O’Sullivan lashes Little

February 3rd, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

It is difficult to understand why Little prefers the judgment of NGO activists over that of a former NZ Trade Minister who not only negotiated the ground-breaking bilateral China free trade deal but also finalised the Asean deal with New Zealand and Australia.

Frankly there is nothing responsible in Little’s positioning.

Successive New Zealand governments – and their negotiators – have worked hard indeed to bring global economic giants like the United States and Japan and frankly protectionist nations like Canada into an Asia-Pacific agreement.

This is no mean feat.

New Zealand vision and leadership has been to the fore in securing TPP.

The reality is it had earlier proved impossible for New Zealand to forge separate bilateral agreements with these three countries as NZ was simply too small, too insignificant and not of sufficient strategic importance for these much bigger nations to bother.

This is a trade agreement that we initiated. It was not pushed on us. We managed to get the US to come on board, and also now Canada and Japan. It is a significant achievement. The TPP is far from perfect but it is clearly a net gain for NZ to be part of it, and we’d lose out badly if we were not part of it.

Labour MPs like Clayton Cosgrove and Stuart Nash will also be seething at their leader’s stance. Sure, they will cover it up in public – no-one wants to be dumped down the greasy pole of Labour’s political rankings by taking issue with their leader publicly.

There are a number of very unhappy MPs in Labour over this.

New Zealand has a proud record of bipartisanship when it comes to pursuing our advantage on the world stage: not just the many preferential trade agreements which successive National and Labour Governments have negotiated; but also our role in deepening global trade by taking a pro-active role in promoting major giants like China and Russia to successfully join the World Trade Organisation; promoting leaders like Helen Clark, Don McKinnon and Mike Moore to achieve high international office, and, securing NZ’s role on the Security Council.

NZ in opposition has always stuck to this bipartisan record, and up until recently so had Labour.

Governance vs CEOs

June 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

Not one – not even one – of the bosses of the top 50 listed companies on the NZX are women.

That’s one of the standout takeouts of the Herald’s CEO pay survey released this week.

It needs to change.

Dig a bit deeper and there are some shining female lights at the top of NZ business.

The problem is most of them are in governance roles. Sue Sheldon, Dame Jenny Shipley and Joan Withers are household names. Talk to young women and many offer up an ambition to go straight “into governance”.


I’m not sure that is a problem. I love governance roles. You get removed from day to day issues to focus more on the strategy, the environment and the risks. You can get a high level of impact, for less time than in an executive role. And the flexible timing of governance duties is I am sure especially appealing to many women.

But that’s not where the real drive in business comes from.

We want our boards to be stacked with people who know enough to usefully challenge the status quo , whose antennae are sharp enough to sniff out managed earnings rorts and understand markets.

Experience in top corporate positions teaches some of that.

But the ability to shape a business comes from being in the chief executive’s seat. That’s where the dynamism is created and the future is shaped.

I agree the experience from corporate management is very valuable, and directors with corporate management are valued.

But for many Kiwi women the game is not necessarily climbing the corporate ladder.

Wendy Pye, Erica Crawford and Diane Foreman are all self-made millionaires who have created major international businesses from New Zealand.

Ask for their pay packet and you will be rewarded with a snort. “That’s my business.”

Yep, nothing like owning your own business!

Fran calls for Genter to replace Turei

January 31st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

If the Greens are intent on becoming a mainstream political party with sufficient cachet to be a credible Government partner they should persuade Metiria Turei to join Russel Norman in resigning. Norman’s resignation – announced with a great deal of dignity yesterday – has switched the focus to Turei. …

Turei’s personal brand is associated with oppositional politics.

Many centrist voters would vote for a true Greens platform if they were sure it wasn’t going to be accompanied by the resurfacing of Alliance-style policies. Arguably that won’t happen until the Greens elect a modern politician whose focus is square in the mainstream – like Julie Ann Genter – to a leadership role.

Genter has built a strong constituency in Auckland which is starting to transcend party lines. She’s a credible commentator on transport and could easily take a ministerial role in a future government if the Greens get serious about getting into power.

A Shaw and Genter co-leadership of the Greens would give them youth and energy, and allow them to build appeal outside their core hard left constituency.

Green foreign leader against other foreign leaders!

November 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

It’s time that we grew up as a nation when it comes to diplomatic courtesy. It’s time the Greens revoked their “unofficial ban” on visiting political leaders addressing the New Zealand Parliament.

Some of the world’s most powerful leaders like Germany’s Angela Merkel and China’s Xi Jinping are headed our way later this month after they’ve been to the G20 Summit in Brisbane.

Having political leaders of such calibre addressing our Parliament while it is sitting is not going to subvert our democracy. But the Greens’ overblown and juvenile stance that only New Zealand politicians should be allowed to address a sitting session makes us look absurdly pretentious in comparison to our transtasman neighbour.

Indeed it does.

In a few weeks, three of the world’s most powerful people will be the latest foreign leaders to address the Australian Parliament in what will be memorable occasions for that country’s politicians.

At least one of those leaders — Chinese President Xi — will come to New Zealand for a similar State visit. But those long-standing objections by the Greens have (so far) robbed New Zealand of the opportunity to honour visiting leaders in a way that (at least in Australia) has seen them rise to the occasion with excellent speeches that canvas the importance of the bilateral relationship and strengthen mutual bonds.

Prime Minister John Key has wanted to invoke that tradition here.

But the only occasion (to date) in which a foreign leader — Australia’s former PM Julia Gillard — has addressed our Parliament it had to be outside formal sitting hours.

This was because Greens co-leader Russel Norman — an Australian himself — reckoned having a foreign leader in the House could undermine the democratic sovereignty of Parliament.

Did having Winston Churchill address the US Congress undermine US sovereignty? It’s a very silly justification by the Greens.

UPDATE: The article (and my comments) overlook the changes made to Standing Orders just before the election, which now provide a mechanism for foreign leaders to address the House. The Greens would have had to agree to the change in standing orders, which suggests they no longer have blanker opposition. However the Business Committee has to agree on the details, which means they can veto individual foreign leaders. My thanks to the Clerk’s Office for pointing out the change in standing orders to me.

Fran on Dotcom

September 28th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

On Twitter: Must read: Fran O’Sullivan reports from inside John Key’s rectum and gets trashed by reader comments. EPIC FAIL 🙂

That was Dotcom at his most charming.

A day later, I was tempted to respond (also via Twitter) to Mr Kim Dotcom and point out that the less than 30 reader comments trashing my column saying that Dotcom’s “Moment of Truth” extravaganza was an ABJECT FAIL, was a mere drop in the bucket compared with the number of voters who contributed to the Internet-Mana wipeout on election night.

But Dotcom admitted he had poisoned the Internet-Mana brand himself.

What Dotcom’s little eruption did prove (like with the gratuitous “Sweet old lady, you’re cute” tweet he sent my way earlier on when I wrote a Herald column spelling out that content providers – like myself – don’t like having their copyright abused) is that this supposed two-fisted fighter for truth can’t take it if he meets up with other than journalistic adoration for his swash-buckling endeavours.

He’s been less vocal on Twitter since last weekend.

Then yesterday there was the Internet-Mana’s incontinent press officer Pam Corkery yet again bleating about the “puffed-up little shits” of telly land in a long-winded justification of her failure to exercise personal discipline at the party’s launch.

I like Pam. I cut my teeth in the private radio era of the early 1980s when the late Paul Holmes held sway on Radio Windy and Pam and a whole host of journalists who then went on to develop strong personal brands on the radio were starting off.

But instead of the inside story of what really went down in the Internet Mana soup which we all know Corkery is capable of providing, all we got was more deflection over the party’s disastrous defeat.

The upshot was that Hone Harawira failed to win Te Tai Tokerau, and Internet Mana finished on just over 1.2 per cent, well short of the 5 per cent needed to put an MP into Parliament.

The Prime Minister they tried to “take down” is back in the Beehive. Voters saw through the puppet-master and his well-paid politicians.

I have a lengthy post on Monday about what went wrong with Dotcom and Internet Mana.

O’Sullivan on Dotcom

September 17th, 2014 at 11:33 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

John Key goes into the home straight of the election campaign with his integrity publicly intact after the Kim Dotcom fiasco and voters well placed to make a judgment when it comes to the Key Government’s management of the NZ economy.

Key has been roundly attacked for declassifying documents to prove his point that the GCSB has not been involved in widespread surveillance of New Zealanders.

Bizarrely, it is somehow seen as perfectly all right for Dotcom and his associates to use stolen National Security Agency files to try to prove the Prime Minister a liar on how his Government has administered national security, but not for Key to declassify New Zealand’s own files to prove he isn’t a liar.

This is utter madness.

It is madness. They claim a moral right to use stolen partial documents, and they complain when the Government responds by releasing documents to prove they are wrong.

Key saw Dotcom coming and released the Cabinet document which backed his statements before the Internet Party visionary’s Moment of Truth fiasco.

Key had intervened to stop a surveillance plan because it was too intrusive.

“There’s no ambiguity. No middle ground. I’m right. He’s wrong,” Key said.

Dotcom’s failure to produce a smoking gun to comprehensively prove Key lied over the circumstances of the US extradition moves against him did not surprise.

Far from comprehensively proving Key lied, he produced an e-mail that looks like something a not very bright five year old might try and pass off as a genuine e-mail.

Kim Dotcom has tried to hijack this election. I hope he fails.

O’Sullivan on Dotcom

August 28th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

It’s ridiculous that the New Zealand political system can be gamed by an international businessman with criminal convictions who bought his way into this country via the Investor Plus scheme. That businessman subsequently avoided extradition attempts. Then bankrolled a new political party to the tune of $3 million to “take down John Key” and is now openly colluding with Julian Assange to drop a political bomb just five days out from the election.

Kim Dotcom has long been resisting US Government attempts to extradite him to the United States to face allegations of racketeering and money-laundering over the use of his former file-hosting site Megaupload.

Now Dotcom’s palled up with the redoubtable Assange, who took refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition by the Swedish Government over alleged sexual offences.

Both men seem fairly unenthuiastic to actually turn up to a trial!

You can just imagine the phone calls between the pair.

“This is better than playing Call of Duty, Julian … You can take down a whole Government in this country, all you need is money and some politicians happy to go on the payroll.”

Dotcom has plenty of supporters who feel he was hard done by over the super-hyped raid on the Coatesville mansion. There are big issues still to be addressed.

But it’s notable that while he has flung more than $3 million into the Internet Party – even putting on the payroll a former Alliance Cabinet minister whose politics are vastly different from his – he won’t brook informed questions over what’s really gone on in the Coatesville sandpit when it comes to getting out his chequebook to buy political influence.

Thus he has tried to legally constrain his former bodyguard Wayne Tempero from speaking to media about the lead-up to the birth of the Internet Party.

This is remarkably thin-skinned. If Dotcom has nothing to hide, why would he be concerned about what Tempero has to say?

If he was just a businessman, it would be understandable. But we have the effective leader of a political party gagging former staff from speaking up. If you enter politics, then gagging people is a bad look.

O’Sullivan on Key

May 17th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

When the Prime Minister is on top of his game – as he was at yesterday’s post Budget luncheon – he is world-class.

John Key spoke without notes. He was completely fluent. No “ums” or “ahs” or stumbling Mr Average here. He was very much in the mode of a former top-flight international businessman. The guy who served on the board of the New York branch of the Federal Reserve. The persona that I prefer to the one that he has created to make him accessible to all New Zealanders.

He held the audience in his hand. Even the joke about his daughter Steffie being in the news again for “taking off another item of clothing” was delivered with sufficient panache to have the audience laughing with him rather than wincing.

Key has already launched the phony election campaign.

He did that in Parliament on Thursday afternoon when he slaughtered Labour leader David Cunliffe in a rambunctious speech designed to rally his troops, during which he compared the National-led Government’s record with Labour’s on well-chosen metrics ranging from house price inflation, interest rates, the number of Kiwis turning their backs on New Zealand to pursue their fortune in Australia – and more.

Slaughter is probably the right word for it.

More on Dotcom

March 29th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Kim Dotcom has paid back about $400,000 of up to $900,000 he owes to creditors — but one sees the late payment as a public relations ploy.

Which it is. He could have paid them years ago.

Paul Davis supplied uniforms to the staff at the Dotcom mansion and is one of the creditors who spoke publicly to the Herald last month. He was owed $1138 and said yesterday he was paid as promised.

“But I don’t think it’s his conscience. We had absolutely no movement on this for two years until the Herald story and the TV stations following up. It was pressure which was needed, so I think he’s desperately trying to get some good PR.”

He certainly needs some.

Millions of dollars of assets were seized in raids and Mr Dotcom did not have a legal obligation to pay the debts of the limited liability company.

But creditors became more frustrated in recent months as Mr Dotcom started a high-profile marketing campaign for his Good Times album, took helicopter trips to the Rhythm and Vines music festival and a weekend at Huka Lodge and started the campaign for his Internet Party.

A lack of funds was also cited in the departure of Wayne Tempero, Mr Dotcom’s longtime bodyguard, who was being paid half of what he was getting before the raid.

Mr Dotcom has since obtained an injunction to stop Mr Tempero giving a tell-all interview, and four security guards who worked for the tycoon are also believed to be about to file proceedings in the High Court to seek backpay.

That will be interesting, as they claim they were effectively paid under the minimum wage. This court case could happen at the same time as the Mana Party does a deal with them, which will tell us a lot about how deeply Mana cares for low wage workers.

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

Kim Dotcom bought his New Zealand residency with a $10 million cheque; now he wants to buy off Hone Harawira to try to secure the balance of power at the September election.

Hone’s price is much cheaper.

Nor the fact that Dotcom owns a signed copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. So what? Mere ownership doesn’t make him a Nazi sympathiser. (I own a Chinese tract signed by the disgraced Bo Xilia and that doesn’t make me a Communist either).

This issue will remain a red herring unless evidence is made public — not merely hinted at — that Dotcom is a closet Nazi and anti-Semitic to boot.

It’s the combination of the book, the flag, the helmet and the testimony from his former friend.

What Dotcom is offering is a gift. Money and resources for a shared tilt at power.

The big question is whether Harawira sticks to the principles on which he founded the Mana Party, or sells out to Dotcom in a naked dirty deal to get more seats in Parliament.

Of course he will sell out.

John Armstrong also writes:

To help the left remove John Key, the internet mogul has to attract voters that are beyond the reach of Labour and the Greens. Indeed, the best chance for the Internet Party to establish itself as a viable political force and (eventually) get anywhere near the 5 per cent threshold is to position itself in the centre of the political spectrum or slightly to the right, just like New Zealand First, but targeting a much younger catchment of voters.

Instead they’ll mainly take votes of the Greens I’d say.

That he is willing to contemplate a vote-sharing deal with Hone Harawira’s Mana Party is tacit admission that Dotcom knows he will not beat the threshold in September’s ballot. But taking advantage of Harawira’s hold on a threshold-removing electorate seat comes at what may be a heavy, even crippling price.

Harawira made it a precondition of further talks on such a deal that Dotcom commit himself to not working with Key and National post-election.

The immediate impact of that is to drastically cut any leverage — and thus appeal — that the Internet Party might have had if it had taken the same position as New Zealand First and hedged its bets on whether it would back a Labour-led or National-led Government .

Can you imagine a Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana-Dotcom Government!

Even more dangerous in political terms is the suspicion — quickly fuelled by National — that Dotcom’s purpose in setting up the Internet Party is solely to make it a bottom-line of any post-election talks that whoever is Minister of Justice quash any court ruling which would force his extradition. Such a bottom-line would be preposterous and would amount to Dotcom’s party being the sickest joke played on New Zealand voters.

I believe that is the of course the major intent of the party.

Every day that Dotcom deprives Key’s other opponents of the oxygen of media coverage is one day closer to election day on September 20. It is one day less for the real election issues and priorities to take centre stage.

National’s opponents can complain all they like. But the never ending Dotcom saga is a freak show of epic proportions with ever more twists and turns. The media simply finds it impossible to avert its eyes.

Yep, he is starving them of oxygen.

Fran on Dotcom and Brown

February 22nd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes in the NZ Herald:

Kim Dotcom and Len Brown are linked by several personal characteristics. Both are showmen. Both are prone to vanity. Both hate being out of the limelight.

In the personality world that drives mainstream media coverage these days, each of them is also a long-running news story.

This week, each man was under a new round of pressure.

Dotcom because the Court of Appeal found the police raid on his rented mansion was legal (but that the police giving the FBI the seized material was an unauthorised legal breach). The Herald’s splash showing Dotcom (or his companies) had not paid a number of small creditors while he ostentatiously lived high on the hog did not help his reputation.

But his natural audacity and fighting spirit keep him centre-stage.

Brown is also endowed with fighting spirit. He has a thick hide when it comes to public opprobrium. He was booed at the Auckland Nines and was asked not to attend a community military tattoo this weekend.

Maybe they could swap roles? Dotcom goes to all the public events, and Brown sets up a new political party? 🙂

A tale of two Cunliffes

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

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

Cunliffe also uses an essential duality – which has been accurately pin-pointed as “talking out of both sides of his mouth” – to try to assuage middle-class and politically adept New Zealanders that he doesn’t really mean all the tosh he threw as bait to Labour’s bedrock base to garner voting support during his leadership campaign.

What fascinates and frustrates is that it is difficult to work out which side of Cunliffe’s mouth will triumph if he ends up this time next year as Prime Minister.

Will it be Raging Red Cunliffe or the former consultant for Boston Consulting Group?

But at year’s end, Labour under its new leadership is no further ahead in the political polls than it was at the start of the year.

The pendulum has swung back again towards National, with the optimism indexes showing much of the country in good heart and the Government poised to post a return to Budget surplus next year.

The problem facing Cunliffe is how he can convince enough voters the country is on the wrong track given the resurgence in economic growth. This growth will continue into next year as a result of a range of factors including Auckland’s housing boom, big demand for dairy exports, the Christchurch post-earthquake rebuild, immigration and the favourable terms of trade.

Overcoming this is no easy feat for any politician even one as experienced and competent as Labour’s leader.

My predictions – lots of tax and spend promises.

Fran on why the Auditor-General should investigate

December 21st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

Auditor-General Lyn Provost is the right person to take inquiries into Len Brown’s relationship with the SkyCity hotels and casino operator to the obvious next stage.

The mayor of Auckland has attempted to brazen his way through the embarrassing detritus exposed by the EY (Ernst & Young) report into some of the implications of his two-year affair with Bevan Chuang.

But that report, emasculated as it was after legal negotiations between Brown’s lawyer and the Auckland Council’s QC, has put new material on the table which must now be investigated by the Auditor-General herself.

I agree.

But in the Auditor-General’s case there is a firm basis on which to make more inquiries of Brown, the mayor’s office and SkyCity. The EY report is fact-based. But it also suffers from the obvious limitation of being a report commissioned by Auckland Council CEO Doug McKay into his boss.

Provost is not constrained by any such relationship and, importantly, has the power to inquire and make relevant comment.

The EY report established some useful facts, but didn’t cover many things. For example there was no asking of the Auckland Art Gallery whether or not the Mayor’s reference was the major reason Chuang was hired.

The EY report – as published – shies away from disclosing whether Brown solicited any of the nine freebies he had in four city hotels or requested any of the 64 upgrades.

The impression by Brown’s public comments is that his wife, Shan Inglis, made most of their hotel bookings.

But it stretches credibility to believe Inglis would have made the booking for her husband’s rendezvous with Chuang in a SkyCity hotel bedroom.

Especially as rumour has it that some of the bookings were for the day, not the night!

EY saves the mayor some embarrassment by failing to distinguish between Brown’s overnight stays and his daytime stays in hotels. A footnote to the report simply says “room nights refers to both night stays and day stays”.

It is unclear whether these so-called “room nights” cover the pop-in arrangements that Brown was said to have when a room was sought for a few hours for him to get away from the pressures of the office.

Pressures of the office?

Fran O’Sullivan on Len Brown

December 14th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes in the Herald:

If he had any skerrick of honour left, Len Brown would by now have tendered his resignation as mayor to the people of Auckland.

It is absolutely clear that Brown has obtained multiple private benefits by virtue of his position as Mayor of Auckland.

It’s now time for Auditor-General Lyn Provost to open up a much wider inquiry to satisfy Aucklanders – and New Zealanders at large – just where Brown’s abuse of his position stopped.

Brown is a lame duck and has no chance of getting re-elected. He is just going to take the salary for the next three years.

But the real issue – as I have opined before – is how the Mayor of Auckland obtained special benefits for himself by virtue of his position, especially the $6130 of “freebie” hotel rooms disclosed in the EY report. Then there was the $32,888.50 worth of free hotel upgrades revealed by EY yesterday.

And more: the use of the mayoral car to squire his mistress about town; introductions of her to high-level Chinese visitors as his unpaid “translator”; the undisclosed gifts; the rearranging of his official overseas itinerary to squeeze in a private dinner in China with an unnamed female guest and a mayoral staffer.

As it turns out, she was a personal friend the mayor had requested to provide what proved to be unpaid translation services on the Guangzhou extension of his trip, and the staffer advised EY she had “no recollection of the dinner or attending diner” that was paid for by the council.

These issues have been barely mentioned by other media.

Frankly, accepting nine “freebies” at prime Auckland hotels – three of them at hotels belonging to SkyCity – doesn’t cut it. It is not merely “embarrassing” but is improper behaviour, given the fact that the council has had to adjudicate on controversial issues around the SkyCity Convention Centre “pokies swap” deal where the mayor clearly needed to be seen to be above the play and not putting himself in a position where he could be subject to unconscious bias, or more.

If he was a Minister of the Crown, Labour would have insisted he resign by now.

Brown has clearly flouted Auckland Council disclosure guidelines and general standards. This is symptomatic of a politician who believes he is above the rules. The fact that he was a “no show” at yesterday’s press conference indicates Brown has no answers outside the carefully crafted but ridiculous spin that his bevy of well-paid mayoral office press people have been churning out in recent days to try to deflect attention from the damaging findings in the review.

The TV interviews were so lame, that I wonder what has happened to interviewing skills. Did anyone confront him over his confirmed lies to the media? His communications director said (on the basis of what Brown told him) that he accepted no free hotel rooms when staying with Chuang.  That was a lie, and has been exposed as such.

Fran says Bring Back Goff

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

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

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

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

They all have important attributes.

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

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

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

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

I think this is unlikely, but not impossible.

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

All about the man ban

July 6th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Lots of commentary on Labour’s proposed man ban.

Colin Epsiner writes at Stuff:

Oh dear. I really didn’t think it was possible for Labour to top its own goal over the Sky City corporate box debacle. But it has. 

After a week where the Government ought to be on the back foot over the GCSB saga, Auckland’s nutty property market, and the death throes of one of its coalition partners, Labour has come out with a policy so politically barmy it makes you wonder whether it really has any interest in winning the next election. …

David Shearer has – after initially stating the policy had “some merit” – realised he’s dealing with a political bomb and come out against the policy, saying he favours targets rather than quotas. Senior Labour MPs Phil Goff, Shane Jones, and Andrew Little immediately recognised the damage the proposal would do and have denounced it too. 

But it may be too late. This idea needed to be taken out and quietly shot before it ever saw the light of day. From now until it’s debated at Labour’s annual conference in November, Labour’s opponents will have a field day. 

The Opposition needs to be talking to the electorate about jobs, housing, incomes, and hip-pocket issues. Not navel-gazing about its gender balance. The public, to be frank, doesn’t give a toss whether Labour has 41 per cent women MPs or 50 per cent. They just want good candidates and good policies. 

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:

No Labour MPs other than Manurewa’s Louisa Wall will publicly back a proposal to have women-only selection short lists for some electorates to boost female MP numbers.

After his initial reluctance to comment earlier this week, party leader David Shearer has now come out against the proposal.

Outspoken male MPs Shane Jones and Damien O’Connor panned the idea in no uncertain terms, warning it risked driving away socially conservative blue-collar voters.

Of Labour’s 34 MPs, only Ms Wall has been prepared to publicly support it since it was revealed on Thursday.

Eleven, including Mr Shearer, have said they don’t support it or are yet to be convinced.

But is David Shearer not a member of the NZ Council that has proposed this?

So either he got rolled at the NZ Council meeting, or he has flip-flopped and was for it before he rages against it.

Fran O’Sullivan supports it though:

Congratulations to Party Central for putting gender equality ahead of diversity when it comes to the ranking criteria for selecting the next crop of Labour MPs.

Quaintly, the notion that a 21st century political party might opt to use its selection process to try to make sure that as many women as men represent us in Parliament has been met with howls of derision and barely disguised outrage.

That’s just on the Labour side of politics. Let’s point out here that the most vocal MP opponents (Yes, I am talking aboutyou, Shane Jones and you, Clayton Cosgrove) are only there themselves by virtue of their list rankings.

John Armstrong writes:

When you are in a hole, you can rely on Labour to dig itself into an even deeper one beside you – as it did this week with its shoot-yourself-in-both-feet potential change to party rules to allow women-only candidate selections.

This was not solely political correctness gone stark-raving bonkers. Apart from alienating one group of voters who have drifted away from Labour in recent years – men – such a rule change would be just as insulting to women in insinuating they could not win selection on their own merits.

The proposal should have been kiboshed by the leader the moment he saw it. That he didn’t – or felt he couldn’t – points to deep schisms in the party.

The message voters will take from Labour’s warped priorities is that of a party which cannot get its act together in the snoozy backwaters of Opposition, let alone in the blazing sun of Government.

There is a reasons this never emerged under Helen Clark. She would have strangled this before it was born, even if she privately backed it.

Bryce Edwards has collected some of the best tweets on this issue. Here’s a few:

Bernard Orsman ‏@BernardOrsman

The ‘man ban’. Can things get any worse for Labour. PC madness. @nzlabour

James Macbeth Dann ‏@edmuzik

David Shearer is against the quotas. That should guarantee they get passed

Perfect Mike Hosking ‏@MikePerfectHosk

The Labour Party manban makes no sense at all. It’s like saying “drinkable organic wine.”

Patrick Gower ‏@patrickgowernz

Labour Party wants a quota system for MPs based on gender etc – not merit. Apparently this isn’t a joke.

Michael Laws ‏@LawsMichael

Labour’s next caucus rule – seats reserved for the disabled, the mentally ill, overstayers, gays, vegetarians, the over 70s, the under 20s.

Philip Matthews ‏@secondzeit

@harvestbird Over a couple of beers with my mates building a deck, we decided that the manplan has set progressive politics back decades.

Julian Light ‏@julianlight

Went for a coffee this morn but was refused service. Not enough women had bought a coffee. Seemed about as fair as Labour’s policy #manban

Aunty Haurangi ‏@_surlymermaid

Upside to the #manban : Less likely John Tamihere will get an electorate seat.

Keeping Stock ‏@Inventory2

Sean Plunket describes the #ManBan as “a completely co-ordinated attack by the Labour Party on itself”; and he’s spot on.

Ben Uffindell ‏@BenUffindell

@LewStoddart More women MPs just for the sake of more women MPs is not a noble goal. Sexism lies in the population at large.

Cactus Kate ‏@CactusKate2

50% of houses should b owned solely by women n we should hv zero interest loans 2 fund this #manban

Finally we have Chris Trotter:

AMIDST ALL THE CLAMOUR of its detractors, the true significance of Labour’s “Man Ban” has eluded most commentators.

Yes, the proposed rule change has undoubtedly damaged Labour’s election prospects.

Yes, there are many more important issues the party would have preferred the news media to focus upon.

Yes, it is further evidence of a party with no reliable political grown-ups in charge.

Yes, Labour’s opponents will dine out on it for months.

And, yes, it’s the only thing the 2013 Annual Conference will be remembered for.

But, the “Man Ban” is also proof of something else: that the distance separating Labour’s rank-and-file from Labour’s Caucus has grown as wide as the gulf that once separated the “old” Labour Party from the “new”.

The conference in November should be spectacular!


John and Fran on John

June 29th, 2013 at 3:10 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes in the NZ Herald:

National’s decision – very much John Key’s decision – to bite the bullet and set a 2020 start for building the $2.9 billion Auckland City Rail Link is a political masterstroke.

Once again. Key has trumped National’s opponents and neutralised the political advantage they had held by jumping across the political divide and setting up camp in their territory.

He first did it with nuclear ship visits when he became National’s leader in 2006. He simply used his honeymoon in the job to declare the anti-nuclear law would remain intact under his leadership. And that was that. It may not have greatly impressed the Americans. But in an instant, a political millstone had been removed from National’s neck.

On numerous occasions since, Key has likewise swallowed hard and taken positions which do not sit that comfortably with National ideology but which spike the guns of the party’s enemies and leave them with nowhere to go.

Regardless of the merits of the City Rail Link (and I actually think it does have merits), one can look at this in a very calculating way.

The Government has said it will fund it by 2020. It is unlikely this Government will actually be in power in 2020, so the actual funding for it will be an issue for the future. The announcement though gives certainity.

If they had not announced future funding for it, well what is the probability that there will not be a change of Government before 2020? Very very low. Even Labour can’t get stuffing up for that long. And if a change of Government means it would then be getting built anyway, well what is the point in holding out?

But there are other advantages. By agreeing to it now, it removes the ability of Labour and Greens to sabotage the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway extension which they were promising to scrap to fund the CRL. Are they now going to keep campaigning on scraping what they call the holiday highway? I doubt it.

So yes, a masterstroke – and one that doesn’t really impact the books long-term as it was inevitable it would be built anyway when there was a change of Government. Instead, it now happens on a more affordable time-frame.

With yesterday’s confirmation of a tunnel as the second harbour crossing plus sundry motorway extensions and developments, Key has mapped out National’s vision for Auckland transport and, perhaps more importantly, laid out the stages by which that vision will be achieved.

In one swoop, he has taken the steam out of what, after housing affordability, is the thorniest issue in the country’s biggest city – traffic congestion – and one on which, according to opinion polls, National’s management has less than impressed the public.

In particular, Key has now marginalised Labour and the Greens in the one aspect of public policy where those parties thought they safely had it all over National – public transport.

Armstrong also points out:

Apart from shoring up National’s support in Auckland, the go-ahead is intended to remind the rest of New Zealand that National – unlike its opponents – looks at the big picture and gets things done whereas they are consumed by the relatively trivial, such as the fate of Peter Dunne and his parliamentary allowances.

And their obsession with the GCSB. Don’t get me wrong – the GCSB is of importance, but it seems the opposition have talked about nothing else for the last few weeks or months. The average family really does not care that much about the GCSB. They care about having a job, a growing economy, better schools and better healthcare.

Fran O’Sullivan also writes:

John Key’s lip-smacking munificence has been writ large as he moves into agenda-setting mode in Auckland and Christchurch, the two cities that will decide next year’s election.

Key’s spreading plenty of pixie dust about, promising multi-billion-dollar transport projects in Auckland – including the City Rail Link which his transport ministers have seriously dissed – and big-ticket projects in earthquake-savaged Christchurch, like a new convention centre.

I joked on Twitter that John Key has spent more in one week than Rob Muldoon spent in nine years on Think Big!

But the comparison, even joking, is unfair. The transport projects are not (generally) being funded by taxpayers. They tend to get funded out of the national land transport fund which is basically user pays funding through petrol tax and road user charges.

Labour’s Auckland issues spokesman, Phil Twyford, was yesterday reduced to carping about the cost of the city’s transport projects and complaining that the timing for some of the construction was still vague.

Which they are, but they allow the planning to begin such as route protection for the harbour crossing.

But he later confined himself to telling journalists it could come from various sources, including (take that, Labour!) the Future Investment Fund, into which his Government is tucking the proceeds of its partial privatisation programme; the Land Transport Fund, which holds the proceeds of petrol excise tax and road-user charges; taxpayers through the Consolidated Fund and even the private sector through some nifty public/private sector partnerships (PPPs).

I think using the proceeds of asset sales to help fund the CRL would be wonderful! Labour then has to argue that shares in a power company are more valuable than the CRL!

And Christchurch mayoral challenger and Labour MP Lianne Dalziel was reduced to complaining from the sidelines as Key and Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee cosied up publicly with Parker to announce agreement had been reached on $4.8 billion of investment in Christchurch – $2.9 billion of it coming from the Crown and $1.9 billion committed by the Christchurch City Council – so that projects like the new stadium and a convention centre can proceed.

Key couldn’t resist having a flick at Labour during yesterday’s stand-up, telling reporters he could understand why the public wasn’t warming to Labour because it was “too negative”.

Labour need to learn that endless negativity is not appealing.

The big question is how much further the PM will drive the knife in; particularly as speculation has now been sewn that Labour leader David Shearer has been given two months to turn his party’s dismal poll showing around or face questions over his leadership.

The parallels with Australian Labor leader Julia Gillard are obvious. Their respective publics warmed to neither of them.

The posturing was obvious at the US Embassy’s Independence Day festivities (celebrated early) in Wellington on Wednesday night.

Shearer and two potential leadership pretenders – Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe – maintained a studious distance from each other.

Tick tock, tick tock …

What bad timing

June 15th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes at NZ Herald:

David Shearer, Russel Norman and Winston Peters will have an opportunity to present themselves as the “government-in-waiting” when they turn up to HamiltonJet’s premises on Monday to release the results of their parliamentary inquiry into the future of manufacturing.

What awful timing for them. On Friday the Performance of Manufacturing Index hit a ten year high, and on Monday the three parties will have to proclaim how manufacturing is in crisis and dying.

Mechanisms to deal with an “overvalued and volatile dollar” – which include making the dollar and jobs additional priorities for the Reserve Bank,

Again, what bad timing for them as the dollar has dropped by around 10% in the last few weeks.

Over a four-year period manufacturing jobs have fallen by nearly 40,000 (16.7 per cent); the number of manufacturing businesses has dropped by more than 1300 (6.1 per cent); the annual value of manufactured exports was down by 12.4 per cent; and manufacturing profits fell by 17.4 per cent.

Fran doesn’t say which four year period though. In the last four years the Household Labour Force Survey shows 255,600 manufacturing jobs in March 2009 and 246,200 jobs in March 2013 which is a decline of 9,400 – not 40,000.

Now any decline is not good, but 9,400 is one quarter the size of the 40,000 the Greens stick around.

Armstrong on Greens

June 10th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong woke at the weekend:

Norman appeared to offer further evidence of that later in the week when he rounded on the chairman of the Electricity Authority, Brent Layton.

National Party-aligned bloggers were not the only people asking in the wake of that attack who was being Muldoonist now.

Norman’s curt response to Layton’s detailed critique of the joint Labour-Greens plan to reform the wholesale electricity market was pretty tame stuff, especially when placed alongside Winston Peters’ slow evisceration of Peter Dunne.

However, Norman’s attack struck a discordant note coming as it did only days after the Greens’ co-leader had accused John Key of vilifying and bullying his critics in a manner which was as divisive as that of the late Sir Robert Muldoon.

Norman’s rejection of Layton’s 28-page paper, which sought to demolish the Labour-Greens’ notion of setting up a single institution to set wholesale electricity prices, was also in marked contrast to the rebuttal by Labour’s David Parker. The latter challenged Layton’s arguments one by one in a measured tone.

That was the point. Parker showed how to disagree on policy grounds. Norman made it personal, and nasty. Becoming a habit.

Norman’s statement was far more belligerent with a number of references to Layton as a “National Party appointee” to a “National Party-created” regulator.

Layton is no National Party hack, however. He is a highly-respected economist with extensive knowledge and experience of the electricity generating industry over many years.

Indeed Dr Layton is a highly respected economist. He was the director of the non-profit NZIER economics co-operative for five years. Dr Norman’s PhD was on the history of the Alliance Party. Dr Layton’s was on economic history.

I doubt there is an economist in NZ who has done more work in the electricity sector. Dr Layton looks to have done 20 or so reports in the 2000s, for the Major Electricity Users Group (the ones who benefit the most from reliable supply, cheaper prices and better competition).

Fran O’Sullivan also writes:

Russel Norman exposed himself as a “Muldoonist” when he slammed into highly respected economist Brent Layton this week for daring to raise his head above the parapet and defend the work of the NZ Electricity Authority, which he chairs.

Norman was clearly incensed that Layton had issued a paper on the economics of electricity that laid waste to the arguments of three critics of the current regime, and challenged the proposal by the Greens and Labour to set up a new entity – NZ Power – to effectively control prices.

But by slagging Layton off as “nothing more than a National Party-appointed civil servant who has failed to do his job and is now trying to protect his patch”, Norman was straying well into the territory of personal attacks that Sir Robert Muldoon made an art form, and demonstrating a predisposition to a form of political management the Greens co-leader claims to despise.

Long may Russel keep it up. Once a brand is damaged, it is very hard to repair it.

And there would be few people in the Wellington political firmament who would have missed the underlying message sent by the NZ Institute of Economic Research when it issued a short-form CV yesterday under the simple headline: Background: Dr Brent Layton.

The release simply noted the many roles Layton has held: chairman of the electricity market rules committee, a director of Transpower and M-Co, former chairman of Trust Bank Canterbury, a director of the Futures Exchange, deputy chairman of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, chairman of Lyttelton Port Company, chairman of Canterbury Health and also AgResearch and its commercial arm Celentis. Currently, He chairs Sastek, a Brisbane-based hardware manufacturing and software development company. And he has also been one of two external monetary policy advisers to the Governor of the Reserve Bank.

In other words: frame that up against a PhD on the Alliance and a working life spent mainly in Parliament? There is no real comparison.

One can disagree with Layton’s analysis and conclusions. But to label him as basically a failed hack was unworthy.


O’Sullivan on power nationalisation

April 20th, 2013 at 11:47 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes in the Herald:

The ghost of Hugo Chavez is alive and thriving within the Labour Party as it turns its back on its free-market past to buy itself back into power courtesy of the taxpayers’ chequebook.

And not just nationalisation, but free electricity!

If David Shearer and Russel Norman muster enough votes to win the next election, they say they will toss us all the equivalent of a free 300KW block of electricity

Just as the Greens think you can print money, they and Labour also think you can just give electricity away for free, and somehow new generation will be built.

We are asked to believe this policy will also produce 5000 new jobs and generate $450 million worth of new economic activity because two pages of bare analysis on Berl’s equilibrium model tells us so.

I don’t think so. No one with any residue of grey matter left will believe Shearer’s protestations that the timing of this joint announcement has nothing to do with the pending Mighty River Power IPO.

This policy has all the signs of being rushed out with one aim in mind: To spook the private investors (including the many smaller shareholders who are being enticed back into a New Zealand sharemarket, which was on the verge of its own demise a few years back) who are lining up to buy shares in the forthcoming float.


But the decision to insert a state-owned monopsony – or monopoly buyer – called New Zealand Power between the supply and demand sides of the electricity industry without first undertaking any stringent analysis and submissions from existing privately listed companies like Contact Energy, TrustPower, Infratil and the privately owned Todd Energy really amounts to nothing more than effective renationalisation of the competitive sector.

And why are they nationalising them? Because they hope it will gain votes?

But what is really instructive from the BusinessDesk report (a good scoop, by the way) is Jones’ admission that not only do asset owners need dividends but “politicians need dividends as well”.

The report went on to note that to win the 2014 election, Labour needed to move about 5 to 7 per cent of the voting public to favour it.

Jones suggested energy analysts’ capacity to “make 5 to 7 per cent of the public hate us [because of this policy] is zero. Our capacity to impress that percentage [with this policy] is infinite”.

In other words, the sniff of power is so enticing to Jones that he is prepared to give away the return on state-owned assets to consumers to bribe his party’s way back to power.

Their next policy may be to announce that if you have more than one house, the government will confiscate it and give it to an aspiring home owner.

Fran lashing out

December 14th, 2012 at 8:04 pm by David Farrar

An update to the post on The Nation, as Fran O’Sullivan has been adding up 2 and 2 to get five.

I saw (I think on Twitter) a reference to a story saying The Nation was not being funded next year by NZ on Air. I followed the link to a website I had never seen before called NZ Inc. The story seemed definitive “news spread last night that The Nation has missed out on funding for 2013so I blogged a story on it. I did the story at 9.18 am and set it to appear at 2.00 pm. Most of my stories are done earlier in the day and then set to appear later.

I didn’t even note on the website whom the author was, and as I said the site was previously unknown to me.

I then left home to go to Te Papa for the preview of their Gamemakers display (opens tomorrow).  On the taxi ride there at 11.55 am I saw a comment by Fran O’Sullivan that The Nation will be back in 2013 and she stands corrected. I took this to mean that TV3 would be funding it, but then saw a further comment that NZ on Air was in fact funding it.

I then commented that this means the NZ Inc report was wrong, and I must go change my blog post lamenting it set for this afternoon.

That was the intention. I wasn’t sure what time it was set for exactly (as I do 10 a day), but anyway by the time I finished at Te Papa and headed to the airport, it was just after 2 pm when I got to go into the blog to edit the post. I do Facebook and Twitter easily from the iPhone, but significant editing of a blog post on a phone is incredibly difficult to do.

I got to the Koru Club, started up the laptop, and found that the post had already appeared, which annoyed me as I preferred not to run incorrect information.

I did a quick update to the blog the post at the top, stating the report was wrong and expressing some mild displeasure that the site I quoted hadn’t lived up to their tagline. It was only as I did that update I even realised that Fran was one of those behind the site.

Anyway Fran then lets loose on Facebook claiming my post was a “bitchy little hissy fit“,  and I was “just being an asshole cos he can be” and “He is just wanting to snipe from the sidelines. Nasty and stoking ill-will in an ill-advised manner.”

The irony may not escape people of Fran claiming I was being the nasty one.

I responded to Fran explaining the post was pre-timed, but she then effectively called me a liar. I have absolutely no time for people who doubt my word, and behave like that.

Fran doesn’t seem to have considered that if I really was wanting to damage her (and God knows why she thinks I am someone who would want to) then I would hardly have posted on her Facebook page noting the correction and saying I plan to change my blog entry. I could have said nothing at all. I could have rushed the post forward to do maximum damage, so that it got out there before the corrected version did. Her interpretation is ridiculous when you consider I made the comment myself that I planned to update it.

Sure I could have in the update acknowledged that the discovery that the story was wrong, had occurred a couple of hours earlier, but it doesn’t change the fact it was wrong and I didn’t think it was material what time the error was discovered. My commenters had already caught on that the story was wrong, and the link went through to the corrected story.

At the end I’m just surprised that Fran has such a thin skin, and turns so nasty when it is her who ran an incorrect story. We’ve all run stories that have proven to be incorrect. I don’t even mind pushback that the correction could have referred to the time, but as I said I detest people who call me a liar. I never ever will say something I know to be false (usual disclaimer around jokes, pranks etc), and as far as I know this is the first journalist to ever claim otherwise.

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!

Fran on Christchurch

August 4th, 2012 at 12:01 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

I’ve really drunk the Kool Aid when it comes to the inspirational blueprint for Christchurch’s new CBD. It is a stunner. Compact. Cutting edge. Green. Sustainable.

It was crunched out in just over 100 days; a brilliant demonstration of that old maxim “pressure makes a diamond”.

It is also a plan that all New Zealanders need to embrace.

I doubt many of us seriously appreciated that the whole of New Zealand is pretty much a seismic zone until the devastating Canterbury earthquakes hit.

Yeah I thought it was just Wellington that was going to get a big one.

But I’ll never forget the look of abject horror on the faces of the hundreds of people who poured out of the Christchurch CBD after the 6.3 magnitude quake that struck on February 22, 2011 … or the grim chat I had with Mayor Bob Parker at the Christchurch Art Gallery shortly afterwards when he told me “there has been serious death”. Nor will I forget the sincerity of former US Secretary of State Richard Armitage, also in Christchurch when the quake struck, who later that afternoon told me the United States had instantly offered assistance from its own military based in Hawaii.

Disasters do bring out the best in people, as we band together. The memory for me is the Australian police officers and others landing in Christchurch to cheery crowds.

Key has now ordered them to get the L-shaped frame of parks which will surround the new CBD in place by the end of 2013. Decisions will be made super fast. Most will bypass the Resource Management Act.

The tempo will be fast.

If anyone doubts just how fast officialdom can work when the whip is cracked just consider the AMI stadium. David McConnell’s Hawkins Construction got that up in 11 weeks.

Which has proved to be excellent.

The brute reality is that before the quakes struck Christchurch was effectively dying. The very compactness of this new city heart will ensure its vibrancy.

Something I have said also.

What if other New Zealand cities – particularly Auckland – were given the tools so they too could follow Christchurch’s example and wipe the barriers that stymie economic growth?

Hear hear. Matthew Hooton also writes in NBR:

The government has created a major political risk for itself given the sheer brilliance of its new Christchurch plan.

I try to strictly avoid writing here about anything I am working on in my day job but, like everything else that has happened in Christchurch these last 21 months, this is a once-in-a-lifetime exception.

The Christchurch plan is the result of two madcap ideas by sometimes uneasy bedfellows, Christchurch mayor Bob Parker and earthquake czar Gerry Brownlee.

  Mr Parker led his council’s “Share an Idea” campaign where the people of Christchurch got to say what they wanted in their new city.  

It wasn’t the typically stifling local government “consultation” exercise.  Lawyers, formal submissions and correct spelling and grammar were not welcome.  People just got to scribble down in their own words what they wanted.

Over 100,000 Cantabrians responded, more than a quarter of Christchurch’s population.  The campaign became the first community engagement programme outside Europe to win the international Co-Creation Association’s supreme award and it did so unanimously.

The lawyers and lobbyists who make it their business to get between the public and their elected officials were sidelined.

I wasn’t aware of the award.

The plan is radical and far more clean, green, politically-correct and urban-design-y than would be expected to be signed off by the sometimes gruff and usually conservative Mr Brownlee.  There are all sorts of parks and art and culture hubs and so forth.  Christchurch will be the most beautiful city in the world.

But the plan is far more commercially astute than might be expected from the urban designers and creative types who prepared it. 

It halves the size of the CBD, making land scarce to improve returns per square metre, creating competition among investors and developers for the best spaces.  There is going to be a gold rush.

What is interesting is that the Property Council has welcomed the plan. They represent the property owners who have the capital that is essential to making the plan a reality. They were negative on the original plan, but have been supportive of this final one, which is a good and important thing.

Decisions will be made on urban design resource consents within five working days, by a three-person committee representing the government, the city council and Ngai Tahu and they will not then need to be notified under the Resource Management Act.

Proposals will of course need to be pretty, clean and green and fit the plan but the tradeoff is that developers get a final answer in a week.

Mr Parker’s city council has then resolved to make final decisions on all other aspects of building consent applications within a fortnight. …

Do Aucklanders need to wait for Rangitoto to erupt before Len Brown will launch a community engagement programme about its spatial plan as good as Mr Parker’s “Share an Idea”?

Do Dunedites need to suffer some sort of biblical-type flood before their leaders will develop an innovative 100-day plan to deal with some of the same long-term economic challenges that were faced by Christchurch?

Do Wellingtonians need to suffer their major earthquake before they get access to 24-hour investment services, five-day resource consent decisions and two-week building consents?

Does the Waikato need to be devastated by mad cow disease before delays at the OIO and Immigration Service are sorted out?

For that matter, why on earth doesn’t the government roll out its bold, visionary Christchurch approach on a nationwide basis and just slash all the barriers to economic growth that still exist everywhere but Canterbury?

A roadmap to growth.

O’Sullivan on Shearer

July 14th, 2012 at 1:01 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

I found myself wondering this week whether Shearer – who notoriously hates wearing a suit and tie – really only gets supercharged when he is wearing a flak jacket. He fluffed his way through a punchy interview on NewstalkZB when host Sean Plunket tried to pin him down on Labour’s position on the Maori Council’s controversial water rights claim.

The Shearer argument went something like this: Yes, John Key is inflaming things by rarking up the Maori Council and saying his Government won’t be bound by any Waitangi Tribunal ruling on the push to stop the Mighty River Power share float until a deal is done in this area. But, no, Maori don’t have a valid water claim. Nobody owns water. We pay for water rights to use water, whether it be for irrigation or hydro-electricity or whatever.

In other words, Key is right but I don’t want to say so because my party expects me to go into opposition mode at every opportunity.

There are plenty of other examples.

Shearer’s opposition to foreign investment in New Zealand farmland was also rather contrived. When Labour’s private polling indicated widespread public unease over the Shanghai Pengxin acquisition of 16 dairy farms, he chose to lift the scab off this running sore rather than pour on salving balm. Though privately he is not that fazed. Same too with partial privatisation of state-owned power companies.

Shearer held up Norway as a shining exemplar of what’s possible when it comes to developing a small nation economy. Yet many Norwegian SOEs are partially listed; the country has also built its fortune on oil.

Shearer should not have backed himself into these ideological corners.

Norway seems to be the new Finland.

Shearer needs to get out of this poll-driven mode. He is fundamentally an intelligent man who is at heart an internationalist. There is no shame in agreeing with the Prime Minister on some basic fundamentals. Both men are trying to capture the centre, after all.

His caucus seem to be pushing him towards the left.

O’Sullivan on Key

May 13th, 2012 at 9:55 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes in the Weekend Herald:

John Key has made a strategic decision to burn some political capital and front-foot major Government decisions as he tries to wrest control of the national agenda. It’s a strategy that is bearing fruit.

Finally, the PM is putting a stamp on his Government as he lifts its tempo and gets some serious purchase on major issues.

So far Key is making reasonable headway as he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Cabinet ministers while they unveil pre-Budget announcements on hot issues, such as Paula Bennett’s on welfare reform. …

The Government is very determined to do more than just manage the finances, but also to take hard decisions which will boost economic growth and hence jobs.

It is easy to underplay the impact of the Prime Minister’s cheery influence in keeping New Zealand business sufficiently confident in his Government’s management of the NZ economy so the vast majority of firms stay focused on the medium-term prospects and don’t simply shut up shop and move to Australia.

Political journalists and Beltway denizens don’t see much of this side of Key as, outside of the general election campaign, few venture forth on a consistent basis to watch the PM intersecting with the business community.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard from reasonably politically agnostic business people how impressive the PM is when talking on economic issues at business forums.

The PM’s decision to front-foot the mini-scandals – instead of relying on his press minders to trot out the spin – is also a change from default mode.

He didn’t need the SkyCity convention centre wrangle, or the ACC and John Banks mini-scandals. But Key has more than held his own on television programmes such as Campbell Live or on Radio NZ’s Morning Report against critical news presenters trying to expose chinks in his political spin.

I can’t recall a time when a PM was being interview one on one so often.

The Shearer defence

May 5th, 2012 at 11:38 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan backs David Shearer:

But unlike Cunliffe and Robertson he is not hostage to Labour’s past policy positions. He wasn’t an active player in policy formation for the 2011 general election. This has proved to be a strength – not a weakness – as he quickly jettisoned one of Labour’s more wacky election policies, wiping GST on fruit and vegetables. He followed through yesterday by abandoning another ill-considered Labour policy to support Government borrowing offshore to top up the Super Fund.

Shearer’s moves display political courage. He is not afraid to upset grassroot Labour Party members. By adopting a classically rational approach he will increase Labour’s appeal to centrist voters from across the voting spectrum.

I agree, so long as he can carry his party with him. Trevor Mallard was attacking National’s suspensions of contributions to the NZ Super Fund just two days before Shearer announced he is adopting National’s policy.

Also John Roughan writes:

Shearer seemed a normal guy who is not a natural at the arts of politics. For that reason I’d like to see him succeed.

Not too soon, of course. John Key is doing good things and if he continues the way he is going he will deserve the three terms New Zealand voters usually give a government. But Labour’s turn will come and when it does I hope Shearer is still there.

I think that is being optimistics. If Shearer doesn’t win in 2014, I find it hard to imagine he will be there in 2017.