Blame parents not food companies

October 21st, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

David Shearer writes:

Here’s a “school lunch” bought from an Auckland dairy this morning. It has 8 teaspoons of sugar – about twice the recommended daily amount for a child, in one single meal.

Obesity is poised to overtake tobacco as New Zealand’s leading preventable health risk. As long as the government lacks the courage to regulate junk food, its plan to tackle obesity isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Time to stand up to the powerful food manufacturing lobby for the sake of our kids.

And the school lunch is:


I am staggered that David Shearer thinks that if school kids are eating this for lunch, the problem is food manufacturers, not parents.

On an individual level all four food items are fine as an occasional snack. Or is Labour saying that these food items must be banned or taxed extra?

The problem is if they are what a kid is having for lunch on a regular basis.

And I’ll be blunt – you’re a bad parent if that is what you are having your kids eat for lunch.

For a fraction of the cost you can make up a healthy lunch for your kids – sandwiches, fruit, sultanas etc. There is no excuse for the above to be a regular lunch item for kids.

Why do politicians of the left always look to blame companies, rather than blame individuals for poor choices?

No amount of tax or regulation short of banning all potato chips in NZ will stop a kid eating that for lunch, if their parents are not taking an interest in them having healthy food.

And don’t say this is all poor families can afford. That lunch would cost:

  • Calci yum $1.69
  • Grain waves $1.62
  • Bluebird $1.49
  • Minees $1.00

So around $5 for that.

Maybe David Shearer could tell us exactly what regulation he proposes that would stop that food being sold from a dairy?

Stuff reports Andrew Little is saying the same:

Labour leader Andrew Little says the Government should take a stick to junk food producers, rather than shying away from regulation as it tries to tackle rising obesity levels.

Yes how dare the food producers create potato chips. They must be beaten up for it.

There is nothing wrong with so called junk food, in moderation. I have potato chips around once a month. If someone has them every day and is obese, the answer is not regulating or banning potato chips.

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Does Shearer want the Government to set bank interest rates?

August 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

With profits expected to go even higher Shearer said the government should be “demanding a better deal for New Zealand households”.

“An example of where Kiws are paying through the nose is on credit card interest. We still pay around the same interest rate on them – more than 17 per cent – as we did eight years ago, despite bank borrowing rates plummeting five points to 3 per cent in that time.”

What does Shearer want the Government to do? Pass a law so the Cabinet sets credit card interest rates like Muldoon used to almost do?

Credit card interest rates vary from 13.6% to 24.95%. I prefer competition to government dictate.

Shearer said Kiwis were a “soft target and a nice little earner” for Australian banking giants, who were using “unfair” tactics on New Zealanders.

What is unfair exactly?

With Australian banks making a profit of about $1000 off every adult and child in the country it was time for the Reserve Bank to put a microscope on the issue, he said.

An average can be misleading. If like me you have a large mortgage, then your bank makes a large profit out of you. If you don’t have a mortgage they make a small profit. And on my credit card they make nothing from me directly, as I pay my account off every month.

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Shearer blasts Auckland Council and Brown

February 3rd, 2015 at 7:50 am by David Farrar

Mt Albert MP David Shearer facebooked:

There was a disastrous meeting in my electorate tonight. About 150 local people turned up in good faith to consult on a frankly overdue Mt Albert town-centre upgrade, only to find half the funding had been cut by Auckland Transport.

This is the third time the community has been promised an upgrade but everything up until now has come to zero. What an arrogant waste of local people’s time and money.

Auckland Council has totally lost control of Auckland Transport. This time, the dysfunction showed in public. By the time the meeting ended, half the people had gone home.

At this rate, the mayor and councillors can kiss their jobs goodbye at the next election.

A Labour MP slamming the Council headed by a Labour Party member, and controlled by left Councillors.

Some have suggested to me this is part of a campaign to get his mate and neighbouring MP Phil Goff made Mayor, but I think the anger is real.

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Shearer for MFAT?

November 27th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The State Services Commission is about to embark on a search for one of the most prestigious jobs in the public service – head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Chief executive John Allen is leaving to take the reins of the Racing Board. The board is responsible for all racing and betting in New Zealand.

He is likely to get a pay rise from the $600,000 he earns. The last chief executive of the Racing Board earned $960,000.

Maybe David Shearer should apply? Could do a lot more as Secretary of Foreign Affairs than ranked No 16 in Labour’s caucus. He’d be good at the job also.

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Shearer indicates Labour may support security law changes

November 4th, 2014 at 11:51 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Big sporting events bringing large numbers of visitors to New Zealand are one of the Government’s concerns in proposing changes to the country’s security and surveillance legislation.

Senior Labour MPs Phil Goff and David Shearer were briefed this morning on the contents of the prime minister’s major national security speech tomorrow.

Changes to New Zealand’s security legislation will be announced as the Government attempts to plug “loopholes” within the country’s surveillance law and around passports.

Shearer said there was “obviously some rationale for doing it”, and they were “reasonably happy” the measures were ones that needed to be implemented because of gaps in the current legislation.

Great to see an Opposition MP, not just opposing for the sake of it.

Shearer said it was important gaps in surveillance and around passports were closed off, particularly in light of upcoming events in New Zealand which would bring in a lot of visitors, including the Cricket World Cup.

Shearer agreed there were some legislative issues to be dealt with, particularly with the SIS which was governed by “very old” law which was not in line with the police in what it was able to do.

Shearer would not go into detail on what the proposed new legislation would do as he and Goff were briefed in confidence, and it was for the prime minister to announce in his speech tomorrow.

The proposed changes would be subject to a select committee process, which would allow outside submissions to be made, although for a reduced period of time compared to the norm.

I’m pleased to see there will be a select committee process.

“We’re also very pleased with the fact there are going to be submissions around the area as well, so it means there is going to be some more scrutiny on the legislation, and of course there’s going to be a sunset clause as well,” Shearer said.  

Interested in the sunset clause? Is that to allow the full review scheduled for next year to them supersede this interim changes?

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Shearer says Cunliffe should quit politics

October 14th, 2014 at 2:11 pm by David Farrar

I think we are starting to see the reality of life in Labour. One former leader is telling another to quit politics. The Herald reports:

Mr Shearer said he would have preferred it for the new leader’s sake if Mr Cunliffe had stayed in the race and lost.

“I think it would have been easier for whoever wins if he had stood and lost. It would be a cleaner break for whoever takes over. His followers undermined Phil Goff and myself and I think he continues to be a presence that will make it difficult for a new leader.”

He said if Mr Cunliffe had lost this would have sent a clear message to his supporters, rather than let them have the impression he could have won if he hadn’t withdrawn. He was also disappointed with Mr Cunliffe’s decision to stay on as an MP. “It would be easier for the new leader if he decided to move on.”

It was a sentiment echoed by several other MPs, although none would be named.

To quote Lady Macbeth – Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!

Cunliffe has pointed out:

Mr Cunliffe pointed out Mr Shearer was also a former leader.

“I think that’s an unfortunate thing for him to say and it belies my long-term loyalty to the party and caucus.”

But Shearer has only been an MP for one and a bit terms. Cunliffe has had five full terms. And I think Phil Goff and David Shearer have a different idea of what loyalty looks like.

“It’s about making sure we set ourselves up for the future so the new leader doesn’t have the same experience I had.”

He had been white-anted by Cunliffe’s supporters when he was leader and did not want the same thing to happen to the new leader.

If Parker or Robertson wins, it is inevitable I’d say that they will also face undermining.

“The people who had attacked himself and Mr Goff were mostly anonymous, Mr Shearer said.

“There are certainly some who’s names I think I know, but these are people who sit behind darkened screens and blog and undermine people.

And several of them now work in the Labour Leader’s office – which explains why so many are so unhappy.

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Will Little, Shearer or Nash run?

October 3rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The race to be Labour’s leader may no longer be a two-way contest, with Stuart Nash said to be seriously considering a tilt at the top job.

The newly elected Napier MP is biding his time to see if former union boss Andrew Little will throw his hat in the ring. Little’s political future hangs in the balance until tomorrow, when the official election results are declared.

If Little, a former EPMU president, did make it back to Parliament on the list, and decided to enter the primary contest to choose the leader, Nash would not run, a source said.

Nash had earlier ruled it out, saying it was too soon for him.

An insider said he backed away as the caucus waited to see if David Cunliffe would resign and leave Grant Robertson to run unchallenged.

“[He] didn’t want to be the one to trigger a leadership battle that the party had no appetite for.”

But sources say he is reconsidering as the rivalry between Cunliffe and Robertson has turned increasingly bitter. “This is the last thing our party needs, two people going hammer and tongs at each other. It will just turn off New Zealand,” one source said.

Nash is being lobbied hard by Maori and Pasifika members of the party, who believe neither of the two declared contenders can unite the divided factions.

A wildcard option, Nash, 47, represents a break from the rivalries that have torn the party apart in the last three years.

A Cunliffe vs Robertson contest risks being a who is to blame for the loss referendum – the leader or the caucus. Having more than two contenders may focus it more on the future than the past.

It’s not known if the possible nomination of his old boss David Shearer would change his decision. Shearer is still undecided and did not return calls yesterday.

In his Napier electorate yesterday, Nash said his status had not changed. “At this point, I won’t be seeking the leadership of the party.”

The new leader will be installed by November, with the party’s council setting the timetable for the runoff. Nominations will close on October 14, followed by 14 hustings meetings around the country.

Party members, the 32 MPs and affiliated unions all get a say and the result of the vote will be announced on November 18.

I’m picking up a lot of disillusionment among Labour members. I would predict that the number of members who vote will be well down on their last leadership election. This will make the relative power of union votes even more powerful.

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How will Cunliffe go?

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

Tracy Watkins writes:

David Cunliffe’s resignation from the Labour leadership is certain. It is only the matter of his going that is yet to be decided.

In the old days he would have been gone already.

Tuesday’s brutalising caucus was a coup in all but name. It showed Cunliffe no longer has any authority over his caucus, who can outvote him at will. They already have, over his choice of Whip.  

A leader who can’t control his caucus or win a vote cannot credibly front National as the Leader of the Opposition.  But under Labour’s rules a coup is no longer a simple numbers game in the caucus.

If it were, Cunliffe’s rival Grant Robertson would already be leader.

He has had the numbers to roll Cunliffe for more than a year.

Yep. But even if there was not the issue of a membership vote, Robertson is wary of having a non unified party behind him.

Robertson’s supporters could force a vote of no confidence in Cunliffe, but that effectively puts the decision in the hands of the wider party and Labour’s union affiliates. In a vote, they could decide to re-install Cunliffe over a hostile caucus. They did so the last time the leadership was put to the vote, a year ago.

Whether they would do so again after the chaotic scenes of recent days remains to be seen.  Camp Cunliffe are convinced they would.

It appears Camp Robertson are not sure enough of their ground yet to put it to the test. Otherwise they would have forced the confidence vote on Tuesday and got the leadership ball rolling.  

That suggests Cunliffe may have sufficient leverage still to negotiate a dignified exit  – one that would give him a senior role in Robertson’s caucus, with no loss of face for him or his supporters.  Neither side was talking up that option yesterday.

But wise heads are surely counselling both sides that the last thing Labour wants on top of its humiliating election loss and this week’s damaging fallout is a divisive and draining leadership race.

I think it would be silly for Cunliffe to contest the leadership, as he clearly has lost the confidence of his caucus.

However I think it would be better for Grant to have a party wide leadership contest, between himself and David Shearer.

Grant would win, but it would allow the party to unify behind him, as they will have had their say. He may face sniping from activists and left bloggers if he is put in by caucus with no say from members.

Also Grant is well to the left of Shearer. It would be help unify the party to have a clear centrist and a clear left candidate, as once their choice is made, people can respect the direction the party will then take.

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Beveridge on Shylock comment

August 12th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Beveridge blogs:

Steve Gibson also claims that he was not aware of the meaning of the term. However, Greg Presland, whose post the comment was made on, is a lawyer. He is claiming on Radio New Zealand that he was just repeating comments that he has heard elsewhere. However Greg Presland should also be being questioned about his knowledge of the term. Does he claim that he was not aware of the meaning of the term?

Greg Presland is a close advisor and friend of David Cunliffe and was one of the lawyers involved in the setting up of the secret trusts used to fund David Cunliffe’s leadership challenge. He has held office in the Labour Party, including being electorate chair for David Cunliffe’s New Lynn electorate, he is a member of the Waitakere Ranges Local Board, and is descirbed by The Daily Blog as a “labour activist“. It is not like this post was made on the profile of Steve Gibson’s friend Joe Bloggs. Considering the profile and position of Greg Presland his actions, or lack thereof, in relation to this post should also be raising questions.

I don’t think you hold authors responsible for comments made on their site, unless they have previously seen the comment. for example I do not see 90% of the comments on Kiwiblog. I only read General Debate when someone complains about something. But from what I can see there were only two comments on Presland’s post, so I would be surprised if he had not seen the Shylock comment.

He notes that David Shearer said on Facebook:

I’ve been shocked and disappointed at the anti-Semitic comment and defacing of billboards over the past few days, including in my electorate of Mt Albert. I don’t want John Key to win the election because I believe NZ can do much better with a different, fairer government, not because of whether he’s Jewish or not. 

NZ is a tolerant society. We pride ourselves on it. Most of what I’ve seen shows the utter ignorance of the writers. I’ve taken the worst off my page here when it crops up. I don’t want to see it. 

Perhaps Mr Presland could emulate what David Shearer does. Beveridge points out:

There appears to have been no comment, from anyone, about the nature of Steve Gibson’s post on Greg’s wall, until it became public, two weeks after it was posted. If Greg had replied to Steve, pointing out the offensive and anit-Semitic nature of this post, or if he had deleted it before it became public, then it would have been a clear sign those involved in the high levels of the Labour Party take seriously the issue of anti-Semitism and their pledge Vote Positive. However neither Greg Presland nor any of his friends, appear to have made any comments, or taken any action to counter these comments.  Does this lack of action, or comment, from a senior figure in the Labour Party, and his friends, suggest an acceptance of the comments and their nature?

The fact is the comment was only removed after we highlighted it.

UPDATE: Patrick Gower writes:

If Labour’s campaign really was about “vote positive”, then leader David Cunliffe would have axed candidate Steven Gibson for the John Key “Shylock” call.

Mr Cunliffe has instead put him on a “final warning”, missing a golden opportunity to look decisive and find some moral high ground in what is already a dirty election campaign. But he should have just got rid of Mr Gibson.

Mr Gibson is responsible for calling Mr Key “Shylock” – a reference to the Jewish money lender in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.

The Shylock comment is off-colour and has anti-Semitic overtones. It is also rude, nasty and incredibly politically naive. It is the worst kind of negative politics.

He went even further on the Facebook post, calling Mr Key a “nasty little creep … with a nasty, evil, vindictive sneer”.

This is not the standard of discourse worthy of someone who wants to be an MP and it is certainly not “vote positive”.

Gower concludes:

I cannot come up with a single valid reason why Mr Cunliffe should have kept Mr Gibson as a candidate. He probably didn’t axe him because he and his strategist didn’t think of it and “kicked for touch”.

But Mr Cunliffe needs to take risks. He should have got rid of Mr Gibson.

Yes, he should have.

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Cunliffe says sorry for his holiday

July 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has admitted to making errors, including taking an over-long three-day holiday in Queenstown last week.

Cunliffe emerged from a caucus meeting of his MPs today promising to make changes to the way he and the party delivered their messages and admitting that the holiday was a mistake.

“I take responsibility for things I could have done better,” he said.

“I’m happy to say that with the information that I now have about the movement in the polls, which I didn’t have when I made that decision [to take a holiday], I would have made a different decision.”

He certainly would not have gone on such a long break, though he noted he was also ill for two days “and I didn’t have much choice about that”.

And in another story:

He scoffed at suggestions that some in his caucus were “doing the numbers” on a leadership change.

“That’s nonsense, absolute nonsense,” he said.

“I am confident I have the full support of my caucus.”


Former leader Phil Goff ruled out any interest in becoming leader again, and while Cunliffe’s predecessor David Shearer wouldn’t rule it out, he said he was focused on the party’s key messages.

Mark my words. Shearer will challenge after the election.

Also a third Stuff article reveals a new side to Cunliffe:

Pray, is Reverend Sue Dickson’s advice.  Cunliffe says he does – daily. 

I did not realise Cunliffe is such a devout Christian.

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The return of Shearer

July 18th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour would get an immediate lift in the polls if it dumped leader David Cunliffe, a new poll suggests.

The poll reveals that Cunliffe may have become Labour’s biggest liability, with a significant number of voters saying they would be more likely to vote for Labour if someone else were leader.

Click here for full poll results in graphics.

The effect is sizeable, making a 13.5 percentage point difference to Labour’s vote.

Although a similar effect is seen on National when asked the same question about John Key, it is much smaller.

The finding will plunge Labour further into crisis after yesterday’s poll result cementing Labour’s support in the mid-20s.

Privately, Labour and the Greens now acknowledge that it would take an unprecedented swing against National to force a change of government on September 20.

Some Labour MPs were yesterday privately canvassing leadership options, even at this late stage.

But they believe Labour would be even more severely punished by such an outward sign of panic.

Labour’s focus now has shifted to protecting its vote from further erosion, and preserving the seats of some of its up-and-coming stars, including Andrew Little, seen as a future leadership contender, and former teacher Kelvin Davis.

I think a change of leader 64 days before the election is unlikely, but it is correct Labour MPs are talking. They had their annual conference and their big education announcement, which should have given them a boost, and they’re still polling below what they got in 2011. The problem for them is that the phone is off the hook for many voters.

The major focus of Labour MPs is in fact on the leadership after the election. As I’ve reported previously they are terrified that Cunliffe won’t resign if Labour loses. Grant Robertson has the numbers to roll Cunliffe in caucus. He has had it for some time. But if Cunliffe doesn’t resign, and contests the leadership again despite being rolled by caucus, can Robertson win the vote of activists and unions? Cunliffe could well argue that he was never loyally supported by his caucus, and ask to be re-elected to have a mandate to do a purge.

Robertson’s fear is that he would lose again to Cunliffe, and this his chances of ever becoming Leader will be extinguished. And Grant is a cautious man. So the signal he has sent out is he will not stand.

So my understanding, from highly reliable sources, is that the decision has been made that instead David Shearer will stand again. His argument will be that he was never given a fair go, and that Labour would have done better if he had stayed on as Leader, than under Cunliffe. This will be difficult to argue against. Also Shearer is the one candidate whom Cunliffe can’t campaign against and accuse of disloyalty – because of course it was in fact Cunliffe who undermined Shearer. By contrast, Shearer has been publicly loyal.

Also Shearer has gained in confidence and performance since being dumped, as many have remarked. And crucially, he does not have such a high level of dislike.

So one can’t rule out a change in the next 64 days, but the more likely option is to try and minimise the loss, and then have Shearer challenge Cunliffe for the leadership in December.

However if the polls get much worse for them, then they may move. It will depend on if List MPs such as Andrew Little and Jacindaa Ardern look likely to lose their seats in Parliament. At the moment they are just back in on the average of public polls, and Labour picks up the electorate seats iPredict says they will.

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Shearer gets it – partially

January 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

David Shearer writes in the Herald:

My research took me to a wonderful school, Owairaka District School, where 8-year-old students served me a lunch of vegetarian pizza from their own pizza oven, salad from their garden, and muffins made with eggs from their chickens and honey from their hives.

Owairaka is a decile 2 school but the children are kept nourished and learning through this innovative garden-to-table programme.

But more critically, they are picking up the lifetime skills of gardening and food preparation – and they are doing it alongside family and community volunteers who also benefit.

It’s win, win, win – so much better than a hand-out for the kids – and it raised a question I have grappled with since my bill was drawn.

Is it right to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on to every low-decile school in the form of a food hand-out?

No. It is excellent a Labour MP sees this. Better late than never.

My fear is that we will institutionalise dependence through relying solely on a feeding programme. We need to be far more forward-looking.


There’s another critical need for a programme focused on nutrition. New Zealand has 275,000 overweight and obese children. Surely part of what we are teaching – in a practical way – should be around nutrition and good foods to eat.

There are two issues here – obesity and kids going to school without breakfast.

The latter is basically due to bad parenting. It costs just 39 cents  a day to give a child weetbix and milk for breakfast. If a kid is going to school without breakfast, it is not because of lack of money. Low income families get an extra $65 per week per child (plus up to $152 a week for the first child) to help cover the costs of a child.

Nutrition is an important issue, and educating kids on nutrition is worthwhile. Educating parents probably more so. But this can take many forms. I know scores of people who use smartphone apps to check nutritional content of food, and make decisions based on it.

Unfortunately, our current Government has done the opposite. In 2009, then Education Minister Anne Tolley removed the national guidelines to schools which stated that only healthy options should be available where food and beverages are sold at schools.

Sigh, now back to being the food police.  Almost no food in moderation is inherently unhealthy. Trying to categorise foods into always good and always bad is simplistic.

My bill originally aimed to legislate for food to be available in every decile 1, 2 and 3 school that wants it, so poorer communities can have confidence their children won’t be hungry at school.

That’s a start, but I’m going back to the drawing board so we can address the issues of nutrition and encourage self-reliance. We have lost the basic skills of how to garden and provide for ourselves.

So my aim is that my Food in Schools Bill will put resources into schools to help teach those simple skills, and enable kids to eat the food they grow themselves and understand a healthy diet.

Sounds an improvement. But to be honest the elephant in the room is the parents. If the parents do not understand nutrition and a healthy diet, then expecting teachers to change the eating habits of kids is a big ask.

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Shearer on UN Security Council bid

January 7th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

David Shearer writes at Stuff:

I recently travelled to New York to help with our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2015 and 2016. I met with close to 30 ambassadors as well as people I knew from my international work before entering Parliament. I did so at the request of Foreign Minister Murray McCully because our bid is a bipartisan one.

National and Labour are working together because winning a council seat is in New Zealand’s best interests.

Great to see.

It’s in our interests because we have a responsibility to contribute to the peace of mankind. And when it comes to preventing or resolving conflict, no more important body exists.

It’s in our interests to ensure regional security exists so that we can safely engage with the rest of the world. A seat on the council gives us ongoing contact with the world’s most powerful actors and economies.

And it’s a stage upon which New Zealand can showcase that we’re not just clean and green, but clean, green, honest and influential.

I believe having New Zealand on the council is also important to the UN.

New Zealand’s connection with the UN goes back to its very beginning when the first Labour Government signed us up as a founding member in 1945.

The views of the five powerful permanent members must be balanced by other members of the world community.

The Pacific is increasingly important in the Asian century. Our geography sees us as an important bridge between the US and China and so our views carry significant weight.

We’re not the puppet of any master: we are independent and honest.

And we have experience in resolving conflict, including leading from the front in brokering the end to civil war in Bougainville.

Which was primarily done by Wairarapa MP John Hayes, when he worked at MFAT.

I remember very clearly last time New Zealand was on the UN Security Council. It was 1993-1994 and I was working in Rwanda as head of Save the Children, reuniting 3000 children with surviving family members after the genocide.

In the Security Council, New Zealand took the most forceful stand against the unfolding genocide than any other country.

This time around, we are competing with Turkey and Spain for two available spots. They have large followings in the Muslim and Spanish speaking worlds respectively.

Our greatest asset is our reputation.

I think Turkey is probably a slam dunk for one of the spots. So effectively it is between us and Spain at the moment. They do start with a significant pool of support but their economy is in the crap which weakens them.

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Was Shearer set up?

August 29th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

This is unbelievable. 3 News reports:

If David Shearer didn’t jump he was probably going to be rolled – that much, we already know.

But now it’s emerged that it wasn’t just a small faction inside the Labour Party that wanted him gone – it was his entire caucus.

In fact, every single one of them knew Mr Shearer was going to present two dead fish in Parliament last week, and no one stopped him.

They all knew? Not one Labour MP said that it was a massively bad idea? The poor bastard. They set him up. No wonder he is taking a few weeks off.

Whose idea was it? Will we find out?

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David Shearer’s Resignation – The Opera

August 26th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

David Shearer’s resignation speech sung as an opera. Very well done.


Nash blames caucus and Mold for Shearer’s downfall

August 25th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

From The Nation today:

Rachel           Alright Mike we’ll come back to you a little later in the programme.  We’re going to go back now to Hastings where I think we have Stuart Nash, and I think he can hear us now?  You can I think.  Excellent.  Thank you for joining us there.  Can I put that to you actually as David Shearer’s former Chief of Staff.  Was it David Shearer who failed or did the team around him, the immediate team around him?  Did that team fail him?

 Stuart Nash – Former Labour MP

 Well I would say two things Rachel.  There were two things that went wrong.  First of all, you know your political history as well as I do, I cannot think of a party that won an election either in government or in opposition that had an openly dysunified caucus, and the second thing I think went wrong is the strategy was wrong in the Leader’s office.

Rachel           Okay so let’s start with the caucus.  What did the Labour caucus think of Shearer?

Stuart             Well they elected him.  When you elect a leader you stand behind that leader, you work very hard for that leader, and you make sure you give that leader the best possible opportunity to win an election.  Politics is about winning elections.  I personally think David would have been a very good Prime Minister, he’s a smart guy.  Look I don’t buy into the argument that he was too nice.  This was a bloke who lived in Mogadishu.  This was a bloke that led the UN in Iraq.  Mr Nice does not do those sorts of jobs.  This was a hard man.  He was a very good bloke, and like I said I think he would have been a very good Prime Minister given the opportunity.

Rachel           What was going on in the Leader’s office then?

Stuart             Well I firmly believe that if you want to be Prime Minister  you’ve gotta give every New Zealander the opportunity to have met you.  Now if you think about if you want to be President of the United States that person has to travel up and down the country and speak in nearly every little hamlet, town, city, right across America.  And it’s the same in New Zealand.  Helen Clark between 1996 and 1999 spent all her time just travelling up and down and right across New Zealand, speaking to every little Rotary Club, Lions Club, Workingmen’s Club, you know you name it Helen talked to it.  You’ve gotta have meetings with town halls that contain 10 people and contain a 100 people.  You’ve gotta give 10 speeches a week, and then you’ve gotta get up and you’ve gotta give another 10 the next week.  Every single year when you are in Opposition is election year.  There is now sort of hiatus, there’s no holiday, you’ve gotta start campaigning the day after the election.

Rachel           So they had the wrong strategy for him then do you think?

Stuart             They did.  I firmly believe that what David needed to do was – well do what Helen did.  Tuesday and Wednesday in parliament, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, up and down the country speaking to New Zealanders.  Like I said if New Zealanders feel they’ve had the opportunity to meet you it doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily taken up that opportunity, but if they feel as if they have had that opportunity then they’re much more likely to vote for you.  And keep in mind if you come to a place like Hastings, or like Napier, the Leader of the Opposition turning up is still big news, you’re still gonna get your photo in the community daily, or the community weekly.

Rachel           So who do you blame for this failure?  Who do you blame for this failure in strategy?

Stuart             Well David had some staff around him that he listened to, that he took advice from.  The bottom line is, David has resigned as Leader of the Opposition because he felt as if he didn’t have the confidence of his caucus colleagues, and that basically is because the polls weren’t rising in a way that the caucus felt he should have.  So you know I think his chief strategists have actually got to put up their hand and say hey we got it wrong.

Rachel           Who?  Exactly who?

Stuart             Well I actually think Fran Mold needs to put up here hand and say look, maybe I didn’t do things as well as I could have in terms of media relations.  Alistair Cameron perhaps has to as Chief of Staff.  But Alistair’s a very good man and I’ve had a couple of conversations with Alistair, but you know the bottom line is David is the Leader, but I just think if he had spent all his time up and down the country, cos he is a good man, he’s a man of absolute integrity, he’s a man of fantastic values, and he could have been a good Prime Minister.  But what I’m talking about, this isn’t rocket science Rachel, this isn’t the first time this has been said.  This is what every leader in New Zealand and across the western world does if they want to be Prime Minister, President, you name it.  They get out and they meet the people, and they find out what the real issues are.

It will be very interesting to see what happens to both the caucus and the leader’s office if Robertson or Cunliffe wins. Robertson is close to most of the leader’s office staff so I suspect little change there if he wins. Cunliffe however could well bring in new people.

Likewise in the caucus, I see little change in the shadow cabinet except a promotion for Ardern is Robertson wins. Cunliffe however could well dispense with some of the old guard who have spent years briefing against him.

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Why Shearer failed

August 23rd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Back in December 2011 I wrote:

On balance I think Shearer has a greater chance of leading Labour to victory, for reasons I have written about previously. But I will say that Shearer is a somewhat risker option. There is greater potential to wins over the hearts and minds of New Zealanders and get Labour’s party vote back into the mid 30s or highers. But there is also a greater risk that Shearer just can’t hack it, and Labour stays weak or gets weaker.

So why did Shearer fail? I think it is a bit superficial to say it is just because he was a nice man, not hard enough for politics. I think there were a number of factors.

  1. Failed to capitalise on his background to portray himself as an “anti-politician”. The public love outsiders and don’t like insiders when it comes to politics. That is why both Don Brash and John Key did so well in the polls. Shearer needed to focus on being the Michael Joseph Savage type of leader who set out his vision for New Zealand, and didn’t spend every second criticising the Government. A classic example is he said he wanted to avoid “gotcha” politics yet for around 150 question times in a row his question to the PM has been a gotcha “do you stand by all your statements” type question.
  2. Didn’t gather the right staff around him. I’m not blaming the staff, as they are often unfairly blamed for things. But is has been apparent that there were no senior staff with the authority and respect to impose the leader’s decisions on the wider parliamentary team.
  3. The old guard remained in control. Shearer was their candidate to stop Cunliffe, but they remained dominant, which meant the caucus never unified.
  4. No strategy. Labour’s major policies appeared to be focus group driven to respond to concerns about foreigners and the like. There was no over-arching strategy which was about having David Shearer known for three things he would do differently that could resonate with people.
  5. No political management of the party. The change to the leadership rules, the further entrenching of union power, the man ban proposals all happened on his watch and undermined him. To be fair to him, normally deputy leaders take care of most of the party management issues and one can speculate as to why this didn’t happen in this case!
  6. A lack of confidence with media and speaking. Shearer can be an excellent speaker when he is saying what he really thinks and believes. But too often he was having to promote policies which I think he was half hearted about. When you have to think about what is the correct thing to say – rather than to just speak from instinct, makes the job harder. It is a skill you can learn, and he struggled with. But when speaking more off the cuff to large groups he could be very persuasive.

I regard the first of my points as the most important. Labour should have developed a 33 month strategy around how to position David Shearer as the next Prime Minister, and then developed policies, communication plans and the like which all worked within that strategy. They needed to have major vision and policy announcements far earlier in the piece so the public would want to hear more and more of the man who would be PM.

The Dom Post editorial notes:

However, Mr Shearer’s biggest failing was that he was never able to convey the impression that there was anything he particularly wanted to achieve as prime minister. On his watch Labour responded to public anxiety about the high cost of housing by unveiling proposals for a government home building programme, a capital gains tax and a ban on foreigners investing in the residential property market. The party responded to concerns about the high cost of electricity by promising to scrap the electricity market and put the industry back under the control of Wellington bureaucrats. Housing and electricity costs are both issues that resonate with focus groups but neither are the sort to excite supporters or persuade the politically undecided to get out of their armchairs.

As leader Mr Shearer was a stunt in search of a philosophy. The strategy concocted around him did not wash and, with the help of his colleagues, he rightly came to the conclusion that things were not going to get any better while he remained leader.

I think this is right. Shearer was meant to be a leader who could appeal to centrist voters, but instead his caucus and advisors pushed him to the left, so that Labour was pushing populist and nationalist policies that appeal to hard left and Green voters, and an overall policy agenda well to the left of the Clark/Cullen Government.


John Stringer 22 August 2013 – A reprise? (Shearer goes)

August 22nd, 2013 at 9:00 pm by Kokila Patel

Dec 2011…


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Shearer resigns

August 22nd, 2013 at 1:41 pm by David Farrar

David Shearer has resigned as Leader of the Labour Party. He will remain an MP. At this stage it looks like Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe will both contest the leadership which means a full membership ballot with the caucus getting 40%, the members 405 and the unions 20%.

Looks like he got killed by his own snapper stunt, with that being the last straw. Which staffer’s idea was that I wonder?

The gallery reported he had until Spring (1 September) to perform or go, and it has come true.

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A snapper backfire

August 21st, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I thought the stunt with he snapper in the House yesterday looked awful for David Shearer. I’m not against stunts per se, but you need to think about timing. You can pull off a stunt like that if you have been campaigning on an issue relentlessly and have driven the issue from the beginning. But with the exception of David Cunliffe, Labour MPs have been almost missing from the campaign and only jumped on board in the last few days. So doing a snapper stunt in Parliament looks like opportunism, not a cunning stunt. Such a stunt would work if it was an issue the Government was refusing to back down on, and had under-estimated the impact of. But to the contrary the PM has already made it clear there will be no major change, and he has been going up and down the country saying this is the issue I hear most about, not the GCSB. In fact the timing of the stunt was atrocious. It was on the day of the final debate on the details or committee stage of the GCSB Bill. By making the snapper stunt the focus of question time, you implicitly are endorsing the PMs view that this is the bigger issue. Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

A fishy stunt in Parliament by Labour leader David Shearer appeared to backfire after it spawned a round of dead fish jokes. … Mr Key said parading dead fish in Parliament showed Mr Shearer’s PR team was also “dead” before demanding that he table the larger snapper so he could eat it for dinner. As Mr Shearer held up the two fish, Justice Minister Judith Collins shot back on Twitter: “Which of the 3 is likely to last longest?” while Act leader John Banks claimed he was “floundering over snapper


Mr Shearer’s fish, which he had brought down from Auckland in his carry-on luggage, were placed back in a bag and ushered out of the debating chamber by deputy leader Grant Robertson.

Gone by lunchtime? The fish that is! On the substance of the issue I must point Labour are wrong when they say the Government has ruled out cuts to commercial quota. Another story quotes the energetic David Cunliffe:

MPI has been criticised for focusing on recreational sector cuts while ignoring commercial quota and wastage. Under Labour’s plan the burden for restoring fish stocks would be shared fairly between all sectors, Mr Cunliffe said. “Would we rule out cuts to commercial quota? No, we absolutely wouldn’t.”

But has MPI ignored commercial quota. Let’s look at Option 3 from the same story:

Option 3 * Reduces the recreational catch to 2370 tonnes and reduces the commercial quota to 4180 tonnes.

So how is that ignoring the commercial quota? I agree the MPI document doesn’t focus enough on it, but neither does it ignore it.

UPDATE: Jane Clifton also thinks the stunt backfired. She writes:

Ever since Don Brash, visiting a boatyard during an election campaign, was filmed “walking the plank”, politicians have been extra careful about avoiding unfortunate symbolism.

Unaccountably, the Opposition leader’s office forgot this wise precaution yesterday.

Either that, or no-one could manage to dissuade David Shearer, seeking to illustrate a point about snapper quota, from producing two of the fish in Parliament yesterday.

It would be interesting to know whose idea it was!

Prime Minister John Key sought leave for Mr Shearer to table the fish so he could get them cooked for his dinner. He had already made a meal of Mr Shearer. In an earlier own-goal, Mr Key had been gifted the opportunity to portray National-Labour discussions about a consensus on the new spying legislation as being akin to Monty Python’s fish-slapping dance.

Mr Shearer had asked Mr Key to confirm whether he or his office had held any meetings with Labour in the run-up to the bill. “I can’t believe he is asking that question,” Mr Key boggled, indicating that he would answer it, but it would not be fun for Mr Shearer if he did.

Mr Shearer said to bring it on – so falling into another question time heffalump pit. 

A heffalump pit – I love it!

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Throwing boulders in glasshouses

August 13th, 2013 at 6:40 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Labour believes ministerial staff are looking for better options.

Figures released under the Official Information Act shows 150 ministerial staff have left since National came to power, 47 of them went last year

Labour Leader David Shearer isn’t surprised at the turnover and believes the departures are about self interest and self preservation.

” A number of people that I’ve spoken to have said that they felt it was time to get out before this government came to an end – I think a lot of people are looking after their own careers and getting out while they’ve got the chance to get out.”

You know. If I was advising the Leader of the Opposition, who was onto his third chief of staff in 18 months, I’d suggest he doesn’t comment on a story about staffing.

I’d also suggest that trying to claim credit for Ministerial staff leaving because they are despondent over the Government’s chances would open you up for ridicule when you are at barely 30% in the polls and the Government is at 49%.

Finally I’d also point out the story is meaningless without knowing how many staff in total work in ministerial offices.

As it happens it is around 275, so 150 staff leaving over four and a half years is around 33 staff a year.  That’s around a 12% annual loss rate. I’d say that is lower than many employers. Also considering working in a ministerial office is often a 50 – 60 hour a week job with huge stress and less pay than comparable private sector jobs – well a 12% annual loss rate is actually quite remarkable.

I survived a total of eight years in Parliament, and I was one of the longer serving staff.

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So who’s behind this video?

August 9th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Got sent this video link a few days back. Pretty good production values, so someone is going to some trouble.

For my 2c, I think a change remains unlikely.

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Small on Shearer

July 29th, 2013 at 2:25 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes at Stuff:

The only thing saving him is the refusal of the Shearer-sceptics to coalesce around a single alternative.

The blokish, more conservative MPs can’t yet bring themselves to back deputy leader Grant Robertson.

The anti-Cunliffe group may have been expanded by his disloyalty at the time of last year’s annual conference although, to be fair, he has been keeping his head down and playing the team game in recent months.

Former union boss and party president Andrew Little has not set the world alight, nor gathered a salon of close supporters and he is seen as unready.

So the status quo remains.

But at times it feels as if the rival factions are in some macabre version of the movie Weekend at Bernie’s lugging around a political corpse because they are afraid to let go of one arm in case he falls over and the other side grabs power.

What a great analogy!

Unless Mr Shearer stepped aside and an heir was anointed – something the wider party would likely balk at – a spill that late in the year would trigger a primary runoff that would cascade into election year, further weakening Labour’s prospects.

Yes, Mr Shearer needs to lift his game, but he is not stupid. He surely gets the sense of urgency. Whether he can change is the open question.

The sceptics also have to play their part. They must either back him or back off. At the moment they are going around in circles. “It isn’t working, we need to move, he is not up to it, but I am not voting for . . .” And so nothing continues to happen and Mr Shearer’s confidence is sapped further.

Of course, events across the Tasman show that these things can never be finally put to bed until success silences the critics.

But if Labour wants to get back in the game, the leadership circus must be brought to a climax, the sooner the better.

The next TV polls will be in September probably. That may be the crucial month.

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Hide on Shearer

July 28th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes in HoS:

Those of us following politics are witnessing the destruction of a party leader. The destruction is all the more remarkable because it’s coming entirely from within. It’s especially remarkable because the parties combined in opposition are consistently polling within a whisker of government. They could easily win.

National is polling extremely well but its necessary support parties are not. Next year’s election is looking a close-run thing. MMP is like that. It’s not how well one party does but how well the parties who can work together in government do in total.

The Labour Party should now be attempting to show themselves, the Greens and New Zealand First united in heading into government. Instead, Labour is failing to unite behind its own leader. It’s a political mess. The plotters within the Labour caucus don’t have the numbers to dump David Shearer. If they did, he would be gone. Minus the numbers, they aren’t quietly getting on with their job. They are, instead, engaged in a guerrilla campaign to destroy their democratically elected leader.

I think they may have the numbers. They just don’t have the certainty of who would win the replacement election.

The plotters’ attacks are deathly corrosive. That’s their purpose. If the plotters can keep up their attacks from the shadows they will inflict sufficient damage. At that point either Shearer or his colleagues and supporters will accept he is damaged beyond political repair. Then the plotters will have succeeded.

Meanwhile, when we are especially in need of an effective opposition, our major opposition party is entirely focused on itself. When we need more than ever to be debating the country’s direction, the Labour Party is busy debating with itself.

The true difference between National and Labour is not philosophy or policy. It’s cultural. It manifests in many ways. The Nats dispatch leaders with the minimum of fuss. They put winning elections and being in government above all other considerations. They don’t do untidy. Labour revel in it.

The tough part for Labour’s plotters is not the damaging of Shearer. That’s easy. Their tough part will be putting the party together once they have succeeded. That’s hard.

They need a unity ticket.

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Fran says Bring Back Goff

July 27th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

Shearer’s fortunes were not helped by the latest TV3 poll in which Labour slid 2.1 per cent to a 31 per cent rating. The results will inevitably increase tensions with the usual suspects calculating what leadership permutations might work if Labour continues its poll slump and its leader – now on to his third chief of staff – can’t lift his game.

The permutations of different leadership combinations: Deputy leader Grant Robertson, David Cunliffe, Andrew Little and Shane Jones all in the mix together with David Parker for the top trio of roles: leader, deputy leader and finance spokesman.

They all have important attributes.

But personally, I’ve never been able to understand why Labour MPs chucked Goff out so quickly after the 2011 election. He has always been an excellent performer and would have driven hard against Key over the past 18 months and made the dents Shearer couldn’t.

It probably gets up Labour’s nose to say so but there is no reason to throw out a seasoned performer (who is clearly light years better than many of his colleagues) simply because he has been in Parliament since his 30s.

Let’s face it, John Howard – who like Goff was a Cabinet minister – before becoming Leader of the Opposition then being rejected by colleagues, rose again to take the Australian Liberals through to win the 1996 election and reigned successfully as Australia’s Prime Minister for four terms before being thrown out of his own seat.

So Fran seems to be saying Labour should go back to Goff.

I think this is unlikely, but not impossible.

They key is that the caucus is shit scared of having a membership-wide vote, in case Cunliffe wins it. So Shearer will only go when a deal is worked out (if it can be) between Robertson, Little and Cunliffe.

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