Little speaks to his strengths, needs to build on them

Andrew Little gave his first big speech yesterday to kick off his political year. He wisely spoke to his strengths, building on his uniion past which involved working with businesses. I give him ‘a pass mark, will do better’ as he grows into the position.

In it, I set out my vision for a stronger, more equal New Zealand — one where our businesses thrive and we once again have the lowest unemployment in the developed world.

If you want to see the full text it’s here - State of the Nation 2015.

Little’s presentation is a bit mixed. This is to be expected at this early stage of his leadership. It’s a hugeb step up in public scrutiny. He should improve over the next three years.

Targeting small business for job creation is a reasonable approach, and he has the background to contribute. But he and his minders need to anticipate basics – he wants New Zealand to have the lowest rate of unemployment but he didn’t know what the actual target needed to be. Not a major slip but he needs to avoid this happening.

As a new leader at the start of the parliamentary cycle I’m fully aware of the task I have ahead to build our organisation and the policy platform we will take into the next election. This is a major job.

Acknowledging a major job, which it is. Not just for him but also for the Labouir caucus and the party.

Because as a party committed to creating good jobs for New Zealanders, we know that many of the jobs we want to create will come from businesses like those represented here today. That is the only way to drive down unemployment. We can only do this if we’re all in it together.

For a political party with social democratic values at its heart, like the Labour Party, there is one crucial question: How do we create wealth generation that means everyone gets to fairly participate and share? Which is to say, wealth generation that is inclusive.

Targeting job creation through small businesses is a good approach. Committing to work together with the business community is very good.

But there are a number of policy areas that will be challenging for Little and Labour.

With Labour, it will be easier than ever to start a business and make it succeed.

Labour will make small business a priority.

Will they retain or scrap the 90 day trial?

We will do more to use our tax system to support investment in innovation and Research & Development, so that more Kiwi businesses can compete on the world stage in the cutting edge industries that make up the 21st century economy.

What about the business tax rate. Will Labour propose to leave it as it is, lower it, or raise it.

Will they ramp up the minimum wage? That will impact on small businesses.

There’s still a lot for Little and Labolur to do on this. They have the time to get it right.

This is a good enolugh start to Labour’s year. Little spoke to his strengths but a lot of building on them is required.

Greens support Catton on truth and traitors

The Green Party has confirmed on Facebook their support for Eleanor Catton’s fairly extreme crticism of New Zealand and our politicians.

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand on Facebook:

We were grateful to have Eleanor Catton‘s support during the election campaign, and we fully support her right to speak freely about the Government’s priorities without being shouted down or called a ‘traitor’ by media commentators.

Comments supported this, for example:

Some people from the Right can’t handle the truth about their selfish economic policies that create such huge social and environmental problems. No confidence in National’s NZ Inc policies that are destroying our country

In effect call ‘the Right’ traitors to the country and the planet.

The only traitor to this country is John Key who has sold us all down the river.

Someone does accuse Key of being a traitor.

How about we start by getting rid of that treasonous Shonkey?? That would be a good start. Then we could begin to address the fricken mess he’s dropped the %99 in.

And another.

We need more people like her that are not afraid to speak up and speak the truth…its just a shame our upper echelons in Parliament lack this ability except to pimp out their own personal agenda.

So Greens speak “the truth” and critics shout down.

I think it shows that characters of many, who, can’t accept a comment as a call for a civil discussion on how to make things better for the country.

You don’t make a call for civil discussion with an extreme criticism, and then complain about the reaction.

Eleanor Catton’s comments about the government are right on, and a bit of introspection would not go amiss.

I wonder if Green supporters will try some introspection.

There were a few alternate opinions, like:

Loony left trougher – happy to have all the freedoms capitalism & tax-payer funds allow to write a few books, then kicks the gift horse in the mouth (slight mod). Traitor is a bit strong: more like high functioning professional trougher with no loyalty!

An a response:

Sorry Pete, I forgot women weren’t allowed to have opinions…

Trying the sexist putdown.

There have been extreme reactions against Catton, notably Sean Plunket.

But the extreme claims against Key and the Government and the refusal to accept there can be any reasonable alternative to their own extreme ‘truth’ makes the Green narrative as insidious as it’s opposites in it’s own way.

The ultimate irony from the Greens on Twitter, retweeted by Metiria Turia.

Yes, but labeling someone a traitor for expressing an opinion is an attempt to shut down their free speech

Extreme criticism will attract at times extreme reactions. Free speech works both ways.

Greens want the right to criticise but try to shut down criticism of themselves and their own. Blind hypocrisy, convinced that their ‘truth’ is the only way and shouldn’t be questioned.

Free speech works both ways Mr Little

Amongst the widespread discussion about Eleanor Catton’s criticisms the issue of free speech has come up.

Kiwi singer leaps to Eleanor Catton’s defence after ‘shallow politicians’ outburst

Singer Elizabeth Marvelly has led the support for fellow Kiwi Eleanor Catton after the author came under fire for criticising the country’s politicians.

Ms Catton’s comments drew mixed reactions on Twitter, with some saying she shouldn’t live in New Zealand if that’s how she feels about those who run the country.

But others, including Marvelly, say Catton is fully entitled to her opinion and doesn’t deserve to be targeted for using freedom of speech – a right championed in New Zealand.

So why not champion the right to criticise her back. That’s also free speech.

Andrew Little also got involved as Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little said Catton was entitled to express her opinion about New Zealand and the country’s politicians

Everyone is entitled to express their opinions about politicians.

He said it was important to celebrate freedom of speech, especially after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris.

“Two weeks on from one of the grossest tragedies in the world – which is all about freedom of speech – let’s celebrate freedom of speech, let’s celebrate and welcome what our writers have to contribute and to offer,” he said..

“Let’s actually listen to them, let’s not try and shout them down.”

Sure politicians and the rest of us should be prepared to listen. But we have the same right as Catton to criticise, and if we want to criticise her when she in effect slams New Zealand then we should.

Being shamed into shutting up instead of expressing ourselves is an attempt to control speech. It can be insidious.

Free speech works both ways or it’s not free.


Eleanor Catton and the Greens

Eleanor Catton has raised a few ruffles with her criticiam of the New Zealand Government. See Eleanor Catton’s perspective.

NZ Herald on this – Prize-winning author Eleanor Catton throws the book at NZ

Winning author lets rip at Kiwi attitudes and political direction.

Her outburst has drawn a response from Prime Minister John Key, who said yesterday he was disappointed at Catton’s lack of respect for his Government and claimed the author was aligned with the Green Party.

Key said “She has been aligned with the Green Party, and that probably summarises the Green Party view of this Government”.

He’s correct on the first point, Catton has been closely aligned with the Greens.

Green Party the celebrities’ choice

Kiwi celebrities including Eleanor Catton and Lucy Lawless came out to show support for the Green Party at a star-studded campaign launch.


Author Catton endorses Green Party vote

Booker prizewinning author Eleanor Catton, whose novel thrust the spotlight on goldrush Hokitika, has publicly backed the Green Party, saying she would be happy to be taxed more.

The launch was attended by The Luminaries author Catton, who urged people to give their party vote to the Greens.

“I want my children and my children’s children to be proud of the steps I took on their behalf to protect this country and what matters about it. That’s why I’m giving my party vote to the Greens.”

And her criticism of the Government doesn’t sound to far off Green sentiments. She said:

At the moment, New Zealand, like Australia and Canada, (I dominated by) these neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want. I feel very angry with my government.

Russel Norman endorsed this:

Eleanor Catton angry with ‘shallow’ New Zealand Government  via @nzherald

New anti-austerity radical Left Party?

Forever dreaming of a left wing revolution Martyn Bradbury asks Could MANA be the new anti-austerity radical Left Party?

He recognises that an anti-austerity party needs to have severe austerity measures to campaign against, and New Zealand is nothing like the economic basket cases in Europe like Greece and Spain.

What Greece shows is that the economic conditions have to deteriorate significantly and the contempt in the current elites incredibly intense before people dump being consumers and suddenly become citizens.

The poor need to see their lot as getting worse while the inequalities in a NZ led by a multi-millionaire money speculator so grotesque that people demand a State that will step in and put people first not corporations.

Is NZ at that level? At one extent it is. Those being thrown off welfare in their thousands and those too ill to work being threatened with ongoing and intrusive work testing are running out of options and becoming more desperate at the bureaucratic cruelty Departments met out to them

New Zealand is nowhere near this level.

And Bradbury seems to have pretty much given up hope for the Mana Party.

MANA could easily hold their current economic platform up as proof that they could be a Radical Left anti-poverty Party. But would MANA go down that road again? One possible way back for MANA is a sit down talk with Marama Fox from the Maori Party to look at co-operating in the Maori seats to win them back from Labour. This would require Flavell either eating a lot of humble pie or retiring at the election.

Tripping up a newly right leaning Labour for the Foreshore legislation and knifing Hone would be a great pay back for both parties.

Knifing Hone?

So MANA may not necessarily adopt the mantel of a NZ Syriza.

It doesn’t look likke Mana has any mantel right now.

So anti-austerity urgency and Mana fading away, So not much hope of a Bradburyesque revolution.

So Bradbury is left forlornly dreaming of his political utopia.

Any NZ version that did launch if MANA was focused on just the Maori seats however could have a policy platform like this…

– free tertiary education
– feeding the poorest kids in the poorest schools
– new state houses
– increase in benefits
– warrant of fitness on houses
– clear food labelling
– sugar tax
– adult education
– financial transaction tax
– Renters Rights
– public broadcasting
– Universal income
– environmental research and development
– Living Wage
– Anti-TPPA
– Cannabis legalisation
– recognition of the role of the Treaty as a founding document with the necessary constitutional changes
– more free health care
– making public education truly free
– Living Wage
-independent foreign policy

That sounds a lot like the Green Party. Another party with near identical policies would struggle to find any space on the left.

Bradbury seems to have no desire to work with the Greens, and they are probably happy to keep a distance.

So he’s a radical without a party.

And a country without any need or desire for a revolution.

Bradbury and the futility of founding an anti-austerity radical Left Party have a Greek connection – the myth of Sisyphus.


Battle of the speeches

John Key scheduled his opening speech of the year on the same day as Andrew Little’s, an obvious attempt to overshadow Little’s launch for the year.

Little is speaking at a breakfast, Key at a lunch.

While Key’s speech will demand attention from a refreshed political gallery he needs to produce something of substance in it.

He has been criticised for a lack of vision beyond the next internal poll.

This is Key’s third term. It’s time for something more than ‘steady as she goes’ from him. The flag debate is one exception but that’s a sideshow.

Key needs to come uip with something bigger and better this year. It should be signalled in his speech.

He has just said on Firtsline “we need to look at things more creatively”. I look forward to some creative vision from his speech.

It’s an important speech for Little. He made a promising start to his leadership late last year but he has to show that he’s done his homework over the break and is ready to hit the new political year running.

The critical aim for Labour this year must be to be seen to be rebuilding and working together, something that’s been glaringly lacking over the past six years.

Little is still a political novice and and leadership rooky. He doesn’t have to look ready to take Key on in a campaign.

It’s more important at this stage for Little to take his own caucus with him. That could be a bigger challenge than Key.

But the two speeches and the two leaders will inevitably be compared. It’s a bigger challenge for Little. He has to prove that he is capable of continuing to grow into his daunting task.

Eleanor Catton’s perspective

Author Eleanour Catton has sparked social media discussions through her anti-Government comments in an interview while in India.

Live Mint: Eleanor Catton: In the last year, I’ve struggled with my identity as a New Zealand writer

Her controversial comment:

At the moment, New Zealand, like Australia and Canada, (I dominated by) these neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want. I feel very angry with my government.

Catton actively supported voting for the Greens in last year’s election. These sorts of ideas are not uncommon on the extreme Green side of politics.

This nis the whole section of the interview that led up to those comments:

On New Zealand discrediting its writers

New Zealand has the misfortune in not having a lot of confidence in the brains of its citizens. There is a lot of embarassment, a lot of discrediting that goes on in terms of the local writers.

I, for example, grew up just having a strange belief that New Zealand writers were automatically less great than writers from Britain and America, for example. Because we were some colonial backwater, we weren’t discovered, which I’m hoping will change.

The matter of having this kind of cultural embarrassment about your place in the world, we really need to actively resist that and be brave. I don’t think good literature can come about without bravery. The last thing you want is a whole country of embarrassed writers slinking around.

The good side of New Zealand is that there isn’t all that kind of shallow literary fame where everyone’s backstabbing each other. You kind of need a snobbery for those kinds of things to happen. But I think it is always a shame when people don’t stand up for what it is that they really believe.

And I do think the problem we face in New Zealand is that we are reluctant to express firm beliefs in anything.

An example would be, I was teaching in class in Auckland. I made up a statement with manifestoes from all over the world, different writers who all thought what writing should do or not do. I was going to give it out to my students and have them write about the one that spoke to them the most.

When I was putting this document together, I thought, hang on, I don’t have any New Zealand writers here. And I spent an entire day on the internet trying to find an aesthetic statement from a New Zealand writer and there was nothing. Hopefully in the future, we have more people being brave in that way.

We have this strange cultural phenomenon called “tall poppy syndrome”; if you stand out, you will be cut down.

One example is that the New Zealand Book Award that follows the announcement of the Man Booker Prize, in the year The Luminaries won it, there was this kind of thing that now you’ve won this prize from overseas, we’re not going to celebrate it here, we’re going to give the award to somebody else. If you get success overseas then very often the local population can suddenly be very hard on you.

Or the other problem is that the local population can take ownership of that success in a way that is strangely proprietal. So many people have talked in the media and me directly in ways of 2013 being the year that New Zealand won the Man Booker Prize. It betrays an attitude towards individual achievement which is very, uncomfortable. It has to belong to everybody or the country really doesn’t want to know about it.

I know I shouldn’t complain too much—I’m in such an extraordinary position—but at the same time I feel that in the last year I’ve really struggled with my identity as a New Zealand writer. I feel uncomfortable being an ambassador for my country when my country is not doing as much as it could, especially for the intellectual world. It’s sort of a complicated position to be in.

At the moment, New Zealand, like Australia and Canada, (I dominated by) these neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want. I feel very angry with my government.

Some curious comment followed:

On writing from someone else’s perspective

I don’t feel like the male perspective is alien to me. I understand what it would be like to be a man. I suppose from reading a lot of books from male points of view, I don’t feel like it’s completely foreign to me.

An odd claim.I don’t understand what it would be like to be many other men.

There is not ‘a male perspective’. There are a wide range of male perspectives. I’m certain that my perpsective is quite different to many other males – I know that the perspective of some other males is completely foreign to me.

It’s much more dangerous when a white writer writes from a non-white perspective than when people write across gender. That’s much more tricky territory, much more to do with the intentions of the person doing it.

If your intention is to be curious, to enlarge your sense of the world, that’s a wonderful thing. But if your intention is to pillage somebody else’s point of view in order to claim some sort of status from that, is very bad, very immoral.

I would never write a first person narrative from the point of view of somebody who had an experience that I had not been through.

Obviously she’s able to express her own views however she sees fit, but it’s just her perspective. Her controversial comments were written from a fairly extreme political perspective.

Her Green perspective is a minority perspective, about 11% of people currently vote Green in New Zealand.

From a poll in July last year “Greens are supported by 13.1 per cent of women compared with 6.6 per cent of men” so her green perspective doesn’t seem to be so popular amongst males.

Obviously she’s able to express her own views however she sees fit, but it’s just her political perspective, albeit shared by some other New Zealanders.

‘Angry Andy’

Cameron Slater continues to push the ‘Angry Andy’ meme amongst his prolific (several posts a day) attacks on Andrew Little. Even when the posts don’t seem tio be targeting Little he gets barbs in, like today in “Independent” political commentator Bryce Edwards has no clue:

“so now the pressure is on Angry Andy”

“Angry Andy is stuffed”

But this isn’t getting much traction. Fair enough to describe someone as angry when they display anger, but to keep claiming something on a daily basis when there’s no sign of it then it just looks tedious.

Apart from Whale Oil repeats the angry meme doesn’t seem to have been picked up anywhere else, but this description came up once in Parliament last November. 3 News reported:

Andrew Little fired up over Dirty Politics

Andrew Little has taken the Dirty Politics debate to a new level.

The new Labour leader told Mr Key to “cut the crap” in Parliament today.

“Why doesn’t he [Mr Key] just cut the crap and apologise to New Zealanders for running a smear machine out of his office?” he said.

That’s been criticised by some but I don’t see anything wrong with it. Parliament could do with a lot more straight talking and crap cutting.

Mr Key has responded, saying it is going to be a “very interesting three years”.

Labour liked Mr Little’s call so much they made an online ad, while Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce created a new nickname for Mr Little.

“He looks a bit like Angry Andy,” he says.

Perhaps Slater has taken that and kept running with itt, but he’s the only one continuing with it.

Mr Little is fuming about Dirty Politics.

“Why won’t [Mr Key] admit the truth – that his office worked with his blogger to use information held by his security agency to attack his political rival, and the buck stops with him?”

But Mr Key said that was not truth.

He is refusing to take responsibility for the way former deputy chief of staff Phil de Joux used inside information from former SIS spymaster Warren Tucker, with Mr Key’s taxpayer-funded dirt-digger Jason Ede working with Slater, who obtained it under the Official Information Act (OIA) to attack then-Labour leader Phil Goff.

“The black ops operator, Jason Ede, two doors down, doing his job, ringing up the bloggers, manipulating the OIA and getting the attack lines out,” says Mr Little.

Slater might want to keep bringing up this sort of history and his links with Key, whikle Key seems to have wanted to distance himself with as little fuss as possible.

But if Slater keeps promoting negative nickname memes through Whale Oil like this then Key is at risk of being seen as associated and tainted no matter how distant he is from the ongoing Whale Oil campaign,

If Little is smart he could use this to his advantage. Not by dredging up ‘Dirty Politics’, but by turning the ‘Angry’ into a positive.

There’s a difference between uncontrolled rage type anger and justified irate anger.

If Little occasionallly displays controlled anger as long as it looks justified then it could work to his advantage. If people feel pissed off about something they won’t mind seeing a party leader pissed off about it, as long as it’s not overdone.

People like strong leaders so this could strengthen Little’s credibility. But he has to get it about right. David Cunliffe’s emotion sometimes looked contrived (along with other things he tried), adding to his difficulties. Phil Goff can sometimes get into extended anger that can go too far.

Helen Clark could effectively display anger without putting on a display. Sometines just a withering look is enough.

Politicians are human. They’re allowed to have normal human emotions, like anger, and it should be fine for them to show it.

So there’s nothing wrong with saying forecfully “I’m bloody angry about this”  (or “cut ther crap”). If you then move on to a suggest some positive alternative action then all the better.

As long as Little doesn’t start throwing microphones across the house in a rage then a bit of hackle with the heckle won’t hurt.


Slater has just posted another attack on Little – Who is Andrew Little? Can Andrew Little Speak Under Pressure? Slater is trying to put pressure on Little but I don’t know if any of it will get through. He continues his meme.

“He gets all angry and shouty and doesn’t look as if he is in control at all”

“He gets angry and shouty, and loses his composure”

He also compares Key to Little – Key after eight years as party leader and six years as Prime Minister, versus a rooky.

The key will be comparing them during the campaign in 2017. Little has time, but he’s got a lot to learn.

Colin James on the proposed RMA reforms

In his weekly column Colin James comments on the RMA reforms proposed by Nick Smith.

…Nick Smith’s Resource Management Act (RMA) reform proposals. That act, a world first in 1991, subjects human material pursuits to judgment as to the effects on the physical environment.

New Zealand First, the Maori party and Peter Dunne and Labour, with a qualification, have also jumped on Smith. Dunne injected a swear-word — democracy — by insisting National and ACT should not ram a cornerstone change to a cornerstone act on a bare parliamentary majority of 61.

That’s an important point. Something as ‘cornerstone’ as the RMA shouldn’t be changed on a bare majority without genuine consultation with and input from all parties in Parliament.

If National are seen to ram through contentious changes it would be a bad look at the start of their third term.

Key may indicate how national might approach the RMA proposals in his state of the nation speech tomorrow.

Smith’s RMA proposals are of two sorts.

One is process improvements, to remove or reduce the fiddly, inconsistent, sometimes nonsensical and often unduly expensive bureaucratic problem-creation for people trying to do commonsense things. Phil Twyford said last year Labour would vote for most of those proposed changes, giving the lie to National’s claims Labour was blocking reform.

Most people (maybe with the exception of the Greens) want to see some changes to the RMA processes.

But Smith also said he wants to radically rewrite the criteria in sections 6 and 7 for local plans and decision-making to include natural hazards (among which he did not include climate-change-driven sea-level rise), “careful design” of urban environments, the “importance of more affordable housing” and “provision for appropriate infrastructure”. He did not include Amy Adams’ abortive proposed insertion in 2013 of economic growth but said he thought it should be recognised.

Critics say Environment Court rulings have made a place for economic development and say rewriting sections 6 and 7 will likely mire planning in 10 years of case law to define exactly what is meant.

That would be a major negative for the RMA.

Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First, the Maori party and Peter Dunne all object to a section 6-7 rewrite.

Dealing with that be Smith’s (and National’s) big challenge.

But beneath Smith’s showmanship and rhetoric there is a point: human-made law is for humans’ wellbeing and future, not the preservation of some frozen-in-time environmental mix. We live in the human-shaped anthropocene epoch, not in an overhang of some idealised historical period. We started the shaping millennia ago with shovels and fire.

That’s also an important point. The Green approach seems to be to halt or reverse technologiocal advances and freeze the environment in an idealistic time capsule. More on this in another post.

An accurate pollster on the payroll

David Farrar posted Is Key on drugs ask du Fresne? at Kiwiblog. He quoted from a column by Karl Du Fresne: John Key: Mr Nice Guy’s unbelievable aura of serenity:

I have never met John Key, but like anyone who follows politics I’ve been able to observe him via the media. And after studying him carefully, I think I now realise the explanation for much of his behaviour. He’s on drugs.

Not the illegal kind, I should stress, but the mood-calming type that doctors prescribe. This may sound flippant, but consider the following.

In the 2014 election campaign, Key was subjected to possibly the most sustained media offensive faced by any prime minister in New Zealand history. Day after day he was tackled by an aggressive media pack trying to trap him on dirty politics, illicit surveillance and other touchy issues.

His answers were often unsatisfactory, which served only to ramp up the media frenzy. But through it all, he appeared supernaturally imperturbable. He patiently batted away reporters’ questions and accusations with his familiar bland inscrutability. There were no meltdowns, no hissy fits, no petulant walkouts.

This was downright unnatural. No politician should be that unflappable. He can have achieved it only by the ingestion of large amounts – indeed, industrial quantities – of tranquillisers.

Cameron Slater explains at Whale Oil that the serenity is based on accurate polling.

No Karl, the serenity comes from having an accurate pollster on the payroll.

That way you know that, despite the baying pack of dogs that is the press gallery, your policy platform is being well received, your party is performing well and that Twitter and Facebook aren’t the real world.

This is why John Key thanked David Farrar on election night, he was the one who provided the information daily to John Key to let him know that Dirty Politics, the plot of the left-wing to unseat his government, wasn’t working as they expected.

I agree. Knowledge may not be power but it can help a lot, if it’s accurate knowledge.

Contrast that with the inept polling and claims by people who should know better like Rob Salmond and David Talbot. Salmond constantly inflated Labour’s real poll results, sometimes by up to 10%, giving his small band of readers and assorted hangers on, including the leadership of Labour at the time false hope.

Inaccurate knowledge can be worse than none.

Serenity comes from accuracy, panic comes from idiocy and losing your head.

Slater can still write insightful posts (if he wrote it).

It is said that Key relies heavily on his monitoring of public opinion as provided by Farrar’s Curia polling. It is certainly going to be more useful than reading blog opinions, which are slanted towards the vocal fringes (except here of course!)

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Cabell, 22 January 1820:

…my hopes however are kept in check by the ordinary character of our state legislatures, the members of which do not generally possess information enough to percieve the important truths, that knolege is power, that knolege is safety, and that knolege is happiness.

Key may not always be happy with what happens but he is safely in power for now.


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