McCarten and Whale Oil

September 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Labour have insisted that no one from Labour or the left deal with Whale Oil, and that he is just a pawn of the 9th floor. Ironic considering Whale has more effectively attacked some National Ministers than Labour has managed!

But NewstalkZB reports:

Labour’s leader has confirmed his chief of staff has had dealings with blogger Cameron Slater but is refusing to say what they’ve involved.

David Cunliffe says Matt McCarten has had contact Mr Slater and that he has no concerns about this.

And despite saying sunlight is the best disinfectant with regard to the release of Mr Slater’s hacked computer data, Mr Cunliffe is declining to say what the dealings might have been.

“There is nothing to fear and there is nothing to hide. I don’t go around releasing peoples’ private communications.”

Labour have gone after John Key because he has had around four conversations with Cameron Slater in the last year. I wonder how many Labour’s Chief of Staff has had? Surely it is not more than four? More than 10? More than 20?

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%.

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.


McCarten’s influence swings Labour Left

February 26th, 2014 at 4:27 pm by Jadis

*don’t freak out that this is a tad edgier than DPF – yes, it is Jadis!

So, we are months out from an election.  Labour are doing ok but need to lift their game a bit in the polls.  They’ve released a couple of policies that they thought were great only to find the support for them isn’t as strong as expected (partly due to poor rollout).  Labour have a couple of strategic decisions to make.  They can create a ‘new’ Labour with a ‘new’ direction and ‘new policy – albeit more to the Left.  Or they can get a bit pragmatic in some policy areas and work the middle ground.  Bizarrely, with just months to the election Labour have firmly decided to go Left, very Left.  So Left that the last Colmar Brunton poll shows Labour losing ‘middle’ vote to National and gaining ‘very Left’ vote from  the Greens.  Today’s appointment of Matt McCarten confirms just how Left they will go.

I think we need to get one thing out of the way… could someone please put to bed the  rumours that the UNITE union donated heavily to Cunliffe’s leadership campaign?  I’m just thinking of caucus unity here.  Imagine how Robertson and Jones might feel about the idea that the head of UNITE is now Chief of Staff.

Matt is as Left as they come.  Let’s not kid ourselves that Matt has some special ability to be pragmatic or go after the middle ground.  He wants to tax as hard as he can and he’s said many a time that while he thinks Key is clever he’s also said that Key is too pragmatic and has no ‘big ideas.

So, Matt is there to do ‘big ideas’ just like Cunliffe – big ideas mean big tax and big government.

Matt doesn’t play nicely with others.  McCarten will not be some wonderful uniting influence within Labour.  We’re all aware of the history between McCarten and Jim Anderton.  Some might think “What’s the big deal?  Anderton is a retired MP and not in Wellington any more.”  Here’s the wee problem.  Anderton, along with Ruth Dyson’s lovely husband run Christchurch (and the wider Canterbury area).  Some reports say that Anderton has give Cunliffe his blessing for McCarten to be employed while Duncan Garner’s sources suggest that Anderton is pretty wild about McCarten being in the mix.  The only way I can see Anderton giving his blessing would be with the proviso “as long as that prick doesn’t step foot in Canterbury.”  Well then, that’s a lovely start to that relationship.

Matt is talented at divide and rule.  The last thing Labour needs is another ‘divide and rule’ player.  Labour should be looking at a Heather Simpson or Wayne Eagleson type.  Both stayed in the background, worked with everyone, had great political instincts and insights, knew when to tell some to pull their head in and knew when to make deals within the caucus.  They also always had their Leader’s back.  Always.  The whole idea of McCarten in a room with Tim Barnett, Moira Coatsworth, Cunliffe, Talbot and ‘senior MPs’ fills every right winger with delight.   Matt won’t be a team player.  He’ll want it his way and he’ll get very upset if someone wants to take the pragmatic path.    I predict now that he may well walk out of a meeting before the election and never return.

Why should it matter though? Matt is Chief of Staff.  With clearly defined boundaries he won’t be involved in Party business.  Except that we know this isn’t the case when Cunliffe himself extols the virtues of McCarten’s organisation skills at the grassroots level.  The mainstream unions have been in a fight with UNITE over members for years so don’t go thinking that the union angle is going to be all lovely.  We know now that the CTU’s Helen Kelly had no idea of Matt McCarten’s appointment.  Oh dear, so she isn’t in Matt’s circle is she?

The Greens should also be worried about this.  Going this far Left means their ground is very unstable.  What will they do to compensate?  The Greens know McCarten well so they know what a threat he is to them.




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.

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.

McCarten’s losers and winners

December 29th, 2013 at 8:18 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten gives his losers and winners for 2013:


  1. Len Brown
  2. John Banks
  3. David Shearer
  4. Pita Sharples
  5. Peter Dunne


  1. David Cunliffe
  2. Colin Craig
  3. John Key
  4. Russel Norman
  5. Winston Peters

Quoting at 28 year old position

May 24th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Matt McCarten in the Herald on Sunday wrote:

Abolish 15 per cent GST. Replace with 1 per cent financial transaction tax as recommended by the New Zealand Bankers Association. Same money.

Earlier this week I ran into a couple of executives from NZBA. They had the good sense not to read Matt’s column, so were surprised when I told them that Matt said they supported a Financial Transactions Tax.

They do not, of course. It has been a disaster in the couple of countries that have tried it.

They complained to the Herald on Sunday about the misrepresentation, but their complaint was decline on the basis they they once did support an FTT – in 1985!

Would anyone reading that column think that was a 30 year old position, rather than a current position. Of course not. Entirely misleading.

I don’t know why print media are so loath to run corrections. I think it helps your credibility when you do.

I look forward to the Herald on Sunday and Matt McCarten talking about how Labour supports privatisation, because they once did in 1985.

Worth noting one other policy of Matt’s:

 Abolish PAYE on wages and salaries. Replace it with a wealth tax and a capital gains tax when shares, businesses, land and property are sold. People are taxed when they’re cashing up, not when they are making it.

I’m sure Matt does want PAYE abolished, as UNITE doesn’t pay it anyway.

McCarten on Coke

January 21st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes:

Let’s face it, Coca-Cola markets sugar syrup mixed with water to teenagers, rotting their teeth, giving them spotty skin and making them fat.

This was the very point that the Coke CEO was making. Coke is responsible for 2% of the average person’s daily calorie intake yet are blamed for obesity.

On the fat issue, a Gallup poll found soda drinkers were not fatter than non soda drinkers.

Few pre-teens and teenagers can resist that siren call. It helps that once the sugar addiction kicks in, it can be as strong as tobacco dependency.

Liking something is not an addiction. I love it how it is never a person’s choice. It is always an addiction. One day we’ll read about clothing addictions, toy addictions, unning addictions etc.

A bottle of Coke a day will each month add more than a kilo of lard around a customer’s belly unless they can burn it off by putting in a run of 14 hours. No wonder obesity in our children is skyrocketing.

Let’s check that. It takes around 9,000 calories to put on a kg. Standard coke is 43 calories per 100 ml, so you need to drink 21 litres of coke a month or 700 mls a day.

But if you drink diet coke or coke zero, then you can drink lots more. It is 4 calories per litre, so if you drank a litre per day it would take over six years to put on a kilo of weight.

But regardless you tend to burn off 2,000 calories a day. What is important is your total calories consumed and exercised.  I’ve lost 21 kgs and I drink lots of diet coke or coke zero.

Milk is 600 calories per litre, or around 400 calories per 700 mls to compare it to Matt’s coke equation. Drink that much milk a day and you’ll put on even more weight than coke.

Blaming coke for obesity is like blaming “society” for child abuse. It ignores the role of the individual.

Is McCarten still writing for Herald on Sunday

December 3rd, 2012 at 8:06 pm by David Farrar

I haven’t seen Matt McCarten’s column in the Herald on Sunday for a couple of weeks. Has he been dropped? I hope not.

Bring back the 1970s!

October 21st, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes:

We know abstractly that in our capitalist economic system it’s the natural order of things that big corporations eat smaller businesses to grow bigger still.

When we see the human cost it’s difficult to be so philosophical.

This is about the local store closing, as they couldn’t compete with a chain store.

And yes on a personal level it is very hard when any business owner has to stop trading as they can’t compete.

But pining King Cantue like for a return to the 1970s when the Government decided who was allowed to compete, is seriously misguided.

I recall in the 1970s and 1980s the concern that supermarkets would destroy the corner dairies, and many did close. But who wants to live in a country with no supermarkets?

But now it seems these corporates are moving to the next level of reducing costs and maximising profit.

Have you noticed how The Warehouse and supermarkets now expect us to check out and pack our own goods? If we insist on a checkout operator, do you notice the fewer stations and longer waits? Eventually, the only human we’ll see is a security guard making sure we don’t pinch anything.

Oh God, how awful. And Air NZ now have self-service kiosks and you can use e-passports to take yourself through customs. I enjoy doing it myself and happily accept the cheaper prices when I do. And sometimes when I am busy I get the supermarket to home deliver for me, which creates extra jobs the otherway. The moral of the story is not to pine for the 1970s, but look for new opportunities.

For good reason we should blame faceless corporations and the Stephen Tindalls of this world for destroying our way of life.

Yeah fuck the poor families who can afford cheap goods now. That evil Tindall who has actually provided goods at prices more people can afford.

McCarten on Labour

August 12th, 2012 at 10:43 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:

Does it look like Shearer could despatch Key yet? Of course not.

But no single person can win government without a front bench of competent potential cabinet ministers. So here’s the real question: do Labour front benchers look like they are ready to govern? Have they earned the confidence of the public?

Labour’s problem is not its leader, it’s the caucus. The Green Party in Parliament is less than half Labour’s size yet day after day they prove how lacklustre our main opposition party is.

This may partly be because the media don’t scrutinise the Greens so much.

With the exception of Shearer and his deputy Grant Robertson, do we hear anything much from the rest of Labour? What sense do you have of their finance spokesman? It’s David Parker, if you’ve forgotten.

I assumed David Cunliffe would have been a better pick. But Shearer did appoint him to target Key’s right-hand man, Steven Joyce, the Minister of Everything.

Cunliffe must have a secret plan he’s not sharing with us because he hasn’t initiated one attack on Joyce for more than a month. He’s awol.

And what about our other great hope, Shane Jones? Admittedly, he’s sidelined but he still sits on the front bench so he should do something notable. Alas, his website hasn’t been touched since November.

Cunliffe and Jones’ lack of seriousness suggests they should recommit or put up their hands for early retirement.

I think Jones’ time is up. Cunliffe still has a contribution to make, but the ABC faction would like him to retire.

So about the other talent? During Cunliffe’s leadership bid, he tried to persuade me that Nanaia Mahuta was a hidden talent and once in a front-bench leadership role she would be formidable. I was unconvinced. Does anyone outside the Wellington beltway even know she is Labour’s education spokesperson?

You’d think with all the fallout from National Standards and charter schools she’d be a household name. Yet in over a month, according to her own website, she’s put out a total of three press releases.

Even the new blood such as Jacinda Ardern, at No 4, can’t seem to lay a hand on Paula Bennett as she goes about kicking the poor. The most attention Ardern got was when Maggie Barry made a nasty remark over her not having a child.

Labour has always owned health but I bet you couldn’t tell me who its spokesperson is? Health minister Tony Ryall must find it hard to believe he hasn’t had one sleepless night from being marked by Maryan Street. I respect Street but she’s made no impact on him.

One can dispute some of Matt’s individual comments, but hard to dispute that collectively there is a lack of profile and impact from the Labour front bench.

Even putting aside the day-to-day non-performance, think about this. Winning the Maori seats from the Government at the next election is Labour’s key to victory. Yet its Maori Affairs spokesperson, Parekura Horomia, has put out just two press releases in nearly six months. One was condolences to a family and the other acknowledged the Maori New Year. Good grief!

That is one definite case for retirement.


March 11th, 2012 at 11:02 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten attacks Len Brown in his HoS column:

Brown’s actions, or lack of them, over the port fiasco are perplexing.

His officials set an impossible 12 per cent return for his port’s directors.

When they ran into trouble I’m told the board offered the mayor their resignations. If true it was a master stroke. Because once he assured them of his support he was their puppet.

No experienced politician who knows what they stand for would have been manoeuvred like this.

With the biggest citizens’ revolt for 60 years about to erupt in his city, he is pathetically reduced to whimpering that he doesn’t have any real power. He looks weak.

The biggest citizens’ revolt for 60 years? Really? 3,000 people turned up to the support rally for the Maritime Union. That’s 0.3% of Auckland’s population.

Another VRWNLLWC endorsement for Shearer

December 4th, 2011 at 1:50 pm by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS of his support for Shearer and mentions others also supporting Shearer. Off hand I count the following endorsements:

  • Matt McCarten
  • Matthew Hooton
  • John Tamihere
  • Willie Jackson
  • Michelle Boag
  • Deborah Coddington
  • John Pagani
  • Jon Johansson
  • Chris Trotter
  • Cameron Slater
  • Phil Quin
  • Lew Stoddart

Now that’s just members of the VRWNLLWC who have endorsed Shearer. Add to that the apparent support of Phil Goff, Annette King, David Parker, Grant Robertson and Trevor Mallard. Has any leadership candidaate ever had such a wide variety of people endorsing them?

However for Shearer to win, he will need more than endorsements. He will need to pick up his game substantially from his performance on Q+A today. Being unable to even name your Climate Change spokesman is embarrassing.

McCarten says PM a sure pick

August 14th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:

In three months the World Cup will be over and all focus will be on the other competition this year – the general election.

A mate of mine was confidently predicting to me that if the All Blacks lost, Prime Minister John Key was toast. I’ve heard this sort of crystal ball gazing in every election.

Labour will need a lot more than an All Black loss to dent Key’s chances of re-election.

They’d need our rugby team knocked out in the first round; followed by mayhem on a scale of this week’s English riots; unemployment to soar past 10 per cent; and interest rates to go through the roof.

Even then I suspect none of it would stick to Key.

So before the World Cup drowns out politics, I thought it might be interesting to analyse the chances of each of the political teams.

National: The only question is whether they can rule alone or will need a coalition partner.

Anything less than 46 per cent of the vote will be seen as a defeat for Key. If he gets more than 50 per cent he’s the new Keith Holyoake and will remain Prime Minister for as long as he likes.
It’s 15 weeks to go. Will McCarten be proved right, or can Labour form a coalition with the Greens, NZ First and Mana?

Tea Party is the cure not the cause

August 7th, 2011 at 11:32 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:

US counts financial costs of tea partiers

More damage was done to capitalism this week than any communist revolutionary could have ever dreamed possible.

Matt has it all wrong. The drop in the markets isn’t because Tea Party supported Congressman insisted on spending cuts. It is because the spending cuts did not go far enough to stop US debt growing. The massive deficit and debt is due to a series of Presidents and Congresses spending way more money than they had. Clinton was the one near exception.

Everyday Americans, sick of both parties, rose up and said no more spending increases we can’t afford. Thanks to them, the US may one day get back into surplus – but it is a long time off.

Anyway I would have thought Matt would have liked the Tea Party – like his UNITE union, they don’t like paying taxes. The difference is the Tea Party campaigns to change the law, while UNITE simply takes its employees PAYE tax and spends it elsewhere, rather than passing it onto the IRD as required by law.

The country’s official unemployment is more than 9 per cent and is people’s number one concern. Poll after poll show people want more expenditure on jobs, health and education. Yet the tea partiers – funded by the super wealthy – have forced the Obama administration to cut these three items.

Until now every sane economist will tell a government to spend money when an economy needs to grow. This country is going in the opposite direction.

The 9% unemployment rate came after the biggest spend-up in history. Obama asked for and got a huge fiscal stimulus, in the hundreds of billions. He claimed it would stop unemployment reaching 7%. Instead it made 10%. The myth that the Government can spend itself out of trouble has been dispelled by the evidence.

If that isn’t enough Obama has a Supreme Court with a majority of Republican appointees approving laws allowing corporations to give unlimited amounts of secret funding to politicians.

Not secret. Simply companies in the US, are like companies in NZ. They have to disclose their donations, but there is no limit on them.

McCarten on Goff

May 29th, 2011 at 9:53 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:

I can’t see how Labour can keep whistling in the dark over its dismal public support.

I don’t know how its leader, Phil Goff, can keep pretending he has a chance of winning in November.

Two polls this week showed the gap between National and Labour remaining at a yawning 20 per cent. When was the last time a government polled consistently so far ahead of its opposition?

Every poll these days seems to tell the same story: John Key and his party can rule alone. People like Key and trust him.

We have a prime minister whom two out of every three New Zealanders prefer.

That means even voters of other parties support him over their own leaders. Extraordinary but true.

That is a point few have cottoned on to. Even amongst Labour voters, the majority prefer Key over Goff to be PM.

No one, surely, believes that a Goff-led party has any show.

It is clear the whole Labour caucus is made up of a bunch of gutless wonders, resigned to coast along for the next six months and lose, rather than get a backbone and make the change.

Labour needs a new messenger if it has any chance.

Frankly, it’s a dereliction of duty for the current caucus to flag this election away. If it does then it doesn’t deserve any support from its core constituency.

It would have a better chance in November if it put the names of its current MPs on a wall and then have some kid throw a dart at it.

Whoever gets their name lanced by the dart gets the job.

That would be hilarious. There would be 41 MPs silently thinking “Please, please don’t land on my name” and two MPs praying “pick me, pick me”.

It’s a bit over the top but it’s a better strategy than the one Labour’s running now.

Matt shouldn’t give away his ideas for free.

McCarten on Labour

April 10th, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:

The major problem the Labour Party has is that it doesn’t seem able to look like they are trying to win.

It’s clear they are sleep-walking to defeat. They look tired and lacklustre.

Frankly, they look like a bunch of losers and it annoys me. Everyone knows the game plan is that, through a lack of an alternative option, they let Goff run until the election then replace him. Then supposedly they will make an effort for the elections in 2014.

That may well make sense, given that it’s plainly obvious they are a hopeless opposition, so why would anyone think they’re ready for government?


I look forward to its completed party list to see whether it promotes new and current talent and takes the cleaver to its non-performers.

Otherwise, it is simply rearranging the deck chairs on a ship that may well sink.

I hope for their supporters’ sakes they do the former.

The Labour list will be interesting. They actually did a pretty good job in 2008 of promoting new talent ahead of some of the existing caucus. They need to do that again.

Stories on Hughes and Goff

March 27th, 2011 at 9:56 am by David Farrar

So many stories, I’ll try and cover them in the one post.

In one story, David Fisher in the HoS writes of how Andrew Little and Phil Goff have still not discussed the Hughes affair. Amazing.

David Fisher in Herald on Sunday writes in a second story on previous allegations (one of which was blogged on Whale Oil around a year ago), and on the fact that Goff knew for longer than he initially said (again a point Whale has made). Fisher also reports that Tizard says it would be nice to be an MP again so she can say “stick it up you” to those who didn’t want her back (which is most of the Labour Caucus and none of the National Caucus).

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:

Why is the Labour opposition so hopeless? I had assumed that leader Phil Goff was competent enough, albeit lacking in charisma, to survive until the November election.

Now I don’t. His performance this week has been appalling.

Ouch. And more:

The handling of the Darren Hughes incident exposes Goff’s hypocrisy, his lack of judgment and, more importantly, his political smarts. You couldn’t get a more inept management of a crisis.

It was always a long shot for Labour to win November’s election, given the dismal polling of the party and their leader.

Goff’s mismanagement this week has taken any chance now.

McCarten concludes by saying Goff has to go. Ironically this will probably make Goff safer as Labour MPs won’t like being seen to do what McCarten says!

Jonathan Marshall in the SST has an interview with the 18 year old’s mother in this story. And in another story, Georgina Beyer and Chris Carter both say Goff should go. Again, this may help Goff 🙂

McCarten on Key

February 6th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:

In two quick simple decisions John Key transformed this year’s election, turning the tables on his opponents.

Setting the election date for November 26 was signalled well in advance. But I can’t remember any time when an incumbent prime minister didn’t keep the opposition (and the country) guessing on an election date right up until he or she popped up to the Governor-General to resign.

This one small perk of power was to keep your opposition off guard about dates. As someone who has had to run a few campaigns, it matters.

Not knowing when you can book venues, travel and events does matter.

The assured manner Key has gone about his announcement shows a confidence that should unnerve Phil Goff. To most voters Key has merely made a practical and transparent decision without any apparent political advantage.

The ones who will most be grateful to Key for the early announcement will be the Electoral Commission – they get nine months to organise an election, instead of six weeks. It means venues for polling places can be booked with certainity.

But the real stinger that deserves high praise was Key’s kneecapping of National nemesis Winston Peters.

Over recent months Peters has been slowly but consistently gaining support in the polls to the point where he could quite possibly once again have become the kingmaker in any post-election negotiations.

In one swipe Key has almost certainly dealt Peters a mortal blow. More importantly he got Goff as well. It’s a bold and gutsy move. Key made his fortune by taking calculated risks and he’s made what I suspect is a winning chess move. …

In one swoop Key gives us two choices of government after the election – a government led by him or a Labour/NZ First/Greens alternative. Voters make your choice.

I was astonished Goff and Peters claimed Key was naive and arrogant. It was a masterstroke.

And even better it was the right thing to do.

Goff has no choice but to accept Peters as his ally and this will hurt him. Any votes NZ First now gets won’t come from anyone who wants Key as prime minister.

Indeed. A vote for Winston is a vote for Goff to be PM, and a vote for Labour is a vote for Winston to be a Minister.

Key is positioning himself as the forward-looking positive leader and Goff is saddled with the old bodgie. Given the fact Goff was first in cabinet 36 years ago, to say he’s looking a bit tired is an understatement.

26 years ago. But it has been 42 years since Phil Goff joined the Labour Party.

Goff’s cautious reshuffle of his frontbench reinforces the problem. Only one change in the front bench at the same time as every old Helen Clark hack keeps their job.

It signals Goff does not have control of his caucus, he is timid by nature or he hasn’t got enough talent in his caucus. I suspect it’s all three.

I think it is more the first.

McCarten’s Awards

December 27th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Matt McCarten hands out his 2010 political awards:

  • Redemption Prize: Shane Jones
  • Slow-Learner Certificate: Pansy Wong
  • Bad-Taste Award: Those labelling Auckland Central as the “battle of the babes”
  • Giant-Killer Prize: Pete Hodgson
  • New-Blood Award: Hekia Parata
  • No-Prisoners Award: Hone Harawira
  • Try-Hard Certificate: Phil Goff
  • Best-Minister Prize: Gerry Brownlee
  • Best-in-the-Game Supreme Award: Len Brown

An outright fib

December 12th, 2010 at 10:46 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:

John Key, a successful corporate speculator himself, has announced that if the National Party is elected again then he’d see that as a mandate for selling off the rest of our public assets.

Except he has said no such thing.

CTU asks UNITE to explain unpaid PAYE tax

December 3rd, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

In a follow up to the story I blogged about yesterday, Rebecca Stevenson at the Dom Post reports:

The Council of Trade Unions wants an explanation from Unite on why it failed to pay the IRD more than $36,000 in PAYE on behalf of its employees.

Unite, one of New Zealand’s largest unions, owed IRD over $130,000 for the year ended March 2009 (its most recent filing), including more than $57,000 in unpaid GST. For the same financial year its liabilities outweighed its assets by more than $170,000.

It is the unpaid PAYE that will be causing most concern, as this is in fact money owed by the employees to the IRD, and UNITE has appropriated it for its own purposes. It is the sort of stuff that the newspaper boss Maxwell did – but on a much smaller scale.

Unite head Matt McCarten confirmed yesterday that the union owed money to the IRD but said he had made choices to pay for union campaigns rather than clear the debt. “I don’t shy away from these decisions, I make the calls.”

He said Unite paid $8000 in PAYE each month to the IRD but kept incurring late payment penalties. He claimed not to know exactly how much it owed the IRD.

The late penalties do add up – as many businesses know. But if it was a deliberate decision to keep running campaigns, instead of paying off the debt, then few will have sympathy.

He agreed it was not a good look for a workers’ union to fail to pay its employees’ tax.

I don’t think Matt realises how bad a look it is. The next time UNITE or Matt calls for greater government spending, this issue will arise.

CTU president Helen Kelly said Unite did good work in an area that was difficult and expensive to organise. That required it to juggle its finances. “All unions are always short of resources.”

However, when questioned on Unite’s tax failure, she said: “I need an explanation for that”.

I’m not sure I would say all unions are short of resources. The combined wealth of the union movement puts the Business Roundtable, Business NZ, and the Chambers of Commerce to shame. I did a blog post a couple of years back comparing them.

Is UNITE solvent?

December 2nd, 2010 at 3:41 pm by David Farrar

Daniel on Twitter pointed me to the audited accounts for the UNITE union, which are filed with the Registrar of Incorporated Societies.

The accounts to 31 March 2009 reveal the following:

  • Their liabilities exceed their assets by around $172,000
  • Their bank account is over-drawn to $63,000
  • They owe the IRD around $130,000
  • They have an agreement with IRD to pay the debt off at $8,000 per month
  • They have a $30,000 loan from the National Distribution Trust, which presumably is associated with the ND Union.

This is a very bad look for a trade union, as some of their unpaid tax is PAYE. That means that have been taking the tax off their staff, and rather than pay it to the IRD, have kept onto it.

Employers who do that are labelled thieves and bad employers. It is seen as worse as not paying income tax because it is not tax on your own income, it is tax on behalf of your employees and you are acting in a role as trustee to deduct and pass on.

The 2010 accounts have not been filed. Hopefully they have paid back the IRD.

I like Matt McCarten – he is a genuine advocate for his beliefs. But to advocate that the state should be spending far more money, and have your own union not paying their taxes, exposes you to charges of hypocrisy.

The Mana result

November 21st, 2010 at 11:05 am by David Farrar

Labour came far too close to doing something that has never ever happened before in recent New Zealand electoral history – having an Opposition lose a seat in a by-election. No Government has won a seat off the opposition in the 59 by-elections since 1936.

And even worse it was not a marginal seat – it was a safe seat that has been held by Labour since 1938 (in that its predecessor seats were also Labour).

I was hoping the majority would be below 3,000 – my pick had been 2,500. I never thought it would almost drop to a triple figures and get as low as 1,080. In some ways it was the ideal result. If the margin had been 500 or so, then you’d be kicking yourself for not doing that extra bit to win it. And if Labour had actually managed to lose the seat, then Goff would be goneburger, and National doesn’t actually want Goff rolled.

So what happened? Well as I blogged during the week, I didn’t expect there to be a uniform swing – I expected different swings in different areas. I’ve divided the seat up into four areas – Porirua East, Porirua West, Northern Suburbs and Kapiti.

Porirua East

In 2008 Laban got 82% and Parata 9%. There was basically no swing here at all with 2010 as Faafoi got 82% and Parata 11%. The total vote was 72% of 2008, and McCarten got 4% here.

This shows how hard it is to win Mana, when one large portion of the electorate votes Labour 9:1 over National. Even if the rest of the electorate votes 3:2 National over Labour, it is hard to compensate for such areas.

Porirua West

In 2008 Laban got 59% and Parata 28% so still very much core Labour areas. There was a good swing here as in 2010 Faafoi got 51% and Parata 35%, so the margin dropped from 31% to 16%. The total vote was 66% of 2008, and McCarten got 6% here.

I had been expected Porirua West to be like Porirua East, and not swing much. But in some booths in Titahi Bay Hekia lifted her vote share by 9% and Faafoi lost 15%.

Northern Suburbs

These areas are pretty solid Nat, In 2008 Laban got 35% and Parata 54%. That was good enough, but there was a massive swing here as in 2010 Faafoi got 25% and Parata 67%, so the margin grew from 19% to 42%. The total vote was 74% of 2008, and McCarten got 2% here.


The Kapiti area voted Labour last time, and flipped to National this time. And what is more extraordinary about this is it happened despite noisy local opposition to a new expressway.

In 2008 Laban got 46% and Parata 41%. There was a big swing here as in 2010 Faafoi got 37% and Parata 47%, so the margin went from +5% to Labour to +10% for National – a 15% net movement. The total vote was 69% of 2008, and McCarten got 3% here.

Polling Places

In 17/42 polling places the vote share for Labour dropped by 10% or greater. That is huge.

Interestingly the advance votes actually had Faafoi getting a bigger vote share than Laban did in 2008. This reflects my view that Hekia got real momentum in the final week as several community leaders endorsed her, but by then many advance votes had already been cast.


Matt McCarten didn’t achieve a great result (but he did get lots of signatures for his petitions) and the Greens had a solid third. ACT was battling it out with Legalise Cannabis for 5th place. What was the total CR and CL vote in 2008 and 2010?

In 2008 Labour & Greens got 60% of the electorate vote, and National/ACT got 37%. In 2010 Labour/Greens/McCarten got 57% and National/ACT got 42%. So even taking the minor parties into account, you had the centre-right close the gap by 8% in Mana!

Historical Comparisons

Labour did manage to retain the seat, but they had a massive swing against their candidate. Again, this is historically very rare in by-elections. I’ve gone through the last few by-elections to note what happened:

  • 2010 Mt Albert – remained safe for Opposition
  • 2004 Te Tai Hauauru – not contested by major parties
  • 1998 TKC – big swing against Government
  • 1994 Selwyn – big swing against Government
  • 1993 Tauranga – not contested by major parties
  • 1992 Wellington Central – was marginal Labour and majority increases slightly for Opposition
  • 1992 Tamaki – big swing against Government
  • 1985 Timaru – falls to Opposition
  • 1980 East Coast Bays – falls to Opposition (Social Credit)
  • 1980 Onehunga – Opposition holds comfortably
  • 1980 Northern Maori – stays with Labour
  • 1979 Christchurch Central – Government comes 3rd
  • 1978 Rangitikei – Government loses to Opposition (Social Credit)
  • 1976 Nelson – Opposition increases majority
  • 1977 Mangere – Opposition holds comfortably
  • 1977 Pahiatua – Government holds

So this has not happened in the last 35 years – an Opposition almost losing a safe seat in a by-election.

The closest we have is 1992 Wellington Central, and they have a number of things in common

  • Both held in the first term of a new National Government
  • Both held two years into that term
  • Both had popular retiring MPs (Wilde and Laban)
  • Both had Labour put up a candidate with no background in the party (Laidlaw and Faafoi)
  • Both had a high profile third party candidate on the left (Denis Welch and McCarten)
  • Both times the National candidate was married to Wira Gardiner (Pauline Gardiner and Hekia Parata)
  • Both times the National candidate had stood in the previous general election
  • Both times Labour got a narrow victory on the by-election

The really interesting thing is that in the 1993 general election, Laidlaw lost the seat to Gardiner – it was the only seat lost by the Opposition in that election.

Kris has won the seat, but it is now a marginal seat, and he is going to have to work very very hard in the community to match Hekia and retain the seat in 2011.


A reader sent me this graph, of the ten largest polling places in Mana. It tells a big story about how Cannons Creek saved Labour.