Median house price doubled under Labour

May 20th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Prime Minister has been accused of lying about housing price increases under Labour – but figures support his often-repeated claim.

John Key was called a liar after an exchange with Labour leader Andrew Little in Question Time Tuesday.

Mr Little asked what effect the Government’s new rules on taxing capital gain on residential properties would have on the Auckland housing market.

In response, Mr Key repeated a claim he has made in recent weeks – that house prices doubled under the previous Labour Government.

That prompted Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford to tweet that the Prime Minister was repeating the lie that house prices went up more under Labour than under his own Government.

So what is the truth?

Mr Twyford referred to statistics from the Real Estate Institute of NZ (REINZ) that showed its Auckland housing price index rose by 77 per cent during the Helen Clark Labour Government, and 87 per cent under the current National Government.

But another data set also released by REINZ – median national sale prices – does support the Prime Minister’s statement.

Under Labour, the national median price rose from $172,000 in November 1999 to $337,500 in November 2008, a 96 per cent increase.

The national median price has since gone up another 35 per cent under National to $455,000.

So median price for NZ doubled under Labour, compared to 35% under National.

Twyford tries to wriggle out of his claim by saying:

Mr Twyford told the Herald that he stood by his criticism.

The Prime Minister was being deliberately misleading by referring to nationwide prices in responding to questions about Auckland prices, without saying he was using nationwide figures, Mr Twyford said.

Twyford is wrong – again. Let’s look at Hansard:

Interestingly enough, if you look at the information by the Real Estate Institute, figures across New Zealand actually show that although Auckland house prices are up, the rest of the country is very mixed; some are actually down. And, interestingly enough, if you look at the equivalent period of time under the last Labour Government, house prices doubled. Under National they have gone up nationally by 35 percent.

Twyford should apologise. And to remove doubt, Key in a previous question used a different figure in reference to Auckland prices:

I know that Labour members do not like it, but house prices doubled under their watch. Actually, Auckland house prices went up by 79 percent under the previous Labour Government.

So John Key clearly linked to doubling of house prices to being nation-wide and used the 79% figure correctly for Auckland house prices under Labour.

Twyford will of course refuse to apologise.

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Tiger Woods

May 19th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Daily Mail reports:

When Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn split over a week ago, the Olympic skiier posted on Facebook the explanation that ‘both lead incredibly hectic lives that force us to spend a majority of our time apart.’

Daily Mail Online can now exclusively reveal that during one of those ‘times apart’ Tiger cheated on Lindsey – with a ‘faceless, nameless woman’, a friend reveals.

Who is surprised? He cheated on his wife with over a dozen women. His 45 day therapy programme doesn’t seem to done the job!

But the news does remind me of this interview John Key did in 2008:

OH: Who are your heroes and role models?

JK: Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods.

Heh, with hindsight perhaps not the best two choices. Of course he was referring to their success in the two areas he is passionate about – politics and golf.

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McCready v Key thrown out

May 14th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The private prosecution against John Key over his ponytail-pulling foundered today after a judge ruled there was no evidence to get an assault charge into court.

This is not surprising.

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Key Derangement Syndrome example

May 14th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

There are many examples of Key Derangement Syndrome, but you don’t normally see them from political scientists who are touted as neutral political commentators.

I have no problem with any person in NZ being as vehement against John Key as they want. That is their right. But when they do, it does raise the question of whether they can put their visceral distaste to one side, when commenting.

Today’s example is the submission on the flag bill by Dr Jon Johannson. It is full of vitriol about John Key, and endless swipes at him. It’s the sort of submission you normally see from a hard core activist, not a political scientist. Some extracts:

I raise with the committee for its consideration, also, whether it is a good precedent for a government to launch a binding referendum on a subject that is important mostly to only one individual, the Prime Minister

So swipe no 1.

It also creates a contradictory situation where the governing party is willing to spend $26 million of taxpayers’ money on two referendums not sought by the public, and, in addition, however much more that will be spent on advertising as part of an attempt to manipulate voters towards its leader’s preferred fern design for the flag

Swipe No 2.

The twin referendum process to change the New Zealand flag, which was raised by only one person, the Prime Minister

It was an announced policy before the 2014 election. The Government got re-elected on the basis of having said there will be a referendum.

Anyway Swipe 3.

He cannot have it both ways. Nor is he our King. 

Yes, you seriously have a leading political academic labeling the PM as having King like delusions.

Swipe 4.

The New Zealand Flag Referendum Bill sets this prospect back, not forward, as the Prime Minister seems acutely aware of given his strong defence of New Zealand as an constitutional monarchy, his now seven year odyssey of fawning over the monarchy in a fashion not seen in a New Zealand Prime Minister since Sid Holland in the 1950s

Swipe 5. Key is now a fawner of the monarchy.

Given the factors raised above there is nevertheless a precedent that would satisfy the Prime Minister’s need for a legacy while also resolving the issues raised in this submission. Sir Robert Muldoon organised a knighthood for himself during his third term. John Key could save the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and satisfy his own ambitions if he chose, instead, to simply follow his predecessor’s example.

Swipe 6.

As I said Dr Johansson has every right to rant against John Key, call him names, insult him, say he thinks he is a King, and call him a fawning toady to the Royal Family. But we have the right to take that into account when evaluating what he says publicly on politics.

I’m someone of very strong views on political issues. But I’ve never done a submission to a parliamentary committee that is so nasty and vehement against a politician, and never would. It reads more like an angry blog post, than a considered parliamentary submission.

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A new low for Key Derangement Syndrome

April 24th, 2015 at 8:35 am by David Farrar

Laila Harre basically compares the Prime Minister to Rolf Harris.

This is a new low for sufferers from Key Derangement Syndrome – a disease for which no cure has yet been discovered.

But this isn’t some anonymous troll on a blog or Twitter. This is from the (former) leader of a political party.

We’ve yet to hear Laila’s views on political figures who pressure staff to have tennis balls smashed into their bodies at high speed. Oh wait, she was working for him and on his payroll, so that is fine.

There is no one in NZ saying what the PM did was fine. But as Rob Hosking noted:

I marvel Not for first time, Key’s biggest asset is the lack of sense of proportion of his opponents.

Indeed.

UPDATE: After defending her tweet and claiming it was justified, she has now deleted it.

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Inappropriate if accurate

April 22nd, 2015 at 9:42 am by David Farrar

The Daily Blog has a story from an anonymous waitress who details interactions with John  Key at a cafe where he pulled on her hair as a sort of joke and caused her distress by doing it on a regular basis.

On the assumption that the story is correct, he obviously totally misread the situation, and he caused distress to someone. He eventually realised it, when he apologised with a couple of bottles of wine.

I think he would be stunned to realise how upsetting it was for the person concerned, but regardless you should be able to read a situation better than it appears he did.

This will of course get media attention. If the story is correct, then he should apologise for causing distress to her. I’m sure it was inadvertent and he thought it was a funny game between them. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t real.

If you speak to staff that work for him, they all say he is one of the best bosses they have ever worked for. Generally those who interact with him only have favourable things to say about him. But again in this case (assuming the story is correct) he appears to have seriously misjudged how what he saw as mucking around, was received, and he failed to pick up on the discomfort caused.

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Helensville electoral petition struck out

April 17th, 2015 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

Arthur Taylor’s electoral petition for Helensville has been struck down by the courts, as they has found he has not standing to bring a petition. This is not a huge surprise.

The court ruling is below.

Helensville Electoral Petition

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Miranda Devine on NZ and Key

April 13th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Miranda Devine writes in the Daily Telegraph:

The Kiwis are killing it.

The New Zealand dollar is set to hit parity with ours, for the first time in 30 years.

Its economy is growing 20 per cent faster. Its GDP per capita is rising while ours is falling.

Its competitiveness rankings have outstripped ours. Its unemployment rate is 5.7 per cent compared with our 6.3 per cent, and that’s with a higher participation rate.

The NZ budget is heading towards a surplus while ours spirals ­further into deficit.

NZ has challenges, and the global economy is still fragile, but we are better positioned than most.

In a world lacking impressive leadership, Prime Minister John Key and his finance minister Bill English are shining lights, running the most successful and stable conservative government in the world.

Angela Merkel might disagree, but there is a reason Key was elected Chairman of the IDU.

Through lunches at the homes of mutual friends, I have come to know Key and his wife Bronagh a little and, over the years, have watched him become more energised and enthusiastic about the ­challenges of government.

Sunny-natured and refreshingly normal, he presents a new model of reassuring, ­decisive centre-right political leadership tailor-made for the 24/7 media demand for ­authenticity.

He shows that canny leaders who are trusted can get away with just about anything.

For instance, Key increased the GST in NZ to 15 per cent without a blip to his popularity. He did it by reducing the top marginal rate of tax to 33 per cent — compared with Australia’s uncompetitive 49 per cent — and he and English discussed their “tax switch” for 18 months beforehand.

Key’s style is not to spring unpleasant surprises after an election and exude competence by ensuring he is able to implement the policies he has promised.

And while some of those policies may be controversial (such as Sky City) they were publicised and debated before the 2011 and 2014 elections. The Opposition spend much of their time demanding Key break his word and not implement his election policies.

Key’s success is even more remarkable considering he had to weather a GFC-induced ­recession, and the $40 billion cost of rebuilding Christchurch after its 2011 earthquake.

His style has been dubbed “incremental radicalism”. But he is much more than an economic rationalist appealing to base self-interest. Like a Reagan or Thatcher, he is animated by a moral vision of an egalitarian nation of stable families where poor children like him can aspire to greatness though hard work.

Welfare is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

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Accessibility of the PM

April 12th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A pre-election interview with four political editors as done at The Pantograph Punch. All quite interesting, and one thing I wanted to highlight in the interview with Brent Edwards:

How do you rate the access to politicians in New Zealand?

In New Zealand in the main we have great access to politicians. If you think of the Prime Minister during a sitting week, he has a post-Cabinet news conference on a Monday which is for anywhere up to half an hour or more. We can then grab him on his way to his caucus meeting on Tuesday morning, on the way to Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, we can grab him again on Wednesday afternoon on the way to Parliament, and the rest of the time when he’s out around the country you probably have three or four stand-ups.

So that is a total of seven or eight media conferences or stand ups a week. And our stand ups involve questions and answers  not just photo ops.

It is a good thing our head of government is so accessible to the media, and through them the public. I doubt there are many other countries which would have the same.

In the US Barack Obama averages just 20 press conferences a year. On top of that around 26 short q+a. Compare that the NZ where it is around 46 press conferences and 300 or so media standups.

In the UK there appear to be seven to nine media conferences or standups a month.

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PM press conference transcripts

March 11th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

After requests from the media (and an inadvertent promise by Bill English), the Government now puts up transcripts of the weekly press conference held on Mondays by the Prime Minister.

Quite interesting, and you see how long some of them go on for.

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Once again, PM should not comment on Reserve Bank decisions

March 10th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has sent a shot across Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler’s bows, effectively warning him not to keep interest rates unjustifiably high as inflation heads lower.

But Key stopped short of calling for an interest rate cut at the bank’s monetary policy review on Thursday.

He noted that while the bank had flexibility it should set monetary policy so that inflation returned to the midpoint of its 1 per cent to 3 per cent target band. …

Key said oil prices were coming down, the exchange rate was still reasonably strong and imported inflation appeared low. In light of that “it’s not an option for the bank to raise interest rates”.

That’s not a decision for the PM. While he is correct that there is no reason for interest rates to go up, he is the PM – not a financial commentator. It is a bad look to have the PM state that something is not an option for the Reserve Bank, because it can look like pressure on them to do as the Government wants.

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PM on ISIL

February 24th, 2015 at 2:48 pm by David Farrar

From the PM’s ministerial statement to Parliament:

Last November I gave a national security speech which outlined the threat posed to New Zealand by ISIL.

This brutal group and its distressing methods deserve the strongest condemnation.

ISIL’s ability to motivate Islamist radicals make it a threat not only to stability in the Middle East, but regionally and locally too.

It is well-funded and highly-skilled at using the internet to recruit.

Disturbingly, if anything, ISIL’s brutality has worsened since I gave that speech late last year.

In recent weeks we have witnessed a mass beheading and the horrific plight of a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.

And we’ve seen stories of Western hostages who have been kidnapped and killed in barbaric ways.

ISIL’s outrageous actions have united an international coalition of 62 countries against the group.

The coalition includes Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Panam, Singapore, Sweden and Spain.

New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values.

We stand up for what’s right.

We have an obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally.

We do not shy away from taking our share of the burden when the international rules-based system is threatened.

We have carved out our own independent foreign policy over decades and we take pride in it.

We do what is in New Zealand’s best interests.

It is in that context that I am announcing that the Government has decided to take further steps to help the fight against ISIL.

The Iraqi government has requested support from the international community and has been clear with us that security is its top priority.

We have been clear that we cannot, and should not, fight Iraqis’ battles for them – and actually Iraq doesn’t want us to.

Our military can, however, play a part in building the capability and capacity of the Iraqi forces so they can fight ISIL themselves.

I have been open with New Zealanders that we have been considering an option to train Iraqi Security Forces alongside our longstanding partner Australia, in Iraq.

Such an operation would be behind the wire and limited to training Iraqi Security Forces in order to counter ISIL and legitimately protect innocent people.

Mr Speaker, the Government has decided to deploy a non-combat training mission to Iraq to contribute to the international fight against ISIL.

No surprise. It’s at the lower end of what we could do.

The deployment will be reviewed after nine months and will be for a maximum two-year period.

I’m glad it isn’t open ended.

We recognise ISIL is not a short-term threat and there is a lot of work to be done in the long-term.

Defeating ISIL will mean winning the hearts and minds of those vulnerable to its destructive message.

That will take time.

As I said last year, we have already contributed to the humanitarian cause and we are currently examining options to provide more help.

We are also stepping up our diplomatic efforts to counter ISIL and support stability in Iraq.

As part of this, we are looking at options to base a diplomatic representative in Baghdad to serve as a conduit between the Iraqi government and our military deployment, as well as assess how we can support better governance in Iraq.

We will also expand our diplomatic engagement on international counter-terrorism by appointing a new Ambassador for Counter Terrorism.

Many other countries have done this.

We cannot be complacent, as events in Sydney, Paris and Ottawa have underscored.

To those who argue that we should not take action because it raises that threat, I say this:  the risk associated with ISIL becoming stronger and more widespread far outweighs that.

I know there is already risk.

New Zealanders do too, because they know we are a nation of prolific travellers who have been caught up in terrorist activity around the world many times before.

Mr Speaker, the Government has carefully considered our contribution to the international campaign against ISIL.

We are prepared to step up to help.

New Zealand does not take its commitment to Iraq lightly.

In return we expect that the Iraqi government will make good on its commitment to an inclusive government that treats all Iraqi citizens with respect.

Sending our forces to Iraq is not an easy decision but it is the right decision.

I would call it the least bad decision. There are risks. But the greater risk is leaving ISIL unchecked with their ambition to be a global caliphate. They are not terrorist. They are 7th century fundamentalists who wish to have the world live under their 7th century religious doctrine.

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The PM’s carpet

February 12th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

From Hansard yesterday:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially that one when I said yesterday that “There’s no dye in these locks, baby.”

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Well, how come the curtains don’t match the carpet? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! If the member managed to hear it, I will—

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I take offence that the member is telling New Zealand he has seen my carpet.

Good to see Winston focusing again on the big issues.

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Key on human rights and Iraq

February 5th, 2015 at 3:34 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In an unscripted speech on a marae today Prime Minister John Key told Maori leaders that New Zealand are not going to turn the other cheek to the horrors being seen in the Middle East.

Key’s unprepared statement in the meeting house at Te Tii Waitangi Marae came with an attack on the left wing.

After a peaceful welcome on the marae, various Maori leaders addressed him including prominent leader Kingi Taurua who said Maori were suffering because of their service in fighting for “other people’s sovereignty” over the decades.

Key said he agreed in part.

“I am with you, we should not go and fight other people’s wars.”

Diplomacy was what was needed but New Zealand also needed to support other people around the world.

“The day before yesterday a Jordanian pilot was burned to death with petrol and yesterday some gay people were thrown off a building because ISIS don’t like their sexuality,” he said.

“A few weeks ago 10-year-old kids were rolled out to behead soldiers who were part of the Iraqi forces. “

Key said he heard from the left wing every time he went to countries with different human right’s records to New Zealand.

“I am regularly reminded by the left that they have an intimate knowledge of apartheid and the Springbok tour,” he said in reference to the 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand that divided the country.

Key has since admitted he does not remember where he stood on the tour.

“These are the very people (the left) who tell me their whole DNA is laced with human rights and standing up for people who cannot protect themselves, then they tell me to look the other way when people are being beheaded by kids, burnt alive and thrown off buildings.

“Well sorry, give me a break, basically New Zealand is not going to turn the other way,” he said.

 

Key absolutely nails it. Amazing that some on the left go on non stop about human rights, but then say we should do nothing about a state that burns people alive, throws gays off buildings and turns 10 year olds into killers. Making strong speeches at the UN won’t cut it.

New Zealand would not do anything silly.

“But we may join 60 or so other countries around  the world trying to protect people who cannot protect themselves because the do nothing other than live in a country they want to call home.

“I reckon that is doing something for human rights.”

Key said he had no intention of fighting other people’s wars “but I am not going to  turn the other way when people are being persecuted and say, as a leader, that it is other peoples’ problem.

“I don’t think that is the New Zealand way.”

Absolutely.

At a later press conference Key said the speech was not something he had planned but came up when iwi leaders objected to fighting other people’s wars.

“We are a country that stands for human rights and I don’t know about you but when people are being burned with petrol I find it difficult to look the other way.”

Asked if he had attacked the left too strongly he denied that.

“I don’t know that it is laying into them. I simply made the point that when I go to those countries and people raise issues from the left, they raise issues of human rights.

“I think as a country we have a really proud record of human rights and when people can’t defend themselves, would we really turn the other cheek?”

The best lines often come when they are not pre-planned. I think Key hit the nail on the head. Not contributing to the global effort is pretty indefensible if you are a supporter of human rights.

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An electoral petition to get him out of prison for a few days

January 28th, 2015 at 6:11 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key’s lawyer has dismissed criminal litigator Arthur Taylor’s claim that Key unlawfully won the Helensville electorate, saying there’s “no evidence to substantiate his claims”. 

Taylor, a serving prisoner with more than 150 convictions, is petitioning the court claiming Key’s election as MP for Helensville was unlawful because about 650 prisoners at Auckland Prison at Paremoremo were excluded from voting in the electorate. 

He challenged the result on the grounds that the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was invalid because it prevented about 8600 prisoners in the country’s jails from registering or voting.

After hearing Taylor’s arguments in the High Court at Auckland today, Key’s counsel Peter Kiely made his opening submissions this afternoon, saying there was no evidence to support Taylor’s claims. 

Taylor was not registered to vote in last year’s election, was not entitled to vote and therefore “has no standing” to challenge the Helensville result, Kiely said.  

Taylor is likely to never be released from prison. So he does this various lawsuits as a way to get out occasionally. It’s a joke electoral petition with no possibility of success.

Earlier today, Taylor argued that there was no rational reason to disqualify prisoners from voting, saying punishment wasn’t a legitimate reason, claiming it served the political interests of National to ban prisoner votes, and that the knock-on effect was that many prisoners wouldn’t bother voting once they were released from prison either. 

It doesn’t matter whether or not you think prisoners should be able to vote. The law was changed so they could not. An electoral petition should be about if the law was followed, not a way for someone to say they don’t like the law.

Taylor protested the fact he wasn’t provided a desk in court, unlike the four lawyers representing Key and the Crown, and two friends of the court, who had claimed all the available bench space in the small courtroom.  

He was instead given a desk in the prisoner’s dock for his paperwork.

Poor diddums.

Taylor is presenting his case at the three-day hearing in front of Justice Geoffrey Venning, Justice Helen Winkelmann and Justice Paul Heath despite Justice Rebecca Ellis ruling earlier in September that prisoners being denied the right to vote wasn’t inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Ac

Three days? Ridiculous.

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Is Key on drugs ask du Fresne?

January 26th, 2015 at 8:21 am by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes:

I have never met John Key, but like anyone who follows politics I’ve been able to observe him via the media. And after studying him carefully, I think I now realise the explanation for much of his behaviour. He’s on drugs.

Not the illegal kind, I should stress, but the mood-calming type that doctors prescribe. This may sound flippant, but consider the following.

In the 2014 election campaign, Key was subjected to possibly the most sustained media offensive faced by any prime minister in New Zealand history. Day after day he was tackled by an aggressive media pack trying to trap him on dirty politics, illicit surveillance and other touchy issues.

His answers were often unsatisfactory, which served only to ramp up the media frenzy. But through it all, he appeared supernaturally imperturbable. He patiently batted away reporters’ questions and accusations with his familiar bland inscrutability. There were no meltdowns, no hissy fits, no petulant walkouts.

This was downright unnatural. No politician should be that unflappable. He can have achieved it only by the ingestion of large amounts – indeed, industrial quantities – of tranquillisers.

Alternatively he may have voodoo dolls of key members of the press gallery :-)

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Montgomerie on Key

January 24th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tim Montgomerie interviewed John Key for The Times.

On his own blog, He makes 10 observations about John Key:

  1. Upwardly mobile
  2. No surprises
  3. No security in standing still
  4. Controlled immigration is a good thing
  5. Patriotic
  6. A sensible green
  7. Balanced ticket
  8. Polls, not pundits
  9. Selfie conservatism
  10. Global leadership
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PM vs Chief of Staff

January 23rd, 2015 at 8:50 pm by David Farrar

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TVNZ reports:

Mr Key will today have private meetings with representatives from Ireland, Sweden and Luxembourg – but even a Prime Minister needs to let off some steam.

ONE News Europe correspondent Jessica Mutch snapped the PM mid-snowfight with his chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson.

I’m sure that isn’t in the job description!

NewstalkZB reports that it is not all snowball fights:

John Key is in demand at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

He’s attending the annual gathering in Switzerland for the first time.

One News reporter Jessica Mutch told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking Mr Key is a man in demand in Davos.

“He has been a target, or a little bit of a superstar at this conference, just because of how well our economy is doing at the moment. He has been asked to speak, particularly about our connection with Asia.”

I’m so pleased we didn’t throw it all away to have a Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana-Internet Government.

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NZ showing how reform can occur

December 18th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Oliver Hartwich wrote in the Spectator:

Rarely does a government manage to build a positive narrative around the policy changes it implements. However, there are exceptions to this rule, or at least one exception: New Zealand.

At a time when many commentators have given up on the possibility of pro-market reforms, the New Zealand government under Prime Minister John Key demonstrates that they are still possible. More than that, Key shows how despite his government’s reformist zeal it managed to get re-elected not once but twice already.

In my new monograph Quiet Achievers: The New Zealand Path to Reform, published this week, I try to dissect Key’s political management and his leadership style. What I hoped to find were lessons for economic reforms that could be applicable to other countries, whether in the eurozone or in Australia. There are quite a few.

There are two types of reforms. The first are those reforms that are undertaken when there is no alternative, or at least no plausible one. The classic example is Margaret Thatcher’s radical turnaround of Britain. Following the winter of discontent, there really was no choice but to move on from the country’s post-war, half-planned economic model.

The labour market reforms under German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 2003 fall in the same category of reform, for lack of a better alternative. As unemployment numbers exceeded five million people, something had to be done. Closer to home, both Australia and New Zealand went for a radical restructuring of their economies in the 1980s and 1990s because circumstances were dire and something had to give.

These emergency-driven reforms constitute what I would call ‘pathological learning’. Policy mistakes are finally corrected only when circumstances have become so dire that even the greatest reform-deniers cannot block change. Eurozone reforms fall into this category as well. We can praise the heroes of such reforms, but their job is comparatively easy. What is far harder to achieve is to lead economic change when conditions are not quite catastrophic yet.

Australia’s more recent experience is a good illustration of this problem. Given the mining and terms-of-trade boom, it was hard to make the case for any policy changes. Instead, the temptation was there to use the proceeds of the boom on new government spending programmes.

Commentators like The Australian’s Paul Kelly and (ex-)politicians like former finance minister Lindsay Tanner have expressed their concerns about this. They argue that our political culture with its short attention spans and focus on headlines and sound bites has made good policy-making difficult, absent a major crisis which forces political action. They certainly have a point.

This is where the New Zealand counter-example is worth examining. True, the last few years of the Global Financial Crisis and the devastating Canterbury earthquakes have hit New Zealand hard. However, the situation was not so bad that it left Key without alternatives. He could have easily used these crises as an excuse to allow his budget to blow out or introduce emergency taxes. In fact, that was very Australia’s response to the GFC and the Queensland floods. Remember the giant stimulus packages and the so-called flood levy?

Instead, Key and his finance minister Bill English did the opposite of such populist activism. They quietly steered New Zealand onto a more sustainable economic path. They kept budgets tight, undertook a substantial overhaul of the welfare system, started an experiment with charter schools, part-privatised some state-owned enterprises, cut income taxes and increased consumption taxes.

It was a combination of policies that did not only put the budget back on a credible path to surplus. It also increased New Zealand’s competitiveness, which has now surpassed Australia’s. It created economic growth and tens of thousands of new jobs.

 

The surplus is not quite there yet, but Hartwich is right that there has been significant reforms in the last six years.

How did the Kiwis do it? How did John Key get away with so much reform?

The answer I have come to in Quiet Achievers is simple. Shunning any reform rhetoric or political grandstanding, Key quietly and slowly goes about his reform business. Reforms are carefully crafted while the public is prepared for upcoming changes and informed why they are necessary. In this way, the reforms are building their own constituency and by the time they are implemented, the measures appear imminently commonsensical. Key’s strategy is one of incremental, silent radicalism.

New Zealand proves that reforms, even in mature democracies, are still possible. They should be possible in Australia as well where they are much needed. Australia has not implemented any substantial economic reforms since the introduction of the GST in July 2000.

For any political leaders wishing to embark on a process of economic reform, whether in Australia or in Europe, a look at New Zealand may well be inspirational.

The welfare reforms are an excellent example of this.

But while there has been good progress in a number of areas, the need for reform is continual, and further reform is needed – especially around land availability.

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Ambrose sues Key

December 9th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose is seeking $1.25 million in damages from John Key, claiming the Prime Minister defamed him.

The action has been taken at the High Court in Auckland, according to an RNZ report.

Mr Ambrose made news in the lead up to the 2011 election when he left a switched-on recording device on a cafe table after reporters withdrew and Mr Key began a private conversation with then ACT leader John Banks. 

The freelancer has always denied he purposefully recorded the conversation.

As this is the subject of defamation, I’d advise commenters to be mindful in their comments.

Mr Ambrose is asking for:

  • $500,000 dollars in aggravated damages relating to comments made by the Prime Minister at a media conference three days after the cup of tea meeting

  • $500,000 for an interview Mr Key have to TV3’s Firstline the following day

  • $250,000 for comments the PM made to journalists at a stand-up press conference in Upper Hutt two days after the incident

I thought when you sued for defamation you couldn’t seek specific damages? Am I wrong, or has the law changed?

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Claims and more claims

November 27th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Blogger Cameron Slater has claimed in texts to Prime Minister John Key that senior Labour staffer Matt McCarten was involved in hacking his emails and that Labour even tried to kill him.

To put that into context, it is referring to an alleged conversation among some of those involved in the Dirty Politics saga that they hoped the pressure would lead to Cameron killing himself. As far as I know, no one is saying Matt McCarten is an assassin :-)

THE TRANSCRIPT

Cameron Slater: gave it away to me…Goff leaked SIS report

John Key: It’s a joke isn’t it. They will attack Jason for talking to u and they break the confidentiality agreement. Classic lab.

Slater: Yup…I’m very angry over it…Goff is the one who leaked oravida stuff too.
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Slater: They still have standard bloggers on staff

Slater: And Mccarten was involved in hack

Key: Hopefully it will all come out in time

Slater: I wish they would hurry up…they played the real dirty politics…even tried to kill me…I have evidence of.

Cameron blogs:

I had confirmation from two journalists that Phil Goff was the one who briefed them about the report and the source of the leak.

I texted John Key, and informed him of the source of the leak. He thanked me. No discussions of the content of the IGIS report were held, it was a brief exchange.

I did not text Judith Collins and have not texted Judith Collins for some months. We had no discussions regarding the content or otherwise of any report.

In my conversation with Josh Forman I got suspicious because of his intense interest and so fed him some information that wasn’t strictly true so that it could be easily verified by cellphone records.

I repeat. I never had a text conversation with Judith Collins on Monday night. Cellphone records will clearly show this.

The following day Josh Forman continued along that line of inquiry and was imploring me to out the txt with John Key, I couldn’t work out why.

That is until this afternoon.

Josh Forman is a man who lacks integrity. In good faith I was willing to coach someone from the other side so they could have a better voice in the blogosphere.

I now know that his request for coaching was a subterfuge, at the behest of the Labour party in order to gain my trust.

I thought the campaign was weird enough, but this has now reached a new level of weirdness. The biggest issue of the moment is Cameron Slater – he was mentioned 124 times in Parliament this week!

I suspect 90% of the public are confused or bemused or both – or just change the channel when the latest politics story comes on.

 

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PM and Cook

November 23rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

The dinner conversation traversed diverse subjects such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Rewi Alley, cooking skills, and Mr Xi’s preference for three-star hotels in China.

Mr Key, who is the chief cook in the Key household, said Mr Xi said he used to be quite a good cook himself but doesn’t cook any more.

I think it is rather cool that despite being PM, he still has time to cook for his family (and can do so). A very good way to stay grounded.

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Key elected head of the International Democrat Union

November 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

John Key was yesterday elected Chairman of the International Democrat Union. This is the global union of centre right parties. It is unprecedented for the leader of such a small country to become the chair.

It has 54 members including the Australian Liberal Party, Canadian Conservative Party, Taiwanese Kuomintang, French UPM, German CDU, UK Conservative and US Republican Party. It was founded by Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, Jacques Chrirac and George H W Bush. John Howard has just retired as the Chairman.

I have had some involvement myself in the IDU and the IYDU. To be elected Chair means that dozens of other Prime Ministers and party leaders are in support of you. It is a sign that John Key is recognised internationally as one of the most successful centre right leaders around the world.

Global politics, like domestic politics, often works on the strength of relationships. Key’s ascension to the IDU leadership is significant.

When he first became National Party leader, some on the left mocked Key as someone who would be incompetent on foreign affairs – how could a money trader know anything about diplomacy. Since then Key has developed strong relationships with both the US and Chinese Presidents, is good friends with the Australian, British and Canadian PMs, and now has been elected by his peers to be the leader of the global grouping of centre-right parties.

 

 

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From an anti TPP protest

November 11th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Screenshot 2014-11-08 23.46.53

Sent in by a reader, as reported on One News.

I wonder if she even knows what the NZ position on the TPP negotiations has been. I suspect she doesn’t.

 

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John Oliver on Key and NZ Flag

November 4th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Oliver is in great form as he skewers John Key and the flag issue.

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