Robertson wrong

May 7th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

For Labour to gain traction with their Oravida claims, they essentially have to prove two things, and connect them up. They need to show that Oravida has had some sort of preferential treatment compared to other milk exporters, and that this is due to the involvement of Government Ministers.

I thought yesterday that they may have established the first. Grant Robertson claimed:

There is further evidence Judith Collins’ assistance of Oravida resulted in her husband’s company getting its milk into China, Labour MP Grant Robertson says.

“Documents show that Oravida had its milk shipment accepted by Chinese border control in December, while milk from the same supplier exported by a different company was rejected.

“Oravida’s fresh milk supplier Green Valley Dairies also supplies the same two litre bottles to Guangzhou Ruima Food Limited, simply with a different label.

“However, Guangzhou Ruima Food’s fresh milk shipment in December was rejected by China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

I found this significant, as if true would suggest preferential treatment. But alas I made the mistake of thinking Labour actually were telling the truth.

Pete George has blogged a transcript from Radio NZ:

Green Valley’s general manager Corrie Den Haring refutes what Labour says.

Corrie Den Haring: It is not the same two litre bottles just simply with a different label. First of all Ruimi Food’s was taking what’s called enriched milk. They were taking flavoured milk, particularly strawberry and chocolate milks as well as standard white milk in various bottled formats.

Oravida at that stage were simply taking two litre milk with their label on it.

Some products going to Ruimi Foods in Guangzhou were blocked, and that was through extra testing that was done, namely the strawberryv chocolate and calcium milks that actually took longer than the shelf life of the product.

Mary Wilson: The milk shipment that was rejected was rejected because the testing process took so long that milk was off by the time it got through the process.

Corrie Den Haring: That’s correct, so that the shelf life of the milk only effectively has ten days once it’s in China. Some of these testing took I think up to eight days and if any product has less than I think thirty percent or fifty percent of it’s available shelf life then it’s rejected at border, and that is recorded by the Chinese border inspectorate as being a failure.

Mary Wilson: Why wasn’t Oravida’s milk then subject to the same testing over the same time frame?

Corrie Den Haring: Because they were testing for different, partly for different issues, so in and around the flavoured milks there was a question mark around some of the flavourings and some of the potential colourings, whether they actually met a fresh milk specification, and also in the calcium they were checking the levels of calcium within the milk which obviously take a lot longer time period than the standard testing being carried out.

Mary Wilson: But some of that testing surely should have applied to Oravida’s milk?

Corrie Den Haring: They weren’t taking any of the flavoured milks or any of the calcium milks, they were taking the standard fresh milk which simply have a micro-biological testing programme attached to them.

Mary Wilson: So you’re saying this is merely a technical issue, it has got nothing to do with favouritism?

Corrie Den Haring:I’m not aware of any favouritism and I don’t see any evidence from the position that Green Valley has in supplying product that the same level of orders were coming through, the same demand was coming through.

The same level of, one could argue,  frustration in and around some of the testing regimes that were being implemented at that stage, and we saw no difference between the two businesses.

So it is not the same milk, with just a different label.

Labour over-hyped the House yesterday. They went around boasting before question time how awesome they were going to be, and destroy the Government. They should remember the old maxim about setting expectations. The result was yesterday proved to be a bit of a fizzer.

Labour on clean and green

July 5th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Grant Robertson has put out this pamphlet, which really needs a response. It is hard to know where to start, so let us take them in order.

Climate Change

Labour is great on rhetoric, but crap on results. In 1999 NZ’s gross emissions were 67,395 CO2e. Under nine years of Labour gross emissions went up 10% to  74,198  (and net emissions went up 13.4%). In the first two years under National gross emissions dropped 3.4% to 71,657.  There was a failure to deal with climate change -Labour’s. Under National we are set to come in under our Kyoto Protocol target.

Labour’s policy blunders saw 30,000 hectares of deforestation in their fianl three years.

Maritime Disasters

This is a reference to the fact that National did not pass a law to give effect to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage that would have doubled the liability of the Rena’s owners from $12m to $24m.

What Grant omits to mention is the convention was adopted in 2001, and Labour didn’t legislate for seven years on it, and the Labour Cabinet gave the legislation the lowest priority rating. Sure with perfect hindsight would have been good for National to have passed it, but for Grant and Labour to claim not passing the law has dented our clean green image is stupid. The impact of not having changed the law is potentially fiscal, not environmental.

EEZ environment

National has in fact passed a law to give give environment protection to the EEZ. Previously there was no protection at all. One can dispute the balance in the legislation, but again ironic and rich for the party that did nothing to protect the EEZ to be saying that actually passing a law to protect the EEZ damages NZ’s clean green reputation while having no law at all, bolstered it!

46 wells were drilled in the EEZ under Labour – all without any legislation at all to protect the environment.

Mining conservation land

Oh my God, National put out a discussion document on mining. Oh yeah, I am sure that really undermined NZ’s clean green image – a discussion document.

And do I even have to mention that Labour approved 218 permits for mining on conservation land – all done without harming NZ’s clean green image. You see in Labour world, it is only bad if National talks about it. It is good when Labour does it.

MFE Funding

Now this is just getting silly. No funding has been cut for environmental activities. The $1.75m budget cut was for 12 admin staff, after a review found their admin/non-admin staff ratio was 1:10 and in most agencies it was 1:20 to 1:40.

In Labourland, I guess there are hordes of foreign tourists thinking about coming to New Zealand because of its clean green reputation, and they decide not to come because 12 admin staff were got rid of in the Ministry for the Environment!  Really, what planet do they think people live on.

I guess it is easy to stick five nonsensical bullet points on a postcard with a lovely picture as a backdrop. Far harder to actually have a track record that comes anywhere close to matching your rhetoric. I’ll take substance over rhetoric any day.

Robertson v Graham

June 22nd, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Grant Robertson blogs:

I am very annoyed at Kennedy Graham’s misleading blog about Labour’s non-attendance at Rio+20. It is pure politics and just plain wrong. I presume I am the person he is referring to when he says he spoke to a ’senior Labour person’ about this last week. It is simply not true to say as Ken does that the reason I was not in Rio was because “I could not get away”. What I actually said was that I could not afford the cost of going. There is a big difference between the two. (In fairness to Kennedy he has now apologised for any personal offence, though the blog remains unchanged)

I would love to be there. I was at Rio+10 in Johannesburg as a member of the New Zealand delegation. I had spent the previous two and half years at the UN working on the preparations for the event. It was a big deal to me. On that delegation Nick Smith was there as the opposition representative. Just as ten years before at the original Rio Summit there had been an opposition representative on the delegation. This year the government decided not to issue such an invitation. I did raise with Amy Adams the funding for other MPs going to Rio and she said it was not happening citing “budgetary constraints”.

Grant is correct to point out he said that the reason he couldn’t attend was financial, rather than not being a priority to take the time to attend.

However it is worth pointing out that just because the Ministry for the Environment won’t pay for him to attend,  doesn’t mean he could not have still chosen to attend. Labour’s parliamentary budget is a total of $5.1 million. Labour could well have decided to fund Grant or another MP to travel to Rio out of that budget. However they obviously decided that was not a priority for them. So it was still a matter of priorities for Labour in deciding not to attend.

Personally I think it was the right decision. If I was an MP, I’d rather spend my parliamentary funding on some good policy research, rather than flying the Deputy Leader to Rio. But it was a decision open to Labour.

Small on Shearer

April 20th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small reports at Stuff:

Rather than slam the Government over paid parental leave, he talked compromise. Labour would look at phasing it in or lowering the costs in “a sincere effort to move something forward”.

Consensus, he said, was his first instinct.

It is a style Mr Shearer is making his brand; a reasonable man talking in a measured tone that rejects the politics of charisma.

This is one reason I like Shearer. I do think he is a reasonable man.

To the political media present – and in a warning to Labour, only three reporters made the short hop from Wellington – it was about as dull as a leader’s speech can get.

With the Government on the ropes over issues from the pokies deal with SkyCity to Crafar farm sales and asset sales, the soft-shoe approach is not without its critics.

There is no crisis yet, but there has been some internal arm-wrestling.

Chief of staff Stuart Nash has quit after just a few months in the pivotal role, mostly for personal reasons – a new baby and the commute from Napier. But insiders say he was ill-suited and clashed with chief press secretary Fran Mold over strategy. She pushed for a (relatively) higher profile, arguing the Greens and NZ First leader Winston Peters would fill the vacuum if Mr Shearer left one.

Finding the right replacement for Mr Nash is crucial, especially with the key party secretary job expected to be vacant soon when Chris Flatt leaves.

There is no clear favourite for either job, although policy guru Jordan Carter is tipped as secretary, while the Wellington rumour mill favours Wellington lawyer Alastair Cameron as chief of staff.

Both are closer to deputy leader Grant Robertson than Mr Shearer.

And arguably also closer to Cunliife.

It is too early to say Shearer will be rolled, but it is obvious from reading around the left-wing blogs that there  is significant discontent amongst the activist base – especially in Auckland.

What is interesting is that the Auckland activists are trying to lump Robertson in with Shearer, so that if Shearer falls, Cunliffe will be able to win a leadership battle against Robertson.

Cunliffe has come back from his leadership loss revitalised and has been impressing many in Labour. I think Robertson would still beat Cunliffe in a contest, but the “Anyone but Cunliffe” faction has diminished in recent months.

If there is any change, I would expect it to occur either late 2012 or at the latest February 2013. If Shearer makes it past that, then I think it would be too late for a change.

Grant Robertson

December 8th, 2011 at 8:37 am by David Farrar

Most of the focus has been on the leadership contest for Labour, but the battle for Deputy Leader is also interesting with Grant Robertson and Nanaia Mahuta both standing for it.

Effectively they are both standing on tickets with Shearer and Cunliffe respectively except that in the former’s case they are pretending it is not a ticket by not calling it that. I tend to subscribe to the theory that if it looks like a duck ……

The caucus though will have two separate votes for the positions, and will only vote for Deputy Leader when they know whom the leader is. It is possible at that point, one of the contenders would pull pull out, so there is no risk of the Leader ending up with a Deputy who was not backing them.

The conventional wisdom is that Shearer is ahead of Cunliffe at the moment, so Robertson one can assume is also more likely to become Labour Deputy Leader. If this eventuates this overall could be very powerful for Labour. But first the negative.

I’ve blogged before that the ideal deputy leader is one that doesn’t want to be leader, and I stand by this. Now this does not mean that I think Grant personally is a disloyal person who would be sitting there from day one plotting to undermine the leader and become leader. I don’t think that is Grant’s style or record. Also Grant is a relatively young guy with a pretty safe seat, and knows his best route to the leadership is to be part of a winning team, where his support for the leader is unquestionable.

However events can mean things are not that easy. If for some reason (assuming Shearer is Leader), Shearer fails to fire and after 18 months is struggling in the polls, then media will focus on the deputy leader and ask whether or not he should be leader. They will every week ask the deputy if he rules out a challenge, and of course no person can ever totally rule out a change, so a response with wriggle room will be given, and the media will note the wriggle room and the speculation becomes destabilising. I saw this first hand when Jenny Shipley was National Leader and Bill English her Deputy. I even recall the press secretary who had to go between the two of them negotiating a wording for his denial of plans to become Leader, but one that does not make you a liar should a change become necessary – which it eventually did. Very rarely will a Shermanesque denial be given which includes the statement “If nominated I will not accept”.

So the risk if Grant is Deputy is not that Grant will be disloyal. He is a team player. It is that if the leader does not perform as expected, that he will be promoted as a viable alternative – especially is as Deputy Leader he is seen to be performing better than the Leader.

Goff survived as Leader to contest the 2011 election because no one else in Labour wanted the job before the election. They were prepared to lose this election. However the caucus will be more hard headed going into 2014. The thought of a third term for National and nine years in Opposition for Labour will be deeply horrific to them. So if a Leader is not performing, then a change before 2014 would be more likely to occur. However I should state that it is not my expectation that either Shearer or Cunliffe would not perform well, so this scenario is a possibility not a probability.

Somewhat unfairly to Grant I’ve written more than I intended on the possible downside of his deputy leadership. The upside is not so long, but it is more powerful. It all relates to what the role of a deputy leader can and should be in a successful leadership team.

I think the best combinations of leader and deputy are like those in a great school. The school principal provides the leadership to the staff and students, while the deputy principal effectively manages the day to day running of the school.

A good deputy will, on behalf of the leader, help manage the caucus and the leader’s office. They will provide political management and sort out all but the biggest issues, freeing up the leader to lead and focus on convincing 400,000 more New Zealanders to vote for the party.

Robertson should be incredibly effective as this type of political deputy leader. His background in NZUSA, working for Hobbs and then as H3 to Clark gives him a wealth of experience in political management. Every day a parliamentary team has to decide what questions to be asking in Parliament, what press releases to put out on what issues etc.

So overall Robertson should be a very effective Deputy Leader for Labour if he gets elected.I would take one issue with his statement at Red Alert:

I know that I can hold my own and best any of the National frontbench in Parliament and on the hustings.

I’ve often blogged in the past about my respect for Grant’s skills and certain higher ups in National tease me relentlessly about a statement I once made that Robertson will give Ryall a much much tougher time in health. I’d even go so far to say they mock me for that statement, as the reality is that Ryall hasn’t even been mildly nuzzled by Robertson in the House, let alone savaged.

So I think it is a wee bit premature to be claiming you can best any of the National frontbench in Parliament. The evidence to date hasn’t shown that. However I think in National’s second term it will be easier for Labour MPs like Grant to land some blows.

So who is lying?

October 14th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Jordan Carter has blogged on the now well publicised accusations over what was said and denied at the Rainbow Wellington election forum. A number of Labour Party candidates and supporters have all accused ACT candidate Stephen Whittington of getting it wrong.

Well to para-phrase Mandy Rice-Davies, they would say that, wouldn’t they. But Green MP Kevin Hague has backed Whittington’s version of events. Now unless one subscribes to Labour’s mad theory of a vast right wing and non-labour left wing conspiracy, I think we can trust Kevin Hague as an honest witness.

With that in mind, Jordan may regret the title of his blog post – a clarification for some liars out there.

Does this mean he is calling Kevin Hague a liar?

I get a mention also, which I need to respond to.

This has been amplified today by that well known defender of the rights of queer people, David Farrar, on his blog KiwiBlog, and by Whittington himself in a media release.  The result is this Stuff story “Labour accused of homophobia cover-up” by Andrea Vance.

Now the reference to me as a “well known defender of the rights of queer people” is obviously meant to be sarcastic and imply I am insincere when it comes to this issue, and just using it to score political points.

I think my record stands for itself. I have blogged in supports of gay issues such as civil unions, gay marriage and gay adoption on scores and scores of occasions. I actively lobbied in favour of the Civil Union Bill, assisting Tim Barnett with it.  I blogged in 2004 how great the Civil Unions Bill party was to celebrate, and how great it was to be a very small part of helping something positive happen.

Unlike many in Labour I have been willing to criticise MPs from my own party on these issues. At the time of the Civil Unions Bill I blogged somewhat critically of some of the speeches from MPs against, including National MPs. The following week my public criticisms were raised in Caucus (so I am told, I don’t attend of course) by some of the MPs I had criticised, asking for something to be done to shut me up.

Also just last year I blogged quite harsh criticisms of a Cabinet Minister for comments which I thought were taunting a gay MP. It actually turned out (once I saw the video and wasn’t just going off the NZPA report) that I had misinterpreted the comments, and it was a fairly good natured exchange, so I actually was unfairly critical of the National Minister. But again, note I was publicly critical.

So even though Jordan was using the term sarcastically, I think I have been consistent in my advocacy on gay rights. Perhaps my crime is actually being heterosexual and a National supporter – after all how can a straight right winger be anything but insincere on gay issues?

Farrar’s allegations are nonsense.  He (and Whittington) are lying when they say that Grant and Charles denied Trevor’s ‘tinkerbell’ stuff.  They did no such thing.

Well let me quote Kevin Hague:

Green MP Kevin Hague, who was also at the meeting, backed Mr Whittington’s version of events. “My sense was that Charles and Grant were denying that Mallard and Cosgrove had abused Chris Finlayson in a homophobic way.

Also Jordan and Grant’s version of events are not even backed by Chauvel himself. In the Herald he said:

Mr Chauvel said he had never heard anybody refer to Mr Finlayson by that name “and if I did hear it, I would tell them that was unacceptable”.

So Charles was denying anyone had ever said it. So now the list of liars is Stephen Whittington, myself, Kevin Hague and Charles himself.

They would have been stupid to. The remarks were well covered at the time.  We told Trevor what we thought. Making slurs like that in Parliament is totally unacceptable.

They were well covered at the time. Do you know why? Because I blogged about them. Off memory there was no publicity around this until I highlighted this. No one in Labour did anything about Trevor and Clayton until there was adverse publicity.

And don’t think it was only the three times it has been recorded in Hansard. Hansard only records comments if made in a speech or if an interjection is responded to. I understand Trevor and Clayton has yelled out Tinkerbell to Finlayson on numerous occasions – but as Finlayson ignored them they do not get recorded.

So good on Jordan and others for telling Trevor (and hopefully Clayton) to stop. But did you say anything publicly like I have with National MPs?

What they denied is that Mallard is homophobic. They are right.  Trevor has been a staunch defender of social liberal causes and was a key player in the fight to decriminalise homosexuality in the 1980s. His voting record on queer rights issues is perfect.

I tend to agree that Trevor is not homophobic. He is just someone willing to use homophobic comments to attack other MPs. It’s much the same with Winston. I don’t think Winston really hate Asians. I think he just knows it is effective to bash Asian immigration, so does it to be popular.  I note Jordan has not said whether or not he thinks Clayton is homophobic.

In terms of the argument that someone can not be homophobic because they have a perfect voting record on queer right issues. By that logic, Senator Larry Craig can’t be homosexual because he has a perfect voting record against queer rights. I think behaviour counts as much as one’s voting record.

So my message to Whittington and to David Farrar is: stop lying on this point.

I trust Stephen’s integrity, just as I trust Kevin Hague – a gay Green MP who politically has nothing to gain by backing up the ACT candidate’s version of events. And then add onto that the fact that Chauvel has said he has never heard anyone refer to Finlayson by that name, and I am very comfortable with what I have blogged.

Jordan would do well to stop shooting the messengers. If only he spent as much time condemning the remarks publicly when they were made, than denying they were denied.

For someone who is a social liberal, David sure does spend a lot of time stirring up nasty stuff.

I love this Orewellain view of the world. If I was a Labour activist who criticised a National MP for denying homophobic comments from other National MPs, I would be trumpeted as the good guy, and the National MP would be the nasty guy.

But no God forbid that I criticise a Labour MP/s because in the heat of a debate they made the wrong call and embarrassed by the mention of these homophobic comments by colleagues they tried to bluff it and deny said comments had been made.

I can only conclude that criticising a Labour MP for anything at all, is automatically nasty stuff.

On that note I’ll talk about why I did the series of posts on Charles Chauvel. It is not because he is gay as Charles has suggested, or because some mythical polls show him leading in Ohariu and Peter Dunne has put me up to it.  It is because I received information (from a number of sources, including people in his own party) that revealed he was doing shameless self-promotion to a degree that was deceptive.

In the past I have been complimentary of Charles, such as when he was moved to the extended front bench, noting:

Chauvel was a no brainer.  … Chauvel to environment is logical and what I predicted. He is one of the few MPs who understand the complexities of the ETS etc.

And before the reshuffle I said:

But a couple of others would also be contenders on merit for the front bench, or at least the front row of the cross-benches. Charles Chauvel and Grant Robertson would be the two strongest contenders. …

I also blogged in favour of his private members bill on credit reform going to select committee.

Charles is not the only MP who is a self-promoter. All MPs are (by necessity) to some degree. But I think where most MPs are under-graduates, Charles seemed to be well on his way to a PhD in it, so I called him out on some of his practices. No conspiracy, no homophobia, nothing to do with Ohariu. At the end of the day if you don’t write letters praising yourself and send them out to people, then there is no way I can be sent a copy of them to blog about it.

UPDATE: Whale Oil has blogged that the video of the House shows Chauvel was present when Mallard used the term, and sitting just three seats along and one back from him.

UPDATE2: The Secretary of Rainbow Wellington has released his summary of the meeting based on his detailed notes. Tony Reed’s summary states:

The Banks issue was taken up further and the Labour MPs reminded us of his homophobic actions in the House when Chris Carter came out as the first openly gay MP. Stephen agreed this was wrong, but in turn accused Labour MPs of making homophobic remarks about Chris Finlayson, a charge which was hotly denied.”

I won’t hold my breath waiting for an apology for being called a liar.


A failure of duty

September 29th, 2011 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

Bills that come before Parliament are of four types.  They are:

  • a Government bill—a bill dealing with a matter of public policy introduced by a Minister
  • a Member’s bill—a bill dealing with a matter of public policy introduced by a member who is not a Minister
  • a local bill—a bill promoted by a local authority, which affects a particular locality only
  • a private bill—a bill promoted by a person or body of persons (whether incorporated or not) for the particular interest or benefit of that person or body of persons

As you can see a private bill is for the benefit of a person or body of persons. A number of organisations in New Zealand have enabling legislation such as the Scout Association. Another example is the Royal Society of New Zealand – they needed their 1997 legislation updated to incorporate the humanities in their objects and make some governance changes.

Only an MP can introduce a bill into Parliament so a private body needs to find an MP to agree to promote their bill and steer it through the House. They will often ask the local MP, but it can be any MP. And if the MP agrees, they have basically a duty of care to that organisation to use their best efforts to get that law changed. This is normally very easy, as these changes are rarely controversial.

The Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill was introduced in September 2010. It should have passed into law in early 2011. but instead it remains stuck on committee stage and now can not pass before the election.

And the primary reason for this is the bill’s own sponsor, Grant Robertson, deliberately filibustered his own bill and used it as a weapon to try and stop the VSM bill from passing. Grant failed of course, but failed twice. He failed to stop the VSM bill from passing and failed to pass the Royal Society Bill because he spent months and months filibustering his own bill.

Grant will no doubt blame Heather Roy for moving that progress be reported on his bill, cutting off debate on it. But she only did this after months and months of Grant filibustering his own legislation. Grant could have had the bill passed by May. Even if it completed committee stage last night, it wouldn’t have been able under standing orders to have its third reading.

Now imagine how pissed off you would be if you were the Royal Society of NZ? Your own local MP has effectively fucked you over by using your bill as a political weapon in his ideological war against freedom of choice for students.

If you were another private organisation needing a private bill, would you go to Grant to promote it? You’d have to be mad to do so, not knowing whether it will be used as an effective hostage against other bills further down the order paper.

The Royal Society I imagine has no views on VSM. It is a shame they were an innocent casualty of Labour’s war against it.

They were not the only casualty. Labour MP Sue Moroney complained on Twitter (screen shot via Whale) that her bill extending paid parental leave never got debated. Well that was because of her colleagues filibustering. The filibustering meant there has been no ballots for bills for most of 2011. Labour managed to block all their own members bills, and all the Green ones also.