Espiner to co-host Morning Report

December 30th, 2013 at 1:42 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Political journalist Guyon Espiner has been announced as Geoff Robinson’s replacement on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report.

Robinson announced his retirement on-air in November, after more than 30 years in journalism.

Espiner has a 20 year career in journalism, working in both print and broadcast media.

He has previously held roles as the political editor for Television New Zealand and, earlier, the Sunday Star Times.

More recently he has worked as an anchor and journalist on TV3′s 3rd Degree and The Vote.

Espiner will begin presenting Morning Report in April.

I think this is an excellent appointment. Espiner is a formidable interviewer, and has a good breadth of knowledge on politics and current affairs.

What is unknown is how he will gel with Simon Mercep, but I don’t see any major difficulties there.

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The Vote debates how to fix NZ’s Housing Crisis

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

GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION POWERBROKERS GO HEAD-TO-HEAD IN A SPECIAL EDITION OF TV3’S ‘THE VOTE’ 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE GOVERNMENT – Led by Duncan Garner

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

THE OPPOSITION – Led by Guyon Espiner

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

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

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

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

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Espiner on Liu

August 27th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Guyon Espiner and 60 minutes did a 20 minute programme last night on the Bill Liu case. Espiner blogs on it today:

It’s not often that you put an item of nearly 20 minutes to air and still feel that there was plenty more of the story still to tell. 

60 Minutes Producer Chris Wilks and I spent a month digging deep into the story of Citizen Yan and had access to documents giving us an enormous amount of detail. 

But we still feel there is plenty we don’t know. 

In fact all the things which, for most people are very simple, in Yan’s case, are opaque. 

Like what’s his name? Yong Ming Yan, Yang Liu, Bill Liu, Wiremu Liu and William Yan are among his monikers. The search warrant for his Metropolis apartment also seeks documents in the name of Yong Ming Run. 

What about another simple question. Where does he live? That’s easy. He lives on the 35th floor of the MetropolisTower, known as Room 3505. He bought units 35H-L inclusive – property titles 138A/534, 138A/319, 138A/320, 138A/321 and 138A/322 – and combined them into one residence. 

He still lives there but he sold them in 2010 to Khai Wain Ng. The curious thing about that is that Khai Wain Ng had listed Room 3505 of the Metropolis as the address for his company, Global Market International Limited, as early as 2007. 

So is Liu also Ng? And still to this day we have no idea who Liu really is.

Curiously Liu’s early submissions claim that he was the Vice President of the Chinese Democracy Party. His lawyers argued that the Chinese government may want to persecute him for that and for information about the party’s 30,000 secret members. 

We tried to check with the CDP in New York but they would not confirm, or deny, whether he had held that position. Certainly their website names other Vice Presidents but no one going by the names Yan has used. 

In the paperwork, officials point out that if Yan felt he was the subject of political persecution there were appropriate avenues for him to take. 

“These claims, which effectively amount to an allegation of political persecution, could be advanced by Mr Liu before specialist forums namely the Refugee Status Branch and the Refugee Status Appeals Authority,” officials wrote. 

He did not do that. He appealed to the politicians and the politicians helped him. 

And did they ever help him.

Here are the questions that still need to be answered. 

How did Dover Samuels get to know William Yan and why did he go into bat so strongly for him? 

Why, after Rick Barker was introduced to Yan in 2005, did he take until mid-2008 to hand the case over to Shane Jones? 

What checks did Shane Jones make to see whether he had a conflict of interests in this case? We point out in the story that there is a shared business history between Jones and Liu. Liu was a director, and through his company Live Fish, a shareholder in the joint venture Crabco. One of the other shareholders was Te Ohu Kaimoana of which Jones was chair between 2000 and 2007. 

Now I am prepared to accept that this was a fact that Jones may not have had great interest or even awareness of. But did he check? Was it considered? We know that he knew of Liu’s role with Crabco and Live Fish because it was in the submission that QC John Billington made to Jones pleading the case for Liu’s citizenship. 

Pansy Wong also mentions the company, which she describes as a “joint venture with Talleys, Sealord and Sanford” in a letter received by Rick Barker’s office on February 4, 2008. 

David Shearer has said on Jones’ behalf that Jones had met Liu on one or two occasions. In what capacity? And why did the Internal Affairs official Johannes Gambo claim that Liu had rung him more than once during the process to claim that he had “big support” from Jones and from Samuels. 

It all looks very suspicious. Did Liu have a commitment from Jones he would approve it? Is that why Barker delegated it to Jones? And recall that Liu had paid $10,000 to a Labour Party fundraiser to help him with his application – and whose brother was the senior staffer for Jones.

The greatest mystery to me is why Jones approved the citizenship application and did so without documenting his reasons. 

He says he made a file note of an official telling him that Yan would be sent to his death and his organs harvested if he returned to China. 

Jones hasn’t produced the note and says he didn’t put it on the file. Why not? There are hand written notes from Jones on Parliamentary notepad paper in the file we saw. But not that one. 

He says he’s glad he didn’t put it on the file because the file “leaked”. But if you were a Minister making a controversial decision against the advice of officials wouldn’t you want your reasons to be there in black and white when the scrutiny came on? 

I don’t think it is unreasonable to suspect there was no file note ever made, and the reason is bogus. Jones can not produce the note, and it was not put on the file. He can not name the official, and no official can be found who said they gave such advise.

The worst case scenario is this is a case of citizenship sold for favours (not to Jones directly but to others in Labour). The best case for Jones is it is gross incompetence. To not do a comprehensive file note stating your reasons when you overturn the advice of officials and grant citizenship to such a dubious character is incompetent.

I personally like Shane Jones, and regard him as one of the best communicators in Parliament. He had great potential. But this Liu case has always hung over him. Unless he can produce some proof to back up his claims about why he granted citizenship against official advice – then he can not be allowed to become a Minister again – and hence a shadow Minister.

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Espiner on Ardern

August 9th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Guyon Espiner has done a profile on Jacinda Ardern for The Listener. I was one of those he interviewed for it:

Presumably Ardern will do that, too, if she wants to go all the way to the top. Blogger David Farrar believes that is possible. Yes, he’s a National supporter and National’s pollster, but he would “far rather have her leading the country than a lot of the others!” He has some words of caution, though. He believes her first-term record did not justify a No 4 placing – equivalent to Steven Joyce’s on the National benches. Farrar says if Ardern doesn’t get pushed too far too fast, she could be deputy prime minister or even prime minister one day. He chuckles at her leading the International Union of Socialist Youth because it’s so far removed from his politics. But he certainly doesn’t belittle the job. “You don’t get elected to a position like that if you are stupid – that is a seriously testing role with a lot of people involved.” Farrar says that given most of her experience has been in the state sector, she needs to broaden her horizons, be more pragmatic and learn that not all good ideas come from your own side. “If you don’t have it before you are an MP, you have to recognise your weaknesses and work hard to address that.”

All views and advice I stand by.

Ardern’s CV reads as if she has spent a lot of time thinking about a political career, although she insists she hasn’t. She worked for Helen Clark and cites the former prime minister as a major inspiration. Their early lives do share similarities. Like Clark, Ardern grew up in a small town with conservative parents. 

Ardern is like Clark in many respects.

Ardern rates Labour’s chances of regaining power in 2014 as 10 out of 10. “Look at the coalition possibilities for Labour – if we had an election tomorrow a Green-Labour coalition is a very strong prospect. 

I think this is unwise. Trevor Mallard has also said he expects Labour to win in 2014, 2017 and 2020. Claiming you are a dead cert to win can come over as arrogance.

There is every sign Ardern will one day do that. She has an honesty, a humanity and an engaging manner absent in most politicians. There is a freshness to her speech. Even when she’s grinding through the policy options on serious subjects like welfare reform or child poverty, the hint of a smile is there. This doesn’t undermine her credibility, but it lightens and lifts her above the hectoring bores who chew up time on digital recorders. It is late afternoon now. The cafe is preparing for the evening crowd and the quiet spot in the corner is under threat. It’s time to go.

Final question: how would she like to be remembered when her political career is over? “Can I say two things?” she says, not waiting for an answer. There’s a long list of policy goals. “I won’t bore you with all of them but broadly they are around wellbeing of kids and families. But ultimately I think I would just like to be remembered as someone who has integrity.” Wherever the journey takes her, it seems certain she will achieve that.

Time will tell. If Grant becomes leader, most people assume she will become the deputy to her former PM’s Office colleague. Clark staffers would be Leader, Deputy and Chief Whip!

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The Key interview

June 21st, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A lengthy and fascinating interview with John Key by Guyon Espiner in the Listener. Definitely go read the whole thing. Some extracts:

He changed the law for Warner Bros to keep making the Hobbit movies in New Zealand and says it “created 3000 jobs”. Now he’s at it again. “This will really wind people up,” he says leaning forward, his shirtsleeves ending in bulbous cufflinks that almost conceal an expensive watch. “They now want me to go to LA and see Fox and Disney and a whole lot of other major studios,” he says with the enthusiasm of a boy who’s been invited to, well, Disneyland. “The word in Hollywood is that we are really supportive of the film industry to the point where the Prime Minister of the country would actually engage himself in negotiations to make sure those movies are made.”

Your reaction to the Prime Minister going to Hollywood to woo the movie moguls is probably a good measure of your view of him. Good on him for getting off his chuff and trying to help New Zealand make some money. Or, “Johnnie goes to Hollywood” to pimp the film industry while (create your own deprivation index here) continues unabated at home. Key knows his opponents will hate him for it. “But I would say it’s a really positive thing to do. You can make a difference. And it’s like the convention centre. People want to chase their tails in conspiracies. There is no conspiracy. The conspiracy is we haven’t had a convention centre for decades. We will get 160,000 visitor-nights. They will spend roughly twice as much as everybody else. The Government has got no money to pour into it.”

Key is right that opinion on this will be highly polarised. Personally I’m glad Key puts the interests of getting NZers into jobs ahead of placating an Australian union that was sabotaging our entire film industry.

His stories often have a touch of the Boy’s Own adventure about them. Key loved hanging out with the SAS in Afghanistan. He enjoys the Diplomatic Protection Service security detail. It’s not hard to see he grew up without a dad.

An interesting insight.

He’s just been to a ceremony for bootcamp graduates. A tough Maori kid repeatedly thanked him for the opportunity to do the course. As the boy left, his school principal whispered into Key’s ear that this was the son of the local Mongrel Mob boss. Key is fascinated by New Zealand’s dark underbelly and incurably optimistic about fixing it, even with no money …

Unfortunately, the statistics have remained unmoved by the rhetoric and there are still more than 200,000 kids living in poverty. “We’ve done a lot more than probably we have been given credit for,” he claims, listing the insulation of nearly 200,000 homes and the lifting of early childhood education participation rates. And, of course, his beloved boot camps. He says 60% of participants go on to get jobs and he is now going to use his prime ministerial powers of persuasion to shame companies into employing everyone who finishes the course.

“I am going to put the hard word on them that I think it is the right corporate responsibility to do that. There are enough big companies around New Zealand. We are talking about 1500, maybe 2000, kids a year, for them to collectively stand up and say, ‘I’ll take one and I’ll take two.’”

Cool. And on optimism:

The Government may still have significant reserves of political capital but Key accepts it will never have any real money to spend. “In terms of money I don’t think that position is going to change dramatically, because whatever you think [of the situation] in Europe, the really good case scenario is that they muddle through and any scenario other than that is a lot worse.” And it’s official: Bill English was right and Key was wrong. “When Bill first used to say that this will go on for 10 years, I thought he was wrong. Now I think he is right,” Key says. Even though he knew it was the biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression, he thought “the fluidity of the modern economy” would allow those issues to be resolved. “But what is different is the destruction of capital and huge structural change that has to happen, so this is about real, fundamental, core change.”

If Key accepts he was wrong, he believes he was wrong for the right reasons. “That optimism is not only well-placed, it is important to the national psyche,” he says. “Finance Ministers are paid to say no and Prime Ministers are paid to say yes. That’s the way it works. Who the hell wants a Prime Minister who is down in the mouth? “If you don’t think the country you are leading is a great country, why are you leading it?”

And he comments on the smile and wave nickname:

Key has never been lacking in confidence and still believes his opponents underestimate him. “I always remember when people used to go on about ‘smile and wave’ and all this sort of stuff – what a load of nonsense. I mean the New Zealand public never believed it and it just used to make me laugh. “The more they did it the more I was happy they did it, because it just deluded the Labour Party that somehow I didn’t have a view of where I wanted to take the country,” he says. “It has always been about lifting economic performance.”

I think Labour stole it off Cactus Kate. On the under-estimation Chris Trotter adds:

The reason members of the Labour Party underestimated John Key from the beginning is all to do with intellectual snobbery, says left-wing political commentator Chris Trotter. “No matter how much people crow when they add Labour and the Greens’ latest polling together, Key’s is an extraordinary result to be looking at three-and-a-half years into his time in office and in the midst of economic circumstances that could hardly be described as benign. “For a political leader to be in charge at a time such as this, and for people to say, ‘Oh, look, he’s only got 45.8% of the vote’, really is an extraordinary testimony to his political skills.”

Trotter contends that the left-wing of New Zealand politics always “grossly underestimated” Key’s skills – to its cost. “There is a tremendous amount of intellectual snobbery in the Labour Party particularly, if not across the left in general, which regards someone who’s done very well in business as a lesser being than someone, perhaps, who’s won the Booker Prize. There’s just this attitude that ‘he can’t be that good if he hasn’t lectured at a university or if he isn’t called Dr’. And this approach is very, very self-defeating on the part of the left, because you just have to be guided by the facts.”

The facts, says Trotter “are that this guy took over the National Party, its numbers recovered almost immediately and they soared to unprecedented levels in the polls”. What’s more, that polling occurred under a proportional representation system “when it is extraordinary to see any single party win 44-45% of the vote. “So, unless you’re putting National’s success down to sunspots, you have to sheet home responsibility for those results to the political leadership of the party.

The under-estimation is still there. Senior Labour MPs like Trevor Mallard (who delivered the worst result for Labour in 100 years, yet still drives their strategy) boasted today that Labour will win in 2014, 2017 and 2020. To claim victory 30 months before an election is arrogance enough, let alone the two after that. They have convinced themselves that all they have to do is wait.

Key’s skill was demonstrated by dropping the class-size issue, Trotter says. “That ability to simply say, ‘This isn’t worth it, get rid of it, go hard to starboard’, is rare in politicians. Most will die in a ditch rather than admit they were wrong. “Key has this facility, which we saw over mining in national parks and now over class sizes, where he just cuts his losses, and I think that’s attributable in a strange way to his experience in the currency trade, where you do not throw good money after bad. If you’ve made a bad choice, take the loss and make it up somewhere else in the next few hours or next few days. That’s a marvellous ability to bring to politics, because if you’re on a hiding to nothing, then accept nothing and stop taking the hiding.”

Related to this is that Key doesn’t hate doing a compromise. In business, the way you get an agreement is you compromise. In politics compromise is seen as weak by many leaders, but Key sees it as a strength. And in an MMP environment, where the Government does not have a majority, it is a necessary skill.

 

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Espiner to TV3

December 15th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

TV3 has confirmed it has poached TVNZ’s political editor Guyon Espiner.

He will work as a journalist for current affairs show 60 Minutes, starting in February.

Espiner has been TVNZ’s political editor since 2006 and also hosted the Sunday morning programme Q+A for the state broadcaster.

I can remember Guyon starting in the press gallery in the 1990s, but that just makes me feel old!

Certainly a coup for TV3 to pick Guyon up, and good to see them beefing up 60 minutes. I suspect Guyon will appreciate a less hectic lifestyle as his two roles of press gallery in Wellington and Q+A every weekend must have been draining.

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Vance on Goff

May 24th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff blogs:

The parliamentary press gallery have not long traipsed back from our regular Monday “stand-up” with Phil Goff. It was a good chance for us to drill down on some of the finer points of Labour’s new proposals.

Here’s what we know: Labour is proposing to re-instate research and development tax credits, bring farmers into the ETS scheme earlier than expected and lift the minimum wage to $15.

But after our little question and answer session with Goff, there are more questions than answers.

Here’s what we don’t know: Will the tax credits extend to foreign companies? And how is Labour planning to cap them? What will the carbon price will be for the ETS proposals?

We didn’t get an adequate response to criticism that lifting the minimum wage will cost 6000 jobs.

When asked about policy details, Goff repeatedly – and testily – told us to ask Labour researchers. ”Look, I’m not going into the details on that.”

Hmmn, “Ask my staff, not me” is not generally regarded as a good line for leaders to use, even if it is true.

Goff reckons business can afford the wage rise – he told us previous rises under Labour had created jobs, ignoring the fact they were very different economic times.

That is the key point. In a booming economy where jobs are scarce, you can increase the minimum wage with well minimal impact on employment. But pledging to do so at a time of relatively high unemployment and incredibly high youth unemployment is irresponsible as it will price young workers out of the job market.

As at every stand-up, TV political editors Duncan Garner and Guyon Espiner toyed with Goff like cats playing with a wounded mouse. They wanted to know how it is possible to impose a cap on the credits. (Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly likes the idea but says it will be impossible to limit insterest. Key says you can’t – and Labour has got their numbers wrong on the cost.)

Goff, sensibly giving Labour’s reputation on spending, stressed there was $800 million in the pot and that was it. But he couldn’t explain how they could impose that limit.

Mainly because you can’t, unless you make the scheme entirely arbitrary and first in first served. This is one of the reasons the scheme was scraped – it has the potential to blow out massively as firms classify expenditure as research to gain the tax credit.

There the matter should have rested – but Goff’s political skills deserted him. Flustered, he fell into a catty exchange, mixing up the two veteran hacks and sniping “It’s sometimes hard to tell the two of you apart.”

Really?

This is Guyon Espiner. He is the One News Political Editor.

And this is Duncan Garner, Political Editor for 3 News.

If Phil is having trouble telling them apart, he may need glasses. But to help him, I’ll provide descriptions as if they were super models.

Guyon is the Size 0 editor while Duncan is the plus sized editor.

What a shame. It was all going quite well. The congress generated some positive headlines and, more important, some good debate about the economy. Business NZ liked the tax credits idea, and Goff made a good stab at smacking down Key’s claims that the ETS proposals would drive up the price of milk.

Now the wheels have come off a bit. If Goff can’t answer basic questions about his brand new economic  policies, do Labour’s ideas have your confidence?

Even worse they are not brand new economic policies. They are the policies Labour went into the last election on. So all the detail work was done years ago and would be available in papers and the like.

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Goff on Q+A

January 31st, 2010 at 2:30 pm by David Farrar

Some extracts from an interesting interview:

GUYON You spoke in your speech a lot about tax as well, and again you returned to that equity and fairness argument, and I want to quote from that, you said too many people on good incomes avoid and evade paying taxes.  Now I’ve looked through the MP’s Register of Pecuniary Interests, and I see you don’t have a family trust or a trust listed there, so I presume that you personally do and always have paid the top tax rate.

PHIL I’ve the top tax rate, I’ve always paid every dollar in tax that I’ve been required to pay and I’m  proud to pay that tax because that’s how we fun our education our health system.

GUYON Is that the case for your caucus, because when you look through that Register of Interests, there are a lot of your own MPs who have trusts, and can structure their finance and their assets so they do not pay the top tax rate, do you include those people in the people who are being unfair by not paying the top tax rate?

PHIL If you have a system that allows people to avoid paying tax, they would avoid paying taxes, what you have to do is get the system right.  What I guess offends me is that most people, average working New Zealanders, wage and salary earners they don’t evade, they don’t avoid their tax, they can’t, but when you see the list of the top hundred income earners in this country and half of them are paying less tax as a proportion of their income than the people right at the top, you say there’s something wrong with the system.

GUYON Something wrong, a lot of people would agree with that, but can I return to that, have you asked those MPs, I mean is it fair that they’re not paying the top tax rate, all of them are paid over $140,000 at least yet they’re able to structure their finances in that way.  When you gave a speech and said that was unfair had you checked with your own caucus to see whether those people are paying the top tax rate and paying for the roads and hospitals and schools of New Zealand?

PHIL Yeah, I’ve got absolute confidence that every one of my MPs is paying all the tax that they should be paying …

Good to see this question put to Goff. Cactus Kate was the first to raise it – the hypocrisy of railing against wealthy people avoiding the top tax rate, and having a third of your caucus using trusts to minimise their own tax liability.

If you want to reduce tax avoidance in NZ, then the best way to do it is to lower the top tax rate.

If Goff continues to go on about how wealthy people should not avoid the top tax rate, then he should be challenged to ban his caucus members from having family trusts!

GUYON The top 10% of income earners though, they pay 44% of all the tax, is that fair?

PHIL Well they earn probably over 40% of the income, so proportionately yes.

Actually the top 10% of income earners pay 76% of net taxation (taking into account working for families etc). And what people shouold be worried about is not how to tax them even more, but what it will mean if those 10% leave NZ in significant numbers!

GUYON Shane Jones said this week that it was his mission to drive the Maori Party out of parliament.  Now how smart is it for the Labour Party under MMP to actually annihilate a potential coalition partner, leaving them only with the Greens and leaving you with almost no chance of forming the next government.

PHIL Well if the electorate will make that decision but Shane was speaking from heart and he was saying this.

GUYON Is he speaking with your authority?

PHIL I’m comfortable with his comments.

GUYON You want the Maori Party out of parliament?

PHIL No no.

Yet Shane Jones does. Goff them tries to have it both ways.

GUYON No no hang on hang on, that’s what he said, sorry Mr Goff, do you want the Maori Party out of parliament?

PHIL Look if there is a question of whether there are seven Maori seats that are Labour Party or Maori Party held I want them all to be Labour Party held.

GUYON So you don’t want to work with the Maori Party potentially?

PHIL No, no, that’s a different question.

GUYON But if you’re trying to extinguish them, there’s no chance at all is there?

PHIL In a democratic competition of course every one of our Labour candidates in the Maori electorates will be seeking to win those seats and I’ll be right behind them, and I’d like 100%.  The second question you ask is a slightly different one.  Will we work with the Maori Party while they’re in parliament, of course we will, if we think that’s in the interests of the country, as would any other party.

GUYON So let’s get this straight.  You want to drive the Maori Party out of parliament, but should they actually remain so you’ll work with them?

Would have been interesting at this point to have asked Goff if he wants Winston back in Parliament, and does he want the Greens there?

GUYON Will you resign on election night should Labour lose as Helen Clark did?

PHIL I don’t have a plan B for election night, and it’s not about losing.

GUYON I think I heard a similar phrase before, but thanks very much for coming and joining us this morning.

A very similar phrase indeed.

To be fair, I don’t think Phil Goff does have a Plan B for election night. He said that Plan B is not about losing. That must mean Plan A is about Labour losing! :-)

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Turei on Trade

October 4th, 2009 at 1:48 pm by David Farrar

Green co-leader was on Q+A this morning, and it was a pretty lamentable performance. While there were a couple of tough topics, she just didn’t cope with the scrutiny, and appeared very flustered and evasive.

I backed Turei as their best choice for co-leader (not that I get a vote!) as she has generally been a strong MP. But today showed up the gap between her and someone like Fitzsimons, who would have handled things much more calmly.

Of course part of the problem was that on the trade issue, Turei had a nonsensical position to defend. Every country on earth supports the move to freer trade, apart from pretty much just North Korea. The Green view on trade is very much a fringe view, and it got exposed today.

From the transcript (not yet online:

GUYON Okay let’s look at an economic idea that you are opposed to, and that is free trade largely.   In your maiden speech in 2002 you said that, and I quote you, ‘the acceptance of free trade agreements threatens our economy, our environment, our people and our sovereignty.’  Do you not believe in any free trade agreements at all?

METIRIA Well our position is that you need to have systems of fair trade, that make sure that New Zealand can retain its economic sovereignty, and free trade deals tend to undermine the economic sovereignty.

GUYON All the free trade deals, I mean the free trade deal that we have with Australia for example that we’ve had for 20 years, has that undermined our sovereignty?

METIRIA It prevents New Zealand from being able to make the economic decisions around our manufacturing, around job retention, all of those issues that are best for New Zealand, and we want New Zealand to be a prosperous and sustainable economy, that means we have to move … we need to be able to make those decisions for ourselves.

GUYON Does that mean all free trade agreements, for example the CER agreement that we’ve had with Australia since 1982, does that cover that?

METIRIA Look the key issue for us…

GUYON No, can I get a straight answer for our viewers on this question please, because it’s all very well to give a speech about free trade.

Yet she still could not state whether or not the Green Party thought CER was a good or a bad thing.

I wonder why the Greens are so inconsistent on the issues of national sovereignty. They correctly point out climate change affects everyone regardless of national borders. They support surrendering sovereignty to the UN on every treaty there is. Yet on economic issues, they cite national sovereignty as a reason to prevent people freely trading with each other.

GUYON Okay with respect, let’s look at one of those countries, China.  Now on Thursday it was the first anniversary of our Free Trade Agreement with China, our exports have climbed 61% over that year to 3.3 billion.  I mean wouldn’t we all be the poorer if we’d listened to you and not gone ahead with that agreement?

METIRIA Oh look Guyon, I mean you can make that kind of accusation and I think it’s just silly, the truth is that so much of New Zealand’s economy at the moment is under serious threat if  you like from the fact that we’re having to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars every week actually in order to just pay the interest on our current borrowing.  We’re having a housing bubble at the moment which is going to also impact seriously on our economy and there are other kinds of tools that we can use to deal with economic issues that are affecting New Zealand, like increasing the ability for banks for example to lend ….

The stupidity of Metiria’s response is the China FTA means we are borrowing less. Exports rose 60% in the middle of a recession!! That is a huge sucess. She just had no answer at all to this.

GUYON Can we return to this agreement though because there are some real Green issues here in this China Free Trade Agreement and I want to talk to you about one of them, because the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise says areas like the health supplements in Manuka Honey are a great area for expansion of our exports, and in fact your own Super Fund has quite a large shareholding on Konvita New Zealand which has 18 branded stores in China and is actually doing very very well out of this China Free Trade Agreement, would you deny them that opportunity, because you opposed that agreement.

You have to love the irony. Their super fund is personally profiting from the China FTA that they battled against.

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Espiner interviews Goff

September 13th, 2009 at 2:28 pm by David Farrar

Also from Q&A today:

PHIL: Well I certainly hope we are coming out of the recession – internationally you’re seeing signs of recovery in economies and really important economies too. It’s like China now – our exports to China have gone up 62% in the last year since our free trade agreement.

That’s the free trade agreement that the Foreign Minister in the last Government campaigned against?

But as I said at the time, Clark and Goff deserve praise for their efforts in securing the China FTA.

GUYON: Let’s look at an area that National has cut back on, and that is the Public Service. Now you’ve been very critical of that, you were in the short speech you made yesterday. In eight consecutive years in Government the Public Service grew 5.5% when economic growth was not much more than half of that. Is that the sort of levels of Public Service explosion really that you want to return to if you should take the reins of Government again?

PHIL: Well we think it’s great that there were 3 or 4,000 extra nurses that were employed in the Public Service while Labour was in Government&that the numbers of Police Officers out on the beat went up by 1,250.

Nurses and police officers are not included in the figures quoted. Guyon is quoting the core public service figures I am pretty sure.

GUYON: Yes, but they’re the glamour examples though. There were a lot of policy analysts and a lot of others.. How can you sustain a 5.5% growth in the Public Service when your economy is only growing at half that level?

PHIL: Because at the time the economy was growing fast

GUYON : at half that rate though.

Here’s the problem though. Labour do not seem to have accepted that there is a need for fiscal restraint in the face of the recession and a decade of deficits. They have opposed every spending cut there has been.

Having been spoilt with a fast growing economy, how will they cope with an economy where tax revenue does not grow massively each year?

GUYON: Can you say whether you would raise personal income tax, can you rule out this morning raising personal income tax should you take power again?

PHIL: It’s not our intention to raise personal income tax, nor GST – it may well be this government’s intention to raise GST.

Now that is a very welcome, and brave statement. I welcome it. Of course this creates the problem that to fund their spending promises, they will have to borrow billions more leaving future taxpayers indebted.

The challenge for Labour in 2011 will be to present an alternative budget that keeps Goff’s promise of no tax increases, but also has NZ on a believable path back to surpluses.

Goff’s ruling out of any increase in income tax or GST is very significant and the first major departure from the Clark years. The challenge is getting people to believe it by having realistic spending promises.

GUYON: You and your party, the Labour party, went after John Key very heavily in the last election campaign, you made the whole campaign about trust – the idea was that you couldn’t trust John Key. The party president was dispatched to try and dig up dirt on decades old deals to try and find some wrong-doing. Is that something that you’re apologising for this weekend as well, the way that you handled that?

PHIL: I think that both sides in Parliament probe the other side to check whether promises being made are promises being made with integrity. That will always happen in an adversarial system. I think the publicity and the looking at the finances around Mr Key at the last election WAS a mistake yes.

A welcome admission.

GUYON: but do you trust him [Key]?

PHIL: Do I believe that what is being said is always what is on the agenda, I’d have to say no. I mean they employ spin doctors, and the role of spin doctors is to have the Prime Minister saying what people want to hear.

Now Goff loses the plot. He doesn’t trust John Key because Key has spin doctors. Goff has several himself, as did Clark.

And just as relevantly, it is pretty obvious to most journalists that Key is one of the least scripted PMs of recent times. In fact the major criticism in recent days has been that Goff is the one who speaks in spin doctor sound bites, unlike Key who speaks normally.

GUYON: You talked about spin doctors, but every party employs them and in fact it looks you are employing them pretty heavily this weekend. I mean it’s an image makeover though isn’t it – you’ve tried desperately to make yourself look more human, look more relaxed, look more casual haven’t you?

PHIL: Ah, look when you talk about spin doctors we don’t have an agency like the Australian agency

Good God, Labour’s obsession with Crosby Textor is driving them demented. National has had a relationship with Mark Textor for almost 20 years.

This is a classic example of Labour still focusing on “Wellington” issues. They’ve tried very hard to have their conference focus on wider issues such as the economy, jobs, healthcare – but if you scratch away a bit, they revert to type. Absolutely no-one outside the Labour and Green Party membership cares about this crap.

PHIL: No look obviously you think, particularly when you become leader of the opposition, there’s a different role you have to perform, there are different sides of you that people have to see. I’ve spent most of my political career trying to protect my family from politics, I didn’t want them in the full glare of politics. But suddenly people say “look we don’t know anything about you, we don’t know what your family is, we don’t know you’ve got two boys and a girl”. So clearly in the role I’m playing now I’ve got to become a little more open about the sort of things that once upon a time I would’ve like to have kept personal.

I’m pleased to see Phil take my advice that New Zealanders do want to know more about him – and by default his family. Not in a hugely intrusive way, but to understand more about who he is. It is not that easy for either politician, or family, but people do want to feel they know something about the person who may be Prime Minister.

GUYON: You lost the working class at the last election , a good strand of them, in some pretty important seats like Waitakere and other areas, Chris Trotter calls these people the sort of guy who likes to have a few beers on a Sunday afternoon sitting on a deck that he built himself. How do you win those people back next time?

PHIL: It’s a point well made and I think you’ve got to win back those people by those people perceiving you to understand what their concerns are and what there hopes are.

GUYON: And how do you do that?

PHIL: I think by showing that most of us have come up by that same particular route, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I grew up in a working family – we worked hard for everything we got. I’ve got my family that I’ve worked hard to bring up, I can identify with those people . I’ve got two sons who are tradesmen. They are exactly the sort of people that Chris Trotter gave as a Waitakere man. Those are the sorts of things that they’re interested in – I believe I’m in touch with those things.

Goff is certainly better positioned than Clark and Cullen were to win back that working class vote. In fact of the entire Labour caucus he is probably the best person to try and do that – apart from possibly Shane Jones who has potential appeal there also.

GUYON: But the voters want to know is there a place for Winston Peters in a few years time to become a part of Government?

PHIL: There’s a place for anybody who is prepared to work on-side Labour for the values, the ideals, and the policies that we put forward. I don’t rule out Winston Peters any more than I rule out the Green Party, the Maori Party or the United Future Party and obviously the Progressive Party

There was a missed opportunity there. I’m not saying he should have ruled Peters out (that then becomes the major story) but he could have said that for Labout to work with Peters again, we would have to be convinced that he would conform with the Ministerial and Parliamentary rules on conflicts of interests and disclosures.

The danger for Goff, is that he looks to be saying he will be the same as Clark, and let Winston get away with anything in exchange for the baubles of power.

GUYON: And we have a referendum to this whole electoral system, what is Labour’s position on that? 1997, as Justice Spokesman, you called for a binding referendum on MMP whether we should chuck it out or not, what’s your view now?

PHIL: I think if you’re going to change the system it MUST be with the mandate of the people and that must be by a binding referendum.

GUYON: So you support going for a referendum?

PHIL: yes, we’re not opposing the Government on that at all

That is interesting.

GUYON: ..How would you vote?

PHIL: At this stage I’d probably vote for MMP but we’ve had at this conference quite an interesting discussion about that and the members I’ve talked to have said look we’d like to see fewer list MP’s and more Electorate MP’s. We’d like to see electorates a little bit smaller so that electorate members can give a bit more personal attention to their constituents. Our people tell me that we can do that, we could have as many as 80 electorate MP’s with the balance of 40 being list MPs. It may be that we’re looking for a variation on MMP to make it work better, to use its strengths to counteract its weakness.

More interesting is that he would only “probably” vote for MMP.

Labour need to be very careful of their numbers. Chris Hipkins said yesterday:

The analysis I have seen suggests we could have 90 electorates and 30 list MPs and the proportionality would be preserved. From memory applying that to the 5 MMP elections we have had the biggest overhang would have been 4 extra seats. That’s just from memory though. Someone else might have the actual nos handy.

I responded:

Chris – your memory is faulty on MMP with a 90/30 split. Assuming parties won the same proportion of electorate seats, a 90/30 elect/list split would have seen Labour in 1999 with a 6 seat overhang and in 2002 with a 7 seat overhang. That would be almost as unproportional as SM.

On the plus side it would have meant in 1999 every Labour List MP would have been wiped out so no Cullen and Wilson :-)

Goff is now talking 80/40. If you assume they would have won the same proportion of electorates (which is not that likely) it would in 2002 have left Labour with either 0 or 1 List MPs – very close to overhang.

But what Goff overlooks is that every census the number of electorate seats increases by 1 or 2 as the North Island has faster population growth than the South Island. Hence within a decade that 80/40 could be 84/36 and overhang could well become a regular thing.

And the issue of Maori Party overhang would also get worse. Ironically what Goff is talking about would move MMP closer to an SM system.

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One News Poll

August 2nd, 2009 at 6:17 pm by David Farrar

One News have had their first poll in four months. I’ve blogged the details at Curiablog.

Guyon Espiner commented that if the Government leads by this much during the worst recession since the 1930s, the fear for Labour must be what might happen next year when presumably the country has come out of recession.

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Nick Smith on Emissions

July 26th, 2009 at 2:54 pm by David Farrar

Guyon Espiner interviews Nick Smith on Q&A this morning. I thought it was a good performance from Nick:

GUYON  What about here in New Zealand.  What sort of climate effects are we going to see here and by when if we don’t get this under control?

NICK Well if we take the sort of estimates that have been made by NIWA scientists, you know we’re looking sea level rises over the course of the century of about .6 of a metre, we’re looking at temperature rises of about two degrees. 

Great to have a politician not exagerrate the impacts. Nick correctly quoted the IPCC consensus of around 60 cm increase over 100 years. You get all sorts of hysterical nonsense about eight metre increases from some politicians.

NICK  Well the government’s commissioned this report from Infometrics and NZEIR to try and get a feel for what those numbers would be if we went for the target that Greenpeace is promoting of minus 40, that indicates a cost of about you know 15 billion dollars per year at 2020, you know that’s more than the entire expense of our health system,

This is what the Green Party is campaigning for. To spend more money on this, than we do on Vote Health. And that is $15 billion a year – not one off.

The report from NZIER is here – NZIER Infometrics Report 26 July 2009.

Their model basically says that the cost would be $3,000 per person per year for a 40% reduction. That is $60 a week.

NICK   Yeah I do, I think that argument is incontrovertible, you know how can we, emitting about 17 tonne a year, per New Zealander, say to the Bangladeshi who’s doing a tonne a year, hey guys you’ve gotta get your emissions down because we’ve got a global problem.  But the other part we have to understand is this, even if every one of the developed countries signs up to a zero target which is totally unrealistic, and you see the continued growth in emissions from China, India, Brazil, those countries, we are not going to beat this problem, you know the projections are that you’d get emissions up to sort of 650 parts per million, even with zero from the developed world, and so that really shows how important it is in Copenhagen that we get the developing countries to come on board. 

This is key. An agreement must include China, India and Brazil.

NICK   I want to reassure you, that in the government making its decision both on the ETS and the 2020 target, that needs to be at the front of our mind.  You know if we look at the new bill that’s in the United States Congress, they’ve specifically made provision there for tariffs against countries that don’t take climate change seriously, and so what the sort of balance that the government’s going to have to strike here, is one that has us not getting out too far of the pack.  What that economic report shows if you get too far out, the costs really escalate.

GUYON         So we could face a trade ban, so your 15 billion dollars pales into nothing if we are getting our goods boycotted by an international trading ban. 

NICK   Absolutely, and that’s why I say to farmers in the agricultural sector, look guys climate change has gotta be taken seriously, not only is it an environmental risk, it is a trade risk, and that’s where New Zealand needs to find this balance, recognise that we’ve got a tough job, but saying that look too far ahead, costs get too high, too far behind and the costs get ugly as well.

It is a balance. If we do nothing we will get hammered. If we try to be the most pure country in the world we will just get a lot poorer and possibly outsource our emissions to China.

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Goff’s goofs

July 23rd, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I had to laugh at Labour List MP Carmel Sepuloni trying to insist on Breakfast TV that it had been a great week for Phil Goff.  It was like a finance company spokesperson trying to insist they were sound.

Where do I start. First the Herald reveals that Phil Goff did not tell them the sob story he fed to them, owned a total of three properties, and it was not the case of someone with no assets being forced out of their family home. It was just a case of someone being unwilling to sell their property investments for a loss. I hope this story appears in as prominent place in the print edition as yesterday’s story.

Now even before this episode was exposed, Guyon Espiner blogged:

Labour’s ill-judged foray into the benefit policy debate – offering the dole to anyone who losses their job regardless of their spouse’s income – is a strategic blunder which ignores these basic facts of political life….

Labour now claims it isn’t going to allow the dole to be paid to anyone, regardless of income. But that’s a back down because that is exactly what they were saying on Monday.

You could sense the desperation on Monday after the story was broken in the Herald. Goff had clearly blurted out the story too early because Labour party officials and MPs were scrambling to fill in the details as other media worked to follow up the story.

On Tuesday Goff was desperately trying to claim that he was talking about the principle of middle income people not missing out on welfare and not the details. All the more reason then for not announcing the plan until the details are worked through.

Guyon makes it fairly clear Goff personally blundered by making policy up on the hoof. Guyon also covers their banking inquiry:

I see Labour is having another go. Having failed to win a proper select committee inquiry into whether the banks’ interest rates are too high, they are teaming up with the Greens and Jim Anderton to hold their own “inquiry” – one with no standing, no authority and no power.

Essentially they’ll be sitting in a room, preaching to the converted. Looks like a gimmick to me. Looks like Labour hasn’t fully realised it was turfed out of power.

Indeed.Hat Tip: Keeping Stock

John Armstrong writes this morning:

This has been an especially awful week for Phil Goff. It is not just that the Labour leader has made two blunders – the first being a policy mishap and the second being caught out by failing to reveal pertinent information. It is that a pattern of bad judgment calls is starting to emerge. That will be causing his colleagues some serious concern.

The problem for his colleagues is the lack of options. After 2011 there will be options, but there are not yet.

Twice within the past two months, Goff has sought to cause National discomfort only to end up pinging himself by failing to disclose facts which ended up being revealed by his opponents to his embarrassment.

The first example was Neelam Choudary, the Indian woman who alleged former minister Richard Worth sexually harassed her. She turned out to be a Labour Party activist.

The latest example is a Helensville man, Bruce Burgess, who seemed the perfect example of the kind of middle-class distress Goff had been talking about when he floated a shift in Labour policy so the dole would be paid to redundant workers for up to a year regardless of the income of their partners.

There is a warning in Armstrong’s writing. Having twice sat on highly relevant information, the gallery is going to be far more suspicious of any information from Goff in future. His effectiveness will be reduced due to this.

Goff is kidding only himself if he thinks this new information would not change people’s perceptions of Mr Burgess’s predicament.

Labour knew Mr Burgess owned the properties. It should have dropped his case immediately it knew that. However, presumably Goff was blinded by Mr Burgess being one of John Key’s constituents. The Prime Minister had done nothing to help him. Goff could see the headlines before they appeared. Through his own fault, they have ended up being the wrong ones.

The information totally changed people’s perceptions. Just as Choudary’s identity did also. I actually felt a bit guilty, at the time, for blogging yesterday on the Burgesses as I felt sorry for them being on the verge of losing their only home. While still sympathetic they are in tough times, the fact they have two other properties means they do have options – far better options than most families.

If he fails to win in 2011, Goff knows his party will look for someone else to lead them into the next election. If he keeps performing in the fashion displayed this week his colleagues might start asking themselves whether they should not look elsewhere before then.

I think Goff is safe until 2011, again due to the lack of alternatives.

Duncan Garner also blogs:

Labour sat on the fact he owned three homes. To Labour it was irrelevant to its case – that hardworking Kiwis are missing out under National.

How many Kiwis can cry poor with three homes? It’s a bad look Labour – and I suspect you know it.

Can you imagine how Helen Clark, as Prime Minister, presented with this sort of information – would have acted?

She, and/or Michael Cullen would have not only crucified Burgess – but she or he would have damn well made sure John Key was cut into three pieces,

So Labour needs to go away and look at what it’s doing.

It needs to take a breather. Goff has been too damn keen this week. He’s cocked up. He’s acted like a cut snake.

And finally we have Colin Espiner:

Labour’s also attacking the appointment of former National leader Don Brash to the new productivity taskforce, calling him a stalking horse for privatisation. Goff says it will lead to a renewal of ideas soundly rejected at the 2005 election.

Actually, as Key pointed out in the House yesterday, National wasn’t “soundly rejected” at the 05 election – it only lost by the narrowest of margins. And it was probably the Exclusive Brethren that spooked voters more than National’s privatisation agenda.

Indeed. Mps who call Don “Lord Voldemort” may want to reflect on the fact he got only 2% less than Helen Clark in 2005, and that their references to him as such actually alienate a large segment of the population. Anyway back to Goff:

Goff had another terrible day in Parliament today after the case of poor old Bruce Burgess, a constituent in John Key’s electorate no less, who having worked hard all his life now couldn’t get any assistance from the state after losing his job.

Labour shopped the story to the Herald this morning, which ran it without question. Trouble was, poor old Bruce owns two rental properties besides his lifestyle block in a leafy part of Helensville – in other words, he has assets of at least a million dollars. Now, that doesn’t mean he isn’t suffering, but that wasn’t the picture presented to the public by Goff or the Herald this morning.

Also, according to the Government, Bruce is eligible for $92 a week state assistance – something that wasn’t pointed out earlier either.

Once again, an issue that should have run in Labour’s favour ended up backfiring badly.

So this is what Carmel Sepuloni calls a great week for Phil Goff. I’d love to see what she calls a bad week.

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Guyon on Police investigation into Brash e-mails

May 12th, 2009 at 9:46 am by David Farrar

To get some idea of how bad the Police investigation into the Brash e-mails was, just watch Guyon Espiner on Breakfast this morning. Guyon said:

  • In my opinion, it’s a disgrace
  • Almost nothing in there
  • Contrasts Police refusal to release most info with the full release in other sensitive cases such as Paintergate
  • Labels what the Police have released this time as a “cover up” and a “whitewash”
  • Looks like Police did not want to find out
  • Says file shows they only interviewed around half a dozen people

That is a damning indictment from the TVNZ political editor.

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Further thoughts on Clark valedictory

April 11th, 2009 at 3:45 pm by David Farrar

There has been some interesting commentary on Clark’s valedictory speech – mainly commenting on the total lack of reflection that she ever did anything wrong.

Guyon Espiner blogs:

Her valedictory was like her premiership: cautious and competent; meticulous and managerial.  I’d hoped Helen Clark might show us a flicker of feeling; a sliver of humanity; a scintilla of humility. …

It was similar when she spoke to us on TVNZ’s Q+A show last Sunday. There was no acknowledgement of her mistakes. Could she not have conceded to mishandling the anti-smacking law? To rushing the Electoral Finance Act? To being a little too lenient in her handling of Winston Peters?

I don’t think she considers any of them mistakes. Just as she has never conceded she was wrong to sign paintings that others painted. Her career has been marked by a refusal to say sorry and to blame everyone else.

I think she owed it to Labour to show a little contrition about the election defeat.

Clark sticks to the line that New Zealanders only voted National because they felt they could have the same policies with a new face. With that statement there is the underlying belief that before too long voters will realise the grave mistake they made in throwing her out.

The Dim-Post has a shorter version of the Clark speech:

‘I’ve been a very great Prime Minister and I’m proud of that.’

I think Clark was a very, very good Prime Minister, but her massive ego and unshakable faith in her own historical awesomeness is one of the main reasons she was not a great one.

If this seems harsh then I guess it’s because the endless, pointless debacles of her third term government are still fresh in my mind – and most of them seemed to be driven by Clark’s belief in her own infallibility and her parties blind worship of same.

A valedictory speech for a politician like Clark is obviously a time to celebrate an impressive career, but in the wake of a devastating loss it’s also, one would have thought a time for self-deprecation and also an opportunity, a chance to signal to the party and the public that mistakes were made, lessons were learned, a corner has been turned, the torch passed to a new leadership etc. But not a flicker of self-reproof seems to trouble Clark’s astonishing mind: the public rejected her for reasons that remain mysterious but are probably to do with their own fickleness and stupidity, and also Crosby-Textor.

I’ve listened to valedictory speeches from six Prime Ministers, and Clark’s was the only one which did not touch on regrets. You would have thought it was the speech of someone who had won a fourth term, not someone who had been decisively thrown out of office.

The more I think about it she also glossed over stuff such as the 4th Labour Government, the relationship with David Lange, how she became Leader. It was rather opaque.

Labour supporters, rather like Clark, seem more focused on defending her legacy, than a serious analysis of where they went wrong. Indeed some of them do seriously blame it all on Crosby-Textor and a gullible public.

Clark and Cullen’s departure provide Goff with a real opportunity to stamp his own leadership on the party. His first challenge will be the Mt Albert selection. Goff knows having Tizard back in Parliament will be a nightmare for him. Does he place her in the shadow cabinet? What portfolios does he give her? How do they deal with s92A when its architect is in caucus insisting it is perfect and should remain intact. If she gets back in, then do they stand her again in Auckland Central? If not, what electorates should she shadow?

Goff’s instincts have been very sound in the past. It will be interesting to see him now able to put them to work. Key won, by following his instincts. Goff, to be viable, needs to also make changes and do what he thinks is right – not necessarily what Labour has done in the past.

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Q&A

March 22nd, 2009 at 10:17 am by David Farrar

Just watched the first Q&A. Overall pretty good.

The Guyon Espiner interview with Key was solid. He probed Key on lots of areas – and Key actually revealed quite a bit of stuff we didn’t know.

The panel was Therese Arseneau (who is permanent) and Phil O’Reilly and Russel Norman. I did find it unusual that you would have the leader of an opposition party as one of the panelists discussing the interview of the Prime Minister. I would have thought MPs should only ever be interview subjects, not panelists discussing other MPs.

The second interview (done by Holmes) was with Andrew Little. I was amused to see footage of Andrew in the mid 80s (when I first met him) and even more amused that they dug out a televised exchange between Andrew as NZUSA President telling Tertiary Education Minister Phil Goff that he is talking nonsense and Goff asking Andrew to stop talking over him. The moderator was a very dapper Lindsay Perigo!

I thought it was revealing when Andrew said “Labour has Phil Goff as its Leader – it only has one leader – it’s Phil Goff”. I was waiting for the “for now” :-)

Andrew did say that he had criticised Labour in the past as EPMU National Secretary. I think he misses the point that yes he did in the past, but now he is Labour Party President he could never criticise Labour publicly.

More revealing I thought was that he appeared to be saying he would be a President more in the style of Judy Kirk – behind the scenes, than Mike Williams who was very high profile.

Andrew finished by saying his record shows that he is very professional (and to be fair to Andrew few would dispute that) when dealing with workers issues, and already has been working with a number of Ministers.

Holmes asked if he would stand for Rongotai if Annette King stands for Mayor and vacates her seat before 2011, and Andrew kept his options open saying he has not considered that scenario. I read that as a “yes”.

I was surprised Holmes was relatively tough on Little. In my mind I saw Guyon as doing the tougher interviews, and Holmes doing the slightly less pointed ones. But Holmes pushed Andrew quite hard and asked some very good questions.

Therese made a very interesting point about Andrew’s two hats that he may build up a bigger media profile than Goff, because he is so often in the news as EPMU National Secretary.

Russel Norman made the point that while it is good to see Labour promoting insulating homes now, that getting them to agree to the package before the election was like pulling teeth.  Normal also acknolwedged that National is wrong footing Labour by doing things both on the right and the left.

Overall the panel discussion moderated by Holmes went very smoothly I thought.

I think that TVNZ will be pretty pleased with their first episode.

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Voting now open

September 30th, 2008 at 3:54 pm by David Farrar

Voting is now open in the 2008 Kiwiblog Awards. They close at 3 pm Friday 3 October. You can vote in the sidebar.

The most popular nominations in each category are:

MP of the Year

  • Rodney Hide – not even a finalist last year but a popular nominee for his campaign to expose Peters, amongst other things
  • Bill English – a repeat nominee – his year of picking apart the EFA was often cited
  • Pita Sharples – has become the Maori MP, Pakeha love to love, and helped position the Maori Party as Kingmakers.
  • Phil Goff – a China FTA plus a possible United States FTA endears Goff to many readers

Labour MP of the Year

  • Phil Goff was nominated by many but disqualified as the 2007 winner
  • Michael Cullen cited by many for his mastery of the House
  • David Cunliffe also impressed several with his determination to improve the Health sector
  • Winston Peters was nominated multiple times in this category, so who are we to stand in the way of the public!

National MP of the Year

  • Simon Power had the most nominations, having impressed with his constant highlighting of law & order problems, and also superb Chairmanship of the Privileges Committee.
  • John Key is still the country’s Preferred PM
  • Bill English was disqualified having won this category last year
  • Gerry Brownlee also often nominated for his take no prisoners methods in the House

Minor Party MP of the Year

  • Rodney Hide a popular nominee for many
  • Pita Sharples had 12 nominations in this category – will it be Minister Sharples in a few weeks?
  • Sue Bradford has had a quieter year than 2007 when she was runner up, but still gained some nominations
  • Hone Harawira also gained multiple nominations – the once reviled radical has been impressing a few people

Press Gallery of the Journalist

  • Audrey Young – Winston still has not apologised to her, but she was a favourite nominee amongst Kiwiblog readers
  • Duncan Garner – his “straight talking” doesn’t always win friends in Parliament, but has proven popular with some readers
  • Guyon Espiner – cool, clam and collected – the most viewed gallery reporter has some fans
  • Colin Espiner – the blogging journalist has many online fans

Public Servant of the Year

  • Grant Liddell – the SFO Director was a multiple nominee for doing what was right, regardless of what the Government wanted.
  • Owen Glenn – okay not technically a public servant, but many nominated him for having performed a public service.
  • Helena Catt – the Electoral Commission CEO wins the sympathy and nominations of many for having to try and work out what the Electoral Finance Act actually means, and for her willingness to criticise the law she has to enforce.

Enjoy voting.

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MPs survey of the media

September 29th, 2008 at 3:20 pm by David Farrar

Last week I set up an online survey for MPs, asking them to rate various media organisations and senior gallery journalists on a scale of 0 to 10. Just under one quarter of MPs responded, and the results are shown below.

As the media often rate how well MPs are doing, I thought it appropriate to reverse this and ask the questions in reverse. The media are a hugely powerful filter, and it is appropriate (in my opinion) to have some focus on how well they are perceived to be performing.

The questions were:

  1. For each media organisation please give them a rating from 0 to 10 for how well you think they do in their parliamentary reporting. This should take account of all relevant factors – accuracy, fairness, thoroughness, relevance, substance etc.
  2. Now for some individual senior members of the press gallery, please rate from 0 to 10 how well you think they perform at proving fair, accurate, unbiased and informative reporting on Parliament. You can skip any that you do not feel able to rate.
  3. Finally can you indicate your party grouping as National, Labour or Other. Your individual identity is not sought by us, and we have no way or interest in identifying individual respondents. However we would like to summarise results for all MPs and by the three groupings to see if they vary by party grouping.

It is important that these be read in context, so make the following points:

  1. This is the opinion of MPs only. It does not set out to be an objective rating, and should not be seen as such.
  2. MPs get reported on by the gallery. While this makes them the group of NZers potentially best able to have an informed opinion on the media (which is why I surveyed them), it also gives them a conflict of interest. MPs may score journalists lowly due to personal run ins with them, or the fact they are too good at their job! This should be borne in mind.
  3. I only e-mailed the survey to the 121 MPs, but it is possible that one or more responses was filled in by a staff member who has access to the MPs mailbox. I think this is unlikely, as most staff are very professional. However MPs were not required to prove their identity to vote, as confidentiality of individual responses was important. You need to know the Survey URL to be able to vote.
  4. National MPs made up 43% of responses, slightly above their numbers in Parliament. Minor Party MPs were also slightly over-represented, Labour MPs under-represented and some MPs did not give a party identification.
Media Mean Median Mode Minimum Maximum Range
NZ Press Assn 6.1 6 6 4 9 5
Newsroom 5.8 6 5 1 10 9
Trans-Tasman 5.5 6 6 0 8 8
NZ Herald 5.3 6 6 0 8 8
Scoop 5.2 5 5 0 10 10
Newstalk ZB 5.1 6 7 1 8 7
Listener 5.0 5 3 1 8 7
NBR 4.9 4 4 1 8 7
Radio NZ 4.8 6 3 1 9 8
Radio Live 4.4 5 1 1 8 7
Sky/Prime News 4.3 5 5 0 7 7
The Press 4.2 5 1 1 7 6
TV Three 4.1 5 6 0 8 8
Dominion Post 4.1 4.5 1 1 7 6
TV One 3.9 5 5 0 6 6
Maori TV 3.7 4 5 0 6 6
Herald on Sunday 3.5 3.5 7 0 7 7
Sunday Star-Times 2.7 3 3 0 5 5

NZ Press Association tops the rankings with a mean or average 6.1 rating – and received no very low ratings from anyone. The two Internet agencies were in the top five, indicating MPs like the fact their releases are carried in full. Trans-Tasman also does well.

Television generally gets ranked lowly with all four stations in the bottom half. Sky News actually ranks highest.

Radio is middle of the field with NewstalkZB being the highest ranked radio broadcaster.

The newspapers range the spectrum. The NZ Herald is up at 5.3, Press at 4.2 and Dom Post at 4.1. I would have them all higher, but this is a survey of MPs, not of my views.

Now the sample sizes are of course very small (but of a limited population) but let us look at how National MPs ranked media compared to all the other MPs:

Media All Mean Nats Mean Others Mean Difference
TV One 3.9 6.3 2.2 4.2
TV Three 4.1 6.2 2.6 3.6
Maori TV 3.7 5.2 2.5 2.7
Sky/Prime News 4.3 5.5 3.3 2.2
Sunday Star-Times 2.7 3.5 2.1 1.4
Radio Live 4.4 4.8 4.2 0.6
Radio NZ 4.8 5.0 4.6 0.4
Dominion Post 4.1 4.2 4.0 0.2
Herald on Sunday 3.5 3.5 3.5 0.0
Newstalk ZB 5.1 4.8 5.4 -0.6
The Press 4.2 3.8 4.6 -0.8
NZ Herald 5.3 4.2 6.1 -1.9
NBR 4.9 3.3 6.1 -2.8
Listener 5.0 3.3 6.3 -3.0
NZ Press Assn 6.1 4.3 7.4 -3.1
Trans-Tasman 5.5 3.3 7.1 -3.8
Scoop 5.2 2.8 7.0 -4.2
Newsroom 5.8 3.0 8.0 -5.0

National MPs ranked the four TV channels much higher than other MPs did. Maybe this is minor parties upset that they do not get on TV much?

Despite the generally accepted lean to the left of Radio NZ, National MPs ranked Radio NZ higher than other MPs did. And while some on the left attack the NZ Herald at favouring National, National MPs actually ranked them lower than other MPs did. The Listener and NBR also get accused of leaning right, but again get ranked lower by National MPs.

The Nat MPs also rated the online media very lowly.

Now the journalists. I decided not to list all members of the press gallery, but only those who are relatively senior, and are more likely to have a reasonable number of MPs have formed opinions about them. Looking back I could have included more.

If any journalist is unhappy about being missed out, happy to include you next year. Now again it is worth remembering these are only the opinions of those MPs who responded to my survey – it is not an objective rating.

Journalist Mean Median Mode Minimum Maximum Range
John Armstrong (NZH) 6.4 7 2 2 10 8
Peter Wilson (NZPA) 5.8 5 5 3 8 5
Audrey Young (NZH) 5.7 6.5 7 0 10 10
Ian Templeton (TT) 5.6 7 7 0 9 9
Jane Clifton (Listener) 5.6 6 6 2 9 7
Barry Soper (Sky & ZB) 4.9 5.5 7 1 9 8
Ian Llewellyn (NZPA) 4.9 5 5 1 8 7
Vernon Small (DP) 4.6 5 6 1 8 7
Colin Espiner (Press) 4.5 5 6 0 8 8
Guyon Espiner (TV1) 4.4 5.5 7 0 7 7
Tim Donoghue (DP) 4.1 4.5 2 1 9 8
Brent Edwards (RNZ) 4.1 4 4 0 7 7
Tracy Watkins (DP) 3.8 4.5 6 0 7 7
Duncan Garner (TV3) 3.7 3.5 3 0 8 8
Gordon Campbell (Scoop) 3.6 5 5 0 7 7
Ruth Laugeson (SST) 2.7 2.5 2 0 6 6

John Armstrong tops the ratings, followed by the NZPA Political Editor Peter Wilson. Generally MPs ranked journalists slightly higher than media organisations. As can be seen by the minimum ratings showing, some MPs were very harsh handing out zeroes. Did WInston multiple vote? :-) (Note I have no idea if Winston did vote)

And once again we compare responses between National MPs and other MPs.

Journalist All Mean Nats Mean Others Mean Difference
Laugeson 2.7 4.2 1.6 2.6
Clifton 5.6 7.0 4.5 2.5
Soper 4.9 6.2 4.0 2.2
Campbell 3.6 4.8 2.8 2.0
Edwards 4.1 4.8 3.5 1.3
Llewellyn 4.9 5.2 4.7 0.5
Young 5.7 6.0 5.5 0.5
Garner 3.7 3.5 3.9 -0.4
Espiner G 4.4 4.2 4.6 -0.4
Wilson 5.8 5.5 6.0 -0.5
Armstrong 6.4 6.0 6.8 -0.8
Watkins 3.8 3.0 4.4 -1.4
Donoghue 4.1 3.2 4.9 -1.7
Small 4.6 3.2 5.6 -2.4
Espiner C 4.5 2.8 5.8 -3.0
Templeton 5.6 1.8 8.5 -6.7

Again very interesting. The SST is generally seen as hostile to National, but Ruth Laugeson is ranked much higher by National MPs, than by other MPs. Likewise the Gordon Campbell and Brent Edwards (both left leaning) are ranked higher by National MPs than other MPs.

Also for some reasons National MPs ranked Ian Templeton very lowly. Maybe they don’t like his weekly chats with Clark and Key, ignoring the lesser MPs?

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Winston’s story

September 16th, 2008 at 4:41 pm by David Farrar

This Tremain cartoon, taken from Homepaddock, sums it all up.

The TVNZ midday news saw political reporter Jessica Mutch try to explain what the Peters/Henry story now was, and you could see the palpable disbelief.

Colin Espiner blogs a line he stole from brother Guyon:

My dear brother Guyon has pinched a few lines off me over the years, so I’m going to nick one of his: The only testimony Brian Henry could have delivered before the privileges committee today that was less credible is if Winston Peters’ lawyer had simply said: “My dog ate it.”

Well the dog ate the phone bill from the mystery motel he claims to have ring Owen Glenn from!

New Zealand First insiders and Peters himself had talked tough over Henry’s recall to the committee this morning, claiming to some journalists that the lawyer would provide evidence this morning that refuted Owen Glenn’s version of events. He did nothing of the sort.

Indeed, everything Henry said and offered this morning in the way of evidence simply corroborated Glenn’s version of events.

You have to wonder what sort of morons talk up in advance evidence that actually proves their Leader lied, and corroborates what Owen Glenn said. Either they didn’t know what Brian Henry was going to say (which means they have blind faith) or they didn’t understand how damning it would be for Peters and Henry.

In my opinion, Henry offered doubt today but it was not reasonable.

Indeed. Reasonable doubt means exactly that – is it reasonable. No reasonable person can really doubt that Peters has lied. And as it so happens the Privileges Committee does not even need to satisfy the criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt”. They merely need to satisfy “on the balance of probabilities”.

Will this finally be enough for Clark to sack Peters? I doubt it.

I doubt it also. She needs Peters after the election, so that means minor stuff like lying the public, lying to the media, false declarations, and lying to the Privileges Committee are all forgiveable by Clark.

UPDATE: NZPA quotes the Laboru Party MPs trying to defend Winston:

Labour MPs said the way Mr Glenn and Mr Henry referred to each other by first names in emails showed familiarity.

So these MPs have no shame? no standards at all? They are so desperate to protect Winston (and incidentially declare their largest ever donor to be a liar) that their defence is that first names were used in emails.

This is so pitiful, I won’t even bother pointing out the gaping flaws in their argument. I’ll let readers do that for me.

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Another fun night watching Back Benches

May 1st, 2008 at 8:06 am by David Farrar

After missing it last week, popped in again to the Backbencher last night for the usual live filing of Back Benches. The MPs were Rodney Hide, Jacqui Dean, Te Ururoa Flavell and Russel Norman (not quite an MP yet).

Rodney joined our table before the show and loudly proclaimed the he figured the Nats were pushing fibre to the home for broadband just so I could get better quality porn. I jokingly corrected him that it was so I could get faster porn, not better porn. Rodney then started practising his parliamentary speech about how any Bill for fibre to the home should be called the Faster Farrar Porn Bill. Others started joining in until I pointed out to them all that only Rodney gets parliamentary privilege :-)

The show went well. The funniest moment for me was when Wallace asked Russel about biofuels, and a few seconds into what appeared to be the start of a very long explanation, Rodney rang the bell to cut him off.

Around halfway through the show Wallace announced they are giving away a luxury item in a quiz, and he held up a 1kg block of tasty cheese which he said was now a luxury item at $15. And the question was what sort of car has replaced the Ford Fairlaines as Ministerial cars.

I couldn’t resist and stuck my hand up and shouted out “BMW 720is”. Wallace was so impressed (or appalled by my nerdiness) he awarded me the cheese. At this stage someone sitting with the Green supporters yelled out loudly “Who is that bald cunt”, Now I have been called a cunt several times before, but never on live television on a news show. I joked afterwards to Guyon Espiner that being called a cunt on live television had never happened to me before, and he replied that it had to him! I forgot to ask whether it was an MP :-)

Being serious for a second, I do think it is grossly inappropriate to use the cunt word on a live television news show. Not at all worried that it was directed at me, but it was boorish in the extreme. “Who is that bald bastard” would have worked just as well without actually exposing TVNZ to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (which I jokingly threatened them with).

Anyway my cheese victory was short lived. Barry and Heather Soper (I can’t be bothered trying to spell her actual surname) popped in after the show and I boasted of my victory in winning the cheese. Barry immediately says I got the make wrong and they are BMW 730Lds. I don’t think I am wrong, so I fire up the Blackberry and search on my blog site as I know I blogged the model when they were announced.

Sadly I did get the make slightly wrong (hey 730 is close to 720) and they are BMW 730Lds. So what does Barry do, he reaches across the table and takes my cheese claiming he is the real winner of it, despite not even being there for the show.

I then drown my sorrows at my lost cheese in another Speights.

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Asset Sales

April 14th, 2008 at 6:24 am by David Farrar

National’s policy on state owned assets for the 2005 election was very mild.  It was for no full sales, and maybe one or two minor part-sales. Something that even Labour has done in Government – sell some minor state assets.

Labour of course would have you believe National plans to sell the roads, the seas, the air and the water, rather than have a rational debate over whether or not the NZ Government needs to own a chain of garages (Vehicle Testing NZ).

And having semi-sucessfully managed a fear campaign in 2005, they were all poised to do so again. For months on end they tried to talk up Auckland Airport as some sort of state asset sale they were stopping when the reality was it has been a privately owned company since Winston sold it in 1998.

So at the Labour Party Congress this weekend, they were all set to start their campaign of fear and loathing on asset sales. Yet quietly on Sunday morning on Agenda, John Key took their toys away:

GUYON Alright you rightly point out it was sold by the National government in 1998 now that brings us to this position.  What is your position now as a National Party on state asset sales?

JOHN Well National’s had some time to reflect on that and the position that we’ve decided to have is the following one.  That in the first term of the National government there will be no state assets that will be sold either partially or fully.

GUYON So no state assets, you’re completely firm on that?

JOHN That’s right.

Colin Espiner caught on to the wonderful timing:

COLIN ESPINER – Christchurch Press
Mr Key the Prime Minister addressed the Labour Party’s annual congress, the election congress yesterday and one of the things she said was that asset sales were a defining issue for Labour, and a defining issue for the election, you’ve just essentially inoculated that, was that your intention?

and again:

COLIN  Sure, but you’re also avoiding skirting around the issue of asset sales where you’re gonna get clobbered by Labour, and they were warming up, they’ve been warming up on this one for weeks and you’ve essentially ripped the rug from under them haven’t you?

Yes he has.

John Armstrong I think is 100% wrong on this being a fumble, because Key only ruled them out for the first term of office. Far from being a fumble, it was a move of brilliant timing and within a few weeks, the issue will have little resonance with anyone but those who are in no way swinging voters. No party ever gives a guarantee beyond one election, and no-one outside Helen Clark and a few commentators really get excited about what may or many not happen in two elections time.

Now my personal view on asset sales I blogged back in July 2005, and listed 13 SOEs I would happily sell.  But even National under Don Brash was talking at most a partial float of Solid Energy and maybe a few farms.

If you are not going to have a bold asset sale programme (such as I would do), then it is politically stupid to have a 5% programme where you attract all the scaremongering over asset sales, just to allow say a 20% share holding in some coal mines.

So despite personally favouring a bold programme of asset sales, I am delighted that National has shut down Labour’s ability to effectively scare-monger on this issue, because frankly you should either do a bold programme, or do no programme at all. The 2005 Brash policy was so modest, it wasn’t worth the hassle and distraction it would be.

So overall I thought Key did very well on Agenda – a very in depth and extended interview. And I say that having been pretty critical of how Key handled the Peters issue the week before.

While I am very relaxed about going from a 5% asset sale policy to a 0% asset sale policy, I am somewhat concerned over the dropping of bulk funding. Sure, I understand the politics around not provoking the PPTA and NZEI into a full-scale jihad, but if we are serious about lifting our economic game, we need to lift our educational game, and the current way we fund and staff our schools will not achieve that.  Having said no to bulk funding, the onus is on National to come up with some other ways to improve management and funding of our schools.

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Salem Witch Trials

April 2nd, 2008 at 3:47 pm by David Farrar

Colin Espiner, Political Editor at The Press, has blogged on an amusing Hollow Man song, but more pointedly on the TVNZ beatup last night, which I blogged on this morning.

Colin takes a similiar view to myself:

On another issue, is anyone else puzzled by TVNZ’s lead story last night? Two National MPs, Lockwood Smith and Maurice Williamson, allegedly don’t “believe” in climate change. What? Quelle horreur! Have them arrested at once! Surely this is a hanging offence now in this country?

For a start, I’d be amazed if the Right-leaning and ultra-dry, cynical and conservative Locky or Maurice did accept the science behind climate change. Not that TVNZ had any proof of this, besides the pair’s refusal to state on the record that they were “believers”.

It has been going around the traps that both MPs have made scoffing noises at a couple of private gatherings about climate change. But so what? Both told TVNZ they accepted and supported National’s party policy, which is that climate change is a real and present danger. So what’s the problem here? I’d be staggered if all 48 National MPs did accept climate change. After all, Key himself is a relatively recent convert.

David Parker, the Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues, has put out a braying release this morning taunting National for having a couple of MPs with the temerity to suggest his portfolio is not as important as he would think. He should be careful. I’d be equally staggered if every MP in the Labour Party accepted climate change either. In fact, I can think of a couple of names off the top of my head who I’m pretty sure think it’s a load of bunk.

Isn’t it interesting the religious overtones that have crept into this debate? We talk about “believing” in climate change, and having “converted” to it. It’s like a new branch of Scientology.

Personally I accept the weight of scientific opinion that the planet is warming, and that human activity is at least partly responsible. I am, however, unclear as to whether the efforts being made to date to mitigate this are anything more than political tokenism and window-dressing.

I also defend the right of Lockwood Smith and Maurice Williamson to remain dubious about it. I just wish they’d have the guts to say it in public.

Salem witch trials, anyone?

Colin has been blogging for a while now and he is often forthright in putting forward blunt opinions on how he sees things. That’s the whole point of blogging.

What is somewhat noteworthy on this issue, is that the journalist who fronted the TVNZ story is One New Political Editor, Guyon Espiner,. As many know, Guyon and Colin are brothers. Now I don’t point this out to embarrass or cause hassles for either of them. I respect both Espiners for the jobs they do (while reserving the right to criticise on individual stories).

I just think it is a healthy sign that the sibling relationship didn’t stop Colin from stating his disagreement with the TVNZ story. And that is not to suggest that he has done so in the past – it is just the first time I can recall a fairly direct (albeit unnamed) criticism in such a situation.

On the same topic The Greens made some fair and useful points:

Labour’s attacks on John Key and various National MPs for not believing in climate change are interesting, but ultimately a bit of a sideshow. It doesn’t matter whether Cullen and his team believe in climate change or not if their actions are not doing anything to address the problem. Believing is a relatively easy step to take given there is a global scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is caused by humans.

Cullen and Clark can talk about sustainability and carbon neutrality as much as they like, but they are currently responsible for an increase in coal mining, dairy conversions and carbon emissions. Greenpeace says that their own target for the acceptable level of global warming is not low enough. On this issue Labour’s record is not significantly different than National’s.

Indeed. The percentage increase (which Kyoto is based on) of greenhouse gas emissions for NZ under Clark has been higher than for the US under Bush and Australia under Howard.

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