Wellington voters be warned

August 15th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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The new blockbuster

June 3rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

dr no

 

Given to me by a former Maori Party staffer. Not bad.

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Jones lashes Norman

March 13th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The bad blood between Shane Jones and the Greens continues. 3 News reports:

Labour’s attempt to muzzle its outspoken MP, Shane Jones, has lasted less than a day.

Mr Jones was told off by his leader for comparing Green MP Gareth Hughes to a screeching bird.

Today he took a shot at Green co-leader Russel Norman, saying he will not be lectured on the environment by an Australian.

Seemingly to prove he cannot be silenced, he let rip at Dr Norman, extending the anti-Australian attack he has used against Countdown to the Australian-born MP.

“I’m not going to have an Australian running the New Zealand Green Party, lecturing me about environment and economics in the north,” says Mr Jones.

And Norman hits back:

Dr Norman launched a counter-attack, accusing Mr Jones of copying Prime Minster John Key.

“The Prime Minister does it quite a lot; he’s also very critical of migrants,” says Dr Norman. “It turns out a part of the Labour Party doesn’t like migrants either. Every time Mr Jones opens his mouth the Green Party vote goes up, so I encourage Mr Jones to speak out.”

I’m not sure comparing Shane Jones to John Key is a great way to attack him. Incidentally never known the PM to be critical of migrants. I think Russel is projecting that the PM enjoys being told he must protect New Zealanders from Australian foreign investment, by someone with a thick Australian accent.

Mr Jones tried to be a team player, telling 3 News he had “to go and deal with the boredom of tax legislation”, but could not resist driving another wedge between Labour and the Greens.

“I like what David Cunliffe said on our behalf yesterday – Winston first.”

Long may the growing war between Labour and Green MPs continue.

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Craig proceeds with defamation suit against Norman

March 4th, 2014 at 10:39 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Conservatives’ leader Colin Craig hopes to fast-track a defamation claim against Greens co-leader Russel Norman so a court hearing can be held before this year’s election.

Mr Craig had given Dr Norman a deadline to apologise over comments he made in a speech at the Big Gay Out, but Dr Norman refused to do so.

The Conservatives’ leader today said his defamation claim against Dr Norman would be split into two stages in the hope of fast-tracking a court hearing.

“After extensive discussion and advice from my legal team, I’ve decided to proceed immediately against [Dr] Norman regarding his claims about the place of women.”

I think this is unwise. In defamation cases both sides tend to lose out. Craig looks thin-skinned by resorting to defamation. Norman i associated with personal attacks that go against the Green principles. It’s a lose lose.

Conservatives’ leader Colin Craig hopes to fast-track a defamation claim against Greens co-leader Russel Norman so a court hearing can be held before this year’s election.

Mr Craig had given Dr Norman a deadline to apologise over comments he made in a speech at the Big Gay Out, but Dr Norman refused to do so.

The Conservatives’ leader today said his defamation claim against Dr Norman would be split into two stages in the hope of fast-tracking a court hearing.

“After extensive discussion and advice from my legal team, I’ve decided to proceed immediately against [Dr] Norman regarding his claims about the place of women.”

By narrowing the claim, the job is harder for Norman. He has to defend it on the basis that Craig has expressed views along the lines of women should be in the kitchen.

As I understand it, Craig is not suing for damages, just a declaration that Norman defamed him (and costs). If Craig wins he will have seriously damaged Norman and the Greens (how do you have a co-leader who has been found to be a liar by a court) but he will also have damaged himself by looking litigious. If he loses, then it is all bad for him.

Mind you Winston has sued several people for defamation, and he still makes 5%!

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Craig v Norman

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

Stuff reports:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has refused to retract his characterisation of Colin Craig’s views on women and homosexuals despite the threat of legal action against him.

Craig, Conservative Party of New Zealand leader, has taken the first steps in defamation action after Norman claimed at Auckland’s Big Gay Out that Craig thought a woman’s place was in the kitchen and a gay man’s was in the closet.

Norman made an almost identical comment in Parliament during his opening speech for the year, but attributed it to the “conservative Right”, rather than Craig.

Craig has instructed his lawyers to take legal action and told Fairfax Media that the Green MP should apologise and retract his comments as “these are not things I think”.

“It is a defamatory thing and I would consider that somebody who thinks those sorts of things would have a lower standing in the eyes of the public … he’s crossed the line,” Craig said.

Norman’s characterisation of his views were offensive and “just wrong”.

“We … see them as defamatory, sexist, derogatory and offensive, so that pretty much sums up my view of them.” 

Norman today refused to resile from his comments, however, saying he found Craig’s comments “offensive”.

This doesn’t reflect well on either man. Russel Norman is the co-leader of the Green Party that claims a core value is “Engage respectfully, without personal attacks“. Norman tramples over that Green value all the time.

However Craig looks thin skinned for again threatening defamation. It may appeal to his support base which don’t like the Greens, but will make the media more hostile towards him as they don’t like politicians who threaten defamation. Also the comments Norman made, while false (as far as I know), are not worse than a lot of political rhetoric.

However there is one aspect to this, which the media have not picked up on. If you look at the letter Craig sent Norman, he is not threatening to sue Norman for damages. He refers to getting a declaration that what Norman said was false and defamatory.  That means it is not about trying to financially penalise your opponent – just having a court say that your opponent lied. It would be interesting to see how a court would rule, if it does proceed. Could Norman remain Green Party co-leader if the court ruled he had defamed Craig?

John Armstrong writes that Craig needs to “harden up and quickly”. It is good advice, but he also overlooks that Craig is apparently not seeking damages, just a declaration that the statements were defamatory.

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Norman met Dotcom twice

January 24th, 2014 at 3:23 pm by David Farrar

The Diary reports:

Russel Norman visited Dotcom’s mansion twice late last year to talk him out of entering politics, the Green Party co-leader told The Diary. And he left a rather large carbon footprint flying to Auckland Airport and hailing a Green cab for the 44km journey to Coatesville for the meetings.

“I met with him twice, about policy issues and his proposed party. I’ve got a lot of time for Kim, but I don’t support the Internet Party.”

Norman says although he backs some of Dotcom’s views on the GCSB and the internet, he feels he’d be competing for votes. “I tried to talk him out of setting up his party.”

Maybe Russell should have just offered him a spot on the Green Party list instead? Oh wait, he can’t stand for Parliament. But how interesting that the Greens are so worried by Dotcom’s party, that they flew Norman twice (paid for by taxpayers) to Auckland to meet with him and try and talk him out of it.

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Greens go Haywire

November 27th, 2013 at 5:16 pm by Jadis

Talking to various Greens sources it has become abundantly clear that David Hay is an ‘interesting’ character.  All sources including the current male co-Leader Russel Norman’s media comments are polite enough publicly but behind closed doors there must be some serious wonder going on.

So let us look at the possible motivations behind Hay’s challenge to Norman. First, there’s the obvious one.  He’s a man who has very little profile (except may be in his own mind) and desperately wants to be higher up the list.  If he was a smart man he’d use the challenge mechanism to rally support behind him to elevate him up the list. He’d be using lots of talk abut how the growing grassroots membership needs more voice, he’d have a very clear plan of what he would say to media and he would also have a few MPs or high profile Greens pre-organised to say more positive things about him – including behind closed doors to media and bloggers alike.  None of that has happened.  Indeed the opposite is true.  So I think we can mostly strike that motivation out.

In the last hour Hay has been interviewed by Duncan Garner on Radio Live.  A pretty soft interview but to be honest give this man a forum and he is going to say some pretty batty stuff.  First there was the fighting talking from Hay of how Russel has been a great leader.  Oops. Then he admitted that Russel would inevitably remain Leader. Oops again.  Hay’s one concern that he managed to express at all was that the Greens need to reposition themselves to takeover Labour’s position and stop being the ‘handbag’.

It is possible that the Greens are so cunning that they are using a moron to shoot across the bow of Labour but I think the obvious is clear.  Hay is acting mostly alone – albeit after a bit of enthusiastic excitement from a few Greens close to him worried about the lack of presence in Auckland. Hay named them clearly in the Garner interview as the likes of Denise Roche and others.

So this leads me to think that something is wrong with the Greens that happens to all parties as they grow.  They have lost connection with their grassroots.  You see, if they had real connection they would have known Hay was going to do this and would have managed the situation – even in a democratic way.  Instead, Hay surprised the parliamentary wing of the Party with his shock announcement.

So, what other motivations could Hay have?  Well, the cynic in me suggests that the Greens could also be copying the Labour model.  Labour’s membership increased by 75% through the leadership contest.  More members means more potential helpers on the ground.  Is it possible that Hay is actually a very loyal, albeit media inept, hack who is doing the Party a service by driving membership and showing how ‘good’ co-Leader Russel really is?  More than a little possible.  Indeed if I were the Greens I might spin it that way to look mildly united and politically savvy.

So, there’s a few possibilities that motivate Hay – is it personal gain to get up the List, is it greater good for the Greens, is it to drive up membership, or is to put a spanner in the works of what has been a pretty well run Greens machine of late?  Whatever it is he is a useless front man.

*And before someone freaks in the comments that this doesn’t seem like a DPF post.  It isn’t. It is Jadis and I am a tad more blunt that friend to all Dpf.

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Norman challenged for Greens co-leadership

November 27th, 2013 at 9:24 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Green Party member David Hay is intending to challenge Dr Russel Norman for the party’s co-leadership.

Mr Hay, who was the Green Party’s candidate for Epsom at the last election and is currently ranked number 16 on the party’s list, claims the party needs to be ‘putting its A team forward’.

“Russel has been doing a great job for the Green Party, but he has been co-leader for six years now,” he says.

“While the party has grown in stature and credibility during Russel’s tenure, we have new people in caucus, and there’s fresh new talent among the party membership.”

Mr Hay says he is putting himself forward with a plan to build the party’s base in Auckland, focus on environmental and economic sustainability and lift the party’s performance.

The statement from David Hay is here. He says:

“I think one of the Party co-leaders should be based in Auckland, be well-informed on Auckland issues, and take a hands-on role in building the party’s Auckland base.” 

“The Green Party has under-performed at winning votes in Auckland, and we need to turn that around. Only three members of the Green Party’s 14 MPs are based in Auckland. We currently lack sufficient presence here, in New Zealand’s largest city, where a third of the population live.”

The election will be at the Greens conference in June 2014.

This is the first time an incumbent co-leader has been challenged, and that is significant. There is obvious some discontent, but what is not known is how extensive it is. Is it an Auckland vs the rest issue?

What will be interesting to observe is where the MPs stand. Will they all back Norman or will they consult with their electorates and vote in accordance with their wishes?

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Using a tragedy for political point scoring

November 13th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

When a natural disaster strikes another country, the House normally grants leave for (mainly) party leaders to express condolences to the country concerned. Yesterday John Key asked for leave in relation to the typhoon in the Philippines. It was granted and both Key and Cunliffe gave excellent short speeches expressing condolences and solidarity.

Then Russel Norman got up and decided that he knew what had caused the typhoon – greenhouse gas emissions, and subjected to the House to a lengthy diatribe about climate change. He spoke for probably twice as long as the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition combined, and just used a tragedy for political point scoring. MPs got very very grumpy about this, and the Speaker had to intervene to calm things down.

There is a time and a place to debate climate change. It is not during the condolences to a country struck by a typhoon. Norman showed appalling judgement in politicizing what is by convention a non-political series of speeches. Have a look at the Hansard at the link provided. Key, Cunliffe, Martin and Horan all made short non-political contributions. Then read the lengthy diatribe by Norman.

It takes only one MP in the House to deny leave. If Dr Norman continues to use such occasions to grand-stand on climate change, then there is a significant risk than the next the Prime Minister asks the House for leave to express condolences on a tragedy, an MP will say no.

As for Dr Norman claiming the typhoon was caused by climate change. I quote Brendan O’Neill at the Telegraph:

There are two striking things about this nauseously speedy rush to blame every natural disaster on man’s thoughtlessness or wickedness. The first is how unscientific it is. As some scientists have pointed out, there is no “absolute certainty” that climate change causes things like Haiyan. Indeed, the latest IPCC report says: “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.” The ugly urge to say “that storm was caused by climate change”, even before serious studies have been carried out, even before the bodies have been counted, is fuelled by the weirdly self-flagellating moralism of the Green movement, by Greens’ never-flailing instinct to “prove” that modern life kills, rather than by any cool-headed assessment of the facts.

Very true.

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A key point the Greens gloss over

October 11th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Russel Norman has blogged at Frog Blog:

The Treasury released papers last week recommending that the Reserve Bank move towards a committee structure for making future decisions on the Official Cash Rate (OCR). New Zealand is now alone in relying on a single person – the Reserve Bank Governor – to set the OCR. No other country in the developed world leaves such an important decision to one person.

Treasury gave the following reasons for why it supports the move to a board/committee governance structure:

Note the use of the term board/committee. The difference may seem unimportant, but it is not.

There are two seperate but related issues.

  1. Should the RB Governor solely determine the OCR
  2. If a group should determine it, is the group appointed by the Reserve Bank or appointed by Ministers of the Crown?

There are pros and cons for the 1st issue. You may lose the ability to hold the Governor accountable if he (or she) is not the decision maker, but as Treasury has pointed out there is greater security in shared decision making.

But even if you accept (1), the details of (2) are vital.

To re-ignite this important debate publicly, I’ve drafted new law in the form of a member’s bill to make this simple, uncontroversial change to the Reserve Bank’s governance structure along with the timely publishing of board minutes – another standard practice elsewhere in the OECD that improves the transparency of the Reserve Bank’s decisions.

Dr Norman’s bill would see the Reserve Bank Board set the OCR. The Board are appointed by Cabinet, and his proposal would allow Ministers to appoint people to the Board with a view to lower the OCR, even if it is inflationary, to help the Government out with a short-term growth issue. It would weaken the independence that we currently have.

The Reserve Bank itself noted in a review that in most countries with decisions by committee, the members are mainly internal. Dr Norman’s bill would see the decision made by external people only.

Treasury in their advice say:

There are several ways to construct a Committee; we are focussing on just using senior RBNZ staff to form the Committee to deal with concerns about conflicts of interest and difficulties in finding many experts to serve on the Committee.

An internal bank committee is a very different beast to the RBNZ Board which is appointed by Ministers. The Greens have tried to gloss over this key difference and make it look like Treasury are in support of their bill – which isn’t quite the case.

Having said that if Dr Norman’s bill is drawn, I would support it going to select committee. The issues are worth a parliamentary debate. I can be persuaded in favour of change – but not if the committee responsible for the decisions is the RBNZ Board, as that would be inappropriate and reduce the independence of the Reserve Bank.

 

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Russel Norman thinks tax is not a burden!

September 19th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

This is incredible and should ring warning bells about the attitude of a Government with the Greens in it to taxation.

 

Its horrific that Dr Norman thinks tax is not a burden, and even worse calling it so is right wing.

When the state takes a large proportion of your income, of course it is a fucking burden.  If they didn’t do it, you’d have less more money.

If tax wasn’t a burden, then hundreds of thousands of people would pay extra tax voluntarily. Does Dr Norman wake up every morning and send a donation in to the IRD?

Plus the stupidity of Norman’s comments are highlighted by the fact that he got owned on Twitter by Gareth Richards who pointed out that Dr Norman himself had in the past used the term himself. So in fact Dr Norman was just attacking poor civil servants for using the same term as he had used. He should apologise to the Treasury officials he maligned.

Norman tried to defend his new found view that tax is not a burden on the basis the Government spends tax revenues on some good things. Eric Crampton points out:

Taxes are a bad, public services are a good. Saying the first doesn’t mean denying the second.

Again I’m horrified that we may have a senior economic minister in a future government who does not think taxation is a burden on hard working New Zealanders who fund the tax system. It reflects a neo-marxist view I guess that all income is really the property of the state’s, and we should be grateful they allow us to keep some of it.

Also Eric schools Dr Norman on some basic economics:

More importantly, economists use the word ‘burden’ in a particular way. A few useful notes about Principles-level (maybe intermediate) economics for someone who thinks himself qualified to be finance minister:

‘Burden’ measures the total cost of a tax. The ‘excess burden’ is the amount by which the cost of a tax exceeds the amount collected. Treasury tends to reckon that excess burden is around 20%: it costs us about $1.20 to raise $1.00 in tax. The $1.00 raised is a transfer from the public to the government; the $0.20 is pure loss due to distortions in economic activity consequent to increases in our current mix of taxes.

Also:

Russel Norman suggests only “right wing” economists talk about tax burden. Here is a JSTOR search on “tax burden”. There are 61 pages of search results with 100 results per page. Item number 177 on a date-sorted list is famous Right Wing Economist John Maynard Keynes discussing the Colwyn Report on Natinoal Debt and Taxation. Item 398 is rabid right-winger Nicholas Kaldor’s call for wage subsidies to reduce unemployment (1936).

Burden is just the term used by economists to describe the cost of the tax and to help sort out the difference between statutory and economic incidence. Like “While X writes the cheque to IRD, the burden of the tax falls on Y and Z.” That’s it. It’s the standard term used in the main texts to describe this thing. Richard Musgrave (centre, maybe centre-left) uses it. James Buchanan (right) uses it. Pick a random public finance text, you’ll find “tax burden” or “excess burden” somewhere in it.

Then on Twitter Dr Norman goes further rejecting both the labels burden and distortionary for taxes!

My challenge to all those who agree with Dr Norman that tax is not a burden, to write out larges voluntary cheques today to the IRD. That means it is no extra burden on you, and reduces the burden on the rest of us.

UPDATE: Russel has actually referred to the tax burden in Parliament, as has Metiria Turei. This reinforces that Dr Norman should apologise to the Treasury officials for his attack on them for using the exact same language both Green co-leaders have used in the past.

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Vance on Norman

July 29th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance writes:

Recently, the Business and Parliament Trust hosted a bit of a do for politicians and big hitters. The charity is aimed at helping MPs and the business world understand each other better. The seminar was held under Chatham House rules but some tantalising observations leaked out from participants.

Prime Minister John Key spoke, and was well received, followed by Labour leader David Shearer.  Norman, according to reports, was hostile and aggressive.

So much so, that some in the audience were reluctant to ask questions, for fear of being attacked. 

Ironic that Norman compared John Key to Muldoon.

Judging from chatter around Wellington, the antagonism was not an isolated episode.

A representative from an oil company tells the story of how Norman turned on his heel and walked off without a word, after they attempted to introduce themselves.

He has recently been making attempts to get around businesses, but to mixed reaction.

Within the agricultural community, there is genuine apprehension the Greens will be part of any future coalition. Industry players say that outside of environmental concerns, there has been little attempt by  the party to understand its issues.

There is frustration that the Greens overlook, or are unaware, about the sector’s innovative strides. Ideological stubbornness is standing in the way of any constructive relationship with those that earn the country a living, they say.

The Greens are entirely ideological – it is their strength and their weakness. It helps them as a political party, as they are very consistent with what they say. However Government by its nature is about flexibility, and a degree of pragmatism, and the Greens in Government could well prove incendiary, and fall apart as the Alliance did.

But the view that Norman and his party are hostile to business, is a shaping up to be a bit of a conundrum for Labour. Should they be in a position to form a government next year, they must find a role to satisfy both his acumen and ambition. That he would become finance minister is quixotic, and there would be noses out of joint (including Jones’) if he was handed the economic development portfolio. Giving him energy would be an interesting move – but would likely end in a ugly clash with oil and gas companies.

Won’t Deputy PM be enough?

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Russel calls for a leak inquiry and then denounces it for being effective

July 1st, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

When the Kitteridge report was first leaked, Green co-leader Russel Norman was outraged by the leak. He suspected it was a deliberate leak by the PMs Office or similar, and demanded the Govt take action.

On 9 April he said:

Dr Russel Norman: In light of the fact that the cover note on the report says that the appendices are legally privileged and highly classified, does he believe that the leaking of the full Kitteridge report is a serious offence? 

So he is calling it a serious offence, if the full report was leaked.

Dr Russel Norman: If it does turn out that the full report has been leaked by someone in his Government, what consequences should face the person who leaked this information, which the Government Communications Security Bureau describes as legally privileged and highly classified? What consequences should that person face? 

And he calls for serious consequences.

Dr Russel Norman: Given that so far the only member of his Government who, he has told us, has had access to this report is the office of the Prime Minister, did he or a member of his staff leak the report?

Which was a stupid allegation to make, as the leaking of it undermined the PM’s trip to China.

Dr Russel Norman: If he does not know who leaked the report, will he launch an inquiry to get to the bottom of it, given his previous support for an inquiry into a leak at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade over documents that were probably quite considerably less sensitive?

So he explicitly called for a leak inquiry. He said the leak may be a serious offence, and called for serious consequences.

But now today, he has changed tune and decided that the leak inquiry was draconian, and went too far.

The Prime Minister’s inquiry into the leaking of the Kitteridge report appears to have acted beyond the law by accessing Peter Dunne’s email account log without his permission, and the Green Party has lodged a complaint with the Ombudsmen on this issue, Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

Norman seems to be arguing that the Henry inquiry should have merely asked every Minister if they leaked the report, and when they said “no, it wasn’t me”, should have left it there.

If the Henry inquiry had done that, Norman would no doubt have been calling it a cover up.

 

 

 

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Trotter on Greens

June 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

“Why has Russel Norman abandoned the Greens attempt to legitimate QE as a sensible means of stimulating the New Zealand economy?”  

With this thoroughly retrograde decision, Russel has brought to a needless and sudden halt his near faultless eighteen month performance as the Opposition’s most astute economic critic of the National Government.  

By abandoning QE, Russel has also deprived himself, the Greens, and any sort of useful ‘Centre-Left’ coalition government, of one of the very few means of mobilising the indigenous capital resources necessary to fund the job-rich, socially-just and “green” economic development New Zealand needs.  

Both the Greens’ and Labour’s promises: to put New Zealanders back to work; on a living wage; in clean, green and innovative export industries; while guaranteeing them and their families an affordable home; effective health services; and a progressive, child-centred education system; can only be achieved at the cost of billions of NZ dollars-worth of new state spending.  

What Chris Trotter is saying is that the policies of Labour and Greens are unaffordable, unless you printed more money to pay for them.

Russel’s QE proposal: Requiring the Reserve Bank to purchase government issued Earthquake Recovery Bonds to a sum equivalent to 1 percent of GDP (approximately $NZ2 billion) to both assist the Canterbury rebuild and bring down the value of the punishingly over-valued NZ Dollar; was one of the very few practical and non-inflationary funding options available to an incoming progressive government. By taking it off the table, what Russel is really telling us is that the Greens’ and Labour’s promises can no longer be paid for.   -

Trotter is right that their promises can no longer be paid for. What he is absolutely wrong on is saying QE is non-inflationary.

The Greens have always made it a point of political honour to be absolutely straight with the New Zealand electorate. If they intend to keep faith with that tradition, then their co-leader and chief economic policy spokesperson needs to step forward now and admit that, with QE off the agenda, the Greens’ promise to give New Zealand a clean, green and innovative economy can no longer by paid for and, therefore, will no longer be included in the Greens’ 2014 Manifesto. And, while he’s at it, Russel should also foreswear any ambition to be Minister of Finance in a Labour-Green government.  

I doubt they will do either. They’ll just hope the public don’t care of promises are affordable or not.

 

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Hosking vs Norman Round 2

June 13th, 2013 at 6:30 pm by David Farrar

Rob Hosking responds to Russel Norman’s claims his figures were accurate:

Well, it seems we have an explanation for where Green Party co-leader got his “40,000 jobs lost in manufacturing” claim.

It is not a good explanation, but at least it is one.

The claim, made in a press release after the release of the latest manufacturing data on Monday, caused no little head scratching.

It came in a press released headed “Manufacturing languishes for four years under National” and went on to claim, “there’s no signs of clawing back any of the 40,000 jobs lost in the manufacturing sector since 2008”.

It did not seem an unreasonable inference that Dr Norman was talking of 40,000 jobs lost since the change of government. Indeed, that was clearly the inference he wanted people to draw.

The trouble is, none of the three measures of employment back this up, and NBR ONLINE took the time to explain why.

The NBR ONLINE story  prompted something of an online debate, especially on Twitter, where Dr Norman demanded an apology and then conceded he was taking his figures from March-June 2008.

As his earlier statement had carefully avoided saying this, NBR ONLINE does not really feel any apology is owed.

It’s pretty easy. Since 2008 doesn’t include half of 2008. Dr Norman could have said since June 2008 but chose not to. The reason is he wanted to deceive people that the 40,000 jobs lost had happened under National, rather than it being 20,000.

99 people out of 100 would take “Since 2008″ to be since December 2008, not since June 2008.

Hosking also makes another useful point:

In principle, politicians really should stop talking New Zealand down. It is shallow, cheap and easy, and it is immensely destructive.

This also applies to politicians’ staff, and to economic and political commentators. New Zealand public discourse was dominated for much of the 1970s to 1990s by an all-encompassing and corrosively negative commentary about this country’s economic prospects.

It did a huge amount of damage to the nation’s morale and skills base. At least it was, at the time, based on a real economic crisis.

When such corrosive negativity is based, as this is, on claims of a bogus “crisis” it is particularly despicable.

It is one thing to point out that the manufacturing industry has had job losses. But for a couple of years now the opposition have been trying to literally manufacture a “crisis” in manufacturing.

As an aside, jobs have grown in manufacturing over the past six months by around 5000 – which means even Dr Norman’s claim of “no signs of any clawing back” of jobs lost is just not true. 

But the timing of that 2004 drop in employment is highly significant. It is also when New Zealand firms started picking up their capital investment, particularly in plant and machinery.

In short, a shift began towards more capital intensive and less labour intensive work.

Let’s burn all the machines, and we’ll have full employment!

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Drury vs Greens

June 13th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has accused Prime Minister John Key of conspiring to establish a surveillance state in New Zealand by encouraging American data-mining company Palantir to set up shop here.

Well that is an 11 on a 0 to 10 hysteria scale.

The comments prompted a savage response from Rod Drury, a business associate of Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel, with Mr Drury labelling the attack another example of economic vandalism.

The Greens – working to destroy jobs since 1999. Now actively campaigning against high tech companies being in New Zealand.

Dr Norman later tweeted: “When crony govt meets surveillance state – John Key appoints Peter Thiel’s Palantir to spy on NZers”.

That drew an angry response from Mr Drury who tweeted: “Don’t be w***ers”, and followed that up with “Hey Greens. Cheating NZ out of $200m on Mighty River Power now spinning this rubbish. Please put NZ ahead of yourselves.”

He said the Greens were “ruining relationships and/by insinuating cronyism is vandalism. Politics in NZ is getting nasty. Lift the game.”

Basically just another Muldoonist attack from Nasty Norman.

Suggesting Peter Thiel has ill-will against NZ, and is part of an operation to spy on us is churlish to say the least. He personally donated $1 million to the Christchurch earthquake appeal fund and has a long history of philanthropy – including the Committee to Protect Journalists which promotes the right of journalists to report news without fear of reprisal.

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NBR calls Russel out on his porky

June 11th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Russel Norman proclaimed:

“There’s no signs of clawing back any of the 40,000 jobs lost in the manufacturing sector since 2008.

Rob Hoksing at NBR fisks this claim:

Manufacturing has lost 40,000 jobs, Green co-leader Russel Norman proclaimed yesterday when the latest manufacturing data came out.

He might be right – if you go back to the late 1990s.

However, Dr Norman claimed the sector had lost 40,000 jobs since the current government took office at the end of 2008.

We’ll call that bogus and leave readers to use shorter or pithier epithets if they so wish.

So who is right? Russel Norman or Rob Hoksing?

The full-time equivalent employee numbers, which are included in Statistics New Zealand’s quarterly employment survey, show 18,000 fewer working in the industry over the past 17 quarters since National took office. 

The previous 17 quarters show a 16,700 drop. Remember this was also, mostly, prior to the global financial crisis, in a much more different – not to say optimistic – environment.

The filled job figures, also contained in the quarterly employment survey, show a 20,400 fall in jobs in the most recent 17 quarters, and 18,300 in the equivalent previous period.

So if you go by the QES, Norman is out by over 100%.

The official unemployment measure, the household labour force, shows a much larger difference.

 The number of people employed in manufacturing fell 9400 since the change of government. The previous 17 quarters shows a loss of more than double that number of jobs, by 19,900.

And from the HLFS stats, Norman is out by 300%.

All these figures paint the same picture with a slightly different emphasis: the sector has been employing fewer people for a long time. 

They also show Dr Norman is just making numbers up. 

Making a lot of things up lately to manufacture a crisis in manufacturing.

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Norman on Dunne

June 11th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Russel Norman has facebooked:

1. The Kitteridge report was going to be released anyway, maybe a week after it was leaked. Whoever leaked it simply gave Vance an exclusive, they weren’t releasing any secret document.

2. We don’t know what Dunne may have leaked other than the K report, including from the Intelligence and Security Cttee (ISC) of the Appendix tot he K report – Henry Report says Dunne didn’t leak the classified Apprendix as he didnt have access to it. If there is a police investigation, and it seems that NZF have complained to the police, then that seems the relevant issue. I don’t think this is the central issue but clearly my comments on it have been a cause of some concern.

This looks like a hasty retreat from his position of a few days ago when Radio NZ reported:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says the Prime Minister should ask police to determine who leaked the report, and says a police inquiry would have the power to force Mr Dunne to release his emails.

Glad to see the Greens are acting more sensibly on this now.

5. On Privileges Cttee, I’m pretty dubious about giving a bunch of MPs the right to force another MP to release their emails. If there is something criminal then it’s a matter for the police, but otherwise it is only the Kitterridge report and that isn’t sensitive. Of course if it goes to Privileges Cttee then we’ll do our duty to be fair minded about it.

It is a fair point about the undesirability of MPs voting on whether or not to force another MP to release their e-mail. That could set a nasty precedent.

6. On Dunne leaving parliament. Based on the publicly available evidence he hasnt done anything serious enough to call for him to leave parliament.

Glad to see Norman say this. This affair is a long way off the bar for an MP to resign his seat and force a by-election.

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Armstrong on Greens

June 10th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong woke at the weekend:

Norman appeared to offer further evidence of that later in the week when he rounded on the chairman of the Electricity Authority, Brent Layton.

National Party-aligned bloggers were not the only people asking in the wake of that attack who was being Muldoonist now.

Norman’s curt response to Layton’s detailed critique of the joint Labour-Greens plan to reform the wholesale electricity market was pretty tame stuff, especially when placed alongside Winston Peters’ slow evisceration of Peter Dunne.

However, Norman’s attack struck a discordant note coming as it did only days after the Greens’ co-leader had accused John Key of vilifying and bullying his critics in a manner which was as divisive as that of the late Sir Robert Muldoon.

Norman’s rejection of Layton’s 28-page paper, which sought to demolish the Labour-Greens’ notion of setting up a single institution to set wholesale electricity prices, was also in marked contrast to the rebuttal by Labour’s David Parker. The latter challenged Layton’s arguments one by one in a measured tone.

That was the point. Parker showed how to disagree on policy grounds. Norman made it personal, and nasty. Becoming a habit.

Norman’s statement was far more belligerent with a number of references to Layton as a “National Party appointee” to a “National Party-created” regulator.

Layton is no National Party hack, however. He is a highly-respected economist with extensive knowledge and experience of the electricity generating industry over many years.

Indeed Dr Layton is a highly respected economist. He was the director of the non-profit NZIER economics co-operative for five years. Dr Norman’s PhD was on the history of the Alliance Party. Dr Layton’s was on economic history.

I doubt there is an economist in NZ who has done more work in the electricity sector. Dr Layton looks to have done 20 or so reports in the 2000s, for the Major Electricity Users Group (the ones who benefit the most from reliable supply, cheaper prices and better competition).

Fran O’Sullivan also writes:

Russel Norman exposed himself as a “Muldoonist” when he slammed into highly respected economist Brent Layton this week for daring to raise his head above the parapet and defend the work of the NZ Electricity Authority, which he chairs.

Norman was clearly incensed that Layton had issued a paper on the economics of electricity that laid waste to the arguments of three critics of the current regime, and challenged the proposal by the Greens and Labour to set up a new entity – NZ Power – to effectively control prices.

But by slagging Layton off as “nothing more than a National Party-appointed civil servant who has failed to do his job and is now trying to protect his patch”, Norman was straying well into the territory of personal attacks that Sir Robert Muldoon made an art form, and demonstrating a predisposition to a form of political management the Greens co-leader claims to despise.

Long may Russel keep it up. Once a brand is damaged, it is very hard to repair it.

And there would be few people in the Wellington political firmament who would have missed the underlying message sent by the NZ Institute of Economic Research when it issued a short-form CV yesterday under the simple headline: Background: Dr Brent Layton.

The release simply noted the many roles Layton has held: chairman of the electricity market rules committee, a director of Transpower and M-Co, former chairman of Trust Bank Canterbury, a director of the Futures Exchange, deputy chairman of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, chairman of Lyttelton Port Company, chairman of Canterbury Health and also AgResearch and its commercial arm Celentis. Currently, He chairs Sastek, a Brisbane-based hardware manufacturing and software development company. And he has also been one of two external monetary policy advisers to the Governor of the Reserve Bank.

In other words: frame that up against a PhD on the Alliance and a working life spent mainly in Parliament? There is no real comparison.

One can disagree with Layton’s analysis and conclusions. But to label him as basically a failed hack was unworthy.

 

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Opposition parties may look silly over Police complaints

June 9th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour, Greens and NZ First are all somewhat hysterically saying that the report leaked (presumably) by Peter Dunne is a criminal matter, and have all rushed off to the Police to try and get him investigated.

I’ll come back to the hypocrisy of opposition parties demanding a Police investigation into a leak, but let us first deal with two recent leaks. The first is the Kitteridge report.

This was a report that was due to be released to the public. The leak changed the timing of that (and was politically very very unhelpful to the Government), but again it was a report written for public release and its classification was sensitive. What is a sensitive classification. There are six types of classifications in two categories. The two categories are:

  • National security classifications where compromise would damage NZ’s security, defence or international relations
  • Policy and privacy classifications where compromise would damage government functions or be detrimental to an individual

There are four national security classifications, They are:

  1. Top secret
  2. Secret
  3. Confidential
  4. Restricted

The Kitteridge report had NO national security classification.

The two policy and privacy classifications  are sensitive and in-confidence, and it was classified sensitive.

While the report was about the GCSB, it doesn’t mean the report was classified for national security reasons. In fact the report was due to be released publicly anyway. This makes the leaking of it a government issue, not a criminal issue. Don’t get me wrong – the leak was appalling, and a resignation is the appropriate  outcome. But talking of Police complaints is hysteria.

Now let us compare this leak to the leak of a Cabinet paper on MFAt restructuring. Unlike the Kitteridge report, the Cabinet paper was not a paper about to be released to the public. Cabinet papers are for Cabinet, and that paper was leaked even before it got to Cabinet (off memory). That leak is clearly just as “bad” a leak as the Kitteridge report, and arguably worse.

Yet in this case Labour have spent months arguing the leak should not be pursued, and that a leak inquiry is a waste of money. Flagrant hypocrisy. And I hope one day, we will be publicly able to publish why Labour is so frightened about the leaker’s identity being revealed, and any links back to them.

Several on the left are critical of opposition parties demanding a criminal investigation into a leak. No Right Turn blogs:

Firstly, the idea that this leak breached the Crimes Act is utterly ridiculous. Both the offences of espionage (which peters accused Dunne of in Parliament on Thursday) and wrongful communication of official information require that the information in question “be likely to prejudice seriously the security or defence of New Zealand”. John Key was quite clear in his press conference that that was not the case, and there is no possible way in which the leak of material exposing GCSB wrongdoing could be seen in that light. So, the idea that an offence has been commited is pure bullshit, and the Greens should not be trading in it. …

A party like the Greens, committed to democracy and freedom, should be encouraging such leaks, not calling for them to be punished – especially given the shit we’re learning about what the GCSB’s foreign masters have been getting up to.

Russel Norman has sought to justify his position on the grounds that such leaks undermine the idea of Parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies. Firstly, this wasn’t an ISC document, so that’s just a non-sequitur. But more importantly, Parliament pays the bills, so it has an absolute right to scrutinise what is done with our money, no matter how secret and sensitive. And I regard it as not just a right, but a duty of politicians on the ISC to inform the public of wrongdoing. If Norman seriously believes what he’s said, then he is not doing his job properly, and should resign immediately so that his place can be taken by someone less credulous and authoritarian.

The authoritarian Dr Norman!

NBR also reports:

Labour and the Greens are illiberal in pushing for a police inquiry into the Peter Dunne affair, and have revealed themselves as anti leaks to the media, says Bryce Edwards.

“It’s incredibly surprising to see Labour and the Greens have called on the police to intervene over the leak of the GCSB,” the Otago University lecturer and commentator tells NBR Online.

“There’s always problems when the police get involved in the political and media realm. It can have a very chilling affect on politics and journalism,” Dr Edwards says.

And the next time there is a leak to say an opposition MP, how could Labour or Greens complain if there is a criminal Police investigation into it? They are so kneejerk desperate to get a media headline that day, they rarely think about the consistency of their long-term position.

Generally those that regard themselves as politically liberal will not want the police involved unless utterly necessary, says the Politics Daily compiler.

“Therefore the threshold for calling the cops into Parliament and newsrooms should be very high. It’s hard to see that this threshold has been reached in this case,” Dr Edwards says.

“Normally those that call the police in on their political opponents are from an authoritarian political philosophy. By contrast, liberals generally regard those that leak government department reports as heroic whistleblowers that are enabling the freedom of information and the right of the public to know what those in authority are doing.”

The Greens, Labour and New Zealand First have now shown that they stand opposed to leaks to the media, says the lecturer.

That’s the second commentator to use the term authoritarian. And I am unsure of the media will like the opposition (presumably) demanding that a reporter’s phone records, e-mails and other communications be seized because she received a leak.

Dr Norman says a key issue is whether the appendix to the inquiry was leaked. Unlike the body of the report, which was always scheduled to be shared with the public, the appendix is secret – and breaching it could constitute a breach of the Crimes Act.

Peter Dunne did not have the appendix. No information from the appendix has been published, so nice try inventing a make believe crime.

Labour leader David Shearer has called on police to seize Mr Dunne’s emails. His deputy, Grant Robertson, says Mr Dunne should be compelled to give evidence under oath. 

On that basis, they must also be demanding that Phil Goff have his emails seized by the Police and Goff should be compelled to give evidence under oath.

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Norman v Muldoon

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

Rodney Hide writes in the HoS:

Norman was safe and secure in launching a personal attack on Key. It is Key’s style and strategy not to fire back. But Muldoon would not have sat quietly by. Muldoon would have eaten him up and spat him out.

Muldoon also would never have shared his leadership as Norman does. He wasn’t a touchy-feely, let’s-sit-around-the-table-holding-hands sort of guy. He was leader and that was that. Muldoon would never have tolerated a co-leader.

And then there was Norman crying, “Give me back my flag. Give me back my flag.” That was when he was attempting to stick the Tibetan flag in the face of Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping. Muldoon would never have done that. He was polite and respectful to our guests, whatever he thought of their domestic politics.

And if Muldoon did get into a scuffle, he would not have come out second. Once a rowdy group of young protesters shouting “Heil Hitler” attacked Muldoon as he was leaving a meeting. They hit him in the face, kicked his leg and shoved him against his car.

The then Leader of the Opposition decked one and chased the others down the street shouting, “One at a time and you’re welcome”.

Heh. An iconic moment.

Norman is Australian. Muldoon was a New Zealander through and through. In comparing Key to Muldoon, Norman gave us a very sharp reminder that he’s a very recent arrival. No one who lived in New Zealand would ever think Key was in any way a Muldoon. The comparison is bizarre.

Russel has been whining that it is wrong to say he can’t write about Muldoon as he wasn’t in NZ then, saying that means no one could write about Peter Fraser who wasn’t alive in the 1940s.

He misses the point that no one who actually lived in NZ when Muldoon was PM, would compare him to John Key without bursting into a fit of laughter at the ridiculousness of the comparison.

Norman has a PhD in political science. For Muldoon there were two types of doctors: the ones who made you well, and the ones who made you sick. He would have had a very clear view of what sort of doctor Norman was.

Muldoon fought fascism and totalitarianism in World War II. Norman was for several years active in the Marxist-Leninist Democratic Socialist Party.

They are two very different men. Muldoon was popular. His majority in his electorate was unassailable. The best Norman has done is come third.

They are men of different eras. Muldoon was minister of finance the year Norman was born.

But in other ways they aren’t so different.

Muldoon’s policies were to control the economy, fix prices, set the exchange rate, invest in hare-brained schemes, and print money to pay for it all.

He all but bankrupted the country.

In this regard, Muldoon and Norman are peas in a pod.

Matthew Hooton goes down this road also in the NBR:

Sir Robert left office in 1984, roughly when Dr Norman left high school.  At that time, he tells us, he was busy opposing Australia’s “new right” Hawke/Keating government, elected in March 1983, and “peace rallies, anti-nuclear demonstrations and animal rights activism soon became a large part of extra-curricular high school life.”

It is fantastic that the adolescent Dr Norman had time left over to follow developments across the Tasman, including Sir Robert publicly issuing enemies’ lists, banning unfriendly journalists from his press conferences, personally directing monetary policy, ramming through the Clutha Development (Clyde Dam) Empowering Act 1982, abusing young backbenchers in drunken rages, lying about the country’s fiscal position, provoking a foreign exchange crisis, refusing to follow the instructions of the incoming government and having to be bullied into doing so by his outgoing cabinet.

And on the policy front:

The irony of Dr Norman’s preposterous comparison of Mr Key to Sir Robert is that the party in today’s parliament with an economic programme most similar to Muldoon’s is the Greens.

It is the Greens who advocate greater control of the currency, extra monetary tools and more aggressive interventions by the Reserve Bank.  They are the only main party comfortable with Muldoon-style import substitution and against free trade.  How green were Muldoon’s carless days, designed to reduce reliance on oil?  How stimulatory were his deficits? 

More topically, Sir Robert exercised direct state control of the electricity sector including the state directing what new electricity generation would be built and where.  What else is Labour/Green’s NZ Power?

Instead of an across-the-board GST, Sir Robert favoured lower sales taxes on things he considered good and higher taxes on things he considered bad.

With their promised new “suite of ecological taxes,” the Greens promise the same.

This could be a good question for the Greens. How many of Sir Robert’s economic policies do they disagree with today? Any?

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A tale of two responses

June 6th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

In a 28 page paper delivered to an industry audience in Auckland, Dr Brent Layton argues current arrangements are working well but can be better, and that returning to a central planning approach will lead to higher prices and more likelihood of power shortages.

“Conclusions based on inadequate research are not a basis for sound economic policy,” said Layton, in a direct attack on Victoria University Institute of Policy Studies economist Dr Geoff Bertram, whom he accuses of producing graphs that overstate the extent of household power price increases relative to other countries.

Dr Layton is the Chairman of the Electricity Authority, which is the sector equivalent of the Commerce Commission. It is the body that helps regulate the market to try and maximise competition to benefit consumers.

Dr Layton is not a politician or lobbyist. He is not campaigning for votes. His job is to identify what sort of regulatory regime will best deliver for consumers.

Layton also says he would not implement the Labour-Greens’ NZ Power proposal because it would contravene the requirements of the regulator’s legislation “to promote competition in, reliable supply by, and the efficient operation of the electricity industry for the long term benefit of consumers.”

Asked whether he would be able to serve on the Electricity Authority if a Labour-Green government were elected, Layton said: “I personally wouldn’t.”

What he is effectively saying is that their proposal threatens reliable supply. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t want to be the fall guy, should that come to pass.

On central buyer proposals, he said similar policies had been examined four times in the last 25 years and “found wanting in terms of what would be of long term benefit to consumers.

That is not just his view. That was also the view of David Parker when he was Minister of Energy.

What is fascinating is the responses from David Parker and Russel Norman to his paper.

David Parker has done a critique of his analysis. I don’t agree with Parker’s critique, but it is policy based and respectful.

Contrast that to Russel Norman’s response:

“Dr Layton’s extraordinary foray into political debate is nothing more than a National Party-appointed civil servant who has failed to do his job and is now trying to protect his patch,” said Dr Norman.

So once again Dr Norman attacks the man, instead of the issue. Rather Muldoonist, dare I say.

It is worth recalling what the annual increase in electricity CPI have been. For the last ten years they have been:

  • 2003 9.3%
  • 2004 8.8%
  • 2005 4.1%
  • 2006 7.1%
  • 2007 6.5%
  • 2008 7.7%

Then since the election

  • 2009 2.1%
  • 2010 5.8% (of which 2.2% was GST increase, so underlying figure was 3.6%)
  • 2011 2.4%
  • 2012 5.2%

The increases in the last four years have been fairly modest. Excluding the GST change, it has been around 3.3% a year which is higher than desirable but much less than the previous Government.

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Editorials lash Norman

June 5th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

If Russel Norman’s purpose in likening John Key to former prime minister Sir Robert Muldoon was to demonstrate that the Green Party is now as eager to make personal attacks as other political parties, his speech to the Green Party’s annual conference in Christchurch should be judged a triumph.

And their problem is one you lose a brand attribute, it is very hard to get it back. If the Greens ever again proclaim they don’t do personal attacks, people will and should laugh.

If, on the other hand, the Australian-born and educated co-leader of the environmental party was attempting to convince voters he shares their experiences, it was an abysmal failure.

When Muldoon was Prime Minister, Norman was running around Australia promoting Marxism.

However, to suggest Mr Key’s personal style is akin to that of Sir Robert is to do nothing but betray ignorance.

The two could not be more different. Sir Robert was a micro-manager; Mr Key delegates. Sir Robert snarled; Mr Key smiles. Sir Robert banned journalists from press conferences, insulted foreign leaders and once punched a demonstrator outside a meeting. Mr Key occasionally gets a little tetchy.

“Divisive and corrosive” Sir Robert certainly was, although, ironically, his command and control approach to running the economy was probably closer to Green Party policy than anything seen since he was voted out of office in 1984.

That’s a good point. Many of the economic policies of the Greens are Muldoonist.

The curious thing about Dr Norman’s attack is that it is he who has resorted to the Muldoonist tactic of attacking the man and Mr Key who has responded by playing the issue.

The Press editorial is similar:

The strident personal attack by the co-leader of the Greens, Russel Norman, on Prime Minister John Key at the weekend may have gone down well with the 100 or so faithful he was addressing at a party conference in Christchurch.

But to most others, even those on the Left, it will have seemed strikingly ill-judged. It introduced an unpleasant personal note not heard since the days, oddly enough, of Robert Muldoon, the man whose name he invoked to make an invidious comparison with the present prime minister.

Both editorials have concluded that it was Norman, not Key, who was exhibiting Muldoon type qualities. That’s some political genius to achieve that.

Norman can perhaps be forgiven for not understanding the truly corrosive nature of many of Muldoon’s actions – the nasty personal attacks on political opponents, the shatteringly divisive Springbok tour, the disastrous economic policies, the final unwillingness to relinquish power after political defeat. Norman did not come to New Zealand until five years after Muldoon’s death and 23 years after he fell from power. But the memory of the toxic nature of much of what happened under Muldoon is still strong to those who lived through it, and to many who heard of it later. And they know perfectly well that nothing done by the present Government can remotely be compared.

So why did he do it? Desperation?

It suggests, too, that Norman is not entirely confident that he can make electoral headway on policies alone. The Greens in recent months have made a lot of the running on Opposition policy, particularly economic policy, so much so that a pollster asked a question suggesting that Norman was Bill English’s opposite number on finance rather than Labour’s finance spokesman, David Parker. Much of this (a radical loosening of monetary policy, a government-run electricity market) along with Labour’s own policies (government housing projects), has been seen by many analysts as taking the Opposition on a lurch to the Left.

The latest opinion polls, which showed little reaction to the policies, disappointed the Opposition. The answer to that disappointment should not, however, be a resort to personal attack. That really would be an undesirable step down the slippery track toward Muldoonism.

Imagine what he would be like if he got to be Finance Minister!

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Why did Norman go nasty?

June 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance writes at Stuff:

Norman had a comprehensive list of examples to back his assertion that “something in rotten in the state of New Zealand politics…something is rotting in the Beehive.”

He cited: the SkyCity deal; Hobbit employment law changes; the sacking of Environment Canterbury councillors; dumping of proposed MMP changes; a ban on deep sea drilling protests at the behest of oil companies; and recent disabled carers’ legislation.

Let’s be very clear. It is absolutely appropriate opposition parties attack the Government for decisions they don’t like. I do wish they would stop lying about deep see protests being banned. They are not. All that is banned is protests within 500 metres of a commercial operation, as the right to protest doesn’t trump the right to do your lawful business.

Anyway absolutely legitimate to attack the Govt and the PM for decisions you dislike.

But the 20-minute address marked a departure from the Green’s particular brand of play-the-ball-not-the-man-politics. Norman launched a personal attack on Key, painting him as a Muldoon-style bully. There was also a snide reference to Key’s personal wealth: he is “irritated if we are not all grateful for him generously agreeing to be PM.” And he trashed Key’s trademark genial disposition.

“The next time you see John Key smiling, …he’s smiling because he’s giving favours to his mates while undermining your democracy,” he said.

What Norman is doing here is trying to paint Key as an evil person. He’s trying to make people think that Key actually hates ordinary New Zealanders and just pretends to be friendly when he is smiling.

It is ridiculous, as anyone who knows John Key would testify. John Armstrong writes:

Muldoonist? John Key? Russel Norman cannot be serious.

The Green Party co-leader’s assertion that the “divisive and corrosive” behaviour exhibited by the leader of the National Party is akin to that of his most notorious of predecessors is certainly headline-grabbing. It also verges on the ludicrous. Sir Robert Muldoon was without question our most belligerent, abrasive, polarising, dictatorial and vindictive politician.

The fear and loathing he was capable of generating within his own ranks – let alone in the wider world of politics – was summed up by a caucus colleague who said he went to Muldoon’s funeral only so he could be assured the lid on the coffin had been nailed down properly.

I knew Muldoon, unlike Norman. Norman only moved to New Zealand five years after Muldoon died. I can’t think of an MP who is more different to Muldoon in personality, than John Key.

This is shown in Key’s response to Norman:

Prime Minister John Key was remarkably restrained in his response to Greens co-leader Russel Norman’s personal attack on Saturday. Dr Norman called Mr Key corrosive and said he is ”irritated if we are not all grateful for him generously agreeing to be PM”. Through a spokeswoman, Mr Key said the Government is ”focused on the things that matter – like building a strong and stable economy with more, better paying jobs to help New Zealand families”.

I can’t recall the last time John Key did a nasty personal attack in a set speech. Making a joking reference to Labour and Greens as the devil-beast is not a personal attack. It is a political one.

Here’s a challenge. What”s the worst thing John Key ever said about Helen Clark? To the best of my memory he attacked her Government, not her. In fact once he beat her, he helped get her a job at the UN.

I think people can decide for themselves who has decided to be corrosive. Now I’m not complaining about it. I think it is good that people are now able to see what the Greens are prepared to do, in order to get into power.

UPDATE: Karl du Fresne, who was a journalist under Muldoon blogs:

Russel Norman’s speech to the annual conference of the Greens, in which he compared John Key with Robert Muldoon, rated a 10 for desperation and a zero for credibility. …

Norman arrived in New Zealand from Australia in 1997, and on the basis of his speech I would guess that’s about as far back as his knowledge of our political history extends.None of the prime ministers we’ve had since Muldoon could be compared with him, for which we should be grateful. He was a vindictive bully who cleverly exploited the politics of fear and division, and never more so than during the 1981 Springbok tour.

In fact I would suggest that in terms of personality, Key is the least like Muldoon. Anyone old enough to remember the political unpleasantness of the late 1970s and early 80s – which probably excludes a lot of Green voters – would have reacted with astonishment to Norman’s bizarre attempt to compare the two men.
Muldoon’s default facial expression was a snarl. Key’s is a grin (or if you want to be harsh, a smirk).

Arguably, the politician who most closely resembles Muldoon, and who served his apprenticeship under him, is Winston Peters. Like Muldoon, Peters has a penchant for demagoguery. But even the New Zealand First leader falls far short of Muldoon’s menacing intolerance of dissent, though it might have been a different story had he ever won power.

That’s the Winston Peters that the Greens are preparing to go into Government with?

There are only two possible explanations for Norman’s attack on Key. The first is that, as postulated above, he knows nothing about our modern political history (not that that stops him from promoting himself as a credible alternative leader). The second, which is even more worrying, is that he knows the comparison between Key and Muldoon is absurd but ran with it anyway. Perhaps he senses the Greens’ momentum is slipping and is prepared to resort to extreme measures to get some traction.

I think it is the second.

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Norman goes nasty

June 1st, 2013 at 2:10 pm by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff writes:

And he launched an astonishing personal attack on Prime Minister John Key, who he says is “divisive and corrosive” and “irritated if we are not all grateful for him generously agreeing to be PM.”

He added: “So next time you see John Key smiling, remember he’s not smiling because he likes you, he’s smiling because he’s giving favours to his mates while undermining your democracy.”

And Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald writes:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has made a rare personal attack on Prime Minister John Key, comparing him to former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon

You could say a lot about the policies put forward by Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald, but you know that they never would have carried out the sort of personal smear attack Russel Norman is now doing with the Greens.

Once upon a time the Greens boasted that they didn’t do personal attacks. I presume they’ll never make that claim again.

I can only presume it is desperation as Russell sees his long awaited dreams of being a Minister slip away.

His speech resembles one of the more angry rants you often read at The Standard. That is because it was probably written by one of the authors at The Standard.

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