And Tau makes 15

April 8th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

National MP Tau Henare has announced his retirement from politics on Twitter.

The veteran MP announced he will retire at the election.

The 53-year-old former Maori Affairs Minister made the announcement via Twitter this morning, saying: “Well, I’m on my way to caucus to inform my colleagues of the @NZNationalParty that I intend to retire at the upcoming General Election.”

Henare was first elected to Parliament in 1993 elections for New Zealand First in the former Northern Maori electorate.

He is currently chair of the Maori Affairs select committee and a member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee.

I knew Tau when he was the NZ First Maori Affairs Minister. Not too many Ministers would be sitting in their office with some of their staff having a sing-along with a guitar. Tau was actually an effective Minister, and I’ve always been a bit disappointed he never got a chance to be a Minister again.

“I could have put my name in to be nominated but at the end of the day [15 years] is a good haul for a fella like me.

15 years is a good spell. Some in other parties seem to think 33 years isn’t enough! I’ll miss not having Tau around – lots of fun, and he was also a key MP in getting votes for Louisa Wall’s marriage bill from the Nats.

He would be the 15th National MP to retire at or before the election, with the most high profile among those resignations being Health Minister Tony Ryall.

Hopefully lots of new faces in caucus after the election. So far the quality of candidates selected has been good, but many more to go.

Matthew Beveridge has a collection of tweets from colleagues across the House wishing Tau well.

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Providing a legal and sought after service

April 5th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

A fiercely anti-abortion lobby group is putting pressure on the National Party not to select an experienced doctor whose job has involved authorising and performing abortions.

Right to Life said the potential selection of medical practitioner Rosemary Fenwicke as a candidate in Wellington Central “would have serious consequences for the National Party at the forthcoming election”.

Abortion is legal in this country, and regardless of one’s personal views on it, I don’t see any issue with a candidate being a doctor who has performed a legal service that women have requested.

Right to Life spokesman Ken Orr said: “The National Party would be most unwise to nominate Dr Fenwicke for the Wellington Central electorate or any other electorate, or even for a place on the National Party list.

“Those in our community who defend a culture of life would be deeply concerned should Dr Fenwicke be nominated as a candidate for Parliament.”

He claimed that she supported abortions at any time during pregnancy “for any reason, or for no reason”.

I don’t believe that to be true. Can Orr provide a quote?

Dr Fenwicke has previously been the target of conservative MPs who unsuccessfully tried to prevent her from being elected to the Abortion Supervisory Committee in 2007.

Independent MP Gordon Copeland argued at the time that her appointment was a conflict of interest because in her roles as a consultant and surgeon she had power to both authorise and perform abortions.

The committee’s latest report in December showed abortion rates were at their lowest in 20 years.

The Wellington Central seat has been held by Labour since 1999. Labour MP Grant Robertson won it in 2011 with a 6376-vote majority over National’s candidate Paul Foster-Bell.

Mr Foster-Bell – who entered Parliament on the list in April – is seeking the nomination to represent National in Whangarei.

I can’t comment on who may seek that National nomination for Wellington Central as it is during the period when names can’t be revealed. But what I will say is that I don’t think someone’s day job should be a reason for people not to vote for them. Their views on political issues is a quite valid consideration, but I don’t think their job is.

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Pacific church ministers switching to National

April 2nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Labour’s master strategy is to get 250,000 extra voters in South Auckland and elsewhere voting for them. I’m not sure how their strategy will fare in light of this story at Stuff:

A small group of influential Pacific Island clergy have sparked fierce debate in South Auckland after they declared they would switch their support from the traditional Labour Party to the National Party.

That is basically unheard of.

The action, taken at the Manurewa flea market on Sunday, is under fire on Pacific Island social media.

The ministers involved have been criticised for not consulting their parishes.

The move has also sparked another meeting next Sunday when, under the auspices of a Samoan Catholic Church, 23 churches will meet to discuss political parties and Christian values.

It’s not an issue for me, or most people, but they may have noticed that not only is Labour’s caucus already over-represented with LGBT MPs, they’ve selected a further four LGBT candidates and inevitably Taurima also. There has always been a tension between their socially liberal activists and some of their more conservative supporters.

A Seventh Day Adventist minister, Teleiai Edwin Puni, said he and five other Seventh Day Adventist ministers – all recognised in the Pacific community – met National MP Cam Calder on Sunday.

“If we are to defend our Christian values and build a brighter future for New Zealand families, we need to engage our Pacific people and vote National,” Puni said.

Cam Calder converts South Auckland to National – well done Cam! :-)

Fundamentalist pastor Sooalo Setu Mu’a said they had been supporting Labour.

“To change from wearing red to blue is not an easy thing for our Pacific communities who have been voting Labour over the years.”

No party can take any group of supporters for granted.

National has two excellent Pacific Island MPs – Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Alfred Ngaro. I suspect their hard work may also be a factor in some Pacific voters reconsidering their traditional allegiances.

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Another National candidate who has achieved stuff in the private sector

March 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

National announced:

The National Party has announced Lewis Holden will be its candidate for the Rimutaka electorate at the 2014 general election. 

“We’re extremely fortunate to have a candidate of Lewis’s calibre standing for the Rimutaka seat”, says Lower North Island Regional Chair Malcolm Plimmer. 

“Lewis has proven himself a strong advocate with exceptional promise, and I look forward to working with him to run a strong campaign for Rimutaka

I know Lewis very well, and he’ll be a great candidate and hopefully MP.

Lewis is only 29, but he’s already spent eight years working in the private sector for a variety of technology companies. He’s been an account executive for IBM, Spectrum Consulting, Ingram Micro and currently Oracle. He’s also run his own web development company for four years.

Still a lot of selections to go. Labour still has 32 selections to complete and National has 28 to go.

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Muller declares for Bay of Plenty

March 14th, 2014 at 9:44 am by David Farrar

Todd Muller has announced:

Muller to run for National Party BOP candidacy

Todd Muller, one of the Bay of Plenty’s most seasoned agribusiness leaders, today confirmed he is putting his name forward to contest the selection to be the next Bay of Plenty candidate for the New Zealand National Party.  Todd is currently a senior executive at Fonterra Co-operative Group.

“I am keen to return home to the Bay where I grew up, worked, married, had our family and my parents have lived for more than forty years.  With the support of local party members I know we can make a difference for all those living in the Bay of Plenty and continue the extraordinary contribution of Tony Ryall ” he says.

The Bay of Plenty offers so much, our rich natural resources, together with the talents of the people backed by the National Government’s investment in local infrastructure makes us a successful regional growth story”.

“But like all growth regions, the Bay of Plenty needs a strong and assured voice at the decision making table to meet its ongoing economic and social needs.”

Todd has a long history in the Bay of Plenty having completed his schooling there, held senior executive roles at ZESPRI and as CEO of Apata.  In the last three years, he has worked at Fonterra, most recently as Group Director, Co-operative Affairs, reporting to the Chief Executive.

Todd has been active in the National Party for over 25 years and has held positions at branch, regional and national level as well as working for Prime Minister Jim Bolger during the National Government of the 1990s.

Todd is 45, married to Michelle, and they have three children.

I’ve known Todd for around 20 years, from when he was President of the Waikato Students Union, and in the Young Nationals.

At the risk of cursing Todd, many have thought he will be Prime Minister one day. He has a great record of achievement.

In his early days, he would often get to introduce the party leader at regional conferences, and Todd would almost get a bigger standing ovation than the leader! Despite this one leader hired him, and Jim Bolger was a huge fan of Todd’s. Todd would often make the mistake of admitting he had no plans on for a particular weekend, and Mr Bolger would drag him up to the King Country for the weekend to drive around the electorate with him. Todd also had the rare ability to survive extended whisky sessions, yet still be up at 6 am!

Todd’s career post Parliament has been no less stellar.  He became a senior manager at Zespri in his early 30s and then Chief Executive of Apata, which provides post-harvest services to growers. Apata is a medium sized business with turnover around $30 million.

After Apata he went to Fonterra, and has shot up the ranks to the executive leadership team, being promoted after just 18 months to report directly to the CEO. It’s fair to say he’d be taking a massive pay drop if he becomes an MP.

Obviously Todd is not the only candidate for the Bay of Plenty nomination, but I’ll be amazed if he doesn’t win – especially as he grew up in the Bay of Plenty,got married there, and spent much of his working life there. If National can get people like Todd into their caucus, their rejuvenation while in Government programme will be very successful.


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Maori MPs and candidates

March 10th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

National has had two hotly contested selections this weekend for National held seats. Shane Reti won Whangarei and Wayne Walford won Napier. As it happens they are both Maori. No quotas involved. No racial equivalent of a man ban. No head office deciding. All decisions made by 60+ local members and delegates.

National already has nine Maori MPs. They may have 11 after the election. And unlike some other parties, they select Maori MPs in winnable general seats such as Waitakere, Tauranga, Northland, Botany and also now Whangarei and Napier.

Is it perhaps not time for us agree that we no longer need the Maori seats to get Maori MPs into Parliament. There are other reasons you can advocate there should be Maori seats, but in recent years there’s been a great track record of Maori candidates being selected for winnable general seats.

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Walford wins Napier

March 8th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Wayne Walford has won the selection to be National’s candidate for Napier, replacing Chris Tremain. The current majority is 3,701.

Walford is a former CEO of the Waikato Chamber of Commerce. He is currently a business mentor and trainer, and has an MBA from Waikato.

He was also National’s Tauranga Campaign Manager in 2005 that saw Winston Peters lose his hold on Tauranga. We thank him!

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Reti wins Whangarei

March 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Dr Shane Reti will be the National Party’s candidate in the safe Whangarei electorate at this year’s general election.

Dr Reti was selected by a meeting of local party members in Whangarei tonight.

“National is taking nothing for granted in Whangarei. Dr Reti has strong links to this electorate and I’m extremely glad the party has selected a candidate of his calibre to contest the seat,” said Northern Regional Chair Alan Towers.

Dr Reti’s candidacy follows a career in the health sector which has taken him around the world from New Zealand to the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Middle East.

Congratulations to Dr Reti. Whangarei was won in 2011 by Phil Heatley by 12,447 vote majority. Heatley got 59.2% and Labour Party principal Pat Newman got 22.4%. Dr Reti will become an MP.

A previous Herald profile states:

He worked in general practice in Whangarei for 17 years, and was a member of the Northland District Health Board for seven years, before being awarded a Harkness Fellowship to Harvard, in 2007. …

In April this year Dr Reti was called on by the NZ Embassy in Boston to visit the city’s hospitals with NZ Honorary Consul Simon Leeming, to see if any of the dead or injured from the Boston Marathon terror blast were New Zealanders or Australians.

Dr Reti said he was to the right of centre in his political leanings, believing in strong fiscal responsibility. “But I also believe in a social safety net, so that makes me egalitarian. I also believe in reward for hard work, which makes me centre right,” he said.

Dr Reti has been awarded the QSM and appears to be both a doctor and a (provisionally registered) chartered accountant. He also has a Masters in Management from Harvard.

It seems he is also a cousin to runner Alison Roe.  TV3 has a blog from him written on the day of the Boston Marathon bombngs.

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Dowie for Invercargill

March 1st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

National has announced:

The National Party has announced local legal professional Sarah Dowie will be its candidate for the Invercargill seat at the 2014 general election.

Ms Dowie was endorsed by a meeting of local party members in Invercargill tonight.

“National is taking nothing for granted in Invercargill this year, and the selection of a candidate of Sarah’s calibre reflects that,” says National’s Southern Region Chair, Ele Ludemann. 

Eric Roy won it in 2011 with a 6,263 majority so it is comfortable, but not absolutely safe. Eric got 55% of the candidate vote and National got 50% of the party vote.

Sarah Dowie is an Invercargill-based solicitor. As the daughter of two police officers, justice and law and order issues are part of her DNA.

After graduating from Otago University and being admitted to the Bar in 1998, Sarah established a successful career practicing commercial and environmental law.

39-years-old, Sarah lives in Invercargill with husband Mark Billcliff and their two pre-school children. Mark is a former first class cricketer and Southland representative, who now gives back by coaching local youth.

Sarah is an appointee to the Otago-Southland Lotteries Board. Instinctively community-minded, she also provides free legal services to community groups.

She is a former manager for the Department of Conservation in its tourism and concession wing and is now a trustee and Deputy Chair of the Dog Island Motu Piu Conservation Trust, which is working to eradicate pests on the island and restore it as a viable habitat for tuatara.

It’s good to see candidates of Sarah’s calibre get selected. She’s had a successful professional career and is very involved in the community.

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Ryall retires completing the biggest ever rejuvenation for National

February 27th, 2014 at 9:39 am by David Farrar

Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced he will retire at the election, which makes him the 14th National MP elected in 2011 to announce their retirement (three have already left).

Tony is doing a Simon Power and getting out on top. His management of the health portfolio in both opposition and government has been legendary. MPs used to see being given health as a political death wish, and a sign their leader wanted them damaged. Tony not only asked for it, but has almost entirely removed it as a gaping wound that haunts governments.

Labour had scores and scores of well meaning goals, almost none of which were ever achieved. Ryall implemented half a dozen clear targets for the health sector, and we’ve seen real progress made towards them. Some of the targets are:

  • 95% of ED patients dealt with within 6 hours – at 94% (up from 87%)
  • An extra 4,000 election surgeries a year – at 105% of target
  • Cancer treatment to start within four weeks – - at 100% (was 65% in 2008)
  • 90% of infants immunised – at 91%

If National gets a third term, deciding who to make Health Minister will be a challenge. Every week there are a dozen issues that could become front page stories if not handled well.  Paula Bennett could be a sound choice. Jo Goodhew is a sound Associate but she is not yet in Cabinet.

So the 14 retirements since 2011 are:

  1. Lockwood Smith, List (gone)
  2. Jackie Blue, List (gone)
  3. Katrina Shanks, List (gone)
  4. Chris Tremain (Napier)
  5. Eric Roy (Invercargill)
  6. Tony Ryall (Bay of Plenty)
  7. Kate Wilkinson (Waimakariri)
  8. Phil Heatley (Whangarei)
  9. Chris Auchinvole (List)
  10. Paul Hutchison (Hunua)
  11. John Hayes (Wairarapa)
  12. Colin King (Kaikoura)
  13. Cam Calder (List)
  14. Shane Ardern (Taranaki – King Country)

I blogged in March 2011 on the importance of rejuvenation in a party’s second term if it wants a third and/or fourth. I said:

But if re-elected, some Ministers should give careful consideration (in my opinion) to retiring in 2014. Not because they are doing a bad job. Not because they are not valued. But because you don’t win if you don’t rejuvenate.

The actions of both Power and Mapp in retiring long before they were due to be pushed, should serve as an example to others.

It’s also an example some Labour MPs could follow.

This really puts the heat on Labour. I predict Cunliffe will say this is rats deserting a sinking ship, but that’s ridiculous. National is averaging in the high 40s in the polls and has real momentum at the moment. Many of the retiring MPs have safe seats. The contrast with Labour is stark where MPs who entered in the 1980s are still hanging on for dear life.

So congrats to Tony for taking the decision to get out on top, even it means I lose a Wednesday morning walking companion! I’m sure his family are looking forward to getting to spend more time with him after the election.

It also opens up the Bay of Plenty seat for a new MP. It is a very safe seat, so should attract some high calibre candidates.

As far as I know this is the last retirement to be announced. So the focus will now go on candidate selections and list ranking in the lead up to the election.

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Why drugs and column writing do not mix

January 25th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong has written a column where he speculates National would agree to Winston Peters becoming Prime Minister, after the election.

John is normally one of NZ’s best political analysts and writers.

I can only conclude that when he wrote this, his colleagues slipped him some synthetic cannabis as an experiment in what happens if you write columns while stoned.

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Absolutely brilliant!

January 23rd, 2014 at 11:52 am by David Farrar

I absolutely love the announcements made today by the Prime Minister around education. There are a lot of things that I have to fund as a taxpayer that I resent. But paying top teachers and top principals more is not one of them. The international research is crystal clear that the biggest single factor in a child’s educational sucess is the quality of their teacher. Rewarding top principals and teachers with new roles that can pay between $10,000 and $50,000 more in an excellent investment.

The details announced by the PM are:

So today I am announcing four new roles for principals and teachers in New Zealand schools, and investing an extra $359 million into teaching and school leadership over the next four years.

These are changes that will benefit kids across New Zealand, because high-quality teaching leads to better achievement at school.

The first new role is an Executive Principal.

Executive Principals will be the top principals from across the country.

They will provide leadership across communities of schools, supporting other principals to raise student achievement.

We envisage there will be around 250 Executive Principals, or about one for every 10 schools, on average.

An Executive Principal will remain in charge of their own school but be released for two days a week to work across a grouping of schools, which will include primary and secondary schools.

Executive Principals will have a proven track record in raising achievement and they will pass on their knowledge and expertise to other principals.

They will be appointed by an external panel, for up to four years. Executive Principals will be paid an annual allowance of $40,000 on top of their existing salary, and they will be judged on their results.

So that’s the first new role.

The second is a similar sort of position, again working across a group of schools, but at the teacher level.

These teachers we are calling Expert Teachers, and we intend to establish around 1,000 of these new positions.

Expert Teachers will have a proven track record in raising the performance of their students, particularly in maths, science, technology and literacy.

Expert Teachers will be based in their usual school, but will be released for two days a week to work across their school grouping, under the guidance of their Executive Principal.

They will get alongside other teachers, working with them to develop and improve classroom practice and raise student achievement.

Executive Principals will oversee the appointment of Expert Teachers and the appointment will be for up to four years. They will be paid an annual allowance of $20,000 on top of their usual salary.

Executive Principals and Expert Teachers will drive a whole new level of collaboration between schools and between teachers, with best practice becoming widespread across school communities.

The third new role we are going to introduce is for the top teachers in schools.

We want the best teachers to be recognised for improving student achievement and to act, in a formal sense, as role models for other teachers.

So we are going to introduce a new role – a Lead Teacher. There will be around 5,000 Lead Teacher positions across the country.

Lead Teachers will be high-performing teachers who can demonstrate the best classroom practice.

Their classrooms will be open to other teachers almost all the time, so teachers can observe and discuss classroom practice with a model professional.

Lead Teachers will be paid an annual allowance of $10,000 on top of their existing salary. That allowance is in recognition of their status and their new responsibility in helping other teachers to raise achievement.

These new roles of Expert Teachers and Lead Teachers means more good teachers will stay in a teaching role, because they can see a career path that keeps them in the classroom where they are so effective. And that has huge benefits for the children they teach.

We are going to give extra funding to schools so teachers can take time out of their normal classroom to work with Expert Teachers and Lead Teachers.

And we are also going to establish a $10 million fund for schools and teachers to develop and research effective teaching practice in areas such as writing, maths, science and digital literacy.

The final change I want to announce today is that we are also going to better match up schools that are really struggling, with really excellent principals.

To do this we are going to establish a new role of Change Principal.

Change Principals will be top principals who are paid an additional allowance of $50,000 a year to go to a struggling school and turn it around.

Around 20 Change Principals will be appointed each year, for up to five years.

At the moment, the incentive is for principals to go to larger schools, where the salary is higher, rather than to schools that are the most challenging.

We are going to change that.

So those are the four new roles we are creating – Executive Principals, Change Principals, Expert Teachers and Lead Teachers.

So that is $10,000 more for 5,000 Lead Teachers, $20,000 more for 1,000 Expert Teachers, $40,000 more for 250 Executive Principals and $50,000 more for 20 Change Principals – and most of them having a focus on not just helping their school, but helping their neighbouring schools also.

What is great is good teachers can earn more just by being good at their job, without having to move from the classroom into administration.

I’ve been waiting almost decades for a Government to do something like this, and reward top teachers with more pay. It should both lead to better recruitment and retention, but also should lead to teaching being seen as just as professional and important a vocation to go into, as medicine and law. The NZ Initiative reports on education nightlight how important it is to have teaching seen as an esteemed profession.

Some of the international research around the importance of teacher quality is:

The 2009 report by the international McKinsey agency, shows that over three years, learning with a high performing teacher rather than a low performing teacher can make a 53-percentage point difference for two students who start at the same achievement level.

There is also a quote from Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education and Skills for the OECD, January 2014 about the proposed changes.

 “Top school systems pay attention to how they select and train their staff, they watch how they improve the performance of teachers who are struggling and how to structure teachers’ pay and career. They provide intelligent pathways for teachers to grow in their careers with an environment in which teachers work together to frame good practice.

“The reforms now being introduced (in New Zealand), with real career paths, support and evaluation, and recognition including monetary rewards, hold the promise for New Zealand to join that group of countries.”

 I hope all stakeholders in the education sector will welcome this investment. They’d be mad not to.

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The case for minority government

January 21st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged last Friday my view that John Key and National should rule out a coalition or confidence and supply agreement in 2014 with Winston Peters, as they did in 2008 and 2011.

It goes without saying that I hope NZ First won’t make it back in 2014 (even though some of their MPs are good MPs, their leader is the problem), or if they do they will not hold the balance of power.

But what if they do make it back, and they do hold the balance of power. Does that automatically mean they must support a Labour/Green (and maybe Mana) Government if National has ruled out a deal with them?


They can do so of course. In fact nothing at all can stop them from putting Labour and the Greens into Government, should they wish to. They have the constitutional right to do as they wish.

But there is an alternative. That is National as the largest party forms a minority government, and it continues to govern while it can pass confidence and supply votes in the House. This would mean NZ First abstaining (or possibly voting in favour).

You see one does not need to have a formal deal, where you swap policies or ministerial portfolios in exchange for confidence and supply. In countries such as Canada, minority governments form most of the time without a formal agreement on the basis the largest party should get a chance to govern.  You don’t need a formal agreement. You just need to be able to pass confidence votes in the House and get supply for the Government.

Now a minority government would need to of course negotiate with NZ First and/or other parties in Parliament in order to pass laws, but that happens already. For every law National at present only has 59 votes and has to get one or more parties to vote with them in order to pass a law. When they can’t, the law fails or is amended to be acceptable.

National would also need the House to vote for the Government’s Budget, or we would have an election. I would expect that a minority National Government would negotiate with parties on what they would like in the Budget, in order to get support. The Government may not agree to everything asked for, and that party would have to decide whether to force an early election or not. Doing so could risk an electoral backlash.

The advantage to National of minority government is that you would not need to have National and NZ First pretending they agree with each other on most issues, and that any criticisms between the parties would not be fighting within the Government, but just what you normally expect in Parliament.

And what are the advantages to NZ First? Also considerable. They get to be the deciding vote on most legislation, have a real chance of getting significant policy gains, but don’t run the risk of being in a third term government. They also retain the ability to differentiate from National. And as they have the ability to bring the Government down at any time, or put Labour into power, everyone would be very nice to them!

Now it is arguable that a minority government with no signed confidence and supply agreements could be unstable, and not last full term. That is true. But even having a formal agreement is no guarantee – as we found out in 1998 when the coalition split apart and dissolved between National and NZ First.

So as I said on Friday, I think Key should rule Peters out again. If we get an election result where say National again has 59 seats and Labour can’t govern without the Greens, then Key should offer to form a minority government. Peters may decide to go with Labour in return for some baubles but I am unsure he could stomach putting the Greens into power. Instead he may allow National to form a minority government, but he’ll be in a position to be the deciding vote on almost every law that comes before Parliament.

So what Key could announce (I have no idea what he will) is that National could work in Government with ACT, United Future, Maori Party and/or the Conservatives. After that, he would not entertain a formal confidence and supply agreement, but would be willing to to run a minority Government if any other party in Parliament were willing to abstain to allow that to happen.

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Hayes retires

January 18th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

Wairarapa MP John Hayes is to step down at the next election, bringing to 10 the number of National MPs who have said they will go.

It is understood he has told Prime Minister John Key and has also written to his supporters in the electorate.

Mr Hayes, 65, was first elected MP for Wairarapa in 2005. That followed a career as an agricultural economist and then as a diplomat, including a stint as New Zealand’s ambassador to Iran and Pakistan.

Before becoming an MP, he was best known for his part in the Bougainville peace process. He was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of that work.

He served as private secretary under former Labour trade minister Mike Moore and is currently parliamentary private secretary and chairman of the foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee.

John has also been a parliamentary private secretary to Murray McCully and often travels on his behalf, especially in the Pacific. He’s been very effective in that role. I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy John’s hospitality on occasion, and he is a very genial host.

This now brings the number of retirements for National since the last election to 13. They are:

  1. Shane Ardern, TKC
  2. Chris Aunchinvole, List
  3. Jackie Blue, List (already gone)
  4. Cam Calder, List
  5. Phil Heatley, Whangarei
  6. Paul Hutchison, Hunua
  7. Colin King, Kaikoura (challenged)
  8. Eric Roy, Invercargill
  9. Katrina Shanks, List (already gone)
  10. Lockwood Smith, List (already gone)
  11. Chris Tremain, Napier
  12. Kate Wilkinson, Waimakariri
  13. John Hayes, Wairarapa

Meanwhile Labour marches towards the 2014 election with their 1980s MPs!

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Why John Key should rule Winston Peters out again

January 17th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

In 2008 and 2011 John Key ruled out a coalition or confidence and supply deal with Winston Peters. I believe he should do the same again for 2014.

I say this aware that it means that if NZ First hold the balance of power, it will probably mean that they put Labour/Greens into Government. I think that would be a terrible thing for New Zealand in the short-term, but it will be worse for National in the long-term if they do do a deal with Winston.

Many people say you should never advocate opposition over government. You enter politics to get into Government, so you can implement the policies you think will be best for New Zealand. Jim Anderton once said that the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition. He had a point.

However I still think that refusing to do a deal with Winston is the best way to be in government long-term.

Let’s look at the two major possibilities if Peters does hold the balance of power. National does a deal with him, or we get a Labour/Green/NZ First (and maybe Mana) Government.

If National does a deal with him, they get a third term. That’s great, but does anyone think it will be a Government that can achieve much? Does anyone think that Peters will be committed to making the Government a success, rather than humiliating Key. It is well known Peters wants utu on Key, and the two ways to achieve that is either to sack him, or make him subservient to you. I think subservience is worse than sacking.

A third term Government is tough at the best of time, let alone with Peters in it. Can anyone see National having a chance of a fourth term? No. The reality is that National will probably lose office with a vote share down in the mid 30s. NZ First will probably fall apart again, or dip below 5% as being in Government has never worked for them before. So what you’ll face is National in opposition, with no potential coalition partners and needing over 45% to get back into Government. That means probably nine years of opposition. You don’t go from say 34% to 46% in one term.

But now let us look at the alternative. Say National gets 44%, Labour 32%, Greens 11% and NZ First 5%.

NZ First has the balance of power, and as National won’t cut a deal with them, they put a Labour/Greens/NZ First and maybe Mana Government into power.

Now that Government is going to be bad for New Zealand. They’ll effectively nationalise the energy sector, set up state owned building companies, insurance companies, hike taxes, drive up debt, and put spending back onto an unsustainable path. But there is also a very good chance that government will be very unstable. Peters and Turei and Norman in the same Government will be full of loathing. Peters has boasted he has never put the Greens into power, and doesn’t intend to. However he’ll have no choice but to back them if National won’t deal with him, and hence we’ll get a Government that will not do well.

National will be in opposition yes, but they will enter opposition on 44%, not 34%. They’ll only need to pick up 3% to get back into Government. If a Labour/Greens/NZ First Government doesn’t shed at least 3% after a term, I’d be amazed. In fact, they may not even last a full term. So yes National will go into opposition, but only for one term, not three.

So its a tough call John Key has to make. One can argue that for NZ’s sake, he should do whatever he can to stop Labour/Greens gaining power in 2014. But I argue that it would be in National’s long-term interest not to do a deal, as being in Government with Winston will be just too damaging. NZ First without Winston would be fine to deal with, but I don’t see any significant possibility of a third term with him in Government being conducive to good Government.

So my hope is that Winston isn’t the last cab off the rank, but he isn’t on the rank at all.

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Roy retires

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

Stuff reports:

Two decades after he was first elected to Parliament, MP Eric Roy has announced he will not stand for re-election at the end of this year.

First elected in 1993, Mr Roy said he had been humbled and privileged to serve Southland.

“People put their trust in you every three years to represent their views and voices, in a way that has been my humble driver,” he said.

He was first elected to Parliament in 1993, as MP for Awarua When seat was dissolved forthe 1996 election he became a National Party list member, , serving electorates in the lower South Island.

In 2002 he contested the Invercargill seat, but was narrowly beaten by Labour’s Mark Peck.

Mr Peck announced he would not stand for re-election after his second term. , and with 49.51 per cent of the vote, Mr Roy was elected Invercargill MP, a position he has maintained for three terms.

He said politics was always in his blood and being an agent of change was just how he was “wired”.

“But in politics you have to remember one thing: you will agree with about 80 per cent of anything, 10 per cent you can be persuaded on and 10 per cent you don’t agree with – that’s the basic rule when you are in any party, otherwise you will stand for nothing,” he said.

Eric is one of the nicest and funniest guys around. He’s the current Deputy Speaker and has the respect of MPs across the House for his work in that role.

The rejuvenation trend continues for National with this announcements. Retirements since the election have included:

  1. Shane Ardern, TKC
  2. Chris Aunchinvole, List
  3. Jackie Blue, List (already gone)
  4. Cam Calder, List
  5. Phil Heatley, Whangarei
  6. Paul Hutchison, Hunua
  7. Colin King, Kaikoura (challenged)
  8. Eric Roy, Invercargill
  9. Katrina Shanks, List (already gone)
  10. Lockwood Smith, List (already gone)
  11. Chris Tremain, Napier
  12. Kate Wilkinson, Waimakariri

National needs rejuvenation to increase its chances for future elections. There is still one more possible announcement I would say, and also one more electorate challenge to be decided.

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Armstrong on good year end for National

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

John Armstrong at NZ Herald writes:

National’s opponents have long worked on the assumption that John Key’s Government – like all Administrations – will inevitably be ground down and worn out by the failings which destroy all Governments ultimately – namely the accumulation of mistakes, embarrassments, duplicity, expedience, arrogance and (the real killer) the feeling that from the Prime Minister down the Administration is no longer listening.

Things reach a tipping point where a clear majority of voters deem a Government has reached its use-by date. At that point it is as good as being all over. There is no way back.

Labour and its allies have seen their task as one of hastening that decline and ultimate fall. Because Key is the embodiment of National’s ongoing success, Labour has devoted considerable effort to pinning the blame on him when things go wrong or look dodgy.

In order to ping Key, Labour has become far too consumed by the minutiae of day-to-day political conflict which largely passes most people by.

Unfortunately for Labour, the Prime Minister – assisted by poll data – has an instinctive and almost always accurate ability to diagnose what is really unnerving voters amid which issues he must tackle and those he can safely afford to ignore.

Labour need to pick one or two issues that really matter to people and relentlessly push those issues. Instead they run around after the headline of the day.

It means ensuring that in their portfolio work, Cabinet ministers are almost always on the side of majority public opinion.

Be it the number of non-urgent operations carried out by hospitals, the crime rate, prodding welfare beneficiaries back to work or building new roads to unclog Auckland’s traffic – things which really do matter to people – Key and National devote considerable attention, effort and resources to getting it right.

As long as National continues to focus on such fundamentals, all the huffing and puffing provoked by matters like Key’s handling of legislation covering the security agencies pale into relative insignificance as far as many voters are concerned.

Such things are treated as the flotsam and jetsam of political life.

Key has been helped by David Cunliffe seeking to reassert Labour’s dominance of the centre-left since taking over his party’s leadership.

Labour seems to be doing well at picking votes up off the Greens. Less so, off National.

In his speeches, Cunliffe likes to say a Labour Government he leads will not be afraid to use the powers of the state to intervene where a market fails. Well, someone else got there first.

His name is John Key. His sacrifice of his party’s ideology to cut a deal with Twentieth-Century Fox to ensure the further Avatar movies are filmed in New Zealand illustrated Key’s willingness to undercut Labour and leave that party punching at air.

The following day’s fiscal update also offered Labour little to complain about given its rosy growth forecasts and confirmation National remained on track for Budget surplus by mid-2015 – something which will give National huge cachet with voters.

The clincher came on Thursday. The Treasury’s growth forecasts have frequently turned out to be little more than mirages. Not so the latest official gross domestic product figures which had economic growth hitting a giddy 3.5 per cent in the September year.

Strong economic growth and a return to surplus will make an excellent base for re-election.

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A successful challenge in Kaikoura

December 19th, 2013 at 9:47 am by David Farrar

Commiserations to Colin King and congratulations to Stuart Smith who won the Kaikoura nomination for National earlier this week. Kaikoura is a large electorate and you have to look after both the Marlborough area but also a lot of North Canterbury.

It’s very tough being an incumbent MP, and losing a selection battle. However it is also a useful reminder that National’s electorate selections are incredibly democratic. All 60 delegates were elected by local branches. Not a single one was appointed by Head Office or even the Region. A world of difference from Labour’s selection where the head office get around half the votes, and affiliated unions can stack the selection meeting with people who have never joined the Labour Party.

Colin has been a diligent MP for his electorate and a loyal National Party MP.  Stuart is a former head of the New Zealand Winegrowers Association and almost inevitably will become the MP for Kaikoura.


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Hooton on rejuvenation

December 14th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Matthew Hooton writes in NBR:

In Mr Key’s cabinet, only Mr McCully entered Parliament before the 1990s. A quarter of his cabinet – Mr Joyce, Mr Bridges, Ms Kaye, Hekia Parata and Amy Adams – is from the class of 2008. Treaty of Waitangi and international trade specialists Chris Finlayson and Tim Groser have only been around since 2005. The same is true of Welfare Minister Paula Bennett and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman.

Of today’s cabinet, only Bill English, Tony Ryall, Nick Smith and Mr McCully were part of the National government of the 1990s and the first three only towards the end. Of them, only Mr McCully was a genuine supporter of the Bolger/Richardson regime. One of the most important factors in Mr Key’s success is that his government was genuinely new and it has kept renewing over its five years.

In contrast, two of the top performers in David Cunliffe’s opposition, Phil Goff and Annette King, were ministers in the Lange/Palmer/Moore government of the 1980s. Ruth Dyson was party president during that era, and Maryan Street in the early 1990s. Mr Cunliffe and his deputy David Parker were two of Helen Clark’s favourite ministers, while Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern were on her staff. Party strategist Trevor Mallard first became an MP in 1984, before even Mr McCully. The only confirmed Labour retirement for next year is its racing spokesman, Ross Robertson.

Labour is still very dominated by the past.

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Shanks to retire in January

December 10th, 2013 at 10:55 am by David Farrar

Katrina Shanks has announced:

Katrina Shanks, National List MP based in Ohariu, announced today that she will not be  returning to Parliament in 2014.

“I have decided to take up other opportunities in 2014 and have accepted the role as chief executive of the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand,” Katrina Shanks said.

“The funeral services sector is facing change – legislative, demographic, and societal, and the association and its members need to be in front of this change. I look forward to the opportunities and challenges the sector has to face.

Very pleased for Katrina that she has found an executive role. And she’s in an industry that is recession proof :-)

Her place in Parliament will be offered to the No 64 on National’s list – Joanne Hayes.

Jo’s election bio was:

Joanne was born and raised in the farming sector and is of Maori and Scots descent. Married to Pat a farmer, they have raised two sons who have now left home. 

Graduating from Massey University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science degree, Joanne returned to extramural studies in 2007 studying towards a Master’s in Business Administration. 

Joanne has worked in a number of industries that include; education, local government, health and social services yet it is her 11 year tenure in the health sector at both NGO and DHB levels that she is most proud of while adding social services and health auditing to her set of executive management expertise. 

She stood in Dunedin South in 2011, and while she did not win the safe Labour seat, National won the party vote by an unprecedented 5%.

Hayes has confirmed she will become an MP, after Paul Quinn declined again.

Incidentially with Williams and Hayes both replacing non-Maori MPs, the number of MPs in Parliament of Maori descent is a record 25 out of 121, or 21% of Parliament. That is a significant over-representation. The makeup of the Maori MPs in Parliament is:

  • Maori seats 7
  • General seats 6
  • List seats 12

Very very hard to claim you need the Maori seats to continue, to maintain effective Maori representation in Parliament.

The breakdown of the 25 Maori MPs is also interesting:

  • National 9
  • Labour 7
  • Greens 3
  • Maori 3
  • NZ First 1
  • Mana 1
  • Independent 1
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More renewal for National

December 3rd, 2013 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Taranaki-King Country MP Shane Ardern has announced he will retire from politics at the next election.

Ardern, who once drove a tractor up Parliament’s steps, said after 16 years it was time to retire in order to spend more time with his family and return to full time work on his farm.

“Family and farming is where my heart lies.”

Ardern said it had been a “privilege” to serve his electorate, saying he entered politics because he was passionate about representing rural New Zealanders and ensuring they had a voice in Wellington.

“As Chair of the Primary Production Select Committee, Chair of National’s agriculture caucus, and through my work on a number of other select committees, I have worked on policies that have helped drive New Zealand’s economic recovery,” he said.

“These have assisted our farming communities and the towns and businesses that rely so heavily on the success of our primary industries.”

Ardern was first elected in a by-election in 1998.

I have fond memories of going up to Taranaki for a few days and campaigning in Stratford for Shane during the by-election. Sadly one of the roads I was given to door knock was the one with the nurses’ residences for the local hospital – which was closing. Didn’t get the best responses, but was a fun campaign.

Shane has been a great advocate for rural New Zealand, and will be interesting to see who comes forward to contest the seat.

This brings the number of announced National retirements to eight – Chris Tremain, Chris Auchinvole, Kate Wilkinson, Katrina Shanks, Paul Hutchison, Phil Heatley, Cam Calder and now Shane Ardern.  While each individual departure is sad, the opportunity for National to rejuvenate is significant. The contrast to Labour is significant as their MPs who entered in the 1980s refuse to leave.

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November 9th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

Nowhere else does the word rejuvenation strike such fear into the heart as in politics.

There is a “for whom the bells toll” quality to the word, which to politicians is synonymous with less-comforting terminology like purge, dead wood and old guard.

Rejuvenation of political parties rarely happens without a word in the ear, blood on the floor and a row of colleagues lined up behind your back ready to plunge the knife in.

The fact then that National has managed to retire seven of its MPs so far, with more rumoured to be on the way, and with not even a hint of a backbench revolt, is a truly remarkable feat.

It is – both for the party leadership, but also for the individual MPs who are quite selflessly putting party interests ahead of their own.

But of course the main value is internal – the injection of fresh blood is a breath of fresh air through a caucus, and encourages fresh talent to join up. It also ensures a Government does not become blind to its weaknesses.

David Cunliffe can only watch and weep.

His backing among the rank and file was as much grounded in a belief that he represented a new generation over Labour’s old guard, as it was in the direction he would take the party.

But the likes of Trevor Mallard and Phil Goff have planted their stake in the ground in Hutt South and Mt Roskill respectively.

Their determination to dig their heels in has very little to do with clinging on to the perks of office and everything to do with the fight for the control of Labour which continues to rumble on beneath the surface.

The lack of MPs rushing for the door is as good an indication as any that the hope of seeing off his leadership has not yet died among the caucus rump that bitterly opposed Cunliffe.

They’re going nowhere.

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Two more National MPs retire

November 7th, 2013 at 2:05 pm by David Farrar

Waimakariri MP Kate Wilkinson and Ohariu based List MP Katrina Shanks have both announced today they will retire from Parliament at the next election.

Kate deserves our thanks for taking Waimakariri off Clayton Cosgrove, and hopefully her successor can keep it. She also did some very good work in her former portfolios such as industrial relations.

Katrina has been a very hard working local MP in Wellington, and had to endure several campaigns against Charles Chauvel, which could get pretty nasty. She’s also well respected for her work last term as a select committee chair.

Kate entered Parliament in 2005 and Katrina in 2007. Their decisions to retire show that National is serious about continual renewal, and this is a real contrast to Labour where they have their MPs who entered Parliament in the 1980s still insisting they will never ever retire.

Renewal offers opportunities for National, but also challenges. Obviously both Kate and Katrina and female, and National needs to be pro-active about recruiting and supporting talented women to stand for Parliament. I don’t mean there should be quotas or guarantees of selections etc. I mean that National will benefit from having as many great candidate to choose from as possible – but you can’t just wait for people to come forward – you need to also go out and find them.

So far six National MPs have said they will retire in 2014 and rumour has it there could be anywhere from another one to six. These are not retirements because they think National will lose (the current public polls have been pretty good for National), but because they are accepting that you come in, make a good contribution, and then give someone else a turn.

A significant factor in whether National gets further terms will be its ability to rejuvenate. It is generally harder to do it in Government, than in Opposition. The fact that Labour appears to be doing almost no rejuvenation this election, and National is doing a significant amount, is encouraging.


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Watkins on National’s popularity

November 2nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins gives five reasons for why National is still polling in the mid to high 40s after five years in office.

  1. John Key
  2. Steering a course through the global financial crisis
  3. Softly, softly government
  4. Tragedy and disaster
  5. Raising the bar for ministerial performance

With the second point, Watkins notes:

Key made a point of highlighting National’s determination not to slash and burn in response to the global financial crisis and the massive debt burden that welcomed it into office.

Previous National governments would have worn the scorched-earth label as a badge of honour, and Key’s government came under pressure from some quarters to hack into government spending under cover of the crisis. That National resisted doing so – and even increased spending on welfare initiatives at the height of the GFC – has earned Key a reservoir of goodwill with voters and neutralised Labour’s attacks on him as a Right-wing wolf in sheep’s clothing.

National is on track to get the books back into surplus, without “slash and burn”. The challenge when we get back into surpluses is to have a balanced policy where some of the surplus goes on debt reduction, some on extra spending and some on tax reductions. I believe NZers support a balanced approach. Labour only does tax reductions at the point of a gun – they believes surpluses mean just spend as much extra money as possible.

Key is known to keep his ministers on their toes by putting them through yearly performance appraisal reviews and laying out his expectations during individual chats at the start of each year.

I’m not certain of the timing, but it could be more frequent than annually. But he certainly does take a CEO approach to the Government, and regularly gives feedback on where things are going well and not so well.

He shocked many when he dumped Cabinet ministers Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson at the start of this year for under-performance, an unheard-of occurrence.

And there may be another reshuffle next year. Not because any Ministers need to go, but because it is important to rejuvenate the team.

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English goes list only, Heatley retires

November 2nd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Bill English is to step down as the Clutha-Southland MP next year after 24 years representing the electorate, but has no plans to retire from politics.

The deputy prime minister and finance minister, Mr English will remain in politics, and instead seek nomination for the National Party list at the 2014 election.

Mr English, who lives in Wellington, said representing the large Clutha-Southland electorate had required considerable travel and time away from his family, particularly after he became a minister.

With four of his six children having left home, he wanted to strike a better balance between family life and political commitments.

I note Michael Cullen went list only in 1999. Being Minister of Finance means an insanely busy workload, and balancing ministerial duties, electorate duties and family life would not be easy.

Phil Heatley announced his retirement this week also. Phil’s a legendary campaigner, and what was once an almost marginal seat has become rock safe thanks to his efforts. A damn nice guy, with a great sense of humour. I recall being excited in 1999 when we got an intake that included Simon Power, Katherine Rich and Phil Heatley (and others). A bit sad that they’ll all be gone by the next election but 15 years isn’t a bad spell.

The plus side is that National is showing how to renew itself while still in Government. This is quite critical. There’s going to be quite a few new National MPs in 2014. I hope the party organisation is working hard to make sure we get top quality candidates standing for both electorates and list.

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