Hughes and ACC get top rankings

June 7th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Incoming State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes been ranked not just the public service chief executive of the year – but as the most outstanding public servant of his generation.

The annual Trans Tasman Government Department Review has seen some big movers among its rankings of public service chief executives, but Hughes has stayed on top, being named chief executive of the year for the fourth time.

ACC was ranked the Government department of the year.

ACC now only has been the top ranked agency for two years in a row, but its 2016 rating was the highest of any agency in the history of the survey.

“Hughes has now been named chief executive of the Year four times, and his work at the Ministry of Education shows how leadership can make a dramatic impact in an agency and how many other agencies are being let down by lack of leadership, not just from their CEs, but also their Ministers,” trans-Tasman says.

“The Board of Advisers once again casts the finger of blame at the State Service Commission and there is definite relief Commissioner Iain Rennie has decided to step down. Last year the advisers made a strong case for Hughes to step into the hot seat when Rennie’s term ended, and this has come to pass.

“But Hughes will find it tough going. The Commission is effectively on a last warning. If the country’s best state sector leader can’t boost its performance it is likely to be rolled up and placed under the auspices of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.” trans-Tasman warns.

Hughes earned his top ranking after turning education around from a basket case.

The board of independent advisers said he had made an “amazing improvement in a short time,” and was a class act.

There are huge expectations for Hughes as he takes up the SSC role. But under his leadership the Ministry of Education has dramatically improved.

ACC chief executive Scott Pickering was similarly impressive, the trans-Tasman panel said.

“Pickering has taken the controversy out of ACC – evidenced by a big improvement in public trust and confidence in the agency,” said one.

ACC has managed the rare feat of being able to reduce levies while also have record high levels of satisfaction and trust.

The top ten agencies are:

  1. ACC
  2. Customs
  3. Police
  4. Corrections
  5. Stats NZ
  6. IRD
  7. Defence
  8. Social Development
  9. Worksafe
  10. NZ Transport Agency
  11. DPMC

The Minister’s judged most able to get their policy agenda implemented are:

  1. John Key
  2. Bill English
  3. Chris Finlayson
  4. Judith Collins
  5. Nikki Kaye
  6. Anne Tolley
  7. Simon Bridges
  8. Gerry Brownlee
  9. Murray McCully

The agencies seem as most improved were:

  1. GCSB +0.9
  2. ACC +0.7
  3. Culture & Heritage +0.7
  4. Customs +0.6

The agencies with the biggest drops were:

  1. Reserve Bank -0.7
  2. Crown Law -0.5
  3. TEC -0.4

Note I was one of the 20 panelists.

Trans-Tasman on the Little fail

May 22nd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman writes:

On one level it is funny, the other level it is far from hilarious. To deal with the humour first: Labour Party leader Andrew Little and his backroom team – a team which tends to have a higher public profile than most Labour MPs – thought it would be a very good way to illustrate the housing crisis by staging a photo opportunity in the back streets of Otara.

Unfortunately Little went to the wrong place and stood in front of a house where the people were living in the car because the house was being renovated not because it was overcrowded. As an aside, for some reason at least one of the television channels chose not to mention this lapse in basic political competence. Others were not so gentle: the result being the Labour Party, once again, being unable to do the political equivalent of walk and chew gum at the same time.

Having worked for four leaders, I’m aghast at how incompetent the management was of this. Normally you would check out every detail in advance, rather than have an angry home owner deny they are over crowded.

David Garrett pointed out how it is normally done:

I am generally a “cock up rather than conspiracy” man…but you have to wonder if this truly was just a fuck up…

I recall in the 2008 campaign ACT pulling a stunt at Mt Eden prison based on one of our claims that, if 3S had been in place before they were killed (i.e. the killers would have been in jail at the time), “77 people would be alive today”…Rodney came up with the inspired idea of propping 77 coffin lids against the walls at Mount Eden prison, and laying it on for the cameras.

The “77 people would be alive today…” claim was based on research I had done following a series of OIA questions well prior to being selected to stand. Before he authorized the stunt Rodney grilled me on the basis for the claim, and demanded to see the OIA’s I had asked and the answers, to see for himself whether the claim stacked up. The stunt went ahead, and we got a lot of media mileage out of it.

All someone had to do to check this one out was have someone reliable go to the house and talk to the bloody occupants! Who didn’t take even that basic step, and why, I wonder? Surely they no longer have a job??

You can’t just blame the staff for this. Little as Leader needs to do what Hide did, and personally grill people to check that what they are about to do won’t explode in their faces.

Trans-Tasman on Labour and Key

May 10th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman sums it up nicely:

Usually it has been Labour, going back to then party president Mike Williams’ infamous 2007 “H Fee” Sydney trip, which has persistently taken the view Key is a crook and if they keep digging for long enough they will find something on him.

Ten years is a long time to run the same strategy when it isn’t working but, after apparently ditching it earlier in the year, Labour is back with a vengeance

Hopefully Labour will ignore this and continue on with their ten year strategy and make it a 20 year strategy.

Trans-Tasman on roaches

April 10th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman reports:

Roaches have infested the press gallery. Some will take this opportunity to make obvious and uncalled for jokes but seriously: the press gallery kitchen is infested with cockroaches, and worse, the press gallery building is the only part of Parliament not made earthquake safe, and there seems no great urgency to make it safe.

Are they sure it wasn’t just Patrick Gower? (just kidding Paddy)

The political parties have different stances on the issue. National praises gallery members for their resilience and talks about doing more with less, like the public sector, although most news organisations have been doing more with less for a lot longer than the public sector has had to. Not a lot is going to change though, because it might be a bit unpopular.

Labour has some ideas for getting rid of the cockroaches, but these are not policy. There will be a Commission of Cockroaches. And position papers and lots of think pieces about what policy might be, one day, perhaps around 2025.

Winston Peters says he has been warning about cockroaches since 1984 but these folk in the media never listened, and it serves them right. But he will buy them a drink anyway.

The Green party is wondering if there is some way to get cockroaches onto buses or trains. It is also worried about emissions from this number of cockroaches.

The Maori Party is concerned the cockroaches might make stories which are disrespectful, and suggests they go and work for Radio New Zealand. Peter Dunne and David Seymour are wondering if the cockroaches can be signed up as party members.

Heh- I like the last ones especially.

I am sure improving conditions in the press gallery for be a key budget priority in the 2026/27 Budget.

Trans-Tasman on Gracinda

March 21st, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman writes:

Labour leader Andrew Little’s call for a return to Muldoon-like setting of interest rates has been well covered elsewhere, but it is only the most prominent example of an utterly woeful attack on the Govt.

The Labour party dream team, Gracinda, based their attack on an MYOB survey of small businesses which showed a sizable downturn in income for small firms due to the fall in the dairy price. Both parts of Gracinda, Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern, worked off three presumptions: dairy prices should never fall; they should and could somehow be made not to fall; and small firms do not anticipate dairy prices will never fall. None of these presumptions are true in the world outside Labour’s rarefied and strange outlook on the economy.

It would be nice if the first two were true. But unless Labour plans to bring back guaranteed minimum prices for dairy – and on recent performance, we shouldn’t rule it out – it is a silly and make-believe approach to the economy.

Labour really have had a shocking 2016 to date. The talk around journalists isn’t around the 2017 election, but if Labour can get their shit together enough to be credible by 2020 as they think a 5th term for National would be bad for democracy.

The 2015 Trans-Tasman Ratings

November 30th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman has published its annual ratings for most of the 121 MPs. As usual, I do some analysis.

The overall average rating is 4.1 (-1.2 from 2014), which is a huge drop. This may reflect grumpier reviewers more than the  possibility that almost every single MP is doing worse than a year ago. I have to say that the number of ratings they have given which I think are totally detached from reality is higher than normal.

Average Ratings per Party

  1. ACT 8.5
  2. United Future 5.0 (nc)
  3. National 4.3 (-1.5)
  4. Labour 4.1 (-1.0)
  5. Maori 4.0 (-2.5)
  6. Green 3.9 (-0.3)
  7. NZ First 3.2 (-0.9)

Of the four main parties, their average rankings in order are National, Labour, Greens, NZ First

Top MPs

  1. David Seymour 8.5
  2. Murray McCully 8.0 (+0.5)
    Bill English 8.0 (-1.0)
  3. John Key 7.5 (-2.0)
    Tim Groser 7.5 (nc)
    Amy Adams 7.5 (+0.5)

Bottom MPs

  1. Darroch Ball 2.0
    Mahesh Bindra 2.0
    Catherine Delahunty 2.0 (nc)
    Ruth Dyson 2.0 (-1.5)
    Paul Foster-Bell 2.0 (-1.5)
    Barbara Kuriger, 2.0
    Melissa Lee 2.0 (-1.0)
    Tracey Martin 2.0 (-2.0)
    Clayton Mitchell 2.0
    Pita Paraone 2.0
    Stuart Smith 2.0
    Rino Tirakatene 2.0 (-0.5)

Top Labour MPs

  1. Annette King 6.5 (-1.0)
  2. Andrew Little 6.0 (-1.0)
    Phil Twyford 6.0 (nc)
    Kelvin Davis 6.0

Top Third Party MPs

  1. David Seymour 8.5
  2. Winston Peters 7.0 (-0.5)
  3. James Shaw 5.5

Biggest Increases

  1. Denis O’Rourke +1.0
    Barbara Stewart +1.0
    Nanaia Mahuta +1.0
    Jan Logie +1.0

Biggest Decreases

  1. David Carter -3.0
  2. Mark Mitchell -2.5
    Grant Ribertson -2.5
    Nick Smith -2.5

Group Ratings

  1. Ministers 5.9 (-0.4)
  2. Cabinet 6.3 (-0.6)
  3. National frontbench 6.7 (-1.0)
  4. Labour frontbench 5.3 (-0.7)
  5. National backbench 3.3 (-1.4)

Basically every group has dropped.

Only 10 MPs got a higher score, 16 MPs stayed the same and 63 MPs got a lower score.

A reminder these are the opinions of the three authors at , not mine. I’d love to publish my own scores for all 121 MPs but I value my relationships too much to do so!

One thing I do agree with is their appraisal of David Seymour as MP of the Year, and I quote them:

While not exactly a political novice – he has form in student politics, and stood unsuccessfully twice in Auckland seats before getting elected, as well as being an adviser to then ACT leader John Banks, 32 year old David Seymour is in his first term in Parliament, he is a novice as a party leader, and coalition member. The surprise is how well he has performed, and the degree to which he seems to have made ACT a potential vote winner again. Sure he made the odd “coq” up, but no more than many of his colleagues.

He has handled his work with dedication, he is “everywhere” and he is a genuine talent. ACT’s charter school policies could turn out to be one of the successes of the coalition in policy terms and his move to ensure bars could open during the Rugby World Cup showed how in touch he is with public thinking. He gets the nod as politician of the year because he is at the vanguard of a new wave of politicians – starting with a back to basics approach both in electorate and Parliamentary work. He’s doing what a minor party should do under MMP – giving support, but making the Govt’s life difficult as well, and he is also doing it tactically. He has proven he can master the Parliamentary bun fight, now he needs to show he can make his party relevant.

Trans-Tasman on Pig gate responses

September 26th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman scribes some possible responses from parties to Pig-gate.

Parliament rose this week for recess, but not without the parties giving their views on the allegations about British Prime Minister David Cameron and his youthful indiscretion with a pig.

National stands by its previous position on the issue, whatever it was, and points out Labour had nine long years to engage in debauched behaviour with animals but failed to do so. Also PM John Key is quite into pigtails.

Labour is setting up a Commission on the Future of Pork which will give it some policy. It has also unearthed official advice saying National ignored official advice on debauched behaviour with animals. MP Phil Twyford is protesting the traditional method of calling pigs, “SooEY!” sounds Chinese.

The Greens are querying the pig’s contribution to climate change, and also whether it could be used to combat child poverty.

The Maori Party is keeping a low profile, as it tends to do these days. There isn’t a Whanau Ora aspect to this, unless there is a chance to use the pig for some sort of koha – and really, they would rather not, considering where it has been.

New Zealand First doesn’t know what to think, as Winston is away right now. But whatever it is they are really really angry about it.

Peter Dunne meanwhile is just really irritable about the whole thing, and is hoping to annoy NZ First about it if he can’t annoy the government this time.

ACT’s David Seymour has a really amusing, accidental double entendre all prepared for the next photo op.

Heh, not bad.

Trans-Tasman on Key

September 25th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman writes:

What those who label Key as “Teflon John” or “Lucky John” can’t fathom is the leadership skills the PM brings to the job. These include an ability to communicate unmatched by previous PMs, and an unerring instinct connecting with the issues of the day, allied to a systemic cheerfulness. Key’s own personal chemistry has blunted the inherent rivalry visible in previous administrations where Ministers jostled for advancement. The result is a sense of teamwork between the PM and his senior Ministers unrivalled in NZ’s political history …

Key exploits the architecture of Govt, with cabinet committee agendas deeper and more challenging than in previous eras. Ministers who demonstrate they know what they are doing are given their head to do what needs to be done in their portfolios (witness Hekia Parata in Education). But then it is Key who delivers the surprises, as in the decision to raise benefits for the first time in 43 years. Some commentators say the Govt hasn’t done enough in reform, ignoring the welfare, education and social policy developments (which have totally de-fanged Labour), and dismissing the $40bn cost of the Christchurch rebuild as an inconsequential bagatelle. What may prove even more disconcerting to Key’s opponent is his determination to win a fourth term.

I’m going to do some posts next week looking at what reforms National has managed, that would appeal to centre-right people, but also what policies they have implemented that appeal more to centre-left.

People say Key operates from the centre, but this is not quite right. His overall policy programme is centrist, but he actually does do a fair amount of centre-right policies – it just he also does some stuff that usually you expect from a left Government. Overall by darting to the left on some issues, it allows him to advance policies on the right also.

Departmental Scorecard

June 2nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Ministry of Education’s Peter Hughes has been named chief executive of the year for the third time, while the State Services Commission has been labelled a “disaster”.

The sixth annual review of New Zealand Government departments by political newsletter Trans Tasman was released today, chosen by a 16-strong independent board of advisers*.

Hughes was said to have been a strong leader but many other government agencies lacked guidance at the top.

 The Ministry of Education was the most improved agency, with its rating moving from 2.4 to 4.3 (out of a possible 7) over two years, and Hughes given much of the credit.

The review dubbed the Accident Compensation Corporation the rising star of the public sector, after recovering from “significant privacy issues” and getting its finances under control.

Chief executive Scott Pickering was praised for making significant positive change, such as restoring customer services, with little public fuss.

At the other end the State Service Commission (SSC) had the worst ratings seen in the history of the Trans Tasman surveys and Commissioner Iain Rennie was said to be on the way out.

The SSC was described as a “disaster” after a year in which Rennie appeared alongside former Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton at a press conference after Sutton faced allegations of sexual harassment.

“It is untenable for an agency meant to be one of the three core agencies responsible for the quality of the public service to have such appalling ratings,” the report said.

I think the Government needs to seriously look at whether to retain SSC in its current form, or hand over its functions to other agencies. The CIO function moved to DIA some time ago. DPMC could take over the CE recruitment.

WINNERS

  • Peter Hughes, Ministry of Education: chief executive of the year.
  • Ray Smith, Corrections: second in overall performance of Department, and ranked second for his personal performance.
  • Scott Pickering, ACC, third ranked chief executive, and ACC took out Department of the Year.
  • Rebecca Kitteridge, SIS..
  • Bill English, Finance Minister: top-ranked Minister for success in his department (Treasury) implementing his policy agenda, and described as “the most consistent and diligent of all Ministers”.

Despite very little money for extra resources, many government departments have managed to perform well, and have also made the transition from focusing on outputs to focusing on outcomes – specifically the Government’s 10 Better Public Services targets.

* – I am one of the 16

Labour’s blog obsession

May 15th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

TransTasman reports:

A Labour MP was expressing his horror recently to a press gallery journalist. Nothing new in this, of course – opposition MPs, at any time and in any party, need to have a cache of faux outrage ready to uncork at all times. But this outrage was real. How disgusting it was, he said, the gallery had given blogger and National’s pollster David Farrar accreditation. Sorry, what? The gallery journalist’s head whirled a moment…. and then it cleared. Six weeks ago, Farrar had a post on his blog claiming he now has press gallery accreditation. The story ran on April 1.

A chocolate fish to the journalist who lets me know the name of the Labour MP who not only fell for the April Fool’s Joke, but also was still obsessed by it weeks later.

This would just be an embarrassing little item, if it weren’t for the wider context. Opposition activist, and Labour folk in particular, have a growing obsession with what people like Farrar and his tribal compadre, Matthew Hooton, say about them.

Sometime Labour staffer and researcher Rob Salmond recently wrote the Northland by-election was effectively a win for Labour because Andrew Little chose not to compete, and when teased about it by Hooton he, and DimPost blogger Danyl McLauchlin, expressed worries if Little had done, and had inevitably failed to win the seat, people like Farrar and Hooton would have mocked him. As if anything else Little did would have stopped such mocking. It is a revealing sign of how low morale and selfbelief is amongst the country’s left wing activists when what Farrar and Hooton say looms so large.

Let’s do a comparison. Does a single National MP or activist spend a second worried about what people on The Standard says?

The reason why not, is because The Standard exists solely to attack National. Kiwiblog does not exist solely to attack. Sure I agree with the Government 80% of the time, but I regularly blog areas I disagree with them on, and will praise policies and statements from opposition parties I agree with.

The 2014 Trans-Tasman Ratings

December 4th, 2014 at 11:50 am 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 5.3 (+0.6 from 2013, which is a big increase, probably influenced by retiring MPs)

Average Ratings per Party

  1. Maori 6.5 (+1.3)
  2. National 5.8 (+0.7)
  3. Labour 5.1 (+0.5)
  4. United Future 5.0 (+1.0)
  5. Green 4.3 (-0.1)
  6. NZ First 4.1 (+0.8)

Of the four main parties, their average rankings in order are National, Labour, Greens, NZ First

Top MPs

  1. John Key 9.5 (+0.5)
  2. Bill English 9.0 (nc)
  3. Steven Joyce 8.0 (+0.5)
    Chris Finlayson 8.0 (+0.5)

Bottom MPs

  1. Catherine Delahunty 2.0 (-1.0)
    Richard Prosser 2.0 (+0.5)
  2. Steffan Browning 2.5 (-0.5)
    Rino Tirikatene 2.5 (-0.5)

Top Labour MPs

  1. Annette King 7.5 (+0.5)
  2. Andrew Little 7.0 (+2.5)
  3. Grant Robertson 6.5 (+0.5)

Top Third Party MPs

  1. Winston Peters 7.5 (+0.5)
  2. Russel Norman 7.0 (nc)
  3. Te Ururoa Flavell 6.5 (+0.5)
    Kevin Hague 6.5 (+0.5)

Biggest Increases

  1. Andrew Little +2.5
    Maggie Barry +2.5
  2. Hekia Parata +2.0
    Alfred Ngaro +2.0
    Megan Woods +2.0
    David Shearer +2.0
    Scott Simpson +2.0

Biggest Decreases

  1. Judith Collins -2.5
  2. David Cunliffe -1.5

Group Ratings

  1. Ministers 6.3 (nc)
  2. Cabinet 6.9 (+0.2)
  3. National frontbench 7.7 (+0.3)
  4. Labour frontbench 6.0 (+0.2)
  5. National backbench 4.7 (+0.7)

All groups improved their ratings this year except Ministers (but Cabinet went up). The biggest improvement was the National backbench, due to rejuvenation. New MPs will be rated next year.

Worth noting that as always, I of course disagree with some of the ratings. They are the opinions of the three authors at Trans-Tasman.

Transtasman on Labour media management

August 1st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The latest Transtasman notes:

The tawdry cry of media bias, marinated in bitterness and misanthropy, has been held aloft by Labour activitists. They have a point, but not the one they think they are making. How journalists’ view political parties is affected by many factors, and individual political biases and prejudgements is only one of them – and seldom the most important. Almost every journalist in the press gallery has tales of slow or non-existent response from Labour to requests for information, or of interviews/appearances agreed to and  then “pulled” at the last minute.

It isn’t a matter of incompetent staff: the almost total turnover in the past three years is only one indication something deeper is the problem.

No one knows what is going on because people who should be told are not told, and the big reason for this is internal levels of mistrust are so toxic.

It adds up to an organisation – and we use the word ‘organisation’ with some degree of over-stretch here – which cannot do the political equivalent of walk from Mum’s car to the kindergarten gate with out having a trouser incident. 

And of course this affects coverage.

Journalists experience this level of cluster-fornication every day and it has a deep impact. And this is before we get to the public snafus, the destructive and bitter factionalism and the way many electorate candidates are distancing themselves from the current, official election strategy. Almost everything Labour does at the moment sends the message it is in no position to run anything.

If there is a tone of disrespect in how journalists cover Labour – and there very definitely is – it is because Labour is not behaving in a way which earns respect.

The scary thing is that despite this level of toxicity, they could end up in Government in 51 days. It only needs a 4% swing or so and Labour could form a Government with the Greens, NZ First, Mana and Dotcom parties.

Trans-Tasman has the draft manifestos

June 30th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman has been leaked copies of the draft 2014 manifestos.

TransTasman has obtained draft manifestos of most of the country’s political parties for Election 2014

National’s is all glossy photos o f John Key, with his most common comment at media briefings, “I wouldn’t want to go into details” emblazoned in Royal Blue.

Labour’s is much larger: “All Our Yesterdays” is a reproduction of Norman Kirk’s much thumbed “little red book” and an even more frequently thumbed copy of Nicky Hager’s “The Hollow Men,” with an inspirational photo of David Cunliffe wearing a miner’s helmet and a sugarbag, gazing into the future and holding a glass of pinot noir.

The Greens have some very serious stuff about eradicating child poverty for Maui dolphins and an intergalactic committee of experts for the eradication of climate change. The Greens have decided the way to stop people thinking they are wacky is to be very boring. They may have over corrected a bit.

We haven’t got anything yet on Peter Dunne, but early intelligence suggests a sort of reverse version of the Greens’ strategy.

Hailing a return to the days of Dick Seddon, NZ First leader Winston Peters is to announce a poll tax for Chinese immigrants.

ACT’s is Jamie Whyte’s written sequel to John Locke’s ‘Two Treatises on Government.’ In keeping with ACT’s philosophy, it is called Half a Treatise on Government.

Not a lot from the Mana-Internet Party yet: policy work thus far consists of a hurried email suggesting grabbing Kim Dotcom’s copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf; getting hold of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, and “stick the best bits together.”

Heh, not bad,

Laila in Wonderland

June 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-tasman hit the nail with their piece on Laila in Wonderland:

But we kind of crashed through the looking glass last week with the anointment of Laila Harre as leader of Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party. It is possible, back when she was an ardent campaigner for feminism and against capitalism, racism and corporatism, Harre foresaw the day she would sign up to front a party funded by a convicted German fraudster who made much of his money from pornography and who also has a fetish for racist, not to say out- right Nazi, humour. Harre wasn’t even elected: she was anointed by the aforementioned convicted German fraudster who has trafficked in pornography and who thinks n-word jokes are hilarious. 

There are many terms for this sort of thing, none of them complimentary. We will avoid the ‘h’ word – not just because MPs are not allowed to use the term hypocrisy in the House, but mostly because hypocrisy is part of the human condition. All of us fall short of our ideals. But this is not mere hypocrisy, not a minor falling short. This is moral bankruptcy of a particularly shameless kind.

Sold out for 150,000 pieces of silver.

Wheeler named public sector chief executive of the year

June 3rd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff reports:

A former top international banker, who stared down the Beehive with lending restrictions and official cash rates rises months from the election, is this year’s public sector chief executive of the year.

Graeme Wheeler, who became Reserve Bank governor in late 2012, was today named as the top public sector boss in political newsletter Trans Tasman’s fifth Annual Briefing Report.

Since replacing Alan Bollard, Wheeler has introduced controversial loan to value ratio limits on mortgages in an attempt to cool the housing market and raised the OCR  twice this year.

Both moves were politically unpopular, but Trans Tasman said the ‘‘fresh ideas’’ made him chief executive of the year and the Reserve Bank’s best governor since Don Brash – a dig at Bollard, whose decade in charge was bookended by Brash and Wheeler.

‘‘He’s made some gutsy calls and stood up to the political pressure not to interfere in the iconic quarter acre dream,’’ the report said of Wheeler.

‘‘A courageous governor – and we will find out over the next year or so whether he made the right calls.’’

The awards were chosen by a 16-strong independent board of advisers.

Inland Revenue was named department of the year because of a ‘‘clear improvement in customer engagement’’ over the past 12 months.

‘‘One of the only departments leading the charge online for better customer and business interactions,’’ Trans Tasman said.

‘‘It is no longer just a compliance agency. It is also being seen by the public as a crusader which goes after people who try to avoid their tax obligations.’’

As with previous years, I’m one of the 16 advisors. The release from Trans-Tasman is here.

As an employer, I have to say dealing with the IRD is so much easier than years ago. No more waiting on hold – just send secure mail. Can check my account balances instantly, and lots of useful calculators.

The Reserve Bank Governor should be fiercely independent. It is a tribute to Wheeler that he listened politely to the Government wanting to exempt first home buyers from the LVRs, but then decided it wouldn’t work with that exemption and proceeded. It is unfortunate that Labour has vowed to over-turn that independent decision should they win Government.

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.

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!

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

No?

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!

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!

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.

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.