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.

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Hilarious

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.

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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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A job for Chris

June 6th, 2011 at 1:53 pm by David Farrar

Belinda McCammon at Stuff reports:

Axed Labour MP Chris Carter looks set to take up a job with his old boss, Helen Clark, at the United Nations before the end of the year.

The independent MP has just returned from a three-week trip to New York where he said he had positive meetings over working at the UN. “I had some very interesting and productive interviews, so we’ll see.”

If Carter does take up a job at the UN, he will join former PM Clark, who is the administrator of the UN’s Development Programme.

Carter said nothing was confirmed. “Until it’s in the hand, it’s not in the bag.”

If the role is confirmed, Carter said it was likely he would leave to take up the job before the November 26 election.

However his departure would not cause a by-election as it is within the six-month threshold.

Who says the taxpayer doesn’t do enough to help people find jobs. Three weeks in New York is what anyone can get. Must have been some very extended job interviews.

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Clark on Wikileaks

December 27th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young at the NZ Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark believes the effort the United States has put into improving its relationship with New Zealand in the past few years has been damaged in the eyes of ordinary New Zealanders because the WikiLeaks cables showed “disrespect” for New Zealand’s independent foreign policy.

That is a typical Clark view of reality. Most would say that the cables have in fact showed Clark’s claim to have an independent foreign policy to be a platitude, as Clark sent troops to Iraq, in order to help Fonterra.

She said the ones authored in particular by former ambassador Charles Swindells and deputy chief of mission David Burnett were “distinctly unpleasant about New Zealand and about the Government, really quite disrespectful, if I can put it that way”.

I’d forgotten how much Clark tended to project herself as being the same as the Government and indeed even the country. So when she says the cables were unpleasant about New Zealand, she means unpleasant about her.

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Clark denies milk for blood

December 22nd, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has angrily denied a claim in a United States diplomatic cable that the previous Labour-led Government sent New Zealand non-combat engineers to Iraq so that dairy company Fonterra could secure a United Nations contract.

She described the claim as preposterous.

So why did Helen send tropps to Iraq, if it were not to help Fonterra?

Mr Goff yesterday said the allegation was ridiculous.

“No such trade-off was ever suggested and if it ever had been, it would have been rejected out-of-hand. We do not trade putting the lives of our military personnel at risk for commercial deals. It is a completely false claim.”

What is interesting is that Michael Cullen has not denied that he did talk about the risk to Fonterra.

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Milk for blood

December 20th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Critics of the Iraq war claimed it was about oil for blood – that the motives for the US sending troops and spilling blood, was to gain control of Iraq’s oil. This of course was leftish paranoia – the US has gained no control of any oil, and the cost of the war has been massively more, than any oil revenue could match.

But Wikileaks has revealed that one country which did send troops to Iraq, qas motivated by commercial factors. Yes, Helen Clark sent in troops to Iraq (something Labour hopes that people forget), and the reason was to help Fonterra.

So there was no oil for blood by the US, but Helen Clark was willing to trade blood for milk.

I look forward to Labour talking about their principled foreign policy.

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Key is not campaigning to have Helen made Secretary-General

October 28th, 2010 at 5:54 pm by David Farrar

NZPA report:

Mr Key was today on his way to Vietnam, where he will attend the East Asia Summit in Hanoi, but his bilateral meetings with world leaders outside the summit will draw most attention, one of those with Mr Ban.

The two were likely to discuss a possible bid by former prime minister Helen Clark for the secretary-general role when Mr Ban’s term ended in 2015.

Miss Clark heads the UN Development Programme.

Climate change, New Zealand’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council and the Pacific Islands Forum, to be held in Auckland next year, would also be discussed.

I can only imagine that NZPA’s reporter interviewed themselves. I can’t imagine there is any way John Key will be chatting to Mr Ban about how to make Helen his successor for four reasons.

  1. First of all Ban is still in his first term in the job and has yet to gain re-appointment to a second term. There is no way you talk to someone not yet reappointed about their possible successor.
  2. Secondly his first term ends at the end of 2011 and his second term would end at the end of 2016 – so no idea where 2015 comes from. Clark’s term ends in 2013 incidentally. Anyway you don’t talk job succession six years before there is a vacancy.
  3. Helen does not speak French, and that is an unofficial requirement for the job.
  4. Also NZ belongs to the Western Europe and Others regional grouping. The job is rotated amongst the regions and the next region due is the Eastern European group.

So Helen will not be the next UN Secretary-General, and media who say she might be do not understand the UN system. She is from the wrong region (not fixable) and does not speak French (she could learn if she thought she had a chance).Also there will probably not be a vacancy until 2017.

Further, it is my personal view she does not have the skills and experience necessary to do the job. I think she was qualified to be UNDP Administrator, but Secretary-General is a very different ball game.

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Herald praises Goff

September 10th, 2010 at 11:55 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Hats off to the Labour Party leader, Phil Goff. In suggesting that New Zealanders should start talking about our country becoming a republic, he has gone where influential sitting politicians have feared to tread.

Most, including the current Prime Minister, talk about the inevitability of a republic but are unwilling to do anything to create it.

Others, such as former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen, wait until they have retired from politics to voice similar sentiments. Such passivity has dampened the prospect of debate.

I agree.  It has been frustrating that previous Leaders such as Helen Clark refused to openly engage on the merits of becoming a republic. Instead she did republicanism by stealth – changing individual aspects (such as the Privy Council) one by one, without actually engaging the public in a debate on republicanism.

I don’t want a republic by stealth. I want a republic that New Zealanders vote for, as a better way forward. For that debate to happen, senior political leaders like Phil Goff need to engage on the issue.

Yet this is an issue that, given the absence of stridency on both sides, will have to be galvanised by political leaders.

Mr Goff has acknowledged as much in stating emphatically that a republic would be the “making of New Zealand as a country”. If he has his way, that notion will have seeped into the national consciousness by the end of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

But we should not wait until then.

Matthew Hooton also writes in the NBR today on a republic:

One day, though, Queen Elizabeth II’s reign will come to an end, the Prince of Wales will immediately become King Charles III of New Zealand, and we’ll panic and rush reform and get it wrong.

(That’s if he calls himself “King Charles III”.  Apparently he’s keen on being “King George VII”.  Go figure.)

The Queen has carried out her duties with impeccable integrity, never once having been known to interfere in New Zealand’s affairs, even privately, and in effect making us a de facto republic throughout her reign.

In contrast, King Charles (or is it George?), is an eco-extremist, advocate for neo-Roman architecture and devotee of quack medicine and cannot be so relied upon to operate as a responsible constitutional monarch.

Plus he talks to plants.

Heh, Matthew does not hold back.

We’re in the bizarre situation where all important New Zealand leaders, once out of office, apparently become advocates for constitutional reform but no one dares put a hand up when they could actually do something as an incumbent.

Exactly. And Phil Goff has an opportunity to say that if he becomes PM, he will push for having a public debate and vote on constitutional reform.

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Still not contrite

June 20th, 2010 at 8:57 am by David Farrar

Phil Goff sent Chris Carter home, hoping he would come back to Parliament contrite for his spending. But as the SST reports, he is anything but:

Goff said Carter, MP for Te Atatu, had failed to express contrition and forced him to apologise unreservedly. …

Carter said: “We could argue the rights and wrongs of whether I’ve done anything wrong. The only personal items were two bunches of flowers that a staff member sent on their card, and all ministerial travel was signed off.”

Once again, he is arguing he did nothing wrong. Also overlooks the flowers were to his own partner.

He said the apology was given “because you have to think about what is good for the Labour Party”.

In other words, he didn’t mean it. He did it to help Labour, not because he accepts any errors of judgement.

Carter was embarrassed again last week when it was revealed he promised exclusive interviews to both TV3 and TV One. “I guess I just wanted to be nice. It’s called PR, that’s what politicians do.”

No, there is another word for that, one you can’t use in the House.

So last week Carter was at least pretending to be contrite. Now he has emerged to talk to the media and once again declare he has done nothing wrong and only apologised to help Labour. So who is advising him?

Chris Carter last night broke his silence, saying he was returning to parliament, having taken advice from the party’s former head, Helen Clark.

This really makes Goff look a man not in charge of his own party.

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:

But Carter’s meltdown this week surely finishes him. It’s not the card misuse that will kill him, it’s his clear inability to admit he’s done anything wrong.

As we see above.

His tiresome claim that he was being targeted because he was gay was absurd when of the four Labour MPs Phil Goff promoted, three were gay.

They were promoted on merit – their sexuality had nothing to do with it.

Yep.

Carter’s actions this week was politically unforgivable. Goff had his perfect story.

The errant credit card behaviour was under Helen Clark’s watch, not his. It was a golden opportunity for Goff to act tough; discipline the three transgressors and stamp his authority on his caucus. …

But Carter’s actions completely destroyed Goff’s strategy. Understandably Goff hit the roof and banished Carter to home detention to reflect on his indulgence. But the damage was done.

Instead of Goff looking like a leader in charge and his party being able to move on from the scandal we have a party still being rocked by their own indiscipline.

Will Goff now demote Carter to the backbenches? Surely after the SST story, he has no choice? Or is Clark still protecting Carter from afar?

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Clark: NZ deeply racist

May 30th, 2010 at 4:01 pm by David Farrar

The SST reports Sir Ian McKellen’s interview where he reveals Helen Clark told him that NZ was deeply racist.

For example, I met Helen Clark while I was in Wellington. I was invited to her official residence, and waved in by a lone policeman who didn’t even check who I was, then I had a barbecue with her. I congratulated her on the public’s enlightened attitudes towards racial issues, but she disagreed. She said to me that New Zealand was really a very racist country , and she was determined to do everything she could as prime minister to change that.

First I could comment with bemusement how Helen thought attacking critics of her law removing the right of Iwi to go to court by labelling them”haters and wreckers” changed things for the better.

But I am sure that McKennen is correct and Helen did and does think NZ is a deeply racist country. We saw this when she spoke out on the Police shooting of Steve Wallace as being to do with racist attitudes. The fact the officer who had to fire the gun was also Maori was an inconvenient fact.

So in one sense, Clark’s view of New Zealand as deeply racist is no surprise. It would be interesting to ask her successor as Labour Leader whether or not he agrees with his former boss that New Zealand is a very racist country, and what does he plan to do to change it.

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Jevan Goulter vs Labour

April 20th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil has blogged a summary of a 24 page story in Investigate, with a large number of allegations by a Jevan Goulter against various Labour MPs and others.

These are not anonymous allegations – Goulter is making them himself under his name. However that does not mean they are overly reliable, and are the gospel. In fact Ian Wishart himself concludes the article by saying:

As for the abuse of trust, did Labour abuse its trust in looking after a troubled 14 year old badly, or did Jevan Goulter abuse the trust of a political party who’d taken him under their wing?

At several points through the article, Wishart reveals that Goulter’s story is incorrect or exaggerated, and my personal take is that there is a lot of bragging there. It does not mean everything he has said is false, but I would caution people not to assume everything he has said is true.

Also in one section he says:

As for Phil Goff I probably had more to do with his daughter, who worked for a Government agency when Labour was in. Her name is Samantha. She was just stunning, she was beautiful when I met her, she was really hot. And I was like, ‘Piss off, you’re not his daughter?’ And she was, so we used to go out and have dinner and lunch quite a bit. Phil was a, I think he was a bit of a nobody then.

Now Phil Goff does have a daughter whom, umm could be seen to fit that description. However her name is not Samantha. If Jevan really was going out for meals with someone “quite a bit”, you think he would correctly remember their name. So again, does not help the credibility.

He makes allegations of sexual harassment against Tim Barnett. And some time later his partner (Mika) asked Barnett to pay $25,000 as compensation for Javen’s mental health. To my mind that is close to blackmail

Barnett makes the reasonable point that as a prominent gay MP pushing the boundaries of social legislation he was careful, like Caesar’s wife, to be above reproach, and not to be alone with people in situations that could be misconstrued.

There are no witnesses to the allegations so it is a case of he said vs she said. As someone who worked in Parliament for eight years, I got to hear a lot of gossip about a lot of MPs. You get to know which ones screw around and are sleazy. I don’t recall at the time any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour from Tim Barnett, and to the contrary he seemed very committed to his partner, Ramon. Without witnesses, I do not regard the allegations as credible. There are other MPs I would be more sceptical of.

Another allegation I find lacking in credibility is this:

INVESTIGATE: Michael Cullen?

JEVAN: I know he smoked it at the annual – I think it was the Christchurch Labour conference with Annette, but I don’t think Annette had it. I couldn’t be honest and say I saw her smoke it.

INVESTIGATE: But you did see him?

JEVAN: He had it in his hand, yes. I just remember him having it, it was passed to him by one of the young Labours.

This is in reference to cannabis use. It is quite possible Dr Cullen, like many NZers, has used cannabis at some stage. However to think the Deputy Prime Minister would openly smoke cannabis at a labour party conference – and in front of dozens of Young Labour activists is frankly incredible. I just don’t think it happened, and if that did not happen, I doubt some of the other allegations about cannabis use.

Not everything can be dismissed though. It seems very clear that some Labour Party MPs did lie about whether or not they knew Javen. The most blatant fib came from Lianne Dalziel, who confessed it online:

And yet…within five minutes of making the call to Dalziel’s office, Investigate received a phone call from Jevan, “You’ve just rung Lianne? She’s just sending me a Facebook chat apologising for denying that she knew me”.

This is what Dalziel said to Goulter:
“I owe you an apology. Ian Wishart has just contacted me and I’m afraid I said I didn’t remember you. I feel so guilty. All I’ve said, I told him you were a Facebook friend, so I knew ‘about’ you.

I hope this doesn’t affect what he is writing about you.”

Considering Lianne lost her ministerial job for not telling the truth, this doesn’t help her credibility.

The person who comes out of this looking very wise and sensible is Jacinda Ardern:

Young Labour were always very angry towards me, they didn’t like how I got to do what I wanted. Jacinda Ardern, who’s now an MP, she was my biggest hater….

But then I’m getting drunk and Jacinda comes over and rips the glass of wine out of my hand, ‘You can’t drink in here, you’re only 15!’

‘Yeah I can drink in here, it’s a private function, you’re not my mum, piss off’, and I got really verbal with her, I really didn’t like her.

So I walked over to Helen and I said,‘Jacinda’s just said I’m not allowed to drink. Am I allowed to drink or not?’ And Helen’s exact words were, ‘Of course you are, this is my house.’ I said, ‘I’m only 15’. And she said, ‘It’s my house’.

So I got my glass of wine and I started boozing up again. Jacinda just went off her nut. Now, Helen was drunk that night, in my view. Helen was drunk and she gets to the point when she’s drunk where people just take her away.

I think a number of Jacinda’s colleagues may rue that they were not as cautious around Jevan as she was. Jacinda’s actions look very prudent to me.

Incidentally I am also unconvinced of Helen Clark being drunk, and having to have people take her away. It’s not exactly an image that fits the former Prime Minister.

So overall I find the allegations lacking in credibility in significant areas. Having said that though, I think there are some lessons for Labour in the perils of letting a 14 year old run riot through Parliament and the party. He should have been in school in Christchurch.

As I have said before, I am a big fan of encouraging young people to get involved in politics. But I never encourage school age people to get significantly involved. Your school years should be a time of fun and learning, plus one often lacks the maturity to cope with “adult politics”.

That is not a universal rule. One friend of mine got involved at age 15 or 16 and went on to become a highly valued parliamentary and ministerial staffer. [UPDATE: Said staffer has e-mailed to say they are not highly valued but in fact under paid and over worked :-)]

But I also recall the 1993 election night when I allowed a 14 year old Young National to attend the election night HQ function, as a “results chalkie”. There was of course an open and free bar and I failed to supervise properly with the end result being the poor girl vomiting up in the boardroom, and then collapsing unconscious on the floor as she had never drunk alcohol before. I had to decide whether or not to take her to A&E or home, and had to deliver her still unconscious to her parents, who quite rightly were less than impressed. I visited the next day to check she was fine, and the parents were blaming her more than they were holding me responsible, but in the end I was the one responsible as the adult and still feel some remorse about it to this day.  Similarly, I suspect some Labour MPs are regretting allowing Jevan to spend so much time at Parliament, at functions at Premier House and the like.

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Superb Cartoon

January 2nd, 2010 at 4:15 pm by David Farrar

Spot on cartoon by Guy Body in the Herald.

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