Congratulations Jordan

July 3rd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

InternetNZ has appointed its former policy manager and one-time Labour Party candidate Jordan Carter as chief executive.

Carter had been serving as acting chief executive of the non-profit society since January following the sudden departure of former boss Vikram Kumar, who quickly went on to secure the role of chief executive of Kim Dotcom’s new online storage service, Mega.

InternetNZ said 36 candidates had applied for the position.

Carter stood down from InternetNZ in May 2011, after seven years at the organisation, when he was confirmed as a Labour-list candidate in the November 2011 general election. He was 40th on Labour’s list and missed the cut-off.

He today ruled out a return to politics “in the next few years” and said he would not be standing in the 2014 election.

He did not believe his decision to stand for Labour in 2011 would cause complications in InternetNZ’s relations with the current Government.

“I have been involved in this sector for so long, people know my roots are in the ICT policy area. It is completely transparent what my political views have been but they don’t colour what I do professionally.”

InternetNZ president Frank March said Carter had a deep understanding of internet policy and research and was “fully across the intricacies of regulation concerning the internet and ICT more generally.”

Carter said an “open and uncapturable internet” was essential to New Zealand’s prospects.

I think Jordan will do an excellent job, and he did well to beat out many top class candidates who applied.

I’ve worked closely with Jordan on Internet issues for well over a decade. He has a superb grasp of policy, a strategic mindset and is also an excellent administrator. The nice thing about InternetNZ is that it has members from all over the political spectrum, united in their belief that the Internet should remain open and uncaptureable and sharing InternetNZ’s goal of protecting and promoting the Internet in New Zealand. In 2005 I was the Acting President, and Jordan the Acting Chief Executive for a couple of months. We also happened to be rival campaign managers for National and Labour in Wellington Central. We would meet or talk several times a day on InternetNZ issues – and then inevitable see each other in the evenings at Meet the Candidate meetings as wee would vocally support our chosen candidates. It was surreal, and amusing.

I don’t see Jordan’s political background as a big issue. I was always grateful that when David Cunliffe was Labour’s ICT and Comms Minister he would work with me on Internet issues, despite my National background.  I was very supportive of Cunliffe’s efforts to bring in anti-spam legislation, and to increase competition in the telco sector by requiring operational separation of Telecom.  Part of politics is working in good faith with people on issues you agree on, even when you disagree on other issues.

So congrats to Jordan and InternetNZ. Next week is the annual Net Hui in Wellington, which as usual already has a large waiting list, as (off memory) already over 500 people registered to attend. Hope to see many people I know there.

Labour’s review

May 17th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Jordan Carter has blogged on Labour’s review, with the headline:

The Hope Project: changing Labour’s organisation

Inventory2 at Keeping Stock has some fun with the title, pointing out that such a glorious title is normally used for worthy third world projects, rather than a review about how to make Labour more electable.

Jordan usefully provided a link to the interim report. As someone with an interest in party organisational issues, some comments on a few of them.

The electorate organisation (LEC) become the main administrative unit for each electorate, with members belonging formally to the electorate (rather than to a branch).

I think this is a sensible move, and mirrors what is the case now in National. This does not mean an electorate can not have branches, but recognises that electorates are the core of a party. Most members get involved in electorate campaigns.

Regional (or sub-regional) co-ordination be strengthened. This structure should be the campaign-organising unit for a coordinated/integrated Party Vote campaign. This will require realigning of some regional boundaries and the establishment of sub-regional hubs.

Agree with this also, and think this is an area National lags a bit in. I’m of the view National’s five regions are too large and for example Wellington City with six electorates has little in common with say the Hawkes Bay seats (which are part of the region). Regions or sub-regions should be small enough to reflect a common community.

That the New Zealand Council structure be reviewed to ensure that it combines broad representation with the need to be able to make key decisions quickly. This could result in the re-establishment of an Executive of the Council.

Any body that is larger than 10 or so members tends to be a poor decision maker, and inevitably an inner core develops which develops most decisions. It is better that any inner core is recognised formally as an executive committee, rather than operate informally. So I’d either shrink the NZ Council to under a dozen, or have an Executive Committee which is responsible to the Council. Note National’s Board has just nine members.

Further work be carried out to develop recommendations for the Treaty partnership within the Party.

God knows what that means.

We discuss with affiliated unions ways of optimising affiliation.

This will never happen, but I think it would be much healthier if unions per se did not affiliate and gain bulk voting rights. It would be better if they merely acted as a vehicle through which union members could join and participate in Labour should they choose to do so as individuals – and paying the same fee as non union members.

We investigate means of affiliation for groups in the community.

Maybe then Grey Power and NZUSA could formally affiliate.

We continue to develop the use of social media, both within the Party and as an external communication tool.

I don’t think they need to developed their use of social medias, as much as moderate their use of it, so there are less SMOGs.

We increase the amount of issues-based continuous campaigning, which will help to increase the number of volunteers and organisers and provide organisational readiness for the Party.

This is the big difference between National and Labour activists. Most National activists only get involved in actual election campaigns. Labour activists will be involved in half a dozen campaigns at any point in time, from Save TVNZ7 to anti asset sales to stop mining to …

On that is built a policy platform: the high level set of agreed, evidence-based policies confirmed by Annual Conference, binding on all including the parliamentary party and able to be changed only by specific amendment at conference. These may be directional goals, policy principles or defined policy frameworks, but should allow caucus to refine the specifics.

It is at the annual conference that the unions gain their bulk votes where one union official can outvote dozens of delegates.

We develop and trial a candidate-training programme before the 2014 election.

An excellent idea. I know of a Mr S Lusk who would be very happy to assist with such a training programme 🙂

All candidates should be on the list and required to campaign for the Party vote via the regional campaign.

That is a good idea from a party disciple point of view, but I expect their caucus will fight it hard as senior MPs who don’t get particularly high list rankings prefer to not go on the list at all.

A working group be established to build a People Strategy for the Party which looks at issues of representation, including developing a mechanism for increasing the number of women in leadership positions in the Party and as MPs.

They could do what the Greens do, and require around half the top ten list candidates to have a penis, and half not to have a penis.

A Selection Working Group be established to develop selection processes which reduce central Party involvement in electorate-candidate selection. (Changes could include new member thresholds for representation, central short-listing with local decision-making, local representatives on the selection panel elected in a different way, full local choice, full local choice with a right of veto, or other ideas.)

Excellent. A move in the right direction. The party hierarchy should get a veto early on to ensure quality control, but after that it should be up to local members as much as possible.

The Selection Working Group develop recommendations to improve the list selection process through processes which are more transparent and better fit the Party’s goals. (The List process should continue to value quality and representativeness (of skills, background/occupation, regional representation, gender and ethnicity), and should promote continuous renewal and reflect MP contribution and performance.)

Well that is a cop out, considering the list ranking was the most heavily criticised aspect of 2011.

The Party move to a model that includes membership participation in leadership selection, and that the Selection Working Group propose possible models for further discussion.

I’ve blogged previously on this, and think it is an excellent idea. I expect the Labour caucus will block and delay it, as the ABC faction would be aghast at the thought of party members able to force Cunliffe into the leadership against their will.

Continue to seek financial support from a range of potential donors (including wealthy individuals, small and large businesses, and individuals) who share our values and/or who would benefit from our policies.

That is a very mercenary attitude. I would have said “who believe our policies are good for New Zealand”.

It will be interesting to see what actual constitutional changes are put to their conference in November, and if they get passed.

Small on Shearer

April 20th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small reports at Stuff:

Rather than slam the Government over paid parental leave, he talked compromise. Labour would look at phasing it in or lowering the costs in “a sincere effort to move something forward”.

Consensus, he said, was his first instinct.

It is a style Mr Shearer is making his brand; a reasonable man talking in a measured tone that rejects the politics of charisma.

This is one reason I like Shearer. I do think he is a reasonable man.

To the political media present – and in a warning to Labour, only three reporters made the short hop from Wellington – it was about as dull as a leader’s speech can get.

With the Government on the ropes over issues from the pokies deal with SkyCity to Crafar farm sales and asset sales, the soft-shoe approach is not without its critics.

There is no crisis yet, but there has been some internal arm-wrestling.

Chief of staff Stuart Nash has quit after just a few months in the pivotal role, mostly for personal reasons – a new baby and the commute from Napier. But insiders say he was ill-suited and clashed with chief press secretary Fran Mold over strategy. She pushed for a (relatively) higher profile, arguing the Greens and NZ First leader Winston Peters would fill the vacuum if Mr Shearer left one.

Finding the right replacement for Mr Nash is crucial, especially with the key party secretary job expected to be vacant soon when Chris Flatt leaves.

There is no clear favourite for either job, although policy guru Jordan Carter is tipped as secretary, while the Wellington rumour mill favours Wellington lawyer Alastair Cameron as chief of staff.

Both are closer to deputy leader Grant Robertson than Mr Shearer.

And arguably also closer to Cunliife.

It is too early to say Shearer will be rolled, but it is obvious from reading around the left-wing blogs that there  is significant discontent amongst the activist base – especially in Auckland.

What is interesting is that the Auckland activists are trying to lump Robertson in with Shearer, so that if Shearer falls, Cunliffe will be able to win a leadership battle against Robertson.

Cunliffe has come back from his leadership loss revitalised and has been impressing many in Labour. I think Robertson would still beat Cunliffe in a contest, but the “Anyone but Cunliffe” faction has diminished in recent months.

If there is any change, I would expect it to occur either late 2012 or at the latest February 2013. If Shearer makes it past that, then I think it would be too late for a change.

Members voting for the next Labour leader?

January 26th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Jordan Carter blogs:

I am not yet sure of it, but I think it is possible by the end of this year, the New Zealand Labour Party will have an institutional role for members in choosing the leadership of the Party.  We will, if that is so, be joining our fraternal parties around the world, and will be giving people a big new reason to join the party and be involved.

I’m a fan of giving the members a vote, as the UK Conservatives did in choosing David Cameron.

The process we choose will be important.  My view is that in a country as small as this, we should do our best to keep it deliberative.  We could, as Patrick suggests, have an electoral college model between the Caucus, Members and Affiliates, and that would work for me to a degree with postal ballots for the latter two, and in person ballots for the Caucus.

I’m more a one person one vote person. Jordan’s model (which is used in UK Labour) would see union bosses controlling say a third of the votes.

Why not just have a postal ballot of all members of the party, a member being someone who has filled in a membership form and paid a sub.

But good to see Labour looking at involving their members more.

Change for Labour

December 29th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Jordan Carter blogs:

Here’s my short list for starters, of a few problems we really need to face.

  • a record low vote, lowest since the 1920s
  • low and static membership in the past three years
  • over centralisation of control over policy and strategy, with too little power for members
  • an inward focused ‘divide the pie’ approach by too many party units
  • a cultural acceptance of low to no organisation in too many places, and a related culture of federalism divided between electorates rather than a sense of a nation-wide, cooperating organisation
  • too much belief that our connections with a wide range of Kiwis are strong, when they are weak
  • a sense that we ‘own’ the voters that went to the greens and nzf, and that they are bound to return to us
  • a perception among some parts of the electorate that we are out of touch with their hopes and dreams
  • a structure that incentivises our inward focus

It’s a long list to which I am sure you can add things, friend or foe.

The main thing I would add is killing off the culture of the ends justify the means. Some will say there is no such culture, but it has been shown time after time again. There is the belief that they are inherently good, and that those from the centre-right are inherently bad, so hence anything which helps deliver Labour to victory is culturally acceptable.

Danyl at Dim Post has his own key thing to change:

I’d narrow almost all of this down to the problem of candidate selection. The primary goal of a candidate is to win votes for themselves and the party, but Labour doesn’t seem to value this quality in any of their candidates or MPs. They’re chosen for attributes that seem mysterious to the rest of the country, usually from a small pool of parliamentary staffers, unionists and activists and then farmed out to electorates to which they pretend some spurious connection (‘whanau in the region’).

I’ve just been doing an analysis of which Labour candidates did best at getting people who party vote National to vote for them – ie those who can attract support from across the spectrum.  The three best are Ross Robertson, Lianne Dalziel and Clayton Cosgrove who attracted 27%, 24% and 21% of National voters respectively.

The three worse were Jeremy Greenbrook-Held (he was against John Key) who got 0.3%, Deborah Mahuta-Coyle who got 0.4% and the Taupo candidates whose name I can’t even recall who got 0.5% – ie less than 1 in 200 National party voters gave their candidate vote to the candidate from the second largest party. The average was 5.4%, or around 1 in 20.

Take Deborah Mahuta-Coyle, a Labour communications advisor who was given a high list position (although not high enough) and ran as a candidate in Tauranga, explaining that she grew up ‘further along State Highway One’ (SH1 does not run through, or near Tauranga). With Mahuta Coyle as a candidate Labour’s party vote in Tauranga was one of the worst in the entire country, declining by 33% (Labour’s nationwide decline was 20%).

And as I mentioned failed to attract even 1 in 200 of those who did vote National on the party vote. This is not to say that Mahuta-Coyle would not be a very good MP, but different qualities can be needed to also be a good candidate who can attract both party and electorate votes.

Nationals’ backbench electorate MPs drive the party’s Wellington based political staffers crazy, because they’re always running off to the Prime Minister and complaining about ‘some trivial little rural issue that no one in Wellington cares about’. Labour’s MPs are, increasingly, former political staffers who share the same elite background and Wellington-centric focus.

This is basically true, and it is important to have this tension. I’ve been a Wellington based staffer and certain MPs did drive you batty over issues you just knew were of no importance to the press gallery, the leadership etc. However those backbench MPs would go on to win massive majorities as they were in touch with their communities and helping stop their party from getting too out of touch with life outside Wellington. Parties need those backbench electorate MPs to keep raising those local issues.

Jordan endorses getting in touch with the voters, and Shearer’s said the same thing. Great. But Phil Goff spent a year ‘getting in touch with voters’ after the loss in 2008. The Labour team drove around the country in a bus singing songs and meeting with ‘real New Zealanders’ like, uh, Darren Hughes’ uncle. Goff then went back to Wellington and cheerfully went about promoting his own office staffers as electorate candidates, including Mahuta-Coyle.

The number of former political staff in the Labour caucus is large – Shearer himself, Robertson, Ardern, Hipkins for a start – three of the top four plus the Chief Whip. Then you also have Cosgrove, Faafoi, Mallard and David Clark. That’s almost a quarter of the caucus.

If Labour decided to operate selections on a one member one vote basis, it would solve Danyl’s problem, but also help solve Jordan’s problem of low and static membership, over-centralisation, low to no organisation in some places.

National’s electorate selection process is incredibly democratic. So democratic there are regular occasions when I groan at whom the locals have voted for, and I wish myself and a few mates could decide all the selections. But the reality is I would never want to give up a system where the grass-roots members decide whom their local candidate is – the benefits of having them do so are significant.

One person, one vote, is a pretty good basis for voting personally. Labour should try it some time.

Jordan on Labour

December 4th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Jordan Carter has a thoughtful piece on Labour and the Labour leadership. An extract:

In the wake of Labour’s most serious election defeat since the 1920s, a comprehensive and critical re-examination of almost all of what Labour’s politics is about is an absolute necessity for our party.

On the table must be our policy, our campaigning, our organisation from branch to national level, our candidate selection, our structure, our communications, our tone, the way the parliamentary party works, what the staff do in the party and in parliament, and on it goes.

I think Jordan is right in that the leadership is only one aspect that needs reviewing. I’ve written before about what National did in 2002 with an independent review.

We have to start with acknowledging what happened to us on 26 November.

We got hammered. 

There are no two ways about it. 

The result is worse than in 1996, which should have been impossible given that that result followed the three-way split of the 1980s Labour Party.

It is a comprehensive rejection of Labour as a party fit to lead the government. 

I know it as a candidate.  There was none of the anger of 2008 directed at us. Instead there was simply indifference. People were sure we weren’t ready for the job.  Second time in a row.

We must face that defeat, own it as an organisation, acknowledge it, and be ready to take some hard choices about how to refound our party and our movement to win.

It’s that big a deal.  A positive and upbeat four week campaign does not erase the fact of failure, and nor must it be allowed to disguise how far we have fallen and how much work we have to do.

First and most profoundly, Labour has to work out again what electorate it wishes to appeal to.  Who are the 50-60% of New Zealanders we want to have open to voting for us, from which we can draw 40-50% of the vote at general elections?

Secondly, we need with hard data and through open and engaged listening, to work out why it is that so many of those groups who used to be open to us are not now listening, and just don’t care what we stand for or say.

Labour could do worse than put Jordan on the review team. Having said that, the review team should ideally have some external people on it. An internal review can only do so much.


So who is lying?

October 14th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Jordan Carter has blogged on the now well publicised accusations over what was said and denied at the Rainbow Wellington election forum. A number of Labour Party candidates and supporters have all accused ACT candidate Stephen Whittington of getting it wrong.

Well to para-phrase Mandy Rice-Davies, they would say that, wouldn’t they. But Green MP Kevin Hague has backed Whittington’s version of events. Now unless one subscribes to Labour’s mad theory of a vast right wing and non-labour left wing conspiracy, I think we can trust Kevin Hague as an honest witness.

With that in mind, Jordan may regret the title of his blog post – a clarification for some liars out there.

Does this mean he is calling Kevin Hague a liar?

I get a mention also, which I need to respond to.

This has been amplified today by that well known defender of the rights of queer people, David Farrar, on his blog KiwiBlog, and by Whittington himself in a media release.  The result is this Stuff story “Labour accused of homophobia cover-up” by Andrea Vance.

Now the reference to me as a “well known defender of the rights of queer people” is obviously meant to be sarcastic and imply I am insincere when it comes to this issue, and just using it to score political points.

I think my record stands for itself. I have blogged in supports of gay issues such as civil unions, gay marriage and gay adoption on scores and scores of occasions. I actively lobbied in favour of the Civil Union Bill, assisting Tim Barnett with it.  I blogged in 2004 how great the Civil Unions Bill party was to celebrate, and how great it was to be a very small part of helping something positive happen.

Unlike many in Labour I have been willing to criticise MPs from my own party on these issues. At the time of the Civil Unions Bill I blogged somewhat critically of some of the speeches from MPs against, including National MPs. The following week my public criticisms were raised in Caucus (so I am told, I don’t attend of course) by some of the MPs I had criticised, asking for something to be done to shut me up.

Also just last year I blogged quite harsh criticisms of a Cabinet Minister for comments which I thought were taunting a gay MP. It actually turned out (once I saw the video and wasn’t just going off the NZPA report) that I had misinterpreted the comments, and it was a fairly good natured exchange, so I actually was unfairly critical of the National Minister. But again, note I was publicly critical.

So even though Jordan was using the term sarcastically, I think I have been consistent in my advocacy on gay rights. Perhaps my crime is actually being heterosexual and a National supporter – after all how can a straight right winger be anything but insincere on gay issues?

Farrar’s allegations are nonsense.  He (and Whittington) are lying when they say that Grant and Charles denied Trevor’s ‘tinkerbell’ stuff.  They did no such thing.

Well let me quote Kevin Hague:

Green MP Kevin Hague, who was also at the meeting, backed Mr Whittington’s version of events. “My sense was that Charles and Grant were denying that Mallard and Cosgrove had abused Chris Finlayson in a homophobic way.

Also Jordan and Grant’s version of events are not even backed by Chauvel himself. In the Herald he said:

Mr Chauvel said he had never heard anybody refer to Mr Finlayson by that name “and if I did hear it, I would tell them that was unacceptable”.

So Charles was denying anyone had ever said it. So now the list of liars is Stephen Whittington, myself, Kevin Hague and Charles himself.

They would have been stupid to. The remarks were well covered at the time.  We told Trevor what we thought. Making slurs like that in Parliament is totally unacceptable.

They were well covered at the time. Do you know why? Because I blogged about them. Off memory there was no publicity around this until I highlighted this. No one in Labour did anything about Trevor and Clayton until there was adverse publicity.

And don’t think it was only the three times it has been recorded in Hansard. Hansard only records comments if made in a speech or if an interjection is responded to. I understand Trevor and Clayton has yelled out Tinkerbell to Finlayson on numerous occasions – but as Finlayson ignored them they do not get recorded.

So good on Jordan and others for telling Trevor (and hopefully Clayton) to stop. But did you say anything publicly like I have with National MPs?

What they denied is that Mallard is homophobic. They are right.  Trevor has been a staunch defender of social liberal causes and was a key player in the fight to decriminalise homosexuality in the 1980s. His voting record on queer rights issues is perfect.

I tend to agree that Trevor is not homophobic. He is just someone willing to use homophobic comments to attack other MPs. It’s much the same with Winston. I don’t think Winston really hate Asians. I think he just knows it is effective to bash Asian immigration, so does it to be popular.  I note Jordan has not said whether or not he thinks Clayton is homophobic.

In terms of the argument that someone can not be homophobic because they have a perfect voting record on queer right issues. By that logic, Senator Larry Craig can’t be homosexual because he has a perfect voting record against queer rights. I think behaviour counts as much as one’s voting record.

So my message to Whittington and to David Farrar is: stop lying on this point.

I trust Stephen’s integrity, just as I trust Kevin Hague – a gay Green MP who politically has nothing to gain by backing up the ACT candidate’s version of events. And then add onto that the fact that Chauvel has said he has never heard anyone refer to Finlayson by that name, and I am very comfortable with what I have blogged.

Jordan would do well to stop shooting the messengers. If only he spent as much time condemning the remarks publicly when they were made, than denying they were denied.

For someone who is a social liberal, David sure does spend a lot of time stirring up nasty stuff.

I love this Orewellain view of the world. If I was a Labour activist who criticised a National MP for denying homophobic comments from other National MPs, I would be trumpeted as the good guy, and the National MP would be the nasty guy.

But no God forbid that I criticise a Labour MP/s because in the heat of a debate they made the wrong call and embarrassed by the mention of these homophobic comments by colleagues they tried to bluff it and deny said comments had been made.

I can only conclude that criticising a Labour MP for anything at all, is automatically nasty stuff.

On that note I’ll talk about why I did the series of posts on Charles Chauvel. It is not because he is gay as Charles has suggested, or because some mythical polls show him leading in Ohariu and Peter Dunne has put me up to it.  It is because I received information (from a number of sources, including people in his own party) that revealed he was doing shameless self-promotion to a degree that was deceptive.

In the past I have been complimentary of Charles, such as when he was moved to the extended front bench, noting:

Chauvel was a no brainer.  … Chauvel to environment is logical and what I predicted. He is one of the few MPs who understand the complexities of the ETS etc.

And before the reshuffle I said:

But a couple of others would also be contenders on merit for the front bench, or at least the front row of the cross-benches. Charles Chauvel and Grant Robertson would be the two strongest contenders. …

I also blogged in favour of his private members bill on credit reform going to select committee.

Charles is not the only MP who is a self-promoter. All MPs are (by necessity) to some degree. But I think where most MPs are under-graduates, Charles seemed to be well on his way to a PhD in it, so I called him out on some of his practices. No conspiracy, no homophobia, nothing to do with Ohariu. At the end of the day if you don’t write letters praising yourself and send them out to people, then there is no way I can be sent a copy of them to blog about it.

UPDATE: Whale Oil has blogged that the video of the House shows Chauvel was present when Mallard used the term, and sitting just three seats along and one back from him.

UPDATE2: The Secretary of Rainbow Wellington has released his summary of the meeting based on his detailed notes. Tony Reed’s summary states:

The Banks issue was taken up further and the Labour MPs reminded us of his homophobic actions in the House when Chris Carter came out as the first openly gay MP. Stephen agreed this was wrong, but in turn accused Labour MPs of making homophobic remarks about Chris Finlayson, a charge which was hotly denied.”

I won’t hold my breath waiting for an apology for being called a liar.


A thoughtful post

January 18th, 2010 at 1:52 pm by David Farrar

Jordan Carter has a thoughtful post on what Labour must do to win the next election. Some extracts:

We lost in 2008 for reasons I have canvassed before – people thought we were focused on issues that weren’t important to them; we’d been in office for a long time; there was a recession; people had fallen out of love with our political style; some of our policies were not working out or were unpopular; and failures of political management added on top of this combustible pushed us over the edge.

That’s what we did wrong. The Nats also did things right: they really did move to the centre, and they selected a leader who people like. Actually, they *really* like him – for the time being anyway.

Jordan seems to be one of the few in Labour not in denial about Key.

That’s policy, in some areas, but it is also in the politics or statecraft of the party. For better or worse, the fifth Labour government was a baby boomer government. The political methods of the 70s and 80s were those which ran it: it was tightly managed and focused.

I get the sense though that people are looking now for something a little different. Some in Labour look at Key’s hands off approach and see a weakness. I see a strength. The rise of ICT, the end of “deference” towards authority, and growing generations of people who are as comfortable online as offline mean that a political party that is centralised and top down cannot really capture the public imagination.

These are wise words for National, as well as Labour.

What Labour must do is turn itself inside out. As we say “this is what we are hearing, what do you think?”, we also have to invite people in to join with us and help shape what we are doing next. We have to use the best technology there is to do it, as well as the traditional means of face to face and direct mail politics. We need to be the party that people see as grassroots based, and where they know that if they want to raise an issue or a concern, it will filter through to what our policy is and what our politicians are saying and thinking.

We have to do this if we are to be relevant, and if we want to win there is nothing more important than being relevant.

National in 2002 was not relevant. Labour in 2010 are not relevant. The challenge for Labour is can they become relevant by the end of 2011?

Fibre to the Home proposal finalised

September 16th, 2009 at 2:28 pm by David Farrar

I’m very very happy with today’s announcement from Steven Joyce:

Communications and Information Technology Minister Hon Steven Joyce today released the details of the government’s $1.5 billion ultra-fast broadband investment initiative. …

Key highlights of the proposal include:

  • An open, transparent partner selection process, which will be initiated in the next month.

  • Government investment directed to an open access, wholesale-only, passive fibre network infrastructure.

  • A new Crown-owned investment company (“Crown Fibre Holdings”), which will be operational by October, to carry out the government’s partner selection process and manage the government’s investment in fibre networks.

  • Crown Fibre Holdings and each partner establishing a commercial vehicle, a “Local Fibre Company” (LFC), to deploy fibre network infrastructure and provide access to dark fibre products and, optionally, certain active wholesale Layer 2 services.

  • Provision for national and regionally-focused proposals, as well as consortium and proposals aggregating any combination of LFC regions.

  • Independence, equivalence and transparency requirements for LFCs.

  • Expansion to 33 candidate coverage areas based on the largest urban areas (by population in 2021).

What is really good is the commitment to open access to dark fibre, and the regional approach to the issue. The Government has held firm to most of their draft proposal, with the main change being an increase in the number of coverage areas to 33.

Computerworld reports on positive reaction:

“This ushers in the biggest and most fundamental change to telecommunications in New Zealand since the privatisation of Telecom 20 years ago,” TUANZ CEO Ernie Newman said in reaction to the news.

“The paper builds very constructively on the work done previously,” Newman says. “It takes into account most of the key issues raised in submissions, and sets a timetable with milestones. It is an excellent blueprint on which to build.” …

InternetNZ also welcomed the plan, saying it is “delighted” with today’s announcement of a regionally-based approach to investment.

“This is a world-leading programme that can be expected to deliver the infrastructure New Zealand needs,” spokesperson Jordan Carter says.

“Steven Joyce and the Government have put in place a framework that over time can deliver a widespread fibre rollout across urban New Zealand.”

Those unsure about the benefits of ultra-fast broadband, might want to read the guest post from Rod Drury earlier this week.

Chris Keall (and Kelly Gregor) at NBR cover the proposal in detail. Keall highlights a new focus:

In the proposal document released today, the minister also flags that “The capacity and reliability of New Zealand’s international data connectivity will become increasingly important as LFCs’ [local fibre companies’] networks are deployed over the course of the UFB Initiative.”

The Commerce Commission recently identified slow international data as a roadblock to better domestic broadband performance, with testings showing that overseas pages take twice as long to load as those hosted locally – even with our current copper-dominated networks.

International bandwidth and data costs are often cited as a big issue also.

In a fit of good timing, Juha Saarinen has an article in Computeworld on dark fibre, and how you basically can not get it from Telecom or TelstraClear. Have a look at this price comparison and weep:

James Watts, who runs Palmerston North-based ISP Inspire Net, says the reason dark fibre is attractive to his customers is because they can “do whatever the hell they want with it.” Inspire currently charges $595 and $995 for intra-town dark fibre pair leases, depending on contract terms, and double that for inter-town unlit circuits.

To light the circuits, Watts says his company sells Gigabit Ethernet transceivers for $140 each.

A similar 1Gbit/s circuit from Telecom apparently costs $7000 a month, plus installation charges.It’s $69k a year according to Telecom’s pricing book.

Finally a focus on the issue of fibre providers being discouraged from also operating retail telecommunication services, both here and in Australia. Steven Joyce said in a Q&A:

Will Telecom have to structurally separate its network business to participate?

Any such decisions are up to Telecom.  The Government has made it clear that it will only invest money into fibre companies that are not controlled by shareholders who also operate retail telecommunication businesses.  The Government is also clear that potential partners who already own fibre assets can table options that involve those fibre assets being vended into any new fibre companies.

Preventing vertically integrated monopolies is crucial. This basically means Telecom can not be a majority shareholder in any regional fibre company unless they structurally separate (ie sell off Chorus). They can have a minority stake however.

In Australia, the Government has done similiar:

The government could also deny Telstra access to new spectrum for advanced wireless broadband unless the telco sells off its cable network and 50 per cent stake in Foxtel (25 per cent owned by News Corporation, owner of The Australian)

If you want to be part of the future, you need to be separated.

For those who think separation is not a big issue, think what it would be like if Air New Zealand owned the airports and could set access terms for other airlines. Or if Ford owned the roads and set the rules for what other cars could drive on them, and for how much.

So as I said, very pleased with the announcements today, and now working my way through the details.

Jordan on Labour’s future

May 13th, 2009 at 2:02 pm by David Farrar

Jordan Carter has done an excellent post on Labour’s future. First he notes the comments of two lefties – Tane:

Labour, on the other hand, just seems utterly bereft of vision. In the midst of the greatest economic crisis of our age, when they should be putting forward a bold alternative vision, Labour doesn’t seem have a clue where it’s going. Their miserable poll ratings don’t so much represent a rejection of their platform as a complete lack of relevance.

and Danyl:

I’d argue that left-wing bloggers are more relevant now than ever since they’re now in a position to critique the government instead of apologise for it, and the primary left-wing party is off on it’s own, weird journey into political irrelevance and oblivion leaving a great void for progressive voices to fill.

Jordan comments:

I am always interested when I read comments like this. Part of the purpose of the Labour Party is to be a credible voice for progressive politics that progressive people regard as being on the right track.

It seems obvious in retrospect that our alliance with Winston Peters and NZ First in the last Parliament did some serious harm to that part of Labour’s reputation, both with non-aligned progressives and particularly with supporters of the Green Party. The Labour leadership made a call about the stability and sustainability of the government it wanted to run, and we now live with the consequences.

I won’t declare I am happy with the state of Labour. Who could be right now?
I’m not posting these here to embarrass Jordan. In fact I think constructive criticism of your own party is one of the best things bloggers can do. And this is one of the few acknowledgements of how much it hurt Labour that they choose Winston over the Greens.
We got beaten in last year’s election for five or six broadly credible and understandable reasons. We face the unpleasant and somewhat daunting task of rebuilding our party, our policy agenda and our reputation in the face of a very popular government that people think is quite centrist. And we do so having baggage with both of the political parties with whom we will need to build rapport and support to form a government in the future.
This is the most realistic self-appraisal I have seen from a Labour person. Especially the focus on the challenges of building better ties with what should be natural allies in the Greens and Maori Party.
When we have got it right, bloggers like Tane and blogs like Dim Post will be supporting, or supportive of, Labour. Labour will be in the lead in the polls. Labour will have strong and deep political relationships with other parties of the centre and left that will allow it to form a government.

What would that Labour Party look like? It will be an open and energised organisation, with a big membership and good resources – staff, dollars, communications collateral etc. It will be an organisation where people know they can debate issues and express different points of view and that in so doing, their contribution will be respected. It will be deeply connected to the communities it seeks to represent and will have an authentic voice when speaking for them.

A nice aspiration.

This is the greatest opportunity that social democracy has had since the 1930s to build a new consensus around building a more egalitarian, more human society. Labour has to rise to the challenge.

The challenge I ask progressive readers of this blog to consider is this: what are you going to do to make that happen?
And even though I disagree with his policy prescription, a good analysis of how the credit crisis is a catalyst for change.
I’ve sometimes pinged Jordan when I think he has got too tribal (as I do also), so I think I would be remiss in not highlighting a really solid and thoughtful contribution that those on the left should take seriously.

Is Jordan a secret fan of Roger Douglas?

April 9th, 2009 at 3:57 pm by David Farrar

Jordan Carter blogs:

Michael is a smart, funny, warm and caring man who is already clearly one of my party’s more successful finance ministers.

Now this got me curious, as this suggests that Jordan thinks that Labour has had other finance ministers more successful than Dr Cullen. Because he did not say “the most successful”.

Who have been Labour Finance Ministers, and which ones do he think were better than Dr Cullen? The post WWII/1949 list is:

  1. Arnold Nordmeyer 1957 to 1960
  2. Bill Rowling 1972 – 1974
  3. Bob Tizard 1974 – 75
  4. Roger Douglas 1984 – 1988
  5. David Caygill 1988 – 1990

Nordmeyer was the author of the infamous Black Budget that made Labour a one term Government so we can assume it wasn’t him.

Rowling was Finance Minister during the oil crisis, and has a pretty disasterous record. So presumably not him.

No one could seriously think you would rate Bob Tizard abaove Michael Cullen.

So hence, the only possible conclusion is that Jordan rates Roger Douglas and David Caygill as Labour’s most sucessful finance ministers! 🙂

This will endear him to Leader Phil Goff, as Goff was once Sir Roger’s most loyal disciple. As was Annette!

Jordan on 2011 campaign

February 11th, 2009 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Jordan Carter gets very excited over National raising the minimum wage:

Yesterday’s announcement of the government’s decision to increase the minimum wage by 50c marks the formal beginning of National’s 2011 election campaign.

Make no mistake about it. The neo-liberal shibboleths of the 1990s have been left behind. The New National Party has decided that its raison d’etre in the 21st Century is one thing and one thing only: to be in power. To achieve that objective, it has one tactic and one tactic only: to destroy the relevance of the Labour Party in New Zealand electoral politics.

Oh my God, National does something centrist and suddenly it is an evil campaign to hold power at all costs, regardless of principle.

I mean National putting up the minimum wage by the rate of inflation is like, umm, well a Labour Government announcing massive tax cuts!!

So does Jordan think Labour decided its raison d’etre in the 21st Century is one thing and one thing only: to be in power, when they announced tax cuts.

That means everything is fair game. Policy crosses to Labour’s left; moderate-seeming approaches to some sensitive issues (the category the minimum wage increase falls into); dirty tricks when it comes to campaign and finance law (see this fortnight’s repeal of the EFA);

That’s the repeal his own party is voting for. And you have to appreciate the hypocrisy of someone from Labour talking about dirty tricks in relation to electoral law. Even Phil Goff admits they fucked up, but no Jordan still insists it is all the evil Nats.

close relationships with other minor parties to build a solid Parliamentary position post-election.

Oh no. That evil National Party. They are building relationships with minor parties. This just can not be allowed to happen. Quick pass a law against it.

It is the mirror image of Labour’s 2002-2005 approach, with one important difference. Labour’s purpose in government was to build a fairer, freer and more equal society. We did that through more progressive taxes and tax credits; socially liberal legislation that expanded people’s rights; investing for long term economic security; genuine treaty settlements… the list goes on.

National’s purpose is to be not-Labour in government.

Sigh, and once agin we get back to the “Labour good”, “National bad” meme. Yes National hates fairness and freedom. They are just about power.

Yes John Key is doing some centrist things. But National is also implementing its manifesto promises, and I am pretty sure that when Jordan was a candidate, he did not endorse those policies.So how can he argue National now stands for nothing.

They’ll do whatever they think can deliver that.  It will be dressed up, eventually, in some swish narrative that appeals to some Kiwi values. But it won’t be values based. The only value it seeks to serve is power itself. That will be National’s eventual undoing: the task for Labour is to uncover that moral bankruptcy, expose it, and persuade the public of its reality.
Once again we get the National is evil power mad theme. And Labour is the source of morality and truth. And frankly if you want a good example of a party that would do anything to cling onto power, how about Helen Clark’s disgraceful behaviour around Winston Peters, when she legitamised Ministers to lie repeatedly to the public.
The task then for the progressive Left is to stop tilting at shadows. Some of you wish that National would relapse into Ruth Richardson style politics. Get over it. The Nats are not mad and they are not stupid.
Not mad or stupid, just power mad and evil!!
What it will not do is make progress, and that is what we need to show and to promise to deliver. In so doing, we have to call this what it is: a National government with power at the heart of its ambition for New Zealand.
I think the real message here is that we can’t attack National on their policies, so instead we’ll attack their motives.
National is doing some stuff that is centrist. I blogged on that myself. But trying to portray that as some sort of bad thing, which is all about power is ridicolous. All parties moderate what they woudl like to do, to appeal to the centre. To try and claim when your party does it, they are being noble, and when the others do it, they are just grasping for power, is silly.

The Central North Island Seats

November 13th, 2008 at 12:15 am by David Farrar

Oh I do like that solid blue look. And in 2002 only a handful were blue.

Hunua is a new seat. The party vote is another 60:20 type solid seat. On the electorate vote Paul Hutchison narrowly beat Jordan Carter by 14,738 votes and Roger Douglas another 2,700 votes behind Jordan.

Waikato is 58% to 22% on the party vote. And Lindsay Tisch drove his majority from 7,000 to almost 12,000.

Coromandel went from 45% to 31% up to 51% to 26%. And Sandra Goudie scored a 13,400 majority for the seat she won in 2005.

The two Hamilton seats are no longer marginal weathervanes. Hamilton East went from a 9% party vote lead for National to a 19% lead. And David Bennett turned a 5,300 majority into one of over 8.000. Hamilton West saw an 11% lead in the party vote for National after being 2% behind in 2005. And Tim Macindoe turned his 1,100 loss in 2005 to a 1,500 victory in 2008.

Bay of Plenty is another 60:20 seat on the party vote. and Tony Ryall got a massive 16,500 majority up from 11,000 in 2005.

In 2005 in Tauranga, National had a 15% lead in the party vote. In 2008 the lead was 32%. Bob Clarkson beat Winston Peters by 730 votes in 2005. This time Simon Bridges beat him by 10,700. Simon will be happy to be the Member of Tauranga for some time.

Rotorua saw National lift the party vote from 43% to 51%, and Todd McClay scored a majority of almost 5,000 over a sitting Minister.

Taupo saw a party vote victory of 15% and Louise Upston beat Mark Burton by almost 6,000 votes. She ran a good campaign and for a big enough majority to make it safe for National. Burton got 2300 more votes than Labour so even harder for any future Labour candidate.  I also heard a rumour that Louise held the first meeting of her 2011 campaign committee at 8.15 am on Sunday morning 🙂

The East Coast had a 15% lead in the party vote (the graphic has it wrong) and on the electorate vote Anne Tolley turned a 2,500 majority into a 6,000 majority.

The growing seat of Napier saw National go from a 1% lead in the party vote to a 12% lead. And Chris Tremain drove his 3,300 victory over Russell Fairbrother in 2005 to a 8,400 margin. Remember this is a seat Labour held for all but three years from 1928 to 2005 and Tremain is building John Carter or Nick Smith type majorities as a brilliant local MP who owns his seat.

Over on the west coast, we have the huge Taranaki-King Country seat which is another of those lovely 60:20 seats.  And the 12,000 majority motors up to 14,500.

Finally we have New Plymouth. National was ahead on the party vote last time by 8% and this time it was 20%. And it was too much for Harry Duynhoven who lost the seat by 300 votes. In 2005 he held it by almost 5,000 votes and in 2002 his majority was a staggering 15,000. New candidate Jonathan Young will be watching the special votes though.

Labour will struggle to form a Government again, while so many seats have them getting just 1 in 5 party votes. Every seat in this region had at least an 11% gap in the party vote, with many having a 40% gap.

Salient interviews Jordan Carter

July 14th, 2008 at 8:01 pm by David Farrar

Salient interviews Jordan Carter, who is standing for Labour in Hunua. I’m even one of the topics discussed, and Jordan is very generous with his comments.

One part I’ll quote, which I agree with:

Do you think that the struggle for gay rights has largely finished in New Zealand, do you think that the battle has been won?

No, no, I think the battle for gay rights quote, unquote, will be won when there isn’t a battle for gay rights anymore. When the idea of someone being gay is no more particular or significant than them having red hair, or them being short…

I know not everyone is there, but to me someone being gay is about as significant as them having red hair. Except of course gingas deserve to be persecuted. More seriously, when I do find out someone I know is gay, it is just a feature of who they are.

More on right vs left characterisations

June 12th, 2008 at 9:53 am by David Farrar

I pinged Jordan yesterday for what I thought was a simplistic ascribing of selfishness to those who are not of the left. Jordan has done a clarification which I think reflects the situation better, even though I still disagree that the right want to constrain the poor.

If I was to attempt some generalisations it would be that the right focus too much on incentives and not enough on the short-term while the left do not focus enough on incentives and on the short-term over the long term.

To take one example – the widely disliked market rentals in the 1990s. If you look at the issue in terms of incentives and the long-term, having accommodation assistance delivered to low income families by way of supplement would be fairer than having your level of assistance decided by who your landlord is. It was never about making poor people pay more – in fact total assistance increased off memory.

But where National fell down is not looking at the short-term effects, in its desire to get the long-term incentives right. It was seen as callous for the plight of the family who suddenly had big rent increases on the property they had lived in for years.

I know of no-one in National who thinks the state does not have a role in helping low income families meet their living costs. But as I said what National may have been guilty of is being indifferent to the short-term pain imposed by its policies.

Likewise Labour often (in my opinion) looks at the band-aid solution rather than the core problem, which means they do stupid stuff such as interest-free student loans rather than more sensible ways to help students such as lower tertiary fees or increase allowances.

Another difference in world views tends to be the degree of faith or optimism in the ability of the state to fix problems. Views on the right tend to view the state as ranging from a necessary evil to competent in some areas, but not all. And views on the left probably range from competent in some areas but not all to favouring the state over the private sector at every opportunity.

This is why people on the left and right come up with different solutions (in my view) and different priorities. Not that one side are selfish and one side are not.

Selfish Righties

June 11th, 2008 at 1:59 pm by David Farrar

I really despair when intelligent people resort to cartoon type caricatures of their opponents. Jordan blogs today:

I was watching the video of Michael Cullen at the Drinking Liberally gig in Wellington last week (where I was standing was a bit out of hearing range at times), and thinking about why people bother with progressive politics.

After all, sometimes it would seem much easier to adopt a selfish approach to life. When you’re only looking after yourself, only caring about yourself, and when your politics is shaped around that point of view, then things must seem much easier. There would be none of the difficulties involved in having due regard for other people.

Oh yes everyone on the left is good and caring and warm and those who have a different view on politics are selfish evil people. It would be laughable if it wasn’t said so earnestly and seriously and with such a tone of moral superiority. I mean how does one survive with such a burden of the “difficulties in having due regard for other people”.

Yeah it is so much easier on the right. I mean none of us donate to charity. None of us spend hundreds and thousands of hours of our time volunteering with charities, service clubs and non-profits. None of us
care for others. Hell we don’t even have friends and we are created in test tubes we are such inhuman bastards.

Jordan vs Roger

June 9th, 2008 at 8:36 pm by David Farrar

An interesting post from Jordan Carter on Sir Roger Douglas, whom he will be up against in Hunua. Some extracts and comments:

He is the prime salesman of the concepts which created poverty in New Zealand for the first time in two generations.

Okay so there was no poverty under Muldoon. Must remember that.

He stands for an unfair society based on concepts of right and privilege that are abhorrent to ordinary New Zealanders.

Now note here he doesn’t just attack Sir Roger’s policies but says Sir Roger is motivated by privilege. He can’t possibly concede that Sir Roger (as someone who served in Labour for far longer than Jordan) wants the same outcomes as Jordan, but just disagrees on the way to do it. No, there is an inability to credit your opponent with noble motives. You disagree with them, so they must be bad people is what he is saying.

His agenda is the same agenda he had in 1988: it is pulled right out of the deep freeze, an obsolete, out of date prescription for the problems our country faced twenty years ago. Everything has moved on except the Year Zero fanaticism of Sir Roger Douglas, ACT and most of the National Party.

Nice allusion to Pol Pot there. And note that Jordan doesn’t just paint Sir Roger as that, but all of ACT and most of National.

So I appreciate ACT’s honesty: Sir Roger and friends know what they stand for and are prepared to talk about it. Which is why having him as an opponent in Hunua is just brilliant. We’ll be able to debate reality, not the faux shadowboxing that is my National Party opponent’s only offer.

What would be nice is if he debates policies, instead of slogans.

Blog Bits

May 15th, 2008 at 3:58 pm by David Farrar

Stephen Franks has ordered a book: Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. I must borrow it after he gets it!

Jeanette Fitzsimons blogs, asking whether the wheels are falling off the ETS. She addresses the issue of the so called thermal moratorium and how Genesis, an SEO, is using a loophole to get around this.

Whale Oil has photos of more potential EFA breaches. Russell Fairbrother’s caravan certainly looks like an advertisement with statements about proud to support interest free loans, nuclear free NZ.

Blair Mulholland asks whether it is worse to have a swastika on your roof, or preventing someone from doing it. While I think Councils go way overboard with their controls on what you can do on your house, I think there is a property rights argument that there should be some restrictions. Put it like this. If you buy your place for $500,000 and someone buys the house either side of you and covers them in swastikas, or even paintings of men’s penises, then your house value will drop significantly as there won’t be many buyers. Note in this case the swastika was the Hindu one, not the Nazi one.

The Visible Hand in Economics looks at the case for and againgst a tax free threshold.

Jordan Carter looks at the travails of Gordon Brown in the UK.

Blog Comments on National’s Fibre to the Home Plan

April 23rd, 2008 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

It has been interesting to see the various posts and press releases on National’s Fibre proposal. I’ll try and cover most of them:

Phil at Whoar labels it as “what could well be an election winning policy.

Bomber at Tumeke calls it a “Bloody good idea”. Heh shouldn’t that be damn good idea 🙂

Mike at Morphyoss says:

“good on you National for releasing a good policy that will massively benefit New Zealand should they win the election. Now it is up to Labour to respond, remember fibre is extremely important to our economy and it is important that labour do something about that or they will lose the election”

David Slack at Public Address is unimpressed with some of the arguments against:

Here’s my response to the snide folk who have been saying: faster downloading for your YouTube and your porn and your pirated movies. I spend thousands on hosting in the USA because no-one here can set me up with a fast enough server and a big enough data allowance. That money could be being spent here. Ask Rod Drury what it could mean for the Software As A Service businesses he’s involved in.

It’s becoming trite to say it, but it’s nonetheless true: internet infrastructure is as important to us as roads, railways and refrigerated ships. Why not have it in abundance, rather than relatively scarce and expensive? Let a thousand e-commerce sites bloom!

Business NZ says

National’s plan to speed up provision of broadband to most premises is welcome, says Business NZ.

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says a public-private partnership is a logical way to spread the cost of such a huge undertaking.

“The challenge would be in working out just how the partnership would operate to ensure as many investors as possible could contribute, and in finding an appropriate regulatory regime.”

The EPMU is also reasonably supportive:

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says John Key’s policy of rolling out fibre optic cable to 75% of New Zealand homes is a step in the right direction, but is concerned the task may be impossible given the current skills shortage.

“We really want to see this sort of project happen as any investment that will increase productivity in New Zealand is good for our members but until we see details on wages and training around this it’s hard to see how fibre roll-out will be possible.”

In terms of the issues the EPMU raises about skills and capacity, I don’t think it will be a major barrier (but certainly is a factor). When InternetNZ met with David Skilling of the NZ Institute last week to discuss his fibre proposal, one of the issues we raised was whether there was enough capacity to physically get fibre laid out by 2018 (note National is proposing 2014 as a target). Off memory Skilling indicated that they had talked to two separate engineering firms and their advice was there was enough people and and capacity to do it within 10 years, and even within five years if you really pushed it.

Now that is second or third hand so it doesn’t mean there may not be issues, but it does show some work has already been done looking at the capacity issue. One reason it is important is if supply can not meet the demand, prices could go up significantly. This has been an issue in the roading sector.

Jordan Carter is also pleased:

I am pleased that with John Key’s policy proposal, launched yesterday at a Chamber of Commerce lunch in Wellington, the debate about New Zealand’s broadband future has shifted from “whether” to do fibre to the home, to “how and how soon” to do it.

Professionally speaking, I am pleased there is now a political commitment from one major party to putting money into this. I am looking forward to assessing the various plans that come forward, and I’m sure that InternetNZ will be looking to persuade all parties to invest in this critical infrastructure.

As a Labour person I am quite sure the Nats’ proposal can be bettered, and that Labour will do so. David Cunliffe’s comments have critiqued what the Nats have proposed – the specifics of it, such as they are – but he has not criticised the goal. That’s good, because it is important for New Zealand to get on with it.

As Jordan says, the ball is in Labour’s court. A win-win will be as many parties as possible commited to the goal.

Final point, I ended up next to Williamson at the launch lunch. His zeal for this is impressive, given his record in government. It’s nice to see a genuine change of view and broad, cross-party acknowledgement of the importance of this kind of technology.

I was at the same table, and it is generous of Jordan to note Maurice’s enthusiastic advocacy of this proposal. Some have suggested he would have problems with it, but far from that – he has helped John Key with a fair bit of the research going into this.

In fact I joked to one person, that Maurice was now so enthusiastic about this type of intervention, it was a bit like how a smoker who gives up smoking becomes the most passionate anti-smoker 🙂

Also somewhat amusing was that a fellow guest at our table (not knowing Jordan’s political background I think) stated his view that Labour had done an awful job in this area. Now the last thing one wants is a big political debate over lunch, so Jordan was being very tactful with his response. I actually interjected into the conversation and praised most of what Labour and David Cunliffe has done in this area, and said the work they had done to date built a good base, but this was really about taking a big step up from that base.

Anyway I found it amusing to be defending Labour’s record in this area, in front of National’s IT/Comms spokesperson. I must say though I was disappointed with Cunliffe’s response to the policy, but I suppose he didn’t have much choice unless he could convince Michael Cullen to lend him a quick $1.5 billion 🙂

Finally on the luke-warm but positive side we have Russell Brown at Public Address:

National’s new $1.5 billion broadband spending proposal — it’s a bit soon to be calling it a “plan” — is nothing if not ambitious: 75% of homes with fibre connectivity in by 2014 is not a goal that has been envisaged as realistic before.

It is ambitious.

The initial step is a doubled of the Broadband Challenge Fund to $48 million, and there’s a very welcome commitment to “open access” (whether that means dark fibre or open access on the operator’s terms isn’t clear). There’s no indication as to whether National is talking about a monolithic FibreCo-style operator, or multiple providers whose interconnection is subject to regulation.

They are critical details, and that is why it is not planned any actual digging and laying will start until 2010. One has to get the structure and policy right and you really need time to do that. However while those details are being worked out there are things one can do in the very short-term which will make the task easier – such as ensuring duct or fibe is laid every time a current road is dug up. Some firm guidance (or instructions!) to local government can help reduce the cost a lot, as can environmental regulations.

What benefits would this massive investment bring over new DSL technologies via the existing residential copper network? For a start, it would work as advertised: 24Mbit/s DSL is more a theory than a reality for most users (although Telecom’s programme to bring the fibre closer via cabinetisation will help) and it’s extremely asymmetric — much fast down than back up. The problem of long cable runs basically disappears when you install fibre. You’d be doing it eventually anyway: when the existing copper expires, there’s no point in replacing it with more copper.

Absolutely. Fibre to the Home is inevitable. It is just a matter of timing – do we want to wait until 2040 and be last in the OECD, or try and secure some advantages by being early, to counteract our geographical disadvantage.

Russell also points some credit my way for “tireless advocacy”. While obviously I am an advocate, and have been for some time, I don’t think anyone should doubt this came about because of John Key’s personal belief and commitment to this infrastructure investment. I understand he has spent scores of hours in talks and discussions on the issue, and probably knows the ins and outs better than most industry specialists now.

Two others who are influential and helped make it happen were Maurice WIlliamson and Bill English. Jordan Carter has already noted Maurice’s passion for this plan. Bill has had a bit of stick for his comments a year ago which were sceptical of crown investment. The role of the Shadow Minister of Finance is to be sceptical and hard nosed on colleagues spending ambitions. I wouldn’t quite say his or her initial response should always be no, but hey it’s a reasonable negotiating position to start from 🙂

I am not Bill’s spokesperson (for which we are both grateful 🙂 ) but I think people will find he is fully behind the initiative (in fact I understand all of Caucus is quite wildly enthusiastic about it) and his job is to help make it happen as Minister of Finance. If anyone thinks there is some violent behind the scenes struggle about this policy, I think they will be sadly disappointed.

Now of course not everyone has been positive, and for those who want a libertarian critique I refer you to Liberty Scott who labels it as Think Big Mark II and argues in favour of leaving it to the market.

Also against is NZ First (they just whine about Telecom) and Kiwiblogblog which claims it will be wasteful government spending as we will never need home Internet speeds faster than Telecom’s ADSL2+ rollout.

Sounds to me a bit like the infamous “640K ought to be enough for anybody” statement in 1981, attributed to (and denied by) Bill Gates. I am very confident they will be wrong by similar levels of magnitude!

UPDATE: The Standard has also come out against it.

I think it is has been extremely enlightening that basically all the left wing blogs where the authors use their real names have been supportive of the policy, while the left wing blogs where the authors are anonymous are against. I’ll leave it to others to draw conclusions on whether this is a coincidence or not, and what this may indicate about who the authors are.

UPDATE2: I missed a couple of comments. No Right Turn labels the policy as good at first glance. And since I wrote the blog post, Dancer at The Standard has labelled the policy as a good thing.

Political Travellers

March 11th, 2008 at 8:35 pm by David Farrar

By coincidence, Jordan Carter was seated next to me on the flight up to Auckland on Saturday morning. I was heading on holiday, while Jordan was off to his selection meeting for Hunua for Labour, where he was selected unopposed. Congratulations Jordan.

I offered to help Jordan write his acceptance speech, but he declined!

On the way back on Monday night, Russel Norman and Jeanette Fitzsimons were on the flight (which was delayed 50 minutes).  Russel chatted to me for a bit and I told him that I had actually praised the Greens online communications, and his blogging specifically, at the Chamber of Commerce meeting on Friday. I’m not sure if he believed me 🙂 but Adam Smith has blogged that I did speak well of those, who are less charitable towards me.

Which way will the Maori Party go?

March 4th, 2008 at 12:52 pm by David Farrar

I find it very amusing to see so many on the left start to hug the Maori Party and claim that it is unthinkable for the Maori Party not to support Labour after the next election. Because some of them used to say the exact opposite.

Jordan Carter blogged in 2005 on how the Maori Party is *not* on the left:

It seems to me that the Maori Party’s ambition is to work back towards an illusory golden past of Maoridom, where individuality is subsumed under collective whanau, hapu and iwi identities. This is highlighted by the constant references to whanau, hapu and iwi in their speeches; by their hostility to the inevitable effects of modernity and the Enlightenment on Maori society; by their desire to see social services dominated by a Maori “Aristocracy” (also known as iwi-based service agencies) rather than the universal services provided by the welfare state.

A more conservative – in fact reactionary – approach to politics is hard to imagine. If a pakeha-based party was out campaigning for the restoration of the great landed estates as there were in England; supporting the putting of economic and social power back in the hands of the elites; undermining the national institutions of common citizenship that bind us together – that party would be laughed out of political existence within minutes.

And it gets better:

That party stands for the antithesis of left wing politics, and of liberal politics. It seeks to turn around Maori society and take it back to some non-existent glorious past, and in so doing create a new privileged elite that can exert the kind of social control of the past. These are not its policies – the policies are more middle of the road than this analysis allows; I am talking about the values and the direction they want to go.

It has nothing to do with the challenges that truly face Maori society in the 21st century. It has no answers to poverty or disadvantage or structural racism or the fight for social and economic equality. It has nothing to do with the left. On that basis, the miracle of Turia’s time in the Labour Party is that it lasted so long; not that she left. The stunning ineptitude of most of our media means that the party has been pained as Labour friendly, when it is the opposite.

And finally:

I know some wet urban liberals who are thinking of voting for the Maori Party. I just hope they realise that if they do, they are voting for a party of the conservative right, which would be much more comfortable in coalition with parties that shared its hostility to the State and to national collective institutions – National and ACT – than it would be dealing with the progressive elements in National and with the bulk of the Labour Party.

Sadly the realities of politics may mean that my party has to deal with these people post election, just as it may mean we have to deal with NZ First, but even NZ First is not as bad (from my point of view) as the Maori Party. At least they fall within a recognisably relevant set of issues – fear of cultural change, populism, economic and social nationalism and so on.

And more recently in 2007:

But when the rubber hits the road, in real hard edged policy debates, they always seem to end up siding with the right.

Anyone on the left who supports the party is simply making a National government more likely. I thank the Maori Party leadership for continuing to demonstrate that on a regular basis.

Now I’ve fairly consistently advocated the opposite – that in fact the Maori Party is more left leaning than right leaning. Their voting record backs up my assertion. Over time I believe the Maori Party will support Labour more often than National. But that is not to say they will back Labour every single time.

So having said that, I think anyone who states with certainty what the Maori Party will do post 2008 election is just jerking off. There will be multiple factors in play:

  • What policy agreements can be reached
  • How much vote each major party got (like NZF and UFNZ last time they may give first option to the largest party)
  • Personal relationships between MPs
  • What Cabinet positions are offered, if sought
  • How many seats the Maori Party wins
  • What they think their supporters will want
  • What deal they think will be best for the Maori Party and for Maori

John Armstrong in the Herald reports on a faux pax by Pita Sharples though:

Commenting on National Radio on Sunday’s Marae-DigiPoll survey, the Maori Party co-leader initially said the findings made it “easy” for his party to go into some kind of governing arrangement with National after the election.

No sooner had he uttered the word “easy” than he had modified it to the much safer and less definite “easier”.

Labour have used this to attack the Maori Party by saying a vote for them is a vote for National. Not the most sensible tactics I would have thought as on current polls the Maori Party is Labour’s only hope of a 4th term.