Garner on bias

September 5th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

In election campaigns, many people accuse journalists of bias. I have been accused of bias for more than 15 years; I have been left wing and right wing, apparently. So, let me set the record straight.

For a start, I have never voted. I know that sounds wrong and I know voting is important; but, I worked at Parliament for 17 years, I got to know politicians so well. I didn’t want to vote for any one of them and at the same time cover all of them on a daily basis. It is my rule. I still stand by that today.

They are not my friends. Yes I have some of their cell phone numbers, but that’s for work purposes. I don’t ring them on their birthdays and they don’t call me. They don’t know where I live, they don’t know the names of my kids, they don’t know when my birthday is – they are not friends.

Duncan continues:

I have never been a member of a political party, I have never donated to any party.

I think National has some good policies, I think Labour has some good policies, I think New Zealand First has some good policies, I like some of the Greens’ ideas at times.

I have had a few nights out with Winston Peters over the years: who hasn’t?

I have had dinner twice with Gerry Brownlee. I used to meet Annette King for coffee on occasion. I have had a few beers with Ron Mark over the years. I had a night out with John Key when he was opposition leader. I have had lunch with Grant Robertson.

No politician was invited to my wedding, but a handful sent messages.

I like to see myself as an equal opportunity journalist. I like to give it to them all when they deserve it. I’ve piled into Labour Party Ministers and National Party Ministers over the years. Ask any politician if I’m biased and I bet they say I treat them all the same.

I’ve always said Duncan is an equal opportunity scandal monger :-)

I don’t think they are all bad people; Some are, some have rampant egos. Many of them are ok.

I regard around 90% of MPs as being basically decent people – probably the same level as in many occupations.

It’s the left and right bloggers who call us names; they like to pigeon-hole us. But the reality is they are the biased ones. They have the political views, and when our stories and interviews don’t fit their biased narrative they lash out and label us.

They are biased. I am not.

They pick sides. I do not.

I don’t think Duncan is referring to me, because I very rarely say a journalist is biased. I may critique their stories, and certainly some have worldviews that colour their stories, but that is not the same as bias.

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Garner on dirty tricks

August 16th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes at Stuff:

Helen Clark was probably the biggest gossip of them all when she led the country. She leaked and spread rumours about people and even those in her own team – I wonder how her private communications and those of her senior ministers would look splashed across a book. I bet it wouldn’t be pretty.

But they never get hacked or spied on.

I was also involved in a series of stories about former Cabinet minister John Tamihere over financial irregularities at his previous job at the Waipareira Trust which saw him sacked as a minister. When I got home, my house had been broken into. Nothing was taken but all the windows and doors had been left open. TV3 hired a security firm to change the locks, watch my kids at school and investigate the break-in. The firm concluded that someone wanted to frighten me – and we left it there. 

There have been some very interesting break ins of offices recently. Why would people break into an MPs office? No drugs., no money, no alcohol.

I also remember doing business with Labour’s chief of staff Matt McCarten in the 1990s, when he ran the Alliance. Matt was fun and charming – but let’s not kid ourselves, if anyone knew how to run a black ops sting it was him.

When I worked in Parliament, Matt sometimes would give me stuff to attack Labour with, on behalf of the Alliance. Now he is their Chief of Staff.

Senior Labour  ministers and press secretaries rang to point me toward The Standard, a Left-wing blog, to read its vitriol on certain days. Who had written those posts? I’m told many were written under fake names by Labour staffers paid by the taxpayer.

My point is politics is dirty, no matter who is in power. Hager seems genuinely surprised at this. Frankly I’m surprised at his naivety.   

Let’s not forget that Hager is a long-time critic of spy agencies and electronic surveillance – but he’s happy to accept and publish information taken from people’s computers without their consent. Dirty tricks indeed.

Spying is wrong – except when they do it.


Garner on Xenophobia

August 11th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes at the Dom Post:

So suddenly we’re all against selling off farms to foreigners. Well, it’s not really just foreigners, is it. Let’s be honest – we’re worried about the Chinese buying our farms. They’re not like us. There you go, I said it. Clearly many are thinking it. Cue Opposition politicians lining up to scratch our collective itch. Nationalism? Racism? Xenophobia? All of the above? The reality is we’ve been hocking off our farms to overseas buyers for years and no-one seemed too fussed. Australians, Germans, Russians, the Swiss and the Americans – no worries.

You expect it from NZ First, but not from Labour.

The debate has flared up over Lochinver Station, near Taupo. A reputable Chinese company wants to buy it for $70 million. They bought Crafar Farms and, from all reports, have improved it. They promise to upgrade Lochinver and keep the 20 Kiwi staff on. The sellers, the Stevenson family, want to take the money and reinvest it in their other business interests, such as quarries, and create about 8000 jobs over time. Surely we support that – don’t we? Labour has effectively pledged to stop the sale if it gets into government. Let’s pause and consider the hypocrisy: Labour’s position is a massive change of heart.  And Winston Peters, who was in government too from 2005-2008  must have been asleep at the wheel. Labour allowed Poronui Station to be sold in 2007 – that’s the farm next door to Lochinver Station. Labour Cabinet minister David Parker even asked a question of himself in Parliament about that sale – trumpeting the benefits of foreign investment.

They are such hypocrites.

In the last term of the Labour-NZ First government, an average of 762 square kilometres of land was sold every year. The amount sold in the past five years under National has been about 390sq km a year. The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa estimates about 8 per cent of our best farmland is in foreign hands. Should we have banned film director James Cameron from buying his farms in the Wairarapa? He’s about to make Avatar 2, 3 and 4 in New Zealand and that will create hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs. Should he have been told to bugger off? Labour leader David Cunliffe is even suggesting that Australians be banned from owning big farms here too. He’s taking ‘‘advice’’ over it – which is code for he’s making up policy on the hoof.

What’s new. And for outright racism, here’s Winston:

“As they say in Beijing, two Wongs don’t make a right.”

Winston defends the joke on the basis he heard it Beijing. But jokes are all about context. When you make the joke in the context of spreading fear and phobia about Chinese, then it is not funny, but nasty.

Jamie Whyte points out:

David Cunliffe’s suggestion that Australians be banned from owning big farms invites retaliation from Australia. 500,000 Kiwis currently live in Australia and many own land there or would like to.

Last year, Cunliffe told Australian government ministers and business leaders to give Kiwis “a fair go.”

Cunliffe said it is unfair that New Zealanders in Australia are treated differently from Australians in Australia. Yet he seeks to be Prime Minister on a promise to treat Australians differently from New Zealanders.

The inevitable retaliation would have a delicious irony, with Russell Norman’s support for the policy losing him his right to buy land in his home country. But that joy will be far outweighed by the terrible losses to New Zealanders.

The freedom to move back and forth across the Tasman, and to buy and sell property in both countries, is a great advantage to New Zealanders. The government should guard it jealousy. It should not be put at risk for the cheap political purposes of a desperate politician.

Land sales are regulated. Anything over a certain size must meet a national interest test. You can debate whether the test should be altered, but those parties advocating an outright ban are trying to reintroduce Fortress New Zealand from the 1970s.

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Garner tells Harre to harden up

August 6th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

Laila Harré – harden up.

And welcome back to politics. It hasn’t changed.

So, the Prime Minister said you’re backed by a sugar daddy – Kim Dotcom. So what? Many people will actually agree with him. It’s not really wrong. Is it?

To take offence is to be far too thin-skinned. Harden up, shake it off, but – best of all – just ignore it.

The truth is the Mana-Internet Party is backed by a German billionaire on the run from the authorities. It is what it is: he’s paying you and he’s paying for the party to exist. If he goes, the party goes.

Harre is playing the sexism card. Yawn.

Incidentially Your Dictionary says a definition of sugar daddy is:

A wealthy male benefactor to a charity or other cause

Sounds a very apt definition. Mirriam Webster also define it as:

a generous benefactor of a cause or undertaking

Laila is getting paid a full-time generous salary to campaign on behalf of Kim Dotcom. She shouldn’t complain when people point this out.

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Garner and the stalker

July 17th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A quite fascinating column by Duncan Garner about being approached by stalker Glenn Green:

His name is Glenn Green and police say he is the country’s most dangerous stalker.

Now it seems he’s interested in stalking me.

I had heard of Green (he also goes by other surnames: Carlionne, Goldberg, Holden and Colcord) and have read a bit about him.

He’s a nasty leach – a manipulative piece of work. So imagine my surprise when I received a hand-written letter from him in Mt Eden prison. …

Green says he wants me to tell his story. Yup, he’s another one of these wrongly maligned criminals apparently.

Green started his letter by saying: “You may recognise my name as over the years I have had some pretty bad press titled ‘STALKER’.

“I come to you as you seem to be pretty fair and not one-sided.”

He continues, “I have declined interviews but I think it is time to tell all and the truth behind the headlines.”

So he’s offering me his story but he’s in custody, so how on earth am I meant to tell it?

He wants me to make contact and suggests I come to see him in prison.

He promises me all sorts of scoops on serving police officers.

“I’ll give you the full story,” he says.

“It’s time to get the truth behind the stalker headlines out there because it’s not right.”

A female journalist would run 100 miles from this, but Garner thinks maybe he can just meet him and get a story, as Green has only stalked women:

He finishes his letter to me by saying, “I have done wrong but not what’s reported. If you want to talk, I’m . . . at Mt Eden.”

I must say when I read his letter he sounded reasonably convincing and articulate.

But as I asked a few people who had dealt with him they told me that’s exactly what he is like.

He convinces you at the start that he is normal – that everything is OK.

He even comes across as reasonably smart and credible.

I realised pretty quickly I was inside the mind of a serial stalker.

I was still fascinated. Given he has previously stalked women, perhaps I could contact him and get his story and move on.

But luckily he took advice:

No, said the experts. He won’t move on. He will think you’re his friend. He’ll never let go, they all warned.

He’ll target you and your family for as long as he can.

So I won’t be popping off to Mt Eden to make the introduction.

A very good call.

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Garner on Labour MPs breaking ranks

July 16th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

Three Labour MPs have broken ranks in recent weeks – quite loudly and very publicly.

They are interested in one thing: self-preservation. They want to win their seats and they’ve given up relying on their party. They are clearly concerned Labour will poll poorly on election night, so they’ve decided to run their own campaigns – away from head office and away from the leader.

These MPs have either chosen not to be on the list or they have a low-list spot. They are vulnerable. It’s all or nothing for them.

They must win their seats to return to Parliament; this sort of pressure usually focuses an MP’s mind. They want to be back in Parliament and they want the $150k salary.

I’m talking about West Coast-Tasman MP, Damien O’Connor, Hutt South MP, Trevor Mallard and list MP and Te Tai Tokerau candidate, Kelvin Davis.

Take Davis: yesterday he engaged Labour in its biggest u-turn in years. He told me he supported the Puhoi-Wellsford road project that his party has openly mocked and criticised.

Labour MPs call it the holiday highway; David Cunliffe has campaigned against it. Labour, until yesterday, was going to can the project upon taking office. Who knows where they stand now!

Labour appear to have now done a u-turn on it, saying their policy now is only to delay it not cancel it. I guess it took the floods for them to realise that campaigning against better roads into Northland isn’t too popular there.

O’Connor and Davis certainly look in touch with middle New Zealand, their electorates and their issues. They have given the one-fingered salute to their struggling party and put self-preservation first.

Who can blame them?

We may see more of this.

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Garner asks if Cunliffe should stand down?

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

Duncan Garner writes:

Last night’s two polls tell us two things:

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

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

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

So, under this scenario what happens?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Garner on Peters

May 26th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

Poor Winston, what’s going on? It looks like you’re really struggling to land any decent hits in Parliament these days. It all looks a bit limp and sad.

You’ve been there since 1978, save for three years in the wilderness before this term. If you ever had the answers then you’ve had ample time to share them.

Instead, what did we see this week? You abusing your privilege of free speech by spewing vicious bile at an MP who is in Parliament only because you wanted him there. Brendan Horan is hardly the first NZ First MP selected for loyalty rather than ability.

Calling Horan the “Jimmy Savile of New Zealand politics” was evil and cowardly – and you know it. If anyone makes any sort of claim against you, you’re quick to threaten legal action and demand retractions and apologies. But when you’re the one dishing it out those rules don’t apply: you can waltz into Parliament and get all the protection you need.

It is the double standard. Winston threatens Radio NZ with defamation for merely reporting an allegation that he has hired a certain campaign manager, and then a couple of days later he cowers behind parliamentary privilege to effectively slander his former colleague as a paedophile.

I can’t help but point out the irony of it all to you. I remember covering a speech you made in Kawerau in 2008 and you had Horan along as your little sycophantic sidekick.

Horan was in awe of you, banging on to the journos about how you were an honest and loyal man who only wanted what was right for New Zealand. He told us you never took money from Owen Glenn and everyone was wrong to be questioning your integrity and honesty. Horan was really fired up that afternoon.

Brendan was a true believer.

David Cunliffe has flung the door open to you by shunning the Greens’ offer to campaign as a Labour-Greens government.

That suits you – we know you don’t like the Greens. It’s why you couldn’t go with Labour in 1996 – you didn’t want to share power with the Alliance in a three-party coalition.

This is why I think Peters will go with Labour. He’ll block the Greens from ministerial roles and claim he saved the Government from the Greens.

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Garner and Keall on Dotcom and his party

March 28th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner blogs:

There’s one major and terminal problem with Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party: he can’t be the leader.

He can only be the shadowy, backroom figure that pulls the strings. He will do that. And that will turn off some voters.

The other thing that should, and will, turn people off is that he collects Nazi memorabilia. He should be treated the same as any other political leader found draped in the Nazi flag: they would be crucified.

If it was David Cunliffe or Peter Dunne or, in the past, Don Brash or Rodney Hide et al, they would be forced to resign. They would be shamed and sent packing. Dotcom should not be seen as any different. Why treat him as special?

Could you imagine the outcry if it turned out that (for example) the Leader of ACT purchased a signed copy of Mein Kampf, had a photo of him wearing an SS helmet and displayed a Nazi flag at his house? They’d be gone within hours.

I agree New Zealand needs better internet, but does it take an “internet party” to get us there? This party is a sham and a side-show feeding Kim Dotcom’s vast wealth and ego – not to mention his desperate ambitions to stay in New Zealand, rather than rot in some American jail.

This is the truth. He has a host of convictions:

He owes money to creditors; good hard-working Kiwis who are now out of pocket.

And he could have paid them months ago. He has chosen not to.

Chris Keall writes at NBR:

The first “action agenda” item listed on the website is 50% cheaper internet – and unlimited and universal, to boot.

I’d also like the price of books to be 50% cheaper, and the price of food.

I agree with the Internet Party’s stance that broadband at half the price would be “awesome.”

However, it’s not clear how we get to this state of awesomeness. 

The party doesn’t price any of its policies, say how they would be achieved or offer any other details. 

Details would be nice.

The 50% internet policy is actually the most fleshed out – if three sentences can be called fleshed out – with the line that  “We will take direct action to expand New Zealand’s infrastructure by building a second submarine cable.”

I’d like to see a second cable, too. I find it curious National has been quite willing to out-Labour Labour by sending $1.5 billion on the UFB and related projects, but offer only a paltry $15 million to assist a submarine cable startup (Pacific Fibre and others have estimated it will cost around $400 million to challenge the 50% Telecom-owned Southern Cross Cable’s monopoly on our broadband connection to the outside world).

I would also like to see a second cable. But Hawaiki is planning such a cable, and until we see if they succeed or not, I don’t think you can say the Government needs to step in. Far better to let the private sector compete.

I don’t think a second cable would make broadband 50% cheaper. In fact, I’d be surprised if it yielded savings of 10% or 5% or anything, based on what ISPs tell me (Orcon boss Greg McAlister recently said a $75 monthly connection includes about $7 in international bandwidth charges). 

This is correct. The price of international data is not a huge proportion of what we pay. The prices drop around 20% every year as capacity expands on the current cable. Also more of our international data is coming from Australia, not the US. 10 years ago it was over 90% US and 1% Australia and today it is 50% US and 37% Australia.

This is not to mean that a second US cable would not be a good thing. It would be. But it is not a silver bullet and will not reduce costs of broadband by 50% or probably even 5%.

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Pundits on Cunliffe

March 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes at Radio Live:

Labour Leader David Cunliffe’s apology for setting up a trust for his campaign donations baffles me. I can see why he’s done it. He wants the issue to go away. But it leaves just so many unanswered questions.

The big question for me is, who are the other donors? Is Kim Dotcom one? Or is it another fancy, wealthy businessman who is embarrassed to be linked to him? If not, who are the other two and why can’t we know?

They must be very embarrassing to demand their donations back rather than be named.

Cunliffe has only apologised to lance the boil; he’s only done it because he’s been caught red-handed and embarrassed. So, who is the real David Cunliffe? And why did he set up the trust in the first place?

Trusts are set up to either hide something, protect something or to give people and donors anonymity. In politics, that always draws attention. What on earth was Cunliffe thinking when he agreed for the trust to be set-up? This trust wasn’t set-up without his knowledge. He gave it the nod. Nothing happens in an MP’s life without their say-so.

As I said his apology is more than odd. He said: “I don’t think in hindsight that a trust structure fully represented the values I would like to bring to this leadership”. That is weird and simply doesn’t stack up. It looks like a fake apology to me. I actually don’t believe him.

Values don’t just appear issue by issue. Values and principles are things that guide you in your everyday life. Surely Cunliffe would have known by now if having a ‘trust’ represented his values. And a trust structure completely represents who David Cunliffe is. ..

David Cunliffe is a former high-flying business consultant – his wife is a top lawyer – they know how these things work. His friends are business people. His wife knew about it and kept all this secret. How on earth did she think they were going to get away with this approach? Their collective judgement on this is woeful.

Where was he when Labour rallied against National’s use of trusts to fund its many elections campaigns? It’s why Labour changed the law and brought in the Electoral Finance Law. Was he not in the Parliament at the time? No, he was there. Did he speak up against National’s use of secret trusts? Oh yes he did.

Labour politicians of all shapes and sizes criticised National for months for receiving secret money. Cunliffe was in there, boots-‘n’-all. Trevor Mallard went further and claimed there was a ‘secret American bag-man.’ It was never proved.

I’ll never forget Labour climbing into National over electoral finances. Now Cunliffe looks like a complete hypocrite despite the apology. National has every right to pile into him on this. Just like Labour piled into National over secret trusts and campaign donations.

I’m starting to wonder just who Cunliffe is. What does he stand for? Is he anti-business or pro-business? Does he care about the poor? Or hang out with the rich? My big question really is this: Who is the real David Cunliffe?

Is he a fake?

A reasonable question.

John Armstrong also writes:

You could almost hear the “told you so” refrain that is never far away from the lips of David Cunliffe’s many detractors.

Those within the Labour Party who warned that electing him as leader would be a mistake may well feel vindicated. But they will take cold comfort from that.

You do wonder if there is the odd Labour Party activist who is now sitting back an saying ‘Hey maybe the MPs in my caucus are not a total bunch of idiots after all, and we should have listened to them”

That he cannot seem to stop his fingers hovering over the self-destruct button is no surprise to anyone who has watched him for any length of time. It is a great mystery why someone overly blessed with essential political attributes gets it wrong with such frequency.

Maybe it is overconfidence. Maybe it is an inability to see the line between being bold and being foolhardy. He got away with it when he held lower ranked positions in the Labour caucus. The role of Leader of the Opposition offers no escape from the spotlight.

This latest piece of bungling follows other gaffes this year including being badly caught out as to how many parents would actually qualify for Labour’s promise of a $60-a-week “baby bonus”.

Then there was the odd decision to ping John Key for residing in a “leafy suburb” when Cunliffe does likewise. On Saturday, he admitted on TV3’s The Nation that he had not made the best choice of words on that occasion.

That makes it two mea culpas in four days – not a pretty strike rate. It is one that could see Cunliffe being indelibly labelled as accident-prone; that everything he touches ends up backfiring on him and Labour’s less-than-solid poll ratings.

For my 2c I think it is over-confidence.

And finally people may enjoy a 30 second musical compilation from Newstalk ZB’s Laura McQuillan called “Tricky


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Garner v Smith

December 28th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

RadioLive host Duncan Garner has launched into an expletive-laden public rant against rival Newstalk ZB presenter Leighton Smith.

The former TV3 political editor made his comments in the January edition of Metromagazine in an article titled “Getting drunk with Duncan Garner”.

After a dinner that included five bottles of red wine, Garner said to Metro journalist Steve Braunias: “I’ll tell you a story.”

Only five bottles? Was Braunias not drinking?

“It was about two or three weeks before my show was due to start … We ran into Leighton Smith and he says, ‘Garner, what have you done?”‘ he recalled.

“He said, ‘You’ve gone to some backwater radio station and you’ll never be heard of again.’ There are some moments in life that remain with you. I’ve been waiting to tell someone this.

“I thought, ‘What an arrogant prick, saying that to me.’ This institutionalised guy telling me I would never be heard of again. Every day I get up in the morning now I think of Leighton. And I work harder because of it, if that’s possible. I think, ‘F*** you. F*** you, you old prick’.”

Using even stronger language, Garner said Smith had had a great career and was very successful, so he didn’t need to treat him so arrogantly.

“I was never brought up to be a prick like that for no reason … I’ll never forget it. He just treated me like this piece of dirt, that RadioLive was nothing. That’s really affected me.”

No love lost in commercial radio.

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Garner on Key

November 12th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

National is celebrating five years in Government and John Key can be pretty pleased with his efforts.

Five years on and, if you look at the rolling poll of polls, National sits at around 48% and Labour 33%. Though that masks how close any MMP election would be; add the Greens to Labour and it’s much, much closer.

A single percentage point will probably decide the next election. The Prime Minister is well aware of that. He can count. It’s why Key is now openly talking about Colin Craig and the Conservatives as a potential coalition partner.

Key prefers Craig to Winston Peters. I’m not surprised. I think National will offer Craig some electoral deal to get him over the line. National will help the Conservatives win a seat so its 2-3% vote is not wasted. Craig could bring with him 3-5 MPs, which could be the difference.

Is it impossible the conservatives make 5%? They got 2.8% last time with relatively little publicity (but lots of advertising). If it looks like they will make it over the line, they may pick up some support from those who were worried a vote for them would be wasted.

John Key has ruled out Winston Peters in the past – my feeling is he will probably do something similar again, early next year, but the decision is yet to be made. Key will, in my view, lay out who his preferred coalition partners are – he will list Peters and New Zealand First last – he may go the next step and tell Kiwis he won’t work with him. On principle – if Key is highly principled on Peters – he will stick to his previous stance and rule him out.

It will be interesting to see what he does.

Key was far from radical. He is a centrist that loves capitalism, but not pure capitalism. He understands when it doesn’t work and when it’s hurting people. He understands business and banking, and he is close to the country’s top business leaders and bank CEOs. They wish he was more right wing and aggressive on the business front. That he’s not shows he knows where the votes are.

But Key’s trick is this: He knows he must remain firmly in the centre of NZ life and politics to remain in office. He has done that pretty well, in my view. His opponents have consistently under-estimated him. He is much smarter than they give him credit for and he can come across as very ordinary at times.

The list of those who have under-estimated him is a very long one.

The good news is it looks like the economy is bouncing. This is the good part of the story that even Key’s opponents acknowledge, but usually in private.

Growth is expected to be 3.5 percent for the next two years. Some economists put it at four percent. Much of that is expected to come from Christchurch. Let’s hope it gets going sooner rather than later.

Unemployment is down to 6.2 percent. That is actually OK given the world’s collapse. Italy and Greece are on their knees and broke. Spain is the same. Australia and the US have nudged 10 percent unemployment.

Australia’s economic writers wax lyrical about the New Zealand economy and the management of it by Key and Bill English. In fact, more Kiwis are now heading home to NZ than leaving for Australia. The brain-drain trend has reversed.

And Duncan’s overall score:

So Key has had his challenges. Some of them have been monumental. He has, largely, negotiated them very well. He has made mistakes. He, at times, gets it wrong.

But he’s still high in the polls. Kiwis have largely trusted him to negotiate these tricky economic times.

I give him a 7.5 out of 10.

Your choice is between John Key and Bill English with a few rag-tag minor right wing parties – or David Cunliffe and Russel Norman – with perhaps Winston Peters in tow.

Who do you trust?

A good question.

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Garner prescribe dead rats

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

Duncan Garner writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty blunt advice.

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

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

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

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

I think DC believes in getting elected!

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Garner on the race

September 14th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

Cunliffe’s nose may just be ahead – but it’s not over: Robertson’s people won’t give up; they seriously dislike Cunliffe, they really do.

They really really do.

I have spoken to a number of Labour MPs in recent days who openly despise Cunliffe. The hatred and bile towards him has not subsided. It actually seems to have got stronger and louder in the final stretch of this race.

One senior MP in the Robertson camp described him to me over the weekend as “an insincere prat” who is “a fake that would be shown up bloody quickly”. Others have described him in similar terms. You get the point.

If Cunliffe wins, it will be fascinating to see what happens. There won’t be anything for several months as they get a poll bounce, but if things drop back then it could turn caustic.

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The Vote debates how to fix NZ’s Housing Crisis

September 2nd, 2013 at 10:00 pm by Kokila Patel


Is the Kiwi dream of owning your own home on the way out? Or is there a way to make housing more affordable? Do we need to ban foreign buyers, let our cities sprawl or do more to help first-home buyers onto the property ladder?

This month, The Vote tackles housing, asking “How do we fix New Zealand’s housing crisis?”  In a piece of television history, the people answering that question are the political powerbrokers, in the first primetime multi-party debate to be held outside an election campaign, screening on Wednesday 11 September, at 8.30pm on TV3.

Just over a year from the 2014 General Election, and as the Labour party prepares to select its next leader, Kiwis will get their best chance to compare Government and Opposition approaches to the housing crisis.  In a departure from its usual format, The Vote will be divided into three parts, each covering a key area of the housing debate: foreign ownership, first home buyers and the housing shortage.

The Vote: Housing Special will give Kiwis a rare insight into the Government’s plans, and the alternatives offered by Opposition parties.  The coin toss has determined Duncan Garner will lead the Government team, with Sam Lotu-Iiga representing National, Peter Dunne speaking for United Future and John Banks for ACT.  Guyon Espiner will lead the Opposition team, with Labour’s Phil Twyford, New Zealand First’s Winston Peters, and Metiria Turei representing The Green Party.

Broadcaster and lawyer, Linda Clark will again be charged with keeping the debaters in line and on topic.  This month, instead of asking viewers to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the moot, she will invite them to vote ‘Gov’ or ‘Opp’ to indicate who they think offers the best solutions to the housing crisis, the Government or the Opposition.

Housing has been the topic of heated debate this year as prices in New Zealand hit record highs and home ownership rates fell as low as they’ve been for 50 years. Just 65 percent of Kiwis now own their own homes, down from 75 percent in the 1990s. In that time, house prices have more than doubled.

The median house price in New Zealand is now $385,000 – nearly 10 percent higher than the previous peak in 2007. In Auckland and Christchurch a median home now costs seven times the median household income, compared to just twice the median income in 1980, and Prime Minister John Key has said he fears young New Zealanders are “being locked out of the housing market altogether”.

Senior Producer Tim Watkin says:  “We’re really excited to be able to pull together such a significant debate on The Vote.

“Housing literally hits people where they live, so this month we’re asking politicians for their solutions – what can they do to stop the next generation of Kiwis from being a generation of renters?

“It’s the first time six parties have agreed to debate on primetime television outside an election campaign, and that’s because New Zealanders care so much about this issue.  We all need to know what the future holds for housing in New Zealand.”

Joining Duncan and Guyon next week are representatives of all main political parties:

THE GOVERNMENT – Led by Duncan Garner

  • Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has been the National MP Maungakiekie for five years and chairs the Social Services Select Committee, which oversees the passage of new housing laws.  Sam grew up in South Auckland after emigrating from Samoa as a child, and now lives in Onehunga with his family.  He has an MBA from the University of Cambridge, and worked in law and banking before entering politics.  In his electorate he sees developers stifled by regulations and says the Government is on the right track with its housing strategy – freeing up land for development, making councils quicken housing consents and keeping interest rates low.
  • John Banks leads the ACT Party and is MP for Epsom. He is also a minister under the National-led Government. ACT’s main housing policy is giving Kiwis the Freedom to Build. That means fewer regulations and quicker consenting processes, as well as freeing up more land. Banks believes this is “the quickest and most effective way to make housing more affordable” and endorses the Government’s action in this area. ACT opposes a ban on foreign buyers, believing we should be encouraging foreign investment in New Zealand. He also opposes a Capital Gains Tax, saying it will only create more red tape.
  • Peter Dunne is MP for Ohariu and leader of United Future, which has a confidence and supply agreement National. He supports the government’s direction with housing and the need for more affordable homes. Dunne does not believe we have a housing ‘crisis’ but a problem that could be helped by allowing families to capitalise their Working for Families payments to support the buying, extension or upkeep of a house. He thinks the Opposition parties’ policy of banning foreign buyers is racist and a solution looking for a problem.

THE OPPOSITION – Led by Guyon Espiner

  • Phil Twyford is Labour’s MP for Te Atatu and Spokesperson for Housing.  His background includes working as a journalist before setting up Oxfam New Zealand. A Capital Gains Tax of 15 percent (exempting the family home) was at the forefront of Labour’s election campaign in 2011 – and remains one the party’s key policies to help more Kiwis reach the home ownership dream. Labour has also announced a plan to build 100,000 houses over 10 years and restrict foreign ownership of New Zealand properties.
  • Metiria Turei has been the Green Party Co-leader since 2009 and a Green MP since 2002.  Metiria lives in Dunedin and has worked as a lawyer, as well as an advocate for the unemployed and beneficiaries. She leads the Green campaign for safe, secure and sustainable housing. Like Labour, the Green Party housing policy includes restrictions on foreign ownership and a Capital Gains Tax. The Green Party believes in “modern urban design”, so opposes opening up land that will create sprawling cities. It would like to implement a Progressive Ownership programme to help more Kiwis buy houses.
  • Winston Peters is the leader of New Zealand First, and may hold the balance of power at next year’s General Election. Peters believes Housing is a “disaster in the making”, alleging Auckland’s housing boom is fuelled by thousands of foreign investors buying properties and making housing unaffordable for many Kiwis. New Zealand First wants an immediate freeze on all foreign property sales and a register of all foreign owned land. New Zealand First policy also aims to ease the serious housing shortage and provide government assistance to home owners, with sale and purchase land agreements and low interest rates.

The Vote is competitive current affairs – a monthly series of entertaining and informative national debates on the big issues facing New Zealanders. The debates take place in theatres with audience participation and voting, but the opinion that matters most is that of the audience watching at home.

Viewers are encouraged to vote for free at, via Twitter @TheVoteNZ and Facebook at The Vote NZ. Viewers can also text their vote by texting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to 3920 at a cost of 20 cents per text.

The Vote is produced by TV3’s News and Current Affairs division with funding from NZ On Air, and screens once every four weeks in the same timeslot as 3rd Degree.

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Trotter on the Garner source

July 17th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris trotter writes at Stuff:

Labour MPs have accused Garner of “making up” his story about a coup being under way against Shearer. But only a moment’s thought is required to expose this accusation for the nonsense it is.

Garner has confirmed that his informant was a member of the Labour Party caucus. Presumably, he or she was someone who had vouchsafed information to Garner in the past – information which had proved to be reliable.

The maelstrom of criticism into which Garner has been unceremoniously pitched, since his predictions of last Thursday night were proved wrong, provides the strongest argument as to why he would not have tweeted without feeling extremely confident about the rumour’s veracity.

(Just to make sure, however, he sought and received confirmation from a second Labour Party source.)

That Garner was given what the Americans would call “a bum steer” should tell him (and us) that the atmosphere in Labour’s caucus is becoming increasingly toxic.

Is the source the same one who told One News and Three News staff Shearer had two months to improve?

So, why did Garner’s coup rumour fail to stack up? Let’s go through the explanatory options.

1) Some sort of leadership coup was on, but Garner’s tweet alerted Shearer’s supporters and the organisers were forced to abort. (Despairing Labour MPs may simply have been gathering sufficient signatures to persuade their leader to go gracefully and preserve the party from a debilitating civil war.)

2) No coup was imminent, but Garner’s source considered it vital that Shearer be forced to endure yet another destabilising round of media speculation concerning the viability of his leadership. (So vital that they were willing to abuse and lose Garner’s trust.)

3) For reasons of their own, Shearer’s backers decided to undermine Garner’s journalistic credibility by deliberately misinforming him that a coup was under way.

My pick is No 2.

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Garner on the coup

July 10th, 2013 at 3:47 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner on Radio Live talks about the planned coup for Labour, and how he had two sources – one inside and one outside the caucus. He says the strategy is death by 1,000 cuts.

The key is that Robertson wants Shearer to remain Leader, so he can lose – and Robertson takes over after the election. So his faction wants to keep Shearer there. But other factions know their best chance is to move now.

Listen to the whole seven minutes piece.

I think I’m going to order a giant carton of popcorn for the next few days!

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Who was it?

July 10th, 2013 at 1:12 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner has tweeted:

I won’t out my original source Hooton. They’re still leaking despite ‘all being behind’ Shearer.

and also:

I’m not going to get into this, except to say my source is within the caucus.

So if it was MP. The question is, which one. We can’t know for sure, but logically one would expect it to be an MP who:

  1. Was not a supporter of Shearer in the ballot vs Cunliffe
  2. Has been demoted by Shearer since then
  3. Was a supporter of the “man ban”
  4. Has little to lose by leaking as they are likely to retire at the next election, or prior to that

One can’t blame Chris Carter for this one.

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Garner says Labour coup is on

July 9th, 2013 at 9:15 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner has tweeted:

Good source. Coup on in Labour. Letter of no confidence being circulated. It’s over for Shearer. Watch for his resignation.

If this is right, then a fascinating Robertson v Cunliffe battle for the leadership – unless they do a deal and one does Leader and one Deputy.

Or will Little stand also and try to be the candidate in the middle, who can appeal to both the left supporting Cunliffe and the ABC faction? If Robertson is seen as too tied up in the recent bad political management, Little could come through the middle.

UPDATE: Chief Whip Chris Hipkins denies there is a coup:

@Garner_Live Your source is full of crap. No letter. No leadership challenge. Stop making things up.

Now I don’t believe Garner is making anything up. I have no doubt a source has told him that there is a letter of no confidence.

However it is possible Garner is being played by someone in Labour trying to destabilise Shearer. This was the Rudd vs Gillard strategy – keep the speculation alive, so the leader is so weakened that have to go.

Whether Garner’s source is correct or not will become apparent with time. Fascinating to watch.

UPDATE2: Duncan Garner has said on Radio Live that Patrick Gower has the letter, and will show it on Nightline tonight at 1030.

UPDATE3: Garner now says Gower not on Nightline. He has tweeted:

Gower not on nightline… labour MPs denying letter of course… Text book coup, 60 day warning, man ban, letter, denials, denials, gone.

This makes me think that there is no coup letter (at this stage), but that someone in Labour has started a destabilisation campaign.

UPDATE4: Grant Robertson has tweeted he has contacted every Labour MP, and they all deny there is a letter. So I think nothing is happening for now. However, the fact someone in Labour is creating trouble is not good for them.

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Pundits on Labour

November 24th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner, Fran O’Sullivan and John Amrstrong all write on Labour this weekend.

First Duncan:

Dissent. Uprisings. Rebellion. Scraps. Blood.

It was something Helen Clark kept a careful lid on. 

Not even on her weakest day or in a moment of madness would Clark have given up control of who picks the leader of the proud Labour Party – never, ever.

Caucus must control its own destiny.

What happened last Saturday would never have happened under Clark’s strong leadership. Now the Labour leader can get rolled and rolled easily.

If a minority of 13 other MPs out of 34 decide to support Grant Robertson or David Cunliffe next February, then that triggers a party wide vote.

Actually I think it is even worse than that. I have not seen the final rule, but I don’t think a contender even needs to challenge. The vote is basically just a confidence vote in the Leader. Someone could just quietly encourage 14 MPs to vote no, and bang there is a leadership ballot – and only then do contenders have t step forward.

During that vote, party members get a 40 percent say and unions get a 20 percent say. You reckon they’ll hang on to David Shearer in that scenario? Doubt it. And it’s like that every three years.

If Shearer lost the Feb caucus vote, I don’t think he would even contest the party wide ballot. He’d be impotent in Parliament while he has to fight a rearguard action to stay on as Leader. I think he would bow out.

The February following each election, Labour will be able to boot out their sitting leader – that leader may have just months earlier been crowned Prime Minister.

So when you vote for Labour, you don’t know who you will end up with as PM.

It’s a recipe for instability. Quite frankly it’s a disaster, a train-wreck waiting to happen. …

If the 40 percent caucus vote and 40 percent party member vote cancels each other out – i.e the caucus wants a change but the party members don’t, then guess who has the casting vote?

The unions. They get 20 percent.

Could the unions select the next Prime Minister? Yes. Could they dump a sitting Prime Minister just two or three months after they took office?Yes.

By this move, Labour have become even more subservient to the unions.

And now Fran O’Sullivan:

Four days on from Cunliffe’s execution, there is little sign that Shearer is on top of his game.

His post-caucus press conference was a bumbling, mumbling mess which at times bordered on total incoherency.

It was a shocker.

It does not bode well for Labour to have its own leader so frightened of his own shadow that he has to banish one of his few competent colleagues to the back bench.

Unfortunately, Shearer was also simply not politically tough enough, nor sufficiently competent and astute, to have pulled off the accommodation that Australian Liberal Leader Tony Abbott made with potential rival Malcolm Turnbull this week to position his party to win the next Australian federal election.

I blogged on this yesterday. A much smarter way to handle a more popular rival.

In Shearer’s case he does not have the skill to bring off an accommodation with Cunliffe. (Though in months to come he may wish he had gone down that path instead of listening to the caucus players who want the New Lynn MP buried at all costs).

The old guard remain in charge.

And John Armstrong pulls no punches:

Barmy, loopy, stupid, crazy. Last weekend’s Labour Party conference had so much political madness on and off the conference floor that the proceedings could well have been deemed certifiable.

The handful of MPs who tried to talk sense into delegates may agree – particularly on the vexed question of how high to set the bar before a leadership ballot involving the whole party membership is triggered.

The MPs’ advice was not only ignored, they were shouted down. The rank-and-file saw things very differently. The rewrite of the party’s constitution was giving them a rare whiff of grass-roots democracy. They were not about to say “no thanks” even if their votes were being manipulated for nefarious reasons.

All I’ll say is I can’t see National rushing off to make similar changes.

I guess in Labour the desire for more of a say is understandable, as members have traditionally only a very weak say in even electorate selections.

From now on, the leader will be subject to a post-election endorsement vote by the caucus which must take place no later than three months after polling day.

Failure by a leader to secure more than 60 per cent backing from his or her colleagues will trigger a leadership vote involving the whole party.

The upshot is National will spend the election campaign delightedly claiming the Labour leader cannot guarantee he or she will still be in charge three months after the election.

Moreover, the new method of electing the leader gives a slice of the action to affiliated trade unions. You can imagine how National will exploit that.

Oh, yes.

I actually the the principle of giving members a say is laudable. But giving unions 20% of the vote is not far off organised corruption (just look at the Australian unions for examples of what they do with the extra power) and having a threshold below 50% for a challenge is silly.

When they were not naively setting things up to the advantage of the old enemy, delegates occupied themselves with such pressing matters as lowering the voting age to 16 – something for which there is absolutely no demand – and ordering school boards of trustees to let same-sex couples attend school balls.

Then there was the remit requiring 50 per cent gender equality among officials on the party’s electorate committees.

When it was pointed out that most committees had three officials, the conference determined that an extra position such as an assistant treasurer could be created.

Staggering. Their solution is to create an extra unneeded role, just so there is prefect gender equality on a committee. They have effectively outlawed a committee having an add number of members!

This kind of nonsense shows that political correctness is alive and well in Labour.

It speaks of a party that is out of touch with mainstream New Zealand. And it speaks of a leader who has no control over his party.

Where was the strategy for the conference?

The other casualty of what John Key describes as the now very “public war” within Labour is the party’s ability to project unity and stability.

That is a serious handicap for Labour, which may well have to patch together some kind of governing arrangement which accommodates the reforming zeal of the Greens and the reactionary predilections of New Zealand First.

Think if they were to form a Government. They’d first have to get agreement between the internal factions in Labour, and then with the Greens, and then with NZ First and maybe then with Mana also. If another financial crisis struck, it would probably take a month to even make a decision!

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Duncan Garner

November 23rd, 2012 at 6:41 am by David Farrar

Had a fun night Wed night at farewell drinks for 3 News Political Editor Duncan Garner. Somewhat unfortunately I had an early flight to Dunedin Thu morning!

Duncan started in Parliament around a year before I did, in 1995. He was an intern for One News, and Linda Clark was his boss. Linda was at the function and spoke very fondly of Duncan, and how she feels part of the Garner family, especially as Duncan’s father would call her up on a regular basis to see how he was going. In turn Duncan credits Linda for teaching him so well.

When Duncan started at Parliament, he had a large female fan club. A certain young ACT activist (who I shall not name, but she now has a popular blog) was founder and president of his fan club. Her crush on him bordered on the obsessional :-)

Back in the 1990s, National had some legendary caucus parties twice a year . I know, as I used to organise many of them. Sadly these have almost disappeared, which is a pity. People need to unwind.

There is a very well known story (and yes I have Duncan’s permission to retell it) about Duncan at one of these parties. A number of us observed he was getting on very well with an attractive ministerial staffer whom we will call C. At some stage after midnight they disappeared. The party wound down around 4 am.

Anyway around 9 am the next morning C turned up to the Research Unit, lifted up the back of her top and proclaimed “Look what Duncan did to me”. Her back looked like it had been flayed by a Roman centurion. In fact it was carpet burns from umm activities on the floor of her Minister’s office. It seems they couldn’t even wait to get to someone’s home! Even more amusing was being told how when they left the office, they discovered the parliamentary cleaners patiently waiting outside to clean the office.

Now of course an occasion like this is too good not to hassle a mate, so I called his extension. His boss Linda Clark answered and said he wasn’t in yet. I said I’d ring back later. Linda asked if she could help (in case it was some political story I had for them). I said nah it wasn’t political, I was just ringing Duncan to hassle him. Linda without pause immediately exclaimed “What was her name David”. I laughed at Linda’s perceptiveness but refused to say or give any details. But being interrogated by Linda is like surviving the Spanish Inquisition, and on her fifth demand I relented and just said “Just tell Duncan he gave the poor girl carpet burns”. Linda shrieked with delight and hung up.

She must have done some detective work and found out C’s name. And then around 10 am Duncan staggered into the gallery. Now bear in mind he had only parted company with C a few hours earlier so you can feel for him to have Linda bellow down the corridor so the whole gallery can hear “Duncan Garner, you gave that poor girl C carpet burns over her entire back”. Duncan is stunned at how Linda could know this just hours after the event.

Linda’s protection of sources doesn’t extend to dishing dirt on Duncan, so later that day Duncan was very grumpy with me, and right up until the farewell was referring to me being to blame! My defence was Linda forced it out of me (plus no way it was going to stay a secret as a dozen people had seen the carpet burns).

Duncan was also well known for his suits, to the extent that even the President of the United States complimented him on them. His drinking ability has also been described by Michelle Hewitson.

But it is unfair to Duncan to portray him as a party boy. Over his 15 years in Parliament, he became an incredibly talented journalist and political editor.  He broke major stories on John Tamihere’s golden handshake, the Kees Keizer secret tapes and many more, picking up awards on the way.

Duncan, and his padawan Paddy Gower, both are hard hitters. They go hard on National and they go hard with Labour. I recall people in National slating Duncan over the Kees Keizer tapes, and then people in Labour doing the same over his revelations about the ABC faction. Duncan is one of those journalists for which I have absolutely no idea how he would vote in an election – if he votes at all. That is a good thing.

He understands Parliament very well – that it is a place of both policy and politics. He showed on The Nation that he can do policy well also.  The gallery will be the worse for losing him, but not bad to get out after 17 years and not yet be 40!

A number of people spoke at his farewell, including Gerry Brownlee. We heard a very funny story of how Duncan and Gerry were once out in town together, and someone came up to Gerry and called him Jonathan Hunt :-)

Duncan has always enjoyed the blogs. He’s resisted the urge to jump into the comments himself, but would often call me and say “Wow, so and so is not a fan of me are they”. He knew his style had fans and critics, but never let it get to him.

So thanks for the good times Duncan. You’re a good bloke, and hopefully you can get Radio Live listeners into double figures!



Garner on Shearer

November 2nd, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

3 News Political Editor Duncan Garner blogs:

Labour promised an exciting back story that would impress and a new front man to rival the Prime Minister.

Sadly for Labour – they’re still looking for that person. David Shearer has failed. Labour’s lucky it’s not getting done under the law for false advertising.

Let’s be honest, Labour leader David Shearer doesn’t have it. He’s a nice, mild mannered, likeable, warm but a stuttering, incoherent mess that is the opposite of what an alternative Prime Minister should look like.

And before you say ‘give him some time’, he’s had a year and I think he’s gone backwards – not forwards.

He has no presence and his television performances are a disaster. That’s where voters make up their minds.

However Labour is up in the polls from the election.

The reason Shearer remains safe is disingenuous and it’s time to call it.

Labour MPs believe Grant Robertson is perhaps the next leader, but they don’t believe he’s quite ready – nor do they want to install a gay leader just yet. It shouldn’t be an issue – but it always is.

That’s why he remains the deputy. He knows politics is all about timing. Shearer has become the fall guy. Like Phil Goff was. It’s dishonest.

I think that is basically correct in that Robertson will be the next Leader, beating out Cunliffe and possibly Little. It could be messy though as Auckland Labour people are not that keen on their local guy being passed over in favour.

Duncan then tells a story about how strong the paranoia is about Cunliffe in Labour:

I tried to get a Labour face on TV this week to talk about capital gains taxes. I approached Shearer who was in Hokitika and too far away, David Parker in Dunedin and Cunliffe in Auckland.

Cunliffe was the easiest to get hold of. But, without naming names, the hoopla I was put through before he was ‘allowed’ on TV was fascinating. Even Cunliffe was nervous – but keen.

It took six hours of negotiating to get him on. It was quite simply, outrageous. It took me one text to get Russel Norman on the telly. It took two phone calls to get the Prime Minister to agree to a one-on-one interview.

So just two phone calls to get the Prime Minister of the country on, and six hours of negotiations to get the Opposition Economic Development Spokesperson?

Shearer has been promoted above what he’s capable of in my view.

I’m sure he’s entirely capable behind the scenes – you don’t do what he’s done by being stupid – but I’m just saying he’s not cut out for the hurly-burly, think-on-your-feet world of opposition politics. Robertson and Cunliffe are.

Shearer was handed the benefit of the doubt as pointed out by Gordon Campbell in a column this week and he’s failed to deliver on any of it.

For my 2c I think Shearer’s problem is more than he hasn’t been able to stamp a policy direction on the party. Even his own spokespersons contradict him.

Put simply, Shearer does not look, act or sound like a man ready to take over the Treasury benches and drive New Zealand out of this recession. The voters see it.

They see a Labour Party unconvinced and confused by their own choice. Until that changes, Labour will stay in opposition.

Possibly, but the current Government only has a one seat majority, without the Maori Party. Labour could well end up in Government, even if they are unconvinced and confused.

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Garner on Shearer

September 26th, 2012 at 5:59 pm by David Farrar

I’ve embedded below a column by 3 News Political Editor Duncan Garner on David Shearer and the Labour leadership. He concludes that Shearer is not up to the job, and that David Cunliffe should be made leader. Some quotes:

Shearer is a hell of a nice guy…Labour picked him to be like John Key. But he can’t out-Key Key…The public doesn’t know what he stands for or against. He struggles to articulate himself….and in my opinion he’s largely botched his honeymoon….It’s become clear too that Shearer divides not only Labour’s caucus, but its membership too. He’s neither steeped inLabour Party knowldge or history.

Labour needs to take it to Key in 2013 and 2014, and Shearer hasn’t really kicked in. How would Cunliffe be any different? Substantially I think. He’s enormously articulate and can present an alternative vision. But there’s an element of fear within the caucus. A number of the more mature MPs fear Cunliffe will demote them and it will be the end of their careers. That’s why he is bad-mouthed so often. Some of those MPs need to go. Their time is up.

None of this should stop the caucus. .. The leadership of the party if too important for personal agenda to get in the way right now.

The other leadership options are either not ready or aren’t up to it: Grant Robertson: Ambitious? Yes. Ready? No. He’s best to bide his time. To be brutal, Key will wipe the floor with the Wellington Central MP. His time will come. But his immeditate elevation will not bring back the provinces. Jacinda Ardern: Way too early. Out of her depth as it is. David Parker: Get real. Andrew Little: Should put his name forward.

The quotes are from Twisted Hive.

Garner on Shearer

His call for some of Labour’s senior MPs to go for the good of the party is correct, but I suspect unlikely to occur.

The column appeared in Wellington Magazine Fishhead.

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Garner on Cunliffe and Labour

August 7th, 2012 at 3:48 pm by David Farrar

3 News political editor Duncan Garner blogs:

The majority of Labour politicians clearly dislike David Cunliffe. With a passion. And with a serious degree of what now looks like hatred and mistrust.

That’s become so very clear to me this year – but even clearer since I released our 3 News poll on Sunday night.

I suggested David Shearer might be rolled before the next election if he couldn’t get his numbers up. And while not many in Labour denied that – they all said Cunliffe won’t replace him. Over their dead bodies.

This reflects that the anyone but Cunliffe faction in Labour is very real, and in fact a majority of the caucus.

In fact, Labour MPs have openly joked with me that Cunliffe, who is away on a lengthy family holiday overseas, should stay there.

Two very senior MPs have told me they would like an internal travel fund set up to keep Cunliffe out of the country for as long as possible. How nasty is this caucus? He is clearly not missed.

But Cunliffe is not only disliked by his caucus – he is not trusted. So many have told me he never delivers on his promises and is sneaky and lazy.

This is from his own colleagues. I don’t think Cunliffe is lazy incidentially.

Sources have told me Shearer was advised to demote him when he became Labour’s leader, but Shearer resisted and said he wanted to work with Cunliffe.

That hasn’t worked apparently – my sources tell me Shearer is deeply disappointed with Cunliffe and he feels let down. This relationship cannot last.

According to Shearer’s sources, the Labour leader no longer trusts Cunliffe. That view is shared by the majority of the caucus.

I suspect doing speeches on what Labour needs to do, and urging activists to lobby their leader doesn’t help.

I have no problem personally with Cunliffe. We have always got on. I couldn’t really understand why they didn’t opt for him. I do now.

He is not just disliked – he is actively campaigned against. He’s probably hanging around to see if Shearer fails – and he’ll have another go.

But perhaps he doesn’t realise just how many of his colleagues are blocking his progress.

I can’t see him being the leader of this party. Ever. You need friends in the Labour Party caucus to survive. Cunliffe can count his on one hand with ease – he may even have fingers left dangling.

If I was him I’d look for a new career. It’s clear there is an impenetrable roadblock between him and his aim of being party leader.

And they all sit in the same room as he does. This hatred has largely stayed out of the mass media to date. But this is a story worth telling. This is not a collision course for Cunliffe. He and the caucus have already collided – and it’s a big pile up.

The real question is – does he know how bad it is? And what will he do next?

I actually rate Cunliffe’s ability. He did some very good things as a Minister, and is seriously smart. But his relationship with his collegaues has always been tense. They gave him the silent T nickname within a year of him becoming an MP, and things have obviously got worse.

He has a staunch following in the party. Any move to demote or push him out would get resistance. A decision by him not to stand in 2014 would also be a vote of no confidence in Labour. It is difficult to see a way forward for Labour on this issue.

I suspect Cunliffe hopes that if Shearer fails, he will become leader. However my understanding is the unions are committed to keeping in place Shearer for now, so their preferred candidate of Little can become the leader after Shearer. Little would pick up almost all of the 20% union vote under Labour’s proposed new rules. That means Robertson would need to win the caucus and members votes by a 3:1 majority to compensate and that is a hard call.

Despite that I still favour Robertson as the likely next leader.

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Garner on welfare reforms

March 1st, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner blogs:

Who really thinks National’s welfare reforms are that scary?

They’re not.

Forcing people to be work-tested should be a basic contractual agreement between the Government and its “clients” when money changes hands.

Indeed much of that happens already – and has been occurring for years.

Paying the rent and power bills of teenagers directly before they spend their benefit money on booze and cigarettes is hardly radical.

No one will lose their benefits if they can’t find a job. All the Government is asking is that they get work tested sooner and that they become more aggressive in their search for work. They will lose the right to turn down work – they must take a job if it’s offered. If they continue to thumb their nose at work, they will start to lose their benefits.

And Duncan addresses the issue of the job snobs who say you should be able to choose what job you take up:

People need meaningful sustainable jobs. Flipping burgers is a job; it’s a start, we’ve all done this sort of work.

But it’s true for those entering the workforce for the first time in a long time that they need to start somewhere but they also need a pathway to show them the way out of those jobs too.

I often get accused by some who say I’m a media hack and what would I know about low-paid work?

Well I know something. I know I cleaned the Whitcoulls Queen Street store at 16 in my school holidays for youth rates – about $4.50 an hour at the time. I powder-coated curtain rails for $6.00 an hour in a Glenfield factory a year later. I put lids on toothpaste at the Avondale Redseal factory at the same time to help me pay for my first year at university.

My first job at TVNZ in 1995 was as an intern and I was paid $15,400 a year – about $250 a week from memory. A year later they put me on $21,000. By year three it was $30,000.

I worked like a slave for $250 a week. Try living on that in Auckland – it was impossible.

They were part-time crappy jobs (not the TVNZ one) – and they sure as hell encouraged me to take my studies seriously by year three!

Like Duncan I cleaned a store while at school. But I was 14 and got $1.99 an hour for cleaning at Woolworths. I was so proud to be in regular employment, working every day after school plus Friday nights and Saturday mornings. And my first job after university was $22,000 a year only and at one point I was working part-time for $18,000 a year.

But back to Bennett and her handling of these changes so far.

She’s tough. She’s been there. She’s been a solo mum. She’s had it hard. She’s come out the other end. Labour hates her. And she hates them more. It’s a perfect rematch of the Rumble in the Jungle – except these guys might be tougher. Labour regards her as a traitor in my opinion – and they’re going after her. Problem is – nothing is sticking yet. …

But Bennett has started the year with a spring in her step. She looks determined to front foot these welfare changes that she believes in.

Yesterday in response to questioning by Hone Harawira, I thought she nailed him by telling him to sort out his patch and his voters – who she claimed would rather smoke drugs than get jobs. Not every minister would try that one – but it silenced Harawira, which isn’t easy.

The Hansard records the exchange:

Hone Harawira: When the Minister talks about young mums going out to look for jobs, does she think young mums should be allowed to go to the front of the queue of the 150,000 people who are already unemployed, or does she think that the young mums should be made to wait until the 150,000 get jobs first, and can she please tell us where the jobs are for the 150,000 who are already unemployed, so that young mums can then get in line for the next jobs?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member could look in his own patch, actually. I have a newspaper article here about the forestry industry that is saying they cannot get enough workers because of the drug taking that is going on, and some of those workers are not stepping up and do not actually want the jobs. I was in Kawakawa just a few weeks ago, when I heard about someone who had 19 jobs and could not fill them. Two young women had gone into a job in hospitality in his own patch. Within 3 days their boyfriends came along and told them they did not want to see them working, because they did not want to see them getting ahead of themselves. We are going to back those young women. We are going to back them into work and try to get them off benefits. That member may not think that they are worth it, but we do.


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