Garner picks Ardern over King

September 27th, 2015 at 8:16 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes at Stuff:

They need to now promote Jacinda Arden who last week appeared in the unprompted preferred PM rankings.

She should replace current deputy, Annette King.

King is strong, popular and performs, and my sources tell me there are some who want her to stay as number 2.

But Labour needs to excite the public and signal change and that’s where Ardern comes in.

As capable as King is, I don’t think they look like a party for the future with her as Deputy. If they retain her, it is almost a vote of no confidence in the rest of the caucus. However she is undeniably their best performing MP.

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Many NZ views on Corbyn

September 15th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Spinoff has views of the election of socialist Jeremy Corbyn as UK Labour Leader by a couple of dozen people. Some interesting comments:

Jim Anderton

Jeremy Corbyn represents a return to the politics of inclusion, egalitarianism and the principles of social and economic justice required of a fair society. The outrageous and ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor, with the resulting crisis of rising child poverty and social dislocation, is increasingly seen as simply unacceptable to more and more people throughout the world.

Hopefully Jeremy has better luck with his caucus than Jim did with his.

Jacinda Ardern

I wonder whether the question might be, what can the UK Labour Party learn from the NZ experience?

What can they learn? How to lose three elections in a row, and have your vote share drop every time!

James Shaw

I am unconvinced that the generally accepted wisdom – that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is unelectable – will hold out in reality. The Obama ’08 campaign, Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and others, show that many people are desperate for hope and change in the face of growing inequality and a sense that their own and their children’s futures are being sold down the river.

Oh dear. Not sure Obama would like the comparison to Syriza. And how is Syriza working out for Greece?

Helen Kelly

I think he will do very well and create new space for alternative policies including fiscal policies. I think the party will swing behind him and if they can organise those that recently joined, they will have a new invigorated movement come the next election.

Comrade Kelly predicts glorious triumph.


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Dim-Post on Ardern

August 28th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Danyl McL blogs:

But the context around Ardern’s surge in popularity complicates all of this a bit, I think. She isn’t popular because she’s an effective campaigner, or because she’s been breaking big stories or landing hits on the government in the House. She’s popular because she’s gotten glowing coverage in the women’s magazines over the last few months, appearing on the cover of Next magazine and being profiled in the Woman’s Weekly. I assume this is all being facilitated by Labour’s new comms director who is a former Woman’s Weekly editor and it is a level and type of coverage that any politician – even the Prime Minister – would envy.

Ardern’s popularity subsequent to that coverage tells us something very interesting about the power of that type of media, which is something that political nerds like me are usually oblivious to. But it’s also something that’s happening because she’s really pretty. And there’s something problematic about insisting politicians shouldn’t be judged on their looks when they do appear to be succeeding specifically because of their appearance.

My thoughts are three-fold:

  1. Graham Lowe’s comments were inappropriate as the phrase “a pretty little thing” is sexist and condescending
  2. However it is a fact that attractiveness is a factor in political success. There have been peer-reviewed experiments backing this up. And it is not inappropriate to comment that attractiveness is a factor, especially when as Danyl points out that you are doing front page photo shoots for women’s magazine covers. And this doesn’t apply just to female politicians. Simon Bridges’ looks play a part in his success also, in my opinion.
  3. One can recognise attractiveness as a factor in political success, but it is silly and demeaning to suggest it is the only factor in their success.

What I’d genuinely like to hear is a feminist perspective on politicians elevating themselves through the celebrity/gossip media instead of traditional media platforms. People like Clark and Key have appeared in these magazines, obviously – but after they’ve risen to prominence. Ardern’s use of them to achieve prominence is a new phenomenon in New Zealand politics, I think, and worth talking about.

Matthew Hooton has also written in the print edition of NBR about how unprecedented it is for a non leader like Ardern to be at 4% Preferred Prime Minister, as it is an unprompted question. It means that one in 25 New Zealanders when asked who they want to be Prime Minister, name her without prompting. That is an extraordinary achievement, when you take into account she is only the 9th ranked Labour MP.

For myself I rate Ardern’s political skills, and will point out that in 2012 I predicted she will be Labour Leader and Prime Minister one day.

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Final boundaries – winners and losers

April 17th, 2014 at 12:52 pm by Jadis

Well the final boundaries are out.  There are some changes (as there always are) and a couple are quite significant.


Nikki Kaye, Auckland Central – Having won and held Auckland Central by less than a thousand votes in 08 and 11 Nikki will be overjoyed to see ALL of Grey Lynn move into Mount Albert.  Grey Lynn was Jacinda’s territory and I am pretty sure she owns a house there so she will now be living outside of the electorate that she says she will contest in this year’s election.  Nikki is probably sitting on a conservative majority of 2000 but it is useful to remember that with strategic voting and the like locally, and the high profile of the seat, that it will still be a hard race.

Nicky Wagner, Christchurch Central – I am really pleased for Nicky as she was gutted when the provisional boundaries came out as they made it a strong red seat. There must have been some fascinating discussion at the Commission table because it is a crazy shaped seat – how many legs does it have?  Nicky only won the seat by 47 votes so holding Christchurch Central was always going to be extremely tough.  Big chunks of red vote have been cut out of the electorate so Christchurch Central is back in play for both parties.  Still too close to call but certainly gone in Nats favour compared to the provisionals.

Tim MacIndoe, Hamilton West – Hamilton is unique as it is the only urban centre held by the Nats .  Similar boundaries to the provisionals means that by crossing the river MacIndoe has gained some strong blue areas in a high growth zone.  This seat should get stronger as more development occurs.  Tim’s majority may get as high as 5000-6000 this year.

Matt Doocey, Waimakariri – While there are no changes since the provisional Waimakariri is well and truly one of the most marginal seats in the country.  The electorate already had a big party vote in Nats favour but Clayton Cosgrove has been pretty popular there.  With Kate Wilkinson retiring Cosgrove would have been hoping to regain his seat but the boundaries haven’t been so helpful for him.  Wilkinson’s very thin majority is expected to climb just into four figures – not a big jump but it matters when a race is as tight as this one.


Ruth Dyson, Port Hills – Dyson is the biggest loser in this boundary review.  Her majority has been reversed with the Nats stronghold of Halswell moving into the seat, and Anderton’s old stomping ground of Sydenham moving into Christchurch Central.  Dyson will have a real battle to hold this, even with the Nats putting in a new candidate.  How winnable the seat is very much depends on the strength of the Nat candidate, but a good candidate could take the seat with a 2000 majority.  I’d be gutted if I was Dyson as Pete Hodgson (who did the boundaries for Labour) is a good mate of hers.  Perhaps this is Labour’s new (poor) strategy of retiring MPs.

Trevor Mallard, Hutt South – This is the surprise of the final boundaries.  Mallard has gained all of the  Western Hills (good Nat territory) and lost super red areas of Naenae and Rimutaka. Labour should have been able to stop this occurring but appear to have put up no fight.  Mallard should be furious with his party for failing to keep Hutt South a real red seat.  Why didn’t Hodgson fight hard for Mallard?  Was it a directive from on high?  Realistically, Mallard should hold the seat but he’ll be working hard for it and never should have been put in this position. I expect Mallard’s majority to be pegged down a few.

Sam Lotu-iiga, Maungakiekie – Labour were grumpy in 2008 when Sam took one of ‘their’ red seats in Maungakiekie, so they will no doubt be pleased that the blue booths have almost all been taken out of Maungakiekie.  Beaumont would be silly to think her win is a foregone conclusion as Sam will throw everything into his beloved electorate and is able to cross party divides for electorate support.  This seat is too close to call.  Another true marginal.

Cunliffe and Labour – Labour have racked up few gains, and have taken significant hits in Christchurch, the Hutt Valley, Hamilton and Auckland.  In Maungakiekie where Labour locals organised a large number of submissions they’ve made headway but they could have been similarly organised elsewhere and chose not to be. That poor organisation has put a number of Labour MPs at serious risk.  At this rate, Labour will have no provincial seats (Tamati, you are dreaming in Rotorua with another Nat stronghold (Te Puke) going into Rotorua) and are fighting from behind in the marginal seats. Where was the leadership from Cunliffe, Coatsworth, Barnett and the hierarchy to stop this happening?  Overall, a fail for Labour.




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The Care of Children Law Reform Bill debate

October 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The House debated last night Jacinda Ardern’s Care of Children Law Reform Bill. Despite the fact that most parties and MPs agree adoption laws need to be reformed, the House voted down the bill because it was so lightweight. As I blogged last May, it was basically a press release pretending to be a bill. It did nothing except ask the Law Commission to write a bill, and require the Minister of Justice to introduce it.

One Minister has said that the bill basically meant handing over most of the powers of Parliament and the Cabinet/Executive to Wayne Mapp! (Dr Mapp is a Law Commissioner).

The debate is in the draft Hansard transcript:

JACINDA ARDERN (Labour):  It makes sense that as Parliament we make use of the expertise of the Law Commission and the work that has already been done. Doing so would be an unusual practice, though, and I do acknowledge that. Embedding this process into a member’s bill is, however, a very, very unique approach, but, as I have said, given that this work is so overdue, anything that can help us speed up reform in this area surely must be welcomed.

The problem is that the bill doesn’t speed up reform. It would mean an actual law reform bill would not be considered by Parliament for two to three years.

SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel): The sponsor of this Care of Children Law Reform Bill, Jacinda Ardern, has nominated the Justice and Electoral Committee to scrutinise the bill should it pass this first reading. Therefore, as chairman of the committee, it falls to me to have a first go at what can only really be described as a very sloppy and lazy member’s bill by this member. …

But I am very aware that in contrast to this once-over-lightly bill that is being presented by Ms Ardern, the Green MP Kevin Hague has actually done a very significant and substantial piece of work and has a bill in the ballot on this very matter. His bill remains in the ballot. It is a hugely complex area. It is emotional and it has huge impacts on people’s lives. Just identifying the key policy issues is itself quite a task, but if Jacinda Ardern genuinely wants to make a real contribution to serious and meaningful law reform in this area, then she needs to put in a bit of serious work. This bill that she has put forward is basically little more than a legislative request for the Government to do something. It is not a solution; it is not even an attempt at a solution. 

Hague’s bill is 18,000 words of legislation which covers around a dozen different policy areas. It is a very serious piece of law reform, which if drawn from the ballot could see a new law in less than a year.

The first major flaw with this very sloppily drafted piece of legislation is that if passed, under this bill there would probably be no law change for at least 4 years or more. And let us just have a look at the likely timings. A select committee would take about 6 months or more to give this member’s bill consideration, given the looming summer break ahead of us. Then there would need to be a second and third reading—that would easily take a further 3 months or more. Then the Law Commission itself would need to draft its report, and that would take at least a year—probably longer. Then, of course, once it came back from the Law Commission under instruction, the Government bill would have to be first read and scheduled, and that could take up to another 12 months. Then there would be a select committee process; that would be another 6 months or more. Then there would be a second and a third reading, and at least another 3 months after that. So the problem is that the member sponsoring this bill is essentially trying to use her member’s bill to get the Law Commission to write her bill for her. That is sloppy. That is lazy. It is a lazy approach. It is politically lazy—it is politically lazy—and it is intellectually lazy.

It is an NCEA not achieved.

The second flaw with this bill is that it does not actually specify a single policy principle—not one. It does not identify a single policy principle. It actually gives no direction at all to the Law Commission as to what should be in the bill or what its scope should be. The bill does not even indicate whether it should discriminate against same-sex relationships. Every single detail is left to the Law Commission. It would effectively give the Law Commission a blank piece of paper. It is a constitutional affront to this House and to the members who sit in this House.

The lack of detail is also a killer.

It is very easy to write a nine-clause bill and trumpet that as some kind of solution, claiming that it would address a wide range of concerns about the outdated Adoption Act. But, sadly for the member sponsoring this bill, lawmaking is not that simple; nor is it that easy, and it absolutely should not be. If she wants to do some serious work, then she should put in the hard work. She should put some intellectual grunt into it and actually apply her not insubstantial brain to the matter at hand and actually proffer a solution—she should actually proffer a solution. So simply drafting this bill and asking someone else to do the job for you is a lazy way of ensuring that a prospective glittering political career falls in the dustbin. The National Government MPs will be opposing this bill. It is a sloppy, lazy piece of legislation, and it deserves to be consigned to the legislative rubbish bin.

A somewhat harsh speech, but not inaccurate. And it wasn’t just National voting against. The Greens did also:

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): The member Jacinda Ardern announced her intention to place this bill in the members’ ballot back in 2010. On that same day the Greens indicated that we did not support the approach that she proposed. We reiterated that position again when the bill was drawn from the ballot, and as a result we will be voting against the bill today.

Kevin Hague has blogged on why the Greens said they would vote against:

This Bill is very big and complex. I believe that the cross-Party approach that I set up was the best way of proceeding, and have been very pleased that work in the last Parliament led me to be able to continue work with Nikki Kaye (and many others outside Parliament) to produce this Bill. Along the way we are certain to have made some mistakes or policy decisions that others disagree with. That is why I have indicated that while the Bill sits in the ballot waiting to be drawn I am very keen to get feedback, so that we can refine it and advance important law reform that has the broadest possible support.

“But your Bill and Jacinda’s are very similar. Why are you voting against hers?” To understand that you need to look at the Bills – they’re not similar at all. Jacinda’s Bill does not change adoption law in any way. While my Bill is a substantive reform of adoption and surrogacy law, Jacinda’s instead gets the Minister of Justice to ask the Law Commission to update the advice they have already given on adoption reform and turn that into a bill. With the best will in the world, that process will take at least two or three years to arrive at the point we have already reached, and will use valuable Law Commission money and time to bring us to where we already stand! Even then the notional Bill would require a well-disposed government to do something with it. Well if we had one of those, it would pick up my Bill and advance it as a Government one. And hers doesn’t deal with surrogacy.

Labour withdrew from the cross-Party process on adoption in order to advance Jacinda’s approach – a choice of unilateralism over multilateralism. In my opinion it is a history of unilateralism from successive governments that has led to the situation we have now, where everyone agrees the existing law is obsolete and harmful, but nobody has done anything about it. I told Jacinda at the time, and then said publicly, repeatedly, that we opposed her move, because what we really need is an approach that will actually takes us forward, not a bill that won’t pass and is instead a distraction from the goal of having adoption law that actually works for families. It should be no surprise to anyone that our position hasn’t changed. Supporting Jacinda’s Bill would undermine the cross-Party work we have been doing for the last 3 years.

You can imagine Kevin’s annoyance. He’s been spending over a year working cross-party to do a serious piece of law reform, and Labour chooses to draft up a press release, call it a bill, and try and claim credit for doing something.

TUREI: We believe batting the issue back to the Law Commission is an abdication of the responsibility to act now. One of the reasons that this is important is that drafting a bill to give effect to the Law Commission’s recommendations requires political judgment calls to be made on many policy issues, not just legal or technical ones. It is Parliament that has the mandate to do this, not the Law Commission. Secondly, this bill incorporates another form of abdication of responsibility to a future Parliament. A future Parliament cannot be bound, of course—we know that well enough—by what we decide today, so there is no greater likelihood that the process will advance the cause of adoption reform any further than the Law Commission’s 2000 report did. More to the point, although it is inevitable that issues first raised by a particular Parliament will not be completed until a future one sometimes, this bill would effectively defer any action to a future Parliament. We need to take action now. Thirdly, the Law Commission already has a busy programme, and even under the very best of circumstances this bill will not result in an actual bill on adoption for us to debate for at least another 2 to 3 years. In other words this bill delays law reform further.

If the Ardern bill did proceed, it would mean that Parliament would have the perfect excuse to do nothing until the Law Commission reported back in three years or so.

There is no reason why a bill cannot be drafted now, and, indeed, one already has been, saving us those years. Back when the member first announced this bill colleagues from Labour and National had joined Green members in a cross-party approach addressing adoption reform. We still believe that this is the best way of pursuing the change, and, indeed, have continued to work with National and other parties in the House and community organisations to develop a bill.

Labour and Jacinda had a choice – continue with the cross-party work with adoption reform groups, or seek to do some cheap grandstanding. Sadly they chose the latter. You may not get headlines from the behind the scenes work – but you do get progress.

Hopefully Hague’s bill will be drawn out of the ballot in the near future, allowing real progress to be made on this issue. The Adoption Act is woefully out of date. Note also that this isn’t about same sex adoption. Louisa Wall’s Marriage bill has already changed the law to allow same sex married couples to adopt. Adoption law reform is about recognising that almost all adoptions today are open, not closed etc.

The fate of this bill is a good lesson to other MPs. Do the hard work up front. Parliament will not vote for a bill that contains no policy principles, no details and just asks someone else to write the actual bill that is needed.

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Now we know what the Greens mean by Green jobs!

April 12th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

Metiria Turei’s claim that Maori growing marijuana are developing entrepreneurial and horticultural skills has been slammed as “mind-blowingly ridiculous” by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

The Green Party co-leader made the comment on Maori TV’s Native Affairs programmethis week, but she has been cut down by Dunne, who branded the claim as “ridiculous” and “irresponsible in the extreme”.

In the show, Turei said growing the illegal drug helps develop “real skills” among Maori, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

This is what you have to look forward to if there is a change of government. I wonder if you will be able to apply for an entrepreneurial grant to help pay for your cannabis plantation?

He said her claims that growing cannabis could teach people much-needed skills, was akin to saying “a safe cracker is teaching his apprentice engineering skills”.

Peter Dunne is talking common sense on this. I actually support a change to our drug laws, but the last thing you want is MPs praising drug dealers as entrepreneurs.

However, Labour’s social development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said Turei’s comments highlighted the difficult situation many families find themselves in New Zealand.

Oh, Good God.

Incidentally the video clip used by TVNZ appears to be taken from the Whale Oil blog You Tube channel, without attribution!

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Why not inform people of whom is right?

March 4th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

It’s another case of she said, she said. Labour MP Jacinda Ardern was yesterday bemoaning record benefit numbers during National’s reign.

DPB, sickness and invalid beneficiary numbers were at the highest since records began in 1940, she said.

It didn’t take long for Social Development Minister Paula Bennett to respond with her own gloating statement.

The number of people on the DPB, unemployment and invalids benefits all decreased last year, she said. It seems statistics are everyone’s friend.

Rather than just report that both MPs are claiming different things, it would be nice if the media actually provided the full data and allowed people to decide for themselves.

I blogged yesterday that the numbers cited by the HoS and Ardern were over a year out of date. That’s not opinion – it is fact.

The excellent Stats Chat site also gives people the full data, in graph form. Sadly the number of people who read that site is far far less than those who read newspapers.

Lindsay Mitchell also has some useful fisking of Ardern’s claims.

Ironically Anthony Robins at The Standard is also unhappy with the article. Not for the misleading claims, but because a Labour MP is suggesting that it would be a good thing to have fewer people on welfare!

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I pledge $1,000

February 28th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Paul Easton at the Dom Post writes:

Just a few days after getting a promotion, Labour MP Chris Hipkins has received the chop from his leader David Shearer.

Mr Hipkins was shorn of his red locks this morning to raise money for a cancer charity.


David should have left it hard down. Then Chippie would look the part to be MP for Rimutaka :-)



Looking like a younger Trevor Mallard :-)

While the general consensus was positive, Mr Hipkins was not so sure when shown the results.

”Oh my goodness, it’s really short. What have I done?” he said.

Mr Shearer also had concerns.

”I just hope I can get the red hair off my suit,” he said.

Heh, he may need decontamination.

Mr Shearer revealed he had pledged to have one Labour MP a year shave their head for the cause, Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

He hoped to line up a woman MP for next year, he said.

”I had a word to Annette King last night, but she wasn’t too impressed.”

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, who watched on from the sidelines this morning, also seemed less than keen on the idea.

If Jacinda takes the place of Chris next year, I’m pledging $1,000 in advance to the cancer charity! :-)

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Goff smear fails

December 5th, 2012 at 6:48 pm by David Farrar

In Parliament today Phil Goff asked:

When he appointed Peter Kiely as director of the Pacific Forum Line in July 2009 was he aware that Mr Kiely was, from November 2008, listed under the Companies Register as a shareholder in a competing shipping company, Sofrana, and that he held those shares right through until 10 August 2012?

Was it appropriate for Mr Kiely to have been a shareholder in Sofrana and not disclose that information to his Minister or to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade when Mr Kiely was involved in giving advice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the sale of the Pacific Forum Line and when the preferred bidder was in fact the Sofrana shipping line?

But Kiely is not a shareholder. McCully says:

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has called allegations made by Phil Goff MP against former Pacific Forum Line director Peter Kiely “reckless, cowardly and wrong”.

“By attacking Mr Kiely without checking the facts Mr Goff has impugned the reputation of a highly professional individual without any justification.

“Central to Mr Goff’s allegation is that Mr Kiely held shares in shipping company Sofrana at the time PFL, of which he was a director, was considering an offer from Sofrana.

“Mr Kiely has never owned shares in Sofrana. The shares referred to by Mr Goff were held by Mr Kiely as a non-beneficial trustee for a Sofrana employee. Practising lawyers like Mr Kiely commonly hold shares for clients as non-beneficial trustee. If Mr Goff had asked he could have been told this.

Goff could have found this out by setting down a written question. He thought he had a gotcha, but failed.
Just a big as fail was in Q5:

JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: When was she first aware that the Transition to Work Grant had been used to pay for flights to Australia for job seekers who had an offer of employment?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development) : It was just after 1 p.m. yesterday that I was advised there might be cases where payment had been granted for flights to Australia. I am aware that there has been the odd request for airfares to Australia via correspondence to my office. I have been clear that my expectation is that they would not be paid. Transition to Work grants were introduced in 2007 under Labour. That year there were 16 cases where airfares were granted to Australia, and I have been informed that there have been six cases this year at a combined total cost of $4,600 approximately. I will be removing any ambiguity in the programme by a direction to the chief executive that will be tabled in this House.

And just for good measure:

Rt Hon John Key: Does the Minister find it unusual that a party that set up the fund and used it 16 times in the first year now finds in Opposition that it is opposed to its very own policy that it established?

Again, this could be avoided by good planning. Seek the information under written PQs and then you know whether your attack will backfire or not.

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Ardern on Homebrew

November 3rd, 2012 at 12:43 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil notes that Labour’s Welfare Spokesperson Jacinda Ardern tweeted:

I heart @homebrewcrew #NZMA

This is the band whom at the Music Awards said John Key was a cunt who should suck their dicks. They are a Labour favourite who plays at gigs to raise funds for Labour. They encourage people to chant “Fuck John Key” at concerts.

So I’m not surprised Jacinda is a fan. I mean how can you not be if you are a Labour MP. I wonder how they would like it if there was a band which had played lyrics about Helen Clark being a bitch, and encouraged people to chant “fuck Helen Clark” and called her a cunt. Somehow I suspect she would be outraged and complaining to somebody about it.

In a Stuff review it was noted:

Initially, the subject matter might be a bit hard to swallow for some audiences – songs about living on the benefit, being an alcoholic and taking deadly drugs like datura are placed prominently at the start of the album and could come across as flippantly celebratory.

So the lyrics celebrate taking drugs and being on the benefit – how appropriate for Labour’s welfare spokesperson.

But it would be nice to know specifically what part of the performance Jacinda was tweeting her approval of – telling John Key to suck dicks or celebrating being on welfare and drugs?

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Adoption law reform

October 14th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Green MP Kevin Hague has announced:

 Green MP Kevin Hague today unveiled a Bill to comprehensively overhaul adoption law and address related surrogacy issues, which will be entered in the next Members’ bill ballot.

“This Bill is the result of considerable work, and is a much more ambitious reform than is usually attempted through the Members’ bill process,” Kevin Hague said.

“The Law Commission reviewed adoption law and in 2000 recommended the consolidation of the legislation relating to parenting and care of children. The changes they recommended are what we have based my Members Bill on.

“We have also used previous Ministry of Justice advice, and more recently had assistance from other experts with an interest in these issues. I want to thank everyone for helping us get the Bill this far.

The current Act is almost 60 years old, and has almost no relevance to what is happening today. It is primarily based on “closed” adoptions and the vast majority of adoptions today are “open”.

The Member’s Bill places adoption in the Care of Children Act, as originally intended by the Law Commission, and makes the best interests of the child the fundamental principle underpinning the law. The Bill also:

  • Ensures that all adoptions will be “open” unless exceptional circumstances mean there is a need to extinguish links with the child’s biological parents. While this has become common practice, the current law does not provide for it at all.
  • Removes unnecessary restrictions on the kinds of people who may be considered to adopt, ensuring that adoptive parents can be selected from all the options, in the best interests of the child.
  • Acknowledges, but does not regulate whāngai arrangements, which are instead controlled by traditional Iwi practice.
  • Provides for the adoption of children conceived and born through altruistic surrogacy arrangements.

I very much agree that the focus should be on the best interests of the child, and arbitrary restrictions should not be in place to restrict an adoption which is best for the child.

“Drafting a Bill of this size means that I’m sure there are further improvements that can be made. I will continue to work with interested parties to fine-tune the Bill while it sits in the ballot waiting to be drawn.

Few bills get drawn in their first ballot, and it is indeed sensible to listen to feedback and improve them for future ballots.

GayNZ has written:

Labour’s Jacinda Ardern will put forward an amendment to her adoption bill at its upcoming first reading to immediately fix the basic discrimination in the current law, because the full overhaul her proposed legislation will lead to will take a long time.

The problem is you can not amend a bill at first reading. Standing orders do not allow for amendments to a bill to be considered at first reading. You can change a bill between members’s ballots before it is selected. You can have a select committee amend a bill, or you can amend a bill at the committee of the house stage. There is no provision to amend a bill at first reading.

Any MP can ask for leave to do something outside standing orders, but this requires not a single MP out of 121 to object, and have never known this to be granted for a first reading amendment that is substantive.

I blogged over four and a half months ago on the problems in Jacinda’s bill. It was resubmitted unchanged over three months later. The time for amendments was before resubmitting it. You simply can not amend a bill (without unanimous leave) at first reading. Now I’m not suggesting MPs should change their bills, just because I’ve criticised them. But the fact that Jacinda is now trying to amend her bill, indicates that many others share at least some of my concerns over her bill. Note that I believe we all want the same thing – a modern child-focused adoption law.

The challenge for an MP, is to not just write a bill, but to seek feedback on it from colleagues, from interested groups, from experts. You want to have it fit for purpose before it gets drawn from the ballot.

For those interested the Hague bill is here. I’m sure Kevin would welcome feedback on improvements to it (that are consistent with its aim).

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Tamihere on Labour front bench

October 7th, 2012 at 6:13 pm by David Farrar

John Tamihere on Q+A:

PAUL Yeah, but we’re now 2012, as I say. I mean, do you think David Shearer’s got to really reshuffle that front bench? I mean, you can’t honestly look at that front bench and think they’re performing well as an Opposition.

MR TAMIHERE That’s true, but he’s also got to look to 2014 for the list. 

PAUL It’s critical, because this week – you take this week. Bad week for the government. Should have been. More Dotcom coming left, right and centre at the Prime Minister.

 MR TAMIHERE You’ve got me. There’s no doubt—

 PAUL Wilkinson’s reversal on Mike Tyson.

 MR TAMIHERE Front bench is not firing.


 MR TAMIHERE Across the whole line, whether it’s health, welfare or education, and those are the biggies.  …

I’m surprised Tamihere named specific portfolios where he claimed Labour front benchers are not firing. That will not endear him to Maryan Street, Jacinda Ardern and Nanaia Mahuta.

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Who will win this match?

August 17th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A broadcast media rugby team will square off tomorrow against a parliamentary side in a fundraiser for St John Ambulance Service.

The media team includes former All Black Glen Osborne, former MP John Tamihere, TVNZ’s Scotty Morrison and Monty Betham and Nate Nauer from MAI FM. Radio Live’s Willie Jackson is team manager.

On the other side are MPs Shane Jones, Chester Borrows, Paul Goldsmith, Brendan Horan and Alfred Ngaro. Jacinda Ardern, Nikki Kaye and parliamentary rugby team adviser Winston Peters will provide the glamour.

Hmmn who will win – the team with a former All Black who played in 21 test matches, or the team with Jacinda and Nikki in it? :-)

Anyone know where the game is?

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Espiner on Ardern

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

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

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

All views and advice I stand by.

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

Ardern is like Clark in many respects.

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

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

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

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

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

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Handing over law making

May 29th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

As I blogged yesterday I am in support of modernising our adoption laws. They are literally a relic from the 1950s. But the law reform is not just about whether same sex couples should be able to adopt, but needs to deal with a wide range of adoption issues, guardianship issues and surrogacy issues.

A few people think this will lead to many gay couples getting to adopt children, ahead of “deserving” heterosexual couples. But I quote Andrew Geddis on this:

This law change will result in only an infinitesimal increase in the number of children who actually get raised by a same-sex couples because there are Fuck All “stranger” adoptions in New Zealand (less than 100 a year). And then a given same-sex couple only will be able to adopt a child if the birth mother chose them ahead of all other eligible couples. So if gay couples could join the pool of people eligible to adopt in this manner, the number of children who would be placed with them likely would be negligible

What this means is that the argument about whether kids being raised by same-sex couples is good/bad is pretty much irrelevant to this issue, because it ISN’T ABOUT MORE KIDS BEING RAISED BY SAME SEX COUPLES THAN THERE ARE AT THE MOMENT.

What this is about is like what we saw on TV3, where two lesbians have lived together for 19 years, and both have a biological child. however they can not make each other the adoptive parent of each child. So if one of them dies, one of the children could be left in limbo. The current law actually prevents the best interests of the child being paramount.

Media reported yesterday that National MP Nikki Kaye and Green MP Kevin Hague have been working for around 18 months on an adoption law reform bill. As I indicated, it is a hugely complex area, and just identifying the key policy issues is quite a task.

Now some in Labour have been saying that there is no need for a bill by Hague/Kaye, as Jacinda Ardern already has a bill in the members’ ballot. This prompted me to look more closely at the bill, and I’m afraid it is very seriously flawed. I have absolutely no doubt that Jacinda genuinely wants good law reform in this area, but the bill she has put forward is basically little more than a legislative request for the Government to do something. The bill, which is only slightly longer than a press release, essentially does the following:

  1. Requires the Minister for the Law Commission to ask the Law Commission to review the law relating to the care of children and update its September 2000 report on adoption
  2. Requires the Law Commission to report within 12 months a report, recommendations and draft legislation
  3. Requires the Minister of Justice to introduce the bill, as drafted by the Law Commission, without amendment within seven days

There are a significant number of semi-fatal flaws with this approach. The first is timing. Under the Ardern bill, there would probably be no law change for four or more years until after it has been selected from the ballot. The likely timings are:

  • 1st reading – 3 months after introduction
  • select committee – 6 months
  • 2nd and 3rd reading – 3 months
  • Law Commission report – 12 months
  • Govt Bill has first reading scheduled – up to 12 months
  • select committee – 6 months
  • 2nd and 3rd reading – 3 months

So even if the Ardern bill was drawn tomorrow, any actual law change would take four or more years, so maybe the law would be changed by 2017. The problem is that Jacinda is trying to use a bill, to get the Law Commission to write a bill. But Ardern’s bill itself would have to go through the full legislative process which would take probably 12 months. And I am being generous in suggesting it could take 12 months to pass. Many member’s bill have spent 18 months just awaiting their first reading!

Effectively what Ardern wants could be achieved by writing a letter to the Minister of Justice, and this would save one to two year’s time if the Minister agreed. However Ardern is trying to legislate to force the Minister to introduce a bill, even if they do not want to. But she has made a fatal error. She has legislated that such a bill must be introduced within 7 days of the Law Commission drafting it, but she has not said that the Government must schedule it for a first reading debate.  So if the Government did not want the bill to progress, it would simply place it at the bottom of the order paper – which they can do as it would be a Government bill. Even a minority Government would be able to prevent the bill from ever being voted on – something they can’t do with a private members’ bill that actually seeks a law change – rather than just ordering the Government to introduce a bill.

So to be very clear, even if a majority in Parliament favoured law reform, the process outlined in this bill would give the Government an effective veto. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where for example it is after the 2014 election and say Colin Craig or Winston Peters could demand that the price of their support is the bill not proceed, as their constituents do not like it. By making it a Government bill, you lose control of its timing.

So the biggest problem if Ardern’s bill would not actually see any law change for four or more years, and could in fact never be voted on if the Government did not want it to pass. But that is only one flaw.

The second flaw is that the Ardern bill doesn’t specify a single policy principle. Not one. It gives actually no direction to the Law Commission as to what should be in the bill, what its scope should be, or even that the bill should not discriminate against same sex relationships. Every single detail is left to the Law Commission. This is a blank piece of paper. Now one could say, well surely they would mainly repeat what they reported in September 2000. Well they might. But it is worth considering that I think every single member of the Law Commission is now different from 12 year ago. So there is no guarantee that what the Law Commission would deliver is what Ardern wants. It is the job of legislators to spell out the general policy principles they want a law to reflect.

The third flaw is that the Minister of Justice is required to introduce whatever the Law Commission drafts, without amendment. Putting aside the rather important constitutional issues of making the Law Commission able to bypass Cabinet, it means that if a first reading is scheduled the MPs have to vote on whatever the Law Commission drafted. It could not be amended unless it survives to select committee. Such a bill could include a provision that all babies named David have to be placed into the care of CYFS and the Minister of Justice would be forced to introduce it without amendment. Sure that is an unlikely example, but it is a horrific precedent to have draft laws bypass Ministerial and/or MP approval, and going straight to a vote. This gives huge powers to the unelected Law Commissioners.

This is obviously a very bad idea. The political process is about MPs and parties working together to ensure a bill is acceptable and has enough support to pass first reading. There are often intense negotiations before a bill is introduced into Parliament.  The Ardern Bill actually entirely removes MPs from the legislative equation until the Law Commission bill reaches select committee – if it even made it that far. And the probability that it would face massive changes at select committee is enhanced when MPs have had zero say in its drafting.

The fourth flaw, I touched on earlier. Rather than introduce a private members’ bill that actually outlines the desired law changes, it just instructs the Government to introduce a bill in probably two years time. By then making it a Government bill, it means Parliament loses control of when it gets voted on, as Government bills are debated at the discretion of the Government. So by failing to specify that the bill must be scheduled for first (and subsequent) reading/s at the top of the Government order paper, the bill is basically entirely ineffective.

So in summary the Ardern bill is not a helpful (while I am sure well motivated) step towards sensible adoption law reform for the following four reasons:

  1. It would probably delay any actual law reform for four or more years. By contrast a private members bill which actually specified the proposed reforms could be passed into law within a year or so.
  2. There are absolutely no policy principles in the bill (not even that the welfare of the child is paramount). It is a total blank piece of paper for the Law Commission.
  3. The bill locks MPs out of any involvement in the eventual draft government legislation prepared by the Law Commission, making it far less likely of gaining the necessary support.
  4. The private members bill requires the Government to introduce a Government bill, which will then only progress at the timetable decided by the Government – rather than as Parliament wishes. Under MMP the two are not the same thing.

It is very easy to write a nine clause bill and trumpet that as the “solution”, claiming it would “address a wide range of concerns about the outdated Adoption Act”. But alas law making is not that simple or easy. Either you convince the Government to make adoption law a Government priority, or you draft a private members bill to do it yourself.

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The Auckland Central race

November 30th, 2011 at 5:19 pm by David Farrar

I have blogged very little this year on the Auckland Central race. The reason why is I’ve got a lot of time for both the candidates. I would have rather they weren’t both competing for the same seat.

It is no secret that Nikki is one of my very close friends. I’ve known her since she was 18, and she is one of the most determined, and caring, people I know.

I also got to know Jacinda before the 2008 election, and like her a lot. She’s obviously one of the more capable Labour MPs, and a good person.

There’s been a huge media interest in their contest. They’ve had to contend with weekly opposing columns in the Herald Online, dinners with the Metro editor, profiles for the Listener, endless days being accompanied by journalists, the normal series of debates and public meetings and regular mentions in the Sunday papers. Few MPs who are not Ministers have had to endure the scrutiny the pair of them have.

Under such pressure it would be pretty easy for the race to get personal, or worse. But it didn’t. While they were both fierce competitors, I’m not aware of any situations where they really slagged each other off, derided the good intentions of the other or made it personal. They debated policy and issues instead. Now this is not to say that it was all love and roses. They’re competing for the same seat, and have very different viewpoints on most issues. It was a tough sometimes bruising  race. I recall seeing Jacinda at Wellington Koru Club and asking her if she was going to manage any time off between then (it was before the campaign) and the election. Her response was that if Nikki takes a day off, then she’ll do the same. The end result being I think they both worked seven day weeks for several months.

Unless specials do something very very very unusual, Nikki has retained the seat. I’ll be very interested to see how the votes were split when we get final results. The Greens got a massive 22% of the party vote. In 2008 only one third of them voted for the Labour candidate, while this time I suspect around two thirds did.

On the night Jacinda went around to Nikki’s celebration to concede, and she got a huge round of applause from the Nats gathered there. I am a huge believer that candidates should concede in person to the winner, and equally that they should get a good reception from the winning team. I recall going with Mark Blumsky in 2005 to concede to Marian Hobbs.It’s not something you ever enjoy doing, but it is a good thing to do.

I understand Nikki is still waiting for Judith’s concession from 2008 :-)

2014 is three years away. There will be a census in 2013, and new boundaries drawn up for the 2014 election. Until the boundaries are done it is impossible to be certain about how they will affect the seat. However I have a fair amount of experience with boundaries, and in my view Auckland Central is likely to lose some of its redder areas. Time will tell.

So my congrats go to both Nikki and Jacinda for their contest. That finally brings me to the name many have applied to the contest – the “battle of the babes”. Even now the election is over, Fairfax are still using the name for their video interviews with both candidates.

I am not exactly a campaigner for political correctness, but the point has come where that tagline should die a natural death. It is demeaning, as it makes it all about their attractiveness, rather than their political abilities.

For the avoidance of doubt, yes of course both Nikki and Jacinda are attractive young women. But, so what!

Did any media call the battle for Napier the “battle of the hunks” between Chris Tremain and Stuart Nash? No. They’ve only done it to the female candidates. It is sexist, and it should stop.

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Council removes illegal signs

October 1st, 2011 at 12:03 pm by David Farrar

The Auckland Council has been removing signs that do not comply with their bylaws. It seems Jacinda not only put her signs up too early, but they were twice as large as the maximum size allowed, so the Council has started to remove them.

This is the sign that was up at Western Park on Ponsonby Road. This is arguably the most high profile public site in Auckland Central.

And this is what is there now, a blank space.

Why does Labour keep having such a problem obeying laws and bylaws? They are not that complicated, especially a maximum size restriction.

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TV3 reports Ardern breaking the law

September 25th, 2011 at 11:47 am by David Farrar

TV3 report:

Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer says it is very disappointing the Labour Party’s Auckland Central candidate Jacinda Ardern has deliberately ignored official advice around election hoardings.

On Tuesday Auckland Council’s senior lawyer Wendy Brandon advised candidates that election signs are allowed up from 12.00am, Monday 26 September – two calendar months prior to the 26 November general election. Signs up around Auckland today breach the Electoral (Advertisements of a Specified Kind) Regulations 2005 bylaw.

“Like every other party, Labour was given very specific legal advice from the council but deliberately chose to breach the bylaw. It’s very disappointing and only reflects poorly on them.”

Just as I criticised the National candidate in Rangitikei, I do the same here. What is very disappointing is that the Auckland Council actually went out and proactively told all candidates that they are not allowed to stick up signs before Monday.  There is no chance this is a case of having made a mistake – it is a deliberate decision to ignore the law, in order to get the best spots.
Labour have a long long history of believing the law does not apply to them. They did it in 2005 with the pledge cards, they did it in 2008, they’ve been doing it during 2011 with their unauthorised pamphlets and now they are doing it with their billboards.
Cameron Brewer says people who are annoyed by signs up illegally today, or poorly placed given the Rugby World Cup, should report them to the council by phoning (09) 301-0101.
If a sign is illegally erected, can citizens remove it and hand it in to the Council I wonder? Anyway if you are in Auckland and see illegal signs up today (of any party), uphold the law and ring the Council. Plus feel free to take photos.
Whale has a photo of one of Jacinda’s illegal signs.
John Pagani said that right wing bloggers would be silent on the illegal signs put up by National’s Rangitikei candidate. He then acknowledged both Whale and I blogged on them. I wonder if John will remain silent on this flagrant breach by a Labour candidate.
In a second post by Whale, he also has photos of signs by Phil Goff, Trevor Mallard and David Cunliffe, all breaking the law by having them up early. Surely Pagani can’t overlook his own leader breaking the law.

No link

January 11th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Labour youth affairs spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said yesterday there was no link between youth rates and joblessness.

No link? I’m sorry Jacinda, but that is a grossly illiterate comment to make, economically. Are you really saying the cost of labour has absolutely no impact on whether said labour is hired?

This is like saying there is no link between the cost of cars and the numbers of cars people buy.

“The current youth unemployment rate is at similar levels to those reached in the recession of the early 1990s when youth rates [existed].”

But they key difference is that overall unemployment is far less than in the early 90s. For most age groups, it is only half what the peak was in 1991. It is only the under 20s which have reached the same peak.

This graph show the total level of employment (in 000s) for the two youngest age groups. Now do you really want to say there is no link, considering when it was youth rates were abolished?

Labour and Jacinda could argue that they would rather have say 110,000 young people earning $12.75 an hour than say 130,000 young people in work where some only earn say $9 an hour. That sort of trade off is what setting minimum wages tends to be all about.

But to claim there is no link at all between the cost of hiring a young worker, and the number who are in work, is just not possible.

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Goff on Tax

May 25th, 2010 at 3:46 pm by David Farrar

Some wonderful quotes from Hansard. First we have the General Debate of 24 Feb 1988:

From 1 April 1988 the rate of company tax will decrease from 48 percent to 28 percent, and that will create an environment in which enterprises can succeed—both New Zealand enterprises and those that are attracted from overseas. That, too, is the path to future sustainable growth.

So cutting the company tax rate to 28% in 1988 was the path to future sustainable growth, yet something he condemns today.

Then we have the Appropriation Bill (No 3) second reading on 10 November 1988:

Let us consider the Government’s track record. It has introduced a new taxation system that is closing off the loopholes that in the past made paying tax a voluntary exercise for many companies and some individuals. The top marginal tax rate was 66c in the dollar when the Government took office, but it is now half that level—33c in the dollar.

And reducing the top tax rate to 33% and closing off loopholes was also laudable according to Phil.

And finally the second reading of the Appropriation Bill (No 2) on 18 August 1988:

Taxation has gone from 48c and 30c in the dollar to 33c and 24c in the dollar. That reduction allows New Zealanders to keep more of their own money.

And an endorsement of dropping the top tax rate to 33% so NZers get to keep more of their own money.

Now to some degree all politicians will have made statements earlier in their careers, which they later change their mind on. However they tend to be fairly minor issues, not something as core as whether reducing the top tax rates is laudable or deplorable.  And these are not statements from when Phil was a Young Labour member, but as a Minister of the Crown.

Now in the budget debate the PM had a great time pointing out the massive hypocrisy in having the Opposition Leader condemn almost everything he had previously praised. And this is quite legitimate – it is not some sort of personal attack – it is highlighting changed policy positions. He then went on to talk about the budget itself.

Now Phil himself, and Annette, took Key’s speech in pretty good humour and were smiling at parts of it. They know that is what it is about. However the same can’t be said of some of the delicate wee flowers in his caucus who within seconds were whining on Twitter.

First Clare Curran complains:

Key starts his speech with a cheap shot. So Prime Ministerial!

That was in response to Key’s opening line that Shane Jones was really happy with Phil’s speech. Good God.

Then Clare complains further:

He’s a comedian. Does he take this country seriously! It’s embarrassing

So the PM is monstering you in the House pointing out (with considerable humour) that everything Phil Goff said is contradicted by what Phil previously said and your response is to complain he is being too funny.

But not just Clare. Iain Lees-Galloway joined in:

John Key thinks he’s on stage. What an embarrasment of a Prime Minister!

Personally I would be embarrassed to be tweeting such whines.

The trifecta was completed by Jacinda Ardern complaining:

hard to tell if this is a budget speech the PM is giving or a pep rally/stand up routine. yet to mention the actual budget.

I’m sorry guys, but it is such a bad look to be whining that your opponent’s leader is doing too good a job of winding his own troops up. Especially when your own leader’s speech was somewhere between awful and really awful (Goff generally has been much better in the house this year but his budget speech was just all over the place).

Finally Clare Curran declares:

Worst budget speech ever

People can watch the video and decide for themselves.

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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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Sunday News on Jacinda

March 8th, 2010 at 9:17 am by David Farrar

The Sunday News gushes over Jacinda Ardern:

Ardern is sleek and luminous today, despite running late after a morning spent hearing submissions on the Super City.

She says she’s flustered but it doesn’t show. Her classy tan-and-black dress is by Christchurch designer Carolyn Barker. Her make-up is flawless, her hair frizz-free. The overall impression is one of both energy and calm.

Sleek, luminous, classy, flawless, energy and calm. It sounds like an interview with Angelina Jolie :-)

Ardern’s single and has been devoted to Labour since before she could vote.

So it’s a little strange that she has been compared to former National MP Katherine Rich, who bowed out before the last election to spend more time with her family.

Ardern: “Someone said to me, `are you the new Katherine Rich?’ I said, `you know I am in Labour?”‘ She laughs.

I would have thought the more appropriate comparison is to a young Helen Clark.

“Helen [Clark] dedicated her entire life to what she did, in lots of ways. As long as I’m able to make a difference, I’d be willing to do that as well, I think.”

Like Helen, Jacinda plans a life in politics.

Good friend and fellow Labour MP Grant Robertson shared an office with Adern through the “extraordinarily stressful” 2005 election year, when they were both advisors to Clark.

He says Adern defies her age.

“I think she’s made a great beginning. I’d like to think Jacinda will be a cabinet minister in fairly short order.”

Labour are unlikely to be in Government until 2014 or even 2017+, but I have little doubt Jacinda will be a Minister in the next Labour Government – as will Grant.

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Labour selections

November 24th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s nominations for Auckland Central and four other seats it views as winnable opened on Friday as part of a strategy to get recognisable candidates on the ground early.

I may be wrong, but I can not recall any other time when a party has gone to candidate selection (for a seat not held) within a year of the election. Normally selections are late in the second year of a three year term. Sometimes earlier in the second year, but never heard of selection starting in the first year.

I’m speculating that Labour had a few nervous List MPs, and they didn’t want them fighting each other all year for seats, so they decided to minimise any in-fighting.

Ms Ardern has confirmed she is putting her name forward to be Labour’s candidate in 2011, meaning the high-profile race will start almost two years before the election.

Ms Kaye won the seat for National for the first time at the last election, and Labour is desperate to get it back. …

Ms Ardern, who is originally from Morrinsville, has recently moved to Auckland and said she was passionate about the city and enjoying life as an “apartment dweller”.

Jacinda was highly ranked by Labour in 2005, and is one of their more able MPs. As she said, she has just moved to Auckland, and in fact she is still officially the shadow MP for Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. I think her office is actually in Tauranga.

Ms Ardern has been able to avoid an internal party struggle for the nomination, with fellow list MP Phil Twyford deciding to go for Waitakere, currently held by National minister Paula Bennett and another of the seats Labour is holding early selection for.

You almost have to feel sorry for Twyford. He’s basically been shafted again (after the Tizard factor had him withdraw from Mt Albert). Jacinda had the numbers on the ground to win the looming selection battle, so Phil has (wisely) decided to concede. However as his office is in Auckland Central (in fact he set it up just two doors away from Nikki Kaye, the National Electorate MP) it is all going to be somewhat strange.

The Waitakere candidate has his office in St Marys Bays, and the Auckland Central candidate has her office in Tauranga. Aucklanders are less parochial than provincial seats, but may still find the carpet-bagging a factor.

Mr Twyford, the party’s Auckland Issues spokesman, said he believed Waitakere should be a Labour seat and its loss was a “temporary blip”.

I think Phil will do better if he doesn’t say things like that. It comes across as somewhat arrogant and a sense of entitlement to the seat. What I would have said is:

I believe that Labour’s values are the values of most Waitakere residents, and I am looking forward for the opportunity to contest and win the seat.

Talking of a temporary blip, suggests you think the voters made a horrible mistake, and that it will right itself given time.

Normally in Opposition, you hope to win seats back, and don’t expect to lose any more. But on current polling, Labour needs to worry about some of the 21 seats it still retains, as well as try and claw some back.

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Youth Unemployment

November 8th, 2009 at 2:34 pm by David Farrar

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern blogs her concern that the unemployment rate for under 20s has reached 25%. I share her concern.

I wonder if anyone else thinks that in hindsight maybe abolishing youth rates wasn’t the smartest move?

I know I only got some of my teenage employment because of youth rates. I started at $1.99 an hour.

The combination of ending youth rates and increasing the minimum wage to $12.50, has meant for some employers the cost of hiring teenagers has doubled.

Now when the economy was growing strongly, one could do these things without a big impact on youth employment. But this is the problem with so much of what Labour did – it was assumed businesses would always have money to burn.

The motivation behind increasing the minimum wage and abolishing youth rates was good. But as with most economic moves, there are almost always downsides to any initiative, and we are now seeing part of that.

The more expensive you force up the cost of labour, the less people in employment. Now that is not saying there should be no minimum wage, but a recognition that the more you increase it, the bigger the impact on jobs.


This is a graph of employment of both teenagers and 20 to 24 year olds. It is not seasonally adjusted so every December you see an increase due to holidays.

There has been a dramatic decrease in the number of jobs for under 20s, but relatively little for 20 to 24 year olds. From Sep 07 to Sep 09 the number of teenagers in employment fell 32,800 while for those aged 20 – 24, the fall was just 4,100.

Hence I think the abolishment of youth wages is a major factor. Otherwise you would expect the two age groups to be somewhat more aligned.

Incidentally the teenage unemployment rate has always been traditionally high. Only once in the HLFS history, has it been under 10% – in September 1987.

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Fisking Jacinda

September 30th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Hansard of the first reading of the VSM bill is now online. If I have the time, I want to respond to all the MPs who spoke out in favour of compulsory membership, but for now will just respond to Jacinda Ardern’s speech, as the version of history painted is now one I or my colleagues remember.

Jacinda said:

Unlike the member who is in charge of this bill, I can speak from some experience, having attended a university that looked at voluntary student union membership. I was at Waikato University in the 1990s. I was not a student politician—I want to make that clear—I was a student. I was an observer of what happened, and I voted in the election that eventually led to that university being the first in 70 years, I believe, to go voluntary. I inform members of this House that it was the first university to go back to universal membership, because it learnt that it was a disaster to move to a voluntary system.

Now Jacinda has one thing right. WSU was voluntary, and now is compulsory. But far from VSM being a disaster that students rejected, the return to compulsory membership happened due to the machinations of the then Vice-Chancellor – former British Labour MP Bryan Gould.

You see what Jacinda doesn’t tell you is that Waikato students voted to go voluntary in 1996 by 63% to 37% in a referendum . The supporters of compulsion tried to overturn that the following year with another referendum, which VSM also won easily.

Undeterred they tried again in 1999 in a referendum (triggered by the current law) and got thrashed. VSM won 78% of the vote, in a turnout of around 30%.

So what happened? In 2000 the University, headed by former British Labour MP Bryan Gould, scheduled a further referendum upon receiving a petition late in the year. They scheduled it for a short three day period at the beginning of study week for exams. And they only gave students one days notice of the vote. Their own staff advised against this, and said there should be two weeks notice.

Turnout fell from 30% to around 10%, and compulsion won on its fourth attempt in an election that Iran or Afghanistan would be proud of. I mean at least they get more than one days notice of a vote!

Jacinda’s claim that Waikato students rejected VSM, in fact reminds us of how flawed the referendum model is. Apart from the philosophical objections to having 51% being able to force 40% to join something, you can’t get a fair vote on most campuses. Even if your Labour mate the VC doesn’t schedule the vote to favour the forces of compulsion, you generally have the students association having 100 times the resources of those supporting VSM. More on that another day.

Anyway for those who want more info on what really happened at Waikato, a colleague of mine has put together a summary which is below:

One favourite myth of opponents of voluntary membership concerns the voluntary era at the Waikato Student Union (1998-2000) and the impact of three years of voluntary membership on the association. Labour MP Jacinda Ardern referred to WSU during her speech on the first reading of the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment bill last week. Let’s have a look at her claims.

But first some history and background.

Jacinda claims that Sir Roger’s bill follows previous voluntary membership bills from, in her order, Tony Steel, Donna Awatere-Huata, and then Michael Laws. She has the order wrong. Michael Laws introduced his members’ bill in 1994. It went to select committee in 1995 but lapsed in 1996. The Steel and Awatere-Huata bills were two separate members’ bills that were simultaneously drawn in May 1997. The Awatere-Huata bill did not receive a second reading. The Steel bill was passed in August 1998, but only after a compromise, promoted by some New Zealand First MPs, led to the introduction of referenda as the means to determine whether membership would be compulsory or voluntary.

WSU’s move to voluntary membership happened prior to the passage of the Steel bill. In September 1996, following two years of campaigning by voluntary supporters, WSU members voted 987 to 591 to make membership of WSU voluntary from 1 January 1998. In August 1997 compulsory supporters called another referendum in an attempt to overturn the 1996 decision. This was unsuccessful and students voted to confirm the introduction of voluntary membership. In 1999 there was another referendum, this one triggered by the Steel bill. This time 1984 students voted voluntary, 561 voted compulsory, from a total turnout of 3051. So much for NZUSA’s claim that students don’t want voluntary membership.

Voluntary membership at WSU ended in questionable circumstances. By 2000 WSU had a pro-compulsory president. His executive collected signatures for another referendum but waited until October and the final meeting of the academic year before presenting the petition to council. The referendum was held on 16-18 October. At the time, David Penney, a former president of APSU, the national polytechnic student association and then a university employee, pointed out the problems with the timing of the referendum saying,

the University will have less than one day to officially notify students of the vote, normal practice two weeks; maximum voter turnout may be undermined by the timing of the vote, which is recommended to take place on the first three days of study week when on-campus numbers are low; the integrity of the process may be undermined given the short lead-in time.

Jacinda also claimed that WSU’s return to compulsory membership “happened only after all of the services that (Waikato) students had benefitted from had collapsed.” According to Jacinda the collapsed “services” were foodbanks, emergency housing and a hardship fund. Trouble is WSU never provided any of these things. Waikato students paid (and still pay) separate levies for health and counseling, student buildings, and food, bars and the recreation centre. The university collected levies for these three areas and none of them were affected by voluntary membership.

WSU owned half a dozen rental properties but these weren’t emergency housing. Prior to 1996 they were, however, rented out at below market rates and often to executive members and their mates. In 1995 WSU attempted to justify the use of student money to buy houses by claiming that if they owned enough properties they could eventually force down Hamilton rental prices. I doubt if WSU members were aware they were funding a Waikato version of a Polish shipyard.

Jacinda’s in good company when it comes to making false claims about WSU. In 2000 Steve Maharey complained about the “million the voluntary purists at Waikato fiddled away”. However an examination of WSU’s balance sheets shows WSU’s equity during the three voluntary years fell by $4000; from $578,000 (1998) to $574,000 (2000). I hope Steve’s not using the same calculator at Massey.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at more of these myths.

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