An issue for the Press Council

April 23rd, 2015 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

I, like many, was somewhat surprised that after blogging anonymously the waitress revealed her name to the Herald for a story this morning.

Ms Bailey blogs at The Daily Blog that her participation was gained under basically false pretenses, that she thought the journalist was there as a PR advisor to the owners.

One the face of it, there are serious ethical issues here. If I was unkind, I would say Dirty Media, not Dirty Politics.

But so far we have only had one side of the story. We have not heard what the owners say, and the Herald staff involved.

To my mind the most appropriate thing to do would be for Ms Bailey to complain to the Press Council. They can investigate the issue, and after taking statements from all parties, determine if the Herald’s behaviour was a breach of media standards.

UPDATE: The Herald has responded at the end of the story linked above.

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Hosting the FIFA World Cup

April 15th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Six months ago, any suggestion this country could co-host the Football World Cup with Australia would have been dismissed as the stuff of idle dreams. The event would have been seen widely as too big for New Zealand, while Australians remained chastened by the dismal failure of their bid for the 2022 World Cup. Much has changed in that short period, however. Consequently, Martin Snedden deserves full marks for the timing of his effort to galvanise a joint bid for either the 2026 or 2030 World Cup.

The most obvious occurrence has been the two countries’ superb co-hosting of the Cricket World Cup. This proved they could work well together to deliver an event that exceeded expectation on every level. It also suggested they could make the step up to the biggest sporting event outside the Olympics. …

The agenda for a co-hosting bid proposed by Mr Snedden, the head of the 2011 Rugby World Cup organising committee and now chief executive of Duco Events, would build astutely on this new-found positivity. He envisages, first, getting New Zealand stakeholders on board with the idea before convincing Australia of the wisdom of a joint bid. The first part is vitally important. Fifa is keen to support football in particular regions, as shown by the World Cups in the US and South Africa. But it must be convinced both countries will totally embrace the event and use it to build the game.

I admire the ambition, and agree the timing is good. The Cricket World Cup co-hosting worked brilliantly.

But the FIFA World Cup is a different league. There are 853 64 matches (853 is for the qualifiers, 64 is for the final) to be hosted and the costs can be massive. Brazil spent almost US$15 billion on infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup.

It is estimated the US lost $9.6 billion on hosting the 1994 World Cup.

The history of recent World Cups is that FIFA walks away with a huge bank balance, and the host country a huge debt.

 

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9/10

April 4th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Herald politics quiz is here. 9/10 in 35 seconds.

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Good crowd sourcing by the Herald

February 26th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The New Zealand Herald has today launched an experiment in crowdsourcing following the release of donations and expenses’ returns for candidates at the 2014 general election.

The Electoral Commission has published returns for all 462 candidates, including all 121 current members of Parliament. Donations and expenses for candidates from the previous 2011 election are also available.

This is an enormous potential dataset and the Herald has uploaded nearly 900 documents to its own microsite, Money in Politics, allowing members of the public to interact with and analyse the data.

That’s a smart move. Going through 900 returns would take one reporter ages and drive them to suicide. But many people wil be happy to read through one or two and summarise them.

So far 468 out of 473 donation returns for 2014 have been done.  But only two out of 473 expense returns.

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Herald on troops decision

February 25th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

No New Zealand government should commit troops to a war zone without a clear awareness of the ramifications. In the case of the fight against the Islamic State, the consequences could be particularly grim.

The barbaric treatment of prisoners signals the fate of any New Zealander who falls into its hands. Then there is the manner in which New Zealand’s involvement will heighten the chances of terrorism on home shores. Finally, there is the reality that our troops will make little difference in a conflict that defies easy answers. Nonetheless, the Government has made the right call in committing more than 100 regular soldiers to a non-combat training mission at Taji Camp, north of Baghdad.

The editorial continues:

The most powerful reason for sending soldiers is the just nature of the cause. Whatever the doubts about the Iraqi Government and the eventual make-up of the region, an entity as evil as the Islamic State cannot be left to flourish. In the past few weeks, the increasingly horrific nature of its behaviour has confirmed that. The international community cannot allow atrocities to proceed unchecked.

This is the key point. And the proposal by Andrew Little that you’ll defeat ISIL by reconstruction projects, not military force, is possibly the stupidest thing he has ever said.

The decision to send troops comes at a time of emerging consensus on how the Islamic State can be eliminated. Its ideology requires continuing territorial expansion. If that does not happen, it will stagnate, losing much of its allure, especially to potential recruits in Western countries.

Good to see the Herald has picked up that key fact, of territory being vital to their success. They are very different to Al Qaeda.

Achieving that containment need not involve major battles. It can be realised by continued aerial bombing and stronger resistance by the ground forces arrayed against the Islamic State, especially the Iraqi army.

Therein lies the role of the New Zealand troops. They may not be crucial to a final victory. But they will personify, once more, their country’s willingness to stand up for what is right.

Doing nothing is, in my opinion, simply wrong.

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Herald on Catton

January 31st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The lesson to be drawn from the controversial remarks of author Eleanor Catton is perhaps that those who do their thinking on paper have more to lose when they open their mouth. She should be allowed to live down her comments to a literary audience in India this week.

Far from living them down, she wants to amplify them – as is her right:

In future interviews with foreign media, I will of course discuss the inflammatory, vicious, and patronising things that have been broadcast and published in New Zealand this week. I will of course discuss the frightening swiftness with which the powerful Right move to discredit and silence those who question them, and the culture of fear and hysteria that prevails.

I find it strange that people think that their harsh critical remarks about others are free speech, but if people then in turn make critical remarks about the speaker it is not free speech, but a conspiracy to silence.

The same rationale was in Nicky Hager’s book. Basically people who have centre-right views should not criticise or attack people who say things they disagree with.

Eleanor Catton has every right to travel around the world decrying NZ as a neo-liberal hell-hole. And other people have every right to point out she is speaking nonsense. This Government is so far from neo-liberal it isn’t funny. The last budget was more money for free under 13 healthcare. The announcement this week was an extra 3,000 low income families to get larger subsidies for the rental properties. The Government spends hundreds of millions on subsidies for arts, science, innovation and the like. And the welfare system is one of the most generous in the world.

There is nothing frightening about people exercising their rights to free speech and criticizing someone. Just because you are an artist (or an academic) doesn’t mean you are beyond criticism.

Back to the Herald editorial:

Among many accolades she received in New Zealand, the Herald named her one of its New Zealanders of the Year. We remain proud of her and do not believe she misunderstands these gestures in a country that was proud of her.

Nobody has claimed her achievement “belongs” to the country. It was hers alone.

Her book is a novel set in New Zealand, authentic in its setting in time and place.

Every country takes pleasure in art that reflects it well and counts itself lucky to have artists capable of doing so, especially if its population is small.

As I said yesterday, it was pride in her achievement that saw NZers celebrate her prize, not a desire to minimise the fact that it was her personal achievement.

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Herald on speed tolerance

January 7th, 2015 at 6:38 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Speed, however, has remained a vexed issue. Hence there has been a progressive lowering of the police’s tolerance, culminating in the zero tolerance policy. This has been criticised by many motorists. Some of their complaints are lame. Those who say it has resulted in them spending too much time with their eyes on their speedometers betray a fundamental lack of driving ability. Nonetheless, it is clear that the police must re-examine where they are enforcing the policy.

The Automobile Association is right when it suggests a focus on drivers doing just over the limit on safe urban motorways is not the best strategy. The scrutiny, it said, should be on speeding in higher-risk areas. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, motorways are, by and large, relatively safe, so much so that the speed limit may soon be raised to 110km/h on some of them. Secondly, there is no point in alienating generally good motorists who are caught slightly over the speed limit in such areas.

Absolutely.

The Automobile Association was also on the right track when it suggested there should be an increased number of median barriers on highways. These, whether concrete, semi-rigid or cable, are not cheap. But they appeal as a means of curtailing the number of head-on crashes involving overseas tourists. The outcome of these impacts is generally more serious than other types of collisions. Improving the country’s roads in this manner offers the most rational response to what has become a notable problem.

I wonder what the impact on road safety would be if say 90% of the money that went on speed cameras and policing of the roads, was redirected to improving our current roads?

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NZ Herald on economy

January 2nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The dawn of a new year invites the mind to entertain endless possibilities, especially in a country so lucky. New Zealand enters 2015 with its dollar nearly as valuable as that of the signature “lucky country” next door. Three days ago Infratil and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund bought an Australian retirement village company for $670 million taking advantage of the rising kiwi. One swallow does not signal a summer of investment that would reverse the direction of transtasman ownership but it is another step of confidence.

When people rail against foreign investment, it is worth bearing in mind, that as our economy does well, it will be NZ companies investing overseas, and if we try and restrict foreign investment in NZ, then we risk being blocked ourselves.

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Herald on ISIS

October 2nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

If ground forces can rid Iraq of the murderers known as Isis, New Zealand should be there. This country ought to be counted among the nations that are willing to act when the cause is just and military force can be effective.

They key word is “If”.

I don’t think ISIS can be got rid of by force. I do think you can weaken them, but can you eliminate them? If there is an invasion then they just disband for a year, then regroup.

If you are willing to have massive collateral damage, you could destroy them. You surround the area, broadcast that everyone within a certain geographic area should leave the area unarmed, and then destroy every building and person in that area. But the civilian toll would be horrendous as many would not leave their homes, and you would create millions of refugees.

The lessons from the last Iraq war is that you can topple a Government, but it is harder to eliminate armed resistance.

The next likely step will be to dispatch armed “advisers” to train and support Iraq’s troops but on previous experience they would soon be fighting alongside the hosts, as New Zealand’s SAS did in Afghanistan. The way Iraqi forces fell away from the initial Isis advance suggests the foreigners would need to do a lot of fighting.

Yep.

The New Zealand Government should probably call the new Parliament into session sooner than scheduled once a request is received to join the action against Isis.

It’s scheduled to convene on the 20th, in 19 days. I’d be very surprised if the Government made a decision to send troops in before then – in fact surprised if they made a decision to send troops at all.

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CEOs rate the senior MPs

September 11th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

From the Herald Mood of the Boardroom survey:

  1. Bill English 4.75
  2. John Key 4.49
  3. Paula Bennett 4.21
  4. Steven Joyce 4.06
  5. Tim Groser 3.87
  6. Chris Finlayson 3.84
  7. Nikki Kaye 3.40
  8. Simon Bridges 3.18
  9. Jacinda Ardern 3.18
  10. Grant Roberston 3.11
  11. David Shearer 3.11
  12. Annette King 3.08
  13. David Parker 3.06
  14. Phil Goff 3.04
  15. Phil Twyford 2.53
  16. David Cunliffe 2.45
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7/10 in 42 seconds

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

A bit challenging this week. Quiz is here.

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The Herald’s inequality calculator

September 4th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald has a calculator where you enter in your income and it tells you what income decile you are in, and how much your decile has gained over time compared to others.

If you are in the top 10% it shames you with your 29% income growth and tries to make the other 90% resent you.

And then just for balance, it provides a link to a left wing inequality campaign site, for people to join.

Very fair and balanced.

A reader also points out another flaw:

I have checked the fine print and it talks about needing to know your household size to compare like with like but doesn’t refer to what income to include. 

 As an example one woman i know initially did it using just after tax on her pay slip… Didn’t include WFF, tax credits, accomm supplement, cash jobs etc. Once added changed her position by two spaces 

Additionally, we are top bracket – we have grown our businesses in last few years to point where we have gone from employing three people to eleven and a financial position where we had huge debt in the business (that we have now paid off) and now getting dividends plus additional $ with me working more. 

I inputted what we had as income five years ago (I wasn’t working, kids were little, plus still had significant debt in business that we were paying down plus mortgage). The Herald indicator put us at the third tier. We weren’t poor by any stretch of imagination but it was bloody tight – and high stress trying to make a business work. We didn’t claim WFF as don’t believe in it. Damn principles!

 One of the things I love about NZ is ‘ where there is a will there is a way’ – I’d hate to think people will believe we have always been top tier because we just are… Bloody hard work got us there. And we give back where and when we can.  We don’t pull the ladder up behind us. Please recognise we need people like us to employ people and to invest in new ventures. 

Most of those in the top 10% moved there up the scale. We should applaud that, not envy them and want to pull them down.

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Herald on Herald and Slater

August 31st, 2014 at 7:12 am by David Farrar

Jared Savage writes:

Nearly three years ago, I wrote a front page story for the Weekend Herald which detailed how Adam Feeley, the head of the Serious Fraud Office, celebrated the criminal charges laid against Rod Petricevic by hosting a drinks function at which champagne belonging to Bridgecorp was served to SFO staff.

Judith Collins was the Minister in charge of the white collar crime agency and her staff did not return my calls before deadline, but promptly referred the matter to the State Services Commission after publication.

Blogger Cameron Slater wrote a post saying it was a “non story” but later changed his mind. To the best of my memory, I hadn’t ever spoken to “Whale Oil” before but contacted him as the story rolled into the next week.

So the Herald contacted Cameron, not vice-versa.

I knew he was well connected to Collins and was trying to find out what he knew.

At the same time, I received a few emails about what was happening inside the SFO office.

Most of it was flotsam and jetsam, interesting tidbits of unverified information or gossip which I decided against pursuing as angles.

I cut and pasted the content of some of those emails, to remove any possible identifying features, and forwarded them on to Slater. So information was shared, there was a bit of “horse trading”, we talked about developments as the story rolled along.

And in their own words they passed on unverified information and gossip to Whale Oil, for Cameron to run, in exchange for Cameron sharing inofmration with them in return.

This sometimes happens with journalistic sources and it’s naive to think otherwise. In total, I wrote six stories about the Feeley/champagne issue and Slater was not the source for any of them. I didn’t know that our conversations about Feeley were being shared with others, like PR man Carrick Graham – and that was naive of me to think otherwise.

Since then, I’ve kept in touch with Slater on-and-off over the years always armed with the knowledge that he comes with a right-wing agenda. There have also been some robust discussions about Herald stories which upset him, such as Luigi Wewege’s role in the Len Brown affair and Maurice Williamson’s links to Donghua Liu.

Journalists talk to all sorts of people about all sorts of stories, much of which is nothing more than rumour or innuendo. Our job is to sort the wheat from the chaff and publish what is accurate, fair and true.

And pass onto bloggers to publish that which isn’t true!

Now I actually agree with Jared. This is how the media world works. You trade information all the time. When I worked at Parliament I would constantly have discussions with journalists where we swapped information. As a blogger, this is still the case today.  Politics thrives and survives on this stuff. Helen Clark used to personally trade info and gossip with senior members of the press gallery on a regular basis. David Cunliffe’s closest advisor is a blogger at The Standard. His Chief of Staff has blogged at The Daily Blog. Three or four of his staff are former (possibly current) bloggers at The Standard.

And this is the point with the Hager book. He has selectively only shown the sharing of information between people on the “right” with Cameron Slater, to make it look like a conspiracy. It is no surprise that MPs and staffers sometimes talk to bloggers and share info with them, just as media themselves do. This is how it has happened for hundreds of years in politics.

I am not saying that means every individual action with regards to the sharing of information was wise or appropriate. Some clearly was not. But it was not a conspiracy or a concerted effort.  One could have published a breathless book on how the NZ Herald conspired with agents of Mark Hotchin to attack the Head of the SFO, and demand a Commission of Inquiry into the NZ Herald – if you were to take the least benign interpretation of the e-mails.

Again my point is for some consistency.

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Cameron Slater and the media

August 30th, 2014 at 3:11 pm by David Farrar

Collins2email

This is the e-mail released by the PM’s Office. Obviously it has impacted Judith Collins, but if you read the whole thing you’ll see it backs something I have said consistently.

Cameron deals with a huge range of people, including Labour MPs, Green MPs, and almost every media organisation in NZ. The book only showed you his interactions with people associated with National, but this e-mail includes media contact with no less than four different journalists. One specific quote:

I am maintaining daily communications with Jared Savage at the Herald and he is passing information directly to me that the Herald can’t run and so are feeding me to run on the blog.

Now let me say again that what Cam says in an e-mail is his interpretation of events. I regard Jared Savage as an excellent investigative reporter. But the e-mail does lead to questions being asked. How is media giving Cam stories, different to a press secretary doing so?

Now again what Cam has written is his interpretation. It may not be the literal truth of what Jared was doing. But here’s the thing – you need to be consistent. If you accept everything in the e-mails written by Cam as the literal truth, then the NZ Herald was feeding stories to Whale Oil, which they could not run in their newspaper. If you do not accept those e-mails as the literal truth, then why would you accept the ones about interactions with people in National as the literal truth?

Is the Herald going to say that everything Cameron wrote about his dealings with us is incorrect, yet everything else is correct?

Will other media subject Herald reporters and editors to the same level of inquiry that they have subjected others named in the hacked e-mails to?

As I said I have high regard for Jared Savage. The point I am making is consistency.

 

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NZ Herald on Green policy to pay in work tax credit to those not in work

August 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

The Green Party is offering a simple answer to child poverty: give beneficiary parents the same wage subsidies paid to low and middle income earners with children. That, the party calculates, would give beneficiaries an extra $60 a week. “This money will transform life for these kids,” said co-leader Metiria Turei. “It’ll mean having warm clothes, school books, lunch and turning on the heater when they are cold.” If only it was that simple.

It will mean more families will be penalised if they go from welfare into work.

Quite apart from the cost this would present to taxpayers ($500 million a year, the party estimates) it is an admission that the extra $60 a week the Greens would put in the hands of parents might not be spent on warm clothes, school books, lunch and home heating. Child poverty is not simply a matter of income.

If it were, then all children being raised on current benefits would be poorly housed, clothed and under-nourished. People’s circumstances vary greatly and the welfare system has become much better at providing allowances for particular needs.

Living off welfare is hard, but most families manage to do it without disadvantaging their kids significantly. And there is a lot of flexibility with hardship grants for those who need it.

The much maligned benefit reforms of 1991 reduced base rates and introduced or boosted grants for accommodation and the like. Ms Turei, as it happens, became a single parent in 1993. She referred to this in her speech, noting that her daughter has grown up in an era of “shocking levels of deprivation and poverty among our children”. Yet in that era she managed not only to raise a child but obtain a law degree with the help of a training incentive allowance.

Six years after becoming a sole parent, Ms Turei graduated from Auckland University and began work with Simpson Grierson. Her experience suggests that the welfare system as it exists is not necessarily a poverty trap.

Absolutely.

National argues the cure for poverty is employment, not just because work can pay more than welfare but because it provides the social mobility that a benefit does not. A job is liable to bring opportunities to broaden skills and responsibilities, increase earnings and productivity.

Work is about more than higher incomes. It brings masses of other benefits.

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Herald supports call for broadcasting law change

August 14th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

How absurd that radio programmers cannot play a song that mocks John Key because it may breach the Electoral Act, and how ironic that the singer has been gagged by an act of the previous Labour Government. Darren “Guitar” Watson’s song contains a lyric that, in the words of the Act, “appears to encourage voters to vote or not to vote for a political party or candidate”.

News bulletins on radio and television are exempt from the restriction on “third party advertising” and no doubt by now most people will have heard Mr Watson’s voice and seen an accompanying video that its creators consider more “subversive” than the song. But it is simply silly that the song and video cannot be given airtime in their own right to enliven the election campaign.

Helen Clark’s overreaction to the Exclusive Brethren seven years ago has created a regulatory minefield for anyone outside a political party who wants to inject some argument or entertainment into a New Zealand election.

National shares the blame. It reviewed the advertising rules when it came to office but made only minor alterations to them.

This restriction can’t be blamed on the Electoral Finance Act, or its successor. The restriction on any political programme being broadcast has been in the Broadcasting Act for decades.  The Broadcasting Act gives the state a monopoly on political broadcasting – nothing can be broadcast that isn’t funded by the allocation given out by the Electoral Commission.

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Herald on Craig

July 29th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

National Party election strategists have made a fateful call against an accommodation with the Conservative Party of Colin Craig. On current polling, the Conservatives have about 2 per cent of the vote nationwide, enough to bring possibly three members into Parliament if one of them was to win an electorate. Now National’s decision not to hand them an electorate means they could win up to 4.9 per cent and all of those votes would not count towards returning National to office.

Not quite. If a party gets 4.9% of the vote, then it is wasted vote and the practical effect is for half of that vote to go to National.

John Key and his team would have weighed up the fact that even one seat won by a potential ally can make all the difference to an MMP election result. If Act had not won Epsom at the last election, the government would have been chosen by New Zealand First, the Maori Party and Peter Dunne, who could all have gone with Labour. The Conservatives, like Act, have nowhere else to go.

Again not quite. Peter Dunne had ruled Labour out prior to the election. But it is correct that without Epsom, the Maori Party or NZ First would have had the balance of power.

Spurned by National yesterday, Mr Craig raised the possibility of a post-election deal with Labour but it is not credible. His social conservatism is the polar opposite of Labour’s beliefs on just about every issue. 

And Labour has ruled him out.

National must have calculated, probably rightly, that to make room for Mr Craig in East Coast Bays would have cost National more votes than his support might be worth. 

That’s my view.

Looking to the long term, National needs the Conservatives to do well without its help. It needs another party on the right with a solid, reliable voting base, much as the Greens have established on the left. Act has failed to find such a base and has come to depend on National’s concession of Epsom. NZ First is a right of centre party but it is based on its leader’s personal appeal and will not survive him.

In an ideal world there would be both a classical liberal party and a conservative party in Parliament.

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Herald on electoral law

July 18th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

It is only a matter of time before bad law comes back to bite those who made it. Provisions of the Electoral Act regulating independent advertising in election campaigns were passed by the previous Labour Government with the support of the Green Party, and only slightly altered by the present Government. Now, seven years after its enactment, the electoral finance law is frustrating environmental groups that want to make climate change an election issue.

Six of them, including Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, Oxfam and WWF New Zealand, started a campaign called “Climate Voter” last month, aiming to force all parties to address climate change before the election. Whatever view may be taken of their cause, no democrat would deny them the right to put it in front of voters. But if they do, the Electoral Commission has ruled, their material will be deemed election advertising and subject to a discouraging array of statutory registration and accounting requirements.

The rules are less restrictive since National rewrote them, but they remain bureaucratic, which makes them onerous and off-putting for people who are not routinely organised for the purpose. The Climate Voter campaign is aggrieved to find itself subject to the act and has decided to challenge the commission’s ruling in the High Court.

“This is about freedom of speech,” said Steve Abel of Greenpeace. “There is a very real risk that if this law goes untested, many advocacy and civil society groups in New Zealand could be gagged. Some may even be forced to take down entire websites.”

I campaigned against the Electoral Finance Act. The most repressive portions of that were removed, but National did a deal with Labour and the Greens and agreed to keep in restrictions on third party advocacy. I believe that was wrong. I don’t think there should be any restrictions on third party advocacy during elections except to correctly identify the promoter of the advocacy.

He is echoing the warnings this newspaper and other critics expressed seven years ago. It is a pity green groups did not speak out at that time.

They went along with the Clark Government’s overreaction to pamphlets circulated before the 2005 election by a small religious sect, the Exclusive Brethren, whose material had been particularly harsh on the Green Party.

Now, the environmentalists want the courts to draw a distinction between that sort of campaign and theirs. “We think the law was clearly not intended to capture non-partisan, civil society groups,” says Mr Abel.

Typical hypocrisy. They’re saying that the restrictions that they no doubt supported, should apply to everyone but themselves.

The Greenpeace campaign is clearly aimed at influencing how people vote. There is a difference between commenting generally on issues, and running a campaign designed to change voting behaviour.

The only reason to regulate such advertising is to prevent it being used to circumvent financial restrictions on party advertising in an election period.

That purpose could be met if the law applied only to overt endorsements. In seeking to regulate all paid advertising of political issues in the three months before an election, the law remains too broad. Its registration and financial reporting requirements are too onerous for all but the most organised pressure groups, such as trade unions, and discourage others who could afford to promote their interests or concerns.

I agree. The law should be amended.

Environmental advocates seem to be under the impression the law applied only to the rich and the conservative. The courts are unlikely to see it that way.

Hoist by their own petard.

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Herald on David Cunliffe – the political years

July 12th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett writes the second half of the detailed look by the Herald into the Opposition Leader – as they also did in 2008. Her story is focused on Cunliffe’s political years. Some extracts and comments:

Former President Mike Williams first impressions of David Cunliffe were not as favourable. It was at the party’s 1999 campaign launch and Cunliffe turned up with bright red hair – the result of an overzealous hairdresser for a fundraiser whom Cunliffe claims was “a Tory.”

It ensured he got a reputation for self-promotion before he even entered Parliament. The Herald awarded him “best self promoter,” reporting he also handed out copies of the ‘Cunliffe Courier’ – featuring 22 photos of himself – at the campaign launch.

That’s a great idea. Labour’s manifesto should be the same this year.

Cunliffe caught the media’s attention, if not always for the right reasons. He was dubbed the ‘toyboy minister” and “nakedly ambitious.” Observations of his talent were usually followed by a comment about his ambition and ego. He was mocked for describing his own maiden speech as “passionate.” In 2002, his supporters turned up to the Labour Party campaign launch waving placards with his name on them.

Bit of a pattern.

Cunliffe and Tamihere gravitated towards each other, part of a group of junior MPs including Clayton Cosgrove and Damien O’Connor, and dubbed themselves the “Mods” – short for Modernisers. They met in each other’s offices for drinks and discussed policies and the direction Labour might take in the longer term, post-Clark. They decided to recruit others and Tamihere says Cunliffe returned with loyal Clarkists. Whether it was innocent or deliberate, he was seen to have dobbed them in. …

Tamihere says there was no big blow out and they did maintain a professional relationship. Asked about the Mods’ goals now, Tamihere laughs and says “well, you always go down there with those heady ideals.”
“He’s an extraordinarily talented chap but you never get to see the real David. You get to see the David that he thinks you want to see. And that’s his problem.”

This is what is interesting. There is no doubt Cunliffe was on the right of the party, yet now he is trying to position himself to the left of Helen Clark.

After a lengthy review and two year stand-off with Telecom, Cabinet moved to break the company’s near monopoly by forcing it to open its local network to competitors in 2006.

I thought Cunliffe handled the portfolio very well, and he had a good legacy with the operational separation of Telecom. It was long overdue.

Cunliffe had worked with Michael Cullen since he was a junior MP, but Cullen declined to be interviewed for this piece. Cullen publicly backed Grant Robertson in the leadership challenge in 2013 – and quipped at the NZ Post Book Awards at the time he expected next year’s entries to include Cunliffe’s new book “The Dummies Guide to Walking on Water: How I learned from Jesus’ Mistakes.”

Cunliffe made it too clear he wanted Cullen’s job. Funnily enough I think Cunliffe would be an able Finance Minister.

Somewhere along the line Cunliffe earned the nickname ‘Silent ‘T’ – because of the difference inserting a ‘t’ into the relevant part of his surname would make.

That nickname started before Cunliffe was a Minister. No one knows which of hil colleagues first coined the name, but most think it was Clayton Cosgrove.

I can relate a funny story about the nickname. Was once at an MPs house and a reference was made to his nickname of Silent T. Then a nine year old boy piped up and asked why do people call him “David Cunliffety”. We all pissed ourselves laughing as it would not have been appropiate to correct Master Nine’s assumption about where the T was inserted.

Cunliffe also had to deal with the complex, politically sensitive portfolios of immigration and health in his final years as minister. He undertook a major review of immigration settings

He did that very well also. Prior to his law changes, many illegal migrants could game the system for years and years with numerous appeals. Cunliffe introduced a much better and simplified system for dealing with immigration decisions and appeals.

Cunliffe was at the function when Helen Clark ceded defeat and announced she would step down.

Immediately confronted by the media, he said he had no intention of running to be leader.

However, he now reveals that he did subsequently put his name forward at one stage because he was encouraged to do so. He will not say who encouraged him and said he did not push the matter because he acknowledged he did not have the experience in Opposition. “There was, I think, a fairly widely shared view that perhaps later on it might be appropriate for me to have a chance to lead the party.”

Tizard says she spoke to him at the time. “My view was that it was probably too soon, but my comment was ‘if you think you’ve got the numbers, go for it. If not, get the numbers.'”

Interesting that Cunliffe did look at standing, encouraged by Tizard. It was no secret that Clark wanted Cunliffe to become her successor, so he could keep out Goff.

One minister at the time said Clark had proposed Cunliffe as deputy, but Goff made it clear he wanted Annette King.

Never appoint a Deputy who wants to take over from you. David Shearer learn this the hard way.

Cunliffe was the finance spokesman when Goff stepped on the stage in the election campaign at the end of those three years for the Press newspaper’s debate with Key. Goff held until his ground until Key asked where the money to pay for Labour’s spending promises was coming from with the repeated “show me the money” refrain.

Goff foundered, failing to even bring up the capital gains tax revenue which had been released. After the debate, Goff called Parker off the campaign trail to help with the full costings. They were released in full within days, indicating they were at least almost ready.

Why did he not call in the Finance Spokesperson?

Goff says he does not blame Cunliffe for it. “I take responsibility for myself, I don’t blame other people.”

That’s his public stance. His private stance is very different.

Cunliffe’s campaign was an open pitch to the union movement and activist left. He embraced socialism, and followed it up with a brace of promises, many around wage increases and working conditions. One former colleague observed it was a canny move to target the unions. “If you want to be the boss of that mob you have to look at who’s got the organisational muscle 24/7 to organise for you.”

Boss of the mob – how well phrased.

Asked what the biggest mistake of his leadership has been, Cunliffe says it was the use of that trust. 

We should all thank a certain blogger at The Standard for his fine work in setting it up, and never twigging it might be a bad idea.

Cunliffe’s deputy David Parker publicly backed Shearer in 2011, but refused to reveal who he supported in the 2013 run-off. “I felt whoever was leader, there was a need to build bridges. And I thought I was one of the ones who should do that.”

My understanding is Parker voted for Jones, but Cunliffe was his second choice ahead of Robertson.

Cunliffe says he intends to stay on if Labour is in Opposition after the election when he faces a confidence vote. His supporters agree – Tizard points to Helen Clark staying on after losing in 1996. 

This is the real battle ahead.

There’s also an interesting article on Karen Price.

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NZ Herald on West Coast logging

July 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The Government ensured some good will come from nature’s devastation when, under urgency, it passed the West Coast Windblown Timber (Conservation Lands) Act. This was necessary because the Conservation Act makes no provision for timber recovery in such a circumstance. Notably, Labour’s West Coast MP Damien O’Connor and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirakatene supported the legislation, going against their party’s stand.

They could not convince other Labour MPs that the interests of the West Coast should take precedence over support for the position taken by the Greens.

The policy differences between Greens and Labour shrink by the day as Labour moves left.

Their stand was right. Conservationists have some qualms about the logging of the high-value trees, especially in terms of the removal of vital nutrients from the forest ecosystem. But it is surely possible to take logs without seriously disturbing the biomass. Indeed, removing some of the trees will probably aid regeneration. Additionally, the legislation contains enough safeguards to suggest appropriate care will be taken.

It’s a win-win. Helps the forest regenerate, and creates jobs.

Cyclone Ita felled an estimated 20,000ha of forest and caused significant damage to a further 200,000ha. In all probability, only a small part of that will be removed. Nonetheless, hundreds of jobs will be created both in the logging and the processing of the timber. That, and the safeguards, mean the public good associated with exploitation far outweighs any concerns about the impact of the logging.

Nor is the protection of native forest being compromised. That Labour and the Greens declined to see as much suggested they were concerned about more than just the felled timber. Several references to the conservation battles that culminated in a halt to the logging of these forests confirmed as much. Probably, they worried that the exploitation of the timber without dire consequence being the cue for the resumption of selective logging.

There is no suggestion of that. Felled timber is being removed from low-grade conservation land for a limited period. Nothing more. This is surely a practical response to an event dictated by nature, and one that benefits one of the country’s least prosperous regions.

It is a practical response. Very sad that Labour joined the Greens in opposing what is pretty common sense.

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Herald on Labour’s school fees policy

July 4th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Most parents willingly pay the donation. Most school boards of trustees also go to great lengths to ensure that pupils are not discriminated against if their parents do not pay. They are also fully aware of the financial circumstances of the community from which they draw their pupils and, in the case of schools in poorer communities, gain an injection of equity from decile-based funding. A donation that represents just over $1 a week should be affordable to all but the most strapped household. On that basis, Labour’s policy may have rather less appeal than it hopes.

The fact that schools will still be allowed to charge activity fees “for the actual costs of extra-curricular activities such as school camps” adds to that likelihood. The danger is that many will accept the $100 per pupil, but then use other targeted fees to lift the payment from parents. Keeping track of this when it might involve a mountain of costs, such as van rentals for school teams or up-to-date technology, would be extremely difficult. If other fees become commonplace, little will have been gained for parents.

That is the worry – parents end up paying twice. They pay the $100 through their taxes, and still get stung for say $100 through activity fees and the like.

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8/10 in 39 seconds

June 28th, 2014 at 8:46 pm by David Farrar

The Herald quiz is here.

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NZ Herald on bias

June 28th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

It is common in election years for political parties under pressure to attempt to shoot the messenger. In 2005, the Herald was stridently criticised and accused of bias by National supporters for our reportage of Dr Don Brash and the Exclusive Brethren. In 2008 it was the turn of Winston Peters and his New Zealand First people to call for resignations of the editor and political editor for the inconvenient revelation of funding from millionaire Owen Glenn, despite his “No” sign. Last election it was National partisans again, livid at the Herald on Sunday and Herald for John Key and John Banks talking openly before a microphone accidentally left on their “cup of tea” table in a cafe.

This year it is the turn of Labour and its leader, David Cunliffe, incensed at reporting on the donations to the party and its MPs by the controversial Chinese migrant Donghua Liu — and that party’s connections to him.

When you upset everyone equally, you’re probably doing fine.

I would dispute however that the microphone was accidentally left there, but that is ancient history.

Investigations editor Jared Savage began his reports in March on Donghua Liu and the circumstances of his being granted citizenship. The focus then was on Liu’s donations to National after his citizenship was approved by a National minister against official advice. Savage then revealed Liu had been charged with domestic violence, followed by the revelation that National’s Maurice Williamson intervened in Liu’s case by contacting the police — which led to Williamson’s resignation as minister and criticism from some in National of the Herald’s story.

Savage then learned Liu had made donations to Labour as well in 2007, the party claiming no record of such funding. 

This is what is hilarious with the people suggesting the Herald is trying to smear Labour. The story was a story about National, and damaging to National. It just happens that Labour waded in and got all sanctimonious, and then it transpired that they had also been advocating for Liu, and accepting donations from him. It was luck, not planning, that the story ended up biting them.

The core issue remains, however: At a minimum, removing Mr Barker’s China trip and a donation to a rowing club the MP’s daughter belonged to, Labour faces Liu’s claim that he made $38,000 in donations to the party and anonymously through MPs.

Yep. And where did the money go. Hopefully we will find out in time.

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Herald on Labour’s tax the rich pricks more plan

June 26th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Taxing the rich seems a defining policy of the Labour Party. It plays especially well to its left wing, a point underlined by the Council of Trade Unions’ hearty welcome to the announcement that Labour proposes lifting the top personal tax rate from 33c to 36c for those earning more than $150,000 a year. On other grounds, however, the policy doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not only is it unnecessary but it will surely raise far less additional revenue than anticipated.

Labour says the new top rate would raise almost $200 million in the 2015-16 year, increasing to $350 million a year by 2020-21. 

It won’t. The 2000 tax hike for those earning over $60,000 did not produce any significant extra revenue, and may in fact have reduced it. It will just drive high earning NZers to set up a company (28% tax rate) or to move their tax base overseas.

Nor is much of value likely to come from its plan to clamp down on tax avoidance by internet-based multinational corporations such as Google and Facebook. As welcome as this instinct may be, and as unwelcome as the practice of avoidance is, there is little hope that its approach will yield anything like $200 million a year. 

It won’t bring in $1.If anything, it will see them pay less tax in NZ, as they close their NZ subsidiaries, and just have people deal with say their Australian one.

The only was one can deal with global companies choosing a tax base in a low tax country, is through international agreement. Not press releases.

 

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Herald on child poverty

June 20th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial says:

Dr Boston’s mistake was to suggest that the poorest New Zealand children were now no better off than some children in the slums of India. This statement, he said, was based on observations made when he spent a month late last year in Delhi where his wife worked as a volunteer doctor.

“India has about half of the world’s poorest children, but there are children in New Zealand living in circumstances that are not that much different from those in the slums of Delhi,” he said. “They are in houses that don’t have heating, in caravans that don’t have running water, and in families that simply don’t have enough food of the right kind every day.”

It is undeniable that some New Zealand children are living in the circumstances outlined by Dr Boston. But, equally, it is drawing the longest of bows to equate their plight to that of the many, many children living in the sort of slums associated with India. Child mortality statistics from agencies like the World Bank underline this.

Then there is the matter of the social welfare net in New Zealand. Dr Boston talks of a continuum in which some New Zealand children overlap with the circumstances of children in developing countries, but few will be convinced that the comparison he is making is valid.

Here’s what taxpayers currently fund to help families with children:

  • $1.15 billion in accommodation assistance
  • $182 million in childcare assistance
  • $260 million in hardship support
  • $1.25 billion for the DPB
  • $16.9 million for out of school care
  • $267 million in child support
  • $1.93 billion in family support
  • $494 million for in work tax credits
  • $176 million for paid parental leave
  • $32 million for parental and family tax credits
  • $1.58 billion in early childhood education subsidies

We have an extremely generous welfare state.

It would be a shame if the comparison with the slums of India undermined the book’s impact. But this, unfortunately, is not an isolated example of attempted emotional manipulation by child poverty campaigners. They have also not done their cause any good by insisting that as many as one in four New Zealand children live in poverty. Such statements devalue their case and cast them as extremists. The children they aim to help would gain more from advocacy that is as sober as it is sound.

Comparisons to India help no-one, especially the authors.

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