Fran calls for Genter to replace Turei

January 31st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

If the Greens are intent on becoming a mainstream political party with sufficient cachet to be a credible Government partner they should persuade Metiria Turei to join Russel Norman in resigning. Norman’s resignation – announced with a great deal of dignity yesterday – has switched the focus to Turei. …

Turei’s personal brand is associated with oppositional politics.

Many centrist voters would vote for a true Greens platform if they were sure it wasn’t going to be accompanied by the resurfacing of Alliance-style policies. Arguably that won’t happen until the Greens elect a modern politician whose focus is square in the mainstream – like Julie Ann Genter – to a leadership role.

Genter has built a strong constituency in Auckland which is starting to transcend party lines. She’s a credible commentator on transport and could easily take a ministerial role in a future government if the Greens get serious about getting into power.

A Shaw and Genter co-leadership of the Greens would give them youth and energy, and allow them to build appeal outside their core hard left constituency.

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Metiria says Key’s views are warped, outrageous and deeply offensive

January 24th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei launched a stinging attack on John Key in his absence at Ratana today, saying his view of New Zealand’s history was “warped, outrageous and deeply offensive”.

I remind readers of the Green Party Values:

Engage respectfully, without personal attacks


Caption Contest

December 23rd, 2014 at 4:53 pm by David Farrar


Stuff has a gallery of some of the great photos their photographers have taken this year. Go check them out, but also I couldn’t resist borrowing this one (by David White) for a caption contest. As always go for funny, not nasty.

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Meet your twerking future Deputy Prime Minister

January 31st, 2014 at 4:49 pm by David Farrar



Playing the race card

January 31st, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff reports:

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei is accusing National Party MPs of “pure racism” after comments in Parliament about her home and clothing.

Pure racism? What did they say?

East Coast MP and Police Minister Anne Tolley said today that Turei, lived in a castle and wore designer clothes.

Speaking during the debate on the Prime Minister John Key’s opening statement to Parliament, Tolley said she was insulted by Green Party claims that she was out of touch.

She said said her role as an electorate MP included meetings with constituents who were among the poorest in the country.

“I’m actually insulted to be lectured about how out of touch I am with average New Zealand by a list MP who has no constituents, lives in a castle and comes to the House in $2000 designed jackets and tells me I’m out of touch,” Tolley said.

I don’t think Turei’s choices of clothes are relevant, and Tolley could have made her point without referring to them. But how in God’s name do you conclude that her comments are racist?

MPs often have a go at each other for their apparent wealth. We hear all the time about John Key having a holiday home in Hawaii, or David Cunliffe living in Herne Bay.  This may be petty, but it is not racist.

Asked about Tolley’s comments, Turei said racism was behind the attack.

“I’m shocked that the National Party would attack me and my home and my appearance. I think it is a racist attack,” she said.

Turei is playing the race card, as a defensive measure.

“I think they seem to think it is all right for them to wear perfectly good suits for their professional job but that a Maori woman from a working-class background is not entitled to do the same. I think it is pure racism.”

Ask how the attack was racist, Turei said she shopped at the same place some of her opponents did.

“They do not think that a professional Maori woman from a working-class background should be able to wear good suits to work,” she said.

Turei seems to be projecting, to put it mildly. They were attacking her for being sanctimonious, not Maori.

Turei said it was unfair to attack her home.

“MPs’ homes have always been outside of the acceptable realms of debate, and so this very personal, very explicit attack, I think, comes from their inability to cope with my work and the effectiveness of my work, and an inherent racism.”

Oh what nonsense. Opposition MPs rant and rave about John Key’s house all the time. Cunliffe’s house also comes in for mention on a regular basis. Neither of them claim it is racism.

Asked whether there was any irony in a Left-wing political leader wearing expensive clothing, she said: “Do you ask that question of David Cunliffe? Do you ask that question of any other political leader or any other politician?

Basically yes. People comment all the time that Cunliffe lives in an incredibly expensive house in a very expensive suburb. Now one can have a view as to whether that is relevant – but Turei is not alone in having jibes about the contrast between claiming to represent the down trodden and their lifestyle.  Also Winston Peters choice of expensive clothes have received lots of comments in the past.

“I’m simply not prepared to pander to that. This is a racist attack by National and I’m not prepared to pander to it.”

Tolley described Turei’s comments as “absolute nonsense”.

“The Greens’ co-leader is entitled to turn up in Parliament every day in expensive designer clothes, and good on her for doing just that,” Tolley said.

As I said, I don’t think what Turei wears is relevant. But Turei playing the race card as a defence is rather sad.

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Grandstanding Greens

October 23rd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has been criticised by fellow MPs for breaking ranks over the sensitive issue of MPs’ travel entitlements.

A bill to hand over the setting of many of the MPs’ perks and entitlement to the independent Remuneration Authority was back in Parliament for the first time yesterday after being changed by the select committee so the Speaker would retain control over domestic travel entitlements for MPs.

Ms Turei was on the select committee which agreed to the change unanimously, but yesterday put up an amendment to change it back so the Remuneration Authority did take over control – apparently ambushing the other parties who had been expecting a united front on the issue.

That is grandstanding. If you don’t agree with it, you do a minority report at select committee. But to vote for it at select committee, and then oppose it at the next stage is playing politics.

Speaking in Parliament, Labour’s Trevor Mallard criticised her for grandstanding, saying she voted in favour of the decision to keep domestic travel with the Speaker in the select committee.

“Having not given a peep in opposition, she was a lamb in the committee. For her to come to this House now with amendments attempting to reverse that is an indication of someone who is either not on top of their job, or is a political grandstander.”

Trevor is right on this one.

Mr Mallard’s colleague Ruth Dyson also voiced disappointment at Ms Turei’s decision to lodge the amendment, saying there had been unanimous agreement on it in the committee after extensive consideration.

Ms Turei said the Greens had made it clear they did not agree with the decision to allow the Speaker to keep control of travel, but supported the bill as a whole as it made progress toward ensuring MPs’ entitlements were decided more independently.

Bull. If that is the case, you do a minority report saying exactly that. They didn’t.

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Green MP says she shouldn’t save for a deposit on MPs salary

September 30th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei

Paid $214,000 for a three-bedroom wooden villa in Dunedin’s North East Valley in 2007.

She and her family left Auckland in 2002, partly because of the cost of housing on an MP’s salary.

She says there were good homes available in Dunedin for $140,000 to $180,000 when she was house hunting.

But her bank wouldn’t lend her less than $200,000 as she had no deposit and had to take out a 100 per cent mortgage.

You’re an MP on around $130,000 a year, and you claim you couldn’t save for a deposit.

Wait until they’re in Government and running the economy!

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Turei on house prices

September 15th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Sadly I was overseas last week and didn’t get to cover at the time the massive blunder by Metiria Turei on The Vote. It was so bad, that even before the episode went to air, she was on Firstline admitting she doesn’t know their own policy.

Extracts from what she said:

Garner: Would you like to see house prices fall in New Zealand, Metiria?

Turei: Well, yes actually. We would like to make sure that they are affordable. Oh – shocked look on your faces , how dare, how terrible if young families could actually afford to buy a home.

There is a big difference between saying prices should stop rising so rapidly, and saying we want to see house prices fall.

Garner: So, if house prices fall as you would like, you’d like the house prices to fall, that means that some families could have negative equity which could be an economic disaster for New Zealand!

Turei: Yes, that’s right that’s right so you have to be extremely careful….would you like to listen to an answer Duncan?

Garner: I think I heard enough!

Turei: So you have to make sure…

Peters: Hang on, hang on, hang on…

Turei: You have to make sure that if you’re going to change any of those, those economic levers you have to do it extremely carefully and over a long period of time and the first priority has to be building affordable homes – now those are homes…

And here Turei says she wants some home owners to have negative equity.

 “that means that those holding onto the wealth now will have to be prepared to let some of it go…”

And she went further and advocated that it would be good to have some home owners forced to sell their homes because the prices drop.

Won’t a Labour/Green Government be a lot of fun!

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Praise for Metiria

June 10th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Since I blogged on it weekend before last, there has been a lot of comment and criticism on Rachel Smalley of The Nation asking Hekia Parata if she is a bitch to work for, and “How Maori are you?”.  Rachel herself has said she didn’t write the questions, and felt a bit uncomfortable with them. Of course she could have refused and said I’m not going to ask any guest if they are a bitch, unless I can ask male guests if they are a prick.

Anyway Brian Edwards has blogged in defence of Smalley, and Green co-leader Metiria Turei has responded:

I dont believe that the question Rachel Smalley asked of Hekia Parata: “How Maori are you”? was in anyway appropriate. I have a huge amount of respect for Brian Edwards and have read his blog which justifies Rachel’s question on the basis that was relevant to “Parata’s childhood and upbringing in a Maori family and Maori community”; that it produced a revealing and relevant response; that she handled it well and hasn’t complained.

The last three justifications are meaningless. It makes no difference to the appropriateness of the question whether she answered well or not, whether she complained or not. As to whether it was relevant to Parata’s childhood, that issue was canvassed earlier in the interview and could have been discussed more without forcing Hekia to justify her identity.

Thats what I have a problem with: Hekia was required by the question to justify her identity. The criteria Hekia then applied to herself is the criteria Maori have been forced to use to justify ourselves for decades: blood (whakapapa), language and whanau. It is a question based on New Zealand’s assimilationist history, when the degree of a persons “Maoriness” led to more or less entitlement, when being judged as having abandoned our cultural practices and language, we were therefore more like Pakeha and so more acceptable.

It is a grotesque irony that these days Maori are asked that question so that their right to speak on Maori issues can be judged, mostly by Pakeha, as legitimate or not.

I don’t agree with most of the policies Metiria puts forward, but I do respect her for criticising TV3 for the interview, despite the fact the question was to a political rival. It’s nice to put principle ahead of politics.

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Now we know what the Greens mean by Green jobs!

April 12th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

Metiria Turei’s claim that Maori growing marijuana are developing entrepreneurial and horticultural skills has been slammed as “mind-blowingly ridiculous” by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

The Green Party co-leader made the comment on Maori TV’s Native Affairs programmethis week, but she has been cut down by Dunne, who branded the claim as “ridiculous” and “irresponsible in the extreme”.

In the show, Turei said growing the illegal drug helps develop “real skills” among Maori, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

This is what you have to look forward to if there is a change of government. I wonder if you will be able to apply for an entrepreneurial grant to help pay for your cannabis plantation?

He said her claims that growing cannabis could teach people much-needed skills, was akin to saying “a safe cracker is teaching his apprentice engineering skills”.

Peter Dunne is talking common sense on this. I actually support a change to our drug laws, but the last thing you want is MPs praising drug dealers as entrepreneurs.

However, Labour’s social development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said Turei’s comments highlighted the difficult situation many families find themselves in New Zealand.

Oh, Good God.

Incidentally the video clip used by TVNZ appears to be taken from the Whale Oil blog You Tube channel, without attribution!

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Trans-Tasman on Key and income inequality

August 30th, 2012 at 1:16 pm by David Farrar

Trans-tasman reports:

 John Key showed his mastery of the political process when, with one verbal swipe in Parliament, he demolished what appeared to be a promising line of attack by Opposition parties on his coalition’s social policies. Armed with a report on child poverty, Green co-leader Metiria Turei was demanding Key acknowledge inequality in NZ has increased to the highest it has ever been, and institute a universal child payment. Key’s response “let us run through the logic of what the member has said. She says we are an unequal society, because the rich are getting richer, and now she’s on her feet telling me to give the rich families even more for their kids. What a dopey idea that is!” Turei was left complaining “I am not thinking straight.”

This is the great mystery. The left call for less income inequality yet fight for universal rather than targeted government support.

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Major party leaders all support same sex marriage

May 11th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at the NZ Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key has followed US President Barack Obama and said he is not opposed to gay marriage – an apparent change in his stance. …

But yesterday, in a response to the AP news service after President Obama said gays should be allowed to wed, Mr Key said he was “not personally opposed to gay marriage” and it was possible Parliament would consider a member’s bill at some stage. …

Labour Party leader David Shearer said he fully supported marriage equality in principle but would like to see the detail of any legislation before giving it formal support. …

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said she would support same-sex marriage, as individuals and whanau had the right to choose for themselves whether to marry. …

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said she was pleased President Obama had taken a stand on what was a very difficult moral issue in America. …

She said the Green Party supported same-sex marriage in New Zealand and had argued for it when the Civil Union Bill was being passed.

I have to say I’m very proud to be a member of the National Party today, and also proud to be a New Zealander.

Leaders of four of the five largest parties in Parliament have all said they are not opposed to gay marriage. This is a good reflection on New Zealand. It also reflects our leaders being in touch with younger New Zealanders. On issues such as gay marriage, there is overwhelming support amongst younger people. Today we consider it incredible that 30 years ago people could be jailed for consensual sex among adults of the same sex. Likewise in 30 years time people will find it strange that there was once a time when a same sex couple couldn’t get married.

The National Party is a mixture of liberalism and conservatism, and overall is more conservative than liberal. Hence it is no small thing to have its leader, and the country’s prime minister, say he is not opposed to gay marriage.

Labour MP Louisa Wall, in a guest post at Whale Oil, says she is working on a bill to amend the Marriage Act. Once submitted to the ballot, it might not be drawn for years, but on the other hand it might get drawn the first time there is a ballot. So anyone’s guess when Parliament might consider this issue.

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The Greens view of business

February 11th, 2012 at 10:46 am by David Farrar

John Roughan writes at NZ Herald:

Then Hone Harawira and Greens co-leader Metiria Turei were called to the platform. Turei, declaring her background to be anarchism, said her concept of life was that we all lived in a cage with wild monsters trying to tear down the walls that protected us.

These monsters were corporate capitalism, she said, and she saw her job as trying to push out the walls of the cage and increase our living space. Weird.

Yes wild monsters are trying to eat our young and destroy us. They’re called businesses and are evil.

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Spot the MP

February 3rd, 2012 at 9:36 am by David Farrar

One fairly well known MP here, in her days as a LARPer or live action role playing gamers. In the many levels of nerdiness associated with gaming, the LARPers are the top of the pyramid :-)

Hat Tip: Whale

UPDATE: A commenter points out LARPing would be more popular if it was all like in this photo below.

Image located here.

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Turei on The Nation

June 11th, 2011 at 5:55 pm by David Farrar

I thought Metiria Turei handled her interview on The Nation very well – defending the Greens from Sue Bradford’s claims they have swing to the right (if only).

Turei used a line, which I have advocated in the past they should use, that they can work constructively with both National and Labour and regardless of who forms the Government, they’ll aim to make it a greener Government. It’s a good message which could well appeal to some swininging voters who may be saying they want John Key as Prime Minister but would like the Government to do more on environmental issues.

Again no one should think that if they have a choice, the Greens won’t install a Labour-led Government. They will, unless Labour totally alienate them.

But given the probability of at least a second term of a National-led Government, it is smart to portray yourselves as able to have influence, rather than just opposition.

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Rugby jersies in Parliament

June 7th, 2011 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour MP Clare Curran has been kicked out of Parliament for wearing a Highlanders Super Rugby jersey.

Curran appeared at Parliamentary questions this afternoon wearing the team’s old blue, gold and maroon kit in protest at the new lime green colour.

Speaker Lockwood Smith declared the jersey violated Parliament’s strict dress codes and ordered Curran to leave.

Labour colleague Trevor Mallard protested the decision.

I would have thought a rugby jersey was a pretty obvious “no” in terms of meeting the House dress code.

Personally I think the dress code should be relaxed so men do not have to have a tie and jacket, but even I would hestitate to suggest that rugby jersies should be acceptable in the House.

Her ejection from Parliament highlighted the lack of rules around what women should wear in the House, she said.

“I certainly never expected to be thrown out of the House for being a woman wearing a football shirt. I think it was an over reaction.”

She said she was surprised and would consider whether she would change and return to Parliament this afternoon.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei left the House with Curran.

Turei later tweeted saying it was an example of sexism in Parliament continuing. “Has Ross Robertson ever been scolded for his sports team scarves let alone kicked out? No”

I hate it when people cry sexism mindlessly.  And this is mindless.

I have absolutely no doubt that a male MP would be kicked out by Lockwood for wearing a rugby jersey in the House.

If anything, the rules are sexist against men. The dress code for men is far more proscriptive than for women MPs.

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Economic Stupidity

May 15th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Neil Reid at Sunday News reports:

RAISING the minimum wage would boost the economy and Government’s piggy bank, plus keep Kiwis from moving across the Tasman.

That’s the message Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has for Finance Minister Bill English ahead of Thursday’s 2011-12 Budget.

Turei wants the minimum wage lifted by $2 an hour from the current $13.

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would not only significantly improve their lives at a time when living costs are soaring, it would also generate up to $173 million per year for the Government at a time when the fiscal deficit is ballooning,” Turei told Sunday News.

The rise would immediately generate an extra $101m a year in increased PAYE taxes, she said. It would give 300,000 workers increased spending power, leading to a gain of about $72m annually from GST.

This argument is so economically illiterate, I don’t know where to start.

First of all if PAYE taxes  go up $101m a year, then the company tax will drop by more than that. Let’s say those 300,000 workers are around 150,000 full time equivalents. If their pay goes up from $13/hr to $15/hr, they will gain $4,160 each before tax, or $624m in total.

At 17.5%, this will lead to an increased PAYE tax take of $109m – close to the $101m quoted.

But the employers will have had their profits drop by $624m, and they pay 30% tax on that. So that is $187m less tax paid in company tax.

So Turei’s argument is just nonsense. She has deliberately ignored the impact on company tax.

Beyond the direct fiscal costs, there are also flow on effects such as job losses. Youth unemployment would continue to skyrocket if you made it illegal to hire a 16 year old for less than $15 an hour.

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The next Governor-General

August 17th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key is about to consider who the next Governor-General will be. And the word is he may buck the recent trend of appointing a former judge and opt for someone more unorthodox to the role.

Some of the names being tossed around by observers include Sir Don McKinnon, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast and arts patron Dame Jenny Gibbs.

Philanthropist and recently named Distinguished Citizen of Auckland Rosie Horton said one person stood head and shoulders above others.

“Sir Don McKinnon. He has had an outstanding and highly revered international life and done a stunning job at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and he’s just a very fine New Zealander that we can all be proud of. And he’s come back to New Zealand.

On a personal level, Sir Don would be well suited for the role and would perform it well. However I maintain that former MPs should not be appointed to the job, regardless of how meritorious their post-parliamentary life.  The GG should be non-partisan.

“[Philanthropist and arts patron] Dame Jenny Gibbs is also marvellous, very clever and gracious to meet and such a marvellous role model.”

Dame Jenny is an interesting possibility.

Property investor Sir Robert Jones said the Governor-General should be a New Zealander who was not a token appointment.

He said Kerry Prendergast would “be wonderful at the job”.

Heh I presume this means he is not standing a Mayoral candidate against her. While there would be precedent fer Kerry to be given the job, as Cath Tizard was, I still maintain that Kerry’s national party background makes her a sub-optimal appointment. Again, nothing to do with her personal qualities, but that the GG should not be a political figure.

Asked about Maori academic Sir Mason Durie, Sir Robert said he would be “very tokenistic”, and former Labour Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer would be “most unsuitable”.

I can’t see it going to a former Labour PM.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei would support a female representative of ethnic groups, but insisted she was not throwing her own hat into the ring.

I am surprised Metiria only insisted that the GG be ethnic and female. She forget to include the additional criteria of being left handed and disabled.

She said former Rugby World Cup Ambassador Andy Haden “might not be the best option”.

Can agree on that one.

The appointment is the Prime Minister’s alone. He can consult whom he wants, or no one at all.

Which is why I think the effective head of state should be (at a minimum) appointed by Parliament, not by the PM solely.

If Mr Key decided that another judge should live in Government House, then Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias could be a candidate, though husband Hugh Fletcher might be a more popular choice.

There is no way the Chief Justice will give up that job to become Governor-General.

Sir Kenneth Keith, who is serving on the International Court of Justice, may be less controversial than either of them.

Sir Kenneth would be a fine choice in my opinion.

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Do the Greens want 60 Maori seats?

April 6th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

On Facebook there is a group called Maori 60. It’s description is:

Maori should be equal partners with settlers in the NZ government. There are now 120 MPs. Maori should control 60 seats.

The most prominent member of Maori 60 is Green co-leader Metiria Turei.

That is some heavweight support, to have a party leader join your group.

I wonder how many Green Party voters know that their co-leader does not support a democracy where all votes are roughly equal, but where 15% of the population should have 50% of the seats, and the other 85% have the other 50%. That make a vote from someone with Maori ancestry six times more powerful than a vote from someone who does not have the right relatives.

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Trevor lashes back at Metiria

January 29th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard hits back at Metiria Turei after she highlighted how he had unfriended her on Facebook:

Last night Metiria Turei used my status to attack Labour. Of all things it was on our record on the minimum wage – probably one of the best areas of progress the last government – but the subject doesn’t matter.

As I said above I’m new to facebook.  I regard my page like my home. I chose who is there. While there are lots of discussions initiated by constituents I decide whether they run or not. But the idea of politicians using the comments section of my status to attack me just doesn’t seem right.

Good God. If you are an MP and you use your Facebook page to try and score political points, it is rather precious to then ban people because they disagree with you. Let alone the co-leader of your own remaining friendly party.

Metiria herself is an avid user of social media and on Twitter (for example) people often disagree with her on an issue. She normally responds constructively, and all is fine.

ps   I found Rod Donald and Sue Bradford good to work with (and Jeanette but only for a short time) – so its not a green allergy.

Ouch that makes it worse. He is saying it is personal with Metiria. And consider his earlier comment:

Not much real help from you guys esp since Russel started cuddling tories.

So Trevor is slagging off not one but both co-leaders of the Greens. Way to go.

I really wonder if Phil Goff is in control of his own caucus.

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Trevor unfriends Metiria

January 28th, 2010 at 5:17 pm by David Farrar

Metiria Turia blogs:

Trevor Mallard defriended me on Facebook last night and I have to tell you the story. He also defriended another person for asking the same questions I did. Not terribly sporting, I would have thought.

Metiria’s sin was to point out the gap between Labour’s rhetoric on the minimum wage and their record.

And Trevor got so annoyed he unfriended her!! Seriously – just like a teenager does when they are in a huff.

I love Labour’s strategy for making friends and influencing people.

First Shane Jones insults a priest at Ratana, and them declares war against the Maori Party.

And now Trevor Mallard defriends on Facebook the co-leader of the Green Party.

What next? Will Annette King call Jim Anderton a authoritarian tyrant, to get rid of their one remaining friend?

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The worst behaved in Parliament list

December 23rd, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

United Future leader Peter Dunne has given up on his annual list of worst-behaved MPs, saying Speaker Lockwood Smith’s reign has ushered in a new era of dignity and propriety.

To be fair, I think the absence of Winston helps also. But the House has been a far less toxic place this year.

Mr Dunne did honour Labour’s Trevor Mallard with a lifetime achievement award in bad behaviour “for services to melodrama, fisticuffs, and generally aberrant behaviour”.

When Lockwood orders him to apologise, you can actually see the supressed rage in his eyes!!

The Herald does find a few insults though:

Labour’s Moana Mackey apologised for referring to Hekia Parata as “Lady Parata” and “her royal highness”. National’s Paul Quinn was pulled up for calling Labour’s backbench “monkeys”.

I’d rather be called Lady Parata than a monkey I have to say – well if I was a female Parata that is!

Some apologies:

For saying of Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee, “the notion of him and energy is a mathematical impossibility”.

For claiming another “fiddled the books” in ACC and Housing; for wishing the Speaker would use a 90-day eviction order on Trevor Mallard.


For North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams’ “madness”, for calling Trevor Mallard “the angry one”.

Isn’t truth a defence?

For claiming Green MP Metiria Turei thought Phil Goff was “racist”. She had said his speech was “the worst kind of politics”.

So worse than racism?

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Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill submissions

November 17th, 2009 at 4:45 pm by David Farrar

You can make a submission until 10 December on the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill.

The bill is generally excellent – it merges the Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Office, and allows the Commission to give advice on the legality of propose ads etc.

The one change I would like is to the method of appointment of the Electoral Commissioners. The current bill provides for the Minister to (effectively) appoint them after consulting with other parties. I would like to see the appointments either made by Parliament directly, or for the consultation requirement to be made an agreement requirement.

The reason is that different Ministers interpret a consultation requirement in different ways. I know in the 1990s that National consulted Helen Clark as Opposition Leader on some appointments and actually withdrew proposed nominees after Clark objected.

But when Margaret Wilson was Attorney-General, she was terrible. Her idea of consultation was to send a letter out Friday notifying the name of the person she proposes to have Cabinet appoint on Monday.

I was hoping some MPs would touch on this issue in the first reading, and they did:

Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) : The Labour Opposition will be supporting the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill. I thank the Minister of Justice for the consultative process that has surrounded this bill. He has properly engaged with Labour, as, indeed, I am sure he has with other parties in this House in the preparation of this bill. As a consequence of that, Labour members are happy to support it in its reference to a select committee. Initially, the Electoral Commission, which is a new body set up by this bill and not the current Electoral Commission, was to include the Secretary for Justice as a member. Labour and, I understand, some other parties said that would not be right. Of course, the Secretary for Justice is the head of a Government department, so it would not be appropriate for that office holder to hold a role on the new Electoral Commission. The Minister agreed with that, so the commission will now be fully independent, and we agree that that is appropriate.

This is an example of good consultation. Simon Power had feedback from other parties, and modified the proposal. My concern is not about Simon as Minister of Justice failing to act on consultations. He won’t be Minister for ever, and my concern is some future Minister will act like Margaret Wilson and ignore any objections from consultation. That is why I think it should requirement agreement, not consultation.

I think there is still a question as to how the commission should be appointed. I have heard some people suggest that the commission ought to be appointed by Parliament, rather than by the Minister as part of the Government. I think that some people may submit on that issue to the select committee. We in Labour would be interested to hear from submitters and be informed by them on that matter.

I’m glad David Parker raised the issue, and hope that Labour will agree to a change – despite the fact they will be Government again one day.

The need for independence is even greater now, with the Chief Electoral Officer being one of the three Commissioners, as the CEO is the key individual who actually runs the election, and declares the result.

Previously the CEO was within the Ministry of Justice. So the State Services Commissioner appointed the Secretary of Justice and the Secretary of Justice appointed the CEO. While I don’t particularly like it being witin the Ministry of Justice, it did make it hard for a Minister to put in someone inappropriate.

Now though the Minister can appoint the Chief Electoral Officer directly. That is too great a power I submit.

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) : I do not intend to take a long call on the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill. The Green Party will support its first reading to get it before the select committee. We look forward to submissions by the public on the bill. …

When the National Government consulted the Greens on the proposal, we suggested from the outset that an Officer of Parliament – type body should be established, that it would be preferable to ensure that the new agency is absolutely and fully independent of the Government, and does not report to a Minister. The Officer of Parliament model is used here in Aotearoa with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, for example. It is also used in Canada for their electoral organisation and management. It places the oversight of the body with Parliament, as opposed to a ministry of the Government managed by one particular political interest. It reinforces its role to oversee and enable free and fair elections, which is a core concern of the House of Representatives and of Parliament. Certainly an Officer of Parliament model would be perceived by the public as more truly independent and would have more ability to comment on how the electoral process is operating, because it would not report to a particular Minister in the executive.

I agree with Metiria that the Commission is most suitable to be an Officer of Parliament. If this change is not practical in the short-term, than a fallback option is to at least require the Minister to gain agreement, not just consultation, with a super-majority of parties on appointments.


There is also the police, and I will speak a little bit about their function, because the police are the enforcement body as far as our electoral law is concerned.

Although Labour supports this bill being read a first time, we believe that the bill does not address the issue of the enforcement machinery when there is a breach of electoral law. I suggest that that might be something the select committee looks at. The problem that the police always have, of course, is that electoral offences never go to the top of the queue. The police will always be concerned with crimes against the person, and with dealing particularly with violent crime. They will never be able to prioritise electoral matters, nor will they necessarily have the forensic expertise to do so. These days those questions require skills in dealing with tracking donations and financial disclosures, and so on, which call for quite sophisticated levels of skill that are probably more properly found in organisations like the Serious Fraud Office rather than the police. It might well be that with the forensic skills that are required, it would be useful to think about having an enforcement function under this new independent Crown entity rather than the police being responsible for that function, if we are truly interested in bringing all the functions together in an expert body that has the resources and the time to deal with the questions before it.

I agree with Charles that the Police do not see electoral breaches as a priority and it would be better with the Commission. However that is not so much an issue for this bill, but more for the bill which will come out of the Govt’s electoral finance review.

The final point I make is that if one has a look at the explanatory note, one sees that one of the options canvassed was to have an Officer of Parliament for this function. Personally, I think that would have been the most compelling option to go for. The explanatory note suggests there was not enough time to get that sort of apparatus going before the next election. But if we really want a truly independent body, charged with the conduct of elections in an honest and serious way, then, given the conduct of our other Officers of Parliament, in whom we have enormous faith, then that seems to me to be the best way to go.


What has been nice is that all the Opposition praised Simon Power for his consultation with them over the bill. It is great to see the merger happening after years and years of no action, and electoral law should be an area of bipartisanship as much as possible – it is too important to be treated as a bauble of office, as some sort of winner takes all prize.

I hope other people take the time to do a submission. If you don’t, then no complaining if you wake up one day in the future to read that Winston Peters has been appointed as an Electoral Commissioner :-)

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More on Greens over-charging

October 5th, 2009 at 5:50 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

The Greens have paid back $6000 wrongly claimed for accommodation allowances after discovering they had been double-dipping for two MPs sharing a house.

Co-leader Metiria Turei said the error was uncovered in June during an annual assessment of the property’s market rent after MP Catherine Delahunty moved into the house with Jeanette Fitzsimons.

“She and Jeanette each continued to claim the rent that Jeanette had claimed alone from February till May.”

The money was paid back last week, though Ms Turei conceded it should have been handed over in June when the overcharging was discovered.

Why on earth did it take until late September to pay it back, when the error was discovered in late June? Did the Greens notify the Parliamentary Service in June of the double dipping or did they just start charging less?

If the Greens had paid the money back in June, and in June put out a press release saying they had accidentally over-charged, then this would have been a very minor story. But by not paying the money back until TVNZ started asking questions some months later, and not living up to their self-proclaimed transparency standards, they have scored a real own goal.

The fund was set up in 1998 by former co-leader Rod Donald to take advantage of Parliament’s rules.

These allow an out-of-Wellington MP to qualify for an allowance, even if they own or have an interest in the property. They can claim for rent or interest costs (but not principal) on a mortgage to a maximum of $24,000 a year.

Opponents have criticised the Greens’ arrangement, saying while it is within the rules it allows them to claim full market rent, even if the mortgage interest is much less.

Yes. It is a legal rort. Now the Greens will not be alone doing it that way. I am sure other MPs have. But the rules should be changed so MPs do not have a direct or indirect interest in any property they rent. You can not be landlord and tenant in my book.

But Ms Turei said the rents were set below market value, and she was confident that in the past the Greens had always charged less than market rent.

But that is not the issue. The issue is that by vesting the property in their super fund, they are maximising the amount they could claim.

And while of course any rental payments are set at what some valuer says is the market rent, it is very advantageous to have a guaranteed tenant for ever, willing to pay whatever the valuer says should be paid (up to $24K a year per person), rather than actually having to find tenants, have periods of vacancy, use a property management company etc etc.

Ms Turei said the Greens’ setup was not a “rort”. But the system should be reviewed, including whether MPs should be able to personally benefit from an allowance, as they had for decades.

A rort is hard to define. But it is a situation where vesting the property in the super fund, has allowed them to claim far more money.

“When I first got into Parliament MPs from other parties told me that is the first thing I should do – buy a flat in Wellington – because the [mortgage] interest would be paid.”

Yes, but the Greens have gone even beyond that – as they get to claim full rental, not just covering the interest on a mortgage.

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Q+A exposes Greens housing scheme

October 4th, 2009 at 2:51 pm by David Farrar

Delighted to see, after I have been blogging on the issue for some time, that TVNZ started asking questions about the scheme where the Greens vest property in their superannuation fund, so they can claim rent from themselves.

It turns out to be even worse than I suspected. Not only are they doing this, they were charging $1,000 a week for a modest house in Thorndon, and secretly paid the money back.

First the transcript from Q+A:

GUYON Okay in the last section of this interview I want to talk about one of the roles that the Green Party has had in politics this year, which is the greater transparency around MPs’ expenses, and I want to look at the way that you manage your own accommodation.  Now you have the Green Futures super fund, your own super fund, it owns two properties it rents to three MPs in Wellington.  Now they take about $48,000 a year to live in those homes owned by the Green Party, and they plough that money back into your own super fund.  Now do you think that the average worker would think that that was a fair use of taxpayers’ money?

METIRIA Well look there’s four issues that need to be understood here.  First, the super trust has been going now for 12 years, has been approved by Parliamentary Services and by the Speaker, and has been transparent.  Second, MPs have to live somewhere, some MPs buy flats in Wellington and then claim housing allowance for those flats, the super fund, the super trust has been consistently seeking, asking rents that are below market value.

The arrangements were at first within the rules (but as Bill found out that does not count for a lot!), but they were not transparent – we have only found out today what happened secretly.

Secondly Turei is not quite correct when she says an MP can buy a flat and claim a housing allowance for it. If the MP owns the flat directly, they can only claim the cost of interest on a mortgage. But by vesting it in their super fund, they get to claim a much higher market rental.

Finally, as we leant, they were literally double dipping by having two MPs charge close to the maximum for the same place – well above market rental.

GUYON Well let me pick you up on that point about market value.

METIRIA Earlier this year we did – those went out of whack, between February and March of 2009 one of the houses, MPs were claiming over the market value, we fixed that valuation in June to make sure they’re only being asked to pay under market value, and last week we refunded that over claim.  So we made a mistake and we fixed it.

GUYON So you have refunded Parliamentary Services.  So you’ve become a second party to refund.  Let me talk viewers through this because they won’t know about it, and let’s look at this Wellington home where Jeanette Fitzsimons and Catherine Delahunty live, now it’s a fairly modest house, but over a four month period from February to May this year, those two MPs paid a thousand dollars a week in rent out of taxpayers’ money to live there, nearly double the market rate.  Now that’s a rip-off pure and simple isn’t it?

METIRIA We made a mistake, we’re not happy about it, we fixed the rent in June to make sure that they were paying under market value from that point on, and we have refunded the money, I mean I agree mistakes are – you know they’re not a good look…

I would love to know who made the mistake, and who discovered it and put ir right. Surely they knew you can’t have two MPs living at the same place both charging almost $500 a week in rent?

The residence in question is in Thorndon and is valued at around $510,000. It is a three bedroom residence taking up 99 square metres. Hardly the sort of place you could think is worth $1,000 a week.

GUYON Well let’s look at this mistake though because there is a certain degree of cynicism about this.  On June 1st when you took over as leader you said we’re throwing open our expenses to the public, we’re going to be open about this, what you didn’t tell us is that behind the scenes you were doing a market valuation on this property and you found out that you were actually charging the taxpayer double, you didn’t tell us that, then you came out and released  your expenses and it’s only become public because we started asking questions this week, I mean you’re no better than anyone else.

METIRIA I was not aware of the market valuation at the time that we …

GUYON Well why wasn’t a market valuation done in the first place?

METIRIA We did, we do them every year.

GUYON But this is the problem with these cosy arrangement isn’t it because you are your own landlord so no one really cares what the market value, muggings the taxpayer picks up the bill.

This is why I have consistently advocated that MPs should not own directly or indirectly any property they claim rent for as a tenant. You can not be landlord and tenant. It has been legal to do so up until now, but I think the rules should change.

METIRIA That is why we released our expenses before any other party did, don’t forget we did this off our own back, we released those expenses, we’ve got out of whack with the rent, and we’ve refunded.

GUYON How much?

METIRIA It’s about six thousand dollars.  About six thousand dollars we refunded.

GUYON To Parliamentary Services?

METIRIA To Parliamentary Services.

GUYON Where was the press release on that?

METIRIA We made sure – well that’s why I’m telling  you now, on national television so you’ve got the information, and so the whole public have got the information.

You’re telling because Guyon asked the right questions.

GUYON But you wouldn’t have if we hadn’t started asking questions would you, that’s the thing.

METIRIA We made a mistake, we acknowledged that mistake, we fixed it, we fixed the mistake and we’ve refunded the money, and you’re quite right to raise it, and the public quite rightly has a right to know which is why we’re telling you about it today.

GUYON It was cynical though wasn’t it, because you didn’t tell people that behind the scenes you were tidying up your own arrangements before you laundered them, and made sure that they were actually legitimate before you released them, you never told us about that.

METIRIA I can understand that you want this to be kind of you know a big story and I understand why that’s the case…

GUYON No it’s a question because you have been telling other MPs and other political parties that you’re the moral compass of parliament, yet you’ve been ripping the taxpayer off.

METIRIA But the fact is that we made a mistake, we’ve fixed the mistake, and we’ve refunded the money, we made a mistake, we fixed the mistake and we refunded it, in 12 years that’s not too bad.  The public has known about our super trust for all of that time and we’ve made information about it public, and so we’re quite happy to be open about the process that we’ve done, which is we make a mistake, we fixed the mistake, and we’ve refunded the money.

The Greens have been open (and kudos for that) about the existence of the fund, but have never detailed publicly exactly how much money they make from its own MPs living in the property they own.

You see the issue is not just the over-charging of rent. It comes back to them using the super fund as a way to maximise the amount they can claim. Let me demonstrate.

The Super Fund gets $24,000 a year rent (that is the maximum) plus the Fund gets $26,200 as the taxpayer contribution to the super, and $10,480 as the MP contribution. That means they have a total of $60,680. It was somewhat less in 2001when the property was purchased, but the comparison is still valid. I understand the cost was around $300,000.

Not over the last eight years the average interest rate has been 8.5%. This means that in the first year there would be $25,500 of interest on the property and $60,680 of repayments (if all goes into the mortgage) which reduce the principal by $35,000 or so.

This results in the mortgage being paid off after around seven years, so the MP gets left with a mortgage free property (now worth $500,000) and ongoing rental income of $24,000 a year.

If the Greens had not vested the property in their super fund, but registered it under their own MPs names, they could only claim interest on the mortgage.

Now in the first year this is $25,500 so they would claim the same – $24,000 maximum. But in the second year the interest would be just $22,500 and then $19,300 and this is all they would have been able to claim as rent.

Over the eight years they have owned the property they would have only been able to claim rent of $116,000 instead of $192,000.

They have a second property they currently rent to themselves, so that is the potential advantage per property above.

So there are really three issues here:

  1. The fact the Greens were charging almost $1,000 a week for a property whose market rental value was $540 or so a week (and we do not yet know how this happened, and who blew the whistle)
  2. The secret repayments, despite claiming they were setting the model for transparency
  3. The appropriateness of using the super fund to maximise the amount that can be claimed from the taxpayer

Again I don’t think any MP should have an interest in a home they rent out to themselves. Either just pay them all flat allowances (as Ministers will soon get) or require them to have no direct or indirect interest in the property.

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