Key on Auckland land

May 30th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey writes:

Prime Minister John Key has upped the ante in the Government’s battle with the Auckland Council to free up more land for housing, saying a new National Policy Statement in the next fortnight would direct Councils to release land as a matter of law.

Responding to Council concerns that it could not afford the NZ$17 billion infrastructure bill to provide the roads, public transport, water and sewage pipes to underpin that housing, Key said the Auckland Council may need to look at selling assets.

Key used his flagship post-Budget luncheon address to a Trans Tasman Business Council audience in Auckland to increase the political heat on the Council ahead of its decision on the Unitary Plan due on August 19, and to deflect some of the political heat building up on the Government around Auckland’s housing supply shortages.

Key described the Metropolitan Urban Limit put around Auckland in 1992 as an “utterly failed experiment” that increased land prices from NZ$100,000 per section to NZ$450,000 per section now.

Excellent. The two major parties agree that it is a failed experiment that should go.

The one person who doesn’t agree it seems is Phil Goff.

Imperator Fish on Labour

May 16th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Imperator Fish blogs:

October 2008

When the voters learn what we know about John Key – or what we will soon know once Mike Williams returns from Melbourne – they will be appalled. We now know what the H in H-Fee stands for. It’s “Hasta la vista, baby!”

July 2009

The honeymoon is finally over. John Key is an empty vessel, a man without any convictions, a rich prick who will say anything to be elected. We are in the midst of a global financial crisis, but let’s focus on issues of character and integrity, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by all that other stuff.

August 2011

The honeymoon is finally over. There is a mood of change in the air. The public are falling out of love with John Key. Everywhere I go people tell me they think John Key is an untrustworthy unprincipled swine. His lies are finally coming back to haunt him. This could be the turning point!

January 2013

The honeymoon is finally, finally over. People are finally seeing John Key for what he is – an entitled member of the 1%. We need to double down on our strategy of relentlessly attacking the Prime Minister at every opportunity. If we absolutely must mention jobs, the economy or housing, let’s do so in a way that frames John Key as being uncaring and in the pay of big business. We can’t afford for our ideas to stand on their own merits.

A pretty good summary of Labour for the first few years.

May 2016

This Panama Papers business is alarming, but it’s also the opportunity we’ve all been waiting for. John Key is super wealthy, and we don’t like him, so it stands to reason that he must be up to his neck in all of this. Quick, type his name into the database! Nothing? No, there must be some mistake. Try again. Again, damn you! Well, not to worry. He must use a different Panamanian law firm. He’s still a smug rich prick, and that’s what counts. That’s the message we need to ensure the voters take out of this.

And a summary of their current strategy.

Imperator Fish looks forward:

September 2021

The economy is in a downwards spiral, the world dairy market has collapsed, and global warming and a series of natural disasters have devastated the country. But politically I feel as if we have turned a corner. People are finally focusing on how out of touch John Key is. We just need to drive the message home. Dig up everything you can on the guy. Do we know anyone who knew him at school? Did he steal anyone’s lunch money? Did he ever get a detention? Could there be some connection between John Key and Bernie Madoff that we haven’t yet uncovered? Let’s leave no stone unturned this time, guys. Let’s give our leader some powerful ammunition. She needs something to throw at Key during Question Time today.

April 2027

Our new leader really got some blows in during Question Time today. I’ve not seen any of our 23 leaders since Helen Clark land so many punches. He had Key floundering when he asked about Key’s association with the guy who knew a guy who knew a guy who got done for tax evasion back in the 1980s. I reckon we might just have picked up a few votes today from all the people who follow Parliamentary proceedings, or at least the three of them who aren’t fiercely partisan in their party loyalties.

Heh. May this prediction come true.

February 2044

If Prime Minister Key has a weak spot, it’s his lack of integrity and his fundamental dishonesty. That’s where we need to focus our attentions.

His father John was just the same.

Double heh.

Trans-Tasman on Labour and Key

May 10th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman sums it up nicely:

Usually it has been Labour, going back to then party president Mike Williams’ infamous 2007 “H Fee” Sydney trip, which has persistently taken the view Key is a crook and if they keep digging for long enough they will find something on him.

Ten years is a long time to run the same strategy when it isn’t working but, after apparently ditching it earlier in the year, Labour is back with a vengeance

Hopefully Labour will ignore this and continue on with their ten year strategy and make it a 20 year strategy.

Is John Key looking for a new job?

May 5th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Key has joined Linked In.

People normally do this as a way to get their CV out there to future employers. So if the PM looking for a new job as he is going to retire at the end of the year? Maybe beating Labour for a 4th time is not longer challenging enough!

The Antipodes email

April 29th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

John Key’s personal lawyer cited a conversation with the Prime Minister when lobbying a Minister about a potential crackdown on the lucrative foreign trust industry.

Ken Whitney, the executive director of boutique trust specialist Antipodes, wrote to then-Minister for Revenue Todd McClay on December 3, 2014, over concerns Inland Revenue were sizing up the sector.

“We are concerned that there appears to be a sudden change of view by the IRD in respect of their previous support for the industry. I have spoken to the Prime Minister about this and he advised that the Government has no plans to change the status of the foreign trust regime,” Mr Whitney wrote in an email.

“The PM asked me to contact you to arrange a meeting at your convenience with a small group of industry leaders who are keen to engage to explain how the regime works and the benefits to NZ of an industry which has been painstakingly built up over the last 25 years or so.” …

Mr Whitney denied any conflict of interest between his role working for John Key and lobbying the government, or any preferential treatment from Ministers.

“As you can imagine, naturally, I do speak to the PM from time to time on personal business. So I just used the opportunity to bring it up, to inquire – and who we should we talk to. And his response was ‘Minister McClay,'” he told the Herald.

Mr Key said there was nothing unusual or inappropriate about Mr Whitney raising the issue with him or referring to the discussion with the Prime Minister in his letter to Mr McClay.

“No, because that happens all the time. There’s nothing unusual about it. People ask me about particular issues. I don’t live in a vacuum. I do what is absolutely the correct thing to do, which is send them off to the minister. There’s nothing I wouldn’t have done on a million of other occasions which was to direct them to the minister and let the ministers get on to do their work.”

Mr Key said his talk with Mr Whitney followed a story which said Inland Revenue was changing its approach to foreign trusts – a report Key said was inaccurate.

“There was a story in the Herald, he asked me about it, I said to go and see the minister. After that I never had any involvement. I didn’t even know what he’d done. I just knew there weren’t any changes as far as I knew.”

The Prime Minister’s Office stressed he was not involved in any subsequent discussion about reviewing the foreign trust industry.

While the substance of the story might be trivial (PM referred his lawyer to the appropriate Minister), the perception is pretty horrible. It gives the opposition an avenue to tie the PM in.

I think this makes it more likely there will be law or policy changes, as the Government won’t want to be seen to be doing nothing.

Having said that it is still far from obvious to me that there is anything wrong on the NZ side. NZ shares all information on trusts with other countries so long as we have a tax agreement with them. The problem is a few countries like Panama have chosen not to have one.

Mallard defames Key

April 14th, 2016 at 11:08 am by David Farrar

Whale Oil has reported that Trevor Mallard dmeared and defamed John Key yesterday on Twitter.

Mallard has since deleted the tweet, which basically said John Key is involved in tax evasion.

Now tax evasion is a crime, a serious crime. You often go to prison for tax evasion. So Mallard accused the Prime Minister of being a criminal. This is highly defamatory (and why the actual tweet is not being republished).

Labour are obsessed with smearing John Key. They’re been trying to do it since 2008 when their party president tried to dig up dirt around the H Fee, only to have it explode in their face.  They never stop though.

They hate that John Key is wealthy and successful. Even worse than being wealthy, is the fact he didn’t inherit it. He grew up in a state house and became a multi-millionaire. If it was inherited wealth then they could paint him as a Tory, but instead they keep trying to suggest he must have been dodgy or broke the law because he is wealthy. Some in Labour seem to think becoming wealthy is a bad thing, and only bad people manage to do it.

Now what makes this worse is Trevor Mallard is an Assistant Speaker of the House of Representatives. He is Labour’s nominee to be Speaker. His behaviour is incompatible with being an officer of the House. Smearing and defaming the Prime Minister on Twitter (and during question time) does not make people think you can preside fairly over the House.

Mallard needs to decide – does he want to be Assistant Speaker, or does he want to be Labour’s Attack Dog? You can’t be both.

As for Mallard’s smear. Well they’ve been trying the same line for almost ten years now and it hasn’t worked. You think they would come up with a new strategy, but it seems they can’t.

Little reveals he has no investments!

April 12th, 2016 at 5:18 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has tabled his tax records in Parliament, but failed to convince Prime Minister John Key to follow suit.

Mr Little said the Prime Minister should make a full disclosure to back his statements that all of his tax affairs were above board.

He sought leave during Question Time this afternoon to table his tax forms for the last five years.

The records covered Mr Little’s time as chief executive of the EPMU, where his income rose to $178,000, and his first three years in Parliament.

After tabling the documents, Labour MPs yelled across the House: “Show us yours, John.”

Silly puerile people.

They just want Key to reveal his finances, so they can campaign against him as being a rich prick. They hate his success.

I suspect Key’s tax return would show he pays more in tax than the entire Labour caucus. But that wouldn’t be hard.

Mr Key said he would not release his records, and reiterated that any rumours that he held assets in foreign trusts were false.

He also shot back, saying that Mr Little should be tabling his CV instead, “because he will be out looking for another job soon” – a reference to Mr Little and Labour’s poor poll results.

Just desperate stuff from Labour.

The register of pecuniary interests, published today, confirmed that all of Mr Key’s investments remained in a blind trust, the Aldgate Trust. He was also a beneficiary of the Key family trust.

The register also revealed, however, that Mr Key’s lawyer was the head of a company which specialised in foreign trusts – an embarrassing disclosure in the middle of the Panama Papers debate.

Shock horror – law firms do trusts. Stuff tries to make it a scandal:

Prime Minister John Key has declared a financial link to a company specialising in foreign trusts.

The latest register of MPs pecuniary interests listed the Antipodes Trust Group Limited as a debtor in Key’s entry. The register was released on Tuesday.

On its website, the Antipodes Trust calls itself a specialist provider of trustee and associated services for foreign trusts using New Zealand as their jurisdiction of choice.

I’ve seen a tweet that the short-term deposit is simply from the sale of an apartment in London. As anyone knows when you sell a property it goes into your lawyer’s trust account and they then pay it out to you. So the big scandal is that Key sold an apartment!!

But hey I hope Labour keeps this up, rather than focusing on the economy, jobs, hospitals and schools. I am sure they can drop even lower than 28% if they try.

UPDATE: Felix Marwich has a statement from the PMs Office. The deposit is even more mundane – it is a payment in advance of costs and the money is invested in a NZ trading bank. Yawn.

UPDATE2: As far as I can tell Little has not in fact released his tax returns – merely his wage and salary information. See them at Stuff. They specifically say they exclude income from investments. So what he has released is meaningless – just a schedule of his salary and PAYE.

Now I don’t think Little needs to or should release any information. But when he is trying to take the moral high ground by claiming he has released his tax returns – well the simple fact is he has not. If Key released what Little released, all he would be releasing is his salary as PM and the PAYE on the salary.

Hehir on KDS

March 24th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Liam Hehir wrote:

The Godfather Part III is the weakest film in the series, but it is not wanting for great lines. One of my favourites is the admonition given by Michael Corleone that one should “never hate your enemies” because “it affects your judgment”.

This is one piece of advice that has a lot of salience for the present moment in New Zealand politics.

Those of us on the centre-Right have been appealing to the term “Key Derangement Syndrome” for some time now. For the uninitiated, this phrase describes angry and often vulgar displays of personal hatred for the prime minister. The phenomenon has come into sharp focus of late through spiteful reactions to flag referendum and burgeoning music career of the prime minister’s son.

There are very few people in politics I hate. No one in Labour. Never hated Clark.

I am not sure who appropriated the phrase for New Zealand use, but the concept is borrowed from American politics. “Bush Derangement Syndrome” was a neologism coined in 2003 by Charles Krauthammer, a political commentator and former psychiatrist. As described by Krauthammer the phrase referred to, “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency – nay – the very existence of George W. Bush”.

Defenders of the Bush presidency seem to be thin on the ground today, but it cannot be forgotten that he was decisively re-elected in 2004 despite searing criticisms by significant political and cultural figures.

In fact, it is generally considered that the over the top condemnations of the man in 2004 actually assisted his being returned to office. The shrill and emotional attacks did not resonate with ordinary voters and this created a backlash against Bush’s harshest critics.

And so it is with Key in New Zealand.

KDS is helpful to Key because MPs on the left spend so much of their time with people suffering from KDS, they think the way to victory is denigrating the PM, rather than convincing NZers they can manage the economy well.

What it does do, however, is reinforce the existing hostility that partisans have towards John Key as a National Party prime minister. It misleads them into thinking that their disillusionment is widely held. When that  misconception collides with reality (in an election, for example) disorientation and bewilderment is the natural human reaction.

Consider the various filters that political news goes through from the perspective of a partisan Left-winger.

In the first instance, reporters cover some story that opens the Government to some criticism. The overall validity or significance of the story may be open to question, but the reporter strives to be measured and balanced. There is no real derangement here.

Then the professional columnists, commentators and analysts chip in with their opinions on the news. By their very nature, these are more likely to be coloured by personal political preferences and bias. These views are often well articulated but commonly involve noticeable concentrations of sanctimony, sarcasm and smugness.

Then the story gets to the fringes. Bloggers and social media activists are not bound by the constraints of traditional opinion journalism. They what the commentators have written and dial it up to eleven. The sanctimony, sarcasm and smugness quotients fly right off the charts.

Sometimes things can go even further. Any semblance of reasoned critique go out the window and are replaced by an inchoate loathing. Examples include Kim Dotcom’s profanity laced chants prior to the last election and musicians writing songs about actually murdering the prime minister and objectifying his daughter.

Actually that song went way beyond objectifying.

If you’re a Left-leaning politician, journalist or news consumer who has been exposed to all that, your instinct is probably to take it as validation of your own view that the Government is deeply controversial.

Then a public poll comes out that shows National remaining at historic highs. How do you react? Do you re-evaluate your core assumptions or do you double down on your antipathy? Reason counsels the former but human nature points towards the latter.

This benefits John Key. Voters who do not hold strong views either way (which is most of them) are easily turned off by self-righteous and strident denunciation. A less hypercritical approach to opposition might lack passion, but it would probably be more effective.

Long may KDS continue!

Should have known the rules

March 23rd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key will not pay his “teapot tapes” settlement with public money, his office said, as Speaker David Carter confirmed today to do so would be against Parliamentary rules.

Mr Key said yesterday that it was “pragmatic” to pay a small settlement to freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose out of his National Leader’s Office budget.

However, his office said today that after taking advice from Parliamentary Service, this would no longer take place.

A good outcome, as even if it was permissible, it was a bad look.

However it is not good that they announced the parliamentary budget would be used, without realising they could not. Staff should have checked in advance, and if so this would have never been an issue.

Ambrose lawsuit settled

March 21st, 2016 at 9:28 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

John Key has defended using taxpayer money to “pragmatically” settle defamation action relating to the “teapot tape”.

A meeting yesterday between the Prime Minister and a cameraman he had long maintained deliberately recorded the tape led to defamation action being dropped.

Mr Key’s office yesterday released an agreed statement with freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose, which said Mr Key now accepts the cafe recording was not deliberate, and acknowledged his previous comments on the matter as harmful.

No one but Mr Ambrose can know if it was deliberate. The “accident” story seems pretty far fetched to me, but I guess you can’t prove intent, so no real surprise it was settled with an acknowledgement that the recording was not deliberate.

Even accepting it was accidental, I still regard it as outrageous that media published a secret recording. The ethical thing to do would have been for the Herald on Sunday to delete the recording.

The Prime Minister will also make a “small payment” towards Mr Ambrose’s costs, which will be met from the Parliamentary leaders’ budget – something Labour and NZ First have criticised.

Some previous legal costs relating to the case had already been met by the leaders’ budget. Mr Key’s office would not reveal that amount.

At his regular post-Cabinet press conference, Mr Key was repeatedly asked whether it was correct to use taxpayer money to settle the defamation action.

If the Speaker rules the fund should not be used, the National Party would pay, Mr Key said.

“The rules have been pretty clear for a long period of time, and plenty of politicians have used the leaders’ fund, or if it as a minister or prime minister, Crown Law. So there is nothing new here.”

It may be legally correct to pay the small sum from the parliamentary budget, but I think it is a mistake to do so. It isn’t a good look.

The parliamentary budget is a fixed amount, so you can argue if not spent on this, it would be spent on something else. But at the end of the day, the optics are not good on it.

UPDATE: The tape was not officially published by the media but anonymously leaked online. I regard this as the same thing. Only staff at the Herald and Amrose had a copy of the recording, so either directly or indirectly they must have been responsible for leaking it and having it published online. TV3 also had a copy (presumably from Ambrose), and may have been responsible.


March 9th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key says he has been burgled three or four times in his life, including once when he “screamed” after confronting an intruder. 

Perhaps the most embarrassing was when his wife Bronagh’s birthday present – a pink Honda City – was stolen when they lived in Wellington. 

His comments came as Police have defended their efforts to solve burglaries, despite the percentage of overall crimes solved dropping below 10 per cent in some parts the country.

On the burglary resolution rate, it is worth noting that there is a difference between the resolution rate for individual burglaries, and the arrest rate for burglars.

Sadly, unless a burglar is stupid or unlucky, it is hard to prove who burgled a house. The nature of burglary is there are generally no witnesses, so it is not like many other crimes. Unless they get caught at the time, captured on camera unmasked, leave DNA/fingerprints or get found with your property, it is hard to prove they did a burglary.

However while a burglar may not get prosecuted for a specific burglary, most burglars do get caught eventually. They may have done 50 burglaries before being caught. There will be enough evidence to prove he or she did say five of them (the Police will have a fair idea they did the others in the area) so officially only five out of 50 burglaries are resolved, but the burglar has still been caught and punished.

Now ideally every burglary will get resolved. It brings peace of mind to know the actual burglar who robbed your place has been found and convicted – for your burglary. But the nature of burglary is that the resolution rate will never be particularly high. The more important indicator is the actual incidence rate.

He had been burgled three or four times, including most recently at his St Stephens Ave house in Parnell, when he was Leader of the Opposition. Those involved were caught. 

Earlier he and wife Bronagh were burgled when they lived in Johnsonville, Wellington, before he entered politics. 

“They stole Bronagh’s birthday present at the time, which was a pink Honda city. Which was of some amusement to the cops at the time – that I’d be stupid enough to buy her one.”

When he lived in Auckland’s Burwood Crescent burglars had “cleaned out” the house.

On one occasion at the Key’s Parnell house he had gone down stairs at 3am – clothed – to see what was happening when the alarm went off.

They had thought it was set off by bad weather.

“The wife sent me down to sort it out … as it turned out it was someone downstairs. I started screaming and the next thing you know the cops turned up.”

Heh, most PMs wouldn’t admit to screaming at a burglar – or buying a pink Honda City 🙂

Just taken a look at the crime stats. This is the rate of burglaries per 10,000 population from 2004 to 2014:


There was a very good decline from 2009 to 2014. The rate has been static since then. would be good to have it decline further.

Caption Contest

February 21st, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar


Captions below. As always, funny not nasty.

Protests can make you more popular

February 17th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

It has been one of the longest honeymoons in political history but now Prime Minister John Key is preparing to be hissed and booed at every public outing by anti-TPP protesters.

He was shouted down on Sunday when he tried to make a speech at the annual Big Gay Out festival in Coyle Park. And on Waitangi Day, after giving the lower marae at Te Tii a miss, he was booed by a section of the audience at the NRL Nines tournament at Eden Park.

In the December Herald-DigiPoll survey, Mr Key was preferred Prime Minister by 65.2 per cent of voters after seven years in office.

Helen Clark had been similarly popular, too, after six years as Prime Minister, rating nearly 60 per cent, but had slid to 41.6 per cent by the time she lost office in 2008.

Yesterday, Mr Key said he expected to encounter protesters against the Trans-Pacific Partnership for the rest of the year.

But he would not be changing his public appearances to minimise the encounters.

“… I’m not going to back away from it or engaging with other New Zealanders because you get a small group of very noisy protesters.”

Mr Key said a group of militant people he thought were Green and Mana members “hijacked” the Big Gay Out for their own purposes and that deeply frustrated people.

I understand huge numbers of the 10,000 or so people there were deeply upset by those political activists trying to hijack the event, and if anything such behaviour just makes Key more popular with non-committed voters. Ugly protests tend to reflect more on those protesting than their targets.

Stuff on why Key may get a 4th term

February 15th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff writes:

There is no real mystery about much of Key’s popularity – he’s likeable and even his gaffes make him seem more approachable (National’s support went up after the infamous “soap” gag that sparked howls of outrage about its rape allusions, for instance), and when he makes a call like abandoning Waitangi, he is unfailingly in tune with public sentiment (helped along by National’s nightly polling, no doubt).

But his style of government is often also cited. When Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rolled Tony Abbott, he banked a huge amount of early political capital, in part by blatantly stealing from the Key playbook, by promising to run a more consensual government. He even spelt out that plan in his first speech as leader: “My firm belief is that to be a successful leader in 2015, perhaps at any time, you have to be able to bring people with you by respecting their intelligence in the manner you explain things … John Key for example, has been able to achieve very significant economic reforms in New Zealand by doing just that,” Turnbull told Australians.

As a mark of his admiration, Turnbull even reversed the normal order of things in trans-Tasman relations by flying across the ditch to meet Key as one of his first international engagements, rather than expecting Key to make the first move.

But it might be that Key just makes it look easy.

I think whoever is PM after Key will struggle to some degree. Key does make it look easy. It isn’t.

And that’s the other piece of advice Key would probably give Turnbull. The public really don’t sweat the small stuff in the same way that us Wellington insiders do. As long as they think the Government is moving in the right direction and they respect their overall management of the big stuff – the economy, health and education, roads and all the other things that touch on their daily lives – they’ll have faith that the Government is getting the other stuff right.

You need to listen to a wider audience than your colleagues, staff and angry people on social media. What galvanises Wellington is very different to what is of interest to people in Hamilton, Auckland and Timaru.

There are other factors at play as well of course – a souring economy will quickly stoke a mood for change. But international volatility aside, the election looks likely to be held against the backdrop of a largely benign economy, with things like low petrol prices, record low interest rates and an ongoing construction boom ($6 billion in the Auckland CBD alone over the next few years) likely contributing to a general mood of well-being, though the rural sector will still be hurting.

If the wheels start to fall off any of those things, that may be the day the wheels also start to fall off National. Because if there’s one downside of being such a popular government for so long, it’s that National’s bulging back benches are filled with MPs who have no understanding of what it’s like to be A) unpopular and B) facing the prospect of defeat.

Even Key barely knows that feeling. Only a few veterans like Bill English, Nick Smith and Murray McCully remain from those years when the electorate was well and truly out of love with National and that experience helped shaped the Government we see today. And as they would know, the real giant killer in politics is disunity.

That was clearly a lesson well learned, given that it is the area where National has been most disciplined for the last seven years.

While Labour once again is showing real divisions over the TPP, and wider.

Key on Labour

February 11th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Some extracts from the exchange in Parliament on Tuesday:

Last week we were greeted with a new unemployment rate here in New Zealand: a dramatic fall to 5.3 percent. That is a very strong performance. We have the third-highest employment rate in the OECD , we have very strong results of growth for young people, and, of course, wages are rising faster than inflation. That was greeted with absolute joy by New Zealanders, with one exception—one exception. It was a great annoyance to the Labour Party and, in particular, to Grant Robertson, the doom merchant when it comes to employment. Grant Robertson is worried about a robot taking his job. A cynic could say: “Too late, one already did.”—the job he wanted


Well, when we think “TPP”, we think Trans-Pacific Partnership; they think “two-position party”—that is what “TPP” says to them. This is because when it comes to David Shearer, he rightfully said to the New Zealand Herald—before he got a good spanking from the leader—“I’ll be voting for it. There’s no change there. Nothing’s changed my mind and the international interest analysis—fantastic.” Phil Goff, he is definitely voting for it, because it is, to quote Phil, the same as the China free-trade agreement taken under Labour. Helen Clark, she is a tremendous supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. In fact, every Labour leader in the last 20 years supports the agreement except the current one.

Unsure if Cunliffe does or doesn’t. The Cunliffe who was a Minister in the Clark Government would, but the Cunliffe who was Opposition Leader may not.

So when you look at Andrew Little’s positions—and I will grant you he has had more positions than the Labour Party has had leader in the last 5 years—he says he hates the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. He got asked a pretty simple question by Mark Sainsbury: “Will you withdraw New Zealand from the TPP?” Do you know what his answer was? It was: “We won’t.” He is going to kick up bobsy-die , but no, no, he will not. So then they asked him: “Will you vote against it?” A pretty simple question. He went: “Yeah, well, we already said—aah—if there—yeah—er—aah—if this legislation—aah. We don’t get to vote on TPP,” he said. What about pulling out? That apparently is incredibly difficult to do, even though the text, of which he has read 500 of 6,000 pages, says you can just do it by simply putting in notification for 6 months. When he was asked “Why won’t you pull out of TPP?”_—this was my particular favourite for the summer—he said: “Because we are the free-trade party.” Yeah, right. “We are the free-trade party.”

They once were a party of free trade. No longer.

So what he thinks is the problem is that other people, other corporations, other Governments can come to New Zealand and they can put a submission in against our law. That is apparently the problem. Here is a little technical issue. The first issue is, quite right, they can do that. In fact, anybody is free to come to New Zealand and put in a submission at our select committees. It is called open and transparent Government. But what did Andrew Little do at the end of last year? I know. He rushed off to Australia to go to put a submission in against its legislation and last night he was telling me to give David Cameron a ring, so I could put in a submission about their legislation.

Wonderful skewering of the hypocrisy from Labour. They are saying it is awful other Governments can put in submissions on our laws, yet he is himself demanding the NZ Government do the same.

The last issue is theoretically we can be sued under the provisions of investor-State. Well, do not accept my word for how difficult that is. Let me quote this for you, from Phil Goff who said, and quite rightly so because he actually understands what he is talking about when it comes to this area: “The barrier to get investor-State dispute is very high, and the chance is very unlikely.” We have had investor-State in this country for 30 years. Forget about a case being won. There has not been a case taken in 30 years.

Quoting Goff – I love it.

Key is attending Waitangi

February 4th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

On Tuesday, leaders voted 38-14 in favour of stopping Key attending, but were overruled by Ngapuhi elders.

Key said marae trustees had issued him a formal invitation after another meeting on Tuesday night, with “all of the same privileges and procedures there’ve been in the past”, and he would attend the event.

However, the large crowds of protesters expected at Waitangi were a complication, with the possibility that it could be too unsafe for him to get onto the marae.

“In a practical sense, if there’s so many people that they physically block the cars from getting in, I can just envisage a situation where I don’t actually get on the lower marae.”

He was “not looking for an excuse to get out”, and said he was happy to defend the Government’s support for the TPPA deal at Waitangi.

Almost any other PM would have happily take the vote as a great reason to not attend, and make them look ridiculous.  It is a measure of his commitment to good faith relations that Key is willing to endure the abuse and threats.

I’m not optimistic that the radicals won’t go over the top and it could get very nasty.

Watkins on Waitangi

February 3rd, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

Remember when Titewhai Harawira used to be one of the reasons politicians stayed away from Waitangi?

You reap what you sow, as they say. On Tuesday, Harawira phoned with a personal appeal for Prime Minister John Key to attend the traditional Waitangi Day commemorations at the trouble-plagued Te Tii Marae.

But if Key stays away it will be because he’s sniffed the winds of public opinion as Waitangi threatens once again to descend into conflict and acrimony  – and judges that voters have had a gutsful of the annual Te Tii Marae sideshow setting the tone for our only national day.

No, if he stays way it will be because they voted 38 – 14 not to invite him.


Day off for the PM!

February 2nd, 2016 at 3:18 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key will be blocked from going on Te Tii Marae.

Marae elder Kingi Taurua has confirmed the final decision was made not to invite Mr Key onto the marae at a hui today.

“They put it to the vote and the vote decided it, not to allow him on.”

Excellent. PM gets a day off.

As the marae has decided they no longer want the Government to attend, I presume they no longer want money from the Government for any activities at the marae!

UPDATE: Radio NZ is reporting that he has been invited on. But possibly not allowed to speak. I guess all will become clear in time! It may be that Ngapuhi have voted one way, but the marae the other.

If I was the PM, I’d not turn up. He has said he’ll attend whenever invited, but they appear to have voted that they don’t want him there. There are thousands of others places in NZ that do welcome him, and welcome the opportunity to debate issues with him.

UPDATE2: TVNZ reports:

Ngapuhi representatives spent the day locked in talks at Waitangi.

A vote was held this afternoon on whether Mr Key should be blocked. The result was an overwhelming 38-14 in favour of stopping him from coming on to the marae.

But Te Tii elder Emma Gibbs then told ONE News those from the marae had overruled the decision and he would be welcomed on – but wouldn’t have speaking rights.

Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua reacted angrily to that claim and said in fact Mr Key would be blocked.

Ms Gibbs says as locals, they will continue to welcome anyone on to the marae, even if others disagree.

Again, there are many other places you can go.

Garner on Key and Labour

February 1st, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

How on earth can Labour beat John Key?

This thorny question must have totally consumed Labour’s MPs at their recent caucus retreat.

I can’t imagine any back-slapping took place. More back-stabbing. After all, what is there for them to celebrate?

A sunny January?

Whether you like Key or not you have to concede that he’s one smart, pragmatic holder of the vast but crucial Centre ground.

And Labour’s only helping him by looking divided and hopelessly confused over the controversial trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

No less than four former Labour Party leaders support the TPPA: Phil Goff, Mike Moore, Helen Clark and David Shearer.

They’re in the prime minister’s camp as leader Andrew Little takes his caucus towards the Greens.

Yep Labour once again shifts left.

The truth is, if John Key is a rabid Right-winger he’s disguised it well. He just wants to stay in power.

And Labour’s doing its best to help him by looking shabby, confused and divided.

This belated anti-TPPA posturing – too feeble and too late in the game – feels contrived and lacking in conviction.

I don’t know what Labour really stands for these days, and I’m sure, Goff, Moore, Shearer and Clark are struggling to answer that question too.

Labour is the gift that keeps on giving. Especially for Key.

Helen Clark must shake her head and wonder.

Key’s Auckland announcements

January 27th, 2016 at 2:33 pm by David Farrar

John Key made a number of announcements in his speech today:

  • Funding for the City Rail Link to advance from 2020 to 2018, to allow construction to begin in 2018
  • A streamlined consenting process for the $1 billion East-West Connection between the Southern and South-Western motorways, so if consented construction can start in 2018
  • Looking to widen State Highway 20 between Neilson Street and Queenstown Road

He also announced some non-Auckland projects:

  • $115 million to complete four regional projects.
  • The by-passes in Taranaki to allow motorists to avoid Mount Messenger and the Awakino Tunnel
  • Funding to replace the single lane Motu Bridge on State Highway 2 near Gisborne with a new two-lane bridge.
  • Replace the Opawa Bridge on State Highway 1 near Blenheim with a safer bridge to accommodate increasing traffic volumes in Marlborough.


The Press on a 4th term for Key

January 27th, 2016 at 8:32 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

So what are the potential threats to Key’s hopes for a fourth term? Unless something goes drastically wrong between now and the second half of next year, it looks unlikely the Labour Party under Andrew Little will be in a position to pull together the next government.

They need to persuade 200,000 more NZers to vote Labour to be in with a chance.

In terms of successors to Key being actively groomed or quietly blossoming within the National Party’s caucus, there will be some definite contenders post-2017. But In terms of challengers who might actively challenge his leadership before that election or after, that is harder to foresee.

Near impossible to imagine.

If Key does lead National to its fourth successive victory, it will then become a question of when he might stand aside. Would it be within a few months of the election or as late as possible? That last strategy runs the risk of locking a leader into the next election campaign and yet another possible term as prime minister. Voters will need to know how far into that fourth term he might stay as leader.

He can’t say in advance because you become lame duck, but my pick would be during the latter half of the 2nd year, so after around 11 years in the job.

Who might be Key’s possible successor? It depends who you listen to, but the personable, fifth-ranked Paula Bennett is a rising star of some charisma. Now minister of climate change issues as well as social housing and state services, she is also associate minister of finance, a sign, some say, that she is being groomed by Key.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English is a steady pair of hands but would be a case of “been there, done that”. Steven Joyce has vast experience and is in the same mould as a Bill Birch or Michael Cullen, but does not have the populist touch needed. Neither does Gerry Brownlee.

Then there’s Judith Collins – she has her supporters in caucus but may be a bit too divisive. Jonathan Coleman and Simon Bridges are possible leaders of the future, and so is Amy Adams, but she is currently a long shot.

I should point out Bill English has said he will never seek the leadership again.

That Key says he realises he is not indispensable appears an encouraging sign of self-awareness, a trait some other leaders have struggled to master. Short of a major change in fortunes, he could well still be prime minister in two or three years’ time.

Key has actively worked to promote successors, unlike some of his predecessors.

Quin says Key is implementing a Labour agenda

December 29th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Phil Quin writes in the Business Spectator:

But personal style and policy restraint alone do not explain Key’s durability. It lies in his masterful positioning, aided in no small way by his opponents’ ready willingness to shimmy left to accommodate him. As a result, New Zealanders get a National Party Prime Minister to oversee and implement what is essentially a Labour Party platform. Among voters — as opposed to perpetually outraged partisans — this feels close to optimal.

If you were to review the John Key years with names and labels redacted, the ideological impetus of the governing party would not be immediately apparent.

To the naked eye, policy differences between Key’s National Party and the previous Helen Clark-led Labour government (1999-2008) are barely discernible. Key kept Labour’s massive family tax and benefit scheme intact, maintaining or boosting expenditure on health and education. He extended free doctor’s visits from children under 6 to under 13 and, for the first time since 1977, Key even increased unemployment and other welfare payments in real terms.

Meanwhile, his government rolled out a national broadband scheme and rebuilt earthquake-struck Christchurch with the kind of central planning that wouldn’t seem amiss in Beijing or Hanoi. On the world stage, Key’s noncommittal internationalism is indistinguishable from Helen Clark. And if the government’s account is to be believed, their Trade Minister spent less time at the recent trans-Pacific Partnership talks advocating economic liberalisation than defending New Zealand’s exceedingly generous, and inarguably socialist, pharmaceutical subsidy scheme.

Quin has a point. However I would argue (and will post on this in 2016) that Key has done stuff which is both traditionally left (welfare boost, universal health expansion etc) and stuff which is traditionally right (partial asset sales, welfare reform).

Chris Kahui attacks Key and Bennett

December 22nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil reports:

AN IRATE Chris Kahui has taken to Facebook to support Maori nationalists seeking to undermine the John Key-led National Government.

The usually reserved Kahui, who was acquitted back in 2008 of murdering his three-month-old twin sons Chris and Cru, has fallen in behind extremists wanting Key’s Government to legislate for the return of confiscated Maori land. …

Recently Kahui ‘shared’ this post from Maori Life on his Facebook page: “What a pathetic leader you are John Key and your best mate Paula (Bennett) who likes to tell people they can’t have the support like she did many years ago. These two should be run out of the country for good. Two low life scum of the earth people,”  

You know having Chris Kahui call you a low life scum of the earth person is probably a great compliment.

Key on what matters and what doesn’t

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

An interesting interview of the PM by Tracy Watkins.

But that’s still nearly two years away and Key is focused more immediately on the year that’s been – it was a year that started with Andrew Little still new in the job as Labour leader, and making a decent enough fist of it that Key might have been worried. But he’s not.

“With the greatest respect, all they’ve done is stopped arguing with each other,” he says.

“Okay so that’s a positive I suppose. But they haven’t really done a lot, their numbers are not moving. …and as I said to our guys [our] numbers are good, we’re advancing our agenda for 2016, we didn’t lose a minister [to scandal] this year, so broadly speaking it’s been a very solid year for us and across the things that we would care about.”

By that he means National got the books back into surplus  – “and that’s a big tick for us, very few Westernised countries have managed that”.

He ticks off the other plusses – National is  advancing its agenda in areas like welfare, education and health, it got the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement over the line, and – one for the greenies – it made the Kermadecs an ocean sanctuary.

It’s good steady progress and that’s why the needle hasn’t budged on National’s support, he maintains.

“If you think about why our numbers aren’t moving it’s because no one expects perfection from the Government because I don’t think any government can achieve that.

“But across all the indicators the voters care most about – the economy, law and order, health and education – we’re delivering.”

No surprise that I agree, but the PM is right. People care about things that affect their lives.

And it has been a year where the Government didn’t just manage to balance the books, but gave beneficiaries the first real increase in 43 years, did the biggest marine sanctuary in the world, saw crime continue to drop and good progress towards health and education targets.

Ponytail-gate was the big political story of the year.

Waitress Amanda Bailey complained Key repeatedly pulled her hair, even after she pleaded with his minders to make him stop.

It seemed shockingly strange behaviour for a prime minister. It polarised public opinion. And Key’s opponents made a meal of it.

It was a chance to chip away at Key’s personal mana.

So was he diminished by it?

Not at all, says Key. Those Opposition attacks just did not resonate with people. He knows that because of the polls. And as we all know, it is an article of faith with Key that the polls don’t lie.

“[My numbers] didn’t move when they polled right around it, they polled immediately after it, we poll every week and and it never did anything. In fact, to be honest, my numbers went up.”

It was a story that had the potential to harm Key. But the media and opposition went so over the top with the story, that people then started to feel sorry for Key, an his numbers did go up. If there had been a less frenzied response to it, then it may have ended differently, but once again the opposition are their worst own enemies.

The thing is they never seem to learn.

Turei gets ridiculous in her attacks on Key

December 11th, 2015 at 7:15 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has also hit out at Prime Minister John Key’s comments on so-called “jihadi brides” – saying they are particularly insulting to Muslim women and show he thinks “the only good use of a women going overseas is as a wife”.

This is beyond pathetic. Once upon a time the Greens claimed not to do personal attacks, but that is long dead.

In case anyone else is stupid or malicious, Key was not talking about all women going overseas or all Muslim wonen going overseas. He was talking specifically about women travelling to Syria where it is controlled by the Islamic State.

Does Turei think they are there for the jobs, the tourism, the shopping, the beaches, the educational opportunities, the practice of medical skills?

It is not unreasonable to suggest that women travelling to Islamic State controlled areas are going to be jihadi brides, considering there have been numerous reports of women travelling there to do exactly that, and almost no reports of women travelling there for any other purpose.

But never mind, let’s just try and smear John Key as a sexist neanderthal because you know the Greens don’t do personal smear attacks.