Geddis on Cosgrove

July 8th, 2012 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

Andrew Geddis blogs on the Clayton Cosgrove issue at Pundit:

First of all, no-one is accusing Cosgrove of accepting a bribe from Independent Fisheries – at least, they are not doing so out loud. Both Cosgrove and the company adamently deny there was any connection between his introduction of a members bill that would financially help the company (as well as a number of other constituents) and its later decision to donate money to his campaign. Not only is this most probably true in fact, the dual denial means that there is no way of proving it to be false.

Personally I don’t think that there was a pre-condition on the donation.

Second, Cosgrove quite rightly declared the $17,500 in donations to the Electoral Commission – from which we all then were able to find out about the relationship a couple of months ago. True, this action tells against any corrupt relationship existing in fact; you’d have to be a pretty silly (or incredibly brazen) person to openly tell the world that you’ve accepted a chunk of money which was paid to you in exchange for trying to get a change in the law. But the point of declaring donations is to let us make those sorts of judgments about what may or may not have been the motives on each side – if we were to say that simply declaring a donation automatically means that, ipso facto, there cannot be a corrupt intent behind it, then that would have a rather perverting effect on the disclosure regime!

Exactly – this is why we have transparency – so people can judge for themselves if they think there is a connection between donations and (for example) specific policies or acts.

Which brings us once again to the third level of protection. What does the decision to accept a considerable donation from a long-term friend whom you have, in your official capacity as an MP, taken steps to help in a quite significant fashion say about Cosgrove’s internal sense of political morality? By this I mean, what does it say about his ability to scrutinise not only his own motives for taking the money, but also understand how taking that money would look to others? And here I mean not those political enemies who would like to see him taken down, but rather the “average voter” who is assessing the behaviour of her or his political masters? Is it a “good look” to them for an MP to be in this sort of relationship, even if all involve protest the purist of motives?

This is the point I made yesterday. Wise MPs do not lobby on behalf of mates, do not push private legislation that provides significant financial benefits to their mates, and do not then accept large donations from a mate whose financial interests would have benefited from your advocacy.

One last point. I note that Cosgrove is alleging that this story has been “shopped around” by Gerry Brownlee in an effort to distract from a court case being brought by Independent Fisheries against his use of CERA powers to rezone their land. That may well be true. And that case also may well reveal what some of us said from the outset – giving Brownlee or any other Minister extensive powers to override existing property rights and legal processes in order to “help Canterbury” carries considerable risks of their misuse.

However, the motives for drawing attention to Cosgrove’s relationship with Independent Fisheries do not touch on its basic rightness or wrongness. Or, to put it another way, the problem isn’t so much that people are noticing the donation to Cosgrove, but rather that the donation was given and accepted in the first place.

It shows how defensive Cosgrove is on this issue, that he is trying to shift attention by alleging that the story has been shopped around by National. The Nation have confirmed that they have had no contact with Gerry Brownlee’s office on this, and the first I know what the story was about was watching The Nation.

The ironic thing is there is an MP who is known to do smear campaigns about donations – even when there haven’t been any. That MP may be behind this “smear campaign” also. It is a Mr Clayton Cosgrove. Back in June 2008 he said:

On June 3, Mr Cosgrove received a letter from a member of the Institute which indicates that deals have been done between some senior industry members and the National Party to wind back this consumer protection legislation. “The letter said the REINZ president Murray Cleland recently told members at a regional AGM that if the National Party won the election it is likely to change the legislation to suit the Institute,” he said.

Mr Cosgrove said this raises serious questions over what deals have been done. “The National Party has confirmed it has met with REINZ representatives so now it needs to come clean on when this happened, who was present and what promises were made. National should tell us if any election campaign funds have been solicited or received by the Party, its MPs and/or its candidate, and whether any contributions have been made by REINZ and/or its member companies,” he said.

So when National advocated something, Clayton went out there and effectively alleged they were doing it due to donations from REINZ or its members (something that in fact was not true – he just made it up, and posed it as a question), while in this case the donation is a matter of record.

But to get this clear, the media asking Clayton questions about a donation from a property company which would have received huge financial benefits from legislation he proposed is a smear campaign, but him alleging National is in the pocket of the real estate industry (whom did not donate to National) is not a smear campaign. It is only wrong if it is not Labour doing it.

A second Labour smear campaign

November 21st, 2011 at 3:43 pm by David Farrar

Oh my God. Labour are repeating their 2005 smear campaign to state housing tenants. Is there any depth they won’t stoop to?

State Housing Brochure

The reality under National is has increased the housing stock, with the only sales (a few dozen) being to existing tenants, and the capital used to buy more houses. In fact the total number of state houses has increased by more than 1,000 under National. National has also renovated or upgraded 50,000 state houses.

It is an absolute lie to say National is reviewing all state house tenancies. The policy clearly says only *new* tenancies will be placed on periodic review.

So Labour are putting out material saying Vote Labour to save your family home and vote Labour if you want to be around to see your kid’s first birthday. This is what happens when you place Trevor Mallard in charge of your campaign. It shows they are totally unchanged from the bunch that got kicked out in 2008 – in fact I think they have got worse.

UPDATE: Inventory at Keeping Stock blogs the problems caused by Labour’s fake eviction notices in 2005, according to the State Services Commissioner:

Eviction notices

The last issue I wish to raise is the unintended and complex consequences for State servants of actions taken during political campaigns. In this election period, the Labour Party sent fake “eviction notices” to several thousand individual State house tenants as part of a housing policy promotion. This action had two consequences for the State Services. Firstly, it raised trust issues as tenants were suspicious that a government agency had given their private information to a political party, and, secondly, Housing New Zealand staff had to manage calls from worried and scared tenants.

Housing New Zealand confirms that it did not release its tenants’ mailing list. Labour Party president Mike Williams stated the party “constructed its own list” from publicly available information (New Zealand Herald, 10 September 2005). However, the outcome of this communication meant that Housing New Zealand call centre staff were placed in the potentially difficult predicament of managing calls from concerned tenants. Call centre staff were given guidance that they must remain neutral and not get into the position where they are discussing the pros and cons of various party policies on housing with tenants.

Labour have sent these not just to state house tenants, but also to non state house tenants who may be conned into thinking somehow National may evict them also.

Do you know why Labour are distributing these now, and not later this week? If you put out a false pamphlet up until Wednesday, then there is no sanction for Labour, even if say the ASA finds it false. However if they put out a false pamphlet on Thursday and Friday, then it is a criminal offence under the Electoral Act and those responsible can be prosecuted and jailed for a corrupt practice. So the timing is no coincidence.

If anyone at all receives either of the smear pamphlets on Thursday or Friday, please let me know and retain a copy of it.

Labour’s campaign hits full stride

November 21st, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I thought Labour would never stoop lower than their 2005 campaign when they wrote to state house tenants and told them National would sell and evict them from their state houses. Never mind that National’s policy was that you can only sell a state house to its existing tenants.

But this really takes the cake. It is hugely insulting to the hundreds of thousands of mothers who are not on benefits and do work, because it is equating a work test obligation (which only applies if you are a sole parent who has a second child on the benefit) with not being around to celebrate a birthday.  How denigrating to working mothers. The second page has the slogan “Vote to keep families together, Vote Labour”. So Labour regards having working parents as child abandonment now.

Also the shock tactics where it looks like National’s policy is to kill off parents, with the phrase “you won’t be around to celebrate her first birthday”. It really is vile grubby stuff.

Whale has the full letter. The unanswered question is if Labour is sending these to parents of new borns, how did it get this info?

UPDATE: Stuff now has a story on these, with Grant Robertson defending them. Good to know Labour will resort to tactics like this to try and preserve a welfare system where someone can remain on the DPB for 20+ years and never face work testing.

Another day, another smear

May 12th, 2011 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

Sigh, they just have not learnt from the H-Fee. This latest smear is, in my opinion, actually worse than the H-Fee smear. You see with the H-Fee I do credit that Mike Williams did at least have an honest belief that John Key was the evil mastermind of the H-Fee transaction as he got Key’s signature confused with someone else. So it was a clumsy incompetent smear – but at least one they thought was true.

The BMW smear is worse than that, Because Mallard and Hipkins know it is not true. The most simple of checks would establish the two companies named are totally seperate companies with no common share-holding.

Labour have basically alleged that a $50,000 donation to National from Team McMillan Limited was linked to the Government taking up the option (in the contract Labour negotiated) to upgrade the VIP fleet of BMW cars from BMW New Zealand.

I am amazed some media have focused on who signed off on what, rather than the far more important point that the two companies are totally seperate.

The company that did a deal with DIA is BMW New Zealand Ltd. Their sole shareholder is BMWHoldings B V in The Netherlands. The two directors are Guenther Seeman of Germany and Mark Gilbert of Auckland – the mananging director.

 The company that donated to National is Team McMillan BMW. Their two shareholders are MacFam  Ltd and Collins Asset Management Investments Ltd. MacFam Ltd is owned by Bob McMillan, Kerry McMillan, Ronald Jamieson and James Syme. Collins is owned by Cottisloe Holdings which is owned by Timothy Cook and Beverly Collins.

Team McMillan BMW did not benefit by one cent from the DIA decision. In fact they say they were unaware of it.

So the story is an absolute nonsense. But I suspect we will see lots more of these to come – Labour seem determined to run the same style campaign as they did in 2008.

Smears from No Right Turn

August 17th, 2010 at 7:00 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn decides to lie and smear:

In September 2008, John Boscawen donated $100,000 to the ACT Party. In exchange, he got a high list ranking, leading to an MP’s salary of $131,000 a year plus expenses. And now with the overthrow of Deputy Leader Heather Roy, he looks likely to turn that into a Ministerial position paying $204,300.

Looks like Boscawen made a pretty good investment.

What a disgusting post, which he won’t even allow comments on.

First of all, it is well known that John Boscawen has had a successful career in business. His dad was a school teacher and he went to Otahuhu College, so we are not talking inherited wealth. But John is now a multi-millionaire, and to suggest he entered politics to gain a salary of $131,000 or even $204,000 a year is ridicolous – I doubt that is even close to the interest he makes on his investments. Actually it is just a nasty malicious smear.

Secondly John’s donation was made on 26 September 2008. The ACT party list was announced on 20 August 2008, so Idiot/Savant is just telling lies to support his smear when he claims he got his high list ranking in exchange for his donation.

The reality is that Idiot/Savant reveals more about himself, than John Boscawen, with his blog post.He can’t imagine someone not motivated by money – which reflects on him more than he realises. In his world, you can’t donate a large amount of money to something just because you believe in a cause.

Editorials 8 June 2010

June 8th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald says work can make you better:

For some time, the startling increase in the number of people on sickness and invalids benefits has been as vexing as it is worrying. Have we become a sickly society? Is this the logical consequence of an ageing population? The relentless rise in the number of such beneficiaries – from 1.2 per cent of the working-age group in 1980 to 4.8 per cent today – suggested other factors were at work. Indeed, it is now apparent that a major factor is mental illness. Psychological disorders, led by stress and depression, accounted for the entire increase in sickness benefits and a third of the increase in invalids benefits from 1996 to 2002. This has obvious implications for those charged with getting as many beneficiaries as possible back into the workforce. …

Happily, it has just been highlighted by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, which, in a position statement, noted that “the evidence is compelling: for most individuals, good work improves general health and wellbeing and reduces psychological stress”. The college points to a recent British review, which found the beneficial effects of work outweighed any risks, with the benefits much greater than the harmful effects of long-term unemployment or prolonged sickness absence.

I’ve had a couple of brief periods of unemployment or under-employment. During those times I did volunteer work so I was still doing something, rather than nothing.

The Press focuses on the proposed Gaza flotilla inquiry:

The Israelis also fear what they see as the stitch-up that the Goldstone inquiry into the assault on Gaza a couple of years ago became. Although it was led by a respected South African former judge, Richard Goldstone, and made some efforts at even-handedness, that inquiry’s findings were quickly unpicked by critics as weighted unfairly towards the Palestinians and ultimately were easily dismissed. One of Palmer’s tasks, if he gets the job, will be to ensure that the inquiry is conducted with a scrupulous regard to impartiality. A properly conducted inquiry might help defuse some of the tension that the raid has generated. It might go some way to averting serious and lasting diplomatic damage that at the moment seems inevitable.

I may not agree with Sir Geoffrey on alcohol reform, but I think he would be a very good choice for this role. NZ is one of the few countries seen pretty much as an honest broker, and a proper inquiry would be very beneficial.

The Dom Post talks road safety:

Last year 10 people died on the roads over Queen’s Birthday Weekend. By late yesterday this year’s toll was one. That is good news, but it is still one too many.

Aroha Ormsby was killed when she was thrown from a car. Her death leaves three young children motherless, and friends and family confronting a personal tragedy that will never be revealed by a study of the bald statistics.

The death of Ms Ormsby – and of the hundreds of other New Zealanders killed each year – is why the police were right to trial a lower tolerance for those who break the speed limit. As long as there are New Zealanders dying on the roads there can be no slackening in the effort to make the roads safer.

The sceptics will point to the atrocious weather over the holiday break, and say that the low toll and lower speeds owe as much to people staying home or slowing down in the rain. That will have played a role but so too will the increased prospect of a ticket.

I certainly think the appalling weather was the major contributor. I also think it is unwise to jump to conclusions based on just two data points.

They should remember that the 100kmh limit is just that – a legal limit. It is not meant to be treated as an infinitely flexible guideline, something that applies unless the road is clear and it’s a sunny day, or unless there is a car that needs overtaking

I hope the editorial writer has never over taken a car by exceeding the limit. Never mind that to overtake a car travelling 90 km/hr means you need a straight road with no cars coming for at least 2,000 metres to do so without exceeding 100 km/hr.

The ODT looks at Labour’s mud and smears:

The Labour Party seems unable to get over the fact that John Key is wealthy, and it has frequently made attempts to imply or demonstrate that he gained his wealth deviously, and continues to do so.

None of these efforts has succeeded.

Helen Clark tried it when she claimed Mr Key personally profited from the 1993 privatisation of Tranz Rail, because he had been a former director of Bankers Trust, which won a contract to advise the then National government on the sale.

At the relevant time, however, Mr Key was nowhere near the sale; he was operating as a foreign exchange dealer.

Ms Clark may have been badly advised, but this did not slow her attempts to muddy the Prime Minister’s credibility, especially in the business and commercial world.

Clark and Labour’s view seem to be if you made your money in business, you must be corrupt – the only honest way to earn money is as a teacher, academic or unionist.

The latest attempt has been made by another senior party figure, the Dunedin North MP, Peter Hodgson, who has tried to show the Prime Minister knows what assets are held in his “blind trust”, implying that a conflict of interest has or can arise where government policy is concerned, to Mr Key’s financial advantage.

That is a serious claim to make where public figures are concerned who hold positions where they can influence policy.

Mr Hodgson’s “evidence” – it hardly justifies the description – has been successful to the extent that Mr Key, in responding, seems to have had some knowledge of one asset in particular.

It is no more than that, however: there is no shred of proof that his knowledge – if he had it – has been used to influence policy to his advantage.

Key’s crime is that three weeks after the blind trust was set up, he referred to owning a vineyard that was now in the blind trust.

That appears to be the end of the latest attempt to impugn the Prime Minister for his wealth, but it is unlikely to be the last.

The ODT has got to the heart of the real crime – that John Key is wealthy. You can just feel the envy and hatred blister as they snidely refer to his holiday home in Hawaii. How dare he have become wealthy.

H Fee Mark II

May 29th, 2010 at 8:04 am by David Farrar

Well I think Pete Hodgson’s career as a trusts lawyer (Cactus feel free to comment) is now well and truly over. For those who have not read the legal advice the PM has released, it is here and Key’s statement here.

I’d say this little attempt to smear Key has been about as successful as the last dozen ones Labour has tried, including their infamous H Fee attempt.

You have to wonder how many hours of taxpayer funded Labour work went into trawling through TV footage back to 18 months ago to find something he said at a dinner, and then digging through company files, all in a desperate attempt to prove wrong-doing in Key’s personal business affairs.

UPDATE: Tracy Watkins independently reaches much the same conclusions:

There is more than a whiff of the H-bomb debacle about Labour’s pursuit of John Key over his blind trust. That must be particularly galling for the new generation on Labour’s backbench.

The burning question is why anyone in their right mind would want to revive memories of a Labour Party that spent its dying days in office trawling through Australian court records for non-existent dirt on Mr Key. The equally troubling question for the rookies must be why Labour’s old hands are intent on repeating the same mistakes. …

Why so determined to drag him down? It is not personal. Labour just want to chip away at the fairytale. Mr Key’s rags-to-riches tale of a state-house boy made good is a huge political asset. Understandably, Labour sees a huge upside in denting that and its goal is to taint the fairytale with the usual big money associations. But it hasn’t done that so far with these latest allegations. Nor with the prevous attempts – which, in the case of the H bomb, came at a heavy cost. And the wounds from that had only recently healed.

So if Phil Goff’s leadership was supposed to turn a new chapter, why on earth reopen them – and, in the process, risk reminding voters that the old hands they voted out are still in charge?

There is no new chapter with Hodgson and Mallard still running things.

Anonymous smears

February 24th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

One of the anonymous authors at The Standard tried yesterday to smear Murray McCully over, well doing the right thing.

In a post they filed under the “corruption” category, they revealed that Murray McCully has shares in Widespread Portfolios. Except they did not in fact reveal it – McCully did in the MPs Annual Register of Pecuniary Interests. He’s declared every single year since the Register started in 2006.

Then in a piece of detective work worthy of Sherlock Holmes, they went to the homepage of Widespread Portfolios and managed to dig up (I a being sarcastic – it is at the top of their main page) the statement:

Widespread Portfolios Limited (stockmarket code WID) invests primarily in overseas-based mining and mineral exploration companies.

So this so called corrupt behavior from McCully was to declare he had shares in a company that declares it invests in mining companies.

Now not only has McCully behaved entirely appropriately, the value of his shares turns out to be $31.63. McCully has followed the PM’s lead and mooted giving the shares to the young Max Key. Poor Max must be wondering why he is becoming the target of unwanted share parcels. He should suggest to his Dad that he would rather have one of those Ministerial credit cards that Ministers have been disposing of 🙂

Phil Goff looks stupid when he says:

Opposition leader Phil Goff said any shares in a mining company working in New Zealand represented a conflict of interest.

“Whenever there was a conflict of interest of any sort in the Cabinet I was part of, a minister was expected to remove him or herself from the room immediately and not participate in those discussions.”

What nonsense. Did half the Labour Cabinet remove themselves when they debated monetary policy, because they were owners of investment properties? Their interest was vastly more than $31.

A conflict of interest is generally about a decision to favour a specific company, not about policies that support a sector of the economy. Do farmers get excluded from decisions about primary production?

Exclusion on a conflict happens only when there is a direct beneficial interest, such as granting a contract to a company you have shares in – and even then, it has to be significant. If your super fund has lots of Telecom shares, that doesn’t mean you can’t ‘t be involved in decision on Telecom – again I suspect most of the Cabinet would have an indirect interest.

The major requirement around conflicts of interests is transparency. And McCully has complied 100%. As it happens, he had not even been present at any discussions on mining, but it is ridicolous of Goff to suggest he can’t be, because of $31 of shares.

But what really annoys me over The Standard’s labelling of this as corruption (the category they assigned to the story) is the immense double standards – and this applies to Phil Goff’s comments also.

Think back 18 months to Winston Peters. Here are the key facts in two cases:

  1. Winston knew of a $100,000 donation from Owen Glenn to his lawyer to cover his legal fees.
  2. Winston never ever declared this, as he was required to do so.
  3. Winston lobbied for Mr Glenn to be given a diplomatic appointment

But the more important case:

  1. Racing interests donated money to Winston Peters personally by paying his costs to Bob Clarkson.
  2. This personal donation of tens of thousands of dollars was never declared by Peters, and only exposed by the SFO
  3. The same racing interests also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to NZ First.
  4. Peters was the portfolio minister for racing under Helen Clark, yet never disclosed the personal donations, or the party donations. Arguably no need to disclose the party ones, but he was required to disclose the personal one.
  5. Peters advocated for more money for the racing industry, including having the taxpayer pay for bigger prizes for races.
  6. Officials strongly advised against doing this, but Cabinet agreed to the extra funding advocated by Peters, unaware that Peters was receiving large donations from racing interests.

Now one can argue Peters was genuinely motivated to help the racing industry, and the donations did not influence him. That is not the issue today.

The issue is that this was the most serious breach of the conflict of interest regime we have seen. A personal donation which directly benefited a Minister (by paying off his damages to Clarkson) was not declared, and that Minister directly lobbied for money to be given in prizes to the racing industry.

So this puts Phil Goff’s holier than thou statement about practises in the last Government in perspective. And remember Phil Goff voted against the Privileges Committee report, as Labour insisted Winston had not broken the rules.

But back to The Standard, what did they have to say about Winston’s conflicts at the time:

On 22 July:

For my part, I don’t see the big deal in all this Peters donation stuff. Transparency in election funding is important (and it’s something that National and ACT have constantly opposed) but there is no evidence of Peters has been purposely secretive.

So no big deal. And even better:

As for the Dompost’s ‘revelations’ today – various members of the Vela family and companies owned by the family gave amounts that may have totalled $150,000 to New Zealand First over a period of five years. So what? The donations are legal and, as long as NZF didn’t receive more $10,000 from any individual person (legal or natural) in one financial year, they didn’t have to be declared under the law of the time.

However the donation to pay Winston’s legal costs to Clarkson was required to be disclosed, but more importantly back then The Standard had no concern about sums 1,000 times greater than $31 going to parties or politicians, and the party leader directly advocating for policies that will benefit those donors.

And again on 23 September:

So, the committee found what everyone knew: Peters story doesn’t add up. But it also shows that this story isn’t really about anything significant. Oh, no, a politician didn’t make the efforts he should have to find out what benefit he may have gained from a legal donation, his form was wrong as a result, and he made up a story to try to cover himself. Shoddy behaviour to be sure but nothing that actually impacts on the substance of government.

So as Winston supported Labour, there was nothing of substance wrong. Never mind he didn’t declare the personal donations to cover his legal costs to Clarkson, and never mind the Labour Cabinet had no idea when Peters was advocating more money for racing prizes, he was receiving these donations from companies that are likely to benefit.

Peter’s conduct was probably the biggest breach of standards since the marginal loans affair. Yet to Phil Goff and The Standard, it was all okay.

Now let us admit that we all are coloured to some degree and see things more rosy for the side you tend to support. That is natural, and expected. We’re not neutral reporters.

But I find those who blog anonymously stretch that to breaking point – there is almost no misconduct they won’t defend for their own side, and they will label as corrupt basically anything that moves from the other side.

The Standard suggest McCully is corrupt for following the rules and declaring his $31 of shares (yes they did not know the amount, but the issue is McCully has acted entirely appropriately) yet they defended Winston time and time again over horrendous breaches of the conflicts of interest regime.

I regard myself as a mate of Phil Heatley. Have even stayed at his house and he is one of the nicest guys you can meet. But when the Dom Post published their story yesterday, I described the use of the ministerial credit card as totally unacceptable with no ifs and no buts.

Those who blog anonymously tend to use extreme language to smear people. They call them corrupt, crooked or racist or bigoted. They do so, because they don’t have to defend their comments in real life.

So here is my challenge to Eddie. Stop the extreme language against people just because their politics are not your own, or have the guts to blog under your real name.

Remember the Greens don’t do personal attacks

October 24th, 2009 at 5:00 pm by David Farrar

The Greens often go on about how they are a party of principle and policy and veer away from personal attacks, and smears. They seem to have forgotten to tell on of their senior office holders.

For some reason someone at The Standard posted a photo of MPs Bakshi Singh, Melissa Lee, Bill English and John Key – asking which one is not like the other.

Toad responded:

Nah, it is that the three on the left have substantive allegations of corruption against them personally. The allegations against the one on the right are “only” of covering up the allegations against the others.

A bit like a line-up of Brad Shipton, Bob Schollum, Clint Rickards, and John Dewar.

Well done Toad, you score bottom of the barrel this week.

Dirty Campaigns

May 25th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve been reading a fascinating book – Mudslingers – the 25 dirtiest political campaigns of all time.  It covers US campaigns only – would be interesting to do a local NZ version.

Anyway the part I enjoyed most was the purported speech made a 1950 Senate primary for the Democratic nomination by Pepper’s rival:

“Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper before his marriage habitually practiced celibacy,”


It is purported that this speech was delivered in small towns all over the state, but this has never been proven, so it may be an urban legend.

Bassett on UK and NZ Labour

April 26th, 2009 at 9:46 am by David Farrar

Michael Bassett compares NZ Labour and UK Labour:

Over the last few weeks evidence has seeped out that Britain’s Labour Party had started a Dirty Tricks Department within ministerial offices to smear political opponents. Gordon Brown’s most trusted spin doctor, Damian McBride, has been forced to resign because of the part he played in putting together a series of smears on a website against the Conservatives’ leader, David Cameron, and the Tories’ Finance spokesman. Today comes the news that Brown has asked the head of Britain’s civil service to tighten up a code of conduct governing ministerial advisers whose salaries are paid by the taxpayer. Brown says that they should sign a contract acknowledging that if caught “disseminating inappropriate material they will automatically lose their jobs”.

It’s high time we had such a system in place in New Zealand. Those with memories might recall the parade of dirty tricks used by the beleaguered Labour Party prior to the last election to smear their opponents.

H-Fee anyone?

Williams to resign this week

November 30th, 2008 at 10:46 am by David Farrar

The SST reports that Mike Williams will resign as Labour Party President this week. Sadly there is no word on whether he has resigned off all the Government boards Labour appointed him to.

He still claims no regrets over his attempted smear job of John Key:

Williams, who drew much criticism for his dash to Melbourne late in the election campaign to examine papers about National leader John Key, said he had no regrets about doing so.

The 13,000 pages of court documents turned out to contain nothing incriminating of Key.

“To use a metaphor, if you’re pinned down, somebody has to crawl out under the barbed wire,” Williams told the Sunday Star-Times. “I drew the short straw on that one and the chance of getting my arse shot off, and I did.” The allegations had to be checked out, he said.

It’s sad he still doesn’t realise his mistake. As Party President he never ever should have been flying to Melbourne and taking back 20 kgs of papers. There were scores of other people who could have been dispatched.

Merely being a party president for the party no longer in power, doesn’t mean one should have to immediately resign all your Government appointments. Normally they would be allowed to see their terms out.

But WIlliams tried to prove that the Prime Minister was NZ’s biggest fraudster. He personally drove and managed an attempted smear campaign. He even blogged about it as Batman. He sent copies of documents to journalists at their home addresses. Having done all that, how ca he expect to be trusted to govern any crown entity on behalf of the new Government?

If Williams will not proactively resign, the Government shoudl show some balls and write to him asking him to resign off all the Boards he is on.

Dom Post on H-Fee Smear

November 1st, 2008 at 10:46 am by David Farrar

Oh today’s Dom Post editorial is wonderful:

First they take the piss out of Williams and compare it all to a John le Carre novel.

At the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions a swarthy, middle-aged man is hunched over a desk working his way through an enormous stack of documents, The Dominion Post writes

In Wellington a pile of documents is dropped in a Dominion Post reporter’s letterbox wrapped in a copy of the Otago Daily Times. Further documents follow, delivered by someone who calls himself Batman.

The script for an antipodean John le Carre-style thriller? Sadly no.

Le Carre would have approved of “Batman”. It’s a nice touch, hinting at a sense of self-deprecation on the part of the document dropper, but if Le Carre had been writing the script, the man poring over court records in Melbourne would have been a Russian emigre with a limp, not Labour Party president Mike Williams, and the drop would have been wrapped in the Times Literary Supplement, not the ODT.

But then they really put the acid on:

However, two critical facts have been uncovered by document searches in Melbourne. In an interview last year, Mr Key wrongly stated that he left Elders Merchant Finance a year earlier than he did in 1988 and he wrongly stated that he paid for a 1988 lunch that Australian court documents show was actually paid for by a colleague.

These are matters of grave import that go to the heart of Mr Key’s credibility as a prime ministerial aspirant.

If he cannot be relied upon to remember who paid for the champers with which he and his colleagues toasted his departure 20 years ago, how can he be trusted to run the country? Next thing he’ll be claiming he was unaware the crown limo in which he was being ferried from one place to another was travelling at twice the speed limit, signing his name to artworks he did not produce, rewriting electoral laws to suit his party or pretending not to notice that a political ally has been misleading the public.

Ouch, ouch and ouch again.

Labour’s H-Fee smear

November 1st, 2008 at 6:23 am by David Farrar

Some useful comments from John Armstrong and especially Fran O’Sullivan on Labour’s attempted H-Fee smear. It is worth remembering that this was a smear thay had been pushing for over a year, with Ministers in the House going on about it.

Armstrong writes:

Labour did trip itself up this week, the cynicism and arrogance of power coming back to bite it with a vengeance. That was most obvious in Labour’s latest attempt to dredge up something, anything, in John Key’s foreign exchange dealing past which might make voters question whether National’s leader has the integrity worthy of a prime minister.

Labour believes it is perfectly within its rights to probe Key’s character. That may be so. But New Zealand voters have huge difficulty with investigations into MPs’ pasts and private lives. Some discretion is required on Labour’s part. Yet, it clumsily seems to think it can fool the public that it is performing a public service that gives it the latitude to parade the flimsiest material as proof of Key’s unfitness to govern.

When it turns up nothing – and no less a figure than the party’s president is doing the digging for dirt – Labour looks as if it is driven by a fatal mix of arrogance and desperation. Hardly a good look in the penultimate week of an election campaign.

Labour (and many others including myself) were appalled when the Exclusive Brethren hired a private detective to investigate the Prime Minister. Labour are acting no better than the Exclusive Brethren when they have their party president flying to Australia and hawling back 20 kgs of papers in an attempt to smear Key.

O’Sullivan points out how truly desperate Labour must have been to try this:

Labour Party president Mike Williams must have been tired and emotional or greatly deluded to believe he was finally on the track of a “neutron bomb” which would blast National leader John Key’s election campaign into smithereens.

The upshot of Williams’ lunatic attempt to try and link Key with the notorious 1988 H-fee scam – when no such evidence has been uncovered – is that Labour is now (rightfully) scrambling to fight off accusations that it is more interested in launching smears against its opponents than fighting a fair election at a time of extreme international financial turbulence.

The Prime Minister’s pathetic attempt to distance herself from Williams’ ham-fisted behaviour lasted a mere 24 hours before she was forced to confirm the Labour Party paid for what she initially described as his “private mission”.

Have no doubt if the smear had worked Clark would have fronted it.

It is unfathomable that Williams and Labour’s taxpayer-funded “researchers” thought they would drive home a connection putting Key at the centre of this white-collar crime by uncovering evidence that had eluded the Australian National Crimes Authority’s forensic investigators.

If evidence existed linking Key to the transaction he would either have faced charges, or been subpoenaed to give evidence in the subsequent court cases against Jarrett and Hawkins. He wasn’t.

This is the part that made me realise how desperate Williams was with his Keystone Cops routine. Williams thought his collection of amateur detectives would find evidence that had been overlooked by the Serious Fraud Office and the Australian National Crime Authority’s foresnic investigators.

Who paid for the lawyer and court fees?

October 31st, 2008 at 10:54 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner blogs:

The H-fee fiasco hasn’t blown up. Well it has – but it’s a minor smoke bomb and it’s exploded in Labour’s face.

Labour had hoped that Key signed off on the $66m Elders – Equiticorp foreign exchange scam in 1988. It would ha ve been gold wouldn’t it?

The signature looks the same – but it’s not Key.

Labour’s President Mike Williams spent a few days in Melbourne last week pouring over the 24 kilograms of papers. But he couldn’t access to the court documents easily.

He had to use the Australian Labour Party’s top lawyer to get a court order – through a judge – to get to the documents.

So who paid for the top lawyer and who paid the court filing fees? Was it the Labour Party?

Some answers to the 12 questions

October 31st, 2008 at 6:38 am by David Farrar

Did Helen not notice her party president – the Labour Party Campaign Chair and Manager, was out of the country trying to dig up dirt on John Key from 20 years ago?

Yes – she has confirmed she knew what Williams was up to.

Did no one notice he was absent from the daily campaign meetings he normally chairs?

Possibly not, since Helen appointed herself chief political strategist instead of Mike.

Why were taxpayer funded members of Labour’s Parliamentary Research Unit also in Australia with Mike Williams trying to smear John Key?

Helen says none of them flew over, but they were assisting Williams.

Who paid for all their travel?

Well either Helen or Williams are lying here. Helen says WIlliams paid himself. Williams says the Labour Party paid.

Does the head of the research unit still report unofficially to Heather Simpson?

Yes. And there is no way they would have been authorised to work on the smear campaign without Heather’s sign off.

Is the Batman who posted documents anonymously to Dominion Post reporters the same Batman who is an author on The Standard and posted on the H-Fee earlier this month?


Why did The Standard delete the previous post from Batman?

They did not delete it, but changed it from being an author to being a guest post and put up a disclaimer that they do not know who Batman is.

Does this not link The Standard to Mike Williams and the Labour Parliamentary Research Unit?

They claim they do not know who Batman is (despite giving him or her posting rights temporarily).

Is it not time that Labour fronted up and revealed how many of the 15 Standard authors are parliamentary and ministerial staffers?

And is Batman one of them?

Who from Labour told Winston about the smear so he could refer to it on Alt TV?

My guess is Pete Hodgson

Doesn’t it undermine Helen’s claim she had nothing to do with it, when her parliamentary strategist Pete Hodgson is trying to beat it up?

And continues to try and beat it up.

Is Helen just pretending she knew nothing about the attempted smear, or has she lost control of her party, her party president and her own research unit?

I don’t think she has lost control. She is in contact six times a day with Mike Williams. If it had not blown up in their face, she would be fronting the issue.

12 Questions

October 30th, 2008 at 8:00 am by David Farrar
  1. Did Helen not notice her party president – the Labour Party Campaign Chair and Manager, was out of the country trying to dig up dirt on John Key from 20 years ago?
  2. Did no one notice he was absent from the daily campaign meetings he normally chairs?
  3. Why were taxpayer funded members of Labour’s Parliamentary Research Unit also in Australia with Mike Williams trying to smear John Key?
  4. Who paid for all their travel?
  5. Does the head of the research unit still report unofficially to Heather Simpson?
  6. Is the Batman who posted documents anonymously to Dominion Post reporters the same Batman who is an author on The Standard and posted on the H-Fee earlier this month?
  7. Why did The Standard delete the previous post from Batman?
  8. Does this not link The Standard to Mike Williams and the Labour Parliamentary Research Unit?
  9. Is it not time that Labour fronted up and revealed how many of the 15 Standard authors are parliamentary and ministerial staffers?
  10. Who from Labour told Winston about the smear so he could refer to it on Alt TV?
  11. Doesn’t it undermine Helen’s claim she had nothing to do with it, when her parliamentary strategist Pete Hodgson is trying to beat it up?
  12. Is Helen just pretending she knew nothing about the attempted smear, or has she lost control of her party, her party president and her own research unit?

Colin sums up Labour’s attack

September 19th, 2008 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner sums things up nicely:

So not only is John Key responsible for the global meltdown of the world’s finance markets, the man is a would-be murderer who, if he’d had the chance, would have sent 60 young Kiwis to their deaths in the war in Iraq.

OK, I’m exaggerating Labour’s position slightly. But not by much.

Next they will allege John Key will lower wages. Oh wait already done that one. Hmm, how about that John Key will sell all the schools. Nah done that one also. How about John Key will close down the hospitals? Yeah that must be next.

Bizarre attack from Cullen

September 16th, 2008 at 6:36 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner writes in The Press:

In an early sign the campaign could focus on personal attacks, Cullen lost no time in attacking Key, appearing to blame him for the worldwide collapse of his former bank, Merrill Lynch.

“Given his background and the fact that Merrill Lynch has just gone belly up, I would have thought New Zealanders should draw the conclusion that you wouldn’t put a man like that in charge of the New Zealand economy,” Cullen said.

My God that’s so lame. Where do you start.

  1. Umm Michael, John Key stopped working there around eight years ago.
  2. The recent losses are from bad investments primarily mortgages, and John was in charge of currency trading
  3. When John was there, his section of the business was highly profitable – that is why he made so much money. It is called being successful.
  4. Merrill Lynch has written down around $50 billion of investments. However they have not gone belly up – they have been purchased by the Bank of America for US$44 billion – a sum a bit larger than the turnover of the NZ Government.

It really is sad that all Labour has is personal attacks.

Now it gets really dirty

September 14th, 2008 at 1:41 pm by David Farrar

Prog Blog is an unofficial blog on behalf of Jim Anderton’s Progressives.

Last week they did a blog post about a quote from John Key saying “Young people are a group I’m passionate about”.

They commented beneath that

“So is Gary Glitter”

The post has now been deleted but it is still in Google Cache.

Someone e-mailed me this a few days ago but I only noticed the e-mail today. Some other blogs highlighted this earlier.

Hmmn, and even though the page has been deleted, it still shows up on their main site.

I think media should be asking the Hon Jim Anderton who writes Prog Blog for them, and does he condone comparing John Key to paedophile? Will someone offer an apology at the very least?

People said this would be a very dirty campaign, but not even I thought it would be that dirty.

Armstrong on Smears

July 5th, 2008 at 9:09 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong sees Labour’s smears as hurting Labour:

So obsessed is Labour with destroying John Key that the party seems blinkered to the damage this is doing to Labour’s already-slight chances of winning the coming election. …

Clark herself launched an attack on her rival in Parliament on Wednesday.

That it miscued badly suggests Labour’s fixation with persuading voters Key has feet of clay is clouding its judgment. …

But Labour’s constant chipping away at Key does not seem to be making any headway.

That is because Labour has failed to display any sense of proportion. It has seized on anything that might put Key in a bad light no matter how small or trivial and brandished it as evidence Key is not up to it.

Yep, next we will hear that he once jaywalked as proof positive Helen should be able to reign forever.

This has proved counter-productive. Voters _ especially crucial female “swing” voters _ have a profound distaste for politicians launching personal attacks on one another’s character. The Prime Minister’s attack on Key may have done more damage to her credibility than his.

I’m not the most dispassionate observer but Clark comes across very badly on TV when she is fronting one of those attacks. It makes her most unattractive, and I don’t mean physically.

Clark’s gaffe echoed the previous week’s similar backfire by Labour over Key’s supposed ignorance of the New Zealand wars of the 19th century.

That was another case of Labour picking up and running with something that was shot full of holes. Key had been quoted out of context and the radio station that first ran the story backed off hurriedly as the story began to fall over.

It is a moot point whether the public gave a toss anyway about what Key was supposed to have said. These kind of arguments are the stuff of the Wellington Beltway.

I think it is worse than that. The public are hurting with food and petrol prices, and a shrinking economy. They are looking to the Government for some leadership. And what they see is a Government more focused on trivial smears than on the issues which matter to New Zealanders.

It isn’t going to happen because Labour has cried wolf too often. It has jumped on any mistake Key has made, no matter how trivial, and highlighted it as incontrovertible evidence of his unsuitability to be Prime Minister.

Labour sees the mistakes as compounding on one another. It lays the message that Key is a lightweight on thick with a trowel. But the highlighting of minor errors only makes Labour look ever more desperate. So what if Key said “condone” this week when he meant “condemn”.

He holds the high ground when it comes to attacks on political personalities. He has now cleverly boxed Labour in by labelling its tactics as “smear and fear” politics.

Quite simply, Labour needs to stop playing the man and start playing the ball.

I can safely predict there is really no chance of this. Simply put, Labour is desperate and dateless and has nothing else to offer.

Helen’s blunders

July 4th, 2008 at 9:28 am by David Farrar

Helen actually made two mistakes in Parliament yesterday. One was about John Key which I’ll come to shortly. The other was on the level of investment needed in rolling stock:

Mr Key caught out the Prime Minister in an error when she claimed that Dr Cullen had said that an investment of $80 million a year would be needed to keep the rolling stock in a steady state – and she said that would be $300 over five years.

In fact, Dr Cullen said it would be $80 million over five years; he has not mentioned $300 million.

A spokesman for Dr Cullen said last night that the Prime Minister had “misspoke” with her figure of $80 million a year, but he said that the $300 million figure was an option in for making a medium-term investment.

Now I don’t think this is a big issue. MPs make mistakes all the time. I highlight it purely because people think Clark doesn’t.

But now let us look at her big blunder. She stated as a fact something about John Key which she had not verified, and was wrong. By not checking her facts (and I think share registers in listed companies are publicly accessible) she had it backfire massively. Now what she should have done is post the issue as a question. If she had said “It is well known John Key is or was a shareholder in Toll, so maybe he can tell the House whether or not he still had $30,000 of shares when he was talking their bid up” then it would have been very different. Sure Key would have still confirmed he had sold them, but the headlines then might have been “Key narrowly escapes” instead of “PM’s smear backfires”.

Clark also has blundered with the timing. National was being pinged on Crosby/Textor plus you had the ACC issue also. So why on earth would you detract attention from those two issues, with the attempted smear about Toll shares. If Clark was thinking tactically she would have kept that for another day, which would also have given her time to have the dates checked out more fully.

Bad, nasty and ugly

July 3rd, 2008 at 12:43 pm by David Farrar

That is John Armstrong’s take on Parliament yesterday:

An ugly afternoon in Parliament – and, at times, a downright nasty one; an afternoon when the atmosphere was choked with personal attacks, personal insults, charges of blackmail, allegations of dirt-throwing and threats to really dish the dirt. …

Quite why things should have got so rough is hard to explain. But the tone was set from the moment the Prime Minister produced some material which she and Labour thought would finally nail John Key. …

But if Clark’s gaffe was a low point – and it was revealing in showing the lengths to which Labour is going to find some dirt on Key – there was more to come.

Has Clark apologised yet by the way?

A further argument which began with Mark’s leader, Winston Peters, accusing National of “venal, corrupt politics” culminated in Act leader Rodney Hide referring to Peters as a “tired old drunk”.

It took a few minutes, but Peters eventually demanded Hide apologise. “If he does not, then I am going to tell the House the truth about him, which I have hitherto kept to myself. He can laugh and giggle. This is his last warning.”

But Hide argued he could not apologise. If he did, it would look like he was being blackmailed and Peters had “something on me that was true”.

There was more argument and more intervention from the Speaker. But no apology. Peters saved whatever he had to say about Hide for another day.

In fact Rodney did not call Winston a “tired old drunk”. The full Hansard is below:

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Insurance Council of New Zealand is a subscriber to a political party’s coffers and gains from it a commitment to privatise ACC after the next election, what do we call that, if not venal, corrupt politics?

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That member is an experienced member and knows that it is out of order to imply that someone in the House is influenced by factors outside the House.

Hon Trevor Mallard: The member certainly raised that as a possibility; he did not state it as a fact. I think there is room for the Minister to answer the question properly.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just because the truth hurts is no reason for someone to object in this House. Let me say this: the Insurance Council of New Zealand is a subscriber to the National Party’s coffers. Those members know it, and I—

Madam SPEAKER: That is not speaking to the point of order.

Rodney Hide: That is not correct. The Minister has no responsibility for what Mr Peters raised. And Mr Mallard is wrong, because if he were right, we would be able to raise as a possibility that Mr Peters is a tired old drunk, and we are not allowed to say that.

Rodney was making the point that Winston can not accuse MPs of corruption by hiding behind the defence he merely said it was a possibility, and used an example to illustrate that.

But the interjections, barracking, needling and insults continued. At one point, Labour’s Trevor Mallard described a question from National’s Anne Tolley as “just stupid”. The stopper had clearly been put on the milk of human kindness.

But most sobering of all was the realisation that all this was a portent of what is yet to come – an ugly, nasty and vicious election campaign.

Sadly John will probably be correct. But I would suggest readers reflect on where the ugliness, the nastines and viciousness is almost exclusively coming from.

Another failed smear

July 2nd, 2008 at 6:55 pm by David Farrar

I have been predicting for some months that Labour’s re-election campaign will be a campaign of personal denigration and smears against John Key, and today we saw Stage One.  Colin Espiner blogs on how Clark tried to smear john Key but got her facts wrong:

There are generally three golden rules for MPs planning a personal smear attack on an opponent in Parliament.

The first is to make sure your facts are correct. The second is to ascertain that you are not guilty of the same things you are accusing your opponent of. The third is to do it under the cloak of parliamentary privilege, so if you fail on the first two, at least you can’t be sued.

Prime Minister Helen Clark managed to get two out of three right in Parliament today, but unfortunately she fell down on the most important one: accuracy.

This is the one which probably least bothers Labour.

She further claimed that Key’s family trust owned 30,000 shares in TranzRail at a time that Key made comments as Opposition associate transport spokesman in 2003, in which Key made disparaging remarks about the Government’s offer for the company and suggested Toll was more likely to win the bid.

That is of course what ended up happening. Toll won the bid and I imagine – although I don’t know this – that Toll’s share price went up too.

The only problem is that Key’s family trust had already sold its shares before Key made his comments. He has told Parliament this afternoon (and so I imagine he must be very certain of this) that neither he nor his trust held any shares in TranzRail at the time he made his remarks in June 2003.

Of course one could have checked the facts rather than just make it up. I mean to have the Prime Minister accuse the Leader of the Opposition of such a serious thing, and to get it wrong, should result in apologies.

But Labour don’t care if their smears are correct. John Key is a “rich prick” and they want the public to associate him with greed. They think if they repeat lies often enough, some mud will stick.

Their problem is that it looks so desperate. They are 20% to 25% behind in the polls and as Rodney Hide said in the House, they can’t even tell us how much the purchase of Toll cost, yet can find time to go through share registers trying to smear John Key.