The girl with seven names

May 13th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar


I was thrilled this week to meet Hyeonseo Lee.

I got a call from Melissa Lee last week telling me that she is hosting a dinner at Parliament with the National Unification Advisory Council and the guest speaker is a defector from North Korea. She thought I might be interested as I had blogged on North Korea.

A few months ago I had read an amazing book about North Korea by a defector, Hyeonseo Lee. It is called The Girl with Seven Names. I had raved about the book to friends and family and even lent it out to them.

So I asked Melissa ho the defector was, not expecting it would be a name I had heard of. When Melissa said it is a young women who wrote the book “The Girl With Seven Names” I excitedly exclaimed to her how I had not just heard of her, but read her book and been talking about it for months. So I was very excited to get to meet Hyeonseo in person.

She spoke on her life story to around 100 MPs, diplomats, members of the National Unification Advisory Council and some of the NZ veterans of the Korean War. Earlier that day Melissa had moved in Parliament a resolution:

That this House condemn the human rights record of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is detailed in the United Nations 2014 commission of inquiry into both systematic abuse and repression, and that this House call on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to give access to human rights bodies and international agencies to improve the lives of the North Korean people.

This passed without dissent.

There are two major themes to Hyeonseo’s book that resonated with me – her personal story, and the insight into what life is really like in North Korea.

Her personal story is quite amazing. She was basically an accidental defector. She lived on the border with China and the day before her 18th birthday, she decided to cross the border just to see what life was like in China. Her intention was to return, and as she was not yet an adult, there would be lesser consequences for her if she got caught – would be a youthful prank. Her family were not enemies of the state, they were fairly well off middle class (for North Korea).

However the security police got wind that she had gone missing and may have crossed the border, and her family warned her that if she came back then the whole family might be arrested and sent to a camp. So she had to stay in China.

She then spent around seven years in China living undercover. Chinese authorities will send back North Koreans to North Korea so she had to pretend to be Chinese. This involved assuming a number of identities (hence the title of the book, The Girl With Seven Names) and years of living in fear that at any point she may be discovered and deported.

She eventually made her way out of China and with fake papers managed to fly to South Korea. She was petrified that they would not welcome her, but when she declared she was a defector, their first words were “Welcome home”. However it then turned bad as her fake Chinese papers were so convincing that they decided she was Chinese and might deport her back to China (and then North Korea). After a couple of weeks thought she convinced them that she was in fact North Korean, and she got to live in South Korea.

Her story did not end there, as she later went back to get her mother and family out. They came close to disaster many times, were blackmailed and betrayed and eventually arrested in Laos. Then a good samaritan struck, as an random Australian businessman who was in the building paid a huge sum to authorities to get her family released, and they got back to South Korea. The generosity of strangers can be staggering.

So her personal story is an adventure that would be amazing even as fiction, let alone as a true story.

But her depiction of life in North Korea is also powerful. She writes of the weekly inspection of their houses to check their photos of the Great Leader are straight. They can be punished if one of the photos are crooked. They are forced to effectively worship the Kims and schools are basically state run brainwashing camps.

And the brainwashing works. Until she ended up in China, she had no idea that it was all lies.  The control of the people by the state is so total, you have an entire population enslaved.

I actually got angry reading her book, recalling a certain prominent New Zealander who visited North Korea and declared how wonderful it seemed to be, and how happy the people are that they met – seemingly unaware that all they saw was propaganda put on by the Government.

If there is any one book you should read about North Korea, this is the one. It’s not written by an enemy of the state. It’s just the life of a normal 17 year old girl who crossed a river and ended up being hunted for the best part of a decade.

On a personal level was great to meet the author of a book which I had found so compelling. I had so many questions for her, that Melissa finally had to take her away around the room, as I was hogging her time 🙂

Is Ron campaigning for Winston’s job?

November 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

NZ First MP Ron Mark has been accused of racism after telling a National MP to “go back to Korea” during a parliamentary debate.

Mark’s comments have attracted criticism from MPs across the political spectrum.

His remarks came during debate on Tuesday about the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill, which would allow local councils to determine whether shops can trade on Easter Sunday.

Mark took offence to a speech by Korean-born Lee in support of the bill, in which she said she had been surprised by New Zealand’s restricted shop hours having grown up overseas.

In response, he said: “Melissa Lee told the House in her rather condescending manner, which she is becoming renowned for, that we need to grow up in New Zealand.

“Well I have got a short message – if you do not like New Zealand, go back to Korea.”

Let’s have a look at the Hansard in which we see Ron Mark not just telling Melissa Lee to go back to Korea, but also getting it totally wrong on India when he has a go at MPs of Indian descent.

First what did Melissa Lee say:

MELISSA LEE: Exactly. Sometimes, as a migrant—well, not a new migrant; I have been here for nearly 30 years—it used to really surprise me, having grown up overseas and come to New Zealand, to see New Zealand shut down at a particular hour. That was really, really surprising. You know, we were closing shops at 5 o’clock when in other countries shops were open to 10 or midnight, or all night and 24/7. It is about choice. It is about people wanting to have that choice to either go and spend their money—go shopping and do touristy things—or to go and spend time with their family and have meals at a restaurant. Whatever it is, it is their choice.

Melissa is not alone in that observation. I recall the 1980s when shops closed at 5.30 pm four days a week and nothing was open on Saturday or Sunday. People visiting or new to NZ were always staggered by this.

RON MARK: Because, actually, Mr Hudson, you are like that old Hudson car—slow, smoky, rather rounded at the edges, and going nowhere fast—and no one buys the crap we just heard this evening, thank you. I want to go on to the other comments of Melissa Lee, one of these other wonderful National Party member, from Korea as Wikipedia says. Melissa Lee told the House in her rather condescending manner, which she is becoming renowned for, that we need to grow up in New Zealand. Well I have got a short message, if you do not like New Zealand go back to Korea.

A rather nasty contribution to the very reasonable observation Melissa Lee made. But he did not stop there:

RON MARK: Without any overtures of racism, let us look at the holidays in Korea that are public holidays that people do not work on. Coming to New Zealand and telling us we should grow up in our House, where we allow freedom of speech, is a little different to what we see. Buddha’s birthday, holy heck, so now we say that New Zealanders should have to work on a religious day but in Korea, where Miss Lee comes from, Buddha’s birthday on the eighth of the fourth lunar month is a public holiday where no one works. So let us look at another National Party member. Oh geebers, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi. This gentleman also understands and respects the value of religious days and the need for public holidays but he sits in this House ready to take a call, I guess, to support this legislation. But let us have a look at India. There are so many, I just could not read them out in this time that I have available, but one of the religious holidays in India is Easter. where people do not have to work. And there is Good Friday, Easter Sunday, St Thomas the Apostle, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast of St Francis Xavier, Christmas Day. And let us have a look at a few others: Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, Eid ul-Ghadeer, and let us not forget Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday.

So Ron claimed there is no work in India on all those religious holidays. But he made it up.

KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National): Thank you for the opportunity to speak on the Shop Trading Hours Amendment Bill. First of all, I would like to clarify a few things that the previous speaker has raised. On any religious day in India, if there is a public holiday, every business is open and they pray. They do not—

Ron Mark: No.

KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI: Your knowledge is totally zero. The only two holidays—yes, I am from India, I lived over there for 35 years, and I can tell you that on every religious day, every shop is open, every shop is allowed to trade. The only 2 days when the whole of India is closed are not religious days; they are the Republic Day of India and Independence Day.

So, for your knowledge, clarify yourself before you speak, and do not try to be racist.

Nice slap down from Bakshi.

Lee on Korean War

October 23rd, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

Korean-born National MP Melissa Lee broke down in Parliament last night night when she was speaking about the Korean War.

“My grandfather was shot dead by the North Koreans because he was educated at university,” she said through tears.

This is the same regime that Gareth Morgan seems so fond of.

She recalled her mother having talked about not having enough food for the family to eat “and yet they took in 10 other refugees so they had a roof over their head.”

“I get a little emotional about this because it does affect my family,” she said in the first reading debate of the Veterans’ Support Bill.

She said owed a great debt to the Korean veterans, 3974 soldiers and 1300 naval
personnel who fought in the war, with 33 deaths.

She said if it had not been for the veterans who had answered the call of the United Nations, “I may not be standing here proudly as a Member of Parliament in this great country of ours, New Zealand.”

She said she refers to the K-Force as her “dads.”

“They gave up their youth to fight for something that they didn’t even have anything to do with in a foreign country.”

Thank goodness the North Koreans didn’t manage to take over the entire country. This was a war started by North Korea who invaded in 1950. One day hopefully North Koreans will enjoy the freedoms that South Koreans do.

A case in point

August 28th, 2010 at 8:18 pm by David Farrar

At the #openlabournz conference earlier today, there was a good discussion about how social media can help improve interactions with Government, and we focused specifically on getting a culture in the public service where staff can engage in social media.

I made the point that the problem is the media can take a flippant comment online, and treat it as a press release, and demand the CEO comment on it or respond to it. My suggestion was that a good CEO should tell anyone who comes to them with a media inquiry about a flippant comment on Facebook or Twitter, that the person needs a life and the CEO is too busy with real issues.

In the few hours since the conference, we’ve had a perfect example of this play out – but with MPs not public servants.

In the House on Thursday, Melissa Lee embellished her question to Judith Collins of “Can she explain the reasons behind the record low number of escapes” by adding on “except for the fact she is such a fantastic minister”.

Nikki Kaye promptly facebooked that Melissa’s effort should win her “brown nosing backbencher of the year”.

Now Nikki and Melissa are good mates. Melissa actually responds to “Blondie” in the facebook thread. It is very obviously two mates having a friendly hassle.

Then early this morning on Red Alert Trevor Mallard posted a screenshot of the Facebook thread. It is bloody obvious that it is a friendly exchange. They even have Melissa doing a lol on it.

So far so good. But then someone at NewstalkZB thinks this is somehow a newsworthy story. They actually dispatch a reporter to phone Nikki Kaye up and ask her why she called a colleague a brown noser, and does she think John Key would approve of it.

For fuck’s sake. This was the exact point I was making at the Labour conference. An idiot media outlet thinking that a piece of friendly banter is somehow a news story, let alone some sort of scandal that the Prime Minister might need to be informed about.

The Prime Minister, I am confident to predict, would find the exchange as funny as most people would.

What really annoys me is that the consequences of such media stupidity is to encourage our MPs to become automatons – never showing any personality or humour – playing everything safe, just to avoid a potentially bad media story.

The Standard on Lee

December 6th, 2009 at 7:55 pm by David Farrar

The Standard has obtained documents under the OIA from NZ on Air, relating to Melissa Lee and NZ on Air. They show that Melissa was aware of the issue back in May 2009.

If the issue was known about that far back, it is bad political management to have it unresolved for so long. If I was an MP, and found out that there may be some money to be repaid to a government agency, I would ensure the matter was dealt with in days or weeks, not months. And then do a media release announcing the repayment, and what caused it. That is far superior to having the information come out through the media.

Lee’s company may owe $100,000

October 13th, 2009 at 7:04 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Evidence emerged last night of potentially serious breaches of contract between the television production company of National Party list MP Melissa Lee and funder NZ on Air which could cost the company at least $100,000 in repayments.

The funding organisation’s chief financial officer, Wayne Verhoeven, sent the MP a letter on June 12 outlining what it considered to be breaches of its funding contract through inflating company profits from the contingency fund.

The contract between Asia Vision Ltd and NZ on Air explicitly prohibits the producer making any changes to the agreed contingency budget or the agreed company markup (production company overhead) without the consent of NZ on Air.

Mr Verhoeven’s letter accuses Ms Lee of using money from the contingency budget to increase the markup from 8 per cent to 10 per cent over five series of Asia Downunder.

The five years of contingencies total $100,126.

Last night, Ms Lee described it as “an innocent error”.

She said she had replied to NZ on Air in June but had not yet had a response.

“I have been waiting for them to let me know the outcome.”

Ms Lee told the Herald she had not been aware that the errors had been happening as the finances were handled by the production manager and accountant.

“At a time when there was no increase in funding, the company reduced its profit margins so it could continue making quality television and prudently maintain a contingency fund,” she said.

“This has come as a total surprise. The company wasn’t aware that the money set aside in the contingency was technically expected to be refunded.

“I’m not deeply involved in the day-to-day accounting, but the company’s moved quickly to rectify the problem and will pay back any money deemed to be outstanding.”

The company had amended processes to ensure such an error could not happen again, she said.

“I’d also urge other production companies to seek advice and make sure they comply.”

This issue is quite separate from the false allegations made against Lee before the by-election, but they are cause for concern in their own right.

Normally I would hold a case like this up as an example of the dangers MPs can have in continuing with business activities as an MP, but this actually predates Melissa’s election to Parliament.

Labour released the NZ on Air letter last night.

It had previously complained about Ms Lee’s company while she was National’s candidate in the Mt Albert byelection. NZ on Air cleared her in May of misleading the agency.

The Labour Party says Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman must have known about the letter.

“Unless he fronts up and tells the public what he knows, he could be accused of a cover-up,” Labour deputy leader Annette King told TV3.

Dr Coleman said he had known about it since August 18.

It is unclear whether or not the company does have to pay back $100,000 or not, as at this stage we do not know their response to the response from Lee.

From a political management point of view, this should have been sorted out within weeks, not months, of the issue being raised.

If I was advising Melissa, I would have counselled her to get a final decision from NZ on Air as soon as possible, to repay immediately any money owing (if that was the final decision), and then to do a media release announcing what has happened. You front-foot the issue, rather than wait for the Opposition to discover it.

Now it is still a bit murky, as we are yet to hear from NZ on Air what their final position is, but it certainly is not a good look even on facts known to date.


June 12th, 2009 at 4:03 pm by David Farrar

On Wednesday evening at Backbenches various Young Labour members were very excited, telling everyone who would listen that Melissa Lee had parked her car on a disabled parking spot.

This was then given more publicity by Trevor Mallard who blogged at Red Alert:

Melissa in Disabled Park?

Just stupid. Can two days pass without her cocking up?

Remember she is John Key’s handpicked candidate.

Both lack judgement.

The post has now been struck through. Why?

Well Melissa did not park there. She took a taxi to Backbenches. The car was a supporter’s car. The supporter is disabled and had his disability card displayed in the windscreen – something that anyone could have easily checked. Egg. Face. Ouch.

The comments thread at Red Alert is quite amusing and worth a read.

Can Norman beat Lee?

June 10th, 2009 at 9:56 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports that Russel Norman thinks he can beat Melissa Lee:

The One News Colmar Brunton poll on Sunday gave Labour’s David Shearer a 38-point lead over National’s Melissa Lee.

Dr Norman was six points behind Ms Lee in the poll of 500 residents which had a 4.4 per cent margin of error.

That is not a very helpful statement. The 4.4% margin of error is for a result of 50%. Lee got 15% and Norman got 9%. The margin of error for each (at 95% confidence) is 3.2% and 2.5%.

So what is the probability that Norman actually was ahead of Lee? I have a spreadsheet that calculates these things and it is only 0.21%.

Of course things may change from when the poll was done.

Shameful behaviour

May 26th, 2009 at 8:58 am by David Farrar

We are seeing the nasty side of certain people come out in the by-election at student hosted meetings. The Herald reports on the Unitec meeting:

Act candidate John Boscawen was accosted with a chocolate and cream lamington as a Mt Albert byelection debate yesterday descended into farce.

Malcolm France, a candidate for People Before Profit, attacked Mr Boscawen with the cake as a protest against the Super City.

That’s just pathethic – and even more so that it was done by another candidate. France should be banned from all future MTC meetings.

The blunder-prone National candidate Melissa Lee also came under fire. She faced questions over an email in which she was alleged to have said she wanted “a big diamond ring … to knock some sense into the media (although a gun is tempting)”.

The email was a response to a question posed by a magazine, which asked: “Which accessory would you choose: a gun, a fur coat, a big diamond ring or a grill?” Ms Lee said the email was written by a volunteer staff member who wanted to add some humour.

How that made the TV news last night, I don’t know.

In response to a question about what she would do if she wasn’t in politics, the mainly Polynesian group shouted that she would be “on a plane back to Korea” and she could “become the racist relations commissioner”.

I think this shows very clearly who the true racists are.

Laws on Lee

May 24th, 2009 at 2:32 pm by David Farrar

Melissa Lee finds a defender with Michael Laws:

MELISSA LEE is a racist, apparently. We know this because the collective intelligence that is the Auckland University Students Association has passed a motion to that effect. And who are we to argue with the moral priggishness of undergraduate students?

Apparently the National Party candidate for the Mt Albert by-election demonstrated her preference for the hooded white sheet despite being Korean by opining that a new motorway might inhibit the activities of South Auckland criminals.

At no stage did she identify the ethnicity of such criminals. Nor did she mention that she was parroting the exact same sentiments as publicly espoused by a senior Avondale police officer some three weeks previously.

But it matters not. The Auckland University Students Association a collection of onanists and lefty liberals (generally the same thing) has spoken. And they would know a racist when they see one. Because they automatically hate anyone or anything blue.

Not just Aucland University students. A number of Labour MPs have also called her racist, which I have found appalling. Lee deserves criticism for trying to suggest a motorway would greatly impact crime, but it is ludicrous that one can’t refer to high crime levels in South Auckland and have people tar you as a racist.

David Shearer himself said on television that crime is higher amongst migrant and polynesian communities as they have higher unemployment rates. Now Shearer is right, but he does not get smeared as a racist.

And who knew that South Aucklanders were their own ethnic group? When did that happen? I have naturally assumed that the place is an ethnic melting pot comprising Pakeha, Polynesian, Maori, Asian and just about all others. When did they start inbreeding to the point that science or at least the Auckland University Students Association regards them as a distinct culture?


UPDATE: Brian Edwards also criticises the students:

How tragic that the Auckland University student body can think of no better way to express disagreement than to boo, shout down and abuse a speaker. If Melissa Lee’s comments about South Auckland were stupid and offensive, they were outdone by the Hitler moustache and the word ‘racist’ scrawled across her photograph. As it happens, Ms Lee made no reference in her earlier remarks to any race, so the presumption that the ‘criminals’ she was referring to must be Maori or Pacific Islanders comes entirely from them. I would have thought that makes them the true racists.

But where did the students get their inspiration from to call Lee a racist? The Labour Party Caucus no less.

NZPA reported:

Labour MP David Cunliffe said in Parliament yesterday Ms Lee was “worrying about brown people coming up your motorway and invading the good white suburbs of Mt Albert”.

And in this PR from Labour, Lee is called “bigoted”.

Lee says she expects to come second

May 22nd, 2009 at 2:03 pm by David Farrar

NZPA reports:

National Party candidate Melissa Lee says second place is the best she can hope for in the upcoming Mt Albert by-election. …

Ms Lee today told Radio New Zealand she expected to lose and hoped she could come second. …

“I think my chances are fairly good. It’s been 63 years in the hands of Labour, so you know I wasn’t expecting to romp in and actually win this,” Ms Lee said.

Asked if she thought she could come second she said she was hoping to.

“It would be really fantastic if I nudge in a little further as well but I am not expecting to win. It was always going to be a hard battle.”

While no doubt truthful, this is a serious error of judgement. A major party candidate should never state that they do not expect to win – well not in a by-election anyway.

If one wants to manage expectations, then you let others do that for you. But again a major party candidate should not ever say they do not expect to win.

There are many reasons for this. To take just a few:

  1. How the hell do you expect party volunteers, colleagues, and your campaign team to keep campaigning, when you have said you don’t think you can win. This is a winner takes all by-election – there is no party vote up for grabs.
  2. Just as seriously what message does send to your voters? This can be a seriously self-fulfilling prophecy – National voters will not bother to vote if they think there is no purpose in doing so.
  3. It effectively concedes despite three weeks to go. The Labour candidate had just himself had two rocky days himself and was showing vulnerabilities. A lot can happen in three weeks.
  4. It encourages the minor parties to cannibalise your vote – you have said you don’t expect to win, so they will try and grab anti-Labour voters off you with more vigour.

I actually regard this as a bigger blunder than the South Auckland crime remarks. They at least were said in the heat of a public meeting. This was said in a radio interview where some lines should have been pre-prepared. Acceptable lines would be:

  • “Labour have held this seat for 70 years and it is a tough challenge, but I don’t think any party can take the voters for granted, and I’m want to make sure they have the chance to elect a National MP”; or
  • “This was Labour’s safest seat and not been held by National before, but I want to win the seat and I would never pre-judge what the voters will decide”

There are many ways you can indicate that it is unlikely you will win, without stating you don’t expect to win which is a real no no.

UPDATE: NZPA now report:

National Party candidate for Mt Albert Melissa Lee says she does want to win the by-election, despite earlier saying she was hoping and expecting to come second….

Asked directly if she expected to come second she answered: “yes”.

Ms Lee said she was talking about the media expectation, not her own.

“I am not in this game to lose,” she said.

NZPA put it to her the radio interview er did not discuss media expectation around her chances, but asked her for her own opinion.

“I think it was a case of I am expecting to come second, at least,” Ms Lee said….

It was always going to be a tough battle, but she would not be missing out on spending time with her son if she thought there was no chance of winning.

“I am not putting in all these hours and putting up with media trying to come second, I am not. I am trying to win this damn thing.”

It would have been better if this is what was said initially.

NZ on Air clears Lee

May 21st, 2009 at 12:09 pm by David Farrar

NZ on Air have stated:

A report conducted by NZ On Air into funding of Asia Downunder has found that the agency was not misled, and that there is no evidence public funding was misused.

Not misled and no evidence of misuse.

NZ On Air is satisfied that Ms Lee did not have editorial control for Asia Downunder programmes dealing with political matters, and that the systems put in place were robust, managed well by TVNZ  and Ms Jean, and willingly complied with by Ms Lee.

NZ On Air was not misled at any stage about Ms Lee’s intentions to stand for Parliament.

NZ On Air is satisfied that public funds intended for production of Asia Downunder were not misused.

They have also published their full report into the allegations. In the report they note TV3 did not contact NZ on Air before broadcasting the allegations.

They also note there a specific reference to the candidacy in the 26 August funding application.

So who should be apologing to Melissa Lee for their smears against her? Let us start with Phil Goff and his press release:

Does Melissa Lee’s use of taxpayer money to make the National Party video, including payment for the cost of staff and equipment, constitute a misuse of public funds?

Now note Goff stated as a fact that Lee used taxpayer money to make the video. That was wrong and he should apologise.

But worse is what Trevor Mallard said in Parliament:

Hon Phil Goff: Has the Prime Minister asked the Minister of Broadcasting to examine whether there have been any conflicts of interest or misuse of NZ On Air money to produce party political advertisements?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That would have been a matter for the previous Prime Minister to address, because the events being referred to, which were outside the House, occurred under the Labour Minister of Broadcasting.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: All around the House there will be order. A point of order is being taken.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I do take personal exception to that. If someone stole money on my watch—

Mallard is clearly implying that Lee stole money. He din’t quite state it explicitly but everyone knows what he meant.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I just want to make it clear that I regard as a personal reflection on me the suggestion that I should have stopped Melissa Lee using NZ On Air funding when she did not declare it.

NZ on Air have made it very clear her candidacy was declared and known.

and earlier:

Hon Trevor Mallard: As the former Minister of Broadcasting, I say that if that matter had been properly declared it would have been declared to me. Melissa Lee did not do so.

Yet NZ on Air say:

12. In late August 2008 NZ On Air received a funding application from AVL for production of the 2009 series in time for NZ On Air’s main ‘special interest’ funding round in October 2008. Funding applications for all special interest series planned for 2009 were required to be made to this round so NZ On Air could adequately assess competing proposals.

13. The application specifically stated that if Ms Lee entered Parliament she would stand down from producing the 2009 series if the funding application was successful, and that a permanent replacement producer for the show would be


AVL’s application for funding, received by NZ On Air on 26 August 2008, specifically stated that if Ms Lee entered Parliament she would stand down from producing the 2009 series, and that a permanent replacement producer for the show would be appointed.

If Goff and Mallard had just asked the Government if allegations were true, then that would be a different matter. But they both stated allegations as facts, and they got it wrong. Will either or both of them apologise?

Humour from Annette

May 14th, 2009 at 10:14 pm by David Farrar

I’m not sure if Annette King penned this herself, or one if her staff did, but it actually is pretty damn funny so worth a repeat:

The Melissa Key Guide to Crime Busting

  1. Build a motorway – the more lanes the better.
  2. Direct all criminals (from areas you want to insult) to travel on the motorway preferably with signs on their vehicles saying “CRIM-IN-TRANST” to help Police identify them.
  3. Chose an electorate as far away as possible from the place you want to win as the destination for the mobile crims.
  4. Have all off-ramps removed to ensure a smooth flow of crims to chosen destination.
  5. Dedicate one lane as an expressway for crims who own cars.
  6. Dedicate one lane for a busway for crims who don’t have cars or haven’t stolen one yet.
  7. Increase public transport concessions for crims who are prepared to travel during off peak times to carry out their crimes.
  8. Encourage car-pooling of crims to cut down congestion and reduce the carbon footprint.
  9. Build motorways which cut through communities removing hundreds of houses thereby reducing the number of homes that can be burgled.
  10. Get a TV production company to make a video of your success in reducing crime.
  11. Avoid the PM at all costs because although you were once his “chosen candidate” he now thinks your crime busting ideas are silly.
  12. Avoid the good people of South Auckland you have labelled as crims.

I especially like the busway for crims that have not yet stolen a car!

Melissa’s mistake

May 14th, 2009 at 8:28 am by David Farrar

Just been on TV3’s Sunrise this morning and we talked about the reported comments of Melissa Lee that the motorway would be good, because it would stop criminals from South Auckland coming into the suburb to commit crimes.

I actually first saw the comments on Not PC and sort of hoped he had it wrong.

The comments are of course a mistake. A politician should know not to repeat something they have been told (even if it was from the Police) if it is going to stereotype entire communities. The same thing applied for Lockwood’s comment pre-election. Like Melissa, he was repeating something that may (or may not) be true, but that doesn’t make it sensible to repeat.

And in this case, it is bizarre to say that a motorway will somehow affect crime numbers. I think criminals know how to use a bypass. I was tempted to joke on air that if it was that easy to prevent crime, we’d just build a motorway around the Hutt Valley 🙂

So a pretty bad blunder by Melissa, who should apologise to put the controversy behind her. It’s a real lesson about the difference between being a general election candidate and a by-election candidate.

There is also the issue of the video produced by her before the election, placed on You Tube. I haven’t covered that in detail yet because so far I can’t see anywhere what Melissa has done wrong – my stance will change if such details emerge. However mud sticks, and the timing of the video story and her comments last night mean that what was always an uphill battle, has just got quite a bit steeper.

However there is still a month to go.

UPDATE: Melissa has put out a statement of apology:

Melissa Lee today reiterated her apology for comments made at a public meeting on Wednesday night.

“I apologise unreservedly for the comments I made regarding South Auckland and the linkage that I drew between the planned Waterview extension and crime.”

“I was wrong to have implied that crime is solely a South Auckland problem, or that the new motorway would reduce crime.”

I sincerely regret my remarks.

Kudos to her for doing this, which allows the by-election focus to move back onto the real issues.

A NZ First voter

May 7th, 2009 at 8:33 am by David Farrar

I read this exchange in the Herald:

White-haired Mt Albert pharmacist David Baird met his first living, breathing politician yesterday – and gave her an earful.

“Hi, I’m Melissa Lee, National candidate for Mt Albert,” said the politician.

“Well you won’t be getting my vote because I don’t think we need any Asians in Parliament,” the pharmacist shot back tartly.

Or Jews. We don’t need any Jews either.

Korean-born Ms Lee, a former journalist who has been in New Zealand for 21 years, asked brightly, “Why not?”

Mr Baird said he had his reasons. “They are very difficult people to deal with. They don’t spend any money. I don’t see that they bring any money into the country. Another problem is their English is very bad.

Good on Melissa for not taking offence. Not sure I would have been as reasonable.

As I read this, I thought to myself that this guy sounds like a NZ First voter. And later on we read:

Mr Baird voted NZ First last year and has not decided whom to support in the June 13 byelection, caused by Helen Clark’s departure to the United Nations.

Will NZ First stand a candidate? If so, who will they take votes off?

And a Pakeha mother who declined to be named turned out to be as “red” as Mr Baird’s wife. Her simple verdict: “I’m going to vote for him – he’s the right colour.”

So is she voting Shearer because Labour is “red” or is she voting Shearer because he is white?

Lee selected for National

May 4th, 2009 at 9:27 pm by David Farrar

National’s selection panel of 60 members has selected Melissa Lee for the by-election. Congrats to Melissa.

The result is not a big surprise considering Melissa was ranked a very high 37 on the 2008 list, and Ravi was ranked No 65.

Tomorrow I’ll take a look at how the numbers for Mt Albert stack up.

UPDATE: For those who are stupid enough to believe the media story that a National Party conference had already listed Melissa as the candidate, Homepaddock has the actual facts:

But it’s the paper that’s got it wrong. I’ve got a copy of the official programme and it says:

Address by Mt Albert’s List MP Melissa Lee.

There is a big difference between being a candidate for an electorate and a List MP for an area.

National’s Mt Albert selection tonight

May 4th, 2009 at 11:49 am by David Farrar

National selects its candidate for the Mt Albert by-election tonight. On Friday the Herald had a useful article on it.

The National Party is embroiled in a backroom power struggle over its Mt Albert candidate, with the hierarchy’s favourite, Melissa Lee, trying to tip out grassroots toiler Ravi Musuku.

Ms Lee is a list MP and one of National’s new stars. Mr Musuku stood unsuccessfully against Helen Clark in the last two elections.

It’s a contested selection – not really a power struggle.

The hierarchy/grassroots divide is deepened by the selection process, with the 60-strong panel of party delegates made up of appointments from both sides. The panel will vote on Monday night.

A number of new local members have been ruled ineligible after they were signed up in a recent “recruitment drive”.

This is a deliberate feature of the rules, to stop selections being stacked. To vote at a selection meeting you have to have been a member for at least six months (off memory). So it is for those who have demonstrated some long-term commitment to the party.

The local electorate organisation’s proportion of the panel is based on the number of party members it has. National Party northern region chairman Alastair Bell decides the rest.

Also a design feature. If an electorate has 900 members (as many do) they select all 60 delegates at a ratio of 1 for 15 members. If they have less than that, then the Regional Chair (elected annually at the local regional conference) tops them up to 60. It is designed to stop very weak electorates being taken over by an individual and encourages electorates to increase membership.

Mr Bell would say only that he would be appointing a “fair number” of delegates to the panel. He had used his discretion to appoint some from outside Mt Albert, but most would be from within the electorate.

I understand over 80% are from within the electorate. It is common to have a few experienced members from neighbouring electorates get appointed. I’ve been a top up for various Wellington electorates from time to time.

I would be amazed if Melissa does not win. Her maiden speech to Parliament was superb, and she is a star for the future.

The real candidates?

May 2nd, 2009 at 8:45 am by David Farrar

Phil Goff, making a virtue out of necessity, has adopted the bloggers line of warning that as the other parties are putting up List MPs, someone on their list will enter Parliament if they win. And with the story that ACT will probably put up John Boscawen, this is very true.

So who will enter Parliament, if various List MPs contest and win the seat?

If National’s Melissa Lee is the candidate, then Cam Calder, No 58 on National’s list, becomes an MP. How it works is Melissa resigns as a List MP once she is the MT for Mt Albert, and this creates a list vacancy for National. Cam was an MP for a few days after the 2008 election but lost his seat when specials changed the final allocation. Calder stood for Manurewa and was a dental surgeon, but now is the clinicial director of a medical and sporting equipment company. Also Cam is a mad keen petanque player and actually sit on the executive committee of its global governing body.

If Russel Norman wins the seat for the Greens, then David Clendon, No 10 on the Greens list, becomes an MP. He actually lives in Mt Albert.

If John Boscawen wins the seat for ACT, then Hilary Calvert, No 6 on the ACT List, becomes an MP. Hilary lives in Dunedin and is a lawyer.

The race for Mt Albert

March 31st, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Ten people have lined up so far for the Mt Albert by-election – seven for Labour and three for National. The Labour seven are:

  1. Phil Twyford
  2. Louisa Wall
  3. Hamish McCracken
  4. Helen White
  5. Glenda Fryer
  6. Conor Roberts
  7. Meg Bates

Twyford has to be the favourite, so long as he can deal with what the Herald calls the “Tizard dilemma”.

Louisa Wall impressed me as an MP. Labour has a pretty bad record of selecting Maori candidates for winnable general seats, so this would be a chance to change that. However Wall did not go out of her way to curry favour with various party factions and they may not want to give her a seat for life.

Hamish McCracken has stood three or four times before and never been ranked above the 50s, which suggests he is not seen as being of the quality needed to have a safe seat. His EPMU background will help with the head offices votes though.

Helen White also has an EPMU background, and is politically quite experienced. Could do well.

Glenda Fryer. Has some profile from Auckland local body politics but I doubt a front runner for the seat.

Conor Roberts. Conor is one of those annoying people – annoying because absolutely everyone likes him! He may be seen as a bit too young for the seat, but on the other hand it has only had two MPs since 1947. Conor would do well on the campaign trail.

Meg Bates. Meg is the only Young Labour President I have not met, so can’t really comment in detail. She used to work for Helen, and Helen generally employed pretty smart people, so she could be another Jacinda Ardern potentially.

The Nats list is:

  1. Melissa Lee
  2. Ravi Musuku
  3. Mike Loftus

As membership is over 200 in their Mt Albert electorate, the selection will get decided by a selection panel of 60 delegates.

Labour’s selection is a panel of seven, made up of:

  • Three people appointed by the NZ Council, one of whom must be a woman
  • Two people elected by the LEC, one of whom must be a woman
  • One person elected at the selection meeting
  • One vote by ballot from those at the selection meeting

Lee for Mt Albert?

March 30th, 2009 at 7:36 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports that National List MP Melissa Lee may seek National’s nomination for Mt Albert.

25% of Mt Albert’s residents are Asian and 40% of the total population have lived here for less than five years.

If Lee was the candidate, and did win the seat, then her list spot would be taken up by Cam Calder, who was an MP for around two weeks after the election, before National lost a seat due to specials.

Melissa makes top 50

March 26th, 2009 at 9:44 am by David Farrar

I’m not sure Melissa Lee even knew she was a contestant but Newstalk ZB reports she has come in at No 50 (out of 100) in a Spanish newspaper Internet poll on the 100 most beautiful female politicians.

The Daily Mail has the full list. Sarah Palin gets 24 and Hillary Clinton 34. As a public service Kiwiblog brings you some of the top ten:


No 1 is Luciana Leon, a 30 year old Peruvian Congresswoman. She is a socialist but hey no one’sperfect.


No 3 , Sara Latife Ruiz Chavez is a 32 year congresswoman in Mexico. Her opponents attacked her last election for her ownership of a strip club.


No 4, Mara Carfagna is the 33 year old Italian Minister for Equal Opportunity. She has a law degree (with honours) and has in the past modelled nude.


No 5, Yuri Fujikawa is a 27 year old member of the Hachinohe city assembly.


No 6, Anna-Maria Galojan is a 26 year old with a Masters in international relations. She was President of the Estonian European Movement but was accussed of embezzling 40,000 Euros and spending it on clothes, jewelry, and a flash lifestyle. Anna-Maria is originally an Armenian and her interests include shooting.


Finally we feature No 7, Toireasa Ferris. The Irish lass is a 28 year old Sinn Fein politician who is on the Tralee Town Council and is standing for the European Parliament.

Still more MPs

January 27th, 2009 at 7:36 am by David Farrar

And still more:

Christchurch Central MP Brendon Burns called for liquor laws such as the drinking age to become matters of party policy, saying the traditional use of conscience votes to decide them should be a relic of the past.

The new Labour MP said the need for reform was clear from his own electorate, where even if the bars refused to serve intoxicated people and there was a liquor ban, alcohol was still easily available. Local police and health bodies had told him alcohol accounted for 70 per cent of weekend crime and injuries in Christchurch.

“Liquor legislation is difficult to get right. In part I think that is because it remains a conscience vote for members. As further liquor legislation looms in the time of this Parliament, I suggest it is timely for parties to consider whether such law changes should become matters of party policy.”

I respectfully disagree. I think more issues should be conscience votes, not less. I love conscience votes – you get true debate. MPs lobby each other, amendments are considered on their merits, you get great passionate speeches etc.

Before turning to politics, he worked for 12 years in the parliamentary press gallery, and said he was the first former gallery member to become an MP since Sir Frederick Doidge 70 years ago.

I didn’t know that.

Melissa Lee

Former journalist and presenter on Asia Down Under, which has been produced by her company for the past 13 years. Born in Korea, family moved to New Zealand in 1988.

Her parents instilled a strong work ethic in their children. As a cadet reporter at the Sunday News she would go to work at the family’s dairy until 11pm after finishing her day’s work. Mother of 10-year-old son.

I covered Melissa at the time of her maiden speech.

Steven Joyce

Started what is now the RadioWorks network in the 1980s with four friends, all putting in $100 for a Massey station. After 17 years CanWest bought them out for $6 million.

He comes from a long line of small business people. His parents both left school at 15 and “scrimped and borrowed” to buy a Four Square grocery store in New Plymouth.

Steven has been in charge of National’s last two campaigns, which saw National’s vote go from 21% to 45%. The first MP since Margaret Wilson to go straight into Cabinet.

National MPs lambasted for being too successful

January 5th, 2009 at 10:39 pm by David Farrar

Anita at Kiwipolitico writes:

In early December two new National MPs were welcomed as heralds of the new multi-ethnic National Party. The maiden speeches of Sam Lotu-Iiga and Melissa Lee were the perfect showcases of a new look party: ethnic heritage, community languages, younger faces, respect for the tangata whenua. Yet despite the effort National has put into the semblence, today’s party is no more more inclusive than it was under Brash or English, it’s just a little less out-dated in its conservatism.

Lotu-Iiga, with his Auckland Grammar schooling, his Cambridge MBA and his career in Finance and Law is not typical of New Zealand Samoans. Lee’s career as a TV journalist is far from the experience of most Asian immigrants. They are as unrepresentative of their communities as Key is of state house kids.

This is unbelievable.  Anita says while it is good they have achieved, it means they are not a sign of social inclusion, because they are now sucessful.

Sam was born in Samoa, grew up in South Auckland and went to Mangere Central Primary School. But hey that does not count towards social inclusion because he has dared to do well. Never mind he grew up with up to 16 people sharing a three bedroom house – he is not declared to be unrepresentative of his community.

Likewise Melissa Lee was born in Korea, grew up in Malaysia. To help support her family once they moved to NZ, she would work during the day as a reporter for Sunday News, and then work in the family dairy until 11 pm. But again she is declared unrepresentative of her community because she has done well.

I guess Anita saw Taito Philip Field as a better sign of social inclusion.

But more of a concern, is how many on the left might share this viewpoint – that no matter what your background is, if you do well, then you no longer represent “mainstream New Zealand”.

Praise for maiden speeches

December 10th, 2008 at 7:13 am by David Farrar

All_your_base at The Standard has a very generous post on the maiden speeches of Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Melissa Lee.

I’ve just watched the first part of the Address in Reply debate which included maiden speeches by two new National Party MPs – Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Melissa Lee. They were impressive. This in itself should provide some cause for concern for Labour but more ominous should be the signal that while this year’s election is over, National’s campaign for 2011 has already begun.

I doubt very much that Sam and Melissa’s names were drawn from a ballot.

They were not. It is a rare privilege to move and second the Address in Reply debate, and the honours normally go to two new MPs whom are judged by the party leadership as having bright futures ahead of them.

In their speeches both made much of the changing face of the National Party. If I heard her correctly, Ms Lee will be New Zealand’s first Korean MP and the first female Korean MP in the world outside of her mother country. Mr Lotu-Iiga scored a convincing victory in the previously Labour-held Maungakiekie electorate. Both MPs spoke confidently in english, in their native tongues, and in Maori. If Labour was ever becoming complacent about the continued traditional support of the nationwide ethnic community, the approach National took today should be a wake-up-call.

Both speeches were excellent. I blog some quotes below.

Finally, I may have missed something but it would have been nice to see even a few of the members of the Labour caucus cross the floor to congratulate the new National Party MPs as did those from other parties (including the Greens). You don’t have to like it, but for the time being you might just have to suck it up.

Yeah maiden speeches are generally a time to put party differences aside.

NZPA reports on parts of Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga’s speech:

Education, family and faith mean a lot to new National MP Sam Lotu-Iiga.

The Samoan-born MP was the first to give a maiden speech in the new Parliament which opened today.

He recalled a childhood in Mangere, where extended family at times swelled the numbers in the household to 16, and sacrifices his parents made.

“My parents suffered and endured a great deal just so us children could live better lives. We were not a wealthy family but we were rich in spirit, resourceful and determined to succeed in this country.”

While he thanked his wife Jules and family, several watching in the audience openly wept. His own voice broke when he talked about his late daughter who he was sure could hear his words. “I miss you and I love you.”

Sam’s family has had huge challenges this year.

Mr Lotu-Iiga said he was raised with strong family values, Christian principles and a strong work ethnic.

“I was taught at a young age that education was the key to a successful future.”

Educated at Auckland Grammar School Mr Lotu-Iiga went on to study at Auckland University to attain BCom/LLB and MCom(Hons) degrees. He also holds an MBA from Cambridge University (Queens College).

I’ll link to the full speech once I have it.

Melissa’s maiden speech was also very personal and moving:

It is with great honour that I deliver my maiden speech not only as the first MP of Korean descent in New Zealand, but also the first Woman of Korean descent to become an MP outside of Korea. It is indeed humbling. It is truly a sign that the world has come of age in a global sense. It’s also a step toward realizing our Prime Minister’s and the National Party’s vision, to make our parliament more diverse and truly representative of the population that now make up our country.

I am also very pleased to be giving my Maiden Speech in this House, at a time when New Zealand has chosen to say NO to a party, whose policy gained support from people who “dislike” people like me – simply because of my ethnic heritage. Call it irony or just a fortunate turn of events that with the exit of that party, comes the first minister of Asian origin in the Cabinet. New Zealand has come of age it seems by saying we have no room at this inn for racists. It is the dawning of a new era, and it is my privilege to be a part of it.

NZ First did run shocking campaigns targeting immigrants based on their race. I actually don’t think Peters himself was racist, but think he did set out to appeal to people who believed in a white only immigration policy, such as his Deputy Leader appeared to.

I pay homage to the tangata whenua … To all of the canoes that crossed the Pacific Ocean from Hawaiiki to New Zealand.

They paved the way, and they initiated a unity that has made us who we are today.. We are one people.

Like them, I too arrived on a waka in 1988.

The only difference was that my oars were replaced with wings and it travelled much faster than that of the ancestors.

But as I embraced New Zealand, it embraced me back, and nurtured me into what I have become.

Today I can honestly identify myself as being a New Zealander, and Aotearoa being my home..

I love the symbolism of a Korean born MP, speaking in Maori, to explain how she has become a New Zealander.

The full speech is over the break.


National announces two list only candidates

July 28th, 2008 at 3:05 pm by David Farrar

National has announced two of its list only candidates. They are Steven Joyce and Melissa Lee.

Steven will be a very popular choice – he played a key role in the 2005 campaign which lifted National’s vote by 18% or so, and is an incredibly capable and talented individual.  He is also the Chair of the 2008 Campaign Committee so this gives him an incentive to get a really good result!

Melissa Lee is a member of the APN Board of Directors. And no before the conspiracy theorists get excited, that is not APN Media but the Asia-Pacific Producers Network.  Ms Lee is the host of Asia Downunder and has 20 years of broadcastign and journalism experience.

Steven also has a background with broadcasting – In the late 80s he co-founded and then became CEO of what is now Radioworks NZ Limited, building it up over 14 years to a sharemarket capitalization in excess of $100 million.