A leak involving TV3

January 24th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An online broadcast of the Prime Minister’s state of the nation speech took live streaming to a whole new level after a reporter treated viewers to, er, a stream of his own. 

3 News Political Editor Patrick Gower needed a toilet break after John Key’s speech today but forgot something – his mic was still turned on.

Listeners – thankfully there was no camera in there – were treated to an unmistakable tinkling sound.

Gower was taking it all in good humour, dubbing the incident “leakgate” and said “it could have been lot worse”.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of leaks in my time, but this is the first time it actually involved me taking one. 

“I was caught short, I admit that but I will say this: It could have been a hell of lot worse.”

He offered his apologies to anyone who might have been affected by leakgate. 

Gower is closing the door on a ministerial inquiry.

“I blame technical difficulties that were beyond my control,” he said.

“I am responsible but not to blame. For that reason, I have decided against a high-powered and wide-ranging inquiry.”

That would be a leak inquiry.

This also happened once to a CNN reporter, but worse her toilet break was broadcast on top of a speech by President Bush where she dissed her sister in law.

But probably the worst ever accidential open mike:

Oh dear.

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Gower’s Politician of the Year

December 20th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Gower writes:

English has had his hands on the purse-strings for five years now, and as expected, he signed off the year with the National Government on track to a sliver of a $86 million surplus in 2014/15 but growing to billions in the years after that.

In layman’s terms that means English is going to balance the country’s books – as National has promised.

By way of comparison, English’s Australian counterpart Joe Hockey opened his books too, and it was a shocker – $133 billion worth of deficits.

What a comparison.

English is an excellent economic communicator – his ability to talk “kitchen table economics” will be a real weapon for National in election year.

Key is 52, English is 51 – the prime of their lives in some senses. They are not going to hand over power lightly.

So English is “Bitter Bill” no more – it’s been “Raging Bill” this year.

Much is made of the fact that John Key is the totem pole that holds up the centre-right. The theory goes: take Key out – and take down National.

But that now applies to English too.

The political reality is that to take down National, the Opposition will have to knock out English too.

And that’s what makes Bill English Politician of the Year.

English vs Parker. I know who my money is on.

Patrick also rounds up the year in politics here.

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Gower on Clint

April 24th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News Political Editor Patrick Gower blogs:

The “Hey Clint!” moment – where Gareth Hughes stops mid-interview and asks a spin doctor what to say – has generated a bit of chatter here and there.

Some people – including even colleagues here in the Press Gallery – have suggested it was wrong to run it, that it was a big call, or even that there were journalistic ethics at stake.

To be perfectly frank, I don’t think this was the ethical issue of the century, or the year, or the week.

Because screening it was the right thing to do. In fact, it was the only thing to do.

I cannot believe there are journalists out there who would think otherwise.

However, I do understand that some in the public like to understand what goes on behind the scenes of political reporting: How we interact with politicians, what’s on and off record, how anonymity and background works. It’s not a secret society – and it shouldn’t be.

So Monday went like this: As soon as my colleague Tova O’Brien finished the interview for my story, she told me what she had.

She’d asked one of the critical questions in the power policy struggle, that after putting a dent in the Mighty River Power sale, potentially wiping hundreds of millions of dollars off it, “are you pleased?”  

Hughes had stopped mid-interview, called “Hey Clint!” and asked political advisor Clint Smith what the answer was.

My thoughts, like Tova’s, were “that’s incredible”. I have never ever before seen a politician call out during an interview for a spin doctor to tell them what the answer is:

Neither have I. You ask them for advice before the interview, but you can’t and don’t ask them for lines during an actual interview. At the end of the day the MPs are the ones who stand for election, not the advisors.

The full video is embedded above.

Now I know a lot of people watch “Hey Clint!” and find it funny.

But to me it showed much more than a bit of humour. It showed what we know – the Greens, like Labour, are trying to act like they are not gleeful that the policy is screwing with the MRP float.

In fact, it looked like Gareth Hughes was stoked. It was in the public interest to run it. No question.

It busted spin, in fact, it blew the spin apart.

It showed that the Greens, like Labour, are trying to come up with ‘lines’ to pretend that it’s not about wrecking the float.

Of course it is an attempt to sabotage the float. The policy could have been announced months ago. In fact why didn’t Labour and Greens campaign on it at the last election – so people had a clear alternative? But they can not accept they lost the election, so are trying to sabotage the float.

If you don’t accept that interpretation, then tell me why else they announced it after the float document was released, and not earlier?

They must be besides themselves with joy. One joint press conference, based on a quickly assembled policy, and they have wiped almost a billion dollars of wealth off investors. think how much more damage they can do if they ever get to actually implement policy. Their printing presses will be going non-stop.

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Gower on Shearer and errors

March 27th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower blogs:

The full extent of the political damage caused by David Shearer’s “forgotten” stash of cash in an offshore bank account became all too apparent in Parliament yesterday.

That’s because Shearer got absolutely owned by John Key in question time in a classic stones-in-glass-houses scenario. Absolutely owned.

Shearer was trying to pierce the Key Government’s defence that the EQC privacy leak was down to “human error”. Putting it down to a human error wasn’t good enough, according to Shearer.

It was a tactic doomed for failure from the get-go.

Because Shearer himself was just a week before defending “forgetting” to declare a figure that could be anything north of US$50,000 – possibly even US$1 million – in the MPs Register Of Pecuniary Interest.

I have never before seen Key given such an easy hit in the Parliament.

Shearer himself took to his feet and actually uttered the words I was thinking: “This is unbelievable” – although we were both thinking of it for different reasons.

So Key smashed Shearer not once, not twice, but five times from what I saw.

Key’s line was that the EQC worker made a mistake – just like the mistake Shearer claims he made. Over and over and over again.

Was it “human error” that led Shearer to think he could attack Key over “human error”?

This is the real significant of the error in not disclosing the foreign bank account for four years. It negates the ability of the Labour Party Leader to attack the Government over lesser errors.

And highlighting Government errors is a major part of what being in Opposition is about.

Part of the problem for Shearer is that there has been no real explanation of the error. If the explanation was he was aware of the bank account but didn’t realise he had to disclose it – then that would be understandable.

But it seems to be merely that he forgot he had the bank account, despite including it in his tax returns every year.

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Gower’s MP of the Year

December 17th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News Political Editor Patrick Gower blogs:

It ‘Twas the year of the ball-breaker: and therefore Judith Collins is my politician of the year.

No doubt this will make plenty of people angry, because “Crusher” has her enemies not just on the Left, but on the Right.

But the fact that she is now widely recognised as a front-runner for National’s leadership shows just how big a year Collins had.

She simply smashed her way through the year – nearly everyone who came up against Collins came off second-best.

Gower looks at the other contenders:

Greens co-leader Russel Norman’s been cited by most of the commentariat as politician of the year. He had a great year, rising as defacto leader of the Opposition and was a superb economic communicator, even putting himself up as a future Finance Minister.

But Rusty came off second-best when he came up against himself. Yes, that moment of madness when Norman thought getting a laser printer to copy off some New Zealand $20 notes could pay for the Christchurch rebuild and solve New Zealand’s economic woes. It is frankly impossible to name someone who suggests printing money as politician of the year.

It is good to see a journalist actually cite policy issues in appraising an MPs performance, rather than purely how they handle the media etc. We need more focus on policies.

That takes me to Collins – she did not come off second-best, even when hit with the full-on wave of destruction that was the ACC Bronwyn Pullar scandal.

It wiped out Nick Smith as a Minister. It swept so far it even briefly touched Key – nobody seemed immune.

But Collins wiped out the chairman John Judge, and board members Rob Campbell, John McCliskie and Murray Hilder. Chief Executive Ralph Stewart freaked out and jumped.

Heads rolled.

Collins never looked entirely safe throughout – it was “harum scarum” stuff by her.

Collins was under extraordinary pressure. It seemed she had mishandled it – that there were things that would come back at her. They haven’t – yet. How she managed that, I don’t know.

Labour’s Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little tried to take her on over it. They lost – in the courts no less, when Collins did them for defamation. Collins put a hit on Mallard – that should not be under-estimated as a political hit. Collins beat up Mallard.

By the time the ACC report came out, Collins had it under control. The heads had rolled – this in a country where heads never roll.

In a scandal to hurt so many, for Collins to come out virtually unscathed shows considerable political skill. And maybe some luck.

Not much luck I’d say.

Next year there must be more policy and less politics from Collins – she must sort out ACC to really prove her mettle.

But this year Collins made a move.

She survived and managed the ACC mega-scandal. She put Bain’s Compensation claim in a choker-hold.

She got her way time and time again.

She has cemented herself as a potential future leader of the National Party.

And not once did she come off second-best. It was ball-breaking stuff, it wasn’t always pretty, but it worked – and Collins is my politician of the year.

A ballsy call.

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David “the terminator” Cunliffe

August 17th, 2012 at 3:07 pm by David Farrar

Put together by Patrick Gower. Fridays are great days for non critical projects :-)

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More credibility issues for Liu and Jones

July 6th, 2012 at 1:39 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower at 3 News reports:

3 News has learned New Zealand authorities were working with Chinese counterparts to have a controversial Chinese millionaire extradited.

Yong Ming Yan, also known as Bill Liu, is the mystery Chinese man Shane Jones granted New Zealand citizenship against official advice.

And new documents show how why officials wanted rid of Mr Yan.

In China he faced allegations that he “misappropriated funds in excess of $61 million New Zealand dollars”, and “Chinese authorities wanted him returned to face charges and had requested his extradition.” …

Discussion between officials in both countries was happening just three weeks before Mr Jones’ decision, and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security referred to “the importance of the Yan case.”

The documents also detail a raid on Mr Yan’s apartment in the Metropolis tower. They show there was plenty of interest in taking part – not just from immigration – but also the Police’s Asian Crime Squad, Internal Affairs, Customs, the Serious Fraud Office, Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Fisheries.

Authorities were also informed by Internal Affairs that Mr Yan “is spending literally millions of dollars at the casino and associating with known criminals.”

So officials here and in China were working on having Mr Yan extradited. Then, at complete cross-purposes, Mr Jones’ decision meant Mr Yan got citizenship here in a special ceremony at Parliament.

Liu/Yan seemed to be under active investigation by almost every criminal or regulatory body we have.  You had Government officials in almost a dozen ourfits investigating him, and trying to get him extradited to stand trial in China – and in the midst of this Shane Jones grants him citizenship!!!

There is another story by Gower, which wounds the contention that Liu/Yan was a democracy activist and Falun Gong supporter who feared execution in China.

Now here’s a twist – the mystery Chinese millionaire, Bill Liu/Yong Ming Yan, is linked to an even more controversial Chinese billionaire caught up in a massive political scandal that is rocking the Communist Party to its core.

That link is through a man called Xu Ming - one of richest men in China.

Xu Ming is big time – touted as a potential Chinese Finance Minister before a foiled coup plot.

And Liu/Yan is apparently so close he even bought Xu Ming into New Zealand for a visit at one point.

Gower asks:

  • Why was Bill Liu/Yong Ming Yan so fearful of going back to China if he had connections with people so close to the very top of the Communist Party?
  • Why was Bill Liu /Yong Ming Yan - who claims to be a leader of the Chinese Democracy movement – prepared to host such people out in New Zealand?

Good questions. Noe ones asked by Shane Jones, but hopefully will be asked by the Auditor-General.

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Gower on Key

May 15th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Patrick Gower blogs:

There’s a lot of talk around the shop that that John Key has “got them mid-term blues”.

Apparently the typewriters have been telling their interviewers that all the sideshows are wearing the Prime Minister down and are symbolic of some great sea-change.

Well, in my experience, the typewriter is often wrong.

Yes, I think some media have been reading too much in a throwaway line by the PM to some school kids. In my opinion we are actually seeing a more determined Key, than in National’s first term.

JOHN KEY OWNS THE MIDDLE GROUND

Key has 49.8 percent in the latest 3 News Reid Research poll. That means John Key owns the centre voter. Historically, this is where elections are won and lost. So until something serious changes here – no worries.

SIDE-SHOWS DON’T ALWAYS MAKE A CIRCUS

Can’t see too many centre voters changing their vote because the MFAT reforms were bungled. Nor can I see too many voters switching camps because Nick Smith resigned 12 hours later than he should have.

OPPOSITION LEADER STRUGGLING TO MAKE AN IMPACT

Getting the middle ground back is David Shearer’s job. At the moment he is focussed on stopping his rival David Cunliffe from going on The Nation to be interviewed – great news for Key.

OPPOSITION IS A MESS, PART I

Could Labour, the Greens and NZ First really work together as a Government? Very unusual trio. Nobody has ever been able to explain just how this could work to me. This question will only get asked more and more over the next two-and-a-half years – no answers on the horizon.

OPPOSITION IS A MESS, PART II

The Labour/Greens/NZ First troika would likely rely on Labour leading the Government despite not having the most votes. Is the New Zealand public ready for this? Er, no. In fact, they probably won’t want a bar of it. Lot of work to do to persuade the public of this.

Gower also looks at the potential coalition partners for National and thinks they are not so bad.  He concludes:

I actually believe Key is looking quite up-for-it and motivated at the moment – I’ve heard him say on a number of occasions recently that he wants to “get stuff done”.

And how much mileage have the Opposition made out of this? Basically zero.

The reality is that Key holds all the cards.

And maybe it’s the Opposition that should have those mid-term blues.

The dynamics of a possible Labour-led Government are fascinating. Can you imagine Richard Prosser voting in favour of Green Party Ministers and policies? Can you imagine Winston and the Greens agreeing on Maori issues? And, if you also need the support of the Maori and Mana parties, it gets even more fun.

In theory Labour might be able to form a Government after achieving just 28% of the vote. But in reality for it to be a coherent government, they really need at least 35%.

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Brash v Gower

November 2nd, 2011 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

Enjoy!

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Gower sings the Stars and Stripes

October 4th, 2011 at 12:38 pm by David Farrar

TV3′s political reporter Paddy Gower lost a bet to the Green Party about who would win the USA versus Russia Rugby World Cup match. Paddy reckoned Russia, and the Greens had their money on the USA.

This must be the first time in history that Keith Locke backed the USA over Russia :-)

Unfortunately for Paddy, the USA cleaned up 13 points to 6 so he had to came along to the Greens Caucus meeting and sing the Star Spangled Banner.

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Gower on The Hobbit

October 28th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

TV3′s Patrick Gower blogs:

The union movement has cost the taxpayer $34 million. It’s that simple. That’s what the Government had to pay out to keep the Hobbit.

The unions have also given the Government room to ram through a law change that will seriously weaken their position – whoops!

The unions were so far off the mark they even caused what were essentially anti-union marches, on Labour Day of all days.

And the unions have written a script that says: “John Key saves the day for New Zealand from the nasty unions”. That seriously undermines their credibility – what a shocker. It also strengthens the hand of Key – who the unions have been targeting.

This all adds up to give a new meaning to the word “perverse outcome”.

It’s the most incompetent political or industrial action for some years.

There’s been a lot of talk about this Hobbit business.

It’s best to stick to the facts.

There was no problem with The Hobbit until the unions kicked off.

The facts are, that on August 17 the international actor’s union threatened to boycott the Hobbit on behalf of the New Zealand actors.

That’s huge.

And this makes the claims of the New Zealand actors that “we just wanted to get in the room” with Peter Jackson look totally disingenuous and misleading.

The letter shows they wanted far more than that – collective bargaining that would change the industry permanently – and that’s not Jackson’s role.

Once industrial relations get to the point of a threatened boycott, you can’t just sit down and have a chat. Every word, every action matters.

In Jackson’s words, the unions had a gun to his head.

A few conspiracy nuts are convinced that Warners would have tried to move the films anyway, even if the global boycott had never been instituted. Their problem is they have not one grain of proof – and nor do they have a precedent they can point to.

And in a scene more reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino than Peter Jackson, Warner Bros turned up with an even bigger gun and put it to New Zealand’s head.

Warners said, take your gun away – and give us all your money.

It’s like that scene from Crocodile Dundee where he says, as he is threatened with a pocket knife “That’s not a knife, this is a knife” as he pulls out his blade.

The Aussie union saw Peter Jackson as a light touch whom they could bully, and they forgot that the ultimate decisions are not made by Jackson, but by the studios.

But the conspiracy theory advanced by unions that Jackson and Warners set this all up to get some cash out of the government is just ridiculous.

There is just no way to engineer something like this.

If Jackson did manage to engineer al this, then his talents are being wasted. He should be in charge of black operations for the CIA.

John Key, Gerry Brownlee and company have done a good job negotiating against Warners who sources have told me were ruthless in there.

Key and Brownlee would be as unhappy about having to pander to Warner Bros as the next Kiwi.

They just did what was needed to keep the movies here.

They’ve tacked on some good spin-offs for New Zealand on the tourism front.

Imagine the power of having a “Visit New Zealand” segment on every Hobbit DVD. That is massive.

The unions and the left have been looking for something to nail Key with, and make them relevant again. A grassroots union revival like what happened with John Howard’s “work choices” policy in Australia.

They got so desperate, that they got star-struck when the actors’ issue came along. They thought it could launch unions back into the spotlight via their popular actor friends.

But all they’ve done is make their target, Key, even more popular.

It was a flop.

The best scripts are simple.

And this one says: John Key winner, Unions losers.

And now we have union vs union in Mana.

What I have also found interesting is how much coverage the possible loss got overseas. A reader in the UK e-mails:

Just to let you know the pro-Hobbit rallies made the main bulletin of Channel 4 news over here tonight. The coverage was entirely positive and featured Richard Taylor speaking at the rally.

Very much focussed on the natural beauty of NZ and how that was central to the heart of the film – and then highlighted a pole showing NZ’ers rejecting the unions. Some pompous twat from the UK union said his piece and was wholly unconvincing.

Not an epic piece – but worth relaying to the rally organisers that their efforts had global reach. Well done to them!

And got a text from a friend in the US telling me that a couple of taxi drivers and a waitress all raised the Hobbit issue with her unprompted, when they realised she is from NZ.

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Carter says Jones would be a better leader

October 15th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Carter has finally named an MP whom he says would be a better leader for Labour than Phil Goff – Shane Jones. The NZ Herald reports:

Yesterday on Radio Live, Mr Carter also mentioned Shane Jones as one of those he believed could be a better leader than Mr Goff. He has previously refused to name them.

By coincidence Matthew Hooton writes in the NBR:

Which brings us to Mr Jones.  Just as Mr Brown was ridiculed after his head-banging incident, Mr Jones suffered public humiliation from his penchant for porn.  But time heals, and Mr Jones is the latest manifestation of the Maori leader who can appeal across racial lines.  He’s the Labour man business thinks it can work with.

Moreover, his ambition is great, having been the golden child of his hapu from the day he was born.

Unpopular with Labour’s rainbow and feminist wings, securing the leadership would require him to produce polling showing him as capable of transforming Labour from a possible to a probable.  Even then, he would face opposition from party president Andrew Little, who needs Labour to lose in 2011 if his own leadership ambitions can be fulfilled.

Nevertheless, having decided to stick with politics despite his porn humiliation, Mr Jones is not there to muck around.

He’s already raising his profile and briefing journalists about his comeback.  The time for him to act is now.

And again, by coincidence, TV3′s Patrick Gower blogs:

Watching the miners in Chile, I can’t help but think of the Labour MPs – stuck down a dark hole, with an incredible effort needed to get them out.

It’s leader Phil Goff’s job to get them out – now he’s finished burying Chris Carter.

And one man who needs a lifeline is Shane Jones.

This call is never going to resonate as much as “Bring Back Buck”. But someone has to say it – Goff should “Bring Back Shane Jones”.

Is Jones Labour’s saviour in waiting?

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Paddy joins the blogosphere

April 23rd, 2010 at 11:03 am by David Farrar

Paddy Gower (or Patrick as he uses on air) has joined the blogosphere with Gower on Politics, which is on the Three News site.

His first blog is on the Urerewas treaty negotiations with Tuhoe.

He says:

There is no doubt Tuhoe suffered at the hands of the Crown, who unleashed a “scorched earth campaign” against them in the 1800s; their homes were destroyed, their people jailed and killed. They were run off their land and have spent the time since trying to get it back.

Now they are close; very close.

For those who are not aware of the extent of the wrongs done, Te Ara says:

The government waged a bitter campaign in Te Urewera in its search for Te Kooti and his followers. Old enemies of Tūhoe fought on the side of the government; they carried out most of the raids into Te Urewera during a prolonged and destructive search between 1869 and 1872. In a policy aimed at turning the tribe away from Te Kooti, a scorched earth campaign was unleashed against Tūhoe; people were imprisoned and killed, their cultivations and homes destroyed, and stock killed or run off. Through starvation, deprivation and atrocities at the hands of the government’s Māori forces, Tūhoe submitted to the Crown.

Gower continues:

Negotiations are incredibly delicate, involving issues like the ownership and control of the Urewera National Park and Tuhoe’s desire for self-rule. It’s a combustible combination, especially when thrown on the race relations fire that is always burning away in the background of middle New Zealand. Put simply, this is about the weight of history coming up hard against the pressure of day-to-day politics.

And the details:

Mana Motuhake means self-rule or self-government. This is Tuhoe’s dream. It had it once before and never signed the Treaty of Waitangi. Now the Government has quite predictably ruled out Tuhoe becoming a separate nation – or as Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson put it the ridiculous notion of “a Liechtenstein in the Ureweras”.

But Finlayson has also referred to “complexities” in the negotiations. Enter, Mana Motuhake. Mana Motuhake is on the table on the form of some devolution of public functions.

Plus there is more on the quantum of compensation and management of the Ureweras. Gower obviously has good sources and it will be very interesting to see, if a deal is done, the details.

Of all the historic grievances (and anyone who thinks there is no justified grievance should read history books on what happened) this is probably the most complex and difficult. If they manage this one, then the aim of settling them all by 2014 may be achievable after all.

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Gower on Collins

November 2nd, 2009 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

Patrick Gower is doing a series of reports on the performance of key Ministers. He starts today with Judith Collins, whom he gives an 8/10.

Frontline police feel Ms Collins is on their side. On a macro-level, they have watched her preside over National coming good on its promise to put more police on the streets of South Auckland. She has also taken their fears about organised crime seriously, as seen in last week’s joint announcement with Commissioner Howard Broad about seizing the proceeds of crime.

On a micro-level, she is a proud Police Minister. Her empathy with police life was noted when Senior Constable Len Snee was murdered in the Napier siege, and she recalled her own time as a “police wife” when husband David Wong Tung was in the police and she wondered whether he would come home from work or not.

I didn’t realise until that siege, that Judith had been a “Police wife”.

Corrections is rated more difficult:

The Corrections portfolio has been a graveyard for many a minister, and at some point Ms Collins will have to start taking responsibility for its problems if she cannot solve them.

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Herald on Govt’s first year

October 31st, 2009 at 9:12 am by David Farrar

This weekend it is the Herald’s turn to do a big feature on the Government’s first year in office. Multiple article to quote.

John Armstrong starts with what I think is the most important aspect:

The first Herald-DigiPoll survey since last year’s election shows close to 80 per cent of respondents rated the Government’s performance in dealing with the effect of the global recession on New Zealand as good, very good or excellent.

Barely 20 per cent rated the Government’s response to the recession as not good or poor.

And this is the major issue voters have focused on. Not use of urgency, not the Super City, not RWC broadcasting, not any of the numerous beltway issues. Not to say handling of those issues is not worthy of focus, but they are not critical to the average voter.

In another article, Armstrong reviews Key himself:

Key’s sheer ordinariness has fooled opponents into making first impression assumptions that there is little substance behind the confident, smiley face he presents to the world.

Key would not claim to be an intellectual. But he is very bright. Those who have worked closely with him speak of a capacity to absorb mountains of information and a laser-like capacity to focus on what needs to be done.

I would almost call Key a data sponge. He loves soaking up information from numerous sources, and reflecting on it. He is constantly thinking, and analysing.

He is anything but ordinary. The chief executive of New Zealand Incorporated is nothing short of a political phenomenon.

As one Beehive operative of long experience puts it, Key is rewriting the rules of New Zealand politics. That is a sweeping statement. But it goes some way to explaining why public support for National – confirmed in today’s Herald-DigiPoll survey – has climbed to unprecedented highs for a ruling party in its first year of government and, just as crucially, continues to remain at that level.

The challenge for the Government is to build its own brand to complement Key’s strong brand.

Key cites his Government’s fulfillment of manifesto commitments and steering the country through and (he hopes) out of economic recession as crucial in consolidating support for his party. Cabinet ministers readily acknowledge, however, that National’s post-election dream run is overwhelmingly down to Key’s strong rapport with voters – especially females who shunned National in the past.

It is rare for a centre-right party to do well with female voters.

Labour Party insiders grudgingly agree, but with a subtle twist in the language: National’s popularity rests on Key’s popularity. When the latter starts to fade, the former will quickly evaporate.

As I said above, I agree with them that the popularity is largely Key. But that may change over time, as other Ministers become better known. Also the other Ministers have generally been doing quite well in their portfolios – what is lacking is more a coherent all of Government brand.

Or so Labour prays. Labour, however, has made a bad habit of underestimating Key.

And they still are.

One of the principal ways he is seen to be rewriting the rules is by applying a “will it work” test to policy proposals rather than first asking whether they sit comfortably with National Party ideology. Key’s willingness to search for ideas outside conventional boundaries is in tune with an electorate less hung-up about ideology than in the 1980s and 1990s.

Key has centre-right values and instincts, but he sees them as a guide not a straitjacket.

This may irk some colleagues who see the vast gap between National and Labour in the polls as a rare chance for National to adopt a more radical and right-leaning prescription. …

Key seems to have no difficulty with either proposition. However, he is extremely wary of breaching National’s 2008 manifesto. He believes it is vital that voters feel confident they can trust National in government.

I’m one of those who want to see the Government be more bold, and indeed use that vast poll gap while we have it. But it isn’t about being more “right”, it is about fighting battles that are important to our future such as tax reform, the union stranglehold in education, state sector reform etc. But I agree any reform has to be consistent with the election manifesto. But there are plenty of areas where initiatives were not ruled in or out.

Dunne also noted that “references to what happened in the 1990s, let alone what side one was on during the Springbok Tour or, heaven forbid, the Vietnam War are utterly irrelevant to the values of this new generation, as Helen Clark found out dramatically last year, and Phil Goff is continuing to find out”.

The battles of yesterday.

Though Goff is an effective communicator, Key operates on another level. Unlike some politicians, he never talks down to people. He instead likes to disarm his audiences – no matter how big or small – by kicking off proceedings with a witty anecdote. More often than not, the joke is at his own expense. And deliberately so. The self-deprecation helps to break the ice.

A typical example was a recent meeting with youngsters at a riding school. Praising their ambition to represent New Zealand in show-jumping at the 2016 Olympics. Key turned to their proud parents, telling them “and you’ll be able to watch it all on Maori television”.

Heh. More seriously I recommend anyone who has not seen Key do a Q&A, should attend one of his meetings. He really engages with the audience, and as John A says, never talking down.

Yet, a year on from the election, it is still difficult to discern the direction in which the Government is going. Presumably it knows, because it is a very busy Government. It would be useful if it told the rest of us.

If Key has a major flaw, it is in not drawing the big picture often enough.

I agree. I don’t think it has mattered much this year, for it has been a crisis year – fighting the recession. But as that fades as an issue, people are going to want to hear more about closing (or at least slowing) the gao with Australia.

Key’s power is at its zenith. But how does he intend to use it? What legacy does he want to leave? The next 12 months will be true measure of his prime ministership, judged on what is done to get his promised “step change”in New Zealand’s economic growth.

I think the 2010 budget is very important, even more so that the 2011 budget.

Claire Trevett reports 78% of NZers back the series of cycleways.

Patrick Gower talks to Rodney Hide about working with John Key.

John Armstrong also reviews Bill English.

Claire Trevett talks to Tariana Turia:

Do you still have that level of trust in National?

Yes. What I’ve enjoyed the most is our ability to be upfront with one another and be straightforward on issues. I have never found that they’ve said one thing to me in a meeting and done another.

I recall what John Tamihere said about how Cullen used to treat coalition partners!

Have there been difficult choices?

When you can see value in what is being proposed but there’s always downsides to it. We’ve had to think really carefully about ACC, the Emissions Trading Scheme, and adult education courses.

For example with the ETS, it’s been difficult to try to balance the interests of iwi – whose major focus is forestry, fishing and farming – when on the other hand we’ve got really poor communities who are going to have to pay and they’re not the ones causing the problems.

There are very few policies that don’t involve balancing the trade-offs.

Jon Johannsson talks leadership:

I believe we are watching an unusual prime ministership take shape. Key’s skillset is vastly different from what we’ve seen before. We’d possibly have to go all the way back to the entrepreneurial Julius Vogel in the 1870s to find an apt comparison. Vogel put in vital and much-needed infrastructure to connect New Zealanders with each other and then with the rest of the world. Vogel’s legacy is a hugely significant one in our politics. If Key could affect a 21st century equivalent – meaning nothing short of major structural transformation to better position New Zealand during its transition to an information-age economy – his future legacy would be assured.

And Key has pushed hard on infrastructure. But the structural transformation is not there – however stuff like the fibre to the home initiative may be part of that.

Key has also grasped that our politics is going through a non-ideological phase, which explains why much of the criticism of his Government’s performance has come from ideologues on either side of the spectrum. His acceptance of much of Labour’s policy inheritance reinforces this judgment. Keeping its promises, which National has largely done, thereby establishing long-term trust with the electorate, has given Key the prerequisite platform needed for greater freedom of action in the future.

Absolutely. You have to earn trust, to then have greater freedom of action.

But to return to where I began, Key’s larger context; his political vision has been quite parsimonious in my view. There is no overarching narrative that tells us where Key intends taking us or what policy mix will best maximise our future progress and choices.

Transforming education (surely the best incubator for our future economic prosperity), leading our democracy (think: the electoral referendum, the Treaty, republicanism), and how to best protect water, our most valuable strategic resource, are being managed, not led, in an entirely ad-hoc fashion.

I think this is fair criticism.

Finally John Roughan:

The most impressive member of the Cabinet is a complete newcomer, Steven Joyce.

He is doing the infrastructure projects, notably the duplicate broadband network, as well as those in his primary portfolio, transport.

He’s done the little things, like the car cellphone ban on which the previous government dithered for years, and the big things like the Waterview connection, which I thought was wrong but he put me right.

I remarked to the Dominion Post for their review that I thought John Key’s best decision was probably appointing Steven Joyce to such critical portfolios. The fibre rollout was Key’s signature initiative, and speeding up infrastructure investment also a iconic issue for Key. And Steven indeed is no ditherer.

Of course I still think he is wrong on the cellphone ban!

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What a mess

October 14th, 2009 at 10:48 am by David Farrar

My God, the Rugby World Cup free to air rights issue is a mess, to put it kindly. A fiasco maybe.

I’m someone who actually is supportive of the ambition of Maori TV to be the free to air broadcaster. But the sticking point is the only 90% coverage. Having 10% of New Zealanders not able to get free to air coverage of the Rugby World Cup we are hosting was never going to be acceptable.

If Pita Sharples had talked to other Ministers on the (laudable) ambition for Maori TV, they may have been able to actually help with the bid, by asking the right questions. Instead, we now have two different parties in Government appearing to back competing bids by taxpayer funded stations.

So what do the media say. The Herald reports:

Maori TV chief executive Jim Mather says the channel will continue to fight the Government for the rights to screen the Rugby World Cup, and will use money from wealthy iwi and corporate groups to outbid it.

Well that I approve of!

IRB spokesman Ross Young said the board would be open to increased bids.

I bet they are. They must be laughing all the way to the bank.

The Herald understands the Government’s concern about Maori TV’s coverage relates to fears about small crowds at the tournament, already expected to make a $40 million loss.

The Government and Rugby Union can make money only from ticket sales, and are worried about how these would be affected without the hype TVNZ can generate.

Well then TVNZ should have put in a bigger bid initially – possibly with support from the Rugby Union.

But Mr Mather said this was “throwing Maori TV the crumbs” and there was little chance of it being involved. The value to Maori TV was in having the exclusive rights, requiring viewers to switch over, rather than staying behind the major networks.

And this is the big pay off for Maori TV. It can take years for people to get used to checking a channel out. A month of people swapping to Maori TV for the RWC would probably leave them with a lot more viewers after the cup.

So what is the so called Govt plan:

- TVNZ leads bid to show the 16 most important games live and free-to-air, backed by Government money.

- TVNZ will show six games – two of the All Blacks’ pool games, the semi-finals, final, and third/fourth play-off.

- TV3, which has put up some of its own money, will show six games – the two other All Blacks pool games, the semi-finals, final and third/fourth play-off.

If it wants, Maori TV can put up money and simulcast the games TVNZ and TV3 are showing. It can also show the balance of the 16 games that the networks do not want.

The challenge for Maori TV is how they can do a bid that covers more than 90% of NZ.

Patrick Gower writes:

Remember the utter shambles as the All Blacks bombed out of the last Rugby World Cup because they could not organise a simple drop-goal in Cardiff?

If the failure to do the strikingly obvious that day left you horrified, then best to cover your eyes before watching the Government’s bungling of the free-to-air television rights for the next Rugby World Cup. …

TVNZ’s involvement is necessary because it has the reach and numbers to hype up the tournament over the next two years and get people through the gates, with ticketing the only way the Government and Rugby Union can make money and stem losses.

Maori TV can offer unique cultural and language elements as well as the flexibility of scheduling to be able to show wall-to-wall coverage without having to break for regular programming like the nightly news.

Surely getting the two together as co-broadcasters months ago and bargaining with the IRB was the obvious solution?

That would have been nice.

Audrey Young chips in:

The political debacle over the Maori Television Service bid for Rugby World Cup coverage rights has soured relations between National and the Maori Party more than anything else in their one-year partnership.

Yep, and it was al avoidable if Ministers talked to each other earlier on.

The Herald editorial proclaims:

The saga of Maori Television’s bid for the Rugby World Cup’s free-to-air broadcasts has taken a bizarre turn with the Government’s decision to fund a higher bid by TVNZ. The International Rugby Board, seller of the broadcasting rights, must be wide-eyed in wonder and glee that it stands to gain from a contest between two bids financed by New Zealand taxpayers. …

But it has taken a quite disturbing degree of fright at the prospect of Maori Television winning the free-to-air rights. Certainly, the Government had a right to be aggrieved that its coalition partner, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, did not consult National ministers before approving $3 million from his department, Te Puni Kokiri, to finance the bid.

The general rule of thumb is you should consult your colleagues on anything you would expect to be consulted over.

But if the taxpayer must contribute, why not through Maori Television? It is building a strong presence as a public channel for ceremonial events such as Waitangi Day and Anzac Day. Its coverage of the funeral for Sir Howard Morrison was deeply admired by all who caught it. TVNZ seems no longer interested in this sort of occasion either.

Maori Television was offering World Cup commentaries in English and Maori, from familiar faces and new. It aimed to popularise some Maori phrases through the English telecast, meeting its state-funded mission. On recent evidence it would do a conscientious and fine job. Surely a free-to-air partnership can be forged that would meet all concerns and save the taxpayer this ridiculous double bid.

I agree.

And Tracy Watkins:

In effect, we’ve got government ministers bidding against each other – and ratcheting up the cost for taxpayers as a consequence – to suit their own political purposes.

On the one side is Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples who gave Maori TV the green light for a $3 million-plus bid in a nod to his Maori constituency.

On the other are senior ministers Bill English, Jonathan Coleman and Murray McCully, who’ve given TVNZ and TV3 a nod and a wink that the Government will step in with whatever it takes to win the bid over Maori TV – presumably after concluding that their own constituency won’t take kindly to having to tune into Maori TV to watch world cup games.

I don’t think that is the issue. If done in the right way, I think one could have got the Government quite supportive of the bid. The bigger issue is achieving greater than 90% coverage, and also using TV to boost ticket sales.

The script writers for Yes Minister couldn’t have come up with a more absurd plot.

It would be a great script!

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Gower on Joyce

October 3rd, 2009 at 9:49 am by David Farrar

Patrick Gower writes in the NZ Herald on Steven Joyce:

After being ushered in off the street into a top Cabinet role, Joyce’s strategy role makes him one of the Government’s most powerful ministers – with some strikingly similar characteristics to Key.

He has done in an instant what some MPs fail to do in their entire career, making it look all too easy with an accomplished performance in the House and with his portfolios.

Labour gave up targeting Steven as a new Minister quite early in the year.

His seamless move into Parliament may be unparalleled. It surpasses Margaret Wilson, who was similarly parachuted into the Cabinet for Labour and while also steeped in party politics was not a particularly comfortable fit with parliamentary politics.

He has already ridden out his novice stage in the House, rarely being riled by his far more experienced Labour opposite in transport, high-flyer Darren Hughes.

I’ve just taken a look through Hansard. Darren Hughes has only asked one question to Steven Joyce since mid May.

At 46, Joyce has a long way to go should he choose to stick around in politics. Future moves include taking on more challenging portfolios that help him build on his image as an affable and competent public minister rather than just a strategy man. And despite English’s detractors trying to promote a rivalry, much of this may be contrived and Joyce might not want to end up mired in Finance anyway.

Taking an electorate seat would also enhance his public standing.

Another of Joyce’s similarities with Key is that both have the money and skills to simply walk away from politics when they have had enough.

He will know better than anyone that Key may leave before the 2014 election.

The man who built a business empire from nothing and came into Parliament from out of nowhere will not stay in the little house forever.

This is true of both Steven and John. They both want to do well in politics, but politics is not their life. They have both had successful enough careers before politics, that setting longevity records for years in Parliament or even years in office is not a target for them.

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