The 2013 Trans-Tasman Ratings

December 2nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman has published its annual ratings for the 120 (currently) MPs. As usual, I do some analysis.

The overall average rating is 4.7 (+0.3 from 2012, which is a reasonable increase)

Average Ratings per Party

  1. Maori 5.2 (-0.5)
  2. National 5.1 (+0.2)
  3. Labour 4.6 (+0.6)
  4. Green 4.4 (+0.4)
  5. United Future 4.0 (-2.5)
  6. NZ First 3.3 (-0.1)
  7. Mana 2.5 (-2.0)
  8. ACT 1.0 (+1.0)

The small parties all get pretty hammered. NZ First says much the same, and National, Greens and Labour all go up. Labour’s average rating has increased the most.

Top MPs

  1. Bill English 9.0 (+1.5)
  2. John Key 8.5 (+0.5)
  3. David Cunliffe 7,5 (+3.0)
    Steven Joyce 7.5 (+0.5)
    Tim Groser 7.5 (nc)
    Chris Finlayson 7.5 (-0.5)
    Judith Collins 7.5 (nc)
    Paula Bennett 7.5 (+0.5)

Bottom MPs

  1. John Banks 1 (+1.0)
    Rajan Prasad 1.0 (nc)
    Brendan Horan 1.0 (-1.0)

Top Labour MPs

  1. David Cunliffe 7.5 (+3.0)
  2. David Parker 7.0 (+0.5)
    Phil Goff 7.0 (+0.5)
    Annette King 7.0 (+1.0)
    Chris Hipkins 7.0 (+1.5)

Top Third Party MPs

  1. Russel Norman 7.0 (-1.0)
    Winston Peters 7.0 (nc)
  2. Tariana Turia 6.5 (+0.5)
  3. Metiria Turei 6.0 (nc)
    Te Ururoa Flavell 6.0 (nc)
    Kevin Hague 6.0 (+1.0)

Biggest Increases

  1. David Cunliffe +3.0
    Hekia Parata +3.0
  2. Paul Goldsmith +2.5

Biggest Decreases

  1. Peter Dunne -2.5
  2. Phil Heatley -2.0
    Hone Harawira -2.0
    Pita Sharples -2.0

Group Ratings

  1. Ministers 6.3 (+0.3)
  2. Cabinet 6.7 (+0.6)
  3. National frontbench 7.4 (+0.6)
  4. Labour frontbench 5.8 (+1.7)
  5. National backbench 4.0 (nc)

The Cabinet have improved their rankings this year and the National front bench are scoring very highly. However a significant increase for Labour’s front bench which finally has most of their strongest MPs on it.

Worth noting that as always, I of course disagree with some of the ratings. Some of the National backbench ratings are seriously astray for example.

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Campbell v Brown

October 17th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I agree with this column by Trans-tasman:

Whatever one feels about the particulars of the show – and we’ll get to this shortly – let us be grateful for one thing: it has been a long time since regular interviews with senior politicians had an impact on political discourse. Certainly Campbell’s 7pm opposition on the state owned television channel is so fluffy and light it makes the Beatrix Potter stories look like Dostoyevsky.

But Campbell did rather let him- self down. Advocacy journalism has its place but when you invite the other side on to put their side, they need to be given space to do so. Campbell’s questions all started from the premise oil exploration is intrinsically the devil’s work and will always produce a Gulf of Mexico spill. He also let it get very personal – but then so did Bridges – even more so.

Unfortunately Campbell followed it up the next night with a cringingly sympathetic interview with disgraced Auckland Mayor Len Brown. While Bridges, who was there to defend a policy decision, was treated like a Mr Big of drug dealing; Brown, whose moral choices have caused huge hurt to people who love him, was treated like an innocent victim of some unfortunate accident.

Advocacy journalism can be done in a professional and dis- passionate way: indeed, to work, it has to be. When it becomes personal, it loses not only integrity but effectiveness.

I think this piece is fair. Simon Bridges did let it get personal and got too heated, but so did John Campbell. And Campbell was incredibly unbalanced who as Trans-tasman says treats oil companies as evil criminal syndicates. I have no problems with advocacy journalism, but don’t be surprised if people won’t go on their show if they think you’re not interested a balanced debate – just pilloring one side of the issue.

And the Len brown interview was disgracefully light. He avoided anything resembling a hard question, such as did Len Brown know who sent the threatening text to Chuang. It was like a NZ version of Oprah.

In a similar vein, Russell Brown has devoted an entire column to the Len Brown issue. Except in his 1,32 words on the issue he spends 1,181 words on the the so called centre-right people involved and just 51 words on the role of Len Brown. That is almost hysterically comical. The most Russell could muster was to say it was poor judgement to bonk at work and he can no longer play the family-man card!


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Transtasman on earthquake responses

July 25th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman on how the parties may have responded to the Seddon earthquakes:

How did our political parties first react to the earthquake swarm which hit Wellington on the weekend?

National: John Key says he’s relaxed about it, while Stephen Joyce drafts law forbidding Geonet to broadcast anything about earthquakes which could hurt NZ’s international reputation. Float of shares in 49% of southern alpine fault planned. Cut to EQC funding because “it sends the wrong message.”

Peter Dunne: After weeks of tough bare knuckle negotiations, agrees to support National’s ban on Geonet broadcasting, so long as people write a couple of reports.

Labour: In a sulky huddle debating whether the fault line should have a boy’s name or a girl’s name. In the meantime, David Shearer to issue press release saying the fault line should give him a fair go and stop being so mean.

Greens: Blaming earthquake on John Key, fracking, John Key, gambling, John Key, the Reserve Bank, John Key, John Key and John Key. Oh, also blaming it on negative politics and nasty personal attacks.

ACT: Didn’t see any earthquake. Can’t remember. Denies any earthquakes exist, anywhere, and says anyone who thinks such a bizarre thing could happen came in on a cabbage boat.

NZ First:Winston Peters hints at documents revealing true extent of Govt involvement in earthquakes, suggests he has them: then he hasn’t, but knows they exist; then denies all and blames media. Goes away for a few weeks till media forget and start writing “At least Winston isn’t boring” columns. Rinse and repeat cycle again.

Very good.

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The 2013 Trans-Tasman Departments Report

June 4th, 2013 at 6:35 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman have published their 2013 report on Government Departments. A panel of 18 people (note I am one of them) rate the various agencies on different criteria, plus there is lengthy commentary on the challenges, budgets and work plans for each agency.

The five agencies who scored top overall marks were:

  1. Reserve Bank 5.07 (on a 1 to 7 scale)
  2. Inland Revenue 5.00
  3. Stats NZ 4.88
  4. Dept of Corrections 4.87
  5. Dept of Conservation 4.81

The overall pick as agency of the year was the Department of Corrections. It’s gone from always being in the news for the wrong reasons, to making significant progress on reducing re-offending rates,

There was a new category this year on the ability to implement the Minister’s policy agenda. The top five there are:

  1. Reserve Bank (English)
  2. Treasury (English)
  3. Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (Joyce)
  4. Ministry of Health (Ryall)
  5. NZ Police (Tolley)

The top five ranked CEOs were:

  1. Dept of Conservation (Al Morrison)
  2. Dept of Corrections (Ray Smith)
  3. Reserve Bank (Graeme Wheeler)
  4. Stats NZ (Geoff Bascand)
  5. Ministry of Business, Innovation, Employment (David Smol)

The overall pick for CEO of the Year was David Smol for overseeing the merger of several ministries into the new super-ministry with few problems.

The Dom Post has an article on the report also.

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The 2012 Trans-Tasman Ratings

December 3rd, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman has published (not yet online) its annual ratings for the 121 MPs. As usual, I do some analysis.

The overall average rating is 4.4 (-0.6 from 2011, which is a significant drop)

Average Ratings per Party

  1. United Future 6.5 (+1.5)
  2. Maori 5.7 (-0.1)
  3. National 4.9 (-0.3)
  4. Mana 4.5 (-0.5)
  5. Green 4.0 (-0.7)
  6. Labour 4.0 (-0.1)
  7. NZ First 3.4

I actually thought the Greens were a bit hard done by. I thought Hague, Hughes and Genter who scored 5, 3 and 3.5 all should have got higher marks.

Top MPs

  1. Chris Finlayson 8.0 (+1.0)
  2. Russel Norman 8.0 (nc)
  3. John Key 9.0 (-1.0)

The next five MPs on 7.5 are Tony Ryall, Tim Groser, Bill English, Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee.

Bottom MPs

  1. John Banks 0
  2. Rajan Prasad 1.0 (nc)
    Kanwalkit Bakshi 1.0 (-2.0)

14 MPs were rated just 2/10.

Top Labour MPs

  1. David Parker 6.5 (+0.5)
    Phil Goff 6.5 (+0.5)
  2. Grant Robertson 6.0 (nc)
    Annette King 6.0 (nc)

David Shearer was rated 15th equal in Labour, along with Kris Faafoi, Shane Jones and Megan Woods!

Top Third Party MPs

  1. Russel Norman 8.0 (nc)
  2. Winston Peters 7.0
  3. Peter Dunne 6.5 (+1.5)
  4. Tariana Turia 6.0 (-0.5)
    Metiria Turei 6.0 (nc)
    Te Ururoa Flavell 6.0 (+1.0)

Biggest Increases

  1. Louisa Wall +2.0
    Colin King +2.0
  2. Peter Dunne +1.5
    Jonathan Coleman +1.5
    Chris Hipkins +1.5
    Paul Hutchison +1.5
    Ross Robertson +1.5
    Clare Curran +1.5

Biggest Decreases

  1. Hekia Parata -4.5
  2. Kanwlakit Bakshi -.2.0
    Nanaia Mahuta -2.0
    Phil Heatley -2.0

Group Ratings

  1. Ministers 6.0 (-0.3)
  2. Cabinet 6.1 (-0.3)
  3. National frontbench 6.8 (-0.4)
  4. Labour frontbench 4.1 (-0.7)
  5. National backbench 4.0

Both front benches have dropped compared to 2011. However National’s frontbench still rates an average 1.9 higher than National as a whole. Labour’s frontbench ranks just 0.1 higher than the caucus as a whole, which cements the perception that a reshuffle is definitely needed. Five of Labour’s eight frontbenchers got a score of under 5/10.

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Finlayson gets Transtasman MP of the Year

December 3rd, 2012 at 7:49 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson has been named politician of the year by Trans-Tasman, beating off challenges from Prime Minister John Key and Green co-leader Russel Norman.

The judges in the political newsletter’s annual “roll-call” said Mr Finlayson, who is also Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister, had “given away a national park to Maori, and no-one seems to mind much. That’s pretty good going”.

They gave him eight out of 10 for his performance this year – the same as Mr Key and Dr Norman – noting “his disdain for his political opponents is palpable – one of the sharpest debaters in Parliament”.

His increasing stature as a politician and member of the inner circle was evident when Mr Key gave him responsibility for the Labour portfolio when Kate Wilkinson stepped down after the Pike River royal commission.

The Herald also gave Finlayson top marks, so a bit of a consensus there.

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Transtasman on house price logic

November 2nd, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman report:

OK, so the Govt wants us to smoke more, which is why it has hiked the tax on tobacco, right? And the whole Kyoto, putting a price on emissions thing: it’s to encourage people to put out more greenhouse gases, isn’t it?


Well consider the position of Labour and the Greens and – as of this week – whoever writes NZ Herald editorials. Apparently, according to this logic, the way to get more houses is to tax them more.

Thanks TT for pointing out the stupidity of their arguments. They want to tax houses more, so they cost less. Yeah, right.

At the moment the issue is supply of houses. There isn’t enough of them, in Auckland or – for obviously different reasons - Christchurch.

In Auckland the question is simply because it’s the only part of the country with net inward migration and a growing population. In short, both Auckland and Christchurch need more houses.

You don’t – unless your grasp of economic incentives is really skew-whiff – increase the tax on something you want more of.

Labour and Greens are against freeing up more land, and want to tax houses more – imagine house prices then!

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Field’s conspiracy theory

September 6th, 2012 at 1:23 pm by David Farrar

Trans-tasman reports:

To add to the gay theme came, like an echo from the past, the accusations of former Labour MP Philip Field. Now out of prison for nearly a year, Field claimed he had been the victim of a gay and lesbian group within Labour who wanted him out of the road due to his profound and deep Christian beliefs.

The existence of a conspiracy minded gay and lesbian group within Labour opposed to Christian beliefs is something we can take as a given. The ability of such a group to conspire with judge, jury and Police to put Field behind bars though is a bit of a stretch.

Maybe they’re like the Freemasons? :-)

What is a real shame is that Field still does not accept he did anything wrong. To be fair, that is also the position of the NZ Labour Party who have never said he did anything wrong – just that the acknowledged the verdict!

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Trans-Tasman on Key and income inequality

August 30th, 2012 at 1:16 pm by David Farrar

Trans-tasman reports:

 John Key showed his mastery of the political process when, with one verbal swipe in Parliament, he demolished what appeared to be a promising line of attack by Opposition parties on his coalition’s social policies. Armed with a report on child poverty, Green co-leader Metiria Turei was demanding Key acknowledge inequality in NZ has increased to the highest it has ever been, and institute a universal child payment. Key’s response “let us run through the logic of what the member has said. She says we are an unequal society, because the rich are getting richer, and now she’s on her feet telling me to give the rich families even more for their kids. What a dopey idea that is!” Turei was left complaining “I am not thinking straight.”

This is the great mystery. The left call for less income inequality yet fight for universal rather than targeted government support.

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Transtasman on Robertson and Cosgrove

July 12th, 2012 at 1:35 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman reports:

Cosgrove’s party did not exactly leap to defend him either.

Deputy leader Grant Robertson said all Cosgrove did was help a constituent, and everyone immediately recalled the last Labour MP this defence was used for, Philip Field, went to prison.

What’s more, Robertson was in then-PM Helen Clark’s office when she used the defence. It is theoretically possible Robertson’s comments were made innocently, just as it is theoretically possible to build a perpetual motion machine.

Heh. I actually think the phrasing was incompetence, not malice, but I seem to be in a minority on this issue.

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Sutton tops the CEO ranks

June 8th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Quake recovery tsar Roger Sutton has been named top public service chief executive.

The Economic Development Ministry – about to be merged into a new super- ministry – was ranked top government department of the year.

A panel of 19 high-profile business people, lobbyists and trade unionists rated 38 government departments and their bosses on performance of the chief executive, overall performance, quality of service and value for money.

The report was compiled by political newsletter Trans Tasman.

I met Roger Sutton last Friday when I was down in Christchurch for a CERA hosted tour. He is a very engaging personality. I will be blogging more fully on my observations about Christchurch early next week.

Trans Tasman editor-in- chief Max Bowden said Sutton had found himself in the “role as lightning rod for those dissatisfied about the pace of reconstruction” and praised his “calm and reasoned approach”. He added: “It seems Sutton and the authority are in for the long haul and with final decisions nearing about land zoning and the future of the central business district . . . there is still a big job to be done.”

Sutton paid tribute to his 200 staff. “It’s a very hard- working team . . . it’s a place with an amazing amount of energy and tenacity. Even when we get knockbacks we regroup and work out what we can be doing better and we get on with it.”

Rumours about his resignation were “bull….”, he said. “It’s ridiculous. I love my job. Ask my PA if I’ve ever been close to resignation. Nah.” Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said: “Trans Tasman have properly recognised that setting up a new government department and getting it up and running is no easy task. It’s fantastic.”

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall, who took up the post slightly more than a year ago, was ranked second in the report.

Marshall is proving an excellent Police Commissioner.

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State sector ratings

June 5th, 2012 at 6:00 am by David Farrar

John Hartevelt at Dom Post reports:

ACC’S miserable run continues with its rating in an annual review of state sector performance sinking like a stone.

The third annual review co-ordinated by political newsletter Trans Tasman also had bad news for Building and Housing Department chief executive Katrina Bach, who was ranked the worst of 38 public sector bosses.

Ms Bach’s rating slumped from 3.93 last year to 2 this year, while the overall performance of her department dropped from 3.75 to 2.86.

The Trans Tasman review, released today, canvassed the views of 19 “opinion leaders” on the performance of state sector leaders, issuing scores of between 1 (bad) and 7 (excellent).

The average ranking for agency performance was 4.1 (down from 4.3 last year) and 4.4 for chief executive performance (down from 4.6).

At ACC, the chief executive’s rating dropped from 4.5 to 3.7 and the agency overall went from 4.4 down to 3.7. …

Others taking a hit in the review included embattled Foreign Affairs chief executive John Allen.

Persistent leaks to the media and Opposition MPs throughout a restructuring process at the ministry have made for a tough few months for Mr Allen.

His score dropped 0.8 to a below-average score of 3.8, and Foreign Affairs as a whole dropped 0.3 to 4.3. The ministry remained well rated for ease of business at 4.6 and quality at 4.4, however. …

Mr Rennie’s score dropped from 4.06 to 3.43 and the commission fell from 3.94 to 3.31, though Mr Rennie was described as hard-working and diligent with a “methodical approach”.

Top performers in the review included Conservation Department chief executive Al Morrison, who scored the highest ranking of 5.41, and Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard who was second on 5.35.

ACC, DBH and MFAT scoring lowly is no surprise, when you consider the past 12 months for each of them.

What I think is the more major issue, is that the State Services Commission is rated so low, when you consider it is one of the three central agencies responsible for standards in the state sector.

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The 2011 Trans-Tasman Ratings

December 15th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Transtasman has published its annual ratings for the 92 re-elected MPs. As usual, I do some analysis.

The overall average rating is 5.0 (+0.5 from 2010)

Average Ratings per Party

  1. Maori 5.8 (-1.0)
  2. National 5.2 (-0.2)
  3. United Future 5.0 (-0.5)
  4. Mana 5.0 (+3.0)
  5. Green 4.7 (+0.9)
  6. Labour 4.1 (-0.4)

Labour overall rated the bottom party, based on the MPs re-elected. The Greens are most improved of the parties with more than one MP.

Top MPs

  1. Gerry Brownlee 9.0 (+1.0)
  2. John Key 9.0 (nc)
  3. Bill English 8.5 (nc)

The next four MPs on 8.0 are Russel Norman, Tony Ryall, Lockwood Smith and Murray McCully. They say about Gerry:

As Minister in charge of directing recovery from the devastating earthquakes in Canterbury, and faced almost daily with hard decisions, Brownlee has shown his true mettle. He has stood four-square behind the Govt’s determination to rebuild Christchurch, and has given back hope to those whose homes and businesses were torn apart. The job is far from done and Brownlee is expected to remain in charge for at least a year as the process of rebuilding gathers pace. What may have exercised a strong influence on the outcome of the election, as National harvested majorities in onetime Labour fiefdoms in Christchurch, was the conviction the Govt totally supported the city, transmitted through the Brownlee personality, and built around the extraordinary generosity in the payouts to citizens whose homes had been destroyed.

Bottom MPs

  1. Rajan Prasad 1.0 (-3.0)
  2. David Clendon 2.0 (-1.5)
    Darien Fenton 2.0 (-2.0)
    Louisa Wall 2.0 (-2.0)
    William Sio 2.0 (-1.5)
    Parekura Horomia 2.0 (-1.0)
    Melissa Lee 2.0 (-1.5)
    Colin King 2.0 (-1.5)

And Rajen Prasad was rated higher on Labour’s List than Stuart Nash etc!

Top Labour MPs

  1. Annette King 6.0 (-0.5)
    David Parker 6.0 (-0.5)
    Phil Goff 6.0 (nc)
    David Cunliffe 6.0 (+0.5)
    Lianne Dalziel 6.0 (+0.5)
    Jacinda Ardern 6.0 (+1.0)
    Grant Robertson 6.0 (+1.0)

Top Third Party MPs

  1. Russel Norman 8.0 (+3.0)
  2. Tariana Turia – 6.5 (-.10)
  3. Metiria Turei 6.0 (+1.5)
    Pita Sharples 6.0 (-1.0)
  4. Peter Dunne – 5.0 (-0.5)
    Hone Harawira – 5.0 (+3.0)
    Te Ururoa Flavell 6.0 (-1.0)
    Gareth Hughes – 5.0 (+2.0)

Biggest Increases

  1. Hone Harawira +3.0
    Russel Norman +3.0
  2. Michael Woodhouse +2.0
    David Shearer +2.0
    Gareth Hughes +2.0

Biggest Decreases

  1. Rajan Prasad -3.0
  2. Paul Hutchison -.2.0
    Sue Moroney -2.0
    Darien Fenton -2.0
    Louisa Wall -2.0

Group Ratings

  1. Ministers 6.3 (-0.3)
  2. Cabinet 6.4 (-0.7)
  3. National frontbench 7.2 (-0.7)
  4. Labour frontbench 4.8 (-0.2)
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The Trans-Tasman election summary

November 10th, 2011 at 3:57 pm by David Farrar

A humourous summary of the election campaign from Trans-Tasman:

National: “Ackschully, we’d love to have a second term, to do all sorts of good things. What good things? We’ll work out the details later. Hey, is Phil Goff a loser or what?”

Labour: “We’re not getting into personal attacks, but John Key is a lying scumbag, and anyone who likes him is a moron.”

ACT: “Catching Australia…whiirr BZZTT…2025 Task Force whirr BZZT…..Lower taxes whirr BZZT…Resource Management Act reform whirr BZZTT…Waitangi gravy train wshirr BZZT…. legalise cannabis whirr BZZTTT [EXPLOSION].”

Green Party: “The Apocalypse is Nigh!! The World is Ending! Won’t somebody please think of the children?? Please vote for us and we’ll
get a better deal on house insulation. Oh, and whatever Labour promises to spend or tax – we’ll spend and tax more.”

Mana Party: “We’re staunch. Feed our kids. White mo-fos can go home, unless they’re John Minto or Sue Bradford.”

Maori Party: “We have a seat at the Cabinet table. Well, a kind of wobbly stool, near the door.”

United Future: “Sensible, moderate, responsible….Hello? Anyone there? Hello……”



Government Department and CEO of the Year

June 8th, 2011 at 10:54 am by David Farrar

Trans-tasman announces:

Departing Ministry of Social Development boss Peter Hughes has been named top Government Department CEO of the year by a panel of 22 high profile opinion shapers.* The accolade comes in Trans Tasman’s  2011 New Zealand Government Department’s Briefing Report released this week.

 Hughes, who has just been named as the new head of Victoria University’s School of Government, also picked up the top honour in the inaugural report last year. The panelists were again impressed with the work Hughes has done as head of the ministry and comment he will be sorely missed. …

One of his characteristics is like his political masters he hates bad news and surprises, and does everything possible in planning and management to avoid them. It’s this sort of attention to detail while keeping an eye on the big picture which has led Hughes to win the top CEO accolade.

 Alistair Morrison of the Department Of Conservation gets the second highest score, a result which surprised even the panelists, who worked independently of each other and who didn’t know the result until this week. Morrison came nowhere in last year’s rankings, but it is a measure of his abilities that he was able to make such an impression this year.

 This is perhaps a reflection Morrison’s attempts to find a meaningful role for the department, whittling out costs and better engagement with those outside the department has not always been matched with equal relish from within.

 In the scoring Hughes was well ahead of Morrison, with Maarten Wevers of the Department Of Prime Minister And Cabinet in third place, followed by John Whitehead of Treasury and Wayne McNee of The Ministry Of Agriculture And Forestry.

 There were 37 agencies rated, so just being in the top five is pretty good for a CEO.

The panelists voted The Ministry Of Social Development as the Government Department of The Year. The Treasury, which last year took the top accolade, came in second, with the Department Of Prime Minister And Cabinet third. The Inland Revenue Department was voted fourth best. …

All four top ranking departments will be getting new leadership over the next 12 months. The new CEOs will start with good platforms to work from, but are likely to face more pressure on budgets and policy work than their predecessors ever did.

That’s interesting that all four top agencies will have new CEOs over the next year. Will make next year’s results interesting to compare.

NB – I was one of the 22 panelists.

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Rating the Departments

June 8th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dominion Post reports:

The education and health ministries are among the worst-performing government departments, according to a report card ranking state agencies and bosses.

The snapshot report, to be issued on Friday, finds excessive red tape, bureaucratic systems and ineffective consultation are hampering government departments.

While health and education are lagging, the Social Development Ministry is leading the way, alongside Customs and the Reserve Bank.

The Trans Tasman Media report, which is in the final draft stages, used 16 independent commentators to assess 37 departments.

The independent board rated departments in five categories: chief executive performance, ease of doing business, budget performance and value for money, service delivery, and overall performance.

I was one of the 16 commentators (as was the Dominion Post Editor), and also helped Trans Tasman with the survey design. I found the data quite fascinating.

The board of advisors included Peter Conway from the CTU, Mai Chen, Dave Henderson from the Assn of NGOs, Tina Reid from the Federation of Voluntary Welfare Orgs, Phil O’Reilly from Business NZ etc.

Each state core agency was rated from 1 to 7, so four is the mid point. and the average agency overall rating was 4.2.

The top 10 agencies for overall performance were:

  1. Customs 5.38
  2. Reserve Bank 5.08
  3. MSD 5.08
  4. LINZ 5.00
  5. Stats 5.00
  6. MFAT 4.91
  7. Treasury 4.77
  8. IRD 4.73
  9. DPMC 4.67
  10. MED 4.64

Customs received high ratings across the board. They are obviously a quiet effective performer.

The three biggest departments in terms of vote administered are Education, Health and MSD.  What I found interesting is that one of them was rated right near the top, and the other two almost at the bottom.

When you consider the past scandals and crises at MSD (which includes CYF), they really have turned their performance around. They have shown that size is not a barrier to quality.

It of some concern that the ratings for Education and Health ministries are so low.

The other area of real concern is SSC, with a low 3,55 rating. SSC is one of the three co-ordinating or central agencies alongside DPMC and Treasury. They should be one of the top ten agencies, not one of the bottom ten.How can you be in charge of assessing the performance of other agencies, when your own performance is seen externally (and internally from what I hear) as lack lustre.

From time to time people suggest that we don’t really need three central co-ordinating agencies, and SSC could be abolished with some of its functions transferred to DPMC. Unless they make themselves more relevant, and of greater value, then that may be an idea whose time has come.

Later in the week Trans-Tasman will announce the pick of the panel for Agency of the Year and CEO of the Year. This is not based simply on the ratings, but is based on more qualitative judgements.

The full report is around 100 pages long, and includes detailed critiques of each agency. It is available for sale from Trans Tasman.

Another interesting aspect of the results was, as reported here, that CEOs tnded to get higher ratings than their agencies. This suggests that having a good CEO is a necessary pre-requisite to good performance, but by itself is not a guarantee of sucess.

Some agencies seem to be so challenged, they they defy even the best CEO to turn around. On the other hand MSD is a good example of what you can do.

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Great News

April 12th, 2010 at 2:13 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman report:

The Trans Tasman Political Letter reports informed sources in
Wellington advise NZ has won a spectacular victory against
Australia in the World Trade Organisation  in the case it  took
to secure free access to the Australian market for apples.

The sources say the WTO panel, which adjudicated the long-running
dispute, comprehensively rejected the Australian defence.
Australia has blocked the import of NZ apples, despite the
existence of a free trade agreement, and scientific support for
the NZ argument there is no risk of the transmission of fire

This is a huge and long awaited victory.

NZPA provides background:

The trade row has been running since NZ apples were first banned from Australia over 80 years ago after fireblight was found on this side of the Tamsan .

Though New Zealand scientists have found fireblight in Australian ornamental plants and also showed that the bacterial disease is unlikely to be transmitted on mature, clean fruit, efforts to gain access to the potentially-lucrative Australian market in 1986, 1989, and 1995 were rejected.

Further talks over the restrictions also failed when New Zealand was given access with conditions so strict that exports would not be economically viable and so it applied to the WTO for the matter to be resolved in 2007.

If the Australian Government refuses to accept the ruling, them NZ can apply for sanctions. With Rudd, you never now what he might do. He should just accept the ruling.

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Trans-Tasman’s Tortoise and the Hare

February 18th, 2010 at 2:45 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman makes an interesting observation in their newsletter today:

Readers of Trans Tasman, an educated lot, will know the Aesop Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. The two were in a race and the hare got so far in front he took a nap. The tortoise plodded on past him.

National looks like trying to transform NZ’s economic reform
progress – in the past we’ve been a bunch of hares – doing sudden bursts of reform and then taking a nap. This time, National is planning on being a tortoise. This was implicit in its initial response to the economic crisis it found on its desk in November 2008. Previous Govts, faced with similar crises, have tended to panic and push every policy button available.

They have usually been shortlived Govts, and they have tended to put NZers off the whole idea of systematic economic reform until it is forced upon them.

We got more tortoise-like behaviour last week, with John Key’s opening statement to the House. A series of headings, it initially looked underwelming, and the more superficial commentators pronounced it as excessively timid.

The implications of some of those headings, on tax as well as on things like education reform and resource development, are now sinking in. Now people have taken the time to think about them, they look more progressive than they looked at the time.

I agree with the sentiments here. Pushing through reform that merely results in a new Government at the next election that reverses that reform, is dumb.

Australia has been a pretty good example of continuous reform, rather than just in the odd spurt of activity. And the PMs statement did have a significant amount of good stuff in it.

My concern though is that pre-election commitments to not touch WFF, Student Loans etc, crown assets, Superannuation, will block significant reform. Now I don’t advocate a change to these policies in this term of Government, but I do hope for the 2011 election National will have a less restrictive manifesto.

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September 11th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I am a keen recipient of the trans-tasman newsletter. You often read material in there not reported elsewhere. A great example of this is quoted in this week’s newsletter:

Excitement in the media about the Govt undertaking a review of NZ’s intelligence services scaled considerable heights this week. A Treasury official dropped a notebook in the street near Parliament, which contained some details about the review being carried out by former MFAT chief Simon Murdoch. The notebook was retrieved by a Radio NZ political journalist, and initial news reports sent competing media into a frenzy. However John Key deflated the excitement when he told journalists the review had been twice reported earlier in Trans-Tasman. The first, inthe July 2 issue, said a review was being planned of the agencies, and the second on July 16 indicated Murdoch would carry out the review.

So while still highly embarrassing for the Treasury staffer who lost the notebook, there was not actual revealing of anything not already in the public domain.

The newsletter also notes:

We have noted before Labour’s viscerally venomous attitude towards National Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley. This goes way beyond the normal tensions of political conflict. Labour MPs – especially their women MPs – appear to find the very existence of Bennett and Education Minister Tolley infuriating. You can almost see the wall of red mist descending over Labour’s front bench every time those two Ministers get up to speak. …

The attitude is actually an odd kind of snobbery. There is an unspoken “how DARE you?!” from Labour’s front bench towards Bennett and Tolley. It is a rage these women, who in Labour’s eyes should be, firstly, on a benefit themselves somewhere and, secondly, loyally supporting Labour as a consequence.

I recommend people tune into question time to see what the newsletter describes.

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Trans-Tasman on Cullen as SOE Chair

March 12th, 2009 at 4:45 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman has some good advice for the Government in discussing the ACC funding issue:

Which may be why the Nats have gone coy on making Michael Cullen the Chairman of Mighty River Power’s Board.

They also recall John Tamihere’s famous comment about Cullen’s ability to “cut a deal on a piece of legislation, he can change a single word in a piece of legislation without those other bastards [coalition partners] knowing about it, and it melts down everything they wanted.”

If it happens with coalition partners, imagine Cullen running an SOE under a National Govt.

That is a good reason, plus the angry horde of National Party members who would encircle the Beehive and try to burn it down if they appointed Cullen as an SOE Chair this year.

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Transtasman Campaign Winners and Losers

November 6th, 2008 at 2:20 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman rates the campaigns:

Campaign Winners And Losers

Winston Peters: Harder to kill than Rasputin, but his number looks up. Often truculently silly (eg the helicopter business). So no win, or No, Win.

The Maori Party: Looks like hanging onto its four seats but may not add any more. They’ve done OK, but not as well as they were expected to.

The Greens: The billboard campaign “vote for us” was outstanding. They will pick up a lot of disaffected Labour voters. Light bulbs, water pressurre and how to bring up your kids also featured. A couple of extra MPs at least look likely.

Peter Dunne? A good Minister of Revenue: his strength and his weakness. Such types seldom build lasting political forces. Will be able to hold Caucus meetings in front of his mirror as he does his spectacular hair.

ACT? Toned down the flakiness we’ve seen over recent years, but still ran an erratic campaign. May peel some votes off the right of National on the back of law and order issues. Three seats, max.

Labour/Helen Clark: Can’t see a belt without hitting below it. Too much rhetoric about what happened 15, 20, 25 years ago. A nasty, negative campaign unworthy of the party’s better side.

National/John Key: Did two winning things: after a shaky start he shed the smart-alecky 6th former demeanour he often adopts, and he refused to get into the gutter with Clark. Best line: Rich is when you can payyour credit cards and your power bill.

A nasty, negative campaign indeed.

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MPs survey of the media

September 29th, 2008 at 3:20 pm by David Farrar

Last week I set up an online survey for MPs, asking them to rate various media organisations and senior gallery journalists on a scale of 0 to 10. Just under one quarter of MPs responded, and the results are shown below.

As the media often rate how well MPs are doing, I thought it appropriate to reverse this and ask the questions in reverse. The media are a hugely powerful filter, and it is appropriate (in my opinion) to have some focus on how well they are perceived to be performing.

The questions were:

  1. For each media organisation please give them a rating from 0 to 10 for how well you think they do in their parliamentary reporting. This should take account of all relevant factors – accuracy, fairness, thoroughness, relevance, substance etc.
  2. Now for some individual senior members of the press gallery, please rate from 0 to 10 how well you think they perform at proving fair, accurate, unbiased and informative reporting on Parliament. You can skip any that you do not feel able to rate.
  3. Finally can you indicate your party grouping as National, Labour or Other. Your individual identity is not sought by us, and we have no way or interest in identifying individual respondents. However we would like to summarise results for all MPs and by the three groupings to see if they vary by party grouping.

It is important that these be read in context, so make the following points:

  1. This is the opinion of MPs only. It does not set out to be an objective rating, and should not be seen as such.
  2. MPs get reported on by the gallery. While this makes them the group of NZers potentially best able to have an informed opinion on the media (which is why I surveyed them), it also gives them a conflict of interest. MPs may score journalists lowly due to personal run ins with them, or the fact they are too good at their job! This should be borne in mind.
  3. I only e-mailed the survey to the 121 MPs, but it is possible that one or more responses was filled in by a staff member who has access to the MPs mailbox. I think this is unlikely, as most staff are very professional. However MPs were not required to prove their identity to vote, as confidentiality of individual responses was important. You need to know the Survey URL to be able to vote.
  4. National MPs made up 43% of responses, slightly above their numbers in Parliament. Minor Party MPs were also slightly over-represented, Labour MPs under-represented and some MPs did not give a party identification.
Media Mean Median Mode Minimum Maximum Range
NZ Press Assn 6.1 6 6 4 9 5
Newsroom 5.8 6 5 1 10 9
Trans-Tasman 5.5 6 6 0 8 8
NZ Herald 5.3 6 6 0 8 8
Scoop 5.2 5 5 0 10 10
Newstalk ZB 5.1 6 7 1 8 7
Listener 5.0 5 3 1 8 7
NBR 4.9 4 4 1 8 7
Radio NZ 4.8 6 3 1 9 8
Radio Live 4.4 5 1 1 8 7
Sky/Prime News 4.3 5 5 0 7 7
The Press 4.2 5 1 1 7 6
TV Three 4.1 5 6 0 8 8
Dominion Post 4.1 4.5 1 1 7 6
TV One 3.9 5 5 0 6 6
Maori TV 3.7 4 5 0 6 6
Herald on Sunday 3.5 3.5 7 0 7 7
Sunday Star-Times 2.7 3 3 0 5 5

NZ Press Association tops the rankings with a mean or average 6.1 rating – and received no very low ratings from anyone. The two Internet agencies were in the top five, indicating MPs like the fact their releases are carried in full. Trans-Tasman also does well.

Television generally gets ranked lowly with all four stations in the bottom half. Sky News actually ranks highest.

Radio is middle of the field with NewstalkZB being the highest ranked radio broadcaster.

The newspapers range the spectrum. The NZ Herald is up at 5.3, Press at 4.2 and Dom Post at 4.1. I would have them all higher, but this is a survey of MPs, not of my views.

Now the sample sizes are of course very small (but of a limited population) but let us look at how National MPs ranked media compared to all the other MPs:

Media All Mean Nats Mean Others Mean Difference
TV One 3.9 6.3 2.2 4.2
TV Three 4.1 6.2 2.6 3.6
Maori TV 3.7 5.2 2.5 2.7
Sky/Prime News 4.3 5.5 3.3 2.2
Sunday Star-Times 2.7 3.5 2.1 1.4
Radio Live 4.4 4.8 4.2 0.6
Radio NZ 4.8 5.0 4.6 0.4
Dominion Post 4.1 4.2 4.0 0.2
Herald on Sunday 3.5 3.5 3.5 0.0
Newstalk ZB 5.1 4.8 5.4 -0.6
The Press 4.2 3.8 4.6 -0.8
NZ Herald 5.3 4.2 6.1 -1.9
NBR 4.9 3.3 6.1 -2.8
Listener 5.0 3.3 6.3 -3.0
NZ Press Assn 6.1 4.3 7.4 -3.1
Trans-Tasman 5.5 3.3 7.1 -3.8
Scoop 5.2 2.8 7.0 -4.2
Newsroom 5.8 3.0 8.0 -5.0

National MPs ranked the four TV channels much higher than other MPs did. Maybe this is minor parties upset that they do not get on TV much?

Despite the generally accepted lean to the left of Radio NZ, National MPs ranked Radio NZ higher than other MPs did. And while some on the left attack the NZ Herald at favouring National, National MPs actually ranked them lower than other MPs did. The Listener and NBR also get accused of leaning right, but again get ranked lower by National MPs.

The Nat MPs also rated the online media very lowly.

Now the journalists. I decided not to list all members of the press gallery, but only those who are relatively senior, and are more likely to have a reasonable number of MPs have formed opinions about them. Looking back I could have included more.

If any journalist is unhappy about being missed out, happy to include you next year. Now again it is worth remembering these are only the opinions of those MPs who responded to my survey – it is not an objective rating.

Journalist Mean Median Mode Minimum Maximum Range
John Armstrong (NZH) 6.4 7 2 2 10 8
Peter Wilson (NZPA) 5.8 5 5 3 8 5
Audrey Young (NZH) 5.7 6.5 7 0 10 10
Ian Templeton (TT) 5.6 7 7 0 9 9
Jane Clifton (Listener) 5.6 6 6 2 9 7
Barry Soper (Sky & ZB) 4.9 5.5 7 1 9 8
Ian Llewellyn (NZPA) 4.9 5 5 1 8 7
Vernon Small (DP) 4.6 5 6 1 8 7
Colin Espiner (Press) 4.5 5 6 0 8 8
Guyon Espiner (TV1) 4.4 5.5 7 0 7 7
Tim Donoghue (DP) 4.1 4.5 2 1 9 8
Brent Edwards (RNZ) 4.1 4 4 0 7 7
Tracy Watkins (DP) 3.8 4.5 6 0 7 7
Duncan Garner (TV3) 3.7 3.5 3 0 8 8
Gordon Campbell (Scoop) 3.6 5 5 0 7 7
Ruth Laugeson (SST) 2.7 2.5 2 0 6 6

John Armstrong tops the ratings, followed by the NZPA Political Editor Peter Wilson. Generally MPs ranked journalists slightly higher than media organisations. As can be seen by the minimum ratings showing, some MPs were very harsh handing out zeroes. Did WInston multiple vote? :-) (Note I have no idea if Winston did vote)

And once again we compare responses between National MPs and other MPs.

Journalist All Mean Nats Mean Others Mean Difference
Laugeson 2.7 4.2 1.6 2.6
Clifton 5.6 7.0 4.5 2.5
Soper 4.9 6.2 4.0 2.2
Campbell 3.6 4.8 2.8 2.0
Edwards 4.1 4.8 3.5 1.3
Llewellyn 4.9 5.2 4.7 0.5
Young 5.7 6.0 5.5 0.5
Garner 3.7 3.5 3.9 -0.4
Espiner G 4.4 4.2 4.6 -0.4
Wilson 5.8 5.5 6.0 -0.5
Armstrong 6.4 6.0 6.8 -0.8
Watkins 3.8 3.0 4.4 -1.4
Donoghue 4.1 3.2 4.9 -1.7
Small 4.6 3.2 5.6 -2.4
Espiner C 4.5 2.8 5.8 -3.0
Templeton 5.6 1.8 8.5 -6.7

Again very interesting. The SST is generally seen as hostile to National, but Ruth Laugeson is ranked much higher by National MPs, than by other MPs. Likewise the Gordon Campbell and Brent Edwards (both left leaning) are ranked higher by National MPs than other MPs.

Also for some reasons National MPs ranked Ian Templeton very lowly. Maybe they don’t like his weekly chats with Clark and Key, ignoring the lesser MPs?

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TransTasman on Govt Departments

May 8th, 2008 at 7:21 pm by David Farrar

The excellent weekly newsletter, trans-Tasman, has some reviews of issues around Government agencies which I found interesting. You have to pay to subscribe, but here are some extracts so you can see the sort of stuff they have:

Ministry For The Environment

Govts which have been in power for a long time have a nasty tendency to view the public service as an extension of themselves. It is not a good thing, and when Govt’s change it can take a while for things to adjust, But what is worse is when the public service itself starts to make the same assumption. It has started to look a bit like this with the Ministry for the Environment.

More than a bit!

Department Of Conservation

After several years of fiscal malnourishment, “Doc” got a lot more money after the Cave Creek tragedy in 1995. Labour has continued this run of fiscal largesse. The department runs the country’s growing number of National Parks and Conservation Parks. The expansion has been such even a recent edition of one of the country’s tramping and outdoor magazines queried whether the expansion has been too far and too fast. The past four years has seen an additional 400,000 hectares of new Department of Conservation land in the South Island.

Energy Efficiency And Conservation Authority

The Authority’s main focus is getting people to use more energy efficient methods for heating and the like. One of the main planks of this is the solar water heating imitative, which was launched with great fanfare in late 2006, backed by a budget of $15.5m over three years. The aim was 15,000-20,000 installations in the first three years but this now looks a bit ambitious. In fact, the year after the strategy was launched the number of new installations dropped to the lowest level since 2000 – when the Authority began recording such installations. There is also a grant scheme offering $500 loans for installations, but in the 2006/07 year no grants were issued.

Not a single grant. Is there any other term for this except total failure. A great example of how good intentions are not enough.

Transit NZ/Land Transport NZ

At the moment, the budget allocation is for $7.5bn for each of the first three years. This is part of what Finance Minister Michael Cullen dubbed, in last year’s Budget, the biggest road building campaign for a generation.

The Greens must hate that level of spending being mainly on roads!

Ministry Of Transport

With Auckland being the key electoral battleground, and with transport hold-ups being such an issue in there, this will be even more so for this year. The Ministry has also increased its staff numbers, partly due to reorganisation of the sector and partly because it has a group of new policy people dealing with environmental issues and Climate Change.

Department Of Building And Housing

New Minister Shane Jones – one of the Govt’s high fliers, and tipped as a possible Labour leader – is also investigating changes to property law to allow investors to put up a “shell” property and allow low income people to buy a long term occupancy right and invest some of their own money. A model is the retirement village arrangement. Jones argues the change to more long-term renters creates a niche for this sort of property right. Less well noticed has been the change in profile of landlords. The popularity of investment properties means, according to a survey at the time the Department was formed, nearly a quarter of all landlords had been in the business for less than a year.

Housing New Zealand

On the one hand one of the major delivery agencies for social services, it is also the country’s largest property developer. So much so the Corporation, under after taking advice from its tax advisers, set up a separate property development company several years ago. The reason for this was to minimise the amount of tax the Corporation would have to pay for its property development activities.

So even Housing NZ avoids tax. Hilarious.