Which Ministers appointed themselves to CEO recruitment panels?

May 28th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Readers will recall the fuss over John Key making a phone call to Ian Fletcher informing him of the GCSB vacancy. Labour would have had you believe this was an unprecedented ministerial involvement.

As has happened in all the recent appointments that Labour has criticised, all were recommended by a panel of neutral civil servants.

This got me thinking. Has there even been an interview panel that didn’t include just neutral civil servants but a Minister?

It’s one thing to have the Minister sign off on an appointment, but do you want Ministers actually sitting on CEO interview panels? Wouldn’t that be far worse than merely making a phone call.

So I asked the State Services Commission if any Ministers in the last 14 years have sat on interview panels for state sector chief executives. They replied that this has happened on four occasions – in 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2008.

What is disturbing about these ministerial membership of appointment panels is all the roles were ones of pivotal importance to our democratic institutions. They were:

  • 2000 – Margaret Wilson on interview panel for the Solicitor-General
  • 2004 – Trevor Mallard on interview panel for the State Services Commissioner
  • 2007 – Michael Cullen on interview panel for the Clerk of the House of Representatives
  • 2008 – David Parker on interview panel for the State Services Commissioner

So this puts it all into perspective – a phone call, vs actually sitting on the interview panel – which means you are effectively hand picking your preferred candidate.

Ministers should be consulted on recommendations and for some roles they make the final appointment. But i think it is generally undesirable for Ministers to sit on interview panels for state sector chief executives. It is rather hypocritical to complain about bad process in appointments, when they did far far worse themselves.

The OIA response is here – Scan-to-Me from 11-util2 ssc govt nz 2013-05-15 124921

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Treaty Settlements

December 6th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A few weeks ago I sent an OIA request to the Office of Treaty Settlements asking for the following information for each historic grievance negotiation and settlement.

While I (like most people) are not overly impressed by modern claims such as the Maori Council for ownership of water, I do believe that it is very important to have fair, full and final settlements over the historic grievances of the 1800s.  Getting these settled will allow most Iwi to focus on the future, rather than past grievances. Ngai Tahi is a great example of that.

I believe it is a win-win getting these settled faster (so long as full and final), rather than slower, as it is good for the Iwi and also good for the country to get them behind us.

There are five main steps in each treaty settlement. They are:

  • Terms of Negotiation agreed. This is not a particularly significant step. It is basically just saying this is who we are negotiating with, and what the issues are
  • Agreement in Principle.  This is arguably the most difficult step. It is the basis of the final settlement, and includes the quantum of reparation (note that is not always the most difficult issue though).
  • Initialling of draft deed of settlement. This is a near automatic step after the agreement in principle, and it is after this step that negotiators go back to Iwi members for ratification
  • Signing of final deed of settlement. This is also a very important step. At this stage, the agreement is final, subject to legislation.
  • Enabling legislation. This is near automatic also, and is just a matter of finding time on the legislative calendar normally.

Now we’ve had five Treaty Negotiations Ministers. I’ve colour coded the table below to show them. They are:

  • Doug Graham 1991 – 1999 in light blue.
  • Margaret Wilson 2000 – 2004 in red
  • Mark Burton 2005 – 2007 in light brown
  • Michael Cullen in 2008 in dark brown
  • Chris Finlayson from 2009 – 2012 in darker blue
As you can see Doug Graham started them off, and saw through the two largest ones of Ngai Tahu and Tainui, along with a few others in 1999.
Margaret Wilson in four years only managed five agreements, and finished off three of Graham’s.
Mark Burton did just two agreements in three years. So for seven years, there were just eight agreements in principle. At that rate we’d still be negotiating these in 2050!
Michael Cullen did a pretty good job of picking the pace up. He did 12 agreements in just one year!
And Chris Finlayson in four years has done 48 agreements or settlements. We won’t make the goal of having all settlements done by the end of 2014, but we’ll be pretty well advanced towards it.
Even those who are not fans of the settlements, should appreciate the benefits of getting them done sooner or quicker. No party in Parliament (from ACT to Mana) claims these should not happen. They will occur – it is just a matter of how fast, and for how much. I’ll do a separate post on the quantums, but they do not vary greatly by Government as there is a lot of care taken with internal relativity.
My thanks to OTS for the data on which I based the table.
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Political Awards by Steve Braunias

September 28th, 2008 at 1:19 pm by David Farrar

Steve Braunias hands out his awards for 2008 viewing on Parliament TV. Some of them are:

  1. Biggest Wretch: Winston Peters
  2. Biggest Flirts: Margaret Wilson & Rodney Hide
  3. Best Valedictory Speech: Katherine Rich
  4. Best Smile: Sue Bradford
  5. Best Impersonation of Eternal Youth: David Parker
  6. Cruellest Wit: Michael Cullen
  7. Best Debater: Michael Cullen
  8. Most Acute Ears: Bill English
  9. Best Reply: Tau Henare

That reminds me I must start the traditional Kiwiblog poll for Best MP shortly.

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Price on Parliament and court cases

September 27th, 2008 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Readers may recall a massive scarp between Rodney Hide and the Speaker when she refused to allow him to talk about the Wayne Crapper perjury video, because Winston claimed it was the subject of a court case.

Steven Price takes a look at how the Speaker ruled:

In the end, the Speaker ruled in Peters’ favour, saying Hide was in breach. “Nothing said in the House should prejudice, however slightly, the decision of any court,” the Speaker said. “The House applies more rigorous inhibitory standards on itself than apply to the media in reporting judicial proceedings.” This is because the legislature “should take extreme care not to undermine confidence in the judicial resolution of disputes by intruding on individual cases”.

I don’t know what precisely is in issue in the lawsuit. But I think that ruling is wrong. I’m worried about the phrase “however slightly”.  It’s a ridiculously low threshold, far lower than that applicable to the media. The rules applying to them say they can’t create a “real risk of prejudice” to an upcoming trial. That’s nebulous and chilling enough. This “however slightly” nonsense goes much further.Is it required by a sensible reading of the rules? Nope. In fact it flies in the face of the language that demands “a real and substantial danger of prejudice”.

Is it required by the needs of the administration of justice? Nope. If the courts can tolerate the media commenting on cases as long as they don’t create real risks of prejudice, then they can put up with MPs doing the same.

Is it good policy? Nope. There seems even more reason to cut our elected representatives some slack when conducting the business of the nation than there does for the media.

Is is good law? Nope again. The Speaker has forgotten that the Bill of Rights Act, which was passed by Parliament and says explicitly that it applies to Parliament, requires any restrictions on free speech to be demonstrably justified. You’d think that might be a relevant factor when considering how to interpret Standing Order 111. Apparently not.

I also thought it was a bad ruling. It actually allows any MP to gag any other MP by claiming that what they are referring to is the subject of a lawsuit.

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More valedictories

September 26th, 2008 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

From Stuff:

  1. Paul Swain
  2. Tim Barnett
  3. Margaret Wilson
  4. Marian Hobbs
  5. David Benson-Pope
  6. Steve Maharey

Paul Swain’s was very funny. MPs who have served as Minister of Corrections always get some good stories to tell. Benson-Pope’s was ugly and partisan, as one expects from him.

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Valedictories

September 25th, 2008 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ll put some video up later today,, but for now here are four stories on retiring MPs

  1. Katherine Rich
  2. Clem Simich
  3. Margaret Wilson
  4. Mark Blumsky

While totally respecting her decision, I am still really sad and cut up about Katherine leaving. Katherine would have been a superb Minister and she is just one of the neatest people you can ever get to meet. I have absolutely no desire to work in Parliament again, but if I did I would want to work for Katherine if she had stayed on.

Katherine, Clem and Mark are all from the socially liberal “wing” of National. National’s strength is that blend of conservatism and liberalism. There is a healthy acceptance that National needs both. The “liberals” don’t want to turn National into a conservative free zone, and neither do conservatives want to have National without its blend of liberalism.

The challenge for classical liberals like myself is to make sure the liberal wing is not so small as to be ineffective or invisible. But luckily both the 2005 and the likely 2008 intakes have or had reasonable proportions of “social liberals”.

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Question Time

August 27th, 2008 at 2:17 pm by David Farrar

I thought of trying to cover question time from Parliament (you can apply for a one day pass) but wasn’t sure if they have a power supply handy there, so decided to watch it on TV and blog it from home.

Wilson is speaking now, defending her decision yesterday to take Peters’ word that Hide’s question was covered by a case before the courts. She is saying she had no choice but to take the word of an MP, as it is extremely serious if an MP misleads the Speaker.

Annette King has chosen today, of all days, to make a Ministerial statement that tazers are being introduced. This is a good decision, but MPs are suspicious of the timing. By making the statement today, it leads to a debate which delays question time and general debate. She could easily have delayed the decision until tomorrow.

Brownlee is laughing at the ploy saying King just announced a decision that isn’t even final, but just in principle. He is pointing out that many more major decisions never get Ministerial statements, and there was no need for it to be made today

Brownlee is right – it is a ploy to give Clark and Peters more time to work out their stories. The decision is being made by the Commissioner, not the Minister.

Gerry finished by suggesting the tazers may be used on Winston later in the week.

You know it is a setup to delay, when Dail Jones then gets up and says he agrees this is a serious issue which should be debated by the House.

… Fuck I am bored with tazers. Bring on the main show.

Rodney is now using the tazer debate, to attack Peters. Cullen is running interference for Peters which gives you some idea of how desperate they are to cling on.

… Now onto question one. Question Two is the big one.

Clark has said she does have confidence in the Minister of Foreign Affairs!!!! She is clinging to him.

She is not even suspending him. She says she will just wait for the Privileges Committee to report.

Clark keeps saying there is a conflict of evidence. But that does not mean she can not act. She knows Glenn is telling the truth, and is just trying to cling on to power.

Dail Jones is desperate. He is suggesting the Owen Glenn letter is a forgery. Fuck the man is a moron or does a good job of impersonating one.

Key has pointed out that if she is implying Owen Glenn paid to the Privileges Committee.

Peters is clinging to the fact that Glenn donated to his legal fees not NZ First. But that is a red herring for the issue of his denial that he did now know of the donation until July 2008.

Peters is basically calling Glenn a liar. He may regret that.

God Clark is desperate. She is saying that as the letter is to the Privileges Committee, not from it, there is nothing for her to do.

Clark keeps talking about waiting for teh trial. But this is not about whether or not Peters broke standing orders. It is about whether or not he is a liar. And she sacked Lianne Dalziel for lying and David Benson-Pope for lying, without needing a “trial”. She is using the Privileges Committee inquiry as an excuse for inaction.

Someone shoot Dail Jones. He is now asking for all the National MPs on the Privileges Committee to be thrown off it. Clark is almost agreeing. No-one can say National is going soft – that is for sure!

Wilson is doing better today I have to say.

Okay onto the next question. Who cares. General Debate will be fun.

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Hansard of Hide re Peters

August 26th, 2008 at 6:01 pm by David Farrar

This is from Hansard, and is protected under Parliamentary Privilege:

RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her answer given in oral question No. 4 from the Rt Hon Winston Peters on 10 April 2003 that “This Government does not tolerate corruption. Any allegations are investigated.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes.

Rodney Hide: Will the Prime Minister therefore assure the House that the Serious Fraud Office will be able to assess and investigate, unimpeded, the claims of corruption by a businessman, repeated on several occasions to Dominion Post reporter Phil Kitchin, that this businessman was one of several people to whom Peter Simunovich gave $9,999.95 in 2002, to pass on to New Zealand First in exchange for Winston Peters’ “shutting up about his allegations of wrongdoing against Simunovich Fisheries”, and that “Sure enough, within a couple of weeks Winston Peters did shut up.”, and that the man’s statement and details were provided last week to the Serious Fraud Office, and that the businessman himself was concerned for his personal safety?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have just heard a very serious allegation from a member who, typically, failed to name anyone other than one company. But the critical person is the one he claims to be a businessman, whose life is under threat, apparently—unless it is from Rodney I cannot imagine from whom. But, I want to know, is that a fair question in this House?

Madam SPEAKER: Well, unfortunately, yes, from time to time allegations are made, and that question falls into that category that is permitted under the Standing Orders.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The relevant question to me was “Can such allegations be fully and independently investigated?”, and the answer is, of course, yes.

Madam SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Rodney Hide. Oh, point of order, the Rt Hon Winston—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I want to ask a supplementary question.

Rodney Hide: Well, you can take your turn.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is my turn.

Madam SPEAKER: Would you both sit down, otherwise you will both leave the Chamber and no one will be asking the question, which will solve the problem. Be seated. I called Rodney Hide before I saw the Rt Hon Winston Peters, so I will call Rodney Hide and then we will take the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ question.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister think it a good look for her Government to be abolishing the Serious Fraud Office just as it is assessing the complaint made by a former business associate of Peter Simunovich that her Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, went to see Peter Simunovich to show him the evidence of corruption he had against Peter Simunovich and stated that through a payment of $50,000, “we would just slowly get rid of it”, or will she just keep accepting her Minister of Foreign Affairs’ word that he has done nothing wrong—

(more…)

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TV3 has details and footage

August 26th, 2008 at 5:27 pm by David Farrar

The TV3 site has details and video footage of question time.

ACT leader Rodney Hide was ejected from the House today after trying to ask Prime Minister Helen Clark whether she would think it appropriate if her Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, had allegedly received payments in 2002 from businessmen acting on behalf of Simunovich Fisheries. …

Hide’s ejection prompted a debate led by Bill English, Gerry Brownlee and Michael Cullen regarding the appropriateness of the Speaker’s decision. Brownlee questioned whether or not the Speaker should also accept Hide’s word that he had received evidence against Peters. However, the Speaker ruled that because of his direct association with any case currently before the courts, Peters’ word must be trusted ahead of that of the ACT Party leader. She also noted that if Peters was found to have misled the House, he would then be the recipient of applicable consequences. …

Early in the investigation against Simunovich Fisheries, Peters had been one of those accusing the company of corruption. However he later withdrew his allegations after claiming that the corruption case did not stand up to scrutiny.

Peters has previously asserted in 2004 that both he and NZ First had not received any donations from Simunovich Fisheries. However, more recently Peters could not confirm or deny that any donations had been made to NZ First by Simunovich Fisheries or its owners. During the 2003 inquiry the fishing company told the select committee that it had not offered any “campaign funds” to Mr Peters or his party.

Busted Blonde also has details.

The TV news tonight should be interesting.

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Disgraceful

August 26th, 2008 at 3:24 pm by David Farrar

That is the politest word I can find for Margaret Wilson’s interference in the House today, where she stopped Rodney Hide even finishing his questions in relation to incredibly serious matters. She played partisan politics to protect the Government.

It is a new low for Parliament in my opinion.

I will blog the transcript when it comes out.

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Peters referred to Privileges Committee

August 5th, 2008 at 2:32 pm by David Farrar

The Speeaker has ruled that there is a question of privilege over the $100,000 gift from Owen Glenn to pay off Winston’s legal bills, so the Privileges Committee will hold hearings on this.

It would be imprudent to speculate on what the conclusion will be, as that will or should depend on the evidence. But it does mean this issue will be in the public domain for some time to come.

Apart from the televised hearings of the Privileges Committee, the report back to the House will be subject to a debate – normally two hours or so.

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No Right Turn on Peters

July 21st, 2008 at 5:06 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn calls for Peters to be sacked:

The Prime Minister responded today to Winston Peters’ admission that, contrary to his earlier denials, he had been $100,000 by Owen Glenn, calling it “embarrassing”. It’s a little more than that. Not only did Peters violate Parliament’s Standing Orders on the declaration of gifts (something which Rodney Hide will be complaining about today) – he also violated Cabinet guidelines. The Cabinet Manual has extensive sections on Ministerial conduct and the acceptance of gifts. The short version: Ministers must clearly distinguish between their personal interests and their Ministerial roles, declare all pecuniary interests, and refuse all gifts except from close family members. This includes both cash and donations in kind: …

He should have declared it, and then relinquished it. He did neither. And this is something no Prime Minister should accept. The Cabinet rules on gifts are there for a real purpose: to prevent corruption, and the perception of corruption. Peters has blatantly violated those rules, and for that he must either offer his resignation or be sacked.

Plus he should be made to pay the $100,000 back. Unless Helen authorises him to keep it as a golden handshake.

Unfortunately, I rate the odds of the Prime Minister having a spine on this about as highly as I rate those of Parliament’s “all powerful” (where do the journalists get that phrase from?) Privileges Committee finding that Peters violated Standing orders. The realities of MMP mean Peters has a gun to the Prime Minister’s head – she can’t fire him, regardless of his egregious behaviour, unless she wants her tenure as PM to end prematurely in a messy coalition collapse. Unfortunately, this means she and her party get to go down with him, because I do not think that the image of a PM permitting Ministers to receive donations in brown paper bags from people who want favours from them is one the public will accept.

Clark will show no spine on this. But I think she will regret this. She should live up to her many words of the need for transparency in political financing.

I have to say I would like National to be somewhat more forceful on this also. I understand targeting Clark (esp as Peters is away) and her responses is the main priority for the Opposition, but they do need to be very very clear that this sort of behaviour would not be tolerated in a National-led Government where it is okay for Ministers to personally benefit by $100,000 from someone seeking favours from them.

I/S is right that one of the weaknesses of MMP is MPs in minor parties can get away with behaviour, other parties could not.

As for the Privileges Committee, let’s look at that. I am assuming that there is absolutely no doubt the Speaker will have to refer the issue to them. The threshold is merely that here is a question to answer, and no one could possibly argue there isn’t at least a question to answer. This is not the same as saying the verdict is beyond doubt. Until we know who the cheque was actually made out to, and which bank account it went into, one can not be conclusive on these things.

So who makes up the Privileges Committee. Let us first look at who is on there will will try hard to make the thing go away:

Labour – Cullen, Dalziel, Fairbrother, Swain – 4
NZ First – Peters (will be a sub for him – any other MP except Dail Jones I predict) – 1
Greens – Turei – 1

Some may argue Turei will show integrity and actually support motions to order copies of the accounts, invite Owen Glenn to testify etc etc. But considering the silence of the Greens to date, I am not optimistic.

Now who on there may reasonably be regarded as likely to vote for a full investigation?:

National – Brownlee, Guy, Mapp, Power (Chair) – 4
United Future – Dunne – 1
Maori Party – Harawira – 1
ACT – Hide (will be Roy if he makes the complaint) – 1

So by a 7-6 majority (or 8-5 if I am pleasantly surprised), the Privileges Committee should be able to exercise some independence from the Government line. Peter Dunne is a Minister of course but I actually have considerable faith that he will be offended by what has happened and want a full accounting.

Because of this the Government will be lobbying Margaret Wilson furiously to find a way not to send it to Privileges Committee. But the problem they have is that this is a near perfect fit as a question of privilege. The paying off of a debt on an MP’s behalf is explicitly listed as an item for inclusion in the register. Winston and Brian Henry have both admitted the debts are in his name and he is liable for any shortfall. And the burden of proof here is not beyond reasonable doubt – just that there is a question to be answered.

UPDATE: Former Chair/Spokesperson of the Young Greens, George Darroch, has blogged. He notes:

David Farrar correctly notes that left blogs have for the most part have ignored the Winston Peters donation scandal. And so far, that has included this blog. I have no ordinary desire to write about that man and his party, they disgust me enough that I feel dirty even mentioning their names.

If you lie with the dogs, you’re sure to catch fleas. Labour made their bed, they shouldn’t expect sympathy.

Now, Labour Party activists will tell me that they had no options after the 05 election. I don’t believe them. The Māori Party talked with the Labour Party after the election about coming to an arrangement, most likely support on confidence and supply.  It would have meant the Labour Party being humble, certainly, and the repeal of the Seabed and Foreshore Act. There would have been other things that were hard to swallow. The relations between Clark and Māori Party in the years previous, and the fact that Labour’s biggest donor Owen Glenn had also patronised the party by offering $250,000 in return for a guarantee of support probably didn’t help.

It is a very valid point. Helen Clark chose Winston over the Maori Party and the Greens. She never even tried to negotiate a deal with them.

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Shabby behaviour as usual

May 16th, 2008 at 4:15 pm by David Farrar

Just to show that there is no shame, have a look at how Labour Ministers both claimed wrongly a National MP had said something he had not, but then how nasty they get, and how the Speaker protects them. From yesterday:

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What changed between the time when David Cunliffe, the then Minister of Immigration, was briefed, as he now alleges, on completion of the Oughton inquiry in July of last year, and when he himself was fully briefed in December last year on the Oughton report—what changed between then and April this year, when the Oughton report was exposed to public scrutiny, other than the fact that the cover-up was over?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: In order to assist the member, I tell him that the previous Minister was not briefed in December. I was the Minister at that time.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I said you.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: No, the member said “the Minister at the time”, and “the previous Minister”.

Now have a look at the Hansard.  Lockwood clearly refers to David Cunliffe as per-December and Cosgrove as the Minister in December as he says “he himself” in the question to Cosgrove. Cosgrove is clearly wrong with his insistance Lockwood had it wrong.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: You’re wrong.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I think we may need stretcher-bearers for one particular member. This is a serious issue, and should be dealt with in a serious way. We may need stretcher-bearers for the other Dr Smith. Can I say—

Now again remember Cosgrove is in the wrong here, and Nick Smith is correct in backing up Lockwood. So what does Cosgrove do – resort to the normal smear they use against Nick.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: There is a point of order; it will be heard in silence.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: The Minister, in reciting my colleague Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith’s question, was mistaken in his restating of the course of events. In response to an interjection from me saying that he was wrong, I was then subjected to personal abuse. I think it would be helpful if Dr Smith re-asked his question—in which his dating and timing were correct—because it seems that the Minister was confused about the question that my colleague Dr Smith was asking.

Nick doesn’t respond to the taunt, but just makes the point that the Ministers were mistaken so the question should be re-asked, so the Minister addresses the correct question.

Hon David Parker: I, as well as Minister Clayton Cosgrove, listened carefully to the question, and I am clear that the question that was asked included the imputation that the Minister was the prior Minister, not the current Minister, and that is the point to which Mr Cosgrove was responding.

David Parker jumps in, and also has it clearly wrong, as the Hansard shows.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank members for their interventions. I think if members would keep the noise down, it would be easier to hear. As I have said, interjections do occasion responses. Would the Minister please just respond to the question as succinctly as possible.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It would appear that confusion has arisen around my question. It was very clear. I would be very happy to repeat it to avoid that confusion.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I think we should take it in the order it was. I am happy to look at the Hansard. I heard it also in the way that, I am afraid, others did. The member, obviously, feels that he did ask another question. As I said, I am happy to go and look at it later. Could we have a succinct answer to the question, and there is always an opportunity to ask another question—there are still supplementary questions available.

And now the Speaker also gets it wrong, and even worse won’t let Lockwood re-ask the question, despite the fact clearly the Ministers misheard what he said.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We are on question No. 8 and we have had Dr Nick Smith running interference on every question across the House. He is not asking questions; he is just interjecting and yelling out personal comments. I think we have just about had enough today, and I ask you to require him not to continue going on in that fashion.

Annette seems to have missed the log in her own colleague’s eyes.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, I think that today comments have been made from all sides of the House. Obviously, it does create disorder, and it has. Members have noted the comments that have been made from all sides of the House on this matter. Could I please ask the Minister to succinctly address the question, and then we will ask Dr Smith to ask the question again. Thank you.

And then the Speaker totally confused says Cosgove will answer/address the question, and then have it re-asked!!! And then it isn’t!

Labour have been warned many times over their repeated goes at Nick with references to taking pills, and now out on a stretcher. That is bad enough at any time, but Labour may wish to consider the old saying that those in glass houses should not throw stones.

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Media access tightened in Parliament

March 21st, 2008 at 11:36 am by David Farrar

I think the Speaker has over reacted by banning media access to the ground floor of Parliament House where the select committees meet. Following Brian Connell to outside the toilet was probably unwise by TVNZ, but the media should have access to MPs when they are going into and out of the House and Select Committees.

While it is not a co-ordinated programme, the cumulative effect of growing media restrictions is a cause for concern. Steven Price blogged last week on a public forum (I was going to attend but got too busy) by the Chairs of the NZ and Australian Press Councils and a member fo the NZ Law Commission. The comments below come from retired High Court Judge Barry Paterson who chairs the NZ Press Council:

He is worried that statutes and regulations may be chipping away at freedom of expression. Examples: restrictions on reporting about suicide in the Coroners Act; the proposal to restrict access to births, deaths and marriages registers; the restrictions on policitcal speech in the Electoral Finance Act (he was surprised that the Crown Law Office vet deferred to the government’s political judgment, and that this “margin of appreciation” could tip a finely balanced freedom of expression issue in favour of allowing encroachment); the possibility of wide codes, and later regulations, aimed at non-communicable diseases, affecting the advertising, sponsorship and marketing of particular goods under the Public Health Bill; and the proposal to amalgamate regulation of various media platforms.

On numerous fronts, the right to know and the right to free speech get encroached.

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The travellers grow in number

March 13th, 2008 at 2:59 pm by David Farrar

Press gallery reporters, who never look happier than when they are perk busting, have managed to find out seven retiring MPs have overseas travel this year.

It is a bad look. There are reasons you want to attend events such as IPU or CPU meetings, and it could well be the case that MPs restanding don’t want to be out of town in election year. But someone should have realised the perception problem would be significant.  It is hardly a new thing, that the media scrutinise such travel closely.

The Speaker ultimately was in the best place to see the composition of the trips, and should have suggested to parties they rethink their choices.  But to be fair to Margaret Wilson I understand she doesn’t particularly enjoy these trips herself and is probably pretty peeved she has to deal with it.  I hear rumours that she may announce later today that the Speaker’s tour trip will be cancelled.

As someone who has worked in Government, I also have a small degree of professional sympathy for the Government whose big Fast Forward research funding announcement was pushed to second segment status on all the news shows, with the overseas travel perks as the lead items.  Sometimes crap just happens to the best laid plans.

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