Cullen on Labour

April 14th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Rob Salmond blogged a speech Michael Cullen recently gave about what Labour needs to do, to defeat John Key.

Interesting that an SOE Chair is giving a speech about how to defeat the Government. I suspect that if this had hapened under the Clark Government, the Chair would have been sacked the next day. But regardless of the propriety of it, it is an insightful analysis. Some extracts:

By the time of the fall of Ruth Richardson, after the 1993 election, centre left pragmatists had regained control of the Labour Party. Centre right pragmatists soon largely regained control of the National Party except, perhaps, for the strange interregnum of Don Brash (though he had to pretend not to be a neo-liberal while leader). Since then, in New Zealand, “neo-liberal” has degenerated into a somewhat meaningless term of abuse applied by too many on the Left to anyone on the Right.

Thank you Dr Cullen. Indeed it is. That is why Eleanor Catton is not taken seriously when she rails on about the neo-liberal NZ.

In fact the current government is far from neo-liberal – it might more accurately be seen as pragmatically populist centre right.

Not entirely inaccurate. It is not centre-left as some commenters here fervently believe, but neither it is anywhere near neo-liberal.

We need to begin by recognising some central facts relating to MMP. The first is that under MMP, working too closely in harness with another party, whether it be the Greens or any other, does not maximize the overall progressive vote but potentially reduces it. Ironically, such a strategy is more suited to a first past the post or preferential voting system.

Labour working closely with the Greens helps the Greens, but not the left.

The second is that while the Greens are, at this stage, our natural primary partner, with whom we share many broad values,their vote at elections is stuck around 10%. That will only grow if it comes off us. And while New Zealand First may seem an alternative, it is scarcely a credible long term option and has some very different positions on key issues from Labour.

Thus to form a strong, stable progressive government Labour still needs to aim to get around 40% of the vote. The missing 15% is not going to come primarily from non-voting socialist fundamentalists as some in recent times seemed to believe. We certainly need to motivate as much of the non-vote as we can to vote for us. But the bulk of the increase has got to come from recapturing votes from National, as they did from us in 2008.

And that means policies not competing with the Greens on the extreme left.

Attracting these middle ground swinging voters is our job, whether some of us like it or not. The Greens know that is our job, rely on us to do it, but can afford the luxury of criticising us for doing it.

I know that some in the Party see this almost as a form of treason. My answer to that is that it is treason to all our history as a party to promote political impotence in the pursuit of political chastity.

I wonder if Michael ever reads The Standard.

The four concepts which I believe we have to persuade people are ones where they feel we identify with them are choice, aspiration, responsibility, and national pride. If you think at this point I’ve gone totally doolally then my reply would be that allowing our opponents to dominate with regard to these concepts is akin to giving them a ten mile start in a marathon.

The trouble for Labour is that many people think Labour is anti-choice, anti-aspiration, doesn’t believe in consequences for bad decisions and sees national pride as racism.

If Labour can associate themselves with those concepts, they’ll get over 40%. But I doubt they can.

Let me give you an example from my role as Chairman of New Zealand Post. The exercise of choice by the majority threatens to limit the choices of some. As people abandon traditional mail, stop buying stamps, and do their banking on the internet so we are being forced to look at how we adjust our service offering in response to shrinking revenue but rising costs. The answer is not to maintain an expensive network which is increasingly drastically underused but to provide facilities and assistance to those still excluded from the new technologies so that they can also benefit.

Can we apply the same logic to Kiwirail? Stop maintaining an expensive network?

In other words, choice in a social democratic context is not enhanced by engaging in a hopeless, self-defeating, and politically suicidal attempt to level down by constraining choice.

Clap, clap.

A broad range of policies can then ensure that much of that growth improves the standard of living of those on low to middle incomes. These include such obvious candidates as regular above average increases in the minimum wage, intervening on the supply side in the housing market, boosting primary health care and lowering its cost, and so on.

I would point out National has boosted the minimum wage in real terms, has intervened on the supply side in housing, and has boosted primary health care. As Cullen says, this is not a neo-liberal government.

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What did the Labour/Greens power policy cost the taxpayer?

April 9th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Mark Lister writes in the Herald:

Since listing at $1, Meridian shares have more than doubled, providing investors with a return of more than 100 per cent in less than 18 months. If dividends are included, this return jumps to 125 per cent over the period.

Utility companies such as Meridian are supposed to be predictable companies that offer steady (yet modest) returns. They aren’t supposed to double in price within barely a year the way a high-growth technology share might.

Part of this can be explained by a fall in interest rates over the period, which has made high-yielding shares more attractive and seen investor demand push up share prices.

But with the benefit of hindsight, another key reason for such a strong performance is that they were probably sold a little too cheaply in the first place.

In my opinion, the blame for that rests firmly with the Opposition political parties of the time, Labour and the Greens.

The “NZ Power” reform policy they championed through 2013 and early last year was heavy on emotive rhetoric, and short on detail. Whenever the proponents were quizzed about how it would work or be implemented, there didn’t appear to be many clear answers.

Labour and the Greens seemed to give up on this policy after the last electricity IPO was completed, and it didn’t get nearly as much airtime after that. That adds weight to the view that it was dreamed up only to derail the IPO process.

It was an act of commercial sabotage. They announced it just days before the first sale. It successfully reduced the price people were willing to pay for shares, which meant that the taxpayer lost perhaps a billion dollars due to this policy of sabotage from Labour and Greens.

In that respect, it failed. All it succeeded in doing was creating political and regulatory uncertainty among investors, and reducing the price the New Zealand taxpayer was paid for the 49 per cent of the assets now owned by private investors and managed funds.

The Crown received $1.8 billion (including the 50c a share due shortly) for the 49 per cent of Meridian sold, and that stake is today worth over $3.2 billion. The 49 per cent of Genesis sold down a few months later for $760 million is now worth almost $1.2 billion.

Had it not been for the uncertainty that was created at the time by the Opposition, the IPO sale prices could have been quite a bit higher.

In hindsight, it seems Labour and the Greens might have almost single-handedly contributed to a significant transfer of wealth from the average New Zealander (as the seller) to a much smaller group of people – those who could afford to buy shares in the IPOs.

As someone who invested in all three floats, their policy has made me a five figure capital gain. Thanks Labour and Greens.

While those who bought these shares will be celebrating some excellent returns from investments that should have been relatively boring, maybe the rest of the country is due a belated apology from Labour and the Greens for doing them this disservice.

If Labour and Greens can cost taxpayers one to two billion dollars in opposition, think what they might cost in Government!

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Why Labour is in crisis throughout the Anglosphere

March 26th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The New Statesman reports:

It is easy to blame Ed Miliband for Labour’s problems; too easy. Labour parties are in crisis all throughout the Anglosphere: they are in opposition in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. Their problems go far deeper than the identities of their party leaders.

Labour’s fate seems especially bleak in New Zealand. Here the centre-right National Party reign: Labour won just 32 out of 121 seats in the general election last year, and only 25 per cent of the vote. Nowhere is Labour’s battle for relevance more urgent.

25% is a low in any of these countries.  In the UK they are at 33% (same as Conservatives), in Australia 38% (2% behind Coalition but 4% ahead on TPP), in Canada the Liberals are at 34% (1% ahead). In NZ they got 22% less than National.

Little is determined to learn from these mistakes. It might be that as a former trade union official, he will find it easier to reorientate Labour to a position from which it can again win elections. “The language the commentators keep using is ‘moving to the centre, moving to the centre’. And I think it is about getting down to a small number of priority issues,” he says. Last year, one of Labour’s problems was drowning the electorate in policy detail. “What I’m determined is that for the 2017 election, we won’t do what we did last time, which was have 120-odd policies,” Little says. Instead the party will offer a pledge card highlighting five or six main policies, much like Tony Blair’s Labour Party in 1997.

He sees rehabilitation for Labour lying in “finding a language and ideas that resonate with people that say, actually, there is a different way of doing this.” Labour parties must be seen as modern and forward thinking, and not merely lamenting the changing nature of the international economy that has eradicated the notion of a job for life. “That is where the future lies – being able to talk about the future of work.”

The rhetoric is good and pleasing to see Little saying this. But can he deliver a policy prescription that recognises it? To the contrary their labour policies seem to all be about reducing flexibility, not increasing it.


Labour abandons 20 years of support for free trade

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

NewstalkZB reports:

Labour is set to initially back a New Zealand First Bill that would legislate against a potential crucial clause in the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal.

Fletcher Tabuteau’s Bill would negate the ability of foreign companies to sue Governments over law changes that harm their business.

Labour Leader Andrew Little says they will support the legislation at its first reading as they have concerns about investor state dispute proceedings.

This is a massive shift in policy for Labour, putting them firmly on the extreme left. They have a proud legacy of supporting trade agreements but they are saying they will vote for a bill which would basically guarantee NZ would never ever get to sign another free trade agreement.

This is not just about the proposed TPP. Investor state clauses are now very standard in trade agreements. And they are about protecting NZ companies also. You may recall that the NZ Super Fund is suing the Portugal Government over the fact they treated the money invested by the NZ Super Fund differently to other investors in a bank. Without such provisions, then NZ companies can get treated differently.

The reality is Labour has signed trade agreements with investor state provisions. They are now voting for a bill that would have made such agreements impossible. This is again not a minor shift – this is a major reversal of 20 years of pro-trade policies from Labour.

The ASEAN FTA was negotiated by Labour and concluded in August 2008 and has investor state provisions.

The China FTA negotiated by Labour has investor state provisions.

The Thailand FTA concluded by Labour in 2005 has investor state provisions.

The Singapore FTA concluded by Labour in 2000 has investor state provisions.

So Labour signed FTAs with these provisions from their first year in office to their last year in office. They are totally standard in FTAs.

Their new policy to support a bill banning any trade agreements with them, is a de facto policy to never again sign a free trade agreement, and to walk away from all the trade agreements they concluded in Government. It’s pathetic pandering to the far left.

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Trevett on Labour and Northland

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

Claire Trevett writes:

For Labour the nod is a short-term gain, an attempt at a humiliating poke in the eye for National and a result that would make it harder to get a majority on legislation such as Resource Management Act reforms. But short-term sugar rushes are always followed by a crash.

Enter 2017 and the next election. The reason Peters is a reluctant beneficiary of Labour’s endorsement is because he knows Northland is inherently a conservative electorate. It is partly because Peters is also inherently conservative that he has a chance.

If he does succeed in putting the “win” into Winston, Labour could be handing National a future coalition partner.

An electorate seat would be a powerful security blanket for Peters. So far he has refused to say if he will stand again in 2017 – when he will be 72. It’s a safe bet he will if he wins the by-election, if only to try to cement his hold on the seat. If he chooses well, he might even get Northland to accept an NZ First successor (hello, Shane Jones?). He will not want to do anything that might imperil his party’s hold on the seat and return it to the precipice of the 5 per cent threshold.

Peters has felt the wrath of conservative voters scorned in Tauranga and knows it is National they flock to – and in bulk. Winning a seat in a by-election is one thing. Keeping it is quite another. If Peters wants to hold the seat come 2017, cuddling up to Labour is risky territory. So, if Peters holds the balance of power in 2017, Labour could well find its gift to NZ First was a gift to National in disguise.

Labour’s effective endorsement of Peters, if it works, may turn out to be one of their bigger strategic blunders.

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Labour’s intolerance of dissent

March 13th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Phil Quin writes in the NZ Herald:

Others say I should take these criticisms inside the tent. In principle, this is correct – but there is a problem. The Labour Party does not tolerate dissent, not just in a cultural or attitudinal sense, but in its rules. Its governing bodies are elected en masse via first past the post. Sector Councils ensure minority groups have a place at the table, but there is tno space whatsoever for minority opinions.

Let’s take Labour’s stance on our contribution to the fight against Isis (Islamic State). I am one of a small number of members who disagree in principle with the party’s stand. This is a legitimate point of view, one shared by centre-left governments and political parties the world over. And yet, in New Zealand Labour, holding such an opinion renders you a sell-out, a secret Tory, an apostate.

What recourse do we have? Because members of the New Zealand Council are elected, clone-like, from the same plurality of members, there is no one capable of advocating on behalf of minority views or looking out for the rights of dissenters. This flows through all the party processes, including candidate selection.

If you are a social conservative or an economic liberal in Labour, you are baasically told you are in the wrong party.

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Does anyone think Labour would have made a different decision?

February 25th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I’d be interested to hear if anyone seriously seriously thinks that if Labour was in Government, they would have made a different decision about contributing to the coalition against the Islamic State?

I totally believe that the Greens would have. They absolutely and passionately believe that the way to defeat the Islamic State is to do something like employ more community facilitators in under privileged communities, and all will be right with the world. It’s a bonkers view, but a sincerely held one.

But not for one second do I think a Labour Government would have said “No, we will be the only country in Western World not to contribute in a military sense to defeating ISIL”. Which means that their rhetoric this week is just opposition, because they don’t actually have the responsibility to make a decision.

Bear in mind that the last Labour Government sent the SAS to Afghanistan, and military engineers to Iraq.

But I’d be interested to hear a rational argument by anyone that Labour would actually have made a different decision, if they were in Government.

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Labour’s new chief press secretary

February 23rd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour have announced Sarah Stuart as their new head of media and communications.

Sarah is a former Deputy Editor of the Herald on Sunday, during its start up phase when it went from no customers to winning many awards. Since then she went on to be managing editor of the APN regional and community papers and then two years editing NZ Woman’s Weekly. She has a formidable media background, as both a journalist and an editor.

I think this is a strong appointment for Labour. Her background in both hard and soft news will be useful as they try to get Little’s brand set as a positive one. She should also be able to manage relations well with the press gallery. I’ve not had any dealings with Sarah for many years, but all my experiences has been she is very pleasant and likeable (which helps in dealing with a diverse caucus).

Social media may be a challenge for her, but that is what you have staff for.

Little has also confirmed former EPMU staffer Neale Jones as the party’s political director in Parliament and Martin Taylor as their research director. A good staff team don’t win you an election (the leader does that), but a non performing team can stop you winning. Little’s picks are looking quite sound.

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Crone on small business and Labour

February 13th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Xero’s Victoria Crone writes:

I recently attended Labour and Opposition Leader Andrew Little’s State of the Nation speech and heard first hand how the Labour Party is throwing its weight behind small business by placing a big emphasis on the small business agenda. …

There are a few areas where I think that they’re barking up the wrong tree, one being around starting a business. The World Bank Group already ranks New Zealand as the easiest place to start a business.

However, with small business firmly on Labour’s agenda, this bodes well for a great policy debate around small business for the next election.

I agree. I hope they come up with some innovative policy.

I see a few challenges for Labour’s small business policy:  

– Labour has a dilemma as it tries to encourage small business to create jobs. The first is the dilemma between what is essentially a nation of very small and often fragile businesses (remember 92 per cent of our small businesses employ less than five people and these businesses have the highest death rates), who will be taking on additional jobs which represents massive risk for them. A small business has to be able to sustain the extra cost of an additional employee over the long run. The average business owner is already wearing 20 hats. Adding managerial and employment policy to their already long list of day to day tasks will provide extra pressure.  Labour’s policy on encouraging job growth while minimising business risk could be challenging philosophically for the Party.

Most of Labour’s current policies are bad for small businesses. Their policy to scrap 90 day trials especially. But also their policy to massively hike the minimum wage, and make it illegal for a small business to gain Government work unless they pay a “living” wage.

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Du Fresne on Islamic State

February 12th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes:

It’s hard to think of a more challenging conundrum than the one posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).

Labour leader Andrew Little was right last week to describe Isis as evil. It’s a word seldom heard these days because it implies a moral judgment, and moral judgments are unfashionable. But “evil” is the only way to describe men who coldly behead their captives, and then amp up the shock factor by burning one alive.

There is an element of gleeful sadism in their barbarism. Last week they pushed a gay man from the top of a tall building – reportedly the fourth such execution for homosexuality.

Sadistic is a good work for it. It is not just that they revel in killing people, but they revel in killing them in such sadistic ways. Being thrown off a building or burnt alive as examples.

Almost unnoticed in the background, Isis is proceeding with its grand plan to establish an Islamic caliphate, which means systematically slaughtering or enslaving anyone who stands in its way. No-one, then, can dispute that Isis is evil. The conundrum is what the rest of the world should do about it.

This is why it is not a fight one can ignore. This is not just a localised civil war in Iraq and Syria. They literally wanted to expand to as many countries as possible. Anyone who thinks they will be content with what they have is detached from reality.

Yet doing nothing is not an option. Either we believe civilised values are worth defending and that vulnerable people deserve protection from mass murderers, or we don’t. And if we do, we can’t just whistle nonchalantly while looking the other way and pretending it isn’t happening. …

This is not like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the objectives were hazy (or in the case of Iraq, tragically misconceived). Isis is not some shadowy terrorist entity; it’s a functioning army, operating in plain sight.

That doesn’t make it easy to defeat, but neither is it an excuse to do nothing.

Unfortunately Andrew Little, while condemning Isis as evil, doesn’t think it’s our business to stop them.

It’s interesting that where Isis is concerned, the Left sharply deviates from its tradition of siding with the weak and vulnerable.

The Islamic State, it insists, is not our problem, no matter how many innocents die.

Labour’s policy is to do nothing but send out press releases.

I suspect the Left is unable to see past its antipathy towards America and can’t bring itself to support any initiative in which America plays a leading role. Its ideological blinkers blind it to the fact that on this occasion, America is on the side of the angels.

Most reprehensible of all is the craven argument that we should avoid antagonising Isis for fear that some deranged jihadist will strike at us in revenge.

That’s moral cowardice of the lowest order.

Prime Minister John Key is right to highlight the inconsistency in the Left’s stance, and I applaud him for saying that New Zealand will not look the other way.

It’s rare for Key to commit himself so emphatically, and commendable for him to do so on one of the pressing moral issues of our time.

Imagine if the 1st Labour Government was led by modern day Labour. Michael Joseph Savage and Peter Fraser committed NZ to fight against the Nazis. The Little led Labour would be insisting that we do nothing without the League of Nations okay.

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So what does Little mean by shared sovereignty?

February 10th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key says Andrew Little’s comments at Waitangi on Maori sovereignty were advancing “separatism.”

“I reckon he would be leading New Zealand completely down the wrong path,” Mr Key said at his post cabinet press conference today.

Mr Little told reporters the Waitangi Tribunal finding that Nga Puhi did not cede sovereignty should not be dismissed and that models of indigenous self-governance and law-making around the world should be explored.

“In 1840 when we singed the treaty, it strikes me we signed it for modern New Zealand, and that was a New Zealand where we co-habitated and ran the country together. It wasn’t about separatism. It was actually about community and Andrew Little is basically suggesting that we had down a path of separatism.”

He said he could not see New Zealanders supporting that.

As I said earlier, I look forward to Labour explaining what particular models of shared sovereignty they are thinking of.

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Robertson on Future of Work

February 10th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A thoughtful speech by Grant Robertson to Labour’s Future of Work conference. A part that struck me was:

In November received a visit from the joint winners of a prize I give to a local secondary school.  They had won the prize in 2013 and arrived at the end of 2014 to thank me and tell me how their year at university had gone.

It had gone well each in their respective disciplines of marketing and design. I asked them about their plans for the summer and holiday work. Thinking back to my glory days as an assistant in the fruit and veggie section of the local New World I expected to hear tales of bar work and retail.  Instead I was presented with two business cards, and a link to their design business that they had established during the year.  The summer was shaping up well with a client found through their on-line presence, and a sideline in stunning digital depictions of Wellington icons for sale at various market stalls.  

These two very capable young women did not see any boundaries between their study, commencing work, pursuing their interests or passions. They had the attitude, the skills and the security to do just exactly what they found interesting.  The future of work is bright, flexible, diverse and stimulating for them- and they will be a complete handful for anyone here trying to teach them.

I love this story. It is one of the things I love about the digital age, that so many young people are embracing the opportunities to do what they are passionate about, and are not dependent on an employer, or a degree. Such a story would have been near unthinkable 15 years ago.

The Commission’s mandate is to undertake a two year programme to develop a comprehensive understanding of the changing nature and experience of work and its impact on the economy, and to develop the policy responses required to meet the challenges and grasp the opportunities presented by these changes.

We believe that in order to be responsible leaders we must look to the future and prepare now. We owe to the next generation of New Zealanders that we are giving them the best possible chance to succeed.  We owe to a current generation of workers who feel insecure about their future and income that they can make transitions to new and fulfilling types of work.  We owe to businesses, small, medium and large that we have a plan for sustainable diversified, economic growth.

There is no room for complacency in such a period of rapid change, and by 2017 we must be in a position to tell New Zealanders what we are doing to face the future of work with confidence.  The Commission will be open to new and different ideas, to challenge our assumptions and policies. We will be prepared to change.  Our commitment is that with our core values firmly in mind, we are open to each and every idea that is put forward.

I will admit to a degree of scepticism that Labour will come up with anything more than their normal policies of payoffs for unions, extra costs on employers and less flexibility and choice in the workplace. But I hope to be wrong.

What Labour is doing with this two year programme of consultation and development on this issue is exactly what a good opposition should do. If they do it well, they’ll build credibility with stakeholders, show they understand the environment and issues, and come up with some genuinely new policies and solutions.

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Little wants to look at giving Iwi law making powers

February 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has proposed looking at giving Maori greater self-governance, possibly including the ability to make some of their own laws. …

He said it was time to look at what would happen after the settlements were completed.

He said some Native American tribes had law-making powers over their territories in the United States where recognised tribes were exempt from some laws – including taxation – and could create their own laws in many areas. Mr Little said allowing separate law-making was “highly problematic”.

“But we shouldn’t be so dismissive of any claim by iwi over what they do. We do have to function as a nation-state and we don’t want to compromise that. But let’s have a look at it.”

I encourage Labour to clarify their thinking and be very specific in their 2017 manifesto as to what law making powers they think Iwi should be given.

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Two nominees for Labour President

January 27th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An Auckland University lecturer Nigel Haworth and City Vision chair Robert Gallagher have put themselves forward to be the Labour Party’s next President.

Professor Haworth lamented in 2012 that China, India and Russia joining the global economy in the last few decades, as it has been bad for ordinary working people. Never mind the fact that it lifted hundreds of millions in those countries out of poverty and starvation.

Gallagher is an experienced campaigner and I’d say the favourite. He has strong support in Auckland. I think both will struggle to boost fundraising though, which is a real weakness for Labour currently.

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Labour’s media targets

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

Stuff reports:

Expect to see Labour leader Andrew Little in a good light on the 6pm television news – or questions to be asked at the top of his media unit.

Little is advertising for a new chief press secretary to head the party’s media and communications strategy, and the successful applicant is expected to ensure Little appears “in a positive story on the 6pm news at least twice a week”.

Have TVNZ and TV3 signed up to this?

Other key targets put emphasis on social media, including 100,000 “likes” for the party’s Facebook page, up from about 38,000 now, and 40,000 “likes” for Little’s Facebook page by the 2017 election. It currently boasts 10,422 “likes”.

Will buying likes and followers count?

The advertisement has already prompted senior press gallery reporters to plot creative ways to thwart another expected result – weekly meetings with key press gallery journalists.

And who is defined as key?

Little’s chief of staff, Matt McCarten, said the targets were guidelines and the reference to the 6pm news was a “throwaway comment” designed to show the aim was to be proactive, not just reactive, in the news.

A throwaway comment in a formal job description?

A source said the Facebook page was fed by the parliamentary party as well as the party’s head office, so setting targets for the new media boss, who will report to McCarten but is employed by Parliamentary Service, did not breach Parliament’s funding rules. 

I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

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Labour candidates calls Christianity “toxic wares”

December 24th, 2014 at 12:12 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in Manawatu Standard:

Thursday is Christmas Day. For most New Zealanders, this is not much more than a hard-earned day-off, an occasion to gather with family and licence to eat a quite a bit more than one’s diet allows.

It is also (particularly for children) about the material aspirations of gift giving.

For New Zealand’s Christians, of course, it is also an important religious festival commemorating the nativity of their Man-God. It is the end of the penitential season known as advent and a time of great celebration. …

Instead, the wider culture is now hostile to orthodox Christianity, which is held to a much higher standard of scrutiny than other religions and cultures.

Those who are quite happy to casually sneer at Christians around the office coffee machine seldom have the courage to do the same when other minority identities are concerned.

Where media commentators are purposely respectful of other faiths, they are seldom afraid to propound ignorantly about Christian doctrine or issue bone-headed advice to Christian leaders.

Last month one of Labour’s candidates at the election took to a popular Left-wing blog to publish a tirade against Christians in the party.

The Bible was repeatedly denounced as “snake-oil” and the Christian God was described as “a mean Mutha” who “nailed up his only son as a lesson to other wrongdoers”.

It’s a free country and those kinds of screeds should not be censored.

But just picture the outcry that would have followed a major party candidate writing anything as remotely incendiary about Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism.

Can you imagine the high-dudgeon and editorial hand-wringing such an outburst would occasion?

This is a good and valid point. There is a double standard. Let’s look at what Labour’s Whangarei candidate wrote:

The brutal scars of Christianity do not discriminate, but there is no doubt that that Christian fundamentalism has taken a great toll on the Rainbow community and followers of the Pope have been responsible for most of it.

Imagine what Labour would say if a National Party candidate wrote about the brutal scars of Islam?

We all know the misery that has been inflicted in this Christian god’s name. There’s a smile from one. We’ve already had a discussion about how this Christian god is such a mean muthafucka that he nailed up his only son as a lesson to other wrongdoers. 

Again imagine a National Party candidate talking about the misery inflicted in the name of Allah, and how Mohammed was a pedophile. There would be complaints to the Human Rights Commission.

The brutal scars of Christianity do not discriminate, but there is no doubt that that Christian fundamentalism has taken a great toll on the Rainbow community and followers of the Pope have been responsible for most of it. 

Again try this as “The brutal scars of Islam do not discriminate, but there is no doubt that Islamic fundamentalism has taken a great toll on the Rainbow community, and follows of Islam have been responsible for most of it.”

I’m no fan of the Catholic Church when it comes to their views on sexuality, but last time I checked you didn’t have any Catholic or Christian states that executed people for being gay.

These bible-bashing god-botherers have no greater claim on our time than Amway sellers or other marketers of snake oil. And, yet, even an organisation as broad and inclusive as the Labour Party allows these toxic wares to be purveyed at its meetings. 

One can have a rational discussion on whether party meetings should allow prayers, but the hatred and bile at Christianity is something that would be unacceptable about any other religion – coming from someone who was standing for election just two months ago.




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Labour dumps euthanasia bill

December 15th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A bill which would legalise voluntary euthanasia has been dropped by Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway at the request of his leader Andrew Little.

Mr Lees-Galloway had been canvassing support for his End of Life Choice Bill before deciding whether to return it to the private members’ bill ballot.

But Mr Little confirmed yesterday that he had told Mr Lees-Galloway not to put it in the ballot because it was not an issue Labour should be focused on when it was rebuilding.

“It comes down to priorities at the moment,” Mr Little said. “We are very much focused on … jobs and economic security.

I think this is a real pity, as I suspect if it had remained in the ballot and been drawn, that it had the numbers to pass.

Mr Little said Labour was still a socially progressive party under his leadership.

“It’s not about avoiding controversy but it’s about choosing the controversies that are best for us at this point in time. That stuff on euthanasia, it isn’t the time for us to be talking about that.”

I would have thought just after an election is the best time to be considering issues such as this, rather than closer to the next election.

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Labour’s post mortem

December 9th, 2014 at 6:54 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s review panel has reported its findings back about the party’s election campaign and the reasons for the low 25 per cent result, identifying problems ranging from a failure to unite behind former leader David Cunliffe to resourcing and confusion over its “Vote Positive” slogan.

The panel of four reported back to Labour’s Council at the weekend on the first part of its three-part review – a look into the election campaign.

The party will not release review findings until all three parts are completed, expected in February.

One of the review team, Bryan Gould, said the panel’s terms of reference had included the leadership of Mr Cunliffe and while there were mixed views on some issues, the main problem was a failure to unite behind the leader.


Was that a cause or a symptom?

Party leader Andrew Little said none of the findings was surprising and most issues had been voiced by himself and other leadership contenders during Labour’s recent leadership runoff.

“Things like the messaging, the ‘Vote Positive’ [slogan], issues about the resourcing of the campaign.” He said the Vote Positive slogan “didn’t mean anything to anyone”.

Vote Positive was in stark contrast to their messaging of the last three years. The only logical explanation for their slogan was they knew about Nicky Hager’s book in advance, and were hoping to capitalise on it.


Labour breaking their word on asset sales

December 8th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Asset sales are a controversial and often emotional issue. That is why National has been very careful to lay out its policy in advance, and keep to it.

In 2008 National said no SOEs would be sold in the first term, and none were.

In 2011 National said up to 49% of four power SOEs and Air NZ would be sold, and they were (except Solid Energy that collapsed).

In 2014 National said no further sales of SOEs and there are none planned.

Now contrast this to Labour in Christchurch. The Press reports:

It took months of briefings, quiet lobbying, and frank meetings to bring the Left-leaning People’s Choice councillors around to the inescapable truth that some asset sales would be needed to solve the city’s financial woes.

Those meetings happened  right up until late Thursday afternoon, which suggests some councillors were still wavering.

The reason the People’s Choice councillors – Andrew Turner, Jimmy Chen, Pauline Cotter, Yani Johanson, Phil Clearwater, and Glenn Livingstone– were  reluctant to go down the path of asset sales was because they had signed a pledge before last October’s elections to support keeping all significant public assets in public ownership and control.

They didn’t want to be seen to be going back on their word.

They were confident that if they pored over the council’s budgets, cutting expenditure and deferring capital projects, they could achieve the necessary savings without asset sales. 

Alas, it was not to be and on Thursday the People’s Choice councillors reluctantly threw in the towel and acknowledged the funding gap, which has jumped from $900 million to $1.2 billion, was too large to close through savings.

“Our preferred option is not to sell assets, however, the financial position in which the council has been placed requires us to sell assets as one of the number of things we need to do to fill the funding gap,” they conceded in a statement issued through Turner, their spokesman.

This is not true. There is a choice. They have chosen to break their word. I think their policy was stupid and wrong, but they made it.

The People’s Choice is the Labour Party in Christchurch local government politics. In fact most of the PC Councillors had their affiliation on their ballot as (The People’s Choice – Labour).

So the moral of the story is that National has kept its word on asset sales, and Labour once again has not.

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Comparing the front benches

November 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A comparison of the National (11) and Labour (8) front benches.

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MP Status

Only one of Labour’s front bench is a List MP – the leader. All the others are electorate MPs. National is two thirds electorate and one third list.


Both are close to one third female.


Both around one quarter Maori.Labour also has a Pasifika front bencher.


For the first time for a while (I think) Labour now has a younger front bench. Three quarters are aged below 50.


Labour has issues here. Half the front bench is from Wellington and no one from Christchurch or provincial NZ.


There is not a single South Island MP on Labour’s front bench. In fact only two SI MPs intheir top 17.

Decade Entered

National and Labour now have similar profiles in terms of longevity of front benchers in Parliament.

So overall this reshuffle has rejuvenated the Labour front bench and the two front benchers now looking quite similiar except Labour has an age advantage and National an area advantage.

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Little’s reshuffle

November 24th, 2014 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

Overall Andrew Little has done a good job with his reshuffle, considering the somewhat limited options he has. I’d give it a 7/10. He has rejuvenated the front bench and not played factional politics too much. Most appointments seem to be based on merit.

His first week as leader has gone well. He has been comfortable in his press conferences, and his tone has been good. When asked on TV this morning why he is calling for Rennie to go, but not also the DPMC head, he gave a logical response based on their different roles.

He hasn’t set the world on fire, and maybe our expectations are lower because of the stuff ups by previous incumbents, but at this stage there is nothing much you can fault him on. Labour need a solid leader, and that may now have it.

In terms of the new line up, let’s start with the overall look, and then the details.

  • A plus for a fresh front bench, of whom only two were Ministers in the last Government
  • A plus for a front bench which has good gender and ethnic diversity
  • A plus for a front bench largely based on merit
  • A big negative for four of the top six being Wellington MPs including Leader, Deputy Leader, Leader of the House and Finance Spokesperson. Labour may struggle to reconnect with NZ when their top six is so beltway.
  • A small negative that no one wanted to be Deputy Leader (except Nanaia) so poor Annette had to be drafted in again

In terms of the individuals

  • Little having no portfolios outside security is sensible
  • King as Deputy Leader is a good short term move (she has it for a year only). While it is a bad look that they need an MP who entered Parliament 30 years ago to remain Deputy, her personal skills for he job are superb. One Labour insider commented to me that the gap between Anette and the next most competent female Labour MP is astonomical.
  • Robertson as Finance is a risk. He is a skilled politician and communicator, but I am not sure how much credibility he will have talking about the economy, when he has never worked in the private sector. His challenge is to bridge that gap.
  • Mahuta gets No 4 mainly because her followers all voted for Little. few could seriously suggest she is their 4th best MP. What are her achievements in the 18 years she has been an MP? With just one portfolio (Maori Development), her workload could be very light.
  • Twyford as Housing and Transport is a good choice – he knows the issues well.
  • Hipkins as Shadow Leader and Education also sound.
  • Sepuloni is promoted ahead of Ardern to get Social Development. A big opportunity for her considering she has had only one term in Parliament. Has to prove she deserves the spot.
  • A very good call making Davis front bench and giving him portfolios such as Police, Corrections and Domestic Violence. Could do very well so log as he gets Little to dump his policy of making people accused of rape having to prove their innocence.
  • Ardern gets demoted for the second time in a row and drops off the front bench (they have only eight front bench seats in the House). She gets a major portfolio in Justice but is against Amy Adams who I think will excel there.
  • Clark gets a promotion and Economic Development. Could have gone further but has a chance to prove himself
  • Sio has Pacific Island Affairs and Local Government. Doubt we’ll see much more than in the past,
  • Lees-Galloway gets the important (for Labour) portfolio of Labour. Suspect Little will lead most of the work in this area though.
  • Woods gets Environment and Climate Change. Likely to be over shadowed by the Greens.
  • Cunliffe, Parker, Shearer and Goff are Nos 14 to 17. This is smart by Little. All get a ranking to reflect their contribution, but also one low enough to suggest they are on the way out (maybe not for Shearer).
  • While Cunliffe has a low ranking, he has meaty portfolios in Regional Development, Tertiary Education and Science. A path to redemption.

In terms of the unranked, surprised Louisa Wall and Stuart Nash not put into the top 20. Also somewhat surprised Sue Moroney not given a ranking.

As I said, overall a pretty smart reshuffle by Little, considering his limited options. The heavy Wellington skew at the top is a significant weakness, but overall he has done a good job of rejuvenation, and starting to put together what could look like a competent alternate Government.

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Little’s options

November 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Little now have a the tough job of nominating a Deputy Leader and allocating portfolios. The deputy role is especially challenging as the three best candidates for the job all don’t want it, and the candidate that does want it is not supported by caucus. Let’s go through the options.

Deputy Leader

Little’s best bet would be Jacinda Ardern. The last four leaders have been from Auckland, and as Little is a Wellingtonian, then a Aucklander as deputy is desirable. Ardern is their most high profile Auckland MP and very popular with the activists. The problem is she really doesn’t want it and was basically Grant Robertson’s campaign manager. On the downside a Little/Ardern ticket means List MPs hold both leadership roles.

Grant Robertson is another option. He has probably the best skill set of the caucus to be deputy, as a good deputy helps manage the caucus and the leader’s office. But again he has done it before and is not that keen on it.

David Parker has ruled it out.

Nanaia Mahuta desperately wants it. But her nomination would go down very badly in caucus.

So Little has to convince either Jacinda or Grant to take it, go with Mahuta or go for a less likely option such as Phil Twyford.

His best bet is to convince Jacinda to step up.


David Parker has ruled it out.

Appointing David Cunliffe would antagonise caucus massively.

He could go to a next generation MP such as David Clark or Stuart Nash. They would both get eaten alive by Bill English initially but by 2017 could be experienced and credible. This should be about projecting a vibrant future Government in 2017.

Another option being canvassed is Grant Robertson. I think this would be a mistake. Grant is a skilled politician but he has never worked a day in his life (well post study) in the private sector. I don’t think he has credibility in the finance portfolio, and I think Labour would struggle to reconnect with business if he has the job. That’s not doubting his intelligence and ability to articulate the key issues.


Little should be bold and appoint Kelvin Davis as Education spokesperson and the next Minister. Hipkins has done a fine job for Labour in the area, but Davis is a star after beating Harawira, and has greater experience in the sector.


Annette King is easily the best performing Labour MP. However she will not be Health Minister in the next Labour Government, so she should mentor someone new into the role. I’d move Hipkins into health, as he has a good ability to work an issue, and find pressure points. Lees-Galloway is keen on this, but has less caucus support.

I expect King to retire in 2017, and Little to become the MP for Rongotai (where he lives). She has resisted him taking the seat for some time, but now he is leader, he won’t be challenged for it.

Shadow Leader of the House

Robertson is the obvious choice to continue. May need a Deputy if he does take Foreign.


Keep Parker on here.

Foreign Affairs

While Shearer is very credible here, I’d be tempted to put Robertson in here. He has a love for foreign policy and is a former diplomat.

Economic Development

Cunliffe an obvious choice. Clark and/or Nash could also play a role.

Maori Affairs

Mahuta by default

Social Development

Moroney has this currently. Not spectacular but solid so probably remain.

Front Bench

Robertson and Ardern are automatic as well as Little.

As he won with their support needs to have Mahuta and Cunliffe there, even though upset some.

Parker is looking to exit I’d say, so could keep him off, but for now probably need to retain him. So that is six.

For the other two or three I’d look at Hipkins, Twyford and Clark.


Will Little retain Labour’s gender quota policy

November 19th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour approved at the last election 40 a rule that they have a gender quota for their list to try and ensure that in 2014 at least 45% of their caucus is female and for 2017 at least 50% is female.

They failed to correctly implement it, as in fact their proportion of woman from 43% to 38% this election. But think what would have happened if they had correctly implemented it. Instead of having 12 female MPs out of 32, they should have had 15. So what would this have meant on the list.

To comply Labour should have no male List MPs, which means no David Parker, Clayton Cosgrove and Andrew Little. They would be replaced by Maryan Street, Moana Mackey and Priyanca Radhakrishnan.

The key take out is that under Labour’s policy, Andrew Little should not be an MP. He is only there because they mis-calculated how much support they would get.

So does Andrew Little support retaining the gender quota, even though it means he should not have retained his list position?

This is a great example of how Labour has introduced barmy rules, but it seems no one is prepared to stand up and challenge them.

Labour have a rule which if correctly implemented would have seen their new leader not retain his seat in Parliament. Rational people would say “hey maybe we should reexamine that rule”.

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Parker v Little on CGT

November 11th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Labour’s leadership contest has turned into a showdown on the party’s capital gains tax policy, with Andrew Little and David Parker at loggerheads over its future.

At the first of three hustings meetings in the critical Auckland region yesterday, Mr Little was stronger than before in condemning the policy, while Mr Parker shifted to more strongly defend it.

Mr Little told the audience of about 300 party members that Labour had now lost support in three successive elections – something that had never happened before.

Been a long time since any major party lost support in opposition two terms in a row.

He said there were a number of reasons for that but two policies stuck out – lifting the retirement age and capital gains tax.

“There are at least two policies I know for a fact have caused people not only to not vote for us but to turn us off completely.”

He said the party and caucus had championed those policies. “But the conclusion I’ve come to now is that those two policies alone are enough to stop people even considering what we have to say any more.”

The tax was aimed at property speculators, but Mr Little said it also impacted on those who had scrimped and saved to buy a second property which they considered their retirement savings.

Mr Parker, the architect of both policies, said it remained the best way to ensure an equitable tax system.

“Currently, our system is rigged and it’s rigged to favour speculation, not investment in jobs. We reward speculation and we punish work. If the capital gains tax is not the answer, then what is?”

People don’t like the Capital Gains Tax because it is an extra tax which will punish families and businesses by up to $5 billion a year when fully implemented, according to their former leader.

But if Labour were smart, they’d stick with a policy for a CGT, but announce they’d give families and businesses reductions in income and company tax to match the increased revenue they’d pay overall with a CGT.

It can be sensible to broaden the tax base – but not to increase the tax take by new taxes. If you want to increase the tax take, then you should concentrate on having a growing economy, rather than new taxes.

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Did Labour ever have 100,000 members?

November 11th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Kiwi in America recently referred to Jim Anderton’s claim that Labour had 100,000 members when he was President.

A former Labour Party parliamentary staffer writes:

I note you picked up on Jim Anderton – re  NZLP’s 100,000 membership claim.

 I don’t believe that the party ever got to 100,000 but probably well over 50,000 in the late 1970s.

History:  In 1976 the NZLP had about 10-15,000 members as best as I could ascertain.   Electorates were controlled by fiefdoms.  The party urgently needed an infusion of members, talent and money.   I knew the NP had 200,000 members at its peak in the late 1940s. 

I suggested a target of 100,000 members by same time in 1977.   Bill was quite taken with the idea and I recollect him discussing it with Bob Tizard and Warren Freer and others.  Part of the logic was to give party members something ambitious to do instead of changing the constitution which they were prone to. 

As I recollect it was the big headline to come out of the conference and Bill was frequently asked over the following year or so how was the party getting along.

Today they appear to have under 10,000 members. Only 5,000 voted in the last leadership election.