Winston fires – and shoots his own foot off

May 14th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

NZ First MP Winston Peters was booted out of Parliament after claiming Justice Minister Judith Collins failed to declare travel costs paid for by the Chinese government.

For days, Peters has been claiming he has a smoking gun that would see Prime Minister John Key sack Collins.

But in farcical scenes during Question Time, it took several attempts for him to make the allegations, as he was blocked by Speaker David Carter.

His stumbling caused Key to remark: ”I don’t understand the information that the member has got or the allegation… if the member could just speak a bit more clearly it might help everyone including the media.”

Stumbling is a polite term for it.

Eventually Peters tabled a cabinet report which he says show Collins failed to list ”substantial” travel, accommodation and other costs met by China in the MPs register of pecuniary interests. He said Key knew about the contributions. 

This is hilarious. The revelation that the host Government picks up internal travel costs of visiting Ministers, is about as much as a surprise that you get wet if it is raining.

It isn’t entirely clear if Ministers need to declare every overseas trip they undertake. Standing Orders say:

the information referred to in subclause (1)(a) does not have to be included in the return if the travel costs or accommodation costs (as the case may be) were paid by … any government, parliament, or international parliamentary organisation, if the primary purpose of the travel was in connection with an official parliamentary visit.

It is best to err on the side of caution and include all trips, but any omission is a minor issue. The trips are announced publicly when undertaken. Absolutely no one is surprised that the host Government picks up internal travel costs.

Several articles on Winston’s misfire.

Jane Clifton writes:

It was less the promised “smoking gun” than a dribbling water pistol, but Winston Peters made sure to get himself turfed out of Parliament yesterday to ensure his allegations about Judith Collins made the news one way or another. …

John Armstrong writes:

‘And pick up your smoking gun on the way out.” It was quite simply the killer interjection; one containing just the right amount of sarcasm to really get under the skin of its target. Or – more accurately in this case – loser.

You do not usually associate that word with Winston Peters. But his promise to dish more dirt – sorry, fresh information – on Judith Collins, such that she would be “gone by Monday”, was a dismal failure in Parliament yesterday.

It must have been especially galling for Peters that the paralysing interjection came from his one-time New Zealand First colleague, Tau Henare. The pair fell out when the National-New Zealand First coalition government fell apart in 1998.

Best quip of the month.

Andrea Vance reports on why Winston was slurring so much. he had the flu!

NZ First leader Winston Peters has blamed the flu, after he turned in a shambling performance in Parliament yesterday and MPs questioned his health.

The veteran politician, 69, displayed shaking hands and slurred speech as he attempted to catch out Prime Minister John Key with new allegations about Justice Minister Judith Collins.

And at a media conference after he was ejected from the House, Peters was sweating profusely, wiping his face with a handkerchief.

A spokeswoman later said that he was suffering from the flu.

The flu can be very nasty and take weeks to recover from. It’s not something that disappears in 24 hours. So it will be interesting to see if Winston has recovered today.

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Peters v Geddis

May 9th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters is disputing leading lawyers’ views that his party’s rule to fine MP’s who jump ship up to $300,000 is unenforceable.

The rule was was inserted into NZ First’s constitution after Brendan Horan was ejected from the party in late 2012 but refused to resign from Parliament. However it is yet to be ratified.

Constitutional law expert Andrew Geddis of Otago University has said the rule has no legal foundation while public law expert Matthew Palmer pointed out that once an MP left a party they were no longer bound by its constitution.

“With the greatest respect to Mr Geddis, he doesn’t know anything about this stuff”, Mr Peters said this morning.

Yeah, Andrew knows nothing at all on electoral law – apart from writing the textbook used in pretty much every university in New Zealand.

Andrew blogs on why Winston is wrong, and he is right here.

No doubt if NZ First ever tries to enforce their clause and lose in court, Winston will claim the Judges all got it wrong also.

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Taxpayers’ Union welcomes $158,000 paid back

April 1st, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Taxpayers’ Union has welcomed the very overdue news:

The Taxpayers’ Union has warmly welcomed the decision of Winston Peters and the New Zealand First Party to pay back the $158,000 the party owes the taxpayer.

Executive Director Jordan Williams has said “On behalf of our members and supporters, we congratulate Winston Peters for his show of leadership in deciding to pay back the $158,000. It’s a principled decision that reflects well on New Zealand First”

“While some commentators may be churlish at the length of time it has taken to arrange repayment, we believe the maxim ‘better late than never’ definitely applies in this case.”

The $158,000 debt relates to parliamentary spending by the New Zealand First Party in 2005, that the Auditor-General found to be unauthorised and illegal. All other parties repaid their unauthorised spending prior to the 2008 election.

With NZ First rising in the polls, this news will push them up even further.

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Winston wanting to steal the cathedral off the Anglican Church

March 15th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Restoration of the Christ Church Cathedral could be a condition of any post-election coalition deal, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says.

The potential power is going to his head. This is like saying a condition of any coalition deal could be the confiscation of the building owned by Mrs Smith-Jones of Lower Hutt.

The cathedral is owned by the Anglican Church. Politicians vowing to force them to restore it, rather than replace it, are effectively saying we wish to steal it from the Church and make ourselves the owners so we can decide what is done with it.

He told The Press restoration of the cathedral would “certainly” be part of coalition talks with the Government if he secured enough votes in the September election.

“I’ve already given a written commitment that I would raise this in any negotiations,” he said.

“I am seriously committed to this project. It means much more than just the cathedral.”

Peters was “very, very confident” a deal could be reached.

I’m very confident it can’t be, unless Peters think parties will agree to a law change stealing the cathedral off the church. The church has already made a decision.

Peters said he did not understand why Bishop Victoria Matthews did not want to restore the building.

“I don’t understand how the specialness of this building is not grasped. I don’t want to open a personal feud with the bishop, but on this matter she is seriously wrong. I’m not Anglican and I’m from the North Island, but that’s my view.”

So maybe you should shut the fuck up on it then? Only Anglicans living in Christchurch get to decide.

Anglican church spokesman Jayson Rhodes said Peters’ comments suggested “the cathedral be taken off the Anglican church”.

He said it was surprising that Peters had not spoken to the church trustees who had made a decision based on “issues including building resilience and cost”.

Peters’ suggestion that the land was gifted to the church by European settlers was wrong.

“It was Anglicans giving to Anglicans.”

Just bullshit grandstanding.

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It’s like a teen drama!

March 12th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stacey Kirk at Stuff reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe has dismissed suggestions of a cooling in relations between his party and the Greens, saying the Greens would be the obvious first choice for Labour to strike a coalition with.

Yesterday, Cunliffe refused to say whether he would negotiate with the Greens before NZ First.

But today he appeared to back down from those statements, dismissing speculation that tension had arisen between the two allies.

Well Cunliffe not only distanced himself from the Greens, but described Winston as a good guy. That’s a great deal of enthusiasm for him. I guess he regards lying to the media, public and Parliament over his knowledge of the Owen Glenn donation doesn’t stop him being a good guy.

The backdown comes after the Greens lodged an official complaint with Labour over outspoken MP Shane Jones’ attacks on the party.

Yesterday, Cunliffe said he would work with whatever cards the voters delivered after the September 20 election.

“That may indeed quite likely be with the Greens, it may well be with Winston first … NZ First.”

But he would not say the Greens would be his first choice, saying there was “no preordained order”.

This morning, he told Firstline talking with the Greens first was the logical step, if in a position to form a Government.

The Greens are somewhat terrified that Labour will lock them out of Government if Winston demands it as the price of his support. And what could they do about it? Vote for a National-led Government? Of course not. They’d have to just swallow the butter medicine.

The reality is that it looks incredibly improbable that Labour and Greens will have enough seats by themselves to form a Government after the election. Even a bauble to Hone won’t get them over the line. They’ll need Winston and as he has the option of going with National (which the Greens do not), he has all the power.

UPDATE: And looking even worse for the Greens, as Peters says they can’t win without him and his policy is to rule them out:

Winston Peters doesn’t think a Labour/Greens coalition can win the September 20 election.

Chris Trotter thinks they can’t win also. Back to Peters:

Mr Peters says Labour’s strategists must be worried because they must know they can’t win with the Greens.

“They know full well that those two parties can’t get up in this election,” he said on Radio New Zealand.

“Some people should get their hard hats on, because together they won’t make it.”

Before the 2005 election Mr Peters ruled out working with the Greens in a coalition government, and says his position hasn’t changed since then.

But he didn’t rule it out.

“We are six months out from an election and from what we have heard thus far our position has not changed from 2005 on the Greens,” he said.

“However, they’ve got six months in which they might make changes, so you can’t rule that out.”

The Greens are not going to change their policies in the next six months to appease Peters. So if he holds the balance of power, he will block the Greens from Government as a price of support for Labour.

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Fighting on the left

March 11th, 2014 at 3:10 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

The Greens have lodged a formal complaint with Labour over outspoken MP Shane Jones’ attacks on the party.

They’ve complained because an MP from another party criticised them? Who is being thin skinned now?

It comes as the Northland-based list MP faced a ticking off from leader David Cunliffe this morning over his anti-Green comments as well as for straying into other MPs’ areas of responsibility.

It is understood the Green’s chief of staff Ken Spagnolo invoked the official mechanism for airing disputes with Labour’s new chief of staff Matt McCarten and it will be on the agenda of the next top level meeting between the two allies.

Good to see them focusing on the big issues. Again, imagine how they’ll be going running a Government!

Green co-leader Russel Norman said he imagined the matter would be dealt with at chief of staff level.

But he said Labour was obviously had some “internal issues” to deal with.

Just a few!

”There’s clearly some people like Shane Jones within Labour who are uncomfortable about protecting the environment and embracing our clean energy future. but … the Greens know what we are doing and why we’re here.”

Wait, isn’t this a personal attack on Shane Jones? Maybe Jones should complain also through their dispute process!

Meanwhile NewstalkZB report:

Labour leader David Cunliffe says the Greens won’t necessarily be the first cab off the rank if he’s in a position to form a Government after the election.

The translation is he’ll sacrifice them for Winston if Winston asks for it. Poor Greens – 18 years in Parliament and no baubles for them.

There was another oops in David Cunliffe’s life earlier this morning when he referred to his possible coalition partner New Zealand First as ‘Winston First’.

“Winston’s a good guy but I’m not doing coalition negotiations before the vote and we will work with whatever cards the voters put on the table. That may indeed quite likely will be with the Greens, it may well be with Winston First.”

I’m very pleased to see the official Kiwiblog term for New Zealand First catching on!!

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Williams on Peters

March 10th, 2014 at 7:12 am by David Farrar

Mike Williams wrote yesterday:

Peters was vehemently attacked in the lead-up to the 2008 general election for allegedly accepting a $100,000 contribution from the same Sir Owen two years earlier, then denying it.

Despite a leaked email in which Sir Owen said he’d made a donation to NZ First, when Peters was asked if NZ First had received the money from Sir Owen he held up a sign that read “No”.

He was widely pilloried. NZ First fell short of the 5 per cent threshold by 20,000 votes in the forthcoming general election, disappeared from Parliament and gave John Key’s National Party the election.

As I facilitated the donation in question, I can report – for the first time – that Peters was in fact telling the strict truth.

No he wasn’t. There are two aspects to whether Peters was telling the truth, and Williams focuses on one aspect only – which gives a very misleading impression. I’ll explain.

It was then resolved that a contribution would be made to defray the costs of the court action and a payment was made to the fees account of the lead lawyer, Brian Henry.

The transaction did not involve Peters and no money ever went near him or the NZ First Party. However the privileges committee and media chose to believe the leaked email – and the rest is history.

Peters was asked two things. One was whether Glenn had donated to NZ First and the other was whether he knew in advance about the donation to Brian Henry to cover Peters’ legal fees.

One can argue, like Williams has, that the $100,000 donation was not to NZ First – but to Brian Henry and/or to Peters personally. But that wasn’t the key issue that the Privileges Committee looked into.

Peters claimed that he knew nothing at all about the donation until Henry revealed it. He swore black and blue that he knew nothing at all about it.

The evidence presented to the Privileges Committee (which I attended) was testimony by Glenn and his assistant that it had been discussed. But they had more than their word. The evidence includes

  1. a phone log showing a lengthy call between Glenn and Peters from 1.27 pm to 1.33 pm
  2. a phone log showing Peters called Brian Henry from 1.34 pm to 1.39 pm
  3. a e-mail from Brian Henry at 1.40 pm to Owen Glenn asking for the money, providing a bank account number and referring to his recent discussion with his client

If you believe the two phone calls immediately before the e-mail providing the bank account number for the $100,000 were unrelated, then you are either a member of the Labour Party caucus or I have a bridge for sale!

Also Sue Moroney’s brother testified he heard Peters thank Glenn for the donation.

So let there be no mistake. Peters was not telling the truth. He may have been telling the truth in terms of whether it was a donation to NZ First or not – but there is no way he was telling the truth when he denied knowing anything about the donation. The phone logs and e-mail are a smoking gun.

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Winston still lying

February 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

One of the nastier aspects of the character of Peters is a total inability to admit he got it wrong. He will defend a lie to the last. He did it with Owen Glenn, and he is now doing it with Huka Lodge. The sad thing is that there may be 5% of New Zealanders who think he is telling the truth and that everyone else is lying.

Stuff reports:

Winston Peters is standing by his claim that one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist lodges is being sold, despite both the owner and the Government saying it is not.

During his state of the nation speech in Takapuna yesterday, Mr Peters claimed Huka Lodge, near Taupo, was being sold to Chinese interests, to gasps from some of the hundreds of North Shore Grey Power members listening.

It was one of his more blatant racist attacks. Huka Lodge is owned by a Dutch company on behalf of Alex van Heeren who is the honorary counsel for East and West Flanders and Antwerp and a former Dutch honorary counsel to New Zealand. He is not a New Zealander, but a foreign businessman who spends most of his time abroad.

When Huka Lodge was sold to van Heeren (under Labour in 2003), did Peters say a word aboutt foreign investment or ownership? No. Then he invents a story abour it being sold to Chinese investors, with the clear message that this would be wrong and evil. His message isn’t that foreign ownership is bad. His message is that it is okay for white foreigners to own assets in New Zealand, but awful if Asian foreigners buy things.

It is racism pure and simple. It is designed to whip up hostility to people who look Asian, regardless of whether or not they are foreigners or New Zealand born. The message it sends is if you are an Asian New Zealander, you are a second class citizen.

Afterwards he cited real estate sources for his comments. “My informant says John Key has said to these people: ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll smooth it through the Overseas Investment Office’.”

If any politician should be suing for defamation, it should be John Key.

Later, Peters modified his claim to say the lodge was for sale.

First of all he claimed explicitly it had been sold. With that proven to be a lie, he does not apologise or retract. He invents a new lie. The owners of Huka Lodge have clearly said it is not on the market.

One could give Peters some benefit of the doubt that he believed the so called informant and is just so lazy and unconcerned with the truth, that he repeated an unproven allegation as fact because that’s the sort of politician he his. That’s the best case scenario. But now when confronted with the fact that it has not been sold, and the owner says it is not for sale, he chooses to maintain the lie, and amend it, rather than accept he said something false.

It’s the same behaviour as with the Owen Glenn donation. The evidence before the Privileges Committee proved beyond any doubt he lied dozens of times, yet he still insists he didn’t.

“The Overseas Investment Office has spoken to Huka Lodge director and shareholder David McGregor, and he has confirmed no sale has been made or is being considered,” Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson said, not long after Mr Key’s office said the prime minister would never become involved in OIO applications even if one were in train.

Huka Lodge director of global sales and marketing Louise Smythe rejected the claim.

“None of it is true, no,” she said.

But Peters was unrepentant last night, accusing the OIO of having become a “political pawn”.

A pawn in a sale that only exists with the help of drugs or alcohol.

Such was the paperwork involved, the OIO may not know the status of the sale, Peters said.

“It’s for sale.”

So is Peters saying the owner is a liar, or saying that somehow you can sell something without the owner knowing anything about it?

I’m not one of those who says the media should not report on Peters, because they have to. But what the media can do is say this case proves that they should only report on opinions of Peters, but if Peters in future states something as a fact (such as WINZ has a fleet of BMWs, or Huka Lodge has been sold to the Chinese) they should not print the alleged fact until they have verified it. And if the fact is untrue, then don’t give his lies media space. He knows that 5% of the population will believe a lie if he tells it. It’s the old saying you can fool some of the population, all of the time.

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Winston lies and pushes racism

February 21st, 2014 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has claimed the world-famous Huka Lodge near Taupo has been sold to Chinese buyers and suggested Prime Minister John Key had a hand in smoothing the process.

Mr Peters made the claim during his state of the nation address on Auckland’s North Shore this afternoon.

“While you’re here media, let me tell you something, Huka Lodge has just been sold to the Chinese … and I want you to go and ask John Key what role you had in this?

“Was it not true, Mr Key, that you assured them `there won’t be a problem, we’ll smooth it out for you’.”

But Winston lied. Outraegously.

Any other political leader who made up a claim like this, and just flat out lied, would be crucified by the media. But Winston gets away with it. He lied that it had been sold. He lied that it was on the market, and he lied that the PM was involved.

Just as bad, he is doing his normal anti-Asian racism. I understand the current owner was born in Holland. Even if the sale was true, why is it okay for someone born in Holland to own Hula Lodge, but not someone born in China? Its racism.

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Where Key got his info from

February 13th, 2014 at 7:06 pm by David Farrar

I’m enjoying the belief some have expressed that because John Key repeats something (that Winston had visited the Dotcom mansion three times) five days after the Herald printed it, that he must have found this out via the GCSB.

That is completely and totally rubbish.

He got told by Barack Obama over golf, and Obama found out from the NSA satellite permanently focused on following Kim Dotcom about.

That is far far more likely that the possibility that the Prime Minister actually reads the NZ Herald!

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Kim’s little helpers

February 13th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Has been fascinating to look at the nexus between certain MPs and Kim Dotcom. We now know some MPs have had multiple meetings with him at his mansion (lesser mortals visit MPs in their offices, but for Dotcom they flock to his mansion), and the same MPs have asked multiple questions about his case in Parliament. And again at least one of those MPs is vowing to fight his extradition – even if the NZ Courts find he should be extradited. And finally, we have learnt that Dotcom will wind up his political party during the election campaign and endorse one or more other parties – no doubt those who have been helping him so much.

So who have been Kim’s little helpers. I’ve searched the parliamentary database and these MPs have asked multiple questions on his behalf or about his case.

  • Trevor Mallard – 132 questions (128 written, 4 oral)
  • Winston Peters – 82 questions (71 written, 11 oral)
  • David Shearer – 36 questions (22 written, 14 oral)
  • Grant Robertson – 17 questions (15 oral, 2 written)
  • Russel Norman – 13 questions (7 written, 6 oral)

We know that Mallard has met with Dotcom, Peters has been to his mansion three times and Norman at least twice. Norman can’t recall whose idea the meetings were.

Audrey Young has written on how Peters is back to his Owen Glenn tricks and refusing to answer questions about his taxpayer funded trips to talk to Dotcom. Many a wag has suggested he should wave the NO sign up when asked if Dotcom has donated to his party or him.

John Armstrong also writes on the issue:

It is bad enough that the Greens are naive enough to sign up to the fan club which accords Kim Dotcom the folk hero status he clearly craves, but scarcely deserves as some modern-day Robin Hood of cyberspace.

Much worse, however, is that it now turns out that party is blithely willing to play politics with New Zealand’s courts, the country’s extradition laws and its extradition treaty with the United States.

Were John Key to allow some right-wing businessman facing extradition to stay in New Zealand in exchange for him abandoning his plans to establish a political party which might drain votes off National, then the Greens would be climbing on their high horses at break-neck speed and leading the charge in slamming the Prime Minister in no uncertain terms. And rightly so.

Indeed.

By appearing to countenance such a massive conflict of interest through political interference in Dotcom’s potential ejection from New Zealand, Norman has instantly disqualified his party from having any ministerial posts in a coalition with Labour which involve responsibility for the extradition process.

In fact, Norman has probably disqualified his party from having any role in the Justice portfolio full stop.

That’s a win for New Zealand!

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Peters right on this one

February 5th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has taken the rare step of going into bat for the Prime Minister over Waitangi Day protests, saying those who use the occasion to shout and disrupt the Prime Minister’s attendance at Te Tii Marae are “crapping on their own heritage”.

Prime Minister John Key is to be welcomed on to Te Tii Marae today and has said he expects protests, having been grabbed and shouted down in previous years.

The initial signs that this year would also be restive came yesterday when the Governor-General was shouted at and there was a scuffle between protester Hinewhare Harawira and marae elders at the door of the meeting house.

If the PM announced he would never attend Waitangi Day at Te Tii Marae again, he’d probably go up 10% in the polls.

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Quote of the Week

February 5th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Mr Key also ruled out any chance that a coalition with NZ First could result in its leader Winston Peters becoming prime minister for a portion of the term if he did stand down.

“To paraphrase a lovely turn of phrase I read in the paper yesterday, about as much chance as Amanda Knox holidaying in Italy. Zero.”

I love it.

This is now the third story from the Herald that has mentioned this fantasy scenario. I am awaiting the stories where they ask the Prime Minister to rule out genocide in Invercargill, if that is demanded as a coalition condition. They are equally credible.

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Australia vs NZ with exports to China

February 3rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged a few days ago on the extraordinary growth in exports to China in the years since we signed a free trade agreement with them, and said people should recall those who voted against it.

A reader asked if Australia had also experienced the same levels of growth in exports to China, and hence is it just that China is growing and importing now, or did the FTA make a difference.

It’s a good question, especially as Russel Norman often claims that the growth in exports to China has nothing to do with the FTA, and hence their opposition to it wouldn’t really have cost us tens of billions of dollars if their view had prevailed.

So I’ve looked at the value of exports to China for both Australia and NZ from 2008 to the year ending June 2013 (the last year Australia has reported on).

Australia exported A$37.1b in 2008 and $78.4b in 2012/13. That’s an increase of 111% or an average of 24.7% a year approx. Pretty good and there is no doubt China’s growth is leading to more exports generally.

But look at NZ in the same period, from when the FTA was signed and came into effect. In 2008 exports were NZ$2.5 billion and in 2012/13 were $7.7b. That’s growth of 205% or 45.4% a year – almost double Australia’s.

So if NZ export growth to China had followed Australia’s export growth for the last five years, what would be the difference? Around $6.6 billion.

Now it is overly simplistic to say the difference is solely the FTA. We have different export profiles. But I think there can be little doubt that the cost of Green and NZ First policies to our exporters would have been well into the billions of dollars.

The sad thing is not that they were wrong, but that they don’t admit they were wrong. Those who once opposed Nelson Mandela being released and opposed decriminalizing consensual same sex relations, generally admit today they were wrong, and on the wrong side of history. But the Greens and NZ First refuse to accept that their opposition to the China Free Trade Agreement was wrong, despite the billions of dollars in extra exports NZ has gained since we signed it.

The sad reality is that the Greens just do not like trade full stop, and NZ First just doesn’t like Asians full stop. That is their motivation to their opposition to the free trade agreement, rather than any rational analysis of what is good for NZ.

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Horan says Peters is a bad employer

January 30th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News reports:

Independent MP Brendan Horan has claimed in parliament that two NZ First researchers were unfairly sacked on the basis of hearsay. …

Mr Horan claimed NZ First had breached employment laws and said he wanted to know what the party’s MPs were going to do about that.

“How can anyone in that party speak on workers’ rights and be taken seriously,” he said.

Winston isn’t known for worrying about minor concepts such as due process or a fair hearing.

 

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Drug use spreads at the Herald

January 29th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald continues with the fantasy that there in a parallel universe in which National might agree to make Winston Peters Prime Minister.

Audrey Young writes:

John Key this morning scoffed at speculation that National might consider any power-sharing arrangement with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as though it were complete fantasy.

Scoffed? This is the equivalent of asking if there are little green men on the moon. It is complete fantasy.

But the notion is not that off-the-planet that is hasn’t been contemplated. Here’s some of the context.

Back in 1996, at the final stages of coalition negotiations, NZ First asked Labour for a power sharing arrangement in which Peters would be Prime Minister for some of the term and Helen Clark the other.

I’m sure Winston did ask for it in 1996, or someone on his behalf did. He may have asked for the Crown Jewels also. The issue isn’t that of course Winston wants to be PM. The issue is whether a party that gets 5% of the vote would ever get their leader made PM.

It was instantly rejected by Labour.

Of course it was. So what makes anyone think that if a party on 28% of the vote instantly rejected making the leader of a party that got 13% of the vote Prime Minister, that a party looking to get 45% of the vote would make the leader of a party that gets say 5% of the vote prime minister?

Herald correspondent John Armstrong raised the power-sharing issue at the weekend in his political column following Key’s decision last week to lift his ban on working with NZ First post-election.

In light of John’s column, I asked the Prime Minister this morning if he would rule out a power-sharing deal and he said “that’s not on the table.”

Pressed further, he said ”No, Winston Peters won’t become Prime Minister.”

ZB’s Barry Soper asked him if it were put on the table, would he consider it, and Key said No.

I look forward to the Herald asking the leaders of National and Labour if they would agree to declare war on Australia, if NZ First ask for it. Also ask them if they would agree to sacrifice their eldest child to Lord Xenu, and become Scientologists if NZ First asked for it. All there scenarios are equally likely – ie zero.

Now I’m quite happy to stand by my certainty. The odds of Elvis being alive are 1000 to 1. I’m happy to offer the same odds against National ever making Winston Peters Prime Minister – 1000 to 1. The only criteria are you must pledge at least $500 (so I would pay out $500,000) and you must pay the $500 immediately to me, and I will pay the $500,000 on the day Peters is sworn in as Prime Minister, backed by National.

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A problem for Cunliffe

January 27th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Newstalk ZB reports:

The bartering’s already underway ahead of this year’s election, with New Zealand First laying down the law on superannuation.

Leader Winston Peters is making it crystal clear his party’s against the age of entitlement being changed.

“Categorically, we will not support any party that seeks to move the age to beyond 65 at this point in time.”

This is a real problem for Labour.

I support the eligibility age going up, and Labour policy is for it to go up. It is a rare area where they can try and claim they are fiscally restrained and credible.

But the reality is that if Winston says it is non-negotiable, then their policy is worthless. Almost every poll since the election has shown Labour/Greens can’t govern unless NZ First support them. So the NZ First stance means that Labour’s policy is almost certainly dead on arrival.

National is (sadly) also saying the age should stay 65, so the NZ First position causes them no problem.

“Now I don’t want you running off and saying we’re reneging on raising the age. That’s a post-election discussion, I have not said that.”

But the reality is that the policy is dead in the water.

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Why drugs and column writing do not mix

January 25th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Armstrong has written a column where he speculates National would agree to Winston Peters becoming Prime Minister, after the election.

John is normally one of NZ’s best political analysts and writers.

I can only conclude that when he wrote this, his colleagues slipped him some synthetic cannabis as an experiment in what happens if you write columns while stoned.

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The case for minority government

January 21st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged last Friday my view that John Key and National should rule out a coalition or confidence and supply agreement in 2014 with Winston Peters, as they did in 2008 and 2011.

It goes without saying that I hope NZ First won’t make it back in 2014 (even though some of their MPs are good MPs, their leader is the problem), or if they do they will not hold the balance of power.

But what if they do make it back, and they do hold the balance of power. Does that automatically mean they must support a Labour/Green (and maybe Mana) Government if National has ruled out a deal with them?

No.

They can do so of course. In fact nothing at all can stop them from putting Labour and the Greens into Government, should they wish to. They have the constitutional right to do as they wish.

But there is an alternative. That is National as the largest party forms a minority government, and it continues to govern while it can pass confidence and supply votes in the House. This would mean NZ First abstaining (or possibly voting in favour).

You see one does not need to have a formal deal, where you swap policies or ministerial portfolios in exchange for confidence and supply. In countries such as Canada, minority governments form most of the time without a formal agreement on the basis the largest party should get a chance to govern.  You don’t need a formal agreement. You just need to be able to pass confidence votes in the House and get supply for the Government.

Now a minority government would need to of course negotiate with NZ First and/or other parties in Parliament in order to pass laws, but that happens already. For every law National at present only has 59 votes and has to get one or more parties to vote with them in order to pass a law. When they can’t, the law fails or is amended to be acceptable.

National would also need the House to vote for the Government’s Budget, or we would have an election. I would expect that a minority National Government would negotiate with parties on what they would like in the Budget, in order to get support. The Government may not agree to everything asked for, and that party would have to decide whether to force an early election or not. Doing so could risk an electoral backlash.

The advantage to National of minority government is that you would not need to have National and NZ First pretending they agree with each other on most issues, and that any criticisms between the parties would not be fighting within the Government, but just what you normally expect in Parliament.

And what are the advantages to NZ First? Also considerable. They get to be the deciding vote on most legislation, have a real chance of getting significant policy gains, but don’t run the risk of being in a third term government. They also retain the ability to differentiate from National. And as they have the ability to bring the Government down at any time, or put Labour into power, everyone would be very nice to them!

Now it is arguable that a minority government with no signed confidence and supply agreements could be unstable, and not last full term. That is true. But even having a formal agreement is no guarantee – as we found out in 1998 when the coalition split apart and dissolved between National and NZ First.

So as I said on Friday, I think Key should rule Peters out again. If we get an election result where say National again has 59 seats and Labour can’t govern without the Greens, then Key should offer to form a minority government. Peters may decide to go with Labour in return for some baubles but I am unsure he could stomach putting the Greens into power. Instead he may allow National to form a minority government, but he’ll be in a position to be the deciding vote on almost every law that comes before Parliament.

So what Key could announce (I have no idea what he will) is that National could work in Government with ACT, United Future, Maori Party and/or the Conservatives. After that, he would not entertain a formal confidence and supply agreement, but would be willing to to run a minority Government if any other party in Parliament were willing to abstain to allow that to happen.

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Why John Key should rule Winston Peters out again

January 17th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

In 2008 and 2011 John Key ruled out a coalition or confidence and supply deal with Winston Peters. I believe he should do the same again for 2014.

I say this aware that it means that if NZ First hold the balance of power, it will probably mean that they put Labour/Greens into Government. I think that would be a terrible thing for New Zealand in the short-term, but it will be worse for National in the long-term if they do do a deal with Winston.

Many people say you should never advocate opposition over government. You enter politics to get into Government, so you can implement the policies you think will be best for New Zealand. Jim Anderton once said that the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition. He had a point.

However I still think that refusing to do a deal with Winston is the best way to be in government long-term.

Let’s look at the two major possibilities if Peters does hold the balance of power. National does a deal with him, or we get a Labour/Green/NZ First (and maybe Mana) Government.

If National does a deal with him, they get a third term. That’s great, but does anyone think it will be a Government that can achieve much? Does anyone think that Peters will be committed to making the Government a success, rather than humiliating Key. It is well known Peters wants utu on Key, and the two ways to achieve that is either to sack him, or make him subservient to you. I think subservience is worse than sacking.

A third term Government is tough at the best of time, let alone with Peters in it. Can anyone see National having a chance of a fourth term? No. The reality is that National will probably lose office with a vote share down in the mid 30s. NZ First will probably fall apart again, or dip below 5% as being in Government has never worked for them before. So what you’ll face is National in opposition, with no potential coalition partners and needing over 45% to get back into Government. That means probably nine years of opposition. You don’t go from say 34% to 46% in one term.

But now let us look at the alternative. Say National gets 44%, Labour 32%, Greens 11% and NZ First 5%.

NZ First has the balance of power, and as National won’t cut a deal with them, they put a Labour/Greens/NZ First and maybe Mana Government into power.

Now that Government is going to be bad for New Zealand. They’ll effectively nationalise the energy sector, set up state owned building companies, insurance companies, hike taxes, drive up debt, and put spending back onto an unsustainable path. But there is also a very good chance that government will be very unstable. Peters and Turei and Norman in the same Government will be full of loathing. Peters has boasted he has never put the Greens into power, and doesn’t intend to. However he’ll have no choice but to back them if National won’t deal with him, and hence we’ll get a Government that will not do well.

National will be in opposition yes, but they will enter opposition on 44%, not 34%. They’ll only need to pick up 3% to get back into Government. If a Labour/Greens/NZ First Government doesn’t shed at least 3% after a term, I’d be amazed. In fact, they may not even last a full term. So yes National will go into opposition, but only for one term, not three.

So its a tough call John Key has to make. One can argue that for NZ’s sake, he should do whatever he can to stop Labour/Greens gaining power in 2014. But I argue that it would be in National’s long-term interest not to do a deal, as being in Government with Winston will be just too damaging. NZ First without Winston would be fine to deal with, but I don’t see any significant possibility of a third term with him in Government being conducive to good Government.

So my hope is that Winston isn’t the last cab off the rank, but he isn’t on the rank at all.

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Horan cleared

January 15th, 2014 at 11:05 am by David Farrar

The BoP Times reports:

Independent MP Brendan Horan has been cleared of any wrongdoing following an investigation into allegations he took money from the accounts of his late mother.

In his final determination dated October 1, 2013, sighted by the Bay of Plenty Times, the executor of Olwen Horan’s estate John Buckthought says an investigation into the claims found no evidence which enabled him to find any claim against Mr Horan.

Mr Horan, who was expelled from NZ First in December 2012 after his half-brother Mana Ormsby claimed he had inappropriately used their mother’s bank cards, has come out fighting.

Mr Horan said he was not ruling out defamation proceedings against one or more parties.

He said he planned to remain as an independent MP, and would contest the Tauranga electorate seat at this year’s general election.

At the time of his expulsion, NZ First leader Winston Peters said that after seeing “substantive” information, he had no confidence in Mr Horan’s ability to continue as a MP.

As I said at the time, that regardless of the substance of the allegations, the process used by Peters was flawed:

I do believe Peters has done the right thing in acting against Horan if there is substantive proof of wrong-doing that Horan can’t credibly rebut. But the process he has followed has been seriously flawed and dictatorial and for Peters especially very hypocritical.

It now turns out there was no proof of wrong-doing, and the process used a kangaroo court. Peters made the decision without even talking to his caucus or board about it. In a later post I said:

On the basis of what is known, I actually think Peters was right to take action against Horan. But the way they have taken action has been appalling in terms of process. They need to write to him and put the complaints to him, and have a hearing where he can put a defence.

If NZ First had followed due process, then they might have decided to only suspend Horan until the independent investigation reported back.

Of interest, Horan says he is setting up his own party.

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Peters right on this

December 23rd, 2013 at 3:24 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Winston Peters says we need to use the success of Kiwis like Lorde and Sir Peter Jackson as part of our foreign policy to promote our image abroad.

Speaking at a conference on cultural diplomacy in Berlin, Germany, yesterday, the New Zealand First leader said today’s digital environment meant the biggest contribution to cultural diplomacy would be made outside “official” channels.

“The recent impact of the Gangnam Style – something like riding a horse without the horse – raced across the world from South Korea,” he said, referring to the internet sensation turned international hit by musician Psy.

“Hundreds of millions sharing a harmless craze on YouTube and laughing together may be as helpful for world peace as some meetings at the United Nations.”

I agree. Not just because the UN performance is so limited due to security council vetos, but because the power of individuals to reduce barriers is immense.

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Winston and Greens

November 16th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A reasonably significant statement by Winston Peters in this recent interview:

NZ First believes in environmental sustainability but far too many of the Green Party’s comments are about “stopping everything”.

“We have difficulty understanding a lot of their intentions and motives,” Mr Peters says, adding that the chance of being part of a coalition that would include the Greens is “extremely remote“.

This means that as the price of support from Winston, Labour may have to leave the Greens outside the Government – as they did under Clark.

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The battle for NZ First Deputy

October 25th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

NZ First announced:

At a meeting of the New Zealand First caucus this morning, Tracey Martin was elected Deputy-Leader of the Parliamentary team.

Ms Martin entered Parliament at the 2011 General Election as second on the List behind Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Mr Peters says he is pleased with the caucus decision as Ms Martin has been an effective and energetic MP.

Tracey has been involved with New Zealand First since its inception in 1993.

Tracey is a good solid choice. I predicted her election at the beginning of the year. She is liked and respected by many MPs across the House, and has been a constructive select committee member.

However despite there being only one candidate when it came to the formal vote, it seems there has been intense lobbying over the last year for this position. I received the e-mail below from a NZ First source:

The NZ First deputy leadership is a major defeat for Winston.

Winston originally wanted Andrew Williams as his deputy but Williams was unpalatable to the rest of the caucus so he switched his support to Denis O’Rourke. However, Denis backed Tracey and Winston was forced to put Barbara Stewart up at the last minute.

Tracey’s backers:
Richard Prosser
Denis O’Rourke
Asenati Lole-Taylor

Andrew is furious and there are rumours inside NZ First that he might leave the party before the election. Even if he doesn’t, Tracey Martin’s backers in the organization will ensure he is given a very low ranking. 

Another factor will be MPs’ private reservations about Winston’s handling of the Brendan Horan scandal which saw them denied a say. 

If Stewart had been made Deputy, then Winston wanted Andrew Williams to become Whip, according to the source.

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Dom Post on Planet Peters

October 24th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Things are simple on Planet Winston Peters. There, all that is necessary for something to happen is for Mr Peters to declare it to be so.

Hence, delivering inhabitants of Planet Peters a higher rate of return on their retirement savings is simply a matter of him promising a “world class model unsurpassed by anything in the world”. Protecting those savings from sudden market drops is an equally simple matter of guaranteeing the capital invested in the scheme. No downside, no need for individuals to monitor the performance of their investments. Just leave it all to Mr Peters. In fact, vote for Mr Peters and you can have your cake and eat it too.

Unfortunately, Planet Earth orbits a different sun from Planet Peters. In this universe, the value of investments is determined not by political decree but by events beyond the control of individuals and governments. The price someone is prepared to pay for a hectare of land in Dannevirke, 500 grams of butter in Paris or a shareholding in Air New Zealand is influenced by the weather in southern Europe six months ago, the progress of negotiations over the debt ceiling in the United States, the political situation in China and a thousand and one other imponderables.

Mr Peters, for all his claims to omniscience, does not control those things. Markets go up and markets go down. What was a solid investment last week is a poor investment this week and vice versa.

The only way Mr Peters can guarantee the capital invested in any particular fund is to require those who have not invested in it to foot the bill if its managers misjudge the market. The only way he can guarantee a superior return for his “KiwiFund”, especially when he proposes to handicap its performance by directing where it invest its funds – “substantially in New Zealand” – is by pumping public moneys into it when the inevitable happens and other funds outperform it.

The editorial is spot on. Peters is proposing that taxpayers underwrite $20 billion dollars or more of investments.

As I said earlier this week, Peters should set up his own KiwiSaver Fund and lets see how many people actually trust him enough to invest in it.

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