Brash on Banks

June 7th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Don Brash writes on Facebook:

So the court has found John Banks guilty. Three observations. First, I have known John Banks for 30 years and have not found him to be anything other than an honest man. Second, it is a huge tragedy for a man who has overcome great personal difficulties; served with distinction as a Member of Parliament, as a Minister, and as the mayor of Auckland; and helped to raise three Russian orphans.

But third, when I contrast what John Banks was found by the court to have done with what Helen Clark’s Labour Party did in 2005 – without the slightest attempt by the Police to call her to account – the offence of which he has been found guilty is utterly trivial.

In 2005, the Labour Party spent Parliamentary funding to the extent of more than three-quarters of a million dollars on explicit electioneering, despite having been warned against doing so by both the Auditor General and the Chief Electoral Officer just weeks before the election. Yes, they eventually repaid that money, but only under strong protest. And of course by that the time the election was won.

And what they could not undo, and were never held to account for, was grossly overspending the legal limit on spending in that election. The Police, in a disgracefully biased decision, decided not to prosecute, despite the Labour Party’s own auditors finding that the Party had unambiguously breached the legal spending limit if spending on their infamous “pledge card” was election spending. And did anybody who saw that “pledge card” think it was NOT part of Labour’s election campaign?

Whatever John Banks did in trying to raise money to finance his mayoral campaign in 2010 did not affect the outcome of that election. By contrast, Labour’s illegal behaviour almost certainly did affect the result of the 2005 election.

Excellent points by Don Brash. Banks was wrong to break the law, but Labour’s law breaches in 2005 were much more significant and did have an impact on the election result.

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Who should set the cash rate?

June 21st, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Greens have proposed that the Reserve Bank Board should set the official cash rate, not just the Governor. It’s a reasonable debate to have, but one that seemed familiar. I was sure the issue had been canvassed in the past as part of an independent review. I asked Don Brash if my recollection was correct and he responded:

David, you are almost correct. Cullen asked Lars Svensson to conduct a comprehensive review of the whole monetary policy framework. At the time, in 2000, Svensson was a leading monetary policy academic, at Yale from memory. Being Swedish, he had the advantage of being from a country regarded as “moderate” in political terms and, like New Zealand, a country very dependent on trade, with a floating exchange rate. He has since become one of the Deputy Governors of the Swedish central bank. 

He gave the New Zealand framework top marks, describing it as “world’s best practice”, but he did say that he thought that having all monetary policy decisions vested in the single person of the Governor was risky. (Fortunately for me, he said I had done a good job!) He suggested that instead monetary policy decisions should be taken by a small internal committee of senior RB staff – not by the board of (outside) directors because of the potential for conflicts of interest. Both the Treasury and the non-executive directors of the Reserve Bank recommended that New Zealand stick with the single decision-maker model because that makes it easier to pin the blame if monetary policy doesn’t deliver what the Policy Targets Agreement (the agreement between Minister of Finance and Governor) requires to be delivered.

It is a fair point, that if you make the decision a joint one by the Board, it makes it harder for there to be accountability for any failure in monetary policy.

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Brash on land prices

May 28th, 2013 at 6:56 am by David Farrar

Don Brash writes in the NZ Herald:

Of course Dr Hosking is right if the supply of land is fixed, as indeed it has been by council decision. But it doesn’t have to be fixed. At the moment, less than 1 per cent of New Zealand’s area is urbanised. We are one of the least densely populated countries in the world. The council has quite deliberately chosen to make land expensive.

The price of land in Auckland is not an accident. It is, as Don says, deliberate.

And the consequences of that decision are disastrous, socially and economically.

It’s disastrous socially because for most low and middle-income families, buying a house in Auckland is now not even remotely possible, and for those families who do make the attempt, it almost inevitably means both parents working outside the home. Most low and middle-income families can’t even make the attempt, and often live in over-crowded, poor quality rental accommodation.

Don asks:

Why is it possible to buy 500sq m sections on the outskirts of Houston for $40,000, whereas 400sq m sections on the outskirts of Auckland cost $400,000? The answer lies simply in the fact that in Houston there are relatively relaxed attitudes towards using land on the outskirts of the city, whereas in Auckland that has been prohibited.

Town planners turn their nose up at Houston, and claim it is an awful place to live. However families from all over the US are heading there – because they can buy a reasonably sized home at a decent price there.

The very first report of the New Zealand Productivity Commission was on the cost of housing. The commission concluded that there were various reasons why housing is so expensive in New Zealand – but overwhelmingly the biggest single factor is the price of land, and that in turn has been a quite deliberate policy choice.

There are multiple factors, but ignoring land supply is ignoring the elephant in the room.

Dr Hosking mentioned that four of the five cities in the Mercer quality of living survey are “intensified”. And the fifth is Auckland. What he didn’t note was that Auckland is already more intensified than one of the other five, namely Vancouver. In fact, according to the Demographia survey of many hundreds of urban areas around the world, no city in the United States, Canada or Australia has more people per square kilometre than Auckland has now.

Again, a deliberate choice by the Council. And the fact Auckland is one of the most expensive cities in the world to buy a home is deliberately linked to that. And politicians from the left near universally are opposed to doing anything meaningful about it.

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Brash on the rebuild

January 21st, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Olivia Carville at The Press reports:

The Government should turn a blind eye to illegal migrants working in Christchurch’s rebuild because the city needs all hands on deck, former high-profile politician Don Brash says.

Brash, a past leader of both the National Party and ACT Party, believes officials should focus on rebuilding the city rather than hunting down unlawful workers.

“I want local and central government to show more urgency on the rebuild of Christchurch and if that means taking a lenient attitude toward people whose immigration status might not be up to scratch, in the peculiar situation which Christchurch faces, I would be all in favour of that,” he said.

I wouldn’t advocate employing people with no right to work in NZ, but what the Govt could do is allow those here illegally to gain a work visa if they are willing to work in Chch.

However, his controversial comments have been slammed by the city’s migrant agencies as “gutless”.

Patrick O’Connor, the co-director of Peeto, Christchurch’s Multicultural Learning Centre, labelled Brash’s suggestion as “anti-New Zealand”.

“It is totally hypocrisy coming from a man who was the head of ACT (which is an acronym for the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers). If he is so mindful of protecting the rights of taxpayers in New Zealand, how can he turn around and advocate for illegal migrants who evade tax?” O’Connor asked.

I don’t think Don is saying they should be employed under the table, rather than they be allowed to work legally despite not being entitled to be in NZ.

Brash posted: “I have to say that I couldn’t give a damn about so-called illegal workers helping to rebuild Christchurch . . . If I had somebody helping to rebuild my home after almost two years of waiting for anything to be done, I wouldn’t care what their immigration status was.”

Brash, who now lives in Auckland, grew up in Christchurch and told The Press he was frustrated to hear his retired sister, who has been living in a caravan since the February 2011 earthquake, would not have her house repaired before Christmas.

“My feeling is, if this were war, everybody would be saying: ‘Look, we want all hands to the pump and if anybody is willing to work hard to help that’s fantastic.’

If we do not have enough people to fill up the jobs available, then we should make it easier for people to work here.

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Brash on monetary policy

December 17th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Don Brash writes in the Herald:

Your columnist Bernard Hickey often writes articles with which I agree, but he has a real blind spot about monetary policy. Not long ago he was advocating printing money to reduce the foreign exchange value of the New Zealand dollar and avoid the need for so much government borrowing, apparently oblivious to the inflationary effects of such a policy. Yes, other central banks are printing money and buying government bonds, but they are all faced with potential deflation and have already reduced interest rates close to zero.

We are not in that situation by a very long way.

Printing money means we pay more for petrol, food, clothing etc.

Last Sunday he criticised what he described as our “obsession with strict inflation targeting” and “the theory that low inflation cures all ills”. But we’ve never had a “strict inflation targeting regime” and successive Reserve Bank governors have been willing to ignore the price effects of one-off factors like oil shocks and changes in GST, thereby allowing inflation to rise above the announced inflation target.

And the regime is set 1% higher than it used to be. It was 0% to 2%, and now is 1% to 3%. And as Don has said, it hasn’t rigorously been kept at 1% over the years.

inflation

If anything, we have had too much inflation. Those who say the answer is more inflation should be disregarded. How much more? Do we want 5%? 10%? 15%?

Low inflation does not cure all ills. But higher inflation helps nobody (except property speculators). It doesn’t even stimulate employment as we used to believe, except briefly by temporarily cutting real wages.

And while printing money or drastically easing monetary policy might get the exchange rate down, we know from bitter experience that this provides only temporary relief for exporters as higher inflation quickly offsets the benefits of a lower exchange rate.

For decades we could compete on international markets with the New Zealand dollar at US$1.12. Now we can’t because too often we listened to those who argued for just a bit more inflation.

The answer is not more inflation. The answer is greater productivity. You can’t print money to make a country richer.

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Hide on the Brash coup

March 30th, 2012 at 4:25 pm by David Farrar

A must read interview with Rodney Hide in the Listener. An extract:

The moment Don Brash went public with his ambitions over the Easter break last year, Hide realised the game was up no matter what the result. “Once he’d announced the attack on me, I was toast,” he exclaims, relishing the chance to finally tell the story. “Even if I won I was toast, and so I thought, ‘Oh well, I’m toast, and I need to work this through in the best way,’” he says, edging closer to the table as the late sun falls across the street.

“I had to line up the board, line up supporters, line up the Prime Minister, walk them all through it, work out how to handle it. And of course, Don was such a klutz that I ended up organising his coup!” Hide’s final task was a phone call to Brash, whose absent-minded-professor voice he mimics as he relays the story.

“I said: ‘Don, you and I are having a press conference at 11am.’
“‘Oh really?’
“I said: ‘Yes and at this press conference I will be announcing that I am standing down.’
“‘Oh really? Oh, that’s very good of you.’ 
“‘The board will support you and I’ll bow out gracefully.’
“‘Oh that’s very good. Where’s the press conference?’
“‘I said: ‘It’s blah, blah, blah in Newmarket …’ and all the rest.
“‘Where will I park my car?’
“I said: ‘Don. I have organised your f—ing coup for you. You can figure out where to park your f—ing car.’”

Heh.

It is a lengthy and interesting interview.

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The corruption would be if politicians decided charges

March 11th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rob Stock in the SST reports:

Labour MP Phil Twyford has tabled a petition calling for an investigation into the decision not to proceed with charges against John Banks and Don Brash as directors of the Huljich KiwiSaver scheme.

Twyford won’t comment on the petition, which is the work of former Auckland mayoral candidate Penny Bright who is incensed that Banks, the minister for regulatory reform, escaped having to defend himself in court for signing a prospectus that contained false and misleading statements.

The petition now must be considered by the Commerce Select Committee, made up of nine MPs of which five are from the National Party. 

People may not be aware that there is no significance to what has happened. An MP who tables a petition does not mean they agree with ts intent. Almost all MPs will accept a petition.

The Office of the Clerk allocate the petition to a select committee. There is no vote about accepting it. It is automatic. I could do a petition asking for the House to declare war on Australia and liberate Tasmania by armed force, and it would end up with the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

The Commerce Select Committee does not need to respond to the petition, beyond reporting it to the House with no recommendations.

Now as to the substance:

The FMA said the Securities Commission “obtained the advice of respected counsel on this issue. That advice was then reviewed and confirmed by a Queen’s Counsel. The commission considered that advice and the results of its investigation carefully.

“It formed the view that there was insufficient evidence to show that either Dr Brash or Mr Banks would have known that the prospectus contained misleading information.”

What Bright is seeking to do is in my opinion a form of corruption in itself. She is asking for politicians to overturn the decision of an independent authority, and prosecute people because she does not like their politics. This is what you get in Zimbabwe, not New Zealand.

MPs should never be involved in deciding if charges should have been laid against anyone, let alone other politicians. The sole exception is of course the Attorney-General, but even then this is almost always delegated to the Solicitor-General.  And even then it is usually that the AG has to consent to a prosecution – not that the AG can determine that someone should be prosecuted, against the decision of the appropriate prosecuting authority.

So this petition will go nowhere, and that is a good thing.

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Perigo on ACT

November 17th, 2011 at 4:25 pm by David Farrar

Lindsay Perigo blogs on ACT, with a unique perspective having worked for them briefly. He notes with the cannabis speech:

On the night after the speech, Don appeared on Campbell Live to defend it. The programme ran a poll on decriminalisation to coincide with his appearance. A record number of people—15000—responded; 72% supported him! Not for the first time, we saw that this is one of those libertarian issues where the voters are much more enlightened than most politicians. As the Press noted at the time, on this matter Banks rather than Brash is the dinosaur.

Here was Don’s chance to re-brand ACT unambiguously as the live-and-let-live party across the board, not just on economic issues. But he needed to hold his nerve. I had texted him a line from Rudyard Kipling just before his Campbell Live appearance: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you … “

I agree with Lindsay that the speech was not a mistake per se. However where I have been critical is that key stakeholders were not in the loop, and talking points agreed in advance. If that had been done, then the speech could well have worked as intended – showing Don as a social liberal, not just an economic liberal.

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Brash v Gower

November 2nd, 2011 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

Enjoy!

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A long overdue cannabis debate

September 26th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Just blogged at Stuff on the long overdue cannabis debate. I note:

The Law Commission has also advocated a mandatory cautioning scheme for anyone charged with a personal possession or use offence. For Class C drugs such as cannabis they recommend that a person only be prosecuted from their fourth offence. This could be a sensible compromise between full decriminalisation and the current law.

The debate will not go away, just because some do not want to admit the current approach is failing.

 

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Brash calls for cannabis decriminalisation

September 25th, 2011 at 10:12 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Act leader Don Brash is calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis.

He says prohibition of the drug hasn’t worked, and policing it costs millions of tax payer dollars and clogs up the court system.

He’s told TVNZ’s Q&A programme there are other ways to restrict the use of marijuana.

“It’s estimated thousands of New Zealanders use cannabis on a fairly regular basis, 6,000 are prosecuted every year, a $100million of tax payers money is spent to police this law,” says My Brash.

I’m delighted to see ACT pushing socially liberal policies as well as economically liberal policies. And I agree with Don – I do think cannabis should be decriminalised, with the emphasis being to treat it as a health issue.

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A good op ed by Don

May 29th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Don Brash has a good op ed in the SST responding to a guest column by a young essay writer.

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Hilarious

May 14th, 2011 at 9:25 am by David Farrar

Danyl at Dim-Post has found a second letter from Don Brash to John Key:

It is with a heavy heart that I withdraw my membership, not only of the National Party, as I explained in my previous letter, but also from the National Party Social Bowling Club of which I have been a proud member for twenty-three years.

I do not take this decision lightly and I have made it after observing, with mounting alarm, your lack of commitment to the activity of bowling.

When I had the privilege to serve as President of the Social Bowling Club and you were my treasurer, I railed against the inefficiency of the sport as I saw it. Despite repeated attempts to destroy the little pins at the end of the lane with our heavy balls, there was never any reduction in the total amount of pins. We spent many hours knocking them down but the next time the Club met there they all were again, standing upright just as before, presumably placed there by some malign, unseen state agency.

I gave many speeches, John – which you endorsed – calling for the cessation of bowling using balls, arguing for the deployment of hand grenades and fragile crystal globes filled with acid. Have you forgotten those plans?

And he continues:

The things I discovered shocked me. I learned, and reported back to you, that the pins we knocked down during each game were the SAME PINS EVERY TIME. Concealed at the back of the lane was a large, complicated mechanical apparatus that picked them up and set them standing again! I was literally sick with terror and disgust! All our previous efforts had been for naught!

I appraised you of these facts, John, but your response to them staggers me. You have not disconnected this equipment, as I advised. You have not smashed the pins with heavy mallets, even though, as we now know to our terrible cost, their total number is small, no more than a few dozen at best, and they could easily be annihilated. Instead I have looked on with uncomprehending horror as, under your leadership, National MPs now bowl from the start of the lane instead of standing directly above the pins and hurling the balls at them as was practise during my presidency.

Superb satire.

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Dear John

May 13th, 2011 at 10:54 am by David Farrar

Below is the letter Don Brash sent to John Key recently and has just released publicly. No great surprises in it, but it indicates to me that ACT plan to target National voters pretty aggressively.

Don Brash’s Dear John Letter to the PM

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Brash on Perigo tonight

May 12th, 2011 at 4:18 pm by David Farrar

Hat Tip: Not PC

I think this could be a very interesting interview.

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Family First on Don’s voting record

May 11th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Bob McCoskrie blogs:

We’ve been contacted by a number of supporters asking about the voting record of new ACT party leader Dr Don Brash, who may be a key player in forming the next government. …

On the positive side, he voted 
AGAINST Civil Unions and Relationships Bills
FOR Parental Notification for teenagers seeking an abortion
AGAINST the Care of Children Bill,
and FOR the Marriage Amendment Bill which defined marriage as one man and one woman. 

Most importantly, while in Parliament, he voted AGAINST the Anti-smacking bill …

On the negative side, he voted
FOR the decriminalisation of Euthanasia
FOR the decriminalisation of Prostitution
AGAINST Raising the Drinking Age back to 20,
and AGAINST the ability for Manukau City to ban the problem of Street Prostitution.

It should come as no surprise that what FF lists as negatives, I regard as positives. While Don was not entirely consistent, he generally has been a social liberal on “moral” issues. He did flip on civil unions, having voted for at first reading and then against at second reading. It would be interesting to know what his stance is today on issues such as civil unions, the drinking age etc.

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Luke I am not your father

May 8th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The SST reports:

ACT PARTY leader Don Brash’s coup has hit problems with a smear campaign that party insiders blame on supporters of the man he replaced, Rodney Hide.

The campaign has seen widespread rumours of affairs and even a “love child”. Last night Brash dismissed the accusations as appalling, while commentators labelled them a “new low” on the Kiwi political landscape.

I was interviewed for this story. [DPF: have removed the sentence which was here so it doesn’t identify anyone]

I’m not sure if the rumours are being pushed by any person or faction maliciously, or whether it is just an old joke that has turned into more wide-spread gossip. Most gossip spreads without malicious intent.

The man named as Brash’s son – who the Star-Times will not name – said the rumours were “fanciful”. He said he was aware of the rumours being spread about him by Hide supporters, and that the “mud-slinging represented a new low in New Zealand politics”.

Hide said he was not aware of any rumours, let alone being behind any smear campaign.

Last night Brash said he was staggered by the rumours, especially given that when he first met the family, the man at the centre of the allegations was already two-and-a-half or three.

“I’m not prepared to discuss this kind of issue, it’s just not appropriate at all. All I can say is categorically, [name withheld] is not my son.”

Heh that sounds so much like a Star Wars quote.

Right-wing commentator David Farrar said the country was headed for a more polarising debate than the bland campaign between Phil Goff and John Key that most commentators were tipping at the start of the year – and it was not just Act supporters shaking things up. Brash’s positioning on government spending and welfare could see some of National’s “soft” vote panic, and switch back to Labour, putting National under pressure.

He said no amount of rumours would shake Brash’s electoral appeal. “He could have half-a-dozen love children and it still wouldn’t change anything.”

Heh I must remember to turn down the hyperbole when being interviewed. The point I was making is that Brash attracts support for his policies on government spending and one law for all, not for being a family values crusader.

Talking of Don, he was on TV this morning with Hone Harawira again – on Marae. It was I think a better debate than the one on Close Up, and I think both of them benefit from going into battle against the other – they are almost in a symbiotic relationship. Don is the anti-Hone and Hone the anti-Don.

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My 1st Herald column

May 6th, 2011 at 4:53 pm by David Farrar

Up until at least the election, I’m writing a weekly column for nzherald.co.nz.

They will appear every Friday, and the first one is here, called the Done and Hone show.

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Talking of Hone and Hitler

May 5th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In an ealier blog, I highlighted how Hone praised bin Laden, and wondered whether he would also have praised Hitler as a freedom fighter.

Well talking of Hitler, he is seriously insisting that Dn Brash is like Hitler. Not as some throw-away comment – but as a serious proposition. Stuff reports:

MP and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira has accused new ACT leader Don Brash of aiming to destroy Maori in a testy television debate.

Harawira again compared Brash to Hitler, echoing comments he first made six years ago.

“The politics you talk about are very much like Hitler’s, Don. You target Maori very much like Hitler targetted the Jews. You are aiming to destroy us the same way that others haved done.”

Yes advocating that there should be no race based seats is of course the same as marching six millions Jews into concentration camps, where they were systematically killed.

And this ManaParty is the great hope of the hard left.

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Don v Hone

May 4th, 2011 at 8:17 pm by David Farrar

Did you watch them on Close Up?

I thought Don did well. Initially I was hesitant about the wisdom of mixing it up with Hone, but I think Don managed to get a clear message across which will appeal to a fair few people.

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Will Don be Finance Minister?

April 29th, 2011 at 10:34 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett and Audrey Young report:

Don Brash wants to be finance minister, and claims the Act Party could gain 15 per cent of the vote in this year’s election under his leadership.

“I’d love to be finance minister,” he said last night.

“When I went into Parliament in 2002, that is what I was hoping to be. I wasn’t planning to be National leader. I was planning to be finance minister in a Bill English-led National government.”

Finance Minister is unlike any other portfolio, as it is so central to the Government, and affects every other portfolio. I would think a party would have to poll at least 15% to be able to make a serious bid for that role.

If ACT make it back into Parliament, the role I’d love to see Don Brash take is education, and have him introduce performance pay for teachers, bulk funding for all schools, abolish school zoning and introduce full parental choice of schools. I think such reforms are vital to improving our country’s future prospects.

He indicated he would ask Mr Key to give Mr Hide’s portfolios to another MP, citing as a precedent Mr Hide’s decision to strip Heather Roy of her portfolios because of her coup attempt.

I can’t imagine he is going to ask Hilary Calvert to become a Minister, so this looks like he is seeking Heather Roy to be reinstated as a Minister.

Last night, Mr Key distanced himself from the “extreme” views of Act and said Dr Brash had “virtually no chance” of becoming finance minister or deputy prime minister after the next election.

The Prime Minister said Act was “not likely to be a party of such size that would be commensurate with those portfolios”.

He said Act had always had extreme policies compared with National’s moderate approach and “my view is that nothing has changed here”.

I doubt anyone can point to an economic issue on which Rodney and Don disagree. So the PM is right that ACT’s policies and views are not changing. What has changed is that ACT may now be able to attract greater support.

Don has said he thinks he can attract 15%. John Ansell has gone even further and claims ACT can get 40% and Don will become PM. Either way, this suggests that ACT will not be expecting National to “take it easy” in Epsom. If they poll over 5% they don’t need Epsom (even though it is always useful to have it as backstop). So my guess is that National will campaign actively for both votes in Epsom.

So the first target for ACT led by Don is to make 5% – otherwise they may not be there at all.  But if they get just 5% or 6 MPs, then they will represent 10% of the Government, so their influence would be roughly 10%.

If however Don can lift ACT to 10% then they have 12 MPs, and would roughly be 20% of the Government. So they would have significantly more influence.

Again, the next couple of sets of public polls will be interesting.

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Hide resigns

April 28th, 2011 at 1:19 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide resigned as Leader of ACT at midday. Don Brash will be elected Leader at the next Caucus meeting.

I’d like to pay tribute to Rodney at this point in time. It is primarily due to Rodney that ACT survived in 2005 and 2008. Over his 15 years in Parliament Rodney has had a greater and more benficial impact on Parliament than most MPs.

I’m glad he is so happily married to Louise, and has become a Dad again. That will remind him of what is truly important in life – far more so than politics.

It looks like Rodney will remain an ACT MP and Minister until the election.

The immediate issues for ACT are:

  1. Does John Boscawen remain Deputy Leader, or does that revert back to Heather Roy.
  2. Does John Banks stand in Epsom for ACT.
  3. List Ranking

While I have said previously that I’m not sure how good a fit John Banks is to ACT, there is considerable logic to having a candidate in the seat who will clearly win it for ACT. If they look guaranteed to win the seat, then they can campaign that voting for ACT is not a wasted vote, and that the more people who vote for them the more influence they will have on policy.

It is possible a Brash led ACT will also make it harder for Winston Peters to get traction (which is of course a good thing). Winston planned to campaign hard on the foreshore & seabed issue, but a Brash led ACT may be more effective in appealing to the coastal coaltion supporters.

Where NZ First, and Labour and Greens, will attack is on economic policy – especially wages, asset sales and superannuation. Goff is already suggesting that it was a cunning National plot to have Don roll Rodney (which is hysterically untrue).

The reality is that Don and Rodney are near identical minds on economic policy. What will determine their influence on Government is not so much who the leader is, but how many seats they win. At 10 seats you roughly expect twice the influence of 5 seats.

So as I said earlier, the next few polls will be interesting.

UPDATE: An excellent blog post from Cactus Kate on ACT.

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Has Calvert switched?

April 28th, 2011 at 9:05 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Don Brash believes he has the numbers to roll Rodney Hide and become the new ACT leader as soon as today after furiously lobbying MPs.

The fates of Brash and Hide rest with the party’s newest MP, Hilary Calvert, who pledged her support for Hide at the weekend – but spent yesterday afternoon in a meeting at Brash’s Auckland apartment with Hide opponent Sir Roger Douglas.

Calvert did not return calls and refused to comment as she left. But after the meeting, Brash said he was “cautiously optimistic” of securing the ACT leadership, suggesting he believes he has her support.

He told National Radio that if she switched votes it would be “logical” for Hide to resign as early as today.

Brash also made it clear he saw no place for Hide in any party he led, suggesting it would be his advice to Hide “to go, quite frankly”

Most of the speculation has been on whether Boscawen would back Brash, not Calvert.The Herald reports:

On Sunday, she said that she backed Mr Hide and would vote for him over Dr Brash, and on Tuesday she repeated that position.

But yesterday, when the Herald asked if her position was still the same after her meeting with Dr Brash, she said: “I’m not prepared to make any comment.”

There’s been a fair amount of disinformation flying around, so we’ll see how things play out today.

However if the media are correct, then Don has won and will become Leader. I still stand by my comments about the nature of the coup. It is about winning the war, not the battle. And my concern is that Don has damaged his brand which was almost being above politics.

If Don does become leader, all eyes will be on teh next set of public polls. I have no doubt ACT will go up in the polls. The two key questions are how much, and from whom will they pull their extra support. I’d also caution not to take the first set of polls as gospel – there is a honeymoon effect. The second set of polls are likely to be more indicative.

Anyway let’s wait to see if the media have it right, and if Don has won. If he has, I’ll blog some ideas for key policies he can campaign on – apart from closing the gap with Australia.

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Ends and means

April 27th, 2011 at 9:16 am by David Farrar

I have been somewhat surprised at how amateurish the attempted ACT coup has been. In fact, I’d go further and say it somewhat resembles a cluster fuck. I’ll explain where I think mistakes were made, and what I would have done differently.

But first I should make clear that I am in fact highly supportive of the aims or “ends” of Don Brash. I just don’t think the means have been well chosen.

  • I most definitely want a coalition partner for National that is economically more reformist than National, and can attract enough support to survive the tidal ebbs and flows of politics.
  • I have been worried for some time that National’s long-term prospects (post Key) could be somewhat bleak as if ACT (and United once Dunne retires) disappears there are no partners for National. Over time I expect the Maori Party will go with Labour more often than it does with National.
  • I would like National to be more economically reformist. I doubt I disagree with Don Brash on many significant economic issues. However I do believe you have to take the electorate with you – otherwise you get thrown out and all your reforms get reversed. It is only by getting re-elected for multiple terms can your reforms become too entrenched to reverse

So in principle I’m supportive of what Don is trying to achieve – a more popular and hopefully permanent coalition partner for National, that will lead to more economic reform (which will help close the gap with Australia).

But I think the campaign to try and bludgeon ACT into handing over the leadership to Don has been clumsy, not thought through, and has in fact significantly damaged Don’s brand, and hence the brand of any new party he sets up. My criticisms are:

  1. Demanding the sole leadership, not even co-leadership, while not even a member of the party. This makes it look like you see the party as purely a vehicle for your ambitions.
  2. Openly threatening to destroy the party if they do not make you sole leader. This not only pisses off ACT party members, but also damages your standing with voters.
  3. Negotiating through the media. Never a good strategy.
  4. Not leaving room for a dignified compromise. By publicly demanding that the leadership be handed over to you, or you will destroy the party you place the board and caucus in a position where if they then agree they get left with no dignity. In politics you should always be thinking about how to make something look like a win-win (even if it isn’t).
  5. Only commissioned polling data after you launch your public bid for the job. This should have been commissioned weeks ago.

So what would I have done if I was advising Don

  1. Negotiate privately with ACT to see if there is a suitable role.
  2. If no agreement can be reached, then start the work on forming your own party. Do not publicly demand ACT hand over the leadership or you will destroy them.
  3. Announce you are creating a new party.
  4. When media asked why not join ACT, then reveal you tried to, but no agreement could be reached. Then explain that you are doing a new party because you think at best ACT will only be able to win up to five seats again and that you want to win at least 10 seats, so you’ll have more influence on economic policy.
  5. If they ask about the ACT leadership, reply that there is no vacancy there. If they ask whether you considered challenging Rodney, reply that you and Rodney have been friends for over 15 years, and you would never challenge him. Also make clear that you will not stand in Epsom.
  6. Announce you will be standing in Tamaki but your aim is to win 5%. However if Tamaki voters want him as their local MP he would be happy to do so.
  7. Differentiate the new party from ACT by saying the party will be primarily focused on just two areas – economic reform and choice in education. Say that you hope ACT and your party will both be in Parliament to help drive better policies, but that you believe you can attract the most support based on the doubling of National’s vote in 2005.

By demanding ACT hand the leadership over to him or be destroyed, Don has pissed off the very activists that his new party would want to attract. He’s made it a Rodney v Don issue, rather than an issue of how to get better economic reform.

Don’s tactics in 2011 are very similar to his 2003 coup. Coups are normally done behind closed doors and with no media statements. But the key difference is that in 2003 Don was already in caucus. It is different when you are not even a member of the party you seek to lead.

As I said at the beginning, I support what Don is trying to achieve. And I agree with most of what Don says economically. But I don’t think the way he has gone about it has put him in a good light, and hence actually lessens his chances of being able to achieve his goals.

Unless something dramatically changes, it looks like he will not be leading ACT, and he will presumably set up his new party. This is more complicated than one might think. You need a set of rules. You need an initial board. You need rules on who selects candidates, who elects the board, who elects the leader etc. You need principles and policies. You need offices and staff. You need members and activists – and you need money. The last should not be a problem from the sounds of it.

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ACT Civil War continues

April 26th, 2011 at 8:19 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins reports:

Don Brash says ACT leader Rodney Hide offered to stand aside for him in the blue-ribbon Epsom seat during a secret meeting over the party leadership.

The revelation comes as the fight for ACT’s leadership turns increasingly personal, with Dr Brash putting aside his 15-year friendship with Mr Hide to challenge for the leadership.

Dr Brash spent the weekend phoning ACT MPs and lobbying for their support, with Dunedin-based MP Hilary Calvert and deputy leader John Boscawen holding the deciding votes in the five-person caucus.

His pitch is likely to include a promise that funders will turn the tap back on if he is leader. …

If his leadership bid is rejected, Dr Brash intends launching a new Right-wing party and says he has the backers and funding to do this.

He rejected suggestions that that would split the Right-wing vote: “If I’m successful, it won’t split the vote on the Right; it will collapse the ACT vote.”

Make me your leader or I will destroy you. I never knew Don came from Chicago!

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