April 28th, 2012 at 1:28 pm by David Farrar

From today’s Herald.

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Two more Shearer staffers leave

April 27th, 2012 at 11:22 am by David Farrar

I understand that David Shearer’s Chief Press Secretary, has resigned her job and will be leaving the Labour Leader’s office in the near future.

Also Senior Advisor John Pagani’s contract terminated this week, and he no longer works for David Shearer.

Grant Robertson is almost going to run out of friends to fill these new vacancies :-)

UPDATE: A reporter has tweeted A Labour media spokesperson says “as far as we’re aware Fran has not resigned”. She’s not answering phone calls.

My understanding is that Mold did resign by e-mail some time ago. This was before Nash left the office. However even after Nash’s departure was confirmed, she told other senior staff that she still intended to leave. Maybe she has been persuaded to change her mind. I have this from a very reliable source. I would suggest media ask specifically about any e-mails that include the word resignation or resign in them.

UPDATE2: A reporter has tweeted Mold denies she has resigned. Again I suggest people ask about whether or not she e-mailed her resignation or at least an offer of resignation in recent times. It is possible she has been persuaded to change her mind for now.

UPDATE3: A commenter has stated:

She resigned and announced it to colleagues some time ago. She has been talking about going off on an OE.

Maybe it has all changed now Nash is out of the way.

The commenter is someone with Labour Party connections, as is my original source. That is two independent people who have said Mold has or had resigned and more so announced it to some of her colleagues. Changing one’s mind (if it has changed) does not negate the fact it was announced originally.

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The unfortunate experiment

April 27th, 2012 at 8:58 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

CONFESSION, THEY SAY, is good for the soul, so I have a confession to make. I was wrong about David Shearer. I made the mistake of believing that a politician with a brilliant back-story couldn’t fail to give us an equally brilliant front-story. Well, as Sportin’ Life tells the true believers in Porgy & Bess:

 “It ain’t necessarily so.”
And, now I (and I suspect you) know it ain’t so. David Shearer is a thoroughly likeable, thoroughly decent bloke, and his record at the United Nations is truly inspirational, but, come on, let’s face it: he ain’t anybody’s kind of leader.
David Shearer, like David Lange, is a creature of the factional and personal animosities dividing the Labour caucus. Bluntly: he was put there by an unholy alliance of right- and left-wing MPs to prevent the Labour Party’s choice, David Cunliffe, from taking the top job.
Personally I think people are over-reacting. It has only been three months since Parliament resumed this year. But stories like this become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But those two speeches showed not the slightest trace of “big picture” thinking. On the contrary, they showed every sign of having been inspired by an Auckland-based focus-group, and composed by a Wellington-based committee. The only picture they painted was one that revealed Labour’s deficiencies. That not only did the party lack leadership, but it also lacked ideas. 
This is the problem you get when Labour doesn’t know what it stands for, apart from opposing National.

So, what have we learned from this debacle? What has Labour learned?

If by “Labour” you mean its caucus, I would say absolutely nothing. If you’re talking about the party itself, nothing it didn’t know already: that Caucus picked the wrong guy.
It’s time for the Labour Caucus to put an end to “the unfortunate experiment” and begin a new one. They could call it “democracy” – and stop taking their party for Grant-ed.
I read this as a pretty clear sign that if or when Shearer falls, Robertson will not become Leader unopposed. You can see this in the Waitakere News blog by Mickey Savage who says:

Nothing good will come of this activity.  It is damaging to the party.  Despite National being in disarray the polls are static.  Labour is not moving upward.  A hint of disarray is the worst thing that a party can show.

And interestingly Cunliffe may now be Shearer’s best chance of survival as Labour Head Office and the Beehive are filled with Robertson supporters. 
This continuous attack on Cunliffe and the current undermining of Shearer show the same techniques being used and suggest strongly that the same “mastermind” is behind this.  In the interests of the party and of the country they should stop. 
MS does not say who this mastermind is, but by process of elimination there can’t be many choices. The Shearer v Cunliffe leadership contest was a fairly friendly good natured affair. I’m not sure a Robertson v Cunliffe contest will be.
In related news, Tracy Watkins at the Dom Post reports:

The Labour leader’s office appears to be in turmoil after David Shearer’s chief of staff abruptly left Wellington.

Former Labour MP Stuart Nash, who has been in the job just a few months, was seen leaving Parliament yesterday after a meeting with Mr Shearer’s incoming chief of staff Alistair Cameron. He later confirmed that he would be working on projects from his home in Napier for the next couple of weeks. He is due to finish on May 31.

Mr Nash rejected suggestions he had been “frogmarched” out of the building or given orders to clear his desk but his abrupt departure coincides with rising conflict in the Labour Party over Mr Shearer’s continued poor polling and lack of a clear strategy.

It is highly unusual for there not to be a cross-over period, and for one COS to leave before the next one starts – especially if the outgoing one has no job to go to.

Some of that conflict has been laid bare in leaks to a Right-wing blog that could only have come from either senior MPs or highly placed members of the leadership team.

Or both :-)

UPDATE: And by coincidence David Cunliffe has a column in the Herald on how NZ needs better leadership.

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Pressure on Shearer

April 23rd, 2012 at 8:13 am by David Farrar

The two latest polls will increase the pressure on David Shearer. I actually think it would be silly for Labour to panic over polls just six months after an election. Rebuilding and changing a brand takes time. Their biggest challenge is not their leadership but defining what they stand for.

However it is clear there are rumblings in Labour. The Standard and Tumeke have both run posts openly disscussing whether there will be a leadership challenge. It is also clear from reading comments that many Auckland activists still think that the caucus erred in not choosing David Cunliffe, who arguably was the party’s preferred candidate.

Also Steve Gray has blogged (in less diplomatic terms than expressed here) that the Wellington gay community has been discussing that Grant Robertson will challenge Shearer in the near future.

I may be wrong, but I don’t think that anything will happen this year. But neither is Shearer guaranteed to the election, as Goff pretty much was. I think the danger zone would be early next year, if Labour stay flatlined all year.

The problem for Shearer is that he may now be in a vicious cycle. The more speculation over the leadership, the harder it is to get resonance with the public. However it is worth noting he is still being given a fair chance by the public. Only 26% say they think he is performing poorly, while Goff’s comparative figure peaked at 54% performing poorly.

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Edwards endorses Robertson

April 2nd, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

Just four months after an election then, political commentators are suggesting replacements  for the current Labour Party leader.

My own view is that the strategy, devised by his Chief of Staff Stuart Nash, of having Shearer stump the country making speeches, rather than leading the charge against the Government in the House, has been misguided. The effect has been that Shearer is rarely seen on prime time television, while the Greens, Winston Peters and his own Deputy make the 6 o’clock  running. Out of sight really can mean out of mind.

So let’s just indulge in a little speculation. Between McCarten’s and Hartevelt’s front-runners – Little and Robertson – who might make it to the finishing line? I’m going to plump for Robertson. Yes, Little enjoys the support of the unions and is a forceful debater in the House. But it’s hard to see this rather dour, uncharismatic unionist as the face of a rejuvenated Labour Party. At 41, Robertson, on the other hand, who lists his interests as ‘watching too much sport, playing a bit of indoor netball and squash, cooking, movies, listening to New Zealand music and reading New Zealand literature’, projects a youthful, energetic, upbeat  and thoroughly modern image. And he’s fiercely ambitious.

In talking this issue through with a gallery journalist I suggest the danger time for Shearer was the beginning of 2013. The journo reckoned it will all be over well before then.

So are we ready for a gay Prime Minister? I can only speak for myself. I find the idea invigorating. Other than prejudice, I can’t really think of any objection to it. And we Kiwis are for the most part an open-minded lot. After all, we had no trouble electing the world’s first transsexual MP.  And we didn’t seem to mind a mincing John Key.

It’s true that gay Prime Ministers are thin on the ground. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, elected Prime Minister of Iceland in 2009, was not only the country’s first woman Prime Minister but also Europe’s first openly gay head of state. She was followed in 2011 by Belgium’s Elio Di Rupo. When asked whether he was gay, the new Prime Minister replied, ‘Yes. So What?’ That strikes me as the only sensible answer to the question.

I don’t think it is useful to conflate mincing with being gay, but for the wider point I agree that the sensible answer is “Yes, so what”.

However sexuality can have some bearing, if it impacts politics. There is a difference between a politician who happens to be gay, and a politician that campaigns on gay issues. Chris Finlayson is very much in the former category while Chris Carter and Tim Barnett were in the latter category. I’d place Grant Robertson somewhere in-between.

I agree that at this stage the next leader of the Labour Party is probably a contest between Grant Robertson and Andrew Litttle, and Robertson is heaving favoured to win. The bigger issue is when will the vacancy occur!

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Listener on Grant Robertson

March 8th, 2012 at 2:10 pm by David Farrar

An interesting profile of Labour Deputy Leader Grant Robertson in the Listener:

Look at Robertson and you see a big guy with glasses, a slightly sloppy student politician. Talk with him and you find a highly professional MP with a disciplined and meticulous mind. Call him cautious, though, and you make him angry. He doesn’t want to believe that the hesitation that allows him to avoid political pratfalls could also sap his courage to make change. At times his courage trumps his caution. To advance the equality agenda he believes gays should be able to marry and also to adopt children.

“I can’t see any reason why a gay couple who are good functioning human beings can’t provide that environment. It’s about the best interests of the children.” He also wants Labour to adopt a policy of allowing gay marriage. “I am really proud of what we did with civil unions, but I get that for people it is not absolute equality,” he says.

I agree with Grant on gay marriage. However I do think the cautious tag is an accurate one for him. Grant is very cautious in his press releases, in his statements etc. It’s the caution of someone who expects to be a party leader one day, and doesn’t want to have words from the past comeback to haunt him.

“There are gay bus drivers. There are people in all walks of life. It is important that people understand that. That’s one of the issues we have to get past: believing that there is a particular type of gay person.” He knows his sexuality would be more of an issue if he were Labour’s leader and considered that when deciding whether to challenge for the top job. “I thought about, is New Zealand ready for there to be a gay Prime Minister, or a gay leader, and I actually think we are.

I agree. If the good citizens of Wairarapa don’t blink at electing a transsexual as their MP, I can’t imagine the majority of New Zealanders will have a great issue over the sexuality of the Prime Minister. The challenge for Grant, once he ascends to the leadership, will be that his sexuality doesn’t define him (there is a difference between being an MP who is gay, and a gay MP), but I don’t think he is at any risk of that.

The next question was, am I ready? Is this where I should be?”

His answer was no. “I’m 40 and I think I’ve still got a bit more to learn.”

A bit more? As in a year or two?

Labour will also review its policy of extending Working for Families tax credits to beneficiaries. He says there may be other policies to ensure income is “redistributed” to help those children.

Or one could redistribute their parents from welfare to work?

Robertson has little experience in the private sector, but doesn’t see that limiting his understanding of businesses. “You can be the Minister of Health and not be a heart surgeon.”

True. But not have any practical knowledge of how the private sector works is not the same as not being a specialist in an area. Far too many MPs do not have any background at all in the private sector.

I once went from doing the finances for a charity to doing the finances for a small advertising agency. The difference was huge. In just a few weeks I discovered the huge difference between being profitable on paper, and  cashflow and the challenges of paying bills on time. No textbook really teaches that. My two years with that small business taught me a huge deal about the realities of business.

Key started the recent trend of “non-political” leaders and Shearer was chosen to match him. Clark was a politician, Robertson muses. Jim Bolger was, too. And they both led long-term governments. He knows that this is not yet his time, but he senses it may come. “I want to take it as far as I can take it and we’ll see how long that takes.”

Is Grant talking weeks, months or years?

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Better late than never

February 11th, 2012 at 2:05 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett reports at NZ Herald:

Labour’s deputy leader Grant Robertson said Parliament should consider changing the process of dealing with electoral law breaches to speed it up – including giving the Electoral Commission powers to fine or penalise for some breaches.

Mr Robertson said the Electoral Commission was the expert body on electoral law, yet it had to send any breaches to Police to decide whether to act on them.

I’ve been advocating this for years, including in submission to select committees. Sadly, Labour never voted in favour of changing the law.

While their sudden enthusiasm to do so, seems rather opportunistic, it is the right thing to do.

“The bigger issue is the number of complaints they’ve sent to the Police that nothing has happened with. So maybe there is another way. For instance, could you set a threshold under which the Electoral Commission was able to impose some sort of penalty rather than have to have Police prosecute it.”

Time and time again the Police have shown, with all due respect, a total disinterest in enforcing electoral law (the most notorious case being the non charging of Labour over their $400,000 deliberate over-spend in 2005). They would obviously rather be catching muggers  etc.

Even worse, the Police seem to have a deliberate policy to not decide on any complaints until after the election. They see this as not interfering with the election, but it is in fact a worse form of interference. It means parties and candidates and others can breach electoral laws, and not have to worry about the stigma of being charged prior to the election. This encourages rule breaking.

I will once again be submitting to change the law to the 2011 election review later this year. I look forward to Labour voting for removing the Police from any role in electoral law enforcement, and other parties doing the same.

What should happen is that the Electoral Commission itself can levy small fines for relatively minor issues such as late returns and the like, or missing promoter statements on ads that still have a clear author. For more major issues they should be able to lay charges directly with the courts.

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Views on Blanket Man

January 17th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Pat Brittenden writes:

If society can be judged by how we treat the least, then the death of ‘Blanket Man’ tells us we suck

I disagree.

We spend $13 billion a year on welfare. Hama would have qualified for welfare if had wanted it. He qualified for community or emergency housing. A number of places had standing offers for him to stay there. He declined them.

The Wellington City Mission checked up on him weekly.

Places like Burger King gave him free food.

He got free health care, and died in a public hospital, where people who cared had taken him.

Grant Robertson also blogs:

He was the face of homelessness in Wellington. It is true to say that he shunned the idea of moving off the streets in recent years, and indeed of taking on much in the way of formalised help. He was beyond that, and wanted none of it.

Hana was a very sad case, but i reject that his death is in any way any sort of reflection on the generous society that is New Zealand. The old saying goes that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

Unless you wish to champion a law that allows the state to forcibly detain those who lives on the streets and lock them in community housing, there will always be cases like Hana.

We have a real shortage of emergency accomodation, affordable accomodation and accomodation for those with mental illness. The different agencies involved are getting better at working together to find solutions, but still need to be more coordinated and flexible if we are to truly address these issues. Its not just government either, the community has a responsibility too. Many private landlords will not take on those who have a history of mental illness.

But Hana was offered plenty of accommodation. There was no shortage when it came to him.

His real problem was his mental illness fuelled by drug addiction. The problem is there is no sure fire way to cure either mental illness or drug addiction. There are many courses (mostly 100% taxpayer funded) that help cure or heal some of the people some of the time. But with mental illness there is no universal cure.

If there is any lesson to be taken from the death of Hana, it is not to turn the homeless into icons and glorify their existence. Once this started, Hana refused more and more help.

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Labour and MUNZ

January 13th, 2012 at 10:01 am by David Farrar

Whale has this photo sent in by a reader. MUNZ receives $285,000 rent for space in their building.It is unknown how much comes from the electorate office rental.

MUNZ only has 2,580 members today. Doing pretty well to own their own building. Of course it helps if you have Labour MPs having the taxpayer pay rent on their behalf.

I’m generally against electorate offices being rented from political parties, or people or groups affiliated to a political party. A total ban is difficult as some MPs have purchased an electorate office so that they can secure the location, and in fact rent them back at well below market rentals.

However despite their good intentions, I think it is time to put in place a ban, so that unions and parties do not get this backdoor funding. The latest review of parliamentary spending recommended:

That MPs entering Parliament from the next general election not be able to receive public funding for out-of-Parliament offices owned by an MP or an interested party. The funding for premises owned directly or indirectly by current MPs should be grand-parented while the MP continues in Parliament.

MUNZ is affiliated to the Labour Party and should be seen as an interested party.

Another alternative to a ban, is my suggestion to have the rent set at say 66% or 75% of the market rate, so that the party or union or MP is not seen to be benefiting from the arrangement.

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The market backing Robertson

December 7th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The latest prices on iPredict for the Labour leadership and the next PM continue to intrigue.

David Shearer is at 70.4% to become the Labour leader. The stock on whether the PM after the 2014 election will be Labour is 52%, so if you multiply them together the chance Shearer will become PM should be 36.6%. However the price for Shearer to become PM is 29.6c or 29.6% which suggests that the market thinks Shearer becoming leader is a negative for Labour winning in 2014 by 7.0%.

But Cunliffe has the same issue. His leader stock is 28.2% suggesting his PM stock should be 14.7%. But in fact it is 7.4%, which suggests that Cunliffe as leader damages Labour chances by 7.3% – much the same as for Shearer.

So how is this possible? Well the answer is that despite not being a candidate for this leadership ballot, Grant Robertson is at 5.7% to be PM after the election. As the price for a Labour victory is 52% this suggests that the market thinks there is an 11% chance Grant will roll whomever gets elected Leader before the 2014 election.

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Mike Smith endorses Robertson to replace Goff

November 25th, 2011 at 6:34 pm by David Farrar

Mike Smith is the former General Secretary of the Labour Party. He has just blogged:

Grant Robertson – good electorate MP, got a strategic brain, good communicator. It’s time for a new generation leading Labour in my view.

That is significant for such a senior former official to say Goff should go on the eve of the election.

I think Grant will be Labour Leader and Prime Minister one day. If I was Grant though I would not stand next Tuesday, but instead wait until after the 2014 election.

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Labour on Key

October 27th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

An unusual media strategy from Labour’s Campaign Spokesman Grant Robertson:

I think that everyone can see that John Key is an extremely popular Prime Minister …

I hope Grant keeps on talking about how Key is so popular, and what he is implying about his own leader.

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Labour’s Rainbow Policy

October 13th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Labour’s just released Rainbow policy states:

Many GLBTI New Zealanders continue to be subject to insult, verbal and physical abuse, and to be made to feel inferior, most damagingly in schools.

This comes from the party whose MPs (Mallard and Cosgrove) yell out “Tinkerbell” when a gay National Minister is speaking in the House.

ACT Wellington Central candidate Stephen Whittington referred to this in the Rainbow Candidates meeting last night. And do you know what Grant Robertson and Charles Chauvel said? Did they apologise for their colleagues? Did they say they had asked them to stop? No, they lied and denied that any Labour MP had ever said that. They actually accused Whittington of making a personal attack on them.

In case anyone actually thinks Robertson and Chauvel told the truth, look at this video here of Trevor Mallard (start at 2.30). Also note this interview with Green MP Kevin Hague who said:

Hague said he had never been the target of taunting over his sexual orientation since entering the halls of parliament in 2008.

The same, he said, couldn’t be said for other gay MPs, citing “prejudice” directed at Attorney-General and Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Chris Finlayson.

“Trevor Mallard, and also Clayton Cosgrove, refer to Chris Finlayson as `tinkerbell’. And I f—ing hate it,” Hague said. “That sort of overt taunting as a `fairy’, it is nothing other than prejudice. I don’t like that culture of abuse.”

Now in case you think the video is doctored and that Kevin Hague is the liar, instead of Robertson and Chauvel, you can also look at Hansard here and here.

Discrimination against GLBTI people worldwide continues. The worst manifestation of this is the criminalisation of consensual adult same-sex activity, and its punishment as a capital offence.

This comes from the party which has a List MP who said (from Wikipedia):

In July 2005 Choudhary came to the public’s attention again when he refused to condemn outright the practice of stoning people for homosexual and extramarital sexual behaviour. In TV3’s 60 Minutes show on July 4, 2005, Dr. Choudhary was asked: “Are you saying the Qur’an is wrong to recommend that gays in certain circumstances be stoned to death?” He replied: ” No, no. Certainly what the Qur’an says is correct.” He then qualified his statement, “In those societies, not here in New Zealand”.

When Whittington raised this at the Rainbow debate last night, again Labour again accused him of lying.

So how does Labour reconcile its rainbow policy with having an MP who said it is fine to stone homosexuals and adulters to death, so long as it is not here in New Zealand?

National is far from progressive on gay issues, but I can’t recall a National MP ever saying that it is fine to kill homosexuals, if it is done in other countries.

Then we look at their detailed policy.

Modernise the law relating to the care of children to ensure that the widest pool of suitable adults is lawfully available to provide care to children in need

My God, why can’t they just say they will allow gay couples to adopt? Are they so scared of having the words gay and adoption in the same sentence? There are thousands of children being raised by gay parents and gay couples already. The law should focus on what is best for the child, and if that is a gay couple, then they should be allowed to adopt. What is so hard about saying that explicitly?

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Health itches

August 30th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Grant Robertson blogs at Red Alert:

The conventional wisdom is that Tony Ryall is making a good fist of the Health portfolio. Now that I am up close in the area I can say that he keeps a tight rein on matters health, and is managing the portfolio effectively.

I’m trying to recall the last time an Opposition Spokesperson said the Minister is managing the portfolio effectively. Good on Grant though for acknowledging the reality. Of course he has a criticism:

But there is a big difference between managing the politics of health and actually doing what is right for the long term health outcomes of New Zealanders.

So what does Grant mean by this:

The best evidence of that is the release today of the Child Health Monitor Report. It shows, among other things, that in the last two years there have been an additional 5 000 avoidable hospital admissions for things like respiratory illness and skin infections. The authors of the report note that the cost of going to the doctor, especially after hours is a factor in whether children are getting the healthcare they need, along with a range factors associated with child poverty.

I am not saying all of this is down to the Health policy of the current government. But the focus on the narrow range of health targets set by the Minister means that child health is not the priority it should be. The Minister has narrowed the health targets in such a way as to scratch the itches of waiting lists and time spent in ED, but it is at the expense of early intervention and public health programmes.

So what are these itches that Grant refers to? An itch suggests something that isn’t that important, but is noticeable. Well the six targets are:

  1. Shorter Stays in Emergency Departments
  2. Improved Access to Elective Surgery
  3. Shorter Waits for Cancer Treatment Radiotherapy
  4. Increased Immunisation
  5. Better Help for Smokers to Quit
  6. Better Diabetes and Cardiovascular Services

Now it might just be me, but I doubt many people would regard shorter waiting times for cancer treatment as just scratching an itch, or having more people get elective surgey or having shorter waits in ED Departments.

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On the substance of VSM

August 4th, 2011 at 3:14 pm by David Farrar

Grant Robertson blogs:

For me student associations are like local government. Enrolling as a student makes you part of a community, and the student association is the organisation that helps govern that community.

I am amused by how the justifications for compulsory membership of these incorporated societies has changed over the years. Initially the compulsion supporters said that they are student unions, which are like trade unions, and should be compulsory as trade unions were.

Then trade unions lost their compulsion. So the next argument was that student associations are like the Medical Association or Federated Farmers. But over the last 20 years almost every professional industry has separated out its advocacy side from its regulatory side. Hence the Medical Council regulates doctors, while the NZ Medical Association is voluntary. The comparison was of course never valid anyway, as student associations are the exact opposite of a professional association.

Then their next false comparison was to local government. Grant would have you believe that VUWSA is just like the Wellington City Council. I’ll return to this argument later, but for now quote Graeme Edgeler from the Red Alert comments:

I’ve never liked this analogy.

If a university student is like a resident of a community then the local council is the University Administration, and the Students’ Association is a local residents’ association.

If you want to live in an area then you have to pay (directly or indirectly) rates to the local council.

If you want to attend university, you have to pay fees for tuition and services to the university.

In either case you can, you can choose to belong to an association that will fight for your rights with the local government/institution, and may, if the issue is important enough, even address the government(/government).

As I said I will return to the weaknesses in Grant’s arguments shortly. First the most recent false comparison that compulsion defenders are making. They are saying that as KiwiSaver is opt out, so should student associations be. So now they are comparing an incorporated society to retirement investment funds. The analogy is pitiful enough as it is, but also consider that you have a choice of 30+ KiwiSaver funds, while at a campus you get no choice of compulsory student association.

Anyway Grant’s comparison to local government is complete nonsense, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say we accept that student associations are like local Councils, and should have the power to take money off people against their will.

Let us look at the safeguards the Government and Parliament has put around local Councils. They include:

  1. A Local Electoral Act to ensure Councils are democratically elected. There is no requirement for a students association to be democratic.
  2. A Local Government Commission to set wards, maximum pay rates etc.
  3. Statutory requirements for Councils to regularly consult their ratepayers on annual plans etc
  4. Over-view from the Office of the Auditor-General
  5. Subject to the Official Information Act
  6. Ability for the Minister to sack a dysfunctional Council and appoint Commissioners

Student Associations have none of these safeguards. Parliament has terribly let students down by granting student associations the powers of compulsory fees, but not putting any safeguards in place.

I said to the select committee, and have said for over a decade that if you wish to keep compulsory student associations, then as a minimum Parliament should act to put in place some safeguards for students. Grant and Labour never ever did anything about this during their last nine years in office. If they had, then some of the pressure for VSM would have subsided. They only have themselves to blame – they gave their mates a legislative power to have compulsory fees, and refused to put in lace any safeguards for students, as we have for ratepayers and their Councils.

If Grant was sincere about his analogy, then he would agree to some or all of the safeguards above. But never once has Labour shown any concern for those students who have been forced to fund incompetent and even corrupt student associations, against their will. VSM is one answer to the problem, but there were others. I’m not saying I’d prefer the other options to VSM, but Labour has refused to meaningfully engage with Student Choice on any of their concerns.

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Southland Times on Labour’s stop campaign

April 23rd, 2011 at 3:04 pm by David Farrar

The Southland Times editorial:

It was inevitable, of course. The only real surprise is that it has taken almost three weeks for Labour’s latest attention-grabbing bid to crash and burn.The “Stop asset sales vote Labour” campaign, launched in Auckland on April 4, effectively died of scornful, mocking laughter on Thursday. It should not be lamented, even by the most ardent of Labour supporters.

Except Grant and Trevor who like General Custer keep claiming victory.

So the concept was good. The only parts missing were the skill, finesse and luck.

Whoever came up with the concept of plastering the message on imitation road stop signs should be led away to a disused shed out the back somewhere, put under 24-hour guard and released only after the next general election is over.

Now this is a good way to find out if Labour really think their campaign is a great success. Let’s have the MP or staffer whose idea it was to use imitation road signs put their hand up and identify themselves. If they are not willing to do so, that speaks volume.

Whoever then came up with the idea of selling these signs to the party faithful at $10 a pop should be made to share the shed.

But a desert island, a really remote desert island, should be reserved for the genius who came up with the idea of putting the signs, signs with the same shape and colouring of real road stop signs, along the median strip of a road in the Hutt Valley this week.

That surely would be Trevor.

You’d think that even if someone was a sheep short in the top paddock he or she would realise that slapping big stop signs along a busy road might have caused a few problems for motorists, but no.

Obviously more than one sheep has escaped the paddock.

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Use of Urgency

April 12th, 2011 at 8:00 pm by David Farrar

In a first for the blogosphere, Kiwblog and Red Alert have teamed up to do co-ordinated posts on the use of urgency.

Both the current and former Governments have been criticised for their use or over-use of urgency – which is the provision that allows the House to sit for extended hours, and sometimes bypass the select committee process.

I wanted to do a proper study of the use of urgency since 1999, and Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson kindly agreed to help supply the information (which comes from the Parliamentary Library). We agreed that it would be good to do co-ordinated posts on this issue as we think that both parties should commit to less use of urgency.

It’s important to note that not all urgency is the same. Some uses of urgency (to sit on a Wednesday morning for example) are relatively benign, while other uses (by-passing select committees) are bad and should be done only when strictly necessary.

Hence, this analysis goes well beyond just the headline figures, and examines the use of urgency in depth.

There are effectively four parts to the parliamentary cycle. Year 0 is the brief period after an election and before the calendar year ends. Year 1 is the first full year of Government. Year 2 is the mid year and Year 3 is the portion of the third year that falls before an election. Generally we have compared Year 1s with Year 1s as they have different profiles. The year after an election is often very busy implementing election promises. Year 3 is often not so busy.

  Year 1s   Year 2s
  2000 2003 2006 2009   2001 2004 2007 2010
Sitting Hours 624 594 482 576   591 583 529 600
Urgency 70 89 19 155   79 117 32 134
Ordinary 554 505 463 421   512 466 497 466
Sitting Weeks 34 33 29 30   32 31 31 31
Av Hours/Week 18.4 18.0 16.6 19.2   18.5 18.8 17.1 19.4
Week x 17 hrs 578 561 493 510   544 527 527 527
Extra hours 48 33 -11 66   47 56 2 73

 The total number of hours the House sat was a record 624 in 2000 – the first year of a new Government. National’s total number of hours in 2009 was below the average for the former Government. However in 2010 the House sat for 600 hours – a record for Year 2, but only nine hours more than in 2001.

Where there is a difference is the number of hours spent in urgency. National had the most hours in urgency in both 2009 and 2010. However be aware that this includes time which would normally be ordinary sitting hours. For example the House normally sits for 6.5 hours on a Wednesday. Under urgency it sits for 13 hours. All of those 13 hours count as time under urgency, even though 6.5 of them were normally scheduled anyway.

As the sitting week is normally 17 hours, I’ve tried to estimate how many “extra” hours occurred each year due to urgency. They do clearly show that National has been using urgency the most to gain additional hours – 73 hours in 2010 and 66 hours in 2009. That is equal to almost eight additional weeks of sitting time over two years.

The House used to meet for 34 weeks a year, and in recent years has been 29 to 31 weeks. One solution to reducing urgency could be to schedule more sitting weeks.

Now let us look at what was done legislatively during these sessions

  Year 1s   Year 2s
  2000 2003 2006 2009   2001 2004 2007 2010
Bills passed 93 127 91 70   102 111 113 127
Bills passed not referred to select cmte 2 3 1 3   0 1 1 7

 The number of bills passed is not necessarily a good or a bad thing. If you like the bills it may be good, if you do not like the bills it may be bad. In terms of quality of law making, it is also subjective. If you pass very few laws it may indicate a Government not able to deliver policies, but if you pass too many laws they may not be getting the attention they deserve.

The total number of bills passed averaged 95 for Year 1s, and 113 for Year 2. Not a big difference between Labour and National Governments.

But it is in the area of bills passed without going through a select committee, that National should attract the most criticism. In 2009 and 2010 it passed 10 bills without giving the public the chance to submit on the bills at select committee stage. Sometimes there may be a good reasons to do so (Canterbury Earthquake etc), but the total level is far too high. The power to bypass select committees should happen very very rarely – it was only 1 – 2 times a year under Labour.

People unhappy with the level of bypassing select committees, should let their local National MPs know. Note that in 2008 National also passed seven bills into law without select committee – now again some of these could be justified as implementing clear election promises or a simple repeal – but 17 bills bypassing select committee in just over two years is frankly an outrageous level. National needs to not just look at these bills in isolation, but about the collective total and the message it sends. 

  Year 1s   Year 2s
  2000 2003 2006 2009   2001 2004 2007 2010
Weeks with an urgency motion 8 5 3 11   8 7 2 9
No of urgency motions 8 4 3 15   8 7 2 7
No of extraordinary urgency motions 1 1 0 0   0 0 0 1
Friday Sittings 1 1 0 2   3 3 1 1
Saturday Sittings 1 0 0 1   0 0 0 0
Question Times     81 86       87 87

 As I said earlier, not all urgency is the same. Urgency sessions which extend past Thursday into Friday and Saturday are the “worst” as they seriously disrupt MPs scheduled activities in their electorates. The number of urgency sessions in 2010 is slightly more than in 2001 and 2004, but the number of Friday and Saturday sessions is reduced.

This indicates the Government is using urgency to extend sitting hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but generally avoiding Friday and Saturday sessions. This puts pressure on select committee attendance and means MPs have to stay at Parliament until midnight instead of 10 pm (or 6 pm on Thursday) but apart from that isn’t too bad.

Extraordinary urgency is very rare, as it needs the permission of the Speaker.

Urgency normally takes precedence over all other business, so it has traditionally meant that question time and/or private members day is cancelled. Indeed, it has sometimes been suggested that Governments go into urgency to avoid question time. But as you can see the number of question times is as high or higher in 2009 and 2010 than it was in 2006 and 2007. This is because the Government has deliberately sought to include provision for question time in urgency sessions. This is commendable, and it would be good to have standing orders change so that question time always occurs, regardless of urgency.

So what’s the overall position in terms of the current Government and urgency:

  1. The total number of sitting hours in 2009 and 2010 are consistent with 2000 and 2001.
  2. The number of hours spent in urgency were higher in 2009 and 2010 than any other year, reflecting an increase in the average number of hours the House sits each week, but fewer sitting weeks.
  3. The total number of bills being passed is not significantly changing
  4. National has so far passed 17 bills under urgency, bypassing select committees. This is a massive increase on past practice. Labour on average only passed 4 bills per term under urgency bypassing select committees. Such a high level of select committee circumvention undermines good parliamentary practice.
  5. Thoe House has gone into urgency more often than in the past, but the number of urgency sessions extending beyond midnight Thursday have not increased.
  6. Despite the increase in the use of urgency, the number of question times has stayed constant, as the Government has generally maintained them during urgency

Some thoughts or recommendations for all parties and/or MPs and to consider for the future:

  1. That standing orders be changed so that a bill can bypass select committee stage only with approval of the Speaker (as is needed for extraordinary urgency).
  2. That standing orders be changed so that question time automatically carries on, even if the House is in urgency
  3. That the number of sitting weeks be increased, hence reducing the need for so much urgency, from 31 to 33 by reducing the number of two week recesses from five to three.
  4. That standing orders be amended to distinguish between “extended sitting hours” which would merely extend the sitting hours on Wednesday and/or Thursday and full urgency (where you specify particular bills, and the House keeps going until they are disposed of)

 I quite like the suggestion Grant has made, that you could have the House sitting as the Committee of the Whole on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. This would free up House time more for first, second and third readings.

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Grant Robertson

April 2nd, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Derek Cheng in the NZ Herald has a profile of Grant Robertson. It includes some quotes from me. Worth noting those quotes were given a few weeks ago, before Goff’s stuffing up the Darren Hughes affair. So the context wasn’t around Grant challenging Goff (which he won’t), but over his promotion to the front bench.

Kiwiblogger and right-wing commentator David Farrar believes Robertson will be at the forefront of a leadership challenge within the next two terms, but there will be a transitional leader – maybe David Cunliffe, he speculates – before then.

“Robertson has very good political judgement, can work with opponents, is smart, and makes very few mistakes and certainly doesn’t make the same ones twice.

He is very careful with what he says about things that may come back to bite him one day. He’s already developed that instinct that you need to become a leader one day, thinking four or five steps ahead. “I do certainly see him as a potential Prime Minister.”

It’s those strategic smarts which I rate Grant for. It’s not that he is making headway against National Ministers in the House. Tony Ryall looks as unbothered by Grant, as he was by Ruth Dyson at this stage. But Grant generally is careful not to position himself somewhere that will bite him in the future.

He feels equally strongly about adequate state assistance for the vulnerable and the excluded, which aligns with his view that the Government should actively provide a level playing field, especially through health and education, so that every person has the chance to reach their full potential.

“That will mean redistributing wealth in some instances …It’s a complete no-brainer. If you have people in poverty and on the fringes of society, if you bring them in, give them education, keep them healthy and get them a quality house, they will be a good functioning member of society and the economy. Why would you want to exclude them from society?

I don’t have a problem with redistributing wealth to help people in poverty. But Grant’s party has gone well beyond that. They all too often appear to want to redistribute wealth to punish people for being wealthy, and to buy middle class votes. Labour didn’t spend one extra cent increasing benefits for those in poverty beyond the inflation rate, but spent billions on middle class welfare so more families have ipods etc.

And unlike many lefties, he supports free trade with China in spite of the human rights issues and lower wages that price New Zealand workers out of the global market. …

When pressed, he says he would draw the line at a bi-lateral FTA with Burma. (He is relaxed about the ASEAN-Australia-NZ FTA, which includes Burma, and does not prevent New Zealand from imposing sanctions on Burma).

Good to see a Robertson led Labour will be sane on trade policy.

Farrar notes Georgina Beyer’s success in Wairarapa as the world’s first transsexual MP, and believes most New Zealanders wouldn’t care. “I don’t think his sexuality would be at all a factor in stopping him from becoming Prime Minister.

“He’s gay. Some MPs make a massive issue of it, like Chris Carter. Grant doesn’t try to have it define him, but will talk when appropriate on gay and lesbian issues and show his support.”

Farrar also says writing a lot about sports – whether a deliberate tactic or not – has shown Robertson to be well-rounded, breaking the gay mould.

This is the only part where the comments as reported don’t quite reflect my intent. My reference to Grant writing about sports breaking the mould, wasn’t referring to a “gay” mould. Gay and sporty are not opposites in my mind. The mould I was meaning was the perception (arguably unfairly) that many Labour MPs live and breathe politics and it is their entire life. Mike Moore wrote about this once. By bloggins about sports, Grant shows that he is someone who cares about more than just politics and power. I’m not suggesting that Grant doesn’t genuinely love sports (he is well known to be a sports fan), just that his decision to blog about them on Red Alert was a considered one.


Dom Post on Labour

March 29th, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial today:

Mr Goff’s leadership should be over. The party he leads is bereft of energy and bereft of ideas. Instead of looking like a government in waiting it looks like a dysfunctional rabble. What confidence can the public have in its ability to manage the affairs of the country when it cannot manage its own?

Looking at how Goff has managed the last couple of weeks, you do have to wonder how he would have handled a global recession, finance company collapses, two earthquakes and Pike River.

However, speculation about a move to oust Mr Goff is just that – speculation. Labour has no obvious alternative. Shane Jones is still too closely linked to pornography in the public mind, David Cunliffe has had zero impact as finance spokesman, David Parker is unknown to the public, Mr Shearer is too inexperienced politically and so is another well-regarded newbie, Grant Robertson, about whom the party may have to consider another question at some point. Is New Zealand ready for its first gay prime minister?

For my money, I think Grant will become New Zealand’s first (openly) gay Prime Minister, and I don’t think his sexuality will be of relevance to most New Zealanders.

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The rise of Robertson

February 4th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

The meteoric rise of Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson to Labour’s front bench will further fuel speculation that he could be a future leader of the party.

I’ve long said that I think Grant will become Labour Leader, and indeed probably even a Labour Prime Minister.

I don’t think he will be the next leader, but the one after that. He is young enough to be able to wait his time.

However, asked about his leadership ambitions before yesterday’s reshuffle, he said: “Every politician has got ambitions. Every politician … wants to be a minister but it is also really important to take one step at a time and not get too beyond yourself.”

Which is saying of course he wants to be Leader/PM, but one step at a time. Quite nice to have an MP not deny he has ambitions – after all most of them would like to be PM.

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Why Grant Robertson will be PM one day

November 22nd, 2010 at 3:27 pm by David Farrar

I’ve found some of the spin from Labour around the unprecedented 80% drop in an Opposition seats’ majority in a by-election very amusing.

The worst excuse is from Su’a William Sio, who said:

“Low-income people can’t think about the future, let alone about voting in a by-election, when they are being forced to focus on just surviving.

So Labour almost lost because low-income people are focusing on survival. Worst spin attempt ever.

Audrey Young also highlights some terrible spin:

Some in Labour who should know better are creatively suggesting that Labour actually did better in the byelection than the last general election, despite having its majority slashed from 6155 to 1080.

From three senior figures has come the suggestions that Kris Faafoi winning 47 per cent of the candidate vote on Saturday was a better result than the 43.9 per cent party vote that the party got in 2008, when Winnie Laban stood.

That is like comparing raisins and sheep droppings.

So true. Phil Goff is one of those pushing that desperate line.

I saw on Twitter a blog post titled “Reflections on Mana” on Red Alert had appeared. I clicked on the link wondering which MP would be spinning. And I saw it was Grant Robertson, and commented to the person with me “Aha, this will be very very clever spin”. And so it proved.

Grant did something none of his colleagues could do, and something very different to Kris Faafoi’s own comments. He praised Hekia.

I also think Hekia deserves some credit. She is an articulate person who campaigned hard. Most importantly in terms of the result she has been campaigning/working in the electorate non-stop for about four years, compared to Kris’ few months. That makes a differenece. She had a profile and that worked to her advantage. She did not win, but no doubt she feels she put in a good result

Everyone in the press gallery knows Hekia is a very good MP, who ran a good campaign. Grant makes the point that Hekia had a head-start on Kris, and this is right. But what is implicit, but worth stating explicitly, is that the head-start is only useful if you use it effectively. Hekia spent two years supporting community groups, helping with fundraising, sorting out constituent problems, arranging Ministers to visit etc etc. If she had not done that (and done it well) then her headstart would not have assisted her much.

And the challenge for Kris is to spent the next year showing if he can be as effective as Hekia.

There are no doubt some things from a Labour point of view that we would want to do better and different. That’s the nature of a campaign.

And again Grant shows his smarts. Conceding there were mistakes made (but carefully not detailing them) means that his blog post comes over as balanced, thoughtful and not some desperate piece of spin. He should offer tutoring to some of his colleagues in political communications.

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Labour’s neutral public service

September 14th, 2010 at 2:57 pm by David Farrar

Grant Robertson often goes on and on about the need for a neutral public service. He gets all pious at minor issues such as funding of purchase advisors. So it is interesting to see him make such a partisan attack on the new Director-General of Health:

Tony’s new man says fewer doctors and nurses ok

Grant knows the Minister does not appoint the Director-General – the SSC does. But he is already trying to undermine Dr Kevin Woods.

After reportedly failing to convince 19 people who were shoulder tapped for the job

Then we have what can only be called a blatant lie. This makes Dr Woods appointment sounds like a desperate appointment of someone unqualified. In fact Dr Woods currently runs a health system 25% bigger than New Zealand’s.

I dont know much about Dr Woods yet, but first impressions are not great.  According to the Dom Post he oversaw the axing of 1500 nursing positions during his tenure in Scotland.

The Director-General of Health doesn’t decide funding levels – Governments and Health Boards do.

In NZ 600 new Police have been or are being recruited. This is not due to a decision by the Police Commissioner – it was the decision of the Govt to provide funding for additional officers.

Grant then quotes the Dom Post:

At the time, he was asked by a Government committee whether it was possible to still provide quality health services with “significantly fewer” doctors and nurses. “Yes, we believe we can,” Dr Woods said.

and Grant comments:

Oh dear. A transfer of Dr Woods idea to New Zealand would have disastrous consequences.

Now it is Dr Woods’ idea, as if Dr Woods is actively this for New Zealand.

His answer to a Government committee was in relation to a specific health service and a specific set of facts. There are most certainly scenerios where one can say “Yes we can provide quality health services” with fewer doctors or nurses. This may be due to investment in technology or a reduction in bureaucracy which allows medical professionals to spend more time with patients, and less time on paperwork.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’d be nervous if the Government was saying we want fewer doctors and nurses – as I believe the current health system is stretched when it comes to medical professionals. In fact the Government has been reducing the number of bureaucrats, so that more money can go on doctors and nurses – a move which incidentally Grant and Labour has strongly opposed.

It is a shame Grant is taking cheap shots at the new Director-General before he has even started the job.

The word in Wellington is that the previous CE, Stephen McKernan left because he  could not work with Tony Ryall and Murray Horn at the National Health Board as they shut him out while pursuing their agenda of cuts

When Grant says the word in Wellington, it means this is the line he pushes in Wellington. Stephen McKernan has denied this allegation incidentially.

It seems possible that they may have now found a willing accomplice.

And another undermining of Dr Woods, before he even starts.

Now Grant is not the only opposition politician to do this. Helen Clark (ironically) attacked Mark Prebble’s appointment to DPMC in the 1990s, and I am sure some Nats have done so.

But Grant does go on very earnestly about public sector neutrality.  His blogged comments suggest he is a case of do as I say, not do as I do.

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Labour’s nominations

September 8th, 2010 at 7:06 pm by David Farrar

Labour have announced:

Labour Party organisations in these electorates will hold their confirmation meetings shortly:

• Bay of Plenty Carol Devoy-Heena

Lost in 2008 by 17,604 votes. Ranked 76th (2nd bottom). I think Tony Ryall can relax.

• Botany Koro Tawa

Ranked No 65. Lost by 10,872 in 2008. Not a lot of new blood coming through is there!

• Christchurch East Lianne Dalziel

An MP since 1990.

• Coromandel Hugh Kininmonth

Lost by 14,560 in 2008. Ranked 75th (third bottom)

• East Coast Moana Mackey

Lost by 6,413 to Anne Tolley. List MP since 2003.

• East Coast Bays Vivienne Goldsmith

Lost by 13,794 to Prince of Darkness. Ranked No 67 in 2008.

• Hamilton East Sehai Orgad

2007 President of compulsory Waikato Student’s Union. Stood for East ward of Hamilton City Council in 2007 and came 10th.

• Hauraki-Waikato Nanaia Mahuta

MP since 1996

• Helensville Jeremy Greenbrook-Held

Very appropriate Jeremy stands against John Key as he writes so many letters to the editor complaining about the Government.  2005 President of the compulsory VUWSA. Is standing for Henderson-Massey Local Board in 2010 elections.

A little known trivia fact is that a few years ago Jeremy and I co-authored a petition to Subway asking them to reverse their sacking of an employee for sharing a free $2 staff coke with a friend.

• Manukau East Ross Robertson

MP since 1987.

• New Plymouth Andrew Little

Former President of compulsory VUWSA, and NZUSA. Labour Party President.

• Rotorua Steve Chadwick

Lost her seat in 2008 by 5,065 votes. MP since 1999.

• Selwyn David Coates

Lost in 2008 by 11,075 votes.Ranked No 74 (fourth bottom) on list.

• Taranaki-King Country Rick Barker

Now this is weird. Barker presumably can’t get nominated again in Tukituki, so desperate to carry on has headed to the west coast. Has been an MP since 1993.

• Waimakariri Clayton Cosgrove

MP since 1999. Holding on with a 390 vote majority.

• Wellington Central Grant Robertson

Former President of compulsory OUSA and then NZUSA.

• Wigram Megan Woods

2007 Mayoral candidate against Bob Parker.

If the list above, is Labour rejuvenating, then someone has a sick sense of humour. Their only new candidates are from compulsory student associations.

Of their 2008 candidates, the ones standing again were all ranked in the bottom dozen, and lost by huge majorities.  Where are the Kate Suttons, Michael Woods, Conor Roberts, and Louisa Walls  who all actually have some talent?

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Robertson on Treasury

September 2nd, 2010 at 6:29 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Three non-executive directors have been appointed to the Treasury’s board, but Labour is continuing to question the reason for the board’s existence.

Treasury Secretary John Whitehead, who announced the governance board last month, said it would include private and community representatives to provide advice.

Mr Whitehead would be able to veto the board’s advice.

He said he would continue to answer to the State Services Commission and Finance Minister.

I think this is a good initiative. It may stop Treasury getting too insular, and provide some external views on how Treasury are doing.

Labour’s state services spokesman Grant Robertson said the board challenged the neutrality of the public service and public service bosses’ responsibility to ministers.

With various working groups, purchase advisers, a review of public sector advice and now a board for the Treasury, the Government was fundamentally changing the nature of the public sector, he said.

“This board looks designed to lock in place the economic thinking of the current Government.

Oh what tosh. I should remind people that Mr Whitehead was appointed to his role in 2003 under a Labour Government, and incidentally one of his former jobs was Deputy Director of the Labour Parliamentary Research Unit.

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Labour’s future leadership

July 13th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

As I blogged yesterday, the chances of there being a Labour-led Government after the 2011 election is very remote. Not just because of the gap in the polls, but also because of their failure to rejuvenate, but more importantly their failure to mend bridges with the Maori Party who might hold the balance of power after the election.

So unless there is some big event such as a second recession, or a major scandal, Phil Goff is unlikely to become Prime Minister. So who will replace him, when and why?


Turning to the when, and I still maintain that Goff is safe until the election – even if Labour stay below 30%. There are three reasons for this:

  1. Lack of enthusiasm for the alternatives
  2. The shared delusion that the public will wake up to its mistake and restore them to power once they prove that John Key really is a nasty nasty man
  3. The impact of MMP, sheltering Caucus more than FPP did

The last point is quite important. Under FPP MPs got more panicked by the polls. If the polls showed they were in trouble in their seat, then they were facing the end of their political career, so they would desperately vote to change leaders to try and hold on to their seats – as Labour did in 1990.l

But under MMP, MPs can be protected on the list, so they do not fear bad polling so much. And even though the polls may show Labour losing as many as seven List MPs, the fact is no one knows which seven MPs may be toast until Labour ranks its list, and by then it is too late.

So I am quite confident that Phil Goff will remain Leader until after the 2011 election. But if they lose, I would expect he will retire from the leadership and politics within 6 – 12 months of the 2011 election.


I believe the next leader of the Labour Party will be David Cunliffe. And yes, of course I have my money where my mouth is and am backing that stock on iPredict.


It isn’t exactly a closely guarded secret that David Cunliffe isn’t the most popular MP with his colleagues. He probably isn’t the first choice for Leader of more than a handful of MPs. But he will become Leader, because he is basically everyone’s acceptable second choice.

Being the acceptable second choice can be a better position than a faction’s first choice. Similiar politics happened in the Waitakere selection – one faction was backing Twyford strongly and one faction (union) backing McCracken. Carmel Sepuloni came through the middle as the choice acceptable to all sides who could unify the electorate – either Twyford or McCracken would have left a significant minority disgruntled.

It is also worth remembering that Helen was positioning Cunliffe as a future leader, if she got a fourth term. She wanted to keep Goff out, and after Maharey retired and Mallard imploded, Cunliffe was her favoured candidate to succeed her. The 2008 loss, meant that Cunliffe did not have enough experience to be viable at that stage, so she let the leadership temporarily transfer to the man she she had worked so hard to keep away from it.

Why Not?

Cunliffe is basically the only acceptable alternative to the caucus. One can ascertain this by going through the others known to want the job.

Shane Jones – even before the hotel porn saga, Jones was not going to become leader. The women in Labour would rather slit their wrists than elect Jones, and while they are not a majority in caucus, they are a minority too powerful to ignore. Also Jones hasn’t shown the required hard work to become leader – he overly relies on his (quite considerable) natural talent. He is also too right wing economically to become Leader.

Andrew Little – Andrew has made a tactical mistake by combining the three roles of party president, union leader and aspiring MP. There is considerable resentment of this in the caucus, and he is blamed for the lacklustre fundraising to date. One Labour person commented to me that how can you expect the President one week to be getting donations from CEOs, when the next week he is delivering strike notices to them. Add onto that the resentment from List MPs that Andrew will be automatically given a high list ranking, knocking them down the order.

So Andrew will enter caucus with a degree of pre-existing hostility. While he may one day become Leader if he proves himself, he will not be given a Bob Hawke type coronation after just a year in Parliament.

Ruth Dyson – John Key would start going to church (to thank God)  if Labour elected Ruth Dyson as Leader. Nothing against Ruth’s skills, but she is a polarising figure strongly associated with the former Government.

Maryan Street – I rate Street as one of the smartest MPs, and she has the ability to be a strong Minister and maybe even Deputy Leader.  But I don’t see at all the charisma to become leader or prime minister. Maryan being elected as Leader would also see John Key, if not start attending church, at least sending his kids to Sunday School!

Grant Robertson – Grant is a very smart political operator. Too smart to try and become leader after just one term in Parliament. He has what I expect will become a fairly safe seat for him, and time is on his side. I think the bastard might even be younger than me! If Grant stood in 2012, he might do surprisingly well, but I think he knows he is better to wait his time and get more experience before he tries to ascend.

Ashraf Choudhary – just kidding :-)

Then what?

It is dangerous to look too far ahead, but my best pick at this stage is David Cunliffe become Leader in 2012, and he contests the 2014 election.

Labour will have a challenge in replacing him as Finance Spokesperson, with a so few MPs having the necessary skills or background. To my mind, the only credible option would be David Parker. So the leadership team could be Cunliffe as Leader, Street as Deputy and Parker as Finance.

Like Goff, Cunliffe will probably be a one shot leader unless he wins the election. They call this the Mike Moore slot. He doesn’t have (at this stage anyway) the loyalty of enough MPs to keep him in the job if he loses.

If National wins the 2014 election (and no predictions this far out), then Labour will have another leadership change. I believe their post 2014 leader will be their long-term leader – like Clark they will be in the job for 10 – 15 years or so, and they will become Prime Minister.

This could see a Grant Robertson vs Andrew Little battle. That would be very interesting. I’ve been pretty impressed with David Shearer also, and wouldn’t rule him out as a contender also. Kelvin Davis has potential also – but I see him more as a future Education Minister.

Of course a John Key or Don Brash type candidate may enter Parliament for Labour in 2011, and also by 2014 become a potential leader. However the fact almost all their Caucus is standing again, makes it harder for them to parachute any stars in.

Time will tell if my predictions come true.

Tomorrow, I will blog on how I would “sell” David Cunliffe once he is Leader.

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