Why Richard Harman is the best political journalist in NZ

May 20th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Richard Harman writes at Politik:

This weekend sees the last of National’s regional party conferences.

Over the past three weeks, hundreds of party members have met in Hamilton, Auckland and Wanaka and will meet on Saturday in Palmerston North.

And Richard has attended most or all of those conferences.

I regard Politik, written by Richard, as a must read. It comes out at 5 am every morning and is my first read of the day.

It almost never talks about who said what in the House, who won question time etc. But almost every day I read something there which gives me an insight I don’t get anywhere else.

Richard is focused on policy and policy issues.

He attends not just the national conferences but the regional conferences of the parties. He talks to members to get a feel of where the party is at. I see him at obscure briefings such as the 40 year energy forecast from Exxon Mobil.

I’m not sure if he even bothers to attend question time, but when I do see him at Parliament he is almost always engaged in a discussion with an MP – gathering intelligence and insights. And I think MPs are much happier talking about stuff to him, than other media – because it’s not about a headline that will sell newspapers, or get click throughs for advertising. His model is providing valuable content and insights that people will pay for.

In no way do I mean to disparage the many good journalists in the press gallery who provide some excellent reporting and also analysis. But the nature of the media they work for means they can’t do what Richard does. Their employers won’t pay for the cost of sending them to regional conferences just to gather intelligence. They need stories every day to justify their investment.

As the media look at the very challenging commercial environment, they could do worse than look at the model of Politik – a daily newsletter that provides enough insights you don’t get elsewhere that you are willing to pay for.

Harsh Harman compares Labour to Penny Bright

September 28th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Richard Harman writes in Politik:

Whenever there’s a public political event in Auckland starring the Prime Minister veteran protestor Penny Bright turn up in her red beret and her cluster of placards. Her usual theme is to abuse the Prime Minister by calling him “Shonkey”. It’s all good fun and Ms Bright is personable and never really rude.

To be fair to Penny she protests many people!

Once the left of New Zealand politics used to own nationhood issues. Think Peter Fraser, Norman Kirk or intellectuals like Keith Sinclair and Bob Chapman. So when the Prime Minister proposed a redesign of the flag you might have thought Labour would embrace it and quickly realising that he was simply doing it as a sort of marketing exercise they might have attempted to propel the whole debate to a higher plane. Instead they went for cheap shots. …

But the problem with that was that it placed the progressive side of New Zealand politics right alongside the RSA nostalgists from NZ First. It took the energy and initiative of a host of ordinary Kiwis to point out that Mr Key’s celebrity-laden flag panel had let us all down. Labour should have done that. For a party whose whakapapa includes the sponsorship of the 1940 Centennial of the Treaty of Waitangi and the explosion of scholarship, writing and music that inspired it looked like Mr Little and his MPs had forgotten their past. Or maybe they simply didn’t understand the future. …

Labour couldn’t’ resist repeating its tired old lines. In the debate over the red peak proposal they went on about the cost; about the failure to include a yes/no vote in the first referendum and they took a few swipes at the Greens for daring to support the Government. What they didn’t do was remind us that they were the party of nationhood and that by their own historic standards this process had fallen short. By forgetting their own past Labour run the risk of becoming as relevant to contemporary political debate as Penny Bright.

Harsh, but also true.  I guess they are more relevant than UK Labour though!

Will Genter trump Robertson?

July 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Richard Harmam writes at Politik:

The new Greens spokesperson line-up is notable for three things. First James Shaw has decided not be finance spokesman but to focus on climate change. Though he campaigned for the leadership saying the party needed to improve its economic credibility, he also said the main issue for the party was climate change.

Also a factor is that with the global Paris conference at the year end, this will be a high profile issue for the next six months, so I am sure he sees it as an opportunity to improve his profile.

And Julie Anne Genter has taken finance. Even within the Greens she is known as a policy wonk and having her in that position may further demonstrate how much out of his depth Labour’s Grant Robertson is as Labour’s finance spokesperson.


Herald on man ban

July 8th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

Just when the country imagined women were doing well in politics, particularly in the Labour Party, the party’s organisational wing says they are not. It is so worried that women do not yet fill half the party’s seats in Parliament it might allow electorates to ban males from selection as the Labour candidate. Predictably, the “man ban” has been ridiculed from all sides but if Labour wants to do it, why not?

I hope they do!

 They have set a goal of a 50-50 gender balance in their caucus and women make up only 41 per cent so far. To reach perfect equilibrium by the election after next, they may need to turn away good men. Local electorate committees may be able to seek permission of the party’s New Zealand council to say that only women need apply for their selection.

If this is repugnant to the meaning of equal opportunity in most people’s minds, it is not foreign to Labour thinking.

What is amazing is that the political leadership did not see this coming. Richard Harman blogs on this at Frontpage:

Make no mistake this “Man Ban” furore has raised potentially fatal questions about David Shearer’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Here at “The Nation” last week we got a front row view of just how dysfunctional the Shearer leadership machine is.

First up, it is mind boggling that it was left to Cameron Slater and his “Whaleoil” blog to reveal that the party was proposing to allow women-only  candidate selections as part of a bid to evenly balance its gender representation by 2017.

This proposal is part of the party’s Organisational Review which began work last year.

Its proposals have already surfaced at a national conference; at local LECs and at regional conferences.

They then went to the party’s Policy Council.

Either Mr Shearer is so out of touch with what is happening inside his own party or alternatively — as one Labour source suggested to me over the weekend – he simply wasn’t listening.

But nor, apparently, were the rest of the caucus.

The Herald continues:

Positive discrimination is central to the philosophy and character of the Labour Party. It does not believe in equal opportunity but in equal outcomes, which it believes require the playing field to be tilted in favour of those disadvantaged by race, gender or relative poverty. The “man ban”, even if the executive backs away from the idea in public, is a good defining issue for voters.

I think that is a key difference between National and Labour – the focus on equal outcomes rather than equal opportunities.

To anybody who shares Labour’s belief that women are inherently disadvantaged in competition with men, an idea as drastic as the “man ban” will show how determined a Labour government would be to address remaining gender imbalances in all walks of life.

Imagine what quotas will be introduced by a Labour/Green Government?

Edwards v Garner

June 28th, 2010 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

One of the amusing blog fights of recent times has been between Brian Edwards and Duncan Garner regarding an alleged incident between Garner and Chris Carter. Some extracts – first Brian:

But first a little history. It is no secret around Parliament  that, roughly 11 months ago,  Garner and Carter had a verbal stoush in the Auckland Koru Club.  Following the release of the report detailing the 2008 travel expenses of Labour Ministers, Garner had run a TV3 story alleging that Carter was a big-spending Minister whose travel could not be justified in what was essentially a domestic portfolio – Education. The story also referred to Carter’s long-time partner and travelling companion, Peter Kaiser, and included the name of the primary school of which Kaiser is principal.

Not surprisingly, there was bad blood between the two men. Carter and Darren Hughes were in the Koru Club waiting for their flight to Wellington to be called when Garner approached them. He is reported as having said, ‘Travelling on the fucking taxpayer again, Chris.’ Carter told him to ‘fuck off!’

Carter had already taken his seat on the plane when Garner, who had boarded later, stopped next to him, jabbed his finger into Carter’s chest and said loudly, ‘I am going to fucking get you, Carter. If it takes me to Christmas I am going to fucking destroy you.’ Sitting directly behind Carter was Dame Margaret Bazley. Appalled by what she had heard, she commented loudly, ‘What a disgraceful man. You don’t have to put up with rubbish like that on a plane, Mr Carter.’ Garner moved on down the plane. …

‘If I am wrong, I invite Duncan Garner to respond to this blog and,  providing nothing in it is defamatory, I undertake to publish that response unedited.

‘If I’m right, TV3 should be considering whether their Political Editor is fit to hold the job.’

Duncan responded on the blog:

I have never denied there was an incident between myself and Chris, indeed I told everyone about it at the time because I was shocked that Chris would call me by a four letter word – that your version of this story doesn’t reflect.

So Carter called Garner a c**t first? Might be some other four letter word.

Unfortunately your version of it is very, very wrong and you do yourself no favours.

You have relied on the word of Chris Carter and even Phil Goff can’t rely on that.

Yes Darren Hughes was there and he will confirm what happened if people wish to approach him.

Darren may even wish to write on this site?

But why rely on my word? Surely the Chief Whip, Mr Hughes will launch a defence of the incident for Mr Carter. Or will he?

I bet he doesn’t. Because Carter behaved disgracefully in the Koru Club that evening and provoked the incident.

So far Darren has (wisely) not said anything.

I will consider posting the full version on the 3News website tomorrow. I certainly won’t do it here to satisfy former broadcaster and Labour Party raffle ticket seller Brian Edwards.

Oh I hope he does.

Brian then responded:

Duncan, the post you complain of, was headed ‘Incident on an Air New Zealand Flight’. What the post was about is your allegedly having said to Carter, ‘‘I am going to fucking get you, Carter. If it takes me to Christmas I am going to fucking destroy you.’ If I were in your shoes, I would consider this the more damaging allegation made about you. Yet not only is there no denial of this event in your reply to me, it is not even mentioned. I would consider that admission by omission. If in fact Carter ‘behaved disgracefully’ to you in the Koru Club before the flight, then you may well feel that what you are alleged to have said to him on the plane was understandable. But it is no less unacceptable from the political editor of a major television network.

To which Duncan responds:

I ’swear’ I did not say to Chris; “I am going to fucking get you, if it takes me to Christmas I am going to destroy you.”

And I certainly did not touch Carter – that’s not my style. If I touched Carter why doesn’t he lay an assault charge? Because it simply did not happen.

Brian you have taken the Carter version and you have taken it hook line and sinker. It is wrong. Simple.

As I have always said there was an exchange. I was first to talk about it. Carter never said anything about it for months.

It’s Carter who is now running to you almost a year later still trying to make excuses for his behaviour.

As I have said Darren Hughes was there – he saw it – he may wish to put his version on the website. But I totally refute and reject your version.

Then Richard Harman joins the fray:

I have the privelege of producing Duncan on “the Nation”. I have questioned him about your allegations. I am satisfied they are substantially wrong. I thought his reportage of Chris Carter’s indulgent travel was excellent. I can testify that both Duncan and “The Nation” continue to have excellent relations with the Labour caucus. I think Duncan did journalism proud with his journalistic pursuit of Mr Carter.

However I would not expect Duncan to get any credit on this blog which seems to have a vendetta against him — and any programme he is associated with.

Brian responds to Duncan:

We now have a ‘conflict of evidence’. You claim you did not use these words to Carter; I have approached Carter and asked him whether he stands by his version of events on the plane. He says that he does. I wasn’t there, but I do know for certain that what you said to Carter on the plane was overheard and that it was extremely unpleasant.

Brian also responds to Harman:

Absolute rubbish. Your defence of a colleague is admirable, but I suggest you read all the posts on Garner. If, having done so, you decide that he was not engaging in a personal campaign againt Carter, your judgement is less than I would have expected from you. In my review of your first edition of The Nation, where I thought Garner did a particularly poor interview with Steven Joyce, you will also find this sentence: ‘I have grown to respect Duncan Garner’s down-to-earth, no-nonsense analysis of politics. His interviewing improved significantly in later programmes. Judy thought he was very good. I don’t think this amounts to a vendetta.

Gordon McBride joins in:

Brian ….. I work with Duncan. I can tell you he isn’t a homophobe (the sauna shot was to illustrate Carter’s use of his credit card to pay for a sauna in Berlin). He doesn’t play favourites in his coverage; nor does he use his position in the “Get Carter” way you perceive. He’s certainly a robust character though and I can believe he’d give as good as got in any exchange.

For my 2c, Duncan is not at all partisan. He went after National with the “secret tapes”in 2008 with as much glee as he went after Carter with his excessive travel.

John Key and the Economy

November 3rd, 2008 at 9:21 am by David Farrar

John Key, if he wins the election, may be the most economically literate Prime Minister New Zealand has had in recent decades. I think he will have a far greater understanding of business and the economy, than most people realise. Why do I say this?

Clark and Cullen never lose a chance to scoff at his former job, and call him a money trader, a currency dealer etc. And they are right – he was (amongst many other things). In fact he was one of the most successful people in the world at currency markets.

Now think about people who are world experts in a market. Take for example someone who is a world expert on the price of gold – they probably know more about gold than 99.99% of the population. They know all about production, distribution, prices, costs, delays, environmental issues etc so they can correctly predict what will happen to the price of gold.

The same applies to the world experts on futures markets about say bananas. These people will know more about the banana trade than most people would think you can know. They’ll know the diseases they can get, the temperature they grow best in, the cost and time to transport etc etc. For if they didn’t know this they wouldn’t be so successful year after year in making money predicting the price.

Now John Key is not an expert on the price of gold or the price of bananas. He is an expert on the price of a country’s currency, which is heaving influences by a country’s economic performance. This means he knows, and has a 20 year track record of stunning success on what factors push a currency up and down – interest rates, employment, labour productivity, level of taxation, construction activity, exports, imports, balance of payments current account etc etc. You do not make $50 million by accident on predicting what will happen to currencies. You understand the economic drivers of a couple of dozen economies and are better than almost all your peers at understanding them.

Agenda producer Richard Harman blogs:

Sunday did not begin auspiciously. We had agreed to interview Mr Key early. At 8.30 — so he could get a 10.00 a.m. flight to Wellington. Through either our stuff up or in Mr Key’s office, the Opposition leader arrived at 7.30. I got in just before 8 to find him in the Green Room with a press secretary quietly reading the Sunday papers. Shortly afterwards John Roughan and Vernon Small arrived and we were then treated to a fascinating 20 minutes from Mr Key as he explained (almost non stop) his own analysis of the American financial crisis and why it had happened. Along the way we got some revealing insights into the way Wall Street works and the mindsets of the traders in the markets. It was the kind of view only a top insider could give.

Today I have been talking to a former National MP who is close to Mr Key. He argues that the Opposition Leader has one of the sharpest minds he has ever met. That is not a view I have shared up till now. What I have seen of Mr Key has been pretty much what the public has seen; a warm, relaxed, sometimes bumbling person with a mind for numbers. But his talk in the Green Room revealed a different side and which today meant I could understand what the former MP meant.

John is very very sharp. Yes he is new to politics – only six years to Clark’s lifetime. But to say he is a fast learner is to put it mildly.

With the world facing the most difficult economic conditions in 70 years, I have absolutely no doubts about John Key’s ability to understand what is happening and to react to international economic events in a way of maximum benefit to New Zealand – not based on an narrow ideological system of beliefs, but with pragmatic responses based on two deacdes of experience.

So everytime a Labour MP scoffs at Key as a currency trader, just remember what that actually means – that John Key understands economies, and that MP does not.