Key on diplomacy

November 25th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting Q&A from Audrey Young with the PM on diplomacy. Some extracts:

Q. Which leader have you got to know a bit better on this trip?

A. Justin Trudeau. I’ve ended up talking to him, for some reason, I don’t know we’ve ended being in these break-out groups and talking to each other. He is extremely friendly and really personable and a thoroughly nice guy. In my heart of hearts I sort of almost didn’t want to strike up an immediate friendship because I was very good friends with [Trudeau’s predecessor] Stephen Harper and feel slightly disloyal. But I have a responsibility as Prime Minister to do my job and also anyway he is just a really nice guy.

Key’s developed good relationships with leaders on the left and right.

Q. What did you make of the Filipino people and why do you think the country hasn’t done better?

A. They are really lovely people and they are incredibly polite so they are very, very nice people and I feel quite tall there. I’m the Sam Whitelock of the Philippines.


Q. What do you think of Malaysia?

A. I like it. On the basis I am never going to be an ambassador so I am not pitching for a job but if they were sending me somewhere, I think as High Commissioner to Malaysia, there’d be a lot worse places to go than Malaysia. The food is great; it’s an interesting place; and I like the climate.

I’ve only ever been to Malaysia for conferences. Would be nice to properly look around one day.

Q. Obama and Turnbull both greatly admire you and it is pretty clear Chinese president Xi Jinping is a fan too. Is that just personally flattering or good for NZ in any way?

Hopefully both. In the end there is no point having stores of political capital unless they can be used for the benefit of the country. That’s where the benefit is. Xi Jinping, I think, but I wouldn’t to overstate things, but I reckon he genuinely does like me. In our bilateral, he was really engaging, really smiley, didn’t use his notes. That is highly unusual for a Chinese leader. He just talked about the issues, how he saw things going.

That is probably the key sign – when you are confident enough to just talk, rather than follow the script.

Obama, I think in a lot of ways we are just easy. A) I’ve been around the whole time he has been around. We speak English. In our system he’d probably be almost right of me. The Democrats are, on our basis, very similar politically to where [National] are. He’d be stronger on climate change, for instance, and maybe the odd issue but generally speaking, pretty right wing, relative to our system. It’s just that the Republicans are very far right.

Cue screams from some commenters here!

I always remember after the G20 [in Brisbane where New Zealand was a guest] I had some intervention [verbal contribution to the issue under discussion] and Cameron texted me and said ‘in all the G20s I’ve been to, that has been the best intervention I’ve heard.’ And Obama came up to me with Cameron afterwards and he said: ‘Ah, it’s a shame you’re not bigger. You’re fun to have around.’ Doesn’t mean they are going to invite me back when they host the G20 but it was kind of flattering.

Our small size can work for us though.  We’re not seen as big enough to threaten anyone!

Q. What is the secret to your success at international diplomacy?

A. Have your own style. The one thing that they like is I don’t read out the MFAT notes. I obviously use them to inform the kind of point I’m making and we have a serious point.

I remember one TV series which had two leaders meeting and they agreed to save time, they’d just pass each other their briefing notes :-)

Q. Are you meeting Merkel at COP21?

A. No, we are going to Berlin afterwards. She invited us back. She had such a great time in New Zealand. She loved New Zealand [when she visited before the Brisbane G20]. She came up to me at the G20 and said she had such a great time and she really loved all the nature stuff. She said so much of her time is spent in meetings inside. The Germans love nature anyway, I reckon as a general characterisation. Her staff said to me she got more coverage in Germany from releasing a kiwi [on Motutapu Is] than what she did at the G20.

Heh.John K


Pity being the PM’s Press Secretary

November 24th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting article from Audrey Young detailing a week in the media pool travelling with John Key. Covers the breaking of the news about Paris to Vietnam and APEC.

The parts that made me laugh was these:

Newstalk ZB’s Barry Soper gets a pic on his iPhone, and more: his request for Key to talk to ZB’s Leighton Smith is turned down by the press secretary. Soper texts Key personally and gets the okay immediately.


Afterwards, TV3 asks the press secretary if Key could do a down-the-barrel-of-the-camera piece for Story before he leaves the hotel. There’s no enthusiasm. The reporter texts Key who says yes immediately.

Poor press secretary. Their role is to play bad cop and try to keep the media requests manageable. But when the gallery all have the PM’s number and can just text him directly, well of course they do.

Young notes:

Most visits abroad, Key has two “stand-ups” a day worked into his schedule in which he is asked questions on domestic issues and those relevant to the place he is visiting.

He almost never declines to answer a question. He almost never gives a brief answer.

While it must make life challenging for his media team, I do like the fact he is so open to the media.  In a average week there may be seven or more press conferences or stand ups.

In the absence of any action or decision required by the Government, Key dispenses with being Prime Minister and becomes commentator, giving his opinion on anything and everything.

Which is generally fine, but he really should stop speculating on what the Reserve Bank may do!


The bathrobed PM

November 22nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A group of Australian journalists can perhaps understand why Barack Obama yesterday asked Malcolm Turnbull if Australians “talk to the New Zealanders”.

There aren’t many world leaders who’d be confident enough to walk through a crowded hotel lobby in a bathrobe.

But most world leaders are not John Key.

Key, who’s been in Manila for the annual APEC summit, was spotted by some Aussie journalists gadding through the lobby of the opulent Peninsula Hotel on Wednesday night, barefoot and clad in nothing else but a bathrobe.

I presume there were togs underneath!

“It takes a special breed of world leader who’s happy to walk across the crowded lobby of a five-star hotel in a terry-towelling bathrobe,” wrote an impressed political editor from The West Australian.

Asked about it by New Zealand journalists, Key initially tried to pin it on a case of mistaken identity.

“I don’t know what was going through Malcolm Turnbull’s mind,” he said.


Key commented that it wouldn’t be a world leader who’d do such a thing, rather a “junior world leader”.

He said he was on his way back from a swim in the pool.

Don’t see what the fuss was about.


The President of the Czech Senate

November 18th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

All these Europeans just look alike!

TVNZ reports:

“It’s all part of my global master plan to increase my sphere of influence in the world and make people believe I have so many more people under my control,” Mr Key quipped to reporters later.



The context not reported in the media

November 13th, 2015 at 6:58 pm by David Farrar

Pete Burdon blogs:

The comment John Key made in Parliament yesterday about rapists and child molesters has been taken out of context to make it sound worse than it was.

This post is not written to debate the rights or wrongs of the comment, but to point out what it actually meant in context. I was in the public gallery at the time.

The Prime Minister was asked what the Government was doing for the detainees. His response what that the best support was to get them back to NZ while awaiting their appeals. He added that it would take longer for some like rapists and murderers because he wanted to make sure that other New Zealanders on the same commercial flights as them were safe. That would take more time and could involve other options like chartering planes.

When this explanation was dismissed by opposition MPs, he said something like, “You can support the rapists and murderers, but I’m more concerned with the safety of other New Zealanders when they are coming home.”

In that context, it’s more understandable why he made the comment. He wasn’t talking about rapists and murderers generally, but only those who could potentially be a threat to other travellers. You would think that’s a sensible response, but judging by the response to his reasoning for the delays, Labour appeared to disagree with it. That led to his comment. This context has been left out of many media reports.

Hansard backs up this interpretation, if not the exact words:

Andrew Little: Which of his statements of earlier today is correct: his statement to Radio New Zealand that the New Zealand detainees are “free to leave” and “are staying there voluntarily” or his statement to reporters that the New Zealand detainees who wanted to leave face many weeks of delays in a remote detention centre before they can go anywhere?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start, I did not make the last statement. What I did point out was that it depends on the circumstances. In terms of an individual, there are a number of factors that have to be considered: firstly, as I pointed out this morning, whether the person has travel documentation, a passport; secondly, whether the person has a history of violent or criminal activity; thirdly—

Hon Annette King: You said it was easy.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it is not actually easy, because these people—some of them are rapists, some of them are child molesters, and some of them are murderers. These are the people whom the Labour Party is saying are more important to support than New Zealanders, who deserve protecting when they come back here.

Burdon is correct that the context is that Key was explaining that you just can’t out some of these people onto a commercial flight if they have a history of violent activity. Labour rubbished this, which is what Key responded to.

Later on he said:

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We spent a considerable portion of the one-on-one meeting that we had with Malcom Turnbull talking about this issue. Two Ministers have gone to Australia to talk to Minister Dutton about this issue. I have raised this issue with Prime Minister Abbott. There have been considerable conversations going on. When it comes to these people coming home to New Zealand, they are free to come home, and we will allow them to come home and we will ensure that they can come home as long as they have the travel documentation. They cannot go on a commercial aircraft if they are violent or if they have mental health issues. I have a responsibility to the New Zealanders here at home that they are looked after. What the Labour Party is saying is: “To hell with the rest of New Zealanders; these people should be put on a commercial aircraft and despatched to New Zealand.” Well, you back the rapists; I—[Interruption]

So Key was focusing on Labour saying he should just be able to magically wave a wand and fly every detainee back here tomorrow. Key pointed out why that is not possible for ones who have serious violent offending, and his comments were aimed at that.

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Fisher on the intelligence agencies

November 10th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A long and interesting piece by David Fisher on the intelligence agencies:

John Key has opened up the spy agencies to public scrutiny in a way which we have never seen in New Zealand.

We know more now about what they do and even how they do it.

We know how the two agencies are managed, in that the GCSB and NZSIS both have top-flight lawyers in charge.

There will always be those who say we don’t know enough. For those people, we now have improved oversight of the agencies. This also happened under the Prime Minister’s watch as minister in charge of the agencies.

The new Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn – another superb lawyer – has been a breath of the freshest air.

Mr Key has since stepped away from directly overseeing the agencies, which is a further liberation. It seems right that the most powerful weapons of state should sit with someone whose role is to objectively challenge his Cabinet colleagues.

Now, even at a ministerial level, the SIS and GCSB answer to a lawyer, this time Attorney General Chris Finlayson.

In terms of oversight and public disclosure, we are heading into an era unparalleled in our history. Citizens now have more ability to see and have explained the tasks done in their name. Again, it might not be enough but it is considerably more than we have had before.

I’m glad to see this recognition. If you go back 10 years, no PM would answer any question on the intelligence agencies. The oversight reports were few and extremely bland. It is vastly different to what we have today with both the Inspector-General and the two directors going into considerable detail (within reason) of what they do.

That’s where we have come to, three years after Mr Key had to admit Kim Dotcom and one of his co-accused had been illegally spied on by the GCSB. He also had to apologise – a concession which must have been galling.

That single event appears to be the point at which the Prime Minister stopped taking at face value the assurances given by the intelligence agencies, and began a programme for reformation which is huge in its scale and largely behind closed doors.

I think that was a catalyst, aided by the Snowden revelations. He sent in the Cabinet Secretary to review their compliance, and having found it lacking, then made her one director, and two deputy solictor-generals the other director and the Inspector-General. They are not just all lawyers, but all lawyers whose background is very focused on legal compliance.

But there have also been reports which paint a picture of the state of New Zealand’s intelligence services, past and present. None are individually explicit in their descriptions of how bad it was but the collective run of reports gives an impression of the intelligence community as an isolated part of government, lost to the public they were serving, changing purpose and shape under a cloak of secrecy.

There is a pattern which flows through these reports, whether it be NZSIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge’s investigation into the GCSB, or the Performance Improvement Framework reviews or the most recent Gwyn report. Every reviewer is insistent staff at these important and powerful agencies all had good intent, but that they were left operating in frameworks not quite right, or in some cases flat out wrong.

It is almost tragic the intelligence services sought out such eager and patriotic staff only to subject them to a bureaucratic acid trip.

Part of the problem I think is that the culture was too mixed in with the military, and the senior leadership all tended to be ex-military. Top military officers often have some very fine skills, but they are not necessarily all the skills you need to have an agency working correctly.

John Key’s response to a community which cultured problems and surprised him with embarrassment was to throw back the curtains, hire his own directors and to put serious lawyers in charge. There are those within horrified at their new reality, which includes the need to “inform the public of what we do and why it is so important”, as one recently disclosed report stated.

Accountability and transparency make the intelligence community one in which all New Zealanders have a stake, by simple virtue of it being more accessible.

John Key has made some mistakes in this area, such as personally requesting Ian Fletcher to apply. But I do think there hasn’t been enough focus on the massive changes he has introduced, and also how he personally has been far far more willing to talk on details of intelligence operations than any predecessor. There are some dangers with this, as you can’t go into detail on everything, and where you draw the line has consequences. But our level of transparency and independent review is far greater than in the past.

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Caption Contest

October 26th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Photo from NZ Herald.

Submit your captions below. As always, be funny not nasty.

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Watkins on Key

October 21st, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

Is Key too honest? It would be a bit rich to take him to task for that, given that honesty is an attribute we prize most highly in politicians. So the answer to that is yes and no. The Key we press gallery hacks see day to day is a politician through and through, someone who weighs up his answers, who knows his opponents’ weak points, and who understands the impact of his words. …

And then there is the other Key, the one who throws caution to the wind, jokes with a shock jock about his gay red shirt and horses around by pulling a waitress’ pony tail. That’s Key the anti-politician, the bloke who’s just like you and me, or someone we know at least. That connection with voters, still strong after nearly a decade, is National’s not so secret – and clearly most potent – weapon.

So Key the anti-politician will confess to Radio Hauraki that he stole. But Key the politician expands with the explanation that it was an apple off a neighbour’s tree.

My theft was milk bottle money and a chocolate bar!

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Only in NZ

October 16th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

John Key says he does wees in the shower and admits he has stolen stuff. However, he won’t say whether or not he’s “fed the chickens”.

The Prime Minister appeared on morning radio show Hauraki Breakfast this morning, playing a round of a game called, ‘Thank You For Your Honesty’.

In the regular segment, hosts Matt Heath, Jeremy Wells and Laura McGoldrick grill participants with a series of 10 silly, often rude, questions, which they then have to answer truthfully.

“Was the Virgin Mary really a virgin?” Wells asked Key. “No,” Key replied decisively.

In other questions, Key said he had never pashed a man, did not “trim his downstairs” and had never sent a “dick pic”. But he said had “done wees in the shower” and admitted he found Wendy Petrie attractive.

However Key refused to answer the rather rude question Wells put to him of whether he had “fed the chickens” in the last month.

“Jesus Christ, I’ve got to take the fifth,” he protested, saying he didn’t want to answer in case his wife sued him.

Only in New Zealand would the Prime Minister be asked a question like that on radio by Jeremy Wells!

I’ms somewhat surprised that the PM knew what the term means!


Key endorses Clark, not Rudd

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trans-Tasman on Key

September 25th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman writes:

What those who label Key as “Teflon John” or “Lucky John” can’t fathom is the leadership skills the PM brings to the job. These include an ability to communicate unmatched by previous PMs, and an unerring instinct connecting with the issues of the day, allied to a systemic cheerfulness. Key’s own personal chemistry has blunted the inherent rivalry visible in previous administrations where Ministers jostled for advancement. The result is a sense of teamwork between the PM and his senior Ministers unrivalled in NZ’s political history …

Key exploits the architecture of Govt, with cabinet committee agendas deeper and more challenging than in previous eras. Ministers who demonstrate they know what they are doing are given their head to do what needs to be done in their portfolios (witness Hekia Parata in Education). But then it is Key who delivers the surprises, as in the decision to raise benefits for the first time in 43 years. Some commentators say the Govt hasn’t done enough in reform, ignoring the welfare, education and social policy developments (which have totally de-fanged Labour), and dismissing the $40bn cost of the Christchurch rebuild as an inconsequential bagatelle. What may prove even more disconcerting to Key’s opponent is his determination to win a fourth term.

I’m going to do some posts next week looking at what reforms National has managed, that would appeal to centre-right people, but also what policies they have implemented that appeal more to centre-left.

People say Key operates from the centre, but this is not quite right. His overall policy programme is centrist, but he actually does do a fair amount of centre-right policies – it just he also does some stuff that usually you expect from a left Government. Overall by darting to the left on some issues, it allows him to advance policies on the right also.

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There is no joke writer

September 25th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Nelson Mail reports:

And so the question remains: Who writes this stuff?

Who is the unnamed man or woman that sits in Prime Minister John Key’s corner silently passing him zingers written on paper napkins under the table? This staffer (one imagines you could only pay someone to do this job) has collated an incredible trove of whimsy in Key’s seven years in power.

There has been that one about being eaten by members of Ngati Porou. The one about killer paedophile not being invited around to the Chilean president’s place for lunch.

Knowing the PM’s media and comms staffers, I can say with certainty that none of them write his jokes, or certainly not ones about being eaten by Tuhoe. In fact they probably are the onces wincing the hardest when he tells such a joke.

There was also the one, or was it the two, about having a gathering in Australia and not knowing which Prime Minister would show up.

Key told that one twice on Thursday.

These jokes have always been bad. But they are bad in the same way dad jokes are bad, or jokes told to audiences of business people are bad.

The former may cause a slight, uncomfortable cringe and no harm done. The latter will attempt to be edgy and often lame but will always be met with raucous laughter.

For some reason audiences full of business people are prone to raucous laughter no matter the subject matter. This is as it was in Nelson.

The prime minister has thrived on both these forms of humour. As he has evolved into a more comfortable political animal, his demeanour while telling these jokes has become more relaxed, more confident. They have become something of a signature of Key’s. If Key is not joking then you know something is wrong. Most of the time he is joking.

So the unnamed staffer should be given a pay rise out of the prime minister’s own pocket because bad jokes seem to have as much to do with brand Key as anything else.

Of course, that is unless Key writes this stuff himself.

Yep, he does.


Vance on Key on the global stage

September 22nd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance looks at John Key on the international stage. First an amusing tidbit:

A few years ago, Key was on an official trip to the tiny Pacific Island state of the Marshall Islands, and he had some down time. A local fisherman invited him out for some ocean fishing.

But Key was expecting a call from David Cameron, so he took a satellite phone out.

Just minutes before the scheduled call, he hooked a tuna. As he fought to bring the big fish on board, Cameron called – and was bemused by the noise in the background. Asking what it was, Key explained he was out fishing.

A bemused Cameron replied: “Oh, to be leader of a small Pacific island nation.”


“Obama tends to be pretty wonky. Key is less wonky than Obama but he can go there, so he has the vocabulary and the interests to dig deep into fiscal and social policy. Obama loves that level of discussion … I think Key is less that but he is a good reader of people – he is a very effective politician in that sense.”

Bower predicts Air Force One will touch down here before Obama’s term ends in 2016. “The White House has people looking at what countries he hasn’t been to…New Zealand is seen as a real friend. I think it is on his mind and if it is possible he really will.”

Key gained respect in Washington business and policy circles as defence and security ties with Wellington improved, Bower says. “Key has been fundamental in pushing that through. In Washington, he would get very high marks…he can talk about ISIS, China, South East Asia with a granularity – not all leaders have that capability.

For some reason some people think Key is not a detail person. He generally delegates to Ministers and doesn’t interfere, but he has a very detailed knowledge of what is happening in pretty much all areas.

In August, Key embarked on a round of speed-dialling to close the TPP deal. His charm alone was not enough to persuade other leaders to give ground on dairy tariffs in recent negotiations.  Canada, in particular, was immovable and the talks stalled.

If they were not on the verge of an election campaign, we may have got somewhere.

Outside of New Zealand, Australia is where Key has his biggest fans. Business leaders and conservative politicians respect his reforming agenda, Australian Financial Review journalist Luke Malpass says. “Raising GST in Australia is abominably difficult and he did it with barely a blink – and of course the big one is balancing the budget. “

He also has appeal for ordinary voters. “Australian politicians surround themselves with a phalanx of advisors, are very inaccessible and talk almost exclusively in soundbites. Key is quite a straight talker, he answers questions.”

As I said in my op ed, Key does multiple media stand ups a week, and many of his public functions also allow questions from the audience.  He is incredibly accessible.

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Australian Financial Review Op Ed

September 18th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

After new Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that he hoped to emulate the political style of John Key, the Australian Financial review asked me to do an opinion piece on how Key has been successful, in contrast to Abbott and others. It was published yesterday. You can read it here or it is embedded below.

DPF Oped

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Shaw complaint fails

September 16th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key broke no rules in deleting text messages, the guardian of the country’s public records says.

Chief Archivist Marilyn Little has published a review of Key’s record keeping. She began the probe in November after Key revealed he binned texts from Dirty Politics blogger Cameron Slater.

Little says Key received poor advice from officials. But his practice of routinely deleting messages for “security purposes” is  “pragmatic” and unlikely to break laws surrounding public records. 

She added: “The Prime Minister’s current approach does not indicate any wilful or negligent disposal of records without authority.”

Advice and support offered to Key from Archives NZ, Ministerial and Secretariat Services and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was “inadequate” and a section of the law detailing with recording keeping is “confusing.”

But Little did not directly address the destroyed messages between Key and Slater.

She recommends text messages to and from ministers in their “official capacity” should be treated as a public record. If it is “of short term value” then can be disposed of.

It was always farcical to suggest that a Minister must keep every text message they send or receive, and have them archived. Sure if you negotiate a free trade agreement by text message, then that should be a public record, but most texts will not be.

But if the contents need action or are of “long-term” value then it must be retained and transferred to support staff for archiving. 

Key told Little he received a large volume of messages and the “vast bulk” were administrative. “Occasionally I may ask officials for information which is then provided to me usually in the form of an email or briefing note – the content of which is retained for the public record. I do not use a private cellphone.”

Green party co-leader James Shaw asked for the review, questioning if Key was in breach of the Public Records Act.

Shaw did more than question it. He said:

“The text messages are a public record under s4 of the Public Records Act; and disposal of these texts messages is contrary to s18.

So he was wrong.

“The laws are there to protect our democracy.

“The National Government has been eroding our democracy and this needs to stop.

Oh God, the hysteria.

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Turnbull praises Key

September 15th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

After it was confirmed late last night that Malcolm Turnbull would be the new Prime Minister of Australia, John Key said something he could only have hoped was true.

“I am confident our close and critical relationship with Australia will continue unchecked with the change of Prime Minister.”

By the end of Turnbull’s first press conference as leader, Key could be genuinely confident. New Zealand had a leader whose style should be emulated, Turnbull was saying. You have to be able to bring people with you by respecting their intelligence in the way you explain things. “Let me point to just one international leader – John Key, for example”

Key had been able to achieve significant economic reforms by doing just that: “By explaining complex issues and then making the case for them.”

Key managed to win the 2011 election despite a policy of partial asset sales. That is because he spent a year making the case for them. They were never popular, but they were accepted – people understood why the Government was doing them – even if they disagreed.

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Standard author says All Blacks are a drain on rugby and not supported by working class

August 31st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Working class lawyer Micky Savage writes at The Standard:

Back then Rugby was king in New Zealand.  All Blacks were deities and were instantly recognisable.  Test matches were waited with anticipation for weeks in advance.  The whole country used to shut down while test matches were being played.  And provincial and club rugby was watched by huge numbers.

Now things are different.  More kids play soccer than Rugby.  The game is highly professionalised and commercialised and the All Blacks suck huge resources out of the game.

They suck resources? I’d suggest it is the money the All Blacks and Super teams make that allows the NZRFU to fund other levels of the game. But I’m sure Mr Savage knows best.

Club rugby, once the backbone of the game, is now nothing more than a talent spotting opportunity.  Provincial rugby is nothing more than Sky TV filler.  And All Black games can only be seen if you have large amounts of money to buy a ticket or can afford a Sky TV subscription.  Watching the All Blacks is no longer a working class pursuit and is more entertainment for the wealthy.

Thanks to ACT and other like minded MPs, working class fans of the All Blacks can watch the games at their local pubs.

Things have also changed for National.  Instead of keeping politics out of sport they are now happy to politicise the All Blacks on every possible occasion.  Yesterday’s announcement of the All Black team for this year’s world cup is a classic example.  Parliament was opened up at the request of the Rugby Union.  Ministers were there en masse seeking every opportunity to take selfies with All Blacks.  And John Key was obviously in his element.

Mr Savage overlooks that Labour MPs were there also, and in fact Andrew Little was invited to speak.

John Key’s treatment of the All Blacks is as cynical and calculating as Rob Muldoon’s treatment of the All Blacks in 1981.

Yes turning up to rugby games and events is much the same as the Springbok Tour.

And we live in a nation where urgent legislation can be passed so that at 5 am in the morning people can drink beer in pubs while watching rugby.  And pubs could be open continuously for 69 hours.

A law backed by all but six Labour MPs. And good on them for doing so.

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Hartcher on Abbott

August 20th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Peter Hartcher, the SMH Poitical Editor, writes:

There was no due process on gay marriage. Abbott did not consult his Cabinet, rode roughshod over the Liberal party room’s sensibilities, rushed to a Coalition room discussion, and led the party to confused non-decisions on future process. 

None of this mattered to Abbott. Why? Because all he wanted was to kill any prospect that same-sex marriage would come to a free vote on the floor of the Parliament. 

That done, to hell with the rest of it. That’s why, two days later, his Cabinet ministers were out in public arguing with each other on referendum versus plebiscites, George Brandis lecturing Scott Morrison, conducting government by Sky News. 

Did it seem odd that a Prime Minister would corral his party to block same-sex marriage, putting the Government on the opposite side of two-thirds of the electorate? 

It is odd for a Prime Minister who wants to win an election to wilfully alienate most of the country. 

But winning the election is a second-order issue for Abbott. His first priority is surviving long enough to even make it to election day.

The whole point of Abbott’s gay marriage gambit was to appease the conservative side of his caucus. 

He sees this as vital to his survival as leader. 

Remember that the February spill motion was moved by two of the party’s right-wing conservatives. 

The outcome on gay marriage this week may drive much of the public to despair, but it satisfies Abbott’s right and protects his flank. That’s the hard calculus that drove the process.

This means that the next spill effort against Abbott won’t come from the right. If it comes, it’ll have to be from the left of the Liberal caucus. 

The last thing the Liberal Party should do is drag this out until after the next election. Either allow a conscience vote in Parliament, or call a referendum before the next election.

When Abbott introduced John Key at a business lunch during that trans-Tasman bonding a year and a half ago, he quipped that he realised some of the Australians in the room would prefer John Key to be prime minister of Australia instead of himself. 

He got polite laughs but it was true.

People are voting with their feet. 

For the first time in 30 years, the relentless flow of Kiwis to settle in Australia has stopped. And started to flow the other way. 

“Good government” doesn’t have to be a joke.

I’ve not been in favour of joining NZ and Australia together, but John Key as Prime Minister of Australasia has a nice ring to it :-)

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The power of social media

August 16th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

John Key did a video on why he thinks we should change the flag, and rebutting some of the arguments against.

He didn’t do a media release. He didn’t do a speech on it. He merely stuck the video on his facebook page.

It’s had 489,000 direct views of the video, and 1.24 million people have seen the post as it has been shared by 6,206 people to their facebook followers.

That’s a bigger audience that either of the 6 pm TV news bulletins.

A great example of the power of social media. Not only have hundreds of thousands viewed it, but this is not a 30 second soundbite. Half a million people viewed a seven minute long video because they are interested in the issue.

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The Maori Language Month beatup

August 4th, 2015 at 1:05 pm by David Farrar


The SST had a front page lead about how the PM had reduced a young girl to tears because he had dismissed her idea of extending Maori Language Week to a Maori Language Month as boring.

The story was based on second hand testimony from another student (who seems to be an activist on Maori language issues) and had no verification from anyone at all.

Well I’ve been sent a copy of this article from a local newspaper, whose reporter was actually in the room! The key quote:

I was there, right in front covering the event for The Post Newspaper, and that’s not what I heard or was led to believe in any way,

The SST could have verified the claim with the journalist there. They decided not to, and smear the PM with an unsubstantiated story.

He also says:

When I read the headlines that Mr Key said “Maori Language Month was boring” I could not help but wonder if I had been to the same assembly.

And in case you think it is just the reporter,he spoke to a number of students who were there and they mostly agreed with the reporter that Key did not say what was claimed.

What this reporter has done is proper journalism. What the SST is not.

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Five migration changes announced by PM

July 26th, 2015 at 1:13 pm by David Farrar

The PM announced at the National Party conference five changes to migration policy. They are:

  1. Currently, skilled migrants with a job offer get 10 extra points if that job is outside Auckland, and those points count towards the 100 they require. From 1 November, they will treble that, and give them 30 extra points.
  2. Last year launched an Entrepreneur Work Visa, targeting migrants who offer high-level business experience, capital and international connections. Currently, people applying for this visa get 20 extra points if they set up a business outside Auckland, and that counts towards the 120 they require. From 1 November, we will double that to 40 extra points.
  3. From 1 November employers can find out faster whether New Zealanders are available to fill a particular vacancy, before they lodge a visa application with Immigration New Zealand by being able to contact Work and Income directly to check availability.
  4. The Government intends to provide a pathway to residence for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.
  5. Government will consider a new global impact visa targeted at young, highly-talented and successful technology entrepreneurs and start-up teams, who want to be based in New Zealand, employ talented Kiwis and reach across the globe.

All sounds sensible to me.

Talking of the conference I was disappointed there were so few protesters there. I think I recognised around half of them personally!

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PM on foreign ownership and houses

July 22nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has signalled the Government may tighten rules on foreigners buying houses if a new register shows a scale the public is unhappy with.

In his first day back at work since Labour released data showing a large proportion of house sales in Auckland in early 2015 were to buyers with Chinese sounding names, Key conceded that the public wanted to know the scale of foreign buying. …

“We’ve been a pretty pragmatic government. If we think we need to take steps to address an issue which we see coming of great concern, we’re prepared to look at it.”

Under proposed legislation the Government will begin to collect the residential tax status of buyers as a proxy for how many houses are being sold to foreigners.

So rather than judge off people’s surnames, the Government will collect much more reliable data. And this decision was announced months ago – so Labour’s stunt was an unnecessary own goal.

Key said information on buyers from markets from Britain and Australia would be “a bit polluted by New Zealanders who live over there”, whereas the “vast bulk” of buyers from mainland China were unlikely to be New Zealanders.

So this data won’t be perfect, but it will be reasonably robust.

Key said that he believed the scale of the issue would not be on the level which Labour appeared to suggest, but if it were he would consider it “a problem”, he told reporters.

“If you’re asking me if 30 per cent of all sales of residential property in New Zealand was to foreigners, would I think that’s much bigger than I expected and be a problem, I’d say ‘yes’.

“Because around New Zealand I’d be amazed if that was the case. Even in Auckland I’d be absolutely staggered if that was the case, but let’s wait and see the data.”

I’m looking forward to seeing the data.

He was dismissive of Labour’s research, based on personal examples.

“My next door neighbour’s Mark Ching. I look more Chinese than he does, but according to Labour, he’s a problem,” Key said.

“My son’s Max Tim Key, and he’s born in Singapore. If you saw that name on a piece of paper and I wasn’t prime minister, you’d assume he was Asian.”

I wonder what Labour’s Bayesian analysis says about whether someone named Key is Chinese?

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PM changes phones for security reasons

June 15th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

When most people find their missing phone, it’s followed by a vow not to lose it again.

Prime Minister John Key, on the other hand, quickly bins his.

Mr Key has revealed that he gets rid of his mobile phone every few months for security reasons.

Those precautions are prudent not paranoid, an expert in technology and security says, as phones can be successfully tampered with in only a few moments.

The Prime Minister’s admission follows revelations that other world leaders had their phones accessed, and that US President Barack Obama and others use strict security measures.

While Mr Key’s phone has special security measures on it, he does not assume his conversations are private.

“I kind of work on the principle that I will be [listened to] at some point,” Mr Key said on More FM yesterday.

“If I was having a conversation with my national security advisers … I would never have a mobile phone in the room I’m in … because you can use it as a listening device, whether it is on or not.”

Left behind or not, the phone will be replaced every few months.

“If I left it in a hotel room by mistake, which I have done on a few occasions, I would just throw it out [after getting it back],” Mr Key said.

Barry Brailey, chairman of the NZ Internet Task Force, a non-profit organisation that aims to improve the country’s cyber security, said that was prudent.

“There is commercially available spyware-type stuff for handsets. If you can get physical access to the handset you can probably install that in less than three minutes.”

We know there are people in the country that will hack communications of their political opponents, so this is no surprise. Let alone, any attempts by non NZers.


Key supports Lecretia’s choice

June 10th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Prime Minister says he would probably support a euthanasia law change of the type Lecretia Seales wanted. …

John Key said this morning MPs would have to treat any proposed euthanasia law as “a conscience issue” but it was inevitable the topic would re-emerge in Parliament.

“I personally would probably support legislation aimed in the way Lecretia wanted it,” Mr Key said on TV One’s Breakfast this morning.

He said everyone had a “slightly different view” on the possible wording or interpretation of euthanasia laws but he expected several MPs to propose bills and he did not believe the Government needed to put the topic on its agenda.

“It will eventually get debated again.”

It would be nice to have a Government bill, as that can get a law change considered quicker in most cases. However the advantage of a members’ bill is that they don’t have to jostle for position with other bills on the Government’s order paper. The disadvantage of a members’ bill is you have to wait for it to win in the ballot.

The last bill failed by just two votes at its first reading. And that is possibly because the MP in charge was not a great parliamentary tactician. I’ve yet to start counting votes in this Parliament, but I have looked at how MPs still here voted in 2003.

For – Cunliffe, Dyson, Goff, Key, McCully, Paraone, Peters, Turei, Williamson (9)

Against – Brownlee, Carter, Collins, Cosgrove, Dunne, King, Mahuta, Mallard, Mark, O’Connor, Parker, Smith, Tisch, English (14)

Based on public statements, Collins is in favour (subject to wording) and I suspect King and Mallard may be persuadable also.

But the key will be 98 MPs since 2003.

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Maggie vs Moonbeam!

June 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key went in to bat for his cat Moonbeam after Conservation Minister Maggie Barry’s call to put down stray cats and limit pet cats to one or two per household.

Ms Barry proposed the limit while launching a $11.2 million fund for kiwi conservation at the Zealandia bird sanctuary. She said the SPCA policy of neutering and releasing stray cats was “one of the most foolish and counterproductive techniques and practices I have ever heard”.

“I would like the SPCA to stop … because if you capture a cat, spay it and release it, often what happens is they find a little supermarket for cats, which are the bird sanctuaries.”

She said that instead, strays should be put down or rehomed as pets.

Mr Key was quick to knock back her proposals, saying they were her personal views, rather than the Government’s.

“Some people are going to have lots of cats and some people are going to have few.

The Government isn’t going to limit the number of cats people can own.”

He said he would nonetheless advise Moonbeam to steer clear of the SPCA if it did decide to go ahead with Ms Barry’s instructions.

When the PM says he’d want his cat to avoid the SPCA, if a Minister’s proposal is accepted, well that’s a pretty good sign it isn’t going anywhere!

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