Should Labour decline Helen Clark’s membership?

October 23rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged on how a former Labour list nominee was refused membership of Labour because he had operated a Facebook page which “contained unhelpful comments”.

Well Helen Clark’s comments on how it would be unthinkable not to sign up to the TPP have been extremely unhelpful to Labour.

So will Labour’s NZ Council refuse Helen Clark as a member as she has said something unhelpful to them?

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Clark to head FIFA reform?

October 19th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark would be an ideal candidate to head reform of Fifa, a prominent whistleblower says.

Bonita Mersiades, who was part of the Australian bid team for the 2018 World Cup, has repeated her calls for someone of Clark’s stature to lead reform of Fifa.

Mersiades presented evidence to the Fifa corruption inquiry chaired by Michael Garcia and is involved in the New Fifa Now campaign.

In an interview with German website, she said only an independent person not involved in football could lead the overhaul of Fifa.

“An American would be inappropriate, because US authorities are investigating the Fifa. I think to Kofi Annan or Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and today head of the UN Development Programme,” Marsiades said, according to a translation of the interview.

It’s not a bad idea, as only a total outsider would have credibility.

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Clark, Labour and TPP

October 6th, 2015 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Sometimes it takes someone a little removed from the fray to put the right perspective on an issue.

New Zealanders have sorely needed such insight on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, so deeply polarised are they about its potential benefit to this country.

And there could be few people better placed to supply this than former Prime Minister Helen Clark. …

Ms Clark’s statement, a rare one on a domestic issue since she became the Administrator of the UN Development Programme, emphasised how foolish that would be.

What had always haunted her as prime minister, she said, was the development of a series of trade blocs of which New Zealand was not part. That would be “unthinkable” for this country as an export-orientated, small trading nation.

“So, of course, New Zealand has to be in on the action with the TPP and go for the very best deal it can as the agreement expands beyond the original four economies to a wider regional agreement.” …

Ms Clark’s statement also carried a message for her former Labour colleagues.

Curiously for a party that formerly embraced free trade, it has insisted its support for the TPP is contingent on the meeting of several “non-negotiable bottom lines”.

Labour may imagine this plays well with those people adamantly opposed to the pact.

But most importantly, as its former leader implies, it reveals a failure to to appreciate the big picture. That dictates a small trading nation cannot afford to stand aside from an agreement of such magnitude for the Asia-Pacific region.

The partisan part of me wants Labour to vote against TPP, as I think it will continue their descent away from electability. But actually it would be a bad thing for NZ to lose its long-standing bipartisan support for trade deals.

Liam Hehir writes:

When Helen Clark came out in broad endorsement of New Zealand’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, she lifted the lid on what is going to become a real headache for Andrew Little. If negotiation of the mammoth trade treaty is completed (which could well have occurred by the time you read this) the Labour Party is going to have to make a decision about whether or not it will throw its support behind New Zealand joining the bloc.

Until now, Labour has been assiduously ambiguous on the subject. This seems to be because some swivel-eyed members of the party base are convinced that the treaty is a sinister National Party scheme to outsource sovereignty to Halliburton, Pfizer and the Rothschild family. Not wishing to alienate these noisy activists, the party has been careful to avoid expressing any enthusiasm for the deal.

Yet …

But at the same time, it has not ruled out supporting the deal should agreement be reached. A significant chunk of Labour’s parliamentary caucus is serious about governing. They care more about pragmatism than party slogans and, when pushed, they care more about the national interest than they do about oppositional politics.

But are there enough of them? I’m not sure there are.

The problem is that weasel words will only get you so far. Complaining about the secret negotiating process won’t cut it once the negotiations have been wrapped up and the terms of the deal have been laid bare. The debate then has nowhere to go but to the ultimate merits of the thing.

Despite persistent claims to the contrary, joining the TPP is going to require the enactment of implementing legislation. When those votes are called, Labour MPs will need to make a call on turning its back on vastly improved access to markets representing nearly 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. Whatever decision is made, somebody is going to have to be disappointed.

I think it will be the party activists. If the TPP represents a halfway-decent deal for New Zealand, my bet is that Labour MPs will give it their blessing. There will be some public handwringing, of course, and reservations will be loudly stated. Unlike NZ First or the Greens, however, Labour is simply too integral to our political system to indulge in fantasies of the country prospering as a hermit kingdom closed off from the world economy.

I hope Liam is right, but I am less optimistic. They have abandoned bipartisan support for stable monetary policy that targets inflation, and in recent elections have had a policy of effective nationalisation of electricity generators.

For Helen Clark, the only Labour leader to have won a general election in almost 30 years, to say that “of course” we should “be in on the action with the TPP” starkly exposes the reality of the situation. Labour is a serious, mainstream party. It is inclined to deal with the world as it is.

If Labour don’t support TPP, I can see a number of election ads quoting her words back to them!

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Key endorses Clark, not Rudd

October 2nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

At a meeting with Key in New York on Thursday (NZT), Clark said she would “neither confirm nor deny” she would be seeking the top job – “as was said about nuclear weapons for many years”.

But Key is offering his wholehearted backing should she decide to throw her hat in the ring, saying Clark would be the best person for the job. 

“I’m doing everything I can and will do if she becomes the genuine runner for secretary general … I genuinely think she will be a great leader of he UN and hope she gets there.”

That included having a word in the ear of other world leaders including “one or two I play golf or hang with”, Key said – a reference to US President Barack Obama, who he has joined on the golf course previously.

Key said it would be huge for New Zealand if Clark won the job and the fact they were once rivals “wouldn’t stop me having a lot of pride in her” if she succeeded.

I think it will be someone from Eastern Europe, but if the regional rotation system breaks down, then of course we should back Clark. Regardless of your views of her as PM, having a NZer achieve the top UN job would be huge.

A rival challenger could be Australia’s Kevin Rudd, whose move to the US has fuelled speculation that he intends throwing his hat in the ring.

Key said he had heard the speculation but had not spoken to Rudd about it.

Asked if he would support Rudd’s bid Key said: “If he stood and no one else did we’d back him.”

Oh that is hilarious – we’d back Rudd if no one else stands. Laughing out loud. Talk about damning with faint praise.

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Clark says “unthinkable” for NZ to not be in TPP

October 1st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark says it would be “unthinkable” for New Zealand to be left out of the TPP, as ministerial talks to try to get the deal signed off this week continue in Atlanta.

It is hard to think of a stronger phrase of endorsement.

She rarely comments on New Zealand domestic issues, but made an exception when asked about the TPP, which began under the former Labour Government as the P4 with Chile, Singapore and Brunei.

“What always haunts a Prime Minister is ‘will there be a series of trade blocs develop that you are not part of?’ Because that is unthinkable for New Zealand as an export-oriented, small trading nation.

“So of course New Zealand has to be in on the action with the TPP and go for the very best deal it can as the agreement expands beyond the original four economies to a wider regional agreement.”

Sadly the Labour Party of Clark which proudly signed an FTA with China has become a Labour Party which promotes hysteria and nonsense against the TPP.

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Clark a long shot say bookies

August 1st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

There’s been numerous articles this week pushing the idea that Helen Clark is a front runner for UN Secretary-General.

It is highly highly likely that the next Secretary-General will come from Eastern Europe, due to the unwritten policy on regional rotation.

While not absolutely reliable, prediction markets have a good accuracy record with political events. And what do two bookmakers say are the current odds for Clark?

  • Bet Breaking News has Clark at a 33/1 which is a 2.9% chance. Of the 19 potential candidates she is in 17th place
  • Sports Bet has Clark at much the same odds and in the same 17/19

So talking about Clark as a front runner is rather silly.

I think the front runner is Dalia Grybauskaitė. She is the current President of Lithuania and prior to that a European Commissioner.

She speaks English, Lithuanian, Russian, French and Polish. She won election as President as an Independent, and was a popular reforming European Commissioner.

Her biggest challenge would be getting past a Russian veto.



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Clark’s chances for UN top job

January 2nd, 2015 at 10:54 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealanders might not have found the campaign for a UN Security Council seat especially thrilling, but the possibility of former Prime Minister Helen Clark leading the United Nations is a common subject of speculation.

Could it happen? The answer is yes, but not easily.

Prime Minister John Key has said the country will back Clark if she puts up her hand to become the next UN Secretary General.

There is no question that she wants it, but that does not mean she will go for it.

She would not go for it without New Zealand’s full backing, and New Zealand’s backing of her depends on what Eastern Europe does. It is considered Eastern Europe’s turn to supply the next Secretary General, a view that New Zealand accepts.

Clark’s chances rest on whether Eastern Europe can come up with a consensus candidate, one acceptable to Europe, the US and Russia.

With the current crisis in relations over Ukraine, that is not a simple task.

If it can’t find a consensus candidate, Clark will almost certainly seek the post and would be a front runner.

If there was no suitable Eastern Europe candidate, then Clark would be a strong contender. But she may have annoyed some by starting her unofficial campaign too early. The Guardian notes:

The field of those seeking to be the next secretary general is widely felt to be underwhelming. Helen Clark, the head of the UN Development Programme, gave an example of how a UN official should not behave when, before the current secretary general was even halfway through his term, she began to discuss, in these pages, her interest in succeeding him. It is time for something more serious.

The lead candidate at this stage appears to be Irina Bokova, the Bulgarian Director-General of UNESCO.

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Numbers bad for Cunliffe

September 25th, 2014 at 6:40 am by David Farrar

Even assuming David Cunliffe got the same level of support from activists and unions as last time, the numbers look challenging for him in a wider vote.

Last time he get 11/34 votes in caucus. But four of those MPs have gone. He is now at 7/32. The seven are himself, Lees-Galloway, Mahuta, Moroney, Sio, Wall and Whaitiri. Doubtful any of the new MPs will vote for him. So he gets just 22% in the caucus vote, which is worth 40% overall, hence 8.8%.

Last time he got 60% of the members vote. I can’t imagine he would do as well this time, but even if he does that is 24% overall as members are worth 40%.

The unions loved him and voted for him 71%. Of their 20% that is 14.2%.

Add those up and Cunliffe gets 47%. He is 3% short.

Caucus may only be 40% of the vote but if they vote 4:1 in favour of someone else, then it makes it hard for the activists and unions to counter that. The key is the other contenders need to have a very clear agreement that they want their supporters to preference each challenger ahead of Cunliffe. I think that will be the case. Shearer supporters will put Robertson ahead of Cunliffe and Robertson supporters the same.

It is possible that Cunliffe could pick up support from some of the new MPs, but I suspect that is less likely after the mega-caucus he forced on them on Tuesday.

Even if he can lift the union vote to say 90% (which would give him 50.8% overall), then Cunliffe wins but it will be on the record that 80% of his caucus voted against him. Hard to get the public to back you when they know that.

As a Nat, I should want Labour to prolong the infighting for as long as possible, but I don’t think it is fair on Labour members and supporters for this to occur.

It seems there is only one solution. Only one person can fix this. Helen Clark.

Helen needs to pick up the phone, ring DC, and says that while he gave it his best, it is all over, and for the good of the party he needs to step down. I don’t think he’d take that advice from anyone else. Also there would be an implicit threat that she might repeat her advice publicly if he does not. Clark is the one figure who did and can unify the party. She won’t want to comment publicly, but she might do so to save the party she led from what would be a very messy public leadership battle. It would not be polite and matesy like last time. It would be brutal.

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Clark wanting the UN top job

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

Stuff reports:

Helen Clark walks into the conference room at her New York headquarters clutching the Smoke Free cup that travelled with her from New Zealand.

Five years in the big apple and she still hasn’t got around to getting herself a new tea cup.

Something else hasn’t changed since Clark bid farewell to New Zealand five years ago: she struggles to see a place for herself back home, though she doesn’t rule out returning eventually when the time comes to ”relax” a bit more.

That time is clearly not on her horizon any time soon, which is why there is mounting speculation about Clark’s future at the end of her second term as the United Nation’s third-ranked official, as head of the UN Development Programme.

Clark is increasingly having to bat away questions about her ambition to succeed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in two years’ time. 

She says she will neither rule it in or out – and adds that it is not appropriate for her to talk about the job now, given that Ban Ki-Moon is only midway through his second term.

”He has been a great supporter of mine, which is why I am here today.”

But she says ”there will come a time when that debate is appropriate and member states have got to work out what it is they are looking for in this day and age”.

The UN has never been headed by a woman, for instance – and that should matter, suggests Clark.

“I think the women of the world will be screaming ‘yes’. It will be a year when a woman is making a very strong bid for the US presidency. There’s a woman at the International Monetary Fund, a woman at the Federal Reserve, there’s a lot of last bastions being stormed by women, so the time will come when women say ‘what about the UN?’.”

And of course that woman could be her, by happy coincidence for Helen!

While not impossible, a Clark successful candidacy is very unlikely.  The job tends to go by regional rotation and it is Eastern Europe’s term. The Ukraine situation would make it even more intolerable for them to miss out.

Also there is an unwritten requirement the UN Secretary-General can speak French. Unless Helen has been getting lessons, I don’t think she can.

Also few Secretary-Generals come up through the UN. Most are serving or just retired foreign ministers.

Ban Ki-Moon was the South Korean Foreign Minister when elected. Kofi Annan was a UN bureaucrat, but before him Boutros Boutros-Ghali was Egyptian Foreign Minister when elected. Javier Perez de Cuellar was a career diplomat for Peru. Kurt Walhheim was the Austrian foreign minister. U Thant was a career diplomat for Burma. Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was Deputy Foreign Minister of Sweden and Trygve Halvdan Lie was the Foreign Minister for Norway.

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Rudd wants to be UN Secretary General

April 29th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The BBC’s United Nations correspondent Nick Bryant says head winds face former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd if he wants the top UN job  in 2017.

He says the UN will adhere to ”geopolitical correctness”, meaning it is an Eastern European’s turn. Speculation centres on former Slovenian president Danilo Turk and Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis. Former prime minister Helen Clark is also eyeing the job –  perhaps hoping regional ”turns” are over.

I made this point a few months ago – regional rotation is very very important in UN roles such as the Secretary-General. That’s why I think it is unlikely Helen Clark will be in the running.

I will say this though. Given a choice between Helen Clark and Kevin Rudd – I’d be supporting Helen all the way!

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Getting overly excited over a Guardian story

January 29th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key says the Government would throw its weight behind any bid by former Prime Minister Helen Clark for the top job at the United Nations in 2016, but said it would be a tough ask for her to secure the post.

Helen Clark, who heads the United Nations Development Programme, was tipped in Britain’s Guardian newspaper as a front-runner to take over from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when his term runs out in 2016.

The Guardian ran an interview with Helen Clark, in which she was asked if she was interested in the job.

She did not confirm it outright, but clearly hinted it was in her sights, saying: “There will be interest in whether the UN will have a first woman because they’re looking like the last bastions, as it were.”

Asked again if she would run, she said: “If there’s enough support for the style of leadership that I have, it will be interesting.”

Mr Key said he had not received any advice of her intentions, and it would be a hard job for her to get.

“It would be well and truly sought after and these things are deeply political. But she’s done a very good job as the administrator of the UNDP. We would back her, but whether or not she can actually get there, I don’t know.”

Regardless of how Clark has done at UNDP, I think it is highly unlikely she would be a viable candidate for the top job. This is for several reasons.

The first is the very strong convention that there is regional rotation based on continent.  We are seen as part of Western Europe, as we are part of that region for Security Council voting. But that doesn’t help us as most third world countries don’t want a Western European to head the UN.

Eastern Europe is the only region not to have supplied a Secretary General, and regional rotation is very important.

A further factor is that every other UN SG has not already been a UN official. The career path is usually from being a current Foreign Minister or diplomat. The exception was Kofi Annan.

Also a factor is that the host region has to unite behind a candidate for them to win. Would the EU unite behind Clark or one of their own?

In Clark’s favour is she is a woman, and many will say time for a female UN Secretary General. But history shows regional rotation is more important than gender to member states.

Another factor is the unofficial requirement to speak French, which Clark doesn’t do.

My pick is a bilingual woman from Eastern Europe is likely to be the next Secretary General.

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Palmer on Lange and Clark

November 23rd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Anthony Hubbard at Stuff reports:

The Lange government fell apart, Sir Geoffrey says, because of “a failure of one of the most basic principles of Cabinet government”.

Prime Minister David Lange was the main culprit. He canned the newly elected government’s notorious economic package of December 1987, a dramatic lurch to the Right based on a flat income tax and sweeping privatisation.

Lange’s unilateral decision was something “that you can’t do”, Sir Geoffrey says. “And that’s why it all fell apart.”

He points to the selfishness of both men. “Neither David nor Roger seemed in their epic struggle to consider the interests of anyone but themselves,” he writes.

There were faults on both sides, “but David had serious weaknesses that in the end destroyed his government”.

“He could not or would not have meaningful discussions with Roger Douglas over their differences.”

In terms of the actual management of government, Lange was arguably the most incompetent Prime Minister we’ve had. He had great strengths but he couldn’t do the basics right.

“He was not well organised personally and lacked administrative skills. His office was not well run and that was his fault.

“He did not have much stamina for meetings, and politics requires many long meetings. He often left meetings for long periods, aimlessly wandering about talking to people.”

Lange’s “multifarious health problems affected not only his ability for sustained work but also in later years his judgment. . .

“Neither did he seem to be able or willing in Cabinet to argue strongly for particular policy positions, so it was hard to see where he was coming from.

“He really did not exert much influence over the policies of his own government. He was not an effective policy operator.”

Nature abhors a vacuum, and this is probably one of the reasons why Roger Douglas ended up almost running the Government.

When Sir Geoffrey became prime minister, Helen Clark was elected as his deputy. His assessment of her performance is cool.

Clark “is, as everyone knows, extremely able. She was not, however, an ideal deputy because she had only been a minister since the 1987 election.

“In January 1990 she was saddled with two new and difficult portfolios, health and labour. As a result, she did not have the time to devote to firefighting and management of the whole.

“Her style was to micromanage her portfolios. She had strong connections with the party and that was very helpful, but I found myself wishing sometimes that I had a deputy of the type I had been.”

Loyal? Clark knifed Palmer to install Moore.

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Clark and Cullen on the Leadership

September 4th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Several people have wondered who Helen Clark and Michael Cullen will vote for (as party members they get a vote) in the leadership.

Helen Clark is hard to pick. Grant worked for her for many years. Cunliffe was her choice as successor to keep Goff out (if she won a 4th term).

I suspect on balance Clark will back Cunliffe. He has ministerial experience, and was her chosen successor. She also understands the importance of Auckland. She may well think that Grant also has time on his side – they may both end up as leaders at some stage.

Michael Cullen has endorsed Grant. That is not secret. What is less well known is his severe dislike of David Cunliffe. Just last week he joked at a book awards function that David Cunliffe could not be there to pick up a prize for his book “Learning to walk on water – what I learnt from Jesus of Nazereth, and what he learnt from me”.

The fact he would so openly diss Cunliffe, seems to hark back to the Cabinet days when it was too obvious Cunliffe wanted Cullen’s job.

However his dislike appears to be even greater than Trevor Mallard’s. A source overheard a conversation last week where Dr Cullen was reported to be more vitriolic about Cunliffe, than he was about, well anything.

So Clark and Cullen may be backing different candidates. It is a sign of how divided things are!

UPDATE: I understand that Dr Cullen is not standing on the sidelines like Helen, but is actively lobbying on behalf of Robertson. This is helping him with some members, but others resent figures from the past being involved.

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Clark on GCSB

August 4th, 2013 at 4:59 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has confirmed the GCSB executed intercept warrants for the SIS during her Government but spying on New Zealanders “wasn’t their remit”.

Clark, speaking in advance of the release of her new book At The UN, about her first four-year term as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, said she was always “loyally and diligently” served by the intelligence services.

Clark said the Government Communications and Security Bureau acted within the law “as it was understood to be” and this included executing warrants for the Security Intelligence Service.

“I can assure you that I was always advised that what was being signed was legal.”

Yet Labour and Greens are opposed to the GCSB doing what it did under Helen Clark – assist the dSIS. The problem is the law passed by Clark does not make it clear if the clause saying it will not monitor NZers over-rides the clause saying it can assist other agencies such as the SIS.

She rejected that the Government Security Communications Bureau routinely spied on New Zealanders as that was “not part of their remit”.

And still will not be, despite the hysteria. In fact the bill will provide greater transparency than in the past over what work the GCSB does do.

Her book, At The UN, is a collection of speeches Clark has given in her first four-year term at the UN.

Am sure it will be a best seller. Sadly not yet available on Amazon.

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Labour and GCSB

April 15th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

There’s some very interesting questions about the passing of the GCSB Act in 2003, and whether Labour lied to New Zealanders about what the Act would do, or if they told the truth and Helen Clark allowed the GCSB to break the law.

Grant Robertson was Clark’s second most senior advisor, so he may be able to assist!

The GCSB was created in 1977. From the beginning its role has been focused on foreign intelligence, but we have been told that for some decades it has also assisted other agencies (SIS and Police) with communications intercepts when those agencies have gained warrants authorising them to do so.

In May 2001, Helen Clark introduced the GCSB Bill to give the GCSB legislative backing. Helen Clark said:

In the absence of a legislative framework for GCSB, for example, some have wrongly inferred that the Bureau’s signals intelligence operations target the communications of New Zealand citizens; that the GCSB exists only as an extension of much larger overseas signals intelligence agencies; and that the Bureau’s operations are beyond the scope of Parliamentary scrutiny.

For the record, I reiterate again today that the GCSB does not set out to intercept the communications of New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. Furthermore, reports of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security have made it clear that any allegations to the contrary are without foundation. The Inspector-General has reported his judgement that the operations of the GCSB have no adverse or improper impact on the privacy or personal security of New Zealanders.

Now we know that after this law was passed, the GCSB continued to assist the SIS and Police with interceptions – where those agencies had gained a warrant.

This means there can be only two interpretations of what Helen Clark did.

  1. She misled New Zealanders on the GCSB. She knew that the GCSB assisted the SIS with interceptions. She should have said that the GCSB doesn’t intercept communications of NZers, except when acting on behalf of an agency that has gained a warrant to do so. She made a conscious decision not to mention this, and misled Parliament on what the GCSB does, and Parliament voted on a law not aware of what the GCSB does.
  2. She ignored the law. She was aware that the GCSB had traditionally assisted the SIS, and knew the law would stop them being able to do so legally when it involved a NZ resident. But then after the law was passed, she allowed the GCSB to break the law.

My belief is (1). I think Clark misled New Zealand and Parliament by not explicitly mentioning the fact that the GCSB did intercept communications of NZers, when doing so for the SIS who had gained an interception warrant.

I can understand the annoyance of people that the Government had not been explicit that the GCSB prohibition on interception communications from New Zealanders, doesn’t stop them assisting the SIS and Police if they have gained warrants.

The issue going forward is should the GCSB be able to assist the SIS. Labour’s position is, as usual, God knows. The Herald reports:

Labour would consider allowing the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders in limited circumstances but only if that was recommended by a full independent review of intelligence agencies, party leader David Shearer says.

Another clear concise and brave policy.

There are basically four options when it comes to communications interceptions. They are:

  1. Neither the SIS nor GCSB should ever be allowed to intercept communications of New Zealanders. 
  2. The SIS can intercept the communications of NZers if they gain a warrant to do so, but the GCSB can not assist them.
  3. The SIS can intercept the communications of NZers if they gain a warrant to do so, and the GCSB can assist them.
  4. Both the SIS and GCSB can intercept the communications of New Zealanders

The first option is what one might call the Keith Locke position. We would of course be the only country in the world that basically bans the intelligence agencies from being able to well, do their jobs. I doubt any party in Parliament except possibly the Greens would support this.

The fourth option is also not supported by any party or MP, as far as I know. Mind you, Labour seem to suggest they might go along with that if a review recommended it!

So really it is a decision between options (2) and (3). Do you require the SIS to spend what could be tens of millions of dollars on duplicating the GCSB systems in order to do around six interceptions a year?

You can argue, yes we should. That there should be purity of separation. That the GCSB should be like the CIA and never ever intercept domestic communications. Except that actually the CIA is authorised to do so in some circumstances so the comparison is not correct.

What I think is important is that the GCSB can’t just help the SIS with any old request. That their assistance is limited to cases where the SIS has gained a warrant due to security concerns. Let’s look at the SIS Act for the criteria. That:

the interception or seizure or electronic tracking to be authorised by the proposed warrant is necessary for the detection of activities prejudicial to security

And what does security mean:

  • the protection of New Zealand from acts of espionage, sabotage, and subversion, whether or not they are directed from or intended to be committed within New Zealand:
  • (b)the identification of foreign capabilities, intentions, or activities within or relating to New Zealand that impact on New Zealand’s international well-being or economic well-being:
  • (c)the protection of New Zealand from activities within or relating to New Zealand that—
    • (i)are influenced by any foreign organisation or any foreign person; and
    • (ii)are clandestine or deceptive, or threaten the safety of any person; and
    • (iii)impact adversely on New Zealand’s international well-being or economic well-being:
  • (d)the prevention of any terrorist act and of any activity relating to the carrying out or facilitating of any terrorist act

So it is important to recall that the 88 cases cited in the Kitteridge report, all had warrants authorised under the SIS Act because they met one or more of the criteria above. The issue is not that they should not have legally had their communications intercepted – but whether the right agency did the interception.

If you do not amend the law, then there will be no reduction in the number of NZers who have interception warrants issued against them. The only difference is the SIS will do the interception directly, rather than use the GCSB.

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Clark reappointed

April 13th, 2013 at 2:58 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has been appointed for a another term in her role at the United Nations.

Miss Clark was first appointed as the UN Development Programme Administrator in 2009.

She said it had been an “honour and a privilege” to serve in the role for the past four years.

“I thank the Member States of the United Nations General Assembly and the Secretary-General for their confidence in me to lead the organisation for another term,” she said.

Four years goes quickly.

The position has a tax free US$450,730 salary and US$240,000 housing subsidy which is a total package of US$690,000 tax free. That is NZ$803,500 net which is equal to NZ$1.19 million gross. A lot better than being PM! I suspect she’s still like her old job back though.

Her new term will expire in April 2017.

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The trans-Tasman relationship

March 25th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

Seated across from each other in a New York restaurant they made for an unlikely couple.

On one side of the table was John Howard, one of Australia’s most successful prime ministers; darling of the political Right, bogeyman of the Left after taking the role as America’s deputy sheriff in the Pacific, and becoming the villain in the Tampa affair.

His lunch companion was Helen Clark, the socially liberal former New Zealand prime minister, a flag-flying Iraq war opponent, standard bearer for the Left-wing social democratic movement – and the woman who even now, four years on from losing the election, can spark visceral dislike among many on the Right.

Mates? Of course, says Howard, after they caught up recently for a chinwag in New York.

“We don’t just exchange Christmas cards.”

It reflects well on both Howard and Clark that they worked well together, despite being from different sides of the political spectrum.

 But historic and geographical ties have not always been enough to put the relationship on a friendly footing. Before Howard and Clark it was Lange and Hawke, Muldoon and Fraser. Tension, backstabbing, and suspicion reigned.

Fraser was an idiot, and Muldoon a bully. Hawke thought Lange was a flake, and he was right. There was also Bolger and Keating – Keating was just simply untrustworthy.

Gillard and Key, again polar opposites politically, have forged even stronger bonds than Clark and Howard.

Key says getting the personal dynamics in the relationship right is “critical”. With Gillard, it helps that their partners get on as well.

Once all the official business was out of the way during their two-day summit in Queenstown last month, Key and Gillard escaped to the exclusive Millbrook resort for dinner with partners Bronagh and Tim. They did the same in Melbourne last year.

“We have a no officials, casual dinner, have a drink together,” Key said.

A good relationship between leaders is no guarantee of success, but it is almost a precursor.

The big unknown is a possible Tony Abbott government – though he and Key have already struck up a good relationship, and speak to each other regularly.

Howard, meanwhile, is confident Abbot can only be good for New Zealand.

“He’s got a good start. His wife is a New Zealander.”

Heh, that may be useful.

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UNDP slated by its own board

January 16th, 2013 at 8:43 am by David Farrar

Michael Field at Stuff reports:

Former prime minister Helen Clark has been hit with a devastating critique of her United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in an official report saying much of its annual US$5.7 billion (NZ$6.8 billion) budget is only remotely connected to ending global poverty. The densely worded report by the UNDP’s executive board – Clark’s bosses since she became secretary-general in April 2009 – amounts to a stinging performance review. US media reports say she is leading a counter-attack claiming the study misses the point behind its work.  But the report paints a striking picture of a confused organisation seemingly unable to bring significant change to the world’s 1.3 billion poor people despite spending US$8.5 billion on fighting poverty between 2004 and 2011.

Anyone who knows the UN won’t be totally surprised by this critique. What is surprising is that it comes from the UNDP’s own executive board, which suggests major discontent internally.

A longer story is at Fox News, along with the full report and the management response.

Bottom line: after spending more than $8.5 billion on anti-poverty activities between 2004 and 2011—and just how much more is something of a mystery– UNDP has only “limited ability…to demonstrate whether its poverty reduction activities have contributed to any significant change in the lives of the people it is trying to help.”

Those devastating conclusions come in a densely worded, official “evaluation of UNDP contribution to poverty reduction,” which will be presented to the agency’s 36-nation supervisory board at its next meeting, which begins on January 28 in New York.

Among other things, the document casts significant doubt on the extent to which UNDP is actually living up to its declared identity as “the United Nations anti-poverty organization—a world partnership against poverty,” a claim the report says was made by UNDP’s then-chief—James Gustave Speth—in 1995.

Moreover, it lays a significant part of the blame for that failing on the way that UNDP has spread itself across a growing range of activities in the name of promoting “development” –from environmental projects to trade promotion and border management—that “dilute” its anti-poverty effort.

The normal problem of bureaucratic empire growing rather than focusing on actually achieving things.

I love the buzz words in the management response:

Towards the goal of transformational change in the context of poverty reduction, the UNDP theory of change represents a holistic, pragmatic and consistent approach that impacts the lives of people, particularly the most vulnerable. The theory of change presents an end-result of an empowered, resilient and equitable society. 

UNDP must be stuffed full of management consultants!

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Labour selections under Clark

November 26th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

John Crysler of the Department of Political Science of Carleton University in Canada has done a paper looking at the influence of party leaders on selections in two parties, with one of them being NZ Labour under Helen Clark.

It is a fascinating contrast to the current situation with David Shearer who couldn’t even stop conference voting to lower the threshold to challenge him – and just as importantly couldn’t get the party to agree to rules on future candidate selections.

Here’s what Crysler says about how it worked under Clark:

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the parliamentary party and the party organization were divided, the Labour Party leader had very little influence over candidate selection. In fact, some interviewees reported that in 1993, the party president and her allies deliberately influenced candidate selection to move the ideological orientation of caucus to the left and to replace the incumbent leader (which is how Clark came to the leadership in 1993). However, under Helen Clark’s leadership, during which time the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary wings were far more united, many interviewees reported that she did influence many electorate selections.

Clark was firmly in control. Now, no one is.

The institutional framework was such that all she had to do was communicate her preferences to the three head office representatives to have some influence. It is not clear how often these representatives took her advice, but many in the party believe it to have been frequent.

By the way this can not happen in Labour National. The head office gets zero say at all on selection meetings. Their role is just the traditional veto early on of totally unsuitable candidates.

According to the party’s constitution, there are 36 members of the moderating committee, only three of which are parliamentarians (the party leader, deputy leader, and someone elected by caucus). The rest represent the various elements of the party (party executives, sector councils representing various demographic groups and trade unions, and regional representatives). Despite (or perhaps because of) this disparate membership, Clark was widely reported to have taken a strong hand in the ranking process. Some interviewees reported that her influence stemmed from the respect the other committee members had for her judgment. One member of the moderating committee for three elections described Clark’s influence this away: Helen Clark’s opinion “was sought and always acted upon. If one slot didn’t reflect her preference, the next one would

I think the 2014 Labour Party list ranking will be fascinating. Think if Cunliffe is ranked No 3!

In Clark’s case, she also appears to have used her influence to augment the party’s electoral chances. For example, she tried to ensure that those demographic groups shown by Labour polling research to be likely Labour supporters be represented high on the party list.

Such as Rajen Prasad!

The conclusion is worth noting:

The experiences of Helen Clark and John Howard suggest that political media stardom is not necessary (nor, perhaps is it sufficient) for sustained political success in New Zealand and Australia. Instead, party leaders must be very competent media performers (preferably superior to their parliamentary colleagues) and media managers, and they must continually forge party unity through the drudgery of managing personalities and attending to party affairs so that their political messages are unsullied by unseemly divisions.

I think they are missing Helen!

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Clark’s photo

August 4th, 2012 at 11:47 am by David Farrar

NZ Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has been accused of misrepresenting her appearance in a United Nations website profile picture.

She was appointed Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in 2009.

Her profile page on the UN website carries a biography and high-resolution version of the picture.

John Creser, of Wellington, complained to the UN ethics office that Helen Clark had misrepresented her image on the website, saying it was wrong for her to use a computer-generated image, or avatar.

This reminds me of the 2002 or 2005 campaign when they used a similar photo on the billboards, and at a photo op of one going up a eight year old kid asked Helen “Is that you, when you were younger” which was priceless.

The joke was that if Helen tried to travel on a passport with her “official” photo, then she would be stopped at the border.



July 18th, 2012 at 8:59 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has reacted with shock that a business award she gave was to India’s top tobacco company.

Clark, who is now head of the United Nations Development Agency, presented India’s largest cigarette maker, ITC (formerly Indian Tobacco Company) with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) highest prize for improving the environment and removing poverty.

This drew an angry reaction from a leading Indian health advocate who termed it a travesty of justice.

In New York, UN watcher Inner City Press asked Clark to explain her award.

She replied with a written statement.

“I have worked tirelessly throughout my career to achieve a smoke free society in New Zealand, and was, thus, shocked to learn that a World Business Development Award, supported by UNDP, was given to a company which derives a substantial proportion of its profits from tobacco,” she said.

“Unfortunately the criteria for the World Business Development Awards did not exclude projects implemented by companies from certain sectors like tobacco. This has clearly been a serious oversight. “

Clark said UNDP would review its rules and regulations and ensure than an incident like it never happens.

“UNDP will not participate in these awards in the future unless companies like this are excluded,” Clark said.

Heh, I’d love to have seen the reaction when Helen found out. Rather unbelievable that you can present a major global prize to a company and not know what they do. A two minute check of their website or even Wikipedia would have found this out.

Anyway isn’t it a good thing a tobacco company is improving the environment and reducing poverty. While tobacco is a legal product (as it is in every country on earth), we will have tobacco companies – and isn’t it better they be encouraged to do good things such as reduce poverty and improve the environment?

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One index to rule them all

July 2nd, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Philip Booth blogs at the IEA:

The UNDP held a forum this week entitled: ‘Beyond GDP: Measuring the Future We Want’. What they actually mean, of course, is ‘measuring the future the UN wants’. The best way to ensure that we get the future we (the people) want is to have a free market, governed under the rule of law, with good protection for property rights (including, where appropriate, property rights for environmental goods). The seven billion people in the world all want a rather different future from each other. We can only achieve those different aspirations if we are free.

That is not to say that an argument cannot be made for the subsidisation of, for example, education and health care for the poor and for other forms of assistance through government. However, the success of the human race as a whole cannot and should not be measured by some kind of unified aggregate index.

Specifically, Helen Clark has proposed that the UN develop an index that combines: ‘Equity, dignity, happiness, sustainability’ arguing that ‘these are all fundamental to our lives but absent in the GDP.’ Just because something is fundamental to our lives does not mean that we need to measure it and combine it with other variables into a single index measure. Relationships are fundamental to our lives, but do we need to measure the success of the relationships of seven billion people and combine that measure with other data into some kind of aggregate index? Indeed, it is interesting that the best conditions for GDP growth in the history of the UK were created before we even started measuring GDP.

It is just about possible, nevertheless, to make a coherent case for measuring GDP. GDP does, at least, make a reasonably rigorous allowance for trade-offs that different people make in their everyday lives. If I give up £1 worth of apples to buy £1 worth of oranges and Mark Littlewood does the opposite, it can (within certain bounds of reasonableness) be said that we both have £1 of utility from the transaction. Austrian arguments can certainly be made regarding the undesirability of aggregating data and the fact that all transactions involve consumer surplus, but there is some reasonableness and consistency there.

We can also look at other statistics such as working hours, travel time, leisure time, carbon footprint (if it is thought necessary), and so on, to obtain a more comprehensive picture if we wish. However, once we try to produce an aggregate index of everything that is important, the index will lose all meaning. How can we trade off a small increase in reported happiness for somebody in Zambia for an extra £500 a year of national income per head in New Zealand? How can we trade off a tiny change in the Gini coefficient in Rwanda with a small change in the stability of marriages in India, and so on? These things have completely different values to different people.

Even trying to track one of these datasets is problematic. As the IEA’s monographs on happiness economics showed, well-being measures are suspect. There is no clear indication of a relationship between reported well-being and almost any other reasonable indicator of social progress.

Overall, we have the biggest folly imaginable: the body that some would desire to be a world government attempting to measure in a single index number everything that matters to everybody.

GDP does record economic activity only, and that is not everything – absolutely. But trying to come up with one master index will never work, because as the IEA states, we all value different things.

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Helen says we have enough

June 22nd, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Not PC blogs:

Happy with her own lot, our former Aunty Helen thinks “we,” i.e., everyone else, could do with less.

Attending the eco-gathering in Rio in her new guise as United Nations Development Programme head, Aunty Helen told media

frankly human development in the West — we don’t need more cars, more TVs, more whatever. Our needs are by and large satisfied, although the recession has put a lot of strains on that.

What a pity Helen never told us this, when she was PM. That she thought we all had enough.


The 37th and 38th PMs

January 5th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Sent to me by e-mail. Very well done.

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A non story

August 1st, 2011 at 9:04 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

Prime Minister John Key’s appearance on Late Show with David Letterman may have cost taxpayers up to $10,000.

Not really.

“I’ve been informed that Tourism New Zealand have a PR company. They’re on a retainer. They pay them every month, irrelevant of what I do.”

“Apparently, when the Letterman show was on, that was one of the projects they worked on. They would have made the payment whether I was there or not.”

So in fact no extra money was spent. Not that I would have had a problem if there had been – as a tourism promotion, $10,000 would have been ridiculously cheap.

In fact one 25th the cost of the $250,000 spent in 2002 on a Discovery documentary about NZ, starring Helen Clark. And that was in an election year.

I have no problem with either expenditure if they are genuinely deemed a worthwhile tourism investment.

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