A mischievous thought

July 9th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

How do we get David Cunliffe onto a marae, where he then says he is sorry for being a European?


Cunliffe won’t go if he loses

July 8th, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

My Labour sources have been telling me for some time that those who expect David Cunliffe to go, if Labour loses the election, are wrong. They say he has made it very clear that he doesn’t care about the support of caucus, so long as he has the unions and activists on side.

This poses a huge dilemma to Grant Robertson if Labour loses. He massively has the numbers to roll Cunliffe. In fact under Labour’s rules, Cunliffe needs a 60% confidence vote, otherwise the leadership is vacated. If they have a caucus of 34, then just 14 MPs voting against will cause a vacancy in December.

However if they roll Cunliffe, and Robertson stands against him, and loses again, then Robertson may never become leader. He won’t get a third chance. So the Robertson Camp are genuinely unsure whether to risk rolling Cunliffe come December. Up until a few weeks ago they were assuming he would do a Clark and Goff and resign if he loses. But as reported in the Herald, he won’t:

Labour leader David Cunliffe says he expects to get the 60 per cent endorsement of caucus that he will need in a confidence vote soon after the election even if Labour loses the election.

Mr Cunliffe has also indicated he would seek to stay on as leader if Labour was still in Opposition. The party’s rules require a caucus confidence vote within 3 months after an election at which the leader must get at least 60 per cent support.

Asked if would expect to get that endorsement even if Labour was still in Opposition, he said “I think that’s quite likely.”

This helps explain why Cunliffe no longer has a target of getting 40% of the vote, but is now saying he just wants to get Labour into the 30s:

Mr Cunliffe had originally said he hoped to lift Labour into the 40s in the polls, but it is currently polling at just below 30 per cent in most.

He denied he had since lowered that target, but refused to give a new target. “What I am clear about is that we wouldn’t have to get to 40 per cent to change the Government.”

He said he was certain Labour would get above 30 per cent – higher than its 2011 result of 27 per cent

So why such a modest target? Well, survival. If he does even worse than Goff, then the caucus will have no choice but to roll him. But if he can do even say 2% better than Goff and get say 29%, this allows him to declare he will stay on as leader, and tell his caucus if they roll him – he will not resign – and win the union and activists vote.


Maybe his tweet wasn’t a typo, and he is saying he will stay on as leader until 2041, if that is what it takes to finally win!

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Cunliffe on Key and Cunliffe

July 8th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Compare his and Key’s training and Cunliffe says there is a significant difference in their ideals despite similar boyhood backgrounds.

“There is a clear difference in the way that we think based on our professional training. He’s spent most of his life as a trader, which is by definition taking a series of bets on short-term positions, whereas my training at BCG [Boston Consulting Group] was in strategy … working back from your desired future to what you do tomorrow to try to get you on the best path.

One may nor may not agree with how Cunliffe positions himself and Key – one short-term and the other strategic. But let’s assume they’re correct.

Key is a chief executive type Prime Minister. He certainly does have a direction he pushes the country in, but his focus is in dealing with the multitude of problems that arise every week and month, and finding solutions to them. And to a degree, a lot of government is about trying to fix problems.

Cunliffe says he would be more focused on a strategy for NZ as a whole. That could well be true. But I’m sceptical of how well a country reacts to a top down strategy.

The reality is we are a small player in the world, and much of what happens in NZ is the result of forces well beyond our control. Also a country is not a company. The PM can’t decide for every single business what they should be doing. Hundreds of thousands of business owners and managers will be making those decisions for their own companies.

Now a Government can come in and say we have a strategy for NZ. It can be the Greens saying we’ll invest billions into a global renewable energy industry. It can be Labour saying they want forestry and dairy to sell more high value products than raw products.

But are Governments the best people to decide? We sell what people are willing to buy off us. I have a fair degree of faith that if there was money to be made in selling windfarm technology to the world, or finished wood products, rather than logs, then there would be dozens of Kiwi companies doing just that.

So as someone sceptical of the power of Government, I don’t see it as a bad thing to have a Prime Minister who isn’t trying to force his strategic vision on NZ businesses – but instead focus on removing roadblocks as they emerge.

If people really convinced they have the right strategy for NZ businesses, then I’d rather they go and set one up themselves, rather than try to impose a strategy on other businesses.

Also Rodney Hide points out a key ingredient of being a trader:


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Domestic violence is not exclusively a male problem

July 8th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

There is a very interesting longitudinal study of families done by Otago University on the issue of domestic violence.

I should preface these extracts by saying that when it comes to the most severe forms of domestic violence – being killed or maimed by your partner or ex-partner, its is clear that this happens to women, by men, far more often. But what does the Otago study find for overall domestic violence:

In addition, victimization and perpetration reports were highly correlated (r = .81). This reflects the fact that, in most instances, respondents reported mutual IPV, with 90% of those reporting IPV victimization reporting IPV perpetration, and 94% of those reporting IPV perpetration reporting IPV victimization.

There were no significant differences between males and females in terms of reported IPV victimization. The mean victimization score for females was 2.12 (SD = 2.91) compared to the mean of 2.28 (SD = 2.71) for males (p > .40). However, there was a significant difference between males and females in terms of reported IPV perpetration, such that females reported higher levels of IPV perpetration. The mean perpetration score for females was 2.15 (SD = 2.26), compared to a mean of 1.66 (SD = 2.04) for males (p < .01).

That’s what you call an inconvenient fact.

In terms of the CTS victimization subscale measures, 11.3% of males and 7.3% of females reported being exposed to minor physical assault; 7.7% of males and 3.4% of females reported severe physical assault; 65.7% of males and 66.1% of females reported minor psychological aggression; and 15.4% of males and 9.2% of females reported severe psychological aggression. For the CTS perpetration subscale measures, 6.7% of males and 5.5% of females reported committing minor physical assault; 2.8% of males and 3.2% of females reported severe physical assault; 56.7% of males and 68.7% of females reported minor psychological
aggression; and 6.9% of males and 9.2% of females reported severe psychological aggression.

So males are more likely to suffer a severe physical assault.

Now the reality is that most men and stronger than most women, and the impact of a serious physical assault can be both physically and psychologically more damaging, even terrifying for a woman. So this paper doesn’t minimise the horrendous impact on women, of serious assaults. It just establishes that domestic violence is far from exclusively something men do to women – in fact 90% of those who get victimised by domestic violence, also perpetrate it, according to this study. Now that is not 100%, and many people suffer domestic violence, who never ever engage in it itself. But the study shows they are the exception,  not the rule.

The report authors conclude:

All research into IPV is conducted against the backdrop of what Dutton (Dutton, 1994; Dutton & Nicholls, 2005) has described as “the feminist paradigm” (p. 682). This model, which dominates public discourse about domestic violence, views violence through a gendered lens that centers around the assumptions that: (a) most domestic violence involves male perpetrators and female victims; (b) female violence is defensive and reactive; and (c) the causes of domestic violence reflect the values of patriarchal social structures in which violence is used to control women and limit their opportunities (e.g. Bograd, 1988; Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Dobash, Dobash, Wilson, & Daly, 1992; Johnson, 1995).

While this model has been highly influential in setting the directions of domestic violence policy, it is almost completely discrepant with the findings of this and a growing number of studies.

They point out:

While population survey data have tended to suggest an absence of gender differences, official data tend to suggest a predominance of male perpetrators and female victims. Reconciling these differences is central to a balanced understanding of the issues of IPV. The most straightforward resolution of the evidence is to suggest that, while males and females appear to be equally predisposed to domestic violence, because of greater male strength and capacity for aggression, males predominate in the more extreme cases of IPV represented in officially recorded statistics

None of the above should take away from the reality that too many men do commit domestic violence, and as a society we should make domestic violence as socially unacceptable as drink driving now is. That is what David Cunliffe very clumsily was trying to say a couple of days ago.

But apologising for being a man, was both stupid (you apologise for what you do, not for what you are), but also missing the wider picture of domestic violence.

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Cunliffe on the Dotcom Party

July 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

From the interview on The Nation:

If Internet-Mana get there and you need their numbers will you use them to form a government or will you rule them out?

We’re not doing any pre-election deals with anybody.

I’m talking about a post-election deal. Will you work them in government? Voters want to know.

I’ve been quite frank with we will have our door and phone line open to whoever wants to change the government. I’ve ruled out the Conservatives, I’ve ruled out the Act party, I’m not ruling out talking to anyone else but frankly I’d be surprised to see anybody, perhaps other than the Greens and NZ First around the cabinet table.

You’re not ruling it out thought, you’re not ruling out Internet-Mana because I want to pick up on this, Phil Goff, one of your senior MPs, says that Internet-Mana deal is a rort and Dotcom is buying influence. Chris Hipkins calls them unprincipled sell-outs. These are your MPs. David Shearer says Internet-Mana is going to end badly. Stuart Nash calls him a discredited German. Yet you won’t rule out

I’m not here to defend Kim Dotcom or Internet-Mana. What I am here to do is to campaign for the Labour vote and to change the government.

It is very clear that Cunliffe is not willing to rule out Cabinet posts to the Dotcom Party, despite the views of his colleagues.

Now does that mean that Laila Harre and Hone Harawira could be ministers in a Labour led government or will you rule that out?

No, it does not.

Will you rule that out?

I think that’s extremely unlikely.

Extremely unlikely they’ll be ministers?

Extremely unlikely.

If anyone thinks Hone Harawira will happily sit on the backbenches, they don’t know him very well. He will demand to be Maori Affairs Minister, at a minimum.

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Herald on Cunliffe

July 5th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

One of the good things the NZ Herald does every three years is an extensive background piece on the Leader of the Opposition, and hence potential next Prime Minister. These stories take months to compile, but they are very useful at painting a picture of the person who may be the country’s next leader.

Their lengthy piece on David Cunliffe is here. It’s very interesting, and I especially like the section on him and Karen.

I am of the view that most MPs are in politics for the right reasons – because they sincerely think they can make NZ a better place. Around 10% to 15% are ratbags. The rest, one may disagree with their views and policies – but they are well motivated. I include David Cunliffe in this category.

While iPredict says he has only a 16% chance of becoming Prime Minister, a lot can happen in 77 days.

Here’s an extract from the article:

He met Karen Price, a law and music student, in the first week of the university year. Within six months they were engaged, a year later they were married; the bride was 19, the groom 21. They met at the “Knox [hostel] Hop” during orientation week. Her friend and his roommate went as a date and they tagged along as chaperones.

“I thought he was pretty dishy,” says Price. “He was tall, countryboyish with a long blond afro and a washboard stomach. I thought he was very attractive.”

Cunliffe: “We became part of a peer group that all got to know each other. I think we ended up going out four or five months later. We had some classes together; we were in the legal systems tutorial of Mark Heneghan, Dean of Law now. I think it’s fair to say the other kids didn’t get a word in edge ways.”

Prof Heneghan noticed: “It was nice to see them moving closer to each other and the little glances back and forwards,” he recalled in a 2013 interview. “They were pretty keen on each other right from day one. They were the strongest arguers against each other.”

Cunliffe talks first about her smarts (and his) when asked what appealed. “She was an outstanding student, [there was] a huge intellectual connection, very much a match of equals.” Prompted, he adds: “A lot of attraction as well, dashing Scandinavian good-looks on her part.

Very cool.

In April, she attended his 20th birthday “as a guest, not an item”, and in April he proposed. When he decides something, he moves fast, she says.

That’s very fast. From dating to engagement in less than a month, but sounds like they had been moving towards each other for most of the year.

The Herald also has 10 things you may not know about him:

  1. He played Jesus in the school play.
  2. His “little” brother, Stephen, is 6’7″ and an expert on the Patagonian toothfish.
  3. He has a half-brother and three half-sisters.
  4. His great-grandfather married King Dick Seddon’s sister.
  5. He helped his half-brother, Bill, through a life crisis.
  6. He scared the pants off Michael Laws when they were at Uni together.
  7. He caught a salmon in memory of his father at the spot on the Rangitata River where he died of a heart attack.
  8. He was voted most likely to be a world leader by fellow scholarship students at Atlantic College in Wales.
  9. His father, a vicar, remarried eight months after the death of his first wife.
  10. The William Cunliffe who died in the Brunner mine disaster of 1896 may be a relative.

There’s a follow up next weekend focusing more on his life since becoming an MP.


Cunliffe sorry for being a man

July 4th, 2014 at 5:53 pm by David Farrar

I don’t think you could make this up. The Herald reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe says he’s sorry that he’s a man because men commit most family violence.

He told a Women’s Refuge forum in Auckland today that Labour would put an extra $15 million a year into refuges and other groups supporting the victims of family violence. But he started his speech with an apology.

“Can I begin by saying I’m sorry,” he said.

“I don’t often say it. I’m sorry for being a man right now, because family and sexual violence is perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women and children.

I look forward to David Cunliffe also apologising on Waitangi Day for being a European, and apologising on World Poverty day for living in a leafy suburb and being rich …

Mr Key said he was not sorry for being a man, saying “It’s a pretty silly comment from David Cunliffe”.

“The problem isn’t being a man, the problem is if you’re an abusive man. I think it’s a bit insulting to imply that all men are abusive.



Cunliffe being tricky with figures again

July 4th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News reports:

“Would slippery John like to confirm why the education budget is 2.3 percent lower today when he took office?” rebuts Mr Cunliffe.

I thought this couldn’t be right, so I checked.

In 2008 Vote Education was $10.78 billion.

In 2014 Vote Education was $10.12 billion.

So maybe David Cunliffe is right. Has National cut education spending?


A bit of detective work determines that in 2008, Vote Education includes tertiary education. In 2014, it is a separate vote. Very tricky, eh.

So what is Vote Education in 2014, if you include tertiary education, as was done in 2008.

That adds on $3.04 billion to make it $13.16 billion. That is not 2.3% lower. That’s 22.1% higher!!

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Not even close

July 3rd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key holds a clear advantage over his rivals on social media heading into September’s general election.

Key has almost three times the followers on his Facebook page and Twitter account than all other party leaders combined. 

His official Twitter feed has 110,000 followers; almost 10 times as many as the next most followed party leader on Twitter – Russel Norman of the Greens with 11,500. 

Labour leader David Cunliffe commands a Twitter audience of 9926. 

How does this compare to other countries? How many Twitter followers per 1,000 populations do the PMs and Opposition Leaders all have. Here’s their followers per 1,000 population:

  1. John Key (NZ) 25.0
  2. Steven Harper (Canada) 13.8
  3. Justin Trudeau (Canada) 11.2
  4. Tony Abbott (Aus) 13.0
  5. David Cameron (UK) 11.1
  6. Eed Miliband (UK) 5.1
  7. Bill Shorten (Aus) 2.8
  8. David Cunliffe (NZ) 2.2

So the NZ PM has twice as many Twitter follows per capita as the Canadian, Australian and UK PMs. And David Cunliffe has fewer followers than any of the other opposition leaders.

On Facebook, Key’s official page has 149,873 likes, while the official pages of all the other party leaders combined have 45,038 followers/likes. 

Interesting the leader with the 2nd most “likes” on Facebook is Winston Peters.

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Caption Contest

June 27th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar


Photo by Scott Hammond/Fairfax.

Enter your captions below. As always they should be funny, not nasty.

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Fairfax quotes its own satire as fact

June 26th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar


Heh, somehow Fairfax used an extract from a Steve Braunias satire column as a caption for a story on David Cunliffe.

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The secret diary of David Cunliffe

June 22nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Steve Braunias in fine form:


I want to make it perfectly clear that I have never had any dealings with Donghua Liu.

I wouldn’t know him if I fell over him. If I did fall over him, I’d help him to his feet, and say to him, “How do you do? I’m David Cunliffe, the leader of the New Zealand Labour Party. You look familiar. Are you Chinese?” …


I want to make it perfectly clear that my dealings with Donghua Liu were a long time ago. It was before email. It was before the fax machine. Remember the fax machine? The paper always ran out, and it made that horrible shrieking noise whenever you dialled a number. I’m passionate about noise pollution and I’ll go on record now and say that a Labour Government won’t tolerate a return to the fax machine.

The letter I wrote to immigration officials on Mr Liu’s behalf in 2003 has nothing in common with the letter Maurice Williamson wrote to police on Mr Liu’s behalf. Maurice Williamson was interfering. I was merely putting in a good word for a guy who always had a friendly, open smile.

He’d wave out whenever I saw him, and I’d say, “How’s it, Mr Liu?” And he’d say, “Mate, call me Dong.”

The Dong I knew had an insatiable appetite for New Zealand literature. He wanted Helen Clark’s biography so badly that he paid $15,000 for it.

So on the mark.

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Dunne on immigration cases

June 21st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Peter Dunne blogs:

I have always followed two firm rules for immigration – and actually all constituency – cases, aside from the obvious point of keeping clear and full records. Any letters of advocacy I write on behalf of a constituent have been drafted personally by me, rather than a member of my staff, as I am more likely to remember something I have written myself, rather than just affixed a signature to. Second and more important, I have never accepted a donation or gift in return for pursuing an immigration case. Where there have been occasions – usually after the event – where someone offered to make a donation, I have always referred them directly to the Party Treasurer. So I actually never know whether any of these offers have ever been followed up, which is as it should be.

I say this not to be sanctimonious, but because it strikes me that David Cunliffe has done neither. I do not think he had full oversight of Mr Liu’s approach to him regarding his immigration status, but I do think he – and his colleagues it would appear – had way too much involvement, more than they are letting on now, in respect of Mr Liu’s financial support. It is that ambiguity and shadiness that is doing the damage now.

Add to that Mr Cunliffe’s strident flaying of Maurice Williamson over his dealings with Donghua Liu and the firestorm of hypocrisy now engulfing him is both obvious and utterly predictable.

Good points made by Peter Dunne.

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Dom Post says Cunliffe leadership is a train wreck

June 21st, 2014 at 10:47 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Labour ditched former leader David Shearer because he struggled to string two sentences together on a good day. So surely it couldn’t have got any worse, right? Wrong.

It’s a train wreck under David Cunliffe and Labour’s MPs are grumpy, nervous and wondering what they may be doing for a crust after September 20. The prospect of losing your job and the $150,000 salary always focuses the mind.

And by bad timing, the Labour Party list gets released this weekend. On the latest Fairfax poll, Labour would get only six List MPs. So anyone outside the top six of the effective list, may be toast.

Cunliffe has taken the party backwards when he promised to take it forward. Could Labour be on track to record its worst-ever election defeat? Yes.

When Cunliffe utters a word or two these days the collective intake of breath among his MPs is simply frightening.

He’s had a host of gaffes this year – and the best he’s looked was when he shut up and stood in the background while his wife, Karen Price, talked about the birds (chickens) and the bees in an interview at their home.

That was the high point.

Cunliffe was parachuted into the job of leader, not because his MPs really wanted him – most dislike him – but because Labour Party members and union affiliates were desperate for someone to articulate their values.

To say he’s been a disappointment is an understatement. After this week’s horrors he looks unelectable as the next prime minister. He’s genuinely gone from bad to worse.

My God, that is a harsh editorial.

Look at these basic mistakes. He started the year not knowing the crucial details of his baby bonus speech, he then foolishly accused Prime Minister John Key of living in a flash pad while he slummed it in a downmarket $2.5 million mansion in Herne Bay.

He set up a secret trust for his leadership bid and was caught out. He claimed his grandfather won a war medal when it was his great uncle. His CV had mistakes in it. He used Grant Robertson’s leadership statement as his own and this week – the howler – denied he knew Donghua Liu or had ever advocated for him – before a letter emerged to prove otherwise.

It isn’t the one or two mistakes. It is that they are so regular.

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams admitted to me this week that Labour’s MPs will all be discussing the possibility of replacing Cunliffe. They now have 48 hours to prepare to roll him.

They can ditch him on Tuesday – but they won’t.

I expect Robertson has the numbers if he wanted to press the issue. But he doesn’t want the job – just yet. Hence his support for Cunliffe this week and his rather cheeky throwaway line that Cunliffe will serve three of four terms as prime minister, before he takes his chance. You just know he didn’t mean that.

There is no doubt Grant has the numbers. It isn’t even close. But he doesn’t want to be Mike Moore. so he will sit back.

UPDATE: According to people who have read the print edition this is not an editorial but a column by Duncan Garner. No wonder it was quite blunt!

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Dom Post on Cunliffe

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

The Dom Post editorial:

David Cunliffe itched to be Labour Party leader for years. After losing power in 2008, the party lumbered along under two failing leaders. He barely hid his ambitions to replace them.

Now, 10 months into his tenure, he should take a moment to enjoy the role. Barring a miraculous campaign performance, he’ll be finished soon.


The heart of the problem is Cunliffe’s judgment and temperament, which have been found lacking yet again. Under direct questions on a specific matter, about a public figure involved in repeated scandals, the Labour leader got it completely, insistently wrong.

He followed up the blunder by issuing veiled threats at caucus colleagues considering disloyalty – all but calling them “scabs”.

That was a huge mistake. It was obviously the pressure getting to him. But the pressure of being opposition leader is nothing compared to the pressure of being Prime Minister.

If Cunliffe was ahead in the polls, or if this was an isolated misstep, he could shrug it off quickly. But his support is so low, and his gaffes so familiar, the impression will linger longer than the incident itself: that he is not up to running the country.

From his secret trust for donations to his leadership bid, to his laughable description of his $2.5 million Herne Bay home as a “doer-upper”, Cunliffe has repeatedly made a fool of himself in awkward, revealing ways.

Combine those mistakes with a haughty, serious style, a tendency to preach instead of persuade, a fondness for vague rallying cries (with liberal talk of “Kiwis”) instead of insights that speak to people’s concerns, and Cunliffe’s predicament is not surprising.

Despite all that MMP means Labour could get to form a Government despite winning say only 25% of the vote. The election will always be close.

Yet the way things stand, it isn’t making a case for anything much. Cunliffe’s leadership is a big part of that. If he can’t urgently change something – and so far there’s little to suggest that he can – then he should get ready for the inevitable end.

92 days to go.

Also today is the start of the regulated period where the parliamentary budgets can no longer be spent on most advertising, and any spending by parties must fall under the spending caps.

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Herald, ODT and Gordon Campbell on Cunliffe

June 20th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Labour Party says it has no record of any contributions from him but there is more than one way to donate to a party. At a Labour fundraising auction in 2007 Mr Liu bought a book signed by Helen Clark for which, the Herald’s sources say, he paid $15,000. The same year he paid an unknown large sum for a bottle of wine at a fundraiser.

Mr Cunliffe, who became Immigration Minister in 2006, claimed this week that not only had he never advocated for Mr Liu in an immigration application but had never met him. Now that the first claim has proven false, the second takes on a different hue. Sadly, it is all too likely that an MP could write in support of an application for an immigrant he had never met.

But none of this matters as much as the word of a party leader bidding to be Prime Minister in a few months. Mr Cunliffe cannot afford to fall from his high horse more than once. This denial might not force his resignation or ouster but it has done Labour no favours. Next time its leader puts on his scolding face, it will be less convincing. That is the price he has paid.

Gordon Campbell is more harsh:

Who knew that David Cunliffe’s speech to last year’s Labour Party conference was not a new beginning, but the last gasp of the credible phase of his leadership? In itself, his 2003 letter to the Immigration Service was innocuous. Yet only a Jesuit could make the fine distinction that Labour is now trying to make between Cunliffe’s inquiry about how long Donghua Liu’s residency application was taking, and outright “advocacy” for that application to be approved. Not surprisingly, such letters are seen by officials as “hurry up” reminders, and are intended to serve as such. This was advocacy; the same advocacy that Cunliffe had just this week denied ever making. Probably he did so unknowingly. Either way though – fool or knave – it’s not a good look.

The inability of Cunliffe and his staff to adequately research Cunliffe’s track record with Liu is also lamentable – especially given that photos of Labour MPs in the friendly company of Liu had already emerged. Yet earlier this week, Cunliffe had been left to paint himself into a corner of denial, only to be sandbagged by the revelation of the letter’s existence. As yet, we are still reliant on Labour Party researchers to verify whether Labour did or didn’t receive a sizeable donation from Liu. It should be remembered that National Cabinet Minister Maurice Williamson resigned because of his meddling in a Police investigation and not over a donations scandal, per se. Yet Labour had gone on to use the meddling/donation link to Liu as ammunition in its general attack on National and its fat cat donors. All it will take now is evidence of a donation from Liu to Labour to put the noose firmly around Labour’s neck.

Clearly, Cunliffe is now virtually a spent force as Labour leader.

Campbell is not so keen on Labour’s next leader:

There is no visible alternative. Grant Robertson is cut from the same hyper-calculating, micro-positioning cloth. What really ails Labour is that it is a centre left party whose parliamentary caucus is terrified – literally terrified – of its own left wing shadow.

Also the ODT editorial:

The grubby pit of current New Zealand politics became even more distasteful yesterday when it was revealed Labour leader David Cunliffe appeared guilty of the actions of which he had accused his National Party opponents.

Despite his denials at a hastily-called press conference, a letter signed by Mr Cunliffe, as MP for New Lynn, shows he advocated for businessman Donghua Liu in a letter to immigration officials, contradicting earlier assurances he had not lobbied for the political donor. …

Labour MPs will be discussing the situation intensely, given the party’s ongoing poor showing in the polls and Mr Cunliffe’s personal polling, and now credibility, sinking lower by the week. …

Morally, Mr Cunliffe should resign as soon as possible, but unless someone taps him on the shoulder to take over the poisoned chalice which is the leadership of Labour, he seems likely to stay on and ride out the controversy until the September 20 election.

And then the ABCs will strike.

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Cunliffe’s catastrophes

June 19th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff has counted up Cunliffe’s catastrophes, or gaffes. There’s eight in 10 months which suggests it is the only consistent thing about Labour. They are:

  1. Denying he knew Liu or had ever advocated for him, the day before a letter reveals he did exactly that
  2. Attacked John Key for living in a leafy suburb, while living on the most expensive road in Herne Bay
  3. Setting up a secret trust for his leadership campaign
  4. A misleading speech on the best start policy which falsely claimed 25,000 people would get a payment they wouldn’t
  5. Claiming his grandfather won a medal when it was his great uncle
  6. Breaking electoral law by tweeting on BE-Day for people to vote for the Labour candidate
  7. Posting Grant Robertson’s leadership candidacy statement as his own
  8. A CV which had several “mistakes” in it

Stuff are also running a poll on people’s favourite gaffe. Herne Bay leads with 37%, then the secret trust on 22% and Dong Liu on 19%.

One might add on his statement today as a 9th gaffe. The Herald reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has issued a veiled warning to his caucus against any move against him, saying he has the support of Labour Party members and affiliates and any who break ranks could be viewed as scabs – workers who break a strike by crossing the picket line.

That’s really going to impress MPs such as Andrew Little – a lifelong unionist. Calling someone a scab is one of the worst insults in the Labour movement, and implying anyone who thinks Cunliffe is not performing well enough as Labour Leader is a scab will go down like cold sick with them.

I understand that two different Labour MPs have confirmed Grant Robertson has the numbers to roll Cunliffe. In fact Grant has had them for a few weeks. But the issue is whether Grant wants the leadership now, or to take it after the election. His preference is to wait, rather than do a Mike Moore. But as his colleagues consider how many of them are set to lose their seats – his hand may be forced.


Cunliffe wrote on behalf of Liu after denying he knew him or advocated for him

June 18th, 2014 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports Cunliffe’s earlier denials on Tuesday:

Q: Do you recall ever meeting Liu?
A: I don’t recall ever meeting him, no.
Q: Did you have anything to do with the granting of his permanent residency?
A: No, I did not.
Q: Did you advocate on his behalf at all?
A: Nope.
Q:Were you aware of any advice against granting him permanent residency?
A: Not to my recollection.

They now reveal that he wrote to immigration officials on his behalf in 2003:

The 2003 letter was written in his capacity as the MP for New Lynn after he was “approached my constituent Donghua Lui [sic] who is concerned at the time it is taking to process his Investment Category application”.

Mr Cunliffe this week denied any involvement with Liu’s residency bid after the Herald revealed the property developer paid $15,000 at a Labour Party fundraiser for a book signed by Helen Clark in 2007.

The letter, released to the Herald today under the Official Information Act, dated April 11, 2003 said Liu’s application for residency was accepted for processing by the Immigration Service on August 13, 2002.

Mr Cunliffe said Mr Liu wished to set up a joint venture business with his Tianlong Property Development Company – which owns his stalled property development in Newmarket – to export large quantities of agricultural and horticultural products to China.

“It is hoped that products from the company will be available to the market in July 2003,” wrote Mr Cunliffe.

“I am aware of the difficulties facing the Business Migration Branch of New Zealand Immigration Services in coping with the overwhelming numbers of applicants that have applied for consideration under these categories and the time taken to verify documents.

“However, it would be very helpful to Mr Liu to be advised of an estimated period of time in which he could expect a decision on his case.”

So what do we have now:

  • David Cunliffe denied advocating on behalf of Liu or ever even meeting him, yet wrote a letter on his behalf to immigration officials
  • Liu made two large donations to Labour (one for a book and one for wine), neither of which Labour ever disclosed
  • A former Labour Internal Affairs Minister was hosted by Liu in China, with costs likely to be well over $500 yet not disclosed on the Register of Pecuniary Interests
  • Labour granted Liu residency despite official advice, after lobbying by Cunliffe

In light of all of this, the Electoral Commission needs to formally investigate Labour’s 2007 donations return and determine why these donations were not disclosed.

But most of all David Cunliffe has to explain why he denied knowing Liu or advocating for him, when his name and i signature is on a letter doing just that.

UPDATE: John Armstrong writes:

David Cunliffe is in deep political trouble. So deep that his resignation as Labour’s leader may now be very much in order.

It now emerges that – contrary to the point-blank denials that Cunliffe gave to a press conference only yesterday – that he did assist controversial businessman Donghua Liu in the latter’s application for New Zealand residency.

At a minimum, the revelation that Cunliffe wrote a letter to immigration officials seeking information on progress regarding the residency application is a massive blow to the Labour leader’s personal credibility. How can anyone have any confidence in what he says from hereon?

Harsh, but what his colleagues will be wondering.

Cunliffe may argue that the letter was about immigration processes and written on a constituent’s behalf – something MPs frequently do – and therefore was not an endorsement of the application.

But that does not wash. Either deliberately or through a lapse of memory, Cunliffe has been economical with the truth.

He has called for National Party ministers’ heads to roll for the equivalent or less. Having set the standard required of others, it is incumbent on him to himself follow suit.

The self-ravaging of his credibility means Labour now has to abandon its strategy of trying to paint John Key and National as corrupt. To carry on it that fashion would be the height of hypocrisy.

But the bigger question now is whether Cunliffe can lead Labour into the coming election campaign with this albatross reeking around his neck.

Unless Cunliffe can come up with a very good explanation, the answer has to be ‘no’. After all Cunliffe is not just trying to win the election, he is also auditioning for the job of Prime Minister. And on that score, today’s events qualify as a fail – and by a wide margin.


The only relatively good news for his colleagues – if you can call it good news – is that under Labour Party rules dealing with emergency situations close to an election, the ballot on a replacement is likely to be restricted to the parliamentary wing rather than also taking in the wider party membership and affiliated trade unions.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating if certain Labour MPs knew that Liu had donated to Labour, but deliberately didn’t tell Cunliffe, so that this would blow up at this stage.

UPDATE2: Duncan Garner writes:

If David Cunliffe’s credibility wasn’t shot before this, it is now. Cunliffe is now unelectable as the next Prime Minister.

He had made it clear: he had not had anything to do with, or met or advocated for National party donor Donghua Liu. But, that’s gone up in smoke, because it’s now become clear he did advocate for him as the local MP.

He wrote a letter to Immigration officials in April 2003 as the MP for New Lynn – on behalf of Liu who was concerned about the time it was taking to process his Investment Category application.

Cunliffe says he can’t recall any of it and his office had no record of the letter. That’s just hopeless. It’s not even a creative excuse.

None of this looks flash for Cunliffe. He looks dishonest and who can trust him now? This goes to the heart of his credibility, integrity and likeability; on all three fronts he’s in serious trouble.

He’s either got “brain-fade”, or he’s a sloppy liar. Perhaps both.

Garner concludes:

This is sloppy and his opponents in caucus will write today’s date down: today is crucial. Today is the day his MPs all privately lost the faith; they’ll be sharpening their knives for the days after the election.

David Cunliffe is toast. Not immediately, but his days are numbered. Unless he can pull off some sort of unlikely and remarkable election victory – which today – just became even more remote.

Labour is now at 23% to win on iPredict.

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Joyce rated more valuable than Cunliffe

June 9th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce has two events on the 18th of June.

They have a breakfast with David Cunliffe for $45.

Then a lunch with Steven Joyce for $55.

Now they price these events based on what they think people will pay (Hence why lunch with PM with Trans-Tasman Council was $500 or so, and $85 at the Chamber).

This shows that Steven Joyce is rated more valuable than David Cunliffe!


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Hide on Cunliffe

June 1st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The David Cunliffe experiment has failed. Eight months into his leadership Labour is polling below what it was under Phil Goff and David Shearer.

The election is less than four months away.

The danger for Labour is that its poor polling will collapse its vote, as happened to National in 2002. Its low polling became a self-fulfilling and accelerating prophecy. Polls matter.

Labour’s unimpressive showing may well cause even more votes to drain across to the Greens and New Zealand First. …

Cunliffe has an added burden. His caucus didn’t want him. He was thrust on it by party members and the unions. That wouldn’t matter if he were succeeding. But he isn’t. There will be a lot of “I told you so” going on. The lack of caucus support makes a lonely job even lonelier.

And yet it remains a tight race. Labour could poll badly but still put a government together, with considerable concessions.

The Green’s Metiria Turei and Russel Norman would be deputy prime ministers and would dominate policy-making.

Winston Peters would be kingmaker and would demand his pound of flesh.

Hone Harawira would be Minister of Maori Affairs. The Internet Party would be in government being dictated to by Kim Dotcom.

A Labour-led Government with Labour on just 30% of the vote would be a very weak unstable Government. They would be just 60% or so of the entire Government.

It comes back to the polls. They put Cunliffe on the back foot and Key on the front. Cunliffe is now desperate. He needs a lift.

“I just need to push the polls up a bit. I need to change the story … hmmm. Immigration. That always works for Winston. I’ll give that a shot. I will dress it up as housing policy. The party’s woolly woofters will be upset. But what the hell? I’ve got nothing to lose.” It’s called dog-whistle politics. Sadly for Cunliffe, the only ones who heard it were Labour activists.

Getting desperate indeed.

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Caption Contest

May 30th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar


From DC’s Twitter account. As always go for funny, not nasty.

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Rudman on Cunliffe

May 29th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Rudman writes in the Herald:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has tried just about everything to put a dent in the Government’s poll ratings without success. He’s now dipping into Winston Peters’ murky bag of tricks and started pointing the finger at migrants as the cause of our woes.

He wants to cut back from projected migration levels of over 40,000 in “total flows” to the “zone of between 5000 and 15,000″.

He wants “enough new migrants to fill our skill gaps but not so many that it overwhelms our housing market or the ability of our schools and our hospitals to cope”. In the case of hospitals, he seems to be forgetting that without migrants as staff at all levels, they would gradually grind to a halt.

At least he’s stopping short of the New Zealand First proposal that migrants spend their first five years in purgatory in Wanganui or Ruatoria or some other remote outpost before being allowed into the big smoke of Auckland, where most migrants want to live.

Labour’s vote is so low, they’re now trying to steal votes off Winston. Hey, I’m in favour if it knocks Winston below 5%!

To his credit, Mr Key has resisted the mob, telling 3 News that “New Zealand is a country that has been built on migration. We’ve done very well out of it and I think we should be very cautious about taking knee-jerk steps”.

Praise for Key from Rudman – very rare.

Virginia Chong, the president of the New Zealand Chinese Association, calls Labour’s policy “scaremongering”, pointing out the obvious that the answer to rising house prices is to build more homes.

Yep, and for that you need more land available for housing as land is the biggest component of house prices.

Without migrants, our hospitals, about which Mr Cunliffe frets, would be so short of staff, there’d be patient queues stretching around the Auckland Domain. The All Blacks wouldn’t be world champions, and my favourite band, the Auckland Philharmonia, would be but a pale shadow of its present self. And goodness knows where we’d dine out.

And the level of migration is pretty much unchanged from when Cunliffe was Immigration Minister. In fact fewer residency visas are being granted. The big change is fewer Kiwis are leaving, more Kiwis are returning home and more Aussies are wanting to live and work here.

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Garner asks if Cunliffe should stand down?

May 28th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

Last night’s two polls tell us two things:

The first – National is on track to win the election, and the public has endorsed its budget.

And the second – if Labour is to govern after the next election it will need a three-way coalition including Winston Peters, with his New Zealand First Party, and the Greens. And that’s tricky – really tricky.

I think they would need a five way coalition. They’d need Mana and Dotcom also.

So, under this scenario what happens?

Labour and NZ First agree to a formal coalition and shaft the Greens, forcing them to support a centre-left Government on confidence and supply. They don’t get Ministerial jobs or they get very minor executive jobs outside of Cabinet. It’s entirely possible. And Winston Peters will be able to tell NZ he saved us from the Greens.

The Greens have been consistently shafted by Labour for years, but they are a tougher bunch now. I can’t see them putting up with this, but, then again, would they have any other choice?

What will the Greens do faced with this scenario? Will they put up with being shafted again? Or would they allow National to govern in some way? Surely not. Would they?

The Greens just have to take their lumps and get shafted. Also if Nandor Tanczos is the new Internet Party Leader, that will suck votes off the Greens also.

All this leads back to one person: David Cunliffe, the Labour leader. He simply hasn’t provided the silver-bullet Labour was looking for; not that such a thing exists in politics. He’s under ten percent in the preferred PM stakes. It’s lower than David Shearer was.

Voters had a look at him to start the year and he was terribly unconvincing. They took the phone off the hook and never returned.

I actually think he has improved somewhat since the start of the year. He appears more relaxed and he’s communicating well. Labour has had some ideas recently and they have been reasonably well sold and received.

But then the Budget came along and knocked him out. Incumbency is powerful and National is using its position in office well.

This leads me to this conclusion: the public appears to have deserted Cunliffe, because they simply don’t like him in comparison to John Key. He knows all this, of course, but he’s hanging on hoping for a three percent swing so he gets the chance to put together a centre left-coalition, just like I have described.

That’s why he’s saying, in reaction to these latest polls, “It’s early days”. It is not, David – the public sees through that.

He’s also saying the polls are low because “people have yet to get to know him”. I think they have, however, and they are unconvinced. He is showing no signs of getting Labour to the crucial 37 percent mark.

Not sure 37% is the crucial mark. The promise was to outpoll National and be the largest party.

So, what about this scenario: is it time for Cunliffe to stand down as Leader and give it to someone else?

But who? Jones is gone. Ardern isn’t ready yet.

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Labour ramps up the rhetoric on migrants

May 27th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Yesterday the UKIP wins the UK European elections, and maybe it is no coincidence that David Cunliffe is on TV that night saying that migrants are responsible for our increasing house prices.

3 News reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has taken his hardest line yet against immigrants, blaming them for rising house prices.

It follows a 3 News-Reid Research poll which shows almost two-thirds of voters say immigration should be restricted.

“It would take 80 percent of our housing supply just to accommodate this year’s migrants – and National is doing nothing,” says Mr Cunliffe.

This is the politics of blame and xenophobia. The facts do not back up what Cunliffe is trying to get people to accept.

I blogged the data for the last 10 years here. I repeat the key point:

So net migration is 24,000 higher than five years ago. But look at what makes up that 24,000. 15,300 are fewer people leaving. 5,700 are Kiwis returning or Aussies migrating. Only 3,400 are other migrants.

Migration does have an impact on house prices. But the level of migrants coming here has not changed greatly in recent years. In fact residency visas are down on 2008.

Will Labour just dog whistle on this one, or will they come out with a specific policy they propose? Do they propose to scrap work visas for that has been the area of most growth. For if they do, well then it means houses in Christchurch will not get built as quickly – because hey it is those damn migrant workers helping build them.

And now mistruths in this Radio NZ report:

Mr Cunliffe told Morning Report the party has always backed the skills and diversity migrants bring with them, but it must be sustainable.

He said a gross inward flow of about 70,000 migrants is forecast over the coming year, while a figure of about 15,000 has been a rule of thumb in the past.

That’s totally wrong. The current figure (PLT arrivals of non NZ citizens) for the year to April 2014 is 71,070. Here’s what it was when Labour was in.

  • 2008 – 64,320
  • 2007 – 59,670
  • 2006 – 58,640
  • 2005 – 54,710
  • 2004 – 54,670
  • 2003 – 64,310
  • 2002 – 71,040
  • 2001 – 58,170

15,000 has never been close to the rule of thumb. David Cunliffe was Immigration Minister for two of those years.

UPDATE: Radio NZ has altered their story so it now reads:

Mr Cunliffe cites predictions of net immigration of 40,000 people over the coming year, whereas he says a figure of 15,000 has been the rough rule of thumb in the past.

Why has the story changed. Did David Cunliffe say what the original story quotes him as saying, or did Radio NZ get it wrong. If the latter, then once again we have media altering stories with no transparency. If the former, then why did the web story change?

UPDATE2: Have now listened to Morning Report and the error is Radio NZ, but also Cunliffe tried to fudge figures.

Cunliffe did say gross migration was around 72,000. He said it should be lower and Espiner challenged him to name a figure he thought was acceptable. Cunliffe in response said that 15,000 is the normal level of net migration. So Cunliffe did not say gross migration is normally 15,000.  But he was being tricky by talking about gross migration in slating the Government, and then talking net migration for the level under Labour.

I can understand how a Radio NZ reporter got confused and conflated them. Doesn’t change the fact though that their original story was wrong and they should note at the bottom of a story when they have changed it from a previous story.

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Still fairly early days

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

The Herald reports:

Mr Cunliffe, who has struggled to match the modest poll showings by his predecessor David Shearer, said it was “still fairly early days” and “this is going to bounce right back again”. “The only poll that counts is the one on election day,” he said.

There are 117 days until the election. David Cunliffe became leader 253 days ago. Not sure how you call that early days.

Patrick Gower blogs:

David Cunliffe needs to walk into Labour’s “war-room” right now and re-name it “the panic station”.

Labour’s big fear right now will be its vote collapsing completely.

Labour will be worried that voters decide it can’t win – and instead vote for New Zealand First, the Greens or just stay at home.

Last night’s 3 News/Reid Research poll has National on 50.3 percent and Labour on 29.5 percent.

John Key was on 43.2 percent and Cunliffe 9.8 percent as preferred Prime Minister

Scorelines of 50-29 and 43-9 – on the rugby pitch, that’s what you call a thrashing.

In our first poll of the year, Cunliffe could have been Prime Minister. Now he is polling worse than David Shearer is when Labour threw him out.

Labour is suddenly in serious strife.

Let’s look at how things were in 2002, 2005 and 2008, four months before an election.

In 2008 National was 18% ahead of Labour four months out, and John Key was at 38% for Preferred Prime Minister.

In 2005 National was at 39%, just 5% behind Labour four months out. Don Brash was at 20% for Preferred Prime Minister

Interesting in 2002, National was at 32% four months out from the 2002 election. Bill English was at 14% for Preferred Prime Minister.

There is the potential for the Greens and/or NZ First to do very well this election.

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