Andrew Little: from euphoria to reality

Andrew Little will probably have been greatly encouraged by the euphoric response to his Labour Conference speech in the weekend. But beyond the party faithful and hopeful, reality has set in with some brutal assessments.

I thought Little’s speech showed some hope and promise. It contrasted with his unimpressive interviews in The Nation and Q & A. But one speech does not a leader make.

It was an important speech for the party. but going by media reaction it will have done little to lift Little’s credibility as a potential Prime Minister, or lift Labour’s credibility as a Government in waiting.

Audrey Young gave a positive report in Little smashed it – literally.

Andrew Little smashed it.

He has two years to win over the public before the next election.

His speech to the Labour conference this year needed to win over the members, who afterall, did not support him in the leadership contest a year ago.

Job done, as they say.

It was one of the best speeches by a Labour leader in recent years, in both content, delivery and production.

It succeeded in showing a fuller picture of Andrew Little the person and give a clearer idea of what sort of Prime Minister he would be.

Andrea Vance had a mixed report in Dreams are free – but the electorate knows ambitious policies aren’t:

Little’s first duty was to announce the grounds on which Labour will oppose the TPP.

The deal is a touch-paper for the left and Little is walking a tightrope between the pro-free trade and the anti-corporate elements in his party.

His position is confused – and he’s probably going to spend the next week defending it.

And the reality:

The past year clearly hasn’t been wasted. Little’s team have been learning from past mistakes. But one factor remains a constant – for Labour to win they must persuade the electorate they won’t be profligate.

Little’s asking for patience over spending plans and won’t say if he’ll raise taxes. Dreams are free – but the electorate knows ambitious policies aren’t.

That’s a future challenge for Little. Labour’s conference talked about health, education and jobs, jobs, jobs, to be created by a Labour Government. It’s easy to take spending, spending, spending out of that with little sign of hiow that will be paid for.

But Little’s Sunday euphoria has been crashed to reality in today’s Dominion editorial – Andrew Little is not the man to lead Labour out of the wilderness.

Little had moved long before last weekend’s annual party conference to kill off the remnants of the Leftish policy Labour touted last year.

Little now stands on a bare platform with no significant policy. The fact that nobody much cared when he threw out the old policies might be taken as a sign of a newly unified Labour Party. Or it might be a sign that Labour is a corpse. It doesn’t have the strength to fight or even to disagree with itself. So the attempt to hide everything behind closed doors wasn’t even needed.

Having no policy to sell, Little tried to sell himself. His “impassioned” speech was in fact awkward and unconvincing.

Bellowing about the Kiwi dream and promising “Jobs. Jobs. Jobs” is empty posturing and oddly out of kilter with the national mood. So is the pledge to “turn the page” on the last seven years.

We’ve yet to see whether the country (or polls refeklecting the mood of the country) sees it like this – or even say anything of Little’s speech.

Little will claim that it’s too early in the electoral cycle for policy details, and he’s right. But it’s never too early to create a buzz or the impression that the old party is coming back to life.

Labour can’t even take the step of injecting new blood into its leadership with the fresh face of Jacinda Ardern.

Her qualities are modest, but she is a sign of life. Labour has few other such signs.

‘Same old’ Labour without any policies is going to be a hard perception top turn around.

Neither as a union politician nor as a parliamentarian has Little been a bold or lively reformer. He has little charisma and a lack of new ideas.

It’s hard to believe he will lead Labour out of the wilderness.

That’s harsh.

But it’s a dose of reality. Little should get some confidence from the party reception of his speech but he needs to appear strong and positive regularly, without the double speak he has resorted to over the flag change and the TPPA.

The Otago Daily Times editorial today is also on Little and Labour – Little needs voter momentum.

By all accounts, Labour Party leader Andrew Little made a strong showing at the party’s annual conference held in Palmerston North at the weekend.

Snippets of his speech shown on television news reports, and comment pieces published in this newspaper, indicated Mr Little has managed to crack through the veneer surrounding him since his narrow election as leader.

Reading through the speech at leisure, there are hints of a man with deeper thoughts than previously indicated.

Mr Little gives a sense of direction, something lacking in Labour since the defeat of the Helen Clark-led government which brought in former financial trader John Key as prime minister.

National have managed to win three elections with sparse policy platforms, but they have had John Key who was immediately popular when he took over leadershiop of National and he remains popular.

Labour have lost three elections and turned over four leaders. They have been busy u-turning on a number of policies so now have very little.

Mr Little is seen as humourless, dour and part of the fun police of the Labour Party while Mr Key is shown schmoozing with All Blacks, royalty and crowds of his supporters.

What Mr Little needs to do now is get out into the electorates in which Labour lost the party vote and start securing voter support.

It will not be an easy task.

Many voters have been turned off by Labour’s list of recent leadership changes and a lack of change in MPs.

Even now, there is an ongoing back-of-the-mind thought Mr Little will not lead Labour into the next election.

What is disappointing is Labour feeling the need to hold all but a few high-profile speeches at its conference behind closed doors.

It will not be easy for Mr Little to convince even the party faithful in places such as Dunedin he is the one to take Labour back into power.

He languishes in the polls, gaining little traction with voters.

And, despite a front bench reshuffle, Labour MPs are still seen as too far out of touch with real New Zealand.

Little has failed to excite the polls.

National-lite with a charisma deficit and limited and aged line-up is going to be a hard sell, especially when Labour are also going to need Greens and probably NZ First.

Little lifted his game in his conference speech. But he will need to lift his and Labour’s game consistently and substantially to build on that.

Rodney Hide on MP time limits and career MPs

In an NBR column Rodney Hide has suggested MPs should be limited to four terms in Parliament – that’s twelve years – and criticised ‘professionals politicians’.

Time limits will serve public not politicians

Reports of Phil Goff running for mayor of Auckland remind me of the desperate need for term limits.

That’s behind a pay wall so unless you subscribe you won’t see the column. I don’t subscribe but Bryce Edwards tweeted a few of the details.

Rodney Hide: “Time limits will serve public not politicians” – fantastic column on pro politicians

On professional MPs: “There’s no leadership, no principles, no underpinning philosophy or view of life”

“Goff has never made a do-or-die stand and, indeed, has travelled the entire political spectrum and back again”

There does seem to be a growing problem with too many career MPs but that’s a choice of the parties that select them for winnable electorates and put them on winnable positions on their lists.

Hide argues we need a “simple rule that an MP can only serve a maximum of four terms. That one change would transform politics.”

“One quarter of the Parliament would be retired every election. There would be a proper churn”, bringing greater MP diversity

That’s if there’s enough capable people aspiring to MPs that would replace them.

This limiting of MP’s choice to stand or not mustn’t be very Liberal.


For and against Chris Brown

There have been a number of arguments for and against allowing musician Chris Brown to come to New Zealand for a concert due to his history of violence, including a brutal attack on then partner Rihanna in 2009.

A number of Maori dames have supported Brown’s tour. Radio NZ:

Dame Tariana Turia gets behind Chris Brown’s NZ tour

Dame Tariana Turia says Chris Brown has a lot to offer to offer New Zealand and she was supporting his visit to this country.

She said she was sure he had learned from his mistakes.

It doesn’t say how she is sure.

Dame Tariana said she would write to the Immigration Minister in support of the performer’s visit.

“He would like to come here; he’s prepared to give a particular message to our young people. Our young people listen to people like Chris Brown. They don’t listen to me.

“I mean, I was involved in family violence [prevention] probably for a good 12 years of my time in Parliament. All the programmes that we put out there, nothing changes.”

Promoting people like Brown may suggest attitudes on change haven’t been optimal.

But Te Taitokerau MP Kelvin Davis said Brown’s presence in New Zealand would do nothing to reduce this country’s rate of domestic violence.

“Do we really want our young people to be entertained by someone who has committed domestic violence?”

Mr Davis said domestic violence was a massive issue in New Zealand, and domestic violence crime statistics continued to rise.

Brown has already been banned from the United Kingdom and Canada.

An editorial in the Wanganui Chronicle (Mark Dawson) supports Brown:

Time to forgive hip-hop artist

I am sure Brown is still far from the perfect gentleman but if he seeks rehabilitation and redemption, let’s give him that chance in New Zealand.

One of the big questions is does he genuinely seek rehabilitation and redemption or is he saying what he thinks he needs to so his tour can go ahead.

After all, our political masters put out the welcome mat for foreign leaders with far bigger criminal pasts – it is just they haven’t actually been convicted.

That’s one of the silliest arguments I’ve seen on this.

Brown should be rehabilitating and redeeming in his own country.

If Brown had a record of genuinely speaking out against violence and proposed to come to New Zealand just to speak out against violence it would be different. But he wants to perform here.

Andrea Vance doesn’t think Brown should come -from Let’s not bend the rules for ‘breezy’ Chris Brown:

Rape culture is everywhere. It’s in Chris Brown’s misogynist lyrics and overly sexualised videos.

It’s reflected in the vulgar tweets he fired off to US comedian Jenny Johnson, calling her a bushpig, worthless bitch; he threated to defecate in her mouth and eyes, following it up with the charming offer to “suck my d***, YOU HOE.”

To bargain his case, Brown offered to “raise awareness” of domestic violence if he’s allowed into the country. Supporters claim his words carry weight with his younger fans.

But Brown’s message is one of insincerity. It’s a bargaining chip – and one that cannot be taken seriously while he continues to refer to women as bitches and hoes.

The gesture is cancelled out by his attitude, lack of genuine remorse and – frankly rapey – lyrics like: “I want your body/Let me get it from the back/girl, I’m about to attack.” Or “She’s more than a mistress/enough to handle my business/now put that girl in my kitchen.”

And a harsh cartoon in NZ Herald:

Vance fans Hughes’ leadership chances

Kevin Hague is a clear favourite in the Green leadership contest (in May, nominations don’t close until mid April). James Shaw is a newbie MP who will interest some, but may struggle to get support from party faithful.

Vernon Tova is prepared top argue outside the Green square – this may appeal to the wider voter base Greens desperately want but is unlikely to win him Green backing.

Gareth Hughes is as party faithful as you can get. He knows how to pander to the Green-wow crowd.

All four current leadership contenders were in a panel interview on The Nationa.

And Hughes has a Fairfax journalist fan, Andrea Vance. She praised his chances on The Nation panel in the weekend, although inadvertently highlighted a significant anomaly.

You’ve got Kevin and James who are considered the front runners. I was actually very impressed by Gareth Hughes because, as you say he lacked gravitas, but he actually has probably the best message to win over new voters.

I thought Hughes would appeal more to the party faithful than new voters, being one of the party faithful himself. But Vance echoed Hughes’ introduction.

Hughes: I want to be part of the most progressive government this country has seen in generations.

That doesn’t sound like winning over middle New Zealand voters.

Hughes: The Greens under my helm would be larger. My mission is to excite and inspire, to reach out and represent a new generation of voters. We’d be making sure we’re seeing action on climate change. What I want to see is a bigger, more powerful, more influential Green Party, because the issues we work on, they’re more important than ever.

Do you have the gravitas, the credibility to be a co-leader?

Hughes: This is my opportunity over the next two months to stand up and show the members of my party what I know I have inside, which is I know who I am, I know what I stand for, I know where I want to go. This is my opportunity, and the members have a fantastic choice. I’m standing as someone who’s been a campaigner for 15 years. I’ve got the experience, I’ve got the wins under my belt, and I want to lead our party to a bigger Green Party.

He may have a job to convince that he can lead.

We’re something new, we’re something different, and we’re something better.

I’m a Green because I support our new, different, independent party.

And he has to think up some convincing slogans. He repeated the ‘new’ theme – Greens have been around since last century.

Hughes showed a number of times how entrenched in Green procedure he is.

I stand by our party’s decision.

I’m stuck on the green.

I support what the members want. They make the decision, not the leader.

Our members look at what’s the level of agreement…

Well, I support what my party’s policy is.

Well, Lisa, in my party the leader and the caucus do not decide the policy. It’s our members.

Give me your opinion.

Hughes: I would have a discussion with our members…

Bit of philosophical discussion, but I think what voters and our members want to see from us is pragmatic solutions.

Greens have an admirable system of party wide decision making. But most people look to politicians to lead, and especially to leaders to lead, not just follow the crowd.

The Hughes approach will please many Green members, but it is unlikely to enthuse more voters. But Vance wasn’t enthused by Hughes’ lack of knowledge.

Now, coming to you, Gareth, what about the rate of inflation?

Hughes: It’s less than 2 percent.

Would you like another crack at that?

Hughes: Well, it’s around 2 percent recently.

0.8 percent.


I mean it’s basic 101, you do your prep if you’re going on the telly to give your first national pitch.

An MP knowing the current inflation rate should require any prep, it’s something they should know.

You know you’ve gotta know what the inflation rate is, that was just appalling.

And on party renewal:

I think that also Green members have gotta look for someone who’s gonna be a little bit ruthless in terms of cleaning out the Greens. There’s definitely, in the way National has,  and Labour might well start to. There needs to be renewal  in the Green party for them to move forward.

It’s hard to see Hughes being ruthless. He seems very committed to discussions and listening to party members. The party members have a lot of say on the green list, and therefore on renewal. There was little sign of this in their last election list.

But despite these obvious drawbacks to his leadership ambitions Vance closed with more praise of Hughes.

I think that Gareth Hughes, and perhaps it didn’t come through quite as well today…

As well as what?

…but I think he has got quite an appealing message to middle New Zealand. He’s talking about people in the suburbs, he’s talking about people with young families that are you know sort of struggling day to day.

You know he’s pitching to that. He’s not talking about macro economics and sustainability, he’s actually talking about back pocket issues. And I think that would actually have a lot of appeal.

It’s just that Gareth sort of needs to work on his image a little bit I think.

So she twice singled out Hughes above the others for praise, despite several shortcomings. I’m not sure how well in tune with middle new Zealand Vance is.

I’m fairly sure Hughes will appeal more to Green Party faithful far more than wider voters.

And even they may prefer someone with some sign of leadership.

Hughes can’t always ‘Hey party/Clint’ at a leadership level.

Sunday Star Times – next installments of Hager/Snowden

It’s the Sunday Star Times turn to publish Nicky Hagers selection of material from the Edward Snowden files.

Snowden files: NZ’s spying on the family

In the Cook Islands they hold New Zealand passports, are eligible for New Zealand social services and New Zealand is responsible for their foreign affairs. The same in Niue.

Leaked Edward Snowden documents, published for the first time today, reveal New Zealand is spying on them anyway – despite residents being New Zealanders.

Snowden files: Inside Waihopai’s domes

The Waihopai intelligence base looks oddly alien and out of place: huge white “golf ball” radomes like a moon station and silent buildings within two fences of razor wire, all dropped in the midst of vineyards and dry hills in New Zealand’s Marlborough landscape.

Documents about the Waihopai station leaked by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the facility is as alien as is seems.

Everything inside the top secret station except the staff is foreign.

The electronic eavesdropping systems, the computer programmes that automatically index and search the captured communications, and the databases where details of a whole region’s communications are stored: they are all standardised parts of the global surveillance system run by the NSA.

Snowden files: which satellites are targeted by Waihopai?

Visitors to the Waihopai Valley can see several large satellite antenna dotted around the Waihopai operations building.

They tune in to legitimate communications satellites sitting in space above the Asia-Pacific region and intercept the huge volume of communications being relayed between the region’s countries.

This includes phone calls, data transfers by companies and banks, and all the types of private and government communications that flow across the Internet.

The GCSB has refused to say anything about which satellites and countries are being intercepted.

Secret Waihopai reports in April 2010 and March 2012, provided by Snowden, answer this question.

Andrea Vance also gives her two bobs worth in Silence on surveillance not healthy.

Nicky Hager must wonder why he bothers.

The journalist brought the Snowden documents to New Zealand in the last week, to be met with a collective shrug of shoulders. Maybe you are unmoved at the Government Communications Security Bureau spying on Pacific neighbours. Perhaps you don’t care if your emails, texts and Facebook messages are hoovered up and stored in a US data bank. Or that the GCSB is little more than an outpost of the US National Security Agency. But, with a pending significant review and a likely increase in their electronic reach, there are still a few reasons to take the leaked papers seriously.

This latest release is likely to also be met in the main a with collective shrug of shoulders.

Spies spy. Satellite tracking stations track satellites. Nicky Hager promotes controversies that most people don’t care much about. New Zealand play Afghanistan in the Cricket World Cup today and Lydia Ko is two shots off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open.

Here is Stuff’s current ‘Most Popular’ news.

That may change today – Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop may not hold it’s position – as New Zealand wakes up to the next instalments of the Snowden spy scandal but reading endless articles about spying is about as boring to most people as listening in to the world’s phone calls.

The simple fact is that most people would prefer not to be spied on but can’t see why anyone would bother to spy on them anyway.

That’s Nicky Hager’s problem.

UPDATE (midday Sunday): Stuff’s most popular now:

One of the Snowden stories makes it to number 10 position.

UPDATE 2 (7 pm): And as expected lightweight news and cricket took over (it looks like  Ko won’t win but too son to cover that yet anyway).

Vance on Sabin

Andrea Vance indicates that the media knows the story behind Mike Sabin’s resignation but can’t tell it in Five unanswered questions from the Beehive (but some of her questions aren’t really Beehive questions):

3. Does a politician ever really step down for family reasons?

In Russel Norman’s case: it’s complicated.

In Mike Sabin’s case it’s even more complicated.

All Sabin has indicated was ‘personal reasons’ via a press release: “Mr Sabin said he had decided to resign due to personal issues that were best dealt with outside Parliament.”

John Key, who should by now know most of what it’s about, said:

“Mr Sabin reached that conclusion himself on the back of personal and family reasons he is pursuing.

“He’s obviously made the best decision for himself and his family.”

In what looks like one of the worst kept secrets ever it is widely believed that Sabin has now been been charged of an offence or offences by police and has made a court appearance.

4. Why was the usually loquacious Key acting so weird on Sabin?

Like I said, it’s complicated. When a job is a stake, natural justice is always a consideration. That is less easy to hide behind when an MP is at the centre of a police investigation. Key clearly didn’t want to be anywhere near this damaging scandal and all but threw Sabin under the bus with his taciturnity. Less than 24 hours before the resignation, Key told reporters Sabin would be at a Tuesday caucus meeting – suggesting that behind the scenes things weren’t under control in the way he would have liked.

Key shouldn’t have had a police matter under control, and he was bound by principles of natural justice and confidentiality.

The whole issue will not be something Key will have liked at all. But as a party leader you often have to deal with things largely outside your control, including MPs getting into trouble in their private lives.

I suspect that if a colleague of Vance’s got into trouble like Sabin appears to have she or her boss wouldn’t have much control over it either, and I also suspect they would be very careful about what they said about it. Probably more careful and less critical than they are with Sabin’s case.

But on Sabin the media have let out enough information and hints over the last six weeks to enable us to have a good guess about what is going on.

Sabin was under police investigation, it was serious enough to use an investigation team outside Sabin’s home province and old workplace (he is an ex Northland detective) and is likely to have now been charged over something serious that appears to be family related.

A sensible game plan for Little

Andrea Vance writes about A game-plan that may just work for Little, and talks about two plans.

Tripping up Labour leaders on policy detail has become something of a bloodsport for the political media, egged on by National.

It is a dark hole newbie Andrew Little is determined not to fall into. He plans to do away with the deep-level policy development that caused his predecessors so much grief.

This is sensible, especially in the first year of a term. Labour has three years to review their policies and Little has the same time to become famikliar with the key policies.

With a post-election review underway, no great policy shifts are imminent.

It’s more important to set up his Leader’s office (he is currently recruiting a press officer) and get the Labour caucus working together effectively. Compared to the latter brushing up on somne policy detail should be a doddle.

And secondly:

For Labour, 2015 will be less about sticking it to National. Little’s goal is to re-define Labour and then win on its terms, rather than because the electorate grew tired of National.

Labour have looked like they spent too much time and effort into trying to stick it to National, largely unsuccessfully. In fact it’s an alpproach that’s been not just unsuccessful, it has kept highlighting negative politics. Voters tend not to respond to negatives.

Looking like a functional team will be a good place to start in re-defining Labour. A positive change will flow through to policy development and delivery.

Little and Labour have a big job to do to repair the damage of the last six years. They finally look like they are on a track that at least stands a chance of working for them.

Little will give his state of the nation speech on January 28. Hopefully he hasn’t been over-polished by media advsiers or over-palevered by speech writers and delivers a decent start to his first big year as leader.

His first step up to leadership level was promising. He has to start to deliver on his promise – but remember that he has nearly three years and needs to pace himself.

Vance’s “Crass opportunism” provokes

Andrew Vance has provoked a lot of comment with Crass opportunism in wake of siege.

OPINION: Is there a better time for political opportunism than in the wake of a “terror” attack?

For Prime Minister John Key it seems not.

The gunsmoke had barely cleared from Sydney’s Martin Pl, than he was doing the rounds of the media this morning.

The Government tried to cash in on public fears when few facts were known regarding the events or gunman Man Haron Monis’ motivation.

She took the opportunity to compare to ‘Five Eyes’,  something she has shown in the past feels very strongly about.

Just last week, Nils Muižnieks, The Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, offered a compelling counter-view.

He condemned “secret, massive and indiscriminate” surveillance being undertaken by the Five Eyes intelligence network, of which New Zealand is a part,saying it “cannot be justified by the fight against terrorism or other important threats to national security”.

She then slams Key.

Now Key is attempt to shape the debate again –  he needs to earn sympathy for a military deployment to Iraq early next year.

His grave tones on breakfast television this morning were reasonable. But he used rhetoric and sentiment commonly employed by US politicians justifying the War on Terror post-9/11, portraying those in his sights as irrational, barbaric and beyond compromise.

It dissuades critical examination and argument, with those questioning him labelled soft or naive.

Other than furthering his own political ends, his comments  were unhelpful and serve only to unnecessarily heighten anxiety in the community.

I think she is misjudging public sentiment after the deaths of the hostages in Sydney.

She concludes:

Key’s crass opportunism is a jarring contrast to the simple generosity of Australians who adopted #illridewithyou.

Some comments supported Vance’s stance but were heavily down ticked. The first by BenM:

Spot on. Thank you Andrea.

Currently -73 ticks.

Jim Smith:

So let me get this right, the media questions him, he answers and now it is him taking an opportunity???

If he didn’t speak at all about the incident you would chastise him for that as well!

Journalists these days make me sick. If anything, the only thing that was crass was fairfax;s reporting of the incident.


There were a number throwing “crass opportunism” back at Vance. Responder:

And as usual Andrea Vance loses no time in making her opportunist attack on John Key.


‘Bcom77’ points out:

I think the media, this site included, do a better job of spreading fear and heighten public anxiety than you accuse John Key of doing.


A few more supported Vance – Havid Dornblow:

Keep the heat on Andrea, this regime deserves no slack. Question all decisions, investigate all motives.


But the thread was dominated by criticism. Christie:

I’m sorry Andrea, but this type of journalism is, quite simply irresponsible. There has just been a siege in Sydney, with 2 hostages dead at the hands of an Islamic radical, who considers himself a member of ISIS. We know there are people of similar ilk in this country.

It follows that it could happen here. Maybe unlikely – but then again, we never thought it would happen in Australia either. This is not political opportunism. This is the PM answering questions about the likelihood of it all happening here.

What is he supposed to say – “No, no – everything is fine – just carry on, there is no big bad wolf here”. What is it going to take to make people like you realise that the threat is real? That we are not immune? Beheadings in Aotea Square?

And for the record, Andrew Little has come out and said much the same thing – but you are not attacking him – are you?


Vance took the opportunity to relate Key’s comments to an international spying hobby horse of hers but yesterday was not a good time to attack surveillance of terrorists and people at risk of doing something crazy.

Key’s response to the deaths like Sydney gave Vance an opportunity to attack Key over wider issues. Whether either was crass is debatable but the backlash against Vance was not surprising in the circumstances.

Most people, especially at times like this, would accept more surveillance of people at risk of doing something stupid and dangerous.

Maintaining security measures versus the possibility (albeit very unlikely) that someone would see their online wafflings is not a big deal to most of us.

A cafe is Sydney is quite close to home for Kiwis.Vance’s stance is a long way away from most sentiments. It’s not surprising to see she provoked a strong backlash against her comments in the wake of the Sydney horror.

(For some more anti-Key opportunism see Vance on Key’s “crass opportunism” at The Standard)

Key gives Hauiti transparency the finger

National list MP Claudette Hauiti has withdrawn from standing in Kelston and from the election. Whether she walked or was pushed it doesn’t matter, she had to go.

She hasn’t been in Parliament long, replacing Aaron Gilmore off the list last year, but she has tripped up badly twice.

Earlier this year Hauiti employed her partner in her office which is against Parliamentary rules.

Last week Fairfax reported…

… former broadcaster Hauiti surrendered her charge card after using it for unauthorised spending.

At first she blamed her staff, before admitting she’d used it to pay for a Christmas trip across the Ditch.

Since then she announced she would be withdrawing from standing again, but it’s unlikely she would have got a winnable list position and she wasn’t expected to come close to winning Kelston.

While National have dealt with her exit quickly and efficiently (one the credit card spending went public) they have been far less willing to be transparent about the level of spending, as Andrea Vance reports in Hauiti protected to the bitter end.

What she hasn’t admitted to is how much personal spending went on that card.

Incredibly, National leader John Key and party Whip Louise Upston say they don’t know.

They knew enough to get rid of her.

Insiders say the party was worried more would leak out and Key took charge when he returned from his Hawaii holiday.

But the party is refusing to answer questions about further allegations of misspending and Hauiti has gone to ground.

The episode has made a mockery of Key’s boasts about being transparent on MPs’ spending.

Yes, it’s very poor from Key and National – first for allowing a new MP to make two such basic mistakes, and now for hiding the details.

Hauiti and the National Party are exploiting an obstinate interpretation of the Parliamentary Service rule which prevents the release of information about MPs.

This is reasonable when it applies to private details such as pension schemes, phone records or that would identify constituents. Where it should not be applicable is the use of taxpayer cash, particularly where there are irregularities.

It ignores the reality that we, the taxpayer, are MPs’ employers – not the back-office Parliamentary Service.

Both National and Hauiti have not responded to a request for a privacy waiver to allow the records to be released.

This creates the impression there is something more to hide.

Whether Key has something else to hide or not if he is not prepared to be open and transparent on this he leaves himself and National open to speculation – and most likely more media digging.

This sort of secrecy would be poor at any time but it is a bad look coming into an election campaign, particularly one where National are deliberately risk averse. If this blows up into a bigger issue Key can only blame himself.

Henry inquiry cluster muck

The Privileges Committee investigation on the David Henry inquiry into who leaked the Kitteridge report confirms what was already known – it was a cluster muck up.

The Henry inquiry and Parliamentary Services have been strongly criticised.

Inquiry methods heavily censured

An investigation by Parliament’s privileges committee slammed as “unacceptable” the inquiry being handed information including emails, phone records, and swipe card records when it had no formal powers to demand them.

Parliamentary Service was also heavily criticised.

The committee’s report centred on Parliamentary Service, and also the Henry inquiry for over reaching its powers.

“It is clear from the evidence we heard that the inquiry’s persistent pressure on the Parliamentary Service and approaches to third-tier and more junior staff had a part to play in the releases which resulted,” it said.

Privileges committee chairman Chris Finlayson said the way the information was handed over was “totally unacceptable”.

There had been no consideration given to the special status of both MPs and journalists.

Despite overreaching it’s powers the Henry Inquiry still failed to find any evidence of anyone leaking the Kitteridge Report.

Despite failing to find any evidence Henry made it clear in his report that he thought Peter Dunne was guilty in his report. His investigation was very narrow, severely flawed and failed.

If Henry’s inquiry had not overreached it’s powers Dunne would not have been put in a position where he felt compelled to resign as a minister.

Dunne yesterday claimed he had been vindicated by the report, which had upheld his belief that MPs should not be compelled to hand over their private communications.

He was forced to resign as a minister after refusing to hand over his emails to the inquiry to prove his innocence.

“In accessing my electronic records without my approval the Henry inquiry grossly exceeded its authority and acted quite improperly.”

Journalist Andrea Vance

Fairfax group editor John Crowley said the media group took some comfort from the committee’s finding.

“The committee found that the release of confidential information relating to the work and movement of one of our senior parliamentary journalists, simply going about her job, was unacceptable. We have known that from the outset.”

The rights of Vance and the role journalists played in a democracy had been trampled over as a result.

Andrea Vance was collateral damage with both her work as a journalist and her personal reputation being severely attacked.

And Winston Peters is still making insinuations he has never backed up with any evidence.

This has been a cluster fuck of muck and injustice.


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