Editorials on “gentlemen’s agreement”

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

The Press editorial:

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull is defending the agreement under which former Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson was paid by Cull’s council to lobby the Government to retain the core functions of AgResearch at Invermay. Hodgson was paid $3400 for duties which included advocating on the council’s behalf, contributing to a letter to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and writing a 10-page report for the board of AgResearch.

The council says that Cull was its main point of contact with Hodgson, but it could not locate a single email, contract or any other document relating to the agreement. Cull said: “I could describe it as a gentleman’s way of doing business in the south.” …

In matters involving public money, it is absolutely essential that the principles of transparency and accountability are upheld. There are sometimes good commercial reasons for withholding some information, but they don’t apply here. Cull has done Dunedin ratepayers a disservice with this handshake deal and his cavalier attempt to explain it.

Also an editorial in the Southland Times:

Could you smell the port and stale cigar smoke on Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull’s breath as he defended the “gentleman’s agreement” under which his council paid former MP Pete Hodgson for lobbying?

Mr Hodgson was paid $3400 for his work helping the council advocate that Invermay retain its core Ag Research functions. He was plausibly the best person for the job. But it was done on a handshake with nary a contract – and all that tedious accountability that goes with it – in sight. …

Mr Hodgson says the fact that nothing was written up “would probably reflect their trust in me”.

As far as the public is concerned, what this should reflect is the untrustworthiness of all involved.

A council, a mayor and a former minister of the Crown should collectively and individually know full well that this was dodgy and then some.

The Taxpayers’ Union, while acknowledging that it isn’t an eye-watering amount, detects that the council isn’t applying the most basic internal controls.

It is the principle, not the amount. But when it involves public money with one politician awarding it to another politician, you need to be absolutely transparent.

The good news is that while there was no contract, there was at least an invoice. The Taxpayers Union is pleased with this, but asking the question who then authorised the payment. The Mayor keeps insisting it had nothing much to do with him, while the Council says he was the primary point of contact. So who signed it off?

The ODT reports:

Chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said yesterday invoices should have been included in the OIA response, but the staff member writing the response ”was simply answering the question ‘was there a contract?’ and the answer seems to have been no”.

It was also a ”mistake” not to write a contract for Mr Hodgson’s services, she said.

”It appears that there have been more than one of these mistakes and it appears that there is a small number of managers who were not aware [of council policy].”

The council did not use ”gentlemen’s agreements” and had reiterated to staff all employment transactions, no matter how small, should be covered by contracts.

Good to see.

As readers will know, I helped found the Taxpayers’ Union. On a modest budget and limited resources we’ve already made a lot of impact with both local and central government in attacking wasteful or sloppy spending, including the $19 million spent by ACC which by their own accounting was at best returning 14 cents in the dollar.  You can join the union for just $5, subscribe to newsletters for free, and/or donate to help keep us going. The board members are all volunteers. As we head into election year expect more of a focus not just on wasteful spending, but making the case for taxes to be reduced as the crown accounts head back into surplus.

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Southland Times on the parliamentary fugitives

May 21st, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Southland Times editorial:

Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little would have us see their machinations to avoid being served court papers as indicative of their sheer scorn for the allegation that they defamed ACC Minister Judith Collins.

But they’re being unwise.

Whatever the merits of the case itself, legal process itself does require respect. And it’s not getting it from this pair.

On top of which, they don’t necessarily emerge as being on the high ground, at all.

Whatever their rhetoric, and it has been loudly and jovially dismissive, the methodology of dodging legal papers requires actions that are liable to look like skulking and hiding.

It’s hardly a good look for men proclaiming they have nothing to fear.

I don’t think they realise how bad it looks to the average member of the public.

This being the case, and given that Mr Little has plans to film any attempt to serve him and post it online, unofficial Nat advisers have already been suggesting that the best thing Ms Collins could do would be to hire the most petite and unthreatening woman available to serve the papers.

I can think of a couple of Auckland Young Nats who would be perfect!

Not that the documents really need to be thrust into the hands of the person being sued.

If the courts can be persuaded that someone is trying to avoid the process – and seldom would a more easy call be made in that regard than this case – the papers can simply be taped to their front door.

And Trevor and Andrew have guaranteed a court would agree. Another own goal.

The place to win an issue like this is in court.

They should welcome the chance to produce their proof. I mean surely they would have done a retraction, if they had no proof at all?

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Southland Times on Ministry for Children

May 23rd, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Southland Times editorial:

Suffer the little children to come unto … a brand new Government minister, all of their own.

Labour Deputy Leader Annette King proposes that a senior minister – and also that must-have accessory that no minister should be seen without; a ministry – be created to co-ordinate and focus all that national goodwill we have towards our kids in a more coherent, rewarding way.

The immediate sniff is that what kids really need isn’t more bureaucracy to lumber around on their behalf.

I am sure kids around the country are celebrating that they mey get their own ministry.

Ms King says the new ministry’s job would be to make sure “that children are a priority not just in theory, but in practice”. This would clearly distinguish it from the agenda of the Families Commission and the Children’s Commissioner, which was to fatten them up to be baked into pies.

And the Children’s Commissioner is independent – can attack the Government. A CEO of a Ministry for Children can not.

Neither will it pass without public comment that Ms King proposes a minister and a department in advance of any new policy regarding what they would do. It is a terribly hard sell to convince the public that ministers and ministries are a good idea in and of themselves. Or that it’s one of those Field of Dreams deals. If you build the ministry, the smart ideas will come …

It reminds me of the Yes Minister episode – a hospital with no patients. Instead it is a Ministry with no policy.

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Southland Times on Labour’s stop campaign

April 23rd, 2011 at 3:04 pm by David Farrar

The Southland Times editorial:

It was inevitable, of course. The only real surprise is that it has taken almost three weeks for Labour’s latest attention-grabbing bid to crash and burn.The “Stop asset sales vote Labour” campaign, launched in Auckland on April 4, effectively died of scornful, mocking laughter on Thursday. It should not be lamented, even by the most ardent of Labour supporters.

Except Grant and Trevor who like General Custer keep claiming victory.

So the concept was good. The only parts missing were the skill, finesse and luck.

Whoever came up with the concept of plastering the message on imitation road stop signs should be led away to a disused shed out the back somewhere, put under 24-hour guard and released only after the next general election is over.

Now this is a good way to find out if Labour really think their campaign is a great success. Let’s have the MP or staffer whose idea it was to use imitation road signs put their hand up and identify themselves. If they are not willing to do so, that speaks volume.

Whoever then came up with the idea of selling these signs to the party faithful at $10 a pop should be made to share the shed.

But a desert island, a really remote desert island, should be reserved for the genius who came up with the idea of putting the signs, signs with the same shape and colouring of real road stop signs, along the median strip of a road in the Hutt Valley this week.

That surely would be Trevor.

You’d think that even if someone was a sheep short in the top paddock he or she would realise that slapping big stop signs along a busy road might have caused a few problems for motorists, but no.

Obviously more than one sheep has escaped the paddock.

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McDonalds on Bebo

March 4th, 2008 at 11:50 am by David Farrar

The Southland Times has a story about a page on Bebo purporting to be from former or current McDonalds staff there.

I chatted to the reporter for quite a while about what alternatives were open to the McDonalds. They quote:

Technology commentator David Farrar, of Wellington, said McDonald’s could ask the site’s makers to remove its logos and intellectual property, but not order it to be removed in New Zealand, he said.

He suggested the best tact for McDonald’s would be to not over-react.

McDonalds seem to sensibly be avoiding an over-reaction:

Invercargill McDonald’s owner Trevor Rogan, who was unaware of the site when approached by The Southland Times said he was concerned about the content on the site.

However, neither he nor McDonald’s national headquarters would be trying to shut down the site, saying it was “freedom of speech”.

Mr Rogan’s concerns centred on the language used, the official McDonald’s logo being used on the site, and the 20 drive-through rules.

The site is obviously tongue in cheek and I doubt anyone would take a Bebo page as being an official McDonalds site. Especially one that advocates if there are drunk people in your car you shoudl tell them to shut the f**k up :-)

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