frivolous tablings, which means more time for actual questions and law making.

Overall, Labour should thank its lucky stars Lockwood Smith is the Speaker and quit moaning.

As a result, I think Parliament is a much more smooth-running and frankly democratic place.

Smith has thrown out far fewer MPs so far than his predecessor Margaret Wilson, and it was always odds-on that Mallard would be the one to finally go.

Colin is assuming that the Labour Opposition are glad to have a Speaker that has made Ministers more accountable and increased the public regard for Parliament.

I am not so sure that is a wise assumption. I would go further and suggest many in Labour hate the fact Lockwood is regarded so well by the gallery and those in the public who follow Parliament. Don’t think that Labour welcomed the changes Lockwood introduced. It was not only National Ministers who protested them. Senior Labour MPs on several occasions asked Lockwood to reconsider his new interpretation that Ministers must answer the question if it is a clear primary question with a potential factual response.

Hunt and Wilson were amongst the most partisan and well connected Labour MPs. They were tribal Labour. Imagine how galling it must be to senior Labour MPs to have even some of their own supporters talking about how great Lockwood is doing and by comparison how bad Wilson and Hunt were?

Those senior Labour MPs will also know that Lockwood’s forcing Ministers to answer questions will (ironically) actually help the Government as the sight of arrogant Ministers being asked “How many unemployed people are there” and refusing to actually give an answer is part of what creates the impression of time to go.

Finally the fact it is Lockwood that has proven so popular as Speaker will also chafe some in Labour. They opposed his nomination, and he has always been a target for certain Labour MPs.

So I think Labour are going to actively look for opportunities to try and attack Lockwood, and possible even no confidence him. They, I suspect, would be more than happy to go back to the old days, if they can.

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Espiner on Maori and Tertiary Education

June 22nd, 2009 at 9:30 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner blogs:

None of which stops Sharples from trying, however, and nor should it. I know that he should as an Associate Education Minister toe the Government line, but personally I expect Sharples to be a passionate advocate for his people. As long as Key doesn’t actually agree to this hare-brained idea, I’m happy for Sharples to push it.

For one thing, it’s good to have a debate about the place of education in our society, and remind ourselves that it’s pretty much the only thing that is going to get us out of the economic backwater in which New Zealand now resides.

Education is part of it, yes.

And it’s true that Maori participation statistics in tertiary education are appalling, and something needs to be done about it.

They are not appalling. They are in fact far superior to any other ethnic group in NZ. I blogged a few days ago on this, and the Maori participation rate is 50% higher than the Pakeha rate. Possibly Colin meant to refer to university participation rates only, but the terms are not interchangeable.

And even the university participation rate is not “appalling” – it is 80% of the Pakeha rate. I think Colin is too used to just assuming Maori health and education statistics are “appalling”, without checking them out.

I just think Sharples has the wrong end of the stick. There’s little point letting more Maori into university if they are simply going to fail.

Here I agree.

A better question might be why so few Maori make the grade to get into university in the first place. And I suspect that can be traced all the way back through the school system to early childhood and the child’s parents. I’m sure Sharples would argue that is all the system’s fault, and perhaps part of it is. Though I think Maori could probably shoulder some of the blame as well.

And here I absolutely agree.

As I say, though, the debate is a needed one. Just recently Canterbury University vice-chancellor Rod Carr had a good serve at the Prime Minister for cutting funding in real terms to universities and polytechnics, and I think this issue is going to become a hot topic in the months to come.

Personally I would rather the Government put the additional $750 million it shovels into the health black hole every year into tertiary education instead. I reckon it would pay huge dividends.

But here I disagree. If I had $750 million to spend I would put the vast bulk of it into early childhood education, literacy and numeracy at primary school etc.

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Espiner on Economy

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

Colin Espiner blogs:

Last night I was in Christchurch for a public meeting on the economy organised by The Press.

We had Prime Minister John Key along, plus Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce head Peter Townsend, Lincoln University chancellor Tom Lambie, Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon, Canterbury University vice-chancellor Rod Carr, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, Press editor Andrew Holden and me.

We packed out the James Hay Theatre (well, we only charged $5 a ticket) and for two hours we debated the economy – how bad was it, and what could we do to make it better. You could have heard a pin drop.

Not because the audience was asleep (we had electric buzzers fitted to their seats) but because nearly 1000 people had turned up to hear what Key had to say about the recession, and how to fix it.

That is an amazingly high number of people to attend.

The night was interesting for several reasons. It was good to hear the Prime Minister explain what he planned to do about the recession in words that didn’t have to be fitted into a seven-second television soundbite. Or in a dry speech to a chamber of commerce. Or in the heat of battle in Parliament.

And it reminded me that the public is interested in weighty issues and able to absorb them in relatively big chunks. They don’t need stuff dumbed down, and they do care about more than just day-to-day issues that obviously still concern them.

Did they learn anything? Well, they learned Key doesn’t have all the answers, although he does have a sound grip on what the problems are. He took a sound telling-off from Rod Carr about the lack of expenditure on education with good grace.

Wish I could have attended.

Key apologised for canning the tax cuts, though he said they would be back: “I believe in the power of tax cuts,” Key said, almost evangelically. He spoke of the opportunities that existed in China and India, the need to develop a “China strategy” to make it easier to do business in that part of the world, and to focus on human capital.

Key talked about food quality, water storage, regulatory reform, and the difficulty of doing more on less money. There was no silver bullet, but then I suspect there isn’t one.

Overall it was a pretty commanding performance on what is easily Key’s best subject, when you get him away from the sideshows and the distractions.

Good to see the reaffirmation of the importance of tax cuts.

And Colin quotes Key’s final words in what he calls one of his best public performances:

“I think that you get elected to concentrate on what actually matters to people. And in the end my perception is when you go down to the polling booth, you vote on whether the economy is going to be managed properly, whether your communities are safe, whether your kids have got an opportunity, whether New Zealand has a health system that really works, whether you feel like you’re actually going in the right direction.

“And all of the other stuff is just sort of white noise that bubbles along. And the risk for politicians is they get attracted to the white noise. It’s a bit like a bar fight, you know? Everyone watches it, hopefully you’re not involved in it, but actually not much changes.

“And when you go and have a look at political parties that have spent their life on those kind of salacious, scandal-based issues, their support never rises. Because you the voters want answers to real problems.

“What I say to the Cabinet on a very regular basis and to the caucus on a very regular basis is look, for as long as we stay focused on the issues that matter to New Zealanders, that we come up with solutions, that we’re honest with them, we’ll enjoy their support.

“And when we start thinking it’s about us as politicians, when we start losing track of what matters to you then actually I reckon you will boot us out.

“I can’t tell you whether that will be two and half years, or in five and a half years’ time, or eight and a half years’ time, or more, but what I can tell you is the simple, fastest way to get thrown out is forget why you were put there.

“And we were put there to make New Zealand a lot better. And that’s going to be my intention. And that’s what I’m going to deliver.”

An excellent initiative from The Press to have such a forum.

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R v Worth

June 4th, 2009 at 9:24 am by David Farrar

The Herald reveals some more details of the criminal complaint:

The person who complained to the police about former Government minister Richard Worth is an Auckland businesswoman, and her allegation is of a sexual nature.

Her identity is now fairly well known. She is a lawyer, which suggests a complaint alleging criminal offending would not be made lightly.

The alleged offending is, as I understand it, at the more serious end of the scale. But I do not have first hand knowledge of this.

The Herald has learned the woman approached a National MP’s office “to update the PM” after going to the police two weeks ago.

A friend of the woman said last night that she was distressed but pleased police were investigating.

“She has faith in the police process and trust in the Prime Minister that nobody is above the law,” the friend said.

The Herald has agreed not to reveal the identity of the woman, the friend, or her associates.

The friend said the Korean woman told him “she had reported to the police alleging inappropriate behaviour by a minister towards her”.

I hope the Police investigate quickly, but thoroughly.

Mr Key said his office was contacted by a third party on Tuesday last week, two days before the Budget.

A member of his staff had investigated, and Tuesday night this week was the first time he [the PM] had spoken to Dr Worth about it.

“I think I acted as fast as I could,” he said. “People are entitled to a degree of natural justice … It took some time to get all the information that was required.”

Considering the long weekend, I am not surprised it took a few days to gather the facts.

Mr Key said Dr Worth should use the two weeks of leave he started yesterday to consult family and friends on his future as a member of Parliament.

Dr Worth is a list MP who lives in Epsom. If he resigned from Parliament, he would be replaced by the next person on the National Party list, Devonport dentist Cam Calder.

If I was Cam Calder I would not be planning any overseas trips in the near future.

John Armstrong writes:

Messy, messy. Seeing Richard Worth being dumped from his ministerial role yesterday was like watching a slow strangulation as the nature of the allegation made against him became more and more apparent during the day.

Worth’s alleged sins are not going to damage the Government in any serious fashion. John Key has made sure of that.

By questioning whether the National MP can remain in Parliament even as an irrelevant backbencher, the Prime Minister has effectively quarantined his now-former Internal Affairs Minister from the rest of the National Party.

I agree. Also Key’s body language and tone makes it very clear that he is offended, even disgusted, by what is alleged.

What went awry for Key yesterday was his seemingly futile attempt to avoid disclosing the reasons for Worth’s “resignation”.

Which I was critical of also.

Key is proving to be an even tougher disciplinarian than his predecessor, Helen Clark. She fired plenty of ministers, but in most cases indicated there was a road back into the inner sanctum after a suitable period of penance.

Worth received no such reassurance yesterday morning. He has yet to be charged with any crime. But he was not given the option of a stand-down from his portfolios while the matter was investigated.

Quite the opposite. Key was blunt. If Worth had not resigned, he would have sacked him for failing to meet the high standards set by the Prime Minister for his ministerial colleagues.

Rough justice perhaps. But politics dictate that Key deal with the matter promptly and decisively. With some reservations, he has.

Yep. No stand down. No path back. In fact a strong suggestion that he should leave Parliament.

Colin Espiner covers a different allegation against Richard Worth that Phil Goff raised with John Key around a month ago:

Prime Minister John Key investigated claims that Internal Affairs Minister Richard Worth offered a woman a job for romantic favours a month before police began investigating other serious allegations against him. …

Key confirmed he had received earlier allegations that involved Worth making a nuisance of himself with women.

Labour leader Phil Goff said he had privately raised concerns with Key last month about allegations regarding Worth’s “inappropriate political … and sexual behaviour” towards a woman. It was a separate matter to the one currently before police.

“The allegations were essentially that Dr Worth had offered a number of different positions that were within his gift as minister to this woman, with the overtones that this was in pursuit of romantic ambitions,” Goff said.

“One was as an adviser and one was as a board member within the responsibilities of Dr Worth but the overtones were that he wanted to develop a relationship with her,” Mr Goff said on Radio New Zealand.

Goff had told Key there was evidence to suggest “inappropriate” suggestions were made in a series of emails and phone calls.

“Why I went to the prime minister is that I’d received a complaint from a woman that I knew, who is a member of the Labour party so I’ll put that right out front, but I didn’t believe her allegations were politically motivated,” Goff told Breakfast.

Goff did the right thing in raising the matter privately.He was also probably counting on John Key behaving better than Helen Clark did when she had an Opposition Party Leader raise an issue privately about a Minister (Prebble re Samuels) – Clark attacked the party leader for raising the allegation with her.

Key said he had investigated the complaints but decided there was no need to pursue the matters.

“I have had someone bring an allegation to me of that nature … and all I can say is I treated that allegation seriously. I investigated it and I was satisfied with the answers I received,” he said.

As I understand it, the later alleged offending is far far more serious than the earlier matter.  Goff says that the “overtone” of Worth’s conversations with the Labour Party member was wanting a relationship in exchange. This suggests it was not explicit and couldn’t be proven.

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Demonising Rankin

May 12th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Christine Rankin is a polarising figure, and her appointment to the Families Commission always going to be a bit controversial. Personally I still think the Commission should be abolished, but Rankin may do some good there. But what the hell is Colin Espiner on by writing the following:

Rankin has been divorced three times.

She recently married her fourth husband, whose former wife was found dead in her Wellington home six months ago.

Police said the circumstances of the death were not suspicious.

Bad enough to focus on her marriages, as if never being divorced is a pre-requisite. But what the hell does the death of the former wife of her husband have to do with it, except to almost imply she was responsible for the death.

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Espiner on Clark

April 14th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Colin Espiner writes:

The change of Government last year left Helen Clark feeling rejected. She couldn’t and still can’t understand why Labour lost.

Nor her colleagues.

Like her Australian counterpart John Howard, or former British prime minister Tony Blair, or any other number of world leaders (in democracies at least), Clark fell victim to the curse of not knowing when it was time to go. We all thought we had given her a fair suck of the sav, to use the Kiwi vernacular.

If a party wants a good chance at a fourth term, it should have completed a massive rejuvenation by mid way through the third term – including the leadership. And for such rejuvenation to be credible, you have to start it towards the end of your first term. I hope National retires around six Ministers in 2011.

Clark felt rejected by us. She couldn’t and still can’t understand why Labour lost. Why voters wanted a fresh face on the ninth floor of the Beehive. She had given blood, sweat, and even a few tears to the job. Why wasn’t it enough?

Clark always wanted to remodel New Zealand in the social democratic traditions of Western European democracies, where the same party remains in power for decades and the support parties revolve around it.

This is what they looked to have after the 2002 election. And then Don Brash and John Key came along and spoiled the dream. Hence why they introduced the Electoral Finance Act.

Clark was the most popular New Zealand prime minister of modern times. No-one else, since the advent of reliable and regular political polling in the 1970s, has averaged such a consistently high approval rating.

This is true – her Preferred PM ratings stayed strong throughout.

The newspaper is only the first draft of history, but it is doubtful Clark’s long-term legacy will be judged as that of a great prime minister.

Great leaders have a vision, and the ability to get people to follow them to it. Clark was always more the manager than the visionary.

However, her intellect, determination, energy, accomplishments, and devotion to her country means she is likely to be remembered as a very, very, very good one.

An interesting perspective from Colin. I’m actually planning to do my own review of her career achievements, and her strengths and weaknesses – will blog it later this week. I hope it will be seen as pretty fair – I won’t be focusing on policy disagreements, but on political management, vision etc.

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Espiner on Labour

March 17th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Colin Espiner blogs on Labour’s woes:

It’s recess here in Parliament. Labour is off on the West Coast “reconnecting with the community”, which is a nice way of saying it’s trying to find out why heartland New Zealand hates them so much.

Maybe that’s a little strong. Dislikes intensely. The West Coast went National for only the second time in 140 years last election, the last time being the rout Labour suffered in 1990.

And other strongholds such as Napier, New Plymouth and Auckland Central have also fallen.

Phil Goff should be an interim leader only, and would be if there was any serious challenger. But at this stage, there simply isn’t.

This is why I have money on iPredict that Goff will stay Leader during 2009. There simply is no alternative. His problems will arise when alernatives have developed.

And after a solid start to the year, it seems that Labour has lost its way somewhat. Its performances in the House have been lacklustre to say the least. Goff hasn’t been able to land a single blow on John Key in weeks.

Last week was particularly embarrassing. On superannuation, Goff seemed completely unable to hit the nub of the issue about National’s plans to cut contributions to the fund – to the point where John Key ended up both asking the question himself and then obligingly answering it.

Goff was a very competent Government Minister answering questions. But asking them is a different skill.

The only ones who can still needle National are Michael Cullen (normally on procedural issues, however, which aren’t much interest to anyone outside the Beltway), who’s off soon anyway, and Trevor Mallard, who’s – well, just annoying, really.

Heh.

It’s going to be a long road back, though, I think. There is talent further down the ranks, such as Jacinda Arden, Darren Hughes, Kelvin Davis, Clare Curran, Stuart Nash, and Maryan Street. But it will take time for them to gain enough experience to be genuine leadership contenders.

Cunliffe and Jones are the likely challengers at some stage, but neither option is seen as viable at this stage. In the not too distant future Little will be an option also.

I would not be surprised if one day Hughes rises to a leadership role – maybe Deputy. Street is a likely Deputy at some stage also. Colin has identified some of the new talent, but has missed out Grant Robertson who is also well thought of.

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Espiner on Foreshore & Seabed

March 5th, 2009 at 1:19 pm by David Farrar

I’ll start with Colin’s conclusion:

Key might think that we’ve entered a new age of multiracial harmony, and I’d like to think so too. But I’ll say this: National underestimates the depth of public feeling about ownership of the foreshore and seabed at its peril. If Key thinks that the public will be placated simply by being guaranteed access – and no longer having the beaches in public ownership – then I think he is, for the first time in his premiership so far, completely and utterly wrong.

First of all there is a difference between beaches and the foreshore. The foreshore is that part between low and high tide. Beaches tend to be the stuff above high tide.

Colin agrees with me that the outcome doesn’t look hard to guess:

Let’s be clear: the review of the act announced today is a jack-up. It has only one possible conclusion – repeal the Act. Why do I say that? Well, the panellists on the review are all sympathetic, to say the least, to the Maori Party’s cause: Judge Eddie Durie, a former chairman of the Waitangi Tribunal, which has slated the Foreshore and Seabed Act; Richard Boast, an academic specialising in Maori land alienation; and Hana O’Regan, daughter of Tipene O’Regan, a Treaty lawyer.

I think jack up is a harsh word, but make no mistake this is a panel that would regard the current law as the least favoured options. They still have to do the hard work of devising a more acceptable option.

There are a number of options that I can think of, if the law is repealed. First of all, it is worth remembering that the Court of Appeal set a high threshold for any claim to title. Something along the lines of continous customary use.  But what are the options for a Government if title was granted:

  1. Do nothing – it is for an area that the public never use anyway
  2. Offer to buy the title
  3. Negotiate an access agreement
  4. Offer a deal – title is exchanged in return for say some Landcorp land.

Now there are pros and cons of all those, and it isn’t quite that simple. But the point is there are several options that can be explored in good faith.

I await the work of the panel with interest.

I am also fascinated by how Labour will handle this. If Goff campaigns against any repeal, then they may lose significant Maori support – and any hope of getting some seats back. But equally it is a nightmare if John Key and Pita Sharples pull off a deal that works – that would just make Labour look so bad for not even trying to reach a deal before kneejerk announcing they will legislate.

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The Jobs Summit

February 28th, 2009 at 10:22 am by David Farrar

John Key will be pleased, I suspect, with the Jobs Summit. It appears to have indeed avoided being just a talkfest, and some actual initiatives have come forward for consideration.

What I also found interesting was the reports of how it engendered a sense of responsibility in participants that they all have a role to play. You had the Reserve Bank Governor and Treasury Secretary not just there to give speeches, but also actively working side by side in the sessions with participants.

The other interesting thing has been the almost unchallenged assumption that saving jobs is the foremost priority, as determined by John Key. So the Govt is willing to take on some more debt. The banks are willing to lend some more money, the unions (here at least) did not just press for pay increases, and the employers backed plans to reduce hours instead of jobs – despite the latter being a lot easier.

So what are the main ideas:

  • A nine day working fortnight, with the Government paying (but at leass than full wages) for training on the 10th day. Est to cost $320 million a year which is huge. However if it does keep up to 20,000 people in jobs, then you save a lot by not having to pay unemployment benefits and still collecting tax on their incomes.  Backed by Key, unions and employers
  • A $50 million cycleway from Cape Reinga to Bluff, employing 4,000 people (not sure for how long). Supported by Key as a tourism measure and Greens for obvious reasons. Not one of the formal top 20.
  • A multi-million or billion equity investment fund, with the Government and banks, designed to let companies access capital to grow.
  • A $60 million private-public fund to boost Tourism

Fran O’Sullivan praises the Summit:

Pairing Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe and Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly as co-chairs for the critical employment session proved to be a masterstroke.

Very decent of John, $60 milconsidering the anti-National ads that the CTU ran last year.

Well before the summit, Kelly and Fyfe had nutted out a range of policy ideas that are enticingly pragmatic.

One has to say also kudos to Kelly for her work.

Key’s decision to appoint Mark Weldon as summit chair also proved inspired, giving the talented NZX chief executive officer the opportunity to provoke other business leaders to be more creative in their thinking.

Weldon’s appointment was criticised by more than a few, but at the end of the day he delivered.

Colin Espiner blogs:

It’s been a very long day but I think a productive one.

I have to admit I was a bit of a cynic about the Jobs Summit. I’ve been to enough of these things to know that half the time they are a load of hot air, with competing egos and ideologies crowding out the room. At the time of the day some vague communique gets released and nothing ever happens.

Well, this summit was a little bit like that. But only a little. Whether it was the sense of impending crisis, whether it was the change of government, whether business and the unions are more prepared to listen to each other I don’t know, but I did get the feeling that for once, everyone seemed to be singing from the same page.

It is only a beginning. What will be interesting is how many of the ides get implemented in the Budget, or before.

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Why is National on 60%?

February 20th, 2009 at 1:05 pm by David Farrar

It is interesting to look at analysis of why National is on 60%. Of course there is a honeymoon factor in there, but let me tell you National in Feb 1991 was not on 60%!

Steve Pierson at The Standard thinks it is because John Key smiles a lot, and it is all because National has such a super smart PR team, that National is at 60%. I mean, hey they even turned his broken arm into a plus.

I think it is because John Key is Labour’s worst nightmare. He is a genuine unpredictable centrist. Now he is a centre-right centrist, but they can’t pigeonhole him as the typical “new right neo-liberal”.

Labour spent over a million dollars on ads last year telling NZers they can not trust John Key. It was the most personally targeted negative campaign we had seen. Why were they so desperate to have people think Key was not a centrist? Because they knew deep down he was, and that that is where elections are won.

Look at what the Gallery are saying. Tracy Watkins blogs:

It’s a new world order. But some people don’t seem to get it yet.

Trying to interpret comments by John Key about Fisher & Paykel in the context of the old arguments about Left and Right is about as useful as comparing a Toyota Camry with an ocean-going liner.

And Colin Espiner also blogs:

John Key just continues to surprise – and I imagine he’s surprising his own party and its backers as much as the public.

Generally when Roger Kerr from the dry-Right Business Roundtable starts writing articles criticising you just a few months into your first term in government, it’s because you’re a centre-Left government.

But in National’s case, it’s because they’ve got a leader and a Prime Minister who has pretty much torn up the rule book governing the political spectrum.

If Helen Clark shifted the paradigm of New Zealand politics during her nine years in power, Key seems to be intent on exploding it altogether.

Espiner also looks at how hands on Key is:

When Key caught wind that banks might be being a little stingy with their credit to businesses, he got on the blower to their chief executives and had a little chat. Imagine Helen Clark or Michael Cullen doing that?

And after Fisher and Paykel Appliances saw its share price plummet 40 percent in a single day yesterday, Key again reached for the telephone and called up chief executive John Bongard.

This is why I semi-jokingly refer to John’s Muldoonist tendencies!

Colin also notes:

Just one other example of Key’s newfound interventionist streak – the impending cricket tour of Zimbabwe by the Black Caps. Remember 2005, when the Labour government refused to intervene to stop NZ Cricket touring? It did stop the return series by declining visas for the Zimbabwe players, and I accept there were few stronger critics of the Mugabwe regime than Clark.

But Labour’s view was that to prevent the cricketers heading to Africa it would have had to revoke their passports, and that was a bridge too far.

Key doesn’t seem to have any such qualms. He pretty much said yesterday, and again on his way into caucus this morning, that the tour wouldn’t be proceeding. Asked if that meant revoking passports, he shrugged and said he was looking at all the options.

There’s a gutsy determination about him at the moment that reminds me very much of Clark in her earlier years, before she became worn down by the endless decision-making and sheer plethora of issues and controversies that enveloped her government.

I think it’s refreshing, as long as it lasts.

And this is why National is at 60%. Not because everyone loves National, but because they do love John Key. Only 4% of NZers thought he was doing a poor or weak job. That is incredibly low.

Labour and its allies need to realise they are dealing with a very different politician with John Key. He is an instinctive rather than ideological politician. Now his instincts are centre-right, but he operates by trusting his instincts and his skills to get good outcomes.

If people think National is at 60% just because John Key smiles a lot, then they are dramatically under-estimating him. Just as they did last year when they all said he would get whipped by Helen in the debates.

Now sure market purists like myself are wincing from time to time, as John does one of his interventions. But the battle for most of the public lies in the centre.

The challenge for Labour is how do they respond?

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Kevin Rudd’s Big Bang package

February 4th, 2009 at 5:00 pm by David Farrar

Colin Espiner seems impressed with Kevin Rudd’s big bang package of NZ$53 billion.

Yesterday Rudd threw the kitchen sink at the Australian economy, spending a whopping NZ$53 billion on everything from schools to home insulation to road repairs to tax breaks for businesses. Hell, he even doled out $12.7 billion in one-off cash bonuses for struggling low-income families.

It should be noted that Kevin Rudd had a healthy surplus. Michael Cullen left Bill English a decade of huge deficits. But also the Rudd approach is not without critics. The Asian Wall Street Journal notes:

From Washington to Tokyo to London, politicians the world over are using the global financial crisis as cover to extend their powers. In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is taking that tack a step further — he’s manufacturing a philosophy to justify his actions.

In an essay published in the February issue of the Monthly magazine, Mr. Rudd lays out his vision for “social capitalism”; a kind of halfway house between what he calls “extreme capitalism” and “an all-providing state.” “Whatever the nomenclature,” he writes, “the concept is clear: a system of open markets, unambiguously regulated by an activist state, and one in which the state intervenes to reduce the greater inequalities that competitive markets will inevitably generate.”

This is just the usual Rudd spin, or another name for Blair’s so called third way.

This is a vision for a greatly expanded state cloaked under the rubric of “free markets,” one in which Canberra would decide what inequalities were worth smoothing out and which ones weren’t. Australia had that model once; it was called the Gough Whitlam government. In the 1970s, Mr. Whitlam nationalized health and higher education, hiked public-sector wages, increased government spending and pandered to labor unions, a key Labor Party constituency. The result was one of the worst recessions in Australia’s modern history.

That’s why the Labor Party — the same Labor Party that Mr. Rudd belongs to — embraced truly free markets, trade liberalization and deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s. Those reforms underpinned 17 consecutive years of economic expansion.

Indeed the Australian Labor Party under Hawke and Keating did many good things. And Rudd’s record to date hasn’t been too bad – but he seems to be panicking.

Mr. Rudd makes only a passing reference to this record, acknowledging the Bob Hawke and Paul Keating Labor governments’ “ambitious and unapologetic program of economic modernization.” He goes further: “Neo-liberalism, and the free-market fundamentalism it has produced, has been revealed as little more than personal greed dressed up as an economic philosophy,” he writes. This is a far cry from the economic conservatism for which Mr. Rudd was elected in 2007.

Indeed, you never heard that on the campaign trail from him.

In his essay, Mr. Rudd uses the global financial crisis as a cover to attack his political opponents and talk up his own recent record. The opposition Liberal Party, Mr. Rudd writes, is “the political home of neo-liberalism in Australia” and bears blame for the current financial crisis, while Labor “has acted decisively through state action to maintain the stability of the Australian financial system.”

The irony is that Australia was better prepared to deal with the financial crisis because of its long record of liberalization and sound regulatory oversight. Australia wasn’t hit by a slew of subprime mortgage defaults or bank runs. Its problems came courtesy of muddled government interventions on foreign shores. Mr. Rudd’s Labor government reacted by guaranteeing bank deposits at taxpayer expense, banning short selling and proposing huge public spending programs.

The reason Kevin has so much money to spend now, is because unlike in NZ, he inherited a healthy economy. The bank deposit guarantee is not one I agree with the WSJ on, as almost all countries have been forced into that as a least worst option. As for increased spending – it depends on what the spending is for. Bringing forward infrastructure spending is desirable. Borrowing money to give cash handouts is not.

Milton Friedman once wrote: “What most people really object to when they object to a free market is that it is so hard for them to shape it to their own will.” It’s not necessary to read between the lines of Mr. Rudd’s essay to understand that that’s what’s going on here.

Very astute.

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Colin Espiner eating his blog

November 18th, 2008 at 4:52 pm by David Farrar

Watch Colin Espiner eat his blog. Very funny.

Colin blogs about it here, and Stuff has run a story on it.

Big thumbs up to Colin for being a good guy, and going through with it. I hope he had a good audience watching it live. Thanks to Whale Oil for converting it to You Tube so one can embed it.

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Lots of praise for Key Ministry

November 18th, 2008 at 11:34 am by David Farrar

There’s so many positive stories I don’t know where to start. Alphabetically maybe with Audrey Young yesterday:

Popular Westie Paula Bennett is the big winner as Minister of Social Development and Employment – one of the biggest jobs overseeing the biggest ministry with the biggest budget.

It has gone to someone with just three years as an MP who has drawn on the DPB herself in the past as a solo mother .

Key said it was not it risk. It is but it one worth taking. She proved herself an able politician quickly in opposition embarrassing plenty more seasoned MPs in Government in early childhood education.

Most people are celebrating Paula’s story of having been a young Maori solo mother, working all sorts of low paid jobs to earn some extra money, educating herself, becoming an MP, winning Waitakere and then becoming Minister of Social Development. It’s a great aspirational story. Alas, the bitterness has not ended with the election campaign, with Clinton Smith labelling her “thick as two short planks”.

Luckily for Labour, Phil Goff is showing his smarts. Goff has resisted the urge to criticise the Cabinet – knowing that doing so may just make him look churlish. He has said he’ll hold them to account, but will give them a fair go in the job.  I am starting to get quite positive about Labour under Goff’s leadership – the mea culpa over the EFA and now this.

Colin Espiner blogged:

John Key’s announced his new Cabinet lineup. It’s not a bad one, either. I think he’s picked through the talent available very well.

Colin also updates us:

On another matter, thanks to everyone who has posted suggestions on helping me eat my words. After much deliberation, I have settled on the suggestion provided by Lizbeth of making a “coalition smoothie” from my blog. I’ll be doing this on video in the press gallery kitchen on Tuesday lunchtime. We hope to have it posted on the Stuff website early afternoon.

Like John Key, I’m keen to try out my kitchen cabinet whiz.

I think Colin should invite the Maori Party MPs to witness it :-)

On the Greens G-blog, Stevedore blogs:

And Key seems to be giving it his best shot. The arrangement he has put together seems to reflect what people voted for. The cabinet he has announced looks a lot more diverse, fresh and representative than it threatened to be a few months ago.  The whole thing looks stable and consultative.  Which is exactly what MMP should provide.

Tim Selwyn at Tumeke provides lots of provocative commentary.

Barnsley Bill invents a new term – a SDMILF. Oh dear. Paula may need to warn the Diplomatic Protection Squad!

John Armstrong writes this morning:

The message is loud and clear: to survive as a minister in John Key’s Cabinet, you’re going to have to perform.

That will make a nice change.

Key has taken a less sentimental approach to Cabinet construction than previous Prime Ministers, with somewhat more emphasis on talent and ability and slightly less stress on loyalty and length of service.

Indeed. Although some appointments could still be seen as sentimental – but overall many fresh new faces.

The Herald has a summary of business and industry reaction, and lobby groups here.

The Herald editorial calls the Ministry solid and safe:

The line-up looks to be a good mixture of fresh faces and experience. …

As Associate Minister of Maori Affairs, Georgina te Heuheu will have a seat at the Cabinet table while the minister, the Maori Party’s Pita Sharples, will not. They will have to be in tune. So will Paula Bennett and Tariana Turia, minister and associate minister respectively of social development and employment. Ms Bennett, who has known life on a benefit, is the most unexpected of Mr Key’s appointment and perhaps the most inspired.

The Dom Post editorial calls it the bold and the new.

John Key has shown wisdom beyond his political years by tempering boldness with caution in naming his new ministers, The Dominion Post writes.

In opting for the promise of a Steven Joyce over the experience of a John Carter, Mr Key is reflecting his own rise to the top after only six years in Parliament. Time served is not an indication of talent.

However, neither has he left out in the cold any of those who would have reasonably expected to make it. There would have been dangers in doing that. Mr Carter, along with Maurice Williamson and Richard Worth, his fellow ministers outside Cabinet, have all been given a clear signal that this is as good as it will get.

But they have not been humiliated. Left to languish on the back benches, they could have devoted their time to sowing discord and undermining the leader who failed to give them anything else to do.

Being a Minister outside Cabinet is still a hell of a lot better than not being a Minister at all.

Mr Key’s decisions in allocating ministerial positions underline that he is seeking to advance his agenda through consensus rather than by bulldozing it through. The naming of his ministers is a good start to his administration.

Yep.

The only quibble is that he convinced himself he was unable to trim his ministry from a bloated 28. Maintaining an executive of that size means that his plans to reduce the Wellington bureaucracy will be greeted with a measure of justified cynicism.

I also wanted it less than 28. But as one can see, there were enough upset MPs anyway. Technically his promise is to keep the Wellington bureaucracy from growing further, so keeping the Executive the same size is consistent.

Martin Kay in the Dom Post provides useful commentary on each Minister.

An odd report in the ODT, with Dene Mackenzie bizarrely labelling the Cabinet a move to the right. Dropping Lockwood Smith and Maurice Williamson from Cabinet is as far from a move to the right as you can get. Replacing Judith Collins with Paula Bennett is Welfare is not a move to the right. Giving Bill English infrastructure is not a move to the right.

So when Dene says:

His new Cabinet, which will be sworn in tomorrow, shows a bias to the Right despite moves during the election campaign to position National as a centrist party.

could someone ask him for an example?

The ODT editorial is better:

The immediate response is that Mr Key has continued in his briskly positive mode and got the balance about right.

Now comes the difficult part: moulding this executive into an effective and harmonious team able to put longstanding differences aside and address the many issues facing the country – not least the recession and the international financial crisis.

If anyone inspires confidence with his experience and economic competence it is Mr English, on whom much of the burden will fall.

Overall, very positive responses.

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Espiner to eat his words

November 13th, 2008 at 12:45 pm by David Farrar

Colin Espiner is blogging regarding his words just before the election:

I’ll go further. I’ll say this: the Maori Party will not go into a coalition government with National. If I’m proved wrong after the election, I’ll print out this blog and eat it, live on webcam.

Note that I’m not saying the Maori Party won’t offer confidence and supply to National (although I think this, too, is highly unlikely) or that it wouldn’t consider abstaining to allow National to govern. But I believe a coalition is out of the question.

So will Colin be eating his words literally?

His first defence:

One, it’s extremely unlikely there will be a coalition between National and the Maori Party. If anything, it will be a confidence and supply arrangement with ministerial seats outside Cabinet. That, by the definition of the last Labour-led government, was not a coalition arrangement.

On that defence, I am not convinced. People can play around with the words you use to describe an arranagement, but if you get to have Ministers in the Government, that is an effective coalition. If ti looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck it is a duck.

His next defence:

Two, the context of the blog was that if the Maori Party was in a position to hold the balance of power, it would not go with National. This, of course, hasn’t happened; National doesn’t need the Maori Party but is seeking to do a deal anyway. That takes a great deal of the pressure off the Maori Party to make a choice that could alienate its supporters.

Colin is on stronger ground here. Certainly I understood his earlier blog piece to be talking about the scenario where the Maori Party get to choose. That was indeed the context for it. However, Colin did make a mistake by not making that context explicit.

So what is the outcome?

The point is, I have sufficient wriggle room to avoid having to eat my blog.

But this would make me no better than the MPs I criticise daily for the same flip-flops.

Therefore, in the interests of fair play and because I’m not afraid to admit I don’t get everything quite right, I will, if the Maori Party signs on the dotted line on Sunday, eat my blog as promised.

Here’s where you come in. Send me some suggestions about suitable accoutrements, sauces, recipes, etc, to make the experience a little more palatable for me.

I’m leaning towards shredding it and mixing it into an omelette, but I’m open to suggestions.

Give me your ideas, and if the deal is done I’ll whip something up in the press gallery kitchen early next week. I will, of course, video it and post it right here on my blog so you can all watch me eating my media lunch.

I presume Colin will only be eating the one offending page. He’ll get sick if he does much more than that. I think chocolate sauce would help – everything goes down better with chocolate sauce!

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Espiner predicts National victory

November 7th, 2008 at 10:15 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner blogs his final thoughts:

It’s all over bar the shouting. As the parties wind up campaigning with a final flurry of handshakes and campaign rallies in Auckland tomorrow, the final polls have come in and the verdict is unanimous: National should win on Saturday.

I say “should” because National has the polling in its favour, it has the momentum, and it is riding the “time for a change” mood that still exists, despite Labour leader Helen Clark’s claims that it has evaporated in the wake of the financial crisis.

Even TV3’s usually Left-leaning TNS poll puts National in the box seat, and actually has Labour’s support down rather than up. It appears as if Mike Williams’s trip to Australia last week to dig dirt on John Key might end up being more costly than Labour had budgeted for.

You know how damaging it is when Helen is on TV saying people should realise they are voting for her, not Mike Williams. Wow that is crapping on him from a big height. They should also realise that Williams is one of her closest friends, her personal choice for party president, the Labour Campaign Manager, in touch with Helen several times a day and she knew all about his attempted smear tactics.

But in Key she met her match on the campaign trail. He was relaxed, friendly, polished, and did not make the sort of blunders Labour was counting on. He surprised Clark by bettering her in the first television leaders’ debate and confidently held his own in the next two as well, blunting Labour’s major advantage in the campaign – Clark’s debating skills.

That first TV debate was a defining moment. It made a huge difference.

In the last few days we’ve had another secret tape, but I have to say that the outing of the taper’s identity as Kees Keizer, a Left-leaning man with links to the Green Party, has done Labour more harm than good. Even though the party was not directly involved, it looks a little desperate. I understand there was another tape – of John Key himself – but either TV3 has chosen not to air it, or Mr Keizer is concerned about a potential backlash from handing it over.

There is immense anger about the vile little tactics of Keizer. Not just from the political right, but those who are not political. And I think Colin is right – this little campaign has backfired on the left.

To give credit to the Greens co-leaders, they did do a press release yesterday explicitly stating they do not condone the use of secret tapings such as Keizer did. Labour has refused to condemn the tactis, and indeed they seem to have set their campaign strategy on the knowledge of what was on some of the tapes.

The balance of probabilities suggests that Key will be our next prime minister, and that we will know this on Saturday evening, without having to wait for the Maori Party to decide for us.

It would be good to have a clean result, so at this time of financial crisis, a Government can be formed quickly. I actually think National will have a better relationship with the Maori Party if they do not have to rely on their abstentions – because then any policy agreements will be based on genuine agreement that they are good policies to pursue.

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Espiner says no chance of Maori-National coalition

October 23rd, 2008 at 6:49 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner has been talking to Pita Sharples and on the basis of that conversation says there is no chance of a Maori-National coalition – a gutsy call:

Sharples wants to improve the lot of Maori. He wants to do this from a position of power, believing, unlike the Greens, that the best way to do this is from government.

But Sharples is a man possessed. He’s possessed by the knowledge that no matter what the Maori says or does during its current courtship dance with the National Party, his followers know only one party – Labour. He’s frank about this, and when you push him, he admits that the chances of the Maori Party entering into any sort of coalition arrangement with National is extremely unlikely.

I’ll go further. I’ll say this: the Maori Party will not go into a coalition government with National. If I’m proved wrong after the election, I’ll print out this blog and eat it, live on webcam.

That in itself should be incentive enough for such a coalition :-)

Note that I’m not saying the Maori Party won’t offer confidence and supply to National (although I think this, too, is highly unlikely) or that it wouldn’t consider abstaining to allow National to govern. But I believe a coalition is out of the question.

If Colin is right, then Helen Clark is going to be very happy.

At the end of our conversation today, Sharples conceded that it would be much easier for the Maori Party if Labour won the most votes on election day. He’d rather deal with Labour, too, I suspect. Even if Labour isn’t the major party, Sharples would look to a deal that included New Zealand First and the Greens first.

As a last resort, if the “other door” was completely shut, the Maori Party would talk with National, Sharples told me, but even then he was doubtful about whether the Maori Party’s supporters would back such a deal.

I am just imagining a Labour/Greens/Maori/NZ First Government trying to cope with the financial crisis and live within its means. More likely are huge tax increases.

So with two and half weeks of the campaign to go, it’s Labour, NZ First, the Greens, and almost certainly the Maori Party on one side. And National, ACT, and United Future on the other. ACT is probably good for four or even five seats, but United Future will be lucky to get more than one.

That means National needs to get very close to 50% of the party vote to have any hope of forming a government.

Or National has to agree to something that the Maori Party want – and that Labour won’t or can’t agree to. I’m thinking seabed and foreshore legislation here.

The maths is cruel, but there you have it. The polls mean very little against the reality of MMP. The only message National should be pushing now is this: If you want to change the government, you must party vote National. Virtually anything else (except ACT) will see Clark reinstalled in Premier House for a fourth term.

I agree that is the desired message.

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Reaction to Tax Cuts package

October 9th, 2008 at 6:59 am by David Farrar

In no particular order.

The Herald Editorial compares the parties:

There has been a striking contrast in the response of the two main parties to the disturbing news that after 14 years of budget surpluses the Treasury now calculates the public accounts are set for a decade of deficits. …

Finance Minister Michael Cullen merely congratulated himself again on having saved previous surpluses for a “rainy day” and looked forward to the problems it would cause for National’s intended tax cuts.

There was evidently nothing he thought necessary to change, either in his own programme of reluctant tax cuts that started this month or in the Government’s spending programmes that might have seemed affordable in better times. If Labour’s “rainy day” could last 10 years, as the Treasury forecasts, Dr Cullen and his colleagues seemed strangely relaxed about it.

In other words Labour has no plan at all.

The fiscal crisis is indeed the first real test of the mettle of leader John Key and his team and it is rare that voters get such a measure before an election.

National could have taken the easy option of confirming its previously indicated tax cuts, offering no specific savings in public expenditure and pretending that tax cuts would actually cure the deficit in quick time. Conservative parties are prone to that belief.

Instead, National has faced the need to balance its tax cuts with specified savings, notably the removal of business tax breaks on research and development and employer contributions to KiwiSaver. The wisdom of reducing the incentives to save is questionable but the courage is not.

And National is willing to take the hard decisions, and not pretend that the decade of deficits is acceptable.

Paula Oliver in NZ Herald:

National has risked alienating people who have embraced KiwiSaver, as the party goes into the election with a tax-cut package that would leave more money in the pockets of most earners – but takes away two business tax breaks to pay for it.

Mary Holm says the changes improve KiwiSaver:

The National Party’s proposed changes to KiwiSaver would considerably reduce two of the biggest gripes about the scheme – that some people can’t afford it and that it ties up savings. …

The contributions of anyone earning less than $52,150 would be tripled by employer and government input. And that means three times bigger retirement savings. …

The reduction of the minimum employee contribution from 4 per cent to 2 per cent of pay means it would be easier to afford KiwiSaver, especially after taking tax cuts into account.

John Armstrong says it is a bit of a fizzer:

The door banged shut in Labour’s face following Monday’s mind-numbingly pessimistic economic forecasts. Labour can thank National’s underwhelming tax package for reopening it at least slightly.

Colin Espiner reports on a snap poll:

A snap poll for The Press yesterday showed National may have pitched the package about right.

The poll of 212 people by Futurescape Global found 43% felt the tax cuts matched their expectations, with 34% feeling it fell short. A slim majority of those polled felt the country could afford National’s package, but people were split over whether they were confident in National’s ability to manage the economic crisis, while 55% said the tax package had not altered their vote. The poll has a margin of error of 6.7%.

Brian Fallow sees a shortage of growth:

National claims its tax package will stimulate the economy in the short term and improve incentives and drive growth in the longer term.

The first claim is plausible, the second not so much.

Reducing the top tax rate faster will be better for growth long term, but quite simply the money was no longer there.

James Weir in the Dom Post surveys business opinion:

Business New Zealand also disagreed “pretty seriously” with the decision to drop R&D tax credits but said the planned tax cuts and target to cut personal tax rates to 33 per cent over time rated a “seven out of 10″ score overall.

The Press editorial is positive:

Even if tax cuts were not on the agenda, there is a case to argue that the levels set for KiwiSaver were too ambitious from the start. As it stands, some young people entering the scheme and earning the average wage throughout their working lives could end up earning more in retirement, when their National Super entitlements were added to their KiwiSaver earnings, than they did in their lifetime.

Yep, and that is daft. The 4%/4% KiwiSaver forced people on the average wage to save too much, taking money they need during their working life.

Clark has said this election will be one of trust. If this is so, then the question for voters will be who do you trust in the turbulent world we now face? With these tax cuts, and with some detail of its longer-term economic plans, National has placed its cards on the table. It has produced figures to show that its plans are fiscally responsible. Voters must decide whether Key and his colleagues can be trusted to deliver on them, or whether Labour can be trusted to manage difficult times as well as good ones.

Will Labour produce a plan? Or is Labour saying it will run a decade of deficits and not make any changes to tax rates or spending?

Tracy Watkins blogs:

A year ago, Key might have risked over promising and under delivering on those amounts.

But that was a vastly different world..

The failure to deliver more may peel off some soft support among those who were leaning toward National but, because of Working for Families, will not be a whole lot better off.

But the rest will probably agree with Key that it’s a package that’s right for the times.

So is it enough? You’d have to say yes.

And finally NZPA reports that least surprising news of all – that unions and political rivals don’t like it. Some get their facts wrong:

United Future leader Peter Dunne, who is minister of revenue, said it was complicated and would be difficult to administer.

“Superannuitants and low income earners are the big losers,” he said.

Bzzt. Wrong. By 2011 superannuitant couples will get $15 a fortnight more.

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Voting now open

September 30th, 2008 at 3:54 pm by David Farrar

Voting is now open in the 2008 Kiwiblog Awards. They close at 3 pm Friday 3 October. You can vote in the sidebar.

The most popular nominations in each category are:

MP of the Year

  • Rodney Hide – not even a finalist last year but a popular nominee for his campaign to expose Peters, amongst other things
  • Bill English – a repeat nominee – his year of picking apart the EFA was often cited
  • Pita Sharples – has become the Maori MP, Pakeha love to love, and helped position the Maori Party as Kingmakers.
  • Phil Goff – a China FTA plus a possible United States FTA endears Goff to many readers

Labour MP of the Year

  • Phil Goff was nominated by many but disqualified as the 2007 winner
  • Michael Cullen cited by many for his mastery of the House
  • David Cunliffe also impressed several with his determination to improve the Health sector
  • Winston Peters was nominated multiple times in this category, so who are we to stand in the way of the public!

National MP of the Year

  • Simon Power had the most nominations, having impressed with his constant highlighting of law & order problems, and also superb Chairmanship of the Privileges Committee.
  • John Key is still the country’s Preferred PM
  • Bill English was disqualified having won this category last year
  • Gerry Brownlee also often nominated for his take no prisoners methods in the House

Minor Party MP of the Year

  • Rodney Hide a popular nominee for many
  • Pita Sharples had 12 nominations in this category – will it be Minister Sharples in a few weeks?
  • Sue Bradford has had a quieter year than 2007 when she was runner up, but still gained some nominations
  • Hone Harawira also gained multiple nominations – the once reviled radical has been impressing a few people

Press Gallery of the Journalist

  • Audrey Young – Winston still has not apologised to her, but she was a favourite nominee amongst Kiwiblog readers
  • Duncan Garner – his “straight talking” doesn’t always win friends in Parliament, but has proven popular with some readers
  • Guyon Espiner – cool, clam and collected – the most viewed gallery reporter has some fans
  • Colin Espiner – the blogging journalist has many online fans

Public Servant of the Year

  • Grant Liddell – the SFO Director was a multiple nominee for doing what was right, regardless of what the Government wanted.
  • Owen Glenn – okay not technically a public servant, but many nominated him for having performed a public service.
  • Helena Catt – the Electoral Commission CEO wins the sympathy and nominations of many for having to try and work out what the Electoral Finance Act actually means, and for her willingness to criticise the law she has to enforce.

Enjoy voting.

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MPs survey of the media

September 29th, 2008 at 3:20 pm by David Farrar

Last week I set up an online survey for MPs, asking them to rate various media organisations and senior gallery journalists on a scale of 0 to 10. Just under one quarter of MPs responded, and the results are shown below.

As the media often rate how well MPs are doing, I thought it appropriate to reverse this and ask the questions in reverse. The media are a hugely powerful filter, and it is appropriate (in my opinion) to have some focus on how well they are perceived to be performing.

The questions were:

  1. For each media organisation please give them a rating from 0 to 10 for how well you think they do in their parliamentary reporting. This should take account of all relevant factors – accuracy, fairness, thoroughness, relevance, substance etc.
  2. Now for some individual senior members of the press gallery, please rate from 0 to 10 how well you think they perform at proving fair, accurate, unbiased and informative reporting on Parliament. You can skip any that you do not feel able to rate.
  3. Finally can you indicate your party grouping as National, Labour or Other. Your individual identity is not sought by us, and we have no way or interest in identifying individual respondents. However we would like to summarise results for all MPs and by the three groupings to see if they vary by party grouping.

It is important that these be read in context, so make the following points:

  1. This is the opinion of MPs only. It does not set out to be an objective rating, and should not be seen as such.
  2. MPs get reported on by the gallery. While this makes them the group of NZers potentially best able to have an informed opinion on the media (which is why I surveyed them), it also gives them a conflict of interest. MPs may score journalists lowly due to personal run ins with them, or the fact they are too good at their job! This should be borne in mind.
  3. I only e-mailed the survey to the 121 MPs, but it is possible that one or more responses was filled in by a staff member who has access to the MPs mailbox. I think this is unlikely, as most staff are very professional. However MPs were not required to prove their identity to vote, as confidentiality of individual responses was important. You need to know the Survey URL to be able to vote.
  4. National MPs made up 43% of responses, slightly above their numbers in Parliament. Minor Party MPs were also slightly over-represented, Labour MPs under-represented and some MPs did not give a party identification.
Media Mean Median Mode Minimum Maximum Range
NZ Press Assn 6.1 6 6 4 9 5
Newsroom 5.8 6 5 1 10 9
Trans-Tasman 5.5 6 6 0 8 8
NZ Herald 5.3 6 6 0 8 8
Scoop 5.2 5 5 0 10 10
Newstalk ZB 5.1 6 7 1 8 7
Listener 5.0 5 3 1 8 7
NBR 4.9 4 4 1 8 7
Radio NZ 4.8 6 3 1 9 8
Radio Live 4.4 5 1 1 8 7
Sky/Prime News 4.3 5 5 0 7 7
The Press 4.2 5 1 1 7 6
TV Three 4.1 5 6 0 8 8
Dominion Post 4.1 4.5 1 1 7 6
TV One 3.9 5 5 0 6 6
Maori TV 3.7 4 5 0 6 6
Herald on Sunday 3.5 3.5 7 0 7 7
Sunday Star-Times 2.7 3 3 0 5 5

NZ Press Association tops the rankings with a mean or average 6.1 rating – and received no very low ratings from anyone. The two Internet agencies were in the top five, indicating MPs like the fact their releases are carried in full. Trans-Tasman also does well.

Television generally gets ranked lowly with all four stations in the bottom half. Sky News actually ranks highest.

Radio is middle of the field with NewstalkZB being the highest ranked radio broadcaster.

The newspapers range the spectrum. The NZ Herald is up at 5.3, Press at 4.2 and Dom Post at 4.1. I would have them all higher, but this is a survey of MPs, not of my views.

Now the sample sizes are of course very small (but of a limited population) but let us look at how National MPs ranked media compared to all the other MPs:

Media All Mean Nats Mean Others Mean Difference
TV One 3.9 6.3 2.2 4.2
TV Three 4.1 6.2 2.6 3.6
Maori TV 3.7 5.2 2.5 2.7
Sky/Prime News 4.3 5.5 3.3 2.2
Sunday Star-Times 2.7 3.5 2.1 1.4
Radio Live 4.4 4.8 4.2 0.6
Radio NZ 4.8 5.0 4.6 0.4
Dominion Post 4.1 4.2 4.0 0.2
Herald on Sunday 3.5 3.5 3.5 0.0
Newstalk ZB 5.1 4.8 5.4 -0.6
The Press 4.2 3.8 4.6 -0.8
NZ Herald 5.3 4.2 6.1 -1.9
NBR 4.9 3.3 6.1 -2.8
Listener 5.0 3.3 6.3 -3.0
NZ Press Assn 6.1 4.3 7.4 -3.1
Trans-Tasman 5.5 3.3 7.1 -3.8
Scoop 5.2 2.8 7.0 -4.2
Newsroom 5.8 3.0 8.0 -5.0

National MPs ranked the four TV channels much higher than other MPs did. Maybe this is minor parties upset that they do not get on TV much?

Despite the generally accepted lean to the left of Radio NZ, National MPs ranked Radio NZ higher than other MPs did. And while some on the left attack the NZ Herald at favouring National, National MPs actually ranked them lower than other MPs did. The Listener and NBR also get accused of leaning right, but again get ranked lower by National MPs.

The Nat MPs also rated the online media very lowly.

Now the journalists. I decided not to list all members of the press gallery, but only those who are relatively senior, and are more likely to have a reasonable number of MPs have formed opinions about them. Looking back I could have included more.

If any journalist is unhappy about being missed out, happy to include you next year. Now again it is worth remembering these are only the opinions of those MPs who responded to my survey – it is not an objective rating.

Journalist Mean Median Mode Minimum Maximum Range
John Armstrong (NZH) 6.4 7 2 2 10 8
Peter Wilson (NZPA) 5.8 5 5 3 8 5
Audrey Young (NZH) 5.7 6.5 7 0 10 10
Ian Templeton (TT) 5.6 7 7 0 9 9
Jane Clifton (Listener) 5.6 6 6 2 9 7
Barry Soper (Sky & ZB) 4.9 5.5 7 1 9 8
Ian Llewellyn (NZPA) 4.9 5 5 1 8 7
Vernon Small (DP) 4.6 5 6 1 8 7
Colin Espiner (Press) 4.5 5 6 0 8 8
Guyon Espiner (TV1) 4.4 5.5 7 0 7 7
Tim Donoghue (DP) 4.1 4.5 2 1 9 8
Brent Edwards (RNZ) 4.1 4 4 0 7 7
Tracy Watkins (DP) 3.8 4.5 6 0 7 7
Duncan Garner (TV3) 3.7 3.5 3 0 8 8
Gordon Campbell (Scoop) 3.6 5 5 0 7 7
Ruth Laugeson (SST) 2.7 2.5 2 0 6 6

John Armstrong tops the ratings, followed by the NZPA Political Editor Peter Wilson. Generally MPs ranked journalists slightly higher than media organisations. As can be seen by the minimum ratings showing, some MPs were very harsh handing out zeroes. Did WInston multiple vote? :-) (Note I have no idea if Winston did vote)

And once again we compare responses between National MPs and other MPs.

Journalist All Mean Nats Mean Others Mean Difference
Laugeson 2.7 4.2 1.6 2.6
Clifton 5.6 7.0 4.5 2.5
Soper 4.9 6.2 4.0 2.2
Campbell 3.6 4.8 2.8 2.0
Edwards 4.1 4.8 3.5 1.3
Llewellyn 4.9 5.2 4.7 0.5
Young 5.7 6.0 5.5 0.5
Garner 3.7 3.5 3.9 -0.4
Espiner G 4.4 4.2 4.6 -0.4
Wilson 5.8 5.5 6.0 -0.5
Armstrong 6.4 6.0 6.8 -0.8
Watkins 3.8 3.0 4.4 -1.4
Donoghue 4.1 3.2 4.9 -1.7
Small 4.6 3.2 5.6 -2.4
Espiner C 4.5 2.8 5.8 -3.0
Templeton 5.6 1.8 8.5 -6.7

Again very interesting. The SST is generally seen as hostile to National, but Ruth Laugeson is ranked much higher by National MPs, than by other MPs. Likewise the Gordon Campbell and Brent Edwards (both left leaning) are ranked higher by National MPs than other MPs.

Also for some reasons National MPs ranked Ian Templeton very lowly. Maybe they don’t like his weekly chats with Clark and Key, ignoring the lesser MPs?

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