The Press on Labour

March 4th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Labour leader David Cunliffe perhaps scored one or two electoral points last week when he visited – in her damaged home – an 85-year-old widow who told him she had been “pushed from pillar to post” in her dealings with EQC. …

Unfortunately, it was no substitute for a cohesive and well-articulated earthquake recovery policy from Labour, which continues to look lacklustre when it comes to explaining how it would handle the rebuild.

Cunliffe followed up his photo opportunity with a pledge to set up, if elected to Government, a $2 million fund to help individuals bring test cases against EQC and insurance companies, to “clarify the law, remove blockages and help get things moving”.

There is an immediate perception problem with the amount, which seems almost insignificant given the scale of the problem.

While Cunliffe talks of millions, the Government in election year is bound to keep repeating its mantra that it is funding $15 billion of a $40b rebuild.

Cunliffe’s rhetoric almost invites critique. If elected to Government, it would be better for Labour to clarify the law itself, even if that involves seeking its own declaratory judgments from the courts, rather than relying on citizens bringing test cases.

Paying people to take EQC and insurance companies to court might also create blockages, rather than remove them, at least in the cases of those who become involved in litigation.

It seems to be one of their more stupid policies. We’ll pay people to take our own insurance company to court.

And, given the length of time such cases take to be heard and adjudicated, then potentially appealed, it is hard to imagine how this scheme will help to get things moving to any significant degree.

A great way to delay things. Will they fund cases all the way to the Supreme Court?

It would be inviting them, in some cases, to sue EQC, a government department. What Cunliffe is saying, essentially, is that “if elected to govern, we will give you some money so that you can take our own officials to court, so that they can have a better idea of how they should be handling your case file”.

This is not what electors are looking for in a credible opposition party campaigning in election year.

It sounds like a policy a 22 year old staffer dreamt up the day before the visit. The key word in the editorial is credible. The policy is not credible, and neither is the party promoting it.

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Dann on Labour’s monetary madness

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

NZ Herald business editor Liam Dann writes:

Cunliffe and his quietly spoken deputy David Parker seem determined to turn away a large and valuable chunk of the electorate – the business community.

Positioning yourself so far to the left that you don’t think business is worth fighting for is not a strategy that has worked for Labour since Norman Kirk. The Lange government took business with them, the Clark government at least convinced business that it represented a tolerable and temporarily necessary change.

A begrudging acceptance of change from the business community, even if most won’t change their vote, is something that reassures the nervous middle classes who do swing their votes.

Helen Clark talked knowledge-wave and delivered a free trade deal with China that has ultimately been our lifeline through the global financial crisis.

What is David Cunliffe offering? A dramatic experiment with a winning formula? A worrying fix for something that isn’t broken?

Labour’s embrace of Green Party policy to reform the Reserve Bank Act is a big stumbling block for the party if it wants mainstream acceptance from the business community.

In almost every policy area, Labour is moving to the left and embracing Green party policies. They’ve done it on tax, on welfare, on monetary policy, on electricity, on housing and almost on mining.

Helen Clark ran a pretty left wing Government. She was replaced as leader by Phil Goff, a former Rogernome. He came out with policies to the left of Clark, such as paying beneficiaries the in work tax credit.

Goff was replaced as leader by David Shearer, a man who once wrote approvingly about the role the private sector could play in defence and security. he went even more left than Clark and the new Goff and proposed effective nationalisation of the electricity generation sector and setting up a massive Government building programme.

Shearer was replaced as leader by David Cunliffe, who was often seen as one of the most centrist or right leaning members of Clark’s cabinet. Just like Goff and Shearer he abandoned his previous beliefs and tried to go further left than Clark, Goff and Shearer by proposing extending welfare payment to families earning up to $150,000 a year.

Each Labour party leader is trying to be more left wing than the one before. That’s great for National, but not great for New Zealand if they ever finally get elected and start implementing policies which nine years ago they decried as lunatic Green Party policy.

Dann focuses again on monetary policy:

The monetary policy reformists are full of ideas about the magic a broader definition of the Reserve Bank Act might achieve. But they ignore the extent to which having one target – inflation – has worked. And just how fundamental controlling inflation is to creating a stable economy on which growth can be built.

Why, when the act has just seen us through such an enormous global downturn so efficiently, would you change it. In the hope it might bring the dollar down?

Well, if you damage the economy the dollar will certainly fall. But it seems a brutal path to take.

And why, if you were going to make changes, would you loosen the shackles during the growth phase of the economic cycle – just when inflation starts to become a serious risk.

We should be grateful we don’t have to make radical changes to our economy. We’ve come through the downturn well, and while National can take some credit for steering the ship, so too can the last Labour Government for the healthy growth it oversaw.

Radical change is for those nations that have run out of options. Let’s leave it to the Greeks.

Some will sneer that Labour should not worry at all about business opinion, as most business people will not vote Labour, and they are not a large proportion of the population. This is true. But Helen Clark found out the hard way in 2000 what happens when you treat the sector that generates pretty much 100% of the tax take as mortal enemies. They plunged in the polls.

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Only one Labour MP facing a challenge

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

I’ve not seen the full list, but based on tweets by NZ Herald deputy political editor Claire Trevett, there is only one Labour MP facing a challenge for his or her party’s nomination.

So just one challenge to a caucus brimming with deadwood. So it must be to an MP who is really low profile, has no public appeal, never lands any hits in public. Right?

Well in a sensible party yes. But this is Labour. It seems that the only MP facing a challenge for an electorate nomination is Shane Jones!

The one MP actually achieving positive headlines for Labour, and the only MP being challenged. Its hilarious.

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A threat is not a policy

March 3rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A couple of months ago Labour announced they would use any means possible to force the shareholders of Pike River to pay damages owed by the company.

Today they’re done similar and have said:

“A Labour government will clean the reef up. We will make the Rena’s owner pay through any means possible.”

That is not a policy. It is a threat or rhetoric posing as a serious statement.

Governments are not tyrants that can wave a wand and force a private company to pay money they are not legally obliged to pay. Regardless of your view on what the owners should do, the reality is Governments can’t force a company to pay money anymore than King Canute can keep back the tide.

The only thing a Government could attempt to do is pass a retrospective law forcing a company to pay money. The precedent of such an act would be hideous, but possible. Is this what Labour is saying it wiil do? If so, they need to come out and be explicit.

Just saying we will make the owner pay through any means possible is not a policy. It isn’t even a promise. It is meaningless rhetoric. If Labour can’t say what specific action they would take to make the owner pay, then their policy is as opaque as their leader’s secret trust fund.

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36 off shore wells under Labour

March 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Amy Adams pointed out:

David Cunliffe latest attempt to rewrite history on oil and gas exploration highlights an on-going, casual relationship with the truth, Environment Minister Amy Adams says.

“As a minister in the previous Labour Government, David Cunliffe knows there was no environment oversight and certainly no public involvement in the exploratory drilling process under his watch,” Ms Adams says.

“Once again he has been caught out being tricky with the truth. He is trying to create a distraction from Labour’s woeful environmental credentials.

“Under his government, 36 wells were drilled in the EEZ between 1999 and 2008 with no legislation in place to protect the environment.

“In fact, the Labour regime only required the Minister for Energy and Resources to sign a permit and required no formal environmental assessment at all. That’s it – no public comment, no submissions, no consideration of environmental effects.

Not enough people know this. Labour signed off on 36 oil wells, with no requirement at all for a formal environmental assessment. The law passed by National requires the EPA to do an independent assessment.

“The ridiculous thing about David Cunliffe’s argument is that the EEZ Act introduced by this Government actually replaces a non-existent environmental regulatory regime for drilling in the EEZ, where the public had no say.

“Under this Government, the public will for the first time get a chance to have a say. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can call for submissions from the public prior to granting a consent for exploratory drilling, if the EPA feels it is required. And before any production drilling can take place, a full public process must be held.

As always Labour is do what we say, not do what we did.

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Another TVNZ staffer seeking a Labour job

March 1st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ does seem to be turning into a recruitment pool for the Labour Party. Fran Mold became Chief Press Secretary. Kris Faafoi is now an MP. Shane Taurima sought nomination and helped run a branch for them while working there.

The latest is Tamati Coffey who is seeking Labour’s Rotorua nomination.

Labour Party general secretary Tim Barnett said two nominations had been received, with a possible third nomination coming late Friday.

Mr Barnett said the names of all nominees for the party’s Rotorua candidate would be released on Monday with the selection process to take up to a month.

If selected, Mr Coffey would replace former Labour Party cabinet minister and new mayor of Rotorua Steve Chadwick as Rotorua’s Labour candidate to contest November’s general election.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay said he didn’t focus on what the Labour Party were doing.

“I believe I have a good track record of working hard for local people and have delivered some important wins for Rotorua and the wider electorate over the last six years.”

Mr McClay said this would be his third election campaign and he looked forward to making his case to continue to be Rotorua’s MP and represent its views in Parliament.

I hear there may be another broadcaster soon to also declare they will stand for Labour.

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Views on McCarten

February 28th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

The New Zealand Left suddenly finds itself in the position of the dog who caught the car. For years, slagging off the Labour Party as a bunch of neoliberal sell-outs has been one of the Left’s favourite pub and parlour games. But now, with one of this country’s most effective left-wing campaigners just one door down from the Leader of the Labour Opposition, the Left, like the bewildered pooch for whom the fun was always in the chase, has finally got what it wanted and must decide what to do with it.

Yes, it is a huge victory for the far left.

If Cunliffe and McCarten are allowed to fail, the Right of the Labour Party and their fellow travellers in the broader labour movement (all the people who worked so hard to prevent Cunliffe rising to the leadership) will say:

 “Well, you got your wish. You elected a leader pledged to take Labour to the Left. And just look what happened. Middle New Zealand ran screaming into the arms of John Key and Labour ended up with a Party Vote even more pitiful than National’s in 2002! So don’t you dare try peddling that ‘If we build a left-wing Labour Party they will come’ line ever again! You did – and they didn’t.”
Be in no doubt that this will happen – just as it did in the years after the British Labour Party’s crushing defeat in the general election of 1983. The Labour Right called Labour’s socialist manifesto “the longest suicide note in history” and the long-march towards Blairism and the re-writing of Clause Four began.
Not sure comparison to Michael Foot are helpful to Labour.
The Dom Post:

So the dinosaurs are back. Richard Prebble returns to run ACT’s election campaign. Matt McCarten returns to become Labour leader David Cunliffe’s chief of staff. The ironies are multiple. These two were the chief brawlers in the brutal and byzantine ruckus within Labour over Auckland Central in the 1980s.

A generation later the two will once again be on opposite sides of the political war. 

Not opposite sides. Prebble is campaign manager for ACT, not National. McCarten is chief of staff for Labour.

Mr McCarten is a similarly divisive figure, and already his old comrade Mr Anderton has said he won’t work for Labour this year, apparently because of Mr McCarten. Labour is billing Mr McCarten’s return as a symbolic healing of the rifts in the Left-wing family, but clearly the rifts do not heal easily.

What was interesting is that Cunliffe said he was sure Jim would still be supporting Labour, and then Jim said he won’t be while McCarten is there. What is surprising isn’t Anderton’s views, but that no one spoke to him in advance and hence Cunliffe said something that was contradicted an hour later.

The Herald:

But that presumes Labour’s existing voter base also favours a move to policies aimed at attracting the lost tribes of the left. There is a risk surely that some working, non-unionised, moderate social democrats will see a Labour Party raising taxes, advancing union interests, expanding the state and redirecting wealth to support beneficiaries and the poor as altogether less appealing.

Most non voters are proportionally under 30. I’m not sure a return to 1970s policies will be appealing to them.

Labour’s result in 2011 was its worst for generations. Its poll rating now, under Mr Cunliffe, has not increased much at all from its early-30s standings under David Shearer, despite promising expanded paid parental leave and a baby bonus for all those earning up to $150,000 a year. 

In August 2013 when Shearer was Leader, Labour’s average poll rating was 32.4%. In February 2014 their average poll rating is 32.2%.

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The McCarten appointment

February 27th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small reports:

Labour seems to have burned off one of its most effective campaigners after leader David Cunliffe confirmed former Alliance president Matt McCarten will be his new chief of staff.

Former deputy prime minister Jim Anderton yesterday said he would not help Labour at the general election, after managing the party’s campaign in the Christchurch East by-election last year and working on the 2011 general election campaign and for Megan Woods in Wigram.

That is a big loss to Labour in Christchurch. It may not be the last.

Matt is very high profile and has fallen out with a fair few people, and criticised a lot of them also.  He’s even said on the record:

There’s no doubt Cunliffe is a gifted performer. What is discomforting is his every nuance and action seems calculated.
With Shearer you can sense his real character. With Cunliffe, I can’t escape the feeling that he has the same phoniness as the Republican US presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

There’s an old quote about Rasputin along the lines of “You can be a famous poisoner or a successful poisoner, but not both”. I tend to think the same applies to being a Chief of Staff. 99% of New Zealanders do not know who John Key’s Chief of Staff is, and that is a good thing.

Matt has great campaign skills, but his relationship skills are not so strong. And the Chief of Staff role is 90% about releationships. You have to manage relationships with the caucus, the relationship with the party, manage a staff of 20, and also manage relationships with other political parties.

I wonder if Labour would have been better to make David Talbot Chief of Staff, and have Matt as the Campaign Manager.

If Labour do win the election, then would Matt become the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff – a key role basically running the country. With no disrespect to Matt (whom I personally like a lot), but that would make me very nervous.  Vernon Small thinks not:

He may or may not stay on after the election, if Labour wins, but it is hard to see him running the back office in government.

Maybe what Labour have done is bring McCarten in as the de facto campaign manager, but in a taxpayer funded role (as they have so little money). So McCarten may be 90% working on the campaign, and they’ll just have a deputy chief of staff do the back office stuff. That may work, but it is a risk.

The real risk for Labour is the signal it sends that they are heading towards the far left. Matt left Labour because it was not left wing enough and with Jim Anderton set up the Alliance. He then left the Alliance because under Anderton it was not left wing enough and ended up in Mana – a party that gained 1.1% of the vote in the last election.

John Armstrong notes:

He has been brought on board to inject much-needed pre-election urgency, fresh thinking and attention-grabbing strategic audacity into a party whose political reflexes and energy – with the exception of Shane Jones – are on a par with a sloth on tranquillisers.


McCarten’s campaign skills should help draw voters back to Labour in its metropolitan strongholds. The real test is whether his input can break National’s stranglehold on provincial New Zealand, as well as broaden Labour’s appeal among lower middle, middle and upper middle income earners.

Given the country’s present conservative disposition, the initial impact may be the reverse. Regardless, winning over those voters to Labour’s cause is likely to require him to compromise personal beliefs, something that has not been part of the McCarten fabric.


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McCarten confirmed as Cunliffe’s Chief of Staff

February 26th, 2014 at 11:19 am by David Farrar

The Daily Blog has announced that Matt McCarten will be David Cunliffe’s Chief of Staff.

As I said earlier, this will be great when Labour say people should pay more tax, when their chief of staff ran an organisation that owed $150,000 to the IRD in unpaid taxes – and even worse most of it was tax deducted from employees and not passed on.

Imagine if John Key hired a chief of staff who had run an organisation that spent employee’s taxes on political projects, rather than paying the IRD, He’d be crucified by the left as condoning tax avoidance.

McCarten is a very skilled operator, but he is from the hard left. This is a clear signal that Labour is going to go even more hard left.

Danyl at Dim Post notes:

Can Matt McCarten turn things around? If you’re seeking to unify the party then the answer there would be a massive ‘No.’ The last thing Labour leads is a Chief of Staff with a big personality, big profile, big ego, talent for skullduggery and a strong left-wing political agenda that’s totally at odds with those of his leader’s enemies within the party.

But if you’re Cunliffe and you’re looking at Goff, Mallard, Cosgrove, King et al and coming to the conclusion that unity with them is impossible, war is inevitable and the best thing to do is try and win it then McCarten would be a pretty great choice

So McCarten’s appointment isn’t to help Labour win the election, but to help Cunliffe defeat his enemies in caucus.

UPDATE: Looks like the misappropriated tax payments have never been paid. The documents for UNITE Support Services show it was finally liquidated on 29 May 2013 with no funds available for creditors.

An earlier report showed that the IRD was owed around $101,000 by the shell company.

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McCarten for Labour?

February 26th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

Labour is poised to announce lead roles in David Cunliffe’s office and a new election campaign manager, with former Alliance president Matt McCarten tipped to be in the running for a top post with his old rivals.

Oh I do hope this is correct. If so, I can’t wait for the next time Labour campaigns on tax avoidance and people or companies not paying their fair share of tax.

Other names mentioned in party circles for the pivotal role, as Labour tries to regroup after a run of bad poll results, included Mr Cunliffe’s top electorate official Greg Presland and a number of former MPs from both Labour and the Alliance.

So it may be a choice between someone who blogs at The Daily Blog or who blogs at The Standard. A choice between the far left and the far far left. Wonderful.

They saw him as a good fit for the party, combining parliamentary experience, Left-wing credentials and the ability to deal with the tensions between the party and caucus members – a key cause of stress for Ms Brandon.

Matt’s a good operator and I rate him. It is worth mentioning though that when he was Alliance President the tension between party and caucus led to a split and the death of the Alliance. To be fair to Matt though, I blame Anderton 95% for that as he wanted to become effective dictator.

Meanwhile, former Labour researcher Dave Talbot, who works for the party’s pollsters UMR Research, is set to be named as the party’s general election campaign manager.

Talbot worked for Labour under Phil Goff, off memory.

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Cunliffe says Labour will win – but maybe not until 2017

February 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

In an interview with Radio New Zealand, David Cunliffe said:

“We all know the Government is going to change. It’s either going to change this time or next time. I think it’s more likely to change this time, and if it does, the question in front of New Zealanders is what is the composition of that new government going to be?”

To have the Leader of the Opposition basically say they may not win this election is in itself unusual.

But what makes it even more interesting is that for a couple of months there has been talk coming from some in Labour about how they are going for a two election strategy – to do well enough this time, to win in 2017. Others might call that a strategy to lose!

Even more interesting is that it seems some of the ABC club have worked out that this may be the strategy, and this is posing them a dilemma. They definitely want to win this time, and get into Government. But they are unconvinced they can. They think a loss is most likely.

The issue for them is if Labour loses, is it better if they lose narrowly or lose badly? Their concern is that the worst result would be a very narrow loss. Because then Cunliffe would remain leader for three more years (and then if they win in 2017, maybe six more beyond that).

The view that very reliable people have been putting around is that some in Labour have decided that while they want a win if a loss is inevitable then they want a big loss, rather than a narrow one. Why? Because then they can not just replace the leader, but convince the party to return the selection of the leader to the caucus. That could happen, if the leader forced on them by the activists and unions leads them to a worse result then even Goff got in 2011.

I wasn’t planning to blog at this stage on the maneuvering going on within Labour, but Cunliffe’s explicit mention of winning in 2017, if not 2014, suggests that he is aware of the issue, and he is also looking to shore up support for a two term strategy so he doesn’t get rolled if they narrowly lose in 2014.

The next couple of months will be essential for Labour. If the left doesn’t improve in the polls, then some MPs will decide a big loss is preferable to a narrow loss and the go slow will become a strike. However if the left do improve in the polls, then the scent of victory will keep them united.

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A promising selection

February 24th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Jenny Salesa has been selected as Labour’s Manukau East Candidate for the 2014 General Election.

Labour Party President Moira Coatsworth said Ms Salesa was selected from a strong field of eight candidates following Ross Robertson MP’s announcement that he was to step down at the election after 27 years as the local MP.

Ms Salesa said she has an extensive background working in both the public and private sectors as a lawyer, health specialist, policy analyst and senior official.

“I have been able to achieve transformations in practice and policy in both the United States and New Zealand.

“I have extensive experience and passion for health and education (early childhood and tertiary), with a career long focus on undeserved communities.”

Ms Salesa looks to be a good selection for Labour. Their Manukau East candidate is almost certain to become an MP, and at some stage Labour will become Government again – so it is good to see them make a selection where the candidate looks capaable and competent and potentially Cabinet material.

There is a copy of her CV on Scoop. Her work with the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in Michigan looks very interesting, as it involved PPPs to provide better heathcare.

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Armstrong on Cunliffe

February 22nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes in NZ Herald:

The Labour Party is guaranteed one thing in the countdown to this year’s general election: there is no danger of David Cunliffe peaking too soon.

Indeed, if the three-year electoral cycle is likened to a three-lap middle-distance track race at the Olympics, then most of the other parties are currently jostling for room on the back straight before rounding the final bend for the sprint to the finish.

Meanwhile, Cunliffe-led Labour is still at the starting blocks, slowly taking off its dark-red tracksuit and planning nothing more taxing than an afternoon stroll.

Harsh. Not entirely false.

The opinion polls since have offered little succour. The party’s rating at just under 32 per cent in the latest Fairfax survey, which indicated National might be able to rule alone, is said to have had a chilling impact on the Labour caucus.

The continuing high levels of support for National are making a nonsense of the two absolutely essential tasks required of Cunliffe.

First, he has to build a mood for a change of Government when there is no sign of any such feeling abroad in the wider New Zealand electorate.

Second, Cunliffe has to persuade voters that Labour is the party that must be given a strong mandate to carry out change.

That would normally call for fresh ideas to excite voters. The problem for Labour is that the voters do not want to be excited and are happy with what is dubbed the “progressive conservatism” that is the hallmark of John Key.

As it is, Cunliffe has precious little to show from his five months in the job. A peaceful Labour Party conference and a comprehensive byelection victory in a safe Labour seat do not really count for much.

And the problems:

There is also a lack of urgency, which is failing to provide the momentum to keep Labour in the headlines for the right reasons – rather than trying to ping John Key for living in a “leafy suburb” when you do likewise.

Cunliffe has also been unlucky in losing his office chief of staff – an absolutely pivotal position.

Much speculation on who will take that job. It’s rare to have a vacancy in that role so close to an election.

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Labour leadership contenders will have to disclose donations

February 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe and MPs Shane Jones and Grant Robertson could be forced to publicly declare who gave them donations of more than $500 during last year’s leadership contest despite the party’s attempts to keep them confidential.

The rules for the official register of MPs’ financial interests require them to declare all gifts and donations of more than $500 other than donations for an election. Those returns are due by next Friday.

Sir Maarten Wevers, who oversees the Register of Pecuniary Interests, said the rules appeared to cover money received by the MPs in the Labour leadership primary.

“I would expect them to declare it because it is a donation for something other than an electoral campaign.”

Yep it is a donation that benefited them personally.

It could cause some concern for the three Labour MPs if they had assured donors their contributions would not be made public. The MPs would not have to disclose the value of donations, but would have to provide the donors’ names.

Labour’s rules for the contest stated that donations would be confidential, and the party has refused to release a list of them on those grounds.

That will be hugely embarrassing if donors were assured their donations would remain confidential, but they end up being required to be disclosed in the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

What would be hilarious is if it was disclosed that a donor to Shane Jones was Foodstuffs (competitors of Countdown) :-)

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Watkins on Labour’s pessimism

February 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

Scratch beneath the bravado  in Labour these days and you will find a pessimist.

Blame it on the weather or a shortened barbecue season, but Labour MPs seem already to be doubting the prospect of a Labour win.

Some of them are now talking up a two election strategy. That they increase their vote enough in 2014 so they can win in 2017. So in fact their strategy is to lose less badly.

The latest Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll shows National is as popular as ever after six years in power. Labour will be hoping  a One News-Colmar Brunton poll due out this weekend shows a different trend. But the muted response to the Fairfax poll suggests it was not far off the mark from Labour’s own polling.

Even Left-wing blogs and the likes of columnist Chris Trotter, torch bearer for David Cunliffe’s leadership, have started writing off the prospects of a Labour win.

Some of that may be self serving. Many of the party’s activists believe the revolution, that began with the rule change giving the membership a deciding vote in the leadership, is only half done.

Their fulminating may be as much about fomenting a wider backlash against the likes of Phil Goff and Trevor Mallard, Labour’s so-called ‘‘old guard’’, who are resisting pressure to bow out despite leading the group of MPs who were outright antagonistic about the prospect of Cunliffe as leader.

But this a dangerous time for Labour. Once a belief takes root that an election is unwinnable it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It seems too soon yet for that to have happened within Labour.  But Cunliffe may be discovering the limits of running a caucus of which at least half was never more than  lukewarm about his leadership.

 A good poll would have united the caucus behind him. Conversely, one bad poll was all it was ever going to take for those who doubted Mr Cunliffe’s leadership to feel vindicated.  That was always the risk Labour’s activist base took in imposing a leader on the caucus.

The problem for Labour is that ‘‘I told you so’’ doesn’t win elections.  Nor does it help  heal a divided caucus.

The activists blame the old guard. The old guard blame what they claim is the “B” team who got promoted and have been invisible. The staff are jumping ship. It is not a happy place.

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Have Labour and Greens broken the CIR Act?

February 21st, 2014 at 3:01 pm by David Farrar

Whale blogs:

Back in March last year David Farrar asked if the Greens, Labour and the Unions might break the Citizens Initiated Referendum Act.

On top of that leaked documents showed that they intended to work together on the referendum, utilising taxpayer funds to do so.

Those documents clearly show it was a co-ordinated campaign working together.

S42 of the Citizens Initiated Referenda Act states:

Every person commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 who, either alone or in combination with others knowingly spends, on advertisements published or broadcast in relation to an indicative  petition, more than $50,000

And the election returns show:

  • Service and Food Workers Union – $26,269
  • Labour party - $45,382.95 
  • Public Service Association – $3987.18
  • The Green party  - $39,541.49
  • The NZ Council of Trade Unions - $523.20
  • First Union - $23,356.08
  • The NZEI – $547
  • NZ Nurses Organisation – $556

Whale points out:

Total Spend  by Unions, Labour and the Greens is $140,162.90

Labour and the Greens by themselves breach the act, with combined spending of $84,924.44

Will be very interesting to see what the result of a complaint would be.

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Dim Post on Labour

February 19th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Danyl writes at Dim-Post:

So the big political story on TV3 news over the last few nights has about a bunch of reporters in TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Unit acting as Labour Party activists. It’s a good story, and another indication of how comprehensively the TV3 political journalists are setting the news agenda and dominating political reporting. (I keep seeing people on my twitter feed demanding to know the difference between Shane Taurima and, say, Mike Hosking or Paul Henry. I think the main difference is that if Mike Hosking wanted to set up a fundraising operation inside TVNZ the National Party wouldn’t let him because it would look terrible and destroy his career).

That is a worthwhile point. Anyone with an ounce of political common sense should have been saying it is a terrible idea to hold political party meetings inside TVNZ.

But it was a clip from another TV3 story the same night that’s really haunting me. Here’s a screen-grab of Labour leader David Cunliffe standing in front of a super-luxury yacht company explaining that his $2.5 million dollar mansion is just a ‘do-up’, after criticising Key for living in a nice house.

It’s hard to compress so much failure into a single image. Up to now I’ve felt that the outcome of the election is too close to call. The sides are pretty even, small changes at the margins could have huge impacts on the results. But my gut feeling now is that Labour’s support will collapse and National will win a third term. It feels like a replay of the 2011 election in which Labour keep doing baffling, stupid things and then demand to know why the media is biased against them and how anyone could like John Key. People don’t want idiots running their country.

Mike Hosking also touches on the Cunliffe issue of downplaying his own wealth:

A piece of advice for David Cunliffe – be who you are. Don’t hide it. Don’t pretend you aren’t it. Don’t think there are points to be gained by putting on an act. Don’t try and morph into what you perceive people want you to morph into. It is the trap of so many in the political and public sphere.

This scrap has broken out about houses. John Key lives in a big one in Parnell, Cunliffe lives in a flash one in Herne Bay. Both are beautiful, both are expensive, yet it’s only Cunliffe who has made the mistake of trying to make it something it isn’t.

In attacking the Prime Minister for living in a leafy suburb, he not only makes the mistake of making it personal, he gets hoisted by his own petard given he lives in one as well. That makes him a hypocrite.

Further, he then went on to try and pretend it wasn’t a great house, that it was a do up, that it probably wasn’t at $2.5 million (the average for the street), that it was the worst in the best street. With each example, another shovel load of expensive real estate was dug and the hole kept getting bigger.

Labour are trying to paint Key as out of touch. But they are mainly managing to make themselves out of touch by promising welfare to those earning up to $150,000 and claiming $600,000 a year is a “reasonably middle range existence”.  People earning $50,000 a year will be shaking their heads.

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A day of horrors for Labour

February 18th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Monday started off badly enough for Labour with the weekend poll showing them 17% behind National.

Then they veered towards the ridiculous with David Cunliffe saying that he thinks the National Party may be paying people to follow MPs about.

It got worse when Cunliffe attacked John Key for living in a $10 million mansion, as this shifted focus on the fact he lived in a $2.5 million mansion himself.

Herne Bay is one of the country’s most expensive suburbs. Mr Cunliffe’s road, Marine Parade, is considered the suburb’s best street.

What this means is that Marine Parade is the most expensive street in the entire country.

“We bought the worst house in the best street,” says Mr Cunliffe. “It was a do-up; it probably wouldn’t be the average of the area.

John Key is open about the fact he has been successful and is well off. Cunliffe does not help himself when he describes a $2.5 million house on the most expensive street in New Zealand as a “do-up”.

Then the news broke that TVNZ had been hosting Labour Party campaign meetings, and that a senior TVNZ manager has resigned after hosting a hui which David Cunliffe attended.

A disaster of a day for Labour. No political management. And just to make it worse, the Taranaki Daily News reports that a young photographer was asked by David Cunliffe to delete a photo she took of him.

Where was Cunliffe’s press secretary. It is their job to stop the Leader doing stuff such as asking for photos to be deleted, or expressing paranoid musings that the Government has hired spies to follow MPs about. Likewise his staff should be pointing out to Cunliffe that you shouldn’t attack John Key for living in nice house, when you live in a $2.5 house on the most expensive street of New Zealand. It really is shambolic. If they are like this in opposition, how would they go trying to actually run a country?

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An appalling breach of neutrality at TVNZ

February 17th, 2014 at 10:27 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower at 3 News reported:

3 News can reveal state broadcaster TVNZ is being used as a campaign base by Labour Party activists.

They’ve even held a meeting in TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Unit aimed at fundraising for Labour.

The unit’s manager, Shane Taurima, has held ambitions to become a Labour MP and his staff have been arranging Labour Party business, using TVNZ facilities like email.

Mr Taurima has resigned following the revelation.

Mr Taurima’s a Labour Party activist. He could be standing as a Labour MP this election.

Documents obtained by 3 News show the state broadcaster is being used to help Labour’s cause.

Labour’s electorate committee for the Auckland Maori seat Tamaki Makarau has been using TVNZ as a base.

Last year, a meeting was held at the Maori and Pacific unit’s Hobson headquarters, next to TVNZ’s main building, with Labour Party activists swiped through security.

On the agenda was “fundraising” – making money for the Labour Party.

This is appalling and there must be a full independent inquiry into how this happened. Having the resources of the state broadcaster used to help the Labour Party fund raise and campaign plan is not far off political corruption.

This is not about the actions of Taurima alone. He was a known Labour Party aspiring candidate. TVNZ hired him back after he sought Labour’s nomination for Ikaroa Rawhiti. They knew his affiliations when they hired him back. Did they explicitly tell him he could not remain politically active?

There are so many questions about this, I don’t know where to start. Here’s a few.

  • How did TVNZ become aware of Labour Party use of their facilities?
  • Did they only take action once they became aware it would become public.
  • Why was Taurima not sacked, and allowed to resign?
  • Who at TVNZ knew about the Labour Party campaign meeting held at their offices, and who swiped all the activists through?
  • Who decided to rehire Taurima, after he quit to try and be the Labour candidate for Ikaroa Rawhiti?
  • Was Taurima explicitly warned or counselled about political activity?
  • How many TVNZ Maori unit staff are Labour Party activists? At least four are known of, which destroys any notion that the TVNZ Maori Unit is delivering politically neutral programmes.
  • Did any Labour MPs attend the meeting at TVNZ premises? Did they not think this was wrong, if they did attend?
  • Was Labour Head Office aware that TVNZ was basically the host for their Tamaki Makarau branch?
  • Did David Cunliffe not think there was anything wrong with attending a sesssion on how to win the Maori vote, run by the head of the TVNZ Maori Unit? Should this not ring warning bells?

There must be a full external inquiry into this. Either the TVNZ Board must commission an independent inquiry into how this occurred, and how to prevent it happening again – or the Auditor-General should be asked to investigate.

UPDATE: A further story in Stuff reveals:

  • TVNZ only found out about this due to the TV3 story.
  • Taurima only resigned once the story came to light
  • TVNZ knew that Taurima wanted to seek Labour’s nomination for Tamaki Makaurau

This is a really bad call by TVNZ. They hired someone who had just weeks earlier been a Labour Party candidate, and who wanted to stand for Labour again at the next election. They never should have hired Taurima again. By doing so, they turned their Maori unit into a branch of the Labour Party.

No one would say that you can never return to broadcasting after being a candidate. Paul Henry stood for National in 1999, for example. But that was in his past when he went onto TVNZ. It is very different to hiring someone weeks after they have been a candidate – and when they are still planning to run again.

UPDATE2: Taurima has put out a press release:

It is with immense regret and sadness that I have resigned as General Manager of Māori and Pacific Programmes at TVNZ.

I love and respect the work of all my TVNZ colleagues and regret any damage that my actions may have had on them, and the incredibly important and quality work they do.

I have been a member of the Labour Party since I contested the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti candidacy in 2013.

I have attended party hui and fully accept that some of my actions in supporting Labour may be seen to have crossed the line and I apologise unreservedly.

I categorically deny that my political affiliations have had any influence on any editorial decision that I have made during this time or at any time in the more than 12 years that I have been honoured to work in many roles at TVNZ. However, questions have been raised that have brought into question the integrity of the crucial work of my colleagues at TVNZ. This is unfair and unacceptable and as a result I have resigned.

I respect that an internal investigation is underway into the actions of three of my former colleagues and my heart goes out to them at this time..

I have seen the word activist used to describe my now former work colleagues. They are not activists. They are passionate friends and people that I love and respect who committed to provide some support to me. They are wonderful people whose enthusiasm led to some poorly considered decisions. Decisions that were not to benefit them individually.. I do hope their actions do not impact on the passion, commitment and loyalty they each provide as valued employees of TVNZ.

I have made no decisions around my future and will be making no further comment at this time.

I apologise again for any damage or upset that my actions may have caused.

Taurima made some very bad judgement calls, as he admits. For me the real issue is that of TVNZ management. Did they hire him back without asking if he planned to stand again?

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Focusing on the big issues

February 15th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Mr Finlayson and Justice Minister Judith Collins were among several ministers to receive Official Information Act requests from the Labour Party about whether they had a dress code, or had issued dress instructions to their staff.

It is understood Attorney General Chris Finlayson’s office was a target of the OIA after speculation he had banned ‘casual Friday.’ It is well known he frowned upon casual Fridays in his previous life as a lawyer. A spokesman for Mr Finlayson confirmed they did not have an official casual Friday but denied Mr Finlayson had banned it, saying it had never been discussed. He said there was no dress code.

“There is no dress code, but it is a professional environment. Certain clothing choices would be discouraged, such as bare feet or ‘Annette King for Rongotai’ t-shirts.” He pointed out having a casual Friday would technically be a dress code.

“That would be a stipluation of something you wear at work.”

In her reply to Labour, Ms Collins said she did not have a dress code and the request was clearly a “cry for help” from Labour for dress tips.

“You have now sent me two requests for this information which have been processed and answered. Most taxpayers would consider this a gross waste of taxpayer funds. I, however, am willing to believe your repeated request reflects a genuine cry for help and is recognition of the collective good dress sense shown in this office.”

Knowing some of the staff in that office, I can testify that they do have an excellent collective dress sense. Paula Bennett’s office and Amy Adams’ office also score very highly :-)

A spokesman for Labour said the request was sent to several ministerial offices because it had been told some staff were spoken to about their clothing. “We were looking into some issues concerning staff treatment in ministerial offices and wanted to see if it was isolated or reasonably wide spread.”

I encourage Labour to keep focusing on the big issues!

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Another Labour lie

February 14th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Little has proclaimed:

The Easy-Vote card which has been used in the last couple of elections should be reinstated says Labour’s  Justice spokesperson Andrew Little .

This is a lie. The implication is that the card has been removed. The Easy-Vote card will be used in the 2014 election in the same way as it was in 2011.

The Electoral Amendment Bill which had its second reading today removed clauses in the original Bill that would have seen the use of the Easy-Vote card confirmed for all future general elections.

No, this is deceptive. The Electoral Commission proposed *extending* the use of the card so that one would not need to check a name off the electoral roll at the time of voting, if they had a card. The Justice and Electoral Select Committee *unanimously* declined to do this as it would have meant that scrutineers would have no chance to effectively object to a vote card being issued, as they would not know who the voter is purporting to be.

The key thing is these changes do not in any way remove the Easy Vote card and they were unanimously agreed to by the Select Committee – which includes several Labour MPs on it. There was no minority report.

Andrew Little is outright lying when he says he wants the card reinstated. He knows it has not been removed. It will be used in the 2014 election in the same way as in 2011. It is a very useful device as it gives the returning officer the page and line number of the voter so they can be quickly located on the electoral roll.

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Would Labour and Greens over-rule the court for Kim Dotcom?

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

Patrick Gower writes:

So now it is becoming clear why Kim Dotcom wants a change of Government so badly – Labour and the Greens could stop his extradition.

Yes, it is that simple: a Labour/Green Government could save Dotcom’s bacon.

Because under the Extradition Act, the Government of the day’s Justice Minister has the final say on whether someone stays or goes.

It doesn’t matter what the courts find, the Justice Minister can stop one “for any reason”.

The Extradition Act 1999 says the Justice Minister can say no “for any other reason the Minister considers that the person should not be surrendered”.

So Dotcom has a final get-out clause should he lose the extradition hearing.

I have consistently said that the decision on whether DotCom gets extradited should be made by the appropriate Judge, after hearing the evidence. The Minister should and must go along with the decision of the court. We head towards corruption if people can buy themselves a different decision.

Yesterday, we asked David Cunliffe and Russel Norman.

David Cunliffe:

3 News: In terms of Kim Dotcom – would you stop him being extradited?

Cunliffe: That’s in part a legal matter – and I would want to take some further briefing before I gave you a view on that.

3 News: You know it’s a Government that signs off an extradition – if it was a Labour Government – would Kim Dotcom have a chance that any court decision could be overturned?

Cunliffe: ”I haven’t formed a view on that yet and I’d want to see more of the arguments. Prima Facie the current Government’s operation against Mr Dotcom appears to be outside the law in a number of respects my anticipation is that would make it quite difficult for an extradition to proceed but because that’s currently before the courts I don’t think that’s a matter politicians should be opining on”.

Russel Norman:

3 News: A Government of the day has to sign off on Kim Dotcom’s extradition – should the Government sign off on Dotcom’s extradition?

Norman: No. I’ve always said I don’t support the extradition process. I mean, I just don’t think it’s fair. I mean the fairness isn’t there – look at the way they have been acting illegally against him… They illegally raided his mansion, they illegally obtained evidence, they illegally gave the evidence to the U.S Government against the directions of a judge. That is not a lawful or fair process…The case that John Key has jacked up with the US Government I don’t think stands up.

3 News: So if the Greens were in power, would you fight to keep Kim Dotcom in New Zealand?

NormanYes. I think that we would

This is appalling. The only acceptable answer is that the decison is one for the courts to make, and we will not over-turn whatever decision they make.

Russel Norman has been out twice to meet Dotcom, and ask him to support the Greens instead of setting up his own political party. And in return he is offering that a Labour/Greens Government would basically corruptly over-turn the decision of the court in Dotcom’s favour. Cunliffe is not ruling out that he would also over-turn any court decision. We also learn Winston Peters has been out to meet DotCom multiple times.

I have no animosity towards Dotcom. He has been charged with serious criminal charges in the United States. The decision on whether the charges warrant extradition should be made by the relevant NZ Judge after a hearing, and if he is extradited the decision on his guilt or innocence is up to a US court. It shouldn’t be up to politicians, who are saying they will over-turn the courts in his favour at the same time as they meet him to discuss political strategy. That is pretty close to corruption.

Which brings me to the folly of Dotcom’s Internet Party – having a political movement behind him will obviously be another argument against extradition.

While it polled 0% in the first 3 News-Reid Research poll since it was named, when asked specifically, 1 in 5 voters said they would “consider” voting for it.

Most of its potential voters come from “undecideds” or Labour/Greens/NZ First – technically the Opposition.

But with Dotcom incredibly unlikely to make 5% or win an electorate seat, then this will be what’s called “wasted vote”, rather than change the Government.

And that favours one person – John Key.

It seems a bit of a selfish political own goal by Dotcom to me, and is why Russel Norman has been scurrying up to the mansion begging Dotcom not to stand.

But what a delicious irony: Kim Dotcom might actually help John Key win the 2014 election.

That would be irony.

Also Kim Dotcom has tweeted that if his party is not polling 5% by the time ballot papers are printed, he’ll scrap the party and endorse another party. Wonder which party? Maybe the very same party that is promising not to extradite him! So much for one law for all.

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Labour on NZers fighting in Syria

February 11th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour can’t even agree on whether it is fine for Kiwis to go to Syria to fight in a civil war.

Labour Leader David Cunliffe does the Nah and says the Government should be doing more to stop them:

Mr Cunliffe shares the Prime Minister’s views, and is calling for tougher laws like in Australia, where citizens who enter a foreign country to engage in hostile activity can be jailed for up to 20 years.

And for the Yeah we go to Labour Defence Spokesperson Phil Goff:

Stopping people’s rights to go abroad to fight for a cause that they believe in, and some of them are liberal democrats – people that we would associate with that are doing that, I think is wrong,

Once again Labour trying to appeal to those on every side of the issue.

Hat Tip: Whale

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Labour loses another Chief of Staff

February 11th, 2014 at 1:54 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe’s chief of staff Wendy Brandon has resigned five months into the job, citing ill health.

Ms Brandon was a respected Auckland lawyer before taking up the role in Mr Cunliffe’s office last September.

Sources said Labour’s caucus and staff were told today she had resigned because of a serious case of shingles.

Ms Brandon has been on leave for several weeks because of the illness.

I blogged when Brandon was appointed that she was highly regarded at the Auckland Council and a good appointment. Her departure is a loss to Labour. It means they will shortly be onto their 5th Chief of Staff in just over two years.

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Why does Labour think gambling is bad?

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

Trevor Mallard has said:

New Zealanders are the fourth biggest gamblers per head of population in the world – a shameful figure that Peter Dunne must take action to remedy, says Labour’s Internal Affairs spokesperson Trevor Mallard.

Why is that shameful?

If we were the 4th biggest spenders on coffee in the world, would that be shameful?

Around 0.3% to 1.8% of the population are problem gamblers. But that doesn’t mean all gambling is harmful, and that NZers spending a lot of money on gambling is bad.

80% of the population do enjoy buying a lotto ticket, taking part in raffles, the odd bet at the TAB, a night out at a casino, playing some pokies at a pub, sports betting at the TAB etc, and are not problem gamblers

Does Labour now regard all the enjoyment several million NZers get from gambling as shameful?

It is quite legitimate to say we should reduce the level of gambling harm. It is nanny state paternalism to however condemn all gambling as shameful and claim that NZers overall should be spending less.

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