Labour keep focusing on the Royal Tour

April 9th, 2014 at 2:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Earlier today, Labour leader David Cunliffe took a swipe at John Key over the royal visit, suggesting the prime minister was milking the extra “face time” with Prince William and his wife, compared with his own limited meetings.

Oh dear. This is not a good look.

Labour seem to have had an obsession with the Royal Tour (which frankly I find a bore). They first invented a convention that you never have a royal tour in election year. After I pointed out there had been around five ro six previous royal tours in election years, they changed this to be no royal tour within six months of an election, but again there had been royal tours (when Labour were in power) much close to an election than this.

So first they invented conventions, and now they’re complaining they are not getting enough invites to hang out with the royals.

He also described a possible visit to the White House as “pre-election PR from the prime minister ” who was “stage managing the calendar of the year as it suits him”.

Umm, the NZ Prime Minister doesn’t decide the timing of an invite to the White House. In fact such invites are very very hard to get. If the PM is getting an invite, it is because President Obama likes and rates him.

A diplomat made an interesting observation to me a few weeks ago. He said that the national leader who has spent the most time in the last year with the President of the United States would be the NZ Prime Minister. He also said that the national leader who has spent the most time with the President of China would be the NZ Prime Minister. Now it is pretty extraordinary for any NZ PM to be the leader either super-power President has spent the most time with. But to be have had the most face time with both the US and Chinese Presidents – I’d say unprecedented for almost any national leader, let alone a minnow like New Zealand.

Cunliffe said it was very  important that the treatment of the royal visit was as even-handed as possible between the government and the opposition, and also that the visit was well-spaced from the election.

Of course the Prime Minister is going to have more time with overseas dignitaries than the Opposition Leader.

Asked why Key had so many events with the royals Cunliffe said, “I guess he likes the camera time.”

Key said that he would not be at the “vast, overwhelming” number of events on the royal visit schedule and did not believe he was milking the event.

“I don’t actually think anyone’s going to vote National, Labour or any other political party because we’re seen standing next to the royals when they’re in New Zealand,” Key said.

“They vote on the economy, law and order, health and education. As soon as David Cunliffe starts talking about that and not this sort of rubbish, he might do a little bit better.”

That’s actually sound advice. Whining that you have not had enough time with Price William is just not an attractive look – even if you honestly feel slighted.

At his one-on-one meeting with the prince, Cunliffe expected to discuss those issues the visitor wanted to raise. He would also be happy to brief him on things Labour thought were important such as building a fairer and more decent country and including everybody in the opportunities.

“I’m sure that he would agree with that.”

He would also talk about the deeper economic issues, such as the problems with the balance of payments.

Labour’s going to talk about the Balance of Payments with Prince William. Hell I may be a republican, but that’s just a step too far – cruel and unusual punishment!

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Vance on why Labour can still win

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

Andrea Vance gives five reasons Labour can still win:

  1. The electoral system
  2. He’s no John Key. But he ain’t Phil Goff either
  3. New Zealand First: a spent force?
  4. The missing voters
  5. A new electoral landscape?

The electoral system definitely favours Labour.

Cunluffe is a very good debater, but so was Phil Goff. The challenge for Cunliffe will not be doing well in the debates, but having a good enough brand leading up to the debates that. Vance puts it like this:

He’s two-parts untrustworthy to one-part fake. And that’s just among his MPs.


Andrea is right that Winston is far less of a force in the House now. However that doesn’t mean he won’t make 5%. A few bribes to oldies and bash up the Chinese is a pretty tested formula for him.

The missing voters is what Labour is gambling everything on. It will help them if they can motivate sympathetic non-voters but I’ve yet to see signs that their own supporters are motivated – let alone non-voters.

National not getting any allies into Parliament is the nightmare scenario. They get 59 seats again but can’t govern.

So Vance is correct that Labour absolutely can win. There’s five months to go. The odds are against them but if they get their shit together they will be competitive.

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Caucus room now a war room

April 4th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has ejected MPs from the caucus room to turn it into a war room, moving all key political staff into a vast open-plan office.

National has a war room also. It isn’t at Parliament though. It is at National Party HQ, where the staff are funded by members and donors – not by taxpayers.

Of course parliamentary staff always play a significant role in election campaigns, but for my 2c the campaign should primarily be driven from the party HQ.

The new strategy office is the brain-child of chief of staff Matt McCarten and is aimed at making sure the party is co-ordinated and quick on its feet. Labour MPs will now be sent downstairs to a smaller room for their weekly meetings.

I guess that is the good thing about having so few MPs – you can fit into the smaller room :-)


Watkins on economy

April 3rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

 It speaks volumes about David Cunliffe’s bad week that on the day John Key delivered his pre-Budget speech, it was the Labour leader who copped it on the street over the Government’s failure to make a big dent in unemployment.

To be fair the gentleman in question abusing the Labour leader didn’t seem a fan of either major party.

Labour’s headache, six years on, is that National has been hugely effective at painting the Clark-Cullen years as a decade of tax and spend, compared with its own narrative of scrimping and fiscal prudence.

The reality, of course, is not quite as straightforward – despite the “zero” Budgets, government spending has continued to rise each year under National. But there is no dispute that when it came to power, the country was staring down the barrel at a decade of deficits and skyrocketing debt.

More than a decade of deficits. That was the original projection, but the revised forecasts were for a permament structural deficit that never went away – meaning debt would grow and grow and grow until the inevitable happened – as in Europe.

The May Budget will show that National has done a remarkable job of turning that around by bringing forward the return to surplus by some years and lowering the debt trajectory.

That it has done so by reining in spending, rather than slashing and burning and introducing austerity measures as seen in Europe and elsewhere, makes that feat even more remarkable.

It’s almost harder to do it by just restraining new spending, rather than cutting existing programmes. It’s politically easier, as people protest a spending cut more than not increasing spending. But from a government point of view, finding enough money by hundreds and hundreds of small efficiencies is harder work than just slashing a couple of programmes.

But the counterfactual – that a Labour government would not have responded to the global financial crisis in a similar fashion – can never be proven or disproven.

I don’t quite agree here. Sure you can’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. But you can judge Labour off its own press releases, statements and speeches. For five years they have consistently opposed and condemned every single move of fiscal restraint the Government has done. They battled against any reduction at all in public service numbers. They decry any efficiency gains as cuts – even if the money saved goes into frontline services. They opposed the reductions in KiwiSaver subsidies. And almost without exception all their policies are to spend massively more. The one noble exception is their superannuation policy.

So I don’t think it is unfair to judge Labour on the basis of their own statements. If we accept they believe what they say (a big call I know), then one can only conclude that there is no way New Zealand would be heading back into surplus next year if they had been in Government,

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Planet Labour

April 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe is adamant he and his party will both start rising in the polls as the election approaches.

He is also casting doubt on recent statistics suggesting crime is at a three-decade low, and an IMF report which named New Zealand’s economy as one of the world’s fastest-growing.

So on Planet Labour the polls are wrong, the crime stats are wrong, the GDP stats are wrong and the IMF is wrong.

I’d like to visit this dimension one day.


Labour and Ilam

April 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour’s high hopes of gaining traction in the National stronghold of Ilam got off to a false start yesterday.

The day started off promisingly, with two nominees – Riccarton-Wigram Community Board member Debbie Mora and Left-wing blogger James Dann – set to contest a selection meeting next week.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has held the Ilam seat since 1996 and, while Labour is unlikely to win the seat, the party had hoped to target it and make the contest there a referendum on the Government’s handling of the quake recovery and Brownlee’s role.

A week may be a long time in politics but try 17 hours.

That’s the time between Mora’s campaign team proudly announcing, through a press release, that she wanted to be the first female to represent Ilam and a brief email, from the same source, saying Mora was out of contention because of “unforeseen circumstances”.

Somewhat Mickey Mouse.

Mora said her campaign manager, Luc Chandler, was “a bit over-eager” in sending out the first release last night.

She had wanted him to hold off for 24 hours – a sensible move considering she was sorting out a possible medical operation.

But then it got even worse when news of Mora leaving the race was given to media – before Labour Party officials were told.

Oh dear.

It leaves plenty of uncertainty over whether the selection process will continue with Dann the anointed candidate or if Labour will have to rethink and get some competition back into the race.

I hope Dann is selected, as that may stop the media quoting him as merely a Christchurch blogger, rather than a Labour candidate as the Herald does.

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Pacific church ministers switching to National

April 2nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Labour’s master strategy is to get 250,000 extra voters in South Auckland and elsewhere voting for them. I’m not sure how their strategy will fare in light of this story at Stuff:

A small group of influential Pacific Island clergy have sparked fierce debate in South Auckland after they declared they would switch their support from the traditional Labour Party to the National Party.

That is basically unheard of.

The action, taken at the Manurewa flea market on Sunday, is under fire on Pacific Island social media.

The ministers involved have been criticised for not consulting their parishes.

The move has also sparked another meeting next Sunday when, under the auspices of a Samoan Catholic Church, 23 churches will meet to discuss political parties and Christian values.

It’s not an issue for me, or most people, but they may have noticed that not only is Labour’s caucus already over-represented with LGBT MPs, they’ve selected a further four LGBT candidates and inevitably Taurima also. There has always been a tension between their socially liberal activists and some of their more conservative supporters.

A Seventh Day Adventist minister, Teleiai Edwin Puni, said he and five other Seventh Day Adventist ministers – all recognised in the Pacific community – met National MP Cam Calder on Sunday.

“If we are to defend our Christian values and build a brighter future for New Zealand families, we need to engage our Pacific people and vote National,” Puni said.

Cam Calder converts South Auckland to National – well done Cam! :-)

Fundamentalist pastor Sooalo Setu Mu’a said they had been supporting Labour.

“To change from wearing red to blue is not an easy thing for our Pacific communities who have been voting Labour over the years.”

No party can take any group of supporters for granted.

National has two excellent Pacific Island MPs – Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Alfred Ngaro. I suspect their hard work may also be a factor in some Pacific voters reconsidering their traditional allegiances.

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Saddest press release ever

March 27th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Maryan Street has done a release stating:

The absence of New Zealand from a world map that formed the backdrop for a leaders’ photocall at The Hague Nuclear Security Summit pretty much nails John Key’s contribution to disarmament, Labour’s Disarmament spokesperson Maryan Street says.

Some Italian graphic designer didn’t include NZ in a pixellated map of the world at the summit, and Labour thinks this is basically the fault of John Key!

Do they really think this wins them votes?


Labour announces more candidates

March 24th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour has announced five new candidates to contest National-held seats at the election on September 20.

Tofik Mametov, an insurance representative, will contest Botany which is held by Jami-lee Ross.

Barry Kirker, a clinical psychologist, will contest Pakuranga, which is held by Maurice Williamson.

Jerome Mika, a union organiser, will again contest Papakura, which is held by Judith Collins.

Penny Gaylor, an Otaki member of the Kapiti Coast District Council, will contest Taranaki King Country, where sitting MP Shane Ardern is retiring.

Kelly Ellis, a Whangarei lawyer, will contest Whangarei where sitting MP Phil Heatley is retiring. Shane Reti has been selected there for National.

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran was confirmed today as Labour’s candidate.

Fair to say that none of those seats are likely to be won by Labour, so they will be hoping for list spots. This may help Gaylor and Ellis as the gender quota is now in effect.

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Another one bites the dust?

March 24th, 2014 at 7:17 am by David Farrar

News has reached me, even in Clyde, that the Labour Leader’s office has lost another staff member. A senior researcher who has worked there for eight years is off.

She’s worked for four party leaders and six chiefs of staff, but it seems she isn’t a fan of being shouted at and having the staff blamed by the new Chief of Staff for mistakes made by the Leader. The whispers are she may not be the only one seeking to bail.

It is relatively rare for staff to leave a leader’s office just six months before an election. The general expectation is that if you want to move on you leave the year before an election or just after it – not just before it.


Fran on China

March 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

John Key has firmly put his personal stamp on the New Zealand-China relationship by forging a “trusted partner” status with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Xi heralded the co-operation between China and New Zealand as “pioneering and exemplary”, saying he believed Key’s tour would instil new vitality into the bilateral relationship.

The Chinese President not only made sure New Zealand media were present for all of his reassuring opening remarks at the onset of the two leaders’ bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People, but he also welcomed Key and his officials “as family” to a rare private dinner.

Pretty good to be on such good terms with the President of our largest trading partner.

Key relates that Xi placed great store on his decision to go to China and offer explanations for the fiasco and the steps that our Government has taken to ensure there is no repeat. “You did the right thing by coming up,” Xi told Key. This move had “built trust” into the relationship.

The upshot was Xi’s decision to elevate the so-called apology tour into a full-scale official visit complete with a series of deliverables like announcing direct convertibility of the New Zealand dollar with the renminbi.

But Key’s biggest takeaway was securing a commitment from Xi to set a new joint goal of $30 billion for bilateral trade by 2020.

The significance of the commitment has possibly been under-sold.

From the NZ side, it is a statement of good intention. However the NZ Government has little influence on decisions made by individual NZ importers and exporters. They will go where the money is or goods are.

However in China, the Government has far more influence. When the Chinese President says he wants an extra $15 billion of trade with NZ in the next six years, then many Chinese companies will pay heed to that and NZ companies become preferred suppliers.

That statement by President Xi probably means more to NZ exporters than any domestic policy in NZ.

Here’s the thing: New Zealand exporters are scathing of the Opposition’s timing of the Oravida revelations. Beijing expats retain deep suspicions that in the first place, some “low-level” Foreign Affairs official leaked details of Cabinet minister Judith Collins’ off-schedule meetings with Stone Shi’s Oravida in October, and that the Opposition sat on the issue until the eve of the Prime Minister’s China trip to inflict maximum political damage while he was overseas.

Politics ahead of country. The issue is quite legitimate, but the timing was done to try and sabotage the visit. Fortunately for NZ exporters, they did not succeed.

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Desperate lies

March 22nd, 2014 at 4:37 am by David Farrar



This is the latest advertisement from Labour. Its desperate stuff which I doubt would survive a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Note no mention of the fact that the PGF lost a contestable contract to the Salvation Army, who also spoke out against the deal. So the entire premise is a lie.

Also the decision was not made by Ministers. To quote Peter Dunne:

The process to retender the contracts for these services was an open contestable tender.   The evaluation panel deciding on the tender comprised six members: three internal Ministry staff and three external evaluators from the Department of Internal Affairs, the Health Promotion Agency and a Pacific health consultant.  

“The Ministry of Health has been particularly mindful to keep the process clearly separate from any perception of political interference. This extended to commissioning an independent review by Pricewaterhouse on its proposed decisions.

Also I understand the total amount being spent by the Ministry of Health on problem gambling is increasing by $750,000 over last year. So its a decision to increase funding and to go with a provider that will actually assist more people more effectively.

Labour seem to be upset because the PGF was a great source of taxpayer funding for their activists and candidates. Likewise the Greens haven’t mentioned that the former CEO is an active member of the Green Party and partner of a Green MP.

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Mr Cunliffe the poll trend doesn’t lie

March 18th, 2014 at 3:33 pm by Jadis

*Jadis post as DPF collecting info for a travel blog piece.

Audrey Young has a fascinating opinion piece today that calls out David Cunliffe’s spin on today’s demoralising Herald-Digipoll for Labour – that precarious drop into the 20s.

It was disappointing to hear David Cunliffe suggesting today’s Herald DigiPoll survey putting Labour at 29.5 per cent is off the mark.

On the one hand he said he accepted that Labour’s polling has suffered from him using a trust for donations to his leadership campaign.

The next thing he is touting his party’s own internal polling which apparently puts Labour at 34 per cent.

The fact is that if Labour’s own polling is 34 per cent, it is at odds not just with DigiPoll, but with two other recent polls: Roy Morgan on March 6 which had Labour at 30.5 per cent and the Ipsos Fairfax poll a month ago which had Labour at 31.8 per cent.

The DigiPoll result of 29.5 is not much lower in reality but falling into the 20s from 30 is like falling into a canyon and is devastating for any party with designs on Government.

I am wondering if Cunliffe, his closest advisors and others have only been presenting some of the truth of Labour’s predicament to caucus.  You see that ’34 per cent’ that Cunliffe talks about is entirely possible if we add in the ‘prompted’ voters.  A prompted result is where a voter who says they are undecided is asked who they are most likely to vote for.

Today’s report on the Herald-Digipoll result very clearly states that the 29.5 per cent result is of “decided voters only”.  The decideds are what matter at this point of the cycle and Cunliffe knows that.  If I were in his caucus I’d be asking to see the decided or unprompted numbers.

If I was in Labour’s caucus I’d also be asking why Labour is becoming less attractive to women and Aucklanders.  Two groups that are pivotal to the quest for the undecided vote.  If you aren’t picking up decided voters from those groups now then you are very unlikely to pick up votes from those groups closer to the election.

A 29.5% result is a big deal.  One public poll in the 20s sends the caucus and party activists into a bit of meltdown.  As Whaleoil points out electorate MPs run back to their seats, and activists only focus on MPs or candidates they think can win a seat. A 29.5% result also means that a 25% result is not that far away… and that is frightening.  A 29.5% result means that Matt ‘Game Changer’ McCarten hasn’t worked his magic (the way Bomber talked him up it sounded like we’d see a result day 2).

In all this National also has to be a bit careful.  National needs to retain women and Auckland voters and ride very high in the polls due to a lack of support partners.  National can chortle a bit and I am sure Bill English Is thinking “so much nice being this side of the result’ but National cannot get complacent.  It needs to defend its fine batting total and bowl Labour out.

Labour can get away with some low polling if the Greens also shoot up (as they have) so that the Left vote is still high or near to National’s vote.  If they can do that then it is still a close run race.  A true decimation is less likely on the Left as Labour has (and I think it will continue to) fragment into distinct parties or collections of interests.  We are seeing a re-organisation of the Left.  Yes, Labour could drop into the mid 20s but the Greens and possibly Mana will shoot back up.

The Right needs to continue to look at the total Left vote vs the National (plus two seats) scenario.  Right and Left need to run two very different strategies.

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How hard is it to proof read 12 words or so?

March 14th, 2014 at 8:10 am by David Farrar

SMOG 13032014


Normally I wouldn’t blog on typos as they happen. But off memory five of the last six infographics from Labour have had errors in them. This suggests that they simply have no process in place for checking what goes out. While individual mistakes are no big deal, it is fascinating that they keep pumping them out with errors. You’d think someone would have intervened.

Hat Tip: Keeping Stock

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Turkish PM also muses about closing down Facebook!

March 13th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has backtracked on a threat to shut down Facebook and YouTube in Turkey.

Erdogan, who is fighting allegations of corruption, said last week that the government was considering steps to prevent secretly wiretapped recordings from being leaked on the internet, including shutting down Facebook and YouTube.

NZ Labour’s progressive ideas are starting to catch on globally!

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It’s like a teen drama!

March 12th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stacey Kirk at Stuff reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has dismissed suggestions of a cooling in relations between his party and the Greens, saying the Greens would be the obvious first choice for Labour to strike a coalition with.

Yesterday, Cunliffe refused to say whether he would negotiate with the Greens before NZ First.

But today he appeared to back down from those statements, dismissing speculation that tension had arisen between the two allies.

Well Cunliffe not only distanced himself from the Greens, but described Winston as a good guy. That’s a great deal of enthusiasm for him. I guess he regards lying to the media, public and Parliament over his knowledge of the Owen Glenn donation doesn’t stop him being a good guy.

The backdown comes after the Greens lodged an official complaint with Labour over outspoken MP Shane Jones’ attacks on the party.

Yesterday, Cunliffe said he would work with whatever cards the voters delivered after the September 20 election.

“That may indeed quite likely be with the Greens, it may well be with Winston first … NZ First.”

But he would not say the Greens would be his first choice, saying there was “no preordained order”.

This morning, he told Firstline talking with the Greens first was the logical step, if in a position to form a Government.

The Greens are somewhat terrified that Labour will lock them out of Government if Winston demands it as the price of his support. And what could they do about it? Vote for a National-led Government? Of course not. They’d have to just swallow the butter medicine.

The reality is that it looks incredibly improbable that Labour and Greens will have enough seats by themselves to form a Government after the election. Even a bauble to Hone won’t get them over the line. They’ll need Winston and as he has the option of going with National (which the Greens do not), he has all the power.

UPDATE: And looking even worse for the Greens, as Peters says they can’t win without him and his policy is to rule them out:

Winston Peters doesn’t think a Labour/Greens coalition can win the September 20 election.

Chris Trotter thinks they can’t win also. Back to Peters:

Mr Peters says Labour’s strategists must be worried because they must know they can’t win with the Greens.

“They know full well that those two parties can’t get up in this election,” he said on Radio New Zealand.

“Some people should get their hard hats on, because together they won’t make it.”

Before the 2005 election Mr Peters ruled out working with the Greens in a coalition government, and says his position hasn’t changed since then.

But he didn’t rule it out.

“We are six months out from an election and from what we have heard thus far our position has not changed from 2005 on the Greens,” he said.

“However, they’ve got six months in which they might make changes, so you can’t rule that out.”

The Greens are not going to change their policies in the next six months to appease Peters. So if he holds the balance of power, he will block the Greens from Government as a price of support for Labour.

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Fighting on the left

March 11th, 2014 at 3:10 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

The Greens have lodged a formal complaint with Labour over outspoken MP Shane Jones’ attacks on the party.

They’ve complained because an MP from another party criticised them? Who is being thin skinned now?

It comes as the Northland-based list MP faced a ticking off from leader David Cunliffe this morning over his anti-Green comments as well as for straying into other MPs’ areas of responsibility.

It is understood the Green’s chief of staff Ken Spagnolo invoked the official mechanism for airing disputes with Labour’s new chief of staff Matt McCarten and it will be on the agenda of the next top level meeting between the two allies.

Good to see them focusing on the big issues. Again, imagine how they’ll be going running a Government!

Green co-leader Russel Norman said he imagined the matter would be dealt with at chief of staff level.

But he said Labour was obviously had some “internal issues” to deal with.

Just a few!

”There’s clearly some people like Shane Jones within Labour who are uncomfortable about protecting the environment and embracing our clean energy future. but … the Greens know what we are doing and why we’re here.”

Wait, isn’t this a personal attack on Shane Jones? Maybe Jones should complain also through their dispute process!

Meanwhile NewstalkZB report:

Labour leader David Cunliffe says the Greens won’t necessarily be the first cab off the rank if he’s in a position to form a Government after the election.

The translation is he’ll sacrifice them for Winston if Winston asks for it. Poor Greens – 18 years in Parliament and no baubles for them.

There was another oops in David Cunliffe’s life earlier this morning when he referred to his possible coalition partner New Zealand First as ‘Winston First’.

“Winston’s a good guy but I’m not doing coalition negotiations before the vote and we will work with whatever cards the voters put on the table. That may indeed quite likely will be with the Greens, it may well be with Winston First.”

I’m very pleased to see the official Kiwiblog term for New Zealand First catching on!!

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A digital bill of rights

March 10th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Cunliffe announced:

Citizens will have their access to the internet guaranteed and be protected from blanket mass surveillance under Labour’s proposed digital bill of rights, Labour Leader and ICT spokesperson David Cunliffe says.

“Kiwis are technology-savvy people who rely on the internet for fundamental daily activities such as banking and communicating with friends, family and colleagues.

“Unfortunately the legal framework to protect New Zealanders’ online hasn’t kept up with the pace of technology.

“Labour will work with stakeholders to develop a digital bill of rights which would address these concerns while making New Zealand a more stable and secure place for businesses to use and store data.

I think in principle this is good idea, although of course details are key. It would be good to have perhaps a draft published before the election, so it can be critiqued.

“The highlighting of international mass surveillance by Edward Snowdon and concerns around the practices of our own Government Communications and Security Bureau has left many Kiwis feeling their online information is vulnerable.

“Such legislation would protect people from the digital equivalent of warrantless phone tapping. While it wouldn’t override current GCSB powers, it would set a principle which would be used to replace the Government’s controversial new legislation.

I’m unsure if this means any change at all. Yeah, Nah maybe.

“It would also guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion, while still outlawing hate speech.

No Right Turn points out that hate speech is not currently outlawed, so this could be interpreted as leading to more censorship:

This sounds good – but its actually an erosion compared to what we have at present. Those freedoms, whether offline or on, are currently protected by the BORA. But hate speech isn’t outlawed in practical terms (there is a crime of inciting racial disharmony, but there was only a single prosecution under the 1971 Act, and the consensus now is that the BORA has made it almost impossible to prosecute). So that “still” hides a massive crackdown on online expression. It may be expression we don’t like, that we find hateful and offensive, but that doesn’t justify outlawing it, any more than it justifies outlawing rickrolling. Which means the answer to Labour’s proposal has to be “no thanks”. Protect freedom of speech unambiguously according to BORA standards or piss off.

And so what should be a hands-down policy win for Labour turns into a mess, because they took a good idea and poisoned it, in the process alienating the very groups the policy was aimed at winning support from. Heckuva job you’re doing there guys. Good luck with that election-thing.

InternetNZ has commented:

InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) says that parts of Labour’s proposed Digital Bill of Rights are excellent, but parts of it may be unnecessary.

InternetNZ supports guaranteeing New Zealanders’ access to the Internet. InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter believes that this is crucial discussion to have, given the importance of Internet access to modern day living.

“Getting online is becoming essential and those who are unable to do so are at risk of becoming second-class citizens. Enshrining a right for all Kiwis to be able to access the Internet is something a modern-day society should be looking at. Whether legislation is the right answer or not aside, the issue is an important one.

“We want to see more thinking from our political parties on how to close New Zealand’s digital divide and we look forward to working across the political spectrum to provide New Zealand with the strongest digital future we can.”

In its press release, Labour also said that the new Bill of Rights would “guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion while still outlawing hate speech.” Mr Carter says that New Zealand has law in force that already does this.

“In New Zealand we have the Bill of Rights Act. Many of the issues outlined in Labour’s proposal – and indeed in the Harmful Digital Communications Bill – could be solved if we re-worked the Bill of Rights for a 21st Century New Zealand. There is no reason to think that laws governing behaviour online should be different to laws offline.

I think the intent is good, and that having a discussion over whether we should have a digital bill of rights is a good discussion to have. I support Labour’s initiative in this area, but again the key is what actually goes in the DBOR. Make it too general and it may have no impact. Make it too specific and you could have the Government having to fund Internet connections for every household. The challenge is to find that sensible balance.

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Labour selects Tony Milne for Christchurch Central

March 8th, 2014 at 5:01 pm by David Farrar

Labour has selected Tony Milne to contest the marginal Christchurch Central seat.

Tony is currently a lobbyist for the Problem Gambling Foundation (which is funded by the Ministry of Health), whom he has worked for since 2008.He was also Jim Anderton’s Mayoral Campaign Manager and worked for Tim Barnett from 2003 to 2008. Tony also stood for Labour in Rakaia in 2002 and I think 2005, and has a degree in English and Political Science. He has also been the Youth Vice-President of the Labour Party.

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Lobby group supports Labours Internet tax

March 7th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A “digital content levy” being evaluated by Labour could bail out the news media industry as well as supporting local programming, says the Coalition for Better Broadcasting.

The charitable trust was established last year by people associated with a campaign to save TV

NZ7 and obtain better funding Radio New Zealand, and said it would soon be calling for members.

Chief executive Myles Thomas, a freelance television director, said it would support the idea of a levy on telcos “as a viable way to fund public service media in New Zealand, as levies already do in Europe”

Why stop at public service media (generally code for left wing shows that fight neoliberalism). Why not also tax Internet users to fund the music industry? And also tax Internet users to fund the bookstores? And also tax Internet users to fund organic farming.

Thomas said telcos charged customers “quite a lot” for access to the internet and online content. “Yet the people who make the content receive none of that direct payment. It’s unfair that while telcos do very nicely, the content creators, including news organisations like Fairfax [publishers of Stuff], struggle to develop a viable business model.

Let’s look at the logic of Mr Thomas. First of all ISPs charge for access to the Internet, not specific content. They provide access, not content. Content providers choose to voluntarily make their content available online – some charge for it, some do not.  It is their choice.

I may go into town to go shopping. If I pay a taxi to take me into town so I can access the shops, Mr Thomas seems to think the taxi firm should have to pay the shops for the privilege of delivering customers to them.

If I take a bus to a public library, the bus company should pay the library for me accessing their free content.

“Paywalls are rare and even more rarely successful. A levy could be a great way to close the loop and solve several problems at once,” Thomas said.

Forcing people to pay for content they don’t want, and don’t want to pay for. Yeah, that’s a great idea.

Once again, no one is forced to put content on the Internet. I’d love it if I made more money out of Kiwiblog, considering the 1000+ hours a year I put into it. But I don’t think people should be taxed for accessing the Internet and forced to hand that money over to me because I am a content creator.

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Former Labour energy minister slams Labour/Green power policy

March 6th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A former Labour energy minister has slammed the party’s proposed power policy, saying it would mostly benefit the rich while damaging the renewable energy sector.

David Butcher, who now runs a consulting firm, was one of four speakers debating the merits of NZ Power at the Downstream energy forum in Auckland. …

Butcher said the proposal would overturn 25 years of collaborative market development for an “untested and very flawed model”.

“I think it would largely destroy the renewables industry, or at least set it back five or six years,” he said.

Butcher said that before deregulation in 1990, power prices were rising by about 20 per cent a year.

Today, 72 per cent of new generation was renewable, there was private investment in renewables and there were no blackouts, he said.

Butcher said the benefits of the policy would largely go to rich people with high power usage and companies like Rio Tinto, which runs the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

Of their many bad policies, I rate this one the worse.

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Labour and Rangitata

March 5th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Back in December David Cunliffe declared:

Labour leader David Cunliffe believes the party can win the Rangitata electorate in 2014.

He said draft boundary changes, which give parts of Rakaia to Selwyn, mean the seat is “anybody’s game”. In the last election Labour polled well in Timaru but National was stronger in the Ashburton district.

Mr Cunliffe, in South Canterbury to rouse the party faithful in Temuka, believes Labour can win Ashburton this time.

“Geraldine’s coming back in, we’ll have Point, we’ll have Temuka; I think we can win this seat.”

Labour’s win of Christchurch East showed what was possible in the next election. Membership of the Labour Party had nearly doubled this year. On December 1 membership was up 85 per on January 1.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. We are up 50 per cent since the leadership race started three or four months ago. People know Labour’s on the rise.”

So the Labour Party Leader thinks they can win Rangitata, even if humble outsiders like me are sceptical.

So how many Labour Party members have come forward to be the candidate for this seat which their Leader has declared they can win.

Well Matthew Littlewood reports at Stuff:

The Labour Party is still without a candidate for the Rangitata electorate for this year’s general election.

A party spokesman said it had extended the deadline for another month after it did not receive any applications before the February 28 cut-off date.

They couldn’t find a single party member who believed the Leader’s claim it was winnable.

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Labour condoning Taurima’s use of TVNZ to campaign for them

March 5th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

John Drinnan at NZ Herald reports:

Labour has extended the deadline for selection of the candidate for Tamaki Makaurau electorate to allow for Television New Zealand inquiry into Labour Party activism at the TVNZ Maori and Pacific unit.

This is a clear indication that their head office is holding the seat open for Taurima. The appropriate response would be to declare that as Taurima showed such appallingly bad judgement that he thought it was okay to run a Labour Party branch from within TVNZ, that they don’t think he has the judgement to be a candidate. Instead they delay the nominations to benefit him, which obviously reflects their view that the only thing he did wrong was to get caught.

The selection period could be extended further of the inquiry was not complete by March 28, Barnett said.

However long he needs, they’ll comply.

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Labour’s bright idea is to tax Internet users!

March 5th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

This morning, a strategy document written by Labour associate information and communications technology (ICT) spokesperson Clare Curran was accidentally sent to ICT Minister Amy Adams’ Office, Ms Curran says (though not by her specifically).

That’s the second time they have done that, it seems. Taking open data to a new level!

The document is here.

Stuff reports:

Telecom is bristling at the suggestion Labour could impose a “content levy” on internet providers.

Labour was left red-faced today after MP Clare Curran’s ideas on ICT policy were accidentally emailed to her National Party counterpart, Communications Minister Amy Adams.

These include imposing a revenue-based levy on telecommunications carriers to create a contestable fund to support the “creation and accessible distribution of New Zealand digital content”.

This is a tax on telcos and ISPs. That is effectively a tax on Internet users, as it would be passed on. So Labour is thinking of taxing people to use the Internet, and give the money to “content producers”.

One might wonder if it would be used to help fund programmes by broadcasting Icons like Brendan Horan, Tamati Coffey, Shane Taurima, Martin Bradbury, Fran Mold, Kris Faafoi and Matt McCarten!

The Herald further reports:

The minister said she only had a brief look at the documents but it appeared that Labour’s main idea was to start all their policies with the word Kiwi.

Ms Curran’s document outlined plans for policies called KiwiMap, KiwiCode, KiwiCall, KiwiCap, KiwiCloud and Kiwis Come Home.

Maybe they could call their levy plan, KiwiTax!

What is even more interesting is where all these policy ideas came from. I understand that they are very similiar to policies that will be announced by the Internet/DotCom Party and that they may have been discussed between Dotcom and Curran. The purpose being to have policy alignment between the parties, so they could be endorsed when he winds his party up just before the election and asks his supporters to vote for whichever parties he endorses.

So a simple question is whether these policy ideas were ever discussed with Kim Dotcom, and what input has he had into them.

UPDATE: Vodafone also is against Labour’s idea to tax us all more through our ISPs:

Vodafone chief executive Russell Stanners described the proposed levy as “crazy and outrageous”.

“Labour should go the whole hog and nationalise everything,” he said. “The document also says multiple networks are wasteful. Why don’t we go for one network, one TV company, one bank, so there is no wastage, and then you can have as many levies as you want.”

I am worried that Labour may take up Stanners ironic suggestion and adopt it as serious policy.

UPDATE2: Clare Curran has been unfairly maligned as responsible for the accidental e-mail leak. She silently took one for the team, but it has been revealed it was actually a staff member in David Cunliffe’s office who sent it out. It seems it was Irish Bill, so that is not a good week for The Standard with one blogger sending Labour party policies to National and the other being the genius behind Cunliffe’s secret trust!

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Strike Three

March 5th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes at Stuff:

Three months and three gaffes.

It is an understatement to say it has not been the greatest start to election year for Labour leader David Cunliffe.

The slip over the baby bonus, by failing to disclose in his speech that it would not be paid on top of parental leave, took much of the wind out of his January sails.

It also deflected attention from a $500 million spending pledge that Labour had hoped would set the agenda.

No sooner was the House back in February than the $2.5m property-owning man was attacking Prime Minister John Key for living in a leafy suburb and defining his own mansion as a doer-upper and his own situation as middle of the road.

The climb-down came at the weekend.

This morning he has admitted it had been wrong to set up a trust for donations to his leadership bid. (If the cost was about $20,000 for his leadership campaign, why seek donations at all?)

That from a man and a party that has attacked National’s old habit of funneling donations through entities like the Waitemata Trust and joined in the condemnation of Finance Minister Bill English using a trust structure for his Wellington pile.

Cue, too, unwelcome echoes of former Labour leader David Shearer’s memory lapse over his undeclared United States bank account.

One gaffe might be unfortunate, two careless.

Three in three months is bordering on accident-prone.

Making Shearer look like a safe pair of hands.

Kiwi Poll Guy looks at what has been happening on iPredict:

iPredict is running a contract on National winning the 2014 election.  It was originally launched on 26 October 2011, a month before the 2011 General Election, and has been floating around between $0.40 and $0.60 since then.  It’s only in the last month that the stock has moved significantly beyond $0.60, so it’s worth taking a quick look.  Full trade history is taken from Luke Howison’s excellent API interface for iPredict, and then tweaked with a bit of Excel.

As shown in the graph below, the increase in price since has been pretty constant since it was trading at about $0.45 in October 2013, about a month or so after David Cunliffe was elected leader of the Labour Party.  The average daily price hasn’t dropped below $0.60 since 8 February 2014.

And last night was at 68.5%. In four months the probability of National winning the election has increased by over 20%. That is a huge movement, and while some of it is related to the economy and National’s improved performance, a fair bit must be about Labour not looking anywhere near ready to govern.

The Dom Post editorial:

David Cunliffe has made a hash of the donations issue. He was slow to admit that he used a trust to hide those who gave to his campaign for the Labour leadership.

He was slow to admit that this was problematic. Now he says he doesn’t think ”in hindsight” the trust ”fully represents the values” he wants to bring to the job of Labour leader.

These are awkward phrases which reveal a deeper conflict. The brutal truth is that hiding the donations inside a trust opens Mr Cunliffe to charges of hypocrisy. This is partly because he belonged to the Labour-led government which specifically outlawed the use of trusts to hide political donations. And hiding election donations is against basic principles of openness.

Now he has disclosed the names of three donors but not of others who he says required anonymity. You would think this kind of thing would have set off alarm bells for an aspiring Opposition leader. Hadn’t he heard the fuss caused by other ”anonymous political donations?”

This is what astonished me – that it never rang alarm bells for him, or any of his team. How could anyone in Labour think a secret trust was a good idea after they spent the last decade railing against them. Cunliffe and Presland had both railed against them personally. Either they’e incredibly stupid or their previous opposition to secret trusts was fake – they’re only against other people having one.

The Labour leader got into a similar pickle when he attacked Prime Minister John Key for living in a big house in a wealthy suburb. So does Mr Cunliffe, and once again the critics called him a hypocrite. It didn’t help that he then blustered about his house being a ”do-upper”, the worst house in the (very expensive) street.

This cuts no ice at all. Most voters see little difference between Mr Cunliffe’s $2.5m house in Herne Bay and John Key’s $10m house in Parnell. Both are by ordinary standards opulent homes owned by obviously wealthy people. Mr Cunliffe made an ass of himself by posing as the champion of the proletariat against the toff.

He needs to decide who he really is and what he stands for.

Here’s the trouble. If you need to “decide”, then it isn’t real.

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